5 Tips to Avoid Black Friday Madness ~ Personal Finance Blog

You likely saw all the ads rearing their ugly little heads by the beginning of the month. 

BLACK.FRIDAY.

Oh, it come-eth. And there are likely folks all over this great land of ours that are ready-ing their credit cards for a spending frenzy so epic that it will make headlines.

In fact, well...it already has.

According to the National Retail Federation (which makes me think of men with machine guns forcing you to shop)...Shoppers are expected to spend around $680 billion this holiday shopping season, a 15-year high. Let that number sink in. $680 BILLION.

All the while....we sit back and lament our country's inability to afford healthcare, quality education for our kids, and retirement. Things that MATTER. I read recently that the average American has less than $1000 saved. 

But we are gonna shop. 

$680. Friggin. BILLION.

But Pudgy, you say....are you not a complete hypocrite who buys holiday gifts for your family and seeks out good prices for such gifts?

Yes. I do. 

I don't participate in Black Friday sales.....mostly because crowds of that magnitude make me want to hurl.

I will probably hop on the ole computer for a few Cyber Monday deals on things I was already going to purchase anyway.

I'm not saying don't shop.
I'm saying CHECK YOURSELF if financial fitness is a goal.

Here's a few tips for Black Friday that will help you stay financially fit, maybe prepare for next year (because lets face it, this year is already here), and avoid the pressure to spend yourselves into the red.

1. Avoid Black Friday All Together
Let's face it, most of us have gifts to buy. I'm not completely ignorant of this. But, getting wrapped up in the "I'm gonna pitch a tent outside of Best Buy in order to score a slightly less expensive TV that I don't need" insanity is a sure-fire way to blow your Christmas budget out of the water. You don't need to give into the pressure to shop on Black Friday. You can plan your holiday spending out a bit better than that. Remember, EVERYTHING is 100% off if you DON'T BUY IT.
If you must venture out, BE PREPARED. Be OVER prepared. Make a list and stick to that dang list. Use cash only. When the cash is gone you are done. Have a budget. Stick to it. Bring an accountability partner, not your best friend who likes to shop like it's her job or something. 

2. Give Experiences Not Things 
People have enough shit. Repeat that. People have enough shit. They don't NEED another doo-dad, fiddlestick, snarfblat or dinglehopper. The amount of things I purged when we moved was astounding....and one look at our storage facility proves I have more work to do. 
So what can you GIVE this year without adding to the hoarding tendencies of human beings?
Experiences. 
Dinners out at a restaurant your mom has wanted to try. Theater shows. Hell...skydiving. I don't care. Trust me, the EXPERIENCE will last far longer than the thing.

3. CHRISTMAS IS NOT AN EMERGENCY
This is one to put on your calendar for next year. Maybe in JUNE. Christmas, my friends, is not an emergency. I stole this from Dave Ramsey. What this means is....we KNOW it's coming. It's the same dang day every year. It's not moving. So, we know January 1, 2018 that on December 25, 2018 we will have Christmas. So, you need a sinking fund for this. You need to cash flow Christmas. That way, when the cash is done....you're done. It's not time to bust out the plastic so you're still paying for Christmas 2017 when Christmas 2025 rolls around.
So, January 1, 2018, make an envelope for your Christmas Fund and allocate dollars for that envelope in your budget. Then, when the holiday season rolls around, you'll be all set. Credit cards will be a distant memory.

4. Try to Get the Fam on Board
This is a tough one. Like, for instance, my Mom loves to buy Christmas gifts. I'm pretty sure Black Friday shopping is her love language or something. So, convincing my family to go gift-free would be a hard row to hoe. For sure. Convincing them to pare it down may be easier. But, maybe, if you've all reached adulthood and the "Magic of Christmas" has turned more into a present-buying one-upping frenzy, you may want to have a "Come to Jesus' Birthday" moment with everyone and see if you can trade gift-giving for more fun family time. 
This is part of that "experience" thing. Experience family time.....less stuff.

5. Say it With Me: "It's Okay if I Miss the Sale" 
Now, this is a tough one. My day job is as a service provider (that service being portraits and wedding photography). So, of course, I run a Cyber Monday sale for my clients every year. And, of course, I would love for them to take advantage of that sale. Sales and service giving is what puts food on my table and a roof over my kids' head. I'm not saying DON'T EVER BUY THINGS. That's ridiculous. And some of the sales going on this weekend are amaze-balls. Yes. What I'm saying is, we need to have a bit of self-control when it comes to resisting the pull of "ACT NOW BEFORE EVERYTHING IS GONE AND YOU ARE LEFT BEREFT AND GIFTLESS YOU NON-SHOPPING LOSER". Ok, that's a bit harsh, perhaps....but retailers prey on our anxiety over false scarcity. If you don't battle the crowd for that "thing" on Black Friday, you won't get it.

Let me be honest with you here.....they'll live. Your kids will live. Your spouse will live. YOU WILL LIVE without the thing.

My daughter this year wants a Fingerling. It's this little monkey thing that clings on to your finger. I'm pretty sure that's all it does. Not sure. But she wants it. It's at the top of her list. So, I've looked for them online.....Lord knows I don't really go to stores much but I'm assuming they're sold out at this point.

If I find one, great. If I don't.....they're experiencing Walt Disney World this year for Christmas and if the finger-monkey isn't under the tree on Christmas Day, my kid WILL LIVE. I promise you. I won't need to start saving for therapy because I was unable to punch another mom out for a finger-monkey.

We need to get our collective acts together and simplify. I need to take this to heart as much as anyone.

So maybe this year....just stay home on Friday. Cuddle up with your kiddos, watch a movie, eat some leftovers. Don't WORRY about what you may be missing at the stores. What's more important is what we may be missing elsewhere while we are worried about the stores. 

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Image Courtesy of My New Official Graphic Artist Betty Reseburg (Age 10) 

The Ballad of the Perpetually Disappointed ~ Personal Finance Blog

If you sit down for a cup of coffee with a random Baby Boomer (those born 1946 to 1964) and ask them their outlook on the average Gen X'er (born 1961 to 1981) or Millennial (early 1980s to mid 1990's birth years) you're likely to hear how entitled and lazy the youngins are. How back in "their day" kids were grateful...they were polite...they worked hard and they asked for little. 

If you were to sit down with someone who lived through the Depression (a generation that is fast dwindling....sadly), you are likely to hear that the Baby Boomers are selfish, money-obsessed, and wouldn't know a hard day's work if it bit 'em in the ass. They don't know how to go without or make do.

If you were to dig up someone who lived during the turn of the Century, dust 'em off and have some tea....you'd hear about these damn Jazz Age kids and their wanton ways.

My point?

Entitlement, disappointment, complaining, and a selfish nature does not have an age attached to it. Every generation believes the generation after them screwed everything up. That they want everything done for them, handed to them, and complain far too much.

They are never. ever. satisfied. 

I've worked in customer service for years....really since the age of 12 when I decided I was going to deliver papers for the Beloit Daily News. So, over the years, I've run across plenty of folks who seemed to find a certain amount of glee in complaining....in expressing disappointment. 

They've been old. They've been young. But all of them have led me to learn something from my experience with them.

There was the lady I used to wait on at a local drug store who would bring in a stack of coupons every week and argue over pennies....PENNIES. To her, a coupon for Charmin meant she held a coupon for ANY sort of toilet paper. Now, I could have passed this off as pure senility....but something told me after months of dealings with the Coupon Lady that she knew what she was doing. Maybe she just wanted a "cause". The coupons were her cause. 

There were the difficult customers who came into the pizza place where I waited tables and always ordered the same thing....and always complained about it. When I finally asked them WHY they continued to order things that didn't live up to their standards week after week, they didn't really have an answer for me. 

I think they enjoyed being disappointed about SOMETHING. It gave them a purpose. Something to talk about with their friends. "That damn pizza place, they can NEVER get a sandwich right! It's because they're so stupid! I mean, how hard IS it?" 

But week after week they returned. And week after week they ordered the same thing. And week after week they chided me for how terrible the sandwich was.

There was absolutely NOTHING I could do to make them enjoy the sandwich.....believe me I tried. 

"If only you'd make the sandwich right, we would be so happy"

I didn't even MAKE the sandwich. I just delivered it.

Somehow, I doubted they would ever enjoy that stupid sandwich.

Perpetual disappointment in EVERYTHING is not a generational issue. I think it may be a personality glitch. Perhaps it's nurture over nature. Perhaps it is linked to social media and our constant view of everyone's highlight reel. What we see is everyone's perfection: their beautiful children, their lovely homes, their great vacations. So, in return, when reality happens to us we feel it's sub-par. It's not the way things should be. They should be perfect. The internet said so.

This doesn't explain bad-sandwich people, because that all went down prior to Instagrams of perfect meals, but it may help explain current complainers. 

Perhaps it's indicative of a childhood where one was always coddled, always catered to, never told "no". (Just a note, please people....say no to your children)

Perhaps it's indicative of a childhood where one had absolutely nothing, so now they grab at it all, in fear of going without.

There are different schools of thought with a number of theories, but it all comes down to one clear fact: the perpetually disappointed are out there in spades and they are coming to ruin parties, work days, and a whole host of other events. 

Being perpetually disappointed will even destroy your finances. People will go to great lengths purchasing anything they believe will relieve their ongoing dissatisfaction with their life in general. Because that's what it comes down to: a deep seated dissatisfaction with life.

So, if the big disappointments cannot be handled: who you married, where you live, what you do for a living.....then you will adapt: you will nitpick the small stuff to death. Maybe by taking care of all the small disappointments in your "way", the big ones will fall to the wayside and become less "big".

But this never really works, does it? 

