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Budget Busters Chez McHale

Dollars

Dollars

We are once again going through a period of major expenses chez McHale. May has brought with it some major budget busters.

We are still following Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover principles and honestly I would say that now it is an adopted lifestyle. This month it’s been a really good thing.

This month we’ve had a pipe break under the floor in our kitchen, we’ve replaced the hot water tank, and another unit in our complex has required some major repairs which all the owners here have to pitch in for (this is normal in any condo/townhouse).

It has really squeezed us. In fact I’m not sure that we’ve felt squeezed quite so tight since before we started working this plan.

The difference now is that we have an Emergency Fund.

What you may ask is this thing we call an Emergency Fund?

It’s 3-6 months of our household expenses in cash in a bank account that is easily accessible in an emergency.

WOW have we ever been glad to have it this month.

We managed to scrape up enough cash to cover most of the repairs but there comes a point when you just can’t do it anymore. Enter the Emergency Fund. We were able to cover the remaining expenses in CASH because of our little stock pile.

In the days before we paid off our debts and decided to change our financial future we would have paid cash for a lot of these expenses but we would have come to a point when the money would run out and we would have used a credit card or line of credit to pay it.

I am so thankful that we are able to avoid doing so!

The importance of an emergency fund has hit home a number of times over the last year as we’ve seen the local teachers strike for months last spring, another local union strike for 12ish weeks, and watched as more than one family in our circle has experienced significant illness taking their primary bread winner out of work, and forcing the other half to go back to work during the crisis to help pay the bills.

During the local strikes especially I kept hearing stories of families where the sole income earner or even both income earners were employed by the same union – these families lost their entire income during that time. They were then going to the banks trying to get lines of credit or loans to pay their bills for the duration of the strike.

I would not want to be in any of those situations and I hurt deeply for those families. I cannot imagine what they went through.

The problem is that when you take out a loan during a crisis or emergency to get by you deal with the hangover for much longer than you may actually have to deal with the situation because you’ve got to pay it back.

I’m not criticizing any of these families they were all doing the best they could to get by. I’m just saying that as I watched these things happen I realized just how important having an emergency fund really is.

The sad thing for a lot of the families affected by the local strikes is that they were in industries where the jobs are considered very “stable” which proves to me that you never know. If they succeeded in getting a loan to help with their expenses they are most likely still paying that loan back now a year later.

For me watching from the outside it drove the home the importance of the Emergency Fund. There is a lot of security and peace of mind in knowing that if for some reason Curtis couldn’t work for a few months our bills are still paid.

Sure we would have to cut back on some of our “lifestyle” spending but really we can get by for a while without too many worries.

As painful as this month has been we’ve been able to get by. We’ve had to cut out pretty much all of our “lifestyle” spending. We’ve adjusted a few things, but the truth is, that it’s just one month. Looking at our June budget we’re able to replenish the Emergency fund after our little dip and things for the most part will return to normal.

So what about you. Could you pay for a few thousand dollars worth of emergency expenses tomorrow if you needed to or would you be running out for a loan? Have you thought much about living debt free and building an Emergency Fund? If not I would encourage you to do so!

2014 Goal Recap

Whew, I’m behind. Better late than never I guess.

I thought I’d do a quick review of my 2014 goals before I set my 2015 goals.

2014 brought with it many changes and adjustments as we added L to the family early in the year. It took me a lot longer to get myself organized and out of the new baby fog than I anticipated, and so my goals well, some of them were pipe dreams. But if you aim at nothing you’ll hit it every time (I think that’s a Zig Ziglar quote but not positive).

SO goals how did I do…

After looking at my post from last year I realized I actually did better than I thought. Some areas fell completely to the wayside, but in others I did ok. Here’s the re-cap:

Professional Goals

  • I pretty much bailed on this whole area. I tried to continue working for Curtis a few hours a week, but we ended up deciding that my time was better spent with the kids, so he hired an assistant in his business to take over my responsibilities. She is amazing, and a blessing to us and the business having her as part of the team allows me to focus on the family for now and later we can figure out what role I will play.
  • Read Entreleadership – YES I DID! And I enjoyed it. What a great way to grow a business from the ground up. I would highly recommend this book to anyone operating a business

Personal Goals

  • Run 1/2 Marathon – YES I did, I completed the Run For Water in Abbotsford last May and wrote about it here
  • Run a winter 5K charity race – I registered for the Winter Warriors race here in Chilliwack, unfortunately there was a miscommunication about the event START time – the time they sent out as a starting time was actually the registration time. We had other plans that day beginning soon after the race would have ended. Unfortunately when I showed up and found out that the event started a full hour later than I (and most of the other participants) had been told I was unable to stay. I made my donation to the food bank collected my T-shirt, and ran 5K anyway but was unable to participate in the official event. We’ll count this one as accomplished these things happen!
  • Run 5-10k, 2-3x/week Oct -Dec – YES I accomplished this! Jan/Feb/March were another story, but we’ll save it for another day 🙂
  • I’m just going to say that the rest of my personal goals happened/didn’t happen intermittently. I was a bit over eager in my goals.

