Budgeting and Financial Independence

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My husband and I are well on our way to financial independence. In the last year, we’ve paid off 3 credit cards, a bank loan, and a car loan. We’ve been very lucky that my husband maintained his regular income even during the COVID lockdown and with a bit of discipline (and some unexpected windfalls) we made real progress on our goals.

One of the first things I did was to set up a budget planner for myself. In it, I track all of our expenses and income. It’s really helpful just to see where all your money goes during the month. Before the pandemic hit, we ate out quite a bit – so cutting down that expense (especially since lots of places weren’t open) was helpful. We also made a concerted effort to cut down on our Amazon spending. It’s so easy to just go to Amazon, pick out what we want, and then two days later it’s on our doorstep.

However, we were buying things we didn’t really need, so we cut that spending down. I also tackled our smallest debt first, which at the time was the balance of a car loan. It felt amazing to walk into the bank and plonk down the cash to pay it off! After that, we had some store credit cards we’d used to purchase some appliances, so I focused on those next. We continued to pay on our other bills as well, of course. Once the store credit cards were paid off, we focused on the bank loan.

At the beginning of this year, we were down to just one credit card, a car loan, and our mortgage. We refinanced our mortgage two years ago in preparation for my youngest entering college. We were able to get some equity out of our house and into our bank account as well as lowering our mortgage payment due to the super low interest rates at the time.

Our remaining credit card has been a source of frustration for me, because we have had it paid off before, but whenever we travel to Canada to visit my husband’s family, the balance creeps right back up. This year, since we haven’t been able to travel, we’ve had more time to get it paid off, as well as getting some help in the form of our tax refund and our stimulus money.

But – a win is a win, and I’ll take it! The last credit card is paid off – though I do have some small monthly subs that will get charged and then paid off immediately. Because of course, if you don’t use your credit cards, your credit score goes down. How and why everything is tied to your credit score is a source of constant frustration and irritation to me, but that’s a whole ‘nother post! 😛

So, we have one car loan and our mortgage left. And we will be using a chunk of our stimulus money to pay down the balance on the car loan significantly. All this means that we can (finally!) start putting money that was used to pay debts to work for us – in savings, in investments, in retirement accounts. We’ve been able to purchase additional large ticket items – like a new smartphone and a new dishwasher – in cash, rather than putting them on a credit card. Yes, it means a little delayed gratification sometimes while we wait to have the cash in hand, but the feeling of paying for each item in full at purchase has been more than worth the wait.

I’m still using my budget planner every month (with my cute stickers that I made!) to track all our purchases. Our Amazon spending has crept back up, so we need to be more careful with that, but otherwise we’ve pretty much stuck to the plan and are saving and investing as much as we can each month. Now we’re able to talk about what we want our lives to look like when we do finally move. We’d both like to work less and have more time to spend with each other and our family. More time to do those things that we want – like traveling, or just spending leisure time at home and with each other. My husband works long hours and it sometimes feels like we barely see each other – like we spend all of our time working to afford this house that we’re barely in except to sleep.

Looking back on all we’ve accomplished in the last year or so feels really good. We’ve got decent savings in the event of an emergency, we’re saving up to pay tuition, we pay our regular bills, and we still have money to set aside for investments for the future. I can’t wait to see what else we can achieve this year!

Planner Peek

It’s that time again – time to plan the sticker layouts for my daily planner. I use the Big Happy Planner, both because I like the large size and because I like the disc system. The large size gives me enough room to write my daily to-do’s, and the discs allow me to remove pages and replace them without worrying about damaging them.

I wanted to get both April and May set up because I seem to have better luck staying on top of the layouts if I do them two at a time. April’s layout is not that cohesive, but I picked the patterns and pics because I liked them and it’s my planner, so why not?

For April I wanted something fun and bright, but also wanted to give a nod to those traditional ‘April showers.’ So I have happy sunflowers and clouds and fun and bright umbrellas.

For May, I knew I didn’t want flowers everywhere – I’m not a huge flower fan anyway. So I decided to go with a butterfly theme and stick with purples and yellows. I headed over to Pixabay and started looking through their files. Sure enough, I found plenty of pretty butterflies in purples and yellows.

A few minutes later (now that I’m no longer fighting with my cutting machine!) and I had both layouts printed and cut. I’m really pleased with how May’s layout turned out.

It was fun putting these together and it made the end of the school year feel that much closer, so yay!

March Planner Stickers

It’s almost March, which means I needed to get my planner stickers laid out for the month so I could start planning. I actually had this layout done last month, but my cutting machine was giving me fits. I print out and cut two different pages of stickers – one that has a lot of the monthly stickers I use, like the month name and date covers, and one that has my notes/to-do list for the month.