Being disappointed all the time usually runs hand in hand with being entitled. And being entitled doesn't necessarily mean you were spoiled as a child, or you have money, or that you're a bad person. It does mean your expectations are skewed. Life is messy, imperfect, not timed well, and....very often...sad. It's rarely exactly what we expect.

Are You Entitled?

According to Psychology Today, there are some basic signs you can look out for to see if you have fallen into the trap of being an entitled person.....and probably impossible to please as well. 

Now, all of this takes, at it's root, a bit of self-reflection. I always wonder if folks who are constantly complaining KNOW what they sound like? Do they KNOW how others view them? 
Do they have an awareness of their entitlement, or is being entitled keeping them from being aware? 

Food for thought.

So ponder a few of these....and see if you can own up :) 

1. Rules that apply to others don't apply to you.
2. Being asked for favors annoys you, but others not doing perceived small favors for you annoys you as well
3. You expect others to be more interested in you than you are in them. Your goals/dreams/plans are more valid than other people's.
4. You disregard rules intended for the comfort of everyone. For example, you smoke in line at the amusement park or pull out your cellphone at the movie theater.
5. You are not respectful of other people's time. You cancel appointments at the last minute, you are frequently late, or you expect people to wait for you. 
6. In environments based on reciprocity, you take without giving. For example, if you are part of a forum of professionals, you consistently ask questions without offering insight or answers to others. 

So, taking these personality traits into consideration, you can see how being entitled easily leads to someone being constantly disappointed.  If someone calls them on breaking rules, they are angered because....duh...rules don't apply to THEM. They are special. They are entitled to breaking the rules. If someone stops inviting a person places because they are always late or blowing them off, it's unlikely the entitled person is going to take personal responsibility for this. It's more likely they will be dissatisfied with the friend and their lack of invites going forward.

So what can you do if you're reading this going "Shit, this is ME."

Well first, kudos for seeing yourself there. I think that's definitely the first step to changing your entitled behavior and not being one of the perpetually disappointed. 

Second, work on really mulling over the WHY behind your dissatisfaction with things. If it's a meal, or customer service, or something of that nature....ask yourself if the average person would complain about what you are finding so wrong....or are you making a mountain out of a molehill?

This takes practice, and a crap-load of self-awareness. I'm fond of asking myself "does it matter"?  I find the older I get, precious little REALLY matters enough to make a stink about.

Like, the other day my kid came home with an assignment that was half finished. The assignment had a note on it from the teacher that said my kid didn't finish her homework because she was playing around in the air conditioning vent (whatever THAT entailed, who the hell knows. Sounds interesting though). Now, my daughter was REALLY upset that her teacher had called her out. She knew she had done wrong and she knew she should have finished the assignment. Her lesson was learned and I didn't need to make some big ass deal about it, right?
Right. Because it doesn't matter. In 5 years we won't even remember what the worksheet was about. But, she will remember that I laughed my tail off at the "Molly was playing in a vent" note. Because it was funny.

When we introduce themes like minimalism, simplicity, and financial awareness into our lives, it means letting go of some of the toxic attributes of our personalities along the way.

Being entitled and perpetually disappointed about everything will never get you far, even if you think you are getting everything you want.....you're never happy, and happiness trumps stuff every time.

Last week I was working a wedding on the banks of a lake in Door County. The air was still unseasonably warm, but there was a hint of crispness to it that made it very comfortable. I stepped outside for a moment to retrieve something from my car and, breathing in, caught a hint of burning leaves, lake mist, and pine trees all wrapped up into one and it was absolutely wonderful.

It was a tiny moment but I just stood here and let it kind of waft around me. Now, I could have sat there and thought about the mosquito bite on my knee or God KNOWS what.....but in that moment, everything was PERFECT. I was in awe of the world around me. 

Don't lose that. Don't lose that ability to sense wonder in the little things by focusing on the negative. There will ALWAYS be negative if you seek it out hard enough. But in the meanwhile, the wonderful things will go by unnoticed. 

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You Are More Than Just a Wage ~ Personal Finance Blog

People walk around pushing back their debts
Wearing paychecks like necklaces and bracelets
Talking about nothing, not thinking 'bout death
Every little heartbeat, every little breath
- Brett Dennen


I remember when I was 22 years old, I was working 3 different jobs to pay my way through technical college. At the time I wanted to be a police officer. 

(Side note: I would have made a TERRIBLE police officer, really glad I moved on from that)

One of my jobs was slinging drinks at a bar and one night someone I had gone to school with came in with a group of his friends. I had to wait on them....and while the majority of the group were cool, this particular person made some snide remark about "So....THIS is what you're doing with your life?"

Yeah. I was making shit money at a pretty shit job. I was making shit money at three different shit jobs because college is expensive and sorry Little Lord Fauntleroy, my parents didn't hand me the keys to a castle when I turned 18. 

I realized then that part of being an adult is being judged by your job/wage. Typically this is the first question people ask in mixed company or when kicking off a round of stimulating small-talk.

"So, what do you DO?"

They really mean "How much do you make?" 

Let's be honest. We are all just looking to see if we measure up to those in our peer group, most of the time.

What do they do, what do they make, where do they live, what do they drive? It's what energizes spending and marketing. See what that guy has? I want it. It's simple.

But, when we allow ourselves to play by these widespread rules, it negates all of our other gifts that we have to give to the world. 

Yes, I was a low wage worker. 
Yes, I came home smelling like grease and cigarettes and would head right to the local pool hall for cheap beer and a chance to just SIT. 
Yes, I lived in a crappy apartment and survived off cheap delivery pizza because I didn't really know how to cook.

But I also wrote constantly in those years.
I wanted to maybe go to law school or study sociology, I wasn't sure (sociology eventually won out). 
I knew....someday...I wanted a job where I didn't have some half-wit boss that I couldn't possibly muster respect for. Don't we all?
But I knew stuff wasn't just going to HAPPEN to me, I had to make it happen (or die in a vat of french fry grease trying).

We are all more than just a wage.

Here's the thing I learned (probably too late in life): my wage is simply a tool. Whether it's a big shovel or a small little baby shovel, it's a tool to attack debt and build wealth. Learning how to leverage that tool and correctly apply it to the task at hand is the basis of personal finance.

You are not defined by your wage, you are defined by your loves, your actions, your attitude, and your approach to life. 

Having a big, healthy bank account does not make you a better PERSON than someone who is just scraping by. Just the same, being rich does not make you automatically evil just as being poor does not make you automatically good and humble. I've met many rich people who are giving, wonderful, humble folks.....and poor people who are straight jackasses. And vice versa. 

We are all more than just a wage. 

While we learn to apply healthy personal finance tenants, let's work.....simultaneously....on becoming rich in other ways:  rich in understanding and rich in our love for learning, rich in work ethic and idea cultivation, rich in giving when we can and accepting help when we need it.

When I was hit with a snide remark nearly 20 years ago about my apparent lot in life, it stung. But it also spurred me on. My job was a tool....a ladder to the life I eventually wanted. Every table I waited on, every drink I served, every brake part I tested on the factory line.....it didn't define me, but it did build a part of who I am today. 




 
 

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Something Shiny This Way Comes ~ Personal Finance Blog

I'm kinda on a rant roll today (see my photo blog.....yeah, I'm looking at YOU, Nikon). So, be forewarned.

But, can we talk a bit about people losing their collective minds over shiny shit? I mean this as a general "shiny".....as in, anything new....anything fancy....anything BETTER THAN BEFORE...OMG...HAVE TO HAVE IT....BTW, it comes in rose gold or glitter or whatever....shiny.

The iPhone X was unveiled the other day. $1000 (Originally I heard it was $1200. $1000 isn't much better, really). The iPhone 8 was unveiled too. For the bargain price of $700. 

So what makes these doo-dad's worth so much? 

People will tell you all of the helpful and "can't live without them" features they hold, but let's all be honest. Most of us already HAVE phones that do what we need them to do. They get us to places with GPS....they let us check email and deposit checks and...sometimes....on rare occasions...we can even CALL people on them. If we are, you know, mentally deranged or something.

But, our phones are OLLLLLDDD.
They don't have an OLED screen for poppin' colors, man! 
They have home buttons. Apple said I don't need one of those anymore!
My old phone can't animate poop.

I need to animate poop, people. 

And $1000 will get me there.

Let's all have a collective come to Jesus moment, shall we?  WE WANT IT BECAUSE IT'S SHINY.
It's new. It's cool. It'll make us cool to carry it around. Apple plays to our most basic instincts. Fish are attracted to shiny stuff....which is how they very often get eaten (this was all totally explained in Moana, dontcha know). Human beings are not much smarter than schools of fish. Just look how we line up for the latest shiny item. 

Apple. Marketing geniuses, man. 

Here's the thing. Financial freedom or even financial fitness cannot be had if we continue to be attracted to shiny items. It doesn't matter WHAT the item is. Marketing makes us believe that we HAVE to have them, but we have to be honest with ourselves when considering every purchase. Yes, EVERY purchase. 

Is it a need or want? If it's a want, WHY do you want it? Do you think this one item is going to make you happy? If you think one shiny item can make you happy....you've got a whole lotta soul searching to do in the area of contentment, babe. 

This is not to say that wants can never be obtained....but if we keep filtering our hard earned money towards a mountain of "wants"....what we need, that being a strong investment in our future financial health, tends to be a bit thinned. You need a retirement. EVERYONE does. You need to create a financial legacy for your children. 


They're not gonna want your old ass iPhone X, mom and dad. Trust me. 

We WANTED a home in the country....in the quiet. With 4 bedrooms and a wrap around porch.
I think we were able to get this going because we've learned to change our mode of thinking with regards to STUFF. 

