Thursday, March 20, 2014

Financial Peace - Our Total Money Makeover (Part 3)

For Part 1, go here. For Part 2, go here.

Today it's time to think about the B-word. Budget!! Just the word seems strict, doesn't it? Having a written budget is so necessary though to plan where your money is going to go. Dave says to get your budget "on paper, before the month begins." A zero-based budget is where income minus expenses equal zero. YOU are telling your money where it is going to go. Being this detailed every month helps you WIN with money. Some things will probably be the same from month to month. (Mortgage payment.) And some months may be different. (Birthday presents to buy, quarterly payments due--like the water bill. Some month you have to get your car inspected.) So yes, a budget every month is necessary - on paper, before the month begins. And as I mentioned before, for me the accountability factor with DH is good too! :)

Go here to see Dave Ramsey's Free Guide to Budgeting.

Here are some points from the PDF:
The point of a zero-based budget is to make income minus the outgo equal zero. If you cover all your expenses during the month and have $500 left over, you aren’t done with the budget yet. You must tell that 500 bucks where to go. If you don’t, you lose the chance to make it work for you in the areas of getting out of debt, saving for an emergency, investing, paying off the house, or growing wealth. Tell every dollar where to go.
Doing so makes a huge difference. According to surveys we’ve conducted in Financial Peace University classes, people who do a zero-based budget (versus those who don’t) pay off 19% more debt and save 18% more money! Just from having a plan! The sooner you make a zero-based budget part of your money-handling strategy, the sooner you’ll start to see your debt go down and your savings go up. 
Five Money Gotchas
And as you probably figured, if you are spending more than you make each month, you have to start cutting stuff. Use coupons, sell items that you don’t need or have payments on, and stop going out to eat. Here are some common areas that eat up your money:
  • Eating out. Start eating leftovers. Staying away from restaurants can literally save you a couple hundred dollars a month.
  • Car payments. You can buy a quality car for $2,000, and it will get you around town just fine. And you won’t miss that $500 payment. 
  • Groceries. Clipping coupons, waiting for sales, and buying generic brands are huge difference makers in your spending plan.
  • Utilities. Shut the lights off when you leave the room. Entertain yourself with a book instead of the TV. Those are just a couple of ways to save, but they are big.
  • Clothing. We don’t need new clothes as often as we think we do, and buying from garage sales and consignment stores can save you enough to make your jaw drop.
Some personal thoughts on the Money Gotchas:
We rarely eat out, so when we do it's a real treat and I think we enjoy it more. Yes, I love to cook, but I also really love saving money. Since we purchase our meat in bulk directly from the farmer, we get yummy steak cuts for $3.75/pound. I've certainly never been able to find a steak in a restaurant that cheap. :-D I rarely cut coupons, unless it's for clothing. I buy most of our food at farmers markets, and if there is a deal, I'll snatch it up. In addition to ordering meat in bulk, I'll pre-order a box of apples to save $5-10, and buy "seconds" on berries in the summer - sometimes the berries are small, but they are very ripe and delicious! And with C as my helpful food-consumer, they never last long anyway!

We got rid of our cable at least 2 years ago, maybe 3? We had the bottom-of-the-barrel option (just under $20/month), but we almost never used it. $240 saved! We watch movies more than TV anyway, so I can't say I miss it all that much.

Here is a sample of our budget - I didn't include all the categories we use, but enough that may be similar to your own and I included a few that may be helpful as a suggestion (like areas for debt).

At the top of the spreadsheet, I list income. I enter them as a positive number. All expenses are entered as a negative number. I have two columns - one for the budgeted amount, and the second for the actual amount. I round up on things like our mortgage, when the payment is usually a few dollars less. For our major bills - mortgage, insurances, retirement account contributions and so on, I have everything paid by the 5th of the month. (Except some of our utilities that follow their own schedule.) Some of you may be paid twice a month and should adjust bill paying accordingly. I love having everything paid automatically; I get emails to tell me the amount that will be due ahead of time. For example - say I get our cell phone bill for May - it will come in April and when I receive notice, I'll just jot a note down in the "Notes" section to remind me of the amount on our May budget form. At the very end of this sample budget you'll notice the dividing line. This is for our expense account. There are some bills that are due annually for us - we've saved some money by paying some of our insurances this way. So, just to be simple - say we have an annual payment of $300. Each month I'll put aside $25 dollars into the expense account so that when that bill is due, I already have the money put aside. I do this for our water bill (due quarterly) and to save money towards vacation and Christmas gifts. We do a secret santa with siblings on both sides of our families, plus parents, each other, C, nieces and nephews and godchildren, so Christmas would be impossible without this planning ahead. Depending on your needs and bills, adjust your budget form accordingly. There are tons of free budget forms out there. Here are a few samples on Dave's site.

