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My husband had just lost his job, I was hit by lightning and had unexpected medical expenses, as well as a baby on the way. The stress of it all was absolutely crushing. How were we going to pay for everything? Especially because we were already living check to check (I thought). I thought we didn’t have enough money because we just graduated college. We didn’t have enough money because the hub’s job wasn’t “big” enough yet. We didn’t have enough money because I didn’t have any work experience after five years of college volleyball and I had to start at the bottom. We didn’t have enough money because, because, because!!!
“YOU are your money problem.” I remember first reading Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey only two short years ago. I was insulted by his words and most definitely in denial. I thought we didn’t have enough money because the world was against us. Quite literally I remember being so mad at everyone and everything else. But you know what? He was totally right. We were our money problem for two reasons. First because we are human and therefore susceptible to temptation which we can’t control, and second because we had no system which, thank heaven, we can control. Do you know why millions of cars can drive around all at the same time and not run into each other? Because there is a system. And when there are car accidents, it’s due to “bad conditions,” “faulty vehicles,” but most often because someone is not following the system.
The same goes for managing your personal finances! You are the problem! YOU are. Unless there are medical expenses or other life tragedies that are ridiculously expensive and completely out of your control, most likely the reason you feel picked on financially is your own fault. The reason you “never get to take that dream vacation” is your fault. The reason you have a money sucking mosquito on your back is your own dang fault. Am I being harsh? Possibly, but please stick with me. Our family would not be where we are today without having a wake up call and changing our habits, and boy are we grateful for it. So learn from our mistakes, please. We definitely have a system that works now. How do we know? Because we put away over 14 G’s in less than a year (while only bringing in 50k between the two of us, mind you.) Because we have our “dream vacation” planned and paid for. Because my husband quit his job and has spent the last three months at home working on his non-profit Suicide Sucks and we are still debt free (besides a mortgage) and the utilities haven’t been turned off, which seriously that alone deserves a high five. Are we millionaires? Haha. No. Nopedy, nopedy, no my friend. Just average Joe’s currently living off of our savings while living the dream of entrepreneurship.
Why am I telling you all of this? I don’t give you all those details to flaunt our finances in your face. No, absolutely not. It’s petrifying to talk about personal finances with a friend, let alone all you people sitting inside my computer screen. They are called personal finances. I say this to convince you that we are on an equal playing field here. I say this because I want you to feel the security that comes with a savings. The security that comes with using a financial system that works, and sticking to it. I say this because I sincerely want every person in the world to feel the freedom and energy that comes while you are doing what you want and feel you need to do instead of what the world tells you to do and then cowering in the trenches of bills and debt. I say this because once upon a time we felt like we had no control, and now things are incredibly better. So without further ado, here is how, in order, we saved 14 grand in less than one year.
I’ve realized that there are two types of people in this world when it comes to Dave Ramsey and his approach on money. Haters and die hards. I’m definitely a die hard. Seriously it saved our lives. Don’t be a hater! At least give it a shot before you join the haters club for heavens sake. Bless the soul that gave this to us as a wedding present. Somehow there is enough motivation in this book to get my stubborn self moving, so it can for you too. It is such an easy read too. I had it finished in three evenings. A lot of what I do with our finances now is from Total Money Makeover or an idea that has now morphed into something else that is tailored to our lifestyle. I’m definitely not the cheerleader type, but I would be for this book in a heartbeat. Total Money Makeover is that big of a deal, that important and that life changing people. He walks you through, detail by detail, on what you are possibly doing wrong, and exactly how to fix it. He tears down many lies you don’t realize you are believing, like, your neighbor has more money than you because he drives a nice car, has a nice house, or a boat. The mental battle of finances is 90% of the problem anyway. He helps you understand different loan types, interest and best practices when getting a mortgage. Don’t like to read? Listen to it instead. It seriously is worth every penny. If you only do this and nothing else from this list, I will be absolutely thrilled because you will be well on your way to brighter days. And no, Dave is not sponsoring me to promote this for him. It is just pure goodness that I want everyone to know about. Absolutely life changing…for the better!!
Change Your Mindset.
Money = Tool. As soon as we stopped thinking about money as something we “needed more of” and thinking about it as a “tool”, our whole world turned around. Now our thoughts center around making ten bucks go further instead of needing twenty bucks to cover what we think we want or need. I do most of the shopping and manage most of the bills in the family, so a lot of the money stretching and responsibility falls in my hands. If I am not doing my part, I put us in a whole world of hurt. Changing my mindset about money being a tool instead of a necessity was the second best thing for our family. And! An unexpected side-effect to this was that I was suddenly happier. I guess when you stop focusing on things that you don’t have and start focusing on what you do have, life gets better… in all aspects!
Track Your Spending
This will kill you over like a skunk punch to the face. Do you really know how much you are spending on certain things? Do you know how much you are spending on fast food? Story time. When we had been married for just over two years and had our new baby, we got a job that felt like we were making straight gold compared to our previous expense to income ratio.
