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$113,108.34 The true cost of our education

In the above picture from eleven years ago, I see a couple of crazy kids having fun at Mardi Gras without a care in the world. This was pre-marriage, pre-kids, pre debt-free lifestyle and pre-multiple bad hairstyles, including a year with bangs. 😬

The crazy kids above had been in the job force for several years, although I’m not really sure what Matt did then or what he does now even, but I had begun down the insurance career path. Along with entering the job force, I had adopted a lifestyle of debt and had been led to believe that’s just what people do, and student loans are just something you pay back for the rest of your life. So we had around $50k combined student loans and our “almost degrees” to show for it, meaning we each had enough credits to qualify for a bachelors, but didn’t actually have a bachelors degree to show for it. πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈ

Matt had been at least paying the minimum on his loans..I was too busy saying I couldn’t afford my monthly payments, yet I could eat out and go party all the time wearing new clothes and driving a new car. πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈ

Things changed shortly after the above pic when we found out we were pregnant with our daughter. We both made the choice to go back to school and get those degrees wrapped up. We paid cash for my last few classes, which I finished up online, while working full time and having a baby at home. It was tough with Matt also working full time and taking night classes three days a week. 😴 πŸ‘Ά 🍼

We weren’t paying on our loans during this time, or the interest that was just stacking up on those already high principal balances. To top it off, Matt’s new career change into a Computer Science degree from a for profit university added another $40k to our already giant mountain of student loan debt. πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈ

Fast forward to about six years ago, when we finally started paying the minimum monthly amount on our loans (only because we had to get them out of forbearance). So if your name was Sallie Mae, Mohela, Nelnet, Fedloans, etc., you were on our payroll for the past six years. The amount we were paying in minimums was around $1500 a month, which was more than our mortgage at the time. πŸ˜¬πŸ’ΈπŸ’ΈπŸ’Έ

I often wonder what else that money could have been doing..for us, for investing, for our kids, for donating, for the economy, etc. It would probably make me sick to run any actual math on what we missed out on not investing the money, and how much total we paid in interest. 🀒

We decided to get serious and use the debt snowball method, and continued throwing every extra penny we had towards them. I skipped eating out, meal prepped, bought used clothes, and budgeted like a badass. It felt like the slowest process, and that we would NEVER pay them off. Some of these loans had 6% interest, so a lot of times I was barely even touching the balance when I made a payment. πŸ™„

We set a goal of being debt free by August 2019, because that’s when my son would be starting Kindergarten. It was always a big goal, and even through each of the setbacks, I knew we would just have to adjust and keep going. I would like to say there was some big secret program we used, but we literally just made a goal and made the necessary sacrifices on a consistent basis to crush it. I can’t even say how good it feels to finally write this post, and even ahead of our goal. πŸŽ‰πŸ˜Ž πŸ‘©πŸΌβ€πŸŽ“ πŸ‘¨β€πŸŽ“

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No Spend Challenge 2019

It always starts over a few drinks and a friend saying something like “yeah I am going to try not to buy any new clothes for the entire year of 2019”. Usually you would think in your head that your friend is a little crazy and that’s why you love them. But I’ve had a few drinks..so the idea seems like the best one ever, and I’m all like “hold my drink..let’s do this”. My competitive nature also kicks in to say..oh yeah..you are totally winning this challenge. Even though there is literally no prize because you can’t spend money. πŸ’°

I guess the prize is keeping my decluttered closet decluttered and probably truck loads of time and money saved not going to Target for “batteries”. Why with another crazy challenge Mindy? Didn’t you JUST clean out your closet and don’t you really NEED new things now? Two simple answers 1) NO I don’t NEED anything new and TBH..I do NOT really enjoy shopping that much 2) I do enjoy being debt free and I’m so close to that finish 🏁 I can almost taste it, so I need some fuel to get me across that line.

