Tag Archives: January

Financial Peace – One Year Later (Part 1)

Red beans and rice, prepared with smoked spani...

Red beans and rice, prepared with smoked spanish paprika. Sometimes ours looked this good. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It started a little over a year ago.  If you’re a regular reader to this blog or if you’ve gone through the posts filed under “Journey Toward Financial Peace,” then you know what our last year has been like.

Early last January, my family was $900.00 in the hole.  That looks like -$900.00 or ($900.00) or $900.00.  However that appears on a ledger sheet, the bottom line is, there was a whoppin’ $900.00 missing from our usual income.  We knew where it was, but that didn’t help matters much.  It didn’t help us enjoy better food, nor did it help us pay all the bills.  It also didn’t help me sleep better at night, because I was so worried and so anxious about our financial situation.  Our home life was tense.  Talking to my husband didn’t help, because he felt defensive, like he wasn’t doing enough (absolutely NOT the case), so I was left feeling alone in my anxiety.  We needed to bring some peace into our home life.

We’d both received money for Christmas, and I was thinking that a nice pair of clogs would make a great gift for myself.  They were going on clearance, I’d shopped around online at my favorite online shoe store (since we don’t have one of their brick-and-mortar stores near where we live), and I was going to be able to score an $80.00 pair of shoes for $49.95.  Woot!  Then I saw in the hand-out for last year’s Life U classes at church that there was going to be a course called Financial Peace University.  Registration required.

We didn’t register; we just showed up.  The course materials were normally $100.00, but our church fronts half of that, making the course…  Yep.  $50.00.  I thought about it for all of 30 seconds (I REALLY love shoes!) and decided that I could give up a pair of new shoes for some financial peace.  (Can I get an Amen?)

I’d never heard of Dave Ramsey.  I’d never heard of Financial Peace University.  We were willing to try it, though.  And after spending $50.00 on the course, we were willing to commit to sticking with it.  The first thing we had to do was create a basic budget, just to see what we spent on our “four walls” (mortgage, utilities, groceries and transportation).  That was easy enough.  And then Dave started talking about the baby steps.

Baby Step 1 is to set aside a basic emergency fund of $1000.00.  *Gasp!*  What???  How much!?!?!  We were eating lots of beans and rice.  And when we got tired of beans and rice, we’d change it up to rice and beans.  We didn’t have an extra $20.00, let alone $1000.00!  Damnit, though!  We still weren’t going to give up!  Some way, some how, we were going to get that $1000.00!

There are two things I remember from this time.  One, for the first time in ages, I had hope that things were going to get better, because I felt like we were in charge of our money.  Once we took charge of our money, we could control where it went (instead of wondering where it’d gone).  Two, I felt grateful.  You may be wondering, “How could you feel grateful when you were beyond broke and eating beans and rice?”  I felt grateful, because there was food on our table and my family was around it.  We had food on our table in the dinette in our home, and we ate it together as a family.  When so many people have lost homes and families and are starving, we were practically living like royalty by comparison.

There’s much more to this story to share, but I’m breaking it into parts to make for easier reading.  Stay tuned!  You may also want to follow this blog and/or subscribe to the RSS feed to receive emails as soon as new posts go up.

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Blowing the Budget

English: Budget and Spending

Image via Wikipedia

February started, and we were so excited!  Finally, here was the chance to execute our zero-balance cash flow plan* (aka budget) for the first time since we’d made it.  I was pumped!  I was ready to go!  The month started on Wednesday; we’d blown our food budget by Friday.  D’oh!  When we made our ZBCFP, we’d forgotten to factor in for our Super Bowl party, and we’d failed to take into account that we’d be totally and completely out of food by the end of January (remember, three different variations on beans and rice?) and in need of restocking our entire food supply.  Oh well.  Dave says to expect it to take a month or two to get it right, but I’d so hoped we’d nail it the first month.

We did pay cash for everything, which likely means we spent less money than we normally would’ve.  This month we’ve also discovered we’re pretty bad at the couponing thing.  Why use a doubled $0.50 off two cans of Campbell’s soup when the generic soup is on sale for $0.60 a can, netting a savings of $0.75?  If you can do the pairings (i.e., $1.00 off two boxes of one brand of popcorn and the store has a buy 2, get 3 free offer going on, too), then you can save a small fortune.  Enough about grocery shopping.

