Sunday, September 30, 2012

Our CRAZY Life

Life in the Herendeen household has been absolutely crazy lately. No joke. We’re taking the “a lot on your plate” thing to a whole new level. If you had to compare our “plate” with something, it’d be like those flimsy paper plates filled to the brim at the church potluck type of thing. You know, when you start piling food on top of other food (maybe I’m the only one who does that… but, still, you get what I mean…).

Don’t get me wrong—it’s not bad. It’s just crazy. And I guess you’re probably thinking somewhere along the lines of why?

Well, good question. We’ll get back to that. J

First, I want to throw this out there—when I started this blog, it was with the full intention that I would write primarily about finances. Finances, budgeting, and organizing paperwork are things that I’m really, really good at. I’m not saying that to brag or be in your face or anything like that. It’s just something that comes naturally to me. You give me a dollar amount earned, what bills need to be paid, and a pile of paperwork, and I’m right in my element. I’ll have it straightened out in a few hours tops. So since that’s one of my passions, I wanted to take that and do something good with it. I know there are a lot of people who don’t excel in that area (trust me… there’s lots of things I don’t excel in… we’ll actually get to some of that in a bit!), and I wanted to help them. I hate hearing how people are broke, are living paycheck to paycheck, or don’t know how they’re going to put food on the table. It breaks my heart. But while I do still intend to write a lot about finances, probably more so than other areas, I’ve also come to realize that it’s really hard to have your financial life in shape if other areas aren’t. It doesn’t make sense (or cents haha) to have a super-organized budget and desk, but a disaster area kitchen. You’ve got to get other areas of your life together, too, in order to have successful finances, at least in my opinion.

So, where does that bring us? Well, I think now would be a good time to explain why life in the Herendeen household is a wee bit on the crazy side…

The short version—we have a lot going on. But I guess I already said that with the whole plate analogy. J The long version—well, here we go:

1.)    The biggest reason why life is crazy is because I am going through a really, really big job change. Corey and I prayed a ton, crunched numbers, and thought long and hard and, in the end, decided that it would be best for our family for me to stay home with Tate. As a result, about a month and a half ago, we started to set in motion the groundwork for making this happen. I talked to a few friends about babysitting their children and started to get that set up. Corey and I worked our butts off and paid off a lingering credit card debt that was hanging over our heads to free up some money each month. And I put in notice at work that I would be leaving.


It’s funny, because as much as I know this is the right decision, telling work was extremely hard. I felt so guilty. I work for a wonderful company and they’ve been very good to me. I love the people I work with. But it was killing me leaving Tate every morning—I would literally cry every day, and that’s not healthy—for him, or for me. Of course, when I did tell work, they completely understood and were incredibly supportive (I told you they’re great!). I told them I would stay on until my replacement was hired and trained. This coming week will be my last, and I’ll start babysitting October 15th. It’s scary, but also very exciting.


2.)    So, we’re also getting everything set up for me to babysit! Like I said, I am so, so very excited about this. I think it will be wonderful for Tate, wonderful for me, and I really hope that I will be able to make a great impact on the life of some great little kids. Throughout my entire growing up, my mom babysat, so I know firsthand that life as a babysitter can be crazy, but also very rewarding. I have some really awesome kids lined up, which I know is a huge blessing in and of itself. I truly can’t wait. Like I said, it is a little scary, but I have no doubt in my mind that everything will work out.


Of course, this adjustment does require some work. While our house is set up fine for one little boy, it wasn’t exactly in ideal condition to have multiple little ones on a regular basis. So, that meant some decent changes to our little abode. Most of them are basic re-organizing and re-arranging. We built a new storage area/TV stand for our living room, are working on some cubbies and such for our entryway, and made our dining room table a bit smaller so I could fit a train table and other toys in as well, just to name a few of the small little jobs. But… there are a few biggies…


3.)    Like a bathroom remodel! Let me start off by saying this probably wasn’t my brightest idea ever. We had a completely functioning bathroom. But I decided that we needed a bathtub in our house, and, even more, I wanted to do it while I knew we’d have the money to afford it. So, the gut job began. We took out the toilet and sink, and ripped out the shower. It was messy. It was crazy. But, it is coming along. Everything but the sink is up and running and the sink should be done (hopefully) today. After that we’ll just have to build a shelf in our corner cubby area, paint, and do some general organizing and whatnot. The goal is to have all of that accomplished by my first day of babysitting (keep your fingers crossed!).

This is a "before" of our bathroom-- we had already started to take some stuff apart, so it's not in the best of the best shape, but it gives you an idea of where we're coming from! :) Eventually I plan on doing a post entirely about just our bathroom adventure, and when that happens, you'll get "during" and "after" photos too!

Oh, and we also built a closet. One of the er, wonderful things about our little place is that, prior to the bathroom remodel, there was not a single closet. Zip. Zilch. Nada. So, I decided it would be awesome to take a bit of space from our bathroom, and give it to Tate’s bedroom (which is right next door), to give him a closet. I’m incredibly excited about this. It needs finished out, but I can’t wait to get our little man’s clothes and other miscellaneous items transferred over! J


4.)    We also bought a truck. During our bathroom remodel, it became very apparent that trips to Menards, Lowes, and Home Depot went a lot better when there was a truck involved. Corey started a bit of a search on Craigslist, not really with the intention of us getting one yet… we just wanted to see what was out there. Well, of course we found one at a great price that was exactly what we were looking for… so we took the jump. As a result, there are four vehicles sitting at the Herendeen household at this moment (but trust me—we’ll be narrowing that down to two soon!)

 This is a pic of the new truck :)

5.)    And, in case all of that wasn’t enough, Corey’s job is going through shift realignment. He’ll still be working nights, but it’ll be the opposite nights that he works now (yes, it’s incredibly confusing… basically, he works a similar to schedule to what nurses do with twelve hour shifts).

6.)    I guess we could technically throw in that Monday is our two year anniversary, and the 4th is my grandparent’s fiftieth and my parent’s twenty-sixth! Tonight Corey and I are going out to dinner (yay for my parents keeping Tatey-kins!) and coming up soon, we’re planning a weekend getaway to Cincinnati to celebrate my grandparent’s huge accomplishment (FIFTY—wow!!!!).
This is my grandparents, Larry & Martha Tonjes! :) Photo courtesy of my uncle, Tim Tonjes.