Finally, I mentioned before that I use Quicken software to track all our expenses and account balances. I like having the above written form too so I can see our budget not just on a screen, but I use Quicken on a day-to-day basis. Here is a short video if you are interested in learning more about the software.

One of the main reasons I like Quicken is that it's easy to use and I can see all my accounts at the same time - savings, checking, and so on. We do have a number of different accounts - I have a separate business account and we have a separate account for charitable giving as recommended by our financial advisor. We can see our mortgage and home equity line and we also have separate accounts for our WAM. "WAM" stands for "walking around money"- my Grandma always called it that when she would give my sisters and me birthday money. The check she gave us was for our college fund. The cash was our WAM. It stuck. :) Each month we have a little bit go to these accounts for our "wish list wants". Guess which one of us buys more books and which one buys more clothes. Haha. :) 

I tried to take a few screen shots so you'd have an idea without going showing too much detail!

Here is a quick look at how you can track items - you can sort by date or payee and you can categorize or even split the category. Sometimes I might buy household goods at Target or groceries, so after I make the purchase, I'll split the receipt into the categories so I can track each budget item correctly.

Quicken also has a budget form option where you can at a glance see where you are in a given category. Green if you're under budget, red if you are over!! :) At the end of each row, you can list your goal amount too.

Here you can see the date, place of purchase, the category, the amount spent and the notes section at the end. For places like Amazon (this was from my Amazon Mom subscription) I like detailing what was purchased, otherwise I may not be sure it's in the right category!

 Finally, you can create reports - including custom dates (I do monthly reports), and you can sort categories, include certain accounts, and the report will list the sections of money out and money in.

This is particularly helpful at tax time because I can create custom reports of my piano studio and related expenses (those of you who are self-employed would find this helpful!) and also for our adoption expenses when I was filing those taxes and applying for the tax credit. 

Do you use software for tracking your finances? Has it helped you stick to your budget? If you have experience with other software, feel free to share in the comments section! Please let me know if you have questions!

Next week I'll conclude this series with Part 4- What I've Learned. Thanks for following along and for all your great comments and questions! :)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Financial Peace - Where does Adoption fit in the Baby Steps?

After posting Part 2 of this series, I received a great question from two different bloggers - How does adoption figure into the Baby Steps?

I was going to reply in just the comment section, but figured this response really deserved its own post because there may be more of you with the same question.

Dave's answer is always the same when it comes to debt. You must pay down your debt first. Yes, you save $1000 in the Emergency Fund in Step 1, but paying down debt comes in step 2 before any other savings.

I actually remember listening to this podcast where Dave welcomed author Julie Gumm to talk about her book Adopt Without Debt: Creative Ways to Cover the Cost of Adoption. Dave says:
One of the questions that comes up a lot on this show over the years, because it’s almost like people try to find something so they can stump me, and the one that they think they can get me with is the calling to adopt a child. Of course, because it’s so important and because it’s a child, I’m supposed to say it’s okay to go into debt because stupid while being noble works. It doesn’t work. I’ve sat and told people over and over there are lots of ways to adopt. There are lots of different things you can do in the adoption process to not get yourself neck-deep in debt.
Then we ran into one of our listeners named Julie Gumm. Julie is on the line with us here out of Phoenix, Arizona. She’s got a book out called Adopt Without Debt. She speaks all over the nation—around the world, for that matter—on adoption, global orphan care, and financial freedom. She and her husband have adopted children, and they did this shockingly without going $50,000 in debt to do it. I thought it’d be good to get a lady who’s not only actually done it but an expert who speaks on this subject to come on for a few minutes and talk about this.
I have not personally read this book, but here are two of the questions Dave asks Julie:
Dave: So what’s your household income?
Julie: Right now, it’s about $48,000. My husband and I both work in full-time ministry now.
Dave: What was it when you were adopting without debt?
Julie: When we started, it was about $80,000, but about two months into our adoption process, my husband ended up leaving his job, so our income was cut by about 70%. It was more like $34,000 when we started the process. 
For the full transcript of the podcast, go here.