We blew our blow money, but that’s why it’s there.  We had made our budget based on my husband working a 36-hour work week.  The weather’s been so nice lately, though, that he’s been able to work 40 hours a week, which means more money in than anticipated – and budgeted.  With the rainy season coming up, though, we’ve got to be a lot more diligent about sticking to our budget!

Do you have a household budget?  What change has having one made in your financial life?

*The zero-balance cash flow plan differs from a budget in that, a lot of people shoot for a balanced budget or having money leftover at the end of the month.  The zero-balance cash flow plan has you redirecting money leftover into whatever step you’re on of the seven Baby Steps.  In our case, it’ll go toward our debt snowball.

Making Cents

We’ve knocked out a few weeks of Financial Peace University and are still going strong.  We’ve completed our zero-balance cash flow plan and are looking forward to start putting it into action come Wednesday (1 February).  For those of you unfamiliar with Dave Ramsey‘s program, it’s a pretty aggressive plan to create savings and eliminate debt.  It emphasizes controlling your money instead of your money controlling you, and when you have debts, then your money is in control.

This plan has seven baby steps, and the first is to save $1000 for an emergency fund – and quickly, followed by beginning the “debt snowball.”  Our “quick thousand” (and the beginning of paying off our debt snowball) is going to come from selling my older car.  However, before she’ll be ready to change hands, there are a few fixes she’ll need – new tire, for one.  Yet, we’re still so new in this process that we don’t have any money in our budget for this, so my older daughter and I started rockin’ and rollin’ – and rollin’ and rollin’ and rollin’.

Neat little rows of pennies

We’ve got change strewed all over the house, and we decided to make it work for us.  That change can’t do a thing for us when it’s sitting in jars.  My older daughter and I made it a math lesson – rolling all these pennies.

 

Awesome little piles of copper

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, after 2 1/2 hours of pretty much non-stop rolling, we had to call a stop for lunch and my toddler being awake.  We weren’t finished with the jar, but we had a dandy little pile to show for our work.

3,600 pennies - Whew!

That’s 3,600 pennies – $36.00.  I was quite proud of the work we’d done, and this money will go toward taking care of Little Blue.  The payoffs for all this work will be tremendous.  One, get Little Blue ready to sell.  That money will, as I’ve said, create our emergency fund and start us on our way to paying off our debts (with eyes on baby step 6 – paying off our mortgage faster).  And what comes next?  No more paying the taxes, tags and maintenance fees on that car.  Getting it off the insurance.  Am I the only one seeing dollar signs here – more than the value of the car itself?

Right now, my favorite part of FPU is seeing how the little things I do now will affect our plans and dreams down the road.  It’s exciting to feel in control of our money (and I am quite a control freak) and know we’re going to make it work for us.  I really recommend this program.  I recommend it for everyone, but honestly, there’s a new level of romance to my husband and me working together in tangible, concrete ways to achieve our goals.  Even what seem like set-backs look different when we look at them with optimism.

Here we are at the end of January.  We started the month on a major, panic-inducing deficit of the equivalent of 1 1/2 weeks of my husband’s pay.  I’m talking one of those situations where meal variation looks like this:

Monday – Black beans and rice

Tuesday – Kidney beans and rice

Wednesday – Garbanzo beans and rice

Thursday – Black beans and rice

Friday – Payday!!!  Hopefully NOT beans and rice!

and all you can do is pray.  We started FPU after the first of the month, so it was too late to put our cash flow plan into place for January, but we started with the mindset.  One day last week, I had $8.00 with which to buy groceries to make dinner; I was planning on beef stroganoff.  I ran out of money before I got to the beef broth (with no idea we actually had some in the fridge), so I boiled my meat for the stock before sauteing it with the onions.   That one crock pot dish fed us for two meals and there’s a lunch serving left over.  Anyway, we’re here at the end of January.  There’s food in the freezer and pantry, all our housing bills are paid and we actually have money left over.  To me, that’s a reason to celebrate!