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Fishing Lessons: Remembering to Budget Time Wisely

Yesterday my husband had one of the few glorious days off he will have all summer (he has only four more real days off with us until Labor Day, in case anyone is wondering). My oldest son, who is five years old, had recently begun talking about going fishing since he’d never gone before (we don’t buy cable and my husband has an affinity for the old Andy Griffith Show which we watch on a DVD collection we have. Little Opie Taylor goes fishing some and my son thinks this is cool. If this doesn’t tell you just how suggestible children are I don’t know what will.). We’d considered doing something entirely different with this rare day off. I needed a haircut and we could use a trip to town for a few things (“town,” by the way, is 75 miles away). But listening to my little boy I knew how important it was to be quiet and be still and hear his heart. You see, time is not like money. You can never earn more of it. We are born and have a finite amount of it available to us. When we look at the length of our lives we should consider that, out of an entire lifetime average of 70 to 80 years, childhood is fleetingly brief. My son will be five for only a year. In the arc of his life, and mine as his mother, this is but a nanosecond of time. I looked at my husband over our children at dinner and whispered “Let’s go fishing tomorrow. Let’s have a better memory.” He whispered back, “but you need a haircut.” I smiled and shook my head and whispered back again “no. I’d like a haircut. We need something better tomorrow. With all of us as a family.” We got into our pajamas that night, after dinner, spread a blanket on our back lawn and laid on the grass to watch the stars come out while we listened to the desert wind blow in the trees. We hadn’t told the boys yet, but we were going fishing tomorrow.

The next morning my husband came to me and said “maybe we should just practice casting on the lawn today since he’s never been fishing and then go ‘for real’ on another day. That’s what I did as a kid. Practiced first.” I considered this a moment. Then I said no. I reminded him that we have few precious days together this summer and I told him that we aren’t going fishing to catch fish. The fish were incidental. We were going fishing to catch this time in our lives because we cannot get it back. We were not seeking the perfect casting experience. This would be the day we introduce fishing to our kids. There would be mud and wet, tangled line, lots of instruction and plenty of goofy things likely to happen. He said “but we don’t have the right clothes and the right gear.” I smiled. I said, “A fishing pole, some bait, snacks and water are all we need. We’re going.” After a stop at our local store for fishing licenses for my husband and me, and an inexpensive fishing rod for our son, we were on our way.

After a good half hour drive, we wound our way back from the main highway to a small lake tucked back in the mountains. It was hard not to be stunned by the beauty of this area we hadn’t seen before and marvel that it was only minutes from the highway we’d driven many times. It was quiet. There were people hiking around the shore nearby and the quiet sound of their chatter. Mostly there were people sitting quietly with fishing lines in the water. There was the occasional sound of summer thunder in the distance, birds tittering and chirping, an occasional bark from the few dogs running free with their owners nearby and the effervescent excitement of our own children. We spent three glorious hours fishing. There were muddy fingers holding dangling worms. There was, indeed tangled fishing line. There was plenty of instruction in how to navigate the rocky, sandy shore without falling down and the discovery of how to perch on a good solid rock while bait fishing and how to watch the bobber for the sign of a fish nibbling. There was an introduction on how to reel in ‘just so’ when spin casting. There was the re-injury of a previously scratched up knee and the gentle cleaning and re-bandaging of the boo-boo while drying a few tears. There was our first and only catch of a large crawdad eating the worm intended for the trout I didn’t catch, which made us laugh. We saw fish jump from the corner of our eyes and would turn and point too late to see anything more substantial than the ring of water left by the phantom swimmer that had disappeared beneath the water. We witnessed tiny fish swimming near the muddy shore. There were, as it happened, no trout reeled in to bring home. But what we brought home was so much more than that. When the sun started sinking lower in the sky and it was getting on toward dinnertime, we packed up and climbed the rocky hill back to the car for the drive back home. My son sat in the back with the warm glow of satisfaction on his face and said “Mom. Dad. I love fishing. Maybe we’ll get a fish next time. When are we coming again?” It was a simple day with nothing more than the desire to capture our time, a brief moment.

It is so easy to get lost in the busy of our days. It is easy to overcomplicate our lives and those of our children. It’s easy to give into a life so loud with the insistence of our daily to-do list that we miss the simple opportunities to use our time wisely.  I love gadgetry and gizmos and technology as much as the next person but sometimes it can make us lose touch with what is simple and real. It can overfill our lives with multitasking, making us lose more time than we realize. It’s easy to forget that time is a limited commodity that cannot be regained. Sometimes all we need is to remember that life is simple. That our time is finite. In the end, really, we have all we needed to make life wonderful all along. Budget and use your time wisely. You’ll be glad you did.

