Monday, March 25, 2019

How to Cut Expenses and Still Have a Full Life.

This past year and a half has been interesting to say the least. I've been interested in finance and how the mind works around it for many years. In my youth I would worry about what growing up would look like and how you pay bills (like the actual where does it come from and how do you have electricity worries), which is probably not normal for an eleven year old. I'm quite sure my upbringing by Depression era grandparents had a lot to do with it.
I've been debt free three times in my adult life, once without a mortgage and twice with a mortgage. Now we are debt free with a mortgage that we are trying to pay off and I intend to not ever have consumer debt again. We follow the Dave Ramsey baby steps but not to the letter and that is okay.
Last year I did a no buy on clothes, books, and accessories like shoes and jewelry (even those $10 earrings at Target). It was amazing and hard. I learned so much about myself and my buying habits. Though never a spend thrift I enjoy having a new outfit to wear, a new pair or sunglasses or a new fresh book to open and dive into an alternate reality for a time.
This year we had some goals that have been put on hold. We paid over $35,000 on our mortgage last year, which was about 1/3 of our income, we took a big trip to Yellow Stone, and we paid off our tractor and our car. We had a good year and have not always made as much. As a matter a fact seven years ago when I met my husband together we were both making about $35,000 a year combined.
This year started off with some challenges and it has caused us to have to put a hold on all extra spending. We both had unexpected health challenges at the same time, big bills, two surgeries, test, thousand and thousands of dollars of medical bills in two months time. The weather has not been conducive to keeping a roofing company busy but I know that will change. And since we got married it put us in a higher tax bracket and low and behold Uncle Sam asked for a huge chunk of our income, twice what we thought we would have to pay.

So what do you do when you have to cut back? How do you do it? I'm here to tell you the sweet spot is in the flexible spending and simply your perspective.  Here are my top ideas for cutting back and actually enjoying your life more. Some will be familiar but others may not.

How to Cut Expenses and Still Have a Full Life. 

  1. Write down everything you pay for. EVERYTHING. Subscriptions, mortgage, rent, food, gas, insurance, clothes, gym membership, cable and wifi..and anything else. This tells you where you are on the map of life with spending. 
  2. Think logically. What is really a need. We often put our emotions into this. Think if you were helping another person who was identify needs and wants. What would you say? Often people make a want a need by emotional justification. If you spent time on your own self care then would all of these things you think you need really just be a want. You can cut your flexible spending here greatly. Eating pancakes at home rather than going out for breakfast is about $2 a person versus $15 a person when you add tax and tip. That can add up to a savings of about $175 a month if you go out to eat breakfast three days a week. 
  3. Identify your income. If your income is spotty or irregular add up the last three months and divide by three to get an average income.  
  4. Cut the cable. Get Net Flix, Watch You Tube, Go to the Library. You don't need cable. We paid $200 recently to get rid of cable. Yes that expense caused me resentment to the cable company for their terrible service but it saved me $1000 dollars over the course of the year. 
  5. Get rid of subscriptions. Check your statements to find any that you may have. Go to the free versions of everything. 
  6. Don't Shop. You won't be tempted if you aren't shopping. 
  7. Avoid advertising. Read books over magazines. Stay off social media more. Don't watch normal t.v. Don't make shopping a sport. 
  8. Find alternate things to do. Go for a walk, hike, visit a park, organize your house, clean your house and car, organize your closet. These things will make you feel better about your life and situation. Getting exercise, going outside, having a clean home and car feels good and makes you feel more in control of your life. 
  9. Watch something on You Tube everyday or read a blog about living a full life, financial freedom, health. something positive that contributes to your life without making you feel worse. 
  10. Start to think of purchases in terms of how much you have to work to pay for something. If you want to go on vacation but need to cut back and a one week vacation to the beach would cost $2000 and you make $36000 a year you will have to work about a month to pay for it after paying taxes. If your boss would pay you in a vacation instead of money, but you had to work one full month, 40 hours a week for 4 weeks would you take the money or the vacation? That begins to change your idea of what a vacation can look like. Maybe a stay-cation this year. Maybe you simply need some time off. 
  11. Have a mind of abundance. Instead of bemoaning having to cut back. Give thanks to the God of your understanding, the universe, whatever or whomever you give thanks to and say "Thank you for the roof over my head, thank you for my job, thank you for my family, my feet that carry me through life, my health.". Giving thanks will change your mindset. 
These are principals I use when I cut back and in my daily life. Our grandson ask this weekend how we had all that we have (three paid for cars, a boat, a tractor, a forty acre farm with a cabin, barn and animals) and the truth is we pick and choose what we value. We live on less than we make. We pay cash, we save, we work hard, we enjoy our life but we value pancakes at home and walks in nature and books over shopping or fancy vacations every year. Truthfully the big things like buying new cars can take a toll on your finances but it really is the little things day to day that we take for granted that really add up. I recently cut our food bill by $400 by doing a little research on it and redoing our food budget. You can do this too and feel even happier than before. 

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Setting Goals to a Simpler Less Stressful Life. Reflections After a No Buy Year and Going Forward.

Do you set goals every New Years only to find by March you don't even remember what they were or are you struggling with guilt over not reaching your goals?
I set goals as well  but find I am often working on them decades later. And I am okay with that. At thirty I said to myself I would "practice being a better listener" at forty eight I am still practicing. Some goals are ongoing. We may decide to "get healthier" but that is something we want to maintain. There is no reach and stop.

