Being {Financially} Different

It’s not easy to be different. We learn that in the awkward middle school and high school years. Most people don’t have a goal of standing out because they are different. As an adult, I never really thought about being different or fitting in. I guess that means I’m fortunate to have found people who I had connections with – in college, in my career, and as a parent.

Seven years ago, we decided to be different and took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University course. We learned that it’s ok to be weird with your finances and we wanted to be different. We made decisions about our future and our financial goals. We’ve been faced with a few tough decisions over the years, where peer pressure felt pretty strong. Admittedly, it’s a struggle in the beginning with wants over needs versus long-term goals. Our long-term goals have us living a future life that we get really excited about. It can be really hard to pass up a fun opportunity now for a future that you can’t quite touch. But, after some time to really think about it we both come to the same conclusion…most temporary things aren’t worth the financial setbacks when we think about our long-time goals. Sticking to a budget and our financial “morales” of not spending cash that we don’t have will always be the right thing for our family. If we really “need” it, we can save up for it.

One of the things I’m most proud of is our focus. We haven’t gotten distracted by exciting new things. We may not always create a monthly budget and we may have months we spend more than we realize, but our focus doesn’t change. We have multiple savings accounts with automatic monthly transfers to ensure we continue to fund our dreams. From 401K to college for the boys to car fund to holidays/gifts and even a basement fund. {Another thing I’m REALLY proud of. Paying outright to finish our basement. The majority of it has been done by my husband, but the things he has hired out came from our basement fund!} We both have wants and it can be a bummer when we “can’t” buy them, but after a few days of wanting you realize that you don’t actually need it. We have a house full of stuff that I’m constantly putting away, sorting, organizing, and cleaning. We aren’t deprived of anything.

The latest fashion or car isn’t something we needYes, we have our wants for a giant SUV vehicle. We’ve wanted it for more than five years {and maybe I’ve wanted it for most of my life}, but we don’t need it. Right now, a minivan {also not in my original life plan} works perfectly for our family. One of my children has spent the past year crashing his door into my van every time he gets in or out of Bryan’s car. Both of our vehicles are used and we’ve had them for more than 5 years. If they were new, we’d both be sick about it. But instead, it’s part of living with small, reckless children. And also proof of why one of our vehicles doesn’t have doors they can open…We’ll get our dream vehicle one day, when everyone in our house can appreciate and respect the vehicle. But also after we’ve saved for the vehicle. Because those are the things that are important to us. Living a life that’s a little different and maybe not as fun now so we can truly live a life we deserve later.

You won’t always find yourself surrounded by people who share the same opinions. The beauty of life is that everyone gets to make their own decisions and live the life they want. I do hope you are surrounded by people who respect you and your “weird” life choices. You can swap out “finances” with anything – type of school, health beliefs, fitness, food, clothing, anything. It’s important to surround yourself with people who are supportive of your dreams and lifestyle – no matter how weird they are.

Do you have any lifestyle preferences that make you different from your friends? Or do you surround yourself with like-minded people? 

Creating a Will and Power of Attorney

For some unknown reason {life being crazy}, I wrote this post in the beginning of 2014 and never posted it. I suppose it’s fitting since we talking about doing it for two years and it took me a year to post it…

After two years of talking about it, we finally signed our Will and Power of Attorney. We went to our lawyer to do our Will and Power of Attorney documents. We decided to go to him even though there are plenty of forms online. It’s an uncomfortable conversation and thing to do, so we decided to work with a professional to ensure we did everything the right way and we thought everything through.

Steps in getting your Will done:
First, we had a face-to-face meeting to have our lawyer go over the standard Will and Power of Attorney. We answered his questions and made decisions so he could draft up the documents.