Some thoughts:
1) Adoption can be very expensive - thousands of dollars if you work through an agency. If you are connected personally to a birthmother (though a friend, a crisis pregnancy center), you might pay less, since you are paying an attorney directly. Those with adoption experience outside an agency, please feel free to add comments below!

2) Foster-to-adopt is an option (and is often also less expensive), but I believe this is a special calling as well. Not everyone can handle the emotional upheaval that comes with this kind of adoption. These families are truly heroic.

3) If you are not debt-free, you may go further into debt to adopt, and debt is always very risky. When we were placed with C, we literally were at the hospital the next morning signing checks - the money had to be available quickly. (With our disruption in January, we were signing checks 5 hours after getting the phone call. Going to the bank to take out a loan is probably not something you will have time for.) Some questions to ask yourself - What happens if you/your spouse lose a job after the baby is placed in your family? Will one of you be staying home then to care for the child and thus losing income if you don't have significant family leave and need to take more time off? How will you pay for daycare? How much more quickly can you pay down debt if your goal is to adopt? What can you do to raise funds? Some people are very crafty and sell things to family/friends. Others have a yard sale. As I said, I never read the book Adopt without Debt, but from the podcast transcript, Julie had a bunch of ideas.

One other thing my husband remembers listening to - a man called Dave's show and told Dave they had just been placed but didn't have the funds. He asked if he should take out a loan. Dave asked him how much his car was worth. The man said "$15,000". Dave told him to sell his car.

I also want to mention that the Adoption Tax Credit is between $12-13,000 currently (see below for ways you can help keep this credit!!). Sometimes employers also help with adoption expenses - but that is usually after finalization occurs. So, yes, you will get some of the money back (provided you don't owe the IRS when it's time to file your taxes), but you still have to come up with the initial funds. When we received our tax credit back, it went immediately into an account towards our next adoption. :)

Last week I received an urgent email from our Agency - the above mentioned tax credit is in danger. I would love to have your support on this so that the credit is not eliminated. Thanks!

Elimination of the Adoption Tax Credit - We Need Your Help!
The House Ways & Means Committee is proposing tax reform that would include elimination of the federal Adoption Tax Credit. 

This was sent out by the Join Council:
On Wednesday, February 26, Chairman Camp of the Ways and Means Committee released his much anticipated  tax reform proposal and it eliminates the adoption tax credit. This breaking news makes our advocacy efforts that much more critical. Now that an actual legislative proposal has suggested eliminating the credit altogether, we need to ensure that every single Member of Congress  hears from us about its importance. Members will only be compelled to fight for its protection if they hear real stories from all of you.

Outreach to your legislators is the only way to protect the adoption tax credit.
Legislators only need to hear from 20 constituents about an issue before it becomes important to them. Remember, Members of Congress are people and oftentimes it is a personal story about why a law is needed that motivates them to act.   

When will Congress vote on the Adoption Tax Credit Refundability Act (H.R. 2144/S.1056)?An individual vote on this bill is unlikely to happen. However, the adoption tax credit will remain part of the broader tax reform discussions and is now particularly vulnerable given the proposal to eliminate it.
 Call to Action: Initial Emails to Your Members of Congress asking for them to cosponsor H.R. 2144/S.1056 - Find your three Members of Congress by using this link. Email each of them and explain the importance of adoption and ask for their support in protecting the credit. Speak from the heart and share your story about why the Adoption Tax Credit is important to children, your family, or others in your life. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Financial Peace - Our Total Money Makeover (Part 2)

