Growing up, money management was nothing I was ever taught. I knew when my family had money and I knew when my family didn't. I was never taught the importance of saving, leaving your credit score untarnished, and living below your means. I am not saying that my upbringing is the sole reason for my past poor money practices, but I definitely will say that it didn't foster great money handling.
When I became an adult I got credit cards, got in debt, and lived above my means, not knowing how this would affect the future. If I had the money, I would spend it. When Rick and I got together, we were basically a hot mess express. We didn't have a clue about how to build a smart financial foundation, we didn't have great jobs, and were struggling to get by.
After a while, you just get tired of struggling, tired of being in debt, and not having that financial freedom. We were determined to make a change and get educated on how to be great stewards of our money.
If you are in a financial place you're uncomfortable with, remember that this is not a permanent situation. You can make the choice to turn your circumstance around.
This is how we did it:
1. Get educated on good money practices.
You can't fix something if you do not know how. As a starting point, I suggest reading a book to give you the tools to become a success. I read The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness and The Road to Wealth. If it is available to you, I would highly recommend taking Dave Ramsey's Financial Freedom course. This was offered through our church and was a definite game changer. You do have to pay for this course, but think of it as an investment to your success! Or find someone that is amazing with their money and pick their brain! Tools are needed to be financially successful!
2. Change your mindset.
You can read books and take all the financial courses available, and it will all be for naught if you aren't changing your mindset. Just because you got it in your bank account doesn't mean that you have to spend it! That was something I had to understand. You have to change the way you think about money. We had to put ourselves in the driver seat for our finances. You must gain discipline, and you have to truly make the choice to want to break out of the struggle.
3. Evaluate your financial situation.
I know this is something you probably have been dreading for a while but it is a MUST in order to understand exactly your starting point. To evaluate your financial situation, that means checking and writing down all the bank account balances, pulling up your credit scores (which you can go to annualcreditreport.com to get it), and logging into all of your debt accounts. Sometimes your credit report is not currently updated so you want to get the most recent balances. Lastly, you want to write out all your expenses. All this will help give you the detailed picture of where you are at financially. In order to accurately evaluate our financial situation, we simply started an Excel spreadsheet with all this information with a monthly output tab and debt tab.
4. Set goals.
Once we knew the damage, we started putting together clear goals that we wanted to achieve. We made monthly and yearly goals to start out. Initially, we didn't put together a 5- and 10-year plan. We wanted to get out of the weeds first, and then put that together. Some of our monthly goals were to save a certain amount per paycheck. Eliminate this x amount on eating out. You want to set realistic goals that you can achieve. Setting lofty goals that are hard to hit will just discourage you. Be fair to yourself. Some of our annual goals were to have a certain amount of debt paid off, and have x amount in the savings. Before getting our house, that was also a goal of ours that we were so excited to achieve. Additionally, we regularly do check-ins on our goals to ensure we are on pace to hit them.
5. Initiate growth in your career (if applicable).
When Rick and I first started out, part of our issues stemmed from the money we had coming in. Please note: Whatever you make, you MUST still be good stewards of your money. Even if you only have $100 coming in. With that, Rick and I knew where we wanted to be and how we wanted to live, and in order to do that, it required us to level up in our careers. To do that I started educating myself on positions I would like to be at. I started asking to shadow and gain additional skills. Once I got those skills, I started always consistently applying for jobs that were a level up. This will not be an overnight change, but definitely something for you to work towards. Again, you can make a lot of money and still be broke. So don't think that getting more income means it will solve your problems. However, when more came in, we would pour it into correcting our finances and saving.
6. Establish a budget.
Can you believe that we were operating at one point without a budget?! Yikes! We would just pay bills as we could and spend however we wanted. Big mistake! Everything should be accounted for, and bill payments should be planned out. It took some time to find a budget system that worked for us. We tried Quicken, using a friend's template, and creating our own. Ultimately, we ended up finding a free Excel budget template online. We then put it in Google sheets so we can both edit and see the updates immediately.
Budgeting has to be the core of how you operate with your money.
It allows you to account for everything. If you follow your budget, you will hit your financial goals without a doubt. Creating a budget is not the tough part, following it is the hardest (in my opinion).
