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Not that many years ago, if Chris Lee, of Canton, Georgia, had enough money at the end of the month to cover his bills he considered it a win.
He was always one small hiccup away from being in pretty big trouble, but the future? “I just tried not to think about it,” he says.
But after three foreclosures on investment properties, and a $50k in consumer debt wake-up call, the future was calling and she was pissed. (And, yes, for the purposes of our story today, the future is a she.)
The Lee’s signed up for Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and starting using a pen and paper to track every dollar, which was helpful but he quickly realized not a realistic long-term solution. So, Chris started using spreadsheets, but it was hard to stay on the same page with his wife.
“It was easy to use, customizable to my needs and I didn’t have to worry about creating formulas or doing a lot of math.” (Because in most all situations, the less math, the better, right?)
But another big change Chris noticed was the shift from His Budget to Our Budget: “Because I had been the one to actual write out the budget or fill in the spreadsheets, we often referred to it as ‘my budget,’ but when we moved to YNAB and were both participating, it became ‘our budget.’”
“I remember sititng in my office facing our 3rd foreclosure, contemplating how I got my family in this mess and how we were going to get out of it. I spent a few months just trying different things—no eating out, shopping fast, reducing monthly bills—and it was all good. But it was just a Band-Aid. The budget was the missing piece that brought healing to our finances and our marriage.”
Once the Lee’s were truly budgeting together, they were liberated. Not just from their debt over time, but from the attitudes and habits that got them there in the first place: “Once we create the budget, we are free to spend without worry or guilt.”
In 18 months they paid of $50k debt and then 12 months later, they’d saved $25k for an emergency fund. Here’s how they did it (plus a little free advice):
“We obsessed about every dollar. And we made debt our number one, top priority.”
Ok, not everything, but a lot: “We sold anything and everything we could possibly live without. Several years later, I can honestly say we haven’t missed a thing.”
Debt is the enemy: “We’ve changed our attitude about debt entirely. Being able to finance stuff is not the banks doing us a favor, it’s a way for them to make more money.”
“Planning for the future makes life so much easier. Period.”
“We wish we’d learned this stuff a long time ago. But our kids will benefit from our experience. Our 11-year-old already creates and maintains a monthly budget.”
Today, Chris says his budget has become one of those things—like smart phones, the internet or Amazon Prime—that you can’t imagine living without. It’s as magical as Amazon Prime, and that is saying a lot.
Remember, budgeting is not restrictive. You won’t be spending less, you’ll be spending right. You can do this! Today. Right now. What do you have to lose? Except all that debt and stress. (Ok, so kind of a lot.)
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