So yeah, we have a lot going on. J

So how does this all relate to my blog and any of what I’ve talked about? Well… like I said earlier, I think the rest of your life also needs to be in a semblance of order for your financial world to make sense. Right now, the rest of my life is not in order, and I can definitely tell when I go to pay my bills each week.

And now is where we really get into it—I’m committing myself to get the rest of my life in order, and to share the journey with you. If you want to join in, that’s awesome. I’d love to hear about what you’re doing and how it’s going. If not, you can just use me for entertainment purposes, and that’s fine too! J

Which, I might as well disclose this up front—you know how I said I’m really, really good at finances, budgeting, and organizing paperwork? Well, I’m really, really not good and organizing stuff. All the stuff our house has accumulated during our two years of living here—well, I don’t know what to do with it. I take a look at it all and feel completely lost. Paralyzed. Granted, it doesn’t help that there’s so much going on that I don’t really have a lot of time or energy to stay on top of it all (or that we don’t have closets!).

Luckily, I have an awesome mama. While my mom doesn’t do so hot at the paperwork side of things, she kicks butt at organizing stuff. So, we’re employing some good old fashioned team work. Yesterday she came in and helped me start to get everything in a bit more order. With her help, I’m making my to-do list a DONE list! We’ve gone from disaster area, to looking pretty darn presentable! J

Okay… so to wrap this realllllly long (sorry!) blog post up—as I go along this journey of getting things in order, I’ll share it with you. Currently, I have a few projects brewing—a home management binder (yay, Pinterest!), a recipe binder, the cubbies for the entryway, getting Tate’s room in better working order, and finishing up the bathroom, just to start. So, stay tuned for some fun ideas, tips, and, if all else fails, laughs! J

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Let's Get Healthy

Okay, okay-- I've been a HUGE slacker. I can't believe I haven't posted since July... yikes!

But, I guess, once again, better late than never, right?

Well, hopefully...

So, I guess I might as well finish out my "food" series... with, as promised, healthiness! And I might as well get this out there from the beginning-- I'm awful at eating healthy. Part of it is because most of the foods I love the most are far from healthy. Part of it is because I feel like I'm twenty-four years old... I should be able to enjoy food. And in large part it's because growing up I could literally eat whatever I wanted to and it didn't matter. I never had a problem with what I ate impacting my weight until after I had Tate. Well, let me tell you, it's a big adjustment. It's hard knowing that a donut will go straight to my hips/butt/thighs, when it used to not matter!

But enough of my pity party. Here's what I do to try to stay healthy without breaking the bank:

1) Weight watchers. I'll admit it-- I haven't been doing this as diligently as I should. But, I did sign up for weight watchers online, and I do pay the monthly fee. I even have the app on my phone. In the beginning, I was rocking it out and I lost 8 pounds in the first three weeks. Then things got busy with our bathroom remodel, and it sort of fell apart. I am hoping to get back at it... hopefully mid-October things will settle back down in the Herendeen household!

2) Zumba. So I've never done an actual class, but we got Kinect for our x-box awhile back, and I really do enjoy doing the zumba with that. It's not a crazy-intense workout, but it allows for some good cardio, and I can tell that it helps.

And those are the main things. I've done Curves in the past, and that helped a TON (that's how I lost the baby weight between Tate's birth and the wedding). Unfortunately, my schedule didn't fit well with our local curves hours, so it quickly became not worth the money. I might go back in the future, but right now it's not gonna happen. I also try to eat veggies and fruit daily, although this can be challenging, especially with a husband who doesn't want to eat anything green or good for him! :) But we are working on it... and hopefully I'll keep getting better. I really do want to start running, too. I used to love running in high school and even college, but I haven't really gotten back into it since having Tate. I know I really just need to make the leap and do it... so here's hoping! :)

But anyway... my to-do list is about ten miles long, and I'm going to be honest... I'm mega distracted right now, so this is probably far from my best post. I think I'll leave it at that, but give you the heads up that I plan on posting tomorrow and hopefully it'll rock your socks off! :)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bulk It UP!

For some reason, the title of this made me giggle-- I picture a buffed-up weight lifting muscle-man. Kinda funny! :)

Anyway... that is COMPLETELY off topic!

Buying in bulk. Is it worth it? WELL... that's kind of a loaded question. Yes. No. It just depends! :)

So here's my thoughts--

Corey and I have a membership to Sam's Club. We first bought it before we were married and when Tate was just a little peanut. At that time, you could buy a "premier" or whatever it's called membership for $100 and then get a $100 travel voucher towards a travel package from Sam's. There was also the basic $40 membership. Since Core and I were engaged and knew we'd want to have some sort of mini-honeymood, we signed up for the $100 version, knowing that we'd likely get our investment back. PLUS, they do say you can reduce to the $40 version and get the $60 difference at any time. It made complete sense. AND what's even better, is we did use it! :) We had an absolute AMAZING honeymood in San Antonio, Texas, that only cost around $700 with the voucher (not costing the food once we got there-- but that's it!)!!! Quite the bargain, and totally worth it!

Corey and I at the Riverwalk-- our hotel was right on it! SO beautiful!
P.S. We paid in cash too-- such a good decision! :)

Unfortunately, Sam's no longer has that option, or trust me, we'd go for it EVERY SINGLE TIME!!!

But, as I said, we do still have a membership. The $40 version. Why? Well, because we can buy enough diapers to last Tate around (and now that we're sorta potty training him, more than) a month for $40 instead of spending that amount on a two week supply. Plus, while we're there, we can buy corn dogs (for anybody who knows us, they know we love corn dogs-- we had them as an option to eat at our wedding and don't care if it's hillbilly-- it's us!) in bulk and CHEAP, toilet paper (their toilet paper is without a doubt the best EVER and it's SO stinking cheap. We spend SO little on it and it lasts FOREVER!), granola bars (I eat one every morning on the way to work for breakfast!), and other odds and ends. Typically speaking, our bill ends up being around $90 for food that will last us over a month, diapers that last about a month, and toilet paper that lasts three months. Not too shabby.

