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. 

 

Adventures in Frugality ~ January 2017

Well here we are! One month into 2017. Things are going well with the plan...we are back on track, mostly, with our budget.

It's been a super-stressful month to say the least. We made the decision to go ahead with our move...made the decision to build....in a city that is an hour away from where we currently live. With lot prices that are double or triple what they are here in B-town.

We went over and over and OVER our numbers, our budget, our projected income, our spending habits, our needs, our wants....I feel like January has been nothing but MATH.

I hate math.

Here's how we WON and LOST in January! 

WON:

- I feel like we have really done our due diligence with the house. We are still waiting on our pre-approval from the always awesome Churchill Mortgage, but we've run the numbers umpteen times. I feel good about that. We are not walking into a new home blind or without taking into consideration what is reasonable. It's SO easy to get carried away with a new home build. 

- Bridget has been packin' on the winter pudge, and growing out of all of her clothes. Turned in a crap-ton of old stuff to Kidz Kloset in Janesville and got a whole bunch of new (well, new to us) stuff! Saved a ton! 

- We checked ourselves (before we wrecked ourselves, literally) and we have been really good about the restaurant visits this month. We did take ourselves out to sushi with a gift card the hubby got for good work at an event. Savings: $50. Woot! 

- We were able to put a sizable chunk down on our vacation sinking fund. We signed up for a service that just takes a little bit out of our bank account each week and puts it into a savings account....it's a great way to save without the hassle! You can still enjoy life while being on a budget...you just have to PLAN! 

LOST: 

- Freaking dental work. Kid #1 started her braces journey this month. Our dental insurance only covers up to $3000 LIFETIME. Anyone whose kid has had braces knows that's a joke. Thankfully, we were able to cash flow the remainder. But dude. Teeth are expensive.

- Because it's slow season here in self-employment land, we weren't able to really "kill it" on debt repayment, but we were able to bump it up a little bit. 

AMOUNT PAID ON DEBT: $1189.99

Next month we will be, HOPEFULLY, moving ahead at a break-neck speed on the house situation....and putting Casa Reseburg up for sale, which is terrifying! 

Stay tuned! 

When You Are Legit Terrified to Spend ~ Personal Finance Blog

I have OCD.

Not, like, "oh, I'm really organized and tidy" type cute-sy Monica Gellar OCD.

I have real OCD. I was diagnosed at 19. There, there's something you probably didn't know about me (or expect me to just throw out there in a finance blog, but there it is).

My OCD manifests itself here and there. I'm medicated, so it's pretty under control. I do have certain things that make it go a bit wonky at times. Certain sounds drive me absolutely bonkers, to the point where I have to leave the room. I really, really, REALLY dislike crowds. Surefire way to send me into a full-on panic. I don't like things that go fast or spinning wheels. 

Very odd things like that. Over the past 15 years I've learned to control and/or squash a lot of my issues....but I do tend to pick some up sometimes, if I'm not careful.

Sometimes, I get really nervous about "running out" of things. So much so that I'll buy, say, 3-4 containers of a condiment....just so I don't run out. I don't like to finish things, like soda ...because what if I don't have another one?

Now I'm just kind of sounding nuts.

I promise, I have a point.

Since starting our debt-payoff and savings plan a few years ago, I've worked REALLY hard on not being a over-spender. I try to find deals where I can, I try to save, I try to delay gratification. 

The husband and I made the decision this week on where we are going to move and to what....and it led us to the decision to build a house. Now, this always seemed, to me anyway, like a really out-of-reach idea for us. The numbers are.....scary. Dave Ramsey tells us not to move or buy a house until we are 100% debt free. Yes, true. We are deviating from Dave's plan a bit to get our girls to a new city. A city where they have more opportunity. A city where my earning potential as a self-employed person is greater. An area I've missed terribly since we left it 7 years ago. It's our home. We want to get back there.

We had some major "Come to Jesus" talks about this. Is it a good idea? Should we just stay put? Are we being stupid? 

I believe each family in the midst of their own financial fitness journey has to make the decisions that best fit their path to wealth. We can move and still continue to pay off debt at the level we are currently.....and that made it an easier decision to make.

HOWEVER, I am finding that over the years I've developed a bit of an aversion to spending money. Any money. Which makes spending the most money you've ever spent on a thing very hard. I keep running the numbers. I keep having these panic moments of "what if I don't book any work!?! What if one of us loses our income!?" 

It's the same panic I get in crowds: What if I lose a kid? What if someone with the flu brushes up against me and then I get the flu? What if there's a fire and I can't get away? 

It's the same panic I get in fast moving cars: What if our wheels fall off? (Yes. This terrifies me.) Despite my husband's insistence that this doesn't really happen, I swear I've seen it.

We've weathered job loss in the past and we know we are very responsible people who can take what life throws at us. Doesn't make the decision any easier. 

I've developed a visceral reaction to spending money. I'm convinced myself that if I just collect enough data saying "Yes, this makes sense" that I'll feel better about it.

Not so sure. I guess I just needed to get that out :) Right now, I'm blaming it on the OCD. That way, I can say that at some level I'm being completely irrational :) 

Can anyone relate? 

We all make day to day decisions regarding finances that drive our family either forward or backward. We decide to buy the pants. We decide to buy the car. We decide to invest. We decide to not loan our friend $100. We decide to stop eating at restaurants. We decide to use cash only. These are all decisions that people could argue for or against until the cows come home. 

I keep thinking "People out there are going to think this is a bad idea". What people? I dunno, people. People who will see us spend. I worry about that a lot. If I buy myself a magazine or a sweatshirt, I'm being really wasteful because I don't really need it. This is one hell of a sweatshirt. 

My point?

At some point, we need to TRUST ourselves. Especially if you're to the point where you've been running a strict budget for years and you are on a very good trajectory. You need to trust that you are responsible. You need to KNOW yourself, and what you can handle. I know I'm not a person who is going to go buck-nutty and spend $50,000 furnishing my new home with Pottery Barn. That just isn't me. We are going to save cash until we can replace some of our more worn out items. I know I'm not the person who is going to upgrade the house to the hilt so it is $100,000 more than the initial base price. I'm going to make smart decisions based on what we really NEED. 

I guess I don't trust myself yet. I feel like if I fail, if I calculate wrong, if I can't make my business work there like I have here, then I fail our family....and that would suck.

Sometimes, we look fear in the face and we run, it's just too scary....too real. Sometimes we face it down....we say yes and make it work. I've done this with my job...I've done it with having a third kid and within personal relationships. Life is long. It's hard. And living in fear of making a wrong decision when you've become a ridiculously cautious person.....not sure if that's a way to saunter down your own road, right?

So, that's where my head is right now, Gazelles. How you doin'?  :) 

 

(NOTE: Not our new home. But it's pretty, right? )   

(NOTE: Not our new home. But it's pretty, right? ) 

 

So Now What? ~ Personal Finance Blog

So yeah, you may have heard....we've got ourselves a new President. 

Yup. 

Can't say I'm exactly THRILLED about the nation's pick. But, this is a personal finance blog so I'm gonna stay on task and we are gonna talk about how a new Administration should affect your approach to your personal finance journey.

1. RECOGNIZE YOUR PRIVILEGES ARE NOT THE SAME AS OTHERS
This is a really important step 1 and one that has, admittedly, been difficult for me in the past. We are not all the same. We are not all on equal footing financially. We do not all start equally. We do not all have the same privileges afforded to us.

Keep in mind, this in no way discounts any hard work, sweat, tears, and agony you may have put towards scratching and clawing your way to your current station in life. This is the part I had to learn....and learn I did over the past year. 

I wanted to believe that if I could do it....anyone could. And I still believe that in many, many, MANY cases this is true. I worked multiple jobs. I put myself through school. I started a business. I've worked when I was sick. I've missed time with my kids. There's been sacrifice. There's been HARD work. I have never skipped an opportunity to WORK for what I want. 

HOWEVER, I have also had some privileges that have helped me on my way and it's very important that I take that into consideration when evaluating my finances. 

For one, I was born to a 2 parent household and I never wanted for anything growing up. We always had housing, food, clothing, and educational opportunities. This was a springboard. A big one.

Since being married, I have always had very good, affordable insurance. I'm very fortunate that my husband works for the state and our insurance is great. I never have to worry, right now, about that situation. I have friends who pay thousands a month for their healthcare and it's insanity. We have to fight for THEM.....because healthcare in this country is a hot mess. 

Sit down and make a POSITIVE leaning list of everything that you have going for you. This will help you recognize what you have to leverage on your way to financial fitness. GET REAL with yourself. You don't have to be ASHAMED of your privilege....but you do have to acknowledge it if you intend on seeing your financial future prosper. 

2. DON'T BOW TO FEAR MONGERING

There's gonna be a LOT of that going around. Fake news sources spouting hate-filled rhetoric.....people telling you that mortgage rates are going to sky-rocket or the middle-class taxes are going to balloon. 

