When my wife, Jenn, and I began our budgeting journey, we discovered a magical ingredient for achieving financial success: working together. I want to share the benefits we’ve enjoyed since we started “working together to win with money.”
Benefit #1 – We BOTH know our financial situation.
Before Jenn and I started working together on our finances, there were a lot of episodes of unplanned spending. As a result, we would run short of cash at the end of the month and cover those shortages with credit cards. Because neither or us truly understood where all of our money was going, it led to additional financial mistakes. These would lead to unnecessary stress and frustration.
It also resulted in an average bank account balance of $4.13. Since I am an eternal optimist, I would say, “Hey! At least the balance is positive and not negative!”
We later realized our financial behavior was robbing us of our future hopes, plans, and dreams. In December 2002, we had our IHHE Moment (I Have Had Enough Moment) and said, “ENOUGH,” and stopped spending money in a wild manner. By July 2003, we had formalized our spending into a monthly spending plan (A.K.A. a budget). Ever since then, we have planned each month’s spending.
The result? We have been debt-free (except the house) since February 2004. We have achieved many of our life dreams, and we both know our financial situation.
Keys To Obtaining Benefit #1
- Prepare a written spending plan every single month – visit HERE for a free budget template and check out this post “How Do I Budget?”
- This monthly rhythm will create a natural space for you to have conversation about your finances. Since nearly everything in life costs money, it will allow you to have a conversation about the more important things of life too. This is perhaps the most powerful result of preparing and following a monthly budget.
- If you have a financial mess, it is time to have an IHHE Moment
- This is the moment where you say, “Enough is enough.” It is a definitive moment where the pain of keeping things the same exceeds the pain of changing. This is a vital component of every financial turnaround as it provides energy and passion to help you power through the challenges of changing old financial habits and behavior.
- Take the time to talk with your spouse about your hopes, plans, and dreams – and write them down!
- At least once a year, you should have a focused conversation on your plans hopes and dreams. The dreams you share as well as your individual ones. This can be a wonderful time of hope and challenge that helps you remain committed to positive financial decisions.
Benefit #2 – Improved communication.
When Jenn and I were B-R-O-K-E and constantly spending money we did not have, we really had no idea where our money was going. All we knew was this: it was leaving at a very rapid pace!
By working together to win with money, our communication changed dramatically. I now know when each of my nephews and nieces have a birthday because we send them money. We can’t just magically produce the money we send them every birthday. It must be planned. Through this rhythm of monthly meetings, these gifts are carefully included into our monthly spending plan while also having a wonderful conversation about each beloved family member who is turning another year older.
We also discuss our future plans, hopes, and dreams. We talk about which dreams will be funded now and which ones will need to be funded later. Together we made a decision to fund college education for our three children. We fund that education every single month. In January 2003, we agreed together that this goal was extremely important to us, and we made it a priority.
We both have a desire to travel around the world. As such, we made a decision that most of these travels will be funded in the future, not now. However, we have focused on funding a few trips right away. We typically take a family vacation each summer where we tour several states and visit family. Living in South Carolina, we also love visiting the beach. Because of this, we have made beach trips a priority. These trips are funded monthly because they are included as an expense in our monthly budget. This allows us to pay cash for each trip without any debt following us home. This all happens because of one key reason: we have agreed together to sacrifice other items in order to fund each of these higher priority goals.
Because of our improved communication, we have been able to give more money to causes and people we believe in.
To put it very plainly: there is no possible way we are ever going back to our old way of money (mis)management. Our marriage has been vastly improved by the fact that we are working together to win with our money.
Keys to Obtaining Benefit #2
- Understand each other’s plans, hopes, and dreams.
- Few things are as satisfying as setting a goal and achieving it with the one you love. Have you written down your plans, hopes, and dreams? What about your spouse? How long has it been since you allowed yourself to dream?
- Take time to develop a written spending plan TOGETHER – free budget tools are located HERE
- Let’s face it. Budgeting is not the most exciting task you will undertake on any given day. However, when you realize that your budget, and the process of preparing it together with your spouse, is the critical and vital tool that will maximize every dollar and enable you to achieve the huge plans, hopes, and dreams of your life, you might discover that you suddenly enjoy this process in a way you did not think was possible. You will be spending your time working together to win with money
- Plan your spending EVERY SINGLE MONTH – ensure that you are funding at least one of your dreams at all times
- Have you noticed how fast time goes by? My firstborn was just entering kindergarten and now high school is already in her rear-view mirror! If you do not commit to preparing and following a budget each month, you will seemingly blink and a year (or more) will pass. Mark my words, any month you allow to pass without preparing a plan is a month you did not maximize the impact of your money.
