Update on our No-vember. (A month without spending anything extra)

You can catch up on the how and why here but just in case you’re walking into this post wondering where this is coming from …

What exactly is a no-spend month?

To be overly simple, it’s a month with no extra spending. Keeping the lights on and food in our bellies isn’t part of the “No-November” for us. If we have a bill, we pay it. If we need groceries, we pick them up. If there was a pre-planned event, we attend. It’s not saying no to having fun or being social, it’s just taking a month to recalibrate and evaluate where the funds are going by stopping the flow of all the extra’s.

No coffee’s from Starbucks, no lunch dates or dinners out, no last minute “I’m bored” spending on the weekends. Just, not this month.

And it’s officially over! The last 11 days were more difficult than the first 19. We had a school break in there, a holiday, a snow day. A lot of down time, is what I’m getting at, and while we stuck to our no-spend month … it’s true you can’t buy happiness, but you can delay sadness.

I had guessed we’d be “over” in our grocery budget but we ended the month within $100 of our usual burn rate at the grocery store – and without any eating out, this felt like a feat. But clearly a doable one.

We borrowed puzzles, drank a lot of hot chocolate at home, had friends over, hung out with family, went for walks, and the kids played with the chickens, it was all very lovely in hindsight.

We went a little stir crazy (Aaron and I more than the kids) BUT it was honestly eye-opening to do this and I’m so glad we tried it, for a few reasons:

We spent less than half what we normally would.

Which definitely made the month of no spending worth it, in my book. I’m the numbers person in our family, so it is very interesting to me to see what we went without and how that affects the bottom line. We can get comfortable and stop practicing discernment or patience in our spending, especially this time of year.

We appreciated what we already have.

Games, subscriptions, the library, relationships, natural resources. We definitely made the most of what we had, even though there were days we were tired of being creative or trying to think a different way.

This was more of a mindset change, and one we struggled with as a whole family, than anything else. Which is the true nugget of this month, I think.

One evening my daughter led a workshop for our family on how to make ornaments out of paper. We already had the paper and the string, even though she wanted to go get additional items like stickers or prettier paper or glitter, we all had to think outside the box at different times to just use what we had. And now our house is colorful, and it means something to all of us.

I actually made money.

We had a few things lying around that didn’t work for us any more, either furniture we no longer had a use for or nice items the kids grew out of – and I sold them. I also took a temporary job for part of November and booked multiple photoshoots this month. Which is not something I had planned on or even thought of as a bonus to a month without spending.

What wasn’t included.

You get to make up your own rules and no one is keeping score 😉

For our family – this is what we spent money on this month:
My medications and all the B.S. that goes with being diabetic
Groceries (food and drinks, people. We didn’t eat ramen all month)
Our monthly bills (gas, electric, mortgage, investments, water, trash)
Gas for our cars
And we did use a gift certificate for free pizza one evening

We also had already purchased tickets before November for a few events and even a girls getaway weekend for me and we happily attended.

Now, for the nitty-gritty:

We spent $71.15 that technically we weren’t supposed to which included Aaron’s coffee on the weekends (read more about that here), my oopsie lunch at the beginning of the month, and 2 “breaks” on different weekends for coffee out as a family.

All in all, a good reminder of how much we already have & how little we really need, but most of all, what matters most.

And I would totally do it again! Maybe once a year, but not during the summer 😉

Saturday morning

😍

House Keeping: Building a life

** It’s a little weird to publish this, I know I was the one who said she wanted to talk about budgets but now that I’ve been sitting on this and revising this for the past couple weeks, it’s hard to not sound like a know-it-all or just a princess. Which there will be a number of you who come to that conclusion and thats ok. The three things you’re not supposed to talk about; money, sex and religion, are basically what I eat for breakfast so here’s where we call a truce. In relationship these topics are met with vulnerability and understanding. They’re fragile and solid, invisible and fully formed. They’re complex, and I love discussing them. Which is hard to do as a one-sided digital essay. I don’t know it all. I’m not the person you want to ask for stock tips or investment opportunities (unless you’re talking real estate and then I’m your girl) and I’ve screwed up many times with our budget and finances. This essay is an over all snap shot of the bigger picture and not a soap box for me to stand on and complain (there is NO complaining). We have everything we need and we value resourcefulness over resources. Want to skip this one entirely? I don’t blame you, here’s a sleeping kitten.

