First, let me introduce myself. My name is David Larsen. Six years ago, I married my wonderful wife Elisha. We live in California with our lovely children. Allow me to tell you about how we improved our spending habits.
In the Beginning...
Sticking to a budget is not something that's ever been easy in our household. In the early years of our marriage, we were somewhat sloppy with our spending. We had no kids at that time, manageable fixed expenses, and thankfully very few unexpected expenses. This was before the economy began to tighten up.
Even though our spending wasn't excellent, we really weren't feeling much pain. Thankfully, I had a good job which covered over a great number of otherwise poor decisions.
If you would have asked us about the value of wise spending, we would have nodded our heads in agreement. But we were actually doing a pretty lousy job. Intellectually, I knew that we ought to be more careful. I knew we could be saving more money. But I wasn't yet serious about improving our spending habits.
But as circumstances changed, our careless spending began to cause us more trouble. Not only did it strain our financial situation, but the whole issue became a sore subject. We both knew trouble was brewing, but we frankly didn't want to talk about it.
I'll tell you more about the problems our spending caused later, but let me first describe a few of our failed efforts at sticking to a budget.
Initial Optimisim: We Made a Budget
I naturally approach problems analytically. I figured using a budget as a couple wasn't rocket science:
- Figure out how much income we have each month
- Divide that up according to known expenses and desired savings
- Spend the planned amount each month
- Don't spend more
- Keep doing that
Easy, right? If you follow those five rules, then you win. No more spending problems.
That was essentially our plan for several years. It wasn't hard to figure out our monthly income. It wasn't hard to assign that money to appropriate categories. It all looked great on paper.
It seemed the plan was foolproof. Our written budget was evidence that we had enough money to cover our expenses. We had our marching orders; all we needed to do was stick to the plan.
Facing Reality: It's Easier Said Than Done
Making a plan for our money was a necessary first step, but we were far from success.
We very soon came to realize that sticking to a budget was not going to be easy for us as a couple. We had good intentions, but we failed to limit our spending to the budgeted amount.
Frustration: Budgeting Isn't Complicated
It was frustrating for us to fail at something that's conceptually so simple. For example, if you have $50 to spend on entertainment, it should not be very hard to stay within that limit. It seems like anyone with good intentions can stick to such a simple plan?
Our results varied. And by that I don't mean that we had some good results and some bad results. We actually had a mix of mediocre results and horrible results. In fact, at one point several years into our marriage I calculated that we didn't have a single month where we stuck to our planned budget. Not once. It had literally never happened.
This was tremendously distressing. I would go over our written budget again and again. Was I doing the math wrong? Was the budget feasible? I'd make sure we had appropriate wiggle room where necessary. There was nothing at all wrong with our budget. It all penciled out nicely.
Diagnosis: It's Not You, It's Me
We found ourselves having to face some unpleasant, yet undeniable facts. There was enough money to cover our expenses, and the budget itself wasn't bad. The problem was us. We were bad at following a budget. We were bad at spending money.
So how did that make us feel? Defeated? Depressed? Not really. We actually felt relieved.
We were glad to have found something that we could work on. We realized that fussing with the numbers in our budget wasn't the key to success. We had to work on understanding our spending habits and create a realistic approach to getting our habits under control.
To Be Continued...
We would like to share the insights and strategy that helped us finally improve our spending. You can learn from our mistakes and jump directly to the most valuable lessons.
Our material is unlike other budgeting tools because the focus is on teaching you the skill of wise spending. Progress is measured in terms of good and bad decisions.
If you're interested in this kind of approach, I'd encourage you to sign up for our early release program.
We don’t have all the answers, but we're happy to share what we’ve learned so far.
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