Budget Budget Budget!

I cannot stress the importance of budgeting.

HOLY COW am I shocked when I see how fast our money goes, when we actually pay attention!

For most of 2015 so far, we’ve printed out a ledger for tracking expenses by category, as well as a monthly budget sheet that accounts for EVERY DOLLAR of my husband’s salary (we’re still working out how we want to deal with my income, which is inconsistent, and any “side money” we earn). If I type out every bill’s cost plus projected other costs (e.g. groceries, gas, etc) and the number is lower than his monthly income, we increase the total in the “savings” category – yes, we have a specified monthly amount going into savings. That’s actually new for us, when I realized our extra each month was just sitting there.

There were a couple of months where we didn’t keep track very well. Big “OOPS” moments! Not so fun! But through those moments I’ve learned to keep aΒ betterΒ eye on what we are spending.

Another thing I have learned so far – the monthly budget DOES NOT HAVE TO BE THE SAME EVERY MONTH.

Yeah, I used to think that. Not sure why.

For instance – some months have the standard 4 weeks. My weekly grocery budget is $70 – so a total of $280/month. Well, some months, like this July, are spread out over more like 5 weeks. I didn’t realize this right away and had to re-do the whole budget to include $350 for groceries. (Honestly, if I’d noticed sooner, I would’ve reduced my weekly grocery spending to $60-65 to help stretch things further for a 5-week month). Your utilities change seasonally, too, so I’ve learned approximately what to expect from those bills and adjust each month accordingly.

Budgeting is definitely not fun. Not my favorite item on my to-do lists. But vitally important to our financial health, and to achieving our goal of being DEBT FREE!

(Just the house to pay off, thankfully!)

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5 Ways I Make My Day Productive

Ironically, as I’m writing this post, I’m not having a particularly productive day, despite my efforts. I slept in late because I was inexplicably exhausted. I didn’t really get a start on my to-do list until lunch time (when I was eating breakfast). I’m writing a blog post when I have plenty of things left on my to-do list!

Nobody’s perfect. πŸ˜‰

But here are how things USUALLY go when I DO have a productive day!

1. I go to bed on time, and get up on time.
Around the same time, every day, weekend or weekday. For me that’s going to bed around 10:30/11, and getting up around 7. This habit has become so ingrained in my body that I often wake up around 7 even if I go to bed late, which really stinks, when I haven’t gotten enough sleep. It’s a good reminder to go to bed on time! My body feels SO much more rested when my sleep schedule is consistent.

2.Β Don’t get on the computer right away!
This is a hard habit for me. But when I ignore the computer and get to my to-do list first, then I can mindlessly scroll through Facebook later. Ha! (another habit I am trying to break.) Often there are items on my list that do involve the computer. I either save them for last, or I do them quickly (if possible) and get off – keeping Facebook CLOSED!

3.Β I follow a to-do list.
I’ve mentioned this already in this post, but having a list of goals for the day GREATLY increases my productivity and things actually get done. I usually write these at least a day in advance, planned around my work schedule and activities, and over time I’ve learned about how much I can manage in a day. When I don’t complete something, I aim to get it the next day.
I keep my to-do list in a mini notebook and cross off items as I complete them. It makes it easier to keep track of, more organized, and less cluttered. I used to write them on pieces of scrap paper but then they’d get lost or confused with other pieces of scrap paper. The notebook works great!

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4. I set a goal to do something fun/relaxing –Β 
AFTER I get everything else done! In the summer this is often going on a walk/hike, although Colorado’s afternoon thunderstorms can make this tricky. Sometimes it’s watching a movie, or hanging out with a friend, or even taking a nap. Everyone needs some fun/down/”me” time, and I try to use mine as motivation to get things done!

5.Β I focus on the end result.
I know that having a clean house and less clutter will help me to relax, and feel less stressed. I also try to remember that my husband works long hours and how calming it can be for him to come home to a clean house and be able to relax. Keeping up on chores helps me to be a blessing to my family, and to take care of myself personally.

It isn’t always fun, but I find that I’m much more satisfied in my day when I achieve something!

Now…off to continue that to-do list. πŸ˜‰

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My Parents Are Moving.

Well, They’ve already mostly moved out of their house while it is selling. And they move out of state in a couple of months.

I’m not too terribly attached to the house. It’s nice, but not my style. It has a mix of both good and bad memories. Nothing atypical. I try to focus on the good ones. Like racing down the long hallways on the wooden floors, in socks or a rolling chair (sorry dad!). Dancing with my HS boyfriend in the kitchen. Noticing that a deer is staring at me through my basement bedroom window as the sun rises. Realizing I was in love as I watched snow pile up outside in the forest. Marching band paries, youth group get-togethers, long talks into the night with my close friends. Lots of good things, and I’m glad I’ll remember them, even without getting to see the house again (from the inside, anyway).

There are a few things about the house in particular, though, that I’ll really miss!

1. The water. Black Forest aquifer water is the BEST. It’s the most refreshing water I’ve ever tasted, and now that I’ve had it, everything else tastes like garbage!

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2. Speaking of water, THIS. Is the BEST. Invention. Ever. It gives you boiling water right out of the faucet. INSTANT hot cocoa or tea or whatever. I love this, and I will miss it dearly.

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3. The jetted tub. There should be two of these, but I was a stupid kid and when my parents asked if I wanted jets in my tub (our house was custom designed and built in 2000) I said NO. What kind of moron was I?! Every time we pet/house sit, we use this tub. It’s fantastic.

