My husband and I used to be really really bad with money. Like addicting to shopping bad. Whenever we wanted something, we went out and bought it. We didn’t really discuss our financial situation when we moved in together so he wasn’t aware that I had nearly 10K in credit card debt while in nursing school and I didn’t know that he had credit card debt enough to match mine. After we moved in we just went about our business and since our bank accounts remained separate we both paid the minimum amount on our cards and just keep everything the same…except we kept on charging. When we got married the debt got even worse due to the cost of the wedding. Even though our parents helped we still had many things that needed to be purchased and our wonderful line of credit was there when we needed it most. Isn’t that always the way it is? When you feel like you’ve hit a financial hard spot tons of credit card ads appear offering zero interest for 6 months or triple points, etc.
So fast forward after our wedding we had sold our previous home and moved into our official “starter” home that we purchased together. Still in credit card debt, on top of my student loan debt since I’d graduated nursing school. I was not interested in combining bank accounts because we both made similar incomes and liked handling our money separately. The issue I’ve learned about this over the past 9 years is that while we kept things separate we never discussed money, hardly ever. Now if you’re anything like me initially this sounds like the dream. It’s been proven that couples fight about money and subsequently it can lead to divorce. So I thought we were ahead of the game. I thought if our bank accounts are separate than I can’t tell him what to do with his money and he can’t tell me what to do with mine. This was the dumbest mistake ever. Because it meant we weren’t talking about money period. Our debt was climbing and neither one of us knew because even though we were married we focused just on ourselves.
In 2017 my husband made a big job change. Like huge. He had decided that he wanted to leave his business where he was self-employed and take a more regular job like your average 8—4. Now initially I was excited about this because it was going to mean he’d be home more and at this point we had 2 children under 3. Then we realized our finances were about to change in a major way. We then decided that it was time to join our bank accounts together.
Now I would like to rewind just a bit in this story because I don’t want to make it seem like we NEVER talked about our credit card issues previously because we did finally have a discussion and we were both working hard to pay off our individual debts that we had. However now we were facing a big financial change which meant we really had to get serious about eliminating credit card debt and putting our family on a budget. Let me be honest with you…it sucked in the beginning.
You see I liked being able to buy whatever I wanted when I wanted. I had this thought in my head that I worked hard in nursing school and I was going to enjoy the benefits of a good paying job after all the hard work I put in. However I also knew that we as a family had big goals including purchasing a new home.
I realized now everything had to change. We sat down and discussed our finances. I started following AMAZING budget/financial experts which I’ll tag down below. I listened to Dave Ramsey and read his books. Yes it was a lot of information at first but one we sat down and dissected it all we decided to implement some big changes.
Things we did immediately:
We stopped eating out. This was costing us nearly $300 or more a month. We always had plenty of food at home but like most people we enjoyed the social aspect of eating out and HELLO having someone cook for you and do the cleanup I mean it’s a mother’s dream not going to lie,
We stopped buying things at our every whim. Even now we are in our new home that we moved into in September and there are a few things we would like to do with it but we pay cash. And if we can’t pay cash at the time due to other financial obligations then the project goes on the back burner until we can. We started thinking about things in categories including want vs. need. We basically started treating our budget like it was an completely out of control toddler that needed a time out asap.
When we started tackling our debt we brought our savings down to $1000. This was hard for me. But I’d learned from reading financial books that money in the bank when you have debt is like adding sand to water. You never build up any true savings.
We got rid of direct tv. Hello Netflix, spectrum streaming and Hulu. Much cheaper and we don’t even miss it.
We switched to straight talk. We went from paying nearly $250 every month to under $100 and the service has been the same. When we want to get a new phone we wait until it becomes a need and then we save for it.
I got a second per diem (as needed) job as a registered nurse for extra income. I worked that job for over a year and now I am back to working just my one Job but I don’t rule out going back because I am Still working on my student loans.
We sat down and starting talking about our financial goals and each week since then we still continue to discuss where we are at and where we are headed. I find my anxiety regarding finances is better when both me and my husband are in the know about what’s going on.
We stopped charging. At least, we stopped carrying a balance. We realized that for us as a couple carrying a balance on a credit card is a slippery slope. So we went down to just keeping one credit card that we use for all our purchases for points reasons but we always look at our budget binder to ensure we aren’t doing any unnecessary charging.
We save for the things we know are coming up. I have a Christmas club account and a vacation savings account because for many years we charged vacations and they can add up very quickly and can be overwhelming when you get back from that dream vacation and see that looming bill. we also watch our family calendar very closely to be sure we aren’t caught off guard by a special event like a birthday, wedding, baby shower, etc.
I created a family budget binder. I am naturally type “A” so this was fun for me. I used Instagram and pinterest a great deal when setting it up because I wanted templates for writing down our monthly budget, tracking any debt we have and making a monthly meal plan. We aren’t always perfect and we don’t always stick to the meal plan 100% but by writing the plans out and having monthly spending goals as a family it keeps us both accountable.
One of the things I was most worried about when this all started was that my husband and I would fight more about money by going to one joint bank account. I wouldn’t necessarily say we had huge “fights” about it but we definitely had our share of disagreements about how money should be spent. It was rough adjusting especially because not only were we combining accounts but we were also starting on actual budget which meant decreased “fun” spending for both of us. But we’ve made it. We have made excellent progress and now just have my student loans left as well as our cars and our goal for 2020 is to put as much money to them as we can with the goal of eliminating my student loan debt by the end of next year.
If you’re unsure where to start my recommendation to you is to sit down and write down all your bills. Don’t forget to include any monthly subscriptions you have including hulu, Netflix, Disney+, ipsy, fabfitfun, any monthly thing you pay so you can see the big picture. Track your spending accurately for one month. Every receipt for everything you pay cash for our swipe your bank card or credit card. You want to see the real picture the good, bad and the ugly.
One you get a month of data Then look at your income and see what the difference is once you subtract all the debts. Then, if you’re wanting to change your situation look at the things you can live without. Maybe suspend your subscriptions for a bit until your financial picture looks better. Stop eating out. Pack your lunches. Reign in your Ulta spending (I know it’s so hard!!!). Watch your amazon prime spending. This is a big one. Amazon has a grip on us all but part of what makes them successful is living on the impulse buy. Everyone knows it is so easy to add something to your amazon cart and just click “buy now.” It’s instant gratification.
I promise you a little pain for the greater gain is worth it. Write down your financial goals. It makes them more tangible. And if you are married or have a significant other you share money with make sure they are on the same page with you. Working together makes it so much easier because you have each other when times get tough and they will. Don’t be naive. Sometimes too much restriction can lead to binge spending and you definitely don’t want that either but we are all human. If you find you had a rough month and fell off the a bit don’t give up. Just pick up where you left off and keep pressing on. You’ll thank yourself in the end when you get to where you want to be with your financial goals whatever that looks like for you and your family. I know you can do this because I did it.
All my best,
Below are some of the financial Bloggers and experts I have followed in my journey to becoming a better budgeter