Since St.Patrick's Day is coming up, I thought I'd share with you my personal journey to track our family's Pot of Gold! You see, one of my New Year's Resolutions was to educate myself about our family's finances and create a plan to get us out of debt.
I'm proud to say that I have (and am still in the process) of successfully doing both.
My feelings surrounding money in the past was basically "ignorance is bliss," which is actually not blissful at all. I didn't want to see our monthly financial picture because I figured that if I ever saw that things were tight, it would stress me out. So my husband was in charge of all that. All the bill paying, all the earning (since I stay at home with our son), and consequently, all the "worrying."
I didn't think that was very fair. So when I took that burden away from him, I discovered that knowing how much money goes in and out and being able to control that is very empowering!
Here is what I have done so far, as well as the helpful resources I have found to help me. This will be broken up into a few posts, so that you can use it as a step-by-step tutorial and/or not get overwhelmed with all the "to-do's."
My main goals were to create a monthly budget and to craft a plan to eliminate debt in a few years. Three years, actually. By Feb of 2015, we will be debt-free, with the exception of our home mortgage, which at that time, we will be able to pay down more quickly starting then.
So here is Step 1: Gather your numbers.
Sit down with your spouse or significant other. You will need 3 pieces of paper, your computer, and all your bills (unless you can find them online).
On the first piece of paper, add up all the income your family brings in each month. Use your online banking to see a 3-month average. Or look at earnings statements/paychecks. Count every kind of income that you use to buy the things you need each month (pay, extra money earned, money from child support, etc.). If you have investments, you probably don't need to worry about that money if it is not accessable to you as a payout on a monthly basis. Come up with a grand total and circle it.
One the second piece of paper, write out all your monthly bills that relate to your home. You will see why this is in a seperate category later. Mortgage or rent, phone, power, water, TV, Internet, etc. I also put in
our monthly alarm system payment and our pest control bill (I will be
cancelling the pest control service in May, when our iron-clad contract
expires, but that is another story... grrrr...)
On the third piece of paper, write out all your credit and loan accounts (credit cards, auto loan, home equity loan, lines of credit, student loans--anything that has a monthly payment and a term). Make 4 columns: Column 1-name of loan, Column 2-current total amount owed, Column 3-interest rate and Column 4: MINIMUM payment.
If you have other regular monthly charges (for example, newspaper subscriptions, fitness center dues, etc.) don't worry about those for this step, they go in another category that you will learn about later.
Then go to bed and stay tuned for the next step.
Don't stress. Feel good about what you are doing. You are about to use all the overwhelming amount if information you have gathered to create an amazing plan to get your family out of debt, start saving up for a long-term goal, and know where your money is going.
When I was first doing my research on financial empowerment, I ran across a business called Smart Cookies, which empowers women to take control of their finances. I downloaded their pdf about starting your own Money Group amongst your girlfriends to use as a support system and to provide yourself with some accountability.
I soon wrote an e-mail to about 20 of my girlfriends, hoping to recruit 4 or 5, to see if anyone else was interested in joing me.
Only one person was interested.
Everyone else had all kinds of excuses, most of them along the lines of "Sorry. I don't really WANT to know how much actually spend on [blah-blah-blah] each month." They were scared. And I get it, because I used to be scared, too. But I realized I had turned a corner in my thinking when I found myself appalled by that answer. Isn't it more scary to NOT know where your money is going?
I understand that if you do find out that you spend way too much on clothes, a hobby or something else (we found out that we spend an appalling amount on eating out) and need to cut back, it could feel like a punishment. No one wants to feel punished.
But I'm telling you that my husband and I feel very good about taking a lunch to work or having a home-cooked weekend breakfast or using a coupon from our Entertainment book to get a buy-one-get-one meal because we know it is a little step in helping us meet our ultimate financial goals.
Now you tell me: What are your emotions surrounding
family finances? Are you anxious thinking about it? Guilty? Etc.? Who
pays the bills in your family, you or your husband? Do you have a
monthly budget? Do you know the details about your family's finances?