This year after a "No Buy" year I have really been focused on how much simpler my life became with restrictions, self imposed as they were. The end results are "I want even less, far less". It was that good and yes it was hard. See in a "No Buy" year you set the rules and perimeters for yourself. You should make them so that you can and will follow them, and take hurdles as a chance to learn about yourself and explore your feelings, this is where the life changing moments happen.
On my "No Buy" year I vowed to not buy new clothes, shoes, jewelry (not even those $5 earrings at Old Navy), purses or books (that last one...H A R D). This is how I discovered HOOPLA a free book app like Audible and Kindle. So how did it go?You can watch my video to see more.

As a result of my "No Buy" Year this is what my goals are this year and below that I'll give you some suggestions for setting your own goals. My goals might seem large but many of these are in motion and I've got the ball rolling so it is a continuation of goals I've already been working on, at least many of them are.

My Goals for this year: 2019

1. Self Care and Health: 
Meal Plan weekly, cook more, walk a minimum of 3 x a week for 20 minutes (1 mile) and take one yoga class and one at home yoga session. (I generally do more but on crazy weeks less, so it needs to be doable or so easy I feel like I am a total loser if I don't:)) .  Let my hair go more natural (low lights and go back towards my natural color (I think it is dirty blond) and reduce coloring and haircuts by also letting my bangs grow out. Reduce trips to get my nails done by doing them myself except for special occasions (I know this is a no brainier for some but I am horrible at nail care and I live a very public life so if I have to speak in front of 400 people I'm having a nice manicure for $20).

2. Business:
 Make sure to fully collect all tuition and close out the school in May successfully and have happy graduates at the end. Teach one more class per week at work for the public. Finish at least one ebook this year (I have one about ready to go). Possibly get started on two more, but my publish goals for those are two years. Speak at two conferences where I am compensated for my time (Until now in the conference arena, not workshops but the big deal ones, I've volunteered).  Grow our roofing business to a minimum of 100 roofs, we are at about 90 this year. Be smarter with keeping the roofing books and avoiding costly mistakes, this means me keeping books and letting my husband bid the jobs and organize our crews.

3. Personal Finance: 
Save enough money to replace my car. Pay 1/2 the mortgage off by 12/19. Cash flow from our day jobs our home bills and food. Cash flow vacations and hobbies, gifts, personal money etc..Set up sinking funds for large expenses and save more in our emergency fund (we have 1 years living expenses now, I'd like two to four years). * This is a continuation. As our incomes grew from about $40,000 a year to quite a bit more we never increased the cost of our living. We cash flow, paid off debt and lived mostly the same, this has helped us pay over $40,000 on our mortgage this year and pay cash for 1/3 of the cost of our home when we built it. Follow and subscribe to my You Tube channel for tips on this. 

4. Environment (Home, Farm, Cars): 
Clean out the storage building. Get every room and closet cleaned out and minimized. Same goes for storage building on the farm and barn. Keep cars maintained and cleaned. Keep farm property cleaned and maintained (we are rebuilding a barn, outdoor storage, garage for equipment, and run in shelters for the pasture animals which we will cash flow).

Setting up Goals for Yourself:

My goals are fairly large and you will see categories, also many of my goals are continuations. I have a notebook, a planner, and sticky notes stuck to the closet wall to keep me on track so I don't forget. I highly recommend this! I have a black belt in this and have been doing it since I was eight (I know I am crazy, lol). Do what you can and don't get overwhelmed. Start small.

1. Make goals in different categories or simply choose one.
2. Follow the SMART method.
S.M.A.R.T., it needs to conform to the following criteria: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.
S: Such as I want to lose 10lbs 
M: I want to lose 10lbs in approx 10 weeks at 1lb per week
A: I will follow a low carb diet, a 12 hour window of eating and an exercise plan of 2 days of yoga and 3 days of cardio.
R: I want to feel better in my clothes and improve my health
T: by 3/1/2019
3. Have an accountability buddy if you need one. I have a friend that we compare health and well being notes.
4. Review your goals weekly or monthly and see what you can do better next week or month.
5. Make it so easy you can do it! Don't plan to go to the gym everyday if you have never gone. Be realistic.
6. Work your schedule around your commitment rather than trying to fit in your goal to your schedule. For instance put your exercise on your calendar and let nothing get in your way. If someone calls then say "I'm sorry I have an appointment can we do this another time". You don't have to explain.
7. Know your why (That is the relevant part of SMART). If you don't have a reasonable why you will return to square one after the goal is reached.
8. Have a plan to maintain your goal or get back on track. Avoid the all or nothing trap. I recently lost 15lbs by following a low carb diet and doing moderate exercise. Over the Holidays I gained 4lbs back. I am back on track now and following the plan. I didn't just give up because I had several cheat days, I just accepted that this would probably happen and I would correct for it.

Happy New Year to You!


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Frugal VS Cheap.

Frugality for me is a way to achieve a life that is richer in experiences and is in line with my values. I pursue and promote Financial Freedom because I myself have been on the other side a few times and know what it is like to be a slave to a lender. You can read back on my stories but until a few years ago my husband nor I made more than $40,000 a year. As a matter of fact until my forties I never made over $25,000 a year.

Because I had learned black belt frugality from my Depression Era grandparents I was able to survive when hard times hit, the collapse of the housing market, a financially devastating divorce and raising four teens by myself. These skills have increased the quality of my life not decreased it. I have everything I need and want and do not feel the pressure or stress of being deep in consumer debt.

