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 you..you 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.

Breakfast:
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 beet..wow 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!

Enjoy.

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:
https://www.daveramsey.com/store/product/financial-peace-university-class#in-progress=1&center=34.746481,-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.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Why We Buy Rocks

This weekend I was doing some landscaping at my house with my mom and my husband. We were talking about buying edging for the gardens and I've always been partial to those little rock walls. Thinking "Well we have forty acres of rocks so that should work",  I realized that there are a lot or "rock shops" where I live that sell rocks. Yes they are easier to stack so there is that. Generally they can run between $100 a pallet to up to $900. I've actually purchased big Clinton rocks to build stairs before. Those stairs cost $900. Clinton rocks "grow" about 2 hours for me in Clinton, Arkansas.

So why am I telling you about rocks. Because I became resourceful and told my husband what I wanted to do and that man, working hard as he does, got the tractor and in 3 hours had piles of nice rocks up by my front garden beds. We will be using "Robinson" rocks off the Robinson's Ranch.

*Our cabin prior to landscaping.


We make life so complicated sometimes. One of my goals is to simplify my life and have a better quality. Moving to this big farm I have gotten where I crave it even more. I feel safe here, tucked away from the outside world of noise and crowds and consumerism. Here I feel like it's our little part of Heaven and I crave more and more time here.

Here are some of my reasons for simplifying & how I do it.

Reasons to Simplify
1. You don't have to work at a job you hate if you don't have debt.
2. You can enjoy relationships more.
3. The quality of your relationships is better when you are not stressed.
4. Having no debt brings a sense of freedom to travel or have hobbies.
5. You have time to focus on your "inner" well being as well as your overall health.
6. It gets you out of the rat race of consumerism that is never a long lasting thrill.

How to Simplify
1. Have a plan. Design your life. Where do you want to be in 1 year, 3, years, 5 years, 10 years..etc.
2. Figure out the steps to this plan. They will look something like this. Reduce bills, pay off debt (may require more work for a bit of time, short term work for long term gain), save money, work less, play more, enjoy life.
3. Have clear priorities about what you want so when you make decisions (especially financial) you can ask yourself "How does this impact my long term goals?". If you want to retire in 10 years on an average income getting a bigger house and going into more debt probably isn't part of your plan. Use your own rocks. :)
4. Get rid of the clutter, sale your stuff, pay off debt, save extra money.
5. Reduce your bills if you can. If you need to sell the boat, sell the fancy car with debt, sell the house (I've done it all for a time being then I was able to replace with cash eventually). Get rid of debt. I moved to a smaller older home (sold the one I built years ago). I drove an older paid for car. We sold the boat. Fast forward 14 years I purchased a farm, a boat, a car and built a home and we have no debt except a small mortgage that will be paid in a few short years. All because we saved and were able to pay cash.
6. Learn to meal plan, shop and cook at home. Reduce your meals out.
7. Learn to live with less clothes (This is so freeing I cannot tell you). Sell what you don't wear, buy better quality clothes (I find high quality clothes for a fraction of the price at resale shops, they are a bit nicer than thrift stores like Goodwill) that last. I bought two pairs of jeans that cost over $120 new in the past two weeks. I paid about $20 for them.
8. Think about entertainment cost. If we had good internet we would Net Flix everything but it's not possible where we live because we are limited on data so we are back to doing Red Box, even so a night at home with a Red Box DVD, homemade popcorn and smoothies cost us less than about $10 where a night out would be $50 to $100. I don't like crowds and would rather stay home with my honey and snuggle in my jammies and have my clean bathroom. :)
9. Daily you can make choices to help you save. If you meal plan you can cut a lot off your bill. If you buy breakfast at McDonald's every day for $6 a day every  week x a month this is $180 a month, if you eat at home for $1.00 to $2.00 (easy with oatmeal or eggs and toast) you are spending $30 to $60, you have saved $150 to $120 a month. In a year you are talking about $1800 saved! And people wonder where their money goes. It's about 5 choices a day like this. You feel it in your bank account. If I buy
$100 a month ($1200)  in retail clothing versus $200 every 6 months in resale clothing (and probably better quality) I have saved $800 a year! Recently I saw a woman on You Tube figure that making little choices like this each year saves her $14,000 a year. Seriously folks you can buy a good used car for that or pay off some serious debt.

Hope this helps. It really is the little things when it comes to money. Every once in a while you can save big like when I sold my house of 14 years and paid off my car and socked away a bunch of money. On a day to day basis you are faced with many chances to save that really add up.


Much Love,
Courtney


Thursday, July 5, 2018

How to Make a Net Zero Purchase

What does Net Zero Purchasing mean?

So I had this little happy accident when I put limits on my buying an spending for one year. If you follow me on my YouTube Channel, Facebook, or here you know I made a pact to not spend money on clothes, shoes, purses, jewelry or books for one year. Through this I discovered the net zero purchase, which is when the money you spend on something equals or is less than the money you received for that same type of item. 

