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Uh Oh!


Want to talk about a surprise budget-buster (the last one I discussed….cheese! mmmmmm, cheese, mmmmm!)

Try this one on for size…. One of my good friends just got engaged.

Uh oh!

I didn’t even see this coming. Almost all of my friends did the wedding thing a few years ago, and now we’re all onto the “baby” stage of life. But when we were all getting married, she was going through a tough break-up from her long-term boyfriend. Then when we started having kids she started dating this new guy. They’ve been together for almost 2 years now so it shouldn’t be a surprise, but when she told me the good news my first reaction was….fear. Isn’t that terrible!? I should be happy for her! Instead I’m secretly worrying: oh no, is she going to ask me to be a bridesmaid???

I have been in my share of weddings. And I have been happy to do it – I love my friends and am honored to share in part of their special day!

But this was all pre-debt payoff journey.

And now my friend is texting me pictures of gowns and telling me of plans for bachelorette trips and this and that and it leaves my head spinning.

So now I’m left with this horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. She hasn’t asked me to be a bridesmaid so maybe my fears are totally unfounded. But it could be just a matter of time. And anyone who has been in a wedding knows the costs involved with being a bridesmaid: the dress, the shoes, the trips, the gifts, throwing showers, bachelorette parties, etc. etc. etc. I can make room in my budget to attend a wedding and shower and have gifts for both. But I don’t have the funds to actually participate as a bridal-party member.

So I hope this doesn’t sound presumptuous, but should she ask me to be a bridesmaid….what do I say? Just to give some background on our relationship, we met 5 years ago, really didn’t start being “friends” until about 3 years ago (after I was already married so she wasn’t part of my wedding, etc.), but we’ve been close since then. When I had the twins I do not know what I would have done without her support and friendship. We do not have family and very few friends in the state so I rarely left the house for the first 6-9 months because it was too difficult. She would go out of her way to come over, hang out, often bringing food, so I could have some adult interaction. She threw me a baby shower, showered me with gifts while pregnant and again after the girls’ birth. Her whole family (who are all Tucson residents) has outpoured their love and hospitality on our family – inviting us over for dinners, swimming (her parents have a pool), and the occasional unexpected baby gift (e.g., cute little outfit). In some way, I feel like after all she has done for me that the least I could do is help her feel special for her upcoming nuptials. I feel like I owe it to her.

But why then, does it leave me feeling sick to my stomach to think about the potential costs involved?

Ugh! Help me!

Steph’s Spouse Situation- Part Two


This morning I talked about how my husband and I differ on our reasons for getting out of debt.  In this post I want to talk about how we handle our finances.

Our money has always been just that, ours. I have no problem with people who split money responsibility, my brother and his wife do it and it seems to work for them just fine.  We, however, have always put all our money together and I am the gatekeeper of the bills. My husband tells me everything he spends and most of the time will call and ask me if a certain purchase would be a problem.  I understand that some men would feel like they make the money so they should be able to spend it how they see fit and again, that’s fine but this is what works for us.  We both view this as a partnership and he knows if I say “don’t spend $ right now” that there is a financial reason for it and he doesn’t take it personally.  Now, sometimes he will say I want <insert item here>, what would it take to make that happen?  We then figure out a budget together and he purchases what he wants when it’s financially possible.

**I do not mean to say that people who separate their money into mine and yours aren’t partners.  I am a firm believer that just because something works for me does not mean that it should work for you.  Also, my way is not the right way, it’s just what works for us. Moving on…..**

This is how it works:

Twice a month both of our paychecks get direct deposited into our bank account. A certain amount comes out of my husbands check and gets direct deposited into our credit union account. This pays the car note and the loan payment. The rest of the money gets divided up among our bills as I see fit.  Before we were making a concerted effort to get out of debt I would decide how much would be paid toward each debt.  I always paid more than the minimum but how much more varied from month to month. Now that our goal is getting out of debt, we discuss what needs to be paid off and in what order.   I let him know how much I’m paying toward what but again actual amounts are my decision.  Every two weeks I look at our bills (electricity, water, ect.) and I figure out how much to pay toward whatever it is we are trying to pay off.

There are down sides to this.  Sometimes he forgets to tell me that he’s gotten gas, or bought lunch for a coworker because they didn’t have their wallet.  This used to be a real problem but now I check our online account daily and if I see something that he didn’t mention I can ask about it to make sure its a legitimate charge and not a fraudulent one that I need to check into. Another con would be that all the money responsibility is a heavy weight for me to carry sometimes.  When we get into arguments about money it’s easy for me to feel like I’m the one with the burden and he is the one that gets to tiptoe through the tulips. For the most part though, I like it.  If I didn’t know exactly what was going on with our money I think I’d have some sort of breakdown and my husband is so easy going that the arrangement works for him too.

That’s it in a nutshell.  If there was anything that isn’t clear or if you have other questions, please let me know!





Steph’s Spouse Situation- Part One


Sunday I wrote about my work situation.  Now, I want to talk about the relationship my husband and I have and how we deal with our debt.

My husband is a wonderful, wonderful man.  For our entire marriage if I were to merely mention that I want something he has done everything in his power to make it happen.   I don’t mean to say that he’s good because he gives me “stuff”.  What I mean is that he loves me and will do everything he can to make me happy. I cannot tell y’all how much I love that man.  Gushiness aside, we are totally different when it comes to just about everything and money management is no different.

I will nickel and dime us to death.  What I mean by that is big purchases cause great anxiety but a few dollars here and there don’t bother me at all. This drives my husband crazy because sometimes the nickels and dimes add up to more than a large purchase would. I will also settle for something because it’s less expensive than what I really want and so that costs us more in the long run.  This also drives him crazy.  He would rather pay more and get exactly what he wants than to settle or to buy something cheap that won’t hold up. He feels like we work hard so if we want something, and we can afford it, then we should get it.  I shared this line of thought for a long time but then I started to feel like getting out of debt was something that we needed to do.  It’s hard to explain but I just feel like it’s the right thing to do, does that make sense?  At first, he thought I was nuts.  He felt like we could afford our bills and what was the point of working hard if we couldn’t enjoy the financed fruits of our labor?  When he saw how much getting out of debt meant to me, he started to get more on board.

So, we started on this getting out of debt journey.  It wasn’t long before it was clear to both of us that while we were headed for the same goal, our reasons for reaching that goal were different. I want to get out of debt because I feel like getting into debt in the first place was wrong.  I feel like we had no business buying things that we didn’t have the cash for and I want to teach our girls that they should rely on God and themselves for all that they have, not some bank.  My husband has no problem with debt and feels like sometimes it’s smart to use the banks money to make our money work better for us. The reason he wants out of debt is because he wants to be able to retire in his fifties.  He wants us to be able to do what we want and not be tied down to work.

Our differing reasons haven’t been too much of a problem so far because the goal is the same. I’m hoping it stays that way.  What about y’all?  Do any of you find yourself in a similar situation with your partner?

He says, She says


I loved when Adam and Emily did the “he says, she says” post. So fun to see their different personalities and spending-styles emerge. And like most couples, my husband and I don’t always agree on where to put our money (which currently is being thrown toward debt hand-over-fist).

Now, don’t get me wrong – husband is 100% committed to eliminating our debt. Most of it is mine and he agrees that it has to go (and he’s been involved in creating our budget and debt-reduction goals, so even though I’m primarily the one who writes out the checks and pays the bills, he’s totally involved in the process). However…..sometimes I find that even though he wants to be debt-free, he would perhaps prefer to do so at a slower pace that allows us more “free” money for spending, or adding money to our savings instead of putting so much directly toward debt each month (we put nearly $1700 per month toward debt when our bring-home is about $5,000 per month; so about 34% of our income goes straight to debt).

Side Note: You can see our full budget here, and our debts here.

Although I typed this up (husband isn’t much into blogging), this is almost verbatim transcript of a conversation we had the other day, so I think I’m representing him and his thoughts fairly:

Our Thoughts On Spending…


He Says:

Imagine going to the gym for months and months. You’re killing yourself by waking up early to hit the gym, eating clean, and passing by lots of opportunities for “fun” that could side-track your health and fitness goals. But then you step on the scale (or have your BMI checked) and you’re still in the exact same position you were in before starting your exercise regiment. Would you continue it? No way! You need to see results in order to be motivated.

It’s the same thing with money and paying down debt. Especially since my job is a very physical one. I go to work everyday and kill my body. I do it to provide for my family and improve our quality of life. If our quality of life isn’t going to improve for 5-10 years, then what’s the motivation? I need to see something that shows me my work is getting me somewhere. Be it a nice home, a new shirt, or a little family vacation. Those are the rewards that make killing myself at work worthwhile.


