Showing posts with label finance. Show all posts

Financial Goal Progress 2020

I've been sitting with a lot of thoughts in my head around this topic the last few days. My number one goal for 2020 was, "to stop spending money on stupid stuff", and while we maybe haven't been 100% perfect, it's amazing to see how far we've come, and the huge changes we've made, with almost no change made to our household income. 


When Derek and I first moved to Utah in 2017 we were in a lot of student loan debt. It was actually pretty crippling to our finances. I had $10k in loans that were about $139/mo, and then Derek had about $36k in loans, $8k of which needed to be paid back to his previous employer in Georgia immediately because we didn't stay with the company long enough after graduation for them to pay it for us. When everything was said and done there was a three month period where we were paying $1,800 a month in student loans. It was more than our rent or any other bill that we had at the time. Writing that number out actually makes me question how we survived when we first moved here. 


Derek received a signing bonus a few months after we moved here though that wound up being enough money to pay off his old company in Georgia, and then we were spending a little under $500 a month on our loans. 


In September of 2018, about a year after we moved to Utah we bought a home that we lived in for nine months, before selling it in July of 2019. We felt very convicted that it was the right time to buy that house when we bought it, and equally convicted that it was the right time to sell it when we did. The money that we got from the sale of that home we used to pay off the remaining balance on my student loans, and a little bit of the balance on Derek's. 


After that we just started hoarding away every single extra penny that we had to save for our next house thinking we were going to buy again at some point in 2020. At the beginning of 2020 Derek and I started listening to a lot of financial podcasts, youtube channels, and reading a lot of the Dave Ramsey things about getting out of debt. We really felt like our future selves would thank us if we instead of buying a house, we continued paying off more of Derek's student loans. 


So on January 20th of this year we took every single penny that we had saved away for a future home (almost $10k), and poured it into paying off several of Derek's student loans. He had about five loans that we were making monthly payments on that totaled $339 each month. When we payed off several of the smaller balances it brought his monthly total down to $200. Which seems like such a small cry compared to the $1,800 we were paying three years before. 


If you've been around for a while you might know that Derek and I were waving this white flag of, "We can't reach any of our financial goals in our lives because our salary isn't what we think it should be." At one point this year, Derek had been approached with a job opportunity in Ohio. Before the offer we said, "we'll only move if we make "x" amount of money and get a full relocation package". 


It didn't seem like such a crazy idea to move out of state because we had already sold our house a few months before and didn't have anything major tying us to Utah at the time. The offer came in and it was exactly $2k less than what we had already agreed on accepting, and they weren't going to pay to have us relocated. We also had something like two days to accept the offer. 


We looked at all the numbers and tried to see if there was any way we could make it work... there was no medicaid waiver programs for Kinsley, the closest Shriner's hospital that could treat her was two hours away in Kentucky, and the housing market for the areas where we could live were about the same, or more expensive than living in Utah. Although the higher salary was tempting, Derek and I conceded to stay where we were. 


Several months later there was a real possibility that Derek might be offered a job in Texas and I flipped out. For one thing, Texas is on my small list of states I don't want to live in because of how hot it is, and how that would negatively impact my running, but all of a sudden it really hit me how much I really loved Utah. Derek wound up not being offered the position but it was this real moment that helped us solidify that this was our home and that we were happy to stay here regardless of what our financial situation looked like. 


With all of that in mind, we started asking ourselves questions about what our financial goals were, where we ultimately wanted to live, how we were going to save for retirement, and how we were going to do that with the amount of money we have right now, and not putting things off until we think we have the ideal salary in the future.


This was around April of 2020. We knew the lease to our three story townhouse was going to be ending in July, and the rent was going up $200 that we didn't want to pay for a place that was not at all conducive to having a child who couldn't walk. We tried to find a single level home to rent, but everything that was available was so ridiculously expensive that it would have been cheaper for us to buy than rent. 


So now all of a sudden we were looking to buy a home, we had no money because we purged all our savings into Derek's student loans a few months before (and every extra penny since then), and a lot of unknowns about where we would live, where the kids would go to school, and what that was going to look like for everyone. 


Our options were to stay in North Salt Lake/Bountiful/Centerville, but buy a home that was super inexpensive so that we could also continue paying Kyle's private school tuition because that was also a thing that happened in the year since us selling our home, or move back to a small handful of neighborhoods in Layton where Kyle could go back to the same school he went to for Kindergarten and first grade so that there would be less school trauma on his end instead of having to try and figure out ANOTHER school again. 


As most of you know we moved and bought a house in Layton again over the summer. We were able to do a 60 day close so we could hoard every penny we needed for closing costs, and then got a really awesome loan to help pay for the downpayment. You can read all about that here


Once we moved in we were back to figuring out all of our finances again. The next big goal that Derek and I wanted to tackle was retirement. We previously weren't taking full advantage of his employer matched 401k program, so we upped our contributions so that we were taking advantage of that, and not leaving free money on the table. We then paid off all our credit cards (again), from all the random moving expenses that just happen (movers, washer and dryer, blog projects that need to be paid for up front that I then get reimbursed for 30-60 days after the fact, etc...) 


