Focus: Budgeting, Settings Goals & All In Financial Tools
Our first month in the All In 2 Finances program has been an eye-opener for us. We have learned a wealth of information in just a short amount of time. A few of the tips we learned that stood out are what annual percentage rates mean in a loan, the benefits of using the Credit Union as our personal bank and better tools for financial planning and upkeep. Our coaches also taught us the 20/4/10 rule and how to apply it to financing car loans, so we can make the wisest decisions possible.
While we have many habits we are trying to form, we have already changed many of them due to the wise counsel of our coaches. We have emphasized the importance of spending less on “wants,” and this mindset shift has led to an improvement in how we budget with the 50/30/20 method. Being more open in our communication about finances with each other and with our oldest child is another habit we have tried to build upon because while this program is geared toward us, we believe it is vital to share this knowledge with our children to establish a solid foundation for them to build upon.
The knowledge we have gained and habits we have formed has led to an improvement in the amount we are saving from check to check. Our communication as a couple has also improved, which has increased our ability to target our goal to decrease debt more effectively. We are aiming to establish clear standards and walk through with one another what steps we need to take to achieve them. We are only one month in, but the Broughton family is in it to WIN it!
Focus: Using Credit Wisely; Platinum Rewards Credit Cards
In our second month in the All In 2 Finances program, our coaches did a deep dive with us into the intricacies of credit and illuminated beneficial information that we were not previously aware of. We learned that our credit payment history makes up 35% of our score when considered and knowing this has allowed us to make more informed decisions when utilizing credit. Our coaches revealed the characteristics to look for when applying for a credit card like cash back, rewards, APR % and grace periods. They even shared access to a website that displays all three of our credit reports for free annually, along with defining the actual meaning of having a credit card in regards to borrowing now and paying later. Having this information has empowered us to have a better understanding of how the credit process works and has led to improved decision-making that has established a better financial footing for our family.
While we learned about the 50/30/20 rule in Month 1, Month 2 was the first opportunity that we had to implement it for the entire month, and this is a practice we will continue to use well past this competition. Another practice we learned and have applied is paying over the minimum on our credit cards and having a consolidation plan for our credit debt. We coupled those practices with disciplining ourselves to not use credit as a form of aid and not to depend on it. All these methods have been major lifestyle changes for us, but they have led us to see marked improvement in almost every aspect of our finances.
With the assistance and guidance of our coaches, we have noticed an establishment of savings and a slight credit score increase. Seeing an improvement in these two areas only two months into the program encourages us to keep pressing forward as our efforts are not in vain with the apparent progress we are experiencing. We have begun to spend less money on “wants”, we are eating out less and our credit card usage has decreased dramatically. These improvements are a result of our coaches’ tutelage but more than that, it stems from improved communication in our household with credit, debt and finances overall. Before this program, finances were not something that we discussed freely and openly, but now, we are a united front determined to change our financial picture into a work of art.
Focus: Auto/Home Buying/Health Education
It’s no surprise to us that another month in this program revealed more insightful information about our finances, but we learned many tidbits about home-buying that will allow us to make wiser decisions in every step of the process. Our coaches instilled there are many factors we need to consider when purchasing a home besides “how much we have to spend and how much we have saved.” Factors we now know to consider are the location, the purpose we intend to use the home for and the steps we must complete on our end to even consider being ready and able to shop for a home. Our increase in knowledge during Month 3 was not limited to only the home-buying process. We also learned that healthcare costs can have a profound impact on our lives. We have learned that using HSAs might be an option to help manage some of our medical costs. Reviewing financial statements, along with checking our medical bills and statements for accuracy is a practice we never implemented until this month when our coaches shared them as best practices. Understanding this valuable information has caused us to shift our priorities and avoid potential pitfalls we would have encountered if not for our coaches’ guidance.
One of the shifts in priorities for our family is we are now considering renting a home instead of looking to purchase one. While home ownership has been a dream of ours, we realize renting is the most prudent decision for us with our current financial situation. We have also changed the habit of just “paying the costs” when it comes to healthcare by making sure every cost is applicable. Being proactive in managing and checking these costs takes commitment and dedication, but we have already seen the fruits of our labor lead to great results. Another method we discovered this month is saving from our paychecks with the intention to reduce our debt. This has led to us being even more committed to curbing overpaying for some of our “wants” that could be harmful financially.
