Thursday, April 24, 2008

Do You Really NEED a New Car? For that matter a new anything???

I know that my girls were so excited the other day when I took the car in to get some regular maintenance done on it. They were certain we were getting a NEW car. I am unsure what it is about NEW that has gotten them so excited. I almost feel like I have failed them that they are not content with the car that we have.

In doing research, I found out that Hondas and Toyotas are two of the BEST cars to own because they can LAST a LOOOOONG time. I took my car into a hole-in-the-wall shop that came highly recommended from others. I was talking to him about how most people feel the NEED to get a new car when their car is around 100,000 miles. He said yes, and that it was sad. I asked him how long he thought our Toyota Sienna (all paid off for over 6 years now) would last us. He said, IF WE TOOK CARE OF IT, it would last us 20, 25 possibly even 30 years.

WOW! This car that is totally paid off could last us into retirement! Or at least past the time we really NEED a van (because prayerfully by then all the children will be happily blessed in marriage and needing a van of their own). :)

But I had to think about how I can teach the children about this. God wants us to be good stewards of what He has blessed us with and given to us. God provided this van for us, and by being good stewards, this van will last us many many years. And while NEW may be fun and exciting, isn't it fun and exciting being able to goto DIsneyland? Would you rather have a new car or a trip to Disneyland? I bet you can figure which one they opted for. Being good stewards allows us to indulge in things that we might not have otherwise been able to indulge in.

And I have noticed that since we have been buying less for the children and requiring them to buy more things for themselves, they are learning to appreciate and care for what they have. And they are being a bit more selective about what they are buying. Beforehand, they were wanting anything and everything. Now they look at it and notice if it is torn. If it is, is it something that they (or Mommy) can fix? If so, can we talk the person down on the price? And even then, is it worth it?

It is NEVER too early to start teaching your kids this. My oldest is now 8 years old and she has the BEST eyes. She catches things I sometimes miss. That would not have happened if I did not always have her with me and talked to her through my shopping. Explaining why Momma said no to buying something. Explaining why Momma passed on buying something even though she wants it. By talking through my shopping with my children, they are learning.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Monday's Three Things Finance

Three things I learned about finances this past week:

I recently have been hearing the buzz about Swap Tree. It is basically like Paperback Swap, only you can trade for CD's, DVD's or video games. And you get/give ratings (like on ebay), so you trade only with those who have good ratings. You pay only the shipping and Swap Tree does all the work to find the trade for you. It is free to join!

I finally know how to spend my part of the stimulus check. I love digital scrapbooking. I am a member at the WONDERFUL Digital Scrapbooking Artisan Guild. I LOVE their kits (and this month includes a whole BRAG BOOK!!!) and their Artisan Notebook is WAY better than digital scrapbooking magazine (and there are freebies hidden in the newsletter too - it is like a mini class every month!)!! I am going to extend my membership for a FULL YEAR!! WOOHOO!!!

I included a link below about SAHMs taking advantage of having a ROTH IRA. PLEASE read it. And please set yourself up with one. This would be a GREAT thing to do with your stimulus check. DO NOT put off saving up for retirement just because it seems so far away and there are other "pressing" issues right now. We are in our mid thirties and really regret NOT starting earlier.

Three links to help you with your finances:

Creating An Asset Allocation

The Magic Of Thinking Small - GREAT advice about starting small. You did not get into debt overnight, you most likely won't get rich overnight either.

Spousal IRAs Make Sense For SAHMs - I had NO IDEA that you could do this until a few years ago. OH - all that we missed out on! If NOTHING else, you can use your stimulus check to get yourself set up with one (Roth IRA at 8%), and then at least you have one! Let compound interest work for you - leave it alone (or add to it when you can). And get free money for retirement!!!

Three financial links for articles I have read recently:

Decide To Be Rich - "You can live rich or you can be rich." This article might be a hard pill to swallow for some, but WOW! This is a must read.

It's Only $5.00! - great article about peer pressure in shopping (have no idea what I am talking about, click it). :)

Advice For Those Who Didn't Start Saving Early

Thursday, April 17, 2008

How We Plan To Use Our Stimulus Check

As I mentioned previously, the stores are going to be chomping at the bit to get you to spend ALL your money at their store. So you have to have a plan. And stick to it. So here is our plan.

