I’ve quoted Jon Acuff a few times recently and I’m about to do it again….

“Most of us, when it comes to figuring out where we’re headed in life, never stop to ask the simple question, “Where am I?” ~Jon Acuff, Start

As I venture into what seems like the OVERWHELMING task of getting my finances under control (vs them controlling me), Jon’s words keep replaying in my head.  In this world of digital everything, I ditched balancing a checkbook shortly after college and now rely solely on my online banking balance.  For those of you who have ever fallen into this habit, you know it’s not a good one unless you have a photographic memory of every check you’ve written, scheduled auto-draft payment and debit transaction you’ve made that have yet to pop up online.  Not only that, but you have to know what’s coming in and what still needs to go out.  A photographic memory I have not.

We live, very literally, paycheck-to-paycheck.  And sometimes it’s paycheck-to-please dear God don’t let that clear till tomorrow-to-paycheck.  We don’t necessarily live beyond our means, though there are surely some areas we could cut back.  We don’t have a lot of bills and our debt is pretty typical of the average American (sad as that is).  But what we don’t have is a working knowledge of how much it costs for us to live.  I know roughly how much each bill is, but I’ve never (at least not in recent years) taken the time to add them up to know a complete monthly expense.  I could give you a ballpark of how much credit card debt we have, but the simpler answer is: they’re all maxed out.  Insert Jon…. I know where I want my finances to go, but I have no earthly idea where I am with them right now….besides broke.

“The best map in the world doesn’t matter if you don’t know where you are.” ~Jon Acuff, Start

Thankfully, we have a good friend, Bryan, who’s creating a new financial advising program for the average person who needs to learn and move beyond the basics.  In his line of work, his typical client is the person who already has money that needs to be managed.  This departure will open up an entirely new client-base while helping the demographic that needs it the most (me!).  Step one was, of course, to gather information on where we are.  Imagine that.  It’s like everyone but me has realized you need a place to start from vs blindly walking to Point B on the map.

This weekend I went through every bill, every credit card statement, scanned our bank account for auto-drafts I might not remember off the top of my head and made one big pretty (and disturbing) spreadsheet.  It didn’t take long, but it did take a little patience as I felt my blood pressure rise with each number I added.  The result was a little intimidating, but it’s also the “YOU ARE HERE” map dot that I’ve been missing.

Every Monday I’ll be sharing our journey around the map as we work with Bryan to get a weekly budget and savings plan for our family.  It’s my hope that our experience will provide some tips and tricks for you as well.  Start this week.  Take a look at your expenses and find your own starting place on the map.  It’s time to get real about where you are so you can fulfill those dreams about where you’re going.

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