I didn’t spend any money on Black Friday!

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I didn’t spend any money on Black Friday!

 

Blasphemy!

She’s lying!

How did she do that?

 

These are all possible responses from you my devoted newsletter subscribers.  Yep I did it.  But honestly not entirely by choice.  Let me tell you why and how it happened.

A year ago, my husband and I discussed creating a slush fund for Black Friday all by itself.  We came to this line of thinking for many reasons.  First of all, there are so many deals and we wanted to take advantage of them without putting a burden on our budget in 1 month on 1 day. We could get all of our Christmas shopping done in 1 weekend. We might actually have gifts under the tree before Dec. 23rd. The list of pros goes on and on.  Not to mention the idea that both he and I could find deals for ourselves.  It’s possible we’d save money, but it is also entirely possible that we’d spend more than necessary.

How many of you can relate to going Black Friday shopping and buying 1 Christmas gift for a loved one and 2 sweaters for yourself?  It happens to all of us!  During this season we simply buy more than is truly necessary just because the price is right.  And what does that do to all of the other areas of our finances?  It could wreak havoc especially without a plan!

Here’s the real reason I didn’t participate in the shopping madness… I simply cannot control myself!  😊 There I said it!  If I walk into a store with a good deal, I will want to buy something.  This year we had many unexpected and costly home improvements and repairs to make both to our personal residence and our rental home.  These events drained our savings and our sanity.  But we set a goal to replenish our savings to a respectable level and I didn’t want to jeopardize our efforts with overspending.  Simple as that!  I literally had to stay out of the stores and off the websites to control myself.

But what does it really take to be successful sticking to your financial goals?  Here are the necessary ingredients for financial success…

FOCUS + DETERMINATION + BUDGET = FINANCIAL SUCCESS

If you don’t have a goal or a reason to say no to temptation you will give in.  The goal or focus on a specific greater desire is the most important ingredient to financial success.  But without determination you may not stick to this goal.  It takes stamina or staying power to say no when you see others are indulging.  And finally, a budget will show you where your priorities lie.  Keeping your goal in the budget and sticking with the plan you have set is what gets you to the finish line of financial success however you define it. 

I won’t say it was easy to keep my debit card in my pocket this past weekend but it sure was worth it.  My savings account is still full and I’m proud of myself for exercising self-restraint.

Let’s be clear, we will be buying gifts this year, but it will be done with a detailed list of who we are buying for and how much we are spending without all of the pressure and temptation of buying extra things for myself... 😊

This is my 1st step in avoiding a holiday hangover this Christmas season.  If you’d like to learn more about how to walk into 2019 confident, prepared, and still have money in the bank then I’d like you to join me for a Facebook LIVE on Wed. Dec. 5th at 8pm EST. You will learn all of the tips and tricks to have an enjoyable holiday season without the guilt and worry over your money in the New Year.  Just head over to my business page HERE and tune in Wed. 12/5 at 8pm EST.  See you then!

The scariest time of year?

Happy Halloween! 

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Today marks the beginning of the time of year where so many of our spending habits AND eating habits change dramatically.  As a result, it can be scary to look in your bank account and on the scale!  Just yesterday I went out of my way (25 minutes to be exact) to visit a local apple orchard.  I walked out with not 1 but 3 bottles of syrup: Pumpkin Spice, Apple Butter, and Peach Cobbler!  So what if I love my protein pancakes! Don’t judge me!  This purchase made my day or hopefully my entire winter season if I plan it right!  Yes, I did come out with some delicious apples too, but let’s be clear I came for that syrup!

Our finances are another part of our lives that change from October 31st to January 1st.  Many people spend money on tons of candy to hand out to eager children disguised as their favorite character.  Then we begin spending money on a Thanksgiving feast that we have anticipated for approximately 364 days.  And less than 12 hours after that meal millions of shoppers begin their quest to find the perfect gift for everyone on their list and probably a few items for themselves.  This time of year is simply expensive.  And you could get caught unaware of all that is happening to your bank account if you don’t pay attention.  Stay tuned to my next newsletter for an exciting opportunity to learn how to manage this season.