If you’re new here you might not know that 6 years ago we sold a house, started building another one, sold that one, tried to buy two more homes over the course of two more years in 2 different rentals and finally, four years ago, bought the house we currently live in. Over the last 3 years we’ve gutted this home and made it our (hopefully) forever space.

There’s a specific reason for this run-on sentence of a decision.

We wanted to be debt free, yes. But with Aaron’s job there’s a lot of personal risk involved. If Aaron would have gotten into an accident or died unexpectedly our income would have stopped with those tragedies and I wouldn’t have been able to afford our house payment. The decision to move and lessen our monthly output was a very tactile decision for our future.

putting the sign up

There isn’t a ladder for Aaron to climb as a business owner. He doesn’t work at a company where someone else just hands out raises or promotes him based on his performance. That’s his job, he’s the ceiling. So if our life requires more cash, we can’t knock on a bosses door and ask for it. Yes, there are perks to owning our own business and yes, sometimes there are good years of plenty and there might be profit sharing, other years we lose everything and start all over. Not only do we live a debt free life, personally, but also professionally. Aaron is the sole owner of his companies and it’s a core value for us to operate them without debt, partners, or venture capital.

Office of Elevator Up

Now, here’s my disclaimer. Please take this with a grain of salt. We started out very differently than so many of other business owners/professionals. Neither Aaron nor myself had any debt of any kind when we got engaged (We didn’t go to college, ergo no school loans). We bought our first house together before we were married and I “rented” it from Aaron until after the wedding.

We were a dual income household when we bought our second house (the house we sold in the beginning paragraph). I was pregnant with Jessica but working full time with health insurance and Aaron was employed full time as well. On paper we could afford the house but 6 years later with two kids (one of which we ended up paying for the prenatal care and delivery to the tune of almost $30,000 out of pocket), a start-up business and only one income; we were selling everything and then some to keep our house above water.

We took a substantial loss when we sold the house, twenty-thousand to be exact. Rolled that into our new build loan but when it sold before it was finished it sold for an appreciated cost and cut our initial debt in half. We rented for 2 years to save money and pay-off the remaining debt from the sale of our house. We had sold cars to pay our hospital bills and somewhere in there bought our minivan with a small loan and paid that off in those two years of renting as well. (Are we still on the same page?? Anyone??) We saved everything and our goal was to buy another house but with 20% down this time, no questions asked.

SO. You guys – we did. We bought our house that we live in now with 20% down and our mortgage is under $300 a month. This is why we did this. We can also now (and only now) afford to send our kids to private school.

Kitchen AfterKitchen After

We live differently on purpose. Now if catastrophe hits the fan, our family won’t crumble. We finally have better health insurance and this is the first year in the last eleven that we haven’t ended the year paying out of pocket almost double what we’re allowed to contribute to our HSA. This might be the year we actually carry a balance to be able to save up for emergencies where insurance is concerned.

I really like to budget, I love numbers. I get jazzed about this stuff and yes, with our low monthly output and no debt (aside from the mortgage) to our name – we can do more with our income. This is how we’ve given ourselves “raises” through the years. We reduce the amount going out so the amount coming in looks like it’s growing even though it isn’t.

But it’s still hard because money is still money and it buys really fun things and we still have to say no and save and work and have goals.

My eyes are a little bonkers. I realize this is either really interesting or completely irrelevant to you, I get it. I wish more people would talk about this because it fascinates me.

As a teenager I set myself up on a budget based on percentages. So, when I got a paycheck (or cash from babysitting) I would automatically calculate 30% of what I earned for savings, 10% towards gifts/tithes, 15% towards gas/car maintenance, 30% towards spending and the other 15% went into a slush fund of sorts to build up for things like insurance or my eventual cell phone bill. I changed the percentages when needed (like every 6 months if my expenses changed) but I was pretty strict with my self and how I managed my (very little) income.

Alllllllllllll these years later I’m still doing a version of this. Only it’s not based on percentages and instead of me calculating the amounts for our categories, our direct deposit does it for us.

EASIEST THING IN THE WHOLE WORLD.

I wanted to talk about this for a few reasons, one because I’m a geek and setting up budgets for automatic saving or spending (automatic bill pay anyone? Oh my gosh, now we’re talking. You’re so naughty) is one of my secret powers that I want to share with you but also, as it turns out, not a lot of people think the way we do about this kind of stuff.

