Thursday, February 17, 2011


I had a request this morning to write a blog about our budgeting process.

I have been wanting to write a blog about this for a while, because this is a pretty major part of my life right now, and is something that Dave and I are really focusing on.  That being said, we haven't really been doing this very long, and so I am worried that if I write this and then majorly screw up, you will all make fun of me.  But I think it is an important topic, so I am going to talk about it anyways.

There are three major components to our money situation, they are:
1) Banks
2) Jars
3) Debt Repayment

This post will revolve around these.  If you are interested in only one area, you can just check out that section - because I know this will be long!


Individually, Dave and I have both had individual accounts with the Bank of Montreal for the majority of our lives.  I first got mine before we took our trip across Canada as a family, which was the summer between grade 4 and 5 for me.  So, I have had mine for a long time.  I am not exactly sure when Dave had gotten his, but he has also had his for a long time.

And individually we had never reached our cap on transaction limits, and being students, we never had to pay fees to have our accounts, so we had had pretty positive relationship with them.

When we got married, we chose to each keep our own individual chequing and savings account, and get a joint chequing and savings account.  We functioned primarily from the joint chequing account.

Which worked great until October or November of last year when we got charged about $40 because we had used too many transactions.  So, of course - we were upset and Dave called BMO, and asked them to take the fee away, or reduce it or whatever, and they refused to.  And then Dave said that we would take our business elsewhere - and they told him to go ahead and do that.

Needless to say, we were not impressed, so started looking for somewhere to move our money where we wouldn't have to pay fees and would get more than a 0.00003 (or something like that) interest rate.

Well, soon after we discovered ING.  I have always enjoyed their commercials, and found out that my sister and brother-in-law had an ING account and so asked them about it, and my brother-in-law told me how much he liked it.  We were pretty cash poor at the time, and didn't have the money to open an account and make it worthwhile (if you put $100 in, they will give you $25 extra! yippee!), so we didn't end up opening one until last month. 

I am really enjoying ING so far.  There are no brick and mortar banks in the area (they have 'cafes' in some larger cities), but there is 24/7 phone access, and you can chat with them online or email them.  We set up our savings account, and have since opened a chequing account.  We are waiting on our bank cards, but are pretty excited to get them soon.  You can use the bank cards for free at any ATM within their network, which is actually quite a few!

This has been a major switch for us.  ING has no fees, and although our savings doesn't have very much interest, it is 1.5% which is a lot more than at BMO.  Once we open other accounts with them, we will be earning a lot more interest as well.


We use jars to budget our money.  You see, we tried to just use our debit cards and track that way.  But it is a lot easier to pull your wallet out and swipe than drive home, grab the money from the jar, and go back out.  You only do it if you really need it.  That helps.  It also helps us save money.

We have a jar for every single thing in our budget.  Now, some are grouped.  Our jars are as follows:
  • Fuel
  • Auto Maintenance
  • Entertainment
  • Gifts
  • House & Personal
  • Food & Dining
  • Pharmacy
  • Rent
  • Health Insurance
  • Auto Insurance
  • Home Insurance
  • Sponsor Child
  • Weight Watchers
  • YMCA
  • Phone
  • Credit Card Payment
  • Tuition Payment
  • Savings (for our emergency fund)
Literally when we get paid, we then take most of the money out of our account in bills and coin and distribute it in the appropriate jars.  Although many people only use this system for their variable accounts, I find using it for all of our accounts makes it so that we never take money that should be used for something else (or if we do it makes us feel bad and we record it).  But it means that almost all of my bedroom shelves are filled with jars.  If we have automatic withdrawal on something we put the money in the appropriate account the day before.  
Don't worry - I have never had a line like this at the bank - but mostly I send Dave anyways.

You need to understand that this system means a lot of trips to the bank, but that I hear that it works really well, and I hope it continues to work for us.

