Month: February 2015

Get a Budget Finally… 5 Reasons I’m in love with YNAB!

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***This is not a sponsored post, I don’t work for YNAB nor are they compensating me at all for writing this. I wouldn’t even bring it up, let alone write this entire post about it, if I didn’t absolutely LOVE it!

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I am a sucker for apps. My iPhone and computer are full of them. I have one for just about everything you can think of. However, when it came to finance and budget apps I was sorely disappointed.

After trying to keep up with our finances and budget for years, using every program that looked worth trying, and then trying to create my own system, I was at a loss. So I did some serious research for some kind of software/app that would help me stay on top of this mess, because seriously, that’s what it felt like. One. Big. Mess.

I had heard of YNAB (You Need a Budget) a while back and the philosophy of living on last month’s income. It was appealing so I looked it up. Lucky for me they had a free month trial so I downloaded it.

This is no joke folks. This software has changed my life! Actually, it’s not merely just a software. It’s a whole new philosophy and approach to budgeting for me.

Here are 5 reasons why I can’t stop talking about it:

Categories1. Easy to Use Categories

I once got it in my head, after reading about it on a finance blog, that I needed to have 7 different bank accounts. Maybe you are familiar with this concept. Let me tell you, it didn’t take long to realize that was way too much for me to handle. I’m a simple girl and want a simple plan and although it didn’t sound too bad when I read about it, implementing it was entirely different. YNAB makes it easy to categorize your expenses but keep all the money in one account. You can easily set up additional accounts and additional budgets but for most families, one main account and budget is sufficient. You don’t have to take out cash and divide it up between categories represented by envelopes (which was also WAY too much work for me…how do you get the right amount in each category unless you’re using multiples of 20?) All the money that you budget, stays in your account but on your YNAB screen you can see exactly where every dollar belongs. However, don’t think you’re cemented into your plan once it’s made, you can easily borrow and transfer money between categories.

The relief of knowing where every single dollar goes and of course, still having the flexibility to change it up, is so nice. I don’t care how much money is in my account anymore (although it also makes that easy to follow with a sort of built in check register), I care about how much money I have budgeted in each particular category.

Real Money2. Budgeting with Real Money

Instead of setting up a budget for the entire month with anticipated income, as I have miserably failed at for my entire adult life, YNAB encourages you to only budget when you get money. Since I have always lived paycheck to paycheck anyway, this really works for me.
Obviously, the goal is to get away from paycheck to paycheck kind of living and eventually be able to create a budget for next month, with income that is already in your bank account from last month. I can’t tell you how badly I want to be able to do that.

For now, I only have to follow my budget paycheck to paycheck. For us, that’s every week. It takes me about 5 minutes to go in and budget out every dollar we received today by way of a paycheck. Then, I just use the app on my phone to make sure I stay within that limit, just for the week. If I don’t use that money I budgeted towards clothes, it still stays in that category and I can keep adding to it to use later (hello guiltless impulse shopping!), or I can move it to another category that takes priority right now.

Peace of Mind3. Provides Peace of Mind

You know when you map out a great budget and think, “YES! I’m really going to do it this time. This is my budget for the month and I’m sticking to it.” Then halfway through the month you remember you have to register your car this month, or your son ruins his only pair of church pants so you need to buy another pair, or maybe that STUPID Disney Movie Club sent you another featured title because you forgot to decline it in time and they took $40 out of your account automatically. This kind of stuff happens to the best of us but that may be $150 you didn’t budget for this month! YNAB helps you to plan for these things and helps you get a jumpstart on quarterly or annual expenses that we inevitably forget about. After budgeting all the expenses I have to pay for this week with our weekly check, I use whatever is left over and divide it among upcoming rainy day funds (such as car registration, putting our garden in, Christmas, etc.) Of course, there’s also the Buffer savings category to help us work toward the goal of saving until we can live on last month’s income. I can’t wait for the day when I can budget once a month, with money I already have, and not worry about it the rest of the month. Talk about peace of mind!!!

