I wasn’t a crazy spender in high school or college but I also never thought much about my finances until I got married. Now that we have almost 4 years of marriage under our belt, our first mortgage, and have added a third member to our family (Nora Leigh, born January 4th!), the topic of finance is discussed more often in our home. One small decision Dave and I made will impact the rest of our lives and set us up for greater success and less stress. If you have any kids or have not started your first career yet, I’d encourage you to make the same decision we made that I consider the smartest financial decision we’ve ever made:
Allocate your money NOW
Let me explain…
The income we had during our first year of marriage came from Dave’s internship he had before we got married. We had to make that income last the whole 10 months because Dave was finishing his 5th year of college while I completed a dietetic internship. When Dave and I each started our career after college, we were faced with two options upon receiving our first paychecks:
1. Immediately put money toward tithe, savings, and any other big category (for us it was $30,000 of student loans and then a 6-month emergency fund and then a down-payment for a home)
2. Find ways to spend that paycheck- new clothes, new car, vacation, more stuff for the home, eating out more…we can think about saving and giving later.
I can tell you that it would have been WAY harder for me to go through scenario #2. Even if we went with option #2 and then tried cutting back on our spending so we could give and save, I don’t think it would add up to the amount we could give and save if we allocated that money right from the beginning.
We set up our budget and decided what percent of our income we wanted to tithe, save, and allocate to other categories. We started with 10% going to tithe, 15% toward retirement, and a whopping 30% went toward student loans. We had already been living like broke college students prior to that first paycheck so the amount of money that went toward those 3 categories didn’t sting very much since we never really knew how it felt to have all that extra money.
Let’s say you make $50,000 annually and you spend that $50,000 annually. After a couple years you decide you want to allocate the same percentages we did for our 3 categories (10% tithe + 15% savings + 30% loans = 55% total). We’ve all heard of ways to save a little cash here and there by turning off lights, taking shorter showers, or turning your heat down…but that will never add up to the 55% ($27,500) you’d like to put in the 3 categories. Allocating the money from the beginning would allow you to live off the other 45% ($22,500) with more ease because you never knew what it was like to have the full $50,000 to spend.
Where’s the fun in that?
Financially this method sounds wise but some of you might question the personal impact of a decision like this- how are we supposed to have any fun living this way? I was very driven to pay off my student loans ASAP, so much so that I’d make an extra $10 payment if I could just to get a little more ahead. Because I had this mindset, I knew I ran the risk of not having any fun. Just like we allocated money for saving and giving at the beginning of every month, we decided to do the same for entertainment and vacation. Sure I could have put an extra $50/month toward student loans if we hadn’t allocated that to our entertainment fund that first year of marriage but it kept us sane since we could enjoy the occasional night out without guilt.
Just do something
Everyone has their own method for budgeting. Some methods work well for some and would be miserable for others. In my experience, our smartest financial decision was to allocate our income from the beginning. Dave and I always agreed that we wanted to increase our giving rather than our standard of living if raises and promotions came along, so our smartest financial decision aligned with our overall values and goals. I’m sure it would be nice to have an extra chunk of cash to spend each month, but we are comfortable and content with the way we live.
What’s one of the smartest financial decisions you’ve ever made?
My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.