I personally feel that because the check is given with the intention of spending it in the stores, that we should spend some of it in the stores. Key word here: SOME.

Money for the grown-ups: $1200

We had planned that most of the money we receive (meaning money not allotted for the children) would go towards our debt. Especially with it mounting now that JJ is seeing a specialist and we have had to add even more speciality foods to his diet. But amazingly, with our tax rebate, we were able to pay off all our debt! So we will put the extra in an account for future medical costs for JJ.

We will each keep out a small amount for us to spend personally on what we want. $100 each. For me, I plan on doing something fun with the kiddos that we would normally not do (because of funds) - like out for pizza and then to an arcade. Maybe Chuck E. Cheese. :) It will be up to them. I have no idea what to do with the extra. I have a difficult time paying for books now that I can get them for free at Paperback Swap. Beloved has been wanting a game for his Playstation ... maybe I will get him that (if he doesn't think to get it himself). Gosh, being so frugal has really made it tough to spend so much money!

Money for the children: $300 each child

Beloved believes that the best way to put money into the economy is to put it into the stores, but through mutual funds (stock market). He and I are not sure what the future holds for each child. It may or may not include college. So rather than investing in a 529, we are gonna start each child a mutual fund. We don't want them to be playing catching up like we are having to do now. And we don't want them to have to borrow money to goto college or buy a house. We plan on adding to it as we can (tax refunds, unexpected income, etc.).

Thinking Like A Millionaire

OK, so it is common knowledge that if you want to be a millionaire, you have to THINK like a millionaire.

I cannot remember where I read the following (which I will paraphrase big time), but it has stuck with me for a few months now.

Basically, if a person needs to invest so much money a month, but doesn't have that amount to invest (to be a millionaire by retirement for example), the poor will say "I don't have that much money to spare!" whereas the rich will say "where can I get an extra so much money to invest?"

With inflation and such, my beloved and I will need 3.5 million to retire on just to live once he "retires". I put retires in quotes because my beloved will work as long as there is work to be done, but in his field, you usually are ousted once you start getting "old." Used to be a million was WORTH something. Now, we are playing catch up (if only we had invested $200 a month from our youth (I know, 34 isn't old, but in financial years, IT IS OLD!), we would be well on our way to be millionaires. Now we will have to invest near $671 a month and that is just to get to 1 million by the time beloved retires.

I was also reading that there are people out there on half the salary that my husband is making and still surviving AND putting aside money for retirement. OH HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO PUT MONEY AWAY FOR RETIREMENT!!!! We get so focused on what we want and think we need NOW, that we are throwing away our future!

So, we want to be able to max out BOTH beloved's and my RothIRA's. We want to be able to tithe 10%. We want our ER fund to be $24,000. We want to own our home free and clear (just like we do our car). The rest is what we will live on.

So after finally finding a budget that works for us, we just tweaked it again. :) Just a little bit here and there in order to make our retirement dreams (maxed out RothIRA's, tithing and owning our home) come true. We found the extra so much money in order to make it happen!! Now, we just need to pray for the contentment to live on the rest! :) Which honestly is not that small of an amount considering that people are able to live off this amount. Beloved and I just need to learn to be better stewards. :) And be more content with what we have.

And what a great example to the children!! Mommy, why don't you buy that new thing you want? There is something that Mommy wants more honey. :) I have seen my children withholding and waiting for better than what they were going to go for. Still working on the BEST part. But better is one step towards best. :)

And I just have to add this side note: We are SO EXCITED! We got our tax refund back yesterday, and tomorrow we will be going to pay off the second mortgage on the house!!! The only debt we will now owe is the house!! PRAISE GOD!!! I truly do believe that God blesses those that are faithful in little.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

True Needs (with a little bit 'o wants)

Beloved and I have been talking a lot lately about how we need to be with our finances. We really do need to get to where were are spending only what we truly NEED to (and have a little wiggle room for some of the fun things).

In the past we have just bought a lot of stuff because we wanted it. Not really thinking it through. Even though it was on sale (garage or thrift), I cringe when I think of all the money we could have saved by now. I cannot tell you how much stuff we have gotten rid of in garage sales. And we are about to have another garage sale FULL of STUFF.

