Start with Your Why

When I began writing about couples building up up finances and marriage, I used to suggest that they start with their budget.

I'd give tips on free tools to see where the money was going and give advice on how to make it easy to keep tabs on spending.

There was nothing wrong about what I was saying (I still recommend those tools), but I was missing the heart of it. Change requires both process and mindset change.

Instead of begining with the how, I found that's it's more important to start with the why.

Understand Why You Want to Simplify

Before making any transitions, it can be helpful to write down or talk about why you're doing this.

Carl Richards, Certified Financial Planner and NY Times Columnist, says one of the best ways to get to what you really want with financial plan is to ask, Why is money important to us?

If you can clearly answer why you want to do something, you can:

  • gain a better idea of what changes you need to make
  • stay motivated when it gets tough

Don't believe me? Let me give you an example with finances since so many want to improve theirs (get out of debt, save more), but keep failing.

When you ask, most people will say they want to get out of debt. Ask them why and you might hear, ‘I want financial freedom' or ‘We need some security if we lose our jobs'.

Those are good reasons, but why do they want to be financially free?

Getting out of debt is a milestone for sure, but it isn't a destination.

What do you want to do once you're out of debt?

For some it can mean having some breathing room in their budget so they can switch to a more satifying job. Others may want to stay at home with the kids, either full time or part-time.

Your reasons reflect your values, so don't be suprised if what you come up with is different from your friends.

Clarity with Decisions

Let's say you're determined to paying down debt so you've been cutting back on expenses so you can knock it out faster. You have some vacation time coming up and you're making plans on where you want to go and what you want to do.

Reviewing your why, you can decide on what is a better fit for your long term goals.

Another scenario – you are deciding on whether on or to keep your date nights going as you're working on the credit cards.

Why are you getting out of debt annd improving your finances?

If you're doing it so can you have more time for another, then you'll keep the date night. You might however, try to find more frugal ways to do it. Again, your why will be different than others so your choices will be different.

Motivation to Move Forward

Set backs and hurdles are part of life. Even with the best plans and intentions, we can struggle with our goals.

Let's say you've been building up an emergency fund. It's been hard, but you have $1,500 in the bank. Then just as you were about to work on paying down your credit cards, your car breaks down. And the repairs pretty much wipe out your savings.

Understandably you're frustrated, but if you've defined your why you can get back to business (once you've vented).

Another instance when we need motivation is when there is a temptation to veer off your path. I'm not talking about adjustmnets, which I think is a necessity, I'm refering to discouragment.

Things are going pretty well, but brown bagging lunch is a bit tired or you're frustrated with how your current car is running. Your friend calls, excited that they got a new car. Or maybe your co-worker has been inviting you to go out with them for lunch.

What do you do?

Since you understand the bigger picture of why you're trimming your spending, it's easier (not easy mind you) to come up with a solution that works for the situation. You put off getting a car, but you might agree to a once a month meetup with a co-worker.

Again, your why will be yours and your solutions will be your own.

Creating a Map

I hope you're fired up and have articluated the why behind your change.Once you've nailed down your why ,though, where do you go from here? What's your next step?

Simplify & Enjoy Your Money, Home, and Life

Today is a new beginning and I'm looking forward to the next 12 months for several reasons. Besides being our anniversary, I chose today to start documenting a new chapter in our lives.

I also want to help you have a less stressful and more enjoyable life. The key? Simplifying.

How Simplifying is a Key to Success

Simplifying is about removing distraction and noise from your life. One huge reason I've started this site is I've seen firsthand how easy it is to

Learning from My Mistakes

I announced last year that we were going to pay off the student loan, the last of our non-mortgage debt.

Long story short, we didn't make it.

We paid it down (which is still a win in my book), but not off. Looking at 2015 we had so many things going on, some big ones inlcuded:

  • putting our townhouse for sale (and six months of showings)
  • taking care of two kids under the age of five
  • adjusting and finding a new work routine as I work from home with the little ones around
  • fixing and upgrading stuff around the townhouse to make it more appealing to buyers
  • weddings (congrats to my cousins!)
  • medical issues for several loved ones

Looking back I realized that a huge part of the problem was not addressing the root of the problem.

I've been writing about money and marriage for some time, so I was naturally looking it as a numbers issue.

After some self examination and discussion with one another, I realized that the failure was due in large part to a lack of focus. We were trying to do too much and while we were not drowning financially, it was adding a ton of stress and causing plenty of (needless) frustration in our lives.

To fix that we're spending the next year simplifying our finances, house, and lives. And since I write, I'll be keeping myself accountable here.

If you're in the same boat, I hope you join me!

Avoid Burnout

First – I'm not looking at swinging from one extreme to another.

Trading exhaustion from an overflowing plate for burnout due to trying to minimalize (is that even a word?) everything is not my goal.