Learning to change our frame of mind with regards to shiny, new items that cross our path has helped us save THOUSANDS. Literally thousands. Husband will probably tell you I've taken my frugality a bit to extremes sometimes....but I can tell you straight up that I am CONTENT with what I have. I don't really own anything that I don't use, need, love, or want to save for my kids. When new stuff comes along, it is rarely a blip on my radar. I've trained myself to move along. It took a long time, but I've gotten to the point where I NEED very little beyond what I already have and WANT even less. 

It probably helps that I don't need to animate poop. Nor do I want to. 

But hey, if I ever feel the NEED to....I know where to look. 

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Yes, We Are Still Debt Slaying ~ Personal Finance Blog

I know, I know. It's been all "moving" and "new house" and no "here's what we've paid off" as of late.

Yes, we are STILL actively paying off debt even while building our new house and saving to cash flow as much as we can.

Since January 2017 we have paid off $8954.00, which is NOT a number I'm terribly happy with, in all honesty, because we could be doing more. However, we've cash flowed everything for the house thus far (including $1000 to have plans drawn up by our shifty 1st builders that never went anywhere). We are cash flowing a family vacation this winter and have spent Year #2 completely credit card free, which means we are still on course. 

I was able to sit and make our our "New House" family budget and we will be able to up our intensity almost immediately after move-in, which is great. 

But, we are still on board with the "plan". Our goals for the new house include a lot more frugality and a lot more minimalism in our lifestyle. I almost cannot wait to begin! 

 

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What Your Friends and Family Won't Tell You About Your Spending Habits ~ Personal Finance Blog

So, you know, I will.
Because I'm just a stranger who likes to talk about money. Better you hear it all from me instead of making Thanksgiving dinner super uncomfortable, amirite?

So....why don't you ever have any money?
Why are you up to your eyeballs in debt and you're considering asking for a loan (Ugh...no.)
Why do you have no retirement? 

Here's what they want to tell you....but won't.

You're Entitled
Yup. You are entitled. You feel like you DESERVE x,y,z and so you bend the rules of finances in order to obtain the items. You work hard, you DESERVE a brand new car with leather seats and a $600/month lease payment. You only live once, right? And who wants to commute in a shitty car? 

You DESERVE a big house with an equally big mortgage. You deserve to buy new clothes every season...or every week...or every day. Who knows. 

Either way, you are talking yourself into why you deserve the purchases you make. And what you are telling yourself is: in some way, I am entitled to spend this money....even if I don't have it.

You Spend Money on Stupid Shit
Maybe you were super jazzed about whatever sparkly brand new doohickey you last plopped down money for, but I can bet you got some side-eyes behind your back. If you are a serial-broke-ster.....you can bet your family and friends notice the stupid shit you decide to delegate your funds to.

Cigarettes, alcohol, gambling, whatever vice trips your trigger. This is STUPID. 
Gym Memberships when you've never set foot inside a gym
Consistently getting your hair or nails done when you don't have a proverbial pot to piss in.
Going out to eat all the time (this is MY own personal stupid)......stupid. 
Having to have the latest, best, greatest, and new-est? Stupid.

Yes, this is stupid. People try to justify it....but it's stupid. Stop spending money on stupid shit...save more money. Simple! 

You Think You Have Time
Who needs a retirement account at 30? That's, like, 50 years from death! You've got plenty of time to sock away some funds and, besides, isn't that what social security is for?

Oh poor, wayward spender. C'mere. Let's chat.

No....you don't have time. No one's time on this earth is guaranteed....and especially if you have a family, you need to start saving for retirement....AND get life insurance. 

You Care What Other People Think
Here's a tip: Other people don't think about you as much as you think they do. Believe me, I have MAJOR anxiety about what other people must think about me. For one, I typically dress like an early 90's scrub reject.....and it's not until I get to the bank/post office/whatever that I realize there's a hole in my sweater (like I discovered at this past weekend's wedding) or a big stain on my pants. And I get majorly self-conscious because what if these people think I'm some homeless, scrubby do-nothing with no job?

We buy things we don't need with money we don't have to impress people that DON'T MATTER.  Marketers THRIVE on this. They wrangle Instagram and You Tube "influencers" to have them talk US, the buying public, into buying what's cool. Because, hey...if that influencer uses it, I should too! Look at all the friends they have! 

It's a ploy....and it's only going to run you into a cycle of buying and becoming unhappy. Because things can't fulfill us. 

There's Hope
This all probably makes you sound like a royal asshole, right? Fear not, friend. This is ALL OF US. We are all, at one point in time, entitled. We all spend money on really stupid shit (some of us just don't live to regret it and repeat the process). We all think we have time......and we ALL, sometimes, care what others think.

The silver lining is....once you become aware of all this, it changes your spending habits drastically. Once you can tell yourself "You know what, just because I have a long commute doesn't mean I have to have a $50,000 luxury car.....basic is okay too"....Once you can tell yourself "I don't need to stop at Fazoli's for breadsticks right now" (I did this tonight....and even though I had a major jones for breadsticks, I was strong and resisted the pull of their buttery/garlic-y goodness). 

Once you change your frame of mind....once you identify your "WHY".....your friends and family will start to see the change in you.....and what they'll want to tell you about your spending habits won't need a big, awkward "come to Jesus" talk.
 

Sit Down...We Need to Talk ~ Personal Finance Blog

(This blog has swear words, truth-bombs, possibly offensive stuff and an affiliate link. There's your heads up) 

 I've had very few "life changing" moments in my 37 years. Moments that diverted the trajectory of everything....altered my world view....made things clear.

 My grandmother Betty died in 2008. I had feared that moment since I learned what death was. The second I realized as a child of 5 or 6 that someday Grandma would not be around anymore, I lived my life in complete and constant fear of it happening. I held on tight to every solitary moment with her because "it could be the last". It wasn't really a fun way to live, and because of my overwhelming anxiety over the inevitable....I probably missed out on some "life" in there.

 When it finally did happen, I kind of lost my shit for a bit. I felt set out into the world without a compass, because SHE was my base. She was there and all was right with the world and then suddenly she wasn't.

 My greatest fear had become realized and I was terrified of what it was going to do to me.

 In reality, it really "did" very little. I grieved. Big time. I held on to any little piece of her I had left. I would cry and be sad....but years pass, as they do, and the grief dissipates into a regular old missing. I survived it. Even though I feared it.

 We live our lives in a constant state of avoiding fear, fearing fear, fearing failure, and fearing death. This sucks. There's no other way to say it. Living your life this way sucks. But, it's what we are trained to do. We don't talk about death because it's scary. We don't talk about things we are afraid of because we are afraid of them and....duh...TALKING about that will make all that true. Then we have to admit that we are weak. We don't attempt things we may fail at because we live our lives in the wide open social network and people will SEE our failure...they will notice it...they will point....they will laugh.

 This is how I live my life. Lived. Do live. Still living, I suppose. 

I purchased a book (I had a gift card. Naturally). It was by Mark Manson and it's called The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. The title itself drew me in. Because I was really tired of giving a fuck about SO much that I knew, in my heart of hearts, didn't matter.
 
 Over the past few months I've found myself starting to get worked up about something and then asking myself "OMG...WHY DO I CARE!" or, even better, WHY DO THESE OTHER PEOPLE CARE!?!  And do I have to care if THEY care if I care about them? (Whoa.) And if I don't care....does that make me a gigantic douche canoe?

 I am self-employed and I work in an industry (photography/weddings/seniors) that is very centered on "cool". Looking cool, seeming cool, seeming worldly and well-traveled and cosmopolitan.

  Since the advent of Instagram this has increased ten-fold because now we are expected to have nicely curated feeds with "color schemes" that are pleasing to scrollers. We should be handing out various encouraging tidbits of wisdom along with our beautiful images. We should be constantly encouraging....we should be worried about our reach, our ROI, our tribe, and our message. We should always be aware that someone is watching and any misstep into the reality of our extremely pedestrian, real situation will cause them not only to not hire us and give us money, but to unfollow us and drag our names through the internet mud.

I can be a bit dramatic, eh?

But I started to worry about things like "What filter matches the "feel" of my current feed" or "If I say what I really think about whatever current situation is going on in our industry, will I lose friends/followers/clients?" 

OMG. WHY DO I CARE! 

Because we ALL DO. Hell, marketers RELY on us being all anxiety ridden with giving far too many fucks about shoes, hair, cars, iPhones, nail wraps, fidget spinners, pancakes, eyebrow shapes, and/or Kylie Jenner's newest appropriated hair-do. And while we are drifting through life handing out our fucks like so much parade candy, the things that DO REALLY MATTER are getting little to no attention....because we are afraid. 

I fear my kids getting older and leaving.
I fear my parents dying.
I fear one day people will just STOP hiring me and I'll be without an income.
I fear dying.
I fear cancer.
I fear people being mad at me.

See.....we are big old bags of anxiety and fear and wanton fuck-giving.....and people are preying on this human behavior to sell us stuff. 

Shit, I'm gonna give you an affiliate link at the end of this. Click on it. Buy the book. It's good. Or don't. Whatever. 

But that's how it is right now. We are afraid of the real stuff so we cling to the bullshit because it makes us FEEL good in the moment. 

We get a rush from our favorite lifestyle-influencer-You Tube Star telling us to reach for our dreams, because apparently it never occurred to us to do so otherwise. 

We get an absolute jones for MORE celebrity gossip, more things to be offended by, funny or inspiring memes shared on Facebook, people on Social Media telling us we are good, pretty, right, amazing, or agreeing with us that we are victims and how DARE someone make us that way.

Because the real stuff is scary.

So, what the hell does any of this have to do with personal finance? 

A lot. 

