Real Life on a Budget: 17 Practical Challenges to Live and Thrive on a Budget by Jessi Fearon of The Budget Mama is pure gold. Oh my goodness. I wish I had something like this when Andrew and I were first starting out six years ago!
I'll admit, when I first downloaded it to my Kindle, I was skeptical. Andrew and I have been living the grad student life (on a budget!) since we tied the knot nearly six years ago. We've learned a lot through trial and error, and I have to admit that having Andrew manage our budget helps a lot. He handles and manages our money well, and I've learned how to spend it well. A lot of what Jessi suggests we learned the hard way, over the years.
But, like I said, I thought we were frugal pros and I wasn't expecting to learn anything new...but I did! I picked up a few new tricks and tips, and I felt encouraged in some of the practices we were already implementing.
The book description says it all:
"Real Life on a Budget is a practical guide to helping you navigate the waters of money management. It features real life budget advice, practical challenges; actionable steps that will help you map out your journey to living and thriving on a budget. If you have been struggling with developing, maintaining, and living on a budget, Real Life on a Budget will help you create a system to better manage your finances and will challenge you to stick to your real life budget. Written by popular personal finance blogger, Jessi Fearon (www.thebudgetmama.com), Real Life on a Budget provides Jessi’s real-world budget advice and exercises for every area of managing your household budget. Real Life on a Budget is a powerful tool to help you start living and thriving on a budget."
Her site covers all of this and more, and I'm really excited to delve into her archives a bit.
I think what I love the most about this short, easy-to-read little book is that it is equal parts inspiration and practical suggestions. Like I said, we have some well-established budgeting practices at this point, but Jessi made me feel encouraged to re-commit to staying on budget and out of debt. I liked that she had creative solutions, but I especially loved how much she highlighted the importance of knowing why you are sticking to your budget.
At our current stage, we aren't saving for retirement or a home yet. We're sticking to a budget so we can invest in Andrew's education (i.e. making do with lower pay so that Andrew can get his ph.D) and give me career flexibility (i.e. doing freelance writing and speaking without having to be tied down to a salaried position) so that I can care full-time for our daughters. For us, this is especially important, because it's where we feel God is calling us in our lives, and in this stage of living out our vocations. I know all of that, of course, but Jessi's book made me stop and think about that in a more intentional way than I have in a while.
I can't overemphasize enough how strongly our family believes that money is only a means to an end - that is, the only reason to have money is to provide for our family's needs and the needs of others. For our family, stewardship is so important, as is generosity. I love that Jessi's book is 100% compatible with that mindset. She doesn't discuss charitable giving specifically, but her whole approach to money is that money only matters in the context of what is most important to your family, and in the context of your family's goals.
Like, I said, she has plenty of practical advice, too, some of which flows off her blog. One of her blog posts that I'm most excited to look at my closely is her post about her family's budget. I find concrete examples so helpful!
Looking for a wedding gift or hoping to be more intentional with your family's budget? I think I know just where to point you... ;-)
note: I was part of Jessi's book launch team, so I did get a free copy of the book for review. However, all opinions are my own.