A wise friend recently shared a very good quote with me:
“We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret." John Rohn.
And the more I thought about it, the more I realized she was right. And not only will everyone suffer from one of these two pains, the pain of regret is always WAY worse than the pain of exercising a little self discipline. In fact, discipline is more like discomfort, really. While regret carries with it the crushing weight of wishing forever that you could go back and do things differently. I can think of almost no pain that is worse than the pain of regret.
So, ya, this quote really struck a chord with me. We were talking about budgeting at the time, and I told her how ashamed I was that Big Daddy and I never save. We should. We can. But we don't. Mostly because we have never made a plan to save. And no matter how much he earns, we seem to spend exactly that much. And I knew, could sense in my bones the way you sense upcoming snow, that the day will come when we will need money in savings and won't have it if we don't change something. Soon.
So with a particularly tight month coming up, we finally sat down yesterday and made a budget. We went through 2 months of bank statements so we could get a feel for what we spent our money on, created an Excel spread sheet to categorize everything, then we started deciding what things we could eliminate and what things we could whittle down. And you know what? After about an hour and a half, we had managed to reduce our monthly spending by 43%!!!! Can you imagine?! Not all of it was things we can permanantly get rid of. There were a few bills we'd been paying way more than the minimum. So we'll only pay the minimum this month when things are tight and then go back to bigger payments next month. And there were a few bills we could defer, but only this once. And there were a few incidentals that won't occur this month. But a lot of what we were able to reduce was frivelous spending: clothes, eating out, home decor and housewares, entertainment, etc.
This upcoming month will be tight. I'm taking all the money alloted for groceries, dates/babysitting, "blow mone," etc., and putting it in envelopes. And I won't go out without them. Everything will be paid for, CASH, with those envelopes. So when the money is gone, it's gone. And then we will just do without.
Making the budget was tough. Owning up to our spending was tough. Putting strict spending limits on ourselves was tough. Not spending anything not allowed will be really tough. Keeping track of the money will be tough. But you know what? It feels good. It feels really, really good. And I know whatever pains we experience this month will be nothing compared to the pains we would have felt if we just let ourselves overspend, go into debt, bounce checks, and get upside down. The weight I feel lifted off my shoulders, knowing we'll make it this month, is absolutely FREEING.
I think I'd like to do this every month. We might allow ourselve an adjustment in how much we can spend on a few things--groceries, eating out, etc.-- when the months are more plentiful, but we can take a good portion of the extra is earned those months and put it aside for emergencies, vacations, rainy days, etc. Yep. This feels really really good.
p.s. If you don't budget, but want to start, I recommend these Dave Ramsey worksheets to help you get started. Dave Ramsey Monthly Cash Flow pdf