Thursday, April 29, 2010

Our Financial Status - Update #7

So I am going to go ahead and do April's update although the month is not officially over. But spending for the month is and since I didn't have anything else scheduled for today, ta-da, here it is.

April was bad in a lot of ways. We are not hurting per se because we both have regular paychecks coming in now. Hooray for regular pay!

However, we did not use our money as wisely as we should have. Mostly it was our decisions that resulted in this although we did have a few surprises.

Let's review:

INCOME:
We made what we expected this month. Chip's check varies slightly due to hours, but nothing drastic. The good news? We can increase our expectations again this month because my employer gave out cost of living increases this year! Hooray!

OVER BUDGET AREAS:
Auto Insurance was slightly ($20) higher this month because for a short time, we owned 3 vehicles (my car, Chip's new car, and the van). Next month we will be able to decrease this budget to cover just 2 cars and happily have this budget lower than it has ever been! In fact, the new rate is so low, we will probably go to paying it every 6 months and avoid a $5 fee (monthly) for paying by the month. Hooray! That's an additional $60 in savings annually (I'll take what I can get).
Gasoline: We went over budget this month by $110. This budget may have to change slightly now that Chip is working full time again. Although work isn't far from home for him, we'll have to watch this and gauge our allotment to it.
Car Repair: $683 over budget. Ouch. When you really only budget for an oil change a month (the empty months hopefully cover any unexpected surprises), you can be thrown for a loop when things arise. We spent about $65 on manuals for repairing Chip's car (we consider those an investment since they enable us to save money later). We had to buy new tires for my car rather than just get them balanced as we had hoped. Chip had to have his A/C repaired because we live in Georgia and spring to us is like summer for some of you. We had to have our vehicles towed one time a piece (Chip's is a slightly embarrassing story that I won't share without his permission and my starter went out earlier this week). And there were the parts for repairing my starter as well as a regular oil change for my car. So this one hurt.
Eating Out: $117 over budget. Wow. I've told you before that this is our weakness, and I meant it. We've really got to rein this in. I'm mostly talking to myself although it was the family meals that killed us this month.
Groceries: $10 over budget. How is it that we're over budget here and with eating out? Well, that's what happens when I slack up on my meal planning. Sigh... Must do better.
Clothing: $118 over budget. Chip needed new shoes for his new job. Chip needed 4 more pairs of black pants for his job. I needed new shoes for work (mine seriously had holes in them). Patrick needed shoes for church for this summer. Considering all we got, I can't feel bad for spending just over $150.
Miscellaneous: Paid $199.00 for membership to buying club (we should easily recoup this when we upgrade Patrick's bed to a full size this year), paid $28 to transfer the tag from the van to Chip's car, paid $273 in sales tax for Chip's car and paid $60 for swim lessons for Patrick at the YMCA


ON BUDGET AREAS:
Television: No surprises
Coffee Shops: $0 as budgeted. This only reason this is on here is because sometimes we treat Patrick to a muffin and milk from the coffee bar at church.
Life Insurance: As expected.
Babysitter/Daycare: Nothing unusual here.


UNDER BUDGET AREAS:
Mobile Phone: Under by $5.
Utilities: $15 under budget--even after lowering the budget $55 from last month this one!
Doctor: $25 under budget. That means no one had to visit the doctor this month (the $25 is for one co-pay. And honestly I got reimbursed for the last visit in March, so we're actually $50 under now. =)
Pharmacy: $15 under budget. Again...no one was sick, so that was great for this budget as well! Home Services: $36 under budget. This is our monthly pest control cost in the summer. In the winter it lessens in frequency, so nothing needed here this month.
Home Supplies: $5 under budget. I usually just budget $5 for this category to cover things like cleaning products, batteries and other things that just keep the household working properly. No money was spent in this category this month. It will roll over to next month.
Baby Supplies: $72 under budget. Which is awesome since we only have a $50 budget here. The extra $22 under rolled over from last month. I was over a couple of month previously stocking up on diapers at great prices. Well, we are seeing the benefits now, as the rolling budget is showing the savings you see above.
Hair: $25 under budget. After raising the budget for this month since Chip is a big tipper, we didn't use any money in this category. Patrick has decided he wants long hair, Chip had a cut at the end of March, so hasn't needed one in April, and it's been longer than I want to admit since I've had a trim.

Debt Update and other Positives:
  • We paid the minimum to card #4 and sent $2200 to card #3 (cards #1 & #2 previously paid off).
  • It doesn't look like we're going to owe any more out of pocket on Chip's vasectomy, so we might have saved $400 on that procedure that we didn't expect. Hooray!
  • The car chaos, while frustrating, was paid with cash. Now that we're very intentional in our spending, we aren't caught by surprise by repairs and such. Sure, I would have loved to send that extra $600 to a credit card, but I am proud to say that we did add the amount to our total debt.
  • We still have some money set aside in savings that might can be used in the near future for debt repayment. There is going to be a hearing with the Department of Labor to determine whether Chip should pay back some of his unemployment benefits (long, frustrating story because he got every penny honestly). If all that pans out, we will be able to send that $1200 to card #3 as well.
  • My 401k is swelling with this market. Woo hoo!
  • Similarly, we both have a Roth IRA and a Traditional IRA. Because we have not paid much attention to them, we really have not been getting as much gain on them as we could have. We can only change how they are invested once a year, near their anniversary, and this week I have sent off the forms to change mine so they can grow more quickly. I have not contributed anything to them in a while. While we're paying off debt, I won't, but hopefully we can pay off debts and ramp back up on that contribution soon enough!
  • Still haven't touched our credit cards since the beginning of January! =)

NET WORTH UPDATE: Since October 1, 2009 when I really started paying attention to our finances, we have increased our net worth by $23,206.26! Wow! It's amazing what you can do when you really try!

