This is a follow up by Jillian Lundberg, who is writing a series of posts for GoGirl Finance as she dives into the interactive finance course being offered by Manisha Thakor, “Money Rules: A Personal Financial Guide for Women.” Jill is a former teacher who is now a full-time stay-at-home mother to two boys, ages 5 and 3.

Start saving now! Those three words are the mantra of Money Rules, the course instructed by Manisha Thakor.

This is a unique class that approaches the subject of finance from a woman’s perspective. I have just completed half the course, and I must say, it is refreshing to take a class that addresses the particular struggles of the average working or “at home” mom. The only problem I have with the class is that I wish I had taken it before I had piled up home, credit, and student loan debt! After learning that 75% of my husband’s income goes to pay off these loans, as well as to raise our kids and to fund our retirement, I was left with the realization that we really only have 25% of our income for EVERYTHING else!!

It’s hard not to feel that we are already drowning in our debt and expenditures, but Manisha presents strategies that make it possible for us to come up for air. Even though I wish I would have taken this course 15 years ago, I’ve since learned that it is never too late. Manisha really stresses the power of saving and having that $2,000 emergency fund ready, and it has given me a real incentive to get our finances to a more secure state–even if it means taking that loose change and putting it in savings.

Manisha Thakor

Enrolling in this class has been an eye-opener; I need to take control of my finances. I realize now that I should be paying off debt with the highest interest rate, and I should invest an extra $150 toward some of my minimum payments. I should choose a charge card where I pay everything up front, over a credit card which merely accumulates debt. Even something as simple as self-control is a tool I can use when financial times are rough. Everything makes a difference. But honestly, it’s not easy when you are a “stay-at-home” mom, especially when you live in an affluent neighborhood. You look around at all the other moms signing their children up for a myriad of classes, they’re going on vacations, buying new cars… it’s easy to start to feel like it’s a standard of living that you too should aspire to achieve, no matter the cost, that lurking notion of “keeping up with the Joneses.”

Manisha also points out another treachery we all suffer, something she calls “lifestyle creep.” It’s the idea that once you buy yourself that new pair of shoes, you now need a nice new dress to go with it too; it’s human nature to want more. But if my husband and I want to send my kids to college, go on a vacation, and retire comfortably one day, we must start saving immediately and focus hard on paying off our debt.

I have really enjoyed taking the class so far, and I am shocked at how much I am understanding. Before the class, finance might as well have been a foreign language to me, but Manisha has made it simple and approachable. It’s funny though, out of all the information I have absorbed, what seems to have made the most impact on me was two pieces of research. The first is that people who spend their money on experiences instead of material items are happier–not a shock but still something to remember when you’re debating between a new couch and a vacation. The other piece of research that struck me was from a documentarian researching happiness who found that people who had strong relationships in their lives were the most happy.

When considering the word “rich,” my mind quickly jumps to its primary definition: having a great deal of money or assets; wealthy. Every night, when I’m stressed about how we will pay for nursery school, baseball, and the car’s fuel injectors, I’m reminded that we’re not wealthy. But after laughing with my husband, playing Trouble with my boys, and curling up with my dog, I realize that we are rich–it just depends on the definition!

Link to Part I: The Stay at Home CFO (Part I)