Thank you all so much for your kind words on my last post, Part 1 of Our Total Money Makeover! If you haven't read it yet, go here. Going through the course, Financial Peace University was such a great experience - I highly recommend it. There are courses offered all over the country if you would like to do it in a group (more accountability and motivation there!) or you can take a home study course. We took the home study course since we got to keep all the materials - DVDs, CDs etc. Here is a link to Dave's site when you can look for a local class if you are interested. If you don't want to invest in a class, you can always begin by reading one of his books - either Dave Ramsey's Complete Guide to Money or The Total Money Makeover. (Side note - Dave and his daughter Rachel have teamed to write a new book to help teach your kids about money: Smart Money Smart Kids - I am really excited for this one to be released!) I also had no problem finding his books at the library so check there first!

In Part 1, I listed the problems that DH and I identified as areas to work on which helped us get to work on the Seven Baby Steps. I'll explain them here and talk about our experience, and you can also find The Seven Baby Steps online here. If you'd like a nice printable for encouragement, I found this one on Pinterest. :)

Baby Step #1 - $1000 Emergency Fund
This is for those life events that you don’t plan or expect. The car breaks down and needs repair. The kitchen sink clogs and you need to get major repairs done. Heater/air conditioning, etc. You name it. Dave always says it’s not if - it’s when. It’s not if it rains. It IS going to rain. You need to be prepared when the emergencies do happen. This step took us about a month, maybe two. And yes, it does come before starting to pay down your debts in Step 2. You don't want to go further into debt because of an emergency.

We had MAJOR (in the thousands) car repairs for DH's car right before Christmas. The month before that we had a major clog in the kitchen sink. I can't even explain the relief at knowing we had the money. We didn't have to put it on a credit card. It was there, ready for those emergencies. (Don't get me wrong though... watching that kind of money fly into the car shop was still painful. :-P)

Baby Step #2 - Pay off all debt using the Debt Snowball
In this baby step you list all your debt, excluding the house. Credit cards, school loans, furniture or car loans, and so on. The smallest balance is where you begin. (Unless two debts are similar, in which case you pay the higher interest rate balance first, the interest rates are not considered.) The key in this step is changing your behavior. The idea is to get rid of debts as fast as you can and you can build momentum quickly by knocking off the first, then the second, and so on.

We had two credit cards - one for my laptop (that tempting 0% finance offer - ugh!), and another for furniture. This took about 2-3 additional months, if I remember correctly. We probably had about 6 months remaining on both, but they were both 0% interest, so whichever balance was smaller, we paid first. Sayonara, credit cards!!

Baby Step #3 - Three to Six months of expenses in Savings
By this step, the only debt you have remaining is a mortgage. Hopefully you have serious momentum now that you’ve knocked off those other debts! So, now the next thing to do is to build your true emergency fund of 3 to 6 months of expenses. If you have a job loss, you won’t be feeding your retirement income, you won’t be contributing to charities, you won’t be going out to fancy restaurants. You’ll be paying for food, your electricity and your mortgage payment - the essentials. Dave says that if you are a 2-income family, you can be okay with 3 months of expenses. With 1 income, plan on 6 months of expenses. (I teach, and work occasionally at our church, but since it’s not much, DH & I saved 6 months of expenses. Plus, I may not always do work outside the home as our family grows.) This is currently the step we are on now. We have a few more months left to go before this is fully funded. We re-evaluated how much we had in this account at the beginning of the year and decided to go back to this step to increase what we already had since we hope to increase our family this year.

Baby Step #4 - Invest 15% of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement
While Dave suggests stopping investing while you are doing the debt snowball, we chose not to. (Mostly because we didn't have that much actual credit card debt to begin with.) I am so thankful for my parents and Grandma for encouraging me to get retirement funds started in my early 20's! 

Here is another great Dave example - Ben and Arthur (pdf) based on how early each of them began saving for retirement. Ah, the power of compound interest.


Baby Step #5 - College funding for Children
Dave has pointed out that often after you complete Baby Step 3, Steps 4, 5 and 6 happen at the same time. We are also working on Step 5. We opened a 529 College Savings plan for C a month or two after he was born. We ask for money for this fund from family for his Christmas and birthday gifts and contribute as well on those days, and occasionally throughout the year as well. (We will be able to contribute more frequently once we have our emergency fund in place again.)

