God has provided for our needs, and he does not want us to be constantly worried about money. Learning about guilt-free spending on a budget can be a lifesaver!
Guest post by Shannon of Growing Slower
I knew long before I had kids and even before I met my husband that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. However, making that a financial reality once we actually had them was a whole other story! (Can I get an Amen?)
It was a long and painful shock for us to go from two comfortable incomes to just one. Along with that, there was the increased expenses of having children! I am happy to say that God has taken control of our hearts in this area and brought us true financial peace at last. I hope that sharing this one of many ways I’ve been humbled in my journey as a homemaker will encourage you in your own!
Are you doing your budget all wrong?
As my husband and I were trying to figure out how we were going to afford to have me be a stay at home mom, we quickly realized that we were going to have to make some big changes! We made a huge list of 97 simple ways to save money and did almost all of them (ok, except for #49!).
We made a budget and closely tracked our spending. The problem was, we’d say, “we’ll spend ‘x’ amount on baby supplies, this much on groceries, and we’ll leave a little left over just in case.” So that always gave us the mental leeway to go over budget. And guess what? We did. Every single month!
How to Make a (Zero-Sum) Budget
The turning point came when we learned about the importance of a zero-sum budget. It was a subtle difference, but this small mental shift has made all the difference in our ability to stay within our budget every single month and work toward paying off more than $20,000 in debt this year on one income.
Here’s how the zero sum budget works. First determine your monthly income and make a list of all of your expenses, debts, and bills. (Make sure you haven’t forgotten to put these expenses in your budget.)
The key is that the sum of your income and your outgoing budget categories is zero. Give every dollar a name, as Dave Ramsey says. Whether it’s your tithe, or diapers, or groceries, or your emergency fund, put it down on your budget. Make sure that your outgoing expenses exactly match your income. This ensures that when you do have a little extra, it goes in the “retirement” or “kids college” budget, and not to “oops we spent too much on groceries” category.
Note from Erin: If you need help making a budget, I have good news! The popular You Need A Budget (YNAB) app is offering 3 months FREE for my readers! Claim this freebie here.
The zero-sum budget emphasizes the fact that you don’t spend more than you make. Not even by one dollar. It also forces you to plan out where every dollar is going to go before you start spending. Just this small step of having a plan will help you meet your financial goals much faster. But here’s my favorite part of using a zero-sum budget system…
Guilt-Free Spending (on a budget)
I used to feel immediate stress when we would have expenses come up, wondering, Did we have enough to cover it? Would we be dipping into savings again this month?
Now when my toddler outgrows his clothes (again!), or it’s time to buy chicken feed or seeds for the garden, or we need to take a gift to a wedding, I don’t stress. I can spend money on these wants and needs without a sense of dread, knowing we have planned ahead for the expense.
When my husband tells me he needs new clothes for work or he wants to take me out for a date, I can happily say, Great idea Honey, there’s a budget for that!
God has provided for our needs, and he does not want us to be constantly worried about money. Now that we are being good stewards of what he’s blessed us with, we can enjoy the peace he intended for us to have.
Try it, you’ll like it!
A budget is typically thought of as a no-fun grownup thing that makes you feel guilty about spending money. I can assure you just the opposite has been true for my family!
If you haven’t taken control of your finances by keeping a budget, I would encourage you to try it. Don’t give up if you don’t do it perfectly right away. It took our family many months before we learned this discipline. I pray that you will soon find the same peace with your finances that we have discovered!
Looking for more posts on budgeting and family finances? Read these next:
…get even more posts in our Low Income Living index!
How do you manage your household budget? Share your tips in the comments!
Shannon Brown writes about frugal and simple living at GrowingSlower blog and in her Real Mom’s Guide series of books. Shannon and her husband live in eastern Washington and are parents to an energetic little boy and a peaceful baby girl. You can find Shannon sharing her favorite frugal tips on Pinterest, Google+, and Facebook.