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On a Budget: Not Letting Money Control You

We've been in this series about budgeting and discussing different ways to save money. Saving money is a passion of mine- it's something I love doing, something I love learning about, and something I love helping others with. Just as I have had to learn how to save money, I have also had to learn how to not let money control me. Sometimes, I get so passionate about money that I forget that it's just money. 

If you find yourself constantly thinking about money, stressing over it, and maybe obsessing about saving it (or spending it), you may be letting money control you. Read on to find out the 3 main ways I've developed to not let money control me. 

Keep money in perspective. 

In today's world, money is power and money controls things. You need money to survive in the world but it doesn't have to control you. Perhaps the best way I keep money in perspective is by remembering that my money is not my money

The Lord has given me the money in all my bank accounts and funds to steward and watch over. I believe the Lord wants us to save, live within our means and not be a slave to the lender (see Proverbs 22:7). I think we are also called to tithe, to give generously, and to use the money he has entrusted with us to enjoy our family and enjoy the life He has given us. 

When I see my money as simply money I was given to manage, it's a ton easier to give, spend, and save freely without losing perspective. 

Allow yourself a measure of grace 

Sometimes, Alex and I get so intensely focused on saving money that we won't spend hardly any money on doing fun things (a large part of why we instituted our monthly date night challenge). 

I (we) have had to learn that it's okay to go over on our entertainment budget by $20, or it's okay if we spend a little more than we were anticipating at dinner out with friends. Alex and I have both stressed over money so much that it gave us physical symptoms- stomach pains, headaches, back aches- you name it. 

When we release our money stress to God and allow ourselves a measure of grace (AKA "wiggle room") in our budget, our physical symptoms go away and we feel the weight lift off of our shoulders. 

Now, if you are a chronic spender and/or trying to pull yourself out of debt having a mentality of "spending an extra $100 is no biggie" can be dangerous and very unhelpful. However, if you are genuinely trying to curb your spending habits and slip a little, don't forget to give yourself grace in that situation. It's never too late to get back on track. 

Remember what is important 

Tying into the above idea of keeping money in perspective, it's also vital that you keep in mind what (or who) is important. Remember that it is often the who and when (as opposed to the what) that is important in life. 

Money does not make memories- people make memories. Is an expensive vacation more important than the people who are on vacation with you?   

Time is so much more valuable than money. Some of my favorite things that Alex has done for me have been gifts of his time and not his money.

There is incredible value to being on a budget and being wise steward of the money God has given you. But people, experiences, and simply life are so much more valuable than money, and money should never take priority over loving people, experiencing memories, or enjoying the precious moments of your life.

Not letting myself be controlled by money is a still a fairly consistent struggle for me- one that I am getting better at and praying through. 

Have you ever found yourself controlled by money? What are ways that you don't let money control you? 

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On Moving Mountains

"...I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."- Matthew 17:20

I had this verse written on my left hand as I went in for knee surgery on April 28, 2008, because I was absolutely convinced that my faith was surely as big enough as a mustard seed, therefore when the doctors opened my knee, they wouldn't have to replace my ACL because God would have miraculously healed it. 

Well, imagine my disappointment when 5 hours later in the recovery room I groggily hear my doctor tell me that my ACL was indeed completely torn and they had to replace it. Now, a mustard seed is tiny- smaller than a sesame seed, bigger than a poppy seed. I surely thought I had at least that much faith and that my "mountain" would move. 

I was convinced that my mountain was my injury, and if I prayed hard enough to move my mountain, that was the same thing as getting my injury healed. Since my surgery, I've prayed for God to move this mountain or this mountain... sometimes I think my prayers work (the mountain gets moved according to Sarah) but a lot of the times I found myself frustrated- God I have faith! Why isn't this mountain moving!? ("The way I want it to" is often tacked on the end of that prayer). 

One night shortly after surgery I was praying and felt the Lord explaining to me that maybe the mountain is something different. I (we?) tend to look at the mountain as the broken heart, the injury, the loss, the trials... and maybe we think that moving the mountain is fixing the broken heart, healing the injury, bringing back the loss, or taking away the trials. 

