5 Go-to Gifts that Won't Break the Bank

March 18, 2018

 

It's taken me exactly 31 years of my life to figure out that one of my love languages is gift-giving. (Okay maybe like eh, 24 years, because we're definitely not thinking about our love languages until at least age seven, right?)

I don't know why it took so long because there is a definite moment in my life that, looking back, I can now point to where it should have been blatantly obvious. You know...midway through that one fateful August (2014) where I had exactly $14 left in my checking account, but still had an entire two weeks left before I got paid again, YET I had successfully purchased and gifted birthday presents to two of my best friends just the week before. 

That's when I should have known.

But the truth is - I never thought gifts were one of my love languages (as in Gary Chapman's 5 Love Languages) because while I do love receiving gifts, I never ranked that action super high in the broad scheme of things because I'd rather spend quality time with you and acts of kindness make me giddy. It took a while to realize that while gifts weren't necessarily my favorite love language to receive, they were my favorite language to express.

For the last 3 years, after beginning my Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University journey, I've consistently struggled with a bit of guilt for not being able to give gifts the way that I would like. And for nearly 3 years, I thought it was guilt stemming from the societal norm of not showing up to a wedding/party/dinner/celebration without something in your hands. But after a deep dive in an attempt to get to the root of said guilt, I now know it was just stemming from a sadness of, due to strict budget restrictions, not always being able to show that I care in a way that is most natural to me. 

However, more recently for a friend's birthday, I gave her a coffee mug and single-size serving of her favorite cold brew. It was less than $10 and it brought me as much giving joy as if I had spent $50. And more importantly, she loved it, too.

It was in that moment that I realized I could still shower my people with gifts that are meaningful and intentional, but that won't break the bank. (I.e. still leaving money in the budget to meet my aggressive debt payoff goal and still have a social life.)

So with that, here are 6 gift ideas that won't break the bank. 

  1. This cute little mug from TARGET ($5.99) and a $5 STARBUCKS gift card.
  2. This great and useful cord taco (best name ever) from FASHIONABLE ($9)
  3. This so-cute-I-want-to-die initial trinket dish from ANTHROPOLOGIE. (My favorite go-to gift for newly engaged friends that need a place to store their newly acquired rock and have a soon-to-be new last initial to get used to). ($12)
  4. A book by a favorite author or on a topic the person is extremely passionate about. DAVE RAMSEY has a few I'm in to. ($10)
  5. The coziest, teensiest 3-piece set from TARGET for that new baby entering the world. ($10)
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All these tiny gifts go a long way and won't leave a huge monetary footprint in your account.  

So here are the lessons we've learned, folks:

  • You can still give tokens of care, appreciation, and love without breaking the bank
  • You should probably figure out what your love language is as soon as possible
  • I love Target

What other inexpensive gifts do you love to give? I'd love to hear your suggestions!

How You Can Live and Give Like No One Else In The Wake of Devastation (And Still Stay On Budget)

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September 4, 2017

If you've turned on any news channel in the last 10 days, you've certainly heard about Hurricane Harvey and the havoc he has wreaked across southeast Texas. From Corpus Christi, to Beaumont, to Rockport, to Houston, Harvey has left a tremendous amount of devastation in his wake. It's a weather performance that they're calling potentially the worst flood event in US history -- and one that we will never forget. 

It started on the evening of Friday, August 25, and as soon as the sun finally broke through the clouds on the evening of Tuesday, August 28, it was evident that recovering was going to be an all-hands-on-deck mission.

Since beginning my Financial Peace journey, I've heard the famous Dave Ramsey motto over and over again. "Live like no one else, so later you can live and give like no one else." It's the war cry of the budget-making, debt-dumping, baby-step taking folks that are eagerly trying to work their way out of the financial hot mess that they've found themselves in. But it's also the fight song for those folks that have already made it out, or have never been in debt and are implementing smart financial decisions into their lives. Either way -- I've heard it a ton, and while it is always a chant in my mind, it has become so much clearer and louder in the wake of the devastation that Harvey has brought us. 

For the last 10 days, I've heard nothing but of people giving. Left and right people are giving away their hard-earned money to causes in need. I've seen GoFundMe page goals being met and exceeded for families that lost everything to the flood waters. I've seen thousands of dollars being raised by my sweet friends and the schools they work at, and I've seen millions being raised by our favorite football players. I've heard of business owners paying their employees to go do relief work day in and day out, instead of their normal jobs. I've seen people generously step up to support various financial needs that churches and volunteers are requesting. I've seen people donate funds to feed volunteer relief workers and first responders, or even go out and personally purchase meals for them. People are literally giving away all that they can to help piece each other back together. 

All of this giving is nothing but inspiring and encouraging, but can also feel a bit overwhelming when you're still living life on a budget and aren't quite to the "so you can live and give like no one else" part of the process yet.

So how can you live and give like no one else while still living on a budget? 

Give What You CanFor starters, know what you can give, give that, and be proud of it. When I was stuck in my apartment for 4.5 days, going crazy that I was not able to get out and physically help anyone yet, I donated $25 to the Houston SPCA. It was all I could afford at that moment as my August budget was almost over and had every dollar accounted for. While I'd love to be able to give $250, I have to figure that my $25 will get used just as easily as someone else's $250 will. Give what you can. Be proud of it. 

Give Your Time - Everyone has a different set of giftings and resources. Someone that has the opportunity to give a lot of financial resources away, may not have a lot of free time to spare. And someone that has a lot of free time to give away, may not have a lot of financial resources to spare. While I am obviously not rolling around in the dough over here, I do have two hands and some time. I, along with virtually every other human out there it seems, have been in homes that were swallowed up by flood waters, pulling up wet carpet, removing water-logged furniture, and crowbarring our way through baseboards. (Seriously, crowbars are amazing...why don't I own one?). You can turn any corner and see the helpers. They're in shelters bandaging up wounds, they're in homes ripping out sheetrock, they're in ruined neighborhoods passing out meals, they're in churches sorting out donations, they're in yards removing trees. People left and right are giving their time -- they're everywhere and they're needed just as much as the financial resources.

Give Your Resources- So, maybe you don't have a heavy cash flow in the bank to utilize, but I bet you've got other resources and talents you can tap into. I've seen people opening up their homes for out-of-state relief workers to have a place to stay. I've seen dear friends that are professional photographers offer to salvage photos and negatives that were damaged by flood waters. Maybe you've got some gift cards lying around that you could use to buy someone a meal or a wet vac (I don't know your life and where your gift cards come from). Don't let a strict budget keep you from figuring out a way to give away the other resources you do have.

So -- how do you live and give like no one else while still living within your budget? You find a way to simply give. This is a recovery process that will be ahead of us for a very long time. It will be a marathon of giving. Whether it's a small donation, the use of your two hands and your free time, or the other resources and talents you possess -- give what you can, be proud of that, and keep on giving.

Donate Money:

http://www.houstonfoodbank.org/get-involved/harvey-disaster-relief/

https://ghcf.org/hurricane-relief/

http://www.texasdiaperbank.org/

 

Donate Time:

https://volunteer.bakerripley.org/recruiter/index.php?class=OppSearchResults&recruiterID=501&OppTitleDesc=disaster&type=all

http://ecclesiahouston.org/reliefprojects

 

4 Ways To Quickly Save $1,000

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June 28, 2017

One of your very first steps on your journey for financial freedom is building up a $1,000 emergency fund. Baby Step #1 as Dave calls it. 

Many people want to skip this step and simply begin throwing money at their debt as quickly as possible; however, this step is crucial because for many of us - the reason we're even in debt is because we didn't have enough liquid cash to cover an emergency when it happened. 

Having a fund in place will make the inevitable "when it rains it pours" moments seem much more like mere inconveniences, rather than emergencies.

Here are 4 ways to build your $1,000 emergency fund up quickly:

 

1. Sell Some Stuff

You may remember back in the day when I started this financial peace journey, that I kick-started my emergency fund by selling some things on (what was then) Facebook yard sales. (You remember...it was the same time I told you that someone was trying to sell Ed Hardy hair gel on there, too. ((What?)) But in case you're new here...you can read the story here.)

I was really skeptical of doing something like a FB yard sale at the time, but now it is completely the norm to sell your random things online. Thankfully, though, things have gotten much more sophisticated. 

