Friday, January 3, 2014

The Building Blocks of a Unified Budget!!

Please watch the video to go with this post here

Budgeting. Just saying the word strikes fear among many. Memories of budgets past, of partners who have held this power over you, or even of parents telling you “no” to the toy you wanted because it wasn’t “in the budget!!” Finances are a fickle thing my friend. Many have not been taught how to properly manage them. In fact, we are several generations into adults, who don’t know basic finances. Hey, we were there too.

Unfortunately, I have to say that it’s not getting better either. I could go on for days about how a good budget could actually revolutionize your relationship. I could even talk about the different kinds of budgets. For now, however, I will leave those for another post. In this post I will talk a little bit about WHY it is a good idea to have one, but will MAINLY be talking about the foundation of building a good and unified budget.

BUDGETS, when done properly, bring FREEDOM!! Yes, I said it-freedom. Most associate it with bondage, and being told what they can and can’t do, but that simply is not the truth. Also, for many, the family finances have been a place of hurt. A place where trust was broken. When a budget is done correctly, it can actually be a great way to build trust back up, and bring healing to your relationship. This is going to give each partner a voice, BUT you also have to USE your voice when given the chance-no more “whatever you want dear,” while you go do everything you can to destroy the budget your partner just made. This is just as damaging as being told what to do all the time.

Incorporating a basic envelope system can repair a lot of damage. I won’t go into that right now though, either. We are only covering how to build up to a united value system in this post. So, here are the steps: (HERE ARE THE FORMS: Reality Check, What Do You Want, Uniting Values , if you would like to use them.  They are FREE right now)

-Do the reality check, which I outlined in detail in an earlier post.
-Go through at least a month of bank statements or your check registry.
-Categorize your spending as you go down the list, on a separate piece of paper put a new number next to each new category (some categories cover many different things, such as utilities-this will cover things like natural gas, electricity, phone, etc. Food and restaurants are two DIFFERENT categories).
-Once you have your categories, tally how many times you engaged in this activity.
-So every time you see eating out, put a tally next to the restaurant category.
-You will see what your patterns have been, and as many financial advisers agree-your current value system.

OUCH!! This can be a harsh reality the first time, I know. The first time we did this, we had check after check after check made out to Papa John’s Pizza, with a few things like rent and public utilities sprinkled in between. Talk about having an out-of-whack value system!!

-Sit down with your partner
-Without looking at each other’s papers, write down the things you value spending money on
 (These are your desired things YOU want to spend money on. It’s OK if you value going out to eat, but if you don’t have money for electricity because you spent it on restaurants, know that you’ll be cold if it’s the middle of winter. Also, you don’t HAVE to value rent, just know that you may have to get used to the idea of moving into your car. Keep these things in consideration as you are writing down what you want to spend money on.)
-Once you’ve finished your list, prioritize your desires by importance, with 1 being the most important.
-So that I don’t overwhelm you, I will only take this process out one more step for now.

Now that you have both written down your desired spending categories, it is time to share your thoughts. Here is the beautiful thing. THIS IS YOUR OPINION ON PAPER. If you have a difficulty with confrontation, and finances have been a sore spot in your relationship in the past, this is a good way to communicate what you want. You have it written down, so you won’t forget anything, and if you need to step away to take the emotion out of the conversation, you can do that, and come back. 

-Discuss your lists
-Show each other your desires, and show your priorities
UNLESS YOU ARE TOTALLY WEIRD, these WILL be different. HOLD YOUR TONGUE. Force yourself to NOT criticize what your partner values or desires.

-Now you are going to build a combined list
-You will need to compromise here
-Make sure both of your categories make it onto the list
-Again, once you have made your list, prioritize your values
This will also take compromise. DON'T worry right now about HOW this is going to look on your budget. If your partner enjoys coffee, and you don’t, it doesn’t mean that you DON’T put it in the budget, remember this is about letting everyone have a voice.

1) The likelihood is that you will have something you value that your partner doesn’t, and they will compromise with you, if you are willing to do the same. This is a give-and-take.
2) When we actually get to the writing of the budget, we will make sure that these categories are done within a reasonable amount.

Alright. That’s it for now. You can break these steps up however you wish. It can take a few days, or a couple of hours.

 I WILL give you these guidelines:
• If you are getting frustrated, STEP AWAY!!
• Don’t do this in too short of a time frame-this should be at least a few hours to a couple of days process, BUT…
• Don’t do this in too LONG of a time frame-don’t push this out to SEVERAL weeks. You will never finish.

***Give each other grace!!
***Whatever situation you are in, you didn’t GET HERE quickly, so you’re not going to GET OUT quickly either!!
***You will also not MAGICALLY start communicating like rock stars the first time you sit down to do this. ***You may argue, but persevere!! I promise it WILL be worth DOING, if you keep GOING!!

