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Letter #201: Plan Debt Free

April 19, 2011

Dear budgeting,

I’m adding another item to my list of love/hate relationships, and it’s you. Oh the joys of growing up. Remember the days when food magically appeared in the fridge and clothes in the closet?! When having a roof to live under was expected and never once something I was grateful for or understood cost a huge sum of money? I was clueless.

Now, here I am, 24 years old, paying bills and making ends meet. As I watch my bank account dwindle each month, I realize more and more the sacrifices my parents made while we were kids. The crazy part about that is I’d say Mama and Papa Roth did a better job than most in making us aware of money. I’m SO thankful I had a small grasp on you from an early age…I mean, I did have my own lawn mowing business in high school!

Regardless of how well a parent walks a child through finances, there’s nothing that will fully prepare someone for becoming financially independent. Whether independence happens when turning 18 or when starting a first job (graciously on my parents’ behalf, this was me), the realities of rent, bills, car insurance, gas, groceries, entertainment and eating out, necessities, tithing, saving and random unexpected costs are breathtakingly overwhelming. At least they can be.

This is where you come into play. I’ve said it before, but I’m a planner. I enjoy having things lined out to some degree, especially things that really matter. Finances aren’t an area I want to be flippant about, make a mistake and go into debt. This is the precedent set by our country with a government debt exceeding $14 trillion and at least 50% of Americans are in debt excluding homes and cars…including these make it 80%. Half of the first 50% owe thousands.

I don’t want to be in the 50 or even 80%. I don’t want to be normal in this area. So, I choose you. When I started my job, I projected the amount I’d spend monthly in every avenue of life making sure the sum was less than my monthly income. Then, I created an Excel document containing every dollar I spend. I save receipts throughout the month, and periodically add them up. I’m able to track every month and see if I came out even, ahead or in the hole. I’m able to see how much I’ve saved over this eight month span. Using you makes it evident to me where I need to cut back.

Choosing to budget has allowed me to stay on top of my finances from the beginning. I haven’t accidentally spent more than I make. I’m aware. The best part is, it doesn’t matter how much someone makes. Anyone can do this and make it work. I don’t make much money, but I’ve easily found ways to still live within my means. Sure, I have to make sacrifices at times. I have to choose eating out versus driving home for Easter, a new outfit versus saving sometimes, but I haven’t once felt like I’m missing out. It’s part of growing up. You don’t get everything you want. Period. End of story. Now, because I’ve chosen you, I’m prepared for major unexpected April expenses due to car issues and minor surgery (don’t freak out, I’m fine and will explain in a later blog!).

Mom and Dad, thanks for laying a foundation and an awareness of money for me. God, thanks for giving me purpose outside material possessions which is truly why I’ve become a decent steward of what I’ve been given. Readers, money’s tough. The Bible talks about it more than anything else. If you’re struggling, maybe give a budget a shot as well as re-evaluating priorities. I’m not an expert by any means, but I’ve managed to stay in the green because I planned ahead.

Hate the little extra time it takes, love the results I’ve seen,

Budgeting advocate

{photo attribution}

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