No matter where you are in your financial journey, budgeting is absolutely crucial to ensuring financial success. Unfortunately, many people hear the word budget and cringe as they think, "I've blown the budget!" or "That's not in the budget!" But, a budget doesn't have to be scary - it doesn't have to spark these negative thoughts. Simply put, a budget is YOU (or you and your spouse, if married) telling YOUR MONEY where to go. When you are living on a budget, YOU are in control of your finances!
So, where do you start when you are new to budgeting? (Because let's face it, the idea of putting together a budget can be pretty daunting.) Here are a few great resources to get you started:
The 23 & Debt Free Facebook Page -
Because budgeting is the most important thing you can do for your finances, the very first live video I ever did was all about budgeting! Check out the videos tab on our Facebook page and you can watch a replay of this live video. It walks step by step through how to put together a zero-based budget.
The EveryDollar Budgeting Tool -
The EveryDollar Budgeting Tool, developed by Ramsey Solutions, is a simple, quick-to-use budgeting tool. It is free to use and can be accessed using a computer, iPhone, or Android device. This tool will help you put together a budget and then track your purchases, deducting them from the appropriate budget category. Get started with EveryDollar using this link.
One-on-One Financial Coaching -
Schedule a Financial Coaching session with us to receive personalized advice for you (and your spouse, if married) as you put together your zero-based budget! One hour with myself and/or my husband will help answer your questions and alleviate your fears as you jump on the budgeting bandwagon! You can even check out our coaching packages and book your session right here on our website.
Download a free copy of our budgeting template by clicking on the PDF file icon and get started on your zero-based budget today!
The Debt Snowball is a simple financial principle that helps you attack your debt(s) quickly and efficiently. If you are working on Baby Step 2, then you will want to be using the debt snowball! If you don't know what I mean by 'Baby Step 2,' refer to 'The 7 Baby Steps' section of this page.
Now, I realize there's a good chance you've never heard of the Debt Snowball principle. If that's true, keep reading and I will give you a simple, step-by-step explanation of how you can use this principle to pay off your debt.
Step 1: Identify all of your debt. (Refer to the 'Know Your Debts' section of this page if you aren't sure where to start.) You will want to make sure you know ALL of your debt - credit cards, student loans, home equity loans, medical bills, personal loans, etc.
Step 2: List all of your debts (except your primary mortgage) from smallest to largest. When you are making this list, you are NOT worried about interest rates. You are simply looking at the total amount owed on each debt. You are also not worried about your primary mortgage. This will get paid off in Baby Step 6 (again, refer to 'The 7 Baby Steps' section of this page).
Step 3: Begin paying on your debts. You will want to be on a zero-based budget first in order to successfully attack your debt(s). (Refer to the 'Getting On A Budget' section of this page if you don't know what a zero-based budget is or if you're not actually on a budget.) When you are paying on your debt(s), you will want to pay the minimum payment on all of your debts. Then, anything 'extra' will be applied ONLY to your smallest debt.
Step 4: The snowball just keeps rolling. Once you have paid that smallest debt in full, whatever amount you were paying on that smallest debt, rolls over to your next largest debt. Each time you pay a debt and that amount rolls over to the next debt, it gets larger much like a rolling snowball.
Lots of people get hung up on interest rates, concerned that those aren't factored into the Debt Snowball principle. Let me take a moment to address that. The reason that interest rates are not factored into the equation is that you are paying off your debt(s) so quickly that the interest rates really don't matter. Remember, we paid off our debt (totaling $97,000) in just 22 months. The average family using Dave Ramsey's plan pays off their consumer debt (finishes Baby Step 2) in just 18 to 24 months. In a period of time that short, interest rates don't really matter. It is more important that you get that smallest debt paid in full, feel the momentum from paying that debt, and keep moving forward.
Here are some good resources for learning more about the Debt Snowball Principle:
The 23 & Debt Free Facebook Page -
I did a live video, which is available for replay on our Facebook page, all about the Debt Snowball Principle. The video breaks down this financial principle and provides an example of how this would look in real life.
Dave Ramsey's Blog -
Dave Ramsey takes time to answer all kinds of questions about finances and provide sound, accurate information so his blog is a great go-to site for your financial questions! Here are a couple of blog posts focused specifically on the Debt Snowball.
If you were to ask my husband and me, "What was the very best $100 we ever spent?," we would both reply, "Financial Peace University."
Financial Peace University (FPU) is offered in churches, businesses, and communities all over the United States. And if you don’t have access to a course in your area, you can take it online instead! Over a period of nine weeks, Dave Ramsey leads you through weekly lessons covering topics such as budgeting, buying/selling a home, planning for retirement, paying off debt, finding the right insurance coverage, being aware of marketing strategies, negotiating, communicating with your spouse, and so much more! No matter where you are in your financial journey, I know that you will gain knowledge from this class. We have led this class three times now and each time I take away new and helpful information.
While FPU is offered both in-person (in communities where someone is hosting the class) and online, I would encourage you to participate in a local group if at all possible. One of the most beneficial (and inspirational) components of FPU is the opportunity to surround yourself with a small group of people who will hold you accountable and encourage you as you walk through your financial journey. Having this connection with a small group is so crucial to your success – a connection that is not available online.
Check out this webpage to find an FPU class is in your area. If you find that there's no class being offered in your area, reach out to Annika to inquire about online FPU classes (that still involve a small group portion via a web conferencing platform) hosted by 23 & Debt Free.
Want to learn more about FPU and all that the class has to offer? Then, download this FPU information guide to get you started!
