It’s barely morning in Texas. I’ve been up since 2:30 a.m. I just couldn’t get to sleep. I think I have a sugar hangover. I decided that if I was going to celebrate the holiday with junk food, then I was going to seriously indulge – and I did. After receiving my Christmas stocking (which was filled with a whole bag of candy), I polished off everything within two hours. Everything I make and eat for 360 days of the year is either sugar-free or low sugar, so I don’t feel bad about it. Plus, I left all the candy with food dyes alone. I just went for the plain chocolate.
Anyway, since I couldn’t sleep, I got up and made a budget for 2021 – and a debt payoff plan that’ll have everything paid off in 5 years (if all goes well). With a new house and a baby on the way, a budget seemed really important.
I’ve actually been making budgets since getting married. This year though, I pretty much forgot about budgeting since March. We haven’t gone off the rails, but we haven’t been paying attention to our money either. I knew there was no way to pay off debt in any less than 5 years, but I feel so much more secure now having a plan!
Now comes the hard part: following the plan. This seems like it would be an easy step. I’ve made the plan. I went through all the trouble of figuring out monthly bills already. However, following the plan is quite difficult for me. I’m a reactionary person, and I tend to do things without fully thinking them through. For example, I waver between needing to stock up on all the food and only having enough for a week/month at a time. I’ll decide I’m only going to spend $40/week on groceries; I’ll do that for a few weeks, and then I’ll go buy $100 worth of tomato sauce. I do the same thing with investments. We’re fortunate enough to have some money set aside for the stock market, and I’ll go for a few months trying to slowly extract ourselves, and then I hear some piece of stock market news and go buy as many stocks as I can.
Things like that totally defeat the purpose of whatever I’m attempting to do. Following this money plan is going to be tough. However, I think this is actually the best budget I’ve come up with so far. It doesn’t focus on saving ALL the money, and I’ve been an adult long enough to know that life has a tendency to mess up the best laid plans. I believe I’ve covered some contingencies this time, which has been a shortcoming of my budgets in the past.
Also, just so you know, I’ve tried to save every penny by putting anything “extra” into a savings account immediately. All that did was get us hit with an overdraft fee; it didn’t actually save us any money. However, I love savings accounts. If any extra money is in our checking account, we do have a tendency to spend it. I’ve found that having a buffer of $100-200 is ideal. That way we don’t accidently get into an overdraft situation (although we’ve attempted to have that stopped multiple times – argh), but we don’t spend all our savings either.
But back to sticking to plans, I know if I can manage to stick to this plan and not run off and do something else (squirrel!), our money situation will improve.
We’re not actually in that bad a shape, but we’re definitely not where either my spouse or I would like us to be. We were actually discussing this yesterday. Our problems aren’t really problems. Our problems are totally first-world problems. Yes, we live near the poverty line, but the “poverty” line for Americans is higher than some of the highest incomes elsewhere in the world. That train of thought is actually helping us get a house. (Hopefully) I believe we’ve finally settled on a house. It’s not as big as we wanted or on a much land as we wanted, but it’s adorable, and it should serve our needs well.
That’s one of the biggest pieces of financial advice I can give: realize that first-world problems are not actual problems. The other piece of advice I have is the one I need to learn to take: if you make a plan, STICK TO IT! You can make the best financial (or otherwise) plan in the world, but if you don’t follow it, the plan’s not worth anything. The best plan is the one you’ll follow.