UPCOMING: Must plan for Abigail's 1st birthday party which is coming up in June. There will need to be gifts and of course a party. =)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

WFMW - Help Infants Grasp Food

Now that our little one is getting bigger, she is eating more and more finger foods. We had some bananas on hand this past week, so I decided to let her try those out for size.

She loved them. She devoured them. She wanted more.

But she really had a lot of trouble picking them up.

Her dexterity isn't perfect yet, I reasoned, so I tried to help her by picking some up for her to feed them to her.

And then I realized, bananas, when not in their peel, are quite slippery. Especially when they are cut up into tiny bite-sized pieces.

And then I remembered. I remembered a tip that I saw a lifetime ago (maybe less) on the internet. Possibly through Works for Me Wednesday. So I can't take credit for this one, but I can't remember who to give it to, so I will just say that while this is a brilliant idea, it is not original.

I coated the little banana pieces in bread crumbs. Yep. Right out of the canister ('cause I'm lazy and buy bread crumbs rather than creating them). I tried not to add too many so they wouldn't suck all of the moisture from her mouth, but the trick certainly helped her grasp that fruit!

So I pass along this tip to you, in hopes that maybe someone else can benefit as I did.

Go over to We Are THAT Family and see what is working for everyone else!

Photo credit: tjyobazee

Monday, April 26, 2010

8 Items It’s Okay to Run to the Store For

  1. Milk—It may not last the full time before your next trip to the store. Or you don’t want to buy too much at a time for fear of it expiring. Regardless, this is fine to run out to get at the store.
  2. Eggs—Same as milk. These are pure staples in cooking and you could easily run out before time for the next trip to the store.
  3. Bread—One more staple. You don’t want it old and stale, so you don’t buy too much. However, if it was a sandwich-heavy week, you might run out quickly. Go ahead and stop on the way home from work and get it.
  4. Wine—Sometimes you need some impromptu romance. It’s okay…do it.
  5. Ice Cream—My theory behind this one is simple—if you have it in the house at all times, you will eat it at all times. You cannot eat it if it is not in the house. On the flip side, sometimes you really NEED it, and it is okay to go out and get. Especially true if anyone in the household is pregnant.
  6. Toilet Paper—Go. Now.
  7. Diapers—Sometimes, despite trying to buy in bulk, you do run out. You won’t be the first person to show up in the checkout line with only a package of diapers to pay for (and maybe some eggs).
  8. Medicine—You can’t always predict the symptoms of that cold. Go out and buy the medicine that is as specific to the symptoms as possible. Ask your pharmacist…that’s why they are there so late.

Disclaimer—All of these things really are okay to go out and buy outside of your normal grocery shopping ONLY IF you don’t get sucked into the “one more thing” syndrome that can strike you while you are there. Stay focused.


Photo credit: lusi

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Introductions...Christine from Money Funk

In this (still) new series of interviews, my plan is to introduce you to bloggers whose stories and/or advice I have enjoyed or found most helpful. Money Funk is a real life success story in process. Christine and her family are currently working to free themselves of $85,000 of debt. Through habit changes and frugal living, they are doing it and writing it all down as they go with pointers for you and me. We're all learning together, and Money Funk is one of those places where it just feels real.

I recently spoke with Christine via email about her blog and life.


Me: Please tell my readers a little about your personal life.
Christine:
I was already a single mom of two children from a previous relationship. Who found love and married in 2007 to my now current husband. I came into the marriage with some credit card and student loan debt of about $40,000. My husband and I decided to pay off our past credit card debts with a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC), so that we can start our life fresh and new.

Well, we may have wiped out the credit card debt with shiny $0 balances, but we didn't wipe out the behavior. We re-racked up that debt and fell even further. Not a way to start a marriage by putting yourself deeper into debt. *sigh*

Me: Unfortunately it happens to many of us. We were completely out from under debt once before too. But we weren't inspired to change. And so we're back there again. What inspired you personally to get out of debt?
Christine:
One day, I read an article in Redbook Magazine on Mary Hunt's 10-10-80 Formula (Save 10 percent, give 10 percent and live on the rest). Well, that article sat and pounded itself into my head. I got up the next morning to literally declare, "I am going to fight to own my money. My family is going to fight to own their money. We are going to live a better life this day forward!"

The words "own my money" were such strong bold words. Money wasn't going to drive my life, I was going to drive my life!

