Kids Clothes Don’t have to Cost a Fortune

I don’t know about you but I don’t like spending a boat load of money on clothes.  I used to work in promotional products and if you knew how much profit they make selling you a $20 t-shirt with a snazzy logo you would rarely buy one again (unless it’s to support an awesome cause).

Also, my child grows like a weed.  We bought him a pair of cowboy boots in October to go with his Cowboy Halloween costume and by November he had outgrown them.  I bought my son a handful of pants for the winter a few months back because I thought it might be cold, but our Texas winter only lasted a couple of days before the weather warmed back up making long pants unbearable.  I went to his drawer to grab him some shorts only to discover that most of them were not going to fit and his swim trunks for his swim lessons were getting a little snug.  I knew I would be having to make a shopping trip for him.

I went to my favorite kid’s resale store during my lunch break the next day and I scored.  I found 10 pairs of shorts, 2 pairs of swim trunks and 4 shirts for right around $50.  That’s less than $3.50 per item average and I got him practically a wardrobe of clothes that should last well into summer as long as he doesn’t grow too much more… Two of the shorts still had tags on them, I always find superhero wear and all the clothes still have a lot of wear in them.  I have to say I’ve found some of the most awesome shirts at the thrift stores, All the SuperHero’s, Disney’s Cars, Monster Trucks, Dinosaurs, Curious George and Dr. Seuss.  I don’t think I ever would have found those last two anywhere else, and definitely not at less than $5 a piece.  I have a rule that I won’t spend more than $5 on an item of clothing for my child unless it’s a specialty piece like a jacket or shoes.  Unfortunately, the weather just took a turn back to cold, but thanks to my $50 fall wardrobe purchase he has plenty of warm pants.

If you’ve never been thrift shopping I encourage you to give it a try, and not just for the kiddo’s.  I am currently wearing a pair of Express Jeans I scored in a thrift shop two years ago for $20 because I refuse to spend more than $20 on a pair of jeans.  Sometimes it can be frustrating because you find something you love in the wrong size and they don’t have the correct size, but sometimes it’s awesome and you find exactly what you’re looking for. There are so many brands all in one place, you don’t have to wait and shop the sales and you won’t find something you absolutely love, look at the price tag and have to hang it back up.

Make 2016 the Year you Become Debt Free

So one of my goals for 2016 is to become debt free.  I’ve been using the Dave Ramsey’s method of paying down debt for a while now, and let me tell you, when you stick to it, it works.  I faltered a little during the end of November and December, but I’m back on the wagon for January.  I made out my budget and so far I’m sticking to it.

It’s not always easy to stick to a budget, but let me tell you, when you set a budget and tell your money where to go instead of blindly hoping your money will go where it’s supposed to go your debt does go down.

So my challenge for you for 2016, if you want to take control of your finances this year go out and pick up a copy of The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey and start following The 7 Baby Steps.  The first two steps can help you on the right path.

Step 1: Save $1000.  This is so important.  Life happens, unexpected things happen.  Cars break down, kids get sick.  This baby emergency fund will help get you through rough times without going further into debt.

Step 2: List your debts smallest to largest and pay off the smallest first.  When you see a debt disappear it gives you hope and encouragement to keep moving forward and keep paying down your debts.

Starting with even these first two steps can make a world of difference in your life, so I challenge you.  Make a change.

Not Keeping Up with the Jonses’- Living Paycheck to Paycheck

Approximately 1 out of every 3 households in the US with a household income above $75,000 per year live paycheck to paycheck1.  3 in 5 Americans don’t have enough emergency money saved to cover unexpected expenses. 2

Let those numbers sink in for a minute. Now think about your friends and family. How many people do you know that are living paycheck to paycheck or who are bordering on the brink of disaster?  How many names come to mind?  Now, of those names, do you know if any of these people live on a budget?  Now think about a few names of people who you know (or think you know because you’d be surprised) who don’t seem to stress about money.  Do you know if they live on a budget?

I had a conversation with a friend a few months back during a wine date night and she made a comment about how relaxed I seemed.  She said it was more relaxed than she’d seen me in years.  I told her it was because we started using Dave Ramsey’s system to get out of debt. Our debt is steadily going down and  each month I procure a budget telling our money where to go (instead of wondering where it went) and the end result is that I feel much more relaxed in so many areas of my life.

