Living Intentionally – How to Start Budgeting Like You Mean it
Quitting Your 9-5
Moving against the grain of society by budgeting differently is like shining a light in the darkness. People will try to put your light out through peer pressure, but everyone will be looking at you as motivation to change their own life because your light shines brighter.
Recently a friend said a few unexpected yet generous words about my family. That we were intentional about every area of our life from raising our son, to work, to recreation and friendships, to our budget and church life. I was caught by surprise at this comment because of the minor stress related health issues I’ve experienced recently. I know that my family can improve in so many areas so it was difficult to take the compliment, but goodness, it was refreshing to hear. I realize the effort it takes to be intentional and I have also experienced the stress that can come with it. So how do we become intentional with our budget and with the many other areas of our life?
Change the Race
Robert Kiyosaki talks a bit about us all being in ‘the Rate Race.’ He actually took part in creating a fun game about this called “Cash Flow” which I highly recommend. Given the Rat Race, let’s talk about a typical American work week: Most people take the kids to school or day care, go to work, pick up the kids, get takeout or make and eat dinner, watch a TV show or two or play some video games and then go to bed. That is the typical Rat Race and to be honest, it can be a relatively easy life until the bills add up, the budget is broken and life hits us. We ride the wheel ’round and ’round and before you know it, our kids are grown up, we’re nearing retirement and we have ‘intentionally’ forgotten about what was important enough to plan for. Does this sound typical? I’m actually not sure anymore. For us, that would be extremely atypical but we’ve adjusted our lives in a way to have more ‘space.’ Granted, we fill this space with other activities but we’ve been living so differently for so long that I’ve never defined our life as intentional. A typical week for us is actually pretty active. Ariana and I attend two weekly small groups, we attend church on Sundays and occasionally serve during Sunday. I attend a men’s group every other Monday and we used to attend a 3rd group every opposite Monday. We both work part time, alternating during the week so we don’t have to send our son to daycare, and we’re spending morning time together in devotion to each other and to God. We’re also planning a home-school group so we can raise Elijah, giving him the best possible opportunity at a future. We’re being intentional about a consistent date night and family day during each week. As for budgeting, we know where every dollar of income comes from and where it goes. I’d say we’ve graduated from the Rat Race or Wheel into a Rat Ball. We can now control where we go but even the intentional life can feel a bit confined.
Budget Baby Steps
So how can we be more intentional and get out of the race? Baby steps. It’s difficult to overcome multiple problems at once but if we take baby steps to make one positive change at a time we can slowly develop new habits. Let’s get practical. You print out your last three months of bank statements and you highlight everything that’s entertainment or dining related. This generally includes restaurants, movies, bar tabs, those quick convenient store buys for energy drinks or snacks. Sum up a grand total of average monthly costs and label this ‘family entertainment.’ Now, multiple it by 75%. Yes, we just cut your entertainment expenses by 25% but give it a try for a few months. Once you get paid for the month or bi-weekly, take out that 75% in cash and toss it into an envelope. Going to the movies? Take the envelope and pay cash. Going out to dinner? You get the point.
Once You Get Sick and Tired of the Same Broken Budget, You’ll Realize That You Need to Put in the Effort and Time to Make the Best of your Income and Expenses.
Budgeting is Simple. Discipline is What's Difficult
Budgeting is like eating a healthy diet; it starts with making an honest effort toward healthier decisions at every meal. If we don’t make budget adjustments daily, our ‘budget health’ will suffer.
Step away from the Wheel
Here’s the tough part. Every one of us has a screaming child inside that says ‘I want I want I want!’ And you know what, we’re all adults so sometimes we just get what we want. I imagine that child as a rat on the wheel constantly racing toward what it truly wants, but never reaching it because we never choose to stop doing what we’ve always done. By budgeting and cutting expenses even in one area by 25%, you’ll hear your inner child throw a fit once that envelope runs dry. Trust me, I still hear him. But he really needs to stop because what he wants is fleeting and childish and is often void of responsibility. The only way you can make significant financial change in your own life, is to plan for what you’re going to spend, and stick to the plan. Forecast into the future six months to a year or more from now. If you saved 25% of select budgeted items, how much would you save? How much burden of debt could you pay off? Would an emergency be harder or easier to pay for? Would you have ‘space’ to do some of the extra things you’ve been wanting to do? Get off the wheel and take a look at what you’re really running after. Fleeting desires? Or an intentional life worth looking forward to…
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