Sunday, October 26, 2008

Have you always wanted to do this?

I’m currently hiring 2 positions as my recent graduates have decided to pursue their dreams. As sad as I am to see them go, I'm proud of them for following their dreams, especially in an economy such as this. As they pack up their desks, they leave me pondering one last question- have you always wanted to do this job?

My original career path was teaching but moving cross country my teaching licence was no longer valid and I was forced to look else where at least temporarily. I was offered a job at my current company and took it. Every 6 months I got promoted so I felt I was moving in the right direction and never looked back. Now it's been a 1.5 years in my current position and I'm bored. Not only am I bored but my future at the company with the pending sale is uncertain. If I lost my job would I look for similar work or something different?

I've spent so much of my life mapping out my first 20 something years that I haven't really thought much about the next step. That’s one of the reasons I started this blog. I’ve done all the things you “need” to do to move into adult status (career, house, husband, fur kids) and I’m not sure what my next step should be.

I'm still trying to figure it all out. I'm so gratefully for being asked this question as it's one I've been meaning to address for a long time and they called my out on my procrastination. It's time to start thinking about the next 5 years and what I want to do with my life. Wish me luck!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Money Makeover - Chapter 5

This week in book group we shared our budgets. As much as I would like to believe it's safe to post this information on the Internet, I will not. Instead I''ll share our concept of a budget since it's a little different than the traditional way.

As I've mentioned before, DH and I have compromised on our definition of budget. He’s not big on the idea of being told a set limit for spending or on being told "no" and truth be told neither am I (Yes, we are a prime example of Ramsey’s description of the 2 year old scream- I want it and I want it now!). So instead of setting a limit for each budget category, I keep a running total each month and our goal is spend less in each category unless we talk about it ahead of time and make some adjustments.

For example, last month we went over our home improvement budget to buy fence supplies. But we talked about it and agreed to be even more careful on the personal spending side of the budget to make up for it. And we did, while our home improvement budget went up $700 we brought down our personal care by $600. The system is not exactly what Ramsey preaches but it works for us and we have brought our overall spending down by over $1000 since starting this 4 months ago.

Highs for the week:

  • I still haven't gone to Target!
  • DH and I have started shutting off the power strip switch to the TV and computers to save electricity and hopefully bring down our bill a few cents.
  • Gas is coming down. It's the lowest I've seen it in 2+ years!
  • I was hosting the company's guests this week so lunches and dinners were paid for.
Lows for the week:
  • Ah, the stock market. I didn't have much in my 401K and I'm pretty sure if we keep this up, I'm going to owe money...
  • The central heat kicked on and the thermostat is set to 55. So much for bring down the electricity bill.
  • DH was robbed over overtime by being forced to take the day off instead.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Where does your time go?

This is my second missed productivity post in 2 weeks. Grr. I’ve got to start scheduling posts when life gets busy...

Have you ever wished for another hour in the day to get all your stuff done? As you all know by now, I’ve given up cable. I still watch a fair amount of shows online but I usually just listen to them as I make dinner or work on hand sewing my dog kennel project. One of the biggest ways to gain time in your day is to turn off the TV. The thing about TV is not only do you usually get sucked into watching a show you're not all that interested in just because it’s on after a show you regularly watch, when you finish watching TV you aren’t geared up to do anything else. Countless times I’ve turned on the TV to unwind after work and 3 hours later I’m still watching not ready to start anything. Now I come home and do stuff. I still watch a show around 8 but that’s a good 2 plus hours after I’ve been home, cooked, cleaned, and played on the internet.

Another suggestion for getting more time out of your day is to spend an average week documenting what you do every 15 minutes. Seems kind of excessive and time consuming for a whole week, but I bet I’ll be surprised at where I am wasting time. My weeks are a little bit crazy right now but I plan on doing this in a few weeks to see if there are other TV equivalents out there sucking away my time.

Where does all your time go?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Money Makeover- Chapter 4

Financial Thursday- Every Thursday I'll post my financial challenge book group comments for The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey.

