Category Archives: baby steps

One Year

One year ago today, my heart stopped for 20 minutes. Isn’t that crazy?!? On average the heart stoppage time for having a pulmonary valve implant is 45 minutes. A heart can go 3-4 hours on “pause” for transplants.

I’m very thankful for my less than average stoppage time. I credit it to not having the typical brain fog that often follows open heart surgery. I’m also extremely grateful that the Creator of the universe allowed his creation to understand the human body so well as to be able to have the knowledge and skill to do heart surgery. And I’m grateful I was created at this period in time, where I could live a full, mostly healthy life.

Since One year ago:

HEALTH
My health has been great. After the initial healing time, I’ve had more energy and have been able to bounce back better from full, exhausting days or lots of time spent out in the heat.

HOME
Because of such a surprisingly easy and quick recovery, I was bored and started looking at houses. This resulted in us listing our town home to sell. Because of our location and price point, we received 7 offers in 4 days. We found a new home (that we LOVE!) that met our needs and even checked off some hard to find wants (my large kitchen!). Within 4 months of heart surgery, with the help of many family and friends, we moved.

ADDING ON
With cardiologist approval, we found out at the beginning of this year we are expecting our third child. We couldn’t be more thrilled to add to our family. And as I suppose is normal, this third pregnancy is flying by. I can’t believe we are already at 18 weeks.

FINANCES
We are very fortunate to not owe on any of the heart surgery medical bills. We have been sticking with Dave Ramsey’s baby steps and the only debt we have is on our new house. We’ve been working really hard on not buying items we really would love but just don’t have the funds for right now (like a new grill) and God has surprised us with some fun stories of perfect used items that “fell into our lap” with very minimal expense. (Like our “new to us” grill. Free from a neighbor two streets down. We just had to buy a couple of small replacement parts.)

OTHER ADVENTURES
*A week after moving in, we “crashed” the national night out block party a street over
*We participated in our new city’s Trash Bash, our little family picking up trash on 3 streets and allies near our home.
*I found an amazing facebook group dedicated to women with CHD. It’s the first time I’ve ever “met” anyone born with a similar heart condition
*We participated in the neighborhood spring fling party, winning 2 of the 5 raffle prizes (I finally have a porch swing!). The party also included the ribbon cutting for the new butterfly park so the boys each got to release a butterfly
*We completed a 16 week marriage enrichment class
*Our oldest son had eye surgery to correct his crossed eyes
*I’ve been able to read at least 1 new book each month since we moved. I love reading, but when our oldest was born, I put that hobby on the shelf.

It’s been a busy year. It’s been a fun year. It’s been a surreal year.

We are looking forward to another full, fun year, with many, many more heart healthy years to follow.

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Filed under baby steps, cardiology, family, friends, grilling, health, housing, marriage, moving, reading

GULP

Has it been over a year since I last blogged!?! We’ve been in the trenches, grinding out baby step 3.

A summary of 2015:

Chasing a toddler around while trying to survive the Texas heat, while pregnant. That’s right! We added on! In August we met our second little boy.

And seriously – paying medical bills, being pregnant, keeping the toddler alive, meeting the new baby, dipping in and out of the emergency fund because of slow work & medical expenses sums up all of 2015.

SO…. I picked the blog back up as things start to settle down.

AND because we have a new update!!!

Quick summary from when we started this journey in January of 2012 until now (4 years):

*Paid off 46K in debt in 22 months (Read our “by the numbers” posts starting in January 2012 to see how we did that.)

*Paid for items without going into more debt: A minivan, foundation repair, new hot water heater, a couple of mattresses, a washer, as well as a garage renovation

*We welcomed 2 children into the family (which resulted in maxing out our deductibles 2 of the last 4 years. 6K and 12K!)

*Experienced 1 layoff – and from that point on have only had one income

*Experienced a couple of slow work cycles

This last year (2015), similar to when we were paying off debt in 2013 and our first son was born, we were really cautious. We also had to pre-pay my OB early in the year. After the deductibles were reached, and we got our pre-pay money back, we were able to put a little bit more toward the emergency fund. My husband had a couple of large projects come up in the fall, right as we were calculating medical expenses.

Overall, we ended 2015 being a little discouraged. In rough estimates, 2015 resulted in 25% drop in income.

One super positive note from this stat is our extreme gratitude that God continues to provide for our needs. We have the four walls (food, transportation, shelter/utilities, clothing) covered no problem. We are so thankful for starting this journey 4 years ago, it gave us the tools and skills to keep a close eye on every dollar in, every dollar out. A 25% drop in income is very likely to cause disaster. For us, it did not.

The year ended and we were relieved to see it and it’s expenses go away.

And then, something unexpected happened.

January 2016. A couple of big, outstanding checks arrived. We never know when checks will come in – and honestly, we almost have to live as if they won’t. Having a client owe money is very different, and less secure, than having your employer owe you a paycheck.

When the checks arrived, we were amazed. It was what we needed to FINISH OUR 6 MONTH EMERGENCY FUND.

That’s right— we are FINALLY DONE with baby step 3!

*Phew* big sigh of relief.

We can now move on.  It’s possible we will have to dip into the fund again, and finish it, and use it, finish it, etc. – but we are choosing to mentally move on. We won’t abandon the fund and be without a safety net, but we also need to start focusing on some other items.

Our specific plan is a little in the air.  It will be some type of step forward, perhaps baby step 3b, or baby step 4 (or a combination of the two).

Baby step 3B is a down payment.  We would like a slightly different living situation. While we do “own” our home, the equity if sold today, will not be enough for a 20% down payment for the type of home we are looking for in our area.