Parenting Goals

  • Read two parenting books – I did! I had already read one when I wrote about my 2014 goals. I also read Parenting with Love and Logic which was great and I highly recommend it. I may even have read a couple of others you could check my 2014 Reading List to see. I also added the Podcast “Mom and Dad are Fighting” to my podcast lineup. It’s so nice to read or listen to these things and add tools to your tool box.
  • Responding kindly and being patient – I don’t think that these are things that I will ever be able to STOP working on. There will always be room for improvement here, but I worked on this in earnest, and I will continue to work on this. I think it will always be on my list of Parenting Goals.

Marriage

  • one date/month – this didn’t happen, but we did get out a handful of times. We truthfully didn’t make it enough of a priority, and then we spent the fall/winter months cancelling dates repeatedly because kids were sick. Trying to do better in 2015.
  • I read the book Boundaries which definitely applies to marriage, though it’s not directly targeted at marriage I certainly learned some valuable things.

Finance

  • 6 month emergency fund – we’re almost there, so didn’t accomplish it. We again spent a fair amount of the funds that would have gone into the emergency fund on actual emergencies. I thank God daily that we got out of debt and started piling up cash because some of the things that have hit us over the last couple years have been huge and if we’d still had debt and no savings we would have fallen on some serious hard times.

There you are, a recap of my 2014 goals for you. Hopefully in the next few days I’ll be posting some 2015 goals to follow the rest of this year.

Who wouldn't want to spend their days with this face?

Redefining Value

I’ve been struggling lately with my definition of value. Specifically with my personal economic value. It seems I need to work on redefining value in relation to myself.

 

Love this little face

Love this little face

 

 

Curtis and I do a lot of dreaming. We look forward to the things we would someday like to do. It keeps us going, and helps us to stay on track heading towards our goals. Something we often talk about is what I want to “do.”

 

For some reason I feel like I should be contributing financially to the bottom line in our home. I feel like I’m not adding value to our home if I’m not earning some form of income. I toss around a lot of ideas about things that I could do to earn SOME form of income.

 

The thing is I don’t really WANT to do a lot of the things we’ve talked about. When it comes right down to it ten years from now I want to be doing exactly what I’m doing now. Loving on our kids. Caring for them daily, taking them to school, the park, swimming, and whatever else it may be that they are interested in.

 

Baby Giggles

Baby Giggles

 

My life today is exactly what I want it to be, and how I want it to remain. (If my kids could stay little that would be awesome too but that really is dreaming!)

 

So WHY this feeling that if I am not earning MONEY that I am not valuable? The things I do in our home and with our kids are valuable. They have eternal meaning, and a lasting impact on our family.

 

Today after leaving Curtis here with the kids for most of the day he told me how much he appreciates what I do. He graciously acknowledged how much work it is to take care of our little loves for the day.  He told me it was just as hard or harder than what he does day to day earning an income.

 

Without coming out and saying it he told me he valued me (and he didn’t even realize it)!

 

Wardrobe Consultation

Wardrobe Consultation – no you cannot wear your Tinker Bell costume tonight

 

I am fortunate enough to be able to stay home with our family full time which is a blessing a lot of people don’t have. I have never felt undervalued by Curtis, he always appreciates the role I play in our home. He accepts my failures and we laugh our way through many of my oopses.  Again WHY do I feel such a need to earn an income?

 

We do have some big financial goals, buying a new house, going on a holiday, saving for the kids college educations etc. There has definitely been more than one occasion that I feel frustrated at the pace of our progress so maybe that’s it.

 

 

Who wouldn't want to spend their days with this face?

Who wouldn’t want to spend their days with this face?

 

I think it’s more the response I often get when asked what I “do”. Maybe you know how it goes:

Stranger: So what do you “do”?,

me: Oh, I stay home with my kids

Stranger:  awkwardly withdraws from conversation while summing me up as some uneducated frumpy housewife – THANKS

I need to start responding with: I’m the Director of Operations at McHale Inc. my responsibilities include, sanitation, bookings, time management, sleep specialist, event planning, interventions, overseeing leisure activities, nutritional planning and arbitration, wardrobe consultation, K9 activities, and financial management.”

 

Event Planning

Event Planning – splash park!

Maybe then I won’t be dismissed as the ominous “housewife” – you know that all encompassing title that you’re given under “occupation” on government forms – and just about every other form that you fill out anywhere.

 

Sleep Specialist

Sleep Specialist – transferring from carseat to couch undisturbed

 

I also like the line where you fill in your income: 0

 

I love what I do. I love my kids, and my man. I love being able to play, cuddle, kiss owies, read stories, tuck in, discipline, encourage and celebrate the three people that are most important to me EVERY DAY. You know what, sometimes it’s really easy. Sometimes it’s really hard. Either way what I do here on a day to day basis IS VALUABLE.

 

Bookings - Preschool end of year celebration

Bookings – Preschool end of year celebration

 

I need to remind myself of that. I also need to let it go when I feel dismissed by some stranger in the grocery store because I don’t have a “job”. So what?! I  love what I “do”. Not many people are lucky enough to be able to say that!

 

What about you do you love what you do? I genuinely hope so.

