"The only thing that is constant is change."-Heraclitus
Life seems to move faster and faster as we age. I know from experience that when I started working for Extension I was a single person, then engaged, then married. Our readers have followed me along in my home buying series and now I'm excited to share that we've had a baby! Considering the change I've experienced, below I want to discuss preparing for all life transitions, the good and bad.
"A goal without a plan is just a wish." All life transitions need goals. Whether it's buying a house, planning for retirement or preparing for your estate, without a plan it will be harder to accomplish. Another goal to help prepare for the unexpected is having an emergency fund for those transitions that happen without notice, like disability, accidents and job loss. Make goals as SMART as you can! SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable (or Agreed Upon), Realistic and Timely. The more detail you can put into your goal, the more tangible it becomes. Setting a goal of saving money is good, but saying "I want to save $200/month for the next year from every paycheck towards my emergency fund" is better.
Once you have your goal, then you can start prioritizing your spending. In our case, we had 10 months to prepare for Baby G's arrival. We examined our spending and noticed that we spent a lot of money eating out. We also started paying more towards our debt, that way when Baby G got here – there was more room to spare for additional expenses! These are just a few examples of how we prioritized our spending to align with our goals. If your goal is to save for college, start saving money away. If your goal is to find an attorney to help you with your estate planning documents, start calling around and asking about fees that way you can plan for that expenses. Having that emergency fund funded will help with those larger, unexpected transitions. It never hurts to be prepared, even just a little. "Being $50 ahead is better than $50 behind."
While I do have a general sense of what children cost over a lifetime, I'm not exactly sure how this first budget period will go with Baby G being here. Understanding that spending plans are fluid and that they change as your life changes is and will continue to be important as we feel our way through this change. We may have a ton of expenses this first month or in the following months, but by setting our goals and prioritizing our spending, we will be prepared for anything! Transitions are just that, a transition into the next phase or chapter of life. Not all are happy or sad, but navigating the waters can help to make them smoother. If you find you overspent one month, make that adjustment for next month.
Last year, my colleagues and I did a whole webinar on Life Transitions. Feel free to check it out, find some new resources and prepare for your next change!
Setting goals, prioritizing your spending and navigating the transition are just a few of the ways to prepare for any challenge that may come your way. Life is constantly changing, but by having a plan and strategies for those plans can help you tackle it before it becomes a stressful financial situation.