Let’s talk finance. Money. Investing. Retirement. Savings accounts. Credit cards. Interest. Loans. All the things.
Okay, okay, we’ll dial back a bit and just start by talking about one of the basics of finance — budgeting.
A word that scares a lot of people, but its intention is the exact opposite. Budgets are here to help you, guide you, and become your BFF. Money certainly isn’t everything, but we are called to be good stewards of our riches (1 Timothy 6:17-21) and God doesn’t want us to be weighed down by financial burdens. Budgeting is just a tool to help us live a life of financial freedom.
I don’t claim to be the best at it, but over the past year implementing a budget and tracking my spending has seriously changed the game for me. To offer some encouragement and transparency, I’m on track to pay off my student loans by the end of 2020 after graduating two years ago with $44k student loan debt. I’m not a high-income earner and continue to tithe and pay for unnecessarily expensive rent in downtown Dallas (and a lot of Chick-fil-a), but I couldn’t have gotten this far on my debt payoff without learning to budget.
This is a basic three-step guide on how to make small moves towards your financial goals through budgeting. (Side note – I don’t claim to be a financial professional — just a girl who’s after my own financial goals and learning and sharing as I go!)
First – Think about your goals. Are you looking to pay off student loans or credit card debt? Save for a new car or house? An upcoming vacation to plan for? In four weddings this year? Everyone’s financial situation is unique (just like you!) and our goals are all unique, too. Whatever that looks like for you – write it down. Write down the financial goals you want to achieve for the next year, two years, five years, or ten years. Like literally, write them down. It’s important to get those out on paper so you can see them and think about them. Hang them up somewhere or put them in your planner – somewhere where you will think about them and see them often.
Second – Put pen to paper (literally or digitally – whichever works best for you!). After you’ve given some thought to your goals, take a look at your financial situation. For some, this could be terrifying, but it’s so important to have a realistic grasp. Analyze your spending habits on a monthly or weekly basis. This may take a month or two to figure out, but track what you spend in a typical month and record it. This is an eye-opening exercise to see how you spend your money and show areas where you can get back and save more. There are many methods to how much you should save vs spend, but one of the most popular methods is the 50/30/20 rule. However, keep in mind a budget is meant to be formatted to your lifestyle, your income, and your needs. But ultimately, our end goal is to save more than we spend. Through this, we are ultimately able to give more as well.
There’s a myriad of budgeting tools out there. I’ve personally tried about a dozen Excel spreadsheets and tools created by others to help track my spending and manage my budget. Ultimately, I ended up creating my own sheet that I was able to build to fit my specific needs, but here are a few tools I’ve really liked or that my friends enjoy using.
- Mint – Mint is a great digital resource that keeps track of all of your financial data. You can connect it to all your accounts (student loans, credit and debit cards, bills, investments, etc). Mint also has a great budgeting tool that will automatically sort and track all of your spendings. It even reminds you when bills are due. It’s a great timesaver if you aren’t wanting to spend time manually entering data like you would have to on a spreadsheet.
- Personal Capital – Similar to Mint, Personal Capital tracks all your accounts in one place. I use it to get email alerts on how much I spend/save compared to months prior. It’s super helpful to keep me accountable and remind me of the goals I’m working towards.
- Spreadsheet – To me, there’s nothing better than tediously entering in data into a spreadsheet, but I know that’s not for everyone. I prefer this method over a software handling things automatically because it forces me to look at every purchase for the month. (It’s also really helpful to think about how I maybe didn’t need to buy Chick-fil-a twice a week when I had plenty of food at home.) There are so many helpful templates on Pinterest and Google. I encourage you to play around with them and see which best works for you and your situation.
Third – go forth and conquer! But really, put that budget into action. Start tracking and planning each month, adjusting your budget as things change. Tell your friends and family your goals. We often make money a taboo subject, but having your friends know, support, and help you reach your financial goals is important. Budgeting, saving money, paying down debt – whatever your financial goals look like can be hard. Having people in your corner cheering you on can make it a little easier.
I also can’t write this article without including some of my favorite resources when it comes to learning more about budgets. Once the budget bug bites you, it becomes more and more enticing to learn about and there are experts out there who want nothing more but to help people get a wrangle on their finances through tools like budgeting.
- Money Diaries – Written specifically for millennial women, Money Diaries contains a slew of financial advice and practical strategies and tactics to execute. If you do nothing else from this article – get this book!
- Dave Ramsey – The guru of all financial gurus, Dave has a blog, podcast, Youtube, books, and career dedicated to helping people achieve financial freedom. And as a Christian, Dave focuses on getting your finances in order now to give more later.
- Money Under 30 – Money Under 30 is a finance site geared towards providing resources, tools, and advice to young adults. The blog hosts a ton of incredible, helpful content including an entire space dedicated to budgeting and saving.
Remember to give yourself grace. Finding a financial rhythm in the form of a budget takes time. It may take a few months to get things in order. And if you go over budget one month? No big deal – that’s okay! Budgeting is challenging but so rewarding in the end. We’re excited to continue discussing the topic of money because we want all our Sheis gals to be financially fit and be a helpful guide of learning what it means to be good stewards of our finances.
And let us know your goals below! We’re here to cheer you on as well.
Laura Ritchie was born and raised in Alabama but was called to Dallas, Texas, after graduating from The University of Alabama (Roll Tide!). She’s currently a project manager at a digital agency and loves to spend her time going on walks, trying new restaurants and being a Young Life leader. As a believer and Type 3 enneagram, Laura is passionate about helping others discover their God-given purpose and walking in a life of true freedom and joy.
Follow along with her on Instagram @llauraritchie