Category Archives: Family Finance

Free Christmas Gift Planner

Hey Ya’ll!

We have had a lot going on. I’ve been doing contest prep (one of these days I will do a progress post). And we put in an offer on some land that we will be building a house on (contracting it out ourselves). My goal is to try to share as much of the building process as I can to help anyone who is looking at building a house.

But for now, I’ve been thinking Christmas will be here before we know it. Truthfully, I am really looking forward to the holidays this year, because Mr. Middle Sister will actually be here with us to enjoy it.

So, I plan on giving good gifts. I made a gift guide last year that I really didn’t get to use. Last Christmas sucked without Mr. Middle Sister here with us. I kind of didn’t give gifts with the excuse of saving money.

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This year, I’m planning ahead. I have already wrote down a gift on my guide! So I’m giving ya’ll my guide for FREE! Enjoy!

TTFN

Get the gift planner here

Productivity Slump? Plan ahead instead!

Hey ya’ll.

So, I’m feeling a little bummed lately. So far I have not made 2015 as productive as I should have. I’m struggling with a couple of things. Last night, I was looking at my goals for this year and so far, I have accomplished NOTHING. Granted, most of our/my goals are more of the long term variety, but I’m worried. Why have I hit this slump?

The only thing I can think of is that I have put life on hold. Mr. Middlesisterproject will be home next month. If you are a milspouse who has gone through a deployment you know what this is like. The ability to deal with this should have been passed down genetically (even though I have no clue if my mammo had to endure a deployment.)

Here is my granddad in his WWII pilot gear. So handsome!

granddad in AF WWII pilot gear

The excitement of having your spouse back home after a year away, mixed with the anxiety of learning to be a “couple” again is an unsettling combo. I have spent the last year being a single mom; I’ve been independent and self sufficient, but now I’m thinking I have to just switch into doting wife mode. In theory, this shouldn’t be difficult, I love my husband and am so proud of him for serving our country for the 18 years that he already has. We milspouses are forced to be tough and resilient, but I fear it has made me disconnected and cold. I digress…

A lot of the goals I/we have for 2015 require a joint effort. There is one wall in our bathroom with a splotch of gray paint on it, and I have started cutting in in our bedroom too with a pretty cream color. But, now things are at a stand still. I know I won’t be able to go any further on either of those projects until my man gets home. I can’t exactly paint with a wild toddler running around (Lord knows everything in the house, including Puppy Brother, will end up covered in paint). I feel stuck; at least I only have a month left of the “I can’t do that till he gets home” mentality.

I’ve also been thinking of adding a goal to my list: Entering a Figure Contest! It is something I have wanted to do ever since I really got into working out several years ago. My body is nowhere near ready to stuff into a tiny booty bearing bikini and strutting around on stage (and I doubt if it ever will be). But, I would love to take a year to train like I’m going to enter a contest. The only thing stopping me is that doing this would require a coach, which would set us back around $200/month. Considering that we are trying to get rid of debt, I just don’t think I can commit to paying $200/month for a coach. Maybe, I can add this goal to 2016  instead?

I think the best way to get out of this funk is to focus on the projects I need to tackle before we can put our house up for sale.

I also have big plans for the laundry room. I plan on DIY’ing a light fixture for in there to replace the current boob light. I was liking schoolhouse pendant DIY from http://www.bitsofblissblog.com

schoolhouse light

I want to add some color, storage, organization to the laundry room as well. And since I have connections, I was thinking of having the guys cut me a granite piece to sit on top the washer and dryer like a counter.

Like this:

CarraraLaundry

 source

I will probably just spend the next month planning all my projects and start tackling them the day after husband gets home. That would be semi-productive. It will give me the opportunity to make lists, and I do love lists!

I’ll keep ya’ll updated on the DIY projects I will be conquering soon. Do ya’ll have any suggestions for the laundry room that will help our house sell? It is currently plain, blah-tan contractor’s choice paint on the walls, pretty small, and has a cabinet above the washer and dryer.

TTFN ya’ll!

Why New Years Resolutions Don’t Work

why new years resolutions don't work

Hey ya’ll!

As the holiday season is coming to a close, I find myself looking forward to the new year ahead of us and reflecting on 2014. This year has been one of the hardest years of my life but also one of the best!

2014 saw my husband gone for the military and me here alone with our new baby (my first child). I have to admit it has been tough being a new mommy alone, working, and trying to do my best without my husband here; but, it would have been a whole lot harder without my family close enough to us to help me when I needed it.

