Be Real Budget Buster!

The first few months of creating budgets is tough. When a budget is made, BE REAL. Things are going to happen. The budget is going to get screwed up. Humans are not perfect, and to expect perfection the first go round of a budget is madness. Defeat is certain at first, especially when financial behavior is equivalent to that of a hormonal teenage drama queen, which can apply to males or females. Got kids, spouse or dogs? Junk food, flowers or dog toy is bound to bust the budget!

What do I mean by being real? Should one account for “extra” money in their budget in case of screw ups. That’s not exactly what I mean. My family prefers to do an every dollar budget. We allocate EVERY dollar of our budget until there is no money left to allocate. We picked this type of budget up through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. Every dollar of our income is budgeted in a certain way, so there’s nothing left over for “screw ups.” Which means whenever we bust a budget in one area (overspend more than we’ve budgeted) then another budgeted area automatically has less to spend; this equates to two whammies for the price of one. Big sarcastic YAY!

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So being real? It means expect a little failure…at first. Strive for perfection, but don’t get disappointed when failure comes. It WILL. For an analytical guy like me, it makes me want to curl up into a tiny ball in a dark corner with my beans and start counting to see what went wrong. The very best thing one can do is shake it off, and try to do better, but don’t quit! Persevere with that budget! A few months of this kind of perseverance and there will be success.

FYI, any mentions I have of Dave Ramsey or any affiliates like Every Dollar, I don’t get a cent, and neither do they, I just really love the products.

 

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Longer Shower’s Flat Fat Fees

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The more I look to save money, the more often I am finding it’s done over a fairly lengthy amount of time, and a year seems to be where it’s at for me and my family right now. Why a year? Well, I for one have found that I can barely blink before Christmas rolls around from year to year. It seems just long enough to make those pesky “insignificant” amounts (i.e. cup of coffee, vending machine snacks, late fees for utilities) add up to where it seems significant. So we’ll take a look at something we all pay and plan to pay indefinitely, but rarely have the forethought to do anything about to make our lives easier: utility bills.

Flat Fees

First, I love a flat fee. Who doesn’t? It’s awesome to know exactly what your bill is going to be each month, and never think about it. Our gas bill is like that. Some time a couple of years ago, we contacted our gas company and asked them about an average bill pay plan. Someone mentioned they work with their customers and we decided to investigate. Turned out our average monthly gas usage based on a year was $90. So that’s what we pay per month, $90, whether we use that much or not. The gas company keeps whatever surplus there is on those months we don’t use as much gas, like in the summer, and credits our account. When we use a ton, say in the winter months, the over credited amount goes to what we use. We pay one flat fee all year-long, and the gas company keeps our gas on. I can’t say I know all about it procedural wise, I am not employed at the gas company, but the logic is sound.

Not all utilities work this way, but that doesn’t mean the average payment can not be made, all it takes is a little forethought and research.

As I added up our electric bills, I found that we spend roughly $1500 to $1600 per year in electricity. Personally, I was shocked we spend that much. I’m not sure why the shock factor, I suppose I’ve never considered the cost on a yearly basis. I normally just cringe when the bill hits the mailbox month to month and hope it’s not too high. So after finding the sum total per year, Karen and I decided we would start setting $130 a month aside for electricity, regardless of how much the bill is. Some months, this self-induced premium will cover the lower amounts, and we’ll just stuff the leftover in an envelope; other months, the bills will be too high for $130 to cover, so whatever’s in the envelope from lower months will come out to save the day. Do this with your water bills, trash bills, or whatever bills you happen to pay a variable amount on.

Use Less

As Jeff Foxworthy notes in one of his comedy routines, “TURN SOMETHIN OFF!” I cannot count the number of times I’ve went behind my four-year old princess to turn out lights. She’s tall enough to reach the light switches now, and she utilizes every inch of her vertical reach in order to make sure all rooms are well-lit. To not follow her means that I just as well throw my money on top of a lamp shade, let Babygirl flip the switch and slowly watch it burn.

Along those lines, cut the shower time. If you have teenagers, you know this is a must. I want someone to invent a way to cut showers off by remote, or put a timer on the shower head (maybe I’ll invent it). When 10 minutes is up, so is your shower, get in, get all crucial areas washed, finish up any bonus areas, and get out. Money is flowing down the drain.