We also decided that we’re done stressing about Christmas money in December. It’s going to have to come from money we’ve saved throughout the year. It’s so easy to set that money aside in a category in YNAB and just add a few extra dollars when I have some left over. I don’t have to deal with a million separate accounts or take out cash or use envelopes. I just depend on my budget set up in YNAB to know where all the money in my account actually belongs. It creates this buffer where you never have to worry about your checking account going in the red as long as you are always reconciling those red numbers in your budget, borrowing and transferring between categories. The math is all done for you so there’s really little room for error.

I hate dealing with money. I like to spend it on fun stuff, but the whole financial world is mostly a mystery to me. I hate having to constantly keep track of where everything goes and pay for things like insurance and rent. However, I realize that it’s a part of life that will never go away. So anything that makes it easier and is moving me toward less stress in the future, I’m on it.

Prioritize4. Helps Me Prioritize

I’m writing this post because I know how bad it sucks to have to think about your finances and try to tame the beast. It’s even harder when you’re married and the two of you are trying to work it out together. There’s always differences of opinion or one of you (or in my case, maybe both of you) who consistently fail at following the budget. That’s why I love this program so much.  If I go a little over, I borrow from another category. This helps keep me accountable because I’m using only the real money that is currently in my account and I know I can’t overspend and hope to make it up later. If I overspend, I know I have to take the money from somewhere so it helps me prioritize. Again, it’s like a game, transferring money between categories until all the red numbers are gone.

For example, I REALLY want a water softener for our house. I had a guy from Culligan come down and give us our options. We decided that in our situation, renting for a year and possibly buying it out at the end was our best bet. It’s only $130 to install it and for two months now I keep thinking I should be able to come up with it. The old Lacie would have just scheduled to have it done and worried about how to make up that $130 later. The new Lacie with the YNAB software has looked, with every paycheck, and realized we’re still catching up from Christmas. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get on top of this soon (and it’s looking that way) so that I can finally get my water softener.

Efficient5. Super Efficient

I used the program and its accompanying app for a month and bought the software. It’s not complicated like other software that I’ve tried to use in the past. It’s meant for people like me who hate to budget and need to get on top of it. I watched the hour long getting started tutorial and I’m so glad I did. It lays it all out and it’s actually super easy and intuitive but watching the video helped. I love that I can make a budget and use my main checking account for our family’s finances and just as easily make a separate one for business. The app makes it easy to stay on top of each category and real time syncing means my husband can use it on his phone too so we’re always on the same page. No more text messages “I need gas, how much is left in our budget?” Now he can check the app and see if I got gas that day too and how much is left over.

I used to think the best way to handle finances in a marriage was to split it up. However, I much prefer working together on it and since we both have savings goals we really want to meet, uh hum…buy a house, we are more willing to work with each other and agree how much money is going where.

It’s easy to set up your categories and automate payments and things as recurring transactions. The more you use it, the easier it is to use. Not only that but the website has amazing tutorials on all kinds of things like how to categorize cash, how to handle credit card debt with the software, and how to use all the great features the program has to offer. Even if you never watched any of those videos, the program is totally functional.

The icing on the cake is…the price. One time, I spent an entire week working on an excel spreadsheet that I called “Our Family Budget.” I don’t know how many hours I spent on it, but I would venture as to say some 12 hours or so. It was several workbooks in one excel document including one for income, one for expenses, a calendar, a list of debts, etc. So let’s say I was paid $10 an hour (which is pretty reasonable for that kind of work I think). That means I spent $120 of my life working on that budget. I bought YNAB for half that, $60 after a free month.

If your budget needs a facelift, or you need to start one from scratch, try the free trial. There’s no credit card required to try it, you only put in your payment information when you’re ready to buy it. When you are ready, you can save $6 by using this link: http://ynab.refr.cc/KDPC652. So you’re only paying $54 after a month of using it and it’s yours for life, including the app.

I can’t praise it enough and although everybody is different when it comes to dealing with money, I feel like this program is the simplest and most flexible for most people.

