Thursday, June 2, 2016

Destination Debt Free: Month 1

This marks the first month of our family being "gazelle intense" with our debt. We're looking at a pretty big mountain and, quite frankly, it's overwhelming! When we look at Dave's Baby Steps, all I can really focus in on is Baby Step 2 ("Pay off All Debt but the House") - Because we're gonna be there for a very long time! Paying off all debt is just one giant goal, but there are going to be dozens if not hundreds of little goals that will have to happen along the way. 

Since Blake is still in graduate school and we aren't both working true full-time jobs (even though Blake puts in more hours than most full-time employees!), our Baby Steps are going to have to look a little different for now. We are going to first have to really hone in on our budget in order to reduce (or eliminate) future debt. We are looking very closely at ways to make our budget work for us so that we don't need a loan for the upcoming school year. That's a big task, but we're up for it! 

On or around the first of each month, I'll post a snapshot of our "itty bitty Baby Steps" on Instagram so that you are able to see what we are doing, little by little, to take on this debt. And, on the blog, I'll write a little more in detail about those monthly goals and also re-cap the previous month's goals and share how we did.

I'm a really goal-oriented person, can you tell? 

Still not ready to share the big number, but now you know it's somewhere between $10,000 and $99,999! As Dave's Baby Steps recommend, we will be making our minimum payments on all of our current debts until we have completed Baby Step 1

1. List out all debts and post at home
Pretty self-explanatory, right? It sounds like a silly goal, but if you are in debt you know how hard it is to look at those very real numbers. It hurts! But this is necessary to remind ourselves of what we are facing. Seeing those numbers every day is a great way to stay motivated. 

2. Unsubscribe to YNAB, Ipsy & Hulu
These are just three subscriptions we have that aren't really necessary. YNAB is actually a great budgeting tool, but I found a site I like better (see goal 5!) so there's no need to keep paying. All in all, this will save us $25.99 a month. That's not a lot, I know. But every little bit helps! And while Ipsy & Hulu are both great, they just aren't really necessary. And now we have $25.99 more a month to put towards Baby Step 1!

3. Save toward Emergency Fund
This is Baby Step 1! We currently have over half of the $1,000 in our emergency fund. We actually have more than that in savings, but that money is "ear marked" for future expenses. Since Blake's stipend is only ten months out of the year, we have other savings that we use for those months when he doesn't get paid. So, we aren't going to consider that part of our $1,000 emergency fund.

4. Decrease grocery spending
I love buying groceries. Love, love, love! So this is a hard area for me. I'll write a more detailed post about how I'm doing this, but for now... just know that I've cut my grocery budget by $200 and I'm terrified!!!!! 

5. Track budget diligently
We are using Dave Ramsey's to track our budget and his We are using zero-based budgeting plan. We've tried other sites in the past (including YNAB, as mentioned above) but, so far, Every Dollar is working the best for us, especially for zero-based budgeting. We know it will take about three months to get our budget "right," so I know it will be a learning curve, but I'm up for the challenge! By tracking it regularly (as in, daily) we can hopefully better adhere to the limits we've set for ourselves. 

Follow along with us and join in on the journey!!!! We're gonna be DEBT FREE.... one day!!!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Destination Debt Free: In It for the Long Haul

Getting out of debt can be such a huge challenge! It is not something that can be done overnight or in just a few weeks (unless you only have a little bit of debt)! But, for most people, especially those of us who are dealing with student loans, you're talking tens of thousands of dollars of debt. And it can take years to pay those off. Right now, we are looking at at least 6-8 years before we can be debt free. Hopefully as we advance in our careers, we can lessen that timeline as our incomes increase. But, for now, that's the time frame we are looking at. 

Six or eight years sounds like a really long time. But, research shows that despite the intention for student loans to be repaid within ten years, it often takes people closer to 20 years (or more!) to pay off their loans!!! Twenty years of debt for four - maybe six - years of college! That is silly! That's like buying a car, driving it for four years, but paying on it for twenty! I don't know about you, but I'd like to get rid of student loan debt as fast as possible so that we can enjoy the present and our future! And can you imagine continuing to pay on your own student loans while paying for your child to go to college? Even harder to imagine! So, yes, six to eight years sounds, feels, and is a long time. But it is nothing compared to the estimated 19.7-23 years it takes many people to pay of the debt.