Once we had all of those moving things settled the next thing we finally did was open a Roth IRA in my name. Derek has his 401k from his employer but we also felt strongly that I needed to have a long term investment in my name too. The benefit to a Roth IRA is that you pay into it after taxes, which works well for Derek and I because our plan was to keep investing any money that was leftover at the end of each month which meant it was money we were getting after payroll.


We also admittedly didn't have any emergency savings stored away in case Derek got laid off or something crazy happened, so we've been taking our excess money each month and splitting it in half. 50% goes into long term savings in our Roth IRA, and the other 50% goes into emergency savings that we keep in a money market account outside of our regular bank account (out of sight out of mind right?)


The crazy thing is to look back and see how far we've come this year, and in the last three years. Three years ago Derek and I would have told you that we never would have been able to do any of the things we've done this year. We never thought we'd be able to start saving for retirement the way we have, bought a home the way we have, that we would have paid off $27,000 in student loans... all with almost no changes to our take home pay. 


For so long we thought that it was our salary that was holding us back from reaching these goals, when in reality it was us that was holding us back from reaching these goals. I think often we tell ourselves, "That seems impossible so I'm just not going to try...", and then we choose to live our lives in a way that doesn't give us a chance to reach those goals.


The biggest thing I've learned in the last year is to be honest about where your money is going, be honest about the things you can live without, make a plan with your spouse (if applicable) on what your long and short term goals are, and then hold each other accountable to reach those goals. Get comfortable with saying no to things if it doesn't fit in your budget, purchase clothes second hand, set a grocery budget and actually live by it, set one day a week to eat out so that it's something you can look forward to instead of eating out every single day, cancel monthly subscriptions you're not using (we all have them), live without cable, get the cheapest internet plan, the cheapest phone plan, get a side hustle (oh hey blogging!)


Honestly, I'm so glad that we never got that higher salary when we thought we needed it. I know it sounds weird to say that out loud, but if we had been handed more money when we wanted it, I don't think it would have ever made us crack down and get serious about our finances the way we have. I think we appreciate where we're at financially right now so much more because it's something that we've worked so hard at this last year especially, but over the last three years in general. 


Our goals moving forward into 2021 are to keep building up our emergency funds, continue contributing to our Roth IRA, and possibly finish paying off Derek's student loans? We admittedly stopped paying them when the pandemic hit because we were buying a house and saving every penny we could, and they told Derek he didn't need to pay them until January 2021. Now there is this talk of loans possibly being forgiven? (Ask me how bitter I am for actually paying mine off... I kid, but also not kidding kind of haha). So we're sort of waiting to see what happens on that front... But in general the main goal is to keep doing what we're doing and to stay committed to our long term goals! 


If you liked this post, Financial Goal Progress 2020, you might also like:

Be sure to follow along on Instagram @thehappyflammily to stay up-to-date on all the latest posts and projects.

An Easy Way To Invest Your Stimulus Check

This post is sponsored by ABLEnow®. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

I've written about ABLEnow® savings accounts several times over the last few years because they're one of those things I wish every parent of a child with a disability knew about and utilized. We've been contributing to one since Kinsley was three and having those funds tucked away for a rainy day is so comforting to me. Should we ever need to make our home, or her home in the future, more accessible for her, we'll have the funds to do so. These funds can also be used for college, medical expenses, and so much more.

investing money in an ablenow savings account

I remember when Kinsley was first born and her future was so unsure. At the time we didn't even know if she would survive that first year. Now being six years past that really scary time, it can be even more scary thinking about what her future will look like when we're not around. One thing that helps me to push past that fear is to take actionable steps that I know will help her in her in the long run. 

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When you have a child with a disability it might sometimes feel like you have to choose between keeping public benefits like Medicaid, or saving for your child's future. Often times the assets you have can count against you with your public benefits, which makes people fearful of saving and investing because of how crucial those benefits can be in their everyday lives.

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The major perk to ABLEnow savings accounts are that they're the only savings tools available that won't count against your eligibility for certain disability benefits. You can save and prepare for your loved ones future without worrying about losing Medicaid and having to spend thousands of dollars on medical expenses. This is a huge relief to us as Kinsley has been on Medicaid for the last year now, and not having to pay for her medical bills has been just a blessing for our family. 

Right now is the perfect time to open an ABLEnow savings account because many of us have received a stimulus check this year. If you have some of that money leftover, consider investing it into a tax advantage ABLEnow savings account so that your stimulus check can be worth more to you later than it is today. These checks can help you to to build an emergency fund, invest for the future, or have money available on your ABLEnow Card when you need it most.

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If you're interested in opening an ABLEnow savings account and want to see if you or your loved one qualify, head on over to their website and use their eligibility quiz. To learn more about ABLEnow accounts and how they work, check out their free webinar sessions so that you or your loved one can achieve more independence, greater financial security, and a better quality of life.

