Q & A - Your Personal Finance Question and Answers!
I wanted to call this the “How to find your Greatest Worth Q & A.” But, I’m not sure that would make sense to the general public. So, how about YOUR personal finance questions and answers!
I’m excited to share with you my first, of a recurring post, where I answer questions you have about finding your Greatest Worth. The sky’s the limit here! You can ask about budgeting, or mindset, or how I run my business. I’m an open book and am REALLY excited to get a little more intimate with you!
I totally remember trying to move forward but feeling unclear about what steps will get me pointed in the right direction (heck…I still feel that way. Often).
One of our guiding principles at Greatest Worth is the power and promise in community. We are committed to standing beside one another, offering not only our experiences but our mistakes and success to help each other take the next step, make the next choice.
I REALLY WANT TO HELP YOU MOVE FORWARD, FRIEND; IN YOUR FINANCIAL LIFE, IN YOUR EMOTIONAL LIFE, IN YOUR RELATIONSHIPS. AND, I WANT YOUR GUIDANCE IN MY LIFE.
Your struggles, were (and often still are) my struggles. We’re in this together.
QUESTION 1: ANONYMOUS ASKS: “HOW DO I GET STARTED PAYING OFF DEBT? I FEEL LIKE I’VE TRIED TO DO THIS MULTIPLE TIMES BUT JUST HAVEN’T HAD MUCH SUCCESS! CAN YOU PLEASE JUST HELP ME GET STARTED?!”
Well, this seems like it would be a simple question with a simple answer like, create a zero- based budget and take any “extra” money and use it to pay down debt. And while this answer is valid and true, I think personal financial health is a bit more complicated than just that. Just like our emotional health is more complicated than “choose to look on the bright side.”
So, let’s get to it.
A really good place to start is to figure out where you are right now and what you actually want out of life. There are some definitions and goals that are critical to define, before diving into a budget!
What are your beliefs around money that you grew up with that may not be serving you any longer? This may seem subtle, and not that important, but actually, these are the real deal. These beliefs can propel us forward or they can stop every attempt at budgeting and debt payoff in their track.
This may seem a bit business-like. Like you’re writing business goals and a mission statement.
Well, you kind of are. Your life is YOUR business. You’re the CEO. You’re the only one who really cares what happens and where you’re headed.
Trying to run a business without a plan, goals and vision. Or letting someone else create that vision for you, will never lead to satisfaction. If you want to thrive in your life, taking time to define who you are and what you want is critical to your definition of success!
3. CREATE A VALUES BASED BUDGET.
This is no ordinary budget.
This is a zero-based budget, where your actual line items align with your goals and values.
For example, one of your values may be “living a debt free lifestyle.” In order for you to live true to that value, you’ll need to pay off those debts you currently have.
Instead of coming at the goal of debt reduction with a bootstrap, All American, muscle-up mentality, which may serve you for a short burst of adrenaline-fueled zeal, building your plan and budget off of your truer truths – your tangible, defined values, will create lasting, sustainable fuel for the long-haul.
Also, check out my “New, Start Here” page on my website for some links and tips that will likely help you in your debt payoff journey!
QUESTION 2: JANE FROM PORTLAND, OR ASKS: “WHAT ARE SOME PRACTICAL TIPS FOR DECREASING MY GROCERY BUDGET? THIS IS A CONSISTENT SOURCE OF OVERSPENDING FOR US EVERY MONTH! ALSO, I KNOW I EAT OUT WAY TOO MUCH BUT I JUST CAN’T SEEM TO FIND THE TIME TO PACK A DECENT LUNCH EVERY MORNING BEFORE WORK WITH JUGGLING KIDS SCHOOL SCHEDULES AND MY EARLY MORNING WORK ARRIVAL TIME. I’M OPEN TO ANY HELP YOU CAN OFFER!!”
First, I just wrote a guest post for my friend Angela at groceryshrink. It provides the action steps we use to save money on groceries monthly. This method has evolved over the six years we’ve been trying to funnel money away from our grocery budget and into something more fun, like a vacation budget!
Go check it out. It’s our nuts and bolts of budgeting for groceries!
Second, something I didn’t include in that post that we’ve been trying to do lately is include at least one or two dinner plans that are super fast and frugal.
This week we have BLTs, chips and salad for dinner one night. That meal takes about 20 minutes to prepare, the kids absolutely LOVE it and the clean up is super minimal.
It’s a way for my husband and I to have an easy night, and to not break the bank by having elaborate, meat heavy dishes every night.
Another one we’ve been doing pretty much weekly is breakfast for dinner. Eggs, fruit, toast (gluten free if necessary) and sauteed greens (already chopped and washed in a bag). So delicious, so easy and very frugal.
Years ago we chose to create a separate line item for “groceries” and one for “dining out.” We realized we had to separate the two early on because we were having a hard time figuring out how to decrease our grocery budget, and keeping them grouped made it impossible to tell where our dollars were really going.
So, that’s another suggestion. Separate your “dining out” money from your “groceries” money and start tracking things with a bit more specificity. You’ll have better data to let you know how you stack up with the USDA guidelines – which is data for buying and preparing 3 meals per day and snacks at home.