    • Who will have custody of the children? Who has financial responsibility (if it’s not the same person)? What happens to the money – does it go into a trust? At what age do children get their share of money? How do you split up shares of money between children?
  1. Before he drafted the documents, we each had conversations with individuals who we wanted to be on the Will or Power of Attorney. (We each have our own Power of Attorney that falls back onto our respective parents if the spouse is not able to act as Power of Attorney.)
  2. Review the documents for questions or changes.
  3. Go into the office and sign them in front of a witness.
  4. Purchase a safety deposit box.
  5. Put the Will in the safety deposit box.
  6. Put the Power of Attorney documents in our Legacy notebook. (Step 6b. Create a Legacy notebook.)*

We’re still working on items five and six. We may need to set a goal for ourselves given our history between steps three and four. 🙂

*What’s a Legacy notebook? It’s a central location for all the important stuff. For example, we have legacy folders for each of our children. This includes doctor phone numbers, medical records, etc. What we haven’t done yet is create a legacy folder for our family. Essentially, this is all the information that someone will need if something were to happen to the spouse who handles all of the finances and mortgage, etc., or if something happens to both of us. These folders should help others run our house and family. Something we didn’t know before, the Power of Attorney document goes in our home, where someone can access it quickly and easily. In a critical situation, you don’t want someone to wait for bank hours to get into a safety deposit box.

What’s next?

After we put all of our documents in their designated safe places, we need to update our electronic records. We need to update our human resource files to reflect the secondary beneficiary. We will update it to be the trust name. So, the primary is our spouse and secondary is our trust. Because we have the trust set up, it will ensure that money is handled in the manner we decided. We also need to update our life insurance policy for a secondary beneficiary and also our IRA profiles. Essentially, we need to update everything to reflect the trust as a secondary beneficiary so everything points to the Will as the dictating piece. Instead of each system reflecting something different. I assume this information can be found online, but this has proven to be one of the biggest reasons why choosing a professional was the right thing for us. We’re in unknown waters now and don’t know how everything works for (or against) each other.

It was hard reading that first draft of our Will and Power of Attorney. No one wants to think about the unexpected turns life can take, but I feel a huge sense of relief knowing that there’s a plan. If the unexpected does happen, I can live every day until then knowing what will happen with my children and family. It’s not a fun thing to consider, but it is so very important.

My final note: I am in no way an expert (and obviously not a professional!) on this matter. This is my experience as I understand it based on our situation. If anything, hopefully it brings up some questions about how or what you need to consider. And gives you enough information to seek out a professional. I know it’s easy to do things with the Internet, but it’s not always the best way to handle legal matters. Pay a professional to know their job and to take care of you!

5 Reasons Why Falling off the Budget Wagon Sucks

It’s no secret that Dave Ramsey lives in my house. Even if we don’t have a budget set for the month, he’s still in these four walls. Here’s the thing about not having a monthly budget, he’s here in a not fun way. I know it’s a reflection of his principles and our belief in them that causes the guilt, but man, the guilt. I’m too afraid to look back to the last month that we actually made a budget, but I’m pretty sure it’s been a good six months. Here’s the thing, some months (most?) it worked in our favor. Meaning, we didn’t spend more than we would have wanted to. That doesn’t mean we don’t still feel guilty.

