Every January, my church does a series of sermons focused on money. And every year I’m reminded that there are a ton of biblical money principles that can help get your finances on track.
The Bible talks about money a lot and my pastors believe it’s important to talk about money openly, honestly, and really press into what the Bible says about money.
Back before the New Year, our pastor asked us to contribute to the money series. He wanted us to share our story of getting out of debt, learning how to budget, and how God played a role in our finances.
We were a little nervous because we weren’t sure what that would look like, but we were excited to be part of the bigger picture of what God could do with our story.
If our story could have a major impact on the lives of other people, I was all in. That’s why I started this blog in the first place. Help families struggling in debt live on a budget and become debt free.
And what better way to do that than in our own community here in Minnesota!
Our biggest contribution was leading a budgeting workshop for people who wanted to do better with money. The workshop was 2.5 hours on a Saturday morning and we called it “Get Your Finances on Track”.
It was the first time we led an event at our church and the first time a workshop like this has been offered in the 9 years we’ve attended. It was a little nerve wracking knowing we had to get up in front of a group of people and tell our story.
And most importantly, we needed to make our workshop practical and helpful for everyone.
Luckily our teaching instincts kicked in and we planned out a short talk and presentation, and then gave everyone a solid hour and half to actually create tools to “get your finances on track”.
I was amazed at the turn out. 30 people willingly signed up to our workshop and came ready to learn how to get their finances on track. Today I want to share what I learned teaching 30 people how to start a budget and make plans to get out of debt.
The Most Important Part of Your Budget is Knowing Why You’re Doing It
The first chunk of time, about 40 minutes, we shared our story. After all, why should anyone listen to us about budgeting if we didn’t have experience or a cool story? When I go to a workshop I want to know what qualifies the speaker to actually teach me something.
After sharing our story we paused to give people time to make goals that they want to accomplish with their budget. If you don’t have goals, how are you going to change your spending habits or get rid of your debt?
When I think about our debt free journey, it was all fueled by very clear and concise goals.
- Become debt free in 5 years.
- Pay off debt so we can start a family.
Knowing your WHY makes your WHAT easier. A lot of people start the new year with the resolution to be better with money or get your finances on track. But these goals are really vague and don’t inspire a lot of action.
When you know why you want to start a budget, it’s a lot easier to keep going when budgeting gets hard (because at some point it will). It eliminates excuses in their tracks. We wanted a snuggly little baby and knew we had to get out of debt to do it. That meant starting a budget.
Our behavior started changing almost immediately because we believed in our goals so deeply.
We stopped going out to eat because it would save us hundreds of dollars every month. The extra money went straight to extra student loan payments. We limited our traveling and spending when we hung out with friends too. The only vacation we went on was our honeymoon and we paid cash for that.
The money we saved helped us pay off debt faster. Every dollar was another step closer to our snuggly baby. If you can’t tell I really wanted to be a Dad. And not just so I could make wicked awesome Dad jokes. 🙂
Create Financial Goals that Actually Matter
The best advice I have is to work backwards. What is your goal 5 or 10 years from now? Then decide what you need to do to make that happen.
We wanted a snuggly baby. We knew to get there our debt needed to be paid off ASAP. On two teacher salaries, it would’ve been impossible to pay for daycare and student loans. It just didn’t fit into our budget.
Well, in order to get rid of our debt we had to be smarter and more efficient with our money. That led me to find a debt snowball spreadsheet and creating a budget. Our budget and debt snowball spreadsheet were just the vehicles we used to reach our ultimate goal of starting a family.
Our WHY made it a lot easier to do the WHAT, which was living on a budget
So we knew we wanted to give our “students” time to dream and create their own goals. We also created this time so they could pray and ask God what his plans were for their finances. Our goal of being debt free in 5 years came straight from him and we wouldn’t be debt free today without trusting Jesus with our financial decisions.
While everyone talked and set goals, we wandered around to answer questions and check in to see how people were feeling. After all, talking about money can be stressful. To eliminate some of the stress we focused on the basics. Nothing fancy and nothing flashy.
Keep it Simple: A Simple Budget and Debt Snowball Spreadsheet are All You Need to Get Started
The best tools are the simplest to use. And since budgeting stresses people out, we thought it best to use the basics. Plus a simple budget and debt snowball spreadsheet are the only tools we used to pay off $73,000 of student loan debt ourselves.
The last thing I wanted was for people to feel overwhelmed. My goal was for people to walk away from this workshop with one practical tool they could use to start reaching their financial goals. I figured a budget and debt snowball spreadsheet could accomplish that.
When I started budgeting I created a very basic spreadsheet in Excel (later moved it to Google Sheets). I researched for hours and finally chose a spreadsheet that made sense. It only had category lines for the things I needed and no extra fluff.
My new budget calculated my income and expenses and told me how much money I had left at the end of the month. It was perfect for tracking everything I needed.
If you’re ready to start budgeting, you don’t need a super fancy spreadsheet. You just need a place to record your spending. If you don’t quite know where to start, try my free budgeting course to get lessons sent to your email.
