“Magical Tidying” – Part Two

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As mentioned in my last post on this topic, I was inspired by Marie Kondo’s method of “tidying up” to really tackle the “stuff” in our house. Dave Ramsey makes comments about managing your money instead of letting your money manage you or owning your stuff instead of your stuff owning you. He’s so right. Our stuff has “owned” us. We use valuable real estate to house a lot of stuff we don’t need/use/love.

I cannot believe I’ve been working on this project for just over two months now. A massive amount of stuff has left our home. I was hoping to be finished by this point, but I’ve had moments where I just didn’t want to work on it anymore. Exhaustion has set in and I’m beyond ready for this stage to end.

We have several big categories remaining and the category lines are becoming a bit muddy. I have turned the garage into one big category on it’s own. Anything I find in the rest of the house that is supposed to live in the garage, I’m just taking it out there and leaving it for now. I would like to have this area processed before listing, but I may have to wait until we get it on the market to deal with the garage.

The kitchen, well, I’ve “processed” the dishware and cookware (to include a massive mug collection), although some of the items are still sitting in the dining room waiting to make their exit. I still need to do utensils, bake ware, misc items, and food, but then I’ll be able to check off the kitchen.

My kids are still tidying their areas and I am having to assist this because I’m trying to stage the rooms as we put them back together. This means, even though they may want to keep that special “thing-a-ma-bob”, we’ll have to pack it up for now.

Since the kids are working on their keepsake category, I’ve had to dive into some of mine for items that actually belong to them. This has been very emotional but I just keep pressing forward.

Aside from the kitchen and garage, most of what’s left could be classified as keepsake… and there is way more of it than I thought.

On a positive note, some rooms are beginning to take shape and offer a glimmer of hope that the chaotic mess will come to an end soon. These spaces actually do bring me a sense of joy… or “rest” might be a better word.

 

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My 2018 Reading List – 1st Quarter Update

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Inspired by going through the KonMari method of de-cluttering (tidying), I’ve tried to check out books from the library more (added bonus of saving money) and going digital for the ones I do buy… or at least most of the time. Workbook style books I prefer to have in print.

I noticed I haven’t done any recreational reading so far this year. This is rather unusual for me, but makes sense considering the things we are focused on so far this year. Most of this reading is for informational or motivational purposes… both of which I need at the moment.

Completed:

Remaining:

This list is growing faster than anticipated. My initial goal for the year was to average 2 books a month.

Started but Putting on Hold for Now

Baby Steppin’: March 2018

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March has been one of those months where I felt really antsy. I want to be done working on the house and getting it ready to sell, and yet it seems the road ahead continues for miles yet.

Baby Step #1 

Our “baby” emergency fund is currently: $1,002.94

Baby Step #2

Starting Debt Amount: $53,285.44
(original projected payoff – December 2019)

As Of:
September 2016: $52,035.26 (-$1,250.18)
October 2016:  $50,243.99 (-$1,791.27)
November 2016:  $47,627.15 (-$2,616.84)
December 2016:  $45,352.38 (-$2,274.77)
January 2017:  $43,814.66 (-$1,536.52)
February 2017:  $36,084.65 (-$7,730.01)
March 2017: $34,056.58 (-$2,028.07) – projected payoff at this point was – Feb 2019
During the chaos the debt increased:  $62,211.73 (+$28,155.15)
December 2017: $47,172.13 (-$15,039.60) – projected payoff was – Mar 2020
January 2018: $45,587.13 (-$1,639.05)
February 2018: $43,923.86 (-$1,663.27)
March 2018: $42,065.84 (-$1,858.02)*

*Current projected payoff (without selling the house) – Jan 2020

Speed Bumps Encountered

  • Grocery Budget – We let the food bill run a muck a bit this month. Stress took over and we ate out too much. – $320

Things We’re Thankful For

  • Family – Another death in the family this month – hug the ones you love, often.
  • Good Plumbers – After dealing with the flood, we love our plumber even more. He was a big help during the bathroom remodel… which is almost finished!
  • Snow – We’ve needed some moisture and thankful we got a bit during March.
  • Trash Pick-up – We have filled our bin every week as we continue to purge the house, and it’s so nice not to have to haul it off ourselves.

