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Archive for the ‘Finance’ Category

Not It!

I am not the best housekeeper.  I take forever to do things, because I want them done perfectly.  This comes back to bite me; I take too much time to clean, so I don’t clean, which then means it takes longer to clean when I do.  Ugh.

To add to the mayhem, we’re not very good at picking up and putting things away, so in order to even begin to clean, we first have to organize and de-clutter.  So basically, we have to clean to clean.  We work so hard on the organizing bit that we have no more energy or time to do the actual dusting, vacuuming, etc.

The cherry on the pile- Chris decided recently that he doesn’t want to do floors anymore, because he has been doing them for the last 4 years.  (Also, because, with a dog, there is hair everywhere, and I’d like him to move the furniture to get it all up.)  I can’t do floors because of my back; the motion just sends it all out of whack. So if we want a squeaky clean house, Chris has to take that part.  And over the years, chores get old!!

So, yeah, I have a lot of excuses….  and I’m not even writing them all down, because I’m starting to get embarrassed.

Nevertheless, a clean house is very important to us for many reasons, but especially for our own mental health, so we had to do something.  We decided to stop living in a mess and hired someone to clean for us.

This was actually a really, really hard decision.  Here’s why I felt I couldn’t have something this good:

  1. I haven’t earned it.  It’s like being the boss before I’m the administrative assistant.  You know, I haven’t worked my way up the ladder by getting good at it myself and then passing it off.
  2. I don’t deserve it.  Like I should make myself do it because we aren’t old enough, rich enough, etc…
  3. It’s being lazy/undedicated/some other lame word. We’re adults and should figure out how to do this ourselves and take care of our own you-know-what.
  4. We don’t have the money.

#4 is actually based mostly in reality, because we do not have a lot of disposable income.  But it came down to this…  Should I feel guilty all the time over not taking care of the house (which I did), or should I find a solution (which I did)? Learning what I have the capacity for and what to let go of will be a lifelong process, but something had to give NOW.

I did the math and, while my numbers might be fuzzy, figured it out!  I’ve had a babysitting job every Friday for the last year and a half that I’ve thinking of quitting so that I have a proper 2 day weekend.  I sat down one day and contemplated whether I would rather babysit and have my friend clean or stay home and clean it myself.  Instead of staying home and doing something that I really don’t like and am not good at, I now make $2 less per hour babysitting than I pay my friend to clean.

Let me tell you; it’s been life-altering!  For example:

  • When things are clean, it’s just easy to keep them clean!
  • We straighten the house at least once a week in preparation for cleaning, but more often than not, we do it every day for our own pleasure.  It is a joy to have a clean house to come home to- not just on Fridays but every day.
  • I even enjoy babysitting now WAY more than before because I know that my hard work is allowing me something really special when I get home.
  • We’ve also had people over more often (and spur of the moment!) because we don’t have to run around cleaning before everyone arrives.

Chris summed it up two weeks ago when he said, “I love having a cleaner.  The house looks amazing, and I’m not even tired.”

So, feel free to stop by any time…  The house will be spic and span!

We Bought a Farm

My mom taught me about seasonal vegetables at a young age. One Thanksgiving, when shopping for the big meal, she decided that $7/lb for tomatoes was just too much for our big family. No kidding! Just one slice for all seven of us would total $8. Ouch… With that dent in the weekly grocery budget, it’s easy to tell what’s in season and what’s out.

In California, though, it’s a lot harder. Farms here can grow lettuce year round, and strawberries started up in February (which my niece, Annabel, enjoyed for the first time). At Whole Foods or the local markets, you can buy kale, corn, zucchini, or any other veggie at any time, because it’s imported from Mexico, Latin America, etc…

I’ve been told and have read that you get the most nutritional bang-for-your-buck if you buy produce that has a chance to ripen on the vine, tree, or stem. Logically, then, a fruit picked green in Mexico, pumped with gas to make it ripen, and transported here isn’t as nutritious as something grown closer and more naturally.

Going to the local farmer’s market would solve this issue, but I work during the times when they are running. Because I want to spend my hard earned cash on things that are healthy, I decided several years ago to join a CSA- Community Supported Agriculture; the community buys into the farm and, therefore, gets a share of the season’s produce. It takes the guessing out of what is seasonal and what’s imported! Around here, it’s also a way to get organic stuff at cheaper prices than the grocery store; plus, it’s often delivered to your neighborhood- so no shopping!!

