Archives for : Lifestyle Secrets

Listen to the Nigglings

Listen to the Nigglings  – By Mary Zigan

Do you ever have that persistent, annoying, nagging, unsettled feeling like, “What am I supposed to be paying attention to?”

It is so easy to ignore the still, small voice of God among the loud, persistent voices of this world. Living in the 21st century is filled with busyness, wouldn’t you say? Headlines and news stories demand to be heard, electronic devices beep and ding and ring incessantly, voices in the media shout opinions, calendars are packed full, and all these events compete for our attention. Life feels crowded by electronics, by activities. by politics, and by the media. If we are not careful…we can run all day and feel exhausted, anxious, discontented, and unfulfilled, and can easily not notice the still, small voice within.

So how do we really listen to the nigglings, and what are they trying to tell us?  Because we live in flux on this earth, life ebbs and flows. The seasons of our life come and go, and we have people, places, and things to deal with and be aware of.

The Good News is that Christ has chosen you and me, and He is ever calling us to purity, and purity is far too deep for us to ever arrive at naturally. Often, the persistent annoyance within is what we would call “small, little offences that nobody else sees or knows about.”  Yet, God’s Word in (Hebrews 6:17) reminds us: He knows our hearts, and has bound himself to us with a promise and an oath that He will never give up on us or lie to us. Christ has paid the penalty for our sin and wants us to fall back into His arms and allow His pure heart to transform us.

Have you ever asked God to give you His desires, His nature, to think the way He thinks? As we adjust ourselves to His heart’s desires for us, because He is ever pursuing us, we will begin to notice the nigglings more readily–that need to be given to God to handle– and we will enjoy freedom from that unsettled feeling. And when we pray we will be asking for the very things God desires.

“This is the new covenant I will make with my people, says the Lord; I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people.”

(Hebrews 8:10)

Amen! 

     I will have reached the point of greatest strength once I have learned to wait for hope.

                                                                                                                           George Matheson

 

Christmas in Hawaii

You’re going to love this guest post by Nicole, who runs her blog, Door No. 2. Nicole Tombers is a Physical Therapist and writer in Palmer, Alaska. She’s an avid reader with a love of learning and a growing interest in educating others. She enjoys eating good food, traveling, and exploring Alaska with her husband, Brad (Mary Z’s grandson).

As vitamin D deprived Minnesotans turned Alaskans, it was strange to spend the Christmas holiday on an island where it is 75 degrees and sunny nearly every day. I had the distinct feeling that people on the islands shouldn’t even bother with Christmas when there is no snow on the trees or cozy fireplaces around which to gather with cocoa and eggnog. But that is an important purpose for traveling – to see something different, experience something new, do something outside of your normal, and share in a different kind of life. And so we soldiered on through the warm sunshine… *sigh*.

For our first few days on Kauai (including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day), we stayed at the Palmwood Guesthouse – a beautiful bed and breakfast tucked in the hills of Moloa’a which is private, charming, and loaded with zen. We were greeted by Ina, our host and chef during our stay, who was most gracious and provided positively delicious, locally sourced meals for us each morning, including a lovely bit of fruit and croissants left at our door on the day we had to be up early for our helicopter tour. Each morning was different, but somehow just exactly what we needed to start the day.

As we took a walk around the grounds, the attention to detail was clearly visible – the house beautiful and modern, the landscaping pristine, and the amenities seriously on point! We stayed in the West Suite, one of three rooms at the Palmwood, each with its own private outdoor space and each unique in some way. Our piece of paradise offered a large outdoor lanai with an outdoor shower, small jacuzzi hot tub, hammock under the palms, and a bubbling water feature that softly sang us to sleep each night. And then there was a pool. (OMG you guys, the pool. It was basically made for Instagram.) When we were not out exploring, it was morning yoga by the pool and afternoons in the hammock with a beer and good book. Every moment at this place was peace and serenity. It was paradise on a whole island full of paradise. If you are visiting Kauai and it is available, I recommend The Palmwood with the highest of praise.