2014 Goals

If 2013 was a year of change for us, then 2014 is even more so. We are excited to be imminently expecting the arrival of our second child in late January and I can’t wait to see what’s in-store for us this year especially since it’s kicking off with such a bang.

I’ve set goals a little differently this year in hopes of accomplishing a few more of them, and rounding things out a little bit more so that life is a bit more balanced. Again my thinking here is that I will hopefully have a better chance of success with more of my goals.

Another thing I’ve tried to do is set a deadline and/or come up with an action plan for each goal again to try and help myself succeed.

Professional Goals

  • Continue to work for Curtis 2 mornings/week after the baby arrives (or at least 2 x 2 1/2 hour chunks of time /week)
  • Provide regular accountability for his business goals – we’re still working out whether this will be monthly or quarterly, but we are making it a priority!
  • Read Dave Ramsey’s Entreleadership

Personal Goals

I’ve been told numerous times by multiple people this year that I don’t take enough time for myself. This message hit home hardest when my Mom recently asked a few pointed questions about the time I am taking for myself and came right out and said I was starving myself of personal time. It was one of those days when we’d been struggling around here and I called her after E was in bed crying because I felt like such a failure. Her kind encouragement, and gentle reminders of the things she did for herself while we were growing up were eye opening for me. She also helped me to see more clearly that if I am not refueling myself then I won’t be able to pour into my family and friends the way that I would want to. So, here we go;

  • Go away with friends 1 weekend this year
  • Loose baby weight by June 2014
  • Run 1/2 Marathon – I am registered for the Run For Water in Abbotsford BC on May 25/2014. This goal has been my Unicorn for a couple of years now so this IS happening this year.
  • Run the Round The Lake trail race in Cultus Lake in October this year (as long as it doesn’t fall on E’s B-day, then we’ll see)
  • Run a 5K charity race in December (like the Santa Shuffle)
  • Continue to Run 5-10K 2-3x/week Oct-Dec 2014 (these are the months that I get lazy!)
  • Do 1 Strength work out/week
  • Spend 1 night/month out FOR ME (I’ve already done this in January, I was at the movies with some friends this week, so we are off to a good start!)
  • Revisit goals monthly – w/ Curtis as possible
  • Make 1 post per week on this blog

Parenting Goals

I know that all parents struggle with their kids along the way, but I want to be the BEST parent that I can be to my kids. I want them to know that they are the most amazing things I’ve done EVER and that they are unconditionally loved and cherished. I want to build a relationship with them that they VALUE deeply. There are a lot of days right now that I fail with E and I want to change that. That means I need to make a concentrated effort to bring about change in this area of my life and so here are my goals:

  • Give E 1/2 hour of my undivided attention every day
  • Attend 1 parenting seminar or class on setting boundaries and effective discipline – or something of the sort. I need a few more tools in my tool box.
  • Read 2 parenting books (I am already reading “You Can’t Make Me [but I can be persuaded]” by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias, so far it is very eye opening)
  • Work continually on responding more kindly and having more patience – these are things I often struggle with. I hear myself speak and then think “Well that wasn’t very loving”. I MUST IMPROVE THIS! I have put some gentle reminders by the kitchen sink to help me keep this in mind.

Marriage

Having an awesome marriage takes work. I have a great man, I love him dearly and don’t know how I would ever survive without him. I also think we have an awesome marriage but why not work at making it better? I certainly don’t want to wake up in 10 years and question who this person next to me is. We’ve watched too many quality marriages crumble over the last few years to be naieve enough to assume that we can just sail through without effort. Having a quality marriage is a lot of work, but I know it’s worthwhile so I want to invest in it and make sure that our marriage continues to thrive.

  • Go on 1 date/ month after March – even if it’s free (we’ve averaged about 3-4 a year since having kids so one a month would be a big step up).
  • Go away ALONE for 1 weekend by Nov 2014 (we spent our first night home alone since having E in December so again, if we can do this it’s huge for us).
  • Read 1 marriage/relationship building book that will help us grow. Right now I’m thinking of re-reading the 5 Love Languages as I found it monumentally helpful a few years back, but my book choice may change.

Financial

Family finance has been a huge thing for us over the past couple of years and it’s still extremely important. We had a number of big “set backs” in 2013 as we worked towards building an emergency fund of 6 months worth of income and so we are still working towards this goal.

  • Complete our 6 month emergency fund – hopefully by June but at the very least by the end of the year.
  • Read Rabbi Lapin’s Thou Shall Prosper – by March
  • Read Total Money Makeover in January – This is becoming an annual thing and I think it’s a great way to start the year. It reminds us of where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going. Also, we are once again running a small group at our church based on the book starting in February.

So there you have it. This and a few more things that I have chosen not to share publicly will be what I use as my compass to guide my decisions this year. Will I accomplish all of them? No. Is my life better for trying? YES. If we strive for nothing we will hit it every time. If we strive for something then we have moved the needle regardless of whether we achieve the goal or not. Setting goals for our life last year made 2013 a stellar year. I can only anticipate that 2014 will be better. Why not try to make it the best one yet?