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As our own daughter gets older and we start to prepare for what her future will look like, I have so much peace of mind knowing that we can take action today to help give her a bright and hopeful future as we continue to be diligent in contributing to her ABLEnow account.

This post was written by me on behalf of ABLEnow. 

Three Ways To Invest Money in 2020

This post is sponsored by ABLEnow®, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

If there is one thing we've learned from 2020, it's that saving for financial emergencies and our future is critically important. While we've remained unscathed through much of the turmoil this year has brought, we saw the crushing reality for many friends as they've been furloughed, laid off, and have had to rely on whatever financial cushion they've had to support their families. This has lit a huge fire under Derek and I to get our finances straightened out more than ever, so that we can be prepared for whatever hardships, or typical life events that may come our way.

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1) Invest More Regularly in our ABLEnow ® Account:

When Kinsley was three, we opened an ABLEnow savings account for her. These accounts are administered through Virginia529, the nation’s largest college savings plan. The benefit to ABLEnow accounts is that they're specifically for people with disabilities. The funds in these accounts can be used to pay for medical expenses that insurance won't cover, home repairs to make our house more accessible, educational tutors to come into our home and work with Kinsley, and so much more.

The major benefit to these plans is that they cannot count against Kinsley and her public benefits. Kinsley is currently on Medicaid, which is a huge financial benefit to us as her medical care costs upwards of $10,000 per year. Most Medicaid programs look at your savings and assets when determining qualification and if you have too much in savings you can get denied for Medicaid programs. With ABLEnow accounts you can save for your child's future without it working against you in terms of your Medicaid benefits that your child may be receiving. This gives us so much peace of mind knowing that we're able to have Kinsley’s medical needs covered while still being able to save for her future.

You can take an online eligibility quiz here to see if you or someone you know is eligible for an ABLEnow account.

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Because we just purchased a new home that will likely need a few accessibility modifications in the future (more accessible shower, small ramps to get in and out of the home, etc...), we're making a goal to invest more regularly in this account so that when Kinsley is older and needs those modifications made, we'll be able to have that money tucked away and ready when the time comes.

I also love that these accounts can be used for things insurance may not cover. Insurance only covers one wheelchair every five years, but if Kinsley outgrew a wheelchair before then, we could use the money in her account to fund a new chair for her. Same with walkers, crutches, or other mobility devices she may need or use in the future.

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2) Purchase a Home:

As mentioned earlier, we purchased a home this year. Part of our reason for doing this was to have a long-term investment that would make us more money in the future. Where we live the housing market is crazy, and home values are increasing more and more each month. We sold our previous home last year, and this summer our friends who lived a couple doors down in a smaller floor plan are selling their home for $30k more than we sold ours for just a year earlier. While homeownership may not be a long-term goal for some, we're looking forward to staying in our current home for years and years to come to be able to build that equity to put towards retirement in the future.

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3) Increase Contributions to Retirement Accounts:

Before we got on Medicaid last year, we never had extra money laying around to invest how we'd like. When you're spending $10k/year on medical expenses, it doesn't leave much left to be invested. Up until recently we hadn't even been able to maximize Derek's employee match program for retirement savings because we literally needed every bit of income we could get. Now that these bills aren't crippling in a way that they used to be, we plan on taking full advantage of our other retirement programs and investing the maximum-match amounts each month.

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Now that I'll also be teaching this fall, we plan on purging most of my income directly into both Kinsley's ABLEnow® account, and my retirement funds as well. This has really been the year where we've gotten a lot of our financial ducks in a row, and we really want to take advantage of that momentum to make sure our family is secure and ready for whatever happens in our future. ABLEnow gives us so much peace of mind knowing we can secure a future for Kinsley and whatever her needs may look like long after we're gone.

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of ABLEnow.

If you liked this post, Three Ways to Invest Monet in 2020, you might also like:

Be sure to follow along on Instagram @thehappyflammily to stay up-to-date on all the latest posts and projects.

How We Handle Chores and Money

When Kyle was about 2-3 years old I made an online chore chart, bought some stickers from the dollar store, and even wrote an entire blog post about my amazing parenting skills (eye roll), and how I planned on doing chores with Kyle. The thing is though, when you're implementing anything into your home, it has to be sustainable. Maybe chore charts work well long term in your home, but for us, Derek and I don't have the energy to keep up with rotating zone charts, stickers, or anything super regimented.

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What We Do Instead of Charts:

I really don't have a name for this other than "expectations". I think the kids know really well what the expectations are in our home and how we do things. The fact that Kyle has been around for eight years means that he knows the rhythm of our home really well and just knows what he needs to be doing at any given point in the day. 

If Kyle just ate breakfast, he knows to put his dishes in the sink, put the food away that he got out, and clean up any mess left in his space. Same with snacks and other meals. Before bedtime every night he knows he needs to clean his room. He knows at some point during the day I'm going to ask him to take out the recycling. And that while Derek is getting Kinsley in bed, I'm going to have him help me clean the main floor of the house and get things tidied before I read him a story.

