In case you hadn’t checked, today is National Lucky Penny Day. And sure, maybe you forgot because after all, what can a penny get you nowadays anyway? It barely gets you luck, and it surely won’t quickly add up to you buying your first house. But, it does make me think about money and what our generation is doing with it.
A couple friends and I were on this topic over (a moderately priced) dinner this week. We talked about savings and whether we’d ever be able to afford a home in this economy. Here are some ideas we considered: stop paying student loans; cut down on Starbucks runs; apply for a second job.
This all sounded reasonable to me, but was our only other option to wash away our dreams with bottomless mimosas over Sunday brunch? It seems like there has to be a way to save money and still have a life in Miami. And when it comes to managing your money, there are so many decisions to be made.
Make a Plan
While I’m not applying for that hostess job anytime soon, there are some steps I took that I really believe will help you, too. They are proven to work and come from the Financial Peace course taught by Dave Ramsey. In a nutshell, you can get out of debt, take control of your money, and it won’t take the rest of your life.
As someone who’s gone through (most) of Dave’s “Baby Steps” in the past—twice—I will definitely vouch for it. This takes work, yet is so worth it when you’re not living paycheck to paycheck. If you are ready to take the first step, then keep reading.
Cash Trumps Credit
There is one phrase that stuck with me through the course: Do not buy anything that you can’t pay for with cash. Wow! Yea, umm… about that. This might be a new concept to most people. It surely was for me because everywhere we look someone is telling us that we need a high credit score. There is only one way to do that, and it’s to use credit cards.
So, if you want to take back control of your money, I’m going to share four of the seven “Baby Steps” from Dave Ramsey that will set you straight.
Step 1: Start your emergency fund with $1,000. This is necessary because in case of an emergency—which in Miami is likely—you want to use this money and not a credit card.
Step 2: Pay off all debt using the debt snowball. Easier said that done, but again, baby steps. The way the debt snowball works is you start by paying off your smallest credit card. While you send the minimum to the highest cards, you send as much as you can to the card with the smallest balance.
Step 3: Save three to six months of expenses into your emergency fund. This step comes after you have paid off all debt. The timing of Step 2 varies, but is so necessary before you start saving for anything else (or planning that weekend cruise to the Bahamas).
Step 4: Invest 15% of household income into a retirement plan. Okay, so you’ve got your emergency fund fully funded. Now you can prepare for the future. As Dave Ramsey would say, “If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.”
The steps above are happening as life keeps happening. It doesn’t have to mean all the fun is over. However, it does mean there is a time for everything. As I think about all the ways I spent my money in the past, I realize it was all on things I wanted and didn’t really need.
Maybe next time you sit at a café with your avocado toast and almond milk latte, you will ask yourself if you need it. Or at least ask if you can make it at home for way less.