Long Term Financial Goals

You’ve read our debt free why, which hints at some of our long term financial goals. But why are we trying to get out of debt so aggressively, down to our car loan and student loans? We view our debt as the first step in achieving our long term financial goals, and I thought I’d share those with you because I always find it inspiring to read other people’s long term plans. If you are trying to pay off debt but don’t have a debt free why or a long term plan I’d highly encourage you to take some time to brainstorm what’s ahead of you- otherwise your journey will feel even more monotonous and perhaps even aimless.

Our career goals are perhaps a little non-traditional. My husband has already achieved his goal of becoming self employed and intends to stay self- employed for the foreseeable future. I am currently working as an ophthalmic technician which has made us realize that having multiple income sources provides us with a stability that the self-employed construction path often lacks. I also have a BA in Creative Writing. However, I have never been very career driven and see myself staying at home with our family once we start to have children. So, we have been brainstorming ways to achieve having multiple income sources without me necessarily always working outside of the home.

We currently own our first home, a fixer upper that we purchased with the intention of making a profit when we sell.  We plan to stay in our home for about 2 more years, more or less the amount of time we foresee our debt payoff taking along with finishing the repairs we need to do in order to sell the house (everything is on hold as we pay off debt). After we sell our house we intend to use the equity to buy a house that we can rent out OR buy another fixer at auction that we can flip. Either option provides us with the ability to eventually reserve cash to build my husband’s dream business- flipping houses and full time construction.

At some point we will purchase more of a forever home with enough land on the property that we can have a little livestock to add to our income potential. We also have dreams of being self-sufficient- having a garden and raising our own meat. I see myself dealing with the business side of this dream. My dream job is honestly being a homesteader. I love nothing more than taking care of the home and would quit my job in a heartbeat if it meant I could garden, preserve food, tend animals and take care of my babies. I may be naive about the work this involves, however, I am willing to rise to the challenge.

Ultimately, my husband and I are both creative people. He has dreams of woodworking and I have dreams of working creatively from home in some fashion. Having these multiple income streams will afford us the ability to spend less time working just to survive and more time enjoying family and the work and lifestyle that we have in our hearts to live. We have simple, old fashioned dreams of working with our hands and having seasons of work that are full and seasons that are slower. I want to teach my family to eat traditionally, grow their own food and enjoy the fruit of a simple life.

Right now the discipline of debt payoff isn’t an easy one. We sacrifice a lot that we see other people our age doing- going out, driving nice cars, buying the home of their dreams.  But I’ve never really cared about material possessions enough to sacrifice the rest of my dreams for them. I love the house we live in and it will be sad to sell it, however, again, I care more about our lifestyle than our house. We are both working full time at jobs that we don’t see ourselves working forever so we can get out of debt ASAP, which is building character and teaching us that anything can be endured for a time if there’s an end goal in sight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How I Grocery Shop on a Budget

ESSENTIALORGANICS

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have gathered a few things- I love to budget, and I love to cook. I’ve been wanting to share how we achieve those two items while following a fairly “traditional” diet since the origin of this blog! If you are on Instagram you may have seen this post or caught my story yesterday in which I shared what we bought and the price breakdown for our weekly grocery shop. With this post I’m attempting to put those items together to give you a more comprehensive idea.

First of all, there is no perfect grocery budget that everyone must adhere to (I love this blog post that explains why). The way I grocery shop reflects my values – eating nourishing, traditional foods, my love of cooking and preparing simple meals, and my commitment to eating the majority of our meals at home to save money. If this does not describe you, this system may not work for you. That’s okay!

Please also note that what I’m describing below is my system at its ideal. When I put the time/energy into it, it functions like a well-oiled machine. There are plenty of weeks in which I end up minimizing this – for example, buying grocery store meat (gag) and basically serving it with rice and whatever salvageable vegetable I can find from the fridge. I am not perfect, but nevertheless, you will always find us cooking the majority of our meals at home with minimally processed ingredients. It’s habit.