We spend. We spend like insane people with unlimited credit limits chasing that immediate but fleeting high of STUFF. Stuff to make us happy, pretty, cool, and influential. We post our stuff on Facebook or Instagram and we say "SEE....I'm happy, pretty, cool, and influential. Buy this!" 

And we do. 

This book I bought with my birthday gift card was one of those books where I finished it....I closed the cover and I took a big, deep breath. Because everything I had been wrestling with, all my anxiety and my fears and my frustrations with my job and social media and people in general were all laid out there in funny, relate-able prose. 

So is it life-changing? Maybe. Seems a bit shallow to say 1 book may have changed my life. It certainly has changed the way I've approached selling my services to people, relating to my clients and my peers, and the way I see the world in general. 

I hope it changes my fear. I hope I can feel fear and jump anyway. I hope the closer I get to 40 I can slow down the liberal handing out of fucks. Because we only have so many to give.....save them for what counts. 

Here's the affiliate link to the book. Affiliate links to stuff I love and use helps me keep the blog goin'. I appreciate your support! Check it out HERE. 

 

Vacation Destination: Target ~ Personal Finance Blog

Ok, so before you go all "But PG, you CANNOT go to Target without spending $100. Those are the RULES"....hear me out.

I have discovered that a visit to Target, as of late, passes as a vacation for me. I'll tell you why.

As I've mentioned before, we are currently a huddled, technically homeless group chillin' in my in-law's basement as we not-so-patiently wait for our new house to be built.

We don't even have a hole in the ground yet.

Yes, it's rained a lot this summer. I'm sure that's playing a role. But, I am the world's most impatient woman. I want my house. I wake up every day ever the more aware that I have no house. 

So, I am currently jumping at any chance I can get to "travel".....gas station runs, work at the studio, oil changes, post office visits. 

The other day, I went to Target. And I realized it had been such a long time since I'd actually WENT to Target and just looked around that it was almost refreshing, relaxing, and .....damn vacation-y. 

There were the exotic Starbucks smells.....and the candle aisle. Mmmm...Grandma's cookies. Definitely love that. Would never buy it, because damn it's $20....but mmmm...smells good.

There's all the fun swimwear. I actually did purchase a swimsuit. I didn't own one and Kidlet #1 has chosen to have a swim party this week for her 10th birthday. I assumed I would be expected to enter the water, so I got a swimsuit. It was on sale. Hopefully I'll get some use out of it.

I calmly perused the book section and made mental note of all the books I should look for at the library.

The baby section with all the adorable little baby outfits? I coo'd and ahhh'd for a bit before deciding to check out the back-to-school aisles and pre-plan the BEST shopping day of the year: School Supply Day! (Budgeted for, naturally)

Target is almost becoming foreign to me. So much so that a visit without really buying anything is kind of enjoyable. Like a museum. 

I realize that this is all sorts of sad....but I chalk it up a bit as not being much of a traveler outside of wedding work in Chicago and northern Wisconsin....and squirreling away any extra funds for the "house that will never be built". 

But, try it some time.....take a sabbatical from Target for a REALLY long time and then go back and see how fun it is.....

Just leave your wallet at home :) Break the rules! 

 

PG With the Bad Hair (Confessions of a Stylist Ghoster) ~ Personal Finance Blog

  I am NOT a "hair" person. But, full disclosure: I USED to be a bit of a hair person. Not in the sense that I knew what the hell I was doing, oh no. Not at all. I NEVER knew how to craftily wield a straightener and once I burnt off a big ole chunk of hair because, I dunno, I started to think of a story idea or something mid-styling. But, in the sense that I had no problem plunking down the dough for a stylist. 

  
  Back in my freewheelin' pre-kiddo days (read: when I spent money like an idiot), I would get my hair done on-the-regular. At the fancy kind of salon that will massage your hands with lotion made from rare crushed opals or something as you get an amazing shampoo by a stylist with angel fingers. I'd leave the salon each time feeling like a gazillion bucks with my shiny, perfect locks.

 And then I'd shower and it would all go away and my hair would look normal again. 

 But, by God....for a moment, I was a queen. 
 

Seee.....good hair. For a second. 

Seee.....good hair. For a second. 

Problem is, that was all to the tune of about $200 when it was all said and done and that is all kinds of ridiculous, given my complete disinterest in continuing maintenance and upkeep of such a "do" at home.

 So, once the kids started to appear and I started to grow less concerned with fancy hair-do's, I started jumping around. I went to whatever stylist I could find that didn't terrify me with prices. Often, I would just stop going after awhile and leave my hair to the forces of nature, ghosting each stylist with nary a phone call or a "goodbye" letter.

  So let me say it now, sorry former stylists. It's not you. It's totally me. I decided to go all nature-girl as of late and not do a damn thing to my hair. 

 I haven't had a trim since January (when I used a gift certificate....thanks Mom)....and I haven't had it dyed in.....oh God, no idea. It still looks relatively okay to me, so I haven't even given it much thought. 
 
 Potential savings: Hundreds. I don't buy fancy hair creams or sprays. I don't go overboard on expensive shampoos. I do buy quite a few black hairbands but I keep losing them. 

 Now, with regards to the kiddos, I've discovered that trims at Cost Cutters are probably sufficient until they need that "one good haircut" before school starts. Cost Cutters is, like I said, sufficient enough but damn if they don't do a choppy job. 

 Those hairstylists at the fancy places are probably WELL WORTH what you pay them, folks, believe me. I am well aware my hair looks like shit 99% of the time. 

 I tried cutting Betty's hair once.
 I probably won't try that again.

Haircare is kind of where I've decided to just SAVE....as much as I possibly can. But I am, by no means, under the impression that I can "do just as good of a job". Good god no. But, the question is, where do my priorities lie?

 I've decided I can be a happy camper in a new home with jacked up hair. The trade-off? Worth it. :) 

The World Turned Upside Down ~ Personal Finance Website

What do you do when you want to build a house, but you're frugal, and a saver, and a budgeter and want to stay that way?

You turn everything upside down, stick your belongings in storage, and bunk with your inlaws during the duration of the build.

At least that's what we are doing. 

And it's been....a trip, that's for sure. Three kids + husband + me in a roughly 600 sq foot space for 5-6 months? No comforts of home with us, really....everything is stored away. The kids are nuts sometimes. Bridget is learning to walk and into everything. Their TV is weird to me and privacy is kind of a foreign thought at this point. 

But, by my estimation we should be able to sock away about $20,000 by summer's end and hopefully get everything well organized and squared away by the time we are given the keys to the Little House in the Woods (as I've taken to calling it).

I consider this our sacrifice to win right now, because if we were spending the equivalent of a mortgage payment on a rental over the summer, our plan would not work out so well.

We are carefully budgeting every aspect of the build and cutting out anything that isn't necessary on the new house (fireplace? Nope. Master Bath tub? Unnecessary)

Can you build a new house on a budget? YUP....and we are well on our way! 

The Miseducation of Pudgy Gazelle ~ Personal Finance Blog

I like real stuff. 
Real stories.
Real ideas.
Real people.
I've started to grow tired of fluff and nonsense.  

I like real stuff. 
So I thought it necessary to throw REAL all up on the blog and, from the get go, be as transparent as one can possibly be.

I voted Republican at one time.

I did.

I was working my tail off as the sole owner/operator of my business....we were hustlin' that hustle like all the people told us we should. 

Someone once said to my husband and I that we would stop voting Democrat when we "made some money"....and I'm ashamed to admit that they were right. I was making money and dammit I wanted to keep it. I was paying at least 40% of my income out in taxes and I was blaming the wrong group of people for that grand injustice. Instead of looking at myself and saying "My God, I'm self-employed, I get to stay home with my kids, make my own hours, and make a pretty damn good living wage".....I started to get greedy....and it made me someone I nearly didn't recognize.

 So, what changed everything?

Trump. Trump did. 

When he came along, the lines of communication burst open like never before. Friends I held dear were posting things online that I could have easily dismissed. I could have held firm to my "belief" that socialism is for suckers, that no one should have to pay their hard-earned wages to help anyone else, and that "bootstrap" mentality is all anyone needs to get by.  I worked hard and, dammit, everyone else can too and expect the exact same results. 

I could have dug in my heels. 

And at times I did. 

But then I started reading. A friend would post some statistics....and I would follow the link. I would consider it's source (because Lord knows some sources are cray....on BOTH sides) and then I would take in the information. 

I'm a Sociology major. Always will be....and I LOVE stats. I love hard numbers and proof. Hell, it's the only math class I ever did well in. Stats make SENSE. You cannot argue with statistics (if sourced correctly and honestly). 

So I listened. And I read. And it started to make sense. 

It made sense that I had an easier time succeeding than some of my counterparts. I had privilege that they did not. 

I grew up in a working class home in the 1980s.....when "working class" meant you could afford a decent, modest house, healthcare, and the occasional vacation. 

Working class doesn't mean that anymore.

I grew up with two parents who remained married and both worked. 
I grew up with a grandmother who instilled in me the idea that I could do and be anything. 
I grew up with books, access to additional education, healthcare at my fingertips, regular dentist visits, the ability to play sports and participate in plays. 

I grew up white. Blonde haired. Blue eyed. European last name. 

All of this seems rather pointless to mention until you sit back and realize that regular dentist visits could be a major luxury for some.....and it's not because their parents don't "work hard enough" to afford them. It's because the COST of said visits keeps rising while incomes are remaining stagnant or falling at an alarming rate. 

And all the while, conservative voters like me were sitting back and thinking those damn kids and their need for fillings.....why don't they eat less sugary snacks? I mean, I'm paying for those too! 

Grumble, grumble.