- Become debt free – calculate your Debt Freedom Date HERE and check out this post to learn more about how “You Can Be Debt-Free”
- Have you ever known anyone who said their credit card debt was the reason for their financial success? Probably not. The same can be surely be said for furniture debt, student loan debt, and owing a friend or family member. We all understand that debt is not all created equal. Credit card debt is wildly different from a home mortgage. But consider this thought: What would your life look like if you owed zero debt except your home? What if you were completely debt-free – including your home?
Benefit #3 – Dreams Get Funded!
By working together to win with money, many of our dreams have been funded.
We have had tons of dreams … A new kitchen with granite counter tops, a new master bathroom, paying for our kids’ college education, paying cash for our kids’ first house, giving away $1,000,000, starting a university, living for a year in downtown Chicago, traveling to Australia, Europe, and Asia, owning a 100 acre farm …
Quite frankly, the list of dreams goes on and on. However, because we have talked about them and prioritized them, many of them have been fully funded. In fact, it is my belief that one hundred percent of the above goals will be funded during our lifetime. Why do I believe that? Because we have funded so many of our dreams already! Many of them were dreams we did not think were really possible when we first discussed them. It is amazing what happens when you have a financial plan and work together to win with money.
If we fail to achieve all of our dreams, so be it. It will be a blast knowing we gave our best effort together!
Keys to Obtaining Benefit #3
- Remove all distractions and take the time to have a great conversation about your plans, hopes, and dreams.
- Children are wonderful and beautiful, but there are some conversations that are better without their constant input (or interruption). One of these includes the conversation about your plans, hopes, and dreams. Schedule your conversation so you can ensure a distraction-free environment for this most important of discussions. For example, Jenn and I scheduled a three-day getaway to Charleston, SC to update our plans, hopes, and dreams. It was a wonderful time and we came back with a new perspective and dreams.
- Ask these questions of each other:
- Will these dreams cost money? How much?
- If we continue to manage money the way we are right now, will we be able to achieve these dreams?
- What is your most important dream? How can we start funding it right now?
How Working Together Has Helped Us
Ever since our IHHE Moment back in December 2002, Jenn and I have taken our financial decisions much more seriously. The addition of a budget greatly accelerated our financial success. By February 2004 (just 14 months later), we were debt-free except for our home. We have been able to launch and purchase eight companies, acquire the farm, and invest in rental real estate. At this moment, our oldest daughter is nearing completion of her college journey – with zero debt. We are so grateful for the journey and the blessings we have experienced. It is our mission and goal for you to enjoy the same success. We truly believe it is possible for you to live your own Fully Funded Life! You can do this! We believe in you.
After more than 25 years of managing money, I finally took time to write about the profound impact that one’s plans, hopes, and dreams can have on your financial behavior. I have entitled the book, 20/20 Money: Gaining Clarity for Your Financial Future. Included within this book are 22 Vital Questions you should ask to help discern and fully understand your own plans, hopes, and dreams and just exactly a Fully Funded Life looks like for you. You can learn more and pick up your copy HERE.
Have you ever been stuck financially? I mean STUCK. Do you feel so stuck that you can’t even gain any traction to get control of your finances?
Perhaps you have no income because you have lost your job. Maybe you are in college and accumulating debt to pay for it. Perhaps your spouse spends money faster than you make it. Or maybe you are just lost when it comes to managing money. It might even be the fact that you have so much unsecured debt that you feel that the creditors should just change the amount owed to a cool $1,000,000 because it might as well be that much! Maybe you are disabled, and can’t figure out what to do to earn more money.
If this is you, this post is for you! In this post, I will be sharing steps you can take to become “unSTUCK”.
I am FIRED UP!
Step One: Why are you stuck financially?
It is important to understand why you are stuck financially. There are some situations that have definite ends to them (college) and other situations that have indefinite ends to them (job loss, disability, and overwhelming debt).
Why are you stuck?
Write it down on paper. Right now. Write “I am stuck financially because … “.
When I encounter situations where I don’t know what to do, I start writing. Writing enables me to put all of my thoughts on paper.
After writing all of my jumbled thoughts down, I set it aside for awhile. After a day or two, I revisit what I have written and identify the repetitive thoughts. This helps me identify the core issue.
Why are you stuck or what caused you to be stuck in the past?
