Category Archives: Finances

Boo-llions for the 31st

Ambitioussoul

Would your father approve of your Halloween spending habits?

I’m a bit nervous to broadcast what I’m about to say in fear that I will get endless amounts of hate mail, but it looks like I’ve already started down the path, so here I go: Halloween is my least favorite holiday. Yup, I said it. And it’s true. I’m not sure if it’s because my mom dressed me up as a picnic table in 4th grade (ants, empty chip bags and all) or that my stomach turns upside down with the smallest splatter of fake blood, but my excitement for October 31st has definitely dwindled exponentially as each year passes.

But adding to my true apathy was the statistics of how much Americans spend on Halloween. Are you ready to be totally spooked?

Adults spend $1.2 billion dollars annually on their costumes. WHAT?! Now, I’m usually the first one to comment on a super creative costume or one that’s just totally off the wall, but let’s visit the Dollar Tree, a discount craft store, or better yet, our basements to create a masterpiece that’s sure to get heads turning at any party.

As far as the kiddies, of course their parents are shelling out the dough for their “dream” costumes. Whether your little girl wants to be Sofia the First or your son wants to be a Mutant Ninja Turtle (Donatello to be exact since he was my favorite,) it’s going to cost you. 

Now, let’s get ready for this stat: $1 billion is spent each year on… PETS’ costumes! That is so crazy to me. Sure, I’ve seen some great pet costumes, like my friend’s chihuahua turned shark. But this is just insanity.

It’s frustrating to know there are so many people hurting out there financially, yet this frivolous spending is happening on every leaf-covered, jack-o-lantern lit street in the nation. It’s most likely too late for you to curtail your purchase of those $50 glittery heels you HAD to have for this Halloween. But maybe next year, we can work on it. Here are some tips:

1) Before you decide what you want to be, come up with a budget. This will help you narrow down your costume choice. How much can you REALLY afford to spend? How much SHOULD you spend?

2) Once you have the dollar amount set in stone, start thinking about your options. Could you rent your costume? Make it? Buy all the elements at the local thrift store? Be sure to investigate all your options—and buying your costume at the closest party supply store probably isn’t your best option.

3) If you’re purchasing your costume, make a list of all the things you’ll need. Be sure to take inventory of what may be collecting dust in your closet or basement, and prepare that pair of shoes or crazy hat for its revival!

I know people LOVE Halloween. I mean, let’s face it, the numbers don’t lie. 

But being in debt and spending money you don’t have is a lot scarier than the creepiest costume you can find!

– Ambitioussoul

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Like a Boss

Ambitioussoul

Your future awaits.

Apparently, according to my 19-year-old sister, the title of this post is a phrase that has recently been coined as hip and, well, awesome. It just so happens that it sparked my idea for today’s post. Like a boss… who knew?

I know I’ve been a terrible blogger lately. And I’m not going to bore you all listing the reasons why. Have you ever heard the term “organized chaos?” Well, my life has been “UNorganized chaos.” Enough said…

Among all of this chaos, I decided to start my own home-based business. (I know, for those of you who know me, you’re rolling your eyes…) So why would I want to do this? Why would I want to increase the chaos? It’s not enough that I’m so crazy I typically leave the house with Cheerios stuck to my sweater? Welp, it’s all about the BIG PICTURE. Let me explain.

Throughout the past couple of Financial Peace University classes I’ve taught, there are so many people who struggle with a monthly budget because there’s not enough month left at the end of the money. They are literally left with $3 extra each month (if they’re lucky,) to buy a slushee on the way home from a day of running all over kingdom come. When you are living so incredibly tight, how are you supposed to bank extra money towards an emergency fund or debts? Many people would answer, “It’s impossible.” But I challenge everyone in my classes to get creative, like I had to do. Just because I sit at the head of the table doesn’t mean I’m any different. I had to take charge. Like a… well, boss.

