Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Getting disciplined with money...part 1

For the last several weeks, I have been attending the Financial Peace University class offered at my old church.  I had heard of this program before, and had even attempted taking the class once before...but I never really got into it until I started taking it a couple of months ago.  If you don't know what it is, it is a program designed to teach you how to establish savings, get out of debt, live debt-free and prepare for retirement.  I have really learned a lot, and I thought I'd share some of my experiences with it.

First off, I have been very fortunate to have all of my education paid for by scholarships and will be one of the lucky few that comes out of college...grad school at that...mostly debt free.  I'll admit, I've got a couple credit cards here and there, but no huge balances...I've mostly just had them for emergencies and to build up my credit score for when I want to go purchase a house in the future.  BUT....this class has helped me realize I don't need credit cards for either of those things...Here are the first couple of Baby Steps associate with FPU, which I am currently working on:

Baby Step 1: $1000 in an emergency fund. This should be a savings account that you can easily access if you need the money.
Baby Step 2: Debt Snowball. Basically, you pay off your smallest debt first up to your largest debt, until you are completely debt free (unless you have a mortgage...which I don't...still a lowly renter ;)
Baby Step 3: 3-6 months of living expenses in a savings account. This will take care of you not needing your credit card when emergencies or unexpected events occur.

Some of the really important disciplines I have had to work on in order to start accomplishing these baby steps have been things like:
-Creating a MONTHLY budget. Each month you may encounter different expenses and need to spend more in one category vs. another.  I get paid monthly, so I have found it very important to update my budget sometime during the week before my payday.
-Sticking to said budget, and actually keeping track of it. If you have a budget set up, but you keep no record of what you are spending in each category...what's the point?
-Balancing my checkbook often.  I used to balance my checkbook MAYBE once every 2-3 months.  Now I do it every 1-3 days. Saving receipts is a huge thing.
-Making savings and giving a priority.  I have 3 different savings categories in my budget...one for my emergency fund, one for my taxes (I have to set aside my own taxes...they don't come out automatically) and one for my car insurance (I pay every 6 months). I also have a category for tithing/giving. As soon as I know my paycheck has direct deposited into my account, I transfer the funds into savings and write a check for my giving and put it in the mail. That way I can't "accidentally" spend it on something it wasn't intended for.

It hasn't been easy, but I've learned that the more I do it, the more it becomes like a habit and not an added stress.  I've actually gotten to where I kinda enjoy it (I know...I'm a nerd)...and that makes me happy, because it is very important to me to take care of myself and my future family financially.  That being said, that's all I'm going to say for Part 1. Stay tuned for Part 2 of the things that come next in my financial planning...not gonna lie, some of it intimidates me a bit!

Have a blessed day!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Life is a Balance of Holding on and Letting Go

Last night I went to Transfer to say goodbye to two people whom I have come to respect and admire so much over the last year and a half.  Transfer is the youth ministry at the church I used to go to.  I began helping as a youth leader in November 2008.  After just a couple of months of being there, the youth pastor that had been there for a while announced that he was moving to another church in Oklahoma City, and shortly after, a young couple, Rob and Bethany, came to us from Florida. They had never served as youth pastors anywhere before, so I think everyone was a little skeptical at first...but they took on the challenge by storm.  Mind you, Transfer averages about 150 high school and junior high students on any given Wednesday night...most of which come from very tough backgrounds and from families who do not attend church. To put it mildly, some of these kids are an absolute mess (aren't we all...), but I love them more than I can even begin to put into words.  But Rob and Bethany came in with a strong vision and a passion for the Lord and for these kids.  They transformed that group of students into a community of young people who have a passion for life and a hunger for their Savior.  They have decided to leave Transfer so that they can focus on their marriage...which is so beautiful to me...they are prioritizing the most important ministry God has ever given them.

It was not that long ago...about a month ago actually...that I decided to step down from the leadership team at Transfer.  It was for a variety of reasons...a lot of which had to do with needing to focus more on school, and some other stuff that happened to be going on in my personal life.  As much as I knew it was the right thing to do in this season of my life, needless to say, it was also extremely difficult.  I love those kids, and a couple of them in particular...I honestly couldn't imagine my life without them. One of them in particular has (and continues to) leave a footprint on my heart that will never go away.  She has a had some really difficult things to deal with...and it has been such a blessing to me to encourage her through those times, challenge her to seek God and remind her that she's not allowed to give up, and see the drastic improvements that she is making in her life to become the person that God created her to be.  I am so proud of her.

Anyways, I digress...

