You’re pinching pennies.
You’re sweating bullets because your car payment is due and you have literally no money to make that happen. There’s not even a dime under your couch cushions.
Extra snacks at the grocery store? Ya, that’s not happening!
I am not a financial advisor.
Heck, I didn’t even like math when I was in school.
But, hear me out when I say that almost 8 years ago, my husband and I paid off $26,000 in debt in 5 months, and we’ve never looked back. We have budgeted effectively and lived comfortably. It has been life-changing.
I’m not going to pretend to be an expert at all things money.
For what it’s worth, though, a lot of “experts” have told us to go into debt up to our eyeballs and live beyond our means.
Maybe listening to the experts doesn’t always get us where we need to be with our finances.
So how can you move forward, with a budget, and stop the cycle of being broke and overwhelmed?
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Take a Deep Breath
Nobody wants to be broke and struggling. It is stressful and takes a toll on your emotional well-being.
Money problems are horrible, but not permanent.
You have the power to change your money situation.
Take a deep breath and keep reading.
Look at Your Income
What do you make after all of your taxes and insurances (and any other deductions) are taken out?
What amount actually hits your bank account each pay period?
Make sure you know this amount so you can figure out the rest of your budget.
Look at Your Essential Bills
These are your must-haves for survival.
In order of importance, do you have enough money to cover the bills that keep you and your family fed, clothed, and sheltered, with running water and electricity?
Essentials, nothing fancy.
If yes, then you’re off to a good start! When basics are covered, it’s easier to take a deep breath and move forward.
Next, do you have enough money to pay for your transportation? Can you pay your car payment and for gas?
If this is a budget item that you’re tight on, you might need to scale back driving to only necessary places: dropping kids off at school, going to work, going to the grocery store, and you get the point.
Look at Your Other Bills
Other bills include things like cable, cell phone, extracurricular activities for kids, gifts, and any other item that is not necessary to your survival (I’m looking at you, Starbucks).
Debt payments, such as credit cards, can also be added into this category.
Debt payments aren’t in the survival category because good credit is NOT necessary to stay alive (though credit card companies will make you believe otherwise).
Add up all of these bills and get a grand total.
See What You Have Left
Add together your “essential bills” and your “other bills”.
Take your income and find the difference between it and your total of bills.
For example, if you make $3000 per month and all of your bills are $2800 per month, then you should have $200 per month leftover.
If there is no money left over in your budget, then you need to cut expenses ASAP and/or get a side hustle to make up for that deficit.
See What You Can Cut
From your “other bills” section, what can you get rid of?
Can you downgrade your phone service? A lot of companies will give you a cheaper rate, if you just give them a call. It’s worth a try!
Can extracurricular activities be put on hold until the financial hardship has passed?
No parent wants to disappoint their child, but I can guarantee your kids will be thankful when you aren’t so stressed about money. Can you be a fully present parent when you’re constantly worried about money? That’s tough!
Even $5, $10 or $15 here and there add up over the course of a month or two!
Or maybe, on a larger scale, you need to cut that humongous car payment. Sure, that shiny car looks good driving around town, but if you are broke, get rid of it. One day, when you get back on your feet, you can go back and buy it with cash.
Find the budget items you can cut and put that money toward your essentials.
Come Up With a Plan
It’s easy to start feeling like you will stay broke and overwhelmed forever. But you don’t have to! It’s your choice.
Coming up with a good plan is the key to stop being broke and start getting your money in order.
Your plan needs to include:
What are you going to do immediately to make a change in your financial situation? Will you skip McDonald’s breakfast? Dollar menu still adds up! Will you take on extra work this weekend and in the evenings to make ends meet?
How will you sustain healthy finances in the future? Will you further your education? Cut up your credit cards? Not buy anything you can’t pay cash for? What habits will you put into place that will stay with you for the long haul?
Once you have your basic needs covered and you can breathe again, you need to start paying off any debt you have. Don’t continue to be a slave to the lender.
It may seem like a long way off, but you always have the potential to build wealth. What is your plan to get there? Will you contribute to your retirement account? How will you build wealth so that you NEVER find yourself broke and overwhelmed again?
Stop Living Beyond Your Means
Have you heard of the phrase “Keeping up with the Jones'”? Are you trying to keep up with the lifestyle of others?
In today’s society, social media has played a huge role in people “keeping up with the Jones'”. You have to have a strong sense of direction to not feel even a tiny pang of jealousy when you see yet another vacation picture in your newsfeed. There you sit at work and your friend is on a beach in the Caribbean.
Don’t let this change your money habits. If you can’t afford something, you simple shouldn’t do it. And, no you don’t deserve to own something or do something just because someone else does it.
The Jones’ might have paid off their debt long ago and Mr. Jones may have gotten a massive bonus from his job to pay for their vacation. Maybe their household income is ten times yours.
Or maybe, just maybe, Mr. and Mrs. Jones are broke too.
Quit comparing and stop living beyond your means.
Money problems are absolutely overwhelming. Money makes the world go around and there is very little you can do without it. If you look at your expenses, and analyze your budget, you can get out of the financially broke cycle and move on to more stress-free days.