Category Archives: Money

Looking to level up your family’s finances? you came to the right place! Here are all the posts related to personal finance, including money management, financial freedom, and family budgets!

What to (Really) Expect on Your Debt-Free Journey

What’s the process really like when you’re paying off over $100k of debt? Today we get into the habits and mindset changes Toni and her family made during their debt-free journey! 

Debt-Free Journeys: Different Paths and Strategies

I love a good debt free story. I enjoy seeing others work hard to get rid of the credit card, student loans, car loans, and other debt that is weighing them down. 

I also know personal experience is not always fast or even a smooth process. For us, it began with getting on the same page with how we wanted to tackle it. Then there was the reality of the numbers. 

My husband has his first post-grate job and I had a part time internship. With time, we found our rhythm and knocked it out. 

I’ve also had quite a few episodes on this podcast and on Couple Money sharing people’s journey, including Toni Husbands.

What I loved about her story is that it wasn’t a ‘We paid off ‘$100,000 in year and half story’. 

Which in all honesty, I enjoy watching and reading too, but when that's the main narrative being shared, it’s a bit discouraging because they tend to gloss over key details. 

When you dig into the article, you can see that both are earning six figures or I’ve even seen where parents chip in for them to buy a house in an expensive city. 

My problem isn’t with those details, but the fact that it gives the false impression of how easy it is to become debt free. 

In many cases, it’s a commitment and in that journey not only are you freeing up your finances because you don’t have that debt anymore, but you’re opening up options. 

In this episode we are discussing a lot of the nuances and struggles that can come up. We’ll get into:

  • Some of the hurdles and challenges she had to overcome 
  • Which habits helped and what she would do differently
  • Opportunities that opened up now that’s she’s dumped her debt

Let’s get started! 

Resources to Dump Your Debt Faster

If you want to chat some more about creating better money habits, questions, or share your own tips please join us over at Thriving Families on Facebook.

Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal!

Support for this podcast comes from Coastal Credit Union! If you’re living in the Raleigh Durham area and looking to bank better, come check out Coastal today.

We’ve been Coastal members for a few years have been happy with their services.

They have wonderful services and accounts to make saving easier including their competitive money market accounts!

As I mentioned in the episode, if you're a Coastal member and are thinking of consolidating your debts, check out Coastal's options to refinance!

Rollover Your 401(k) Easily with Capitalize

We’re grateful for wonderful partners like Capitalize. Not only do they support the podcast, but they help make managing your money so much easier. 

Did you know that it’s estimated that there are currently over 24 million “forgotten” 401(k) accounts? In fact, the average American changes jobs every 4 years

And because of the Great Resignation, you or someone you know might be changing jobs even more 

It’s an extreme case of out of sight and out of mind. Is your old 401(k) in there somewhere, left behind at a job you're no longer with?

One huge benefit with an IRA is you get to choose how your money is invested, not your old employer. 

If you want to consolidate your old 401(k) and have more options with how you invest, it may be time to roll them over into an IRA.  

With Capitalize, they handle the process from start-to-finish – for FREE. They handle the process from start-to-finish, and yes that includes calling the 401(k) provider on your behalf. 

Find out how and get started today

Note: Interview is edited for clarity and length.

Support the Podcast!

Thank you so much for listening to the podcast! If you enjoyed this episode and found it helpful, here are some ways to support it.

  • Spread the word! If you enjoyed this episode and think it can help a buddy get on the path to dumping debt and become financially free, please share.
  • Leave a review. Honest feedback and reviews make a big difference and gets the word out about the podcast. Leave your review on Apple or Stitcher.
  • Grab a copy of Jumpstart Your Marriage and Your Money

Music and Photo Credits

Music in this episode was provided by artists from Audiio.

Housing Hacking to Pay Off Your Debt Faster!

Learn how one couple creatively used house hacking to pay off their students loans faster!

Paying Off You Debt Faster By Thinking Outside the Box

Welcome back! It's the first week of a new year and I have a question to ask you – how many times have you seen the phrase new year, new you already?

How does that make you feel as you're planning out what you're going to do in 2022?

While I hope you're energized and enthusiastic about your family and financial goals that you want to tackle this year, I can also understand if you're a bit frustrated by all the hype about how important it is to hit the ground running.

Honestly, I kind of feel the same way.

I've been writing about that intersection of personal finance with family and marriage for over a decade.

Every year as we talk about setting and achieving your goals, there are certain patterns that I see happen over and over again.

The biggest one is how few people are actually hitting their goals.

Fidelity and a few others in the personal finance space and beyond do annual surveys and reports to track what people are working in the new year.

While most people start off optimistic about how things are going to go, many times they burn out before they hit their actual goal.

There are many reasons for that and of course, these last two years have thrown a lot of people for a loop, with COVID in the fallout from that.

However, I think a core reason why people aren't able to tackle their goals is how they approach it.

A few episodes before we wrapped up the year, I was talking about setting up those pieces, building those better habits- making sure that your goals are smart, very specific in that you work backwards to break it down into small steps.

Finding a System That Works for You

Those are key components, but there's another ingredient when it comes to not just making your goals but sticking with it and being consistent. That's finding a sustainable system that makes sense for you and your situation.

I see too many families get very focused on this specific of how. For example, when paying off debt – should we use the debt snowball, avalanche or lasso? The answer is it depends.

  • It depends how much debt you have.
  • It depends on how much extra income you have right now to put towards that debt.
  • It depends on the type of debt you have – high interest or low interest.

All these different factors mean that different families will have different approaches. When I have interviews on hereon the podcast. I want to give you models, not necessarily a map.

The map is what you do. You create this destination that you want to achieve. You can then take the habits or systems or ideas from others and hopefully make it your own. You'll then be more likely to stick and be consistent with the process and see it through two, you hit that goal.

So all this month, we're going to do things a little bit different. Yes, we're going to be talking about families that have hit some great goals together and get into the process of how they did that.

More importantly, though, we're going to be digging into how they were able to find a system that fits them and their season of life.

One of the most important steps is to address and acknowledge where you are now with your financial journey. Then you can see which tools would be best for your situation. So that you can achieve whatever goal you're pursuing.

Another piece of that puzzle. Is to find a process that you enjoy.

If you are trying to tackle a big goal, say you have a mountain of debt to pay off. Or you're trying to get a house down payment put together. Chances are it's not going to happen overnight. So again, that consistency's important. But to stick with it, you have to feel motivated. And one of the best things you can do is find a process that you think is enjoyable.

And some ways fun. Which is why I'm so glad Jillian Sirianni from Frugal Friends is on the podcast today

She and her husband had the big goal of paying off their student loans and cashflowing her degree. It took some creativity as you heard in the teaser because they had to find money in their budget somehow.

They went for a big win and did some house hacking. Not only were they able to save and pay off debt; they had a little bit of an adventure along the way!

In this episode, we're going to get into:

  • why going for big wins in your budget can be a game changer
  • some unconventional ways you can slash your housing expenses
  • skills that you may already have that can save and make you money.

Are you ready? Let's get started!

Handy Tools to Pay Your Debt Off Faster

Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal!

Support for this podcast comes from Coastal Credit Union! If you’re living in the Raleigh Durham area and looking to bank better, come check out Coastal today.

We’ve been Coastal members for a few years have been happy with their services.

They have wonderful services and accounts to make saving easier including their competitive money market accounts!

As I mentioned in the episode, if you're a Coastal member and are thinking of consolidating your debts, check out Coastal's options to refinance!

Rollover Your 401(k) Easily with Capitalize

We’re grateful for wonderful partners like Capitalize. Not only do they support the podcast, but they help make managing your money so much easier. 

Did you know that it’s estimated that there are currently over 24 million “forgotten” 401(k) accounts? In fact, the average American changes jobs every 4 years

And because of the Great Resignation, you or someone you know might be changing jobs even more 

It’s an extreme case of out of sight and out of mind. Is your old 401(k) in there somewhere, left behind at a job you're no longer with?