Are you just beginning the process of getting your finances in line? Do you want to get your debt snowball rolling, but you're not sure what debts you have? (It's not uncommon for people not to know what debts they have or to forget about that one credit they opened back in their college years.) Don't fret. You just need to request a copy of your credit score.
There are three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You can request a free copy of your credit report from each of these agencies once per year. You can visit the individual websites of each credit reporting agency (via the hyperlinks above) to request a free copy of your credit report or you can visit annualcreditreport.com.
Are you feeling a bit intimated by the idea of pulling your credit report? Download this sample credit report by Experian with easy-to-read explanations of the different components of a credit report.
I often have people ask a variety of questions about the work I do as a financial coach. I want to tackle some of those questions to give you an overall clearer picture of financial coaching.
Q: "What exactly does a financial coach do?"
A: As a financial coach, I get the awesome opportunity to walk alongside people as they take control of their finances and set themselves financially free. From budgeting and cutting costs to paying off debt fast and saving for retirement, my coaching focuses on the needs and the goals of each specific client.
Q: "Is a financial coach the same thing as a financial advisor or a financial counselor?"
A: The short answer is no.
But, I won't leave you with a simple 'no,' so let me explain more. Financial coaching is a bit of a niche in the financial world and is unlike financial advising or financial counseling.
Financial advisors can have multiple specialties (depending on their training), but the main task of a financial advisor is to invest, care for, and grow your assets so that you can reach your financial goals. Advisors help you put together an investment portfolio and guide you in choosing which funds would be the best fit considering your age, the fund's level of risk, and your long-term goals.
Financial counselors often work for hospitals, non-profit agencies, or the government. Their main task is to help people understand their debt and sell debt-relief services to their clients. In short, financial counselors are in the business of debt-relief...and they are selling it to you, the consumer!
As a financial coach, some of my roles are similar to the roles of a financial advisor or financial counselor. However, there are some marked differences.
I will guide you as you plan for long-term financial goals, helping you make those long-term goals a part of your monthly cash flow plan. I'll help you plan for retirement, college funding, and other savings goals, and I will analyze your daily spending in an effort to help you cut costs and cash flow your dreams. But when it comes to choosing funds and investing your money, I will refer you to a financial advisor.
I will make you aware of your debt, but I am NOT in the business of selling debt-relief. Why? Because the BEST debt relief strategy is the debt snowball method, coupled with hard work and a burning desire to live life financially free. I will help you knock out your debt (and fast) but I will never sell you a payment plan or consolidation offer.
Q: "Do you work for a bank or corporation? Or is this a freelance business?"
A: I own my own business, 23 & Debt Free, in collaboration with my husband, Logan. The beauty of owning my own business is that there is no corporate office or bank pushing me to promote certain investment options or financial planning methods. What I teach - and the actions I encourage my clients to take - are based out of my own experiences from using Dave Ramsey based principles. I received my Financial Coach training from Ramsey Solutions and teach their principles.
I work out of my passion and firmly believe that the challenges of our own debt-free journey have better equipped me as a coach and given me a story to tell that so many can relate to.
Q: "I'm not sure I really need a financial coach. Who exactly should seek financial coaching?"
A: If any of the following statements describe you and/or your financial goals, then seeking financial coaching would be a benefit to you.
- I don't have a budget.
- I have a budget, but it's really not working for me.
- Financially, I'm doing fine, but I just feel like I'm not making progress towards my financial goals.
- I want to start saving for _______ (retirement, college, buying a house, my dream vacation, etc.) but I don't know where to start.
- I am drowning in debt.
- I'm not drowning in debt, but I have debt.
- I feel like my monthly expenses are so high and I want to lower them.
- My kids are soon headed off to college and I want to help them prepare their finances so they don't take on student debt.
There are so many reasons to seek expertise and encouragement from a financial coach, and there's not enough room to highlight all of these needs. Here's the bottom line: if you think you might benefit from financial coaching, then reach out! At 23 & Debt Free we offer a free 15-minute phone consultation to all prospective coaching clients. Send us an email to set up up your free consultation today!
I became a financial coach with the goal to educate others and share the financial hope we've found. I was horrified reading these stats (see PDF file) and knew I needed to help!
Are you feeling overwhelmed with your finances? Not sure where to start? Feeling as if you're not making progress because your finances are going in too many different directions? Well, Dave Ramsey's 7 Baby Steps are seven simple steps that will help you know just how to approach your finances. This plan has been well-researched and it really works! The baby steps are as follows:
Baby Step 1: Save $1,000 cash in a beginner emergency fund.
Baby Step 2: Use the Debt Snowball principle to pay off all of your consumer debt except for your primary mortgage.
Baby Step 3: Save a fully-funded emergency fund of 3 to 6 months of living expenses.
Baby Step 4: Invest 15 percent of your household income into retirement. For more on Baby Step 4, check out this video.
Baby Step 5: Start saving for your kids' college.
Baby Step 6: Pay off your home early. For more on Baby Step 6, check out this video.
Baby Step 7: Build wealth and give generously!
You can find more information about each of the 7 baby steps and advice on how to get started on Dave Ramsey's website.
Whether you're paying off debt or saving for your emergency fund, use our free Goal Thermometer PDF to make your goals visual and track your progress!
Whether you are selling your home or investing for retirement, working with an expert can make the difference of thousands, or even millions, of dollars. Dave Ramsey has spent time vetting professionals and finding those who are encouraging the same sound Biblical financial principles that Dave teaches.
He provides a full listing of these professionals, called Endorsed Local Providers (or ELPs) and SmartVestor Pros, on his website. This includes professionals in real estate, insurance, investing, and tax services. We personally found both our tax accountant and our investment professional on Dave Ramsey's website, and we have appreciated the expertise and professionalism of both of these individuals.