I realize that if you find yourself in a similar situation to where we were six years ago your train of thought might not lead you to the hop-scotch selling and building and renting as it did us but I guess I’m weird? It’s like walking into a house and seeing the walls come down. I can just see it.

Aaron took some convincing, he sort of just expected to have a car payment and house payment and credit cards. Not to abuse, just because thats what he thought it took. Only, I don’t know … I disagree. We don’t have to have it all, I’m not interested in more stuff. Experiences? Yes, lets do that. Let’s travel and see and taste and explore. Let’s put our dollars to work in our kitchen, on our table, and in our hearts with our memories. Lets build a life worth more than counting numbers.

🍅🍅🍅

So I guess a budget is like really good boundaries, if we want to bring it from tactile to emotional because this girl loves a good metaphor. I love boundaries. There’s more freedom within them than outside of them. If I have absolutely no boundaries then I have no direction. Wide open spaces are only fun for so long and then you start wondering where you can put things. Where does this go? And what if I had a place for that?

I’d argue that I am not Type A. I’m creative and messy and full of feelings and I cry easily and laugh loudly and I like to giggle whenever it bubbles up and I love surprises and adventure and being a free spirit … who also can get down with a budget, a repeatable file system, grocery shopping and menu planning. I’m kind of different.

But thats what I hope to bring to you in this mini-series of “House Keeping”. My slightly bent, what-works-for-us routines. One last thing? There aren’t short cuts. It’s a lot of work to stay on top of menu planning and budgeting, there isn’t a quick fix, that I’ve found, that lasts. There’s just doing the next right thing. And then the next thing, and then the next. If ordering take out is the budget saving solution to eating at home, then do that. Next month maybe you’ll go to the grocery store on the weekend, and the next maybe you’ll menu plan too … 3 months into small changes you might be cooking your own food from your kitchen and adding up the savings towards a vacation. Or maybe towards the debt you might carry, or the eventual car replacement headed your way.

Whatever it is, doing nothing is actually doing something.

With that little nugget of gold, brought to you by inspirational posters every where, I’m out. Peace.

Own your words

Own your words

I’ve been loving the Being Boss podcast lately. Listening intently each week as a new episode airs and replaying past episodes multiple times.

It’s reminded me of a few things; “Owning your words” being one of them. I was in middle school when I first heard this principal. My family and I traveled to Utah and it was in a conference room where I first heard a wise man say to me: Jodi, you have to own your words.

Like most teenagers, I threw around phrases like poprocks in my mouth. Just to see what they felt like; little explosions and short lived sensations. I fished for compliments and tried to gage my importance from what everyone else had to say about me.

I was arguing intently trying to convince everyone of my truth and wanting them instead to tell me what I really meant.

In the Redefining Professional episode, Kathleen and Emily talk about letting the excuses go. How important your word is when you’re a creative entrepreneur. It resonated with me.

I’ve been more worried about the image than the legacy.

It’s as simple as: if you say it, you have to believe it first.

So when you’re in a group of peers and you start talking about your current insecurity (weight, complexion, parenting stye, work ethic, even that dream starting to realize, etc.) if you don’t want them to agree with you, do not say it out loud. It sounds kind of harsh but it’s been a good gage of where I put my priorities in terms of worth, confidence, ability and self care. (keep scrolling, there’s more)

I'm upset.

This topic has me really upset because it’s so important, I feel. As a community, I want to foster authentic relationships above the run-of-the-mill shallow conversations that are a mile wide but only an inch deep. I want to believe in you and vise versa because I believe, instead, that we’re all miles deep and afraid to let anyone else wade in our waters with us.

If you jump from compliment to compliment to fuel your business success, you will fail miserably. We don’t get paid in compliments. I’ve gotten everything I could have possibly wanted out of this website years ago. What started as an online journal as a 16 year old has turned into a great archive of lessons, memories, opportunities, and my journey. Something I’m so glad to have for my own children to read someday.

To have this kind of unedited version of our lives available to them. For my daughter as she leaps into the world – to see where she came from. And even if I’m gone, that she might be able to still find me.

It’s risky business to believe in yourself. It’s so much easier to ask someone else to carry that vulnerability for you. I’m much more comfortable staying inside the box that your perceptions put me in. But it’s not the danger lurking OUTSIDE of the box that scares me:

It’s the stagnant, predictability of staying in the cage that bothers me more.

Let’s shake things up. Let’s get ridiculous and live this messy life wild.