Baby step 4 is investing 15% of  income to retirement, making use of all tax-free options as best as possible.  We have invested in the past, and have made small contributions in the last 4 years, but we would like to get that up and rolling to the full 15%.

And with that – while we are not done with the baby steps – I’m probably done blogging about our baby steps journey. The first three steps are the hardest, but they are also the most measurable. For more info on the baby steps – and to see how you can get started, visit Dave Ramsey’s website.

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Filed under baby, baby steps, budget, debt

Emergency fund… slow going

So, we are now at about 53%* of our emergency fund goal.

While we have only saved 3% since becoming Debt Free in October, we are actually encouraged that we were even able to save that much. While money going out to pay for debt does not happen anymore, we have had significant increases in other bills.

We’ve had a few situations create bills we didn’t plan on. Diapers, along with the price of fresh organic produce for baby food (I’m making Z’s food), have been creating some instability in our budget. I’m still breastfeeding the kiddo and believe it or not, this means I eat way more food than I ever did while pregnant.

However, the biggest item that is currently holding us back is our medical insurance premiums. We estimate that for the three of us, our monthly premiums are just shy of DOUBLE our home mortgage. Yes, you read that right. Granted, our mortgage is not massive (we’ve been wisely living in a home that my hubby purchased 9 years ago and he did not bite off more than he could chew), but still… this is an increase of 1160% since January 2013. (gulp!) Yes, again, you read that correctly.

Some of this increase is quite understandable, I went from being fully covered, to having a very small amount taken out of my check, to being laid off. Tack on an additional family member and we were bound to see increases. We get that. However, this is an absurdly high amount. It did not help that during this time of life change for us, the insurance market went into total meltdown/chaos. Our insurance broker even told us “Sorry – I can’t help you. I have no idea how to answer your questions at this point and I might not even be in business in a few months.”

That being said, we are working on a couple of options and hope to see our monthly premiums decrease significantly in the next couple months as we work to make changes. AND we are so thankful to be out of debt. Again, the margin created by not having debt and not throwing money away on interest, has allowed us to weather this medical insurance storm.

*100% will be 6 months of expenses as suggested by Dave Ramsey’s Baby Step 3. We saving 6 months over because we are a small business family where income is not always the same every month.

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Filed under baby, baby steps, budget, debt, emergency fund, employment

Where are we now

WOW! Did I really go an entire month without posting!?!

In 8 years of blogging that has only happened a few times.

I guess after doing 22 “by the numbers” and not having much to report – I took a little break.

As far as our emergency fund goes, it’s about the same – 50% done.

We did have our foundation fixed which cost 3,700 so – that was money that DIDN’T make it into the emergency fund (but it also didn’t create more debt since we cash-flowed it).

Other than that November was crazy busy!

*Z had 2 doctor’s appointments and I had one.
*We went to the Bush Library Museum & the Perot Museum
*My Parents came for Thanksgiving.
*I made my first Thanksgiving Dinner
*My brother and his family moved back to Texas
*We helped them get some painting done
*I had a birthday and we had our third anniversary.

What a great (and exhausting!) month it was.

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Filed under baby steps, birthday, blog, emergency fund, family, food, health, holiday, marriage, thanksgiving

What’s Next?

When I blogged about our goal for 2012, we started out by saying we were going through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.

From that, we learned the 7 baby steps. Getting out of debt (all except for our house) was only step 2. We have a long way to go. 🙂

So what’s next? Naturally, step 3, which is a fully funded emergency fund. Dave recommends is 3-6 months of expenses.

I wanted to lay some ground work for this step.

First, we will be going for an entire 6 months of expenses for our emergency fund. We felt that with the feast or famine nature of a small business, it would be better if we had 6 months.

Secondly, I will not be posting exact dollar amounts when I report on progress for this step. We felt it was a little to personal of financial information to have out there in the world, letting everyone basically know what our monthly income averages. Instead, I will be reporting using percentages, with 100% fully funded being the obvious finish line for this step.

Third (and you might get mad at us for this one), our first progress report on this step is…
We are now at 50% of our goal.

Say what!? Ok, here’s why. Baby step 1 is a $1,000 emergency fund. From the get-go (prior to our even being married) my husband has been a super saver. When, in our second year of marriage, we talked about starting the baby steps, we decided that it was ok to continue to hold the 3 months of emergency fund aside that he already had in savings and to not put it toward debt at that time like Dave says.

A few things influenced this decision.

1. The potential extreme swings of income with a small business. We did not feel at all comfortable with such a small emergency fund.

2. Part of the reason Dave says $1,000 is for motivational purposes. If the emergency fund goal in step 1 is too big, people will become discouraged while saving for that first amount and give up. Since we already had the money, this wasn’t an issue.

3. Dave really wants to put a fire under people. There can be a little bit of panic in the idea that you only have $1,000. He likes people to use that panic to their advantage and start hustling on step 2 so they can finish and get back to saving. We knew ourselves well enough and trusted that we would not have an issue hustling.

4. In situation of overwhelming amounts of debt, taking a large chunk of change out of savings and throwing at debt can be a tremendous leap forward, helping people start the process with great momentum. Before we started in January of 2012, we had an incredible Q4 of 2011. We had a great boost of momentum without raiding the emergency fund. And for our total amount of debt, it would have had only a small impact on the timeline and reduction of interest we paid.

There you go. Our intent was not to be dishonest. And with the last 22 months in the rear-view mirror we know there were a few moments where we really thought even our “Crisis Fund” would be used up and we’d have to dip into the emergency fund. Not blogging about the emergency fund helped me keep it out of sight, out of mind, so that we would continue to hustle.

We are thankful that we gave ourselves some grace, and modified the Baby Steps from the start.

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Filed under baby steps, budget, by the numbers, emergency fund