Confession time - we do not follow the Dave Ramsey plan strictly. When we first started out, we were pretty strict with the plan, but we NEVER stopped contributing to our 401Ks.
At first, our reason for not stopping was the hassle of the paperwork of stopping, but the more we researched and learned about personal finance, we came to peace with the choice to contribute up to the match amount during our Baby Step 2 journey of paying down our consumer debt. As we paid things off, we eventually upped our contributions and we now contribute 15% each to our plans and I receive a 4% match. My husband receives a 3% match.
If you have a 401k plan offered through your employer, I strongly recommend contributing, even if you start small. What makes a 401k so great? Let me share my thoughts with you.
1. They are portable. Anything you put away goes with you, even if you leave your employer in the future, unlike a pension plan.
2. The contributions go in PRE-TAX, which reduces your taxable income. This reduces what you owe in taxes and reduces how it hits your paycheck.
3. Should you pass away, the funds in your 401k can be passed along to your spouse or children.
4. No taxes are owed on the 401k or it's growth until you start making withdrawals. Likely, when you retire and take withdrawals, your tax rate will be lower than when you are working, so this will be a savings. Whatever stays invested, stays tax free.
5. Many employers offer a match, which is a 100% return on investment when you invest up to the match. Where in life can you get a guaranteed 100% return?!? Really is not something to be missed.
6. Compound interest. By starting early in your career even small contributions can compound into a large amount of money by the time you retire. If this is confusing to you, take a moment to google "Story of Ben and Arthur Dave Ramsey." This is a great showcasing of what can happen over time, even with small figures.
If you have the option to invest in a 401k at your work, start today! Don't let confusion or the hassle of paperwork hold you back, sign up and get started. Even if all you do is put in 3%, start there and raise it another percent each few months.
We are still very much frugal works in progress, but here are some easy things we’ve done! If we can do it, you can do it too!
1. We always make our coffee at home and bring it with us.
2. We pack our lunches and snacks.
3. Condensed trips to save fuel. Grocery shopping mostly happens when I’m already out now, rather than a special trip on its own.
4. Moved away from meat at every dinner and red meat every week. We are mostly sticking to chicken, eggs and beans for our protein. It’s cheaper and as a bonus, we’re losing weight too!
5. Installed a thermostat with a timer, so we can keep the heat lower when no one is home, without having to remember to turn it down when we leave. I was forever failing at turning down the heat before.
6. Embraced “do it ourselves!” Yardwork, cleaning, minor electrical/plumbing/home repairs – ALL US BABY!
7. Started brewing our own beer. It started as a fun experiment for Mr. PoniesandFIRE, but now we are majorly cutting back on purchasing alcohol, as he’s getting pretty good at brewing his own. I hate IPAs and I even like his latest IPA…
8. Made trades. I exchanged services for a client in my side hustle for a bunch of their son’s outgrown toys and ended up with a bunch of Thomas and Brio trains sets that PoniesandFIREjr was desperate for without spending any money out of pocket.
9. Stopped the bottled water habit. Seriously, why were we buying something we can get for free?
10. Reduced out Dish service to the basics (and are considering cutting it completely).
11. Make a meal plan and follow it! We waste so much less food this way and buy less too.
12. Haircuts at home! I cut my own and PoniesandFIREjr’s. Mr. PoniesandFIRE does his own with clippers. None of us look like disaster.
13. Embrace free family activities, like hiking in our local parks.
14. Regularly bring back the “returnables” for cash. I know not every state has this option.
15. Gardening! PoniesandFIREjr is way more likely to eat a veggie that he’s helped grow and pick himself. Saving money and actually eating our veggies= win win!
16. Unplug unused electronics to reduce phantom power usage. I used to just leave my cell phone charger plugged in all the time, but no more!
17. Check used sources (FB marketplace, craigslist, thrift stores) before buying something new.
18. Eliminate impulse buys by making it a family rule to discuss and wait on any medium or large purchases. Often we decide just not to get the thing.
19. Time purchases to our advantage. We order our propane for heat in the middle of summer when the demand and therefore, the price, are at their lowest. Same with our wood pellets.
20. Ask for cash discounts on things like car repairs or our propane and wood pellets. The worse that will happen is someone will say no, but often we hear “yes!”
21. It’s rare that we drink anything besides milk, coffee or water (or homemade beer), but if we have lemonade or juice at home, we dilute it with water. Tastes less sugary, lasts twice as long and better for you!
22. Use dish towels and rags rather than paper towels. This one we still struggle with, but are getting in better habits.
23. Air dry all year long! I find our clothes last longer and this one definitely saves on the electricity bill. With the pellet stove running in the winter, our air in the house is dry, so things dry quickly too!
24. Simplify beauty routine. I use less makeup, do my own nails (rarely), eyebrows, etc. Saves me time (hello extra sleep) and saves money. Again, not looking like a mess, but also not spending excess on fancy foundation and blush every few months.