Here is an article- Saving for College is Easier than You Think on Dave's site. This is a pretty powerful statement to consider:
  1. Start an Education Savings Account (ESA) or Education IRA NOW! This allows you to save $2,000 (after tax) per year, per child. Plus, this grows tax free! If you start when your child is born and save $2,000 a year for 18 years, you would only invest $36,000. However, at 12% growth, your child could have $126,000 for college!
Dave also encourages state schools for college education rather than traveling outside of the state. $126,000 should pretty well cover that! Again, the power of compound interest!!

Our thoughts and experience with college saving and student loans:
DH & I both feel very strongly about saving for college now, and encouraging C, and any future children to work and save money as well. (Again, I'm really looking forward to the book, Smart Money, Smart Kids!) 

I was very fortunate to earn my Bachelor's and Masters without any debt. I did go to a private Christian college in state but the tuition was the same as (and still is the same as) the main state universities. I had a very generous relative split his estate between me, my sisters and cousins for our college education. I was completely naive - I had no idea what a student loan was when I started college because this relative (and my parents too) had enough saved for me. The only sister to leave college with any debt (she was in a 6-year doctoral program) has since paid it off (close to $60,000 in just over two years, living at home. (WAY TO GO, R!) I am still so proud of her for this accomplishment! I also went back to school for my Masters degree, lived at home with my parents during that time, and refused to take out loans - I applied for a graduate assistantship and worked like crazy. Incidentally, I also had been accepted to this particular university for their undergraduate program, but chose not to attend because of the cost. 

DH attended a well-known big-ten university out of state. He was in ROTC however, so his undergrad was also covered. His 2 Masters degrees however... are now a main portion of our home equity line of credit. UGH. He continued to work full-time while going to school, but didn't pay anything until after he graduated, something he says he regrets. When they were "due" - we put them into the home equity line. Oops. If we had those fat interest amounts staring us in the face, we probably would have paid them off a heck of a lot faster!

Baby Step #6 - Pay Off Mortgage Early
Dave recommends having a downpayment of 100%. Yes, he does say this! But he does also say that if you have any debt, it can be a mortgage, and if you have a mortgage it should be a 15-year loan, not a 30-year loan. Once we're finished with Step 3, all our “extra” money will go toward this - any money I make from teaching or playing, any work bonuses, they all go toward paying down this debt. We are hoping to have a significant down payment when we eventually move from our townhouse. Since we also have the home equity line (student loans and the kitchen loan mentioned in Part 1), and it exceeds the amount where we would pay it off in Baby Step 2, Step 6 is where it gets paid off. 

Dave has callers on his radio show who have traveled to Tennessee to do their “debt free scream”. I LOVE hearing these callers and their stories - it is so motivating! I seriously cannot wait for that day!!! 

Baby Step #7 - Build Wealth and Give!
It is so important to plan and save for retirement- a great number of people live well into their 80s now and even 90s. DH's grandmother has been moved around in different care facilities because quite literally, she is running low on retirement money. Here's a scary figure... $6000. Per month. For assisted living care. (She's just getting to the point where she will need more care and she's in her mid-90s.) There was an article in a financial magazine that I read about a year ago where it mentioned people who are not only financially supporting their children but their parents as well because their parents don't have enough to last them through their retirement years. It's a lot to consider. Our financial advisor told us once that we'd never regret saving more!

Giving... we tithe per the biblical mandate -  we always look at our money as stewards. "Our" money is really God’s money and we are just managing it for Him. We have had many discussions during our marriage about the organizations we wish to support, and fortunately have always been on the same page. There's nothing like hearing about a need and knowing that God has blessed you so that you can meet it.  It really is better to give than to receive! 

One of the best stories I heard in this step was about a man who went out to eat on Thanksgiving. He pointed out that those working on Thanksgiving in a restaurant really need the money. He left a $500 tip and watched the waitress do a happy dance from the parking lot. Can you even imagine?? 

