Money

  • Creating a Monthly Budget: A Step by Step Guide

    Creating a Monthly Budget: A Step by Step Guide

    I was in my mid-twenties before I created my first budget.

    I was out of college and had my first full-time job. I made decent money, but I never seemed to have any left at the end of each month. And I couldn’t seem to figure out where all my money was going.

    When I finally sat down to track my recent spending, it was an eye-opening experience.

    I realized I was spending way more than I wanted to on eating out and ordering take-out.

    That’s when I created my first budget. It hasn’t been entirely smooth sailing since then. But I can tell you that the times of my life I’ve been most diligent about budgeting are the times when I’ve seen the most success!

    When I budget consistently, I reach my financial goals, feel confident in my financial situation, and have money left over at the end of each month.

    Creating and sticking to a budget does not have to be overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be scary. It is 100% doable.

    In this post, I’m walking you through how to create a monthly budget, even if you’re a beginner or hate budgeting.

     

    Creating a Monthly Budget: A Step by Step Guide

     

    Determine Your Income

     

    In order to create your monthly budget, you first need to figure out what your monthly income is.

    For some of you, this will be easy. Maybe you’re a salaried employee without any side income, in which case your income is the same every month.

    But if you’re an hourly employee, a tipped employee (such as a server or bartender), or are self-employed, this will be a little more difficult.

    If you have an irregular income, look at the average amount you bring home each month. This will help you identify which number to build your budget around.

    Read: How to Budget With an Irregular Income

    If you’re married and have joint finances with your spouse, make sure to incorporate their monthly income into your calculation as well.

     

    Make a List of Your Fixed Expenses

     

    Next up, make a list of your fixed monthly expenses. Fixed expenses are those that are the same every month. This would include rent or mortgage, insurance, cable and internet, student loan, car payment, etc.

    It’s important to plan for these expenses first because then you’ll have a better idea of how much money you have to allocate for the rest of your expenses.

     

    Track Your Spending for the Past Three (or Six) Months

     

    Once you’ve figured out your income and fixed expenses, you know how much money is left to put toward variable expenses.

    In order to really figure out how much you want to spend in each budget category, I think it first makes sense to figure out how much you’re currently spending in each category.

    Go through your bank statements for the past three months and track where your money has gone. I would break your spending up into categories and determine how much you’ve spent monthly in each category. Here are some categories you may want have:

    • Utilities
    • Transportation (gas, car maintenance)
    • Groceries
    • Eating Out
    • Shopping
    • Household Items
    • Personal Care
    • Entertainment
    • Hobbies

    These are just some examples of categories you might have in your budget. You can customize them to fit your lifestyle.

    By doing this, you’ll get a good idea of where your money has been going, and which categories you spend the most on.

    I recommend going back at least three months to really get an idea of what an average month looks like.

    If you’re feeling really ambitious, go back even further. The first time I put together a monthly budget, I went back six months and it helped me put together a really good picture of my spending habits.

     

    Determine Your Spending Goals

     

    Now that you know how much you are spending, it’s time to figure out how much you want to be spending.

    I’m guessing there are quite a few areas in your budget where you could be spending a lot less than you are.

    If you don’t normally track your spending, chances are that you’re going to be surprised at your spending in some areas, just like I was at my food spending.

    You might realize just how much those weekly Target trips are adding up and decide that you want to set some limits for yourself.

    You can also look for substitutions you can make, such as switching phone companies or getting rid of cable and sticking with Netflix or Hulu.

     

    Prioritize Savings First

     

    There are a lot of people who wait to see how much money they have in the bank at the end of the month, and then decide if they are able to throw a little in savings.

    The problem here is that there might be a lot of months where you aren’t putting any money in savings at all.

    Instead of just saving what you have left at the end of the month, start budgeting the money you’ll save and making that your first payment after you get paid. I have an automatic transfer from my checking account to my savings account the day after I get paid every single month.

    To make your saving even more effective, set specific goals to save for. You can start by building up your emergency fund. Then you can decide what other financial goals you want to save for.

     

    Decide on a Debt-Payoff Plan

     

    While you’re creating your monthly budget, it’s important to factor in how much money you want to put toward debt.

    It might be tempting to just pay your minimum monthly payments, it will take you a lot longer to pay off that debt, and you’ll be spending a LOT of interest.

    One debt payoff strategy a lot of people use is called the “snowball method”. This means paying your minimum payments on all but your smallest debt, and you put as much money as you can on your smallest debt.

    Once that smallest debt is gone, you take all of that extra money and put it toward the new smallest debt. And then ideally, once you’ve paid off most of the debts, you’ll be able to put really large payments on your largest debt.

    I actually prefer a method called the debt avalanche. Rather than targeting the debt with the lowest balance, you target the one with the highest interest rate.

    The debt snowball is the most cost-effective in the long-run, because you’re saving yourself money in interest.

    Read: Debt Snowball vs. Debt Avalanche: Which Debt Payoff Plan is Right For You?

     

    Track Your Spending

     

    Once you’ve created your monthly budget, it’s important to track your spending to make sure you’re actually staying on track. Otherwise, the budget is useless!

    There are plenty of monthly budgeting apps you can connect to your bank account to track your spending. Many people use an app for this. For many years I just used a spreadsheet and tracked each transaction manually. This is definitely more work, and now I use an app to track my spending.

    You can check out my list of the best budgeting apps to help find the right tool for you.

    As you’re tracking your spending, check in often throughout the month to make sure you’re staying on track with your budget. That way if you get off track with your budget, there’s still time to get back on track.

     

    Reevaluate Your Budget Often

     

    Once you’ve set up your budget once, you’re not done. A lot can change with your finances. You might have new financial goals come up, such as wanted to splurge on a vacation or start saving for a house.

    You also might create a budget and then within a few months, realize there are certain categories that need some tweaking.

     

    Final Thoughts

     

    Creating a monthly budget might seem overwhelming, but I promise it will get easier as you get the hang of it.

    And even more importantly, you will be SO glad you took the time to set up a budget, and you’ll love the financial benefits you start to see.

    Budgeting will go a long way in helping you to start saving money, pay off your debts, and reach your long-term financial goals.

    CONTINUE READING

  • How to Start a Side Hustle and Make More Money

    One of the most important lessons I’ve learned, both through money coaching and my own money journey, is that the best way to reach any financial goal faster is to increase your income.

    Wanna pay off debt? Increase your income, and you’ll pay it off faster.

    Wanna save up to buy a house? Increase your income, and you’ll get your house faster.

    It’s just basic math – the more money you have, the more you can do with it. And one of the best ways to increase your income is to pick up a side hustle.

    I started my side-hustling journey in 2014. I had a full-time government job, but the pay wasn’t great and it didn’t do a lot to spark my creativity. So I started my first blog, both as a creative outlet and as a way to earn a bit of extra money.

    In the past six years, side-hustling has helped me to pay off tens of thousands of dollars in debt and save up enough money to buy an RV, and travel the country full-time. Not only that, but I was able to turn my side hustle into my full-time, allowing me to work from anywhere on my travels.

    In this post, I’ll share all of my best tips for starting a side hustle and making extra money to help you reach your financial goals.

    Not sure a side hustle is for you? Read this article on why a side hustle is a great idea!

    How to Start a Side Hustle and Make More Money

    There are affiliate links in this post, meaning I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. For more information, see my full disclosure policy here.

