It All Began…
I wasn’t always bad with money, neither was my husband. In fact, during the 6 years post college I had developed an excellent credit score above 800 and the only debt I was carrying was my student loans and a loan on my car. I kept a budget, paid all my bills on time, and even managed to afford my very expensive hobby (and addiction) to showing horses. I wasn’t rich by by any means, but my full time job as a veterinary hospital manager kept me comfortable and just above living paycheck to paycheck. My husband, or boyfriend at the time, wasn’t too far behind me. We had this!
And Then We Didn’t…
After 6 years together, he finally asked me to marry him. Since we spent all six years together dealing with a two hour separation, we were going to have to make some major life changes before we were ready to be husband and wife. In early October 2014 I left my job and moved the two hours to start in a new veterinary hospital. A few weeks later, we settled on our first house, a small 1400 square foot cape cod with four bedrooms that we picked up for just $107,000. The house was in great shape and only needed some interior updating to bring it out of the 1970s. We settled on a plan to split the bills and moved in the weekend after settlement.
We did well for the first few months in the new house. We took our time, used a lot of the furniture and kitchen stuff that I still had from my apartment, and purchased what we didnt have from second hand stores. Our families also gave us some things, like a lawn mower, that helped us not have to make any major purchases for the first few months we were there.
First mistake that I made was to not update my budget after taking on more responsibility. I mean, how much could electric, water, and TV/internet possibly put a dent in my monthly income? Apparently, a LOT. Mistake number two, we jumped into an unbudgeted home improvement project. Our master bedroom is upstairs in our house and for now we were (and still are at this point) living in a spare bedroom on our first floor. We had decided that we would renovate the master with a goal of moving into it for the first time on our wedding night. My husband is handy so we were going to do most of the work ourselves to save money. While we briefly discussed about how much we thought it would cost, we never factored in the tools and equipment we would have to purchase (and or rent) to get the job done. Here come the credit cards to the rescue.
Here Comes the Wedding Expenses…
Weddings are expensive, even weddings done on a budget, which is what I thought I was doing. We knew that neither of us had families that could help with expenses for this special day and that we would have to pay for it ourselves. We came up with a plan to find a cheap venue and decorate ourselves. We would put the entire cost of the wedding on one credit card and then pay it off from any gifts we received. It seemed like a sound plan at the time. We did find a super affordable venue, and I ( with some help from my then fiancé) did do all the decorations, flowers, favors, etc on my own. What we didn’t do was factor in other details besides just the venue, we didn’t adjust plans along the way, and we ended up spending almost triple of what we received in gifts. I can do a more detailed post on wedding budget mistakes later, I have quite the list.
Getting Back On Track…
While most newly married couples are still in wedding bliss the week after their weddings, I found myself in tears as I realized just how much trouble we were in. Worse, I couldn’t find a budget that worked while still allowing us to pay our bills on time. For the first time in my life I was panicking and my poor new husband couldn’t do much more than give me a hug and tell me that we would figure it out.
Two hours after my major mental breakdown I was researching various ways to get us back on track. Lists were made, websites bookmarked, and this blog was born to track my efforts. My goal is to try every avenue available to get out of debt and on our way to being able to start a family. First, I needed to make sure I knew the mistakes made. Hence I give you the top ten mistakes we made when starting our life together:
- We didn’t make a formal budget. Even if we were separating expenses, we each should of had an individual budget that we could stick to.
- We took on too many projects at once. As exciting as it was to own a house and start planning a wedding, it would have been much smarter to handle one at a time.
- We didn’t plan our renovation appropriately. It was great that we could do it ourselves, but we never factored in purchasing equipment in addition to supplies.
- We developed a habit of thinking we could pay back the credit cards after we settled in. Like many people, we let our balances get higher than we could reasonably pay back quickly. Again, this is where a formal budget would have helped us.
- We paid full price for everything. In this day and age where bargains and coupons are the norm, we should have taken advantage.
- We took our utilities at face value. Had we researched our oil bill a little better, we may have been able to fix the heat pump problem and saved over $800 during our first winter in the house.
- We fell into the tv and Internet “deals”. Sure, free DVR and premium channels for a year sounds great, as does super high speed internet. However, those companies count on folks like us not making changes when the price magically jumps after the first year. Our mistake was thinking we couldn’t do anything about it if we wanted to keep our service.
- We broke our wedding budget. This can be so easy to do, even after reading all the blogs that preached not to let this happen. It was a beautiful wedding and I don’t regret a thing, other than the price tag.
- We over anticipated gifts and pay. Between what we “thought” we would get in wedding gifts, what I “thought” my work bonus was going to be, and the jobs that my husband “thought” he might be getting, we did an awful lot of guessing. Instead, we should have based our anticipation on what we knew.
- We tried to live just like we did before we moved into together. While there are some things that shouldn’t change, your finances are not one of them.