Archives For Eric

By Eric on July 24, 2014 +

Our Freaking Budget

^FYI -That’s not the Williams family

Today, I want to introduce you to a really awesome family: Joanna, Johnny, and Sally from Our Freaking Budget. I wish I could remember how I first stumbled on their site, but I was instantly entertained. Like the Williams family, they’re a young family trying to make the most of their hard-earned cash. Joanna is a recent stay-at-home mom.

You can imagine the witty humor that comes with a blog titled “Our Freaking Budget.” After introducing myself to them, we thought it would be fun to do a collaboration so that you could have another source of budgeting inspiration. So, let’s get into the Q&A…

What caused you to start y(our) freaking budget? (Both the blog and the budget)

A few months before college graduation, we realized we were about to exit the grace period on making payments, and a budget (as despised as it was) would probably help prepare us for that day. A short while later, a friend lent us The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. Besides making us feel like terrible, vain, keeping-up-the-Jones-ers, it helped us feel like our financial future was completely up to us. We spent the next two years paying off $20k in student loans, building an emergency fund, and doing it all in one of the most expensive cities in the country — NYC.
We started the blog about a year after we’d become debt free and just a month before we entered the wide world of parenthood. We wanted to hold ourselves accountable to our freaking budget and goals, and since we both enjoy writing and design as a creative outlet, a blog seemed like the way to go. It’s been really fun learning, commiserating, and sharing with a community of fellow millennials trying to figure all this money stuff out.

How long have you been budgeting?

Since the beginning of our marriage, we’ve always tried to live within our means, but we didn’t actually start tracking our spending and keeping an itemized budget until a couple years into our marriage. While it’s been a source of stress and anger at various times (especially when shoes are on sale for Joanna and LEGOs for Johnny), we’ve never looked back once. Our finances wouldn’t be where they are today without our love/hate relationship with our budget.

What budgeting tools (applications) do you use?

For our day-to-day spending, we use HomeBudget, a budgeting app that requires manual entry for every.single.expense. It’s tedious, but it helps us to constantly look at our budget and truly “feel the pain.” (I promise we’re not masochists.) We like Mint and other automatic budget trackers, but we’ve found that they’re not as effective for keeping us on track. Manually tracking our expenses help us avoid relying on checking Mint at the end of the month and crossing our fingers that we didn’t go overboard on anything.

What is your least favorite budget category to save for?

We both have a really hard time justifying buying clothing because it’s so expensive. So we just don’t wear any. Kidding. The whole idea of spending money on clothing seems so frivolous, and yet, we both enjoy having nice clothes and looking nice — who doesn’t? Once or twice a year, after our closet has looked very sad for months, we usually give in and buy ourselves a few shirts or something.

What budget category gives you the most trouble each month?

Food. We’ve made huge strides to get this category down over the last few years, but throw in a 30-pound 18 month old girl in the 99th percentile of height and weight and we’re scratching our head on ways to save some months.

What financial goal are you currently working toward?

For the last few years, we’ve been saving up for a house. But we’re not feeling particularly house hungry just yet, so we still don’t know when the day will come that we’ll sign our lives away on a mortgage. We’re continuing to add to that fund each month. And while we’re committed to remaining a one car (and scooter) family for as long as possible, we’re also considering replacing our Toyota Corolla with a more snow-friendly car before the Utah winter smacks us in the face again this year.

Well, there you have it. Be sure to hop on over to Our Freaking Budget and keep up with how they’re doing. Their writing makes personal finance entertaining! Not always an easy thing to do.

I’ve answered some similar questions on their blog today as well. Check it out and let us know what other questions you have in the comments. 
By Eric on July 15, 2014 2

One of the hardest parts of getting rolling with a budget is understanding where to put money that you’ve saved during a particular timeframe once that timeframe is over. We didn’t spend the money, but need it to be accounted for later. Budgeting and saving should go hand-in-hand, but can be confusing at times.

For example, you saved $300 for Vacation this month, but now it’s time to start the next budget and you’re not sure what to do with that money to ensure it goes toward Vacation and doesn’t get spent at the grocery store before it’s needed.

Saving for Vacation?

And if you’re doing this for multiple categories and have a few different savings accounts it can get very confusing quickly. Which sucks, because budgeting is very simple, but can be complicated by banks who try to make you think you’re budgeting, when in reality, you’re just looking in the rear view mirror and seeing your spending history.

Let’s start with why a budget is better than just looking at your bank statement…

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By Eric on July 1, 2014 10

A few weeks ago, at the start of a two week heat wave in Iowa, we started having problems with the air conditioning system in our minivan. And by problems, I mean it was dying a slow death.

