Friday, July 31, 2015

Fiscal Friday No. 2: Zero-Balanced Budget

I'm back this week to share how creating a zero-balanced budget really helped us to buckle down on our extreme spending. If you missed last week's post on getting started and cutting up your credit cards, click here to catch up. Setting up your zero-balanced budget is pretty simple, but here are a few things you'll need to help get you started and to keep you organized:

1. Monthly Calendar

2. Calculator 

3. Notebook

4. Highlighters, pens, pencils and whatever else 
your little organizational heart desires!

Okay, ready to get rolling? Start by jotting down all of your monthly expenses (bills, payments, etc.) as well as your monthly income. Don't forget to include things like gas and groceries. Look back at the last three months of your bank statements to get an average of what you spend. 

Next, subtract the difference between the money coming in and the money going out (income minus expenses). Anything that is left over still needs to be accounted for. This is where the zero-balanced budget became such a game changer for us. Before we took a closer look at our money we didn't account for e v e r y  s i n g l e penny so it was easy to just blow our extra income on silly things that we didn't really need. With a zero-balanced budget we account for everything. So, we make an allotment for family fun, going out to dinner, car maintenance, household items, clothes, etc. This also let's us better manage our money so that we can make bigger payments on the things we owe, like school loans and car payments. 

Need a better explanation of how this all works? Check this article out. Want a fancier way of keeping track of all of this? There are tons of downloads and printables available on Pinterest and Etsy, if that's more up your alley. Dave Ramsey also has a great program to help you keep track of everything (monthly budget and debt payoff) here. You have to pay for it, but for us, it was worth every cent! 

Good luck setting up your new budget! Let me know how it goes! 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

7 love habits

Last week my hubby and I celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary! While we may still be considered young birds compared to other more veteran couples out there I still think that it is something to be celebrated. Plus, isn't seven a lucky number?

Life can get crazy and hectic and overwhelming and stressful and sad and depressing. Having this guy by my side keeps me going. He is my rock. And he is also the biggest goofball I know. I'm not a marriage expert, and Lord knows I am not a perfect wife, but today I wanted to share our seven love habits. These are just little ways that we remind each other that we still love each other. . .even amongst all the crazy we juggle between kids, work, family, friends, and life.

1. Never go to bed without saying goodnight. Oh don't get me wrong, one or both of us might be angry about something but we always kiss and say goodnight. It doesn't make the anger go away but we at least subliminally agree to table whatever it is we are arguing about until the next day when we are more likely to communicate more pleasantly.

2. Leave love notes for each other. Before we were married, Sean would leave post it notes hidden all over our apartment any time he went on a work trip. It would take me the entire time he was gone to find them all! When we moved back to New England and lived in the city Sean put a note on my steering wheel before he left for work every day for two years! They started off as little love notes to me and eventually grew to include morning hellos for both of his girls after Addie was born! We've scaled back a bit since then but we still find time to leave notes for each other. Need some ideas? Use a dry erase marker to leave a note for your loved one on their bathroom mirror, stick a note in their lunch, car, wallet or jacket pocket! It doesn't have to be fancy, just meaningful.

3. Serenade each other. When a good song comes on the car radio, turn it up and belt it out to your loved one! The kids love this and think we're nutso when we start singing to the other person!

4. Snuggle. In bed at night. On the couch watching a movie. At the park on a blanket while the kiddos run off and play. In private. In public. Just snuggle...come on, who doesn't love a good snuggle?

5. Hold hands. Hold hands whenever and wherever you can.

6. Let it go. You don't always have to have the last word or always be right (even if you are!). Sometimes, you have to just let it go. It's not worth it. At the end of the day is it really horrible that he left the dish in the sink and not in the dishwasher? Did your marriage really suffer because he doesn't fold the towels in the same direction as you? Exactly. So let it go. It's not worth getting into an argument. And if you do argue, see No. 1.

7. Talk. The big things in your life shouldn't be communicated through text messages and emails. You need time each day to connect and talk, especially if you have littles around. It's important to tell each other about your day. Be specific; "My day was fine, how was yours?" does not count. "My day was great because..." or "It was awful because...." We've even got the kids in on this and every day we go around and share our favorite part of the day and our not-so-favorite part of the day. It's a great way to get conversation rolling and it allows us time to really connect with each other.

How do you and your loved one make time for each other? I'd love for you to share in the comments below!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Fiscal Friday No. 1: Getting Started

I'm so excited to kick off this new series on getting (and staying) out of debt! It's going to get pretty personal but I want to share my journey with you all in hopes that your financial health can change for the better too. Since beginning this last fall, Sean and I have seen drastic changes to our lives and have way more financial freedom than ever before! And, just to be clear, this isn't a "you can never shop again" or "you have to make your own soap and laundry detergent" kind of a plan (unless you're into that...than by all means, go for it!). This is all about making smarter choices when it comes to that hard earned paycheck of yours. It's about budgeting. It's about planning ahead for larger purchases. And, it's about giving you and your family more freedom for fun! 