Let me know how this worked for you, or feel free to ask any questions you might have.  I will be happy to help.  You can either comment, or email me here. (Please no spam)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Idea Grief

You may not know it, but there is a grieving process for IDEA’s that don’t come to fruition. Ok, maybe you’re thinking I’m crazy, BUT in a society that wants us to control our emotions, maybe I am. Why would you mourn over a silly idea? I know this to be true, as a PRO DREAMER it has taken me years to come to terms with this. This is obviously not the same kind of grief you have, when you have lost someone you love. IT IS still grief though. I want to help you to get through the process with more ease, because it is a grief strong enough that if you don’t acknowledge it, it could actually hurt you-mentally and emotionally, especially if it’s a really BIG idea, such as a business or a life changing notion. If you can recognize it for what it is, you will have power to move through it more steadily, so you can get on with your next idea.

The grieving process, for a failed idea is something like this (it is not the same for everyone, it will vary):
1. Denial & Isolation
2. Anger
3. Bargaining
4. Depression
5. Acceptance
The bible says, “Man without a vision shall perish.” Sometimes when those ideas don’t work out quite like we wanted them to, we can give up on our dreams and our goals.  I don’t want this for you.

I am a person who has a million ideas a day:-) Alright, maybe not exactly that many, but a lot. A few years ago, I got really frustrated with God, because He made me to be a person with a ton of ideas, but I was not able to do them all. Why would He make me that way???!!! It simply made no sense!! I used to think because I had the idea, I needed to pursue it, only to find out soon enough I couldn’t, for many reasons. Sometimes, I just didn’t have enough money, or I wasn’t equipped to pull it off, or it really was not an idea for me. I used to struggle with why I couldn’t make anything happen, and I would get very depressed. Years later, I am still an idea person, but I know how to work through these feelings pretty quickly because I’ve recognized that it takes a process.

1) Denial and Isolation:
I hear this over and over again with business owners. They had an idea, and they gave up everything to accomplish it, not weighing the cost of doing that first. Years down the line, they are trapped and either unwilling or unable to let go of their concept. Sometimes this “will” to fight is needed, so that they can survive until their next business idea comes along to save their current business, yet sometimes it’s important to know when it is dead. The denial is strong, and they feel like they are the only ones going through this situation, or maybe they don’t know who they can talk to. Sometimes they don’t even want to say it out loud, because to hear themselves saying it, means that they’re giving up, admitting defeat. A lot of times however, whether it’s said or not, they feel that way anyways, and all these owners want to do is walk away. I hear people talking about doing all kinds of crazy things to diminish a business, rather than just admitting it didn’t work, and cutting their losses. Instead, they ride it out, rack up more debt, and continue hating the “job” they’ve created for themselves, hoping it might burn down or something. Even when the notion is something simple, it can be hard to admit that it didn’t work. I once was trying to put up shelves, which I usually let Alex do, especially since he doesn’t mind doing it. I had gotten it in my head however, that I didn’t need a man to do this job, and I was going to get them up myself-I can be very stubborn. I worked on it all day, and couldn’t seem to figure out what the heck I had done wrong, and why the darn things wouldn’t turn out straight. I could’ve just waited until my hubby got home, but NO!! I was determined that I was going to figure it out. When he finally got home at the end of the day, I was so angry at these shelves, because I wouldn’t admit that I needed his help and wait, that I was very snappy. He came in, did a couple of maneuvers, and had it fixed within minutes!! If I would’ve just let go of my denial that I needed his help, I could’ve saved myself a lot of turmoil that day.

2) Anger
I have had my share of anger over ideas I finally had to give up on. From silly things like a living room design not working because I didn’t sketch my drawing to scale or even measure anything, to business ideas that just didn’t do anything. I’m sure this emotion shows itself differently for everyone, but for me it usually comes with me being snappy at those around me. Then I have to stop, analyze what’s going on, and realize that I’m taking my anger out on my loved ones, because my idea didn’t work the way I had hoped it would. I’m pretty good at working through this one more rapidly NOW, but ONLY because I have learned how to channel my feelings properly. I write them down. Yep, it’s that simple, although that may not be what works for you. You may need to talk to someone, or take a walk. You might need to just get away from the situation, or perhaps beat something like a punching bag (hopefully not someone!!) Figure out what works for you, and just be quick to apply it. Don’t be in denial and let it last too long.

