Well, we made it through Christmas and are now ready for the New Year...
You might be thinking to yourself, "what happened to all my cash?". I hear ya! It seems like we always make a plan to only spend a certain amount on Christmas and then Christmas Eve gets closer and we feel the pressure to pick up a few last minute things. It was great though! Giving to our family felt nice and everyone was happy.
Until today when you start looking at what bills are coming up and you think, "why do I do this to myself every year?" .
You could try and do a New Years resolution and go on a spending diet but what you really need is a plan, not a "spending freeze". Katie and I have been working on our Total Money Makeover since the fall and I'd love to share a few of the most important things we found working in our finances.
Give Every Dollar a Name
This is a great principle taught by Dave Ramsey and I completely agree. Giving every dollar a name means that you are writing down all of your typical monthly expenses and giving each expense a dollar amount. Thus, every dollar in your budget is assigned a name. We love Dave's app everydollar.com. It's free and it's by far the easiest budgeting app I've ever used. Katie and I both have the app on our phone and use it, in addition to the Envelope System, to stay on the same page with our budgeting.
Your Actions Steps:
- Hold a monthly budget meeting —Ok, the first few are going to be tough but you have to do these every month and both partners have to have a finger on the budget. Personal finance is more emotional than math-y so be nice, be patient and keep it brief.
- List Out Income (minus) Expenses—Either using the app or writing it out on paper, put your expected take home pay for the month at top. Then list out all of your expense items below with expected cost in a column next to the item. The total on your expenses cannot be more than your income.
- The 25/10 Rule for Reocrruing Expenses—On the 25th and 10th of every month plan to pay your reoccurring bills ahead of time. For bills due between the 1st and 15th, send payments via check on the 25th of the prior month. For bills due between the 16th and the 31st, send payments on the 10th of the current month. This will ensure everything gets paid on-time or early.
- Use Cash for Non-Reoccurring Expenses—We're big fans of using cash. It allows you to feel the money going out. It also makes variable expenses fixed, which is great for your budget. Every week take out a set amount of cash for the things you buy at stores like food, clothing, toiletries and entertainment. Divide the cash you take out into those categories and label envelopes to hold and keep the cash amounts separate. This is known as the Envelope System. Avoid using your debit card or credit card for random or unplanned purchases. It's death by a thousand swipes.
Make Savings an Expense
Before you go paying other people make sure you're paying yourself first. Try to look at savings as "delayed spending". You'll spend the money eventually but it will be for things that aren't a part of your monthly budget. We set aside 10-20% of our income for saving and have three basic savings categories: Emergency Fund, Emotional Savings and Long Term Savings.
Your Action Steps:
- Save 10-20% of your income—That might be a lot for you, it's a lot for me. But start slow. Save 1% this month and then gradually raise it to the 10-20% range month by month. If part of your monthly expenses are debt payments stop at 10% savings so you can put a little extra weight behind paying off debt. If you can't seem to find the 10% get out the "chopping block" and start cutting out some of those reoccurring expenses and take out less spending money until you get to 10%. Pull the bandaide off quick! You can do it!
- Set up an Emergency Fund—Having an emergency fund will greatly reduce your dependency on credit cards and debt. It's a must have. After every paycheck, you'll subdivide 20% of your savings into a separate Money Market Account at another bank. In Dave Ramsey's plan, his baby step one is a $1000 starter emergency fund. I strongly encourage building this little safe haven as quickly as possible. Once you get to $1000 you'll want to gradually build it up to about 1/4th of your annual income.
- Set Up an Emotional Savings Account—At your bank, you can set up several different savings accounts and label them whatever you want. We have one labeled "Emotional Savings". This is for the things we want to do but can't quite afford yet; things like trips to see family, holidays, birthdays, and home improvements like painting (wink, wink). Just like the Emergency Fund we subdivide 20% of our savings amount and put it in our Emotional Savings account. It adds up over time and is the responsible way to pay for things that make life really worth while.
- Set Up a Long Term Savings Account—This last savings category is for retirement. Like I said, savings is delayed spending. You will need to spend at least a little money in your retirement and the reality is the average American only retires with $60,000 in assets. Enjoy your year of retirement America! We think it's important to take this one seriously. The account you set up for this one is more of a holder account until you transfer the money to your retirement accounts like the Roth-IRA and invest in mutual funds.
Power Down Your Debt
Nothing crushes savings and retirement goals like mountains of debt. So many of us these days graduate college with so much debt that it's difficult to save up and buy a home. Add to that car payments and credit card debt and it feels like you're living your life in quicksand. This third element of your financial plan will feel the best once you've squashed it. We were really motivated to work on our student loans after taking Financial Peace University.
Your Action Steps:
- The Debt Power Down—This is just like Dave Ramsey's Debt Snowball. List your debts smallest to largest and pay off the smallest first with intensity. Then as you pay off your smaller debts add the payment amount to the next smallest debt. Since all of your debt payments were part of your monthly budget, instead of looking at the freed up money as extra spending money, lock in your lifestyle and put the extra on the debt.
- Make Accelerated Debt Payments—Accelerated Debt Payments are extra payments you make to the principle of your smallest debts. This is what you do with the extra money outside of your 10% savings. I would even encourage you to press pause on long term savings to put that money on the debt. We even made an accelerated debt payment account so we don't get tempted to spend that extra money on anything else.
- Sell Stuff—Dave says, "Sell so much stuff the kids think they're next". We end up saving so much junk around our house that we end up buying bigger houses just to fit it all. As you replace things like cell phones, clothes and furniture, sell the old stuff before it isn't worth anything anymore. Smartphones especially tend to sell for a decent price if they are sold on eBay or Amazon unlocked. If you have a motorcycle or a boat that you only ride twice a year when it's the perfect amount of sunny out, sell it! If you've got a car with a payment, sell it and buy cash. The cost of repairs are almost always less costly year-over-year than having a car payment. As you sell these things, take the money and put it in your accelerated debt payment.
These things will change your life!
Wouldn't it be great to be able to afford more of the things in life that create precious memories with friends and family? Wouldn't it be nice to just know that you're going to be ok. Wouldn't it be great if things didn't just feel so...tight. These principles work! If you come up with a plan for your money as opposed to saying, "I just won't spend money", you'll be able to do things with your home that make you love it. You'll be able to track and plan for new throw pillows or bath towels. You'll make that trip to ikea with confidence. Your beat-up walls and trim can get that facelift you've had at the top of your list for the last year. YOU CAN DO THIS!!!
Ready to paint but don't have the cash?
Take our Financial House Workshop to create a savings plan for home renovations and updates!
Our number one goal as a company is to help people love their home more and sometimes it takes work and patience to get there. If you would like to get an idea of what it might cost to get your home painted, I'd love to come by and give you an estimate so you can start saving up. I'll even help you come up with a Home Renovation Savings Plan to help you get there.
Click on our link below to learn more about our program!