Facebook apparently caught on that creating groups to sell items was becoming popular so they created Facebook Marketplace. This is a much easier avenue to sell items than what it looked like back in the day, when you posted your item, and it just went on a normal Facebook feed, and the more items other people posted the further down the feed your item went, and you'd have to scroll scroll scroll to find your item and type the word "bump" in the comments to get it back up to the top of the feed so it wouldn't disappear down a feed rabbit hole forever (I'm exhausted just thinking about it). No, no, no more of that on Facebook Marketplace. Now you simply take a picture of what you're selling, post it, price it, and someone will send you a message if they're interested.

A couple of other new online marketplaces to hit the scene (besides the classic eBay and Craigslist of course) are LetGo and Nextdoor Neighborhood. Same concepts here as Facebook Marketplace and they both have their own apps. Easy peasy. 

A note: I found that clothing doesn't do especially well on sites like this, but never fear - I've got some clothing-selling suggestions below!

(Disclaimer the world is scary sometimes: always meet in a public place when meeting a stranger to sell an item. If it's a piece of furniture that they have to come pick up, be sure other people are around. Also - only take cash. People be crazy.)

2. Sell Some Clothing

There are a plethora of options available to us when it comes to selling clothing now. Obviously there are the old standbys like consignment shops, Plato's Closet, and Buffalo Exchange, but there are also some newer and more appealing options out there as well.

I've had a good bit of luck with Poshmark - a user-friendly app that allows you to take pictures of your clothing and quickly upload them to the app. Buyers and browsers can either accept the price you've listed it as or bargain with you. Once someone makes an offer and you accept, Poshmark will email you a pre-paid shipping label (hell yea). All you have to do is box up your item, print your label, and drop it off at your nearby UPS/FedEx store. The buyer has 3 days to decide whether or not they want to keep it and then the money is deposited into your Poshmark account, which can then be easily transferred into your bank account. 

Another new option to hit the streets recently is thredUP. thredUP is perfect if you have a big closet purge ahead, and no time to take a gazillion pictures of all your things to upload onto an app. Just go to thredUP's website and request a Clean Out Kit. They'll send you a huge bag (with a pre-paid label on it for when you're ready to ship it back to them) that you can stuff with as many clothing items as possible. Send that sucker back to them and the fine folks at thredUP will go through your things and list them on their website at consignment prices (it's a great place to shop for inexpensive clothing items as well!). What they do not accept they will recycle and utilize elsewhere. You may not get paid for every piece of clothing you send to them, but they will recycle it for you which means (bye Felicia) it's out of your hair. As your items sell, money will be deposited into your thredUP account, which can be easily transferred to your bank account. 

3. Babysit/Dogsit/Birdsit/Catsit/Housesit

By far some of the most lucrative gigs out there are any that you have to "sit" something. Babysitting is how I've built my emergency fund, paid off a lot of my debt, and saved up for some of the extra things I wanted that my income couldn't support. Dogsitting and housesitting are equally as lucrative. Get your name out there, and tell your friends, colleagues, and social networks that you're availble for these gigs. People will come take you up on it - I promise.

4. Get a Side Gig

This doesn't have to be a permanent fixture in your life, but picking up a little side hustle is a great way to bring in more income when you're trying to build up your savings (or pay off debt). The question is not what talents and hobbies do you have, but rather which ones can you get paid for?

My side gig as a group exercise instructor has been a huge factor in my financial freedom journey. Plus - I get paid to workout. Who doesn't love that? I get paid $25/class and always have the opportunity to pick up more classes other than my regularly scheduled ones if I can.

I have a friend that really loves wine, so he picked up a side gig as a wine distributor through one of our local liquor stores. He works special events and hands out samples of wine and gets to tell people all about how delicious it is.

Or - maybe you love creating things like jewelry or art - start an Etsy shop! There are plenty of avenues to get paid for doing things that you love. (And if all else fails - pick up a part time job somewhere. It won't be forever!)

5. Create a GoFundMe Page

Lololol - just kidding. Just wanted to see if you were paying attention. GoFundMe pages and crowdfunding sites are wonderful and appropriate for many situations. Building up your $1,000 emergency fund is likely not one of those situations. 

 

These are just a few ways to help you build your emergency fund fast. You'll actually be pleasantly surprised with how quickly you can save up $1,000 when you put your mind to it and get a little creative. Now tighten up your boot straps and get to work!

 

A Pro Tip: Navigating FOMO While Living On A Budget

June 11, 2017

I get major FOMO. I'm quite sure I've talked about this before, but in case you aren't quite sure what "FOMO" stands for, it's a catchy little acronym stands for the "fear of missing out."

I'm certain that FOMO is 99.9% of the reason I ever found myself in debt. I'm a "yes" girl, sometimes because I am just not great at saying "no" to things, but also, often because I just don't want to miss out on a fun experience.  

Thankfully - as I've gotten older, I've been able to calm this a bit. It helps when you know yourself well and have an idea of the events and experiences you are okay to miss out on because you know you won't enjoy them. (i.e. when my friends went skydiving recently). 

The FOMO that really got me into debt was the fear of missing out on the latest clothing trend or the fear of missing out on that great trip my friends were taking. 

These days, that type of FOMO doesn't happen often because I budget and plan for the things that I want to spend my money on. When I know a big trip is coming up, I formulate a plan to tuck away some cash from my paycheck each month to save for it. If there is a big item I want to purchase, and I don't quite have enough room in my monthly budget, I pick up some extra classes to teach at the gym or I babysit. 

But - there are still some things that I want to do that are a bit pricier than I can, or am willing to, pay. However, I've discovered another little tip that can help avoid the FOMO while you're living on a budget:

V O L U N T E E R

Obviously this only applies to certain situations, but the situations it applies to are big ones!
If you've ever lived in Houston, you know we've got this tiny, small event called the R O D E O. It is literally one my favorite things about Houston. For three straight weeks there is a professional rodeo, followed by a concert every single night. And not like dinky little concerts, but concerts with artists like Brad Paisley, Chris Stapleton, Willie Nelson, The Chainsmokers, Meghan Trainor, etc etc. It is fun, entertaining, and a great reason to wear those cowboy boots. Tickets to the rodeo can be fairly inexpensive at around $20/ticket to sit up in nose bleed sections, but if you've got multiple artists you want to see (or you love the actual rodeo so much and that is your favorite part), $20 can add up. 

So you can spend a ton of money, OR...you can volunteer.

This year I was on the Gatekeepers committee where I scanned tickets of rodeo-goers, and got to sit really close to the action. Working six 8 hour shifts allowed me free entry into any show, any night of the week. A great tradeoff for a fun experience and an opportunity to meet a lot of new friends.

Plus I got to wear THIS outfit:

  When in Texas, amirite?

When in Texas, amirite?

I also participated in my first ToughMudder in May. A ToughMudder is a 10 mile run with 20 obstacles along the way (obstacles such as belly crawling through mud, being hoisted over really tall walls, sliding down slides into giant ice baths, etc). It was an experience that I thought surely I was going to hate, but actually ended up really enjoying it, primarily because the group of people I participated with was top-notch. 

 

I am typically a "one and done" kind of girl - I want to experience something, and then I feel fulfilled by that experience and do not feel the need to do it again. But, the week after we completed our ToughMudder, we found out there was another one coming up in the fall here in Houston. Everyone started throwing around that they wanted to do that one, too. 

At first I was like, "nah, bro, I'm good, y'all have fun!" But the more people that chimed in that they were all in again, the more I wanted to also be in again. However, I don't really want to drop another $140 on a ticket to participate. 

But guess what? This too, has an opportunity to volunteer. Each ToughMudder has two opportunities to participate as they are two day events. If you volunteer for half of one of the events, you can participate in the other day's event for $40; if you volunteer for a full day, you can participate for $20. Jackpot. 

So yea - volunteering might not always be the most glamorous of ways to spend your time, but it's always a great opportunity to meet new people, save some money, and still get those experiences. 

(And a post that was supposed to be just a quick money-saving pro tip turned into a novel. You're welcome.)

Zero-Based Budgets: A Healthy Balance of Exhilarating and Exhausting

May 7, 2017

Real talk: I am a zero-based budget's biggest cheerleader. FOR REAL. But sometimes I'd like to cheer for the other team. 

So far, 2017 has been intense on the budgeting side over here. It started with the realization in February, that I would not be receiving a tax refund like I thought I would be, but would instead be paying the government $700. SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS. SEVEN HUNDRED NON-BUDGETED DOLLARS. (This is a bit of a long story. I won't bore you with the details, but OMG SEVEN HUNDRED NON-BUDGETED DOLLARS).

Um, hi - I can assure you, I don't usually have $700 just lying around all willy nilly.

So after a breakdown (breakdown because no matter how hard we try to keep a handle on things, sometimes shit still hits the fan and we feel defeated - it's okay to breakdown, just don't stay in this place for too long), and a pep talk from my finance-turned-life mentor, I did some reworking of my budget numbers for the rest of February, March, and April. I had to sacrifice a couple of things that I had planned (i.e. weddings in Alabama, a fitness certification training), but I was able to find $700 in my budget without touching my debt snowball or my emergency fund.  

It was an exhausting in the immediate, but exhilarating in the long run.

2.5 years ago, I never would have been able to do that. 

This month, I finally had a little more wiggle room in my budget, and I've got a line item in it for a vet appointment for #georgethebeagle. This amount includes both his appointment and his flea and heart worm medicine. This amount is carefully thought out based on the last time I bought medicine for him. And I kept staring at this number and thought WHY IS THIS STUFF SO EXPENSIVE, SURELY I CAN FIND THIS STUFF CHEAPER SOMEWHERE ELSE. (Expensive flea meds make me yell apparently).

And so I tried. I was exhilarated by the idea of saving even $20 and allocating that money elsewhere. I checked Amazon, PetSmart, PetCo and 1-800-Pet-Meds. I was a woman on a money-saving, stick-it-to-the-man (read: the vet's office) mission.

But eventually I also became a woman that was kind of over it. Sometimes I just want to forget about the numbers and drop $$ on whatever the easiest option is.

But this would be lazy of me.

And yes there are certainly situations where convenience trumps price, but this wasn't one of them. 

So I hunted a bit and ended up spending $90 on flea and heart worm meds instead of $150, which we chalk up as a huge win. Especially since the vet appointment ended up being a bit more than what I had budgeted for. (For the love...I guess not as carefully thought out as I wanted).

So our moral of the story here is this: living within the boundaries of a budget is smartest, but it is not always the easiest. (And this kind of goes against our motto of live smarter not harder, eh?)

Sometimes you just want to throw caution (and cash) to the wind and shout SUCK IT BUDGET -- I'M GOING TO DO WHAT I WANT AND BUY THOSE SHOES THAT I DON'T NEED AT FULL PRICE INSTEAD OF BUDGETING FOR THEM AND WAITING FOR THEM TO GO ON SALE.

But that might be kind of lazy of you. Your financial freedom is worth more than laziness. 

And just like with exercising, which is also both exhausting and exhilarating - if we get lazy and stop working out, it is extremely easy to fall into a slump of inactivity and the next thing you know you've gained 7 lbs.

Budgeting is the same. If we get lazy, the next thing we know, we stop paying attention to our numbers and we begin to overdraw our account, or we rack up another credit card bill because we're tired of looking for the best deals or saving instead of spending. 

Don't let exhaustion beat you. Instead be exhilarated by the financial freedom that you're fighting for. Even if your financial freedom seems far away, keep hacking away at it, little by little. 

Exercising, losing weight, learning a new skill, paying off debt - they all take discipline and patience. They all have moments of exhilaration, and moments of exhaustion.

Fight for your financial freedom, and don't ever let the exhaustion outpace the exhilaration.

((PS - do you know what a zero-based budget is? It means that you set your budget before you get paid and you have every single dollar allocated somewhere. No dollar left behind. When you're done telling your dollars where to go the total amount left should read $0. These can be scary at first, but then you get the hang of it.))

3 Reasons Paying With Cash Helps You Stay On Budget

December 19, 2016

I. Love. Cash. Who doesn't, right? But I bet I love it more than you do. Here's proof:

I went out of town recently and paid a friend to take care of #georgethebeagle and #sirfatrigby. I'm a loyal cash user and, therefore, a loyal cash payer. I suspect that this can, maybe, get annoying to people in these easy days of Venmo and Paypal, but for the past two years, cash has been my love language. After my friend received her thanks-for-making-sure-my-animals-don't-die funds she sent me a text that said "Okay, I kind of love paying with cash!" To which I IMMEDIATELY replied, "CASH IS KING!" 

#nerdalert

But really...cash is king. Or as Dave really says, "debt is dumb and cash is king." 

Unless you've gone through your own Financial Peace Project, there is a solid chance you're probably not a frequent cash user. You're probably thinking that when you do actually have cash, it sprouts wings and flies out of your wallet. It legitimately burns a hole in your pocket until you spend it as quickly as possible. I hear you and I see you, because I used to think the same things. However, after a few weeks of working off of a cash-only spending tactic, it became easier to manage and actually helped me stay on budget. SIDE NOTE: this means I pay for groceries, gas, eating out, shopping with cash. The exceptions are paying bills online and anything that has to be done online, i.e. buying tickets to an event. I plan each month's budget out at the end of the previous month, taking into account everything that is coming up for the next 30 days. <-- This too takes practice

Anyway, here are 3 reasons why CASH IS KING:

1. It Keeps You Organized - First things first - if you're going to jump head first into using cash for all the things (read: groceries, gas, spending, shopping), you've got to equip yourself with an envelope system. It can either look like this one (click on this to see an envelop system) or you can create your own using regular ol' envelopes. Either way, it's crucial to keep your cash organized. I started with the envelope system like the linked above, and eventually removed the actual envelope inserts and stuck them in my normal wallet. To this day, I have the same envelope inserts I had when I started Financial Peace University two years ago. They are as ratty and ripped as you're picturing them. 

Divvying your cash out into different labeled envelopes ensures that each of your spending categories are TRULY getting the money you've allotted. How often do we "put together a budget," only to not actually abide by it because we accidentally spent 15 dollars more on groceries than we meant to? But then you don't take into account that the extra $15 had to come from somewhere and you go ahead and still spend $50 on restaurants for the month. It becomes a gross cycle and the next thing you know you're down to virtually nothing in your account! Using a cash envelope system helps keep your spending organized so that you're giving each category its fair share of love. 

2. It Keeps You On Track - How many times have you overspent because you just a-went swiping that card, thinking you had everything under control? One of the most interesting things I learned in my FPU classes was that when you pay with cash, that physical action triggers the same sensor in your brain that is triggered when you're in pain. When you swipe your card, no sensors are triggered. Swiping a debit card or credit card brings you no pain...until you look at your account later. Paying with cash makes you hyper aware of how much money you're spending and how much money you have left because you can physically see disappear as you're spending it. 

3. It Keeps You From Overspending and Overdrawing - Paying with cash is also a great way to ensure you won't overdraw your account. I used to overdraw ALL THE TIME, because I was not paying attention to how much I was spending. Looking back, I'm pretty sure I was actually avoiding looking at my account most of the time, terrified of the number I would see. Now - I pay all of my bills online at the beginning of my pay period, and then pull out the cash I'll need until the next one. I rarely even touch my debit card anymore, which means I'm not over-swiping and overdrawing. And sure - paying for gas with cash can be really annoying. But what is more frustrating? Getting out of your car to go inside the gas station, or having to pay another overdraft fee? 

 

Switching over to a cash-only spending tactic takes some time and practice. I have actually been reminded of how much I love paying with cash over these last few weeks of Christmas shopping. Since I'm doing a lot of shopping online (2016 amirite? I see you Amazon Prime), I decided to keep my Christmas money in my account. Saying it's been a personal nightmare would be dramatic (AND I'M NEVER DRAMATIC), but it's been harder than I thought it would be. Trying to keep track of how much I'm spending. Did I go over my budget for this person? Do I still actually have money in my account? It makes my envelope-using-head spin a little. In an ideal, non-online-shopping world (but who am I kidding, I love online shopping), I would have an envelope for each person and the allotted amount of cash that I budgeted ready to go. 

So if you've been trying to live on a budget and things just aren't going as planned, consider using cash. CASH IS KING and will keep you organized, on track, in control, and on budget. 

 

 

Dumping Debt and Dumping Weight: Pretty Much the Same Thing

August 3rd, 2016

We're in August which means a few things:

A) How are we already in August?! 

b) We're back to dumping debt!

I took a debt snowball hiatus this summer as I was building my emergency fund back up, and now we're back in business, baby. I am pumped. Nothing is more rewarding than throwing massive amounts of money at my debt (until you think about it too hard and it gets depressing, but I digress...we made this bed so let's lay in it!). 

As a gal that's doing her best to maintain a healthy spending lifestyle, and one that is also attempting to maintain a healthy HEALTH lifestyle (read: not gain 500 lbs because I love ice cream so much), I've noticed something. 

