*THIS IS A GUEST POST BY Elkinsette "Elkie" Clinton; MOm, Educator, Author, life coach, and speaker from savvymomsunite.com!*
The word budget can seem like a bad word for a self-professed shopaholic. What do you mean I am limited to a certain amount I spend on clothing, handbags, and shoes? It’s like cutting off my air supply (well not really, sounds a bit dramatic, I know). Unfortunately that was what I needed to do. When your purchases of shoes and purses put you in debt, that is not cute. I do not care if it’s the hottest pair of shoes you have seen in the store, nothing is worse than looking at your bank account and wanting to cry because you can't afford to pay your bills.
This was me almost 4 years ago. You see I tried budgeting my money many times. I would create these awesome spreadsheets, list my debt, how much my bills were, and check every month to see how I was doing. Suddenly I would stop tracking and go back to my old habits of overspending on clothes and eating out. Who does not like a good restaurant every now and then? I justified my spending by telling myself it was okay because I “worked hard” for my money. If I ran out of cash I would just charge the item and pay it back at some point. Then my card would hit its limit and I was forced to pay some of the balance in order to use it again. It was a vicious cycle of poor money habits. I did not care enough for it to matter to me. Besides, I was making more money at the time than I ever had and I needed to look good for my new job so it required making some purchases. At Least that is what I made myself believe. I was more concerned with having people say “Wow, I love that outfit!” than what was going on with my bank account. I was always going to have a paycheck as long as I had my job. Little did I know a major lesson was coming.
Here I was one morning going to get my usual cup of coffee at my favorite local coffee shop (I am addicted, I know) and my card is declined. Well how is that even possible. I mean it's five bucks. I should have it in my account. I reach for my credit card to pay for it. At this point I am thoroughly embarrassed. I check my account online only to see it was overdrafted. I hadn’t overdrafted my account in over a year. What was I thinking? I was making more money. I should be able to afford a cup of coffee. Reality sit in. I was not doing what was right when it came to my money. I needed to do something and do it fast.
So I sat down once again and do an assessment of my bills and debt. I discover I am in over my head. I do not know what to do or how I should proceed. I have a significant amount of student loans, credit card debt (8 credit cards at the time), and I am working with little cash at the end of month with no savings. I am feeling insecure and unworthy of having money come into my life. I felt I deserved to have a lack of money because I was so bad at managing it. I was so wrong. It was a conversation with a financial coach that changed my whole perspective.
I went online and did a search for a financial coaching program. I signed up for a 1 hour consultation. My coach was so kind and patient. We did not talk about numbers or what I owed creditors right away. We talked about my mindset around money and budgeting. He asked me several questions about my understanding of money and how I learned to manage money. I spoke to him about my lack of discipline when it came to shopping and how I grew up with the understanding you paid your bills and spent money until your next paycheck. I honestly did not even think I was capable of saving money. He told me that once I committed to the process I would see a difference in how I handled money and managed it. He spoke to me about mindset when it comes to money and why most of the time the way we spend money was determined by emotions. There was perhaps a void I was filling by spending money on clothes and eating out. I needed to address those issues before starting a budget. My first month with him all I did was track my spending. I did not create a budget until I had studied my spending habits. Boy was I surprised to find how much I spent on certain items. I was so nervous sometimes on our calls that I would hope he would rush through the sessions with me. He made me realize that I running from my money problems and not facing them were holding me back from becoming financially free.
Within my first year and half of working with my financial coach, I paid off 5 credit card of the 8 I had. I had built an emergency savings and maintained my budget I had created. I will say it was not easy. My first 4 months of budgeting was hard. I struggled. I had to track every penny I spent and be sure I had money to put in my savings every month. It was made very clear to me I have a problem when I discovered during the first 3 months how much I spent on clothes alone for myself and my daughter. I had spent almost 1,000 dollars. After sticking to my budget for a year I got our clothing budget down to $60 a month. Now that is an impressive change. I would not have been able to do it without tracking my spending and sticking to a budget. I learned that when I could visualize my spending and see areas where I could save it was a great strategy for me to stay committed to budgeting. Paying off some debt also encouraged me because I knew that I did not want to remain hostage to paying debt for the rest of my life.
A budget does not need to stop you from doing things you love or buying items you want. It should create a plan for your money. Knowing how much money comes in and out of your account is being responsible so you can enjoy the spoils of life. You cannot put a price tag on a peace of mind when it comes to your money so embrace a budget and stop rejecting it.
Elkinsette “Elkie” Clinton is a mom to a little girl that she adores, creator and owner of Savvy Moms Unite, a coaching business where she teaches moms how to live a Practical, Simple, and Realistic life. She works primarily with single moms on balancing all their many talents and responsibilities. Her focus with her clients is on career transitions and building wealth. She is also an educator, best selling author, and speaker. She co-authored and self published several books. The latest being “7 Steps to Becoming a Successful Savvy Mom: How to Balance Your Time, Money and Dreams” available on Amazon. Elkie is the creator of the Get Your Money Life Boot Camp course that teaches basic budgeting and saving strategies. She holds a Master’s degree in Education and have worked in several educational settings and non-profits. She has worked as a Career Coach for many years.
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