Snookie's Malt Shop

 

I basically only drive the minivan when we’re headed places together as a family. Otherwise, Kelsey is the primary driver and hauls herself and Rooney to and from work/daycare. Kelsey jokes that I have supersonic senses, because I tend to have a weird heightened observation when something seems out of place. For example, I walked in the house after church this past Sunday and could instantly smell that Kelsey’s straightener had been left on.

Other times the situation is a bit more obvious, I just know that it’s not a good thing. Like when the rear brakes were going out on the minivan. I got in the van, put it in reverse (with my foot slightly on the brake), stopped, looked at Kelsey and said “How long has that noise been going on?” Kelsey replies, “Oh, yeah… I meant to tell you, it’s been doing that for awhile.” Yeah… at that point all you could hear was metal on metal! Yikes.

So when I hopped in the van this time, the air system was making a funny noise, and we had a similar conversation as above. Ugh! Car problems are annoying, but having a DIY spirit as I do (and a Dad who used to be a mechanic), I called him up to see what my options were. “I don’t know how to fix A/C systems, son.” Dang it! He is human after all…

Into the shop the van went for an assessment of the damage. $900 was the damage and the kicker was that one of the parts was on back order, and it would be  a couple weeks before the part was in. Gulp… It was pushing 90 every day and with Iowa’s humidity, it was going to be a rough few weeks for the Williams family. And by rough, I mean a total first world problem where we had to drive around town with the windows down.

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By Eric on June 26, 2014 5

I’ve had many great coaches throughout my life, mostly on the athletic field. Coaches who encouraged, motivated, challenged, and taught me how to be the best that I could be in the respective sport, or classroom. I’ve also had a few bad coaches whose styles gained them no respect.

If you’ve had a great teacher, mentor or coach that’s helped you do something you couldn’t otherwise have done on your own, you know the importance of having someone take the time to show you how to do something, teach you something you don’t know, and share wisdom and insights to propel you toward your goals.

Since starting cleaning up our own financial mess, and figuring this personal finance stuff out, I’ve wanted to accomplish two things with what I’ve learned…

  1. Be a good steward of the gifts I’ve been given.
  2. Help others do the same.

While not perfect in either of these things, I’ve definitely found a passion that hasn’t gone away. I’ve been writing about personal finance tips among many other things that are important to me for years now.

So, I finally went to Nashville and got some world class training from Dave Ramsey’s team. And while I was there, I got to meet some other awesome people with a similar mission as me and even got to meet Dave Ramsey himself!

EricandDave

Having a plan, and working toward good stewardship of our finances has done so much for our marriage, family, and future, and has provided a freedom that I can’t help but share with others.

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By Eric on June 17, 2014 2

I’ll cut to the chase on this question “I’m single, do I need a budget?”. Absolutely. I think everyone who has money coming into their hands needs a budget and a plan on how it will leave their hands. Without a budget, our spending is not intentional and it won’t properly reflect our values as it should.

That’s the easy answer, but recently I was reflecting on this question (yes, I think about it often).

I’ve never been single and on a budget. Kelsey and I stumbled into budgeting together and have had each other to lean on as we’ve tried to figure out how to budget our money, get out of debt, and build wealth. So, I don’t really know what it’s like to have to intentionally budget money while being single.

Although I got a taste of it recently as Kelsey and Rooney headed out of town to visit family and I stayed behind to work on finishing our basement. Finishing being a loose term here, the project may never get finished at this rate…

Anyway, I was home alone with some food money in case I needed to get some groceries or something to eat. It was a weird feeling to be home in an empty house, essentially knowing that I could do whatever I wanted until they got home, but there were a few motivators that kept me on track while my family was away.

  1. Purpose: I stayed home to get work done in the basement. This was the first time Kelsey and Rooney traveled without me. It was kind of a big deal for us as a family and I didn’t take that lightly. I wanted to make the most of the time I was away from them.
  2. Accountability: I knew that Kelsey and Rooney would come home and progress in the basement would reflect how my time was spent.
  3. Quality Time: I was missing out on quality time with my family. A whole weekends worth. I didn’t like that. But, since that was the decision we made, I wanted to be sure to get as much done as possible.

What do these factors have to do with being single and needing a budget? Well, I’ll tell you that when I wasn’t working, the temptations for going and spending money were prevalent. Nobody was there, nobody was watching. And I ended up caving eventually, but not how you might think…

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