Spend With Confidence

I was talking with a potential Money for Life Coaching Client the other day and he asked me to “sell him” on the program.  I am not really into selling people on the idea of coaching. I firmly believe that people have to be dedicated to taking the steps necessary to create financial success and stability before they will be successful at improving their financial situation.  If someone is dedicated, motivated, and willing to really stick with it, they will be successful at improving their financial position, especially with the help of Mvelopes Personal and a Money for Life Coach.

A few months ago, I worked with one such client who was dedicated to improving her financial position.  Before signing up for Money for Life Coaching, she had been working very hard to eliminate her consumer debt, but was still struggling with making ends meet.  She just didn’t really know where the money was going, or how to take control of the situation.

We worked together through several sessions to create her customized spending plan, based on her income and her spending needs.  Once she really started focusing on where she wanted the money to go, she was able to eliminate some hidden spending, focus on eliminating the remaining debt, and start saving for periodic expenses.   She was very excited at the idea of saving for her next vacation before she actually went on it.  She was also in need of some new clothes and it was a new concept to set money aside for them before making the purchases.

I spoke with this client a recently, just to check in and she was very excited about the progress that she had made!  She said that the biggest difference for her was feeling confident in making the purchases that she needed to and in paying her bills.  She knew that the money was set aside for that specific purpose so she was able to spend with confidence, rather than worrying constantly about whether she could afford things.  This was a huge change for her and I was thrilled to hear that she was doing so well.

Being able to spend with confidence is a great position to be in!

-Jennifer, Money for Life Coach

“Mvelopes will help you reach your financial goals!”

Kristen and her family

Kristen and her family

Kristen, from Sandy, Utah, recently wrote to us about the financial success she’s been having since she discovered and started using Mvelopes.  Kristen wrote:

“I began using Mvelopes in October 2008. It has simplified our family’s finances tremendously–eliminating all of the usual stress associated with budgeting and bill-paying. While both my husband and I work full-time, approximately 75% of my husband’s income is earned by commission. This means that his income varies from month-to-month, making any kind of budgeting very difficult! When periodic or unexpected expenses came up, I felt like all I could do was hope the next commission check was a big one. Likewise, some months I was able to pay off our credit cards in full, but not every month, and I didn’t like that feeling. With Mvelopes, I am able to “pay ahead” into our envelopes when I can, and prioritize envelope funding when money is tight. We are saving for periodic expenses throughout the year, paying our credit cards in full each month, and have a six-month cushion in the bank. We’ve been prepared for unexpected bills, pay cash for large purchases, and are on a fast-track to paying off our mortgage early. I view our envelope balances nearly every day, which really helps to keep impulse-spending in check. Most importantly, we are in control of our money instead of our money controlling us. Mvelopes is a terrific, easy-to-use tool for reaching our financial goals and providing peace of mind in the process.”

We were so impressed with Kristen’s success story, and we wanted to learn more.  I telephoned her to get a few more specifics.  During our conversation, Kristen answered the following questions:

Q:  How long have you been using Mvelopes?

A:  About nine months.

Q:  How has Mvelopes assisted you in living within your income?

A:  In three big ways, actually.  The first is that because I log into Mvelopes nearly every day, I have a constant visual reminder of how much I have available in any given category, and that has really helped to curb impulse spending.  The second thing is that because we’re saving for periodic expenses, such as home repairs, insurance, and vacations, we’re no longer surprised by these expenses.  For years, I’ve wanted to allocate and track my money this way, but I just didn’t have a practical way of doing it, until I found Mvelopes.  Finally, the third way that Mvelopes has assisted us in living within our income has a lot to do with one of my favorite features.  When I use my credit card for a purchase and allocate that purchase to an envelope, the program automatically sets that money aside so that I can pay our credit cards in full each month.  I never have to worry about carrying a credit card balance.

Q:  How much consumer debt have you been able to eliminate during that time?

A: Aside from our mortgage, we have no consumer debt.

Q:  How much have you been able to save while using Mvelopes?

A: We already had an emergency cushion in place when we began using Mvelopes, so we’ve been focused on paying down our mortgage.  In the last nine months, we’ve been able to make a substantial dent in our mortgage balance–more than my entire annual salary!  So, we’ve basically been able to live off of one income without any noticeable difference in our lifestyle, which has been awesome.