I am amazed at how much things can change in a year. At the beginning of 2014, I was working full time at a job I didn’t much like but that paid decently, now I work for my dad’s business part time doing something that I love. The change in income has forced me to learn to better manage our finances, but it has also showed me what is important in my life. I am more happy now with a lot less than I was before. The biggest change has been the ability to spend more time with my family, a change that has made my life so much more full.

We have achieved one big goal this past year and that was paying off one of our vehicles. I have been assessing our situation and looking forward at 2015 and deciding on goals we want to set for our family for the upcoming year. I don’t make new years resolutions anymore, I’ve tried and failed miserably with resolutions in the past. I’ve learned that setting measurable goals is more effective.

A resolution is more like a wish, or at least it has been for me. I might say I want to lose 10 pounds this year. But unless I make that a goal for myself and list the smaller steps that are going to get me there, while making sure to revisit the overall goal and asses my progress along the way, that resolution will end up in the pile with past failed resolutions.

2015 Goals

So, I have outlined our goals for 2015 and then discussed them with my husband and checked to see if he had anything to add. We have come up with categories for our goals, they are:

HOME– these goals include projects we plan to do around the house

HEALTH– goals that help us improve our health or top personal bests in the gym

FINANCES– any money or budget related of course

PROFESSIONAL– this I added to remind me to think about what I want to do with the blog, when hubs gets home I should have more time to work on it and maybe even grow it

LONG-TERM– we can add to this throughout the year; I’d like to set a debt-free date here

OTHER– Anything that doesn’t fall into the other categories

I have created a 2015 Goals Sheet that is available here. This past year I started keeping a “family binder”; currently I mostly use it to track bills, but I plan on doing more with it next year. I’ve put my 2015 Goals sheet at the front of the binder to remind me of what we are working for in 2015.

Just a few of our plans are below- I won’t bore you with the details 🙂

Home– sell our house, we want some land (I have a list of things I have to do before we list it; there will be paint flying everywhere)

Health– Run at least 2 5k’s (both me and husband), increase my bent over row weight to 50lb dumbbells (Currently I do 40lbs)

Finances– Pay extra $500 to car note/month, 8k in savings by end of year, purchase land (this one I haven’t quite outlined in detail yet)

Professional– Blog regularly, make more items for our Etsy shop

Long-Term– Payoff my car by December 2016, Homestead? (I’m not sure if homesteading is something we could even do, but it intrigues me)

Other– De-clutter and organize everything (I need baskets!)

Feel free to hop on over to our Etsy shop if you’d like to purchase the printable I made for the Goal Sheet. If you purchase it, I will customize it for you with your name and categories you’d like.

What are ya’lls New Years “Goals”, I’d love for you to share!

Christmas on a budget: free calendar & gift budget tracker

Hey ya’ll!

This year Christmas is a bit different for us. It is our first Christmas with my husband deployed. It is my first Christmas that I’ve been on a budget.  EEK!

A few months ago I left my full time job so I could spend more time with our baby and maybe actually do something I enjoyed. I am working part time for my dad’s Granite and Marble company (and loving it), but my income is almost half of what it was before, since I went from full time to part time. I made the decision to leave my old job knowing that my income would be less, it is a trade off that I am ok with because more time with my son outweighs the rest.

So this Christmas, I am not buying gifts. Well, not exactly anyway. I am creating homemade gifts for the gifts I am giving-for the most part. I will have to buy a few things; we are buying a few things for our toddler, mainly because I don’t know how to make a tractor scooter thingy. My husband and I aren’t purchasing gifts for each other, him coming home in a few months is our gift to each other…that and paying his Camaro off this week (woohoo!). I love how it feels to pay off a debt; it means we are one step closer to our goal of being fully debt free. 

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Cutting way back on the gifts this year is something I am totally fine with. It is allowing us to focus on what truly matters to us this Christmas: each other. I am beyond content with the trade off of having to budget and really cut back on our expenses to not have to miss family time. When I worked full time I always missed out on getting together with my sisters and mom to bake something or to plan who is making what over a cup of coffee (or three). I missed visiting with my brother and his family when they were in for the holidays because I was at work. I am tickled that I get to spend the most important thing this year: time with family! It’s really tough that my husband won’t be here this year to enjoy it with us, but I am so thankful that he will be home soon.

