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.

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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 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 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/