It turns out that Snoop Dogg had it right, although he wasn’t exactly talking about budgeting his money to make a better life for himself and his family, he still made an excellent point. You have to have your mind on your money, and be thinking about what on earth your money is going to do every month. You can’t just spend and spend and then wonder where it went. You have to make a budget (that dreaded word). I read something this weekend that said only 40% of Americans make out a budget every month. WOW. We are constantly tempted by the next big thing, and the shinier car. My own child, Cole, got a Financial Peace Jr. kit for Christmas (because when your single mama is obsessed with building a good life for you, you gotta have your money on your mind too, sorry about that), and he is getting a weekly commission for working. He used to get an allowance, and while that is fantastic if you do that, that is NOT real life. No one pays me to sit around and do nothing all day. It turns out my boss expects me to hit the ground running at work each day (true story, sometimes kids and parents meet me at my car and we walk in, problem solving together! Some of my best parent and kid conferences happen at church, at the grocery store and on the soccer fields. I will take parent contact whenever I can get it). So far this year, he has made the connection that when he does more work, he gets paid more, but this last week he was kind of being lazy and only made $3.25. He was pretty horrified, but I did not let up.
January is always a no spend month for me, and people are horrified at first. “What are you going to do??? You have to eat!!”. Yes. We do a full inventory of our pantry, freezer and fridge, and then only buy staples. Over the Christmas holidays, I found myself at the grocery store 3-4 times a week, and that is nuts. I get so tired of spending money, albeit some of it is really happy spending, like getting that deep dish pizza on our fun day out, and making special food for Christmas. But after the holidays, my budget is typically shot. So back to the no spending and back to my budget. A budget isn’t really a punishment, but some people act like it is, which cracks me up a little. I would rather pack my lunch and cook dinner at home, and go on vacation this summer. You are basically saying no to yourself right now, so that you can say yes later on. (We love to swim with the stingrays every summer, and that costs the same amount as if we stopped eating out for a month. That’s a no brainer! I would rather see that joy on my animal hugger’s face than eat greasy fast food).
Each month, I write out a budget for my family, and you can do this in a variety of ways. I love to write it out, but there are a lot of free digital options available. There are some that cost a little bit, but whhhhyyyy would you pay for that, when you’re trying to do right by your money? If you do not have online banking with an app, where you can check your account daily, do that today. That’s how I discover hidden subscriptions to apps I forgot I had, and weird charges. It is not your bank’s job to monitor your account every day, it’s yours. It’s the same story with your credit. Most credit card companies offer a free monitoring service, but if not, you can monitor yours at Creditkarma.com, for free.
Here’s how my process typically goes every month, usually around the 1st, since I get paid monthly on the 10th. I like to divide my monthly budget into the following four categories;
(1) home, car and student loan (big ticket items)
(2) insurance (homeowners and car)
(3) utilities and
(4) credit and medical payments
I write down my income for the month, which, since I am on salary my paycheck is the same, which helps with budgeting, and then I add any extra income I have in there, $$ from writing, etc. I like to make a category for extra expenses too, Cole’s birthday is in February, so that will be a category in itself, with pizza for wild little boys, and a birthday surprise (and dog adoption event 🐶 we are pumped!).
You have to tell your money where to go each month, or you will get to the end of the month and remember you have 4 bills to pay. In life before Cole, I spent and spent and spent and then was frustrated when I didn’t know where my money went. My dad is a list maker who always stays on top of the check register, and even though he did teach me about finances, I used to be what people called an “emotional spender”. So silly, really. Now I can rationalize that I would rather have money at the end of my month to save for something amazing, than new clothes and a bag every month.
I am in the midst of brainstorming a finance day for moms and single moms, where we talk about making their money work for them, and getting control of your money, so keep your eyes peeled for that one. Now, I am off to prep a meal with stuff already in my house, madness, I know!!