My Financial Plan – How I Improve on Ramsey

In April, my wife and I decided that debt was done. We have hopefully closed that chapter in our lives. I borrowed, then purchased, The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. <a href=budget” width=”300″ height=”213″ />We are almost following his baby steps. Our credit has always been spectacular, but we used it a lot. Our financial plan is Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover, with some adjustments.

Step 1. Budget:

The budget was painful, and for the first couple of months, impossible.  We had no idea what bills were coming due. There were quarterly payments for the garbage bill and annual payments for the auto club.  It was all a surprise.  Surprises are setbacks in a budget.

When something came up, we’d start budgeting for it, but stuff kept coming up. We’re not on top of all of it, yet, but we are so much closer. We’ve got a virtual envelope system for groceries, auto maintenance, baby needs(we have two in diapers) and some discretionary money. We set aside money for everything that isn’t a monthly expense, and have a line item for everything that is. My wife is eligible for overtime and monthly bonuses. That money does not get budgeted. It’s all extra and goes straight on to debt, or to play catch-up with the bills we had previously missed.  I figure it will take a full year to get all of the non-monthly expenses in the budget and caught up.

Step 2. The initial emergency fund:

Ramsey recommends $1000, adjusted for your situation. I decided $1000 wasn’t enough. That isn’t even a month’s worth of expenses. We settled on $1800, plus $25/month. It’s still not enough, but it’s better. Hopefully, we’ll be able to ignore it long enough that the $25/month accrues to something worthwhile.

Step 3. The Debt Snowball:

This is the controversial bad math. Pay off the lowest balance accounts first, then take those payments and apply them to the higher balance accounts. Emotionally, it’s been wonderful. We paid off the first credit card in a couple of weeks, followed 6 weeks later by my student loan. Since April, we’ve dropped nearly $10,000 and we haven’t made huge cuts to our standard of living.    At least monthly, we re-examine our expenses to see what else can be cut.

Step 4. Three to six months of expenses in savings:

We aren’t on this step yet. In step 2, we are consistently depositing more, making us more secure every month.

Step 5. Invest 15% of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement:

I have not stopped my auto-deposited contribution. It’s stupid to pass up an employer match. My wife’s company does not match, so she is currently not contributing.

Step 6. College funding for children:

We have started a $10 College fund.

Step 7. Pay off home early:

I don’t see the point in handling this one separately. Our mortgage is  debt, and when the other debts are paid, we will be less than a year from owning our house, free and clear. This is rolled in with step three. All debt is going away, immediately.

Step 8. Build wealth and give!

We have cut off most of our charitable giving. Every other year, it has been a significant percent of our income, and in a few more years, will be so again. The only exception to this is children knocking on the door for fundraisers. I have no problems with saying no to a parent fundraising for their kid, but when the kids is doing the work, door-to-door, especially in the winter, I buy something. My son’s school, on the other hand, gets fundraisers ignored. When they come home, I send a check to the school, ignoring the program. I bypass the overhead and make a direct donation.

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Extra Money? What Do I Do With Extra Money?

A couple of months ago, I started a new job. The new job has bonus potential every month, and

English: RepRap v.2 'Mendel' open-source FDM 3...

English: RepRap v.2 ‘Mendel’ open-source FDM 3D printer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

getting that bonus is largely under my control. Effectively, if I’m not a total slacker, I’ll get
about $500 every month, but it’s not guaranteed.

We’re also getting a small 4 figure tax refund this year. I wasn’t expecting that at the beginning
of last year, but one of my side hustles has taken a turn down a path I didn’t plan for, which
lowered my tax liability considerably.

Both of these things are money that we can’t plan for, so it’s not in the budget. It is extra
money.

What the heck do you do(responsibly) with extra money? It’s easy to take the money and run to the
spend it someplace fun.

Easy.

And tempting.

Very tempting.

But that wouldn’t be responsible at all.

The Dave Ramsey plan says we should put it on our debt, but our debt is down to just a mortgage,
and that’s down to $9000.

Retirement?

I actually over-contributed to my retirement last year, and had to file a form to get the
overpayment back instead of paying a penalty on that money. My wife’s account isn’t getting maxed,
yet, but she’s also way ahead of me in retirement savings.

So what to do with it?

