I’ve been writing a lot lately about grocery shopping on a budget, and about how we took some unexpected financial hits over the holidays. Being on a budget controls my life lately, and for the first time since we got married, The Workaholic has given me more control over the finances. He was handling them and working a bazillion hours a week, and it was just totally stressing him out to see the figures every month. Nothing has changed in the figure department, but he is much happier because he can’t see what’s going on.
But now I can and it flips me out. I hate being in charge of finances. I’m not good with money, I have spending problems, and the word “save” is like you saying a dirty word to me in another language. It’s not that I hate saving, it’s just that my desire to have fun, or more, is much stronger than the desire to have a nest egg. It’s horrible.
Unfortunately, we’re not really in a position to have much of a nest egg right now, which also means that we don’t have any extra for me to be spending right now, and that all stresses me out. It shouldn’t, but it does.
The truth is, I can’t wait for The Workaholic to get his raise in September. The unfortunate part about that is, that I’m looking forward to having more or being able to do more instead of focused on taking that raise and saving it every month so that if something unexpected happens, we’re covered.
Forget saving for the future, we have a tween going into the 7th grade this year, who doesn’t have much of a college savings. I was a single mom for 5 years before marrying The Workaholic and The Nerd’s seed donor wasn’t paying child support so I had to work two jobs to make ends meet. There was NO saving going on. Then I had to go and marry someone 7 years younger than me who was just starting out in his career. He is right where he needs to be but it puts me behind. I’m absolutely counting on The Nerd to get an academic scholarship somewhere. Either that, or he better master a sport, STAT. I’m nearing middle-age and I don’t have even a penny of retirement. The Workaholic isn’t contributing to his company’s retirement plan right now either.
Let’s not forget the day-to-day struggles of being a mom of 3 who works from home and is married to a (wonderful) man who is not often home yet expects to come home to a clean house every night. OH, The Stinky needs new underwear? The Nerd needs new shorts? I need more mascara! The Workaholic needs socks and a new pair of shoes? The Muffin wants more fingernail polish? OMG, I have 72 loads of laundry to fold, 3 microwaved bacon plates to wash, a floor to sweep and mop, and, and, and . . . I’ll just stop there. You get the point. SO where do you start? Managing finances on top of the avalanche of parenthood is like finding the world’s tiniest and most rare tree frog in the world’s largest rain forest. It’s not easy, but there are solutions to make the change successfully and flawlessly.
It’s never too late to change the way you think and the way that you do things. It’s 2013, I’m making more money here at The Dirty Floor Diaries. The Workaholic will be getting a raise in September. There are good things on the horizon. I don’t have to take all of that extra money to keep up with people I don’t know, and neither do you. I drive a Dodge Grand Caravan. “Gold”. It’s beige, but whatever. It needs a bath, a new remote key, and a fog light cover. It also needs to be cleaned out. I think it’s also overdue for an oil change. I need to start taking better care of my car. It’s not a Mercedes R Series or an Infinity QX64, but it gets me where I need to go. It’s not pretty, but it does its job. The Workaholic paid his car off exactly 21 days ago, and while it’s not a BMW or a black Infinity G35 Coupe with a black leather interior that drives like I do labor, it gets the job done. It’s a Toyota and it’s going to last us until infinity or The Nerd wrecks it, whichever comes first.
I think one of the most important things to remember in terms of finances, is to find your happiness right where you are. You don’t need the fanciest car, the most sparkly jewelry or an Anthropologie shopping spree to be awesome. Your favorite blogger or best friend might have those things and they might think they’re hot mess but the truth is, they’re probably struggling just like you are, but with more expensive goodies. Don’t let the race for the American Dream get in the way of your happiness. Teach your kids now, right where you are, that while money matters, it isn’t the end-all-be-all of happiness, and excess really should be stored away for another day. You don’t want to end up with one of these on your hands:
Mass Mutual has come out with a fun new quiz to help you figure out what your attitude on spending is and how you can begin taking the necessary, small steps forward in the process of planning for your financial future. Take it and tell me what your personality is!
And for some tips on Balancing Month-to-Month Finances AND Saving for Retirement and College, read ahead. These are great tips. You might want to print this out for constant reference.
HUGE Thanks to Court Creeden with Mass Mutual for supplying us with these awesome, effective tips to financial wellness.
1. Figure out where your money goes
If you’re like most parents, you probably ask every month, “Where did all of our money go?” The first step to taking control of your daily expenses is to discover what they are. Track your expenses, not just rent/mortgage, utilities, groceries and gas, but everything. Do you buy breakfast on your way to work? Pick up an extra cup of coffee to get you through the morning, or maybe that new shade of nail polish you’ve been coveting? Cary a spreadsheet or log book to enter every payment you make. You will be surprised at how many times the cash you are paying out is “mindless.” Once you are aware of all of your expenses—ALL of them, you will truly know where your money goes and make a plan to maximize your cash flow.
2. Investigate what you DO have
Most adults have done some planning for their financial future—a life insurance policy through work, and IRA, here or there, but much of these purchases have been piece-meal and not viewed as a total plan. Looking at what you do have, how much you are paying for it and from where is an important step to determine what your best strategy should be. Be sure to look at the deductions in your paycheck, as well. You may find that you have forgotten the benefit elections that you made as a new employee.
3. Set priorities
Determine your and your family’s goals and clearly identify why each one matters to you, ranking them in order of importance. Be prepared to work hard on this process. Conflicts will arise, but asking questions such as will one goal benefit more people that the other? Which goal will cause greater harm if deferred? You may want to include family members to help in the discussion. Once you have had a chance to identify and prioritize your goals, focus on those that matter most.
4. Identify opportunities for savings
Looking back at the results of steps #1 and #2 above, determine where spending is taking place that could be reduced or eliminated. Also look to consolidate parts of your financial plan that may already be in place. Do you have two life insurance policies from separate companies? Perhaps consolidating with one company will net a cost savings. Investigate your employee benefits, as well. Many times, insurance benefits are available for free or at a reduced cost through your employer. Once you have identified the pockets of available cash, you can apply it to your savings goals.
5. Review your plan regularly
As your life changes, so do your financial goals and needs. Careers change, children grow up, marital statuses shift, salaries increase and so do families. Any number of events can cause parents to re-evaluate the goals and priorities that were established at the start of a marriage or a new job. The exercise described above may seem daunting, but it should be completed on a regular basis. It may get easier with practice, or it may not.
Although these five may help to put you on the right footing to plan your financial future, the long-term commitment and discipline needed to develop a plan is time consuming and requires specialized expertise. If there were to be a step 6, it should be, “Find an expert to help with planning your financial future —someone who can factor the needs of all of your families’ long-term goals and develop a unique plan that is appropriate for you and your family to accomplish your dreams.”
I wrote this post as participation in in a blog tour for MomCentral on behalf of MassMutual and received compensation in the form of an Amazon gift code to thank me for taking the time to participate.