Why You Need an Emergency Fund

We’ve been slowly building up our emergency fund, because I’m also a full-time MBA student. That means on top of having a nanny, we fork out $2700 every 8 weeks for my schooling in order to remain debt free. Have you ever had Murphy hit hard? Because that’s just what happened with us.

If you ever have had a pet, you know the costs associated with raising them. In fact, I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to “Raising Pets on a Budget”, because I think it can be done, while being a fantastic pet owner. We love our animals, in fact we refer to our chocolate lab as our “first born”. We have Dakota, our lab, and two loving tabby cats, Harper and Hayden. My husband now has a marriage rule where I am not allowed to enter a pet rescue without his signed permission. He knows my heart belongs to animals.

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In early May my family and I traveled to Palm Springs (thanks to my generous in-laws) for a family vacation. On Sunday, May 7th, we were in Walmart picking up groceries and I met back up with my husband who was on the phone. I immediately knew something was wrong. My heart sank, because I knew my parents had our dog with them and were watching over our two cats. Our dog had collapsed at the dog park and was paralyzed. I know so many people are of the opinion “it’s just a dog”, but he is much more than that in this family. Our boys call him their brother. And we still treat him like one of our kids.

To make a long story short, Dakota had what is called a fibrocartilaginous embolism. It’s when a piece of fibrous cartilage blocks blood supply to the spinal cord. My parents left him overnight at the emergency vet and went and got him that next morning on Monday.

We wanted our own vet to look at him, and we wanted a second opinion, because the initial vet honestly didn’t know what had happened. Our vet was amazing. Honestly, from the very get go his concern was not only Dakota, but he was very adamant he did not want us spending a lot of money until we could rule things out. So we started him with laser therapy and some anti-inflammatory medication. We also had to put him in a dog shoe to protect him from scraping or further injuring his lame paw

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Each laser therapy has cost us $40 per visit, but in the 3. 5 weeks he has gone from dragging his legs and having zero spatial perception of the legs, to about a 90% normal gait. We are going to start hydrotherapy to help with his muscle atrophy and walking, but I’m confident he’s going to make a full recovery in the next couple of months.

Of course this is just one small story, but I am so thankful we have a partial emergency fund to foot the cost of his recovery. He’s so worth it to our family.

And as if life wasn’t already interesting enough, our dryer went out a couple of days ago. It’s God keeping me on my toes.

Menu Planning

I know this is an area where most people struggle with in their budget planning festivities. I have always been into meal planning, particularly when we are extremely focused on clean eating. For a family of 4, 2 adults and 2 boys (they are approaching 4 and 5), we spend $600 a month. We just upped that from $480 a month now that the boys are starting to eat a lot more. We live in Seattle where the median home price is now $700,000. It’s not cheap to live here, especially when you try to eat healthy with some organic choices. But I get asked a lot what my process is, and I think it’s pretty straight forward. Also, we choose to shop weekly because we buy a lot of produce, and it’s hard to keep produce fresh for longer than that.

  1. The first thing I do is scour the fridge and pantry and see what we have to work with. If I can use something in the recipe, this helps to keep our costs down. This isn’t our fridge, but I would say it’s usually stocked with produce, some left overs, and a lot of almond milk.Fridge
  2. I then pull up my Ibotta app for Winco. Honestly, I would love to shop sales by the store, but between us both working full-time and me finishing my MBA, we just don’t have the time right now. But I use Ibotta to find rebates for foods we eat or could make a healthy meal with. If you don’t have the app, download it! I know there are other apps out there, but I really don’t feel like keeping too many apps on my phone. Ibottta
  3. I then compile the list of foods I have with the list of foods on sale through my Ibotta app and plan my menu with what’s there. I use google sheets, because then we can use our phones to pull up the menu while at the store. I can’t tell you how many times I realize I have forgotten something, and am able to go in and add it to the list before my husband gets to the store. Do yourself a favor and download this, we keep more than just our grocery list on here. Google Sheets
  4. Once I have the menu planned I run through each day and make sure we truly have everything on the list. I also make sure to incorporate snacks and lunches for our kiddos, especially if it’s their snack day at school that week. Also, nerd alert, I organize the list by the layout of the store so we don’t have to walk all over searching for what we need. I am all about efficiency, why waste time in a crowded store when you don’t have to! Here is what a typical list in our house looks like. Saturday is teeball, which means we likely will grab something as we still have money in our restaurant envelope!Screenshot 2017-05-29 at 1.51.26 PM

Meal planning doesn’t have to be hard, but I do think it’s a necessity. It’s better for your budget, and your waistline! How do you all work on keeping your meal budget down?