However, I could not get my machine to cut the stickers correctly. I tried everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – to get it to work, short of recalibrating the machine. I even reconfigured the furniture in my office so that I could plug the machine directly into my PC rather than using the Bluetooth option. Finally, after multiple botched attempts and wasting a LOT of sticker paper, I tried to recalibrate the machine.

Imagine my surprise when everything cut perfectly!?

Our only guess is that somehow the file got corrupted and was causing the machine to cut wrong. Frustrating, especially since, of course, the corrupted file was my template. So, after recreating the template and the stickers – voila! Everything is done and cut exactly as it should be.

I didn’t want to do the traditional St. Patrick’s day art for March, but I did want to use a green color scheme. I added a couple of Celtic knots as a nod to my husband’s Irish heritage. Green isn’t my favorite color, but I like how it turned out.

Now my planner is complete and I can start working on checking off the other items on my to-do list!

Planning for February

It probably seems crazy to already be planning for February, but I am trying to work ahead this year with my planning. Last year I always seemed to be creating things at the last minute and so I was never really happy with how some of my monthly stickers turned out.

I got January 2021 set up near the end of December last year, so I turned my attention to February. February is one of my favorite months – both because it’s short and because it’s my birthday month. 😀

I usually avoid heart-themed things for February, but this year I decided to embrace the hearts while still keeping it relatively simple. I find most of my photos and backgrounds on Pixabay, since everything is free to use (even commercial use!) with no attribution required. So I went heart hunting and found all the reds.

I like how it turned out, even though all the red is not usually my favorite. My cutting machine, however, did not like it and threw a complete fit when I tried to cut the stickers. I must have printed and cut the sheet at least 10 times, and every time it was cutting crooked, ruining the stickers.

I ran my printer out of red ink, I had to reprint it so many times. Eventually, after much cleaning, swearing, and repositioning of the light, it worked and cut the stickers correctly. So they are now in place in my planner and I can look ahead to March and figure out what I want to do for that month.

Last year I went with a Celtic/landscape theme for March, rather than the traditional shamrocks and leprechauns. I don’t know if I want to do either of those or something completely different. We’ll see what inspires me when I go image searching.

Planning Ahead

Since we are working remotely through the end of the year, I am trying to use my time at home productively. I bought my 2021 yearly planner a month or so ago and I decided to spend some time putting together the monthly layouts for them.

I went out to one of my favorite free image sites, Pixabay, and found some winter themed images and backgrounds that I liked. I wanted something wintery in blues and whites. I found quite a few options and put them together for my January 2021 monthly spread.

I use the Happy Planner in the big size, because I like having the big blocks of space for writing in what ever I need. I don’t use the weekly spreads that are included, because I like having the month laid out where I can see everything at once. If I use the weekly spreads, I find that I often forget things, because they are not where I can see them. It’s definitely ‘out of sight, out of mind’ for me when it comes to my planner.

It’s a shame, because there are so many cute weekly spreads out there, but it just doesn’t work for me. That’s part of the reason I tried to use a Bullet Journal, because then I could make it work for how I plan. What I found, however, was that I spent so much time agonizing over the BuJo layouts that I never got anything actually planned. 😦

So, back to the pre-printed planners I went. I tried the Happy Planner classic size, but it’s just too small to be comfortable for me. I do use the classic size for my budget planning, and that is working out well. Having the budget planner has definitely helped me keep better track of where we are spending our money, as well as tracking our debt.

Now if I could just get my dang cutting machine to cut, I could move on to February! Grrr.

Making a Plan

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My thoughts are all over the place today, rushing full-spreed through my brain. I also have a migraine, so that makes it so much more fun. :/

Yesterday I was determined to be productive, and I was. I ‘adulted,’ as the kids call it, paying bills, organizing my office, and marking off things on my to-do list. I got so much done I gave myself a reward and diamond painted for a couple of hours.

Today, my motivation is nowhere to be found. I have a whole list of things I ‘should’ do and I don’t ‘feel like doin’ anything,’ as the song says. I do just wanna lay in my bed. Alas, the real world beckons. I have to go into work today. I am already prepping for classes in January, though I still don’t know whether they will be in person or remote. In any event, I need to get the prep done, so into work I will go.

I’ve also been trying to make myself some concrete goals for my online business ideas. I have so many ideas running around in my brain that I end up doing nothing because I can’t figure out where to start. So, I’m going to take some of the advice I give my students and break things up into smaller chunks. That way the task doesn’t seem so overwhelming. I try to set three goals a day for myself when my motivation takes a hike. If I get those three things done, then I can call the day a win. 😛

I’ve had some of my coloring mandalas listed on my Etsy shop. The other day I discovered that I should probably be calling them zendalas instead of mandalas, since I use a lot of zentangles as elements of my designs. I’ve also decided to add a .png and .jpg file to the listings, so that people can add them into Procreate or other apps for coloring. I may at some point sell them as SVG files as well.

