079: Prioritizing Your Finances
This month we are diving into our finances. Last week I shared 5 tips for becoming financially fit. This week I want to share a bit of my financial story and give you some ideas about how you can learn to prioritize what’s most important in your financial journey.
Growing up, I never received an allowance or was paid for chores. I’m an only child and to say I was spoiled is probably a huge understatement! While my parents did share some insights about money during that time, they never really set out to educate me well. I did not grow up learning how to budget or even be responsible for some of my financial needs.
We were very blessed as a family in that my dad had a good-paying job and we never went without anything we needed or wanted. So when I launched on my own, I really did not have a good grasp of what it meant to live within my financial means.
And I even had an accounting degree! But just because I knew how to account for financial transactions did not mean I had the discipline to manage my own money well.
Thankfully, I never got myself into huge debt, but there were times I was definitely living paycheck to paycheck because I had charged the most I could afford on my credit card.
When I got married, my dear husband paid off the balance on my card so we could start fresh. Again, it was not a lot but it was enough to where I was just paying the minimum payment each month. Which, as I’m sure you know, is not a good way to go. It’s very hard to pay down debt that way.
My husband and I have been married for 22 ½ years. In fact, today as this episode is being released, marks the 23rd anniversary of our engagement.
I would have to say money has been one of the top issues we’ve dealt with in our marriage. I’m a spender and he’s a saver. His background is very different than mine. He is one of four siblings. His dad had a good job, but with four kids to feed, things were tight. His mother had MS and was an invalid for most of Steven’s growing up years.
He learned the value of hard work early on. Both at home and at a job. He had a job in high school and ended up paying his own way through college.
So because we have different backgrounds, we brought those ideas and values about money into our marriage. It has been a long and difficult process to work through our money differences.
If I’m being honest, though, I really am the one that needs to do more. While Steven is a saver, he does love to travel and is willing to spend more on an item if it is of high quality and will last him a long time. He is not opposed to spending. He’s just more thoughtful about it.
I admit that I should have made some attitude adjustments long ago to get on the same page with him. I’ve gone through times in my life, though, where it was super hard for me to control my spending. I was tempted to live a higher quality lifestyle or keep up with the Joneses so to speak.
As I’ve mentioned in previous episodes, I’m beginning to take a harder look at what I really value and want to spend my time, money, and energy on. I’ve also said that I’m not a minimalist by any stretch of the imagination, but the fact that I have so many things in my home that I don’t want, use, or love is really driving me crazy.
And now that we are looking ahead to becoming empty nesters this fall, what we choose to spend our money on and how we want to invest our time has become a big topic for my husband and me.
I think I’ve shared in an older episode before how we have tried to sell our home several times over the last few years with no success. We’ve always had a desire to build our dream home. Because we will be empty nesters soon. We have begun talking again about selling our home.
However, this time, it won’t necessarily be our dream home but it will be our forever home. My version of a dream home includes my kids and is the one we planned to build 15 years ago. But that home is not the one we need anymore. It’s too big for two people and would definitely be a lot more expensive to build.
So now we’re focusing on downsizing a little bit from what we have now. At first, I’ll admit I struggled with this. I love our home and its size. But we don’t really use one of the bedrooms, the formal living room, or the game room. So if we cut those out of the next home we live in, we’ll be better off.
One thing that has made it easier for me to consider downsizing is that I’m tired of trying to keep our home clean. I do not like to clean, and our house is large enough that I should be cleaning something almost every day. So having a smaller home to clean and maintain is quickly becoming more appealing to me.
So why am I sharing all of this?
Well, first I want to encourage you to become disciplined when it comes to your finances. I wish I had the discipline early on in my life. And that I would not have bought so many things that have ended up as clutter in our home.
And second, to show you how prioritizing can help you achieve the financial goals you are striving for.
So let’s dive in a bit on the topic of prioritizing.
Just like any other area in life, determining your priorities with your finances is an important first step in achieving your financial goals.
Ask yourself these questions to get started: What category of spending is the most important right now? Does my spending reflect that that category is important? Where else might I be spending money in excess that could be better used in a different category?