In addition to the fall spending fiasco, we are making benefit choices because it is open enrollment season.  Companies across the nation are sharing health care and other benefit offerings available at work and you get to choose.  For many, the cost of health care is astronomical.  Sometimes the choice isn’t clear what you should do and why.  Here are a few guidelines as you consider what options to elect for 2019.

  • Review your health care spending for the last 12 months.  When you add up all your family had to pay out of pocket you can look at your choices with clarity.  A healthy family of 4 who doesn’t go to the doctor very often or only for preventive maintenance may be able to handle a higher deductible.  A single person with lots of medical expenses may want to look at a PPO with a higher premium because they know the out of pocket costs will be less on that plan. No matter what your situation is, having a clear total of your out of pocket spending is a great place to begin.

  • Understand if it makes sense to put funds for medical expenses in a flexible spending account or health savings account.  These funds are pre-tax dollars only to be used for health care.  But if you only spend $500/year do not put more than that in the account.  Typically, the flexible spending account funds will go away on Dec. 31st. The health savings account will continue to grow if you don’t use it.

  • If you have day care costs it might we worth your while to put pre-tax funds away for those expenses.  A family who spends $5,000 on child care could save $1,000 if their effective tax rate is 20%.

  • Calculate your need for life insurance.  You may want to max out what is available at work because it might less expensive than buying term life insurance outside of work.

  • If you are planning to have a child in 2019 it might be good to review your disability and maternity coverage with your company plan.  When I was pregnant I paid a higher premium for disability coverage, so I could have more take-home pay during maternity leave.

  • If you know you will have some expensive dental work to do next year consider the advantages of a plan that pays a higher percentage of the costs. 

  • For self-employed persons or anyone who has a high out of pocket health care premium at work (over $200 per family member) you may want to consider other options.  Medi-Share is a health care sharing community that could be a great alternative for many.  Everyone pays an annual household portion, members submit their medical bills to Medi-Share for payment, and the bills get paid by the Medi-Share community.  If you are a Christian looking for an alternative biblical solution to paying for health care you may want to check it out by clicking here.

 This time of year doesn’t have to break the bank or stress you out.  And it doesn’t have to be scary!  Make a plan and stick to it.  Slow down so you can make informed decisions. Give yourself the opportunity to enjoy this season and prepare for 2019.

If you want to discuss your options with me check out my calendar to find a time that works for you.

 

Merry Christmas!

I am so grateful to God for sending Jesus. He was the ultimate gift. His example is what we need to follow after every day. This picture is of my family hiking the Great Wall in Beijing on our summer vacation to China. Yes, we went to China and paid CASH! It was an experience I won’t soon forget. I am so thankful to God that we had such a wonderful opportunity. We had some wonderful Christian neighbors we stayed with and took us around the major tourist attractions. It truly was the trip of a lifetime! I wanted to share some of the things I learned while I was there. The things made me appreciate our country and the God that we serve.

  • Freedom of religion is not to be taken lightly. I can praise my Heavenly Father anytime I want! Many times I will be in company when I do it too because more than 75% of Americans proclaim Christ. In China however, that number is less than 30% and finding a church is even more challenging.
  • I learned that privacy is relative. In China, you never know who is watching your comings and goings. The government is highly involved in your life. In America, most of the time we can feel secure when we close our door at night. That isn’t the case everywhere.
  • We are definitely a wealthy country. No matter what the dollar is worth, how the stocks perform, or what the unemployment rate is; we make a lot of money overall. Did you know that the average annual income in Beijing was $2715 in 2005? That is less than unemployment benefits in Arizona! No wonder they have shared living spaces, one child per family, and eat simply!

This holiday season I purpose to be thankful for God’s many blessings and look for ways to share that with others. Our trip to China was outstanding but also a fantastic reminder of how blessed we are. Not only is Jesus the reason for the season but frankly He must be the reason for everything. This Christmas make sure that everything you do has Christ at the center and helps others to acknowledge Him as well.

