How To Find Success in Your 2016 Goals

goals

Hi Friends!

We are 7 days into the new year and I’m sure you are following all of your 2016 goals and renewed resolutions to the T!  Like the way I committed to a “No Spend January?”  So far I have already had a massage (justified medically helpful), bought some very necessary new pants for our family vacation next month, been to the grocery store practically every day because God-forbid we don’t have protein bars and fruit snacks, and caved to an infomercial on face cream. Yep, I’m totally dedicated.  Actually the face cream moment of weakness was my husband’s fault.  He is just so darn supportive…”You should buy it honey!”

Clearly I am not ready to take on the no spending challenge. It’s actually like my commitment to not spend money has taken away all my self-control in that area.

The problem lies in that I don’t think I REALLY made a commitment to not spend money.  I bought a book, and even as I read the first chapter and the author asked us to make a decision in this area of finances for the next month, I knew my heart was not in it.  I fake committed.  And it hasn’t worked out so well.

On the other hand, I have committed to have quiet times consistently, to organize my week so that I can accomplish my work and creative goals, and to exercise.   These are all going great so far!  Why?  Because I was ready to commit to these.  I truly wanted to make positive changes in these areas.

So here are a couple of thoughts about sticking to your new (or renewed) 2016 goals:

  1. Be selective.  You can’t decide to completely revamp your life in every way this year.  Pick two or three –or even just one thing to focus on.
  2. Know What You Want.  Well we all want to be skinny and have gobs of money in our savings and be kind and patient and never yell at our kids.  But what is the reality?  What is the thing you are READY FOR?  Just like the smoker who really wants to quit smoking but can’t seem to shake the habit because deep down they want more to keep smoking.  They are not ready, and maybe someday they will be.  I thought I didn’t want to spend a DIME (well according to the book you can spend a few dimes) in the month of January but I didn’t really want that.  Not yet.  I do know that I want to continue to grow my relationship with God and that means a commitment to spending time with him each day which is why that area is working for me right now.

Take a look at your goals for this year.  We are just a week in, but what is successful so far?  What isn’t?  That may give you an idea of what you really want.  God Bless!

~Amy

Living On A Cash Budget System–Part 1

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Happy Wednesday Friends!

Several of you have asked how our cash budget is going since I wrote here about several of the changes our family made in 2015 which we have called “The Year of The No.”  This is the first of a two-part blog on using a cash system.  Today, the nuts and bolts.

THE NUTS AND BOLTS OF A CASH SYSTEM

Why a cash system?  For our family, it is a way to keep us on budget.  It is SO easy to overspend each month, especially when you are raising a family and you feel like a walking ATM.  We overspent the most in our grocery and eating out budget–we had a budget, but used our credit cards and tried to keep general track in our heads about how much we had left to spend each month.  That is a wonderful idea if you are a millionaire.  Our goal was to pay the credit card off each month but we realized our overspending was not allowing us to do that all the time.

Side note: We used credit cards because we wanted the points, which we used to do all of our traveling.  It seemed like a great plan! But in reality I realized if we just set aside the amount we were earning in points each month for our vacation budget and stopped using our cards, we would fare far better in controlling our spending.

On the cash budget, we have a finite and tangible picture of how much we have left.  If the eating out cash is gone, we wait another week or so until the paycheck comes.  This is NOT easy, and we don’t do it perfectly all the time.

For those of you wondering how this type of budget works, here is the skinny.

On the 5th of every month (when my husband gets his bigger paycheck), I pay all of our bills which I have set up to process at that time.  I then head to the bank with a total amount of cash withdrawal that will carry us through the month.  They know me by name now…

I take the cash home and separate it into several categories:

Grocery :  you can break this into smaller categories–Costco, Whole Foods, etc.

Non-food items : toilet paper, cleaning supplies, dog food, wrapping paper

Miscellaneous : the unexpected each month

Eating Out/Entertainment date nights and family meals

Sports : we pay a golf coach in cash so we need this category

Gifts: some months need this more than others, so you can just keep adding

Allowance : for each family member–Jon and I get allowance too!

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I divide all the money up into a mini-file folder (I’ll call these “envelopes” here).  I carry this file-folder in my purse at all times~ and I’ve had to swallow my pride about how silly it looks pulling this blue plastic thing out to pay instead of my wallet, but hey, maybe I’ll start a trend.