    Step 1: Choose a side hustle idea

    Some of you might already have a side hustle idea that you can’t wait to dive into. For others, maybe you know you want to start a side hustle to earn a bit of extra money, but you’re not sure what exactly you want to do. Well, that’s what this step is for. This phase is all about brainstorming!

    First things first, ask yourself what you are good at and passionate about. It’s important that this isn’t something you’re going to get sick of right away! I could talk about my personal finance for hours on end, which made money coaching and personal finance blogging the perfect side hustle for me.

    In addition to finding a topic that you’re passionate about, you have to make sure it’s something that other people are interested in as well. Because as important as it is that YOU love your side hustle, you can’t make money from a topic that no one else will spend money on.

    Still short on side hustle ideas? I’ve got you covered! In this blog post on starting a side hustle, I shared 9 AWESOME side hustle ideas!

    Step 2: Do your research

    Let me preface this by saying that when I started my side hustle, I did ZERO research. I literally didn’t even know that blogging was a thing you could make money from when I first got started. But once I learned that it was something you could make an income from, you better believe I did a TON of research!

    Whether the side hustle you’re starting is a blog or something totally different, I guarantee there is tons of information available online from people who have done the same thing you are trying to. Side hustles are ridiculously common today, and I guarantee someone else is teaching people to do exactly what you’re trying to do.

    Research everything from the logistics of setting up your website to marketing. Join some Facebook groups with others in your niche and learn from them. One thing I’ve learned is that online business owners seem super happy to share their knowledge and create connections with other online business owners. It’s such an awesome and welcoming community!

    Step 3: Get it up and running

    Okay, so you’ve figured out the what and the how. Now it’s time to just freaking do it already! The launching phase is going to vary from person to person. Part of this depends on the side hustle you’ve chosen – some just take longer to get set up than others do!

    It also partly depends on what else you’ve got going on in your life. The more prior commitments you have, the less time you’ll have to work on your side hustle, meaning it’s going to take a bit longer to get set up.

    I remember when I was just in the launch phase of my blog, I seriously looked for every spare moment I could find to work on it! I spent entire weekends curled up on the couch with my laptop, excitedly planning and designing everything. I also spent lots of nights up WAY too late because I was mid-project and just couldn’t bring myself to stop.

    If you’re like me and have chosen a blog as a side hustle, the launch phase is going to include things like setting up your website and choosing a blog design, getting your social media pages set up, and getting your first few blog posts written.

    Step 4: Create a schedule

    If you truly want this side hustle to make money, then you have to treat it like a business. That means setting aside certain hours where you are going to work on your business. Obviously, since it’s your own business, no one can enforce these hours for you. There will definitely be times when something else sounds more fun than working.

    But just remember, you will only get out of it as much as you put into it. How many hours you work is 100% up to you. Someone with a full-time job and a family with kids at home is going to have fewer hours available than someone who is single with no kids.

    Since this is a side hustle, your work hours are certainly going to be limited. You might have a full-time job, be a stay at home parent, or be going to school full-time. You know best when you are free and will be most available to work on your business.

    When I was still working my full-time job, evenings and weekends were my side hustle time. I scheduled certain work hours into my calendar, and those hours are non-negotiable. And if I knew I’d be busy all weekend, I’d make sure to work extra hours in the evenings that week.

    Part of creating your side hustle schedule is respecting everyone’s time. You need to respect your own time and hold yourself accountable for those hours you plan to work on your side hustle. But this also means respecting your employer’s time, if you work a full-time job. Don’t let your side hustle interfere with your job. If you have a lunch hour or breaks available to get in a little work on your side hustle, that’s great! But don’t work on your side hustle when you should be working on your full-time job. If you do, you may not have a full-time job for long.

    Step 5: Set SMARTER goals

    Even though you spent a TON of time doing research before launching your side hustle, there’s still so much to learn. And you’re going to learn a ton right after you launch your side hustle and really dive into working on it every day. Once you have a better idea of what you’re getting yourself into, it’s time to set some goals for yourself.

    I set zero goals for myself when I first started my blog. And guess how long it took me to make my first dollar. One year. I’m guessing you’re not interested in waiting that long! Part of this is because I started off just blogging as a hobby, and part of it was that I didn’t get organized and set goals for myself.

    So what kind of goals should you be setting? This isn’t just about throwing out arbitrary goals, but setting realistic goals and coming up with a plan to meet them. In other words, you want to set SMARTER goals. And just what are SMARTER goals?

    • Specific: The more specific your goals, the better. Don’t just set a goal of earning money with your side hustle. Set a goal of earning $1,000/month from your side hustle within the first year (that’s just an example, the actual number will vary person to person).
    • Measurable: The progress of this goal can be easily tracked. $1,000/month is very specific – you’ll know for sure if you’ve reached it or not! And once you know how much you want to make per month, you know what your daily and weekly goals should be!
    • Attainable: While setting your goals high is awesome, make sure it’s something you can actually accomplish. Consider what will be required of you to complete this goal, and carefully consider whether you have that to give.
    • Relevant: Make sure your goal is in harmony with your core values and what you’re working toward in life. If your ultimate dream is to work from home full-time, then setting a goal of $1,000/month in the first year is awesome because you’re totally moving in the right direction!
    • Time-Bound: Don’t make the time frame for reaching your goals open-ended. We tend to take as long to accomplish a task as we are allowed. If your goals are completely open-ended, they may never seem urgent enough to get to. As you can see, we set a time frame of one year in the goal we’re using as an example.
    • Exciting: Let’s be real, it’s going to be a lot easier to make time to work on goals that excite and inspire you. Emotions are a big factor when it comes to goal-setting, and you’re far more likely to reach for things that excite you.
    • Routine Bound: I firmly believe that creating routines and habits is the absolute best way to make changes in your life. Incorporating your goal into your daily routine ensures you’re making time for it and gives you a MUCH better chance of reaching it. For example, you might say that every evening you get home from work at 6 pm and work on your online business until 8 pm. It becomes a daily routine and ensures you’re putting in the time to reach that $1,000/month goal.

    Step 5: Invest in growth

    If you truly want your side hustle to be a real business that brings in income, then you have to treat it like a business. And this means investing in your growth. Time is certainly the biggest investment you’ll make in your side hustle, but there will be some financial investment as well. The good news is that most side hustles, such as blogging, are relatively cheap to start, and you can increase your investment as you start making an income.

    Some of the investments you’ll make in your side hustle will be tools, such as those to start your email list or market yourself on social media.

    Here are a few of my favorite tools that I use to run my business:

    • SiteGround: This is the website hosting company I use – monthly plans start at $3.95/month, so SUPER affordable for beginners.
    • Flodesk: For many side hustles, having an email list is going to be crucial. Flodesk is the best!
    • QuickBooks: This is the tool I use to manage my business finances. You’ll need to do so no matter what side hustle route you choose to go.

    Step 7: Track and evaluate your progress

    You may think that once you make it through the research phase and launch your side hustle, it’s all smooth sailing toward your goals. I assure you this is NOT the case. There are going to be bumps in the road. A LOT of bumps in the road. One month you’ll have an amazing month and feel like you’re making a ton of progress, and the next month you’ll feel like you’re starting from square one.

    And one thing I can definitely promise you: you will never, ever stop learning when it comes to best practices for your side hustle.

    Because of this, it’s super important that you’re diligent about tracking and evaluating your progress. Make sure to have some sort of system in place where you can track how things are going. If you’re blogging like I was, that probably means spreadsheets where you track everything including income, expenses, traffic, email subscribers, etc. So. Many. Numbers.