I'm not ashamed to admit that I've pretty much drank all of the Dave Ramsey Kool Aid. Don't get me wrong, I was a little skeptical at first. I mean, this guy is super wealthy and I just paid him even more money in royalties to read about his wealth. I dug in a little deeper, did some research, and even went to one of his events to learn more about his story. I'm not saying that if you read his book you'll become a millionaire. But, I do wholeheartedly believe that reading this book will shatter some of your beliefs regarding loans, credit cards, and saving for things like college and retirement. Plus, I am not an expert. He is. 

If you have kids, I highly recommend you read the book he wrote alongside his daughter, Rachel Cruze as well. For links to both books click here. It gave Sean and I some great ideas on ways to teach our own kids about money, buying on credit, college savings and their future financial health. 

So, if you're ready to get started and want to take the first steps towards getting out of debt I highly recommend that you start by reading these books. If you don't have the cash to buy them, check them out at your local library (or you can borrow mine!). If you have a spouse or partner it's super important to get them on board to read along with you. Dave refers to his "baby steps" throughout the book but essentially his philosophy breaks down to this: cut up your credit cards, put a little money aside as an emergency stash, and start paying off debt before you focus on things like retirement or college savings.

What? Cut up the credit cards? You must think I'm crazy, right? Trust me, it was scary for us too. What if something happens? What if there was an emergency? What if I need money, fast? Those were the same questions and hesitations we had too. My recommendation. . .check those credit card statements and see how many transactions were for T R U E emergencies. Did you really need those new shoes, or did you just want them? Could you have borrowed a crib from your cousin or did you need to buy a new one for baby number three? Did you really need to charge up your grocery bill, or did you just blow your budget on other non essentials last month? Did you need to go away with the girls for the weekend or could you have mustered up the courage to say "no, it's not in my budget right now," and invite them for a night in at your house instead? Yeah, that's what I thought! And I was totally guilty of all of this too! (We are in a judgement free zone right now!)

This week I challenge you to cut up those credit cards! Its scary, I know. . .but you can do it! You'll even feel empowered knowing that you are one step closer to paying off your debts. Don't have credit cards? Hooray for you, you're already one step ahead of the rest of us! The rest of you, stop making excuses (insert loving and smiley face here).

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Pineapple Crush

Did you know that pineapples are the international symbol for hospitality? I've been searching high and low the past two years for the perfect pineapple knocker for our front door. In my quest I've realized that pineapples are the new "in" thing. . .I see them everywhere (except on my front door) and I love it!

Pineapple Crush

For sources or to shop click here

It's neat to see how decorative trends change from year to year. The starfish, crabs, anchor and nautical color themes from summers before had a good run but now pineapples, flamingos and bright pops of color are taking over.  Do you have a pineapple crush, too? 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

About ten months ago Sean and I had a long heart to heart about where we wanted to be five, ten, fifteen and twenty years from now. We scribbled out our dreams of having a fence, new deck and patio, a finished basement and attic, a hot tub,  a vacation home, a week long trip to Disney or Bermuda or Aruba, new cars, new clothes, new furniture, new adventures. You know, all those materialistic things! We talked about travelling the country in an RV with our kiddos, saving for them to go to college, saving for our own retirements, moving south, moving north, or moving to the next town over. 

Then we took one glance at our finances. Car payments, mortgage, school loans, credit cards, bills. We felt like we were stuck between a rock and a hard place. The amount we owed seemed overwhelming. Where was all of our money going? We paid all of our bills on time and provided for our family. On occasion, I did a little shopping but that wasn't what was preventing us from getting ahead with paying down those school loans, car payments or credit cards. How the heck is anyone supposed to get ahead? 

I started talking with friends who weren't afraid to get personal and talk about money. We shared tips and articles and budgeting ideas. These same friends had joined in my retail therapy challenge from last summer. And eventually, I came across Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover
B e s t. P u r c h a s e. E v e r. Seriously. I know it sounds silly, even Sean asked, "Why are we spending money on something to learn how to save money?" But friends, this book is a major game changer! You can read more about it here and here

Sean and I read the book together and immediately put ourselves on a zero-based budget. We started in October and within a few short months we were able to pay of thousands of dollars in debt. Since my brief mention of this we've paid off even more. W a y. M o r e. We officially own both of our vehicles and have paid off two credit cards! If we stay on track (and if I did my math right...which is always questionable) we'll be completely debt free by the end of 2015! 

