Beginning Budgeting, but it’s me. I’m the beginner.

Whoa, y’all. I know it’s a little dramatic of me to say, but is anyone else reeling because half of this year is gone already?

It’s shocking, really, and I know I’m not saying anything new or groundbreaking – old people have been saying it since the dawn of time. Or at least, since I was a kid and rolling my eyes anytime I heard another ‘my, how time flies’ from the mouth of a boring old adult.

And here I am. Being a boring old adult.

You know what else I thought was boring when I was younger? Worrying about a budget, that’s what was boring. I mean, as long as your account isn’t in the negative at the end of the month and all your bills are paid, what’s the big deal?

Oh, sweet, innocent, terrible-with-money young me. It’s taken me years to get to a place of practical budgeting, but I’ll be the first to tell you that managing money is tough. It’s so much more than writing your checks and noting them on the register; it’s planning for emergencies, planning for your future, planning for your now, trying to juggle competing information about interest rates and borrowing and Dave Ramsey and never owe anyone and Oh. Em. Gee.

It’s enough to make a grown person cry, especially when you line all that up in a nice, neat column alongside your very real bills and paycheck.

Yep. Total tearjerker.

Open dialogue about personal finances is hard, unless, of course, you want to pay hundreds of dollars for financial advice or the next, latest, greatest seminar. But there are folks out there sharing helpful advice (for free), so today’s the day I open up, talk about personal finances, and share some links that have helped me.

Are you ok with that? Ok, good. I’m gonna assume that was a yes from you and just move forward.

I’m not blowing up the financial world talking about new and revolutionary things, but we all know that a good, solid budget is the best place to start taking control of your finances.

Some of us also know that there is a certain visceral joy in a really well-done, color-coded spreadsheet.

Hashtag type A, yo.

If you’re skimming along every month and just sort of winging it until your bank account hits zero, friend, you’re probably not alone. But you’re doing it wrong. As painful as reality might be, facing your budget head on is the best way to start planning for your future.

The link above is a simple (free) template you can use to get started, or you can create your own, make use of any number of free budgeting tools online, or download an app. You can go old school and pull out a sheet of paper and a pen. Gosh, you can even doodle in the margins and make it fancy, but for the love, start tracking your money, ok?

I’ve attended classes and sessions and meetings and events where financial advice was thrown around like confetti. All sorts of ‘tips and tricks’ from folks doing a lot better than I am, financially. If I’m honest, sometimes my attitude slides really quickly from ‘oh, I can totally do this’ to ‘oh, I can totally do this if y’all switch debit cards with me real quick’.

Savings is one of those basic, everyone-knows-you-should-do-this concepts. But it’s usually not our first instinct. Maybe because when we’re living on the edge, we’re just trying to get through the day.  

But the truth is that savings are an integral part of your family’s safety and security, no matter how much you have in your bank account. I’m not here to judge, y’all. I know what living one blown tire away from financial despair is like. I get that sometimes, the bills outweigh the paycheck and there’s not much to be done.

But there’s always something. Even if it’s not much. It can be a small goal that you work every week to hit – it doesn’t have to be a Dave Ramsey success reel to be a win. (totally not hating on the Financial Peace crowd, y’all, but I want to acknowledge that the system isn’t a one-size-fits-all).

If you want to break away from financial insecurity, you’ll need to make different choices. Living on a razor’s edge between middle class and poverty can begin to convince you that you can put off fiscal responsibility, honestly. It is WAY too easy to fall into the trap of ‘I’ll save money when I HAVE money’ and become accustomed to spending down to your last dollar. Then, when you actually DO have extra cash you could be saving or investing, you’re spending it (usually frivolously) because hey, yo, this is normal. If this is how you are, I’m not pointing a finger at you. I’m just saying, maybe it’s time to start a savings account. Baby steps, friend.

If that last paragraph was for you, and you’re just hanging out on the razor’s edge, knowing you need to do something different, but not sure how to get there, maybe the first step for you is researching ways to find money.

Put down your metal detector, pappy, I’m talking about some of the more realistic ways to ‘find’ money, either in your budget or in your spare time.

There are a billion resources online for ways to earn extra money. There are apps and rebates and coupons and whole communities dedicated to earning money on the side. Maybe that’s overwhelming for you and you’re not interested in becoming that lady at the checkout with her seven baskets of toothpaste and mac and cheese, next-level accordion file, and carefully-planned shopping list.

But maybe you have a skill you can use to make a few bucks on the side. Editing resumes, answering phones, cleaning houses, babysitting, bartending – this list would be endless, except that I don’t know all of y’all’s hidden talents so I’m running short.

The point is, you may have some options for increasing your income.

On the other hand, you may have some ways that you can decrease your spending to find some extra money in your budget. It doesn’t have to be coupon hustling and hoarding laundry detergent. It can be something as simple as home manicures or creative activities instead of dinner and a movie. The point is that YOU need to take a look at YOUR spending and make that determination; no one else can place value on each line item in your monthly budget like you can.

To be perfectly honest, YOU won’t even be able to do that until you’re ready to break away from a poverty mindset. If you’re serious about changing the way you manage your finances and building stability in your budget, you’re the one nodding and saying ‘amen’. But if you’re not, then you probably skimmed right over 75% of this post.

I’m gonna be the first to tell you that I don’t have all – or even most – of the answers. I’m not a young, wealthy retiree with a portfolio of assets. I’m a normal middle class mama with a penchant for too much shopping at Target. I absolutely recognize that every person’s situation is unique, but I have seen that poverty mindset (spend down to zero every single day) at work in my own life and decided one day that it had to change for me.

I won’t reinvent the wheel here – there are endless resources to help you organize, prioritize, plan, and track out there. I’ve pulled and tweaked and changed them to fit my routines, and that’s what I recommend to you, too. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ money management system out there. So take my recommendations with all the salt you need, friend. I won’t be mad. But I do hope that if you’re standing in front of a spreadsheet and READY for some organizational tips for your financial wellbeing – that you’ll find some of these resources help you as much as they’ve helped me.

Happy Monday, friends!

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