As far as eating out goes, it’s important that you make a choice, first and foremost. Decide what will work for you.
THE BEAUTY OF A BUDGET IS THAT IT FREES YOU FROM GUILT AND SHAME. YOU’RE ALIGNING YOUR MONEY WITH YOUR VALUES AND LIFE GOALS, AND YOU’RE SEGMENTING YOUR MONEY ACCORDINGLY. THE BUDGET IS NOT TELLING YOU WHAT TO DO.
This may seem trivial, but mindset shifts are just as important as the budget itself. Open your mind to a new way of thinking about budgeting and this can all become fun, not a horrible chore that you dread.
Mindset, though, is just part of the equation. You also need strategies.
Some ways we’ve set ourselves up for lunch-packing success are:
PACK LUNCHES THE NIGHT BEFORE. We do this for our kids every night and will often just add our own lunches to the assembly line. That way everything just needs to be put in a cooler with an ice pack in the morning. Voila. Packed lunch only takes about 2 minutes of that valuable morning time!
EAT LEFTOVERS. We cook dinner at home most of the time. We always make extra dinner so we have leftovers to eat for lunch the next day. When we’re putting dinner away for the night we’ll pack a serving in a microwavable tupperware for an easy to pack lunch the next morning! Most workplaces have a microwave you can use to reheat your gourmet lunch. And if you work on the road, which I did for the last 6 years, stop at a grocery store with a microwave and eating area. People often asked me if I got in trouble for eating there and not buying anything. Nope. Not once. Ever.
PACK SOMETHING VERY SIMPLE. Pack a sandwich, apples and chips. Or a simple salad with 2 hard boiled eggs and chips. These do not take a huge time commitment and I am positive anyone will be successful with this strategy. Whether you’re packing the night before (don’t put wet items like tomato or lettuce on the sandwich – put them in another container and put them on just before enjoying your sandwich. Otherwise super soggy sandwich. Yuck.), or in the morning, you CAN do this. Choose to do it!
QUESTION 3: BRIDGET FROM MISSOURI ASKS, “HOW DO I FIT GIVING INTO MY ALREADY VERY TIGHT BUDGET? I’VE HEARD YOU SAY A LOT THAT GENEROSITY IS AN IMPORTANT ASPECT OF OUR FINANCIAL HEALTH AND I AGREE. BUT, I JUST CAN’T SEEM TO FIND THE MONEY FOR IT! ANY HELP WOULD BE APPRECIATED!”
For Sam and me, giving monthly is a reminder that there is always enough. It reinforces our belief that we live in a world of abundance.
Generosity, for us, plays a large role in really being in touch with this abundance mindset. But, once again, it all comes down to choice.
I know that choosing generosity over a new car or dining out twice a week will change you. And it sounds like you know this as well.
Perhaps some of the problem lies in your mindset? Hear me out here.
Even when we were in the trenches of paying off our $100,000 in debt, Sam and I chose to continue giving. We had a set amount each month that we wanted to give, and so we did. Of course, it was tempting at times to take that allocated money and put it towards our debt, or use it to eat out, or to actually go on a vacation.
We chose to continue with our giving and I believe that very giving is what led us to really begin understanding that the world is abundant and that everything is a choice.
It sounds like you’re already trying to put giving into your overall plan. That’s a great way to start. Even if you don’t have a specific organization that you support, budgeting for spontaneous giving makes doing that type of giving so much easier and freer.
Budgeting for your giving will also cut down on guilt and shame and resentment that can sometimes build in this situation. Sometimes unplanned giving can leave you feeling like “giving is the problem.” Or, “when I give, that is the reason I just can’t stick to my budget.”
Well, what if you gave first? I hear you saying you want to build giving into your overall financial health plan. What if you decided giving was SO important to you that you budgeted your giving first? As if that money doesn’t actually exist in your budget. This is how we do it.
We have an automatic draft through our bank that comes out every month. We have committed X dollars per month and always give that much monthly. If our budget is tight we eat out less or decrease another budget category. We figure out something we can cut out of our “personal” expenses, but we don’t cut our giving budget.
This is a different mindset than what we’re taught in the world. We’re taught to give with what we have leftover. If money’s tight than don’t give.
The problem is, if something doesn’t change in your budget, you’ll likely never have enough. And waiting until you have “$X” also seems like a recipe for never giving.
I’ve posted about the benefits of generosity before. Studies show, over and over, that generosity improves your relationships, leads to a happier, more fulfilling life and is even good for your health!
Create a line item in your budget for generosity right now. Whatever that number is for you currently doesn’t matter. What matters is that you START! I believe, and studies have shown, that giving actually begets MORE giving. I trust that you’ll work yourself up to the amount that you want to give soon enough!
And thank you for having a heart for generosity. I believe you create so much love and joy in the world by giving of yourself and your money. And that’s exactly what our world needs more of. LOVE.
You all and your amazing work. I’m so grateful to get to be a part of your journey.
Keep moving forward. Keep defining your Values and Goals.
Oh, and one more thing: Love yourself. Love yourself for getting in there and taking the first step towards creating change.
Because changing our habits is how we get to a different, a more desirable result.
I’m totally rooting for you!