As I depicted above, sometimes it’s not a budgeting issue that people have—it’s an income issue. But after much deliberation, it may seem as though a job at the mall or the grocery store wouldn’t be worth the effort, especially after taxes are accounted for. But like I’m sure you’ve heard before, if you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting. So you have to CHANGE your strategy!

Think about it this way: if you had to have a second (or in some cases a third job) for only 1 year, could you do it? Of course you could! You can do anything, especially when you know it’s only temporary. That’s the mindset you have to have when charting a new financial path for yourself. Whether it’s a home-based business, like what I chose to do, or something within the confines of a retail operation or a franchise, something is always better than nothing.

I guess it’s all about how bad you want it, how fast you want it, and what your “it” is. Is it getting out of debt? Is it saving for a house? Whatever it is, get passionate. Get dedicated. Like a boss.

-Ambitioussoul

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The Change Crusade

Know it. Live it. Every day.

Do you ever have those times in your life that make you truly reflect? I’m not talking about the times where you’re washing dishes at the sink and stare out the window for two seconds and think, “I love my life,” or “I wish today would have gone better.” I’m talking about those moments that make you reflect so much that you actually change from them– moments or experiences where you can literally look back and say, “I’m changed for good because of…” (and yes, I stole that line from the “Wicked” soundtrack. What can I say? I’m hopelessly devoted to broadway shows.

For me, the past week hasn’t presented just one of these moments– there have been three. I think that’s God’s way of saying to me, “WAKE UP!” And the three…

“Amazing Grace”

Last Friday I attended a funeral for my friend’s mom. Although I didn’t know her well, I remember her being a woman of ultimate kindness and acceptance. She was one of those people who truly listened when you spoke. She didn’t just nod, waiting for her turn to speak her piece; she genuinely cared about what you had to say.

During the mass, the priest regarded this highly respected, loved and ultimately missed woman as an amazing grace. Those two words immediately brought tears to my eyes. Not only is that a song that “gets me” every time, but to hear him describe a person with this familiar adage was well, amazing to me. What a positive and unforgettable legacy to leave behind. I started to think about how proud my friend must have felt to be able to call himself her “son” and her his “mother.”

I began to think of the legacy I want to leave behind, how I want to be remembered when I’m gone.  Needless to say, there’s lots of work that needs to be done. But I’m willing to do it. And that’s half the battle.

Live and Give Like No One Else

This past Sunday was the last week of Financial Peace University. We had more than 50 people graduate from the class, and although I was helping to lead them all to true financial stability and confidence, I think I got more out of it than anyone else in the room.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Dave Ramsey’s plan, the last of his seven baby steps instructs you to GIVE. Whether it be your money, time or energy, GIVE to those around you who need it most. Being so caught up in budgeting, checking my spreadsheet and rechecking it about 10,000 times a day, the reason why we’ve been saving so diligently and spending so cautiously got lost. We’re doing this so later on in life we can GIVE to our church, GIVE to the organizations in our community that we feel led to support, GIVE to our neighbors who may find financial hardships or painstaking tragedy.

Sitting there last Sunday brought me back to the funeral and what was said about the precious woman this world lost. No, it’s not about your ability or inability to be philanthropic monetarily, but it’s about what you give and why you give. It’s about caring for your neighbor more than you care for yourself. Talk about leaving a legacy. Whether you can give $1 or $1,000 a week to a local charity, it’s where your giving nature is rooted from. Are you doing it to be recognized? Are you doing it because you feel like you have to? Or are you doing it because it’s the right thing to do? You’ll find that if you’re giving from your heart and not necessarily from your head, the rest will follow.

Do Unto Others…

The week couldn’t have ended any more ironically. After the two revelations I described above, a day later I found out a little girl who goes to the same babysitter as my daughter lost everything in a house fire. Not only was she left without any clothes, toys or furniture, her mom is expecting another baby in a few months, and they lost all the baby items they had been saving.

