My husband and I made a decision get into better “financial health” about a year and a half ago. For us, and many people, that means increasing our savings, and making some serious changes in our spending.
We have been like many people in that we’ve spent a lot of time just being free with our spending, not watching what we were doing and basically spending what we made and saving very little.
A number of years back my husband nearly died due to a rare bacterial infection that attacked his lungs and he was on life support. The doctors prepared the family that he would not make it. The good news, he DID pull through but what it left him was a very real sense that life is short so why not enjoy it to the fullest? I mean, who wouldn’t feel that way after a near-death experience, right? What if we aren’t here tomorrow? Next week? Next month? Let’s live now.
The problem with that thinking is that there’s another side – what if we live a long and healthy life? Then what? We didn’t exactly think that way, until recently.
And that’s when we decided our free-wheeling lifestyle needed some serious changes.
One of the biggest changes we’ve made is the practice of paying ourselves first. Seeing that what most of us do is save whatever money is left over at the end of the month/pay period/etc, the act of doing it first was something new and this has been a game changer for us. Plus the fact that we began making a budget that really worked for us.
Over the last couple of years, we’d gathered some small debts – local furniture store purchases, a line of credit, etc. And these were now looming over us. We wanted and needed to get rid of these.
What exactly is “paying yourself first”?
Paying yourself first is simply putting money into savings right away when you get paid from your job. So, when you have your paycheck, you immediately put money into your savings account before you do anything else. Or as we have done, we’ve put it immediately on an outstanding bill. You can do either as long as it’s helping your financial situation improve.
It helped that we viewed paying ourselves as being like a “bill”… a bill we still had to pay just like the others, but we paid ourselves before doing anything else.
The beauty of this was that it really helped us to see that some of our regular spending was purely a want rather than a need. And it definitely helped us buckle down.
We figured out what we could afford to pay ourselves using budget worksheets to determine our current expenses and our income which gave us a clear picture. We also cut out doing things that were costing us a fortune that we didn’t realize – like grabbing coffee/tea at a local establishment on our way to work each day. (Just $3 a day was adding up to a whopping $130 a month when we both did it and that’s just crazy.)
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How we do it
Thankfully, our pays are directly deposited into our bank account, so we set up an automatic transfer for our paydays that instantly takes the money out and puts it into a subsequent savings account. Since it skims it off the top of our pay, we don’t even see it happening.
In the case of wanting to put it on a bill, we set that up too since we were able to set up the furniture company as a “bill” through our online banking. (If you are wanting to do this, ask the company you’re dealing with if they have this ability, as it’s so easy to do and guarantees payment on time every time.)
If you get physical paychecks in your hand, simply deposit your check as you would normally and take off what you want to “pay yourself” and put it into an account (or whatever form you prefer).
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Not having a goal in mind makes it very easy to be slack, or give up completely. I’ve learned this in my life on many occasions. So we made sure we had a goal in mind. For example, if we wanted to save $600 each month, we’d put $150 from each of our pays (we each get two per month and we get paid on alternating weeks, so there’s a pay every week) into our savings so that we could have a specific amount saved by the end of the year, or if it was to pay off the furniture we’d purchased, we determined how much we’d put on that to get it paid off the fastest.
Does it mean making sacrifices? Yes of course. But that is okay, because we both want to have the money in our savings account. Having that money in there means more to us than a fancy dinner out, or a weekend getaway. After all, a dinner at a nice steakhouse can easily run about $125 for us… and that’s just one meal. I’m not saying we don’t treat ourselves, but we’ve scaled back. Rather than a meal like that, we’ll go to another place that might run us $35to $50 and we do it a lot less often than we did before.
We actually liked the feeling of paying ourselves first, knowing the money was locked in and that we wouldn’t touch it. It’s a done deal, so to speak.
The remaining money from our pays goes towards bills, living expenses, etc.
While we didn’t go without any necessities, it definitely trimmed down the spending on “wants”. (Lord knows I don’t need another tube of lipstick just because I think the shade is gorgeous.)
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Our only regret with doing this is that we hadn’t started it sooner. But better late than never, right? It’s made some definite positive changes in our financial health.
Are we perfect at doing it? Nope. But that’s okay. If we falter, we just correct our steps and get back on track.
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Remember: The key to having financial freedom is knowing where your money goes and how you are spending it. Finally take control of your finances with my complete financial and budget planner. Now you can keep detailed records of all your finances all in one place and start controlling your money so it won’t control you.
Have you tried paying yourself first? What did/do you think about it? Any tips?