When I first started, I tried Live Earth Farms. The produce was amazing- but way too bountiful! There was no way that I could keep up with the amount that I was getting each week, and, honestly, there were only so many weeks that I was willing to try to figure out how to cook all the new types of veggies. It was exhausting!

After taking a few years off, I started up again with a less daunting CSA, Eating with the Seasons. In this program, I pick which produce I’d like from what’s in season. For me, that’s been fun, because I can plan meals for the week ahead (because I know what’s coming), try a new item every so often, know how to use the rest, and am assured that what I’m getting is local and seasonal.

The extra options- like corn tortillas, local honey, rice, and preserves- make the CSA an even greater treat. With some CSAs, you have to pay in advance, but a lot of these now let you pay monthly. EWTS even lets you order more items and charges you each month for the extra.

Some weeks, things go bad, but that was one of the reasons I bought a juicer. If I know that I’m not going to eat something before it expires, I just stick it in the juicer and- voila!- a healthy snack.

This has taken some of the pressure off of me to grocery shop, because at least I always have some veggies around. Occasionally, I don’t even go to the grocery store, because I just order tons of vegetables. So I’m eating healthy AND saving money. Even in cold weather climates, there are CSAs at your disposal- not all are year round like ours, but many let you buy a share for produce, meat, milk, eggs, bread, and other amazing goodies.

Are you a part of a CSA? What have you found to be the benefits/drawbacks? If you aren’t a part, why not?

Reining It In

Chris and I have decided to take control of our finances and tighten the reins a bit.  We live within our means, but that doesn’t equate to stewarding our money well.  This means we don’t have savings, wonder how we’re going to make car repairs when big things come up, can’t splurge on something really fabulous when we’d like, or…  the list goes on.

Though bills get paid and responsibilities are covered, I often end up regretting how I’ve spent my money the previous month.  Instead of looking back and feeling bad, it seems more logical to be a grown up, have some self-control, and kick butt with utilizing what we have!

We spend a horrific amount of money on eating out. In a normal week, we purchase at least these things:
Pho
Burgers
Sushi
Pizza or Sandwich
Coffee
Coffee
Coffee

I don’t get the pizza or sandwiches, and Chris doesn’t get pho all the time, but still…  I buy food or beverages out at least once a day.  That cost adds up really fast!

We are looking at buying our first house (Hooray!  Holy crap!), and we’d really like to get our finances shored up tightly before we add another responsibility to the list.  It will help us to be more financially stable and keep me from being anxious about moolah.

With the market the way it is, we have a few months (at least) before we have to make our first mortgage payment.  In that time, we’re going to try to establish some great new patterns so that we spend less and save more!  You know, to take care of the roof, dishwasher, or whatever repair is inevitable when owning a house.

The first step is to eat out less.  And while this may be the simplest thing we can do, it may actually be the hardest!

So I’m turning to you for advice and support.  I’d love to hear what you do to encourage cooking at home, spending less money on groceries, not wasting the groceries you buy, etc…

Please share.  Because I’m going to need all the help that I can get!

The Little Guy

I read today that the average new house in America is down to 2,400 square feet.  Since we are one half the size of the average family, I think it’s appropriate that our house is one half the size of the average house.

Image

Our house, for now. Totally cuter inside!

That realization doesn’t make trips to Costco easier, though.  Organic chicken broth!  Toilet paper!  Pens!  Oh my.  Even though I would love to buy all these things in bulk, there is noooo space in my house.

When we moved into this little bungalow, I had an a epiphany.  If you save money on buying in bulk, you also have to spend extra money paying for the space that those things take up.  So, for now, even though I can’t save money buying in bulk, at least I’m saving money on rent.

While it makes trips to Costco a test of willpower and determination, I’ll take it!  Being thankful about the little things makes life that much sweeter.

Dream a Little Dream of Me

I haven’t had a lot of brain-space in the last few years to hold much other than the here-and-now.  (Often, I haven’t even held that very well, but that’s a story for another time.)  I have had some good ideas here and there, like Wholesome Hounds, but there hasn’t been much focus on longterm goals or fancy.

Sunday’s daydream was a rare peak into what my mind can accomplish now that I don’t have to be so insanely lasered-in on finances.  Or, more accurately, now that I don’t have to work extremely hard to control my mind and not to freak out about finances all the time.

In it, I was sitting on a stool in front of a small group of people in a bookstore.  I was reading from something I wrote, and people were listening.  To me!  Reading something I wrote!  I was confident and comfortable, and it felt really, really good.

