Think Outside the Box

I am a “check it off the list” kind of person. From getting the laundry done, to the bathrooms cleaned, to going to the grocery store… these daily tasks become more like goals if I can check them off a list.

When it comes to finances, and life in general, it is extremely important to have goals written down, and posted in a place that will constantly remind you what your ultimate goals are. In our finance Family Packets, we include an “Our Family Goals” page for this very reason.

I was recently talking with one of our clients. They are newly married, and have been renting an apartment that they love… however, their ultimate goal is to save for a house. They have decided to part ways from their apartment, live in a less expensive situation for a limited period of time, stash as much money away as possible, and put themselves in a position in which they can check “Purchase Our Home” off their goals list. It takes sacrifice at times, a lot of work and effort, but if you’re willing to put in the time, your goals can be accomplished.

You may not be in a position that you can move, but that just means you need to come at your goals a different way. Sacrifice going out to eat as much, have a garage sale, cut lawns for a while, babysit… Think outside of the box when it comes to making money. What are your skills?

Right now, the number one goal on “Our Family Goals,” is building a fully funded emergency fund. We want to have the comfort of knowing we have an emergency fund in case an occasion arises that we cannot budget for. A broken air conditioner… a water heater than needs replacing… whatever might come, we want to be as prepared as possible.

So, we are working for it. Luke is picking-up more hours at work, I am taking photography jobs if they come up, and Luke has even decided to add a bit of woodworking into the mix! What’s funny about this, is that as soon as Luke decided to try to make some extra money woodworking, we get a call from one of our friends who does amazing interior decorating, Tara at the nest (http://www.keepyournestfeathered.com/). She needs a floating desk made for one of her clients. Perfect! God DOES provide! As I’m typing this, Luke is out there in the garage building this desk… Working to make our goals a reality.

Now the challenge.. We’ve included a checklist for you… Here it is…

  • Set Goal
  • Make Plan
  • Get to Work
  • Stick to it
  • Reach Goal

Keep us posted on your progress!!!

Take Control

In addition to the many blessings life offers, there are also a variety of obstacles. However, with those obstacles comes the opportunity to overcome them. There is no way to know what tomorrow holds, we do not have any control over that. But I heard from a friend recently, you do have control over how you react to what tomorrow holds.

With that being said, you can’t control what you might be diagnosed with in the future when it comes to health. But you can control what you do now. You can choose to eat healthy, you can choose to exercise, you can choose the lifestyle you live. The apple or the pie? Exercise or watch TV? The choices are yours.

It is the same with finances. You can choose where your money goes. Please know that we completely understand why you may have decided to purchase that car with a 10-year loan. Or why you bought that brand new dining set with a credit card. A lot of times we do not know any different. Luke and I didn’t! But in the end, nobody forced us to spend money we didn’t have. We chose to become indebted to someone. Perhaps you have to? We know that temptation! We are an instant gratification society and the credit card companies thrive on that!

Now, it’s time to choose to live within your means. It’s time to forget what everyone else is doing, and to do what’s best for you and your family. It’s time to take control of your money. It’s time to tell your money where to go. It’s time to live debt free, and stop living paycheck to paycheck. It’s time to not settle with what life is throwing at you, but rather, take control of how you handle what life is throwing at you.

I understand that everyone’s financial circumstances are different. However, no matter where you’re at, or where you come from, you now have a choice to change your future. You can choose to get prepared for life’s emergencies, life’s uncertainties, and even life’s certainties. You can choose to start fresh!

We have been building our fully funded emergency fund for a while now. But we have had to pull from it numerous times. While we are extremely grateful that we have had the knowledge to have an emergency fund we can pull from (instead of charging a credit card for emergencies) it has been taking us months to get it to where we want it to be. Finally, we chose to make it happen. Luke is choosing to work more. I am picking up some more work. We are getting that emergency fund to where it needs to be. We are choosing to put the work in to reach our goal. We’re taking control!

Believe me when I say that years ago, when we would get paid and our account would increase to -$800. When we had our water shut-off for not paying our bill. When our outgoing calls on our cell phone would go straight to the Verizon billing department because we hadn’t paid our bill. We NEVER thought we would see the day that we would be debt free… or a time when we would have the ability to build an emergency fund. It takes time, it takes work, and honestly, it is not always fun. But we have no doubt that it is completely worth it!!! It’s one step at a time. And the first step is getting on a budget. We promise, it’s not as bad as it sounds. We have actually thrived more with money than we ever have by living on a budget.

 

Money and Our First Year of Marriage

What made our first year of our marriage rough was not figuring out how to live together, that came relatively easy for us, but rather, the financial situation we were in.

Before we were married, we had a small amount of knowledge of what each other’s finances looked like, but we had never really sat down and talked about it. I can say through experience, this is so important to do.

