Why You Don't Need A Big Income To Start A Budget
Let's talk about a mindset obstacle that keeps people from reaching their financial goals.
That is that you need a big income before you can start budgeting. Now, if you’ve said that to yourself, no judgment here.
We believed this lie for so long. I had actually started researching how to budget and how to get out of debt way before we started our debt-free journey. But I kept telling myself that we didn’t have any money left over at the end of the month and a budget would only work if we had a bigger income.
The truth is that budgeting works with any income and here is why. When we started budgeting, we were a two-person income household but we didn’t have a lot of extra money left over to spend after we paid our monthly bills. In fact, my idea of a budget was making sure all the bills were paid and none of those bills were going into overdraft.
But once I started writing down everything we were spending, I realized that the small $5 and $10 daily purchases were the reason why I didn’t have any money. The problem wasn’t our income at all, it was the fact that we were spending way above our means.
So here are three ways that we changed our mindset and realized that a budget could work for us.
- ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR STARTING POINT
First and foremost, we gave ourselves grace. When we sat down and looked at the numbers and realized how much we were spending each month, we were shocked. We couldn’t believe how much money was going out each month. This was also during the time when couponing was the in thing so I thought I was actually saving us money by extreme couponing and buying things in bulk when it was at its lowest price point. But I realized that I was overbuying items that I didn’t need and spending extra money that I didn’t have. I admit that I was angry and confused at myself but then I just decided to let it go. I acknowledged the problem and told myself that I wasn’t going to do that anymore. If I wanted to keep couponing, I needed a budgeted amount each month and I couldn’t go over that amount.
So my husband and I decided to just acknowledge that we had made some pretty crappy money mistakes and to change that habit. We couldn’t go back in time and fix it and there was no sense crying over our mistakes. We needed to acknowledge our starting point, give ourselves grace, learn from our mistakes, and move on.
If you can relate to our story, I just want to encourage you that it’s okay to feel this way. Give yourself some grace. I’ve made tons of money mistakes. And you won’t feel this way forever. The most important thing to remember is that we all start at zero. If you just keep moving forward one step at a time, you will be amazed at the progress you’ve made days, weeks, and months from now.
- FIND CREATIVE INCOME-GENERATING HOBBIES
After a few months of doing a budget and cutting our expenses as best as we could, we realized that we needed to increase our income in order to accelerate our debt-free journey. Dave Ramsey calls this “breaking the log jam” in one of his books. It means that you need to do something drastic like sell your car or downgrade your house or make more money in order to feed the jam so that it breaks. Since we were already working two full time jobs, we wanted to find extra jobs that fit into our schedule. My husband started flipping cars and asking friends and neighbors if he could do some handyman work for them. I became a mystery shopper where I would get paid to evaluate the customer service and products for certain companies. My husband and I also have a t-shirt business and we would sell at local craft fairs.
I recently found Nick Loper, founder of Side Hustle Nation. This is not sponsored by the way. But I wish I had found him when we were on our debt-free journey because he has a lot of great ideas of how you can increase your income and most of these ideas you can do from the comfort of your own home. That website is called Side Hustle Nation.
- FOLLOW THE LEADER
I love hearing the debt-free screams on Dave Ramsey’s show but some of these stories were not relatable to me. I would hear people paying off $100,000 dollars in one year making $150k - $175k income. Even though we were a two-person income household, we were not even close to that when we started on our journey. I’ll admit that I felt discouraged that we didn’t make enough to pay off our debt in such a short amount of time. But then I realized that playing the comparison game was a very dangerous game. And this was our journey and this was our story. It didn’t matter if it took us longer than others to get out of debt, what mattered was that we were moving forward to get out of it.
So I had found some YouTubers who were in similar income ranges who had a similar amount of debt to pay off and started watching their journey. Their stories were relatable and it was encouraging to hear their wins, their struggles, and how they were motivating themselves to keep moving forward.
So my tip for you is to find your people. We didn’t have anyone locally that were on a debt-free journey as us so we looked for those people on YouTube. I loved the connection and looked forward to the content they were pushing out each week. Whether it is reaching out to a friend locally, joining a Facebook group, or finding people on YouTube, stay connected because one of the hardest things about being on this journey is doing it alone.
I hope these tips have helped to encourage you that you can make a budget no matter your income level. You will get to your goal. Just keep moving forward one step at a time.