So I suggested to beloved that we apply what we are doing with our finances to the stuff we own. We really should bare down to what we truly NEED (and keep a few things that we really REALLY want), and everything else should go. We need to look for ways to use what we have to meet other needs. For example, we really do not need three VCR's or three TVs. When my mom comes to visit, we can move the one from our room down into the basement where she sleeps. So we can get rid of one TV and two VCR's (only the kids really watch VHS, so we only need the one). It will make us some money now, save us some money now (don't have to clean it and it is not using electricity), and save us money in the future (we don't have to pay to move it when we move). :)

Yes, it takes a little bit of work to move it downstairs and set it up and back upstairs again. But I was reading just the other day about how a more simple lifestyle does require more work. (Book review of this fabulous book coming soon.)

What about you? What kind of things can be gotten rid of in the house and other things can take it's place? We need more ideas! We love Alton Brown's philosophy that there are only multi-taskers in the house. Nothing with just one purpose.

I'm Sick

Sorry for no posts. I am sick. :(

Friday, April 11, 2008

Friday's Fun: Finger Knitting

EE just finished her first finger knitted scarf/headband. She could have done it in like ten minutes, but she got tired and put it aside and it got LOST until today. I did not think MM (4yr) was old enough to do it, but I was WRONG! She not only LOVED it (she asked me to show her how to finger knit), but she created a way to do it that was easier for her little fingers!!

Instead of bringing the string across all four fingers, she brought it across one, and jumped over. Then she brought it over the next finger in sequence, and jumped over. SHE LOVES finger knitting, even brings it to work on in the car! And she wants to teach everyone she knows! :) I AM SO PROUD OF HER!!!

Here are some GREAT tutorials!

This is the easiest and most direct video. Also the shortest:

Here is another one that is even shorter, but might be more difficult for younger children (but I really like it!):

CUTE instructional video for kids BY kids - this is the way EE did hers and I like that way it looks MUCH better than the weaving that you see in other videos:

I have never seen it done this way. Below is single stitch. I personally like the one with it over all four fingers, but for those who wonder:

Using the single method to make a flower:

Update on JJ

I finally finished all the past history of my son (except for the results of his blood allergy test, I need to enter that). And I also did a BIG update of his appointment with the specialist.

One Mother's Journey

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Applying Finances to Time Management

If at the end of the week, month, year we are looking and wondering where did all the money go...

Don't we sometimes do the same thing with our time? At the end of the day we wonder where all our time went. Twenty four hours is all we get. We need to make the most of that time.

In order to know where the money goes, you need to TELL it where to go...down to the PENNY. (Otherwise known as a budget.) So why can't we do the same thing with our time? We need to tell ourselves what to do with our time. If we don't, we end up losing it and wondering where it all went.

Now I am not saying this is for everyone. I am sure there are those out there who never wonder where their time went because they have an abundance of it. But if you are like me, I am flustered at the end of the day wondering where the time went. This has been my answer.

When learning something new, you don't always get it right the first time. But that does not mean to give up. I have tried schedules in the past and when they didn't work, I gave up on it. Rather I need to PRAY about it and then revise it and continue pressing on! :) It is OK that it is not perfect, and it is OK to change and modify it as needed.

It took us from Jan 1 until April 1 before we FINALLY have a budget that is working for us! And as soon as we finish paying off this second mortgage, which will be happening faster now that we are telling our money where to go, we will actually be able to build up our emergency fund AND max out at least ONE of the ROTH IRA's!!! :) Something that would not be possible if we had not stuck with it, was flexible and willing to change AND WAS DEDICATED to making it work.

So why not apply what I am learning with finances to my time as a wife, mother and woman of God? My days have gone much smoother when I am following the schedule I have planned out. Of course, with JJ and doctor appointments, we are having to be pretty flexible right now. And there are also days where I just don't feel like following the schedule. But when I do, I have a more peaceful day, the kids are better behaved (and happier too), and I get done what I WANT to get done (in addition to the NEEDS). :) Maybe it will work for you too. :)

Tuesday Link Up - crafts

I am a huge fan of Tasha Tudor. If you don't know anything about her, I highly suggest heading over to your library and getting anything about her or by her. Your children will love her cute pictures and writings and you will love her ...LIFE. :) I recently heard about a pattern for a shawl of hers and went searching all of the internet for it. I have found a link that seems to be the one. Tasha Tudor's Shawl pattern is an absolutely BEAUTIFUL shawl!

