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Someecards.com I'd like to run something past you and stick with my decision regardless of your opinion.

AJ: Over the course of my life I have become increasingly aware of the amount of feedback people have about other people’s lives. We’re all guilty of inserting our opinions where they might not have been requested, but what happens when other people’s feedback begins to impact your financial decisions? Learning from the experiences of others can be incredibly helpful, but sometimes it’s important to take feedback with a grain of salt especially if it impacts your financial well-being.

We got married.
AJ: Kirby and I were an “us” for many years before becoming engaged and as soon as we became engaged we were bombarded with opinions of why we should/shouldn’t (mostly shouldn’t, honestly) get married at all – from other married people, no less! It seems that things always go south according to these feedback-givers: bills pile up, you begin to resent each other, you get tired of seeing the other person’s face. All very fair concerns (maybe). But in those pre-wedded months it became abundantly clear to us that we needed to remain a united force which is a great lesson for not just your marriage but for your financial success as a couple. The most positive piece of feedback we receive is one we hear often: Kirby and I make a great team. And we DO make a great team because when we receive feedback from the world, we already know where we stand financially and are able to make the best choices for us based on actual math, not wants and wishes.

We bought a house.
AJ: Buying your first home is an invitation for feedback. A little of my own feedback – if you decide to buy a home, don’t tell people, just do it! Everyone has a list of must-haves when looking for a home but before you let anyone else tell you what you absolutely must have in your first home know what you absolutely can afford based on the guidance of an advisor. That’s your end-all, be-all, thank-you-for-the-feedback resting place. It’s lovely that your best friend loves carrera marble and pendant lights, but your best friend isn’t financially responsible for your house, you are, so go on and be responsible.

KJ: Studies show that it’s best to not spend more than 2.5 times your annual household income on a home. So, if your family’s income is $50,000, then consider looking at the $100,000 – $125,000 range for a home. If you make $100,000, then stick to the $175,000 – $250,000 range. For those families that are really serious about keeping their expenses low, look instead to buy a house that’s 1.5 times your yearly income.

We bought a second house.
AJ: The problem with the second house we bought, based on feedback, is that it had incredible bones, but it needed updating. Person after person came through our new home with thoughts of ways they would personalize and update our new home and we suddenly found ourselves considering a myriad of changes (most of them costly, mind you) that we hadn’t previously considered. People have opinions, you have a budget. Stick to the budget at the expense of the door pulls, carpet on the stairs and lack of color on the walls!

KJ: Learn to separate the wants from the nice-to-haves. Sure, it may be nice to make every single update and completely personalize your house, but chances are that your budget isn’t limitless – and if it is, then it shouldn’t be! Figure out what it is that is most meaningful to you and your family for those personal touches and put pen to paper to see how realistic it is for you to accomplish them. For some, it may be immediate, but for others, it may take a couple years to really get there!

People have kids.
AJ: We don’t, but some of you do, so I hear. I’ve also heard that you’re not crazy about people telling you how to raise YOUR kids. That seems perfectly reasonable to me. However, when they start going to school and all your friends are trying to convince you that there’s only ONE school for your little dude/-ette that’s WAY out of your price range, remember where you came from. You’re a reasonable, financially-savvy person who can balance the necessity of education with the long-term goal of providing a well-rounded life for your entire family.

Focus on what is right for you and your family
KJ: In today’s world of instant access to everyone and lots of data on a limitless amount of goods and services, there’s definitely not a shortage of other’s feedback! Learn to sift through the noise to find what information you need to make sound decisions for you and your family. Be conservative in your estimates, and don’t just assume tomorrow’s income can subsidize today’s lifestyle!

AJ: Professionally group think suits me beautifully. It helps me achieve things much more quickly. Personally, however, group think is a recipe for financial disaster. Keep in mind that outsiders don’t necessarily have all of the information necessary to make appropriate recommendations for your financial well-being. Stay strong, people. Listen to the feedback, acknowledge the feedback, make your own choices outside of the feedback.

    What do you do to filter through the feedback?
    Have you been swayed into making financial decisions for your family that you wouldn’t have if you had the chance to do over?

Feedback is copyrighted by TheSimpleMoneyBlog.com without consent to republish. Card courtesy of www.someecards.com.

