First of all, I have to give a great big “Thank You” to all of you that have submitted questions from my last post on MONEY. It was obviously meant to be as Rick and I had a few things to work out and get a better understanding of. Our conversation solidified the most important things we have done in our marriage (and as individuals) to overcome and abolish being overdue.
1. CHANGE: Rick’s family has a saying, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.” Admit that you need to change. Both of you. You’re not single anymore. You and your spouse are ONE. Just like your status has changed from single to joint, so must your bank account(s) and your behaviors related to money. You can’t expect the other to relinquish all of their money habits or methods because you believe you’re the better, more financially sound one in the marriage. Which was the case for me. You both have responsibilities in the marriage and your finances are absolutely not exempt from that!
2. FEAR: Schedule some time to address your money fears with one another. Really listen to your wife/husband and do all you can to empathize with him/her, whether you understand or not. For example, Rick grew up moving around a lot and money was scarce. He was afraid that I would use every dime we made towards bills when he felt he should have some of what he worked for, his commissions. “We’re always going to have bills. I don’t see what the problem is if I want to spend money going out or playing some golf.” I wanted the same but the enormous pile of bills forced me to keep Rick and I at the bottom of the priority list. I had to stop worrying. I had to quit checking the bank account all the time. The compromise, we added ‘blow money’ to the budget.
3. GOALS: Both of you write a list of your wants and wishes and then vote on what stays and at what priority. Whatever you’re longing for your finances, you both must agree that the number one goal is to be on the same page, to communicate regularly and hold each other accountable. Having a goal to work towards together gives you both something to look forward to, like the the finish line at the end of the run. And, there is nothing more exciting than celebrating in the rewards of achieving your dreams and goals as a team, as one.
4. ROLES: Each of you have strengths and weaknesses. Be ok with admitting what your’s are. Your spouse is most likely going to agree with you or perhaps they recognize something you don’t. Be open to that. In our case, I am the planner and analytical administrator managing the books, schedules, appointments, etc. in the relationship. Rick is the spontaneous salesman and creative director booking gigs and makings sales. So we agreed, I would organize the budget and pay bills but with his assistance. We both have the same access to our bank accounts and both review it regularly.
5. HELP: Once Rick and I were able to address our fears and discuss our goals, we needed some resources to help us put it all into action. Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover was instrumental with our new practice. We both felt Dave’s practical ‘Baby’ steps were exactly what we needed. The little accomplishments motivated us to keep pressing forward. We have a ways to go but the fact that we both agree to his method keeps the ‘your way’ and ‘my way’ out of the issue entirely. We also use Mint.com to create our budget and review trends. It’s a free online tool that links directly to your bank accounts. You can even sign up for their credit program. And lastly, Google Drive. I create our shareable, monthly budget spreadsheets here for Rick and I both to update and review on a regular basis. If you want a full-functioning accounting office for your home, I suggest using QuickBooks.
6. DEBT: I’m sure you’ve heard that having debt means you are slave to the lender. Debt has been the core issue of many of our problems for years. We hated this prison we believed we belonged in. Worse of all, it seemed like we owed everyone and we had little hope that we’d ever get out. And so, we remained slaves and kept ourselves in it – after all, it felt normal. Until we took our own advice (see #1 above) along with the push from Mr. Ramsey. We hadn’t had credit cards in years so that wasn’t the issue. It was past debts that had lingered for what seemed like forever. We made arrangements to pay down our debts. We also started giving to charities and tithing. When we made these two areas our main focus things began to change. We were able to pay bills on time and saw more opportunities come in. We were finally being good stewards and those fears of always being slaves were quickly diminishing.
7. COMMUNICATE: Situations always change and with our irregular income we have to make communication a priority. I’m not going to lie, it’s still hard to discuss money at times. We can both get a little caught up in past habits. But those heated discussions are quickly diffused when we remind ourselves of what we’ve overcome and that we are in such a better place (mentally and financially) than ever. Now our money conversations tend to be centered around ideas for our next project or goal we want to work towards or wants that we have for each other or ourselves. I want to talk to Rick about a purchase I’m considering (i.e. $200 running shoes. I’ve never spent more than $50-75 on a pair of shoes… ever). He wants to let me know about a new piece of equipment he’d like to buy. We discuss and we do what we can to work it in the budget.
I will close by saying that Rick and I are not financially wealthy by any sense of society’s definition. We don’t have high earning jobs with large incomes. Until recently we haven’t worked in the corporate world, instead we’ve ran our own business and Rick performs at his gigs. We are a family of five (our kids are all working, full-time students) with fixed bills being: five mobile phones, five ‘used’ cars – one car payment, five auto insurance policies and maintenance needs, a mortgage, utilities (trash, gas, electric – recently cancelled our land line), grocery bills, satellite television (this is the next thing to cancel once Rick’s able to let go of all those sports channels:-)), life insurance, some college expenses and then all of the non-fixed things like fuel, gifts, tithes, vacation, entertainment, etc. We stay within our means which makes the freedom from slavery all the better.
Rick and I do get envious at times (like everyone else) and wish we could give our kids and each other more. We would love a new house, newer vehicles, bigger TV, more vacations, etc. and perhaps some day we’ll have all that. But until then we are absolutely content with all that we have and will continue to invest in our marriage and family first and foremost, all the material stuff can wait. That has been and always will be the most priceless and invaluable treasure we could ever dream of or imagine!
Don’t let this be your motto: “Money, we need it to live and want more of it to love.”
Instead, let it be: “Family, we need it to live and want to love it MORE.”