Not Spending Is Hard!

[Editor’s Note: This is an independent post written by JJ. This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.]

The weather is finally turning and I love it!  It was a long winter with so much snow and finally we’ve been having some warmer days full of sunshine.  The older I get, the less I enjoy the snow; ugh!

With warmer weather comes the feeling of wanting to go out and do more and spend more.  That’s not good for our budget so we work hard to control our tendencies and emotions to ensure we don’t break our budget.  If I had so much money that I never needed to work again and needed to figure out a way to spend all of my money, here are the things that I would buy right now (I included links so you can see what I would want):

  1. Private island
  2. House on the beach
  3. House in the mountains
  4. Tesla Model X
  5. Yacht
  6. Private jet
  7. Hire people to manage all of my new stuff

While it’s fun to dream, I actually am getting anxiety over thinking about how much money we would have to spend and stuff we would have to manage which is why I included number 7.

Since we thankfully (yes, I’m serious) don’t have the problems of too much money, let’s get back to real life.  Warmer weather does still make us want to spend money. I’ve noticed my wife and I wanting to spend more on clothes, outdoor experiences and fixing our house.  Also, thankfully, my wife and I are on the same page so we don’t break our monthly budgets. We methodically plan out our purchases and budget for the wants.

Quarter 1 Update

So with all of that, let’s take a look at how we did for the first quarter (January through March).  If you haven’t read Jack’s Q1 update, I highly recommend you check it out.  He talked about how to calculate savings rate, provided spreadsheets for you to download and use, and also discussed his savings rate.  It’s a great post.

Calculating Your Savings Rate

In Jack’s update, he writes that there are multiple ways to calculate your savings rate and I definitely agree with that statement.  Regardless of how you decide to calculate your savings rate, please make sure you calculate it the same way each month so you can accurately compare. The only difference we make when calculating compared to Jack is we include the principal pay-down on our loans in our savings rate. Let me walk you through an example of that.

We have a small car loan of about $12,000.  Each month our payment is about $267. That payment amount is split between principal and interest like any other type of loan.  The interest amount is about $50. The principal amount which is the amount the loan decreases is about $217.  We also pay an extra $400 towards our loan each month for a total payment of $667. I include the extra payment and principal reduction towards our savings rate which is about $617.

January:

Income: $7,075

Savings: $3,923

Savings Rate: 55%

 

February:

Income: $7,176

Savings: $4,265

Savings Rate: 59%

 

March:

Income: $7,090

Savings: $2,662

Savings Rate: 37%

March, what happened?!  It’s not as bad as it looks.  This summer, we’re going on our annual vacation with my in-law’s (whom I love dearly). This is a vacation I look forward to every year.  We paid for our summer rental during the month of March which decreased our savings rate. We actually absorbed that amount without stressing at all.  It’s cool to be able to pay for something like that and not have to worry about paying our other bills.

We’re In This Together

I’m happy with how quarter 1 went for us.  We still have some work to do, but we’re working on it TOGETHER. I’m not sure where you’re at in your financial journey, but here are some things that work for us:

  1. Make savings automatic.  A large percentage of our monthly savings is automatic.  The money gets taken out of our checks and deposited into our investment accounts.
  2. If debt is an issue for you, check out Dave Ramsey.  His programs helped us a ton!
  3. Check out ChooseFI.  I regularly listen to their podcast and read their blog articles.
  4. If you’re in a relationship, communicate with your partner.  Check out our monthly meeting article where we discuss and analyze our spending.  It’s not easy, but it’s important to make sure we stay on the same page.
  5. Save, but also live.  We recently spent some money on tattoos.  This would probably be frowned upon in the financial independence community, but I also want to be happy in my journey; and I love tattoos!

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Budgeting Starts and Ends with Us

[Editor’s Note: This is an independent post written by JJ. This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.]

On Friday, February 1, 2019, my wife and I had our monthly date night.  I made reservations for us at a new restaurant that had been recommended to us many times for their excellent atmosphere and food.  I left work to pick my wife up from our home and she looked absolutely beautiful. We got to the restaurant, sat at our table, and then it began.  See, this wasn’t an ordinary date and the conversation may not have been what you were expecting. 

