Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cajun Recipes!

Here is the link to the post! Sorry about that.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Happy Mardi Gras!!

Happy Mardi Gras everyone!

On Saturday we threw our first annual Mardi Gras bash and it was a blast. In anticipation of the big day we made red beans and rice on Thursday, chicken and sausage gumbo and chicken fricasse on Friday and crawfish etoufee on Saturday right before the party. Here is a picture of Ethan shoveling down his first bowl of gumbo!

After we ate all of the good food (including a tipsy cake and hurricane punch) we played Rock Band.

Our friends Betsy and Ethan couldn't come on Saturday night so they came over on Sunday with all of their kidllets:
Here they all are watching Cinderella. Don't worry about the boys, they only sat there for a few minutes.

I promised to post all of our recipes up here, so I've just made a new post called Cajun recipes. I also tried my hand tonight at my first King Cake. Meche's no longer delivers anymore and this was going to be my first year with out any! My grandfather emailed me a recipe that inspired me and I tried to make it Saturday. Unfortuneatly I forgot to set a timer and ended up with a burnt cake :( Tonight I tried my hand at a more traditional recipe:
I'll let you if it tastes as good as it looks!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Bills, Budget, and Cash, Oh My!

Since our debt-free scream two weeks ago quite a few people have asked us, "How did you do it?" People have not been asking in awe so much as the are curious about the details of becoming debt free. I thought I'd share our methods with all of you out there in blogger land.

Baby Steps: We did follow Dave's baby step plan:

  1. Save $1,000 to use for emergencies after you cut up your credit cards. (For single men or women this amount is lowered to $500.)
  2. Get out of debt using the "snow ball" method. Focus on paying off the smaller balance first and don't worry about which one has the higher interest rate. We know the math doesn't work, but after all debt usually isn't about math, it's about behavior!
  3. Have a 3-6 month emergency fund in place. This needs to be in an "easy to get to" place i.e. not the stock market!
  4. Save for retirement. Dave says 15% of your income should go here.
  5. Save for college. We are still working on how much money we want to save here and there are several ways of doing this.
  6. Pay off the house. We are planning on making extra payments monthly.
  7. Build wealth and give!
Here are some more specifics (things that I can't usually explain in one conversation):

No credit cards: After attending Dave's live show we saved up $1,000, cut up our credit cards and have not had one since. Well, I did have one that I got from Amazon because of a "deal", but that one ended up biting me in the butt. I got the card when I purchased something online and a couple of months later still had not received a statement. Little did I know the "Amazon" card was really a Chase card and anything we were receiving from Chase at the time went straight in the garbage. Yeah... I canceled that card and haven't been tempted by "special offers" since! Philip still has a credit card that is through his employer, and it is only used for travel expenses.

Budget: We do live by a budget that we set up in an excel Google Doc so that Philip and I can both view and edit it. This budget has looked different over the last four years, but currently we are working from one that is my creation because I do most of the updating. I do set up a new worksheet for every month because our budget changes a little each month (you only buy a Christmas tree once a year). I have Philip's income listed on the left and all of our bills under that. My income is listed off to the side because we don't use it on bills and it use to go straight to (after tithe) pay off our debt. I've posted a sample here with some FAKE numbers so you can get the idea. I haven't run the percentages in a while, but I may do that soon and share that info too.

Once a month I transfer a set amount of money to my USAA account (the "bills" line item) and I pay all of our monthly bills online through thier free service. It is way cool because I only write one check a month, the rest comes straight from them and I never have to buy stamps!

The envelope system: We do use the super cool envelope wallet that Dave sells. Once a month I go to the ATM to get out cash for the following envelopes:
  • "Us" - used to eat out
  • "Allowance" - Philip and I's burn money
  • "Ethan"- this is used for diapers, clothes, toys, new cups, etc.
  • "Babysitter" - this one is self explanatory
  • "Clothes" - this if for Philip and I to buy shoes, clothes, or haircuts!
I also get out a set amount for groceries every Friday. This is one example of how our line items change month to month. During some months there are four fridays, but some have five. During the Christmas months I also get those planned amounts out in cash before hand.

Why use cash? I know most people don't see the point in using cash instead of a debit card, but here are a few of my thoughts. Research shows that you spend 15% more when you use a debit card. Counting out cash and handing it to someone has emotional consequences, swiping a card just doesn't have the same effect. A new study that just came out even showed that people spend 50% more with credit cards that have point programs.

I love using cash because I don't have to keep up with how much I've been spent so far in a month. When I look into an envelope I know exactly how much I have left and at the end of the month there are no surprises! It really is a passive way of controlling your spending.

Other expenses: For gas, pets, and medical needs we use our debit cards. We have found that in these areas we are never tempted to spend above what is needed and I base my budget on what the need has been over the last few months. Just recently I got to cut down our gas line item because I realized I was over budgeting since gas prices have fallen. I'm sure over the summer I'll have to tweak that a little as prices start to rise again.

I hope this sheds some light on the nitty-gritty of how we handle our finances and defeated our debt. I am more than willing to answer anyone's questions, so if you have any please send them to me! Another thing that we do that is a lot of fun is that we don't spend any change. Well, I do think Philip does, but I don't when I'm shopping and such. Then every couple of months we have about $80 or so that we can "give away". Lots of fun!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Greeee!

Last Thursday Ethan wandered into our sun room and a few minutes later I heard, "Greeee!", "Greeee!" What is he into I thought. Then he turned the corner and I saw that he found a piece of art from preschool where they had done green finger paint. "Greeee!" he squealed as he held up the paper plate. "That's right, it's green!"

Since then Ethan has identified some "Wed" balloons and he even pointed out that one balloon was "Whiiii" (white). His pronunciations are still a little off but it is so much fun to hear him say something other than "Bluuuu" or "Blaaaack". Yay colors!


