Lessons Learned from 2014 and Happy 2015 to You!

Happy New Year, everyone!!  I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and an amazing start to 2015!  I know I tend to begin this way, but apologies again for being so MIA.  My last month of work before maternity leave was all sorts of hectic that it was hard to even check on everyone’s blogs at lunch, but know that you were constantly thought of and that I missed you!

20150102_100614Before I begin, though – serious big shout-outs to The 1500’s, who were kind enough to not only hang with B and I during their SD getaway, but also gave us these amazing Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger duckies for our soon-to-be little one (along with a Warren Buffet book on personal finance for kids)!  Coupled with the Star Wars characters we also received from our baby shower, bath time will be the most epic Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting EVER! 🙂

I’ve officially been on maternity leave for the past two weeks (which fit in well with the holidays, anyway), and while I had hoped our soon-to-be arrival would make an early appearance to maximize the “pre leave” with him, apparently he is telling us “You’re not the boss of me!” as it looks like he might be even later than the expected due date. 🙂 It kind of fits in well as I was two weeks late and B was a few days, so I suppose he’s just keeping with tradition!  Needless to say, we’re anxious to meet him and I’m especially excited to hopefully be able to go to restrooms and turning over in bed soon without having to do a 5-point turn. 😉

I also wanted to reflect a little on 2014 (updates on whether I passed/failed have been updated in my 2014 goals list!), and what I hope to accomplish in 2015 pf-wise.  In 2014, I not only remained debt free, but also managed to accrue a nice sum in my retirement, savings, and investment accounts due to a new job and salary increase, living well below our means, and just becoming more savvy with savings and investing strategies in general.  We’re also thankful and excited about all the wonderful hand-me-downs we received in terms of baby items which saved us quite a pretty penny, and I can’t wait to return that favor to others someday, as well.

I have to be honest, though – despite being debt free all last year and feeling pretty empowered due to it, I did still remain quite anxious and uncertain with myself when it comes to finances.  Though I did give myself allowances for some splurges every now and then, I did still feel insecure at times about “going back” to my spendy ways, regressing in my/our goals, or just not having as much in ‘the reserves’.  I suppose this anxiety is a bit valid with the last component, considering the expenses for this year with daycare and baby expenses, and perhaps buying our ‘forever’ home if we’re lucky enough to find that match we’ve been looking for (especially this one, since 20% down payment is a pretty hefty sum to ‘part’ with).  However, for 2015, I’d like to be more financially confident in my decisions.  I’d like to be able to trust myself in this arena a lot more, so much so that it becomes second nature.  Thankfully, I do have some tools and techniques I can base this off of (i.e., when I maintained my weight loss back in my 20’s and 30’s), but I also know that reading PF blogs and doing ‘self check-ups’ with myself are key in keeping this up.

So with that, I have to be honest in that I’m not sure of when I’ll be able to post again while I’m on maternity leave (though I will at least strive to announce his God-willing healthy and safe arrival!), at least, but I do intend to keep up with all of my PF friends as much as possible!  I hope 2015 brings you lots of health, happiness, and prosperity, and I wish you all the best! 🙂

 

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The Lemonade Stand: A Review

bookreview-giveawayHello everyone! First of all, thank you so much for all the warm and well wishes on our upcoming arrival! It has been overwhelming reading about his weekly progress, scouting out different infant care places, and figuring out the do’s and don’ts while being pregnant, but it’s also been very exciting!

One of the important topics that comes up is preparing ourselves financially for our little one. We not only want to be wise with our finances to make room for him, but we also want him to learn to be financially savvy (well, after learning how to hold his head up and all that stuff. ;)). So when my dear friend, Shannon Ryan from The Heavy Purse, came out with her new children’s book, “The Lemonade Stand”, I was all ears and couldn’t wait to get my grubby paws on it!

“The Lemonade Stand” is about two boys with the case of the wants, but with no real strategy on how to obtain these wants. I’m not going to lie, at first, I thought, “Gasp, where are Lauren and Taylor?!” But alas, our favorite heroines arrive later in the story, and they teach their friends the important value of earning your own money, as well as the concept of “Save, Spend, and Share”! The book is full of beautiful illustrations, and it teaches kids some fundamental and key concepts as they go on their path towards financial literacy. I personally loved how they also learned what a profit means, since the book also took into account having to repay business costs.

I highly recommend it, and know it will be on frequent rotation for our little one. Plus, if you would like your own copy, be sure to use coupon code (TOUR3114) for $3 off the book!  I have learned so much from Shannon in just this past year, and I love her mission in life to teach kids and adults alike the value of financial literacy.  To make Shannon’s book launch even more exciting, please see the details below for an iPad Mini giveaway!

