"We're all just fragile threads, but what a tapestry we make." – Jerry Ellis

Archive for the ‘Financial Peace University’ Category

What’s Going On These Days…

One of the things that I do that drives my kids crazy is to start a sentence and not finish it when I’m talking. Sometimes it’s because I assume they know the end of the sentence, but other times it’s just because I’ve gotten distracted. I realize that my blog has kind of gone in the same direction as some of those unspoken sentences.

Here lately, I’ve been very distracted from blogging and writing in general. As a Financial Peace University graduate, it’s good, because the reason is that I’ve been working a side job as a form design contractor. It’s a great gig—I can work in my PJs on the couch on my laptop. However, as a paid gig, it takes precedence over other things—like writing. I wish I could put things on hold like laundry or housework instead, but for some reason it’s frowned upon to go out with no clean clothes.

So as to not leave some of the more recent blog topics dangling like a participle in one of my unfinished sentences, I thought this would be a good time to follow up to some “goings on” around here recently.

The Wall

The new view from the living room into the kitchen.

The new view from the living room into the kitchen.

The wall we removed the week of Thanksgiving was successfully taken out without incident. Over that weekend, Darrell removed the wall and finished it with the wooden trim he painted, leaving a strip in between the two floors of the kitchen and living room unfinished (for now—I’m not the only one who runs around like a loon).

The strip that needs to be covered.  There's a teeny little hole that peeks into the basement.

The strip that needs to be covered. There’s a teeny little hole that peeks into the basement.

He touched up the paint on the living room side, and I decided that it really was time for a new color in the kitchen. My friend brought over a gallon of paint she had leftover from a project at her house, so we tried it out in a couple of spots in the kitchen. The color is “smoked taupe” and it looks pretty good. Now we just need to paint!

Here's "smoky taupe", the color we'll probably go with.

Here’s “smoky taupe”, the color we’ll probably go with.

 

Robotics

 

Our Engineering Notebook

Our Engineering Notebook

Last Saturday the Nuclear Unicorn Girl Assemblers (NUGAs) attended the FIRST Robotics qualifier competition. After an (almost) all-nighter the night before, complete with printer issues and a few robot hiccups, they managed to do quite well. (By the way, the girls did win the 3D printer, we just haven’t received it yet!) The game, called the Cascade Effect, required our robot to try to score points on the game field by knocking out the kickstand of a container that had wiffle balls in it, and then trying to loft them into these tall beakers. The teams were assigned other teams as alliance partners for six separate matches. The girls had to make sure that the robot was programmed keeping in mind that another robot would be in the same general area, trying to do the same general thing. One robot starts on a ramp and the other one on the floor (hence, two possible programs to use). There is also an “interview” type of judging session (our girls rocked!) and an Engineering Notebook they have to turn in documenting their work and how it progressed.

A scene from the qualifier.

A scene from the qualifier.

In the robot matches, the girls came in tenth out of thirty-three teams, which was amazing. They did not make the cut to advance to the next competition, but we are attending another qualifier next month to try again. This month we will spend updating the robot, its programming and the presentation to wow them at the next competition. The girls all learned a lot from Saturday’s competition—and I know I gained valuable insight as well. I can’t begin to tell you how amazing the kids that do the FIRST Tech Challenge are. The atmosphere at the competition is one like no other. Yes, they are competing against each other, but teams are continually helping each other with troubleshooting and supplying items that a team may have forgotten. Officially it’s called “gracious professionalism” and it’s stressed throughout the competition. It is so encouraging to see it being practiced by these very mature, very smart young adults.

Adelaide/NaNoWriMo

Maybe next year???

Maybe next year???

Poor Adelaide. She never saw it coming, which is kinda crazy because seeing things coming is a big part of her story. Adelaide is a little bit psychic, but not of anything of importance. Just weird, small stuff that doesn’t really amount to anything, so she really keeps this “gift” a secret. Until this nudge causes her to uncover the plot of a murder. Now, usually-reserved Adelaide has to go out on a limb to protect people she loves. Will she risk leaving behind her “normal” life to set the story straight?

That’s the premise of my silly little story I started for NaNoWriMo at the beginning of the month. I’m not anywhere near the 50,000 words that is the goal by month’s end, mostly because I didn’t see my side job coming. It’s not a huge deal, so it does fall into the realm of possibility to be the type of thing that my character would get a heads up on.

