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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.

New year, new resolutions

Someecards I hope you're not too exhausted from your yearly visit to the gym on New Year's DayAJ: A new year always really inspires me. I’m a total “new year, new you” sucker, and I’m so stubborn that resolutions usually stick with me, so I like to really push myself (at least for a few months which I think is pretty good considering how the rest of the world treats resolutions!). Kirby and I have totally different approaches to setting goals. My approach is that I want to take on totally attainable things that I’m not currently doing but could and should be doing. Kirby takes on a more reach-for-the-stars mentality, pushing himself to super-human lengths that might not be physically possible (love you, babe!). Either way, goal setting is an important part of growing and improving!

Like many people, our goals span both our personal and professional lives where finances are an underlying focus of all that we do across the board.

AJ’s 2014 goals (drum roll, please!):
- Read 5 specific books. Kirby pointed out in our post from Monday that I read constantly, they’re just mostly mindless books. Mindless=happy. In 2014, though, I’m committing to read mentally stimulating, boring, professionally beneficial books that lack plot and character development. And I’m going to love it.
- Learn to knit. I failed at this in 2013 despite my sister-in-law’s best efforts, loads of knitting needles, a ball of yarn and the beginnings of a scarf already provided to me. Her knitting is too pretty, and I’m too scared I’ll screw it up! But in 2014 I plan to screw up a lot of knitting because I lack domestic skills of this nature and I like learning new things.
- Learn how to bake. Just suggesting this as a goal for myself caused me stress. Our family and friends will tell you that I’m actually a good cook but baking and I don’t get along. There are specific steps you have to follow, things have to be measured, it’s all too much. But my husband grew up with a mother who did things like make homemade bread and my sister-in-law works with yeast like it’s not even a thing, so in 2014 I’m committing to buying yeast for the first time, at the very least.
- Make money money, shake money money. Everyone I know has goals related to their salary, and I’m at a point where I hope to reach the goal I set for myself going into my career within this year. The hardest part about declaring this a goal is that the possible disappointment that will accompany this goal in 2015 if it doesn’t come into fruition will be rough, but I’m declaring this a goal on a leap of faith and banking on those boring professional books to get me there :) (and maybe some hard work and determination if I can fit it in with the knitting and baking).
- Just say no. For one week a month I’ll go totally alcohol free. No occasional glass of wine after work, no margaritas on the weekend. 7 solid days of living a healthier, more focused lifestyle.
- Bring in $100 more per month. I haven’t cracked the nut on this one which probably means I’ll struggle to accomplish it but creativity is where I shine so I’m determined to find a way.
- Maintain my ideal weight. This has to be discussed annually otherwise I’ll fall off the horse more times than I can count. I’d like to be my ideal weight for the entire year post-January (you have to allow yourself time to actually get to that weight before you can maintain it, I hear).
- Create and maintain a garden. I am the child of a master gardener and now have a beautiful yard that is begging for homegrown fruits and veggies, so this year my dad (the Bob) and I are going to build the garden beds, plant our bounty and then it will be up to me to keep the little buggers alive and edible. No pressure.

KJ’s 2014 goals:
- Read 5 books. So I do almost no leisure reading outside of articles, news, professional publications, etc., so I’ve got my sights set on some books I would like to read throughout the year. This is less than one book every two months…should be doable, right?
- Professional development. Continue to invest in my own “human capital” (i.e. unique earning potential from the ability and skills used to generate an income) by learning new technologies, keeping up-to-date with world-wide developments and continuing education (CE), and emphasizing both business development through prospecting as well as professional relationships.
- Maintain my ideal weight. Much like Angela’s comment, it’s best for me to keep this front of mind too. I come from a time where I used to work out constantly throughout HS, but I’m a bit of a lazy person these days when it comes to working out. Eat better and workout more, here we come!
- Double blog readership. So it seems strange to mention this to our readers, but….you all have helped build it thus far to what it is today (thank you!). So how can you be a part of our goal? You share our posts with just one other person…easy enough…plus it helps us all be just a little bit smarter with our finances when we work together and grow our knowledge together to make “financial independence” a reality we all can achieve!

Phew! Even though we’re quite open with this blog, it’s still hard to articulate our goals to the rest of the world. Maybe that will be the motivation needed to see that all of these are accomplished by this time next year? Hold us to it!

OUR combined 2014 goals (his, hers, ours concept – important to work together!):
- Work out twice per week. This seems lame and at certain points will be no big deal, however, there are certain weeks/months of our year where we get really, really busy and even committing to twice per week seems absurd. This means more super early mornings spent together on the floor of our work out room crying in pain and telling each other we hate each other. It’ll be fun, really!
- Increase our net worth by 35%. This is a calculated number and aligns with our overall future planning goals. It seems like a really big goal this year, but with the bulk of our planned expenses on updates to our home out of the way, new tires, brakes and batteries in both of our cars and curtailed spending on the horizon, we really feel like this is obtainable. We’re at a point in our lives where our savings potential is greater than any return our accounts could earn (and it seems that will be true for quite a long time!), but we’re hoping for that date some time where we can earn more than our incomes…might be a LONG ways off, but we’re working toward it!

    Do you have any recurring New Year’s resolutions?
    What are your new goals for this next year?
    We would enjoy hearing how you’re going to accomplish your goals.

New year, new resolutions 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.

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