While every day at the Palmwood was fabulous, Christmas Day was a special one. But not in the way you might expect. While our families back in Minnesota played games and opened gifts with a fire blazing in the hearth and lights twinkling on the tree, we shared dinner with strangers. And it was amazing. On most days we simply crossed paths with the other guests who we shared the house with, but on Christmas we all came together for a wonderful multi-course dinner carefully prepared by Chef Ina. We shared the table with Mario & Christine, honeymooners from Toronto, and Shawn & Katie, fellow Midwesterners now living in Seattle. Three couples, of similar age, taking a break from their busy professional lives, who had come from different places to spend Christmas at the Palmwood.

Maybe it was because we’re millennials, maybe because we had good food and wine, or maybe because we were strangers with no preconceived notions about who we should be or how others knew us to be, but we had such great conversation with these people over dinner and late into the night. We talked about everything from work & family, to politics & religion, to excess of choice & the search for happiness. We found that when you begin to dip deep and get meaningful with others, we’re often fighting all the same battles within ourselves. In a world where we so easily get bogged down in image and “success” and meeting expectations, it was one of the most refreshing evenings we have spent in a while. We are lucky enough that we do not have to struggle through each day, each month, each year, to have securely conquered the lower levels of Maslow’s hierarchy in a way that many have not. We are lucky enough to have choices in abundance. I fully recognize that there are many who do not have this freedom, whether due to poverty or poor health or discrimination or lack of access to resources. What WE have are truly “first world problems” and, though I am sure we often fail, we make a conscious effort to recognize our privilege. We have a deep desire to do great and wonderful things – to be profoundly generous, kind, joyful, and honest. To live our best life, and use our privilege to do what we can to give others the chance to do the same. On Christmas, it was reassuring to know that we are not alone in our struggle to figure out what that looks like.

As I was telling one of my patients about this recently, she said, “If you tell parents that you had a great trip or you really enjoyed yourselves, that’s just whatever, BUT if you tell them you learned a lot then they’ll think it was worthwhile.” We were sorry to have missed out on time with our family at Christmas, but we really did learn a lot on this trip and are better people for it.

Here’s to meaningful time spent with friends and strangers alike, and to living your very best life.

~ Nicole Tombers

 

Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning…Spring Culling – Mary Zigan

 

Since the end of February I have been clothes culling. Spring is the time of year to take a critical look at our wardrobe, be honestly brutal and admit: “If we don’t love the item, or it doesn’t fit, or is outdated, it needs to go!” Gathering, sorting and disposing of items that are taking up precious space in the closet is freeing. Capsule wardrobes are the “in” thing. Less has always been more!

 

So let’s get started:

 

  1. Take everything out of your closet. Yes…everything. Look at your closet completely empty. Does it need a fresh coat of paint, the mop boards dusted, or more racks for shoes or clothes to make better use of the space?
  2. Go through your pile of clothes one by one, that you have removed from the closet. Do you have orphan pieces that don’t work with anything else? Are you really ever going to ever wear these item? Be brutal. Aim to get rid of half the things you own and only put back in, what you absolutely love and feel great wearing.
  3. Purchase all matching slim-line hangers for an organized look that makes you feel happy when you open the closet door.

 

Happy Spring Cleaning! It is the oxygen for our soul!

Bursting With Pride

An important announcement from City Cousin, Mary Zigan:

I am bursting with pride and joy to introduce Adalynn Jane Griffin to our blog friends. It is so fun being a great grandma again, aka GG. And what an honor to receive this text from the proud parents: “We named her Jane [my middle name] to honor her wonderful Great Grandma.”

Thank you, Jenna & Jamie!
Baby girl Adalynn Jane Griffin was born March 2nd. She weighed in at 9.06 and is 21 inches long. Jamie Griffin, our frequent guest blogger on financial issues, and his wife Jenna are the proud parents.

Congratulations one and all!

We’re Having a Baby

We’re Having a Baby!

What we’re doing to prepare (and who knows what we’re doing wrong!)

By Jamie Griffin, who runs a personal finance blog www.mrjamiegriffin.com to help families get out of debt.

 

The title says it all, We’re having a Baby!!!! I can’t even describe how excited I am to be a Dad. My wife and I get giddy just thinking about being parents, and learning about all the amazing ways our tiny baby is growing. In case you’re wondering, at 19 weeks, the baby is the size of a tomato and weighs half a pound!

For the most part, we don’t feel too freaked out or terrified that we’ll soon be responsible for an entire human life. I mean, there’s a good healthy fear, but we’re not anxious or overwhelmed.

