Archives For Money

By Eric on November 25, 2014 +

As is the case with most everything I talk about here, being proactive is the key to winning with your money. The “normal” way to pay for Christmas is to forget it’s coming until Black Friday, panic, and then proceed to put everything on a credit card and spend the next year paying for last year’s Christmas. (Been there, done that)

Christmas Shopping

YUCK! Almost sounds as good as figgy pudding (I actually have no idea what figgy pudding is, but it sounds horrible).

So, let’s make a better plan if not for Christmas 2014, then for Christmas 2015 for sure!

Make a List & Check it Twice

The key to keeping the sanity in the Williams’ house when it comes to Christmas shopping is having a plan. We keep a very simple spreadsheet in DropBox that we can both access where we list who we need to shop for, how much we have budgeted, ideas we gather throughout the year, and how much we actually spent once the gifts are bought.

We try to operate in our strengths as well. I come up with a decent idea for a gift, and Kelsey hunts down the best deal. She has some mad online shopping skills. Last year, I think we bought one gift in the store and the rest online!

Stick to your plan, get creative, but don’t overspend. Tis’ the season for giving, but Tis’ NOT the season to spend more than you intend to. If you find yourself in a pickle, wanting to buy one more stocking stuffer for your second Uncle’s great nephew, check that list again and see if that’s really in your plan? Giving is a great thing, but only if it’s within your budget.

Black Friday Christmas Shopping

I really don’t have a whole lot of great advice for Black Friday shopping. I guess the early bird gets the worm, right? I’ve never taken part in the festivities.

If I were to approach Black Friday shopping, I would likely keep the same rules as above. Plan ahead, have a strategy and keep your focus!!! There are so many crazy deals that it would be easy to get side tracked and walk away with more than you really wanted to. (One of the reasons I’ve never done it. I know myself too well)

Remember, the retail store’s purpose is to make money. So they bring in a few crazy deals, knowing that you will be in their store and will likely walk out with more than you bargained for (pun intended). So, be smart, don’t let them trick you into buying more than you need to.

Savvy Online Christmas Shopping

We subscribe via email to our favorite places to shop and keep a special eye on the deals this time of year. We’re typically able to score great deals by waiting for Cyber Monday and ordering online.

Our philosophy is based on neither of us wanting to fight the crowds.

When we shop online we always use Ebates to compound the deals as they pay cash back. (Make sure you download the Ebates cash back button to lock in your rewards.)

For those extra tough folks to buy for, a gift card is always an option. Use a site like Gift Card Rescue to buy gift cards up to 35% off! The options are sometimes limited, but if you create an account and are patient, you can score a sweet deal.

However you decide to complete your Christmas shopping, just remember the real reason for the season (the birth of our Savior). It’s fun to celebrate and have a good time, but do it with a plan and purpose.

P.S. We put up our Christmas tree a week ago, and Christmas music has been playing ever since. It helps take the edge off the frigid temps and slippery roads we get here in the midwest.

What’s your plan for getting your Christmas shopping done this year?

P.S. We put up our Christmas tree a week ago, and Christmas music has been playing ever since. It helps take the edge off the frigid temps and slippery roads we get here in the midwest.

By Eric on November 18, 2014 3

Fear of money can be a dangerous thing. I’ve experienced this firsthand the past few months. Launching out into a business whithout paid benefits, vacation, or health insurance adds a layer of complexity to our lives that we tried our best to prepare for. And even after getting all of that settled into our budget, let’s be honest, it’s scary not knowing what your paycheck will be every month.

One of the ways fear has creeped into our household has been a lack of communication. I’ve been so focused on growing and learning how to be my own boss that unfortunately I’ve done a poor job of keeping in touch with my wife on a day-to-day basis. (Excuses, I know! but that’s reality right now)

And at the end of the day we both get home with about 10% energy left in our tanks, and that goes toward figuring out what’s for supper and spending time with Rooney. And when she goes to bed, we sit down and realize how little we have left for each other.

Fear creeps in as we start thinking about the things coming up in the next month we’ll have to pay for, and wondering where and how that income is coming in the door.

The crazy thing is that we knew it would be this way before we got into it. We prepped, planned, and talked about it, but didn’t really have a clue until we started doing it.

Planning is good, but living it out is the real deal. We’re learning things we couldn’t have ever learned by “planning.” Same is true with parenting. We had no idea until we were in the thick of it how challenging parenting would be. But, we’ve learned and we’ve grown from it.

Let’s combine both problems… the other night we were laying in bed around 8 PM (Yup, we were exhausted!) and talking about our budget and how we thought December was going to shake out. Well, the whole situation ended in tears because Kelsey wants Rooney to attend preschool next fall, but that requires a deposit to hold her spot.

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By Eric on November 11, 2014 2

One common question I get from people trying to create a budget for the first time, is “how many budget categories do I need?” A great question for sure, but I also think it’s the wrong question to be asking.

Short answer: As many as it takes…

On the budget spreadsheet you get for signing up for updates there are 79 sub-categories and 11 main categories.

Budget Categories for budget spreadsheet

 

Why so many budget categories?

When you first create a budget, the hardest part is making sure you’ve got all possible expenses covered, lest you forget something that throws a wrench in your budget during the middle of the month. You want to be proactive with creating a budget every month, instead of just tracking your expenses and trying to reverse engineer your spending.

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By Eric on November 4, 2014 +

Budgeting, saving, investing, getting a good deal, minimizing risk, and paying off debt are all big pieces to your personal finance puzzle. Together they help paint part of a picture where you are today. They are all good and should be on our to-do (or doing) list, right?

But how often do you stop and think about where you are headed?

In the muddy waters of today, we tend to lose sight of the grander vision. The horizon becomes blurry and we’re not sure if we’re even headed in the right direction anymore.

We were caught in that mess a few years ago. Spending all that we had, but just barely treading water. We had good paying jobs and nothing to show for it. Hardly any savings, and a bunch of debt.

The solution for us came in a two-part formula: Create a plan, and follow the plan.

Sounds simpler than it really is…

Creating a Plan

We couldn’t create a plan, because we didn’t know how. We were paralyzed because we didn’t know where we were going or what we should be doing. We were lost and didn’t’ know which way was North. We not only needed a map, but we needed a compass to get us pointed in the right direction.

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By Eric on October 23, 2014 7

I almost added “a used car” to the end of the title, but I think the title works as is. My point being that it doesn’t matter if you drive a used car or a new car, driving in general assumes some risk. If there weren’t risks with driving, you wouldn’t need insurance, right?

Anyway, We’ve been faced with a challenge this past weekend when I tried to leave the office last Friday evening and my car wouldn’t start. She’s a 1998 Grand Prix with about 151,000 miles. Every time I tell someone who knows something about cars that I drive a 1998 Grand Prix, they say “oh man! That engine will run forever!” Yup… if you can get it started…

Fixing the Car

By the grace of God, I was able to get it running after about 25 minutes of fighting, slamming my head against the steering wheel, and praying that it would start. Well, it did, but at the same time all the dashboard lights, brake lights, and parking lights were flashing.

Nevertheless, I made it home with the lights flashing, but once in the garage, couldn’t get it started again, and with the key out of the ignition… all the lights were still flashing.

I then spent all day Saturday trying to figure out what in the world was wrong with my baby (I’ve been driving it for over a decade now…. we go waaaay back!).

I won’t tell you the whole story, mostly because at this moment, it’s still un-written (It’s still sitting in the garage and won’t start). But, there are some key lessons in vehicle ownership, car maintenance and vehicle purchasing that can be learned from this inconvenient scenario.

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