It's a lot easier to seek out CREDIBLE news sources (they are out there, I swear!) and educate yourself on exactly what a Trump Presidency means for our country's economic future. 

Then, apply that knowledge to protecting your family financially. That means focusing on eliminating debt that cuts into your biggest wealth-building asset: your income.

Here's the biggest take-away I hope I can impress on folks: Don't make financial decisions based on fear.  Because you'll make hasty decisions. Stay the course, continue to budget and to embrace frugality. It's the best way to protect yourself REGARDLESS of who is president. 

3. DON'T DESPAIR

Seriously, my husband and I talked briefly about it this morning as we prepare to move our family to a new city and start a new life.  We wondered if rising mortgage interest rates were going to affect us so much that it would put a wrench in our plans. We worried what else was coming down the pipe that was going to affect me as a self-employed person or affect him as a state employee. 

You can BE worried....you can BE upset. You can even act on your anger (as thousands of marchers and protesters have illustrated today). But don't despair. Don't GIVE UP.....don't let fear freeze you to the point where you believe a debt-freedom plan is pointless. 

It's not. 

4. KEEP GOING

Here's the thing....our new President has been endowed with some great power. Power to really screw things up for people, financially and otherwise, if he's not careful. 

For example, if he repeals the ACA without a replacement.....that could mean thousands in budget-devastating medical bills for people who cannot afford healthcare or who have pre-existing conditions and cannot get coverage. 

As responsible citizens and FINANCIALLY responsible people (as we all are, right?)....it's our duty to be aware of this and hold his feet to the fire...demanding he work for us, not the other way around.

But, the sun goes on rising and setting....and as I said above....it's so important for your family and your legacy that you stay the course....keep investing, keep saving, keep paying off debt, keep looking for ways to earn extra income. No matter what he does, he can't slow down a nation of people willing to go to WORK. 

*****

I know a lot of us are scared. We don't know what to expect and we don't have high hopes. It's not all sunshine and roses on the financial front, and I know that. I am holding on to hope that we can still kill it with debt payoff this year and get to where we want to be financially and physically. 

But, trust me, it brings a lot of calm to your whole world if you know your personal finances are well-in-hand and organized. 

Take care of each other....and chin up! 
 

The Personal SWOT Analysis ~ Personal Finance Blog

I'm a nerd. I think we've WAY established that. I love lists, and books about finance, and budgets, and Excel spreadsheets. 

I don't like math, but that's neither here nor there.

Give me a calculator and I'm good to go.

When I was in college I took a Business class where we learned about the SWOT Analysis....and it ended up probably being one of the most useful things I learned in college (totally worth the $60,000 price tag, for sure....*cough*) 

When attacking your debt and cleaning up your financial future, applying a Personal SWOT Analysis to yourself and your situation is SERIOUSLY helpful....and can get you on your way to big-time financial fitness.

SWOT stands for: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats

When you run a business, it's monumentally helpful to evaluate these 4 items on a regular basis. It keeps the business moving forward. 

Think of your family as a business. Applying the SWOT Analysis when you sit down to evaluate your own finances can help you achieve your financial goals and move your family forward. 

Here's how I do it:

STRENGTHS:

I love the SWOT Analysis because it starts off on such a positive note. What are your strengths? When it comes to debt repayment, saving, investing, or work....what do you do WELL and what can you continue to do that works?

Do you have a skill that you can monetize and add to your family's income? Do you have a strength for selling items and applying that to debt? Are you the saver in the family? The frugal one? Sit down with a pen and paper and identify you and your spouse's strengths in the situation and then build on those. 

For example, my strength is I am self-employed....so the more I work the more money I make. I can apply my skill set to various jobs and make more money for the family as a result. 

When we sit down for our budget meetings, I can identify where I can bring in more money through various photography jobs. This is a strength. 

WEAKNESSES:

Here's where the "Come to Jesus" moment comes in. Where are you not so strong? This requires honesty on your part and on the part of your spouse. You can't fix an issue if you're not willing to own up to it.

My weakness is restaurants. When I'm on the road for work I stop at fast food places FAR too often. 

Our weakness together is not sitting down for our budget meetings on a regular basis. Laziness. That's all that is. 

By regularly going back and identifying our weaknesses, we can help one another keep them in check. 

OPPORTUNITIES:

Here's where a lot of folks believe they are stuck and can never break free. They don't believe they have any opportunities. 

We ALL have opportunities to turn things around. Some have more than others, some opportunities are harder to find. Some are painful, but they are opportunities none-the-less. 

My job is in photography, and I realized that while we are in Baby Step 2 and paying off debt, I had the opportunity to fill in empty spaces on my calendar with sub-contract wedding work. Is it always "fun"? No....but it pays and it's something I can use as extra to apply towards debt.

My husband has opportunities to work overtime sometimes. We are given opportunities to sell things that we don't need or use....freeing up physical space that was once full of clutter, freeing up mental space, and freeing up funds for debt repayment. Look around your house....where are your "opportunities" for money? You'd be shocked what you can get for stuff you have just lying around taking up space. 

Once you refocus your mind to ALWAYS see opportunities to save, make money, or move the needle forward....you start to gain momentum. Always looking for reasons why you CAN'T do something is a sure-fire way to stall ALL momentum. You will remain stuck. 

I can come up with 1000 reasons why we can't ever be debt free.

All I need is one reason why we CAN to build on. 

THREATS:

I caution you to NOT get too mired down in threats to your plan. This is the "1000 reasons why we can't". However, you have to identify the threats in order to beat them.

Various threats to your plan can include daycare costs (ridiculously expensive and very often unavoidable), huge student loan debt with a job that doesn't quite pay what you thought it would, a shopping addiction you can't quite get a handle on, or unexpected medical issues.

Life HAPPENS. There are always going to be threats to your plan. We've had various things come about that threatened our forward momentum. Namely, my husband losing his job a few years ago and the dumb decisions that followed that "surprise". 

Very often, THREATS are things that can be augmented, combated or out-and-out avoided if you think about it hard enough. 

Sometimes, you may have to take on a second job. A third job.....just to get the needle moving. Talk to your spouse, own up to an issue you may have with spending, and have them step up and make you accountable. Credit cards are a HUGE threat to your financial fitness. Cut those suckers up and be DONE. Be pro-active with your healthcare. Stop smoking, start an exercise routine, eat well and head-off potential issues before they snowball. 

You control your life. Don't allow yourself to become the type of person that bad things are always just "happening to" and that's why you can't get a handle on things. Sometimes that means pulling off a really stuck-on band-aid....and that freaking hurts....but the end result is so worth it. 


******

You have to be super intentional about every move if any debt-repayment/financial fitness plan is ever going to work. That means you're always thinking in terms of the plan. 

Whenever we "go rogue", we always regret it in the end. Even if spending was fun.....even if we enjoyed the spoils of our wayward behavior....we know now the long-lasting affects of bad decisions.

Performing regular personal SWOT analysis on our behavior and our plan, thinking of our family as a corporation, helps us remain intentional, beholden to the plan, and accountable. 

Try it! You may not think it's nearly as fun as I think it is (because, like I said, giant nerd here)....but you can't deny how helpful it will be! 


 

10 Things You Don't Need to Buy ~ Personal Finance Blog

Buying things is fun.

Sometimes. After years of working with a strict budget, I've kind of lost my zeal for shopping in most cases (sometimes I still get the bug). I do, however, love a good deal and I do love finding alternatives to higher priced items to try and "rig the system" in my favor. 

So, here's 10 things I've compiled that you simply do not need to spend your hard-earned cash on....or can substitute for something cheaper.

Hopefully this will help people shave some extra from their zero based budgets! 

1. NEW BOOKS/MAGAZINES

This is a hard one for me to put first, mostly because I am a book junkie. I freaking LOVE a brand spankin' new book. I got some money for Christmas and I bought myself 2 books that I'd had my eye on for some time. Typically, however, unless it's a forever-favorite, I sell the book after I get done reading it.

But, buying magazines in bulk is huge waste of $$. They're mostly trash and any news or ideas to be possibly garnered from them can be retrieved from the internet. Since the advent of Pinterest I've largely stopped buying magazines (though I did shell out some spending money for the Newsweek Hamilton special)

Books. Well, that's what libraries are for. 

2. BRAND NAMES (IN MOST CASES) 

I always try to find alternatives to brand name items. In MOST cases, a suitable substitute can be found that will save you a few bucks. 

Cereal is a big one. We are a big cereal loving family but that shizz is expensive. Our kids are totally okay with Malt-O-Meal bagged cereal, and some of their offerings are actually BETTER than the original. 

I still buy Special K, but that is typically pretty reasonable for a big family-size box, because, I'm guessing, most kids hate it. 