So, here’s how I buy real foods on a budget.

  1. I sit down and make a list of meals that we might like to have for the week to week & a half, depending how lazy I’m feeling. This week I wrote down pot roast, hamburgers, pork chops, crock pot chicken & rice soup, sweet potato shepherd’s pie. My husband decides he wants to make a cabbage cole slaw. Out of this list, I’ll really only need to use a recipe for the soup and shepherd’s pie.
  2. I know I will grocery shop at multiple stores to get the freshest ingredients and maximize my budget. So, when making my grocery list, I separate ingredients accordingly. I make a list of produce and a list of meat, and then another list for any items I’ll need at a normal grocery store (like coffee, butter, canned goods).
  3. I either start my grocery trip at the local butcher or the produce market, both of which are in a 5-10 mi radius from my house and each other. This week I started at the butcher. I bought:
    • 5 lb. pot roast, gr. sausage, gr. chuck, 2 whole chickens, 2 pork chops, 2-3 lb. English roast, & pork lard.  TOTAL: $43.02
    • you might be able to match ingredients with the meals above. Notice I bought some extra roast & extra chicken which we can use later, making the meat stretch to maybe 1.5 wks.
  4. I then head straight to my favorite produce market, a tiny little local market that aims to buy the freshest of produce from local farmers & the majority of produce is un-sprayed by pesticides (read: better than shipped organic). They have a small selection, so there I only buy:
    • potatoes, onions, tomatoes, a bell pepper, mushooms, & an apple.                     TOTAL:$ 7.20grocery shop on a budget | naturallyjmharris.com
  5. I head to another local produce market down the street (I live in just the best area!) & buy the rest of the produce I need. this includes:
    • carrots, celery, garlic, sweet potatoes, kale, cabbage, radishes, cabbage. TOTAL: $16.27

GRAND TOTAL: $66.49

My weekly grocery budget is $80-100 depending on how generous I’m feeling with myself. This week I designated $80, making my grocery trips under budget by $13.51.

I will leave this in my spending checking account for next week’s groceries or if we need something mid-week. If this happens to you you could also buy beer with it, not speaking from experience or anything.

My pantry is already stocked from previous weeks, so I don’t need to stop at the grocery store or Aldi for basics like bread, butter, coffee, canned goods and so forth. We don’t buy snacks aside from the occasional chips & salsa or nuts. (If you watched my IG stories I did math wrong and it came out higher than it actually was. #facepalm)

I recognize that whether you’ll be able to do this depends on what your produce availability is in your area, unfortunately. You might live in a “food desert” and have to make do at the normal grocery store where non-local produce will cost you quite a bit more.  Otherwise, though, let me reassure you that my husband and I work full time and it takes far less time to prepare these meals than you might think, once you learn how to cook with real ingredients and develop the habit of cooking dinner. I pack a lunch for work with leftovers every day because there are only two of us, but we make meals that feed 4-6+ always for convenience. In future posts I will share tips for pulling this all together during the week, until then, catch my Instagram stories where I intend to share some of our nightly dinners.

Our Debt Free WHY

Aggressively putting money towards debt in a culture that views debt as not only inevitable but necessary can feel, at times, disheartening. It would be easier to ignore our debt and continue doing whatever we pleased with the money we may be fortunate to have leftover after paying bills, however, that money would never be fully ours to spend.

We want to be debt free so that we can use the resources that we have been given well. Debt keeps us in bondage to the people we owe- the credit card companies, the government, even family- so that it is always before us before we make a decision. Whether that decision be big or small, with debt, we live with the understanding that we do not have financial freedom, no matter how many hours we spend working away from each other.

We want to be debt free to change this reality. We want to be debt free because we have goals that we would like to achieve, and we would like to remove as many obstacles that stand in front of those goals as we can. We do not want to be held back by financial irresponsibility when we have been given the power to change our circumstances. We are tired. We are tired of seeing so much of our hard earned paychecks going to someone else because of money we borrowed yesterday. We are tired of feeling like we can’t do what we want to do because of our debt.

