Jolyn from Budgets are the New Black shares the rest of her tips on sticking to your plan to get debt-free! If you missed part 1, you can find it here. Picking up where we left off…
Resist the Urge to Yell at Your Spouse to Get On Board
It won’t work. (I’ve tried.)
It was so freeing for me when I started listening to Dave Ramsey and realized that it wasn’t about my husband and I doing the finances together — it was about us making the financial decisions together and reading off the same page.
In other words, it was okay if I was the one who wrote the page, so long as we both agreed with what was on it.
This was a big deal to me because I always felt like I was herding cats trying to get my husband to sit down with me to crunch numbers. Truth be told, I’m not very good with numbers. But I am detail-oriented when it comes to taking care of the finances and (usually) prone to follow-through, while my husband is all like, “Isn’t it enough that I earn the money?” No biggie. Yin and yang, and all that. We all have our strengths, and frankly it’s a good thing I’m the one making sure the bills get paid because when The Hubs is away it’s all up to me anyway.
I wish I had some magic words of wisdom that would help you get your spouse to sit down with you and talk finances. But if the two of you aren’t able to discuss what your financial goals are than the problem is bigger than what I can address in this space. I will only say that it is important that each of you has “Blow Money” of your own each month: an agreed upon amount of cash that each of you has to spend without having to answer to the other.
And if it is difficult for you to sit down with your spouse — how about just with yourself? Why do you want to be debt-free? What are your goals? Have you ever written them down? (More on this in “Dare to Dream” further down.) Try doing that first, then see where a conversation goes when you share those goals with your spouse. You might be surprised to learn about some goals that he (or she) has, as well, that have never been articulated. When you start talking about where you want to be, it might make it easier to move into talking about what you have to do to get there.
Yes, you have worked hard for your money! That’s why you deserve to be debt-free.
Take Baby Steps!
Does looking at your total debt amount make you want to give up before you even get started? Then don’t look at it. Break the total debt down into manageable pieces and take an honest look at your spending needs to determine what you can put toward debt. You’re already making payments, after all: the goal is to determine how much extra you can put toward your debt and still keep the lights on and food on the table and not go completely insane.
For some, a baby step might be a monthly goal of simply creating — and then sticking to — a budget. For others, it might be paying off credit cards and worrying about the student loans later. The key is to just get started.
Once you’ve accomplished one of those baby chunks, reward yourself! Order out a pizza. Treat yourself to a double mocca latte. Go see a movie. (Preferably, a matinee!) Nothing extravagant – that would be defeating the purpose, after all. Pick something you love that you’ve cut out of the regular routine in the name of becoming debt-free. You might be surprised, too, at how different it feels to spend money on these things deliberately after practicing self-discipline for a time.
Get Back on the Horse
And for Pete’s sake, when you encounter bumps along the road that knock you down, get back up! Whether they’re of your own doing or Murphy came calling, lick your wounds, wipe the tears from your eyes, and get back in the saddle.
We have personally encountered more than a few speed bumps on our debt-free journey so far. Namely, with car expenses: $2305.76 in unexpected repairs in the last eight months, to be exact.
Rather than put these repairs on a credit card to be “paid later”, we cash-flowed them and paid off less debt that month. It was frustrating to not meet our goals for that month. But psychologically, it was important to face that expense head-on rather than put it on a credit card. We felt more in control that way; somehow it feels much different knowing that those dollars are leaving your checking account right now. It allows you to just move on.
The main thing is to get back on that horse and pick up where you left off. You’re going to “keep on keeping on” anyway, right? Might as well get out of debt while you’re doing it.
Dare to Dream
What would you do if finances weren’t a consideration? Travel? Work for a charity? Work for yourself? Live in the country? Give your kids a debt-free college education? Stay home and home school those kids right now?
Most people know what they would like to do, but they hardly dare voice their desire because they don’t believe it’ll ever happen. Sadly, ignoring debt leads to ignoring dreams.
Curiously, some people even use their debt as a crutch as to why they can’t do what they say they really want to do. In other words: they’re using their debt as an excuse. Facing your dreams can help you to face your debt. Dare to define your dreams and make them tangible. Write them down. Better yet, find a picture that defines your dream — a log cabin in the woods? A worn passport filled with stamps? A picture of your kid holding a college diploma? (You can photo shop those in — go ahead, get creative.)
Take that picture and wrap it around your debit card (because you have put away your credit cards by this point, right?). If you’ve moved completely to cash — yea for you! Frame the picture and put it on the desk where you write out your budget. Or wrap it around your ATM card. This reminder will help you to stay the course and measure the real cost of each purchase, in dollars and cents and otherwise.
My husband and I are almost done paying off our debt snowball — just $3,396.21 to go! We expect to pay that off in the next couple of months, after which we will start building up our emergency fund. Once that’s completed we will turn our focus to paying off our 2nd mortgage (aka “stupid tax”)…
Oh, sure, we would do things differently had we known then the things we know now, blah-blah-blah… But at least we know them now! The best place to start is the beginning. We will continue to make mistakes, I’m sure — but at least now we know where we’re headed. When we get derailed we know exactly where that train is going once we get back on.
We continue to hit speed bumps. For instance, we are Reluctant Landlords of a house in Las Vegas that we will not be able to sell anytime soon. Our latest tenants just moved out, so we are currently paying the mortgage and other various expenses for that house with no rent check to off set the cost. Yes, it hurts!
My husband is also getting ready for a deployment, and communicating about the budget and things that come up will be more challenging while he’s gone, to be sure. But at least now we know what map we’re using. Despite any bumps we may encounter, it won’t change the direction we’re traveling — it may just take us a little longer to get there, that’s all!
Jolyn recounts her family’s financial strides and struggles over at Budgets are the New Black where she chronicles their journey to live a “debt-free, credit-free, clutter-free life (one day at a time).” Currently, they’re focusing on the debt-free part.
Jolyn has one Air Force husband and three well-traveled children. They currently make their home in Ohio.
Photo Credit: Kath Walker Illustration