As I've mentioned before, I have finally started to consistently be able to pay down all my dues each month. Starting last year in October and November, I'd actually reached the point where I was able to begin saving some money in a savings account which I planned to use for emergencies. Unfortunately, it had been so long since I'd been saving regularly, that many little things kept popping up that I had to cover so my savings grew quite slowly. At the end of November I got serious about saving though and allotted $200 out of my pizza hut paychecks (paid out every other Monday) to go directly to my savings account.
Now with this level of savings, I thought I was doing pretty good. But then I read JoAnneh's book and realized that I am not setting aside money for regular expenses each month, which is part of the reason I am continually challenged to keep money in my savings. JoAnneh maps out a step-by-step process by which chonic spenders can identify their routine expenses and their impulse expenses. Once these have been written out and broadly categorized, she discusses how to fit it to your monthly income.
Also of extreme importance is the relational impact of our finances. We are more relaxed when we have a plan of action and are not crimping and saving desperately (but blindly). This is incredibly true (I can think of times when I was quite unsociable due to being pinched financially and feeling forced into spending money...not fun). JoAnneh goes into great detail on how to work a spending plan with a spouse or partner, detailing the challenges and benefits. Among the benefits of building a spending plan with your spouse is improved companionship in all areas of life, including the bed chamber apparently.
The attention to detail throughout the book impressed me. Over the past 3 months I have listened to 24 books, 8 of them concerning personal finance and investing. While I am by no means an expert, I can state that none of personal finance books I have read have approached money management with such a practical, step by step method that anyone can follow and initiate in their own lives with little to no outside guidance.
I'm sure you can tell by now that I was quite inspired to put together my own spending plan. This was actually pretty simple as I'd already outlined most of my monthly bills and really just needed to get a handle on how much I am making each month and update some of the expenses. I am presently fine-tuning things, but I plan to launch my new spending plan on March 1st. I've already picked up a handy dandy notebook that fits neatly into my back pocket. Now I just need to finalize my budget (having the most trouble with figuring out how to allot my savings, trying to balance between investing, saving, and paying down additional debt).
In any case, for those of you struggling with debt and looking for a way to build a system that you can use to gradually grow into a life of frugality and savings, I'd definitely recommend JoAnneh Nagler's The Debt Free Spending Plan as your starting point. I'll be posting my own spending plan on this website and updating it periodically, so definitely check back in to see how I'm doing.