Merry Christmas!

Ericka

Get Real and Get Ready!

Get Real and Get Ready! Merry Christmas!  Happy New Year!!!  The holidays are upon us.  Are you ready?  Typically we gauge our preparedness for the holidays by our timeliness of the following things: getting the tree trimmed, buying gifts, sending out Christmas cards, etc.  I’d like to adjust the way you view your holiday planning.  Until you’ve written down a detailed list of what these holidays will cost you aren’t completely prepared.  As of this writing I see some areas that I myself have missed and need to prepare more accurately for.  Yes it may sound like overkill, but come January 1, 2012 you don’t want to be experiencing a 2011 Holiday Hangover because you didn’t accurately assess what your wonderful holidays would cost.  That is a good way to overspend and the holidays sure aren’t as festive when there’s debt at the end of it.  Create a detailed list of the following items with dollar amounts and come to grips with your holiday spending.

Your holiday worksheet should have the following categories:

  1. Gifts and gift wrap (family members, co-worker, friends, neighbors, secret santas, teachers, coaches, hostesses, pastors, care-givers, mail carriers, hairstylists, babysitters, maid service, etc).
  2. Decorations (tree/wreath, lights, etc)
  3. Food and beverages
  4. Greeting cards, film processing, family portraits
  5. Postage, shipping and boxes
  6. Holiday events and parties
  7. Holiday attire

If you’ve already begun your holiday spending simply back track and see how much you’ve spent so far and what needs to happen in the next 27 days.  There is still time to get on track and stay on track.  You need to know what you typically spend each year.  A great goal for starting off the 2012 New Year is to save all your funds for the holidays before they even begin.  Just divide your total holiday expenses by 12 and save that amount each month.  Why wait until 2012 to begin setting goals?  Start now and Get Real!

Keep the holidays in perspective while you shop and complete your list.  The true reason for the season is the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  He is the greatest gift you can ever give to those you love and care about.

6 Tips for Back To School!

Yes it is that time of year again… Back to School! Have you adequately prepared? Most of the time, we haven’t. Somehow we just have too much fun relaxing, vacationing, and in general enjoying the break from the usual routine. Well I have news for you… School starts at about the same time each year so why not plan accordingly? Christmas is always on December 25th but we don’t seem to realize that until Thanksgiving dinner is before us. How about we make preparations for what is ahead by starting now? Since my kids started school this week, I have no choice but to plan for the next year. Our school shopping is done! Here are some tips to consider when the summer is coming to an end:

1. Before you spend any money. Look at what you already have. Make your kids clean their rooms, open the drawers, and take inventory. This goes for clothes and school supplies. Now that you know where the gaps are all you need to do is purchase those missing items. 2. Create a storage tub with all unused school supplies. Stock up at Staples and Office Max when certain supplies are 1 penny and then dump them in the tub so you know where to look when you need it. 3. Buy clothes in larger sizes throughout the year when they are on clearance. This way you don’t need to budget a large amount for clothing on the heels of your vacation. 4. Get an idea for what activities, electives, and sports your kids want to partake in early. Next, determine what makes sense for your schedule and budget. Finally, inform your kids what they can participate in before the sign up date. Then they know their boundaries ahead of time. 5. Summer is expensive with vacations, camps, activities, etc. We have to keep everyone busy right? Well, why not save for these events throughout the year? Sign up for your dependent care account at work so you get a tax break. Only put in the amount of money for child care, camps, etc that you know you will spend because the money is gone at the end of the year. Also, open a vacation savings account. Add up what you spent this summer and set aside the monthly amount automatically. 6. Shopping is easy when you have to buy school uniforms since it is all the same. However, it can be costly. Scout out families with kids either older or younger than yours and consider a clothing exchange. And definitely save the older siblings clothes for your younger ones.