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4. Fireplaces. FOUR of them. One in the KITCHEN, living room, family room in the basement, and this is the one in my parents’ bedroom. (I love the chairs, too). They make the house so cozy and I love curling up by the fire with a book. So thankful my house has a fireplace, but I’d LOVE one in the bedroom.

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5. The VIEW. This is the very best part. It’s gorgeous. Sunrise, sunset, everything in between. Here, you can walk down the road in near-silence, listening to almost nothing but the crunch of dirt beneath your feet and wind whispering in the pines.

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Someday, I’m going to live in the forest again. I love it, and I miss it.

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Too much busy-ness.

This week and last week I am working 6-day weeks. Not a fan.

That’s why I haven’t been posting as often.

I certainly haven’t lost my zeal for paying off our mortgage or living simply and naturally. πŸ˜‰

In fact, to ENHANCE my ability to live by these ideals, I’ve become a consultant for Lemongrass Spa! I can’t say enough about these products. I love using them and am so excited that I can support a LOCAL business (Lemongrass was founded and is based here in Colorado!), which uses 97-100% NATURAL ingredients (many are organic and all are pronounceable!) and is AFFORDABLE!Β 

So now I get to add to my income with the goal of using it to pay down or mortgage even faster. I get to share my passion for living naturally and healthily, and frugally. I get to help pamper other people and I DON’T have a sales pitch! I love that the most, I think. πŸ™‚ Great products sell themselves, ultimately.

If you want to learn more hop on over to my Facebook page, or my consultant page with Lemongrass. Or just email me or something. πŸ™‚ I’m happy to answer questions.

http://www.facebook.com/lkbspa
http://www.ourlemongrassspa.com/lkbaart

Don’t worry, this blog isn’t about to become a perpetual advertisement. I’m just continuing to share what’s going on in my life!

We paid about an extra $650 on our house last Saturday, by the way. πŸ™‚ With my next paycheck, our mortgage should drop below $128,000! I know that still sounds huge, but we started at $133,000 in September when we made our first payment. So not counting our down payment, we have paid off nearly $5,000 in just 7 months. Not too shabby. πŸ™‚

Our next BIG goal is $125,000. That’s where we hit 20% paid and drop PMI! (mortgage insurance).

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Let’s be brief.

Two small things with bigger implications.

1. Keeping up the momentum and intensity needed to make big changes for ourselves financially can be tough when we’re so busy everyday. And I devoured “The Total Money Makeover” in a week so it’s not there to inspire me (hubby is reading it πŸ˜‰ ). But that intensity is necessary. We want to make bigger cuts in our budget so we can pay off the house sooner as well as invest for retirement,

2. I never cease to be amazed how much STUFF has ended up in my possession. Cluttering up my house, my mind, and my life. Little by little it is going away (because I have the patience to make some money off of my clutter!) but it’s never fast enough. But the peace and serendipity of the organized, neat and clutter-free spaces of my home reminds me that this battle is worth it!

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Dave Ramsey & Some Motivation!

On my favorite Facebook buying/selling page, I was able to pick up Dave Ramsey’sΒ The Total Money Makeover for $1.

I think that qualifies as a frugal purchase!

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The only way this could have been better is if I checked it out from the library for the great price of FREE. πŸ˜‰ But considering this is about to be passed around the family, $1 is still a fantastic deal.

I love reading Dave Ramsey. He’s to-the-point and I enjoy the humor and realism in his writing. It’s like talking with a real person. A lot of what he has to say is geared at those who are on a different stretch of the path toward financial freedom, but I am still getting a LOT out of this book (and that’s only through chapter 3!) and I no longer believe a lot of the lies I have believed about money for so many years. Β I’ll share some of the wisdom I glean from this book on my blog as I read. πŸ™‚

On another note, I spent the afternoon creating a visual reminder of our mortgage debt as motivation to my husband and I on our journey toward debt freedom:

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Where there are stars, I intend for us to “reward ourselves” for our progress. Of course, with the goal being to bring down this last, enormous debt, whatever rewards we come up with will be frugal ones. πŸ˜‰

When the house is paid off, we want to take a nice vacation to celebrate – since we won’t be having any of those in the meantime!

Our next big goal is hitting 20% of our house price paid-off. We put down 15% on the house, which is much higher than average, but I SO wish it could have been 20! Because we put down less than 20% we have to pay PMI (private mortgage insurance). Once we hit 20%, the PMI goes away, which will save us about $60 each month! We can use that $60 as extra principle!

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1st World Problems!

One of our most recent house-organizing projects was consolidating our DVDs. And getting rid of a few (still working on that). Having too many movies taking up too much space is DEFINITELY a first-world problem!

Imagine trying to fit these 200+ DVDs….

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…into this media cabinet/TV stand:

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(pardon the mess. Our living room is still not usable so this is my husband’s current computer-geeky work station. πŸ˜‰ ) It may not look like those DVDs take up a lot of room, since I have them stacked so nicely at the moment, but when you combine those with our Nintendo Wii, my old Sega, a VCR (I have a few tapes I just can’t part with!) and the TV shows on DVD we have, the cabinet is in MUCH disarray. I should have taken a before photo of the inside, but I forgot, so here is an after photo (of the DVD-side of the cabinet – they used to take up more space!).

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See that large, black case? That now contains all of our DVDs except TV shows and some miscellaneous things. Let me tell you, it’s a LOT neater than it was!

I am basking in the glorious-ness of another organized space.

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