I added a calculator that let’s me punch in a number and it breaks it out by our optional goals.

It has 6 categories:

  • Extra mortgage payment: 25%. My goal is to pay off the mortgage completely this year.
  • Retirement contribution: 25%. I do want to max Linda’s retirement contributions this year.
  • Emergency fund: 15%. We have an emergency fund, but I want to grow it to 6 months of our expenses.
  • Family: 15%. This if for whatever family thing we’re planning to do. It could be pushed into a down payment for another rental property, or a vacation, or a camper. We’ll decide this each time we get the extra money.
  • Jason’s Fun Money: 10%. This is for me to blow on something fun, like a 3D printer.
  • Linda’s Fun Money: 10%. This if for my wife to blow on something fun, like a present for me.

So, if we get $2500 randomly dropped in our mailbox, we’ll put $625 on the mortgage and a
retirement fund, $375 to the emergency fund and the family fund, and $250 to Linda and I for fun
stuff.

That lets us see progress on a few of our goals, while still rewarding how hard we’ve worked and
how much we’ve done without while becoming financially stable. 65% of it is pure grown-up &
responsible spending. 35% is generally fun, but can be repurposed if necessary.

What do you do with surprise money? Do you blow it or do something responsible with it?

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Handling a Windfall

What would you do if you were handed $10,000 tomorrow?  $20,000?

The easy default answer–if you spend time in the personal finance world–is to pay off debt and save the rest.

But is that the right answer?

When my mother-in-law died, we inherited a little bit of money, a house that hasn’t been updated since the 60s, and a new-ish car that still has an active loan.

We also have about $16,000 in credit card debt and a small mortgage.

The Dave Ramsey answer would be to pay off the card at all costs and worry about the inherited house later, but that seems off.  If we modernize the house and fix the things that are broken, we have a mortgage-free rental property.   Our local rental market is strong; we should be able to clear $800 per month after expenses.

Is the right answer to pay off our card and scrape to get the house ready or should we fix up the house and use that new income to pay off the card?

My wife has also inherited an IRA that–due to its status as a Beneficiary IRA and the fact that there have been disbursements–has to be drained within 5 years.   It’s not huge.   After taxes, it’s about the size of the car loan.    Should we make the $200/month payments, or cash out the temporary IRA and make the car loan go away immediately?  Should we cash out the IRA and open one for my wife?

Although the cause was sad, these are good problems to have.   If we manage this right, we’ll be more financially stable than we would have been for decades, otherwise.

I want your opinion, please.

2 questions:

1.  House or credit card?

2.  What would you do with a $10,000 IRA that has to be cashed out over the next 5 years?

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I just turned 2!

Update:  Over $500 in prizes!

Yesterday was my second anniversary here.   For the last two years, I have shared my thoughts, feelings, and finances three times a week and you have been there to watch and share as I figure out my financial future.

I appreciate it.

To show my appreciation, I’m giving stuff away.

Here are the prizes:

1 $100 prize

1 $75 prize

6 $25 prizes, courtesy of ThirtySixMonths, Budgeting in the Fun Stuff, Maximizing Money, Personal Finance Whiz, and Broke Professionals.

1 iPod Shuffle courtesy of Prairie Eco-Thrifter.

1 $25 Amazon gift card courtesy of Beating Broke.

A copy of each of the iPhone and iPad versions of the Pay Off Debt app from The Debt Myth

1 $20 Amazon gift card, courtesy of Money Crush.

1 $25 Starbuck’s gift card, courtesy of Mom’s Plans.

I’m also giving away some books, some of which have been lightly read.

Financial Peace Revisited by Dave Ramsey

Never Pay Retail by Sid Kirchheimer

Delivering Happiness (advanced reader copy) by Tony Hsieh

I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi

The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau

CreditCards.com Book of Cartoons

Women & Money by Suze Orman

To enter:

Follow the instuctions in the widget below.   Following me on Facebook, Twitter, RSS, or email will all earn entries.  Following any of the sponsors on Twitter of Facebook will earn you entries.   Tweeting about the giveaway as often as you like or linking to this page on your site will earn you entries.

There are lots of ways to enter and 16 prizes to win.

The drawing will be held on December 23rd, just in time to give you some cash before Christmas.

Good luck!

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