24 April 2013

It's that time of the month

Budget (Photo credit: Tax Credits)
A couple years ago my wife and I went through Dave Ramsey's "Financial Peace University."  In that time we've been through some serious financial ups and downs. So much so that we eventually gave up on the core of the FPU process - budgeting. We found it hard to budget when the only money coming in was "happenstance money." We never gave up on the vision, though – the vision of being debt free, of controlling our financial destiny, of prospering financially.

We've both been employed now for about two years – in relatively decent jobs I might add. A few months ago we looked at our finances and wondered why we didn't seem to be getting ahead.  With the difference in cost of living between where we lived in California and where we now live in Utah, we’re earning more than we've earned throughout our marriage. Then we realized . . . we hadn't been budgeting. 

Thus began the new budgeting odyssey.

For those not familiar with the Ramsey budgeting plan, it requires work from both spouses. One spouse is usually more inclined to putting together numbers (Dave calls this role the nerd) and the other is more inclined to ignore those numbers (the free spirit). Recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of both positions, the Ramsey method has the nerd build the budget and requires both parties to sit down and discuss the budget. Then the free spirit must change the budget. Crazy, huh? It sounded like a recipe for disaster, if you would have asked me at the time.

The power of this method is, if the free spirit isn't required to monkey with the budget they’ll do what free spirits do – say something like “that looks great, honey” then totally ignore it. By having the free spirit change the budget, they get to see the glaring flaws in the nerd’s “perfect” budget.

I remember our first budget years ago. I spent days putting it together. I’m sure there was direct communication between me and God about where the money should be spent. I felt like Moses coming down from the mountain with the budget carved into tablets of stone. My wife (RML) looked at the budget and said – strangely enough – “that looks nice, honey” (almost verbatim). When I pointed out she needed to make changes, we saw the power of the program. I totally neglected minor requirements like toiletries – you know – toilet paper? Things like that. She also realized our food budget was about a quarter of what we needed. Rather than the biblical Moses, I ended up feeling more like Mel Brooks’ Moses with my fifteen (one tablet drops and shatters) . . . ten – Ten Commandments.

Dave’s plan really is a good plan. One might even say inspired.

So, in February I sat down to start the budgeting process again. It was much easier than the first go around. It still isn't perfect. Last night I sat down to put together May’s budget. I hope I remembered everything.

I probably didn't.

We’ll find out at our family budget meeting tonight.

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