When I started this blog, it was because I truly have a strong passion for helping people sort through their finances. (Can I just say I hate the word passion......how about affinity?...that's better).  I love showing people how to arrange a zero-based budget, how to kick the addiction to credit cards, or how to be frugal. But, I'm realizing that this affinity for personal finance also has to come along with a view on social and economic issues that I can live with, that I can be comfortable with. 

When Trump hit the ground running with his campaign and I began to hear the stories about costs of college sky-rocketing, people who were in danger of losing their healthcare, and folks who were unable to make ends meet even working multiple jobs.....I started to pay attention. Not to say that Trump CAUSED all of these things, but he definitely made it more acceptable to come out as a staunch conservative with certain "feelings" on those subjects....which led to stories.....

With all of the NOISE out there....the name-calling, the talk of emails, the talk of grabbing lady parts with Billy Bush and the screaming back and forth with no end or agreement in sight.....I found a SIGNAL. A signal through the noise. 

What side of history did I want to stand on?  What, at the end of the day, did I want to tell my CHILDREN....who whether we believe it or not, are listening....I believed?

I believe STRONGLY in a frugal lifestyle, in minimizing or eliminating debt, in saving not spending, in investing and personal responsibility.  All of that would point to a fiscally conservative mindset, right? Well....not quite. 

I also believe in fellow human beings, in doing what's right, in helping those who need help and in teaching those who, with knowledge, could foster a better life for themselves. 

There are ALWAYS going to be people who feel ENTITLED to things. People who feel that regardless of MATH, they can spend themselves into oblivion and whine that they can't make ends meet. The issue here, and what spoke to me, is that this is not a liberal or conservative issue. It's a character issue. There are folks on BOTH sides of the aisle that have this entitlement issue. Big, huge companies that can't balance their budget down to the lazy dude who doesn't want to work 40 hours a week but still wants brand name shoes. 

These folks are held aloft as the MAJORITY, by conservatives and liberals. SEEEEE, the big companies are the bad guy! SEEEEE, liberals are lazy jackasses who don't want to work.

This broad-brush painting helps NO ONE and only leads to such division that absolutely nothing gets accomplished to benefit anyone.

The only ones "winning" are those who surround themselves with "yes men" who will tell them they are amazing regardless of what the statistics show otherwise. And even then....it's not a real win. It's in their heads. A false sense of accomplishment. 

 You are not winning anything by supporting the end of social programs, by insisting that people keep coughing up the ridiculous rising prices of college, by saying "well, I have healthcare so I really don't care if my neighbor does".

Know what that leads to?

A country full of dumb, sick dullards with no skills and no hope. 

Good GOD, that's not what I want out of my country. We are already lagging behind European countries, behind our neighbor Canada and WHY? Because we are so damn stubborn and refuse to admit that we, as a country, REALLY don't have it all figured out. We are so busy fighting among one another about TOPICS while the big issues go years unsolved, and we begin to reap what we have sown. 

 People say that "arguing on the internet" does absolutely nothing....that is doesn't change minds. And, that's probably.....statistically (YAY!).....true. 

 But, if people would commit to just seeing what the other side has to say. Of not taking one story and making it the case for an entire group of people. Of having FAITH in their neighbors....things could change. 

 Do I believe in some conservatives when they say we have to SPEND LESS? Good God yes. But the fiscally responsible conservative has been skewed....and replaced with someone who wants to cut needed programs under the guise of "spending less" when, in reality, it furthers another agenda: religious, racist, or otherwise. 
  
  Do I believe in liberal leaders who say we need to support affordable college and free healthcare accessible to all? A living wage and family leave for new parents?  Good God yes. But a lot of this has been skewed by folks who believe this is all just "handouts" and if you cannot provide these items for yourself, you've lost at the game of life, somehow.

 It's all a mess.
 A big, fat, ugly mess and it gets more ridiculous every day and, honestly, I don't even know what the point of getting this all down was.


 Maybe, just maybe, it's to prove to one person telling their story that someone IS listening. I swear. That minds can be changed. That perspectives can move with knowledge. 

 Maybe it's to apologize for being that idiot on the internet who said things like "pull themselves up by their bootstraps" and "work three jobs to put themselves through college like I did". (Though I still believe everyone needs to stay away from lottery tickets!) 

 Maybe it's just to ease my own troubled mind, I don't know.

 It's all a mess, but it's been a mess before and we've come through okay. 

So hang in there. Love your neighbor. Help where you can. Be frugal. Save.

And have hope. 

Rockin' That Side Hustle ~ Personal Finance Blog

That WORD. Hustle. Dude.....what does that even MEAN.

I've ruminated on that. A ton.

You hear these business coaches and they preach "embrace the HUSTLE"...."you better HUSTLE girlfriend"

I'm HUSTLING dammit! 

But here's the thing.....am I....are you....doing everything in our power to maximize our earning potential (thereby increasing the amount of green we can throw at that debt monster?) 

Or, are we being lazy gazelles who somedays are probably just like "Screw it, let the lion eat me"

I hear ya. 

But, if I'm able to get serious for a moment, creating a side-hustle...especially one that is in a niche you can excel at, can be not only amazing for your pocketbook but for your self-esteem and "desire to hustle" as well.

 

WHAT SHOULD MY SIDE HUSTLE BE? 

This is where the sky is the limit and you need to look deep inside yourself and be honest about your strengths and weaknesses.

For instance, my mother-in-law is an AMAZING organizer. She lives to organize. It's a skill she just HAS and in spades (I am actually scared of the damage she could do in a Container Store). I've always said if she ever needed or desired a side hustle, she should become a professional organizer. Not only are there not any other PO's in our area (that I'm aware of)....but she could make a KILLING....she's so good at it.

No takers on that idea yet, but I claim ownership once it's acted upon.

There are TONS of options for "side hustles"....and what's great about a side hustle is you can build it around your schedule, responsibilities, and your availability. You set the hours you are willing to put forth and how much you want to charge. It's governed by YOU.

Here are some other options to consider:
1. Personal Shopper (go to the grocery store for home-bound or disabled folks). Run errands, pick up prescriptions, etc.
2. Landscaping - LOTS of people love being outside and LOTS of people hate it just as much. I'd gladly pay someone to do some planting and weeding. 
3. Babysitting
4. Dog watching/Pet sitting
5. You could sell something you make. Are you a fabulous artist? Do you make something unique that could be of value to the public? Have an idea for a new product? (Watch your COSTS on something like this, however. The cost of doing "business" may not be worth it)
6. Writing - There are companies that pay for blog content, ghostwriters, etc.

You really need to take inventory of what you enjoy, what you excel at, and what you can monetize. 

HOW ABOUT MLM'S? 

MLM stands for Multi-Level Marketing. These are those companies like Avon, Arbonne, Norwex, etc. A lot of folks jump on these as side-hustles because they are told you can "work from home/in your pajamas"....that you can make a full-time income and that it's your "own business". 

They can send in their start-up funds and BAM....built in business. They coach you on what to sell, how to sell, where to sell, and who to sell to.

Now, I'm gonna be straight with ya'll, I am not a fan of MLMs.  This is just my personal opinion. I know a lot of folks who work their own MLM hustle and good on them for doing their thing. I'm just not a fan of the high-pressure social media marketing tactics, the promises made and often not kept by the parent company, and the whole platform that this is "your business" when really, it's the parent company that is making the bulk of the money and a very large percentage of sales folks are barely scraping by. 

Not to mention the cost of upkeep on new products, etc. 

Many MLM folks end up tapping their inner circle over and over again for sales, realize that it's a lot more work than it's worth to really make a good amount of money, and eventually throw in the towel.

HOWEVER, caveat to that, if you are happy in your MLM side hustle and you find that the money you are making with it is fulfilling your need to pay off debt or move along in your debt-free journey in some other way, then you do your thing. If it's something you succeed at, you should keep at it. Just tread CAREFULLY.....and remember the parent company is always going to be in it to make the most money as possible, first and foremost. 

 Sales is a TOUGH side hustle, even if it's not via a MLM. 

We had a retail store for a while and while we never really started it to make a lot of money, the markup on our inventory (new vinyl records) was not very high....so we were constantly having to "hustle" for used inventory, where the markup was better. 

A side-hustle is much more profitable if it's a service you can provide, not necessarily a product. 

HOW DO I GET THE WORD OUT?

This is where social media is the bomb (people still say that, right?)

Depending on what you decide your side hustle should be, get the word out to your "base" on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram.

Now, don't BOMBARD those you love with your new idea. Just put it out there. 

If you're offering a service that local businesses may benefit from, make up some flyers or order a reasonably priced rack-card from  Vistprint and take it on down to the businesses that could use you.

Maybe take out a small ad in your local paper. 

START SMALL....once you get those first few "customers"....and knock it out of the park with them...the word of mouth will start to grow.

Remember, this is a SIDE hustle...not a GET RICH QUICK scheme.

TOO LEGIT

Even if this is a side hustle you still have to be working legitimately. This means pay your taxes, claim your income, pay sales tax, don't skirt the system. Don't be that guy.

Make sure what you choose to do is LEGAL for you to do (that you don't need a license in your area to perform that service, for instance). 


 


The great thing about the "side hustle" is you can be creative and also take your time and try out some different things. 

Currently I'm trying out writing....ghostwriting, blog writing, content creation.....who knows, maybe I won't have time to really "hustle" that much work and it won't be worth it.....but if I have time in the day, I wanna be hustlin'.......for now, anyway. 

10 Signs You're Probably Bad With Money ~ Personal Finance Blog

We all have strengths and weaknesses.

I am terrible at math. Like, counting on my fingers even though I'm 36 terrible.

Math teachers used to tell me I had to work on it because "it's not like you'll always have a calculator with you"

In your face, Math Teachers.

