OK, I promise we’re back this time around. Lots of fun things have happened in the past few months that have made it hard to keep up with this blog, but also created lots of new material to write about! The first of which, I’d love to share some lifestyle changes we’ve implemented since the start of 2016 that have gone a long way in helping us get back on track for #theEffingLife.
1. Monthly financial reviews with the spouse. After some much needed life planning at the beginning of this year, I realized that just like everything else, in order to keep track with our goals, we have to hold ourselves accountable. And for AJ and I, that meant having a monthly calendar reminder to sit down and walk through our spending for the month and plan for the events coming up including weddings, business startup expenses and even how we want to celebrate our upcoming five-year anniversary. Our format isn’t super formal. We log into our individual Mint accounts and walk through what we’ve spent, talk through any surprises and plan for the next month. It might sound overly formal to have a meeting set up with your spouse to talk about money, but it really helps.
2. Re-building our emergency fund. As a result of our February financial review, we figured out that we really were not saving enough to ensure we could get through any emergency. The rule of thumb we followed was to figure out our living expenses for six months in the worst cast scenario that AJ lost his job. That gave us an estimate of about $24,000 to save up. So we devised a plan to move our upcoming income tax return, commissions from my recruitment job and his annual bonus into this fund to make up the difference. By the end April, we’ll be back on track!
3. Giving up my car. This was actually an easier decision than you might think. My SMART car aka the Bumble Bee was up on its lease at the beginning of March. At first, AJ and I were researching lots of cars and also trying to figure out how we would fund a car purchase (versus leasing again). Because I was planned for a longer trip later in the month, we figured we would test out not having a car for a few weeks and see if we even really need to invest in a new car again. Most people in Charlotte would say we’re crazy; we’re not the most walkable town. But thanks to having a work-from-home arrangement and the relatively low costs of Uber, it’s been working out well! We did the math: unless I spend more than $300/month on Uber, it just makes more sense to go without it. That and without a car, I’m less likely to make that impromptu trip to our nearby mall!
4. Going to the grocery once a week. In hindsight, it seems kind of silly that AJ and I were going to the grocery store two or even three times a week. We often would just shop the sale items at Harris Teeter and then separately go to Aldi for regular essentials. Now we limit ourselves to going to the grocery once per week and mostly stick to Aldi now. We find their prices are generally the same or lower than Harris Teeter sale prices and they now accept credit cards! This also helps us to stick to our weekly budget of $50 on groceries per week. We also try to eat everything possible in the house before we have to make a trip and we’re finding that we’re both becoming more creative in cooking and less wasteful (nothing expires here now!)
5. Putting my student debt first. This was the hardest pill to swallow. I was fortunate to come out of undergrad with no loans, and other than our home mortgages, this was the first time I really took out a loan on my own. As I prepared to graduate, I started looking at my loan situation and was surprised and appalled that I had accumulated well over $70,000 in loans for my MBA. Panicked, I started doing A TON of research on what this meant and what my options were and already started paying them back, even though as I write this post, I haven’t graduated yet. More to come on this, but the biggest change is thinking twice about money I spend for purchases that could be better spent on paying back that loan that is costing me $9/day.
What are some helpful lifestyle changes or habits you have employed to help you get to #TheEffingLife?