Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What a year!

We found our 4 leaf clover!

I am so happy this year is coming to a close, not because it was bad, but because it was one of the best ever. We faced many trials, but we worked hard and I believe came out better for it in the end.

In the beginning of 2013, I had the goal to become a stay at home mom. But it looked like it would never happen. Hubby was out of work and I was busting my but to make ends meet. He would get a job, lose a job. He tried his best, but the healthcare industry was in a shambles due to the uncertainty of everything.

The end of 2013, found hubby out of work, but at least on unemployment. We barely made ends meet and had to rely on the generosity of family to keep a roof over our heads.

2014 started and I was a mess. I was working twice as much as normal in order to keep us afloat. I was never home and didn't see my family. When I was home, I would collapse in a heap in bed. It was HORRIBLE!!!! Then in February Hubby found a job. It was a good paying job. I was proud of him for finding a place to work that liked him and that he liked in return.

There was a problem though. We had to pay for two kids in daycare. It ate half of what he made every week. We were actually better off financially, with him at home on unemployment. But that is not how life should be. It shouldn't be so hard. If you are willing to work hard, you should be able to make it work. RIGHT?

After two long months of me working even more hours (to make up for daycare), and Hubby working full time, the house fell apart. Bills weren't getting paid, not because we didn't have money, but because no one was home to pay them. I know, sorry excuse, but when you are so overwhelmed it is difficult to even function. We knew something had to give. We knew we had to take a risk.

I had wanted to become a stay at home mom all those years ago. I ran the numbers a million times. We decided to take a risk. I had to lay all my trust in my husband. If you know me on a personal level, you know that me trusting someone, relying on someone so whole-heartedly, is very very hard. I took the biggest risk of my entire life. I gave notice at a job where I was respected. A job that fed my family for years. That gave me so many opportunities. I gave myself over to my husband.

On May 1st (only 5 months later than I had originally set my goal for), I left work and became a home-maker, a stay at home mom, a much happier person. But that was only the beginning.

Hubby had a great job, but wanted and needed a fantastic job. He kept looking for that dream job. One that wouldn't just get us by, but one that would allow us to do the things that were important to us. We wanted to be able to LIVE. To move into a house. To have fun. To save money for the future. Only a few short months after I left my job, Hubby found his dream job. It was a miracle to us, but in reality it was a result of hard work and dedication.

We had no idea that we would go from a family that was barely able to eat and pay the bills. Using the food pantry and wearing clothes and shoes with holes in them: to a family who can now donate and help others. We are current on bills. We were even able to get a "new to us" mini-van.

I foresee 2015 being a year where we continue to take what we have learned and grow even more. I am so grateful for my husband working so hard to provide for us. I am so grateful that I get to see my girls grow up and be a part of who they will become. This has turned out to be the year that I never thought was possible. Next year will be even better!

I wish you all a wonderful new year. Take risks, believe in yourself. Sometimes you will be amazed at the miracles that happen.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Envelope System

This past year I have started the envelope system (see Dave Ramsey's site), a dozen times. There is one problem that I found. When you are broker than broke, you don't have any money to put in the envelopes. You are struggling just to get food on the table and the bills paid. I didn't realize that step number one, was to get current. I do not know why that fact escaped me, but it did. Once it finally did, I didn't panic over not doing "Dave Ramsey" the way that he intended. I got current. I created a budget and now I am at a place where I can do the envelope system.

What is it? Basically, you create a budget and live on a cash system. You create envelopes for each of your line items, food, gas, clothing, vacation, etc. They are not really meant for things like the mortgage, utilities and such.

Here is what I did to create my envelope system, that I will be using in 2015.

1. Sit down and think of the things you need money for. You are creating "sinking funds" or as my Grandma called them "kitties", for each of those items. This year we need to go on a vacation of sorts, to have a memorial service for my Grandma. We are also moving into a house. We need to upgrade my husband's car. We want to start saving for Christmas NOW. You might want or need new furniture. This is a great place to save for those things.

2. For each of those items I created an envelope. Then I thought about how much I needed for each of those items. I know that I need $1500 to cover my out of pocket expenses for my medical deductible. I took that amount and divided it by how many paychecks I will have this year. That amount will then be what I have to put in the envelope each pay period (in cash). I went ahead and did this for all the items I created.

3. Look at your monthly budget and see if what you are putting in each of the envelopes, each pay period is do-able within your current budget (after paying for household and transportation expenses). If you do not have enough in your "discretionary" income to cover all the envelopes, you need to play with the numbers to make it work. Maybe you cannot go on vacation this year. Maybe you put half of the amount away and combine it with next years, to have a nice vacation. Maybe an envelope needs to be eliminated?