After finding this out, I immediately felt a pang in my heart. I needed to do something, something that would give this family a sense of hope and maybe even peace during this horrific time. I just kept picturing the little girl’s sweet face and how innocently she always looks up at me with her big, brown eyes. Although only 4 years old, too young to really understand, I know it’s something she will never forget. Not only will fire be branded in her mind forever, but I want those thoughts to be almost masked by the generosity and selflessness people demonstrated during an extremely difficult time for her family.

With that in mind, I spread the word as quickly as I could (thank you social media,) and I had friends and family donating everything they possibly could: clothes, toys, furniture, baby items, etc. People were so willing to GIVE. YAY! As I was feverishly trying to manage all the donations (what a great problem to have, right?,) I started to pose the same questions to myself as I asked above. Why was I doing this? Why was I investing so much effort and so much time? It boiled down to a simple rule, the golden rule actually. “Do unto others as you would have them to do you.” Such a simple concept, but not easy to authenticate each and every day. But it was enough to get me to swing into action, so it must have some type of moral weight to it, right?

I think we all stumble upon reflective moments in our lives that can lead to a true and permanent change. But I believe whole-heartedly we need to be mindful and accepting of those moments, otherwise they can easily go unnoticed. After all, the only thing that’s constant in this world is change. So be amazing. Spread grace. And give.

-Ambitioussoul

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Already breaking a sweat thinking about the holidays? Don’t worry– a stress-free holiday season is coming right up!

Two things you should know before delving into this post: 1) I LOVE the holidays. Whether it be Halloween, Christmas, 4th of July or Arbor Day, I love them all (okay, maybe not Arbor Day.) 2) I LOVE the word agita. I love it so much I know I could never adequately explain how much joy I get from using it on a daily basis. With all of this being said, I have a love-hate relationship with these two things when they come as a packaged deal.

I’m not going to start a rant about the holidays becoming so commercialized that before you know it you’re buying your 2-year-old a $60 turtle costume for Halloween and spending $150 on a brother-in-law you don’t even like for Christmas. But I AM going to talk about how the holidays have become SO STRESSFUL!

Let’s start with Halloween, since that’s the holiday that’s nearest approaching. I remember when I was little my mom would make our Halloween costumes– and they were awesome! One year I was a picnic table, another year I was a garden. My sisters had equally creative attires, including a pet shop, a tube of toothpaste and a bag of jelly beans. Going to the craft store with my mom to pick up all the essentials to bring these creations to life was the best part. I loved looking in all the magazines trying to pick out the craziest, most unique costumes. Sure there were kids in my grade who were scarecrows and ghosts and all of that, but I refused to succumb to the stereotypical get ups. And the best part of it all (especially for my mom at the time): our costumes were always super cheap.

Let’s fast forward to today. Parents bring their kids to a huge party supply or costume store, stand them in front of a gargantuan wall filled plastic bags on hooks and want them to choose what they’re going to be. WHAT?! Not only is there a glare on half of the bags from the florescent lights beating down on the sales floor, but the model kids dressed up in the enclosed costumes aren’t NEARLY as cute as your kid and are probably sewn into the costume. With all of this hoop-la aside, the costumes cost upwards of $40. Once again, WHAT?!

Now, as followers of mine know, I haven’t always been money conscious. Just two years ago I spent $70 on a Top Gun flight suit… and it didn’t even come with the aviators! So I totally understand how people get sucked in to it all. But I’m happy to say, since starting my budget and keeping track of how every dollar is spent, this girl goes to the Salvation Army to put together her costumes.

Onto Christmas, yes, the dreaded December 25 for so many. And why is it that Christmas comes with cringes and eye rolling? In my experience, it’s been because we’re pulled in a million different directions. We’re expected to be anywhere and everywhere all at the same time. By December 20, even before Christmas gets here, we’re ready to wave our white flag in surrender. Here’s a crazy statement: it shouldn’t BE that way. And if you think about it, WE’VE created it to be this manic panic, rushing around from one part of town to the other, out of the car, in the car, stop at the store, need I go on? You know the drill.

