We are excited to introduce you to Rich from PF Geeks. Marriage is awesome, but it comes with a lot of challenges. One of those challenges tends to be finances, especially if one is a saver and one a spender. This can lead to a lot of frustration until you get on the same page. Rich shares his journey in becoming a financial team with his wife so they could accomplish their goals.

Backstory

What was your life like before you pursued your dream?

My wife and I met in the Fall of 2011 outside the library of Texas A&M. We were set-up on a blind date and within weeks I knew this was the girl I would marry. Trust me, I know how young and naive I was for a freshman in college, but at least I was right! On our third date I told her that I felt called to go into ministry, wanted to go to seminary, and would probably be poor the rest of my life.

Romantic, right?

She stuck with me and we got married in the Fall of 2015. Everyone says that when you get married you’ll learn more about your spouse than you ever could when you’re just dating. The people saying that are right.

We loved each other, went through pre-marital counseling, and have an incredibly healthy marriage. But being madly in love doesn’t mean things will be easy, especially when it comes to money. Our plan from the get-go was that I would manage everything related to our finances because I’m one of those weird people who actually enjoys budgeting and tweaking excel spreadsheets. She’s one of the normal people who would rather cuddle and watch a movie.

The first year of our marriage money was a constant source of tension. Honestly, it was almost like we were playing a game of tug of war. This entire time we thought we were saving and being frugal, but we actually weren’t. She wanted to spend, I wanted to save.

Our first year of marriage we saved 7% of our dual income. Today we’re giving 11% and saving around 55-60% of our income all because we made one monumental change that led to hundreds of smaller ones.

What was your freedom dream and what was the inspiration behind it?

I woke up and realized one day that we just weren’t on the same team when it came to money. We had all of these dreams for our life: graduating from seminary debt-free, buying a house, saving for retirement, living comfortably, and giving my wife the option to stay home when we start a family.

I was worried about how we’d ever be able to make any of that happen.

I still remember talking with her one night about all of these things we wanted our life to look like and it hit me… None of this would ever happen unless we got on the same page when it came to spending, saving, and making priorities.

My freedom dream was simple: I wanted us to learn how to handle our finances together as a team.

This dream wasn’t specific or measurable, but it was the gate we had to walk through before we could actually start our journey to living the life we want. I knew that if we could just learn how to handle our finances as a team, then the rest of the pieces would fall into place.

What was the catalyst to pursuing this dream?

At this point I had known for a few months that we were bleeding money. Sure, we weren’t broke and at the time we were debt-free, but month to month we were saving hardly anything. I didn’t realize how much money we were basically throwing away until I was filling out scholarship applications for grad school.

The application required me to put in all of our financial information and a mock budget of our income and expenses. In the budget I overestimated on everything to make us seem as poor as possible and even then the monthly surplus staring back at me on the screen was 5x the amount we were actually saving each month.

I texted my wife and told her that. Neither of us could believe it, but we finally had the motivation to put together a real budget.

Strategy

It’s one thing to have a dream. It’s another to make it a reality. How did you plan to turn your dream into a reality?

Looking back, we honestly didn’t have or follow any kind of 5 step plan to get on the same page with our finances. We took the time to list out some of our dreams in life, both long-term and short-term. Out of that flowed a conversation on what needed to change for us to get there. The first thing we had to do was work together to set up a budget. From there it was simply a matter of making sacrifices and staying disciplined.

We used a combination of excel and Mint to setup and track our monthly budget. Once we had a budget in place, we started finding every way we could to save money and increase our monthly savings.

The 4 things that helped us the most:

  1. Downsizing: We downsized from a 2 bedroom to a 1 bedroom townhome cutting our living expenses by $600/month. This change alone ended up doubling our savings from the previous year.
  2. Monthly Allowance: We also instituted a monthly allowance for each of us that could be spent however we choose! That freed us up from tracking and bickering about each other’s spending. This did take some work getting used to and we had plenty of discussions on what counted as allowance spending and what was part of our budget.
  3. Setting Milestones & Celebrating: My wife is definitely the fun half of our marriage! One thing that has helped us stay on track long-term is celebrating the journey along the way. Celebrating our success is just one way that we stay encouraged and motivated.
  4. Processes: More than just setting a budget and hoping we would stick to it, we came up with some weekly habits that would help us. The biggest one was meal prepping ahead of time. Our biggest weakness is eating out and so having food ready to eat at home was a huge boost for us. We also set-up our accounts so that they would be as automated as possible. It removes us from the equation and it is one less thing we have to remember each month. Our monthly bills, tithe, car payment, rent, retirement savings, and emergency fund are all automated.

From Rich’s Blog: 150 Proven Ways to Save Money

What challenges did you face along the way and how did you push through?

