Perhaps one of the best perks of working for a university (aside from an employee tuition waiver) is that I, as a great lover of books, have a wealth of stimulating reading material readily available to me; while we used to once shop at Barnes & Noble every weekend in California, working for ASU has allowed me to indulge in a steady supply of great non-fiction books for free! Not that I don’t still love Barnes & Noble, but our book buying budget is greatly reduced while my husband is a college student and I prepare for my return to school in the fall.
Right now I am reading Going Broke by Stuart Vyse and am loving his insights as to why Americans have problems keeping money in their pockets. He explores our cultural expectations, the influence of bankruptcy and credit cards, our “keeping up with the Jones” attitudes, and other behaviors and habits that separate us from our money. As well, I am a bit enamored with the fact that he references the book, Two Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Parents Are Going Broke by Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi (her daughter), which I finished reading not too long ago.
My husband and I first started “understanding” our money mistakes when we took a Financial Peace University class offered at a friend’s church back in 2010. Since then, we’ve paid off a personal loan, one of our cars, and a credit card; at the same time, we’ve been working to rebuild our savings and our emergency fund (repeatedly) as a result of my two bouts of unemployment. Honestly, I never would have imagined that with two Bachelor’s degrees, I would have ever found myself unemployed.
However, these financial setbacks have forced us to once again recognize flaws in our spending. We now spend less leisure time shopping out of boredom like we did in the earlier years of our marriage and during our time in Wyoming; we still engage in retail therapy from time to time, but nothing as bad as when we lived in Wyoming and it was a significant drive anywhere (other than Walmart) to do some real shopping.
Our debt situation is something that we work on constantly reducing and we do work on finding unique opportunities to improve our financial situation. My husband will be participating in work study so we can have extra tax-free income to pay down our debts this summer and pay for our daughter’s daycare in the fall and spring. He can also continue work study until he finishes his undergraduate degree. I will also start using the remainder of my GI Bill benefits, also tax-free, in combination with my employee tuition waiver in the fall to start my graduate degree. My waiver will pay for my education and is not taxed until over $5,250 worth of tuition has been used in the year. I have a small portion of my Chapter 30 Montgomery GI bill leftover and then 12 months of the Post 9/11 GI bill, which I can utilize. For people who aren’t familiar with the Post 9/11 GI bill, it’s pretty handy to students in that it provides a book stipend, housing allowance (as applicable), and tuition and fees paid to the student’s college. We will have a lot on our plates, but no pain, no gain, right?
But getting back to the book, Going Broke, I picked it up after reading Two Income Trap and wanted further financial motivation to explore how to reign in our spending and get ideas on how to improve our saving strategies so we can one day be homeowners. I have loved the book enough that I took some photos with my iPhone of passages that I really enjoyed; I know I am such a nerd in seeing how my culture impacts and influences my financial views and behaviors.
“If you will live like no one else, so one day you can live like no one else.”-Dave Ramsey