Monday, December 30, 2013

Be your own financial genius! :)

I'm the CFO of my household.. my sweetie brings in the money but it's my job to keep us fed with a roof over our heads. When I decided to tackle our finances I searched for months to find the perfect system to implement. While no system is perfect I really needed one that would make sense for years to come and that wouldn't be terribly painful. I merged Dave Ramsey and Jeff Yeager and this is what I came up with. Both had great ideas but each needed tweaking to suite us.. So here's the plan.

To start off with I need to know where the money goes and why. This doesn't mean we'll have more money at the end of the month but it does mean that I'll at least know why we're broke. Mr. CBB came to the rescue with this great excel program! I saw something similar to this that would cost me $60 but this one is free. I love free! Once you know where the money goes, find even the tiniest bit to put towards bills.

Now that I know where the money goes, it's time to put it to work. Sorry Dave Ramsey but envelopes and paying cash just doesn't cut it in my house. Paying cash for groceries when I'm debt free is something I can envision but not right now. I will say that I did take the snowball idea from Dave but I tweaked it. I started out with the smallest amount due just to get it out for the way. Then I looked at all my bills, the interest I'll be paying and any promotional things that will wear off. Zero interest will only last for so long and then there's usually a crazy interest rate that kicks in if you don't pay it off by a certain date. Yeah, that kind of stuff comes next! That stuff gets paid off first..before the promotion wears off or as close to it as I can get.

So now I've taken care of the small nagging bills and the secretly expensive ones..moving on! From here it's all about interest verses amount. Most of my bills have the same interest rate (sadly) so I went with the smallest amount first. Build the list of things to attack. I used an App called "Debt Payoff Assistant" (free) for this.  

While you're at it remember things like income tax. Use last years income tax as a template assuming things have stayed the same for the most part. Take that amount and subtract out items like car registration fees and make a note to yourself to put the money in savings. The rest is not for free spending! You guessed it, it goes towards your debt.

Let's assume you've accomplished your goal and you're debt free..or at least only have a car and house payment left in the way of financial obligation bills. This is where Jeff Yeager comes in. While this next bit isn't 100% his idea, it's a culmination of tips in his book "The Cheapskate Next door" as I interpret them.

This plan basically helps you be bulletproof in terms of being unprepared for financial drama. Aside form your usual checking account you'll need to open four savings accounts. Hear me out… :)

Account 1 This is the main account that you'll be paying any bills you do have from here and groceries..the normal stuff

Account 2 Do a little research and find out the current unemployment rate in your area. For my area it's 8% so that means that in this account I need 8 months of current living expenses. Don't panic! We're not talking 8 months of the financial mess you have now, I'm talking 8 months of the new debt free needs for living. This account is your emergency funds and won't be saved up in one lump sum.
If you had to, you could live off this but it's not meant to. It's meant for "we need to replace the fridge".."I need new glasses" type of stuff. Add to it often. This is the perfect home for those holiday bonuses.

Account 3 How much would it cost to pay off your car? Now take 20% of that amount and put it in this account. This account is for auto repairs. I felt it was important to not take something so vital from the emergency fund for the rest of life's things. You can't afford to not get the car fixed.

Account 4 This is the medical account. Take a look at your insurance. Find that crazy per person deductible amount, yep..that one.. It's likely $1,000 per person. Now multiple that by how many people you have in your house. That's the number that goes in this account. This is for paying out of pocket medical expense! :)

Okay, so now we've covered the monthly stuff, the "oh Sh*t!" random stuff, the car repairs and the medical headaches.. Now to the fun stuff!

Account 5 This is the travel/fun fund. When you start setting aside money for Christmas, birthdays or road goes here. :) Why? We learned years ago how great this account is. When you travel
and start swiping that card for gas, food and fun it's great to know that none of this swiping fun comes out of your monthly bill money. When the money is gone..that's plan accordingly.

If you have a spouse I highly recommend an "I love you" checking account for him/her. This is where you set aside some money (maybe half of the fun fund to keep it simple) and put it in the account for them. This way they can freely spend and it won't mess up this beautiful plan you have. It's simply a way to say "I love you and you work so hard, treat yourself."

