By Jess Brown
In my early 20s, I began my quest to establish a budget in order to pay off some credit card debt and to start figuring out my life. I discovered that I was really good at planning things out, but due to lots of bills and an entry-level salary living in New York City, I was finding it hard to be reasonable financially. What I mean is that I tried to prioritize bills and debt over my own quality of life. I would try to buy the bare minimum for food prep, for example. Or I would feel guilty if I needed a new package of socks. It wasn’t my most proud season of life. But during that time, I felt like God was telling me to relax. Not to be reckless with my money and not care about my financial responsibilities, but to realize that I need to put my health and well-being first or I won’t be able to function to make a living. I didn’t have to “punish” myself in order to get ahead financially. Instead, I needed to trust that God was ultimately going to work it all out.
Since September 2016, I’ve been optimizing and rethinking the way I have been budgeting and organizing my financial life. I wanted to be able to check things off when they were due and mark those items as paid. I also wanted to look ahead to figure out when my expenses occurred more annually than monthly. As I refer to my 2017 Heavenly Planner (which you can win now over at Imperishable Beauty’s Instagram giveaway contest that ends at Midnight EST on March 3rd), I realized that this is something that, while not literally included in the spread, is still an underlying theme we are asked seasonally to consider. These are:
- Refocus – Get back to what really matters
- Generosity Planning – What can I reasonably give when it comes to taking care of myself with my finances and time? What can I work on giving to others? What am I budgeting for?
- Heart Check – What do I need to let go of?
Early this year, I realized that these questions can also be viewed with a financial eye:
- Refocus – Am I buying things that I don’t really need to cope with my hard times? Am I overspending in one area of life when some of that money could be re-allocated to something else that I am passionate about?
- Generosity Planning – What are some things I need to set aside money for when it comes to myself that will ensure I am taking care of my mental and physical well-being? What money can I set aside to help others? What sporadic expenses come up in the year that need separate budgets (i.e. vacation)?
- Heart Check – What do I need to let go of? Am I relying on building my own empire and security or is there room to let God in? Am I using my money for unhealthy things?
Something that I found very helpful this year was to take a step back to look at my annual spending. At this point, I know what my monthly expenses are so there’s not really many surprises there but I sometimes have a tendency to fall into mindless spending with any money I have left over. If I went to Duane Reade during lunch, for example, I might pick up toothpaste that I don’t need yet, or a cheap lipstick because why not? And while I think all of those things are fine, I don’t necessarily want to replace toothpaste when I have at least a month of use left or accrue 20 lipsticks when I don’t really need them. #BeenThere
Can anyone relate? If so, I created a more user-friendly version of the spreadsheet I use for anyone to download to start evaluating their annual spending and to position themselves for better success in 2017 and beyond. Click on this link to download the spreadsheet.
Now it’s your turn. Here are some suggestions to get started:
- Look at your natural spending habits via your online bank account
- Mark down when you need to buy contacts at the same time every year
- Mark down when you need to go to the dentist at the same time(s) every year
- Look at your electronic receipts in your gmail: What kinds of things do you like buying? When you have money left over, do you like to go to the spa? Do you like to buy something new at the mall or at your favorite online shop? – Identify what these are and how much your typical purchase might be
- Look at your tithing: Are there annual opportunities for a special donation (i.e. year-end church donation)? If so, add that to the month(s) you are donating