Friday, February 20, 2009

Working with your Lenders

Sorry it has been a while since I have posted, I have been sooo busy. I am hopeful that I have a good job opportunity, that is such a blessing for us!

Anyway, I wanted to write something about working with your lenders, mainly because I had to this morning. Since I have been so long without work, things have been super tight, especially this month. So this morning, I called my bank and let them know my situation, and the were able to push back 2 of my payments, this is not something that you can do often, but if you find yourself really tight, don't be ashamed to call your credit card company, bank, or whoever you owe to and work something out. Just be honest about your situation and more often than not, I am sure that they will be willing to work something out with you.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Debt and Your Marriage

I have been wanting to do a post on this topic for a little while, but I wanted to do some research first and I knew that I would need some time to do it, so I apologize if this gets long, but I feel very strongly about this topic.

I don't know about you, but I would have to say that our debt has caused more stress in our marriage than almost anything else, and it is not that we fight, or argue about how to spend our money, it just seems that when the money gets tight, that is when there is the most tension and stress. For the longest time, my husband and I had this routine it seemed like and this is how it would go: The beginning of the month would come, we would both get paid and while my husband was at work I would check the accounts, go over the bills, determine what we could pay, what we couldn't, and then I would get that sinking feeling of "will this ever end." I would get depressed and end up calling my husband, usually in tears, telling him the news. Then by the time he would get home, he was the one that would feel down and then our whole night it seemed would be filled with stress and trying to come up with ideas of how to make it better. The stress would fade over the next few days, and finances would just be put to the back of our minds until 2 weeks later when we got paid again, and then the cycle would start over. I know that it sounds pretty pathetic, I especially realize this as I am writing it all out. But it was just the way that we were coping with our stress, it was never an explosion, we never "went to bed mad", it is just that it was slowly eating away at us. It was always something in the back of our mind that we almost avoided. It became a hurdle in our marriage, because we each were starting to feel hurt by the way we were handling the situation. I was feeling hurt, because I felt that I always had to go over the bills, pay them, and be the barer of bad news, I felt like it was a burden that I couldn't bare anymore. He feeling hurt because I was calling him while he was at work and always breaking down to him, and when I would do that he would feel like he wasn't do good enough and that he was letting our family down.

The thing was that we were adding to eachothers stress, just by the way we were handling our finances. It took us a while to figure that out, but we have since almost reversed the outcome of our financial struggles. Since we have been able to work together and listen to eachother's feelings more, this whole trial has brought us closer together. So this is our new routine, and for us it works pretty good: When we get paid, we WAIT until my husband gets home, and we pull out all of the bills together, we write them all out prioritize what needs to be paid, we go over our meal plans for the next 2 weeks, so we can estimate the cost of our food, we discuss if we will be going anywhere different then normal so that we can estimate the cost of gas. Basically we go over everthing TOGETHER, that is the key. And yes, there still are times where it gets stressful, but we find that when we band together and include the Lord in our decisions as well, we are much happier, and it is easier to have faith that everything will work its self out as long as we are doing all we can to carry out the Lord's will.

I just wanted to encourage anyone that feels like finances are hindering your marriage, just know that it can become a blessing for your marriage if you turn it around and make it something that brings you closer together. Rely on eachother, but most importantly, don't leave the Lord out.

Here is a quote from an article that I found that I really liked:

“Coping with Difficulties in Marriage,” Ensign, Oct 1982, 21 “When a couple have commenced a marriage based upon reasonable standards,” President Spencer W. Kimball has said, “no combination of power can destroy that marriage except the power within either or both of the spouses themselves; and they must assume the responsibility generally. Other people and agencies may influence for good or bad; financial, social, political, and other situations may seem to have a bearing. But the marriage depends first and always on the two spouses, who can always make their marriage successful and happy if they are determined, unselfish, and righteous.” (Marriage and Divorce, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976, p. 17.)

Click Here to read the whole article.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Deseret Industries

Okay, so I will admit that I haven't always loved D.I., but I am coming around. I am learning that buying thrift store finds saves a whole lot of money. I bought a swing for my baby brand new before she was born for $99, she ended up hating it and I ended up selling it on craigslist for $40... what a waste. Then I bought her an exersaucer at D.I. for $5 (retails new for $80-120) and it is her favorite toy. The thing is that ya, a new exersaucer would have been cute, shiny new, and not missing any attachments, but my daughter (the one using it), could care less. She may not have even liked it, like the swing and it would have been a waste. Plus, she is already growing out of it.

