Hi Sisters – Shannon here…
It was three years ago that I found myself sitting at my kitchen table in tears, and totally overwhelmed with fear. I had ZERO idea how to manage my money, or even where to begin. It was something I had trusted to be taken care of for me. Only now…I faced the reality of managing my life solo, and that meant I alone, was responsible for my financial future.
I was terrified to find out where my $ was going, where it had been spent, and what I had available to me….BUT I chose to move forward. That decision to move forward and create a budget was the first step that eventually helped save me…not just financially, but because it also gave me back my sense of power. Creating a budget set me up for a series of (Lots of lessons) small victories that made me believe I was entirely capable of managing my life. And money….well, turns out it’s just a thing that I get to tell what to do for me.
But Sister, that is NOT where I started. So if I can do this, you can too! I didn’t even know how to log into my bank account, seriously…didn’t even have a username. Are you like I was? Totally terrified of money, or maybe you just want to change your relationship with money? Maybe you want to let go of the fear and change your pattern of avoiding bank statements, credit card bills, and the dreaded B word…budget. That’s Okay, I was too...let's do it together.
Money Move #1: Create a Budget
Back then I felt totally overwhelmed by the idea of a budget. But I discovered it really is doable when you break it down. AND, it’s the foundation to everything good that follows. Here's how.
First - find out what your monthly expenses are.
How do you do this? (I didn’t know either- so no shame here - we are learning something new and that takes practice). Go back to your debit card, credit card & utility statements from last month . Go to your checkbook if you use that. If you don’t have this information, you can call your credit card company or bank and ask them to send you a statement. Ask for help- there is no shame in asking for help- I had to do this a LOT and was so thankful for the kindness that was extended to me.
Next, create a list with the amount spent that month on EVERYTHING….
The mortgage/rent, heating (separate line for gas & electricity), All your utilities, insurances, medical expenses, trash, water, sewer, groceries, clothing, meals out, pet food….and I do mean everything (dog toys, pedicure, your latte from Monday).
Once you have this list (these are your outgoing expenses) with the amounts you've spent, CELEBRATE... because now you know where your $ has been going. Here’s where you take control sister...where YOU choose, where you take your power back. From this point on, YOU get to tell your money where it gets to go!
Now, Find Your Outgoing Expenses.
From this list you just created, add the total of these expenses together. Write that down. Next, write down the total amount of income, ($ coming in each month). Now, subtract your total outgoing expenses from your monthly income. This is important because it will inform you of where you are, and what steps to take next. If you have a negative balance, (where you're spending more $ during the month than you're bringing in), then you now know you need to reduce your spending. This is a tool sister- I know it seems super scary to look at our spending habits- but I want to encourage you to take one more step. You just completed the first step in budgeting, I’m right here with you, let’s take one more step together okay?
"From this point on, YOU get to tell your money where it gets to go!"
Money Move #2: Use CASH ONLY
Yep...Seriously- Cash. This tool was HUGE in getting my spending down and paying off debt! You can do this sister, I’m cheering you on, and know that I’m not asking you to do anything that I haven't done myself.
Create a Cash Envelope System
Go back to the budget you created in step one. Go to your monthly expenses- now, create a separate list with all the items you will spend cash on (note- for ALL other items, you will use your debit card, i.e. bills, pet expenses, medical expenses…)
I have a set dollar("budgeted") amount for each item on my budget. You will need to do the same. This is the number you stick to. This is how you tell your money where to go and what to do for you..it's what I still do.
Here’s a sample of my personal cash system. I use cash ONLY for these items each month - it's how I stay on budget. I have a separate envelope for each of these items as well (You can choose your list, these are what work for me).
Entertainment- usually Starbucks, a movie or a meal out
Household (cleaning products, yard & home needs, like a snow shovel or gas for the lawn mower)
Personal (deodorant, etc)
Ok, now at the beginning of each month, go to the bank and withdraw the total amount of cash for these items... Yep!.. that's your budget for these items. I even ask my banker for specific denominations of cash - for instance 10 ten dollar bills, and 18 twenties....so I can place each different amount in my individual envelopes.
Now place the cash for each item in it's specific envelope. There you go...that's what you get to spend for that item that month. Seeing & using cash keeps it real, which helps me to stay within my spending limits. It's good to know exactly how much you have left for that month, and when it's gone- it's gone- no borrowing from another envelope to fund another.
Here’s the Gold- Stick to your budget. The first few months of this new system will be challenging because you are changing your habits. STAY WITH IT. Like anything worth doing, it's hard, but has big rewards if you stick with it! Note - you may find that the amounts need to change. Since this is a new system, allow yourself a few months to get the swing of things. Yay YOU!!
"Seeing and using cash keeps it real, which helps me to stay within my spending limits."
Money Move #3: Don’t take on more Debt
This is a BIGGIE. This is where you choose you. This is where you find your way out of your debt. Simply put...Don’t use those credit cards sister!!
If you don't have the cash for it -DO NOT buy it. Take the debit & credit cards OUT of your wallet and leave them home. If you really need something….save up. It's a challenge if you have lived by credit cards. BUT you will now be able to start paying them off, and getting OUT of Debt...oh sister, that is a Beautiful thing!! It's where you really gain momentum.
Seriously, if you lay awake at night worrying about $$$ ….I want you to try these 3 steps. I am sharing them with you because they helped me so much!
Sister, I hope you’ve found this helpful. And most importantly, I hope it helps you take a leap forward in taking the fear OUT of finances, and reclaiming your power.
I remember crying at my kitchen table, the day after Christmas in 2015. I was so afraid, but with the help of my sister, I was able to create a budget and move forward. With these 3 steps, I have found my way. I've been able to pay off debt, move to the place I was called to live, purchase a home on my own, and buy a car w/out payments...none of which seemed remotely possible at the time.
So I want to encourage you to just start. Start by creating your budget and taking a look at your money. And start by telling your money where it gets to go.
Here’s to you sister- for trying new things, doing hard things, and for growing!
I’m proud of us!