Money is a useful tool and I am the craftsman.
A micro slice of my journey towards Financial Freedom!
Everything I learned about the almighty dollar, I learned at home, like most of us. There were no personal finance classes in school (though there totally needs to be!), no one to teach us about debt and credit or how at 18 I would get those oh so tempting credit card lures in the mail, which I would totally bite, hook, line and SINK! I bought 3 fresh to death leather jackets at 18 which I’m pretty sure I paid on for years after. Although my father was good with money, he was an accountant for the military, I didn’t grow up with him and he was more or less a bit of hoarding Scrooge McDuck when it came to money anyway. My super loving generous mother was at the opposite side of the spectrum, holding the belief that you can’t be buried with your money (kind of true, but I mean have you seen the Egyptian tombs?!) She taught me that you might as well spend your money now, enjoy yourself, treat yourself, treat your friends. It’s a fine concept for living in the present that unfortunately doesn’t roll over into any type of savings account. With that philosophy, I grew up living check to check with bill-paying days being pretty tense times to say the least. Sometimes we had to wait for payday to turn on the heat or the AC and there were times we had to go without things that we wanted. Now, I never starved or went naked (though fine with it now, I would’ve mortified me back in the day!) and my mother spoiled me when and where she could. I reflect on the above not to shit talk my parents, they did what they could as young divorcees and probably didn’t have a whole lotta formal financial training themselves, but I’m sharing to say, I didn’t know what the F I was doing when it came to money. I loaded up my credit card(s) and then when I couldn’t pay da bills…I just stopped. Just like that. Stopped paying, stopped answering phone calls, moved. PS. Don’t do that. I never even had a savings account, I mean I had one, but there was never any money in it. When I started dating my boo thang, It was a huge turn-on for me that he had a savings account AND he had money in it!! Like more than $100! His savings game was strong and it was important to him. However, I would say some of my bad money habits rubbed off on him over the years, using credit cards for things we didn’t need, not paying bills on time, etc. When the inkling of thinking about the potential of a starting a family came to mind, I knew that I didn’t want to continue the cycle of money like water especially when I was living in a draught! And I wasn’t in a draught because I wasn’t working, I was in a draught because I didn’t know how to manage my dinero. Something needed to change.
I heard about Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (FPU) through a friend years before and how she had been able to pay off SO much debt so quickly, she shared with me the steps that I tried to incorporate without having to actually invest time, money and accountability into the class! Basically…you get what you pay for, believe that. So finally, last year, I was like “Bae, we takin this class and we taking it together!” After a little convincing on why we were going to pay for a class to learn about saving money, he was down. I’m not even doing this class justice when I say, it’s the ish, but it is! FPU completely revolutionized how we handle and think about moolah. The #1 thing we wanted to do before we even attempted on gettin it on (baby-making) was to pay off all of our consumer debt, aka credit cards, we had 3 between us. FPU, legit has the simplest most practical steps to follow, in fact they’re so simple, they’re called “Baby Steps”. I’ll say the one piece of advice I have if you take this class is just listen to Dave, don’t do things your way, this man is pure financial genius and the steps are in an order for a reason. Having debt is normal, not having debt is WEIRD! Let’s be weird!
SO, long story short, in less than a year we saved up our emergency fund and paid off all 3 of our credit cards! Paid off, cut up and CLOSED OUT homie! Neva eva to be used again. We now cash flow every big purchase, meaning, we save up for that shit or we don’t get it. Sometimes it sucks, sometimes we have to say no to eating out with friends, going to concerts, vacays, you know fun life stuff, but it’s temporary, “you’ve got to live like no one else, so you can live like no one else” – directly from Dave. We had to save up our emergency fund twice, because we had a freakin random, he’s too old to be gettin wisdom teeth emergency extraction. We used cash, paid for those suckers and it only took us 2 pay periods to get our fund back in place!
In closing, (don’t I sound all lawyer-y?!) One of the most useful tools FPU teaches is the envelope system. You budget for everything, groceries, gas, entertainment, clothing, pocket money and you withdraw cash and put it in envelopes. Once those envelopes are empty, that’s it, you’re done, and let me tell you watching that beautiful green bill leave your hand never to return the same is a lot harder than mindlessly swiping right or left…oh wait, that’s tinder ;)~ but you get me, with swiping you don’t see the money go, go, gooooo until the day you get declined!
Caveat: this class, as wonderful and beneficial as it’s been for me is very heteronormative, focused on couples and has a lot of Christian scripture references. I happened to be married to a man and I was raised Christian, but I also identify as a member of the LGBTQ family as well as have many different spiritual beliefs outside of the Christian faith as do many of my framily. One of my besties who does not identify as Christian also took the class with us and we both believe that anyone regardless of religious, sexual orientation or relationship background can benefit from the practical steps outlined in this class. I say all this because I don’t want anyone to be deprived of these super simple steps to live in financial freedom! Dave is a devout Christian (hence the Biblical references) and he’s also a practical money man, it’s worth checking out however you identify!
The Baby Steps:
- Save $1,000
- Pay off debt
- 3-6 month fund
- Invest 15%
- Step 5 college
- Pay off home
And remember in times of financial temptation...WWDD (what would Dave do?)