It Begins with Accountability

You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. –John 8:32

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To know the truth about your money, you have to put it under the microscope.You don’t have to be rich to live richly. More often than not, money is an impediment. The more money people have, the more focused they are on money, getting more, keeping what they have, taking pride in their possessions. Surprisingly, middle income people give more in proportion to charity than rich people do, and living richly always includes charity.

Having too little makes us focus on money just as much. Living paycheck to paycheck, over our heads in debt, dodging creditors, visiting the pawn shop, fighting with our spouse, watching our children do without. How can we not think about money in that situation?

 Even those not quite that bad off don’t understand what money is for. To their way of thinking, you spend as long as you have money, then wait until you get more. In my second career I write romance novels. In my first book, a cowboy who works for the hero shows off what he just bought, one of those hook devices used by ladies’ maids to fasten the tiny buttons running down the back of fancy gowns.

When the heroine asks why he’d want something like that, the hero replies, “There was a carnival in town. He wouldn’t think of coming back with something in his pockets. He likely had some money left, and that’s all he could find to buy.”

The practical heroine retorts, “That’s stupid.”

Stupid or not, isn’t that how our minds work? If we find some money lying around, or win at the lottery, or inherit some money, don’t our thoughts fly to what we will buy? And many of us don’t stop spending until all the money’s gone.  

What does living richly mean?

When my granddaughter was about seven, she asked me for a new pair of shoes. We were in the car alone, and I’d noticed she waited for these “alone” moments to ask for things. Aside from the point that I was a pushover, I had to get to the bottom of this.

“Why do you keep asking me for stuff? Don’t you have parents?”

“Yes, but you’re rich.”

Me—rich. HaHaHaHaHa. I live in a 1500 square foot, forty year old house. My car would have to go for four more years. By the time I finished laughing, I had to ask, “Why do you think I’m rich?”

“Because you get what you want and don’t fuss over money.”

I haven’t been able to come up with a better definition for living richly. You get what you need, and frequently, what you want, and never fuss over money. The only way to get to that enviable position is through accountability.

We are accountable down to the last red cent.

No matter what your money situation, if you’re accountable for what you have, you’ll be given more. Let that sink in because it’s one of those immutable laws of the universe, as certain as gravity keeps you stuck to the earth.

The budget is the instrument used to insure that accountability. Look at it as an instrument of torture or a get out of debt card, but everyone should have one.paper

Every item on the budget can be tweaked.

That’s what we’re going to do. Examine every item on the budget from greatest need to most frivolous want (like a pair of shoes for a granddaughter who has plenty of shoes), and in the process we’ll become accountable. Trust me. I’ve been there, but I know a budget has to be tweaked regularly. We’re going to put these items under the microscope, examine them, and tweak them so every last penny is spent wisely. At that point, we won’t fuss about money.

 

So take out your budget, or if you don’t have one, prepare one. There are automated programs available or paper forms, if you wish, but they’re not necessary. I use an excel spreadsheet, but you can just get a plain piece of paper and draw a vertical line down the middle. On the left, list all your expenses for the month, on the right list all your income for the month. We’ll get to liabilities and assets later.

 

We’ll look at expenses first and start with Health Care. It might not be your greatest need yet, but for better or worse, it’s an item that’s going to affect the budget of every person in this country, if not this year, then the next. Be prepared.

Now to get my assistance to research the ACA. We’ll cover that and all the other expenses related to health care next week.

8 Comments

    • Hey Piper,

      Counting the costs is like counting calories. It’s scary to see how it adds up, but I’ve found that’s the best way to keep from overeating or over spending. Just hope I don’t find any surprises.

      Thanks for your support. You’re the best.

  1. I started a budget a couple years ago, but like you said, it has to be reexamined often. That’s where I’m slacking. I neglect things, budgets, diaries, until I dread opening them again. 🙂 Gotta do better.

    Thanks so much for this series. This is so helpful!

  2. Great article Elaine. I so wish I had learned how to budget sooner in my married life. I grew up poor. I think I would have been okay if I had been taught to budget, but money was such an issue for my parents (step-parents), they wouldn’t talk about it. I believe I suffered some fear of deprivation, so when given a little freedom, I overspent. When my oldest child starting working, I finally became disciplined enough to follow a budget. We taught our kids and I think they have a greater respect for it. Looking forward to next week.

    • Hi Tayers05, glad to hear you got your children into budgeting. I’m so concerned about young people today who face such a shaky financial world. In fact the reason I first thought of doing this blog was for my grandchildren. They’re never too young to start learning about accountability. Wish I knew then what I know now.

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I’ll be posting on Wednesdays.

    • Kaitlyn,

      Absolutely, teenagers should keep a budget for their allowances and gifts as well as money they earn. And they have the advantage of not having to provide a living. After I finish the adult budget process, I’ll post about children and teenagers, but a budget is a budget. Young people should know how a household is run before they have to run one.

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