    In addition to tracking everything, you need to be regularly evaluating those numbers to decide if what you’re doing is really working. If you see a trend of several months where you’re income is going down, it’s probably time to change something up. It’s when you get complacent that things start to really slip.

    Step 8: Make a plan for your side hustle income

    I love that having a side hustle can help people to pay off debt and reach financial goals years earlier than they otherwise would have. But in order to really make the most of it, you’ve gotta make a plan for that money.

    Imagine this: You start a side hustle to help you pay off your debt faster. You get it set up and start bringing in money. You’re so excited about this new income that you find yourself doing a lot more online shopping than planned. Suddenly the money is gone, and you haven’t put any extra toward debt.

    Listen, I’m all for spending money on things that bring you joy. In fact, it’s one of the things I teach in my money coaching program. But I also teach my clients to be incredibly intentional about their spending and to have a plan in place.

    Instead of letting your emotions guide your spending decisions, make a plan ahead of time. For example, maybe you decide you’ll spend 75% of your side hustle income on extra debt payments, while the other 25% will be fun money. You still get to treat yourself, while also making progress on your goals.

    Step 9: Know the tax laws regarding side hustle income

    One thing to keep in mind about starting a side hustle is that there are tax laws you’ll have to follow.

    When you have a full-time job, your employer takes money out of each paycheck to pay income taxes on your behalf. But with a side hustle, there’s no one doing that for you. But the IRS still expects to get paid. It’s critical that when you’re making money on the side, you track every single dollar you earn and spend so you can report them for tax purposes.

    Software like QuickBooks can help you get this process started. And if you’re uneasy about handling the finances yourself, consider hiring an accountant or bookkeeper to help you out.

    Final Thoughts

    A side hustle is my absolute favorite way to increase your income to pay off debt and reach your financial goals. It can collapse the timeline on these big goals by years! And while starting a side hustle might seem overwhelming at first, it’s a lot less scary once you get started! 

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  • How to Budget With an Irregular Income

    When I first started budgeting, I had a regular full-time job and knew exactly how much would be on each paycheck. I loved the sense of control that came with it. I knew exactly how much I made and how much I spent. 

    But within a few years, things looked very different. I had started freelancing, which brought in an inconsistent income. Then I met and married my current husband, who had an irregular income that relied heavily on tips.

    Not long after that, I quit my job to run my business full-time. Now my income is more irregular than ever, and there are no guarantees like there were in my government job. 

    Over the past few years, I’ve learned how much more challenging it can be to budget when you have an irregular income. 

    If you’re dealing with income that doesn’t look the same from one month to the next, I know these tips will help you too!

    How to Budget With an Irregular Income

    Determine your bare minimum budget

    The first step to budgeting with an irregular income is to figure out your bare minimum budget. In other words, how much money do you actually need to live on each month?

    This number should include necessary expenses such as rent, loan payments, insurance, utilities, groceries, etc. 

    Your bare minimum budget shouldn’t include discretionary spending such as excessive eating out, travel, or entertainment. 

    What good is knowing this number?

    First, it’ll give you an idea as to whether you actually make enough money. If your irregular income doesn’t allow you to pay all of your bills, it’s time to figure out how to make more money. 

    Your bare minimum budget also gives you an idea of how much you should have in savings. In other words, how much do you need to have set aside in case you stop earning income. 

    Finally, your bare minimum budget tells you when (and how much) you can spend on discretionary expenses. If you have $2,000 per month in expenses and make $3,000 per month, you know you can probably afford to spend some money on fun.

    Give yourself regular paychecks

    I like the idea of taking away some of the irregularity of an inconsistent income by giving yourself regular paychecks. 

    So how does that actually work?

    Let’s say you are a freelancer who makes anywhere between $3,000 and $6,000 per month after taxes, depending on the season. That money goes into your business checking account. Your monthly expenses are about $3,000. 

    Rather than transferring all of the money from your business checking to your personal checking each month, give yourself a monthly paycheck of $3,000. 

    By doing this, you are no longer budgeting on an irregular income. You know exactly how much will be hitting your bank account each month. You’re also able to start building a bit of a buffer in the months you make more than $3,000.

    If you have an irregular income but don’t have a business account, open a checking or savings account to deposit your income into that is separate from the one you use to pay your bills. 

    Move excess money into a savings account

    So if you’re making between $3,000 and $6,000 per month and only paying yourself $3,000 per month, you’re going to have some money left over. 

    In the months where you make more than $3,000, set that money aside into a separate savings account. Then, if there’s ever a month where you don’t make $3,000, you can supplement your income to still give yourself that $3,000 paycheck.

    Another nice thing about this savings strategy is that once you have enough set aside that you feel comfortable you’ll be able to cover any low-income months, you can start using that money for other things! You can put it toward debt or use it to save for other financial goals.

    Live on last month’s income

    One of the best pieces of advice I can give to anyone with an irregular income is to live on last month’s income. Actually, this is great advice for anyone regardless of if you have a regular income or not! 

    So how does this actually work?

    Most people living on the income they earn each month. So the paychecks they get in September are what they use to pay September’s bills. 

    But for someone who doesn’t know exactly how much they’ll earn this month, this type of budgeting is a bit of a gamble. 

    Instead, I like to always budget ahead. So the money that goes into my bank account in September doesn’t get transferred to my personal checking as my “paycheck” until the following month. 

    That way, before October hits, I know exactly how much money I have available. 

    When necessary, dip into your savings account to supplement 

    your income

    One of the downsides of irregular income is that some months your pay is a lot lower than others. In the time I’ve been freelancing, I’ve learned that my income can vary drastically. 

    In a perfect world, I would make at least enough each month to cover my bare minimum budget. But just in case that doesn’t happen, I want to be prepared. During those months where your income is lower than normal, you can dip into your savings account (the one you funded with your excess income) to help pay your bills. 

    Have a large emergency fund

    Separate from your buffer account, you should also have a hefty emergency fund. 3-6 months is a good size savings account, but I think closer to 9-12 months is ideal for someone who is self-employed.

    That buffer account is to help pay the bills during any months where you earn less than normal. But the emergency fund is to help with any crazy expenses (like home repairs that cost thousands of dollars). More importantly, your emergency fund is there to replace your income in the event that you lose your job. 

    Keep ideas on-hand to increase your income

    One thing I’ve learned since becoming self-employed is that I have to be prepared to increase my income at any time. 

    You never know when you might lose a freelance client or when a client might start sending you less work. And if that happens, I have to be prepared to immediately replace that income.

    The same goes for other types of workers with irregular income. In 2020, the foodservice industry is taking a huge hit. Even as restaurants re-open, fewer people are going out to eat. This means fewer tips for those employees. That’s a situation in which you might want to have some ideas in your back pocket for increasing your income when things head south quickly. 

    Use a budgeting app to stay organized

    Keeping track of your budget when you have an irregular income (or even when you don’t) can be a lot to manage. And especially when you’re just getting started, you might want to use a app to help you stay organized.

    I think You Need a Budget (YNAB) is the absolute best budgeting app, especially those who don’t bring in a consistent income. It’s specifically designed to help you get one month ahead on your budget so that you’re using last month’s income to pay your bills. 

    I actually use YNAB for both my business and my personal budget! First, I keep a separate business budget to track my business income and expenses. Taking my own advice, I budget a month or two ahead for my business expenses and set money aside for taxes.

