Less is More

This last month I’ve been discussing a scary word.  Budgeting.  It is a subject that is on my mind quite a bit and funny enough, comes up in many of my daily conversations.    I enjoy hearing the perceptions of others on this topic.  One conversation, really got my wheels turning.  It started with one sentence.  “I don’t budget because I want to enjoy life now.”   I’m sure you can see where this is going, already.

The world today tends to push us into the “I want it now!” behavior.  Yes, that spoiled child syndrome that makes us all cringe.  Does anyone remember who fell down the rotten egg chute in the original Willy Wonka movie?  Yup, the “I want it now!” girl.  There was a time when this type of behavior was frowned upon and actually quite embarrassing to those around that self-centered and demanding person.  Now, the world has embraced this behavior.  Why save, when you can use a credit card?  Why put away for your old age, when you can travel the world now?  Television, radio and the internet are always pushing some new and grand thing for you to throw your money away at.

Take a step back and take a look around you.  The race to have more is really not worth jumping into.  The more things you acquire the less time and money you have for the truly important things in life.  Money and things do not obtain happiness.  In fact, what happens is there is more stress and less happiness.

Budgeting should not be looked at as a tool that gives you less in life, it is a tool that helps you to acquire more in life.  More of the good things.

When you budget you create:

  • Knowledge:  You know where your money needs to go.
  • Control:  You control where your money goes.
  • Peace: You don’t have to stress about the unknown (as much).
  • Money:  When you control your money and think about its use, it begins to grow.

Budgeting is not meant to make you feel guilty, insecure, angry or like a failure.  Budgeting is a tool and when that tool is used properly, you gain from it not suffer from it.  Ignoring your money and pretending the debt doesn’t exist will only create a bigger monster in the end.

monster illustration

A Budget is a Living Thing:

Your budget is not something you scribble on a notepad and shove in the drawer and forget.  It is something that is “living”.  Now, with that said, it is not something to obsess over.  Set aside some time weekly to review your budget, if you are married, make sure you do this with your spouse.  See how you have been spending your money, assign it to a category.  Do NOT put credit card purchases in a ‘black box title’ such as Credit Cards.  Actually list out what you made that purchase for.  You will very quickly be surprised on how much a week you may be spending on things like breakfasts, lunches, coffee, snacks, entertainment without even blinking an eye.  When you put a name on them, they become real.

My goal, or happy place, is to be able to budget for three-quarters (or better yet, half) of our house income.  Yes, you read that correctly three-quarters of our total house income.  That does not mean that this happens every month there are times I don’t make that goal.  What it means is it gives me a line to shoot for.  This way, heaven forbid, if something happens to the “good times” income and it gets cut, we can still thrive without too much stress.  Notice I said thrive, not just survive.  It also gives me a challenge and I love a good challenge.

I’ve mentioned this many times, but I love the way that Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace utilizes their online budget tool Every Dollar .  It lays it out perfectly.  Especially when paying off those credit cards because in reality, when you pay these off you are gaining money.  Once they are paid off, close as many as you can, especially the high interest rate ones.  The Every Dollar budget tool offers a subscription version and a free version.  I tell people to utilize the free version for 2 reasons:  1) It’s free and not another expense.  2) It forces you to physically write what you spent the money on.  The paid subscription version allows you to connect to your savings, checking, credit cards to automatically bring in transactions, but you have to place them in your built budget.  Their paid subscription also will not allow you to add an American Express Card, or pay for the subscription using a credit card, you must use a debit card or a checking account to pay for the annual subscription.  Both the subscription and free versions are available on both PC and phone/tablet app versions for Android and iPhone apps.  With any budgeting tool, it works best when you work with it often.  I budget daily or nothing less then once a week.

Put extra money that you are no longer wasting on things to paying off debt.  It is not as hard as you may be thinking it is.  The outcome is less stress and fear.  Now, when you do pay it off, don’t go “celebrate” with some big shopping spree or dinner out or a vacation.

