Finding balance in a chaotic world

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Budget Crisis – Adverted!

In September, expenses piled up a lot. When we sat down to do the budget in August, we knew that some out of the ordinary expenses needed to be accounted for. In a nutshell, my kidney stone and Hope’s broken arm both had associated bills due. August is the hot month in Oklahoma so our electricity bill soared thanks to the air conditioning. Finally, some other needed but still price expenses reared their ugly head. Ultimately, our outgo exceeded our income by about $300. Now the great news about this is that thanks to the budget we knew all about this at the beginning of the month. Similarly, sticking to the budget meant that we saved money in previous months for just such an occasion. So we rode out September without much of an issue. Then we sat down and did October’s budget. It too was $300 over. How could this be?

 

Our monthly cash flow budget revolutionized our lives. It took away almost all the financial stress Amy and I felt and it also allowed for us to do more with what we have. Rarely do we receive any financial surprises and if we do, the budget allows for us to methodically plan on how to handle it rather than the spur of the moment “put it on the card” response we’d have in the past. If there is one thing that contributes the most to me being in balance, it is our monthly budget. I cannot recommend strongly enough starting one of your own.

 

Over the months and years that we’ve used it, our spreadsheet has evolved. At first it simply listed our income and our expected expense. As time went on, it included the previous month’s surplus or deficit to better reflect our finances. I added totals to help when reconciling our bank account in Quicken and added a way to deal with credit card purchases. Basically it is a work in progress.

 

Multiple times I looked at the October budget and truly became confused as to where the deficit came from. Again the electric bill peaked, but none of the other extra expense, save a car repair, appeared in the budget. It made me feel like somehow as the main provider for the family, I had failed. We lived greater than our means and that is what caused us financial issues to being with.

 

Ultimately, we have plenty of cash to cover the shortfall, again thanks to the budget, but to me, that missed the point. The point is to have the budget reach 0 each month, including spending and saving. And for two months in a row, it did not. We prayed about it and determined that after paying the first half of the month’s bills, something would need to be done.

 

Well, this weekend, I paid the first half of the month’s bills and sat down to aggressively balance the budget. I removed some of the superfluous items on the budget but still remained almost $250 in the red. I applied my best MBA analytics to the task and finally discovered the issue. I never accounted for last month’s $300 shortfall. We had money sitting in our account dog-eared to cover last month’s shortfall but it never got entered into the budget. *Poof* our disappointing October suddenly flips around.

 

So what lesson did I walk away with? One, I need to always double check my accounting. Two, thank God for the budget. Without it, our stress level for the past couple of months would be astronomical and we’d be sweating in our house as we minimized use of the air conditioner. Third, it often takes looking at a problem while distanced from emotion to actually find the solution.

 

I couldn’t wait to show Amy the results of my discovery. Another weight lifted off our shoulders and life is good once again. So if you currently don’t budget your monthly spending, do so. Immediately. Once you do, enjoy the peace of knowing that all of your financial responsibilities are accounted for this month.