It happened one day while I was riding my bike to work (more on that in a minute)…It was a ten mile ride to the office and about an hour of peddling. Atlanta has a deceiving amount of hills. We had lived in Atlanta about a year, and I thought our move was for my husband’s career. But on that fateful day in the midst of some heavy breathing and wondering if the car behind me was ever going to pass, I heard it. My calling.
In 2006, I started working in the world of finance. Business + Psychology + Art degrees in hand, I was a 21-year-old living in a big numbers world. I had my hot pink binder of goals, my fresh out of TJ Maxx blazer, and three-inch high heels that wouldn’t be traded for flats until years later. Back in those days I was taught the American dream went something to the tune of “if you can afford the payment, you can afford it.”
But two car payments, two house payments and a few years of the grind later, I learned the most important lesson about money I’ve ever learned : The American way doesn’t account for one big variable—LIFE CHANGE.
Kyle and I found ourselves in a new city, living out big dreams but on salaries we no longer had. As we sat in church learning how to “be rich” in our finances, we took a good hard look at our money and realized we had no margin. There was only one thing we could do. Get rid of the stuff. We traded our wood grain and leather seats for bike helmets and “butt” pants. And since that day we changed our mindset about money. Today I want to share :
This is the hardest one guys. Get your tissues and favorite comfort food ready, pull out three months of your past bank statements and take a look. When Kyle and I sat down and really looked at the numbers, we saw more than $1,000 spent eating out and $500 on Starbucks–IN ONE SINGLE MONTH! Just know, as Dave Ramsey says, until we tell our dollars where to go we will wonder where they went! So take a look, judgment free. And then ask yourself “is this where I want my money to go?”
What are some areas in your finances you can create some white space or margin? White space is like breathing room…it feels good. Are there some areas you can cut back to put your money where it matters to you more?
Related : What is Margin and why does it matter?
A few years ago I decided to throw the word budget out of my vocabulary. Budgets feels like a “no” whereas a spending plan feels like a “yes”. So let’s create a spending plan. Where do you want your dollars to go? When changing your financial habits it’s not about stopping something bad, it’s about starting something good! Just like with goal-setting, we have to want the outcome more than we don’t want the hard work! So what do you WANT?!!! You will only change your habits when you want something else more — is it a house? How much will you save? When will you start looking? Is it a car? How much will it cost? How much will you save monthly? When is your deadline?
I have worked in the world of finance now for the past twelve years and for most of those years what I’ve said more than anything is this: “they just need a money plan.” You see, we get caught up wondering how much of our salary we should save for retirement, do we need a ROTH or a Traditional IRA, or what is an IRA anyhow? And while all of those are really good things to think about, there is only one essential thing you need–a PLAN.
This year as you sit down to evaluate your goals, I encourage you to pull out your numbers and just take a look. I promise you, it’s not a fancy retirement portfolio that will get you where you want to go, it’s intentional planning and thoughtful spending.