Me: Wow...I like that idea (owning your own money). Foreign to most of us. What was the most extreme measure that you have taken in paying off debt?
Christine:
I think the most extreme measure has not been in paying my debt, but in NOT ACCRUING MORE DEBT, by having a Cash Only Christmas last year. Paying off debt has been automated by a snowball schedule. So as long as we are on track then our family is doing good. But, not accruing more debt can be difficult to keep up all the time; especially during the holidays.

Brad, from Enemy of Debt, was holding a Debt-Free Christmas Challenge. It was then I became very adamant that our family NOT accrue any new debt this last Christmas; very adamant. It was for real this time. See, might not sound like much, but our family did not prepare in saving for the holiday. So, Christmas money was strictly coming out of our weekly cash allotment. Which was not much. And when you have two children with gold and glitter in their eyes for Christmas, it can be a depressing outlook knowing you can't buy them all they want (a parent's guilt).

My husband and I made a list on how much money was going to be spent per person. And we stuck to it. You have to be real picky about the gifts. So, I chose to do most of my shopping online. Where I could compare prices, find coupons through RetailmeNot.com for discounts and free shipping, and get the best prices. I actually really enjoyed doing most of my Christmas shopping online; outside the hustle and bustle of the stores.

Me: I guess we're shooting for a cash only Christmas this year since we've sworn off credit cards. I hope we're as success as you were!
Christine:
Having a debt free Christmas was by no means easy. Even my daughter grumbled after she was done opening her presents that 'she didn't get a lot'. Ah, crush my heart. But we all survived the stress having a cash Christmas brought on. My word of advice for a Cash only Christmas: start socking away $25 - $30 a week. Makes a huge difference during the holidays!

Me: Start planning early...great advice! What keeps you motivated on your journey to becoming totally debt free?
Christine:
Blogging, both reading and writing, definitely keeps me motivated on my journey to becoming totally debt free. I love listening to bloggers writing about how their lives have expanded on a spiritually fulfilling level for them. I want that in my own life, too! Just think... if I don't have debt, then I can make more of a choice about where my time is spent. I wouldn't need to work, work, work all the time. I could use more of that time to spend with my family.

Me: Which debt are you most excited about being free of (either now or in the future)?
Christine:
All of it! If I had to pick one, then it would be my auto loan. My husband and I have decided to be aggressive with that debt loan this year. Especially, because my stupid financial choices have me paying $29,000 for a car loan that is only $12,000. Ouch!

Me: I think very few people realize how much it truly costs to finance a new car. How has blogging influenced your drive to become debt free?
Christine:
Blogging holds me accountable for my journey. There is so much enthusiasm and support to make it a successful journey. I think its wise to use that support for its full potential.

Me: I like the accountability of blogging too. How do your readers and commenters inspire you to live and/or blog?
Christine:
I don't always have all the answers. Readers and Commenters have given their inspiring resolutions to financial questions I've had. I love all the thoughts that are shared; especially because I like to get the big picture on a situation.

And when I get comments about how I am helping someone on their financial journey... I feel so thankful and inspired. How could I not want to continue inspiring?

Me: What is your favorite financial story shared with you via blogging (from a reader or another blogger)?
Christine:
Oh, this is an easy one. Flexo, from Consumerism Commentary, wrote a piece at the start of the new year called, Start the Decade off Right: Do Something you Love. For some reason it was just so inspiring to me because I have so many passions and inspirations that I want to live them all (most people find me crazy for that reason - always coming up with new ideas). I think this post, subconsciously confirmed its okay to try it all. And that one of those things I try will be my golden shiny star.

Me: I just read that piece and wow...you are right. Awesome post! So to wrap it all up, who do you go to for good reading: Who are your favorite bloggers to read?
Christine:
A Gaishan Life, Investor Junkie, Monevator, Experiments in Passive Income, Man Vs Debt (who you just saw around here just last week!), Financial Samurai, Small Moments of Great Rewards , and Musings of a Midlife Mom:


Christine would love to have you join her over at Money Funk. You can always just click over to read, but you'll find yourself there time and time again, so you might as well just subscribe as I do, via RSS feed or email. You can also follow her on Twitter--if you are into that kind of thing. Or you can fan her on Facebook. Or you could wrap yourself in a blanket of social media and do all of the above! Either way...she'd love to see you around and see what you have to say!

By the way...she also has a
HUGE rockin' blogroll of (mostly) personal finance blogs. It's going to take a WHILE to check all of those out! I think I'm up for the challenge though! You know how much I like finding new blogs to read!

Thanks again, Christine!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Money Hacks Carnival #112 - The Savannah Edition

Welcome to the #112th Edition of the Money Hacks Carnival, featuring Savannah, GA. Since I'm always talking finances, and most of the people in this carnival are always talking finances, I thought I would pick a theme that is off topic slightly.

Just three years ago, my family and I moved to Savannah and fell in love. There is a reason why people told us that they had always wanted to visit Savannah or had visited and wanted to return. It is a beautiful historic city dripping with Southern charm, architecture, history, ghost stories, art, natural beauty, and lots of good food and drink. As a guest to my blog today, you will learn a bit more about the Hostess City of the South.



