How to Handle Unexpected Wealth

This month we were super excited to receive my husband’s Christmas bonus check.  Like most people, it was extremely tempting to use it toward a vacation for ourselves.  We are not like most people, though 🙂 We took out a tiny bit for a (much needed) night on the town, but put the rest toward paying off the car.  Seeing the balance drop drastically was an awesome sight!  Right now we are projected to have it paid off by March 2018.  Considering we just purchased the car in September 2017, I’d say we have achieved some kind of record.  Being frugal is paying off!

My plan is: Once the car is paid off, we can focus on my husband’s student loans.  If we put the amount we were paying monthly on the car toward the student loans instead (on top of the normal payment we are already making) we can have them paid off in 5 years.  Of course, that means 5 long years of penny pinching, but I know it will be worth it.

The next step after paying off the student loans is financial independence.  By then we will be in our late 30s, so I think this is attainable.  We already contribute to our own 401k and contribute religiously to our savings each payday.  Having the extra cash flow that we would have normally paid toward the student loans will be incredible.  I’m dreaming of that day already 🙂

 

 

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How I Save Money During the Holidays

Hi there!  I can’t believe it’s already December 1st.  Only a few short weeks until Christmas:)  To me, the holidays are supposed to be about family, love, and togetherness.  However, it seems year after year we get sucked into the madness of consumerism.  We obsess over getting the perfect gift, or the best deal, or the coolest new gadget.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the holidays.  But I don’t love all of the stress and money being mindlessly spent on junk no one needs.

Here are a few things that work for me to save money during the holidays:

Use Your Reward Points
This is NOT an excuse to go apply for a credit card and rack up a bunch of needless charges.  However, if you aren’t already a cardholder with a bank that has reward points, you are missing out.  We are strongly against credit card debit.  However, each month we use our credit card to pay our monthly bills, groceries, gas, and any other monthly expenses.  At the end of the billing cycle, we pay the entire balance off.  This allows us to earn lots of reward points just for normal purchases we would make anyway, like paying our bills.  Our credit card lets us use reward points to earn gift cards and air miles, among other things.  We get the most return on gift cards and air miles, and since we are working to pay off debt, we are not planning on flying any time soon!  So at the end of every month, we typically earn enough points for a $25 gift card.  That’s an extra $300 per year in gift cards!

Be Honest
We have a large blended family.  We also have several December birthdays.  For that reason, my family agreed not to do Christmas gifts this year for the adults (excluding my grandma, because she does what she wants!)  Jacob’s family agreed to draw names with a set dollar limit.  Not having to buy a gift for every.single.person is a huge relief on our wallet.  Plus, no one I know really needs another festive scented body wash/lotion set or pair of pajamas.

Shop Smart
For the Christmas gifts I AM buying, I always try to get the best deal.  For that reason, I buy mostly everything online since I can usually find a coupon code.  (I’m pretty sure our mailman hates us!)  I also use Ebates, Swagbucks, and Ibotta to earn cash back on qualified purchases.  All of our gift wrap supplies come from Dollar Tree.  I think my last trip cost me around $15 and I walked out with two huge bags full of tissue paper and gift bags!  For decorations I recommend thrift stores, garage sales, or craigslist.  Just make sure to test anything that lights up before you purchase it!

Get Creative
It is possible use your DIY skills to make some inexpensive gifts for friends and family.  My brother-in-law LOVES fudge, so I make him a big tin of it every year.  There are a million useful DIY ideas on Pinterest, but some popular ones are DIY bath bombs, baked goods, or hand knitted blankets and scarves.  (I’m a big fan of consumables since I HATE clutter.)  Instead of cooking an entire Christmas feast, try having a potluck.  You could offer to make the desserts (or the meat, dressing, whatever you are good at cooking) if the rest of the family pitches in for the rest of the meal.

Those are some of the ways I save our family money during the holidays.  We try hard to make the most cost effective decisions, especially during The Season of Giving.  What are some of the ways you help to save during the holidays?

 

 

 

Productivity

We are all creatures of habit.  The real secret of success is a good daily routine.  For a while, my daily routine was incredibly lazy.  I would wake up, make coffee, lounge in bed, and scroll online until it was time to go to work.  Repeat times a hundred.  After a while, I began to feel really bad about myself.  I had all this free time but I seemed to never get anything accomplished.  My routine needed to change.

To shake things up, I moved the TV out of our bedroom.  I don’t watch TV that much, but I have the habit of turning it on while I’m doing other things, and then getting distracted.  To eliminate my biggest morning time waster (the internet) I moved my laptop & charger out of the bedroom as well.  To really complete the trifecta of ultimate productivity, I also moved my phone charger across the room to my dresser.  It is still in my bedroom, but no longer charges on my nightstand on a nightly basis.  This forces me to get up to turn my alarm off, instead of snoozing for an extra 45 minutes.

