Baby Step Update — Financial Freedom

Baby Step Update — Financial Freedom

Hi friends! How are you doing!?

I’ve been meaning to do this post for a while, but for whatever reason it just kept getting pushed to the back burner. Financial peace is something I think about a lot and I thought it would be fun (and hopefully encouraging to you) to update you on where we are in the baby steps.

My husband and I have been following Dave Ramsey for a bit. I honestly don’t remember when we started learning more about his Financial Peace system and baby steps, but we’ve been taking it seriously and moving along the steps. Maybe about a year at this point? We read Dave’s book, The Total Money Makeover, in January and I listen to his podcast, The Dave Ramsey Show, regularly. By regularly, I mean every day.

I really appreciate his no-nonsense attitude about finances and how willing he is to provide free resources for people that want to learn and make the changes. Not everyone is open to changing, but the ones that are have a proven system to build wealth and leave a legacy. I was hesitant to get on board with his methods, but the more I listened, the more sense it made to me. It feels good to have a plan and it has helped Eric and I with our communication about money. We’re on the same team working toward the same goals. What a blessing!

If you’re not familiar with Dave Ramsey, he talks about 7 Baby Steps to get out of debt, save for your future and ultimately be able to build wealth and give.

Baby Step 1: Save $1,000 (starter emergency fund)
Baby Step 2: Pay off all debt (except for your home) using the snow ball method
Baby Step 3: Save a fully funded Emergency Fund (3-6 months worth of expenses)
Baby Step 4: Invest 15% of household income
Baby Step 5: Save for kid’s college
Baby Step 6: Pay off your home
Baby Step 7: Build wealth and give

Simple and to the point. Once you complete a baby step then you move to the next. It takes out the guesswork so you can focus on using your money best for your stage of life.

You may remember we officially paid off my student loans (you can visit the post here) back in September. Best feeling ever! Since then we have made a lot of progress. We did things a little off plan at the beginning as we were learning, but at the end of the day things got done.

Baby Step 1 completed November 1, 2017.
Baby Step 2 completed November 2017.
Baby Step 3 completed February 14, 2018 — sweet Valentine’s Day gift 😉
Baby Step 4 started on February 18, 2018
Baby Step 5 skipped for now (we will start this once we’re blessed with kids)

That leaves us to paying off our home and/or saving up for a future down payment on our next home! We’re not sure when that move will happen, but we want to be prepared. We’ve accomplished all the goals we have set to this point, so it’s time to set new and bigger ones!

Last month we decided to start working with a Financial Advisor to help with our retirement savings and be a guide through this financial journey. We found him through Dave Ramey’s endorsed local providers, SmartVestor Pro. Our advisor also happens to attend our church which sealed the deal for me! We are young, so retirement seems so far away, but it’s important to us to start this right so we can maximize our efforts.

Our journey up to this point hasn’t been perfect. There have been times that felt clumsy and hopeless. Especially at the beginning when we were trying to figure it all out and get systems into place. Debt snowball. Budget. Weekly budget meetings. Things I wanted, but knew I shouldn’t buy. It was tough, but it did get easier each day.

I have to be honest, we’re not 100%. We do our best to follow the plan exactly, but sometimes it won’t be 100%. But we’re as close as we can be for right now.

We still have a leased car. A “fleece” as Dave would say. Worse comes to worse and we’ll finish out the lease then pay cash for our next car.  We have been busy with work and opening up the new ice cream, Vida Dulce, that other things may go to the back of our minds for the time being. We are only investing 15% of my income instead of our household. Since Eric is a business owner, the investments aren’t as straight forward — I’m sure we’ll discuss that with our advisor. With the shop opening recently and getting paychecks figured out, we’ve put a pause on paying extra on the house to make sure we have enough money to pay our bills. We’ll get it all together, but for now I feel good about where we’re at and what we have accomplished!

If you’re already on your financial freedom journey or want to start one, I have some encouragement for you. 

It will be hard. Financial peace + freedom isn’t normal. Normal is debt, credit cards, loans. We want to be weird! It will take intention and hard work.

If you are married, communication is key. You have to be on the same page, otherwise you’ll be spinning your wheels and get frustrated. You are stronger together. Once you attack this, you’ll realize you can do anything as a team!

You may want to give up and throw in the towel. But don’t! It is worth it. Each positive step you take moves you that much closer to your goals.

You are doing this to live a life a freedom and leave a legacy. You are doing this so that you can be a blessing when the opportunity arises. You are doing this so that your life isn’t full of money stress, but full of peace and joy.