HOWEVER, if it wasn't for Tate's diapers, it probably wouldn't be worth it. And as much as I hate saying good-bye to unlimted corn dogs for the month, when Tate is finally potty trained (as long as there isn't a Baby Herendeen already!) we'll probably not renew our membership.

Pretty much, the point of it all is that it may be worth it for you. It may not. Make sure you take into consideration your membership fee, your cost of items, and the gas it takes to get there too. For us, Fort Wayne is the closest Sam's, and that's an hour away. If the savings weren't so big, it might not be worth it. Also, take into consideration what's going on in your life. For Corey and I, it was MEGA worth it when we got married-- we bought the majority of food foor our wedding from Sam's, as well as the paper products. We saved a LOT. There's things like that you have to factor in and make sure you're getting the best deal.

And, as a side note, you MUST use cash or debit card when buying at Sam's. I think it's awesome... I'm not a big fan of debt (thank you, Dave Ramsey!) and appreciate them stopping me from being tempted, especially when I can buy SO much for SO little! :)

Anyway... that's my opinion on it-- use your brain and remember that SOMETIMES it's worth it... and sometimes not!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Date Night Dinner... FINALLY!

I'm back! AND, I find it a little ironic that this post is actually a lot like date nights in our household-- put off for far too long! :) I'm going to do my very best to do better at posting more regularly!

But anyway, a long, long time ago I promised to blog a few of the pointers Corey and I have picked up regarding food and how to eat affordably. I covered grocery shopping and the temptation of fast food, but then disappeared for awhile, but the next promised post was to be on date night dinners.

First off, I think it's incredibly important for people to take the time for their relationships. In all honesty, Corey and I aren't always super great at that, especially since I've been working at Alex full time. Both of us find it hard to take time that we could be with Tate for each other since we both spend more time than we'd like away from the little booger. But, with that being said, we are Tate's example of what a relationship should be, and our relationship is definitely better when we take time for each other, too. I think once a month is a good rule to go by-- and this doesn't mean necessarily going out once a month, but reserving time for just the two of you once a month.

So, when your date night comes around, what does that mean for your finances? I think it's absolutely CRAZY how expensive it actually is to go on a nice date. Even if you just go to dinner and a movie, you're looking at probably at LEAST $50. That's a decent chunk of change! Here's my thoughts on the matter:

1.) You don't have to go out to have fun. Don't be afraid to stay home. Cook dinner together. Light some candles and eat on a blanket in the middle of your living room floor. Buy a cheap bottle of wine, dress up, and dance to your favorite song on iTunes. Play twenty questions. Rent a redbox movie (this works REALLY well when you get the free rental codes!). You'll be amazed how much fun you can have being creative with an at-home date night!

2.) BUT also don't be afraid to go out and have fun. There's a lot of ways to go out cheaply. Pack a picnic, go to a park, eat and take a walk. Wait till your city's movie theater has it's discount price night, and go then (or go to the daytime showings when it's cheaper!). When you go out to eat, don't pick the most expensive item off the menu! This doesn't mean you always have to do this, but I think it's safe to say that you won't feel like you've missed anything by choosing these options instead!

And, as a quick P.S., this is also part of my promised post from forever ago-- please please please TIP WELL! There is nothing that drives me more crazy when people tip poorly. I have never been a waitress, but I know they put up with a lot of crap for not a lot of pay. I'm not saying you have to be extravagant, but I think minimum 15% is a good starting point. If they've done a really great job, PLEASE give more! Granted, if they're awful, I do think you should pay less. Personally, I could never leave nothing for a tip. Even if the waiter/waitress only came to take my order and bring my food and had a bad attitute while doing it, I would probably give 10%. Just my two cents! :)

Also, BUDGET. When you're going out, set a certain amount aside, take it out of the bank in CASH, and do not spend a penny more! That way, you won't look at your bank account the next morning and think man, that popcorn was not worth that much! :)

3.) Rotate. Maybe for two months stay in, then the third month go out, and rotate it around. This will give you a little bit of change, but still keep the budget in check.

4.) Think like a high school student. I don't know about you, but being an adult sometimes isn't very enjoyable. I really miss the carefree high school days. So why not live out a bit of your high school memories as a grown up? I think this works really well in the fall. Literally pretend you're going on a date with someone like you did in high school. Who cares if you're married??? Have your hubby drive around the block and still come to the door and pick you up. Go get fast food. Go to a football game. Have a bonfire afterwards. Maybe even make out in the car a little! ;) All I'm saying is don't be afraid to think outside of the box to refresh some of that romance. Don't do the same old same old all the time!

AND most importantly 5.) HAVE FUN!!! :)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Fast Food Frenzy

How can something so awful for you be so good?! That's always my question when I go to pretty much any fast food place. Mmmmm. Delicious. And SO cheap-- or so it seems.

That's the interesting part-- it seems like such a deal, but when you really break it down, you are majorly getting ripped off. That double cheeseburger and fries? If you made it at home, it would be way cheaper-- and most likely healthier too. Your taco-- LOADS cheaper if you made it at home, and you'd probably have leftovers to eat in the future. Seriously... think about it!

Trust me, I get the convenience. I get that sometimes it's delicious and you don't care. I'm in the same exact boat. There's days that I get off work and absolutely don't want to cook. There's days that nothing can fill my craving like a trip to the golden arches.

BUT what I try to remember is how much money I'm spending that I wouldn't have to. If I made that sandwich myself, I'd spend quite a bit less. That extra money could go then to paying debt, a trip, or who knows what. And it adds up so fast.

Corey and I started awhile back trying to limit all going out to once a week (and in all honesty, I think that's even quite a bit!). It isn't easy, and there's been a few weeks that we've failed miserably. But the other night I went through and looked at home much money we've spent recently on fast food-- holy cow! I seriously probably could have bought a holy cow! Okay, maybe not... but you get the point. It's craziness. Such a waste of money!

So here's my pointers:

1) Limit yourself. Try not to go more than once a week, or actually even once every two weeks. Corey and I are trying to work on that one-- yikes!

2) Think cheap. Seriously try to figure out how much it would cost you to make the same thing at home. Make sure it's worth it to you. And if you decide going to the fast food joint is worth it, don't order extravagantly. For one person five dollars should be MORE than enough.

