Why Buy-In is a Must for Money Conversations

So far, we've talked about shared goals and accountability. These are both critical to success when it comes to your financial plans together as a couple. But, perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle is that of Buy-In. Buy-in is always necessary when you are making changes.

Consider this. So far, you've both made goals together. Is it enough to just make the goal? You both want it (probably badly) but if that was enough, wouldn't you already be on your way to achieving that goal? It's because you didn't have buy-in. 

Buy-in takes more than just asking your partner to give up going out to lunch. It takes more than just sacrificing expensive vacations to get to the goal line. The good news is that the other two pieces that we've already talked about (shared goals and accountability) are actually part of the buy-in process.  

So what else gets us to buy-in?  Here are a few things that can help get you both moving in the right direction:

  • Recognizing that each of you has a specific role in the success of your goals. This can instill a deep sense of pride and purpose which encourages buy-in.  One of you may do the planning and the other does the tracking for example.
  • Create incentives. I love a reward system and encourage my clients to set rewards as they achieve certain milestones. It doesn't have to be super expensive or extravagant but if you know that you can go to our favorite restaurant to eat when you pay off that next credit card, you may just be more willing to make the short-term sacrifices to get there.  This also works great with kids too. 
  • Understanding the "Why". At the end of the day, when you know what your big "Why" is for getting out of debt, you are more likely to succeed. Having a big "Why" to remind you along the way can help keep you engaged in your plan together and prevent potential derailments.

Try these things with each other and watch for how much more excited and on-board you each are for working toward your goal of financial freedom. Buy-in can make ALL the difference!


Accountability Can Take Many Forms

Last week, we talked about the importance of shared goals and how to create them. This week, I want to dive into the subject of accountability. Whenever I talk about accountability, I always think about programs like Weight Watchers. The concept of weight loss isn't unique to Weight Watchers. Yes, they have their own "system" but at the end of the day, doesn't it really boil right back down to making healthy choices? The system is what makes it different and the most important part of that system is accountability.
Each week, you go to your weigh in. You know that the meeting leader is going to see how your week went by the numbers on the scale. Those who are successful get a star and perhaps some other 'attaboy' or 'attagirl'.  Those that don't have the greatest week will get encouragement and maybe even some tips on how to make next week better. These are all hallmarks of an accountability system.
We do better when we have someone holding us accountable. The same is true in your relationship. When my husband and I were working on getting out of debt, there was a time when he took my credit card from me and I haven’t used one since. I used to go out to lunch a lot and that was a habit that I couldn't seem to break without that level of serious intervention. He and I had agreed on our shared goals and our commitment to them was firm but without him helping me stay accountable it wouldn't work. Using cash for my lunches out was another way to stay accountable to our goals.
Understand that sometimes accountability takes shape with a simple "check in" and other times it's more extreme (as it was in my case). As a couple, talk to each other about what accountability looks like between the two of you. Agree to how you will each hold the other accountable and what actions you should take when the other partner needs it. 
Having these ideas agreed upon in the future will make for a much smoother accountability partnership between the two of you.


Forget SMART Goals - It's All About Shared Goals

We all know about SMART Goals - and yes, they do work.  I completely recommend them to all my clients. But maybe they need to be called SMARTS goals where the final 'S' stands for Shared.  I'm here to tell you that shared goals are absolutely key when it comes to you and your honey paying off debt and creating a secure financial future.

When we talk about shared goals, I'm not talking about a goal that you share (tell) someone else.  I'm talking about a goal that you both create and are both passionate about.  

What's so special about shared goals you might be asking? Imagine if you and your partner create goals separately. You have a goal to lose 10 lbs by the summer and he wants to learn to be a pastry chef before the annual neighborhood bake sale. It's going to be harder for you to achieve your goal if you support his goal and he won't be at his best in his progress if he's fully supporting yours. You'll both be going in different directions and neither one of you ends up accomplishing what you wanted.

If you create goals together, you can both support each other fully and celebrate that much more when you get there.

If you haven't done shared goals, I recommend that you sit down with your partner and discuss your goals and if they aren't an exact match, work together to see how you can find compromise and make a shared goal together.  Trust me, your end result will be well worth it!