But what if the mountain is actually something (aside from our problem) that is hindering us from keeping our eyes on Jesus? Instead of seeing the mountain as our problem, maybe the mountain is what's keeping us from focusing on the One who will help us through our problem? 

I firmly believe that Jesus moves mountains every day—people are healed against all odds, marriages find restoration, and God provides daily. I do believe that this verse can be taken in its simplest form—that faith will move mountains and we will see miracles happen.

But I also know the anger and frustration that can come from having faith and not seeing the mountain moved in the way I thought it should (as was the case with my torn ACL). I believe that Scripture applies to every situation, and I think that sometimes moving our mountain means that our problem is not solved the way we would like to see it solved.  In these situations, maybe moving our mountain means moving the obstacle that is keeping our focus from Jesus and understanding that God is indeed moving mountains that we simply cannot yet see. By moving the mountain hindering our view of Jesus, we will find a restorative peace because we are once again focused on the One who has the power to heal. By refocusing on Jesus, we are reminded that he is always moving mountains on our behalf, even if we cannot yet see them moving.

What mountain is hindering your view of the One who heals and restores? Maybe this mountain looks like anger, frustration, or hopelessness. Whatever mountain is preventing you from focusing on Jesus, surrender that mountain to the Lord. Focus on Him and find peace in knowing that He is moving many mountains on your behalf. Continue on faithfully trusting and believing in a God who has power to restore, heal, and redeem. Gaze upon His face; don’t let any mountains get in the way; let Him hold your hand and walk with you in the journey, strengthening your faith so that, indeed, you will have faith as small as a mustard seed.

What mountains are you facing? What mountains have you faced? What mountains has God moved for you?

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On a Budget: Save on household items

Something we all have to buy are things that I've labeled in my budget "household items/necessities". These things include (but are not limited to) toilet paper, toiletries (shampoo, razors etc.), and medicines (i.e. ibuprofen, tylenol). This category also includes any sort of cleaning supply that I don't consider food groceries (laundry detergent, dish soap, miscellaneous cleaning supplies, paper towels, foil etc.) 

This category is one in our budget that is extremely difficult to set the proper amount for. Many months we'll spend little to nothing on this category, and the next month we'll run out of everything at once and blow the amount I have budgeted. I am still working out the kinks to this category, but along the way have learned 3 major ways to save in this area of our budget without using coupons.

Disclaimer: I know all you couponers out there are getting this kind of stuff for dirt cheap. I've always been somewhat of a coupon skeptic so these are the ways I've learned to save on these items without couponing. (For the record, I am dabbling in some couponing and will later post my success or failure with the endeavor. In the meantime, use these tricks to save today on items you need now.) 

Buy in bulk
I often suggest buying in bulk cautiously because a lot of times I think bulk purchasing is often disguised as a good deal when it's really not. However, we have found that our local Costco often has good deals of bulk purchases of certain personal care items including toilet paper and deodorant. 

For the sake of an example, lets examine toilet paper. We pay around $17 for a 30 count toilet paper at Costco. To make the comparison, we will compare sheet per sheet of the toilet paper roll because that is a better indicator of how big the individual rolls are. The Costco brand toilet paper claims to have 425 sheets per roll of toilet paper making the cost per sheet around $0.001 per sheet. A similar "mid-grade" toilet paper will cost you $11.97 at Wal-Mart for 24 rolls. Each of the Wal-Mart rolls claims to have 208 sheets making the cost per sheet around $0.002 per sheet. 

Okay, so we are talking about fractions of pennies here but if you notice- the Wal-Mart toilet paper brand is twice as much as the Costco brand of toilet paper when comparing sheet per sheet. This goes to show that in this instance, buying this particular item in bulk is a great deal. 

If you live in the middle of the Alaskan tundra 500 miles away from the nearest Costco, or simply don't have a membership, do not purchase a membership for the sake of a few items.

Instead, try to stock up when your favorite toilet paper is on sale, Google search for some basic coupons that will save you a couple dollars, and be willing to try new products that could be a little bit cheaper than the brands you are currently purchasing.

