Friday, June 29, 2012

Building Your Savings

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The following question came in from a reader...

"We overspend due to eating out. Most of the time it's because I don't want to cook so we dip into our savings and it all goes downhill from there. I want to be able to save money each paycheck. I have a budget and have been doing good with that but it's the putting money into savings that is not working. Can you give me some tips on what you did?"

When budgeting you should make sure that every penny that comes in goes somewhere whether that be to food, hair care, entertainment, debt reduction, savings, etc. The advice I often hear is this...

1. Pay your taxes.
2. Pay God. (tithe)
3. Pay yourself. (savings)
4. Budget with what's left.

In "paying yourself" right from the start you don't forget to put money in savings.

Now that doesn't really work for us because we have irregular paychecks. They come every two weeks but we never know how much they will be. So we've had to work things a little different. I explained a few weeks ago about the spreadsheet that I've been using and it's working wonderfully with helping me keep track of my money. This is what it looks like...

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Before doing this we would just spend when we needed and if there was leftover we just let it sit in our checking account. It would slowly build up but it didn't keep us from spending when we shouldn't. I needed to make a change there.

I like having a little extra in our checking in case I am out and run into some kind of emergency. I like knowing that there is an extra couple hundred in there. I just feel better about it when I travel without Mike. So we always have $500 in our checking and $500 acts as our zero. It's my little, easily accessible emergency fund. At the end of each month we should be back to $500 in the checking account since that is our zero.

Between my spreadsheet and that bottom number of $500 I've been doing well. If we have extra at the end of the month I immediately move the money from our checking to our savings. Being able to do transfers online these days leaves no excuse for not getting it done. It only takes two minutes and you can do it in your jammies. But the key is getting that money OUT of your checking account and making it a little harder to access. If I want to spend from my savings I have to do another transfer. I have to THINK before I can spend it. There is no random spending happening with any money that is in our savings. It's there should we need it but we can't just swipe a card to access it.

If you do not already have two separate bank accounts I highly recommend that you do that as soon as possible so you can get your money out of your debit cards range. :) If you do have a savings account then I recommend you just dig down deep and find some determination and discipline and move the money before you can spend it.

The other thing I suggest since eating out is your money waster is to write "eating out" money into your budget. Decide what an ok amount to spend each month on eating out is. Withdraw that amount and put the cash in an envelope. When the cash is gone you are done eating out for the month. And you won't have the extra money sitting in your bank account anymore so you won't be able to just be all "screw the budget!"

I hope this made some sense and gave you some ideas that you haven't already tried. The key to budgeting is to actually follow your budget. If you do, it will work and as long as you are living within your means you should be able to have at least a little to put in savings each month. If you don't stick to the budget it won't work.

And when it comes to cooking... I'm like you. I hate cooking and would eat out every night if I could afford it. But I can't so I've had to come up with other things to make it work for me. I'll share some of those things another day.

In the meantime... if anyone is looking for some budgeting forms to get started you can download some from Dave Ramsey's website. Click the link below to go to the forms...

If any of you have any questions about money and budgeting leave a comment or send me an email! I'll love to help you as much as I can!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Steve and Stacie (Wedding)

Last weekend involved three weddings. The first was Saturday morning.

My friend Beth asked me to be second shooter for her during this wedding. It's rare that I turn down an opportunity for experience. Plus, I like weddings! So I went along and helped her out. We always do weddings together. :)

I think this could have been our most challenging one so far simply because this church did not allow flash photography during the ceremony. And it was a pretty dark church. (I've learned to always ask if flash photography is allowed... some places allow it and some don't. Better to ask ahead then to be surprised as the ceremony starts and the pastor announces to everyone to refrain from using the flash.)

Anyways... I'm pleased with what I got this day. :)

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Cutest ring bearer EVER!

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One of the sweet flower girls... I am in love with this photo!

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Grandpa walked her down the isle...

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They said their vows...

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And they walked out husband and wife!

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I was in love with the bridesmaid dresses. It's rare that a dress is picked that looks good on each girl but this one did! The color was great on all of them and so was the fit. Crazy.

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Congrats to Steve and Stacie!

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I'm Rare

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Mike and I have been called rare. Why? Because we are only 32 and have three things in place that few others our age do...

1. Emergency Fund
2. Short term savings
3. Long term investments

BAM! So glad we heard of Dave Ramsey seven years ago and were able to rock this stuff and get it in place. It's been so nice to have money instead of money having us.

