Thursday, December 2, 2010

Counting Pennies

I am so relieved that more and more people are using budgets.  I am of the opinion that counting your pennies can help alleviate a lot of stress in a home and a marriage.

Ryan and I were blessed from the get-go, and we were able to start our marriage virtually debt-free.  I have to add "virtually" because technically I think I had a $300-ish credit card balance that I'd been eliminating for some time since I had zero-percent interest.  We quickly paid that off, though, and determined from the get-go that we were going to be on the same page when it came to our money.  This took some adjustment as Ryan is a saver and I am a spender, but it did not take long for us to find middle ground which ended up being the dreams we had for our future.  We had a clear picture of our hearts' desires, and we agreed from the get-go that we were going to do things as biblically as possible and acquire as little debt as possible.

First goal: Save enough money to put 20% down on our first home.

At first, we did not keep a formal budget.  We had big plans which included my staying at home once we had children, so we lived off one salary from the very beginning so we would not experience any sort of shock once we lost that income.  Doing this enabled us to save enough money to put 20% down on our first house, just nine weeks before welcoming our first child and becoming a single-income family.

In March of 2008, when our second child was six-months old, Ryan and I attended Crown Financial Ministries' Journey to Financial Freedom seminar at our church.  For the most part, it merely re-enforced what we already believed and practiced, but it did help us to set our sights higher in terms of long-term financial goals.

For example, right before we got married, we had purchased a brand new car with zero-percent interest.  Since we weren't paying interest, we were in no hurry to pay-off the balance of our loan.  After the seminar, though, we agreed that there was no reason for us to hang on to that debt since we had enough money in savings to pay off the loan.  Wouldn't you know, not six months after settling that loan, we learned we were pregnant again and were in the market for a minivan since our sedan would not be spacious enough for our growing family!  We traded in our sedan and used money from our savings account to pay cash for our minivan and determined that the only debt we were comfortable with from there on out was our mortgage.

As it turns out, I am a numbers geek at heart.  I quickly set-up a spreadsheet in Excel that allowed me to keep detailed records of our spending.  Every penny we earned was accounted for and for the first time, we were being purposeful about our savings.  In Crown, they use the Money Map to help you determine where you are on the "journey to financial freedom."  We were blessed enough to start at Destination 5, and we are working hard to arrive at Destination 6 which is paying off your mortgage and funding your children's educations.

For our family, December is the month when we get to sit down and evaluate our budget for the new year and set new financial goals.  As we started doing this, it made me want to share more about it those around me.  I am hopeful to take some time in the upcoming weeks to walk through the basics of the Crown Money Map with you and talk about the challenges and rewards that come with a budget.

I would love to hear more about your financial goals or answer any questions you may have about starting a budget.

No comments: