Do What it Takes to be Envied

Click. Customize. Celebrate.

Yes, I know, I know, envy is one of the seven deadly sins. But in this case, it’s totally acceptable. When could having envy in your heart and soul be okay and almost advocated for? When you’re talking about Banner Envy of course! Let me start from the beginning…

In starting this blog several months ago, it became more and more apparent with each post I published that I needed a change. The marketing world was where I wanted to build my career, but with what I was doing and where I was, I didn’t feel like I was building a career with brick and mortar; I felt like I was digging a huge hole in attempt to start laying the foundation, but the digging seemed unending; I was running out of motivation and energy, with the goal of a perfect, satisfying career slowly dissipating each day.

I couldn’t fall to hypocrisy. After all, the majority of my posts have been dedicated to doing what you love, making your career not feel like work, and just because a job landed in your lap five years ago doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the job for you. I had to take my own advice, knowing sometimes the right thing and the hard thing are the same. With this epiphany, my search for not only a job but a CAREER was underway.

Enter Banner Envy, the perfect job opportunity, a business carved out of what people are looking for in today’s marketplace: something that makes a statement, sets itself apart from all others like it, and adds a personal touch to the year’s best party or event, making it unforgettable for all who attend. Not only do people hope and pray they are invited next year, they would do anything short of taking care of your landscaping for a summer or shoveling your driveway for a winter to be sure they remain on the guest list.

Another great thing about Banner Envy: it’s simple and easy. All you have to do is visit the site, click on the banner you like, customize it, and viola! And who doesn’t need a banner for their monumental event? Whether it’s your annual Cinco de Mayo siesta with all your neighborhood friends or your ten-year class reunion where you  evaluate who has aged well and who, ahem, hasn’t, forget the confetti and the streamers. Just get a banner.

-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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Change of Seasons, Change of Heart

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The building may be pretty, but think about the bill!

I just received the dreaded phone call from my sister who started her first year of college only a month ago. When I saw her call come in and hit “accept,” I could sense the unsureness and panic in her voice. She didn’t waste any time telling me what was bothering her. The statement “I think I want to change my major” was hurriedly followed by the reasons why she wasn’t being fulfilled in her classes and how she came to this conclusion.

For all of us who have been through college, these times of “finding ourselves” seem so far off in the distant past that we probably read this and shrug it off, thinking it’s not that big of a deal. After all, how many of us even have jobs or careers in what we studied in college? I know I don’t. But before I spewed out my advice, I tried to not only think about the thoughts that were most likely swirling through my sister’s brain, but also about what I went through as a college student, the mistakes I made, and how to have her avoid them.

Do I think where you go to school means everything? No. After all, I went to a small, rural school for two years and transferred to a large university almost quadruple the first one’s size. It wasn’t because of the dorm rooms with their own private bathrooms, or the fact that they had my favorite cereal (Cinnamon Toast Crunch if any of you are taking notes), or even that the people wore UGG boots and carried Herve Chapelier bags.  It was hard to explain then, and it’s just as hard now. It just wasn’t… “it” for me. Little did I know, it was because the college didn’t fit over my hips! Say what?!

To me, college is like buying  a wedding dress. You know, the second you begin to slip it on, you start to tear up and say to yourself, “This is it… this is the one.” When you step onto the college campus you belong at, you suddenly feel at home. You have no reservations, no worries, no stress. It’s a pretty incredible feeling. And once you’ve found the perfect college ambiance, all your problems seem to fall to the wayside, right?

WRONG! What about your course selection? What about your college loans? What about the community that surrounds the campus? Back to my wedding dress analogy, it’s not just about satin versus chiffon, or tulle versus lace. There are so many other things to think about above and beyond the beautiful budding tulips peppering each and every green space and the large greystone buildings that tower over you at every turn. But this is what college has been marketed as; this is what all-knowing 18-year-olds look for (can you sense my sarcasm?)

It’s sad to say, but in my mind, this economy and the price gauging colleges and universities get away with year after year has led people to treat choosing a college like a business decision. What education can I buy for the least amount of money and risk? I know, this doesn’t make the decision sound sexy or even fun, but it’s the truth! It shouldn’t be about where you want to go, but what you can afford. Why try on a $10,000 dress when you can only afford one for $3,000?

So many people believe that where you go to school has something to do with your success. I would say yes in only about 3 % of cases. Why? Because the Division I football team’s success or the new off-campus housing the school built have nothing to do with your capabilities and skills once you enter the job market. It’s the practical experience you gain via internships and part-time positions that differentiate you from the other 50 million college students graduating at the same time as you (okay, that may be an extreme exaggeration.)

And I digress… the second variable should be what you’d like to study. In my sister’s case, she knew what she was interested in (as many post-high schoolers do,) but she wasn’t exactly sure how to classify it. As shown in my intiial story, she’s realizing she missed the mark and needs to go back to the drawing board, but better now than three years down the road with unrecoverable time, money, and effort invested. But let’s be honest– there’s alot of wiggle room when it comes to majors in college. Look at me: I was a broadcast journalism major, and I’m in marketing. Relateable? Not really. But I’m doing it. If I would have gone to my advisor 3/4 of the way through my college education and shared my thoughts on switching gears, she would have talked me into changing my major and spending another three years in college to the tune of $45K per year. No thanks…

I give my sister alot of credit. Between going to a state school solely because of cost and following her heart, knowing quickly she had chosen the wrong path, I know she’s headed in the right direction. Although she’s not at her “dream school,” in her “dream city,” she’s making it work… in her real life.

-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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Longevity and Loyalty: A Thing of the Past

Close your eyes, believe in yourself, and jump!

How many of you have grandparents or even parents who started and finished their careers at the same place? That was how it worked back then: you graduated from high school, attended college (of course this step was optional,) and found a job, made it a career, and retired from that same factory, office, or school 50 or more years later.

This is exactly how my grandpa’s career took shape. He didn’t even graduate from high school (not that I’m saying this is recommended,) and he worked for The Herald Journal (our city’s newspaper) as a copywriter and then editor for 51 years. He retired with full health benefits and an extremely generous pension.

A few decades later, my dad’s career took off a bit differently, but with the same result. He graduated from high school, then college, got a job right away and is still there today, climbing the ranks the corporation defined way back when. He has been with the same company for 31 years– incredible.

Now, both scenarios I’ve described above are almost unheard of. For those of us who have just entered the job market or have only been in it for a few years, we know nothing is forever. We start our job search knowing that we will most likely only spend a few years in that position and then begin looking for something else. It’s just… the “way” these days.

So many people shake their heads at the paradigm shift I describe above. Those who join my parents in their generation wonder why no one looks for careers anymore, they only search for jobs. I think there are two reasons for this:

1) The job market itself has changed. Professionals of my era don’t trust large corporations, or any company for that matter, to take care of them for life. With so many lay offs, downsizes, and outsources, everyone is constantly looking over their shoulders, wondering with each closed door and mandatory meeting if bad news is going to come their way.

2) Just a warning: I may offend some people with this, but here it goes… whether you’ve been working in your position for 1 year or 25 years, I think the work force has found this unwarranted sense of entitlement. People expect things more than they ever did. It’s a mentality of “What have you done for me lately,” and frankly, it makes me incredibly irritated. Whether it’s companies providing lunches, outings, or bonuses, many believe they should receive all kinds of perks for just showing up 40 hours a week. When people don’t feel as though they are “getting enough” out of the company they work for, they start to look elsewhere. And in my opinion, more power to them.

So how are people supposed to overcome this sense of uneasiness and vulnerability? Well, according to 48 Days to the Work You Love, maybe it’s time to “be your own boss.” Now more than ever, there are so many opportunities for individuals to start their own business, and often without much of an investment. For many, they can’t find their true “dream job” within an already existing company’s four walls. They also can’t reach their highest income potential. As Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad says, “The problem with having a job is that it gets int he way of getting rich.”

Is starting your own business scary? Sure it is. But it’s also super exciting. Just think about it: doing what you love, being your own boss, and most appealing of all, being in control! I’m not saying you should quit your job today and give up everything (how little or much that may be,) but this is something you can totally do alongside your current position. Yes, it’s a TON of work and effort at the beginning, but the long-range benefits are sure worth it.

I will clarify all of this by saying I don’t have first-hand experience owning my own business, but I know many people who do, and not one of them ever has complaints about his/her job. And they all look at what they do everyday as a career– not just a short-term position they’re hoping to move up from someday.

In 48 Days to the Work You Love, Dan Miller lists 18 attributes that are key to owning your own business. Here are a few that will really give you an idea of if you have what it takes. If you do, the answer to all of these questions will be a resounding “yes!” And of course, you have to be honest with yourself. Here we go:

1) Are you a self starter? Waiting for opportunity to knock on your door typically leads to settlement. Start bothering the crap out of opportunity to be truly fulfilled.

2) Do you have a high level of confidence and belief in what you are doing? If you don’t, that will shine through. Even if you have the most useful and cost-effective product and/or service to sell, it won’t matter. Perception is everything, and consumers can see right through you.

3) Can you stick with it? Most small businesses fail because the starters don’t know how to hear “no.” That elementary, one-syllable word slows them down or makes them break down all together. It’s difficult not to take it personally, but it running and owning your own business, you must realize for every 1 “yes” you get, you’re going to get 100 “nos” first.

After reading these few qualities you may say, “Well, I answered yes to everything, but I could never start my own business, because there are a million other people out there who probably have the same idea as I do.” Yes, you’re probably right. But out of those 1 million people, you may be the only one who takes a chance, believes in yourself, and actually takes a leap of faith. That’s the difference.

-Ambitioussoul

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A Twinkle in Your Eye

To see it, your eyes have to be open wide.

Inspiration. It’s watching a courageous and determined athlete compete in the Special Olympics. It’s holding the hand of a hopeful and confident chemotherapy patient. It’s listening to music composed to tell a story, to share feelings that could not otherwise be expressed. Inspiration sparkled tonight.

100 or so people packed into a local church’s sanctuary on a Friday night, waiting patiently for the music to begin. Everyone had come together to celebrate a beloved high school teacher who had passed away earlier in the year. The concert served as a fundraiser for a scholarship fund, started in this special teacher’s honor.