After we got married, Luke discovered that he was marrying a woman who had a credit card that was maxed out, mostly on Starbucks runs, a car loan, and a decent student loan. I discovered I was marrying a man with an even higher car loan (brand new truck), a student loan, and an adjustable mortgage. Once the mortgage adjusted, we began to slowly drown.

I remember our cell phone carrier would stop our outgoing calls because we hadn’t paid our bill. I remember a guy walking across the front of our yard, lifting the lid to where our main water valve was, turning it off, and adding a lock to it. Yes, no water because we hadn’t paid our bill. I remember being stuck at a gas station because I was out of gas and we didn’t have any money in our account to fill it up. I remember Luke working numerous side jobs trying to just make ends meet. I remember days where we both would get paid, and our account increased to -$800. And I remember dreading driving home because it felt like I was headed straight for a black hole.

But, what I also remember, is Luke stepping up to better our situation. He didn’t hesitate trying to reach out to get help, because he knew we needed it. He didn’t let his pride get in the way. All he cared about was making sure that his family was taken care of. I have to credit him for bringing us to where we are today. Without him taking those first steps (which I was initially against), we would not be debt free, we would not have realized the freedom that comes with living on a budget, and we would not have started this business trying to help others get financially organized.

1 Timothy 5:8 reads, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

Luke was providing for me, he knew what I needed was to feel secure with our financial situation, and he took the necessary steps to make me feel secure. He helped strengthen our marriage… he helped me realize that I married a man that I knew would take care of me. And, as I’m writing this, I realize that he also brought the respect that I had for him to a whole new level.

Money is one of the number one causes of divorce. It shouldn’t be… Luke took action to turn our dreadful financial situation into something that brought us closer together. I cannot thank God enough for that, and I cannot thank Luke enough for being man enough to seek help.

Why are we Doing this Business?

Years ago Luke and I were sitting in church. The pastor was talking about different nonprofit organizations, volunteering, etc. I remember he said, to find what your calling is, you have to find something that brings you to tears. There’s something inside of you that yearns to help. I was a bit disappointed. While there were a lot of things that pulled at my heartstrings, there was nothing that really seemed to grab me. I wanted to help people, but I wasn’t being drawn to anything specific. However… God likes to teach patience…

We have been listening to Dave Ramsey a lot lately. If you do not know who Dave Ramsey is, he is an extremely gifted financial advisor. He encourages people to live outside the norm by becoming debt free, and enjoying a life not being slave to credit card lenders, and other interest-greedy companies. On his radio show, he has people go on to do the “Debt Free Scream.” Once they have paid off all of their debt, they go on the show, tell their story, and at the end scream, “We’re debt free!!!!” Every time I hear that scream, I get a bit teary-eyed… I have found it. God has led us to what we are supposed to be doing.

When we sit with couples to try and show them how to become financially organized, we have no doubt we are doing what we are meant to do. To help people see that living paycheck to paycheck doesn’t have to be indefinite, and show them that they can become financially free… It’s exciting!

We know it’s not easy to become debt free, we understand that becoming financially stable takes time and patience, but we love it when people grasp the fact that they can do it. What eats at us the most, is when we come across those that feel like there is no way out, that they are not the ones that will ever become financially stable… It is all in the mind. The power of positive thinking, and the power of prayer can lead you to places you never dreamed of. We hope and pray every day that we can get people to realize this. Do not succumb to the negativity gnawing at you. Take control of your life, take control of your money, and know, without a doubt, that nothing is impossible.

Luke 16:11, “So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches.” Money problems, any of lives’ problems, are not resolved by sitting back and waiting for something to happen. They are resolved when you take action. You face the beast in front of you, and you don’t back down until he’s gone.

Our 2017 Pay Cut

This week I received a call from my editor. I have been getting paid a part time salary for the company that I work for. However, due to some cutbacks there, starting next month I am going to be getting paid per assignment. In other words, I will not be making nearly what I have been making, and the amount will fluctuate per month depending on the number of assignments given.

We have been extremely blessed with how the company has handled my payment and hours, especially after our two little ones were born, so I definitely cannot complain. I understand the need for the cutback, and I appreciate them wanting me to continue working for them. I am not writing this to put them down in any way, I am writing this in hopes of reminding people that you never know what tomorrow holds. And it is crucial to be prepared for anything.

We do have money in our emergency fund, and also have been setting money aside in mutual funds, and there is no doubt in my mind that God will help us through. He has always guided us, and as long as we continue to look towards Him and seek Him, I know He will continue to guide us. But I have to admit… putting the amount of time and effort into creating our budget a certain way over these past few months, and really starting to see the positive impact a consistent budget can have, it was a bit disheartening getting the call that my pay was changing. But that’s life… You never know what tomorrow holds.