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Progressing Chores with Age:

As Kyle has gotten older we've obviously given him more responsibilities. When he was 18 months until he was about 4 he mostly just helped clean up toys before bed. When he was 5 we started having him clean his own room and make his bed. Sometime last year we put him in charge of taking out all the recycling. When we've lived in a home with a backyard, we've had him be the one to pick up all the dog poop. This year we had him start taking control of putting his own laundry away. 

As Kyle gets older we'll just keep adding more tasks such as doing his own laundry, mowing the lawn, doing dishes, etc...  

I think that your home can have a natural flow and energy where everyone knows their roles, and just by living in that home, your child will learn your personal family culture and fall in line with whatever method you decide to implement in your home. 

How to Handle Chores with A Physically Disabled Child?

Honestly if you have a child with a physical disability I'm sure you know the challenge that comes with trying to make their "expectations" in the home fair, especially when compared to what the other sibling(s) are doing. 

Right now with Kinsley we're focusing on just a lot of her own self-care tasks. Can she brush her own teeth? Can she get herself dressed? Can she brush her own hair? Those things are hard for her and I think those basic things count as chores in their own right. (She still needs assistance to do these things, but we're working on that independence). 

Other things we have her do is wipe her own face and hands, and spot at the table after each meal. If she has a pile of laundry ready to be put away she will crawl back and forth from my room to her room with each piece of clothing and put them in the right drawers. Are they put away neatly? No, but she did it herself and that's what counts more than anything. (Also typing this made me question why we don't just put the basket of her clothes next to her dresser to make it a little easier on here. Proof I'm not a perfect human, and have never claimed to be one).

Other things we have Kinsley do is put all her toys back in the right bins when she's done playing. She has a box full of occupational therapy toys that she uses daily, and she knows to clean them all up and put them away when we're done. 

This is obviously going to be so specific to whatever your child's current abilities are, but I think anything you can do to help any child contribute to the housework and chores and be a part of the family culture is so important for them to not only learn how to do those things and become independent, but also to feel like they're a part of the family.  

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Do we Compensate Our Kids for Chores?

Honestly we don't. It's something that we've tried to keep up with in the past, and again, call us lazy but we just don't have the energy to keep up with it. It is something that I really want to get better at though because I think there are so many important money management skills that can be taught with this. 

I will say though that I only remember a small handful of years that my brother and I actually got a weekly allowance and then I remember that getting phased out pretty hard when we were around middle school. (My parents are divorced, so when that happened we pretty much just went to our dad's house on the weekend and he just gave us money for whatever, not saying that was ideal but it was the situation). I also worked from 9th grade all the way through high school so by then I pretty much had my own money anyways. 

All that to say I don't think "allowance" money is the only way that you can teach your children about money because it wasn't a huge focal point in our home and I think my siblings and I left home with enough money sense to avoid debt, don't spend what you don't have, and save what you can for a rainy day. (My brother did that last part a lot better than me).

How Our Kids Get Money:

As far as money that the kids do get, we have grandparents that send them money in the mail a few times a year, and whenever we find change in the car or around the house, we tend to dish that out to the kids. In fact, during quarantine Kyle said he wanted to spend the money he had, and when we added it up he had about $76 in coins. So for a kid who doesn't get a weekly allowance, our system of handing out loose change as a reward for being a functioning member of the family had worked out pretty well. 

From there we were able to talk about how much money he had, what he wanted to spend it on (he bought two toys, one for him and one for Kinsley and had $20 left), and we went to the store where he took his own money, counted it out, and paid for it on his own. 

All of this to say is that we have pretty loose systems in our house when it comes to chores and money, but I think it also proves that you don't need to have super regimented systems in place to teach your children the skills you want them to learn. Every family works differently and as long as you have something in your home that is working for your family, that is all that really matters!

I would love to hear in the comments below what chores, allowance, and expectations all look like in your home! 

As a side note, after writing this post, I found this article from Positive Parenting Solutions about Why Chores and Allowance Shouldn't Be Tied Together, and all I can say is YES. Ten fist bumps. 

If you liked this post, How We Handle Chores and Money, you might also like:

Be sure to follow along on Instagram @thehappyflammily to stay up-to-date on all the latest posts and projects!

How to Make Money Blogging 2020

Tracking PixelThis post is sponsored by  Traffic Secrets: The Underground Playbook For Filling Your Websites and Funnels With Your Dream Customers, all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

On June 30th thehappyflammily.com will officially be nine-years-old. It's hard to believe I've kept this thing running for that long, and it's seen a lot of variations throughout the years. I had originally started the blog as a family journal and had another food blog called The Flammily Kitchen. Sometime around 2012 I merged the two sites and have been blogging here exclusively ever since. 

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I made a goal this year to start making a consistent full-time income blogging, and to do that I had to implement a lot of strategies that I haven't done the previous eight years on the internet. I've learned so much about how to make money blogging, and how to market your blog in 2020 that I've been able to hit some huge milestones, the biggest was signing onto a new ad network that has dramatically increased my ad revenue by over 2200%! Crazy right? Here are three things I'm doing to make money blogging in 2020.

