In Which The Geek In Me Is Showing

I have never considered  myself a “math” person, but there is something so beautiful about spreadsheets and having a solid plan. I’m talking about saving money here 🙂 Nathan and I are working hard to meet some goals for the year. We have a list of 6 separate things that we are saving for right now. Being out of debt is very cool. I need to keep reminding myself of that, because, at the next step, when you are looking at all the things that are coming up that are going to cost money, it’s easy to be overwhelmed.

Anyway. 6 things that we are saving for. So, I put together a little spreadsheet for us to see how much we needed to put aside each month so that we had the right amount saved at the right time. It would seem like it would be straightforward, but not everything is “due” at the same time. This is what we’re saving for:

  • Tutorial tuition 1st payment (due in June).
  • Vacation to see Hennings (due in June).
  • Tutorial tuition 2nd payment (due in September).
  • Vacation to see Fritz family (part due in early Spring and part due in November).
  • Emergency Fund (we want to have it fully funded by the end of the year).
  • Car replacement (we want to have a certain amount of money saved by the end of the year).

To further complicate the matter, since Nathan started this job, we don’t make the same amount every month. We wont necessarily have enough every single month to cover every single savings category. Some months we will have more than enough. In the end, the only savings goal that might not get met is the car replacement goal. And that’s because, I am bound and determined that come hell or high water we ARE going to have our Emergency Fund fully funded and I will do what it takes to make sure that happens! That is more urgent to me than the car replacement because we wont need to replace the van for a while and we already have a bit saved to replace the Taurus. I’m also budgeting to have Audrey and Ethan both do tutorial. I budgeted enough for both of them to do the full day (I think- I need to confirm that), but I don’t think I am actually going to have Audrey do the entire day. She may just do 2 classes instead of 5.

I’m not sure what my point is 🙂 I just wanted to talk through our thought process and how we’re thinking through the expenses that are coming up. So, now it’s your turn! What are you saving for right now? Something fun? Something practical?

I’m sitting here dreaming about how wonderful it would be to do something less practical, like a trip to the beach right now 🙂

May Is Here!

Hello May.

I have big plans for you.

First of all, this month we’re tightening our belts and cutting out as much “extra” stuff from our budget as possible. We really want to get more money in savings to finish up our emergency fund. We wont be able to finish it this month, but it should be soon if we really concentrate on it.

We’re cutting out dining out, random entertainment, decreasing our personal spending, and reigning in the grocery budget. The biggest obstacle to this is that we have medical/therapy bills that keep coming and we need to get both vehicles to the mechanic for various things.

Secondly, speaking of tightening belts. . . I have been stress eating and neglecting exercise for the last two weeks and it has not been pretty. How is it that I weigh almost as much as I did when I had my babies? It’s discouraging and I am very frustrated with myself. This is a lot harder than I thought. Maybe cutting our budget will help me not spend money on junk food.

 

On the weather, being “weird” and starting to pack!

It is a beautiful day in Tennessee. We must be getting acclimated because I decided to turn off the A/C today and it’s 84 degrees. We do have a couple of fans running. It’s probably a combination of getting used to the weather and trying our darndest to work on keeping our expenses down right now since we’ve had some big ones come up.

That’s right, get ready to think the Fritz family is really weird for the next several months! I have offered my babysitting services to local folks to help with some of our expenses and one mom took me up on it yesterday. So, the kids and I hung out with her three children while she worked on some CEU’s she needed for her nursing license. It was fun. She’s going to have me come back perhaps next week! Today Nathan took a big box of books to the used bookstore and sold them and we got $25! On Monday I’m calling the mortgage company for our home in Winsted and asking for an escrow analysis because our property taxes went down this year and they have not adjusted our payment. That should result in a check of about $70 from them. By the way if you live somewhere that the property taxes have gone down and you escrow that in with your monthly mortgage payment, check and make sure that you aren’t paying more than you need to! It’s an easy call. Other things we’re doing: cutting out the “dining out” budget for July, limiting unnecessary driving, and cutting a chunk out of our grocery budget (this can mostly be accomplished by not running out and buying snacks and junk food).