Don’t get me wrong, money isn’t everything. But it is a major tool that allows us opportunities and choices. You don’t have to be “rich” to do this plan. My husband and I do well, but we certainly don’t make a ton. We had to make sacrifices and decide what’s more important. I’ve heard success stories of single moms, of couples that make annually $750k+ and everything in between. It can be done if you decide.

Do you have a financial goal you’re working towards right now? I’d love to cheer you on! As always, I’m available to chat if you have any questions or just need some accountability ❤

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3 FREE ways to earn money on your phone

3 FREE ways to earn money on your phone

This post contains affiliate links. See affiliate disclaimer here.

We all have different reasons for making some side money. Maybe you’re trying to pay off debt. Maybe you’re doing alright financially, but you want a bit more margin between income and budget. Maybe you want to treat yourself without dipping into your usual income. No matter the reason I think we can all agree a bit of extra is never a bad thing!

You’re here because you saw there’s FREE ways to earn money from your phone — you are a smart cookie! Apps are a beautiful thing and do you know what’s even more fantastic!? You’ll be earning money by doing things you’re likely already doing! So might as well get paid, right!? That’s a no brainer. Lets get these apps downloaded and you on your way to earning some cash!

#1 Ibotta

Yes, you’ve heard about this one before because it was one of my October Favorites! If you aren’t familiar with Ibotta you can go to that post to learn a bit more about it, but basically it’s an app that gives rebates for shopping certain items. Not every single store is available, but it’s a good bet you do shop with at least one of the stores.

Create your shopping list (I usually just do this for groceries, but places like Target, Amazon, and Kohls are on there as well) and then check which items are offered on Ibotta — simple! I make my list first so I’m not adding in a bunch of unnecessary items which would defeat the purpose. Pay attention to the available bonuses as well. You can earn additional bonuses depending on things like number of offers redeemed, certain products purchased, and referring friends to earn money through rebates too!

After 2 shopping trips I earned $37.25 by taking advantage of the Ibotta offers and bonuses. You can withdraw your earnings by cash (Venmo or Paypal) or various giftcards. Almost $40 for something I need to do anyways?? Yes, please!

If you’d like to try Ibotta you can sign up through the link here! A $10 welcome gift is waiting for you!

#2 Swagbucks

This app/website is super easy money! It’s easy, but it’s not quick money. It does require some work and attention, but otherwise it’s very simple. You earn “swagbucks” (1 swagbuck = 1 penny) through various activities such as watching videos, answering surveys, shopping sites from Swagbucks, entering swag codes and participating in site wide challenges.

A penny at a time doesn’t sound like it would add up to much, but it does! Since starting in late October (and not really taking it “seriously” until November) I have earned a $25 Amazon gift card which went towards a Christmas present 😉 You’re surfing the web or on your phone pretty much 99% of the time, might as well earn some spending money in the background.

When I have downtime I’ll open a tab for Swagbucks to run the videos or set aside some time to focus on attempting a survey. I will tell you that I don’t qualify for many of the surveys, but overall I’ve had good success with them. They don’t take much time, so it’s definitely worth a shot.

There’s more tips and tricks I can share with you personally if you’re interested — I’ve picked up on some helpful things along the way that’s helping me earn more and make the most of my free time!

If you’re interested in earning some extra money for the holidays coming up or just as a treat for yourself, try it out by signing up here! You’ll get a $3 bonus once you earn 300SB.

#3 Achievement

This is an app I actually found through Swagbucks and I like it! I do wish I could earn money faster, but the reason I use it is because I’m earning money for something I would be doing anyways, similar to the thought behind using Ibotta.

Achievement rewards you for healthy activities! I linked it to my Fitbit, so it automatically syncs each day based on my healthy activities. I’ve been earning points (that go towards earning cash) from my sleep, water, and steps. Every so often there are available offers that you can earn points from as well.

10,000 points can be redeemed for $10. It’ll take some time to earn that, but if you’re wearing a fitness tracker anyways, might as well connect it to the app and start earning towards your $10. It’s mindless as far as work put into the app, so I’m okay with it taking longer. Ready to set it and forget it?? Get started with Achievement by signing up here! You’ll get 500 points right off the bat just for signing up! 🙂

What are your favorite free apps or websites for earning some extra money!? 

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How to Set Up Your Budget

How to Set Up Your Budget

Budgeting isn’t sexy or fun, but it is oh so necessary… Unless you want to continue wondering where all your hard earned money went! Because you’re here, I know you’re the kind of person that wants to flourish in every area of your life — finances are a major component that flows into every other area!