Editor’s Picks

Jason presents Evil Interest posted at Live Real, Now.

Joshua Noerr presents Personal Finance Makeover posted at JoshuaNoerr.com, saying, "A simple no nonsense approach to your personal finances."

MoneyNing presents 10 Situations in Which DIY is More Expensive posted at Money Ning, saying, "DIY is not always the most cost effective way of doing things."

FMF presents 21 Best Money Tips Ever posted at Free Money Finance, saying, "Some great money tips from personal finance experts."

Jason Price presents Christian Financial Stewardship: Uncommon Examples posted at One Money Design, saying, "There are examples of financial stewardship that aren't quite as common or often discussed as saving, spending and giving. However, they are just as important."


Career

Ramsay presents Do You Think Like A Billionaire? posted at Need Money Tips.

JohnQ Stakes presents 9 Pervasive Myths About Choosing an Occupation posted at Masters in Occupational Therapy, saying, "Choosing an occupation is a daunting task. With the amount of misinformation abounding on the subject, this post singles out the biggest myths."

J. Savings presents 3 Ways to Cut the Costs of a Job Hunt with a Little Online Ingenuity posted at Budgets Are Sexy, saying, "These days, we're expected to be always on when it comes to searching for a new job: that means keeping a close eye on what job opportunities are out there, as well as networking and sending out the occasional resume!"



Debt & Credit

Carmen presents The Best Black Cards in the Business posted at GoBankingRates, saying, "There are few status symbols that are coveted like a black card, which today is widely recognized as the most elite credit card offering from any card issuer. But the truth is most of the perks you hear about are financial urban legends conjured up by overzealous status worshipers. We're here to put the myths to rest and separate fact from fiction."


PT presents Credit Card Cash Advance: Bad Financial Move or Good Emergency Plan? posted at Prime Time Money, saying, "These transactions are almost always a bad idea. Learn why in this post about cash advances using a credit card."

Silicon Valley Blogger presents Balance Transfer Credit Card Tips, Facts and Traps posted at The Digerati Life, saying, "Here are some helpful tips on dealing with balance transfer cards."


freefrombroke presents Different Bank Cards And Their Uses posted at Free From Broke, saying, "Various kinds of banks cards and their uses."

FYCR presents Can I remove accurate negative information from my credit reports? Fix Your Credit Reports.com posted at Should I hire a company to fix my credit reports for me?, saying, "Surprisingly you can remove accurate negative information from your credit reports."


Economy

FlBlogger presents Inflation or Deflation? What’s The Evidence Say? You Decide. posted at 20s Money, saying, "Examining the evidence that points to either inflation or deflation."

Mike Collins presents 7 Things Worrying the Middle Class posted at Saving Money Today, saying, "These are 7 common concerns keeping the middle class up at night."


Frugality and Saving Money

The Saved Quarter presents Dialing for Dollars: Cell Phone Savings posted at The Saved Quarter.


BIFS presents Fit in a Fun Friday - Expensive Dreams posted at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff, saying, "This is about keeping yourself in check while saving for big expenses."

Mrs. Frugal presents How to Save for College Without Sacrificing Your Retirement posted at Cool to be Frugal.

Sun presents Honor Previous Financial Choices posted at The Sun’s Financial Diary.

Anthony Samuel presents Disneyland Package Deals Offer a Great Vacation Opportunity posted at Personal Finance Analyst.

Rob presents Save Energy by using Motion Sensing Light Adapters posted at Energy Saving Gadgets.



Income

Online Dividends presents $100 Checking Bonus at Chase posted at Blogging Banks.

Neal Frankle presents How To Generate Income During Retirement posted at Wealth Pilgrim, saying, "Are you wondering how to generate income during retirement? Here are 4 great ideas you can start on today without spending an arm and a leg or all your time."


Investing
Super Saver presents I Avoid Financial Advisors with These Characteristics posted at My Wealth Builder.

Dividends4Life presents 5 Dividend Stocks Building Superior Long-Term Returns posted at Dividends Value, saying, "Ned Davis Research examined the relative performances of stocks between 1972 and 2006 and established a link between rising dividends and superior long-term returns. The study found S&P 500 stocks that consistently increased their dividends produced total returns (dividends + share price greater than those that did not increase their dividends."

James& Miel presents The Benefits of Investment Portfolio Diversification posted at Dual Income No Kids, saying, "Having a variety of investment options and choices available is very helpful to investors!"

Darwin presents How to Invest in Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn posted at Darwin's Finance, saying, "Ever wonder how to invest in Facebook, Twitter and other companies that aren't publicly traded? Here's now - if you've got the money!"


Dan presents Bond King Gross Declares Real Estate to Beat Stocks and Bonds – How to Play It posted at ETF Base.

CheapO presents 5 Stocks That Doubled Recently posted at Cheap Stocks, saying, "5 stocks that have doubled in the last few months."


Zach Scheidt presents Three Industries for Building Short Positions posted at ZachStocks, saying, "The market environment is changing after the Goldman Sachs (GS) announcement. Three short areas to consider pursuing for trading profits or to hedge long exposure."

