Finance is often taboo to talk about, and I don’t ever understand why. I think the lack of people speaking about it creates an environment prevents from being further educated. Growing up, money management was nothing I was ever taught. I knew when my family had money and I knew when my family didn’t.
I was never taught the importance of saving, not tarnishing your credit score, and not living above your means. I am not saying that my upbringing is the sole reason for my past poor money practices, but I definitely will say that it didn’t foster great money handling.
When I became an adult I got credit cards, got in debt, and lived above my means, not knowing how this would affect the future. If I had the money I would spend it. When Rick and I got together we were basically a hot mess express. Not a clue of how to build smart financial foundation, not in great jobs, and just struggling to get by. Part of this was due to the money coming in being lower and the other was poor financial decisions.
After a while you just get tired of struggling, tired of being in debt, and not having that financial freedom. We were determined to make a change and get educated on how to be great stewards of our money.
You can’t fix something if you do not know how. I suggest reading a book to give you the tools to be success as a starting point. I read Total Money Makeover and Road to Wealth. If it is available to you I would highly recommend taking Dave Ramsey Financial Freedom course. This was offered through our church and was a definite game changer. You do have to pay this course if it is offered to you, but think of it as an investment to your success! Or find someone that is amazing with their money and pick their brain! Tools are needed to be financially successful!
You can read books and take all the financial courses available, and it will be for not if you aren’t changing your mindset. WE HAD TOO! Just because you got it in your bank account doesn’t mean that you have to spend it! That was something I had to understand. You have to change the way you think about money. Another example…just because you got that credit card offer in the mail, doesn’t mean that you to accepted and go further in debt. We had to put ourselves in the driver seat for our finances. You must gain discipline, and you have to truly make the choice to want to break out of the struggle.
I know this is something you probably have been dreading for a while but it is a MUST in order to understand exactly your starting point. To evaluate your financial situation that means checking and writing down all the bank account balances, pulling up your credit scores (which you can go to annualcreditreport.com to get it), logging into all of your debt accounts. Sometimes your credit report is not currently updated so you want to get the most recent balances. Lastly, you want to write out all your expenses. All this will help give you the detailed picture of where you are at financially. We simply started an excel spreadsheet with all this information. We had a monthly output tab and debt tab.
Once we knew the damage. We started putting together clear goals that we wanted to achieve. We made monthly and yearly goals to start out. Initially we didn’t put together a 5 and 10 year plan. We wanted to get out of the weeds first, and then put that together. Some of our monthly goals were to save a certain amount per pay check. Eliminate this x amount on eating out. You want to set realistic goals that you can achieve. Setting lofty goals that are hard to hit will just discourage you. Be fair to yourself. Some of our annual goals were to have a certain amount of debt paid off, and have x amount in the savings. Before getting our house that was also a goal of ours that we were so excited to achieve. We regularly do check ins on our goals to ensure we are on pace to hit them.
When Rick and I first started out part of our issues were stemmed from the money we had coming in. Please note – Whatever you make you MUST still be good stewards of your money. Even if you only have $100 coming in. With that, Rick and I knew where we wanted to be and how we wanted to live, and in order to do that it required us to level up in our careers. To do that I started educating myself on positions I would like to be at. I started asking to shadow and gain additional skills. Once I got those skills I started always consistently apply for jobs that were a level up. This will not be an overnight change, but definitely something for you to work towards. Again, you can make a lot of money and still be broke. So don’t think that getting more income means it will solve your problems. However, when more came in we would pour it into correcting our finances, and saving.
Can you believe that we were operating at one point without a budget?! Yikes! We would just pay bills as we could and spend however we wanted. Big mistake! Everything should be accounted for, and bill payments should be planned out. This took some time to find a budget system that worked for us. We tried Quicken, using a friends template, creating our own. We ended up finding a free excel budget template online. We then put it in Google sheets so we can both edit and see the updates immediately. Budget has to be the core of how you operate with your money. It allows you to account for everything. If you follow your budget, you will hit your financial goals without a doubt. Creating a budget is not the tough part it is following it that is the hardest (in my opinion).
We learned about this at one of our church’s couples conferences. This has been such a key factor to our success working together. Having your finances jointly is not easy. I handle money differently than Rick. What we have learned that one hand must always know what the other is doing, so communication is key. Family business meeting are designated times to talk about the family operations and finances. We put it on our schedule, and that allows us both to be mentally prepared for talking finances. We go through our budget, talk about any discrepancies, go through out family schedules, and check in on goals. These meetings have helped us work together effectively. You can do it weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly.
I have become a huge proponent of having multi streams of income. It helps add some extra money to the bank account to pay bills off faster, have for spending money. Plus it allows you not to be solely dependent on 1 income source. It can be doing contract work in a field that you are already in, doing Uber or Shipt, selling your clothes online, getting a night job, joining a MLM, starting your own business. The options are endless! Having extra income definitely helped us hit our financial goals faster!
This is real y’all. Some of our financial issues come into play simply because we were not proactive. My husband let me share this, but that is a huge thing my husband dealt with. Whether it was calling to set up a payment plan or putting off updating your resume. Years ago my husband had an account close because he simply didn’t call to make arrangements. Don’t procrastinate paying your bills, making your budget, talking to that bill collector. Be in control of your finances, stop procrastinating because it only makes financial issues worse.
This applies to more than financial. Who are the people in your circle? Are they motivating your to be better? Or are they advocating for you to charge up that card and not go after leveling up? I am not saying drop those friends, but you definitely want to also be in community with people that motivate and inspire you to be better.
Once we established our budget we then started looking at what we could cut out. Some of our expenses were things that could be eliminated or decreased. We decreased my shopping (insert sad face), lowered our cable package, went through those monthly subscriptions and took those out, decreased eating out, and so much more. You would be surprised with how much money you can have by simply cutting back on your expenses.
This sounds simple, and really it is. Y’all I have suggested a lot of things in this blog but this is basically mandatory. You have to grow your savings. Whether it will be for your future, or simply to have a safety net if something were to happen. Life will happen and you need a savings account that you are prepared for just in case. We save without even thinking about it. We take a portion of our pay checks and have our employer deposit directly into our savings accounts. If we get bonuses we put a large portion of that into savings or tithed more. We also use the feature with our bank that does keep the change and puts it to our savings. All of that really starts to add up. When you read any of Dave Ramsey’s books you will learn about the emergency fund and best practices of how much to have in savings. I have seen fellow influencers use a variety of apps that also help you save as well.
Once we made our plan to repair our finances, we got serious about being debt free. We do not want any type of debt. We use the snowball method where you pay debt off smallest to largest. This has helped us stay motivated and get some instant wins. We also have the mindset that if we can’t buy it with cash then it doesn’t come home. We stopped getting store loans or charging it.
This will look different for everyone, but you want to live beneath your means. Just because you got approved for this car amount, DOES NOT mean that you should. Get yourself in the mindset that just because you can doesn’t me you should! This was especially important for me to remember as our salaries increased. I had to put myself in check and remember where we once were. Rick and I have cut back on a lot.
When we got fired up to really start getting serious about our finances, I was anxious for instant results. However, rebuilding your finances is not an instantaneous solution. Be patient, and know that it takes time. Keep doing the steps consistently and you will see success from it. This is a journey that you have to stay motivated. If you are married help keep each other motivated. When my husband does something that helps us financially or takes care of something, I give him major kudos! You need to cheer each other on. If you are not married find an accountability partner that can keep you encouraged.
Y’all I am not a financial advisor. I am simply a person who at one point made poor financial choices, learned from my mistakes, and made a plan to recover and thrive.