Hit your local dollar store 
This is really the main way we save money in the area of household necessities. In my pharmacology class in nursing school we learned that there is very little difference in brand versus generic medicines. Most of the time, brand names are more expensive because they are paying to use the actual brand name. If you compare a brand name with a generic brand of the same medicine, 9 times out of 10, the drug or active ingredient is the exact same

I have found a couple exceptions to this rule, but they are few and far between. The fact that the drug or active ingredient is the same in most medicines, brand name or not, is why I frequent our dollar store for 95% of the medicines we use at home. I buy ibuprofen, acetaminophen (tylenol), and Excedrin all at the dollar store. We save a ton of money and the drugs work just as effectively than if we had bought brand names. 

I also frequent our dollar store for some household kitchen items that can be really pricey everywhere else. Things like plastic sandwich baggies and plastic wrap are all a steal at $1 each versus the usual $3-4 that you'll pay at a regular grocery store. 

Simplify cleaning routines 
I have learned to clean effectively without spending a ton of money on expensive cleaning products. Blue Dawn dish soap, baking soda, vinegar, and this cleaning product from our local dollar store are staples in my cleaning routine. Aside from those four items, I don't use much else to clean. I have found that the above products do a great job, are less toxic than most commercial products, and best of all are nice to my budget. 

If you find yourself spending boku bucks on expensive cleaning products that you love, maybe Google a DIY version of the same product. I will admit, some DIY products are just not the same as the real thing (I know from personal experience), but a lot of them do a great job. You won't know until you try it! 

This category can be a huge money sucker for most people, and one that I have personally struggled to save money in. By buying generic when you can, purchasing (wisely) in bulk, and simplifying what and how many products you use to begin with, you can cut the spending in this particular category. 

**I was not reimbursed for mentioning any particular store, brand, or product in this article. These are the items that have simply worked for me and kept my budget on track**

What other ideas do you have to save in the category of household necessities? Does anyone else struggle to cut this budget? 
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A Monthly Date Challenge: Bicycles & Basketball

I can't believe how fast autumn is flying by; I mean it's already almost Thanksgiving! #canigetanamen. In July, Alex and I created a date night challenge for ourselves. We decided we needed to get out more and move our dates past the couch and Netflix. I plan one for the month and he plans one for the month. Read below to find out what we did in October. 

Date #1 Sarah's Date

We have some friends who have repeatedly told us about this date idea that they do. I must admit it sounded like fun, but it involved bicycling which I can do, but it's not my favorite thing in the world. My husband man, on the other hand, LOVES biking so I figured I would put up with it for his sake. 

Denver has this awesome thing called the B-cycle program where you rent a bike for $8 for the entire day. As long as you check in at stations along the way, it's the one flat fee. A large majority of the stations that you get these bicycles from are downtown Denver, so I figured that we could rent bicycles and ride them to dinner. 

Now, riding a bicycle is my forte... if it's on a small deserted (preferably paved) path along a river or something. Riding bicycles downtown Denver? That sounded extremely intimidating and I almost talked myself out of it. Thankfully I called my friend (who had done this date many times before), to help me walk through the bike renting process, and she convinced talked me back into it. 

Alex got home, we threw helmets in the car and headed for downtown. We luckily found a place to park for free (I didn't want to have to pay for parking and a bicycle). We found the bicycles, rented them, and headed out. It was nerve-wracking at first but as I got more comfortable and realized how many of the streets had really wide bike lanes, I enjoyed it more and more. Did I mention it was October and the perfect night out? Like 70 degrees!

Alex was easily comfortable on his bike and led the way to the Mexican restaurant that I had picked out prior to leaving the house. We were downtown with cars honking, steam rising from potholes, and skyscrapers all around us... to this small town girl, the urban night life was both overwhelming and exciting at the same time.

We sat and enjoyed Mexican food... which is also a huge deal because if you know me I'm really picky with my Mexican food (as in I don't really like it unless it's New Mexican food- and YES, there is a huge difference). This place had awesome reviews and great prices online and they didn't disappoint.

The waiter got so tired of refilling our waters
that he eventually just brought an entire pitcher
out. Oops. 

It was dark outside by this time which made riding the bikes a little bit scarier, but they came equipped with a flashing front and rear light which made me feel a lot safer. We walked around the famous 16th street mall after dinner, stopped into Starbucks for a frappucino dessert, and then hopped on our bikes and rode around a bit more until we headed back to our car.

