Staying Focused & Holding Each Other Accountable
Many of our friends have been enjoying hearing about our successes (and failures) since we started our Project Money journey. The most asked question we get is, “Is it hard? Watching every penny has to be a lot of work!”. To be honest, it isn’t all that difficult.
Before Project Money we did keep track of our spending, but that is as far as it went. We didn’t take it any further. We only recorded what we spent and where. We didn’t have a budget of any kind. For the most part, if we wanted something, we would just buy it. If we felt like going out for dinner, we went.
Now, things have changed but for the good. The first thing we did, was take Sue’s paychecks and determined what was going to be paid with each one. We didn’t want to rely on the commissions she makes as they are not always consistent, so we decided that those checks would go directly to savings. From her regular salary, we have created a plan of how each of the checks are being dispersed. The first check of the month will go entirely to the mortgage refi. The second check will be split between more payment towards the refi, homeowner’s insurance and property taxes, and the balance remaining will be split and deposited in some of our savings accounts. We have all of Sue’s checks figured out to the end of the year!
Figuring out Jeff’s checks required a bit more work. He gets paid every Friday, so we broke the month up by weeks. We calculated our weekly expenses from Friday to Thursday. Every Friday, we have an automatic withdrawal to our vacation fund, a check written for our weekly contribution to our church, as well as transfers to specific savings accounts (depending on the week of the month). We have set budgets for groceries and gas for each week. Every expense from Friday to Thursday is recorded on a weekly expense worksheet where we log the amount spent and the “tag” that we assign to it (groceries, dining out, entertainment, gym membership, internet, etc.). After the expense has been logged, the receipt is put into an envelope. On Thursday night (which is when we hold our “Finance Meeting”), we go through all the expenses for the week. If we have charged anything to our Costco or Elan charge cards, a transfer is made from the checking account to the corresponding savings account. We then close out the week taking the amount of Jeff’s paycheck and deducting the expenses for the week. This final number tells us how we saved or didn’t save for the week. At the end of the month, we take the savings from each week and we put $50 extra onto the refi and the rest goes into savings!
Initially, this seemed like real tedious work, but now it has become second nature. For the first time in our lives we are actually using a budget and sticking to it! Before we buy something, we see if it is in our budget to make that purchase. If not, we go without it. Sometimes the money is available but we choose to not spend the money at that moment or we decide to put the purchase on hold. We have found that we really aren’t “missing out” on anything. We are much better at putting the brakes on when making purchases than we used to. If we are looking at making a large purchase, we are thinking longer and harder how badly we want or need this item. We have taken out all the charge cards except Costco and Elan from our wallets (we removed the temptation…out of sight, out of mind). We are utilizing the food from our freezer and pantry shelves and making our weekly grocery budget go further. Weather permitting, Sue is taking the moped to work rather than her vehicle (much cheaper on gas).
So, you see, it isn’t all that difficult. We still are able to make it to work and put food in our bellies while still paying our bills and saving for our future. We are focused on achieving the goals we have set for ourselves. After 33 years of marriage, we know each other pretty well and hold each other accountable. You have to be committed to do this…and we are.