I never liked budgeting my money
If I really wanted something, I got it and figured out how to make the ends meet later. Until Ron went to prison. It was then that I had to learn how to budget my money – and I had to learn it quickly. Read more about my families journey.
Being a single mom means being responsible for everything. Earning the money, budgeting the money, spending the money, plus taking care of the house and the kids. It is a challenge, for sure. But if I can do it, you can do it. I remember the shock of realizing I was now the only person who would be making any money. I didn’t even HAVE a job at that time. Yikes! I couldn’t depend on Ron to bring his check home or get a side job playing drums on weekends if we need extra money. The only money that was going to come into this house was the money I would have to earn.
The only money that was going to come into this house was the money I would have to earn.
That was the first wake-up call concerning living on a budget. I couldn’t design a budget without something to budget, right? As I figured out how to get money into our home, my next wake-up call was that I actually had to create a plan (a budget) for how I would spend the money or I would run out of money way before I ran out of things I needed to money for. Although I can’t imagine living without a budget now, that was a shock to me when Ron went to prison.
I am proud to say that I quickly learned how to budget everything—money, toilet paper, soap, food, gas. Everything was rationed out across the month so that we would make it to the next month and never go without. There were a lot of things I decided were luxuries that I had thought I had to have before. Things like paper towels and paper napkins. I bought a bunch of cloth ones from the Goodwill store and washed them. I decided I didn’t really need to buy garbage bags, I could use the plastic grocery sacks. And then there was my hairspray and conditioner. I really hated giving those up, but in comparison to gas, electricity, and food, those were definitely not NEEDS. However, you will be relieved to know, deodorant stayed on my “need it” list for obvious reasons. I learned that there was a lot I could live without, and what things we really needed.
"I stopped buying anything at full price"
It is not easy to be poor, but I am so grateful I never experienced poverty in the fullness of that word. We always had a home, clothing, food and transportation. I was extremely blessed and I knew it. I never took it for granted that we had our own home and plenty of food to eat. In order to keep it that way, I never bought anything full price. We were all clothed off of the clearance racks, garage sales, Goodwill, or the generosity of others who passed on their children’s clothes and shoes. Truthfully, I still shop the clearance racks!
I didn’t even have a bank account because I spent everything I had each month, down to the very last penny. Banks don’t like that and I didn’t have the extra $4.95 fee per month to pay the bank in order to have a checking account without a minimum balance in it. So, everything was cash or money order. In order to ensure we had enough, I used the envelope system to budget my money. I would put money in envelopes according to how I could spend it. When the envelope was empty, I couldn’t by anything else in that category until next month. My envelopes were: electricity, food, gas, clothing, entertainment, investment in us (prison visits, phone calls, boxes for Ron, and Misc (this was my budget for toilet paper, make-up, bandaids, cleaning supplies, ect.)
It might surprise you to see that I had an envelope for entertainment, but it was really important to me that my sons get to enjoy life as well as learn to work hard. We did things like rent movies, go out to eat a burger at a place with a playroom, grab a pizza and go on a picnic at the park. Our budget was so tight that we didn’t swim at the local pool (it was .50 per person), instead we went to the nearby state park and swam for free once a week! I even used that fund to buy games or bikes on clearance or at Goodwill. It was our luxury fund and kept us from ever really feeling poor.
I am sharing this with you because I know some of you are really struggling financially. You are wondering how in the world you are going to make it to your next check. But, you are avoiding putting a budget together because on paper it looks even worse. But putting a budget together will help you to manage your finances and focus your spending on the things that are the most important to you instead of wasting money on things that don’t really matter. I gave up conditioner and napkins because I could use those couple of dollars to buy some little cars for my sons. The pure enjoyment my sons experienced with those new toys was worth the extra laundry and frizzy hair!
As I made more money, I adjusted my budget. The first adjustment I made was to add “savings” to my budget. Then, I started buying napkins again. Every time I buy a pack of napkins, or conditioner for my hair, I think about how very blessed I am that I can afford the finer things in life 🙂
Here are some tips to help you get started on creating a budget you can live with:
- List everything you currently pay for. Yes, I mean everything—down to toothpicks .
- Circle the things you really NEED to buy or pay for
- Cross off the things you can live without (this might even include internet or cable TV)
- Assign a monthly cost to everything left on your list
- Now add it up and see if your income can cover what is on your list. If not, revisit your list and either remove things or move them to purchase every other month or every quarter instead of monthly.
- Make a plan to increase your income (go back to school, apply for a new job, work more hours, etc.)
You can change your world
There are a lot of great, free budgeting programs out there now— just google “Budgeting” and choose one you like if you don’t want to start from scratch. You can do this! You must learn to live within your budget if you want to get ahead. No more payday loans, living on credit, or borrowing your way out of a hole every month. Budget, live within that budget, then find ways to increase your income. By living within your budget, you will experience a sense of empowerment, self-control, and pride that will help you change your world. Read more about how to change your world here.
I am rooting for you!