Use Pinterest to Increase Blog Traffic:

I've had the biggest love-hate relationship with Pinterest since it's creation 10+ years ago. Every blogger I know says this is their number one traffic source and I just couldn't get it to work. This year I finally cracked the code on Pinterest and have taken my account form 100K monthly views, to over 2.6 million monthly views on my Pinterest account. This has led to a dramatic increase in traffic, and is the main reason behind me signing onto a new ad network. You can read all about my Pinterest strategy here.

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Russell Brunson 30 Day Challenge:

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter you might have seen that I'm participating in a 30 Day Challenge. Russell Brunson recently published Traffic Secrets: The Underground Playbook For Filling Your Websites and Funnels With Your Dream Customers. I've been reading this book the last several weeks and have been implementing it's teachings to help build my site. It's all about identifying who your dream customers or visitors are, figuring out where they're hanging out online, and then being able to convert them to your site and business. By completing the 30-day challenge, you'll learn key strategies to increase your site traffic.

The biggest problem most entrepreneurs have isn't creating content for blogs, or amazing goods and services for business owners, it's getting their customers to discover that they even exist. Businesses start and fail each year because business owners don't understand the science behind getting customers or website visitors to find them.

It's honestly helped me really focus and identify where I want my blog to go in the future, and has given me tangible, actionable steps, that are evergreen and can be carried over to any platform, no matter what algorithm changes or social media platforms rise up in the future. If you're a business owner or blogger, you need to get your hands on a copy of Traffic Secrets.

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Learning The Basics Behind SEO:

SEO (search engine optimization) has been an illusive obstacle for me for ages. It's all about identifying the best keywords that people will search for on google, and then incorporating them into your content to make your page rank and have people see your site when they're searching online. Traffic Secrets: The Underground Playbook For Filling Your Websites and Funnels With Your Dream Customers, has a lot of great hands on activities that you can work through to help you identify what your keywords are so that you can implement this in your own business. I'm currently attempting to go through my old blog posts and re-write them to be more SEO friendly to increase my passive google traffic, which is pathetically almost existent currently. 

Are you a blogger or business owner? What have you found to be the best ways to get customers to your sites? I'd love to hear all about it in the comments below! 

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Be sure to stay up-to-date on all of the latest things in our lives by following along in instagram @thehappyflammily!

How to Save a Million Dollars

Saving a million dollars for retirement is a great way to set yourselves up for success financially. This is how we're planning on saving a million dollars for retirement, and how we'll get ourselves there. 

This year Derek and I had a huge goal to get ourselves straight financially. We didn't have loads of credit card debt, and we both have excellent credit scores, but we just felt a huge desire to work towards retirement and long term goals, and needed to create a plan that would get us there. If you're wondering how to save a million dollars for retirement, here are four steps we're implementing in our own lives.

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Buying A Home As An Investment:

Since selling our last home over the summer, Derek and I have been constantly going back and forth on when we should think about buying again. I feel like there is a lot of pressure to buy because you see all your friends buying, and the market in Utah just keeps going up and up and up, but we ultimately decided that buying a home was not a long term priority to us and felt there were better things we could be doing with our money right now. 

Derek and I listened to this podcast: For The Love of Money: Should you rent or buy? And a lot of what he said really resonated with us. If we bought a home right now it would definitely be an FHA loan with only 3-5% downpayment. He outlines in that episode that purchasing a home under those circumstances actually yields to you losing money on your investment each year, and that the smarter thing to do with your money is to invest in a high yield savings account. He then goes on to say when you should buy a home, but Derek and I decided to just focus on the first step for right now. 

Update: Since writing this post Derek and I have purchased a new home. While it wasn't a major priority to us all the details just worked out really well in our favor. You can read all about this here. Our new plan is to never move again, hang onto this home for 30 years, and hopefully make some money off it in the future. 

Paying Off Debt with Debt Snowball:

Derek and I decided that the number one thing we can do right now is pay off all of our debt as fast as we can. When we discussed this in January we put all of our debt and income into this Debt Snowball Calculator, and it basically said we could pay off all of our debt in 18 months without using any of my blogging income, tax refunds, bonuses, and just using Derek's paychecks. 

Knowing that I would be making money, and Derek does get occasional bonuses at work, tax refunds, and other things like that, we knew we could pay off all our debt hopefully a lot sooner than the 18 months. This has become our number one focus since the start of the year. 

The only debt we actually have is my car payment and Derek's MBA student loans. Since January we have paid off $8,000 (combination of Christmas bonuses, tax refunds, and blogging money), on Derek's student loans, which has actually lowered our monthly payment, increasing the amount of money we have in our budget, and thereby increasing the amount of debt payments we can make each month. 

