Saturday, November 14, 2015

Simple living...downsizing again

We lived in the two bedroom duplex for a year. Then decided not to renew our lease. We weren't getting any further into paying off my last credit card. We were just kind of making it month by month, without any extra money to spare. Our stuff was growing and filling up our space again. It became to be too much. How do we accumulate so much and just live in it? Part of the problem is that we bring in new things, but don't take anything back out.

We decided to move out and back with my in-laws to decrease in expenses so hopefully we can pay off this credit card that is such a burden. I regret ever getting a credit card. It's been nothing but a headache all these years. We spent money we didn't have any we didn't pay it back right away like smart people would do. We instead let it accumulate to the point where we can't keep up with the payments and the fees are almost as much as what I pay toward it. Credit cards are the devil. And I will never get one ever again.

So the downsizing began. We went through every room, every closet, every box, every single item we owned I placed hands on and decided if this is necessary to keep or not. We sold s lot, donated s bunch, and made the trash man very busy. It felt good to be free from all that excess. We donated a ton of boxes to the DAV. They actually brought their huge truck and hauled it away for free. It was a beautiful sight watching all of that stuff go away for a good cause.

Living tiny is still very much in our minds and hearts. Next year we hope to attend this Tiny House Jamboree thing in Colorado. I honestly couldn't tell you when we will ever dive into this tiny living thing. It's not our fear holding us back because I know we are ready for it. It's just logistics and money right now. The desire will never die to be able to live mortgage free, be able to be free of clutter, have more money to do good with, and more time to focus on important things in life instead of the upkeep on a home.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A year later.. where we are at

A year ago is when we put our RV dream on hold and decided to move into a one-bedroom duplex. All four of us. Since then, we have continued to live smaller, but have upsized to a 2 bedroom duplex. The one bedroom was doable, but I couldn't organize and personalize it because we were just renting. I would have loved to put up shelves and built-ins and cabinets. It was just not functional for the four of us to live in there. That led us to moving one street over to another rental my landlord has. It was a short-distant move and we have been happy here. We have our own fenced in backyard and a bit more space.

We do, however, find ourselves slowly creeping back to our old lifestyle of accumulating too much stuff and having trouble keeping things picked up, put in their place, and kept clean because of so much. Jason and I want to get an RV. We want to downsize and just own what we can carry in the RV. We even went through a 6-month period of wanting to build a tiny home on wheels. That is a bit too ambitious for what we can afford right now.

Financially speaking, we are still on a great path. Ever since completing the Financial Peace University home program, we haven't strayed from writing a budget every month, getting out cash for our money envelopes, and sticking with that. We are still working on chipping away at our last credit card.

I just don't want to give up hope on this idea that started it all- to live below our means, own less, spend less, and live more. I don't want to go back to those feelings of never being able to get out of debt, having a house where the utility bills are outrageous, and cleaning up a never ending mess of clutter.

Plans are in the works. Our lease is up this August and we want to have a plan in place really soon. I'm not sure what that will be yet, but tiny is in our near future.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

4 Credit cards down, 1 to go! How we've been able to pay down debt and SAVE!

I've been meaning to (for a long time now) write a post about what we are doing for our financial situation. We just weren't able to maintain our home-ownership lifestyle after Jason got out of the Army last November. We were down in income.

Now, it's been 9 months later. We've lived in my in-laws house for a few months after we sold our house, moved into a one bedroom duplex that we are renting, and we started living well below what we have been living with. We have learned not to use our credit cards because they just make us get further and further into debt. We spend a little, we pay off a little, only to just spend it right again later. It just didn't work. We had 5 credit cards between the two of us. We paid off 4 of them and have 1 left! We are tired of living paycheck to paycheck. We are tired of the checking account being at zero or negative. We are tired of not having accountability over our money. We just hoped there would still be enough after all the bills come out. We always made budgets, but never followed through or stuck with them.

So here are some ways we have helped ourselves climb slowly out of debt and be able to save up an emergency fund:

1. Tithe. By tithing to God and His Kingdom, you are saying, "Yes, I trust you, Lord." By giving God the first of your fruits, not the last, not after you pay your bills, not if you have enough cash at the end of the month, but FIRST. When I do my budget for the month, after I list all our income, the next line-before any of the bills- is "tithe". After I make sure tithe comes out, then everything else can come next.

So the thing is, when you trust God with your money and you give 10% of your total income to Him and His church, then you will be blessed beyond measure. God will take care of your needs. I like this verse in Malachi 3:10: "Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And therby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need." I like how God says, "Test me." Just test him to provide and  you will see. He sees that you are faithful and obedient in your tithe. Honestly, in the past, when I can think of the times we struggled most and were stressed out the most with money, it was when we weren't faithfully tithing. We would give here and there, sometimes in large chunks, sometimes whatever we had, but it wasn't consistent.

