October 03, 2012

A Journey from broke to wealthy ( or somewhere slightly between)

 I used to come home from work, and as I approached the back door - I would hear a southern twang  over the radio waves, and I would be filled with frustration.  Why would Mr. listen to such nonsense?  Who wants to hear about other people's problems?  Not me!  I had enough to worry about, paying our bills, that I didn't want to hear about some random guy in Arkansas and his financial troubles. I knew troubles. I didn't need to suffer through listening to it. As I would enter the house everyday, I would wonder, really - what does this Dave Ramsey from Tennessee know about my debt?
Well....fast forward three years later. Clearly, Dave knew his stuff.  I, unwillingly at first, agreed to be part of "Financial Peace University" with my husband, (really with the hope that we didn't have
 to listen to the crappy podcasts anymore). We took a class for a year, and only started implementing what we learned last year. I can't tell you why it took us that long, I blame it on pure stubbornness. We were used to a certain way, and even if it wasn't working, it was our way.  But after taking the course, we decided to actually give it a try.  In that year, we paid off almost $70,000 in debt. It wasn't this magical class and POOF - no debt. It honestly took A LOT of extra side jobs, tutoring sessions, and a few cutbacks - but we did it. We did it with a little, okay - A LOT of structure and help from Dave Ramsey course. We are still left with about 6,000 in debt - but that number seems like peanuts compared to what it was.   

How did we get there? What made us even attend this class?

PART 1: Facing the Financial Mess We Created

I don't think we understood HOW badly we were in debt. (Nothing like pointing out how far you've come!)

I have to say it was more my mindset than Mr's of wanting things you couldn't afford. He didn't have a  credit card (and still doesn't), and when I wanted something I didn't have the cash for - I would charge it.  Simple as that. Nothing seemed out of my reach! Good 'ole Visa would come to my rescue. What happens when you start charging vacations? Furniture? wedding? OH BOY!  I didn't realize, basically because I never added it up before the financial problems we created.  Four years ago, when we were about to get married, we had to really take a hard look at our finances. How can you save when your bills were more than you were making?  It was time to face the facts.  We needed help.  At the time, we had satellite radio (an expense we no longer have), and a good fellow, Dave Ramsey had a show where people screamed about how they were out of debt. Literally, they would call in and shout "Debt Free!" What a celebration! Could we eventually make that call and shout those words? It felt like the light at the end of the tunnel was barely on.

Looking back, things could have been so much worse. Somehow each month, we always paid our bills.  We never missed a payment.  We were able to continue to  live our lives and enjoy ourselves.  But we were slave to our jobs. We HAD to make a certain amount of money in order to make payments each month.  There was no true freedom.

What we learned from our year of taking the course (and believe me we learned a lot) was to BUDGET BUDGET BUDGET.  You want something? Save! My trusty Fisher Price piggy had purpose again. 
The most important and hardest part of this was to follow your budget. Track your money. Follow where it goes. 

I created this budget that I use - Feel free to download and use as it works for you!
We still have a long way to go, because following Dave Ramsey's Steps to Financial Peace - the battle isn't over.  After creating a budget, and sticking to it - there are many other steps that will secure your freedom in the finance department!  Another post shall tackle that :)


October 02, 2012

Coupon Quean

After finishing the book, BeCentsable, I can't stop thinking about all the money we are "wasting" by not using coupons.  When we run out of a product, we quickly go to our local food store and purchase a replacement.  I felt I did my part by cutting one or two coupons on Sundays, but after reading this book, there are so many different tips that I was completely unaware of! Gasp!!

However, most of the tips and coupons would help families who eat lots of boxed food - but recently changing our style of eating, we are no longer eating processed foods, so the area where we can save the most bucks would be in the cleaning/paper/bathroom/kitchen product area. We will always need tissue for our bums!!

 Even after questioning these tactics, I still attempted to apply what I learned to my everyday.  I spent about a week (no joke) filing and organzing the coupons we got from the Sunday papers.  I went to a local deli, and he said he would save the flyers for me.  Each Monday for a month, I went to the local deli and sorted through the leftover papers, taking out the flyers I thought would be used.  Taking these babies home, organzing, cutting, and filing the coupons away. I searched the store flyers for sales that would align with the coupons, giving me a surplus of savings!  My best deal was Pledge products for only 25 cents each :)

  (Weeks later)
I started to skip the deli every Monday because life got in the way and it became a horrid task, not something I looked forward to. The recycling bin was out of control with the amount of newspapers I was throwing away.  My binder had coupons, and though I seemed organized and bought cute color-coded tabs - it didn't stop the expiration date from lurching up and snatching the coupon out of my hand.
What became of my coupon venture? Most of the coupons expired before I had a chance to use them. Fail. Total Fail.

(Repeat this scenario about three times)

Over the course of the past year, I tried and tried again to become a coupon collecting junkie. You know what?! It's a full time job. I don't have the time to get my groceries for free. And I am okay with that.

What I did gain from reading this book is respect for those that CAN cut coupons and literally walk out of the grocery store with money in their pockets. Me?  I will keep a couple in my purse, and save myself some coins.  I will use them when we are eating out. I will use them to get a free blizzard (with a purchase of another wonderful blizzard).  But big bulky binder? No sir. Consider it retired.

*On a side note, I did not misspell quean in my title.  While playing Scrabble today, I learned this word meant prostitute - therefore, it seems fitting to find a place for it in my everyday vernacular. So a Coupon Quean is a coupon hussy.....for which - I am not.


