As I’ve shared in a few of my previous posts, I am a total dork when it comes to personal finances and budgeting. I get weak in the knees a few days before a new pay period begins, thinking about the lines and columns on our family spreadsheet and how they will soon be filled with the upcoming weeks’ expenditures. $20 for a haircut, $50 for pool chemicals, ya da ya da ya da.
I’m sure most of you had to pinch yourselves as you read the paragraph above. I realize this type of stuff does not excite people. Most would rather be at the mall buying new clothes or sneakers. Or maybe perusing the aisles at Lowe’s, deciding whether you want to splurge for the granite counter tops in your half bath, or be able to eat for the next 3 weeks. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. And how do I know this? Because that used to be me.
In the past 12 months, my financial way of life has done a complete 180. And thank goodness because if not, my family and I would probably be living back with my parents and 18-year-old sister (YIKES!) Don’t get me wrong– I’m not trying to make light of this situation. I know people who have been there– I know people who ARE there, and it’s a scary, scary thing. But know this– no matter how low you feel, or how low you know your bank account is, it’s never too late.
I know, I know, you’re reading this thinking, “But I’m used to my lifestyle. I’m just a natural spender. That’s just who I am.” Well, let’s pretend we’re in the movie Men In Black, and Will Smith just waved that memory-erasing laser beam across your face. It’s time to start fresh. And if I could turn my financial life around and build my bank account back up, anyone can. And to prove it, I’ll share a story with you.
In 2006, I was a junior at Syracuse University. Walking around the campus seeing all the girls with their brand new UGG boots and their Herve Chapelier bags was getting to me. So what did I do? I visited one of the most popular stores that bordered the urban campus, and I went absolutely ballistic. I bought a pair of $400 D&G sunglasses (which I still have to this day, thank goodness,) two pairs of $250 Citizen jeans, and a pair of $80 Steve Madden pumps (what a bargain!) I walked out of there with the store’s green plastic bag stuffed to the gills, without even batting an eyelash.
Okay, so let’s rewind… I was a college student, albeit with a paid internship, but I was only working part time, and I spent $730 without breaking into a deep sweat?? (and notice I didn’t even account for the tax!) And trust this wasn’t just a one-time deal– I spent out of control like this all the time.
So what changed? How did I all of a sudden wake up from this delusional state of wanting so badly to be “Mrs. Jones?” Was it buying a house? No. Getting married to a guy who was totally conservative when it came to spending? Not a chance. But in 2011, enter Dave Ramsey, a true God send. Last spring, my husband and I attended his Financial Peace University class at a local church. We went kicking and screaming, but my mom had recommended it and said she would pay for it if we went and just listened. The moment I sat down, something clicked. I knew this guy was for real, that he knew more about finances and planning for your future (and your children’s futures for that matter,) than I ever would. From then on, I was excited about budgeting. I was excited to see how quickly we could complete each of the seven baby steps Dave laid out. And it came at the perfect time, since our daughter would be entering the world that summer.
I thought about her, and how my horrid and embarrassing spending habits would affect her. Children have needs that cannot be denied: from diapers and formula to new school sneakers and supplies– I knew spending ourselves into oblivion was no longer an option.
Now that she’s here (and already 1 year old,) I can honestly say we have our budgeting down to a science. Does this mean we can no longer buy nice things, or go out to dinner? Absolutely not. It just means we have to be able to pay for them– with cash. Trust me, coming from a reformed spend-a-holic, it can be done!
To check out Financial Peace University classes in your area, or even to complete them online, visit Dave.