LearnSaveInvest presents How Wealth Building Is Like Growing A Tree posted at Learn Save Invest, saying, "Your wealth starts by the planting of a single seed. With regular saving and investing it grows strong and provides you the freedom you want."


Other
Camille Hensley presents Top 50 Project Management Blogs posted at Masters in Project Management, saying, "The following list may help you stay on top of these requirements, as the 50 project management blogs listed here are written by the best in the field."

Craig Ford presents Best Personal Finance Software 2010 posted at Money Help For Christians, saying, "This post helps identify some of the best personal finance software options available."

2 Cents presents Your Life Balance Sheet posted at Balance Junkie, saying, "Your financial health is only one part of your life. This article looks at it in the context of the big picture."


Michael Pruser presents 15 Ways to Slash Your Cell Phone Bill posted at The Dough Roller.

Kate Kashman presents Why Your House Won’t Sell (Or Rent) The Paycheck Chronicles posted at The Paycheck Chronicles, saying, "Trying to rent or sell your home? Use this checklist to figure out why it isn't happening."


Taxes
Kyle presents Tips to Help Prevent Last Minute Tax Filings posted at Suburban Dollar.


That about wraps it up. I hope you enjoyed your virtual tour of our city and are planning your (next?) visit with us. In the meantime, submit your blog article to the next edition of money hacks carnival, hosted by Learn Save Invest using the carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on the blog carnival index page.


Photo credit: Dizzy Girl, faungg,& jimdeane

Monday, April 19, 2010

8 Items to Buy in Bulk

  1. Diapers/Wipes: They typically are much less expensive in bulk and you know you don’t want to find yourself without them, so go ahead and buy them. Just make sure you don’t overbuy in sizes while they are growing quickly. Yes, you can return them to the store to exchange them for a larger size, but that’s no more convenient than having to go out to buy them last-minute, so buy in bulk when you see a good deal, but buy smart size-wise.
  2. Light bulbs—You don’t want to go out to the store because the lights are out.
  3. Batteries—You don’t wan to go to the store because the lights are out and the flashlight is dead.
  4. Sugar—If you’re using sugar, you’re likely making a dessert. If you are unable to make a treat because you are a ½ cup sugar short, someone is going to be unhappy. Go ahead and buy ahead…it will keep. Get flour too. It freezes.
  5. Meat—Buy when you see a good price and freeze what you don’t immediately need before the “use by” date. You can often get meat cheap just because you buy in bulk.
  6. Soap/Deodorant—See a good price on your favorite? Go ahead and get it. You’ll use it eventually. And the rest of us don’t want to be around you when you’ve run out of it.
  7. Pasta/Rice—Keeps forever, easy to store, small packages, and makes an easy no-brainer side with almost any meal.
  8. Breakfast Cereal (cold & hot)—If you get these at a good price, stock up. They will not expire for a while, they are a great quick breakfast, the kids can often fix it themselves, they can be a yummy late-night snack, great for when the power is out and you can’t cook dinner. Too many uses. Too many reasons to go ahead and buy in bulk.

Disclaimer—Some people will be toilet paper on this list. I certainly love stocking up on a good deal. This won’t go bad. It is one of the most basic needs for your household. However, it is large and bulky, so storing too much of it can easily be a hassle. Get a lot, but not so much that you have to walk around it to perform your daily tasks.

Photo credit: bouts

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Introductions...(Adam) Baker from Man vs. Debt

In this new series of interviews, my plan is to introduce you to bloggers whose stories and/or advice I have enjoyed or found most helpful.

Man vs. Debt is an inspirational blog of a family who stared their debt in the face and decided that they wanted more out of life than the slavery that debt brought them. Baker and his wife Courtney sold off all of their excess belongings to pay off consumer debt and stockpile cash. They used this money so that they and their toddler daughter, Milligan, could travel abroad for one year. Their story is certainly out of the norm and proof that you can do anything you set your mind to when you are not tied down by materialism!

I recently spoke with Baker via email about his blog and life. This is how it went:


Me: You have an outstanding personal life. Please tell my readers a little about your interesting livings/travels.
Baker:
Ha ha, well...thank you! My wife and I recently sold all of our possessions, paid down a bunch of debt, and spent a year traveling through Australia, New Zealand, and Thailand with our 1-year-old daughter.

It was a blast (lots of ups AND downs) and we learned a lot about ourselves and what we wanted in the future!

Me: How incredibly liberating was it to be free of the consumer debt? Did it weigh more heavily or less than student loans?
Baker:
Yes, it weighed much more heavily. We ended up paying down $18,000 in consumer debt. Even though we still have $50,000 in student loans, it still felt like a HUGE accomplishment. Our consumer debt represented a lot of bad decisions and a lot of "stuff" that limited our freedom.

It's extremely liberating to have it gone. We never want another car payment, jewelry payment, or credit card. We aren't done with the battle yet and our student loans are next. The consumer debt was a big first step and very motivating!

