Monthly Archives: July, 2012

FFF-“You Need to Watch Your Tone!”

The boy did it to me again; he made me check myself.  Children are so insightful, I’m sure it won’t be the last time.

I do NOT like mornings, particularly after a late night.  And this morning, the two angels hit me hard.  It was one of those summer mornings where I just wanted to lay in the bed all day, but they were NOT having it.  So, as soon as they hit the corner,we started our routine.  I began making breakfast and they were full of energy and asking too many questions, and of course they were the same questions over and over.  I just wanted Calgon to take me away.  LW asked me for the thousandth time in a five minute time period, “When am I going to PaPo’s [his grandfather] house?”  I was so sick of it, I answered in an annoyed tone, “I told you LW on Friday.”  He responded with, “Mommy.”  I had never heard that tone from him, and so I looked over at the table where he was sitting and the look on his face made me want to cry in that moment.  He was so hurt.  I said, “What’s wrong?”  He said, “Mommy that was mean.”  I was completely speechless.  Because he was exactly right.  My response was so unnecessary.  I was frustrated, not him.  All I could do was check myself, give him a hug, and apologize.  He hit me again.  Lessons learned.

LESSON LEARNED:

I actually learned two lessons with this experience.  I first learned that no matter what issues I may be having, it is no one’s fault but my own.  My son woke up in a great mood and who was I to sour his morning?  I needed to wake up and leave all negativity under the bed and sort through it later.  The second lesson learned was that even the youngest of people can sense your frustration.  I needed to check my tone even when talking to a four year old.  Regardless of age, I need to be respectful when having a conversation.  As my mother used to say (and actually still says), “You better check your tone when you talk to me.”

Debt Be Gone

10% of Americans owe more than $30,000 in credit card debt.-USA TODAY

If you have made a commitment to reduce your family’s debt and need a proven strategy, I’ve got a plan that just might work.  My husband and I have used the debt snowball method to reduce our debt.  (We married  young and were having too much fun in our 20’s.)  Little did I know, we were using the method before it received a sophisticated makeover and was named the Debt Snowball Method.

It’s no secret that I cannot function (not a joke) without a list.  So, I have created a list for you that details how to implement the Debt Snowball Method in your own Family Financial Plans.

Debt Snowball Method:

1.  List your debts in order from the smallest balance to the largest balance.  Interest rates and terms should not be considered, paying off the smallest balance first creates momentum and results.

2.  Determine the minimum payments for each debt and continue or make a commitment to begin paying those debts on time.

3.  Decide how much extra money can be designated to paying down your debts.  Use that extra money plus the minimum payment to pay down the debt with the lowest balance. Continue making payments on the lowest debt until that debt is eliminated.

4.  Once that debt is taken care of, move to the debt with the next smallest balance. Use the amount (minimum payment + extra money) you were paying on the first (already) eliminated debt, plus the minimum payment on the second debt, to eliminate the second debt.

5. Repeat steps 1-4 until all your debts are eliminated.  As always, I have an example of  a Debt Snowball Template to assist you with your planning.

How to Find Extra Funds (snowflakes) to Contribute to Your Debt Snowball Method:

  • Sell your gold-I found random pieces of gold jewelry around the house and received over $300 for jewelry I would never wear again.
  • Cut unnecessary household expenses
  • Sell your stuff (garage sale, online)
  • Request lower rates on credit cards
  • Reevaluate insurance premiums (home, auto)

Leave a comment.  Tell me about any debt busting strategies that have worked for your family.

A Budget Will Preserve Your Sanity

A budget tells us what we can’t afford, but, it doesn’t keep us from buying it.-William Feather

Creating a family budget is a crucial step in analyzing your family’s financial situation.  The process is intense and tracking expenses can be mentally and physically draining.  Once you take the time to take an honest look, you may find all kinds of treasures and mistakes that could put more money in your pocket.

The key to a successful budget is to document everything and be realistic.  Start with a template and fill in the appropriate categories.  Next, personalize the template to fit your needs by adding and deleting categories.  For example, if you do not have children, that category should be deleted, but a category for pets may need to be added if applicable.  You should be able to account for each and every dollar coming in and out.  I have included a sample budget template:

Budget Template

Once your budget template is complete, you can begin cutting expenses if needed to meet you family financial goals.  If you don’t use it or need it, cancel it.  Some of the most common expenses to cut are:

  • Gym/Club memberships (If you don’t use it; cancel it!)
  • Bad grocery shopping decisions (Shop with a plan using lists and planned meals)
  • Utilities (Reduce excessive cable bills, cancel land lines if you can, shop for better energy rates)
  • Insurance (Reduce the coverage of over insured cars, shop for better rates)
  • Subscriptions (magazines, newspapers)

Once the grueling process of categorizing money spent, money earned, and cutting expenses is complete, you can decide how to manage your money.    Some families choose to use the envelope system, by using cash envelopes to manage their monthly spending and others may choose to do a complete overhaul of their checking/savings account systems and add or delete accounts.  The updates made to your family’s financial plan need to be clear, concise, and understood by all parties involved to ensure a positive outcome.  Always remember that even solid, tried, and true plans need tweaks and adjustments.  I can almost be certain that it will be bumpy at first, but you will adjust and live happily ever after.