Now, after wallowing for a bit, I know I need to figure out how to adjust to these changes, and move on, stay consistent. It has also given us the motivation to continue to share what we have learned in our financial experiences, and hopefully try and help others as much as possible.

If you have experienced a similar situation in your marriage, you probably know that something like this could create a rough spot in your marriage, or it could bring you and your husband closer together. When I called Luke to tell him what happened, he didn’t get upset, he didn’t sound worried, he just said, “Ok, we’ll figure it out.” He has continued to remind me that God will take care of us, and we will make it work. Not a day passes that I do not thank God for blessing me with him as my husband. These past nine years of marriage, he has taken care of our family, and I have no doubt he will continue to do so.

We will keep doing what we have been doing, make the necessary adjustments, and move forward!

it’s the Thought that counts

We know with Christmas around the corner, a lot of people are pushing their budgets to the extreme! It always seems that money is flying out the window during this month… from gifts, to Christmas trees, to Christmas parties, and everything in between. It truly is hard to keep up with it all, emotionally and financially. We are currently working on changing our take on it all.

We used to think that we needed to put a price on everything we purchased for people. For instance, friends’ gifts would be $20 per family, siblings would be $25 each, etc. However, we have realized that it is not the amount of money you spend that matters, it truly is the thought that matters.

I remember one year Luke gave me a Christmas gift. It was the year I was pregnant with our first child. He handed me a large Christmas gift bag. He told me, “These are things that remind me of you.” I cannot recall everything that was in the bag, but I remember how special I felt that every item in there truly was something that I would purchase myself. My husband knew me. I did not care at all how much he spent, all that mattered was that he thought of me with every item he purchased. It meant the world to me. One item I do remember was a blanket. He said, “I know you love blankets, and I know these are some of your favorite colors.” I will never get rid of that blanket. I love everything about it. It is not the amount, it is the thought… As you’re shopping this year, I know it’s hard, but try to remember that.

We also have two little ones… Landon is almost three and Kinsley is almost one. Luke and I want to give them the world… and then some! But, we have decided that this year they get three special gifts from Santa Claus, and one special gift from Daddy and Mommy. Believe me when I say that we know it’s difficult to not buy every toy they see that makes their face light up. We want to make them happy in every way. But we also understand that toys can and do pileup, and most of the time, a quarter of them are actually played with. A few thought-out gifts can mean more to them than a pile of gifts.

When I was growing-up, I was extremely blessed with loving parents. What’s funny is that there are two Christmases that I remember vividly as a child. One was when my sisters and I received just three special Christmas gifts, they were supposed to represent the three gifts that Christ received when he was born. I will never forget that Christmas. The other Christmas I distinctly recall is one my mom got a NordicTrack! I honestly am not sure what gifts I received that year, but I do remember that whole night we played with the box the NordicTrack came in!

We know it’s not easy… But really try to remember the reason for the season. It’s Christ’s birthday. Try not to get too caught-up in the amount you spend, focus on each person you’re buying for, and really try to figure-out that one special gift that represents them.

Charge it and Live it Up!

Recently I was talking to my husband about credit cards. We have been focused on trying to help and teach others about finances… Recommending not to charge credit cards, try and get debt free, etc… but the thought crossed my mind, why not just charge it?? We have been wanting a trailer for awhile now, and I could not help but think, why not just take out a loan and get one?? Live it up, right?? These thoughts really did cross my mind, even after all we have been through. But then I was reminded… Living it up should not involve being indebted to someone.

We do not want to live a life where we are constantly in debt to other people. A common verse that many have probably heard before is Romans 13:8, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”

It is common to desire instant gratification. We want to see results, and we want to see them now. Yes, our family still has a little bit of debt to pay-off, like I have mentioned before, we are still on our financial learning journey… But, I have no doubt that we would have instant regret if we took out a loan to purchase our dream trailer.

I just went on to a travel trailer website, and it said we could purchase a $20,000 travel trailer with a 12 year loan at a 4.24% interest rate, monthly payment at $177.45… Then you can click, “Apply Now.” Twelve years to pay off the loan! In the end, we would be paying a total of $25,553… $5,000 more than what we purchased the trailer for. So, we would be indebted to someone for 12 years, paying almost $200 a month, and they would be profiting from us.

No matter how much we desire that travel trailer, we do not want this weighing on our shoulders, and we do not want to teach our little ones that it is okay to be indebted to someone. You have to work for what you want, be diligent in saving, and in the end, when you go to purchase that dream item you have been desiring with cash, you will appreciate it that much more. I’m talking to myself as I write this… We need to be patient too!

Our plan… start setting money aside, purchase a used travel trailer at a much less expensive price, and have just as fun traveling the backroads as we would in a brand new $20,000 travel trailer!

So, start that “Dream” envelope, and work towards it!