Fishing lessons

Using time wisely

Inspiration Thursdays: The Problem with Perfect

Because Thurdsay’s child has far to go…

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor.” Anne Lamott, American best-selling author

I hate the word ‘perfect’. Ok. Hate is a strong word. I really, really don’t like it though. Many moons ago, in another galaxy far, far away, I used to sell beautiful, frothy, extraordinary wedding gowns to extremely happy, glowing, beautiful women (most ladies in love, in my opinion, have a beauty in them that is about hope and love and all things of good expectations). I loved that job. It was fun to be a small part of helping someone to have one of the most extraordinary days of their lives. But I learned something extremely important from the owner of that shop: Never, ever utter the word ‘perfect’. Especially to a bride. Why? I remember thinking this was pretty extreme the first time she mentioned it to me, but I’d worked in that business long enough to know that it could have some serious pitfalls. The longer I worked there, however, the more important that advice became. The problem with ‘perfect’ is that it is extremely relative. When you are looking for perfection it often leads to expectations that exceed reality (yes, there were conversations in our shop that actually involved the detailing of physics to some of these brides who had ideas of perfection in their heads. Even the best bridal salons and most talented seamstresses could not defy physics.) ‘Perfect’ is highly over-rated. What it often does is cause us to wait, frozen in our tracks like a deer in headlights instead of taking chances and finding perfection IN the imperfection of our lives. Perfection impedes our progress. It’s a nice idea. We can look for better, sure, and  ‘perfect’ can be a fine ideal, sometimes. But it’s a slippery slope. Sometimes it can hold you back and push you down. There will never be the perfect time to say I love you. There will never be a perfect time to have your children. There will never be a perfect time to simplify your life. There will never be a perfect house or a perfect job. There will also never be perfect frugality or a perfect budget, incidentally. There will never be perfect. So whatever it is you’ve been waiting for in the idea that ‘perfect’ will show up eventually, consider that maybe perfect will show up in the imperfections in your journey. But keep moving. Keep trying. Don’t let ‘perfect’ hold you back.

Impatient Purchasing: Five Rules to Help Avoid It

Patience is supposed to be a virtue but, boy, can it be difficult to have. I find myself challenged,  more often than I like, with having patience. I recently had a run in with what I call Impatient Purchasing. It gave me the opportunity to devise five helpful rules for myself to guard against making these Impatient Purchases.

What is an Impatient Purchase? It’s not the good old-fashioned spontaneous impulse buy-where you run across something that sings to you, you know is a good deal and you can likely find it in your budget-so you go for it. An Impatient Purchase is when you buy something that doesn’t necessarily meet your needs just because you are overly motivated to meet the need more quickly than is necessary. I came close not once, but twice, this past week to succumbing to Impatient Purchasing.

The first incident occurred when I was determined to find a way to make my Fly Lady Control Journal look nice so that I would use it cheerfully and consistently (I’ve since started calling this Control Journal my Family Notebook so that I don’t feel too Type A about it). Is making this notebook pretty a necessary thing in the grand scheme of living frugally? Heck no. It’s a bit of an indulgence, I know. I have learned enough about myself to know that if it’s pretty and fun I will use it rather than shove it to the back of a dark, dusty closet only to come across the next time I do some serious cleaning or purging. I was shopping last week and found myself  in in the office supply aisle of a store we’d stopped into. I wasn’t seeing anything that sang to me. But out of misplaced determination, I started putting things in my basket telling myself I could make it work. After 15 minutes I hit my personal pause button and looked down. The first thing I noticed was there was a lot of stuff in the basket. The second thing was that, frankly, it was ugly stuff. I knew it would get me by for a while. But really, I’d likely want to change it soon because it wasn’t really my style and it wasn’t really very pretty. So I did some mental calculating of what I’d haphazardly tossed into the shopping cart. When my mental tally started edging over $20 I started putting things back on the shelves. I may have wasted 15 minutes of my life doing this, but I wasn’t going to further the “stupid tax” (yep, another Dave Ramsey term!) by blowing $20 or more on stuff to make my organizing project pretty. Especially if it wasn’t really fitting the bill. My husband and kids wandered back from window shopping at the appointed time and were surprised to find the shopping cart in the process of being unloaded back onto the shelves . I proudly said I’d rather wait till I find the right thing. We left empty handed. While I was disappointed, I still had my principles and pocketbook in tact.