All of this is aside from the heart palpitations we give ourselves when we in good faith set an ideal gift budget for ourselves mentally and then as we stand in the serpentine-style line at Kohl’s, calculating all our last-minute purchases in our brains, realize we’ve gone over… WAY over. And by the time you reach the cashier, you don’t even remember what you bought or who you bought the items for.

So, with all of this being said, here are a few holiday challenges for yourself:

1) Holidays fall on the SAME DAY (excluding good ‘ol Turkey Day,) EVERY YEAR. Even though it’s only October, start planning for the next several holidays, both in regards to commitments and budgets.

2) Come up with a plan of attack for the last of this year’s special occasions. Once you go over it in your mind a few times (and with the rest of your family,) you’ll find it’s easier to commit to sticking to it once the actual festivities begin.

Lastly, I’d like to throw in a shameless plug for all of my CNY followers out there. A friend of mine is holding a workshop called “Secrets to a Stress-Free Holiday” in December. She will be conducting several sessions, so it’s convenient for all who’d like to attend to do so. It’s only 90 minutes, and she’s sure to provide you with the tips you need to turn your holiday season into the best one you’ve had yet 🙂 She’ll talk about ways to decompress during this crazy time and how to make it not so crazy, along with sharing ideas on how to start memorable and meaningful family traditions. To register, please call Carol Kemp at 315.395.0765.

-Ambitioussoul

Annual Agita

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Pleading the 5th

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How can I not want two of these?!

I always imagined I’d have two children. Actually, that’s a lie. For several months before my daughter was born, I thought for sure I wanted three. Being one of three girls, I wanted my kids to have exactly what I had.

Sure there were times in my life where I wish I didn’t have any siblings. Those mornings rushing around before the bus came looking for my essential hair products and the new navy sweater with the tags still on it. Those nights where I had to stay home and babysit them as they ran around and screamed like two banshees on the Discovery Channel while all my other friends were at the movies. Yea, I could have done without those. But then I think about the relationship we have now, and I could never live without that. My sisters are my best friends. They are two people I always know I can trust– and that says a lot, considering I can only count the trustworthy people in my life on one hand, a recent and scarring revelation for me come to think of it.

But I digress (what else is new…) Now that Maryn has been here for 14 months, it’s finally settling in that she’s a permanent (and welcomed) fixture in our lives. I think for several months I was in denial, thinking this whole mommy thing was just temporary. Oh no, she’s here to stay. It’s taken me quite awhile to get used to the idea, being depressed for several weeks after coming home from the hospital. I just could not get over the fact that it would never be just my husband and I again– there would always be three of us. AHHHH! How was I supposed to process all of that?! But here I am many months later, and I love being a mom. The real question: do I love it enough to be a mom of two? I’m not so sure…

…so when people ask me “When are you going to start trying for #2?,” I get this nasty pit in my stomach and my throat starts to close up. How do I tell someone I’m just not sure that I want another baby, that I may be part of the one and done club? Especially when many people surrounding me who have children the same age or even younger than Maryn are pregnant again?!!! Instead of stuttering and feeling the potential burning of tears in my eyes, I shut down. That’s right. For at least 10-20 seconds (which seems like a lifetime in “waiting for a response” land,) I don’t say a word. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!

I don’t know why I stress about letting the askers down. I mean, let’s face it, they’re not going through the physical, mental and emotional turmoil of it all. And it’s my decision, right? Maybe it’s about letting myself down. Maybe it’s about not following “the plan” I had always latched onto in my own mind.

Instead of really facing the question head on and dealing with it, I’ve decided I have an answer: I will not start thinking about having another baby until we are completely debt free. Hopefully in the listener’s mind, this will seem to be a sensible answer, skirting around all the other ancillary issues surrounding this question that sends me into death-grip mode. And I can’t say it’s all for deflection sake. Thinking about having another baby freaks me out enough on principle. Then once I start thinking about the financial implications, my skin gets blotchy, my heart starts racing, and my eyelids start to flutter, all from the sheer panic I’m enduring.