At the end you’ll have a simple budget to track all of your expenses and income. It’s the same one I shared with people at the workshop. Click here to start your free budget course today. Or enter your information below.
Once we helped people get over the hurdle of creating a budget, people were excited to start entering their numbers and watching the spreadsheet do the work. Auto-calculations are amazing and I still marvel at how simple budgeting is when you program it to do what you need.
Be Willing to Face the Hard Truths of Your Finances – It’s Okay if You Don’t Have All the Answers
Money is a huge stress in a lot of families, and I think a big reason people don’t keep a budget is because they just don’t know how to actually make one, and live on it consistently. The results of this Gallup poll paint a clearer picture.
Only 32% of Americans keep a budget to track their expenses. That means 68% don’t. If you’re in the 68%, it’s time to take control of your finances today.
One of the best parts about leading a workshop was how willing people were to be open, honest, and vulnerable with their finances. Most people brought a notepad with their bills, expenses, and debts written down. They were so excited to learn how to manage their money better.
Of course most people were a bit nervous to take a hard look at their money situation. But they were also willing enough to sign up for a workshop, which tells me they WANT to be better with money. They just need a guiding hand to help them. Or possibly just a big chunk of time to sit and work through the kinks of making a budget.
A Budget Can Help Anyone No Matter What Your Finances Look Like
I learned a lot while running our workshop, and I’m already excited to do it again later this year. But one thing that really stands out to me is the diversity of ages that showed up to get your finances on track.
It proved that people of all ages WANT to be better with their money. We had all age ranges. 20 something single and married people all the way up to retired couples.
Everyone had different WHYs, but they all wanted to do better with money and learn practical tools to help them
What Works for Some People Won’t Work for Others.
If you’ve tried budgeting before and it didn’t work, it’s not because you’re bad at budgeting or bad with money. You just didn’t find the right system and tools for you.
It’s the classic Thomas Edison quote. When people asked him about failing so many times to make a light bulb, he said “I didn’t fail 10,000 times. I found 10,000 ways how to NOT make a light bulb. I only needed to find one way to make it work.”
The same goes for your budget. Of all the tools, spreadsheets, and programs out there, you only need to find one that works for you. And when you find it, go all in on it!
Find Cheerleaders Because Everyone Need Cheerleaders.
When you have someone in your corner rooting for you to succeed, it feels good. It helps move you forward. It gives you the motivation you need when you’re feeling empty and ready to give up.
Sometimes the best cheerleader sits alongside you and listens to your story. Or helps you problem solve. Or tells you over and over again that you can do it.
Who doesn’t love those things? All of the greatest athletes in the world have personal coaches that do this for them. Boxers have a ringside coach. Golfers have caddies. Football and baseball have individual coaches based on position.
Cheerleaders provide accountability too. One of the best motivators for me is knowing that someone believes in me and wants me to succeed.
For me that’s my wife. I do my best work when I know she’s in my corner. I tell her my goals for my blog and dreams for our future. She keeps me focused on our goals and can check in with me anytime to see how I’m doing.
Find a few cheerleaders in your life. It could be your spouse, best friend, Mom or Dad, other fierce budgeters, or me. I’ll cheerlead the crap out of your journey because I want you to get your finances on track and get out of debt once and for all. That’s why I do all of this. If you need extra motivation or a pick me up, shoot me an email ([email protected]).
Get Your Finances on Track – My Entire Workshop in 20 Seconds
The workshop went so well that I want to share the information with everyone. So, since you probably weren’t at the workshop, here’s a brief summary of the big takeaways to help you get your finances on track:
- Know why you want to get your finances on track. Your why makes your what a whole lot easier. Make goals that matter to you and ask God what his vision is for your finances.
- Simple tools work great. Start with a budget and debt snowball spreadsheet. Use my free budgeting course to start your budget and debt snowball spreadsheet to start reaching your goals this week.
- A budget can help anyone get your finances on track. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a giant hole of debt, single, married, retired, or anywhere in between. A budget is your guide to live out your financial goals
- Find a system that works for you. Just because budgeting didn’t work in the past doesn’t mean it never will. Keep trying new systems until you find one that works. Maybe it’s paper and pen, a spreadsheet in Excel or Google Sheets, a free or paid app that connects to your bank account, or something else entirely. Remember, past failures aren’t an indicator of future failure.
- Everyone needs cheerleaders. It’s easier to do something when you know people are in your corner. Find people in your community that can cheer for you and support your journey. When you hit a milestone, celebrate with them. Share your dreams and goals with me and I’ll be your biggest cheerleader. I want to see your life transformed. That’s why I do all of this.
Let Me Know in the Comments
What is your WHY? Share why you want to start a budget or get out of debt.
As an Educator and Personal Finance Blogger, Jamie has helped hundreds of families learn how to budget, save money, and pay off debt (go here to subscribe and start your debt free journey). Read our debt free story, “How We Paid Off $73,000 of Debt in Less Than Four Years”.