Sometimes, it’s easy to look at someone’s success and only see where they are right now without seeing the many hours of hard work and years of blood, sweat and tears that they have invested to get there. However, the truth is there are very few overnight successes. Our journey to a debt free homestead, although far from finished, will be another one of those stories.
It is the story of almost two decades budgeting, planning, and saving… Two decades of being selective about extra-curricular activities, vacations, nights out, and play dates. Two decades of saving wherever we can–making my own worksheets for homeschooling, meal planning, limiting unnecessary driving to save on gas, and couponing. Two decades of holding down the home front while Mister worked 60, 70, and 80 hour weeks. (Shoot, we’ve even seen a 100 hour work week a time or two.) And, now it is the story of converting our someday-garage into our home for at least four years. Overall, it is the story of learning contentment. Because, it’s not what we have that brings happiness, but an attitude of appreciation for the blessings in our lives. And, someday, when we move into our dream farmhouse, it will be sweeter than it ever could have been had we given in to instant gratification.
So, this month, for The Great Homesteading Challenge, we are going to focus on frugality. It’s one of my very favorite subjects, because, no matter what your dreams and goals are, getting your money in order is essential to your success. And, the very first step is the secret to our debt free homestead–the budget.
Here’s a quick outline.
To keep up with your bills:
- Each year, get a calendar. On each month, make a master list of all bills that are due that month on the bottom of the page.
- Put all paydays and bill due dates (as well as amount due when you get it) on proper dates on the calendar.
- Add up all of your 6 month or annual expenses (taxes, insurance, car tags, etc.). Divide by your number of paydays. List that amount to put into a separate account each payday. This allows you to save a small amount each payday instead of having to come up with a large amount to pay insurance or taxes.
- On payday, pay all bills that are due. Write the check number or confirmation number under the bill and amount on your calendar. Also, cross off that bill from your master list at the bottom of that month’s page.
- If you keep paper bills, also write the confirmation or check number on the bill and file it.
- Be sure to balance and reconcile your checkbook at least every payday.
Your calendar will serve as a valuable tool to make sure that everything is paid on time and will help you make a monthly budget. We (along with Dave Ramsey) recommend operating on a Zero Based Budget.
To make a Zero Based Budget:
- Before the month begins, write your monthly income at the top of the page.
- List all of your expenses, subtracting them from your income.
- Find a category for EVERY SINGLE DOLLAR. The total at the bottom must be zero. If not, decide what categories will have to be adjusted to make that happen.
- Make sure your spouse is on board and you are in agreement. If you have differences of opinion, discuss them now, not after the money is already spent.
Check out this post about the envelope system to manage expenses such as groceries, eating out, and household goods.
For more information on making a budget or getting out of debt, I highly recommend The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. It has a great straightforward game plan for getting your finances in order. It isn’t easy, but it’s totally worth it.
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