Andrea & Aaron's Blog

01/02/2013

You Get What You Need

As Sunday night approaches us, we find ourselves on the eve of the last day of Project Money 2012. We began our journey back in June with the Rolling Stones' lyrics and we find ourselves closing this chapter in our lives with the tune still in our thoughts and the words ever present.

The last six months have been eye-opening, habit changing and inspiring. Reflecting, we remember certain milestones such as first meeting our Summit Credit Union Project Money friends Amy and Tania and then our Coach, Aimee; our first meeting with Aimee where she unveiled all of our financial habits – the good, the bad and the ugly; setting goals that included short- and long-term dedication; strategizing how to make our money work for us through retirement planning; and fun times blogging, posting on facebook, having the local news come to the house and interview us – and of course, smiling every time we drove passed our billboards.

Each of those memories encompass emotion, ranging the spectrum from overwhelmed and nervous to astonished and delighted. In turn, we have conquered hard conversations; we have established realistic financial plans to eliminate debt; we have found peace and ease with daily budgets that overall help us obtain comfortable savings.

We have certainly learned the difference between want and need. Still, we have learned to budget for the time when we can award ourselves with the want. The year 2012 could not have ended stronger and we eagerly await the good fortune of 2013, both literally and figuratively.

A million thank yous to Summit Credit Union for teaching and guiding us. To our friends and family, thank you for the additional support and encouragement. Hats off to the three families that also participated in Project Money 2012; we cannot wait to see you in February 2013 to celebrate all we have become!

As for the Summit Credit Union Project Money followers, we hope that you have learned right along with us – from planning a budget, setting goals, structuring accounts and thinking in terms from short to long. In the end, being financial savvy and achieving financial satisfaction resides in understanding that you can't always get what you want, but finding peace in getting what you need.  

12/29/2012

Ho, Ho... Holy Cow!

It is officially the holidays and we certainly want to begin by wishing everyone the merriest of times. This week was rather productive. We discussed our short-term goals for the remaining time of the competition - we are officially in the last week of Project Money 2012; unbelievable!

Proudly, by the end of this week, we should be right on track for accomplishing our individual contributions to our savings. Thursday proved to be a money saver with the blizzard holding us captive in our homes helping us not spend. On Saturday, the crew from NBC 15 came to the house to conduct an interview. As always, it was fun discussing our journey and reminiscing about where we started and where we are currently.

Without a doubt, the last six months have been educational, challenging and habit-changing. Reflecting on our ability to set a budget and establish goals definitely ensures our satisfaction with our efforts.

Believe it or not, today, Sunday, we ventured out and completed some last minute shopping. Granted the checkout lines were terrible, but the wait was well worth it as we found some crazy last-minute holiday deals that actually helped us stay within our gift-giving budgets. Additionally, since we have some vacation days this week, we went to a local home improvement store and grabbed some items for a low-budget, last-minute house project – new sinks in the bathroom – and why not, they are on sale for $19.00 each! However, leaving the store and seeing the sign in front of us really made our jaws drop: $2.00 Christmas trees! Frankly, we could have a Christmas tree in our house all year long... the smell... the lights... we love them.

Still, we do not love the price; in previous years we have easily spent $50.00 on live Christmas trees. In honor of Project Money this year we figured buying a tree was an expense we could pass up...but a $2.00 tree was like a Christmas miracle so sure enough, we bought one! Yes, it is last minute, but at least our holiday season feels complete – and within budget!

Again, happy holidays from Team Family Planning!

12/17/2012

Reviewing and Planning

On Tuesday of this week, we met with our Summit Credit Union Financial Coach, Aimee. The purpose of this meeting was to plan for the next final few weeks as contestants in Project Money 2012. As always, we reviewed our accounts from the previous time we met. It never seizes to amaze us how important this is; Reviewing spending habits on a weekly basis is a great technique for staying on track with your goals; however, it can sometimes be misleading because it is easy to deviate from larger-picture goals.

For example, within the month of November we had several celebrations that we attended. Granted, we tried rationalizing those weeks by “it was just one night;” however throughout the course of the month, our “it was just one night” totaled a dollar amount that raised our eyebrows. Therefore, when looking at spending habits over the entire month, and acknowledging that we were somewhat “spendy” the month of November, our focus for December became clear. In particular, we each set a short-term goal to try to achieve by the end of the month. To ensure we were being realistic, we reviewed upcoming bills. During this conversation, we recalled that this month has a rather hefty bill due – our property tax.