    Then, I pay myself a monthly paycheck, which I use to budget ahead on my bills.

    Using YNAB has gotten me so into budgeting ahead that I actually try to budget ahead two months at a time rather than one. This single habit has made the cost of YNAB more than worth it! 

    Final Thoughts

    Budgeting is stressful enough for most of us. And when you add on the extra layer of an inconsistent income, it can quickly seem like too much to handle. 

    After years of learning the ropes of budgeting with irregular income, I’ve streamlined my process and hope you find it useful for your own budget! 

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  • 9 Reasons Your Budget Isn’t Working

     

    Like many people, my first attempts at budgeting were a complete failure.

    I would get really motivated to get my finances on track and spend a ton of time putting together a budget. 

    But then one thing would go wrong, and I’d completely abandon the entire thing. It was an endless cycle that repeated itself every few months. 

    When I finally started getting serious about personal finance, I was able to look at my budget through a more holistic lens and figure out why it had failed in the past. 

    In this post, I’m sharing some of the mistakes I made in my own budgets, and some of the reasons your budget might not be working.  

     

    9 Reasons Your Budget Isn’t Working

     

    You aren’t being realistic with your expenses

    One of the most common reasons that budgets fail is because people just aren’t realistic when they’re making a plan for their money. 

    Here’s what happens most often. Suppose I start tracking my expenses and realize my husband and I have been spending $750 per month eating out. I panic, and start budgeting $50 per month to eating out. 

    Do you see the problem here? For a couple who spends a lot of money on eating out, cutting out almost all of it at once just isn’t realistic. 

    Another area I see people make an unrealistic budget is when it comes to groceries. People try to drastically cut their grocery spending, but budget too little. And then they end up not being able to stick to it. 

    Instead of planning your budget around what you wish you spent, start by planning it around what you actually spend. Then you can slowly start cutting back in the areas you want to.

     

    You aren’t budgeting for fun money

    If you aren’t leaving room for fun in your budget, you’re going to have a hard time sticking to it. 

    I know plenty of personal finance experts who push people to cut back in every area possible, especially when you’re paying off debt.

    But time and time again, I talk to clients and potential clients who have tried that kind of budgeting and burned out. 

    Leaving some room for fun money in your budget will help to make sure the process isn’t a miserable one for you and will make budgeting a lot more sustainable in the long run.

     

    You aren’t planning for occasional expenses

    Have you ever had a month where you’re totally rocking your budget, and then your annual Amazon Prime membership comes due, or its time to renew your vehicle registration? 

    Because it’s not a regular expense, you totally forgot to budget for it. Not it’s thrown off your budget for the entire month.

    It’s easy to remember to account for the things you spend money on every month, but far too easy to forget those irregular expenses. 

    So what’s the best way to deal with those expenses?

    Sinking funds. Rather than budgeting for your entire Amazon Prime subscription in a single month, divide the entire amount by 12, and set aside money for it every month. Then, by the time it’s time to pay, the money is budgeting. 

    Sinking funds are great for so much more than just annual subscriptions. Here are some expenses you might have sinking funds for:

    • Vehicle registration
    • Car repairs
    • Car insurance
    • Home repairs
    • Christmas
    • Medical bills
    • Pet expenses
    • Vacation
    • Association dues
    • Clothing
    • Car replacement
    • Weddings
    • Tuition
    • Annual subscriptions

     

    You aren’t tracking your spending

    Making a budget is a great first step. But if you don’t actually track your expenses to make sure you’re sticking to it, then it really doesn’t do a whole lot of good.

    This is the problem with a lot of budgeting apps out there. You spend a ton of time setting up your budget. You get excited about finally getting on track with your finances. 

    But then, if you’re not proactive about tracking your expenses, you have no idea if the budget is actually working. 

    This step is most people’s least favorite part of budgeting. But it’s also a critical step to make sure you are sticking to your budget.

     

    You spend more than you make

    Budgeting is a great way to take get control of your spending and be intentional about where your money is going. But things can go off the rails if your budget includes spending more money than you actually make. 

    This leads to an endless cycle. You get paid, but then end up spending all of the money and more. Because you don’t have enough money to cover your expenses, you end up putting some of them on a credit card.

    Now in the future, you’ve got to budget for your existing expenses, as well as your credit card bill.

    In reality, there are only two ways to fix this problem: decrease your spending or increase your income.

    There are a number of ways you can reduce your spending when you’re on a tight budget. You also might consider picking up a side hustle to help you make some extra money to cover your extra spending.

     

    You’re struggling with impulse or emotional spending

    Even the most well-planned and well-intentioned budget will go off the rails if you can’t get your impulse spending in check.

    For some people, impulse spending is simply a result of a lack of dedication to their budget. For others, it’s far more than that. 

    If you’re struggling with emotional spending, a budget alone probably won’t help you to get back on track. Instead, it’s time to get to the root of why you’re spending. 

    During and shortly after my first marriage, I spent a lot of money. Seriously, I could not stop shopping. Every time I felt lonely, anxious, sad, or any other myriad of emotions, I would shop. 

    And while learning more about money helped me make progress in other areas of my finances, it wasn’t until I dealt with the feelings that were causing me to shop that I was able to stick to my budget.

     

    You and your partner aren’t on the same page

    If you share your finances with a partner, then your budget is dependent on both people being committed. And if you and your partner aren’t on the same page, then it’s easy for things to get off-course.

    When you share finances with a partner, communication is critical. You and your partner have to get on the same page if you’re going to have a successful budget. 

    If you’re the budgeter in the relationship, talk to your partner to make sure they feel included in the process. If one of you is overspending, work together to come up with some strategies to get back on track. 

    Finding the right budgeting app that the two of you can use together is a great step in getting on the same page and making sure you’re both included!

     

    You don’t have an emergency fund

    Failing to have an emergency fund is one of the quickest ways for your budget to get off track.

    In a perfect world, emergency expenses wouldn’t happen. Unfortunately, they’re something that we all have to deal with from time to time. 

    And if you don’t have an emergency fund, then you’re forced to find room in your budget to cover the expenses in the month they come up. 

    Because most of us don’t have wiggle room in our budget for an emergency, this can throw your budget off not just for one month, but for many.

    If you don’t currently have an emergency fund, make this your first financial priority for the next few months. At the very least, set aside enough money to cover a month of expenses. 

     

    You aren’t being flexible

    Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes I see people make is expecting their budgets to look exactly the same every month and then giving up when they overspend in one category. 

    First, know that your budget doesn’t have to be the same every month. One of the biggest problems with many budgeting apps is that you create your budget, and then are expected to use it every month. 

    I don’t know about you, but every month is different for me. In a month where several friends have birthdays, I might spend more money on eating out. But in a month where I’m staying home most nights, my grocery budget might go up. 

    Just know that it’s okay for your budget to adapt to whatever is going on in your life at the time.

    The other problem people have is that when they go over budget in one category, they think their whole budget is shot. That’s not the case at all!

    Listen, we all have a finite amount of money to spend each month. But it’s okay if you don’t end up spending it exactly as you thought you would on the first of the month. 

    Did you go over budget on eating out? No problem. Just find a different spending category that you can cut back on a little bit. 

    As long as you spend within your means, your budget is working. The mark of a successful budget doesn’t have to be that you stuck to your original plan 100%.

     

    Final Thoughts

    Getting started with budgeting is one of the biggest hurdles you have to jump when it comes to getting your finances on track. Unfortunately, it’s also one that people most often give up on. 

