May 7, 2013

money, money, money, mo-nay. money!

props to those of you who get the joke.

if you don't, go here. and enjoy :)

let's talk about money.

Nick and I don't bring home a lot of it and we try to not let it take control of our lives (either by stressing about not having it or obsessing over getting more of it). It is important to me to not make too many decisions based on money concerns alone (especially big decisions) and we try to keep the lines of communication open concerning our money, budget, etc. at all times. We also never buy things without the other knowing about it (well, almost never. We are allowed to grab lunch or a coffee without getting permission, haha ) so we both feel included in the financial decisions for our family.

But it's time for a financial makeover of sorts. It's not that we are bad with our money, we're actually probably a tad more responsible than others in our peer group (i.e. we have retirement accounts, a savings account, own our home and pay for things like health insurance, short term disability coverage and life insurance), but we've had a lot of changes in the past year and I was starting to feel a little out of control of our financial life.

See, I'm a saver and Nick is a spender (although neither of us are extreme versions of either). I won't even go so far as to say that Nick is a "spender". He is great about only spending the money I tell him we have in our budget but he definitely doesn't get the warm and fuzzies from seeing our savings account balance increase like I do. I get weird amounts of satisfaction from saving money, especially if the saving is attached to a goal (like an emergency fund, new car, or Alden's college).

The fact that I'm a saver was tested this past year. I finished grad school and spent a few (7) months either in an un-paid internship or looking for a job, our sweet Schnitzle got very sick and required a lot of (expensive) medical attention, and, oh!, I got pregnant and had a baby. Needless to say, our savings got depleted and our credit card balances swelled. We never got behind on our bills and we always had food on the table but it was definitely a stretch and we had to rely on more financial resources (e.g. credit cards, student loans, savings) than we would have liked to.

--> a special note for our family and friends: we want you all to know how grateful we are that y'all helped so much in getting us ready to meet our little man. we definitely wouldn't have nearly as much "stuff" as we do for the baby if y'all hadn't so graciously provided us with clothes, necessities, toys and beautiful nursery things for Alden. We really, really appreciate it and we think about all of you every time we take a peek in his dresser, closet or toy baskets and remember which sweet person sent it to us.


Since I'm on a "re-focus our lives" kick lately (long story...maybe I'll do another post later) and the baby is here (no more expensive preparation or bi-weekly doctor visits), it seemed like a great time to tighten our belts. We've always had a budget but have been bad about sticking to it every month, especially with things like eating out (our favorite thing) and buying things for the house (Target and Lowe's are our nemeses).

p.s. I realize that not many of you care about our financial decision-making, but social accountability is one of the best ways to keep yourself working towards a goal and this is our way of holding ourselves accountable. 

Our goals are this:

Pay off all credit cards
Save up a true Emergency Fund
Potentially refinance our mortgage and shop around for better deals on insurance, utilities, etc.
Begin a college fund for Alden
Stick to our budget!
Save up for a vacation (visiting family doesn't count)

We're using and Dave Ramsey's Gazelle Budget creator to get started. I'm already completely in love with Mint. It tracks your spending for you, by securely linking to your accounts online, and lets you set goals for your financial life. Then, it helps you reach those goals by instructing you in the best ways to spend your money. It's so awesome to be able to easily see a snapshot of our financial life without having to spend hours in front of the computer doing it myself. As far as the Dave Ramsey Gazelle budget tool, you have to sign up and give your debit card information to use it (I think there's a monthly fee of $9.95) but they have a free 7-day trial that you can cancel anytime. (note: I find it ironic that a program that advocates managing your money wisely and living within your means requires you to pay for the tools...but anyway...) I only used it to create a budget, which was super easy, using Dave Ramsey's recommended percentages for each category of spending and then canceled my membership. Since we're using Mint, I don't need to pay for the monthly service with Gazelle to track spending, etc.

Hopefully, writing this post will keep me on my toes and will add a little extra motivation to the, sometimes difficult, task of revamping our financial setup.

Cheers to bigger bank accounts!

much love, L&N

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