Laughing, Weeping, Living

Life happens. You laugh about it or cry about it, sometimes both.

Fun with zero-balance budgeting

Okay, let me just start by saying that today was one of those “weeping” days alluded to in my blog’s title. It started out with Stephen waking me up at 5 freaking a.m., and on top of that I woke up feeling sick, then Stephen proceeded to spend the morning freaking out about nothing and everything. I’m sorry, baby, but I don’t know what “ai-iah-iah-iaheeee” means, despite your very enthusiastic arm waving and scrunchy face. Suffice to say, the actual highlight of my day was when the Albertson’s cashier surprised me by issuing a rain check for the ad-special strawberries that were no longer in stock.

Even though today was such a gem and all I really wanted to do was crawl back into bed with all the remaining cookies, I needed to draft our family’s budget for March. A couple years ago, Jeremy and I did Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, and we’ve been doing a zero-balance budget ever since. I really like it. Truly. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this method of keeping a budget, it’s all about subtraction. You start with your total income for the month, then subtract each expense until you have zero dollars left, then you stop spending. The forms from FPU rank the expenses from most crucial to least crucial, so mortgage/rent, utilities, groceries, and transportation are first in order, followed by things like clothes money, baby sitter, subscription payments, entertainment, and debt payments. Next to each item on the form, you write in how much will be spent for the month. In essence, you do all your spending on paper before the month even begins. Neat, huh?

When we first started doing a line by line, detailed budget, we were both working so the income was really fun to play with. “We can spend how much on frozen yogurt? Awesome!” “We can contribute to five different charities? Amazing!” “We can pay off the car loan? Sweet!” Then I quit my job to stay home with Stephen and we had to be a bit more careful. The line by line budget forms we got from the FPU have been so helpful especially for months we have to be more careful. Now I’m finding the budget form to be more oppressive. There are so many line items that don’t get an entry. Zero comes so much quicker. I can only do so much by shopping grocery sale items only and buying all my clothes at thrift stores. Thank God Stephen and I got on Medicaid. Thank God we’ve paid off our car loans and all but two student loans. Thank God we don’t carry consumer credit card balances anymore.

I really can’t stress enough the importance of keeping a detailed budget. Money can so easily slip away. For us, if we didn’t keep the detailed budget and tell our money where to go, I don’t think our ends would meet. That is how significant it is.

I would just encourage you to look into the zero-balance budget, especially if you often find that “there’s too much month left at the end of the money,” as Dave Ramsey would say. It may make all the difference.


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