When I was a junior in high school I got my first "real" job, where I earned a paycheck. The first thing I did when I got my first paycheck was to open a checking account. I wasn't an athlete so I was able to work quite a few hours each week and was making good money.
By the time I went off to college, I should have had a nice fat savings account. Instead, I had a nice fat suitcase with clothes, shoes, jewelry, etc.. If I had money, I spent it. I had not been taught about saving or even creating a budget.
I had some hard lessons to learn about money over the next few years. Like many young people, I was lured into applying for a credit card. I thought that credit card would offer me freedom and security (in case of an emergency) but instead it brought shame, guilt, and years of rethinking and relearning how I dealt with money.
Early on in our marriage, we sold the mobile home we lived in while Lance was in vet school. We made enough money on that sale to make a clean break. We paid off credit card debt and put a little money in savings. Without a budget in place, we easily fell into our old habits and started to accrue some credit card debit.
Again we were blessed, this time with a tax refund which allowed us to pay off the credit card debt. We were committed to not getting into credit card debt again. Although we didn't cut up our credit cards (still feeling like we needed them in case of an emergency), we did create a budget and started to live within the confines of the budget.
I won't say it was easy, or that we were very good at it but we didn't accrue any credit card debt. I took a financial course through our church which helped us to see where our money was going each month and create a more realistic budget.
About two years ago, a friend told me about a program called Mvelopes. It is an online version of the old "envelopes system". You assign your budgeted amount to each envelope for the month. Everyday, the mvelopes program downloads transactions from your bank and/or credit cards so that you can assign them to the proper envelope. I can daily check where we are with our budget for the month. I know if we can take a trip to Target or if we have to stay away for the rest of the month. Since I am a visual learner, this system has been a great tool for me. This is when I finally started to really get our budget because I could physically see where our money went each month.
In September, Lance and I started Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University at our church. We had heard about FPU from our neighbors who had taken the class two years ago. It has truly been life changing for them. I must say, I heart Dave Ramsey. He is smart, honest, and very entertaining. I listen to his podcast. every. single day. Even though we have been budgeting and out of credit card debit for six years, there is still so much to learn. We have created a new budget, I carry actual envelopes with cash for certain areas that might cause overspending (this has been so hard - it is painful people oh so painful to spend cash), we are teaching our kids about saving, spending, and giving, and we are working our way to being debt free.
Tomorrow, I am going to share what we have cut out in order to work on paying off our debt (student loans, Lance's business, and our home) and what things we weren't willing to live without.