Step Two: Plan what you have!
Now that you have written down the reasons that you are stuck, it is time to prepare a written spending plan.
Yes, a budget. Here is something I have learned – managed money goes farther than money that isn’t managed.
I know that what you have is limited. In some cases, VERY limited. BUT, it is imperative that you plan what you do have.
We offer free budget tools on the I Was Broke. Now I’m Not. website to help you start budgeting.
If you are paid once per month, this is the budget tool for you.
If you are paid multiple times per month (twice/month, bi-weekly, bi-monthly, weekly, etc.), this is the budget tool for you.
If you want to learn how to put together a great budget, you might want to read the “How Do I Budget?” post.
Step Three: Remember the priorities!
When you have an extremely limited amount of funds, it is important to remember the priorities. I have met a lot of people who have been tricked and shamed by credit card companies into paying the credit card bill instead of the house payment.
You have completed step two and planned what you do have, so now the next step is figuring out who gets paid and who does not.
My priorities are:
House payment (or rent), basic utilities, car payment, gasoline, and food. This does NOT include cable, internet, phone, restaurants, fashion clothes, etc.
If money remains after covering the essentials, then it is time to pay for the secured debts. If secured debts are not paid, the creditor has the right to come take the item. They will usually sell it at wholesale and come after the rest from guess who? So I would pay the secured debt next.
Creditors cannot immediately come take something from you so they can be paid later if the money runs out.
This is last on the list. Besides I can have fun for free. Pickup basketball games, watching old movies, etc.
Who is the manager of YOUR money? It should be YOU! Not your creditors! YOU choose where it goes.
Even if you don’t have enough money to pay all of the bills, go ahead and put all of the bills into your spending plan. This is a KEY step! You need to clearly understand how large the gap is between your INCOME and your OUTGO.
I call this gap the “GO GET THIS” gap. That is the next step!
Step Four: Fill the “Go Get This” Gap!
I am sure that some read this as “Go work like crazy and earn more money”. I would certainly not disagree with working more and earning more! It is a GREAT way to fill in the “Go Get This” Gap.
But there are many more ways to fill in the gap! Here are quite a few.
I am a Christ-follower, and I have seen the power of prayer.
If married, ensure that your spouse is on board.
There is POWER when you work TOGETHER on your finances! How do you get a spouse on board could be a year-long series, but it is so necessary. Jenn and I work together because we wrote down all of our earning and spending. When we saw that our OUTGO exceeded our INCOME, we knew that it was a serious issue! One strategy to try is to mail the kids off to Grandma & Grandpa’s (eliminate distractions) and tell your spouse that you want to talk to them about something that you really need them to hear. Something that is really important to you. Very important to you. And then show them your family’s finances planned out on paper. When you write out where you are stuck financially it tends to reduce the emotion towards each other. You have the opportunity to become a unified in your effort!
Govern your business.
If your business is struggling, it might be worth putting some “mileposts” in place. Mileposts are points one month, three months, six months, and twelve months away. An example of a milepost is “If we are at $5,000 sales in three months, we will keep the business. If it is at $3,000, we will keep it open for three more months. If it is less than $3,000, we are going to have to shut down the business.” The hardest thing in the world for an entrepreneur is to close their business. Tough, but necessary sometimes.
Maybe your house payment is eating you alive. Sell the house. It could be time to sell the motorcycle, the boat, the truck, the swing set, the four-wheeler, or the 50″ TV. Whatever you have of value that isn’t a “need” – it may be time to part with to help.
If you’re looking to sell something online check out Episode #106 of the Monday Money Tip Podcast for tips.
Many times you can substantially lower your credit card payment just by calling them! I lowered my cable/internet bill by 75% just for calling! Get rid of the home telephone – you never use it anyway. Use cash envelopes for the categories you tend to spend impulsively (groceries, restaurants, shopping, entertainment, spending money). Call and get a new quote on your homeowner’s/auto insurance.
Chop up the credit cards!
If they are a crutch that keeps trapping you, it is time to chop them up. I chopped up my credit cards December 2002!
Make it a family effort!
There is NOTHING like a unified family. Nothing.
Pay secured debt before unsecured debt.
If you can’t pay everybody, consider paying just the secured debts. Call the unsecured companies and tell them that you will not be able to pay them this month, but that you fully intend to pay them. Tell the truth! There is power when you call someone and ask for help! They may or may not work with you, but when you are in bad shape financially you can’t pay them if you want to!
What are some other ways to fill in the “Go Get This” Gap?
