My quest to go from 0 to $1 million could not be dreamt, imagined nor conceivable if it weren’t for the dreaded “B” word. That’s right, I’m talking about a being on a budget. I could not have begun this journey nor sustain and build upon any progress made without having a written plan that myself and my wife agree upon before any month begins. At first I was reluctant to do one. It felt like tedious work that I could never get right for myself, let alone work together with someone else to figure out. But let me tell you, of all the re-writes that were done, the fights with myself, the even bigger fights with my wife, we learned to work through it and come together for our common goals, and really took the time to analyze where we were and where we wanted to go. It takes a TON of patience, compromise and realistic thinking, but every moment of it is worth it after we worked through those first few trial and error months, and figured out how to work together and walk hand in hand towards our goals.
It’s amazing, coming together and working through a budget with my wife, brought us so much closer together than any marriage counselor or relationship book I have ever experienced. Piecing this together made us talk about our hopes and dreams, gave opportunities to convey and understand what the other person was feeling/thinking/dreaming. And I will be the first to admit, our joint budget has items on it that would NEVER be on my budget if I were single, and there are items that would NEVER dare find its way onto my wife’s if she were single. But in putting this together we made the decision to work together and plan out our goals, and start to learn what that magical word called compromise really means.
I’ll address probably the biggest negative connotation with budgets, because naturally, I fought this beast as well. The fact is, budgets have the immediate feeling of handcuffs. Having one forced me to look at where I really was in my financial life. I immediately saw where my money was bleeding out of (mostly social outings and unexpected/unplanned after work drinks) and knowing all of this left me with only one option: I needed to change. The truth was that I had handcuffed myself from having security. I had earned one year’s worth of salary and had less than $1,000 in the bank to show for it, simply because I was not paying attention or caring about where my money was going.
And man, once I had that first month’s plan done, I had officially drunk the Kool-Aid. You see for me, the budget broke the chains of my own stupidity, and freed me to dream and achieve what I really wanted out of life: Having 6 months worth of expenses in the bank, proposing to my girlfriend, marrying my wife, saving to pay cash for a house (more on that later), have money for retirement so I am not relying on social (in)security, and the list goes on and on.
Will every month go exactly perfectly and neatly as planned? OF COURSE NOT! But being on a plan means being able to readjust categories to help pay for unexpected events. As a preface, there are a few items not in this budget that are covered through pre-tax payment options we have through our employers that include: health insurance premiums, one public transportation pass, dental insurance and 401k savings. Now before every month begins we put and agree on paper where every dollar will be “spent” down to a zero balance.
You’d be surprised the amount of things that you can do in Chicago every month without spending more than $200, and I am going to love sharing weekend adventures with all of you. For groceries, we keep costs low by making roughly 95% of our meals vegetarian, you’ll also be surprised how much all forms of meat cost and all of the fun, unique and tasty vegetarian options there are to have every day! And even more savory is a zero balanced budget…Take that federal government J