The next area I think needs some improvement in 2009 is one that Jeff and I are working on together. We actually started thinking about it before 2009 rolled in, but we didn't make any changes until the calendar page flipped over. It involves one of the most dreaded words of all:
I know many of you just shrieked in fear at the mere sight of the word, but stick with me for a minute. For most of our marriage, Jeff and I have been incredibly blessed. God gave us times of great abundance, but He also gave us times that I can simply explain as "the fish and the loaves." God took what we had and made it stretch until our needs were met. God has been so faithful to care for us, and now we simply want to be sure that we are being the best stewards of that provision as we can.
I remembered that some friends of ours had gone through some kind of money management program, so I asked them what it was. Turns out it was "The Total Money Makeover" by Dave Ramsey, and Susan went so far as to call it "life-changing." He was running a special on his website at the time, so I ordered the book for $10.
I couldn't read it fast enough! I so desperately wanted to be like one of the many families profiled in that book: debt-free, big savings account, and financially fit! Not that our own situation was dire or anything. We aren't buried under credit card debt. We're not losing our house to foreclosure. We just want to do better. We're pretty frugal most of the time, but we still had room for improvement: lots of it!
At first, Jeff was a little bit skeptical. Once I convinced him to read the book though, we were on the same page. Whew! Sometimes agreeing with your spouse about money is pretty tough, right?
The first step of Dave's plan (and most any good financial plan) is to establish a budget. Let me tell you, that is no simple task. It opens your eyes to where your money is going, but it does even more. It empowers you to tell your money where to go, instead of wondering where it all went.
Establishing a zero budget isn't easy, and living on it isn't either. I'm a by-the-book kind of girl, and I like it when things go according to plan.
So when we had a very cold December and our electricity bill was WAY more than we budgeted (and way more than it has ever been), I was discouraged. There will be setbacks like that, but if we're diligent, one day they won't seem nearly as daunting as they do now.
So, List Number Two is our Budget.
What about you? Do you live on a budget? Have any "tricks" to share? I'd love to hear about it!