When I say that the personal finance community was THE reason why we were able to fix our personal finance situation and get out of debt, I mean it. Without personal finance blogs and podcasts, we’d still be in a lot of trouble like we were before.
That’s why throughout the month of December, I shared with you personal finance stories from bloggers themselves who I hope will inspire and encourage you to keep making progress on your own journey.
Without further ado, here are my takeaways from sharing the stories from 14 other bloggers this month.
I’m not sharing this to say “If I can do it, anyone can!” I would like to believe it, but that’s too simplistic. While it’s true that almost anyone could probably also learn a helpful new skill, that doesn’t mean that my road is your road is the other person’s road.
As much as there is to learn from the personal finance community, personal finance decisions are still personal. Our road is ours. Your road is yours. Take away from this community what you think will work best for you and your situation.
In my opinion, succeeding with money isn’t even about money. It’s about mastering the underlying “human truths” in life and becoming an incredible person as you grow, experience, and live. Personal finance is really about saving and investing your money, so that you have enough money to find yourself and live your dreams.
Getting out of debt was the hard part of our journey, so with that part behind us, what’s next? Having enough money set aside to self-actualize, to dream, to grow…that’s what we’re saving for now. With enough money saved, W-2 employment can be in the rearview, too.
Take advantage of the tools that are available. With all the technology out there today it’s easier to automate things. Set-up your contributions to your retirement account and emergency fund to be withdrawn from your bank account as soon as your paycheck gets deposited. Bills? Almost all of them can get set on auto-pay as well. The fewer things you have to do manually the more time you have to focus on the good stuff…like making money.
While we thought that we had an automated system for managing our money, we were wrong. Sarah’s comments made me pause and consider flaws in our logic, holes in the system, and the potential for duplication. Looking into this further, we found a few issues. First, we found that Mint could no longer connect with one of our retirement accounts, so our net worth was off. Second, we are still receiving a paper bill for water whereas everything else is electronic. Third, our bank provides a suite of tools that have proved (so far) to be superior to Mint, so in an effort to simplify and get rid of unnecessary online accounts, we’re making the switch from Mint to our bank’s tools. Love automation and online tools for personal finance.
The path to achieving your financial goals is simple, but not easy. Your biggest challenges aren’t the math or the numbers – they are your habits and beliefs. The good news is that there are a ton of examples of people who have made the same change you’re looking for. If they can do it, so can you!
Truth. Once we figured out the math and then paid off our debt, saving and investing was a lot easier, especially because of automation; automation in personal finance is the habit we don’t have to think about. So…what’s next? Trying to develop better habits in other areas of our lives, like fitness. Time to look for those people who made the same changes we’re trying to make now to get in shape.
From Amanda Page
I stay motivated by reminding myself that I am the director of my own life and finances. If I have a handle on my finances, then I can fund the life I want to lead. I really employ the practice of values-based spending. I can either spend $350 on takeout in a month, or I can buy airfare to see friends in California. The decision is mine to make.
For those keeping score at home, we’re working on our next personal finance goal: financial independence/early retirement. We could try to pinch every penny and then start traveling or we could use values-based spending (love this phrase!) and enjoy the ride. Like Amanda, we use values-based spending and traveling to see friends is right in line with our values, too.
I had to learn that allowing what we do for a living define us is the path to misery. It teaches us to ignore our gut instincts in favor of what we’re supposed to do, what we’re supposed to want to have “the good life.”
This notion of what one is “supposed” to be doing was one problem in my teens and twenties; it was at the heart of all my debt and poor decisions. Looking back on this time in my life is painful because I spent every single day running headfirst into walls, ignoring all the signs along the way that I was NOT doing what I was “supposed” to be doing. It wasn’t until age 30 that I thought it was time to listen to those gut instincts and Hélène’s post is a good reminder that I need to keep on keepin’ on.
Saving 50% of your income is not the norm, so it’s very easy to fall back into frivolously spending your money, especially when you are surrounded by family or friends that do so, but surrounding myself with others that think the same way as me is a huge part of the reason I have the motivation to continue on with my goal.