I am pretty good at personal finance though....but it wasn't always that way. It was a skill I had to learn on my own, through LOTS of trial and error. Through applying what I learned via mistakes. 

This is kind of how we get good at any skill: trial and error....and knowing when to ask questions and say "I don't know".

But how do you KNOW if you're bad with money? Here are 10 signs I put together that may point to you being not so handy with the budget, if ya know what I mean.

1. You Are a Chronic "Late Payer"

Late payments on anything has always been one of my greatest fears. When I first moved out on my own as a young adult, I believed if you paid something even a DAY late....they would throw you in jail, destroy your financial future, take your car, turn off your lights....whatever.

Even after I realized that doesn't really happen until you become one of those people who doesn't pay bills regularly....well...regularly, I still became obsessed with getting things in on time. 

People who are bad with money pay things late....or not at all...mostly because they're not on top of their budget or organized with their schedule of payments. 

What's helped me is a written calendar. Writing things down is proven to help you remember them. You can also set up automatic payments through most banks. 

2. You Spend to Get Yourself Out of a Bad Mood

This is SO friggin' dangerous. Because bad moods are unplanned....typically. So the spending is unplanned. And usually you're gonna go off and buy a bunch of crap you don't need. 

3. Your Credit Rating Sucks

Now, being a follower of Dave Ramsey we don't worry TOO much about our FICO scores. But, they're amazing. Because of afore mentioned chronic on-time payments of everything. But, if you're bad with money, your credit rating is probably pretty crappy. Because, well....you're bad with money.

4. You Buy More Than You Can Afford

You're probably easily persuaded by salesmen talking about "affordable payments" or easy financing. Because you don't think about it further than "do I have that payment for next month in the bank". So, you're gonna buy more car, more house, more entertainment items than you really can afford. 

5. You Have Absolutely No Budget

Budget? What's a budget? Budgets are boring. Too controlling. Pshaw!! You don't need no stinkin' budget! You'll stop spending when the money runs out! 

6. You Don't Save

This is kind of a given, but with the "Now is important, screw the future" mentality of most folks who are bad with money, they probably don't have a whole lot invested for the future....or saved....or much of a plan where that is concerned. 

7. Credit Cards = Free Money

Your view of credit is more spending power....a means to get what you want that you can't readily afford with cash. Your way of using credit is irresponsible and dangerous. Which leads you to overspending and a cruddy credit rating. It's all cyclical. 

8. If You Can Find Someone Else to Handle It, You Will

A lot of folks who are bad with money will seek out a partner who is at least FAIR with finances, so they just don't have to worry about it....removing all personal responsiblity for the whole hullabaloo. Or, they'll live in their parent's basement forever. That can happen. (shudder)

9. Bills Surprise You

If you get a credit card bill in the mail and you're afraid to open it because you have NO CLUE what the number inside is.....you just know it's BIG....you're probably bad with money.

Bills shouldn't surprise you. If you have a budget and you're on top of it, they should be relatively easy to predict. 

10. You're Stressed Out

Here's the thing. I probably stress about money too much. Mostly because I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (legitimately) and I stress about everything. I'm aware of this huge flaw of mine and I try very hard to remind myself that I'm doing everything in my power to keep our finances easy to manage and organized.

But, if you find you're regularly getting to the end of the money before the end of the month....or you're awake at night in cold sweats over exactly HOW you're going to manage to pay something....this is the biggest sign that something has to change. 

I have NEVER understood folks that could owe THOUSANDS and not fret about it. I always hope that maybe they are secretly stressed and they're just really good at hiding it (otherwise they're obviously aliens). Owing money is SCARY....and stressful. Having lost control of your finances is scary....and stressful.



But there is ALWAYS hope. There is always a chance to say ENOUGH and to regain control. 

So, even if do suck with money, you don't ALWAYS have to be that way. You can be reformed! The first step? 

Take a look in the mirror....and say "Self....you suck at this. And it's okay. We are gonna get better."

Today? Today is Day 1. 

Really Awful Financial Advice ~ Personal Finance Blog

We love our family and friends, right? I mean....they want to see us succeed. They want to see us do well with money and not end up broke and homeless.

So what's with all the crap advice? 

Amirite? 

No, for real....they mean well...they really do. But if you have friends or family that have mouths and can speak....they've probably handed you some really awful financial advice at some point. 

Here are some of my personal favorites.....and what to do instead. 

1. Everyone Has a Car Payment, It's a Fact of Life

I've gotten this one. It may be that a LOT of people always have a car payment, but it's kind of crappy advice to say that it's a fact of life we need to just accept. Maybe some of us need to accept that we don't NEED brand new, fancy cars.....that paying cash for a usable vehicle IS do-able. It's not a unicorn fantasy. 

2. There is "Good Debt"

Things like your house.....because you can write off the interest. 
Student loans....because it can lead to a better paying career (um....sometimes.)

But this is false false false. The only "good debt" is no debt. Investing the money you WOULD have paid on a mortgage is going to give you far better returns than a paltry interest write off, right? 

So make having a paid-for house your goal. Not acquiring "good debt".

3. Enjoy Life in Your Twenties, Don't Worry About Saving Until You "Settle Down"

There was an article that came out, I think a few years ago, written by a twenty-something who said something to this effect. That worrying about saving and investing was for "old people".....you know, those of us in our ancient thirties. Your twenties were for spending and partying and being stupid with money. When else were you going to have so much fun? (As if being stupid with money equates to fun, I suppose). 

This is dumb. 

If you start even a nominal investment at the age of 20, you're going to likely be a millionaire by retirement time. 

Read up on compounding interest one night instead of hittin' the clubs. It'll do ya some good. 

4. Borrow Against Your House to Follow Your Dreams

I saw this on "Outdaughtered" uttered from a "Financial Advisor" (I'm gonna go ahead and use that term loosely here). 

This is also dumb.

Don't leverage your house to take a gigantic, costly business risk or do something equally misguided as buy a yacht or something.

Save. Start slow. Pay cash. SLOW. DOWN.

5. If You Can Afford the Payments, You Can Afford the Item

Um. No. Just NO. Dude, this is how people get looped into leasing BMW's when they make $15/hour. This makes your life about payments.....about debt....about OWING. 

If you can't pay cash, you can't "afford" it. Car salesmen ESPECIALLY like to throw this one at you: "What if I told you that you could be driving a BRAND. NEW. LUXURY VEHICLE. for low low payments?"

Don't do it, dude. Don't do it. You may be able to technically clear $400-$500 a month for a car...but you're living a lie, and we ALL know it. You can't afford that car. You're playing the car salesman's game. Lots of people lose that game. 

6. Shopping is Good "Therapy"

You'll see this a lot on TV or online. "Retail therapy". Feeling down? Go shopping! That'll pick ya right up! Wander the aisles at Target....see all the shiny new stuff. Go without a plan! 

This is a good way to spend yourself silly and come home surrounded by shopping bags wondering what the hell happened.

Shopping is not good therapy. It's a lot like drinking....you may feel really awesome in the moment, but you're gonna feel like absolute shit later. Trust me.

7. Hey Teenage Daughter or Son, You Shouldn't Work in High School....you Should Have Fun and Concentrate on Homework

This is probably personal opinion, but teenagers who have never held down even the most menial of jobs become adults with crappy work ethics. I've interviewed these adults. I've hired SOME....and regretted it. I've seens their resumes and I've talked to them about their thoughts on work.

Even if it's a few days a week or just over the summer, they have to WORK.....they have to get their hands dirty. It's not to get rich, it's to LEARN. You owe them an opportunity for that experience. Trust me. I started working at 12 (hello paper route and regular babysitting gigs). I've always said it was the best thing I ever did. I learned a TON over the myriad of jobs I held through high school.

Namely that I have to work for myself or perish. :) 

8. You Have to Get a Credit Card ASAP and "Build Your Credit"

This is exactly how people get into trouble in the first place. Especially in college. No one is sitting you down teaching you how to responsibly manage money. I mean, I'm 36....I never once got a "personal finance class" offered to me in high school OR college. 

But hell, let's hand these newbie adults $5000 to $10,000 on a card and let them go nuts. 

Good idea. 

***************

Deciphering the good from the bad when it comes to advice given comes with time and practice (and lots of following bad advice and seeing how bad it is).

Your best bet? Don't listen to broke people. Don't listen to people who hold tight to old ideas of money management that are proven false. Don't listen to people who are up to their eyeballs in consumer debt (and, well, given the newest numbers that list that in the TRILLIONS for Americans, that's pretty much everyone).

Listen to your gut feeling....and what's best for your family's legacy. That'll always lead you in the right direction.

 

Adventures in Frugality ~ February 2017

Oh boy, it's been stress-city round these parts. 

I blame tax season. I have a love/hate relationship with tax season. It speaks to my love of personal finance organization, charts, and reports. Love of statistics and color-coded Excel spreadsheets. I love it.

It's the owing I'm not too big a fan of.

And we owe. We owe pretty much every year because I'm self-employed and that is such a roller coaster that it's always difficult to predict how I'm going to do year after year. 

2015 was a cluster....well....you know the rest. We started a retail business....I went haywire with the idea that I SHOULD be doing something different with my life....my own business that I had poured heart and soul into for 7 years got put on the back burner. It was kind of a mess. HOT. MESS.

We got our collective shizz together though, and I killed it in 2016. I got everything back on track and I'm super happy with where my photography biz is right now. My #1 focus. No more business ADD. 

But, with taxes looming I knew because I did SO much better in 2016 than 2015 that we were going to owe a tidy sum.....so I started socking it away early, in anticipation.

And yeah. It's a tidy sum.

But we're ready for it. It stinks but we are making adjustments to make sure we don't owe quite so much next year.

