There was a time in my marriage that you could have said I was “checked out” when it came to finances. Then one night, for some reason that I no longer remember, I sat down with the bills and added them all up. I think I was surprised by what I discovered–that our expenses met or exceeded our income. But my husband was not surprised. He had already known, was already stressed about it, and had been warning me about it for months.
~~A wife of noble character, who can find … She watches over the affairs of her household. (Proverbs 31:10a, 27a, NIV)~~
In my case, at that time, I believe it was probably necessary for me to get a crash course in my “affairs.” I think that sometimes we need crash courses, and sometimes God lets us take baby steps. In the coming weeks, I will suggest some gradual steps towards getting checked in to your finances. And I will be doing them myself. These days I’m very involved with bill paying, but it has been a while since I checked on our discretionary spending, on things like groceries and clothing. And I know we need to get back on a budget. So today’s Check-In step is:
Track your own discretionary spending for two weeks. This could be done in a number of ways:
- Good ole pencil and paper–Carry a notepad and record the date, vendor, and total of each purchase.
- Use your smart phone–Use the notetaking app to record purchases.
- Let your phone be really smart–There are many apps for that! But don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed by all the choices. The point is to just get started. If you spend more than 15 minutes in the App Store, put your iPhone down and chose option 1 or 4.
- Check your account online–If you make most of your purchases with a debit or credit card (as I do), log in to your account in two weeks and add up all your purchases made since today. (If you do use a card for most purchases and do not check your account online, consider doing so. I plan to talk more about that in a future post. But it’s not a big deal. I think it is more important for now to begin the practice of monitoring your finances, in whatever way works best for you.)
Two weeks may not sound like a long time. And it’s not; it’s a baby step. If there’s one area where you know you do a great majority of spending (for me, it’s food), then you could just limit your recording to that area. Make a step, however small.
One objective for this Check-In is to start to be more mindful of where I am spending money. Also, since I would like to talk with my husband soon about setting up a new budget, I think it’s important to focus on my own actions before talking to him about what I think we should do.