I haven’t completely shelved her at all. I just have gotten swamped with home improvement projects, robots, work and Christmas. Hopefully someday Adelaide will get all the attention she deserves so she can be brought to life on the paper. In the meantime, I just keep writing her story in my head.

When I’m not thinking I’m George Jetson on the treadmill screaming, “Jane, stop this crazy thing!”

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Financial Peace

This past Tuesday, Darrell and I attended our final Financial Peace University (FPU) class. If you’re unfamiliar with FPU, you may recognize the name Dave Ramsey, the man behind the class. He is a nationally-known financial advisor, who teaches finances from a Biblical perspective emphasizing living debt-free and saving. He breaks the plan into seven steps with regards to saving and spending. You can find out more about these steps and Dave Ramsey at the website www.DaveRamsey.com. One of his mantras is to live like no one else, so later, you can live and give like no one else. I wish we would have taken this class twenty years ago.

Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with Dave Ramsey other than we took his course, but it has made such an impact on us, I feel like I have to share it with other people. In fact, when we started this class nine weeks ago, Darrell was pretty reluctant. What was it that this guy could teach us? We already know we’re supposed to spend less and save more. What else was there to learn? Turns out, there was quite a bit to learn, and more importantly, discuss as a couple.

Darrell and I had never had many conversations about money. We earned it, we spent it, we always wished there were more of it to go around. We grumbled when the bills piled on and life had its unexpected expenses. We rejoiced in (and spent) any bonuses. We never had arguments about how we spent it, but we never really had a plan, either. Consequently, while we didn’t have problems paying our bills, we were generating a lot of them and were not big on sitting down to crunch the numbers to come up with a real life budget we could live within. As Dave says, we thought we could out-earn being stupid about money. The first few weeks, we certainly cleared the air with how we felt about our spending habits. I have to tell you, it was a little uncomfortable. But necessary for us to be open and honest about how we were living, and more importantly, what we were teaching our kids about money.

What Dave Ramsey teaches is not anything new or unique—spend less than you make and save the most you can as early as you can. One of the things that is so beneficial about his program is he addresses the emotional side of budgeting and saving money as a married couple, as well as to singles. Similar to dieting, it’s easy to know what you’re supposed to be doing to accomplish your goals, but our emotional responses seem to get us into trouble. He especially focuses on getting rid of all debt by living within your means and saving towards those big purchases. In the lesson focusing on debt (especially credit cards), he really opened my eyes to how much we, as a society, are comfortable with taking on debt. I’ve started paying more attention to how things are marketed, especially the financing of large purchases. Yikes!

Nine weeks later, we are diligent about working together on where our money goes. Officially, one would call that a budget, but the “b” word sounds so harsh. Whatever you want to call it, it involves the two of us sitting down together and looking at numbers and making it so we’re not doling out more than what’s coming in. We’re putting money aside for the big expenses—planned and unplanned—so that we don’t use credit cards for them. Basic Money 101 sorts of things.

In addition, we’ve completely changed our insurance coverage on our home and cars so that it matches what we need. In doing so, we’re paying less than we were before and we’re getting the amount of coverage we needed. The lesson on insurance was another one I wish we’d known twenty years ago! It was so valuable to hear an honest explanation on various insurances and their benefits from someone who was not going to be earning a commission.

If you ask our kids about it, you may see some eye rolling, but they “get” it. In fact, Tyler had to give a persuasive speech for his class at school, and he touted why starting to save money while you’re young makes sense. He spoke of compound interest and making sacrifices in order to save. It remains to be seen if he will practice what he’s preaching. I know he’s doing everything he can to not take out any student loans for college and will not be getting a credit card, which is a very good start.

While I can’t predict if we’ll be this purposeful about money in another nine weeks, I will tell you this: We will never go back to how we viewed money before. It sounds like an exaggeration to say something like a class was life changing, but that’s really the truth. I have much more confidence in the way we’re handing our finances—together—than I ever have before. I think we benefitted by attending an actual class (we took one offered through our church), but you can find out a lot on the website or by reading his book. You can also search for Financial Peace University classes offered near you. Many local churches offer these. Take it from a former spend-a-holic—your wallet will thank you, even if your credit card company doesn’t!

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