I also want to finally add some of my planner stickers to the shop as well. I’m going to be sitting down and designing them for my own planner, so I might as well get double duty out of them and put them for sale as well. So there’s my to-do list for today – work, add files to the mandala listings, and design my monthly planner stickers. I probably won’t get it all done, but at least I have a plan. Even if I don’t get everything done, I will have at least gotten something done. 😀

And since today is Friday, I can look forward to some relaxing time this weekend working on my latest diamond painting project. I’ve only completed one small section so far, but I can already tell it’s going to be a challenge, as the painting is mostly shades of blue and white. If you’re interested, you can find the painting here.

Planning Ahead

Even though I use a planner and I like to think of myself as organized, I often find myself making my monthly sticker kit for my planner at the last minute. Sometimes the new month has begun before I start making the kit.

I wanted to get a jump on the next couple of months for a couple of reasons. One, because making both the kits for November and December puts me ahead. Two, because it means I can cross two things off my to-do list. 😀

I could buy sticker kits on Etsy for my planner, and I have before, but I like to make my own. I’ve shown you several of them before, but I don’t think I’ve shared them for a couple of months. Eventually I plan to sell them myself on Etsy, but until then, I have fun making them for my own planner.

For November, I wanted a nice, soft, autumn theme – not the usual turkeys and Thanksgiving theme. So I made this:

Ignore the payday and bill due stickers – I don’t generally use those myself, so I don’t bother changing the colors on them when I make my own kits. And it wasn’t until after I had printed it, cut it, and went to apply it that I realized I forgot to change the name of the month to November. Gah!

I do like the way it turned out, and I love that I can hop over to Pixabay and find all kinds of free art there. So I spent some time finding things to use on my December layout as well. Christmas is one of my favorite holidays, so I found all kinds of goodies to use.

I really like how the December stickers turned out. I love the colors and I couldn’t resist the cute little plaid reindeer. The maple leaf is a nod to my Canadian husband. 😀 This kit was a little frustrating, because my cutting machine was being a jerk and not aligning properly when cutting. I printed and cut the stickers three times before finally deciding to close the software program and restart it. Voila! Suddenly it cut perfectly.

At least now those two months are done and I can move on to working on other things – like my budget planner. I do also need to order new planner to use for next year. The budget planner I use is undated and I accidentally ordered two the last time I needed one, so I’m set there. For my personal planning, I use a big Happy Planner. I’ve tried several different sizes, but I like the big one the best.

I’ve tried using the Erin Condren planner, and while I love the way the paper feels, the spiral binding makes it too difficult to add and remove pages for me. It’s so much easier to move things around with the Happy Planner disc system.

Now, on to the next project! 😀

August Planner Set Up

August is just around the corner – literally. 😛  So I thought it was time to get my August monthly planner done.  I didn’t want to use a ‘back-to-school’ theme, since we won’t be going back until September.

I browsed through several kits on Etsy, then finally decided I would do a D&D theme.  I found some freebie polyhedral dice pics on Pixabay and threw in a few of my own mini pics to set up the kit.

Aug 2020 Monthly BigI don’t use the payday stickers or the bill due stickers, so I didn’t change the color on those.  The three stickers at the top are generally used for holidays – except there aren’t any holidays in August.  None. Nada.  Zilch.

It’s hard to tell sometimes from the Silhouette program how the design will actually look once you place all the stickers in your planner.  I’m pretty pleased at how this one turned out.  Black and yellow are the colors for the college my kids will be attending, so I did give that a nod with the color scheme.

I’m already trying to decide what kind of a theme to use for next month, because I doubt I’ll want to use ‘back-to-school’ then either.  What kind of themes do you like?

March 2020 Kit – Big Happy Planner

February just flew by, didn’t it?  I suddenly realized I hadn’t created a kit for March for my planner yet.  I have decided to move from the classic size Happy Planner to the big size – I have tons more room to write, and I can still see everything at once, without having to flip back and forth from the weekly views.

I tried using the weekly views, but having to flip back to the monthly overall just got annoying.  I guess I’m just set in my ways. 😛

Anyhoo, here’s the kit I created for March 2020 for my Big Happy Planner:

IH March 2020 Big Pg 1 JPEG

It’s a fairly simple kit – just the two top washi, two bottom washi, a couple of holiday stickers, some full boxes, and the date covers.  I printed the payday stickers, but I keep all my budget stuff in a separate planner, so I don’t really need those for my big planner.  Same for the bill due stickers.  I know a lot of people find them useful, so I included them in the kit.

Here’s what it looks like after I applied it to the pages in my planner:

March Kit HP Big

Again, my photography skills aren’t the best, but you get the idea.  I am still deciding what to do with the kits for the big Happy Planners.  Because they are so large, it takes an entire 8.5″ X 11″ sheet of paper just for the stickers.  Which means they will cost more to mail, so I am considering whether I should make them available for download rather than as a physical product.  We shall see.