Budgeting Review – Directions for the Journey

Tracy Jones Budgeting Basics, How to Set Up Your Budget

directions

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to speak at a ladies retreat in New York with my mom, Beverley Sheasby. We ended up having a lovely time with the people there; however, in the middle of a harrowing car ride to the retreat, we both doubted that we would even make it to the conference in the first place.

Our flight arrived at Newark airport and we were picked up by three very sweet ladies whom we had never met before. The plan was to then drive to Long Island Beach where the retreat would be held. My mom and I were in the back seat with one of the ladies in between us, and let me just say, the conversation from the front seat was just a little disturbing. There were many, many comments like, “I hope we don’t get lost”, and “I’m just not good with directions”, and “Let me just call my husband to find out where we are.”

My mom and I kept our mouths shut and started praying… not so much that we would find it, although we were very ready to get out of the back seat, but that we would find it soon, because we were both starving. We had been up since 4am to get to the airport and it was now around 2pm and the muffin at the airport was a long time ago.

Towards the very end of the journey, my mom starts talking to the ladies about how she wished that she had her “Nuvi” with her. She and my dad drive to many of their meetings with their “Nuvi” which is a GPS device that tells you exactly where you are and gives you specific directions on how to get to where you are going. The lady in the passenger seat, whose car we were driving, says, “I think we have one of those…” and proceeds to pull out a “Nuvi” from the glove compartment! Wrong turn after wrong turn, wandering aimlessly trying to find a place to eat, frantic phone calls to husbands, and we had a “Nuvi” in the car with us the whole time…

Some of you may be wondering – what does a “Nuvi” have to do with budgeting and why do I need to have this budget in the first place? I track all my finances online or on my computer and everything is automated.

I’m glad you asked. Life has a tendency to throw a lot of surprises and turns and even the need for u-turns sometimes. It is all very well to be able to track where you went once you have already gotten to your destination, but how much better is it to have directions in the car with you telling you how to get there? A budget is your personal financial “Nuvi” or printed directions. It’s your road map to when each bill is due. It’s your signal when you are reaching the end of your budget for entertainment for the week, saying, “Stop here or you will not reach your destination.”

And what is your destination? A life without debt. A life with savings, and provision for the unexpected. A life with hope and a plan for moving towards your dreams. This is why I have a section on my budget that lists my dreams and helps me to see them grow. I use this section to help me to plan what to do with extra money so that it doesn’t just disappear. It’s where I track my savings and watch my dreams grow.

Feel free to make this section your own on your budget, because I want to encourage you to write down your financial vision. Carry it with you. Look at it often, and remind yourself why you are doing this. If you are going to a place you have never been before, it’s wise to have directions, and this budget is your directions for a new life.

Every month I print a new copy of my budget and I fold it and carry it in my wallet. I still input all of my spending into Quicken, but this budget is my vision. It is my road map to where we are going with our finances. I physically cross off bills as I pay them on bill paying day.

On the first and the fifteenth I sit down with my paper budget and enter all of the bills that are due for that time period into Quicken (you can use any finance software that you prefer). I then track my cash spending on that piece of paper for the rest of the categories, like groceries, and gas. I transfer out all surplus money from my account into my savings, which forces me to stick to my budget and not overspend. If I am continually short in a category, my husband and I will adjust our budget, but we always do so with the vision in mind.

This is why I feel like this concise, clear, easily accessible budget is so important. You may love your financial software program, but mostly it just tracks where you have been, and can also make something that is very straightforward into something very complicated. Your financial plan needs to be simple. It needs to be easy to follow and even adjust, but I also firmly believe it needs to be written (printed is OK 🙂 ).

Purposeful spending in order to reach your dreams faster
Habakkuk 2:2 says “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it.” I love this verse because it is basically saying if the vision is plain and written out clearly, you get to run to your destination. In other words, you get to get there a whole lot faster! This is truly the heart of budgeting… purposeful spending in order to reach your dreams… as quickly as possible.

There is a small chance you may still reach your financial destination without directions in the car. We did eventually reach Long Island Beach (well, actually we only got there after we started using the Nuvi). But I guarantee you if you do decide to go through your financial life without a map, it will take you a lot longer to get where you want to go, and like my Mom and I in New York, you will probably be extremely hungry when you eventually get there. So save yourself time, frustration, hunger and a lot of u-turns, and get yourself a financial “Nuvi”. It will not only tell you where you are, but a budget will also help you to get where you want to be, and to get there a whole lot faster.