Through research, I've been able to find acceptable, inexpensive alternatives to:

My Face Lotion (used to be hooked on Cetaphil, now I buy the CVS knock-off. It's identical) Saves about $3 a tub! 
Toiletry items such as Shampoo for the kiddos, razors, and even makeup. Lord knows I am not about to shell out $25 for a blush or $45 for some foundation. I'll research the main ingredients and drugstore that stuff. 
Most Food: Most food items have an off-brand alternative that is workable. I have SOME exceptions to this where I've tried the off brand and it sucked. It's all personal taste I guess. 

3. NEW CHILDREN'S CLOTHING
Personal opinion time. I think new kid's clothes are a wild waste of funds. They destroy them, they grow out of them SO fast, and there are so many places to get gently used items at a fraction of the cost. 

Most if not all of the new items my children have were received as gifts or purchased by their grandparents for fun. Typically, a few times a year, I go to consignment shops like New to You Kids or Once Upon a Child and stock up for the kiddos on cute stuff. If I turn in boxes of THEIR gently used items, I get cash or credit towards my purchase. 

Thankfully, I have 3 girls, so you know hand-me-downs are going down in this house.

4. LOTTERY TICKETS

I've covered this in it's own blog, but you'd be much better off just removing a $5 from your wallet and setting it on fire. 

5. GYM MEMBERSHIPS

I'm going to go ahead and put a big caveat to this. I spend my weekly allotted "fun money" on a membership to CrossFit ($20 a week). Because it's my one time of the week that I get to myself to lift heavy stuff and sweat out any frustrations I may have. That's where I choose to filter my spending money. 

HOWEVER, research has shown that a large majority of Gym Memberships go underused or completely unused. Many of them are also very hard to get out of and drain bank accounts on a monthly basis. 

If you think you're not going to get the most out of your gym membership, find ways to work out for free at home. 

6. BRAND NEW CARS

As soon as you drive that new car off the lot....it loses value. FAST. Value on new vehicles drop like a ROCK. Don't believe the car-salesman spin that they are an "investment".....cars are a huge money waster so you're best off doing your utmost to get a good, used vehicle. If you can buy a beater with cash, even better. Until you are debt free, that is. 

And, take it from me, check the gas mileage before you plunk down cash because the SECOND I can unload my gas-guzzler of a baby-bus I'm doing it. Because HOLY. CRAP. But, the baby-bus is definitely a beater of a car. It had pieces starting to fall off of it the day I bought it LOL....but it was a cheap route to a 3rd row seat, it's a solid car in most respects, and it gets me from point A to point B. I traded in a 2011 vehicle that I had purchased new (dumb.) for a 2009 used vehicle that I negotiated the bejesus out of. Yes, the car is 8 years old, but it's fine and dandy for my purposes. 

This goes for LEASING a vehicle as well. If you think this is saving you money because the monthly payment is lower (Payments! ACK!) ....think again. It's actually the most expensive way to own a vehicle. 

7. BARGAIN SHOPPING DEALS

Here's the thing, this is where people get in trouble on days like Black Friday. They buy things they would NEVER normally buy because it's "such a great deal". It's NOT a great deal if you don't need it! 

Just because something is 80% off doesn't mean you need to buy it. Some people have a hard time passing up a good deal no matter WHAT the item is....it's like an addiction. 

Walk away, keep your money in your wallet. 

8. CIGARETTES

Don't even get me started. I was a smoker for 11 years. I was one of those idiots who kept saying "Oh, once they reach $5 a pack I'm gonna quit". Nevermind that they were KILLING ME. 

Cigarettes have no freaking redeeming qualities. They stink, they WILL kill you eventually, they are terrible for everyone AROUND you, and they are ungodly expensive. 

Suck it up, white-knuckle it for a few days, and quit. It's the best thing I EVER did.

9. KNICK KNACKS

Oh Joanna Gaines, we all want to embrace your ship-lap laden farmhouse style. I love it too. So says my Pinterest account. But, it is SUCH a waste to go out and spend, spend, spend on things that just sit on a shelf waiting patiently for you to dust around it every few weeks. 

We recently cleaned house and I mean CLEANED. HOUSE. and I'm finding knick knacks are the first thing to go. I have a few that were my Grandmothers that I'll probably never part with....but outside of a select few decorative items that will probably get the pitch when we move....it's such a waste of funds. 

The older I get, the more I find I want CLEAR. SPACE. free of any knick knacky crap.

10. LANDLINE PHONE

You Just. Don'T. Need. It. 

Seriously, I don't know anyone who doesn't have their phone with them at all times. It's an epidemic. So stop wasting on a landline. We had one for awhile because we thought it was important that our daughters have a set home phone number. I noticed that no one ever really called us on it....and if they did, I let it go straight to the answering machine because I hate the phone in general and everything it stands for.

If you want to reach me, message me on Facebook or text me like a normal person. :)

The phone sucks. Get rid of it. :) 

 
*****

There's plenty of other items you can probably add to your own list of things you just don't need to buy. This is mine. Lists will change based on things you consider important. 

But, part of reaching financial freedom and DEBT freedom is perhaps evaluating WHAT you find important and WHY. If it's important to you to have a brand, spankin' new vehicle that drops in value if it's breathed on wrong....WHY?? Is it for your own self-satisfaction that you "deserve it".....is it to impress others? 

This is a time to really look deep inside and see what makes you YOU. What can you rid your life of to help you on your path? 

It's scary, but free-ing at the same time. I highly recommend it! 
 

Catching Things Up: 2016 ~ Personal Finance Blog

So, after a hiatus much longer than it should have been from full blogging (though hopefully you've been continuing to follow our journey on Facebook)....I'm back, folks! 

For better or worse! :) 

2016 is over and I'm happy to report that we ended the year on a strong note with regards to our debt-payoff plan and personal finance in general. 

Here's a quick run down of how the year went for us! 

TOTAL DEBT PAID OFF in 2016$30,189.45  

TOTAL DEBTS PAID OFF COMPLETELY IN FULL: 2 (1 Consolidation Loan and 1 Credit Card)


LARGE ITEMS CASH FLOWED IN 2016:
- Deck Repair ($1000) 
- Christmas
- Maternity Leave
- All business expenses ($18,000 +) 

We also began a sinking fund for a trip for next year (shhhh, it's a secret!

THINGS WE COULD DEFINITELY IMPROVE ON IN 2017:

- Budget Meetings: While I continued to do our zero based budget all year, we didn't always sit down for our joint budget meetings like we should have. Things got way busy with weddings and babies and kids and stuff and excuses, excuses. We NEED to continue to make an effort to do this in 2017, because we always kill it big time when we work together on the goal.

- Cash Cash Cash: We cash-flowed everything this year (we didn't use credit at all this year, which I am VERY proud of. Our credit cards are cut up, gone, kaput....never to return!) 

However, there were many weeks where I was lazy and didn't get our physical cash out of the bank to fill our envelopes....which meant we used our debit cards....which meant our budget got wonky. 

- Restaurants: We ate out at restaurants FAR too much in 2016. I was all over the state for work so it was just easy to pop into Panda Express (if I could find one.....which is always a bonus....my weakness is Orange Chicken, for sure). 

Having a new baby, the husband and I jumped at ANY chance we got to get the heck outta the house for a moment and enjoy a meal in silence. 

- Christmas: Even though it was entirely cash flowed and saved for, I went over budget. I think the problem is we don't really buy much of anything for our kids in terms of clothes and toys throughout the year....so Christmas comes and we go nuts. Kind of like fasting for a long time and then being set in front of a beautiful buffet. 

SELF CONTROL, PUDGY's.....seriously. 



HOWEVER, all in all I am really proud of our progress this year. I think being aware of documenting our journey online has seriously helped, which is why I'm going to dedicate myself to blogging all year instead of abandoning the blog during wedding season. No excuses! Get up and do it! 

I'm planning a blog for tonight or tomorrow about the TOP 10 THINGS YOU DON'T NEED TO BUY....so stay tuned! 

Thanks for following along this year and I'm hoping to be a source of motivation for folks in 2017! 

 

Talking to Your Kids About Money

So, last night our oldest, who is 8, asked us how expensive something was.....and our knee jerk reaction was to tell her that it really wasn't something we wanted to discuss and that asking questions like that was rude.

We've been raised to believe talking openly about money is taboo. It makes people feel bad, it sounds like you're bragging, or it's just WAY too much TMI. Plus, so many of us are "faking it" while drowning in debt, how would we ever have a truly honest conversation about finances? 

It's smoke and mirrors. 

I rethought our reaction to our 8 year old's question. What if we were more OPEN with our kids about cost, finances, money matter, debt, and those sorts of things. Not to bog them down with adult issues, but to prepare them for what they will eventually face.

I know, for a fact, that when I graduated high school I had no CLUE what most things cost.....in the "real world". I brought home about $170 a week at my job and I thought that was okay. I could pay my car payment (yes, I was 17 and had a car payment) and my gas and fun stuff and I thought that was good.

Then I had to move out on my own and....well....lets just say $170 a week will buy you a cardboard box and a spot under a bridge....and not much else.

