Jessica is one of my awesome financial coaching students with another amazing story. She came to me in July 2015 needing a little help handling her monthly budget. She came right out and let me know she was a single mother of two boys, she worked two jobs, and she was tired of living paycheck to paycheck. Who could blame her, right?
At the end of every month, she would start to feel the pinch of running low on money and trying to make it to the next payday. She would panic whenever the gas gauge was leaning on “E” because she knew she didn’t have the money to buy gas for a few more days. She’d get that feeling in her stomach when one of her boys would come home with an invitation to another birthday party, which meant she needed to now buy a gift.
No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t seem to figure out a way to stay ahead of these constant curve balls life was throwing at her. She couldn’t figure out how to save money each month, she had no idea where to start with paying down her debt, and she started to realize things were slowly going from bad to worse. That’s when she finally decided to contact me asking for help.
Why Make the Change?
They say the first step to solving any problem is first admitting there is a problem. Often we lie to ourselves and pretend everything is just awesome. We ignore reality and live in this little fantasy land of:
Oh, everything will just work out.
Then life (and the lack of good financial habits) tackles you from behind and you find yourself laying there with a ton of debt and no money. Not cool.
Related: We Paid Off $52K in 7 Months
This didn’t happen to Jessica because she was proactive. She made the smart decision to change her financial future, versus waiting for life to knock her down and forcing her to pay attention. She put her pride on the shelf and asked for help.
When was she ever shown here the right way to handle money? How was she expected to know what to do and how to do it?
The answer is: she wasn’t.
Creating a Plan
After meeting with Jessica, we created a plan for her money together. When you hire me as your financial coach, you’re not going to get a lecture from me on what you should do and should not do. Instead, I coach you towards making the best decision based on the facts of your life.
For example, when we were looking at Jessica’s budget, I never told her what to cut out. We went through every dollar in her life, and for the first time SHE realized certain wants in her life were affecting her needs. Remember that old saying:
Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and feed him for life.
This is how I approach financial coaching with all of my students. Instead of me simply showing you WHAT to do, I show you HOW to do it. Plus, I didn’t go out and work for your money, you did. Therefore, you must be the one who decides where the money ultimately should go.
Getting Started: The Budget
The first place you must start in any financial plan is simple: The Budget.
It’s really hard to know where all of your income is going when you’re keeping track of it all in your head. Think about how many different bills you have, and then add in all the places you spend you money inside a month. How are you possibly going to ever keep an accurate track of all of it?
The answer is simple: you can’t.
Believe it or not, saying you’re going to do a budget and actually doing budget are not the same. I’ll ask anyone who is struggling with money about their budget. This is usually how it goes:
Chris Peach: Do you do a monthly budget?
Person Struggling: Yes, of course.
Chris Peach: Can I see it?
Person Struggling: I keep it in my head
Chris Peach: That’s why you’re struggling.
Savings, Debt, Savings, and More
Think of the budget as the fuel gauge for your money. You wouldn’t take a lifelong roadrip across the country without a fuel gauge, so you shouldn’t be doing this with your life either. However, the budget is only the tip of the iceberg. There is still much more that needs to be done – which is also why this financial education website exists 🙂
What about Saving?
In order to save, you need to have money. In order to have money, you need to have an income and a way to manage it – the budget.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s focus on our 4 reasons for saving:
- Building Wealth
That’s it. These are the four reasons why we save. I won’t go into them right here, because they each could be their own blog post. That’s just how important they all are!
Paying Off Debt
It wouldn’t be a debt success story without paying off your debt. Raise your hand if you like paying out your hard earned money in the form debt payments and interest? Hmmmmm….
I hate debt. I cannot stand debt. Debt is a thief and robs us of our biggest tool for building wealth – our income.
We all can figure out that sending a check to Visa each month sucks, but what people don’t look at is the opportunity cost of having debt in your life. Basically you can look at it this way:
If you’re sending off your money to pay debt, then you’re not sending your money to __________.
Think about this for a second. If you are sending $1,000 to VISA, then you’re giving up the opportunity to put $1,000 into your investment accounts. If you are sending $482/month towards your car payment, the you are giving up the opportunity to set aside $482/month for your kids’ college accounts. You get my point.
What is the opportunity cost in your life?