Over the past year my priorities have shifted majorly. Right before we had our son, I bought a brand new vehicle, we moved into a newer, bigger, more expensive house. I was very concerned about having “things”. Keeping up with the Joneses, so to speak. Over the past few months, I found myself wishing we were still in that small, more affordable house and that I still had the car I had 4 or 5 cars ago—the one that I didn’t pay an arm and a leg for. I’ve realized what is important, to me anyway. My family and my time with my family, becoming debt free, minimizing stuff and clutter, and living the healthiest & happiest life I possibly can-and providing that kind of life for my family to the best of my ability.

So this holiday season, I get to focus on those things and not worry about what I still have to buy for whoever, what appearances I have to keep up for whatever reason. It is such a freeing feeling, why didn’t I do this sooner?

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Freebies anyone?

I made a calendar for December (yeah I know it’s already the 2nd) and gift budget tracker to help keep me on track with holiday spending.  I plan to keep the expenses to a minimum and maximize family time. Christmas isn’t about buying “stuff”. I honestly don’t remember what gifts I got for Christmas over the years, but I do remember the memories I made with the people I spent the holidays with. Experiences are worth so much more than stuff. So if you’d like to use the Christmas Budget Tracker and/or the December calendar, click on the links to download them.

Click here for the calendar.

Click here for the gift budget tracker.

Credit for elements used on the freebies:

Wreath border garland from Puresweetjoy.com. http://www.puresweetjoy.com/circle-garland-borders-free-download/

Laurel from Designs by Miss Mandee: http://www.designsbymissmandee.com/2014/08/free-laurel-wreath-graphics/

“Christmas on Crack” font-  Parallax, are (c)1999-2001 David C. Lovelace

Budgeting baby steps

Hey ya’ll!

I am adjusting to the career change and am loving actually enjoying my work. If you missed what I’m doing now, check out our website-which I got to create: marbellainc.com. It helps that I get to take my son to the office every once in a while. It actually works out. A couple of weeks ago we had clients bring their son in who is close in age to mine and they played together while we discussed material and edging selections for their counters. So much fun!

Anyway, I got sidetracked. Back to the topic at hand. I am adding a category to my blog where I can share what works for us with “budgeting”. I have always managed the finances for our family, but up until I quit my “real” job managing our finances consisted of making sure the bills were paid on time.

Now that I’ve quit my “real job” and have taken a pretty substantial pay cut. I have been forced to re-evaluate our finances. Honestly, I need to get us on a budget. The problem is that I can’t stand budgets. Every attempt I have made at getting on a budget in the past has failed miserably. So, I am taking a different approach. I am trying different methods and seeing what works for us. I wouldn’t call it a budget at this point, lets just say that I’m moving us toward a financial plan.

Anyway, the first step that I have taken is to try the “half payment method”. Where you take half of each bill out of each paycheck and set it aside so that you don’t get hit with say your car payment of $300 out of one $600 paycheck. But, I get paid every week, so I changed it to the “fourth payment method”. So out of each paycheck I set aside one fourth of my monthly bills.

Here is a visual:

Paycheck 1: $500

One fourth of car payment: $100

Left over from Paycheck 1: $400

This is just an example, in reality you would of course do one fourth of all your bills. But, as you can see, you have $400 left after after paycheck 1, whereas if you paid your entire car payment out of paycheck 1, you would have $100 left for the week.

Let me explain how I make this work for us. I created an extra checking account and named it “bills”. Every week when I get paid I deposit my check into my main account. I then immediately transfer a fourth of my monthly bills payment into my “bills” account. That leaves me enough for gas and groceries. I factor in the automatic transfers to my Roth IRA and my son’s college fund as bills so it is covered and I don’t come up short. *Make savings automatic/treat it like a bill*. Right now I move the money for a bill back to my main account to pay it because most everything is auto-pay and I don’t want to have to mess with changing which account it comes from. But, one day when I’m feeling especially productive, I will change all the payments so they come out of the “bills” account. Currently, since the hubs is overseas, he does things his way. Which is less than ideal, because I married a spender. But when he gets home, I will get him on board with the half-fourth payment method.

Just FYI.  We bank with USAA, and they make it super easy to add new accounts in your online profile and to move funds around among your accounts.

So far this modified half payment method is working really well for me. I have a week every month where the bulk of my bills come out, so now that week isn’t as much of a stressor as it used to be. I also no longer spend money that should have gone to a bill because it has already been taken out of my account. Having to “budget” the funds has been a big change and really tough; it has also made me regret buying that brand new Q5 last year. But, it has been worth it to have a flexible schedule and spend more time with my kid.

My husband’s PCS (permanent change of station) overseas has also allowed us to save up enough to pay off his Camaro at the end of December, but that’s a post for another day.

What budgeting methods have worked for your family?