When my husband and I first got married, we received a copy of Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover as a wedding present. I probably should have read this book in our first year of marriage. It’s full of practical financial advice designed to teach its readers how to reduce debt, budget, and create a family financial plan.
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Honestly, even if I had read Ramsey’s book when I received it I don’t know if it would have had much of an impact on my financial decisions in our early years of marriage.
Making A Commitment To Your Family’s Financial Health
It wasn’t until several years into our marriage that my husband and I got serious about budgeting and reducing debt.
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For us, it took a series of unexpected financial hits that forced us to make some serious changes to the way we handled money.
That January, we vowed to take control of our finances as part of our New Year’s resolutions. I spent the first week in January reading Dave Ramsey’s, The Total Money Makeover and discussing it with my husband.
Step One: Start Budgeting
While reading The Total Money Makeover, I realized that I had never stuck with a budget.
For several years, I would create a budget in January, but by March we had given up on our Excel budget.
That year, we decided to invest in a personal budgeting system that would make budgeting easier by importing our family’s financial data directly from our bank accounts and settled on You Need a Budget (YNAB).
We couldn’t be happier with YNAB. It makes budgeting simple; the interface is easy to read, and it syncs with all of your devices.
The simple act of budgeting has had a real influence on the way my husband and I make financial decisions. Our spending habits shifted considerably that first year of budgeting.
We were finally controlling our money, rather than having our money control us!
Step Two: Get Intentional About Your Lifestyle
For a couple of months, our simple plan was to reduce our spending on expenses we could control, like eating out, buying clothes, toys and books and hope that was enough.
In March, we realized that we needed to do more. For the next month, I prayed a lot. I studied our finances a lot. I cried a lot. I even fasted.
Then at the end of the month, I returned to The Total Money Makeover, and it all started to make sense. I finally got it — debt-free living is a personal choice. It’s a lifestyle that I can own, even if it took me more than 20 years to figure out.
More importantly, my children see and internalize the daily decisions I make about money.
If I don’t live a lifestyle that reflects how to use money wisely, then I am doing a disservice to my children. The way I treat money matters, and it matters most to those I love the most.
I want my children to be good stewards of money, to understand how money works, to be able to afford their lifestyles, without accumulating debt, and to be able to serve those in need.
Step Three: Start Your Debt Snowball
Dave talks a lot about implementing a debt snowball to reduce debt. A debt snowball encourages you to pay off one debt at a time.
Once you pay off one debt you start paying off the next debt and so on. If you’re not familiar with this concept, you should Google it, or better yet, read Dave’s book.
If eliminating debt from your life is one of your life goals, then I challenge you to implement this debt reduction strategy to your debt portfolio.
Once you have a plan in place to start eliminating debt, you’ve got to get your whole family in on the commitment or else it’s not going to be sustainable.
Step Four: Make this a Family Commitment
One of the biggest and most significant changes I’ve made in my financial plan is discussing my family’s financial strength with my husband on a regular basis. We’d never really done this before as most of our expenses are auto-deducted and then we just purchased whatever we needed without discussing money at all (except for very large purchases like a car or house, of course).
This intentional act of coming together with your spouse to mutually discuss your family’s finances is vital to the strength of your family’s financial future as well as to the strength of your marriage.
Get Your Children Involved
If your children are old enough, you should get your children involved in making financial decisions, too. This early introduction to budgeting and financial education should begin at home. Your kids will thank you for it later.
Eliminating debt is hard work. It requires tough choices, a change in attitude and the creation of new, sustainable habits. But it’s worth it. In the end, what you’ve chosen is freedom, control, and ultimately joy for your family.
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Are you overburdened by debt? Have you considered eliminating all debt? What’s your plan of action?
I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments section below.
With Love and Joy,