That said... I've always struggled with the budget. I shared about how I did really well for a while and then got pretty relaxed and then decided to get back on track again. Well, I'm writing today to let you know that in the past 40 days I've increased my savings by $702.02!!! I'm kind of excited about that! Two of the paychecks during that time were really small and I wasn't sure if I would save much out of them at all... but I did! And yes I am tooting my horn and patting myself on the back! It's a major accomplishment for this girl who likes to spend more than she likes to save. :)

I shared my spread sheet that I made to help me keep track of money going out. That has been incredibly helpful to me and I will continue to do it. It's a new challenge... saving is FUN! Can I do even more in the next 40 days?? We'll see!

Another great accomplishment this past month...

We budget $400 per month for groceries. That's $100 each week to feed the four of us. For who knows how long I never paid attention to that number and probably went well over every month. But not this time! This month I actually have a little bit left over!

I know it sounds kind of odd and backwards but budgeting is pretty awesome... and freeing. Knowing how much money you have and where every penny is going might seem restricting but it's not. It brings peace. Control. Freedom. I know what I have and what I don't... therefore I know what I can and can not do.

It takes an insane amount of discipline and self-control for me to be a saver instead of a spender but honestly... the feeling that comes with saving far outlasts the little high I get when I spend. And I would much rather have money in the bank than junk in my house.

I know I've been talking about money a lot lately but that's what I do... talk about the things I am going through and living at the time. If you have questions about anything I've talked about please ask! I'm no expert but I know way more than I did 7 years ago. 7 years ago I was a financial dummy that didn't have a clue how to handle money properly... simply because I had never been taught. Knowledge is power people!! Don't hesitate to ask. If I don't know the answer I will find someone who does!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

More House Hunting Weirdness

If you remember from my last house hunting post we ran into some weird situations.

We ended that first evening of looking at a house that we really wanted to love but knew it would be a mess. It needed so much work. If it didn't need a ton of work we might be deep in the closing process by now. But we aren't. We talked about that house for days and had to keep reminding each other of everything that was wrong with it.

At one point, while talking to a friend about it I said, "Buying that house would be like dating a really bad boyfriend." I had my answer. I was able to let it go. Because you know how people are always all "why do good girls date bad guys?" Pretty sure the answer is because they are blind to what is real at the moment because they can see the potential of what this guy could become. However, it always just remains a bad relationship because the guy never realizes his potential and you just have a mess as you try to get him there while he never wants to get there himself. It's a disaster from the start. And that's how that house would be... a bad boyfriend that never realizes it's own potential and all the work in the world will never get it there.

So none of the four houses we looked at the first night are even a possibility for us. We've crossed them all off the list and last night we looked at two more houses.

The first house was a disaster! Pictures lie for sure! Online it looked pretty decent. Three bedrooms and a den. Eat in kitchen. Large yard. But umm... the den was more like just a little open space at the top of the stairs where you MIGHT put a desk or something? Maybe. The floor plan in the house was just bizarre and didn't flow nice AT ALL. Whoever was responsible for designing the house should never be allowed to design again. We kind of pretended to look around but then our agent was all "I'm not impressed at all guys. How about we move on?" And we were in quick agreement.

So we head out of the house. Jason goes to open the screen door and step onto the porch when the screen door FALLS OFF it's hinges. Jason just stood there kind of shocked with the screen door laying on the porch. I think he wasn't sure if he did a bad thing and might get in trouble for it. I just started laughing. I couldn't stop. It was just all too hilarious.

I think it goes without saying that that house is permanently off the list!

On to the second house...

It was so refreshing to walk into a house that was a true possibility!! I KNOW that there is a house for us in our price range but it can get discouraging when you look at houses in that price range and all you see is junk. But I've been praying all along that God would help me stick to what I know and not go up to a price I can't afford because I got discouraged.

Anyways... we go to this house and we have firm instructions not to let the cat out. I have a hard time believing that they would make complete strangers be responsible for their cat but there we were wanting to get in the house and the cat was waiting right there. Eventually we sent Mike in first and he shooed the cat back. Other than that I immediately liked the house. Large living room, dining room and kitchen. Off the back of the kitchen is a sun room that leads to the small, fenced backyard and patio. Upstairs is a large bathroom and three good sized bedrooms. The attic has two rooms that if we bought the house we would eventually finish them giving us two extra rooms. And the basement... Mike can actually stand in it!

There is a lot of good with this house! The only problems I have with it are that it only has one off street parking spot and it doesn't have a dishwasher. Those are minor things that can be dealt with. I can totally see us in that house.

