Monday, February 8, 2016

It's All In The Planning

I often wonder where we would be today without planning. So this week, let's take a look back.

When Hubby and I got married, we both had two year college degrees. We had no savings. I had worked a part time job to put myself through college. Hubby had worked one year full time. Every extra penny he had left after rent, food, and transportation was used to pay his one college loan which he paid off before we were married. Our parents had no money to help us with the exception that my mom did pay for my ride with a friend to college every week. Hubby bought a new car just before we got  married that carried a 2 year car loan.

So the day we got married we had a car loan and  the only cash we had was what people gave us in envelopes as wedding presents. We planned a very cheap road trip to Canada for our honeymoon for a week. On the way to our first motel stop, I opened all of those wedding envelopes, marked the amount on each envelope to do thank you's, and counted the money. We had about $ 500. We used less than 1/2 of that to pay for motel stops outside of the cities where we went sight seeing, food, and gas and a few fees to get into places we wanted to see. Most of our sight seeing consisted of  walking tours in Niagara Falls, Toronto, Kingston and Ottawa. Ottawa we loved and went back in later years. We made breakfast in our rooms....cereal, fruit and bread and butter. If we were hungry at lunchtime, we ate a hot dog. Dinners were eaten out at mostly inexpensive places with the exception of one night where we ate at a fancy restaurant. We came home with $ 310. to put immediately on our car loan. So all of this was our first planning even if it was by the skin of our teeth. Without those gifts, we would have had no honeymoon. 

When we got home, we spent the first week when hubby came home at night planning out our first budget. Hubby had a job. He had worked the last year of my college in a different state. He was able to find a decent engineering job back home before we married. I spent the summer looking for a job. 

So that first week we looked at how much money we had net for the month on his salary. Net was money after taxes, social security, health insurance, and the retirement plan.  We budgeted $80. for rent which had utilities included. We were lucky to find an attic apartment that was clean and would suffice until we could buy our own home. We paid a minimal amount for a telephone because Hubby's company subsidised it. We divided our renter's, auto insurance, and life insurance by 12. We budgeted $ 35. for food monthly. We budgeted money for gasoline, bus transportation for me to get to interviews, money to go to the laundromat every other week, and our car payment. We decided not to buy clothes that year. We had plenty. We each had $ 15. for incidentals. We usually ended up putting that money because we hardly ever spent it in our house savings account.

We knew that we wanted to buy a home of our own in about 2 years. We knew through research that we would need about $3000. to put down with closing fees. So we put $ 125. a month away in a savings account for our home. Every other penny that we had left over from Hubby's salary was put on the car loan as an extra principle payment.

Two months after we were married I started a full time job. Fortunately, I was able to ride with Hubby. So we used my net salary to pay off the car loan much more rapidly than we would have. When it was paid, we started socking the entire amount into savings. Two months before our second anniversary we moved into a brand new home that we had built. We had enough money for the home, taxes and to buy a refrigerator, sofa, and bed with cash. All other furniture came from his parents porch or garage. We snagged two dressers and a dining room table. We used towels for curtains until we could afford the real thing As we saved the money, we bought 6 unfinished chairs that we painted to go with the dining room table that we had refinished. Hubby made end tables from a cheap door that the hardware store had made a mistake on. Those tables lasted us for 32 years.  We used a card table and chairs that I got with green stamps earned from the grocery store so that we could sit in the kitchen. Our dishes, pots and pans were all accumulated with green stamps. We never bought anything if we could find a substitute or could get it with green stamps. After all we had a mortgage, homeowners insurance and taxes to pay for.

Shortly after we bought the home, I quit my job because I was pregnant. I lost the baby in the first six weeks. We were devastated. As time went on, we decided I would try to get pregnant again and that I would not go back to work.

So we then put our heads together and came up with a budget out of Hubby's salary so that we could pay everything we had to and pay tuition for Hubby to go back to college nights to earn his B.S. with a major in engineering. I stayed home and looked at every expense and how we could either reduce it or cut it all together. I took finance and how to save books out of the library and educated myself. I read every article in the newspapers that I read at the library on investing. I had lots of time on my hands because Hubby worked all day and went to college 3-4 nights a week. There was no internet back then to learn from.

How did we know we should save and not use credit? We had no formal education in that area. I had learned as I grew up that my grandparents, whose home I was raised in, had paid cash for their home. I watched my mom run up credit cards and struggle to make the minimum payments on them. We had a car loan and I hated looking at the interest we paid on it. Hubby's parents paid cash for their home. These things were are only education. I did have an accounting degree so I had learned some about loans and interest.

But bottom line, we were 19 and 20 year old newlyweds starting from scratch with a loan. We were just kids. But we both knew that we wanted things in life without going into debt. But most of all we wanted children and we wanted them to have a happy life and have some of the things that we didn't have when we grew up.

So the first thing I did when Hubby was working and I was at home was start what today would be a planner. It was just a notebook. Every dollar and every thing I did every day was put in that first planner. I tracked income and expenses with it. We didn't have Mint or Personal Capital back then. Everything I was going to do on any given day to help our bottom line was written down in that notebook. The first thing I did as a stay at home wife was learn how to cook cheaply. So I scoured depression era and any cheap recipe book I could take out of the library. I had many successes and many failures. But I finally learned.

So planning is a big part of how we got here today. In my estimation, it is never too late to begin to plan your future. Start from where you are today. I am still planning ours. It doesn't matter whether you have debt today or are well on your way investing or somewhere in between. Just start doing it! You can't get anywhere without a good plan. I graduated eventually to a Franklin Planner which I have been using every day for over 25 years. It serves me well each and every day. If you don't have a planner use a notebook or just some lined paper that you can put in a folder. But get your life on track by planning it. Life is too short to wing it.

This is part one in a series. Part two will continue tomorrow. 


  1. Thank you so much for sharing your experience!
    I am a single mom struggling to go out of debt.
    Your posts give me so much inspiration and hope that I will succeed one day.

    1. Hi Veronika,

      Thanks for your nice comments. You will succeed and we will be cheering you on.