I understand the love you have and the bond you share with a child is priceless. And I wouldn’t change anything in my life for a second when it comes to Maryn and how much she’s impacted my life. But as Dave would say, it’s just not in the budget…

-Ambitioussoul

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For the Love of the Game

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I am going to start this post out by making myself perfectly clear: I love football. There’s just something about watching it on a crisp, autumn day, with the windows open just a crack in the family room, enough to let the sound of rustling leaves and the smell of the cool yet comfortable breeze drift through the opening. And fantasy football has made it all the more entertaining. Not only do I watch Steelers game religiously every week to see how my beloved team fares against its rivals, but I pay close attention to other games that leave my week’s stats hanging in the balance. But I have to say, all of this interim referee bashing and NFL-hating slander has ruined the experience for me this season.

Now before anyone starts pointing a finger, I’m not a Green Bay Packers hater. I’m sure some of you jumped directly to that conclusion, especially after the team beat the Steelers in the 2011 Superbowl. I have respect for the green and gold ( I mean hey, I watched Donald Driver on Dancing with the Stars– who wouldn’t?!) No but seriously, it’s not about that. And it’s defintiely not about being a Seahawks lover. Seattle is one of those teams I always feel bad for, because I don’t feel like it has any fans. But that’s about as far as my empathy goes.

So why am I exceptionally riled up and less than thrilled about all of this referee nonsense? Let’s see… there’s a presidential election coming up in a little more than 30 days, one that will stand to change all of our lives in one aspect or another, there are people dying for our country each and every day, the nation’s debt is at an all-time high, and people just can’t seem to keep up with their bills. Must I go on?

I can’t tell you how frustrated I was when I woke up Tuesday morning and was bombarded with Facebook status updates, news headlines, and tweets, 95 percent of which were originated to relay their utmost disgust and disappointment with what is now being badged as one of the worst calls in professional sports history. Maybe it’s just me, but I think our priorities are a bit skewed.

To be honest, this all started for me Sunday evening, prior to the “call heard around the world” even happening. I just arrived at the Financial Peace Unviersity class I’m helping to coordinate, and I ran into a woman I know. I hadn’t seen in her quite sometime, so we got chatting about the class and how I was so excited to see her there. She proceeded to introduce me to her husband, who stared blankly at me and looked extremely irritated. It was wildly obvious that he did not want to be there. The woman then went on to tell me that she and her husband didn’t know the class was nine weeks, and was freaking out because it’s at 7 p.m. on Sunday nights during football season. At that point, I had to graciously walk away and distract myself by starting another conversation with the couple behind them.

So let’s recap… yes, of course I’m glad they’re in the class and  they’ve made the commitment to be there each week, albeit extremely heartwrenching for the husband (cry me a river.) But how is this the way priorities are set? How is it that your bank account and your retirement future can be in dire straits, but you’re fine with sitting and watching football to your heart’s content on a flat screen that was probably not in your budget and put on credit?

If I’m describing you, I don’t want you to think I don’t like you, or that I’m mad at you, I’m just trying to put things into perspective. Let’s reevalute and readjust today. Forget the flat screen– five or ten years down the road you can buy season tickets for your favorite team and even travel around the country for the away games! Who needs instant replay when you’re in the stands, watching plays like the one Monday night, right before your eyes?

-Ambitioussoul

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Everyone Needs a Special Day

Who would pay thousands of dollars for this dog? This girl.

September 16 is only eight days away! I have been counting down the days until next Sunday for the past several weeks. No, it’s not my birthday, or my anniversary, or the start of an exotic vacation. But because of my genuine and unstoppable excitement, I’ve done everything short of create a paper chain to symbolize the arrival of this special day. I know, I know, the suspense is killing you. So what IS September 16?

Well my friends, September 16 marks the day that I will embark on a journey, along with 20 or so strangers, to change their financial mindsets, practicalities, and futures. Yes, that’s right, I will be leading one of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University classes, showing them what it’s like to live like no one else, so later they can live like no one else (I just HAD to insert Dave’s famous tagline in here somewhere.)

