It’s a NEW YEAR! I don’t know about you but at the beginning of each year, I make a habit of re-assessing our finances and other documents. It’s always a good idea to do this periodically.
Unfortunately, sometimes that means getting hit with the harsh truth that you need to cut back in areas. Not always does this mean you are struggling with your finances but rather, you are trying to be wise.
My husband and I, prayed about, weighed the options and ultimately decided to trade his beloved truck recently. When we bought this beloved truck, he was working 25 miles away and it was to be a 3rd vehicles since we had paid off his car.
Circumstances have changed ALOT over the last year. He is now working 55 miles away which means 110 miles per day on his vehicle. The car he has, and is paid for, but racking up miles quickly. It is also an older car so not as great MPG as the newer models. I drive about 80 miles a day taking the kids back and forth to their school, so it just wasn’t practical to keep the truck as neither of us could really drive it too often.
Instead, we purchased a used Nissan Altima that only has 18K miles on it, gets 39 MPG on the highway (he drives mostly highway miles) and we financed less than we owed on the truck. In addition, I will now drive the old car more and keep miles off my van and it gets better gas mileage than what I have. All the way around, it was the practical ADULT decision that needed to be done.
Let’s Talk Money
No one likes to have to watch every penny they spend but it’s so important to know where your money is going, and adjust accordingly. I for one HATE budgeting. Today there are so many awesome templates and tools available to help with this. We have had a financial adviser come, and go over all our finances a few years back.
He also recommended the Dave Ramsey Financial Planner. I liked the budget, the snowball effect for reducing debt, but HATED the envelope and cash system. I am a millennial and we do everything through online billpay. I don’t keep cash, nor do I wish to. So we just improvised on that. I left all my billpay accounts set up, changed my amounts of those debts to implement the Snowball, and started tracking my spending online.
There are a million tools and online spreadsheets for creating a budget. Here is a link to the one I have used a lot in the past. I am not a Dave Ramsey Affiliate so I this is just my personal opinion and experience.
Don’t cheat! Be honest if you want this to really benefit you. You can set a spending cash amount to use for those coffees etc if you don’t want your spouse to know. 😀
Every financial person I have ever researched or read, ALWAYS says to build an emergency fund first. $1000 to start with but really the goal is usually advised to have 3 months saved up to pay all your bills in case of emergency, injury, layoff etc.
If you are one of those people who struggle with spending any extra money you have, I recommend setting up a Money Market account. Start by transfer $25 per week/bi-weekly, monthly etc. It will add up and not show in your checking account. You will be less likely to want to spend it, and it also gains more interest than a checking account.
Okay, this is what I was most excited about. I tend to try to pay a little extra on all our debt accounts but it takes forever to payoff or truly see the difference there. This works REALLY well if you stick to it.
Basically you list out all our debts, the interest rate, and term. It would look something like this, using easy fictional number for the purpose of this post.
Debt Lender Amount Owed Interest Term Minimum Payment
Mortgage $100,000 4.75% 30 Years $800
Home Equity $5000 6.99% Variable $75
Auto Loan 1 $10000 6.25% 60 Months $195
Auto Loan 2 $15000 6.00% 72 Months $250
Credit Card $3000 12% Variable $80
Based on these assumptions you would want to pay minimum owed on all but 1. Then you would put all extra funds into paying off the debt with the highest interest rate, or any small debts you have first. Given the above, you would want to pay off the credit card first. It has the highest interest rate and lowest amount owed.
After looking over your budget see how much extra you could pay toward it. Note: If you haven’t already done so put the credit card away and do not use unless emergency. Maybe you could start by putting an extra $50 per month and making your payment $130 on that.
Trust me, once you pay off that first debt, it is so exhilarating. Then you put the entire $130 in addition to your next debt, making your payment to the home equity $205. That almost triples that payment and you will get it paid off SOOOO much faster.
We purchased a new mower last summer. My husband was supposed to be deployed this year (before getting promoted to a different unit) and our old mower had been giving us trouble. I wanted to make sure we had a reliable mower that I didn’t have to worry about breaking down while he was gone. Note: We have about 2 acres of grass.