Me: I've never thought about debt representing bad decisions, but that must be why it is so liberating to be free from it! Do you ever feel "guilty" about traveling before being free of the student loans and having no retirement plans at the moment?
Baker:
At first we struggled with it. Lately, though, I've very proud of how we handled it. We set-up a goal to explore overseas, but we did so responsibly. We set out to eliminate our consumer debt and ended up saving over $17,000 in cash, too. Sure we could have fought for another 2 years to eliminate ALL our student loans, but I think we found a great balance.

We are ready for the next chapter of the fight now, having spent the last year abroad. I'm looking forward to knocking out our student loans and then having the full power of our income to save/invest in the best way we can!

Me: I love seeing how responsible you did travel--how you stuck with a severe budget just like you had to when paying off your debts. Quite responsible! Do you find you have more supporters or more nay-sayers that comment on your family's plans?
Baker:
99.9% far, far, far more supporters. I've worked very hard and been very lucky to build a community that generally loves to see people become empowered. They love to support people, including our own journey.

Anytime you share as much details as we have, you'll always have negative people come out of the woodwork. It's part of life. But these people can't even come close to the power of all the supporters and fellow people on their own journey towards freedom.

Me: That's awesome. Do you plan to travel abroad again once retirement comes around or is this your "once in a lifetime"?
Baker:
We plan for travel to be a sustained part of our life, forever. That being said, it will most likely be much slower now. We would ideally prefer a 6 months home, 6-month traveling type of schedule. Maybe even 6 months in one location. We love the lifestyle, but still want the eventual security of a place called "home".

We certainly won't be waiting for retirement, though. We aren't huge fans of the traditional outlook on "retiring". :-)

Me": It doesn't look like you guys have a traditional view of pre-retirement either. =) When you were getting out of (consumer) debt and saving for your travels, what is the most extreme move you made to accomplish your goal?
Baker:
Some people consider cutting up and canceling all of our credit cards to be extreme. It really wasn't for us, but I understand why it may appear that way to some. There were a few months during our "intense" period, where we spent very, very little money. We didn't eat out, we didn't go out (elected for board games with friends), and we were selling our possessions like maniacs!

It's not a pace we'd want to keep for any sustained period, but these brief moments of intensity helped us reach our goal ahead of schedule!

Me: What did you do to keep yourself motivated when attacking your finances so fiercely?
Baker:
We kept framing our journey as giving us the freedom to travel abroad. By framing it in this way, it was much easier to stay motivated. We weren't just getting out of debt to get out of debt. We wanted to empower ourselves to live a certain lifestyle. By setting and keeping clear goals it helped us out!

Me: Do you ever find yourself wanting more of the "stuff" that you rid yourself of previously?
Baker:
Absolutely. It's easy to head back to crutches that we've always lived with.

On the road it was hard to accumulate a lot more, because we had to carry it. If it didn't fit in the backpack, we didn't take it. Fairly simple!

Since being back home in Indiana for a couple months, we can feel the old urge creeping back in. It's so easy to starting filling back up closets and rooms with random "stuff". We are doing are best to fight it off!

Me: Who are your favorite bloggers to read?
Baker: Chris Guillebeau is by far my favorite blogger to read and my biggest role model when it comes to blogging/business.More of my current favorites include, J.D. Roth, Gary Vaynerchuk, Leo Babauta, Jonathan Fields, Brett McKay, Glen Allsop, Corbett Barr, Dave Navarro, and Steve Kamb.

Thanks again for participating and letting my readers get more acquainted with you.

If you are more interested in learning about Baker's travels and methods, please visit him over at Man vs. Debt and browse around--you can even see where they have documented all of their belongings and how they are both eliminating and adding those as needed--how awesome is that?! You can also purchase Unautomate Your Finances, his ebook that has received rave receives across the personal finance blogosphere. At his site, you can now purchase it for a reduced price!

If you want to follow Baker and his family down the road of the rest of their journey, join his MvD Militia, follow him on Twitter, and/or fan Man vs Debt on Facebook (and add Baker as a friend too!). Or you could just get his feed through your favorite reader or email like I do. I can't wait to see where life takes them next!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

WFMW - Keep Sand from Sticking

Two weekends ago, I took the kids to the beach (that's the joy of living in the southeast...call it a a trade off, if you will, for our extreme summers).

With a little preschool boy who LOVES to play in the sand and surf and a 9-month old daughter who loved to crawl in the sand then proceed to eat it, I faced the challenge of keeping a desert-full of sand out of my car on the way home.

How to do it?

Open the diaper bag and apply baby powder to the kids before putting them in the car. The powder absorbs any excess moisture and the sand brushes right off! It's magic!

If you don't have to carry a diaper bag, put some in your beach bag...you can even just get a small travel-size that doesn't take up much room for this task.

Seriously...it's brilliant and it truly works for me!

Check out We Are THAT Family and see what works for everyone else!