FINANCIAL GOALS FOR 2018

  • Increase giving by another 3% – done! (began in February)
  • Build our initial 2018 budget spreadsheets through August. – done!
    • Switched over to EveryDollar Plus in February.
  • Have monthly budget meetings with husband. – 3/12 done
    • Will set an appointment for these each month.
  • Reduce the debt using the debt snowball and current payments (ave. reduction of $1,200/mo) – on target
    • Time: till house sells (see below)
    • Will accomplish this with bi-weekly monthly zero-budgeting.
  • Downsize
    • Time: By August
    • List house on the market by June.
    • Find a smaller place and pay cash to replace furniture.
  • Pay off remaining debt, fully fund emergency fund, and invest 15% in retirement accounts
    • Time: @ closing – hoping to reach baby step #4 no later than August
    • Getting to baby step #4 is more important to us than whether we rent or buy for our next dwelling. 
  • Cash flow college expenses for two kids. – Paid cash again this month for college expenses.
  • Rework budget and set new goals once we move – update this list as we go!

March has concluded… on to the next billing cycle.

 

KonMari Method: Inspiring Teens

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We have two kids still at home during the midst of our journey toward living debt free and more recently… “Magical Tidying” in an effort to get our house de-cluttered.

Our last two are high schoolers who are accustomed to being in charge of their own spaces. They are not strangers to chores and organizational plans, but they weren’t overly thrilled by our quest to downsize. This will likely mean they must share a room in the new place, which, of course, warrants the downsizing of their belongings as well.

I devoured Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and then tried to share it with the girls. They grumbled about it, but they are not typically defiant so they would obediently go through a category if I assigned it to them. This frustrated me because they wouldn’t do it without prompting and they didn’t want to do it the “KonMari way” as they felt the way we were doing it before I read the book was good enough… which was a general, “Purge your stuff”.

They became even more reluctant as I moved through categories and eliminated dozens and dozens of bags/boxes of stuff. I think they were scared I’d make them get rid of everything, but no amount of talking to them about how the method works made a dent in their attitude about it. Of course, they didn’t enjoy folding their clothes a new way either because it takes more time… and who likes folding clothes besides Marie Kondo?

During one of my internet searches for more KonMari information on the Komono (miscellaneous) category, I discovered she had another book, Spark Joy, which went into more detail. I clicked on over to Amazon to order it and found the answer to my uninspired teenager woes, The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up – that’s right, a story version of the process in a comic book format. My kids love manga (even have books on drawing it!), so I ordered a copy of that too.

When it arrived, it immediately drew their attention. Each read it in one sitting and they have been willingly tidying their own categories ever since. I don’t even have to tell them what’s next. They open the book, figure out where they are in the process, and work through a category (or sub-category).

I knew they needed to “own” the process for themselves, otherwise it wouldn’t stick, but nothing I tried worked… until they read this little book. They said it was cute, fun, and inspiring. They also said the process seemed far less complicated than they originally thought.

I wish I had access to this information when they were smaller. I would have raised them with these concepts from the beginning. Alas, just like financial peace, you begin where you are and change where you’re headed from this point forward.

Happy Tidying!

Baby Steppin’: February 2018

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February is coming to a close. I know this month is shorter than all the others but it really does seem significantly so this year. Perhaps it’s because we are barreling toward a deadline for listing our house on the market and have far more tasks than time.

Baby Step #1 

Our “baby” emergency fund is currently: $1,002.90

Baby Step #2

Starting Debt Amount: $53,285.44
(original projected payoff – December 2019)

As Of:
September 2016: $52,035.26 (-$1,250.18)
October 2016:  $50,243.99 (-$1,791.27)
November 2016:  $47,627.15 (-$2,616.84)
December 2016:  $45,352.38 (-$2,274.77)
January 2017:  $43,814.66 (-$1,536.52)
February 2017:  $36,084.65 (-$7,730.01)
March 2017: $34,056.58 (-$2,028.07) – projected payoff at this point was – Feb 2019
During the chaos the debt increased:  $62,211.73 (+$28,155.15)
December 2017: $47,172.13 (-$15,039.60) – projected payoff was – Mar 2020
January 2018: $45,587.13 (-$1,639.05)
February 2018: $43,923.86 (-$1,663.27)*

*Current projected payoff (without selling the house) – Feb 2020

Speed Bumps Encountered

  • EveryDollar – I’ve already written about Making the Switch to EveryDollar. This was not an expense we originally planned for, but it has been added to the budget from here on out. – $99

Things We’re Thankful For

  • Paid off Vehicles! – We finally paid off our little car!
  • Family – Two deaths in the family this month – hug the ones you love, often.
  • EveryDollar Plus – Have I mentioned that I’m so thankful for this tool? Yeah, I have.
  • Magical Tidying – Really glad we were told about Marie Kondo’s book, it is changing my life.
  • .99/sq foot Tile – We found a decent tile for a lot less than we thought we’d have to pay. Plus, we were able to reuse some of the tile we removed from a back splash.