Alex loved the date, I thoroughly enjoyed the date, and we can't wait to hop back on the B-cycle. 

**Also, just as a note... you can download the B-cycle app through the App Store and see if there is a program in your city... there looked to be a program in a lot of the major cities around the country, not just Denver. Check it out to see if it's in your city! 

Date #2 Alex's Date 

So, if there's one thing that Alex and I will forever love, it's basketball. I have been a die hard Denver Nuggets fan since I was in 6th grade. And when I say die hard I mean that- I had my entire bedroom covered in posters, newspaper articles, jerseys, and other paraphernalia of Carmelo Anthony. #15... those were the days.

I also may or may not have pushed a little kid out of the way when  I was a sophomore in high school so Carmelo Anthony could sign my basketball.

Anyway, last season was pretty rough, but every season is a new chance. Since our latest move, we are only 15 minutes from Pepsi Center- the stadium where the Nuggets play. This is good and bad- good because we can watch games easier, bad because we probably should not spend all of our money on tickets. 

We had friends invite us to one of the games and when we looked it up, we found out it was opening night. Um, we'll be there! So, Wednesday October 30th we watched the Denver Nuggets open the 2014-2015 NBA season against the Detroit Pistons... It was awesome to start off the year with a win, and even more fun to share the game with friends (one whom had never been to a Nuggets game before).

Going to a Nuggets game with friends would just be too boring though. In the middle of it all, we got caught in traffic, missed the first part of the game, vowed next time just to take the light rail... and then locked our keys in our car. 

Our friends dropped us off at home after the game to get a spare key, we drove back to the Pepsi Center to get the car with keys locked in it, and pulled into home finally close to 11pm. When it was all said and done, we had a good time and were happy to welcome in basketball season. Go Nuggets! 

All in all, it was another great month of dates... 

Do you like riding bikes? Would you ever do it in a big city? Have you ever gone to a professional basketball game? 
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On a Budget: Spend less on entertainment

The first and most important step to making the most of every dollar that you earn is creating a budget that will work for you and your family. One of the main categories in our budget (and most budgets) is the category of "Entertainment". For us, this money includes eating out, date nights, and any other entertainment type expenditures including our Netflix subscription.

This category is one of the budget areas that is hardest to control because we love date nights and we love going out to eat (like most other couples). We've learned some good strategies to help us have a lot of fun with a little money and stay on track with our budget! I would love to hear any additional ideas that your family implements in the comments section below! 

We don't have cable 
*gasp* I know. I never grew up with cable so this was an easy thing to cut out for me- my husband, not so much. We've compromised by getting Netflix and an antennae. The cost is a fraction of what we would pay for cable, and honestly, not having as much TV has forced us to be more creative with our time together. We get a couple shows we like and the Broncos games, and, really, what more do we need? 

We are hardcore Grouponers
For those of you who have never heard of Groupon (or other similar sites like Living Social), they are websites where you can purchase coupons for restaurants, services, and products. Usually it's something along the lines of you pay $12 but get $20 of food at the restaurant that the Groupon is good for. We do this all.the.time. It's awesome because one, we save money, and two, we're forced to try new restaurants that we wouldn't normally try. I've used Groupon for places to eat with girlfriends, different salon type services (think manicures!), and I would say 80% of the time my husband and I are out, it's because we have a Groupon. They save us major bucks- we love them! 

We go out for dessert instead of dinner 
You can have a ton of fun doing at-home dates, but sometimes you've just gotta get out and go somewhere! When we get the itch to go out, a lot of times it will be for dessert not dinner. One of our favorite things to do during the summer is go to McDonalds (we're high class, people), split a frappucino and take it with us on a drive or walk. This is, of course,after we've eaten dinner at home. Dessert is soooo much more affordable, but is still a great way to get out of the house. If you have a lot of kids, this can be a really affordable way to go out for a treat without the $60 restaurant bill. 