Dumping debt and dumping weight are practically the same dang thing.

Here's how:

1. It is a daily battle. I'll be honest - every single day that goes by where I don't spend money on something that wasn't budgeted and where I don't eat something really horrible for me are both counted as great victories in my book. I have to intentionally think about both of these things as I walk through life and remember what my goals are. I wander around the grocery store with, "No, you don't NEED to spend money on that, just like you don't NEED to consume that," in my mind all the time. (Also - don't freak out...I'm mostly strict but I know how a thing or two about balance. Don't need no lectures here!)

These choices are tied very tightly together in my mind. And they both happen to be choices about the lifestyle I'm choosing to live. 

2. It is not an overnight change...it is a lifestyle change. I'm at the point in my life where I am working toward making leaps and bounds toward a healthier eating lifestyle. This girl, that used to eat poptarts for breakfast and hot pockets for lunch, is now an 80% Paleo kind of girl. (Really shocking, I know). When I started teaching BodyPump regularly (along with Zumba), I felt myself getting stronger but noticed that little change was actually happening in the appearance of my body. I remember thinking - if I'm going to be working this hard multiple times a week to build strength, I'd better be seeing it. And that's when I started making S L O W changes to my diet, because it really is 80% diet and 20% exercise. I figured I needed to my fuel my body well in order to get the results I wanted to see. The fact of the matter, too, is that as I am getting older (we're in plain sight of 30, people) I'm more in tune with my body, how it reacts to certain foods, and how I feel internally. (And also how my metabolism is slowing down...) Over time, this mindset has nestled itself into my brain and I do my best to eat clean, whole foods (I fail quite a bit, but I'm working on it). It's taken almost a year and a half to get to 80% Paleo and I've got more work to do. But lifestyle changes don't happen overnight.

Living the Dave Ramsey way is also a lifestyle change. It doesn't happen overnight and it takes quite some time to get the hang of. Just like weight management, it is an 80/20 formula. 80% behavior and 20% knowledge. Anyone can understand that living within the guidelines of a budget is a smart thing to do, but so many people don't actually practice it. Just like most people know that eating pint of ice cream in one sitting is not good for your health, but so many people still do it. Lifestyle changes take a lot of time, patience, practice, and perseverance. 

3. It is not the same for everyone. This little lesson has probably been one of the hardest for me to learn and I believe it applies equally to dumping debt and dumping weight. We are all made and shaped differently, with a unique gene pool and different metabolisms. I tend to look at what other people are doing and imagine I can live my life the exact same way. "Oh, well so-and-so eats pasta every day for lunch and is still as thin as a rail. I can eat pasta every day, too!" Sometimes, I'm an idiot. Over the years I've had to be really careful about comparing myself to others when it comes to food and exercise. It's been a long journey of figuring out what works best for ME and MY BODY. I carry weight differently than others. I react to carbs in a different way than others, etc. And the same exact lesson applies to money.

I have to continually remind myself that my budget does not look like everyone else's. Not everyone is carrying around hundreds of dollars of debt that they are paying off monthly. Just because my best friend can order 5 things from Ann Taylor Loft (y'all know I still love this store) doesn't mean that I can. (Well I COULD, but I'd have to budget for it...budgets are beautiful). Finances can produce the same theft of comparison as body image (and then some) if you allow them to. I say, keep your head down, stay in your lane, and figure out what works for YOU.

 

Living in a healthy eating lifestyle and a smart spending lifestyle are one-in-the-same in my mind. They both take discipline and hard work. They take practice. They take breaking bad habits. And sometimes it's no fun and all you want to do is spend 70 bucks on 5 pizzas (but then you've just screwed everything up, so don't do that). But the hard work and discipline will pay off and beautiful benefits will be had.

Regardless of what lifestyle changes you are making - figure out what benefits you want and go make them happen.

 

Fighting for Financial Freedom: 3 Lessons I've Learned Along the Way

May 8, 2016

The fight for financial freedom is long and challenging and encouraging and rewarding and all of the things and feelings kneaded into one. From the moment I began the Dave Ramsey approach to finding financial freedom, my world drastically changed. I went from swiping all of the credit cards all of the time to living by a strict spreadsheet and divvying cash into little envelopes.  I've been on this journey for a year and a half and as each month passes, I find myself learning new lessons all the time. Here are a few of my most recent aha moments:

1. You will still live paycheck-to-paycheck. 

We've all heard (or lived) the phrase "living paycheck-to-paycheck." For me it used to mean a little something different than it does now. It meant hardly ever looking at my checking account as I swiped that debit card left and right, only to wind up crying in my car later when I realized I was down to $14 on the 6th day of the month when I had just been paid on the 1st of the month AND I was only being paid once a month (an excessive amount of the use of the word "month," but it is what it is). That's what we call rock bottom, folks. Living paycheck-to-paycheck, then, meant praying that my landlord would just happen to wait one more day to cash that rent check so that my account wouldn't be overdrawn, or hoping that my tank of gas would carry me into the next week. It was stressful and constantly terrifying. And embarrassing. 

But now, I'm still living paycheck-to-paycheck - just in a much healthier way. Now it is in a way that means I've budgeted out every single dollar that I receive each pay period. I know exactly where those dollars will be going and there are no surprises along the way (and hey - if there is a surprise...like your car being flooded...again...the emergency fund comes to the rescue). No more looking at my account wondering where in the world my money was disappearing to. No more crying - but instead living life within boundaries that create a significant amount of freedom.

2. Practice and preparation make perfect.

When I first started budgeting out my months I found it a little daunting. Planning out my money for an entire 30 days was overwhelming for someone that could hardly plan out money for one week. Also, I'd find myself forgetting about activities that I had planned or the fact that Father's Day was in that month or whatever. Eventually, though, this became easier the more I did it. Now, as the beginning of the next month approaches, I sit down with my calendar and plan out my budget. I do my best to take into account every holiday, birthday, and social activity along with my usual bill planning. This step of preparation makes budgeting worlds easier. It definitely took some time and guidance to get the hang of it, but eventually it feels nothing but natural.

The things that have been the hardest for me to successfully budget for have been trips and vacations because many times there are activities that are thrown in that won't be accounted for until later. Again, the more you do this, though, the easier it gets, and until you can nail the exact cost that the trip will be, the best thing to do is over-budget. It will be way better to come home with money than run out of money halfway through. To this day, my best budgeting trip was this January for a bachelorette party weekend in New Orleans. I shopped all the shops, ate all of the macaroons, drank all of the coffee (and maybe some wine), and still came home with $2 in my envelope. We call that a hashtag success.

3. Budgeted spending is the most freeing and rewarding spending.

In the short year and a half since I've been on the Dave Ramsey train, I've had to say "no" to more than one trip with friends. Saying no has never been easy for me. For 27 years of my life I was a constant "yes" girl. (And not just "yes," but more like "YAAAAS!") I never wanted to miss out on anything (we call this FOMO - the fear of missing out) and I hate to not be included. That's changed in the last 18 months and it's taken quite a bit of patience and perseverance (and coaching from Loni, my finance/life/girl boss/friend mentor). If I could, I'd still be saying "YAAAAS" all of the time, but the fact of the matter is that I just can't. However, now, when I do say "YAAAAS," the experiences are that much sweeter. 

When I have planned, prepped, and saved for a trip, I am able to walk into it completely guilt-free, with no worries on how I'm going to find the money to cover this credit card bill or where I'm going to have to cut corners somewhere else to make up for it. It is incredibly freeing and rewarding, and makes me sad that I hadn't been living life this way the whole time.

 

People often think that putting their lives into a budget will feel constricting and limiting, but it's actually quite the opposite. Again, take it from the girl that had so little control of her spending habits that she had dwindled her checking account to $14 with 25 days left in the pay period. That same girl is now not only able to reasonably spend money on things she wants to spend them on, but is also able to throw hundreds of dollars at debt every single month. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that it could all be possible. And if I can do it - so can you. Please never hesitate to reach out if you have questions or are ready to begin your own journey toward financial freedom!

Fighting for freedom. (Financial and other types.)

February 8, 2016

Listen you guys.  I have 3 debts left.  THREE.  When I started this crazy journey I had 6!  Halfway there.  Actually, over halfway there because back in September, I picked up my student loan from my parents, tacking on a 7th debt.  That felt liberating, responsible, and scary all at once, but I knew it was something I wanted to do and something God was prompting me to do.  He was prompting me to lean on Him a little bit more and asking me to trust that He will continue to provide like he had been for the last 11 months since I had started this Financial Peace track.  

He has been faithful.

So let's do a little recap here since it's been a hot minute since we've discussed the monies.  Here's what's been paid off thus far with the start date of November 2014:

$1438 (credit card)

$1591 (credit card...stinkin' Ann Taylor Loft)

$1628 (personal loan)

$1747 (personal loan)

GRAND TOTAL of $6,404 all paid off in 10 (count them, TEN) months.  All thanks to working that debt snowball you know I'm so in love with.  That, and God's grace. 

So fast forward to now and I've got a bit of a confession to make.  

I've fallen off the wagon a little bit.  Not completely off the wagon, but maybe my foot's been dragging the ground a little.  Or maybe it's more like my foot, ankle, and potentially my knee are all that's hanging out of this moving wagon.

There are some reasons behind this, though none of them are good or valid reasons.  Much of it has to do with the big move to Houston; however, the funny thing about this is that I was actually extremely well covered with money for my move to Houston.  With a payout for annual leave from my last job to having moving expenses covered from my new job to the generosity of amazingly, dear friends, I was able to get myself here and settled and even furnish most of my apartment without blinking an eye.  What an amazing blessing I was given.  A blessing that is still hard to fully comprehend.

But, as I began my new routine here, I cut myself some slack about being so disciplined with my budget. The first few months were legitimately trying to figure out exactly what my finances would look like (fair), but even once I figured that out, I still remained relaxed in the discipline (unfair/dumb).  I was still eagerly snowballing (paying $300 toward a bill that had a minimum payment of $59), but my life of throwing all my extra money (i.e. money I earn from teaching fitness classes) toward debt had ceased.

So, with all the honesty and vulnerability I have to offer (and we know this is a lot), I'm laying it out for you again because accountability and community is what gets things done, amirite?

Here's what I've got left!:

$2,267 (credit card)

$13,609 (car payment)

$13,300 (student loan)

(side note: in a true debt snowball, the student loan would be listed second as it stacks in order from smallest debt to largest; however, I decided I wanted to pay off my car payment first since I've been working so long to make that happen)

I literally cannot wait to get this credit card paid off because once I do, I'll go from paying $329 a month toward my car to $679...plus all the extra monies! It's going to be amazing.

So why do I share this all with you?  Why do I share these really private numbers with you?  Because I believe that letting you into this sacred space of confession is a beautiful way for change to occur.  I also believe, hope, and pray that sharing my testimony will help you with yours.  Maybe you're not ready to share yours, yet, and that's fine; but I hope sharing mine helps you face your own battle head first.

This is hard work, friends.  But aren't most things that are worth fighting for?  A fight for freedom shouldn't be easy or we'll never truly value where we've come from nor appreciate how God has worked in our lives.  This goes for all of the battles we find ourselves facing.  Maybe you're facing the battle of comparison or the battle of healthy eating and exercising or the battle of forgiving yourself for your past.  It applies to all.  The deep, private, vulnerable battle of finances just happens to be the biggest one I face.

So keep fighting the good fight.  It's going to take a lot of discipline and even more grace, but you've got this.  Surround yourself with people that will fight alongside you, in deed and in prayer, and get to work.  I'm rooting for you.

Reason #45,793 You Need an Emergency Fund: YOUR CAR WILL BE FLOODED

November 3rd, 2015

Reason #45,793 that you need an emergency fund:

You will move your little self and your little life and your little car 12 hours away to a little (BIG) city, where it (apparently) frequently rains a ton (at least lately).  You will move into a fantastic little apartment complex where you get to know the people that live around you and where no one cares (so they say) that your beagle howls at all hours of the day (but not all hours of the night because we are not HEATHENS or NIGHT OWLS and we go to bed at NINE-THIRTY and George is too busy SNORING to howl).  You will love your new city and your new apartment complex and your new neighbors.  The downfall is that your sweet little complex will sit right in the middle of a flood zone.

Ahh, yes.  Your precious street corner will turn into a sweet little river that Noah could sail his ark on.  Your parking lot will turn into a swimming pool for animals and small children.  And while this is all happening, you'll sit in your sweet little apartment all cozy and snug as you drink your coffee on a Saturday morning and commend yourself for choosing not to go to the gym.  Wouldn't want to be stuck out in that, you think.

But then you see it.  The water rising and rising.  The rain falling and falling.  You're the eternal optimist so you think ehhh, I'm sure it's fine.  MY car won't flood (even if everyone else's does) because sometimes you are naive.  Eventually the rain subsides and the flood waters fall away and you make your way to your car.  Then you open the car doors to see half an inch of water pooled in the floorboards.  You grab a bowl and you grab a cup and you begin scooping it out.  You grab some towels and soak up as much as you can.  You wash those towels (because you only have five, you are not running a hotel) and you dry them and you take them back out to your car and soak up some more water.  You think you possibly have the situation under control but then you hear sloshing underneath the carpet of your car and you think ewww.  

You, being the responsible person that you are, take your car to get as much water vacuumed out as you can.  These people with their vacuums tell you the best thing you can do is to let them do a water extraction where they'll take everything out of your car (carpet, seats, all of it) and dry it all out so that you do not get mold.  Nah, just vacuum it out as best as you can says you, the eternal optimist.  You drive away feeling hopeful, but still not really all that dry.

You get in your car the next day and gasp at the smell because IT SMELLS LIKE SEVEN DEAD ANIMALS.  You feel a multitude of things at this point: sadness, frustration, annoyance, smelliness.  So you hang your head in defeat (sort of, not really) and you take it back to the place to get the water extraction done.  You feel sad to part with the money to have this done, but remember that is why it is there.  For emergencies.  And I don't know what screams "EMERGENCY" more than a FLOOD.  But then you will be happy because your car will no longer smell like 7 dead animals and life can move on and you will be thankful to have had that money saved in the first place.

To make a long story (that I already told long...oops) short: it's imperative to have an emergency fund because, at some point, a flood's gonna come your way, too.

The glorious thing that is a debt snowball.

April 6th, 2015

Oh my gosh, hi.  It's been 17 billion years since I've written you and for that I am so sorry.  And because of that I have about 17 billion thoughts and I am going to do my very best to keep them from word vomiting all over the page.  (Too much?)

Here are the basics:

I am still enduring Baby Step 2, and will continue to do so for at least the next year and a half.  And it's awesome.  I've realized that many of you may not even know what Baby Step 2 is and that we also call it The Debt Snowball.  So let's talk about it.

The Debt Snowball calls for you to take each of your debts and line them up from smallest payoff amount to largest.  You do not need to line them up from smallest interest rate to largest, or least favorite to most favorite, etc.  Face those suckers head on for what they are and let's go.  Here's an example:

Loft Credit Card - Payoff: $1,500//$80 minimum payment

Personal Loan: - Payoff: $1,650//$150 minimum payment

Visa Credit Card - Payoff: $2,500//$60 minimum payment

Auto Loan - Payoff: $16,000//$330 minimum payment

So as we start our snowball, things seem a little slow and pretty anticlimactic because we will just truck along and pay only our minimum payments for each debt.  However, your goal is to tackle this total debt payoff with gazelle like intensity (as in a-gazelle-being-chased-by-a-cheetah like intensity) which means any extra money that you can find should be thrown at the top payoff total.  Once you pay off that first debt (and do your get-behind-me-devil-debt happy dance), you will take that minimum payment and add it to the next one.  In our example, the minimum payment for the 2nd debt - the personal loan- would go from $150 to $230.  That new minimum payment along with any money you can spare will get that second debt paid off in no time.  And then you add that new $230 minimum payment to the third debt's minimum payment and so on and so forth.  So basically, whatever total amount you're paying in minimum payments now (Hi, for me it's $724, every single month.  Ouch, right?) you will continue to pay that same amount until you're debt free.  Make sense?  

One thing you should NOT do, no matter how logical and financially beneficial it seems is to lump your debt into one sum.  Sure, this may seem like a good idea because it will lower those interest rates (interest rates were bred of the DEVIL), but you should not do this because it will mess with your pretty little head.  You NEED those small victories of paying off $1,500 here and $1,650 there.  They pump you up and motivate you and make you do happy debt dances through your house (for me, this looks a lot like Zumba, naturally).  

You see one debt disappear and suddenly, this all doesn't seem so hard.  Trust me.

If you would have told me one year ago that I would be sitting pretty on a $1,000 emergency fund AND paying off debts on an average of one every 3 months AND still able to pay rent AND eat more than just ramen noodles I would have giggled at you because that's what I do when I'm uncomfortable.

