Focus: Budgeting, Settings Goals & All In Financial Tools
Month 1 was a triumph for our family, and we are excited for the information gained and how it is already leading to results. Our coaches taught us the avalanche and snowball effect of managing money, and these methods were effective when we employed them in paying our bills. Like other families probably did, we learned about the 50/30/20 rule and applied it to our monthly income and lifestyle. The final major skill we learned was to monitor our credit scores monthly and credit reports yearly. Our commitment to monitoring our credit score will protect us from any unknown debt from hackers.
A few of the habits we formed within our first month of the program have been decreasing the amount that we eat out, regularly checking our credit score and limiting family entertainment to one weekend a month. Forming healthy financial habits is the first step on the road toward financial freedom, and we have already noticed the impact it is making on our financial outlook. By decreasing how much we eat out each month, we are able to put more money toward bills and worry less. Limiting our family entertainment to one weekend a month has had a domino effect, as we have grown an affinity for entertaining one another at home by playing board games and Uno. The first month of All In 2 Finances has been enlightening from a financial point of view, but it has also led us to pick up additional hobbies that bring fun and fellowship to the whole family.
Focus: Using Credit Wisely; Platinum Rewards Credit Cards
It’s credit’s world, and we are all just living in it. That statement perfectly encapsulates what this past month entailed with our coaches bestowing the importance of credit and its effect on many aspects of our financials. We learned to attempt to make higher payments on credit card debt, but if all we can afford is the minimum, then pay the minimum. Minimum payments are better than late payments or no payments at all. Another tidbit we learned was to keep credit utilization to at least 30% or below, and that payment history is the primary determining factor for maintaining a credit score, followed by the amounts owed on each amount that are shown on the credit report. Possessing this knowledge is empowering and will lead to more wise decisions in the future.
We committed to changing our habit of fishing for available money on our credit cards, and while it has been difficult to not swipe certain cards, we are adjusting and are better off because of it. Limiting the amount of trips we take to eat out each month and how frequently we visit Walmart is something we are trying to get accustomed to. In the past, we visited Walmart about three times a week for household or grocery items, but we have reduced that to one trip on Sundays where we purchase everything we need for a week. Another change we made was to swap our cable package for a cheaper streaming option. Cutting costs wherever we can allows us to allocate money toward our savings and reduce our debt.
Implementing these practices has led to an improvement in the money we have available and a decrease in the amount of maxed out credit cards. We are saving a small amount of money by terminating our cable bill and by decreasing our trips to Walmart. Even though we are still searching for an internet provider, the overall cost is still cheaper than it was. While this month has not resulted in a breakthrough, we are stacking minor victories and look forward to seeing the impact they make for us in the future.
Focus: Auto/Home Buying/Health Education
Over the course of Month 3, we focused on many Everfi courses and took notes for the future. Our coaches taught us that income and credit history will determine mortgage terms like the interest rate and amount of the loan. In addition, we made a note that a cash cushion needs to be established for a down payment, closing costs and emergency funds. Having this built-in safety net will allow us to weather any storm life throws our way. We also learned when applying for reverse mortgages, the homeowner or spouse will have to remain in the house and maintain it. The loan will not have to be repaid until the homeowner is deceased. All this information will be helpful to know if we decide to purchase a home in the future.
We have continued to build upon habits we have established in previous months and implemented new ones to further achieve the goals we are working toward. Continuing to budget and not eating out many nights has been a priority for us, along with utilizing Wal-Mart pick up to grocery shop to alleviate purchasing unnecessary items. Both habits have led to an increase in our savings, and we did not stop there. Enoch has started taking his lunch daily instead of stopping for lunch while working, and we are trying to conserve energy to limit monthly utility bills. While these habits require max effort and sacrifice, we are already reaping the benefits of heeding our coaches’ advice.
After Month 3 of this program, we can confirm that our financial situation has improved dramatically. Although interest is still at an all-time high, we are attempting to make higher payments toward credit cards and loans to further reduce debt we have accumulated. Another improvement has been a decrease in our utility bill due to energy conservation, and we are saving money with Enoch bringing his lunch to work. His truck insurance has also decreased by $100 which has been a huge blessing and reprieve. We are more confident than ever in the path we are on and know the next half of the All In 2 Finances program will continue to radically transform our finances for the better.
