The Budget Series Pt. 1 – Income and Expenses

The Budget Series Pt. 1 – Income and Expenses

It’s the beginning of 2017 and I know that some of you want to get your finances together this year! If one of your New Year’s Resolutions is to grab control of your income and expenses, I’m here to help!

I’m creating a video series called The Budget Series that will go over different budget methods for different types of people. The first video in this series is focusing on your income and expenses. More specifically, how to gather these numbers and why they’re important, no matter what budget method you choose.

Your income and expenses are vital to all kinds of budgets, whether you’re a beginner or more experienced. This series is mostly targeted to budgeting newbies, but I’m sure you’d find this helpful even if you’re more advanced.

Please watch the video below and don’t forget to like/subscribe so you don’t miss the rest of The Budget Series!

What are your budgeting struggles?  How can you improve your income and expenses this year?

AMDG,
Lisa

My husband didn’t buy me a Christmas gift

My husband didn’t buy me a Christmas gift

Yup, you read that right – my husband didn’t buy me a Christmas gift.

You must be wondering why… I mean, it’s our first Christmas as husband and wife! Did he forget it was Christmas? Is he mad at me about something? Are we okay?????

Yes, don’t fret – everything’s okay! But, I’ve got to admit something, too – I didn’t buy my husband a Christmas gift, either.

*cue gasps*

Yes, it’s true – my husband and I didn’t buy Christmas gifts for each other.

Did we forget about Christmas? Nope, not a chance. As Catholics, we are very, very aware of when Christmas is.

Are we broke? – Eh… debatable. Yes, we’re in debt, but we made sure to include gift-giving for our families/close friends in our budget this year. Just not gift-giving to each other.

So, what’s the deal? As we were planning out our budget for the holiday season, we knew that we wanted to reign in the spending a little bit.

A new approach to Christmas gifts

As we went down our Christmas list, we knew a) we didn’t want to give up gift-giving altogether, and b) we didn’t want to spend an arm and a leg on the people we love. Not to say that our loved ones aren’t worth it! But we figured our friends/family would be upset if they knew that our gifts put us in a tight financial spot.

We started off as we normally do, by deciding on some spending limits for each person on our list. What we did differently this year was we didn’t treat these spending limits as “must-spend” numbers. If we found a fitting, practical gift for a particular person and it was under their spending “limit”, we didn’t go searching for any add-ons to make up the difference.

This is the complete opposite of how I would gift in seasons past. Before, we would spend all the way to the limit. For example, if my budget for a person was $50, I would find something s/he may really enjoy for $20, but I wouldn’t stop there. I would still find $30 worth of random gifts that were just plain fluff to make up for the difference.

This kind of gifting was focused solely on the dollar amount. This year, we wanted to shift away from the dollar amount and focus more on practical gifts the receiver will actually enjoy. If that meant spending less than what we originally allotted to their gift, then so be it! We really wanted to focus on meaningful gifting, not just gifting useless gifts for the sake of spending that money.

The popular Christmas gift mindset

As we were shopping for others with this new mindset, we eventually asked what the other wanted for Christmas (might I add, people were asking us first what we were getting each other before we even asked ourselves). Not that we weren’t on each others’ Christmas lists – we were!

I think we just found ourselves at a turning point. In years past, we would gift nice holiday things you’re supposed to give your significant other, like chocolate, purses, electronics, jewelry, etc. Fuzzy holiday commercials will tell you that all your wife wants is a new bracelet or necklace. And ads on buses and billboards will tell you that your husband would love that shiny new watch for Christmas.

Usually, we would fall for these tactics. It wasn’t long ago when I absolutely loved the Coach purse he got me years ago. And it wasn’t long ago when he gladly received a Playstation 4 (3? I don’t remember now…) for an engagement gift.

But this year was different. Maybe it’s the mutual debt we’re in. But I like to think that our new focus on gifting more meaningful gifts has something to do with it, too.

That’s it – no Christmas gifts for each other

As we started talking about what we wanted for Christmas, we began to realize that we didn’t want much. Sure, there are things that would be nice to have. But Juan and I are usually pretty good about buying these things on our own time (if it’s in the budget, of course 😉)

Sure, there’s all the holiday fluff out in stores right now. Holiday themed candies, clothing, etc. But those are things we just don’t really want. They’re cute and all, but there’s no real purpose for those things in our lives.

Once we realized we both didn’t really want anything for Christmas, we both just looked at each other and said, “no gifts for each other this year?” And we both happily agreed. Great minds, right?

As we both were very happy about this decision, others in our lives were taken aback. What do you mean no gifts? Is he lying to you?? Is this a trap???