I have a coworker who is on the brink of disaster with his finances.  I listen to him talk about struggling with expenses and then I listen to him plan a ski trip and inside I cringe.  I’ve casually thrown around Dave Ramsy’s name and the words budgeting, but the reception I receive is limited.  He is both of the statistics listed and I am sad for him.  I cannot make him change, only he can do that.

I do not want to be the statistics listed above.  I don’t want to be chained down by debt, so I am taking steps to try to remedy my situation, and after a long while the light is at the end of the tunnel, a faint glimmering light of hope.  I’ve had to make changes and sacrifices.  I’ve had to tell myself NO.  I’ve had to tell other people NO.  Living on a budget is no easy task, and sometimes I do fall off the wagon and make a splurge I know I shouldn’t.  But I pick myself back up and get back to it.  I know I can do it.  I can get to debt free.  I’m 2/3rds of the way there, just a bit of a stretch left to go.  You can do it too.  The hardest part is starting, so I am here to encourage you to START.  Don’t be one of the statistics listed above.  Change your life!  Take control of your money!

1 Marte, Jonelle. One-Third of Households Making More than 75,000 Live Paycheck to Paycheck. The Washington Post. 16 April 2015.
2Morath, Eric. Most Americans Don’t Have Savings to Pay Unexpected Bills” Wall Street Journal. 7 Jan 2015.

Not Keeping up with the Joneses- Fashion on a Budget

My husband informed me a few months back that I needed some new clothes.  I absolutely dread clothes shopping and since we’ve been on the Dave Ramsey’s baby step’s plan I have had an excuse not to go clothes shopping.  Part of being on the paying down debt plan is training myself that if I can’t buy it at the grocery store (or the hardware store).  I probably don’t need it and for the past year (unless it’s been socks, underwear or something for an ever growing toddler) I haven’t felt as if I needed it.

My husband felt otherwise.  He felt some of my clothes were getting a little worn, and since I recently got a fairly large bonus at work he asked me to set aside some of the money and buy some new clothes.  So then the question becomes how do you look fashionable on a budget?  Even though I don’t like clothes shopping I tend to have expensive taste when I do go shopping.  I love the Gap, Express, Ann Taylor, Anthropologie, Banana Republic, Kenneth Cole, etc.  It’s been years since I’ve actually been into one of those stores, but I do remember the last time I bought jeans from Express (over five years ago) it was over $50 per pair.  Today, I cannot fathom spending $50 one ONE pair of jeans.  These days my thought process is more like, can I get this for $20 or less?

The truth is, you CAN get a nice pair of jeans with the fancy label for less than $20 a pair, you just have to be willing to put forth a little more effort than you might by just running into your favorite retail store.  There are many resale shops out there. You just have to find a few that meet your needs.

Style Encore is where I headed to physically try on some jeans.  Jeans tend to be the one thing I HAVE to put on my body to make sure they will fit.   Style Encore is a resale shop that sells gently used clothes with designer labels.   You would be amazed at the items you can find that look like they’ve never been worn.  It takes a little longer to leaf through the clothing in your size to maybe find what you’re looking for, and they aren’t always going to have what you are looking for but the price you pay is definitely a bargain compared to full retail price (even with sales and “bonus bucks”).  I will also throw in that I have scored some great deals at GoodWill.  When I was pregnant I got a load of maternity clothes for about $80 and I found a $20 bill in one of the pants pockets of the items I bought.

Thredup is my favorite online resale shop.  Since I hate shopping in stores I love that I can head to Thredup’s website, sort and filter what I’m looking for by size, color and type of clothes and it gives me pages of items to look at.  This is better than shopping at one particular store because there are so many different brands and styles.  If you’re hunting for  a long sleeve black sweater or a short sleeved purple top you don’t have to go to 8 different stores to find exactly what you are looking for.  I have found shipping to be fairly quick and returns to be fast and easy if you pick something that doesn’t end up agreeing with you.  Everything I have gotten has been in great condition and they always have several items listed that are new with tags for great prices.