Some of the links in the post above may be affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. We feel strongly about only recommending products or services we use personally and/or believe will add value to you, our readers. Read more about our commitment to providing quality product recommendations.

Finding financial faith

Success image - Stuart MilesKJ: How do you find financial faith? Those times in your life when you’re struggling with “is it enough” or “am I on the track that I need to be?” With so many unknowns – especially in your more long-term goals like financial independence, children’s education, etc. – sometimes it can be difficult to keep perspective on the here and now. It’s this moment that you’re living in now, so learning to periodically take a step back and review your progress is important.

AJ: We’re only four months into this year, and it has already been a doozy. Sometimes I get so caught up in moving forward that I forget to acknowledge where we’ve been, which is a constant theme in my life.

Do you find yourself, like me, in a perpetual state of planning for the future at the expense of the everyday? Someone please say yes :)

Kirby outpaces me beautifully when it comes to really just living in the moment, trusting that we’re doing the right things for our future and that we’re on track to achieve our goals. Me? I like to track every time we don’t put as much into savings as we planned to, every time we go over budget on any given category and every time we have an unexpected expense. Clearly I enjoy that feeling of constant panic and always feeling like I’m chasing my tail, right? Nay.

I know I’m already chalk full of New Years Resolutions and that it’s no longer the new year (hello, Q2!) but I am going to actively resolve to find more financial faith. I have no trouble believing that the money we put into our 401(k)s, IRAs and mutual funds will be whatever they’re going to be but what is it about those variable day-to-day things that bog me down? Here’s my plan for combating my lack of financial faith and trusting that it will all be okay:

1. Create a goal
- Not all goals are met, accomplished, defeated, whatever you want to call it. Sometimes goals are just a place you look at, consider and keep walking past, but they’re important to ensuring you’re paying attention to the state of your business.
- Write. It. Down. Whether your goal is to save an extra $100 a month, pay down debt, or like me, make yourself whole on areas where you feel you’ve over spent, know what that number is and keep it somewhere that you regularly will see it.

2. Create a plan
- Create a timeline upon which you hope to achieve the goal. Whether the goal is realistic or not, give yourself check points and guardrails. Saying I want to recoup what I’ve overspent by 2018 isn’t a huge accomplishment but it keeps me from slipping into the abyss of things I MEANT to do.

3. Take action
- What’s a goal without concerted effort? Track what you spend, track what you save, track what you DON’T spend, track what you DON’T save. Awareness is key.

4. Celebrate the successes
- This is the most important step I always forget to take. Achieving wealth of any magnitude is a process, and creating a strong financial foundation is a huge accomplishment. Pat yourself on the back, say the serenity prayer and celebrate!

KJ: One of the important parts of setting goals is taking time to step back and reflect on the successes (or failures). Sometimes it’s a reflection on what you could have done differently, and other times, you get to reflect on what you did correctly. Goal setting isn’t about just setting unachievable goals and never accomplishing them, it’s about a process and what you do along the way is just as important as the end goal itself.

    What do you do to keep your goals in front of you?
    How do you track your goals progress?
    What do you do to reward your successes?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Finding financial faith is copyrighted by TheSimpleMoneyBlog.com without consent to republish.

Some of the links in the post above may be affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. We feel strongly about only recommending products or services we use personally and/or believe will add value to you, our readers. Read more about our commitment to providing quality product recommendations.

Weekend rewind: planting future savings

AJ: We spent the back half of 2013 weekend warrioring our brains out and 2014 has started off much the same! Our new year’s resolutions have stayed top of mind and we conquered some major projects this weekend as a result.

KJ: We now have a beautiful fence, Angela made and mastered her first pizza dough (turns out yeast isn’t so scary after all), we planted an awesome vegetable and herb garden and started the Advocare cleanse (for the second time for AJ).

Making some dough to save some dough
KJ: Angela tested out a family recipe for pizza dough thanks to her talented sister-in-law, and started the process of learning how to bake some great, homemade food. She started with a crowd favorite of pecorino romano, artichokes, tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic tomato sauce, and onions. Not too shabby for the first time using yeast! Plus, all the ingredients added up to about $10 for two nights of pizza – and we still have leftovers for future lunches that we froze! Adding that savings up over the course of a year by just substituting every-other pizza for this home-made version could rack up $50-$100 in a year (yes, we love our pizza!).

