You Need a Budget

Erin and I use a nice little piece of software called You Need A Budget to manage our personal finances. It’s the combination of a check register and budgeting tool that relies on the concept of a zero-based budget to assign every dollar a job, every month. Much along the lines of wha Dave Ramsey teaches, but it allows us a little flexibility to be grownups as well. Because of the way our business works, we don’t totally know what our income is going to be for any given week until about a week and a half into the month, so it’s a day like yesterday where we sit down and nail out the budget to get everything balanced out.

Like anyone doing their finances on this type of budget, you know it’s not as easy as it sounds. On good months, when you think it’d be easy, you still have to tell every dollar where to go, even if it’s saying something like “Mr. Extra One Hundred Dollars, you will go into my retirement fund and not be seen again for 30 years.” Once you tell that money where to go, and send it there, there’s no going back. It’s a promise you must keep, or break your budget. The same is true for lean months, where you may both scrimp on things that aren’t necessities and also pull from accounts with “excess” in order to meet the needs of your “must-do’s” for the month.

This month is a bit of a lean month. We have those. I’ll bet you do too. Anyways, we sat down last night and figured everything out, moved some things around, and got it all to the point where every dollar had a home. Success. We can live with that. It may not be a filet minon month, but a cheeseburger month will do just fine (especially since some of our savings has opened up an opportunity for a road trip).

The one thing that looked wierd was this $500+ in our propane budget. We’re on a “budget” with our propane company as well, so we pay the same price every month, even though we only get our tank filled every quarter or so. It’s good for everyone. But they hadn’t billed us in a few months, and this account had steadily been growing. Not knowing if we were missing the mail or going to get nailed with a big bill because they absentmindely took us off the budget, I made a note to call them the next day (today). Who knows, maybe we’ll free up a little cash for that pair of tennis shoes I need.

So this morning I called the propane company. Yep, we had a credit from the last year’s budget. We hadn’t used as much propane as we’d paid in over the first 9 months, so they gave us the last 3 months free of charge. Exactly how it should work. And that ENTIRE $500 is now “free” to be used elsewhere (like on that dishwasher that just ground [literally] to a halt). But better yet, because the budget is based on previous years, the NEW budget amount, which takes effect next month, is going to be less than HALF of what it used to be. 

Prase God! What a blessing! Not only did our financial picture open up just as we hoped, but the next 12 months will also be a little easier when it comes to paying the heating bill.

This is one of those things I just need to write down. An S.D.G. moment that could easily be forgotten, but reminds me tonight (and again anytime I’ll read this) about God’s faithfulness, and also His response to our planning and prayerful use of His resources.

So yeah, we stick ourselves in a box every month with a budget. And every once in a while you get to blow the lid off with great news like this. Sure, other months may come with unexpected emergencies, but that can be anticipated as well. In it all, God is faithful. Never failing. Forever I will trust in Him.