So you heard it here first. I, Mindy Templeton, of sound mind and body, promise that for the entire 365 days of 2019, I will not buy any clothes or accessories, so no shoes, purses, jewelry, etc. I only have 355 days left right?! Wish me luck πŸ˜‰

Carnival Season

It’s carnival season around here..one of my favorites for watching my kids just be kids and enjoy some screen free fun time, it’s also my favorite for people watching, and don’t forget the funnel cake.πŸ˜‹ 🎑

The one thing I don’t like is how much it all adds up in price..parking, vendors, a ride here, a ride there, games and then of course the drinks and food. πŸ•πŸ¦πŸΏπŸ₯€

This year..we just picked one of the three carnivals we usually go to. I also avoided the $10 parking by finding a spot on the street for free. We ate before we left the house and brought our own water.

My best move was convincing my kids the games weren’t as much fun as the rides. Since they only care about the prizes anyway, I told them we would go to Dollar Tree after, and they could pick out any item in the store. They didn’t even ask to play any games, and we even saw another kid asking his parents to play and Caleb told him that β€œthe games were a rip off because they were just trying to take his money to get rich” πŸ˜‚

We did splurge on the $20 all you can ride wristbands for each kid, and a $5 funnel cake to share, so with my Dollar Tree promise, I was all in for $47. I was proud of this, because we usually spend at least double, if not triple this during carnival season, and we end up with meltdowns about β€œone more game”, and end up with a bunch of crap toys or stuffed animals we don’t need also. 🧸

To be honest, the spending less part was great, but we had more fun this year with one carnival and without all the extras. Getting used to a more simple minimalist lifestyle gives us a chance to really enjoy the best things in life that have always been free..the memories. πŸ’•

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Lifestyle Choices

This is going to be one of the hardest topics yet to cover at a very high level and also my first mention of FIRE in my writings (financial independence retire early). My goal is just to inform you of two choices and get you rethinking, especially if you feel like you don’t have choices and are stuck in your current financial position. I am by no means claiming to be an expert on the topic or to get into the HOW in this post. I have just dabbled with both lifestyles mentioned and I feel like there are not enough people (especially women) who are thinking about or providing information on the topic..so looks like you are stuck with me. 😜

The above picture is the best way I could summarize the concept of lifestyle creep. For now, as mentioned, this is just to introduce you to the topic, so I have a few stats and thought provoking questions to hopefully do so.

First..the stats tell an alarming story. I recently read in this USA Today article https://amp.usatoday.com/amp/34378157 that the average household is bringing in around $75,000 annually, and of that, they are spending 90% of it, which equates to $67,500 outgoing and only around $7,500 extra annually. (which the article states a lot of this is going towards interest payments on consumer debt). This breaks down to $5,625 in expenses each month and $625 extra. That doesn’t leave much wiggle room and helps paint a picture as to why people aren’t putting anything or very little towards saving, investing, emergency funds and retirement. 😳

Essentially pointing out that people are living a paycheck to paycheck lifestyle. I don’t know that this was a surprise to any of us, but it may be a surprise that people are making the choice everyday with their actions and spending habits to live this way. Disclaimer that there are people living in poverty, so for the sake of my post, I am referring to the middle class mentioned above.

Now on to the questions. Feel free to answer in comments if you want to share, or just answer to yourself or as an internal conversation or with your significant other. Keep it real because denial is a great way to protect yourself from the truth right now, but long term in fact it just ends up hurting you more.

1) Are you living paycheck to paycheck like the scenario mentioned above?

2) Have you noticed that no matter what you do, you just can’t get ahead?

3) Do you receive regular raises or have you changed jobs to make additional money over the course of your career, yet you aren’t seeing a difference in your monthly budget after expenses because they always seem to match what’s coming in?

4) Do you ever pay attention to how much you spend on conveniences like pre-made food, someone to mow your lawn, someone to clean that big house, someone to wash that new car, someone to groom your dog, someone to do your hair/nails/makeup, etc because you are too busy working to do these things?