Q:  How much has your average checking account balance increased while using Mvelopes?

A: It has increased by $3,000 to $4,000.  We have a lot of periodic expenses that we’re saving for and that really helps the balance grow.

Q:  What financial goals have you achieved while using Mvelopes?

A: We have been able to stay out of debt and we’re making good progress toward paying off our mortgage.

Q:  What are your next financial goals?

A: After we have paid off the house, we plan to save money to replace our cars in a few years, and we will put aside funds for our daughter’s college tuition.  That should keep us busy for awhile (chuckles).

Q:  How many envelopes have you created?

A: Forty-four.

Q:  How has Mvelopes helped to reduce financial stress?

A: This one has been huge.  Because my husband earns over 75% of his income through commission, our monthly income is very irregular.  With Mvelopes, I’m able to fund ahead when we have extra money, or fund only the essential envelopes when money is tight.  Combined with saving for those periodic expenses, as I mentioned earlier, there’s always money to pay the bills.  I know that some people may be hesitant about paying for a money management program, but for me, you really can’t put a price tag on the peace of mind it provides.

Q:  If married, how has Mvelopes helped you better collaborate with your spouse?

A: I handle the day-to-day management of our family’s finances, and thanks to Mvelopes, I always know where we stand.  I’m able to easily communicate that information to my husband when we’re discussing our finances.  It has also allowed us to spend money that we have in our funded envelopes–without any guilt.  And that eliminates a lot of the tension usually associated with discussing finances.

Q:  What advice would you give to new Mvelopes users?

A: The best advice I could give would be to have patience.  It does take some time to initially set up accounts, decide which envelopes will be needed, and begin funding them.  However, once that’s done, the maintenance is very quick and easy.  Plus, it’s fun to watch the envelopes grow over time!  And it happens faster than you think it will.

Q:  If you could create a “tag line” for Mvelopes–keeping in mind what it’s done for you–what would the tag line be?

A: Mvelopes will help you reach your financial goals sooner–and with peace of mind.

Kristen, thank you so much for speaking with me.  Your success story is truly amazing and I know it will give hope and encouragement to anyone who has difficulty budgeting because of a variable income, based on commissions, etc.  You are living proof that it’s possible to budget and live within an income, whether or not that income is consistent.  Congratulations on the phenomenal progress you’re making in paying off your mortgage and staying out of debt.  We wish you and your wonderful family continued financial success and much happiness!

“Since participating in the coaching program, I have a completely different perspective!”

Charlie

Charlie

Charlie (from New Jersey) and I recently discussed his coaching experience. I found our discussion to be extremely enlightening, for many reasons. As we spoke, Charlie’s interest in and enthusiasm for our coaching program–along with his appreciation for Mvelopes, generally–became very clear. If you’d like to know more about why coaching might just be the missing link for you, please continue reading.

Q: How many coaching Sessions did you complete?

A: Ten.

Q: What coaching session(s) did you find most valuable?

A: The first five were extremely valuable–actually, probably the first three were the most valuable. I was an Mvelopes customer for a few years and I never (or seldom) used the platform, although I was paying for it. I had every intention of using it, but didn’t. Once I participated in the coaching program, I gained the knowledge and got the jumpstart I needed to begin using the program.

Q: How has the coaching program helped you take control of your money?

A: In our society today, personal finances are just not taught in the school systems or elsewhere. Sure, we may be taught how to open an account or even write checks, but we are not taught how to manage our finances. Today’s world is so complicated with all the various spending avenues that are available. Many of us have multiple bank accounts, multiple credit and/or debit cards, and so many options for spending. The coaching program brings the complexity of all of that to the surface. Tracking spending in today’s world can be incredibly complicated. I had no idea the avenues of spending that were there until it was all brought together into one platform.

Q: How has the coaching program helped you reduce consumer debt?

A: I was never really large on consumer debt. I never liked to be in debt to begin with. But what I believe was being driven home in the coaching, which was very valuable, is to use a credit card as a tool rather than a crutch. It’s a tool to help you channel your spending into a single avenue and that concept is pretty good.

Q: How has the coaching program helped you reduce your stress related to money?

