If you would have told me 10 years ago that I would have a three month emergency fund, that I would be debt free for almost five years, that I wouldn’t get anxious when paying bills, and that I would get excited about taxes, I probably would have called you crazy.
I came into our marriage with about $30,000 of debt. This was from reckless spending, big purchases, starting a business on credit cards, and having to pay for necessities on my credit card while using all my cash paying for things for my DUI. Ha, if you also told me 10 years ago I’d be 100% ok talking about getting arrested and talking about my drinking problem, I would have called you crazy….and been super embarrassed that you knew I was arrested.
Through Bret working like six jobs, me working two jobs, extra money coming in because of the GI Bill, and very strict budgeting, we were able to pay everything off less than four years into our marriage. Since then we’ve stayed out of debt and have been able to save. Our savings accounts have fluctuated over the past few years. At one point we did have six months saved, but gave a bit away and went on a few adventures.
So what have we been doing since then that I was actually excited and not stressed at all about our taxes?
Here are a few things:
Since well before I was married to Bret, I kept a detailed spreadsheet that showed my income and expenses for 1-2 years into the future. I can see what times of the year will be harder than others (right now that’s the summer since Bret is paid on a 10 month schedule at his day job), I can see when we would have to dip into savings unless we made an adjustment, and I can quickly see how a change in expenses will change things for the rest of the year (and into the next). But this approach has some disadvantages and doesn’t show the full picture.
To get a very detailed picture of how we spend our money, we got an account on mint.com. It’s a free service that connects to all of your accounts. You can set up budgets for all areas of your life and get notifications when you’re getting close to a budget. When we first signed up, I was shocked to see how much we spent on gas. It was much more than I thought we spent. What I love about mint is that is shows a very real picture of how things are….not how you want them to be. It has limitations too, for sure. Just yesterday, I was told I was over budget for home insurance because I paid the balance in February instead of April. I know I have the money there, but mint wants to show me a big red in that budget. This is why it’s been helpful to use several methods to track our money and budgets. One thing I didn’t know I could do until recently was actually split receipts. So if I go to Walmart and buy groceries for us but also some notebooks for my business, and supplies for our business, I can split it in mint.
Before we got our first check for the real estate investing business, we decided how to divvy out the income. 30% goes right back into the business, whether this is a larger budget for the next few months, or to help us get through summer months. 32.5% goes into our savings account. 32.5% is saved for taxes. 5% is for celebrating/travel/etc. Because of this method, we were able to have money set aside for taxes. So there was no anxiousness for when the bill came to both pay our accountants (who we LOVE by the way), or even if we had to pay the government. Because the money was there, for that purpose. It was a totally trippy feeling, but very very cool.
The next thing we want to work on is having a good idea of if we’ll owe or get money back. We don’t want to go into our tax season wondering what’s going to happen. I mean, we had this money just sitting in an account waiting. If we had known what our taxes would have looked like a few months ago, we could have invested that money back into the business sooner.
And I’ve heard some businesses use things like boats to save on taxes, so….life goal? 😀
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