We Want to Be as Prepared as Possible

It’s our first, and so as you’d expect (especially if you have kids), we have no idea what we’re really getting into! We’d like to think “we’ve got this” and we’ll be amazing parents and our kid will always listen to us. I can almost hear all of the parents out there laughing and rolling their eyes, haha.

We’re also pretty realistic and know there’s no way we’ll ever be fully prepared. We’ve definitely got a plan of attack, but I’m sure there’s so many things we have no clue about.

What We Are Doing to Plan for Baby #1: Saving for Medical Expenses

It’s a no brainer that babies are expensive. That’s why we’ve waited so long to have kids. We started trying to have kids after about two and a half years of marriage, instead of right away like we wanted. Having $90,000 of student loan debt was a big deterrent.

Based off our income to debt ratio, it seemed irresponsible to have kids with that much debt. Of course we could’ve figured it out, but we didn’t want to be in over our heads. Now that we’re debt free though, we can plan and save the way we want to.

Related Posts: Goodbye Student Loans: We Are 10 Days From Being Debt FreeHow We Paid Off $29,500 of Debt in 2016

Our first big priority was to stash some money away to cover medical costs. In September, we were lucky enough to have an extra paycheck month. First off, extra paycheck months rock! Secondly, all of our monthly bills are covered with the typical two paychecks, we put the entire 3rd paycheck toward future baby costs.

Going forward, we plan to add $100 a month to our baby fund. When baby comes, we don’t want to worry about paying for unexpected costs. Also, if we need to buy stuff for baby, like a stroller, or diapers, or a car seat, it doesn’t need to affect our monthly budget.

Still need a stroller. So excited to push our little soybean around!

We Have Free Baby Stuff

Now that I’m pretty immersed in the world of all things Baby, I’m learning that I went into the wrong career. It’s like the wedding industry. If you attach the word “wedding” or “baby” to the name of something, the price increases by roughly 8,000%. I might be exaggerating, but baby stuff is crazy expensive and I really don’t want to pay full price for anything in general, especially when it’s hyper inflated.

Here’s a list of free items we’ve gotten so far:

  • Crib: our friends don’t need it anymore and our payment is, “please never give it back”
  • Baby Gate: we’re a long way from needing it, but we can dual use it for our dogs
  • Baby Rockers/Swings: our friend got them for free and is paying it forward
  • Baby Outfits: I’m convinced everything tiny is adorable, especially shoes.

Seriously. Baby shoes are the cutest thing ever!

We’ve already saved so much money by not needing to pay for these necessities. New cribs are hundreds of dollars, a baby rocker is $100, a baby gate is $35, and new baby clothes are way overpriced for how short a time the kid actually fits into it! Long story longer, we are really stoked we got a few freebies.

Of course, we are nowhere near done preparing our house and getting all the necessities. But it sure feels good to take a few off the list.

Planning Ahead for Day Care Costs

In our city, finding a good day care is ridiculous! We started calling at 10 weeks and one day care center had a wait list until 2019. 2019!!!! That means families who aren’t even close to pregnant are getting in line and taking all the good spots!

When my wife heard that, she put down the phone and immediately freaked out! Safe to say we didn’t call anyone else that day.

Luckily we found a family day care a few blocks from our house run by the parent of one of our students. It fits our price range, we trust her, and it’s on our way to work. No waiting until 2019 for the Griffins!

Day care costs are basically the same amount as our student loans were. So sadly, our debt free lifestyle will only last for about 10 more months. Thank goodness we paid those buggers off!

Maternity Leave Will Force My Wife to Take a Pay Cut

The perfect timing for a teacher to have a baby is in the spring. If it happens just right, maternity leave will end right as summer vacation starts. Unfortunately we missed by a few weeks, so Jenna will need to go back to finish off the school year. During her maternity leave, she will get six weeks off, but it’s at 70% pay.

Part of our growing baby fund will got to offset the difference in pay. Like I said before, we want to avoid tampering with our regular budget.

What We Don’t Know: We Still Don’t Have “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”

I think we’ve done a lot right in preparing for our little soybean. One thing we haven’t done is, be prepared for shock and awe, read “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”. It’s basically a right of passage for all new parents, but we just haven’t gotten around to buying it. I’m sure there’s 10 copies sitting on the shelf at Goodwill, so I’m not sure why we haven’t grabbed one yet.