Now that we have been tithing out of obedience, we have seen God's glory work in our lives and take care of us through many blessings in the form of opportunities to make more money, or someone blessing us with a gift financially, or receiving free bread or groceries. It hasn't always been that way.

2. Meal Plan. When you know what you want to cook for the week, you make a list of items, then you get exactly those items place; nothing more. We have a budget averaged around $60-80 per week of groceries, so I keep that in mind when I buy my items. It may seem like not that much for a family of 4, but you'd be surprise. I dare you to try it. I dared myself a few months ago to try $50 a week. It was tough, but doable. We just chose to challenge ourselves in that specific area- to spend less I mean. You may choose another area such as entertainment or gas.

I personally just do a week at a time because I'm not that organized :)

3. Cut down to 1 car. We own 2 cars. They are paid off, thank the Lord! One is a '99 small SUV and the other is a '07 mid-sized car. We spend an average of $300-400/month in gas to fill both tanks. We cut our gas down to $175 for the month because that was all we could afford that month for our gas budget. We decided to stick the SUV in the garage, put the carseats for our kids in our car and just use that as our main transport. It used to be that I had our SUV with the kids carseats and Jason would use the car to get to his meetings or appointments or wherever. We were drowning in gas payments.  So now, we try to get everything done in one trip with the car, or he'll take the car while I stay home with the kids. If we absolutely need to be in 2 separate places and we can't drop each other off just using one car, then we'll take the SUV out of the garage.
Really though, it has helped us to stick with $175 a month for gas! It's amazing at what a little experiment can do for your finances.

4. Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. We are going through the program with our friends at church as it has been a LIFE SAVER. Seriously. I have learned so much about credit cards and why they are bad, why we need to be on a cash budget, why "Every dollar needs to have a name", and why it's important to have an emergency fund before you start paying off debt. I recommend everyone getting educated and going through this 13-week program. I bought my Dave Ramsey kit through eBay for $39 used. It had some writing in the books, but I didn't care as long as I was saving money. They are normally well over a hundred dollars through his site.

5. Cash envelope system. FPU(Financial Peace University) helped us to see why a cash budget is so important. You will spend less at a store when you have to physically hand over the cash. When you use a card, it's too easy to just pay off what you spend. By having an envelope for everything, you can see what you spend and how much you have left for the month. There are no worries about if you'll have enough money for such and such bill to hit your checking account. There are been too many times in the past that we thought we had enough money in the checking account, but then once the internet bill and water bill hit, something got bounced. I guess I shouldn't have spent that much on groceries that week or something. But now that we are doing envelopes for the things we CAN pay cash for, it takes the guess work out and now you will no longer "hope" there's enough money in there today when you get gas.

This is our envelope system where we put a specific amount cash in each of these categories. 

Within each tab, there is an individual envelope that we can pull out if we know we need to use it for that day. We do this because we don't like to carry around all of our money at one time; just what we need. 

You can also allow yourself your own envelope for spending money. You don't have to deprive yourself. That's what I like about the envelope system. It's freeing in a way because you know you are getting "X" amount for Dining Out or to spend on yourself or for school clothes, etc.

6. Emergency Fund. Dave Ramsey kept saying in the DVD's to do an Emergency fund of $1000 IMMEDIATELY. Like in the first month! Emergency fund is for when you have no money, but you need a new tire right away, or something needs to be fixed right away in your house. You know, emergency things. I had doubts because that was more than half of our income for that month. So that month, we struggled because we had to set some aside for Emergency fund, but still pay our bills and credit card payments, along with everything else. There was no way I could put that much into it. We were late with credit card payments that month and the next month. I couldn't understand how we could ever save up that much money and still keep on time with everything else. But that is exactly why you just need to do it ASAP. Get extra money from selling things, babysit, put in extra hours, take an extra shift. ANYTHING. Because once we have that Emergency fund, we don't have to worry about not having enough money if we do break down on the road or an unexpected bill comes in. We have that money for emergencies. So now we are able to focus strictly on paying down debt!


7. Credit Cards. If you are a person who can pay off your credit card each time you make a payment, then I applaud you. I am not one of those people. I am weak. We racked up so much consumer debt in our 5 credit cards that we didn't know how we would ever come out. It was a little less than $20k. Credit cards get us in so much trouble-us as people- not just our family. Life would be so much less of a headache without credit cards so we wouldn't spend money that we don't have! Why would you want to be a slave to your lender??? It's not a good feeling at all. The smart thing is to save up for big purchases.

It was hard to do this, but once we did, we felt FREE! 