As if you couldn’t tell by now, I’m ECSTATIC about this opportunity. But as I sat in my family room, leafing through the pages of the course book, I began to get anxious. I started to remember how I felt when I sat in those same seats. Hopeful, nervous, guilty, and most of all embarrassed. I’m sure these emotions, along with dozens of others, will flood the classroom each and every week. Of course as the class progresses, each week people will get more and more comfortable talking about their own personal anecdotes; their past financial mistakes, their current budgeting plan, their future investing goals. And I in turn am expected to share all of the same details. Two years ago, I would have been like a seagull, burying my head in the sand. Today, I’m that same seagull, only soaring above the ocean, feeling more free than ever before.

I’ve learned to not be ashamed of the rabid spending habits that haunt my past. Sure I get a little red in the face when I tell people I bought a $2,300 dog and charged it on the way to the gym (and yes, that’s a true story– she was on sale!,) but I remind myself that I should be proud of the fact that I can now laugh at that story, instead of pretending like it never happened. Whether financial mistakes come in the form of a $100 pair of Nike sneakers or a $40,000 Mercedes CLK, we all need to remember these lapses in judgement are how we learn and grow. It’s just like when reminiscing about a regrettable night of heavy drinking or a relationship that had gone stale weeks, months or even years before you actually ended it.

The hard truth is we can’t change the past. It’s over. It’s done. It’s gone. Thank God. So look ahead. Straight ahead. And when you happen upon an awakening in your personal, professional, or financial life, celebrate it. Mark it on the calendar. Pop a bottle of champagne. And quickly reflect, only to recognize and appreciate you’ve changed your mindset and are NEVER willing to go back to being simply content, or in my case, simply broke.

-Ambitioussoul

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You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide

Yummy yummy in your tummy… and your bank account!

Under the bed, in the closet, behind a tree, in the laundry room. Those were some of my favorite hiding places when I used to play hide and seek with my sisters. Since I always picked the same spots, they of course ALWAYS knew where to find me. But that was the thrill of it, right? Knowing eventually (and in my house eventually meant about 15 seconds,) that you would be found? I would always let out a shrill shriek as one of my sisters would “tag” me.

Unfortunately, hiding from your finances isn’t so fun. They always seem to “get you” one way or another, and you find your sacred hiding place isn’t so sacred after all. With this being said, it’s been brought to my attention that my posts about organizing your money in envelopes, budgeting, and all that good stuff are great but at the same time pretty overwhelming. Many have asked, “Well once I read that, where do I begin?” I’ve been turning this over and over in my head for a few days now, trying to think of the best first step: one that is effective and habit forming, yet not so much at one time that there’s no hope for anyone to stick with it.

Before I get into all of this, I will preface it by saying in order to change your financial world, you have to WANT to change it. As we all know, change is terrifying, yet if you think about it, it’s the only constant. Somehow though, that doesn’t make BIG change any easier. And for most people this is a BIG change. It’s kind of like wanting to lose weight. For those who want to, it’s easy for them to say, “I want to lose 15 or 20 pounds.” But to actually set the plan into motion (working out, eating healthy, etc.) is a whole different ball game. So before you continue reading, make sure you’re honest with yourself and say, “I want my financial picture to change, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes.” I’m warning you: there will be sacrifices, there will be times where you have to prioritize your expenditures. But I promise, you’ll be so incredibly thankful in the end.

Now, this may seem like a simple concept– because it is! But it’s not easy to do. There’s a difference… so, here we go! Remember several posts ago when I talked about the envelope system and how it has totally changed the way my family not only spends but values money? Well, we’re going to take a teeny, tiny step towards creating your own envelope system. I know, <GROAN.> Just stick with me here…

Those that use the envelope system have several different envelopes, and for each person/family there’s different envelopes that are needed (i.e. pet care, home improvement, vacation, etc.) But there seems to be two envelopes that remain fairly consistent: food and gas. You can already see where I’m going with this, huh? To me, the food and gas envelopes are the easiest to manage, because 1) we generally eat the same amount each week and can estimate how much we spend on food pretty well. Whether it’s groceries, a Saturday morning at the farmer’s market, or going out to eat, these ALL fall under the “food” envelope.

