Hi Y’all! I’m so excited to officially launch our finance series: Money Talks on the blog! The name of this series was inspired by Johnny. In college, he worked with the Entrepreneurship-in-Residence at the University of Texas where they launched Money Talks! inviting venture capitalists to speak on campus. When we brainstormed a few names for the series and I said “Money Talks” – Johnny absolutely lit up thinking about how funny that things have come full circle.
For those of you who may be new, I grew up in a home where we talked about money openly. I learned how to balance a checkbook, to live below my means, to save money for a rainy day. Both of our families came here with nothing and this is where we are now. Heck, my parents even got me a credit card at 16 so I could start learning as soon as possible what “credit” is. I’m very comfortable talking about money because I believe knowledge is power.
Don’t Let Fear Hold You Back
Johnny and I feel like one of the biggest problems people have when it comes to their money is they don’t want to look, whether it’s because they are scared or are in denial. It can’t be a problem if you aren’t aware of it, right? Wrong.
There is a stigma around money, especially involving women and I think that’s completely wrong. Now, I’m not saying for you to go around asking all your friends exactly how much money they make or how much their house costs. If I can be honest, that’s rude and tacky. However, I think it should be 100 percent acceptable to discuss money, spending, savings and investing strategies and how to make sure we are all financially fit. This shouldn’t be taboo or “boring” it should be valued. Also, please do not make it a competition. You may want an accountability buddy in this, so choose wisely.
Before we jump in, I want to mention, I think this is so important for women to know. Men need to know all of this, too. But I think as women, it is so important not to brush this off as “oh my husband handles that” or say “I’m not good with numbers.” I’m not saying you have to be in control, but you should absolutely know exactly what is going on with money in your household. If something were to happen tomorrow, you need to be able to know exactly what your financial situation is.
Do not let fear control your life. Do not let debt cripple you from experiencing the wealth and financial freedom you deserve and can have. Johnny and I are not perfect. We are not financial advisors. This is what we’ve done to save money, buy a home and live debt-free (with the exception of our home and something else I’ll share later in the series).
What’s Your Money Language?
Johnny and I joke personal finance is a lot more personal than it is finance. It’s the plan for how you’ll behave with money. This is NOT advice about investing. But you might find an arrow in the right direction.
I promise we’ll get into very tactical money tips, but like all good strategies, it’s important you take a small step back to make sure you’re seeing the forest for the trees. We have so much going on in our lives, we seldom make time to ask ourselves the basic questions setting us up for success.
Let’s start with answering a few questions that will take you 1 minute.
Write down your results. Screenshot it and save it to your desktop or phone. Keep it. Understand this is why you want money in your bank account. I know very few people who actually want to be rich, just to have money in the bank. The heavy majority of us want what money can buy. It’s important you understand yourself as this will make it easier to reach your goals.
I’m a visual person motivated by family. Johnny is a hands-on person motivated by the freedom to pursue his dreams. There is no wrong answer, this is simply to give you some clarity as to what you need or want money for.
So now what?
Now that you know what your money language is, let’s answer a few questions. What financial freedom is to you? What debts do you want to pay off? How much are they each? Do you have a plan to get them paid off? What are you saving for? What’s on your bucket list? What does your best life look like?
Think hard about this and really see yourself living in it. WRITE IT DOWN. It’s easy to be tricked into what the world thinks your best life should look like (buying a lot of expensive things, taking fancy vacations, elaborate parties, etc.), but that’s not usually the answer that fulfills people.
How much would you need to make per year to live your best life? It’s usually less than what people think. What are your goals for this year? Do you have any life events (wedding, buy a new car, buy a house, etc.) coming up? How much will these cost or better yet, how much can you afford? Many people will overestimate what they can accomplish in one year, but underestimate what they can do in 10. Make a realistic goal to set yourself up for success. When you crush it, you’ll feel motivated to keep going.
However, it all starts with saving money, so let’s start with how to do that.
How to Save Money
Let’s take a look at what you have, including your income and your assets. We’ll also take a look at what debts you may have, whether that’s credit card debt or student loans. Maybe you have a house you want to pay off. Write all this down so we’re on the same page. Now let’s see what we can do to pay off your debts or if save money if you’re debt-free.
What Numbers Are you Working With?
If you want to save, it begins with spending less than you earn. Remember your money language and stay focused on your long-term goals. Let’s do this short exercise:
Go to your bank account and print out the last three months of debit and/or credit card statements. Average your total spending for the last three months. There are some apps such as Mint.com that can help you do this too. Please don’t be embarrassed. The whole point of this exercise is to give you an honest look at how much you’re actually spending. You need to see these numbers in front of you to really grasp what is happening and take control of your finances.
Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. On the left side write down your total monthly earnings. On the right side write down your average monthly expenses. Subtract the total on the right side from the total on the left side. If you’re spending more than you’re earning, let’s start with a budget so you can get on a plan to have the left side be more than the right side of your paper three months from now. What’s important is when the left side has more than the right side. Then, you put money into a savings account and do that automatically every month. We’ll talk about what to do with the money you want to save in the weeks ahead.
How to Live Below Your Means
Maybe that left side isn’t where it needs to be. Let’s discuss a few ways you can live below your means. Johnny and I are big advocates of this. We believe your true wealth is in what you choose not to buy. We can afford a bigger nicer house. We can afford newer luxury cars. I can afford to buy many more things. We can afford to eat out much more often. Do we do these things? NO.
Everyone has a vice or something they love to spend money on. That’s okay! Saving doesn’t equate to cutting out all of the good things. It means sacrificing for what you want. It means thinking about the bigger picture and not spending on something now so you can spend it on something you really want later.
Do not get caught up when you see friends buying big fancy houses, driving luxury cars, taking lavish vacations. Keeping up with the Jones’ is what will keep you poor. By the way, we believe broke is a state, whereas poor is a mindset. Let that sink in for a second. Don’t use your credit card to buy things you cannot afford. You will never accumulate wealth and have the financial freedom to do what you want if you are in debt. Here are three ways to live below your means.
1. Eat In & Cook More
This is the most simple but can be the most tricky. To this day it blows my mind 1-2 orders of takeout for us both can cost us the same amount as our entire week’s grocery budget. Make a meal plan and meal prep if you have to. I know in the past, one way I stayed accountable was I felt bad about wasting food I already made, so I didn’t eat out. On Sundays, I would go grocery shopping and cook all of my lunches and dinners for the week to avoid temptation.
Johnny and I had a very healthy relationship with cooking and that in turn has given us a healthier relationship with our cash flow and with each other. What that actually means for us is that when we do go out we can splurge a little on our favorite sushi or purchase a new piece of home decor without batting an eye. If you must eat out the first thing you can save on your bill is to drink water. It’s free in this country. It’s wild how much drinks can cost, even just soda. If you’re getting takeout with a significant other or a friend, order two appetizers and split an entree.
I have a humbling story to share. My big brother is a doctor. Every day, he brings his lunch to work. He carries it in a cute lunch bag my Mom got him. When he sits down to eat, he’s usually still doing patient charts or following up with other nurses. His staff will usually ask, “Dr. Cung, why don’t you buy your lunch? You make enough!” He usually smiles softly and responds, “If I bought lunch every day, how could I save enough to treat you all after a crazy week or buy your Christmas presents?”
2. Stop Impulsively Shopping Sales
Oh, I understand the temptation. I post about them often, but that doesn’t mean you have to buy something. It’s more important to me you are fiscally responsible. Start building strength in your mental muscle to say no to things you want now. Delaying gratification is so much sweeter. I promise. Further in the series, we will take a deep dive into how investing in quality clothing will save you money in the long run. This is where making smart decisions with money plays a key role.
Here’s the thing with sales: Yes, in theory, you are saving money but you’re still spending it. Let me explain: A dress you want is $100 and on sale for 20% off. Yes, you are saving $20 but you are still spending $80. If it’s not absolutely necessary right now and you need to be saving to pay off debt or want to make a big purchase in the future, close the browser and walk away. Leading up to closing on our home, I was on a massive spending freeze. Every time I wanted something, I would remind myself I wanted this house so much more than a new pair of shoes or another sweater.
3. Cut Those Subscriptions
We all have these. Cable TV, apps on our phones, snacks that auto deliver. The average American spends $237 a month on subscription services. So many of us sign up for free trials and then forget to cancel them. On your phone, go to the App store, click on your account and subscriptions. Cancel the ones you no longer truly need. Same for in real life. Do you really need toilet paper delivered every month or organic potato chips? For full disclosure, the subscriptions we have are: Netflix, Amazon Prime, Wall Street Journal, Apple Music and Audible. I have a few others, but they are business-related and the average person doesn’t need them.
I know this is a bit to take in, but I’m so excited to be on this journey with you together! If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comment box below and I’ll get back to you! You can also send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until then, focus on your homework and stay tuned for the next post in Money Talks!