Be a Goal Getter

I don’t care who you are..you need goals. Think of the old cliche saying that totally applies here..how are you supposed to get where you’re meant to go if you don’t know where that is? I firmly believe that if you take everything else out of the equation, mindset and goals are the biggest drivers of if you will or won’t do something. It also doesn’t matter if you’re on a different path than me and think I’m crazy for my recent FIRE movement 🔥, you still need goals and the right mindset for whatever your movement is, whether financial, personal, professional, relationships or health related.

Don’t be a flake and say something vague like “I want to pay off my debt” or “I want to lose some weight”. If that’s your goal, then you may as well replace it with “I don’t want to accomplish anything ever” and just get excited about carrying around those extra 15 lbs and all that consumer debt for the rest of your life. We wouldn’t have paid off all of our debt and bought our first rental by being flaky..period.

Instead, set yourself some SMART goals for whatever you are trying to achieve. Stop and brainstorm your life, past present and future state. I know everyone is “busy”, but sometimes you have to make it a priority to stop and reflect. Think about tomorrow, end of the year, two years from now, and maybe even think even farther, like 5-10 years from now. With us being halfway through 2019, it’s also a good time to look back on the past six months. What do you see? Do you like what you see? What will happen if you continue the way you are? Will you get where you want to go?

After you think about your path and your big picture, which will be different for all of us, think about 3-5 micro goals over the next 6 months that will help you get that much closer to your big goal. Get all high tech and write them on a post it and put them on your fridge…where you see them every day. 👀 (bonus points if they fall off all the time so you have to look at them even more when you pick them up off the floor)

As you can see, I have crossed out and updated a few of mine when my priorities shifted and opportunities came my way that altered my original timeline. Be ready to adjust as life comes at you, but even when things don’t go as planned, don’t ever give up. Remember to set your goals high enough to push you while making sure they are also attainable with some focus and hard work.

Don’t forget to stop and celebrate your successes as you hit your goals. Then make sure you continue to set new micro goals to get you that much closer to where you want to be! We need to think bigger and get some new goals since we’ve already paid off the student loans, currently looking for our second rental and also pretty sure we have increased our net worth by $25k just in the past few months. So I’m curious..what are some goals you have crushed and what are some that didn’t go so well?

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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. 🤦‍♀️

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. 🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️

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. 😴 👶 🍼

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. 🤦‍♀️

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. 😬💸💸💸

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. 🙄

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. 🎉😎 👩🏼‍🎓 👨‍🎓

Gifting gratitude is free

Being grateful for what we have is something we can all spend some time each day reflecting on. It’s as easy as asking yourself one question each morning before getting out of bed. What am I grateful for today? I bet there are some things you are grateful for that others may not have, such as basic needs like a warm meal or the roof over our heads.

This is one of the reasons we have all made the decision to be part of a fundraiser or donation drive. It’s always nice to stay stocked up on canned goods for a local food bank or to help get school supplies for a student in need. Monetary and food donations can make such an impact, even on a small scale.

While giving to others, we can end up gaining so much. I know the feeling I get from giving to others is indescribable, and I bet some of you feel the same way when you give.

If you aren’t in a position to give back with goods or money, there is a way to give back that doesn’t cost you anything. Time is a great thing you can give that is just as rewarding, if not more so, than money or goods.

Find something you’re passionate about and give your time..an hour a week..an hour a month..an hour a year..whatever you have. I have been volunteering with Habitat for Humanity on the family selection and services committee for almost ten years and love it. I have also been a Big Sister for Big Brothers Big Sisters for about three years and love that program also. I can always walk away knowing that I’m making an impact, which makes my heart happy.

The point is..give back..some how..some way..a little..a lot..just give..help others..be a good human. Always stay humble because you may end up on the receiving end one day.

Friendship is free

Long sappy post ahead..so here’s the cliff notes if you don’t have the time or energy to read the full post: Don’t be a dick..instead be a good friend

Full sappy version below and feel free to grab some tissues if you’re feeling your emotions today and ready for some self reflection:

I have regrets that I haven’t made spending time with all of my friends a priority like they deserve. I’m so lucky to have so many close friends that I have met over the years and have no excuses for being too busy to reach out, even just a simple text or just something..anything. It’s so easy to say we are busy and we will hang out next week, which turns into next month, which turns into next year. And then, just like that, last week, last month, and last year are gone..the time is gone. So here I am reflecting on those choices.

I have several friends going through some difficult times in their lives right now. Their struggles are all so different, and I just wish so hard I could do more for each and every one of them. I wish I could take the pain away and just tell some of my hilarious jokes, make a fool out of myself with some sweet Mindy dance moves, and just like that, it’s all wiped away and replaced with a big smile and we are laughing so hard we are crying. But sometimes those tears have to fall and they can’t always be from laughing too hard.

We have all gone through something challenging, something we didn’t know we could get through at the time, or maybe we are currently, or we will in the future at some point. There is absolutely no way we can avoid the crazy shit life is going to throw our way and a lot of times we have no choice but to lean into it.

That’s where our true friends come in. To be there as a light in the dark, to be that shoulder to cry on, to be that person to help pick us up when we’ve fallen and don’t think we can get up on our own.