There was a local Franklin family on the Katie Couric show that talked about how they turn off their electronic devices/cell phones one day a week. They do that to help encourage family time. But they also took it one step further. They have one day a week where they use no electricity. I thought that sounded fascinating and I’m figuring out if  there is a way we could implement that. I’m pretty sure they don’t unplug their fridge, but I don’t think they used electricity for lighting, cooking, grooming, etc., It’s interesting and a little crazy and sounds like fun.

We went swimming this morning and then had a restful afternoon. Right now, Nathan is weed wacking the back “yard” and the kids are playing outside. Soon we’ll head over to one of Nathan’s coworker’s house and take their moving boxes off their hands for them because we are closing on our new house in 32 days! I even bought colored packing tape (inspired by Erica) to commence the packing:

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A Plan, Perhaps?

We’ve been praying a lot about what we should be doing in regard to housing. We had a meeting with a financial counselor yesterday and he helped us look at options and I think we have a plan that is better than sitting around and wishing for the housing market to get better.

1. We’re going to get our MN house listed for sale and market it to investors. It’s an income generating property. It’s possible that there may be more interest in it because it already has tenants. We’re going to pray that God provides an offer that we could take without short-selling. So, go ahead and tell your friends that we have a great rental property just waiting. It has new landscaping, new carpet and a brand new roof. What more could one want?

2.We’re going to save money to be ready to buy a house next year when our lease is up. Still having a home at the same time in MN wouldn’t be ideal, but if that were the case, we could still make it work. Most likely it would not be a home in this city (because it’s very pricey here). We could easily save several hundred dollars a month by buying a home in a town south of here as opposed to renting a home in Franklin.

So that’s the plan. Please pray with us that God would provide a way to sell our home.

In Which I Talk About Finances

We’ve had some ups and downs when it comes to financial news lately.

A month ago we were thinking we were going to have to find a way to cut our budget by about $570 a month. There are various reasons for this that wouldn’t be appropriate for me to share on a public blog (it’s not really mysterious- if you want more details you can email me!). Suffice it to say, we don’t live a lifestyle that has that much extra to cut out.

Since then, we’ve seen God supply in amazing ways. he has more than made up the difference. One way we’re able to cut our costs is that the kids and I were approved for an individual health insurance policy! Don’t assume that group plans are always less expensive than a plan you can get on your own. It only took us one week to get the paperwork in and to get the approval. I am so thankful.

The other issue has to do with our home in MN. Time and again we’ve had our hopes raised that there is a way for us to refinance. Each time, when I look into it further, we’re told that it’s not an option for us. This has happened so many times. It happened again this week. We found out that we do have a loan that is approved for a streamline refinance- yahoo!! Then I called to find out more and was told it’s not for people that are not occupying the house. Another dead end. I’ve heard other people say that they got a lot of “no”s before they found a “yes’ for refinancing, but I think the only way that would work for us is to be dishonest in our paperwork. We’re not going to give the impression we are living in the home when we are not.

Today we meet with a financial advisor to get some counsel. We keep praying for wisdom for this situation.

God has provided and we know He will continue to do so.

The Treasure Principle

There are two ways I can do this blog post.

1. Tell you to go and buy/borrow/check-out the book The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn and leave it at that.,

or

2.)Tell you about the book and how it impacted me and encourage you get it yourself to read later.

I’m going with option 2.

We were given this book from the church we were attending last spring. It was part of the “discovery” class for newcomers. There are six principles mentioned in the book. I want to mention two. I wish I could talk about them all, but for the purpose of our story, I’m going to tell you about the two that made the biggest impact.

*My heart goes where I put God’s money.

Here’s a quote from the book, “By telling us that our hearts follow our treasure, Jesus is saying, “Show me your checkbook, your VISA statement and your receipts, and I’ll show you where your heart is.”  That statement has slowly started to make a change in how we set up our budget.

My bank statement proved me a liar. I said I believed that Christians should be giving to those in need. My bank statement said I didn’t care about the poor.

Randy Alcorn went on to say that when we invest our money in something, we always become more interested in it. “Do you wish you cared more for eternal things? Then reallocate some of your money, maybe most of your money, from temporal things to eternal things. Watch what happens.”