Here is how it works. This year I made a caveat to my challenge. I could not buy these things unless I sold the same type of item and earned the money for it. So if I sold $11 worth of books I could spend $11 on books. I indeed spent 9.99 on a magazine and .99 cents on an ebook. 
On clothing I've been doing this for years but never really thought to much about it. I sell my clothes to a resale shop and get a credit that I can either cash in for a check or use in the store. I use the credit to buy new to me clothes. 

I've been thinking of doing this with my car. So my car is only three years old and I'm known to drive a car for a long time. However I've put almost 100,000 miles on my car in three years due to a crazy work life. I'm now considering driving my car two more years, saving the money I would spend on a payment and then selling my car and using that money to buy a new to me car. If I spend the amount of money I sell the car for then it is Net Zero. If I use the money I saved plus the money I sell the car for it is not Net Zero but I will have no debt. 
Recently we purchased a 2009 Camry with 50,000 miles on it for a second car for my husbands business. We paid $8000 cash for the car. 
If I sell my car for $10,000 in 2 years (now it's worth about $16,000) and I save $7320. Then I could spend a total of $17,320 for a new to me used car with low miles. Or I could choose to spend $10,000 on an even older car with less miles. 

How can you apply this in you daily life?
Well you can apply the examples I've given above or similar examples but also think about the hours you work in a week.
If you make $20 an hour and you spend $800 a week, that is similar except you need to have some savings for when big things come up. 
Start thinking about would I work this long for this item? If you want a pair of shoes and they cost $200 but you can find a similar pair for $60 or another pair at a nice resale shop for $20. Then you either work 1 hour, 3 hours, or 10 hours for that pair of shoes. Applying this to your purchases will help you keep your priorities in check. 

You can also barter for services. I will sometimes barter my services for hour for hour cost of someone else's services. $60 of yoga for $60 of massage. 

Living a Net Zero life and having savings and no debt will get you to a life of Financial Freedom which means being able to choose your work and how you live your life. You will be free of being a slave to the lender and have more control over your choices. 

5 Tips for Net Zero Purchasing
1. Grow food and barter for other folks who grow food.
2. Barter your services for other's services in dollar value.
3. Sale your clothes and use that money to buy new clothes.
4. Sale your books on Ebay and buy new books on Ebay.
5. Sale your jewelry, sunglasses and purses and buy new to you similar items at resale shops. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Free and Frugal Things to do in Hot Springs, Ar.




Last night I was looking over my old blog from about ten years ago and an article I wrote on visiting Hot Springs for under $20 a day per person. Coming home yesterday I was thinking of all the things I like to do in my hometown that don't cost much and how I should share with others. So here is my updated list.

When I have people come visit there are many things I share with them that are not on your local websites because there is so much beauty around Hot Springs. Here is my quick list.


  1. The Stueart Pennington Memorial Running of the Tubs, the bath tub races are free and so much fun. This community event was thought up by my late step father and runs every spring or early summer. https://www.facebook.com/RunningoftheTubs/
  2. Hike: Go to the visitors center for maps. Hot Springs has more trails than you could ever imagine for those who tire easy to the adventure seeker. My favorite hike is the trail at Lake Catherine to the falls. There are trails downtown, trails at Lake Catherine, Degray, Ouachita and more.
  3. Go swimming at a local beach. My favorite beach is in Hot Springs Village, Balboa beach,  but you will need to be a guest or get a day pass to go. It's so clean and nice. I feel like I'm in Florida when I am there. 
  4. The Village also has amazing hiking trails. 
  5. Downtown you can walk the Promenade, visit the Fordyce Bath House (My dad gives tours here), walk bathhouse row, visit the park at Arlington Lawn, stick your hands in the Hot Springs, and remember to bring your glass water bottles and jugs. Hot and cold springs abound and the water is free. Go to the visitors center for a map of the springs. 
  6. Take a drive to Hot Springs and West Mountain located in downtown! This is free, beautiful and fun. 
  7. Have a picnic at the Gorge, also part of the National Park and free.
  8. Go swim at one of the many beaches at Lake Ouachita.
  9. It's not free but you have to eat so pick up lunch and beef jerky at "Burls' Country Store" when visiting the beaches at Lake Ouachita.
  10. Visit the local library. Need a cool place to take a bathroom break, rest, check your email, check out our local library. It's fantastic. The kids library is amazing and everyone can enjoy a little quite time. They also offer lots of free events from Blue Grass Music to movie night. 
  11. Tuesdays is $5 movie night and cheap popcorn and cokes at the Cinema 10 in HS. Our movie theaters are not truly that up to date but they do the job and they are clean and friendly. You will need to give your phone and email to get the movie pass. 
  12. Flea market shop. Hot Springs has lots of great flea markets and antique shops. Google and visit for cheap take a ways for home. 
  13. When my kids were little we food packed when we traveled. It would be worth your while to rent a house, condo or hotel with a kitchen. Pack your food or visit our local Health Food Store "Good Earth" and pick up food, salads, soup, and goodies. Eat lunch and dinner at home and get lunch out. Lunch is much cheaper than dinners in Hot Springs. Places that have lunch specials that are good are La Hacienda, Rolando's, Hunan's, Cracker Barrel, and I am sure there are more but these are some good ones. I love Pho Hoang My, it's  great for dinner and very inexpensive. At La Hacienda I would recommend sharing the La Hacienda Nacho's. Cracker Barrel is also pretty good and inexpensive and has something for everyone. 
  14. We have many great city parks as well. My favorite is Energy Park for walking, fishing, and playing on the playground. Hollywood park is amazing too. 
  15. Visit Lake Charlton outside of Hot Springs. It's a cold spring and has waterfalls, picnic areas and ice cold water perfect for a hot southern day. 

