After receiving a comment from deleonmerryliza on my previous post, Life Skill: Budgeting – The Baby Step Budget, I was enlightened to share a few thoughts with you all.  I realized her comment sparked a response in me that I felt was turning into it’s own post, as well as inspired a few ideas for future posts.  Thank you for that deleonmerryliza!

I got really excited to see that my new friend implemented the idea of goal setting – a very important aspect of any budget.  I was also really pumped that she shared it with me.  I LOVE getting feedback about where people are, their progress with meeting their goals and setting their next one.

I know that personal finance isn’t usually a topic most folks like to talk about openly with each other, especially when times are tough.  I believe however, that sharing our experiences with each other can create a community of empowerment and understanding.  It’s also a way for us to teach and learn from each other what works and what doesn’t.

Which brings me to the thoughts that started flowing and almost flooded my comment wall as I was reminded of exactly why I budget the way I do and my journey of figuring it all out.

When I first started budgeting I was full of anxiety and fear.  I felt like my life was one big ironic joke.  It seemed it was entirely revolved around money even though I didn’t have any (or not enough).  I was constantly worried about how to get from one day to the next.  I became angry and ashamed.  Depressed and exhausted.  I seriously wanted to throw in the towel.  I was sick of feeling like every attempt I was making to get our family back on its feet amounted to nothing.  I was totally fed up with the ridiculous catch 22 of my life.  All I really wanted at that point was to not have to wear myself thin just to get a disgusting meal.  I would’ve settled for the disgusting meal without all the panic and hassle that required getting it.

All of these debilitating thoughts and feelings were only made worse when I would have to step out into the world and see other people driving their cars around, listening to them talk about the new movie they just saw while sipping on their delicious cappuccinos.  I became envious.  What others saw as their basic needs were luxuries to me.  I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs (and frequently did once I returned home, as well as cried hysterically).

I found myself praying daily for a way out.  But as much as I wanted to give up, I didn’t.  Right before giving into the idea that I didn’t care anymore, something always helped me get through another day.  The kindness of someone else being willing to help, finding spare change, or even just having a day off from having to figure out how to go about running an important errand – these things meant the world to me (they still do)!  These things gave me the gift of momentary relief from stress and activity (brain and physical) – true commodities!

My mood would uplift some when these sorts of things came to pass.  I could allow myself to feel a little bit of hope about our circumstances and I would regain the strength to continue seeking a way out of this mess.

Unfortunately, I would quickly become discouraged on my journey to budgeting success.  I swear I read up on everything there was ever published on finance and how to save money on all the things it could buy.  Okay, not really, but it sure felt like it.  Everything I studied and learned made me feel “less than.”  What these people were writing about wasn’t for me.  I didn’t have money to invest to grow a residual income (whatever that was).  I didn’t even have money to buy a Sunday paper to get coupons!

When I would filter through all the budgeting ideas and suggestions, what really got me down was feeling like they weren’t addressing how to solve the money issues I had to struggle with.  I always got stuck and bewildered when the “advice” for a negative ledger in my budget was, “play around with the numbers to make it work.”

Huh?  Play around with what numbers?  There’s no wiggle room.  My budget doesn’t even include half of the expenses normal people have.  People are giving me food, I don’t have a car, I don’t have any kind of insurance.  As far as cutting back on eating out and other types of entertainment, well that’s just hilarious because I can’t remember the last time I’ve participated in anything remotely insinuated by those categories in YOUR budget.

As you can see, and may relate to, I found it very difficult to find budgeting and financial resources to be anything but another slap in the face from reality to wake me from a daydream to say, “YOU’RE SCREWED!”    I honestly felt like we each had our place in life and mine was to be stuck in poverty.  As there are people meant to inherit a throne, I was meant to fight for crumbs.

For some reason I refused to give up hope.  Somewhere between fits of rage and graveling with the universe, a flip switched.  Out of the blue it seemed that all I really needed to do was change my priorities (and my attitude).  Maybe it was some sort of divine intervention, I don’t know. To be honest, I didn’t even realize until some time afterwards that this switch had even been flipped.  One day, who knows what day, I just seemed to notice that my priorities were not the same as these “normies’.”

I felt pretty ridiculous realizing that I couldn’t see past my own nose because I was so focused on all the negative aspects of life and my situation.  I felt stupid that it took me so long to figure out that I actually could play around with the numbers, just not in the same way these experts were referring to.  I allowed their lack of guidance to make me feel like I was wrong for having to make the decisions I was eventually going to have to make.

My biggest challenge was having to let go of the idea that I had to keep waiting for an opportunity to arise.  A big part of what I felt the financial gurus were expressing was that I was going to have to wait to be given or find an opportunity to get a leg up – the kind that just weren’t available to me.  I had to get rid of my “if only” thoughts – “If only I would get hired somewhere (anywhere!) I could make up the difference,” “If only I could find a way to work from home so that I wouldn’t have to worry about child care expenses,” and so on.

This didn’t mean that I gave up on looking for work and other means of income – I am ALWAYS looking for ways to make extra money.  What it meant was that I had to start doing something differently with what I had right then and there.  To this day, I have to make due with what I’ve got right now in a way that will help me move forward.

It was hard not to expect things like getting a job and waiting for something to pan out.  My outlook specifically on obtaining employment is that, if you don’t have a job you look for one full-time which will result in being hired within a reasonable amount of time.  Well, life makes plans while you’re planning, and life at that point wasn’t handing out any jobs.

So I had to do something differently with the money we DID have.  It was a new way of living via a new budget lifestyle.  I had to apply that little bit of money and the loads of financial information I had gained to work for MY situation since none of the experts out there were willing to spell it out for me.

Sitting down and figuring out almost exactly what we would need to spend on rent, food and running water was the first step.  Whatever money was left was going to be stretched as far as it could to pay bills.  Some bills were going to get paid in full and the others only partially, but all on time.  I learned that with most of our bills, as long as we paid something towards it on time, only the part we didn’t pay was going to be added to the next bill without a late fee.  It turned out that a lot of what we were paying were late fees and bank fees accrued when we’d end up in the negative trying to pay for everything on time (funny how that works, huh?).  Once we got a handle on that, money started freeing up in our budget a little at a time.

So as long as it took me to get to my point – sorry if it seemed like forever – I’ve finally gotten us to it:

My friend’s comment helped me to realize that this budget is all about NOW.  You need a way out of crummy monetary situation?  This is it.  It will help you use what you have RIGHT NOW – not a week, month, or year from now; it won’t have you relying on the “if only” daydreams; and there are definitely no false promises or gimmicks to this.  Simply, take what you have today and use it to work for you.

I needed that realization and wanted to share it with you.  It’s helping me see the topic of budgeting and style of budgeting I’ve presented isn’t just a silly notion.  It’s a way of life I really hope helps others as it has for me.  So again, thank you deleonmerryliza – you’re one comment did a whole lot of good for this lady!

I would really love to know what you have to say and think about all this.  Share your thoughts in my comments.  You can also contact me here.