Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What to do

I've been struggling with what exactly to do with this blog.

I originally started it to bring people very real numbers-- a case study in personal finance, if you will. Yes, I want to post general tips and information, but I feel that a real see-exactly-how-and-if-this-is-working type blog is needed out there and I'm exactly the kind of bare-it-all kind of girl to do it. Theory is wonderful, but example is inspiring (or at least instructive)!

Yet, I'm in a place where I don't really know if I'm free to do that anymore. I didn't post real budget numbers during the school year because it's socially unacceptable to talk about exactly how much you make.

I personally think the taboo on salary is ridiculous. If someone isn't getting paid fairly, they should have a right to know. If the company won't fix it, they should (and do) have a right to quit. I work in a school, so any parent could come up and demand to see how much I get paid, my benefits, and even my address and phone number unless I specifically request my contact info be withheld. But, on the off-chance I make more than my co-workers, I don't want to be resented.

Then there's my husband. He is on staff at a church, so that makes things more complicated as well.

What is the answer here? Is it okay to continue posting real-life budget numbers? If we simply combined our incomes and didn't label exactly how much one or the other makes, would that be better? Any answers would be appreciated...

Saturday, August 7, 2010

FPU-- Drinking the Kool-aid

We've finally done it. This Dave-junkie and her wonderful husband have finally taken the plunge and enrolled in Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University.

We're the youngest in the class, which is both sad and exciting. I look forward to bringing new and not-so-new insights to this blog as a result of this class.

We are technically on baby step 4, but we aren't working it. Lubby's school is going to cost us an arm and a leg this semester, so in order to avoid debt and have him graduate next May we are having to cashflow like crazy. But, that's a different post. I hope to bring more info on those numbers very soon.

Until then~

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The two rules to becoming a millionaire

Many times people avoid dealing with their finances or striving to do better for a very simple reason: they think it is too complicated. It is true, striving to navigate the world of mutual funds, IRAs, 401(k)s, 203(b)s, REITs, DRIPs, and on and on... wow. I'm stressed out just thinking about the massive amount I DON'T know about these things.

Really, though, there are only two rules to become wealthy, and they are the rules we live by. They are:

1. Live on less than you make and save the difference
2. Avoid debt

Everyone does better when these two rules are followed. Are there strategies for maximizing the return on that savings? Of course. but even if a body starts by hiding the money in his sock drawer he will be on his way to his first million. So start. We'll work on the details as we go.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

How to suck the fun out of $10k

Ok, well, the title might be a little bit misleading. After all, I think the following is fun! However, I'm a nerd :)

I mentioned in the previous post that we are receiving nearly $10,000 back with our tax refund. That's a full third of all the money we made last year! The exact number is $9,586 of basically found money.

I want you to think of the 22-year-olds that you know. Now think of handing one of those people 10 grand. Are you shuddering? I thought so.

However, Lubby and I are not your typical twenty-somethings. Hence the title of this post. We've already spent this money on paper, on purpose, before even getting it. The following is a break-down of how we've sucked the fun out of this huge amount of money.

-195 tax preparer fee
-2516 pay off carpet debt
-5000 finish off emergency fund (3+ months)
-1800 "pay back" to ourselves (we had to borrow personal fun money to live on sometimes)
-75 nice dinner somewhere

Now, I know this isn't as exciting as a whirlwind trip to New Zealand. Yet I get butterflies of excitement knowing that we will have our emergency fund finished and be ready to dump all of our extra income into IRAs, saving for said trip to NZ, and our mortgage.

Yes, I know you are amazed. I will consider coming to speak to your 20-something son or daughter about the virtues of financial wisdom. First you must be really nice to me :)

In all seriousness, though, why is our financial picture so far out of the norm for our demographic? It CAN be done, and it's not like we even make very much money. If you know someone just getting started in life, or someone who's lost hope in young America, or anyone really who might be inspired by our journey, please pass this blog on.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Age-old Tax-time Tips

Yesterday, Lubby and I had an appointment to have our taxes done. We've always done them ourselves before, but since we have a first-time home buyer credit in the mix this year we wanted to have a professional work on it. We went in with our tax forms and about half an hour later we walked out expecting $9,500 back from old Uncle Sam.

I learned a few things and was reminded of a few things regarding taxes in light of this experience.

1. There is nothing wrong with hiring a professional. Although I've been accustomed to doing our taxes myself, it was a nice break to let the pros do it. With the amount we're getting back it was well worth the $200. With 3 W-2s a piece, my home based business, Lubby's school tuition and our FTHB credit it was a pretty complicated return for the money.

2. Dave Ramsey's Endorsed Local Providers (ELPs) are great. Well, at least this one was. He really did make us feel at ease and even took the time to explain to us that Lubby's future career as a minister will give him a window of opportunity to opt-out of social security.

3. You do not want a tax refund. I know we're celebrating, but we honestly couldn't have kept the government from taking what they did. Most of that refund is from the house, which is a huge exception to the rule of "a tax refund is not a gift from the government." We only actually paid about $750. It's much better to keep the money every month than to get it a year later with not interest!

In my classroom, I have my students provide us with "three good things" to start off each class. One day a student's good thing was that she just got a new game and flat screen TV because her daddy got a tax refund. Another student chimed in and said that he can't wait to grow up and pay taxes so he can get a refund! I just had to laugh!

4. If you are getting a tax refund, decide how you will spend it now. It does you no good to get a few thousand dollars back if you blow it all. Pay off some debt, pad your emergency fund, or invest it. Just don't blow it!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

New Year's Resolutions

Yes, it is February. No, it is not too late to make resolutions.

I usually shy away from new year's resolutions. They're just so cliche, and I hate failure. But, to butcher an old adage: if you aim for nothing, you hit it every time. This year I have a list of attainable goals because let's face it: no one wants to be exactly the same person at the end of this year that they were the end of last year. Major "ouch" moment of self-reflection when I realized that I had not really improved personally over the last year. Let's not dwell...

"The List" (cue horror movie music) has several goals that cover various aspects of life: personal, relational, spiritual, financial, etc. The goal is to grow in a balanced way, and not to set the bar so high that you're discouraged by day 2. If you're like me, you really *really* want to set that bar ridiculously high. To allow for this, several of the goals (like the financial ones, of course!) have a goal and a challenge goal.

Now, it would be really cruel of me to tell you all of this and then not let you in on my goals/resolutions. What kind of PF blogger would I be then? A few of my goals that relate to finance are:
  • Cook dinner 4 times per week

This goal wasn't made for financial reasons, but obviously has financial impact. We don't usually eat out that often, but taking more control over what is made will help with the food budget. Look forward to hearing about adventures in the kitchen, including my new favorite: rotisserie chicken in the crock pot.

  • Start tithing again

This is very important to both me and my husband. We've been out of practice for a while, mostly because I'm uncomfortable contributing to a church where we're not members, and I'm uncomfortable contributing to the church where we are members since we don't attend there.

  • Open retirement accounts

I'm thinking Roths, but my district has a 203b option, too. I also need to learn more about my options with my teachers' retirement deductions.

  • Pay extra on our mortgage (round up to $1,000)
  • CHALLENGE GOAL: Pay down 20% of the loan this year (approx. $1900/pymt)

Yes, we bought a house. It's great. I would like to have it paid off in 5 years. Possible? Maybe not, but it will be fun to try.

What are your resolutions? If you haven't made any, it isn't too late. Post below so I can cheer you on!