One huge benefit with an IRA is you get to choose how your money is invested, not your old employer. 

If you want to consolidate your old 401(k) and have more options with how you invest, it may be time to roll them over into an IRA.  

With Capitalize, they handle the process from start-to-finish – for FREE. They handle the process from start-to-finish, and yes that includes calling the 401(k) provider on your behalf. 

Find out how and get started today

Note: Interview is edited for clarity and length.

Paying Off Dent By Slashing Housing Costs

Elle Martinez: You were trying to pay off student loans, which I know is on the minds of a lot of them in the community, but also debt in general. You and your husband, Eric took an unconventional route, especially when it comes to housing.

So before we jump into how you did that, can I ask who started that conversation and who came up with that idea?

Jillian Sirianni: Which one of you is crazier? That's what I want to know. Oh,Elle first of all, I love the theme that you're pulling out. Thinking outside the box, because I think that that is the primary component.

When we're looking at really slashing debt or getting at other financial goals. A lot of times it does take thinking outside the box and moving past some of the limiting beliefs or mindset that we have. Some things are more attainable for some than others so I think there's permission and there's ways for all of us to find ourselves on this journey and what fits for us.

So to answer your question of who's the greatest fear on it? I think for my husband and I, we kind of are neck and neck with that. I don't know that I could fully say who actually ended up making the final call.

But I do remember when we were considering well, before we even considered tiny living, we were looking at boats and motor homes. Not for us.

We were not, we were poor by a lot of standards. We were on vacation. Family and they were talking about, oh, wouldn't it be fun as an extended family to have a used boat that we can share in the summer times together.

So my husband loves to scour Facebook marketplace and Craigslist at the time. Although we don't use that as much anymore, it's gotten a little more sketchy.

In that process, as he was kind of scrolling through, it was looking over his shoulder and seeing these motor homes and realizing whoa, That's everything you need. Why would that need to be just for vacation? What if we were to consider living in it?

So I think it was kind of this, he was looking at it. I was looking over his shoulder and we both add this. What if question? And then that turned into reality. Yeah.

Is Downsizing Your Home Right for You?

Elle Martinez: So can you kind of give me an idea, the general timeframe of having that conversation? Because I think all of us get inspired.

I know for me, I look at the tiny homes and maybe not the super tiny homes, but this idea simplifying and kind of paring down the things we don't need. How did that go from, this is a good idea to let's try this out?

Jillian Sirianni: For us, we move relatively quickly so I would say it was only couple of months before we ended up pulling the trigger on a motor home. Now, granted that was because of life, stage and obligation and responsibility.

We were renting at the time, month to month at this point so we weren't locked into. We don't have kids didn't have kids at the time so we were able to make a shift relatively quickly. It really was just a matter of finding the right deal, finding a good fit for us.

That is the case a lot of times, especially when you're buying used to kind of got to be able to jump on the deal as you find it.

My husband, thankfully, he knows a lot about motorhomes and found a really great one for us and we within a couple of months, bought it pared down, moved in, did that life.

Elle Martinez: That sounds exciting, but I want to take a step back cause I know you definitely saved money. A lot of times when we were doing financial goals and family decisions, there's a little bit of melding and the layers kind of get tangled up.

So were you trying to simplify and saw that this was one way you could do it and save money to use, to pay down the debt? Or were you thinking, we got to pay down the debt. Let's look at these big expenses. What can we change? How did that work out?

Jillian Sirianni: That's a great question. For us, it was definitely looking at the numbers, not only paying down debt, but at the time I was in a place in my career and educational goals where I was seeing an opening to go and earn my master's degree.

When we looked at the numbers and our earnings it just didn't line up, and we said, ‘we've got to find somewhere'. That's one of the things that caused us to look at well, what are our biggest expenses? We lived pretty simply before that. I don't know if I would have described myself as a minimalist at the time, but simply, frugally, absolutely.

In that slow going process of paying down debt on very small incomes. We saw as an opportunity to really cut back on a major expense living expenses due for most people represented usually about 30% of our incomes and so if we could slash that, what an amazing opportunity.

So a lot of people, when they saw us do that, their first question was, well, where are you traveling to? And that wasn't the case. That wasn't the goal.

We did do some traveling, but for us, it was living within our means. We wanted to be able to afford our housing and be able to pay down debt and save and potentially earn my master's degree, which by the way I did do as a result of that motor home.

I know it's such a celebration, but that was the reason and that was the, as you said, Elle thinking outside the box, then that we thought, oh, well, we're already just renting and it's very inexpensive rent, but we found a way to slash that even for.

Look for Big Wins in Your Budget

Elle Martinez: Yeah, absolutely. I love that. You bring up a good point. It's like, what's our circumstances at that time?

Every family is different where they are in their season of life, but I really appreciate that you were willing to look at all of the expenses.

I talk about this on the podcast a lot. I said, yes, you know, it's good to save $5, $10 here and build some good habits, but to have some huge wins, like. Housing, big expense transportation, if they have a car payment and food, like those are the three biggies. If you could get those under control or somehow optimize that, not that you can coast with everything, but it's so much easier.

So kudos on just putting that and keeping that on the table to discuss, even if you didn't decide to go that route.

Jillian Sirianni: Yeah and as you mentioned too Elle fun, like cool, to be able to have this experience and be able to see the actual big win and our finances as a result of this decision, but also learning along the way and things that we're able to implement as a result. We had a lot of other even non-traditional living experiences even from there.

I will say at this point it might come up later, but own and live in a home. It's a small home, but this wasn't for eternity and I think that that's a big misnomer about tiny living that it has to be for forever, or this is a lifetime decision now.

I think even not having a limiting belief in that regard, that I could just do this temporarily to get at a financial goal and then make changes from there based on life situation and my desires that next juncture in the road.

Elle Martinez: Absolutely. You mentioned you had to pair down. Yeah. So first of all, how big are we talking about this, RV, this motor home space was and how much pairing down did you have to?

Jillian Sirianni: So we went from an apartment that was probably about 1200 square feet so not massive, but two bedrooms, big living space, full kitchen, everything you would imagine there to about 800 square feet in that first motor home that we lived in. So relatively big, it had slide outs and. Yeah, it was a good size motor home, I would say, but it was quite the process.

Thankfully, I had moved a lot of times before that, so I became pretty good at understanding what that's going to take, but I, I definitely made throughout our transition time of what am I donating? What am I selling? And what am I taking? And actually there's a fourth category of storage.

We did end up taking out a small part of my parents' attic to put some things that we imagined we might need eventually this may not be an eternal life decision that we live in 800 square feet so let's put some things aside, so we don't have to rebuy them years down the road.

So those four different categories found their homes in four different locations throughout the house. And it really was quite an exercise of identifying and really paying attention to my lifestyle throughout those couple of weeks of what am I using most often? What might be necessary and what's not what is not going to be able to fit? And isn't going to actually have value or benefit to my life in a tinier situation.

Elle Martinez: Yeah. I know sometimes that can be difficult. Like this past year, my mom moved, she's getting closer to retirement. She wants to be with the grand babies so she's rightsizing her house.

She had a nice space, but now she realizes she still wants to have people over. But she had to kind of do that inventory of like the stuff that she had. How often does she use it? Does she want to keep it? Does she want to give it to her friends? Sell it? Like you mentioned, temporarily she stored it just until she knew for sure that this was something she wanted to keep or not. It is the process.

You mentioned your motorhome was used. So be honest with you, was it moving ready or did you guys have to update that or did you do any customizing?

Jillian Sirianni: It was move in ready, quote unquote, but dated. So my husband and I in a previous. I would say life we've been married almost 10 years now, and we've had different side hustles together throughout our marriage. One of which was home renovations.

So we actually had a small business doing renovations for people. It's something we enjoy doing. It's a fun thing for us to do together so we did do quite the overhaul of this motor home. Did our own renovations.