Here's Why You Aren't Making Progress Getting Out of Debt

I see it time and again. Couples sitting in front of me in their first coaching session with me completely dumbfounded why they haven't been able to get out of debt. They've read the books. They've created the budget. They're smart people who just can't seem to get traction.  
The truth is that it's not that you're not smart enough. It's not that you can't get out of debt. What nobody is telling you is that you're missing some key ingredients to success in your plan - 3 key ingredients to be exact.
First of all, let's talk about goals.  No, this is not another post about SMART goals. What most couples are missing are shared goals. These are goals that the two of you create together. When you create these shared goals together, you are so much more likely to get to the finish line together.
Secondly, we have to talk about accountability. As a couple, you need to be each other's accountability partner. You have to promise that even when it's hard, each one has to tow the line for the other. 
Finally, you have to have buy in. Everyone involved needs to have input.  This way they will want to complete the tasks at hand.
If you've read my brand new book, Naked and Unashamed: 10 Money Conversations Every Couple Must have, you're probably chomping at the bit to get started. But, if you AND your partner don't both buy in to achieving a life that is debt free, it will not work effectively.
I promise, if you add these three ingredients in with your other tools, you will start to make progress and you'll see those debt numbers shrink.
Be sure to stop by the blog throughout April (Financial Awareness Month!) as I dive into each of these ingredients in detail so you can really put this information to powerful use in your family.


How to have “The Talk”

Honey…. Um I won’t be getting a raise this year…
Dear… we owe taxes this year…
How are we going to pay for the kids to do all these activities?
I want to go on a vacation, can I book it?
Are we on track for retirement?
We owe too much money on our credit cards.  What do we do?

Have you asked these questions? Do you often wonder if you are on track or if your efforts will make any progress at all?

It can be challenging to figure out how to approach these topics with the one you love let alone actually find the answers that will make a difference.  And how will you change your behaviors so you finally make progress towards your goals?

It takes just a few steps to get the conversation started without the darts flying.  Check out the following ideas that will lead you to clarity and action.

  1. Get clear.  Sometimes we just dive in without regard to the real issue at hand or the outcome you’d like to see.  Make sure you know what you want to accomplish from the conversation and why.  You don’t want to start talking and make no progress because you were unclear to begin with.
  2. Be open.  State your concerns, ideas, or question and just listen.  You want to be attentive, responsive, and open to new ideas that your spouse may bring to the table.  None of us have all the answers.  A new way of doing things may get you where you want to go faster.  
  3. Make a decision.  Determine what you are both willing to do so you see the desired outcome.  Agree upon the sacrifices that you are ready to make and for how long.
  4. Take action.  A talk is a nice starting place for financial change.  You can’t expect the conversation to do all the work though.  Now is the time to do something.  Set up automatic payments or make the call for some additional help.

You may find it difficult to even get your spouse on board at all.  Well, let me do the talking for you.  Let’s discuss these topics without you having to say a word.  I will have the difficult conversations that for years you have been trying to avoid.  I will guide you through how to start the conversation, what to say once you have their attention and the 1 thing that will make a difference quickly given the subject you are discussing.  

Join me this Wednesday evening at 8pm EST.  Tell your honey to join you.  Let’s talk money with your honey!


I'm Excited to Share this First Look

I don’t know about you, but I feel like these first few weeks of 2017 have been a whirlwind!  We have a fresh new calendar with so many possibilities and that is exciting. You’ve probably set goals and are eager to see them accomplished.  And it’s no secret that our nation also has a new president.  Many Americans are uncertain about what his changes will mean to their future.  I encourage you to get involved where you can, but I highly recommend you take control over your personal economy as well.  Now is the time to get your financial house in order so that changes around you don’t get you off track.   

I want you also to take the time to celebrate the things that are going well. Recognizing our successes is one very powerful way we can bring joy and peace to our lives. It's with this thought in mind that I wanted to celebrate something very exciting happening for me. 

As most of you know, I have been working on my first book for the last several months and I am so excited to say that we're actually less than a month away from the launch!! Just last week, I received my first print copy of the book. MY BOOK! (It still feels surreal to even say that!). I wanted to share my excitement with you, the Tailor Made Budgets Community, because without you, this journey would not have happened. So,  please enjoy my silly celebration in the video below and mark your calendars now for February 15th to grab your own copy!