The Lemonade Stand – iPad Mini Giveaway

July 14-31, 2014

Sponsored by The Heavy Purse

Join Lauren and Taylor in their continuing money adventures in The Lemonade Stand by Shannon Ryan, CFP®. Shannon is a Mom on a mission to help busy parents teach their children simple, value-based principles that guide their money decisions and support their long-term financial well-being.

“Everyone handles money. Unfortunately, not everyone does it with confidence. Money has long been a taboo topic in many homes, which makes it even harder for parents to know where to start or what to teach. So I created a series of children books to help parents ease into these important conversations. Financial literacy is one of the most loving gifts you can give your children, and I encourage everyone to make money conversations a priority in your home.”

We’re Giving Away an iPad Mini to One Lucky Reader!

Help us celebrate the release of The Lemonade Stand and join Shannon in her mission to increase financial literacy in both children and adults.

The giveaway runs from July 14-31, 2014 and is open worldwide.*

Ready to read The Lemonade Stand in style? Then Sign-Up for the iPad Mini Giveaway today!
Co-hosted by Are Ya Gonna Eat That, Broke Millennial, Budget and The Beach, Budget Blonde, Budgeting for More, Busy Mom Budgets, Cash Cow Couple, Cents and Sensibility, Club Thrifty, Color Me Frugal, Debt Debs, Debt Roundup, Disease Called Debt, Eat Laugh Purr, Enemy of Debt, Eyes on the Dollar, Femme Frugality, Financially Blonde, Frugal Rules, Living Richly Cheaply, Luke 1428, Making Sense of Cents, Money Saving Dude, Monster Piggy Bank, Not Now Mom’s Busy, Reach Financial Independence, Shoeaholic No More, Stacking Benjamins, Tackling Our Debt, The Broke and Beautiful Life, The Finance Girl, The Frugal Farmer, The Random Path, Thrifty Dad, VeegMama and Young Adult Money.

* A winner located outside of the United States will receive a cash equivalent prize via PayPal.

Brief Update

Hi everyone!  Sorry for being MIA – I had every intention of writing this weekend, but my wedding thank you cards came in and I was busily writing in those the whole time.  I don’t know if I ever mentioned it, but we took a big group shot of everyone, and I made that into the cover of our cards.  I also inserted pictures both sets of families inside the card so we can honor them and give our thanks, as well as a black and white shot of us and the goofy shot of the group.  I loved how it turned out, and I’m pleased to say that I powered through all the cards and have fully reconciled the wedding to do list!

On the personal finance front, things are going well.  Though I don’t really want to divulge our combined finances since B tends to be a pretty private person, I can say that for “my” portion if we were to divvy it up, I’ve put some more structure into the budget and sticking to it.  I get paid biweekly, and I’ve budgeted rotating one paycheck for all of the month’s expenses, such as living expenses, car/gas, food, entertainment/gifts, etc., while the next paycheck goes directly to savings and investments.  Shannon has mentioned it many times about the importance of goals, and now I’m a big believer in it despite it taking awhile to gel with me.  Nothing puts a fire under you than saving for a grand goal in the long term, and it’s been pretty motivating to have this structure in place.

If I include my pre-taxed accounts, I’m able to exceed my original savings rate of 40-45%, so that’s also been motivating!  I’m not a savings rockstar yet like Mr. DbF who saves like over 60-70%, but it’s at least motivating to see my own progress within these past couple of years.

In other life news, there really isn’t much other than the crazy fires that happened all last week in SD (and some this week).  We weren’t affected by it, but we do have some friends that had to be evacuated.  It’s been pretty scary and surreal, and gave me so much more respect for firefighters than I already have.

In pop culture news, I watched “American Hustle,” and though I thought Amy Adams was amazing in it and deserved an Oscar, I don’t really understand the hype overall?  Our next movie will probably be “X-Men” so perhaps my opinion should be taken with a grain of salt. 😉  I also read “The Light Between the Oceans” and loved it, as well as want to visit Australia now with all of the author’s gorgeous descriptions of it.

Alright, y’all, I hope everyone has been doing well and I’m looking forward to catching up with you!

 

Wine Tasting With My Girls

Heidi-ho, folks!  I feel out of the PF loop since last week was my first week at the new job, and by the end of the day I just wanted to go home and sob (not really, it’s great).  To make up for it, I had a great weekend full of seeing my roly-poly godson on Friday night, and then going wine tasting with Tonya and Mackenzie!  I met Tonya before during our first half so I knew we’d get along, but I’m happy to report that Mackenzie is every bit as genuine, awesome, and hilarious in real life as she is on her blog!  It was so much fun going to different wineries with them, stuffing our faces with cheese and crackers in the car since it was so windy, and gabbing like we’ve been long-time friends.  There were so many quotable moments, but this was my favorite as we were driving to the next winery (I completely ad-libbed):

Tonya: “Okay, turn right here.”