We cut up all our credit cards, stopped using the numbers, and as we pay off each one, we will close the accounts for good. 

 If you want a $20k car, then save up for a $4500 car, buy it, then drive it until you save up that 20k. Yes, it will take patience and time, but you decide what is more important: Being free of debt or driving around in a new car before you could actually afford it.

For us, we never want to have another credit card again! There are other ways to build good credit. So we have paid off 4 of our credit cards, and literally called the bank THAT day, to CANCEL them!! WOOOO!!! We are working on my one last card which is a doozy, but we will chip away at that thing and save up every piece of change and extra dollar and then put that towards it. It doesn't just have to be your regular monthly payments. Do those too, but then any extra change and money can go in a jar until you can make a trip to your bank and just put it towards it. It will go down a lot faster doing little things like that.

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So yes, I feel like we are on a road to recovery out of our debt and let me tell you, I have never felt more in control of my money than NOW, that we have a plan and are actually implementing it. What's next for us? Well we are working on paying down this one last monster of a credit card (about $10,000). Every last bit of change is going toward it. After that, we will save up 3-6 months of income. I hope one thing from this advice can help you in one way or another.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Wait, what are we thinking?! We can't go back on our goal.

I feel like our focus has gotten way off. We've been living in this duplex for 6 months now, and now we found a slightly bigger duplex with 2 bedrooms and a fenced backyard. We will be living in that one for another year starting in August. We started to desire a bigger space. Not to have more things, but just because this current situation was not working with the kids sharing a bedroom with us.

This past week my husband and I have been revisiting why we even started this journey. Why did we sell our house and practically everything in it? Why did we want to move into an RV? I'll tell you why. I'll tell myself why.

-We couldn't afford to pay for our mortgage and the utilities that come with a big house
-We were tired of filling a big space with so much stuff. It became clutter and a burden.
-We wanted to have less so we can focus our time on God and as a family.
-We wanted to live below our means so we could pay off our debt and be able to save.
-We didn't want to live paycheck to paycheck by paying for all this extra stuff.

So what are we doing by upsizing? We are going back on our word. I feel like we are focusing on comfort and losing our light.

Why figured out WHY we ultimately want to spend less money. The real reason. We want to be able to support our family, but also be able to further the Kingdom of God by using our money for good. We want to be able to bless others in need as people have blessed us. We want to be able to support ourselves if we want to go on a 3 month mission trip, which is one of our goals. We want to be able to put money anonymously on the doorsteps of the people who we currently know that truly need a little help. We want to be servants of God and have the means to be able to bless others. I would much rather live below our means if that means we can bless others than live with what we think we want in this earthly life.

So, with that being said... we are going back to the idea of living in an RV or a tiny home. We have been researching ideas for a tiny home- one that we could build ourselves to fit our family's needs.

It kind of works out that this new duplex we are moving to has a spot in the backyard to pull a trailer into and keep back there. It could very well be our working place to build our tiny home if that's the way we choose.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

6 Months Living the Small(er) Life

Small living. One bedroom duplex. One bathroom. Small living/dining room combo. One car driveway and no street parking. I'm not going to lie; it's proving to be really tough. We keep thinking to ourselves, "imagine if we moved into that tiny 16" travel trailer." We would have been miserable. No wonder it flipped over and was totaled. It just wasn't meant to happen for us. 

To be quite honest with all of our readers, all two of you, or however many are still keeping up with us, I don't think the RV life is going to work out for us right now with young kids. Believe you-me(why do people always say that?), if it were just my husband and I, we would be building our tiny home on wheels or buying an RV as we speak. But in reality, we are both in school, so we have a lot of books, office stuff, paperwork and binders and a desk for each of us that we are managing to cram in our living room. Did I mention I got accepted into an RN school this fall? Yay! Not to mention our kids have a closet to themselves of toys and books- not in excess, but they need their own space too since we are all sharing a room. 

Listen, I am all for the simple living. I do not want to go back to a big house full of junk and boxes of random crap that I haven't seen in years. But- I have also realized in this experience that living THIS small is tough with young kids and young parents. It can be for some families because I am seeing larger families currently doing it. However, for us, we need to upsize a half step. 

We currently eat on a fold up card table that we have to put away and get out every time we eat otherwise it'd take up most the room in the living area. 

The kids sleep on an air mattress with a foam and feather top, but it has multiple holes in it that I've tried to hot glue closed, but they still manage to pop open every night. 

We are still happy though. A bit annoyed with the whole space issue, but happy with the time we spend with each other, outdoors, and with God. 