FINANCIAL GOALS FOR 2018

  • Increase giving by another 3% – done! (began in February)
  • Build our initial 2018 budget spreadsheets through August. – done!
    • Switched over to EveryDollar Plus in February.
  • Have monthly budget meetings with husband. – 2/12 done
    • Will set an appointment for these each month.
  • Reduce the debt using the debt snowball and current payments (ave. reduction of $1,200/mo) – on target
    • Time: till house sells (see below)
    • Will accomplish this with bi-weekly monthly zero-budgeting.
  • Downsize
    • Time: By August
    • List house on the market by June.
    • Find a smaller place and pay cash to replace furniture.
  • Pay off remaining debt, fully fund emergency fund, and invest 15% in retirement accounts
    • Time: @ closing – hoping to reach baby step #4 no later than August
    • Getting to baby step #4 is more important to us than whether we rent or buy for our next dwelling. 
  • Cash flow college expenses for two kids. – Payments were due again this month: Paid cash!
  • Rework budget and set new goals once we move – update this list as we go!

Well, that was February… on to the next billing cycle.

 

“Magical Tidying” – Part One

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Recently, I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. It was recommended by our real estate agent when we told her we are downsizing everything. She said she doesn’t agree with the spiritual aspects of the book, but that it is certainly a “kind” approach to going through ones things.

I tried to find the book at the library – no dice. So, I spent $10 on a little book I read in one afternoon and then set about to follow her method on Monday, February 5th. We decided we would donate anything that wasn’t trash during this “magical tidying” period for several reasons:

  • Giving is an area we have felt “behind” in since the debt became so oppressive.
  • The thought of “gifting” the things we need to release feels much more “joyous” than profiting monetarily.
  • Donating saves time, which we are short on at the moment.
  • Donating gets the items out of the house sooner rather than later.
  • Donating allows us to focus our energy on the “magical tidying” process instead of splitting it between tidying and listing/selling/shipping. This means we are releasing so much more stuff because we’re focused on only keeping what we need/use/love.

We do plan to have a moving sale once the house is under contract to offload the items we’re only keeping for staging purposes.

While the process is “kind” per say, it isn’t easy. The concept is to gather every item in the home in a single category and sift through it all at once. For instance, the first category is “Clothing”. You pile all of this in the floor and go through it one type at a time (tops, pants, socks…etc). The idea is to ask yourself “Does this item spark joy?” And then you make a decision based on your answer.

Currently, I’m only sorting my things or things that might be shared but that I feel able to make the decision without input from the rest of the family. I’ve made it through the following categories so far:

  1. Clothing (the whole family has sorted this category so far)
  2. Books
  3. “Papers” – documents we’ve been saving forever
  4. Miscellaneous (basically everything else except Keepsake)
    1. Office/School Supplies
    2. Stickers, Craft paper, Scrapbook paper
    3. Art/Sewing Supplies

The fifth and final category will be “Keepsake”, but I have a long way to go yet to complete the “Miscellaneous” category. I lost count of the number of trash bags we’ve disposed of so far. I know it’s more than 20 though. I also have over 20 bags/boxes of items set aside to donate as well. Yes, we have way too much stuff.

When you pile all the like items together, you are better able to tell how many you have of one thing. Does anyone need 22 extra pairs of scissors? Um, no. The count was at 20 extra but I found two more as I was going through other categories. My pen collection has dramatically decreased as well. I was shocked to discover how many pens I actually had in the house while never able to find one when I needed it before.

I have made some alterations to her method. The major one: I do not thank my things, but rather I thank God for blessing me with these things. I have also had to ask His forgiveness for not being a very good steward over the years. As the number of items I have barely (or never) used continues to grow, it becomes painfully obvious that I need a lesson from Him on stewardship. I am also asking Him to give me wisdom in future purchases and contentment with less. I do agree with showing gratitude for one’s things by taking care of them and giving each item a place to “rest” when not in use. That’s good stewardship of what God has given me to manage.

