Less is More

This last month I’ve been discussing a scary word.  Budgeting.  It is a subject that is on my mind quite a bit and funny enough, comes up in many of my daily conversations.    I enjoy hearing the perceptions of others on this topic.  One conversation, really got my wheels turning.  It started with one sentence.  “I don’t budget because I want to enjoy life now.”   I’m sure you can see where this is going, already.

The world today tends to push us into the “I want it now!” behavior.  Yes, that spoiled child syndrome that makes us all cringe.  Does anyone remember who fell down the rotten egg chute in the original Willy Wonka movie?  Yup, the “I want it now!” girl.  There was a time when this type of behavior was frowned upon and actually quite embarrassing to those around that self-centered and demanding person.  Now, the world has embraced this behavior.  Why save, when you can use a credit card?  Why put away for your old age, when you can travel the world now?  Television, radio and the internet are always pushing some new and grand thing for you to throw your money away at.

Take a step back and take a look around you.  The race to have more is really not worth jumping into.  The more things you acquire the less time and money you have for the truly important things in life.  Money and things do not obtain happiness.  In fact, what happens is there is more stress and less happiness.

Budgeting should not be looked at as a tool that gives you less in life, it is a tool that helps you to acquire more in life.  More of the good things.

When you budget you create:

  • Knowledge:  You know where your money needs to go.
  • Control:  You control where your money goes.
  • Peace: You don’t have to stress about the unknown (as much).
  • Money:  When you control your money and think about its use, it begins to grow.

Budgeting is not meant to make you feel guilty, insecure, angry or like a failure.  Budgeting is a tool and when that tool is used properly, you gain from it not suffer from it.  Ignoring your money and pretending the debt doesn’t exist will only create a bigger monster in the end.

monster illustration

A Budget is a Living Thing:

Your budget is not something you scribble on a notepad and shove in the drawer and forget.  It is something that is “living”.  Now, with that said, it is not something to obsess over.  Set aside some time weekly to review your budget, if you are married, make sure you do this with your spouse.  See how you have been spending your money, assign it to a category.  Do NOT put credit card purchases in a ‘black box title’ such as Credit Cards.  Actually list out what you made that purchase for.  You will very quickly be surprised on how much a week you may be spending on things like breakfasts, lunches, coffee, snacks, entertainment without even blinking an eye.  When you put a name on them, they become real.

My goal, or happy place, is to be able to budget for three-quarters (or better yet, half) of our house income.  Yes, you read that correctly three-quarters of our total house income.  That does not mean that this happens every month there are times I don’t make that goal.  What it means is it gives me a line to shoot for.  This way, heaven forbid, if something happens to the “good times” income and it gets cut, we can still thrive without too much stress.  Notice I said thrive, not just survive.  It also gives me a challenge and I love a good challenge.

I’ve mentioned this many times, but I love the way that Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace utilizes their online budget tool Every Dollar .  It lays it out perfectly.  Especially when paying off those credit cards because in reality, when you pay these off you are gaining money.  Once they are paid off, close as many as you can, especially the high interest rate ones.  The Every Dollar budget tool offers a subscription version and a free version.  I tell people to utilize the free version for 2 reasons:  1) It’s free and not another expense.  2) It forces you to physically write what you spent the money on.  The paid subscription version allows you to connect to your savings, checking, credit cards to automatically bring in transactions, but you have to place them in your built budget.  Their paid subscription also will not allow you to add an American Express Card, or pay for the subscription using a credit card, you must use a debit card or a checking account to pay for the annual subscription.  Both the subscription and free versions are available on both PC and phone/tablet app versions for Android and iPhone apps.  With any budgeting tool, it works best when you work with it often.  I budget daily or nothing less then once a week.

Put extra money that you are no longer wasting on things to paying off debt.  It is not as hard as you may be thinking it is.  The outcome is less stress and fear.  Now, when you do pay it off, don’t go “celebrate” with some big shopping spree or dinner out or a vacation.

Budgeting allows you to live below your means which gives you freedom from stress and freedom from being a slave to needing more.  It allows you to give time to what is truly important; relationships and your health as a whole.

So don’t look at budgeting as this big scary monster lurking in the dark, look at it as a garden just waiting for you to plant and watch it grow.

white and green ceramic pig decor

Until next time,

Mrs. Kay Lynn Rice

Planting Seeds

I bet you expected this to be about gardening, didn’t you?  Well, in a way it is.  We are growing a garden that will feed us for the rest of our lives if we are wise, or we are creating a barren plot that will cause us to fall.  I know, that isn’t a very positive way to start an article is it?  Truth be told, today’s world has us creating a barren plot.  How can we avoid falling into the trap of World View?

Think of pennies as seeds.  Every penny placed wisely grows, pennies cast to the side are lost.  I remember overhearing a conversation that pennies are useless in today’s society and should be “discarded”.  Now even a child knows that when you put a penny in a jar each day by the end of the year you have $3.65.  When you start finding pennies in the couch cushion, in the car, on the sidewalk, and you pick it up and add it to the jar, well, you just increased your income.  Seeds that grow into a crop.  One seed gives birth to a crop of fruit.