Mackenzie (about a couple minutes later): “Um, this road is starting to look like one in a horror movie…”

Tonya: “No, the main road is at the end on this map, see?  We’re fine.”

Mackenzie: “I think that’s what the first person who gets killed always says.”

I’m bummed I didn’t meet Mackenzie sooner for more hang time, but I suppose if ever it’s a great reason to visit Portland (yes, girl, I pretty much invited myself over).  And lest you worry since these are PF’ers, Tonya did a fabulous job scoring some 2 for 1 deals (as well as printed out a great map of all the wineries), and we stayed in reasonably priced lodging so that no one was driving home drunk.   I was surprised that the lodging was actually nicer than I thought, considering it received a 2-star rating (because, you know, nothing but the best for us! 😉 ).  I guess it just goes to show that with some reviews, you just gotta take it with a grain of salt.

Other than that, there isn’t much to report, so I’ll keep it short and sweet.  I hope everyone has been doing well and I look forward to catching up with you soon!

Do you like wine?  Or you more of a red or white wine?  Do you like leather in yours like Tonya?  Do you pair it with beef bourguignon like Mackenzie?

My Biggest Money A-ha Moment

fin_lit_carnival_2014Happy Wednesday, everyone!  If you don’t know, April is Financial Literacy Awareness Month, and the lovely Shannon at The Heavy Purse is hosting a carnival on financial literacy and bloggers’ biggest money a-ha moment.  If you’re not familiar with Shannon’s writing (though who in the personal finance subculture isn’t?), she’s a CFP who not only talks about the importance of financial literacy and setting long-term financial goals, but aims to teach her readers about the root of financial problems and methods to manage it. I have learned so much from her posts, and at the risk of being the biggest brown noser on the block, I attribute a significant a-ha moment due to one of her posts.

When I finally resolved to kick my debt to the curb in early 2013, I turned to personal finance blogs for methods, support, and encouragement.  Knowing that people ‘out there’ shared a common goal was a huge motivator for me, since it gave me an outlet to relate to others that I wouldn’t normally have in real life.  It was also eye-opening as there are a ton of blogs and great information out there on the different methods to attack debt, whether it be the strategies behind the snowball vs. avalanche methods, setting a budget, creating a money envelope system, etc.  While all this information was extremely useful in the implementation of my goal, it still felt something missing.  I recall reading a couple of blogs that stated that financial goals and emotions don’t, or rather shouldn’t, mix, and that seemed a bit puzzling to me.  However, since these bloggers obviously had their financial stuff together, I figured if I needed to also get to their level, that I had to learn to extract the emotion out of anything related to finance.

That’s when I came across Shannon’s blog, in particular this post.  She essentially states that money is emotional, but understanding the emotions behind spending or not spending is where you can truly gain financial freedom.  Once I read that post, a few things started to gel with me during this particular ‘a-ha’ moment.  First of all, that the simple acknowledgement of what I was experiencing was really validating, especially coming from a finance expert.  Also, it kind of felt like it was one of these things that seemed to float around in my head, but doesn’t truly click until someone says it in a coherent and understandable way.  It isn’t so much that I had to deny or stop these emotions from occurring, but rather recognize and work through them before acting impulsively.  It might seem really logical to some like my Spock-like husband (and I say that in the most endearing way possible!), but for me it takes some practice.

The biggest take-away from it, though, was when she talked about emotional spending and identifying your triggers.  While I knew that I had a history of overspending because of my emotions, whether it was because I was happy because I got a new job and I “deserved” it or sad because of a break up, I didn’t really make an effort to acknowledge these triggers as the reason behind my bad financial habits.  However, after some practice on identifying these spending triggers, I was also able to identify other emotional triggers when it came to debt repayment, whether it was feeling anxious about ‘missing out’ with friends’ outings or just from debt repayment burnout.  Once I was able to identify these debt repayment triggers, I was then able to figure out the reasons behind these emotions, as well as talked myself through it since I knew my long term goals were more important than these fleeting emotions.  It took some time, but recognizing these emotions and, basically, troubleshooting them was definitely helpful in completing my debt repayment goal.

Even though I no longer have debt, I do understand that being able to identify financial triggers will most likely always play a role in my life.  Whether it’s catching myself falling back into emotional spending (it happens, though infrequently) or, most recently, feeling skittish about now putting all those debt repayments into investing due to the risk involved, at least I’m aware of the emotions that come into play, and take steps to resolve them by realizing how these actions affect my long term goals.  And for me, that’s become a pretty important step in my experience to become more financially literate.

Be sure to check out Shannon’s Carnival on Financial Literacy Awareness – I’m grateful to be a part of this carnival, as well as excited to read about others’ a-ha moments (see what I mean – emotional about everything, I am 😉 ).

