A while back, I mentioned that Tom and I are doing Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. We were both blessed enough to not have entered our marriage with debt, but we know how easily people fall victim to the allure of living outside their means, and we wanted to avoid it.
After reading that book, we decided we really needed to hammer into the “baby steps” it sets out for you to get on the path to living in “financial freedom” as you grow older. Since we had no debt (besides our mortgage), our “step one” was taken care of. The next step was to save $1,000 for an emergency fund. (In the book, it’s reversed: step one is getting the $1,000 emergency fund, and step two is paying off your debt, but we skipped step two since it didn’t apply. So I always think of it as step one.) Lest you wonder, no, we do NOT keep $1,000 cash in our house. We keep it in the bank.
“Step 3” was much harder. You were to save three to six months’ worth of living expenses. We read the book in January (2010) and our goal was to have that amount by the next year’s February (2011). I’m tempted to say, “This was going to take some work because we don’t make so much money that we could live luxuriously and still save that amount in 13 months.” But that’s not really fair because it’s just as hard for everyone doing this- the more you make, the more you’re required to save.
At least, that was our twist on it. Instead of saving six months of living expenses, we wanted to save six months of salary. We figured we could live on less than that, so it would really last us seven months or so if we needed it to.
Once we settled on a figure, we, to quote Tom, “went gangbusters on it.” Ha, he makes me laugh. Seriously, though, we really had to fight the urge to spend on our house, on eating out, on movies or other fun (but less than cheap) activities, and on things we really wanted to get. For a while, Tom was even having me buzz his head for him, and I’ve been growing my hair long again, so we cut out the expense of salons for months.
We kept telling ourselves that it would feel GREAT when we achieved that goal and that spending on frivolous stuff was just putting us that much further away from achieving it. We reminded ourselves of what Ramsey says in his book, “Live like no one else now so that you can live like no one else later.” Which basically means that if you are willing to make sacrifices now, even though maybe no one else around you is making those sacrifices, then later you will be able to live comfortably, when many around you will be living with debt.
Well, this Thanksgiving, one of the things that Tom and I were extremely grateful about was reaching our goal early. We’ve been really aggressive about this goal since January, and we’ve completed that baby step. This might seem silly to y’all, but to us it was such a big undertaking, and it was so exciting to get it done ahead of time (at Thanksgiving, no less), that we felt like we should document it when the final two checks were deposited to push us over that finish line.
Here are my hands, signing the checks:
Tom, getting ready to deposit them:
It was a yucky day, the day before Thanksgiving. (Not that you can tell in the next picture.) We were in Conyers at Wells Fargo after dropping off the dogs at the kennel.
Poor Tom, he realized the ATM wasn’t working. Temporary let down for him, but relief for me. I was worried the police would confiscate my camera since I was taking pictures of him depositing checks at an ATM.
So we went with a drive-up teller. Thought this was a bit random:
And finally, the checks were out of our hands and into the bank. Where we then waited for them to clear so we could transfer them to ING, but whatever, it still counts.
I was taking pictures with one hand and holding Tom’s flip to record a short video with the other. Our teller saw me and thought we were total loonies, but that just made us laugh…which she heard, and then she started laughing too. She had to wonder what was so special about that trip to the bank, especially when we high-fived as we drove off.
So, I guess my point is two-fold: First, Tom, I’m really happy being married to someone who has wise financial leadership in our family, and I’m so excited that we reached this long-fought-for goal. (Now for step 4…)
And secondly, I know that some of our friends and family members are also working really hard to get on top of debt or reach a savings goal or pay off their mortgage or whatever it is. And I just wanted to encourage you to keep at it. It feels so good to accomplish a financial goal, and you CAN do it (maybe sooner than you think) if you stick with it.
Good luck, and here’s to stick-to-itiveness!