I am Alison and I am a budgeting expert who earned my stripes through a combination of work and life experiences.  I love to have nice things, I love to travel, and I love to relax.  I learned early on that if I tried to have too many nice things it lead to a lack of travel and relaxation.  In my 20's, I had plenty of credit card debt, I felt like I couldn't afford things because so much of my money was going to debt repayment - and here's the most shocking part, I lived at home until I was 26!  No rent, no utilities, no home repairs, ,just automobile expenses.  I lived at home that long for two reasons; my parents are laid back and it wasn't a big deal and....I thought I couldn't afford to move out.  Once I did move out, things escalated in the world of debt.  I lived in a really cheap apartment with my cousin, but I was going out quite often, and not paying attention to my finances.  I ended up bouncing some checks and getting my phone turned off from not paying the bill.  I also paid all of my other bills late.  As you can imagine, my credit was nearly destroyed.

Let's jump forward to my early 30's.  I had moved 300 miles away from home and gotten married.  Things were slightly better in the financial world for me, but still not great.  Both of us liked to spend money and have nice things.  We had plenty of credit card debt but our salaries were increasing, so at least everything was paid on time.  This is when I was starting to learn the art of budgeting.  We bought a house and added the considerable responsibilities of home maintenance to the list of items to be budgeted.  How was this ever going to work?  I had a second job for a few years working at an entertainment venue to help make ends meet.  One of the last days I worked there, I recall wishing I would get hit by a car on my way in so I did not have to work that night.  I realized that was one of the most ridiculous thoughts I had ever had, and resolved to get some things figured out.  As luck or fortune would have it, I received a $1/hour raise at my full time job right around that time so I was able to quit the second job.  One dollar an hour should not change a person's life, but it did for me.  I really started to get serious about watching our budget and making sure there was a plan for the upcoming months because I did not want to work a second job anymore.  That job was the greatest motivator I had to get things into motion.

Now let's look at my late 30's.  We had decided to take the plunge and have a baby.  Luckily I was well on my way to being a budget guru by this time because I had chosen a very ineffective insurance plan for us and the bills and premiums were pretty large.  We were able to schedule those bills into the budget and get it all paid and design a sweet little bedroom for our new baby Danny.  During the craziness of early parenthood, I realized that having such a well organized and planned ahead budget was saving my sanity.  It was one HUGE thing I didn't have to worry about.  I was able to take 12 weeks of maternity leave, 6 of which was unpaid, without a hiccup.  I felt so bad for other moms who had to return after 6 weeks because there was no way they could afford to take time unpaid.  I didn't have to worry about being able to afford quality daycare or adequate clothing and food for Danny because everything was organized and I had emergency measures in place.

During this time, my job involved collecting money from people.  Now, this was not a collection agency, but rather the step before a collection agency - a company working directly with its clients to help them resolve the money owed before their credit would be affected.  Throughout the course of this job, I talked to hundreds of people who were in the most dire financial straights you can imagine.  Once people get comfortable and realize you are not calling to harass them, they will tell you the most amazing things about themselves.  I realized that 99% of the time these people were in such financial dire straights completely due to lack of planning.  They had no plan so they were reckless and sometimes left themselves bankrupt - even in their retirement years.

Seeing this happen to real people cemented my desire to make sure I had a rock solid budget in place.   I have come to learn that all of those things are possible with moderation and organization.  I have changed my financial life from one of stress and shame to one of relaxation and organization.