Teenagers are never easy…well, I’m sure I wasn’t. Talking with your teen about money is absolutely imperative for their future financial success! Please let me know if I can be of any assistance!
Making choices with your money can be both challenging and rewarding. Absolutely I am an advocate for having YOUR financial house in order before you assist someone else. Sometimes the things we do at home reach farther than we realize.
My son, Kaden, is 8 years old. Please check out his video.
He amazes me with his heart for others and his willingness to save some of his Christmas and birthday money to do something like this. He understands that some of every check he gets for holidays needs to go to savings, but then he steps it up and puts some towards a project like this. All of his allowance for the past months has gone towards this project. To date he has saved $248.60…and on top of that, today he raised $41 in the course of 5 minutes! So, counting those $41 in donations, plus what he’s received in the past hour from his GoFundMe account (http://www.gofundme.com/KadenFoodBank), Kaden has raised $309.60!
Yes, we have to balance out our budgets, yes, needs come before wants, yes savings comes before play. Please remember, too, that whether you do something like this, or you donate to your church or United Way or some other non-profit organization, your dollars can have a positive impact on more than just you.
There are all things we need to pay for that we set aside because we can “do without for the time being.” Never sacrifice yourself. Now, I’m not talking about chocolate or cable…as much as it pains me, those are WANTS, not NEEDS.
Taking care of ourselves, mentally, emotionally, physically–those are needs. Don’t put off seeking help from a counselor, nutritionist, doctor, physical therapist, licensed massage therapist if you have a situation you need to have addressed.
Sure, there are lots of things that we can research online–lots of ways to find answers, or at least develop better questions. I love Google as much as the next person. However, please turn to a professional when help is truly needed!
My therapy, my need, my “go-to” to fix all that ails me is a good run or workout (in fact, the idea for this blog post came to me while running this morning! :)). Therefore, money to be spent on sports bras, running pants, good running shoes–those fall into my NEED category. Do these things outrank rent, groceries, utilities, savings, and bills? NO…but they do tend to come before other wants of the family.
This summer I will be paying for a weekly massage as I go back to a paying job for 6 weeks and train at the same time. It means I won’t have as much “fun” money (massage is not ME time, massage is a necessity during training and not one I particularly enjoy because of issues I have with my hips and upper back/neck).
Therapeutic Massage is something I put off when I can’t get to my personal LMT (she’s the only one that can touch me without causing me excruciating pain) and because I don’t value it. Well, that’s kind of like not valuing myself. In my particular case, I can make adjustments to the way I workout–stretch more, use the roller, take Yoga–to help alleviate some of my issues. Sometimes just thinking outside the box will allow us to find the help we need without spending an arm and a leg.
If you need to talk to someone, if you have problems or challenges you are finding you can’t face alone—FIND SOME HELP! The money will come together later. Your health and well-being are more important!
Prioritize your money to pay for those things before you hide away in a good book (those books cost money), take yourself out to eat to cope (calories and money that could likely be spent better elsewhere), or go shopping (believe it or not, shopping addiction is not a joke!)
See what your insurance will cover. See if you qualify for discounted or free services. Find out what your options are so that you can make an informed decision and put yourself FIRST! Some things, like running gear, aren’t covered. That’s a matter of prioritizing. Would your work pay for your gym membership, or can you get a discount because of where you work? Can the membership be payroll deducted so you never miss the money?
The Oreos and Hershey’s bar always get sad when I re-prioritize. They yell, “Yes, but I’m cheap and I’m right here on the shelf!” And yes, they yell loudly. But, when I take those few dollars every month and put them towards new running shoes, or a new sports bra, or whatever other item I’m saving for, the rest of me cheers!
You’re worth more than you know. You really are.
Value yourself enough to get the help you need–financial, emotional, physical, educational, mental–whatever it is, find out what it’s going to cost and put your money, literally, to work for you.
