Good Cents Financial Coaching

Navigating from stress to financial success

How To Never Hit a Red Light Again

In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has. –Proverbs 21:20 


It never fails, if I’m running late for an appointment, I will hit every……single……red light. Ugh! So frustrating. But, if I leave five minutes early, it’s smooth sailing.

Have you ever stayed up all night to finish a paper for a 9:00 am class only to have the printer break in the middle of printing it out? Or, to modernize this example a bit, have you had the Internet go down while trying to send it to the professor? But isn’t funny how there are no printer or Internet gremlins if you finish the paper a day early?

Not having enough time margin brings stress to our lives. It’s the same with our money. When we don’t have enough margin in our bank account (also known as savings) the transmission goes out, the dryer dies, a kid ends up in the ER, etc. But, it’s the wildest thing, when we have some savings, these emergencies just don’t seem to happen.

So, have margin, no problems. No margin, problems abound. How do we explain this phenomenon? Here’s my theory, let’s see if you agree. In reality, the problems are the same regardless of the amount of margin. It’s just when we have margin, we don’t notice the problems.

If I leave a little early, the red lights don’t bother me, I don’t notice them, I don’t even remember them.

When you’re trying to send in your paper the day before it’s due and the Internet goes down for a few minutes, it’s no big deal. You just come back to it after awhile and hit send.

And when an emergency happens and we have an emergency fund, we just pay for it and move on.  An emergency is always stressful, but not nearly as stressful as having to go into debt to pay for it and then spending months or years paying it off.

So how do we order up some margin? I’d like more money margin, please. And throw in some time margin, too, thanks!

Adding margin to our lives is not easy. More often than not, not having enough margin tends to be a downward spiral. Running late for the first appointment of the day leads to running behind schedule for the rest of the day. Not having enough savings to cover small emergencies leads to more debt payments which makes it harder to cover the next emergency and so on and so forth.

So how do we stop the downward spiral? How do we create margin in our lives? How do we give ourselves breathing room?  We have to be intentional. We have to have a plan.

So what’s the plan? For our money, let’s start with how much of an emergency fund is needed. If you currently have debt of any kind (except a mortgage), Dave Ramsey recommends having a $1000 emergency fund. Once you’re out of debt, he recommends an emergency fund of 3 to 6 months of expenses.

Next, we need to find some extra money to save away in an emergency fund. A great place to find money is in your closets. Clean them out and sell some stuff! Not only will your house be cleaner, it’s a great way to quickly make a little cash.

Another way is to turn your talents into cash. Good at math? Tutor. Play the piano? Give lessons. Great baker? Sell cakes. Be creative!

Finally, you need to do a monthly budget – a written plan for your money. Doing a budget lets you see where you’ve been wasting money and helps make savings a priority. Doing a budget ensures the extra money actually goes to the emergency fund and doesn’t “accidently” get spent on new shoes or a round of golf.

Do you feel like you’re always living on the edge, worrying about when the next life hiccup is going to happen? It’s important for you to know you are not alone. One in four Americans has no emergency savings. Only about 40% have enough savings to cover three months expenses.  So, please don’t beat yourself up about it, but there is hope, there is a better way to go through life.

If you’re tired of the stress of living on the edge, if you’re tired of living with no margin, I can help. Together, we can develop a detailed strategy to move you from a life of stress to a life of success. Contact me today!

What are some ways you’ve intentionally added margin to your life? Time margin? Money margin? Other kinds of margin?

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