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goodbye debt: the needs vs. wants list

On our way home from family Christmas festivities up north, Wes and I talked about our goals for 2014. I mentioned the things on my 25 before 26 list, of course, and thought about the goals that might be declared as New Year’s Resolutions. I saw no purpose in making another list of goals that included things like tackling baking challenges or mass closet organizations. So, Wes and I decided to tackle something together for 2014: our debt.

In our relationship, Wes manages the money much more than I do. When we got married I had this idea that I couldn’t relinquish any of that control over to Wes. I might have some trust issues–definitely working on those. The truth is, he is better at budgeting, investing, and generally keeping track of passwords, and the busier I became with school and work, the more he just took over. And thank goodness for that–someone has to keep track of it all!

Unfortunately, because I don’t pay attention to our finances, I tend to overspend. You know how they say most committed couples tend to fight about money most often? It’s true. We often argue about where our money is going and who spent what and why. It’s not fun to talk about money when you aren’t swimming in it, and when you’re the frivolous spender in the relationship (me) those discussions are often filled with a lot of guilt and “you’re not my mom!” accusations towards the other person.

Last year we tried to tackle our spending habits, but it’s very hard for us to find the time to evaluate our spending together. We did set a budget, and tried meeting once a month to discuss where we overspent, and establish small goals for the next month. Truth be told, we just didn’t find the time to have these discussions, and both of us continued to overspend in various areas at various times.

This year, we have decided to force ourselves to budget by tackling a very concrete thing: the mountain of debt we have accumulated as students. To begin, we started researching tools that both of us were interested in using to help us with our task. Things like Mint.com and online billing became buzzwords, and we started reading And Then We Saved, a blog about eliminating large amounts of debt in a short amount of time. As of January 1, 2014, we will be embarking on The Spending Fast ® and plan to eliminate 20K+ in debt in about a year and a half.

We recently put together our Needs vs. Wants list, and in an effort to remain accountable, I am sharing it with you today!

We thought making this list would be pretty challenging, but it developed pretty quickly. The hardest things to justify on either list were gifts and Hulu/video games. We’re having a hard time putting the kibosh on any birthday gifts, baby shower gifts, Christmas gifts. So while we’ve added it to the WANTS list, we decided it would be okay to reevaluate this decision on a case by case basis. Perhaps we’ll have spending room around one birthday and not another, or will be able to budget $10 a gift around Christmas instead of the usual $20. We also had a hard time justifying our Hulu subscription and the occasional video game purchase from Steam.com, but on the NEEDS list it remains. TV is my default form of entertainment and Wes games more than anything. We realize that it might be desirable to use this opportunity to diversify the way we spend our time, but also see that as an entirely different kind of challenge, and maybe one we’re not willing to tackle right now. So I suppose we’ll remain sedentary in our hobbies and selfish in the fact that we didn’t swap gift giving with our entertainment subscriptions.

There you have it. I’m getting ready to go print that list and then spend every last penny we have before I’m allowed to spend no more. (Kidding!)

Catherine

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