Marvelous Money: What’s your story?

11 January 2013

Hello, friends! Happy Tuesday! A long time ago, I asked if you all would be interested in an occasional money series on Em for Marvelous. Turns out you were interested (as was I), but nothing ever happened. And that’s pretty sad to me, because I LOVE talking about all aspects of money management, and financial literacy, especially amongst young people, is a huge passion of mine and John’s.

So, better late than never, right? I thought we’d try a once-a-week series for the length of January (since so many people put financial goals on their New Year’s lists!), then slim down to maybe a once a month post until I run out of things to say or y’all get bored. I have lots of ideas for future posts, but please let me know in the comments if there’s something in particular you’d like me to cover!

To begin, I thought I’d tell you a little bit about our money story, so you can see where I’m coming from and decide for yourself whether or not you’d like to take my advice :) I think there’s a lot of power in taking a hard look at your money past, and really thinking about your ideal money future, so I’d encourage you to do the same after you read this! Here goes!

I can remember writing out an allowance savings plan for Breyer horses when I was in fourth grade. I started saving for my wedding my freshman year of college. (Don’t worry, I didn’t tell anyone.) I opened an IRA the following year. Though I was and always have been a saver and a planner, I didn’t become passionate about personal finance until John did.

Em for Marvelous

Lover of ponies and planning from a young age (I’m on the right)

Like me, he was definitely hardwired with more than your usual dose of responsibility at a young age, but was not overly concerned about money management. We both started our college careers with a decent amount of savings in the bank (for seventeen-year-olds), but by the time spring semester rolled around, John was scraping the bottom of the barrel. This is mostly my fault (though indirectly), as most of it disappeared through monthly fresh flower deliveries (we attended schools ten hours apart at the time), plane tickets for visits, and food and entertainment during said visits. The rest can best be explained by living in a city for the first time — the general expense of dining out, etc. — and the lack of a job to replace the outflow.

Em for Marvelous

Visiting John in DC spring 2006!

So when the last few weeks of the semester rolled around, his accounts had pretty much run dry, to the point where he needed a cash infusion from his parents to continue eating for the last few weeks. Even though this might not seem like much of a reckoning, it left scars that now run quite deep in John’s psyche. Because he loves his parents, respects them so much, and is so grateful for everything they’ve done for him, he HATED imposing on them in that way, especially when they were already generously funding his schooling. This experience, combined with his world-altering discovery of and subsequent love for economics freshman year, put him on a firm path toward personal financial excellence, and gave him a huge passion for helping others to become financially fit, as well. I was (and still am!) happy to be along for the ride!

We both held part-time jobs for the rest of college, followed individual written budgets, and finished in good financial shape, with savings in the bank and (small) IRAs and investment accounts in our names. I had a few student loans, but thankfully they were not as serious as many of my peers’. The wedding savings account was coming along nicely :)

Em for Marvelous

Then, I decided to take a job in North Carolina with a very uncertain salary situation. We moved basically sight unseen the summer after we graduated. Thankfully, my salary became regular and decent fairly quickly, but for a year and a half, we were a one-income household while John searched for a job. Even though we lived frugally, this ate away at much of both of our savings.

Em for Marvelous

Once John started working (in October 2010, in the financial sector), our financial burden lessened substantially, and we were able to really concentrate for the first time on our financial goals. We initially focused on saving for our wedding, and ultimately contributed 20% of the total cost (September 2012). At the same time, we squirreled money away in our emergency fund until we finished funding it in January 2012. All the while, we paid down our three student loans and two car loans, paying off the first of the five in December 2012. At the same time, we’ve been vigorously putting money away into our down payment fund, and are now at our minimum goal. Throughout, we’ve stayed on track with a written budget, and stayed focused by working toward tithing and giving to other organizations and causes close to our heart.

Whew! That’s a lot to let loose in one post (and you know I was chomping at the bit throughout to add explanations and even more detail!!). I’ll be back next week with some more thoughts on our overall money philosophy, but in the meantime, I’d love to know: would you consider yourself, at heart, a spender or a saver? And, is there anything in particular you’d like me to cover in future posts? Budgeting? Retirement savings? Debt? Investing in general? Let me know!

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January 11, 2013 2:44 pm

Thanks for sharing this information Emily! Unfortunately, I was not as disciplined as you and John in college or the first few years on my own and now I am having to deal with the repercussions. I never lived extravagently, but I also didn’t spend my money wisely. So when emergencies came up, like loss of a job, car repairs, etc. I had to rely on credit cards. Thankfully, I married a very financially wise man who has always been very sensible with his money. We are able to put most of my earnings toward paying off debt (school loans and credit card bills) and hope to be debt free by the end of the year and then start saving to start a family! But if I could go back and tell my 18 year old self anything, it would definitely be to make and stick to a budget and never ever ever get a credit card!

But I’m looking forward to any other financial tips you have to share. I would be most interested in your tips on investing.

January 11, 2013 3:19 pm

Is it possible to be a spender and saver at the same time? I love GOOD fashion investments. Whenever I try something on, sweaters, coats, shirts, pants, shoes, you name it, I always ask myself – How often will I wear this and what does this coordinate with that is already in my closet? I started doing that last year and it has saved me tons of money! I also only allow myself $200 of personal spending money per month, as does Corey. I was fortunate enough to have parents / scholarships that paid 100% of my college. (Praise the Lord!) and Corey has some debt from our last year of school which we’ve whittled down to half in a year! We had to borrow money from my folks the few weeks after we moved in together because we hadn’t gotten paychecks from our first job yet and that was scary. Most importantly, we control our spending when we eat out and go out with friends and spend well below what society says we can ‘afford’ for rent. That allows us to save LOTS. All in all, we are coming along nicely and comfortable in our finances and spending habits.