Cheap versus frugal. What's the difference? For instance lets say your faucet breaks and instead of fixing your faucet you simply use a wrench to open and close it for years so you can save money, even though the fix would be less than $50 and you have it in your emergency fund. To me this is cheap (this is a true story about someone I used to know). Frugal is you go to the store and buy a quality faucet that will last because you have money saved to pay for it. If there are twenty five available to choose from so  you research to find the most reliable. You may pick one you like that matches your decor but it won't be the most expensive and fancy one that you have to put on a credit card because you have planned for this kind of thing. This is frugal. You will have more quality items but not items that you cannot afford to pay cash for.

Another example is that you have a 3 pairs of quality fitting blue jeans that you purchased at a resale shop for $35 each. These jeans may have cost $100 or more brand new. You get them cheaper at resale but you could have purchased a pair of new lesser quality jeans at a big box store for $30 that wouldn't last as long or be as comfortable.

This is how I live my life. I have less but better quality. In my living room I have three high quality leather pieces. A $3500 Henredon sofa that I paid $300 for on Craigslist, a high quality leather recliner that a friend no longer needed (free), and a hand me down leather chair and ottoman from my family. New all of this would have cost me nearly $6000. I paid $300. I was patient and lived with only a couch for a while.

Some qualities of frugal people.

1. They put values first then live their life in accordance with their values. The live frugal to support their values. If health is a value they may forgo some expensive trips to afford high quality food and pay for a good treadmill. Forgoing extraneous expenses in other areas.
2. They have patience and wait for a good deal.
3. They do not use credit, they save for emergencies.
4. They save for big expenses like vacations and cars.
5. They avoid marketing (advertising) as much as possible. This may mean not watching cable t.v., staying off social media and not shopping for fun.
6. They save in areas that aren't as important to them so they can spend in areas that support their values. For me I save on the daily expenses like eating out, clothing and excessive living like a bigger fancier home and car so I can travel and spend more time with loved ones.
7. They find free and inexpensive ways to entertain themselves. Such as working out at home, reading from the library, having date nights in.
8. They budget their money. They know what comes in every month and they know what their expenses are. In the early days I had to budget every dollar. Now that we have no debt and a higher income I don't have to do this but I have some strict habits I've developed that allow me to  have a high savings rate.
9. The live on less and save more. My husband of one year, who I have been with for seven, and I have not increased our standard of living as our incomes have grown. We now make two to three times what we made when we met but we still live on $45,000 a year. We save the rest and pay cash for expenses like cars and repairs. We also are paying our mortgage off quickly.
10. They have an emergency fund. Start with $500 then build up to two years in the bank by the time you retire or before (this does not include your retirement savings).
11. They keep a reserve in their checking and business accounts.
12. They are always learning and staying up to date on information that supports them in their journey.
13. They keep their mortgage or rent payments at less than 1/4 of their income. For couples it would be suggested that one income could support you in the event that one person lost their job or had to be off for an illness or special circumstance.
14. They are able to cut back on work if they choose to, in order to enjoy more of their values like exercise, travel, health etc.
15. They are planners. They think about what they want their life to look like and live day to day with accordance with that plan.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Going Against the Current with Money.

Yesterday I found myself once again frustrated with a money conversation. My beliefs are very different against main stream money thinking. I began this journey back...well truthfully it's been my life growing up in my family. My grandparents were this way (frugal and debt averse) and though they passed on with about $250,000 in assets not millions, my other frugal grandma was a millionaire  unbeknownst to us. So you know they are rock stars with money in my book.

So recently we found ourselves debt free except the house and wanted to know if I should pay off the house or invest the difference after paying my IRA. Well of course a financial planner with a firm is going to tell you to invest, which they did. There was a lot of talk about making more money than I was paying in interest on the house and tax deductions but I'm not sure those financial planners are as wealthy as my grandparents were. So I  thought about  my grandparents. They lived frugal, had all they needed and both left a legacy that helped their children. So instead of looking to what main stream society tells me I decided to look to my grandparents.

Our decision:
We are paying the house off and investing the max into IRA's for now. All excess goes to the house. I'll continue to max out the IRA's after the house is paid off and either invest in real estate, index funds, or keep money in the bank in high yield checking or savings, probably some of both. I also keep us fully insured with life, home, auto and good health insurance.

Here is what my grandparents did. One passed on a millionaire the other had a paid for house, money in the bank and over $154,000 in stocks, no debt and they had over a quarter of a million in assets.
They had all they needed, wanted and for the most part were normal people who didn't have to worry about money.

Lessons from my Depression Era Grandparents

1. Eat at home
2. Grow your own food when you can or catch it (we ate a lot of fish). I am not a gardener but my husband is. I can cook anything though.
3. Wear it out. If it ain't broke don't replace it.
4. Do without. You don't need half of what you want.
5. Needs first then wants within reason.
6. Keep a tidy house and car it leads to a tidy mind.
7. Don't buy into trends. You don't have to remodel. You can have a nice clean house with furniture that is older. I buy antiques and furniture that is timeless, much like timeless clothing. I have a coat from the 40's that is a simple cashmere mid calf and it has never been out of style. I have Persian rugs that never go out of style. My bedroom furniture is from the 40's and it is still super cool.
8. Buy quality. Research before you buy.
9. Don't do debt. Pay it off. Then don't get back in.
10. It's more about what you don't do than what you do sometimes. Not doing things that cost a lot of money actually saves you tons over buying stuff you don't need on sale.
11. Keep a simple wardrobe or basics and a few fun pieces. Buy when you need something but not simply for an activity.
12. Have simple hobbies like reading, walking, cooking, gardening. Hobbies that help you learn, keep you fit, and actually save money.
13. Send in the rebate, use the coupon if you actually buy that which you have the coupon for. Don't buy crap you don't need because it's on sale or you have a coupon.
14. Say "NO" to enabling others. If they can do it for themselves don't do it for them unless you truly want to gift them from your heart. If you feel resentment then you are enabling.