As a result of many of the actions we have implemented, our credit score has improved along with the amount we saved. There is now no pressure to enjoy some of our money without thinking if the funds for our bills/needs are already provided. With the improvements we’ve experienced in our finances, we have less need for our credit cards to meet monthly expenses. Having the luxury of enjoying some of our money without worrying about whether we have enough to pay the bills is what we envisioned achieving when we began this competition. What excites us the most is knowing we are halfway through this competition, and we are already catching a glimpse of what TRUE financial freedom feels like!
Focus: Saving for Children/College
With this month’s focus being on saving for our children and their future, we were excited and eager to learn any helpful tips that would provide wisdom and knowledge to us. The primary thing that stood out to us is the different types of college savings plans that are at our disposal. Of course, having three kids makes it difficult at times to save like we desire, but this definitely puts into perspective ways we can implement a savings plan for them.
Each month, we feel more equipped and empowered from our coaches’ guidance and wise counsel. We have been able to establish an emergency savings and continually build upon it each and every month. This is a practice we never put into action until our coaches stressed the importance of it. We also shopped around for better car insurance options to ensure we are receiving optimal value for what we are spending.
Both of us are amazed at the gradual improvement we see every month. An increase in our savings and a decrease in our debt has been very satisfying to see. Along with that progress, we have also been more aware of our spending with credit cards. We strive to not use them but for small purchases only, and then, we immediately pay them off. Grateful is the word that encompasses our feeling after this month. The investment that has been made in us by All In has led to a dramatic financial turnaround, and we are excited about the possibilities ahead in the final two months.
Focus: Retirement Planning and Insurance
Learning about retirement this month enforced a hard truth we had to confront. We simply are not prepared and have not planned with retirement in mind. This month shows us the actions we need to take to get ready for our retirement. Our coaches also provided insight on options available to us like a Roth IRA that can better position us for the future. They even discussed ways to setup estate planning and the importance of being prepared when unexpected events occur. We now know having an emergency savings fund can help to alleviate stress in unexpected situations.
Not only was this month informative for our family, we also took measures to put much of what we learned into practice like working on setting up a Roth IRA for retirement. For now, we are putting money aside for the Roth and have crafted a plan in the event something were to happen to one of us. Being as prepared as possible for every scenario life can throw your way is a lofty goal to aspire to, but it equips you to be able to withstand unforeseen events.
It's a reoccurring theme for this month, but we now possess an increased awareness on planning for retirement and our children’s education after going through this month’s material. We feel we have a grasp on the steps we need to take to end up where we want to be and ensure our children will have the funds and access necessary for their future. Additionally, we experienced an improvement in our credit score and savings which was encouraging to us as we continue this journey. We are looking forward to giving back to our community through the project we have organized and know we will witness another month of learning and progress.
Focus: Giving Back to the Community
While this is our final month in the program, we continued learning valuable financial principles like the importance of having caregivers to aid us and our loved ones in an unexpected event. Our coaches explained the potential dangers and precautions we need to consider when choosing those who will take care of us in that type of situation. Also, this month we learned about opening our own personal share certificates and spoke in depth on the process and benefits of opening a certificate Putting money into a certificate allows us to make our money work for us and reap the benefits of the great rates All In has to offer.
As we have throughout the program, we created more habits we could alter to further benefit our situation. One habit we have worked on is eating out less as a family, and we continued to decrease our eating out even more this month. We have also stopped making purchases we cannot pay off immediately or in a timely fashion without interest. Both these actions require determination and discipline to stay committed, but we are proud of our resolve and the progress we have seen as a result. We have also stayed under 15% on credit card usage and hope to maintain that as a benchmark going forward.
The achievement we are most proud of this month is that both our credit scores have gone UP! Along with this, we are in the process of finally being in a position financially to purchase our first home! This all works together as our credit limits have gone up from potential lenders. The success we have had throughout this program has also led to an increased inquisitiveness from our children about financial decisions. We have taken this opportunity to increase their awareness of how we spend and use money and pass down financial tidbits that will enable them to be successful in the future. Not only has this program radically changed our relationship as spouses, but it has been a true family affair with our children reaping the benefits as well. Purchasing a home was our primary goal coming into the program, and while we achieved that, this program imparted and blessed us with so much more. As the old saying goes, knowledge is power, and with it at our side, we are more equipped than ever to tackle any financial obstacle standing in our path!