Wednesday, August 21, 2013

FINANCIAL PEACE: Tips to Make it Work and Last

First, let's just say that the response I've had since posting the details of how we use the envelope system has literally blown me away. God has truly used our journey to help others and I am continually humbled and blown away by that. I really did think the LAST possible thing I could ever be passionate about is budgeting... and here I am. Loving it.

I have gotten a good amount of emails from people asking specific questions about the envelope system and our budget and how we use it, and with specific situations from their life asking what I would do. If you've been thinking about a question, THIS RIGHT HERE is your encouragement to email me. (victoriastrader9@gmail.com) Every single email I get is a blessing and it challenges me to think about different situations.



First, let me address two questions that have been brought up by several people:

How hard is it to keep to your budget? 

Honestly, not that hard. Not nearly as hard as I thought it would be. Doing this has totally changed my thoughts about every purchase that I make. I still love nice things, but I think I just spend smarter. This may sound weird, but I have come to realize that how you spend your money is just as important as how you save it. Although we have some big goals for saving, we also don't want to have a zillion dollars sitting in the bank because that isn't where our hope is.. if that makes sense. All of that being said, I still get to shop and enjoy it! I just do it a lot smarter. For example, instead of buying my 15th white flowy top, I'll wait and find something different that isn't like anything else I have. For the first few months of our marriage, we literally went over our budget every week. We had an amount for groceries and an amount for eating out. It was really discouraging and just a disaster because we couldn't make it work. Once I got the envelopes and everything organized, everything started working out with the numbers and it's a pretty empowering feeling. That really motivated me to keep to the budget. Another important thing to keep in mind is that it is OKAY to change your amounts for categories.. like if it is really hard for you every month and you feel like you need more money for toiletries or whatever, it's okay to add on a bit. Every family is different, and you don't need to feel like you have to skimp like crazy on things unless you are specifically trying to pay off debt or save for something relatively short term. I feel like we have finally settled on numbers that challenge us to be frugal, yet allow me to do my job as a wife and fill our home with the things we need. I would also encourage you not to compare your finances to those around you. You are choosing to do something different, something against the norm, by living under your means. But you know what, there are so many statistics out there about finances causing stress, distance in marriage, even depression. Money shouldn't be a big bad guy in our lives, but a tool to equip and help families and people in need. 

What things DO you spend money on? 

As I briefly said above, I truly think that how you spend your money is almost as important as you saving it. Although we want to be wise with our finances and save for some bigger things, (building a house, future children, etc.) the goal is not to hoard as much money as possible in our bank account. Our hope does not rest in that bank account, it is in Christ. We believe in saving for something specific, keeping an emergency fund of 6 months living expenses, and giving as much as we can, to things and people that we believe in.

Basically, I don't want to be the person that buys really cheap things that fall apart just to be "frugal". Let me illustrate with a lesson that I've actually learned from Ben. Before we were together, the majority of my shoes came from places like Target. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Target, and they can be great for some trendy pieces that you don't need to last forever.. but when you're wearing flats to work every single day and they are from the good old Targ, you're going to be replacing them rather quickly. Ben is all about less pairs of nicer shoes. Like, true confessions: my husband loves shoes. He really does. I love it. Haha. :) By his encouragement, the few pairs of flats that I purchased for student teaching this past spring were better quality, and after being worn day after day, they are still in pretty awesome shape. They'll stick with me into the fall and spring all over again. I am a believer in simplifying the process. I don't need to be spending tons of time shopping for the cheapest, poor quality shoes that will fall apart. That time could be so much better spent. :) That being said, use your judgement on this. Things you won't wear or use as often are great areas to save.

Also, do your research! Several times I have purchased Anthropologie dresses or sweaters for cheaper than Wal-Mart. One of my favorite sweaters is one that I got in the anthro sale room for $14 and because it's such good quality I've been wearing it regularly for two years. My personal belief is to wisely invest in pieces that are versatile, will make you feel confident and clean, and things that you love!

All of that being said, for those of you considering doing the envelope system, it doesn't mean that you have to sacrifice your style or love for clothes or whatever it is! Don't let that love replace your love of meaningful experiences with people and with the Lord, but invest smartly!

Something I'm glad we invested in: Personalized art by Mandy Cave Watercolor!

Tips:
  • Creative Date Nights: We think that it's really important to get out of your house and have adventures, whether you're single/dating/married. It's important to do those things and spend quality time with people. We LOVE having people over but specifically for us as a couple, it's important to get out and do something that seems out of the ordinary routine together. One of our favorite inexpensive dates is going to Barnes and Noble. We both love reading magazines so honestly probably once a month we go there, grab a stack, and read together. Then, we put the magazines back. :) We always buy a drink from the cafe if we are sitting there though. Frugal doesn't mean skirting around rules. Although maybe reading at B&N is. People do that, right? I hope!
  • Examine your "splurges": I have gotten so many emails from people confessing that they just don't know if they could ever get over their online shopping habits. If this is you, I would encourage you to think about WHY you are shopping. You probably aren't shopping online when you are surrounding yourself with fellowship and encouragement, or when you're blissfully happy and inspired. I know that I often buy myself new things when I feel like I need to "be more like ________" or try to improve myself in some way. Or if I'm feeling down. I think retail therapy is okay every once in awhile, but let's get to the bottom of this together! 
  • Wait at least 24 hours: Here's a story. A few weeks ago I found a cheap rug on overstock and was convinced we needed it. We would love an 8 by 10 rug in our office, and those babies are so pricey! I found one for $125 and ordered it immediately. It got here and I realized it wasn't my style at all and that it was a ridiculous impulse buy. Yes, I returned it.. but it was a hassle. I would encourage you to think through your purchases before you make them, so you are using your "blow" money in a smarter way than you would have before. 
  • Do your research: I feel like some of the most financially wise people I know are always researching their purchases in detail before they make them. For example: you have a celebration coming up and you would really like a new outfit. If you plan for this ahead of time, and look around for the best deal on something you love, it will last in your closet, and your financial plan will have anticipated the purchase. If you go out to find something last minute, you could possibly splurge on something that you're settling on because you need an outfit. Then you'll wear it once and never again. Think things through, friends!
Okay, I hope this helps, y'all! What has been on your radar with your finances lately? Do you have any tips to contribute? Do you find financial planning overwhelming? 

My post on the envelope system can be found here. My heart behind financial planning can be found here

3 comments:

  1. Such a great post Victoria! So honest and helpful. Love hearing that you are starting to invest in the 'spensive shoes that last longer. I bought leather picolonos in 2009 and I still haven't replaced them AND they are comfier than when I bought em' ;) I love your perspective on waiting 24 hours before buying. We do that a lot too but it's a good reminder cuz sometime ya just want what ya want RIGHT NOW!

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  2. Are you all Dave Ramsey people? We follow the envelope system in addition to a lot of tips he gives. I would suggest looking into Dave Ramsey books for anyone looking for financial peace. Especially if they are struggling with debt!

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  3. I love your point about waiting 24 hours to buy something, that way it's not an impulse buy. One of our ways we save is since our anniversary is at the end of October (right before the holidays), we switch years of anniversary or Christmas gifts. For example, our first anniversary, we gave each other gifts, but did not for Christmas. Last year, we did not give each other anniversary gifts, but did for Christmas. It helps us to buy 1 big, meaningful gift than lots of little stuff we won't truly enjoy. It also relieves some of the financial burden around the holidays.

    swtps.blogspot.com

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