Last week we browsed a few pages at Barnes & Noble, a favorite date night spot. It was really interesting, and would be an awesome resource. For some strange reason though, we still didn’t buy it. We’re only halfway through so there’s still time for us to come around. We’ll see what happens.

What the Heck is an HSA Account and When Should I Start One

Confession, I know an HSA is a Health Savings Account, and I mostly know how they work. A bunch of my coworkers have HSAs and they love them. What I don’t know is when we should open one, or how much to contribute to it.

We’ll also need to research and talk with our HR director to see what benefits an HSA provides. When the time gets a little closer, we’ll need to elect new health benefits, and this is a top priority.

How Do We Introduce Our Baby to Our Dogs

We have two wonderful dogs that we love. Since we don’t have a baby in the house yet, our dogs don’t have much exposure to little kids. They definitely seem to be more protective over my wife and are extra affectionate lately. We hope this means they will lovingly accept our new baby into the house.

Look at these snuggle bugs! All loving, most of the time!

The advice varies depending on which article you read, but we’re doing everything we can to learn how to do this safely and smartly. Is smartly a word? I’m going with it anyway. We don’t plan on leaving our baby alone with the pups under any circumstance, or let the baby sit on the floor without direct supervision. Our dogs are good, but we don’t want to take any chances.

Wrapping It Up

We’re having a baby! We’re prepared for some things and clueless about others. In the end, we’ll figure it out and hopefully be really awesome parents!

Let Me Know in the Comments

What did you do to prepare for your first baby? Any tips or suggestions of big things we’re missing?

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Why I Use “We” More Than “I”

Why I Use “We” More Than “I” by Jamie Griffin. He runs the site MrJamieGriffin.com to help families achieve financial freedom and get out of debt so that they can overcome any financial challenge, and create a new family legacy for themselves and future generations.

 

If you’ve been following my blog, you might have noticed that I use the pronoun “we” a lot. And before you ask, no there isn’t a frog in my pocket! 🙂 Sorry, couldn’t resist a good “Dad Joke.” In fact, it’s pretty common for me to fluctuate back and forth between “We” and “I.” Most of the time I don’t even think about it, I just write whatever flows out, but there are times that I am very intentional about which wording I use.

 

The Transition from “I” to “We”

If you’ve ever been in a long lasting relationship, there is a point where you begin thinking in terms of both you and your partner, rather than just you. This is super important in any committed relationship. If you are constantly thinking about yourself, your partner will notice at some point and feel hurt that you don’t think about them more often or more intentionally. If you continue making plans without thinking about your partner, you might find you don’t have a partner for long.

 

It usually starts with small things. For example, if your friend asks if you’re free to grab a beer, you hesitate before responding to mentally check if you have any plans with your significant other. You might even say, “You know, I’m not sure what we are doing later. Let me check and get back to you.” Or, “We actually already have plans tonight.” Chances are, you don’t even notice the difference. Spending so much time with your significant other will change your brain to think of you as a single unit rather than two independent people. Your plans become our plans and me time becomes we time. Trust me, this is a really good thing for your relationship.

 

This is especially true if you’re married. Jenna and I have been married for three years and our brains are programmed to think of “we.” And since we have two dogs, we mentally make plans for them, do we take them with? How long will they be in their kennels? It’s automatic. I rarely make plans before checking with her, and the same goes for when she makes plans. It’s basic marriage communication and it has clearly spilled into my blog writing.

 

The Real Reason for “We”

Like I said earlier, I often fluctuate between “we” and “I” when I write. Sometimes it just flows out that way. However, there are many times I choose “we” very intentionally. As a blogger, I want to share my experiences trudging through paying off debt, financial wisdom I’ve gained over the years, and successes and failures I’ve endured. And because I am so far the sole writer on my blog, it’s easier to say “I” when writing. However, our financial success wasn’t accomplished by just me. There is no way “I” could’ve done this on my own. “We” relied on each other. “We” challenged each other. “We” encouraged each other to keep going and stick to our goals. “We” held each other accountable and believed in each other. And “We” is so much stronger than “I”.

 

Jenna and I do all of our finances together. Yes, I am the one tracking our spreadsheet and paying the bills, but Jenna is involved in every step of the process. “We” talk about our budget and financial plans all the time. I don’t make any decisions without her input. As a result, it only makes sense to use “we.”