Since I think that's about enough for now (thank you if you made it this far!!) I'll continue Part 3 next week where I'll talk about budgeting. Ahhh.... the dreaded "B" word! :)

Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments section! What do you think about the Baby Steps?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Financial Peace - Our Total Money Makeover (Part 1)

Financial Peace - Our Total Money Makeover, Part 1

I've been considering writing a post on Dave Ramsey & financial peace for a while now. If I remember correctly from one of my Thankful posts in November, several of you are familiar with his work as well. Since it's Lent, and I go on a spending freeze during Lent, I figured now was as good a time as any to tell our story... 

Early in 2011, right after I began blogging, I tried out the Lenten "40 Bags in 40 Days” challenge. Doing that really fueled a desire to get rid of clutter. I was tired of taking care of things we didn't use or love. I was tired of not having a place for everything because all the places were already taken up! A good deal of this clutter had to do with me as I was mainly the one bringing new things into our home! :( 

In addition to physical clutter, there was the “financial clutter” of debt. In that same year, I read the book Total Money Makeover by Dave for the first time. That reading was my first venture into "learning" about money. I was primarily interested in two things: understanding our insurance and investments and getting a better grasp on our finances. I’d been doing “the budget” since getting married - growing up, my mom always did our family budget, and her mom before her, so I figured it was part of the SAHM’s job! I kept track of and paid our bills, and updated our Quicken software once money was spent. But keeping track of our money wasn’t helping me do a better job as far as spending the money! I wanted to be saving more. We were then and are still blessed with DH's current job (he works very, very hard for us!) but I was feeling overwhelmed and frustrated that our savings weren’t growing.

What exactly were the problems?

Problem #1
This first one is hard to admit. I spent too much. There was a little too much month left, as Dave often says, at the end of the money. I knew exactly where my weaknesses were- clothing, shoes, organization boxes or bins, pretty things for the house, and I found myself buying more than I needed - giving in to "wants". I would buy things and think, "oh, I can return it later" (that rarely happened) or "well, this can come out of next month's budget". It's so easy to do with a credit card. One swipe and there you go! Ouch. It adds up. We were always able to pay our credit cards off on time, but I knew I could be doing so. much. better. We needed to save more. We could save more. I said I was the one doing our “budget” but we didn’t really have a written budget. One that said “no, you can’t get that -insert want not need- because it is NOT in the budget this month!”

Problem #2
We didn’t have a written budget. (See #1!) And we didn’t discuss the our expenses each month so I wasn’t exactly accountable for what I did spend money on. 

Problem #3
When we were first married, we determined to live off DH’s salary alone. Any money that I earned teaching was supposed to go toward savings or debt. It wasn’t. We used it more for fun money instead. Or I used it for the “wants” (see #1).

Problem #4
Counting our chickens before they hatched - our biggest financial mistake. Also in 2011, (after talking about it for a few years), we decided to go ahead with upgrading our kitchen. We compared a few vendors, discussed whether or not to just upgrade countertops or to upgrade the cabinets as well --gosh darn it--the new cabinets were so pretty!-- so we decided to do all of it. The quote we got was higher than we thought to spend, but we knew we had a bonus coming in for DH. So, we signed the paperwork and sent it in. A few weeks later we found out the size of the bonus… to say that it was FAR less than we anticipated is a gross understatement. I almost couldn’t breathe when I found out and as we tried to figure out what on earth to do with our kitchen. We ended up delaying the work a few months and taking a hit on a home equity line of credit (that we originally opened to pay off school loans). I don’t think I’ve ever felt so sick to my stomach. I love our kitchen, but I look at it as a huge wake-up call even now.

Problem #5
No Emergency Savings. We were fully funding our retirements - 401K, and both of us have Roth IRAs and Traditional IRAs, but we didn't have anything saved for emergencies. Anytime a crisis hit we were scrambling. My dad always says “if you have a car, you have a headache. If you have 2 cars, you have 2 headaches!” Both our cars are paid for but they are 12 year-old and they need fixin’ every now and then! I was tired of “headaches!” And not being prepared for any other things that needed work since we also own a home. started with me reading the book and starting to do a little on my own as far as examining our family budget and trying to cut back on my spending. In early 2012, I started listening to podcasts of the Dave Ramsey show - they were great when I was driving to and from PA every morning for those ultrasound series! :) I found them inspirational, and most importantly, motivating. I cut up all the credit cards that I held on to for the perks and said goodbye to those nice birthday coupons - Ann Taylor, etc... And then finally after a while, and continuing to talk about it extensively with DH, I ended up asking him to get me the at-home course for Dave's Financial Peace University for my birthday after baby C arrived. That first lesson (for the record, we have the older version of FPU) got us both hooked.

