by Gordon and Jimmie Lou Coons
When I graduated, I knew how to write a check and balance a checkbook. I knew how to watch ads to purchase items at a good price. But I really didn’t know much about how to plan for the future. I worked diligently, I spent conservatively, and I was honest. I wanted to be generous even with the small income I had. However, I needed to learn contentment in order to gain control of my finances and learn to manage money.
Money is an emotional subject. My lack of knowledge set me up for letting money control me. In other words, it became difficult to make the best purchases because I wanted to look good. Money can buy pleasure, power, and possessions that promise to fulfill, but they do not and cannot do the job. Fulfillment comes from being responsible for what we have.
The concept of money management with an emotional detachment was not in my skill set. And managing money is a skill. I needed that skill. I recognized that I had the responsibility of managing my resources. I knew the resources I had would go further with proper management. But where should I begin to gain control? I decided to take responsibility and not just say “I should take responsibility for my finances.”
I eventually realized I needed measurable and realistic goals. A financial goal I had heard of was being debt-free. That sounded good so I set out to make my budget include a plan to pay off all my debt as quickly as possible.
When the two of us married we found we had different opinions about goals. For example, Gordon thought we should spread our payments out on the purchases of our home and vehicle so that we would have more money to work with each month. He also thought we should apply for a credit card and pay off the balance each month. He said this would give us a good credit score.
In addition, he thought it was important to have insurance. There was not much of an issue on these differences until we became a one-income family. These differences emphasized the importance of financial planning for couples and making money management decisions together. Then we could see clearly, we needed to cut back all expenses to just simple needs as opposed to wants. Needs vs. wants was a crucial concept for our money management strategy.
Needs would include food, clothing, shelter, transportation, bills, and donations. (Donations were on the list because we believed that giving to our church was imperative.) On the other hand, our wants consist of more than we need to thrive. Our wants could be things that take up time and energy or other resources that would be better used elsewhere.
We realized we needed a financial plan so we sought out good advice, and we were introduced to the concept of financial freedom. The idea was to owe nothing to anyone. After a few years, we came to see it wasn’t realistic for us. We needed to buy a home and pay mortgage payments in order to advance beyond where we were. Mortgage payments would remain the same for 30 years, whereas rent kept rising. Together as a couple, we used the money management strategies that worked for us, and we moved past any that weren’t realistic for our situation.
Budgeting still was an issue at times. We budget to regulate our lives and address the future. There seemed to be a hole in our bucket. We were advised to keep track of everything we spent and found we could do without several of the expenses we together decided were really unnecessary. In this way, we increased our ability to save and begin giving to those in need.
We listed our goals (short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals) and divided our income into categories that reflected our needs in order to reach those goals. For instance, we needed to have a savings account that contained a portion of our income every month that would cover annual, semiannual, and quarterly payments. Another savings account for emergencies and unplanned circumstances, and still another for retirement. We needed an account to save up for repairs and maintenance, as well.
One mistake we made was to limit entertainment and vacation time severely. For a short time, this may be necessary but it won’t work in the long run. Even if your entertainment is eating popcorn and watching a borrowed video, and vacations are camping in the county park, we need downtime.
A budget is meant to divide income to provide for all of the needs. If it doesn’t then some downsizing is needed. Housing and transportation are the two biggest items on our budget. We decided to drive an older car and buy a mobile home that was affordable in order to have money to save to give to others’ needs and to invest.
Eventually, we were able to invest in a house, a rental property, then more rental property, and later in participating in whole life insurance. We believe we would have benefited from asking questions sooner than we did. Even if we didn’t know what questions to ask, we could have asked someone who was financially successful what the right questions were.
In conclusion, beyond honesty, industriousness, moderation, and generosity we all need to learn contentment. We need to be content to live within our means. We need to be content with what we have in order to take control of our emotions and our finances. We need good advice as we go along to make the most of what we have. We learned how to make a financial plan. So our advice is to keep learning all you can about financial matters and then apply what you learn to keep advancing toward financial success.
Finances are a sore spot in many marriages. Finances are not usually a sore spot because one spouse is good at managing money and the other one is not… It’s more likely to be a sore spot when each person has their own opinion and they are not willing to communicate and develop mutual financial goals.
In this article Gordon and Jimmie Lou Coons write about managing money as a couple with real examples from their own financial life experiences.
Although this article is a good read for married couples it is also good for people who are single because it is extremely important for couples to be on the same page working towards the same financial goals.
A big thank you to Gordon and Jimmie Lou Coons for writing this article. We hope you find it valuable and can share it with other people who will benefit from reading it.