Thursday, February 14, 2019

Financial and Budgeting Tips and Tricks

Hi everybody! Coming at you with my CPA hat on, and offering up all of my tips and tricks on how to manage your budget and to financially plan for your future. Lifestyle inflation is a very real thing (“make more, spend more”), and upgrading needs (most frequently your house and car), spending more on wants, and spending to save time and for added convenience all add up extremely fast. This is how you can make sure you have a strong financial foundation built.
1. You need to have a very solid understanding on money in /money out. Tracking ALL monthly income and expenses in a good old Excel spreadsheet can give you just the visibility you need. This is easiest if you pare it down to one or two credit cards and one bank account and set aside an hour a week to track spend on each. I categorize our expenses into Mortgage, Car Payment, Groceries, Student Loans, Phone, Parking, Daycare, Groceries, House Decorating/Renovating, Kids, Utilities, Clothing/Maintenance, Alcohol, Eating Out, Gas, Gifts, Medical, and Miscellaneous. This gives you a great view into where you may be overspending and the areas you can work on. 

2. Tackle high interest debt, including credit cards. This should be your #1 priority. Do not pass go until this is checked off the list.

3. Build up an emergency savings fund, which should be a minimum of three months of living expenses, though six months would be ideal.

4. Get life insurance policies for both partners. This is so very important. For us, it was important to get a policy large enough to pay off the remaining mortgage on our home and to replace that partner’s income for a certain period of time. 

5. Consider an umbrella policy for your auto insurance. If you or your significant other get into an accident, you’re exposing yourselves to a lawsuit that puts all of your financial assets at risk. We added a $1M umbrella to ours for a few hundred dollars a year.

Now, what to do with additional savings over and above? If you’re able, consider hiring a reputable financial planner to maximize your return. At least 20% of your income should go towards savings. This means 401K or other retirement plans, IRAs, employee offered stock purchase plans, stocks, bonds, mutual index funds, or other investments. Money sitting in a bank account is going to do the least for you over the long term. While we could have possibly taken the time to figure an investment strategy out on our own, we feel that a seasoned professional was best for us to tackle a lot of the added complexity we’re facing with medical school loans. If you’re note quite ready to work with somebody 1:1, a 401K or an IRA are both easy and proven places to invest and come with little complexity or decision making.

Having a financial plan and savings strategy in place is really important, and makes things easy in that whatever money is left over after contributing your set amounts to your investments is yours to spend. That’s why automatic withdrawals from your paycheck or from your bank account at the beginning of each month are both handy. It’s easier if that money is set aside before you really realize its there. 

Hopefully this was helpful in getting you started in achieving your financial goals as you look forward in 2019. Progress, not perfection, is the key here. If you have any questions, shoot them my way!

Friday, February 8, 2019

Five on Friday

Hi everybody! Happy Friday! While the boys are still at school, and I can get my thoughts typed out, I thought I’d share 5 random things that I’m really enjoying lately. This is my catch-all post for everything I want to share with you but I don’t know where to put. So here goes!

1. Where the Crawdads Sing: started reading this one after finishing Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (cute but only OK), and I can't put it down. 

2. These ombre raspberry lemon sugar cookies for Valentine’s Day were so fun to make with the boys and taste SO GOOD. We're boxing up our extras in pastry boxes and delivering to neighbors to spread the love.

3. These Aerie leggings are AH-MA-ZING. They’ve been raved about just about everywhere, and truly are just as good as Lulu Lemon. I loved them so much I got 2 pairs. 

4. The podcast Dr. Death is an amazing binge listen. It’s about a renowned neurosurgeon who claimed he was the best in taking pain away. Soon, his patients started to experience complications…and I’ll leave it at that as not to ruin it 😊. 

5. Last but not least,if you haven't watched The Sinner on Netflix, your weekend plans are made. You're welcome.

Wishing you all a great weekend ahead! It's back to winter weather over here, but looking forward to some fun indoor activities with the kiddies. Stay warm and enjoy!

Friday, February 1, 2019

February Love

It's February! A few fun things on the docket this month, including lots of birthday parties, a retirement party for my Father-in-Law (bring on the babysitters!), and our annual girl's trip to a resort and spa, which we extended to TWO nights this year. Hooray! We have no real Valentine's Day plans, other than a heart shaped pancake breakfast and a few things we'll give them in their Valentine's Day baskets that I've picked up over the last few weeks. I like to get them each a book, pajamas, and some treats, which is just enough to get them excited and make the day feel special. Pajamas are the answer to everything around here, because both boys (and I) live in them anytime we're home.

Though the boys will probably have pancakes, thinking of making this Dutch Baby with Berry Compote recipe for Matt and me, which we saw on Worst Cooks in America. Looks SO GOOD.

In other parenting news, Oskar was originally due to transition to a Junior Kindergarten (Young 5s) classroom this month, but we decided to keep him in his current classroom for the time being and move him over in the fall instead. He'll have almost a full year in Junior Kindergarten before starting Kindergarten at our public elementary school the fall after he turns 6--the fall of 2020. The whether-or-not-to-hold-him back discussion has been going on for almost a year now, and after attending some Kindergarten registration meetings the last week, I think I finally feel comfortable with our decision to wait. There will be a whole separate post to lay out all of my thoughts there. Sometimes I wish there was a handbook for this stuff.

As far as August goes, I just can't believe he'll be 3 next month. He's so hilarious and such a big personality, and chose the same theme as last year's party: Batman. This will be the first party we're having outside of our house, at an indoor play place / toddler gym, because I've just felt so short on time. His gift from us will be a big boy room, which will take some time to pull together, but the first step will be transitioning out of his crib. As you all know, we waited as long as possible to do this because of how terribly it went with big brother. August has always been a little bit of a better sleeper than Oskar was, so here's to hoping the excitement of a big kid bed keeps him in it through the night.

We're all happy that the days are slowly getting a little bit longer, and we've had a few good snow days to sled ride and to build snowmen. This is the first year where both boys have really enthusiastically wanted to go outside to play in it, and I'm so glad we finally turned that corner. I think February is right when the cabin fever hits hardest, so we're always looking for places to go or activities to do. We've recently discovered Cosmic Kids Yoga Adventures on Amazon Prime, a really great 15 minute yoga "adventure" that both Oskar and August can follow along with and do. And they really like it! I will also add here that dada got a Nintendo Switch for his birthday, and Mario Kart tournaments have been getting pretty heated around here. We all head downstairs for 30 mins after dinner to play, August with an old PlayStation controller that isn't plugged in. Classic. 

Now that my busiest work month is behind me (#auditorproblems), I'm looking forward to being back and bringing you more fun content in the months to come. I have new recipes and podcasts I've tried and loved, and a few room renovations in our home on deck, and I can't wait to share them all with you. I'll also be back with some more great Amazon finds and a "Day in the Life" post since it's been a whole YEAR since my last one, here. So many ideas and so much to do! 

Wishing you all a VERY happy Friday and start to February, and a great weekend, ahead! XO.