Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Our Finances: Budgeting

I had planned this time last year to do a few focused posts on budgets and how we handle our finances, but I never actually posted any of them. So I figured I could try again starting with the big one: budgets. We are by no means perfect when it comes to budgeting. In fact, we rarely stick to our budgets. We use it more as a guide and a target to aim for. Some months we go over and some months we are under. But having a sense of how much we spend in each area is the way we like it.

I know budgets sound scary and most people think the idea of having one would be annoying and not fun, but I disagree. Just knowing where you are spending your money and being able to target specific places where you may spend too much is our main reason for tracking our spending. I like to know where my money is spent and how I can change things to save more. I really feel like if you do not look at how much you are spending on things, then you spend way more than you realize. To make our budget easier to stick to, we have fun money built in to it so that we know in advance how much we can spend on "fun" stuff.

Richard and I recently had to re-work our budget. When he got a new job and we moved into our house, we had to make a lot of guesses as to how much everything was going to cost us simply because we really had no idea how much it would cost to cool our house or how much we would spend on our water bills. Now that we have lived here a few months, we were able to remake our budget to fit our needs more. So since we recently put in all the work, I figured I could share a little bit about our process.

The first and most important thing to know about our budget, is that we track it all online using a website called Mint. With Mint, you can add all of your credit cards, bank accounts, investments, loans, property and more. Then, you can set up your different budgets and it will track and organize all of your spending for you. We have been using this free website for years and we love it so much. It really gives you an overall picture of your financial situation. This works well for us because we rarely use cash for purchases so we can track everything digitally. If you are more of a cash person, this could still work since you can add transactions, but it would be a lot more work.

The hardest part about coming up with a budget is figuring out what types of categories you need. Once you make your first budget though, it is easy to tweak it to continue to fit your needs as the years go on. I am a huge fan of Dave Ramsey and his thoughts on budgeting. While we do not follow all of his advice (like using cash) we do follow his principals and we used his forms to create our budget initially. Here are some of the categories that we have set up. Every family is different, but this is what works for us.

Auto Insurance: We set aside money every month for our car insurance since it is non-monthly. More on that in a different post.
Cell Phone
Security Monitoring
Home Mortgage
Homeowner's Association Fee
Life Insurance
Gift: Money set aside for gifts to be made in the future. More in a different post.
Car Payment: We are trying to pay off our car sooner by paying far more than the minimum required for the monthly payment.
Gas & Fuel: Gas for our vehicles plus we add tolls to this since we have toll roads in Texas.
Pet Food
Gym Membership

Fun Money
Entertainment/ Dates: This is money set aside specifically for us to either have a date night together (dinner does not count) or if we have fun with friends instead of a date night. We used to have different categories for this, but since we spend less money hanging out with friends these days we decided to combine these together.
Restaurants: We have a pretty sizable restaurant budget because we enjoy eating out and we may as well budget for it. We used to have a much smaller budget, but we would constantly go over it so we learned that we should just give ourselves a budget and then stick to it.
Guilt Free: Both Richard and I have a set amount that we can individually spend "guilt free". Meaning, if I want to go shopping, I can spend my money on whatever I want and Richard has no say and vice versa. So if Richard wants to spend all his money on cigars (which he usually does) I have no say as long as he stays within his budget. This was something recommended to us in our pre-marital counseling because it really does prevent arguments about spending too much money.
Blow Money: A little cushion in our budget because even with all the careful planning, things come up and you will therefore blow your budget. If you plan on it happening, then it will not surprise you.
For the Home: We have this as a budget for buying things for around the house, such as toiletries, paper towels, toilet paper and so on. Sometimes we use this as a budget to buy decorating things for the house as well.

These are the different things we save for every month, but I will discuss these further in a different post.
Emergency Fund
Short Term Savings
Vacation Fund

We operate on a zero-based budget, meaning that every dollar of income is included in our budget. Income minus category totals should be zero. That way we are only spending what we are making in any given month. Well that is a lot of information about our budget, but I have more to share about how we save and more. Stay tuned!

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Monday, January 18, 2016

Life Lately

Have you ever heard of something called writer's block? Well I have been having a really hard time lately coming up with things to write about on this little space of mine. I used to feel like I had a lot to say and that feeling has left me lately. I keep feeling like I need to have something specific to blog about when in reality I can just come here and write when I feel like it and thats ok. Because this is my space that I can fill with whatever I would like. So here is a mini update of what we have been up to lately.

-We recently finally bit the bullet and bought a pass to Lifetime Fitness. We had talked about doing that in the past since there is one literally across the street from us, but they are really expensive so we were hesitant to join. Finally, we figured that it was money we needed to spend and since its more expensive than we would like, we just need to get the most use out of it. There is just not another club that has everything Lifetime has to offer.

-On that note, since we joined Lifetime I have been taking some yoga classes. They have some on Saturday and Sunday mornings and I love going to them. This past weekend was the first time that I went with Richard and he told me this was the first time that I have totally kicked his booty at something. There is definitely truth to that, ha! I wish that there were morning classes during the week that I could attend before work, but I need to force myself to go more in the evenings even when its the last thing I want to do.

-Richard has been really focusing on his dissertation lately, and we are finally getting close to being able to send it off to his advisor for the first round of drafts. Hopefully he will be able to propose in the next few months. He has even sucked me into reading and editing it for him to give him an outsider's perspective. I am really bad at reading these kinds of things so it will probably take me quite a bit of time to read the 100 pages he has already. We are moving forward and I cannot wait for the day he is completely done!

