Tag Archives: Financial Peace Universit

2013 Financial Goals

We are happy with our progress in our goal to become debt free except for our mortgage. We are following Dave Ramsey’s baby steps.  It has become very exciting to see our snowball finally moving.  We are keeping our eye on our goals!  We are finding it very helpful to write yearly goals and share a weekly victory to keep us motivated.  This has been LONG process for us and it can be a struggle to keep motivated.

1.  Increase Deferred Comp/Retirement Savings   DONE!

This is a secondary retirement amount.  We started this account by only putting very little into this secondary retirement account.  We will double our amount we save into this retirement account.  We also have a primary retirement account matched by our employers.

2.  Pay off our Chase Card by March 2013.   DONE! 

3.  Accomplish Tommy’s MCS through 5th grade. DONE!

Tuition paid for 6 years of private elementary school.  A wonderful foundation for our son, worth every single penny.

4   Pay off our last credit card by December 2013.

We are on track to pay our final credit card off just before Christmas, if no major unplanned expenses hit us.  We are so excited to think we will be going into 2014 with no credit card debt!

5.  Update our will to reflect changes we have discussed.

It is time to change our will now that our children have gotten older.   It has been 9 years since we had our will initially written.

What are your 2013 Financial Goals??

Blessings…

Paul and Jen
Faithfully Living Below Our Means!

FPU: Jen’s Little Secret….

We all have our struggles, it is true.   While I might be great at budgeting money and living a frugal lifestyle,  my secret is that I am not good at denying my children ANYTHING!!  I struggle daily on what my heart and my head tell me.  My heart tells me that my boys are my life and I would do and give them anything!  My head tells me that I have to stop doing this and have my son earn his money to buy what he wants.  How else is he ever going to know how to do this as an adult??  As my parents might have said, “Money doesn’t grow on trees!”

 

While I am not extravagant in what I give my child, I know I am missing the mark on utilizing these teaching opportunities.  And we all know I am still going to give him things, but maybe a little less   I will share with you some examples from the last week and see if you can relate.   

 

1.  It is starting to warm up in MN and we hear the icecream truck coming down the street.  Don’t ask me why, but this guy *knows to park in front of our house!   Tommy goes running to his “Spend” envelope and finds he only has 1 dollar.   He asks me for a dollar and of course I hand one over to him.   Hubby reminds me about how our son needs to do his chores and he would have plenty of money for the ice cream truck.   

 

2.  I am dropping off my son at school and the school book fair is set up.  Our little guy informs me that his class gets to go shopping today and he needs some money.   I did think twice about it this time….but in the end, I couldn’t say no.   I gave Tommy some of my fun money, which is where a majority of my fun money goes.  I am always spending it on the kids or some other gift, etc.

 

3.  Hubby and I are packing our son to go to an overnight trip with his school to an environmental camp.   The packing list says to bring some money for the camp store and a treat on the way home.  Hubby, because he is MUCH better than I am at this, asks our son if he has any money in his spend envelope.  Well, the answer is “no” of course.   I of course plead my son’s case, he can’t be the only child without some funds on the trip.  Hubby opens his wallet and give our boy $10 from his own fun money, because as terrible as I am at giving my sons anything they want…..my hubby is that way with me….he loves me.

 

As I am typing up these examples, I think to myself what harm would have been done to Tommy if I had said “No”??   No to ice cream truck….he would have had a bowl of the ice cream from in our freezer.  No to the book fair….he would have read his library book or one on his shelf from previous book fairs.   No to spending money for the trip…..he would have still had a great time and made wonderful memories with his class and learned that doing his chores would have given him money to spend, but memories and fun don’t need to cost anything.

 

Dave Ramsey says that personal finance is 20% head knowledge and 80% behavior and for me this problem is 90% psychological.   I grew up the youngest of 5 children and wasn’t the richest kid in school.  I would cringe when the teachers would ask, what did you get for Christmas and my classmates would have this long list and I would say my one thing.  While my hubby and I budget for Christmas, you can bet my children get more than one present.  I just grew up knowing that my family didn’t have the things others did.  No trip to Disney world but we always went on a family vacation every summer. My parents seemed content and didn’t seem to worry about the need to keep up with the “Jones”.

