DH= Dear Husband
DD3 = Dear Third Daughter
“We have made budgeting and planning our future together enjoyable and fun,” say Cheryl and Ken Rhoads. “It’s like dating again!” (Ramsey, 75) Sarada and John Marsh are equally enthused by their budgeting: “It might seem boring, but we’ve turned our regular budget/calendar meetings into enjoyable, future-planning dates!” (Ramsey, 98) These upbeat testimonials, included in Dave Ramsey’s book, The Total Money Makeover, do not jive with my experience. DH and I have a very hard time getting together to fine-tune and follow-up on our monthly budgets, and when we do, it’s not “enjoyable”. It’s nothing like a “date”.
We have learned from sloppy auto-pilot budgeting (See post “Debtors Anonymous [& Our Property Tax”]) that we really do need to go over our projected expenses together, but there’s a tension in any budgeting session we have. And while it feels good to have things sorted out once it’s done, we approach budgeting with dread. Sort of like house-cleaning.
Our progress along the path of debt repayment has been very limited over the past two months in comparison with the great strides we made in December and January. We started paying off Debt #3, DH’s mammoth business debt, in December, after having paid off our two smallest debts. We have been using money generated by his business to do so, and with the Christmas rush and its attendant ripple effect, we managed a whopping $10,000 in December and an impressive $4,500 in January.
In February, DH went to one of his franchise’s two annual training programs, so for one full week, he generated no income. His three working weeks in February were very strong, and we were able to put a respectable $2,500 against the business debt. Between the start of December and the end of January, Debt #3 went from $80,800 to $66,300, and at the end of February, it sat at $63,800.
March has been a different story. The business has been beset by technical glitches. DH essentially operates alone, so when technical problems arise, it can mean a time-sink of several days. Furthermore, March has been a month of huge expenses. We had the big property tax bill to pay, which our too-busy-to-budget sloppiness made difficult. (See post “Debtors Anonymous [& Our Property Tax”]) We’ve also registered DD3 for spring and summer activities and camps, benefitting from the early-bird sign-up rates that always passed me by before I became committed to money smarts. The thing is, even though these rates are good, we still have to pay them – and paying for all at once has proven to be daunting. As I predicted earlier in March, we have not been able to put anything against our debt this month. Logically, I get it, but it’s still disheartening.
Looking ahead to April, we’re committed to getting back to the basics. We’ve set out an April budget which, if things go reasonably well for DH’s business, should allow us to take another respectable slice out of Debt #3 by the end of the month. We will be vigilant about tracking our expenses and reconciling them with the numbers we’ve set out. We will “take care of the pennies so that the dollars take care of themselves.” Hopefully at the end of April, we’ll measure our success for the month, feel good about it, and launch into our budget for May without dread. And perhaps before this journey out of debt is finished, DH and I will have learned to embrace our budgeting as the Rhoads and the Marshes do. Like a date.