[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.

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[Destination]: Home…from vacation

This past week was spent just a few short hours from our home to celebrate the marriage of my brother-in-law.  It was a truly great time with some truly great people.  We got to spend the entire week at a little retreat in the woods (well, a wooded area of Mechanicsburg anyway), and we felt like we were able to just “get away” for a few days.  While we still had the rush of getting ready for the wedding and packing as much into 7 days with our West Coast family as we could, I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

It’s amazing what can be revealed to you once you take a moment to sit back, relax, and enjoy the view.  It’s in those quiet, albeit chaotic, moments that you realize just what you might be missing or what you really do need in your life.

Lessons learned during this vacation:

1. Slow down.  Life is not to be rushed through, and it also does not bend to my rules.  No matter how much planning you put into a day, something will always go differently than you expect.  Roll with it.  Enjoy it.  Watch your kids (and yourself) grow from it.  And don’t stress about the fact that things change in an instant.  Control what you can, but be ok with what comes your way.

2. Family is of utmost importance.  Ok, so I already knew this one.  I know it enough that I often tell my DH how much I miss his brothers who are now all out West.  Their families are growing, our family is growing, and my girls often ask if we can invite their aunts, uncles and cousins to their birthday parties.  It breaks my heart.  So, we will make it a priority to do what we can to get out there and visit.  Because life is all about your family and it needs to be a priority no matter what.

3. Live life simply.  Learn about what you need and what you can do without.  The simpler life is, the happier you will be.  Clean out your stuff, cut down on your bills, really take the time to think about whether you need that bigger house or more expensive car.  You’d be so surprised about what you can live without and what you really can get by with.  As an example, I know our lives have gotten so much better and more meaningful through simply turning off our cable.  It saves us some money each month, and we’re “forced” to spend more time as a family, connecting, bonding, and just plain talking to each other.

I’m so thankful for the time that we’ve gotten to spend with family over the past week.  Now, it’s time for us to unpack, decompress, and get back to our normal routine.  That routine will certainly be changing.  I think the girls have really like a more “relaxed” mommy over the past week.  My biggest hint was yesterday, on our way home, my oldest daughter Keira kept telling me she loves me.  Over and over again I got to hear those beautiful words from her.  I asked her this morning why she kept telling me that (not that I was complaining) and she said, “because I just love you”.  That’s certainly good enough for me.Image

[Destination]: Clean Laundry

I still have intentions of doing some sort of organizing today; however, if I don’t get to it, I’m not too concerned.  An impromptu pillow fight that started out between my husband and the girls and then turned to just me and my four-year-old was just the medicine that was called for today.  It reminded me that, while it’s important to keep your home clean and only have what you need, it’s more important to have a pillow fight with your kids.  We laughed, ran into each other, stole each others’ pillows, and had a great time.  Our hair was a mess and we couldn’t stop smiling.  I’ll take that joy any day.

I know it sounds weird, but while I’m decluttering and removing the excess from my life, I’m slowly finding that I’m able to enjoy all life does have to offer even more.  In a recent post of mine, I listed a few physical and emotional things that clutter and excess can actually cause you if you don’t get a handle on it.  Depression, anxiety, weight gain, and a serious depreciation in our quality of life have all hit me pretty hard in the past.  I just never realized how much damage they were actually doing at the time.  I used to sit and think that this was just the way that I was.  Maybe depression and anxiety were just a large part of who I was.  

Just over the past five days, I’ve found that this is definitely not the case.  When I’ve said that I breathe a little easier now, I mean it.  I have more control over my life than I’ve ever felt that I have.  And it’s the little things like doing a load of laundry every day (and folding and putting it away), and straightening up and putting things back where they belong that has brought peace to my otherwise chaotic-feeling life.  Every donation bag I put into the back of my van provides a little more satisfaction of where my life is and where it’s going.  Clear thoughts, clearer vision, and happiness in the blessings I’ve been given…that’s the direction of this destination.  And I’m moving closer every single day.

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