So, here's some ideas about opening up Pandora's Box and having the "money talk" with your kids:

1. Don't be afraid to be open and honest

We had a bad reaction to our daughter's question. We shut it down. Parent Fail on our parts. We should have explained that some folks don't LIKE to talk about money, but that there really wasn't anything wrong with her question. How is she supposed to learn?

We have been looking at houses and have been honest with her about what they cost. I'm not sure if she has a concept of how much 6 figures really IS.....in terms of work....but she knows its more that she has in the bank : ) 

2. Introduce them to the concept of work = money

And do it early, because Lord knows if you don't you're gonna have a lazy, entitled beast of a child on your hands at some point. Who will be living in your basement. At 30.
One system suggests paying out a commission for chores...not an allowance. Allowance is free money for doing nothing. Commission is earned. Don't do the chore, you don't get paid.

3. Let your kid learn and fail

When we went to Disney, our 8 year old earned her own spending money. We tried very hard to guide her choices in purchasing, but the choices were ultimately hers. 

We beamed with pride when she decided NOT to buy something because she wanted to hold out for something better. #delayedgratification

I remember when I got my FIRST job ever....delivering newspapers....I got a check after 1 month of work. The check was about $250 if I remember correctly.

I took that check, cashed it and took it directly to my local Shopko and spent every penny.

Granted, I think I was 11 years old...but still......My Lord. 

A fail, yes....but I needed to learn from it as well. I only really look back on that now and shake my head. 

4. Explain credit and debt in terms they can understand. 

Perhaps if you LOAN them any money, like a dollar or two, explain that if you were a bank doing the same thing they would have to pay you back....and sometimes with MORE money attached as interest. So explain to them why this can be a slippery slope. 

Of course, these conversations need to be age appropriate. Your 4 year old doesn't need to hear about your Discover card woes. 

What they CAN start to understand is the concept of advertising and how things are not always as good as they say they are. Like airline miles. Or car leases. 

Also, let them SEE how debt hinders your life. Don't bog them down with adult issues, like I said, but we explained to our oldest that we were NOT spending a lot now so we could pay off debt and have a great life in the future....so she understands it's a marathon...not a sprint.


5. Work and Teen Jobs

I don't have teenagers....obvs....but I WAS a teenager and one thing I totally give my parents credit for is they always insisted I work. I wasn't going to sit on my butt hogging up all their food and housing without contributing to society a bit.

Plus, I needed to learn how to have a good worth ethic. How to show up...dressed appropriately...ready to do my job and serve my customer.

I had a TON of jobs as a teen: sub shop cashier, pizza joint waitress, Walgreens cashier, music store assistant manager....and I learned something from all of them.

Mostly that I wanted to be my own boss....

But hey, I learned! 

Maybe money talks are taboo BECAUSE we don't start early....and we often leave honesty to the wayside.

Let's make money talks like the sex talk: it HAS to be done....it has to be age appropriate....and it has to be HONEST. 

Adventures in Frugality (May) ~ How We Won/How We Lost With Money This Month

Ok. So, know how I said May was gonna be our month to get back on track with the debt snowball, to start to kill it again, all that jazz?

Yeah, well...don't count your chickens, right?

I had the baby (and she's oh so cute) and stuck to my plan to take 3 weeks of maternity leave before jumping back into taking photography clients again. 

However, what I didn't plan on was additional hospital time because of post-partum preeclampsia. Yeah. 

All I have to say is thank the Good Lord for health insurance because what it cost to have Bridget, then get sick after having Bridget, well...let's just say we'd be well on our way to debt payoff if someone just handed that amount to us in cash. It's ridiculous. 

So, we didn't do ALL that well with regards to debt payoff this month. We are down....not out. 

HOW WE WON

There's always a silver lining, right?

DECK REPAIRS
So, this was not a very well planned household repair need, but once my husband's foot went THROUGH the rotten wood of the deck we realized what a hazard the 3 tier deck on the back of our house was and decided to get someone in to fix it. Was this an emergency? Nope. So, we cash flowed it. The fact that tight budgeting ALLOWED us to cash flow the stupid deck that I hate spending money on? A win that I will accept begrudgingly. 

RIDING THE HAND-ME-DOWN EXPRESS 

So, we had pitched most of our baby stuff pre-pregnancy with Bridget. Because we are dumb and isn't that how it works? You get rid of all the baby stuff and then get pregnant? 

Thankfully, we have awesome friends. Bridget is shackin' up in our friends' kids' old crib, wearing used clothing, and we got a ton of baby stuff from my friend who had her kid a year ago. Bridget doesn't seem to mind the boy hand-me-downs. 

Baby stuff is super pricey and really, you don't NEED most of it. I mean, seriously? Wipe warmers? Dumbest invention ever. 

My one issue is that previously mentioned hand-me-down crib is set up in our bedroom. We have three bedrooms and have yet to get bunk beds for the older girls...so things are a bit cramped. 

END OF THE SCHOOL YEAR HURRAHS! 

Ok, we had really nothing to do with this one, but it's a win. Molly ends her school year this week. That means no more private school tuition. $180 a month savings. WOOT! 

End of the school year ALSO means I get a three month reprieve from shelling out for more glue sticks, field trips, special event t-shirts, so many pizza days I should buy stock in Pizza Hut, clothing that fits the dress code, and packed lunches they never eat. 

Can you tell I'm a burnt out elementary school mama....because yeah. I am. 


FREELANCING MY BUTT OFF

I never considered freelance blogging before. It always had this air of scamminess about it. Like, really? You'll pay me to write stuff? Seriously?
But I tried it out and lo and behold I made $100. Not exactly Pulitzer Prize level cash flow there, I know, but I blog constantly.....why not get paid for it. 

So, I sat down and came up with about 100 or so blog post ideas that I can submit to various places that accept freelance submissions. Figure if I can get at least a few of them published it'll be nice for cash flow towards the snowball. 

HOW WE LOST

EMERGENCY FUND DIPPAGE 

I try not to TOUCH our $1000 baby emergency fund. Ever. Because who has that many "emergencies", really?

Until our dog decided to up and have a seizure the night we brought Bridget home. Seriously, we CANNOT bring a baby home without some sort of drama. With Betty it was the day I found out my Grandmother had cancer. With Molly I was so sick with preeclampsia I couldn't enjoy any of it. Now, seizure having dog.

I rushed Mickey (that's the dog) to the emergency vet....and $500 later we were told he was a bit dehydrated but that's it. No reason for the sudden seizure...and he hasn't had one since.

So yeah....goodbye 1/2 of our baby emergency fund.

It's refunded as of yesterday, but that sucked. 

SNOWBALL HALTED

We made absolutely NO progress on the debt snowball this month, which bites. We had to pay deck-dude $1000 upfront to start on the deck demo and that was about the end of it for "free flowin' cash".....Stupid danger-to-others deck. 

So, May was kind of a wash....which stinks. I feel like with every passing month that we don't put loads toward the snowball we are wasting time where we could be living our best, debt-free life. I know it'll come...that it's a marathon, not a sprint....but dang if I'm not impatient to make some big strides. 

June I have plans, mostly to finish paying off Deck Dude and get that in my rearview mirror. I'm having a joint rummage sale with a friend to clear out some clutter and generate some extra cash. But big-time snowball work won't be able to happen until probably July....where we'll have to really make up some lost ground. 

How are all of your debt-payoff goals doing? I want to hear from you! There's power in community! 

MAY 2016

TOTAL DEBT PAID: $1389.99  (sad trombone)......

Having a Baby in the Baby Steps

So, we are now a family of 5. Crazy! New nugget Bridget Frances was born April 26 at 10:01 AM. 

Everything was fine with the birth itself, but afterwards I developed postpartum preeclampsia, which I had experienced with my 2nd daughter so I knew what signs to look for and what to expect...somewhat. 

What I DIDN'T expect was my current OB handling the issue in a completely different way than my old OB. When I had my middle daughter, I was put on bed rest for three weeks following her birth. I wasn't given any medication to control my blood pressure....I was just told not to move out of bed, not to watch TV, not to use the internet....it was awful. Here I had a newborn and I couldn't even be around her in fear of my blood pressure spiking.  It took nearly a month for everything to regulate on its own.

So, this time around I wasn't wanting to experience the same bed rest predicament. Thankfully, my doctor was on it. I was readmitted into the hospital for a magnesium drip and after 2 days I was sent home with a prescription for Labetalol and hopes that my blood pressure would continue to fall. 

But it didn't. 

So, another doctor visit....and a new prescription...things seem to be working themselves out. 

So, what does this all have to do with personal finance?

The Dave plan advocates having a "Storm Cloud" fund for things like pregnancy. We socked away enough to keep me out of work for a month. This was no small feat, given that I'm self-employed and I rely on consistent marketing efforts to book new clients. 

What the Storm Cloud mode does is makes sure that if anything goes awry with the pregnancy or birth, you don't necessarily have to worry about money as you deal with the upheaval of new baby or possible complications. 

