Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Moving Beyond the Buying Impulse

I went to a lovely parent education workshop about creating a book-rich environment for children at home, and my first impulse was to go to Amazon.com and start buying some higher quality books for Henry (in addition to these crayons and this paper to help as indirect preparation for writing later on). 

And then I had to remind myself: "You're on a really strict budget and don't have any extra money to spend." It's so easy to click a few buttons and have new, shiny things arrive at your doorstep in two days. 

So I slowed myself down a bit. I did go ahead and put some new crayons and paper in my cart, but then I let them sit there while I e-mailed Henry's teacher to make sure that she thinks coloring is a good activity for him right now (with those particular kind of crayons). I also decided not to buy any books but instead get them through the library. 

Our local library has terrible board books for young children. Most of them are overtly commercialized, trying to sell some kind of toy, etc. Instead, I scrolled through the online catalog and tried to place holds on board books that seemed good. I also put a hold on a nursery rhyme book that I was so tempted to buy on Amazon. It's much wiser to see if I like it first.

So far, I haven't spent a penny on new things for Henry (and I already have six books on the way). I might end up buying the crayons and paper, but it feels good to think about it first.

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Financial Planning: What Are Our Goals?

 In response to last week's post about our self-imposed struggles to live within a strict budget, I received recommendations to check out a few financial blogs. My absolute favorite one so far is called Mr. Money Moustache. It's about a guy and his wife who "retired" in their early thirties so that they could spend more time with their son, doing things they enjoy. I've started reading it from the very first post forward. He talks a lot about the environmental impact of consumption and frugality as a means to more financial freedom and a lessened impact on the earth.

Reading his blog has started me thinking about what our financial goals are as a family. It's highly unlikely that we'll be able to achieve our goals unless we clarify them at the outset. And while we'll likely revise our goals along the way as our priorities and interests shift, it's still helpful to start with the end in mind and make sure we're moving in a strategic direction. 

I suppose we do have a clear sense of what our short-term goals are:
  • Pay for Henry to attend a private Montessori school for the first two years of his life
  • Pay for the homebirth of a second child (fingers crossed!)
  • Build our dream house in the next ten months
  • Continue to eat primarily organic food
  • Take a couple months of maternity leave with the second child and then figure out some kind of flexible, part-time childcare solution so I can work while being near the baby
Eek! Listing out those goals in a centralized place makes them feel more daunting! 

However, I'm convinced we'll be able to achieve our goals if: 1) We continue to cut our spending, so that we live on Matt's income alone (so we can bank my part-time salary entirely. 2) I generate a little additional income via my online course and revenue from the sale of my book.

But what are our goals beyond the next year? What kind of life do we want to lead? I know I definitely don't want to retire early. I feel like I'm just getting started on the career trajectory of my dreams (starting a network of high-performing, authentic, dual-language public Montessori charter schools in diverse communities nationwide).

I started by asking Matt if he wanted to be able to work part-time. I thought it would be awesome to have one parent who was able to be home a little more with school-aged children who get out around 3pm. He explained that he wants to continue to advance in his career and doesn't think he would be able to do it as a part-time employee. 

What that means for our family is that we'll probably have to stagger our work schedules. I'll probably have to work from 6am-3pm, and Matt will be the one to get the kids ready in the morning and take them to school. Then when I'm done working in the early afternoon, I can bring the kids home with me and we can do homework and start getting dinner ready. It sucks getting up so early, but it's worth it to be home with the children in the afternoon. 

And what about exercise? Maybe I could put a treadmill in my office and exercise during my lunch break...