December Doesn't Have to Destroy the Budget

Yep.  It's December. There are gifts to buy. There are parties to attend. And don’t forget the family celebrations.  Everything costs money and your budget might be there staring you in the face wondering how you're going to make it all happen.
Today, I wanted to share 3 simple ways to take some stress off of your budget during this season.
1. Say 'no'. I know. This can be so hard but sometimes you just have to decline an invitation. Saying 'no' can not only protect your budget commitments but it can also protect your energy and your time.
2. Consider homemade, thoughtful and personal ideas for gifting. A batch of homemade cookies, a poem or song written by you, or a handmade craft is thoughtful and appreciated. I’m making homemade breads for friends and neighbors.  Pinterest is a great place for inspiration!
3. Give the gift of time. Time together is valuable and precious. Volunteer for a local charity instead of giving gifts.  Offer to babysit your nieces and nephews.  Watch your neighbor’s dog.  Not only can this be fun for you but your loved ones will be forever grateful.
The holiday season is not all about the amount of money you spend. It's about honoring your family with its traditions and spiritual foundations. Don't allow the frenzy of the calendar derail you from your progress. There are so many ways to bring joy and peace - of which you deserve much!


Aren't You Glad It's Over?

Of course, I'm talking about the election. Finally, we can get back to no more political ads, no more debates, and our Facebook feeds can start to go back to normal. Maybe.  Or at least this is a new normal…
No matter who you voted for, there is an air of uncertainty around us. Changes were going to happen and now that the decision has been made, we all have to wait to see what those changes are going to be and how they'll end up affecting us personally.
Today, though, I want to remind you that no matter what, you don't have to let the emotions associated with the political climate derail you. You are still in control of your personal economic future.
I want you to hold on to your power. Do not be discouraged. Don't let doubt and uncertainty creep in to your ability to take charge of your personal destiny.  
To help you stay in control, I wanted to provide you with some reassurance and ideas that will give you the confidence to continue on and stay on track to success for your financial future.
1. Make sure you have an emergency fund. Things happen. Make your emergency fund a priority so that you can weather the storm. Having this cushion helps you stay in control and have the assurance that you can continue to live your life on your terms. It's amazing what a safety net like an emergency fund can do for easing stress of unexpected situations.
2. Actively look for ways you can improve your financial standing. Where can you make extra income? Do you work a second job? Can you negotiate a raise? Is it time to seek a new job or career that will provide more opportunity?  Are you taking advantage of tax breaks and retirement options available to you? When you're shopping, do you stop and make sure you're getting the best deal. Always be on the lookout for how you can maximize the dollars coming in and minimize the dollars going out.
3. Stay in a mode of action. When we allow emotions to control us, we can often get stuck in confusion, sadness, anger, or frustration. Taking action and moving forward gives us hope. When you make decisions to pay off a debt, the progress you make gives you hope. The pay off gives you reason to celebrate. Your successes encourage you to take more actions for more positive changes. Make sure that you stay in action to perpetuate a positive cycle in your own life. 
Keep these three thoughts in mind and you will maintain the control of your personal financial future. We live in an amazing country with amazing people. As individuals, we have incredible opportunities and it can be difficult to keep sight of that when there's a lot of divisive drama around. If that drama is distracting you, turn off the tv or shut down the social media and circle in to focus on you and your immediate needs. Give yourself the space to take control and shield from the drama. Doing this is probably the best gift you can give yourself today. Trust me - your future self will thank you!


It's Not Even Really About the Stuff


You’ve seen the show “Storage Wars”.  Enterprising resellers look for great finds in storage units that go unclaimed.  This is a big industry.  We buy and keep so much stuff that we can’t fit it all into our home The problem comes when this stuff causes a monthly financial obligation that you don’t want or need to pay anymore.

Frequently, I work with clients who have things in storage. Whether their reasons are lack of space or need for a temporary overflow space, it's interesting to me what we discover when we have a conversation about the storage fees and their budget.

One client I recently worked with has a storage story that was deeper than what it appeared to be on the surface so I thought I would share.