So far these small changes have helped me.  I am not up at 5 AM running marathons or anything :), but I have noticed a significant increase in my productivity throughout the day.  I do still allow myself at least 30 minutes to drink my coffee in bed, mostly because mornings are hard, and coffee and blankets make me happy.

I’ll let everyone know when I learn the secret to marathon running at 5 AM.  Until next time, cheers! 😉

 

Preparing to Sell

I mentioned a little while ago that we are thinking about selling our house and moving back to AL.  I have taken some steps to get the ball rolling (met with a realtor, gotten estimates on a few things we need to fix, etc.) and I’m feeling really good about everything as a whole.  I have even started staging the house!  I’m an aspiring minimalist, so I am continuously going through rooms and decluttering as I go 🙂

Luckily our bedroom is pretty much finished, with the exception of deep cleaning the carpet, touching up some paint, and giving the closet another good decluttering session.  We have two upstairs bedrooms that I’m in the process of staging.  The first bedroom we used as a guest room, so it really doesn’t need a lot of work.  The carpets need to be deep cleaned of course, but we have a bed, lamp, nightstand, and of course a few comfy throw pillows.  The closet is pretty empty; a small table fan (for hot summers — certainly don’t need that right now!), my treadmill, a small weekender bag, my wedding dress, and a little plastic organizer that holds craft supplies and gift wrapping supplies.  I’m working on pairing down my craft supplies and gift wrap supplies this Christmas 🙂  The other bedroom is my husband’s hobby room.  As you can imagine, it is FILLED with hobby stuff (he paints miniatures).  I’m thinking it should be fairly easy to stage as a bedroom, though.  I’m sure we could borrow a bed, nightstand, and lamp for the short time we would need them.  I’m giving him the task of decluttering that closet!

The kitchen is finished, with the exception of some paint touchups.  We are having the floors downstairs replaced, so I think that will up the value of our home a great deal.  The dining room is practically done too.  I am planning on refinishing the table and chairs to give them a more updated look.  Our living room/entry needs some help, though.  Our furniture is super outdated (the previous owners left it and we just kept it because we didn’t have hardly any furniture).  Since its the first room you see, I’m hoping I can find a small couch and chair for cheap on Craigslist to make the space look more stylish.  Not sure I would be able to borrow things like that, unfortunately!  We already have a coffee table, and I am planning on refinishing that as well.  The bathrooms are basically done too, with the exception of some paint touchups here and there.

The challenging room will be the bonus room.  We have a great couch and coffee table already, but the layout of the room is very odd.  I’m thinking of adding a pallet wall as an accent feature to sort of tie the room together.  I looked on Pinterest and they seem fairly inexpensive.  I’m also going to refinish the TV table & deep clean the carpets.  Originally the room was my husband’s man cave, and he had sports memorabilia everywhere.  I took all of that down and added some interesting pieces of wall art so the room will look less like a frat house and more like a farmhouse 🙂

The outside of the house really doesn’t need much work.  I’d like to touch up paint on the exterior doors, and caulk any areas that need it.  The mailbox and post need a new coat of paint, too.  I’m sure once spring rolls around we will need to get a few flowers to spruce up the porch and mailbox area.

The garage is clutter city, and since its more of my husband’s domain, there isn’t a lot I can do about that.  I’d like to paint the garage and at least tidy it up, though.

Writing out this large list of things to do really makes me feel like downsizing is the right step for us.  I long for a life of simplicity, free from constant clutter and chores.  I am trying to be patient since we have so much going on in our lives lately.  It seems like every weekend I have a big task I’d like to accomplish, but we run out of time because of other obligations.  Hopefully moving will fix some of that.

Until next time…cheers;)

T Minus 1 Week

One week from today our first Thanksgiving at home will be complete!  I envision around this time next week I will be re-heating some leftovers or digging into a (2nd) piece of pie.  Our family does Thanksgiving potluck style, and I am making the mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and dinner rolls this year.  I am getting hungry just thinking about all of the delicious dishes everyone is bringing 🙂

In other news, I found out I did not get the job I interviewed for.  In a way, I’m a little glad because I would be switching my entire schedule around, along with my days off.  On the other hand, I won’t be getting that pay raise I was hoping for.  That just means we will need to keep being diligent with our budget and keep making extra payments toward paying off the car and student loans.

I’m hoping I can talk to our families over Thanksgiving about not doing Christmas presents this year.  Normally both families draw names, but we have a tough time keeping up with that too, to be honest.  We have 9 December birthdays in our family, which makes things really tough on our wallet.  If we JUST bought gifts for the kids for Christmas, we would buy 4 gifts total.  However, the grandparents refuse to not buy for us for Christmas, so we end up getting them something in return.  So then there are 3 more gifts to buy.  That doesn’t even count all of those birthday gifts we have to buy.