If you have any budgeting tips to share, please leave a comment below.

House of Money

This week I will bring you a series of posts about the dreaded topic of household finances.  I have always been the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) of our household.  Even before we were married, I was the kind of girl that saved, budgeted everything, and kept a balanced checkbook.  And then it happened, LW was born.  When my son arrived, I was walking around like a crazy rabbit.  Luckily, my dear husband flew in with his cape and took over the finances.  Motherhood, working full-time, and household management proved to be entirely too much.  Fast forward four years later, it’s time for me to resume my role.  The difference is that this time it will be a joint effort.  We now have a co-manager model to handle our finances.

By now you have probably figured out hat I may not be an impulse shopper, but I am certainly an impulse thinker.  Late one night (as ideas usually come to me), I decided in order to adopt a true co-manager model, we (of course) needed a Household Financial Manual which was simply a binder divided into 4 sections (Goals, Budget, Debt, Notes) with dividers:

GOALS

Every December, we write down personal and financial goals.  I typed our overall yearly goals and monthly checkpoints to reach their targets and placed them in the binder.  I have found the secret to goal setting success for me is the target piece.  You can create goals all day long, but it is the target checkpoints that truly holds you accountable.  I’ve included an example,(don’t forget-I have an educational background):

Family Financial Goals

In this section, I also added notes from financial gurus (Dave Ramsey’s Seven Baby Steps) that I follow or money tips I’ve found along the way that will help us reach our goals.

BUDGET

Creating a budget for our family was going to be the death of me.  I was too done.  It was not an easy task tracking every single dollar going in and every single dollar going out.  I have used every template known to exist and even created my own.  I finally found a budget template that works for our family.  When creating your budget be honest and be exact.  A budget truly creates a blueprint for your household finances.  Every business has a budget and departments are forbidden from going over budget.  The same should hold true to your household.  There are several different free forms you can use on the internet, I’m just sharing forms I’ve created or found the most useful.

Budget Template

DEBT

Credit cards, car loans, student loans, mortgages….it is all debt and it all has to be paid.  The ideal situation is to be totally debt free at least from revolving credit.  For us, the most effective way to pay down debt is using the debt snowball method.  Using this method , extra cash is used to paying debts with the smallest balance or highest interest based on your preference.  As each debt is paid in full, the money used to pay that debt is applied to additional payments on the next smallest debt or account with the next highest interest rate and so on.  We prefer to pay the debts with the smallest balance first.  It just gives us a sense of accomplishment.  There are also several debt snowball templates that range from simple to detailed.

Debt Snowball

NOTES

In this section, I simply inserted a stack of paper and I use this section to take notes.

Now, I’m not even going to begin to document our mistakes, I do not have nearly enough time for that.  I will be honest, it took us a few months to get it right.  But, the process is well worth it and my husband and I are on the same page (most of the time).

SIDE NOTE

I am no financial expert, I am just sharing my family’s experiences.

FFF-Don’t Judge Me

One day this week, it rained all day and we were stuck in the house. At the end of the day we all had cabin fever and absolutely had to get OUT of the house, even for a short outing. I decided to take the kids to Walmart. I know. Of all the places, I choose Walmart, but of course being the efficient mom that I am, I was trying to kill two birds with one stone. Little did I know, this outing was going to be a disaster before we even made to the front door.