So, let’s say you get paid every two weeks. And you know each week you spend $100 on groceries and $50 on restaurants. You would budget $300 for your food envelope, and on the day you get paid, you would go to the bank and withdraw that $300. And once again, just to drill it in deep, once the $300 is gone, it’s gone. No more pizzas, no more dining out, no more food. Yes, this means leftovers. Yes, this means working with what you have in the back of your pantry. And yes, you will survive. I promise!

This same principle will be used for your gas envelope. Let’s say you use a tank of gas a week. And it takes $40 to fill your car to that coveted “F” on the dashboard. Being on a bi-weekly pay schedule, you’ll take $80 out of the bank, and put it right in the gas envelope. Wham bam, thank you ma’am. You are on your way!

Now, like I said before, this is a simple concept, but it’s definitely not easy. Especially for those of us who have been spending willy nilly for the past several years, or maybe even longer. And remember, the money in the food envelope is only to be used for FOOD. This means random weekend shopping sprees (without money in the clothing or mall envelope,) are off limits. Trust me, when the day before pay day rolls around and you’re living off peanut butter and jelly because your food envelope is sadly empty due to that sweater you just HAD to have, you’re going to be kicking yourself. At that point even liver and onions will make your mouth water.

So there you have it. The first teeny weeny baby step towards an envelope system of your own. Good luck! Let me know how you do!

-Ambitioussoul

FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real

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Bring on the spiders!

In looking at my blog stats, I can’t help but notice when I mention the word “budget” or “finances” my readership sinks WAYYY down to a depressing low. In my opinion, I think this is because of two things: 1) It’s snoozerifically boring and/or 2) it totally freaks people out. Even though I understand both of those reasons, I have one harsh yet real phrase for those of you who fall into either or both of those categories: get over it.

Believe it or not, I’m more sympathetic towards those who think the topic is boring. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m part of an extremely small percentage of people on this earth who think budgeting is fun and exciting. And I get that. I also get that many would rather be closed in a casket with a million spiders than talk about money and bugeting. It’s uncomfortable. It’s at times embarrassing. It’s SCARY. Well, let me enlighten you: so is being broke (thank you, Dave Ramsey.)

I’m not saying  you should broadcast a screenshot of your bank account on the evening news, or that you should display the amount of debt you have in skywriting. What I am saying is you should face your financial woes head on (and yes, EVERYONE has them.) Ignoring them and secretly praying that you’ll win the lottery is NOT a good financial plan. In fact, it’s not a plan at all.

I grew up with my mom telling me FEAR was an acronym for “false evidence appearing real.” And trust me, there are times when I have to repeat that to myself hourly. It’s not easy to face your fears, whether they be needles and blood or ghosts and extra terrestrial life. Fears allow your mind to wander and your imagination to become completely overworked. Of course there are things that deserve to be feared, like losing a loved one or growing old and being alone. But I think what my mom was always trying to tell me was most of the things you fear will never come to fruition. Sure if you’re claustrophobic there are times when you’re going to be faced with a teeny tiny space (like going down a tube slide at the playground or being stuffed into an elevator.) But being buried alive? Or having to crawl from New York to California through a tunnel with a 3-foot circumference? Probably never going to happen.

So whatever scares you, whether it be birds, clowns, bugs or your checking account balance, know that your fear is bigger than life, and it could most likely be scaled down significantly. I understand facing your fears takes baby steps, so I’m not suggesting you sit in the front row at the circus if Bozo is your worst nightmare. But start thinking about how you can settle your fears in small doses. That way when your child wants to have a clown at his/her birthday party to ride a unicycle and make balloon animals, you won’t start having heart palpitations. And more importantly, when it’s time to sit down and do retirement or estate planning, you don’t wear headphones and a blind fold to the meeting, or worse, keep rescheduling the meeting with your financial planner until it’s too late.