 

 

2013 Goals – The final installment

I thought it would be good to recap my 2013 goals before posting my 2014 goals and let you know what I accomplished in 2013.

As I may have mentioned before this is the FIRST time that my hubby and I have actually set goals for the year. Not resolutions, because they are easily forgotten, but goals that we’ve revisited often all year round to guide our decisions and help us keep our eye on the big picture.

I also took the “go big or go home” stance on goals. There were a few thrown in there that I thought I could reach easily to give me that quick feeling of success, however a lot of my goals were things that I thought would be out of reach. My theory – borrowed from Dan Miller at 48 Days to the work you love pod cast –  is that if I set the bar high, but only make it half way I’ve still significantly improved on where I was so I am still successful even if I don’t meet the goal.

Some of these I touched on in an earlier post so I won’t go into them too much, but others I just kind of left behind and I’ll fill you in on the details.

You can check out my original post on goals from last January here

1. Double my income

That didn’t happen, as mentioned in an earlier post when I decided to leave my full time job, I pretty much kissed this one goodbye. That said my Hubby managed to more than double his business’ income this year which is a score for both of us and in some ways accomplishes my goal too!

2. Pay off the car by March 1/13 – Check, one month early, got this one done in February.

3, 4, & 5. Run 10K, 1/2 marathon, & full marathon race – these all went out the window when we found out that we were expecting our second child. At that point due to minor complications in my pregnancy I had to stop running. This has been hard for me because I LOVE to run, but I’m looking forward to running again soon!

6 & 7. List & sell our current home, AND hopefully buy a new larger home with a smaller mortgage.

2013 brought with it many challenges for us on the home front and while I desperately want to sell our current home and move into a place that has more space and better accommodates our growing family for a number of reasons this did not happen in 2013, and I doubt that it will happen in 2014 either. Who knows. We’ve unfortunately run into many snags in our plan here most of which have been financial. Our current home is a town house and is part of a Strata (ie we pay a monthly condo fee and there is a condo association that takes care of the building). What a pain. My ultimate advice NEVER buy into a Strata unless you want to basically pool your money with every other owner in the building, keeping in mind that they may not all agree on how to spend those hard earned dollars.

This year there have been a number of medium to large repairs needed within our Strata which has meant that on top of our regular monthly fees we’ve paid out large lump sums to the organization a couple of times.  I anticipate at least one more such payment in 2014. I know that if we owned a house we could have had to pay the entire sum for the repairs all on our own but the likely hood of all the things that have come up this year happening to a single detached residence are slim.

On top of the additional expenses we’ve paid out to our Strata we’ve replaced the Washer, Stove, Microwave, and just this week the dishwasher, along with a large number of small household appliances (stereo, DVD player, Digital SLR Camera and numerous others) and a couple of not so minor car repairs. All of these things come down to age, most of the household items were 10+ years old (the stove we were told was 20+ and I have the same suspicion about the dishwasher). A lot of the smaller items were wedding gifts, or we purchased them second hand a number of years ago. They just all chose to go at once.

On the upside, the new appliances will make the place a lot more appealing when we go to sell, on the downside, when I sat down a couple weeks ago (before the diswasher died on New Years Eve) and added up what we’d spent on “emergency” repairs/replacements to our home, the number was fast approaching $10,000 in 2013. Needless to say the funds to sell/move/add to a down payment on the next place just aren’t there right now and I don’t know when they will be. So we’re waiting. The upside – the mortgage is cheap here!

I have to add a side note here – THANK GOD we became debt free in February of 2013! Although we haven’t been able to add much to our savings, we’ve been able to pay cash for EVERYTHING. If we’d had all these experiences in such close succession even a year ago there would have come a point where they would merely have added to our debt load rather than slowing down our plan. Whew!

8. The reading list.

Well, I really didn’t succeed here, and it is a little bit shameful. I have to say that my list was probably quite ambitious as I have only in the last year or so developed my enjoyment of reading for personal growth, and my list was very finance/business heavy so it wasn’t the most well rounded selection of books.

I managed to get through/make a good dent in 4 of the 13 books on the list. I have definitely read more that 13 books this year. Some fiction, some for personal growth, however it wasn’t as many of the ones that I initially thought I would read as I had hoped – things changed. The point here was more to help myself grow as a person than read specific books and I think that I at least succeeded in that.

All that said 2013 was an awesome year in the McHale household I have no regrets, and look forward to all that 2014 has to bring with huge anticipation. We celebrated some great milestones here and have really benefited from the changes that we’ve worked so hard to bring about in our lives over the last year. Without these goals, and those of my hubby we would still be sitting in about the same position as we were in 2012 and I LOVE living a goal driven life – it gives us a target to aim at! I have set goals again for 2014 and will hopefully be posting them next week for all to see. We’ll see how much more growth we can bring about around here.

 

Dollars

To Work or Not to Work? The Financial Perspective

Last week I talked about the personal side of our decision for me to leave my full-time job and become a stay-at-home parent. Today I’m going to shed some light on the financial side of the decision.

I know I mentioned this last week but I just want to be clear that it was the combination of the personal and financial factors that created the perfect equation for me to stay home. Had my personal life felt a little bit more balanced I would have made a different decision. Likewise if the financial balance had been a little bit different I may also have made a different decision.