Budgeting allows you to live below your means which gives you freedom from stress and freedom from being a slave to needing more.  It allows you to give time to what is truly important; relationships and your health as a whole.

So don’t look at budgeting as this big scary monster lurking in the dark, look at it as a garden just waiting for you to plant and watch it grow.

white and green ceramic pig decor

Until next time,

Mrs. Kay Lynn Rice

Planting Seeds

I bet you expected this to be about gardening, didn’t you?  Well, in a way it is.  We are growing a garden that will feed us for the rest of our lives if we are wise, or we are creating a barren plot that will cause us to fall.  I know, that isn’t a very positive way to start an article is it?  Truth be told, today’s world has us creating a barren plot.  How can we avoid falling into the trap of World View?

Think of pennies as seeds.  Every penny placed wisely grows, pennies cast to the side are lost.  I remember overhearing a conversation that pennies are useless in today’s society and should be “discarded”.  Now even a child knows that when you put a penny in a jar each day by the end of the year you have $3.65.  When you start finding pennies in the couch cushion, in the car, on the sidewalk, and you pick it up and add it to the jar, well, you just increased your income.  Seeds that grow into a crop.  One seed gives birth to a crop of fruit.

As with seeds and a garden, the soil must be primed, there is maintenance and care and daily pruning involved.  A seed will not grow on rock.

woman standing on pasture

How to prime your soil:

  1.  Budget.  I talk about this all the time.  A budget should be a living thing, not something you do once and shove in the drawer of a desk.  It is constantly changing, growing, shrinking.  Working with your budget weekly will allow you to see upcoming storms, droughts and be able to prepare accordingly.  During good times that your ‘crops’ are doing above expectation, work on saving and giving.
  2. Revisit your wants vs. needs.  Another subject I talk about all the time.  This is a subject that should have lots of communication around with your family, especially your spouse.  Exactly what do we need as a family?  What do we want?  Is our want justified?  Just a clue here, just because the neighbors are going on a one month cruise does not mean you have to do the same thing.
  3. Making your home work for you.  No, I am NOT talking about a refinance loan.  I’m talking about utilizing the spaces.  Instead of just flowers, plant herbs and vegetables.  This will help with your grocery bill and your health.  If you have land, put in a full garden and learn to preserve by canning, freezing and dehydrating.  Berries and fruit are also a great addition for visual as well as food.  Do you live where you can have poultry?  Chickens are a wonderful source of protein in both eggs and meat, but be prepared for lots of work.  Meat Rabbits are also a great way to supplement your meat intake.  You will need a to understand that meat rabbits are food, not pets.  With bringing on livestock you will need to look into your homeowner’s insurance, community rules, etc.
  4. Family Rules.   Seeds are best planted early.  With children its the same way.  Teach your children well in the areas of money and work.  Give them chores, teach them young to keep track of their earnings.  Encourage work at the proper ages and teach them responsibility of their earnings.  Every adult & young adult who is healthy and living under the roof need to have responsibilities both in work and finance.  Do not permit anyone to slide.  You are responsible for raising the next generation.  Here is also the difficult conversation section, do not be afraid to confront misuse of finances, even if it is with a spouse.  Do not attack, do not fight, find common ground and discuss to avoid the storm in the future.  Everyone is in this together.
  5. Find your leaks and areas of waste.  This is not only in the area of actually spending money, but in how you are spending time.  If you are “too busy” to cook at home, look at why?  Are you spending time in front of the television instead of meal prepping?  Have you overbooked your kid’s activities so much that no one has time to rest and focus on each other?  Time and Money both are things that we can control how they are used.
  6. Invest.  I’m not talking necessarily about the stock market.  I’m talking about investing in your home, future and self.  Use your money and time wisely to build not to break down.  Instead of spending thousands of dollars on a cable bill, cut the cord, and spend the time outside with your family building and doing instead of spending time in front of the television or all on different devices in different rooms.  Spend pennies on preparing a garden and watch your grocery bill go down.  Take the money you normally would spend on a daily coffee shop coffee and put it in a penny jar, you’ll be surprised how much money you have at the end of the month.  But don’t go out and reward yourself with it, pay off some bills instead, put it back into the crop to grow more.
  7. Pay off and get rid of the plastic.  I talk about this one often as well.  In today’s world, yes unfortunately, we do need a credit line.  But watch how you utilize it.  Ask yourself, do I really need <item, service> right now?  Can I save for it?  How much will this cost me in interest?  Can I buy it used for less and still save money on maintenance of this item/service?  Can I make it myself?  If you do run up a card.  Pay off your smallest debt first, then take the money you would be spending on it and add it to the next in the list of debt, doubling that payment amount, leaving the larger ones at their minimum payment until you move up the ladder.  This is called the Snowball effect, Dave Ramsey teaches this.  I am a huge follower of his and his Financial Peace University.  I love his budget tool at everydollar.com .
  8. Keep a small amount of cash on you at all times.  I will keep $5.00 on me in cash and if I am out and about and need something like water, I can use the cash and not a card, it also makes me more aware of how I’m spending things.  Keep track of your cash use as well.
  9. Utilities and Insurance.    It is wise to review your utilities and insurance at least quarterly or after a big life change.  I know you are thinking why utilities.  Here is the thing, if your electric bill jumped spiked the previous month/quarter you should ask yourself why.  Was it an overly hot or cold month?  If it was, do you really need the air conditioner set cold enough to support penguins?  Do you need the heater going like a dragon on overload.  There is a difference between comfort and access.  learn to acclimate a little better with alternative methods.  Dress appropriately for the weather inside and outside.  Adjust the thermostat when you will not be at home.  It’s all about adjusting behaviors and expectations.  Your insurance should be looked at periodically to make sure you are being covered for what you really need to be covered for.  There is no reason to be insurance poor.  You can also save up in an emergency fund to offset costs here as well.