She had more stuff than space. She rented a small storage unit for a reasonable monthly fee. We worked together for a while on her budget and debt reduction and this storage remained a fixture the entire time.  We would talk about how she could have bought all new things for as long as she had paid the monthly fees, she would say "I know… I know" and that would be the end of it.

Since she was making such great progress on every other debt reduction and budgeting strategy, I was baffled by her resistance to get rid of the expense.  So I dug deeper. She finally acknowledged that there was this one photo in the storage that she needed to dig and look for.  It carried many feelings and histories behind it. The person in the photo was treasured and dear to her. For so long she focused on the work needed to get the storage unit cleaned.  That was daunting.  Each budget was a reminder of what she paid for that unit. That was depressing.  And yet the vision she needed to really clean out and get rid of the unit was the treasure located inside.  That picture should have been hanging in her home the entire time.

The point here is that we often hang on to stuff...and pay a price in dollars, time, and lost opportunities or potential positive experiences. Take a look in your own life. What are you holding on to? Why? Do you have buried treasure in a garage, storage unit or some other space? Maybe tackling this issue is just what you need to move closer to a less expensive and more fulfilled debt-free life.


Back to School: The Early Bird Gets the Worm

Can you believe it?  It’s almost time for our kids to get back to school!!  This season can be exciting and yet stressful at the same time for families. It's not only a huge adjustment to a new routine but there are also expenses (sometimes hefty ones!) that come with the onset of a new school year. Just like with the overall concept of budgeting, planning is a key to reducing or even eliminating stress in terms of school time shopping. Here are 5 key strategies for getting an A+ in back-to-school shopping:
Look for early bird deals: Big box stores like Staples or Walmart often have huge back-to-school savings. Look for those penny deals to save big on standard school supplies and stock up.
Take advantage of bulk pricing: You have to really watch bulk pricing to make sure it's a good deal but if it is, don't be afraid to dive in for the big savings. Find a friend or two with kids who need the same supplies and split the package (and the cost) and then you have exactly what you need at a great price. That's a win for everyone.
Stock up year round: There are often deals for school supplies throughout the year as businesses get new stock in or work to get rid of the remnants of the season's wares. Take advantage of their deep discounts to empty their shelves to fill your own at a reduced price. Just be wary not to buy things that will expire or dry out before you have a chance to use them.
Know before you go: Back-to-school clothes shopping can sometimes be the biggest expense but it doesn't have to be. Before you go back-to-school clothes hunting, take a full inventory of what you already have. If your child has 5 pair of jeans that still fit really well and are in good shape, there may not be a need for more. Buy only what you need now - we all know they'll grow later! You also may want to try buying just one special outfit to start the year instead of a whole new wardrobe. This not only saves on the bottom line but it saves you a ton of time since you won't be hunting all over town for a carload of clothes!
Keep last year's list: At least through elementary school (and a good portion of middle school), the school supply list doesn't change much from year to year. Hang on to last year's list and then you'll  have an eye for those items you need to look for savings on throughout the year. Buying a few things each month can make it easier to budget rather than buying them all at once the week before school starts.
Put these strategies in place and you'll be able to get everything you need at a savings and with a lot less stress. This will allow you to enjoy this time of growth for your children and celebrate the milestone that each grade level provides.


Summertime Activities Don’t Have to Melt Your Budget

Summer is here and the kids are out of school. Unfortunately, when you're stressed over finances, this normally cheerful and relaxing time of year can be super stressful. If you're like many in my community, some of these might be playing through your head right now:

  • It's yet another year when we can't afford to go on vacation
  • My kids are driving me nuts but activities are too expensive
  • We've been so good and need to have some fun but the bank account says "no"

