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9 Unexpected Things That Have Happened on Our Road to Debt Free

We’ve experienced both highs and lows on our road to debt freedom and today I want to share with you some of the fun and unexpected things that have happened on our journey.

  1. Less mail and far fewer bills in my mailbox. Most days there’s nothing in there. And I kind of like that.
  2. Surprise expenses are only annoying now and not fear inducing. When we took our son to the emergency room last winter we weren’t afraid of the bill in the same way we would have been before our debt free journey so we focused more easily on making sure he was getting the care he needed.
  3. Budgeting has become a fun game for us. At first making a budget is confusing and frustrating. But as you see progress it gets fun. Trust me. (If you haven’t started yours here are two blog articles that might help you: How to Make a Budget That Works over at BeingFrugal.net and How to Make a Budget over at ChristianPersonalFinance.com)
  4. As we’ve gotten closer to debt freedom we are getting giddy about making plans for our money instead of our debt making the plans for us.
  5. There are almost no arguments about money in our house. I can’t recall the last time we argued over money. (Underwear and socks left on the floor, yes. But not money.)
  6. I’ve learned to cook some great fun food, like homemade pizza. Eating at home is healthier and we don’t need to leave a tip. When we do eat out it really does feel like a treat because it is.
  7. My kids understanding of money has improved greatly. And I’m very motivated to make sure they don’t travel the debt road we have.
  8. Vacations planned and paid for in cash are FAR more fun because you can truly be in the moment. I love knowing on the ride home that I will not be getting the bill in the mail. The memories stay more golden for me this way.
  9. My five year old walking around hollering “Freeeeedooommmmm!!!!!” or “I’m debt free!!!!!!!” from listening to Dave Ramsey’s free podcast with me in the car or while I’m on the treadmill is hilarious. But clearly he’s listening.
Comment Worthy:
Add a 10th thing to this list! What has been a fun and unexpected result of your debt freedom journey?

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?

Are You Living Your Financial Life on Autopilot?

Are you living on autopilot?

I read a quote recently that really got my attention:

“Part of me wonders if our stories aren’t being stolen by the easy life.” – Donald Miller

It got me thinking. I’m a girl who uses technology when it’s truly making my life better-not necessarily just easier. I’ve come to the conclusion that easier can sometimes be overrated. Sometimes easier can draw down our base of knowledge and ability. It can even lull our sense of personal accountability. Sometimes easier-or convenience-takes away our need to think and that’s not always a good thing.

When you stop thinking about something, especially an important thing like your personal finances, it can lead to some not so great results. I ran out of check registers a while back (you know-those little ledgers that you use to balance a checkbook) and dropped by my credit union to ask for some extras. The teller looked at me and nearly laughed. She said “Sure!!! Have as many as you need! It’s too bad more people don’t use ’em!” I told her I was a bit of a nerd with our finances (as in Nerd vs Free Spirit ala Dave Ramsey) and that I felt the need to know where every penny was. She went on to tell me that she was pretty sure that most people didn’t bother to do that anymore, shaking her head sadly. I remember being surprised by this. I later mentioned the conversation to a friend who uses tech pretty heavily for bills and finances and she said-I don’t balance to the penny either. I said you don’t know how much is actually in your balance? She said “nope.” I said “Huh.”

In the last couple of years we’ve seen so many struggle in our current economy. I’ve read article after article and seen newscast after newscast about how to cut the household budget and which particular items to stop spending on. I’ve read about all the “things” to fix or cut out. I have not seen enough about the what else might be causing some of these problems in the first place. So I have some advice to consider:

Un-automate your life and stop living on autopilot.

I’m not saying to stop using technology if it’s working for you to make life easier and better. But if it’s just making life more convenient in a way that keeps you from thinking about your finances, your expenditures, what you are using, buying or doing right now and about whether it’s a good fit for your life-then it’s time to consider getting off of autopilot. Living on autopilot can leave you moving comfortably along assuming things are just fine and that the coast is clear when sometimes it’s not. It can cause you to fall asleep at the wheel of your financial life. It can rob you of your sense of how to solve challenges as they pop up. It can cause you to notice problems only when alarm bells and red warning lights are going off in the cockpit of your financial life which means something is dramatically wrong. Right NOW. Autopilot behavior and over-automating finances can cause important missed opportunities to make sure you are staying on track and avoid the alarm bells and red flashing warning lights that can cause panic and emergency mode. Living on autopilot is a lot like making the choice to not continue to make important choices as they come up. It’s making the choice to coast along. Whether we like it or not, life moves and changes, often at a more rapid pace than can be comfortable. It’s easy to want convenience. But when life is on autopilot we might just be missing the chance to make the effective changes to correct our course when it needs correcting. So if you’ve been living on autopilot and have an overly automated financial life, maybe it’s time to review whether it’s actually easier and better. If it’s not, consider un-automating some of your life and turning off the autopilot.

Are you on autopilot? Do you feel it’s an easier and better thing for your life? Has convenience caused you to not see where changes need to made? I’d love to see your comments on whether your easier is also your better!

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!

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