Just like taxes come due every April, now is that time every other year when I decide to review the family budget and see what can be done about it.
Now, I’m notorious for starting projects and not completing them. When I was laid off from work in 2009 I started a family budget spreadsheet because counting every nickel was absolutely necessary until I got a new job. I followed that budget meticulously – inputting every receipt that came into the house – for about two months. And then it became a hassle to put in every receipt and they’d stack up on our office desk until they took over and I just shredded them to get them out of the way.
But this time it’s different! No really, it is! You want to know the difference? We’re in the home stretch. Back in 2007 I made the vow to get out of consumer debt. I wanted to be out from under the oppression of credit card bills. I wasn’t going to go the hardcore Dave Ramsey way (“We paid off $80,000 in debt in two years on only a $35,000 a year salary!”), but I knew that it needed to be done. I felt true conviction that I needed to get rid of my reliance on credit cards.
I immediately began using my debit card for all purchases, other than major ones (I characterized “major” as when a single item cost more than $200). At the time I think we had five cards that had outstanding balances. I diligently made an effort not to use my cards, and to put a bit more money each month towards the balances. We got windfalls every now and again – unexpectedly high tax returns, lots of freelance earnings, financial gifts from family, bonuses from work, an inheritance from Denis’s mom who passed away last year – which all certainly helped put a dent in our debt. Those things, in combination with my reduced amount of spending in general (Denis is the saver, I’m the spender), helped us get to this point.
It is now April 2011, and we are down to our last card. And not only that, but if all goes according to plan, that card will be paid off by September of this year. Possibly sooner if I opt to take a few freelance gigs over the summer and apply all that money directly to the credit card.
And so it was with great joy that I sat down this morning to review our family budget and see where we are. Denis got a much-deserved raise this month, which will help even more moving forward. Every summer the kids’ daycare expense basically doubles, and we have to reduce the amount we put toward debt and savings to compensate for the higher daycare fees. This is the first time that we will NOT have to cut the amount we put toward debt to make up for the increase in daycare expenses. That makes me very happy (I’ll be even happier when CootieGirl and CootieBoy are finally responsible enough to be home alone after school so we don’t have to pay for daycare expenses at all – three?more?years?).
The other thing that makes me happy about this is that once debt is paid off we can concentrate on saving even more. Since we hope to move forward with building a house in the next 18-24 months, we want to have as much cash-in-hand as possible when the time comes. And by having no consumer debt to worry about, we can concentrate on that in earnest.
So yes, working on the budget today made me very happy. And this time I’m going to try and actually maintain the spreadsheet rather than let it languish after a couple months. That’ll be the hardest part. *lol*