Monday, September 30, 2013

A Little Slow There, Aren't We? 3 Reasons Why We're the Slowest FPU Coordinators You'll Ever Meet.

I keep promising I'll get better at this whole blogging thing and I keep dropping the ball. So all I can really say is I'm sorry --- for the umpteenth time.

Back to the matter at hand, I think it should be said that I'm a slow learner. After a year of FPU we FINALLY bit the bullet and started tithing. Dave says this should be the first expense every month but we've been giving only minimally. To be perfectly honest we've never tithed in our almost 8 years of marriage. It's always scared the pants off of me giving that much of my income away each month -- but God called me out recently and while He was kind to me, He made it quite obvious and I have a feeling had I not felt the conviction I probably would have been called out again in a not so kind way. Tough love. :)

Anyway, so we finally started tithing (which has been amazing and I can't believe we've done it AND made our bills each month. God says He will do it, but sometimes it's hard to let go) and I'm also finally getting Dave's "allocated budget" done. Yes, this incredibly crucial step to FPU is JUST NOW hitting the table in the Stevenson household because as I mentioned earlier -- I'm a little slow on these things. Last fall I took one look at the form and ran away to hide - it looked super complicated. The "zero-based budget" form is not an issue, we've filled it out religiously since we started, but the more important one is the allocated form and I was living in la-la land thinking we didn't need it. YEAH...

So anyway, this month's was rough but it's filled out. My plan is to start next month's early enough that I'm not piecing it together the night before and we actually have time for a real Budget Committee Meeting -- which brings me to the third and final area of FPU where we're failing miserably:

I still refer to everything as "I do this, I do that" because honestly, I do. Surely you see that in what I write. I have a hard time thinking in "we". That's kind of a major flaw for someone in a marriage, isn't it? I'm aware of this...which acknowledging it is the first step to fixing it, right? Right? Insert huge sigh here. So we are still not working as one on our budget. Sure we talk about it far more than we ever did prior to starting FPU and Caleb leads the class like a champ, but when it comes to the budget, I compile it all together at the last minute each month (usually after the kids are in bed and Caleb is at work) and still use singular pronouns.

I would like to blame it on what Dave calls Time Poverty seeing as we don't have much time together to sort these types of things out but that's a crap excuse. We watch TV for at least 30 mins every night after he gets in. Plus, I recently read an article over on MoneySavingMom that talked about a couple who woke up at 5 or 6 in the morning to have their Weekly Budget Committee since it was the only time they had free. If that doesn't make you feel like a loser in the time management department, I don't know what will.

Well that's where we are now, a year later. Doing okay and teaching okay but we could be so much better. No new debt has been racked up, but we haven't paid much down either. We're learning ... slowly.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Still Here!

I know, I know and I'm sorry.

Anyway, we successfully finished our first FPU class as coordinators. Now we have a little time off before we begin teaching one this fall, all by ourselves! Hopefully I'll keep with updating to let you all know how that goes.

Since my last update Caleb found a great new job that is allowing him to stay home with the kids and then work evenings. They have even bought all of his work clothes which I'm pretty impressed with. In the past we've always had to buy required clothing which has always irritated me.

We are still working on getting into the swing of things as far as when we need to pay certain bills during the month to keep cash in the bank (thank goodness for Dave's Allocated Spending Plan!). Since he's only received one check so far, we still aren't sure what our monthly budget will be, etc. It's very exciting though and I'm hoping we'll be in full Gazelle mode within the next couple of months!

That's pretty much all I have this evening. But, I'll leave you with some pics from our recent FPU Coordinator Event here in OKC. We got to met Dave!

With Don & Lindy, our coordinators!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Question of Insurance

No one likes insurance. Well, at least we don't like to pay for it. So many things in life require it though and to be honest, the one we will most likely use in the next 10 years (car) is also the one I hate paying for the most. I HATE paying for car insurance. It drives me crazy.

But why? Why do we hate paying for that piece of mind? I think it's just because we don't use it so it doesn't feel like we're getting our monies worth. But isn't that ridiculous? Shouldn't we be thankful we have it and don't have to use it?

In FPU there is an entire class devoted to insurance. Dave recommends ALWAYS having the following:

  1. Homeowner's or Renter's
  2. Auto
  3. Health
  4. Disability
  5. Long-Term Care (60+ y/o)
  6. Identity Theft
  7. Life

We were actually ahead of the game here and had all but the Identity Theft and Long-Term Care Insurance.  The FPU workbook is really good at crunching numbers to explain WHY you need these things. It also goes into depth on what types you need. 

For instance, Dave tells you to stay away from Whole/Cash Value Life policies. His reasoning makes sense if you have the dicipline to ferret away your yearly premium instead of paying on your Whole Life policy you'll have 2 million or so by the time you reach retirement age. Not too shabby. 

