Thursday, April 21, 2011

Things My 21-Year Old Self Didn't Know

Ten years ago at this time, I was wrapping up my last term in college. At this point I had no job although I had interviewed for many. I would be getting one soon, but at this time, the pressure was still on.

I had worked part time during school but had only ever held down a full time job in my life during two different summers that I had internships. They paid, but only slightly above minimum wage. The experience was the key payment here.

I was finally a "real" adult. I was 21 years old and about to go into the real world. I knew it would be hard, but I was ready...or so I thought.

Over the last 10 years I have learned a lot about finances...mostly through the school of hard knocks although over the last 1-1/2 years, I've been trying to actually educate myself more. Here are a list of the things I would tell myself if I could travel back in time 10 years:

  1. Just because you can handle a little money does not mean you can handle a lot. Logic would tell you that if you can handle a little you can handle a lot. Even the Bible teaches us that (remember that parable?). However, I was GREAT at handling tiny bills with my tiny paychecks. Once I was getting bigger paychecks, I thought I was rich. I had no idea. Lottery winners prove this again and again, but even on smaller checks than the lottery offers, money can be tempting to just spend if you haven't learned better. With more money comes more responsibility.
  2. Just because you don't like to shop at the mall, does not mean you don't like to shop. You can still easily blow money without going shopping all of the time. Most of the money we have blown in the past has been wrapped up in eating out, vacations, decor for the home, and upgrading/repairing our home. I'm not a mall rat, but I still know how to blow through some cash. Fast.
  3. You REALLY need to talk more about money in your marriage. From the beginning. I's not sexy. It's not fun. It is CRITICAL though. I will not go into how many fights, tensions, and anxieties have resulted in our marriage because we just didn't talk about money. Spending. Saving. Plans. Habits. None of it. Trust about it and save yourself the heartache. Compromises are ALWAYS better than fights.
  4. Stuff is really just stuff. It's amazing how much stuff I wanted once I had a paycheck. Stuff I didn't need. Newer stuff. Nicer stuff. Different stuff. Just stuff. Now I'm trying to get rid of some of that same stuff because it just clutters my life. I would have saved myself a lot of money and hassle by not buying it in the first place. If it doesn't serve a direct purpose and fulfill a real NEED in your life, don't buy it.
  5. Believe it or not, smart spending/saving practices will one day be more impressive than a new ______. Although some people will always be caught up in material things, those are not the people I want to impress. I now know that. I would rather be labeled as frugal than as materialistic.
  6. Don't buy something based on the monthly payment. Buy it based on the cost. This was a huge practice for long time. We have an extra $200/month, why not buy it? Forget that at $200/month it would take 7 years and thousands in interest...I could afford the monthly bill, so why not, right? Wrong. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
  7. Make sure you love your job. I know money is enticing, but if you have loads of money but are unhappy, that money will not make you happier. It will just give you the ability to buy more stuff...which will not make you happier. You must love what you do every. single. day or you will be miserable no matter how many zeros are on your paycheck.
  8. Children truly will enjoy the box more than the expensive toy that came in it. Children are truly easy to please until you teach them otherwise. They have fun with cardboard boxes and an imagination. They love flying a $1 kite. They love playing at a public park. They love running around playing in the yard with their friends. They love books that you can get from the library for free. They love playing the in hose on a hot summer day. A $1.00 bottle of bubbles can provide hours of entertainment. Some of my best childhood memories didn't cost a nickel. You don't have to buy their love or their fun.
  9. You still have a lot to learn. I think most of us are cocky at this age. We haven't grown out of that aggressiveness that we needed to get through adolescence. We feel that we have come this far and now life is just to be enjoyed. Wrong. I have learned more in the last 10 years that I ever thought possible. About my career. About my life. About my husband. About other people. About myself. There is a world out there full of possibilities that your brain has not yet wrapped itself around. Be aware that changes are coming and you have giant opportunities to learn ahead of you. Embrace them rather than resisting.

One thing I did do right:
  1. Save for retirement from Day 1. Or at least as soon as your employer allows you to get into the retirement plan. At my one-year work anniversary, I signed up for our company's 401k. I was 22 years old and although I didn't see the effects immediately I was told it was the smart thing to do. Boy am I glad I listened. I have just over $100,000 already waiting across a couple different accounts...and I'm still contributing. Those will continue to grow as time goes on. Do you think I would have saved that on my own in this time? Obviously not...our savings account has $3000 in it current and some of that is earmarked for other uses.

So, the time is drawing near that some will be graduating college soon. Some will be graduating high school soon and embarking on a bigger life. Hopefully my lessons will be able to help someone else grasp the bigger picture more easily.

I can't wait to see what the next 10 years teach me.

What about you? What lessons have you learned in the last 10 years that you'd love to pass along?

Photo credit: marygober

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

WFMW - Photographing Your Kids for Safety

Go ahead and call me a bad mom, but I typically do not have photos of my children on my person. That's right...not even in my purse. In fact, I only have my purse with me approximately 50% of the time. If you were to ask me for a photo of my child, I would probably have to go home, pull the memory card out of our camera, open it on the computer and either email it to you or print it out. I just don't carry them with me.

