Hope for your financial life and beyond

4 Reasons Your Budget Isn’t Working

budgets that workSo, the budget doesn’t seem to be happening for you each month? Can’t figure out how to do budgets that work?  Well, take heart. At least you are trying. That’s more than can be said for a good portion of the human race who just make excuses for why they don’t want to attempt one.

If you are having trouble, that’s OK. Budget success doesn’t happen overnight. It took my wife and I six months of making adjustments and having emergency budget meetings before ours began to settle down and become consistently stable from month to month.

Budgets That Work

This I know with complete surety, developing a quality budget changed our life. But it wasn’t without some missteps along the way. In those early days, I found these four things wrecked our budget every month.

1. We left items out of our budget

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Geocaching: Our New, Cheap Kid Activity

Logo_Geocaching_color_300Are you looking for a fun (and cheap) summertime activity to keep the kids busy until they go back to school? Then geocaching may be for you. Never heard of the term? Neither had I until about a month ago when my wife mentioned it. I think my initial comment was, “What the heck is that?”

Do you remember the days of playing pirate as a kid, searching for buried treasure? In essence, that is what geocaching is. Here’s how it’s described at Geocaching.com:

“Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.”

I have to admit I was skeptical when I read about this. I mean who are these hobbyists who traipse all over the wooden glen and urban street corners looking for hidden containers with small trinkets inside? Then I saw a map where all the caches are hidden – in the entire world! Then I realized this was a bigger deal than I thought. Yes, there are some in Antarctica if you are in the neighborhood.

Here’s how you play.

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Cashiers Gone Wild

cash registerEver had one of those moments when you felt something was so obviously correct that it made you a little nervous that you were missing something? In those situations, I usually talk myself out of saying anything because I’m afraid of looking ridiculous if I’m wrong. Hey, what can I say? My personality naturally shies me away from conflict. But not this past weekend when I forced myself to speak up at the checkout register at a local eatery.

So it’s Friday night and we are eating out at a nationally known restaurant/bakery on our way to my daughter’s kindergarten graduation program. We are doing OK on time but any delay in the ordering or food delivery process could force us to eat quickly and rush off to graduation. I’m just hoping everything runs smoothly.

My wife and I have our four kids plus another child who we are watching for some close friends who are out of town for a few days. So there are seven of us in all. And seven people going out to eat creates one of the more interesting moments in parentdom. That’s right the stand-at-the-register-and-order moment.

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Can We Ever Step Off the Gas With Our Finances?

Sit at home or enjoy lifeI love competition. Better yet, I love to win. Doesn’t matter if it’s a marathon, a card game, or playing Horse with my 10-year old son in the driveway. (He hasn’t beaten me…yet.) I want to come out on top.

This competitive spirit also works its way out when I prepare our monthly budget. I love seeing if I can reduce the prior month’s spending amount for each budget category, thus being able to save more. I know, it’s a little sick. I’ve made budgeting into my own personal can-you-top-this contest.

Some may like that I’m this intense. After all, isn’t this level of passion necessary to win with money?

Well, yes…but not when the kids go naked because you haven’t purchased clothes in six months. That’s a little too intense. (Disclaimer to grandparents, family and friends and DFCS: Just using hyperbole here. No kids are actually going without adequate clothing in our house.)

The issue though is valid to consider.

When can we loosen the reigns on the budget? Do we have to drive hard all the time? When can we take our foot off the gas just a little bit? We free spirit spenders want to know.

My answer may be frustrating and seem like a cop-out. [Read more…]

Drawing a Line in the Sand – A $37 Decision

drawing a line in the sandA couple of weeks ago, I had a not so great day at work. Nothing really dramatic happened, it was just one of those long days where everything seemed to be a little off and annoying. After work, things didn’t get much better.

I had to stop at the bank and then was supposed to meet a contractor at one of our rental properties to discuss some repair work. Something came up after school (which often does for teachers) that did not allow me to leave as soon as I had hoped. I’m a stickler for being late to appointments, so this didn’t set well with me.

At the bank we had to wait in line at the drive thru for 10 minutes to make our deposit. That’s unusual but they were shorthanded for some reason. Needless to say, I’m feeling the pressure to arrive at my appointment on time.

At this point, I encountered one of the strange oddities of life.

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I’m Turning 40 – Now What?

turning 40Is it taboo to discuss your age on your blog? If so, I’m engaging in a major faux pas today as I announce that it’s my birthday and I’m turning 40. Woo-hoo! Let’s here it for all the middle age guys out there!

I’ve always heard life starts going down hill after turning 40. I’m not sure why people say that. Is it because the average life span in America is 78, so in the mind of most people, your half way home? Is it because people believe the “fun” times of young adulthood – like partying on spring break or at Mardi Gras – are over?

Or is it perhaps that your body starts to catch up with you as more aches and pains come each morning as you roll out of bed?

Now that I’m here, I’m feeling like I don’t want to buy into the pessimism of what I’ve heard.

Thoughts on Turning 40

In the past year, I’ve done three new and remarkable things:

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How to Control Overspending and “Gotcha” Moments

control overspending

Awww…did you forget about a bill this month?

The number one reason you should be saving money right now is for emergencies. Guaranteed they are going to happen. The second reason we need to save money consistently is for making purchases or for paying bills. As I’ve written about, this concept goes completely against the grain of what is normal in American society. Even though your friends won’t be doing this, there are two completely legitimate reasons why you should develop a monthly saving pattern.

First of all, saving for purchases can help control overspending because it forces us to wait. We tend to get into trouble with our spending habits because we believe in gratifying ourselves instantly. We see something…we like it…we buy it, on the spot. We don’t think how that purchase sets us back financially because it makes us feel so good.

Following a monthly savings plan has another benefit in that it helps eliminate the monthly budget busters that I call “gotcha moments.” What’s a “gotcha moment?”

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Valentine’s Day Shopping For Your Free Spirit – Balancing the Nerd Equation

Spirit Horse

On Tuesday, Mrs. Luke 1428 did an awesome job in her first ever post on how to shop for the nerd in your family this Valentine’s Day. Today I would like to tackle the other side of the equation, which is shopping for the free spirit. That’s me!

Just to recap, the nerd is the person in the relationship who loves to stick by the numbers. Most typically, they are the ones planning the monthly budget and exacting control over when, where and how much money is spent each month. They get really frustrated when the budget is not followed and often get accused of being “too controlling” and not wanting to “have any fun”.

The free spirit is a spender looking for a place to happen. They don’t mind a budget but don’t see it as etched in stone. They will often spend money in the spur of the moment without consulting the nerd. They get really frustrated when they aren’t allowed to have any fun and are often accused of “not understanding” and “being too selfish.”

So, if you’re the nerd in the relationship, how do you shop this Valentine’s Day (or really any holiday, birthday, special occasion, etc.) for free spirits like me? Here are some tips:

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