Our Money Story And A Few Lessons Learned

A truism working with couples is that the three greatest sources of stress are money, sex, and household chores.  Not that all arguments center on one of these three, but many arguments do.

So what about money?

Keene and I both turned 50 this year.  Our financial history is turbulent.  We got married, immediately bought a new car and rented a full 3 bedroom house way outside our means.  The low point came when I took out a loan to pay interest on a second loan.  That simply could not continue.

Change started shortly thereafter when I told my friend Brent I was nearly done with car payments was ready then to trade it in on a new car (and new car payments.)  He said very calmly, “You do realize Chuck you don’t need to buy a new car.”   That thought had NEVER occurred to me. I took Brent’s advice, and so began our journey to being debt free, outside of mortgage debt.

Debt free means just that.  We pay cash for everything.  Nothing goes on cards.  Nothing does on installments or layaways. If we want it, we save for it.  That includes car replacement. That includes vacations including a Disney vacation just a few years back.  That includes tuition payments for our kids.  (We pay for the first two years of college.  They pay for the last two.)

To keep us remain debt free, we put $500.00 a paycheck away into a savings account for emergency money.  We tap that account often.  We also have a third account where extra income goes from extra jobs.  Very, very simply, systems and restrained spending have had a huge impact.

  1. We have largely done it on my full time income and my wife’s part time income.  We are very average earners.  Most of your households make far far more than ours.
  2. We have 5 kids.  All of have gone to private schools and had/ will have 2 years of college paid for. Tuition assistance at the school has been an immense and blessed help.  And we had the $ to make up the difference.
  3. We have saved well about the national average for retirement.
  4. We have made enough to have an invest property that we rent.
  5. We are able to generously gift including tithing to our church and supporting other non-profits.
So what would I offer to couples?  Here is what has worked for us…
  1. Stay out of debt.  Cut up the cards.  Keep one for emergencies. Always pay off the balance.
  2. Pay cash for everything.  If you want to do something great.  Save for it.
  3. Shop at thrift stores for clothing.
  4. Earning more DOES NOT  mean “now we can spend more.” It means now we can gift more and save more.
  5. 10%: Put 10% per paycheck into an emergency fund, 10% into a retirement fund, and gift/ tithe 10% to a church, synagogue, temple, non profit.
Nothing complicated here.  Just a simple valuing of giving and saving over spending, priorities supported by a system to ensure that happens.




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