Wednesday, December 30, 2015

New Year's Resolutions 2016

New Year's Eve is tomorrow, and my wheels have been turning for weeks now on just what types of goals I want to set for myself this year. I have a (rather long) document that I created last year listing many resolutions and I can't say that I really kept many of them.

Last year my focus was on health and fitness and while that is still important to me, I am setting my major resolution this year to be in the financial category.

Over the past year, I would write up budgets and track spending, but the two weren't mutually exclusive. The budget would look nice on paper, but our spending was high above it. Each time I received my twice per year "bonus weeks" of pay or other influx of money, we ended up blowing through it somehow. Some of it was necessity, like car repairs. Others definitely were not, and I couldn't even tell you what we spend that money on.

My major financial goals are to:

1. STICK to our monthly zero-based budget. No more miscellaneous category. I have already planned out every likely expense that we will face from now to October.

2. Keep our grocery budget at $200. While I'll be the first to admit that this feels impossible, it needs to be done. I want to free up money to put toward savings and debt, and this is the only place I feel like we could actually cut. I have been doing a decent job with meal planning already, and I'd like to see what I can do about using some coupons in addition to the rewards I use through one of our local supermarkets.

3. Eliminate restaurant and fast-food budget most months. Certain months throughout the year, we will have extra money to set aside for going out or ordering pizza, but most months, IF we want to continue saving and paying off debt more aggressively than before, this budget will need to be eliminated. I'm hoping this goal will help with my diet without me even having to try much ;)

4. Allocate "extra funds" wisely. At the school I work at, we have 4 weeks out of the year for intersession where it is optional to work and we are paid, essentially, a bonus. Since I am paid bi-weekly with 26 pays per year, there are two months out of the year where we will have an "extra" paycheck. And of course, the ever-important tax refund. I have already allocated where I think these funds should go and approved it with my husband, so now we just need to make sure it sticks when the time comes.

5. Have $1,000 in an emergency fund. We had our bare-bones emergency fund last year, until we had to dip into it for car repairs on BOTH of our vehicles. We are only $300 away from this goal now, so by February or March we should be all set.

6. Pay off both credit cards by October 2016 and stop using them! This has been the problem for us. We are always buying more than we actually have money for. We will say things like "put it on the credit card until next payday/next intersession check/ect" and then never end up paying it off. Likewise, we use our Amazon rewards card for subscribe and save items but haven't actually been paying for those items with our real money in full! So my goal is to pay close attention to that especially and when we have a month of subscribe and save items, to pay that bill right away.

7. Begin bulking up our savings. After our credit cards have been paid off, while ideally we would keep pressing on with debt and begin tackling student loans, I feel like it would be best for our family to revisit our emergency fund. I'd like to have a 3 month emergency fund well on its way by 2017.

These financial goals are really important to me because until we can start making some headway, we won't be prepared to accomplish my 2 GREATEST goals - buying a house and having our second baby. So 2016 is the year to build the foundation for my greatest goals to be accomplished someday soon :)

What are your New Year's Resolutions?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Summer Recap (in phone pics)

School has been in full swing for over a month now (!!!) and I never once blogged about having an amazing summer at home with my family. My summer only lasted about 5-6 weeks but even still, I really enjoyed the time off at home.

We saw fireworks twice this year. Our city fireworks were actually on our anniversary (4 years!) and so we went down to our neighborhood park to watch like we do every year. We allowed Colton to stay up and watch too. The park was fairly crowded and the view was terrible! They shoot the fireworks off from a golf course across the street and the were all perfectly placed right behind a tree.
Nice view...
My anniversary flowers and hand-decorated vase.
Fourth of July was spent at my parents house. Since the 4th was on a Saturday, I thought it was a good opportunity to change things up this year because usually we spend the holiday at the Silver Lake Sand Dunes with Mark's family. Colton got to stay up late again to see more fireworks that my dad and uncle set off.
Selfie! My youngest sister and me.
We went on our usual trip to the Silver Lake Sand Dunes as we do every year. It was a good time and the weather turned out quite well. I think we only had one day that rained and only in the evening. It was chilly in the mornings but by 2-3 PM it warmed up quite a bit. It was a fun trip. Mark's mom was quite ill on the trip after having had some complications from surgery a few weeks before but she really was a trooper and I am amazed that she even decided to come on the trip! (She is doing much better now, a few months later.)
Colton's first go-kart experience (sorry for Mark's silly face)
Once we got home from the trip we did your typical summery things every day. Many trips to the park, trips to the zoo, swimming, bike rides, eating ice cream, grilling, picnics, movie days when it was too hot to go outside. I tried my best to savor every moment. It was nice for us all to be home, too, because we were able to really keep up on household chores and didn't have much to worry about juggling. Is it sad that I am already looking forward to next summer?

Extra sweaty after cherry picking!

Goodbye summer.

Bring on the fall! Even though I have to be back at work now, fall is my favorite season, and everything that comes with it.

Friday, June 19, 2015

School Counseling Life

My first year as a school counselor in an urban elementary school is almost complete. We have just 6 school days left for the year, 3 of which are half days, and then 1 final planning day for teachers and staff.

Long ago, when I first began working as an intern with juvenile probation during undergrad (and again in graduate school), in the very same city that I now work, I talked to my supervisor about how I just wish I could have helped some of these kids sooner. I wanted to be there to help them, to guide them, to put a spark in them, to show them love and kindness, and teach them the same thing. It's so ironic that this setting is really where I ended up.

This job is not luxurious. It does not pay well. I don't even get the perk of Teacher Student Loan Forgiveness since I am not a teacher. It is very flexible in that I am able to create my own schedule and my own program which I certainly like a lot.

But first...

There are a lot of rough days. There are days when I find it difficult to stay objective. There are days when I can't wrap my head around how broken the systems in our society really are. I don't think you could ever really even begin to contemplate it until you actually SEE what it is like. See the homes of people living in poverty. Speak with them. Teach their children. Learn about their backgrounds.

Some of those days feel like a whirlwind of breaking up fights, of students yelling over me during guidance lesson, of kids that constantly run out of their classrooms, students swearing at each other, jumping off of tables and bookshelves, blatantly disrespecting their teacher, throwing chairs in anger, kicking a wall, screaming and crying.

But then...

There are wonderful, beautiful days.

When the boy that has gotten into countless fights this year alone comes up to me and tells me that someone hit him today and he didn't hit them back.

When the girl that is constantly threatening people is certain to tell me several times about how she is now being a good friend.

When my students ask me how I can always help make everyone be friends again.

When a student learns some real anger management strategies and uses them in the classroom.

When some students insist that after learning more about respecting others, they owe their teacher an apology.

When the kids get to have a special event or assembly. I almost cried the day that we had a really big, fun assembly in late fall. The kids were SO happy. It made me so happy to see them that way.

Now that I've had a year for trial and error, for learning more about the environment as well as my profession, I hope that I can continue to make a difference in someone's life.