 

What If I Don’t Have a “We”

I feel so lucky to have a partner like Jenna who is so on board with our financial journey and is just as determined as me. I can’t imagine doing life without her. If you don’t have a partner to do life and your finances with, you can still kick butt and get out of debt! It might take longer and more discipline, but you can still make it happen.

 

One way to get closer to a “we” is to find an accountability partner or two who are similarly motivated to get out of debt. Get together and talk about strategies, share your stories, and talk about your plans to get out of debt. That’s actually how Jenna and I started. We each made a separate budget and helped each other become disciplined with money. Yes, we were dating at the time, but we still shared all of our financial back story and debt. There is no reason to be ashamed of your finances, especially if you are determined to turn it around. Find someone you trust and work together to find financial freedom!

 

If you currently have a partner, but they aren’t involved in the budget and are hesitant to get on board, you might need to kick butt as an “I” for a while. Unfortunately an uninvolved financial partner might cause some setbacks if they are unwilling to stick to the budget, but I truly believe that if you stick with it long enough, they will eventually come around. Choose to make financial freedom a priority and slowly explain why it’s so important. Work hard and have faith.

 

Wrapping It Up

Moving from “I” to “We” is a huge step in any relationship, and even more so when you do your finances as a team. All financial choices should be a team decision.

 

Let Me Know in the Comments

Are you an “I” or a “We?” What has been helpful in making the transition to a “We?”

 

Related Posts:

What Debt Free Looks Like So Far

What Debt Free Looks Like So Far by Jamie Griffin. He runs the site MrJamieGriffin.com to help families struggling with student loan debt achieve financial freedom so that they can overcome any financial challenge, and create a new family legacy for themselves and future generations.

 

 

On May 27, my wife and I finally paid off our student loans! After about 4 years of crazy hard work, extra jobs, limited spending, we are free of student loan debt! It’s actually kind of a weird feeling. In a couple days we will finalize our monthly budget, and we don’t have a specific place for the extra money to go (at least not yet). Before, it was always about our student loans, so at the end of the month we made an extra lump sum payment to knock down our debt. But now, the world is our oyster! We can do anything we want with this extra money! That’s why we have to be careful, especially right now, not to be tempted to spend money irresponsibly.

 

Here is How We Are Handling Debt Freedom So Far

 

Step one of debt freedom was to scream and dance around our kitchen. In case you’re wondering, our happy dance was in full force and on point. Our dog even got pretty excited and started running around the house and jumped up on us. Next we went to Caribou for a celebratory coffee (with a BOGO 50% of course) and bought a nice bottle of red wine. That’s it so far, oh, and we have been grinning ear to ear pretty much nonstop. It’s really small and simple, but that’s how we’re used to celebrating. Our plan is to have a bigger celebration with friends in a few weeks, but like any big expense, we need time to figure out how it fits into the budget and how much we actually want to spend.

 

The Temptation is Real

 

In the first couple days of debt freedom, we are already feeling the temptation to spend money impulsively and more extravagantly than we normally do. We can buy more food, (I know exciting right), update our falling apart shoes, get new summer clothes, try a few new restaurants, and treat ourselves. We joke around saying, “Sure, we can buy that! We’re debt free!” While this is absolutely true, it is a dangerous trap to fall into. If we buy whatever we want and give into every impulse, it could severely mess up the disciplined spending habits we created over the last four years. It’s a slippery slope and a dangerous path into more debt.

 

Making a Plan to Beat Temptation

 

To avoid giving into all sorts of temptations, we decided to make a plan with our extra money. Priority number one: We are absolutely going to treat ourselves for paying off our debt! Once we have that taken care of, we need to re-allocate our budget so that every dollar is accounted for and has a home. We have a bunch of options, like savings, investing more, paying off our house, and having more fun money. As of right now though, we have no real idea of what we are going to do, but it’s on our to do list and I’ll share more once we figure it out.

 

Wrapping it Up

 

Our student loans are gone, and now we have to start pursuing our new financial goals. Wish us luck!

 

Let Me Know in the Comments

 

What are your biggest money temptations?