I have a few other categories where I stash cash each month–these are things that may not be monthly but we want to have money set aside when the time comes to pay:

Automobile

HoA Dues

Car Registrations

Vacation

Hair

IMPORTANT TIPS TO MAKE THIS WORK

1. It should be noted that I SPLIT the grocery, miscellaneous, and eating out into two amounts and set one aside for the second half of the month.  I have learned the hard way that it is way too easy to use it all up in the first two weeks.

2. Figuring out how to put in each category takes research.  I recommend going through bank and credit card statements for the past three months and itemizing what you spend where to get a general idea.  You may have to tweak it for the first few months to get it just right.

3. You can create whatever categories and amounts work for your family–I know some folks who break everything down into very specific envelopes.

4. What about gas and other categories?  We use our cards for gas, and then pay all of our bills with checks or auto pay.  We also have a college savings and regular savings category, but these get transferred directly from our paycheck to a savings account by our bank on a set day of the month.

5. Once the cash is gone out of a certain category, do you best to not borrow from other categories.  For example, if you want to go out to eat but that envelope is gone, try not to borrow from the grocery envelope which still has money in it.  This is where the discipline happens.  The better you can get at being patient until the next paycheck to fill the envelopes back up, the better you will stick to your budget.

This has been challenging for us, because we tend to feel constrained and run out of money faster than we would like to!  However, we know that this is the best way to keep financial peace in our lives. In my next post I will share some of the ways I have learned to cut spending and live within this cash system.

Come visit GraceFULLhome on our blog if you are an email subscriber!  Just click here.  There is a lot more to check out AND you can comment there!  Please comment if you have tips to add–many of you already do the cash budget and our community would love to hear how it’s going for you.

~Amy

xoxo

 

The Year Of “The No” For Our Family

BLOG chalkboard--Year of No

While on an “extra” vacation a month or so ago, Jonathan and I decided that we needed to create some serious new money habits in 2015 (similar to the “serious” new habits we said we would do last year, except that we would actually do them).  Habits might be too permanent of a word–we will see how this year goes.  This new mindset needed a name, something to make it feel big and real.  “The Year Of The No” was born and given a title, and will possibly be put up for adoption in a couple of months depending on our fortitude.

In general, we do try to live financially wisely.  We carefully consider our spending, and every dollar that leaves our wallets matters.  I work very hard as a mom to compare grocery store prices, shop the clothing sales, and even try to be conscious about accelerating slowly in my SUV to save on gas.   I have been coloring my own hair for years and since he will never realize what he is missing with the ears and the tail and the bows, I groom my own dog.  If there is something I can do myself, why pay? (This mentality causes me to have to steer visitors eyes away from the paint on the ceiling and explain my orangey looking locks on occasion).

However, as our kids get older the expenses seem to climb higher.  And, while I am great at saving in many areas, I will throw the budget out the window for a great date night dinner out or an opportunity to travel.  And, while we are thankful to have enough money for our monthly budget, there are often unforeseen costs that sneak into our life (an several hundred dollar ACT prep course for our junior, two cars breaking down in a matter of a week, a medical insurance deductible that needs to be met, oh and quite a few vet bills lately), making our expenses outweigh our paycheck more often than we like.  Anyone relate?

We have realized we just don’t have a comfortable “margin” in our finances.  And the only way to increase those borders is to create some tough but good new spending patterns.

Jonathan and I went through our budget with a fine tooth comb–if you want a great sheet for budgeting, click here (and scroll down to budget worksheet).

This is the list that we created for our family:

BLOG chalkboard--Year of No

1.  NO EXTRA VACATIONS  Our family has one traditional vacation that is the memory making, family strengthening, familiar like a pair of worn but extremely comfortable shoes vacation to our family cabin in northern Minnesota each summer.  We save for this trip all year so this is remaining on the table.  All the other traveling we do during the year, however, is going to come under careful scrutiny.  One trip that is very difficult for us to give up is an annual trip that Jonathan and I take to Mexico together.  It is incredible for our marriage and our own memories.  That is not going to happen this year, and instead we are going to be intentional about date nights and finding quality time together.

We had also planned a family trip somewhere warm this winter which we have told the kids would not happen.  Instead we are putting $200/month in savings for a big trip next year when our oldest is a senior.

Because our family can fly for free, it makes it so easy for us to say “YES!!” to travel opportunities.  So we will carefully evaluate the importance of our vacations–spending time with extended family? Important. A last-minute get away with another couple?  Probably not this year.

This category is a tough one for me personally, since I value traveling and spending time together so highly.  I am trusting God for other opportunities for our family that accomplish the same goal without the expense.

