Still not quite over the Summer Sniffles.
There has been a lot of talk lately in the equestrian blogosphere about how we afford to ride and keep our horses. The majority of us are not independently wealthy, so this takes some clever doing. I decided to share some of the money-management tips that have helped me be able to own a pony and take him cool places to do cool things.
Tip #1: Marry Rich. JUST KIDDING!! In reality... It All Starts With A Budget
When I first adopted Dino, I was living with my parents and had very few expenses, so paying for board, vet, and farrier wasn't something I actively had to budget for. I could easily afford my pony, as well as my car and student loan payments, so budgeting wasn't something I gave a second thought to. However, when I got married and moved out on my own with Michael, money management became a lot more important.
During the first year or so of our marriage, we didn't do a great job of budgeting. We often found our bank account in the negative by the end of the month, and money was always stressing us out. Then my sister-in-law introduced us to Dave Ramsey and the ingenious budget spreadsheet she had created, and all of that changed.
Our spreadsheet lays out - in excruciating detail - our income and expenses by pay period. We know exactly when and how much money we have coming in, and when and how much of that money has to go out. Each dollar is allocated to a certain expense, and whatever is leftover after all of our bills are paid can either go to savings or towards 'extra' stuff like date nights, trips, clothing, gifts, etc. Budgeting in this way has made a HUGE difference for us, and we now have EXTRA money at the end of the month, just because we are keeping track of where it's all going. If anyone would like a copy of the spreadsheet, just ask! I'd be happy to email it to you.
Tip #2: Learn To Cook, and Go Veggie
Eating out is EXPENSIVE. Seriously. If you don't make the majority of your meals at home, you're wasting a TON of money on eating out. Personally, I love to cook, so eating at home isn't a big deal, but even if you aren't a natural-born foodie, you can learn to make simple meals and save yourself a lot of money on food. One of my favorite recipe websites is TastyKitchen.com, a sister site of The Pioneer Woman. There are also a lot of other awesome food blogs out there that have STEP-BY-STEP PICTURES! Great for beginning cooks! Another way you can save on food is by eating vegetarian meals several times a week. Meat is pricy, and I've come to really enjoy vegetarian cooking by intentionally skipping the meat more often than not.
Tip #3: Plan Ahead
In our household, if we want to purchase anything, take a trip, or go to an event that will cost us more than $100, we generally need to plan ahead. This means weeks (or maybe even months) in advance, figuring out how much the thing in question will cost, and setting aside money in the budget ahead of time. This might mean setting aside a small amount each pay period, or earmarking a big chunk out of a future paycheck. This saves you from being 'surprised' by a huge expense that you have no idea how to pay for!
Tip #4: Prioritize
When you don't have unlimited funds, you have to say no to some things. In order to have enough money to afford the things that are really important to you, you (and your spouse or partner if you have one) need to sit down and figure out what those important things are. For example, I work from home, so for me buying new clothes, getting my hair cut, and buying makeup are LOW on the priority list. Keeping up with TV shows also isn't important to Michael and I, so we save a ton of money each month by not paying for cable. But when it comes to equipment for both of our hobbies (riding and photography), we value high-quality stuff, so we make sure to budget enough money for those items when needed. I also don't show every weekend or take lessons on a regular basis, because that stuff is expensive and not 100% necessary. If I was at a different point in my riding education, or really focused on being competitive, lessons might be higher on the priority list, but at the moment they are just a nice "extra".
Tip #5: Work It
I know this is not feasible for many people with a full time job that has 9-5 (or longer!) hours, but for me, being able to take on extra part-time work has been hugely instrumental in funding my horse habit. I take care of 2 mini horses every morning before work, and work 3 or 4 shifts a week at the barn where I board feeding and doing stalls. I also take on barn work and petsitting at other facilities when the opportunity presents itself. As a real estate agent, my schedule is ridiculously flexible and I'm able to essentially work 3 jobs without going completely insane. If you're able to work off part of your board, do it! You'll save some money and be more involved in your horse's care.
Those are the Big Ideas that help Michael and I save money and afford to have a pony. I hope they help someone, and would love to hear any other money-saving tips you have!