Money. Gotta love it, right?
I have to be honest, I’ve never been friends with financial matters.
I was the kid in the candy store with scorched pockets. When I was in college, I seriously didn’t have a clue. I’d stick my unopened bank statements in a box and just slide them under my bed. I’d never, ever even look at them. And to answer the question that I know is going through your mind:
Yes. It caught up with me a time or two. Yikers.
When I started dating Morgan, I watched him do this thing called “balance” your checking account. Hmmm…. my brain tickled with a memory of High School Economics and felt like I’d heard that somewhere.
I realized that maaaaaybe I needed to do that to my account, and what do you know…it helped. Then I got a job in a bank, and boy, oh, boy, did that teach me a thing or two.
So, when we got married, I had a little more experience with organizing my finances. And when we found Dave Ramsey, things really turned around.
For a while.
If you’re not familiar with Dave, he’s a financial speaker and author that preaches giving every dollar a name and putting your cash in envelopes to stay on track.
But the whole “Envelope System” just got unwieldy and annoying. Now if you are a big fan of Dave, don’t be mad. I know it works, and for a LOT of people, it’s awesome. But for me? I’m just way too much of a free spirit to get that detailed. I felt terribly restricted, and I was suffocating under this system.
Anyway, even though I avoided envelopes and dollar-naming budgets, thanks to the theoretical principles, we more than just got by. We were able to save a big chunk of change, and it felt awesome.
But then Virginia happened.
When we moved Virginia, we all but emptied our savings account to purchase our first home. We thought we’d be fine because we still had some money left. We realized all too soon that, with our housing and bills more than doubling, we were in a HUGE MESS. Even though we did what we knew was right and investigated living expenses and crunched numbers, the increase in the cost of living was even more than we had anticipated. It wasn’t pretty.
And the years went by with NADA going into our savings. We were literally living paycheck to paycheck, and it hurt. What once was filled with thousands of dollars became a shell of it’s former self, slowly dwindling as we borrowed from it just to buy groceries and pay for school supplies. We had no financial security, and I was scared that the once vibrant future we envisioned was dead in the water. I felt hopeless and sad that we weren’t able to give our boys the life we had dreamed of. Even though I was desperately trying to work from home, I just wasn’t able to bring in the kind of money we needed.
I walked around with a pit in my stomach that would tighten whenever I heard of friends sending their kids to fun summer camps or just going to the movies.
We never did anything fun. No Putt-Putt or Chuck-E-Cheese or Movies of any sort. And if we did splurge and do something like mini-golf, I would feign dis-like and sit out so we could save that $6. Sad, I know.
One chilly day in November of 2014, after a particularly frustrating month trying to figure out how were were going to pay for Christmas presents for our boys, I just woke up. I had had enough. I couldn’t believe I was worried about having NOTHING under the Christmas tree, and I decided that I wasn’t going to let this be our life anymore. We are smart people, and there was no reason for us to be in such a state. We were fighting all the time about money, and I kept hearing Dave in the background of my mind saying that we needed to take back control.
I needed to take back control.
So, I did.
And I’m here today sharing how I changed our financial life in three simple steps so that you might be able to find your way back to financial peace as well.
First, I took over all the accounts and bills.
It just stressed Morgan out to no end, and I decided I’d rather buck up and do it than see him deal with issues at work AND our finances. Once I did, I couldn’t believe how out of the loop I’d allowed myself to get. I knew our bills were high, but I had no real idea what we were spending our money on. Morgan had a good salary, and we should have been able to make things work. But I’d put my head in the sand, and we all know that putting your head in the sand is NEVER the answer. Becoming aware of our current financial situation was first step toward changing our financial life.
And what’s funny is that this girl who thought she was allergic to book-keeping? She actually kind of likes it. It’s fun to put money where it needs to be and know what we have where. Who knew?
Second, I invested in YNAB.
YNAB, or “You Need A Budget” is budgeting software. Now the budgeting software is a bit confusing, and I don’t really use it that much. I really use if for the check register. I LOVE the fact that the software syncs on all of our computers AND our phones. That way, I can put my receipts in right at the store, and it goes into the bank register immediately on all of our devices. No more holding onto receipts for days and then losing one and getting things messed up.
You don’t have to get YNAB, but if you can find some other software that has an Ap for your phone, do that. It’s been a HUGE help.
Third, I opened a new checking account for our household expenses.
This was LIFE-CHANGING.
Since all of our drafts were coming out of the first account, I left them there. Now every payday, I calculate up our expenses for those two weeks and leave just that amount (plus a small cushion) in that first account. That way, I know we have set aside enough money to pay the mortgage, electricity and all of our other bills. No more hoping and praying that we don’t spend too much on food where we we mess up and won’t have money for the mortgage. (Thank goodness that never actually happened. It was just touch and go sometimes. Ok. A lot of times.)
For the new account, I add up any random expenses we might have such as school or Scout expenses along with what we need for food and miscellaneous expenses and put that in there. It’s my account where I know I have money for stuff, and I can pretty much spend it however necessary… on food, clothing, entertainment and, most importantly, keeping our cat fat and happy.
I have a savings account attached to the new checking account, and I always put some extra money in there to save for unexpected emergencies and expenses. It’s worked like a charm!
Oh, and I give Morgan cash to use.
I guess that could be a fourth step, actually. By giving him cash, he rarely uses his debit card, and we don’t have to worry about both using the household account. He knows what he has for the next two weeks, and he can budget his own expenses. It’s been fantastic.
Life is good.
We no longer freak out and fret that we might not have money to pay bills or eat for the last three days of the month. We have a baby emergency fund again. We’re slowly digging our way out of some debt we accrued paying for crazy expensive car repairs and hope to have that all paid off by the end of the summer. What a relief that will be! Once that is done, we’ll be shoveling money into savings so we can have a real (3 to 6 month’s worth of living expenses) Emergency Fund.
So, even though I don’t use actual envelopes for our spending (because that makes me feel like I’m being hog-tied), we are taking what Dave says and making it our own. And it’s working for us.
No matter what anybody says, it doesn’t have to be perfect, just make progress.
The best part of taking control of our finances is that the way I look at money has changed.
Being truly thankful for what we do have has created more abundance in our lives all around. I literally thank God every single day for this blog and it’s growth, as well as every single person that comes to visit here because it’s giving me the opportunity to help pay for year-round swimming for the boys and Scout Camps and hopefully very soon, college. (what?)
I look around and see all the blessings and my heart wells up.
If you are struggling, please know that you can do this. You can figure out a way that works for you to manage your finances and get out of a mentality of scarcity. Even if you only have two copper coins, look at them and give thanks. Changing how you think about money will seriously change your life.
I just read The Science of Getting Rich (<=amazon affiliate link), and I can’t tell you how much it has helped my thinking. It’s a short, but VERY powerful read. I could go into loads of detail, but I think that might be another post for another day.
Financial stuff can block your flow BIG TIME. I’m here to cheer you on!
If you have any questions or have other great resources to share, let me know down in the comments.