  1. Guilt. Even when you don’t spend too much money, you still feel guilty that you spent any because it wasn’t accounted for and tracked. I think, for the most part, when we don’t create a budget we get in each other’s heads and go into extreme savings mode. We assume that since we aren’t tracking the money, then we don’t have it to spend. Which in turn makes more guilt when you do spend money. Money that you probably have to spend. But, you don’t know that because you didn’t create a monthly budget. You see where I’m going with this?! When you live like no one else, you can’t turn it on and off. You have to commit and be diligent.
  2. Miss goals. We’ve missed some family & financial goals over the past few months. The irony is that it’s not because we spent the money. It’s because we weren’t focused on our monies or goals. We could have started projects sooner, but we were in this self-inflicted feeling of not having any money. We didn’t realize that our savings had reached the point of moving forward with the project. When we got antsy to move on projects, then we had to spend extra time going over every dollar and figuring out if we really could start. Just because we saw the money, didn’t mean we hadn’t missed something else over the past few months. It wasn’t a complete setback, but it still took a lot of time and mental willingness to move forward.
  3. Inaccurate spend. There have been a few changes to our normally line items over the past few months. For instance, we’ve spent the past six weeks carpooling and are driving a shorter distance. We have absolutely no idea what our gasoline budget is for the month. One, because we aren’t sure what an accurate amount was when we stopped budgeting. And, we didn’t do a budget last month so we have to do some research on spend last month to predict this month. Again, time wasted. Another item is our grocery spend. We’ve been buying most of our groceries out of the organic section and with it being summer we’re going through a lot more fruit. This is another item that has been ongoing for quite a while and we don’t know where it’s at. Each monthly budget is based on the past month and then things coming up this month. We can’t accurately plan without knowing how these line items have shifted. More time wasted.
  4. Failed savings. We said this winter that we needed to start Quinten’s college savings fund. It’s July and we haven’t done it yet. Nor have we investigated to see if we’re doing the same thing as we do for Maximus. It’s one of those unchecked items that continues to linger in the background. Adding to the guilt in item one. We rarely move money from one savings account to something else, so even though we’ve been saving money that could be for his college, we haven’t been. We work under the philosophy that the accounts stay as they are and money doesn’t getting taken out of them. If we want something new, we add it to the goal list and save up for it. Or, we look at our monthly spend and add it to the current or next month. {This philosophy is probably what makes us end those non-budgeted months with more in savings than we thought!}

As you can see, we’re spending July getting back on track. We’ve put our Excel budget spreadsheet on hold and are testing out a new budget app that we put our monthly budget into and then track our spend. So far we like it. It helps us see what we have left to spend on each line item and I enjoy seeing the pie charts of categories. July is always a tough month because of summer life and Maximus’ birthday. We know it’s coming, but that unexpected extra spend always gets us. Like, how much should we really spend?? We’re 4 1/2 years into this financial journey and we still have a hard time staying focused. I can tell this is going to be a lifelong journey!

What are your tricks to staying focused on your budget?

How Much is Too Much at Christmas?

I’m intrigued by how much other people spend on their kids for Christmas. Admittedly, I LOVED getting presents as a child. Loved it! One year I got a Sega Genesis gaming syste. I remember that year so well. And all the time I spent playing games. I only had a couple of games, but it was money well spent for my parents. Other than that special year, I didn’t get huge elaborate gifts. I felt that I was never lacking in things but I had quite a few friends who got much more expensive, bigger gifts than I did. Still, I loved the holidays.

It’s weird to become an adult and enter the stage where you don’t really get presents. Grandchildren’s names replace your’s on the gifts. You watch the excitement in their eyes as they open boxes with new toys, books, and clothes. They need to play with each gift now. Bryan and I each have two siblings, so the boys get plenty of presents for their birthday and Christmas. Because of this, we’ve never really gotten too much. We’ve taken the low-key route, they get a small toy for their birthday. It joins the sea of bright colors that litter my living room floor each day.

Last year we decided that we’d had too many years of Christmas money pain. Before Dave Ramsey came into our lives, we basically took all of our extra money in November and December and put it to presents. We have six nephews, one niece, two kids, each other, and parents. That’s a lot of money! We don’t go over the top on anyone because there are too many factors – price limit, type of gift consistencies, and number of gift consistencies. Last year we decided to start a Christmas savings plan. This is by no means a new idea, I’m sure some of you already do this. For us, it was The Best Idea Ever! An automatic transfer each month kept us from stressing about holiday spend. We just had to decide what to buy everyone! We’re making a few adjustments for next year to give us a little more money in the pot, but all-in-all it was a total holiday lifesaver!

As Christmas approached, I started to feel guilty about the number and quality of presents that the boy’s were getting. I heard and read bits and pieces from others and felt like we weren’t “providing” enough for our children. They each got two presents from us and a shared present from Santa. Both got clothes items that they needed, a book, and then an activity cube. When I bought everything I was proud of my plan. I was getting them something they needed, something to read, and something fun. Bryan talked me off the ledge and reminded me that it’s not about the number of gifts. Especially at this age. Yes, Maximus did proclaim that the biggest presents were for him and my dad, but it was nothing more than a statement. He was a little aggressive with opening Quinten’s presents, but he didn’t complain once about not having any more presents. And he never once asked for different presents.

