By Daniel Rodriguez | Dr. Budgets
Being in the honeymoon stage after getting married is an exciting time! You’ve just committed to your partner and are starting your lives together. This new life together might mean moving in together, figuring out how to pay for your wedding debt, taking on new joint expenses, or preparing for some big expenses in the near future (buying a house, having a baby, etc.). This may lead to some stress around money. I enjoy working with lots of couples, so I thought I would share these 5 things you must do after getting married to help ease the stress of mixing marriage with money:
1) Combine to Save. Marriage has several financial advantages, especially when combining certain expenses. One big one that I have seen with clients (and in my own life!) is health insurance. If the person you are marrying works for a company with a great health insurance plan, then you could save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars per year. After you get married, make sure your spouse adds you to their health insurance plan so you can reap those benefits. Often, there is a short window (30 days) to do this, so make it a priority after getting back from your honeymoon. Another area where you can save is auto and home/renter’s insurance. There is often significant monthly savings when you are both on the same auto insurance policy. And while you are at it, you can bundle your auto and home/renter’s insurance policy to save even more! Talk to your insurance professional after you get married (or even before if you live together before marriage) to determine if you can save some money on your insurance. There are many other areas where you could combine to save, for example, combining your cell phone plans, Netflix accounts, Costco memberships, or Amazon Prime memberships, so take a look at your particular situation to eliminate any overlap you have in your expenses.
2) Plan to Pay Off Debt. A survey of 1,010 randomly sampled newlywed couples found that entering marriage with consumer debt has a negative impact on newlywed levels of marital quality. The study also found that the large majority (70%) of newlyweds in this study brought debt into their marriage relationship. So, does this mean you should wait until you have no consumer debt to get married? Of course not! But you should come up with a plan to pay off that debt together as soon as you get married. And once you have that plan, stick to it! I have seen the huge impact that debt has on couples and their relationship, and I’ll tell you this: the couples who pay off their consumer debt seem happier. So, come up with a debt repayment plan together after you get married, and then say goodbye to consumer debt for good!
3) Merge Your Finances. There is no right or wrong answer on whether to merge your finances after marriage or not – every couple is different (for more on this topic, read Merging Your Finances After Marriage). The key is to have an open and honest conversation about money and your financial goals so that you can then work together to achieve those goals. When it comes to merging finances, I usually suggest using a joint account as the central account for a couple, which means all the income flows into that account and then common expenses are paid out of that account (mortgage/rent, utilities, auto expenses, groceries, insurance, etc.). But also…
4) Separate Your Finances. So, once you have a joint account as the central account for income and expenses, then I like to create separate accounts for each person which gets funded every week, two weeks, month (whatever works best for the couple) with their allocated “allowance” that they can spend on whatever they want. This allows each person to have some “fun” money without having to consult with the other person. In my marriage, we do this, and it is nice to be able to buy a gift for my wife from my personal account… it feels more like a gift from me when I’m using my “own money” for that. Here, again, you should have open and honest communication about what is a fair amount for each person to receive as their “allowance.” In my household, my wife gets more every week than I do, but we both agreed on that amount. Side note: if you own a business, be sure to keep a separate “business” account for all your business income and expenses, and then transfer your “salary” to your joint account (more on that here: 4 Money Tips for Small Business Owners).
5) Start a Joint FUNd. Once you have done the first four things you must do after getting married, hopefully, you have some money left over for fun! I like the idea of a FUN Fund (or FUNd for short) as a short-term savings account for joint experiences. Research has found that people who spent money on experiences rather than material items were happier and felt the money was better spent. Use this account to save for joint experiences, special occasions, stay-cations, travel, etc. When you spend this money on yourselves, you can spend it “guilt-free” because you know this money is for FUN!
Getting married is such a joyful occasion, and hopefully following the 5 things you must do after getting married in this post will help continue that happiness deep into your marriage. If you know a couple who is about to get married or just got married and wants a personalized plan on how to do any of this, please have them contact us to schedule a consultation. These are my five financial tips for newlyweds. Do you have some other ones? If so, please let us know in the comments section below.