2. NEEDS NOT WANTS 

For every purchase, from socks to a new ski jacket for our kids, we are asking,

“Is this an absolute need this year?”

“Can we wait a year to buy it?”  (socks might be a challenge, but what if took the time to hunt down all the missing socks in drawer corners, under beds, etc?)

I remind myself, we already have more than enough.

3. CASH BUDGET

I have attempted this a few times over the past 20 years, but I fizzle out after a few months in–the envelopes, getting to the bank for cash, keeping track of which categories I had to “borrow” from–it’s all a pain.  But, we know that when our credit cards are tucked away in a drawer there is a much smaller chance of going over budget.

4. CREATIVELY EAT

This category represents all food–in the pantry and going out.  I am working hard at using all the food we have in the house to make creative meals.  All I have to say is this will be interesting.

Our out to eat budget is fairly small, so we will need to hit the happy hour specials!

5. ZERO DEBT GOAL

This is important, not only as a good steward of the money God has provided us, but to be content living within our means.  Often unexpected things come up, however, and that circles back to why we are creating more margin in the first place.

6. RECYCLED CLOTHING

I’m not talking about hand-me-downs (although those are great), but shopping only at consignment stores for the year.  There are some great finds to be found! I have already begun to prepare my kids for this as spring/summer approaches.  We will try diligently to find what we need at these stores first, and as a last resort try retail.  I want us all to learn to simplify, reduce and reuse through this concept.

7. PLEASE THE BANK ACCOUNT FIRST

Of all the money habits shared, this may be the toughest for me.  Along with eating out and vacations, my biggest budget buster is wanting to please others!  I don’t ever want to spoil anyone’s hope for fun that includes us by saying no.

I also want to please my children, which is why shopping with my two girls does me in.  Not that I cave to everything they want, but I tend to feel the need to check into a mental institution after a big Kohl’s trip.  My psyche goes through an incredible tug-0f-war of wanting to say yes to the 5 pairs of jeans, 6 shirts, 3 sweaters and some new underwear, yet having to say no to half of everything (feel like a mean mom), then being convinced of yes to 3 more, oh and we forgot shoes, and then repeat about eight times, mix in strong attorney-like negotiation from my twelve year old, a worn and increasingly crabby mom, and a sudden desire to drive to New Mexico by myself.   I am not exaggerating.

This is all due to the fact that I am a pleaser.  So, I am going to continue to please…just the bank account instead of everyone else in my life.  I can rest in the fact that our bank account totally loves me.

8. LIBRARY MENTALITY

This final new habit is new for me.  I like new things–that new card table at Costco that would be so handy, new kitchen utensils that I only use once year, even new tools for our yard.  Why?  Because I don’t like borrowing.  This is related to my people-pleasing.  I don’t want to bother anyone, and it’s inconvenient to borrow and return.

Yet, if I had more of a library mentality, that we can all share and re-use items that we have, it would be so much better for our pocketbook and the environment.  I never mind if someone wants to borrow something from me, and instead of caving to my child wanting new ski jacket this year, what if I asked around if a friend had one waiting to go to Good Will?

 

So, there is the list.  Hopefully if you run into me at Target buying new socks you won’t secretly judge me for not crawling under my 14 year-old’s bed that morning to find more socks (ewww), but know I am sincerely trying to incorporate these habits as much as possible into our family’s life.  Here goes!

Have a great week and if this was helpful please share on Facebook or through email! Thank you.

~Amy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Story of A Curve Ball

My final New Year’s Resolution this year is centered around the topic of finances, and I am excited to share with you some things I have read, learned and a great tool for managing your budget.  But, before I get to the “practical” things, which I will do in my next post, I want to share with your our personal story on this topic.

Jon and I have been through quite a financial journey these last few years, going from a place of comfort and margin to a place of discomfort and a LOT of hard work to make ends meet.  Please don’t misunderstand, we have lived completely comfortably by the world’s standard the entire time, but relative to what we had before Jon’s income changed due to the economic crash in 2009, it has been a long push for us to stay in our home and not incur debt.

Our story started in the fall four years ago, with the stock market crash.   While one of his well-paying jobs disappeared overnight in Sept 2009, and the other took a large-pay cut, we continued on our existing budget and spending.  This continued for about a year while we lived in denial of our financial circumstances.  You see, our generation had never gone “backwards.”  With our parents and ourselves, the forward movement of jobs and income had always been–forward.  We did not know what a serious stock market crash looked like, and how it would affect our grocery budget.  With that mindset, we thought, “Of course things will turn around!”  Surely the airline Jon worked for would recover and he would go back to his previous pay and status.  It didn’t happen, and we realized after a year that we had spent outside the truth of our income–we had not been living in financial reality.