We purposely pay this bill before the end of the year so that we can claim the total amount on our yearly taxes. Luckily, the majority of this bill is paid through escrow as we pay our monthly mortgage amount; still, we usually owe a few more dollars and thus factored in the leftover amount when discussing our debits. In all, with the debts totaled and subtracted from our monthly income, we found our balance and decided on appropriately amounts to place into savings. As we approach our final weeks in Project Money, we are so happy to see how far we have come, but we are humbled to know finances are a constant work in progress.

We continue to learn and remember the importance of reviewing and planning on both small and large scales.   

 

12/10/2012

Don't be Scrooged!

Perhaps it is the weather, but with the snow today and the days on the calendar approaching double digits, we have realized that the holiday season is literally right around the corner. As we continue to increase our savings and decrease our debt, we would be lying if we did not admit that we are feeling the gift-giving stress.

Additionally, it is the last month of the contest and of course we are trying to give it our all in this final phase. Gratefully, what is really helping to curb the anxiety is a strategy we implemented several months ago, when we first began Project Money. Back in June, our Summit Credit Union Financial Coach Aimee established for each of us automatic banking. In other words, every time a payroll check was deposited, Aimee implemented automatic withdrawals to cover reoccurring loan payments and placed those in specific accounts. Thus, when the bill was due, all we had to do was logon online and transfer the funds.

Analyzing our schedule of payroll deposits and when bill payments were due, we determined that we would actually have one additional mortgage payment in the house account. Here we discussed that while we could apply this extra payment to the mortgage, we could also use this for holiday spending, a vacation, or really anything of our liking. Furthermore, one of Andrea's short-term goals was to obtain a specific savings account for the holidays. Though there were months where the desired deposit per month was not achieved, money still was placed into this account after every payroll deposit and proudly, Andrea does have a holiday savings account established.

Again, as we approach this holiday season, we are grateful for these strategies/goal-setting. Truthfully, the holidays may never come without some amount of stress, but if it were not for our short-term planning, the next two weeks would surely make scrooges out of us! In the future, we definitely have determined that setting aside money in accounts specifically dedicated to events (such as holiday spending, date night or birthdays) is not only important, but also necessary to enjoy these occasions and not feel stressed.    

12/03/2012

Project Money Workshop

This past Tuesday, Summit Credit Union hosted a “Project Money Workshop” for the public at Bonfyre Grille in Madison. The event kicked-off with some flavorful appetizers and drinks creating a friendly environment for the teams of Project Money, their coaches and the public to mingle. After eating, we sat down and discussed for about an hour the Project Money journey thus far, including why we enrolled in the contest, what our are short- and long-term goals, a status check on our progress, and advice from each team's coach. Overall the event was a great success: It was comforting to know how similar we all are as we shared our previous monetary troubles and current tactics to conquer debt while saving. In fact, we thought the night was so important, we wanted to blog this week and share some excellent take-aways for those who could not make the workshop:

1.In the beginning, it is extremely important to set short- and long-term goals. Writing down your goals can serve as a visual reminder; It will also help you re-evaluate your goals as the "unexpected" is bound to happen.

2.Acknowledge the roadblocks. Knowing the obstacles that are interfering with you achieving your goals is important. Once you know why you cannot currently achieve a goal, you are forced to critically and creatively think of a strategic plan to overcome those barriers.

3.A common roadblock can be credit card debt. Always review your credit report and seek help with a loan adviser to discover if refinancing to a lower rate is an option for you.

4.With goals established and a path planned to achieve those dreams, establish a realistic, but responsible timeframe.

5.To help you develop a realistic timeframe, track and analyze your income and spending. Knowing where your money goes is half the battle; As you identify areas where you can cut spending, funds are released and therefore can be allotted to your goals (debt reduction or savings increase). *Summit Credit Union has two excellent resources for this: The Daily Expense Worksheet and/or The Budget Worksheet!

6.Make your money work for you. There are many options for implementing a system to help you achieve your goals. For example, setting up an automatic transfer to move a specific amount of money from a deposited check into your savings is painless, mindless and yet very productive. Planning for retirement works this way as well: Money is automatically withdrawn and placed into an account that flourishes as time passes.

Money does not have to be stressful; it does not have to be embarrassing or tedious. If you have questions, would like advice, or just want to ensure you are on the right track, simply call, email or stop by a Summit Credit Union branch. Of course, you could wait until tomorrow, but then you are one more day farther from making your dreams reality... So why not start today?