Leaving a Legacy

I’m always curious to get feedback from other parents, especially ones on the same path (or even further along in the baby steps baby steps than we are). If you haven’t read Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover, then I highly recommend starting there. We have always agreed that we will pay for our boys college, and if we can, additional education if they wish. Currently, we are finishing up baby step #3, and our oldest won’t start kindergarten until September of 2018. Perfect timing, right?!

But, one of the bigger questions we have is, how do we teach them better than we were taught? That’s where Financial Peace Junior may benefit them, but we aren’t sure.

We have already incorporated some of Rachel’s and Dave’s teachings into the book in terms of “commission”. If you haven’t read Smart Money Smart Kids, I recommend it. I recommend it, even if you aren’t a parent! Of course, here and there we do love to treat our boys to an ice cream cone, or small pleasures. But, the overall intent and message we are trying to teach them is they have to work in order to earn money. The part we really struggle with is teaching them to save what they have, and by that I mean the intentional part of dividing what they have earned between “save”, “spend”, and “give”.

I would love to hear from any of you on how you approach chores, money, et cetera with your littles!

We’re Debt Free

In 2009, my husband and I both graduated from college. It was an extremely scary time, because for once a college degree didn’t guarantee you a job. The recession hit us college graduates with a hard dose of reality. I remember thinking “I just worked my butt off for 4 years, and for what?”

My husband and I graduated with minimal student loan debt in comparison to the hundreds of thousands of graduates whose pile of student loan debt is terrifying. Between us two, we had “only” accumulated $30,000. So naturally we went out and bought a brand new car, because the cash for clunkers deal was too good to pass up. I didn’t even have a job lined up yet, and my husband was making $42,000 a year. Our Chevy Equinox cost like $24,000. Oh what a dumb decision that was. And there were a few to follow in the next few years.

In the next 7 years we would accumulate around $100,000 in debt. $30,000 in student loan debt, $24,000 of a Chevy Equinox, $27,000 in a Subaru Legacy, and somewhere in the $22,000 in some grad school debt. Not once did we ever have credit card debt, but boy we had a lot a debt.

Somewhere before kids I stumbled upon Dave Ramsey, and said “let’s do this”, and we started down that path. We paid off our Equinox, and then stupidly bought the Subaru. In full disclosure our 1996 Honda Civic had mold in it, and we were expecting our first son, so in all honesty we would have needed to replace that. However, we could have bought something much less expensive with cash.

About 18 months ago, we said enough is enough. I decided to go back to work to get this debt gone FOREVER! In February of 2017, we became debt free. In 1 year we paid off more than $60,000 of that debt, and never again will we go back. To celebrate I took pictures of my boys holding signs, and my plan is to give it to them framed for their 18th birthdays. We hope it serves as a reminder to them why we did what we did.

Debt Free

Parent Guilt

Ahhh, guilt… We have all experienced that feeling at one time or another. And I feel like society is quick to mention “mom guilt”, and as a mother, I know how VERY real mom guilt feels. But I don’t feel it’s fair to you dads out there, because I am sure there are many times you feel dad guilt but you’re less likely to admit it.

Parent guilt can show its form in so many ways. I know it feels so different for all of us, but in discussing with new moms what to expect, it’s hard to really lay it out there for them without completely terrifying them.  I also know my experience is unique to my family, and no two families are the same.

But let me try to put it in perspective, because I feel like I have a lot to offer you parents out there. See, prior to having children, I had a great job. This job was so GREAT that it took me over a year to quit this job after having two kids. I had great insurance, was 27 years old and making GREAT money, and the list goes on and on. But I wasn’t fulfilled, and I didn’t feel like all this money made up for the fact that I wasn’t with my son. After we had our second, I told myself I needed to stay home, but it was insane to quit this job. I went back, and in that first week I knew I was done.