5) Have you ever wondered why things are like this for you and probably a lot of people you know, yet it’s still a taboo topic to discuss money, so everyone just keeps working harder and staying in the vicious cycle mentioned above?

6) What will happen if you change nothing and keep following this path?

Please reference the above picture as you are going through these questions to see if lifestyle creep has found a way to creep into your life. Remember..be honest.

Next, know that there is another option. As mentioned above, lifestyle creep is a choice and I’ve said this so many times on purpose. So many think they have no choice unless they make more money and this is far from the truth.

Lifestyle creep is a path that many in our society have walked and not challenged until recent years. Here are some questions to ask yourself and see if you’re one of those ready to challenge the traditional path and choose a different way.

1) What upsets you the most about always being broke and living paycheck to paycheck?

2) How has constantly feeling stressed from working so much and not having any money to show for it affected you?

3) What are your values and what are you spending your money on? Do they line up?

4) What are your passions and what do you dream about doing?

5) What could change if you have an open mind and put in the work, I mean really put in the work, to change your current financial path and mindset? Think of one quick and easy way you can change today.

6) What will happen if you start to live a lifestyle designed by you instead of others?

As mentioned, a lot of people have started looking at the above stats and questions, and are starting to make the decision to customize their lifestyle based on their own unique values, not what society tells them to value. Spoiler alert..it’s not through making more money as mentioned above..it has never been about that. It’s about a lifestyle of being content with only those things that bring you value. Luckily, it usually don’t cost anything at all, just the basics needed like food, shelter, experiences and none of the extra crap. 😊

Don’t get this lifestyle design twisted with a life of going without, because it’s actually the opposite of that. You have room for so much more when you let go of stupid shit.

Well..shocker..I have lots more to say but I’ve said enough for one day. What are your thoughts or questions on the two different paths mentioned above?

8 ways to eat out for less

Chipotle is my weakness and I love everything about it..except that it would cost my family around $750 a month if we ate it for dinner every night. πŸ€‘

So we try to limit it to be a once a month treat, and try to find ways to make it even more affordable than it already is. Today, we got 6 servings of food for $16.72!! I also got enough napkins for both of our car glove boxes for the next few months..lol.

But while I was ordering today, I thought about some different ways that you can save money while eating out, no matter what you’re craving.

1. Don’t eat out at all..and if you’re like me and know that not eating out at all is a recipe for disaster, then limit it to once or twice a month and budget for it. (if I don’t eat out at all, then I will fall HARD off the wagon and go on a wildly expensive and unhealthy eating out binge)

2. Eat before hand. Yes you read that right..grab a snack first so you aren’t ordering more than you need or super sizing because you’re starving. Or if you’re eating out for dinner, make sure you had a good lunch that day.

3. Does everyone really need a meal or at minimum..their OWN meal? Likely not, so do like we do and make quesadillas at home for the kids and let them eat a little guacamole and chips as a side or you can share an order of food also.

4. Much like the previous tip, the portion sizes are ridiculous these days and WAY more than one person needs in one sitting. I ask for extra rice because it’s free, and I can make 3 meals out of one bowl.

5. Find some add ins or sides from home. We usually do chips from home and add some carrots and grapes for sides. Or if you’re ordering a pizza, skip the breadsticks and make a salad at home with it instead.

6. Look for promotions! Chipotle was doing BOGO for wearing a youth soccer jersey this weekend, so I dressed my soccer star in his and got a free bowl for it. I know Chick-Fil-A does similar dress like a cow promotions. This makes it fun also, because you can dress ridiculous and get some crazy second looks from people.

7. Join the rewards program. Don’t get me wrong..don’t use the rewards program as an excuse to eat out all the time, but if you can earn a free entree down the road for when you do plan to order, then take full advantage of that. If you’re like me and get excited and forget, Chipotle has a way to upload receipts afterwards. (as long as you do it within 30 days of ordering)

8. Do carry out. If you dine in, you are more likely to get pressured into adding on drinks, appetizers, and desserts that you don’t need. Also, you will need to add a minimum of a 20% tip, and tipping is also something you have to do for delivery. So avoid it and go grab your food and take it to the park or take it home to eat. Save the fancy sit down meals for extra special occasions, like an anniversary or birthday.