 

Looking back at that as an adult, I have a totally different take on it.  While the embarrassment stayed with me, I learned some very valuable lessons from my parents.   My parents didn’t have a extravagant home, but they never refinanced and owned their home while I was at home.  I remember my parents making the last payment on the house after the man they had a contract for deed with passed away.  At Christmas, while I might not have had numerous gifts, the one gift I wanted was always under the tree and I felt loved.  To this day, I still can remember the joy of my “Baby Alive” I received when I was little and the clock radio I received as a teen.  And of course, my best memory is of the puppy my parents got me, Chico.   Never mind that I drove them nuts acting like a dog so they would get me a dog.  These gifts meant so much to me.   My parents knew that and always did their best to make sure I felt loved.

 

I don’t recall my parents using a credit card much in my life and they paid cash for most things.  My dad bought his vehicles and boats with cash and he still does today.   We bought items at Garage Sales and my mother sewed.  We always had a garden to grow and preserve our harvest for the winter.  We would even go to the colony to get more produce to meet our needs.  So was I affected by my parents saying “no “to me….yes, I learned to appreciate what I had, work hard, garden, sew, cook, save money and be frugal.  I am so thankful for that today!   My mom is amazing and taught me so much!

 

I am realizing while writing this what a disservice I am doing to my son by not saying “No” sometimes.   I learned a lot from my experiences with money as a child.  As a parent it is my job to provide for my child, but also to teach him about life, which includes how to handle money.   This is my job and I need to take is seriously.  It is better if he makes a $10 mistake now than a $10,000 as an adult.   

 

I have had a discussion with my son about how he will need to do his chores to have spending money.   That Mom will not be giving her money to him when he wants it .  We have a list of chores on the side of the fridge and he receives $1 for each completed.  Most weeks, we only can give him $1 or $2 for chores completed.   He could easily earn $10 a week, if he did his chores.   Time to teach the value of money and hard work!   It is my job as a parent to prepare my children for the real world, just as my parents did.   The lessons we teach our children now about how to save, give and spend will lay the foundation for their financial future as an adult.  This will be very hard for me and I am sure I will slip up, but I am going to give it my best!

 

Blessings,

 

Jen C

 

 

Summer, Soccer and Avoiding the Golden Arches

 

Summer is nearly here, I hope!  It is hard to tell in Minnesota.  But summer means crazy schedules and the desire to spend as much time as possible outside.  Summer in Minnesota is too short to miss a single nice day.   We have one son left at home, but we are super busy with his soccer schedule.  Those of you with more than one child in sports….I don’t know how you do it!  With hectic schedules it is harder to eat at home….but it is possible to avoid those quick drive through meals with a little planning! 

Planning is the key to most of our success in this pursuit of becoming debt free.   If you want to save time and money, menu plan!   How do you menu plan when you have to be at soccer practice three nights a week at 6:30 and Mom doesn’t even get home from work until 5:30 or 5:45??   Planning, planning and more planning is the answer.  On soccer nights we plan easy meals that can be made ahead, which saves us time and money and a million calories!!  Supper is ready and in the fridge just waiting for us. 

We look at what evening we will be home during the week and then make a few nights meals that evening.  A few weeks ago on a Monday evening, Jen made two additional meals in addition to our evening meal.  She made Beef Enchiladas and Chicken Salad for Tuesday and Wednesday night meals.  Jen makes the enchiladas to the point of going in the oven, then puts them in the fridge with the heating direction on them.  Then we can call home and have who ever is home put supper in the oven and it is ready when we arrive at home! 

Beef Enchiladas ready for the oven!

Chicken Salad can be made ahead!  Cut up some fruit and have a bag of Sunchips and croissants on hand and supper is ready in a matter of minutes!  Plus this meal is healthier than McDonalds and cost less as well.

Other meal ideas that can be made ahead – most sandwiches, such as ham spread, seafood salad and Summer Sub Sandwiches – crockpot meals and Pasta Salads.  Jen recently subscribed to the Emeals Healthy Lunch Menu Plan, which makes for great make ahead quick meals on very busy nights!  We can even grab the meals out of the fridge and eat them on the way to practice, if needed. 