Part of why we have waited this long to start getting "gazelle intense" is simply our current situation. Blake's in grad school, which means he gets a humble stipend and I am the sugar-mama, working full-time. Blake also works a part-time job as a tutor that pays really well, but it varies from month to month how much he works. This has made it difficult to budget and while we've been paying on my loans (his aren't due just yet), we are barely able to make a drop in the bucket. So for the past couple of years, my mentality has just been that we would do what we could now and really deal with it later - when he is done and we are both working full-time jobs.

But, y'all, "later" is expensive! Even though interest rates on student loans are fairly reasonable, it accumulates quicker than you realize! My student loans have been sitting around, growing interest while we've been postponing our aggressive plan. 

Despite our mistakes with these loans, we are looking to the future with hope and excitement, even. We know we mean business and we are going to tackle these loans once and for all and, eventually, be debt free! 

Destination Debt Free: Big Picture

Today starts a new chapter in the financial life of Blake & Katie! We are excited about tackling our budget and taking down our debt. We've been ignoring the debt cloud hanging over us for pretty much our whole marriage (5 years this June!) - aware that it was there, but assuming we could just deal with it "later". Well, "later" is too far away, so we want to handle it N-O-W!

I am going to be posting a lot (maybe not on my blog necessarily because - newsflash: I have two kids and a full time job! - but definitely on my Instagram & Facebook accounts) about our journey towards a debt free life. This is not meant to be a brag-fest or anything like that, but I've just learned over the years that we aren't the only ones in this situation! Just in the few days that I've been posting on budget topics, I've had a handful of people tell me they're in the same boat and working towards the same goal! So, this is meant to be an encouragement, of sorts, for those of you out there who are also working to get out of debt or just to have a healthy family budget. And it's a tool for me to hold myself accountable throughout this process. 

I'm certainly no expert when it comes to money - which is kinda how we got into this mess we're in! But I've learned a lot over the years and I feel like we are taking the right steps to live without debt. Speaking of steps...

I guess this inaugural post should somewhat explain what we're dealing with in "big picture" terms and how we are going to deal with it.

The Debt: 
Our largest debt is student loans. I took out loans to pay for my undergrad and we have taken out some loans for Blake over the past three years. We currently also have a few hundred dollars on two different credit cards. I'm really not ready to share the total sum of our loans because... well... it's a hard pill for me to swallow right now. But I will eventually be sharing that number because I believe being fairly transparent in this process can be a big encouragement to other people who are in the same situation.

The Plan:
We are going to follow Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps. If you've never read Dave Ramsey's plan, stop what you're doing and read it NOW! It's so simple and makes so much sense. Suze Orman also has a pretty solid plan, but she "allows" you to use credit cards. I have learned in my thirty years that I cannot be trusted with a credit card! So, I feel more comfortable sticking with Dave's plan, in which he highly discourages use of credit cards. Plus, I really like Dave Ramsey's daughter, Rachel Cruze, who works alongside her dad in helping people eliminate debt! 

The Team:
I feel like I should mention that Blake and I are both very involved in this process, but I am the more budget-minded/planner in our family. Blake and I are a team and I won't be sharing any information we haven't agreed to share. 

 Like, I said, that is VERY BIG PICTURE of our overall plan! In future posts, I'll be more specific about all the  many little ways we are working to get out of debt! Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Seven months!

I really haven't blogged a whole lot about Macey... #secondkidprobs!!! I have been doing a weekly photo to make her a chatbooks for her first birthday. I try to capture a cute picture along with something that has happened that week. I don't really have time to do a baby book, so this is my 21st century version of one! But I do want to write a little bit about Macey today!

So, she's seven months old now! Crazy how slowly seven months of pregnancy creeps by and how fast seven months of baby life flies by! Macey's first months of life have been quite hectic, but *hopefully* we're getting into a groove. Honestly, I really was looking forward to the six month mark because I remember that's when I really started to feel more "at ease" with Maleah. But, poor Macey got sick all over again right at six months, so... it wasn't quite the milestone I was hoping for!

