Sea of Change

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It’s been a while since I actually posted something other than a mandala here. Things have been changing in my life and it’s been hard to keep up with everything. Maybe that’s my own fault for trying to change too much at once, but I needed to make some changes and I had to ‘seize the day’ as they say!

I still plan to keep on drawing mandalas, so the Monday Mandalas will still be happening. However, the YouTube mandala channel isn’t working, for a variety of reasons, so I’m dropping it for now. I won’t be taking anything down, but I won’t be posting much, if anything, either.

I keep meaning to finish up the last sets of minis I have, but I just don’t have the motivation to paint right now. I am going to try and complete them this summer, once school is finally out and I have some breathing room again. That will finish up all my minis, and I haven’t bought any more, so my paints may get shuttered again after that.

I’ve written before about trying Noom, and I’m still doing it. I’m two months in and down 20 lbs. So I can definitely see progress, even if logging every single thing I eat is incredibly annoying. I tried jumping in whole hog and doing all the things at the beginning, but honestly, for the last 10 lbs, I haven’t really been exercising. Just watching my calories and staying in my calorie budget. I’m hoping to add in more exercise once school is out and I have extra time. (No idea if I will actually achieve that – all this extra time I won’t be working is being spent in about 20 different ways, so who knows?!) 😛

My focus right now, besides work, has been my new diamond painting obsession. I have just absolutely fallen in love with this hobby and that’s how I’ve been spending most of my free time lately. I don’t see that changing anytime soon, so I’ve had to cut back the time I spend doing other things to make room. Hence the decision to hit pause on the Mandala YouTube for now.

I need to make a decision about my Etsy shop as well. It hasn’t really gone anywhere, and that’s my own fault, so I need to decide whether I’m going to just let it sit (like it’s been doing), close it, or take it in a different direction. I’m seriously considering going a different route and opening an online shop via Shopify, but I haven’t made a final decision yet.

On the financial front, our journey towards being debt-free continues. We made a good dent in our last remaining debt – my husband’s car loan. Now it will be a matter of balancing paying off that last debt and putting money in our emergency fund. Looking back, I can’t believe how far we’ve come in such a short time. It seems like just a few months ago our calendar was full of bill due dates, and now it isn’t. There’s room to breathe and to dream!

Now that we are in a better financial position, we have been talking about our dreams and what we want our future to look like. We are hoping to make some pretty big changes at the end of this year, but we’ll see what happens. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to my oldest graduating college this year – another milestone!

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!

Hectic, But Good

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It’s been a hectic week for me. Work has been crazy because we had Parent-Teacher conferences this week. Which means I have to work several evenings, so my schedule gets thrown out of whack.

But it’s all good, and now it’s over. 😀 I’m still trying to make various changes in my life, including getting healthier and working on other projects. I did farm out my quilt/blanket projects to someone else, which lifted a huge weight off of me. The pieces for those projects have been languishing around my house forever, so getting them on track to be finished feels amazing, even if there is some slight guilt for not doing it myself. :/

Since I am having someone else complete those projects for me, I can focus on other things – like my baby YouTube channel where I draw mandalas real time on screen. Click the link and see what you think – maybe like and subscribe while you’re there? 🙂

There was also some good news this week. After completing our 2020 taxes, we are getting a refund. One that will allow us to finally pay off the last of our remaining credit card debt! Once that is done, our only remaining debt will be our mortgage and one car loan. It feels like it took forever to get here, but I am so excited to finally see that last credit card bill!

That means we can start taking the money that would have been applied to that debt every month and start doing other things with it – like investing and/or saving it. It’s taken years, but it definitely feels like we have rounded a corner with our debt. My oldest graduates college in May, so that is another huge load off of us. I’m extremely proud that there will be no student debt on her shoulders when she graduates.

I posted before about paying yourself first and since the beginning of 2021, I have been doing that. Once we get paid, I immediately take 10-15% of our pay and put it in savings. I get to feel better about watching that savings balance grow, and we are still able to pay all of our bills (including extra on debts). And since that money is gone immediately, we don’t miss it – which means we have been spending more than we should anyway.

It has also been really great to buy things and pay cash for them. A few months ago we were able to purchase a new smartphone for my husband and pay for it in full without having to do a payment plan with our phone provider. And when our dishwasher finally became so loud you couldn’t hear the TV over it, we were able to go to the store and pick out a newer, quieter model. (Confession – it did get put on the store credit card, but we have the cash and will be paying it off in full when I receive the bill – we saved 15% on the price by doing it that way.)

I’m excited about all of the changes in my life so far. I can’t wait to see what is waiting for me next!

Pay Yourself First

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I’ve written before about my financial goals and my journey to be debt-free. It’s still slow going, but any progress is good, especially when it comes to debt.

Lately it has felt a bit like we were stuck – not making any big purchases to add to debt, but not making any huge payments to make a dent in the debt, either. As we headed into 2021, we sat down and had a discussion about what our financial goals were.

I don’t think either of us had ever actually sat down and had a discussion about what financial goals were important to us. It was extremely helpful – both for us to see what goals were most important to the other person, as well as to discuss whether we agreed with those goals and then how to reach them.

With two kids in college, tuition is a big goal. I want both my kids to graduate debt-free, as I did. My oldest should graduate in May, and I just made the last tuition payment for her. So yay! That goal is met for her, now I just have to concentrate on my youngest. I’m so glad that we only had one year of paying tuition for both of them – I have no idea how people do it.

Of course, we’re continuing with our previous goals – to pay off as much debt as possible. We’re down to one car payment, our mortgage, and one credit card. The mortgage will be gone when we move, so for now I’m ignoring it, though we do pay extra every month to get it paid off faster. The less we owe, the more we’ll have in equity when we do move.

The car payment also gets a bit extra added to it every month, but for now I am focusing on the credit card and trying to get it paid off. My husband was in agreement with all those goals, but also wanted to start saving for a vacation – something we haven’t had in a while (and we wouldn’t have been able to travel, even if we’d had the money, with the current state of affairs). As we talked, something I’d heard somewhere stuck with me – ‘Pay yourself first.’

I don’t remember where I heard it, but the gist was to make sure that you were paying yourself – by saving some money each paycheck, even if it was a small amount. After all, you work hard for your money, so you should get to enjoy it too, right?

So we decided that we would put a small amount aside each paycheck for a vacation fund. It’s not a ton of money, but if we put money in it consistently, it won’t take long to build up. I’ve been doing it since the first of the year, and honestly, it’s felt really good to see the balance growing.

I know that most financial advisors would tell us to use that money to pay off debt faster, and I get that. But psychologically, watching that small bit of money grow each month is more motivating to me than using it on our debt. It’s small enough that it wouldn’t make much of difference to the debt, and it’s worth more to me for the motivation factor in the vacation fund.

Who knows, we might decide at the end of the year to use the money for debt rather than a vacation, but until then, watching it grow is financially motivating. In the meantime, we’ll keep plugging along, working day jobs and trying to grow side hustles (like Etsy and YouTube). Maybe one day we’ll get lucky and one of those lottery tickets my husband buys every week will pay out. Okay, probably not, but we can dream, right? 😀