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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The $10 College Fund

brugesI recently started a college fund for my kids. With my oldest getting ready to turn 10, this was a late start. However, when he was born, we were in no position to set aside anything extra.

At least, we didn’t realize we were at the time.

When our oldest son was born, I was 20 years old. I was working in a factory and hadn’t gone to college myself, yet. That’s a situation that makes it hard to justify a college fund. Financial planning and responsibility was to come at a later date.

So, how much do we have in this shiny new college fund? [Continue Reading…]

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Carnival Roundup

The Money Makers was included in the following carnivals recently.

TV characters. Dirty Sexy Money

TV characters. Dirty Sexy Money (Photo credit: BarbieFantasies)

Carnival of Financial Planning hosted by The Skilled Investor
Carnival of Financial Independence hosted by Reach Financial Independence
Carnival of Personal Finance hosted by Reach Financial Independence
Aspiring Blogger Financial Carnival hosted by Aspiring Blogger
Carnival of Money hosted by Financial Nerd

Thank you!

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Debt Burnout

Burnout.

Image by LunaDiRimmel via Flickr

You’ve got a budget.  You’ve got a debt repayment plan.  You’ve been paying off your debt.  You’ve even paid off a few of your smaller debts.  Now you’re staring down the barrel of your big debts: your mortgage, a $30,000 credit card, maybe a car payment.  You’re looking at months of payments with no quick wins; no more watching your debts die every few months.  You’re in the middle of a very long slog.

All of the easy milestones have been reached and the next one is a year or more away.  This is when debt repayment gets hard.  How can you avoid getting burnt out doing the same thing, month after month, with no major visible progress?

1.  Keep your eye on the prize. Try focusing on the end result, while ignoring the time it takes to get there.  Do you have a reward planned for when you pay off your debt?  If not, consider that to be your new shining goal-post.  My wife and I plan on taking an Alaskan cruise when our debt is repaid.

2.  Ignore the prize. If #1 doesn’t work for you, try focusing on just the current month’s progress.  How much did you pay off this month?  Was it more than last month?

3.  Make micro-goals. Try breaking the long slog into bite-sized pieces.  How fast can you pay off the next $1000?  How many months will it take to pay off that TV you bought last year?  Sometimes, meeting a smaller goal can make the whole works feel like it’s going by faster.

4.  Take a snowball vacation. For just one month, take every dollar you would normally apply to your debt–except your required payments–and have some fun with it.  Take a weekend trip, have a fancy dinner, or pick up that video game system you’ve been eying.  Something.  Anything to take your mind off of your repayment plan for a while.   Be careful not to make this a habit or you will never get out of debt.

5.  Start a blog to share your pain.

A debt snowball is a long, intense process.  If you’re not careful, you can burn out and let the whole thing collapse.  How do you avoid burnout?

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