Anyway, now she's over the crud and feeling much better and we're trying to carve out some sort of new family structure. Of course with a little baby, things change all the time... but, in my opinion and experience, by 6 months, you can really start to have more of a predictable routine and the baby can also be a little more flexible than before. So my "goal" is to create a routine Macey can be familiar with, but not be so rigid that she can't be flexible from time to time.

Her day: 
5:45-6:15 ~ wake up, take 5-6 oz bottle
6:30/6:45 ~ solids (oatmeal + fruit)
8:30-10:30 ~ 45 min to 1 hr nap somewhere in there
10:15/10:30 ~ 5-6 oz bottle
12:30-2:30 ~ 45 min to 1 hr nap somewhere in there
2:15/2:30 ~ 5-6 oz bottle
4-5:30 ~ cat nap somewhere in there
5:30/6 ~ solids (1.5-2 containers veggie)
6:30/6:45 ~ bath
7:00 ~ bottle and bedtime
9:30/10 ~ dream feed

It has taken us nearly a month to get this routine figured out. We still don't have it totally down pat, but we're working on it! I'd ideally like to have her sleeping until 6:30, but I'm confident she'll get there as she's able to sleep longer without a bottle. Some mornings she goes back to sleep for a bit after the bottle which I'm okay with for now.

Sleep Training
So, in the beginning, Macey was a really good sleeper. She "slept through the night" (meaning going 6 hrs) sooner than Maleah. But, the good sleep was thanks, in part, to the Rock & Play. I don't really want to recount the drama that took place while trying to "wean" her from the Rock & Play. I still kinda have PTSD. Haha. We went from a soundly snoozing baby to a little monster when we tried to transition her out of it! But, we eventually got her sleeping in the pack & play and we just use the R&P for sickness & Sunday naps! She was sleeping soundly once we got her used to laying flat, but then she got RSV... then sleep regression... then the crud... then a growth spurt! So, basically we were struggling for about 2 months. During the struggle, we also did some "spoiling" - meaning, we created some habits that we are now having to break. 

First habit we have to break - the paci. I am fine with her having a pacifier. But we simply cannot go in every hour and give her the paci when it falls out of her mouth. She has to either learn to get it herself (she uses a Wubbanub so it's always close to her) or she has to learn to sleep without it. For now we are giving her more time to help herself before rushing to her side when she starts to fuss. Amazingly, after just a couple nights, she's already self-soothing! If she starts to really cry or fusses for more than, say, five minutes, we to the "shush-pat" technique (see the third habit). 

Second habit we have to break - rocking to sleep. I always rocked Maleah for a little while and then put her to sleep drowsy but awake. That's been my goal with Macey, but she falls asleep really fast! So I have just learned that once she's asleep, I need to savor the moment... and then go ahead and put her down in the crib. I've noticed lately she kinda opens her eyes some when I lay her down, and then she falls back asleep. So, I count that as "drowsy but awake". 

Third habit we have to break - picking her up during the night. I was picking Macey up and rocking or swaying her back to sleep while she was sick. That's obviously fine while she's sick, but I can't do that multiple times each night. Instead of picking her up, now we are doing the "shush-pat" technique. Macey will NOT sleep on her stomach, so I just rub her chest/shoulder/tummy while quietly making the "shhh" sound.

It's only been two nights and we're already seeing the benefits of these techniques. One thing I will say about sleep training is that you can't just start suddenly. We have been doing "sleep training" techniques for her whole life. But now we are having to implement some actual "rules" (for lack of a better term) to help her get back to sleeping better. I know she's gonna be a happier baby because of it!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Things Above

A glimpse into my morning routine:

"What day is it?" 
"Do we bring toys to school today?" 
"Where are we going?"
"Is it school day or church day?" 
"Is it gymnastics day?" 
"Who is coming to our house tonight?"
"Is it Saturday tomorrow?" 

She has to know all the details of her day to feel content. I don't mind answering, even though I clearly remember dreading the "questions" phase of her life. But, I get it. Being a Type A/planner person myself, I know all too well the uneasiness of life without a plan. My little three-year-old is already trying to wrap her mind around time and understand her little world. And I want to do my best to help her figure it out... all while trying very hard to teach her to be a little more flexible than I am. :) 

Here lately, I find myself also asking a long list of questions. I'm not exactly sure where the fascination began or why, but I literally have just been completely overwhelmed with thoughts of Heaven. There have been times I literally have almost become sick thinking about it. Not because I don't want to go - trust me, I do! But, to be very honest, I'm scared. That may sound silly - Heaven is supposed to be a place of no fear! And I'm not necessarily afraid of Heaven. Afraid of dying, yes. But in regards to Heaven - I'm just more perplexed than anything. The scary part, to me, is that there's no one to really give me any definitive answers to help ease my mind the way I try to help ease Maleah's mind every morning. There's no one to tell me exactly what to expect. 

Some of my questions are: 

"What will my body be like in Heaven?"
"How old will I be?" 
"How can I not be sad about people who aren't in Heaven with me?" 
"Will my existence in Heaven have purpose and meaning?" 
"How will I not get bored? What will I be doing for ETERNITY?"
"If there is no night, will I rest?" 
"Will I get to eat!?" (Serious question, there!)
"How will we all fit in one place?" 
"Will it be about the size of Earth, except we will all be more like the size of ants? Surely that's how we're going to ALL fit in this place FOREVER." 
"Will I have a job?" 
"If I have a job, what will it be? Are there any problems to solve in Heaven that require a job?"
"Will I get to meet a lot of people?" 
"Will I be conscious of my life on earth and, if so, how will I not feel remorse or guilt about anything?" 
"Will Kari Jobe have a special auditorium where she sings for hours on end?" (No, really.)

Those are just a few. As I said, my mind has been filled with questions. This isn't the first time I've ever pondered these things. But I will say this is definitely the first time I have really wrestled with any of it. 

I do remember going through a similar phase as a teenager. I was terrified that I'd never get to experience having children on earth and, therefore, I wouldn't have any children in Heaven. And I do remember when I became pregnant with Maleah (and, eventually, when she was born) having this sense of relief. Like, I have done everything on this earth I wanted to accomplish. Of course, I still want the joy of raising her and her sister, but I have now "checked off" (for lack of a better phrase) something I dearly wanted to experience in this life. 

But, I'm really wrestling with all of these things. I have been reading more about Heaven and trying to wrap my earthly mind around some potential answers for my many questions. 

Last night, as I lay awake around midnight, the questions came pouring in faster than I could even process. I was frantic, trying to explain Heaven to myself. Trying to calm myself. Trying to imagine the joy I will experience once I finally know. And finally... it just hit me... 

I don't need to worry about Heaven. Wonder, yes. Worry, no. If I can trust God with my salvation, I can certainly trust Him in the joy of Heaven. If I can find satisfaction in Him here, how much greater will that be when I can actually be fully satisfied in Him? 

I can tell I'm headed on a journey in the near future - these questions are too loud in my mind to ignore. I'll be learning a lot more about Heaven in the coming weeks and I want to write about my questions and the answers I find. Maybe you have questions, too. And while I'm not on the hunt to find specific answers for every single question I have, I do want to learn more about what we can know about Heaven while we live on earth. 

But I am very confident in this - Heaven is too great a place for my human mind to even fathom. And that fact alone is so, so satisfying. 

Colossians 3:1-3: Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is youra life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

1/3 of a year old!

The fourth month is such a fun little stage of a baby's life! They're slowly becoming more aware of the world around them and their little personality begins to really show! Macey is definitely enjoying being a part of our family (oh, the smiles she gives her sister!!! SO sweet!) and is really workin' on her smiling game. Sister can melt your heart in a second with her cute little grin! We are loving her new-found awareness and are looking forward to the changes that I'm sure lie just around the corner!