Relatively few people are able to make drastic changes to their lives, but in most cases extremes don't work. I'd rather work on something sustainable.

I'll be happy and more satisfied by getting into a routine/rhythm I can keep even after I make my goals.

Before I get into them, I'll tell you how I'm planning on getting there.

How to Simplify Your Life

Since ‘simplifying our lives' such a broad goal, I created a few guidelines to help me focus.

  • Begin With Why? We tend to jump to the how, but we can increase our chances of succeeding if we began by asking ourselves why? Why do you want we want to simplify?
  • Picture Your Future. Where do you want to go?
  • Understand Where You Are Now. The other important part to creating a map is knowing what your starting point is.
  • Identify Your Weak Points. We all have areas in our finances, homes, and lives where we could do much better than what we're doing now.
  • Start Small. I've seen firsthand from others that going to financial extremes can be detrimental.
  • Build Around What You Value. How we spend our time and money is to a degree a reflection in what we value. If you want to simplify so you can enjoy life more, create your budget and time around what's important to you.
  • Adjust as Needed. As life goes on, you'll also change on your goals, so expect to simplify different areas of your life.

If you want more details, go ahead and grab my free guide to Simplifying Your Life in 7 Days.

Simplifying Our Lives in 2016

To hold ourselves accountable, we've come up with these goals for 2016:

Money

We want to get our necessary expenses down to $2,500/month.

To do this we are going to pay off ALL our non-mortgage debt.

Home

We want to sell our current townhouse and get another place that is a better fit for our current life.

To put into something measurable, we need a place that allows us to live and work from home while costing us less than our current place.

Life

We have too much on our plates. We both work and while I have some freedom and flexibility with my business, I've been swamped with too much to do professionally and professional.

My husband feels the same way. We love what we do, but we love our family more.

For this next year, we want to strip away non-essentials so we can have time for what matters to us.

Thoughts on Simplifying Your Life

Every month I'll share our progress. I welcome any constructive feedback you can offer. More importantly, I also hope you feel comfortable enough to share your breakthroughs and setbacks as well.

I'd love for you to join me on this journey (the more the merrier after all!). What do you want to simplify with your money, home, or life? Why?

Why Simplify and Enjoy? :A Quick Intro

Hello; thanks for visiting me here on Simplify and Enjoy!

I'm Elle 🙂

Since 2009, I've been writing about marriage and money over at Couple Money.

I originally started Couple Money because we needed it. Back when we engaged we quickly found out we had different approaches to money.

Trying to find solutions, I hopped online and found some great personal finance blog, but there wasn't much that specifically addressed how married couples can work together to tackle their financial goals.

Marriage and money is so layered because you have two people with different backgrounds coming together. Pretty much all I saw at the time was focused on individuals.

So started documenting our debt free journey as well as wins and disagreements.

It's something I love, but today I'm starting a side project that I'm thrilled about sharing – Simplify and Enjoy.

I guess the best way to start is to explain the why behind the site.

Why ‘Simplify and Enjoy'?

I do believe the goal financial independence is not about the money, but about the freedom.

To save enough to ‘retire' or where work is optional takes a big chunk of money.

(Not as much as some of those retirement calculators like to recommend, but even if you want to live off of $30,000/year, you'd need around $750,000)

That means making choices about where and how you're spending your money now.

We've found the process of simplifying to be the best, most sustainable way for us to reach our goals.

Reviewing regularly what matters most to us and minimizing what doesn't helps us move forward and closer to what matters.

It also means that we enjoy the journey of becoming financially free and eventually independent while raising our kids.

Are You Hard Core FIer?

Not really.

Which may seem weird, but we're really focused less on the numbers now.

When we were paying off $35,000 of debt, we tracked our progress fairly regularly. That made a huge difference.

But now that we have built that financial muscle (and also automated our money), we have more time to focus on the kids plus our projects.

Now that's not to say we're not savers. Last time I checked, our average savings rate was around 45% range.

If you'd compare to the average American family, then we'd most likely be considered hardcore savers.

What Are You Going to Cover on Simplify and Enjoy?

Basically, we'll share a bit of how we're raising our kids while trying to simplify our finances, home, and lives.

I'd love to share some of our discussions about balancing saving more versus enjoying the season of life we're in.

So while we'll get into the path we're taking towards financial independence, the real focus will be on the journey.

I'll share projects around the home we're working on. Some of them we'll do ourselves and gain some new skills. Other projects we're going to outsource.

You'll get to see how we design our yard to make it better suited for us.

I'm learning about using permaculture principles to grow more of our own food and work with what we have.

We're looking to creating spaces for the kids to play, us to relax, friends to visit and , and grow our own food.

Minimalism & Financial Independence for Families

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