I’m sure I’ll post more on this subject over the coming weeks (hence labeling it “part one”). Overall, it has felt very freeing to release/gift things instead of clinging to them for a change.

EveryDollar Plus – Update

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I could probably just say, “We decided to pay for the plus version of EveryDollar” and that would serve as an endorsement for the product. However, that would make this post the sum of one sentence and hardly long enough to satisfy my view of a proper “update”.

To say budgeting with EveryDollar has been easy these past couple of weeks would be an understatement. Our February budget is going along quite nicely as the “drag and drop” feature speeds up the process significantly over manually entering each transaction.

I have already built the March budget, although I am still struggling with how to handle three paydays falling in a single calendar month. The third falls at the very end of the month and would actually be used to pay bills in April. So, I’m grappling with whether I should list it in March or April. I’m leaning toward April. This is where my old “bi-weekly” method of budgeting conflicts somewhat with monthly budgeting. I’ll make it work though.

We haven’t added the app to our phones yet, but we will. We’ve had a bit going on and budgeting apps haven’t been top priority.

So far, I really like EveryDollar Plus. The amount of time and energy it saves me is well worth budgeting $3.81 per paycheck to cover the annual fee.

Added bonus? The husband hasn’t heard me gripe about my old spreadsheets for two weeks.

Making the Switch to EveryDollar

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Old Habits Die Hard

You simply cannot listen to or watch the Dave Ramsey show without encountering an ad for EveryDollar. Several years ago when it first came out, I was so excited to switch from the budget spreadsheets I created a long time ago based off of a zero-budgeting worksheet I found in one of Dave’s books (Total Money Makeover) to an online version of the zero-budget… but the functionality just wasn’t there for me. My little spreadsheet did more than the early versions of their program, so it actually cost me time to switch.

I don’t remember the name of the first version put out by Ramsey Solutions, but it’s come a long way since then, so I tried the free version again in September of 2016 when we joined the FPU class. Still, I just could not seem to make the switch from my spreadsheets to EveryDollar. I know this was largely due to the fact that I have been budgeting bi-weekly for about 15 years and EveryDollar is set up for monthly budgeting.

Periodically, I would gripe about how much I hated that my spreadsheets took so much time (especially when I accidentally broke something that took me hours to fix). At least once a year I would get so fed up and go on another hunt for a better budgeting tool only to return to my old method when I became frustrated.

Choosing to Jump Ship

So, it came as a shock to me last month when I decided to look into EveryDollar again. I thought, “Am I just a glutton for punishment? I just tried this thing (for the second time) a little over a year ago and didn’t even make it a week.”

This time though, I changed my mindset. I decided to focus on the goal of saving time, reliability, and streamlining my budget process as a whole. Instead of expecting EveryDollar to fit my customized view perfectly, I went in looking for ways it could improve how I do things, even if that meant I needed to change how I do things to take advantage of the benefits (less time, fewer glitches).

At first, I just watched a “how to” video on using the service. I’m definitely a visual learner because this made it seem so easy I actually got excited about budgeting again. Then, I scanned through some help questions to see what other information I could glean and before I knew it I was playing around with the application. Lastly, I looked for ways to manipulate it’s features to accommodate things that are important to me… like rolling over amounts from one month to the next.

Within a couple of hours I had what appeared to be a working budget for the upcoming month (February). My only goal was to get it set up early so I could have a trial run once the first check of the month arrived. The husband and I talked about subscribing to the Plus version and decided we would try it for the first 15 days (free trial). I’ll admit, I was very interested in being able to “drag and drop” transactions into my categories, I just wasn’t sure I wanted to pay for that feature.

In making the decision to give this an honest try, I knew I would have to completely jump ship and abandon my old spreadsheets if I had any hope of this working for me. I chose to take a leap.

All Systems Go!

On February 1st, I signed up for the free trial of EveryDollar Plus. I was so excited until I realized I only had one transaction to “drag and drop” into my brand spankin’ new February budget… We made four whole cents on our baby emergency fund – woohoo. Still, as advertised, it was easy to use.

The husband came up from his office an hour later eager to see it in action, but alas, there was nothing more to “watch” because it was done. He suggested he could run to the store really quickly and purchase something, to which I chuckled but thought, “Good heavens, we’re so excited about a shiny new toy we’ll consider spending money just to make it do something.” He did not go to the store.

