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Monday, January 12, 2015

How To Refocus Your Finances

Refocusing on finances
Hi. Remember us?

Yeah, we sort of lost track of our blog about three months ago when it fell into the abyss between Mt. Busy and Mt. Really Busy; they're two peaks in northern Vermont on the road to Overwhelmington, overlooking lakes Where-Has-Our-Life-Gone and It's-February-Already. (Yes, those are real lakes.)

These past wintry months have brought a lot of exciting changes into our lives. Right now, we're a week into sub-zero temperatures and I feel sort of like our life was put into a little snow globe and had the daylights shook out of it. Except what's falling down around us isn't fake plastic snow, it's a crazily scary, busy, fun, weird, roller-coaster ride of uncertainty. Our home is almost sold. Neither of us have full-time jobs. It was 30 below on Tuesday.

Whether we like it or not, a financial refocusing is what we have to do right now, and with Christmas having come and gone and New Year's resolutions in full-swing it's likely that's where you're at too. Getting back into the habit of budgeting and financial planning may sound daunting, even overwhelming, but here's the truth: it's easier the second time around.

If your financial focus has fallen by the wayside, the only thing that makes it seem difficult to start back up again is your memory of how difficult it was the first time. Do you remember the first time? I do. It was six brutal months of weekly budget meetings between me, a money spender, and my wife, a money hoarder, butting heads, bickering, crying, until we finally figured out how to do this "budgeting thing" together.

But the second time around isn't like the first. We know the drill. We know what we have to do. Thankfully, Danielle and I never really quit doing our budget meetings, we just have them once a month now instead of once a week. Still, with the major upheaval our life has undergone these last few months, it's time to sit down and figure out what our financial priorities are. This isn't a bad practice to do every once in a while. So...

Think Small

Refocusing your financial goals needs to be broad in scope, but small in steps. One of the reasons people veer off course is because they set their goals too far ahead. Their goals become too unobtainable. They get discouraged. They quit. This is why Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University approaches budgeting with the "Baby Steps." The first step—get $1,000 of emergency money in the bank—is obtainable within a month for most people. Seeing progress that quickly is encouraging and helps you to realize that, yes, this budgeting process can work!

So as you refocus your finances, make your goals realistic. Maybe your broad goal is to pay off the house in the next ten years, but for this month make it a goal to put an extra $100 down on the mortgage, or $1,000 in six months. The way we handle money is tied to our emotions, and our emotions are motivated when we see progress, so set obtainable "baby steps."

Keep Those Meetings Coming

You and your spouse need to be making your financial plans together. Maybe, if you really love crunching numbers and your spouse doesn't, you can handle it on your own, but you need to at least make an effort to include your spouse in what's going on. Danielle and I talk about our finances a lot. We help keep each other focused and motivated. Knowing what financial dreams are on her mind are important to me, and, frankly, I couldn't do all this math crap without her.


No financial plan should begin without consulting the One who owns it all anyway. "Everything comes from You, and we have given You only what comes from Your hand," 1 Chronicles 29:14. God knows your future far better than you do. He knows what storms are coming your way and how He's going to provide for your every need. You and your spouse—or financial accountability partner if you're single—need to keep God on the front lines of your financial goals.

So start there. Pray. Think small. Keep those budget meetings in the pipeline. Let us know what you're struggling with so we can pray for you and learn more about this stuff alongside you.

Keep pinchin' :)

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