Do your finances cause you frustration, fear, and anxiety? Discover how you can handle financial anxiety and become more comfortable dealing with money.
DEBT!!! Is it all equal? Are there different kinds of debt? What type of debt should you avoid, and is there any debt that’s ok to have? Everyone has a different opinion, so we’re breaking it down for you.
Are you making progress when it comes to budgeting, but then something happens that blows up your budget? Discover how to prevent issues from messing with your financial progress.
We’re sharing all our money saving tips. If your monthly budget is tight, this is for you! Check out ways you can save money in your budget now!
DON’T FORGET YOUR MARCH BUDGET
If you still need helping creating this month’s budget, check out our free budgeting tools HERE.
Don’t forget these expenses in your budget:
- St. Patrick’s Day
- Spring Break
- New Clothes for Warmer Weather
- Outdoor Activities
- Yard Upgrades [mulch, plants, patio furniture]
- Christmas 2020
- Summer Vacation Savings
Whenever you obtain extra money, it is an opportunity to take your finances to another level. Instead of racing out to spend it frivolously, I encourage you to consider how you can put that money to use in a way that propels your financial situation forward.
- Pay off a debt When you pay off a debt, it will instantly increase your monthly cash flow. This is something we call “monthly margin” around here at I Was Broke. Now I’m Not. Plus, what other financial decision is more rewarding than making a debt leave your life?
- Buy yourself out of a membership/subscription Things like cell phone contracts, gym memberships, satellite tv subscriptions, etc. Many people keep an unwanted subscription around simply because they don’t have the money to buy out the few months ‘cancellation fee’ required to cease service. This allows you to gain monthly margin and makes an annoying expense begin to fade in your rear view mirror!
- Build savings Increasing your financial reserves/cushion/margin – something we call “reserves margin” around here at I Was Broke. Now I’m Not. – is never a poor decision! This positions you to accommodate unexpected financial challenges or pursue an opportunity.
- Invest for retirement $1,000 extra today will be worth $3,300 in 10 years, $10,893 in 20 years, $35,950 in 30 years and $118,648 in 40 years. Get #FiredUp!
- Invest for college $100/month will be worth $8,167 in 5 years, $23,004 in 10 years, and $75,786 in 18 years. Excellent decision!
- Obtain more education/certifications Knowledge is power and can equal a substantial increase in your income and your value to the business you conduct.
- Purchase a(nother) home Real estate is one of the time-tested ways for people to build wealth. Plus it can produce additional income using a service like VRBO, Homeaway, or AirbNb
- Become a private investor There are lots of ways to become a private investor. You could start a small business. Maybe acquiring a minority stake in a larger existing business is more your style. Angel investing has been very popular over the past decade. Hard money lending is another way to put your extra money to work. Perhaps being a silent partner in a franchise could be more suitable for you.
- Vacation A great leader once shared this formula with me: Change of pace + Change of place = Change of perspective | I’ve found it to be true. There is something about “getting away from it all” that helps you achieve clarity on your next steps.
- Give it away There’s something powerful about giving money away. One friend told me that he “gives because it keeps him from becoming greedy.” When I give money away, it makes me want to make better money decisions so I can give even more. It connects to the “perspective” part of the equation I shared in #9.
No matter what decision you make, choose to put the extra money to work for you. Your future self is depending on you!
This post is for the person who needs encouragement in their financial journey right now.
You may have experienced tremendous challenges recently. Perhaps you’ve encountered an unexpected lay-off. Maybe an illness. The car may have broken down and a child fell and broke his arm. Maybe an investment tanked or your small business that once thrived is now on life-support.
Whatever the case, you can do this “money thing”!
In fact, I’ve discovered that financially challenging moments are where I’ve learned new financial skills.
You see, if I had never experienced an empty bank account, I would never have saved money during times of plenty.
If I had never experienced car and credit card debt, I would not have known how important it was to avoid this type of debt in the future.
You can do this!
If I had never experienced a broken down car, I would not know the joy of driving a paid-for brand new one.
If I never had credit card bills beat me home from vacation, I would not know the luxury of paying cash for vacations.
You can do this!
When you are faced with a discouraging financial situation, remain steadfast in employing the financial fundamentals of:
- Planning your income before you receive it (budgeting)
- Saving for Known Upcoming Non-Monthly Expenses (so you can avoid budget-crushing expenses)
- Invest (so you can see compound interest work for you)
- Give (there is something healing and soothing about giving to others – even when you are struggling financially)
You can do this!