Getting a grip on my finances: my plan / by Lauren DeMarco

I have said over and over “I hate money stuff” and this statement has been holding me back. I am finally feeling like the pain of this problem is worse than my fear of changing it so I am buckling down and tackling this beast!

Unlike the uphill battle of cleaning (because it’s just going to get back dirty again) and dieting (which I have totally given up because it’s the biggest cultural scam of life), money stuff can be handled once and for all! (YAY!) I know maintenance will follow this acute, aggressive effort to get into the driver seat of my financial situation but I am good at “obsessing” over something for a while and then once the obsession wears off, keeping a few, firm habits. My plan is to obsess over getting it all sorted out, being very strict with it, so that when the “high” wears off, I am left with a better understanding of situation and spending/saving habits.

Obviously everyone does these things differently but I like to read other people’s detailed plans to see what I can pull from them for myself. So that’s what I am going to do here, write out my plan. Keep in mind, I don’t know what I am doing exactly or how it will turn out but I invite you into the trenches with me as I try to figure it out…

Some context: I am married, been married 7 plus years. We had separate money before we got married and since we both hate dealing with money we just kept paying for stuff individually for a while, would communicate sometimes, not enough, and try to understand what the other was doing. Recently we had a discussion about joint expenses, personal budgets (for things like art supplies for me or sporty equiptment for him, not stuff we need but stuff we want), gifts, childcare, food, whatever. We came up with a plan of what bills I would pay for from my direct deposit and what bills he would pay for from his. Goal: neither of us is overspending on crap while the other is pinching pennies. He has some school loans to contribute to but we also have to think about who is the primary health insurance holder, random things like that…

Some more context: My parents and mother-in-law help us with child care and treat the children to various things that they want them to have like certain quality clothing items and special gifts. My parents paid for my college, I didn’t make a bank-breaking choice which helped but they also gave us a beautiful wedding. We are super, super grateful and recognize this privilege.

A little more context: We have made some tough choices over the last 10 years to get us to the place we are now. We pay a mortgage on our home but additionally, in order to advance our careers, and by being more ignorant than we should have been (learning as we go) we have accumulated a little (certainly not earth shattering amount but a nice chunk) of debt. We both work full time and pick up overtime as we can. We are under-buyers but do enjoy curating our home with prized possessions and treating ourselves/our kids once in a while to “wants”.

My plan

  1. I am writing out my debt number and my savings number on a monthly basis. I have a “GET TO WORKBOOK” planner and on each calendar page, at the beginning of each month, I want to update the numbers (debt and savings). Seeing the debt go down and the savings slowly accumulate over time will give me a lot of pride and motivation.

  2. I am setting a plan for how each deposit will be divided based on when my bills are due and how our life schedule is set up. For example: the first check of the month will go toward the electric bill, water bill, car insurance, and the minimum payment on each credit card. I will have X amount left over which will be divided out for weekly grocery trips, gas, our 1st Sunday family breakfast at our favorite local restaurant, and gifts (for birthday parties, etc). I have a 2nd check of the month, an overtime check, cash from one of my husband’s checks to put toward child care, and any other income I get from consigning the kids clothing or selling random artwork I make, which all get divided up intentionally as well.

  3. I will keep a daily “balance” and record an expenses on the notes in my phone (because its always with me) and update my paper planner from my phone. The only credit card I plan on using, very carefully and responsibly, is my target card because I get 5% off my purchase by using that card. I plan to only charge an amount that I can pay off within that same month.

  4. I have set specific dates on my calendar as “budget days” but also check in more frequently with my bank account to make sure I am not overspending or being reckless.

  5. I will use a pinterest board named “I want” for things I find online and would consider purchasing for our home, for myself, whatever. I want to use a third of my overtime money to buy things from this pin board so I feel like I can have things that I want sometimes. This makes me feel like I am giving to myself so I can then expect from myself when it’s time to be strict. I have my eye on a bedspread right now and I need a new bathing suit so I am on a quest for that!

I am excited to use our tax refund to make conscious, responsible choices for our family as well but since I have no idea how much money that will be I do not want to start thinking about it yet…

We have looked at every single expense and have considered how much we really value what we are paying for. For example: we have decided to cancel our cable because our daughter likes to re-watch movies and we can get her shows on DVD for free (or $1 for the week) from the library ($25 per year for membership)! I don’t watch TV much (maybe 2 hrs per week) and my husband has cut way back and has agreed that he would rather have the money. This is saving us about $100 per month, so worth it.

I have been thinking of ways to use my skills and time to save money as well… I plan on making or taking my time to find beautifully curated antique wedding presents and baby presents to go along with a smaller amount of money for a few friends this year. I feel like this adds a personal touch, cuts down on cost, and makes it more fun for me as the giver.

I am motivated to tackle this for a few reasons. 1) I want to set a good example for my kids, a top motivator for most of my behaviors. 2) The mental clarity I feel in setting this plan is very relieving. 3) I am also unsure if I want to have a 3rd baby; my husband’s number 1 concern is finances. If I/we can chip away at and improve our money stuff, we can use our feelings and desires a little more clearly to make the right choice for our family when the time comes!