Our initial plan was for me to generate at least some part-time income. When I left my full-time job I was partway through taking my personal trainers course.  Unfortunately the timing of that opportunity just wasn’t good and it didn’t really work out, but it was a great learning experience.

Now I am helping out in my Hubby’s home based business while our daughter is at preschool and honestly I find that more fulfilling. (I actually wrote a series of posts for his blog last week about what it’s like to be married to an entrepreneur you can check it out here.) By taking over some of the day-to-day tasks he would otherwise have to keep up with I have been able to free up more profitable time in his day. So while I don’t necessarily earn a direct income it does have a significant affect on the bottom line in our household. Plus we know a few things about ourselves: We LOVE to work together, we make a GREAT team, and I LOVE business growth and development so for us it works really well.

Now onto the meat of the discussion.

As I’ve mentioned before when I finally gave my notice at my previous job it wasn’t something I did lightly (I actually cried while I was talking to the owners). I had been employed there for 8 years and my employers and co-workers had become like family to me. I was working in a job that I was great at and I generally enjoyed it. BUT our family was suffering and I felt stressed out all the time as I tried unsuccessfully to balance my  work and home life.

I’ve also chronicled along the way we have been on a financial journey over the last couple years to get thing shaped up around here and to plan for our futures. After paying off our debts we started to evaluate what it was really COSTING us for me to work. We started looking at what the cost vs. savings would be if I came home full time. Once we added it all up – vehicle costs, daycare costs, lost work time for my husband, family stress, etc.I was really contributing very little to the bottom line. (Please don’t read this as a complaint about my wage, I was fairly paid, but life costs money and these were things we were seriously looking at.)

The cost of me working looked something like this:

  • Gas $400-500/month depending on season/prices
  • Car ins $200/month
  • Vehicle maintenance $75-100/month (if you break down our annual spending to a monthly number)
  • Car Payment $400/month (this number went away because we PAID IT OFF!)
  • Daycare $700/month – for 4 days/week b/c I worked Saturdays and my Hubby had E then.

When you add those things up and subtract them from my monthly earnings the remaining balance really wasn’t much. It was actually little enough that my husband looked at it and said that if he could re-claim the 1-2 hours a day of office time he lost between picking our daughter up from daycare and me getting home from work he could make up my monthly disposable income in a week. Yup, one week.

I understand that not all of those numbers went away with me staying home (obviously we still own a car so need gas/insurance/maintenance) but they now look a little more like this:

  • Gas $150-175/month (and sometimes less)
  • Insurance $120/month
  • Vehicle Maintenance $25-50/month (because we literally have 1/4 of the services in a year to worry about)
  • Daycare $0

I know, it’s a pretty startling difference isn’t it! From $1375 – $1500 (not counting the car payment) going out to keep me at work, vs. $295-$345 for me to be home. We cut more than $1000 from our monthly expenses by keeping me home. CRAZY.

Realistically it wasn’t just the numbers, and I would never suggest you make this type of decision solely based on the finances of the equation.

Lost work time for my Hubby was also a big factor in the financial side of the decision. We literally could not find a daycare that was open late enough for me to do the drop off AND pick up. I dropped E off at 8 everyday (meaning I left home between 7:30 & 7:45) and he picked her up around 4:30. I got home around 6. When we started honestly evaluating his lost time everyday he was loosing 1-2 hours per day and really only spending about 6-6.5 hours in his office. As I mentioned above having him in the office for a full 8 hours a day made a big difference in what he could earn, and my wage simply didn’t compete with his.

We also had to consider that by having me leave my full-time position we were loosing our extended medical benefits (things like prescriptions, dental, chiropractic, physio, pretty much anything that isn’t a direct trip to the Dr. or Hospital). And should we choose to have more kids (which lone & behold I was knocked up 2 months later) we were walking away from the option of cashing in on Canada’s awesome Maternity Leave benefits.

After considering all of these things in our financial equation and putting it together with the personal aspect of the decision it was still clear to us that it was time for me to come home.  After consulting with a trusted outside source to make sure we weren’t making a rash or short sighted decision we pulled the trigger.

Now you ask, do I miss working? Truthfully, No. Not. At. All.

This was surprising for me because I found my job fulfilling. I thought I would really miss it. As it turns out I feel like our life is so much more balanced. There have been some growing pains in the process, but life around here is better for it. I would make the same decision again today if I had to do it over.

 

Photo Credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/spine/214759009/”>rick</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>

To Work or Not to Work? The Personal Perspective

I’ve been a stay-at-home Mom now for almost 9 months, and I am still regularly asked how we made the decision for me to quit working. Let me tell you it wasn’t an easy decision to make and we struggled with it for a number of months before pulling the trigger.

When I first started writing this post I thought I could squeeze it all into one, but the more I worked at it (and the longer it got) the more I realized that to really do it justice I needed to break it up a little bit.

There were two sides to this decision for us, the personal side AND the financial side. Both parts held almost equal weight in the overall decision and I think it’s important for me to share both sides of the coin with you. I’m going to start with the personal side, because in some ways it set the stage for the transition and was what caused us to seriously consider having me leave work.

