My husband and I have just finished a financial class offered through our church. And am I glad we did!
We went through something called Financial Peace University, by Dave Ramsey. I'm sure some of you have heard of it. Let me tell you, it is awesome. If you have debt of any kind, I highly encourage to read his book, take his class, listen to his audio. I think the key for us was that we did it *together*. It wasn't me trying to get G to change his spending habits, or the other way around. It was both of us, working together, to manage the money.
We've been married for almost 16 years, and this is the first time we have actually stuck to a budget. I learned about money somewhere along the road of life, but never really about what a budget IS and what it DOES. So basically now we pay with cash. And when the cash is gone - as in the amount we set aside for that area of our life - then we are done spending. Novel concept, eh? Yeah, it actually was for me! I used to use my debit card on everything; but I find it much easier to keep a record of what I am spending when I use cash.
It is embarrassing to say, but we have credit card debt. I used to think we were the only ones. I mean, no one else in our circles ever seemed to worry about paying That Bill. It was such an eye opening moment when a number of people I know walked into the class and said they too had debt. It was nice to know we weren't alone in this; it has also been nice to walk alongside each other and encourage each other.
So there are some steps that are recommended as we climb our way out of debt. We managed to get the first one done - saving a little bit for emergency. So when G had the hospital visits come up this winter (2 ERs and a surgery in 3 months) I knew we could cover some of it, and I knew the bills could be paid down gradually if not at once. What a relief! We're making a dent in our debt (step 2) and G and I are encouraging each other that we can have it done with sooner than we thought possible. I'm hoping for next year. I think G might be aiming for this year! Either way, it's awesome to see the end.
We've given up credit cards completely. Gone. Forever. Phew.
We use coupons. We buy second hand. We got rid of a few monthly services we once had. We don't eat out. But one thing we found important - to have a few dollars each of 'fun' money. It doesn't have to be a lot. In the beginning I thought, "Ugh, I can never buy anything for me again!" That was depressing. That made it no fun to be getting out of debt. It made it even harder, psychologically. That's when we figured that we could swing a couple of dollars for each of us, and once in a while have a fun item - usually that means an ice cream cone or donut; I guess we like our goodies.
The next step would be to save up 3 to 6 months of income; kind of a crisis-savings. I can see how that would be a lot easier to do once we have these other debts out of the way! What I am really excited about, besides not having debt - is being able to someday bless others the way we have been blessed. When we first started this journey, we received 3 different gifts from 3 very different sources. They were totally unexpected and such a little boost to keep us going. I'm hoping that someday we can do that for someone else.