I paid off my second debt (out of 6) last week and the feeling that comes along with that is euphoric (SEE YA ANN TAYLOR LOFT CREDIT CARD, HATE YOU LOVE YOU BYE).  No matter how mundane this process gets, or even how lonely it can sometimes be, nothing trumps the feeling of knowing I'm one step closer to financial freedom.

I'll say this again as I've said a ba-freaking-jillion times before: this experience has changed my life and I'll never look back.  And it can change yours, too.  But you have to want it.  It's not all rainbows and butterflies and debt Zumba dances all of the time, but it is worth the fight.  In fact next I'll get really honest with you and tell you about my most recent spending habits and how my cash envelopes now have sub-envelopes and how life felt a little out of control for a hot minute.  If you have questions, reach out and I'll be happy to talk with you.  Some of you have already and it makes my little heart a happy place.  

Listen.  You CAN do this.  But only if you want to.

Things I never thought I'd do. (A themed post)

February 9, 2015

As I'm moving and grooving and paying off debt at an excitingly quick pace, I've been reflecting on some things that I've done since I started my  Financial Peace University journey that I'd never thought I'd so.

So, for you, a list.  (Side note: I hate blog posts with lists, but that's neither here nor there.)

1. Return a bag of salad.  One time, I bought salad for a pot luck dinner with my small group.  It was the Caesar salad kit in a bag type of salad because I AM SUCH A BETTY CROCKER, and we ended up not needing it.  So I promptly took it back the next day and, heck yea, got my money back.  Typically I would have just given it away (because let's be real...I wasn't going to eat it on my own.)

2. Go 4 months (and counting) without buying a piece of clothing.  Seriously.  Look, don't judge me.  I am currently throwing all my monies at my Ann Taylor Loft credit card.  I'm not going to tell you the balance that was on it.  It was stupid.  I've learned my lesson.  Stop judging me.

3. Use my tax refund to pay off debt.  Please, usually that money is going to ALL THE CLOTHES AT ANN TAYLOR LOFT.  Or to a new phone.  Or maybe it will go in my savings account only to disappear slowly for ALL THE CLOTHES AT ANN TAYLOR LOFT. But not today, debt!  You're getting punched in the face.  (Confession: I totally tried to get Loni to let me at least use half of it to go toward my new computer.  She just looked at me and I KNEW that was a "no."  So thankful for a strict coach.)

4. Spend all my free time babysitting.  I was actually not one of those girls that babysat through high school and college.  (If I've already committed to babysitting your kids, no worries - I DO have experience!).  But now, I'm all like GIVE ME YOUR KIDS!  And I don't know why I've waiting so long, because kids are hysterical and super entertaining.  They do things like: think you weigh less than 100 lbs, encourage you to wear glitter foil tattoos before 8:30 AM, tell you new facts about horses while eating breakfast, not judge you for wanting to watch The Disney Channel with you, and, most importantly, think you're really cool even when you aren't.  It's the best. 

5. Actually save my money for something I want to buy.  Like a computer.  See what I'm talking about here.

6. Actually know where my money is going and exactly how much I have in my account at all times.  These things happen when you have a budget and stick to it.  

7. Pay $1,100 (and counting) toward ONE credit card in ONE month alone.  I am working the debt snowball method and am flying after my second debt already.  Because of the new budget I adopted, I am able to live off of my monthly income and reallocate any extra funds I get to go toward debt.  This month in particular I will receive approximately $200 for teaching fitness classes, $500 in reimbursements for travel and out-of-town accommodations for work, and $400 in tax refunds.  Resulting in AT LEAST $1,100 going toward that credit card.  Blows my mind.  Never in my life would I have thought I would be able to throw that much "extra" money at something.

 

If any of these Financial Peace Project posts inspire you to make a change, PLEASE, find a class near you.  Do what Dave says and watch the magic happen.  Your life will change.  But you have to let it  

Find A Class

Who needs a babysitter?!

February 3, 2015

Y'all, February is here and I couldn't be more excited.  My budgeting cap is back on and I'm happy to be back in a routine.  January was a hard month for several reasons.

1) It's January.  Like the worst month there is.  (No offense to any January lovers).  It's cold and grey and we're coming off of a high from the holidays.  And it's long.  

2) Because we just spent 6 weeks during the holidays, doing holiday things, etc, I had taken a little break from my gazelle-running debt-dumping, so that I could buy Christmas presents for my family and be in the holiday spirit.  So getting back to hitting the pavement and chipping away at my debt was a little uncomfortable at first.

3) It's January.

But, this January, while long and grey and cold and still hard, was actually fun because I paid off my first debt!  Once my emergency fund was fully funded and I was able to start throwing any extra money at my first debt, it took approximately 10 weeks to pay off.  It actually could have been paid off 3-4 weeks sooner but SOMEBODY (George the Beagle), got into a pound of chocolate around Christmas and had to go to the emergency vet, and the emergency fund was dipped into.  AND the rule is that your emergency fund should always be fully funded.  If you dip into it then you must halt on throwing all of your extra money toward your debt and throw it back at your fund.  Once it's caught up, you may proceed as normal.

Although dipping into my emergency fund hurt a little, because I had worked so hard to get it together, the feeling of knowing that I had money to use in an emergency outweighed all of the pain.  It was one of the greatest feelings of freedom I've ever experienced.

So here we are in February!  In this month of 2015 I am getting my hair done, paying for my car tag (#expensive), going to the doctor, and getting an oil change.  And, for probably the first time ever, I am able to pay for all of these things with money that is IN MY POSSESSION.  No credit cards being used, etc.  It's the best.

I did have to prepare for this month a little ahead of time though.  I saved some money in December to prep and had some babysitting gigs to help cushion this month; but again, working hard to feel that freedom will always trump not knowing where money is going to come from.

So all of this being said...I am seeking out your children.  Well, not your children exactly because that would be weird...but opportunities to watch your children so that you can have a date night.  Yeah!  My 2010 Macbook is officially biting the dust and I need a new computer stat.  And since all of my extra monies are going toward that pesky credit card debt I have, I need another avenue of extra monies.  SO - if you need a babysitter, let me know because I am lending my services.  

Before FPU I would have found some room on a credit card or taken out (gasp) a personal loan to fund this purchase.  My how times have changed!

PS - I'm sad (actually happy) to report that I am already booked both nights for Valentine's weekend. ;)

Huzzah!

 Actual screenshot of first debt paid off!

Actual screenshot of first debt paid off!



December. My little budgeting brain is tired.

December 24th, 2014

Y'all.  December.  A person-trying-to-spend-as-little-money-as-possible's worst nightmare.

I came into December prepared with a pretty gracious budget for Christmas presents and for holiday parties and now...I'm ready for December to be over!  My little budgeting brain is tired.  But - just to be clear - I did NOT fall off the wagon this month! (Not yet at least).  God provided for me this month well more than I needed in order to enjoy this season in all its entirety.  Due to teaching a bajillion fitness classes and generous uncles that contributed to my Christmas fund (hey John!), I was able to get presents for family and friends that I am excited to give and that feel more meaningful than in years past.  Usually at Christmastime I am scrounging around trying to buy presents with what little money I have left over, just selecting items because I can afford them.  

But this year - even though I may have gone a little over-budget (with money to support it), I am more excited for Christmas than ever.  Let me insert here that it's about so much more than the gifts during this time...we all know that.  However, being in control of my money for the past 3 months has set free any feelings of obligation and has opened up space for feelings of excitement.  Excitement to give and shower others with love, whether that be through donations, gifts or baked goods for parties.  I have loved all of it.  

Although I do feel a teensy bit guilty for not throwing some of the extra money (all of the extra money) at my debt, I think the payoff of no stress is worth it.  Sometimes it's okay to take a (small...very small) break from healthy practices to be in the moment.  I am grateful for the opportunity to truly enjoy this holiday season, but will be ready for January so I can hop back on my gazelle and continue full speed ahead.

So whatever it is that you may need to take a small break from this week (assuming it's something you can take a break from), do so with a full heart free of guilt.  Life is too short to pass up on the important moments.

Merry Christmas!

 

Dark corners: exposed.

November 11, 2014

When you begin taking steps to correct a large issue in your life, things come to the forefront that you may not have been expecting to see.  Feelings, emotions, insecurities, epiphanies.  One by one layers are peeled back to expose thoughts you didn't even know you had.  Self-awareness creeps in and rocks your world a little bit.  But it's not necessarily a bad thing.