My grandmother was a millionaire when she passed, She lived in a modest home, drove an older Toyota Highlander, cut her own grass until she was 84, cleaned her own home, cooked her own food. She had a nice home but it wasn't over the top and it was paid for. She truly was the millionaire next door. She didn't have to worry about her food or if she could pay her bills. That is true financial freedom. I'm not saying we should never have fun or spend on life's pleasures but we should consider first that our future is secure so we are not a burden on others.

Friday, September 7, 2018

How to handle financial distress with helpful tips.

Are you in financial distress and don't know where to turn?

Maybe I can offer some help.
I've been there and I've helped many people see the light at the end of financial fears. We also have six kids, three in college and five on their own. We are trying to assist them in being independent but also find that balance between helping and enabling. I've been on my own since I was seventeen and I was lucky enough to have been raised by depression era grandparents and other frugal family members who taught me well how to be resourceful.

Here are some tips.

Emergency Steps to Handle Financial Distress.
 Don't panic there is no debtor's prison. You can fix this.
* I am assuming if you are reading this you are not homeless but I need to say this if that is the case. If you are call the nearest homeless shelter or church and ask for guidance. Then apply for all the services you can and follow their advice. You will need to contact the Department of Human Services immediately. 

Let's say you have a place to live, you have to many bills, maybe you are behind and you don't have enough money coming in to pay everything. I'm talking to you.
1. The first thing you need to do is write down all your bills on paper the old fashioned way. Then write down the money you have coming in, not what you think it going to come in but what actually came in the past thirty days. That's your starting point. Go by what happened last month.
2. Pay your rent/mortgage first every month and your utilities. If you are behind call and make arrangements immediately (This will save you fee's and maybe eviction). If you need to find a cheaper place to live do that as soon as you can. Ask people you know as well. You never know what people might be willing to do if you ask. They could have a garage apartment or a room. They may even come down on their asking price.
3. Hussel up a some money, after rent, utilities and food are paid then you need an emergency fund. Why? Because something will always happen to throw you in distress if you do not. You have to have money for emergencies when you are living that tight. Sell some stuff, take an extra job, call people you know and ask them if there is anything you can do for them and tell them your situation. You might be surprised how many older folks need chores done, shopping, or help with electronics.
Quit being afraid to ask! All they can do is say "No'. Be on time and do more than you are ask. Always give your best.
4. Stop all discretionary spending. If it isn't shelter, food, utilities and basic transportation stop spending on it for now.
5. That means meal plan. The average person can eat healthy on about $6.00 a day. I'll share below. The average person with no money is eating fast food every day to the tune of about two to three times that. If you spend $6.00 a day eating at home versus $18.00 a day eating out you will save about $360 a month! I'm serious!
6. Stop smoking, don't buy alcohol and stop all frivolous spending. This means clothes, makeup you don't need and hair products etc. This area alone is the problem for most people.
7. You need to find cheap or free entertainment.
8. Cut off the cable even if they tell you they will charge can pay it out.
9. In extreme cases cut off the Internet. You can use your phone. People not to long ago, my generation did not have cable (until I was a teen), wifi, or cell phones. I can see having basic cell service. What to do if you have no wifi or cable? You can get books and DVDs at the library (we did this for years), read, clean your house, cook your own food, garden, learn a new hobby, take care of your car and what you have. Spend your time exercising. You might actually be happier. If you need wifi go the library. If you need it for your work like me I understand this and you should write it off your taxes.

Most people these days can make $10 an hour for basic labor. You may have to find a cheaper way to live, rent a room, take on a house mate, do the tiny house thing, get a trailer....

Basic Budget for a single person making $10 an hour, working 40 hours a week. If you are broke and working less you need to find another job or an extra job. Maybe at night or weekends. * I was $1400 a month over my head about two decades ago (meaning that is what I was short to live on. I took an extra job and moved into a much cheaper house).

$400 x 4.3 (average month) = $1720 before taxes (this is high for this pay grade but average) after $1290.

Your health insurance should be about $20 a month at this pay rate.

  • Rent about 1/4th your income no more than $330. *This may be hard, the average may be more like $425 for a small studio. Figure out a cheaper way, be creative.  
  • Utilities: electric, heat, water no more than $75 
  • Auto Insurance on an old car (liability) $30.
  • Basic cell phone service $55.
  • Total = $480
  • Balance is +$810
  • Food $75 a week x 4.3 = $322.50
  • Gas $40 a week x4.3 =$172 
  • Balance = $315.50 (save emergency fund first, then pay on debt. If you have no debt then you can save up 3 to 6 month living expenses, then pay off a mortgage if you have one. For now follow the steps in order. Don't pay your bills late. Sit down every pay period and pay bills due first and set aside money first before it is spent. DON'T GO SHOPPING.You will not buy clothes for now. 

*You should not have a car payment, if you do consider selling it and buying a used cheaper car with your tax return. If you are upside down start working on plan. If you can take public transportation.
Everything below that line should be put in the order of most important. Call all your creditors and work out a plan, even if it's $10 a month. If you have a lot of debt you will need to get another job. I suggest a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace Course. You can read the book for free if you are to broke to afford the course.

*If you need new skills you can often get Pell Grant money and Scholarship money. At a local technical college or community college that may leave you some money to live on and work part time. They also have night programs that are only a few nights a week. Getting skills of some kind will greatly increase your pay and most likely the quality of your life. This is what I did.

Read more of my blog for tips.

Meal planning.

Last week I went shopping for a weeks worth of meals for two people for $85.00
This was a test for myself to see if I could do it.
Most of the food was organic and very high quality. I looked and figured that I could have purchased non organic cheaper products for about 25 to 30 % less. When I added up the cost of the meals it came to about $2.02 a meal for breakfast and lunch and dinners where closer to $3.00 a person. The total for organic meals was about $7.04 a day per person.

Before you meal plan look at what you have and plan around that. Do you have a jar of spaghetti sauce? Guess your eating pasta. Do you have some bacon? BLT's anyone? Do you have a loaf of bread? French toast or sandwiches. Use up what is going to go bad first. If you have some veggies or fruit that need to be eaten plan your meal around those. This will save tons of money and waste.

This week I took my son out to eat for lunch at a local restaurant and it was $65 with tip! I about died. I don't have to be on a budget anymore and was treating my son, but my point is that would be one weeks worth of groceries for one person if you meal plan. 

Here is what we had this week, I modified a bit for my low carb diet.  You will have to food prep on this diet (Food Prep is fancy talk for store your left overs for the next meal). Dinner for two for seven days.
1.A deli chicken with 2 veggies (frozen veg): Made 4 meals
2. Enough left over to make two meals of chicken salad (2 meals) with crackers.
3. Taco Salad (3 meals)
4. Broccoli Soup and Crackers (4 meals)
5. Spaghetti with Turkey (ground) and green beans (frozen) (6 meals)
Total full meals 19 meals (Need 14 dinners for two people, then 5 days of lunch one person can take leftovers)

Lunch: Leftovers
or Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich and milk
or Egg Sandwich with a few slices of tomato and milk and a banana

*There was enough left over salad fixings and veggies to add a salad to a couple of meals or another side veggie.

Eggs and Toast
Overnight Oats (Organic Yogurt mixed with fruit and topped with nuts)
Oatmeal with nuts, peanut butter, butter, a half of banana and glass of milk.
* I had some berries, the only fruit I purchased was banana's because they are cheap. Look for what is seasonal.

You can do this! Don't get discouraged get empowered. :) I did it, got ahead, screwed up and did it again. This time for good.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Vacation: Bozeman Montana, Yellowstone and Jackson Hole

Well the Hubby and I returned a few days ago from a full week in Yellowstone & down to the Grand Tetons. When I was planning this trip I found some information but not as much as I would have liked that was helpful. Especially since most of the info I found was monetized (had advertising). So here's the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful of our trip and hope it helps someone else.

So this is not really so much about Resourcefulness but in a way it is. We have been on this path long enough that we could relax and finally afford a big vacation. If you follow Dave Ramsey we are on Baby Step 4, paying the mortgage. The debt it done, the 6 months savings is there, and now we are to a point that our extra money goes to our mortgage. There is now a little room to relax after many of years of simple vacations. Part of the reason we are on this path is so we can enjoy life more but it took some time to get here. It's so worth it.

My husband had open heart surgery about 3 years ago and that put everything into perspective. The value of life, experience, and living your life came clearly into focus. In a moment of clarity I made a decision to take my husband on his dream vacation, one he has talked about for years, Yellowstone. I quickly booked up everything I could find in Yellowstone sitting in a parking lot outside of a pizza restaurant. This was only 12 weeks ago. Yellowstone can book up a year in advance. I then came home and poured over info to find the best places to stay, rescheduled and moved things around, rented a car, found out where to fly into and that lead me to make some changes.

We flew into Bozeman Mt., what a beautiful place. I highly recommend it. The flights on United where substantially cheaper and we had great service from United. For two people round trip it was roughly $1000.
We had one bad experience at a hotel that lead me to another one on a recommendation from a lady at a ranch supply store. The C'mon Inn (less than $200 a night). It was great! The least expensive hotel and the best priced of all of them. Highly recommend. Hotels here are expensive! Outside of the park it's possible to find something for under $200 that is nice, inside the park equivalent lodging it about double.
I would recommend flying Little Rock (If you are in Arkansas) to Bozeman on United, then staying at the C'mon Inn. Go straight to Walmart and buy these things
1. Bear Spray (one can should do, it cost $50 or $10 a day in the park, you figure the math).
2. A cheap ice chest that is soft $4.94
3. Refillable insulated cups for water to save on buying bottles, it's dry and you will need a lot of water. $6.94
Then you can buy your snacks here or go to the Bozeman Co'op and buy food. We ate here twice, and got our green juice. They have great picnic boxes and hot food. I am a foodie and was able to get a nice chicken curry while my cowboy husband got a salad and some organic chicken. LOVE THIS PLACE.
We had dinner at Montana Ale Works twice. The food is great and it's worth a visit.
We also went to the local movie theater though I don't remember the name and it was very clean and nice. Take some time to drive around the city of Bozeman, over in the neighborhoods near downtown. There are parks and walkways. It is one of the cleanest cities I've ever seen.

