Making Family Money Goals


At the start of our marriage, we had some good advice given to us: start a budget. One of my most dear couple friends, celebrating several years of marriage, advised wisely that a budget acts as a third party and can clear up a lot of conflict. They told us to make one. So, we did.

Our first year of marriage our only real fiscal goal was to not forget to pay our bills and figure out what a budget needed to look like. Thats when we introduced fun money, got real about how much we like to eat out, and really took a look at when we say 'yes' and 'no' to each other. I was working full time then, which meant we were able to pay off our car and have some room for fun.

The following year things changed and that income was no longer. So, for the past 2.5 years we've been a one income home. That meant changes. Last year we decided to take a class offered through our church that covered Dave Ramseys approaches to money. It was a great class for us in that it allowed us to a) gain a lot of information and start seeing long term money management and b) gave us a lot of things to discus and a plan towards our goals.

So this fall, after taking the class we set out to secure our emergency fund, pay off our  two credit cards and pay off all the medical bills that having a baby a month early required. We succeeded even earlier than we planned (yay!)

Then we proceeded to chill out for several months and do pretty much nothing. We celebrated our successes a little too much. We just maintained.

So this July, we sat down and started planning again. We're learning to plan in 6 month increments. Probably because its short term enough to see (February doesn't seem so far away! ) and because it gives us small attainable goals.

I thought it'd be fun to share those goals here. A secret passion of mine is personal finance (my college classes stole my heart forever), so I figured why not take it as an opportunity to share how we do, tricks we learned through all this, and celebrate with you all when we do succeed? Sounds like a good idea to me.

So, for August 2013-February 2014 here they are:

1. Be strict about the budget. 

Easy enough. Right? Yet,  too often we allow our cash from our tax refund or various other sources to fill in the gaps that the subsequent months cause.  A 16 dollar chipotle  doesn't seem so bad, but after after you've already used your restaurant budget? Well that's no bueno.We  realized that this growing habit couldn't happen. Birthday monies run out. So we hunkered down and stopped borrowing from ourselves. August already is looking amazing and that leaves us pretty pumped (and probably a little skinnier.)

2. Pay off a large sum on our student loans

Big picture is to be completely debt free in 20 months.We think we can do our 'big picture' goal based on our calculations. So, thats the goal. Now, there are things like babies, moving overseas and the like that can definitely put us back a few months, but even considering these potential detours we think its a reality we can move towards. So move towards it we shall.

3. Increase our 401 K to 7%

Now if you follow Dave Ramsey-he's all about holding off on that till you're debt free. We looked at the numbers, and while our final goal is at least 15% of income-we're contributing half now. We see  growth in the things we've invested in previously and that growth is larger than the interests on our loans. And time really does something magical to retirement funds. So we increased. We've already accomplished this. (Ben just needed to send a few emails and we readjusted our budget) This alone feels awesome.

Here are a few tricks that have made the difference for us:

1. Be realistic.

 For the longest time we wouldn't budget for things we were clearly spending money on. One example: eating out. We'd go out once or twice every couple of weeks. It seemed infrequent enough to not consider it. It needed to be considered. So we created a budget for it. Another Example: We both have 'fun money (aka: allowance) ' budgets that allow us to go out to coffee, or buy that downloadable xbox content here and there without having to ask the other for permission. These little things make the difference.

2. Costco

I'm a recent convert (like been there only once-but researched a plenty) and am already impressed with how bulk stores can save. I was wary for so long since we were just family of 3. Studies show that people that buy bulk, eat bulk (by about 20%), so technically if you're not saving 20% some say its a wash, but regardless we've found that its worth it. If we do eat more, we eat healthier so I don't mind.. We buy a large container of strawberries and blueberries and eat them the whole week-rather than snacking on things that are even quicker sugar and aren't sustaining. Plus meals just come easier when you're buying a lot of something. All this to say: We heart costco.

3. Have Bi-weekly Meetings

 At the very least individually take a look-see. This has saved Ben from having to tell me 'no' when I want to buy the ADORABLE onsale target baby dress. I looked at the budget already-We don't have any more money in the baby fund. That saves one of us from being the bad guy, and the other from being the budget breaker.

4. Anticipate Future Purchases.

This has been huge for us. Example: Next month we need to get Eowyn a new carseat. We have a set amount in our budget but it won't cover the car seat in full. So what does that mean? That means I need to not spend all this months baby money on hair clips and baby leggings. Another option is to just re-do the budget month-to-month and take away from other things. This doesn't work for us since everything else is so accurately set due to budgeting for the past 3 years. But it is an option.

5. Examine influences:

I didn't really notice this right away, but slowly I've found that a lot of the blogs I read were featuring the newest something. It made me aware and I wanted it. I noticed an unhappiness creeping in my heart and it caused me to take a step back.. I learned to begin to pay attention to my influences and begin following couples, singles, bloggers, friends who were like minded. One example is this blog. I've loved simple mom for along time and these posts often times are the push in the right direction. Also, like minded friends are a saving grace. Which lucky for me, pretty much all my friends have a bend towards frugality.

6. Start somewhere: 

At each stage over the past handful of years, money management has felt overwhelming to me. From that one time we were scouring our couch seats and piggy banks to make sure a check didn't bounce by 16 dollars and some change (that was a sad day, my friends) to now having a handle on our budget and starting to try to shrink down debt. This has already been a long road. A lot of conversations. A lot of angst and a lot of celebration (We partied hard when we found 20 bucks to put in that bank many moons ago.)

We had to start somewhere. Maybe you readers are debt free or are just trying to figure out this whole not living paycheck-to-paycheck. I'm excited to hear from you, see where you're starting and celebrating where you're going. So,

What financial goals are you celebrating? What are some you have for this season? Any tips? I'd love to hear them. Seriously. Tell me.

1 comment :

  1. Were you spying on my house yesterday? I suck at budgeting. Particularly in the grocery department. One tidbit I picked up last year was shopping around for insurance - don't feel like you have to stick with your company that just upped your premium or whatever. So we did some switching - auto and health.

    To help me be more disciplined, I'm starting to use the envelope system for our groceries. It's just so easy to run to Target for the 3rd time this week because we need more cheese for the pizza...!

    We should talk about this sometime. I get overwhelmed very easily, especially since we are forced to pay off our debt so slowly. Thanks for the tips!! Ya'lls outlook on money has always been a blessing to us. =)