People get a little funny when it comes to talking about money. But if you feel like you're stuck between a rock and a hard place I challenge you to follow along for a little mini series here on the blog that will focus on becoming more financially healthy. Over the next few Fridays I'll be sharing our journey as we said goodbye to using credit cards, paid off our car loans early, and budgeted our way to financial freedom! It's not a one size fits all plan, but a little change here and there can really add up! 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Mermaid Flower Paris Party |Part Deux|

Hi, friends! I'm back again today to share a few more pictures from Addison's Mermaid, Flower, Paris 5th Birthday Party. If you missed yesterday's post click here. I can't wait to see what she dreams up next year! 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Mermaid Flower Paris Party |Part One|

I've got to hand it to my sweet little girl. When she first asked for a mermaid, flower, Paris party (here) I thought she was just being silly. Then she went ahead and added she wanted to make sure we had all of her favorite colors: pink, gold, teal, black and white. My little girl is a dreamer and one of the most creative people I know. And this mama, is always up for a challenge!

I think this might be my most favorite party so far! Addison helped make everything, giving the two of us some special mama and daughter time. I loved letting her imagination run wild. As long as we had the paper, glitter, glue and scissors to make it happen there was no holding back.

We went with a Parisian city scene with a mermaid cafe, flower market, and some of Paris' most popular tourist attractions. It took awhile to to put together. . .Pinterest left us empty handed. If you type "Mermaid Flower Paris Party" in the search bar there are zero results. Until now!

Thank you to all of our friends and family who came out to help us celebrate in true mermaid, flower, Paris style for our little girl turning F I V E! Swing back by on Thursday for a few more pictures from her big day!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

5 Simple Mommy + Son Dates

I sometimes get swept away with being a girl mom. Ballet and tap lessons, recitals, dress up tea parties, shopping, and princesses galore. Being a girl mom is easy. It comes naturally to me. Being a boy mom? Not so much.

I'm all about four wheelers and dirt bikes, race cars and mud pies. I can play with my little man, no problem. I love hanging out with him but when your older sister is a sassy little fancy pants, you sometimes get the short end of the mama stick. So lately, I've been really intentional about the time I spend with both kiddos. It is important for them to have time without me, time together with both the parental units, and solo time with mama and dada as well. Today, I'm sharing my 5 favorite mommy and son dates.

1. If your little man is into tractors and heavy machinery, take him to your local tractor or farm supply store! This is one of Mason's favorite things to do. If the owner is comfortable with it you may even get to try some of them on for size! Be upfront with the employees when you first enter the store, tell them you are just here to show the little guy some real live tractors. They'll get a kick out of it, I promise! Mason could spend hours gazing at lawn mowers, tractors, leaf blowers and chain saws. Basically, anything with a motor.

2. Treat him to something sweet and split a tiny ice cream sundae. Let him pick the flavor and any toppings he wants! You never know, you might just like peanut butter fudge ice cream with blueberries and gummy worms on top!

3. Go for a walk. It doesn't have to be anywhere special or fancy. A walk around the neighborhood or your backyard will suffice. Bring a little bucket to collect things you find on your way. See how many different kinds of rocks or sticks or leaves you can find en route.

4. If he's old enough, catch a new movie in the theaters. Share a small popcorn (or sneak in your own snacks) and enjoy the snuggles! Don't stress if he isn't into it or can't sit still for the whole movie. If you catch a matinee it is much cheaper and you won't have to feel guilty for leaving before the show is over.

5. Park at a nearby train station, airport or bus terminal and let him sit on your lap while you watch planes, trains, or buses come and go. Bonus points if you can ride a free shuttle around the airport for a half hour!

How do you spend time with your little loves? I'm always looking for more ideas to add to our bucket list. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Once a runner

"Running to him was real; the way he did it the realest thing he knew. It was all joy and woe, hard as a diamond; it made him weary behond comprehension. But it also made him free.” 
- John L. Parker, Jr., Once a Runner 

Running has always been my go to workout. I was "once a runner" in the sense that I raced competitively, training my tail off, breaking records and winning championships with some of the best teammates and friends I've ever had. Those glory days of mine are long gone, but these weary legs still like to hit the pavement or the trails for a good, long jog. Running isn't something that many people enjoy doing. . .and for the first mile or two until I settle into a run I would agree!

I've tried just about every brand of running shoe over the last 20 years. Nike has always been my favorite. Any some days, I think the only motivation for going out for a run is the motivation I have from wearing a cute pair of shoes! Here are some of my favorites:
Once a runner

click for sources or to shop 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Let Freedom Ring

It's a fill your basket up with candy at the parade and shoot off fireworks kind of a day! So blessed and happy to be spending some quality time up north with my family this weekend while we celebrate our country's independence.  Happy 4th of July and thank you to all of the brave men and women serving our country. Home of the free because of the brave.