So it looks like we'll be a two-income family for a while (barring any injuries, layoffs, etc.). That makes our financial goals even more achievable. What are some of our long-term financial goals? Let me take a stab at drafting some out:
  1. Retirement: We want to have enough money saved for a comfortable retirement. It's still unclear to me what that looks like. I have no idea how much we would need to live on every year (once our mortgage was paid off). Has anyone read good guidance around how much to save a year? Is maxing our our 401k's and our Roth IRA every year enough? Too much? (We haven't even been saving much for retirement at all since Henry was born and we dropped down to one income, but it will definitely be a priority after next year.)
  2. Home: We want to live in an eco-friendly, comfortable, and fun home. What does that look like? Well, I want to install solar panels--on second thought, I better save this brainstorm for another post. I could go on and on. I will say that this category is very important to me. I'm a homebody and want to host lots of parties and family get-togethers over the years. I want our home to be a sanctuary.
  3. Home Repairs & Maintenance: We want to be able to take care of the upkeep of our home as required.
  4. Cars: We'll need to save a little each month so we can try to buy our future cars with cash (to avoid paying unnecessary interest). We should save this money in a mutual fund (or some other kind of investment that makes us money while we're not using it). 
  5. Personal Allowances: We'll continue our system of having limited, personal allowances so we always feel like we have autonomy over some of our money. We'll also start allowances for the kids, too, so that we keep tabs on how much we spend on them.
  6. College: Although we're all about teaching autonomy (we will encourage our children to start working as soon as they are able), and they will be expected to pay for things themselves (like their first car and some college-related expenses), I really don't think any young adult should have to start off their life in debt. I believe everyone deserves a college education. So college savings it is! That is going to be huge. I know we need to start earlier rather than later for the benefit of compounding interest, but we need to get going on this. I need to figure out more clearly how much we should aim to save. 
  7. Travel: This one is going to be huge for us. We live away from family, so we need to spend money for flights. We also like to travel. We'll one to do 1-2 big vacations a year + trips to see family + weekend trips to explore new cities (in which Matt can run races). 
  8. Paying off Our Mortgage: I've heard mixed ideas about this one. On the one hand, I've heard that paying off your mortgage earlier means that you can save a ton of extra money that you aren't paying in interest. But I've also heard that mortgage debt is good debt if you have a low interest rate because of the tax breaks.
  9. Investing in Real Estate: This one is a long-shot right now (Matt's not interested in it), but I would like to purchase an inexpensive home in our neighborhood, oversee a renovation project, and then sell it or rent it out (and then use the profits to do the same thing over again--assuming the first one went well). I'd have to do a lot more research before committing to this kind of thing, but I read about it in a personal financial management book, and the idea intrigued me. 
Clarifying those categories definitely helps. It will be much easier to set up automatic savings plan now that I know what we need to be saving for! 

Piggy bank available on Amazon

REMINDER: The next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy starts September 16. Register today! We'd love to have you join us!

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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Crafting Our Own Life Stories

Matt came home from mowing our 1/2-acre of land (the one we're going to build a house on if we can save up enough money) with a cowboy hat full of old golf balls. He wants us to save all the golf balls we find on our land throughout the building process and display them in a vintage golf basket. 

I'm a sucker for history and the idea of story. What a powerful realization that we get to craft the stories of our own lives. 

Matt and I are sacrificing some quality of life right now (read today's post over at Feeding the Soil), but we're doing it so we can craft an even better story for ourselves. We're trying to build the home in which we want to raise our children--with garden beds, an orchard, a pool, chickens, a firepit, rain barrels, and herbs--in a neighborhood where I'm trying to create a school in a town that beckons us to play outside almost year-round.

Now that's a story I can't wait to tell.

Purchased from Etsy

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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The UPrinting Brochures Arrived!

Last week I mentioned that I used UPrinting brochure printing to order a set of informational brochures to recruit families and community support for the school I'm working to create, thanks to a generous donation from UPrinting. The brochures arrived in the middle of the week, and they are gorgeous! I was very happy with the entire process from ordering to delivery. I've already started handing these beauties out. I definitely hope to be able to work with UPrinting in the future. They offer all kinds of printing services, such as table tents, vinyl banners, wall graphics, stickers, magnets, door hangers, event tickets, etc.

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