I'm waiting to see what Mike has to say about it. He takes a bit longer than me to come to conclusions about these things... which is good. I get so wrapped up in the excitement and emotions of it all and can sometimes decide before I should. So I've given it over to God and I told Mike I would try REALLY hard not to talk to him about it all day long and let him come to a decision. And the decision is completely his... he knows how I feel but I trust him with these big ones. He's never let me down and he's talking to God. So we'll see!

But just because I'm not talking to him about it doesn't mean I'm not dreaming about it! I would buy wicker furniture for my new sun room. I would sip my tea and read my Bible there. It would be my spot. I also know that I will be getting into mentoring more in the near future and I always said I would have to make my office at Panera but with that sun room... well it would be a perfect place to meet with people and talk and share life!

And those two attic rooms that we could drywall, paint and carpet... we always say if we have two extra rooms I get one and Mike gets one. I'm sure he would end up with something Steelers themed and totally guy. I would make mine a library/cozy room/crafting area. It would also be my space to have Bible studies. I would love to host them in my home but have never been able to because of the lack of privacy. Bible studies need privacy.

So. I'm hopeful. But also realistic. I would definitely be ok with it being our new home. But if it's not the right one God will let us know and we will find another one that I can love just as much.

Pray for us as we continue down this house buying road! Pray that we would have wisdom in every decision and that we would find the neighborhood that God has for us. Pray that we would have favor during the entire process and that we would be closed before school starts so that Liza doesn't have to deal with leaving friends that she just made and starting over. And pray for me that I would just be able to be completely patient and trusting.

I'll update again when there is something to update!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Top Five

My mind is in a complete fog right now and overwhelmed with big decisions and information so I'm just going to join up with this thing...


The following are my five favorite pictures from April, May and June... 

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This will always be a favorite. My two favorite guys and I just LOVE how Jason adores his daddy! 

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Liza is obsessed with anything girly and princess. There was a local theater production of Cinderella so we made it a date.

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My prince and princess needed crowns so I made them each one. Of course we can't take pictures without getting silly!

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I love that they love each other!

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Jason takes parade watching pretty seriously. 

Anyways... there are prizes with this link-up and it's just based on a random drawing, not skills, so link up if you want. Today is the last day. (Click the button at the top to get to the post.)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

P. Family

I know I said I was going to come back and write about how our financial smart guys are going to help us save loads of money and then I never came back to write. Life is busy and my brain doesn't want to go that deep right now. I'll probably write about it later this week after we meet with the guys again and it's all more fresh in my brain. In the meantime I'll show you some pictures of a lovely family I got to photograph recently. After this though I have no idea when I'll have time to write again. I'm sure I'll be in but let me just tell you about my upcoming week...

My kids will be in Vacation Bible School in the mornings. I'll be sitting at Panera Bread editing pictures because I basically photographed two weddings yesterday and I have another one tomorrow. I think I'll be editing pictures for the rest of my life.

Monday night is Bible study. Tuesday night is house hunting again. Wednesday is meeting with our financial smart guys. And that's just the big stuff. I have all kinds of little things going on in between the big things. I'm tired just thinking about it. My brain wants to be on summer vacation but it just can't get there. 

Anyways... on to the pictures...

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I met Ashley at church because her son and Jason are in the same class and they've always been good friends.

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A successful photoshoot means lots of silly faces...

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Addy is a ridiculously adorable girl!

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Great family!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Major Savings

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Last night our wonderful financial advisers came back for a second time. We originally called because we needed help in getting our retirement account in order and invested properly in mutual funds and we were clueless. Mike sent out a "help!" email asking if anyone knew of anyone we could talk to when one of the guys emailed back saying he could definitely help because that is what he does part time. And he brought along his regional manager (or whatever he was called) because he knew even more about what it was that we needed help with.

These guys work with Primerica and the way it works is that I don't have to pay them when they come to help me. They get paid if I decide to use their services... BUT I still don't pay them. The companies who's services they sell pay them. I know you might be thinking "Wait. So it's free to have them come sell you something?" But here's the thing... they NEVER pushed anything on us. They just really want to help and the choice was really truly ours.

We did end up using some of their services but let me explain why...

Let's start with life insurance. If you have children or anyone who is dependent on you you want life insurance. It takes care of the people that would be left behind should the worst happen. When we first started with Dave Ramsey in the fall of 2005 we learned about life insurance. Soon after, I was pregnant and we were all "this is necessary" so we got life insurance.

