The tagline for my website is “Doing Money Differently.” For the past four years, my wife Jenna and I have been doing exactly that and our finances and lives have changed dramatically for the better. It is something I truly believe can lead you to long term wealth, financial success, and happiness. Our path to doing money differently didn’t happen overnight, but rather, a series of small, consistent choices strung out over many years. I want to share with you three ways we are “Doing Money Differently.”

Why We Do Money Differently

If you haven’t been following my story, I graduated college with about $45,000 in student loan debt to accompany my new teaching job. When I got married a couple years later, our total family student loan debt was a hair shy of $90,000. If we wanted to achieve our financial and life goals, this mountain of debt needed to be blown away like the Rockies during the railroad era in America (I’m a history teacher, I couldn’t help the analogy). We were initially looking at 25-30 years to pay it all off with two teacher salaries, so unless we wanted to struggle through with this burden, we had to make drastic changes and spend our money differently than most everyone we knew.

We Don’t Go Out to Eat

The first way we do money differently is we choose to not go out to eat. Yep, it’s hard to believe, but we don’t spend our money going out in any capacity. My wife Jenna was the brain behind this idea, and it has revolutionized our plan to get out of debt fast. (If you want to hear more specifics about the ups and downs of how we avoid eating out, check out the full story here) As recent college grads in our mid twenties, we went out to eat a lot! The best and easiest way to hang out with friends, to get out of the house, or just avoid the hassle of cooking was to eat out. I think I went out to eat or for drinks 2-3 nights a week pretty consistently, sometimes even more. Let me tell you, it adds up fast, but it did nothing to get me out of debt. In my mind, every dollar that I spend at a restaurant, a coffee shop, ice cream parlor, or fast food joint is a dollar that is not going towards my student loans, and that only delays the length of time I have to pay on them. The way I see it, I am paying a butt load of money, drag that out any longer than I need to! I will happily sacrifice going out to eat for a few years if I can save money in the long run.

Now I admit, I love going out to eat and there are times that I take my wife out to eat, but those are rare celebrations that we save up for and are already built into our budget. Also during this process, we still went out with our friends, so it’s not like we avoided restaurants altogether. The only difference was that we didn’t order food or buy drinks. That might seem weird, but that is the point! If you want to change your situation, you need to do something different! In our society, that might mean looking strange to other people, but who cares! It is your financial future; don’t let other people’s feelings get in the way or slow you down. It takes discipline and enduring some potentially awkward social situations, but it was the price I was willing to pay to become debt free.

We Avoid Debt at All Costs, Especially Credit Card Debt

I’ve said it before, I hate debt. It totally sucks the life out of your budget and steals your dreams. I have worked so hard to get out of debt over the past four years, I do not want to put my life goals in jeopardy again by racking up more. Honestly, if I could go back and make different choices, I would have worked harder to avoid loans for college too. I can’t stress enough how much I hate debt! In order to stay out of debt, I am a huge proponent of saving for big purchases to avoid taking out loans or swiping the credit card. To do this, my family adds money to a savings account each month, and use a spreadsheet (yep, I’m super nerdy!) to keep track of what the money is being saved for. Currently, we are saving for our five year anniversary trip to Ireland and soon we will start saving money to replace one of our vehicles. The goal is to save enough money to pay cash. Yes, we could take out a loan, and yes we could swipe a credit card, but both of these options are steps backwards instead of forward in our finances. I think it is a wonderful way to practice delayed gratification and self control.

Cash is King

Dave Ramsey’s baby steps (Check out the Baby Steps) helped us get our finances started on the right track and really put us in attack mode to pay off our student loan debt. His suggested baby steps were just the starting point. From there, I learned as much as I could about his philosophy and how to be smart with money. Now I don’t advocate blindly following all of Dave’s advice, or anyone’s for that matter without doing proper research, but I really love his philosophy of using cash. I have found it is far easier to spend more money when you use a debit card, and I want to avoid spending unnecessarily at all costs. Over the years, I have had such great experiences using cash for daily purchases instead of swiping a debit card. If it is not a bill I can pay online, I try to use cash. For example, we use cash to pay for groceries, gas, any basic household necessities, personal allowance, and our dog’s needs. Each of these categories is built into our budget, and at the start of each month, I withdraw enough cash to cover all of these expenses for the entire month. Using cash really helps me stay on track and not overspend. It’s simple math, if I run out of money, I can’t buy anything else until next month. I truly believe using cash has helped us stay diligent and show self control in our budget and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to change their spending habits.

Wrapping it Up

Doing money differently takes discipline and intentionality. My family chooses to meal plan instead of eating out, we avoid debt, and pay cash, even for big purchases. These are not one time choices for us. Every month, we need to show discipline to make these choices because our budget and financial goals depend on it.

Let Me Know in the Comments

How do you do money differently?



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2 Responses

    1. Jenna and I each have our own ROTH IRA account set up so we can get a move on our retirement savings. One thing that I think is great about a Roth IRA is that you are putting in post-tax dollars, so you can withdraw money tax free when you are ready to retire. Also, the earlier you start, the faster and bigger it will grow with compound interest! I will have to do some research on an ESA OR 529 and I will get back to you. Thanks for reading and your thoughtful question!

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