Welcome back to the second post in one of the most popular blog post series I’ve ever done… healthy finances. I started this series for all of us who want to take control of our finances to experience greater freedom, healthier money relationships, less stress, and ultimately, a life that feels good (not just one that looks good ;))
In the first post titled “Where do I begin? Start here…” I talked about what my husband, Anthony and I first did when we wanted to start off our healthy financial journey. I’m sure you’ve experienced this by now… finances, smart money decisions and a healthy relationship with money doesn’t just happen. It takes some work, and good amount of research to figure out what moves are right for you. To be frank – it’s pretty damn overwhelming, right?! At least, it is/was for me. My goal with this blog post series is to share our journey, simplify what I’ve learned and what we are doing, so that you may find a nugget or two that you can apply to your own life.
In this post, I thought I would share 10 financial principles that we follow on a regular basis.
10 FINANCIAL PRINCIPLES WE FOLLOW
GOAL: FINANCIAL FREEDOM
First off, healthy finances and financial freedom has to be one of your goals. And, if I’m being honest… it has to be a top goal that you’re willing to make sacrifices for. I have good friends who joke that they “own the front door of their home and the hood of their car.” I know people who make 7 figures and live paycheck-to-paycheck. I have friends who swipe swipe swipe, live on credit and don’t worry once about it. That is OKAY, but that’s just not for me. My point is… this isn’t for everyone. If you don’t care, don’t. But, if you do, then care… a lot.
START EARLY… START NOW…
It’s really easy to delay paying off debt, saving, retirement, college funds, etc. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been advised to do x, y and z, and my knee-jerk reaction is “I’ll worry about that when I’m ‘older.'” Well, I’m only 28 but I can already tell you that every year of my life has gotten increasingly expensive. You buy a house… welcome to huge upkeep expenses. You have children… hello bills for just about everything.
I’m not retiring tomorrow but I already have financial plans for that phase. My kids aren’t going to college anytime soon, but we’ve set up funds for that. Life isn’t getting cheaper or easier, so making smart money moves now pays off big in the long-term.
KNOW YOUR NUMBERS + RECALCULATE MONTHLY!
Getting more into the nitty gritty of the financial principles we follow… you’ve got to know your numbers and where you are at financially. In this post I shared how to calculate your numbers. We calculate and assess those numbers on a monthly, yes monthly, basis. Normally, Anthony brings it up with the preface, “don’t get annoyed… I know you don’t want to do this right now…” and he’s right. It’s annoying. It’s boring. Even though I’m proud of our numbers, I don’t enjoy the task.
One of the main reasons I suggest knowing your numbers and assessing them regularly is because this is how we measure our financial goals and how we are doing. For example, paying off debt is probably one of the most popular financial goals. In this monthly assessment, we would look at all our numbers and see where our money went the past month: how much to savings, how much to investments, how much to expenses, how much to x, y and z. To stick with the paying off debt example, we would then make plans to expedite the debt pay off process in the upcoming month based on our current numbers.
Another good example I can think of is if you get a bonus: you look at your numbers to decide where that money will make the biggest impact. A tough example I can think of is if you get a large medical bill: you look at your numbers to make decisions on where to shift around money to pay for it. I’ve found that knowing your numbers monthly leads to smarter money decisions.
PAY YOURSELF FIRST
The greatest book suggestion that I can give to hit this point home and explain it in detail is The Latte Factor. The quickest summary is that no matter how much or how little you make… you’ve got to pay yourself first. After that, you pay your expenses and do your day-to-day spending. The book claims you are richer than you think and teaches you how to make your dreams come true with a few simple money management tweaks. I read this book in a day or two and truly enjoyed it.
This is how we structure our money management. In my opinion, it’s a mistake to: bring in money, spend and then save whatever is left over. The better flow for us is: make money, prioritize saving, spend on our necessary expenses and then decide what to do with whatever is left over. This can be done no matter what your income- and the book teaches how.
PAY OFF DEBT, FAST
This is probably the most important financial principle to Anthony and I. The typical American household carries an average debt of 137,063, which is obviously an overwhelming number and something Anthony and I personally took charge of. source
The next post in this Healthy Finances Series will be dedicated to paying off debt and our approach to how we did that, so I’ll save the details for that post.
I will warn you… Anthony and I have taken this to the extreme but I know this is a decision we will be proud of and benefit from for the rest of our lives. And even though I say “extreme,” it’s really what I strongly believe we should all be doing.
SPLURGE ON PRIORITIES
Anthony and I are under a strict financial plan right now, but I remind myself that I’ve got one life to live to the fullest, which includes spending money. One spending principle Anthony and I follow is that we splurge on priorities, or things that matter most to us.
For the past 3 years, we haven’t taken a lot of vacations because… 2 kids in 2 years… but when we do, we splurge: 5 star hotels, first class tickets for everyone who comes with, best restaurants the area has to offer, etc. For me, this means I try not to go through Target putting random items I want in the moment into my shopping cart and instead, I treat myself to a new handbag. Find the *things* and *experiences* that mean the most to you and spend your money.
“BEING APPROVED” IS NOT THE SAME THING AS YOU SHOULD SPEND
I clearly remember when Anthony and I walked into a jewelry store to look at engagement rings. Anthony was asked “how much can you afford” and he responded “well, I want to spend X.” That sums us up perfectly. I should elaborate… that sums Anthony up and I’ve grown to take on that perspective.
This past year when we were in the market for a car, I saw an adorable one driving on the road and said “that’s the one I want.” As I was waiting in the showroom, I was looking in the more expensive section and asked about another car that was something like 3-4x the price of mine. The salesman very nicely said, “well, I could see if you’re approved for it.” In my head I knew I was but when I test drove my much less expensive car, I had one of my more proud financial moments… I said I like it and I would like to get it today. I test drove that car to Chase, got a check, and left that evening with my car. I don’t share that to brag, but I share that so more of us can think it’s cool to spend well within your limits even if you can afford more.
A DOLLAR SAVED IS A DOLLAR EARNED
I come from generations of farmers who built their lives off of hard work. This was a phrase repeated to me often. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty… do work yourself.. save money when you can.
MULTIPLE INCOME STREAMS
I love this one! Right now, Anthony and I have 4 income streams. Traditionally, people have one income, right?! I was going to be a dentist and earn a salary =1 income stream. Most people I know think they have to stop there, but I have a friend who is a teacher (1 income stream). She tutors in the evenings (2nd income stream). On weekends and over the summers, she babysits for a family (3rd income stream). She also sells Rodan + Fields (4th income stream).
My income streams aren’t any of those but we both have money coming in from 4 different places. Not only does this open up the opportunity to bring in more money, but also it provides for more security if 1 income stream isn’t working out.
Here’s just a little relationship tip that helps ensure Anthony and I stay on the same page with spending… have a number that either one of you can spend below without consulting the other but any purchases above would require a conversation prior.
This is actually something we stole from our pre-marital classes. We had to come up with a number and did so then. That number has changed quite a bit but Anthony and I are on the same page regarding this spend limit and what would warrant having a conversation.
BLESS THE LIVES OF OTHERS
Finally, Anthony and I both believe in the phrase that “to whom much is given, much is expected.” We believe in using money to bless the lives of others. We see money as a blessing we have been given. I know that our God-given talents combined with our hard work are what allows us to make money and therefore, it is up to us to continue doing good with it.
I know you don’t expect me to list how much I give and where I give to, but I share this as the last principle because the topic of money can seem greedy. However, in my experience, it’s opened up doors to do more for others than I ever thought I could do.
I am so happy you ladies are loving this series and I cannot wait to share more in the next part. Here’s to smart money decisions!