Now, I know this is not real, but it was an exciting step in the right direction.  And since I’m now writing everyday, it’s a dream that is that much closer to becoming a reality.

The Greatest Story (I’ve) Ever Told

This is story that you have all been waiting for.  That life changing moment that occurred last week.  The monumental event I hinted at on Friday.  It starts off a little sad but gets amazing fast- I promise!

Last Monday, I went through the day not knowing that my life was about to be changed.  In fact, I had a bit of a budgetary hangover.  Relaxing for the weekend in Sonoma was wonderful, but it also cost moolah.  Dinners out, zip lining, etc… add up…  especially when you leave your favorite tasting room with this:

Yep, that's a lot of wine! (I have good news about this expense, too, but that comes later...)

I had done an okay job over the weekend in relaxing and not thinking too much about all the changes loomed ahead of us, but, in coming home, reality hit me in the face.  While trying to stay calm about our finances over the last few months, I had done what I knew to do and then put off thinking about the details.  Knowing exactly where we stood wasn’t going to make the problem go away.  This is what my desk looked like:

Holy schmoly- that's a desk? Yep, there's a bra there...

Some of that stuff even had to do with us GETTING money, yet I still ignored it!  It’s not like I was handling the situation remarkably well, but…

I did the only thing I knew to do.  I just kept praying.  Honestly, there was nothing else I could do; I was looking for a second job, as was Chris.  We had cut back on expenses and were pretty diligent on not spending extra.  I truly didn’t know where the money for the impending HSLP was going to come from.  We had enough to get by; how were we going to get more?  So on Monday, just like many days before, I faithfully asked God to help us.  I did this every time I thought about our finances.

On Tuesday, my prayer was answered.  Have you ever seen the Publishers’ Clearing House winner receive their prize?  The morning of my birthday was a bit like this:

There were no balloons or camera crews or suits.  But there should have been.  I was in my pajamas, opening birthday presents with Chris. For my last gift, I opened a series of envelopes, each nestled in each other like Russian dolls.  It seemed as if it would never end, but the final envelope held a card and a check filled in with a VERY large number.  (It was a number many, many, many times larger than I had ever written on a check, that’s for sure!)  This check was intended to pay off our debt- ALL OF IT!

  • Chris’ student loans- PAID!
  • Em’s student loans- PAID!
  • Dental bills- PAID!
  • Credit card we used Aug-Oct while Chris was job hunting- PAID!
  • Chris’ upcoming braces- PAID!
This is how absolutely incredible God is:  The number on that check, once I added up our debt, was $336 dollars more than what we owed.  No one knew what the total of our debt was- not even me!  Yet God heard my prayers and worked in someone who chose to do what he asked and sent a check that would pay off every penny that we owe.
Honestly, I don’t even know how to tell the story to do it justice.  To top it all off, Chris received an unexpected quarterly bonus on Wednesday.  This paid for all that wine I showed you at the beginning.  Score!

I’m really excited to share this with you because it shows that God answers prayers.  He is the one to be praised.

Now to Him Who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we request or think about, according to the power that works in us, to Him be the glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations forever and ever. Amen.  (Ephesians 3:20-21, WTJ)

Amen is right!

Over the next couple of days, I had to work on two things:

  1. Recognizing that God had answered my prayer and being thankful.  Who was I to tell him that it was too much?  That I didn’t want it in the way he answered?  Or to feel guilty or undeserving?  He had answered exceedingly above what I requested, so the appropriate response was thanksgiving.
  2. That I should allow people to give to me.  I don’t like it when I try to do something for someone and they won’t let me, so why should I do that to someone else?

The last week has been remarkable, because now that our debt is gone, we are ourselves again.  We now see that God really is as big as he says he is- and he’s talking to us!  With that realization and free from the burden of debt, we are now able to look up, to dream, to plan.

And that is what this blog will now be about!

Something Coming

I have big news to share with you (no, I’m not pregnant!), but my computer’s hard drive is failing and is being replaced today (for free! after two years! locally! thanks, Apple!)

I really dislike typing on my phone, so I will have to wait to share it with you. I’m not especially good at keeping quiet about really big, life changing answers to prayer, but I will hold out.

As soon as I get my computer back, I’ll tell you more about the biggest blessing ever!

PS- I’m not exaggerating about how great our news is, either, you doubter!

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