As I was torturing myself (in a good way) through Pilates class this morning, I couldn’t stop thinking “Why am I so tired today? Why can’t payday be tomorrow? Why did two separate debit cards on two separate accounts get declined at the gas station when there is money available in both? Why, even though I’ve lost over 17 total inches in the last 6 weeks, do I still look in the mirror and see a fat girl?”
I started thinking that I can very much liken weight loss to making changes in our financial lives. Money doesn’t grow overnight. Weight loss doesn’t happen in a day. When we make healthy eating choices and exercise, we have to look to the long(er) term–what will my weight be in 2 weeks, how many inches will I lose in 2 weeks? When we make changes in our budgets, we have to understand that even when we decrease our spending in certain areas exactly the way we’d planned, it doesn’t mean we’re going to suddenly have hundreds of dollars left over in the account.
In our family, this month ended the season of Lent. I gave up weighing myself because I was becoming obsessed. I took my measurements at the beginning, halfway through, and then at the end. Total of 17 1/8″ lost. And yet, when I eat something I “shouldn’t” or I have an off day (or two or three) I can’t stop beating myself up about it.
Let me parallel this to money. First, obsession with money leads us to no good. So, we take a measurement of where we are, determine where we want to be, and set a goal to get us there. In weight loss, that’s working out and eating better. In money, that’s decreasing expenses and/or increasing income (more commonly the former). In the month of April, my family made great strides in terms of spending less on groceries and gas (our two biggest “oops” areas). We didn’t transfer as much out of savings to eat out as we have in recent months past. We have more money left in the “gas and grocery” account at this point in the month than we have the last three months. That is AWESOME! However, I keep looking at the other accounts thinking, “Oh me, oh my! This is screwed up, that is screwed up, why don’t I have more money left?!” I’m ahead of the game. (Just like with the inches lost (even after a burger and fries 2x last week and a potluck on Saturday…I’m still at a net loss of weight and inches!!!!)) I have more money left at the end of this month than I did the month before, but I’m still bitchin’ and moanin’ about what I did wrong, rather than focusing on what I did RIGHT.
Here’s the thing–if you focus on what isn’t where you want it to be, you’re never going to make progress going forward. Glass half full or half empty? By in large, I’m a glass half full kind of girl. When it comes to weight loss and money, though, I want to have my cake and eat it too…literally as well as figuratively! 😉
What I NEED to do is look at what was done right and REMEMBER: LIFE HAPPENS EVERY DAY! That means that I don’t need to get upset for money being taken out of the general savings account when I had to buy heartworm medicine for the dog. Money out of checking for Easter eggs, candy and a date with my husband. Life happens. Dogs need preventative medicine, I needed candy…ahem…sorry, the kids had an Easter celebration…we NEEDED some alone time. I have savings set aside (or monies allocated monthly) for just these events…it’s okay to use it. Yet I keep thinking about “Oh, well, if I hadn’t spent this, or hadn’t spent that…” I am tired of second-guessing myself.
What I need to focus on is that I have money in savings for upcoming expenses, I am working to rebuild my emergency savings account, I am putting extra towards paying off the credit card (again)–though this go through a balance should only be there for 3 months or less!! I have a 6 week financial counseling assignment coming up. With those paychecks I can pay off said credit card, put money in the emergency savings, and put money aside for school expenses in the fall. I have a plan. I just have less control–over LIFE–than I’d like.
I have to eat to live. I have to spend money to eat, to keep a roof over our heads, to pay the utilities, and keep clothes on our backs. I need new clothes, but I’ve spent less this month–even after the weight loss–because I know that I have a little farther to go and I can use the money then for the “final” wardrobe. I have to make choices and realize that I need to make the best choice that I can at the time, but I can’t change the past.
Small changes, consistently positive changes, make the difference in the long run. There will be good days, bad days, good weeks, bad weeks, good months, bad months. Creating a savings habit helps us out in those bad, or not so great situations, and allows us to grow individually and as families as we make financial decisions together. I’m going to focus on the small positive changes and focus on making more of those in the next few weeks and watch my balance of happiness…and likely money…increase.