The next incidence came only a few days later. I blogged last week about my missing camera. It was my birthday and I was really unhappy about losing my camera but looking forward to heading off to the city to get much needed new one. I’d decided the upside of my loss was that it was a good time to make serious upgrade to a shiny new DSLR. I’ve always wanted to take better pictures. Due to things that popped up throughout the day we never managed to get on the road to the city to buy my new camera. I was frustrated but figured we’d get down to the city in the next few days to make a purchase. That evening, I went looking for my cell phone.  I’d left it in my car. While I was out there I figured I’d search the car again myself, that maybe my husband missed finding the camera when he’d come out to look while I was searching the house earlier. Sure enough, there it was. It must have fallen out of my bag and was under a car seat. Not a good place for a camera, to be sure. Especially in 106 degree heat. But I found it. I was actually somewhat disappointed. How could I possibly justify the upgrade to that DSLR to myself now? But when I turned the camera on I noticed the LCD screen is starting to go. I thought about how long I’ve had it. It was and still is a decent camera. But it’s over four years old now. By technology standards, four years is geezer age. I decided that I would still get my DSLR. Eventually. But what I was going to do NOW was really learn how to use this camera better. I’m going to learn more about photography using what I have. This will give me time to know what my needs really are so I can find a camera that is the best fit for me.  It will give me time to save up so it won’t hurt the budget. I realized, while disappointed, I had just dodged another Impatient Purchase bullet. And this one would have been a LOT more than $20. Phew!

In the days since, I’ve had the opportunity to re-remind myself of the pitfalls of Impatient Purchasing. I’ve managed to cull out some new rules to live by and though I’d share them:

  1. Does this TRULY fit my need?
  2. Will I end up replacing this item shortly because it’s not really going to cut it?
  3. Will waiting be more beneficial even thought it’s not fun right now?
  4. How much stupid tax is this going to cost me if this is an emotional purchase instead of an intelligent one?
  5. Count to 20. Review steps 1-4. If I still feel ok about it, and it’s reasonably in the budget, proceed to checkout.

I’m grateful I took the opportunity to re-consider what I was doing. I have found that waiting has already paid off. With a little more closet searching I found a nicer binder for my Family Notebook that I already had (free upgrade already!). And while picking up some homeschool supplies we needed recently, I found a small and very reasonably priced little kit of scrapbooking paper and stickers that caught my fancy. While I’ve never scrapbooked before, I thought it might fit the bill for making my Family Notebook pretty and fun. And it was all of $5. It turned out well! I’m happy with it and already using our Family Notebook cheerfully. Heck, even my five year old said, “Hey Mom-that’s pretty!” Yay for patience!

So for fun, here are pictures of how my Family Notebook turned out. Further down are some fun pictures I’ve taken in an effort to learn enough to merit buying my DSLR camera. Eventually. It’ll take a little time. But I’m hoping I’m on the right path:

Family Notebook Cover. I like flowers.

I even did the back of our notebook.

The Audience.

This is MOM'S Notebook Pencil!

Oh Coffee.

My morning.

Comment worthy:

So, have you found yourself regretting making an Impatient Purchase? How did you handle it? Do you have a tip or rule I can add to my list?

Curve Balls of Life: An Opportunity to Roll With It

“Sometimes you’re the Louisville Slugger, sometimes you’re the ball”-Mary Chapin Carpenter

Sometimes life lobs curve balls at us. This is a truism for everyone, whether we are baseball fans or not. Sometimes the ball even manages to smack you and, while you get to take your base, there’s a part of you that’s a little sore from it. This morning is not the best morning for a curveball, but a minor one happened to come along. My camera is gone. We’ve turned the house and car and all our bags upside down and it’s just plain old gone. I recall where I last saw it but it’s simply not there. Where did it go? I haven’t the slightest idea. We’d planned to spend today lighting birthday candles, maybe taking a bike ride, doing some low key fun birthday type things. I’m getting to turn 37 today (how cool is that?). But my camera is gone. Dang it. I live in a pretty rural town (think Napoleon Dynamite meets Smoke Signals) where shopping is scarce and technology can only be had at the local Walmart or a half empty Radio Shack. So it looks like a bit of a road trip to the city is in order. I just don’t like not having a camera. You can’t have your birthday without a camera to commemorate. Even a not-so big one like 37.

