8 Tips For Newlyweds In Debt

If you’re a recent or upcoming newlywed, congratulations!  This is an exciting time, of course, and there’s so much ahead!  You’ve got many things to look forward to.  However, if you’re like many newlyweds, debt is a part of your life.  Nobody likes debt, but most of us have it.  Here are some tips for newlyweds in debt.

Be Honest

Hopefully, by now, you know everything there is to know about each others finances.  But, if you don’t, it’s never too late.  Make sure you both come clean about all of your debt.  You have to know where you’re starting from.

Rank Your Debt

Newlyweds in debt should make it a goal to get out of debt, or reduce it as much as possible.  Once you have all of your debts listed, start ranking them.  Figure out which ones you would like to get rid of first.  A variety of factors can tie into these decisions.  Do you have some debts with small balances that you can get out of the way easily? Are there high interest rate debts?  Or, do you owe money to family that you’d like to pay back?  Each couple will rank their debts differently, but it’s important to have a plan.

Create A Budget

Once you’re married, it’s important to create a budget.  If you’ve never done a budget, the first step is to simply track your spending.  Make sure you know where every dollar that you spend is going.  Also, understand every dollar that’s coming in.  Then, you can make a budget based on this information.  Sometimes you’ll have to adjust your budget as seasonal changes can create variances throughout the year.  The idea is to have money left over that you can use to pay down your debt faster.

Cut Spending

After you’re in tune with your budget, look at ways you can cut spending.  Every dollar you don’t spend is money you can allocate toward your debt.  Can you go out to eat less?  What about not having drinks while out for dinner?  Could you make your coffee at home?  A few dollars here and there may not seem like much, but it adds up quickly.

Increase Your Income

While cutting spending can free up money, so can bringing more money home!  Work hard at your job.  Apply for promotions.  Look for new opportunities.  In addition to your regular job, look for side hustles.  Can you tutor? Would you enjoy driving for Uber or Lyft now and then?  Can you house sit or clean a house or two?   When you have extra money, throw it right to accelerating your debt payments.

 Have An Emergency Fund

Before you attack debt, make sure you have $1,000 set aside for unexpected costs.  It may be tempting to put every dollar to debt, but you need a cushion.  Life throws things at you, and if you have an emergency fund there, you won’t have to worry about adding more debt to your life should something unexpected happen.

Don’t Ignore Retirement

You may be tempted to put every dollar you can toward debt, even if you forsake retirement savings.  I would advise against that.  Even if you put just a couple percent of your paycheck toward retirement, it’s building a good habit for a lifetime of savings.  More importantly, if your employer offers a match, make sure you contribute at least the amount necessary to get the full match.  Otherwise, you’re leaving money on the table.

Look Ahead

Newlyweds in debt may find themselves with a great plan if they follow the steps above.  However, it’s important to look ahead.  Make sure you understand where you think you’ll be in a few years time.  If you plan on starting a family, have a plan on how that will impact your finances.  These decisions could alter the priorities you set earlier.  You may find you’ll balance things out differently if your long term and short term goals diverge, which they probably will.

These are just a few tips I have for newlyweds in debt.  Will they get you out of debt instantly? No.  It’s often a long road.  But, the point is to make progress, and these tips will hopefully help.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

How To Have A Great Valentine’s Day

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Valentine’s Day is right around the corner.  This is the time where you have to buy chocolates and flowers, right? Well, not necessarily.  Only Hallmark and the florists really believe that!  Actually, it is possible to have a great Valentine’s Day without breaking the bank.  Here are a few ideas.

image from Morguefile courtesy of rosevita

How To Have A Great Valentine’s Day

  1. Make A Favorite Meal.  You don’t have to go out to have a great Valentine’s Day.  Sometimes staying in with a special meal works well.  Maybe something you make just once per year to keep it special.
  2. Send Along A Note. Since Valentine’s Day falls in the middle of the week this year, one or both of you will probably be working. Send a note in their lunch or wallet to let them know you’re thinking about them.
  3. Make A Card.  Why spend $7 on a card when you can make one yourself?  It will probably be more meaningful that way, too!
  4. Relax.  A nice massage along with a glass of wine can be a perfect little gift.
  5. Take a skip day.  If one of both of you works, maybe a skip day is in order.  This works really well if one can surprise the other.
  6. Don’t forget the kids. If you have young kids, include them on the fun.  Make the whole family feel special.  They’ll just feel loved in a different way, but will still be happy.
  7. Netflix and chill.  After the kids go to bed, pop in some Netflix, relax, and see where things go.

Valentine’s Day comes around only once per year.  While it can be a go-all-out type of day, it can be special no matter what.

Readers, what do you remember most about your favorite Valentine’s Day?   Do you prefer to go over the top or would you rather lie low?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Before Keeping Up With Them, Ask Who Are Your Joneses?

Keeping up with the Joneses.  We’ve all heard it.  We know what it means.  Hopefully we don’t do it.

Keeping Up With The Joneses: Who Are Your Joneses, Anyway?

But, since most people that you start comparing yourself to probably aren’t actually named Jones (though, some might be), I wonder who your Joneses are.  Meaning, who are the people that, when you see them, make you want to ‘keep up’?

For me, I don’t have actual people, but the people who fall into these groups are definitely my triggers.