Mike and I are both covered and we currently pay about $50/month. This is for 20 year term life insurance. (Apparently term life is the only kind worth having and is not a scam or a rip off. If you have a different kind I highly recommend looking into doing something different.) The idea of life insurance is that you have it for a time and during that time you build your wealth so that some day you have enough to be self-insured and you no longer need to buy insurance. (Financial independence is a GREAT goal!)

So... we have 20 year term. Locked in at just about $50 per month for 20 years. That gets us to the age of 48. After that we could still have life insurance BUT the cost per year could go up significantly... each year. The problem with that is according to the track we are on we will not yet have accumulated enough wealth of our own to be self-insured by the age of 48. We will fall about 14 years short.

And here is what will happen with our payments...

The current monthly payment for Mike's life insurance plan is $29.33. We will pay that for the 20 years. After that it could go up and up every year jumping from $29.33/month to $237.72/month in just one year! Ten years later, when we will possibly still be short of being able to be fully self-insured, it could be as high as $517.45/month. Umm... house payment anyone?? And that's just for Mike's policy!!

Let's add mine in...

Right now we pay $20.47/month for my life insurance policy. (We found out I am over-insured. But the point of having a stay-at-home mom be insured is that if I were to die then Mike would have money to cover funeral expenses and hire people to do the things I do... cleaning, cooking, laundry, childcare while he is at work, etc. without having to deal with the added financial burden.) Now, after the 20 years are up my payment could go from $20.47/month to $152.19/month. And ten years later it could be as high as $288.36/month.

Add my policy to Mike's... let's just go with the 30 year payments and we could be paying $805.81 per month to have life insurance. Pretty sure that when I really understand it that it isn't a very good plan for us! I'm also pretty sure that at that point I would say forget life insurance! We'll take the risk of living uninsured and hope one of us doesn't die yet.

However, we call these financial smart guys and they come look over our life insurance plans. They point out that problem of it going up significantly every year... something we had forgotten about and probably didn't really understand in the first place... and they said "let us look into that and see what we can do." They come back last night with great news.

We have to apply but we should be able to switch to their company and get a 35 year locked in rate. It will cost about $5 more than we had been paying per month BUT it will save us gazillions in the long run because we should be self-insured by the time it would start going up and we can just quit it because we won't need it!

We buy life insurance through them. Financial smart guys get paid by the life insurance company. But truly Mike and I make out the most in the long run because we have financial peace until we get to complete financial freedom.

They didn't sell us something we didn't want. They showed us a better way. They offered a solution to our problem. They saved us from a crisis down the road. For that we are so incredibly grateful!

If you live in the Pittsburgh area I can hook you up with my financial smart guys. If you are thinking that this would be good but you live nowhere near me let me know you want help anyways. This company has people in all states and I am sure my guys would know how to help you find your guys. (I get nothing from referring people except the joy of helping my friends!)

I have been living financially stupid about so many things because I've just never been taught about it all and it's hard to just jump on the internet and figure it all out. Having someone come sit at my kitchen table and teach me has been amazing and I feel like I understand so much more about money now and how it all works. Take care of your future and plan against poverty!

Come back tomorrow to see how they are going to help us save $140,000 in the long run on our retirement account! (tax stuff... I hope I can explain it well!)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Becoming a Woman of Excellence

I LOVE that I have a group of friends who will get together with me during the summer for some Bible study! We are two weeks into Becoming a Woman of Excellence by Cynthia Heald and already I have so much to think about and am challenged to really work through some not-so-great areas of me. We have had great discussions and I am really looking forward to what God does in each of our lives as we continue on through the summer.

So what is a woman of excellence? I'm sure we could all come up with different definitions and they would all be good but for me it is a woman who KNOWS God, walks with Him moment by moment and lives out of her relationship with Him.

The definition of excellence is "the possession chiefly of good qualities in an unusual degree; surpassing virtue, merit, worth, value." To excel is "to be superior or preeminent in good qualities or praiseworthy actions."

Someone who could be described as excellent would be someone who does not let her circumstances dictate her behavior or responses and instead walks in God's strength and trusts him. Heald says, "excellence is not perfection, but essentially a desire to be strong in the Lord and for the Lord." The only way to live a life of excellence is to realize that we can only do it in God's strength and not our own.

Heald says, "I want to become a woman of excellence not because I have to perform, but because I choose to please God."

And that's what it all really comes down to... choosing to live a life that is pleasing to God. Always. And the good news is that we have been given everything we need to live a godly life!