We want to be debt free so that we can sell our house and have the equity we gain be ours. We want to be debt free because we want to have a family and be able to raise our children with the lifestyle we want for them without our resources being stretched thin simply because of debt. We want to have a small farm, own rental properties for income sources, be freelance creators–none of which can be fully achieved without being debt free.

And finally, we are tired of financial insecurity. We are committed to whatever it takes to create a new legacy for our family, one of plenty instead of want, one in which we can give freely out of the resources the Lord has given to us because we have chosen to value people above material wealth. We want our (future) children to view money positively and not as something that breeds uncertainty.

For these reasons, we have chosen to be debt free.

Our Financial Story (Money Series #3)

our financial story//naturallyjmharris.com
photo by neONBRAND
It’s been 5 months since we started this Dave Ramsey plan and completely overhauled our household finances and perspective on money. Five short months hardly seems like any time at all to have accomplished what we have.
I’m telling you this because we’ve experienced a supernatural ease that we’ve never experienced before when it comes to money management. And for that I take 0% credit. To God be the glory.
I don’t know how everything on that list came to be. Of course I know the mechanics, but still, the amount of items amaze me. 
We’ve always had an irregular income. We once both saved for our house and paid off our truck in a matter of months. Once our furnace broke just as the nights turned into winter–the Lord in his mercy covered our shortcomings.  We paid our friend’s way for a trip, we were handed money and gave it right back away because we wern’t in need.  One summer had to tell a friend we didn’t have enough in our checking account to cover a coffee run. We’ve overdrafted our account because we didn’t know how to save when paychecks were plenty for the weeks when they were sparse.  We bought a fixer upper with a large potential for equity when we sell.
We’ve been really good at being on the same page regarding long term goals, but really poor at agreeing on how to achieve them. Our financial backgrounds couldn’t be different–Solomon says, “you grew up privileged and entitled; I grew up dirt poor. Your parents bought you a $10,000 car when you turned 18, I worked for a summer and bought myself a $200 one.”  Needless to say, we were raised with night and day different approaches to work and learning to mesh those hasn’t always been seamless.
I never want to write about money with pride. Sometimes times are just plain hard. Despite our best efforts for control, there are seasons of scarcity and there are seasons of plenty. I believe that it is the will of the Lord that a man enjoys the fruit of his labor (Ecc 5:18-20). I hold to that promise. It is what keeps me going when I’m tired of throwing my entire paycheck towards the debt I created.
I believe in financial freedom as being something greater than paying off debt and wealth building. I believe that when efforts are put into household management deep things come unraveled and I don’t want you to give up when they do. I’m telling you this because I believe that no matter how messy your finances may be or how great your shortcomings there is hope. 
I have seen it, in just five short months.  Five short months in which we could’ve done nothing but kept living the way we were, but instead we’ve:
  • -built our emergency fund savings account to $1000
  • -started a sinking funds savings system and have faithfully contributed to it weekly; bought a couple items with our sinking funds
  • -started to pay off debt highest interest rate first, got about $1300 into paying off a credit card before becoming convinced instead of the snowball method
  • -paid off an IRS debt- not our smallest but first because IRS
  • -learned how to be on the same page when it comes to finances, both big picture and practically
  • -stuck to an every dollar budget and mastered how to manage it with our irregular income
  • -(I) learned how to spend our fun money with no guilt
  • -(I) experienced a lot of joy from finding freedom from anxiety about $$$.
Look at this list as a little preview of specific posts to come and subjects to be delved into. I’m not telling you this because I’m proud of our accomplishments (although I am), but because we both at one point had a lot of ignorance regarding money management.  Now that we’ve started to overcome that ignorance, we want to share what we’ve learned – what works, what doesn’t work, what may be behind the money decisions we make and simply what it’s like for a married couple to handle finances together.  Read part one and part two of the series.
Comment below if there’s a specific topic you’d like to see covered!