3) Don't foresake your health/diet. I've noticed fast food isn't quite as appealing when I think about the health impact. I recently started weight watchers-- wow. When I see that that double cheesburger is over 10 points compared to the more "healthier" choices, it's a lot easier to order something different, or just altogether pass it up. Granted that might not work for you, but it certainly has helped me!

4) Think about what you're teaching your kids (if you have them). I'll admit it-- Tate loves chicken nuggets and fast fries. He knows the golden arches the second he sees them. And when I think about it, it's kind of sad. I'm not exactly being a good example to him. Definitely something to work on!

Anyway, I hope my little thoughts help-- nothing major or earth-shattering, but hopefully just a friendly little reminder that there probably are better ways to spend that hard earned money of yours!

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Trip to the Grocery Store

I can't be the only one who has a love-hate relationship with grocery shopping. I love picking out delicious meals and snacks, coming up with creative meals, and actually having food to choose from at home when I'm done. I hate battling the crowds, staying within the budget, and, the worst- the total at the checkout line.

Of course, no matter how much I love or hate the trip, it's something that I don't really have a choice to do or not. We gotta have food.

So how do you go about keeping the cost of the grocery trip run in check? Here's what Corey and I have found useful.

  • Make a list (and by list, I technically mean lists). Core and I do it in a couple of different ways. First, we have a magnetic notepad on the side of our fridge that, whenever we run out of something, we add it to the list. That saves us time when we create the master list, and also makes sure we don't forget anything! Which, as I just stated, the second part of our list is the infamous master list. Typically, to create it this list, I come up with 15-20 recipes I want to be able to make. Then I compile the list of what it takes to make these recipes that I don't have on hand. I make sure to write amounts, too, so I don't over or under buy. Lastly, I sort the list according to where I would find the items in the store. Of course, I also add items that aren't a part of the recipes too,  like cereal, fruit snacks, or string cheese, for example. This might seem a little overwhelming, but trust me-- it's so worth it! ESPECIALLY if you stick to the list. That's the important part of this-- making the list does no good if you aren't determine to stick to it. Granted, most trips I do give myself $10 of "listless" items, but I make sure I track it, and once I hit $10, I'm done. You also need to make sure you remember what meals you're buying stuff for. At our house, we have a "week planner" by our desk, and one of the columns is set aside for listing what we'll make for dinner each day. On the side it has a cork board, and I typically keep a list of the meals we bought stuff for and cross them off the list as I make them or put them on the board. It may seem like a lot, but really it's not, especially if you keep up with it. And another benefit is that you really don't have to go big grocery shopping that often. Most of the times we go to the store for the 15-20 meal trip once every other month, and then go probably every other week to get the things we run out of. I think we could go less if we did better and buying more of the things we go to faster, but it's not bad when the store is less than five minutes away from your house!
my week planner-- LOVE this thing!

  • Make a budget. For Corey and I, 15-20 meals fits the budget. BUT if your budget is more or less, adjust it accordingly. The first couple times you follow this, it's hard to know how many meals your budget will make. What we did was take the list of meals and prioritize them. The ones we wanted the most we bought the things for first, and then on down the list. During this, though, it's the nerd's job to not miss a thing and use a handy dandy calculator to do the math of about how much your order will cost. If you're anything like me, you'll love seeing how close you came at the end! :) Your ultimate goal here is to stick to the amount you alloted yourself. Period! Another way to do this is to write down the max cost you'll spend on items. If you know the approximate cost of the things on your list, this is an easier way to know how much you'll spend without having the eagle eye on the cart at the store!

  • Don't Shop Hungry. I know, I know, this is an old, old rule, but it's oh so true. When I step foot in the store without dinner, I'm practically guaranteed to make worse decisions about what I buy. It's so much harder to say no when your tummy is growling!
Another word of wisdom, if you have a small child, they are ALWAYS hungry and will beg you for something!
This is my lovely son showing me his cookie that he finally got out of me after begging and begging!

  • Take Advantage of Sales & Coupons. This is one area that I really would like to improve on. I'm going to be honest-- I will likely never be a crazy couponer. I have mad respect for the ladies on Extreme Couponing that can get paid to buy hundred of dollars in groceries, but right now there's no way that can be part of my lifestyle. Still, if you do it-- all the more power to you! And even if you can't do the mega couponing, it doesn't hurt to use a quarter off one here or a seventy-five cent off one there, or even a buy-one-get-one free! AND it NEVER hurts to pick up on a good sale! Keep your eyes peeled and take advantage, especially if it's something you buy often. BUT as a side note, it's not a deal if it's something you won't use. Even if it's pennies-- only get it if it's something your family will eat!
Anyway, happy shopping! I hope my little bit of advice can help! :) Stay tuned for future ways to eat on the cheap!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Wonderful World of Food!

I love food. Today during work, I found myself dreaming of lunch, then dinner, and everything in between. And I know I'm not the only person like that. We live in a world of foodies! :)

So how does that relate to finances?

Well, quite a bit actually. Food does cost money, right? And it's not like it's something you can cut out of the budget during a tight week. You need it. And it's not only in terms of stocking your pantry-- you factor in fast food, date nights, being healthy, and so on and you have quite the impact on your wallet. It's really easy to let food eat your moola right up (sorry, I couldn't resist the pun!).

Which means it's the perfect topic for my blog. For the next few posts, I'm going to look at how you can control your finances in the world of food. Here's what you have to look forward to:

1) A Trip to the Grocery Store. This one is a biggie. We'll talk about how to not blow the budget when you go to the store and what to do to get the essentials at a good price.

2) Fast Food Frenzy. Who doesn't love the occassional splurge on this junk? BUT, as cheap as it seems, how does it actually impact your finances? AND how can you keep it in check?

3) The Date Night Dinner. Granted, it's not just dates... even just going to a sit-down restaurant counts. How much is too much for these nights? What about tipping? Is it worth it?

4) Bulk It Up. This isn't just in the realm of food. Sometimes buying in bulk is a really great way to cut costs... and sometimes it kills the bank account. I'll look at the pros and cons of buying in bulk for anything, not just food.