So, if you have a fear of D.I. I would suggest trying it out, its not so bad. But be careful, just like coupon and bargain shopping, if it is something that you didn't need, it is still cheaper NOT to buy it, than to buy it just because it is a good deal.

Also, D.I. is a great way to simplify (like I talked about in my earlier post). Simplify by donating.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Personal Revelation and Listening to the Spirit

So I was ready my Gospel Doctrine Study Guide for next weeks Lesson on Listening and recognizing the spirit, this morning and I just wanted to quickly share some of my thoughts that I had. As I had been studying, I was thinking about how important revelation has been for my family throughout the last 3 or 4 months.

In December, I got a call from my employer (I worked from home) and he told me that the check coming for me would most likely be the last (he works for the mortgage industry) and that he was really sorry, but that he unexpectedly lost one of his major clients. I was not completely shocked, but wasn't ready for it. I was making more than 1/3 of our income and with things being as tight as they were all ready, it felt like the consequences for our debt would never end. I began looking for work, and doing all that I could to mend our situation, but I was finding that I was not the only one out of work (it has been hard to even get an interview because so many people are looking for work, at least in my field of work). I was doing what I could but nothing was coming, it was one of those humbling experiences for me. I needed to be reminded to get back on my knees and ask for help because I wouldn't get through it alone. In January, I got a job and I felt a huge sigh of relief and thought, wow, I am glad I got through that, but after my first 2 or 3 nights of work, my husband sat me down and told me that he was very concerned and that he felt very strongly that I made the wrong choice and that I needed to reconsider the job that I had accepted. I was almost angry, because I felt that it was perfect, the answer to my prayers and why would he question that. Anyway, after more praying and humbling myself, I came to the same conclusion as my husband, it wasn't the right thing, I had let my own desires make my decisions, just assuming that they were the right ones. So I reluctantly quit that job and continued the search. I since have gotten a job, but it is very part time and I really don't know if it will be what I need to do, but I really just want to tell this story, because the Lord will take care of us if we humble ourselves and do our best to follow his will. It isn't easy by any means, and I am still struggling with this problem, but I am learning that the Lord is all knowing and he knows what is best for me and my family. Things have somehow worked out for us the last few months, but I know that it isn't by coincidence and I just need to trust that if I do my best to learn and follow his will for me, he will get our family through this. It most likely won't be the way that I think it will be either.

If you haven't already I would completely suggest going through last weeks and this weeks gospel doctrine lesson. I wrote down all the questions and wrote out all my answers and thoughts, to help me remember and be able to look back at it. Here is the link to the study guide lessons if you don't have it already: Lesson #5 and Lesson #6

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

"Let Him Do It with Simplicity"

I was going through some of my notes that I jotted down during the last general conference (Nov 2008) and I came across my notes on Elder L. Tom Perry's talk: "Let Him Do It with Simplicity" If you don't remember the talk, click here to read it. In the talk, he says that the there are only four basic things that we needed: food, clothing, shelter, and fuel. That talk really got me thinking, so I decided that to help me get over my "need" to spend money and have things, that I needed to start out by simplifying. So I have started to go through my apartment one room at a time and I have been making a pile of things to get rid of. Well actually 2 piles, a donate pile and a sell pile. I figured that if I am going to do this I might as well sell some things and put the extra money to my debt.

Here are a few good places to sell items (that I know of): (anything) (anything)
FYE (movies, videogames)
Kid to Kid (baby/kid stuff and clothing)
Plato's Closet ("in style" clothing)
Blogspot (I have heard of some people making a blog of all the items that they want to sell and advertise it on craigslist or ksl as a blog yard sale. This is good for people like me who live in an apartment and can't have a traditional yard sale.)

Even if you don't have a lot to sell, the idea is to simplify, and learn to live with less. So if you didn't hear the talk or don't remember, it is really good and I would highly recommend reading it.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Going Homemade!

I have started going homemade for a lot of things that I would never have before, but it saves so much money and it is kinda fun! Here are some homemade ideas to save money! Let me know if you have more ideas.

Cleaning Supplies:
I haven't tried these yet, but I would like to as my supplies run out.

