I’m no financial wizard, that’s for sure. If it weren’t for my dad and my wife, I’d probably be in worse straights than I am now. But thanks to them, I’ve learned some great money habits.
My dad’s a financial advisor. He taught me to save, to use credit cards wisely, and to invest.
My wife is a saver. She tracks our weekly expenditures on a budget spreadsheet and holds me accountable for the things I purchase.
I’m so thankful for our current financial position. My wife and I have no debt. And, as a result, we’re free of much of the financial strain debt places on most married couples.
While I’d do a few things differently if I could start over, I’m content with our current financial lot in life. I don’t stress about money often, and it doesn’t consume my thoughts.
My wife and I were able to start our marriage off with relative financial freedom because of the decisions we both made. Though I’m by no means a money expert, I’d like to share some of the money habits that set me up for marital bliss. I know that, if you put them into practice, they’ll help you too.
1. I saved for big expenditures.
My biggest pre-marriage expenditure was college tuition. And I was really fortunate to only pay half. But, all in all, it still cost at least $40,000.
From the time I was a kid, my parents taught me to save. So every birthday and Christmas, I put gift money in a savings account and forgot about it.
It wasn’t easy delaying gratification. There were often things I wanted to buy. But when it finally came time to pay for college, it was a great feeling paying for much of it with cash.
If you haven’t been saving thus far, don’t get discouraged. The important thing is to start now. Michael Hyatt’s blog just reminded me of the best time to plant a tree. The saying applies to saving too.
Question: When is the best time to start saving?
Answer: Eight years ago.
Question: When’s the second best time to start saving.
2. I only spent money I had (with a few exceptions).
When I was in college, a college basketball teammate who was raising money for a campus group asked me to buy a ticket to a baseball game. I told him I wasn’t interested. And he told me that he hoped I didn’t leave college without ever having any fun. I think that was what he thought my college experience was like.
But I had a lot of fun in college. I just did it without spending much money. My thinking was If I’m paying thousands of dollars for college tuition, what free money do I have to spend?
Yes, I’d got to an occasional campus movie. I even went on a road trip or two. But I tried to avoid eating out, buying new clothing, and any extra expenses whenever possible.
I’d buy gas for my car, books, and anything that was a necessity. But in every other situation, I refrained from spending.
At times, I missed out on what other people were doing. Still, looking back, I’m extremely happy with my decision to forego the fun. It kept me from piling up additional debt.
What expenses can you cut out?
3. I focused on paying off debt.
As soon as college was over and I’d gotten a job, I focused on paying off my debt. I lived with my parents the first year after college to save on living expenses. It was a luxury I was fortunate to have.
While I paid my parents a measly rent sum, I devoted most of the rest of my earnings to paying off my debt. Then, when I moved out, a year or two later, I ended up in another cheap housing situation. I lived with a couple guys, and rent cost me only $400 per month.
Living cheaply and focusing on paying off debt were money habits that helped me get started off on the right foot and that set me up well for marriage. Ideally, all of us want to marry someone who’s debt free.
4. I lived inexpensively.
Even after I paid off my debt, I still lived frugally for the most part. I’d buy food and necessities. But otherwise, I avoided “bit ticket” expenses. I didn’t need them.
Admittedly, it wasn’t always easy. I’m a sucker for electronics. I gave in and bought an iPad at one point. And there were other times that I picked up gadgets such as an external hard drive, Bamboo drawing tablet, and modem. But realized my missteps and returned them for a refund.
Avoiding unnecessary purchases enabled me to stow money in an emergency fund. It also helped me save up for inevitable automobile maintenance expenses and other unforeseen costs. And it gave me money to buy my wife an engagement gift.
5. I made a habit of giving.
Growing up, I learned the importance of giving. More specifically, I learned about tithing – or giving a percentage of what I earn back to God.
As a Christian, I believe that I don’t own my money. It’s God’s. I’m just a steward of what he’s given me. And that’s true of everything that I own.
Most weeks I gave ten percent of my net income to the church. I didn’t always do this when I still had college loan debt. But I wish I would have.
The reason I gave and still give is not because God needs my money. He doesn’t. “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it […]” (Psalm 24:1).
Rather, giving is for my benefit. It reminds me that I’m dependent on God and that everything I have comes from Him.
It also reminds me that I can live on less than what I think I can. Somehow, after giving ten percent, the leftover money is always enough. But I know I could also easily blow one hundred percent of my earnings if given the chance.
6. I hung out with people who had similar habits.
The guys I lived with when I moved out of my parents’ house were also frugal. And that helped me immensely. I felt less pressure from my peer group to buy expensive things.
Actually, I felt positive peer pressure to save. The other guys usually bought cheap groceries. They seldom bought expensive items, and they were wise with their money.
My associations were a huge factor in my good start. Jim Rohn was oh so right when he said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” If you want to make financial progress, choose your friends carefully.
What direction are your friends pushing you?
7. I married someone who shared my money habits.
Finally, I got off to a good start because I married someone who shared my financial values.
When we tied the knot, my wife had very little debt. She’d worked hard to knock hers out. And she was living at home to reduce her expenses when I started dating her.
Throughout our marriage, she’s been the one constantly reminding me not to buy expensive guitar and computer equipment. She’s also the queen of discount grocery shopping, garage sales, and coupons. Nothing gets her excited like a free contest.
All of these money habits are little things, but they add up. Andy Stanley put it well: “There is a cumulative value to investing small amounts of time in certain activities over a long period.”
It’s our daily habits that make us or break us. That’s a big reason I’m thankful I married the woman I did.
What money habits are helping you get ready for marriage?