Today, we want to share our financial journey with you. It’s not been an easy one, but we are grateful for it nonetheless.
Let’s get started!
Finances have been an important topic for us since we started dating.
Infact, financial problems is one of the top reasons why many marriages end in divorce. Therefore we wanted to make sure we were always on the same page when it came to money.
However, like many couples, we had different mindsets about money; from earning to spending to saving and investing.
Marcus comes from a culture and family where living in debt isn’t “normal”. Ash comes from a culture so deeply in debt and was raised to believe it was standard to have credit cards, car loans, student debt, and even loans on furniture.
And with our different views about money, came many conversations and disagreements about it. Eventually, we got to the root of our money views and discovered so much from each other.
Sharing our money views – Ash
Marcus introduced me to a radio show by Dave Ramsey. I admit I thought my husband (then boyfriend) was crazy for thinking someone could pay cash for a house, or even a new car!
Then I listened to the REAL people call in and share the stories of their journey to financial freedom from debt.
So, after we got married we read Dave’s book, The Total Money Makeover, and it was like a paradigm shift for me.
We took action after reading this book, planned and saved for an emergency fund. To be honest, it felt really GOOD having a $1000 emergency fund, instead of a credit card.
Emergency fund to the rescue
The first few years of our marriage were all “Emergency” mode. We had a lot of things go wrong, and unexpected things did happen—frequently. Without that emergency fund we had saved, we would have been in a LOT of trouble.
For example, we were able to get our car fixed when something randomly happened to it.
Literally, the whole first year and a half of our marriage were spent not knowing how we were going to pay the next bill. We lived paycheck to paycheck.
Ash worked two, sometimes three jobs while going to college, and picked up whatever odd jobs she could find because Marcus wasn’t allowed to work. (You’ll see why soon.)
When all the income burden was on Ash, it would make her too stressed to go over the bills and see that we didn’t have enough to pay the electric or rent. So Marcus took over that burden.
Depleting our emergency fund
One month we had only $80 left to spend on food and household needs for the entire month. So, we grabbed a big bag of rice, canned tomatoes, and frozen veggies and eggs. To say things were tight, was an understatement.
Months later, we ended up at the food shelf because we didn’t have enough money for food, and we weren’t sure how we were going to pay our $35 electric bill.
Ashley was able to apply for some relief for herself only as non-citizens can’t get help from the State. But, this small allotment made a huge difference in our life when we felt we were drowning.
A big hurdle to overcome
Marcus came to the US on a Student Visa, so after we got married we applied for him to become a permanent resident. This process was expensive and took almost two years, during which time Marcus wasn’t allowed to work.
He kept the house clean, cooked dinner, and continued his self-development research. He also started buying and selling stuff online with an initial investment of $20 (by saving 5$ over a period of 4 months).
Marcus took the chance, didn’t give up and sit on his butt all day watching sports or playing video games. This helped Ash to not feel like it was all on her shoulders because she could see he was doing everything he could to make her life a little easier.
More importantly, it enabled Ash to see more of Marcus’s character in action; we were a team.
Working together to solve our income dilemma – Ash
I knew it was hard on Marcus feeling like he wasn’t providing for me, feeling like a burden. We had to talk about it.
I can remember telling him that yes, things were going to be hard for a while, but it wasn’t his fault. And eventually, we’d get out of this survival mode and look back on these difficult financial times and be glad we clung to each other rather than tear each other down, or shut each other out.
It’s true, almost a decade later, we look back and are proud of how we handled that time of stress. It also gives us the courage to say, if we survived that, we can do anything together.
How did we make it through this difficult time?
One day at a time, with LOTS of communication, trusting each other, and being patient!
The huge relief that made things better (and a surprise)
After jumping through the hoops of the immigration system, (in need of drastic reform) being told our next court date would be yet another year away, we got a wonderful news a month later that the judge had signed off on our request.
We had an interview set for Marcus’s birthday, so they could make sure our marriage was authentic. About the week before our interview, we got the best surprise of our life.
We found out Ash was pregnant!
It was exciting, and terrifying all at the same time. We didn’t know what we were going to do because Marcus still wasn’t allowed to work.
The day of our interview came and he was approved for a 2-year Green Card, with that came authorization to work.
It still took Marcus two months to find a job, but everything did work out. It wasn’t a job he liked, but it enabled us to rebuild our emergency fund before our baby arrived.
Plus, it took a LOT of the burden off Ash. Marcus worked 2-11 shifts and Ash worked mornings and afternoons, but we made it!
Getting our heads above water
Slowly, our side hustle of buying and selling textbooks online grew and supported us. Ash had to put college on hold and eventually, Marcus was able to attend.
In the years that followed, we added one more daughter to our family, Marcus graduated from college, got a job working for the State of Vermont as an IT Business Analyst and we moved to the city.
It took many more years of hard work and sacrifices before we were able to become fully self-employed in May of 2018. The following year we moved to New Hampshire, which we plan to make our home.
Our financial situation is much better now
Our finances look much different these days, but our system is still very much the same. We have a base house budget, that we stick to unless something extra special is needed. We still have that emergency fund, though we’ve increased the amount.
We meal plan every month and stick to the allotted amount of money. We each have personal “blow” money to spend on whatever we want without consulting with the other.
Marcus pays most of the bills and stays on top of that because that’s his strength. Ash keeps track of the household needs, groceries, and meal plan as that’s her strength. We have monthly and bi-weekly conversations about where our finances are for the month and the next couple of months to come.
In addition, each year we have an Expected Expense Budget that we create and document by November the previous year. This budget includes things like vacations, medical bills, life insurance, subscriptions we have to renew, educational trips for our kids, weddings or events that are upcoming, holiday gifts, birthdays, etc.
By creating our monthly and expected expense budgets, we know how much income we need for every year and plan accordingly.
We are currently working on paying off our student loan debt.
All that sacrifice and refining we did in the early years of our marriage paid off.
More importantly, learning how to communicate effectively with each other (without fighting) and creating a monthly budget together made things a whole lot easier for us during tough times.
Each year gets better as we work together to reach our goals of being debt-free, investing for retirement, starting 529’s for our kids, buying a house, etc.
We dream together. Then, we plan together. And we achieve together.
What’s the biggest financial struggle you’ve experienced with your spouse, and how did you overcome it together?
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