I find though that working on FPU is a little bit of a balancing act. I want us to stay true to the Baby Steps and follow Dave's advice, but I don't see that dropping our Whole life plan would be ideal at the moment. I know us, and right now, we just aren't in a place where we would continue to ferret away our premium rather than just apply it to other things. When you don't have a lot, an extra 180 every couple months is a big deal. If I have a bill to pay, I'll pay it. If not, well I'm still working on the whole "Pay Yourself First" motto Dave preaches. 

So what's your take on this whole insurance thing? Do you have all of these? If not, is there something stopping you?

Interested in teaching your kids how to handle money? Check out Dave's series for the little ones:

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Gazelle Intensity!

Tonight was the "Dumping Debt" lesson at FPU. It's my favorite lesson at the moment because I need the constant reminder to get that gazelle-like intensity Dave describes.

I have to admit I'm really looking forward to the day that we can officially say we're debt-free. Of course with our student loans it will be a lot longer than I like to think but I'm focusing on the more realistic goal of credit card and car loan debt first.

It's less frightening - I don't want to ignore the student loan debt of course, but the thought of being stuck for 7 or so years on Baby Step 2 scares me. We need to consider starting in on our 3-6 month emergency fund (Baby Step 3) as soon as we get the CC and car paid off, at the same time we're working on our Student Loans.

One of Dave's recommendations for paying of debt is to sell stuff. What though? I mean, honestly, what do you sell? We don't have much we could sell. There is only one piece of furniture that really crosses my mind when I think of what we have. Ugh, it's frustrating because I know we have a ton of junk. There has got to be something, but I can't think of what I might be able to get enough cash to make it worth it. Selling off a ton of our possessions for a couple hundred bucks doesn't really seem worth it to me. A couple thousand? Now we're talking.

What would you sell if you were in our shoes? Do you have any suggestions or experience to share?

In this lesson Dave also quotes the verse in the Bible that tells you what to do if you wind up in debt. It's where the gazelle analogy comes from and isn't one that I was aware of before FPU. Definitely worth memorizing!

Give your eyes no sleep
and your eyelids no slumber;
save yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter,
like a bird from the hand of the fowler.
                                                   Proverbs 6:4-5

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Budgeting.It doesn't have to be a 4 letter word...

Budgets. Do you do have a budget? I have to admit that we never had a budget before Dave. Even now we're still struggling well past the 90 mark Dave says it'll take to get in the groove. We have started using the cash envelope system as well. You can't really "do" Financial Peace without getting into the envelope system. It's definitely helped us keep our gas and grocery budget in line over the last few months. 

I think the hardest part about the budget is saying NO. The social stigma of it. You feel like your friends and family will think less of you if you say no. Over Christmas this year we didn't go crazy on gifts. I didn't actually say the word no to anyone except myself and if anyone felt like we were cheapskates over the holidays, I assume they're over it by now. 

Recently we had to say no to a lunch date with our house church. We weren't headed anywhere pricey but we were at the end of the month. All grocery/food money had been exhausted and we were just trying to stay out of the red. We had to say no. I felt guilty and a little embarrassed but then I just try to remember FPU. It isn't my money to throw away however I like. I am the steward, it is God's money and sometimes you just have to say NO.

How are you at saying NO? In our culture today everyone is YES YES YES ... I WANT I WANT I WANT. There really is little delayed gratification and I think that's what NO helps us with. Delaying the pleasure until we can truly afford it. That's important. We aren't helping ourselves when we spend money we don't have, when we rack more debt up on the credit card.

Budgets really have been a four-letter word to me until the past six-months. Now I see a budget as an opportunity or even a challenge to get better at staying within our set perimeters. An opportunity to tell our money where it goes. 

If you don't already, I challenge you to start making a budget. Start with good old pencil and paper & don't be discouraged the first few months. Like everything it takes time and practice.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

2013: Getting Back Into It!

Just like blogging, Dave Ramsey's advice is easy to fall out of. I wouldn't say we've completely fallen off the path but we definitely haven't kept up the gazelle-like intensity.

We have kept our cash envelopes going for groceries and gas which I honestly feel is huge. We've managed to keep in budget on food and fuel during the Christmas season. I'm pretty proud of that actually.

Here's where we stand now:

-Caleb is still looking for work but has a very promising lead we're waiting to hear back from. Hopefully by this time tomorrow we'll know for sure.

- We've found a babysitter for the kids for 2 hrs a day if Caleb does get this job. I see God moving things here, so I really feel like the job will be a go because this childcare is more than financially doable and I'm so incredibly thankful.

- We have paid off our Lowe's Credit Card and are now down to the two "big" cards. Our taxes are not done yet (pending my school W2 and asking my dad for help with my independent contracting stuff) but as of now our tax return is looking pretty nice. I'm hoping we'll be able to pay off the smaller of our big cards plus a good chunk of the 9k card. I will be jumping for joy when that thing is paid off. And if this tax return is as good as I'm hoping, being out of credit card debt in 2013/2014 might be doable! THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL!