“That’s a little strict!” You say? How many gallons is your household using a year? Do you know?I can get in and do all things shower and get out in seven minutes. A family can’t help but save money when everyone is running that kind of efficiency in the bathroom.

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Late Fees

The dreaded late fee will destroy a yearly budget. Pay utility bills on time. A late fee not paid is money in our pocket. We used to be terrible at this, but realized it was happening a while back. If payday didn’t fit where it should so we could pay it on time, call the utility company and get your due date changed. Most places are pretty reasonable to work with you if they aren’t the size of Podunk, USA.

Try some of these things out and see where the finances are in a year! It might just save you on aspirin too.

“It’s Not About How Hard You Hit, It’s About How Hard You Can Get Hit…and Keep Moving Forward!”

Since beginning to log our journey to keep ourselves accountable there have been several ups and downs emotionally, spiritually and mindfully, and it’s only been a week!

Starting good behavior does not negate the effects of bad behavior over years. My family and I are broke because we’ve been behaving how broke people behave for way to long. Spending more than we make, not sticking to a budget, spending money meant for savings or emergencies, eating out all the time and just not paying attention took us nowhere fast. Even though we are now seeing correct mindsets and practices toward financial changes, we are not seeing the immediate results that we would like. Saying you are saving $720 a year is noticeably different than having $720 in your bank account now. Duh…It takes a year!

Time isn’t the problem, time is going by whether we like it or not. Our attitude is the problem, and we know it. We’re impatient. Most of us, if we are honest, quit when we don’t see immediate results. We’ve all heard it before, we live in a microwave society; but it’s more than that isn’t it? We live in a wifi society! We live in a microprocessor society! No more dial up! I honestly believe as a youth it may have done my character good to see the little guy on AOL frozen in time for a couple of minutes as I listened to the irritating screech and whir and hum of a dial up modem trying to connect to my mom’s old phone line. Today…I would go bananas to endure that!

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We are taught in school that sums and products are immediate answers: 1 + 1 = 2, 2 x 2 = 4 and so on. I cannot remember a time however when someone taught me 1 + a month + a week + 1 = 2, or 2 + a day + effort x 2 = 4. Time was never factored into the equations we were taught in school, but there it is…time…staring us in the face. Ten years may as well be an eternity when a person thinks of the financial peace they would like to have when it ticks by mere seconds at a time. Those seconds are also the very thing that robs a person when they sit and wait because they feel powerless, or it takes to long. People are waiting for something to happen instead of making what they desire happen over time.

Inaction and time are a troublesome combination. Passivity keeps us from setting goals and pursuing them. Because no goals are set, when hard times happen, it’s easier to sit down, throw our hands up and say “I quit.” When the bill collector calls after the mind has been set to do better, it says, “sit down, take it easy, try again tomorrow.” It is the voice that whispers, “Monday is a good start day, do it then. For now, eat a taco, you deserve it.” Tomorrow and Monday will come! Is reaching the goal any closer?

Is the destination you’d like to be at nearer? No trip is taken without a person’s mind being fixed on it. When it’s written down with an expected time line it starts to become reality. How many places have we never been to, but because Maps had a documented route and how long it took to get there, we traveled with ease? How many times have we thought about going somewhere, but weren’t truly excited until we hang up the phone after making reservations? But did we sit down and wait for vacation time? No! The trip might be a month away but we automatically started preparing for the it! How? We ask questions of what we might need. We do our research to see what kind of help may be needed while we are there. We save money, we write down the activities we want to do on our trip. We don’t sit idle! When we do sit idle, we may miss opportunities to enjoy something we otherwise would not.

“What keeps me going is goals.” Said the late Mahammad Ali. Who better to understand that if a person has goals, they will strive to meet them? muhammad-ali-in-action.jpg

People who have goals will rise up in the morning to chase them, even when it doesn’t look like there’s any hope. They will run after it even when their legs hurt, when they are miles away from their destination, when they fall down, and when a mountain is in their way. They will fight for their goals even when that mountain is ready to crush them. They are unstoppable.