Surviving on an Irregular Income (Money Series #2)

Dave Ramsey says that it takes at least 3 months of trying to really get your budgeting system down. We’ve tried many systems in the past, but we’ve hit about the three month mark of budgeting the Dave Ramsey way – to be specific, every dollar budgeting or so called zero based budgeting (read a little about the concept on Dave Ramsey’s website here).  And let me tell you, it’s working.

It’s so much simpler than anything we’ve tried in the past. I will say that the three month prediction is accurate, and I’m glad we made the commitment to stick with it. We’ve been making adjustments as we’ve come to terms with exactly what our expenses are on a weekly basis. We had a head start as we’ve always kept a list of fixed expenses and their due dates, but I’ve been nailing down the numbers for our other household expenses like pet food or Target runs for household items.

In the past, I’ve let myself get easily discouraged when attempting to budget because we have an irregular income.  It seems like every resource is geared to those who’s budget is fixed and can so easily draw up savings goals predictions or debt payoff predictions. Our income has always fluctuated from week to week and month to month- my husband is currently self-employed and a sub contractor; he used to work in sales and had a 100% commission based income. Irregular incomes scare a lot of people, but they truly don’t need to! They take a a little more tweaking and planning, but I believe budgeting can become as easily as it is for someone with a normal paycheck.  If you have an irregular income, here are a few things that keep us sane.

How to Budget with an Irregular Income

  1. We keep a solid list of when our bills are due every month and how much we anticipate them to be rather than just waiting for the bill in the mail. When our paycheck is more than we need, I look ahead to the following week’s expenses and save accordingly.
  2. We pay bills in order of priority. You can actually find a worksheet for this in the back of The Complete Guide to Money, but the basic idea is that when you get paid, you take that check and divide it among the most important bills FIRST. So, for example, I always make sure the mortgage will be covered before we make our debt snowball payment.
  3. Going along with that idea- the “four walls” (food, clothing, transportation, housing) have to be priority. On a leaner week that may mean we forgo spending money on entertainment until we can ensure the amount of the next paycheck.
  4. On weeks you get paid more, save the rest! Your budget has to even out as your paychecks fluctuate. This means you have to break the “feast or famine” lifestyle as we called it- living in scarcity when money is less and feasting and spending when paychecks are bigger. You need to be putting aside enough money for the scarcer times, and if your work is even relatively consistent, this shouldn’t be a problem.
  5. Budget weekly (or whenever you get paid), not just monthly. For someone with an irregular income you should have an idea of your minimum monthly income- if there were no bonuses, no extra commissions, and a day or two you might not work due to unforeseen circumstances. You need to estimate your monthly income based on that minimum. Then as you get paid weekly you can make an every dollar budget for the WEEK, which is what I will address in my next post.***
  6. Use “sinking funds” for planned expenses like an inevitable home repair or vehicle registration renewal. This allows you to reserve a small amount every week and hardly notice it rather than having to pay the expense all at once with whatever is in your checking account (or find yourself using credit).
  7. Get your emergency fund in place. Whether you have an irregular or regular income, RUN to do this.

I used to work at an office where we had a particular client who had a sales based commission that functioned very similarly to my husband’s at the time. This client would routinely draw run up a balance on his account because when he would have slow weeks without many sales, he couldn’t pay his $40 copay. He would let the balance get high, paying several dollars here and there, until he finally got his fat paycheck and would pay off the entire thing at once- at that point up to a couple hundred dollars. It is so easy to live like that with an irregular income, but you have to learn to break the pattern! You can all too easily find yourself in the position without enough grocery money because you spent every dollar of your last paycheck only to have a slow following week. I’m emphasizing this because that is how we lived until we got sick and tired of it. You can break that cycle.

Having an irregular income is not an excuse for not meeting your financial goals or sticking to a budget. You have to learn to make it work for you, and when you do, you will cut out so much needless worry!