 

March Madness – half-marathon, honeymoon, and new job

Hi everyone – sorry I’ve been pretty MIA during March, but I’ve been gone for most of it on our honeymoon!  I thought I’d write a brief overview of what’s been going down lately.

1412442_10152004213774103_2140038726_oFirst off – a couple weekends after the wedding, I ran my first half-marathon as a Mrs.!  I was a bit worried about it since I didn’t run a long run for awhile, but despite the heat, time change, and big hill on mile 9 (which I mostly hiked up), I had a lot of fun!  B was there to meet me at the end, and while before I thought it would be my last half for awhile, now I’m on the hunt for a next one.

Also, we went on our honeymoon!  We ended up going to Santiago in Chile, Buenos Aires

Leia and Hans enjoying the Moai statues on Easter Island!

Leia and Hans enjoying the Moai statues on Easter Island!

in Argentina, and my ultimate “bucket list” destination – Easter Island!!  I’ll probably do a post on each three places since they’re all so different, and it might be useful for anyone traveling there in the future.  I had so much fun and even more motivated to continue with Spanish.  I also read quite a few “fun” books while here – The Husband’s Secret, What Alice Forgot, and The Rosie Project – all of which I really recommend.  Our aim was to spend about 50% of our gift funds and invest the rest, and I think we’re more on our way to meeting that target (knock on wood!).

And finally, I got a new job!  The day before we left, I interviewed for the position and they’ve notified that I was chosen.  I of course negotiated (I mean, all they can do is say  no, right?), and it’s a great promotion and opportunity at a different area, and I’m super excited about it!  Plus you know what this means – lifestyle inflation!!  Kidding, of course.

Anyway, I’ll write about the different honeymoon destinations soon (as well as posting money stuff including Argentina’s inflation, counterfeit money in Chile, and the cost of living in each place), but I hope everyone has been doing well and keeping up with their financial goals!  I miss y’all so much and can’t wait to catch up with each of you. 🙂

Discussing Personal Finance IRL

For the most part, people in ‘real life’ don’t really know about my blog and particular interest with personal finance – B and my parents have an idea about it, but they’re not regular readers or anything.  While I’m happy to talk about personal finance when the opportunity arises outside of this blog, rarely do I divulge any information or advice about it unless 1) I know the other person is also interested in personal finance or 2) they ask for advice.  Even with the latter, I will give my opinion (“no, you should not buy that 2014 luxury car because it will depreciate dramatically next fall, plus you have a lot of student debt to take into account”), but I often find it falls on deaf ears since the person has pretty much made up his/her mind at that point, and/or they will justify away at the reasons for the purchase.  I know, I was one of them, and still am occasionally (thankfully, B often tells me to slow my roll and reconsider, which almost always leads to a non-purchase).

Anyway, I wonder if this passivity in real life is actually hurting some loved ones who make poor choices (at least in my opinion) when it comes to purchases.  It seems a lot of loved ones are major spenders, whether it be buying the latest and greatest gadget and having every intention of purchasing the next iPhone despite having the most current version, or buying for the temporary emotional satiation of buying since they’ve had a rough week.  They’re little purchases in the bigger scheme, but can add up to a lot in the long run.  Well, and sometimes, they’re really big purchases that can add up to even more in the long run.

While I try to get them to reconsider, at times the opportunity isn’t there since I don’t really feel they’re open to the process (well, and at times their partner is there who I know has the same views as me, but I feel uncomfortable with chiming in as to not intrude or feel like the other person is being ganged up on).  I often feel in order to make changes in life, one not only has to make the positive behavior a habit, but be open to the process in order for said positive behavior to become instilled then ingrained.  Whether it be becoming fitter, getting out of debt, building wealth, or changing self-defeating attitudes, being open to the process (and realizing there might be some setbacks or downright failures but forging on despite them) is key in making sustainable and progressive changes.  Sometimes it takes awhile for that openness to occur since it can be a pretty vulnerable position to be in – but until someone is ready to take that step, then any reasonable words of advice just goes down the drain since the person is not in that mindset.  No words, either soft spoken with concern or outright (and unproductive) berating, can truly change a person’s mind – the person has to make up his or her own mind.

However, I do wonder if, at times, I should push or advocate a little more.  While I do my best to not say it in a condescending or know-it-all manner, I do feel at times that I just want people to know what I know because it’s said with the best intentions, and because I think it’s pretty enlightening to not get caught up in this constant cycle of debt that a lot of people are in because they deem it ‘normal.’  But, I guess I also have some difficulty with it because I’m not as outspoken about it unless asked, and more often than not, I usually offer different scenarios but ultimately have people reach their own conclusion (even if it’s one that wasn’t an option. :)).

So I’m curious – what do you do?  Does all this knowledge about personal finance infiltrate in real life, and if so, how much or how often do you talk about it, especially if you want to help a person?