Being the fun mom that I am, I put the little ones in their rain boots. What was I thinking? In the parking lot, LW Pumpkin was determined to jump in every puddle, and Ladybug had disappeared. Yes, I said it, “Ladybug disappeared in the Walmart parking lot.” I quickly found her, scooped her up, and put her in the basket with her brother once we entered the store. But, guess who wasn’t having it? You guessed correctly. Ladybug did not want to be in the basket today. I turn my back for a quick second, and she tumbles over the basket and almost falls out (Mommy does a quick save!). I give her another chance and tell her to sit down, because remind you, this is supposed to be a fun outing and needless to say she almost falls out again. Unfortunately for her, I strap her in the basket. And then it starts, the screaming/crying. When she gets to this point, there is no stopping her. But, on the flip side, there is no stopping me, I finish with my shopping and I am getting looks from everyone all kinds of ways. And I just keep shopping with a big smile on my face and then they hit me again. In the produce department, Pumpkin asks, “Where’s my penis?” And to add to my embarrassment, a sweet gray-haired lady looks over, luckily she chuckled. I simply responded with, “Pumpkin, I’m sure your penis is still there. We will look for it when we get home.” I mean really, what was I supposed to say? Ladybug is still screaming/crying (She cried for over an hour). So, we continue shopping, and I hear, “SHUT UP!” I wanted to just leave them both in the store at this point. SHUT UP is our big “no-no” word at the moment. We got rid of it, and somehow it resurfaced. I don’t even know who said it, but they were both reprimanded for it and the screaming/crying continued. About ten minutes later we check out and everyone is in great spirits. They can’t stop talking and laughing with the checker. Ladybug wanted to wave and tell everyone bye-bye. And I look an absolute mess, my hair is all over my head (as it usually is), my clothes are disheveled (from repositioning Ladybug in the basket several times), and my glasses are twisted. Yet, we survived and as I left the store, I just knew everyone was looking at me crazy and I thought, DON”T JUDGE ME! Another lesson learned.

SIDE NOTE:

During this entire trip, all I could remember was the poor lady being arrested because she spanked her children in the Walmart parking lot and they caught her on video. I just knew I was being set up. I knew it.

LESSON LEARNED:

You never know someone’s situation. During my experience at Walmart, I could see the ugly looks. I look like a struggling teenager with two unruly children. The truth is I am a grown woman with two unruly children on this particular day! Seriously, there have been several times when I have seen the stressed mom in the store and the children were all over the place and thought to myself, “What is her issue?”. I have now had this experience myself and I will not judge again. You never know someone’s struggles. It could just be a really bad day and the four-year old and two-year old could care less!

Closet Bliss

This picture is not the best!

We have an adequate amount of shelf space in our closet and I make it a point to utilize all spaces effectively.  I despise clutter and to me, shoeboxes = clutter.  As a result, when we moved in this house, one of the first items on my to-do list was to rid my shoes of shoe boxes and purchase inexpensive shoe/boot boxes.  I am such a happier woman!  This system has also helped me purge.  Every new shoe has a plastic shoe box which means a pair is being donated to make room for  new shoes.   Now, I may have 3 flat shoes such as sandals in one box, but nothing is going to waste.

These come in a variety of sizes and colors and make great storage bins!

We are lacking drawer space and I resolved that situation by purchasing decorative plastic bins to store workout clothes, lounge wear, seasonal pjs, seasonal gear (hats, mittens, bathing suits, etc.), and miscellaneous t-shirts.  I love these bins, they are spacious and look good.  I have them on the top shelf of my closet, and I don’t think about them!  You can use these bins for almost anything anywhere in the house.

Baskets, Buckets, and a Colander

I will use a basket to organize just about anything. As I’ve posted before, the baskets do nothing more than infuriate my husband, but they assist with the balancing of my organizational issues. Today, I’m going to reveal a few of my secret weapons that I store in the kitchen and bathroom.

Baskets

Please excuse the mess. We have been on the go the last few weeks, but I really wanted to post a visual!

Baskets can be used to store a multitude of items. They can be purchased almost anywhere and can be found in several different styles and colors. A couple of years ago, I started using baskets in the bathroom to store toiletries. I am a bulk shopper which means the house is usually fully stocked and it drives me insane when random items are stored in random places. As a result, I created a simple basket organization system. (I have learned in time that to avoid frustrating myself, I just fix the issue.) I keep three plastic baskets on my bathroom shelf for my items, my husband’s items, and miscellaneous items that we both use. In my basket, I store body wash (the smelly kind that my husband prefers not to use), deodorant, extra makeup brushes, extra body wash sponges, etc. In my husband’s basket, it’s basically the same, deodorant, “manly” body wash, his prescription face wash, etc. In the miscellaneous basket, I store items that we both use such as toothpaste, cotton balls, floss, toothbrushes, etc. The baskets help me with keeping items stocked and my husband hasn’t asked me about a toothbrush or deodorant in a long time. Remember, the less questions, the better for me!

Buckets

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I have 1-2 buckets (dishwashing buckets) under my sink in the kitchen and each of the bathrooms. These buckets store cleaning items. One bucket stores all the cleaning fluids and the other bucket stores the items used to clean such as towels, dusters, and sponges. When it is time to deep clean, it is easy to pull these buckets out and get to work. They keep everything together in a neat and orderly fashion. Also, I when the cleaning monster takes over me, I don’t have to look for cleaning items, they are all in one place. I love it!