 

***I want to continue to write about what we’ve learned about finances, so I’m creating a little Money series. This is part 2 in the series- find part one here.

Let’s Talk About Money

Let’s talk about money, shall we?

In January, Solomon and I read the Complete Guide to Money by Dave Ramsey. Despite having similar goals, we struggled to be on the same page when it came to practically managing our money. I am hyper analytic in my approach – what Dave Ramsey calls the true “nerd” of the relationship. I have always had a system, even when my system has failed us. My system was great and untouchable and never made a lot of sense to my partner.

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I allowed my insecurity about money and my need to be in control dictate how our money was managed. I paid the bills. I cried at unexpected purchases. I didn’t ask for help when I needed it. When Solomon realized the emotional toll handling the finances was taking on me, he asked to take it over. I handed him my big system and when he didn’t follow it to the letter I doubted his wisdom and took back control again, and in his discouragement he let me.

And then I read chapter two of the Complete Guide to Money where Dave says that every marriage has a Nerd and a Free Spirit in regards to money and that it is okay to allow each individual to have their strength. Following his suggestions:

  1. I draft the budget.
  2. I present the budget simply in a timely manner. Solomon listens.
  3. Solomon (free spirit) changes something about budget & makes it ours.

These three principles carry so much weight. We have always had similar goals about how we use our money, but it is no longer a struggle to feel united.  I can play to my strength, but the burden of money management is not resting on my shoulders. Solomon understands how the budget is drafted and I respect and allow the items on it to be as much his choice as they are mine. His free spirit keeps my nerd balanced.

My system is no longer just mine – and I am so much better for it.
I have so much more to say on this subject, but I will leave that there for today. Do you have a similar dynamic in your relationship? Let me know your thoughts and I’ll address them as I explore how this shift impacts us both practically and emotionally in posts to follow.

You are the Wife your Husband Needs

You are the wife your husband needs.

That phrase popped into my head the other day and hasn’t left. You’ve probably heard it said this way- you are the mother your child(ren) needs. But what about when it comes to just being a wife, to living and loving and serving another person daily?

You are the wife your husband needs.

There was a time in my (recent) life in which I was working less for a purposeful reason and I somehow got it into my head that I had to become a perfect housewife to make up for the difference, that I had to clean everything spotlessly and make perfectly healthy paleo lemon poppy muffins and pack my husband’s lunch and have dinner on the table exactly when he got home and whatever else I thought up. Just typing that is anxiety-inducing. Thank God my husband pulled my aside and told me that he wasn’t putting that on me.

I read recently a passage in a ‘Stone for a Pillow’ by Madeleine L’ Engle that I think illustrates this well. She says, 

I learned that if I tried to be good, that is, if I tried to be the perfect wife, mother, daughter, granddaughter, all I did was become exhausted and ill and humorless and help nobody. If I spent the morning at the typewriter; if, in the late afternoon before I cooked dinner, I went off with the dogs for a walk, the entire household was happier, and there was more laughter and song. I learned that if I was what I had considered selfish, that is, if I took reasonable care of my own needs, we had a smoothly running household.

We as women need to be set free from the notion that in order to be a godly wife, we have to attain domestic perfection. While I am obviously someone who takes my role in the home very seriously, we have to accept our own unique skill set and fall in love with the very characteristics that our husbands adore in us.

You are the wife that your husband needs.

I encourage you, that if you resonate with even a bit of this, to make a mental or physical list of those characteristics about you that are uniquely yours and exactly what your husband needs. Here’s a couple of mine to get you started. If you can’t think of any, I encourage you to ask your husband.  It might lead to an intimate conversation that builds your self esteem, who knows!

  • I am highly intuitive. I know how to read him often before he even tells me that something is wrong. Additionally, I have a high capacity for empathy.
  • I have many goals that complement his (career, lifestyle) and unique skills to make our dreams happen (ex. creativity, ability to follow through, financial sense).

I am the wife my husband needs.

photo source: jeffrey stroup