We then headed to Yellowstone, driving through the North Gate, Stopping at Mammoth Hot Springs. Then going down to Lake Yellowstone stopping and looking at all the sights along the way. Including the buffalo. We took the North West side down and over to Lake Yellowstone. Lake Yellowstone Inn is the most expensive hotel in the park, the food is good at the restaurant but not great for the price. It's embarrassing what we paid for a room and I wish we hadn't. It was suppose to have a lake view but the window was very small, the room was small, and though very nice it was not worth $536.00 a night to stay here. I went into Lake Lodge down the street and wish we had  stayed there, it was more "cabin lodge" feeling and more our speed. Not sure the pricing but it's in between Jackson Hole and Bozeman. The lake is beautiful and we drove out to the lower west side about half way until the lake ended, a beautiful drive.
This was a beautiful place to stay but be warned the hotels, lodges in Yellowstone are not that comfortable. The beds were small and  hard.

The park is in the shape of the letter 8 with fingers going N,NE upper, NE lower, S, & W, five total roads out of the park.

Day 3 we drove to Jackson Hole through the Grand Tetons stopping along the way to view all the magnificent sights. I stress that this was a hard drive for a girl afraid of heights! Wow. So beautiful though I cannot begin to express the beauty of the Grand Tetons. We stayed at the Rustic Inn, which was about $416 a night. It was very nice, the rooms where amazing and comfortable and all were individual little cabins, though very close together. There was a nature walk, a pool (heated), hot tub and sauna. My husband used the workout room and a very nice breakfast was included. My only complaints where they started cooking at 5 a.m. and we apparently were next to the kitchen wall! The other issue was that they needed someone to walk around and be aware of trash and picking it up around the nature area. It wasn't terrible but for that price I expected it to be picked up. They were busy so I give them that. We took full advantage of this resort and experienced all it had to offer that came with our room. They light the outdoor fire pits at night and this is very nice. The breakfast was very crowded and let's just say that Southern manners we are used to are not used here, people were a bit pushy. My husband was pretty irked.
We had dinner at The Silver Dollar an old hotel there and it was great. Service was great, very friendly staff. While there we walked downtown to Healthy Being so I could have my juice fix (I had the it was tart but good, I had some stevia in my purse to add to it).  I would go here again, they have a basket of lawn blankets and wonderful places to sit outside. It's like a park.
We also ate at Jackson Grocers, which was really good and similar to a small size Whole Foods. I really liked that they support local health food stores all over the place and there are no chain health food stores. We also had lunch at Cafe Genevieve, it was good. I had a salad and it was very good. My husband had breakfast fare and said the bread was amazing. Everyone told us to go the Million Dollar Cowboy bar but we were so tired we didn't make it. The highlight for us was the Jackson Hole Art Fair, it was amazing. We visited several parks, one of my favorite things to do and enjoyed this very much. Highly recommend visiting the local parks here for a place to rest and enjoy the natural beauty.
Be prepared to walk, the traffic is bumper to bumper.

Day 4 back to Yellowstone up the South entrance, so much beauty going back that you get a different perspective and it's worth it. We drove up to Old Faithful and waited for it on the second row viewing deck of the hotel. Grab a drink and have a seat and enjoy from the deck. This is the best place. Visit the gift shops and relax a bit. We then drove up the west entrance a bit, so much beauty I cannot even explain, you must experience it yourself. We headed over the Canyon Village. Canyon is beautiful and we had stopped here to eat earlier on our way to Lake Yellowstone. Canyon Village is the place in Yellowstone to eat, buy gifts and see The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. The lodge looked nice but it was booked and I booked a cabin, and I loosely call it a cabin. I'm in the process of working on getting our money back. The cabins are a group of rooms that are like going to camp when you are a kid. Our room had a dirty floor, hair on the bed and was generally pretty nasty. I won't go into details but I cannot recommend the cabin, they were $313 a night and not worth $69 a night. I would choose the lodge. The chicken dinners at Canyon Village in the middle area of the Village where great. The food here was excellent. $33 for two, not bad.

The next day we went up to Roosevelt after sleeping only 2 hours. I had booked a 2.5 hour horseback ride not knowing much about what I was doing. Unless you are a seasoned rider I would not recommend this. It was great, but I was not prepared to go straight up a mountain literally inches from the side. I would recommend the 1 hour ride. Our team that led us was amazing, I loved my horse Mr. Longhorn, slow and hungry as he was he was a good boy. Even though I have horses I was not used to riding for 3.5 hours...yes that is right, 3.5 hours. The 2.5 hour ride is actually 3.5 hours. My behind still hurts.
We also did the covered chuck wagon dinner, which I highly recommend but I would not recommend riding a horse to it because you will have a full belly on horse going back. Plus the guides give you so much information about Yellowstone that it's worth the money. This was about $154.00 I believe for two. Drink the Cowboy Coffee, at least taste it, best coffee ever, like mud and delicious! Very much worth it. Roosevelt is not much on food and the wait is very long. This place is old and dusty but very cool. Pack a lunch with you. We purchased some food at the gift shop or what they call General Stores and had a picnic, it was very nice. Drive out to Lamar Valley while you are here between the morning horseback ride, lunch, Lamar, and then to the Chuck Wagon for dinner. A great day!

We finished dinner around 7 and headed back to Gardiner, Mt where we stayed at the Yellowstone Village Inn (about $154 a night). So clean, simple, laundry facilities and a great price. Highly recommend. They do not have coffee in the rooms but it's in the lobby. Super friendly people, spotless simple rooms, comfy beds and a heated pool, breakfast is simple but enough, we had oatmeal, an apple and peanut butter, my husband had some toast. Great outdoor sitting spaces. It was a super respite. There is a simple grocery store down the road with anything you might need.

We got up on day 6 and headed to Bozeman with a stop at Chico Hot Springs, $8.50 for the heated mineral hot springs pools. Pack your swimsuit and flip flops and don't miss this! For two people with two rented towels it was only $19.50. What a bargain. So worth it. We enjoyed taking our time going back to Bozeman. We needed a more restful day and it's a scenic 84 miles. We stopped in at Livingston at the Wheatgrass Saloon for our juice. It was great. My husband went to a local ranch store while I stayed outside and petted the shop cat and visited with the sweetest young man, he had Downs Syndrome and he kept winking at me, smiling and talking to me, this made my day. He was such an angel. Meeting many of the sweet people and seeing the animals was really nice.

We then got into Bozeman and checked in to the C'mon Inn, went back to the Co'op for lunch, went to a local park where we walked around a pond and then to a movie and back to Montana Ale Works for dinner. We were about 10 minutes from the airport (Bozeman International). We had rented a car, a Subaru Outback for less than $500 for 7 days. The airport is small and not to busy. An hour was perfect in getting there.

We saw coyotes, elk, bison, deer, pig whistles (similar to a ground hog and so cute!), antelope, and many birds, some huge ravens and hawks. None where scared of us and they are everywhere.

The park is less than 2% developed and 98% is undeveloped. This is why the horseback ride is nice, you get to see more of the park. We had a healthy fear of bears and many had been seen so we didn't do much hiking, just walking around the park on the areas that are designated to look at the sights was a ton of walking. The animals will be very close but be careful. None where aggressive but we kept our distance. This was a trip of a lifetime. I am not sure how you would see as much if you didn't move around like we did, however this was not a restful trip, it was very active. If you are good only going to Yellow Stone I can highly recommend Gardiner as a place to stay. However if you have the time the Grand Tetons are out of this world. Some of my friends rented an Air B and B and had that as their home base. Many people told me that staying in the park was worth it. The convenience is worth it but you will pay a premium for far less amenities. Also I would recommend finding out about construction (there is a lot of roadwork in Yellowstone) and being aware of not planning to take Mountain passes at night or more than once. They are beautiful but the roads are very curvy with little to no guard rails, it's not for the faint of heart. My favorite spot was Lamar Valley and all the Bison!  Also if a road says 18 miles in Yellowstone plan on about 40 minutes to an hour, you will be driving slow due to curves, mountains, wild life and constantly stopping to take in the wonder of it all!


Saturday, July 28, 2018

Getting Started with Financial Freedom

I have decided to do a free financial freedom coaching or consulting via the old blog and You Tube.
So today I'm sick, my hands even hurt but my minds working well enough. The short story I want to share this for our kids. To offer help, but not in the "Here's a fish kind of help" but "Let me get you a fishing pole" kind of help.

Okay so follow along this journey if you want. I'll add VLOGS as we go (video blogs).
*Here is a link to my old You Tube Channel that has some advice on being resourceful. 

How to get started.

1. Find your Why. 

Why are you ready to change? Why do you want to learn how to get out of this darn mess. I was in a darn mess at age 33.  $1400 negative a month (that's right). Shamefully buying groceries on my credit card. I was lost. I had been debt free just a few years before and we blew it. We weren't wild spenders we just didn't have the knowledge we needed. The bank gave us a big loan for a house we couldn't afford and it ate our lunch. I was sick and tired of being broke and scared. What's your why?
Video Lesson 1

2. Write down all your bills and expenses (be honest) and your income (all of it). Make two columns. 
First how much you make and when it comes in and total that monthly. 

Example: Husband $950 every two weeks,  Wife $1000 every 2 weeks. Random in our case. Total is $3950

Then all your bills, due date, how much: House note $1250, on the 5th.
If a bill is quarterly divide it by 4 and put it in your budget.

Just look at it and add up both columns. Subtract bills from income. This is what you have leftover.
Lesson 2 Video

3. Now look at what you can slash or get rid of NEEDS VS WANTS

You don't need expensive phone plans or cable. Those are wants.
Wants can be handled later. For now get busy getting out of debt.
Lesson 3 Video

4. Go on a spending freeze: 

For the time being until you get an emergency fund make a budget for needs (food, basic transportation not joy riding) and all other spending gets frozen.
Lesson 4 Video
5. Save $1000 Emergency Fund 

Get busy selling stuff. Yard Sales, Auctions, EBay, Craigslist, Resale Shops, Facebook Marketplace, old cars to the salvage yard. Clean up your crap and get rid of it (this also has a psychological impact on you in a positive way, you start to feel lighter). Get a $1000 fast. Then ear mark it for emergencies. Your tires are not an emergency you know you have that coming up, you will now start a savings account for those types of things.
Lesson 5 Video
6. Slash your budget and use excess money to pay debt. '

If you can slash your budget by $100 then you will put your $100 towards the smallest bill. Your goal will be to get debt paid off fast. I was a follower of this method long before Dave Ramsey was preaching this but he makes it really easy to understand. I know some people don't agree with his politics or religion or whatever but regardless just take the class and get the gist of it. It's the best program out there and it works.
Here is a link to the courses:,-92.289595

7. I've already said it but I'm going to say it again. Sell everything you can and get out of debt.
YOU MAY NEED TO GET A SIDE HUSSEL, or as we old timers call it "a second job". 