25. Mentally embraced the idea that time is more important than things. I would rather have memories of spending time together as a family doing simple things at home, over the latest gadget or a bunch of new clothes. When this clicked, it became way easier to tell myself no.
I get it, budgets sound hard. Budgets sound boring. Budgets sound restrictive. This is wrong, however. Budgets equal freedom.
If the word "budget" is giving you pause, call it something else, call it a money flow plan. The name doesn't matter, the awareness of your finances is what matters.
We do a weekly cashflow budget, because we are paid weekly. This just made sense for us. Every Thursday I pull up the excel file and update our numbers and project out each week for the next couple months. My income is steady from my job and my husbands typically varies quite a bit, so we budget off of my regular amount and what a low week would be for my husband.
The chart starts with what we currently have in the bank and then I add in our income for that week. I have line items for the following expenses below:
I then have a subtotal at the end of the week and we always try to stay above $1,000 in our checking account as an extra buffer/emergency fund.
As the week progresses, if things change, I can easily update my numbers and see how that effects both our current week and in the coming weeks.
Each week when I do a budget update, I also update a list of our assets (401k balances, savings accounts, 529, home equity, etc). This part of budgeting is more fun, seeing the numbers grow, so this keeps me motivated each week to do the budget.
If excel isn't your thing, check out Dave Ramsey's Budgeting App EveryDollar or just bust out a pen and some paper and get to work. It may takes some months to get the hang of doing it, but no worries. No one's budget is every perfect. The point is to have a plan and an awareness of what you are doing with your money and where it is going.
In 2011 we purchased a foreclosed home. It was huge, it was 111 years old and it hadn't been properly winterized, we quickly found out, when we turned on the water and found burst pipes.
We had not been financially prepared to buy a home. We had other debt (student loan, credit cards, vehicle loans) and my then fiancée took out a 401k loan to come up with the rest of the cash for the down payment. We did so many things wrong in buying our home, but I was in love with the home and everyone we talked to agreed we were getting an incredible deal on the home.
The house had been purchased by the prior owners for $260,000, but it was foreclosed on and with the mortgage crisis at the time, loans were hard to come by and we ended up buying the house for $168,000. Somehow, we were able to roll in our closing costs and down payment into the mortgage through some special first time buyers deal and ended up with a mortgage of $178,238. We got a 30 year mortgage and an interest rate of 4.75%.
As soon as we moved in, I started to realize we might be in over our heads. The house needed a ton of work. We dropped almost all our cash reserves on a pellet stove and fixing the burst pipes that first month. We were planning a wedding and I had no clue how we would pay for it.
A few months after moving into our home, I found myself googling "how to pay off debt sooner." The first results I found were for Dave Ramsey. I quickly went down the rabbit hole and was obsessed with paying off our debt to create space between us and living paycheck to paycheck.
If you stumbled across by blog by chance, you may be wondering what is "FIRE" that I keep referencing.
F.I.R.E stands for Financial Independence Retire Early and is a movement that focuses on a goal rather than a specific way to achieve the goal. I came upon this from the old Dave Ramsey/TMMO forums, where people occasionally mentioned enjoying Mr. Money Moustache. I checked out Mr. Money Moustache's blog and was blown away.
Prior to his blog, I was feeling like we were moving financially in the right direction, but it would be a long haul and we were decades away from slowing down. After reading his blog, I realized there were other options. I could change my financial picture and put us in a situation where we could drastically change what our lives look like in 10 years.
For us, we want to slow down. We may not actually retire fully, but most following this movement don't intend to save 25x their annual expenses and then sit on a beach until they die. The goal is to put yourself in the financial situation where you can pursue the things you enjoy and not be trapped by bills/lack of savings/upcoming unplanned expenses.
We have set a goal of FIRE by 2025. For us, we need to be 100% debt free (including our house) and have significant funds in both our 401ks, 529 and outside investments. It is a stretch goal, but
Welcome to PoniesandFIRE, which is going to be a blog looking at personal finances in general and my family's personal journey to reach Financial Independence.
I am a 34 year old with a super hardworking husband and one child. Together we are striving towards some very big financial goals. In the short term, we want to become 100% debt free and in the slightly longer term, we want to reach a point where we are financial secure enough to live off of passive income.
I currently have two streams of income. My first is a full time job for a large scale horse farm, where I primarily work in the office, but can be found doing anything from riding, to working with baby horses to shoveling lots of manure. I also run my own side business teaching riding lessons, training horses and selling horses.
My husband works in the railroad industry and has nothing to do with horses, being somewhat allergic.
Together, we started the financial education journey through Dave Ramsey, after purchasing a foreclosed house in 2011 and realizing we were drowning in bills and completely overwhelmed. Since then, we have followed quite a bit of the Dave Ramsey financial advice, but also branched out into learning from a multitude of sources.
I am looking forward to discussing our journey and what we learn along the way!