- Our Financial Peace class starts the second week of February. Those of you who missed it, we are volunteering to help teach the class with our leaders so that we can take some of the yearly burden off of them. If Caleb gets this job he won't be able to help ... it'll just be me so we'll see what happens there but I still really want to do it. I think it will help us with accountability and just be a constant reminder.


So that's how 2013 is looking now for us. We ended 2012 with a dip into the emergency fund thanks to our tires but we're close to making that up so we are on track. If Caleb gets this job we should be doing well! Still living like no one else, so one day we can live like no one else ... but making ends meet and actually being able to make a zero-based budget!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

If I Leave Too Soon...

While I have switched gears and made my blog about our FPU journey, I did want to share something personal that I recently wrote.

Friday was a tough day for all of us. The Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy hit home with everyone due to the young children targeted. Because I work in a school and honestly, because I grew up in the same metro-area as Columbine, situations like this are never far from my mind. I'm constantly playing out in my head how best to lock-down my libraries, etc.

The truth is, if the moment ever comes who knows what will happen. And that, has been on my heart today. So I wrote a letter to my children in case I don't come home one day.

Forgive the length. When you're writing as if you are no longer on this earth there are a lot of things to say.


To my children:

I pray that if you are reading this it’s because I have handed it to you myself, but if I haven’t I can only assume I’m no longer here to do so. There have been more and more tragic situations in the news and while I have no reservations about leaving this earth myself, I do lament the thought of leaving my children without a mother.

Please know that whatever circumstances led to my leaving you, that I love you with all of my heart. You are my beautiful babies and I stand amazed at you every single day.

Nathan (or Nate as you demand to be called these days … you’re 3 as I write this), you made me a mommy. From the moment you were born I’ve been in awe of the creation of life. For you to not exist on this earth and then suddenly be there, well I’m still dumbfounded by it today.

There have been moments that I have failed as a mommy to you. Moments when I yelled at you, or spanked you when I shouldn’t have. Moments when I myself have had a temper tantrum worthy of a 3 year old (Word of advice, the terrible two’s are a myth. Three is when kids break lose. Just a tip for when you have kids) and afterword wonder why God let me be your mommy.

I pray that you don’t remember those times, or if you do, that they are overshadowed by the good. The times when we played superheroes or cuddled up and read books and watched movies together. The times of hugs and kisses. The times I comforted your boo-boos.

My son, at the moment you are still new. Still innocent to the horrors of the world and I hope you stay that way as long as possible. One day that will end, you will grow to be a young man and I pray that you are a Godly man. One made after His own heart. Not perfect – remember not to beat yourself up if you are not. But strive to be kind hearted, loving. A good husband and father to your wife as well as a good son and brother to your Dad and sister.  Love them and remember that family never abandons each other. (Yikes! You just pow-pow’d me! )

Now to my beautiful daughter. Madelyn Claire. Wow. My love you are only three months old and are peacefully napping next to me. In three short months you have shown me that not only was I NOT meant to have only boys, but I would have never been whole without a boy and a girl. You have my heart little one, in a way I never thought a little girl could. You are a part of me. I can’t wait to share my love of theatre, horses, and all things girl with you. If you hate all things girl…well more power to you and we’ll just play superhero with your brother. 

One day I will mess up with you just as I have with Nathan. I will have yelled too much, lost my temper and just flat-out screwed up. I wish you the same that I wish for Nathan. I pray you remember the wonderful times. While I don’t know what those will entail I know they’ll be amazing.

Now I just relish in the fleeting moments of your babyhood. Your squishy little newborn self. Your smiles and someday soon your sweet giggles. I’m so excited to see who you become, what your personality will be like. Although it scares the crud out of me I hope to see the day we have our first fight as mom and daughter because that means we’re alive and together. You will, as your brother will, lose your sweet baby innocence one day and become a woman. You will be beautiful. Strong, independent, loving and a woman of God. You are Madelyn Claire S-----------.

To you both, know that I don’t expect either of you to be perfect angels. I do pray though that you follow Jesus the best you can and love Him and others with all your heart. Also, know that I am so sorry I’m not here. I’m sorry if I miss the important times in your lives. Know that it breaks my heart to even think of not being at a first day of school, a graduation, wedding or birth of a grandchild. But know that I am waiting for you in Heaven and am looking forward to seeing you again one day. Don’t rush though!

If I have other children and fail to update this letter know that although I do not yet know you, everything I have said to your brother and sister apply to you as well. God has given parents an amazing gift of love in children. Our capacity to love swells with each child to a point that I never could have imagined. You are loved, you are amazing. I can’t wait to know you.

With all my love,