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His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

Charles Colson said, "The church is in almost as much trouble as the culture, for the church has bought into the same value system: fame, success, materialism, and celebrity. We watch the leading churches and the leading Christians for our cues."

That makes me stop and ask myself a question... What are people learning as they watch me?

I want to be a woman of excellence. I want to live a life pleasing to God. I want to be someone worth watching.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Weekend Retreat... Uncluttered

This past weekend I went to the Western PA Alliance Women's Retreat with two others from my church.

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It was held at the University of Pitt in Johnstown and let me tell you... what a nice campus! The rooms we stayed in were dorm rooms but really they were more like a little hotel room. Everything you need for a stay. Although I didn't really need most of it as I was only there overnight. But it had fridge/microwave, bathroom in the room, tv, alarm clock. Nice! And the food certainly didn't disappoint either!

The main speaker was Gwen Smith of Girlfriends in God. Gwen writes music, speaks, writes books. Basically she does it all. :)

(I know.. horribly fuzzy.)

There were three sessions with Gwen and she spoke about becoming an Uncluttered Woman. She told us that when we get with God he unclutters our hearts and fixes what needs fixing. It was broken down into three parts:

1. Uncluttered Peace
  • "Rest is not something we do. It's what comes to us when we cease to do."  ~AW Tozer
  • Philippians 4:6-7  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 
  • If you want to experience God's peace then you need to obey him in this... Do not be anxious!
  • Stop hanging on to your burdens and give them to God.
  • God came to give us rest (Matthew 11:28-29) and he Jesus has left us with the gift of peace of mind. (John 14:27)

 2. Uncluttered Strength
  • Am I trying to accomplish things in my own strength... or God's?? How do I handle the situations that life throws my way? 
  • Psalm 84:5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you...
  • Isaiah 40:28-30  Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. 
  • When we find ourselves in situations we need to remember that we are not without power!

3. Uncluttered Trust
  • Psalm 84:12   O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.
  • Every day, moment by moment, place your trust in God.
  • Live by faith and not by sight. (2 Cor 5:7)
  • "When I try, I fail. When I trust, He succeeds." Corrie ten Boom

At one point the questions was asked, "Would those who know us best want to know about our God?" Do we walk through life with peace even in the hard times, strength when we should be falling apart, and trust no matter what comes our way?

Of you've been reading my blog the past few weeks you know my life is in crazy times... but I want to walk it out with peace, strength and trust. My God is good. He loves me with a love that words can not even begin to express. Why should I not rely on him fully?

More on Money

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Back in 2005 when we took Financial Peace University we got ourselves on a budget for the first time. At first the idea of it freaked me out. I'm a spender. Mike, not so much but he's also not real great at telling me no. :)

But we sat down and worked out a budget and it was really helpful to see how much money was going out. And in doing the budget (and actually sticking to it) we kept an awful lot of unnecessary money going out to unnecessary things. We were able to put that extra money toward debt and savings.

We stuck to that budget. Debit card... what debit card? If I didn't have cash on hand I wasn't spending money because it meant I was out.

We were rockin' the whole budget/pay off debt thing. Liza was born, we readjusted our budget and we just kept going. Then Jason was born... and I had two kids, 17 months apart. And I had to do grocery shopping with those two kids because Mike was working six days a week. Our debt was paid off, I was tired, paychecks were irregular and didn't always show up on time... so I got a bit relaxed on our budget and I lost some of that crazy motivation to be on track.

Sure we were still wasting much less than we used to but the truth is that we were kinda sorta pretending that we were budgeters. We wrote down the budget. We talked about the budget. We wanted to follow the budget. But when it came down to something we wanted or needing a night of no cooking we were really good at ignoring the budget.

We still managed to add to our savings during those years but without a real goal to motivate me I had a hard time being serious. About a month and a half ago I was all "I'm doing this for real again! I'm setting things straight with the budget and we are sticking to it! Enough wasting money and just pretending the budget is a real thing."

The problem was that with an irregular income it's slightly more complicated than always knowing what your paycheck will be and I hadn't been able in the past years to come up with a system that worked well for me. But I think I FINALLY figured it out!

Here is what I do now...

I made myself a thing that looks like a check register. It looks like this...

I write our starting pay. Then I just record everything and keep a balance just like I would if I was writing checks out. I write down EVERYTHING. Cash we take our for our envelopes. (We love cash envelopes!) Gas, tithe, bills, movies, clothes, etc. Everything we spend gets wrote down and then we just keep the balance. That helps me to always see what I have left and when it starts getting lower I actually have more control with spending because I WANT there to be money left over to put in savings.