7. Have family business meetings.
We learned about this at one of our church's couples conferences. This has been such a key factor to our success working together. Having your finances jointly is not easy. I handle money differently than Rick. What we have learned that one hand must always know what the other is doing, so communication is key. Family business meetings are designated times to talk about the family operations and finances. We put it on our schedule, and that allows us both to be mentally prepared for talking finances. We go through our budget, talk about any discrepancies, go through our family schedules, and check in on goals. These meetings have helped us work together effectively. You can do it weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly meetings, whichever you prefer.
8. Add a side hustle.
I have become a huge proponent of having multiple streams of income. It helps add some extra money to the bank account to pay bills off faster and to have for spending money. Plus it allows you not to be solely dependent on one income source. It can be doing contract work in a field that you are already in, doing Uber or Shipt, selling your clothes online, getting a night job, joining a MLM, starting your own business -- the options are endless! Having extra income definitely helped us hit our financial goals faster!
9. Eliminate procrastination.
This is real y'all. Some of our financial issues come into play simply because we were not proactive. My husband let me share this, but that is a huge thing my husband dealt with. Whether it was calling to set up a payment plan or putting off updating your resume. Years ago, my husband had an account close because he simply didn't call to make arrangements. Don't procrastinate paying your bills, making your budget, and/or talking to that bill collector. Be in control of your finances and stop procrastinating because it only makes financial issues worse.
10. Surround yourself with the right crew.
This applies to more than finances. Who are the people in your circle? Are they motivating you to be better? Or are they advocating for you to charge up that card and not go after leveling up? I am not saying drop those friends, but you definitely want to also be in a community with people that motivate and inspire you to be better.
11. Trim your expenses.
Once we established our budget, we then started looking at what we could cut out. Some of our expenses were things that could be eliminated or decreased. We decreased my shopping (insert sad face), lowered our cable package, went through those monthly subscriptions and took those out, decreased eating out, and so much more. You would be surprised with how much money you can have by simply cutting back on your expenses.
12. Save money.
This sounds simple, and really it is. Y'all, I have suggested a lot of things in this blog but this is basically mandatory. You have to grow your savings. Whether it will be for your future, or simply to have a safety net if something were to happen. Life will happen and you need a savings account that you are prepared for just in case. We save without even thinking about it.
We take a portion of our paychecks and have our employer deposit directly into our savings accounts. If we get bonuses, we put a large portion of that into savings or tithed more. We also use the feature with our bank that does keep the change and puts it into our savings. All of that really starts to add up. When you read any of Dave Ramsey's books, you will learn about the emergency fund and best practices of how much to have in savings. I have seen fellow influencers use a variety of apps that also help you save as well.
13. Pay off debt.
Once we made our plan to repair our finances, we got serious about being debt free. We do not want any type of debt. We use the snowball method where you pay debt off smallest to largest. This has helped us stay motivated and get some instant wins. We also have the mindset that if we can't buy it with cash, then it doesn't come home. We stopped getting store loans or charging it.
14. Live frugally.
This will look different for everyone, but you want to live beneath your means. Just because you got approved for this car amount, DOES NOT mean that you should purchase it. Get yourself in the mindset that just because you can, doesn't me you should! This was especially important for me to remember as our salaries increased. I had to put myself in check and remember where we once were. Rick and I have cut back on a lot.
15. Be patient and stay encouraged.
When we got fired up to really start getting serious about our finances, I was anxious for instant results. However, rebuilding your finances is not an instantaneous solution. Be patient, and know that it takes time. Keep doing the steps consistently and you will see success from it. This is a journey that you have to stay motivated. If you are married, help keep each other motivated. When my husband does something that helps us financially or takes care of something, I give him major kudos! You need to cheer each other on. If you are not married, find an accountability partner that can keep you encouraged.
Y'all, I am not a financial advisor. I am simply a person who at one point made poor financial choices, learned from my mistakes, and made a plan to recover and thrive. You can too. These tips to improve your finances are key elements that we took to fix our finances. Everyone's situation and journey will look different. I hope that you can implement even one of these tips and be successful!
Featured image courtesy of Taryn Newton*Originally published on Glamorous Versatility