A for warmth (as it does get pretty cold here), I am looking to make a cowl or gaiter.
Sew Your Own Neck Gaiter seems really fast and easy and I have seen others who made this pattern really sing it's praises.
Baby It's Cowled Outside is an adorable lacy crocheted cowl.
A practical and knitted cowl
Ice Queen makes me want to learn how to knit. This is simply beautiful!

This is a GREAT way to revamp those burp cloths that are getting a little nasty OR to even make NEW for a new baby. Basket-O-Burpies

Oh it does not get any better (or CUTER) than this! Need some matching sweaters for your girl's summer dresses? What better way than to do a cardigan hack?!?!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Monday's Three Things Finance

Three things I learned about finances this past week:

Sad, but true, I did not learn anything about finances this week. I have spent all my time focusing on baby JJ. He had the appointment with the specialist. I will be updating my other blog with his story and the update later. LOTS of GOOD news!!! :)

Three links to help you with your finances:

90% off is not a deal if you don't need it I am so learning this the hard way. I am addicted to getting a good deal!

The Power Of Compounding and the rule of 72. Short read, but very good.

How I Organize My Bank Accounts - whether you use ING or not, some great ideas on organizing finances. I have heard good AND BAD about ING (the bad is a bit more difficult to find, but is out there and is always in relation to getting your money OUT), so pray about whether or not ING is for you (my beloved has felt led NOT to use them, but lots of others ARE led to use them).

Three financial links for articles I have read recently:

Ten Traits That Make You Filthy Rich

Six Easy Steps For Becoming A Millionaire - good stuff that most every financial planner has already told us. :)

Tips For Increasing Your Financial Literacy

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Questions To Ask BEFORE You Buy Something

Have you ever really really REALLY wanted to buy something? When you have a budget and cash only, it is really hard to buy those impulse items. There is no money for it! :)

But let's say you have the money. Here is a great article on talking yourself out of frivolous purchases.

Here is how I used to do it. But now with a budget, it is much easier to say no. There is no money for it. That doesn't mean it hurts to walk away from a good deal.

We print these questions out and have them on a sticker on our credit card, check book and cash envelope system. It is based on questions Larry Burkett talks about in his books.

**Does it enhance God’s work through me?
Is what I am about to buy going to glorify God? Does it honor God? Does it allow me to accomplish His will?

**Does it add to family relationships?
Will it allow me to be the mother and wife God wants me to be? Or will it cause me to spend less time with my family? Will it cause my family to spend less time with each other??

**Is it a necessity or can I do without it??
This one is the hardest because when you really want something it can easily become a necessity. So I try to focus on the can I do without it part. If I do not buy this, can I do without it? That is not the same thing as living without it. But it sure is nice to have a sharp knife compared to a butter knife to cut veggies! AND I am cooking from scratch, saving money. ANd I must admit that it is quite fun looking around and finding something we already have that can do the job.

**If I can't do without it or if it is a necessity, is it something that I can wait on?
Shop around. Never pay full price for anything ever again. I am addicted to books! SO when I see a book that I feel I need for homsechooling, or just really really want because it has some great crafts in it, I write the title and author down on pad and paper (which I always carry in my purse). Then I go home and get it on Paperback Swap and get it for a trade of one of my books. It helps me save money AND keep from cluttering the house as well. Also checking out the flea market for it, or the thrift stores. I just found Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends at the thrift store (and my number came up on Paperback Swap), so now I have TWO copies and only paid 50 cents for the one from the thrift store!! :)

**Am I spending money to bring more clutter into our life?
My beloved likes to point out that "cute" is another word for clutter. But it is not just the cute things that add clutter. It is also buying things with the intent of using them, and then never using them. Or buying TOO much of something (like Christmas gifts) and then holding on to them year after year because you forgot what you bought. Being more organized can help you from buying to bring clutter into your life.