Unfortunately, my husband’s family didn’t do birthday gifts this year.  Instead, they said to just save it all for Christmas.  For that reason, I am assuming they won’t want to forgo Christmas gifts, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.  Honestly, after October 31st, I just want to take a 2-month vacation to a warm beach somewhere and forget all of the holiday madness.  Too bad we don’t have the money for that.  Do you see the irony?

Until next time…cheers 😉

The Heart of the Home

Any time we have people over, they always congregate in the kitchen.  It seems appropriate that the kitchen is where we have spent the most money renovating as well.  Since we are having Thanksgiving at our house this year (for the first time!), I decided to make the kitchen my next room to declutter.

I am getting rid of quite a lot, but we love to entertain so there was a lot to begin with.  Here’s a run down of what I’m keeping:

12 place settings of everyday dishes
Silverware
Crockpot
Ninja Blender/Food Processor + accessories (LOVE this so much – I even used it today!)
Keurig
Toaster
KitchenAid stand mixer
Small hand mixer
Waffle iron (We use this every month to make a giant batch of waffles to freeze)
Large serving bowls
Large serving platters
Bread basket
Corningware Set
Pyrex Set
Baking pans (muffin pan, cake pan, etc.)
Silicone muffin liners
Silpat baking mat
Food scale
Rolling Pin
Misc utensils (can opener, spatula, pizza cutter, etc)
Chef knives
Coffee mugs (way too many, but my husband is attached to them)
Everyday drinking glasses
Bottle opener (CRUCIAL!)
Glasses for alcohol (red wine glasses, champagne glasses, beer glasses, etc)
Martini shaker
Fine china
2 travel mugs
Large beverage container
Salad bowl
Lidded cake caddy
Strainer
Mixing bowls
Cutting board
Glasslock containers (for weekly meal prep)

It still seems like a LOT, but this is just the first pass.  I’m selling a few items (I’m looking at you, fondue set) on craigslist in hopes that I can make a little bit of money before the holidays.  I could probably let go of lots of our glasses and such, but I feel so fancy drinking from a wine glass instead of just any old glass 🙂 Perhaps I’ll do another decluttering session before we move, but this is a good start for now.

Something New is on the Horizon

A few weeks ago I applied for a different position within my company.  Today I was pleased to find a request for an interview for said job next week 🙂  It will be a phone interview since the office is a little over 2 hours away from me, but I am hopeful it will go well.  I have been in my current position for over 7 years, so I am excited to shake things up a bit.  It comes with a pay raise too, which would help us so much in our goal to pay off our debts (student loans, car payment).

Speaking of which, I have been toying with the idea of emptying our savings in order to pay off the car we just bought.  On one hand, it would free us up from the monthly payment and inevitable interest, but on the other hand, we would have NO safety net if something catastrophic happened, like a job loss or medical emergency.  I’m not sure what the best step is, but I think I may wait until after the holidays are over to do anything drastic involving our savings.

Also, before we put our house on the market, our realtor has advised us to think about replacing our roof.  I’m not sure if our home owner’s insurance would cover any of that, but a new roof would be a large selling point for buyers.  That, combined with replacing the flooring downstairs, will be a great deal of money for us to spend.  The flooring company is giving us a deal (18 months no interest) so we would at least have some flexibility with that expense.

At this point I am just ready to move.  Our mortgage payment is too high, we are having to spend more money just to get the house ready to sell, and we still have the student loans and car payment to worry about.  I feel like once we have a smaller house and a lower mortgage, we can finally make a real dent in the student loans.

I’m trying to be patient.  Every month we get better at budgeting, but when you have all of these huge expenses there is not a lot left over for error.  Any unexpected expense (my husband’s dress shoes now have a hole in the sole, for example) can cause us to go over budget.  Am I a monster if I ask him to deal with it?  Where do you draw the line?

Ultimately I know I am always going to be the saver in our relationship.  He is the spender.  I understand that, I accept that.  But it gets to me sometimes.  We both work full time jobs and contribute to our shared finances.  We just need to come together instead of working against each other.  Once we both are on board I think we will be unstoppable.  We are both very determined people.  I am just a little more determined to pay things off than he is right now.

Hopefully I will get the position, get a boost in our income, and that can jump start him to get on board with getting out of debt.  Until next time…cheers 😉

 

 

Everyday I’m Hustlin…

In my efforts to declutter our home, I am slowly selling some of our gently used items.  Today I made over $100!  One of my items on Ebay sold, and I just sold an outdoor umbrella we no longer use to someone from Craigslist.  I wish I kept track of all of the items I have sold throughout the process, but it has been substantial for us.

I also sent some clothes to ThreadUp recently, and I’m waiting to hear back to see how much money I get back.  If it’s worth it, I am going to order another kit to donate a few more pieces I no longer wear.

