- Budgeting and Priorities. (today's post)
- What it means when they say "the most common marriage fight is around finances."
- Why pay off your student loans if they're an investment?
We got engaged in January 2014 and decided "this debt is our debt."
There isn't Sarah's debt or Matt's debt, it's our debt. We did our best to avoid blame. This is important because it took 20 disciplined months to finish this journey. At different times we got frustrated and wished we could just be done with it and get on with life. That was the real challenge: rebounding during the frustrating times. Having a plan (a budget) smoothed this over big time.
"I can tell you where your heart is if you show me your bank statement."
A budget is a priority list. It's very predictable, there aren't many surprises in personal finances. Thankfully we're both healthy, our cars run fine, and we're middle class. We have a chunk of income to put aside each month. Early on Sarah and I sat down and mapped out our monthly incomes vs. expenses. We discovered that my income alone could pay all our monthly bills, so any income Sarah made could go 100% to the debt. This habit would also be handy if Sarah ever wanted to be a stay-at-home mom (whenever that time may come).
There's no magic in what we did. We didn't live on $5/day for food. We didn't sell everything we owned. We just prioritized contributing a certain amount each month (about $1,000).
- We continued actively supporting three missionaries in Campus Crusade for Christ and Athletes in Action, even tho we could have been debt free months sooner. There's plenty of money but not enough workers, so we're grateful to contribute.
- We focused on a fulfilling local life, one that didn't need vacations and big-ticket items to pursue happiness. Us millennials have a lot to learn about local living.
- Fitness and healthy eating are priorities. We've been involved in the YMCA and CrossFit Fond du Lac and we've found a lot of joy from these communities. It's also a hobby we can do together. I had tried getting back into triathlon last winter and it was a struggle doing an independent hobby at this point in our marriage. I also realized how much I enjoy both the community we've become involved in and the mysteries of strength training.
- We found ways to boost our take-home pay and supplement our income. You can only cut your expenses so much. Also, there's a huge shortage of awesome workers in this world. Be remarkable.
- The big thing: we learned that getting involved in hobbies and community helps take the pressure off the money subject. 20 months takes... 20 months! If you wake up every day checking your bank account, you'll hate yourself. Time flies when you're having fun, so keeping busy was the big trick.
We're still learning. Hopefully this will help you learn, too.
Work hard, pray harder.
Matt & Sarah
Disclaimer: A. Our marriage is young. We may be naive in our lessons. This is our experience so far. B. Personal finances are very... personal. What works for us may not work for you. Find what works for you. C. We aren't perfect people. There are choices we made along the way that hurt or offended family, friends, and our community. We're sorry, I hope you can understand and forgive us.