We hope this post gets you thinking of how you can spend a little time each week to plan your meals and avoid the golden arches this summer!   It is great to pack a lunch to take with you on an outing as well.   Lunch always tastes so much better outside at a park!!  Of course we occasionally have a meal at the Golden Arches, but when we do it is a real treat.   Just remember you can make your own healthy food fast with a little planning.

 

Happy Budgeting!!

Paul and Jen 
Faithfully Living Below Our Means!

 

 

Other Articles in our FPU Series:

Financial Peace University
Our FPU Story: That was then…..This is now
FPU: Leap of Faith Budgeting…Time to Make a Plan
FPU: Inside Our Weekly Budget Meeting
FPU: Sink Your Debt with a Sinking Fund
Groceries: Cut the Dance and Start to Wiggle!

 

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Groceries: Cut the Dance and Start to Wiggle!

Grocery

If you are new to the budgeting/debt-reduction lifestyle, then step 1 is usually the maddening struggle to find your “Wiggle-room“. Wiggle-room is that extra corner you can cut somewhere (anywhere!) in your current spending to begin your snowball. It is vital to find your wiggle-room quickly, in order to sock away your emergency fund and then get that snowball rolling! Where is the best place to start? Well, for us it was: The Grocery Budget. You might be amazed at the amount of wiggle-room you can find by doing some smart shopping.

1. Plan your meals.  (emeals.com – a great site for menu planning inspiration)
2. Plan to do your own cooking.
3. Make and stick to your shopping list
4. Shop where the prices are lowest.

Note: To make our life easier in this area, we have completely eliminated the biggest headache of them all: The Coupon Dance. We Clip Zero Coupons. None. Nadda. Not a single one. Never, never, never ever. We’ve simply decided we will assign none of our precious evening or weekend free time to this.

So, First begin shopping where the prices are consistently lowest.

For us they are (and in this exact order)

1. Aldi, and if it’s not there,
2. Walmart, and if it’s not there,
3. Sam’s Club.

If you don’t want to take our word for this, then spend a bit of your free time doing a research project. (and this is actually kind of a fun and very eye-opening motivator for frugality!) Pick 20 common items you are likely to consistently buy that can be found at any grocery store. Price-check those 20 items at Aldi, Walmart, Cub, Rainbow, Festival, Kowalski’s, Byerly’s & Lunds. (Leave Sam’s Club out of this, unless you’re ready to play with a calculator for an extra hour. We go to Sam’s Club mainly because they have very good produce for the prices.) Trust me though, your end result will quickly reveal your wiggle-room. (Spoiler Alert: We’ll see you at Aldi )

Next: Figure out what might be an appropriate amount to budget for groceries for your family. (Pick a goal, any goal, then challenge yourself to beat it over time)  Recently I was reading a blog that recommended budgeting about $100 per person each month.  So for our family we should budget about $500 per month.

I decided that for the month of April I would track our grocery expenses to see how close we are to this amount. We shop only twice a month for grocery related items.  One of the shopping trips is usually larger due to when items run out, etc. 

4/6/13

Aldi – $67.67
WalMart – $ 40.76
Sam’s Club – $52.72

Two weeks’ total On Food – $161.15 

4/21/13

Aldi – $ 142.41
WalMart – 102.15
Sam’s Club – $ 57.64

Two weeks’ total on Food = $302.20

Total for month of April – $463.35

Based on our totals for April, I find the $100 per month per person to be a fairly generous amount to budget for groceries. This month our totals were a bit higher as Jen is going out of town for 5 days next week, so we bought more convenient things for meals prep while she is gone. 

So if you are new to budgeting, and need to find that wiggle-room to create your emergency fund and then start your snowball, I would start with making your monthly grocery budget be $100 per person in the family and start shopping where the same foods are cheaper in price. I think it is a very easy place to start.  As you get better at cooking and frugal shopping, that amount will probably decrease, but this is a very good starting place. 

Happy Budgeting!!