Not everyone we know has the same mindset and it can be hard to stay motivated when surrounded by others who are always spending when we want to be saving. We used to be the spendy people, so we weren’t a positive influence. Upgrading vehicles, remodeling our home, etc. only contributed to the maintenance of the “Keeping up with the Joneses” mentality. Today, we’re trying to be a force for good. 😉
Come up with a plan and make it happen…If you’re trying to get out of debt, you have to have more than one stream of income.
Having a side hustle helped us accelerate our debt payoff, but that’s not all. Since we’re on the FIRE part of our personal finance journey, we’re stepping up our game; the theme for 2018 is growth and the goal is to 10x our income. Lofty goal? Yes! But like Jason says, come up with a plan and make it happen. In fact, there is probably a plan out there already for what we’re trying to do. 🙂
Financial independence may mean that we reach a point where work is no longer necessary…It may mean that we have a source of income (small business or rental income).
Over the last three years, I’ve read a lot about FIRE and most everyone seems to agree that “work optional” is a great way to summarize what financial independence represents. What’s most interesting to me is how many different ways people live and fund their lives. Each new blog means a new definition for financial freedom and potentially even another source of funding. Yes, FIRE can still mean having a small business, which is great since that’s what we have. 😉
The most important thing we’ve learned on our own FI journey is to make sure we’re enjoying life now AND setting ourselves up for the future at the same time. Grinding through a miserable life for some financial end goal will set you up for failure while spending every penny that comes in with no end game might be even worse. Everyone has to find their own balance of living both in the present and setting yourself up for an amazing future down the road.
My greatest fear is focusing too much on the FIRE number and not enough on spending our time wisely in the months or years leading up to it. I don’t want to be just another retiree (early or otherwise) looking back and saying, “Geez, I wish I didn’t work so hard.”
Credit cards can actually help you earn rewards or cash back that can allow you to save money if you use them responsibly. In particular, they can help reduce the cost and increase the value of family vacations.
Only if credit card balances are paid in full each month!
I love using our Amazon rewards points to offset spending on household stuff we purchase from Amazon. Being able to place an order that costs $0 is awesome.
However, we weren’t always responsible credit card users. It wasn’t that long ago that we weren’t paying the balances in full each month, something I’m still conscious of each time I swipe a card.
Learning how to manage our money and to use credit cards responsibly was the hardest lesson we learned with respect to our personal finances, so I echo Jennifer and Tony in their desire for responsible credit card use.
So here’s the key takeaway for young readers. Don’t wait until you’re 40 to get your financial act together. Get it together now while you’re in your 20s or 30s. Counting on the fickle finger of fate smiling on you when you’re in your 40s, is not very bright.
I’d say don’t wait until you’re in your XXs before you start learning about personal finance. 😉 Having not had any parental guidance or formal education, we had to take it upon ourselves and get our act together and we happened to be in our 30s when we started. No matter what age, it is possible to turn things around — I know everyone can make change happen.
Really think about what you value in life, and try to match your spending (of both money and time) to your values. If family is important to you, does it make sense to have 60+ hour work weeks? Should you spend more on self care? Do you really value Chipotle as much as last month’s spending indicates? Not everyone has the privilege to ask these questions, but if you do, treasure it.
Each month that we review our spending and craft a budget, we’re keenly aware of whether or not we’re spending according to our values. Travel is at the top of our list today, but it wasn’t always our priority. Back in the day, we used to spend far more remodeling a house we didn’t really like than we did on travel. Spend wisely!
I would say that once you have YOUR definition of what YOUR goals are – look at what your biggest obstacles are and start to attack them with a vengeance.
I have a bad habit and sometimes I fall into the comparison trap, which doesn’t serve me. When I compare where we are to where someone else is, I’m trying to be someone I’m not. I’m not that person. I’m me. So I’ve been working hard to focus on my own goals and my own obstacles for those goals. More on this front in 2018. 😉