I am learning more and more about how life is a balance of holding on and letting go.  I truly believe that the Lord takes us through seasons...some good, and some bad...because that is exactly what He wants for us at that specific time. Over the past year or so, and especially over the last couple months, I feel like I have gone through a lot of seasons...some of them I couldn't wait to get out of, some of them I had to practically be yanked away from.  Now it's time to enter the new seasons...I have so many exciting things to look forward to (and in some cases, some things to dread...haha..yay for PhD dissertation and defense!) and I am so thankful that no matter what my season...God has a plan and purpose for my life.  He has taught me what it means to depend on Him, and to love others in the season that THEY are in.  He has also shown me that it's okay to lean on someone else once in a while.  I have always been Little Miss Independent...and that is something that I believe is one of my strongest qualities and my biggest flaws, one in the same.  But I have to say...God has blessed me beyond my own belief with an incredible man who shows me every day that sometimes it is safe to throw your entire heart out there and lean on someone else when you need to.  I have never felt so loved, so honored, so confident, so cherished...and so gracious.

Time to look forward to the new seasons....I don't know about you, but I'm excited about the road ahead!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Doggie Birthday and Sweet Relief!

Okay...so for this post to even begin to make sense, I'm going to have to recap a bit of some recent events. Basically, a little over a year ago (August 2009 to be exact) I moved into a 4-bedroom house with some other girls...people came and went and I was always kinda responsible for finding new roommates and keeping the house full. After a crazy summer of having a hard time finding good people and one girl bailing on me and stiffing me and the landlord on utilities and rent for a month, I finally found enough people to move in at the beginning of August.  I thought that everything would work out great once the house was full....but boy was I wrong.  Long story short, the mix of people in the house...wasn't working. I decided on August 25th that for my own personal sanity, and for the well-being of my friendships (I'll go into more detail in a later post...be sure of it... :) I needed to get out.

The problem with that was...I had already signed a lease that goes through the end of May 2011.  So I had to find a new place to live, that would let me have my vicious Pit Bulls (yeah...right. But again...a later post), AND continue to pay rent at the old house.  Let me just say that paying rent in two places...not so fun.

I had put an ad on Craigslist a few times from the time that I moved out until now.  I'd had a couple responses, but nothing promising. Yesterday, I finally got a response that seemed like it was somebody that would work out...I didn't know her personally, but I at least knew of her.  Her fiance actually installed my Dish Network when I first moved into the house last year! Smarll world, huh? :) So anyhow, she's looking for a place to stay from now until the end of March because they are getting married in April! At first I wasn't sure if everything was going to work out between the landlord and the other 3 girls that are living in the house now, but we got all of that settled and she is supposed to move in this weekend! It doesn't cover the whole time, so I will still have to pay the rent in April and May (unless of course I can find a short-term roommate for those 2 months...please pray! :), but at least it will give me a break on the next 5.5 months! Couldn't have come with better timing with Christmas just around the corner either!

On another note...today is the day I celebrate Aspen (my 4-legged daughter's) birthday! I actually don't know when her "real" birthday is, but I was introduced to her and brought her home on March 2nd, 2008.  When I took her to the vet, they told me she was about four and a half months old...so I just picked mid-October, and since 10 and 13 have been my soccer numbers throughout the years, I thought October 13th would be the perfect day! 

This is a picture of Aspen enjoying her birthday present! I love her and I am so glad we found each other :)

Well, that's all for now...I'm getting sleepy! 

Monday, October 11, 2010

So here we go...

Well just to get started...I got the idea to start blogging from a couple of incredible friends of mine that had blogs of their own.  Two of them in particular live pretty far away from me and I'm not able to spend as much time with them as I'd like, so I enjoy reading about their lives just to stay updated on what is going on with them.  Even if nobody ever reads this, I figure it's a good way for me to reflect a little on mine!  I'm not extremely creative, so it took me awhile just to come up with a name...but after some deliberation, and wanting to give you a snapshot of who I am and what I believe in...this is what I came up with :)

I believe Love is the most important thing about a person.  Without it, we have, and are, desperately nothing. I absolutely LOVE to laugh...with people, at myself, at my silly puppies and about the craziness that life brings. And then to top it off...I'm a nerd, and I'm actually going to be a real-life rocket scientist someday in the near future...so I knew that talking about some of my stuff with grad school and research would end up here and figured it was appropriate :)

I won't say much more today because I have a mountain of homework in front of me...but just a heads up, my life has had some pretty significant changes in the past few months, so plan on recap of some of those events so I can catch you up to speed on where I am in life at the moment!

Enjoy this beautiful fall weather...I love it when the leaves change!