Since beginning this journey, I've had the opportunity to really sit down and look at myself and my habits.  To really take a long look in every dark corner to see if the root of the problem could be confirmed.  What happens when we do this?  Eventually we begin to see and to hear the truths of our life.  These truths then bring forth light that we can use to shine into those dark corners so that we can better see to begin the clean up.

When I really look into the corners of my {over} spending habits, I find more than just the desire to fulfill a want of more material things.  I find the desire of wanting to be included, of not wanting to be left out.  By nature I am an "includer."  I want everyone to be in on the fun.  I want everyone to know that they're invited any time, all the time!  I want everyone to come have a blast, and hey, if you're not having a blast, I may or may not take that personally because I don't want you to be bored! 

Obviously, since I'm an includer, I want to, in turn, be included.  I want to go on every trip.  I want to go to every concert.  I want to go to every wedding, every party, every event.  I wanted to be included.  I want to have the opportunity to experience it all. 

But guess what?  It's freakishly difficult to go on every trip, attend every wedding, go to every concert when you don't have the money to support.  BUT WAIT - I HAVE TO GO!  I mean - I can't miss out, right?  I'll just die if I have to live this experience through my friends' Instagram accounts instead of firsthand!   So I would find ways to go.  I'd put things on credit cards that shouldn't be on credit cards.  I'd take paychecks from teaching Zumba or BodyPump and use them for gas instead of saving.  I'd do whatever it takes to make the experience happen.  It didn't matter that the entire time I was going through the experience that I might be obsessing over how I was going to pay for it all.  At least I was experiencing.

Thank the holy heavens, things have changed.  One of the very first things I had to do after beginning this class was cancel a pretty spectacular trip to New Orleans.  I think I told you about this trip already, but as a refresher, it was a trip to celebrate a best friend's upcoming wedding, a trip to see a music legend in concert with another best friend and a trip to see a college friend I had not seen in quite some time.  It was hard.  But looking back, and even in the moment, it was the best thing I could have been advised (by Loni, duh) to do.  There was no way I could have afforded the trip.  No money saved up and maxed out credit cards will only get you so far, you know what I'm saying? 

But it's a new day and a new life and new trips will come along and I didn't die when I had to live through Instagram and Facebook and the new freedom I'm feeling makes it all worth it. 

And I am grateful for the journey.  Dark corners and all.

EMERGENCY FUND IS FUNDED!

November 6, 2014

Holy Hannah.  I'm ooey-gooey, gushing with emotion right now.  I'm excited and in awe and encouraged and astounded all in the same moment.

As of today, my $1,000 emergency fund is fully funded!  It took me six weeks..  SIX WEEKS.  I for real thought it was going to take six months to get this thing funded.  Shall we reminisce back to when I started this journey and had ZERO dollars in my emergency fund?  And zero extra dollars in my bank account.  Whew!  We can reminisce about this but not for long.  Those times will be there to remind us where we were and show us how far we've come, but that is all.

So, as of today, I have officially finished BABY STEP 1.  Wahoooooo!  I am currently doing a happy-baby-step-1-finished dance as I type this.  When I walked out of my first Financial Peace class, I was overwhelmed to say the least.  I had no idea how all the chips were going to fall into place.  But God's plan is bigger and more organized than my own and for that I am always, ALWAYS grateful.

And speaking of God - let's be real here - this whole thing is so God ordained I don't even know what to do with myself half of the time.  Six weeks ago I sat across the table from Loni as she told me that the money would come.  To trust, believe and pray and the money would come.  And come it did!  Let's look at some dates and details:

  • October 1 - $90 in the fund
  • October 8 - $342 in the fund
  • October 10 - $534
  • October 22 - $613
  • October 24 - $775
  • October 31 - $979
  • November 6 - $1,000

The money that built this emergency fund is money that I've been receiving all along from work travel and fitness paychecks (that I've never EVER saved before), but prayer and encouragement turned it into a new kind of magic for me.  All it took was a little re-organizing of my typical monthly paycheck to turn this thing around.  

So, HERE WE GO.  Baby Step 2 is up.  Remember what it is? It's time to run at this debt, with gazelle intensity, like my life depends on it.  Because, guess what...

It does.

20120130-gazelle-intense.jpg

 

(PS - I have so much more to say.  Things about God sending me an accountability partner that also happens to be an insurance GURU, specifically a guru with the agency I currently have my insurance through, and how I was able to pay George's vet bill with cash, in full, for the first time ever, and how if you are feeling motivated by this progress at all then you should follow that motivation and seek out a class and I'm so grateful for all you beautiful people's encouragement...but I'll save all of that for another post because my emotions have officially exhausted me, and if you're exhausted now too, just know that this is how all of mine and Loni's meetings go, just basically us gushing with one another...it's the best, kbye.)

My adulthood is being questioned.

October 28th, 2014

It's been a hot second since I've blogged for all of you beautiful people, I know.  It's because I've been trying to figure out what, in the name of all things holy, I'm doing.

The last two lessons have been big and ugly.  At least to me.  Last week we talked about insurance.  Health insurance, life insurance, auto insurance, renter's insurance.  This week we talked about retirement plans and saving for your kids' college.   Dave's up there preaching on how much liability you should carry and how much of your income should be going into your retirement fund and investing in mutual funds and I'm over here like, "I have $775 in my emergency fund!  And I sold some stuff on Facebook!  Party time!"

Dave Ramsey is making me question my adulthood.  

So last week I come home all fired up (and thoroughly confused) about insurance.  And I'm like YEA I'm gonna sit down and figure out what exactly my health insurance covers and what  exactly my auto insurance covers and I'm going to study my policy and KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON!  Being the savvy tech-er that I am, I created a new account on my health insurance carrier's website and began studying my policy.  As I was going over the paperwork, trying really hard to keep my eyes from crossing, I went to pull out my health insurance card only to find it NOT IN MY WALLET.  Say what?  I'd freaking lost my insurance card.  Now I am really not one to lose things as important as that (socks, yes; pairs of shoes, maybe; insurance cards, no!), but apparently my card got up and flew the coop.  I have no clue where it could have gone.  Luckily, thanks to my new handy-dandy account I had just created, I was able to order a new one and it receive it in two seconds (days) flat.  Whew!  #responsible

I am at the end of my first month with the new budget and way of life.  I'm stretching every dollar I've got left, pushing myself to see how far I can take it.  Truth be told, I still feel like I'm in an experiment, and as soon as this class is over I'll fall back into my old ways.  Of course I know this isn't the case.  I know I haven't been practicing these techniques long enough for them to really feel normal yet.  I haven't quite come to the realization that I will now always be a girl that returns salad if needed.  

That's right...last week I returned two bags of salad that ended up being unnecessary for a dinner I went to.  The old Katie (rewind to about a month ago), would have just let someone else take the salad home or would have stored it in my fridge with the dreamy idea that she may actually eat it as it wilted away.  The new Katie says "Nope!  Snap out of it, you won't eat it, take it back."  And alas, I did.  Eight bucks back in my pocket, y'all.  

But first things, first.  I can't even do all of the things I need to be doing when it comes to retirement funds and Roth IRAs until I get through my first baby step.  And while it's a little confusing and mind-blowing at times, I know I'll get the hang of it eventually.  

A big lesson I am learning is that adulthood can be hard and tricky.  But using "I'm just not good with things like this" (insurance policies, budgeting, understanding mutual funds, etc) isn't going to cut it.  It's time for me to (wo)man up and figure it out.

(Jesus, take the wheel.)

 

 

 

Breaking News: I have money!

October 14th, 2014

It's been 5 weeks since I started Financial Peace University classes and it's been 2 weeks since I began my new budget.  Let me give you a little update:

  • I have 150 "extra" dollars in my account
  • I have $534 in my emergency fund

This.  Is.  Huge.  

As a state employee, I get paid once a month.  This is excruciating for someone who is as terrible with money as I am.  I have NEVER had $150 in my checking account in the middle of the month.  Remember that story I told how it all came to fruition that I would be attending an FPU class?  Yea...I typically have about $15 right about now.  This money, of course, is not actually "extra," but is serving as a cushion in case something unexpected happens.  Or if I accidentally trip into Little Rosie's and buy 75 pocket tacos.  Either/or.  Kidding!  But because this is the first month with a new budget, it is wise to have a cushion.  If that "extra" money does not need to be touched for any reason it will go either toward debt or my emergency fund. 

