The beginning of a New Year always seems like a great time to renew focus and make plans to achieve financial goals. Even though we know we can refocus at other times, year after year most people make some kind of resolution or plans to improve their lives. Studies show that the most popular New Year’s resolutions are in the areas of health, self-improvement, and finances. Even if you’re not big into labeling a decision as a “New Year’s resolution,” you might still want to take some time to see how things went this year and adjust.
The “New Year’s Resolution” Label
Personally, I don’t like to label New Year’s resolutions, because that term always reminds me of half-hearted commitments that people make and break every year. I know it doesn’t have to be that way, but I avoid the label. Regardless, I think the end of the year or very beginning of the year is a perfect time to look over finances and make adjustments, and my husband and I have the privilege of doing this together.
Examining finances is easiest at the end of the year or the very beginning because tax reports, pay statements, and budgets typically run on a January-December calendar. I am not saying that you should only sit down as a couple to discuss finances once a year! This yearly reflection is more of a big picture discussion for us, instead of our usual discussion of basic month to month expenses and savings.
Make This Time Special
I think it’s important for a married couple to openly share their financial goals and concerns with each other and to work together to form a financial plan. My husband and I enjoyed cuddling up together this year and doing just that, and I encourage you to do the same with your spouse.
The first year we were married, we essentially had 2 goals: survive and pay down debt. These goals were pretty cut and dry for us. We sat down and crunched numbers to find the bare minimum that we needed to survive. I’m talking no Netflix, no special purchases, ultra-conservative budget. I loved it.
Looking back, those were some of the best growing experiences we had as a couple as we learned give and take. We learned how to look at a purchase as an option instead of as a necessity. I love thinking about the discussions we had about how to cut costs and entertain ourselves for free. We learned how to achieve small financial goals by being diligent.
Once we had paid all of our necessary expenses, we chucked everything else towards debt. We only ate out about once a month (somewhere cheap), and we didn’t buy any extras. This process is what allowed us to pay down about $24,000 in debt in less than a year. Finally, but 1 year into our marriage, we were debt-free!
Then, we spent the rest of last year saving to have an emergency fund. In the last few months, we began separate funds for a future home, next car, and continuing our education. We also were able to increase our retirement investment. I am still amazed that we are debt-free after we each spent 7 semesters in college, and we’re able to save for our future.
This year, we sat down in December to reflect on the year and make plans for next year, and we realized that this little meeting needed to become a yearly event. We laughed at all of the funny ways we’d scrimped and saved. We celebrated our debt-free life with Christmas cookies made from ingredients I had bought on sale with coupons.
It was such a lovely time of reflection. My husband and I were able to pray together, thanking God for providing over and abundantly this year for all of our needs and many of our wants. We evaluated the budgeting mistakes we’d made the previous year and totaled where our spending fell in relation to our budget.
Looking toward the future, we re-examined each budget category, adjusting it as necessary for projected expenses or savings. We were able to trim categories in which we’d over-budgeted. We also had to increase a few categories due to prices that went up on things like insurance.
After we’d adjusted a monthly budget, we discussed our long-term goals. We checked to see that our retirement savings were on track with recommendations for people our age. We discussed our dreams of buying a house someday. Car purchases will be somewhere down the line as ours are older and won’t last forever. We even talked at length about advance degrees and how much schooling we’d like to pursue.
After all of the dreaming, we set some reasonable savings goals for this year, because we know that the big dreams happen when you are faithful with what you have right now. It’s so good to discuss these financial goals together as couple because you set realistic expectations.
I tend to set big goals, whereas Ryan is more realistic and helps reign in my optimism. Likewise, Ryan tends not to push himself with savings goals, but I encourage him that we need to be willing to push ourselves outside of our comfort zones. We really can balance each other well.
Not only does working together help to keep financial goals realistic, but it also helps keep both of you accountable. When you form a plan together, you’re more likely to stick to it together. If I were to just plan financial goals on my own, they wouldn’t mean as much to Ryan as if he had reasoned through them himself. Doing this together helps us to remind each other that we have agreed to a plan, so we need to stick with it.
Working together on financial goals and planning can also provide peace. When we met together with the purpose of discussing financial goals, we were able to pray about the whole process. The reminder that God is ultimately in control of our finances helps remove the pressure off of our shoulders.
Keep Things in Perspective
We know that we need to be faithful and diligent as we honor God with what He allows us to have. We also acknowledge that God can take away all that we have or grant us blessings. These variables are out of our control. We can trust that God will provide all of our needs (Philippian 4:19). Knowing that God promises to provide for our needs brings huge peace of mind.
This time that we spent together was refreshing, exciting, and encouraging as we look toward the new year. I hope that this post will encourage you to set aside some time with your spouse. Take time to get on the same page concerning financial goals and celebrate the blessings God has given you.
Happy New Year!