A: This is big because I personally have always had stress related to money, kind of to the point where I would be so stressed out that I would tend to want to ignore my financial situation and not even look at it. Even though I would always meet my monthly obligations and never had bill collectors calling, there was always stress related to living from paycheck to paycheck. Once you understand your situation and get control, the stress level reduces tremendously. During the 2-month period I was participating in coaching, I was notified that there would be layoffs at my company and my job was going to be affected. However, I knew exactly where I stood, how unemployment was going to affect me, I knew what my target date would be for getting a new job, and so forth. Lori (my coach) and I identified spending areas where I was over my monthly budget. In fact, I was spending substantially over my monthly income. I was using my savings account to subsidize my spending. By the end of the coaching, I was able to reduce my spending approximately $1,000 a month–$12,000 a year. I was spending too much eating out, too much making daily trips to Starbucks, etc. Those were easy changes for me to make. There were some changes that weren’t that easy. For example, I had been paying for a storage unit that was costing me $200 a month. I decided to cancel that and moved the items from the storage unit into my garage. I also modified my cell phone plan and got one that better fit my needs and my budget. I looked at everything from a spend perspective and cut back everywhere I could. When the layoff came, I was in a much better position than I would’ve been otherwise. We re-prioritized my spending, which was great. I am able to give charitable donations (something that is very important to me) and I’m also supporting and participating in a missionary group.

Q: How much has your budgeting and money management knowledge increased since you started the coaching program?

A: Believe it or not, I am a chief technology officer for a company. I just reduced my company’s annual spend by half a million dollars. I do this for a living and I do it really, really well–for companies. But applying these principles to myself has been a challenge (chuckles). The knowledge, in general, was there, but the method that I learned through the coaching wasn’t there. In a corporate world, spending is a lot easier because everything is done by a purchase order and a check. You have a finance department that’s consistently doing reconciliations, there are safeguards, and your focus is on optimization. That’s different than trying to track your spending on multiple spending accounts, so I learned a lot about that.

Q: How much has the knowledge of the envelope method helped you manage your money?

A: Well, let me put it this way. If Mvelopes, as a technology, didn’t exist, I would probably be trying to figure out a way to do it with paper envelopes. I think it’s extremely effective.

Q: How have your attitudes about budgeting and money management changed since you started the coaching program?

A: I no longer avoid my financial situation. I am no longer fearful of it. It’s something that is just becoming a part of my life. I check in regularly. I’m not checking my account every single day, but I am getting into a habit of going in and assigning my transactions and seeing where I am.

Q: How has coaching helped you gain a clear overall picture of your spending?

A: Here’s what coaching did for me. When you’re feeding ducks at the lake, you can feed them small pieces of bread, one piece at a time, or you can throw an entire loaf of bread at them. Before participating in the coaching program, when I’d attempt to manage my financial situation myself, it felt to me like the entire loaf of bread was being thrown at me. Coaching was the other scenario–it was one piece at a time. It was like someone was holding my hand through every step of the way. Having someone else’s perspective was so helpful. My coach would say things like, “I see you’re over your spending in this area. What was that expense for?” And I’d say, “I don’t even know.” I had to figure out where and why I was spending money–sometimes frivolously. My coach and I identified categories that we were able to split up into more meaningful subcategories. Also, I was able to identify and correct a few incidents where I was being overcharged. For example, on a recent hotel bill, I discovered that I’d been overcharged in the amount of $190. Sadly, that would have completely gone unnoticed had I not been participating in the coaching. I was able to catch this error and have it reversed. And that wasn’t the only item we found–we found a few others, too. It makes me really wonder how often I might’ve been overcharged in the past and, because I simply wasn’t paying attention, lost money.

Q: How has your Mvelopes usage changed since starting the coaching program?

A: I went from not using the program at all, to using it every single day, sometimes twice a day, to now routinely using it as a part of my life on a once-a-week basis (or sometimes a few times a week).

Q: What advice would you give to new Money for Life Coaching participants?

A: I have an autoimmune disease and it’s a horrible disease. It’s almost debilitating. It seems to be, in my case, triggered by stress. Finances have always been a stressor in my life. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of having your finances in control. You’re simply not going to do it in this day and age without some sort of system and with discipline. If we were a society who used only cash, it would be relatively easy, but it’s so difficult to keep track of it all. We have so many automatic charges that come out of our accounts (i.e., mortgage payments, daycare, school, and numerous other transactions) on a monthly basis. My utility bills are auto-charged, my internet, television and phone are automatic. I don’t know how people would track it all without a system. If you want to go from deficit spending to a surplus, you need a system. You may know where you want to go, but you’re not going to get there without a system. Stick with the coaching until you get comfortable. Personally, I think Mvelopes should somehow mandate the first five sessions. It would make such a difference! The cost is very inexpensive for this service, particularly if you bundle. I’m a highly technical person, I’m a computer programmer, and I get it, but I just needed to get over a hump so that I could feel comfortable using the program. I know there isn’t anything better out there. Folks like me–well, I’m so incredibly busy. I have meetings after meetings and I feel I just don’t have (or make) time to go to the dentist or the doctor or do budgeting. Budgeting is now on my calendar and I make time for it. When I scheduled an appointment with my coach and made had a commitment to my coach, I made it happen. I need help to stay motivated. I have questions. I want to have someone like Lori to help keep me on track.

After Charlie answered the questions relating to his coaching experience, I asked him the following general questions.

Q: How long have you been using Mvelopes?

A: For five to six years, but only started really using it during the past few months.

Q: How has Mvelopes assisted you in living within your income?

A: It has identified areas of waste.

Q: How much consumer debt have you been able to eliminate during that time?

A: That’s not applicable to my situation.

Q: How much have you been able to save while using Mvelopes?

A: I am still in deficit spending mode, but I do have clear objectives and goals. As part of my spending objectives, I have a whole life insurance policy, so there’s a kind of forced savings within my plan. Having certain amounts go to an emergency fund or the next month’s pre-funding is something I’m still working on and I hope to get to that very soon. But I’m pleased to say it is under control and I understand exactly where I am, exactly where I’m spending, and exactly what’s in the pipeline. I no longer worry about where I stand with regard to my finances.

Q: How much has your average checking account balance increased while using Mvelopes?

A: For a very long time, I have been in deficit spending and funds from my savings account have frequently been used to subsidize my overspending. As an example, I would overspend $500, but would know that I’d likely get a large tax refund, so I wouldn’t really worry about it. So I haven’t really kept track of whether or not my checking account balance has increased. A better measurement for me would be how much I’m not tapping into my spending or how much waste I’ve eliminated. A better question and gauge for me might have been “How much have you reduced your expenses since you started using Mvelopes?” My answer to that would be, “At least $1,000 a month.”

Q: What financial goals have you achieved while using Mvelopes?

A: I would honestly have to say that we have been in repair mode for the last two months just trying to figure out where we are financially. This is the first month that the system has actually been in place and working well. I have goals and am close to being able to work on them now.

Q: What are your next financial goals?

A: Pre-funding for a month, creating or building a 90-day emergency fund, and then a big challenge will be to get rid of my car payment. And I believe these are all attainable goals. They will take time. But just imagine what that’ll do to my stress level. Management of health care should also be built into my system.

Q: If married, how has Mvelopes helped you better collaborate with your spouse?

A: We have just basically set boundaries and we understand where the boundaries are. We haven’t had that before. It’s very nice to be able to have a conversation where my wife or I might ask, “Can I go out and buy this or that item?” And the answer often is, “It’s in the budget so, yes, absolutely.” It becomes a very quick conversation.

Q: What advice would you give to new Mvelopes users?

A: I would definitely recommend an investment in whatever time, energy and effort is needed to get it working. The fruits of the labor will pay off. My coaching took two months, but I have a completely different perspective now. If you can get beyond a 60-day challenge, you’ll understand the value.

Charlie, thank you so much for taking time to share your success story. It was a privilege to be able to speak with you. During our discussion, you were so open and shared some amazing insights. I am certain that I’m not the only one who will benefit from your experience. We wish you continue financial success and much happiness.

Creating an effective spending plan with variable income

money2

I have several Money for Life Coaching clients that are independent contractors. This often means that their income is variable and can often be inconsistent as well. Despite the common misconceptions, you can still build an effective spending plan even with variable income, and you can also plan ahead for the months where you may not have income coming in.

The key to building an effective spending plan is planning ahead for the months where there may be breaks in income, or lower income. Included in your spending plan should be an allocation to an envelope where you are setting aside a portion of your monthly income for future use. You can combine this with your emergency fund (which should have a funding goal equal to at least 90-day expenses), or you can separate it into an income holding envelope – whichever works best for you.