Time flies when you’re having fun…or avoiding your responsibilities…or letting the small stuff become much, much bigger than it has any right to be.
It’s been over a month since my last post. On one hand, I feel like a fool for not posting more, on the other hand I felt burdened by the things that were going on in my life. Well, a “burdened” life isn’t really much of an excuse…what better therapy than blogging? Get it out, get it off my chest…I did that a couple of posts ago and I felt awesome. But, even more than that, I let the small stuff take over.
Getting overwhelmed with life is just like getting overwhelmed by money. The best thing you can do is face the situation every day, stop avoiding it, and make progress. I made some progress, but when I reflect back on the past 30 days I look back with less joy than I should.
I worked out a lot, I was neurotic about food a lot, I studied some, I taught some, I had Spring Break with my kids–but there were so many opportunities to blog about good financial choices, bad financial choices–etc. I avoided facing not only what we did right, but what we did wrong. We overspent on food and gas the latter half of March…more than we’ve done in a long time! That combined with trying to make some healthier life choices I got overwhelmed and let the money, the food, the effort control me, rather than me controlling it.
I hate fighting about money. We had some disagreements in the past 30 days regarding money–I’d rather put money in savings and not have any spending cash, where my husband understands the necessity of savings, but prefers to have the cash in his pocket. Frankly, I understand that because we run all the money through me. I know what the balances are, I know what expenses are coming in the next couple of weeks, and so on. He gets really tired of having to ask for money/the opportunity to do something either as a couple or as a family and hearing “Well, we can’t because of …” It wasn’t ugly, but it wasn’t particularly pretty either.
This month, we’ve made some minor changes to what we’re doing–limiting the amount of money put towards gas on a weekly basis (making us more conscious of what trips we’re taking and how we can be more economical about them), having more discussion about what is and is not working for us financially, and looking at this summer, this fall (as I go back to school for my PhD) and the next couple of years as we plan for school-related travels, his MBA graduation, our drive home at retirement (cross-country), and just being more aware. We have (again) stopped complaining about money and instead have focused on what we can do and how we’re doing it better.
We’re making progress and I’m going to focus on growing myself through this personally as well as professionally, growing my family through this, and growing my marriage. Avoidance never gets us anywhere…and I’m looking forward to being more proactive with my money, my time, my studies, my blogging, and my ability to influence others!
Never give up. If there’s a list of twenty things you want to change financially, change one at a time and celebrate the change that you make. Reflect on the change (in writing, with a trusted friend) and use that to inspire you to make bigger and better financial choices. Be growth conscious (see John C. Maxwell’s Growth Book–The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth) for more information about how to become growth conscious.
If you save even just one more dollar per month than you did the month before…it’s a small step, but it’s at least a step forward. Grow into saving more the next month. If you pay off debt, either roll that payment towards another debt or put it into savings–make sure you have a base Emergency savings account before paying any extra towards debt, but even just a couple of extra dollars towards principal can make a difference in total amount paid in interest, as well as paying the account off early!
Stop Avoiding. Utilize your money–it’s a tool that YOU should control. Start Growing!
I’m scared. More scared, frankly than I’ve been in years. Ouch. It hurts just to write that. But, it’s true, and it’s weighing me down.
The good news is that I was recently accepted into a PhD program at Kansas State University. This has long been a dream of mine, to get my PhD, but until recently, I couldn’t find the program that was the “right fit.” ( My husband, less than 6 months ago found it for me. Damn, I’m lucky to be married to him! :))
I will, hopefully by Spring 2018, achieve my PhD in the field of Personal Financial Planning. I love money. Not and actual love of “Dollars and Cents”…no…but helping people manipulate money to better their situations; helping others figure out how to payoff debt and grow long term savings and wealth. I love asking questions about money and finding answers. I have an INSATIABLE thirst for knowledge…especially knowledge about money and how it helps us, hurts us, works for us, is used by us, uses us, etc.
But, I am SO. DAMN. SCARED.