    The good news is that if you can figure out why your budgets have failed in the past, you can avoid making those same mistakes again.

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  • How to Stop Procrastinating on Getting Your Finances In Order

    I’ve always been a bit of a procrastinator. I was that kid in college staying up late the night before a big paper was due. 

    I was no different when it came to money. I spend years procrastinating on getting my finances in order. I didn’t budget, I didn’t have financial goals, and I didn’t make anything more than the minimum monthly payments on all of my debts. 

    When I finally stopped making excuses and started taking action, my situation changed dramatically. Not only did I finally take the time to learn what I didn’t already know about money, but I saw my savings grow and my debt shrink

    In this post, I’m sharing seven tips to help to stop procrastinating on your finances and finally start making money moves. 

    How to Stop Procrastinating on Getting Your Finances in Order

    Start before you’re ready

    One of the most important rules I have for my money coaching clients is to take messy action. Listen, you’re never going to feel ready to start getting your finances in order. 

    If you decide to wait until you make more money to start budgeting, you won’t know how to budget when you eventually make more money. 

    If you say you’ll start setting financial goals when you have money in savings, you may never have more money in savings. 

    It’s in those early days that you don’t feel ready that you can make the biggest difference for your finances. 

    So next time you find yourself putting off financial tasks because you don’t feel quite ready, just remember: Take messy action.

    Choose one thing to focus on at a time

    If you’ve never taken steps to get your finances in order, it can feel overwhelming to think about all the things you’ll have to tackle. Budgeting, saving, paying off debt, investing, etc. It’s definitely enough to make your head spin when you’re brand new.

    If you keep putting off getting started because you’re overwhelmed with everything there is to do, choose just one thing to focus on at a time.

    It might seem counterproductive, and you’ll probably feel like you should be doing more. But making moves in just one area of your finances is far better than taking no action at all. 

    If you’re just getting started on your finances, begin by tracking your income and spending. Once you know how much you’re making and where your money is going, you can look for overspending. And when you start identifying that wiggle room in your budget, you can start diving into saving and increasing your debt payments. 

    Set specific financial goals

    It’s hard to get motivated about anything when you’re not really sure why you’re doing it. Money is no different. How are you supposed to stick to your new financial plan when you have no idea what your end result is?

    For that reason, I have my money coaching clients set specific money goals. And not only do they set goals, but we really identify their values and their why behind that goal. 

    When you have a specific financial goal and you know exactly why you want it, it’s so much easier to stay motivated and stick to your financial plan, regardless of how lofty of a goal it is. 

    Put it on your calendar

    Sometimes our procrastination is simply a result of the fact that we keep telling ourselves that we’ll sit down and come up with a financial plan…and then we forget. 

    Don’t be too hard on yourself — it happens to the best of us!

    I’ve found that once I put something on my calendar, I’m almost certain to get to it. Even if I can’t get to it on the exact day I scheduled it for, I’m going to get it done within a day or so. I just can’t stand to have incomplete items on my to-do list!

    I recommend setting time aside on your calendar each week to check in on your finances. If you’re just getting started and aren’t paying any attention to your money, schedule yourself a money date on an evening where you’ve got no other plans. 

    This will allow you to really get a headstart on your finances, and having it on your calendar will make sure you get it done!

    The important thing is to treat this calendar event just like any other. You wouldn’t cancel on plans with your best friend, so don’t cancel on plans with yourself. 

    Automate as much as possible

    Have you ever told yourself that you’d start putting money aside to build an emergency fund, but then you never seem to have any money left at the end of the money?

    What about telling yourself you’re going to start investing, but never get around to making those transfers.

    The good news is that these financial tasks, and many others, are pretty easy to stop procrastinating on. You can stop procrastinating by automating. There are plenty of tasks that you can automate, rather than giving yourself the opportunity to procrastinate. 

    For example, you can automatically have money transferred from your checking account to your savings account the day after you get paid. That way you don’t give yourself a chance to spend it first. 

    You can also automate things like retirement contributions and bill payments. 

    Leave room in your budget for fun

    I’ve found that one of the biggest reasons people procrastinate on getting their finances in order is that they fear that a financial plan will be too restrictive. They assume they’ll have to stop shopping or eating out once they get on a budget, so they put it off. 

    Well, I’ve got amazing news for you. Budgets don’t have to be restrictive at all. In fact, I actually find budgeting to be even more freeing. It allows me to freely spend money on things that I love. And I never have to feel guilty about it, because I’ve budgeted for it. 

    If you’re procrastinating on getting your finances in order because you’re worried about how restrictive it will be, remember to leave room in your budget for things that bring you joy. 

    For me, those things are eating out and seeing live music (at least pre-COVID when that was actually something we could do). It’s probably going to look different for you, but your budget should reflect the things you love!

    Hire a money coach

    One of the biggest struggles of beating procrastination with your finances is the lack of direction and accountability when you’re doing it on your own.

    I think we can all relate to a time where we felt motivated to get our finances in order, but we just didn’t know where to start. Or we knew what steps to take, but we just couldn’t seem to stick to our plan. 

    That’s where a money coach comes in.

    A money coach can help you to craft a personalized financial plan, whether you’re paying off debt or saving for a big goal.

    Final Thoughts

    Taking control of your finances feels like an uphill battle when you first get started, and it’s easy to come up with reasons to procrastinate. But the sooner you start taking action, the sooner you start seeing results. I hope these tips will help you to push your procrastination aside and starting taking real action.

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  • How to Talk to Your Partner About Money Without Fighting

    In my first marriage, money was one of the biggest points of contention. We would fight about our spending habits and our lack of savings. I never really felt like I was invited to the table to talk about money, and so it became a topic of resentment.

    When Brandon and I started talking about money, I didn’t want to repeat the past. I wanted us to be on the same page and to be able to talk about money without fighting.

    From the beginning, Brandon and I have always prioritized approaching our finances as a team. This allows us to be proactive about our money talks, set financial goals together, and talk openly without fighting.

    In this post, I’m sharing how to talk to your partner about money without fighting. These are all the tips that Brandon and I have implemented in our relationship to make finances an easy topic.

    How to Talk to Your Partner About Money Without Fighting

    Be proactive — Don’t wait for issues to arise

    One of the reasons that money can be such a point of contention for couples is that they wait until there’s an issue to start talking about money.

    Rather than waiting until there’s something to fight about, I recommend my clients have regular money dates with their partners. This allows couples to cover any potential areas of conflict before they get to that level.

    You can use money dates to cover topics such as the monthly budget and progress on your financial goals.

    Plus, money dates can actually be really fun! It’s a way to sit down together and dream about all the fun things you’ll do together with your money!

    Make financial decisions together

    One of the most important ways to reduce money conflict is to make sure you both have a seat at the table. 

    In any relationship, it’s natural that one partner will handle more of the day-to-day budgeting. It’s probably whichever of you gets excited about spreadsheets and budgeting apps. 

    I’m definitely the person in our relationship who gets more excited about budgeting, so I manage our finances throughout the month. That being said, we make all of our decisions together. 

    Each month we spend some time talking about our spending from last month, what we have coming up in the next month, and anything important that has come up.

    When one person makes all of the financial decisions or controls the budget without feedback, it’s sure to lead to conflict.

    Be honest, even when it’s hard

    Statistics show that more than 40% of Americans have committed financial infidelity. In other words, they’ve hidden bank accounts, debt, or spending habits from their partner. 