-Ambitioussoul

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Budget: Some Households’ Most Offensive Swear Word

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Too many shopping bags? Too much baggage!

As I’ve shared in a few of my previous posts, I am a total dork when it comes to personal finances and budgeting. I get weak in the knees a few days before a new pay period begins, thinking about the lines and columns on our family spreadsheet and how they will soon be filled with the upcoming weeks’ expenditures. $20 for a haircut, $50 for pool chemicals, ya da ya da ya da.

I’m sure most of you had to pinch yourselves as you read the paragraph above. I realize this type of stuff does not excite people. Most would rather be at the mall buying new clothes or sneakers. Or maybe perusing the aisles at Lowe’s, deciding whether you want to splurge for the granite counter tops in your half bath, or be able to eat for the next 3 weeks. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. And how do I know this? Because that used to be me.

In the past 12 months, my financial way of life has done a complete 180. And thank goodness because if not, my family and I would probably be living back with my parents and 18-year-old sister (YIKES!) Don’t get me wrong– I’m not trying to make light of this situation. I know people who have been there– I know people who ARE there, and it’s a scary, scary thing. But know this– no matter how low you feel, or how low you know your bank account is, it’s never too late.

I know, I know, you’re reading this thinking, “But I’m used to my lifestyle. I’m just a natural spender. That’s just who I am.” Well, let’s pretend we’re in the movie Men In Black, and Will Smith just waved that memory-erasing laser beam across your face. It’s time to start fresh. And if I could turn my financial life around and build my bank account back up, anyone can. And to prove it, I’ll share a story with you.

In 2006, I was a junior at Syracuse University. Walking around the campus seeing all the girls with their brand new UGG boots and their Herve Chapelier bags was getting to me. So what did I do? I visited one of the most popular stores that bordered the urban campus, and I went absolutely ballistic. I bought a pair of $400 D&G sunglasses (which I still have to this day, thank goodness,) two pairs of $250 Citizen jeans, and a pair of $80 Steve Madden pumps (what a bargain!) I walked out of there with the store’s green plastic bag stuffed to the gills, without even batting an eyelash.

Okay, so let’s rewind… I was a college student, albeit with a paid internship, but I was only working part time, and I spent $730 without breaking into a deep sweat?? (and notice I didn’t even account for the tax!) And trust this wasn’t just a one-time deal– I spent out of control like this all the time.

So what changed? How did I all of a sudden wake up from this delusional state of wanting so badly to be “Mrs. Jones?” Was it buying a house? No. Getting married to a guy who was totally conservative when it came to spending? Not a chance. But in 2011, enter Dave Ramsey, a true God send. Last spring, my husband and I attended his Financial Peace University class at a local church. We went kicking and screaming, but my mom had recommended it and said she would pay for it if we went and just listened. The moment I sat down, something clicked. I knew this guy was for real, that he knew more about finances and planning for your future (and your children’s futures for that matter,) than I ever would. From then on, I was excited about budgeting. I was excited to see how quickly we could complete each of the seven baby steps Dave laid out. And it came at the perfect time, since our daughter would be entering the world that summer.

I thought about her, and how my horrid and embarrassing spending habits would affect her. Children have needs that cannot be denied: from diapers and formula to new school sneakers and supplies– I knew spending ourselves into oblivion was no longer an option.

Now that she’s here (and already 1 year old,) I can honestly say we have our budgeting down to a science. Does this mean we can no longer buy nice things, or go out to dinner? Absolutely not. It just means we have to be able to pay for them– with cash. Trust me, coming from a reformed spend-a-holic, it can be done!

To check out Financial Peace University classes in your area, or even to complete them online, visit Dave.

-Ambitioussoul