So there you have it! All the major life stuff is accounted for and you have a safety net for it all! You can enjoy your debt free life and breathe easier :) It won't be done overnight but it'll be worth it. Honestly it's my goal and I hope it's yours too. Except for the regular account and travel fund I recommend making the other accounts savings accounts. This way you earn interest and you can easily transfer money from them as needed. It also cuts down on clutter in your wallet. :) The best way to pull off this plan is to figure out what you need for only the household bills. Anything that's not in that category gets automatically deposited into your other accounts (talk to your bank about getting this done). If your bank has a limit on transfers a month, this is great way to get around that. This assumes you have a set amount every paycheck, like a salary paycheck. If you don't them, take the "leftover" funds and divide them equally into each account.

I know this seems like a lot of work and yes, at first it will be but once you set it up and see it working you'll wonder why you didn't do it sooner. Stick it out! You won't be sorry :)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Retirement state of mind

I feel like my last post needed some explanation. Our master goal is to work smarter, not harder in the areas that we can. Short of winning the lotto we have to work to pay bills but we can change what we're working towards.

We live off one income, we also have and it's something that works for our family. My job is to make the most of that pay. This year the focus is on making that pay work smarter by having less for it to cover. Yes, at first it's not going to be easy..that's to be expected. It's going to take time, no quick fix here! Over time the paycheck will have less to cover and go farther by nature.

In terms of the house, it's a catch 22. We'll be living here for at least the next year while I focus on making the bills smaller. I'd love to move at the same time but we need to keep in mind this will take baby steps to work properly. We can't afford a move, rent, mortgage and focus on debt reduction all at the same time. So, bills first..then the house :(

Most people won't understand our housing decision, that's okay. Yes I know home ownership is supposed to be the American dream but not for us. For us, home ownership is labor we don't have time for, repairs we don't have the money for and a yard no one uses. Our money and time is better spent renting where repairs and labor are someone else's worry, the yard is someone else's concern and we can simply enjoy our place. I'm aware that we might not like the neighbors..that happens anywhere. And yes I know we're going to pay more monthly but we're willing to pay for amenities to enjoy and not worry about the upkeep. Honestly we don't have room for a pool or gym and even if we did they'd just be another thing we'd be trying to pay off and something else to take care of. There's just no point in that. We'd rather it all be included in the rent :) No, I won't be able to "put my stamp on everything" and I'm completely okay with that. I don't need to paint walls, tile backslashes or install a floor to feel like a live in my space. Personal artwork, furniture and memories will do that just fine. We have zero desire for renovation at this point in our lives. We bought this house with great expectations and have realized we wanted someone else's dream.. ours is less complicated. :)

In essence my goal for my sweetie and I is to live in a retirement state of mind…as little stress in the way of housing and bills as possible..more money in savings and security. I want to go on vacation to see family and worry less about..everything! At the end of my plan our only commitments that involve our dally life will come with early termination fees if we choose. That's freedom!  I'm well aware that this all won't go off without glitches..something is bound to go wrong. I expect it..that's why it's a 3-5 year for trouble.  I'll keep you posted on how all this planning plays out in the real world. Keep watching in 2014 :)

Do any of you lovely readers have a giant plan underway?

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Master Plan

Next month is a turning point. It's the beginning of a new year for sure but for me it's also the beginning of a plan I've been working towards for months.
I have lovingly called in my Master Plan. :)

This plan sounds simpler than it is. I'm going to undo the mess of this past year financially by finding all the flaws. I will track in detail every penny and where we are over spending. Knowing this I will dedicate the available funds to getting out of debt! This entire plan will take 3-5 yrs but it includes paying off two cars, all various financial obligations and student loans. Among this will also be selling the house. :)

To help me with this I'll be using a financial tracker from and teaching myself to help stretch my money farther.