I guess I need to look at the lemonade from the lemons: it means I had a really good year.

WON:

- How did we "win" in February? Well, booking for my business were fantastic and I booked a handful of events that helped us have a very relaxed "off season" month. Typically February can go one of two ways: lots of bookings for upcoming events and I'm happy.....or it's dead as a doornail and I have the sads. 
Self-employment, man. It's not for the faint of heart. 

- We put our house up for sale!!! Finally!!! I feel like we are really moving forward with our future plans and this makes me SUPER happy. 

- Got rid of a TON of clutter as we staged our house for sale. Sold some stuff on Ebay (to the tune of $60), listed all of my old vintage kids clothes on Etsy and sold some ($137.00 total this month). Sold a tent ($100) and some other furniture ($100 also).

We'll be getting rid of more after the house sells....new house, new stuff. Some of our furniture we've had since we were single and it's showing it's age for sure. 

- After a brief hiatus I revisited Every Dollar (www.everydollar.com) for budgeting. I'm still writing everything down as well, but it helps to lay it all out there too. 

LOST

- OMG, WAYYYYY too much eating at restaurants. It's our achilles heel for sure. I knew it was going to be an issue this month with putting the house up for sale and having to constantly vacate for showings. We didn't want to continue to make a mess in the kitchen with dinner that we just had to keep cleaning up when people wanted to see the house.

So it's been pizza. Restaurant stops......bad bad bad.

So, we talked and decided we needed to add a buffer to our budget in March to take care of this issue. We will probably be stopping for easier dinners more often, with being away from home, so that needed to be addressed.

- With taxes looming and putting the house up for sale, we haven't really dedicated a lot of time to the debt snowball, but we were able to throw a little extra at it. 

Paid off in February: $1193.99
 

Why We Have To Do Things Differently Than How Our Parents Did Them ~ Personal Finance Blog

   Finances is not something I speak about frequently with my parents. We are in that limbo-type age group where we are raising families and our parents are quickly approaching retirement, if they are not there already. We didn't talk about money growing up. It was taboo....it was something that we were just going to assume was "there" when we needed it and we didn't need to worry our pretty-little-kid-heads about adult matters.

During the last election (shudder), a lot was being mentioned about how things "used to be". 

Well, let's talk a BIT about how things 'used to be' and how we HAVE to approach finances differently than our parents and their parents did....even if they wax nostalgic about the "good ole days" and believe their way was ultimately best.

Because times, they are 'a changin' and all that....and if you're still holding out hope for a job with a pension and social security benefits that will keep you...well...anywhere near secure......you may be holding on to that hope for a really long time.

My Grandparents (may they rest in peace) survived the Great Depression. Grandma used to regale us children with stories about Christmases with little more than an orange in her stocking. 

While raising 8 kids in a 2 bedroom home in Wisconsin during the 1950s, they were placed smack dab in the middle of what people fondly remember as the "good ole days". When times were good, violence and poverty were nil, people had jobs they kept for 40 years and retired with fat pensions and the pride of a life lived supporting their family.

People and their rose colored glasses. 

Per financial website wisebread.com, the average American yearly household income from 1950 to 1959 ranged from $3210 to $5010.

A. YEAR.

Adjusted for inflation that's about $32,000 to $50,400. Very similar to where we fall now. 

In the 1950s, three out of five American families bought homes. The average size of that home being roughly 1000 square feet. Yup. 1000. 

We have more than doubled the average size of a new home these days. We need room. For all our stuff. 

People typically waited until they were secure in a job to purchase a home, and they typically stayed in that home their whole lives.

However, their appetite for discretionary spending on items such as clothing, cars, and television sets was peaked in the 50s. The typical household had 1 car, which they very often fixed instead of replacing when things when awry. 

In the 50s, Americans typically saved about 9% of their income. They had jobs that promised nice pensions and retirements, typically. Unions were strong, employment rates were high, and
poverty was something the middle class could escape and ignore by moving out of the city and building their nice little 1000 square foot cracker box house in the suburbs. Which they did in DROVES. 

We dream wistfully about a return to the economic prosperity and good feelings of the 1950s, but the country is no longer set-up to support this....and hasn't been for some time. 

Manufacturing jobs, which saw their boom in the 50s, are being replaced by automation and outsourcing. The unskilled, uneducated worker can no longer support a large family, buy a home, and work the same job for 40+ years expecting a big cushion when he retires.  It just. doesn't. happen.

In the 1980s, the folks raised in the booming 50s became parents themselves. Our generation was born (WOOT!) and we were raised in a time of great consumer spending. 

The 80s kicked off with a recession (I was a baby so I don't remember a thing!...However, I think I remember my parents telling me once that the interest rate on their home mortgage was 9-12%!!!!!) 

Electronic and tech jobs started to grow, replacing Rust Belt manufacturing positions. The issue here is, most tech jobs required college degrees....which a lot of kids raised in the 1950s didn't deem necessary. 

College tuitions absolutely soared and many kids were raised in paycheck to paycheck households. The mom and dad both going off to work became the norm and latchkey kids followed. 

The 1980s were still, however, a hold-over time where parents without a lot of education or job-skills could still find work in various factory jobs and make a good living for their families. 

In our area, the local GM plant was THEE PLACE to land a job after high school. You'd have it "made", adults would tell us. 

Sadly, the GM plant closed some years ago....leaving legions of uneducated and limited-skill workers without a plan, a future, or a nest egg. 

We didn't save like we should have in the 80s and 90s. We bought more. We bought bigger. We took on gigantic mortgages and had 2-3 cars per household. We took out credit. LOTS of credit. We didn't sock money away....we didn't invest like our parents did. 

Sadly, once the 1980s kids reached college age, they were staring down the barrell of $20,000-$50,000 in loans for your average bachelors degree and their parents were likely beginning 2nd careers at the bottom rung. 

So, what can we do now to live successfully and finanically fit in these times of economic uncertainty, extremely expensive college, and high cost of living in general?

First, forget what our parents modeled for us. Forget the "good ole days" our grandparents whistfully wish for. Those days are not only over...they are not coming back. No matter how much men in suits and ties (that are WAY. TOO. LONG., dude) tell us they are.

We need to live in the now and plan for the worst finanically, NOT what we hope will happen. That's not to be all doomsday and tell you to dig a cellar and start stockpiling gold bullion and cans of beans, but you need to think rationally and take into consideration today's economics.

I honestly believe that my generation, those born in the late 1970s/early 1980s, were probably the last kids to go off to college as a social growth opportunity as much as an educational one. You went to "find yourself"....to discover skills and passions. To have your eyes opened by some crazy professor who wore Birkenstocks and smelled like tobacco. 

Our kids really don't have that luxury. Few of us can afford to spend upwards of $40,000 so our kids can go "find themselves". We need them to do that earlier....and develop marketable skills that will allow them to move out of basements and make a living for themselves and their future families.

We also need to teach kids about investing and compound interest WAY early. I didn't learn about these things until I was in my THIRTIES. I mean, do you realize if I had been investing through my 20s how much I would have now?

To think about it makes me a bit ill.

We need to institute high school classes that are REQUIRED that teach the basics of economics, savings, debt avoidance, and investing principles. Exciting stuff? Not really.....but the only way we are going to turn things around even a little is to foster a gang of educated young folks. 

We need to instill in our children the absolute importance of skill-building. Marketable skill building. You can still foster their love for sports, the arts, or hobbies....but the writing on the wall is you HAVE to have a marketable, pay-able skill in order to make ends meet. 

This does not necessarily mean that 4 year college is necessary for every person anymore. Technical schools have some fabulous programs and at a fraction of the cost of many 4 year institutions. Healthcare jobs are still in high demand. Tech jobs are in high demand. The market may have wildly changed since our parents could make it as line-workers at the GM plant, but that doesn't mean we can't adjust and thrive! 

Things are wildly different than they were in the 1950s. In the 1980s. In the 1990s. This is OUR time. We have to do things differently than our parents did them. We have to prepare our kids for THEIR time. We have to realize that, as much as we may love them, our parents probably made a lot of financial mistakes.....as did their parents before them. As we become the "sandwich generation" (caring for young children AND aging parents)....some of the financial mistakes they made may come back to haunt us. 

But we will be better prepared. We will be knowledgable about our options. We can start now and maybe urge our parents to start planning for their life beyond independent living (this can be a super-hard discussion and probably warrants it's own blog post).

It's our time. Proceed accordingly.

Clearing Space ~ Personal Finance Blog

So, we are moving. 

YAY! 

Finally! I feel like we've been planning this out FOR-EV-ER. 

So, right now we are buried in the vast muck of de-cluttering and staging our home for sale. Our house is about 2400 sq. feet, if you include the basement. I feel like we are not pack rats by any means, but it is AMAZING what you are willing to throw away, give away, or sell when your mind is on a goal.

Today alone I took 2 packed Ford Flex car-loads to Goodwill (Seriously, if anyone ever buys any of my children a stuffed animal again, I will shiv them). I sold a desk, a clock, a tent, a chair, and some photography equipment. I threw away a TON of worthless crap, papers....just garbage.

It's coming along. 

I am fast realizing that happiness and a clear mind can definitely be buried under years of STUFF. Stuff we never needed.

We had to go to Menards today (Menards is like Home Depot for Wisconsinites)....and pick up a few items to fix up some house stuff: caulk, some mulch, a new toilet seat. We budgeted everything out and came $200 under budget (WOOT!). 

Driving home my husband said "You know, it's so WEIRD spending money now. I look around at everyone at the store....and I think, everyone is just buying STUFF. Stuff they probably don't need."

Even us. Except for the toilet seat. TOTALLY needed that. 