I cannot overstate how true this has been for us.

The next principle that has made a HUGE impact is this:

*God prospers me not to raise my standard of living, but to raise my standard of giving.

This principle changed my thinking more than anything else in the book. I started thinking, what if we actually lived like that? What would that look like? So, I went to Nathan and said, “What if we committed to living on a certain income and EVERYTHING above that we gave away?” 

Poor Nathan! I don’t think he’s going to let me read anything that he isn’t also reading anymore. I think he was surprised at the question, but he agreed that we need to decide what is “enough”. It was the start of a long conversation that’s still happening.

We don’t know the answer. The cost of living goes up from year to year. Health insurance premiums keep skyrocketing. It’s hard to set a hard and fast amount of money that would be enough to live on 40 years from now. For us, right now, God is telling us that he wants us to live on a certain percentage of our money. It’s less than we’ve been living on. I don’t want to be too specific because I don’t want this to be about us and how much or how little we give or live on. It’s just the story that God is writing for us and this is the chapter we are in now.

I’m a bit giddy about it 🙂 What if we could increase our percentage of giving every year?

Tomorrow: Conspiracy

Previous Posts:

I Don’t Know When It Started

Meet Shelly

A New Motivation

 

I Don’t Know When It Started

Have you had an experience like this? For several months Nathan and I have been in situations where we have heard the same message over and over again.

It’s about our stuff. It’s about possessions and money and how we use them. So, I’m going to share our story and what this theme is that keeps following us everywhere we go!

I have a love-hate relationship with blog posts like this. Sometimes I read them and get inspired. Other times I just feel judged and defensive.

So, here is my disclaimer:

I’m going to write about how God is working in our hearts in this area and what He’s saying to us. I don’t know what He’s saying to you. It’s not a suggestion to follow what we’re doing. It’s just our story.

Long story short:

Two years ago, we were spending our money on frivolous things, we saved very little and our giving became inconsistent. We hit a wall and decided we needed to make some changes. So, for the last couple of years, we’ve been listening to what God has been saying to us about our money and He is saying: “Live simply. Give Lavishly”

I guess I just spoiled the ending 🙂

For the month of November, we’re (maybe Nathan will chime in too) going to spend time telling the story of   how God is moving in this area of our lives. More to come. . .

Part 2

 

Are You Eating Your Disposable Income?

I just read an article that claimed that Americans spend half  their grocery budget on dining out. I’m not against trips to McDonalds and Chuy’s, but there is no question it’s more expensive to eat out than to plan meals and eat at home.
McDonald's Big Mac

image credit

When we were a two-income family with no kids, we went out for lunch and supper often. I just didn’t want to cook when I got home. If I had done the math on what we were actually spending, we would have probably changed our habits before we were “forced” to with the birth of our first child. I think I would be mortified to know how much of our income we basically ate.

Then we had a baby and I quit my job. A year and a half later we had another baby. We cut down on going out to eat, but didn’t tighten our belts in a seriously until we made a plan.

How we stopped eating our money :

  • We faced the facts. We looked at what we spent in the previous year.

Knowing exactly how much we spent on McDonalds was sobering and a great wake-up call. If you don’t have an easy way to figure out how much you spend on restaurants for the past year, look at your bank statements for a month that was pretty average in spending for you and multiply it by 12.

  • We made a budget.

We made a specific line item in our budget for dining out separate from our grocery budget. We made it based on how much it takes to feed our family and the number of times we thought would be reasonable for someone with our income and financial obligations. We adjust this budget monthly based on birthdays, holidays  and travel. Once the money is gone, we don’t go out to eat until the next month.

  • We pre-planned our meals.

Having a list of meals for which we had ingredients ready made it easier to eat at home

  • We had a higher goal in mind.

It’s hard to take away an indulgence that you enjoy. To make it easier, we did it with a goal in mind. We wanted to put that money that we saved toward getting our van paid off and stop using credit cards. Guess what? That van is paid for now!

How about you?  What keeps you from spending too much on restaurants?