Archives For Money

By Eric on December 18, 2014 2

Have you heard of the boiling frog experiment? It goes something like this…

A frog, held near a pot of boiling water on a stove and enticed to jump in, would leap away from the steaming pot of water. But, place the frog in a pot with room temperature water, and turn the burner on low heat and the frog will sit contently as the water temperature rises.

By the time the water starts boiling, the frog doesn’t realize that it’s being boiled to death.

Boiling FrogOriginal photo from Wikipedia CC

A sad story for sure, and  a good analogy of how our society finds ourselves in such a devastating amounts of debt. A little debt, here, a little more over there, and sooner or later, we’re left with payments for stuff we already have, and neck deep in payments.

What do I mean by things…. well, anything paid for on credit, essentially things that are wanted now vs. waiting for later. Sure, there is always the “I get rewards” argument, and “I pay it off every month” statement.

I hear ya! I know… we’ve been there and done that. But, having that line of credit and plastic card in our wallets creates a false sense of winning financially.

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By Eric on December 9, 2014 6

I knew striking out into the world of self-employment would be tough. It’s been tough, but what seems to be troubling me and my family the most over the past few months is the continual stream of cash that is leaving our pockets for things that keep breaking.

In budget terms, these are the things we save for on a monthly basis, but don’t really like spending money on.

Like car repairs and house repairs. Let’s just start there for example…

In the past three months we’ve had a terrible series of unfortunate events that have kept us busy just trying to solve problems and fix broken things. So, many that I’m convinced someone is playing a joke on us.

First was the car…

As I mentioned in “The Price You Pay to Drive,” cars break down. I know this. We save for this. But, it was working so well for so long, I guess I took for granted what “reliable” transportation was.

Fixing the Car

On a Friday evening after work, I went to start the car, and it refused to do so. After some tinkering, and jumping it, I convinced it (prayer) to start and managed to drive it home where it sat for a week while I tried to fix the problem (thanks Google, and Dad for all the assistance). It wouldn’t start at all after I got it home that night.

The total to get the car running was $272.30. But, the problem seemed fixed and the car was restored to working/reliable condition.

Until about a week later and a totally unrelated issue poked it’s head up… Overheating… OK, no big deal, filled the car with coolant ($7.80). I checked a few other things to make sure it wasn’t something more serious, but couldn’t find anything… (we’ll come back to the car later).

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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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