Oh, 2016. You were a whirlwind. You killed off half of Hollywood. You gave us a presidential election that couldn’t have been dreamed up by the producers of whatever that Kardashian show is called. 2016 was a year where the unexpected happened, sometimes in a big way, at some point for virtually everyone. What a great comfort, then, that God is in control, right?
I had a great year with R. It was our first full year as a married couple, and I think the adjustment has gone well. She probably rolls her eyes a lot more now than she did when she was single, but I’m adorable, so that makes up for my antics. See? She just rolled her eyes again when she read that! We started out the year with the rough idea that we needed to get out of debt. We kind of knew what that looked like, so we started meandering down the path in more or less the right direction. By January, I had read The Total Money Makeover, R and I had listened to about half of the Financial Peace University CDs together, and we at least had a budget. We weren’t very focused, though, and our progress (or lack thereof) showed it. I thought I knew better than the advice we had listened to, and I was a little selfish in wanting to get my debt cleared out before we turned our attention to our debt. After months of treading water, we finished FPU and decided to dive in, do it Dave’s way, and really start attacking this beast. That’s when we re-prioritized our debts, committed to working together and got rid of the “his” and “her” debt designations, elevated the budget past ornamental status, and started this blog as an accountability tool for it all. The final blow to what little frivolous spending we were still doing came this week, when our joint checking account finally(!) became a reality. Now, R will get a push notification on her phone every time I go through the drive-through, and I’ll see the minute she walks out of Half Price Books with an illustrated Harry Potter book. After all, the buzzword of the decade is “transparency,” right? Now that we can’t hide those guilty little purchases from each other any more, even for a day or two, we can patch up the holes in our funnel and hopefully make even better progress in 2017.
…So We Know Where To Go
I think our biggest mistake this year was not having any goals to measure our progress by. All we had was, “Debt is bad.” And that’s not a bad mindset! In fact, I consider it much better than some our age who aren’t even considering their financial situations, let alone analyzing them to see where they could improve. But in terms of attainable, measurable goals, “Debt is bad, let’s get out of debt,” is just… not one. So, for 2017, here’s what we’re planning to accomplish:
- Pay off R’s car by June (goal moved up from original estimate of 11/17)
- Pay off Discover loan by September (goal moved up from original estimate of 02/18)
- Discover card down to below $1,000
If we can accomplish all that this year, that will represent over $10,000 paid off in one year. That leaves my student loans to be wiped out in 2018, and maybe some kind of miracle might happen where we could be completely debt-free at the end of 2019. The original estimate was February 2021, so having that done over a year early would be just peachy in my book.
Special Guest Author: Mrs. My Wife!
In the spirit of making this post about what we learned together this past year, I asked my beautiful wife if she had any input on what I had written before I posted this. To my surprise, she didn’t just give me a point or two to try and work in, she wrote a whole thing! I don’t think I can improve on it at all, so I’ll just turn it over to her:
Getting into the flow of a budget is really hard and made me realize how selfish I am when it comes to the things I want. When we first started our budget, I was really excited because we had all this money set aside for our bills, date nights, and (the biggest category) student loans. After the initial excitement wore off and I would spend all my fun money or fast food money, I’d start pulling from other categories. I just HAD to go out to eat with friends; let’s pull that from my clothing category, it’s only $20. I really wanted a new mug or random item from Target; let’s categorize that as student loans, what’s an extra $10 missing. The thing is, just like eating out, those small pulls from other categories add up to a lot of missing money over a year. It’s hard to admit but we probably could have paid off quite a bit more of our debt if I had been less selfish and harder on myself. And when my last pair of jeans finally bit the dust and I needed new ones, I wouldn’t have had to shuffle around money because my clothing budget would have been full.
Getting into a budget is extremely freeing. Before we started this process, I was stuck in the paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle that so many are experiencing. I was doing mental math every time I swiped my card because I wasn’t sure if I had the money for rent or gas to drive two hours to see my boyfriend (editor’s note: we started out our relationship living half a state apart while she was in school). But even though I was always worried about money, I never really did anything about it. Thankfully, Dave’s program brought me to the light. Making a budget isn’t hard. Paying down your debt isn’t hard. Preparing for the eventual setback isn’t hard. The difficult part is getting up and doing it, and once you do, the weight of that worry starts to get less and less. I am no longer doing mental math in the Price Chopper line trying to figure out if I have enough for groceries. When our cars need an oil change, I don’t have to skip out on date night with my husband because we already have the money set aside. Are we swimming in extra cash? Obviously not. We still have a ways to go on this journey. But I am extremely thankful for the provisions God has blessed us with and am proud of my husband and the work we have put in this past year. I can’t wait to see how we grow in the following years.
She’s super great, guys. A beautiful, godly woman who once said, “Nothing says fun like fiscal responsibility”? Pretty much the perfect gal right there. Thank you for contributing, honey!
Remembering Who’s In The Driver’s Seat
Now that I’ve gone and told you all about my goals and plans for this next year, I’m reminded of James 4:13-15: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.‘” So in 2017, we’ll work towards better financial responsibility with the understanding that our plans are not God’s plans. Whatever He has planned for us is ultimately what will bring Him the most glory, so that’s what we’ll do. Have a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year, everyone!