As I begin the section on finances, I find that there is really only one place to start: making goals. It is also one of the most fun things to do. So, if you aren't having fun, then you are doing it wrong. This is your chance to dream big and imagine all of the best things for your life.
Grab a piece of paper. (After all, a goal not written down is only a wish.) Start thinking about things you want to accomplish or experiences you'd like to have or things you'd like to do. If you are married, do this with your spouse. Creating goals together brings you closer together and gets you on the same page and heading in the same direction. (Don't think that all of your goals have to be created as a couple. You can and should have personal goals too.)
Create a list. Think of long-term and short-term goals. They don't have to be financial goals, although they can be. Don't limit yourself. Write everything down you can think of that is important to you. Your list could include getting out of debt, having date night once a week, reading to your kids every night before bed, going to college, visiting your grandkids every 3 months, cleaning out the shed, going to a theme park, learning to surf, finishing a woodworking project or a scrapbook, taking family pictures, buying a house, exercising every day, or retiring at 50. Have fun and dream big.
Once you have a good-sized list, it is time to decide what things on the list are most important to you. Let's be honest, some things would be really nice, but they aren't top priorities. For example, I would love to go to a show in Las Vegas once a year (we live just an hour from Vegas), but there are other things that I want more, like paying off our car and taking a trip to Disneyland. Does that mean I am not ever going to see a show in Vegas every year? Absolutely not! It is still on my list of goals, and it is still important to me. However, I realize that going to Disneyland is WAY better (in my mind) than seeing a show in Vegas. I am willing to give up a show in Vegas for a family vacation to Disneyland because Disneyland is very important to me. So, prioritize your goals. What things are the most important? List them 1-2-3. List beyond the first 3 if you can.
Once you have done that, you are off to a great start. Really, you have accomplished a lot. You just mapped out where you want your life to go and what you want to accomplish. You have also decided what is most important to you. Believe it or not, you have just completed step one of getting your finances together. I hope it was fun. I always enjoy sitting down and envisioning the life I want and the fun things I could do. Now that you know where you want to go, you can take your list and create a plan to accomplish your goals.