I try not to think about how much we originally spent on some of the things we are selling, mostly because it makes me realize that I wasted money on said object.  It is a sad realization, but it is worth noting.  Even though I am recognizing my past mistakes, however painful, I am thankful that I am able to correct them now.   Selling our old stuff is shaping how I purchase things today, and how I will purchase things in the future.  I don’t need every kitchen gadget.  I don’t need DVDs we never watch.  I don’t need decorations for every freaking holiday on Earth.

With the holiday season (and my birthday!) only a few short weeks away, I am preparing myself for more clutter entering our home.  I have composed a short wishlist, mainly which includes gift cards, consumables (wine!) or things we really do need.  Just to give you perspective, when we were updating our home two years ago, I asked for new doorknobs for Christmas.  I am that level of crazy.  (And someone bought them for me!)

Anyway, the moral of the story: less is more.  Don’t spend your hard earned money on useless garbage, or you’ll be selling it back for lots less on Ebay or Craigslist in a few years. 🙂

Until next time…cheers 😉

Selling Our House

I have mentioned in the past that we are thinking of moving back to AL.  We have been in our current house for about 2 years, and have done lots of updates to increase the value.  Our current location is in a very desirable neighborhood, which has also increased our home value.  It seems like the perfect time to sell so we can make a nice profit, and also downsize in the process.

We met with a realtor this weekend who made some suggestions and ran some numbers for us.  I think we have decided to only replace the flooring downstairs.  The carpet upstairs really needs to be replaced, but I think we can get by with giving it a good cleaning.  I have already been all over pinterest looking up DIY carpet cleaning solutions, haha 🙂

Since our bedroom has already been properly de-cluttered, I think the next step is to complete the two upstairs bedrooms.  One is being used for my husband’s hobby room, which is a black hole of bottles of paint, miniatures, books, and various materials for making scenery.  (He will be working on that room!)  The other room is our guest room, but right now it just houses our treadmill, a TV, and the cat’s food and litter box.  The closet contains my wedding dress, luggage, craft supplies, and other odds and ends.  Luckily that should be relatively easy to tackle.

We also have the bonus room, which is not super cluttered.  We have our sectional, two chairs, a TV table, the TV, coffee table, an end table, and two lamps.  I also keep all of my computer stuff in an armoire for my work from home job.  We have a door to our attic in the bonus room, and it has been paired down pretty recently.  Right now we have 5 plastic bins, organized by category: 1 with my keepsakes, 1 with husband’s keepsakes, 3 with Christmas decorations, plus a mini Christmas tree, a full size Christmas tree, larger pieces of luggage, our picnic basket (I feel so parisian when we use it at the vineyard) and two space heaters.

The two bathrooms are already pretty minimal, but I do need to go through our linen closet again.  The final room that needs help is the kitchen, which I have done in several stages.  My method: I get rid of a few things, wait a little while to see if getting rid of anything has impacted us negatively, and then start again.  So far I’ve gotten rid of a lot (an entire set of dishes, for example) and we haven’t noticed.  The garage is another story.  We have completed SO many DIY projects and there are lots of random items left over that we have not dealt with.  Scrap wood, half empty cans of paint and stain, and who knows what else.  I am trying to come up with ideas on what we can make with the scrap wood 🙂

Long story short, this weekend was very productive as far as helping us plan for our next big step.  I have already scheduled another pick up from the charity nearby, so I better get moving.

Until next time…cheers 😉

Our Minimal(ish) Master Bedroom

I’m still on my minimalist journey, and the bedroom seems like the best place to start.  Its where I spend most of my time, and its my favorite room in the house.  I took the liberty of listing all our possessions to truly get into the spirit of simplicity.

Also, don’t judge me.  I really like decorative pillows 🙂

Master Bedroom Contents:
California King Mattress
California King Bed Frame
4 Standard Pillows
2 Sets of Sheets
2 Sets of Pillowcases
2 Quilts
1 Mattress Protector
1 Electric Blanket
5 Decorative Pillows
2 Night Stands
2 Lamps
1 Dresser
4 Picture Frames
3 Pieces of Art
2 Lanterns
2 Candles
1 Wax Warmer

This doesn’t include any of the items in our nightstands, dresser, or closet, of course.    Seeing everything we own in a list makes it seem like we have A LOT.  In reality, this is the paired down version of our bedroom.  However, each of these items serves a purpose.  The artwork makes me happy.  The lamps are used every single day.  The wax warmer makes the room smell fragrant. The nightstands hold our morning cup of coffee.  And yes, I really like my decorative pillows – they really tie the room together 🙂

I’m still a work in progress, but I feel like I’m finally making large strides in my mission to live simply.  I’ll continue to post my progress, and will perhaps post more lists of my possessions by room (its very motivating!)

Until next time…cheers 😉