[Destination]: Financial Peace

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Boy, oh boy.  I know that I’ve seen the title of this post on so many different blogs, but there really doesn’t seem to be any other way to say it.  I’m craving financial peace – a peace that comes with paying off debt and living within our means.  Who wouldn’t want that?  I’d love to be able to say that I’m debt-free (except for our house) by the time I’m 35.  That would mean college loans, car loans, and credit cards or any other outstanding loans are paid off…woo hoo!  Well, that’s what our family is striving for.  I’m even excited to say that we’ve been blessed enough this past year that we knocked a small college loan out of the picture this past weekend!  Now, that should be the American Dream!  (More on that later.)

However, I’ve found myself falling back into my old habits over the past month.  We were going strong with the envelope budgeting system where we pay cash for everything.  But, since it hasn’t been made a habit yet, I found myself falling back to the routine of card-swiping because I didn’t have the cash on me.  The plus side of this was that it was at least my Debit card and not a credit card.  Phew!  The cash still had to be in our account; I just wasn’t following our budget as closely as I should have been.  And plastic is just so much easier than cash!

After looking at the budget yesterday, I’ve discovered that I’m already over our grocery budget for this month.  Yikes!  On the 17th day of the month, I’ve already spent through our food “cash allowance”.  Oh pity.  Guess what comes next.  That’s right…a pantry challenge.  I now have to get creative with all the food I currently have.  Of course, I already have a bunch of frozen meals that I can use, but I was hoping to save those for when the baby arrives.  I might still be able to do that.  We have rice, beans, chicken (lots of chicken, thanks to Costco), ground turkey and plenty of other items in our freezer and pantry that we should have no problem eating through the rest of this month.  Really, are any of us that strapped in America that we are truly starving?  If you’re accessing a computer to read this, I don’t think so.  Anyhow, I’m thankful to be prepared with the knowledge of how to handle this situation.

It’s so easy to get sucked into the idea that we “need more”.  I’ve lived that life for the majority of my 31 years on this planet.  When I went off to college, I got myself into trouble with credit card debt.  Then, because I didn’t learn my lesson then, when I got married, we bought whatever we wanted to because we could.  Being a couple who worked full-time and had no kids, it felt easy to pay off our credit cards each month.  And we weren’t in “real” trouble.  Right?  Wrong!  We had created habits as young adults that we are now trying desperately to undo.  Do you know how hard it is to change something you’ve been doing for a lifetime?  It’s tough, but every lesson I learn is putting our family that much closer to our goals.

After reading Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover, I asked my husband to read it as well.  Now, mind you, I’ve asked DH to read a lot of things in the past…it doesn’t usually go over so well.  He tends to be much more skeptical than I am.  I like to believe the things I read; thankfully, he balances me out in that department!  However, he agreed to read this one, and after reading it we both decided it was a great way to move toward our future goals.  I was floored!  And excited!  And floored some more!  It was great that we were actually on the same page with something.  And this was such an important thing to be on the same page with.  The book discusses seven steps to become debt-free and financially stable (even wealthy).  Dave even states that it’s not really new information.  People have been saying these strategies for years.  Putting them in the right order and sticking to the goal is the hardest part, but it’s so worth it.  I’ll tell you, paying off that college debt was so freeing!  Now we can move onto the next debt and work even harder to reach that next goal.  Of course, I have to actually stick to the budget we put in place…not easy, but I’m chalking this up to a learning curve.  And I’m excited for the challenge of making this work.

The typical American Dream has transformed from it’s original definition to include more of everything.  I feel that today’s youth have even taken on the ideal that we’re all entitled to more.  More money, more house, higher paying jobs, and without the expense of doing the work.  Oh, if only that were the case.  Wouldn’t we all just feel happier?  No.  Think about generations before us who had to work and work hard in order to get the things they desired or even needed.  Just to put food on the table, some people had to work two or three back-breaking jobs just to feed their families.  Can you imagine?  Some of you can.  Some of you cannot even fathom it.

What’s your “American Dream”?  Mine has switched to contentment with what I have.  I have been blessed with so much in this life, and I haven’t actually taken the time to really appreciate it.  The tides are changing.  I don’t know if it’s from staying at home with my kids, or if it’s just where I’m at with my life right now.  But I’m thankful.  Thankful for the ability to stay with my kids and help them grow to be their own thankful human beings.  I’m thankful for the roof over my head, the food my table is blessed with, and a husband who cares for me and this family.  What a joy.  May you find your thankfulness today in all that has been given to you.

[Destination]: The Slow Lane

Yes, I know.  Many people are always looking for the shortcut, the easy way, or the fast track.  But, honestly, it doesn’t really seem to get us any further along in our lives.  At least it doesn’t seem that way in mine.

This morning, as my kids were playing outside in the backyard, I heard sirens that seemed to be coming to our neighborhood.  We live near a rather busy road, so I didn’t think too much of it.  Then, the helicopters (yes, plural) came.  I mentioned to the girls that there must have been a bad accident somewhere close by.  “How do you know?” the girls wondered.  Because of the helicopters and sirens I was hearing and seeing, I explained.  We went in the house for lunch, and I decided we should probably leave a little earlier than usual to get Big B to preschool.  Of course, as we pulled out of our development, the road was backed up like crazy.  We wound our way north to preschool, and our 10 minute trip turned into 35 minutes.  But we made it.

When I left to pick Big B up from preschool, I again tried to pad my time just in case the main road was still closed.  It wasn’t.  I made all of two turns and almost witnessed another accident about 500 yards from where the earlier accident had occurred.  An SUV attempted to make a left onto the main road at the same time a sedan was making a left onto his road.  My heart about stopped.  All just to beat the oncoming traffic.  Yikes.

Are we all really in that much of a hurry that we risk our lives on a regular basis just to “beat the traffic”?  Having two small children and one on the way has really changed my perspective on this.  “Just take your time.  You’ll get there when you get there” is what I continually tell myself nowadays.  My husband can attest to my attitude change; it’s only been a recent one.  Our lives are precious, all of them.  If we have to be somewhere at a certain time, we need to get ourselves going just a little bit earlier.  If we’re running late, it’s not the end of the world.  We’ll get there when we get there, or if we miss it altogether, so be it.  As my husband always says, “I have lots of precious cargo with me.  I’ll take my time.”  God really has blessed me with a wonderful husband who has taught me a lot about patience.  But don’t tell him I said that 😉

I dare you this week to take your time and try to get into the slow lane.  Let people pass you as they rush to their jobs, gatherings, and whatever else they have going on.  Figure out what the most important things are in your life.  Your family and friends would rather have you with them, safe and sound and late, than rushing and making rash decisions.  Put your life and the life of others on a high pedestal…it belongs there.  It’s not worth that extra five minutes you might gain by weaving in and out of traffic, or cutting someone off.  You are important.  Remember that.