When I found Dave Ramsey about 3 years ago I was all about it and I loved that there were steps for me to follow. Fast forward a few years and I have definitely tweaked the system to fit my needs, but generally follow them. The scariest part for me was only having a $1,000 emergency fund for baby step #1. I mean, I live in New Jersey, a trip to get an oil change one time ended up costing me $1,000. The first thing I did was bump up my emergency fund to be $2,000, it just makes me feel so much better just in case something were to happen. Eventually I found sinking funds, too. This was actually life changing for my budget and my stress level.
What is a sinking fund?
I had no idea what a sinking fund was when I started this journey. I mean you heard about my car situation and literally blowing my entire emergency fund just on a trip to the mechanic, which never would have happened if I had a sinking fund. A sinking fund is when you set money aside each month for an upcoming expense. This is for things that you know are coming and have time to prepare for. By setting aside small amounts of money each month, the large expense doesn’t hit your budget as hard when the time comes.
How to start a sinking fund
This was tricky for me in the beginning. I knew it would be better for my budget in the long run to put small amounts aside for my upcoming expenses, but it was hard not putting that money to debt. However, the first time I actually used money from a sinking fund, it was a total game changer for me. In order to set up a sinking fund you need to figure out how much you are going to need and when you will need the money. For example, I know I’m going to need new tires and was told probably around the end of summer. I’m over estimating my tires to cost me $600 because I would rather have money left over and just put it towards debt after, then not have enough and scramble trying to find money. I started the sinking fund in February, so I have 7 months to save. I divide the total cost, $600, by the amount of months I have to save, 7 months, and I know I have to set aside $86 each month for my tire sinking fund. $86 is a lot easier than $600 in one month. Or, I save $3,000 for the summer when my income is not set, since I am a 10 month employee. I divide $3,000 over 10 months and put aside $300 each month. By the time summer comes around I have $3,000 in my account to use in case my income is lower than expected. At the end of the summer, I make a loan payment with whatever is left over.
Sinking funds have completely changed my finances because I no longer have to pull from my student loan extra payment when something major comes up. Now, my emergency fund is truly for emergencies and not just for big items that come up, like tires or brakes. How have sinking funds changed your budget?
One of the things I always read about on personal finance blogs was to financially prepared for the unexpected. You never know when something is going to happen that’s going to rock your budget and make you frantically scramble thinking how you’re going to afford this. This happened to me when I realized I broke even on my budget, before I even applied my extra student loan payment I make each month. Life throws curve balls at us everyday and it’s important to be financially prepared for them so they don’t hurt us as much.
June was an interesting month for me. I had two large unexpected expenses that basically was my entire extra student loan payment I plan for each month. The first one was my new teacher mentoring fee that goes to my mentor teacher, $550. The second was when I brought my car in for an oil change and they told me I needed all new brakes and two rotors replaced, see ya $955. The second was completely unexpected, and what really hurt my budget. I take my car in for it’s oil change and they always inspect the brakes for me. Everything was fine at my last oil change and suddenly 4,000 miles later, new brakes and rotors are needed.
This was hard for me and made me make a tough decision. I could either make my extra loan payment for June and pull the money from my savings, or not make my extra loan payment and not need my savings. My immediate reaction was to make the extra loan payment and pull from my savings because of my aggressive goal to payoff my loans by the time I’m 31. I looked at my savings and realized even if I did pull that $1,500, I would still have enough in my savings to last me a couple of months.
This made me decide to make my extra payment to my student loans in June. When hit with the unexpected, you need to closely look at your goals and decide what is most important now and for the future. For me, paying off my student loans as soon as possible is my most important financial goal. How have you planned for when unexpected expenses come up?
Wow, 2015 was an incredible year for me. I landed my first “big girl” job as a 5th grader teacher in May, graduated with my masters in August, and started my first year of teaching in September. Of course, I also started this blog. When I started this blog back in July I was truly planning to mostly post about my first year of teaching. I figured it would be a nice outlet for the stress I knew I would be dealing with. However, in the last year, I have found a passion for personal finance and have found myself blogging much more about that. Especially when I have this massive amount of debt weighing me down each day.
I did create a solid plan to pay down my debt this year once I started working, which has helped me almost double my monthly loan payments so far. In 2015, I was able to get my largest loan with the highest interest rate down to 78% paid off. I have been working towards paying off that loan since I was in grad school, so seeing that high paid off percentage is very motivating!
I have a lot planned for 2016, and it might be a little too much to be honest. My plan is to make 2016 a productive year for me. I want to find myself always actively doing something, whether it be school work, blog work, being with friends, whatever it is, I don’t want to be complacent. I want to push myself harder and do more than I ever have before. My goal is to make $2,700 loan payments each month, which is a bit of a stretch for me. This requires me to figure out ways to save and make more money. Which is another goal I have for this year.
I strongly believe in goal setting and I feel that it keeps you motivated knowing you are working towards something. Whatever it might be, I suggest making mini goals to reach your big goal, this makes it more likely that you will succeed and make the task less daunting. For example, I picked $2,700 a month for my loan payments because I want to have my loans completely paid off by the time I turn 31. This might sound crazy since I still have about $185k in student loans, but it’s possible if I work hard and keep my goal in mind. So, what are your goals for 2016 and how do you plan on accomplishing them?