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I need a budget — Martha Carr

Martha Carr’s column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail her at Martha@caglecartoons.com.

Martha Carr’s column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail her at Martha@caglecartoons.com.

There’s a web site that’s getting a lot of buzz lately, because it offers people a practical way to work out a budget for themselves that doesn’t involve name calling, austerity or Suze Orman.

It’s You Need a Budget.com –– www.YouNeedaBudget.com –– started by Jesse Mecham, a young husband and father of five, who took what he was learning at home and turned it into an Internet sensation.

He has some pretty simple rules to get anyone started that are: give every dollar a job, save for a rainy day, roll with the punches, and stop living paycheck to paycheck. He even claims his methods can work for someone who doesn’t always have a steady paycheck, or a student who’s perpetually in the red. Users of the site often report back that they feel like they’ve given themselves a raise.

All that from a little awareness and a plan.

"On average, it takes about four months to get one month ahead on your bills," said Jesse, explaining one of the key tenets of his site. "The raise will happen right away when you start." People don’t understand the buying power of what they do have, but with a plan you design yourself, you not only see you can save for that couch, but when it’ll arrive in your living room.

Sounds revolutionary but most of us have no clue how to do it, and for a long time we didn’t care.

Then along came our wakeup call in 2008 and the Great Recession with record unemployment and a sinking real estate market. You Need a Budget.com felt the onset as well, but as a slight bump in September of 2008 when we all finally realized we had better do something and their business has been steadily growing ever since.

Frankly, it never occurred to me that every dollar should have a clearly defined job, but once it did, I realized how ridiculous it has been for me to not know just how much expendable income I really do have every month.

As a result, I often end up spending very little, just in case. Like a lot of people when it comes to their relationship with money, mine is a family trait that has been passed down for generations. Talking about money is an even bigger taboo, which is why a lot of us never get to air out our wacky ideas, or even better, learn a few new tricks.

However, I’ve had just enough experience with paying off a debt just a bit at a time that at first seemed insurmountable, that the idea of a budget is actually starting to look downright appealing. "There’s this contentment that comes when your money is doing what you want it to do," said Jesse.

My attitude toward money is usually pretty tight-fisted. It pains me to spend an extra 35 cents on the more expensive bottle of salad dressing, and I feel an inverse zing of delight when I find a buy on one, get one steal of a deal.

There’s even an infamous story about me from a few years ago when I was still knee-deep in single motherhood and finding a dollar seemed like a big deal. I had two gift cards that were left over from the holidays that someone had given me, and I couldn’t bring myself to spend them.

It took months, but I finally marched myself into Marshall’s and bought new underwear on sale. Later, I sobbed in the parking lot worried about what would happen now that I had recklessly spent the money. Some of my dollars could probably use a vacation.

But I’m going to set out and try Jesse’s methods and see what happens. There are a few life-experiments I’m doing with all of you right now, like losing weight and those are going pretty well. Thirty pounds lost and counting. Maybe it’s time to adopt a few new actions around money too.

I’ll let you know how it goes along the way. If anyone else decides to join me, let me know how your journey goes, too, and I’ll let all the readers know, as usual. More adventures to follow.

Tweet me @MarthaRandolph and let me know if you have a budget that works for you. www.MarthaCarr.com.

Martha’s column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail Martha at Martha@caglecartoons.com.