Ask anyone who has gotten out of debt and built wealth what the biggest key to their success is and they will tell you the same thing: budget. Creating and sticking to a budget gives you the control to tell your money where you want it to go instead of it going where it wants (which is usually out of your wallet).

I am not a budget expert, but I have incorporated a budget into my life that I’ve stuck with for the last 3 or so years. It has changed and evolved of course, but I’ve remained friends with my trusty budget and it’s literally paid off throughout life’s changes.

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A glimpse at our monthly budget without the dollar amounts

Now lets get your budget created! To start, grab a piece of paper and a pen — we’re going to set up the outline to your budget by answering 6 questions. Are you ready!?

  1. Are you creating this budget for yourself or your family? Another way to ask is, are you married or single? Either way, the overall idea will be the same, but depending on your situation, the individual elements will be different. For example, if you’re married and your spouse has a car payment, that item needs to be on your family budget, but your boyfriend’s car payment wouldn’t be on your budget — make sense? This answer will also come into play with #6.
  2. What income do you bring in? Our income varies each month because Eric works as a server and mine can vary with commission. We have a base line amount and track what we’re actually bringing in each week. This is important because your income must outweigh your budget with any excess going towards your goals. Your income to budget ratio may tell you that you need to pick up a side job. Knowledge is power!
  3. What are your bills? What are their amounts and due dates? If this is your first time putting everything down on paper it may be hard to think about, but just start writing down every payment you can think of. This includes things like utilities, rent/mortgage, student loan payment, phone plan, insurance, gas, groceries — any payment you need to make each month. I make note if the bill is set up with auto draft (by using an asterik*), if it’s a varied or fixed amount (pinkish purple box), and I list them in order of their due date. You may prefer to list in order of priority. Either way will work.
  4. What debt do you owe? This is scary to do, but it’s important to know what you’re up against. Calcuate all of your debt. Student loans, car loans, credit cards, etc. Once you shed the light on your debt monster, you’ll be better prepared to attack it! This amount will shrink each month and you’ll be able to watch your progress.
  5. What are you spending? Sometimes we find ourselves wondering: where the heck did all that money go?? Track your spending. Tracking will allow you to identify where you can cut back and where each dollar is actually going. A lot of your money may be going towards bills, but if you’re not making progress on your financial goals, the excess is likely going everywhere else. Another benefit of tracking is that it’ll hold you more accountable to your budget — do you really want to spend that extra money on shoes or a meal out when it could be better used towards debt??
  6. What are your financial goals? I’ve mentioned goals throughout the previous questions, so they must be important. Set your goals! Do you want to be debt free by a certain date? Do you want to have a certain amount of money saved up? Do you want to pay off your house or car? I’m sure you have dreams, but until you write down your goals, they will continue to stay just that- dreams. I want to see those dreams become reality for you! 

This is the blueprint, but actually creating the foundation is up to you! It doesn’t matter how you create and manage your budget as long as you are consistant in sticking to it. A spreadsheet in GoogleDocs (as seen above) is what works for us, but we have friends that prefer using an app such as Every Dollar, Mint, You Need a Budget, and Good Budget. They all have the same purpose, so try something out to see what works. It may take some time to work out the kinks, but stick with it. It’ll take about 3 months for you to really nail down your budget and get comfortable, so if it’s not clicking right away, don’t worry!

Also, don’t be afraid to adjust as necessary based on your progress towards your goals. Things may come up where you have to tighten the budget or you meet goals and can relax a bit. Push yourself, but not so intensly that you give up. Consistency is key here!! Check in with your budget often and roll with it. I know you can do it!

Budgeting is the #1 way to financial freedom. It’s a plan that’ll take you from where you are now to where you want to be. Freedom, peace, ease, joy, relaxation — these can be your truth when you’re financially healthy. You have everything you need to be successful! Are you ready for it!?

Share: Do you have a budget? If not, when will you set aside time to answer these questions and create one? You’re on your way to financial freedom!

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One step closer to financial freedom

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I am ecstatic to share that as of September 15th, 2017 at 8:36am…

I AM STUDENT LOAN DEBT FREE!!!

Because I’m over here celebrating and soaking it all up, I wanted to reflect and share with you things I’ve learned along the way and how we got rid of those pesky suckers.