**Is it the best possible buy?
So often we can get so caught up in the moment that we end up spending money on something THINKING it is the best deal, but just a few days (even as much a months later), we find it for a better deal. Praying and waiting on a purchase can really help you make sure you are getting the best deal. Also calling around to find prices. My beloved and I were asking around for prices on some overdue maintenance on our car. Prices ranged from $240 to $385. We were ready to do the $240 when I started asking around some other places and got a quote for $175 from a VERY honest and reputable two man shop (compared to the prices I was getting from the well known name shops).

**Will it depreciate quickly or require costly upkeep??
I have learned that it is best that if you need to buy something to buy it used (let the original buyer take the hit on depreciation). But the costly upkeep is something that I have not really taken much thought to...until now. Something to be keenly aware of, especially when buying something you want to last a long time and hope to never have to buy again (at least not anytime soon).

**Is there something I want more than this that I can save this money for?
I will admit that this thought has really helped me from spending so much money. It is almost like a contest. Do I want this enough or more than ______ (a trip to Disneyland, security in built up emergency fund, etc.)??

*Where will this go in my home?
This also helps keep down on the clutter. If I do not have room for it, then I really should NOT be getting it. At least not until I have the room for it (which usually means selling stuff which makes some money to go towards wanted item). :)

I hope this has been helpful to you. What are some questions that you ask yourself (or that you spouse asks you) when you are shopping?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

March 2008 Update

March 2008 Update

I spent way more money than I should have on other stuff. :( I took out money with the intent of setting it aside for something certain, but then because I had that money WITH ME I ended up spending it. :( To remedy this, I need to make sure that I keep that set aside money AT HOME or wait to pull it out until a later time, when it is needed.

I also really need to better budget the groceries. I am thinking of setting aside WEEKLY allowance for this right now (even though I take out two weeks worth per paycheck). I think it will help me not to spend so much. And until I get better at stockpiling, I think I will still make up my weekly menu. BUT instead of just making a menu of what I want, I will check the upcoming sales and base the menu on that. A step in the right direction (better than what I was doing). :)

The good thing about budgeting is telling your money where to go. And because we budgeted $500 to go towards the principle of our second mortgage, we are down another $500!!! :) Old habits of spending are hard to break, so putting this money toward the principle as soon as we got it was a VERY good thing!

I avoided using the credit card AT ALL!!! Adding a blow fund to the budget REALLY helped. Actually, I just checked the previous statement to make sure, and I did forget we donated online and had to use the credit card, which was paid off immediately.

I sold something and was paid via Paypal, which allowed me to make an online purchase without having to use the credit card! :) WOOHOO!!

Our utility bill went down again this month! Down another $50!! I know that it will continue to go down for about another month until we start watering the lawn more frequently and then who knows what it will do. I am hoping that the gas (for heating the home) and the water (for watering the lawn) will come out even. We did not do anything different between Feb and Mar, so it is prolly the fact there are warmer days coming. :)

I also set up my coupon box!!! WOOHOO!!! Now if I can just remember to bring it with me and USE it!! :)

My husband is currently overpaying on his 401(k). (Meaning he is paying more than they match.) My in-laws found themselves puling out of their 401(k) during an emergency and are sad not only they are taking away from their retirement, but that they are fined for it. But they need the money. With the possibility of my beloved's job not so certain in a few years, we figure it is best to stop overpaying, pay only the match, and then build up our emergency fund with the extra so we will not have to pull out of 401(k) should he lose his job.

We sadly found out that our second mortgage has been, without our knowledge, adding anywhere between $10 and $12 monthly to the PRINCIPLE! ARGH!!! I talked to the bank, and they mentioned that it was disclosed that they would be doing that (for insurance), and everything is included in the monthly payment price. :(

Having a blow fund this pay period REALLY helped to avoid using the credit card.
Having only enough cash on hand for a week's worth at a time, and making sure to put money away before I can spend it will make sure the money goes where it is supposed to.

Funding the 401(k) only to the match point will allow us to build up our emergency fund faster so that in the event of my beloved losing his job, we will have an emergency fund to pull from and NOT have to pul from his 401(k).

I cannot wait to be rid of this second mortgage! I hate paying interest on extra money added to our account. I do wish we had understood and read better what was going to happen. I am frustrated that upwards of $10 a MONTH is being added to our principle. :(