Taking the Wheel

My husband Mike and I are working on regaining control of our finances.

I am in graduate school.  After the first semester of studying voice pedagogy, we decided that I should seize the opportunity of being in school full-time and take on a second master’s degree in arts management.  So now, I am working on both degrees and will graduate next spring.

Being a graduate student is not financially lucrative.  Money has been tight the entire time we’ve been here, and while I’ve been incredibly lucky to have a full assistantship, living in Northern VA on one income with school expenses has not been easy.  That said, we haven’t always been completely responsible with our finances, either.  We like to travel, spend time with those we love, and seize opportunities, even if they’re not the best choices for our budget.

As I finish this second year of school with one year to go, we both feel burdened to take control of our finances: live within our means, pay off debt, put money away for the future.  [ENTER LIFESTYLE CHANGES HERE]

Today was spent reviewing our spending over the past few months and creating a budget that balanced within one income.  This was an emotional process for both of us, and we’re not balanced yet.  But, this initial step and recognizing areas where we’ve been lax in our spending (like, dining out) is the first step in becoming FINANCIALLY FREE.  And, as frustrating as it can be, it gets better from here.

{do tell!}

What has been the most effective strategy for taking control of your finances?  What have your struggles been?

9 thoughts on “Taking the Wheel

  1. First comment on your blog EVER?! Awesome!!!

    So good for you guys desiring to really kill that debt. Jess and I are so glad that we did and it was a miracle, with some intense effort as well. 🙂 Basically put that money towards your debt before you can spend it is my best strategy. We also followed Dave Ramsey and still follow his plan.

    Life changes are in the midst… wish i would have known all of this stuff when I was 18 (i probably did, but just didn’t think it was important) now that my frontal cerebellum has developed it’s like trying to clean a pan that has had leftovers sitting in it for 10 years.

    1. Thanks for that encouragement, and for being Commenter Numero Uno! Feel the same way about that whole dirty pan thing… but, I know we can do this!

      1. Colleen & Mike…
        Wow, this blog is exactly what we have been feeling for several months. There is a burden to get ourselves back into a “responsible spending” pattern. I’ve realized over the past 6 – 9 months that we have been pretty free to spend as we please. 3 years ago I read Dave Ramsey’s: Total Money Makeover and began following his steps to becoming debt free. It was amazing…and yes, it works! Sure, it takes a lot of self discipline, but more so, it takes a routine! We did great while we followed the “envelope method”. We would divide up our spending & bills into categories and make an envelope for each specific area. We would allot ourselves a set-amount to spend for that given category. This kept us on a set budget and we ONLY USED CASH whenever possible. For us, using cash was the best result. Set limits and stick to it! The rest of the money goes into a savings account or other necessary account. Good luck and many blessings. We miss having you guys around. Tell Mike I still need a riding buddy! Take care Colleen & Mike.

        Jeremy & Ashley

      2. Jeremy & Ashley,
        Thank you guys so much for the encouragement and input! What’s been incredible about this decision is that, without telling everyone that we were going to subscribe to Dave Ramsey’s plan, switch to cash only and envelopes, and all that, EVERYONE has given us feedback saying that’s what works! What a confirmation, and how encouraging! And, it’s nice to know we’re not alone in our feelings about this. It’s already exciting to feel like we’re taking the wheel and ruling over our finances, rather than the other way around. Miss you guys too, tons! Send some pictures of Ella our way sometime, too! 🙂 Mike sure misses you too!

        C & M

  2. Nice Colleen,
    Congratulations …huge and significant decision!
    Lee and I really really began making progress to debt free, etc. after taking Financial Peace Univeriisty (offered regularly at Agape ‘…when enough sign up) .
    Sure understand the emotional part of this endeavor…..FPU helped know how to begin to step through those as well.
    Financial Peace University was the last boost we needed…..with the humor, practical follow through, and motivation we needed.
    We had a lot of the basics well in motion but had stalled…especially in following through. It would take too long to type here….but our testimonies along the way have been huge. God really gets involved with this to help you as well. Will share more if you want sometime.
    keep on the journey….you will do it!
    Grace and Holy Joy for the journey,


    1. P.s. Just read your first comment….the Financial Peace University , which I mentioned, is by Dave Ramsey, whom Jim Baker referred to as well! Lol

    2. Jacki, thank you so much for sharing this with us! We were turned on to Dave Ramsey’s FPU and Total Money Makeover when I graduated college, but we haven’t been living accordingly since we’ve been here and have been down to one income. Would love to grab coffee and talk about the strategies you and Lee implemented, as well as your testimonies along the way! Thank you for sharing and for your encouragement! Let me know when you’re free and we’ll get together soon. Colleen

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