I will continue to discuss these items throughout the blog.  I hope you enjoy them and that they help you think of ways to be more efficient and cost sensitive in your life so that you can grow a most productive crop.

“She goes to inspect a field and buys it with her earnings she plants a vineyard.  She is energetic and strong, a hard worker.”  Proverbs 31: 16-17

Until Next Time,

Mrs. Kay Lynn Rice

A Tough Conversation

Money.  When you hear that word, what do you think of?  Does it make you worry, depressed, happy, longing, dreaming?  In this world no matter what, we need money to survive.  No matter how self-sufficient you are, you still need money.  The trick is to manage what you have wisely and not get caught up in the world and the tricks that are played to separate you from your hard earned wages.

There are more arguments in a relationship about money than any other subject.  It causes strife and worry.  But it doesn’t have to.  It all depends on how you view it.  Money is a tool, it is not your life and its not meant to be that.  We work to earn money to live, we don’t live for work.  Many times our priorities get shifted to the world’s view and we become trapped in that more, bigger, better trap.  The ease of credit, the thoughtless buying or lack of planning, these all lead to leaks in our financial, and eventually our mental well-being, and even sometimes the end to wonderful relationships.

Tips to simple rules of being healthy frugal:

  1.  Understand your wants from your needs.   This is a big one.  TV, internet, friends, the world in general preaches that our wants are our rewards and pushing our wants to become what we think are our needs.   You need shelter, food and water, clothing (basic) and previsions, and of those, you don’t need the biggest and the best.  All of the other points will follow this mentality, if you know a need from a want that is your biggest hurdle.
  2. Eat at home and make your drinks/coffee/tea at home.  I am still amazed at how many of my friends will spend $3-$5 on a cup of coffee.   Make it at home and buy a nice carry mug.  We buy a dark roast coffee at a local bulk store that is better than any coffee shop grind.  Also, when you eat at home and pack your meals for work you know exactly what is going into your body.  Keep it natural, not only will your wallet thank you, so will your waistline.
  3. Buy second hand clothes.  While there are items that should never be bought second hand (underwear, hair items, personal stuff) most all of your clothes can be bought second hand and be in style.  If you do need something ‘new’ then utilize your discount and outlet stores.  I enjoy an online store called ThredUp  they will even pay for your gently used clothes you no longer want.
  4. Garage Sales, Thrift Stores, Friends/Family.  Consider it a treasure hunt for something you really need.  By utilizing the mentality of looking for a needed item, it will also give you the time to really think about if you really need it.  Keep a list.  We do a lot of canning especially when our garden is coming on, in the store canning jars are high priced, but you would be surprised how many you can find in good condition in garage sales and thrift stores, and even better yet when someone is cleaning out their basement and finds a box of them!
  5. Grow your own food!  This may seem extreme to many, but to be honest, its not that hard, and you will watch your grocery bill shrink, especially if you preserve by canning, drying and/or freezing what is in season.  Even if it is only greens, tomatoes and cucumbers you will quickly notice a difference in taste, quality and your grocery bill.  For those who can house AND TAKE CARE OF chickens, this is a great source of eggs and meat as well.