Just for my personal reference, here's a sample schedule of a day in the life of Macey Doodle-Bug:
6:30 am - wake up, chug a 5 oz bottle
6:45 am - diaper change, get ready for school, play for a little bit
7:15 am - leave for daycare and she usually falls asleep on the way (or if we're at home, she goes back down for a nap around 7:30/7:45)
9:30 am - 5 oz bottle
11:00 am - nap? Her naps are rather inconsistent at daycare, but at home this is when she would usually go back down.
12:30 pm - 5 oz bottle
2:00 pm- nap
3:30 pm - 5 oz bottle
5:00 pm - mommy's back! She usually falls asleep again on the way home!
5:30 pm - get home and play "is Macey going to stay asleep or wake up" game. Sometimes she will sleep for 30-45 minutes, other times she just stays awake. This will hopefully be the first nap she drops! It is so inconvenient because this is right when we need to be making dinner, unpacking their bags, etc. 
6:30 pm - another 5 oz bottle
7ish - bath & bedtime routine (including LOTS of cream for her eczema!)
7:30 pm - time for bed! I usually rock her and sing some songs before putting her down. 

Eat = Macey still eats on a 3 hour routine and takes 5 oz each feeding and has 6 feedings a day. She is still getting mainly breast milk with the occasional formula to supplement. I am really proud of pumping for so long and I hope to be able to continue for at least 2 more months, if not longer. We are trying to get her to take one bottle of formula a day so that I am not stressing if I don't make quite enough for her each day. So far my supply has been more than enough, but sometimes she takes 7 feedings in a day and that's when I get behind. And, if I do want to end pumping, I want her to be adjusted to formula for a while so we don't bother her tummy. 

Our adventure in the next month will be starting solids! I'm actually pretty hesitant to go ahead and start, so it'll likely be a s l o w introduction! I'm planning on giving her just oatmeal/rice cereal until 5 months. No need to rush!

Oh, and man... I feel like she's going through a growth spurt every couple of weeks! I feel like Maleah's were more spaced out, but it seems like every time we turn around, Macey's hungry hungry hungry!

Activity = Macey Ellen is quite the wiggle worm! She is trying SO hard to roll from her back to her tummy. She'll get it! She has been practicing overnight as she turns herself around and around in the pack & play. She will seriously make a 360 turn during the night (I get up sometimes and check on her). It cracks me up how she can spin herself around while swaddled! Macey holds her head up quite well and likes to sit upright. She got an excersaucer for Christmas and, although she's still a little too small for it, we'll put her in there for 10-15 minutes at a time and she LOVES it. I can tell she's going to be a busy body. She LOVES toys and loves to play! She will sit and entertain herself for a long time in her bouncy seat!

Sleep = We had a little hiccup over the Christmas holidays with naps. Seems that rocking a baby to sleep really can affect their ability to take a good, solid nap! Since things were so crazy, I was holding her longer before her naps and when she would transition sleep cycles, she would wake up SCREAMING mad and could only be comforted if you rocked her. Then it turned from rocking her back to sleep to not being able to put her back down at all. This was fine for a few naps. But then it was EVERY single nap and it just wasn't working!!! So, we had to nap train her a little and she got back on track. At home, she usually naps in the swing or in her rocker and sometimes needs to be soothed in the middle of the nap, but she's gotten much better about going back to sleep and finishing the rest of her nap. Then she wakes up smiling and happy! 

We are trying to get her to sleep in the pack & play in our room so that we can eventually move her to her crib in the girls' room. She is actually doing really well sleeping in our room, but we're kinda ready to get our room back to ourselves! Plus, their room is literally right next to ours, so she won't be far away at all! Right now she tends to rouse around 2/3am and need to be comforted, so we're going to wait until she's really solidly sleeping through the night before we move her. Honestly, I'm kinda tempted to just put her crib in our room and share the room until she can have a room of her own. We'll see about that. ;) 

Life = We are somewhat adjusted to live with two kids. It's honestly been a really challenging phase. I mean, going from "none to one" is pretty tough, but at least you can get a little relief. If I was exhausted, Blake could take Maleah for a little while and let me nap. That's not the case anymore. We usually divide & conquer - we each take a child and do whatever they need. And then we pass out after bedtime!