You can buy it again when you can pay for it. Get rid of the expensive cars, boats, phones, cable packages. I know many of you are upside down, figure out a way to get rid of all you can. You are going to have to study on how to do this. I actually sold the fancy house for $197,000 and moved into a fixer upper for $97,000 and lived there for 15 years. You heard me. We also got used cars, sold the boat and did the work ourselves on the house and it felt damn good to be out of debt.

At times in my life I've had two or three jobs (we actually still do until our farm is paid off). I've  cleaned houses, taken in people's kids, dog sat, ran errands for money, worked a multitude of odd jobs. Right now I'm taking extra contracts and keeping my school open until I have a full years worth of living expenses paid up and our farm paid off.

One day I opened the door because my kid ordered a pizza (with money they earned) and a friend of mine was there delivering pizza (he was getting out of debt). This made me so happy! 

Get your butt to work. As Dave says "There is a place for broke people, it's called work".
Lesson 6 & 7 video

8. Maintain this idea and hang with people who support you. 
Find people who are living the same way. You will not be like the average person and they are everywhere and they are broke.
78% of Americans live pay check to pay check. You are going to be the 22%

Follow things on Instagram, Facebook, You Tube that have words like "frugal, debt free, simple living" In them. Find your people!

BE THE 22%. Link to article about 78% of Americans.

Here are some basics while you are getting out of debt and building your emergency fund up to six months.
  • Meal plan and eat at home. Have a little fun money set aside and use coupons or find specials and share.
  • Get rid of cable, rent movies from the library or get books. The library has tons of free resources and entertainment. FOR FREE! Well actually you pay taxes to use it, so do. 
  • Wear the clothes you have or buy your clothes at resale shops. If you must buy new then shop a sale but DO NOT SHOP for fun. I still buy 95% of all my clothes at resale.
  • Pack your lunch. It's also a great way to lose weight. 
  • Work out at home, take a walk, use a free app, ride your bike. The library often has free yoga. 
  • You should not have one app on your phone that isn't free until you are out of debt. 
  • Stop shopping unless you need something. 
  • Tuesday nights are usually $5 movie nights in my town. I am not saying never have fun but find the deals and stick to the budget. 
  • For meals out find the cheap places to eat or go to lunch or use a coupon. Lunch is usually 1/2 the price of dinner and 1/2 the calories. 
  • Don't shop resale, garage sales, or flea markets for fun if you are getting out of debt or trying to build your savings. Only shop when you need something. 
Video 8

9. If the emergency fund gets used go back to filling it up then restart debt pay off.

10. Once the debt is done then focus on 3 months expenses in the bank. 
If you make $4000 a month, then you will save $12,000.
Video 9 and 10

11. Pay off the mortgage and or invest in retirement. 
Here is where Dave and I differ. And it depends. At this point you have
a. no debt
b. An emergency fund that has three to six months living expenses
Dave would say put 15% in retirement. It depends on your situation and how you feel about it. Right now I have a good amount saved and my husband has police retirement. I know that with no debt we will have more than what we make now. So I am choosing to pay off the mortgage first and then start putting more into my retirement. And that's not 100% true. I am self employed so each year I ask my accountant how much I should contribute to my IRA to save money and I usually add in about $4000.
I also am not super confident in our government right now and don't feel great about the stock market.

12. Invest in retirement and then you can contribute to your kids college fund or help them with college. 
We have six kids. That's right. Three are currently in college and they get Pell Grants (some money not full), two of them get a load of scholarships and then they have to take out some loans. We pay what we can, this summer it was two summer tuition's which we paid cash for. We also pay for their car insurance and health insurance. We have also bought them all cars and we have helped at times but we also make them work for us if they need extra money. They are expected to work part time and go to college. I did and they can.

13. Help others or volunteer your time. 

When you don't have to work or retire you can give your time to others or your money to programs and people who are less fortunate and that feels good. You may be able to help your kids go through college, or help a grand child. It feels good to give.
Video Lesson 11 through 13

I will be posting videos and updating this frequently.

* So as a side note I was on this journey 7 years ago when I got a divorce. That threw me into a state of living in poverty. Still I stayed out of debt, worked harder, paid all my bills, paid off my car and lived pretty well taking care of four kids on less than $45,000. a year. The first few years I made only $27,000 but had some child support. It was hard as heck. Now my husband (I got remarried in Jan.) and I have worked up to having a 40 acre farm (that is our only debt and we have quite a lot of equity as we paid for a lot of it as we built it). I have a decent retirement account, we have six months expenses put back and a savings for large bills that come up like house insurance or tires. Things can come up and surprises and I know life is not perfect but we try, surprises and emergencies are much easier to recover from when you have an emergency fund. If we have a slip we figure it out but we don't give up.  We don't live a lavish lifestyle, we buy used items (often) from clothes to cars. We think about our purchases and we are now able to take a nice vacation (without any credit cards). Life is easier without debt and worry.