My hubby giving a sermon at church. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

When you have to spend more time together

What happens when you cram your whole family into a small, common living area and you spend less time on electronics and more time on reading, playing, and talking? You get a family who communicates well, is generally happier, and works like a semi well-oiled machine.

What I mean by that last part is that my family works together because frankly, we have to rely on each other to get stuff done. For example, we eat our meals on a card table that we pull out each time and have to put back after we are done. Yes, it's a pain, but if we just leave it out, it takes up the majority of our living room space. After 4 months of living small like this, we all help each other out. When I say to get ready for _______{enter meal of the day here}, the kids get the card table out, open the legs, and help each other stand it up. Then they both retrieve the stacked chairs to put around the table. I love it. I absolutely love it. They know that if the table doesn't come out, we won't eat till it does. So they take that upon themselves to make sure is done. 

You know what else? We have one couch and one rocking chair. I usually am in the rocking chair. Someone usually makes themselves at home on my lap whenever I am sitting in it. No, not my husband, although I'm sure he wants to. But I get to spend more cuddle time with my kids because there's not a big stretch of couch to lounge on, but instead we have to scrunch kind of close together if everyone wants to fit. 

A small space makes it kind of boring to be in all the time since we just have our one bedroom that just has our beds in it and then the living room. It gets rather boring at times, so we retreat outdoors. Rather than have a basement or an office or a playroom or each of our own rooms to run off and hide in, we go outside together. 

Most of the time we will walk to the park, run in the grass with our dog, Maggie, or I'll let the kids ride bikes on the sidewalk. Yesterday while Jason was at the church studying, the kids and I cleaned out the garage. They worked hard moving pieces of wood, sweeping up saw dust, throwing things away, cleaning out the car, and even Maggie hung out with us. 

We worked hard until the sun started going down. Then we all rode our bikes to the church to see what Jason was doing. The rest of the night was spent in our lounge chairs on our driveway looking at the orange moon that was slowly rising in the sky. It was really neat to physically watch the moon move.. Or rather.. The earth move. However that works. Is it both that move? Anyway. When's the last time you actually sat for a while with your family and just watched the sky? It was really one of the best nights I have had in a really long time. We need to stop to take the time to do this more often. 

We all slept real good that night. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Living Small is Tough

I'm going to be honest: living in such small quarters is a proving to be tricky with 4 people; two of those being small kids. Don't get me wrong- it's nice not having to clean up such a large space. It only takes about a half hour to get the entire place cleaned and organized to my standards. It's only one bedroom, a small living room with a small kitchen and one bathroom. However, it's also very quick to get messy.

Since moving out of our old house and getting rid of about 75% of what we own, we don't have too many items now, but it just seems like we have SO MUCH CLUTTER because all of it is crammed into a small space.

The kids have a play closet which stores all of their toys. That's not the problem. The problem is they can't play in there because it's so small, so they bring everything out in the only living space all of us share: the small living room. It becomes their play area and we end up with toys, books, small pieces of knick knack whatevers, stuffed animals, 5 Ironman dolls, the list goes on. It's tricky to walk through it when you're trying to get to the other part of the house or to the kitchen.

Jason is doing his Masters classes online so he has a lot of text books, books, papers, folders, electronic gizmo gadget things, and we don't really have a desk or cabinet to house all of that. He keeps all of that stuff in a corner in the living room for now. Meanwhile, on the other end of the living room corner houses my text books stacked on the ground, my books for entertainment, Bibles, folders, etc. There is so much. We need better storage because it is not organized at all, but I don't want to bring in more furniture because it's already tight quarters as it is.

Then we share a bedroom. It's been fine so far. The kids share an air-mattress on the floor. They are starting to outgrow that, but we can't fit anymore bedding options in that tiny room. It's not so tiny for two people, but for four people, it's just enough space for everyone to sleep, but that's about it! :)

So basically we've been going back and forth with this whole space-issue. Can we potentially live like this in an RV or a tiny home??? I love the idea of living small so we have less stuff and it is less to clean AND we can pay off our home. However, I don't know if with all of us in school and the kids needing a place indoors to play, it is practical for our particular family. We are still feeling it out.

Can you imagine if we just bought an RV straight from owning our own 1400 sq. foot home and not experienced living in small living quarters first? I am so thankful that God decided to detour us for a little bit to have us live in this one-bedroom duplex. It is helping us to learn a lot about what it is like to live so closely to each other.

When nearing our lease-end in Feb 2015, we are going to talk about where we are at and how we should move forward with the housing situation; whether we stay here or find somewhere in the same price range for rent, but a little bigger. We are definitely not ready for any RV or tiny-home with our financial state.  It's still pretty rough with Jason not having military pay anymore. We're working on Dave Ramsey's Financial Freedom program to help get us out of debt and save!