Freedom in a (Good) Budget

My husband and I have managed our family finances from a budget — or should I say, attempted to operate our expenses from a budget — for years. Well, we always intend to create a monthly budget, but we have a few things (new every month) that prevent us from sticking to said plan.

We’ve had two spending accounts for nearly twenty years – a personal account and my business account. Two budgets and twice the complication. Is the business or personal account responsible for the cell phone bill? What about the power bill, when I have a home office? And how do you set a budget when the business brings in different amounts each month? What about the gas bill that’s $80 one month and $250 the next?

And — budgeting takes time. Researching, recording, communicating, figuring, and calculating – all while balancing at least three other people’s needs and desires. Heck, isn’t winging it an easier approach?

Budgeting app and websites only repelled me further, adding a learning curve to an already tricky process. I kept coming back to paper, pencil, and a big fat eraser. I erased, smeared, and tore until the month’s budget balanced. Oh but wait, Johnny needs $10 for the school holiday gift exchange and Suzie needs a $35 deposit now for her end-of-the-year yearbook. OK, I’ll just start over with a fresh piece of paper. And now Johnny needs to go to the doctor ~ $30 office visit and $30 in prescriptions. Third time’s a charm. And would you believe in the same week, one of the dogs needs to go to the vet AND the thermostat breaks on a 28-degree day – that’s $190 more that wasn’t planned for. I’m not redoing this budget for the fourth time.

How is one supposed to operate from a budget with so many moving parts? This was my hang up for a long time. I could never make it work.

And then entered … EveryDollar. Yet another budgeting app, I reluctantly gave it a try. But with a simple platform and a quick learning curve (I’m talking minutes), I navigated through EveryDollar and was thrilled to find it easy and — dare I say — enjoyable. The program’s budget template is customizable – we can add in “swim team” or “domain renewal” or whatever’s on tap for that month. And then copy it for the following month. It syncs up with our bank accounts, so I simply drag each expenditure over to its category. And we stop spending in that category when we reach the limit, or we borrow from another category.

If something unexpected comes up, we adjust categories so the budget accommodates for every dollar. Thirty dollar unexpected yearbook deposit? OK, fine. Create a new line item and find that $30 – maybe the grocery category is reduced by $15 and the dining out category is reduced by $15 — adjust and adapt. Or say no.

EveryDollar has brought crystal clear precision to managing our family finances, and with that comes a deep inner peace. We welcome money as it comes in, and we assign every penny a job as it goes out. We make a plan, knowing and expecting things will change as the month progresses, and then we adjust. Over and over again. Money is fluid — it comes and it goes — and budgets should be fluid, too — allowing us to change and grow with every month.

Thanks, Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze!