Our Financial Journey

My husband and I were given an audio book called The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey for a wedding present in 2006. We listened to it in the car while on a road trip. I think for both of us, it went in one ear and out the other. We were not really ready (read: mature enough) to implement the ideas in that book.

We started our adult/married life with roughly $30,000 in student loans. Between 2006 and 2015 we bought a house, had a baby, bought 2 brand new vehicles, had another baby and racked up a ridiculous amount of credit card debt. To say the least, we were not in good financial health. In the beginning, we were not making much  money. I remember thinking that if Zach could increase his income, we would be okay. Four years in, he did increase his income by quite a bit. It didn’t change our situation. The situation didn’t change because we didn’t change. We had attempted a budget once or twice, but didn’t stick to it. We were not talking about  money. At. All. Sometimes, I would ask if we could do something or buy something and Zach would say “it’s just not in the budget,” and I would scream in my head “BUT THERE IS NO BUDGET!!”

In January of 2015, Zach read The Total Money Makeover and started listening to the Dave Ramsey show (a radio show that is also recorded for a podcast). He came to me one day and told me we were going to get out of debt the way Dave said to do it. He said we were going to make a budget and do that debt snow ball, and it was going to be great. I kind of rolled my eyes and said “okay,” because I just didn’t believe him.

When he got his bonus that  year, he took that money and paid off our student loans. Now, that got my attention! I decided I would get involved and do a budget meeting- at least once. It did not go well. Mostly because Zach sat at our computer desk in his comfy, cushy chair while I stood behind him trying to see the screen. He told me what the budget would be for the month, and I again rolled my eyes and said “okay.” The next month I insisted he bring the laptop to the couch or kitchen table so that I could actually sit down during this meeting. It only went a little bit better than the first. I can tell you, though that we have gotten the hang of it now. Budgeting is easy in theory, but it takes practice to actually get it right. Budget meetings are straight forward, but it requires active participation from both partners to be successful.

If you have not read this book, please go to your local library and check it out! It is a great tool. If you have never written out a budget before, you’re really missing out. I know that people don’t like the word budget. It makes some people have a terrible reaction. If this is you, then I encourage you to make a “spending plan.” As Dave says, you’ve got to give every dollar a name. If you spend all your money on paper before the month starts, then *hopefully* your money will go where you told it to go, and at the end of the month you won’t be wondering where all the money went!

Now we are halfway through 2016 and we are chipping away at the last item from our debt snowball, which is the vehicle I drive. It’s been a great journey. I wouldn’t recommend going into debt just to work your way out, but working our way out has actually been good for our marriage. We have learned to communicate in a way we didn’t before. We are now very comfortable talking about money and we have some shared goals. We didn’t really have any shared goals before we started all this.

It can be difficult to stay motivated. One of the things we have done is to take one of our shared goals (a house we want to build someday) and put a picture of it on the fridge. We both see this picture every single day, and that helps us to stay on track. If you are in debt and don’t know where to start, I hope you will be encouraged to get going. If you’re not in debt, but don’t do a budget and can’t seem to get ahead, I hope you will see why it is important to budget. It’s time. Just start!

For more information about budgeting, call your county extension office!

Our shared goal:

Farmhouse Plan 30081RT: 4 to 5 beds, master and laundry up, screened porch in back. Perfect!:


QuickTip Tuesday: Sunscreen Tip

Have you ever tried putting sunscreen on a wiggly toddler or preschooler? It’s hard! Here’s my tip:

Put the sunscreen on before you put on the swimsuit. That way you know you didn’t miss any spots at the line of the swimsuit. Also, use the sunscreen lotion, not the spray. It’s too hard to tell if the spray is even and if you got full coverage.

Foodie Friday: When the food budget doesn’t work out

I haven’t said anything so far about the financial journey my husband and I have been on. We are working our debt snowball (a la Dave Ramsey) and we are getting really close to being debt free except our house! In order to properly execute this plan, we have written out a budget each month and have converted our grocery money to the “envelope system.” In case you’ve been living under a rock and have never heard of the envelope system, it goes like this:

  • Decide how much money you are going to spend on x (in this case, groceries) for the month.
  • Get that much cash out of the bank and put it in x envelope.
  • When the money from the envelope is gone, you can not spend any more money on x in the current month.

We have done pretty well with this system since we started in January. BUT this month, something went wrong. Last Saturday- our grocery shopping day- we discovered we only had about one week’s worth of grocery money left in our envelope and two weeks of months left to eat. You know I do a monthly menu and try really hard to stick to it. When this happens in the budget, it’s really important to be flexible and come up with a Plan B.

Lucky for us, my parents planted a good sized garden, and I did a big freezer cooking day back in January-we have not eaten all of the food from our freezer, and we bought part of a steer that was butchered. I quickly made out a menu for the week using mostly what was in our freezer and what was ready to eat from my parents’ garden. We spent half of what we had left, so we’ll be doing this again next week.

Our new menu for the week looks like this:

Saturday- frozen lasagna, Caesar salad
Sunday- ribeye steak from the freezer, green beans that we didn’t eat last week, stuffed jalapenos from the garden, tomatoes from the garden
Monday- grilled chicken breast from the freezer, squash from the garden, tomatoes from the garden, bread made by Husbee
Tuesday- homemade pizza topped with leftover chicken, squash and onions from the garden
Wednesday- fish from the freezer in tacos, squash and jalapenos from the garden
Thursday- chicken tetrazzini from the freezer, squash from the garden
Friday- breakfast burritos from the freezer, fruit

As you can probably tell, squash is in abundance right now!

The point of this story is this: Sometimes the pretty month-long menu just doesn’t work, and that’s okay. Sometimes the budget gets messed up. BE FLEXIBLE. Stick to your budget before you stick to your menu. And eat well!

QuickTip Tuesday: Social Media Manners

It seems that the longer we use social media, the less manners we use. When Facebook was new, we still (from my own personal observation) used common courtesy. That has completely gone out the window. The short version of my tip for this week is this:

If you have something wonderful/happy/exciting to share, go ahead and share immediately. If you have a negative opinion of something that you are thinking of sharing, sleep on it. Chances are, it won’t seem very important in the morning.

The longer version is this. I started using an app called Timehop. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this, each day my Timehop app shows me things I have posted on social media in the past on that particular date. So, pictures and Facebook statuses from exactly 1 year ago, 2 years ago….10 years ago. It can be really fun to see old pictures that I shared and revisit those memories. It can also be kind of embarrassing to see the dumb stuff I chose to say for the whole world. This experience has made me really think about every status update I post. I have noticed that I am sharing a lot less, because I am wondering if I would be embarrassed to see it 5 years from now. Some of my posts are truly awful, others are just uninteresting. Some make zero sense out of the context that only I was aware of to begin with.

I have noticed it in myself because of the Timehop app. I have also noticed it with others. Anytime I see a big news story, I tell myself not to read the comments but then I read them anyway. People say the most terrible things to each other and about each other on the internet. With 24-hour news coverage and social media blasts, families have their worst tragedies made so very public and with a mob mentality, complete strangers harass each other over perceived mistakes.

The most recent examples are the child who fell into the gorilla enclosure at the zoo and the child who was attacked by an alligator at Disney World. I believe that if people were following the above tip, they would have never posted their ugly opinions on the internet for the entire world to read. They would have realized that their first conclusion was not correct, or at the very least that their voiced negative opinion helps no one.


Don’t Make Your Child the Rope- Avoid the Co-Parenting Tug of War

tug of war pic

Have you ever been in a tug of war and you were the rope? Ouch! If you and your co-parent are putting your child in the middle of your divorce, that is exactly how your child feels. Most parents are so overwhelmed by their own stress and hurt that they do not even realize how their behavior affects their children.

Children are caught in the middle of divorce in many ways. In fact, research shows nearly 9 out of 10 parents engage in one of the following behaviors that put their child in the middle of the divorce, and these actions put children in no-win situations:
• Asking your child to keep secrets from their other parent.
–“Don’t tell dad I let you have ice cream for breakfast.”
• Making your child feel guilty for not being with you.
–“I am lonely when I don’t get to see you all weekend.”
• Complaining about your co-parent in front of the child.
— “If only your father paid child support, then we could go to the movies.”
• Having your child deliver messages to their other parent.
— “Will you tell your mother I won’t be able to pick you up from school tomorrow?”
• Quizzing your child about their other parent.
o      –“Has dad started dating yet?”
• Engaging in conflict with your co-parent in front of your child.
–This can be in person, over the phone or via media devices.
• Sharing too much information with your child about the divorce.
— “If mom had not gone off with that guy, we would still be together.”
• Setting your child up to choose sides.
–“Do you want to spend time with dad or with mom this weekend?”
To learn more about what NOT to do, check out this fact sheet: Working with Uncooperative Coparent – 10 Things you should NOT do

Fortunately, there are many things parents can do to put their children first. Here are some ideas research has shown to be effective:
• Create a vision for your child and stick to it despite what the other parent does. In other words, know what you want for your child, so you can help them achieve it.
• Be proactive through being strategic, loyal to yourself and in control. Do not let intense emotions cloud your judgment. Focus on the things you can control, instead of trying to control your co-parent.
• Create win-win situations for both parents, because in order for the child to win, both parents must win. Parents generally know what is best for their children, thus finding the win-win compromise ultimately allows your child to win.
• Keep trying even when it is difficult. You do not have to be a perfect parent, just a good enough parent for your child.
• Have a support group that can help you achieve your goals. This may not always include your closest friends or family because they likely have strong feelings about the divorce. Find people will you can trust to give you objective advice and tell you the truth.
Children deserve the opportunity to love and be loved by both their parents. Creating win-win opportunities between co-parents allows your child to flourish! You can choose to put your children first by creating situations where the parent-child relationship can be strengthened with both their parents. Healthy parent-child relationships result in better child outcomes.

To learn more about thing you should do following divorce check out this fact sheet: Working with Uncooperative Coparent – 10 things you should do

Need more help? Co-Parenting is hard. We are here to help! Learn more about the Co-Parenting for Resilience Program, part of the Extension mission of Oklahoma State University’s College of Human Sciences. Call the Lincoln County Oklahoma Extension Office at 405-258-0560.