You will also want to ensure that you are funding your periodic envelopes every month as well, so that you have money set aside for those spending needs before any expenses are incurred. This will put you in a better position to handle auto repairs, home maintenance, vacations, etc. regardless of your income level at the time the money is needed.

Managing your money before you spend it and planning ahead for future expenses are really the keys to making the envelope budgeting system work for you. Planning ahead for changes in income is also critical to having an effective spending plan that will help you to build wealth and improve your financial position.

Month-End Reconciliation

calendarAs a Money for Life Coach I often get asked about what needs to be done at the end of each month before starting the next one.  There really isn’t anything that needs to be done before moving into the next month.  The only thing you may want to do at the end of the month is sweep some money into savings.  If there are balances left in your monthly discretionary envelopes at the end of the month, this is a great opportunity to sweep those funds into savings. One of the key principles to building wealth using an envelope system is that anything left over at the end of the month is savings.

If you are funding 30-days in advance, you would obviously want to fund your envelopes on the first of the month.  If you are funding paycheck by paycheck, than you will often go into a new month before funding your envelopes again, depending on your pay schedule.

Over the course of a few months, you should be able to fine-tune your spending plan so that each envelope is being funded with the proper amount for your monthly and periodic spending. Your periodic envelopes will carry a balance from month to month so that you can build up the funds needed for your periodic expenses (i.e. auto repairs, home maintenance, annual tax payments, vacation, etc.). Your monthly required envelopes should have the same amount funded into them as your monthly bill amount. For most envelopes of this type you will zero out the envelope with one transaction each month – i.e. if you fund the mortgage envelope with the exact amount of your payment, when you assign the payment transaction to the mortgage envelope the new balance will be zero.

The exception to this may be your utilities envelopes if your payments are variable. Usually the best way to handle this is to look over your bills from the last 12 months and come up with an average bill amount.  Fund the envelopes each month with that average amount.  You will then carry a small balance over from month to month so that the funds are on hand during the months when your bills are higher.

– Jennifer, Money for Life Coach

“Mvelopes–Creating Financially Happy Homes!”

Lori and Sheldon

Lori and Sheldon

Recently, I had a delightful conversation with Lori.  She lives with her husband, Sheldon, in California.  During our conversation, I learned many wonderful things about Lori.  Portions of our conversation follow.

Q:  How long have you been using Mvelopes?

A:  A little over a year.

Q:  How has Mvelopes assisted you in living within your income?

A:  Yesterday was our 2-year wedding anniversary.  We were both single for quite awhile and we were very used to doing our own thing, especially when it came to managing our finances.  When we got married, we consolidated our accounts and had to quickly learn that there was now someone else who had the potential to spend the money in the account.  This was a big adjustment for both of us.  We sat down and discussed our priorities and our goals.  Mvelopes has really been a big help.  Because Mvelopes is online, we are each able to access our account and see where we are with our finances, and that helps keep us on track.

Q:  How much consumer debt have you been able to eliminate during that time?

A: We haven’t eliminated debt as much as we’ve been able to see everything in one big picture and allocate funds where they need to go.  We have been able to consolidate our debt, however, and we now take that payment right off the top.  It has been helpful.

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“Mvelopes helps me manage my money the way I want to manage it!”

Jason

Jason

I recently had the privilege of speaking with Jason (from Highland, Utah).  Jason discovered Mvelopes a few months ago and it was clear from speaking with him that Mvelopes has already had a very positive impact.  Portions of our discussion follow.

Q:  How long have you been using Mvelopes?

A:  I’ve been using Mvelopes for about four months now.

Q:  How has Mvelopes assisted you in living within your income?

A:  It has been great.  It is how I’ve always tried to budget-keeping expenses in separate columns in my check register.  Now I can simply look at my envelope balance and make decisions based on that.

Q:  How much consumer debt have you been able to eliminate during that time?

A: I don’t currently have credit card debt, but I do have a car loan.  Since using Mvelopes, I have been able to add $100 extra to my car payment each month and that’s making a big difference.

Q:  How much have you been able to save while using Mvelopes?

A: I have been working on building an emergency fund and also saving money for school.  So far, I have $500 in the emergency fund and I’ve got $300-$400 saved for school.

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