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Get Back On The Budgeting Bandwagon

The term “Bandwagon” originated in the late 1800’s as the name for the wagon that carried a circus band (makes a lot of sense!). Circuses were very skilled at attracting crowds by having an exciting parade through the town, complete with a highly decorated bandwagon. Just imagine an animal parade through town with wagon full of people playing instruments and people following behind looking forward to a fun day at the circus.

Wondering how that old time phrase applies to today? The phrase “Get on the Bandwagon” means a series of activities undertaken to achieve a goal. If the pandemic has turned your fiscal management upside down, now is the time to get back on the budget bandwagon and get on track with managing your money proactively.

Most of this year has been anything but normal. You may have been a budgeter before the lockdown, but it seemed pointless while you were having to spend hundreds on toilet paper and nothing on things like kiddo activities, entertainment, travel, or social events.

Everything was so weird, for such a long time, and you may have used that as an excuse to stop tracking your dollars and just go with the flow. Now that life is slowly getting back to normal. It’s time to get the budget back to normal.

But what’s the first step to jump back on the budgeting bandwagon? Where to do you start? What is most important? What do you do next?

Step 1 is to start with prayer. Unlike the circus wagon, no one budgets because it’s tons of fun. We budget because there is something else that is important to us and that’s managing God’s blessings as a good steward in a responsible way. Effectively managing your finances is a way to thank God and express your gratitude to him for trusting you to steward the blessings He has given you, including your finances. Your gratitude in acknowledging and fulfilling this role calls for overcoming any excuses you can make.

Step 2 is to resist the temptation to go further off the rails with your budget. Just because you realize you have gone off budget does not mean destroying your financial future and giving up all hope of managing your money responsibly. The sooner you make the corrections, the better. It’s much easier to correct while your bandwagon is still in the emergency lane rather than waiting until it’s upside down in a ditch.

Step 3 is to consider getting an accountability partner. If you’re married, your accountability partner should be your spouse. Or, maybe as a couple you want to seek the counsel of a more experienced couple to help you stay on track.

Or you can contact one of our trained Compass Catholic Money Coaches for some assistance. We offer money coaches as a way to serve and Money Coaching is part of the Compass Catholic ministry mindset. Consider your accountability partner a member of your band. Bands always sound better with more instruments.

Step 4 is to look at your past 3 months bank and credit card statements. These will give you cold hard facts about where your money went. Don’t make guesses with your budget. I know things will look different from month to month but your spending history will help you make the best estimate for each spending category.

It gets discouraging if you don’t budget enough because you underestimated a particular budget category. Pulling numbers out of the air to create a budget is a sure way to fail. Facts are your friend when it comes to budgeting! It’s like reading sheet music. A budget is simply a guideline for spending.

Step 5 is planning for obstacles. Obstacles can be reduced income, increased spending, or even your attitude and thought process. What roadblocks will you encounter and how can you get over, under, or around them? When we fail to plan for roadblocks, we plan to fail. Take some time to think about as many obstacles as you can. Then make a plan to overcome each of those obstacles.

There is a quote that says “Under pressure, we don’t rise to the occasion, we sink to the level of our training.” So take time to mentally train yourself to handle the obstacles you are most likely to encounter.

Step 6 is revisiting the Compass Catholic Money Map. Destination One on the Money Map includes creating an emergency fund. It’s important that you have a solid foundation for financial wellness. And that solid foundation is an emergency fund. Maybe you were ignoring it before, or you had a HELOC and thought that could act as your emergency fund should an emergency arise. And many people turn to their credit cards in an emergency. But nothing will give you as much peace of mind as having an emergency fund in cash, ready and waiting.

The Money Map will help you document where you are (using facts again!) and what you need to do next. The most important things you’ll do first are mentioned above; use a budget; save for emergencies and step up to your role as a steward by giving with a grateful heart.

If you have fallen off the budgeting bandwagon during the chaos of the last few months, it’s time to climb back on. Following the steps listed above will help you achieve your financial goals and live your life as a good steward.

“Now it is of course required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.” (1 Corinthians 4:2).

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