If this is you, you're going to love what I have to share. Just because you are in debt, doesn't mean you can't have fun. It just means that you may have to spend a little time doing some research and it may mean that you have to make some compromises. 
Here are some ideas that can heat up your summer fun factor without breaking the bank:
1. Check out sites like Groupon or Living Social for deals. There are all kinds of activities available on these sites. Whether you are looking for a local activity to keep the kids busy or a frugal getaway, this is a great place to start.
2. Check out your local community center or library. These local centers and libraries always have events going on and most of them are FREE! Get your kids involved in a summer reading program and not only do you give them something to do but it keeps their brain engaged too!
3. How about camp? I know - camps can be uber expensive but it might be a great way to get grandparents or other relatives involved. They may be willing to pay a portion or all of camp fees to help out. Sometimes, all you need to do is ask!
4. Let them volunteer. Kids being busy doesn't mean that you have to be paying for it. Check out volunteer opportunities for day camps or vacation bible schools in your area. Your child will be busy and will benefit from the volunteer and leadership experience.
5. Give them some down time. Kids do not have to have something to do every waking minute of the day. It's ok to have them at home without a busy schedule. Use that time to have them work on some projects around the house like organizing your movies or going through the pantry to make sure nothing is expired. This gives them something to do and you get to mark something off that to-do list that never seems to get done.
No matter what you choose, know that you don't have to spend a fortune to have a ton of fun. It just takes a little planning in advance. Figure out what your budget can bear and then work within that framework. Get the whole family involved and get creative. You may be surprised what you all come up with!


Podcast: Pay Now or Pay Later

Recently featured on Kendra Tillman's Podcast, "You Are Stronger Than You Think"

In this podcast we discuss how healthy spending habits can lead to better overall health. This podcast is loaded with tons of tips and strategies to help you reach your money and your fitness goals. In fact Ericka offered so much great insight there's a week 1 and week 2. Week 2 will be up on the blog this Thursday. 

In this episode Ericka shares:

  • How looking for areas of overspending in our budgets helps us free up money for taking better care of our bodies.

  • How preventative maintenance keeps us from “breaking” the budget.

  • The importance of talking with a health care professional(s) to maximum the money we’ve designated for preventative maintenance options (ie. supplements, working out, losing weight).

  • Her #1 strategy for meeting any goal. She even tells a story of how using this strategy had the added benefit of helping a client lose 30 lbs.

  • The connection between mindless spending and mindless eating.

Listen to the podcast HERE


Creating Financial Awareness

April is Financial Awareness Month. This month is really about being aware of "the state of the union" when it comes to your personal finances. To do that, I've got a couple of exercises that I encourage you to try. 

Challenge #1: Just Say NO!

This can be a tough one but it's all about creating good habits. Could you go for a week without spending money? Imagine what would happen for your goals if you just stopped all unnecessary spending for a period of time. As a society, we commonly purchase things on impulse and don't even really stop to think about the impact that has on our overall spending. Most of the time, we end up buying things we don't need or maybe we already have it but just can't find it.  Your challenge is to only use money for bills, necessary groceries and gas for the car. Be sure to write down the money you would have normally spent if you weren't doing this challenge and then take that amount to the bank and put it in savings or towards debt. Once you've done your week, come back and let me know how you feel!

Challenge #2: Use Cash!

It's too easy to just swipe a debit or credit card for purchases that sometimes we don't even remember how to get cash from the bank. Studies show that you will spend 12-18% MORE on your purchases if you use any kind of plastic (even debit cards!). The detachment from "real money" causes us to overspend. For the next 7 days, commit to spending only cash. Figure out what your spending budget is and get exactly that amount from the bank. Then, don't spend more than what you have on hand. If you get more in the store than you have money for, put something back. If you have to say no, check in and see how that feels. This is the beginning to setting some healthy financial boundaries!

These are just 2 challenges to help you create financial awareness. I'll check in with you later in the month to see how you're doing and to give you a couple more challenges to try!


Don't Rely on Luck

If you're like a lot of folks, when it comes to your debt, there are times when you just close your eyes and hope that by some stroke of luck it will get better. Unfortunately, relying on luck is about as effective as looking for a leprechaun and his pot of gold. Instead of luck, rely on a plan.

True financial freedom is achieved through careful planning and follow-through on that plan. Instead of wishing on a four-leaf clover, try these three steps instead:

1. Evaluate your entire financial picture. It can be difficult to look your debt in the eyes but if you're going to get control of it, you have to know what you're dealing with. It is time for a reality check.  As you gather all of the information about your current finances, remind yourself that this is not a judgment but a step towards healing. Mistakes may have been made but that's in the past. Now, it's all about how you move on from here that matters.