It wasn't necessary, but we wanted to make that little space beautiful and our own so we certainly did our own renovations.

I mean, I'll be Frank about numbers. We were able to purchase it for $18,000 and we put a couple thousand dollars into it and ended up selling it at a profit. We made about $12,000. Yeah. Yup. Great. And that's how we were able to cash flow. My master's degree was through the sale of that motor home then eventually. So it did, it did. I mean, we –

Elle Martinez: get a home for 18,000 now.

Jillian Sirianni: We were able to say we own our home. Just within our means. And at the time, I mean, I'm a social worker, so you can imagine what my salary has been that, but

Elle Martinez: I do love that because it allow you to pursue a career that's meaningful for you, you know? And you do it on your terms.

You lived in another motor home and you tried some other, can you tell me a little bit of those adventures and how that went?

Jillian Sirianni: Sure. I'll take you a little bit on the quick snapshot of the journey. It was the larger motor home and then we moved into and house sat in a log cabin.

So a couple who was nearing retirement, but final years of work and they needed to. I go work in England, but yet they didn't want to sell their home or rented. They just wanted it taken care of. And so us moving into that log cabin allowed us to sell the motor home, but still live rent, free cash master's degree.

Yes. Amazing. From there, we moved in with my grandmother who has dementia and wanting to prolong her ability to be in her own residence for as long as possible. So we then moved in with her. Of course, that was rent-free, but we cared for her. So there was a lot of exchange there yeah. In the caretaking role.

And then from there we bought and lived in a trailer. So the pull behind, not the vehicle version, but a pull-behind trailer. That was the biggest downsize at 170 square feet.

It was so good though. And then sold that and the sale of that was our down payment on our current home.

We are now homeowners and live in St. Petersburg, Florida, but that was the kind of non-traditional living situation that we were in for about four years .

Elle Martinez: Yeah, that's fantastic. If you don't mind me asking, how did you learn about that house sitting? Was that like a friend of a friend or in your network?

Jillian Sirianni: It was within our network. Yes. So it was a friend who knew that we were the type of people who might be open to something like that. Flexible and able to live in someone else's home.

I will say that's not for the faint of heart. And I did learn a lot through that, both in living in the log cabin, as well as with my grandmother, what it is to live in a space where you don't have any of your own things. Right. And I didn't have my own towels. My own dish were my own home goods, but am I able to be content and live in an instant.

Where nothing of it is mine, but I'm able to still make a home there and be content. And my goodness did that teach me so many things that I've now carried over into my own home.

But that, that was through friends or friends however, anyone interested in it absolutely is available to people. There are websites that help connect those who are looking for house sitters with how cities, many people find themselves in those situations where they don't want to rent it.

They don't want to sell their home. They just want it taken care of. So, it's, it's not only for those who have connections.

Elle Martinez: Yeah, but I think it also goes to show that when you take those first steps, your network knows oh, they're willing to try something different.

I think most people their loved ones want to help them out so communicate your goals. Like, Hey, we're trying to tackle debt or, Hey, we're doing this being up you know about your goals.

You never know what opportunities can pop up. Cause I think that's something we overlook or we think loud. I don't want to talk about like, you know, I'm cutting back because I'm, you know, trying to pay off this debt or I'm trying to save up for a house down payment, but if you put it out there, a lot of people will support it.

Jillian Sirianni: It can feel daunting, but I think it's such a good tip Elle to, in anything, right? Whether we're looking for work or we're trying to reach financial goals, or we need a housing situation, I think exploring our own community and telling people that I think sometimes it can feel uncomfortable and maybe even taboo for whatever reason.

But man, do I admire my friends who send me their resumes and say, Hey, I have no expectation here, but if you hear of anything, let me know. So many times it has worked out that, okay. Maybe not in the immediate moment, but now I know so-and-so is looking for something and, and I can help out in that way. So utilizing our own community, I think that's great. Absolutely agree.

Elle Martinez: Yeah, I know for us, it was that stage where we were saving up for a house and we just put it out there. We love to eat that's our socializing, but we needed to save money and it actually was so beneficial. We didn't realize that that time we had friends who were already homeowners and they're like, let's do some potluck.

Let's get out of that rut of going out and meeting somewhere and let's go to each other's places and they realized like, you know, we could save some money. This is always good. Uh, upped our kitchen game with cooking years later. You don't know until you put it out there.

Everyone has a talent and I think most people want to share, you know, if I can help them out, I'll help them out. If there's an opportunity that they think that could, help me, they do that. But if you keep it to yourself, if you're not sharing your, your goals or what you're looking towards, it's hard for people to, you know pitch in.

Jillian Sirianni: It's an untapped form of wealth and capital. If I can even put it that way of when we might find ourselves limited and finances, well, what else do we have available to us?

Who's in our community. How can we utilize friendships with reciprocity? I'm not just saying. Take advantage of, but you might find that others are in a similar place and there's so much that can be gained through relationship and given, and we all desire that that reciprocity and relationship that we don't have to.

I know I described myself as, you know, Poor by some standards, when we moved into our motor home, but also rich and wealthy by others because we did have an amazing community of friends and family. And so I think recognizing that there is more to it than just what's in the bank account.

Elle Martinez: Yes. And I think a lot of people want to share their talents too. Like you mentioned, think outside, that box of only helping financially, maybe there's a talent or something we could swap with each other where it's mutually beneficial.

If someone's listening and they're thinking, you know what, I'm not sure if I want to do the motorhome thing, but I love this idea of trying something different.

Even if it's temporarily, like you mentioned, what are some life lessons or tips you would suggest?

Jillian Sirianni: Absolutely. And again, there's freedom in this not one person's journey needs to be everybody's journey, but I think we don't talk enough about the intersection of our finances with minimalism simple living.

Uh, eco sustainability. And I think that is something that I did learn more about through my non traditional tiny living experiences that I think can be passed on without actually doing something drastic. And so I think even the message of what can we scale back on? Where can we simplify even where in our current lives with how.

Now looks, where can we declutter and free up mental space and energy within our homes? Where can we cut back on some of the mindless spending? I know for me, that prior to moving into tiny living, I love thrift store shopping and yard. I still do like that, but I will say I did it almost as a hobby or weekend activity.

Whereas when I moved into a tiny home, it's like I can't just bring in things, even if it's inexpensive things, I don't have space for it. I think just being more intentional and mindful about what we're spending money on, even if it's inexpensive, even if you have room for it, Do you need it?

Does it serve a purpose? Is it going to help you towards a financial goal? So I think some of these learnings we can implement, even if our current circumstances aren't forcing us to live super small. I also think that just aiming more at that values-based spending, really identifying what's important to us.

Where are our values? How can we make sure that our spending and saving aligns with our values? And where it doesn't the freedom and permission to get rid of that thing. That I don't have to do that even if other people are doing it, people think I should be doing it. I think I should be spending on it.

If I don't actually enjoy it or value. Yeah, there's there's room to adjust our lifestyles. Again, not needing to do something incredibly drastic. And I just think intentional living, we w there are components of what I walked through that I think anybody could implement to varying degrees somewhere along that spectrum.

I think at the end of the day, also looking at what we deem fixed expenses. I think sometimes we just blow past rent, transportation bills, mortgage, you name it because that's fixed. Those are the bills. Now what else? Let me cut coffee. Okay, great. But like you said, L that's not gonna help us long-term cut debt. Really have those big wins that we want to have.

Thinking outside the box, looking at those fixed expenses again, doesn't mean you've got to move into a motor home, but where might there be room? Maybe we're stuck in a mortgage that is super massive. It doesn't align with our values anymore. Kids are out of the house.

I love the term you used for your mom sizing for her current lifestyle. Maybe. Super important. So you don't need a large house anymore and downsizing or whatever capacity that that means. Or maybe you no longer need two vehicles and one vehicle will do it for you. Or maybe we could flip the whole thing all together and you've got room to host people on your property.