We sign up for promotional emails
Most of you are saying- huh? Why would I intentionally sign up for junk email? Well let me tell you why- because you can get a lot of free stuff! Alex and I set up an email that we use solely for the purpose of signing up for promotional emails. We sign up on lists of our favorite restaurants, stores, and entertainment places. For example, we haven't paid for a Red Box movie rental in months because we get codes for free movie rentals in our email all the time. The free meal coupons we get in our birthday months are totally killer, and the coupons we are sent can make a not-so-affordable date completely reasonable. 

We take those surveys! 
I don't know if you've ever noticed, but often there are surveys that are on the bottom of different stores' receipts. A lot of times if you take these surveys, you'll get a coupon code for something free or discounted the next time you come into the store. We take these surveys all the time. We don't usually spend time on a survey if it's just for an entry into some sort of sweepstakes, but if it offers us something for free, we'll totally do it! We've gotten free breakfast at Chik-Fil-A, free cookies at Subway, and a free entree at Panda Express doing this (just to name a few!) Time is definitely money here, though, and if it's a 30 minute long survey, then it may not be worth it. 

We shop around
This is really one of the overarching themes of how we make it (comfortably) on a single income. My husband is the coupon master, and has found us great deals on internet, TV streaming products, and restaurant deals. If you're willing to have a little bit of patience and a lot of self restraint, doing a little research before you buy or go out can save a lot of money. I've saved us money by shopping around for tickets to basketball games (one time we got free dinner for being one of the first 500 in the door!), and we often try to coincide our dates with different promotional events. 

We are 100% the couple who pulls out the coupon almost every where we go, but as a result we have a lot of fun on a small budget. 

What are other ways you save money on entertainment? 

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Adoption: When church made me cry

resources for adoption

As some of you may or may not know, November has been declared National Adoption Month. This means different things for different people. Fast food chains get involved, people share awesome articles about adoption, and for me... well, for me, it means I write a post that has been heavy on my heart for awhile, but one I've been hesitant to share for one reason or another.

For as long as I can remember, I've had a special place in my heart for the orphan and adoption. Maybe it was my Dad's stories of volunteering in an orphanage in Mexico for seven years, maybe it was seeing the adoption specials that would come out on TV around Christmas time, or maybe it was a seed placed in my heart by the Lord himself (or a good combination of the three).

Long before I entered blog world, I found a blog about a huge, beautiful adoptive family , and to this day that blog is one of my favorite daily reads. Needless to say, when Alex and I were dating the subject of adoption came up and we both agreed that it was something we would both like to pursue in the future when the timing was right.

+ + +

Fast forward a couple of years, Alex and I were sitting in church one Sunday morning (this happened just a couple of months ago). Our pastor has the entire congregation pray for specific things or groups of people (i.e. teachers and students at the beginning of the school year). During these prayers, they invite people that fall in the particular category (teacher, student, etc.) to raise their hand so that those who don't fall in the particular category can gather around and pray for them.

This particular Sunday, a pastor connected with the church was leaving the following week to pick up his two children from Haiti, so the topic we were to pray for was adoption. The pastor asked those who were in the middle of the adoption process, had adopted, were praying about adoption, or were otherwise connected to the process to raise their hand.

Out of the entire congregation, only fifteen people raised their hand. 

You guys, the church I go to is not small. That morning, there were probably 400 people in attendance, and out of those 400, fifteen raised their hand. Was I one of the fifteen? No, I wasn't. Was I shocked that only fifteen hands were raised in a church that supports orphanages overseas, and stems from the evangelical and pro-life movement? Yes. 

My eyes instantly welled up with tears and my heart started aching as I looked around. Now, granted, had the pastor phrased his question in a way that included those who prayed for adoption and supported those in the process, there may have been several more hands raised. But, my point remains this- in a church that should be and seems very pro-adoption, only a handful of people were actually involved in the process.

James 1:27 clearly states "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" (NIV). 

Adoption is not how it was supposed to be. Every child was supposed to be in a forever family, just like no one was meant to suffer from cancer or live through the death of a child or spouse. But it's a fallen world, and children are born every day and left orphan. It happens in your city, it happens in our nation, and it happens around the world. If orphans are at the heart of God and what He considers pure religion (see the verse above)... shouldn't orphans be at the center of our heart too? 