Let me give you a couple of examples of what your answers may look like. Your housing expense is generally the largest no matter whether you rent or own the place you live in.
But does it need to be the most important? Maybe you have debt you need to pay off or have a dream to start your own business. Perhaps you need to figure out a way to reduce your housing expense so you can funnel more money into paying off your debt or starting a fund for your future business.
I want to encourage you to look beyond what’s standard or normal. Your housing expense doesn’t have to be your largest expense. You could almost always find a smaller and less expensive alternative to help you direct your money to more important things.
Once you figure out what’s most important to you when it comes to your finances. Then it becomes much easier to make decisions when it comes to spending your money.
I mentioned last week that I did a no-spend month last July on clothing because I had too many clothes and I had no reason to buy any new clothes. And this month I’m trying the same thing with eating out. Eating out too much has put an unnecessary dent into our finances and has not helped my health at all.
Also, in my quest to downsize and get rid of the things I don’t love, use, or need, I’m much more thoughtful about the things I choose to purchase and bring into our home. One example is our everyday dishes. We acquired these dishes when we got married 22 ½ years ago. We added another set about 15 years ago. So we’ve been rotating through both sets.
Because we’ve had the dishes so long, a few got broken and had to be thrown away. And others have been chipped or cracked and are not good to use anymore. So I decided we needed to get rid of those dishes and buy some new ones.
I researched for a while trying to figure out what I wanted and what would work best for our needs. I knew I didn’t want a full traditional set that had coffee cups and saucers and other miscellaneous plates and bowls I knew we’d never use. And I knew I didn’t necessarily want to spend a ton of money on them.
So I found some beautiful dishes from The Pioneer Woman at Walmart. They came in sets of 4 three-piece place settings. There was just a dinner plate, a salad or dessert plate, and a bowl. They were perfect! No extra pieces that I didn’t need. And they were on sale. After using a gift card I had to Walmart, I only paid around $70 for 12 place settings. I thought that was a good deal.
I now look around my home regularly to see what we can get rid of. Because I feel like we tie our finances closely with our possessions. After all, we had to use money to acquire most of them, right?
And why would I want to keep things that I no longer want, use, or love? They just add to the cluttered feeling of my home. And I have to maintain them. Even if it’s just as simple as finding a place to house them. But often it means that I need to dust them or move them around if they don’t have a home.
The point I’m trying to make today is to start prioritizing what’s most important to you when it comes to your finances. Get an idea of how you’d like your money to work for you. Then you can make a plan to achieve your financial goals.
But in your planning, consider your lifestyle and possessions and see where you could cut back in order to fulfill your financial goals more quickly. Are there things you don’t need anymore that you could sell and bring in some extra cash? Do you need to exercise discipline when it comes to spending on eating out, clothing, or entertainment?
When purchasing a needed item do some research. Where can you get the best price? Can you get by with a lesser quality version?
In general, just think things through before you commit to purchasing them.
I know from experience after graduating from college just how hard it can be to live on a limited income when you want to buy the world. And I know the frustration and pain that comes from not being able to achieve a financial goal.
With a little discipline and planning, though, I think you can begin to see positive results with your finances. You can get yourself out of debt and move forward to achieving other goals.
I hope my story and thoughts have encouraged you today. No matter where you are on your financial journey, there is always room for improvement.
I’m excited to share with you a new opportunity that I’ve just begun to participate in. I’m now a part of the More to Be Coach Network. As a certified life coach, I’ve joined this network with other coaches so we can help more women. My expertise is with helping women determine their priorities then leading them through a process to help them develop a plan to manage their time, home, and possessions more effectively.
Because I’m a Certified Paper Organizer through Organize 365, I am able to use tools provided by them to help you set up systems to manage your papers and workflow.
I’d love to work with you if you need help figuring out your priorities or you just need to know how to manage your time, home, or papers. You can book a 30-minute consultation with me for $30. We can assess your needs and decide if coaching is right for you. Then we can determine the best coaching package that fits your needs.
Click here to check out my coaching packages.