    Lying to your partner about money isn’t just problematic for financial reasons. It can also be incredibly damaging to your relationship. It can destroy trust, and make it hard to get back on the same page financially.

    Set shared financial goals

    One of the biggest things that has helped Brandon and I to get on the same page with our finances is to set shared financial goals. It helps to take the drudgery out of money management and actually make it fun!

    First, setting a financial goal gives us a common objective. While we were engaged and just married, our financial goal was to save for our RV to travel the country together. Not only was it genuinely fun to talk about, but it also helped to give some direction to our budget. 

    Hold each other accountable without judgment

    One of the great things about having a partner in your goals is that you have someone to hold you accountable. I’m not saying you should babysit one another or monitor each other’s spending. But when you’re working toward shared financial goals and the budget starts to get off track, you can remind each other what you’re working toward. 

    Just remember that as you’re holding each other accountable on your goals, do so without judgment. If you’re trying to save money for a new car and your partner splurges on an unplanned lunch with coworkers, try not to approach it with judgment or anger.

    Remember you’re on the same team

    I know how tempting it can be to lead with confrontation when you and your partner aren’t seeing eye to eye or when one of you hasn’t been sticking to the budget. But I also know how unproductive that can be.

    When you talk to your partner about finances, always remember that you’re on the same team. You ultimately both want the same thing, which is a happy and successful relationship. Even if your spending habits or financial goals look a bit different, there’s still common ground there.

    Final Thoughts

    Talking to your partner about finance doesn’t have to be as hard as it sounds. For many couples, money can be a point of contention. But by being proactive and honest about in these conversations, you can make it a lot easier on yourself. And hey, you might even have fun!

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  • Debt Snowball vs. Debt Avalanche: Which Debt Payoff Strategy is Right For You?

    I spent years paying off debt with absolutely no plan in place.

    I would make the minimum monthly payments on my student loan each month. I also applied for the income-driven plans to try to reduce my monthly payments even more.

    When I started racking credit card debt after my divorce I did the same thing. I made the minimum monthly payments. I figured it wasn’t a big deal, since my credit card had an interest-free promotional period.

    Eventually, it became clear this plan (or lack thereof) wasn’t going to cut it anymore. 

    First, the interest-free period on my credit card ended, and I realized just how damaging a 20% interest rate can be.

    Then Brandon and I got married, and had a combined six-figures of debt. We knew we didn’t want that much of our monthly income going toward debt forever. 

    When we decided to get serious about paying off debt, I spent a lot of time playing around with different scenarios. I knew that the debt snowball and debt avalanche were the two most popular debt payoff plans, and I wanted to figure out which was best for us. 

    We ultimately chose the debt avalanche to pay off our debts. It isn’t necessarily the right choice for everyone, but it absolutely is for us!

    In this post, I’ll dive into the different debt payoff plans — the debt snowball and the debt avalanche. I’ll share the pros and cons of each, and why we went the route we did!

    Debt Snowball vs. Debt Avalanche: Which Debt Payoff Strategy is Right For You?

    What is the debt snowball?

    The debt snowball is a debt payoff plan where you pay your smallest debts off first. Each time you pay off a debt, you snowball the money you’re saving into your next smallest debt.

    Here’s how the debt snowball works:

    1. Make a list of all of your debts, smallest to largest. 
    2. Decide how much you can afford to put toward debt each month. Ideally, this number will be larger than the sum of all of your minimum payments. 
    3. Make the minimum payment on each of your debts, except the smallest. Put the extra money each money toward that smallest debt.
    4. Once you pay off the smallest debt, take the money you were putting toward it each month and start putting it toward your next smallest debt. 
    5. Each time you pay off a debt, your snowball will get bigger and bigger. Once you get down to the last debt, you’ll be putting your entire snowball toward it each month.

    Pros of the debt snowball:

    • The debt snowball gives you small wins. By paying off your debts smallest to largest, you get to celebrate another debt paid off more often. This can be a huge motivator!

    Cons of the debt snowball: 

    • The debt snowball only considers the size of each debt, not the interest rate. This could result in you paying more in interest than if you did the debt avalanche. 

    What is the debt avalanche?

    The debt avalanche is a debt payoff plan where you pay off your debts in order of the interest rate, starting with the highest interest rate and working your way to the lowest. 

    Here’s how the debt avalanche works:

    • Make a list of all of your debts ordering them from the largest interest rate to the smallest.
    • Decide how much you can afford to put toward debt each month. Ideally, this number will be larger than the sum of all of your minimum payments. 
    • Make the minimum payment on each of your debts, except the one with the highest interest rate. Put the extra money each money toward that debt.
    • Once you pay off the highest-interest rate debt, take the money you were putting toward it each month and start putting it toward the one with the next highest interest rate. 
    • Each time you pay off a debt, your avalanche will get bigger and bigger. Once you get down to the last debt (the one with the lowest interest rate, you’ll be putting your entire avalanche toward it each month.

    Pros of the debt avalanche:

    • The debt avalanche is the method that will have you paying the lowest amount over the long-run. Because it requires you to pay down your high-interest debts first, you end up saving money.

    Cons of the debt avalanche: 

    • And depending on how big your high-interest debts are, you might not have any wins for awhile. It really doesn’t account for the fact that debt (and money in general) is a super emotional topic for most of us. 

    Which is best?

    Let me preface this by saying that personal finance is just that: Personal. And because of that, there’s rarely one financial decision that’s best for everyone.

    Having said that, I really encourage my clients to use the debt avalanche in almost all cases. From a financial perspective, the debt avalanche is the better choice. 

    It will have you paying your debts off faster and saving money on interest. And depending on how much debt you have, the difference could be significant. 

    Brandon and I have six-figures of student loan debt and previously had significant consumer debt, and the difference between the debt snowball and debt avalanche was thousands of dollars! 

    The only time I recommend the debt snowball is if you really struggle to stick to any sort of financial plan, but are really motivated by wins. 

    Any debt payoff plan is better than no debt payoff plan at all. So if those little wins will be the only thing keeping you going, then that’s the right plan for you! 

    Final Thoughts

    Hopefully, this post gave you a good overview of the debt payoff plans available to you. There isn’t one right choice that works for everyone. But one of these plans is sure to work for you!

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  • Can You Pay Off Debt and Save For Financial Goals at the Same Time?

    If you’ve been reading this blog or following me on social media, you might know that my husband and I have a combined six-figures of student debt. Since getting married in 2019, we’ve been on an aggressive debt pay-off plan and plan to pay it off in just a few years. 

    But you may also know that my husband and I also recently bought an RV and got rid of our apartment so that we could travel the United States full time.

    So how do we rationalize spending money on other financial goals while paying off debt?

    The good news is that you can do both! You can pay off debt early and still make room for other financial goals in your budget. There are a few things I recommend checking off the to-do list before saving for other goals, which we’ll cover later. 

    In this post, we’ll answer the question of whether you can save for financial goals while paying off debt and how to actually do it. 

    Can you pay off debt and save for financial goals at the same time?

    Make a plan to pay off your debt

    Before prioritizing any other financial goals, I recommend sitting down and crafting a solid plan to pay off your debt. This plan should include how much you’ll put toward debt each month and which debt you’ll pay off first. Once you know these details, you’ll know exactly when you’ll have your debt paid off. 