Before I go too much farther though I have to tell you that although these are the factors that affected our decision for me to stay home, everyone is different. Not everyone WANTS to stay home. So if you are toying with this please don’t simply follow my lead, do what is best for YOUR family and YOUR situation. Everyone is wired differently and things that work for my family may not work for yours.

When I returned to work after my Maternity leave I genuinely wanted to. I enjoyed my job, my employers and co-workers. I just hadn’t anticipated the pressures that would come with trying to balance work and family. In some ways with all the changes that parenting brought about in my  life the work/home balance was probably the one that I least expected.

I had been feeling the need for significant change for probably about a year by the time I finally gave my notice at work. I was stressed 90% of the time feeling like I wasn’t really giving 100% of myself anywhere. For anyone who knows me you will know that I don’t like to accept less than my 100%. I feel like giving less than that is failure. It’s just not my style. When you’ve got too many things on your plate you just can’t be 100% all the time.

While I was doing OK at work (you’d have to ask some of my former co-workers for truthful answers to that but I think I was keeping my head above water). I wasn’t doing great at home. The stress that I was feeling was affecting every aspect of my home life. I was always exhausted, and felt like I was failing at home on multiple levels. I was lashing out at my hubby over silly things, and never felt like I could relax or enjoy my “down time” because there were always things to do.

My days off would come and I would feel like I HAD to spend the entire day at home taking care of things around the house. Cleaning, baking, prepping meals, menu planning, budgeting, shopping, etc. All these things had to happen and I only had 2 days a week to get them done. Not only did I only have 2 days a week to get them done but they were 2 spread out days in the week (like Sunday, and Thursday) so by the time my second day off in the week came around I felt like I was starting over. I was playing a perpetual game of catch up.

I was loathe to plan a trip to the park with a friend because I knew it cut into the precious little time I had to accomplish anything significant at home. I also felt like I was leaving a lot of things undone and that my hubby as the self employed and working from home family member often had to pick up the slack. As a result I felt very isolated and lonely. I was desperate for something to change but I didn’t know what.

It was also never my intention to have a child and then only see her for 1 hour a day and yet by the time I commuted to and from work that was about all I was getting to spend with E every day and it was killing me. I was leaving the house between 7:30 and 7:45 to have her at daycare by 8 and me at work by just before 9. Daycare closed by 5 so my hubby was picking her up between 4 & 4:30, but I was rarely home before 6. I literally came home, we had dinner and then I put her to bed. I rarely got to play, interact, or spend any kind of quality time with her and I felt like I was missing out.

We also felt very isolated and lonely as a family. We knew that we needed to connect with other people, but we felt like we could never squeeze it in. “Friends” were people that we saw in passing on Sunday mornings at church as we dropped off or picked up E from the nursery not people that we actually had time to invest in. We were both socially starved but had very little time to do anything about it.

One of the most drastic changes in our lives since I left work is our social life. We have come to realize that we have some AMAZING friends. People that we would miss dearly if we moved away. Not only do we have pretty awesome friends, but we get to spend time with them without sacrificing time together as a family, or alone for the Hubby & I.

We have both felt extremely well cared for and loved by our friends over the last number of months (which is important when you don’t have any family around to fill that roll). In some ways the support that our friends have given our family over the last number of months has been overwhelming. Not only have we been well cared for but we have also been able to care for some of our friends in ways that we’ve never been able to do before because the pressures of work & home  took precedence.

Our decision for me to leave work was heavily influenced by the personal side of the equation. If I had felt like I was balancing work and life well then the scales would likely have tipped more in favor of me staying at work. If we as a family had felt like it was working well then the decision would have been different. That said, I knew I needed a change. I knew I was stressed and not that much fun when I was home. I knew I was missing out on important events in E’s life, and was unable to maintain important relationships with friends. Some people can balance it well and enjoy it. Others like myself prefer not to. Ultimately you have to do what’s right for your family, personally and financially, and we’ll talk about the financial side in my next post!

photo credit: dvw2 via photopin cc

Feeling Stuck – and staying motivated

Over the last few weeks/months I’ve been feeling stuck. Not in all areas of life, but financially I’m having a hard time staying motivated. We’ve been chugging away at building up an emergency fund of 6 months worth of household expenses and it’s just taking A LOT longer than we’d hoped.

When I look at our overall financial situation it is a million times better today than it was a year ago and really I have nothing to complain about, but this slow progress is killing me.

We religiously put 10% of our household income away towards our “emergency fund”, along with any other spare change or “found” money – basically right now every single extra cent we can find is going into savings.

Unfortunately over the summer we’ve been hit by a few small “emergencies” that have come with big bills. It has been amazing to have that money sitting there giving us the peace of mind that we can get through and it’s no big deal, but it’s been one step forward and two steps back all summer long. For me it’s incredibly frustrating to watch the balance of our emergency fund drop instead of rise in a month.