For over 3 years I stayed at home. We made huge sacrifices to make this work, we had just bought our second home at 26. But nothing mattered more to me in this entire world knowing my 16 month and 5 month old were home with ME. I have never felt more complete and terrified. What a complex that was, but at the same time, it was exhausting. I really can’t explain it to my working mom friends who have never stayed home, just like I can’t explain it to my mom friends who haven’t worked after having kids.

And here I am back at work, with two toddler boys. We have a 3 and 4 year old. I wasn’t ready to reenter the workforce, I made the choice, because I wanted to finish my MBA before my credits expired, and be completely debt free with the exception of our mortgage. We are almost 6 months away from being debt free, and I am so thrilled.

Except I am not thrilled. What I feel is exhausted and guilty. I work 45 hours a week (usually), I commute around 12-15 hours a week, and both my husband and I are finishing our MBAs. He will be done come March, me a year from now, and for what? Don’t get me wrong, we have an amazing house, nicer and newer cars, and just turned 30 and 31. But I feel like I have missed so much in the last 6 months being back at work. My husband feels guilt over the fact that he can’t “provide enough” for us to invest in our retirement, college, while having me at home. But the simple fact is, we do more than enough. We are much farther ahead in the game of “life” than most people we know, yet it doesn’t feel like it.

And I know we aren’t the only ones. I hear it all of the time from friends and family. How do we get ahead? What if I’m sacrificing the wrong things?

What I Hope to Pass On

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Last week as we sat down to watch the first debate between the two parties, my four year old asked me, “Mommy, who do we want to win?” And in that moment, I wasn’t quite sure what to say. See it’s more important to me to raise our boys to think for themselves. I don’t want them to vote for a candidate solely because their parents voted one way, or the other. And if we are being honest, it’s often hard for me to answer questions like this, because I consider myself to be an Independent.

But this really got me thinking. What can I hope to teach the boys about the political process at this young age?

  1. Different is okay: The level of hate I have seen people post about their opposing party and the people belonging to that party is beyond disgusting. I want them to know that it’s okay for their friends and family to hold a different opinion. You really can still love someone despite their differing political views. But you know what isn’t okay? Generalizing or stereotyping a group of people because you don’t like what they believe. Not only is it simply ignorant, but the moment you start doing that you turn off your ability to learn. I have learned more from people with opposing views than I have from surrounding myself with people who think “just like me”.
  2. It’s about priorities: What is important to me, may not be important to someone else. And vice-versa. Recognizing this is part of being an adult. Not everyone has to live your life, it doesn’t make sense, and it’s immature to believe so. You can still vote for what’s important to you, but don’t you dare for one second think you’re priorities are everyone else’s priorities.
  3. Vote: You may not think your vote matters. It does, because it matters to YOU. There are people all over this world who do not have the right, who do not have the say, but you do. Vote.
  4. Respect: This goes back to my #1, but beyond believing that different is okay, please show the people in your life respect. You may not agree with them, and that’s okay. But respect goes a long way, and I can promise you, you will not change their mind. In fact, don’t even try. But remember to respect ALL people. Be humble, have integrity, be kind, and the rest will fall into place.

 

Mama’s Swagger Wagon

I’m hearing myself say over and over again, “I will never own a minivan”. Well ladies and gentlemen, I think the time has come, and it’s time to admit, I am a minivan convert.

I swore up and down I would drive a gas guzzlin’ Tahoe or Suburban before I ever looked at a minivan.

I seriously thought this was the car for me:

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Don’t get me wrong, if someone gave me a huge chunk of change, I may still take the Tahoe over the minivan. But after some long thought, here is why I think the minivan is a better option for us.

