Monday, April 16, 2012

The Free Spirit - Let's Get It Started

Well, where to begin? I have been reading a great book a dear friend recommended called "What Color Is Your Parachute?" by Richard N. Bolles. In Chapter 6, it is suggested that a job hunter start blogging about a few areas of specific interest. My interest just happens to be our household's personal finance.  And how far we have come.

My husband and I started attending a Financial Peace University class at our church last year, before we were married. It completely changed our outlook on finances, spending habits, marriage, our future, etc... It's amazing how attending one class can transform so much of your life. I was all for it, at first. A class that can teach you how to get out of debt? Sign me up. Then I realized the hard work that was involved, and I was ready to run and hide.

You see, I am not very good at math. I actually hate it. But, I am very good at saving money. Even as a teen, when I started making my own money, I saved up. I was not sure exactly what I was saving for, but my grandma always told us to "Save for a rainy day". So, to a certain extent, I did. As a young adult, it was up to me to buy whatever I wanted outside of an essential "need", such as clothes, makeup, etc. I learned early on that money was important to make what I want happen. But my financial education as far as making my money work for me was limited at best.

That's where the FPU class came in. My husband and I learned how debt was dumb and cash is king. In the grand scheme of things, what we learned was a lot of common sense. Spend less than what you make. Have an emergency fund. Create a budget. But after a few weeks, and listening to Dave Ramsey's radio show, we realized we were learning so much more. We were learning how to revolutionize our family tree, our marriage and our collective life. Our children were able to see that we were delaying pleasure (instant gratification of buying what we want, want, want, now, now, now) for evaluating what we really needed and researching the best deal. They were paying attention to the fact that we could still go out to dinner on a budget. And they were able to visualize a life with no debt, even though it is on the horizon. Our debt snowball, listing our debt smallest to largest and attacking the smallest debt with gazelle intent, is still on our fridge. My son walks by it daily just to see if the pie chart shows we are over halfway through our debt.

Our marriage started out differently than we had planned as well. I was a single mother of 3, who kept my finances separate from my husband's (then fiance) since we started dating. Six and a half years into our relationship, we got engaged on the beautiful beach of Cancun, Mexico. We were planning our life together. But we were planning on keeping our finances separate. It's the way I had always done it, and my husband as well. It had worked so well this long, why should we change it now?

What we failed to take into account is the "together, now you are one" part of our soon to be new life. How are we supposed to be "one" when we are leading separate financial lives? And why should more financial burdens be more on one spouse instead of the other? The most important lesson I took from Dave Ramsey is communication. When you combine your finances, live your life as one and set your goals, you communicate with your spouse. You set a plan in motion in order to obtain a common goal. You make your marriage stronger, because you are in it "together". There is light at the end of your tunnel, and it is not a train. It is financial freedom. And you did it together, as a team. What can be better than that?

As of this blog, my husband and I paid for our entire wedding and honeymoon, over $40k, in cash. We had absolutely no debt from our wedding. And as of August 1, 2011, we have paid off $35,344.02 in debt. We have 1 more credit card to pay off and my car and we will be debt free (except our house). Not making a payment to a creditor with interest is my passion. And it will soon be completely in reach :)