Thankfully we are supremely fortunate to have incredible health insurance (thank you hubby's state job).....so the consistent in and out of the hospital will be covered, mostly. But, as I heal, I don't have to worry about working, which is a blessing the Storm Cloud fund has bestowed. 

Babies are expensive, but I strongly believe if you "wait until you can afford them", it won't happen. But, that doesn't mean you can't spend your 9 months of pregnancy financially preparing for their arrival...and anything that may happen that is unexpected. 

I'll be returning to work next week, but I'm happy to have been able to spend the last few weeks healing and soaking in our new life as parents of three. 

Adventures in Frugality (April) ~ How We Won/How We Didn't

STILL a family of 4.....so weird this will be the last month budgeting under that guideline. 

How We Won in April

- Paid off DEBT #1 in full: A Consolidation Loan so old that I was thinking it probably should have been granted it's own 529 fund with the rest of my kids....or at least its own bedroom here at Casa Reseburg. 

It felt REALLY good to kill that first debt....and now we are on to the next on the snowball. Momentum! 

- I did NOT lose my mind and plunk down $500+ to meet David Tennant. I should be totally commended for this. It was not easy. : )  Delayed gratification and all that.


- Landed my first article that someone is willing to pay me for. It's the very first time I've ever tried to "write for compensation" and it paid off.....literally. The article will be published on May 6th. I don't know whether to be excited or sick with fear.

- Instead of buying ANY new maternity clothes to get me through April, I made due with the...oh...10 pieces or so I have left that actually fit. Probably a good thing I work from home and that yoga pants are so stretchy. But, I have a REALLY hard time spending money on clothes, especially if I know I can only wear them for a limited amount of time. 

- Hit up the store Once Upon a Child to do all of my necessary baby clothes shopping. It's a 2nd hand store but I found once I got there that their prices have kind of risen significantly since I used to shop there when Betty was a baby. Kind of disappointing. If I'm buying used I want it to be at a significant enough savings over new.

I budgeted $250 for the trip and came in at $119. WIN WIN! Baby is outfitted for the next 6 months and at a bargain basement price. 

Where We Could Have Improved.....

- While we have a sinking fund and "storm cloud" fund for April, knowing I wasn't working, we still ventured "off budget" for a few items: namely a battery for our mower, a few wayward food trips to the grocery store (the baby wanted shoestring potato chips. It wasn't all my fault). We were not "gazelle intense" this month....even though we PLANNED not to be so...but it still bugged me.

- Side-Adventures in Self-Employment:   I've been self employed in the wedding industry for 8 years....and every month is a hustle. A hustle to book work, to maintain client contacts, to sell, to bring in income. I'd like to say it's always easy but that would be a big fat lie. Some months are crickets and its TOUGH. You have to keep creating new revenue streams, new client connections and marketing avenues.  So, because I was pretty baby-focused this month.....it took some major time/effort/energy away from all that. Plus, because I focused a LOT on a full-time job I had decided to try out this past year I lost some major marketing momentum. 

May it'll be gangbusters. I'm holding myself to it. 

DEBT PAYOFF APRIL 2016

Total Debt Paid Off:  $2403.00

 

Does 4 Year College Even Need to Be a Thing Anymore?

   When I was a senior in high school, there came a time when people around me started getting their college acceptance letters. This was back in 199......well...199...something...and it was still pretty much a given that if you weren't headed off to a 4 year college after high school in order to participate in all the glorious freedom and debauchery (and, you know, learning)...you were resigned to staying in your hometown wallowing in loser-dom. I remember the stabbing jealousy pangs I felt when my friends started showing up to school in their chosen college's sweatshirts. 

Not that I would have been caught dead in some collegiate sweatshirt at that time....but whatever. Not the point.

  I had a very Felicity-esque view of higher education. I imagined I would go away...far far away....to some liberal arts college with big 900 square foot dorm rooms that I would share with artistically-minded individuals who would become my closest, lifelong friends. I would take classes with inspiring professors who would urge me to write. I would meet some dashing upperclassman and maybe chop my hair off in a fit of new found independence.

This was my college dream. The reality was nowhere close.

This was my college dream. The reality was nowhere close.

So yeah. None of that happened.

I didn't go to college after high school. I pretty much drifted. I had no IDEA what I wanted to do as a career....and college, even then, seemed prohibitively expensive. Sitting in my high school counselor's office with my dyed hair and "HEROIN SUCKS" t-shirt (well...it does....so I've heard!) ....I was told "I don't think college is for you".

So, I entered the working world and resigned myself to the fact that I would never be Felicity Porter off to somewhere like Sarah Lawrence. 

I was going to be Amanda.....off to the car-part factory.

Eventually I decided that if I wasn't going to work in a factory forever I needed some higher education. I decided this after searching the want-ad's for a decent job and finding myself still "wanting". I had no discernible skills outside of a penchant for dramatic prose, which I scribbled in notebooks late at night, and an inability to shut up. Not too many people seeking those "job skills".

I hopped from one discipline to the next. First I was an English major at the local community college. I had no idea what my job trajectory was....but it seemed a good a major as any (are we noticing a theme of no direction yet?). Then I switched to the technical college and studied Criminal Justice. Very useful.....but I wasn't very good at it.  I then made the leap to a 4 year, private liberal arts college....where they charge you for EVERYTHING and in spades. 

My mind was not on cost, at that point. Good ole' student loans would carry me through and I would worry about it later when I landed that fat-cash job that a college degree was sure to garner me. 
I switched to Sociology as a major my Senior year and graduated 10 years after beginning my hop-along journey.

I was seriously excited the day I graduated. I thought this would take care of everything. I was "unstoppable"

I was seriously excited the day I graduated. I thought this would take care of everything. I was "unstoppable"

My college experience wasn't like any TV show. I never stayed 1 night in a dorm room. I never attended one "kegger" or college event. I never did anything but go to class and pay money. I was an "adult returning student" who was pregnant my entire Junior year. I worked full time at a medical company during the day and then would head over to class at night...with the rest of the moms and dads trying to improve THEIR lot in life at the same time.

I never got to really be "inspired" by that great professor....I was too worn out, most days, to really pay too much attention to anything outside of what I needed to do to finish.

When I graduated with my degree in Sociology I was over $60,000 in debt. 

And didn't have clue one what I was going to do with that degree. 

By my graduation year I had already started my own business (you know, with all my free time) and it was growing pretty steadily. The business had jack to do with Sociology and I wasn't using any of the knowledge I was paying so much for. Not one single client asked if I had a college degree.

I graduated in 2009. Now, 7 years later, I look back and think "What were you thinking". You went in headlong into higher education with absolutely no idea WHY. 

If you do a quick search of "Sociology" on Indeed.com....the prospects are pretty depressing. Unless I want to go BACK to school and spend another $25-$30K for my Masters....I'm pretty much resigned to $12-$15/hour jobs. 

So what's the lesson here:  I'm an idiot. 

Well, not just that, but going into something so ridiculously expensive without a good PLAN and a WHY is just stupid. People put more time and effort into planning their weddings. Seriously. 

Since dipping my toe into the working world, outside of self-employment, I've found most employers don't even really care WHAT your degree is in....just as long as you have one. I guess it proves you have follow-through. You can show up. You can finish. 

I could have totally proved that at a much cheaper school.. 

 


With all the talk these days of the rising costs of education, I have to wonder if a 4 year degree even needs to be a THING for most people anymore. Sure, if you're set on being a Doctor, a Lawyer, an Architect, something of that nature.....you probably want to set your sights on that 4 year degree. But what if you don't know? 

What if you're in life-limbo and you really don't have it all figured out yet?

There was a time when going off to college was your TIME to figure all that out. To "find yourself".....but these days, that's an awful expensive journey of self-discovery. And if you get there and figure out you want to be a Firefighter? An Electrician? Something that a technical college can help you with....then what? You just spent 5 figures (sometimes 6) on a piece of paper you may not ever utilize. 

And if you're most people....you'll have a mountain of student loans to contend with and STILL have more school to go if you want to "chase your dream" outside of your degree. 

So what are we supposed to do.....better yet, what do the prospects look like for our kids? 

The majority of the folks I know are entrepreneurs. They started their own thing and ran with it. Most of them ALSO have college degrees and I would be willing to bet probably 75% of them don't use them or have NEVER used them. 

Why are we not fostering the entrepreneurial spirit in our high schools? Are we still beating the age-old dead horse that a 4 year degree is the only way to get ahead? We need to be teaching small-business administration and simple things like how to get a business license, file your taxes, or marketing your own business. 

Enrollment in trade schools or technical colleges has been spotty. There was a huge boom from 2009 to 2014.....but I know in some places enrollment has stalled. There's many reasons for this, but mostly because a lot of the students are older and have families, full time jobs, and other commitments....and simply put, the cost is still prohibitive. A 40 year old mom of 3 with the need to feed her family can't exactly just chuck it all and take on full time classes to further her career. 