I’m not scared about the classes, a little anxious, but that’s just because I want to do so well.
I’m not scared about the work. I’m not scared about the tests (at least not yet ;). I’m not even scared about how I’m going to balance school while being a full-time wife, mother, and an “assignment based” Personal Financial Counselor for Reserve and Guard Soldiers. Nope…that’s the easy stuff.
What scares me is paying for it. I financed the majority of my BA and my MA. I have no regrets. My degrees have opened doors for me and I’ve been able to make excellent progress in paying off my student loans over the past ten years. At this time, I’m planning to continue paying my current student loan payment while I’m in school. I don’t mind getting student loans for this program because I know in the long run it’s all going to payoff…and payoff well.
***For the record, I have looked and continue to look, for scholarship opportunities. They are extremely difficult to find for a PhD student in my area of study. I’m not giving up and even if it’s a stretch I’m going to apply, but I have to be realistic.***
I’m not going into academia because of the money. Ha! What a laugh! Sure, I’ll make more with a PhD than I will without, I’ll have some additional options of places to work, I’ll work to publish articles and hopefully a book or two to pad the coffers–but just knowing that the majority of my next few years is going to be financed is scary.
We finance cars for longer than I’ll be in school (5 years car loan, 4 years in school–including dissertation if my math is correct). And, now that I’ve written that out…I start to wonder…bear with me here a second…
My program (tuition, fees, travel (it’s a hybrid program) and books) is going to run me somewhere between $45k-$65k. People buy cars for that amount and pay them off in 5 years or less. Of course, those people make more money than I will right out of school, BUT…yes, BUT…if I continue to pay on my Master’s degree loans while I’m working on my PhD, I understand that I will walk out of there with more student loan debt than I currently have, but I’ll still be within “car range”. Okay, maybe “expensive car” range…but hang on, because I think this is doable.
I will have to focus the majority of my paychecks for the first 3-5 years directly out of school on paying off those loans, but my husband will be gainfully employed and we can live off his income and supplement a little with mine. I don’t plan on accruing any credit card debt while in school, the car we just got will be paid off and while we’ll probably have to replace our 2006 Hyundai before I graduate, that’s just a matter of transferring the payment from one car to another, so we won’t be incurring any more additional debt (from an accounting standpoint, we’ll just be holding on to it a little longer).
Holy cats! I’ve gone through this whole morning worried and frustrated and anxiety ridden, but now I think I’ve found the answer…if I treat my student loans as another car loan and focus on paying it off just like I would a vehicle, I could actually not have to worry about my student loan debt outliving me. I CAN DO THIS!
I can’t make any huge lifestyle changes…no big house with the job after graduation, no new spectacular high-end vehicle with vanity plates, no new BLING (as it were), but I can do this. In fact, while I’m already planning on being one hell of an awesome instructor, this will give me even more **OOMPH** as I teach because not only will I have been there/done that (which is a lot of what I share when I teach basic budgeting, money management, and credit classes now)…but because I’ll be even more effectively balancing repayment of debt and continuing to grow my emergency fund, investing, paying for the assorted odds and ends that come with children who are growing and active, and so much more!
I’m scared…but not of the debt any more…I’m scared of the possibility that the world won’t know what to do with me once I’ve got that hot little PhD! LOOK OUT WORLD, HERE I COME!
**Ah, the wonders of sharing my soul with the blogosphere…I feel as if a weight has been lifted off my shoulders! Thank you, dear reader, for taking the time to share my journey!
“They” say the only certainties in life are death and taxes. Well, in my family I know that everyone is going to have a birthday every year too!
Birthdays tend to sneak up on me. I think about them about 6 months in advance, start generating ideas, thinking about what we’ll do, what we’ll buy, and then I table it all for, oh, 5 more months…sometimes 5 ½!!
Birthdays, like Christmas, come every year. We need to plan, not only for themes and gifts, but we need SAVINGS planning as well. We need to save for those gifts, for the food, the cake, the treat bags…sometimes the location and transportation!
