{can we change the subject?}
an inspirational entry on budgets

Oh, the dreaded b-word. It's enough to make you want to poke your eyes out. Before you do, can I share with you a few reasons why being on a budget is awesome?

A life on a balanced budget is a life with less stress. More control. Extra generosity. Not bad, huh?

Without a budget, we let our money control us and often cling to it out of uncertainty. This can make us selfish and anxious. In contrast, a budget puts us in control of our money by giving us a plan of how to spend it.

Balancing a budget starts with a simple goal: have no more going out than is coming in. During a month, if you can meet all your expenses {without using a credit card or going into debt}, you've got a balanced budget.

A budget is only as good as the numbers that make it up. It does no good to plan on spending $50/month on gas if you live 25 miles from work and drive a car that gets eight gallons/mile. We have to start by finding out what we're spending now. From there, we can take steps to get our budget into balance.

If you're still with me, good - that means you're serious enough to make a change - congratulations!

The best way to see where your money is going is to track every dollar going out. Sound hard? Not at all! Here's an easy plan to help.

Create a spending sheet—a piece of paper with columns for categories of spending {medical, eating out, gas}. And keep it somewhere you spend time every day—desk, bedside table, etc.

Take two minutes a day {two is all it takes} to write down where you spent money. If you don't keep receipts or can't remember if you went to Target for groceries or a pet turtle {though, you'd certainly remember buying a turtle ... I hope!}, carry a notebook to transfer information to your spending sheet at the end of the day.

Remember, if you use cash or a debit card, use your notebook to track cash spending—just make sure it all ends up on your spending sheet!

Record all your spending into those categories for a month, and presto - you've got a solid start on a budget. Two months of information is better, and three months is best because it captures things that don't happen every month. Think through your possible categories — include everything!

It'll take a little work, but it's the most important thing you can do to get your finances under control. Don't be afraid of what you might find out, and don't wait for the start of the month - get going!

Something else ...
For a sample budget sheet, e-mail Nick at nick.dusenbury@foresthill.org.

Nick Dusenbury serves as Director of Finance at his church. He has a Masters of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and an Accounting degree from the College of William & Mary. He enjoys volunteering with teens and helping people be generous with money. Click here to read more from Nick.

Check in with Nick over at She Seeks.

© 2012 by Nick Dusenbury. All rights reserved.

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