I look around my living room and see six toys sitting on the floor. All but one are new toys. Behind my couch sits a bookcase with six baskets of toys and more toys litter the floor. EveryMost nights, I walk around the house and pick up toys. My children aren’t in need. They are too young to be in want. I’m in a constant battle of trying to organize and pick up all of their stuff, why add to the chaos by doubling the number of things in my house?

For a few minutes, I let my mind get carried away and I thought they needed to be overwhelmed with presents under the tree on Christmas morning. I know the needs will get more expensive as they get older and the reads will become less. I hope along the way we can instill a sense of satisfaction and thankfulness while also making them feel spoiled. I think we’re reaching a turning point and it feels pretty major. How do you provide for your children and shower them in gifts while making sure they don’t act like spoiled brats?

Buying a new vehicle…WITH CASH!

I’ve been writing about finances for a couple of years now. We’re pro cash and budgeting and against credit cards and loans. Basically. Yes, we have a mortgage payment. Yes, we have a credit card. No, we don’t use our credit card. No, we don’t normally use physical cash. *Yes, this applies to my family and I don’t care how your family handles finances. 🙂

In June, we made the biggest cash purchase we’ve ever made. We had our sights set on a new vehicle. Bryan’s car had entered its last leg earlier in the year but we forged through and continued to drive it. Bless Bryan’s hot, sweaty heart because the AC had broken last year and daycare pick up was less than enjoyable when the car had been baking all day. As he loves to do, my husband did a lot of research to determine which car would work for our situation. Last year we decided that we were replacing the car with a car because we already have a Nissan Pathfinder and that’s our “big” car. He narrowed it down to three cars that would fit a convertible forward-facing seat and an infant seat. We test drove one of each and decided any of them would do. Then we got serious about finding one in our range with the right kind of miles and minimal wear. Did I forget to mention, we were looking for used. We went on countless road trips. Filling the Pathfinder with two boys and all their junk. Driving cars and eating lunch around Quinten’s schedule. It was less than enjoyable, but we were doing it. Except we weren’t finding anything that met our criteria. (Read: maybe we’re a little too picky. It did take four years to buy living room furniture. :))

And then we bought a Chrysler Town & Country. We bought a mini van. One day we realized that we needed to make the smartest decision for our family and that wasn’t a four-door car. We needed something that allowed more space than the Pathfinder. We needed something that had storage space after the babies were tucked away in their seats. We wanted something that was big enough that Maximus couldn’t kick the driver seat when he got bored or angry. Bonuses were the automatic doors and DVD player. The Pathfinder has a DVD player, but we’ve only used it a few times. The T&C won’t get much DVD action either, but it’s nice to have the option if we’re in the middle of nap time and the car is a little whiny. Another major bonus is how comfortable it is! Bryan always comments on how nice the seats are. We keep reminding ourselves that it was built for us. It was built for a family and that’s why we love it so much. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the Pathfinder. It just isn’t as easy to use right now. This is a crazy phase of our life. We don’t ever leave the house without a lot of stuff. The T&C helps us feel a little more put together and a little less frazzled. We’ve got cup holders for everyone, floor space for all the bags, leg room for everyone, and window shades for the little guys!


Look at all that space between us!

Saving hasn’t always been easy, but it wasn’t that hard either. Instead of saving up the equivalent to a monthly car payment, we saved up dependent care and tax return money for a couple of years. What made that hard was wanting to spend that big chunk on something else. We knew the waiting would pay off and we were right. It was an amazing high to test drive a car, write a check, and drive it home! They didn’t waste any time cashing our check, but that was fine by us. That made it FINAL.

What’s next you ask? Well, my husband is a planner. So, we’ve got a little more to save to pad our car repair fund. That means when we decide to put new tires on both vehicles, we’ll already have the money. I’ve said it before, budgeting and saving has been a marriage saver for us. Our house would be a stressful place if we spent time worrying about money when there is an ornery baby to watch and a whiny toddler to entertain. We need all the help we can get to lighten the stress in our home. Budgeting and paying with cash does that for us!