First weekend without cable! I started a new craft project to make kennel covers for the dogs. Normally when I start a new project I feel the need to buy lots of stuff to go with it. This time I managed to show some restraint. I’ve only bought the materials I need for one piece of the project and will buy the other pieces when I am ready. So often I dive straight in and buy everything I need right away and never finish the project- like my wedding scrapbook- and the money and materials go to waste. I refrained from buy a sewing machine and will continue to needle and thread it until I can prove I actually need one. I also realized I could use some of our extra spare room bed sheets instead of buying more fabric.

I successfully managed to avoid Target all week (It’s been 16 days Target free!). It was tough as a co-worker is having a baby shower tomorrow and they are only registered at Target
(it's the only decent store around here) but I got brave and went to a store I never go to and found stuff 50% off! Woohoo!

I realized best case scenario DH and I could pay off 3 out of 5 of our existing debts (2 cars, 2 school loans, and 1 mortgage) in 3 years but more likely 4. Ramsey calls for a Total Money Makeover that requires a complete commitment to being debt free which means trading your car in for a cheaper one if you have a car loan, getting a second job, and selling items for extra cash. But the plan only works if both are committed to this extreme way of living. Unfortunately there is no way in hell DH would agree to sell back his truck for a cheaper car. It’s just not his money philosophy. He has made other sacrifices to tone down our spending and I feel a ton more comfortable with our spending habits than I did 4 months ago. Marriage is about compromise and while it would be great to get rid of the truck to reduce our debt, the reality is we are not that desperate to fight that battle- yet. I’m a little bummed but I did tell DH that if I lost my job during this global economic crises, his truck will be the first sacrifice. Some how that made me feel better.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Confession Time

Productivity Tuesday- every Tuesday I'll present a tip I've enjoyed from Talene Miedaner's Coach Yourself to Success.

First confession- I missed yesterday’s post.

Second confession- I haven’t been doing so good with the 15 minutes a day personal productivity reading goal. In fact I didn’t read anything last week which led me to day dreaming on the couch last night where I promptly fell asleep and didn’t post.

I have, however, given much thought to the tips I have read thus far and have made a fair amount of progress. This week I’m getting on back on track by recapping my success.

Of my 28 tolerate list items, I’ve completed 12. Most of them are actually long term projects that require $$$ so I’m continuing to slowly chip away at the smaller items. I’m also adding a new item- creating a home inventory list. There was a rash of burglaries in the neighborhood and a home inventory with serial numbers will help calm my nerves about the mysterious cigarette butts I found by my back door.

As for my energy draining habits, I realized I was in denial about how much of my day tv sucked away. By removing my DVR and expanded cable service, I’m saving money and I find I have a lot more time during the work week to walk the dogs, cook, and read. How nice!

The keep 1 with 2 to spare tip came in handing this past weekend when I started a new sewing project for the dogs. As the colder weather sets in I’ve decided to make some kennel covers and mats for the inside dog kennels to keep the dogs warm while the thermostat dips past 55 this winter. (Yes, I am notorious for keeping the thermostat just over 50 during the week to save on the heating bill.) I bought some cute fabric for the smaller kennel and then realized I had more than 3 sheet sets for the spare bed which I can use for the 2 big dog kennels instead of having to buy more fabric!

The next chapter of my Tuesday personal productivity book is on money which I’m pretty geared up about so stay tuned!

Monday, October 13, 2008

September Recap

DH and I never carry cash which is handy because every month between our bank statement and credit card bill I have a record of everything we spent money on. Since May I've been tracking our spending in a spreadsheet and noticing the trends in where we spend our money and where we can improve.

Sadly DH and I were in the red again last month but on closer inspection we are actually doing better than ever- Our income was less $1700 in Sept than in August (August included DH's uniform allowance and my vacation day payout), we spent $700 on fencing materials, and we were only $100 in the red. And truth be told I had put aside money for the fence but when I saw there was room in this month's budget I squeezed it in and left the money in our savings. I think we did quite well this month.

Here are September's highlights:


  • Unexpected federal moving tax from 2005- $32.18 You never know when the government is going to hunt you down for more money.
  • $770 in home improvement. One day my fence will be finished!
  • Aflac- $96.90. Since it no longer comes out of my paycheck I get a bill every 3 months.
  • Groceries down $100 from last month.
  • Restaurant expenses down to $50 in comparison to May's $300.
  • $100 saved in dog food by switching to slightly cheaper brand.
  • Personal care expenses (hobbies, entertainment, clothes, hair cuts, etc) down $400 since May.
  • Overall expenses down $1000 since May!
I can't wait to come up with more ways to save! Where could you start cutting back?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Money Makeover- Chapter 3

Financial Thursday- Every Thursday I'll post my financial challenge book group comments for The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey.