Adoption is not all about sunshine and roses... ask anyone who's been adopted or who has adopted. I have seen adoption go so very wrong, but I've also seen it go so very right. And no matter the end result, adoption is hard. In a culture that values ease, comfort, and prosperity, its no wonder that only fifteen people raised their hand. But what if there's more to the ease and comfort promised by having a perfect American family made up of two biological kids, jobs in corporate America, and a white picket fence?

Adoption can be a picture of redemption, mercy, grace, and love. While adoption is hard, I believe it gives us a glimpse into the heart of God- the love, the mercy, the grace, and the redemption that He has for each one of us.

Now, I do know that not everyone is called to adopt. Do I think there are more people called to adopt than are willing to admit? Absolutely.

Do I think everyone has a role in supporting adoption in one way or the other? Absolutely.

 Do I think we, as the church, have a long way to go when it comes to adoption? Absolutely.

I'm not writing this post to stir up a debate or cause controversy. I am writing this post as a plea with you. Please pray about your role in adoption.

Maybe you are called to adopt but are too scared. I pray that you find the courage and support you need to obey the calling and take the next step.

Maybe you are called to support those adopting and you don't know where to start. The book Orphan Justice is one of my personal favorites- it has a ton of resources and ideas of how to get involved in supporting the adoption process.

Check and see if your church has any adoption support programs. If not, maybe you can be the one to start one. Adoption is expensive, maybe consider donating to someone you know that is raising money to bring their son or daughter home.

Know of a family who just brought a child home? Bring them a meal, offer to run an errand or two for them... many of the same things you would do for a family who just brought a newborn home from the hospital can be applied to a family who just brought home their adopted child.

And last, but certainly not least, something we can all do is pray. Pray about your role in adoption, pray for those who are in the middle of the grueling process, pray for the children that lay awake at night hoping for a forever family. While you're at it, you can pray for some of these kids by face and by name.

That Sunday morning my heart broke because out of 400 people, I was sure more than fifteen would raise their hand. I hope and pray every day that people are receptive to the call of God on their life and that we as a church make it our mission to place every orphan in a forever family.

Check out some of my favorite resources and organizations supporting the cause of the orphan:
International Voice of the Orphan
The Gem Foundation
Adoption: Q&A 
We'd Adopt if We Had Money
Should Single Women Adopt?

What other resources can you add?

What are your thoughts regarding adoption?

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On a Budget: Creating a budget

how to create a budget

In this post, we'll examine the basics for creating a budget for your household. First and foremost, if you are married, you and your spouse should be on the same page about creating a budget. If your spouse isn't, there are some great articles that have already been written on this topic (like here and here). 

Fortunately, Alex and I started with a similar desire to create a budget for our household when we got married. Below are the very first steps we took in creating our budget. 

First off, you need to have a budget meeting. This is where you and your spouse pull out credit card statements, bank statements, and paycheck stubs to help you make a plan for your budget. In your meeting, you'll want to do the following things. 

1. Examine your income and expenses
This is the time to pull out the paycheck stubs, write down your income, and then tally all your expenses. Are you running in the red every month, saving a bit each month, or running pretty even? This is also a good time to look at your receipts and credit card statements to get a good idea of how much you are spending on basic things including groceries, gas, rent/mortgage, utilities, and entertainment each month. 

If you're having a hard time determining where exactly your money is being spent, some couples may choose to save their receipts and monitor their spending habits for 2-4 weeks. Getting a basic knowledge of how much you are currently spending is vital in creating your budget. 

2. Create budget categories 
Once you have a grasp of where your money is going, it's time to sit down and determine what categories will be needed in your budget. This will look different for different families depending on your stage of life, but some of our categories include: allowance money, groceries, gas, entertainment, tithe, medical, car maintenance, gifts, rent, utilities, and miscellaneous. Later in this series, I will be going more into depth of each of our categories and how we determine how much to budget in each category, and how we manage the category. 

3. Create a zero-based budget based on your pre-determined categories
Creating a zero-based budget simply means that every dollar has a name, and you know where every single dollar is going whether it be towards bills or towards savings. Once you have your budget categories determined, you want to sit down with your income and assign a dollar value to each of those categories. You must assign every single dollar of your income to something- it may be a bill, it may be an investment, it may be a savings account, or it may be a payment. Regardless of where you assign your money, at the end of your budget you want the income you have and the expenditures/investments/savings you have done to equal zero.