By 2019 I will be rid of the follow:

  • A house payment (renting better suites our lifestyle)
  • 2 car payments (leaving me free to save cash for a new car if I want)
  • Credit card payments
  • Furniture/appliance payments
  • Entertainment electronics payments
  • Medical bill payments
  • Student loan payments
So what will this mean? It will mean that excluding rent (since I have no idea what that will cost) and fuel (since that depends on travel needs)Taking into account what we currently pay in utilities, cell phone, insurance and groceries we will pay $851 a month instead of around $1,700+ ! That's a savings of about $863 a month-- over 10K a yr!

And no, I'm not worried about needed credit for a good credit score. Paying my rent and utilities on time does the job just fine. :)

So why is it called the Master Plan? Well, it's a play on words really.. with this plan in action by the time I'm 40 I will be the master of my future..not the banks! I will have no true financial obligations to anyone except if I chose to have a contract for my cell and tv/internet. No more mortgage to tie me down, no more outrageous interest rates! It won't be easy or pleasant at times but it's more than worth it! 

Join me! Make your own master plan and free yourself from that long list of bills that keep you up at night!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

One day a year..

I love Thanksgiving. It's such a wonderful break from the daily grind. What I love most about this holiday is the message behind They don't have to be blood, they don't have to be your oldest friends..they just have to be people who mean something to you. On this one day a year you invite them into your home and share a meal and make some memories. This is an amazing gift!

In these times of struggle and heartaches we look to our blessings instead of our troubles and share food. It sounds like such a tiny thing to share a meal but it isn't. Food bridges the gap of language, age, worries and finance. It simply is a gesture that says "This is what I have to feed my family on this day, be it humble or plenty and I would like nothing more than to share it with you. Today, if for no other day after this we will sit as one family, forget our worries, differences and simply enjoy all this day has to offer." What could be more beautiful than that? Even nature celebrates with bright colors of fall and the crisp air reminding you to bundle up.

Some will have a large crowd over, fill the counters and tables with food and drinks aplenty. Others will have a small gathering of people they cherish most, enjoying a modest meal. Some will not be able to take their eyes off that empty seat and their heart will ache with lose as they spend the day with family they love.  Either way it's all about family on many levels...the joy, love and fulfillment they bring to your life.

Christmas is great with all it's festivities and gifts but nothing feels like Thanksgiving does. In its simplicity it says more about the deep love and friendships that fill your life than any gift ever will.
So gather around your table however big or small..drink in the smells of the food before you, let your heart fill with joy, listen to the laugher..take a moment to reflect on every single blessing (it could always be worse) and know that for this one day all is right in your world! Worry later if you must but not on thankful. :)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

My someday plan..

Yep, I'm that person who plans for someday. The easier I can make my life now for the big things down the road, the happier I am. My sweet husband has learned that I have some crazy ways but he's come to expect nothing less and knows that they usually pay off. I love him.

Our biggest future plan is to move. We've been wanting to move for years and although we don't have a true move date..I have faith there will be one! With that in mind I've hunted down the greatest moving kit I've ever seen from I wish I had thought of this years ago. It would have saved me a lot of headache and stress. Anyways, since we aren't moving yet  I'm altering her plan just a little.

I went to the local liquor store and scored a whole truck load of free boxes and then off to gather more supplies. She recommends color coded stickers but I opted for colored duct tape. This way there's no hunting for a sticker on the box, it's taped closed with the color for each room. Written on each box is a number on all four sides. All this goes with a list for each page as to what's in each box. For example:

Box #1 (taped with red duct tape) from the master has sheets. So the box is taped with red with 1's all over it..and on the list it reads that in that box is sheets.

When the movers come all they see are colored and numbered way to know what's in each box (it's not their business). There is a door hanger for the movers to tell them what color box goes in each room.