How do you tame the budget beast?

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10 Last Minute Valentine’s Day Date Ideas

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I’m terrible at thinking ahead of time when it comes to holidays. Obviously, it’s Friday and I’m just now coming up with ideas for Valentine’s Day for…tomorrow. So I was on the search for something I could throw together between today and tomorrow. I found some awesome ideas. Some are for You and Yours only but others would work for the whole family. A few of these are a little over-the-top-cheesy for me but I think the basic ideas are great and I can totally work around the cheesiness and still make it fun and memorable.

Breakfast in Bed1. Breakfast in Bed

Since I’ve been married, I’ve never had Valentine’s Day land on a Saturday…which makes this year SUPER special and the breakfast in bed idea totally doable. I love this stuffed french toast and the bacon on skewers…cute. However, my husband might prefer Chilaquiles or Huevos Rancheros. My advice would be: Don’t worry about it being super fancy, just make what he (or the rest of the family) really likes.
Spa date night

2. Spa Night

One time, while in the mall, I talked my husband into getting a pedicure with me. Well, the Vietnamese lady actually talked him into it. He didn’t want me to tell anybody but he was surprised at how much he liked it. He loves massages so the foot massage in the warm water was right up his alley. Everybody likes to get pampered, whether they want to admit it or not.

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3. Discover a New Town Together

Living in a little podunk town means it’s really easy to get bored here. There’s only one restaurant and two hamburger places. Discovering a new town together is a genius idea to break up the monotony of living in a small town. If you live in the city, maybe you’re aching to find a place with wide open spaces. Find something different and mix it up a little.

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4. Stargazing

When my husband and I were first dating we drove out to the ranch he worked at one night and watched a gorgeous meteor shower. We had a very deep, thought-provoking conversation. It was an incredibly memorable experience. Too bad there isn’t a meteor shower predicted for Valentine’s Day but maybe you’ll get lucky and see a shooting star 🙂

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5. Indoor Camping

We are serious campers in my family. Camping is my absolute favorite thing about the mountains here in Utah. However, Utah winters don’t exactly facilitate camping. This indoor camping idea is a perfect compromise!

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6. Our Love Story Book

My secret hobby (that I rarely have time for anymore) is book making. Let me clarify, I am not a scrapbooker. However, creating a story book about our love story sounds like a lot of fun and you could take it in so many directions with stuff you already have at home. It would be a great excuse to print out some of those digital photos and actually USE them.

Power Outage

7. Power Outage Date

How fun would it be to just unplug for a few hours? Nothing irks me more than people looking at their phones while they’re on a date. It’s easy to pop a movie in but it’s more memorable to do shadow puppets, play games, and eat by candlelight.

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8. The Love Shack

I love forts. 1. They’re a blast to put together and 2. They’re free! Anything to make the night special is worth the few extra minutes (or mess) to put together.

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9. Je T’iame Hotel

I like the idea of recreating a hotel room. My mom gave me some AMAZING percale sheets for Christmas…the kind of sheets I wanted forever but never could justify buying since we have plenty of regular sheets. The first time we used them my husband said, “I feel like we’re in a hotel room!” We also have some nice hotel-quality towels we got for Christmas. This could get fun!

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10. Chopped Date

I’ve actually never seen the show “Chopped” (GASP!) but this sounds like a blast! You could make it more Valentine’s Day themed by requiring the ingredients be the color red or pink.

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I think I may combine a couple of these and have our first ever SUPER special Valentine’s Day Date. Tell me what you come up with!

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Finding Contentment Through the Trials

Contentment

I grew up with an older brother that was probably comparable to many other brothers. John is 10 years older than I am.   With such a huge gap between us, he was more than mildly letdown that I turned out to be a girl. When I got a little older he would tease me until my blood would boil. “Does the baby need a baba? Does she need her diaper changed?” That incredibly annoying baby-talk tone still rings in my ears. I can’t lie and say it was all him; I was an incredibly difficult child.