 

 

The Year of 11 Weddings

The Year of 11 Weddings: Budgeting for Wedding Season by Jamie Griffin owner of the personal finance blog mrjamiegriffin.com

 

Summer is almost here! As a teacher, summer doesn’t officially start until the students all go home and I can forget all about lesson planning and grading papers for a couple months. During most of my 20s, summer time was also full blown wedding season! I absolutely love weddings, and during my mid-late 20s a bunch of my friends got married and I was lucky enough to be invited to their big day. I even got to be in a good amount of them. Now that most of my friends are already married, I sadly don’t get to attend many weddings.

 

When I was 27, I reached my limit. It was a crazy year that we call “The year of 11 Weddings.” Yep, that’s right, 11 weddings in one year. It was full of fun, laughter, and tough decisions in our budget. I want to share how our budget survived.

 

Getting Invited to a Wedding is Awesome

 

Like I said before, I love going to weddings, especially now that I’m married. I get to wear my suit, eat free food, and dance the night away with my beautiful wife! What could be better?! I also think it’s beautiful watching my friends commit their lives to each other, and the support of the wedding party and family standing to support their union. Did I mention I’m a hopeless romantic? 🙂

 

Adding Up the Costs

 

I think the two biggest expenses of attending a wedding are to cover traveling and staying in a hotel. If the wedding is in the same town you live, you’re in luck! Cross those expenses of the list. If you do have to travel though, try splitting the costs with friends and family who are also going. It might not always be ideal, especially if your significant other is with, but it definitely cuts down your costs.

 

Then, there is always the wedding gift. A side note on gift giving: I learned after getting married myself to always, ALWAYS buy from the registry. We find it so much easier because we don’t need to wonder if the newlyweds want the gift. Of course they want it, they registered for it. The registry gives so many options that can fit into any budget, just find what works for yours and grab it! And as a bonus to the bride and groom, they don’t need to wonder what to do with Hippo shaped cookie jar from Target or where to hang the sentimental collage style picture frame.

 

Lastly, be prepared to pay for drinks at the wedding. A lot of the 11 weddings we went to offered a limited selection of beer or wine hosted by the bride and groom. This is always a nice bonus, but I’ve learned not to expect free booze when I go to weddings. It’s getting more common for hosted drinks during a brief happy hour followed by a cash bar for the rest of the reception. If you don’t plan for it, those $5 drinks can add up in a hurry! And as a fellow bartender, always remember to leave a tip! 😉

 

Being IN a Wedding

 

Getting invited to a wedding is very different from being in a wedding. I find it an incredible honor to be asked to be in a friend’s wedding, but it comes with added expenses. The year of 11 weddings, I was IN 4 weddings, including my own. Jenna was also in one of the weddings. As a result, our out of pocket costs skyrocketed.

 

The first big expense we ran into was renting a suit or buying a dress. We were at the mercy of the brides and grooms and needed to spend whatever they asked us to. Fortunately for us, it wasn’t too outrageous and only cost us a few hundred dollars for all the weddings we needed to be in. We are really thankful it was so minimal compared to what it could’ve been.

 

Next was the bachelor/bachelorette parties. This can get out of hand if you’re not careful. In my opinion, the bride or groom shouldn’t need to pay for anything, which leaves the wedding party shelling out extra cash to cover drinks, food, and any fun activities. For my bachelor party, we played paintball and it was awesome! I couldn’t have been happier or more thankful that my friends planned something so fun and picked up my part of the tab.

 

Don’t forget about wedding showers. You will more than likely end up attending a wedding shower or two if you’re in the wedding, especially as a bridesmaid although it is becoming more common for mixed gender bridal showers. It could mean buying party favors, decorations, food, and ultimately a gift. It might not seem like a lot, but you don’t want to get surprised by unexpected expenses.

 

During this crazy wedding season, we chose not to buy gifts

 

This was not our favorite decision. It felt awkward and uncomfortable, and we definitely felt like we were being cheap. We very frequently felt like the worst wedding guests ever. For all of our friends and family, we wish we could have gotten you a gift. But in the end, our money goals required us to make pretty extreme decisions. It wasn’t just wedding gifts we skipped out on. We didn’t go out to eat. We didn’t visit our families very much. We didn’t go on road trips. We did everything we could to work towards our goals. We eliminated all extra spending that wasn’t in the category of absolutely necessary. I’m sure a lot of people won’t agree with our decision, but we needed to do what was best for our family.

 

Wrapping it Up

 

Weddings are a blast! If you get invited to one, or a bunch, remember to plan ahead for the extra costs that creep up. It’s never fun being caught off guard. Share a fun wedding story in the comments!

