I don’t have any reference to Brownies in here…I just like dessert.

When it comes to getting your finances on track, “willpower” is a word that usually pops up somewhere…at least when I’mthinking about it, it does. Yep, willpower is definitely important, and we can’t dismiss it, but I’m going to be honest, sometimes my willpower totally sucks.
Sure, you can stand up and announce to the universe that “Goll Dangit, I’m going to stop spending so much money and make better financial choices.” Now, if you can actually pull that off and make it work, then you deserve a reward…and all I’ve really got to offer you at the moment is some Brita water and a banana…it’s grocery day.
The fact is that sometimes willpower needs some help…a little “structure margarita,” if you will, to help make it through…
Hmm…that sounds like I’m condoning alcohol to power through tough situations…let’s change it to “structure cappuccino.” (I realize that’s still a chemical dependency…but at least you can order a cappuccino at 8 in the morning without anyone giving you the stink-eye.)
Anyway, sometimes you’ve got to have a little help. In our case, we got help from a book. This book simply took a whole lot of common sense, blended it up with some real-life stories and tangible motivation, and made a rockin’ money-management smoothie.

Okay, so I must be thirsty or something.

First of all, for legal reasons, I want to make sure everyone knows I’m not giving anything away from Dave Ramsey’s book that he doesn’t give away on his website. This will just be a quick, helpful rundown of some of the key strategies that worked for us.
Secondly, I don’t want to give off the impression that I think I’m an expert at this…that would be completely ridiculous. I’m terrible with numbers and money. We’ve simply found something that works well enough to get us on track, and if I can inspire just one person to do the same, I will be ecstatic.

In order for me to finish something I don’t like, I have to set up a few major rules for myself and then enlist someone to keep me on task. In this case, Paul is my on-task man and I’m his on-task lady. The main rule that we’ve learned to implement is “Budget Night.” Every time one of us gets a paycheck, we HAVE to sit down and enter it into our spreadsheet before any of it gets spent. No matter what.

Now, some people may say that they just don’t have time to sit down and work on their finances. That, my friends, is crap. If money’s not an issue for you at the moment, then it may seem that way. If you’re concerned, however, that the only way you’ll be able to make rent next month is by not eating, I’ll bet you’ll find the 20 minutes to sit down and get things figured out.

Budgeting in itself can be an art form. For us, a spreadsheet seems to be the most effective way of keeping track of our money. Spreadsheets kind of make my brain explode, so Paul has been perfecting our budget spreadsheet for these past few months. The point of it, however, is pretty simple. You start with your paycheck at the top, distribute the funds to each of your bills/expenses/saving categories, and end up with 0 at the bottom. You could do this by hand on a piece of paper if you had to; it’s simple subtraction. The purpose of this is to spend all of your money on paper before you even get your hands on it. When you know exactly how much money you have, where it’s going, and what you plan to do with it, it makes it a little bit more painful to spend. We’re starting to work on a newer, more effective sheet right now, so once we get it perfect, I’ll upload an empty(ish) one with instructions.
I realize that sounds a little convoluted. Here’s a quick, bare-bones example:

Paycheck : $300.00
Rent : 200.00
Cappuccinos : 50.00
Margaritas : 50.00
Remainder : 0

Obviously, this is the budget of someone with awesome rent and very skewed priorities, but it’s a basic example of how to get started.
I’ve got plenty more to talk about, but I can feel my brain shutting down and I need to make spaghetti and meatballs, so I leave you with this:

Any budget is better than no budget. If all you can do is keep track of the simple subtraction above in a notebook, you’ll already be way ahead of the masses.

Also, when sitting down to work on your finances, I’d suggest you skip the Margaritas and stick to the Cappuccinos.