Friday, November 8, 2013

Money, Money, Money Must Be Funny...In a Rich Man's World


According to a study cited in the November 2013 issue of Shape magazine, the average woman will spend 355 days of her life worrying about her weight (about 21 minutes per day).

I'd like to see the study that measures how many days of our lives will be spent worrying about money.

Money has fascinated and worried me ever since I opened my first bank account when I was probably about ten. I liked knowing---even at that age---that I had enough money to feel "secure." The problem was, the older I got, the less "secure" it seemed I felt, despite my increased earnings.

I'm gonna be honest with you---

Teachers don't make a lot.

I know, you're shocked, right?

In fact, my take home pay every month is just under $1800, which is hardly more than I made as a secretary.

Just so you know, I'm not complaining. (Well, I kind of am, but overall, I AM really grateful to have a stable job.) However, my frustration seems to lie in the fact that there's always so much uncertainty---I like knowing that I've saved enough to cover an emergency, but on my small salary, it's hard to create much of a cushion from the blows of the financial world, you know?


This year as one of my resolutions, we've been following Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps. By December 31st, I was determined to do the first three steps of his plan:

1. Save $1000 as quickly as possible for a baby emergency fund
2. Get out of debt, paying off debts from smallest to largest
3. Save 3-6 months' worth of expenses

I'm happy to say that as of now (largely thanks to a decent tax return back at the beginning of the year), we are on step #3.

Boy, does it feel like we'll be here forever.

You see, I've been saving $300 faithfully almost every month for the entire time I've been a teacher. Problem is, LIFE HAPPENS to us---the car needs a $300 replacement part, I have to get a colonoscopy and the insurance I have is only so-so, Matt needs to drop about $150 for each grad school he wants to attend...

It can be overwhelming.

For the past 8 years that I was a student, I remember thinking: "When I'm graduated, I won't have to live the "poor college student" life anymore---I'll be able to buy whatever I want at the grocery store, I'll be able to not live in cheap student housing, and I'll be able to leave the heat (or A/C) at whatever the heck temperature I want.

(Well, I did get one of those things---because of the way our utilities work, we've never worried about the heat or A/C since being married. That's pretty much been one of the awesomest things ever.)

But I'll admit, I spend way more time than I'd like worrying like crazy over money: How much debt will we have to take on to cover Matt's grad school? How are we ever going to start a family when he has so much school left and I'm the main breadwinner? How are we possibly going to be able to have a decent emergency fund when my salary is so tiny? Will I be living in an apartment for the rest of my life?!

This week, as I started getting some of the bills from my recent medical visits and treatments, I had to take a deep breath and remind myself of a couple things:

1. We're not nearly as bad off as we used to be (like we were last year before my teaching job started)

2. Getting completely out of debt has made me hate debt enough that I no longer charge my credit card every month like I used to. (Even though I paid off my credit card in full every month, I would still make charges to it all the time, so every single month, I always had that bill hanging over my head.) For about 6 months now, I've only used credit cards at Old Navy and Kohl's to get massive store savings, and then I've made myself go home right afterward to pay it off in full so I wouldn't have to worry about budgeting it in for the next month.

3. We faithfully pay 10% of our income every month to our church, which has blessed us in ways both huge and small. One of the biggest blessings was stated best by a church leader at our last General Conference: "[Some of the more subtle blessings of paying tithing are] an increased spiritual and temporal capacity to do more with less, a keener ability to prioritize and simplify, and an enhanced ability to take proper care of the material possessions we already have acquired." I have found that in the past year especially (since I've gotten into the idea of minimalism), I have learned to be much more content with the simple pleasures in life that money can't buy and not focus so much on the things we don't have yet.

4. Even though it's not much, we do save a little every month (and I contribute the maximum amount to my 401(k) to get the full employer match). It may not seem like much, but it's amazing to see our savings gradually keep increasing with time.

5. Since I discovered Mint.com, I have felt much more at ease knowing where each and every penny has gone to. Call me a sick control freak, but I really spaz out when I have the feeling at the end of the month that I have no idea where our money's all gotten to. Mint.com has really helped to alleviate a lot of that anxiety, as well as helped feed my OCD tendency to need to list everything.

I could talk on the subject of money forever, but I've already written a novel, so I'll end here.

What's some good financial advice that you've taken? Are you a Dave Ramsey fan? (If you're not, you should definitely check him out!)

And, just because I'm curious, do you spend more time worrying about your weight or your money? (I'm a little embarrassed to say that they're probably about even as of late...)

4 comments:

  1. I worry about money way more. I am not a good saver. My husband is so it balances us. But we have a mortgage and student loans from grad school. They won't be going anywhere anytime soon. But until they are gone I will always worry about mostly that I need to so better at spending less. But as you said life happens. It's even harder with kids because they always need something, shoes, pants, coat, etc. but so far in life we've been blessed. We pay tithing and I know we are blessed for that. We might always live in a townhome (home prices are outrageous in northern virginia) but at least we are comfortable. I don't think you ever stop worrying about money no matter how much you make.

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  2. Ryan worked his tail off this past summer doing summer sales to help pay off car repairs (ahem, a whole new engine), and for living expenses. I just look at our student loans and absolutely cringe. I can't wait until I have a stable full time job so I can start chucking money at that debt and get it over with! But Ryan always has to remind me that it doesn't happen overnight, and that we need to take care of what's in front of us. Sooo I feel ya. Money stuff is frustrating, especially when I feel so much more secure when I have something in the bank :/

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  3. This is a great post. I definitely worry about money the most. Sometimes Sam and I get so overwhelmed with it all that we have to sit back, take a deep breath and remember to take it one day at a time. I like the above comment. You don't have to (and won't) be able to tackle everything overnight. I have not read Dave Ramsey but I get the basics behind his plan. Sadly we are still just working on step #1. By the way you do not need to be worried about your weight. You are beautiful.

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  4. wonderful post! Wouldn't it be great if money wasn't such a big deal.. or if money grew on trees. either way would be awesome!
    ps. you're beautiful my dear!

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