Tuesday, April 03, 2007

"Weird" With Money

Another way we are weird is with money issues. Apparently many couples groan whenever they think of the dreaded budget. But we are quite strange. Before we were married, before anyone ever told us to, we got on the computer and made out a rough budget. We both thought it was kind of fun to get all the spending organized and see how much we'd have to put in savings and pay off my student loan. We find it fun to tweak our budget and see how much more money we can squeeze out of somewhere and put it towards retirement savings or loans. We find it fun to shop around on the internet for the best value car insurance. Are we weird or what? I guess we'll have to get used to being called weird, considering future plans of breastfeeding, cloth diapering, co-sleeping, and homeschooling.

Neither of us have any credit card debt. I remember my mom signed me up for a credit card (or maybe I told her that I needed to start building up credit) in 2003, while I was in my junior year of college. It was a no-frills Visa with a pretty low limit. The strange thing is that I don't ever remember either of my parents telling me not to spend more than I actually had. I don't remember them telling me to pay the balance off every month, although I'm sort of sure they did. Whatever the case, it didn't take much for that fact to stick in my head, and I've always paid down my credit card balance multiple times a month since then. I am extremely grateful that I have only ever had $0.10 of credit card debt (the charge was waived); if we had tons of debt, we would be very hard pressed to live like we do now (one income, wife staying at home).

Some say that NO credit card usage is responsible, but I disagree. We use our Citi Dividend Platinum Select Mastercard for much of our everyday expenses. I believe our cashback rate for gas/groceries/drugstore purchases is still 5% (they haven't sent us notification saying it was going to go down yet). This builds up our credit score, gives us a small amount of cash back, and takes liability off of us in the event that someone sifts a card number (better to be a credit card number than a debit card number). Some say credit scores are unimportant, but many necessities involve looking at credit scores, such as job applications or car insurance. All that aside, if you have problems with overspending, then you should avoid credit cards.

I am extremely grateful to my dad for getting me to start saving for my retirement this young. Back in 2004 he got on my case about starting a Roth IRA. I hear on the radio that many young people are not taking advantage of 401(k) plans and company matches! This does not make sense to me either. While I'm talking about parents, let me say that I am very grateful that they were constantly paying down my student loans while I was in school. In retrospect, going to a Florida school would've saved a lot of money. But I would never have met my wife, and no one would be able to stop me from choosing Georgia Tech again (and again and again), knowing what I know.

Neither of us would've dreamed of going into debt over wedding expenses. But apparently it is not an uncommon thing. This totally makes no sense to me. If neither of our families were willing to help with wedding expenses, then we would've been completely happy just bringing the immediate families into town for a <20 people, <$500 wedding. Paying extravagant interest on an unnecessary 5 figure sum? If it wasn't going to happen without cash, it would not have happened.

I suppose that if we were in dire straits, updating our budget wouldn't be the light-hearted experience that it currently is. Harmony and I are currently offering small amounts of assistance to some friends of our's who are in it way deeper than we are. They are 4 months pregnant with an unplanned "surprise" baby, and have gobs of debt. Comparing the take home pay to what's left after the bills...it doesn't look good right now, but Harmony and I are doing what we can to help. It feels nice to be helping someone, and we do hope that we can help turn their situation around. Perhaps God has blessed us with relatively sound financial minds so that we can help others.

I really hope I haven't sounded too high and lofty in all this. But consumer debt just does not make a flicker of sense to us though.

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