Cutting Down Expenses: 

One thing we're working really hard on right now is cutting down expenses to make our monthly bills as minimal as possible. I already mentioned that our student loan payment decreased when we paid a good portion of it off. This was because our $30k in loans were divided into four separate loans. We had $10k divided into three smaller loans and then $20k in one bigger loan. When we paid off all the smaller loans, it actually shaved $100 off of our monthly bill. 

Another thing we did to save on monthly expenses was switch our cell phone carrier to Mint Mobile. I did an entire post about them last week, but we're saving about $60 a month for our phone service by using them instead of another big carrier. 

One thing we're actively looking into right now is finding a new house to rent for the next year. Right now our rent is so insanely high, and we're living in a three story townhouse which as you can imagine is miserable when you have a five-year-old who cannot walk. 

We're hoping sometime between May-July to find a single-story home in our neighborhood to rent, that is hopefully cheaper than what we're paying now.

Investing in High Yield Savings Accounts:

Once Derek and I have all our debt paid off (hopefully by next summer fingers crossed!), we will start contributing money each month to a high yield savings account. This is in addition to money we're already contributing to Derek's 401k at work. We don't really have a plan yet as to who we will work with, and where we will invest our money, but the hope is to get something that matures at a rate of 5-10% each year (listen to podcast linked above for more on this), and we'll pay money into that account each month. 

The major long term goal is to have one million dollars saved for retirement when the time comes. Once we're done paying off debt, all the money we would have used for those monthly payments will just become invested into whatever accounts we decide to open. The hope is by the time we retire our accounts will grow at the same percentage rate that we're withdrawing so that it never truly depletes itself and is still earning money for us to live off of indefinitely.

All of this is coming from someone who isn't a financial expert, who probably said incorrect things, but we're learning and working through these things as we go.

Also while writing this we just upped our 401k contribution by 2%. 

These are our financial goals as of right now. Our major focus is getting rid of all the debt so that we can work towards the bigger picture. We'll keep you updated periodically on how all of this pans out over the coming months/years! 

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Mint Mobile Review

Mint Mobile is a cell phone service like none other. For as low as 30/month you can have unlimited talk, text, and web. This Mint Mobile Review will tell you all you need to know!

The last several years Derek and I have been on a highly discounted T-mobile cellphone plan with friends, and were paying $40/month for both of us. We got this awesome deal because we bundled with friends, and got extra savings because our plan holder was a former veteran. It was honestly the greatest thing ever. Right after Christmas though, our friends moved to Singapore and needed to get a new phone plan that worked over there, which left Derek and I shopping for a phone plan again.

Mint mobile review

We looked into all the major phone carriers: T-mobile, Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T. T-mobile wound up being the cheapest, but for Derek and I to stay with them, it still would have cost us $90/month. We just weren't willing to pay that at the end of the day. We've been working so hard at cutting down unnecessary expenses and paying off Derek's MBA loans (half way there as of last month!), that doubling our cellphone bill just seemed like more than we could do at the time. 

Mint Mobile Review

We came across Mint Mobile from some other friends of ours, and were instantly intrigued by a lot of things they had to offer, at a super low price. As of right now, Derek and I have used Mint Mobile for three months, and we pay just $30/month for the two of us to have unlimited talk and texting, and 3GB of 4G data per month. The best part is that when you use up your data, they just slow you down to 3G instead of charging you overages for the month, meaning our bill is always the same price, no matter what. 

Mint Mobile Review

How does billing work with Mint Mobile?

The only thing that I don't love is that you have to pay your entire bill in advance. You can trial it for three months at $15/month (per line, so $30 for us with Derek and myself), and you have to pay that all upfront, so for one line you'll pay $45, and get three months of service. After your first three months are up, if you want to keep the same $15/mo price, you have to pay for a year of service up front. Otherwise you can pay $25/month for three months ($75 up front), or $20/month for six months ($120 up front). 

Derek and I have used our first three months and are now switching over to the 12 month plan so that we can keep our $15/month price. So we will pay $180 each this month, and then not pay our phone bill again until next April. 

How is the reception/service with Mint Mobile?

Mint Mobile uses the T-mobile towers, so if T-mobile gets good service in your area, you should be more than fine with the service and reception that you get on Mint. Derek and I previously were on T-Mobile before switching, so we felt comfortable with what we were getting into. 

Does the data work well with Mint Mobile?

I will be honest that even when we have all of our data for the month, it's still slower than what we used to have on T-mobile. We've researched this and because we share T-Mobile's towers, apparently T-Mobile customers get priority, and then the smaller phone services get secondary priority or something like that.  

That being said, when we have all 3GB of our data for the month it's not a huge difference, and it's never effected my ability to use my GPS when I need it and things like that. It is slow enough that watching instastories in my car isn't really that enjoyable, so I've rotted my brain less since switching which seems like a plus. 

When we use all of our data for the month and get bumped down to 3G the service is SLOW. Like have to try putting things into my GPS three times slow. But once the GPS gets going things are fine, and I've never been lost or stranded because of it. 

We've mostly have come to just rely on using wifi more than data when possible and I think it's really helped me to become less addicted to my phone, which feels like a good thing. 