Project Money Workshop

This past Tuesday, Summit Credit Union hosted a “Project Money Workshop” for the public at Bonfyre Grille in Madison. The event kicked-off with some flavorful appetizers and drinks creating a friendly environment for the teams of Project Money, their coaches and the public to mingle. After eating, we sat down and discussed for about an hour the Project Money journey thus far, including why we enrolled in the contest, what our are short- and long-term goals, a status check on our progress, and advice from each team's coach. Overall the event was a great success: It was comforting to know how similar we all are as we shared our previous monetary troubles and current tactics to conquer debt while saving. In fact, we thought the night was so important, we wanted to blog this week and share some excellent take-aways for those who could not make the workshop:

1.In the beginning, it is extremely important to set short- and long-term goals. Writing down your goals can serve as a visual reminder; It will also help you re-evaluate your goals as the "unexpected" is bound to happen.

2.Acknowledge the roadblocks. Knowing the obstacles that are interfering with you achieving your goals is important. Once you know why you cannot currently achieve a goal, you are forced to critically and creatively think of a strategic plan to overcome those barriers.

3.A common roadblock can be credit card debt. Always review your credit report and seek help with a loan adviser to discover if refinancing to a lower rate is an option for you.

4.With goals established and a path planned to achieve those dreams, establish a realistic, but responsible timeframe.

5.To help you develop a realistic timeframe, track and analyze your income and spending. Knowing where your money goes is half the battle; As you identify areas where you can cut spending, funds are released and therefore can be allotted to your goals (debt reduction or savings increase). *Summit Credit Union has two excellent resources for this: The Daily Expense Worksheet and/or The Budget Worksheet!

6.Make your money work for you. There are many options for implementing a system to help you achieve your goals. For example, setting up an automatic transfer to move a specific amount of money from a deposited check into your savings is painless, mindless and yet very productive. Planning for retirement works this way as well: Money is automatically withdrawn and placed into an account that flourishes as time passes.

Money does not have to be stressful; it does not have to be embarrassing or tedious. If you have questions, would like advice, or just want to ensure you are on the right track, simply call, email or stop by a Summit Credit Union branch. Of course, you could wait until tomorrow, but then you are one more day farther from making your dreams reality... So why not start today?

11/26/2012

Technology: Friend or Foe?

This past Tuesday we met with our Summit Credit Union Financial Coach Aimee.  Upon arriving a little early, I found a chair in the lobby and began reading materials hung around the credit union.  In doing so, I came across an announcement that Summit Credit Union now has an app for smart phones.  Interested, I grabbed my purse by my feet, opened it, dug out my smart phone, and began searching for Summit Credit Union on the app store.  Within literally a second, the app store returned my search and a few clicks later the free app was downloading on my phone’s home screen.  After install, I was able to simply touch once on the app icon and the entire online banking system appeared and ready for use.    

Soon thereafter, I found myself in a conversation with Aimee analyzing one of my accounts.  The balance was lower than I had expected and I could not help but feel frustrated and confused. I instantly wanted to assume “something was wrong,” but in reviewing the itemized deductions, I discovered that a check from almost three months ago had finally cleared. It was during this revelation that I knew I had to be realistic with what works and what does not work for me when it comes to balancing my accounts.  Granted I check the online accounts frequently, but the “visual reminder” of writing a check is only apparent after the check has cleared and the item is listed online.  In other words, if the check is not cashed immediately and time passes, it is easy for me to forget; thus, the balance that I see online is not necessarily the most correct or current.

Ironically, I began the meeting excited about the new app I had downloaded and yet I left Aimee’s office acknowledging that keeping better tabs on deductions from my accounts is extremely important. Driving home I questioned, is technology a friend or foe? In the end, I think the answer is simple: “both.”  With the Summit Credit Union app, I am literally a few convenient clicks away from checking my accounts regardless of where I am.  Still, it is necessary for me to realize what deductions are not showing.  Whether keeping a paper register helps with this or maybe just a better mental tally is sufficient enough is up to the individual; for my needs, I will be doing both!

 

11/20/2012

Giving Thanks

As we approach the week of Thanksgiving, it comes as no surprise that one simple word that means so much is on our minds: Thankful. In reflecting upon all that there is to be thankful for – our families, friends, careers, health, home, happiness and each other - we of course also mention Summit Credit Union's Project Money.