So when I saw this idea for how to have a photo of your children handy, I thought it was brilliant, so not we do it too.

Whenever you are in a public place and have a fear of losing sight of your children (you know, park on a busy day, festival, fair, theme park, busy street, tourist venue, whatever), use your cell phone to take a photo of your children BEFORE you get to the venue. This way, in the event your child gets lost, you have not only a recent photo of them, but even the exact outfit they were wearing when they disappeared.

Now I know this is not a pleasant thought to consider, but it is reality and as a parent, is something we must think about.

So use this tip to always have a handy current photo of your child on hand in case you ever need it.

And afterwards, you have a cute wallpaper for your phone on a day-to-day basis.

To provide peace of mind, this works for me. Visit We Are THAT Family to see what works for others!

Photo credit: sans5

Monday, April 18, 2011

8 Great Quotes About Money

It's amazing the wise things that come out of the mouths of such a variety of people!

The safe way to double your money is to fold it over once and put it in your pocket. ~Frank Hubbard

It is an unfortunate human failing that a full pocketbook often groans more loudly than an empty stomach. ~Franklin Delano Roosevelt

The only reason a great many American families don't own an elephant is that they have never been offered an elephant for a dollar down and easy weekly payments. ~Mad Magazine

"Your money, or your life." We know what to do when a burglar makes this demand of us, but not when God does. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic's Notebook, 1966

A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you don't need it. ~Bob Hope

Money is neither my god nor my devil. It is a form of energy that tends to make us more of who we already are, whether it's greedy or loving. ~Dan Millman

Never spend your money before you have earned it. ~Thomas Jefferson

Advertising is the art of convincing people to spend money they don't have for something they don't need. ~Will Rogers

Find something in life that you love doing. If you make a lot of money, that's a bonus, and if you don't, you still won't hate going to work. ~Jeff Foxworthy

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Great Side Income for College Students

Photo credit: mmagallan
"Broke College Student" isn't just a's usually fact. Sometimes it is due to lack of income. Sometimes it is due to overspending. Always there is need for more money though (either to pay rent or to buy another pizza). Here are some gigs that can get you a little more jingle in your pocket while training for your career.

  1. Tutoring - That's right. It's obvious but such a great option it cannot go by without mentioning it. You can either get paid by the school to do it through them or you can advertise personally and set your own rates (be cautious though and don't find yourself alone with someone you don't know).
  2. Musician - That's right...there are plenty of restaurants and such looking for talented musicians. Just make sure these late nights don't get in the way of your studies so you can one day make more than what that night-time gig will bring in. Nighttime not your thing? I got paid $100/week over 10 years ago to play the organ for a church. It required me to be there 2 hours on Sunday morning and 2 hours on Wednesday night. Yep...$25 an hour to be somewhere I would have been anyway. WIN! You can also get gigs doing weddings and parties as well.
  3. Jailbreaking an iPhone - completely legal and if you know how, you can really make a lot of money at this. If you don't know how to do it, you know there are plenty of tutorials online!
  4. Babysitting - Sure a lot of people consider it a school-girl job, but as a parent, I know it can be quite lucrative. Parents are certain to pay a college student more than a high schooler and you can probably get some work done after the kids are in bed! You can extend this into petsitting and housesitting as well!
  5. Graphic design - If this is your specialty, whip up some website graphics or banners and market them. Something that might take you a short while to create could pay your rent for the month.
  6. Turn your hobby into income - If you love to dance, play piano, play tennis, or any number of other things, you can likely make money teaching other people (or their children) how to do the same. And since you aren't a professional, if you can do it independently, you can reach out to clients by charging less than pros.
  7. Become a mystery shopper - I have done this a few times and it is actually kinda' fun. You get to do a task to check out a business and get fully reimbursed for the entire thing, and usually get a little extra in addition. This way you could not only make money, but get a free meal or two also! Win-win.
  8. Car Washing/Detailing - Great for getting some fresh air and using up some daytime hours that you aren't in class. You could really get this to take off during the spring while everyone is fighting pollen on their cars. If you have an eye for detail you can really make good money this way.
  9. DJing - If you have an iPod full of great music and access to a decent sound system, you could use those two items to really thicken your wallet. Look for parties, weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvah's, birthdays, or even picnics and such for businesses. The good news? You just set up, take any requests you can, and tear down. Otherwise you get to sit and enjoy the music.