I have to admit – and have taken comfort in the fact – that a year or two ago  these emergencies would have simply added to our debt load. We would have been able to cover one or two of them in cash but by the time the third or fourth one rolled around we would have been scratching at the floor boards and most likely would have had to put it on a credit card or line of credit and paid it off over a month or two. THANK GOODNESS not to have to add financial strain to a desperate situation.

 

Part of my frustration stems from the fact that one of our goals in 2013 was to put our current home on the market and move. That however has to come AFTER our emergency fund is built up and an additional chunk of change saved to bulk up our down payment and pay for our moving expenses.

These days progress is slow and when I look at my carefully laid out financial plan we are  more than a couple thousand dollars behind where I had hoped we would be by now.

I am feeling particularly frustrated today because I know we have another significant and unexpected bill coming our way that will be needing to be paid sometime early in the new year (oh the joys of home ownership).

The Hubby and I have both commented recently that despite clearly being on the right path to financial freedom, life these days is not feeling very financially free. A little bit of a windfall that would allow for some “pleasurable” spending would be particularly welcome right now. That said, if someone dropped even $20 in my lap and told me to enjoy, I can tell you it would go into our savings account…

Enough of my whining. Yes I am having a very hard time staying motivated right now. That said I also think it’s a pretty amazing feeling to log-in to our on-line banking and see that all the monthly bills have been paid and there is still a significant chunk of change in our bank accounts. Not only that but most of our upcoming expected lump sum payments for the year are also fully funded (like property taxes, extra mortgage payments, insurance, anticipated vet bills etc). It is a good feeling and gives me a significant amount of peace. I can only imagine what it will feel like when the mortgage is gone – and I can actually fathom that day existing.

So what are we doing to stay on track? Well, I listen to podcasts on financial planning – especially ones that celebrate people’s financial victories. Hearing the stories of people that have paid off huge amounts of debt is very cool. Getting sound advice as to what to do with our money is also cool. Being encouraged as we carry on our financial journey is awesome

We set goals, and actively pursue them.

I read books on personal finance, small business, and other informative literature that interests me along the way. (This is a new thing for me by the way, two years ago I would have told you that I was a fiction/literature girl. While a few well worn paperbacks still find their way onto my night stand from time to time the majority of my reading now helps me/us to grow and accomplish our goals.)

I try to spend time with and seek the advice of people who are in the financial position that I would like to be in. Conversely I try to offer a helping hand/word of advice and encouragement to those that are following the same path but may be a few steps behind us as often as I can.

We will keep struggling through this, and we will succeed. We’ll weather the storm and eventually we’ll achieve our goals. Those things are certain to me. I CAN see it slowly coming together. Am I making the progress that I want to be right now, no, but I have to remind myself that I’m running a marathon not a 100 meter sprint. Good things come to those who wait!

photo credit: dvw2 via photopin cc

2013 Goal Update Part Deux

It’s been a few months now since I’ve touched on this so I thought I’d put out an update on my 2013 goals. I meant to do this at the beginning of the summer but we’ve got some major change going on here so I got sidetracked. Now it’s early fall the year is (gulp) 3/4 of the way through and I am just getting to it.

In some ways big things have changed, and in others not much has changed at all. I’m just going to touch on the areas that I’ve specifically been working on over the last few months and leave the rest alone:

1. Double my income this year – well, seeing as I quit my full time job in March to focus on our family more and pursue less employment that was a lofty goal and it’s just clearly not going to happen. Since then I’ve been working through figuring out exactly where to go next. I’ve pursued a couple different things that I’ll outline below but nothing has stuck yet. I feel a little like I’m wandering unsure of my next step right now, and here’s why:

I completed my NASM Certified Personal Trainers course in March (my initial hope had been Feb 15, but that was just plain unrealistic). After many bumps in the road I got my insurance set up to work with clients on my own around May/June. I also knew from the beginning that I wanted to work for/under someone to continue to learn and gain experience.

In June that opportunity arose and I briefly worked for Ascend Fitness here in Chilliwack. That was my original goal. The owner there is an awesome trainer and was my inspiration for pursuing the certification in the first place. They run an AMAZING bootcamp program that I was a client for about two years prior to taking my trainers. I have had the privilege of seeing that business grow in leaps and bounds. Very cool.

HOWEVER (this is a good however) almost simultaneously we found out that we are expecting our second child – due to arrive in January of 2014. Unfortunately because of complications (nothing serious just bumps along the way) in this pregnancy after about 2 months with Ascend I had to make the difficult decision to leave. I really enjoyed the work and loved the clients and the team there. What it came down to was that it was an amazing opportunity at the wrong time in my life.

So, where do I go from here? Something else we had discussed when I was leaving my full time job was helping my Hubby out in his business. While I was pursuing my own opportunities I had very little (read NO) time to commit to his rapidly growing business. Once it became apparent that a physically demanding job wasn’t going to work out we decided that the best thing I can do right now is help him continue to grow his business.

Helping him out makes me really excited because one thing I have learned about myself over the last year is that I have a significant interest in small business and how it runs. I love figuring out how to promote, manage, grow, and stay on the bleeding edge of things. By helping him out with some behind the scenes day-to-day stuff I can free him up to do more of the stuff that brings in the money.