5) Let's Get Healthy. This is another one that isn't just in the food world. Getting healthy can be expensive. Fresh fruits and veggies, gym memberships, etc. can put a dent in the budget! How can you keep it under control?

And that's it for now. Let me know if you have any specific points you want me to talk about that fall under any of these, or if you have another food-related issue that somehow relates to your moola that I've overlooked! And enjoy pigging out tonight-- next post you just might feel too guilty! :)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Is it Worth it?

I know, I know. "Is it worth it?" Such a mom question.

Well, I am a mom. And, in all honesty, it's a legit question.

Granted, during your high school years it probably relates more to breaking curfew or making some other less than intelligent decision, but it really does relate to grown up life, too. More specifically, finances.

Think about it. All too often I find myself looking at my checkbook register thinking, "I spent how much on that!?" If you literally have nothing to show for spending what you earned from your hard work, chances are what you chose to purchase wasn't worth it. Sure, that's not always the case. A lot of times though, it is.

Not only do I sometimes look back at my purchases and realize I spent too much, sometimes I look back at my purchases and truly know it wasn't worth it. Even a good buy can be a bad buy if it's not something you need. Take, for instance, my husband's never-ending garage sale purchases. (I pick on him because he has the opportunity to go to more garage sales since he works nights, but I'm guilty too... shhh!) He LOVES buying Tate fun little toys at a quarter here, a dollar here, a dime here. And granted, that isn't a big deal. I don't mind it, truly. But when Tate has hundreds of toys sitting around our house that he doesn't play with, it does seem a little silly to buy him more things, even if they are cheap. Of course, on the flip side, when you have a two year old fizzling out on the whole garage sale thing and a fifty cent toy will keep him from screaming bloody murder, chances are it's most definitely worth it.

But here's the challenge-- don't look back at your purchases and think if they're worth it. Ask yourself before you buy. And don't make rash decisions either. If you can't answer right away, that doesn't necessarily mean the answer is no. It might mean you need to sleep on it.

For instance, Corey and I decided to expand our deck so there was a bit more room for our patio furniture and such. Obviously decks aren't really something you can purchase instantly, but I still made sure it wasn't something I chose to do and then the next weekend did. I processed it through my mind, figured out an approximate cost, and then made the leap. I made sure we could afford it and that it was going to make a big enough impact for the cost. I thought it through!

However, I do need to work on the smaller purchases. Trinkets for the house, clothes (espeically for Tate-- see toy story above, the clothes situation is the same!), books, and the list could go on. I need to think before I swipe! AND you should too! :)

And for another little tidbit-- just because the money is there doesn't mean that you should spend it, even if the purchase seems worth it. THINK ABOUT IT! Weigh your options.

As an example, the money Corey and I spent on the deck we could have used to do a different house project, go on a trip, or something else entirely. That was part of my thought process-- did I really want a deck first, or should I make remodeling the bathroom a higher priority? Would we have enough money for a vacation if the chance to take one arose? In the end, I thought the deck was worth it-- and I still do. Corey did AWESOME (with the help of my grandpa-- who without a doubt is the hardest working man I know) and I truly think it was a great investment.

Plus (this might be going off on yet another sidenote-- I do that a lot sometimes, sorry!), one of the great things about attempting to live below your means is having the money to spend on things like decks, vacations, and the like. Corey and I try really hard to save a good chunk of the money we bring home each week. And every month I try to put a large portion of that to paying off our lovely lump of debt, but I also think it's important to occassionally have fun. Of course, it probably wouldn't hurt to save a bit more (yet another thing for me to work on!). Granted, not everyone can do that, and don't feel guilty if you can't. I TOTALLY was there. The key if you're in that situation is, like I said before, not going into debt!

DEBT SUCKS!!!!! Sorry, but there's no other better way to put it. Corey and I could afford a lot more home remodels, trips, garage sale finds, and clothes if we didn't have that awful four letter word sucking our dollars and cents every week! We would also have a larger savings account which would make me  a much happier wife and mama! :)

So, to link this all back together and wrap it up-- don't forget to ask yourself "is it worth it?" Whether it's for a tiny little garage sale purchase, a deck expansion, or even going into debt, use the brain God gave you and make sure that you're not wasting your dollars and cents!

P.S. I looked back at my past posts-- and a lot of them follow this same theme... apparently I'm not good at remember what I write about in the past... and this is a real issue for me! I promise the next post will be a completely different topic-- any suggestions let me know! :)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


I was fully intending to get back to this sooner... why is it that life always gets in the way? Or maybe it's just me being lazy???


Part of what brought me back to blogging was that I have a confession to make-- I did one of the things I hate the most in my very own checkbook. I used the dreaded ESP. What is ESP? Well, it's a lovely little abreviation for "error some place." Not a good thing. For the past few weeks, my checkbook has been off by about $3. The dollar amount doesn't change. It's always the dreaded $3 and some odd cents. SO FRUSTRATING!

Which, to go off on a little tangent, I fully blame Redbox. While those little machines may be one of the best inventions ever, they're also awful, terrible creations. I despise the way they show up on my checking account statement. For instance, say Saturday night we rented a move (we didn't, but just saying!). In theory, it should show up with the $1.26 or whatever it is for that night, and then if I don't return it until Monday morning, it should show up $1.26 for the next night. Does it do that?! NOOOO!!! First off, it takes them FOREVER to process. AND if I happen to get more than one movie, do you think the whole total shows up right away? Of course not! And then if I keep it for more than just one additional night they just bulk it all together. I HATE IT! And granted, I should do better at keeping track of it on my own so I wouldn't have that problem, but somedays I forget, or I enter it twice, or just get thrown off on what $1.26 Redbox charge is what. They need better labels. Or something.

Okay, enough of that.

I made the mistake. I used ESP. My time-saving, stop worrying about everything side says it's no biggie. It's three bucks. Chill. My accounting, where the heck did that money go side is going nuts. WHAT HAPPENED?!

I tried to go through and analyze. It didn't work. One day it balanced, the next it didn't. I for the life of me cannot figure it out. And, it doesn't help that I spend my days at work making things balance and get PAID to do it. I don't get paid to do my own.

So what's my advice here? Well, a couple of things:

1) DON'T use ESP. First, it really is a bad habit. You should know where the money went. Trust me, I TOTALLY get being fed up with it and just giving up. And I think if it happens like ONCE a year it's not going to result in epic disaster. Just keep in mind that it's not the best option!