AJ: It was also super delicious, and next time I’ll test out whole wheat flour to improve it’s overall health benefits. Kirby already hates this idea but he’ll survive whole wheat, I just feel sure.

Scratch made pizza dough with artichokes, pepperoni, mushrooms, cheese, and onions

Planting a vegetable garden
KJ: With my father-in-law’s help (providing the lumber and expertise – thank you very much by the way!), we planted our first ever vegetable garden and started a nice little herb garden. Some items were a bit too early to begin planting the seeds, but Angela got most of it in picking order to go for our future fresh food needs.

AJ: I mentioned before that my father is a gardening god but the man just straight up knows his stuff. We’ll have potatoes in no time and pending my ability to be patient (alongside constant encouragement to “Grow! Grow! Grow!” We can’t wait to see what comes out of our backyard. In a gardening book I read a story about a town who competed annually to see who could grow the first perfectly ripe tomato and the man who won had planted heat coils under his plants and I’m definitely not above being creative for the sake of perfect tomatoes!

KJ: We’re by no means master gardeners, and we’ve only just completed about 1/4 of the whole battle – with keeping them fresh and alive with water and sustenance being the real feat – but a great first step it does seem like. Tom Thumb had a HUGE sale on the exact seeds we were looking for just a few weeks back coupled with a hefty 25% off our entire purchase at our local plant store meant our break-even point for home grown herbs and veggies would come just that much sooner. A big commitment with an estimated cost all-in of $250, but that got us enough for ALL of the items below, something we hope to reap the savings of for years to come.

Amazing how fast some of this stuff grows. We’re supposed to have some good old potatoes here in the next week already, so place your order today! :)

Newly planted vegetable and herb garden

Finished the last of our major home purchases
We finished the installation of our fence on Friday (we weren’t ready for that one to be DIY, so we hired it out), so we can can finally enjoy our backyard just that much more and let our dog get a little bit more exercise. Looking into your neighbors’ yard from your gorgeous deck really takes the wind out of your sail.

We started a cleanse
Clean body, mind, and soul? We started the AdvoCare cleanse to help get our bodies back on track. It’s been a long time since I’ve done any type of cleanse (actually, my ENTIRE life, so this is a first for me). It’s been a rough two days with no caffeine, but I hope the benefits of getting on the right footing for our weight loss goals this year will mean we’ll be better about our eating habits. This coupled with our new vegetable and herb garden should be the kick-start that we need.

AJ: This is a very tomato, tomato situation. I feel AWESOME. I woke up feeling good, I felt good all day, and even while I was preparing breakfasts, lunches and snacks for tomorrow hours after I finished working a full day I feel great! Kirby will get there, I’m sure, but a cleanse is definitely a commitment, so be better than us at exerting self control and you might not need to do one :).

    Did you have a productive weekend?
    What did you accomplish to get on the right financial footing?
    How do you share the load of your financial goals?
    Share with us your experiences in how you start a vegetable garden to feed your family.

Weekend rewind: planting future savings is copyrighted by TheSimpleMoneyBlog.com without consent to republish.

Some of the links in the post above may be affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. We feel strongly about only recommending products or services we use personally and/or believe will add value to you, our readers. Read more about our commitment to providing quality product recommendations.

Our approach to Valentine’s day: built on love, but not on “stuff”

Valentine's Day heartAJ & KJ: One of the key themes that we’re always searching for in a gift is for experiences and not stuff. We have been very fortunate to have enough stuff, and over the years, we have learned that it’s the experiences we spend together that will last us a lifetime. And thus was born our Valentine’s day tradition that’s been going strong since our college years. Some people loathe this Hallmark holiday, and others cherish the opportunity to build their collection of *stuff,* but we’re more middle-ground when it comes to our tradition for this particular holiday.