We work really well as a team and have worked together in various positions over the last 13 years so we knew it would be a good fit and it’s exciting to be helping him out working as a team on this level again. Really it’s the most natural shift we could make and maybe where we should have started, but hindsight is always 20/20.

He also set some income goals in January and is on track to hit those goals which ultimately increases our household income despite me leaving my full time job and not pursuing my Personal Training goal. The money all goes into the same pot so his success in a lot of ways is also mine.

2. Pay off the car by March 1/13 – as I mentioned in this post, we hit that one a month early! Score.

4. Run a 1/2 Marathon – This seems to be an elusive goal for me, last summer I trained all summer for a race and then for various reasons was unable to participate. I trained again all spring and was on track for a sub 2hour 1/2 marathon but after learning I was pregnant then having my exercise significantly restricted (as in none whatsoever for a number of weeks) I had to let this one slide, along with ALL of my other fitness related goals. That’s ok, they can all go on the list again for next year. The end result of a new baby come January is ultimately WAY better than finishing the race would have been anyway.

I’ve managed to hit a couple other goals on my list that I didn’t share publicly in my initial post but I can share them now so here you are:

Leave work by June 15 – (I didn’t think that was a very smart one to put out there in January since I was still employed…) As I announced in this post I accomplished this goal WAY early, leaving my job March 1. (By the way, I LOVED what I did but I just wasn’t able to prioritize my family the way that I wanted to so my desire to leave work had NOTHING to do with the job I had.)

Finish my NASM Personal Trainers Course – as I mentioned above I finished that in the spring.

As far as my reading list goes, I’m on my fourth book, so I have a ways to go. You can check my progress here. Will I make it, who knows, but even if I don’t the reading I’ve done has benefited me greatly and really that’s the whole point. Some books will move forward to next year, some may be dropped off the list, and there’s still time to get in a few more in the next few months. We have a no TV on weeknights rule, so that leaves a good chunk of time for reading right?!

Am I going to make it through all my goals in 2013? Truthfully, no. That said I have made progress towards some pretty awesome things so far this year and there are still 3 1/2 months left for me to accomplish a few more. I’m going to keep moving forward and see where we end up. I hope you are making progress in your goals too, and if you didn’t set any for this year then it’s never too early to start thinking about what you want to accomplish next year!

 

Dave Ramsey Stole my European Vacation

Newlyweds running a tripping program in ON, summer 03

Newlyweds running a tripping program in ON, summer 03

Today is my 10th wedding anniversary. I know, it’s hard to believe but it’s true.  Honestly it’s been the best 10 years of my life and I hope that there are many more to come. As I write this I’m not exactly sure how we’re planning on celebrating but I can tell you that it will be great and it will be paid for. It is Friday so it will probably involve Pizza because Friday Night Pizza is a well bred habit for my Hubby going back to his childhood years and breaking that tradition is not usually well received.

My fav. pic from our Mexico trip in 2009

My fav. pic from our Mexico trip in 2009

About three years ago while out celebrating our anniversary we decided that we wanted to mark out 1oth anniversary with a trip to Europe. We started saving for it right away, not a lot but a little bit each month. The balance in the savings account wasn’t adding up very quickly but it was slowly growing every month.

Our First Family Picture Oct 14/2010

Our First Family Picture Oct 14/2010

Roughly a year and a half ago we came across Dave Ramsey. I wrote about our Debt Free experience here. In the process of emptying out all of our bank accounts except for $1000, the account that held our savings for Europe was emptied and we said good bye to our 10th anniversary European vacation. So yes, you could say (and I have) that Dave Ramsey stole my European vacation.

Celebrating my 30th birthday

Celebrating my 30th birthday

Now you ask was it worth it? 100% YES. I would do it again in a heartbeat and here’s why: Becoming debt free has opened up opportunities for our family that I never would have believed possible. Not only has my hubby tripled his income this year but we are on the same page financially which has greatly improved our marriage and reduced stress in our lives. I have been able to leave my full time job and focus on our family, as well as pursue other opportunities. Our future is looking brighter than it ever has and none of that would have been possible without someone pointing us in the right direction financially.

Cutest kid EVER Oct. 2012

Cutest kid EVER Oct. 2012

Will I make a trip to Europe someday? I hope so.  We may be shooting for our 20th anniversary, but the timing could be better then anyway. Instead of being in the middle of life with a young family we’ll be getting into the early teen years and hopefully a little bit more able to relax knowing that E isn’t melting down on Grammy by day two. (Last summer I left her with my Hubby for 5 days and she cried 24hours a day from day 2 on.) The Holiday will be 100% paid for up front and all our expenses during our travels will also be paid for in cash, so we’ll be able to travel in style without worrying about the financial hangover that comes after for so many couples. Personally I can’t wait, and a 10 year delay seems like a good trade from where I’m sitting.

The McHale Family ready to embark on new adventures in 2013

The McHale Family ready to embark on new adventures in 2013

So here’s to another 10 years with the man I love and hopefully many more after that. We’ll get to Europe one day, and I know that there will be many amazing adventures between now and then! The journey’s been great so far and it’s only going to get better.

My birthday ride this year

My birthday ride this year