So as the month goes on it starts looking like this. (I just made up numbers.)

At the end of the month of the two week pay period I will KNOW what I have left. And at the end of the month we move all the extra over to savings so that we don't spend it.

A little trick... we just got paid this past Friday and need this paycheck to get us to the end of the month. I KNOW that during these two weeks I will have to pay rent and life insurance so I already subtracted those things from my total so I know what I actually have left to work with. (Make sense?)

This has been extremely helpful for me. It forces me to face the facts and hold myself accountable for my spending. If I mess up it will be right there staring me in the face. No more pretending on the budget. I'm doing this! And it's a really good thing that I decided to do this because here we are looking at houses and needing to buy a car within the next year. I need to know what's available and I need to see where all the money is going.

It feels really great to be back on track with money and saving. The more I save now, the more I can give later... and that right there is an important statement because I have dreams so big in my heart, so far out of the box, and none of them are able to be accomplished without money. When Mike and I prayed about our finances all those years ago God answered not with job promotions or random money showing up in our mailbox. No, he answered us with knowledge. And that knowledge is far more useful than just being given loads of money and not knowing what to do with it.

This has been a year of transition and growth for me and it's only just beginning. I'm so glad that God convicted me about money and challenged me to get back on track.

I want to put the same challenge to you... how are you doing financially? Do you spend more than you should? Do you care too much about material things? Do you have dreams in your heart? You don't have to answer to me... I just want you to think about these things. Live with the future in mind... don't waste it all on today.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

He's the Real Deal

So ya all know by now that Mike wrote a children's book and it went public this spring. Yay!

I Love You All the Time has been such a wonderful journey for us but here's the thing... that dad in the book? That's Mike! Ok ok. So you knew that already. BUT... that dad in the book... the one who loves his kids all the time no matter what... THAT is Mike.

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He loooooves Liza and Jason. All the time.

Sure, he's human and loses patience from time to time. But he LOVES them. Always.

He is a roofer and will work a long, hot day but still come home and play with his kids. They wrestle every night before bed. I don't know if the kids could go to bed without that time. It's their special time. (I stay away because I would ruin the fun because my mama heart can't take the crazy!)

Liza and Jason know that they are loved and they are secure in their daddy's love. What a blessing!!

That guy who wrote the book about a dad who loves his kids all the time?? That guy is one amazing dad!

Story time. :)

In May Liza and Jason had their closing program for their little school-like program and Mike decided to take off of work this year to go. Jason noticed that he got some new clothes recently that were just like his daddy's clothes and he said he wanted daddy to be his twin.

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(I'm bummed that this pic is blurry but I still love it anyways!)

Pretty sure that earned Mike "Dad of the Year" award!

And then there is Liza.

Oh man! Watching Mike's face twist up when she talks about falling in love and getting married someday... man! He hates the idea of his little girl growing up and leaving. He has a really hard time with the idea that someday she will start dating. It tares his heart up! He loves her so much. You just know by the look on his face when she talks about those things that she is and will forever be his little girl. Anyone want to start placing bets on whether or not he will cry when he walks her down the isle to give her away someday? I'm betting on tears. :)


Mike's love runs deep and my favorite part is that he forever recorded his love for his children... not only so that they could know but so that the world would know. I hope that so many other dads are encouraged and inspired by the love that Mike shows for Liza and Jason as they read his book with their own children. I hope that they see a man that is a really good dad and that they too determine to be a really good dad.

Mike is the real deal guys. :) We think he is pretty special and we are soooo glad to have him in our family!

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Friday, June 15, 2012

House Hunting Update

I had a post about my budget all ready to go but I'm having blogger troubles and my posts aren't showing up in my dashboard. Anyone else having that problem? I can't get to my saved drafts... it's just a blank web page.

I'm short on time this morning because I'm heading to an overnight retreat and need to leave in about 25 minutes but my mother-in-law just picked up the kids and I am almost packed so I figured I'd attempt a quick post on how the house shopping went last night since several are asking and it's easier to just reply once and direct everyone here. :)

So last night was the big night. Just two week and one day after deciding we needed to buy a house we were out looking. There were four on the list...