Paul and Jen
Joyfully Living Below Our Means!

 

 

Other Articles in our FPU Series:

Financial Peace University
Our FPU Story: That was then…..This is now
FPU: Leap of Faith
Budgeting…Time to Make a Plan
FPU: Inside Our Weekly Budget Meeting
FPU: Sink Your Debt with a Sinking Fund

  

 

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FPU: Inside Our Weekly Budget Meeting

budget-meeting-invitation

Inside Look at Our Weekly Budget Meeting –

Many people have asked about our Weekly Budget Meeting.  What we do each week to keep on track and keep our financial house in order.  Usually each Saturday morning hubby and I have a date…….to pay bills and discuss the budget.   It isn’t nearly as painful as you may think; actually it is one of our favorite activities each weekend.   We have been having this date every week since October, 2010.

We get paid on alternating Fridays so it is pay day for us every Friday, (which means budget meeting every Saturday.)  We pay bills that are due for that week plus 4 days.  Last Friday was March 15th so we pay all monthly bills that are due through the 26th of March.  

We start off with Jen taking her place at the computer and reviewing the bank accounts online to make sure our check register and bank balance are the same.   We have two accounts we work with each week.  The first is our Household Account.  This is the account that every bill is paid out of.   The second Account, we call our Freedom Account.  This account is where we “Sink” funds each week for upcoming expenses.

Paul grabs a chair and his columnar pad to begin our weekly budget meeting.   He will read off what our carry over was in the account last week and quickly check if any additional was spent our of it over the course of the week.    Carry over is the unallocated money in the account.  We don’t quite do a zero based budget., (but we’re always very close!)  Last week we had a carryover of $16.27.  (What was left in our account after paying bills and filling our envelopes.)    Jen’s answer was that nothing was spent of the $16.27 , which is usually the case, but we feel safer having a little bit in the account.

Income
Next we list the income for the week.  Last week this included Jen’s Payroll, Brother in Laws rent and our $16.27 in carry over.   We total this up and this is what we have to work with for this week. 

 budget_pie

Monthly Obligations
On our columnar pad we have a list of all our monthly bills listed in order of their due dates for the month.  Currently, we have 10 monthly obligations. (When we started there were 16!) This includes items like our mortgage, credit card, student loans, cable TV and Cell Phones. It just so happened that last week we did not have any monthly bills due during the time frame of March 15 – 26th.  This is the BEST part…as time goes by and debts are paid off you suddenly have weeks where NOTHING is actually due!  Snowball time! 

Weekly Obligations

Next we move on to our weekly budget items.    Our weekly items include:  Gas, household, Grocery, Church, Fun Money, Tommy’s pay, any new credit card charge over the week (Always paid off completely each week)  and extended day.    We purchase gift cards through our church for gas (SA) and household expenses (Walmart) .  We purchase the same amount most weeks; $100 for gas and $100 or $50 for household expenses, depending on the week.   We use the envelope system for Grocery, Household and our Fun Money!   Fun Money – this is a marriage saving Financial Peace item!   We each get a set amount of money each week which is ours to spend or save as we see fit.  No discussion needing to be done to approve those expenditures.    Weekly Credit Card, we do have one credit card that we use frequently throughout the week or for online items, and some small items that are autopaid like the vet’s plan for our dogs and unplanned expenses.  The balance of this card is brought back to $0 each week.  

Sinking Funds (Absolutely VITAL)
Once all our obligations are paid, we usually have some funds left over.   Those funds must also be accounted for.  Sinking Funds is a term used to describe setting aside money for a specific purpose.  Think of it as “Rainy Day” fund or “just in case” money.   Our sinking funds are placed in our Freedom Account and stays there until needed. Since we had no monthly bills due last week, it was our week to focus majorly on our sinking funds.  In the past this would have been money we would have probably spent on something we probably could not afford.

Mortgage or rent – your mortgage is probably one of your biggest expenses.  This is a sinking fund for us.  We try to put ¼ of our mortgage into the Freedom Account each week.   So that by the due date the item is totally funded.   So last week we moved money into the Freedom Account to fully fund our mortgage payment, which we will be paying this week. It is such a feeling of peace to have those funds all set aside already for our mortgage. 