3) Bargaining
You may be like, bargaining?  Like asking for a better price at the store?  LOL.  No.   In grief bargaining is saying, I should’ve done this differently, or if only I would’ve done that instead.  For instance, I have had many ideas that I think of as my “baby.” This can be very dangerous…Here’s why: When an idea is MY baby, often times it creates a double edged sword. I want control over every aspect of this idea, so I won’t give ANY of it up. However, many great ideas grow to something bigger than I, by myself, can handle, which means that I will eventually NEED help. However, because I want control, due to the fact that this is MY “baby,” I will never feel like I can fully trust anyone to help me with other areas that I NEED help with. Then I will feel like I should’ve done more when it inevitably does fail, or I could end up blaming others, thinking they didn’t try hard enough (even though it was me, who wouldn’t let them in the first place). It’s a vicious cycle!! What I really needed to do was to allow the person I brought in to do their job, freedom to do said job, and EMPOWER them to do it well.  I have learned this lesson the hard way many times. When dealing with a failed idea, it is better to not think of ALL the many things that could’ve been done better, unless it is going to help YOU to move forward in another idea, and YOU learned NOT to repeat those mistakes again. Don’t play the “Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda” game with yourself.

4) Depression
This is my most difficult stage of “Idea Grief.” I had an idea once for an amazing network. I dreamed the heck-out of this idea. In my mind I had the perfect setup for a great community-all centered around homeschooling. We were going to do field trips, have tutorials, initiate apprenticeships, even create a system of people across country, where other homeschoolers could stay while travelling-videos, blogs, curriculum, etc... It was a grandiose idea. I certainly didn’t sit down and think about anything practical such as how to market the idea, logistics, and the time to build said network, or anything like that. In my head, all I had to do was start talking about it, and BAM!! It would just happen. Surely, everyone I spoke to would think it was amazing!! Well, I’m sure you can imagine how much of a “kick in the face” it was when my FIRST phone call to my FIRST homeschool organization didn’t go so well. They were polite, but they didn’t know who I was, I didn’t have any track record, or connections with anyone. I had it in my head that this idea would be an instant success, and when it wasn’t, I sunk hard. It took me a while to want to be around anyone outside of my family, and all I wanted to do was lie in bed, and eat crap. I didn’t (I had little kids to take care of), but I wanted to.
I made a lot of mistakes here, my biggest being-I didn’t talk to enough people within my circle of influence to get their thoughts on my idea. They probably would’ve helped me to get my head out of the clouds a bit, and would’ve helped me to see the error in my “get rich and famous quick” scheme, and helped me to realize that I needed to start out small and work my way up. My next mistake was that I had myself built up so much on a dream that was so much bigger than I realized, that I didn’t have room for failure in my mind. When my first “no” came, I wasn’t ready to dust it off and try again. I was too crushed to push forward. I really did think it would be an instantaneous success. Lastly (not really, but I like a good 3 point persuasion), I isolated myself afterwards. I needed encouragement from good friends and family. If I would’ve talked to them, I would’ve gained perspective, known that these kinds of things happen to everyone, and would’ve been given the confidence to pick up and try another tactic. When going through the disappointment of an idea not working, don’t separate yourself from your support system!!

5) Acceptance
The faster you get through step four, and the more feedback and support you get, the sooner you will be able to accept your failure and move on. I say failure, because all great leaders talk about growing through your failures. In fact, the quicker you fail with an idea, the sooner you can move on to the next one, and that one will probably start where your last idea left off, and could even become your first or next success. Many years ago, I got into DIY decorating for my home, for two reasons-I didn’t have much money, and I like customized items. I enjoyed the thrill of making my own things, and having someone compliment me. There were many times though, that the projects wouldn’t turn out the way I had hoped, or I wouldn’t get compliments. I’m sure some people thought I was crazy, and that I should just go purchase the items I wanted in my house. Still, I kept on. Recently, my DIYs have started turning more and more into successes, and people ask me how I do them, and I have to say that I really enjoy the way my home looks-I still have some that don't turn out exactly how I'd like them, on the whole however, the projects have added value to my home style. If I hadn’t stuck it out, and moved on from my failures, I wouldn’t have become the DIYer I am today.
Now that you are equipped with the truth that it is ok to have these feelings when an idea doesn’t go exactly the way you wanted, I hope you will feel empowered. Let me tell you, before I had kids, I used to pride myself on how I never cried over anything, and was so good at controlling my emotions. Once I had my babies though, that all went out the door. This used to make me so annoyed at myself, but someone helped me to understand that it’s ok to feel. In fact, if we don’t allow ourselves to do it, those feelings will just build up inside until they explode and you can’t hold them in no matter how hard you try. I’m not giving you permission to wallow in your sorrow. NO WAY!! Allow yourself the grace to feel what you need to feel, and then move on. Grow. Dream. Keep Trying!! That is what I want you to do with this information!! Live!! And keep moving on with new ideas!!

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