She Says:

I definitely see the analogy, but at the same time – the only way to true wealth is through being debt-free. Rewards aren’t on the short-term; they’re on the long-term. I never should have accrued so much debt, but it’s done now. And I think our focus should be on paying it back as opposed to continuing to spend money elsewhere.


So, what to do? The conversation had no real resolution. Just him stating his feelings, which I think is fair to do. He works very hard and his job truly is a physically exhausting one. It can be difficult to do that type of work and not see the fruits of one’s labor, since we continue to cut back more and more instead of gaining…I don’t know…wealth???

I listen to the Dave Ramsey radio show and LOVE the segments with REAL PEOPLE telling their debt stories and doing their “debt-free screams.” Dave always asks the same questions (what made you start this journey? what was the hardest? what was the secret to getting out of debt?) One thing I hear over and over is people say that it was absolutely crucial to be on the same page with their spouse.

I wouldn’t say my husband and I aren’t on the same page (at the end of the day, we both want to be debt-free), but maybe I’m one chapter ahead? Or I’m just reading the book at a faster pace???


What’s your money-relationship like with your spouse? Are you on the same page? What do you do to help motivate and encourage your partner?

Money Philosophy


I am very smart and educated. I’m not saying that to brag, it’s just a fact.  I have plenty of things that I am terrible at too and I will readily admit them as well. But back to my being smart and educated.

My parents taught me from a very young age to manage my money – 10% to savings, 10% giving and the rest for me was a weekly mantra from the time I was old enough to get an allowance.  And they lived frugally, so frugally, it was painful even for me as I always felt like we were broke and didn’t have enough money to make ends meet.  I remember the 12 different stores mom would go to every week with coupons in hand to get the best deals on the healthy food.  And I remember, the heated discussions from behind closed doors.

I also worked from a young age, as soon as I could babysit, referee soccer games, work at fast food restaurants, I worked.  In fact, I don’t think I had more than a month of not working from the time I was 13 until I lost my corporate job a year after my youngest was born.  Then I tried the SAHM thing and knew it was not for me.

Despite all my parents’ efforts, somehow I missed the lesson on credit, so in college, like many that we hear about, I got into trouble with credit cards.  Lucky for me, the amount I owed was less than my car was worth so when I graduated and decided to move to Chicago to ‘save the world’ with my social work degree, I left my car behind which my parents sold for me and it paid off my credit card debt. (It really did cover the debt, they did not help me on that one.)

When I was married, I managed our money, paid the bills and a lot like Ashley’s Financial Relationship my husband was also self employed and he gave me the money we needed for our budget and kept the rest. We were relatively well off for a while, but in the end it was not a good situation, and obviously ended in divorce. (The finances were not a reason for the divorce, but did end up leading to a lot of resentment on both sides.)

So I’m getting to the point…all my God given smarts, all my education and all these life lessons, making and managing my money for so many years now and I’m still really horrible at it!  Really horrible!  I need a keeper, someone to put me on an allowance and take control of my accounts.  My self control is ….ugh!  I just keep hoping that getting out of debt is kind of similar to the tenets of AA (not comparing or belittling AA at all) – I hope the first step to recovery is admitting I have a problem.  I have a problem, a repetitive problem that just sabotages myself!

I’ve been reading a bunch of financial books and a few blogs and my continued favorite is Get Rich Slowly and this week I read this post: http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2014/04/15/8-years-of-get-rich-slowly/. Did you read tenet #1? (Since reading this article I’ve been putting some thought into my own tenet’s, and wrote them out on my personal blog if you are interested.)

I’m focused and I’m determined but I’m still really, really weak.  This is why I’m always broke, always!  As soon as I get money I spend it…not on junk anymore, well, most of the time.  But I know like a dollar burning a hole in a child’s pocket that if I don’t get the bills and debt payments made, I will find somewhere else to spend it.  So it’s good for now, I have a goal and plenty of debt to keep my money occupied, but what about after?

How do you develop the self control to say no?  I’d love to hear your ideas on this one and in the next couple of months I will share what I have in mind especially since I plan to start saving with my new part time job that I wrote about earlier today.

Homemade Easter Cards


Does your family celebrate Easter?

If so, I’ve got a fun little craft to share and it’s not too late for you to join in the fun with your kiddos!


