What's In The Bank

>> 7.22.2014

Money is awkward to write about because we all have such different circumstances -- jobs, priorities, budgets, etc. But one of the questions I get asked a lot because I've written rather transparently about our budget is how much money we have in the bank. I'm not going to give specifics because that's just TMI. As well, retirement + college savings are a whole, extremely personal/different animal for another day.

Still, I think it's worth starting this discussion because one of the most difficult parts of deciding to stay at home was figuring out if we were doing OK financially. I compared myself to friends and family and ultimately ended up feeling either really good about our $$$ or really bad. In the end, it boiled down to what we felt comfortable going forward with in our specific situation.

I thought I'd share the guide we follow . . . and where we're at currently.


CHECKING

I've read in various financial guides that it's prudent to keep a month's worth of expenses in your checking account plus a cushion. We try to follow this "rule" -- so we keep a month's worth plus around 20% -- but have honestly been somewhat sloppy about where our money falls in our accounts. In the past, we've just kept a lot of money in checking in case of emergencies, which is really just a way of making sure we didn't overdraw funds because we don't use credit cards. It's not the best method, though, since knowing we have lots in checking makes big purchase decisions easier.

Hmmm.

SAVINGS

Now here's where things get personal. I have friends who have wild, wild savings, and more power to them. However, when you're living with tremendous student loans and other financial obligations, sometimes pitching thousands into savings just isn't feasible. The goal here, at least for us, is to have 6 months of our monthly living expenses saved up.

We had more than this amount a few months ago, but house downpayments and moving expenses, etc. later -- we're hovering more around having 4 months. And Stephen is a teacher, so he doesn't get paid during the summer. So, I'd say by the end of summer, we'll have closer to 3 months of expenses in our savings account.

DEBT

We have student loans (low interest, but still hefty) and a car payment (that ends in 1.5 years) and a brand new mortgage. Otherwise? We don't carry any debt. We used to have a modest credit card payment, but we got rid of that a couple years ago. Otherwise, we try to live within our means, though we do carry a card if something incredibly unexpected happens. This is one reason we're trying to hold off as long as possible with buying another car. More things, more money, more headaches.

PLAN

Catching up on our savings shouldn't be too difficult provided we stick to our budget. I estimate it will take us around 6 months to catch back up to the level where we want to be after Stephen starts getting his normal paychecks again. This doesn't mean we don't have savings goals of our own, but for the time being -- we're just trying to get these basics under our control . . . and we feel pretty good about where we are at this stage in our lives. At this point, we hope to get smarter about the accounts and how we divide up our funds to start maximizing on interest and all that jazz. We both aren't terribly numbers-minded, so it's difficult.

What do you have in the bank? 

Next week I plan to have a quick tip for each day for how we try to save money here and there -- baby steps, if you will. I hope you'll join me! And if you want a few right now, you can check out my video about 5 Easy Ways to Save Money!

// RELATED


Planning Number 2: Budget Edition
SAHM: Money Matters
SAHM: Budget + Sacrifice
Piecing Together Income from Different Streams
Making On Car Work For Our Family

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Traveling Tot

>> 7.21.2014

We just got back from a short visit to my hometown.


As much as I love visiting Wellsboro, this trip was surely bittersweet. A couple of our best friends -- including Ada's best friend, their son -- were on their way out to Ohio to move there permanently. Anyway, the stop was on their route, so we thought a fitting goodbye would be to enjoy the sights and sounds and spend the day together one last time.

We walked all over town, we went out to eat, we played on playgrounds, we chatted, we browsed around stores, and Ada skipped her nap (purposefully) for the very first time . . . ever! I'm sure we're some of the last parents of kids Ada's age to attempt the nap-skip. I'm just really into (her/my) rest time, so it's something I've avoided doing at all costs. Anyway -- there were zero meltdowns, Ada was a little groggy by the day's end, and bedtime was an absolute breeze.

I'd call it a win, but I certainly don't plan on having her skip very often.

What struck me most about traveling with Ada this last time was how easy it has become. Weekend adventures and longer treks used to involve so much stuff, feeding stops along busy highways, strollers + carriers, a gazillion comfort items + noise machines, and all sorts of gear that we no longer feel necessary. Maybe it's the age, maybe it's figuring out what truly works versus what's gimmick. Whatever it is, it feels good!

We're getting ready to go on our big summer trip soon, so I'm making my packing list and trying to streamline to the basics. One newly discovered extra that's worth packing? These awesome Melissa & Doug Water WOW tablets. I'd never seen them before, but we ducked into the local department store and someone suggested them as a great alternative to hours of the iPad. Have you guys seen them? It's funny because Ada's friend was so meticulous using his, carefully tracing the numbers . . . and Ada was just mesmerized by the colors and waved her wand around quite liberally.

I'd love to know what you feel are toddler traveling essentials (think 7-hour car trips and such!). I'll be sure to share mine soon, once I unpack and pack again.

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Looking Back

>> 7.17.2014

While unpacking, I came across a rogue (full!) 16 gig camera card that had all the photos from Ada's second year of life (12 months to 24 months). Talk about crazy time warp. And I recognized some of these images, of course, but there were many outtakes, like the photo below, that I initially passed over as duds . . . but now I see as treasures.

Like how this photo captures Ada's nervous nail biting.


(Here are the rest of the photos from that trip.)

What struck me the most in all of these pics? How tiny Ada was. I don't know about any of you moms and dads out there, but at the time my kid seemed SO BIG. Like she was growing up WAY TOO FAST. And I wanted time to stand still so I could soak it in. Every last drop.

And now I realize that perception is so relative and that time and space and life is just, well, difficult to capture. In any way, shape, or form. We all rush to call our babies toddlers and the literature starts the whole preschooler word at 3 (three!). And I get it, but it's crazy to me how I thought Ada was such a big girl when she just . . . wasn't.

The card also contained all the photos from Ada's surgery on it. Looking back, the whole ordeal feels like it happened so terribly long ago, it's been 9 whole months, so imagine my surprise when I flipped through the photos and found myself almost entirely unable to breathe. Like an elephant was nesting on my chest, I tell you.

I won't be sharing those photos publicly except this one.


The hospital where the surgery took place is an amazing place. They have such a dedicated team of child life specialists and others who try to ease the experience for the children and families. This is a sensory plaything intended to give kids a sense of control in a situation where they have little.

Yeah. There are lots of pictures I took, which -- looking back -- is sort of strange to me. How could I have taken so many photos when I was such a wreck? Answer: Definitely my coping mechanism. I could process from behind the lens, I support. I won't question it, and I'm glad to have these images. I think I've had enough mental space to deal with it, and I'm now ready to create an album that I will eventually share with Ada. She deserves to know what happened to her because it's part of her history -- her story.

Oh, there are fun photos on that card, too!


I don't even know what's going on here. Hahaha. But I like it.

What do you feel/think when you see old photos?

I try to avoid it because it contributes to my ever-elevating baby fever. At the same time, it also makes me sort of mournful for the time that has already passed in my mommy-hood. If that makes any sense. In simpler terms: I'm a huge sap who needs a slap in the face as a reminder to live in the present and make the most of today while it's still here and not in the memory box.

And if you're looking to green your cleaning routine, check out today's post on (never)homemaker. Homesteading: 5 DIY Cleaners That Work!

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