- Published in Love and Marriage
By Daniel Rodriguez | Dr. Budgets
Many people probably find it overwhelming to bring some structure and planning to their personal spending. This is probably why only one in three Americans prepare a detailed household budget. This, in turn, is one of the reasons why people are still in debt. If you are a business owner, then this adds another layer of complexity, which is probably why so many small business owners are flying off the seat of their pants when it comes to their finances. When I work with small business owners at Dr. Budgets, there are four things I recommend they do when it comes to organizing their personal and business finances…
1) Separate Personal & Business. Keeping your personal and business finances separate is a critical first step. This starts with simply having a separate checking account for your business, and then using it exclusively for business. If you use a credit card for the business, then having a credit card dedicated exclusively for business expenses is a must (whether it is a business card or a personal card you only use for business). Also, even if you have a very simple business, you want to have both a personal AND business budget.
2) Track Your Spending. You want to track your business expenses using some sort of software. If you have a simple business without much activity, then you can probably get away with using a spreadsheet. As your business grows, consider using bookkeeping software such as QuickBooks. This is so important that clients of Dr. Budgets who are small business owners receive bookkeeping in QuickBooks as part of their coaching package. Also, track your personal expenses. If you have a record of those expenses available, your tax accountant may find that some of those expenses on the personal side can be written off on the business side.
3) Pay Yourself a Salary. Many people who own a small business don’t have a plan on how to pay themselves. As money comes into the business, that money usually is spent on both business and personal expenses. It is important to create some stability in your personal spending by paying yourself a consistent salary (as if you were working a job). Set a reasonable salary that will balance your personal budget, while ensuring that you don’t take too much money from the business. A fine balance has to be stuck here because if you pay yourself too much, your business runs out of money, but if you don’t pay yourself enough then you run out of money on the personal side. I spend a lot of time with my small business owner clients to come up with a salary figure that strikes that balance.
4) Save for Taxes. Many small business owners (especially new business owners) tend to forget to save for taxes. When you are an employee, it’s easy because taxes are taken out of your paycheck before you can spend the money. As a small business owner, you have to put some money away to prepare for the inevitable tax bill. If this habit is built at the very beginning, then it just becomes another “bill” that the business needs to pay every month (by transferring money to your business savings). Unfortunately, many small business owners don’t do this, and then when the inevitable tax bill arrives, they are shocked. Not saving enough money to pay your taxes is an easy way to get into debt as a small business owner, so you must plan for this by setting aside some of your business income every month.
Being a small business owner is a challenge even without factoring in the financial side of things. Doing the four items above can help mitigate some of the stress associated with running a small business. If you know a small business owner who prefers to have an expert look at their spending on the personal and business side, please have them contact us to schedule a consultation. These are only four tips for business owners. Do you have some other ones? If so, please let us know in the comments section below.
- Published in Organization Tips
By Daniel Rodriguez | Dr. Budgets
Debt can help you fulfil your dreams and move you forward in achieving your financial goals. Debt can also turn into your worst nightmare if you aren’t careful. So how do you use debt, rather than letting debt abuse you?
Step one is to get yourself out of credit card debt. If you are in credit card debt, then you need to figure out why you are still in debt, then take the necessary steps to pay it off. You can use a debt payoff calculator (like this one from The Simple Dollar) to get you going.
Step two is to stay out of credit card debt. It can be easy to use debt in a way that does not support your financial goals. Using a credit card to buy the latest gadget, that new pair of shoes, or to take that vacation when you don’t have the money can have harsh long-term financial consequences… this is when the Rule of 72 can work against you! Unfortunately, poor spending habits can be hard to break. As your income increases, you develop more expensive tastes, and your credit card balance continues to rise. It is a cycle that, sadly, isn’t broken by many people. Don’t be a part of those statistics!
So once you are out of credit card debt and are able to stay out of credit card debt, then there are many ways you can use debt to further your financial goals. You could use debt to purchase a property, purchase a car (be reasonable here!) so you can commute to work, or invest in your business. My wife and I have a low-interest rate mortgage that allows us to live in a place we love while keeping our monthly payment relatively low and stable.
Debt can also be used properly for short-term use, such as taking advantage of rewards or cash-back credit cards. The key is to use them wisely and pay them off every month to avoid interest charges. My wife and I use the American Express Blue Cash Preferred credit card for all of our grocery store purchases to receive 6% cash back… and we avoid paying interest by having it set up on automatic payment to pay the full statement balance every month. This way we earn the $360 annual maximum cash-back reward without ever paying a cent in interest! We also use the Target REDcard to receive 5% off at Target and free shipping at Target.com, and the Amazon Store Card to receive 5% off at Amazon.com, which in essence pays for our Amazon Prime membership.