But here’s the funny thing. I’ve been noticing lately that my camera is starting to get old and wasn’t working so well anymore. I’ve wanted to learn how to take better pictures for a long time anyway. I’ve decided this is a great opportunity to take some lemons and make some lemonade. It’s not what we planned for this day but we’re going to roll with it. That’s part of what life is, sometimes just rolling with it is the thing to do. It might even lead to some fantastic game changing results. Who knows? Sometimes you hit home runs or a good line drive. Sometimes you hit a pop fly that you watch sail up and then down again to plop squarely into the center fielder’s mitt. And sometimes you get lobbed a curveball or just get beaned. It doesn’t mean you don’t still love the game and I do.

So today, I’m rolling with it. Here’s to baseball. Here’s to life tossing me the opportunity to take on the challenge that has been brewing in the back of my mind anyway. And here’s to a great year ahead.

You’ll have to excuse me for now. Because I’m a Rice and Beans girl I need to go quickly review the budget and find out how much I can manage to wiggle out of it. Maybe today will bring me a great new camera. And if I’m really lucky-maybe I’ll run across a great baseball game too.

Inspiration Thursdays: A Free Tool for You Today

Because Thursday’s child has far to go…

 “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” – Maria Robinson

I’ve got a free “tool” for you today.

It’s a funny thing about budgets and getting debt free. It’s about money, our beliefs about money, and our behavior with money. And I don’t know about the rest of the world, but we Americans seem to have a lot of shame about how much money we make or don’t make. How we manage or don’t manage it. What we know or don’t know about money (which according to some recent surveys I’ve read is pretty paltry but we’re all starting to fix that!). Today, I want to suggest to you that money is a tool. It’s no different than a hammer. Or a wrench. Or a screwdriver. When my husband and I first got married we had a piddling little mix of tools that were mostly old and hand-me-down and housed in a rusty old classic metal red tool box (my favorite, of course, is the little all-in-one hammer-screw driver my grandma gave me years ago and  clearly that suits my rice and beans practical nature!). Over time we’ve added many tools to that rusty old tool box. We keep the box because we love the patina of it and it reminds us of where we came from. We keep the old tools for the same reason. Over time we’ve added new tools as we’ve found needs for them and as we’ve been able to acquire them-some used, some new. They serve us well and we’ve learned to better use our tools along the way.

What if, for just a minute, you stopped letting money define your success and started seeing and using it for what it really is: a tool? How would that change your habits and your approach to it? Would it take some pressure off your shoulders and lighten your heart a little bit? One of my favorite financial “tools” is super budget friendly. It’s FREE. I have developed the habit of downloading a free podcast from Dave Ramsey to listen to while I log miles on my treadmill (when I’m running outside I’m in God’s country and listen to inspiring music instead). But on my treadmill I plug in that podcast and get inspired not so much by Dave but by the people that call in to talk to Dave. I let others successes challenge and inspire me. I let their challenges and failures help me feel that I’m not alone and that if they can get through it so can I. I’ve even been inspired to let out a whoop of joy for other people I’ve never met after hearing their success stories. In that moment I know I can and will get there too. I encourage you to try this tool out to let it inspire you whether you are debt free now and staying on track or still trying to get there. Do it just once. If you don’t like it-it was free-and since we all know just how budget friendly FREE is-it’s worth giving it a shot. Check out Dave Ramsey’s Free One Hour Podcast

Money is a tool. Knowledge is a tool. Inspiration is a tool. Let that give you a fresh start today to work toward your new ending!

If you’ve got some great inspirational tools in your tool box about your money and your budget-I’d love to know about them-comment away!

Do you DIY? 7 Questions to Ask Yourself First

I’ll admit it. Back when I had cable, I was seriously addicted to any channel that smacked of Do It Yourself kinds of projects. I loved This Old House. I loved TLC’s Design on a Dime. I loved HGTV. I was very fond of anything fix it associated with the home. It was so easy and natural to assume that what they made look so simple actually was! And being practical minded, who wouldn’t want to have some great stuff on the cheap?