Here is an article about 175 uses for vinegar:
Here are a couple sites with Non-Toxic cleaning Ideas:
Here is just one more with homemade cleaning recipes:

Homemade Gifts:
This is a big one for me, because I really struggled with this concept for a while. I always felt like I had to go all out for birthdays, Christmas, etc... I justified using the credit card, because it was giving, and I love making others happy. As cheesy as it is, 'it IS the the thought that counts'. Sometimes homemade gifts are the most appreciated. For instance, about 6 months ago, it was my 11 year old brother's birthday, and it was a month, where we didn't have a dime to spare. I remembered a conversation I had had with my little brother a few weeks before and he was complaining that our mom wouldn't let him make cookie dough, just to eat (he didn't want to cook the dough, just save it in the fridge to eat). I thought it was quite funny at the time, but a day or two before his birthday, the idea hit me and I made him a whole batch of cookie dough with a homemade card telling him to keep it all do himself, and definitely not let mom cook it (heaven forbid). He loved it! So, don't feel like you have to spend much on gifts, be creative!

Here are some homemade gift ideas:
(this is Christmas, but super cute!)
(under $10 gifts)

Baby Food:
I know this may not apply to all, but I started making my own baby food, and I love it! I can make a jar homemade jar, for average 10 cents a jar or better! At the store, that cost me about 50 cents a jar. My daughter uses about 3 jars a day (she's a big eater), so that is a savings of $36 a month savings! Here are a few articles I used to learn how to make baby food.

Beauty Supplies:
If you like to make trips to the spa, then this would be a good money saver for you. I haven't used these, but I thought they looked like fun to try!

I am sure that there are many more great homemade ideas, so please comment and tell me what you make to save money! Also if you have any good sites, comment with those as well and I will post your ideas and sites soon!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Expense Diary Update

So as promised, I am reporting my progress with my Expense Diary. The Diary worked well and it really helped me to get an idea of where our money is really going, sometimes I found it hard to say if all of the "unnecessaries" were all really unnecessary or not, for instance we had to go out of town for one day and were gone much longer than we had anticipated and therefore, we got fast food for dinner. So, I can't say that that was completely unnecessary, yet it still went on my list. I am pleased and displeased with how much we spent... We spent a total of $34.81, that is about $5 a day. I am pleased, because we used to spend $100 or more in that same time period (I know that is really bad). I am and displeased because I know that we can do better! I am going to challenge myself and do the same thing this week as well and report back.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Great Comments and Suggestions!

I wanted to make a post of some of the great comments and suggestions that I have gotten. I think that I will do this periodically, so keep them coming! Thanks!

Comments on "All Is Safely Gathered In: Family Finances":
  • I enjoyed your comments and tips. One thing I suggest is getting rid of credit cards. If you can't go cold turkey, go down to one for emergencies. I do have a debt card that I use in place of credit cards if I need a credit card for one reason or another. It comes right out of my checking account and I never have to worry about how to pay the credit card at the end of the month. We have saved so much money by buying things with cash and saving for things we need. Also, check out freecycle, craigslist and free sections. There have been times we have needed things and have gotten them for free off of these sites.

Comments on "Expense Diary":
  • I definitely think this is a good idea. $9 a day of non-necessities adds up to just short of $300 a month of wasted money! That's a lot, with $300 a month you could pay for your internet, your cable and your car insurance. Or you can pay off a bit of your CC debt or other debt.
    I had about $3000 in CC debt when I got married, so we just cut up the card. We then paid off the debt and closed the account. I can't manage having a CC, so we removed the temptation from our lives and we just live on what we make each month. I think that's very helpful in making sure you live within your means! If you find that you're using your CC a lot to pay for this sort of stuff, leave it at home and don't take it with you.
  • Something that I do that really helps us is we use the envelope system. When things got out of hand, we budgeted and then pulled out the cash and dispersed it to different labeled envelopes.It has worked so well for us! I like the challenge of only spending what's in the envelope. I especially love when I have cash left over for the month because that's money I can put towards bills or save for a special occasion. It sounds childish but we have been able to stay on top of our finances because of it!
  • This is a good idea! I think I'll try it for sure! This is also something that Dave Ramsey suggests in his book Total Money Makeover. That book is a blessing!!!
  • It's amazing how much money is wasted. Did you see Oprah where everyone gasped when Orman told everyone to go a day without spending money? Disgusting to see what is all wasted. We are very tight with our money and can go a long time without buying stuff. In fact, one summary statement from our credit card for 2008 showed only 1 restaurant on it. While I know this won't work for everyone, we find it not necessary to go out to restaurants and a treat is the dollar movies or an ice cream cone when I score a buy one get one free coupon.

