5 Simple Steps to Starting a Budget

BEST Place to start with a budget! Love! 5 simple steps to starting a budget | How to start a budget | Where to start with a budget

When you start searching on Pinterest or Google for budgeting ideas you probably start to either get instantly bored or completely overwhelmed with panic and fear about your financial future. Either way, budgeting doesn’t really seem like a whole lot of fun! It isn’t super trendy or flashy, and it often times gets a bad wrap! Let’s be honest, when someone tells you to cut back on your shopping and Starbucks runs you get a little grumpy...to say the least! BUT...what we must remember is that sacrifice and hard work pays off! If you’re under 35, and have an average income, you can easily retire a millionaire if you get debt free and invest at least 15% of your income into IRAs, 401-Ks, and mutual funds until retirement age. 

Does being debt free and retiring a millionaire sound impossible? Does it sound like something that doesn’t happen to “regular” people? ...well, I can testify that it is completely possible, and my husband and I are about as “regular” as you can get!

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About 2 years ago my husband and I were in some massive debt...just shy of a-half-a-million dollars. We had just welcomed our second daughter, we lived in a beautiful 3,200 square foot home, and my husband had a good job...our life should have been a piece of cake. I mean, we had everything we had ever dreamed of...perfect family, amazing marriage, nice house, great job...the works. The problem was we had no idea where our money was going and we were spending more than we were making. When I finally broke down and decided that we needed to get on a written budget I figured out that we were $490k in debt! At the time we owed on 2 houses (our home and a rent house), a piece of raw commercial land, a hand full of credit cards, backed property taxes, and medical bills. When I looked back over our past 3 months of bank statements, I learned that we were spending on average $800 a month on restaurants, fast food, and gas station snacks! Let me repeat that…$800 on average (some months were more) on eating outside of our house...that’s not counting groceries! We were piling up overdraft and late fees, racking up credit card debt, and just wasting money left and right. Our life was so messy that we was scared to even start! Somehow, I found some strength and got us on a written budget.

I spent the next year or so really working the kinks out of our budgeting worksheets (which I later turned into a product for my website). We got a small emergency fund saved up ($1,000) so we could stop using our credit cards. After we got that small emergency fund saved up we started knocking out our debts smallest to largest. This tactic of starting with the smallest debt gave us an accomplishment high and kept us super motivated. We continued to pay off every debt, except our two houses, and then we saved a larger emergency fund of 5 months worth of expenses (3-6 months is usually recommended). Now, we’re staying motivated and saving up to build our dream home as soon as our other two houses sell! Our life has been forever changed by budgeting and paying off our debt! My husband will be able to retire by the age of 45, if not sooner, our girls will get to go to college debt free, and most importantly we’ll get to live our life so much lighter and freer than we ever thought was possible. All it really took was some discipline and a couple years of sacrificing a few luxuries.   

So, where exactly did we start? What steps did we take to get this mess under control?

BEST Place to start with a budget! Love!  5 simple steps to starting a budget | How to start a budget | Where to start with a budget

1. We addressed the behavior that got us into this mess.

We were going out to eat, shopping too often, and just acting like spoiled, self-deserving brats. It was time to grow up and start looking farther into the future than just the next payday. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but we had zero savings before we started! How reckless is that!?! 

2. We tracked our spending to see where our money was actually going.

This let us know what we needed to cut back on, or cut out all together! 

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3. We organized our budget. 

I made worksheets for:

  • Bills (Separate checking account with debit card attached.)
  • Spending (Separate checking account with debit card attached.)
  • Debt
  • Savings
  • Goals
  • Net Worth

(Learn more about my budgeting worksheets here!)

I became obsessed with budgeting and tried to think of it as a new challenging hobby...not as a chore, because having a positive mindset is half the battle...the rest is mostly discipline! 

4. We took steps to stay motivated.

We got creative and found ways to keeping that momentum up to continue paying off our debt, and eventually saving our larger emergency fund. (Read more about that here.)

5. We stayed connected with liked minded people.

This was one of the biggest factors in remaining successful with our budget. We had to keep our mind fixed on our long term goals. 

There’s tons of great books to read and there’s awesome support groups on Facebook you could also join (click here to join my Facebook Community). Most importantly, just don’t let any bad influences ruin your plans for financial greatness! Stay strong, and be brave enough to be slightly uncomfortable for a short period of time, in order to achieve your financial goals! (Read more about Things I Love here)    

Whether your goals are to become debt free, stay on top of your spending, retire early, build a home, put your kids through college, or travel more...the most important thing is to stay motivated and on top of your goals! 

Samantha Womack