Colander

20120802-090430.jpgBath time = fun time in most households with little ones which usually means wet toys all over the tub. An inexpensive way to solve this problem is to store the toys in a colander. It’s that easy. After bath time, you can use the colander (so inexpensive) to scoop up the toys and be done with it. The toys will dry/breathe in the colander and you’ve cleaned the tub in one scoop.

Please leave a comment and let me know if you plan to implement one of these cheap and easy tips in your household.

Are You Warranted?

Side Note:  Let me begin by saying, I had this great idea for a title, and then I had to verify that “warranted” was being used in the proper context or if it was even a word.  I need to slow my roll and pump my brakes!

Warranty Binder. I am addicted to binders. I use them for EVERYTHING!

It was late at night and I was again in a cleaning mode.  Believe me friends, I really live by what I post.  We had a drawer in our kitchen that was full of every instruction booklet and extra installation piece we had collected over the past nine years.  I couldn’t take it any more.  I sorted each booklet into a different category, placed the booklet of each sorted category in a pocket sheet protector, placed the sheet protectors in a binder, and didn’t look back.  
We had so many booklets I had to use two binders, one for the kids’ items and the other for household items.  During the sorting, I trashed any booklets for items we no longer owned.  I am so embarrassed, we even had an instruction booklet for a VCR player.  Now you know, that player has been long gone.  I am once again pleased.  Now, I even have more space in my kitchen, because I now have an empty drawer.  My husband will be pleased to wake up early in the morning to find I have rearranged the cabinets and drawers again.  He loves when I do that!

My Daily Sanity

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My Daily Sanity

My baskets by the door are my daily sanity.  They drive my husband absolutely crazy.  There was a time when I had one basket by the door and it became a catchall for everything and it drove me crazy.  So, to add insult to his (not mine) injury, I added more baskets for a total of THREE!  But, oh do they help.  In the evening when the house is quiet is when I get most of my cleaning done.  The baskets help because each basket is for a different bedroom and I can clean the house with a purpose.  The baskets can hold items until a decent time and I don’t have to disturb the kids at night as they sleep.  I certainly do not want to wake the sleeping “angels”.  Now look at the baskets, can you guess who is notorious for not picking up their items??  Drives me crazy!!!

FFF-It’s The Simple Things

I had finally built my “Mommy Confidence” level and decided to take the angels to the neighborhood Splashpad. I knew this was going to be a big trip that usually requires two adults, but I decided to go it alone. I prepped the angels, they called everyone to let them know our plans because they were so excited, and I put my “big girl” panties (swimsuit bottoms) on and headed to the Splashpad which is literally located right behind our house. We arrived at the Splashpad, I swiped my card, and the gate would not open. Now remind you, I have the squirmy 2 year old on my hip, the beach tote on my arm, and the excited 4 year old trying to help. I thought it was quite strange that my access card didn’t work and swiped again. At this point, I tell the lifeguards (two pimply teenagers) my card is faulty and I need the gate opened. I’m thinking, “Great, one more item and expense to add to my to-do list.” The lifeguards come to the gate and ask my address. I quickly shout out my address because I can feel my frustration level starting to rise for several reasons, #1 it’s hot, #2 why am I talking to a teenager through a gate like a criminal, #3 the kids are losing their patience. And then it happens, one of the life guards hands me a slip a paper and says, “I’m sorry. There is a problem with your account. Call the number on this paper. I am not familiar with your account.” I looked around and I see another mom approaching, an officer in the parking lot, and my children now in tears and I had to think fast. I had to think fast because I have a personal flaw of unleashing the bi*** in a matter of 2.5 seconds. An image of me in the back of the police car and my sister driving off with the kids flashed in my head. So, I quickly gathered my thoughts and strapped the two little ones in the car and left the scene. I was so upset that I was on the verge of tears because the babies were so psyched about swimming and our homeowner’s fees are not cheap and we made sacrifices to pay our fees on time. I had to think fast because my baby girl was not having it. So, I went straight into mommy/teacher mode, I pulled out everything I could think of that was water related. In a quick turn of events, the kids had so much fun I had to drag them inside. A water table, 2 dogs, and a “slip and slide” did the trick. It actually turned out to be a nice afternoon, the kids played and I worked in our own backyard. Another lesson learned.

SIDE NOTE:

My husband spoke to the association and cleared our account of a bogus fee. (There goes Mrs. Independent from last week-gone that fast.) Even he had to talk to management because of the way the clerks were handling the situation. God knew exactly what he was doing because if I made the phone call, we may have been kicked out of our little neighborhood.

LESSON LEARNED:

It doesn’t take much. The bells and whistles are not always necessary. It is just the simple things, a good time, great memories, and happy kids. I wanted the bells and whistles (mainly because I paid for them) and all I needed was water, sun, and our own backyard. It really doesn’t take much.

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