People who build brand new houses

mb-2016-10-construction
People who build brand new homes always bring a tweak of jealousy. What about for you? Who are your Joneses?

I remember when my parents went through the process of building a new home back in the late 1980’s.  Although even then I knew that it was a stressful process (I remember more than story of my dad getting into near-shouting matches with the builder), it was fascinating to me to see ideas on paper and a piece of land get transformed into a home, and was something I wanted to do someday.  So far, I haven’t had the opportunity, so when I see people that are going through that process, it definitely strikes a chord.

People who remodel their kitchens

I’ve never had a granite countertop in any place where I’ve lived.  It’s been all laminiate counters for me.  Our home has a decent enough kitchen, but it is a late-1990’s kitchen that was, even then, fitted with the basics.  It’s functional but it’s nothing fancy. Although we’ve replaced the sinks, faucets, and dishwasher, it’s still very much a basic 1990’s kitchen.  Although we have no plans to replace it, I have to admit, when I see the photos on Facebook and such of people that do a kitchen remodel, I ‘want one’!

For me, these are the big groups that bring out the most longing, even if it is fleeting (which it is).  It doesn’t bring out the desire to go out and build a new house or start a new project, but more the thought process of ‘if only….’.  Eventually I realize that we have a great house and, compared to many I’ve seen, our kitchen is just fine.

So, just curious, readers, who are your Joneses, and to what level does it strike you?  How do you go about moving on when your trigger points bring out that feeling?  

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

The Money Blahs And Blessings

I’ve had the money blahs where everything with money and finances seems just meh.  That probably explains why I haven’t posted too much.

There’s nothing in particular that’s bumming me out, but just sort of a collective theme that is part boredom and part feeling like I’m spinning my wheels.

Why The Money Blahs?

I’m all about making progress.  Moving forward and getting things done are great!  I love making lists.   I love setting and reaching goals.  Lately it just feels like with regards to money, things are not really moving or moving too slow to see.

  • We have a nice house in a nice neighborhood, but we haven’t really done a cosmetic update of any substance (beyond painting) in years, and things are starting to show their age and in some cases, are looking pretty shabby.
  • We keep an overall emergency fund and a car repair fund.  However when something like t he recent transmission problem pops up, it takes a big dent and it doesn’t get restocked overnight.
  • Our cars are both at or near 10 years of age.  We certainly save, but even after being car payment free, we’re still well short of being able to pay cash for one, let alone two, outright.  We’re actually starting to have conversations about what to do here, and realizing that we sort of failed on being able to cover the replacement costs is a bit of a downer.
  • Our camper is thirteen years old, and as much as we take care of it and as much as we get a lot of great use out of it, the fact is that it’s starting to come up with a lot of problems that a 13 year old camper that sits out in the Michigan elements for 365 days probably would.  We just spent a few hundred dollars getting some weather sealing done and fixing a few problems.  I don’t mind this so much in the grand scheme of things, because we haven’t put more than $100-200 per season into it in about five years, but when the bill hit during the same month as the transmission repair, the cost stands out more than it otherwise would.
  • We contribute toward retirement, which is great.  But as I look,  my retirement age seems to be getting a bigger number.  So, we make progress but not the progress I’d like.

Now, I’m done having my pity party.  I know I have a great job that offers me a lot.  I’m blessed to have been here for 10 years, and that it affords me a short commute and time with my family.

We could make different choices.   I could look for a better paying job.  My wife could start looking at jobs.  We could forego traveling and save money.  Trust me, I know there are options, and I’m by no means saying that we’re in trouble.

Seeing Blessings In Many Ways

See, I know that in spite of all the ‘problems’ (and I know that many would consider themselves lucky to have them) that I listed, that in the end, we’re still very blessed.  We have a great house that protects us.  Our cars run.  We have a camper that allows us to vacation many nights a year in a way that’s pretty affordable comparatively.  We’re able to save to do a more extravagant trip every few years.  We have enough saved to weather most emergencies.  Plus, we have enough retirement money saved that at least I can say ‘someday’ instead of ‘never’.

My wife and I had a great conversation the other day.  She could tell that I’ve been down for awhile and couldn’t mb-2016-09-cloudsfigure out why.  I tend to internalize things like this, not even intentionally, because I think that I often split our family roles with her as the nurturer and me as the provider, and I’d not been feeling like I’ve been pulling my weight on my end.

Voices That Need To Be Heard

Just talking seemed to work things out a bit.  It helped unravel some of the knots that I couldn’t figure out how to undo on my own.  I just talked.  We didn’t find a pot of money.  Still, I felt better.  Overall, I came away remembering the importance of being on the same page, being supportive, and lifting each other up when needed.  A gentle reminder that my wife had my back was what I needed to part some of the clouds.

Movie Analogies To The Rescue

In the end, just talking with my wife turned my focus from the negative back to the positive.  I’d been suffering from what I call ‘Mikey Syndrome’. In Swingers, one of my favorite movies, the main character is feeling sorry for himself.  His best friend scolds him: “You don’t look at what you have…you only look at what you don’t have.”

The conversation is an eye opener.  After he admits to himself that his friend was right, he starts approaching things differently.  Things wrap up with his newly found positive outlook helping lead to more positive things in his life.  It’s amazing how that works!

That conversation with my wife was an eye opener in the same way.

So, here’s hoping now for better things ahead!

Readers, how do you get over the money blahs?  

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.