A Balanced Budget Starts with US

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Whew, the drama is over. I can stop flinching when I read my Facebook stream. I can now answer the phone during the evening hours. I can quit throwing scads of mailers and flyers in the recycling. The election, for better or for worse, is over.

One funny thing I learned through it all is that my “little cousin Joe” was elected to his city council. I heard the news before my mother and even his older brother. They didn’t even know he was running!

Now that doesn’t happen every day, does it?

Folks I know felt a range of emotions on Wednesday morning. Some were elated, some bordered on depressed.

Regardless of whether or not your candidates won this week, the fact of the matter is that

Government is not what saves us.

Government, specifically the US government, is made up of people. Namely, you and me. And your neighbor. And your friends — and your former friends on Facebook. We, the people, right?

Our government is a reflection of who we are a people.

We can complain when the politicians don’t do what we ask, but I think there’s some truth to the idea that good government begins with good individual self-government. If we as a people are living as we should, our collective body should follow suit. If we live by right principles we can impact those around us.

Our national debt didn’t happen overnight. But, it crept in because enough citizens shrugged and said, “Okay.”

Enough citizens now need to say, “Enough.”

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I know it’s not so easy or as simple as that. But, if we’re going to grow as a nation, we have to start somewhere. Fiscal accountability sounds good to me. As small as it sounds, starting small is not always bad.

Start with you.

  • Are you doing what you can to be a good steward of your resources?
  • Are you spending more than you make? (Well, stop that!)
  • Do you tell your money where to go? Or does it work the other way?
  • Are you working to pay down your debts?

If our government isn’t exactly the way you want it, consider how you can change you. 

A balanced budget starts with US.

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  1. Well said Jessica. Americans need to get a grip. Our taxes are growing and our paychecks shrinking (if indeed one is even collecting a paycheck). We need to be good stewards of what we have and wake up and smell the coffee. Do we really need so much stuff? Americans have “stuffitis” and are plagued by the sickness of instant gratification. As I enter my “golden” years, I really don’t need so much stuff. The hubs and I have become more deliberate about giving back and helping others. It truly is better to give than receive. You can’t take it with you!!!


  2. Thanks for sharing that Jessica … I wrote a rant the day after it was all over and probably could be a Frugal Friday link up, but I’m not doing that because the post is written with a little sarcasm … basically about ME going into survival mode for the next 4 years … all I can say is that if the talked about tax changes happen, I WILL become a real Frugal In Florida person 100% as I’d have no choice. I can’t afford to have more taxes taken off what I have with taken care of my dad and college kids 🙁 Unfortunately, the majority of the people don’t agree with the “Enough” mentality. Thanks for posting this!

  3. Yes, personal accountability is step one in national accountability. That’s the way it is in Canada as well; I think it’s a universal truth, one that you put very well. Thank you.

    A primary step in personal financial wisdom is Learning to Manage Your Habits (link above). With foolish habits, you won’t end up anywhere good.

    Right now one of the main steps in managing your finances and life is to be deliberate about celebrating the holidays wisely as recommended in A Simpler Season (link above). Thanks for writing the book, Jessica. It’s great!

  4. Well said, Jessica. The national debt is alarming on so many levels. It’s very worrisome. I linked up a post about making a semi-cash budget work for our family. It has helped us find personal accountability. Maybe it will help someone else, too.

  5. LOVE this!!! I am so tired of people pointing fingers at others without taking a long hard look in the mirror!
    Our personal financial picture speaks volumes as to our own attitudes toward debt and debt reduction. Thank you for pointing it out AND providing tools to help!

  6. I love this – so well said. Wednesday was a terrible day for me, but I kept reminding myself that life goes on, and as my husband told my 5-year old son when we broke the news to him – we will continue to do the best we can do and be the best Americans we can be.

  7. Well said! Have you seen I.O.U.S.A.? We watched it on Netflix and it kinda freaked me out… but also inspired us to continue tightening up our own family’s finances.

  8. Unfortunately, I think this election showed that our country has reached the tipping point where there are now more people riding in the cart than pulling it. Our government has made it too easy for people to lose all sense of personal responsibility.

  9. Thank you for saying this! I stayed out of the political discussions on Facebook. It’s been incredibly frustrating to see people take positions that aren’t open to discussion and debate. Not to mention all the unfriending and terrible comments thrown back and forth. Would these people really do this in real life?

    Okay, let’s work together and find solutions that we all agree on. There’s a lot of common ground. None of us want to saddle our children with debt whether it’s our own children or the nation’s children.

  10. Jessica, excellent post. You know I had a discussion a couple years ago with some relatives about the direction of the country. My husband and I pointed out that just like in a household, when the debt gets to big you have to cut spending in order to deal with it. They disagreed and said the government isn’t like a household budget. They can do things differently – like print money. Hmmm.

