Finances Are Complicated

Sometimes budgeting reminds me of a riveting game of Monopoly! (source)

It's time yet again for a 'Money Monday' post!

Thanks to Blogging101 though, let's back up a bit and talk about who I am and why I'm sharing my finances with you every month. :)

Who I Am, Why I Blog…

First of all, I am Mandy, the awesome bloggeress of With Love, a blog about … everything! I first began this blog approximately 4 years ago as I prepared for the biggest event in my life to date: my wedding. My husband, Justin, and I wanted to document all that was involved in the wedding planning and share our DIY projects with family and friends. Now that Justin and I have been married for 3 years, the focus of my blog has shifted somewhat to that of lifestyle-oriented topics. I enjoy sharing my travel adventures, food experiments, fashion discoveries and personal challenges with my readers.

My goal in blogging is twofold. Not only do I intend on improving myself, my finances, my photography, and my writing, but I also hope to make you, my readers, more aware of awesome products and experiences available to you. While I can only really share observations about that which I have personally been exposed to, hopefully, with our combined efforts (when you share your experiences with me and other readers in the comments) we can make it easier for the people we love and our world at large to make better, more informed decisions regarding the companies and products we love.

Finances: The Beginning, My Goals

Before marrying, Justin and I dated for 7 years. Back in that time and all the way up until we got married, we each made our own financial and budgeting decisions. I'd like to say that we were both mature and knew how to handle money, but that would be a lie. We followed the American dream and went to college taking out too many loans that our parents, friends, and teachers told us were "good debt". Then, even after college, we continued making bad decisions… As it turns out, yours truly had a lot to learn about the true cost of debt.

We thought that marriage was the answer to everything. Once we got married, we'd get a true handle on our finances. Not so. We started out with Justin handling the majority of the bills and me taking care of only the bills I brought into the marriage. That quickly fell apart though as I realized we were spending more than we were making approximately half of the time and not saving nearly as much as we thought we should be.

April 2012 to April 2013 net worth

Around July 2012, only a few months after being married, I attempted to take a look at our budgeting practices. Clearly, we were spending more than we were making and I knew we needed to jump on that asap. I had already learned that once you start accumulating debt, it just grows and grows… After spending a day on the budget and thinking only about money for 24 hours, my brain hurt and I thought I was done dealing with it forever… Clearly things could only improve from here on out, right?

But our financial situation didn't improve. If you'll notice in the graph, we managed to stay above water for exactly 2 months before we began our Christmas spending. ARGH! So, Justin and I sat down and wrote out every single bill we could think of. Then, we organized our bills based on Justin's bi-monthly paycheck splitting our bills up as evenly as possible over the course of the whole month. While my first go at budgeting was flawed and still missing bills, Justin and I learned a lot from this experience. The main takeaway was that finances are constantly changing and you have to alter and update your strategy as you go. It is not something you look at once and walk away from.

With that knowledge at hand, my monthly (or in some cases bi-monthly) blog budget updates were born – meant to hold me accountable. Where was my money going? How could I do better? Not only did I want to see improvement in my finances, but I was also hoping to share my strategies (and what was/n't working for me) with my readers. There are so many financial blogs out there that are "get rich quick schemes" and I was hoping that my financial updates would be very honest and open about how difficult it actually is to get rich quick … or pay down debt.

A Look Back…*

There are only so many pay checks in a year… (source)

• Between Jan. '14 and '15, our debt had decreased by $7,000. We had a new car and a trip to Europe to show for it though… :)
• Between Jan. '14 and now, our debt has decreased by $15,000, which basically means we've paid down approximately $8,000 in 5 months. WOOHOO!! :)

• Our assets improved by $3,000 between Jan '14 and '15.
• And $9,000 between Jan. '15 and now for which we have the US government and tax system to thank. :)

• Net worth improved by $16,000 between '14 and '15.
• Net worth improved by $24,000 between then and now.

• Our interest (to be paid on credit cards) has gone down to 0!

May at it's Finest

Here's what we did right:
1. $6 in interest accrued!
2. Mini-vacations! (Even though they cost a lot, the experiences are worth so much more!)
3. Bought electronics at half price as gifts that will be given later this month for Father's Day.

Here's what needs to improve:
1. We went over budget on everything except bills.
2. We spent almost as much as we made. A net gain of $500 is not good.
3. Projected student loan payoff date is July 2020.

And, finally, THE graphs:

We need to improve our net income in June!

Still doing better than last year! (yellow = last year, green = this year)

Debts are going down…

Assets are staying stable.

My takeaway from this past month: Spend less, save more. (Or pay down debt.)

What is your takeaway? Did you do a fantastic job budgeting this past month? Or do you need to improve?

* See January 2014 and January 2015.

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