  6. Stop relying on credit cards.  This is a hard one, especially in today’s society.  Unfortunately, we all need at least one, especially to travel.  Choose wisely and use wisely.  Do not use it as a “just put it on the card” excuse.  We all fall into that moment of over using a credit line and then feel the pain later.  Learn from your mistakes, pay it off, close what you can, move on with your life.
  7. Home.  A home falls under the need topic but it does not mean you have to move into the Wayne Mansion.  You don’t need to have the biggest and the best.  Keep in mind your purpose.  Do you want minimal maintenance (every home will have maintenance).  Do you really want to own a home?  There is nothing wrong with renting until you reach a point in your life that is right to own a home.  Just don’t pay ridiculous rent for nothing.  What purpose is the home to have?  Do you have children?  Will you have children?  Do you want a homestead to be more self-sufficient?  Does the location really suit you?  What kind of taxes are you looking at?  So much can become overwhelming quick, and if you are building, keep in mind that you do not need to get the top of the line of everything in that home at the time you build.
  8. Budget, budget, budget!    I know, its boring and stressful and makes you accountable.  Don’t just set the budget and ‘fudge the numbers’, actually add what you are spending to each item so you can see it.  I like Dave Ramsey’s Every Dollar program (everydollar.com).  Trust me, it will help you become more aware of where your money is going.
  9. Save your money for a rainy day.  The storms will come.  It is not a matter of if but when.  Your car WILL break down.  There WILL be medical needs and emergencies.  There WILL be accidents.  There will be times when money is tight.  Just because you get that big bonus, don’t go hog wild, feed the piggy bank instead.
  10. Fix the leaks.  What is a leak?  This is where your money invisibly disappears.  Interest rates on credit cards and loans are a horrible leak and you need to get those stopped immediately.  Other leaks can be not looking at your car or home insurance often to tweak as life changes.  It could be that daily stop at the coffee shop or bar, or the quick meal on the run through a drive through.  What about online subscriptions or cable that you rarely if ever use?  A leak can seem like nothing but if you start recording those leaks you can see how quickly they add up.
  11. Work.  If your income isn’t cutting it then its time to roll up your sleeves and put more into it.  Everyone who adult age and healthy must be pulling their weight.  Children who are not adults and living at home can help with chores and they too can have certain responsibilities so they can learn the value of a dollar as well.  If you realize you are over your head in debt or a situation arises for the need, then look into ways that can help your financial situation.  Do you have a hobby that can add some added income, cleaning, cooking, a craft.  You will need to look at local licensing to sell out of the home and many times into your homeowner’s insurance.  Now, here is the hard part, don’t spend the extra because now you have an extra income.  PAY OFF THAT DEBT so you can get back to enjoying life more.

These are only a few of the basics of becoming money wise and I hope they help calm your mind and help you on your way.

“The earnings of the godly enhance their lives, but evil people squander their money on sin.”  Proverbs 10:16 NLT

Until next time,

Mrs. Kay Lynn Rice