Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Start At Home // Money Stories

Until this month, Beau and I have never read a book "together."  We both enjoy reading, but tend to stay in our own genres, with our own habits (Beau on his kindle and me with a book and a pen in my hand), most of the time in separate rooms.  It seems only fitting that this month, we decided to read the same book together, a book written by not one, but two authors we both admire.  Beau has been a fan of Dave Ramsey and his financial teachings since he pulled us out of debt shortly after we were married.  His faith-based principles and practical steps toward owning your finances instead of allowing them to own you intrigue me, but I've always been a little leery of stepping too far into the world of our finances.  Beau is an independent sales agent, basically a small business owner, and our finances are complicated to stay the least.  I've always known enough to understand our monthly income, budget, and savings goals, yet have maintained a "comfortable ignorance" when it comes to tax accounts, business expenses, and the realities of budgeting within a commission based sales job when our monthly income varies from month to month.  

A couple of things at the end of 2016 made me think a little bit differently.  First, our church taught a six-week sermon series called, "Money Stories."  During this series, we learned about the importance our stories or values, beliefs, and upbringings around money impact everything around us - our marriage, how we parent our kids, how we give to others, etc.  This series stirred up something in both of us, as every morning after church we'd wrestle with big questions.  We started to think intentionally about how to involve our kids in our finances, ways to teach them the value of money, how to model giving as a priority, and how to develop ways to teach them that money comes with hard work, discipline, and careful spending.  

Shortly after this series, Beau gifted me the book, Smart Money Smart Kids, by Dave Ramsey and his daughter, Rachel Cruze.  And shortly after that, Rachel Cruze was the first guest of the year on The Happy Hour podcast, and one of the first devotional authors in my beloved Anchored Press Planner.  I took this as a sign that it was time to dig in to my first Ramsey book. :)  I also loved that although Rachel Cruze grew up with the Ramsey principles and now travels around the country teaching people to be proactive with their finances, she also is a self-proclaimed "spender" like me.  I related to her stage in life, a young mom just getting into this parenting thing, and her simple steps for creating a strong legacy for her kids resonated with me so very much.  

Beau and I recommitted to the envelope system for 2017.  If you aren't familiar, it's a fairly simple concept.  Taking your monthly income after all of your reoccurring expenses like utilities, daycare, savings and retirement accounts, and any other debt payments, you determine a monthly allotment for all of your other expenses.  For us, that consists of six envelopes: 1) Groceries/Household; 2) Restaurant/Entertainment; 3) Beau's spending; 4) Ashley's spending; 5) Cruz's spending; 6) Mila's spending.  These envelopes account for everything else -- A coffee at Starbucks, a pedicure to treat myself, school shoes, dance class, birthday presents and party supplies, a lunch out, a new pair of jeans, etc.  The money can roll over each month, which helps to save up for months with bigger expenses, and helps teach our kids important lessons that "when the money runs out, it's gone."  I love the example that Ramsey shared about grocery shopping with the kids when they were little.  Rachel watched her mom pull out two one-hundred dollar bills (instead of swiping a piece of plastic) and her mouth fell to the floor.  "Groceries cost $200?!?" she asked in disbelief.  It dawned on me that Cruz is 6 years old and has no clue how much the world costs.  But with the envelope system, you teach them what a budget looks like.  If you reach the end of the month and only have $20 left in your grocery envelope, what lasting value might the words, "No, we can't afford that expensive cereal this month" have on our children?  Even if you technically could swipe that debit card and purchase that box of cereal, the envelope system gives you the opportunity to teach lifelong lessons about saving, budgeting, and most importantly, not always getting what you want.

We've tried the envelope system many times, but always fail for numerous reasons.  First, there's a reason debit cards were created - much to our convenience.  It isn't exactly convenient to carry different amounts of cash around all the time.  We'd often continue to use our debit cards, and then fail to move money out of our envelopes.  We'd also get in arguments about what constituted "my money"?  That new pillow for our couch should absolutely not be my budget.  And if you want to grill steaks for our dinner party, those should count for your budget, not groceries. :)  Since I was mostly in control of the kids' envelopes as well, Beau would accuse me of useless spending, which in his defense, he was partially right because I would tend to hoard my envelope and spend the kids' on that cute leotard for Mila or that new chapter book for Cruz.  Halfway through the month, we'd give up and lose track of our budget and our principles!  

I'm pleased to say that we made it through the month of January and have both felt more committed to our envelopes.  Maybe it's because it's the start of the year and being more mindful about our finances did make it on the goal list.  Maybe it's because we opened up more about our money stories at our first date night of the year than we maybe ever have before.  Maybe it's because I'm finally drinking the Dave Ramsey kool-aid.  Or maybe it's because I invested some of my monthly cash into this helpful wallet.  Yep, it's totally the wallet. :)          

While the wallet has been a little life-changing when it comes to the envelope system, most of all, I love that Beau and I read this one together.  It was always so neat to pick up the book a morning after Beau had read it the night before, and find sticky notes with personal notes or stories he wrote down.  We immediately had a valuable conversation starter, and learned a lot about each other just seeing what parts resonated for each of us.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post, where I'll share our first month of teaching Cruz and Mila a thing about commission. :)         

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