Value those true friends if you are fortunate enough to be going through good times in your lives right now. Meet up for dinner, call them to say hello, send them flowers on a random Tuesday afternoon. Just show them. Don’t wait until the difficult times to be there for them. Do it today and everyday and show them the love and gratitude you have for them.

Small actions in the good times can help us all gear up to handle the tough times when they come our way. Those that are by our side for the good times also let us know who we can look to and count on when the bad times roll in. Don’t ever forget that power you hold to make a difference for someone you care about. You could be their one person to make them feel strong when they are at their weakest. Remember that.

Teach Them Instead

I always hear people and have even said myself that “I want to give my kids everything I didn’t have” or “they deserve the world” and obviously that doesn’t mean buying a bunch of crap and “spoiling” them. But let’s be honest..it kind of starts to look like that no matter how much you try not to spoil them.

We make sure they have all of the latest and greatest name brand clothes, hot toys or electronics “because their friends have them” or “because we just couldn’t resist the clothes sale and went a little overboard”. We make sure they are attending all of the activities and getting them top of the line sports gear and paying a little extra for that personal pitching coach (or whatever your sport is). We’ve all been there, and even though they are persuasive, I don’t think they really care about any of those “things” they get.

I decided to change the game this year while I still have the chance. Instead of spending money on them, I’m more interested in spending time with them. My kids both still want to hang out with me, and the older one could change her mind tomorrow (she’s turning ten soon and really into herself and her friends these days, so my window is getting narrower by the day).

So why wouldn’t I use this opportunity to spend as much time with them as I can and start teaching them the things I wished I would have known instead of buying them what I didn’t have? We had both kids help with painting and cleaning up at our rental house, and we explained all the details and why we bought it. I also recently read The Latte Factor with my oldest and we talked about it as we went along, and how the little things add up financially. We’ve also been doing a lot of walks and pool time and there’s so many options that don’t cost money.

So why not save that money you were going to spend on junk, invest it in some real estate or other retirement account and instead invest your time with your kids. I have a feeling the kids will hold on to the memories with you for a lifetime and forget all about that new outfit or toy before they even outgrow it.

Giving credit to your credit score

Everyone is always telling us to check our credit scores and there’s so many free resources out there. Even my five year old was on his IPAD and told my husband that he was checking his credit score. 😂

Credit scores are now used more than ever and go outside of credit cards and loans, to where now employers can screen your credit in the hiring process, and even your insurance rates can be affected. But does everyone know how you got the score you got and how to improve it if you don’t like the number you see? 👀

I remember trying to get a car loan in my early twenties, and being surprised when only one lender approved me with a 16% interest rate. I was really embarrassed about my situation and how out of control my finances were that I couldn’t even get a loan with a decent interest rate(which actually ended up being a good thing because it forced me to take a look in the mirror and get my shit together). 💩

At the time, I didn’t understand health insurance and had some medical bills go to collections, along with a few utility bills from when I was a renter and thought roommates had paid. I also had 3 credit cards that were all basically maxed out and a bazillion dollars in student loan debt. Of course the banks didn’t want to lend to me, nor should I have even been looking at buying a gently used car, but there I was. 🙄

A few months after this experience, I went through the Dave Ramsey total money makeover, and made several changes, including paying off the $15k of credit card debt and all of my small collections that were around $1,000 in total. My score immediately jumped from the low 600’s to 700’s, and within 3 years, it was mid 700’s when we bought our first home. I have continued to pay off my credit card at the end of the month and pay all bills and keep my DTI under control, which got me above 800 a few years ago. 🎉

If you don’t know your score, start there with a free report. If you do know it and don’t like it, start working on a s.m.a.r.t. goal to get where you want to be. 💪🏼

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Flirting with Fear

I remember in high school and college becoming physically sick about public speaking. To the point where I would accept lower grades just to get back to my comfort zone..which was not being in front of people. I went for perfection in the areas that I knew, and didn’t feel comfortable trying anything different.

I promised myself I would NEVER get in front of crowds after graduating. I would occasionally have to speak to small groups early in my career, and every time it would cause me to lose sleep and have an upset stomach.

I got to a point in my career about five years ago, where there were new promotions I could go after, but part of that would require me to get in front of mid-sized groups. I almost stayed where I was, because it was comfortable and easy and I almost gave up on ever getting over my fear. But instead, I went for it, scared as hell of failure, very anxious and certain I wouldn’t be “perfect” at it.

It was outside of my comfort zone, but I continued to practice, visibly shaking the first few times I had to present, lost a lot of sleep, practiced some more, but watched as the groups slowly started growing in size, so did my confidence and I found that it’s something I actually enjoy.

I have also found some deep breathing and yoga routines that help get me in the right mindset if I am feeling nervous or anxious. I currently present frequently to small to mid-sized groups, and it gets easier every time I do it.

Today, 5 years after making a professional and personal development goal of getting more comfortable with one of my biggest fears, something happened. I had my largest stage and largest audience to date. And I wasn’t nervous or anxious at all, but rather felt EXCITED and GRATEFUL for the opportunity. I didn’t even use the notes that I made for myself.

Making a long story longer. 🤷‍♀️

I definitely think this book had some impact on my mindset shift and highly recommend reading this, along with listening to Reshma Saujani’s TedTalk. Be brave, not perfect!!

What fear do you have that you’ve been able to overcome or that’s still holding you back today?