1. This house looked good online... flat yard, off street parking, three bedrooms. Things we pretty much need. But there were some problems... it was a good looking house and would be great for a couple just married or with a newborn or something. Not a family of four. It was just small. And the bedrooms... the third bedroom was actually a captive room which means you have to walk through another bedroom to get to it. And the bathroom... the only bathroom in the house... was off of that captive bedroom. That would mean that when Mike wakes up to get ready for work at 5am he would have to walk through both kid's bedrooms to get to the bathroom. It would just be unfair to everyone basically. So that was out.

2. House two was an empty house. It's been updated and looks nice. The problem with this house is that it has a small kitchen and no real dining room. We'd have to get pretty creative on where we put our table. But it has good sized rooms and everything we need. Except the parking which was weird. And not much of a yard but it's right next to a school (and I love the sound of masses of kids so that isn't an issue for me) so in the evenings/weekends and summer we would have their parking lot to play in/ride bikes, and there is also a playground and field that could be used when school was out. So it wasn't perfect but we've left it on the list as a kinda sorta maybe but probably not.

3. House three was still occupied and the current owner just sat on her porch while we looked at her house. Weird. I really liked the layout of the downstairs but the house smelled. (She had a dog and I'm thinking probably smoked.) The big problem with this house? Mike is too tall. He would hit his head every time he went up or down the stairs. He would hate it. So we crossed it off the list.

4. House four was the one we were most hopeful about. As we pulled up to the front of the house we remained hopeful. I liked the yard, the neighborhood, off street parking. And here is the thing... I desperately want to love this house. It has large rooms, and an extra room which I can totally picture being my library/office/crafting space. I has amazing potential... but it's OLD and it would take an insane amount of work to get it up to it's potential. The walls were old plaster walls and they were all cracked. So instead of giving it a fresh paint of coat and being good we would probably end up tearing down the old walls, dry walling and then painting. In every. single. room. Ugh. It would cost us more money and time than we would want to put into it.

Also... haha... we were so hopeful about this house that I have to force myself to continuously remember everything bad about it... as if the cracked walls weren't enough. (And that's just assuming they are simply old, cracked walls and nothing structural!)

So the other problems (so I can forever come back and read this reminder if I ever get desperate and find myself thinking that we would be ok in it)...
1. The main bathroom has a high light switch. I'm 5'4" and had to reach for it. It would be YEARS before my kids could reach it and that would just be annoying.
2. The laundry is in the kitchen. The kitchen was small and the realtor asked if that was a problem for me. I said no because I hate cooking and I'm not looking for a fancy kitchen... just a practical one where I can get the job done. I'm much more interested in having the space to have people visit and stay and all that. But then we realized that the washer and dryer would go IN the kitchen. Not in a closet in the kitchen like I've seen... but just sitting right there in the corner of the kitchen. I said that was too much mess in one room. Although I did joke with Mike later that it would be cheap additional counter space.

So there ya go... four houses and not one for me.

I was hoping finding a house would go like finding a wedding dress did for me. Know what I want, search the rack, pick one, try it on and be done.

But I have a feeling it's going to be more like hunting for the perfect accessories to finish off an outfit. I usually have an outfit and then I picture the perfect jewelry to go with it. Then I set out to find that necklace or whatever and go to every store and search and search but never find it. After searching EVERYWHERE I usually end up at the craft store buying the stuff to make it myself.

Of course, I don't actually plan on building a house... I'm just saying that it will just likely be a hunt.

Sooo... back to looking at houses online and coming up with a new look at list.

Pray for us. :)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Money Money Money

Hmmm... that's one of those words that if you type it three times in a row you start to question if it is spelled wrong. Money. :)

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I had been kicking myself for not saving as much as I thought I should have. I mean... we WERE saving for a house. But then I realized I wasn't looking at the whole picture. I had forgot about our emergency fund!

So... here's the story...

In 2005, after two years of marriage, Mike and I realized we needed to make some financial changes. We weren't doing horribly but we knew we could definitely be better stewards. We started praying about money and finances. Shortly after we started praying our church started announcing that they would be offering Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. I saw the promo once and told Mike "we're in!" It was $100 to take the class and it was the best money we ever invested.

I say INVESTED because it has given us an amazing return!

The class started in August of 2005. At that time we had $20,553.52 of debt. A school loan and a car loan... and we had already been paying on each for at least two years. We became really motivated to get rid of this debt and I think it took us a little over two years. That was done without any raises or promotions or extra income above Mike's job. We paid off over $20,000 in debt in just over two years on a $40,000 annal income. Oh... and we added a kid during that time and moved to a house with higher rent.

We were excited!