There are definitely ways to work the system and use debt to your advantage. Carrying a credit card balance is not one of them, which is why that is step one. So, if you are still in credit card debt, bookmark this post and come back to it when you are out of credit card debt. If you are ready to get out of debt so you can start using debt to your advantage, contact us or schedule your complimentary consultation today to get started!
- Published in Debt
By Daniel Rodriguez | Dr. Budgets
You have a balance on your credit cards and you have decided to pay them off in two years. That’s great! So you simply take your total balance and divide it by 24 to find out what you should pay each month… then, two years later, you’re out of debt, right? If only it were that easy!
Paying off debt isn’t just about figuring out the numbers. There are a lot of emotional considerations involved that may make it hard to pay off debt, which might explain why the average American household carries $15,762 in credit card debt.
Here are the 5 reasons why you are still in debt…
Lack of Motivation. Maybe you tell yourself you want to get out of debt every year, but at the end of the year you have the same amount (or more) debt than you did when the year began. You have a desire to pay off your debt, but your actions are painting a different picture… your desire to purchase what you can’t afford is stronger than your desire to pay off your debt. The reason why you are still in debt is because your goal to pay off your debt isn’t strong enough (or at least not stronger than your desire to swipe your credit card).
Lack of Knowledge. Maybe your goal to pay off your debt is strong, but you just don’t know how to start paying it off. Do you pay off the credit card with the highest interest rate or the one with the lowest balance? Do you do a balance transfer to a 0% credit card? Do you continue to use your credit cards while you are paying them off or do you cut them all up? You can pay your debt in a variety of ways, but if you don’t start somewhere it won’t pay itself off! My recommendation is you start by putting your credit cards away and stop using them until you are completely out of credit card debt. Once you put your cards away, you can then decide whether to pay off the highest interest rate or the lowest balance card first. If you haven’t started because you feel you don’t have enough knowledge, then this is probably the reason why you are still in debt.
No Budget. You can have the motivation and a plan for how to pay off your debt, but without a realistic budget (healthy spending plan) your progress will be limited. If you don’t know where your money is currently being spent and you don’t have a plan for how to spend it, then you can easily miss opportunities to make a significant dent in your debt balance. So, figure out how you are currently spending your money using a spending tracker like Mint.com, then develop a budget so you can allocate as much as possible toward your debt repayment goal. If you don’t have a budget, that could be the reason why you are still in debt.
Financial Emergency or “Financial Emergency.” Sometimes true financial emergencies happen… unexpected hospitalization, major auto repairs, or having to take a last minute trip to attend a funeral. Most of the time, though, they are probably only a “financial emergency.” Needing new tires or routine maintenance on your car is not a true emergency. Having to pay your car registration is not an emergency. Your annual insurance bill is not an emergency. Taking that last minute trip with your friends is not an emergency. I could go on and on, but the point is that all of these so-called “financial emergencies” are all things you can plan for in your annual budget. If you find yourself constantly encountering “financial emergencies,” that may be the reason why you are still in debt.
No Accountability. So, you have the motivation, knowledge, and a budget that factors in “financial emergencies,” but you are still not making much progress toward paying off your debt? The biggest reason could be a lack of accountability. When you have someone hold you accountable to your goals, something magical often happens… you start achieving those goals! Accountability is often the missing ingredient to achieving your goals because with accountability you have someone to report to about your progress. And it is much more enjoyable to tell that person you are on track with your goals, rather than having the conversation that you are failing miserably. So, have someone hold you accountable, whether it is your spouse, a friend, or a Dr. Budgets money coach. If you find that you have done everything, but you are still in debt, then the lack of accountability is probably the reason why you are still in debt.
- Published in Debt
By Jeannie Rodriguez | Dr. Budgets
Next month will mark the five-year anniversary of the day Daniel and I met, and it has been a wonderful five years! Three years (to the day!) after we met, we were married and there are a few things I’d like to share about what it’s like being “Mrs. Budgets.” When I tell people my husband is a money coach, I explain that he’s like a personal trainer for your money. He sits down with his clients each month to review their spending, he looks for places to save money, and he helps people achieve their financial goals. I think people have some ideas about what it must be like to be married to a money coach – for example, that Daniel is very frugal with his money – and I’m here to tell you the TRUTH about what it’s like being married to a money coach:
We Make a Budget Every Year and Review It Every Month
When we first merged our finances, Daniel and I sat down and had a conversation about how we spend our money and how we want to spend our money. We mapped out our financial goals and what was really important to us – just as Daniel does with his new clients! You might think that looking at your spending is a painful conversation, but it’s not at all! Daniel gets right to the good stuff to talk about what your financial goals are, and it’s a really positive discussion. With those things in mind, we look at the different spending categories and determine how much we’re going to spend in each category.