I am scared to death of debt.  I was reading an article today that said that the average Canadian family carries $100,000 of debt.  I feel like debt is very limiting to people.  It makes us slaves to our creditors.  I believe that God frequently addresses the issues with debt in the Bible, and I honestly think that he speaks out against it.  And even if you don't believe in God, I believe that as long as we are in debt, we are working to get ourselves out of it, which really means we aren't working by our own freewill.  So, if you want to be free - don't be in debt.  

I understand that living without debt is hard in today's society.  But I believe it has to happen.

I also understand that Dave and I are lucky - neither of us have student loan debt.  So the debt that we carry right now is not very high.  But it is crucial to me that we pay it off.

I bought Dave Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover book for his birthday.  He hasn't read it yet, because if you don't know yet - my husband is a pretty slow reader and so he is still working through Paris 1919.  If you are a history buff like my husband, you might like it.  I wouldn't know.  I wouldn't touch those kind of books with a 50 foot pole.  Gross.  I like fiction books like the ones written by Jodi Piccoult and John Grisham,
If you're crazy and want to know what this book looks like in order to buy it - here it is.
But anyways, since Dave hasn't read the Total Money Makeover yet, I decided that I should.  So I am in the middle of reading it.  I like Dave Ramsey's ideas though.  If you are concerned about your financial future, pick up the book and read it. Even if you don't plan on making changes, he is great at showing you what the reality will be (like if you have a $110,000 mortgage at 7%, it will cost you $280,000 if you choose a 30 year payment plan, and only about $190,000 over a 15 year plan - all for only an extra $250 a month).  He has a lot of insight and a great plan.  He walks you through baby steps (don't be confused into thinking that the baby steps take only a couple days, this is long-term commitment, people!) to help you get out of debt and be rich!!!!! 

This is the good book.

The first step in Dave's plan is to save $1000 buckaroo's.  Which seems like a lot, but this money is gong to act like your buffer when you don't use credit cards anymore.  So you can no longer say "I NEED this credit card in case an emergency comes up".  Now you saw "I have this money in savings I can use in case of emergency!".  This is the step Dave and I are on.  At the same time, we are kind of cheating and paying back some debts just because of when they are due and wanting to pay them.  But this is our primary focus.

Dave Ramsey also has other books, he does a class type thing called Financial Peace University, and he has a radio show.  You can find out more about him here.

You also need to know that I have recreated forms from Dave's book that help us track our money better.  Those, along with the other ones that I made up make up 27 pages of forms we fill out to track our money every month.  If you want to see those, I can send them to you - but they are very beneficial 

Maybe when I reach the next steps I will talk about them too, but I think this post is long enough already.  Have any questions about how we deal with our money?  Ask me!

Also - I need your opinion - whats the best way to go to school without getting into too much debt.  I'm looking at going for my masters next year, and I can't figure out the cheapest way to do it!


  1. Do you know what Dan's answer to your question would be? Don't necessarily go to school. (This is a totally anti-Jones answer, I am aware). Our family believes that more opportunity means more money and to have more opportunities you have to go to school. I think this is a valid opinion.

    But Dan's opinion is that school is good if it is actually going to get you ahead. Don't just go to school for the sake of going to school. Dan has worked with a lot of people who have more and better degrees than him, and yet he is in a higher position and makes better money. Sometimes you can find the same opportunities without going to school.

    So, I think his advice would be to go to school if you have a solid plan. Don't go for the sake of just getting another degree under your belt. That will just push you into debt and put you not much further out in the long run.