I still believe, also, that there's a lingering sense among high schoolers that if you're not off to a 4 year school, you've somehow failed at life already (before you even get going?)  But, is the college experience of old dead and gone? Do we need to just accept this and change the landscape?

I have to wonder....what are school guidance counselors doing to direct kids for after-high-school life?  If your parents didn't go to college, what kind of advice or direction can THEY offer? 

Do we really expect everyone to have it all figured out at 18 and to also sign on for a GIGANTIC financial burden at the same time.

The reason the student loan crisis is where it is at this point is because there's a gigantic lack of direction and education where all of this is concerned. 

No one ever helped me fill out my FAFSA (or ever really explained what a FAFSA was. They handed me one and said, here....fill this out)....no one sat down with me and explained student loan repayment (I remember I had to sign a little slip of paper saying that I understood loans had to be repaid....that's it). No one asked what my strengths were....where I SAW myself in 5 or 10 years....if I had any ideas that could possibly lead to a great self-employment opportunity. 

I left high school and I was on my own. 

I'm guessing it's still the same. Which would be all fine and dandy if kids were being equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary to handle such a monumental task.....but I fear that's not the case. 
 

Research has shown that the parts of the brain involved in decision making are not fully developed until the age of 25. 

Most kids who are shipped off to 4 year college are DONE by then, having supposedly already MADE all of the "decisions" that are going to follow them for the rest of their working life. 

Is it any wonder why so many of us reach 35 years old and start saying "I wish I would have.....".

Doesn't this seem a bit backwards?

Maybe it's time we CHANGED the social norm. Maybe, just maybe, if the bulk of folks stopped accepting that college just costs what it does, is what it is, and is SO necessary....the push back would enact some change...however small.

Maybe if parents started explaining to their kids that there are a WEALTH of options at their feet and that they DON'T have to have it all figured out at 18....it would take some pressure off the kids and allow them to explore their skills, to try some things and to live on their own without having to pay $20,000 a year to do it. 

Maybe schools need to realize that not everyone is MEANT to be on a 4 year college track. That the world needs masons, cabinet makers, construction workers, and auto body repairmen. That these roles have VALUE and should be fed and fostered. IN high school.

(They also need to realize that these kids need job SEEKING skills like interviewing. That they need basic economic skills like how to write out a check or file taxes......but I digress)

Maybe....just maybe....the world of Felicity has run its course and its the dawning of a new era in this country of skill building, of job creation, and of dream seeking.

Just maybe......
 

10 Myths About Debt

Recently I saw someone post on Facebook that their kids were taking a Personal Finance class in high school....and that the teacher emphasized "building their credit score" as a cornerstone of good personal finance. 

It got me thinking....how much wayward information is being passed around under the guise of smart personal finance? Are we being "scared" into taking on debt for fear of being looked at foolish and not financially savvy? Are we being peer pressured into playing the bank's game?

Here's 10 Myths About Debt...and another way of looking at things. Yes, you'll be "weird"....but in many cases....weird = debt free. 

1. DEBT IS GOOD.

This is the biggest one. You'll hear people talking about "good" debt vs. "bad" debt. How having a mortgage is "good debt" because you get to deduct the interest every year. 

Sure, that's true. But let's just pretend for one moment that you paid OFF your house (I know, weird right?). What could you do with that monthly payment? Think about it......
 

2. YOU CAN'T DO ANYTHING WITHOUT A CREDIT SCORE.

Ok, we've talked about this before....and it's STILL a prevalent argument on most of the personal finance groups: I keep my credit card because you can't do ANYTHING without a credit score. 

You can't rent. You can't have insurance. You can't buy stuff. 

Here's the lowdown: The only reason to have a high credit score is to take on more debt. You CAN rent without a credit score. You CAN get insurance. Might it take a bit more digging to find someone willing to actually LOOK at your financial fitness instead of just glancing quickly at some arbitrary debt number? Sure! 

Is manual underwriting for a house do-able? Absolutely. 

We've been conditioned to believe that we HAVE to take on debt in order to get anywhere in life and this is how the majority of us get into the debt-laden pickles we find ourselves in.

3. EVERYONE HAS A CAR PAYMENT.

False. Everyone does NOT have a car payment. This is where a restructure in thinking comes in. And believe me, I KNOW how hard this is. I love new cars. I really, really do. But, if you're walking around making $40,000 a year and driving a $30,000 car, that's a problem. 

Cars sharply decrease in value. Doesn't matter WHAT kind of car you're driving around, if you're driving it....the value is tanking. They are not an investment in any way, shape or form. They are a tool. A tool to get from point A to point B. They are also money sucking vultures. 

So, check your vanity at the door and as you're paying off debt....drive a hoopty. Trust me, most people won't even notice. 

As far as paying OFF your car,  debt repayment guru's say that if you can get the thing paid off within 18 months, you can keep it. If you can't.....it's sayonara Civic. 

4. STORE CREDIT CARDS AND BUSINESS CREDIT CARDS ARE OK BECAUSE POINTS AND COUPONS.

No. Just no. We've been over this one too. People who use credit cards thinking they're "gaming" the system by racking up points simply SPEND more. It's proven. I don't care if you think you pay it off every month...you're one job loss away from that whole plan going straight out the window.

If you think spending $1000 to get $20 makes good financial sense....whoa nellie. I have a bridge I'd like to sell ya. 

Points and coupons are never going to make you wealthy. 

5. IF I CAN PAY THE MINIMUM, I CAN AFFORD IT.

Know what you get when you do the minimum amount on anything? Minimum results. Most people purchase things this way though: Can I swing the monthly payment? Cool, then I can afford the item! 

I recently saw on Facebook where a young couple FINANCED A DOG. A DOG. $3000. FOR. A. DOG. 

I'm guessing the pet store reeled them in with a "But it's only $25 a month!" spiel. Makes it sounds more than reasonable, doesn't it?

But it's not. That couple couldn't afford that dog, because they didn't have $3000. Again, this requires a restructure in thinking. 

The more you tie up your income with "monthly payments", the less power it has.....and the thinner you are stretched every month. Until one day you look up and you have 15 revolving payment accounts on various items....some of which you may not even own anymore.

Sadly, the young couple's dog passed away shortly after they bought it. People on Facebook were aghast at the pet store selling super-expensive, sickly dogs (awful, yes). I was also aghast that they got taken for $3000 because "the payments were affordable".

6. I WILL NEVER NOT HAVE A STUDENT LOAN PAYMENT

Now, the whole "you have to have student loans" is a topic for another blog post, but let's just say you started off like I did thinking that. You took out a butt-load of loans and now you're sitting here at 36 looking at enough loans to buy yourself a Tesla. (And not one of those new everyman Teslas....I'm talking the nice, elite Teslas). 

It can seem very disheartening. Believe me. 

Once I graduated I was staring down the barrel of over $60,000 in student debt. I set up my payment plan and I resigned myself to the fact that I will ALWAYS have this payment. I'll take Sallie Mae to my grave. 

This was "hope deferred"....which I referred to in my post the other day. I didn't have any reason to believe those loans could ever be paid off. Which is malarky. 

What is needed in these cases is intensity. Anger at the debt. Get it out of your life any way you can. Work extra jobs, sell stuff, throw everything but the kitchen sink at Sallie Mae until she buggers off for good. 

You CAN pay off your student loans. It can be done. 

Mine are sitting at roughly $30,000 right now.....so over the years, since 2009, I've busted through half. Still seems daunting sometimes when I look at it.....but soon Sallie Mae will be dead and rotting. Good riddance.

7. ONLY THE RICH CAN BECOME DEBT FREE

You'll see this one a lot in the comment section of Dave Ramsey's You Tube when he shows Debt Free Screams.

"Yeah, that's all well and good, but that couple makes $100,000 a year! Of course they paid off their debt!"

Nevermind that the couple had $150,000 in debt that they slayed. 

This is one of those "rich people are evil and I can't succeed" lines of thinking that is just bunk. 

First of all, if you take any time to watch the bundle of Debt Free Screams on You Tube, you'll notice that the debt to income ratio runs the gamut. 

Even if you're making $30,000 a year, you can be financially free. May it take a little longer? Probably? Will you have to sacrifice deeply? Probably. That's life. But it's not a given that only the rich can live debt free. 

Quit complaining and get to work! 

8. I'M TOO OLD TO SAVE FOR RETIREMENT

Ok, so if you're 80 years old and reading this (What's up!) .....then, well...yeah, the retirement savings ship may have started pulling away from the dock. This doesn't mean you can't sock away some stuff for your kids and grandkids if you feel so inclined. 

HOWEVER, if you're in your 30's and have yet to invest a penny....dude, get on it. Seriously, you have about 35-40 more years of working to squirrel away that nest egg. All is not lost! 

9. THE GOVERNMENT WILL SAVE ME.

No. No it won't.

Sorry guys, but the government is not going to make you financially fit. They're not going to swoop in and take the burden of your student loans away from you (despite what you may have read on a Facebook forwarded post) or make sure that you go from making $15,000 a year to $50,000 a year. The likelihood of the government doing anything that is going to vastly improve your financial foothold is slim to none. 