January 11, 2013 5:26 pm

Thanks for sharing! I’m impressed with how well you guys planned ahead! I guess I am more of a “spender” though I would like to become a “saver” for sure! (For awhile it felt like I was only making enough to get by, and it is easy at this stage of life to feel like I’m not making enough to save enough to amount to anything anyways… bad cycle!) I’d love to hear more all of the topics you mentioned and especially about budgeting, emergency and general savings accounts/tips (using a variety of banks? types of accounts? etc), and using cash/debit vs. credit.

January 11, 2013 5:41 pm

Thanks so much for sharing, Em! I’m INCREDIBLY interested in this topic and am so interested in your future posts! I’m a recent college grad trying to figure out how to survive and save at the same time, so I appreciate any advice you (and John!) have for us!

January 11, 2013 5:53 pm

I’m really looking forward to this series, Em. Most of the blogs I read have me wanting to buy this chair or that sweater. It will be nice to have someone encouraging me to save!

January 11, 2013 6:30 pm

I’m a spender and a saver if you can be both. I’ve tried tracking and writing and using excel, but I always seem to go over budget no matter what. Despite having a full time job, I’m also, like many of us Wheaties, underemployed, and in the “off-season” they cut my work hours, too. Add commission which changes dramatically every month, and it’s hard to start with a set number to work with each month. Tips for creating and sticking to a successful budget would be much appreciated!

January 11, 2013 7:58 pm

Hi! You know me – I’m most certainly a spender, not a saver, so I really think I would benefit from some lessons on budgeting. Can’t wait to hear more! :)

January 12, 2013 10:26 am

excited about this post, Emily!!
As a newlywed, would love to hear how you’re sticking to your budget…especially the “eating out” budget. I’m always concerned about being “that” friend at the table who is obviously ordering the cheapest things on the menu to avoid having to discuss the fact that we’re on a budget.

January 12, 2013 8:12 pm

It’s our hope that when we start having children that I will be able to stay home. We’d like to have a nice nest egg saved to take care of a lot of up-front expenses that a baby tends to bring. As well as some cushion for when we adjust to a 1-income family.

January 12, 2013 8:38 pm

Love this post! It is really helpful hearing the story of your savings, so thank you for sharing! I look forward to the future posts on this subject.

On another note – we look quite serious about our pony savings, especially given our choice of attire :)

January 14, 2013 1:19 pm

I’m a spender by nature!! I married a saver, though! (Luckily for our wallet) Going through FPU & listening to Dave Ramsey really got me on board to see the bigger picture and not rely on paycheck-paycheck living. I’m, by nature a free spirit and I’m, so it’s bad news for me to check my old email where all the sales promotions are sent. I do have self control, but it mostly just bums me out that something fabulous is on super sale and I have allocated my money towards something else, instead. For me, saving just has to automatically happen off the top each month. And I learned the danger of having a monthly allowance at the beginning of the month. I have to live on a weekly allowance and save up two or three weeks through the month if I want something! All of that has gotten me to be much smarter about purchases and I’ve become a wiser spender. It’s usually bad, though, that I can typically think of like 50 things we need to be saving up to buy! Especially things for our house. Working on it!

January 14, 2013 6:50 pm

Love this post, and the idea of this series–it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the pretty or the romantic, but one of the most important pieces of a partnership are your finances! My John and I were definitely raised in different financial schools of thought; my parents saved up for a major remodel and never took out a loan, paying off their 30 year mortgage in roughly 20, while John’s parents almost never discuss money–and certainly never with their children. It still makes me nervous sometimes that John’s financial habits can be more spend than save, but over time we’ve figured out some simple safeguards against John’s indulgences–and learned that having real financial goals, rather than just, “Save money” helps keep both of us focused!

Laura F.
January 14, 2013 7:54 pm

Hi Em,
I’m in a similar situation to Lena – my parents pinched their pennies even when they didn’t have to, and my fiance’s parents lived paycheck to paycheck and never talked about money. I’m curious how you set your goals for your emergency/rainy day fund – how did you decide what was “enough” for that fund and when you could start saving for the more fun ones like the “future house” fund or the “vacation” fund?

January 15, 2013 9:51 pm

I’m late to the party but SO glad I didn’t miss this post! I am so inspired and encouraged by you two. Your dedication to personal finance is always something that we admire in you (and of course share a passion for!) – I am thrilled to see you checking off those financial goals! You guys are incredible.

I must add that I truly believe the Lord honors tithing and giving and blesses us tremendously when we are faithful in that. No doubt he is blessing you guys for it.

Love y’all! As a good friend once said, “Financial nerds for the win!”

January 15, 2013 9:51 pm

PS. Marvelous Money is so catchy. Please make this a regular thing :)

January 20, 2013 2:22 am

Thank you for posting! Love this as a series :) Very helpful and encouraging! Did you and John share finances before you were married or just saved seperatly while you were dating?

January 20, 2013 8:07 pm

Love this series, too, though I am at a way different point that most of you. Never hurts to pick up good tips! Thanks!

January 27, 2013 12:45 am

Emily. You really are marvelous!! I love that you covered all the details especially because I’m currently starting to pay off student loans and it seems a bit overwhelming!!! However, I’m grateful for the guidance and help of my Mom and posts such as yours!! I would love to hear about how you decided to open your Etsy shop and funded supplies and extras for blogging, etc!!