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The best things in life are free
But you can give them to the birds and bees
I want money
(That's what I want)
Is that song stuck in your head now? Because it is in mine!!
We interrupt your regularly scheduled Gratitude Posts to bring you this completely random (but interesting!!...at least to me...) post!
***Beware. This is so long. But interesting! And helpful! Did I mention interesting? I really do think so. :)***
Jason and I are AWFUL with money. Ask my parents. I've honestly been bad with money since I made my first nickel giving my dad foot rubs. I spent every penny I made growing up. Of course, my parents taught me to pay tithing first. And I did. But I always spent the rest on penny candy from the liquor store down the street (sound weird, but it wasn't) or the ice cream man. So I've spent a LONG time teaching myself awful financial habits. And I've learned them well. I'm pretty sure I've rubbed off on my husband a little bit. It's not such a good thing.
We both came into our marriage with debt. Jason brought (minimal) student loan debt as well as the payment on his Rodeo. My debt was not so pretty. It was ridiculous actually. I'm embarrassed to admit it. But I feel like I have to admit it in order to give you a real picture. So here you have it:
Ridiculous debt from school...which I had dropped out of to marry him and move to Idaho (with only a few months left until I would graduate...ugh!!!!). And the rest of my debt belonged to small credit cards and creditors for bounced checks. Yep. Bounced checks.
For some reason I let myself think, "I don't have the money for that. But I could just write a check and then I'll get paid before it clears and everything will work out fine!!" Turns out it doesn't really work out that way.
In my head I excused those bad financial choices because I was young. Young and stupid. But the truth is, we didn't do any better when we got married and started to "grow up".
Jason had a job. It paid around $8 an hour, which was pretty decent for Rexburg at the time. I planned on finding a job quickly and working as well. And then we got pregnant...not so planned. (Although I wouldn't trade that girl for the world!!) I got super sick. For months. I threw up all day every day. I was miserable. Plastered to the couch watching reruns of Law and Order and making frequent trips to the bathroom to give up anything I'd attempted to eat. We were barely making ends meat. In fact, we weren't. We were scrambling to pay the basics.
We made the decision to move to Utah. We would be closer to family and the job opportunities would allow Jason to make more money. He transferred schools and got a job that paid $10 or so an hour. We thought that was HUGE! We moved in with my parents for a couple of weeks while we looked for a place. And we found one down the road from family. It was great! And I started feeling better. So I got a great job. And for a few months with 2 incomes we felt like we were doing alright.
And then Payson was born. A month early. So I quit my job. We were back to one income. But at least this time it was better than before. Problem was when we made more, we spent more. And we continued to make stupid choices. We were now drowning in debt and had a family to take care of.
Eventually we chose to file bankruptcy. Our debt felt that bad. We felt like that was our only choice. And for a little while after we felt relief. Our debt was gone and we had a fresh start. (Just an FYI, if I had it to do over again I would NEVER make this same choice. I would have worked harder at saving and been smarter and paid things off, even if it took forever.)
However, although our debt had changed, our habits did not. And after a few years were were starting to see the debt creep up again. Jack was born. More mouths to feed. More bills to pay. We tried moving into a less expensive apartment. Jason switched jobs. Even quit school and got a second job. Things were tough, but we were surviving. We had considered me getting a job, and for a time I had worked from home for my dad. But that had ended when Jack came and we felt strongly that I needed to be home to raise our kids.
Then the economy changed. The housing market was declining. Jason was working for a building company doing truss design. But fewer and fewer people were building. His store eventually shut down and they transferred him. They had done lay offs. We were grateful to have been spared, but we were scared. We kept our eyes peeled for another job. Eventually things looked bad and Jason took a temp job with the power company. The company he had been working for before filed bankruptcy and shut down. When the temp job ended we looked into making it permanent, but it didn't work out.
We prayed and prayed and prayed and finally felt like we should try summer sales with my cousin's husband. They were doing really well and we felt confident that even at the minimum we should be able to at least make what Jason was making in a year. And if needed we could supplement that income in the months after the summer. So we packed up and moved to Baltimore, Maryland. And after about 6 weeks of making nothing, we prayed and cried and stressed and prayed and fasted and prayed some more. We talked with family and didn't know what to do. We were so confused. We had felt like this was what the Lord wanted for us. But now we had maxed out credit cards, incurring even more debt.
We finally decided to come home. My dad gave us the money we'd need to get home and we moved in with my parents. We were so grateful and humbled by their love and help. But it was hard. Jason looked and looked and looked every day. In the mean time he took a sales job. He made very little. Sales obviously wasn't his thing. And he didn't enjoy it at all.