Focus: Saving for Children/College
We are exhilarated by all the useful information we learned this month from our coaches. When trying to build emergency savings, putting a little money aside may make a massive difference when you need it and can reduce stress and provide peace of mind. When saving, we have set a goal to save at least three to six months of living expenses for emergencies and unexpected life occurrences. In addition, we have learned to set realistic goals when saving, which means deciding on an amount to set aside each time you get paid. Another key determinant to being successful is if the entire family is bought in and striving for the same financial goals.
Along with the other habits we have established, we have attempted to only purchase items on our grocery list and not any extra items. This has led to more savings for us and less wasteful spending. Our coaches instructed us to not reopen or swipe for purchases on credit cards and loans that are paid off in the first bracket. Additionally, they have urged us to continue to track our expenses and stick to budgeting during the month. This is a habit we have established in previous months but are constantly looking to improve.
With all we have learned, we have seen many improvements over the past month. We’re not spending as much money at grocery stores like we once were. Credit utilization is not as high due to us paying toward the debt we have accrued over time, and it feels rewarding to be paying debt off. These two improvements have reinforced the process we are embarking on and inspired hope and confidence. While this has required hard work, dedication and sacrifice, we are seeing a glimpse of the future we have been aspiring to.
Focus: Retirement Planning and Insurance
August was another month of learning and growing for us in the All In 2 Finances program. We learned that when planning for retirement, Social Security should only be treated as supplemental income and not as an entire retirement savings plan. It’s a piece of the puzzle, but it does not make up the entire picture of what is needed for retirement. Our coaches emphasized to us that the younger you are, the more you should be investing into your retirement plan. It’s never too early to begin planning for retirement. Living a FIRE lifestyle means maximizing your savings and planning a lifestyle that allows you to use your income for early retirement instead of just paying bills. We also learned inheritances and gifts are subject to federal and state tax laws depending on the circumstances. This is important because it allows us to better understand how much money we will actually have in hand after taxes are accounted for.
As each month passes by, we commit to making more small changes that can get us closer to the goals we have set for ourselves. We’re trying to stay out of shopping centers and avoid online shopping unless it is absolutely necessary. We are continuing to cook more at home and are doing our best to stay on budget with groceries, despite rising prices with inflation. The importance of tracking our credit scores is something our coaches keep advising us to do, so we have attempted to be more diligent with staying on top of that. As we have in prior months, we continue to work on older habits we have implemented throughout the competition.
This month, we saw many improvements including the continuation of paying down on our credit card. Like we mentioned earlier, we are striving to avoid venturing to shopping centers, except for necessary expenditures like school items and supplies for our children. Another exciting development this month was paying off a bill that was in the fourth bracket of payoffs. All these improvements could not be done without our coaches, a commitment to one another and a commitment to securing a better future for our family. We are sad to see our time in the All In 2 Finances program coming to an end, but the newfound resolve and enlightenment we have received has us enthusiastic about the direction we are headed.
Focus: Giving Back to the Community
Even though our primary focus for this month was on giving back to the community through our clothing drive benefitting the Dothan Rescue Mission, we continued learning this month. We were not aware of the variety of elder scams people use to take advantage of like IRS impersonation, Sweepstakes/Lottery scams, Charity scams and Tech Support scams. This is why it is imperative to stay vigilant and build a network of trusted people to assist you or have relatives who can assist with developing and creating a caregiver plan.
Refraining from visiting shopping centers and making unnecessary purchases has continued to be a priority for our family. Adhering to a budget continues to be important for us, and we are continuing to work toward the goals we have set on the five-year plan we created. Limiting unnecessary spending and sticking to our budget work in tandem with one another to accomplish the goals we have, and it’s been thrilling to track the progress we have made.
Limiting spending to a large chunk of money at grocery stores has led to increased savings and has improved our financial picture. Our credit scores remained at the same levels, instead of decreasing. Instead of constantly paying for entertainment, we are focusing on doing inexpensive entertainment at home as a family which has been a blessing and increased our bond with one another. Although we still have a lot of work to do, we have learned so much from this program that we will continue to apply to our lives. The best is yet to come!