You could be the place where other park their motor home or tiny house, or you've got something to rent out on your property and thereby gain community, but also earn more money. So I think, again, we think outside the box on these massive things, and we might find room for ourselves. I think just people often myself included.

We need permission to do that. We need somebody to kind of. AHRQ the fire to think, well, what is available to me with the resources that I currently have?

Elle Martinez: Yeah, absolutely. I love this and I am totally in agreement about value based spending. I know initially it's hard because you do, especially if you've dealing with these bills, you feel like they are all fixed in a way, like you're stuck with us.

But I think like that first step is, can you define the one or two, the few priorities that absolutely. You will never cut from your budget because they bring you that much joy or, you know, you would be miserable without it.

It took us a little bit of time, we did like little money challenges to figure out like, oh, okay. I definitely want to have this in my life or yeah, I really didn't care. But for you, I'm curious, kind of like to wrap things up, like if you had to summarize your must do's or your priorities, that absolutely your budget will support, what would you say those are?

Jillian Sirianni: Yeah. At this point in time and I think that there's room for that to change as life seasons change, but I've narrowed down that I think some of my highest values and priorities are community and our relationships, generosity and beauty.

I think most of what I spend on most, if not all, could be correlated to those top three values and priorities. And so again, what that means for me might shift but at this point it does include food. I am with you on that one.

I that doesn't always need to mean going out to eat, but sometimes it does definitely supplying food to other people. Hosting is the generosity and community piece.

We have a lot of people in our home and staying with us and, and the beauty piece is traveling. Right now for me, I really well COVID really did a number on me with

So thankfully I then moved to a place that I find beautiful and I live near the water. Right now, So means is renovating our home and making it a space that we find beautiful. And so those things I'm okay with spending on and we'll make room to spend on within reason. Of course, we've all got to look at our income and what we can afford and what makes sense for us, but that's where my money is going currently. And I'm thrilled for it.

Elle Martinez: That's exciting. That is fantastic. Now I know. Just scratched the surface because I feel like you have a ton of good stories. So if anyone's listening and they want to, learn more about you and those adventures and lessons learned, how can they do that?

Jillian Sirianni: Oh, you're so kind out Elle I have a podcast with my good friend and cohost Jen, the frugal friends. So you can listen to that anywhere you find podcasts. And also just our website for FrugalFriends podcast.com.

We've got all kinds of fun stuff going on. You can learn about it there and find our episode archive. I know you Al said you might link some episodes specifically about tiny living, but we did do a couple of spots on that.

Elle Martinez: I hope, and I feel like this will inspire families to, find what creative path makes sense for them at this stage of life to tackle those family and financial goals, because it should feel like an adventure.

I don't want anyone listening saying, I have to pay off debt in three years and I'm going to be miserable. No, you can have fun and take care of those financial goals. Thank you so much, Jillian. I'm so glad you came by.

Jillian Sirianni: Thanks Elle for having me. I love the message of freedom you're spreading. Thank you.

Support the Podcast!

Thank you so much for listening to the podcast! If you enjoyed this episode and found it helpful, here are some ways to support it.

  • Spread the word! If you enjoyed this episode and think it can help a buddy get on the path to dumping debt and become financially free, please share.
  • Leave a review. Honest feedback and reviews make a big difference and gets the word out about the podcast. Leave your review on Apple or Stitcher.
  • Grab a copy of Jumpstart Your Marriage and Your Money

Music and Photo Credits

Music in this episode was provided by artists from Audiio. Photos by Clem Onojeghuo and Nubia Navarro from Pexels

How to (Actually) Make Managing Your Money Fun

In today’s bonus episode, we’re diving into hitting your money goals while still having fun! 

Ready to Stack Some Benjamins in 2022? 

Welcome to this end of year bonus episode! 

As we’re winding down and wrapping things up for 2021, one of the best things we can do is setting things up to make it easier to achieve our family and financial goals.

For us, it’s doing a review of the numbers to see what’s worked and what’s not. We’re also spending time now deciding on what we really want to do in 2022 while of course keeping some flexibility because COVID is still a thing.

A big challenge many families face is creating and sticking with a plan that allows them to pay down their debts, save for priorities, and invest more. 

Today’s episode has something that I think will be a huge help. 

I had the pleasure of chatting with Joe Saul-Sehy of the award winning Stacking Benjamins and personal finance author Emily Guy Birken about their new book, Stacked: Your Serious Guide to Modern Money Management

Which is a mouthful of a title, but I got to tell you, the thing that jumped out at me about the book was how fun it was to read!

Joe and Emily do an incredible job not just explaining key financial points, but they weave it in with game references (Oregon Trail, Tetris, and Monopoly are included in the first few chapters), but they have inside jokes, comics, and more. 

It’s all about making personal finance accessible and well, not boring. 

So if you’re looking for a reset, reboot, whatever you want to call it, I think you'll enjoy our conversation! 

Resources to Build Your Habits and Money

If you're ready to create new habits and systems to make your finances easier, here are some key ones to check out.

Stacked Giveaway

To celebrate having an incredible 2022 and the release of Joe and Emily's book, we're hosting a giveaway!

I'll be doing a random drawing to reimburse 5 listeners who pre-order Stacked as well as give them Amazon gift cards!

Just enter here!

Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal!

Support for this podcast comes from Coastal Credit Union. If you’re living in the Raleigh Durham area and looking to bank better, come check out Coastal today!

We've been members for years and love their service and competitive rates on checking and savings accounts!

Support the Podcast!

Thank you so much for listening to the podcast! If you enjoyed this episode and found it helpful, here are some ways to support it.

  • Spread the word! If you enjoyed this episode and think it can help a buddy get on the path to dumping debt and become financially free, please share.
  • Leave a review. Honest feedback and reviews make a big difference and gets the word out about the podcast. Leave your review on Apple or Stitcher.
  • Grab a copy of Jumpstart Your Marriage and Your Money

Music Credit

Music in this episode was provided by artists from Audiio.

How to Set Up (And Actually Achieve!) Your Family and Financial Goals

Today we’ll go over key steps on how to make and achieve your big family financial goals for next year! 

Set Your Family Up for Big Wins

As 2021 winds down, now is a great time to set up some pieces with your finances so you can knock things out of the ballpark in 2022. 

Last week I went into how we’ve done year end reviews. They’ve been a wonderful way for us to get a snapshot of the progress we made and identify areas where we may want to adjust. 

Most of the numbers reviewed are automated. There are some fantastic options out there like Personal Capital, Mint, Tiller, and You Need a Budget that can pull the numbers from your accounts into one neat dashboard. 

However a year end review is just that – a review. If we want to level up for the next year, we have to have some blueprint or plan. 

Here’s where it’s key for us to create our family financial goals. They give us a guide on how to allocate or prioritize our money for the year. 

Today I want to walk you through some critical parts of that process so you can craft a game plan for next year and beyond. 

In this episode, we’re going to look at how you can tackle some major hurdles families have with creating and reaching their financial goals. We’ll discuss:

  • Creating better family and financial goals by taking the three most popular money goals families set and turning them into SMART goals
  • Crafting a plan so you develop key habits that make it easier to hit your goals
  • Finding time to adopt these new habits and systems

Are you ready? Let’s get started!

Key Resources to Help You Change Your Habits

Looking to reset a few things to get some family and financial wins this year?  Here are some fantastic resources to help you! 

Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal!

Support for this podcast comes from Coastal Credit Union. If you’re living in the Raleigh Durham area and looking to bank better, come check out Coastal today!

We've been members for years and love their service and competitive rates on checking and savings accounts!

Creating Better Family and Financial Goals

As I mentioned last week, one of the ways we sabotage ourselves with money goals is how we make them. 

The top financial goals people make for the year are:

  1. Save more
  2. Pay down debt
  3. Spend less

It makes sense, depending on where you are on your financial journey. 