The purpose of the evening was to hold our monthly household expenditure review.  Yup, that’s right. We were out enjoying each other’s company and discussing where every single dollar was spent for the previous month.  And this discussion happens every single month.

Our Why

We feel this date night is important on multiple levels.  The first is obvious, we need to be open and honest with each other about our spending.  I need to own up to my frivolous addiction to Diet Coke. Secondly, it allows us to have a conversation without all of life’s distractions.  It’s a couple hours of just us talking. No kids interrupting us every two minutes plus we put our phones away with the exception for taking pictures of our meals, because, well, we are millennials after all. Lastly, it allows us to dream.  We talk about life now and in the future, set goals and live how we want to live. Financial freedom starts and ends with controlling our spending.

2019 Goals

“We don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring so we plan for tomorrow (and beyond) with the information we have today.”

We start by ordering drinks and reviewing our goals for 2019 to make sure we’re taking the appropriate steps to meet those goals.  Typically, when we create goals we exceed those goals so we usually tweak them each month to make sure they’re not too easily attainable.  Our goals for 2019 include: save $5k in our emergency fund, payoff our small car loan by October, save $35,000 through various investment vehicles, consider refinancing our house to a 15-year mortgage, maintain our blogs (TeachFI and threeismyhappyplace.com), maintain our morning fitness routine and healthy eating, and finish our basement projects. Check out why we have to re-finish our basement, ugh — flooding!

Long-Term Goals

Next, we review our long-term goals.  Within that conversation, we discuss the steps we need to take each year to ensure we’re meeting those goals.  Again, we tweak as necessary.  Life can change so quickly, so it’s important to be flexible. We don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring so we plan for tomorrow (and beyond) with the information we have today. Check out the post on our written financial plan for more information on our long-term goals.

Spending – The Envelope System

The next item on our monthly household review agenda is to discuss our spending for the previous month.  This is not an easy discussion, but my biggest piece of advice for managing finances is to understand where every dollar goes.  We are fans of Dave Ramsey and the envelope system [Purchase Total Money Makeover].  Linked here is a great explanation of Dave’s envelope system. We have an envelope for each of our main expenses.  At the beginning of each month, we allocate money to each envelope and then only spend the money budgeted in each of our envelopes.  We’ve been budgeting using the envelope system for over ten years. We have the following envelopes: groceries, household, restaurants, pets, date nights, JJ fun money, Jessica fun money and miscellaneous.  

Spreadsheets and Apps

Along with the envelope system, my wife and I really enjoy creating and managing spreadsheets.  Creating spreadsheets are great for planning purposes, but it can get difficult and tedious tracking every dollar.  A couple years ago, I found an app called Personal Capital [Sign Up Here] and am loving it, and it’s free! I have all of my financial accounts (bank, investments, car loan and mortgage) connected to my Personal Capital account and check on them daily. Personal Capital really helps us discuss our spending for the month. Another great app that people love is called Mint, which is also free.

Ahhh…We Overspent in January

Back to our expenditure review meeting, we realized that we had overspent in January, by a lot!  We don’t have a gas envelope because we put gas on credit cards to earn rewards, but something interesting was happening and my wife and I were both guilty.  We would pump the gas, then pay inside and get a coffee. It looked like the expenses were just gas when in reality, it was gas and a few extra dollars every trip.  We both owned up to it and agreed to discontinue. We also noticed a couple monthly subscriptions that were costing more and more. We talked about those monthly subscriptions and realized the convenience was not worth the cost.  We canceled those expenses right before we ordered dessert.

Speaking of dessert, wow!  S’more dessert with homemade graham crackers. It was so good!

Our evening ended with a tour and brief history of the restaurant. All cooking is done within the wood fired grill pictured on the right. 

We concluded our date night by realizing that we’re in a great position to continue to meet and exceed our goals. We are so excited to be on the journey to financial independence.  We can’t wait to share our experiences with our son as he grows up to ensure he learns sooner than we did.

Our next household expenditure review is set for Friday, March 1, 2019.

Steps to a successful Household Expenditure Review

Do you budget and/or track your expenses?  Have you tried Dave Ramsey’s envelope system? What are your short-term and long-term goals?

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