This year, one of our main goals is to be more intentional with our time and our actions. That would include being more intentional with our lifestyle and our money.
Most newlyweds aren't exactly flush with cash. You're working to establish your own home, typically are working an entry level job, have student loan debt, and usually don't have much in savings. And all that is perfectly fine and normal -- after all, everyone has to start somewhere. But at what point do you start making efforts to establish some sort of "nest" or begin working toward financial viability?
Mark and I decided that this year, we really want to make an effort to budget and save. To be more mindful of how and where we spend our money. I was inspired by this post published by The EveryGirl which talks about seven steps to take to become "financially fit in 2016." Additionally, some of our close friends have been following the Dave Ramsey Plan, which focuses on budgeting, paying off debt, building an emergency fund, and starting college and retirement funds.
Here are some basic financial goals Mark and I hope to achieve in 2016:
1. Determine a reasonable household budget.
We sat down and listed our bills and expenses, rounding up slightly to provide for margin of error. Then, we calculated what percentage could go toward paying off debt and what would need to go to savings and "miscellaneous." The hard part? Actually accounting for all the cash flow. Bills are easy to record and keep, but little purchases like a "oh shoot we're almost out of toilet paper" are harder to keep track off. I've started saving receipts, arranging them in categories (gas, groceries, eating out, etc.) and tallying them all at the end of the week.
2. Pay down any debt.
Luckily, Mark and I don't have a ton of debt. That being said, last year was not our easiest year financially. We kept getting hit with random expenses that left us both feeling drained and disheartened. Plus, we've been renovating a 100 year old house for two years. Together, we listed our debts-- smallest to largest-- and determined how much $$ each month will go toward paying each bill off, from credit cards to car loans. I've always heard to go from smallest to largest, since doing so frees up more and more money and actually make you feel like you're making progress. Just formulating our plan made me feel so much more empowered and confident for the new year.
3. Live simply and within our means.
Mark and I have never been big spenders, but everyone can always simplify. Lately, I've been asking myself "Do I really need that sweater?" or "Do we really need to buy new when the old still works?" Asking myself questions like these has made me more mindful of little indulgent splurges and has had a visible effect on our bank accounts.
4. Start saving regularly, instead of sporadically.
Even if it's a small amount, you know what they say "a penny saved is a penny earned." My parents and grandparents-- all self-employed-- always stressed that you should pay yourself before you pay your bills. In other words, put a little aside into savings, even if all you can afford to save that month is $20 bucks. That's your $20 bucks, and no one touches it. This year, I really want to focus on making saving a regular, budgeted thing, not just something we do in one big chunk when "Oh hey, we have a little extra this month." Here's where paying down debt is nice, because the less debt you're paying off, the more money you can pay to yourself, aka save.
5. Don't be too hard on yourself.
I loved this oh-so-true reminder from The EveryGirl article. Emergencies come up, and spontaneous things happen. Every now and then, you just want to splurge on a nice dinner out or buy that perfect gift for yourself or your loved one. None of us are perfect. None of us are automatons wired to perfectly obey every nuance of our budget. Every. Single. Day. After all, life is meant to be lived! But we can always be more mindful of what we're doing, whether it's productive or not-- including being too hard on ourselves.