Those are some of my secrets to saving money while still getting your favorite fast food fix. What are some ways you save when eating out?!

Final Food Prep Post

Last one guys..I swear. I didn’t want to overwhelm you with a bazillion in one long post, so this will be my third and final on my food prep containers.

The kids tested these warming bad boys out and said their macaroni stayed warm for the four hours until lunch..once again Karen..move along if you don’t like what we’re eating over here. They even have an adorable built in spoon that we will enjoy exactly one more time before it gets lost. 😜

Link:

https://amzn.to/2zGCccZ

And my fave is this little personal salad buffet. I mean..you can put ALL THE TOPPINGS..and the DRESSING even. Refer back to my previous post about how all the food shouldn’t be touching until I’m ready for it to touch. It’s also a step further than my weird quirks, since it helps stuff stay fresh. I asked my husband for his review..a man of many words said “I liked it”. And there you have it folks. The best review he’s ever given. πŸ€·β€β™€οΈπŸ₯—

Link:

https://amzn.to/2zxitw8

Last but not least..the full lineup that is setting me up for years to come, including my reusable snack bags and salad dressing/dip containers-with links below. Let me know if you have any personal favorites for meal prep!!

Reusable snack bags: (not my exact ones because they no longer sell, but similar)

https://amzn.to/2UhmvlR

Salad dressing cups:

https://amzn.to/2Uh0pQA

Where’s me lucky charms πŸ€

Another of my go to food prep containers and I have a few more to bring your way in the next few weeks. This is another amazingly easy container for making breakfast for breakfast or breakfast for lunch. I know I know..cereal has sugar..and also I don’t care. Look Karen..If you don’t like what we’re eating over here, then don’t sit by us at the lunch table. πŸ€·β€β™€οΈ

I’m not telling anyone to eat cereal every day for a meal..so lighten up a little and think of it as a treat once in a while. This container would also be great for oatmeal/granola or yogurt/berries, or rice/beans, or soup/crackers..the possibilities are endless honestly. It even has built in ice pack and is microwave safe. Basically great for anything you want to be separated at one point in time, but then mixed together at a later time to form a delicious meal. πŸ₯£

If you want to be like me and not be like Karen..then follow the link below..and go get you some cereal and milk in bulk at Costco. πŸ˜‰

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07T25LR79/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=543704-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B07T25LR79&linkId=97a9d31835223782fb495a5185b20dda

The Best Meal Prep Items

With back to school upon us, along with another year of back to work (after a weekend off..lol), I thought I would share some of the containers that I absolutely love!! If you are trying to stop eating out as much, whether it’s to save money, eat healthier, to simplify your life, or whatever your reason, the right containers can set you up for success! It took me under thirty minutes to prep lunches for myself and my five and ten year old for the upcoming week. With the amount of time it takes to run out and grab lunch, along with the cost, I expect to save over $2,600 dollars for me, $1,000 for kids and 7,000 hours of my time. (15 mins each way to grab a $10 lunch x 5 days a week and kids school lunch at $2.50 a lunch x two kids)

The first and absolute favorite is what I refer to as the “food tackle bait” containers. These bad boys are perfect for bento box snacky type lunches, since they have containers perfect for people like me who get weirded out by their food touching. πŸ˜‚. Also for non-food touching weirdos..it’s still nice to keep things separated and fresh so you can prep in advance. You see modeled here in the back containers with hummus/crackers, guacamole/chips and strawberries, carrots and almonds. Perfectly balanced. πŸ‘ŒπŸΌ The front container is another awesome one for those of you who like sandwiches of any variety. πŸ₯ͺ Seen modeled below in the front with an English muffin, peanut butter, celery, apple slices, and pretzel twists, all of which I’m fully prepared to dip in peanut butter. πŸ˜‹

You guys..I’ve tried a LOT of meal prep containers, and these are hands down the best bang for your buck.  My old ones were cheaper, but they also were cheaper quality and cracked and broke in under two years.  These are heavy duty and also have more space for food.  I’m so excited and I don’t get excited over much, so if you are just as excited and ready to set yourself up for meal prep success, links below to each item.  Follow me for more upcoming posts on ways to simplify your life and save money and your health in the process!

