One of the most difficult parts of getting out of debt is transitioning from a spender to a saver. I’ll be honest with you. My wife and I loved to spend money. I loved it so much that I racked up over $16,000 in credit card debt over a period of a few years. That $16,000 doesn’t even include all of the other things that I bought on my credit card that I paid off at some point. For my wife and me, going from spenders to savers has been a little more difficult than you would think.
Our Spending Years
My wife and I have been working since an early age. I started working odd jobs in the neighborhood when I was about 12. I would mow peoples lawns, clean out their garages, etc. It earned me a few bucks to play around with. Sure, I saved some money here and there, but as soon as those savings hit a threshold, I spent it. Due to my spending, things began to pile up in my room. I had new video games, a cell phone, CDs, and all the new electronics. Life was good and I had plenty of things to show for it.
As the years went on, I got real jobs that paid me a little more than the neighbor down the street. That money helped me get a car, pay for gas, and take my future wife out on dates. Then came college and the dreaded first credit card. Man did I love that piece of plastic. I mean, they only gave me a $500 credit limit. What could go wrong? Well, as you can guess, I got more cards and higher credit limits. I was buying new computers, clothes and every new cell phone that came out (can you tell I like electronics?). Oh the days of spending…..
My wife started working at 15. I can still remember picking her up at the local fast food joint smelling like deep fried goodness. She spent her money on clothes and loved doing it in the process. It was her weakness and she knew it. Being the first born child, she didn’t get the hand-me-down clothes like her sister (who made out like a bandit if you ask me). My wife wanted to look good and she spent her money on clothes to do it. She never really racked up any major credit card debt (she mostly used cash). The most credit card debt she had was a few thousand dollars worth and it was all school supplies (she was in a major that required additional things). She loved knowing that her money was hers and she could do what she wanted with it. Oh the days of spending…..
Time to Shred the Cards
Even before we said “I do”, we knew financial trouble was on the horizon if we didn’t do something. We sat down, came up with a game plan, and wrote down our goals. The first thing to go was our credit cards. Let me tell you something, shredding something that has been in your life for almost 7 years is tough. Knowing that we couldn’t buy anything on a whim was even tougher. Here are a few things that we did to help ease the pain:
1. We Wrote Down Our Goals and Came Up With a Game Plan
Like I mentioned above, we sat down and had a deep discussion about our financial future. We talked about what we wanted out of life and how we were going to achieve that while not adding to our debt. It was a difficult night, but we came out of it stronger financially and as a couple.
2. We Set Up a Budget
This was one of the harder things in the process. Before we got married we were free spenders. Sure we made sure we didn’t overdraft our accounts, but we spent our money on what we wanted. In the budget, we spent every dollar on paper and stuck to it. Sure there are times when we veer of the path somewhat, but we correct it and move on.
3. We Didn’t Cut Out Everything
When most people think about budgeting, they think about cutting everything down to the bare minimum. Well, we just couldn’t do that. We would go crazy and knew it would end up hurting us in the long run (by causing us to revert back to our old ways). So in our written plan, we budget for things such as eating out once or twice a month. I mean, sometimes you just need to get out of the house and interact with people or spend some romantic time with your spouse. We also budget about $50 a month to spend on clothes. The budget actually helps my wife think long and hard about what she is buying. Before, she just bought what she wanted when she wanted it. Having the budget changes that.
Well, there you have it. That’s how we transitioned from spenders to savers. Let me just say that it was hard and still continues to be today.
How did you handle your transition? Was it easy, hard?