-We have been talking about a trip to Europe for the last four years and it is finally happening! I think this deserves a whole post on its own, but we have booked and are still planning out the details for our trip to Europe this spring! So, so excited about this!

-Anyone who has moved recently can understand how hard it is to move into a new space. Figuring out where you want everything to go and finding ways to organize everything is a challenge. We have just been getting by with what we have since July, but we finally needed to find a solution for our master closet. The closet is quite large and spacious, but it lacks enough actual usable storage. Our clothes have only been halfway unpacked, and we have found a solution that I will share once we have finished it.

-Overall, I have been feeling a lot better about life in general. There has been a few months lately  where I have just been extremely unmotivated in every area of my life. I think that starting to go to the gym regularly has really helped with my energy and attitude. Also, it helps when the house feels a lot more organized and uncluttered. It is really true when they say that physical clutter leads to emotional and mental clutter.

I know I keep saying this, but I am really hoping to get into the swing of blogging more frequently. I have a few ideas for new posts so hopefully I can actually keep up with them.

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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Christmas 2015

Well it has been a while since I have really updated the ole blog. I haven't really found motivation these days because of what I wrote about the other day. I also did not take a whole lot of pictures while I was in Minnesota, but I will share what I have. We spent a little over a week in Minnesota and I am so grateful that we could go. Here are the highlights from our trip.

-We had game night with our good friends where we played our usual game of Settlers of Catan. We always have a good time with them and we were happy to celebrate in the pregnancy news of two of our good friends.
-Richard and I were able to be on babysitting duty for my niece and nephew. It was not very long, but we love them and it was fun to be alone with them for some time. When we were done with babysitting, we played cards for a bit with my family.
-We met my sister at an indoor park with the kids one morning. It was fun to be able to run and play with both our niece and nephew. We put Brynlee in this bucket that spun around and every time it swung she would get the biggest smile on her face. So stinking cute.
-I had lunch with a good friend and it is always great to catch up. Even if our time goes far to quickly.

-I spent a few days with my husbands family. We enjoyed just hanging out, watching movies, and of course opening presents together. We also went to take our annual santa picture with Richard's brothers and then took them shopping to get gifts for the rest of the family.
-We spent time with my family for Christmas as well. We taught both my sister's new husband and my dad's new wife our game of cards that we typically play so that we had all eight of us playing in a tournament. We also had a gift exchange and played and intense game of cranium, boys vs. girls.
-I bought this cute little outfit for Brynlee and she looked adorable in it. Also, Richard is obsessed with this little one and I loved watching them interact. He still keeps talking about how cute she is. I mean we love our nephew too and he's fun to play with, but he's not as interested in us as we are in him, haha.
-Our last and final adventure in Minnesota was my dad's side of the family's Christmas. He has a very large family and most everyone was able to make it to Christmas this year. It is always great to see all my cousins, aunts and uncles and catch up on their lives. I have one crazy family, but I wouldn't trade them for the world.

We had so much fun in Minnesota, even though I did not take many pictures as I usually do since I kept forgetting. I realize that most of my pictures are of my niece, but I don't even care. I love that sweet little one so much and next time I see her she will be one! Stay little my baby.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Goodbye, 2015

The last few moments of 2015 were spent with tears on my cheek. The more I reflected on the year the more the tears kept coming. To an outsider, 2015 probably looked pretty busy and full of great moments. There were a lot of moments that were amazing. We said our final goodbye to Louisiana and moved on to Texas. My sister had a baby and I fell in love with my niece. My dad got remarried and we celebrated the night away. My husband found his dream job and together we bought a house. My family came to visit me in Texas and we were able to explore together. I spent so much time in Minnesota celebrating bridal showers and bachelorette parties for both my little sister and one of my best friends. I then spent a solid three weeks in Minnesota in August to help my sister with her wedding and then we celebrated her special day. I then returned a month later to celebrate another wedding with great friends. We headed to Orlando for a fun time and memories that we will never forget.

Yet at the end of the year, I feel like we have hardly accomplished anything this year. Most of everything I listed above were some of the biggest moments in other people's lives. I am happy that I was able to celebrate in their joy, but they were not life changing for me personally. I want the same things I did for 2016 as I did for 2015. But they are out of my control and that is the hardest part for me. My desire to plan out my life and figure out the details has completely vanished because I have no idea where 2016 will take us.

2015 had its big moments, but it was the days in between the big moments that were tough for me. Those who are closest to us have known this for a while, but Richard and I have spent most of 2014 and all of 2015 trying to get pregnant. This has been the most difficult and emotionally draining experience I have ever known. There is month after month of constant heartbreak. I try not to get my hopes up too much with each passing month, but it is impossible not to. Then I have to feel the lows of discovering that another month has passed by and we were unsuccessful. I have shed my fair share of tears. We have no control over it and I have definitely learned to let go.

As we stand on the edge of a New Year it has been hard for me to get excited. I had high hopes of 2015 being the year. The year we get pregnant. The year everything works as it is supposed to. But 2015 ended and I am more cautious about thinking that for 2016. I know it will be a year of trying, but I just have to keep my head high and hope for the best. Because I cannot say with certainty if I will be able to end 2016 with either a baby in my hands or in my belly.

A few weeks ago, we met with a fertility specialist for the first time. I never thought we would need to visit one when we started this journey, but here we are 20 months later. We are just starting out on the path of fertility doctors and tests and plans. I know it could be a long road and I have to be ready to embrace that. We will have to see where this year takes us and maybe, just maybe, we will have our dreams come true in 2016.
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