  1. Budget: Just a quick little search on AutoTrader and it’s easy to see how much more you get for your money in terms of seating and capacity. To be fair let’s compare a Chevy Tahoe and a Toyata Sienna, both AWD/4WD and certified pre-owned, and both models are 2014. The Tahoe will cost you just over $39,000 with 58,000 miles on it and is your basic model. Your Toyota Sienna will cost you $33,000, with 37,000 miles on it, and is the limited edition. AWD is less common in minivans, and we live in an area where it’s not really needed, so we could go as low as $23,000 for our standard minivan.
  2. Height: I’m 5’4 and truly 115 pounds. I would have to lift my 3 and 4 year old boys who weigh 30 lbs up and down, which after a while would get old. Not to mention, they aren’t at the age where they can even put themselves in their car seats, or get themselves out. So that also means lifting them up there, and then I would need to climb up to secure them in their seats.
  3. Gas mileage: The AWD Sienna gets 16 city/ 23 hwy. The Tahoe is 15 city/ 21 hwy. While it’s not that big of a difference, it adds up. If you go without AWD in the Sienna, it bumps up to 18 city/25 hwy. Again, not needed in Seattle
  4. Family size:  Sure we only have two kids, but we do have nieces and nephews, and one day our boys will want to bring friends along for the ride.
  5. Our dog is our third child: Dakota comes along for many rides!

 

I am open to other suggestions beyond the Toyota Sienna, but so far only the Honda Odyssey has peaked my interest in the slightest. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!!!

What a Budget REALLY Is…

Money is this weird taboo topic for so many people, but it shouldn’t be. We talk about sex, weight loss, and a whole bunch of other things, so why can’t we talk about money? You’re more comfortable talking about how often you and your hubby do the deed than you do about how you plan on paying for your kids college?

One thing that has stood out to me on our debt free journey is the limited knowledge people seem to have around budgeting. I hear things like “Yeah we budget, I mean I know how much we make…” Or “I know what our regular bills are each month…” This is not budgeting, it’s only part of what makes up a budget.

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But before I discuss what a budget really is. I feel like I should lay some facts out there for you. Almost half of Americans spend more than they make. Fifty percent of American households have no retirement accounts. And 25% of Americans have no savings at all. If that doesn’t terrify you, it should.

The biggest catalyst to changing financial behavior is not only making a budget, but sticking to a budget. Before the month even begins, it’s important you know what the next month’s income is going to be, and what your expenses will be. Not just your bills, but everything you plan on spending. What are you going to spend on groceries, hair cuts, gifts, preschool, et cetera.

This is exactly why I love to budget now, because it makes me feel like I actually have control over my money, instead of wondering where our money goes. We are working as a team to figure out where our money should go, rather than it falling solely on one of us to make sure the bills are paid on time.

If you’re not an excel guru, there’s no need to worry. There are plenty of budgeting tools that can be used on a computer, or even your smart phone. We use Every Dollar because we like to enter stuff on our phones, as well as using our computer. I know a lot of people love Mint.com, because it’s easily linked to your bank account. However, it doesn’t do the planning for you. I have also heard great things about You Need a Budget, but haven’t tried it out yet. The biggest thing you can do to help your family is to get started today on the budget. October isn’t far away!

What This Blog Is…

Over the years, I have always had this passion to write, particularly about finances, parenting, and all the other fun that falls in between the two. And finally, I have decided it’s time for me to follow my passions. For years I have been doing what I think I should be doing to earn more money, to get the best job(s), and to bring us financial peace.

And finally, I realized, why not try and do that here? Why not do what interests me the most, where I wake up excited to go to work. Why can’t I do this full-time one day if the opportunity should present itself?

Budgets, most people hate the topic of money, I did too. But you know what I hate even more? Feeling like there was never enough money, or that we worked way too hard, and we couldn’t even remember what we bought that month. I sometimes would lay awake thinking “how are we going to pay for college for our kids?!!!”. If you ever have felt any of those feelings, you’ll want to follow my budget posts. I promise to make them fun, and exciting.

Babies are pretty self explanatory, and cute. But they come with a lot of decisions, and sometimes it’s really hard understanding which decision really is the best decision for them and for you family. And of course, there’s never a dull moment when there’s a kid involved.

I’ll be honest, I chose Beer, because it went with my other B’s, and I wanted a section that was completely dedicated to all things adult. I should state, it doesn’t have to be alcohol related. For instance, I’m really into fitness, photography, my career, and all things adult related.

If you’re interested in any of these things, come along for the ride! I can’t wait!!