At times we must pause to acknowledge that on this journey of monetary education and fun competition there are others right next door, down the road or somewhere in cities or other countries that need more than we could ever imagine. As we aim to save dollars and payoff debt by maintaining allowances and budgets, we are grateful for even having monetary “problems,” let alone “successes.”

Without doubt, saving money can be stressful. It does not happen quickly and certain expenses (like unforeseen home maintenance or common illnesses like a cold or the flu) creep in and slow down progress. Paying off debt can also be slow and clearly trying to eliminate these figures does not help add money into a savings account. Thus, you do have to tackle both and be patient with both.

Having long-term goals help remind you where you need to go, while setting short-term goals helps keep motivation levels high. Overall, as the short-term goals are conquered, you become closer to achieving your long-term desires. In looking at where we started – spending money with neither short-term nor long-term goals, living independently versus a team with a plan – and in looking at where we are at currently and where we still plan to go, the journey is rewarding and really has been life-changing.

As we give thanks this week, we are appreciative of every step of this process, the coaching we have received from Aimee Adams at Summit Credit Union, the captured memories from Carleen Wild and NBC 15, and the ever-lasting encouragement from all of our family and friends.   

11/12/2012

Our Mouths Dropped and Our Eyes Widened...

Recently, total savings and debt reduction for each team within the 2012 Project Money contest was posted on the Summit Credit Union website and soon we will see current totals on billboards across the area.

This is such an exciting time for us all! In viewing our Team Family Planning current totals, our mouths dropped and our eyes widened: Since May, we have saved over $9,000.00 and reduced debt by over $6,000.00. Granted, each time we meet with our Summit Financial Coach Aimee, we review our monthly progress, seeing the totals over the past five months was surely a pat on the back for our efforts thus far.

In reflecting on these totals, we believe several steps helped us achieve these numbers.

  • First, Project Money really made us come together on our finances. Before we were handling our finances separately; bills were paid individually and we set goals for ourselves and not as a family.
  • As participants in Project Money, we have found that while maintaining individual goals is important, setting and working together to achieve family/household goals is essential.
  • With that said, our next step, working on a joint savings account, became paramount.
  • Still, just as equally important, was analysis on how we are spending money.
  • Before, we received a paycheck and simply spent it on everything and anything.
  • Now, we have a determined amount of grocery money, gas money and fun money every week.
  • Finally, we have acknowledged the importance of looking ahead. If, in looking ahead, there is a bill, birthday or holiday coming up, we flex the amount of allowance for that week in order to best prepare for another day/week that may cost more.
  • Similarly, if we do not use all of our allowance for that week, we deposit the remainder into savings rather than spending it.

Granted, spending money can feel like an award, saving the remaining money and seeing a savings account grow is just as rewarding, if not more so.

Overall, the past five months have certainly had their ups and downs. Some weeks are better than others and sometimes changing habits – especially financial habits – can be scary and frustrating. Yet, with the larger picture in mind – coming together as a family to plan for a family – we continue to hang in and really encompass this new financial lifestyle for not just the remaining two months of the 2012 Project Money contest, but for many more years to come afterward.

10/29/2012

Reflecting on October

Tonight we sat down to dinner and reflected on our October accomplishments for Project Money. We are exceptionally proud of the new job one of us has. While there are monetary gains with this new employment, perhaps the best benefit is knowing we have more time together.

We also acknowledged that our goals for having an increase in joint and individual savings account continues to be achieved.

This lead to a deeper discussion on our joint checking account. Overall, just having a joint checking account is a big step for us. As we continue to pay for groceries, gas and shared household bills out of the joint account, we are becoming comfortable with cutting back on our own allowances out of our individual accounts because less money is needed from these accounts throughout the week.

In turn, we are contributing equally to the joint account and watching our individual accounts increase a little at a time too. On a similar note, we reminisced about the interview with Carleen Wild and NBC 15; We truly are impressed with the traction our retirement accounts are getting.

In reviewing the paperwork at the new job, we are confident that we will maintain this traction as very similar benefit packages are offered. Finally, we smiled at knowing that while we are still diligent about our finances, we have been able to enjoy some nights out and even a trip out of state to visit one side of the family.

As we approach November, we are aware of two particular homework tasks that are due as soon as possible: With the new job, we will need to sit down and decide on individual or household insurance; likewise, we will have to decide if we are selling our long-distance commuter car since one of us is no longer driving long distance to work. Stay tuned to our blog to learn what we decide!

 

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