Photo credit: bundun2002

Monday, April 12, 2010

8 Items for Your Diaper Bag (other than diapers)

  1. Change of Clothes for Baby—You never know when your little bundle of joy will need a new set of clothes because of spit up gone berserk or a leaky diaper.
  2. Change of Clothes for Mom—Okay, not an entire outfit…but a shirt wouldn’t be a bad idea (although I don’t do this, I know of many who do). If Junior decides that projectile spit up would be a fun game, it doesn’t make the remainder of your errands fun while you walk about getting looks from people who seem to assume you have no idea your shirt is drenched and you smell of vomit.
  3. Small plastic/garbage bags (for clothes) / Ziploc for diaper—Some type of baggie for wet/soiled clothes will keep those clothes from soiling everything else in the diaper bag. And sometimes you can’t change baby in a location that is convenient to a garbage can (seriously…it happens more than you realize), so a baggie for a dirty diaper can be a lifesaver as well.
  4. Hand sanitizer—Many times I have found myself needing this after a diaper change. Sometimes it is because I am using the passenger seat of a car as a changing table. Sometimes it is because I have taken baby inside a restroom at a restaurant and others don’t look kindly on you for laying them on the floor while you methodically wash both hands with hot, soapy water. You can often one-hand wash if only one hand got dirty. But with a doozy of a diaper, more cleaning is required and sanitizer becomes a necessity.
  5. Diaper rash cream—You never REALLY need diaper rash cream until you don’t have it. It’s a good thing to keep in the bag at all times. If you don’t want to over-buy the stuff, don’t worry. When you sign up for new mom freebies all across the internet (and at the hospital), you’ll get several different samples to try. These are great for this purpose. Or you can write your favorite company and request a sample or just tell them how much you like their product. I got lots of samples of my favorite that way!
  6. Snacks—Sometimes a baggie full of Cheerios can be a God-send when trying to finish up your shopping with a fussy toddler. Don’t go overboard, but a box of raisins or a bag of Goldfish will get you through!
  7. Toy—Always a huge help during eating out. If the child is too young to eat from the menu, this will keep them occupied while parents eat. If the child CAN eat from the menu, sometimes this will do when the crayons they (sometimes) provide don’t entertain. NOTE: Personal parenting tip from me…if your child is old enough to not need a diaper bag, they are old enough to not carry around toys with you at all time…don’t subject yourself to be their walking toybox. Let them learn patience.
  8. Burp Cloth/bib—This should go as an obvious one if a meal will be included in the outing, but even it is isn’t, this can be a great spit-up or drool fixer.

Photo credit: jds-emma

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

WFMW - Greatest Tips Edition

Today's theme for Works for Me Wednesday over at We Are THAT Family is our "greatest tips" edition. Since I've been participating in WFMW for just over 2 years, I have submitted a number of tips to the series.

So included in my Greatest Hits are those tips that have brought me the greatest number of hits on my blog. These are tips that people continually are searching for when they land on my blog. I figure if people are googling the answers to these questions, they must be worth reposting.

So here are the tips that bring the most traffic to my site. Hope you find something you can use!


Head on over to this special themed WFMW and see what works for everyone else too! I know I could use some new tips!

Monday, April 5, 2010

8 Ways to Encourage Your Child

  1. Thank them—You can thank them for the most menial of tasks and their eyes will light up. You like to be appreciated and so do they. They will then begin to learn how to be polite and how to respect and appreciate others.
  2. Listen to them—It is so easy to just “Mmmm Hmmmm” through a conversation with my 4-year old. But he’s not stupid. It hurts when others do it to me, and it hurts him when I do it too. Nod at appropriate moments, look at them when they are speaking, and don’t interrupt. They will feel important when you take this time out for them.
  3. Apologize when deserved—Sometimes we screw up. We aren’t perfect and shouldn’t pretend to be. When we are in the wrong to our children, we should have the humility to admit it to them and ask for their forgiveness. They will respect you even more.
  4. Tell them you love them—You cannot do this too much. Even when they grow to be teenagers and they act like they don’t want to hear it, there is security in knowing their parents love them.
  5. Support their interests—As long as their interests are healthy, they don’t have to be the same as yours. You may not know the rules of martial arts sparring, but it doesn’t mean you can’t learn to be a good cheerleader for them. If they love plants, animals, and dinosaurs, take them to the natural science museum even if you’d rather gouge your own eyes out. They can enjoy their hobbies and you will love to see them so enthralled. And you might learn a new thing or two yourself.
  6. Hug them…all the time—Yes, tell them you love them all the time, but don’t be afraid to physically express it too. There is something comforting and reassuring about the human touch. Study after study has shown evidence the children thrive when exposed to the human touch rather than just words.
  7. Play with them—I know you are tired at the end of the day, but make memories with them. No, you don’t have to be their best friend, but you can be their playmate sometimes. They will remember it and you just might have some fun yourself!
  8. Be a good role model—Your words can only carry so far. And they will get you nowhere if your actions are in opposition to those words. You can teach your child how to achieve their goals by showing them how you achieve yours. Be the person you want them to be. They love you more than they will ever let on, and want to make you proud.

Photo credit: brownjeans

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Our Financial Status - Update #6

So here we are at the beginning of another month, so I have come to open up our accounts and display them for all to see (okay...so only partially since I don't disclose actual amounts here).

And let me tell you. It's not pretty.

It may not be safe for young eyes, as we had a truly difficult month during March. If you are prone to nausea, you might want to turn away.

Some of it was brought on by choices we intentionally made that we knew would affect our budget. Others were Murphy's Law creating havoc. In the end, we came out okay, but it was not via the scenic route.