 

Let Me Know in the Comments

 

What’s the most weddings you’ve been invited to in a year? How do you budget for the extra expenses?

 

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Savoring Summer

Savoring Summer . . . by Sharon Sheppard

Scents of wild roses and smoke from campfires…

Sounds of waves lapping against the shore of a northern lake…

The wonderful sensation of beach sand oozing between your toes…

My brother Paul and I recently compared notes on some of our favorite childhood memories of sensory details from our growing up years in northern Minnesota:

His favorites:

Digging angleworms for fishing, and catching bullheads at Rocky Dock on Pine Mountain Lake

Catching lightning bugs to keep in Mason jars

Watching ants on ant hills

Listening to the cry of loons on the lake at night

Watching flocks of redwing blackbirds in willow bushes

Adding salt to the ice and hand-cranking the freezer to make homemade ice cream

Inhaling the aroma from bouquets of home-grown flowers adorning the altar of our small church—lilacs, crab apple blossoms, irises . . .

Tasting cold watermelon and the first radishes fresh from the garden

Setting lit firecrackers under tin cans on the 4th of July

Savoring the fragrance of our mother’s homemade bread fresh from the oven (at any time of year)

My favorites:

OK, so my brother took all of the good ones…

(He can have the angleworms, ant hills, and noisy firecrackers.)

Here are some of mine:

Full moons over the lake on warm summer nights

Dainty wildflowers: violets, mayflowers, bluebells, and honeysuckles

Blueberry pie—hot from the oven–with flaky crust and berries fresh from the woods

Sunsets and rainbows

Corn on the cob dripping with butter

The sound of crickets singing in the evening

Deep-fried walleye fresh from the lake

Sunsets and rainbows

Slightly charred hotdogs fresh from the campfire

The smell of pine boughs

 

*And one of my all-time favorite summer memories is from the second date I had with the man I was to marry:  Canoeing on a pristine lake on a perfect June day and picking waterlilies . . .

 

So rather than allowing this summer to go by in a blur,

Let’s SAVOR special moments…

 

 

 

 

Canoeing on a pristine lake and picking waterlilies

 

A Few Tricks to Keep Your Budget Cool This Summer

A Few Tricks to Keep Your Budget Cool This Summer

 

Jamie Griffin is a Middle School Teacher and Blogger who runs the site MrJamieGriffin.com. He and his wife are working hard to pay off their student loans and teach others how to Do Money Differently.

 

Summer is my favorite season of the year! It is full of adventures at the beach, hiking, playing golf, grilling, and camping. Oh, and if you’re in your 20s, don’t forget about all the weddings you will get invited to or asked to be in. Summer is time to let loose a little more, get outside, and be more active. It’s also a time where it becomes really easy to spend more money than you really want to. That’s right, those extra activities aren’t free! Now I’m not saying to skip out on all the awesome, fun adventures. Definitely have fun, hang out with friends, and make some great memories. I am saying however, that you don’t need to break your budget to have fun this summer! I want to share a few tips to help you get the most out of your summer, and stay out of the red.

 

Map Out Your Summer Ahead of Time

March and April seem to be the months that I start making plans for summer vacation. Since I’m a teacher, I still get to dream of and enjoy a true summer vacation 🙂  I’m a huge baseball fan, so I try to get to at least one game every summer, two if I’m lucky. I feel like my wife and I talk about taking a camping trip every year, either together, or with friends, or heck, maybe both! It is a lot easier to travel and visit friends and family who live a few hours away, so we make sure to include those mini trips into our calendar. Plus, my family usually spends a week camping in our neck of the woods around the 4th of July, so that throws off our normal schedule of meal prepping. The warm weather seems to beg us to buy brats or steak to throw on the grill and have a few beers while we host some friends on our back deck. And that isn’t even close to all of it! Your summer schedule can fill up so fast, with an overabundance of events, dinners, adventures, and traveling. If you don’t sit down to map out your summer, you could end up spending money like a football player who just signed a $20 million dollar contract, which I can only imagine is like crazy! Don’t let summer get out of hand, take control now!