Tuition – our son goes to private elementary school so we sink those funds too.   That payment is due on the 15th, but we added the last few dollars to full fund that item as well.   So the money for tuition is in our Freedom Account ready for when that payment is due! 

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Snowball – whatever is left at this point is paid onto our snowball.   Last week we left more money in our account than usual, we pay everything onto the snowball account, which is currently our Affinity Plus Credit Card.  We left only $20.73 in our checking account, which is high for us!   Snowballing is simply paying more on that item in an effort to pay it off.   We will blog more about this item in the future. 

Our weekly budget meeting is a time of reflection and planning.   We discuss future goals and plan how we will be spending our money each month.   We have a common understanding of where we are and where we want to be.  Together we plan the path to get where we want to be, Debt Free!

Recently we have started identifying our weekly victory on Facebook after completing our weekly budget meeting.   This energizes us each week and helps us to focus on what is going well for us.  Some weeks it is harder than others to come up with these victories, (some are small, some are bigger) but it is a good way to keep us motivated and on target.

While our weekly budget meetings sound like they go pretty smoothly and currently they do, they didn’t start out like that.   We had never shared in the paying of bills and making financial decisions together so it took a while for us to work this out and to come up with our budget, months actually and we still tweak the process from time to time.  So just start and know it will get better each week as you continue to work together.   Get all your monthly cots written down and recognized.  Don’t forget to add in those weird time-frame ones like the water bill and the twice a year car insurance payments.  Those can sink you if you ignore them.  Sink THEM instead with your freedom account.  Forget the past and together embrace the future!!

If you want to be successful at anything in life, having an accountability partner will highly motivate you and keep you inspired when you want to give up. Your spouse is a great accountability partner. If you are single finding someone to be your accountability partner is key to success.

We are very excited for your journey and wish you the very best!

Blessings…

Paul and Jen
 Joyfully Living Below Our Means!

 

Other Articles in our FPU Series:
Financial Peace University
Our FPU Story: That was then…..This is now
FPU: Leap of Faith
Budgeting…Time to Make a Plan

 

 

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Above the comment box is the heading SIgn in to Comment –
You many sign in with your facebook account, twitter or as a guest.
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Budgeting….Time to make a plan…

Budgeting

What is it about the word budgeting that gets people all worked up??   I hear, “we wrote a budget, but we didn’t follow it.”   Do you make plans to go out with your friends???   That is all a budget is.  It is a monthly “plan” of where you decide to spend your money.   That is the thing, you are in control!  You tell your money where to go each month.   There is no perfect budget or a perfect month.  So you will have to develop or tweak your budget each month.

  Dave Ramsey on Budgeting:

Remember last week I suggested you get all your financial statements/bills together?? It is time to grab that stack and get down to business. Let’s figure out what your monthly bills are. Make a list of each monthly payment and their due date.

Due Date

Expense

1st

Mortgage

1st

Xcel Energy

8th

Credit Card

10th

Student Loan

13th

Cable

28th

Credit Card

30th

Cell Phone

Add up the minimum amount due on each of these bills to get an idea of how much is due each month. 

Next decide on an amount for weekly expenses, such as Gas, Entertainment, and Groceries. These most likely will be your categories in which you will place cash in envelopes. (It is also not an exact science…you’ll have to live a bit while doing this to gauge your overall weekly/monthly needs.) We use cash or gift cards for most of our weekly expenses.   Our categories include Gas, Household, Groceries, Church, Our Fun Money and Tommy Pay.  We have weekly expenses because one of us is paid each week.  You might plan your expenses weekly like us, every two weeks or monthly depending on your pay frequency. More-often works best for us! (Keeps us honest before a shortfall can become a problem) 

Once you have your monthly and weekly/bi weekly amounts totaled, you now know how much money you need each month to remain living at your current level without incurring additional debt. If you don’t have enough money it is a good time to take a close look at your expenses and look for ways to cut your expenses and debt. It is also a good time to look at your monthly interest payments on that debt and imagine where you could be better spending that money! Obviously, we could also save money if we canceled our Cable TV. 