And on that note - my $1,000 emergency fund is over halfway there!  Three weeks ago I was crying my eyes out, wondering how in the world I was going to get any extra money, and now I'm over halfway there.  It's amazing how much money you can save when, you know, you don't spend every stinkin' penny in your account.  I am also extremely fortunate to have a second income provided by teaching fitness classes, and I get a great travel reimbursement from the mileage I drive for my job.  Because of these things, I should have my emergency money fully funded by mid-November.  Miracles can happen.

But let's be real here - these aren't miracles.  This is God's handiwork through and through.  At the end of class last week Dave said, as one of his key points about dumping debt, to remember that prayer really works.  Oh, how it does.  

Once I started these classes I had to make some pretty difficult decisions.  One in particular was skipping out on a big trip to New Orleans for a dear friend's bachelorette party.  During this trip I would also see my best friend, a good friend from college and SIR PAUL MCCARTNEY in concert.  To some of you, you're confused why SIR PAUL MCCARTNEY's name is in all caps. To those of you that know me real well...you get it.  (Read: hi, my dog's name is George after George Harrison and my cat's name is Rigby after Eleanor Rigby.  If this still means nothing to you, we can't be friends, okay bye).  So, saying no to that trip was pretty difficult.  After I told all of my friends that I wouldn't be able to make it, I began trying to figure out how to sell my SIR PAUL MCCARTNEY ticket (extra $100 right there!).  My bestie, Lisa (hey bff!) offered to list it on Stub Hub for me.  Long story short, it was a week before the concert and I was stressing because I really didn't think a solo ticket was going to sell.  I kid you not, I said a quick, sincere prayer that it would sell and 20 minutes later Lisa forwarded me the e-mail notification that someone had bought it.  Prayer really works.

Every time I wake up overwhelmed with how I am going to get enough extra cash to pay for George's flea meds or alterations for a bridesmaids dress, a new opportunity arises.  These are not opportunities that I would have even thought twice about 5 weeks ago, but things have changed.  Whether it is selling more items I don't need on Facebook or babysitting on a Saturday night, the opportunities are there.  We just have to open our eyes and hearts and ask for them to be shown.

For quite some time I have been praying for help with my finances.  The Lord answered.  And he ain't playing around.

 Luke 11:9-10

Luke 11:9-10




Don't smack me when this happens. Because I'll smack back.

October 7th, 2014

Listen.  I need to go ahead and apologize to anyone I talk to in the next two years or so, because pretty much the only words that are going to come out of my mouth between now and then are things like, "Dave Ramsey says; Financial Peace University; Cash, cash, cash - I'm paying for everything with cash; I can't buy that because Dave says no," etc, etc, etc.  

Please, please don't smack me when this happens.  Because I'll smack back.

Some of you may be wondering why I'm so hung up on this Dave guy and why these words are so frequently spilling out of my mouth.  It's because that this Dave fella, that teaches these Financial Peace University classes, isn't just giving tips on clipping coupons or how to save a buck or two at the grocery store - he's teaching people how to change their lives.

Some of you may read these words, look at me and think, "get it together, Katie - this budgeting/saving/debt dumping stuff is common sense!"  But what I have already learned, and what I am continuing to learn, is that this stuff isn't about common sense or being good at math (though these things help) - it's about changing your behavior.  It's 20% head knowledge and 80% behavior.  EIGHTY-PERCENT BEHAVIOR.  We all know what we're supposed to do with finances but we do what think we should do or what think we deserve.  And that's how we end up with $25,000 in debt (not including student loan debt...but is including a car payment).  Yep.  I just went there with you.  Ouch, right?  Freaking ouch.

So please excuse my rantings and ravings and excitement and passion.  I'm not trying to be a pain in your side or the reason you roll your eyes.  I'm just trying to change my life.  

I'm sitting down with someone every week, staring my budget and my money-spending habits in the face, constantly being reminded what ridiculous choices I've made.  I'm working with an incredible accountability partner to completely reallocate my funds so that I can get out of debt as quickly as possible.  What does this mean exactly?  Well in this moment it means things like cutting off Netflix, kissing my Starbucks addiction good-bye (well minus the fact that I got $85 worth of Starbucks gift cards for my b-day, score!) and cutting up my Loft card (waaaaaaaaah).  It means that every single dollar I earn has to be accounted for and cannot go to anything frivolous at this time.  Now, no worries... I am allotted some spending money.  This money has primarily been a product of selling things on Facebook yard sales (anyone need to read about the Ed Hardy shower gel again?); however, at this point I'm not even interested in spending that money.  Or any money.  Because when you witness a 68 year old woman cry in FPU class as she cuts up one of her credit cards because she realizes what a big debt hole she's in, spending money is the last thing on the planet you want to do.  Instead you want to look inside yourself, face the mess you've made and fix it.  Oh and cry with her.

I'm learning so many different things - the most strategic way to pay off debt, quick (safe and non-sketchy) ways to make some cash, that I won't die if I don't get my Zaxby's fix, the power of paying for things with cash (side note: did you know that paying for things with cash triggers pain sensors in your brain and paying for things with plastic triggers nothing - sit on that for a minute), etc.  But most of all I am learning a ton about myself.  A lifestyle change comes with an excruciating amount self-awareness, including the good, the bad and the ugly.  It's exhausting.  It's exciting.

So again, please forgive me in advance for being pretty tunnel-visioned.  Just remember that I'm not just getting paper cuts from clipping coupons, but I'm also getting bruises from shoving around my money and putting it where it belongs.  (Hint: sadly enough for my wardrobe it does not belong with Ann Taylor Loft...)  I'm committed, folks.

I'm still working on my $1,000 emergency fund which I hope to have fully funded very soon.  Then, my friends, we will attack that $25,000 of debt with "gazelle intensity."  I can't wait to watch it disappear.

 

 Bye Ann Taylor Loft - I love you so much. &nbsp;You''ll always be my favorite.

Bye Ann Taylor Loft - I love you so much.  You''ll always be my favorite.

WHAT IF I BURN EVERYTHING?!

October 6, 2014

This stuff is no joke, friends.  I'm kind of exhausted.  But it's a weird kind of rejuvenating exhaustion.  My brain hurts from crunching numbers and thinking harder about what I'm spending money on.  I'm suddenly understanding what "feeling your money" means.  No more disconnected debit/credit card swiping and not seeing the money physically come out of your account (until you sit down in front of the computer days later and go crap, where did all my money go?).  Nope - now I am in the full blown envelope stage.  The pay-for-everything-in-cash stage.  The let-me-count-out-exact-change-and-feel-this-money-physically-leave-my-hands stage.  Every time I hand cash over to a clerk I kind of feel like someone is punching me in the gut.  But I'm pretty sure that feeling subsides after awhile.  

And going to the grocery store is not as it once was.  The old Katie (you know...the old Katie from like 3 weeks ago) liked to wander aimlessly down each aisle, throwing random snacks into her cart, not really paying much attention to what the prices were.  The new Katie marches through the aisles with purpose, list in hand, eyes searching for the generic brands of everything needed.  It's not quite as fun as it once was, but it's not torture either.  

However, these trips do cause a smidgen of anxiety now.  I am now on a stricter food budget than before (I was "budgeting" $300/month for groceries...which is the same amount that my budget guru budgets for her family of 4.  So, apparently I like food...whatever).  This is all fine and everything except for a small-ish detail.  I'm not the most skilled cooker.  In fact, I kind of suck at cooking.  But sometimes I get on a little brave whim and attempt to try a new recipe. Sometimes this works in my favor.  Often other times it doesn't.  So now I'm walking through these aisles, picking out ingredients for a new dish, secretly freaking out inside because WHAT IF I BURN EVERYTHING?!  Maybe I'll just eat cereal for the rest of my life.  Ugh.  Being an adult is lame sometimes.

But - food anxiety aside, it hasn't been so bad.  It's definitely been tough so far as I've been faced with a lot of difficult decisions and difficult conversations.  I've had to say no to some trips I wanted to take, things I  wanted to do and have some tough conversations with friends to cancel plans; but, honestly, the amount of control I feel (and it's small...but it's there) is what is rejuvenating.  For once I am beginning to understand what it feels like to be in control of my money and to not let it control me.  It's completely liberating.  I'm grateful for friends that are understanding, family that is supportive and an accountability partner that challenges me to make these tough decisions.  At our last budget meeting she looked at as I was crying and said you have to be broken in order to really change.  So true, it is so true.  And a-changing I am.