The program’s first song, “Hello, Goodbye,” by The Beatles, happened to be my sister’s solo. As the first measure of music was sung, my eyes immediately welled up with tears. Not because of my sister’s singing, or because she’d be going away to college in a few short days, but because of the feeling that overwhelmed me as I sat there. I was so extremely enamored by everything going on around me; this concert made such an impression on me. Why?

Well, 1) the concert was held on a Friday night in the summer. Typically people are busy with family and neighborhood get togethers, weekends away, or even just sitting by the pool. But tonight was different. Tonight the members of our community came together to support the incredible efforts of these kids and the man for whom they were all making music for. 2) The detail that was put into the event were impeccable. From the posters and raffles to the refreshments and announcements, each aspect had been taken into deep consideration. 3) This one is the most impressive of all: the entire fundraising event’s conception, execution, and success was because of an 18-year-old boy, who clearly has a true passion for life, music, and giving back to his community.

During the good will offering, the boy explained how much the teacher meant to him and how close they were. This teacher was one of those men who had a twinkle in his eye. He captivated everyone who came in contact with him, whether it be students, fellow teachers, parents, or friends. He was full of encouragement and acceptance, and he always valued those around him for who they are and what they stand for. Because of his nurturing ways and constant positive reinforcement, his twinkle became contagious– and this particular student definitely caught it. As he stood in front of the congregation, you could see in his eyes and sense in his voice that he didn’t do this for the attention or for the praise, but because he truly wanted to honor this teacher the way he deserved to be honored.

As the strings began playing and the chorus began singing the song the student had composed, I sat in the pew and  felt the church’s walls and stained glass windows begin to close in on me. I suddenly became anxious. I started to think about all the things I could have done throughout the past decade of my life. Sure, I’m involved in the community and work with a couple nonprofits throughout each year, but at that moment, all of that didn’t seem like enough. I should have organized more events; I should have reached out more to friends, family, and neighbors who I knew were in need;  I should have volunteered more at the local homeless shelter or senior home. How could this 18-year-old have accomplished so much? He’s so young, yet so incredibly motivated to be the best he can be and be as compassionate as his heart will allow.

As the song drew to a close, I quickly brought myself back to reality and reminded myself it’s not about what I did or didn’t do yesterday, or the day before, or even last year– it’s about what I do tomorrow. It’s remembering that there’s an entire world out there, beyond the small suburb I live in. People are ALWAYS in need; they ALWAYS need others to help, even if they don’t recognize it.

It was evident by the end of the concert that the twinkle could be found in each person’s eye who sat in the audience. As we all filed out of the sanctuary, pew by pew, many were quiet, I think because they were in awe just as I was. I kept thinking about how the concert changed me and wondered how many others it had done the same for.

Be sure to look for those people around you with a twinkle in their eyes– it may reflect into yours and spark greatness. Inspiration is everywhere, and it’s waiting for you.

-Ambitioussoul

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

Melt, Mold, and Set : A Steel(ers) Introduction

Steeling a city’s heart and soul

As I sat at a traffic light in the city of Erie, Pennsylvania, I found myself peering into a gaping hole on the side of a depressingly dilapidated and eerily vacant steel mill. Mentally erasing the vines and moss that were growing in and around the brickscape, I began to visualize what  the people who used to work there (or steelers as I decided to classify them in my title, or maybe that was just a shameless plug for the best football team on Earth?,) looked like and wore, how hot it must have been inside on 100 degree days with 80 percent humidity, characteristic of that exact day. I envisioned the blistering steel dripping from metal wands into a giant, bubbling vat of the same consistency. I could hear the sounds of workers yelling over the roaring machines. Steel mills used to define the city; it was the livelihood of thousands. Now they were just a memory, blanketed in soot.

It’s incredible how quickly steel’s consistency can change; it’s equally incredible how quickly a city can change. And then it got me thinking… life is the same way, especially when considering a change in someone’s career path.

Just like steel, in order to really set forth to change your career, whether it be just a facet of it or revolutionizing it completely, you must first delve into yourself and think about what you really love and want to do. Almost think of it as liquefying, just as steel would be, in order to be able to see things more clearly and start from scratch, if necessary.

Then there’s the molding process: getting the steel (or yourself) into the perfect shape. What does that shape look like? A rod? A teacher? A hammer head? A life coach? So to mold steel you need a cast. But to mold a career, you need a plethora of things. Whether it be additional schooling, training, apprenticeships or simply mentors, all of those things can make or break the mold.

And then setting. Without this step, your mold will simply keep changing shape without any real definition or purpose. If you’re a hammer head, be a hammer head. If you’re a beam, be a beam. I’m sure you can already understand how this correlates to your professional life. If there’s something you want to do and you do it well and most importantly it will make you happy, own it. Be 100 percent dedicated to it, knowing it’s what you were put here on this Earth to do.

And if you’re ever driving down the East Coast, or across the country, be sure to stop in Erie, Pennsylvania, where “pop” and the steel legacy will live forever.

-Ambitioussoul

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