Comments on "Menu Planning and Grocery Shopping":
  • I have older kids so I send them to the store for that gallon of milk here or pound of butter there. That way I'm not tempted to pick up 4 jars of sketti sauce for $5, a recent copy of some womans magazine $2.49, a bottle of Diet Coke $1.29, package of fruit of the looms $6.99(no time to do wash if you have to run to the store), 10 yogurts for $6.00, OH! red band bananas! Gotta get those so you can make b-bread Hmmmmm, better pick up some walnuts......
  • One other thing about menu planning. I'm and organizing junkie hosts "menu planning Monday" every, well, Monday. Its a great place to get ideas if you're not sure where to start, to get recipes for inexpensive meals, or just ideas. There are women who post their cost for their cost-effective meals too. Check her out at
  • I find it helpful to stock up on meat when it is on sale. We freeze it and since we only have meals with meat 1 or 2 times a week we can really make it last. Meat is pricey so if you can get your family to enjoy veggie casseroles and the like you can save a lot of money.
  • Also, when we don't have leftovers my husband takes a 39 cent can of soup to work for lunch. That definitely saves us money compared to when he'd get fast food even though he ordered a couple things off the $1 menu.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Menu Planning and Grocery Shopping

I have been menu planning for about 2 or 3 months now, and let me say that it has saved us more money then just about anything so far. This is the sheet that I made and have been using, it works really well for us, so I thought I would pass it along to you.

What I like to do for my meal plan is to sit down once every 2 weeks (usually the day that I get all of the grocery ads) and plan out meals for the next 2 weeks. I find that I waste a lot less when I start by taking a minute and writing down all the food in the fridge that is perishable and then pull out my cookbooks and try to plan out all my meals around what I already have. That way, I use what I have, less goes to waste, and my shopping list tends to be a lot smaller.

As far as filling out the sheet that I made, when you plan out meals, plan around your schedule... For instance, I used to have cub scouts on Wednesday, so Wednesdays ended up being left over night, or a frozen pizza; anything easy so that I wasn't tempted to just pick up fast food.

The column on the menu plan for ingredients, is great for me, because I like to find a recipe, write down all the ingredients needed and that way when I am all done planning my meals, I can go through my kitchen and check off all the ingredients that I already have. It makes it so easy to make my shopping list and I don't end up buying more than I need.

Well that is my Weekly Menu Planner, so if you want to use it, just click on it to view full size and print it out.

I also wanted to share some things that I have learned about grocery shopping.

1. PLAN your shopping trips
  • Do not make random trips to the store, I used to do this all the time and almost every time I would do this, we would end up buying stuff that we didn't need
  • Take a Shopping List and stick to it. It is hard to do but, if you don't stick to your lists, it always seems that when you get to the store you suddenly "need" more than you did before and usually if you didn't think of it at home, you don't need it.
  • If you did forget something and need to make a quick trip to the store, just get what you forgot, don't browse around. I find the more I browse, the more I want
2. Check the ads
  • Look for deals, coupons and ads can save you lots of money. I like to plan my meals around what is on sale.
  • Beware: Even though something is a really good deal, it doesn't mean that you have to buy it. So don't obsess over ads, because buying something on sale is still more expensive than not buying it
3. Plan for Lunches
  • I like to eat left overs for lunches, but my husband isn't able to go home for lunch, so we by him microwavable stuff. Just make sure you plan something for lunches so that you don't have to "pick something up"

These are some of the things that I have found useful for Menu Planning and Shopping, but if you have more ideas, please comment, I would love to hear them.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Expense Diary

I wanted to think of something to help me keep track of everything that I am spending. I decided to go with just a simple memo book. I started it today, and simply wrote down everywhere that I spent money and how much I spent. At the end of the day I looked at the list and highlighted every thing that was not a NEED. That doesn't mean that everything that will be highlighted is bad (I know for me that I need some extras every now and then), but I really wanted to find a way to help me realize how much I am spending on things that I do not absolutely need.

I am a visual person, so for me, I think that this will be a good way for me to see what I am spending everyday, and I think that it may help me to set goals on a daily basis. Doesn't it always seem that the little things are the things that add up the most? They do for me anyway.

So this is what my Diary looks like, it is simple and it fits in my purse. If any of you want to test this method out with me, I would love to hear your feedback and comments. I am going to try this out this week and then I will write a follow up and let you know how it is working for me.