2) Don't short-change yourself. The whole time I was trying to get it to balance and failing, I kept thinking, if I was at work I'd get paid to do this for the company. I really shouldn't have thought like that. Isn't it WAY more important that I do it for myself? It's MY money, not the companies. By knowing where my money goes, it IS like paying myself!

3) Advice to myself: write more. It feels good. And it's a great confession tool! :)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Too Easy

This weekend taught me something-- it is way too easy to spend money.

Corey, Tate, and I went a little crazy in the world of blowing cash during the past few days. Friday we went to Applebees, mostly because neither of us wanted to cook, then went to Menards while we were in town and got a few things (granted, they were things we needed, like a new hose-- ours had holes galore, but still...). Saturday was even worse-- we went to Toledo to the Amtrak station because they were having a free tour of the 40th Anniversary Train, and since Tate absolutely adores trains, we figured it would be a good (and cheap) thing to do. And it was... except for you factor in the gas, and that, since we were up there, we stopped at a few stores, and of course went out to eat. Poof! There goes the cash.

Let me go back for a minute-- I already knew it was easy to spend money. It's always easier to spend than to save. AND it's really really really really easy to forget how easy it is to spend money when you're in the store or out and about and just want to enjoy your time.

Which, to take further, I don't think there's anything wrong to spend money and enjoy your time to a certain extent. In all honesty, Corey and I only spent money we had this weekend-- nothing was put on a credit card or anything like that. And you know what, we do work hard for our money and should be able to do things that we enjoy with it. But by spending some of our extra money this weekend, that puts us a little bit further from reaching our goals. That has to be something we're okay with. Even more importantly, that has to be something that's always in the back of our minds as we're spending that cash, which I think is the hardest part.

One thing I've been thinking about doing is putting a picture or list of Corey and I's dreams in my wallet by my debit card and where I keep my cash. That way, every single time I swipe my debit card or spend a couple bucks, I have a visual reminder of what I'm taking from myself. I can actually think "Is this worth it?"

So, the moment of truth, was this weekend's spending worth it? Mostly, yes. Maybe going back I would have not been quite so free, but I am happy with all of our purchases and don't think we were too lavish. The way I look at it, Tate's only little once. To a certain point, we need to be here now and enjoy the time we have. Of course, there is a fine line between living in the moment and being dumb with what you're given, but I think most people have the common sense to know that... you just have to apply it! :)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

When Things Get Crazy...

Sorry it's been a couple days... end of the month at work (which, ironically, is actually the 1st week of the month) is crazy, and by the time I get home I just want to relax. But I really need to get back to blogging, so despite the craziness, I'm writing today!

And, I decided craziness is the perfect thing to write about...

Life is crazy. Unexpected things happen. Expected things happen. Both can be a little bit stressful and overwhelming. Especially when they relate to your finances.

So what happens when the craziness enters your financial world?

Number one, you need an emergency fund. If you don't have one now, try really hard to do it. I know, you might be thinking, I don't have a single extra cent! I understand, trust me, I do. But try... really try. Instead of getting fast food, sack that money away. Even just put aside $5 a week. Do what you can! I would try to put aside at least $500, more if you can handle it. Corey and I didn't put any extra money towards paying off our loans until we had $1000, but we still put $25 a month into the account. And, I'll be honest too-- our initial $1000 was from our tax return last year... then something (I don't remember what... it truly wasn't an emergency... oops!) came up, and we took some out. We never built it completely back up, but between all of our savings accounts we feel comfortable that we have enough to cover what is necessary at this time in our lives, plus we add the $25. Once our debt is paid down though, we want to build up an even larger emergency fund-- probably around 6 months of expenses. Those of you who have taken Dave Ramsey classes will recognize a lot of this, only notice that mine is a bit more casual. Ultimately, the emergency fund is your safety net. It'll make you feel better about your world and less overwhelmed by an craziness that comes your way!

Some other things? Talk to your significant other about any emergencies that could happen (the car breaks down, one of you lose your job, etc.) and what you might do. I'm not saying imagine insane worst case scenarios or to spend hours on end on this, but just some basic things. Granted, if you have a brand new car, you likely won't have the emergency of a car break down, so maybe you don't need to discuss this one. Maybe yours is an unexpected pregnancy or a medical emergency. And remember the post where I talked about the "nerd" and the "free spirit?" The free spirit will think this is stupid. The nerd will find this comforting. Remember to compromise! :)

Pray about it! Seriously. God might not answer your prayer the way you hoped, but He will hear it. And I promise you that if you pray about what's overwhelming you and making your life crazy, you'll feel better.

And that's it for now! I'm off to watch some TV, chill on the couch, and pray that the craziness calms down-- hopefully I'll be able to post again soon! :)

Sunday, April 29, 2012


Well, friends, here it is—the how to make a budget post! Granted, there are countless ways out there to make a budget; this is just what has worked wonderfully for Corey and I. I’m going to try to make it as simple and user-friendly as I can, but if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask!

First, remember my “get organized” post where I told you to list how much money you make as well as all your monthly expenses? Well, there was a reason. It will be absolutely key in creating your budget. If you haven’t done it yet, I strongly suggest doing it now. And if you have, awesome! Get it out! J

Now, as a warning, the first time you create a budget will without a doubt be the most difficult. You’ll probably want to throw things. You’ll probably wish you had more money. You’ll probably feel completely broke in the end. Keep in mind that it does get easier and that those feelings will go away the more you stick to the budget!

Next task—come up with a system. In my post on Friday, I posted a picture of the columnar pad I use to create our budget. Personally, I like being able to write it down, check it off, and carry it with me easily if necessary. However, if you prefer using Excel, or anything more high-tech, that’s fine. And, before I found my lovely columnar pad, I used a plain old notebook and that worked like a gem too. You don’t have to be picky—whatever works for you! I would suggest though to use something with lines, just to avoid confusion.

