I used to think I was great with money. When I got my first job after college, I paid off my three-year car loan in a year and a half, used the cash envelope system, and put money into savings every single paycheck. I ate only organic food and bought everything I ever wanted.
And then I married a financial genius.
I rebelled against change for a very long time. I wanted our finances to continue in the exact way that I managed them before, but my way wasn’t making any difference in our student loans or furthering our savings goals.
My husband taught me some very important principles about finances and how to pay off debt quickly. Our three-year wedding anniversary is coming up this month, and in that time we have paid off over seven thousand in student loans, purchased two cars, and moved 350 miles away from our hometown, all without debt or credit cards.
3 Financial Tips for the New Year
1. Have a budget
This is everyone’s first money tip but I can’t tell you how many times I read financial advice blogs and skipped the budget idea. When I was single, I used the cash envelope system and had an envelope for every category. This is easier to do when you have cash, but it’s a lot harder to keep the categories straight when you use a debit card. After weeks of trying to keep every category straight on a white board, we decided instead to institute a weekly budget, and every average purchase had to be covered by that budget. This meant gas, groceries, clothes, and date nights were all under one budget, which was much easier to track.
2. Downsize and sell
One of the first big projects of our married life was downsizing my belongings. As it turns out, my new husband expected to share the closet! So we went through my ridiculously large wardrobe and pared it down to just my favorite pieces. Smaller wardrobe = less to maintain.
We sold the extra clothes and furniture to a local consignment store and either put the money towards our savings or grocery budget for that week.
3. This isn’t forever
Thanks to my husband’s dedication to becoming debt-free, we are debt-free with significant savings, a good car, and we left apartment life and live in a house. Now that we have seen the benefits of hard work and frugal living, we are excited to reach higher goals of owning our own business and paying for it in cash. None of this would be possible without those early years of sacrifice and living with much less than the ideal. Self-discipline is the most difficult part of becoming debt-free, but the most rewarding. It is important to remember that budgeting and sacrifices won’t last forever, but will provide you and your family with unimaginable freedom in the years to come.
Originally published January 12, 2017