Once we pulled our heads out of the sand, we decided to do the natural next step–pray for provision and work really hard to make ends meet.  That had been our way of life for the first 10 years of our marriage, and we were going to go back to that, which meant Jon finding a second job again, and me going back to work.  I was in the process of applying for jobs as a teacher again when another job literally fell in my lap–working for a friend at an orthopedic office.  This was an incredible blessing because I could continue the tutoring I had started and work part-time at this job, coming home without any papers to grade or stress spilling over into home life (kudos to mom/teachers–you are saints!!!).   We saw this as the clear provision we had begun to pray for.

Jon invested in another company and we set off into the next three years–a time when we would feel in the valley for much of the journey.  This was not the life we had imagined–both of us working two jobs (I started working with another company from home during this time), making our budget but with no margin, less time for our family, for our kids.   We wondered how long this would last?  .

There were many “no’s” during this time.   Jon’s second business struggled, my side-business moved forward slowly, and we tried to re-finance about 6 times with no luck for strange and un-explicable reasons.  Finally, it happened, but not without hours and days of frustration, and so much time Jonathan put into the effort.   Jon ran for President of the union at his airline, hoping to make some positive change there, and provide income for our family–and lost twice after showing great integrity and strength in the process.  It was a difficult season.

We constantly re-evaluated our situation, should we move?  Each year we seriously looked at this option, but we never felt God moving us that direction. We were continuing to keep our home open to hosting  youth group and bible studies, renting out our basement to some wonderful single girls, and then a sweet family who found our home as a place that served a time and a purpose in their lives.   He was using our home, and we hoped God would allow us to stay just another year. God did continue to provide–just enough, for us to remain.

Finally, at the end of 2013, just a few months ago, we made the decision (after months of processing) that it was time for me to leave my job at the orthopedic office for a variety of reasons–mainly that it was best for our family and kids for me to be home with them.  This was a very difficult decision because it meant that we would most likely need to put our home on the market in the spring.  We prayed constantly that God would give us courage and strength to make this decision when the time came to list our home.  I personally asked God to help me let go, loosen my grip on the foundations that had been built in this place–the best friends to my kids that lived right next door, the familiar paths Jon and I took when we walked the dogs, the flowers and trees I had picked out and planted in our yard, the familiar faces that I waved to every day as I drove through our neighborhood.

I knew that wherever God led us, we would be OK…we would re-establish.  But it was hard.  And the hardest part was we weren’t feeling “called” to leave.  It just looked like that on our financial spreadsheet.  Trust me, God said.

In January of 2014, the same month I turned in my resignation at work, something just short of miraculous happened.  Jon held a “line” at work for the first time in 4 years.  Somehow, in the great airline Pythagorean Theorem, Jon’s seniority allowed him to move to a higher pay level.  Just a fluke, we said.  Then it happened again in February, and then this month in March.  And…it looks like this might be the new norm going forward.  The income Jon receives at this new pay level just replaces the income at my orthopedic job.

Really God?  We can stay in our home for now?  But of course, this is how He works. He asks us to let go, trust, take a step of faith.  Then He provides.  He either provides strength for the “move” whatever that may mean in our lives, or he fills the gap where we were striving so hard to fill ourselves.

Here are the lessons the past 4 years have taught me:

1.  Be Grateful In Difficult Times— even when things seemed so frustrating and difficult, there was so much to be thankful for.  Healthy kids, healthy marriage, jobs.

2. Patience— we didn’t know how long our “valley” would last.  It lasted a lot longer than we wanted, that’s for sure.  We had to trust that God was still in control, that he still had a plan, and that if we stayed in tune with Him we would be given direction and comfort even when there was no end in sight.

3.  Provision— God provided the whole way.  Whether through jobs, or people to rent our basement, or just giving us enough faith and fight for a little longer.

4. Perspective— We do not feel like “we are set!” going forward.  If we have learned one thing through this journey, is that life throws us curve balls when we least expect it.  No longer will we ride on the coat-tails of “continued prosperity,” but humbly accept that God is our provider and when life does shift–which it will–He will walk through that with us.

We will continue to keep our palms open to God’s plan for our life, and hold things loosely.

Thanks for reading our story–it has been in the making for a while.

 

 

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