A few years ago, my life looked really different. Aside from the obvious fact that we had fewer children then, it was really just a very different time in our lives. We were constantly stressed about money. We were meticulously counting every cost and stressing over every dollar spent. We had to tell loved ones “no” to invitations out and we had to deny ourselves fun vacations. I was a challenging time — one where I felt like we wouldn’t survive. I know that many of my readers know our story — you know that we paid off over $55k of debt in two years and are very close to having our home paid off. But, I think that sometimes it’s easy for me to forget how dark those times were. Recently, I got to spend an entire weekend at the beach and it was amazing. The best part is that I paid for everything entirely in cash. In fact, I didn’t even bring my debit card with me.
It’s not easy
Here’s the thing, it’s not easy coming out of the darkness. It’s hard when you’re so desperately trying to make ends meet but you’re constantly failing. As I sat on a beach surrounded by 11 other women from all walks of life, I was completely free from stress over money. I was able to offer gas money without worry and I was able to pay for a huge appetizer for our party without anyone paying me back. I didn’t do these things because “oh, I have so much money, look at me,” but because they are things that five years ago, I would have never been able to do. In fact, if I had even offered to pay for any of that I would secretly know that I was dangerously close to running out of money I needed to pay the bills. Maybe you’ve never experienced those type of moments in your life, but I have and I know how stressful they are. And honestly, I want to never experience them again.
Learning to say “no”
The first thing I had to learn while trying to figure out how to manage my money was the power of saying “no.” And I don’t just mean no to others but also no to myself. I would try to convince myself that we could afford this or that and we’d be fine, but the reality is that we couldn’t afford it, so I was just left feeling super stressed. I remember going out to lunch with friends and in the back of my mind going, “what am I doing, I really don’t have any money for this — I’ll be fine if I just order an appetizer and water.” I tried to justify all sorts of things like this knowing full well that I had zero money to pay for it.
One of the best things that my husband and I did was face the facts. We finally sat down and went over our money, line by line. We made a plan for savings and paying off debt and we made an agreement with each other that we wouldn’t allow ourselves extras until be paid off our debt and built up our savings. It was hard — I’m not going to sugar coat it. But the reality was, we had to make drastic changes. We couldn’t rely on our credit cards to save us anymore, and I had to come to terms with the fact that I had to get rid of my really nice car for a less-than-perfect one. Nothing about our journey was easy but it was beyond worth it. Being able to go on this vacation knowing that I could freely spend the cash I brought however I wanted and that I wouldn’t need to stress over the money when I got home, was incredible. And I want this for you, too. So, if you haven’t done these things, let’s get a plan together and make them a reality.
1. Complete an annual “money checkup” (see this post here for more details);
2. Create a budget (if you’ve never created a budget before, head to this post here for the quick-start budget);
3. Start saving up a “starter” emergency fund of at least a $1,000;
4. Write down your debts in order from smallest balance to highest balance;
5. Actively manage your budget by “checking-in” with your money at least once a week.
These are just some of the things you can do to start getting your money in order. Okay, so you tell me, what is one thing that you are super grateful to be able to afford to do.
Jessi is the wife to a handsome lumberjack look alike, mom to three little ones and during their nap time, she’s a financial coach. She and her family have paid off just over $55k of debt in 2 years and are almost a 100% debt-free! She loves coaching others towards achieving their dream life by learning to manage their money and embracing their own real life on a budget.
Image via Unsplash