Related: Why Car Payments Suck
How Do I Pay Off Debt?
This may sound like a silly question, but why is the average credit card balance $15,500, the average car payment $482/month, and why are 70% of people living paycheck to paycheck?
There are many different ways to pay off debt, and I highly recommend the Debt Snowball method. This is the method I teach to all of my students, whether through my one-on-on coaching or through my online course: Awesome Money Course.
Related: Best Ways to Pay Of Debt
The Other Stuff
Have you ever thought about the following?
- College Planning
- Life Insurance
- Raising Money-Smart Kids
- Saving for Large Purchases
- More you can’t even think of right now
This is the “other stuff” that seems to fall through the cracks or gets put on the back burner when it comes to managing our money. Yes, this is all covered inside my one-on-one financial coaching and our online course, Awesome Money Course.
Alright, Back to Jessica
So, I hope you’re wanting to get back to the purpose of this post: Jessica! Alright, let’s jump right in…
Seven months after we first met, Jessica contacted me to tell me she had done it, she was finally debt free! However, I was a little surprised when she contacted me because she was way ahead of schedule. We had predicted a little over a year (and that was pushing it) for her to pay off all of her debt, however she did it 5 months early! I asked her to share her story with you all, and this is what she had to say:
Chris Peach: How Much Total Debt Did You Pay Off?
Jessica: Just over $15,000
Chris Peach: How Long Did it Take You to Pay it Off?
Jessica: It took me 7 Months!
Chris Peach: What was the debt made up of?
Jessica: I had a few Credit Cards, a 401(k) Loan, and some past due Medical Bills.
Chris Peach: What Did it Feel Like to Have that Much Debt?
“I felt suffocated and buried by it. I have a great job and yet I still was living my life paycheck to paycheck. I just could not seem make it to the end of the month or figure out a way get ahead. I felt trapped.”
Chris Peach: What was the Hardest/Craziest thing(s) you Did to Pay Down your Debt?
Jessica: Well, I don’t know how crazy this is but I cancelled our cable television and sold anything I could find that we didn’t need anymore. But, the ultimate sacrifice I made was we stopped eating out entirely. It has now been 7 months since we went out to eat for a meal. That just sounds crazy!
Chris Peach: What Challenges Did You Face Along the Way?
Jessica: The biggest challenge was having to tell my kids “no”. I tried to explain that we wouldn’t be doing any upcoming Disney trips, but all my boys heard was “no.” Then, just when things were starting to click, we had to put our dog down. This turned out to be a pretty large unexpected cost associated that normally we wouldn’t have been prepared for. Luckily I had my sinking funds for things like that instead of putting it on a credit card.
Chris Peach: How Did this Affect Your Relationships Along the Way?
Jessica: I’ve had a long time boyfriend and he has always been good with his own money, so he struggled a bit at first when I started cutting back my lifestyle. However, although he didn’t love the idea of not going out to eat for 7 months, he did always support my goals.
Chris Peach: What is Life Like Now Without Debt?
Jessica: I feel a huge weight has been lifted. My bank account has money in it again and I actually have a savings account. I’ve adjusted to a simpler way of living and realized I don’t really need television and I actually like eating at home. Now that I have money set aside and an overall picture of my financial future, I have a ton of hope back in my life!
Chris Peach: What Advice Would you Give Someone Who is on the Fence About Finally Changing the Way they Handle Money.
Jessica: Just do it! I’ll be honest, it hurts at first to live within your means because we’re just not used to it. But once you start down the path of financial freedom, you’ll quickly realize it’s not so bad and soon enough you’ll become debt free. In a nutshell, living within my means has a completely different look today than it did the day I met with Chris.
Chris Peach: What is Something you Would Like Someone to Know About you?
Jessica: I am a single mom. I work two jobs, one for a paycheck and one because I love the work, and I am also a full-time student working on my Bachelor’s Degree. With that said, if I can make this work, then I promise you can as well.
There You Have It
Think about how much different her life looks from this point forward. She no longer has to worry about making it to the end of the month and she now can focus on living her life on her terms…not the bank’s. The last I heard from Jessica is she is now investing heavily into her 401(k) at work and she will soon be setting up college savings accounts to help pay for her kids’ college. She not only has hope for her future, but she also has a detailed plan to get there.
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