Belle Isle, Detroit 2014

Below are some great resources I’ve used or I am currently using. For those of you wanting to dig in a bit more to owning your own words, I’ve found some helpful tools that have assisted me in learning how to do just that. (No affiliates, just sharing what I’ve learned or found on my own)

Resources:
Power Sheets, Lara Casey
Erica Midkiff, Sign up for her newsletter and you’ll receive a 23 Consuming Mindfully download free.
Braid Creative, they have a newsletter for Creatives. Nuggets of gold.
Being Boss, podcast mentioned in the post.
Maggie Whitley, a great collection of blog posts on how she made her handmade business successful.
Kelly Rae Roberts, Flying Lessons e-course

I’ll continue to give my gifts of knowledge to you in the coming weeks and I’d be honored to hear yours as well. Leave them in the comments or feel free to message me or post them on Facebook.

Round here lately

I still haven’t been able to look at our photos from Spain or even process them in order to look at them or make a book, or upload them. Or any of it. I’ve had a hard time explaining this to people or even understanding it for myself because, duh, Spain! But it felt like a dream. The night before we left for Spain my aunt and uncle from Washington were in town and we hosted them for dinner. My Aunt asked me about Spain, I gave her the answer I was giving the people closest to me: I was a little scared.

Absolutely excited, elated, over the moon. And terrified.

She asked me why. I told her because I never knew I was allowed to be this happy. Not “my husband surprised me with an amazing, once in a lifetime gift Happy” more of an actual happiness. Contentment. A stillness in the wind but you can still hear the music of nature and you stop the car, get out and look around in awe happy. I had no idea I could have some of that too. That it was for me. That, essentially, it’s for everyone. I had no idea.

It took me by surprise. A little fox in the night.

But the haze of the dream is lifting and I’ll be able to share more about it soon. Once we got home, there was no grace for adjusting back to wakefulness. We went straight into Parenting and Owning a Business and Work and Life and Meal Planning.

It was rude.

Work on my dream Studio started, I haven’t stepped off cloud nine yet.

That thing when ideas happen.

It currently sits like this:

Total progress from yesterday. Got so much done. I can see the finished studio :)

We took the roof off and framed in for a window border around the entire building. Then it started raining. It hasn’t really stopped. I keep seeing myself in the finished studio writing or painting or sitting with a friend/colleague and doing the work of life, and being joyful.

——————

Jessica’s gluten allergy has reared it’s head again and we’re a good 5 days into the transition for her to be completely off gluten successfully. We’ve been at it for more than a week but it’s been completely gluten free for a good five days and we’re seeing so much progress at home already.

I might be doing a few posts on gluten free baking/cooking and what it’s like to cater to an allergy in a house where the rest of us don’t have it. The best part is she’s advocating for herself, she can tell a difference which means we’re on the right track.

There’s been many (MANY!) failures in the kitchen so far and almost everything is being compared to what her pallet remembers of the wheat version of her favorites, but we’re getting there. I’ve had a couple successes and I happy-dance the shit out of those. In the middle of the kitchen. While she looks at me like a crazy person.

To this #glutenfree victory I've had approximately 13 failures today alone. We will eat cupcakes for every meal.

This one! #glutenfree

She’s emotionally allergic to baked potatoes and mayonnaise but will eat both when pigs fly. Guess what’s gluten free? Both baked potatoes and mayonnaise. Not that I need a reason to serve her condiments but we take everything we can get right now. The other night we had potatoes and meatballs for dinner (both GF) and she offered to pray before dinner. (She never does that.)

She prayed that Oliver would stop crying (he had a hard day of being adorable and exhausted from all the cuteness) and that she wouldn’t throw up from the baked potato.

What I heard was “I’m concerned about my brother and I see what’s on my plate and I agree to eat some.”

She totally ate some. AND LIKED IT.

Potatoes are a new food group, we’re going to live.

—————————-

Oliver had his first birthday party invite last weekend. He had a big day, actually. Barber Shop hair cut, Kindergarten Halloween Birthday Ball, learning to read. We had conferences for both kids last week as well. Of course they’re doing great (3rd grade and Kindergarten, respectively) but we have areas to grow and work on, too.

Like keeping up on all that paper that comes home.

I mean.

I was telling a friend that I feel like every parent walks into conferences feeling like they’re doing everything wrong. That somehow the Teacher has the upper hand in the exchange because they’re reporting to us on our child’s progress outside of our home. They made it this far (our kids) so we’ve had to take some credit for that, and now? Now, let’s talk about how to keep them moving forward. Sign here, here, here, aaaand here.