Do I think Mint Mobile is worth it?

YES! Even with the slower data, we haven't had any major issues that would make me want to pay more money for my cell service. To me having slightly slower data is a small price to pay when it comes to how small our cell phone bill is. Since our alternative is paying T-Mobile $90/month, I'm completely satisfied with paying my $30/month and having less social media time when I'm out of my house. 

If you're interested in trying Mint Mobile you can sign up here to get you first three months at the introductory $15/month price. Not sponsored at all, just genuinely sharing a service we truly love. 

Have you heard of Mint Mobile? Or do you use another phone company with super low prices? I'd love to hear all about it in the comments below! 

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Month Supply Food Storage List Family of Four

Having a month supply of food storage will protect your family when emergencies come. This month supply food storage list for a family of four will help get you started.

Over the weekend Derek and I made our very first serious purchase of food storage. It's something that we've really wanted to do our entire marriage, but always made excuses that we didn't have enough space, or enough money to invest in it, or we didn't have the time to sit down and think of everything we needed. It goes on and on. The reality is though, you can fit food storage almost anywhere. If you start slowly it doesn't have to be a huge investment. If you just purchase more of things you already use, you don't have to think too much about it. 

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Why do I need food Storage in my home? 

Both the United States government, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and tons of different organizations around the world recommend having food storage on hand. You need to have food storage in case there are natural disasters, illnesses, food shortages, etc... If there is ever any type of emergency, having food on hand guarantees that you'll be self sufficient for a certain period of time. 

How much food storage do I need? 

This answer varies depending on what sources you read, but it's recommended that you have at the minimum, a three day supply of food in your home. The illusive goal is to have a year supply of food. Right now with what Derek and I purchased, we have enough food to last the four of us at least a month. I wouldn't let the quantity of food stress you out. Something is always better than nothing. 

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Where to store your food storage?

If you have a massive pantry, a basement, an extra room in your home, amazing. If you're cramped for space like we are, you might have to get creative. Derek and I bought this shelf for $30 at Walmart and stuck it in our walk in closet in our bedroom. Does our closet look super cute and amazing now? No. But do we have food for our family for any emergency that might come up? Yes. I've had friends store their food storage in their kid's closets, under beds, under dressers, etc... If it's important to you, and a priority, you'll always come up with something to make it work. 

What kinds of meals will you make with your food?

We bought lots of oats for breakfasts, and things to make plenty of bread and biscuits. We have lots of rice that we can add calories and flavor to with various canned soups, and have beans on hand for good sources of protein. We have fruit on hand to add some sweetness to meals, and veggies to round out our dinners. We also have pastas and mac n cheese for easy meals as well. In an emergency you're not going to want fancy gourmet meals, just quick and easy things that will work and serve its purpose: keeping you alive. 

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How much does food storage cost? Are case lot sales worth it?

It can be as cheap or expensive as you want to make it. We clearly did not purchase all organic, name brand items here. Everything for this one month supply cost us under $200. If you live in Utah, you know that case lot sales are all the rage, and are typically when everyone stocks up on food storage. While there might be some savings at those sales, I've seen very similar pricing at Walmart all year round. Our local store is doing canned veggies for 50 cents each during case lot, which is the same as my local Walmart all year long. Same with soups, beans, and fruits. Obviously price it out, but if you miss a case lot sale, it's not the end of the world. 

How to use your food storage:

Once you buy your food, don't let it sit on a shelf to go bad. We have all of this stored in our bedroom, but when we run out of something downstairs in the kitchen, we'll pull from these shelves in our room, and then repurchase the used items at the store the next time we shop. That way this food is getting used and being rotated so that it doesn't go bad and rot. 

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If you're interested in seeing what we purchased for our month supply of food storage for a family of four, here is our complete list! 

Baking Supplies: 

  • 20lbs flour
  • 15lbs sugar
  • 6lbs oats
  • 2 boxes baking soda
  • 2 baking powder
  • 2 jars yeast
  • 2 boxes salt
  • 4 lbs brown sugar
  • 1 jar. honey
  • 1lemonade mix

Canned Goods:

  • 4 14oz Cans Mandarin Oranges
  • 4 20oz Cans Pineapple
  • 4 10oz Cans Tomato Soup
  • 4 14oz Cans Chili
  • 4 10oz Cans Cream of Chicken
  • 4 10oz Cans Cream of Mushroom
  • 4 10oz Cans Condensed Chicken Noodle Soup
  • 4 14oz Cans Black Beans 
  • 4 14oz Cans Diced Tomatoes
  • 4 14oz Cans Green Beans
  • 4 14oz Cans Corn
  • 4 14oz Cans Black Olives
  • 4 Cans Tuna Fish
  • 3 Jars Spaghetti Sauce

Condiments:

  • 2 Jars Mayonaise
  • 1 Bottle Mustard
  • 1 Bottle Ketchup
  • 4 18oz Jars Peanut Butter
  • 2 6-packs Applesauce Cups

Dried Goods:

  • 4 Boxes Mac n Cheese
  • 3lbs Pasta
  • 10lbs Rice
  • 2lbs Black Beans

Liquids:

  • 8 Gallons of Water
  • 1 Gallon Bleach
  • 1 Gallon Vinegar

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Why We Bought A New Car And What We Chose

Derek and I have been going back and forth on whether or not to get a new car for almost 18 months.
When Kinsley was about 3 1/2 we started having struggles with stacking her wheelchair and walker in the back of my car. We knew as she got older this equipment would only get bigger, and so we started looking into more accessible vehicles for our family.