4. Make sure you have an envelope for fun. Just because you are living on a budget, does not mean you have to live like a hermit. It might mean you can only go to one movie every other month. Maybe you find free things to do. Take a few dollars and spend them on yourself. Depriving yourself completely is a sure fire way to burn out on this whole process. The key is to find balance.

5. Buy a safe. Get a safety deposit box, what ever you do, keep them separate from your bank account. Keep the money protected. Do not walk around with a wallet full of cash. It is asking for trouble. The one reason why I do not open different savings accounts for these items, or even just have one big savings account, is I want the items to be for something. I want to know that a certain bundle is to take a vacation. I do not want to mingle the money, because you have to give your money a purpose. Again, look into Dave Ramsey's theories on this. I know that if I have money in savings and I am out and about and I see something I want, I am tempted to move that money from my savings account into my checking to buy that item. If I have the money at home, I have to go home and get it. It forces me to rethink my desire. I almost always decide the item is not worth it.

6. Be flexible. If you find a certain envelope isn't working for you, do not be afraid to change things. But no matter what, do not use one envelopes contents to pay for another's. If you steal from the vacation fund to buy a pair of jeans when your clothing fund is empty, you are not allowing the envelopes to work for you.

7. I do not create an envelope for groceries or gas. I pay for gas using my debit card and I usually keep my grocery money in my wallet right when I take it out of the bank. I have a separate place in my wallet to put my "blow" money for the week, so I can keep it separate from my grocery money. If you feel you need a grocery envelope, that is what you should do.

That is pretty much the envelope system in a nutshell. I hope you take the time to look into Dave Ramsey's website on the subject. Feel free to ask me questions. Good luck in using your envelope system this year. I hope it helps you to reach your goals, to have some fun and stay within your means.

What have I been up to????

Phew, it was a busy month of December. I took most of the month off from blogging and just focused on my family. I wanted this December to be different from December's of the past. In the past we have struggled to keep food on the table, give gifts and in general keep afloat. We have always gone into the new year hoping and praying we would get a tax refund to catch up on it all.

This year was different. Taking all of the principles that we have learned this year, we planned ahead. I decided to make a lot of the Christmas gifts for my family. I learned a few new crochet patterns and set out to make hats, scarves, slippers. I had the girls make ornaments to give as gifts. I also made cookies and banana bread. I cannot tell you how fun and rewarding it was. Granted, if I took my hourly rate before I became a home-maker, and put it toward the hours it took to make the gifts, it would have cost me $800. In reality it cost me under $25 for all of the materials (some of which I already had on hand).

I also set a strict budget for the girls presents and for my husband. For the girls I spent under $125 each. Yes, that may seem like a lot. But in years past I would spend way more. I did my research and found the best deals. I got them a few smaller gifts and one big gift. I tell you, this was the best year for them. They don't have any wasted gifts that sit in a corner. The ones that they got, they are using. I call that a success.

Hubby and I had a $50 budget to spend on each other. This included stocking stuffers. Sure there are things we would have loved. I would love to have gotten a Kitchen-aid mixer, or a vlogging camera. But when I thought about it, I wanted to save for our future even more. I set out to find some really good deals on things that Hubby wanted. He wanted Marvel themed shirts and little odds and ends. I got him things like razors, and other diddy's for his stocking. He got me a DVD that I have been wanting, some candy and a manicure set.

The girls each got $20 to buy us a gift. The girls went in together and got me a foot spa I have been coveting. They got Daddy some pajama pants and a Marvel themed coffee mug.

All in all it was a fantastic Christmas. We got to spend time together. We didn't sacrifice on paying the bills. I was so overwhelmed with it being such a wonderful and basically stress free Christmas, I didn't know what to do with myself. I mean really, Christmas Eve I sat in the closet crying after I put the stuff out from Santa. I was crying because I was happy. Crying because it was finally a Christmas like it is supposed to be. I know, I am a mess. LOL.

How did I do weight wise? I stopped logging my food after Thanksgiving. I stopped going to the gym when I blew my knee out again. What I didn't do was go whole hog on all of the treats of the season. I think it helped that I wasn't working. When I worked, I was surrounded by treats all day. Holiday party after holiday party. This year I was at home and I could control my eating. By sticking to a grocery budget, we ate pretty healthy. Sure we had treats, but they were home-made. I did drink soda, but it was limited to one a day and that I shared with the kids. I gained a pound here, would lose it there and back again. In the end, I weighed myself and I weigh exactly what I did at the beginning of the month.

So I managed to make it through Thanksgiving and Christmas without gaining a pound. I am still down about 7 pounds from official start in November.

Financially, all bills are paid. We were able to save and rebuild our emergency fund from zero to only being a couple hundred away from goal. This was despite an emergency vet visit for our dog. I am so proud of us.

Now back to food logging. Back to working out. Back to the business of it all.