Lacie & John

My brother and I didn’t become very close until I was an adult. I was always impressed at what an exceptional father he was; despite the fact he never had a great role model. He never needed a break from his two little girls. Never. I don’t know many fathers that would stay up all night with a sick baby without ever muttering a complaint. For as tough as he was on me, he was a sucker for those little angels.

John was the only one in my family who supported me when I decided to move across the country and get married. We had a heartfelt conversation and although he was protective, he still gave me his blessing, which meant the world to me.

Only months after that memorable conversation, I called him just to chat. He sounded different. I could tell something was wrong. He said he wasn’t feeling well and had thrown his back out. We had a short conversation and that was the last time I spoke to him before the bomb dropped.

After weeks of confusion and uncertainty, doctors finally discovered that John was suffering from a mysterious staph infection and his heart, among other organs, was quickly failing. They were scheduled to perform emergency heart surgery that night to replace one of his valves.

Nobody knew how serious the situation was but I knew I had to get home. My husband and I were driving when I called my mom the next morning to see how the surgery had gone and to tell her we were about halfway there. She was hysterical as she told me, between sobs and half-screams, that the doctor had just told her that John had suffered a major stroke and things looked “grim.” I had to pull over and my husband tried to hold me to keep me from convulsing. Every dark emotion that I had felt in my life suddenly flooded my body and I couldn’t do anything but scream and cry. Why didn’t I just fly home? Why didn’t I call him and talk to him before his surgery? What was I thinking living halfway across the country? How was my mom going to go on if John didn’t make it? He had never even met my husband yet! What about his little girls?

 John & Girls Fishing

Seeing my brother in a coma is an image that I wish could be erased from my memory. He was yellow, almost translucent, and swollen, with his head tilted back in order to accommodate the tube they had to insert in his throat. He looked lifeless. I had an overwhelming realization that I was never going to see my brother again. That he was never going to meet my husband and that his girls were not going to have a father to watch them grow up.

They say God works in mysterious ways. He allows us to endure a trial and then He blesses us with miracles and tender mercies. It would take an entire book to tell about all the miracles and blessings we received as a family. Suffice it to say that God brought my brother back to us.

Although he suffered considerable damage to his brain and has lost most of his physical capacity, the ability to walk, eat, or talk, he is still my brother, with all of his mental capacities intact. I take care of him everyday. I cherish the fact that we didn’t lose him that day when I thought for sure we had. He has even made miraculous improvements and recently found his voice and is able to communicate, albeit limitedly, through speech.

Maicee Hospital

My family has always been my most treasured possession. We have always been tight-knit and are even more so now that we have banded together to take care of John and his girls. My husband and I left a growing business in Texas. My sister sold her home for next-to-nothing. My mother left her home and transferred jobs. My younger brother is attending a university extension in our small community. All of these sacrifices were necessary in order for us to come together and make sure my brother has quality, 24-hour care at home, with his girls.

At times, it’s been extremely difficult physically, emotionally, and financially. We have gone through all of us living under the same roof, pooling our resources and helping each other graduate from college. We’ve been through pregnancies and births, changes in John’s care, and changes in jobs. Since then, I have become the primary caretaker for my brother during the day. I feel more connected and closer to him than ever before in my life.

Although it sure isn’t easy and even John and I argue sometimes, I wouldn’t trade my family for the world. I often have people tell me how unfair life is and how tragic my brother’s situation is. Sometimes I agree and other times I can’t help but think maybe this is the price I have to pay in order to be blessed with such an amazing and loving family. Maybe these kinds of things are what make families great. It breaks my heart that it has come at such a high cost for my brother, but this tragedy has brought us all together again.

Hospital Girls

Time is measured in our family on a different timeline now. It’s now “Before John got Sick” and “After John got Sick.” His experience has changed us forever.

We think twice now before complaining about things such as our weight, the taste of food, or how much we hate to exercise. We try to remember how blessed we are to have the ability to eat, exercise, or even walk. Contentment comes in these small gratitudes.

