I am married to a marriage and family therapist.
And up until about a month ago, we rarely talked about money.
I know. My sweet husband spends his days helping couples, teenagers and families talk through their biggest issues, and we usually don’t have a problem talking about ours. But since our financial situation has fluctuated rather wildly during our three years of marriage (due to graduate school, a cross-country move and shifting employment situations for both of us), and since we’re both frugal, make-it-work people, we’d adopted a make-it-work policy of budgeting, paying bills and treating ourselves once in a while. This policy was working pretty well – but we didn’t have an overall plan. We’d never actually sat down to have any sort of financial “meeting.”
Enter Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class, which we’re taking this fall (along with about a dozen others at our church). I admit, Dave Ramsey’s style kinda drives me nuts (either the man drinks too much coffee or he’s just naturally caffeinated) – but his principles so far seem mostly practical and sound to me. And the course is forcing us to do what we’d never done: take a good hard look at our finances, and talk at length about our attitudes toward money, our spending/saving/giving habits, and our plans for the future. (And give us a big push toward knocking out some of our substantial student loan debt.)
I’ve picked up some useful tidbits from Dave’s video lessons, and from our post-lesson discussions with the group. (It doesn’t hurt that our course leader is a financial planner and CPA.) But by far the most formative, challenging part of the course has happened when I’ve sat down at the kitchen table with J, pencil and bank statements at hand, to discuss where our money’s going, and how we can save more, give more and manage it better. (Side note: I love Mint.com’s handy budgeting tools and pie charts, where you can see all your accounts in one place.)
We are not rich, nor are we accountants (and talking about money for too long stresses J out, so we’ve learned to take breaks and focus on the most important things during each session, rather than hashing out every single detail). But it feels good to be formulating a purposeful plan for our money, rather than flying by a slapdash strategy. It’s helping me think more deliberately about purchases large and small – and coming to terms with my own attitude, and fears, about money. Most importantly, it’s drawing me closer to the man with whom I share my life and bank accounts – and that, to quote our friends at MasterCard, is priceless.
Have you taken a financial management course? If so, what have you learned? (I’m always eager for more tips.)