Most families have too much of the month left over at the end of the paycheck. There’s seems to be this never-ending struggle to provide for the needs of a growing family amidst ever-increasing costs of living. Everyone wants to save for a house, the kids’ college education, weddings, and retirement, yet find it hard to just keep up—much less get ahead.
Three of the most valuable resources we have are time, money, and health. Unfortunately, most reach adulthood without much training in managing any of these.
That’s why most of my coaching includes personal financial management. The principles that govern good money management are essentially the same for time and health.
I’ve coached couples and taught seminars on financial stewardship for years. I’ve also taken many families through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.
Honestly, I had mentally assented to things like living debt-free, not using credit cards, paying off the mortgage early—“radical” stuff—yet never totally bought in until Ramsey’s course. That changed everything for Gail and me.
There are so many things that have been helpful over the years, but here are a few that have made the biggest difference for us in becoming debt-free and building towards financial freedom.
- Be in total agreement as a couple. If a husband and wife aren’t on the same financial page, they’re spinning their wheels. Work together on establishing goals, the spending plan to achieve those goals, choosing the right investments for you, etc. In these areas, two heads are better than one. It reduces friction in the marriage and allows for more effective action as a team. Gail and I have a monthly “finance committee meeting” where we review our goals and plans, making adjustments together along the way.
Reduce the debt. Live within your means. Don’t spend what you don’t have. And if you have debt, curb your lifestyle to get out of it as quickly as you can. When we decided to get serious about getting debt-free, we had two leased cars, a time share payment, and a mortgage. We sold one car, paid off the other, downsized our house, and in eighteen months we were debt-free. We made big choices and altered our lifestyle—yet we’ve never been happier.
Establish a spending plan. Doesn’t that sound better than a “budget”? Ramsey says to tell every dollar where it’s going to go. It’s called a zero budget—you have zero left over once you determine how you’ll spend each dollar you make. It’s your choice how you spend your money. But if you don’t decide ahead of time where your money will go, it will filter through your fingers and you’ll wonder where it went.
Use cash or the equivalent. For years, we cashed my paycheck and divided into envelopes according to our spending plan. You might make fun of something so unsophisticated, but we never overdrew an envelope. Once an envelope’s cash was gone, we were done spending unless we took from another envelope. If you’re disciplined with tracking your spending, you can use a debit card. Just think “envelopes.”
So much of what we wrestle with in life isn’t a lack of knowing what we should do, but not doing what we know to do. Take charge and take steps now to experience financial peace and freedom sooner than later.
Question: What has served as a financial breakthrough principle for you and your family? Share your answer in the comments below.