Sunday, August 21, 2011

Financial Freedom

I write this post only hours after our first formal marital budget meeting. Tonight has been such an eye opener that I have to share my initial thoughts.

The church we go to offers free financial counseling by members of the church who volunteer their time to help other less finance-savvy people like us set a budget, get out of debt and/or work through other various financial blunders or needs. For us, we felt God calling us to set up a meeting with someone to have them help us set a general budget. We went into the meeting not entirely sure what this meant, but we were essentially looking to get more information on how much expendable money we actually have every month, what to do with that money and also discuss things like buying a home and having children (the financial aspects).

Initially, the meeting went relatively as predicted. We looked at our financials (bank statements, student loan information, car payments, etc.) and were able to see first how much God is currently entrusting us with monthly, and second, a written report of where our money is going each month, along with how much we have remaining after expenses (a good sign!). All of this information goes into a really exciting Excel spreadsheet (wait..."exciting Excel spreadsheet"...what?!) that we can modify as our income/expenses change. It feels so liberating to now have the tools to keep track of our money. The ball is definitely in our court.

About an hour in the conversation took a turn! It took me a while to catch on to what was being discussed, but once I caught wind I quickly realized we were discussing that Jesus wants us to be debt free. This is not something I have ever considered before. When we arrived at their house, one of the first things the husband posed to us was how great it would be if we didn't owe anybody anything and could be free to use our money however God was calling us to use it. This was now starting to sink in. But how can we be debt free, start a family and buy a house in the next couple years with all of our student loans and expenses?

To be honest, we went into this meeting having no direction on how we were spending our money. I am interested in sharing this exciting, and hopefully inspiring, new journey we're heading on so I will loosely share a bit of where we currently stand. Prior to today, we have been paying the minimums on all of our bills (car and student loans) and saving the rest. I guess we have essentially been "saving" for a house, which was really just because we didn't know what we should be doing with our leftover money each month. This option sounded the most "fun". We also didn't have any budgets formally set like personal allowances, food, clothing, gas, etc. We learned tonight that this doesn't allow for accountability or goal setting.

The most exciting news of tonight was learning that we should be using our leftover money not to be saving for a house but to be pursing financial freedom and becoming debt free. We would have never imagined that it was even possible to have our car and heaping pile of student loans paid off within about a year an a half. Praise Jesus for financial wisdom! Obviously this can all be affected at anytime by a loss of job, pregnancy, job replacement, income increase, etc., but the great news is that we now have the tools and basic wisdom to handle these possible circumstances in a biblical way.

Scattered thoughts for now, but we look forward to sharing our journey as it unfolds and as we learn more about managing our money so we can, God willing, start a family someday soon.

** By no means are we downplaying the value of our educations when I talk about becoming debt free from our student loans. This is a good debt that we now are tasked with figuring out how to get out of as quickly as possible.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Season of Change

It's been awhile since I've written anything about our lives. It's important to us that we're keeping a log of what's happening, so here is a whirlwind four-week recap...

Our CSA adventure has been going well. We've been so busy that there are times I have to force myself to cook, puree and freeze some turnips or roast and refrigerate beets for later. It's been integral for me to fit cooking our veggies in any little time slot I can find. For example, two nights ago I cooked up weeks of beets I haven't had a chance to use and tonight we will have them in a beet, pistachio and goat cheese salad.

I've been overwhelmed with the amount of herbs we've been getting (seriously, cilantro every week?!), but was recently inspired by Emily's Creamy Basil Hummus on her blog, Daily Garnish. I started making my own hummus a few weeks ago and I definitely don't plan on buying prepared hummus anymore...except maybe the Costco tub of Sabra hummus—my all-time fav!

My husband finished his 31st trip around the sun! We celebrated with a Sounders game and some take-out Thai food, which we never do.

I feel like my creative mojo is going to a new level. Ridiculous, but I kind of credit Pinterest for keeping me inspired everyday. I'm planning to do some personal projects on the side to add to my design portfolio. I'll be revamping my online presence soon with a much-needed new portfolio site.

I started sewing lessons with my mother-in-law. She's a seasoned pro, has all the tools and a space to be creative. My first lesson was last night and we made a skirt for my (new) cousin's sweet daughter, Ava. I has so much fun an can't wait for next week when she's going to teach me about my sewing machine and how to use it. I've quilted a few quilts when I was younger, so this venture isn't entirely new. But I'm most excited to get to know my own sewing machine, which I've had for a few years and never really touched.

My parents moved to Alki from Maple Valley and we've been really enjoying spending time on their new balcony. Their temporary condo has it's own private beach. It's also nice to have Dottie so close since she's getting older. I told my husband that if we lived down there I would eat fish and chips every day. There are so many delicious fish and chip restaurants! Our roots in Maple Valley are cut, and other than to visit I'm not sure we'll spend much time out there anymore. This is where my husband and I both grew up.

Perhaps the biggest news of all, I left my job at HTC and now work as designer at Starbucks headquarters! I'm on a two-month contract working on a packaging redesign project. My contract is up on October 7 and I have no clue what the Lord will have for me beyond then. I'm relieved to be out of my old job and into a fancy new one. It's been great so far and exactly the experience I should be having at this point in my design career. I am very grateful.

The environment is really different from where I have been for the past year. So far I've noted that everyone has fancy shoes and about 1/4 of the female population is pregnant. It's a really upbeat vibe and there are many really creative people. I love being in this kind of studio environment, it keeps my creative brain cells working. There is also a full Starbucks on the 8th floor for people that work in the building partners only (I'm a contract worker) that has all discounted prices :)  :(

Finally, I have biked commuted everyday for the past two weeks. My husband has been driving me to work using the bike rack on our Subaru and I bike the hilly trek home. It's been fantastic exercise for me, especially since I have to bike up the mile-long Avalon hill. My bike is really heavy and not super fancy so I'm certainly getting an extra good workout. It's about a 30 minute commute—shorter than commuting in traffic home from my old office in Factoria—and I always get home sweaty and feeling pooped (in a good way). Tomorrow will be my first day driving since he is working an early shift. Here's hoping I can find some SODO parking!

Things are beginning to settle down a bit now that I'm not working crazy-long hours and my commute is shorter. I've been really enjoying having the evenings to relax, cook and get stuff done around the house. This is my favorite time of day. I'm grateful for the opportunity to hopefully start some new fun design/craft/sewing projects soon. Cheers!