A Bodey in Motion

Building momentum, one step at a time

The Money Story, Revisited

I’ve covered this story before, but it’s been a couple of years. We’re going to be teaching another session of Financial Peace University (New and Improved! Only 9 weeks long!) in a couple of weeks, and I always like to start it by sharing my family’s money story. The story continues, and some things have changed.  So, it’s time to revisit it.

When my wife and I got married almost 16 years ago, we were both broke and in debt. We both had credit card balances. I had a car payment. She had a student loan. Neither of us any money saved in the bank. Financially, we were in sorry shape. Fortunately, we were both young and in love. Our relationship was strong and we didn’t know any better.

Unfortunately, we were both young, and we didn’t know any better.

After a couple of months of failing to pay the bills on time, I turned my back on it all and handed the money management of our home completely over to my wife. She handled the payments and the debts while I went out and started bringing in an ever-growing income, and that suited me just fine.

She’d whittle our debts down month after month and finish them off when we received a windfall, like a big tax return or a cash gift for the holidays. It would have been a good system if I’d been more involved, or if we’d had a better understanding of the principles we needed to follow to treat our money correctly. Instead we’d wind up using the freed up money poorly.

A new car. A mortgage. Appliances and furniture. Every loose dime was tied up with a new payment, and credit cards caught our slack. We’d pay it all off quickly enough, but there was always something new, and it was always what we thought we could “afford” – not what could we actually pay for out of our savings.

Twelve years of this nonsense. Twelve years of bigger incomes and zero financial headway. Twelve years and I have no one to blame but myself. I’d finally had enough. With our third child on the way we knew that everything had to change. Fortunately, my wife knew how to start.

The Total Money MakeoverWe began with a few couples gathered together in a family room reading through Dave Ramsey’s book, the Total Money Makeover. We bought in completely. We struggled through writing our first budget. We talked and fought about things that we’d ignored for over a decade. We compromised, made hard choices, and sacrificed together.

Nearly four years later, we have money set aside for emergencies and no consumer debt. No car payments. No student loans. We’re saving for the future. If all goes well, our house will be paid off in just four more years. I’d say that all the pain was worth it.

It doesn’t stop there, though. To keep ourselves fired up we went to a Total Money Makeover Live Event. The next time our church did a Total Money Makeover book study, we were helping to lead it. Then we took FPU at a local church to learn more, and the next time it was hosted there we were helping to coordinate it, and we’re ramping up to do it again for the third time.

These days, I read four or five work and money related books a year. I’m constantly trying to improve my knowledge about the right principles to follow regarding money. It’s drawn me closer to my wife. It’s made me more available to my children. It’s given me a purpose, and all of that is thanks to God.

No radio hosts were harmed in the taking of this picture.Also, I’ve started to coach and mentor people who are struggling with their finances. People who are searching for a plan and principles to follow. People who are struggling and fighting, learning how to compromise and sacrifice. I even took a trip out to Nashville recently to learn to do it better.

The last few years have been a wild ride.

Maybe you’re at a point in your life where you’ve had enough. If you are, great. It’s time to start learning how to do it right. Read a book, take a class, find a mentor. Find a voice that inspires you to change. And you don’t have to go as crazy as we did, but it helps.

What’s your biggest struggle with money? Do you have a money story to tell? Have you given up? Have I gone completely mad? Comment below or drop me an email to let me know.

August 6, 2012 Posted by | Marriage and Family, Past and Future, Work and Money | , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Exercise Your Finances

Maybe you’re living on easy street, but these days it seems like everyone is having to tighten their belts a little more. Your dollars just don’t go as far as they once did, and you’re having to be more intentional with how you spend.

Maybe you’re scrimping and scratching for every penny. You don’t know why the money runs out, but it’s always gone before the month is. The debt is stacking up, and you don’t see a way out from under it.

Whichever the case, the solution is the same. You won’t figure out where the money is going until you take the time to dig into your personal finances. It’s time perform an audit on your bank account, take stock of your expenses, and tackle your bills. You need to make a budget.

A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.

– John C. Maxwell

I know. The idea of writing your first budget is like going to see the dentist after not cleaning your teeth for a couple of years. The reality is that it’s more like starting up a new exercise regimen. At first, it’s going to hurt a lot, because everything is stiff after years of being ignored. If you stick with it, though, the pain eases and you start to feel better. Eventually, it becomes a daily practice that you can’t imagine living without.

What diet and exercise does for your physical health, a budget does for your financial health.

Still, pushing through that initial pain can be difficult. It seems like an endless cycle of organizing papers, checking numbers, working the math, discovering you’ve missed something, and starting over. The frustration of it can lead to discouragement and could make you want to give up.

What can you do?

Well, a lot of things, but here are three suggestions to start with:

1. Don’t Overdo It. 

Personal story time. I started learning karate last year as a part of an effort to get my physical health to better match my improving financial health. I went into my first real class all gung-ho and pushed myself hard. It felt amazing. I couldn’t wait for the next class.

And the next two days, everything that I did hurt everywhere in a way that I didn’t know it could. That pain tried repeatedly to talk me out of going to the next class. I still went, but I had to fight myself to do it.

In the same way, if you overreach when trying to put an initial budget together, you can get slapped down hard. You need to get the basics down. Figure out your essential needs, and make sure you can cover them and stay current on them. Then quickly rough out where the rest of your income is going to go. It won’t be perfect, but when it’s done you can tell yourself that you stayed fed and kept your lights on, and everything you learned from the first month will make the second month’s budget even better.

2. Get A Trainer.

Learning a new skill often requires the help of an expert. Personal finances aren’t any different. If you don’t know where to start you should seek advice and assistance.

Make sure your advisers are speaking from a place that you want to be. If you want to cut your debts, find someone who has paid off all of theirs and ask them how they did it. If you want to grow wealth wisely, find people who can explain their long-term investment strategy to you.

Give your advisers permission to hurt your feelings. You need to be able to hear them when they’re talking you out of doing something stupid. They need the power to say ‘NO’ to your plans and ideas.

3. Commit.

You can’t judge results on one trip to the gym. You have to give your efforts time to produce a change. Writing a working budget doesn’t start showing results until you’ve been doing it, on average, for three months. Commit to writing a new budget and following it to the best of your ability every month for at least six months.

Whether you feel like you’re fighting to survive each month, or you’ve just tripped and stumbled on your stroll down easy street, it doesn’t matter. The monthly practice of a budget is your answer. It’ll probably hurt to start with, but the long-term reward is worth it.

February 13, 2012 Posted by | Work and Money | , , , , , | Comments Off on Exercise Your Finances