I feel a little childish sitting in seats 3 sizes too small and looking at standardized test scores that look like soduku puzzles.

My kids aren’t going to the same school I went to. (Actually, they literally are.) But … I mean, education wise. It’s just different. I’m learning 3rd grade all over again too, only this time around I know what carries through. (Hint: not everything.) And yet I can’t remember if I want them to get “3’s” or “A’s” or “100%’s” or be somewhere on the upper curve? Or is there a curve?

It’s just all very weird, basically. Finally feeling like a legitimate adult and being completely dumbfounded that my son only knows his alphabet by zoo phonic noises. An A is not an A to Oliver unless you start with Allie Alligator.

I have to google new names to the letters of the alphabet in order to teach him how to read.

I was hoping the ABC song would live a little longer.

Pretty proud of this one for progress made on learning to read. But now time has to stop. Forever.

But we’re healthy! And their teachers are both amazing. I love love love that I feel like they’re invested in my children with me.

Apparently I have a lot to say. I’ll stop here and be back soon for more catch up.

Safe tricks with your treats, friends!

xoxo

My tips for staying above water

I was talking to Aaron last night about how the past few years have been a funnel of work. Hyper focused on getting to a goal and picking up whatever we could along the way to stay afloat.

The photos we have framed and hung up on our walls are all years old and when I look around I’m still looking for my wispy haired little girl to be painting on my walls or my blazing blue eyed boy to be looking at me just so, probably with food all over his face.

Painting (ehum, her face?)

Happy Napper

It’s not that we missed anything, we just weren’t watching it as closely as before. And now the time has passed but we’re floating, finally. As a family, a couple. Myself, as an individual. I’m starting to feel like I can float as a mother. Not without trying and not bypassing the work, but like I can finally feel my wings.

Of course I know there will be times when the chaos overtakes our lives again and with parenting, the joy is bigger as they get older but so are the challenges. So here’s my tips for when that shadow of fear creeps up on me, something I can always look back at and remember that I can do this – because I already have.

For the home:

Prioritize and Blank Slate:
Planning is one of my favorite parts of home ownership, redoing is another. It’s overwhelming though, so take steps. The house we bought was empty for YEARS before we found it and although we (hopefully) found all the surprises with our inspection – each season might bring a new challenge this first year.

What I’ve found most helpful is to change what you can only if that change brings a blank slate.

We learned we have a massive yard after moving in (yes, after!) and I love to garden – but this year was all about prep. We had to remove trees and brush, kill poison ivy and dream up a few great ideas.

Cutting trees down

Used to be a jungle.

For the kitchen:

Break it down.
For me, I love to be in the kitchen baking and cooking. I love food prep and freezing meals. Making lunches, hosting parties, having snacks for everyone who enters our doors. I can easily overwhelm our tiny fridge, miniscule freezer and my family if I don’t have a plan. Not to mention our budget.

So I meal plan. (Or check out this video tutorial I did here.) It’s a process and it does take time, but from my menu plan I make a grocery list and then spend less at the store. It’s tried and true, it works.

Most of the meals I make require prep time and fresh ingredients. Last night we had ratatouille, caprese salad and green beans with dinner rolls. Tonight we’ll have beef stew from the crock pot but I cut all the veggies and precooked the beef chunks last night and threw everything in a crock pot bag so this morning all I had to do was put the bag in my crock pot, and add the wet ingredients (which I also threw together last night).

Stew bag.

The idea is to have less work, keep the house cleaner and engage with my family. But I get there by working harder at first, so when my energy and patience runs out, I can sit and relax instead of running around forgetting essential things. (Don’t worry, this happens often! It’s work to be on top of things, but this is the work that I know pays off. Andrea actually just wrote about this beautifully. I love how she doesn’t let me think it’s easy for some people to be so on top of it, because it just isn’t.)

These are a few of the ways I stay on top of the whirlwind since starting school, changing schools, settling into a home (changing out seasonal clothing without involving packing boxes?!??!?! IT’S LIKE CHRISTMAS!) and realizing the growth in our family requires new patterns and definitely more of an idea of what we’re doing. (Aaron and I feel like we’re growing up, too.)

Tomorrow I’ll be back with my tips for the relational side of life. Kids & Relationships. How are things in your camp?