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When I was a kid I dreamed of the day I would be a ‘grown up’. Having my own house, my own rules and my own little family sounded idyllic. What I didn’t think about as a kid was having my own car payments, rent bills, insurance premiums, phone fees, school debt and all the other fun things that seem to never stop taking from my not-so-bottomless bank account.
Often people say that finances are a huge point of conflict and tension in marriage. But even with a mountain of debt from medical school, and all the other expenses involved in raising a family, finances have never been a stress for us.
Our money management style might not be the text book version of financial planning and budgeting, but it does three amazing things for us. One – it allows to save money. Two, we always have a little extra for vacation. Three, there is not money conflict in our marriage. SO without further ado, I will share the seven tips that make up our haphazard banking system with you.
1. Don’t spend more money than you have.
We NEVER ever ever ever ever ever EVER rack up credit card debt that we can’t pay off by the deadline. We don’t buy things we can’t afford by taking out a loan. The only exception to this rule (for us) is school debt. We see medical school as a long term investment with very little risk. We also are considering a home purchase when Kris graduates as we see that as an investment that would greatly benefit our family.
2. Live within your means, but LIVE.
This might seem like bad advice… But it works for us. If you have some extra spending money, don’t hoard it all away!! In my opinion life is too short to always focus on the future. Enjoy the moment. Make memories. Do what makes you happy. And don’t feel guilty doing it. You deserve to treat yourself now and then.
Plan for the future, but remember that being rich won’t make you happy. Being happy will make you happy.
3. Save money everywhere you can.
I will focus on this tip a little bit more because ultimately I think it is the most life changing. This habit is what made us able to scrape together all the cash we needed to spend a whole month in Hawaii. This was when we were just starting medical school and absolutely dirt poor.
Save small amounts of money everywhere you can! I do crazy things like buy winter coats in July and summer clothes in November. I can safely guess my kids size six months in advance. End of season sales can be amazing. The dress Zoey is wearing in this post cost me 97 cents brand new at the end of last spring!
One way we save A LOT is using a pay as you go phone plan. It never ceases to amaze me how many people get locked into long and expensive phone contracts and act like they had no other option! Kris and I have always done pay as you go and it saves us a ton.
I recently switched to Ting mobile, it is different than most pay-as-you-go because you literally only pay for what you use. The average monthly bill is $23 with Ting. Contracts from the big phone companies cost between $50-90 for the cheapest plan. So imagine you switched from a $70/month plan, to Ting. You could save $47/month, which is $564 a year! Since I text using iMessage (which uses wifi or data) I only have sent FOUR legit text messages this month, so that is all I pay for. Below is my phone bill, I still have 11 days left, but I am pretty happy with this. The most expensive thing is data – and they have a fancy eBook all about how to lower your data usage here.
Other ways to save can include being conscious of what gas station you go to – use an app like GasBuddy to find the cheapest prices. Buy store brand products like Great Value at Walmart or Kirkland at Costco. Eat out less. Open the windows instead of turning on the AC if it isn’t toooooo too hot out. Take shorter showers. Use leftovers! Sell things you don’t use anymore on craigslist or eBay. Go out shopping with a list and stick to it. Shop at a cheaper grocery store for the basics and go to more expensive stores only for things you need for a specific recipe (we LOVE Aldi). Reconsider everything in your cart before checking out and put back the things you don’t need.
The money you save can go towards making family memories and all the ‘treat yourself’ moments I mentioned in tip #2. BTW – bring your Ting phone along on these family adventures and capture all the memories. I rarely get service on my old carrier at the park we were biking, but I was posting away on Instagram with Ting!
4. Be accountable to each other for big purchases, but not small ones.
Set a spending threshold. If something is over a certain amount of money, discuss it with your spouse before buying it. Decide on that price together. If something is below that number, don’t worry about it. Kris knows that sometimes I just need to go on a mall shopping spree, and I know that he needs to upgrade to the newest iPhone every time it comes out (he sells his old one and buys the newest so it doesn’t cost much). We act like single people with a joint bank account for small purchases and it works for us. That leads to my next tidbit of wisdom.
5. No my money, your money. Have a joint bank account.
Don’t ever get caught in the trap of comparing. Saying this is my money – and this is yours – will almost never lead to happy conversations. It is quite common for one partner in a marriage to contribute more financially than the other partner. But finances (obviously) aren’t the only way to measure contribution to a relationship. Right now I am the breadwinner – but Kris contributes immeasurably in other ways. We both work our hardest and it would be harmful to our relationship if I were to say, I get to decide how we spend the money, since my name is on the check. When Kris gets a job after school roles will reverse a little. But we will still be equal contributors. Don’t waste time comparing!
6. Save a set percentage from every paycheck.
I never transfer money from my business to our personal account without putting 10% into savings. We pretend the money in our savings account doesn’t even exist. You don’t have to put away 10%. That is just the number that works for us – choose a percentage that is realistic for you and stick to it. It may be a transition at first, but after awhile you won’t even notice the difference. Don’t delve into your savings unless it is an absolute, no-other-options-available, emergency. Or save it for a house downpayment, or your kids college fund.
7. Money comes and money goes.
I have been saying that since I was about 14 and I got my first job. My younger sister always hoarded her money (in a good way😜) and I would always spend mine. She would tease me that I could never save and I would tease her that she couldn’t spend. Anytime we discussed it I started saying to her, “money comes and money goes”. It was kind of a way to say, don’t stress! What started as a joke has become a philosophy I live by. I don’t let spending give me anxiety, and I never hold on to buyers remorse (other than to learn a lesson for next time). There is always an opportunity in the future to make money. Even if you have to get a job that you never planned on at some point in your life, hard working people find a way. And in times of crisis people band together and help each other out.
When Kris or I complain about the high cost of something we want to do – we remind each other that often you have to pay for the things you want. Disney World was expensive for our budget – but it came down to whether we would rather have that money in the bank, or have the Disney memories to look back on.
Stick to these habits and spend the money you save on family.
It is amazing how much you can save when you put a little extra thought into your spending. And when you combine that with letting go of financial stress and living in the moment, you will end up making priceless memories with the people you LOVE. We just spent the $500+ we saved this year by using Ting, on bikes for the family. These pictures are the first time we took them out. It was the best time ever. We spent hours riding around the park. I live for days like this one and can’t think of anything better to invest money in than family time. I have never wished for a refund on money spent making memories.
Obviously these tips won’t apply to every one in every life situation, so take what you need and leave the rest behind! One thing you definitely shouldn’t leave behind though is my Ting recommendation. Unless you are a social anomaly and have no phone, everyone can save money by switching to Ting. Use this special link to activate your Ting plan and you will get a $25 credit on your account (basically a month free!!). Since Ting uses other carrier towers, they have amazing statewide service, and accept phones from many other networks. 80% of phones work on Ting, so chances are high yours will too. You can check here to see if your phone will work with Ting or watch this short video about finding a phone that will work with Ting.
How do you save money? Have finances ever been a point of tension in your relationship with a significant other? How have you resolved that??
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Phone: iPhone 7+ in Rose Gold via Ting | Ring: Ringly | Diaper Bag Purse: Lily Jade | My Swimsuit | Zander’s Moccasins | Zoey’s Moccasins: Freshly Picked (Limited Edition, try searching FP Pineapple Moccasins on eBay)