As you can see, these particular goals fail in a few ways. They’re really vague which can lead to some problems.

How will you know you’ve accomplished it? How are you going to save/pay down?

Instead you want to make SMART goals. As a quick review, SMART is an acronym on how you can effectively frame your goals. 

A smart goal is specific, measurable, attainable, results, focus, and time base.

What do I mean by that? 

  • Specific: You don’t want to save more. You want to set up your emergency fund or your travel fund.
  • Measurable: You want to have $5,000 in your savings account or you need three months of essential expenses. 
  • Attainable: This is not a moon shot, but it’s something you can actually accomplished (provided you put the work in)
  • Results: What’s the result of you hitting your goal? What personal or family win will you have?
  • Time-Based: When do you want to accomplish this? This is handy because you can then work backward and set up how much you need to save or pay off each month. 

The point of it is that you have a mini-game plan already set up for how you’re going to actually achieve that goal. 

Another benefit to laying out SMART goals is that you get a sense of whether or not you're working on too many things. Very quickly, you’ll notice the numbers aren’t working out. 

You can then decide to either push back a deadline for a goal or two. 

Let’s take those three financial goals and turn them into SMART ones. 

  • Save more -> We want to have $7,000 set aside in our emergency fund by October 1.
  • Pay down debt -> We want to eliminate our store credit card debt of $2,700 by May 31.
  • Spend less -> We want to cut back our monthly eating out expenses from $300 to $100 by July 31. 

When you have time, sit down and discuss the goals that you’d like to accomplish and turn them into smart goals!  

Better Habits and Systems

Having goals is fantastic and one of the best ways you can achieve your goals is by making sure that your habits are shifted in that direction.

I admit that's easier said than done, but it is possible.

Before we can talk about shifting habits. Let's just take a quick step back and define what a habit is.

In essence, a habit is something that you do almost automatically. And if you had to break it down, There are three key components to it. The queue. The routine and the reward

Whether we see ourselves this way or not, the truth is many of us are ready habit forming machines.

Don't believe me? Looking at your day, you may find that many of the routines that you do on a daily basis or a weekly basis. Uh, our habits.

In fact, a study was done at duke university and researchers there found that over 40% of the activities we do on a daily basis. Is a habit. It is possible to change and adjust your habits.

Based on your goals and your circumstances.

The key is working on those three components of a habit. The cue routine and the reward. So with the queue, that's your trigger for the behavior.

For many of us time, is that trigger? Your alarm goes off, you get up. And you get started on your routine.

Location can also be a trigger as you are logging into the office, whether that's at home or you had to commute for it, you may have a routine already set up, you log in and you check your email.

The next part is the routine, which is the actual habit that you're doing. In this case, like we mentioned getting up, getting dressed for work or checking your email.

Finally, there's a reward, which is your payoff for accomplishing that habit.

To effectively change those habits. You have to change those components in it.

In his book, the power of habit, New York times, reporter Charles Duhigg gave an example of the afternoon snack at work.

Instead of going for the processed foods or whatever's in the vending machine, you swap out that stack for something else could be apple and peanut butter, some other fresh fruits, whatever you prefer.

Here you're subtly shifting that happen because the queue is still the same. It's the afternoon you want to get up? You want to socialize? And have a snack. The habit is different because now you're choosing something different, something better for your health.

But then the reward is also the same. You still get to catch up with your colleagues. And so that habit shift feels subtle but it can make a huge difference over time.

So that's a high level view of how you can shift and change your habits.

Now a challenge that a lot of people have. Is that we want to fix it. All right. Maybe we have several goals that we want to achieve, not just with finances, but with our health around the house. This overwhelm and lack of making progress can make you quit.

One of the best ways you can avoid burnout. Is by choosing and focusing on one, maybe two habits at a time. Once you get those habits into place then you can move on to the next one.

So which one or two goals should you focus on? With your goal, what are the one or two habits that can have a significant impact on that?

This ties back into why we do those reviews. With our finances we can see, is there a pattern? Is there an area that we need a little bit of extra effort on to make that progress. Is it us eating out too much? Is it a matter of us needing to bring up our income? Or could we optimize our expenses so we can knock out a certain debt?

These discussions we have doing our reviews give us a better and clearer picture of which habits would have a significant impact.

As you're reviewing your goals, see if you can break down a little bit further. What task or habits you need to have to make it easier to be successful with this goal?

Laying these pieces in place helps you build a system to push through some of the difficulties that will probably come up during the year and make it more likely that you'll reach your goals.

Finding More Time for Your Goals

It would be wonderful if we all could have an infinite time to work on our goals. The reality is we have to find and in many cases create time to do the work and make progress. 

As a work from home parent with two kids doing remote learning this year, it’s practically a necessity to have some rhythm or system in place so I can get stuff done. 

Here’s what has been critical help along the way. 

Time Blocking/Bullet Journal

I need a visual representation of my schedule and for me. While I do have digital reminders set up for a few items, I’ve found having a paper copy works best. Specifically, I like to use a hybrid of the bullet journal/time blocking. 

I’ll include links to resources if you want to do a deep dive, but for me the big benefit is how it helps me focus during the day and allows me to handle my goals in bite sized chunks.  

Define Your MIT

Like we mentioned with habits, some are more impactful than others. Not everything that comes up in your day is going to move the needle with your family and financial goals. 

It is very easy to get bogged down with urgent tasks that pop up, but don’t really add any value. It’s crucial to set aside time and plan things out so that you’re taking care of the most important tasks. Because I’m a morning person, I try to work those early into the day. 

Use the GAP Method

One method I found helpful with planning my schedule is GAP. It’s something I picked up from entrepreneur and productivity expert Matt Ragland

GAP stands for Goals, Action, Protect and how it works is….well, here’s how Matt explains it.

The first thing to do is to preview your week. I use the acronym gap to plan my week and that is specifying, what are my goals for this week?

The action steps that support those goals and then when do I need to protect time, block time in order to make sure that I have the time to take action on those tasks?

Design Your Most Productive Week Ever

I love this because you’re breaking down your goal into pieces. Let’s say you want to get back to a healthier weight. 

You identified some tasks that can make a big difference including, an area you need to improve – prepping your meals. 

You can set aside mornings or the evening before to prepare your lunch ahead of time. It’s been blocked out. 

You may want to make it more enjoyable by playing your favorite podcast in the background while you assemble your meals. It’s a doable way to make progress on your big goals. 

Organize Your Environment and Schedule

Finally, I’ve discovered that when I set up my environment properly, things go so much more smoothly. 

Working out? Go and have your clothes and equipment ready.

Writing? Have journal or laptop setup.

Going on your money date? Pull the numbers ahead of time using an app or spreadsheet.

There's this quote that's attributed to Bruce Lee that I think it captures what I hope you get out of this episode.

Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own.

– Bruce Lee

I want you to try the tips that make the most sense for you and incorporate it into your own system.

At the end of the day, it's not just about hitting those goals, but also having time to learn, grow and do the things you enjoy!

Support the Podcast!

Thank you so much for listening to the podcast! If you enjoyed this episode and found it helpful, here are some ways to support it.

Music Credit

Music in this episode was provided by artists from Audiio.

Photo by Miriam Alonso from Pexels

How to Do a Year End Review with Your Family’s Financial Goals

Get a peek into how we did with our goals for this year and see how you can do your year review and set yourself up for an incredible 2022!

Why You Need to Do a Year-End Review with Your Money

It's November, aka the time of the year where I usually start winding down. 

As you may or may not know, I take December off from the podcast to recharge and rest things. We also have our anniversary then.

With those things in mind, these last two episodes of the season are focused on helping you set things up for a fantastic year in 2022 and beyond.

Besides our monthly money review, one of the things we do is a year end review. It’s a way for us to review the numbers, celebrate wins, and see what we need to work on. 

We then take that information and use it to plan out the next year. 

Today I want to walk you through the process. We’ll go through our goals we made for the year, finding the money to reach them, and whether we’re on track with them or not.