    I keep thinking back on this conversation and your post sums it up. The state we’re in today is not a political problem but a cultural problem. People in this country expect to have a certain standard of living that is not sustainable. And if things get tight or tough, they expect the government to smooth things over. But who pays for the government? Who pays the taxes? I am one of millions of Americans (49% of the vote – no mandate to our new president there!) who cast their vote for ENOUGH. We’ve been living on our rich uncle’s credit card too long. Time to grow up. And unfortunately, it looks like we’re all going to have to experience a lot of pain before recognizing the pickle we’ve put ourselves in.

    Bottom line, as you also point out – whatever happens, there are plenty of ways you can seize control of your life. Take care of your health, spend time with your kids, live simply to afford more choices in how you do things despite the economy. Glad you posted this.

  11. I guess I’m in the minority because I don’t believe my household budget and the government’s budget is, was or ever should be remotely the same. The country operates on a macroeconomic level and households operate on a microeconomic level. A government has the ability to create money and manipulate it(and let’s be clear the Fed is just as guilty as China of manipulating currency, and they’re supposed to because the strength and the weakness of a dollar determines demand for our products and helps determine global competitiveness.) One of the first principles of Economics is understanding that the government has the ability to help the economic climate in a way that you or I do not.

    That isn’t saying I do not believe there is room for improvement. It’s insane when you look at the fact that we spend more money on defense than China, India, Saudi, Great Britain, Japan, Germany, Brazil and a whole host of nations (the ten countries beneath us )combined. Exactly how many times do we need to be able to blow up the world? Look at our health care expenditures. We spend more than most of the countries with health care that covers all its citizens and with lower mortality rates and higher infant mortality. That’s just not smart. Ironically enough we have a socialized health care system for our veterans and I don’t hear anyone arguing that we should get rid of it, just that we can’t(and I read that as won’t because as a person that looks at budgets as flexible plans where the people involved have the ability to create priorities and determine where the money goes) do that for the rest of our citizenry. Oh and who here thinks it’s fiscally responsible once you see that you’ve dug yourself out of a ditch to start handing money out and break out the credit cards (exactly what was done the minute we had a surplus on paper)? Then there’s the whole dishonest 47% of the people don’t pay taxes rhethoric. A lot of the money we owe is money that we owe OURSELVES(as a matter of fact we owe more to ourselves than we do to China.) It’s money that we took from a fund that was meant to pay for retirement and was funded by those supposed people who don’t pay taxes but who are now looking at having the promise made to them that if they paid a little more than retirement would be there for them. I could go on and on for hours about what qualifies as debate in our political forum and the duplicity of both parties. I won’t though.

    The first step to creating any budget though doesn’t start with where to cut, it starts with an honest assessment. We’re not going to get that though. There are too many big organizations that believe they are entitled to tax dollars(and the list will go longer as we privatize everything in the name of saving a buck short term nevermind what it costs us in terms of lives lost) and too many people who will listen to them go on and on about deadbeat individuals (most of them children by the way) and believe the rhethoric.

    I’m neither elated nor dismayed by Wednesday’s results. I didn’t vote for either of America’s Next Top Model and I’m not foolish enough to believe that these men weren’t ideological twins and the equivalent of Vanilla and French Vanilla in terms of difference. I expect that status quo will continue just as it has for over a decade where the citizens will speak and the politicians will tut that they know better. Lather, rinse and repeat. Why? Because at the end of the day Americans treat politics like it’s a football game instead of a serious discussion on where we go and an honest assessment of how we got where we are today.

    Vent over.

    Feel free to delete this if it causes too many to be upset. I realize this isn’t a political blog and have come to expect that my views are a minority on most of the blogs like these. C’est la vie.

    1. It never crossed my mind to delete your comment. I don’t think you said anything offensive or out of line. I think we have to be able to discuss things and make sense of our situation.

      While I understand your point of how the government can “make” money, I think my general point is that we as a nation have not been as responsible with our resources as we could be. I can’t complain if I am not being responsible for the things that are at my personal disposal. How this plays out in the economics of things, well, I guess I didn’t pay enough attention in 12th grade Econ.

      (As an aside, I didn’t think either candidate was going to solve our problems. I’m quite skeptical of politicians in general.)

    2. Thank you for saying this. Honestly, I was quite dismayed (and a bit offended) to see so many of the comments attributing one’s attitude toward finances and personal responsibility to political afffiliation. It looks like I fall way to the left of the other commenters but I hold many of the same values in terms of how this country needs a reality check in terms of the lifestyle we seem to expect. In my personal experience people who poorly manage their personal finances fall on both sides of the political spectrum. The current economic problems this country has were the work of BOTH parties and the finger pointing is getting quite old.

      1. Amen. This problem is not a recent phenomena, nor is it the sole responsibility of one party. It’s been a collective problem for a long time.