So we ate out or, “dated” a lot. And often spent over 200 dollars on fast food in a pay period. 200 dollars!!! Plus groceries. In two weeks! On two people! WE were our money problem can’t you see? Serious spending issues. Shortly after the Mister got that job, I started tracking and calculating our spending. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Multiple times we spent $800 in two weeks, just on lifestyle! With less than $2000 in savings! That is insanity for a little family of two adults and one baby… that nurses and eats for free. Again, we were our money problem, just like you are yours.
Make a Savings Game Plan
This is huge. Once I realized how frivolously we were spending, I realized how much we could be saving! Why did I want to save? Because I was sick of wasting, sick of “scraping by” (or so I thought), sick of being careless and desperately wanted to move forward. This quote by the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland is spectacular food for thought when it comes to deciding on what your goals are.
“Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don’t much care where.
The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.”
But! If you do have goals for your future, you need to direct your finances and make a game plan. We decided that we wanted $2000 in the bank asap. So we cut our bi-weekly budget down to $500 and put everything left over into that account. 500 dollars was still very, very comfortable for us. I was afraid to be uncomfortable. Oh, such an inexperienced, silly Shanae back then. After a while I realized we were still too comfortable, (money left over by the next pay period means you aren’t stretching yourself enough) so I cut it down to $375 until we had met our goal. Right now, when you sign up for our email list (which we barely know how to use, so don’t be afraid of us exploding your inbox) we have a Free Four Day Course on the blog to help you with this step if you need a little guidance. It’s wonderful! It helps you decide what your goals really are, where you are wasting money and where you can save, and then helps set yourself up for success. And of course, we would absolutely love your support in that way.
Save Ten Percent
This one comes from my wise father. We love talking money together and this is his trick of the trade that he passed down. After we got that $2000 put away, we began saving ten percent of each paycheck and put it into a different “no touch” savings account. Does ten percent seem like a lot? I challenge you to try it. You will be surprised at how well you do “without” it. Remember you are paying yourself, so really it’s not going anywhere besides your pocket. You aren’t going without. We still do this today and we will never stop. In our little family, our respect first goes to God, so we pay him ten percent first and then our little family comes second so we pay us. That’s how we look at it. Nobody else gets any money from us unless we have first paid God, then paid ourselves. Then everyone else who we owe can take a chunk, but NOT before we get a chunk of our own hard earned cash. Personally, when I am managing money for a certain pay period, I don’t even make sure that we have enough to cover our monthly bills before we pay ourselves. Sounds down right stupid, I know. But I worry that if I saw we didn’t have enough, then I would give in to fear and not pay us our ten percent, causing our savings to never grow. If I ever come across a pay period that we don’t have enough to cover after tithing and ten percent, we as a couple have agreed to go to ‘extreme circumstances’ to make ends meet. For example, we will sell belongings, we will donate plasma, we will cut monthly expenses, we will get a second job and increase our income. We believe in the “Ten Percent” principle completely and we are definitely not about to cheat ourselves. God rocks, (and His tithing blessings are too good to pass up), and you rock (and your dreams and sanity are so worth it), so pay up.
Easier said than done right? If you follow us on Instagram, you know that last year (and this year because I accidentally went to Smith’s the day after Easter) I spent over 30 bucks on Cadbury mini eggs. (Cough,) not one of my outstanding moments. I’m still not perfect. But by learning to say no to others and most importantly ourselves, we started seeing our savings jump up. This is what goes on in my head now while shopping. “Hey, look! Treats! No Shanae, they just want your money.” Me two seconds later: “Hey look! Those shoes are so cute! Only eight bucks! No Shanae! They just want your money.” Me on the drive home: “Hey look! Betos! I love horchata, I’ll just stop in real quick… No Shanae! They just want your money.” The temptation to spend has not changed. IT. NEVER. WILL. We just started practicing saying “no” instead of “yes, yes yes.” It’s definitely hard, but the truth is, you usually don’t miss whatever you were tempted to buy once it is out of sight.
There you have it. That is exactly how our family saved 14,000 dollars in less than 12 months. 14 THOUSAND DOLLARS. I don’t care who you are, that’s a lot of money. 14,000 dollars that didn’t go to Walmart. 14,000 dollars that didn’t go to our mortgage, 14,000 dollars that didn’t get blown on food, clothes, chocolate, bills or debt. 14,000 that we get to do what we want with… or do nothing with! That’s the beauty of it. 14,000 dollars that is the best security blanket ever. It certainly wasn’t easy, especially at first. But we got better at it and now it is engrained in us. My absolute favorite quote about money is this,
“Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver.”
Everyone has their right to the power of money. Earning, spending, saving, investing… everyone deserves and has this right. What is even more amazing is that we are in control. The problem is, as a whole, we are not good at being in control of our money. I want to help you be better. Don’t be afraid to give this an honest, hard effort. You can thank me later. I like ice cream. 🙂
Remember! If you want more help with your finances, on the blog right now we have a Free Four Day Course to help get you started on the right foot just for signing up for our email list.
**The above stated is expressed opinion only based off of personal experience. I am not a financial wizard that can guarantee you a fat wallet and happy bank account and should not be considered a professional… or a wizard. My opinions may change as I learn and grow, as should yours. For more information, see our Disclosure.**