Since we don’t live close to any family, it has been very important to me to make conscious efforts to stay connected to our out-of-town relatives. Part of this is including them in our kids’ lives in big ways (trips to see each other) and small (sharing pictures/crafts/etc.). I’m thankful for technology that allows us to send emails with pictures, FaceTime on the phone, and stay connected that way. But sometimes nothing beats a good, old fashioned card in the mail. Add a personal touch (a child’s creativity), and you’ve got something special. Even better – its a Cheap (or Free, if you have the supplies) activity you can do together with your kids!

Step 1:  Buy Envelopes

My first step was to buy envelopes. Last time I did a kid craft that I had planned to mail to family (around Christmas time), I made the craft too large and had to buy special, large envelopes and pay extra for postage. Doh! This time the FIRST thing I did was go to the envelope aisle at the grocery store and find a box of envelopes. I paid $4.50 for a box of 50 envelopes. They’re pastel colors (10 each of 5 different colors), and larger than regular envelopes, but still only require “normal” postage.

Step 2: Raid Your Craft-Supplies

Aside from the envelopes and postage, I didn’t want to pay anything for these crafts so that meant using stuff we already had on-hand. I dug out some crayons and Crayola kid-paint from the girls’ closet (I’ve had these supplies for a long time), then I went to my scrapbooking box (I’ve scrapbooked for years and have a huge supply of card stock) to pick out the papers. I selected solid yellow, green, and purple paper, and pretty Spring-themed paper. Then I was on my way!

Step 3:  Let the Kiddos Get Busy (While YOU get busy, too!)

First, I cut the solid yellow papers into egg-shapes. I stripped my kiddos down to their diapers (learned this one the hard way when the “washable” kid paint stained my girls’ clothes during a previous crafting session) and put big bibs on them. Then I let them sit at the table and offered a variety of options:  various colored paint and crayons. I would’ve loved to use Spring-colored paint (pastels), but the paint we had on-hand was “normal” (red, blue, green), so that would have to do.

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For the record – I drew the squiggly lines on the eggs. The girls much preferred the paint (though they liked using the crayons as paint-brushes! Perhaps I need to put some “real” paint brushes on the 30 Day Want List??)

While they painted, I cut the Spring-themed card stock down to size so it would fit in my envelopes. It was basically like a half-sheet of card stock (if you fold in half like a hamburger, not a hot dog). I also cut the solid green card stock down to size and cut small slits in the top to mimic the look of “grass.”

Step 4:  Assembly

We had a break while the paint dried on the Easter-eggs (during which time I was giving the girls a bath), then it was their nap time. Perfect time for some adult assembly! I have a mini-glue gun (believe I bought it from Dollar Tree) and I used that to glue the grass onto the card stock. I only glued along the sides and bottom of the grass because I wanted the top to be open, creating a little “pocket” in the grass. With the solid purple card stock, I cut those down (I got 4 purple cards out of each piece of paper) and glued to the back of the Spring card. At this point, things were looking like so…

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If I were really being meticulous, I would have covered the entire back of the Spring paper so you couldn’t see the grid lines. But by this point I was over it and ain’t nobody got time for that! Plus, this is a card for family, not a fine art project for a grade or some prize. Family is going to love it regardless.

I was trying to play up the “Easter” theme, so instead of writing “Happy” Easter, I wrote “Hoppy” Easter. Har har har. I also added a little personal message to the specific person the card was intended for.

Next I wrote on the “back” side of the eggs (I say “back” in quotations because the girls really ended up painting BOTH sides, so….yeah.) It’s silly and cheesy, but I wanted to think of a saying that had 3 elements:  Something to do with Easter, some type of play on the word “egg” (egg-cellent), and something to do with an easter egg hunt/find/search. I did some brainstorming and the best I could come up with was, “This Easter we hope you’ll find……YOURSELF, having an egg-cellent time!” – Hey, I never claimed to be a poet!


Then I tucked the egg into the envelope, and voila!


Step 5:  Add pictures and mail!

Okay, so I guess I lied because I did pay for one additional thing…

I forced coerced the girls into a little “modeling” session while wearing some big bunny ears their Mamaw sent them. I found a coupon code online for printing photos at Walgreens for .15 cents per print, so I printed up enough of these pictures to stuff one in each envelope.


Clearly I’m no photographer either. But at least I try!

Then I addressed them, added postage, and mailed out!

Easy-peasy and I’m sure our family will love and appreciate the homemade craft and new photo of the girls! We don’t get to see each other nearly enough and they grow FAST at this age! They’ll be two in just a couple of months! (tear!)