Once we have our budget, we review our spending each month to see how we did. Most months, we do well in each category and might overspend in a couple categories – but that just means we try to do better next month. I thought that I would DREAD these monthly budget reviews, but it’s so enlightening! Before I met Daniel, I couldn’t tell you how much I spent on dining out or groceries – and, I won’t lie, it would get away from me and I was overspending every single month. Now, I look forward to talking about our money because it’s such a positive conversation, and I know where we stand as far as spending and can see our progress toward our long-term financial goals.
I Get a Massage Every Month
When we talked about what was important to us, Daniel said that it was important for him to enjoy a massage every month, so we put that in the budget for him and for me! I think many people think of Dr. Budgets as being really frugal and not spending money on any type of luxury – but that’s not true! He’s all about cutting the spending that doesn’t matter so that you have money to spend on what’s important. He’d never tell me I couldn’t indulge in a luxury I want (mani/pedis, a facial or spa day) – we would just need to look at the budget together to decide from where the money would come.
I Buy Whatever I Want and He Never Questions My Spending
You’d probably think there are a few months where the monthly budget review could get pretty intense (around the holidays, for example, when I can get a little carried away with gifts, holiday parties and decorations!) but it never has. We have structured our budget in a way that we each get money every week to spend on whatever we want – and I love it! Basically, each of our incomes goes into our joint account, and from that account we pay for our joint expenses like:
- Mortgage and Utilities
- Automobile Expenses
- Groceries and Daily Living
But also from that account, we each have money transferred to our personal accounts each week for spending outside of joint expenses. That’s the money we use to buy gifts for each other, special indulgences (spa days, the latest tech toy, etc), going out with my girlfriends, and whatever we want! Daniel never questions this spending because it’s my fun money. I’ve never felt like I had to hide big purchases or justify a new dress – he doesn’t question how I spend my money.
We Treat Our Friends
Imagine you go out to dinner with Dr. Budgets and his wife, and the check comes… you might think that he’d bust out the calculator and determine (to the penny!) how much you each owe – but that’s not the case! One thing that is important to us is that we want to treat our friends occasionally and never let money come between friendships. It’s nice having money in our budget set aside so we can treat friends to a ball game, dinner, or movie tickets.
I Don’t Clip Coupons (Although Daniel Does Sometimes)
I do not enjoy clipping coupons. If I see a coupon for a place I shop often, I might stick it in my wallet to use later, but I’m not coupon crazy. You might think Mrs. Budgets is an “extreme couponer” by association but, while Daniel will use coupons for things, I almost never do (and he’s cool with that) 🙂 Since I do all the grocery shopping for the house, I do have some tricks to saving money on food without clipping coupons.
I Never Worry about Money
When I met Daniel, I had a lot of credit card debt – but I was well on my way to paying it down. I was renting out a room to help pay my mortgage, and at the beginning of each month, I remember rushing to deposit her rent check because I never had a buffer in my account to cover the mortgage payment. I also remember checking my credit card balance while standing in line at the grocery store to see if I had enough funds to cover what I needed to buy. Basically, I was constantly worried about money.
After I paid off my debt, I felt like a huge weight was lifted! And after Daniel and I merged and organized our finances, I soon realized I wasn’t worried about money at all. I never need to worry because we have automatic payments and buffers, and anything I need or want to buy is accounted for in the budget.
Being married to Dr. Budgets sounds pretty great, huh? At least, I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m married to an extreme cheapskate who makes me eat Top Ramen every night, as many people might think when I say I’m married to Dr. Budgets 🙂
The best part? I’ve heard numerous Dr. Budgets clients say they have many of the same benefits by having Daniel as a money coach! If you’d like to get a massage every month, review your monthly spending and financial goals, and stop worrying about money, then you should talk to Dr. Budgets too!
- Published in Love and Marriage
By Daniel Rodriguez | Dr. Budgets
When you hire a money coach at Dr. Budgets it is like hiring a personal trainer for your money. As a money coach, I show you how to organize your finances, track the progress toward your financial goals, and hold you accountable. The following tips on how to organize your finances are built into the experience when you hire a money coach at Dr. Budgets, so if you’re struggling with any of them please contact us for your complimentary consultation.