Best of luck and remember, don't get too caught up in making side money that you forget why you're paying to be at school in the first place!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Confessions of THIS Working Mom

Photo credit: ks
There is often found some animosity between moms who stay at home with their children full time and others who work outside of the home. Each seems to think the other attacks them...and some actually do. Regardless of which side of the fence you (or your wife) sit on today, know that these confessions are my heartfelt feelings. They are not personal. They may not even be truth. But they are how I feel at this moment in my life.
  1. I always wanted a career. Growing up I probably wanted a career more than children. I excelled academically and felt this was my obvious path.
  2. I entered a male-dominated field because engineering is something that I'm good at. It makes sense to me. If I had to choose a career over again, I would choose this one again a hundred times over.
  3. I realized how much I wanted to have a child when I suspected I was pregnant and miscarrying due to some major trauma in my life. I was heartbroken over the loss of this possible child and knew then that I wanted to be a mom.
  4. Becoming a mom has changed my entire perspective on my life. It gave me new purpose. It gave me new focus. It gave me new goals.
  5. I am the breadwinner of our family. It is due to the fact that I chose a field that allows financial growth when promotions arise. Being pretty good at what I do, I have received promotions and that has allowed a growing paycheck.
  6. I care only about my career at this point in my life because it provides a livelihood for my family.
  7. I THINK I would love to stay at home with the children. I would love to interact with them more frequently on a daily basis. I dream of things I would do with them and ways I would teach them about the world we live in.
  8. I also know that I might not be that great of a stay at home mom. There are plenty of times that I feel I lose my patience too easily, and I would hate to impart that on my children so frequently.
  9. I wish I could give it a try just to see. And I could work on my patience and grow with my children.
  10. I probably will never get that wish.
  11. I hate thinking of all of the class trips I won't be able to chaperone.
  12. I hate all of the bake sales I will miss working because I'll be at work.
  13. I hate thinking of the before school and after school hours my children will have to endure because I have a career.
  14. I hate feeling like I am letting my children down because they will not truly have a "summer break" from school like I did.
  15. I think I would volunteer more often if I stayed at home with my children. It seems like I would be able to do more in the evenings or even once they were both in school that would benefit the greater good. Now my evenings are spent making sure I spend time with them so I am not completely absent from their lives.
  16. I get frustrated when I read about stay at home moms who complain that they have too much housework in addition to their mom duties. I feel like I have to also fill the role of mom in addition to the same amount of housework WHILE juggling a career.
  17. Then I feel guilty knowing that I haven't walked a mile in their shoes.
  18. But then I feel that way again when I read it from another.
  19. I get jealous that my son wants to spend more time with his dad because he's the fun one. I agree...he is the fun one. But I still get jealous.
  20. I love when I come home to two children who light up when I walk in the door. They often run over to hug me and say "Mom!" It also breaks my heart that they have had reason to miss me.

So. There it is laid on the table for all to see.

Like I is not to offend. It is simply how I feel. And I just felt like I needed to release it today.

Thanks for listening.

Is there anything you need to get off of your chest?

Monday, April 4, 2011

10 Bloggers I Would Like to Meet

I have a HUGE list of blogs I read.'s crazy. Thank goodness for a reader service or I would be clicking all day long. I love all of the blogs I subscribe to, but there are some bloggers that I truly would love to meet in person one day. This is a list of those people. It started as a list of 8 for my "Monday 8s" theme, but I just couldn't trim it down any further, so you'll just have to accept this Monday 10 in its place.

  1. Angie Smith from Bring the Rain: This lady is amazing. Such faith. Such inspiration. So real. So honest. So awesome. I'm sure you are already subscribed. If not, do it now.

  2. Joy from When Does Daddy Get Home: Joy has become a personal bloggy friend of mine. I would love to actually meet her in person one day. =)

  3. Jon Acuff from Stuff Christians Like: Jon cracks me up on a regular basis and really moves me at least once a week (on serious Wednesdays). He has a real gift for inspiring through humor as well as through thought-provoking posts.

  4. J Money from Budgest Are Sexy: J has some great insight into the world of personal finance and now with Love Drop fully underway, he has impressed me even more!

  5. Ninja from Punch Debt in the Face: Ninja is so honest and open on his blog it feels like I already know him even though I have no idea what he looks like. He blogs life as he lives it and draws great little stick figures.

  6. Jamie from Jamie the Very Worst Missionary: I love that she is so anti-what I grew up believing a missionary was "supposed" to look/sound/act like. And she is being used by God to do awesome work. And she blogs about it honestly and openly without mincing words. And she moves people, including me. Brilliant.

  7. Dan from Single Dad Laughing: I have just recently been introduced to Dan's blog and am moved by each and every post. This man has a gift. He's a bit long-winded, but never while reading has he lost my interest.

  8. Abraham and Molly Piper from 22 Words and Molly Piper respectively: Okay, I'm cheating on this one, but since they are husband and wife, I thought it might be allowed. Abraham posts the most crazy and amazing things on his post. And often, some really moving ones too. Molly has a gift for sharing the trials and joys of motherhood while showing off their adorable children. Yep...I'm cheating and using them both on this one.

  9. Shaun Groves: Shaun is an awesome musician, amazing writer, outspoken advocate for Compassion International and seems to be a pretty cool husband and dad as well. I think he'd be really interesting to spend some time with.

  10. Courtney from Women Living Well: Courtney's writing snagged me up and wouldn't let me go from the first post I read of hers. I really don't remember how I came across her blog, but I know I've been hooked ever since.

There are tons of others that I would love to meet, but these would make my day.

What about you? Who would you just be thrilled to meet in person?