Next week, we’ll then look at how to create goals in a way so you can make progress. 

Are you ready? Let’s get started!

Resources to Build Up Your Family Finances Together

Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal!

Support for this podcast comes from Coastal Credit Union! If you’re living in the Raleigh Durham area and looking to bank better, come check out Coastal today.

We’ve been Coastal members for a few years have been happy with their services.

Find out more about what Coastal offers here!

Our 2021 Financial Goals

Let's start off with our financial goals that we made this year. They were three big ones.

  1. Build up our brokerage account
  2. Pay down our mortgage
  3. Replacing and fixing the windows in our house.

Right off the bat. You may have noticed a couple things.

The first is these goals will probably take a big chunk of money to reach and you're right.

One thing I want to be absolutely clear on is we would not even consider these goals until we had our financial foundation in place.

These goals reflect that we're further along in our financial journey.

Some of the first goals and steps we took was making sure that:

  • we had an emergency fund that was fully padded.
  • we paid off our unnecessary debts
  • we were setting aside money for retirement

We're grateful to be in this position, but it did take work upfront so I want to be clear about that.

Even with those pieces in place, though, we knew this year, we definitely have to hustle. If we're going to meet these goals.

The second thing you may have noticed is that these goals are vague.

They're missing some key numbers. So let's fill these in and talk about why I prefer to include details with our goals.

One of the big things that has helped us achieve our goals is how we framed them. And we like to make our goals smart. And in case you're unfamiliar with the term, it's an acronym. To help you remember key things you need to include when making your goals.

A smart goal is specific, measurable, attainable, results, focus, and time base.

Let me do a quick summary of each of those.

Let's start with being specific. This is a big mistake that a lot of us make myself included is that we start off the year with a goal of I'm going to save more or I'm going to pay down debt. But a specific goal would be. I'm going to put aside 5%. To save in our emergency fund or I'm going to pay.

An extra $50 towards the credit card debt. Being specific helps you start framing it in more concrete terms.

The second is your goal should be measurable. How do you know when you've hit your goal? If you're saving more, is there a specific Mount you're saving to. Or if you're paying off debt, how much do you want to pay off by the end of the month or the year? However you decide to do the timeline. The reason you want to do this is you want to track your progress. If you're tracking your progress, you're more likely to hit your goal.

And then the third piece of this is attainable. Now I've seen some people translate this acronym and use it for ambitious, but here's the thing. If this is your first time working with goals. You need to build and develop that habit first.

You don't have to make them super simple, but if you make them attainable, You're more likely to have a win, and that's going to encourage you to continue on your financial journey.

The next piece is result focus and this includes a bit about your why behind the goal. You're paying off debt. That's fantastic. But why?

What options become available once you hit that goal? For example, if you're paying off your credit card and high-interest debts. Are you freeing up money? So that you can travel more as a family. Or are you trying to reduce your monthly expenses? So you can cut back on your hours at work. So you have more time with your family.

Being clear on the result that you're trying to achieve can help you stay motivated when things get tough.

Finally being time-based and this goes back to framing it so that you can build a plan out of this by setting a deadline, you can work backward and break down the steps you need to take and make sure that you're hitting those milestones along the way.

Switching over to smart goals has definitely been very helpful for us. And it's easier for me to track our progress. And see where we have to make adjustments early on. Either with the goal or with the deadline

Switching over to smart goals has definitely been very helpful for us and it's easier for me to track our progress. We can see where we have to make adjustments fairly early on either with the goal, the deadline, or how we're going to achieve it.

If you noticed, they’re missing some key numbers. Let’s fill these in and why we prefer to include details to make SMART goals.  

Creating SMART Goals

If you've listened to the podcast or known me for a bit, you know that I'm a fan of SMART goals.

For those unfamiliar with SMART goals, here are the key things you need to know when making them.

  • Specific: Choose a specific goal. Don’t say ’save more’, but instead choose ‘put aside 5% of our paychecks into savings for our emergency fund.’
  • Measurable: How do you know when you reached your goal? If you are saving an emergency fund up, consider setting aside 3-6 months of your living expenses in the account and track your progress.
  • Attainable: I;’ve seen some people use ambitious, but here’s the thing – if this is your first time working with goals, you need to build that habit first. It's better to work on a few goals at a time so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Be gazelle intense on the ones you have. 
  • Result focused: This includes a bit of your why behind the goal. Make sure your goal is something you can do and truly believe in. Have a plan of action that you can sustain.
  • Time-Based: By setting a deadline, you can work backward and break down the steps you need to take and make those your milestones along the way.

With SMART goals, you’re not just listing what you want to do but you’re framing your goals specifically which includes a timeline and a measurable amount.  

Let’s break down these goals one by one as well as explain why they all have the same deadline.

Build up Brokerage Account

We opened our brokerage account last spring during the national lockdown. (This is what nerds do when they’re stuck at home!)

Before then pretty much – okay everything we invested went into our retirement accounts, the 401(k) and IRAs. There’s just one catch – those accounts are for retirement. 

With the idea of financial independence, you’re going to need a stash set aside for those in between years when you plan to retire or wind down until you’re 59 ½, which is when you can access your IRA without penalty.  

After discussing our options we’re settling on a combination of investments in the market and at real estate. 

We started the first half of that plan with the brokerage account. Next year we’ll give more attention to real estate. 

Our SMART goal for the year was to build up our brokerage account to $50k by the end of year.

Pay Down Our Mortgage

Our goal is pretty straightforward: we're looking to take our thirty year mortgage and pay it off in ten. 

Whenever we picture this goal of being financially free or independent, one thing we agreed on is that it wouldn’t include a mortgage payment. 

With five years down, we have five years left on our self imposed clock. That means we need to set aside $20k/year to knock out our mortgage. 

Not only will that shave twenty years, but we’ll save around $X in interest payments. 

Is it a stretch? Yes, but it’s doable. Again, it’s about finding that balance of hitting that goal and enjoying the time we have now at a sustainable rate. 

Our SMART goal for the year was to pay down our mortgage to under $90K by the end of the year.

By the way, if you’re thinking about paying the mortgage off early, you should check out the Mortgage Free Masterplan. It’s what we use to run the numbers and track our progress. 

Andrew, from Family Money Plan created it to make it easier for you to create a pay off plan that aligns with your family’s goals. Just grab it at simplifyandenjoy.com/mortgageFreePlan

Replace the Windows

Our beautiful ranch is sixty years old and those windows appeared to be original. 

Our SMART goal for the year was to replace the five windows on the main level that were breaking down. Using the estimate we got from a few companies in the area, we saw that they could cost between $X and $X. 

Hopefully you can see how important it is to frame your goals. 

Planning is good, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle, let's get into how to move that plan forward into action. 

Our adjusted SMART goal is replacing our windows by the end of the year.

Finding Money for Our Goals

Now that you see our goals and how much we’re putting towards them, the next question is, where is this money coming from? 

Our Old Debt Payments Are Now Working For Us

First off, a huge reason we can set aside money for these goals is because we carry no other debts. The mortgage is that last one.

That means the payments that we're making for the car and student loans are now being directed towards saving, investing in giving.

Having gone through this journey for years, I can understand that sometimes when you're dealing with significant amounts of debts, it seems overwhelming.

So if that's where you are now, please hang in there. I know it is a chore and work to go through this, but it is worth it because you can then free up your money to go towards the people and projects that really matter to you

Bake Your Goals into Your Budget

Another way we’ve been able to hit our goals is by automating our money. It started off as an easy way to make sure our bills were paid, but we now use it for other things. 

When we paid off those old debts, for example, we immediately changed our automated payments and now had them go towards first savings and then investing. 

Just quickly going back to that idea of having a deadline for the smart goal. Let's say that we needed to save $10,000 by the end of the year.

Knowing that, we look at the numbers. It means we have to allocate an extra 833 a month. Or if we were trying to save 5,000 for the year, that would be an extra 416 a month.