Phone Calls
Ethan use to ask for Dada every time I got a phone call or made one. Well, that has all changed. Last weekend Ethan got a chance to talk to his Mimi and then Mawmaw on my cell phone. Now everytime I make a phonce call he asks for "Mimi?" and when I say it's not Mimi, she is at work, he asks for "MawMaw?" Even yesterday he talked to Pop for a little while and this afternoon he added "Pop?" to his list of names.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Funny Things

I don't have a whole lot to share but I thought I would share Ethan's favorite new word: No! Or more precisely "No, Noooooooo!" If his cars roll of the couch he tells them "No." If I come to pick him up at preschool the first words out of his mouth are "No." He has gotten in trouble for saying "No" to mommy or daddy in the wrong situation, but mostly it is just funny that he has this newly discovered power. I'll try to get a video of him saying it soon.

Here is a video of him dancing back in December:

video

A couple of weeks ago we had a warm Saturday so we brought him out to a park near our house. Here he is playing with his soccer ball.

video

I have another video that I want to post, I just need to figure out how to edit it.

Friday, February 6, 2009

We're debt free!! version 2.0

This is a video that Dave Ramsey showed at his live event here in Knoxville. It cracks me up every time!

Exactly four years ago we still had a car payment, borrowed money for the down payment on a house and bought a new refrigerator (on credit). Less than six months later we had to borrow money to put vinyl siding on our house. That's a total of $46,080 in debt.

I don't remember the first time I heard of Dave Ramsey, but I believe I just started listening to him on the radio. In the fall of 2005 I went to a Pampered Chef Show and I couldn't afford anything. The consultant doing the show (Valerie Reagan) said that if I couldn't buy anything that day I could still help out my host Sonja by booking my own show. At my own PC show Valerie mentioned that she and her husband were working on getting out of debt using the Dave Ramsey plan. "Hey, we're doing that!" I knew we wanted to get out of debt and I was willing to do something extra to get us there so I signed up to sell PC that night! (I only mention this part because when I think of Dave Ramsey I think of my PC business.)

After going to the live show here in Knoxville we cut up all our credit cards and went to the cash envelope system and debit cards only. We live on a monthly budget and we are so happy four years later to be debt free! We feel so blessed by Dave's teachings and we truly are enjoying financial peace. I am particularly excited that we have decided that I should quit my job after this year and stay at home with Ethan full time! (I might still contract out with KCS but it will be on a as needed basis.)

This Friday I called in to Dave's show and screamed, "We're debt free!" The show is suppose to send me the audio clip and I'll post it here as soon as I get it. Here is the summary that is posted on his site for hour 2 on Friday, Feb. 6th:

"Bridget keeps things going, paying off $46,000 in 4 years, and also saving up an emergency fund. They also had a baby during that time."

I hope this post inspires you that anything is possible and we can all "Live like no one else, so that later we can live like no one else!" And I should also say that "There's ultimately only one way to financial peace, and that's to walk daily with the Prince of Peace, Christ Jesus"

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

SNOW, SNOW, SNOW!!!

Yesterday I drove to teach my Monday class not thinking anything about the weather, except maybe that it was going to rain. In the middle of class one of my students says, "It's snowing!" Sure enough it was coming down in huge clumps. By the time class was out my car was covered with an inch of snow and I had to scrape off the windows with my laminated Knoxville map. I skidded across the parking lot to pick up Ethan from the other side of the church.

After getting out of the parking lot the driving was a little easier but I was still afraid of coming home and trying to get up the drive. It was probably the most scared I've ever been behind the wheel of a car. So while I was driving 5 mph down Middle Brook Pike I called my neighbor to see if our road was passable. Kristin had just left to go and get her son Alex and she had slipped all the way down her driveway. Since we were both out we decided to park across the street in this little sub station that has a gravel driveway. Then we had to walk across the street and up the hill to our house. It didn't help that I had worn sandals that morning! My toes were so frozen!!

It continued to snow until about 2pm yesterday and schools were dismissed at noon. Here are more pictures of us "having fun" in the snow!
I couldn't find his hat that I just knitted him, so I think he didn't like the snow getting on the top of his head! He also didn't like walking on the unsteady snow pack.

We got at least 2 inches at our house which is suppose to be more than Knoxville has had in three years.

So much snow got on the canvas of this patio cover it began to sag below the metal supports. Later when Philip got home I was knocking the snow off from underneath the cover and I heard Ethan say, "Crash!" I didn't think anything of it until after I finished the fourth side and I looked down to see this:
He didn't start crying until I asked him if he was cold. "Cold!" he replied with tears in his eyes....poor Snooks. I guess the falling snow had splashed up on his legs. I know he was standing underneath the cover while I was knocking off the snow.

Philip had fun making this:

The snow is still around now and we had a full day out of school today! We might even get more snow this afternoon and tonight.

In other news at Ethan's last doctor's visit he had only gained 3 ounces in three months. We are now suppose to try to beef him up. I am feeding him extra calories and fat when I can including hot dogs and macaroni and cheese. Tonight when we had french toast we introduced him to syrup.

He loved it!

He is also is learning his colors! He might not be good at naming a color. When you ask him what color something is he is most likely to reply, "Blu". But, if you ask him, he can bring you a red, blue, green, white, yellow or black car with 100% proficiency. We are working on saying all of our colors and not just defaulting to saying blue for everything.

I think that's it for now. I'll have a special post on Friday when Philip and I are going to call the Dave Ramsey show to scream, "We're DEBT FREEEEEEEEEEEEE!"

Post-dated Posts

So, I'm using our snow day today to update the blog. The problem is I've cheated a bit and post-dated some blog entries. To make sure you don't miss any here is a list of the ones that are post-dated.