 

You may have picked up on this by now, but Jenna and I are really intentional when it comes to our money. Therefore, we don’t just plan out our summer adventures ahead of time, we also plan out how much our adventures will cost. In my dream world, I would love to go to a Minnesota Twins game a couple times a month, go on a long road trip to the east or west coast, and spend a few nights a week grilling out with friends. But the realistic part of my brain, and also my practical minded wife, kick in and remind me that it would be crazy expensive to always do whatever we want each summer. Yes, we might have fun, but we would also be cringing on the inside knowing that we are spending a lot of money, moving us further away from our goals.

Make a List and Estimate Your Costs

When you start to make a list of your summer plans, estimate the costs of each adventure. It helps put into perspective how much money you will need to save up ahead of time. We like to make lists, or at least my very organized wife does. On our list we write down all of our plans, and then we write the best guess price next to it. It really helps us visualize the value in terms of cost and enjoyment. Another nice benefit of actually making a list is it helps you prioritize what you actually want to do, and can afford to do. Which conveniently leads me to my next point.

 

Prioritize Your Plans

If you can afford all of your summer plans and that is truly how you want to spend your money, I say go for it. Do it all! Traveling, camping, and visiting friends is always a blast if you don’t have to stress about money. Carpe that Diem! But if that’s not possible, the list you make will help you figure out which plans are important and what is actually feasible with your budget. It also helps you see if you even have enough free weekends to get everything done, and not feel burned out. When I see a price next to an event, I can more easily weigh the cost against the experience. Is it really worth it to spend $250 on a weekend out of town to watch a Twins game, eat out downtown, and stay in a hotel? Or is it more worth it to spend that $250 on a week long camping trip? Or going to see the Opera or a concert? There are so many ways to spend money and time during the summer. Choose what is most important to your family, and start booking weekends to make it happen.

 

Save Money Ahead of Time

I have always been a saver when it comes to money. Even when I was a kid, I would hoard Christmas and birthday money for years before spending it. I didn’t always know what I was saving it for, but it seemed like a better idea to keep it tucked away than to spend it on candy and pop. Maybe that is why I love planning ahead and saving for things I really want. It helps remind me every month of what I want to do and gives me something to look forward to. Saving also helps me determine if I really want something, or if it is just an impulse. For example, if I see a shirt I like at Target, I like to carry it around the store while I do the rest of my shopping. While I am carrying it, I can continue to analyze if I really want it or if I’ll actually wear it. When I get done shopping, if I still feel like it’s something I want, and I have cash for it, I buy it. If not, then I put it back. Saving for summer plans can work the same way. If you spend a few months saving, you might decide that you don’t really want to charter a sailboat for a week after all.

 

I also feel like it is more satisfying when I know I have been working hard to plan and save money. I like to reflect on the journey it took me to be where I am, and it feels good to know I met my goal. I appreciate the journey as much as the reward.

 

Find Free and Cheap Dates and Adventures

For the past four years, we have been extremely frugal with our money and in the process found a bunch of dates and mini adventures that are free or very cheap! In fact, sometimes the cheap dates were more fun and memorable than when we splurged. One of our favorite dates that we repeat every summer is “Act like a tourist day.” We live on Lake Superior where tourism rules during the summer. There are all kinds of fun activities around town especially driven by the tourism industry. On act like a tourist day, we choose a handful of these mini adventures and do them with full enthusiasm, including taking all of the typical tourist pictures. Last year we spent $10 on a ship tour, wandered through the gift shop, explored art galleries, walked along the lake, and skipped rocks into the lake. One year we even talked in accents the entire time and built up a backstory in case anyone asked where we were from. For the record, I claimed to be from Ireland and Jenna was from London and we met while I studied a semester at the University in London. We explained the trip to Duluth as our honeymoon to America. It was an absolute blast!

 

Our city also has a free movie in the park every Friday in the summer, and one time we even brought our own computer down to the park with speakers, a blanket, and pillows to watch a movie. We always enjoy a good trail hike, packing a picnic, and spending quality time with each other. If you are creative enough and willing to be goofy and silly, there are loads of things to do really cheaply right in your own backyard!

 

Wrapping It Up

Summer is awesome. Period. But to get the most fun without stretching your budget too far, make a plan and prioritize what is most important to you. Save up and have a blast without the stress. And don’t forget about the free stuff around town. There is always free stuff!

 

Let Me Know in the Comments
What are your favorite summer activities? Any free or cheap date ideas or getaways?