6 Things I Learned In May

Instead of sharing what I’ve been into this month, I’m linking up with Emily to share a few things that I’ve learned during this lovely month of May. (I may have a bias since May is my birthday month…)

1. I’m addicted to blogging porn. Like any multi-step program, naming the addiction/problem is the first part of the recovery process. Social media use is all tied up in my addiction, too, so I’ve been slowly weeding my garden space on the internet and replanting with intention and care. Right now, this looks like reading blogs only via Feedly and deleting Facebook from my phone.

2. I re-learned (more of a confirmation of what I already knew) how to make the perfect hard-boiled egg that peels correctly and has bright yellow yolks.

 

the perfect hard-boiled eggGet the perfect hard-boiled egg every time:

  • Put eggs in pot (don’t overcrowd) and fill with cold water, covering the eggs by one-inch.
  • Place pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Not a rolling boil, but a tiny bubble boil.
  • Promptly remove from heat and cover the pot with a tight fitting lid.
  • Keep covered for 12 minutes.
  • After 12 minutes, drain eggs and run under cold water until you can handle them without burning your fingers.
  • Drain cold water and shake the eggs vigorously in the pot to crack the shells.
  • Peel and store eggs in refrigerator.
  • My favorite peeling method: Pinch cracked shell with thumb and forefinger at the top of the wider part of the egg. There’s usually an air pocket there which allows you to get under the membrane that holds the shell together. Pull shell away and gently wedge your thumb under the remaining shell/membrane. Slide your thumb along the egg to take off the remaining shell. Run under water to remove residual shell pieces.

3. Parenthood is a constantly evolving, ever changing role that makes me more overwhelmed and more proud/joyful/energized than anything else. James scooted and slept in his own room for the first time this past week!

 

How to save money on dish soap4. I’ve always been a little disturbed by how much dish soap it takes to wash my dirty dishes. I use a pump soap dispenser and find myself constantly reapplying to my sponge since most of the new soap gets liberally smeared on the next dish. What I needed was instant lather. Getting instant lather takes a minor investment and will save you a good chunk of money per year.

How to save money on dish soap:

  • Buy a foaming anti-bacterial hand soap from Bath and Body Works. (Do they sell cheaper ones elsewhere?) Enjoy the lovely scent until it runs out.
  • Fill the empty container 1/3 full of your desired dish soap. Fill the rest of the container with water, leaving about 1/2″ airspace.
  • Screw the lid back on and shake, shake, shake until the soap and the water are mixed.
  • Voila. You now have a foaming dish soap that gives you instant lather without wasting endless soap!

5. I LOVE smoothies. Why have I resisted all my life? On a normal day, I will whir up a banana, 1 cup whole strawberries, and 1 cup unsweetened almond milk. I pinned this smoothie a couple days ago and made an adapted version yesterday. Just. So. Good.

6. Especially when life gets overwhelming, it’s important to celebrate small victories.

photo credit: quinn.anya (egg) & Bill Selak (dish soap) via photopin cc

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How To Have A Money Date

A Money DateA couple weeks ago, Tim and I payed off all our credit card debt. It was a joyous occasion with much merriment and some living room dancing {um, more from me than Tim}. The next week, we had all of these overly adultish things happen at once. Being debt free was short-lived due to root canals and tax surprises. Those unexpected expenses were the best thing that could have happened to our finances, despite the damper they put on our recent freedom.

That sounds utterly absurd, but those expenses forced us to finally sit down and have a serious chat about our budget – a Money Date as I like to call it. {I’m capitalizing here because I really think it should be a recognized proper noun :) }

Money Dates are the best thing you can do for your finances because talking about money  is the first step to financial health. You have to communicate to make money work for your family and your budget. Plus, the date aspect makes financial planning fun – well, at least more fun that it would be without the date part.

Our Money Date

Tim and I wanted to be more intentional about how we spend our money, so our Money Date revolved around building a detailed budget. We are excited to take on April expenses with this new structure in place, though our budget system is by no means revolutionary. We haven’t taken Financial Peace, but we believe in Dave Ramsey’s money principles. So, we created a budget that snowballs debt (which for us includes Tim’s student loans), creates an emergency fund, and leaves a zero balance at the end of each month.

We happened to be staying in a beautiful cabin in Montana last weekend, which was the perfect setting for our Money Date. A large fire roared as we snuggled into the couch with blankets, tea, dessert, and a spreadsheet. A calculator came in handy, too! The atmosphere made a somewhat stressful topic seem less daunting.

 

How To Have A Money Date

Here are our recommendations on having a successful Money Date:

  • Who: Just you two. This is a great time to build intimacy as you work together to examine spending habits, fight financial woes, and create a budget. The less distractions the better.
  • What: Both Tim and I think Money Dates work best when they are part of a shared experience. You want to already be relaxed and having fun. This could be a day trip, a hike, a few hours in a coffee shop… Whatever you do, make the experience feel special and work in time to discuss your finances. The fun will make finances less burdensome. 
  • Where: If you can avoid distractions in your home, being alone is really nice. However, a cozy coffee shop or secluded restaurant booth would work nicely as well. Just be sure you can camp out for a while. Tim mentioned it’s nice to be in neutral territory where you wouldn’t incorporate past discussions or stressful associations into an already sensitive topic.
  • When: Be wise and know thyself. Pick a time when both of you will be alert and happy. Don’t force your night-owl husband to go on a sunrise hike then expect him to settle in to a cheery discussion about finances over a latte. That won’t end well.
  • Why: Communication, communication, communication! It’s so important to get everything out in the open – bank statements, credit card debt, receipts, pay stubs, etc. If you don’t have a budget, make one. If you do have a budget, evaluate how it’s working. Money Dates are for you to communicate and get on the same page about your finances. It’s not you against your spouse because of finances; it should be you and your spouse against your finances. 

Tim and I built our budget using Mint – it’s free and you can access it on any electronic device. After importing your bank accounts, Mint will categorize all your transactions and keep track of your spending in an easy to read chart. If we weren’t using Mint, we would probably be doing the envelope maneuver {putting cash for each budget category in envelopes and purchasing everything from those envelopes}.

We plan to have weekly or bi-monthly {haven’t decided yet} mini Money Dates to go over our budget and see how our spending is adding up.

After lots of calculating costs and allocating funds, we were pleased to have a solid budget as a result of our date. Though we have always been of similar mind about money, both of us kept saying we wished we had had this detailed of a discussion at the beginning of our marriage. It’s surprisingly liberating to live on a budget.

Have you ever been on a Money Date? What are your strategies to keep money from creating marital conflict?

photo credit: donbuciak via photopin cc
photo credit: 401(K) 2013 via photopin cc