On Sunday,what seemed impossible for so long actually happened. Dave and I sat down and tackled a big chunk of this financial planning book that was given to us for our wedding (ya know – almost 3 years ago). It is called Smart Couples Finish Rich, by David Bach, and it comes highly recommended by a friend of mine who likes, and is good at, all this financial planning stuff (that I hate). But, actually, I didn’t hate this part. It was kind of fun and enlightening.
I actually tackled one of the first tasks in the book right after our wedding. I set up a filing system for all our important financial documents. That assignment was not fun. We had papers stuffed in boxes and all over the place. Mail that was years old that hadn’t been opened. That kind of thing. We were pretty deeply entrenched in avoiding our financial situation. Since that time we have become much better about facing up to the facts of our situation (ie., the decision to live with my parents while Dave was in school, instead of taking out more student loans; we actually have a cash flow sheet; etc.). However, we have still struggled to get the two of us on the same page in terms of our spending or our money goals. Therefore we have had totally divergent spending habits and understandings of where we’re trying to go, and have not been making a lot of headway for the future. I think that on Sunday, we might of taken care of that problem once and for all.
In the book, Bach has an exercise to help couples figure out what their top five values are in life, as a framework for what we should actually be using money for. After doing the exercise, Dave and I wound up with exactly the same values (I wonder how common that is? I’m grateful that it’s true for us – I think it will make things a lot easier!). Our values are:
- Freedom: not be chained from following our bliss due to financial obligations.
- Family: not have money worries place strain on our marriage, plan for our future children.
- Home: have a suitable place to live.
- Health: self-explanatory
- Work/Purpose: note that we don’t say “career” here. Neither of us is interested in climbing any ladders. Dave is interested in being a healer; I’m interested in being a writer. Therefore: work.
I think that these values, and having a visual reminder of them (we made them into drawings called “value circles,” per the book’s instructions), should help guide our spending. I hope so, anyhow!
After the values were set, we went on to make 5 goals each, related to our values, that we are going to focus on this year. I’m not going to share all of them here, but 2 of our goals ended up being the same, too. We both want to pay off our credit debt (currently sitting at $9,000 between the 2 of us – which, from what I hear, isn’t terrible. But it’s definitely not fantastic either) and build a decent savings account. To do that, we are going to have to figure out how to cut our expenses and try to increase our income this year. It’s an adventure!
Overall, I am feeling a lot better about all the financial stuff than I was before. Now that we’ve started really talking about the roots of our finances, I think that we’ll be able to stick to a plan better. Also, it was kind of fun and dreamy to talk about how we want our life to go, and why. Neither of us cares about being rich, or having a lot of stuff. We just want to be happy; and this exercise brought that back home.
The next step: carry around a notebook and write down everything we spend for the next 7 days, and on what. That should be interesting (I’m a little scared)!