Then Jason came along. (Which cost us our $5,200 insurance deductible.)

And we bought a van and paid $8000 in cash. Woo hoo! Have you ever just PAID for a car straight up and drove it off the lot owning every single bit of if?? It's so much fun! We'll never have a car payment again. Never.

Anyways... we've been completely debt free for five years now.

The first thing we worked at after getting out of debt was building our emergency fund. It is recommended (not just by Ramsey but several financial experts) that you have 3-6 months expenses saved up and just sitting in a savings account. It's insurance against poverty. So many people have unexpected events happen in life and they don't have savings. We have six months expenses saved up. Should Mike get injured and not be able to work I have six months to figure something out.

So here we are... a fully funded emergency fund (which will not get spent during the house buying) and another savings account toward the house. We have two paid for cars. To kids that were born on high deductibles. We've been able to be givers and we've lived financially free for several years now. It's wonderful.

And here's the thing... I say financially free because our money (or lack of it) no longer rules us. We are in control of it. It serves us. I am not a slave to money or material stuff. I am not driven by the number in my retirement account because I want to be rich and have great things. No... that number in the retirement account represents something far greater than wealth. It represents the ability to someday live like no one else because we spent years before living like no one else. Living cheaply now so we can live well later.

And by live well later I mean that as we get older we won't be a financial burden to our children... which means that they will be able to prepare for their own future so my grandchildren don't have to have a financial burden of taking care of their parents.

It also means that we will someday be able to actually retire. And when I look forward to those days I don't see extravagant vacations all year round and just enjoying life. Instead I see a time of no longer being dependent on a paycheck and therefore being able to quit a job and spend life doing ministry. Giving. Serving. Helping.

THAT is what financial freedom and financial peace is all about.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Looking at Houses...

We will finally get to look at houses tomorrow and I'm kinda sorta excited. Two weeks ago today we decided it was time to buy a house. We are pre-approved, we have a buyers agent, I've begun cleaning out the house, found a place where I can have a garage sale to get rid of stuff... but mostly we've looked and looked and looked at houses online. We've narrowed it down and are going to see the four or five houses on our list tomorrow evening...although I've already pretty much ruled out two of them. I just know they aren't it. But we'll look anyways. Just because.

Now... I'm learning some things about selling houses while looking at pictures. Things like you should clean your house and get rid of the clutter BEFORE taking the pictures you will post for everyone to see.


I mean.. you might want to at least MAKE THE BED before taking the picture. And that room on the top right... all I see is an ugly, freaky baby doll in the corner. I'm also pretty sure that they took a picture of the STUFF in their kitchen instead of actually taking a picture OF the kitchen. And the falling apart swingset? Mess.

You only have one chance to make a first impression. We won't be looking at this house. For several reasons... but one is that I wouldn't be able to actually LOOK at it because I wouldn't be able to see the house through all the stuff.

This next house is pretty interesting. It's an old Victorian and when I look at it I see loads of potential. It could be a really cool house... but it's at the top of our price range which means we wouldn't have anything left over to put toward fixing it up so that's out. But I love the old wood and the stained glass.


Anyways... on to some nicer things. If you've been to my house and seen my small, green bathroom you will understand why this picture along is tempting to me...


It looks amazing! But it's not enough... if you've seen my kitchen you would probably cry with me when I told you that the one in that same house has a SMALLER kitchen than mine with even less counter space. We are going to go look at it because it does look like a nice house and it's move in ready and cheap (bank owned). But the main problem is parking. We get two spots and that's it. If my mom wanted to visit during the week we'd have a problem... and it's not a problem that I would like to have because I like when my mom visits.

There is one house that Mike and I are both really interested in learning more about. It's 4bed/1 1/2 bath, small yard, off street parking (lots of places only have on street parking here and this girl couldn't parallel park if her life depended on it!). There isn't a lot of info online but we like what we see so we'll look.


I've always wanted a symmetrical house... door in the middle, same number of windows/space on each side. Sure it has an old slate roof that will need to be replaced in the future but that's not a deal breaker for us since I'm married to a roofer. :)

So yeah. Tomorrow we look. I'm excited to be taking the next step. I have no idea what the outcome of tomorrow will be but I do know that somewhere out there is a house for my family and it will be a blessing to be the owner of it!

And while I wait I'll just keep dreaming of how I am going to decorate my new home. I'll share more about that another day!

What are things that you have learned about buying a house? What are things we should know/do during the looking? Two people have told me to take my camera and take pictures so I can remember what's what. What else she we do??

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