Because of previous jobs, Jason had his CDL so we looked for truck driving jobs. They paid well, but the idea of him being gone so much was hard. Eventually he found his current job in the oil field. The money looked good. Really good. But we weren't sure about the job. Especially the fact that it would require him to work some Sundays. So again we fasted and prayed and went to the temple and counseled with family. Eventually we realized that, for whatever reason, this was what the Lord wanted for us. We were even very sure of which of the four possible locations the Lord wanted us to chose.
And so Jason left for Wyoming while I stayed with the kids at my parents' in Utah. At one point he needed to leave for training in Oklahoma. We didn't see each other for 5 or 6 weeks. It was challenging. But we knew it would be worth it and so we kept going.
We found our apartment and the kids and I finally moved out just before Thanksgiving in 2008. The job was hard. There have been challenges. Jason's accident last year was difficult. This last year has been emotionally draining. For MANY reasons. Things have changed. But change is something we have come to expect with Jason's work and with life in general.
One thing that hasn't changed is the feeling we've had from the beginning that this is where the Lord wants us to be. We have considered changing jobs again or moving or a million other things. But it is clear that He has lead us here. We have purpose here. And aside from the awful weather, the lack of shopping, and the ugly, dead, dry, high dessert landscape, I am finding that I love it here. I love my neighbors and my friends. I love our ward, my calling, and our leaders. I love the schools and the kids have great friends here. We are all happy.
And yet, one thing hasn't changed. We still find ourselves living paycheck to paycheck with no money in savings. With more income came more spending. How have I not learned my lesson?!
I recently found myself looking at Jason's paycheck stub. I noticed the amount in the "year to date" column. I was SHOCKED!! Had we really made THAT MUCH this year already? And there are still a few paychecks left in the year!!
WHERE DID IT ALL GO?!?!?!?!?!?
I was seriously sick to my stomach. We are making MORE than the average family in America and we are still struggling?! How is that possible?
Things HAD to change. Drastically. So I started trying to budget. We have never really budgeted. ONE month in our marriage we tried. And we did well. At the end of the month there was money leftover! But then there were things that we wanted and we got lazy and eventually we were just spending again. Turns out budgeting is not simple if you've never done it.
Eventually I discovered Dave Ramsey. I bought some of his materials and have fallen in love. We decided we'd try it out. But even then we haven't been consistent. However, I fully believe in his program and methods and I have his workbook sitting in front of me once again and plan to dive back in today.
And then a short while ago I stumbled across a blog post of someone I went to high school with. I decided to look at the website she'd mentioned knowing that I can use all the help I can get when it comes to budgeting!
I didn't try it out right away. I thought maybe I'd try budgeting on my own the old fashioned way. You know. Write it all down and keep receipts. I created a binder with some forms, budgeting each paycheck carefully. We just started with this last paycheck on October 30th. It seemed like it was working. And then the other night I got annoyed because I was having to do so much math manually and I couldn't see certain things that I wanted to and blah blah blah. So I decided to try this Neo Budget website. Besides, I could do try it for free!
So Neo Budget uses the envelop method of budgeting. This is the same method Dave Ramsey suggests. I like the idea that this website can just be a tool to go along with the financial advice I am already looking into.
As I started to try the free plan I realized that I wanted more than 10 envelops and more than one account. So I decided to pay for one month for only $4. I figured if I didn't like it after a month I wouldn't pay again and it was only a few dollars so I wouldn't be out too much cash.
And I fell in love. I LOVE this thing! It WORKS! It's simple and it makes sense to me! This is coming from someone who has never budgeted!
One of my favorite features is the "history". I can go into my accounts, choose an envelop, and see the history for that envelop. I recently looked at the history of my "unallocated funds" envelop. It was so great to see the excess things I was spending on. It gave me a clear picture of where I can cut back to make a difference for the next paycheck.
I also love the way I have my savings account set up. Jason and I have just one savings account right now. But that savings needs to go towards multiple things. So I can set up these envelops to divide the funds and see how much I have for the kids' education or retirement or our car repairs or whatever. Love it!
I know this is such a long story to get to this point. And it's just about budgeting. But the truth is, I feel so good about this! I feel like I can stick to it. We may not have an overwhelming amount of debt compared to some, but sometimes it can feel overwhelming to us. This is helping me to cut back where I need to and make better choices so that I can tackle that debt more quickly and free my family from that unnecessary stress. We can get our debt taken care of quickly and save up quickly. Like Dave says, we can use this tool to "live like no one else, so that later we can live like no one else."
(I am not being paid or compensated in anyway for this post. No one asked me to write this. I just wanted to share this information about this website and the things we've been through in case anyone else out there feels like they need the same kind of help that I do!)