Budgeting is the key to success with money. It helps you plan for what is ahead and gives you a basis for change when the unexpected happens. Preparing to send your kids to school is no different. Budgeting will relieve the stress and in turn put the power back in your hands. Here’s to a great school year!

Give a little this Christmas

Often times I am asked how we (my husband and I) managed Christmas when we were heavily in debt.  People want to know what is reasonable to spend and should they spend anything while climbing their way out of debt.  People also don’t want to experience guilt if they do choose to celebrate the holidays by spending some money. I will tell you the truth.  I did have Merry Christmases along the way.  We were never extravagant, but we also didn’t say “no” altogether.  I believe in balance.  Yes, I know that Dave Ramsey says “beans and rice, rice and beans,” but I am of the mind that too many beans can give you gas… J  Who wants an upset stomach after the holidays that includes regret or sadness unnecessarily.  If you can pay cash to buy gifts for those you love, then I love it!  If you can’t pay cash, then I have a problem.  Don’t go into credit card debt for the holidays because that does produce a pain in the neck in January!

For the last 10 years Americans have spent and average of $800 for Christmas according to www.gallup.com.  I can honestly say that my family has spent less than that every year even after we got out of debt.  Use this as a gauge but don’t let outside circumstances affect how you choose to celebrate.   Here are some fun suggestions that make Christmas, Chanuka, Kwanza, and the New Year fun but don’t break the bank.

  1. Bake your gifts – I love to receive homemade desserts and I’m sure others will too!
  2. Send pictures of your family – That is often what people want any way is to see you!
  3. Give a donation – So many people have less than you right now.  So give a coat, food, or money to an organization that helps others in need.  This reminds us of our blessings.
  4. Give your time – Who said a gift had to come in the form of spending?  Volunteerism is a lost art!
  5. White elephant gift exchange - Everyone buys a fun, inexpensive gift and you make a game out of exchanging them.

Now is the time to get creative with your plan for freedom.  Remember why you are celebrating.  Remember whose birthday it is.  Dream about all the possibilities the New Year brings.  Don’t make Alka Seltzer a part of your Christmas dinner.    Merry Christmas!

No Christmas This Year

Recently someone asked me, "How do you handle the holidays when you are unemployed?"  That was such a great question that I thought I'd share it with everyone. The holidays are a special time to spend with family and friends.  We share our love for others with gifts, time and celebration.  However, if your funds are limited this year you might be tempted to say "We aren't having Christmas this year."  I am a firm believer that Christmas is not all about the gifts and hustle and bustle.  Americans, store advertising, and our flesh have created this spending frenvy during this time.  You can and will have Christmas regardless of what you spend. 

Here are some ideas to celebrate without spending any or very little money:

  1. Make sure that your friends and family know what is going on.  You don’t want people you normally buy gifts for to be caught off guard if they don’t receive the usual $100 Christmas gift.  Support is good when you need to scale back or not spend for the holidays.
  2. Make crafts.  Create some journals, scrapbooks, baked goods, etc as gifts.  You don’t need to spend a lot to say you love someone.  Those that you love will understand.  Also give of your time.  Think of ways you and bless family and friends that don’t involve money.
  3. Re-gift.  Some people consider this taboo but it is very useful.  You may want to look around your home and find gifts that may not have worked for you but could work for someone else.  Don’t feel bad about it either.  It may work out for you both! 
  4. Volunteer your time to groups who have even less than you do right now.  That will put unemployment in perspective.  You must remain appreciative of what you do have.  Soup kitchens really drive this home.
  5. Celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.  Give cards or letters to friends and family that say what you truly feel.  I remember those clearly when people have done that for me.
  6. Don’t host for the holidays but do take a dish to someone else’s home.  Saves you time and money!
  7. Do a one gift exchange.  Everyone in your family buys one gift with a low limit ($20).  You exchange them anonymously so there is no pressure.  Make it a game!

 The bottom line is you can still have Christmas without going into debt, the poor house, or forgo paying bills.  Keep your basic necessities first and find new and creative ways to celebrate the holidays.

Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!