So let's take a dive into this now that you've been warned.

INCOME:
$14,561.00 OVER budget. How crazy is that? I just budgeted our paychecks, but we got our tax refund in (which was expected, but more than a standard monthly income); got one small unexpected paycheck that has been owed since last November; sold two trumpets, some books, and two vehicles. So...craziness ensues and we have a major income jump. It's just for this month, I know, but it helped us take care of some business.

OVER BUDGET AREAS:
Gasoline: $222 over budget. Yeah. Wow. We did travel this month to visit my mom, which I knew meant would be more travel than usual. However, we also did a huge scouting of vehicles to buy all the way from Florida to Charleston, so we spent a lot of money in gas on that as well.
Auto Parts/Service: $930 over budget. Yeah...wow. I had to have 3 new tires unexpectedly, Chip had a repair done on the van to help it sell, Chip paid to have his new car looked over by a Mercedes specialist to give him a to-do list that he can do most of himself, and Chip most two manuals to help him repair his car at home. Hugely unexpected month. But we had the cash. Hooray!
Mobile Phone: $0.89 over budget. I feel silly putting this in the "over" category, but in the spirit of honesty, I am putting it here.
Coffee Shops: $15 over budget. Most of this was coffee obtained while traveling to visit my mom and to see cars to keep Chip awake during the drive. If that is what did the trick, I would call it money well spent. =)
Eating Out (Fast Food & Restaurants): $119 over budget. Wow. That is what happens when you travel and have to eat on the road. Also, we did eat out a few times. It's crazy how expensive eating out truly is and how much of your budget it can eat away. Last month was great. This month was awful. Here's to getting back to budget during April.
Groceries: $18 over budget. You would think with all of the eating out that we would be lower on the grocery bill. But it doesn't seem to work that way. Towards the end of this month, I started using e-mealz to help with my meal planning, so I'm hoping it will maintain good spending while reducing our felt need to eat out due to poor planning.
Pharmacy: $16 over budget due to the pain meds prescribed after Chip's vasectomy. I think he will tell you it was money well spent. =)
Home Services: $12.50 over budget. That was due to deciding to sign up for e-mealz. I will now write this into our budget for a $15.00 charge every three months.
Hair: $5 over. Chip tips well because the lady who cuts his hair is awesome. I can't fault him that. So I'm just going to up our budget to account for his tipping because the lady deserves it.
Miscellaneous: $299 over budget. Breakdown is as follows: $141 for speeding ticket, $96 for dog grooming and sitting, $21 for Easter basket items, $20 in a bank fee because I didn't know that we were limited in our activity with our savings account I surpassed that limit, and $22 on a movie we bought.

ON BUDGET AREAS:
Auto Insurance: As expected. Now that we've sold two vehicles and bought one more sedan this budgeted amount will change for the month...going down slightly, so we will be saving money. =)
Television: Done. Very predictable.
Term Life Insurance: Once again...an easy prediction.
Mortgage: Lower than it has ever been. But that was expected after our lowered HOA fees and home re-fi. On budget.


UNDER BUDGET AREAS:
Utilities: $46 under budget. Hooray. I expect this will get closer to "on budget" as we near summer and Savannah heats up.
Medical: We PAID OFF my looming medical bills from Abigail's birth and paid with cash for Chip's vasectomy. We were $400 under budget though because we're still waiting on another bill for the remainder of our out-of-pocket costs for his procedure. I let that underage roll over into our April budget so we will expect it when it comes.
Home Supplies: $5 under budget.
Baby Supplies: $23 under budget. I thought I would be spending $0 in this category (I have $50 allotted) but there were some AWESOME diaper sales that I used to stock up for the future so that I won't have to pay full price then.
Daycare: $71.25 under. Patrick missed school one day with a fever and headache. And one day the school was closed due to the power company making repairs and both children stayed home. So that was 3 unpaid days total.
Makeup/Toiletries: $1 under budget.
Clothing: $23 under budget. I did have to buy a pair of jeans for myself, but otherwise all of last month's money will roll into April...which is great because the kids need a few summer items that I plan to pick up this weekend.

The positives?
  • We paid off the medical bills! HOORAY!
  • We paid $2000 towards Credit Card #3 debt. HOORAY!
  • We paid in cash for Chip's vasectomy. HOORAY!
  • We paid in cash for a car to replace the van making us a profit because the new car cost less than the van sold for (and Chip feels cooler in his Benz than in a blue minivan).
  • We have more money stashing aside for debt repayment. The reason we didn't send it all to the card this past month has to do with an unemployment hearing result that may determine that we have to repay some of the benefits Chip got (although we are actually in the right, the state may not feel that way).
  • We paid all of the unexpected Auto Service expense out of pocket and did not have to touch a credit card. Although that huge amount could have/should have gone to pay off debt, we were blessed to have the cash on hand as to not accumulate more debt. =) I call that a win.
  • We haven't touched our credit cards since the very beginning of January. HUGE SMILE!

How about you? How did you do this past month?

So although it was a crazy over-budget month, we came out okay.

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