2. Create a plan. You have to set a budget, develop a spending plan, and commit to a debt reduction strategy to take control of your finances. Healthy boundaries keep your money safe and your bills paid.  Don’t leave this critical step to chance.  Your financial future is at stake.

3. Stick to the plan (and reward yourself). Just having a budget on paper isn't enough; you have to actually look at it, do what it says and stick to the plan. Make sure you build in some accountability. Whether you work with a coach like me or you have a friend that you can trust, you do not need to go through the process alone. And don't forget, when you hit a milestone (even if it seems like a small one), then you need to reward yourself. Don't go wild with the rewards, a simple treat will often do the trick.  Celebrating is fun and keeps you moving forward.

If you keep these steps in mind, this will get you closer to your own pot of gold!


Start Your Year Right!

Welcome to 2016! Are you excited for a new year?  I know that I am.  A new year gives us each a new chance to start fresh.  You can look at it as an opportunity to have 365 (or 366 in the case of a leap year) new chances to make your life better.

I have really enjoyed taking some time off for the holidays.  I love spending time with my family and it really gives me a chance to re-energize myself for the work I so love to do.  But now it’s time to get back to business.  We all have things that we want to accomplish.  You may call them resolutions or goals or a life to-do list.  Whatever it is, I’m here to make sure that you start right so you can finish right.  Here are my best three tips to starting off your year strong and kicking it into (HIGH) gear!

1.    Write your goals down.  If you didn’t get my free goals sheet at the end of the year, you can click here to download it.  This is a great tool to make sure that you don’t just have goals in your head but that you put some concrete decisions about how to make them happen.
2.    Share your goals with a partner.  If you have a coach, let them know what you are working towards.  If not, share your goals with a friend or mentor – with someone that will support you and cheer for you but also keep you accountable. 
3.    Celebrate your achievements. When you reach milestones, celebrate your progress.  It doesn’t have to be costly or extravagant but do something to say “Good Job” to yourself.  This reward will play an important role in your overall success.

These are my top three ways to kick this year into high gear.  I hope you’ll join me over on Facebook and share your goals for this year or better yet, email me to let me know how I can help support you in achieving them!



Don't Let Life Derail You

Some of you may know my story and say "Wow! I can't believe she and her husband paid off $90,000+ in debt in only 5 years!"  The truth is that we could have done it sooner. We could have done it in less time but life happens. While we were paying off our debt, we had 2 children, we bought 2 cars, my husband lost his job, and we suffered deaths in our family.  Life kept happening. This is the reality and unfortunately, it's a reality that we often forget about.

You see, when you make a plan, whether it be to pay off a load of debt or to lose 50 lbs, you have to create a plan that allows for bumps in the road. Have you ever been on a diet and not strayed (even just a little bit)?  Give me a break!  Everyone has challenging times staying on track.  Debt reduction and budgeting is the same. You can't let something unexpected destroy your planning or your desire to reach the goal. I recently signed up for a half marathon race.  After months of training, eating right, and purchasing the right gear, I showed up on race day ready.  The gun went off, $2200 ladies began running and less than 2 miles in, they stopped us due to thunder, lightning, and rain.  Listen, I was prepared to run. I was even prepared to run in the rain. But the decision of whether the race continued or not wasn't up to me. I had done my part. I had done the things that were in my control (the preparation). That's what you have to remember too.

When it comes to budgeting and getting rid of your debt, you have to take care of what you can control: creating a plan and sticking to it whenever possible; making the sacrifices in favor of your long-term plans, etc. However, when life does throw you a curve ball - your car breaks down, the air conditioner breaks, your kid breaks an arm - don't let that derail you.  Stop, breathe and adjust your plan given the new situation and find a way to keep moving forward. Your planning and preparation won't go to waste - it's just being put on hold for a moment. In fact, think about how much worse it would be if you hadn't been taking good care with your financial health? 

These "life moments" will continue to happen; it's how you respond to them that counts. Trust that your planning will get you through and that tomorrow will be another day to get back on track.  Believe it or not,  I have signed up for another half marathon in a few weeks.  I am not allowing a rainy day to stop me from seeing the finish line.  I trust you won’t allow one to stop you either.  If you need help getting and staying on track email me today.

I will run and not grow weary! – Isaiah 40:31