If you already have room in your budget and you see that I do have that amount of money I can put towards the goal. Great. Just go ahead and schedule those transfers or payments.

If there's a gap, then go ahead and schedule what you can do.

Let's take that $833 a month. Let's say, you know, for sure you can do an extra 500 a month. Go ahead and put that on your automated transfers or payment system.

You can then work on either building up your payment or adjusting your timeline. But you have something going in towards that goal and you're going to be making progress.

Allocating Extra Income

Finally, the last piece of the puzzle is allocating extra income. And that can mean a variety of different things.

At the beginning of our financial journey, it was extra side hustle money we brought in. It was tax refunds. It was getting rebates that we sent in.

The income that we brought in varied greatly, depending on what it was, but we use that money towards our goal.

This past year we took advantage of whatever bonuses were earned. And tax credits that we qualified for being parents of two kids.

Since we already planned our financial budget for the year and we were comfortable for it. We use whatever extra income we had to go towards those three goals.

So hopefully you can see that it took a lot of different pieces to come together for us to work towards our goals and our plans, but it also meant that if something broke down we weren't completely going to fail with our goals.

How Are We Doing?

All right we went over the goals and the process of us working towards those goals. So how are we doing?

Replacing the windows on the main floor was the first goal that we hit. We actually placed our order around end of January, beginning of February and got them installed in may. There was a significant delay with the manufacturing, but that has been accomplished.

We're really happy with the windows we got and have ordered more, which hopefully should be coming this week or next.

As for the mortgage, it will be down to the wire. It looks like we will be able to hit it by the middle of next month.

Finally, we have the brokerage account. While we've made some great progress. I don't think we're going to hit that mark, but we are going to be fairly close. It looks like if all things continue the way they are, we'll hit our goal in February of 2022.

There you have it. That's a general overview review of our financial goals and the progress we made.

The next step we do is what's worked. I think we did a great job with three allocating transfers to the savings and the brokerage.

On the other hand, we had some unexpected windfalls, like those tax credits that we're not going to plan or budget for in 2022.

Hopefully, as you can see that a year review doesn't have to be just the numbers. You're also going to be looking at the systems that you have in place, whether that's the automatic transfers, contributions or payments. If it's working, you continue that. If it's not, you can see exactly what needs to be adjusted. It could be a matter of optimizing your expenses or increasing your income.

If you want to have a spreadsheet that you can use for your own year-end review, make sure you're subscribed to the newsletter. Just go to simplify and enjoy.com/join.

I'll share a template for free, all you have to do is be a member!

Support the Podcast!

  • Thank you so much for listening to the podcast! If you enjoyed this episode and found it helpful, here are some ways to support it.
  • Spread the word! If you enjoyed this episode and think it can help a buddy get on the path to dumping debt and become financially free, please share.
  • Leave a review. Honest feedback and reviews make a big difference and gets the word out about the podcast. Leave your rating and review on Apple Podcasts.
  • Grab a copy of Jumpstart Your Marriage and Your MoneyMy book is designed for a busy couple to set up their finances in 4 weeks. Get tips and tools that have worked for other couples on their journey of building their marriage and wealth together!

Photo by Lisa from Pexels

Family and Finances: How to Deal with Awkward Money Chats

Today we’re going to look at three common and awkward money chats families have around money  and how you can tackle them together! 

How to Come Together with Awkward Money Chats

Marriage and money isn't always easy. Chances are the two of you have different personalities and approaches to finances.

Those differences can be a wonderful thing as the two of you can lean on each other's strengths and shore up your weaknesses, but finding your financial footing as a couple isn't automatic. If you don't have some way to work on it these arguments can hurt your marriage and money.

One of the first things you need to realize about why couples fight and argue over money is how frequently it's actually not about the money.

Seriously.

From personal experience, writing and speaking about this for over a decade, the most common reasons couples fight about money is that they're not in sync with each other in either their:

  • expectations,
  • values, or
  • priorities

Usually it's a combo of them.

While the two of you, aren't always going to see eye to eye on everything –again, those differences can be fantastic -there are some ways you can work as a team to use those differences to your advantage.

Today, we're going to talk about how you can take that knowledge and untangle some awkward money conversations that can come up when you're married.

In this episode, we're going to get into situations like:

  • loaning money to your in-laws,
  • figuring out what counts as a big purchase so you don't sabotage your budget, and
  • coming clean about any secret debts that you carry.

We got a lot to cover today, so let's get started!

Resources to Build Up Your Family Finances Together

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What Counts as a Big Purchase?

Let's start off with a conversation couples should have fairly early on as they're creating their family financial plan and budget.

How much money do either of you have to spend before you consider that a big purchase.? And, what kind of purchase counts as something you should run by one another?

These may seem like fairly basic questions. But they're important in establishing what you expect. Out of your spinning plan and what you want from it, as well as understanding your priorities and values.

This is not about micromanaging your budget. That does not work. Actually, this is the opposite where you're open and upfront about your expectations. You are understanding where you both feel comfortable spending money on and where you would prefer to have a conversation.

One source of tension with couples is that the conflict comes from purchases that the other wasn't expecting because they felt like they had already established different priorities.

or example, if the two of you have thought of buying a house down the line, but you haven't had that conversation of how soon.

One of you could be spending more money, eating out. Making some extra purchases while the other is thinking, no, we need to be more aggressive with our savings. Because we're going to be buying a house within this timeframe.

This is why I feel so strongly that when you do your money dates and you're having these conversations. Yes, you're going to be talking about the numbers with your monthly budgets. And what to expect in the near future, but you should also look at the big picture and be clear about certain priorities.

For example, going back to buying a house. Is that something you're thinking about in the next five years or less? Or is that something down the line?

Are you thinking of starting a family, starting a business, travel financial independence.

Talk about these goals and the timelines you were thinking of having them in.

You may discover that your spouse has a different timeframe or different goals. That's normal. This is about working together to create a plan that you're both happy with.

For many of the couples I've interviewed where they achieved their goals, a big part of this was being very clear about the timelines and the goals they wanted and what those particular goals look like for them .

Your idea of a retirement, the home you want to live in, how many kids you have can vary. So knowing that on both sides allows you to create a plan that makes sense to you.

If you haven't already have these conversations with one another, because these are the building blocks that will allow you to deal with much more complicated in sometimes awkward conversations.

Should We Loan Money to Family?

Lending money to family can be an especially tough situation. No matter how objective you think you are, or you want to be emotions can run high and that's normal.

I would say in our community. That most of us would want to help. If we sought that there was an immediate or dire need. And many of us probably had to step up with the financial fallout from COVID helping our loved ones.

Sometimes, though, things are a bit… messier

What if there's a situation where you want to help but you're just at the beginning of your financial journey? You're not in a great spot yourself.

What if you have a relative, a loved one, who just isn't good with their finances and emergencies keep popping up. And you feel like you're constantly bailing them out. What do you do there? You care for them?

And at the same time, things are not clicking on the financial side. These are the types of situations where we can really stress over and if we're not on the same page, get into arguments.

This awkward situation of when to step in and loan money to family with something that Jen Hemphill had to deal with. She's an accredited financial counselor author, and the host of her dinero matters.

She discovered early on in her marriage that her husband and her had different expectations when it came to helping family out with money.

So the first time I'm like, okay, then we didn't see the money. I'm like, they haven't paid back the money. He's like, oh, I wasn't expecting that. I'm like, wait, wait a minute, wait a minute.

So that was tough. And then it happened again and our emergency savings would be depleted. And so I was having issues with that because one, we were still trying to figure out, you know, our finances and it just wasn't working.

She's not alone for most couples. This is a conversation they don't have until a family member asks for money.

So, how do you prepare for that as a couple? Here's where I think it's important to have conversations about expectations and do it in a less stressful way.

One thing that's been helpful for quite a few couples in our community he is running through these. What if scenarios?

