Back in 2005, Steve from My Family on a Budget and his wife were engaged. Like many couples do, they attended bridal expos for wedding ideas. Steve says his wife busied herself filling out information cards at the many bridal booths.
After a week went by, a company called them saying they “won” a giveaway: A free vacation to an all-inclusive resort in Cancun, Mexico. Steve says, “All we had to do was sit through a presentation.”
Steve and his wife were in their early 20s at the time, and they felt excited about the opportunity. But he remembers telling his wife as he parked the car: “No matter what, we aren’t buying what they are selling. We are just here to get the free vacation and then we’re outta here.”
They were living paycheck to paycheck and couldn’t afford any additional expenses. Until the presentation began. He remembers that “the presenter did a great job presenting the Royal Prestige dish sets with pots and pans. He made the dishes and cookware look amazing and easy to use and clean.”
In about 10 minutes, the presenter had “hooked” Steve on the product.
One problem remained, though. The dishes cost $3,000.
But the presenter saved the day. He told Steve about financing! For only $75 a month, he and his fiancée would own the dishes.
“I didn’t really have any experience with finances at the time,” says Steve. “I was thinking about affording the monthly payments rather than total cost.” He also didn’t think about the interest rate, which ended up being a whopping 24 percent. It took Steve nearly two years to pay off those dishes.
After that situation, followed by a few more money mistakes — such as financing a large-screen TV, which ended up costing him $1,500 after financing it for 15 months — he realized changes must be made.
In 2009, Steve and his wife swapped their impulsive buying habits for a budget. “When we started doing the monthly budget and we realized we were spending more than we were making, I started exploring different resources to help us out,” says Steve. “The first resource that I found was Howard Dayton’s Your Money Map.”
Steve and his wife also drastically cut their expenses. “We cut our food expenses from over $800/month to around $400,” remembers Steve. “We stopped taking vacations and started putting money towards paying off our debt. That saved us roughly $2,000-$3,000 a year. We also cut our cable and phone services.”
Steve credits his wife with helping during this arduous, yet inspiring process. “My wife and I communicated throughout the process and made decisions together,” says Steve. “As we started getting rid of debts, we snowballed them. This was very motivational for us as it helped us get the financial wins that we wanted.”
In April 2015, Steve started his blog. He wanted to show that “a family making a normal wage could dig themselves out of debt” and change their spending tendencies. He also maintains the blog for accountability reasons.
“By sharing my numbers and goals with my readers, I have to stay on top of my personal finances — it forces me to stay alert and keep on track.”
Educating people on financial literacy also motivates Steve. “This has been more about creating a journal of sorts and helping to spread the word about financial literacy,” says Steve. “I wanted to start having more discussions about money with others.”
As for sharing his insights, Steve offered some valuable advice:
- Focus on one financial goal at a time. Don’t do retirement, savings, and paying off debt all at once. Get free of the debt, build up savings, and then start retirement.
- Make sure that you and your spouse are on the same page. There is no way to get through your finances successfully if you are working against one another.
Oh, and by the way, Steve and his wife still own the dish set — and use them every day.