Most online and retail resale shops also buy clothes so if you have anything in your closet you were putting in the Goodwill pile, check the labels first. You can bring these items to Style Encore or send them to Thredup for a tiny bit of cash or store credit.  It isn’t ever much, but it’s more than you would get from Goodwill which can further cut your final bill.

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Not Keeping up with the Jonses- Making the Halfway Mark in your Debt Snowball

I am more than thrilled.  12 months into starting Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps’ Plan my husband and I are more than halfway through our debt snowball. What does that mean exactly?  It means that we have paid off more than half of the total amount of debt we started off with as of July 2014.

What is a debt snowball?  A debt snowball according to Dave Ramsey’s baby steps is when you list all of your debts (not including your mortgage) from smallest to largest and start paying them off in that order (regardless of interest rates).  You make minimum payments on all debts except the smallest and you throw all the money you can at that smallest debt.  When you knock out the smallest debt you take the amount you were throwing at that debt add it to the minimum payment you were making on the second smallest debt and work on that one.  You continue to use this method until you have knocked out all your payments.

For more visual learners, it looks something like this. . .

Debt                      Debt Amount                Payment Amount
1. Credit Card 1        $1,000                           $500 plus any extra at the EOM
2. Credit Card 2        $2,500                          $150
3. Student Loan        $5,000                          $180
4. Car Payment         $8,000                          $400

When you pay off debt number 1 after 2 months your revised snowball looks like this. . .
1. Credit Card 2       $2,200                            $650 (500 +150) plus any extra
2. Student Loan       $4700                             $180
3. Car Payment        $7354                             $400

It’s an amazing simple process.  I only wish I had begun it sooner.  Now we just have to keep trudging along.  2 debts left.  I feel so much lighter than I did a year ago.  I feel smarter (for having started this plan).  I feel more in control of my life and I definitely feel more in charge of my finances.   It is possible tp regain your finances, to take back control of your life.  You just have to take the first step.

Not Keeping Up with the Joneses- If you’re Broke, do something about it!

I’ve recently witness a few situations which leave me a little flabbergasted.

Case Number One: The case of too much house.

We recently had some friends we know move into a bigger house.  It wasn’t unreasonable for them to want to move.  Their family had rapidly expanded and they felt they needed the space to accommodate the expansion of family.  They sold their old house and moved into the new house. It was only when tax time came around that they realized they might be in over their heads.  The housing market in our area right now is booming and most houses have gone up considerably in value.  The rise in home values is great, but it also comes a bigger tax bill.  These friends do not have an emergency fund in place and when they were hit with the increased tax bill discovered that they were drowning in a lack of funds.  Despite this money problems the friends have not seemed to change their lifestyle to accommodate for the problem.   They don’t seem to have cut down on extra curricular activities or outings and they haven’t picked up an extra job that we know about.  They continue mini vacations and shopping sprees, and then vent about how stressed they feel.  I think “trapped” is one of the words that was used.

Case Number Two: We’re financially strapped considering a move and career change.

In one of the groups I’m in a lady posted about moving to Texas from her current location.  She lives in California and would like to be closer to some family.  Her husband has a good job at which he makes $100.000 /year.  She said that between their mortgage, two car payments and medical bills it’s hard to make ends meet, because California is just expensive.  Her husband is older and doesn’t want to move unless he can get a job paying the same amount.  I don’t blame him, in fact I totally agree with him.  What I don’t understand is, if you can barely make ends meet how are you going to finance a trip to Texas to check things out?

It wasn’t too terribly long ago that I could have been one of these two people.  It seems like forever ago and yesterday that I felt like I was drowning in debt and would never live life without a payment plan.  Let me tell you a secret. . .The truth is you don’t have to be one of these people and if you are one of these people you can change your situation.  My journey started by reading The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey.  I will never forget reading about people who felt “sick and tired of feeling sick and tired”.  This resonated with me.  Thinking about finances and paying bills had been sucking the life out of me and I didn’t want to live that way any longer.  I shared the book with my husband and got us started on our own money make over.

