On an anniversary, one normally expects calls from friends and family of mazal tov and fond wishes – but not today. Today is not the day that marks my wife and I entering into what we call marriage – although it has had almost as much impact on our life together as a couple. Today is our one year anniversary of the day when we began to choose how we want to live together. Today is our one year anniversary of living on a budget.
Looking back, it has been an incredible journey and perhaps one of the most significant steps that my wife and I ever took. About a year and a half ago, our financial lives were paralyzed by fear and guilt. We feared we were not making enough, we feared we were spending too much, and every time we spent a shekel we felt guilty. We felt financially helpless and out of control.
So I did what any logical 25 year old would do – I turned to the internet. After a quick search, I found a simple budgeting program that allowed my wife and I to track every single agorah we were spending. At the end of the month, we looked over our expenses and if they were less than our income, we figured we were going in the right direction.
But it wasn’t enough. My wife and I did not know how to use the knowledge we were compiling, and in order to have good numbers at the end of the month, our fear and guilt continued. Then one day, I ran across Dave Ramsey’s envelope budgeting system. At first I was put off; after all, I was an MBA; certainly I did not need such an elementary system to control my spending. But about a month later I came to the realization that I did not have any system for controlling my money and Dave Ramsey did, so unless I was going to make a new system, I may as well shut up and listen. I downloaded an audiobook of The Total Money Makeover and was on my way.
I listened to the entire book over a few days and began implementing immediately, albeit it with a few changes. For example, while I did not literally put the money I made into envelopes, I did develop an excel file in order to build a budget and monitor my spending (I thought I was unique; little did I know that most Dave Ramsey followers do the exact same thing). I also decided that since Israelis get paid on the tenth, it would be best to make the months from the 15th to the 14th of the following month.
Soon after, my wife and I sat down to build our first budget. The entire process took around 10 minutes, which is much less than I had expected. But our first attempt was far from perfect. There were a few times in that first month when we had to call an emergency budget meeting and decide what to move from one budget line into another, but life happens. The important thing is that we decided what to do with our money and built a life plan around it.
Knowing that we are spending money we have and that we are in control of our financial lives is a absolutely fantastic. We know when we should cut back, we know when we can spend more, we know when we can give and we know how to adjust our lives to make room for the things we want.
Does this make us rich? Of course not. Money still has to be made; being a nice couple on a budget doesn’t pay the bills. But a budget has given us control over our finances, peace of mind, and has allowed us to plan our life together (as much as man can without God laughing…)
To celebrate this one year anniversary, and because my old excel workbook is full, I made a new Excel workbook for budgeting.
PS – I think it would be interesting it shadchanim would ask a potential couple to build a budget and live by it for a month. I think it would do a lot more insightful than the typical laundry list of questions.
PPS – As usual, if there are any problems with the Excel sheet, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll try to fix it as soon as possible.