How Our Budget Came to Be

Today my new(er) found best friend cousin asked me, "You and your husband do the John Ramsey program, right?” I quickly corrected her and let her know we did the  Dave Ramsey  program (check out  Financial Peace University, you won't be sorry!) and that we will never manage our finances any other way.

Before I get more into how we budget, I want to back up and tell you how it all started.  

Ours was a somewhat untraditional whirlwind romance. The basics are, we met online via, didn't hit it off, kept in touch, I used him to help move, I moved, I realized I was pretty into him and didn't want to be without him, he came and moved me home, we decided on the way home we would get married and 8 weeks later we were married.

In the midst of all the craziness, we started planning out our lives together. Naturally that led to us trying to figure out what our finances would be. My husband was still in school and working as much as he could for a little more than minimum wage, and I had just landed a decent paying job upon my return that I was sure would allow us to live like kings - until we started putting together our first budget. We sat down and started to fill out an excel budget template. After completely estimating on some things and adding in my car payment, my husband's student loans, and our new rent - we were half way down the list and ran out of money. It was a nice big slap of reality. One I didn't want to deal with. So we talked to our parents and got a better estimate on the things we had just guestimated on and we barely, barely made all our bills on paper. It wasn't pretty, we weren't saving anything, but we were pretty sure if he got more hours than we estimated (we tried to be conservative because he schedule and hours would fluctuate) we could just about make it. We would be tight, and we might struggle, but we figured that's what people did when they were first married so we could do it too.

Shortly after that we were started talking about having kids. When we would start planning a family, what we would do to take care of these future children, how we would pay for them etc. I have felt strongly impressed since I was younger that I should be a stay-at-home mom. When looking for career paths, I would always look at the possibility of doing it from home so that I could fulfill my desire to stay home with my {future} children. That's when the bomb came. My husband looked at me, with a deadly seriousness I hadn't seen on his face before, and told me that if we were lucky he'd be looking at a $30K salary when he graduated from college…and quite some time after that.

That was it. I was devastated. Not because I need to live a lavish lifestyle, not because I need a yacht or Olympic indoor swimming pool (yet), but because the dream I had had of being a stay-at-home mom as soon as we became parents had just been shattered. There is no way we could live off of $30K a year. And what was worse, I was making more than that so I would feel obligated to keep bringing home the bacon to keep our household afloat. So there I was with my husband to be, sobbing uncontrollably and making him feel like a failure. We sat there and talked for what seemed like hours until I was able to stop crying.  After many conversations and a whole lot of prayer, we decided that we would just have to do our best and cross that bridge when we came to it.

So we got married, combined our bank accounts, and did our best to manage our money with the knowledge we had. One night when we were listening to talk radio (yes, we were - and are - 20 something’s that listened to talk radio) we heard The Dave Ramsey show. My mom had listened to it before and had told me how great it was and how wonderful his advice was blah, blah, blah. Now don’t get me wrong, I love my mom, but she's not exactly the person that I would go to for financial advice. I always tell her that she was an example for us of what NOT to do with money. If it was on sale, she needed it. Twin sheets when we didn't have a twin bed, shoes that weren't the size of anyone in the house, any and all kitchen utensils because you know, we definitely needed that seventh slotted spoon.

Any way, we started listening to Dave Ramsey and hearing these people call in with their money questions. Some of them were so close to what we were dealing with it was unbelievable. I had steered clear of credit cards my whole life but I had gotten myself into a crazy car loan and thought there was nothing wrong with student loans or a mortgage. Listening to Dave (yeah, we're on a first name basis) my opinions on debt, even 'good debt', really started to turn around. As someone who was feeling the pains of making monthly payments on a car and living with pretty total unplanned spending, I was beginning to understand how free we could feel without those payments.  

We started to pay closer attention to our spending and tried to do a budget on our own using a google doc and listing our 6 or 7 recurring bills. This was slightly more sophisticated than my 'sticky note budget' I used when I was single but still didn't cut it. We still had unexpected expenses come up that we couldn’t pay for and we would still 'spend to the end' of our paycheck well before the next was scheduled to come in.

We decided it was time to suck it up and invest in Financial Peace University. Seriously, the best decision we ever made. We started watching the videos - they have a really convenient way to do it online or at home so we would churn through 2 lessons a night. We would do the workbook together and we started using the worksheets to create not only a real working budget but also a plan to actually get out of debt. We paid off the $150 on the only credit card we had, cut it up, and listed my Jeep for sale the same night we finished the first lesson.

As we started to live a more budgeted and organized life, things personally started to improve. Not that they were bad before, they were great. It was just knowing that we had a plan and we wouldn't have to scramble for groceries brought such a peacefulness into our home. There was no turning back. 

It took us about 3 months to really iron out the kinks - more in ourselves and our impulse control than the actual budget - but now our budget runs smoothly. We sit down at the end of every month and put together our budget for the following month. Sometimes it fluctuates based on new needs that might arise but usually it's just a cut and paste situation (I have a mean looking excel budget I need to share). We 'even up' right around every paycheck to make stay we are staying on track and talk about anything else that might have come up. We talk about every purchase we make with one another, we aren't able to hide any money from each other, and we enjoy making it work together.

In the first 8 months of our marriage we had more heated, growly, sometimes heartbreaking discussions about our money than we have had in the last 2 years that we've been using a budget. We know exactly where we stand on money and we make the same decisions about it - most of the time. Most importantly however, we have a plan that we made together.