Since we might still need to get into some of the boxes I've taken to putting a  * next to each box on the list that is labeled and color coded but not taped shut and the glass isn't wrapped (I didn't want to waste packing material). Why pack things I might need later? Well, now I know right where everything is instead of hunting! When we do start moving all I have to do is tape up those boxes,wrap what needs wrapping and we're ready to load! :) Right now I'm packing closets, stuff for storage and some office stuff. That takes care of the bulk of the house and cuts down the list of last minute things to pack dramatically. A plus is that when we show the house strangers only see neatly stacked colored boxes or the boxes are ready to quickly move to storage if needed.  In the meantime all our stuff stays clean, dust free and safe. :)

So what happens if I need something from one of those boxes? Easy! Just look in the moving binder on the list for that room, find the box number that has what you're looking for..and go find that box! When you're done with it, you know right where it goes…literally everything on that list has a home.

While you're at it this is a great time to sort out things to donate and if you're feeling adventurous you can measure big items in your home that you know you're keeping. Make a list of those things in each room and the measurements. This will help when you're looking for a new place to know if your stuff will fit before you struggle to get it in there. For example: On the back of the list for boxes for the master bedroom.

Master bed (queen size): Length, Width, Height-totally assembled and don't forget the headboard height
Dresser: Length, Width, Hight

*Do the same for each room that has furniture on the back of the box list for that room*

Trust me, it seems like extra work verses just throwing everything in semi-labeled boxes,hoping it gets to the new location and that all your stuff fits but it'll be well worth it and make things a million times easier in the long run.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Everyone gets one..

For years I was like most other households when it came to my files..they all went in a filing cabinet and papers were put in folders. I tried to make it organized, tried not to lose papers or crumple them to death but it was pointless. It still took me way longer than I had time for to find what I needed. It was clear I needed a new system. I thought I'd try something a little unconventional..a binder for each person, one for the house, one for manuals and one for debts that were paid off. Yes I know that last one sounds silly but it comes in handy if you ever need to get something off your credit report.

It's a very easy system. Each person in the house gets a binder. In it is a section for basics,medical/dental/school/awards

Basics: This is for things like your resume, copy of your marriage/birth certificate/list of your addresses and references for the last few years.

Medical/dental: In here goes all your medical and dental papers from appointments. Also any print outs of x-rays or anything else related you might have. If you have kids this is also where all the papers you used to get them into school (the dr. appointments and such go)

School: In here is all your high school/ college transcripts or important papers from your kids school like grade completion paper.

Awards: You guessed it! Here's where you put all the awards and certifications your receive.

Now whenever you're looking for a file that has to do with your husband or just one of the four kids, you know right where to find it and you aren't sorting through everyone else's papers.

House binder: This one is full of all those manuals your get with just about everything. I have a divider in there for electronics and the rest is just household stuff but you can be more detailed if you want.

Paid off binder:  All this holds is all the paperwork and paid off notices for all the things you've paid off. In case you ever find something on your credit report that you know is paid off, you now have proof!

*Again I use the cheap dollar version of page protectors for all the binders, Avery pocket dividers as needed and binders on sale or on hand.*

Now I don't have a big cabinet full of folders stuffed with papers that rub together and fade or get destroyed. I have 5 binders (6 if you count my red one) that sit neatly labeled on a shelf. Any member of my household can did anything they need in mere minutes and often read it without taking it from the protective sleeve and then it goes back on the shelf.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Seeing red with money and mail management

A few months ago I went hunting for a bill I knew I needed to pay and soon realized it was lost in what I thought was an organized pile of papers to be filed. Let's face it, there's nothing organized about a pile of papers..we're just trying to fool ourselves. I needed an answer that was easy, simple and actually doable. First I needed to figure out what I needed out of the new system. I needed it to sort my mail, help make bill paying easier and deal with stuff I'll need for taxes…oh and it needed to be free or close to.  :)

What I came up with was a big red binder I had on hand. Red seemed like a color that screamed "Don't Lose Me!" so I went with it. I had some leftover dividers with pockets from another project so I labeled each for my needs. I also used some Dollar General page protections for all the papers (I'm kind of addicted to them. I think hold need they keep the papers and make them easy to flip though), some left over three level binders and a pencil holder pocket from Dollar General too and my trusty label maker. You can just use tape and a marker if that's what you have on hand. After all, it's all about being thrifty! :)

Appropriately titled "Money Management, Mail Management"

(the tabs don't really stick out this far, it's the camera angle)

Filing: This isn't a true section so much as a three level folder I put in the inside pocket. In this space I can put papers that I need to keep close and aren't ready to be filed yet. Also there's a place for things that need filing and for the new mail. When the map comes in I put the majority of it here, unless it needs urgent help..then it goes in it's proper place elsewhere.