I didn't do too good on the first day.... $9.87 in 'non neccesities' (I guess it could have been worse though)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

All Is Safely Gathered In: Family Finances

I wanted to talk about budgeting, because budgeting can be tricky, especially when you find yourself already in a bind. Budgeting for me can just sometimes feel like an awful reminder of 'if I had only done this before, then I wouldn't be in this mess'.

About a month ago, my ward had a combined Priesthood and Relief Society meeting, that was really helpful and eye-opening for me when it comes to budgeting. We all got one of these pamphlets "All Is Safely Gathered In". My Bishop taught the lesson and one of the things that stuck out to me was when he was talking about the budget sheet on the back. He asked us to pay note to the order of the expenses on the budget sheet. I liked what he said, because I have certainly learned that if you pay your tithing first that Heavenly Father will bless you so much.

I want to share an experience that my family had with tithing. My husband and I had just had our little girl, and Hospital bills were piling up and on top of that we had a $700 car repair to take care of and on top of that we somehow put too many exemptions on our W2 and found out that we owed nearly $1000 in taxes. It was so much so sudden. We had no savings left and went ahead and used the credit cards that we had just consolidated all our debt so our credit cards were empty and we thought we would be okay to use them. A few month later we found ourselves with maxed out cards again and owing $600 in tithing. I was nearly ill over the fact that we were behind so much on our tithing and finally came to a breaking point. My husband and I prayerfully came to the decision to make a leap of faith and pay the full amount that we owed, knowing that we would be very behind on bills that month. We were so scared and really felt that there was no way for us to get out from under our situation. It turned out to be a miracle, because that very evening that we paid our tithing, someone called and was very interested in the car that we had put up for sale. They ended up buying it, and only for what we owed on it, but it eliminated one of our car payments and somehow we came out alright that month. I am not going to say that if you pay your tithing that magically all your debt will go away, but I do know that the Lord can help us find a way. We are still struggling every month, but we continue to pay our tithing and we continue to see the blessings flow in our family.

The next expense listed is Savings. My Husband and I suggest the 10, 10, 80 rule. (10% Tithing, 10% Savings, and 80% to Live on) If you can follow this rule that is great and probably ideal for most families, but I know for us it is not a reality yet, it is more of a goal. My Bishop in his lesson suggested saving even just $5 a month if that is really all you can do. My husband and I try to save $5 every check, and some times it gets used on the unexpected, but it is so important to get into the habit and try to increase that amount as much as you can afford, because it really is the unexpected things that seem to get us (at least with us it is).

The order for the rest of the expenses make sense, and notice how far down the list debt is. I wouldn't say to avoid paying your debt by any means, but when you find your self in such an unstable situation, take care of you needs first.

These are the steps that I would suggest to work towards the goal of having a good budget:

1. Asses you situation
  • Sit down every time you get paid and go over your budget goals and bills
  • For at least 2 weeks (a month would be better), write down everything you spend and figure out how much your family lives on and where all of your money is going.
  • Write down all your fixed expenses and a guess of you expenses that vary
2. Every time you get paid set up a plan on how to spend your money
  • First set aside tithing and savings (I like to withdraw my tithing and pay imediately, so that it never gets behind)
  • Next decide how much you need to live on (food, gas, etc.)
  • Last go over the bills (if you can't pay them all, prioritize them and do the best you can, but do not use your credit cards!)
3. Check up on yourselves and CUT BACK
  • Continue to asses where you are at and pay close attention to where you money is going.
  • As you see where your money is going, you will find that there are areas that you can save (I will give lots of suggestions on this blog, but the one that usually is the best to start with is food and eating out)
  • Cut Back where you can and put the extra money in savings or if you are behind on bills, put it toward that.

It isn't easy to get out of debt and I am not even close, but that is why this blog exists, I want to help others that find themselves in similar situations and it helps me stay motivated.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Welcome to My Blog...

I am starting this blog because I think that I am not the only mom out there that finds herself buried in debt or simply hard financial times. I mainly wanted to start this so that us moms who find ourselves in a financial bind, can help each other out. I have really changed my life habits, especially when it comes to money and I would love to share some of the things that I have learned about saving, and living on what you earn. I think it is possible to get out of debt and I want to help others do the same.

Please feel free to comment with suggestions, stories, topic ideas, or anything.