During lunch on Saturday, Chris Hogan from The Dave Ramsey Group spoke to us about the 7 Baby Steps. If you have not ever heard of Dave Ramsey, I suggest you pick up his book Total Money Makeover in which he explains budgets, debt and how to tackle your debt in a reasonable and not-so-exhausting manner. You can order from Amazon here.
A and I had received his book as a wedding gift from a family friend. While I have read through it and I have been trying to put some of his principles into place in my own life, I have to admit: it is pretty darn hard. I struggle a lot with this because at first: a. A and I weren’t tackling this together and b. Most, if not all of my $$ goes directly into my student loan payments, leaving me with little wiggle room.
Since Chris was very engaging and fun, we both walked away with the determination to follow through with the 7 Baby Steps. We are only on Baby Step #2 – and we may be there for a while. But that’s okay.
So, what are these Baby Steps**?
Step 1: Have a starter emergency fund of $1000. Clarification of an emergency: your car breaks down/you get in an accident/ your roof collapses etc. It does not include rainy day funds, vacation expenses, credit card bills, new school clothes etc. It is for emergency purposes ONLY.
Step 2: Pay off all Debt. Yikes. The idea here is to list all the money you owe smallest to largest. In addition to paying the minimum on all, any leftover cash is put towards the smallest loan. Why? To pay it off faster. Some may think that putting the extra money on the largest interest rate is the better idea. Think of it this way: Paying off a smaller loan first is a more rewarding path. you will be excited to ‘get one out of the way’ and will be more inclined to continue using the snowball system than if you just kept chipping away at all of them and not seeing any fruit for your labor. Does that make sense? Once your smallest debt is paid off, the money is then the ‘extra cash’ to put towards the second smallest debt. Eventually all will be paid off except your largest – and even that one won’t take that long!
Step 3: Have a Fully Funded (3-6 months) Emergency Fund. This can be a savings account or a money market account- whichever you choose. Ideally, you should have 6-12 months of living expenses saved for those ‘I-just-lost-my-job-what-am-I-going-to-do’ emergencies. Maybe your spouse is retiring from the military and there isn’t a job lined up yet. Or your wife is quitting her job to be a stay at home mom for a couple of years. Whatever it may be, there needs to be savings for it.
Step 4: Retirement. Investing 15% (or more!) of household income into Roth IRAs and tax-favored retirement accounts. It is recommended you talk with a tax and investment/portfolio professional before beginning.
Step 5: College Fund – for those kiddos in your life!
Step 6: Pay off your Mortgage. Try your best to pay it off early. Maybe use some of those $$ previously spent on debt payments?
Step 7: Build Wealth & Give. Invest in your wealth and give generously. Have you ever heard the saying “The more you give, the more you receive”? I believe it is true. And not just when it comes to money.
**And one thing I must add to this: you cannot, CANNOT continue onto the next step until the previous step is finished. Let me say that again (because it is hard for me too!): you cannot begin a fully funded emergency fund without first clearing all debt from your name – except maybe your mortgage.
I said that A & I are on Baby Step #2. We sat down a few days after the conference and tallied everything up. It. was. so. hard. Especially since you never really know how much you spend until you have to scrutinize everything. We had always thought that we had a good handle on our spending – saving up for things we wanted, paying off the credit card each month if we had used it etc – but came to realize that we had a chunk of money each month that we had no idea where it was going.
The hardest part was trying to figure out the amounts we wanted to spend in different categories each month (outside the fixed categories like rent, internet, insurance etc). We each had a ‘wants’ and a ‘needs’ category and our items were very different. In the end, we decided on a set amount for each ‘need’ category as well as a set amount as a ‘slush fund’. A & I both have one. This is where we can do whatever we want with the $$ but at the end of the month (or before) if it is gone, then tough luck. Gotta wait until next month.
Has this new, tighter budget been easy? Nope. It was barely the end of the first week and I had already spend 25% of my total… and I had three. more. weeks. Not that I spend a lot of money in general. It just puts things a little bit more in perspective when there is $xx and I have to decide if I want to go for a pedicure with friends, register for a race or buy new running gear.
What other ways have I been restricting myself on? Pre-marriage conference, I had a Friday morning indulgence of ordering a Starbucks Caramel Macchiatto en route to work. That adds up man. Have I cut it out? Yes and no. I don’t go on Fridays anymore; instead I save it for girlfriend coffee dates. Besides, it is more fun to do Starbucks with a friend 🙂
I hope you and your family can put some of these principles into action in your own life. It is hard and sometimes downright frustrating but I promise that you will be more intentional in how you spend your time, money and talent. You may even discover a new hobby or reconnect with an old friend!
I am not going to write about the 3rd workshop of the day since I think I covered it pretty well in the post on Workshop I/Saturday morning’s general session. The workshop just dove a little deeper than the early morning session.