Directions for the Journey

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak at a ladies retreat in New York with my Mom. It was such a fun thing to get to do together and we had a lovely time. We flew into Newark airport and were picked up by three very sweet ladies whom we had never met before and the plan was then to drive to Long Island Beach where the retreat would be held. Well, 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 just 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. Well, 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 and the “Nuvi” 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. Well, 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 why do I need to have this budget, Tracy? I track all my finances on my computer and everything is automated. Well, I’ll tell you. Life has a tendency to throw you 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. This budget is like your own personal financial “Nuvi” or printed directions. It is your roadmap to when each bill is due. It is your signal when you are reaching the end of your budget for entertainment for the week, saying, “OK, 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. That is why I have the sections to the right on your budget. This section doesn’t have to be your plan for what to do with your extra money. It may be your section for tracking your savings and watching your dreams grow. Make it your own, but 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 is 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 and I record it in my check register… but this budget is my vision. It is my roadmap to where we are going with my 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 budget and enter all of my bills that are due for that section into Quicken (and my check register, although I don’t necessarily recommend this, it is just a habit for me). I then track my 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.

So that 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 🙂 ). 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, like we looked at yesterday, but a budget will also help you to get where you want to be, and to get there a whole lot faster.