The biggest challenge in my family is sticking to said plan for birthdays!!
My daughter, Slaeda, turned three just over a week ago. We planned to move her from her toddler bed to a twin sized bed and my husband, handy builder-man that he is, offered to build her bed. He built our son’s bed a year or so ago and I thought it was an affordable alternative, and something they could work on together. Um…either he lied to me about the cost of Kaden’s bed or I was living in a fantasy world. LOL
I had a cash budget for her birthday (gifts and party food) of $100. The bed was supposed to be one of her gifts. I was going to do low-key, inexpensive…(for Pete’s sake, she’s was turning three.) Um…yeah…the wood for the bed alone was in excess of $350. I inquired about the cost being so much higher than the time before and he looked at me like I’d lost my mind. I said, “Seriously!? That’s how much it was for Kaden’s bed?” Yup. That’s what I get for focusing more on work than what was going on with my own budget last year.
**A quick side note—Don’t let working full time get in the way of effectively spending and saving your money! It can be VERY time consuming to put all the pieces together, but if you dedicate even just 30 minutes per night to figuring out what you HAVE to have to live on and where you can cut back to save more, you’ll build savings and financial freedom more easily!! It’s EMBARRASSING to know that as a financial professional I screwed up what could have been great savings. Did we save some? Yes. Could we have saved more? Oh my goodness, yes. Did I spend waaaaaay more on things than I should have due to being distracted/miserable with my job? Absolutely. Will I regret it for the rest of my days? No…it’s over and done with. I can’t live in the past, I can only learn from it.**
At any rate, I was working full-time and the money was there, so we spent it. And boy, did we spend it on that bed…and again, apparently, on this bed.
So, there went the birthday gift budget. I did take the $100 (cash) back from him and used it for party supplies, treat bags, and her gifts to be opened on her birthday. I spent about $50 on food, $40 on other presents, and about $50 on decorations (including napkins, plates, party hats, etc.). So, yes, I still went over. Oops…and I just remembered the bubbles I had my husband pick up…so there’s another $15-20 in miscellaneous party bubbles…fortunately, what he bought is still in use.
The struggle I had this year was that I knew I had some cushion, so I used it. I should’ve used CASH and CASH ONLY to pay for everything having to do with the party.
Did we have to have balloons? No. Did I spend $18 on them anyway because it would make my daughter happy, yes. Did I have to provide an actual meal for the party? No. Do I enjoy feeding people, yes. I could’ve done cake and ice cream only and that would’ve been enough. Could I have stuck with the paper plates and paper towels we had on hand rather than buying things specifically for the party? Probably. Okay, yes….
I think many times we get wrapped up in what other people are going to think about what kind of party we’re throwing and we make the celebration about looking good, not about just celebrating the child(ren) who make(s) our lives so much better!! Also, who doesn’t want to throw the best party out there? It’s fun, it makes us feel good, and everyone has a good time. Please, please don’t do this to the detriment of your budget!
Kaden’s birthday is in June. I have to get through Easter and the Easter Bunny—sticking to that budget—and then I can focus on his party. I think this time, I will buy things in May to get started and then it won’t be such a big hit all at once. For that matter, I can probably pick up a few things in April. We have a line item in our budget for Gifts, so instead of putting the money in savings, I can just withdraw it as cash, buy what’s needed and be ready in June with fewer budget mishaps! 😉
Death, taxes, and birthdays…along with a few other key events are the certainties in my life!
I am an AVID ice cream lover. Especially Chocolate ice cream. Ben and Jerry’s carries more than one flavor that gives my tongue much happiness! Those sweet pints are my go to when I’m happy, sad, tired, frustrated…or frankly, just in the mood for chocolate ice cream!!