Pencil holder: Remember these from your school days? These are great for holding the checkbook, payment booklets..anything you need for bills you might otherwise misplace.

Bills: this section holds all my current bills and one statement for every bill I pay. I just needed one as a reference for account info and contact numbers. This is very helpful when you have to call to make changes or have questions. On one pocket I labeled it urgent for the things that need serious attention, this way it doesn't get lost in the other bills..those get placed in the pocket on the other side.

Log in: I printed out some pages I found online and used this section to keep track of all my passwords and log in info. Now my husband knows where to find the info and I don't have to rely on myself or my computer to remember it. I'm covered if my computer crashes too. :)

Taxes: This section actually makes me money in the long run! I printed out a list of tax deductions for reference on things to keep I might not otherwise. I used another three level folder to label all the major tax deduction categories I use. As I collect papers and receipts I put them in each pocket. When tax times comes I just take the folder to the tax prep service..easy as that!

Debts: In this section I put all the debts I'm currently paying on. If I every have a question about the terms or conditions I know right where to look.

Total cost of this time, money and frustration saving binder.. $3!

My system is simple. When I get the mail I sort it in my binder and shred the trash or sensitive stuff. When I pay bills, I sit down with the binder and get the job done fast and efficiently. When the "Need to file" section gets full I take the stuff out and take care of it. It's as easy as that!! No more lost papers, no more paying fines for lost bills..I'm thrilled :)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Turns out I'm a CEO!

For as long as I can remember I've wanted to run my own company or at the very least be at the top of a major corporation. It's a like a calling of sorts,I'm just a natural leader. I've held my fair share of jobs were all they want you to to do is follow along blindly. I do my best to follow the rules but I can't help but find the flaws and solutions..the only problem was that I wasn't qualified to voice my opinions. It was time for a change.

 So with my career goals in mind and the backing of my husband I set out to make my dream come true. First came my bachelors degree in business. It gave me a great sense of accomplishment but still didn't give me the standing I needed in the business world. So it made perfect sense to move on to my masters in business management. Now I was going to get somewhere!

There's a catch though, you see between my two degrees came my son. My heart. I would move mountains for him and my husband but there was still a part of me (now fully engulfed in the role of stay-at-home mom, homemaker and semi home schooler) that longed for the business world. After all the paper (soon to be papers) said I was qualified. I started day dreaming about how great it would be to dress in a suit and do great corporate duties…and then something occurred to me. I had my dream already!

I am a CEO of someplace great and home. Yeah I know it sounds silly but hear me out.
I literally am in control of ever aspect of my home (with the help of my husband of course but for the most part he follows my lead since I'm home the most.)

I have the ability as CEO to make my home the greatest and most profitable business we'll ever own. With my skills from my degrees and my natural desire to do what's best for my family I have a great opportunity before me! For once I can have every item in my "business" organized it the best way possible. I can make it as efficient as possible for the best outcome. My "employees" can be taken care of in a way only I can and being CFO of the budget means I can make the most  of "company funds".

I know it seems funny but my home is the best business opportunity I could ask for. It will be and truly is a true testament to my business sense, skills and love for my job as mother and wife.  With the new found revolution I am unstoppable! My business will grow and prosper in ways I can only dream of now..oh and that suit I always wanted to's a beaming smile of pride.  :)

So yeah, a healthy chunk of this blog will be of the business I call home and how I'm making it work. I'm a proud CEO and I want to share my venture.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Two blanket monsters

Let me introduce you to my two blanket monsters!

No, this blog isn't about them..although I'm sure they'll find their way into a story or two. This blog is about everything. Every once in awhile I feel the need to share something cool or just stand on my soapbox and shout..and this is my place to do just that. Please don't be shy about would be great to meet you. :)