Do You Have the Money Transfer Bug?

money-256319_1280This post was written by Sarah Greasonbach

My husband and I are still a few weeks into our first time coordinating a Financial Peace University class. It’s been insanely awesome so far, even if I’m not the biggest fan of talking in front of a large group.

The first few lessons of the course revolve around analyzing your spending habits and writing them down on your paper budget. Fun right? (It’s not). It’s especially not fun if you’re a technology-savvy guy or gal like me.

I love spreadsheets. I love quick-add columns. I love moving things around and trying new approaches without having to erase anything. And I especially love being able to transfer money in and out of my account whenever I need to, even if it’s not great for my financial health.

I realized this might be a bad habit when I said it aloud in the group discussion and I got a few weird looks. Apparently most people analyze their budget, transfer their money, and then…. Leave it there. There’s no checking in two or three times a day, moving a few dollars here and there or transferring money in to cover a surprise expense. It’s all taken care of in advance and they don’t check in more than once or twice a month.

…. That’s not me! I don’t know if it’s because I am on an infrequent pay period and we have money coming in all month (and never a set amount, at that), or if I’m just account-happy and we have too many “holding places” for money as it waits to be sent to a bill, but I got to wondering if I was all that weird.

The thought of not checking in on my accounts or being able to make transfers when I need to scares me! It makes me wonder if all my numbers add up perfectly, or if I’ve forgotten about an automatic bill that will cause an overdraft. I also wonder about how my husband’s transactions will hit the account (give or take a dollar for a gas tank fill-up, for example) and whether or not he’s paying attention to the balance.

Now, this is probably where Dave Ramsey’s cash envelopes system will work so well for us. There’s no overdrafting when it’s cash in an envelope. And so we recommit to using those envelopes for gas, food, medical co-pays, and spending money.

Do you check in on or manipulate your online finance accounts often? How often is often? And do you think it affects how much you spend?

We All Have Unique Financial Situations

photo-1421977870504-378093748ae6This post was written by Sarah Greesonbach

A few weeks ago, my husband and I began our first Financial Peace University as coordinators. It’s been awesome so far, despite my ongoing nervousness about speaking to large groups of people.

But the large groups of people part is very important. Because it’s when you have a bunch of people in a room re-learning the basics of handling money that you start to see how similar we all are… in that we’re all not so similar.

Sound weird? Stick with me. The coolest lesson I’ve learned so far is that we all have unique financial situations and the solution to all of these problems is the same. It doesn’t matter if your debt comes from student loans, stupid loans, or health crises. They all feel the same. You feel a little stupid, a little tired, and a little suspicious of people who don’t have those kinds of loans. And the solution is to find a way to make more money quickly, get a savings account together, and make a plan to pay off your debts.

I learned this lesson from several couples in our course in particular. They’re a little older than my husband and I, and their situations are very different. One couple is saddled with debt from medical emergency after medical emergency. It’s so stressful, and it feels a little unfair to have these accidents keep happening. The other couple is a little less in debt but staring down huge student loans for their children. If feels stressful, and it feels a little unfair to have to worry about this when they should be concentrating on retirement.

The answer for both? The only thing that will make you feel better again. Save. Pay off debt. Get your financial priorities in order and then take care of others. Because it’s only when you feel the peace of a financially-sound household that you can let go of that feeling of stress and unfairness.

Josh and I are still fighting Baby Steps 1 and 2 years after we started the program. But it’s reassuring to see that the solution is always right in front of us: find a way to make more money, then work together to save that money, and then put all of our resources together to pay off debt. And as we return to this process for the rest of the fall season, we look forward to seeing what kind of progress we make.

2 Surprisingly Valuable Skills College Accidentally Taught Me

There is no denying the fact that college is super expensive.

Most of its value comes from the promise of a better, higher paying job when you graduate. Unfortunately for many, that’s not what happens. College can’t really guarantee you a job any more than graduating from high school guarantees you a place at a college. There is no way to guarantee what life has in store for you.

College is still valuable, though. The classes, the friends, the coming of age that comes with growing up and being an adult… there’s plenty you can learn that will directly impact your future after college.

But while I learned tons from class, looking back I am surprised by how much I learned by accident. And those accidental lessons turned out to be far more valuable than what I learned from the syllabus.

Scheduling and Prioritizing My Time

There was a point in college when I was a Resident Advisor for a dorm, taking a full load of courses, putting on a 3 hour weekly radio show, and playing club rugby. Needless to say, I was a little busy! At a time when many people slept in until 11AM and wandered around looking for food, I had a color coded date book that scheduled out all of my meetings, dates, commitments, and study sessions.

Looking back, I’m so glad I learned this kind of scheduling and time committment because it helped me learn how to prioritize what’s going on in my life and make room for everything I want to do. As an adult, I can now see how to put together my weekly schedule to cook, sleep, eat, and socialize just enough without feeling too harried too many weeks in a row.

Socializing and Meeting New People

I’m also glad I was involved in so many activities and took so many classes outside my comfort zone (Telecommunications as an English major, anyone?). This helped me develop a wide base of conversational interests so that I felt comfortable making small talk with people in each new job I took and when I meet people out in town. Now, I’m probably still an introvert, but barring an occasional week of shyness, these experiences in college helped me know how to talk to people when I want to.

Nowadays, I feel like I have a good grasp on how to start a conversation and maintain it if I run into someone at the grocery store or meet a new person at a party. I also feel like I have a better idea of where other people are coming from since I met and befriended so many different kinds of people in college.

Did you learn any surprising things from college by accident? Do you think it’s by accident, or is this just how the educational process works?