When we went to purchase it, we toyed with paying cash or financing. They had a special offer allowing us to finance with 0%. While this adds another monthly payment, its much easier to swallow a small monthly amount, then it is a large lump sum. This contradicts the Dave Ramsey plan, however for us it made the most sense. However, we did/do have the money in the account. We wouldn’t have made this decision if we couldn’t pay for it.
Be Smart with your Money!
It should go without saying, but if you are trying to pay off debt, don’t go out and spend extra money once you get that first thing paid off. Be SMART, it will pay off in the long run.
Let’s get Legal
Power of Attorney
We are a military family and as such prior to deployment, the military makes sure you at least have all your documents in order. We did a Power of Attorney within no time after getting married, and I didn’t think I’d need it. Boy was I wrong. My hubby was deployed 13 months, during that time I traded my truck, needed to open accounts, and deal with other bills that his name was on and they wouldn’t let me make changes without the power of attorney.
No one likes to think about dying, especially if you have children. This is a HUGE fear of mine. However, it’s so important to put everything in a legal document. This is one thing I need to update. We haven’t updated our’s since our youngest was born. Rule of thumb is to update your Will every 5 years.
These can be a basic or specific as you personally want. If you do have children, they will want to know who get the kids should something happen to both you and your spouse. Think about this, pray about, and be sure you have asked said person before putting it in a legal document.
Other things you should really talk about before hand, though they do not always have to go in the Will.
1. Would you like to be cremated, or buried? If buried, what location?
2. Discuss other wishes or desires for burial service.
3. Type up a list of any belongings you wish to go to certain relatives, kids, friends and keep with your Will. Any valuables you could include in the will but most people I have talked to just have a list of sorts and it’s not necessarily done through the legal docs.
Medical Power of Attorney
This is often done at the same time as a Will. Another good document to have in case of emergency. Be sure to let your medical power of Attorney know your last wishes. Do you want to be resuscitated, etc?
Know what insurance you have. Every few years you should have your insurance agent check for new policies that could save you money. You also need to review the limits and what you have on all your policies from time to time.
I did this last year. While it was a pain, it was well worth the time and effort. Each year the insurance companies will generally increase your premiums for inflammation etc. This could be small increases or sometimes large. Call your agent and just have them double-check everything.
Also, be sure you and your spouse know what life insurance policies you have where, and for who. For example, I am part-time and do not get many benefits, but my employer does have a small life insurance policy on me. I also have one through our insurance agent. My husband needs to who to contact about them. I personally keep a copy of all our current policies in our safe box.
Other Important Things to get in Order.
One of the first things I purchased when we got married was a fire-proof safe locked box. It’s a small one but I keep our legal docs, contracts, passwords, and my backup hardrive in it as well as a few other valuables like the kids ultrasound videos and our wedding tape.
You never know what might happen so knowing that this things are locked up and fire-proof is just a security measure I like having. Here is one like what I have. They also make these really neat fireproof bags if you need a more affordable option.
Accounts and Passwords
So I do all our finances. It’s important that my husband have a list of our accounts, passwords, and any other important information regarding them should anything ever happen to me. I don’t think he would know how to login to our bank account if he wanted to, but he has access to it if needed. I also try to put a copy of this in our safe that I keep all our legal docs in.
Emergency Contacts/Cheat sheet
I try to keep a cheat sheet. This helps me but would be dire for my husband if something happened to me. My cheat sheet has Name, Number, Policy Number/Account Numbers, and amounts for applicable policies of all important things.
Insurance Agent- Policies with Policy Numbers, Deductibles, Monthly Amount Owed etc.
Mortgage Lender- Account Number, Amt Owed as of Jan 1, Monthly Payment
Auto Loans- Lender, Account Numbers, Monthly Payment and Due date.
NC529 for Kids- Account Numbers, Amount as of Jan 1, Monthly Payment
Any other loans with lender, account number, payment amount and phone numbers.
You can also check out my Pinterest Board for Finances.
I hope this helps give you something to think about. It takes ALOT of time to get all these things in order but if you do it now, then you just have to review and update going forward.
Let me know if you’d be interested in some of the above in a Freebie. I’m debating it right now.
**This post contains affiliate links from Amazon**