Please feel free to ad to this list and thank you for reading! 

Monday, April 30, 2018

My Previous Single Life Retirement Plan

So I was proofing my own blog and had the thought that some people may see my "Retirement Plan' blog and think "Well yeah you are married with two incomes of course you can do it". However, I was on this plan to retire by 55 before I got married. Prior to Jim and I getting married we were both raising teens and or had kids in college living at home. It was tough, really tough. I still had a retirement plan even though my average income with spousal support and child support was less than $45,000 a year and that was with me working two jobs, working about sixty hours a week.

Here is what it looked like.

I had a car, one debt, and owed my lawyer enough to buy a nice used car within 18 months of my divorce. I also had a house payment that was more than about 40% of my income. I wanted to keep the house until all my kids had graduated high school.

What was my plan and how did that feed into where I am now.

Year one as a single parent I was flat broke, we purchased nothing and I simply paid my bills monthly praying for money for the next month. I took every job I could and marketed my business as much and as cheaply as I could.

Year two through four: I grew my business and took a big loss on the way. During this time I paid off my car with the profit from my business, paid off my lawyer and paid off that debt. In total it was over $34,000 in four years. I am not actually sure how I did it to be honest, I just put my head down and paid it and every time I had a surplus I paid on debt. During that time I put $100 a month in my IRA, and was very frugal.

Year 5: I sold my car and made about $10,000 total. *I forgot to mention I was able to help two of my kids buy cars for about $2500. With my $10000, I used $5000 to make some repairs to my house and put $5000 down on a new car with a warranty. I do not recommend buying new cars, my situation was this. My job had put me traveling and I needed a car that was reliable and could get through bad weather and made me feel safe. I often found myself driving through rural country so I decided to get a slightly used Outback. When I got to the dealership the used Outbacks were more than a new Crosstrek. I purchased the Crosstrek and put $5000 down, I've paid extra on it for three years and now only owe $11000. It will be paid off soon with the sell of my house and that is my only debt. I haven't regretted it because it has saved me on some dirt roads and creeks in Arkansas and Mississippi and through some storms and slick roads. The peace of mind has been worth it. My payment is also far less than I could afford and it has never hurt. MPG is almost double my previous car and insurance is the same. Effectively it's cost me $150 a month more to drive the newer car. The peace of mind has been worth it. I always new it would be paid off early.

Year 5 through 7: I stayed debt free besides the car, got another contract job. I'm basically killing myself working right now and trying to get to a point where I don't have to do this.

So...the point was "Retirement Single" where I was and where I would be if I was still single.

I would be at this time, seven years in:
1. Have a house for sale with the plan to move into a much smaller and cheaper house. *I had found one I wanted for $94,000 which would have put my payment after the down less than $500 a month with taxes and insurance.
2. I would have paid off my car with the sell of the house.
3. I would probably continue to work as hard as I am now because my focus has shifted to being with my husband.
4. My expenses are more with my husband because we live on a big farm. I would have had 1/2 of that with my son and I. I'm happy with where I am but this would have been the difference.
5. I would have probably been driven by need and worry to be quite frank to continue to work hard and save more and more so that I could still "Choose" my work by 55. My wants, needs and desires have changed since getting married.

If I was single on $40,000 a year it would look like this after the sale of the house.
After taxes $2900 a month.
1. House payment with taxes and insurance: $500
2. No other debt
3. Continue to contribute to an IRA and maybe even more.
4. Build an Emergency Fund up to thee months, six months and then one year.
5. I'd work on paying extra on the house note to pay it off early.
6. Utilities and wife: $300 (I would not have cable only Roku)
7. Health, auto and life insurance. I was getting free insurance when I was single, I imagine it would stay that way, auto is $80 a month and life was about $18 total less than $100.
8. Food $500 (I am obsessive about eating healthy)
9. Gas is covered and phone with my business expenses, actually so is car insurance.

MY total house payment, utilities and food would be about $1300 at the high end.
My car insurance, health insurance, phone, and wifi would actually come out as a tax deduction and off the top.
I would have approx $1600 left to pay on house and save and would probably use a little extra to help my kids and buy things I need or want.

You don't need a lot when you keep your expenses low and get out of debt. Debt is killing Americans. 50% of Americans cannot come up with $400 for an emergency.

If you are struggling look into a Dave Ramsey plan today. Change your mind set. Google Financial Freedom, watch You Tube videos. There are tons of people out there on $30,000 with no debt getting by comfortably. It's all about patience, mindset and being creative.

Love and Light,
C