I remember my first DIY project: to spruce up an old dresser in the white Shabby Chic style that was popular at the time. Did it go well? Well. It’s still white. But looking back on it, no. Not particularly. I learned pretty quickly how miserable hand sanding an old dresser can be in an Alabama summer (since that’s where we lived at the time) and how humidity can make paint take days and days to dry. Not to mention the “kit” I bought to make it easier on myself was, as I’ve learned all these years later, basically junk. Flat paint on any furniture is not a good idea. Later we bought a home in Tennessee knowing we’d need to pull down ugly wallpaper and paint some of the rooms. The Design on a Dime crew made it all looks so easy. I could do that! And of course, our realtor enforced this with the “it’s only cosmetic” mantra I’ve heard many realtors espouse. We loved our house. We really did. But by the time I was on the third room of hideous wallpaper,and had made several trips to the store I was really sick of DIY’ing and we still had to prime and paint!!

Now you may be curious. Does she still DIY? Yep. I still do. I’m happy to say that I’ve come a long, long way in my expectations and my approach to DIY projects and I’ve gained a great sense of humor about it. I’ve learned to ask myself a few things before I begin the process:

1.) Do I have the patience to see this through? (in other words, the cool factor of the item in question)

2.) Will it really save me money?

3.) Can I find this already made for about what I’d spend to make it?

4.) Am I willing to invest in the tools and supplies if I don’t already have them? Can I even find them locally? (or does this use some obscure item that can’t be substituted easily?)

5.) Have I done enough research to be reasonably sure I’m going to make only one, maybe two trips to the hardware store?

6.) Am I ok with this occupying my garage if it takes longer than I expect (which it almost always does)?

7.) Am I willing to laugh at this experience if and when I come up against something goofy about it or if it plain old doesn’t work out?

I’ve done a few great DIY projects in the last couple of years. My favorite was not actually a piece of furniture or painting a room but actually fixing an old riding lawn mower we’d purchased used that was a must have for our home in Tennessee. My husband was gone on a military deployment and I had an infant. And I needed to keep my grass cut. It took a lot of patience and about two weeks (which is an eternity for the lawn going un-mowed in a wet Tennessee summer) since I only worked on it during nap time. I’m happy to report that it was a great and practical success and cost me less than $10. I was actually sad when I ended up selling it with the house for an extra couple hundred dollars a few years later. But it gave me some serious confidence in my resourcefulness. And it taught me that DIY’s can be great, practical and save money too. You just have to be aware that it may not go as fast or as easily as you expect. And you have to be willing to laugh along the way.

So dear readers, do you DIY? Why or why not?

The trouble with fast and easy

We are an instant gratification society. We want it now. We want it fast. We want it easy. But this isn’t always very practical or healthy. Recently, my son was impatiently wanting a movie to play before the DVD player even had time to get the disc into the machine. I tried to explain that when I was a little girl we didn’t even have a VCR and that we had to wait for movies like Mary Poppins and The Wizard of Oz to come on once a year on regular TV. This of course, led to a look of bafflement and pity from his sweet little face. He got really thoughtful. I happily thought that I really must have helped him understand the need for patience. Then he frowned and said, “but Mom, what’s a V-C-R?” Good grief. The point, of course, that I was trying to make with my five year old is that not everything can or should happen instantaneously. The best things take time, effort, and commitment. Whether it’s cooking a decent healthy meal (which really can happen in 30 minutes but often not in 10), making a new friend,  learning to do a new thing (like getting your budget written and working for you), finally and completely getting out of debt (it’s taken us more years than I like to admit but we’re ALMOST there!) or waiting for that favorite movie to load into the machine. We have come to expect things worth having to come easily. We throw in the towel too quickly when something doesn’t give us results as fast as we think we should be getting them. As technology drives us faster and faster, we think those results should be coming at an even more rapid clip. But things that happen too fast and too easily often don’t hold our hearts or give us a sense of accomplishment or gratitude. Things that stick with you take work and take time. As a favorite singer of mine says, “if it all just happened overnight, we wouldn’t know how much it means.” If you’re trying to make some positive and practical changes in your life and your struggling with it because it’s not happening quickly, whether it’s trying to be a little healthier in the kitchen or with your wallet, or any other endevour that’s pulling your heart, take your time. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. But it also ends at the END of the thousandth mile. If you stop on step three, you only have a journey of three whole steps. Keep going. Whatever it is, all those steps will make it well worth it and it will hold your heart all the more for it.

So, what goals are you impatiently struggling with today? What helps you stay the course?

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