Keeping it simple
We don’t buy one another gifts or have really complicated plans for what we want to do on Valentine’s day to share in the special moments, but we do have a long-standing tradition of a nice, relaxing couple’s massage and then an all-you-can-eat churascaria extravaganza (read, lots of high quality beef on skewers at our disposal! – Texas de Brazil and Boi Na Braza among our favorites). It certainly isn’t one of the cheapest Valentine’s dates we could have, but it’s what we do each year to spend the day together and treat ourselves to a great experience that really matters. The exact day itself doesn’t really matter to us – as we often don’t celebrate on the actual day since our go-to restaurants can be quite crowded, but we always celebrate Valentine’s day and relax from our busy lives either the weekend before or the weekend after. We’re going for simple, and we feel that we’ve kind of found a sweet spot.

Building a tradition
Traditions are great and they help you build a nice foundation. You’re not trying to continuously compete against your prior gift and constantly do more, and more, and more (as chances are, you’ll never get to the point where you’ve done the *most* you can), so you learn to really sit back and appreciate the hours, the minutes, and the seconds – those special moments to reflect on your years together and to be excited for the years to come. In this fast-paced world, we have little down-time to truly relax and catch-up, and we’ve found that our nice little tradition has not only lasted years, but it’s something we look forward to.

Find value where you can
Just because it’s fancy doesn’t mean you can’t find value, so find value where you can (sorry for all the double negatives…)! Even though it sounds quite luxurious to have a couple’s massage and an expensive restaurant, we’ve always managed to keep it reasonable and find ways to stretch our dollars. For most years, we went to Massage Envy for a great, discounted rate, since as a non-member, you can enjoy a discounted massage once every year (at least that’s how it was when we last went), and we timed it with a special pricing at one of our churascaria go-to restaurants (as it always seems at least one of them is offering discounted dinner AND dessert!).

Set expectations
My favorite thing about how we do Valentine’s day is that the expectations are known. Give a thoughtful card, show appreciation, and settle in for a nice day together.

This year’s plan
This year, we’re changing our tune just a little bit since we purchased an all-in-one massage and lunch package from a silent auction at an annual gala of an organization we support each year, but the gist is the same. Massage and lots of food! Sure, there are probably feng shui reasons for not doing these back-to-back, but hey, it works for us and it serves a dual purpose – donating to an organization we’re passionate about and indulging in our favorite things. We also agreed to make cards for each other this year. Arts and crafts 101! I think it speaks to our overall priorities – showing each other appreciation and enjoying being together.

    What traditions do you have for Valentine’s Day?
    Do you hate Valentine’s Day or love Valentine’s Day?
    What holiday traditions have you built for you and your loved one for other occasions?

Our approach to Valentine's day: built on love, but not on "stuff" is copyrighted by TheSimpleMoneyBlog.com without consent to republish.

Some of the links in the post above may be affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. We feel strongly about only recommending products or services we use personally and/or believe will add value to you, our readers. Read more about our commitment to providing quality product recommendations.

New Year’s resolutions: month one gut check

KJ: Part of any proper goal setting process is to periodically check to see the progress (or lack thereof) you have made, so you can hold yourself accountable. And with that, we have committed (no, not been committed) to accomplishing all of our goals for the year. Read more about our intro post on our 2014 goals here. Here’s our update after having a month to progress toward our goals, and let’s see what we have been able to accomplish.