Lots of friends fit in one vehicle!

If you knew me at any other point in my life, I was not a mini van person. Not even close. The furthest from it. It turns out that you have to make sacrifices when you’re a parent. Saving up money for a giant SUV wasn’t realistic. We want to use that money on other things, like finishing our basement. Our family priorities are different from my materialistic wants. Maybe someday I’ll get that giant SUV, but it’ll be when my children can buckle themselves into their own seats. 🙂

*Disclaimer: I don’t judge you if you use credit cards or loans. I’m here to tell you there are other options if you want them. It works for our family, but it might not work for yours.

Crossing another goal off the list

When I was pregnant with Quinten, I added “double stroller” to the goals list. Around that time we decided to add a column to the list so we knew when we wanted to buy something. We have a lot of desires on our goal list, but not all of them are immediate things. Since we wouldn’t need the stroller when Quinten was born in December, we designated “spring” the time to buy it. Well, spring came and I was content wearing him in my Ergo carrier. It wasn’t until mid- to the end of June that it started getting really hot, making it not fun to wear a 20-pound baby. I looked around for deals on what we thought we were going to get. I couldn’t find anything so I put it off for a bit longer.

Our criteria was the following:
* Jogging stroller
* Easy to fold up
* Storage underneath
* Handles the weight of two toddlers (because there’s a 6-pound swing between them)
* Save as much money as possible
* Good reviews

We wanted a jogging stroller because we go on a lot of walks. (I just got an idea to track the miles we do each year!) Our Chico stroller has held up just fine, but we wanted something that was a little more durable and made for bumps. Time will tell if we put the running aspect to use, but it might be kind of fun to go running as a family. As long as Bryan pushes the stroller, I might have a chance of keeping up!


Sounds pretty easy, right? Except I couldn’t get past the $400 strollers. It seemed that everything under that price was some random brand or the reviews weren’t positive. One day I was cruising through Instagram and I saw my friend, Allison from Omyfamily, had posted a picture of a double jogging stroller. I asked her what it was and was delighted to hear that the Schwinn Arrow double jogging stroller was HALF the price that we had in our budget!


The next step is always getting buy-in from your spouse. Bryan worried that Maximus was getting too old to be in a stroller. I confessed that I had no desire to go on family walks if he wasn’t IN the stroller. (We go on 45-60 minute walks with lots of hills.) We decided that his only option was to sit in the stroller so, yes, it would be worth it to buy one. Next, I wanted his opinion. I know it took a lot for him to do this, but he waived all decision-making powers and told me to buy the one I wanted. I had a personal review of it (and someone who lives in a very similar environment) and it was half the price. I did some searching and found that I could buy it from Wal.Mart and have it shipped to the store for free. It arrived four days later!


We put it together, with the help of Maximus, in about 20 minutes. It was very simple to do and everything worked, despite worrying that things would have been damaged in shipping. One of the things I had originally wanted was a front wheel that swiveled. I decided it wasn’t that important and I would rather save money and get a stationary one. We went on a quick walk around the development and Bryan made me push the boys. He said I was the one who wanted it so I had to learn to use it. Kind of sounds like he wasn’t completely sold on the idea, huh? The stroller is so easy to push, it feels light and smooth. Since the front wheel doesn’t move, it is rather tricky to turn. I was awkwardly picking up the front wheel to turn even the slightest direction. Maximus sat up, grabbed on to Quinten’s leg (for his own safety, not to protect his brother), and said, “woah, mommy! don’t drop us!” I assured him that he was fine, but then I told Bryan that maybe the swivel wheel was a better idea. 🙂 And then I reminded myself that I better continue with my arm routine so I can bulk up and handle the turning…


Bryan went on a couple walks this past weekend. You know, while I was at the New Kids on the Block concert! By the end of the weekend he had figured out how to manuver without dramatically lifting the front of the stroller. He gave me tips and tricks and I tried it on a long walk. I even tested it out and ran a little bit, too! He had nothing but good things to say about having the stroller during his solo parenting weekend! We’re both glad we got it and it’s given us the motivation to get back out there. Pushing two strollers and walking a dog was getting too complicated. Any time we can simplify our life, we’re all happy!