Finding contentment in life has nothing to do with material possessions, a striking physique, or the most prestigious honors man can receive. Contentment comes from true sacrifice, heartfelt gratitude, and genuine love for other people. Nothing has illustrated this better in my life than my brother’s experience.

I don’t try to explain why this happened or blame God for such a horrific trial for John and his girls. I don’t allow myself to replay it all very often or think about what might happen in the future. For now, I am content to hear my brother’s struggled but clear “I love you” and be exceedingly grateful that he is here and that I know he loves me just as I love him.

I Love You2

Book Review: Living Well Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life

LWSL Square

I recently had the awesome opportunity to be part of a book launch for one of my favorite bloggers. Ruth Soukup from www.livingwellspendingless.com is an inspirational blogger who is also a talented writer. After reading her book Living Well Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life, I was sure we could be best friends in real life. I loved the book so much that even though I received a free pre-published copy of the book, I still ordered it in paperback form. I feel like a loser because I wanted to write about the book on my blog before it actually came out at the end of December but I was so caught up in figuring out what in the heck I was doing with this blog that I just didn’t get to it. Now that I feel a little more comfortable with this whole blogging thing, I’m ready to introduce to you this incredible book!

I’ve admitted before that I’m a self-improvement junkie. I love to read and listen to audiobooks and programs. I was so psyched to be part of launching this book because I am so passionate about its contents. Ruth has a knack for hitting home with her powerful examples and use of words. While reading her section about a typical shopping experience at Target, I was literally laughing out loud and thinking how pathetic it is that I am EXACTLY the same way. I go in there for one thing and end up filling my trunk with stuff I felt like I NEEDED and then have to think of a way to justify it all the way home. It’s sad but now I know I’m not the only one who does this.

LWSL Book Quote 17

This book talks about 12 different secrets to help you make the most of your life. It offers lots of bible references that help drive the point home of how God has indicated we should live in order to be happy. One of the major points Ruth makes is that STUFF does not bring happiness. Although we hear that all the time and we may even profess that we believe it, don’t we all still suffer from the “I want” syndrome sometimes? It’s a good thing I live in a super rural community where the shopping literally consists of one, completely understocked Walmart. However, this book has inspired me to really focus on other things and being grateful for what I have. Ruth teaches that contentment is a choice. Sometimes I get in a rut thinking, “I’ll finally be happy when ________.” Is that ever really true? Whatever I’m waiting for might make me feel happy…for a while…until I realize there’s something else I need to wait for now in order to be happy. I don’t want to live my life like that. I want to be happy now and continue being happy in the future. That requires a conscious choice.

This book also inspired me to follow my dreams and realize that it’s ok to want to do something with my life in addition to being a mother. While my kids are literally my life, I want to teach them to follow their dreams and work hard for something great. Can I really do that if I am spending all my energy only on them 24 hours a day? Kids need to know that mommy is an actual person, with feelings, needs, and dreams just like them. While I would never sacrifice my kids for professional success, I want to be an example for them to do something creative and exciting in their lives. So I’m starting with this blog. I’ve always loved to write and since I graduated high school the only writing I’ve done is for academic papers or in my journal. It’s time I put that passion for writing to use.

I look forward to re-reading this book and for Ruth’s future books. She feels like a kindred spirit to me. Sometimes I try to tell myself that I don’t need friends now that I have my own family. The simple truth is that women need women, period. Reading Ruth’s book was almost like sitting across the table from her and having a friendly conversation.

 

If you decide to read her book, which you can find wherever books are sold, you will also have the opportunity to participate in her Secret 13 Essay Contest. The grand prize is an all-expense paid, week long Carnival Cruise for up to four people, including airfare. I totally entered. That post will be up on Wednesday 🙂 Let me know what you think of the book and if you have a blog, you should be part of the blog tour. Also, for a chance to win one of five $100 Gift Cards follow Ruth’s super easy challenge by snapping a picture of her book in or in front of any Target. Click here for more information on that challenge. Happy Reading!