So there you have it!

Whether you want to make this as a card to give to family, or just let your kids have some fun crafting, I’m sure it will be a hit!

Have a great weekend!

Our Financial Relationship


Our Financial Relationship

Chris and I met at the very beginning of my Freshman (his Sophomore) year of college – the end of August 2002.


Obviously we had some similarities, lol!

We started dating shortly thereafter.

By 2005, we were moving into our first (TINY and BARE) apartment together. Remember? This was from our pre-debt days!


From the beginning, I kind of took control of the financial aspect of our relationship. I am naturally drawn toward budgeting and saving and him….not so much. We made enough to survive just fine as long as I was in control, and I was even able to save up money so we were able to go on fancy vacations…


Dominican Republic, All-inclusive resort, Circa 2006


…and do lots of fun things, all while paying cash!


Floating the Guadalupe River one summer

 But then we moved away so I could go to graduate school and, well, we all know how well that went (read:  DEBT-CITY).

Fast-forward to present day.

My husband is the primary earner in our relationship right now. Unless I get a full time job sometime, it is likely to stay this way for awhile. However, he’s not great with money. So I am the primary money-spender in our relationship (in terms of budgeting, paying bills, etc.). The way we make this work is a little different than most people I know….

First, I don’t know exactly how much my husband makes. Don’t get me wrong – I’m involved in paying our taxes so I’m not completely out in the dark. But he has a variable income and on a week-to-week basis I don’t know exactly how much he has made.

How do we pay our bills?

Well, we have talked about and agreed on a budget so Chris always knows how much we need in order to survive and pay our debt obligations. If he’s having a particularly bad month (given that his income is variable), then he’ll give me as much as he possibly can – almost everything (post-tax) that he made. He does keep some money, but basically just enough to put gas in his work truck and have a little in his bank for business expenses (he does hard-wood floors, so he often has to buy supplies for a job prior to actually getting paid for the job).

On months that he does really well, he gives me above average of his “norm,” but I know he also keeps a little extra for himself. How much exactly? I don’t know.

I know many of my friends would hate this type of situation. They feel it is somehow dishonest or unfair for him to not share his exact earnings and give me every penny he makes so I can manage it.

But that would just never work for us. We have been together since 2002. There have been times in our relationship where I was the primary earner and, therefore, I was in control of almost all the money. It was a time of great stress and marital discord (well, we weren’t married yet, but you get the idea). Sure, we could pay off our debt a bit sooner if he were to give me 100% of his paycheck. But that would also, in a way, equate to castrating him (at least in his eyes). He can’t handle making all this money, giving it all to me, and then having to ask for some back and justify if he wants to buy fast food for lunch one day (as an example).

Writing this blog is a funny thing. I have already received SO MUCH great advice (thank you!!!). And, naturally, I go to my husband and talk about the things I have learned, as it impacts our family spending and budget. So in a way, “you” (the collective readers and commenters) have become a third person in our relationship. We discuss what you say, weigh the information, and try to make informed decisions as a result.

Prior to starting on this debt-reduction journey I discussed the potential ramifications with my husband. One think I thought you readers would push us on was revising this current financial situation. There are SO MANY different ways to handle finances. Why don’t we both get a small “allowance” or agree that he can keep “X” amount per week for blow money. But that number should be named, right?

Well, that’s great in theory, but it just hasn’t worked in real life.

And you know what????

I’m perfectly satisfied with our current financial relationship.

I know when he’s got a little extra money from a big job because he may show up with a new pair of shoes, but just as frequently he’ll use the money to spoil us by taking us out to eat, picking up a movie, or even running to the grocery store on his dime (rather than coming out of the budget).

I won’t argue that it might not be the best way to use our resources. If he gave me all his money, I would be able to allocate more toward debt each month and reach our goals sooner. But then my husband would be miserable. And you know the saying “happy wife, happy life”??? I think it equally well applies to husbands ; )

So I’m sure there will be many readers who will disagree with this type of relationship (like I said – I’m sure many of my own FRIENDS would disagree with it). But it works for us. And money remains one of the top reasons for divorce. So, as long as we are both comfortable and happy with our current relationship then I think that’s a really important factor. Even above the extra month or two that we could pay off debt early, had I been receiving 100% of his money. You can’t put a price on marital happiness.


Does anyone else have an interesting financial relationship? How do you and your partner handle finances?