So, you better get going on working on saving yourself. That way when the government DOES step in and do something monumentally stupid.....it won't affect your finances NEAR as much because you will have shored up your walls by being savvy, smart, and not taking on unnecessary payments. 

YOU are more powerful than the politicians. Imagine that.

10. YOU ARE DOOMED.

You are NOT doomed. You may be down. You may have gotten beaten up pretty good. Your emotional reserves may be drained. But, you're still here. You're still sucking air. This means, you still have a choice. Let it beat  you.....or get mad.

If it's all seeming ridiculously overwhelming....take each piece on its own. First debt.....first $1000 saved......First "no" to a money-spending opportunity. Take the first step....and then the next. Pretty soon, it'll be your lifestyle....and pretty soon you'll see the positive results. 

Hope Deferred

I grew up about as middle class as it gets. I had your basic 80s upbringing where, while we were never flush with extras, we were always well provided for and comfortable. Growing up, I never had any inkling if my parents ever had any issue making ends meet.....if they ever did, they didn't let on. Which is how it should be.

When Christmas came around, we always got that one special gift we asked Santa for.  I went to a private grade school (though, to be fair, I was far from the rich kid there....I think my parents really scrimped and saved to send me there). We always had clean clothes (even if they were hand me downs from my fashionable older cousin...Guess Jeans? YES PLEASE.) and regular haircuts. 

We wanted for nothing and I never would have called us poor.  How could anyone poor have such a sweet toilet cozie? 

When I got out on my own at 17 I realized that if I was ever going to end up in a situation of not being perpetually broke, I was going to have to hustle. Big time. Problem was, I really didn't know what that meant. 

While we never wanted for anything, I had no idea how to do it all on my own. I wasn't set up to go off to college, get a degree and waltz into a great job. A future like that seemed like it was definitely for other people....not for people like me. 

So, I entered a cycle of "broke". 

Right out of high school I shared an apartment with a friend. Said apartment could only be described, lovingly, as a cess pool. We had river rats. RIVER. RATS. I lasted about 3 weeks there before I decided rats was a deal breaker. I was working at a music store and making about $8.00 an hour. I had rent, I had a car payment, I had utilities and insurance and the normal type stuff. No extras were had, but I never really felt wanting. Probably because everyone else around me was young and broke too and we listened to punk rock and we drank cheap beer and that's what you when you were 18 and stupid and underemployed. Some of our friends went off to college and those of us who stayed behind seemingly entered a cycle of low-pay jobs and really crappy apartments. 

I worked so many odd jobs that I could have probably made art installations out of the myriad of nametags I collected. 

I lived above an old man's garage in about a 400 square foot space and any extra cash I had I ordered pizza because I didn't know how to cook. I shudder to think what I spent on pizza that year. 

I worked at Walgreens. I worked at a factory that made brake parts. I worked at a pizza place. I worked at a bar. Sometimes I worked three at a time. 

I got married. I got divorced.  I made some REALLY stupid decisions. Because twenties. 

I worked at a country club and this is where things started to change. It was the first time in my life that I saw things probably could be different. It was the first time in my life I allowed myself to ask "what if". What if I got a job that came with a salary and benefits? I mean....CRAZY I know...but what if?  What if I actually went to college? What if I decided I wanted better? 

I met people who had started their own businesses. I met people who drove nice cars and had big houses and money for golf memberships and I thought "what if".  Of course, at the same time (because I was 22 and stupid) I also thought "Grrr.....evil rich people!"......but I also let it motivate me. 

The "what if" is where I started to claw my way away from broke. 

I find when people lament that no one can possibly get ahead in this current economy....much less work a debt-repayment/budgeting plan: they have no sense of hope. Somewhere in their life, their hope-button ceased to be pushed.....all hope died....and their batteries ran down. 

Here's the thing: I never considered that a politician was going to save me. I never thought that it was up to anyone else but me. Mostly because I'm a giant control freak, but also because it's the simple truth. YOU control YOU....and I knew that if I wanted to break free from broke, the only one who was going to get that done was me. 

So, I started college classes. I applied for grants (and got some) but mostly relied on loans. Looking back this was dumb and if I could do it all over again I probably would have filtered more of my income to paying for school with cash. I worked the entire time and I fit in classes where I could. I started as an English major....moved to Criminal Justice....and finally landed in Sociology.  I made the mistake of going after college courses that interested me rather than those that would translate into a lucrative career. Live and learn. 

But I went. I went when I could and I went when other people were out partying and having a heck of a lot more fun. I didn't get the whole "living in dorms" college experience.....it was all business....all goal oriented. Then I met the man I would end up marrying and we moved into an apartment that we could easily afford on our modest incomes. I remember I landed my first "big girl" job at a medical company and I made $27,000 a year and I thought this was absolutely ASTOUNDING. I remember writing in my journal "I'M RICH!" 

$27,000 a year.

Perspective.  Not broke? A state of mind. 

What's my point? 

That along the way, the one driving force to get me from Rats-in-my-Pantry to a college grad with a lot of options out there that I could chase was HOPE. I would get defeated sometimes....especially as it took me 10 years to get my degree. I would get worried. I would get tired. 

But I always held on to HOPE.....because once all hope was lost....so was all momentum.

In our current presidential race we have people promising the sun, moon, and stars to folks....folks who have hope deferred. They have stopped believing that they have any power to move their own life forward. Instead....a politician is their only glimmer of hope. 

And this is a scary and sad place to be. Because the chances of this happening are really slim. 

Everyone has their special set of circumstances....and I'm not naive enough to think I didn't have some advantages along the way. I had a 2 parent household. I had a husband with very supportive parents. I had a car that ran (though had a penchant for blowing tires on the side of the freeway...never buy an old school Dodge Avenger). I had a wicked strong work ethic and a healthy body and mind to go with it. I didn't have any kids to support until I was well into a job with a salary and benefits. All things that definitely helped my circumstances. 

But I also had hope.....and it made a boatload of difference. 

If you are mired in broke.....believe me...it doesn't have to be a lifelong affliction. All you have to do is hope...and then START. START wondering "what if".....start writing down what you have, what you owe, what you want. Start believing you can do more....and then do more. 

Just hope. And start. 

When the Spouse Isn't On Board

Typically when a married couple first gets together.....sitting down and having a lengthy talk about finances isn't really top priority (if it is, congrats....you're nerds).

You're swept up in the amazing momentum of wedding planning....setting up a house....or, in our case, getting down to the business of popping out a kid right away. 

Money fights and money issues are a big reason for divorce. One of the MAIN reasons. Take two people who have completely separate finances and combine them, that's bound to be a powder keg. 

But it doesn't HAVE to be that way. 

COMBINING FINANCES 

People ask online all the time "How do I get my husband/wife on board with a budget/debt repayment plan"?   One of the FIRST questions I would ask in return is "have you combined your finances?" 

I'm old school, I suppose. I don't believe the combining of the $$ should be done before marriage (even though my husband and I did JUST that....even buying a house before we were married! We are fortunate it all worked out). However, once those papers are signed and the rings are on, the money is YOURS....both of yours. No more secret accounts. No more "that's his bill"....it's yours. 

Joint effort, combined goals, and success come with working as a team. If your spouse can't trust you to combine finances and insists on "this is mine, that is yours" type thinking....that's a bigger problem than any financial plan can fix. That's a trust problem. 

BIG PICTURE THINKING

One of the biggest issues with getting a reluctant spouse plugged in to a budgeting or debt repayment plan is that most folks are thinking in the "now". What they are seeing is how this affects them RIGHT NOW. 

Budgeting takes away all the fun. I want to be able to BUY things. Everyone has a car payment and I deserve a nice, new truck. 

This line of thinking is ignoring the big picture and long term plan for your family. 

Every family, I believe, needs a 5 year or 10 year plan. Where will you be? What will you be doing? And...most importantly...HOW do we get there.

By laying out the dreams for the future...and showing how a solid budget and debt payoff plan will get you there faster...you can convince even the most stubborn spouse to dream with you and contribute to the goal. 

FOREVER COMES SOONER THAN YOU THINK

Think of how quickly the last 10 years went by. Heck, the last 20. Now, how old are you and your spouse going to be in 20 years? I'll be 56. FIFTY. SIX. I better be darn near ready for retirement at that point. 

When you join your life with another person, that's forever....and you have to PLAN for what that means financially. Unless you plan on working until you're 80 to keep yourself stocked in cat food, you need a solid retirement plan. 

Again, the "right now" thinking can tend to derail this. 

What helped us is writing everything down....putting it on paper. Also, a good "Compound Interest" calculator can show you EXACTLY what your investments will yield come retirement age. Seeing the numbers in black and white is VERY motivating. 