    Make sure to build your emergency fund first

    Before saving for any other financial goals, your first priority should be to build an emergency fund. I wouldn’t put money toward other goals until you have this in place. 

    How much to save depends on several factors. While some personal finance experts recommend saving $1,000, I just don’t think that’s enough. If you unexpectedly lose your job, $1,000 likely isn’t enough to cover your bills for even one month. 

    I recommend saving at least 3-6 months of expenses. If you have a partner who can cover your expenses if you lose your job, you might be able to get away with 3 months. If you have inconsistent income or are self-employed, you may want closer to 9-12 months of expenses saved. 

    Prioritize high-interest debt

    I don’t generally advise that people put their lives on hold while paying off debt. The one exception: high-interest credit card debt. 

    Unlike most debts, the interest rates on credit cards can exceed 20%. I know first-hand just how quickly that interest adds up when you are only paying the minimum payment each month. If you have credit card debt, I recommend putting all of your extra money toward that until it’s gone. 

    Treat your goal like a line item in your budget

    I know plenty of people who don’t think you should be spending money on other goals while paying off debt. But you’re already spending money on things. You’re probably paying for rent or a mortgage. You pay for groceries, insurance, the occasional night out, etc. 

    You’re able to spend money on these things because you make room for them in your budget. So when it comes to saving up for other financial goals, I recommend treating it just like any other line item in your budget. Just make sure it fits with your debt payoff plan! 

    Don’t take on any additional debt

    I probably don’t need to tell you this, but don’t take on more debt while you’re paying off debt! The only exception might be taking out a mortgage, but we won’t get into that right now. 

    I know how easy it can be to tell yourself that since you already have credit card debt, putting a little more on your card won’t make a big difference. It’s time to change your thinking here.

    I’m all for people going after goals such as vacations, weddings, or whatever it is you’re saving up for right now. But if you can’t afford to pay for these things in cash, don’t do them. Putting expenses on your credit card while paying off debt isn’t something I’d ever recommend. 

    In fact, only buying things you can afford to pay for in cash is just generally a good rule of thumb to follow, regardless of whether you already have debt. 

    Figure out where you can cut costs elsewhere

    I firmly believe that people can pay off debt and save for other financial goals at the same time. But most of us don’t have an unlimited supply of money, meaning you’ll probably have to make cuts elsewhere

    Go through your budget and figure out where you can cut. For example, do you really need to be eating out for lunch every day? Could you pack a lunch instead? I generally recommend cutting things that aren’t really important to you, but that you spend money on for convenience or because you’re with other people who spend money on them. 

    You can also look at your financial goals and see where you can cut there. For example, could you take a more affordable vacation, or save for a downpayment on a smaller house?

    Brandon and I were planning our wedding while paying off debt. We decided early on that a big, expensive wedding just wasn’t a priority for us. We saved a lot of money on our venue, the food, our alcohol, and decorations without having to sacrifice having a wedding day we loved. 

    Final Thoughts

    I know how it can feel to be paying off a ton of debt and feel like you can’t spend money on yourself anymore. And while I’m all for making sacrifices to pay off debt faster, I also think there’s room for everything in moderation! 

    Whether it’s a vacation, a wedding, a downpayment on a home, or anything else, I firmly believe that you can make room for other goals in your budget while paying off debt.

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  • 5 Money Mindset Shifts to Help You Pay Off Your Debt

    When Brandon and I got engaged, I knew that I wanted to come up with a plan to pay off our debt more quickly. After all, we had a combined six-figures of debt, and I didn’t want that hanging over our heads for decades. 

    I knew that much debt would be a lot of work, but at that point, I had already dove into the world of personal finance. I knew the practical tips to follow to pay off debt faster. 

    And yet, I found myself struggling to sit down and come up with a real plan to put in place. 

    It took me a while to learn that it wasn’t the logistical steps of paying off debt that I was struggling with — It was the mindset. 

    All of the best advice in the world isn’t going to help you crush your debt if your mindset isn’t in the right place. 

    In this post, I’m sharing the five mindset shifts I had to make to help me pay off my debt. They can help you pay off your debt too!

    5 Money Mindset Shifts to Help You Pay Off Your Debt

    Let go of the victim mentality

    It took me a long time to stop playing the victim when it came to my debt and instead start taking responsibility for it. 

    I would blame the system for my student loan debt. I was angry to live in a country that puts people tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of dollars into debt for a degree.

    And I didn’t just do this for my debt! I went through another round of it when my husband and I got married, as he had even more student loan debt than I did.

    I would also blame my ex-husband for my credit card debt. I believed that he had forced me into that situation taking everything in the divorce. 

    And honestly, sometimes it feels better to have someone else to blame. It’s comfortable to believe that it’s not your fault. 

    But here’s the thing: Until you learn to take responsibility for your debt, you’ll continue to let that victim mindset keep you in debt. 

    In other words, you’ll believe that since you aren’t the one who got yourself into debt, you can’t be the one to get yourself out of it. 

    Once you really take responsibility for your debt and acknowledge that you took it on, you’ll understand that you and you alone have the power to eliminate it. 

    Let go of any shame or guilt

    It’s important to take responsibility for your debt, but it doesn’t help you to carry shame or guilt over it.

    In a perfect world, none of us would have debt. In a perfect world, you would have found a different solution rather than borrowing money. 

    But we don’t live in a perfect world. And more importantly, there’s absolutely nothing you can do today to go back and change the decision you made. 

    The more time you spend sitting in shame and guilt regarding your debt, the less time you spend focusing on how you can pay it off more quickly. 

    Be grateful for your debt

    You’re probably reading this and thinking that it sounds ridiculous to be grateful for your debt. But hear me out. You can find something good that has come of your debt, if you look hard enough.

    Maybe it’s that you really love your job, and you only could have gotten it with a college degree. For that reason, you can be grateful for your student loans. 

    Maybe it’s that taking on credit card debt is what allowed you to leave a bad relationship and start over somewhere else, even if you couldn’t do it in cash. 

    Or maybe you’re like me, and your debt helped you to get back on track financially. If I hadn’t been stuck with credit card debt after my divorce, I wouldn’t have learned finance. And if I hadn’t learned finance, I wouldn’t have my business today. 

    Having debt is also what helped my husband and I to get so serious about budgeting. Sure, it’s still going to take us years to pay off our six figures of student loan debt. But when the debt is gone, we’ll have the good money habits forever. 

    Believe that you can pay off your debt

    Have you ever talked yourself out of getting serious about paying off debt because you felt like no matter what you did, you’d never get there?

    That’s what limiting beliefs do. They stop you in your tracks and prevent you from making real progress. 

    At the end of the day, you won’t be able to pay off your debt until you really believe that you can. And once you believe you can, you’ll be amazed and the ideas you come up with to help you get there. 

    If you’re struggling with this one, something as simple as putting a post-it note on your desk with a positive reminder can be a huge help!

    Learn to think outside the box

    I can’t tell you how many times I stared at my budget having no freaking clue what I was going to do, because there just wasn’t enough wiggle room to aggressively pay off my debt as fast as I wanted to. 

    I know so many people who are in this exact situation. They think they don’t make enough money to pay more than their minimum payments on their debt. 

    That’s when you have to get creative. 

    I decided that I didn’t want to cut anything else from my budget. I wanted to have the money for date nights with my husband and to spend money on things that bring us joy. 

    So instead of trimming my budget even more, I increased my income. For me, freelance writing was the answer. I already knew a lot about personal finance, so I decided to start writing for other people’s websites. 