We've run into the issue of being acutely aware of everything we buy and if it brings us happiness, if it's actually needed, and if it's a good use of our money. Not sure if it's an "issue" (except when we stand frozen in a store terrified to buy ANYTHING.....which happens). 

But it's there. We've eeked our way into an unintentional minimalism of sorts.....to the point where some people (*cough* motherinlaw *cough*...I say that with love!) are afraid we may be getting rid of TOO MUCH....and what are we going to, you know, sit on....or read....or decorate our new walls with? 

Never fear....it's all intentional. Intentional living...intentional de-cluttering...and moving. Intentionally. 

10 Ways We Screw Up Our Finances ~ Personal Finance Blog

The average American household has roughly $16,000 in revolving credit card debt.  The average American HOUSEHOLD income is roughly $44,000.  About 24% of all Americans have no savings at all. Recent polls show about 52% of American households find it difficult to pay bills every month. 16% were late on their mortgage payment. 18% spend more than their income (and I betcha a cool million that statistic is low). 40% of working Americans are NOT saving for retirement. FORTY. PERCENT. PEOPLE. 

We Americans are not terribly good with money, as a whole. Financial fitness wasn't taught in school when I was a youngin'. We never had a class that went over savings, mortgages, bill payment, or insurance. But, damned if we didn't learn what an equilateral triangle was!

But I digress.....

Typically, with folks in my generation, we learn late that being financially fit is a MUST if you're going to live a happy, healthy, stress-free-as-possible existence.

So, how do we go astray?

Here's 10 BIG ways we Americans screw up our finances. But, all is not lost, people. There's always hope. There's always time to do it another way.

1.  Using Credit Cards

This is a big one. Statistics show you spend 12-18% more when you use a credit card than you do with cash. Precious few people are responsible credit card users, even if they believe they are. If you're one of those people who puts EVERYTHING on a card to get "points" or "miles" and then "pays it off at the end of the month"....you are one job loss away from financial bedlam. 

Cash is king. Cash is tangible. Cash stops you from overspending. It's simple science: you spend more with credit. Use cash! Points will never make you rich. You will never beat the bank at the game they invented. Use cash, save the difference.

2. Not Having an Emergency Fund

There's a reason this is Dave Ramsey's 1st Baby Step. All the other steps rely on you having funds to cover an emergency. A REAL emergency, not Christmas. Not new shoes. 

Your baby emergency fund helps guide you along debt repayment. But, most Americans have less than $1000 in the bank for emergencies. They rely on "emergency credit cards". See #1 for why that's a bad deal. 

If you're saying "PG, we live paycheck to paycheck, how can we get an emergency fund?"

It's time to start selling stuff. Sell so much people think you are crazy. Sock away every dollar you make, you'll be amazed how fast you can grow $1000. Some people take sacrifice to a NEW level: they sell their car and drive a hoopty....they move to a smaller house or an apartment....they start eating nothing but Ramen. What level of sacrifice you're cool with is all personal to you and your family, but it CAN be done. Even on a tiny income.

3. Keeping Up With Those Joneses

So and so has a brand new house. So and so has a 2016 BMW with leather seats. So and so is carrying around a Louis Vuitton and dammit doesn't she look good? 

Envy. We WANT that. How come THEY have it and I don't. Envy drives spending. Brands know this. Salespeople know this. 

It's SUPER hard to ignore that. It's what makes the world go round. But, striving for a lifestyle you simply cannot afford is not bright....and it doesn't matter what you buy, it's not creating a lasting legacy for your family. 

I once saw on TV this woman justifying her designer handbag collection by saying it was an "investment".

It was one of those moments when I remarked "you keep saying that word. I don't think it means what you think it means". 

THINGS don't matter. People do. Pick one stupid purchase you make on a regular basis (like Starbucks every morning or expensive brand name ANYTHING....) and filter that money into a growth stock mutual fund. Let compound interest work its magic. THAT'S an investment.

When the Joneses hit retirement age and don't have a proverbial pot to piss in....then they will be envying YOU.

4. Not Having A Budget

If you're spending with out a plan, plan to fail. Seriously. There's no way in h-e-double-hockey-sticks anyone can just go and spend wildly without any set plan and expect to be financially fit.

Now, we budget like crazy folks. Every cent that enters our home has a job. If it's left without a job, it goes to savings or debt payoff. That's it's job. I do the budget on an every-other-night-basis....because some sick part of me finds great enjoyment in balancing the budget. I'm a mega-nerd. There might be something wrong with me.

Get a budget together. Work on it. Don't give up if the budget fails the first month. It takes about 2-3 months to get it working well. 

5. Going Out to Eat

We are eating our savings. Believe me. Stopping in for a quick lunch, going out for an expensive date night dinner....we spend a ridiculous amount of money on restaurants. It stops being "special" and just starts being what we do on a regular basis. 

Learn to cook at home. Learn to meal plan. Save, save, save!  Reserve going out to eat for special occasions. Make it "special" again. (We REALLY need to work on this!)

For one whole month write down EVERY restaurant visit. Every fast food stop. Every Starbucks run. See that number at the end of the month? Gross, eh? Yeah. Food is a budget killer. 

6. "I Deserve It"

I work hard. I sacrificed. I NEVER get to....  Just this once. Life is short. YOLO. All that. We justify spending in a myriad of ways. I've done it. We've all done it. A lot of this takes a re-frame of your thinking. Sure, we all want something to show for our hard work...whatever it is we do....but what if that "something" became debt freedom and a healthy retirement instead of a new car? 

Sure, people can't really SEE your healthy retirement....at least not until you retire and buy that killer dream house with green shutters on Prince Edward Island (ok, that might be just me).....but you can see it. And it secures your legacy.....far more than a car, a shirt, a knick-knack, a piece of jewelry.

7. Keeping Separate Finances from Our Spouse

This rarely works out well. You can't have a partnership where the left hand has no idea what the right hand is doing and expect to have a joint financial fitness. 

You are partners and any plan works better when you work it together and keep one another accountable.

8. Ignoring Ways To Make Money

I'm super lucky because I'm self employed. As hard as that is sometimes (especially during slow season)....I have a skill set that can be applied in so many ways that pay. I can do commercial work, food photography, head shots, family shoots. When things get slow I can start planning for Senior Portrait season and taking deposits for that. Weddings book all year round. 

This week we started clearing out our closets in preparation for staging our house and I came upon the massive collection of vintage children's clothing I've amassed over the past 9 years. I decided instead of moving it to the new house, where it would no doubt just clutter up a basement closet.....I was going to sell it off. 

I started a little Etsy store called "What Alice Found" (it was an old name. I used to be a big Lewis Carroll junkie)....and listed every piece on there. In less than 20 minutes from the first few listings I had sold $40 worth of vintage stuff. Check it out if that sort of thing does anything for you :) 

It may seem like a pittance, but that adds up....and if you can get creative, you can create a cash flow that pads your debt repayment, savings, or investing fund. 

If you're NOT self employed, make sure you're always keeping your resume up to date, just in case a great opportunity presents itself. Take advantage of overtime if you can. Leverage a skill you may have after work (like fixing computers or teaching yoga).

There's a great place for people to go when they need money: TO WORK! If you can't find the work, create the work. Get creative! 

9. Taking Out Loans

I'm not even going to MENTION Payday loans here because those are the work of the Devil. I've never taken one out myself but I've heard they have ridiculous interest rates and they pretty much decimate your finances. They are BAD HOMBRES. (ha!) 

Regular loans aren't much better, honestly. The only loan Dave Ramsey approves is a mortgage and only under certain circumstances (which we are choosing to go a different route on and hoping he doesn't somehow find out and smote us)

But HELOC loans? Bad news. Loans from family and friends? Even worse. Don't make your family your lender. It's just a good way to make every family gathering really awkward. 

I was recently watching that show Outdaughtered (which is SUPER CUTE, btw) and the couple on there was kicking around the idea of buying into a spin cycle business. Well, problem #1 is they didn't have the cash on hand to buy in to anything (there were about 100 problems with their plan, but that was the big one). They had some financial planner come and talk with them and this lady actually SUGGESTED they borrow against their house to buy into this plan.

I almost threw the remote at the TV (then I remembered we scored our TV at a tremendous deal and I didn't want to have to buy a new one). 

No. No. Bad. NO.

If you want to take a vacation, start a sinking fund and save for your vacation.

If you want to re-do your kitchen, start a sinking fund and re-do your kitchen when it's full.

Once you are debt free, socking away money for things you want should be a breeze....you're already pre-conditioned to allocate money! 

10. Declaring Bankruptcy

This is a LAST. RESORT. MOVE. guys. Even D-Ram suggests a 401K Loan (EW) over Bankruptcy. It's that damaging. 

You may feel like the hole you dug yourself is inescapable. You may feel helpless and hopeless looking at a stack of bills and no money in the bank.

But don't throw a grenade on your entire life because things look dire now. 

Start with one thing: write EVERYTHING down. See it on paper. And then just BEGIN. Take an extra job. Call your creditors and see what you can do to possibly lower interest rates. SELL EVERYTHING YOU FREAKING OWN. Seriously....if you are at the doorstep of Mr. Bankruptcy, it's time now to liquidate everything under your roof and claw your way out.

Is it hard? OH YEAH.....is it worth it? YES. Because after you're done....after you're free....and you did it without bankruptcy....you are TRULY free. 

******

There's lots of things we all do every day to screw things up. I get weak and order Panda Express. My husband gets weak and doesn't join me for budget meetings all the time. The kids NEED stuff (dang kids and their needing things....lol). 

But this all CAN be done, and it's not a life of servitude and sacrifice all the time. Even if I may make it seem that way sometimes. 

You can live a wonderful, full life and still be financially fit. A little self-awareness goes a LONG way to start down that road.