At $4.50 a pop, those puppies are an EXPENSIVE addiction! And, unfortunately, a budget leak. How often do we buy things that we just throw into the grocery cart without thinking about it? Ice cream isn’t a NEED (sad, but I do have to admit that), it’s a nicety. And, if I shop around, I can find some seriously delicious, yet cheaper ice cream–and in a larger size. Yes, friends you too can find ice cream–creamy, delicious, chocolaty goodness (or many other flavors) in 1.5 qt or half gallon sizes which will meet your need for the cool treat without having it affect your bank account quite as heavily.
Case in point: Two weeks ago I bought a pint of B&J and ate it…maybe in two sittings, maybe in one (my eating habits are not the subject of this blog, so moving on… ;)) and then two or three days later, my husband stopped at the grocery store to get some more milk and bought me another pint. (I love that man!) Three days after that we were doing our weekly grocery shopping and we went to peruse the frozen dessert aisle. DING DING DING…WAKE UP CALL!!
Now, when I shop for ice cream WITH A PURPOSE, I always look for the best deal–something that will last more than a sitting or two in my family of four. When I shop without thinking, holy cats, that money LEAKS right out of my wallet. At $4.50/pint, we had spent $9 in ice cream that may have lasted all of 3 sittings. Mayfield (Georgia and Tennessee made) offers a 1.5 qt product that lasts about 8 sittings and costs less than $4.50 for one container!!
We all have budget leaks. These budget leaks change as our lifestyles change, as our tastes change, as our families change.
Families with two working parents tend to eat out and leak money through the convenience factor. Frankly, I understand, because who wants to work 8-10 hours a day, come home and cook on top of helping the kids with homework!?
When I was working for a non-profit organization last year here in the Augusta, GA area, our son ate school lunch at least 2x/week ($2.50/day) and I ate out at least 3x/week ($8/day). When I stop to calculate ($116/month) over the course of the months that he was in school, I was eating out, that’s around $1500 in one year. I cringe when I think about the fact I could have packed lunches those days for my son for about $1/day (no joke) and for myself for about $2/day and saved, or spent elsewhere, the difference.
My husband used to be a huge fan of soda vending machines. Hey, you can use your debit card, so let’s do it, right? WRONG! $1.25 for a bottle of soda is just not okay. Starbucks is right there on post–let’s drink up, right?
Convenience is a WONDERFUL thing. I just hate to pay for it.
Cooking on the weekends for the week ahead can use up a large portion of our family downtime. Occasionally it’s okay, but it’s not my first choice for every weekend.
If you want options for easy meals that can cook while you’re at work or on the go, check out the links here. There are so many options available to feed your family, regardless of picky eaters, and you have less to worry about when you get home from work. Yes, it requires the purchase of a crockpot–but if you don’t want to buy one, next time someone asks you what you want for a gift, put that on your list. (Practical gifts are a money saver and very thoughtful!!)
Also, menu planning is KEY. Get the family involved! There is nothing worse than planning a great menu only to hear everyone else in the family say, “Oh, I don’t want that!” Plan the menu EVERY WEEK. Plan the menu AS A FAMILY. Shop WEEKLY for your groceries. With these three steps you’ll cut your grocery bill because you’re only shopping for that week. Everyone will have a say, so there (should be) less complaining because they had some input. Weekly planning gives you the opportunity to mix things up and yet hit on everyone’s favorites in a timely manner.
Also, remember to utilize your leftovers. While we rarely have taco meat leftover, if we do, the next night is typically spaghetti night. I just dump the taco meat in the sauce which enhances the flavor…always a hit. We serve French bread with our pasta–if any is left, we use it for French bread sandwiches the next day.
Finally, remember that changes in the eating arena aren’t always the easiest to make. Start small. If you normally eat out 5 times/week, try for only four. If you have a crock pot, but have never used it, break that puppy out and use some of the recipes at the link above. If you have the time to cook ahead, try putting together an easy lasagna or a chicken and rice casserole that just needs to be popped in the oven when you get home.
When water drips from a faucet, those drops add up to a cupful one drop at a time. Those budget leaks (whether a penny each or more) add up very quickly to significant money. Cut off your leaks and use your money more effectively…one penny, nickel, dime…or pint…at a time!