Discuss, what would you do if you had a loved one, ask for money. Maybe it was an emergency or maybe it's a situation where they're having some financial struggles that keep coming up. What would you do then? And then also talk, what are your expectations if you loan the money out? Do you think you'll be getting it back? Are you expecting it to come back?

Or do you think that once that money is gone, it's gone.

Having these conversations before this scenario comes up. Allows you to have a less stressful, less emotional conversation. And instead gives you a clearer idea of your expectations, values, and priorities.

You can then work out a system that makes the most sense for you and your family.

After some deep heart to hearts and Jen and her husband found a plan that they were both comfortable with and supportive of.

We decided, we can set money aside on a monthly basis. We separate in a separate account. I'm such a big proponent of separate accounts.

That's the pot of money that and when because it has happened there's a need, I don't feel bad this time is giving the money because it doesn't interfere with our bills or other expenses or what we want, we're trying to achieve.

Jen Hemphill, Her Dinero Matter Creator/Host

Your decisions and plans may look very different than Jen's and that's fine. The key is that the two of you are happy with the plan that you came up with together.

Coming Clean About Secret Debts

We've discussed some pretty stressful and awkward conversations that have to be had.

Dealing with family and finances is important and you want to be on the same page for sure about that as well as your spending limits and when you need to check in with each other. With your shared goals, we want to make sure that you're reaching them together.

But there's one last situation that is very stressful and scary on both sides. It's when one of you is carrying a debt that the other doesn't know about.

It could be a debt you or they had before you got married. Or it could have started off as something small, but then snowballed into something much bigger.

Either way. It occurs more often than you think.

According to one survey by TD bank, over 40% of Americans are hiding some kind of credit card debt.

This is not only a significant problem financially, but also with your marriage. It might not seem this way. But it's a form of financial infidelity.

For the purpose of this episode, we're going to define financial infidelity as a situation where one spouse is keeping the other in the dark about finances.

Here's the tricky part. First of all, yes, there are people who are going behind their partner's backs, hiding money or sabotaging their family's finances for their own selfish purpose.

For those cases, I definitely recommend getting professional help with your situation.

You want someone with this experience to guide you through both the financial side of things? And the root of the problem, which may be something serious and significant, like a spending addiction.

However many in our community who have discovered financial infidelity in their marriage. Also find out that the root of it. Is it something malicious or sinister, but rather a breakdown of communication and their financial system.

Hopefully you seen that this beam has been playing out. We have to be clear. And transparent about our expectations, our priorities and values with one another.

I have written many times about couples and their different financial situations and how they handle their accounts. But the gist of it, I want to highlight for this episode is even if you do have a separate account, maybe it's your fun money spending account. Separate doesn't mean secret.

I believe that couples should have room in their budget so they each one of you can spend on the things that matter to you.

Talking about and acknowledging those different expenses helps your relationship and finances.

On your relationship side, you're getting a better understanding of what matters to your spouse. On the financial side, having a second pair of eyes to make sure that you're not overspending. Is also very helpful.

If you haven't already include these as a part of your money dates. Don't just talk about the family shared goals, but get to know each other better. What projects are you working on? What are some of your hobbies? This can be a great help with your marriage.

Many times, one of the biggest culprits where things get out of control is carrying credit card debt.

That's because you have this mix of ease of access for payments, separation if you have your own credit card, and the fact that they typically have higher interest rates. You put those together and it could be a recipe for a mess.

So what if you two are dealing with that situation? How can you, first of all, come clean with one another about the debts that you have? Then second, start rebuilding that trust and create a financial system together that you both feel comfortable with?

Years ago, right before they got married, Tai and Talaat from His and Her Money had to deal with this situation.

I spoke with him on an earlier episode and they were kind enough to share their story, but here's how they initially felt and reacted.

I was at the point where I was ashamed of. All of the debt that I had acquired. And here I am about to embark on a marriage, a new life, and I didn't want to bring these old bad decisions that I made into the marriage. So my thinking. Well, I just got to hustle up and try to figure out how to get rid of the debt.

And I can't tell her this because she'll look at me differently. She won't think I'm the guy that I built myself up to be. You know, when we were having these money talks, now that we're engaged, you know, I meant what I was saying. I was starting to understand money a little bit better, but the problem was I was still had to deal with my past mistakes.

They were still right there in front of me. There were still bills and bill collectors that I'm dealing with, that all that was there. Because of the decisions that I had made previously. So my thought, which was an incorrect thought was I can't tell her because she won't, she won't look at me and say, she might not marry me

Talaat McNeely

Just about three months prior to getting married, I discovered financial fidelity. I discovered that he wasn't as transparent as he should have been in, before we got married about his finances, because he was trying to handle it all.

He was trying to pay it off, pay down his entire debt before we got married.

I felt like my role came down, came crashing. You know, I felt like trust, like, oh wow. Can I trust him? Because here it is, he was not completely honest with me. I just had a lot of emotions going on.

Hey, there is debt. I didn't know about what else is going on.

Tai McNeely

Their reactions, definitely capture what a lot of couples go through when there's that realization of financial infidelity.

With Talaat, you can see that shame was a huge reason why he didn't want to come to Tai sooner and a lot of people experience that.

When we were first engaged and we shared the numbers with one another, I could see immediately that I had a lot more debt than my soon to be husband had and I did feel quite a bit of shame.

Now if you're the spouse who is just finding out about this secret debt, you may not relate, understand, or agree with what Talat is saying, but many times shame does hold us back from talking about openly our finances, especially when we feel like we could've done a better job.

So, what do you do if you're in this situation?

If you're the one that's carrying this debt and you still don't feel comfortable enough speaking with your spouse about it. Let me make a suggestion, have someone who is a neutral but respected third party joined in the conversation.

It could be a mentor that both of you respect. A financial planner who has experience working with married couples. Or now this is a new development in the financial planning field having a financial therapist who can navigate both the relationship side and the communication. As well as the numbers to help alleviate a bit of that tension and stress and give you a form for you to dispute to one another in a productive setting.

Please keep in mind if you're the one opening up about this debt is that you have to give your spouse the space and time to process this and that very well may include a period where they're angry or upset with you.

You can't skip over that part.

Going forward. It's important that you give each other that space so the two of you can work together and hopefully find a way to reconnect and reestablish that trust.

Here are a few things and choices that tie into lot made as a couple to improve their marriage and their money.

I realized, Hey, he's a good man. His money issues had nothing to do with how he treated me. He treated me like a queen like my father always taught me. So I knew that as long as we came together on one accord that, Hey, we can do this.

And if it wasn't for the fact that, as I mentioned, that I saw determination and my husband, I saw that he was willing to change. I saw habits and PAs changing. He was reading different financial books and stuff like that. It was very encouraging.

So we had a long talk and we had to lay all our cards out. We had to be completely honest with each other now, um, Some of the financial infidelity was uncovered. He had to tell me everything about his past financially sold and I had to do the same.

So once we maintain that, then we were able to work together and come up with a plan on how we can handle our finances.

I'm the one that goes through our bank accounts, whether it's daily or every other day and things like that but we both sit down and we both do the budget. We have meetings, financial meetings together. We talk about expenses that are coming up that need to get paid but far as the one that's going to the bank handling like the different transactions.

I do. One of the most important things that we did was we decided that we were in this together.

This was for sure, not an overnight process. It took seeking outside help, having regular conversations, Talaatcompletely opening up about his financial state and having a system that was transparent to both of them and they had to change their mindset and work as a team.

I want to mention that tie into law are now completely debt-free including their mortgage and they're happily running a business together.

I'll include a link in the show notes to that original interview where we go into more detail. With their process of sinking up their values and their finances.

If you haven't already please add their podcast, his and her money to your playlist, they have fantastic stories. Of their marriage, but other families as well who are building up their finances together.

Investing in your marriage definitely takes time but it is well worth it and will pay off in dividends

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