No – he’s not lying! I know this because we’ve combined our finances now and I know whether he’s spending on something not agreed upon 😉 And no – it’s not a trap! We both legitimately don’t feel the need to get a Christmas present for each other this year.

Maybe it’ll change next year, maybe it’ll never change. But it’s something we both feel is right at this moment in our lives. There’s something empowering about going against the grain and realizing that although a Christmas gift would be nice, we don’t really need it.

A more meaningful Christmas gift

For me, I’m taking this new “no Christmas gift” rule and taking it a step further. Instead of buying a physical Christmas gift for my husband, I’m going to focus on being present with my husband – not just on Christmas, but all the time.

A purposeful gift is a great thing to give. But what is more meaningful is time and full attention with your loved ones. Once those things are given on a consistent basis through out the year, the want for a Christmas gift goes away. Instead, my husband and I can now focus on what Christmas really is about – Jesus Christ coming to us a gift from God and celebrating that with those we love.

What do you focus on when you give gifts? Have you and your significant other agreed on no-gifts before?

AMDG,
Lisa

Identify Your Obstacles

Identify Your Obstacles

This post is meant to immediately follow last week’s piece about your idea of what being rich means. If you haven’t had a chance to read last week’s post, I highly suggest you do before reading this post. I strongly believe that you can’t get started on identifying your obstacles unless you’ve defined your destination.

Now that you’ve determined what being rich means for you , you must now identify your obstacles.

Identify Your Obstacles

In our case, The Husband and I looked at our definitions of being rich and went from there. As a refresher, here is what being rich means to us –

Being rich means being debt-free

Being rich means not worrying about money

Being rich means being incredibly generous

If you’re a visual person, like I am, imagine your ideas of being rich at the top of a mountain. On the way up this mountain, there are obstacles and set backs on the way, such as a steep cliff, or a tall boulder in the way.

Right now, you are simply looking toward your destination – in this case, your ideas of being rich – and want to identify your obstacles that you can see right ahead of you on the way toward the top of the mountain of financial freedom.

For example, The Husband and I literally looked at our ideas of being rich one by one and identified our obstacles for each. Here is what we came up with.

Being rich means being debt-free

Obstacle #1: Credit card debt

If you’re new to the blog, you must get familiar with my complicated relationship with credit. If you’ve been a reader for some time, you’re probably sick of me talking about it. Well – so am I! This is the first obstacle The Husband and I face when we look to being debt-free.

Obstacle #2: Student loan debt

The Husband and I both went to pretty expensive private colleges. The only difference is that I came out of it with a ton of loans and he didn’t. Hey, what’s mine is yours now, right? 😉 This is clearly #2 on the debt list.

Obstacle #3: Car loan debt

This debt is only slightly less annoying than my student loan debt, but it definitely makes a dent in our monthly expenses. Plus, now that we’re married, we have two car loans to worry about.

Obstacle #4: Mortgage debt

The biggest debt on the balance sheet, but the last in priority for us. I locked in a pretty great interest rate on this loan and we’ve got other debt to focus on in the meantime. Until then, this debt will remain last on the list.

Being rich means not worrying about money

Obstacle #1: Emergency fund

Currently, we have $1k set aside for emergencies. Ideally, we’d like to have much more, preferably 3-6 months worth of expenses.

Obstacle #2: Retirement funds

I’m a huge advocate for taking care of Future You. I don’t want retirement to be a source of stress for us when we’re older. Specifically, this goal means having fully funded Roth IRAs AND 401 k (or 403 b in The Husband’s case).

Obstacle #3: Saving for fun goals/expenses

The Husband and I want to do some major traveling before we start, you know, multiplying. Saving for this is incredibly important – we don’ like traveling broke!

Speaking of multiplying, we’re also thinking of starting a college fund for our future kid(s) (God willing).

There are other expenses we might want in the future, like a new car (when the time comes), moving out (hopefully), etc. We want to be ready for all of these expenses.

Obstacle #4: Diversifying income

To diversify your income means to have different kinds of income streams flowing in as opposed to just having one main job each. We want to do this because it spreads out the risk of unemployment. When you have multiple streams of income, it’s not a huge deal if one of them doesn’t work out – you’ve got all the other “jobs” you can depend on! The more risk we can lower, the better!

Being rich means being incredibly generous

Obstacle #1: Weekly giving

As a Catholic, I firmly believe in tithing when able. What you lack in money, you can give in time. For The Husband and I, I think we are able to give both right now. I want us to start giving weekly to our church so we can start building the habit of generosity.