I graduated from North Carolina State University in May 2014 with close to $30,000 of student loans. That may be better or worse than your own student loan start, but regardless, we can all agree: student loans suck. Debt sucks. It’s a current (annoying) payment on a past experience. I absolutely do not regret getting a college education – its molded me and gotten me to where I am today. But I do regret not being very money wise in my younger years.

Personal finance should certainly be a required class for all high school seniors. We live in a credit driven world, but many of us don’t learn the consequences of debt until we’re already into it. And then it feels like we’re drowning to get out. But no matter where you’re at with your finances, you CAN get to a place of financial freedom!

If I could go back in time and tell my 18 year old self to apply for scholarships and start actually saving money, I so would! But sometimes lessons need to be learned the hard way. Ever since I could I was working and earning money whether that be by babysitting, working at the YMCA, lifeguard, retail… but that money went anywhere besides staying in my bank account. Whoops! I didn’t even know what was coming for me in the form of student loans a handful of years later.

The biggest way to knock down that debt is to a) make all your payments on time and most importantly b) make higher than minimum payments. It’s so discouraging to make a debt payment only for most of it to go to interest. That’s going to happen, especially if you’re only making the minimum payment, but even if you only have an extra $10 to put towards your payment, do it! Every little bit helps.

I didn’t start taking my debt payments seriously right away. I always paid them on time, but especially when I was a fresh graduate, I didn’t feel like I had a lot of extra money to spare. I also wasn’t closely following a budget… so that was probably the problem. I was continuing with my old ways — my money was going to shopping, out to eat, etc. If you don’t have a budget to tell your money where to go, it’s gonna go wherever it wants. And you’re not going to like it.

February 2015 is when my finances hit the fan and I realized I really needed to make a change. My parents graciously helped me get back on my feet even though I was on my own and that was push I needed. I put together a budget. This helped me recognize the things I was paying for that I didn’t need (Hulu, Netflix, massage membership, online shopping…) I canceled the items I could and made plans to decrease expenses — quick financial victory!

Fast forward to July 9th, 2016. Eric and I get married and with “I do” comes my debt. It became an “us problem” that we needed to tackle together. We got things more straightened out during the rest of 2016 and set up our joint account in January 2017. A family budget came into play and we made a plan to aggressively pay off those student loans. Goal: pay off student loan debt by end of 2017. At the time that seemed way out of reach…

But we rocked it! We started this year with about $22,000 of loans. Like what!? That’s crazy to think about. Now it should be no problem for us to save $10,000, right?? 😉

We got focused, we made sacrifices, and we set goals. It definitely wasn’t easy and we could have gotten them paid off faster had we not eaten out as much (although still much less than we used to) or gone on as many trips earlier this year, but whatever. We still made it happen. It’s important to be realistic about your method of paying off your debt. Build some “fun money” into your budget so you’ll actually stick with it and want to keep going. You can still enjoy your life while making payments, just do it wisely and on budget!

Our budget and payoff goal was absolutely crucial. We had to work together towards the same goal otherwise it wasn’t going to work. We would throw any extra money to the debt including bonuses from work. It would’ve been easy to just consider that play money and blow it, but now that the loans are paid off we have a lot more play money anyways! And don’t feel guilty about using it.

I’ve become pretty obsessed with our finances. I check our budget and accounts daily (read multiple times a day). I aim to stay on top of it so that we know what’s coming and can plan accordingly. This helps us to not go into more debt on our credit cards and I can keep an eye on any unusual activity. A few months ago we did have fraud payments ran on our card of $1000s — I’m so grateful our credit card company is awesome about handling fraud and that we noticed it the day it happened.

We went above and beyond to make this payoff happen. Any babysitting opportunity that came up was an automatic yes assuming I was in town. I had a good size 401k built up when I left my old job in June – that got cashed out and put all of that towards my loans. Of course we want to save for the future, so a new 401k plan is up and running. Eric picked up extra work and hustled (and he still does). He is the hardest working person I know and has been the best partner in all of this.

Along the way I’ve learned about contentment. We are beyond blessed and really there’s nothing extra we need. Yet my heart would still crave “the things”. The things Pinterest, Instagram, people show me that I needed. I’m working on breaking the chains of materialism. Of course I will continue to buy, but with a different heart behind it. I am already loved and made whole by the One who created me – no amount of stuff can change that. I will buy things that are useful, necessary, beautiful, spark joy – not just because the world tells me I “have to have it.”

So now what? 

We will set new goals.