Let me know what you think of these containers and what you plan to do with all that saved time and money!!

Food tackle box container:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07FMQL1TN/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=543704-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B07FMQL1TN&linkId=431257d1f1e0c1fc4eeda7c3198f420e

Sandwich container:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07RP46XC3/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=543704-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B07RP46XC3&linkId=d3bb07523bc590f78723b8554b82f17b

Garage Sale Season

With end of summer upon us, I start thinking about all of the garages full of stuff that is no longer used, too small or has been upgraded. I have memories of being a kid and getting up early every weekend to go to garage sales. (bribed with donuts and the hopes of a new toy of course) 🍩 🧸

Nobody asked me about my opinion on garage sales, but I’ve decided to tell you anyway. I can say that I had one several years back and made around $800 when I was on maternity leave. I also did one for a work fundraiser and made around $500 for our Big Brothers Big Sisters bowling team. For mine, I sold a bunch of maternity stuff and baby stuff we weren’t using and all of Kylie’s clothes we had saved from NB-4T, after picking out the gender neutral stuff for Caleb of course. πŸ˜‰

Looking back..I definitely think people with babies up to 4 years have the best luck. Also, people in a high traffic area or neighborhood having a lot of sales the same day can also be successful. But I also think we can avoid the need for a garage sale by sticking to the bare minimums and borrowing stuff that we will only need for a short period of time. Babies seem to be a reason to buy everything, and baby registry’s make it easy to add a bazillion things you will likely be too exhausted to figure out how to use once parenting shows you it’s true colors. Then it will end up in your pile for the sale, likely priced at half what it costs, just to have someone ask you if you’d take five dollars for it. (I know because I’m a garage sale hardcore negotiator) πŸ˜‚

If your sale includes clothes, shoes, and household items, and you still have a closet full after outing for the sale, then it might be time to just stop and reflect on your stuff strategy. Not only did that clutter used to be money, but that money used to be your time.

I will say if I’ve finally persuaded you to join my minimalist lifestyle and you are simplifying your life and need a fresh start, one big sale may be a good idea. But only if it ends there, and you don’t just go out and accumulate more stuff to replace what you sold. Also, think about the time and energy that goes into one. If setting up, pricing, getting nasty warm lemonade for the kids to sell and dealing with them badgering your customers for 5 hours on your Saturday morning with extreme temperature variations like smoldering heat or pouring rain and going back and forth with hardcore negotiators like me sounds like a good time to you..well start borrowing those tables my friends. πŸ€·β€β™€οΈ

If that sounds comparable to a root canal, then selling things in “lots” on Facebook Marketplace is a great alternative. Or let’s be honest, we all know that person that’s selling clothes that are so loved they should be donated. Just saying..don’t be that friend..also don’t be the friend that sells hand me downs you got from a friend. (Totally did that on accident and still getting shit for it two years later) πŸ˜‚

When it comes to shopping at garage sales, this can be a double edged sword. I remember finding a rocking chair with foot rest at a garage sale for $15 that I used with both kids. I negotiated it from the $30 it was marked at and was so proud. But I’ve also lost all common sense and self control at a sale and just bought the whole damn table of baby clothes I didn’t need. So be careful when you shop..they can be sneaky and fill your trunk up before you realize you only needed a few things. πŸ€·β€β™€οΈ

Now you know my thoughts..what are yours and please share your garage sale fails and success stories. 😊