Do you have a financial guru you look up to? Who is it and why?

I don't have a financial guru per say. My mother did an excellent job instilling the dangers and advantages of credit cards to me as a college student which I will be forever grateful for. With the exception of my honeymoon, I have always been able to pay off my credit card bills in full each month.

I've also recently enjoyed reading The Simple Dollar blog. It has a lot of great advice for living frugally and some pretty good financial advice too.

What was your financial high and low for the week?

Two highs for the week:

  1. DH and I have officially paid off our honeymoon debt which means no more credit card debit. Yippee!
  2. DH agreed to consolidate our cable services. We will continue to get internet service and basic channels (ABC, NBC, CBS, ect.) but have removed our DVR, HD channels, and expanded cable services. This will save us a whooping $73 a month. Yeehaw!
The low for the week is that we still have a crap load of debit in student loans, car loans, and a mortgage. I think Dave Ramsey wrote chapter 3 just for me and DH!

Do you have any new thoughts about money that you've gleaned from Chapter 3? If yes, what is it?

What really hit home for me in chapter 3 was the myth that loans are a way of life.

When I went to college and then graduate school, everyone told me not to worry about the student loans, that everyone had them, and it was the only way to do it. If I could do it over again, I wouldn't have gone to grad school right after college. I think it would have been smarter to start working and take classes part time to reduce the amount of loans I took out. But of course if I hadn't gone to grad school I wouldn't have met DH.

And while I have always known that pay day loans and rent to own deals were a scam and have never fallen victim to them, the second part of the chapter 3 on car loans really hit home. My first car I bought used for $5000. It was a great car and cheap enough that I didn't need a loan to cover it but everyone told me how lucky I was that it didn't need any work and that people who buy cars with that many miles on it and for that cheap always end up spending twice as much money on repairs yada yada yada. I was effectively brainwashed and when I finally need to replace my car I end up getting a much less used car that required a hefty loan to cover the price tag.

And of course when DH got his new job he thought he deserved a brand new truck so every month we pay $800 worth of car payments! What were we thinking?!?! I'm glad Ramsey set me straight; I will definitely be saving up before purchasing another car again (which hopefully will be a long, long time from now).

After reading chapter 3, I am convinced that DH and I need to do a much better job of planning ahead and saving accordingly. We are definitely the red faced 2 year old in the store screaming, "I want it and I want it now". Ramsey called us out and now we are going to do things differently.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

1 with 2 to spare

Productivity Tuesday- every Tuesday I'll present a tip I've enjoyed from Talene Miedaner's Coach Yourself to Success.

Skipping right along to the second section of the book- uncluttering your life- here is an important tip that I will keep in mind while cleaning out my closet this weekend- keep 1 with 2 to spare. Thinking about all the stuff I keep just because, I'm glad to be armed with a simple formula to help eliminate my pack rat mentality.

The 2 to spare principal works great for minimizing the number of linens you keep (one for the bed and 2 to spare), towels (2 for DH and I and 2 extras), pillows (2 for DH and I and 2 extras).

I can't wait for all that extra space!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Money Makeover- Chapter 2

Financial Thursday- Every Thursday I'll post my financial challenge book group comments for The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey.

What are your financial highs and lows for the week?

Highs- Our credit card bill for the month was at an all time low since I started watching our finances 6 months ago. And this includes our $700 lumber purchase to finish our fence. I also set up an automated saving plan to deposit money into our savings account every week.

Low- I was invited to yet another company baby shower! I've been to 6 work related baby showers this year including 3 for my own department (which btw has only 5 people)! Okay it's not really a low but my work sucks money out of me left and right.

What stood out to you in Chapter 2?
Chapter 2 was about denial. I realized I was in denial about my "little" Target purchases. I spend a lot of money on things I think I need but are really just for convenience. I've since initiated a Target Challenge.

How are things going with your DH after reading Chapter 2?
DH and I still have different attitudes about money and I don't expect that to change. He is, however, coming around to seeing how blessed he is to have me managing his money.