It was difficult to keep myself from also updating my spreadsheet, but I refrained nonetheless. I did have to use the spreadsheet to complete my January budget and transfer updated amounts into the February EveryDollar Budget, but then I closed it without touching my February sheets.

The First Week

For the initial few days it really bothered me that the transactions were’t “real time” like my bank. It seems to take a few days for them to show up, and I’m not used to that. One week in, I’m still adjusting.

I do really like how easy it is to drag and drop transactions into the different categories. I also like the “split transaction” feature as this was something that wasn’t as automated in my spreadsheets. Something else I’ve noticed is how quickly I’m done. Before, it would take me about an hour to update my spreadsheet with the transactions (plus, I would end up playing with the numbers and moving stuff around). Now, it takes minutes. Drag, drop, done.

So, that’s where we are right now with making the switch to EveryDollar. I’ll update again at the end of the 15 day trial for the plus version.

*Update

My 2018 Reading List

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I usually have a book going, but it’s been a while since I consistently kept a reading list. I tried to recall what I read in 2017 and came up with 18 titles I completed (there may have been more).

So, this year I decided to make a list in advance of the titles I’m planning to read and update it as I go.

Completed:

Remaining:

I plan to add to this list as the year progresses – for now, this is a fine place to start.

Baby Steppin’: January 2018

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Fall of 2016, we went through a Financial Peace University Class… and then life hit hard from April 2017-September 2017. So, we’re picking up the pieces and resuming the journey by working through Dave Ramsey’s list of Baby Steps. We’re waiting to find out how changes in insurance premiums will affect us. Yep, the insurance company we filed the house claim with is changing our policy – lovely. Plus, all of our health insurance rates went up.

We also set some big goals for 2018 and you’ll find that progress listed as well.

Baby Step #1 

We replenished this as quickly as we could and our “baby” emergency fund is currently: $1,002.86

Baby Step #2

Starting Debt Amount: $53,285.44
(original projected payoff – December 2019)

As Of:
September 2016: $52,035.26 (-$1,250.18)
October 2016:  $50,243.99 (-$1,791.27)
November 2016:  $47,627.15 (-$2,616.84)
December 2016:  $45,352.38 (-$2,274.77)
January 2017:  $43,814.66 (-$1,536.52)
February 2017:  $36,084.65 (-$7,730.01)
March 2017: $34,056.58 (-$2,028.07) – projected payoff at this point was – Feb 2019
During the chaos the debt increased:  $62,211.73 (+$28,155.15)
December 2017: $47,172.13 (-$15,039.60) – projected payoff was – Mar 2020
January 2018: $45,587.13 (-$1,639.05)*

*Current projected payoff (without selling the house) – Feb 2020

Speed Bumps Encountered

  • Broken Glasses – Fluke thing. Our youngest is really careful and this was totally not her fault. – $50

Things We’re Thankful For

  • Annual Bonus – We received a bonus in January but we’re hanging on to the money till we see what happens with our taxes and how much we need out of pocket for home repairs to list the house.
  • Hard working kids – Our kids work very hard and we are so proud of them.
  • Merit Raise – Was more than we were expecting.

FINANCIAL GOALS FOR 2018

  • Increase giving by another 2% 3%
    • Time: By March
    • Will use part of our annual merit raise to accomplish this. 
  • Build our initial 2018 budget spreadsheets through August. – done!
    • July – Complete through December.
  • Have monthly budget meetings with husband. – 1/12 done
    • Will set an appointment for these each month.
  • Reduce the debt using the debt snowball and current payments (ave. reduction of $1,200/mo) – on target
    • Time: till house sells (see below)
    • Will accomplish this with bi-weekly zero-budgeting.
  • Downsize
    • Time: By August
    • List house on the market by June.
      • Purge stuff from every corner of the house – First floor 50% complete
      • Sell and donate as much of our stuff as we can – have already begun.
      • Cash flow repairs and home preparations – waiting for bonus & tax info to set budget for these.
    • Find a smaller place and pay cash to replace furniture.
  • Pay off remaining debt, fully fund emergency fund, and invest 15% in retirement accounts
    • Time: @ closing – hoping to reach baby step #4 no later than August
    • Getting t0 baby step #4 is more important to us than whether we rent or buy for our next dwelling. 
  • Cash flow college expenses for two kids.
  • Rework budget and set new goals once we move – update this list as we go!

Well, that was January… on to the next billing cycle.