    But I haven't actually talked to Dan about your situation. So if you don't agree with this, you can't get mad at me or at him! :D xo

  2. I don't usually comment on blogs but I think I'll throw my two cents in on this one as far as Laura's comments go. I don't necessarily disagree with Dan that a degree in itself is always an advantage. But in lots of other ways I disagree. I think it'll be a shame, Laura, if you don't get to be a teacher, as you have alays felt that's your passion;and I believe from life experience that if you don't make the investment to do it at some point in the near future, a time will come when you will regret not having been encouraged or not taking the steps to become a teacher. Also, I certainly agree that anyone doing an undergrad degree should consider the employability out the other end. (And I say that as a BA grad.) And finally I would say that when you're still in your 30's you don't always know the value of the extra education. If at some point a person's position is eliminated because of a company downsizing when that person is in their 40's or 50's, they may find it harder to be employed if they're competing against people with more education.
    The final point about the blog -- and I think it's an excellent one Amy -- is whether your budget includes giving/tithing. It well may, but since it's not mentioned I'll just say that although I know we hadn't always modelled that as we should as your parents, I deeply believe that you won't fully experience everything God has for you without joyful, generous, systematic and proportionate giving to the local congregation you belong to. Second, while on the subject, I believe there'll never be an ideal time for a person or couple to start giving/tithing, as there are always and will be always lots of demands. I further believe that while a literal tenth for many people will be a stretch and it may take a bit of time to reach it, it should never be viewed as a maximum but rather a minimum. Anyway - just a few thoughts Amy. Love to hear from you guys and so glad you are having such a great beginning in this way. You are way ahead of the game love and your Mom and I are very proud of you and Dave for starting your journey in this way.

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  4. So, I"m thinking that a blog named "The Rookie Wife: Money" is probably geared for other women, but I saw the $ aspect and I was intrigued. Mandy and I were doing the jar system in our first year of marriage, but found that we weren't disciplined enough to keep track of when money left the jar in a transaction journal.

    I really like Dave Ramsey. His daily radio programs is a podcast on itunes. The best thing is that they are free. They are mostly about getting out of debt, how much he hates credit card providers and using a cash system (good stuff).

    There is a free moneytracking program that Mandy and I use called Moneystrands (also has an iphone app) it is pretty impressive for those of us who aren't disciplined enough for a cash system. There are cash capabilities though. The system will let you show withdrawals and you are able to keep a cash account on your iphone to show where you spent it.

    I really like your blog though and am interested in seeing some more tips that help you guys use a cash system (incase we ever try again :P). I also really liked the tip about ING (I'm going to have to check them out).

  5. We bought Dave Ramsey's book a few months ago and scrimped and saved our $1000... then had to get a new dishwasher. We're back to square one, but that's ok! At least we know where we're going. We use Scotiabank, it's ok... ($9.95/month unlimited) but I don't know if I could leave it until we move someday since I worked at the branch and know everyone so well. It would be so awkward.
    Our number one financial blessing has been tithing. Honestly, every time things have started to get tight, we've tried to be more disciplined about giving, moving from net to gross, making sure we tithe on random GST cheques and our child tax benefits. Every time we do that, we seem to stop feeling the pinch. I really think God honours that act of faith.
    I'm really impressed by your cash system. We would like to do that but it's incredibly hard for us to get to a bank on a regular basis, with one car and Cory working long hours and no bank even remotely within walking distance. Your discipline is inspiring, keep posting on this, I would love to read more!

  6. Hi Amy! I was excited to read your post, as Geoff and I have recently read Total Money Makeover, and are starting on the Baby Steps! It's an inspiring book, isn't it? We are starting to use the cash based system, although having a baby within the first week has caused a few challenges...but we will get on track I am sure! Good providence on your's great to know others out there are trying to "live like no one else now so they can live like no one else later!"

    P.S. I don't know about the programs that you are looking at, but I was able to TA and also have a stipend while doing my masters, so I didn't have to incur debt to do the degree. It's worth checking out!

  7. Amy... I love Dave Ramsay too... and I teach him as part of Simply Budgeting Inc. as an elective small group at Allison-The Journey Church!! Simply Budgeting Inc. is my business, God-given, and Dave happens to be part of what I use to present it, along with other professionals!! Email me if you want more info!

    I was directed to this post and I love what you have to say... : )

    Liette M. Collier! : )