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Friday, April 12, 2013

Zero Dollar Budgeting

Because I'm a detail person, I sort of fell into accounting as a job description.  But it has been out of sheer necessity that I've learned to budget.  I lived on my own before marriage and did a great job of managing my single girl income.  My goal was to pay off college debt in two years - I did so with two months to spare.  Yay.  Through our marriage we incurred debt and paid it off and the balance seemed to rise and fall fairly predictably.  We rarely did without what we wanted but sometimes had to pay back because we didn't save first.  However, money was rarely a source of conflict.  I was the one who managed the day to day accounts.

In 2008, I found myself as the only adult managing a home (with mortgage) and three young children.  I was working 12 hours per week and did receive support from the father of my children.  An anonymous angel gave me $1,500 cash and that was the extent of my resources.  I had reason to panic.  Before the shock even wore off, I knew I had to get a gameplan.

First: Assess the situation - be brutal.  I couldn't minimize the seriousness of our needs and I knew I didn't want to move in with my parents.  That is a wonderful solution for many, but it wasn't going to work for us for a variety of reasons.  So, I quickly realized that we needed short term assistance, I had to cut our living expenses as much as possible, and I needed to earn more money.

I applied for state healthcare assistance, and was approved.  I received nutrition assistance from the state. We cancelled all additional services such as cable, cell phone, even the trash pick up.  This was a humbling experience - yet it was also empowering to take control of the situation instead of just waiting to see what would happen next.

I approached my existing employer and said that I needed more hours or would need to find another job.  I'm blessed that I was able to more than double my working hours.  I would have enough income to survive month-to-month covering our immediate needs.  I was scared, but I had peace and committed to tithing on the income.

Zero dollar budgeting for me, meant that when I got paid at the beginning of each month, I had a plan for every penny.  I spent on paper what I planned for the month and there was zero left at the bottom line.  Literally.  I changed the thermostat to save electricity and trimmed every single place possible. 

Have you ever brutally assessed your financial situation and let go of things you once considered necessities?