Issues with the current car:
Over the last several months there were many instances where we realized our current vehicle was no longer working. Kinsley's walker and wheelchair are super huge and bulky. While they currently do fit in my old car, it wasn't without wrestling to get them stacked on one another, and it was ripping off some of the upholstery from my ceiling. Kinsley's mobility equipment is only going to get bigger from here on out, which means that the next time we upgrade either one of these pieces, they will no longer fit in the car. 

Another more serious issue is that when we bought the car in NC, they told us that it was an all wheel drive vehicle. I had gotten into a few sticky situations in the snowy weather where it definitely should have turned on, and it did not. We recently learned that's because we have a two wheel drive version of the Ford Escape and not the AWD that the dealership claimed it to be. We're currently in the process of figuring out what can be done in this situation to rectify the false advertising. 

Lastly, our hope is to move into the neighborhood where the kids go to school, and we would like to be able to carpool with other kids in the neighborhood, which we cannot currently do since we don't have a third row of seats. 

What we needed in a new car: 
The main thing we really needed was a third row of seats. One, so we could car pool if necessary, and two, a third row would mean we'd be able to fold down the seats and use the space for ever growing mobility equipment as well. 

That left us between an SUV or a minivan. I have a ton of friends who have and love their minivans, but there was a part of me that really wanted an SUV with four wheel drive to feel safer in the Utah winters. Especially since we travel to Idaho fairly regularly, and driving through northern Utah and SE Idaho in the snow is a nightmare. So we ultimately decided that we wanted an SUV and started seeing what our options were. 

Derek spent a couple weekends test driving SUVs and bringing the walker and wheelchair to various car lots to see which trunks they would and would not fit in. I really wanted to be able to have the third row of seats up, and still fit the walker and wheelchair in the trunk, but unless we were getting a Yukon XL we quickly learned that wasn't going to be an option. 

What we tested and looked at: 
Derek test drove a Kia Sorento, but with the third row folded down, you could barely fit the walker and wheelchair in there. We looked at Nissans, but Derek's truck is a Nissan and he said he didn't love it enough to buy another one.  We loved our Ford, butt the Explorer's were a lot more expensive than what we wanted to pay. A Subaru Tribeca would have solved all our problems, but it was also $50k so that was off the table too. Finally, we saw a picture of a Honda Pilot online and instantly felt good about it, and the amount of space that it had to offer. 

What pushed us to actually buy:
Derek's brother was going to be riding to Idaho with us from Salt Lake for Thanksgiving, and there was not going to be enough room for all of us and our stuff in my current car. I joked with Derek that he needed to get me a new car before Thanksgiving, but then we put it off for a few weeks and never did anything. 

The week of Thanksgiving came and we learned that there was going to be a ton of snow the day we were driving to Idaho, and so I literally sent Derek to a dealership that was a mile down the road from our house and told him to go buy a Honda Pilot that I had seen online that was way out of our price range. Who does that? I do not know but that was the legit situation.

What we actually bought:
Derek was crunching the numbers with the guy at the dealership and decided to ask if there were any other Honda Pilots on the lot. Derek was looking at a 2013 with 80k miles, and the guy told him that there was a 2010 with 90k miles for $3,000 less. Right in the price range we wanted. In the color we wanted. In the upgraded model with all the bells in whistles, which not to brag but, #HeatedSeats. 

The God Stuff and Silver Linings:
We typically wouldn't have bought a car that old since they usually have tons of miles on it by then, which is why we never saw it online because we were only looking at 2012 and up. Since it's the touring model it actually has some features that the model we were looking at didn't. One really awesome perk is that it has an extra step from the ground to the inside of the car, which Kinsley has been using to help her get into the car independently.

We've been working on her opening the door, climbing in, and getting into her seat on her own and she's actually getting really good at it. It wouldn't have happened had we gone with one of the models that we were looking at before. We can't fit her wheelchair and walker in the car with the entire third row up, but we can fold one seat down and get them both in that way, which is really nice to still be able to fit three extra people in the car if needed! 

What we're doing with our old cars: 
We are now a three car family and only need two, so one of them has to go. My Ford Escape is paid off all the way, and Derek's truck is not. Derek took his truck off the road and is currently in the process of selling it. Once that is all said and done, then he'll be driving the Escape, and I'll be driving the Honda Pilot. Now to come up with a sweet name for it... suggestions welcome but I'm really leaning towards Martha.

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