July 06, 2012

Christmas gift comes out of the closet

Months ago I listed on my blog what I wanted for Christmas, in hopes that Mr. would read it and take the hint. Lucky for me, he did.  I scored BIG for Christmas.  One item I lusted after, intimidates me and delights me.  The Cricut. It was the talk of the town on Christmas day. My aunt also has one, and it is my uncle who uses it to make stars for my cousin's girl scout troups, hearts for the Valentine's Day dance.  I think with this new news, Mr. wanted to join in on the fun.  After watching the new Cricut sit on our couch for a month after Christmas, I decided to take it out of the box.  That was the first step.  A week later, I plugged it in...I wasn't sure what to do.  Mr. and I spent an entire afternoon playing with it - printing out signs and words.  I created a monster.  When I went updstairs, Mr. continued to print out COFFEE font.  He then discovered Modge POdge - and modge podged the words everywhere in our house, on every blank jar or canister.   Between the newly labeled "Flour" container, and the "Coffee" jar - I think if anyone is unclear where our loose pantry items are housed, they will have a clue now.

Fast forward five months......
After our initial Cricut party, we haven't used it since then.  I have deduced it is for two reasons: no space to keep it permanently. Every time I want to use it, I have to dig through a VERY cluttered closet for it, and then in a completely different area for paper.  My second reason, and probably main reason is I truly don't know what to do with it.

   If you are like me, too intimidated to use this machine, here are some ideas! Hopefully my summer will consist of some fun Cricut projects!
from Craftypod.com
found on hgtv.com
Found on Sewwoodsy.com

Hope you found some inspiration! I can't wait to dig up my machine and start something great! I don't know who is more excited about using it soon - me or Mr  :)


July 05, 2012

30 Day Challenge

It's official - I'm gyming it....well I'm kind of gymming it...I'm thinking about it....the inner workings of working out. I swear this isn't me attempting to procrastinate.  Really, why would I want to put off going to the gym? Picturing myself in stretch pants that are probably too small? Becoming a hot sweaty mess within the first five minutes of running(err...walking on the dreadmill. (that isn't a typo)? Sounds like fun! But in all seriousness, there are a few good reasons why I really need to start doing some physical activity. With those reasons in mind, I spent last night creating the 30 Day Challenge. After searching high and low through all the different types of challenges available (Fitness mag, Evernote, Harry Potter's challenge- the list goes on and on), I knew the only way to success was if I created my own.  After spending the last month watching what I ate, and only seeing maybe 5 pounds fall off....I know the next logical step is actual workout to gain a healthier life.  I need to make a change, and since I am kinda obsessed with lists and charts - I spent a good portion of my July 4th evening creating a 30 day challenge to help me get closer to my goal.  And if I wasn't motivated enough....Anthropologie helped a little.

 After 5 weeks of going through my self-designed "challenge" and if I actually stick with it,  I am buying this beautiful bird dress from Anthropologie as my reward for sticking with my plan.  A-dorable! I am hoping that with the five week challenge, I will be able to fit into this dress :)

I found when I was attending the regular gym, I didn't like not knowing if I was progressing or not.  In college, the gym I attended had a filing cabinet and you recorded your process on a chart.  However, I have yet to find a place that matches that system.  I had to take it into my own hands.  I found fitbook.  The fitbook by fitlosophy is a handy dandy organizer for the gym.  It neatly tracks your progress for 12 weeks (roughly 3 months).   What I like most about it is the size.  Measuring in at 5 inches, it is small enough to tote around with you, without feeling weighed down.

Hopefully this will be how I start each summer morn!

To start my challenge I am going to do the following for one week (at least 3x), and go from there. I currently do not belong to a gym for various reasons.  Before last week, no gym was open when I got home from work (after 11pm and before 6am) and frankly I didn't fit it into our summer budget.  Therefore, working out needs to be freeeeee - not $40-20  month.

Will post more when I figure out the details of my plan :) Till then, happy workout!

July 04, 2012

Breakfast fruit goodness

Hello friends! I greatly apologize for my long absence from the bloggy world! This year has been crazy hectic and I haven't felt very creative, but through the months I have felt like a piece of me has been missing.  So I am hoping this summer I can reconnect with that part of me! Here it goes......... 

Breakfast.  The dreaded B word Monday through Friday. It seems no matter what time I wake up, my breakfast always suffers.  This morning I drank my breakfast  - a Yoohoo. A what?! Nothing nutritious. If liquid is part of my morning routine, these three choices appeal to me!

New Breakfast Option
1 cup frozen strawberries or raspberries
1 1/4 cup vanilla soy milk (Have you had this before - what is your favorite kind?)
1 cup of Fiber One yogurt - any flavor.  I like vanilla or plain because then the flavor doesn't compete with the strawberries or raspberries

2nd Breakfast Option
Morning Banana Cinna-Roll
1 cup almond milk
1 frozen banana
1 tsp hemp seeds
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 scoop of protein vanilla

3rd Breakfast Option
Mango Smoothie
1 cup chopped ripe mango
1/4 avocado, chopped
1/2 mango sorbet
1/4 skim milk
2 teaspoons lime juice
1/4 crushed ice
1 tablespoon honey

4th Breakfast Option
Many Fruit Smoothie
green grapes
greek yogurt
skim milk
protein powder

    These four recipes seem to be better and healthier than a Yoohoo!!!  Can't wait to go to the farmer's market, and get blending on these drinks!!