AJ’s 2014 goals (drum roll, please!):
- Read 5 specific books. BLEH! I read one professional-development-type book and were it not for a work trip with a four hour flight that lacked TVs I wouldn’t have made it through. Even though it doesn’t count, I also read 3 mindless books to save the creative side of my brain from shriveling. I’m almost done with my 2nd book, too, which was supposed to be a fun book, but clearly I didn’t read enough about it prior to buying it, as it’s actually about murder. Bad call!
- Learn to knit. I looked at my knitting needles twice this month. I’m considering this progress. I also think that this might be more of a late-February goal because early February isn’t looking so hot.
-Learn how to bake. This is happening. I made cupcakes from a box without screwing them up AND I made homemade cream cheese frosting which is probably more like cooking than anything like baking but still. Let’s consider this a success! ALSO, I made biscuits from scratch (no yeast required, BUT I have purchased yeast, so hey, there’s that!). And I bought bread flour, which clearly implies intent to bake. Pizza dough, cinnamon rolls and bread are all on the horizon. Commence carbo-loading!
-Make money money, shake money money. It’s only been a month, people, let’s give this one some time to breathe :)
- Just say no. Thus far I’ve gone over and above on not drinking for one week of the month, actually not drinking for a solid 18 days! I was not quite the social leper I feared I may become, and I felt as good physically as I had hoped. This might convert into allowing only one week a month where I do drink, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It’s only January after all.
- Bring in $100 more per month. Even as I made this resolution I wasn’t sure how we’d get there and while we didn’t quite MAKE $100 more this month, we did all kinds of things that reduced costs. Thanks to the pair of AT&T sales kids who interrupted my dumpling making at 8 pm we got Time Warner to lower our bill by $35 a month and kick in an extra DVR. We also replaced all of our light bulbs with super energy efficient light bulbs which helped contribute to $112 in savings on our monthly bills. We saved LOTS of money by purchasing gift cards for home improvement items from Cardpool.com. And lastly, we saved several hundred dollars on the installation of our kitchen backsplash by installing it ourselves. Not too shabby!
Backsplash Counters Cupcakes and Biscuits Photos
-Maintain my ideal weight. I made it 40% of the way to getting back down to my ideal weight. I had hoped to get there by the end of January so as to start February from a place of maintenance but given all the schedule and meal plan changes, I’m not shocked I didn’t hit that target. I have worked out a minimum of two times a week, though, which accomplishes an important piece of this goal. We also plan to do the Advocare Cleanse again starting in mid-February (thus our carbo loading in early February), so by the end of February I hope to be at my ideal weight.
-Create and maintain a garden. The seeds are purchased, the drive is there, if only the weather would stop freaking out (it snowed again yesterday in Texas, for real) long enough to stop freezing (thank you Tom Thumb for carrying these new seeds on the cheap)! March is the month of planting according to plant whisperer Bob so I’m standing by, on the ready!

KJ’s 2014 goals:
- Read 5 books. I started reading the book American Gridlock: Why the Right and Left Are Both Wrong – Commonsense 101 Solutions to the Economic Crises. I haven’t quite finished it, but I am about half of the way through. It’s a book from an economist I follow, and there’s definitely a unique approach he takes to his writing style. He even has a fake back-and-forth conversation with the President…a bit quirky, yes, but I’ve been meaning to have this read from when it first was published.
- Professional development. This goal relates to continuing to invest in my own “human capital” (i.e. unique earning potential from the ability and skills used to generate an income). I haven’t learned any new technologies lately, but I did earn two hours of Continuing Education (CE) this month. Also, I’ve placed a larger emphasis on prospecting more (…that’s half the battle, right?), and I’m heading to a technology conference this week, so progress is being made.
- Maintain my ideal weight. I have lost a couple of pounds, but some of the working out has fallen by the wayside (quickly). I have been able to workout twice per week for most weeks (except this last week was only one time, so hopefully that’s an anomaly).
- Double blog readership. Thanks to a shout-out we received from BudgetsAreSexy.com, the month was off to a great start! We haven’t quite reached the audience we want to build good personal finance and savings habits, but January was a good start to the year!

OUR combined 2014 goals:
- Work out twice per week. Mostly accomplished. We were able to do this for most weeks (except the last one, as AJ attempted to sacrifice a body part on behalf of throwing a great shower and wasn’t up to snuff) so all-in-all, not too shabby.
- Increase our net worth by 35%. And this is probably one of the least successful months we’ve had. From having to pay for a fence ourselves (since our neighbor backed out from any help in the final hours – we’re not bitter, we’re not bitter, we’re not bitter) to poor market performance for January, we haven’t made any progress on this goal yet! Such is the ebb and flow of expenses over time (and markets too!), so hopefully we can make up some ground in the remaining eleven months…

    What’s the most challenging resolution you’ve taken on?
    How do you motivate yourself to stick to it?
    Where do you find your renewed commitment?

New Year's resolutions: month one gut check is copyrighted by TheSimpleMoneyBlog.com without consent to republish.

Some of the links in the post above may be affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. We feel strongly about only recommending products or services we use personally and/or believe will add value to you, our readers. Read more about our commitment to providing quality product recommendations.

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