We have been on a quest to pay all our debt off. Makes sense if you want to live a self-sufficient life, but even if that were not our goal, it is still a smart thing to do. One is not required to live a life of commitment to one financial institution or another. We took a personal finance class at our church about seven months ago and it completely changed our life. And, I do mean utterly altered the manner in which we deal with our dough!
We have always made sure our bills were paid. We give to our church and other charitable causes. We have rarely been in the devastating position to have to borrow money to make ends meet. That being said, we didn’t know that there was so much more to learn in dealing with our money!
It seems so simple…. Get a paycheck, pay the bills, take care of household essentials, sock away some savings, and then whatever’s left is used in any manner deemed fit at the moment. The only issue with this line of thinking was that the leftover money just seemed to evaporate out of our account without us ever even realize what was happening. One minute there and the next gone, never to return!
During this class, we had to take a good long look at our debt, which to be honest was uncomfortable, but not too horrific. Fortunately for us, our vehicles are paid off, we can afford rent, life’s essentials, vacations (or in our case, the deer lease since that is where we spend most of our time away from home anyway), and to put money into our savings account. I admit that we do have some personal nonsense debt like credit cards with balances that should and can be paid off quickly. We also have some larger debt that we have to take care of such as student loans for each of us, and a business loan taken out a while back. This part of the class didn’t bother me too much.
The next part was the awful segment of the class for us. It dealt with how we pay our bills and then pay for anything else we buy. Bills are paid online, by mail, or by phone. Not so bad or even life-changing. However, everything else has to be paid for in cash. EVERYTHING!!! Groceries, gas, clothing, haircuts, recreational activity, even going out for dinner. No cash…….. no doing any of these things. Plain and simple. Our life was about to get difficult!
Well, maybe difficult is not the right word. Inconvenient is the proper term, I think. For us, that meant no more handiness of paying for gas at the pump, no more adding extra goodies to the grocery buggy, and no more spontaneous outings to restaurants or the movies. We had to start planning ahead and setting aside money for EVERYTHING that we do. How did any of this direct us to our goal of living a simpler life?
Surprisingly, it was not that hard once we sat down and made a budget, together for the first time in our married life, and figured exactly where we needed to disperse our money. We set up funds ranging anywhere from an auto fund to a clothing fund. I even have a chicken/chicken coop fund! We pay cash for everything and now we see the value in doing so. Shelling out actual money is so different from swiping a debit card. It is almost painful to hand over real dollars whereas a little plastic card causes no reaction in us at all. Suddenly, we focus on every dime we spend and nothing is considered insignificant.
Now, my husband and I have a monthly budget meeting to go over upcoming expenses. We are very different in our thoughts on handling money, so coming together on our budget really brings peace to our marriage. We are both on the same page and on board with how to go about everything that we are trying to accomplish.
What we have learned over the past several months has helped in so many ways. First off, we figured out that we were nickeling and diming ourselves outrageously. Little items like a drink and a snack when we fuel up or randomly deciding to go out to eat after work really start to add up. We figured out that Christmas or birthdays are not unexpected, in that they come every year, so we should be setting money aside to pay for those things. Most importantly, by becoming so focused on budgeting and paying cash, we found out that we have a lot more money left and have been able to start chinking away at the debt we do have. I see a self-sufficient farm in our future and it makes me smile.