Take a Financial Snapshot. To start, I suggest you become very clear on your current financial situation. Do you have debt? If so, complete a debt schedule that includes all of your debts, your interest rates, and your minimum payments. What do you own? Write down every major item that you own and what it’s worth. Examples include your house, car(s), savings, 401(k), investments, etc. Then evaluate your financial picture – do you owe more than your own? Knowing where you are today will allow you to evaluate your progress.
Track Your Spending. Awareness of where you currently spend your money is a critical next step. Once you are aware of how you spend your money, then you can come up with ideas on what changes you need to make to achieve your goals. You can do this by tracking every single expense, for a month or two, on a sheet of paper or a note on your phone. You can use the tools that your bank and credit card companies provide online to capture all of your expenses. Or you can use online software, such as Mint.com, that aggregates all of your spending in one place. The key is to capture all of your expenses so that you become very clear about where your money is going right now.
Create a System. Money is constantly flowing in and out of your life, so it is not the type of thing you can organize just once – you have to create a system for staying organized. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all system for everyone because people are different, so consider your personality while you build a system that works for you.
Have a Strong Goal. Last, but definitely not least, have a strong financial goal. I’ve written about this in prior posts (How to Set Strong Financial Goals and Why You Need Strong Financial Goals). Knowing where your money is being spent and having a clear picture of your current financial situation won’t do you much good if you don’t have a strong goal. So think about what you want to accomplish, then set out to make it happen! Success doesn’t happen overnight; it happens by doing a series of daily habits consistently.
These are my tips on what you can do to organize your finances. Ultimately a money coach will hold you accountable to your goals and your spending habits, but a big part of that is helping you to organize your finances to get there.
- Published in Organization Tips
By Daniel Rodriguez | Dr. Budgets
With wedding season upon us, we are focusing on couples and money during the month of May! We kicked off with a success story from Owen and Amanda, who are working together to pay off their debt.
Their story got me thinking about how Dr. Budgets can help couples (specifically) with their money. Here are five ways I help couples and money mix:
A Compass: The first thing I do when I start working with my clients is identify strong financial goals. Sometimes, in the process of saving toward financial goals, people can get off track and need somebody to point them in the right direction. This is especially important with couples because each person in the relationship may get off track at different times, which will require a gentle reminder from me (as opposed to that reminder coming from the other person in the relationship).
A Scapegoat. One thing I hear from my couple clients is that my name comes up often when they make financial decisions. Before they decide to blow their dining out budget on an expensive meal, one person will ask “what would Dr. Budgets say?!” It may sound funny, but it starts a conversation that neither person may want to initiate (but know they should!). After working with me a short while it becomes easier to start conversations about money, but until then I’m happy to be the scapegoat.
A Resource. If you were to get an unexpected bonus or other source of income, would you know what you should do with it? Maybe you know what you want to do with it! My clients come to me with questions about “extra” money all the time. I think they find it helpful to have some guidance so they don’t spent it on something that is not in line with their goals, or contrary to what their other half thinks they should do with it!
A “Numbers Guy.” I love numbers because they make sense to me – I can categorize your spending and show you exactly where your money is going. But not everybody loves numbers like I do. Clients enjoy the clarity that comes with having their spending categorized because it removes the uncertainty of their spending – there’s no more “I think we spent $200 a month on dining out” because I can show them exactly how much they spent.
A Neutral Third Party. People spend money differently, and often times different types of spenders get married 🙂 One person in the relationship might frequently buy clothes and shoes so their partner thinks that they are the reason for their dwindling bank account (or mounting debt) – and it’s easy to point that finger! Until we sit down and look at the numbers and learn that the finger-pointer may be contributing to debt just as much as his/her partner. He/She might not make frequent purchases, but will drop a couple thousand dollars on a new entertainment system. As your money coach, I never judge – I simply bring awareness to your spending and put you on the right path to achieve your goals.
As you know by now, I LOVE helping my clients achieve their goals. When I work with clients, my focus is helping them achieve their goals, but sometimes having a money coach does even more than help to get them out of debt or save for a house. Money is the number one thing couples fight about, but when you’re talking about money and working together to save for financial goals, it’s one less thing to fight about! I’ve heard from so many of my couple clients that they’re talking about money – some for the first time ever! As a newlywed myself, hearing that makes me especially happy. For more tips this month about love and money check out our Dr. Budgets Facebook page.
- Published in Love and Marriage