Obstacle #2: Monthly service

Even though it’s important to give money or even material possessions, I think that giving of one’s time is very valuable, as well. Right now, The Husband and I serve at mass once in a while at our home parish. I also serve in a choir that sings every week at different parishes.

Eventually, though, I’d love to give my time in other ways, like participating in Habitat for Humanity, or volunteering at a local shelter or food drive. I know that a lot of places depend on the time donated by many volunteers and I’d love to regularly be a part of that.

Obstacle #3: Outrageous generosity

Dave Ramsey likes to encourage outrageous generosity and I totally buy it! When we have more than enough, it’s a witness to Christ when we choose to use our riches for others and not only ourselves.

There are so many ideas that I have for this. From sponsoring a family during the holidays, to setting up a socially-aware business, and even paying for all of our family/friends to spend some time together – outrageous giving is something I want to have as a part of our every day lives.

Looking at our obstacles can get overwhelming. But it’s important to remember that we aren’t tackling each obstacle all at once. We will take these obstacles and build out a more detailed battle plan in my next post.

But for now – what are your obstacles on your way to being rich?

AMDG,
Lisa

What Does Being Rich Mean to You

What Does Being Rich Mean to You?

After completely screwing up our wedding budget and being incredibly lax with our money during our honeymoon, it’s time to get back into this financial battle against our debt, win the war for financial independence, and start being rich.

It’s easy to say “DIE DEBT, DIE” and just start there, but we want to be strategic about our next few moves. Like a real battle, we don’t just want to run out into the battlefield and start hacking away at obstacles mindlessly. Yeah, we might get some good progress going on our debt, but we can also run into burnout if we’re not intentional and if we don’t realistically pace ourselves.

That’s why it’s so important for us to come up with a plan for battle. But even before that, we have to start at our idea of being rich.

What Does Being Rich Mean to You?

Start With the Big Picture

We can’t get to where we’re going if we don’t even know what our destination is or even what it looks like. The journey is important, but the destination is the whole point of it all.

So, for our financial journey, we’re starting at defining our destination – what does being rich mean to us?

Being rich means being free from debt

Debt-free may be a no brainer for some, but for others it isn’t.

But let’s think about it – imagine yourself with all the money in the world. Maybe you’re earning a lot at your job or maybe your passive investments are enough to pay for all of your expenses. To many, you seem rich – money is coming in faster than you know what to do with it.

But every 1st or 15th of the month, you are still obligated to pay your car loan. Or your student loans. Your mortgage. That personal loan. And on and on and on. Your income may be great and all, but as long as you have those debts to your name, your money isn’t all yours.

To The Husband and I, being rich means being free from the shackles of debt. No more due dates, no more “minimum monthly payments”. Simply put – our money is ours and no one else’s. (Okay, there’s taxes, but let’s not go there for the sake of this post ;))

Being rich means not worrying about money

Not only do we want to be debt free, but we also don’t want to have any worries when it comes to money.

Right now, we’re scrutinizing every single dollar spent. That $40 dinner? Let’s check our accounts real quick if we can afford that. That $20 Warriors T-shirt? Let’s see if we have the cash for that…

Every single expense means we need to look at our accounts. That’s because we’re still on our way to financial freedom.

We’ll know when we’re rich when we can spend money on a lunch or T-shirt and not even have to check the bank account to make sure we can cover it. We want to be able to spend on things that we enjoy (within reason, of course) without it completely emptying our bank accounts or hindering our goals.

Being rich means being incredibly generous

I’ve written before about how I will not give up giving even when I’m in debt. And I still firmly follow that rule. But when I’ve really made it, I want to give more than I’m asked – I want us to be incredibly generous.

I was listening to one of Dave Ramsey’s podcasts when I heard him mention that he flew his entire family to a cabin for a vacation as a gift. As soon as he said it, I knew that I wanted to be able to do that one day for my family and friends. Not to show off, but to be able to give the gift of time with one another.

Generosity to family and friends may be easy to want, but The Husband and I want to be generous to our parish and to other charities that mean a lot to us. To me, this is the ultimate goal – to have enough for ourselves so that we are able to give to those who don’t have enough.

Whether you’re starting over with your finances or you’re simply starting, period, beginning with what it all means to you is the best place to start. “I want to be rich” or “I want to be successful” are common goals, but are terribly vague.

Dig deep and really think about what it all means to you. Being rich is great, but my definition of being rich can be the exact opposite of your definition of being rich. Make sure you’re chasing after your destination and not anyone else *cough The Joneses cough* then we can get started on the goals.

What does being rich mean to you? What signals or events will trigger in your mind that you’ve “made it”?

AMDG,
Lisa

Q1 2016 Net Worth Update

Disclaimer: this post may contain referral links.