Cutting Cable

Last month we bit the bullet. We got rid of cable. WE GOT RID OF CABLE! Ahhhh! That’s a sigh of relief, not a sigh of panic.

When we moved into our house five years ago, we didn’t get cable. In the beginning it was because we couldn’t get anyone to come out and give it to us. They claimed we didn’t have enough houses in our development. About a year later they came door-to-door and tried to give us a good deal. We declined. It was the only way we had a leg up. If they didn’t want our money, well then we weren’t going to give it to them a year later. So we lived almost three full years without cable. We had an antenna that got the basic channels so I was happy enough watching prime time television. Bryan on the other hand, was missing the History Channel and Discovery Channel. Like, bad. Around the time we got our dish, DVR was becoming popular. Remember, we had zero television payment before getting a dish. So, we got one DVR for the living room and a couple of receivers for other rooms in the house (our bedroom being one of them). We couldn’t justify doing any more DVRs in the house, even though it sounded awesome to have one in the bedroom.

And then we fell in love with the DVR. Like, bad. It was amazing. It was everything we didn’t know a tv could be! In the beginning we had all.the. movie channels so we took full advantage of lazy weekends. Also, we had nothing else to do after going out the night before. (Heh, pre-kids life was so rough.) We recorded series and watched them together when we had time. After we had kids, it became our dates. After the house was quiet, we turned off all the lights and watched an episode or two. It was relaxing. (Or, is.)

Over the past year we struggled a lot with how expensive it was. It was painful to look at that line item each month. On the one hand, Maximus could have access to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse whenever he wanted. (Of course we run the remote.) And, we had our precious DVR. I can’t forget Bryan’s “special” channels either. But, were any of those things worth one hundred dollars a month? (Full disclosure: I can’t actually remember how much it cost. I feel like at the end we had cut back plans enough that we were hovering under one hundred when you added in tax.) Finally one night I said, “cancel the cable.” I’m like that. Out of the blue I commit and want it done. Now. Bryan would prefer to think things through and make sure we make the right decision. I’d rather see results. Either way, we decided to buy Apple TV. So, we budgeted for the box that month and put in our regular cable amount, too. (Because we assumed we wouldn’t get that good of a prorate when we cancelled. And we didn’t.) A bonus when we bought Apple TV, we bought a returned unit so we saved $10!

You know when your university alumni association calls and asks for donations? You have to say no to them 8-10 times before they can accept the answer. No, seriously that’s how our university works. Well, Bryan had to go through numerous employees, supervisors, and managers before he could cancel the darn thing. And! He had to wait 24 hours before he could really cancel. Because he’d have cancel remorse or something?! What the heck! So eventually he was able to cancel and they sent us a box to put the receivers in. We sent them off and thought we were done with them. We got a check for $3 because canceling at the beginning of the month only saves you $3, obviously. Bryan has received a phone call from them almost every week day since we cancelled. They want us back. For a cheap price. They also want to know if we’ve returned the receivers, which we did as soon as the box arrived. It doesn’t feel like our relationship is over quite yet, but we’d really like it to be!

Sorry, DirectTV. We started a new relationship with HuluPlus and networks online and we’re doing just fine now. And it’s ok that we don’t have the Disney channel, we pull up old school Mickey Mouse on YouTube. This also means we don’t want to poke our eyes out, instead we remember the good ol’ days when cartoons were a little “rougher.” We pay $8 a month for a HuluPlus subscription and we do a happy dance about the rest of that money going into savings!

We have a pretty fluid budgeting process and we’re in the repetition phase of it, but that doesn’t mean we stop looking for ways to save money. I’d love to hear from my readers! What have you done lately to cut out a monthly cost?

Note: We haven’t been reimbursed by any of the above companies. We’re just looking for the best way to still get tv without paying cable prices. 🙂