As with seeds and a garden, the soil must be primed, there is maintenance and care and daily pruning involved.  A seed will not grow on rock.

woman standing on pasture

How to prime your soil:

  1.  Budget.  I talk about this all the time.  A budget should be a living thing, not something you do once and shove in the drawer of a desk.  It is constantly changing, growing, shrinking.  Working with your budget weekly will allow you to see upcoming storms, droughts and be able to prepare accordingly.  During good times that your ‘crops’ are doing above expectation, work on saving and giving.
  2. Revisit your wants vs. needs.  Another subject I talk about all the time.  This is a subject that should have lots of communication around with your family, especially your spouse.  Exactly what do we need as a family?  What do we want?  Is our want justified?  Just a clue here, just because the neighbors are going on a one month cruise does not mean you have to do the same thing.
  3. Making your home work for you.  No, I am NOT talking about a refinance loan.  I’m talking about utilizing the spaces.  Instead of just flowers, plant herbs and vegetables.  This will help with your grocery bill and your health.  If you have land, put in a full garden and learn to preserve by canning, freezing and dehydrating.  Berries and fruit are also a great addition for visual as well as food.  Do you live where you can have poultry?  Chickens are a wonderful source of protein in both eggs and meat, but be prepared for lots of work.  Meat Rabbits are also a great way to supplement your meat intake.  You will need a to understand that meat rabbits are food, not pets.  With bringing on livestock you will need to look into your homeowner’s insurance, community rules, etc.
  4. Family Rules.   Seeds are best planted early.  With children its the same way.  Teach your children well in the areas of money and work.  Give them chores, teach them young to keep track of their earnings.  Encourage work at the proper ages and teach them responsibility of their earnings.  Every adult & young adult who is healthy and living under the roof need to have responsibilities both in work and finance.  Do not permit anyone to slide.  You are responsible for raising the next generation.  Here is also the difficult conversation section, do not be afraid to confront misuse of finances, even if it is with a spouse.  Do not attack, do not fight, find common ground and discuss to avoid the storm in the future.  Everyone is in this together.
  5. Find your leaks and areas of waste.  This is not only in the area of actually spending money, but in how you are spending time.  If you are “too busy” to cook at home, look at why?  Are you spending time in front of the television instead of meal prepping?  Have you overbooked your kid’s activities so much that no one has time to rest and focus on each other?  Time and Money both are things that we can control how they are used.
  6. Invest.  I’m not talking necessarily about the stock market.  I’m talking about investing in your home, future and self.  Use your money and time wisely to build not to break down.  Instead of spending thousands of dollars on a cable bill, cut the cord, and spend the time outside with your family building and doing instead of spending time in front of the television or all on different devices in different rooms.  Spend pennies on preparing a garden and watch your grocery bill go down.  Take the money you normally would spend on a daily coffee shop coffee and put it in a penny jar, you’ll be surprised how much money you have at the end of the month.  But don’t go out and reward yourself with it, pay off some bills instead, put it back into the crop to grow more.
  7. Pay off and get rid of the plastic.  I talk about this one often as well.  In today’s world, yes unfortunately, we do need a credit line.  But watch how you utilize it.  Ask yourself, do I really need <item, service> right now?  Can I save for it?  How much will this cost me in interest?  Can I buy it used for less and still save money on maintenance of this item/service?  Can I make it myself?  If you do run up a card.  Pay off your smallest debt first, then take the money you would be spending on it and add it to the next in the list of debt, doubling that payment amount, leaving the larger ones at their minimum payment until you move up the ladder.  This is called the Snowball effect, Dave Ramsey teaches this.  I am a huge follower of his and his Financial Peace University.  I love his budget tool at everydollar.com .
  8. Keep a small amount of cash on you at all times.  I will keep $5.00 on me in cash and if I am out and about and need something like water, I can use the cash and not a card, it also makes me more aware of how I’m spending things.  Keep track of your cash use as well.
  9. Utilities and Insurance.    It is wise to review your utilities and insurance at least quarterly or after a big life change.  I know you are thinking why utilities.  Here is the thing, if your electric bill jumped spiked the previous month/quarter you should ask yourself why.  Was it an overly hot or cold month?  If it was, do you really need the air conditioner set cold enough to support penguins?  Do you need the heater going like a dragon on overload.  There is a difference between comfort and access.  learn to acclimate a little better with alternative methods.  Dress appropriately for the weather inside and outside.  Adjust the thermostat when you will not be at home.  It’s all about adjusting behaviors and expectations.  Your insurance should be looked at periodically to make sure you are being covered for what you really need to be covered for.  There is no reason to be insurance poor.  You can also save up in an emergency fund to offset costs here as well.

I will continue to discuss these items throughout the blog.  I hope you enjoy them and that they help you think of ways to be more efficient and cost sensitive in your life so that you can grow a most productive crop.

“She goes to inspect a field and buys it with her earnings she plants a vineyard.  She is energetic and strong, a hard worker.”  Proverbs 31: 16-17

Until Next Time,

Mrs. Kay Lynn Rice