I’ve been inspired by Dave Ramsey’s teachings throughout this journey, so we’re loosely following his 7 baby steps to financial peace. We’ve gone a bit out of order to start, but I love the simplicity and framework of it. We may adjust it so that it fits for us, but I think it’ll be a great guide to us as we’re moving forward.

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I’m so grateful to those that have encouraged me and given great advice along the way. I have super smart friends and the internet is full of finance savvy people! I’m a huge fan of Dave Ramsey, Pennies into Pearls YouTube channel, and whatever other budget videos/blogs I can get my hands on. Soak up the wisdom of others and learn from their mistakes. I’ve gotten so many good ideas and inspiration by watching how others handle their money.

I hope my story will be inspiration for your financial freedom and that you’ll continue along the journey with me! YOU CAN DO IT!!! Share this post with a friend to encourage them on their way.

I’d love to hear from you! What are your thoughts about finances? Do you have student loan debt you’re paying off? What are your tips and tricks when it comes to finances? Lets chat in the comments below ❤

Love you! You are AMAZING!

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Newlywed Financials

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You say “I do,” kiss the bride, and then reality sets in.

Once the wedded bliss begins to fade, you realize newlywed life isn’t as glamorous as you might have imagined. There’s bills, work, and if you’re like most of us- debt.

When Eric married me, he also married the student loan debt I carried from my 4 years at North Carolina State University (Go Pack!) and we married each other’s credit card debt. It wasn’t awful, but hey, debt is not usually a good thing.

Combining accounts led to stress and anxiety on my part, so I want to make this as seamless as possible with some tips and tricks we’ve done since our wedding day to create organization in our financial world.

I’m speaking to newlyweds, but you could really apply any of these as a single person too. Take what speaks to you and tweak it as needed.

Keep credit cards under control.

Before we got married, Eric and I were mindful about our credit card balances. Of course with wedding expenses being more than we originally anticipated, this was challenging, but we did our best to keep spending to a minimum and pay it when we could. This was helpful going into a marriage of our finances and is something we still work on now.

See what you’re working with. 

You can’t improve what you don’t know. One night we sat down at our kitchen table and looked at all the numbers: student loan payoff amounts, credit card balances, savings accounts, checking accounts, etc. Whatever we had, we laid it out there. It was overwhelming to look at it all, but once we knew what we had, it wasn’t so scary. Knowing this big final number will allow you to set up a goal and a plan!

Set up a joint account.

If you’re a Dave Ramsey fan, you’ve probably already heard this. Set up an account together. We closed our old accounts and moved everything into one at my bank since the rates are better. Again, this was scary to do. I’ve never shared money with somebody. But once you’re married you’re joining everything, including your finances. Having a joint account makes bill paying so much easier and you can work together as a team. This made such a difference in how we saw our money because it’s all coming in as one- no his and hers. We’re in this together.

Create a budget.

You may or may not already have one of these prior. I’ve had my own budget for a while now, but had to do a major update once we joined accounts. Ours is pretty detailed, but I love having everything in one place. Having a set budget makes spending decisions a lot easier. So how do you create one?

  1. List out all our expenses for the month:  savings, tithe/charity, bills, and other payments we need to make (grocery, gas, and entertainment). Next to each item is the amount, due date, and any notes and remaining balance for those that are paid multiple times in the month.
  2. List out all our debts: student loans and credit cards with notes to identify goal payoff.
  3. List out all credits: any income that is coming in. This is helpful for us to compare to the budget and debts. We can also easily mark where that money will be going. Every dollar should have a name to it, especially while you’re paying off debt and setting yourself up for financial security.

Set goals. 

I’ve alluded to this already, but sit down and set some goals. How quickly do you want debts paid off? How much do you want in savings? How quickly? Do you want to be saving for anything specific? House? Car? Big trip? This will be totally personal to you, but once you set some goals it’ll make everything else work. For example, you’ll be more likely to stick to budget when you’re thinking about your goal to have all debts paid off so you can have more money to travel to Europe compared to just making payments. Making payments and savings isn’t exactly fun or sexy until you think about what it’ll mean for you and your family down the road.

Maintain open communication. 

We talk openly about our finances and where our money is going which helps keep us on the same page. Although we talk about it throughout the week, it’s been helpful for us to have a weekly meeting to touch base face to face and discuss any expenses for the upcoming week. We can easily adjust budget items as needed in the week to week and check in with our goals.

The most important thing is to work together. It takes some discipline and sacrifices now, but it’ll be so worth it.

If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.
-Dave Ramsey

Organizing your finances and set yourself up for success. You got this!!

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