THE BUDGET MEETING

Can you work a succinct budget/debt repayment plan on your own without your spouse? Sure. Will it be successful? Likely not. If you're dragging your spouse along kicking and screaming, you're going to lose momentum. You're not attacking the goals together and one person cannot steer the ship alone. 

What helps to get the reluctant spouse engaged is the budget meeting. This is a chance to not only see the numbers clearly....and lay out your current financial situation with no ifs, ands, or buts....but this keeps both of you accountable. You put the budget on paper together...you agree to abide by it....you are a team now. Accountabilabuddies, if you will. 

What if they won't even sit DOWN with you to discuss the budget? 

Well, then, I think a good....fair...calm "Come to Jesus" discussion is probably in order. Try to explain how IMPORTANT it is that your family reach all of their goals....that your kids are secure...that your RETIREMENT is secure. 

Remember....even with reluctance on one side, you are a TEAM. This is a "we" situation. 

Getting a reluctant spouse to come along with you on a debt payoff/budgeting journey isn't going to happen overnight.....and it probably won't be easy....especially if you've been all crazy with your money for some time. A drastic change in direction may freak them out.....so try to refrain from doing NOTHING but talking about "the plan" (I am REALLY REALLY bad at this, right Hubby?) 

Shared goals are the foundation of any healthy marriage....and working towards that, even with a little resistance, is bound to make you stronger. 

The Lottery is Not a Retirement Plan

When I was about 10 or 11 years old, we took a weekend trip up North to visit family with some relatives. One relative was a feverish lotto player. Scratch tickets were her go-to medium.

We had stopped at a gas station where I asked to get a scratch ticket of my very own. The adults seemed to have fun with them, I wanted one too. Problem is, 11 year olds can't buy scratch tickets. So, my relative bought me one. 

I remember the tiny rush of excitement as I scribbled my penny across the grey scratch-off stuff....the flakes flying everywhere as my fate was revealed.

And you know what? I WON. I won a LOT. $500 a lot. For an 11 year old, this was HUGE. 

My excitement was short lived when the relative played her trump card: she had purchased the ticket, so the winnings were hers. She did give me $5 though for being a good sport. 

It was one of my first lessons in how crappy the lottery is. Not only does it turn people into money-hungry maniacs, but the odds are garbage....and life isn't fair. 

I never willingly played the Lotto again. Every year I'd get some scratch tickets in my stocking at Christmas....and I'd begrudgingly scratch them off...and win nothing. I couldn't help but think "What a waste" as I tossed the ticket in the garbage. 


One year I happened to be driving through Vegas and my distaste for the gambling offered there was similar. Sticking my hard-earned (and limited) funds into a machine "in case" I may win something back seemed really futile....and not much fun. 

Yeah, I'm a bag of laughs to have in Vegas, I tell ya : ) 

The problem with the Lottery is that the MARKETING makes you believe that not only do you have a chance at winning (albeit a 1-in-175 million in most cases) but that all your problems will vanish and your wildest dreams will come true if you JUST. KEEP. PLAYING.  It's a ploy. Spend your hard-earned money and hopefully, eventually, you'll get Willy Wonka's Golden Ticket.

Here are some more considerations regarding the Lottery that keep me away from scratch tickets, Powerballs, and all manner of gambling in general:

1. It Doesn't Do Anything For Financial Fitness

In fact, a study done on Florida Lottery winners found that 70% of them had gone broke within 5 years of winning. So, bestowing large winnings on people who can't handle money = bad idea.

Dave Ramsey has a quote stating that the "Lottery is a tax on the poor and those who cannot do math" and there's some major statistical proof to this. According to a study performed at the University of Buffalo, those in the lowest fifth in terms of socio-economic status had the highest rate of lottery gambling (61%).  Lottery sales soar in disadvantaged neighborhoods as opposed to wealthier ones. 

The Lottery preys on the hopes of the downtrodden. It wants you to believe that with just an investment of a dollar or two, your entire life trajectory can be changed. It exploits the poor's overwhelming desire to escape their situation.

The problem is, life just doesn't work that way.

2. Throwing Money Out the Window is Not a Fun Hobby

One thing a lot of people say is they play the Lotto "for fun" or for a thrill. I mean, I kind of get that....I guess. I like to take risks.....I like to risk starting new ideas or businesses....I like roller coasters...I'm not risk adverse. However, given the cruddy odds, the short-term "high"....and the low that comes from staring at a stack of worthless tickets that paid out nothing....then wondering what else could have been done with the money you spent to buy them, I guess I'm not seeing the "fun" aspect. (Again, I'm a fun gal! I promise!)

When the Jackpot hit ridiculous proportions this past winter, I witnessed so many people lining up to purchase tickets that looked as if they really couldn't spare the $2 at the time. The hope in their eyes was a bit disheartening. They truly believed they could win.....even though the statistical probability was nil. 

"But Pudgy, you can't win if you don't PLAY....."

Or can you???.......

3. I Like Sure Things

In the 43 states where the Lotto is legal, Americans spent $70 BILLION DOLLARS on Lotto games in 2014. 

SEVENTY. BILLION. (CNN Money)

Tell me now why we can't have nice things : ) 

Think of how much, on average, people in Wisconsin may plop down on lottery tickets per year. Let's say it's $50 a month. That's being pretty conservative, honestly. Some of those big scratch tickets are $5-$10 a piece.  But, $50 a month is where we'll go.....

That's $600 a year.  
Let's say instead of buying Lotto tickets, you decide to invest in a series of growth stock mutual funds with your $50 a month instead. 

Let's say those funds yielded an average of 8%. This is, again, being rather conservative. I have some funds that do MUCH better (and some that, like this year, tank....but the market will always rebound). If you want excitement in your life, watching your investments grow and change....that's fun! 

Now let's say interest compounds quarterly. From age 25 to 60 your paltry little $50 a month will have earned roughly $170,774.00.

Not too shabby. Think of what it could do if you doubled that? 

$100 a month. 

That's about $341,000 at 60 years old. Even with a tiny bit of investment. Now, think of how thrilled you would be if you hit the Lotto at $341,000 after playing for years and years. 

Here's how it can happen.

But, by all means.....keep lamenting that you never win the Lotto. Rejoice over the $100 you won that took $500 to get to. 

Compound Interest is the game that so many people are not playing : ) The odds? FAR BETTER.

Jeez, Pudgy Gazelle....you sound about as fun as a 4 hour lecture on nuclear physics. 

Gambling IS fun to a lot of people....I'm just writing to show that even if it's how you like to spend your time and hard-earned cash....it's not a good retirement plan. It's not a means to achieving financial freedom....and the math is REALLY bad. 

I challenge you to try the Compound Interest Gambling Game for at least a year. It may be hard, to give up your weekly or sometimes DAILY scratch ticket.....but humor me. Invest those Lotto-Spendings and see what happens. If you're not ready to take on investing, sock it away in a savings account and see how it grows. 

I guarantee you, in a years time....well...you'll feel like you won the Lottery  ; ) 

Adventures in Frugality (March) ~ How We Won/How We Didn't

March is nearly over and I can't believe in a little over a month...if not sooner...we will be adding another kid to the pile. : ) 

So here's how we WON with money in March.....

- We are in what's called "Storm Cloud Mode" right now, where we push pause on debt repayment to sock away cash for the impending baby. Because I'm self-employed this is very important because when I go on maternity leave that means absolutely no income.

So, we did REALLY good socking away our Storm Cloud Fund and it's fully funded through April. Leaves us with a lot of peace of mind and I can take it easy and just anticipate baby.

- Came in about $5 under budget on Easter Baskets. Shopped sales and didn't go hog-wild. 

- Needed to send out mailers for Senior Portraits this month. Got an EXCELLENT price on hundreds of postcards through Vistaprint.com. Knowing what I know about what other printing companies charge for their business items, the $55 I paid was a huge savings! 

- Bought 2 dresses for the girls for Easter and Newborn Pics with the new baby. The next day they dropped in price, but Paribus.co caught it and I got the difference back  : )

Where We Could Have Improved......

- We broke down and had pizza, Culvers, and Dairy Queen all in one month. Yes, we paid cash and took it out of the food or fun budget, so I guess it's okay. It was budgeted for, but I still get a twinge of guilt everytime we spend $25 on pizza, knowing how many groceries that could buy. 

It's a side-effect of being a budgeter : ) GUILT. 

- This isn't necessarily MY need to improve....unless it means I need to learn to read.

HVAC went out at my studio. Got the landlord to fix it. Landlord bills me. Now, um....sorry dude but the HVAC busted, not sure how that's supposed to be MY bill. I pulled my lease and in there it basically says minor fixes are my responsibility, major are his. No dollar amount attached to this. I ask LL (Landlord) to define a "major fix" and he says "Over $300"

Bill was $298.

Touche, LL. Touche.

Next studio (coming up this summer) we make sure we have a good lease. 



DEBT PAYOFF MARCH 2016

This month, because of Storm Cloud Mode, we only paid off $1709.62

Next month, after baby comes, we'll be able to make a bigger dent.