Q1 2016 Net Worth Update

I was dreading this post.

The last time I updated my net worth was back in June 2015 and everything was all fine and dandy.

My net worth went up a good $30k, my credit card debt was almost gone, and my retirement savings, though struggling, was at a nice balance for someone my age.

And then life happened.

*Gulp* Well, let’s just get into it then – here’s my Q1 2016 Net Worth Update

Q1 2016 Net Worth Update

Overall, my net worth decreased by $883 this month.

Note – just to clarify before we move on, this update is just looking at my own finances. My husband and I are slowly combining our finances, so we should see our combined net worth in the next update.

Assets

Cash – $6,207 – up $3,026

Despite the mostly terrible net worth update, this category has a nice increase this time around. This is largely due to the wedding we just had. Wedding gift money, heyyyy!

Short-Term Savings – $1,346 – down $905

My savings accounts are all with Capital One. I love how easy it is to look at all my savings goals in one place. Here’s what my goals are right now:

Emergency: $1,003 – up $2 (hey interest!)
Personal Escrow: $322 – up $162
Wedding: $0 – down $1,083

Of course, the wedding fund was depleted once we, you know, had the wedding. It sucks to see savings go down like this, but that’s exactly why we save for things like this – so we can spend it eventually!

Retirement Savings –  $14,915 – down $17,194

This consists of:

401k: $3,733 – down $22
Traditional IRA: $8,636 – down $445
Roth IRA:  $2,546 – down $16,727

*insert uncontrollable sobbing here*

You’re probably wondering what happened?

Well, the short story is that we were getting closer and closer to the wedding date and realized that we were in way over our heads in regards to payments. I mostly blame myself – I thought we were good financially until a few weeks before the wedding when we finally sat down and added everything up. My mom and my auntie had already helped us out, so we didn’t want to ask for any more money.

So, I double, triple, and quadruple checked that my Roth IRA contributions could be withdrawn without any tax penalty and that’s exactly what I did.

I am not proud of this. But, I can obsess over how terrible this is (and believe me, I have), or I can own up to it, take the L, and move forward knowing better.

Estimated Car Value: $13,815 – down $1,550

I always get my car value from Kelly Blue Book. We all know how badly a car depreciates, especially one that’s bought brand new. So this isn’t news to me, just another unfortunate thing that happens each month that I’ve learned to just accept.

Estimated Home Value: $514,992 – up $17,324

Right now, I use Zillow to determine this value. Since I’m not planning on selling my house anytime soon, I really don’t take this increase to heart – even though it’s a great one! It just doesn’t mean too much at this moment, even though it almost masks my huge decrease in my retirement accounts this quarter (almost).

Liabilities

Credit cards: $11,978 – up $10,424

This consists of:

Discover @ 15.99%: $11,978 – up $11,958
Wells Fargo @ 22.15: $0 – down $1,534

Oh, hey credit card debt! There you are! Didn’t know you were sticking around this long…

Well, the good news is that I paid off my Wells Fargo credit card before the APR changed from 0.00% to 22.15%! The bad news… well, I think it’s a little obvious.

Again, I’ve obsessed over this and the retirement savings. But when I say I’m starting over, I really mean it this time around. In the meantime, I may have to add another chapter to the Credit Card Debt Saga.

Student Loans: $13,359 – down $905

This consists of:

Direct Subsidized @ 6.55%: $2,672 – down $158
Direct Subsidized @ 5.75%: $3,385 – down $212
Direct Subsidized @ 5.35%: $4,109 – down $265
Direct Subsidized @ 4.25%: $2,013 – down $140
Direct Unsubsidized @ 6.55%: $1,180 – down $131

I can always count on my student loan progress to cheer me up! While so many others my age love to complain about these bad boys, I can’t help but be thankful for their consistency amidst the chaos of everything else in my finance world.

Car Loan: $11,439 – down $3,426

Usually, this category is pretty boring since I plan on paying the minimum on this loan for a long time. At least until my credit card debt and student loans are gone.

But something of interest just happened – I’m no longer upside-down on this loan! What that means is that the value of my car is now greater than what I owe on it! Yay!

Mortgage: $265,558 – down $4,511

Slow and steady is my motto for my mortgage. I’ve got all these other loans to worry about, so I’ve decided that the mortgage is the last to go on the totem pole. Nothing new here, folks.

So, there you have it. My cringe-worthy, disappointing net worth update. It would be easy for me to blame the wedding, but ultimately – I blame myself.

But, like I said, I’m starting over. So, I’m done obsessing over the slip-ups and I’m ready to move forward towards financial independence – one step at a time!

AMDG,
Lisa