In July of 2012, we decided to switch to debit-cards only and cut up our remaining credit cards. We paid off the one credit card we used for groceries, fuel and household items and closed the account. How freeing it was. Looking back, that was single-handedly the BEST thing we did. It's pretty clear I can't spend money I don't have when it means my bank account goes down the minute I swipe the card! And if I know I still need to buy food for the month, I better not be giving in to those pretty shoes, no matter how awesome they would look on my feet, haha. :)

We had more discussions about what we wanted and wrote down the steps we needed to get there. And we set up our family budget (we had been tracking everything in Quicken for a few years so it wasn’t hard to see where we spent money). 

To be continued in Part 2!

Monday, March 3, 2014

22 months, a little late :)

Height: 33 1/2 inches, as measured this past weekend by Granddad. :)

Weight: 31 pounds.

Clothes: 2T mostly. He can still fit into a few 24 month shirts, but not many pants that size!

Eats: Everything. He loves apples these days and bananas and asks for them constantly. Dates too, if he catches a glimpse of them in the fridge. If it doesn't eat him first, he'll eat it. Oh, and he asks for milk all the time too. We had to up our cow share!

Health: Feeling great these days! His skin is a bit dry if I don't remember to put lotion on after his baths, but I'm sure that's mostly because of the weather. My skin is crazy dry too. Can't wait for spring!

Sleep: Great unless we are traveling. Still goes to bed between 6:30-7:30 and usually gets up between 7-8. We keep his bedroom at home really dark with blackout shades, which I think helps him sleep better. We also still use a white noise machine still at night which I think soothes him. We took it with us at Thanksgiving and Christmas and now it's a staple on my packing list! He still takes 1 afternoon nap - the closer to 2 hours, the better! If he wakes up before 1 1/2 hours, he usually wants to cuddle for a while in a blanket, which is very sweet. :)

Teeth: Finally his last molar has poked through. I can't say I noticed that he was fussy about it.

What I love about this age: He is still SO affectionate these days - giving lots of kisses and hugs. He will often grab my arm or hand to give me a kiss to apologize if I have to tell him no and he knows he's in trouble. :) He's also been very clingy the last month or two. He definitely doesn't want me out of his sight! I've had a few people watch him other than me and he hasn't been happy at all that I was leaving. Breaks my heart! He also likes to give fist bumps accompanied by the word "boom!" He'll say "Boom, Mommy, Boom!" Or "Boom, Daddy, Boom!" So funny.

Words and Milestones: His language is exploding. I think the milestone for age 2 is supposed to be 50 words, and I'm pretty sure he already has that many, or is very close. He loves asking for cars accompanied with "zoom" sounds. His newest thing is singing songs - the ABC/Twinkle Twinkle/Baa-Baa-black sheep melody - and he really gets all the notes and rhythms! He's been singing that for about a month now. He's also started singing the melody to Brahm's lullaby in the last 2 weeks - also getting those notes, and using some of the words that DH & I have made up to go along with it. DH always sings that song to him at night, so he asks for it by singing it for us if we stop singing it when we put him to bed!

Here he is "playing" the ABC's on the "piano"(it's a pencil and paper holder - DH caught him playing on it for a few minutes a few weeks ago!) - you can hear him singing, haha. :)

And some photos from the last few weeks:
Valentine's Day

Helping Daddy build his Rogue box in the garage.
He LOVED the glue and kept wanting to help!

Wearing his heartbreaker tee again as he went to lunch
at a teahouse with me and some of his aunts/grandmas!
He ate right before we arrived and was only interested in playing with the ice!

Helping Grandma decorate for St. Patrick's day - he found a funny bow tie!
C, you are LOVED so much!!! I am so blessed to be your mom!!!

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