As scary (or enlightening) as it may be, you have just taken a huge step in changing your financial future by facing your debt.  Knowledge is power! It is now time to come up with a budget with your new knowledge.  Gone will be the days of wondering where your money went at the end of the month.  You will be intentional with your money and tell “your” money where to go!

This is a vital process and can be tense if you have not talked about finances alot in your relationship.  Stick with it, stick with each other, DO THIS TOGETHER, be kind to each other and tweak your budget each month until you come up with a workable plan.  

Here are some excellent forms we have found over time to help you get your start

Budget Forms from Dave Ramsey

Free Family Budget Form from Vertex 42 (Ecxel Document)

Free Monthly Household Budget from Vertex 42 (Excel Document)

 

We are excited for your journey!

Blessings…

Paul and Jen
A normal family trying to live like no one else!

 

Other Articles in our FPU Series:
FPU: Leap of Faith
Our FPU Story: That was then…..This is now
Financial Peace University

 

 

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Financial Peace University: Leap of Faith

a-leap-of-faith-quote1

This is your chance to make a new beginning.   Take the chance and take this leap of faith with us and get started on changing your financial future. You might be reading this and saying, right now my kids are little so this won’t work for my family. Or you might be thinking, we don’t have enough money to start this.

When your kids are young is the perfect time to start this journey as you will be teaching your children through example financial skills that they will take with them into adulthood. If you don’t have enough money to do this…..that means more than anything this is something you NEED to do. Have faith, you are stronger than you know! The biggest hurdle you have to jump over to start this journey is yourself. 80% of your success begins with changing your behavior.

Don’t go it alone, join a local Financial Peace class which is offered at many churches across the country. Go to Dave Ramsey.com to find a class near you.   Keep in mind; if you are married it is crucial that you and your spouse begin this journey together.  Couples must have agreement on spending, saving, debt reduction and planning or your plan will fail before it even starts. 

Learn how to beat debt and build wealth with Dave Ramsey’s Seven Baby Steps.  This is the foundation of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. 

Step 1:  $1,000 in an emergency fund

Step 2:  Pay off All debt except the house – debt snowball

Step 3: Three to Six expenses in Savings

Step 4: Invest 15% of income into Roth IRA and pre-tax retirement plans.

Step 5:  College Funding

Step 6: Pay off Home Early

Step 7:  Build wealth and give!

Where do I start???  Stop going into DEBT.  If you don’t have cash for your purchase, don’t buy it.   After our first class we took all of our credit cards out of our wallets and did not use them.  We even cut some of them up….not all of them, that was too scary!!!

Dave Ramsey on Baby Step #1 –

Focus on Baby Step #1 – $1,000 in an emergency fund.  This step is extremely important.  By having $1,000 in the bank, you end your dependency on Credit Cards for unplanned events.   We have saved $1,000 and spent it on an emergency more times than I can count!    But the whole point is we had the money we needed and didn’t have to rely on credit. 

Next week we will talk about how we started on a budget for the first time in our life! There is that word; you knew it would be coming……BUDGET! It is a good thing, really! Until next week find those financial statements, make a list of your debts and total them up. It is very important to write them all down so you can see the number. That is the prep for Baby Step 2.

If you have any questions or would like us to blog about how we handle any aspect of our FPU journey, just leave us a comment. We would be happy to share what we have learned along the way.

Blessings,

Paul & Jen

 

Other Articles in our FPU Series:
Our FPU Story: That was then…..This is now
Financial Peace University
FPU: Leap of Faith
Budgeting…Time to Make a Plan
FPU: Inside Our Weekly Budget Meeting
FPU: Sink Your Debt with a Sinking Fund
Groceries: Cut the Dance and Start to Wiggle!
Summer, Soccer and avoiding the Golden Arches

 

How to post a comment on xanga, if you don’t have a xanga account:
      Click on the “add comments” link under the post.  
      Above the comment box is the heading SIgn in to Comment –
      You many sign in with your facebook account, twitter or as a guest.  
      Then simply comment and hit submit!!