Everyone has them. Wars are started over them. Individuals and nations fight to keep them from being crossed. Boundaries are made to protect, limit, and secure. Fences, county lines, international borders, streets, curfews, personal space, income and credit limits are all examples of boundaries.

For an illustration, let’s make an example of livestock or cattle. A fence is a boundary that surrounds a grazing pasture where cattle are provided their necessities like food, water, and protection from predators. If there is a broken section in the fence, the livestock can wander out of the pasture, away from food and security and put themselves in danger. A rancher is always “riding fence” to make sure all sections of the fence are in good shape, gates are closed, and the cattle are secure. Cattle are a commodity, a livelihood for the rancher. If something happens to his herd, his income suffers. If his cattle break through a fence to the neighbor’s pasture, there’s going to be trouble. He could lose a calf and incur costly repairs to the fences, or just irritate his neighbor. By “riding fence” ranchers protect their cattle or income and prevent against unnecessary expenses and secure against losses. Let me explain how this example can help you think about financial boundaries; income, expenses, and credit.

Your income is your spending boundary or limit based on how much money you earn each week, month, or year. If you break that boundary, debt can be created through the use of a credit card or a loan. No one likes to hear the word “budget” but a budge sets up a financial boundary. I like use the term spending plan, it is less restrictive. Of course, you have the freedom to spend your money on whatever you wish. You can surely use credit for anything above what you earn. In fact, the credit card companies hope you do. Just like cattle breaking through the fence can cause trouble, spending more than you earn can cause serious trouble. If you are in a place where you have credit card debt, personal loans, car loans and don’t want to be in this position anymore. It’s time to think like the rancher protecting his cattle. The fence is your spending plan. Are there gaping holes in your plan allowing money to flow freely without boundaries? If so, it’s time to take a look at how to make the necessary repairs and stop the flow.

First, take a look at your monthly expenses and identify the necessities like food, housing, utilities, etc. The things you must spend money on to live. Second, do you have debt? If so, figure out how to stop adding to that debt and live within your means, or income boundary. Third, do you have extra money after these expenses are paid? If so, prioritize what is important to you. Where should the extra money go? Savings, pay down debt, future education for the kids, or travel? After defining what is important and categorizing your expenses, then you’ve identified what is in need of repair. Use the boundaries of your income as your starting point. Now, make a plan around shifting your spending to what you value. Cut the expenses that don’t make sense based on your new plan. Talk with your family about the changes that are needed and get your family on board. Teach your kids along the way about these decisions so they learn how to set these financial boundaries early in life. We don’t realize how much our spending habits, and statements about money teach our kids about financial responsibility. Financial boundaries are made protect your income, to limit the use of credit, and secure your family’s future. It’s time to start “riding fence”.

Sheri Wilson is the owner of a Farmers Insurance and Financial Services Agency in McKinney and the author of Do I Have To? A young adults guide to putting financial structure in place and align their spending with their values. Available for order:, Barnes & Noble, Booksamillion or on Amazon.

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