So, before we go any further, I’ve posted a picture of a sample budget. And, as a disclosure, this is very much not what our budget looks like—I threw this together quick just to use as a reference (sorry, I didn’t really feel comfortable broadcasting our actual dollar figures here—maybe someday!). After I finished, I realized the pretend owners of this pretend budget have way fewer bills than I do and way way more savings! Sorry about that! But anyway, here you are:

This wasn't so tiny on my picasa account...hmmm...

Maybe a bit better, but still kinda small...

I'm going to suggest that if you can't see it in the above pics (which, does not surprise me at all), to look at it through this link (that I realllly hope works!):

Clear as mud, right? Let’s walk through it.

At the very top you’ll see “Allocated Spending Plan.” This is also known as budget. I get the fancy “allocated spending plan” term from the Dave Ramsey class. He has you separate like this too, only his is a LOT more detailed. Maybe the greater detail will work better for you—and again, I would encourage you to take Dave Ramsey’s class. Dave’s class will also tell you recommended percentages for each category. Why don’t I use this? Well, our debit is way above the recommended percentages, and some of our items cannot practically stay within the guidelines. As an example, our utilities are always extraordinarily high in the winter, but in the summer it’s much closer. Another reason is that since I don’t use the broken down version, it makes it less practical to keep Dave’s guidelines. For us, it seemed a bit more realistic based on the way we live to do it this way. When we first started Dave’s class, we did use the percentages though. Also, Dave will teach you to use cash for certain items on your list. For instance, on my list you’ll see the “Food/Misc.” category. This is one of the areas I lump a LOT of things together. This is pretty much my all other expense except monthly bills money. Dave would say that’s a no-no and to use cash for Food and many of the other things I lump into that Misc. Personally, I’ve found that if I have cash, I spend it. Period. I look at it as “I have this money, so I can spend it,” and therefore do. Many people, as you learn from Dave Ramsey, spend less when dealing with cash because they can actually feel the pain of spending and see the money disappear. And if that’s the way you are, by all means use cash! As I’ve said before, I’m just sharing what’s worked for us. Anyway, I’ll say more about the “Food/Misc.” category later in this post and this tangent has lasted long enough!

The dates are the next part of the budget. May happens to be a nifty month that falls into the four Fridays category, making the budget make the most sense. However, depending on the day you choose to use as your “bill day,” this will be adjusted. Say, for instance, Thursday is your bill day. Your dates would technically be May 3rd, 2012-May 31st, 2012, and thus you’ll end up with 5 weeks. If you find it easier to just add an extra week to your budget, feel free to do so. Corey and I do it a bit differently though—I always use four weeks. So, to use the Thursdays in May as an example, my budget would have May 3rd, 2012-May 24th, 2012. Then, my next budget would end up being May 31st, 2012-June 21st, 2012 and so on. The biggest reason I do this is because I actually end up paying bills ahead, which ultimately ends up as more money! J YAY!!!

Item and Incomes are just labels—hopefully those make sense to you. The dates at the top are each week’s bill day broken down. Again, hopefully that makes sense. As I’ve said, feel free to ask questions if not!

And now we’re getting into the fun part! J First, list your incomes below the “incomes” title. Remember that this is actual take home pay, not pre-tax or anything like that. Your numbers will most likely not be as clear cut as my sample numbers, and that’s 100% okay. One thing that I’ve found useful when doing this is rounding. If on a typical week I make, say $392.54, I would bump this down to $390. That would leave the $2.54 as “extra” money, so to speak. Also, if your pay isn’t regular, I would strongly encourage you to use the low end of what you would make. When I worked at the bank, it would all depend on how many hours I was scheduled, so I always went with the low end. Say I had the potential to get a $500 check at the end of two weeks, but I also could make as little as $300. I would use $300. This gives me a nice chunk of “extra” if I do make the big bucks, but doesn’t cause a problem if I don’t. Which, speaking of—Corey and I both get paid weekly at our current jobs, but if you get paid biweekly, or even monthly, this will change your allocated income. Say you would get paid on the 11th and 25th—that’s fine. Put those as your pay dates and then pay your bills those weeks. It’s the same process. If any of you need me to walk you through this more, feel free to tell me! Message me on Facebook, leave a comment here, or whatever works. I’d be happy to create a sample budget based on your schedule if that’ll make it make more sense! Once you have your incomes all entered in, total them for each week, and in the “total” column at the end.

Expenses. Yikes. This is where it gets nice and sticky! First, list out your expenses. I’m going to go through my sample list to hopefully make it a bit more clear:

1.)  Tithing. Never will I tell you that you must tithe. Do what you feel God is calling you to do. I used the standard 10% when computing this, just for simplicity’s sake. Don’t feel as if you must follow—give more, give less, don’t give (though I lean more to the first two, I don’t want anyone to ever feel obligated to give to church… but I’m not going to start a sermon, so that’s it!)

2.)  Savings 1. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a standard savings account. On Corey and I’s budget, this is the savings account we have linked to our checking account. We put a good portion of Corey’s check there automatically every paycheck with the goal of putting it aside so we don’t spend it. We figure if it doesn’t ever hit our checking, it has a good chance of not getting sent out. Also, we’re working on paying off debt right now, so about once or twice a month I’ll move a big chunk of what has went into this account to put towards Mr. Credit Card. If you have something like this, cool! If not, that’s fine too. None of these items must be on your budget.

3.)  Savings 2. I added this again simply because it’s on our budget. Every week we put a small (much smaller than what the crazy people who own my sample budget do!) portion of our money towards an account for Tate. Our intention for this account is to use it if ever an expense comes up for him that isn’t covered by our normal finances, not for him to just have money socked away. If we get through his growing up years without using it all, we’ll give it to him someday (maybe when he gets married?). I eventually plan to post something about how to help children handle finances, where I’m sure I’ll go more in depth about what we plan to do with Tate, but part of this plan is that when he is old enough open up his own account that the birthday money, odd job money, etc. would get put into.

4.)  Emergency Fund. In Dave Ramsey’s plan, your emergency fund is Baby Step 1. $1000 in the bank. Corey had a savings account at a bank in Defiance before we got married that we’ve allowed to act as our emergency fund. The bank doesn’t have a branch in Bryan, so it makes access a little bit more difficult than our standard checking and savings. We have a small dollar amount automatically going to this account each week (not part of Dave’s plan, but since it’s a small amount, it makes me feel comforted and we don’t miss it!).