I will warn you, it’s not easy and there are times that we falter and don’t stick exactly to our budget.  There are times when I feel like we don’t make progress with our debt because mayhem happens and we have to cash flow something instead of attaching our debt.  (But even being able to cash flow unexpected things like a $1000+ car repair bill wouldn’t have been possible without this plan). When I look at our progress over the past year (and really we didn’t even hit the plan hard until January) and see that we are almost to the half way mark (meaning half of our debt is GONE!) I get a little fluttery.  I feel so much more relaxed.  I actually enjoy life more knowing that I can and will be debt free soon.  I no longer stress and obsess over money like I did for so many years.  And recently a friend commented on how relaxed I seemed, and I shared what I was doing with her.  I feel blessed and you can too!  You can change your spending habits.  You can make a budget (Dave Ramsey makes it easy with his FREE budgeting tool http://everydollar.com) You can pay down your debt and become debt free.  You just have to take the first step!

Not Keeping up with the Joneses- Cash Flowing the Unexpected. . . again

I feel like we’ve been taking little money hits left and right lately.  The latest blow came last week when I had to drop my car off to get the A/C repaired.  I live in Texas, it’s summer and I have a toddler, so this was a bullet I was going to have to bite in order to have peaceful and cool summer car rides.  (If it was just me I’d probably sweat it out a week or two, but I have a toddler and there is no way I’m driving around with him in a car in Texas in summer with no A/C.)

I had been putting a little money aside in my budget so we can redo the floors in our house. . . ALL of my floor money PLUS some of our emergency fund was drained from the bank account in order to fix the car A/C.  My heart broke a little as the money disappeared. . .

When I told my husband the A/C in my car was going out he didn’t hesitate when he told me, you need to have that fixed, he wasn’t too upset that the floor money was now car repair money.  His view was that we HAD THE CASH ON HAND to combat this unexpected expense.  Even though the money was originally slated for something else, we were able to use it for a need instead of a want.  The new floors will come with time, they will just have to be postponed until we rebuild our emergency fund, (which is already happening a week later) and are able to set money aside in the “For New Floors Envelope”  And it feels like even though we experienced this little road bump we are still getting encouragement to keep on track with our budget and money plans as a few unexpected cash making opportunities presented themselves during the great A/C debacle.

It never ceases to amaze me how if you work hard (and pray a little or sometimes a lot) that your bumps in the road will be followed by a little bit of smoothness.  It seems like since we’ve started taking control of our finances instead of letting our finances control us better things happen where money is concerned.  (Like when you need money, money makes itself available to you or if you have to use the money you have more comes to replace what was spent.)

To learn more about Building a Budget go to http://www.everydollar.com and then head over to http://www.daveramsey.com to learn about the baby steps and how to take control of your finances.

Not Keeping up with the Jonses’- Learning to Cash Flowing Unexpected Expenses

When it rains it pours.  The weather in Texas has been just awful lately.  Everyone is complaining about how it never rains this much in Texas.  After doing a little rain research I am here to tell you it has rained this much before… it’s just been a while.  The Average rainfall for Texas is not quite 50 inches a year.  It has been 6 years since we have even seen normal rainfall rates because we have been under drought conditions, (though my bet is this year we will see normal if not above average rainfall totals since we are nearly half way there already).  Since the weather seems to be coinciding with my finances as of late so I thought I’d share with you some of what I’ve learned on my journey to get out of debt, as it seems that the rain has been falling in spades, unexpected expenses have been falling in spades too. . .

My husband and I are trying to slowly and steadily chip away at our debt by using a budget and Dave Ramsey’s philosophies about handling money.  While we might not be perfect it at and Dave may question some of our techniques, I am happy to be able to say that if I were to talk to Mr. Ramsey today I could tell him even though we may not always be 100% on with our budget we are 100% better at cash flowing emergencies today than we were a year ago and we continue to make progress every month.

This time last year if we were to have an unexpected expense that had not been penciled into to the budget that I had, (which was more of just a list of bills that needed to be paid so I wouldn’t forget), most certainly a credit card would have come into play and instead of our total monthly bills going down, they would hover around the same amount from month to month (like they seemed to do for years).

Since we’ve been working a new plan on paying down our debt by using a real budget (Check out https://www.everydollar.com/)  I can easily go in to the budget and reaccess where the money is supposed to go and divert it to whatever unexpected expense has come up.  This year it seems like it’s one thing after another. . .having to lay rock for a driveway so out cars don’t sink in the mud, having to dish out money for unexpected but exciting career advancement opportunity, having to get the septic system pumped for the first time, a new fan to replace the one that was about to die, a new mower for our 1/2 acre lot, car repairs, an increase in our mortgage escrow. . . et cetera, et cetera.  I am happy to report that all of these things have been cash flowed and NOT put on a credit card. Our total monthly debt continues to decrease and budgeting, while forever a challenge, is getting a little easier every month.