This whole journey has not been without its difficulties. The biggest challenge for us has been fighting lifestyle inflation along the way. Our annual gross income increased more than 50% this year. As we watched friends go on lavish vacations, get new clothes, and buy new cars, we’ve consistently said no. Why? Because those things wouldn’t help us reach our goals.

At the end of the day, we’ve had to decide what is worth it and what isn’t. Through this process our lives have become simpler yet more joyful, they’ve become less and at the same time our lives seem more full.

How did your dream evolve or change as you worked towards your goal?

My freedom dream was that we would find a way to work together as a team to reach our shared financial goals. None of our actual goals in life would have been possible without this and I’m happy to say that we have definitely reached that point!

These days, money is rarely a source of tension for us. We spend a whole lot less time arguing about money and spend a whole lot more time actually enjoying it! We spend a lot less time worrying about the future and now we simply enjoy the present–with the knowledge and comfort that we have a path for our future.

Life Now

What is your life like now? What have you learned or been surprised by since reaching this dream?

Life now is all about executing and finding joy. We no longer have to stress or worry about where we are heading or how we will get there. We know we are on the right path and now it’s all about making the daily choices. We have a financial plan that we are following and now we don’t waste mental energy on tinkering and stressing over the details.

We’re giving 10% to our church, and maxing out both of our 403B’s. Along the way we are slowly chipping away at our car loan and everything extra is going into our future downpayment.

Life is boring. But incredibly satisfying (Tweet this )

We’ve learned the importance of working together as a team and our love for each other has grown. I’d say we’ve also learned that money is just a tool to help us create the life we want. Money isn’t the end-goal for us. Our biggest desires are to be able to give generously to ministries we care about and provide for our family along the way. Learning how to manage our money together was the first step in creating the life we want.

Do you have any regrets or things you would do differently?

Honestly, I don’t have any regrets about this entire process. I’m a strong believer in letting people make mistakes and fail because that’s often what it takes to bring about lasting change. That being said, here are two mistakes I wish we hadn’t made!

  1. Waiting to Give: As a pastor, I strongly believe that we are responsible to give to the church, to missionaries, and to care for the poor, hungry, and needy. Yet, the first year and a half of our marriage we hardly gave a penny away because I was selfishly worried for our own future. One of the greatest changes throughout this whole process has been our ability to give generously to causes and people that we care about.
  2. Budgeting Fail: My first mistake was making a budget for both of us without my wife’s input. The budget I put together completely ignored her priorities, her needs, and it made it seem like I was forcing it on her. Rightfully so, she didn’t “buy-in” and that just created more resentment.

Step two for us, was taking the time to work together on a marriage budget. The budget was much more accurate and it was one we knew we could stick to. These days we use Mint to track our expenses and we absolutely love it!

What would you say to someone who wants to do what you did?

I’d say don’t make it more difficult than it needs to be. Spend time with your significant other and talk about where you want to be 5-10 years from now. The first step is getting aligned by creating shared priorities, dreams, and hopes for the future. Then figure out what it will take to get there and what the biggest obstacles are. The rest is just math and executing the plan you have.

Once you’ve got a plan in place, don’t let money consume your life. Your joy in life will never be found in money. The size of your bank account doesn’t reflect the health of your marriage. Spend time reading, praying, serving or exercising together. Invest in your marriage and find contentment in everyday life.

Another Dream Begins

We never stop dreaming and growing. What’s your next freedom dream?

We’ve reached an interesting point where we’ve never been more content day-to-day, yet we’ve never had more dreams for our future. I’ve already mentioned most of these, but we have one new one.

Supporting Adoption.

Adopting a child is something that has been stirring in our hearts for a couple of months now. We are close to a number of families who have adopted and it is a truly beautiful thing to witness and experience. There are millions of children around the world and in our own country who have no family or parents to care for them. Taking a child, making them one of your own, and raising them is a beautiful picture of the Gospel–one that we hope to someday live out.

However, we don’t take this lightly. We plan to spend a considerable amount of time praying and discerning whether or not adoption is a journey we feel led to. Whether or not we adopt ourselves, we feel a strong leading to support those who do.

This is where our future dream comes into play. We want to support those who are in the adoption process. For those who don’t know, the average cost to adopt is over $35,000. Starting in 2018 we are planning to give financially to support those who are in the adoption process. As our income and ability to save increases, we hope to increase our giving in this area.

We’re working on creating an “Adoption Mission”, but the short answer is that we want our tiny niche in the huge world of personal finance blogging to be all about helping married couples create a path for their financial future. If we ever make money doing that, then we hope to support orphans and adoptive parents.

Thank you to Rich for sharing his story. We love that Rich and his wife were able to come together as a team on their finances. And we definitely agree that money is a tool to help you created the life you want - not the end goal. We wish them the best as they prayerfully consider adoption! We can’t wait to see what the future brings!

Do you have a freedom story you would like to share? We would love to hear from you! Submit your story here!