    For you, it might be something else. Maybe you’ll give pet sitting a shot, or deliver groceries part-time. 

    There are so many options out there, you just have to think outside the box.

    Final Thoughts

    When I first started paying off my debt, I wanted all the tactical budgeting tips to help me get there. But what I eventually realized was that if I didn’t first fix my mindset, I’d never be able to fix my budget.

    If you’re struggling with debt, I sincerely hope you give some of these mindset shifts a shot.

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  • Money and Relationships: 9 Money Talks to Have With Your Partner at Each Stage in the Relationship

    I think we can all agree that talking about money isn’t exactly a fun date conversation. But it might be one of the most important things you can do to maintain a healthy relationship. 

    We’ve all heard the stats. Fighting about money is one of the leading causes of divorce, and more than one-third of people commit financial infidelity at some point. 

    The best way to combat that? Talking openly and honestly about money with your partner early and often.

    Brandon and I did exactly that. We had unique circumstances because I was recently divorced, and between the two of us, we had six-figures of debt. There was a lot for us to unpack there!

    And while it may have been awkward at first, it’s led to us paying off our consumer debt, paying for a wedding in cash, living our dream of buying an RV to travel full-time, and having a solid plan in place to pay off our six-figure student loans. 

    In this post, I’m sharing 9 money talks you should be having with your partner at different points in your relationship. Whether you’re just getting started or have decided to spend your lives together, there’s something in here for you!

    9 Money Talks to Have With Your Partner at Each Stage in Your Relationship

    When you start dating

    When you’re starting a new relationship, it can be awkward to talk about money. You don’t feel comfortable asking the other person about their finances. You also probably don’t feel entirely comfortable sharing much about your finances. 

    In the early relationship days, it’s more about observing. When you’re dating someone, you can learn a lot about their finances without having to ask. 

    For example, you may notice that your partner regularly suggests expensive dates or that they splurge a lot on items for themselves. These could be a sign that they’re a spender, or that they have a lot of disposable income. 

    During this part of the relationship, it’s really about making sure the other person’s financial habits align with your own. Pay attention to the way they spend their money, how they approach splitting costs, and how they talk about their future. 

    When things are getting serious

    When you and your partner start getting more serious, it’s time to have some real conversations about money. These conversations can help you to get on the same page and ensure you have similar financial values. 

    1. What is your money history?

    When your relationship starts to get serious, you’ll want to start talking about your financial backgrounds. This doesn’t have to be a single conversation — It’s more likely that it will be a continuous conversation.

    Things to talk about include:

    • Your beliefs about money
    • Your families’ financial situation when you were growing up
    • The money habits you developed either from your childhood or afterward
    • The role that your families play in your finances today. For example, do either of your parents help pay your bills? Is one of you expected to help support your parents when they retire?

    2. What is your overall financial situation?

    Alright, this is the big one. This is the conversation where you’ll lay out your current financial situation for your partner. You might be nervous, but it’s critical if you’re going to take the next step together. Here are some key points to cover:

    • How much do you make?
    • What are your monthly expenses?
    • How much debt do you have?
    • Do you carry a credit card balance or pay your cards off in full each month?
    • What is your credit score?
    • How much savings do you have?

    Keep in mind, it’s absolutely not necessary to share bank logins or account numbers at this point. This conversation is just about letting your partner in on what’s going on with your money and what they might be getting themselves into if you stay together. 

    3. What are your short and long-term goals?

    When your relationship starts getting serious, it’s a good time to start talking about your financial goals. At this point, you and your partner each probably have your own individual goals. Maybe one of you wants to save for a vacation with your friends, or plans to go back to school.

    Not only will this talk help to determine how your partner’s finances might change in the future, but it’s also a good way to figure out if your goals align with one another. For example, maybe you can’t wait to travel the world but your partner is dead-set on buying a house and settling down. You probably want to figure that out sooner rather than later. 

    When you’re moving in together

    Moving in with your partner is a big step not only for your relationship, but also for your finances. There’s a lot of new ground to cover, and it’s more important than ever that you and your partner are on the same page.

    1. How will we split expenses, and whose name will be on each of the bills?

    The first big topic you’ll have to cover together is your new joint bills. First, decide whose name will be on each bill. While it’s probably a good idea to have both names on the leases, you might have just one name on things like water and electricity. Keep in mind that if you stop paying, the person on the bill is the one who’s ultimately responsible.

    Another conversation to have is how you’ll split up the bills. You can either split everything 50/50, or you can split expenses based on your income. So if one of you makes 60% of the household income while the other makes 40%, then you’d each pay a share of the bills proportional to your share of the household income.

    2. What happens if one of us loses our job?

    Now that you’re sharing bills, you’re financially relying on each other. In the best-case scenario, you’ll both have a steady income and won’t have to worry about this. But it’s a good idea to talk about how you’ll handle a situation where one of you is unemployed. 

    Does one of you make enough where you can pay all of the bills in that situation? Do you have parents you might be able to chip in for your half? What sort of emergency fund will you each maintain in case of a job loss?

    3. What happens to shared purchases if we break up?

    Chances are, you and your partner will buy items for your home while living together. Discuss how you’ll divide up those items if you end up breaking up later. While it sounds pessimistic to talk about this now, it will go a lot more smoothly than when you’re in the process of a breakup and fighting over the assets. 

    When you’ve decided to spend your lives together

    Now you and your partner have decided you want to spend the rest of your lives together. Congratulations! Along with all the excitement of planning your futures together, there are also some serious conversations you’ll need to have about money. 

    1. Should we combine bank accounts?

    One of the biggest financial decisions you and your partner will have to make is whether you’ll combine your finances, keep separate finances, or something in between.

    This decision is a personal one that will look different for every couple. Here are the three primary options:

    • Combine everything: You and your partner have joint checking and savings accounts. 
    • Keep everything separate: You and your partner keep all of your accounts separate and decide on a fair way to divide up the bills.
    • A little bit of both: You and your partner have joint accounts for bills and for large savings goals. But you also each maintain your own accounts for personal spending, bills, and financial goals.

    There’s honestly no right or wrong answer here. Some people have pretty strong opinions that one method is better than the others. I think that the best choice is the one that both you and your partner feel comfortable with. 

    2. How can we plan for the future?

    Once you decide to spend your life with someone, planning for the future becomes a shared task. Whether it’s planning for a financial goal or planning for an emergency, you’ve got to do it together. Here are some things you and your partner should plan for:

    • Financial goals: What are your shared financial goals that you’ll save for together?
    • Retirement: How will you prepare for retirement? Decide what accounts you’ll contribute to and how much you’ll contribute monthly.
    • Insurance: What types of insurance will you have in place to protect you and your partner in case of an emergency. Examples may include disability insurance and life insurance.

    3. How do we split up the assets if we get divorced? 

    No one wants to go into a new marriage thinking about divorce, but it’s still a topic you have to address. I can tell you that when I got married at 24, it didn’t occur to me that it might end in divorce. But two years later, that’s exactly what happened.

    While we want to think the best of our partner, the person you marry isn’t the person you divorce. Just because your partner says today that you’ll split everything down the middle doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll feel that way later. For that reason, you may want to consider a prenuptial agreement. 

    Final Thoughts

    Money is definitely a delicate topic in relationships. It’s one of the leading causes of divorce and of conflict in relationships. But you can help you avoid some of that conflict by talking honestly and openly with your partner about money early on. 

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