How do I cash flow?  When planning out our monthly budget I like to leave a little wiggle room.  We have expenses that arise quarterly and yearly and we have a few bills (like the electric bill) that can have a drastic difference in them from month to month.  I like to proactively plan for these things, so instead of waiting for the month these bills are due to come upon us and hope that we will have enough money to cover these bills I plan in advance.  The bills that are due quarterly I divide up to find the monthly payment and set that amount aside each month into savings.  I do the same with the bills that have to be paid yearly.  For the bills that fluctuate greatly from month to month (For us it’s the electric bill) I take an average of the payments over a year and divide by 12.  I use this number as my “payment” number in my budget.   Any month that the  actual payment is less that “payment” amount in my budget I divert the additional amount into the savings account.  This way when the bills are due I already have the funds set aside to pay them and don’t have to stress about having to come up with enough money.

The bonus to this method is that if a true crisis emerges or an unexpected expense comes up that I can’t cover from the normal budget funds I can pull the money from the quarterly/yearly categories and use the cash that would have been set aside to instead cover the unexpected expense now.   This considerable lowers my stress levels and then leaves me time to plan how to fund back the money that should have been diverted for the quarterly/yearly/etc. expenses,  and lets my debt snowball continue to roll.

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To learn more go to:

http://www.daveramsey.com/new/baby-steps/

Children’s Parties

The babe is fast approaching the two year old mark and the internal debate of to throw or not to throw a party for him rages within me. I’ve hosted a few parties in my day and I never find them to be “fun”. I am usually so busy running around to make sure all my guests are entertained that I rarely find time to enjoy myself.

In this case the party would not be about me, rather it would be about the babe. So I ask myself, how would the babe feel about a party? Honestly, I don’t think the babe would care either way. My husband and myself are still his main world, with his teachers and Grammy following in at a close second.

I have received upcoming birthday invitations from two children at his school plus two more invitations from friends with children ranging 2-5. (Yes, my son has a better social life than his parents do.) When I received the invitations from the school children I thought to myself… “These parents are insane! There are 12 kids in his class plus whatever family friend kids they would invite… I can’t imagine 20, two year old’s running around my yard” (and we live on almost a ½ acre.) After attending one of the parties over the weekend I quickly became convinced that a small party for the babe with just family will suffice quite nicely… and this is how I came to this conclusion…

1. Throwing children’s parties, even at your home, can be costly!Most people feel obligated to provide some sort of entertainment be it a petting zoo, bouncy house, or other rent for the day something or other. Tables and chair rental (if you don’t own enough), cakes, food, decorations, party bags… all of these things add up quickly, even if you do everything yourself.

2. We are currently working on paying off our debt, not accumulating more. A rough estimate is that a “simple” child’s party can costs $200+. (And what I’ve seen some parents spend is far beyond that, especially if they host the party at a place designed to entertain children or buy a bouncy house.)

3. We have a pretty large family. If just my immediate family were to come (this isn’t even my husbands) there would be 10 people. So I don’t think the babe would miss out on having people around to celebrate him.  (I’ve also heard you should have as many children as your child’s age, which really would make a party a lot more manageable).

4. I am not convinced the babe will remember his 2nd birthday… in which case I’d rather wait and spend exorbitant amounts of money when he is older and might actually remember.

5. I should have already sent out invitations if I want to have a party…apparently I am not as organized as other mothers because my child’s birthday is 4 weeks away and I didn’t decide until last week we weren’t having a huge party. If we were having a party, I’d already be behind in sending out the invitations because like a wedding you should have them sent out 6 weeks in advance…

I decided that in lieu of a “children’s” party the babe, the hubs and I will play hooky on his birthday and take a trip to the zoo. Then the babe will have lunch and cake surrounded by family on the weekend before or after his birthday (we still haven’t even figured that part out). I want to keep it simple and enjoyable for all involved.

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