For example in our case... We start with our monthly income and we go through and assign amounts to our budgeted categories including- rent, utilities, internet, entertainment, gas, groceries, insurance, and tithe. If there is money leftover after we've assigned amounts to all our budgeted categories, we'll discuss how to assign this leftover money. Most months it will go straight to savings, other months we'll put a little extra into our pre-set categories (often into the "gifts" category).

Basically, at the end of the month our income minus our expenses/savings = zero dollars. This step can be confusing but is the most important step in creating a budget. Feel free to email me or comment with questions.

How to make a zero-based budget is an article that can help further clarify this process.  

4. Agree to have a monthly budget meeting
Budgets are dynamic- you can't make a single budget and expect that the same budget that applied for December and Christmas shopping will apply for June when you don't have a single birthday. Alex and I have a monthly budget meeting to discuss expenses for the upcoming month. While most of our categories stay consistent, the amount budgeted for each may vary month to month depending on what we have going on. Our income also fluctuates month to month depending on the type of shifts I get at work, so some months we may have a little more to work with, some months we might have a little less. We are regularly tweaking our budget, and remembering that as finances change, so will our budget. 

Now that you have a basic zero-based budget, we're going to talk about the basic categories in our budget just to give you some ideas, and then we'll continue on to the top three areas you can save some money. In the meantime, get out there and get budgeting. 

What questions do you have? What other tips can you offer to someone just starting to create a budget? 

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On a Budget: A new series

There are a handful of things that I am especially passionate about in this life, and one of those things is money. Now, I know what you're thinking- a lot of people are "passionate" about money because it's one of those things that makes the world go 'round. 

My passion for money comes from my love for numbers and my desire to save money in order that I may give freely because yes, money can make a difference in the lives of others (both good or bad). 

I love numbers, I love math, I love saving money, I love learning about money... in nursing school I wish I had had more time in my class schedule to be able to take some money type classes (I wanted to take accounting, you guys). 

Before Alex and I got married we took a class called Financial Peace University, that really set us on a path for financial success in our marriage. This class was created by Dave Ramsey- an outspoken "money man" who filed for bankruptcy years ago and now has a net worth of 55 million dollars. 

His thinking and his plan is simple but revolutionary: live within your means, pay off debt quickly, and live like no one else now so that you can live like no one else later. Way easier said than done, but Alex and I are totally on board with the plan. 

Alex and I have both been good with money, but this class elevated our knowledge base, and gave us some tools to be successful with money. Neither Alex or I claim to be financial planners (ha, I wish), and we have a lot to learn, but I also think we have a lot to share. 

We have successfully lived off of a single income for the past year, enjoyed our lives, and fully funded a nice vacation for ourselves as a one-year wedding anniversary present. 

We created a budget in the first few weeks of our marriage that set us on the right path with money. This budget has changed over the past year and continues to change, but we have developed a solid structure that allows us to spend, save, and tithe off of one income. I am so passionate about budgeting and money that I'm going to start sharing things that we have learned more often on the blog. I am going to start by having a series specifically for budgeting.

This series will include: 
-How to create a budget
-A closer examination of the categories that should be in your budget
-Logistics of how to maintain a budget
-Tips & Tricks for Budgeting (that we've learned along the way). 

Interspersed with this series, will be specific posts on practical ways to save on different things like entertainment, examining ways of thinking about money that are dangerous, and the importance of certain "monetary" practices like tithing. 

I hope you'll join me for this journey, contribute your thoughts, and help us all learn from one another as we seek to take charge of our money instead of letting it control us.

Click below to read the posts in this series (so far): 

Creating a budget

Spend less on entertainment

Save on household items

Disclaimer: As I said above I am not a financial planner and don't claim to be one. I am continually learning through reading, listening to podcasts, and life experience. This series is simply our experience with a budget, and useful things that we have learned along the way. I also talk about Dave Ramsey and his class and opinions a lot- I am not being paid for this (don't I wish), but simply want to tell others about the program and mindset that has helped us build a strong financial foundation. 
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