Silas and his self-imposed “budget” (AKA: Yes, your children are watching you!)

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We were at Cracker Barrel last week to celebrate Kathrynne’s 10th birthday. (I still cannot believe I have a daughter who is 10 years old. How did that happen?? I still feel like I’m 17!)

After we ate dinner as a family, we went out to the store to window shop for a bit. (My kids think Cracker Barrel is just about on the same level as the LEGO store! They love that place and I don’t blame them; they have such fun kid’s toys and games!)

I noticed Silas was on a mission in the toy section. He kept picking one toy up, looking at the price, and then putting it back. As he did this over and over again, I started following him around to try to determine what he was doing!

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It was then that he picked a toy up and triumphantly exclaimed, “Yes!! This is in my budget!”

I about burst out laughing right there in the store. First, because I hadn’t heard him use the word “budget” before. And secondly, because it sounded so grown up and funny to be coming from the mouth of a 5-year-old.

But I held my laughter in and instead asked him more about this budget of his. He explained to me that he has $30 at home in his piggy bank — money he’s collected from doing chores, birthday gifts, etc. — and he decided that he had a $10 budget to spend on something from Cracker Barrel. He didn’t want to spend all of his money, so he’d set the $10 budget to make sure he didn’t spend all his money.

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He said he hadn’t brought his money this time, so he was just looking to see what he could buy in his budget. Next time, he’d bring his money and buy the $10 or less toy.

As he recounted all of this to me, you can imagine how much I was grinning from ear to ear. I love that he’s learning money management skills from a young age.

But more than that, I was reminded of how much our kids are watching and learning. We’ve talked about basic money management with Silas (spending and saving, etc.), but we’ve never actually gone over what a budget is or why you should have one. So Silas has picked up the idea of budgeting from watching us and hearing things we’ve told to Kathrynne and Kaitlynn.

Silas and his "budget"It also reminded me of how important it is that I set a good example before my kids. Because it’s not just the words I’m saying that they are paying attention to; the life I’m living before them is what they are paying the most attention to.

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How to Save Money by Taking Pictures at Home

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Liz emailed the following tip:

As a new mama, I worked outside of the home and had a very nice income, so I took my daughter to a professional photographer for all her first year pictures without blinking an eye.

Once I started to stay at home and we added three more kiddos to our family, professional pictures were no longer the rule, but a very rare exception.

Although, we couldn’t afford professional pictures of our kids all of the time, I still wanted to have some sweet, quality pictures to hang on the wall. So, I began to experiment and research great ways to get high-quality photos of my kids, without breaking the bank.

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Here few tips for taking great pictures in the comfort of your own home:

  1. Set your baby up a few feet off of the ground. This puts your child at an easier level for you to photograph. I always have someone there to help in case the babe begins to roll or squirm — safety first!
  2. Grab some cute blankets, quilts, fabrics, or even a simple sheet. In this shot, I had a vintage quilt that was a family heirloom, a black and white striped blanket, and a fuzzy, white bathrobe that I used for the base prop. It is always good to use texture below the baby if you are doing a naked-baby shoot. If your babe was clothed with color and pattern, go with a simple, solid base blanket.
  3. Gather a few simple baby props. I used a baby bonnet in this photo shoot. I have used hats, headbands, wraps, and even kept a bare head before. Again, the key is to not have too much texture, but to also have enough to add interest.
  4. Make sure you have good lighting. In this example, we are in our nursery next to the window.  This ensures that I don’t have to use the flash and my camera can gather enough light to make the picture crisp and clear.

I hope you enjoyed these tips and found inspiration to take your own photos at home! Once you take the leap, you’ll never go back (or at least not very often!)

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Why We Make Time to Really Talk About Our Finances

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This post is part of the How We Saved This Week weekly feature.

My husband and I talk about pretty much everything. That’s one thing that we established well before going into marriage (we met when we were 9 and 10 and were good friends for years before we actually were in a serious relationship) and it’s the “glue” that holds our marriage together.

Since I’m a verbal processor and Jesse’s highest receiving love language (meaning: how he feels loved) is quality time, we spend a LOT of time talking. In fact, our friends tease us about how much we talk together because it’s rare that something happens that we don’t talk about it. :)

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There’s No “Mine” or “Yours”

I truly believe that one reason we’ve been able to make a lot of financial traction in recent years is because we’ve really become a strong team when it comes to finances. We’ve set aside the whole “his money, her money” fights and made it all “our money”. We don’t talk about “your earnings vs. my earnings”; it’s all “our earnings”.

We don’t have separate bank accounts. We don’t make big financial purchases without consulting each other. We don’t give to a cause or need or person without both agreeing to it. And we don’t move forward with any long-term financial plan without both of us being on the same page about it.

Yes, We’ve Had to Learn to Compromise

We’ve had a lot of intense discussions about finances over the years, and while it sometimes takes a lot of talking and time and discussion, we’ve found ways to compromise so that we’re both feeling “heard” when it comes to our budget. (Such as having a blow category in our budget so that Jesse can have some wiggle room to enjoy spending money! Or cutting back in some areas so that my frugal self doesn’t feel like we’re wasting money.)

Over the years, the practice of making unity a priority when it comes to finances has paid off well. We have a lot less friction, we’ve grown in our communication skills, and we’ve learned a lot about the needs and fears we both have.

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Thinking Long-Term About Property Investments

This past week, we sat down and talked about our long-term financial goals — especially when it comes to rental property investments. This is an area that we were just experimenting with for a year or two, not sure how it would work out. Well, it’s worked out really, really well.

Jesse has loved the process of researching areas to buy rental properties in, he’s loved reading and listening to books and podcasts on how to have a successful rental management business, he’s loved working with the rental management company we hired to manage our two houses in Kansas, and his enthusiasm for this whole idea has only been strengthened from a few years of doing it.

And not only that, but the cash flow from our rental properties has turned out to be a good income source, even after deducting all the expenses involved (such as taxes, rental management company percentages, maintenance, and repairs).

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How We Saved This Week

We sat down and talked about all of that this week. We spent some time dreaming about the future and then talking realistically about where we want to be in 5 to 10 years. We talked about pros and cons to single family houses versus multi-family residences, where we wanted to purchase rentals in the future (Kansas, Tennessee, or somewhere entirely differently), and we talked about what was doable with what we’re able to save each month + the rental income we’re earning.

We set some short-term and long-term goals, we discussed a couple of big dreams, and we mapped out a game plan for the next few years. While I can’t tell you a dollar amount we saved (or earned) by having this discussion, I truly believe that taking the time to talk about these things in-depth will end up paying off in significant dividends and savings in the months and years to come.

What are some ways that YOU saved this week?

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