5.)  Mortgage. For some of you this will be rent. I don’t think I need to explain that aspect. However, a couple things. First, notice that in my sample budget this is listed the week of the 25th. I did this assuming your rent would be due on the 1st. If you haven’t paid May’s rent yet, make sure you don’t miss it! Also, I would like to add that for Corey and I our home insurance and property tax is included in our mortgage. If yours isn’t, you’ll need to add lines for these. Again from Dave, it’s a good idea to make use of a “sinking fund” for items like property tax that come up irregularly, but yet predictably, throughout the year. If you aside so many dollars each week for this, you won’t be surprised and scrambling for the cash when it comes due.

6.)  Utilities. Again, self explanatory. Ours are all on one bill, break yours down if you have things separated.

7.)  Internet. Same as before. Oh, and also—we both are still on our parent’s cell phone plans and have payment worked out without monetary transactions. You’ll need to add that if need be.

8.)  Food/Misc. Ahhh, the fun one! J In an ideal world, I would break this down a bit more. I could list out an allotment for clothing, toiletries, entertainment, clubs, yada, yada, yada. Instead, I add it all in here and keep track of this money in a check register I carry with me everywhere. I refer to this as my “extra money” fund. For this sample person, on May 4th’s bill day I would add $150 to my fund. Then, if I go grocery shopping that evening and spend $80, I would subtract that. I also would add the “extra” money I talked about in the income section. Say I wrote down that I would get paid the $500 in the sample budget, but I made $515. The extra $15 would be moved to the “extra money” fund. If I made less, this would be subtracted. Pretty much, anything not a regular bill gets added or subtracted and anything that is over or short of what I budgeted gets added or subtracted. This might be confusing—let me know. I do intend to go over this more in the future. Also, this money still goes in my regular check register. Yes, it’s a process.

9.)  Car Payment. Joy oh joy.

10.)               Fuel/Car Maintenance. This is also one I do weird, but for simplicity’s sake (and time management), I’ll discuss that in a later blog post. For now, this is where the money you’ll spend each week in gas, oil change, car washes, and the like goes.

11.)               Car Insurance. Ours comes out automatically every month. I know some people pay this annually or semi-annually. If that’s the case for you, this can be another sinking fund.

12.)               Health. It seems like no matter how hard I try, sneaky little medical bills, colds, allergies, or something, always enter my life. This is how I attempt to plan for it. If Tate gets sick and we head to the doctor, the money is there. If I run out of Tylenol and have a major headache, no worries, the money is there. You get the idea.

13.)               Life Insurance. I feel like I’m talking an awfully lot about Dave Ramsey, but he has a lot of great points. Life Insurance is hugely important, especially if you have small children. How will you keep your standard of living if, God forbid, something happened to your significant other? How will you pay for the funeral? I know it’s something horrible to think about, but do it. Dave recommends term life insurance, and it makes so much more sense than anything else out there. And, the younger and healthier you are, the cheaper it is, so do it! Ours is literally $30 bucks a month for peace of mind if anything would happen to either of us,  or, God forbid, both.

14.)               Babysitting. Not all of you would have this, and some of you most definitely do. You may not pay weekly, but again, adjust it as need be.

15.)               Credit Card. BOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! L

16.)               Same with both student loans—ICKKKKKYYYYY!!!! L

Then, the next step is breaking it down. It will likely be a huge pain in the rear. Don’t be surprised if you mess up, a lot. It’s okay. And don’t expect your first budget to work perfectly as you’re using it either. Next month there’s a high chance you’ll have to adjust. That’s normal, good even! You’re learning! J Here’s a few tips how to make it go a bit easier though:

1.)  Look at due dates. If something is due the 1st of the month, hopefully it’s already paid, so you can put it into the 25th. If not, pay it the 4th, and keep in mind you may need to adjust in the future. If something is due the 15th, be sure to pay it either the 4th or the 11th. And so on…

2.)  Don’t be afraid to partial pay. Say your credit card payment is like the one on the sample budget, $200 a month. If you’re having problems finding a week you can pay that full $200, pay $100 one week and $100 the next. The credit card company (or any other) won’t care—they just want their money. Keep in mind the due dates though, and do your best not to be late!

3.)  Don’t shortchange yourself. Gas is an easy one to do this on. If you typically spend $100/week on gas, but last week you only spent $80, don’t take that to mean you can change your budget to $80. Keep it at the $100. It’s better to have it and not need it then to be short and have to find out where to take it from.

4.)  Prioritize. Some of you may have more expenses than income. If that’s your case, remember that having a roof over your head, a warm temperature, and food to eat are your priorities. You’ll also need a way to get to work. Continue to prioritize like that, and look for areas where you may be able to cut back.

5.)  Allocate every cent. You want your balance at the end to be zero. Tell your money where to go. Don’t think, oh, I’ll just keep aside $50 to add wherever I may need it. If that’s the case, put it in your Misc. fund, but don’t completely leave it off the budget.

6.)  Track your expenses. This is a new thing in the Herendeen household, and very much still a work in progress. I created an “expense report” Excel document on our desktop. Every time we spend a single cent it gets entered into our expense report. The expense report is color coded based on what category it falls under (food, home, entertainment, etc.). We do this for a couple of reasons:

a.    It allows us to see where we might be able to cut back. If there’s a lot of yellow, for entertainment, that might mean we need to cool it on the Redbox visits, just to name a possibility.

b.    It makes us think twice about spending something. If I’m in the store and see a snack that looks particularly yummy, it’s so so so so easy to impulse buy. BUT, if I think, is it worth putting it on the expense report? I’m a lot less likely to say no.

c.    It creates accountability. This relates to b, but also is worthy to be on its own. If I know Corey will see my McDonald’s Mocha on the expense report and pick on me for it, there’s a higher chance I’ll keep driving instead of heading through the drive thru.

7.)  Stick with it. I said before it’s not going to be easy. Just keep in mind it’s so worth it in the end!

And that is how you create a budget! YOU DID IT!!! J I truly hope I communicated it well… and once again, don’t be afraid to ask if you have questions. I 150% promise not to judge you… doing this isn’t easy. I understand. I just want to be able to help people avoid the all too easy to find pitfalls of finances!