So when you hear the term “happily ever after” what vision comes to mind? A Prince and Princess riding off into the sunset? A wedding kiss? Thematic music? What most likely doesn’t come to mind is anything to do with finances and budgeting. That just doesn’t sound very romantic now does it? But the truth is, money can be one of the biggest factors that can affect a couple’s happily ever after.
As a couple we invest a lot of time into our relationship and continuing to grow together. One of our New Year’s resolutions for 2019 was to improve our finances. When we found out about a hip new company called The Financial Gym it sounded like the perfect opportunity to partner up and kick off our resolution on the right foot. So read on for our step-by-step journey and get a little peek into our financial habits…
About The Financial Gym
The Financial Gym is a personal financial services company that takes a fitness-inspired approach to their clients’ finances. By working one-on-one with a Certified Financial Trainer, they teach their clients how to make smarter money decisions that add up over time to reach their life goals. They are headquartered in New York, but work with clients (like us) virtually. We love their fun and modern attitude, and think it’s great that they are especially passionate about helping young individuals and couples plan their financial futures.
STEP 1: Find a B.F.F. (Best Financial Friend) for some outside guidance
Our first step in working with the The Financial Gym was being assigned to our B.F.F. or “Best Financial Friend”. These finance trainers are your personal guide through the process and work with you closely (with no judgement!). We were assigned to Victoria and scheduled a virtual one hour meeting to get started. We were told to prep as much finance info as we could such as:
A general idea of monthly expenses
Bank account & credit card balances
Credit card monthly payment & interest rate
IRA/401K statement and/or brokerage account
Goals (at least for the year and even more into the future)
STEP 2: “Get Financially Naked” and look at ALL Income and Expenses
Our first meeting with Victoria is know as the “Financially Naked” session. In addition to getting to know each other we put everything out on the table. All sources of income, all loans and bills, interest rates, you name it. We found this to be incredibly helpful because it really laid out where every penny we spend goes. We were definitely surprised to find out how much money we were spending in some areas, and that we were spending less than we thought in others.
Andrew’s full time job as a government contractor
Julie’s main freelance design business JK Creative
Julie’s secondary business Ever Ella event invitations
The Disney DINKs shop and blog income
The Mortgage on our Town House
Home expenses such as HOA, utilities, and insurance
2 car loans (Andrew’s Jeep & Julie’s Mustang)
Technology such as cell phones, internet, and TV subscriptions
Gas and transportation expenses
Groceries, home goods, and personal care products
Health and beauty such as gym membership, hair cuts, and supplements
Pet care for 3 kitties (food, litter, health, etc.)
Monthly Disney Vacation Club fees and other travel costs
Miscellaneous items such as eating out, entertainment, and gifts
STEP 3: Figure out Top Priorities and Goals TOGETHER
Everyone tends to have unique personal habits and interests that ultimately lead to different small and large goals. Being a couple, it is a little more complicated to figure out as you need to consider where your individual goals overlap and what is non-negotiable for each person. For instance, Andrew’s non negotiable is golfing, it is a great mental break and exercise. For Julie, health is important, so keeping a gym membership and buying high quality food is a must. We are both willing to cut back in other areas to make these things doable.
Luckily the one big non-negotiable we both agree on is travel. It’s funny, and sometimes annoying, how often people tell us “oh, you are traveling again; must be nice.” And yes, it is very nice. But it is not without sacrifices in other areas, and this is what other people don’t notice and why this kind of financial exercise is handy. It allows us to look at our finances and determine where we want to prioritize. For example, Andrew packs his lunch every day and has done so for the last decade. Over the course of a year, this starts to add up, especially considering how much eating out costs in downtown Washington, DC. Obviously this is just one example and doesn’t tell our whole financial story but it does give you and indication of how small sacrifices in some areas allows us to travel like we do.
We worked with Victoria to declare some goals to work towards. We listed some short term items (such as a vacation to Paris in May) and also more long term goals (eventually a new house and increased retirement).
STEP 4: Commit to a New Budget & Financial Plan
After our “Financially Naked” session, Victoria went to work preparing a 20 page document for us that detailed our suggested plan. This was personalized to us and our goals in mind. Our next meeting was to review the plan and figure out our next action steps. The key focus points for us:
DEBT: Luckily we have already tackled student loans and credit card debt. We do however have a couple small loans for some home items. We are going to focus on paying these down since they have higher interest rates.
EMERGENCY SAVINGS: So the good news is we have an emergency fund. The bad news is, it has been the same amount for years. We hadn’t thought to reanalyze and adjust for our most recent lifestyle. We need to focus on building up our fund to a more appropriate level. Victoria says this is very important and recommends everyone should have 3-6 months of living expenses.
VACATION FUNDS: Victoria also suggested to set aside a set amount of money each month to pay for vacations. Currently, we just pay for bits and pieces here and there and look at credit card statements after a trip. We have started a separate account just for this purpose so we can be a bit more aware.
RETIREMENT: Once our emergency savings are good to go we are going to focus on adding more to retirement accounts (especially for Julie as a freelancer).
BUDGET: Victoria also adjusted our budget for us so that we can live (while still including our priorities) while also making sure to allot money to put towards our important action items. She also suggested to track daily expenses more so we can be more aware of how on track we are month to month.
5. Work the Plan and Track Progress
Just like using a food journal to lose weight, actually tracking where your money goes makes all the difference. Andrew put together a spreadsheet that lays out how much we plan to spend in every area of life including groceries, gas, hobbies, and even savings. By laying out every cost by month, we can see where we can cut if necessary in order to make our more important goals. For example, if we happen to spend more in gas one month, we know to cut in other areas in order to keep on track with the more important items such as savings and travel. It is easier to make good decisions when you have more awareness.
While talking about finances doesn’t sound like that much fun, we really have enjoyed The Financial Gym’s fresh approach. After working with Victoria, we feel super motivated. Now that we have a detailed plan and are tracking our expenses, it seems like goals or more in focus. Saying no to a dinner out is easier knowing that money will be going towards something bigger like a vacation memory. This financial training was just what we needed and we are excited to see how things go. We will be checking in with Victoria for a quarterly review to see our progress. Stay tuned for a progress report in Part 2!
UPDATE: Check out an update in PART TWO!
Are you interested in learning more about The Financial Gym and seeing how they can help you crush some financial goals? You can sign up for a FREE 20-minute “Warm Up” consultation call here:
DISCLAIMER: This is a partner post with The Financial Gym. We were provided 3 months of free membership to review their services. When collaborating with companies we carefully choose brands that align with our lifestyle and interests. All opinions provided are our own.