Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Financial Fitness: Debt

As discussed here, when Hubby and I moved in with family, our focus was to pay off all of our consumer debt within our timeframe of 12 months. We set a specific dollar amount goal to have paid off by May of 2012. For this installment of "financial fitness", we're on to discussing our debt payoff plan.

Step One AKA “the eye-opener”: We took stock of all of our debts from various places including general credit card debt, department stores, medical statements, etc. We created a spreadsheet with all of our debts and included the following:

  • The debt source {name of department store, credit card, etc.}

  • Current balance

  • Interest rate {if promotional rate, the date that the promotional rate ends}

  • Minimum payment due

Step Two: We then organized our debt from smallest to biggest. We did not pay attention to the interest rate. This is a philosophy I was very skeptical about when we first started. I thought it would make the most sense to pay off higher interest rate debts first. However, it proved successful as we maintained our motivation to pay off debt. The results are fast, as it is easier to knock out the lower balance debts.

Here is an example of debts from least to greatest including balance, interest, and minimum payment amounts:

































Total Debt




Note: To add all the columns together, simply apply the "sum" formula to give a total for all selected columns.

Step Three: Now that debts are arranged from least to greatest, we tallied up the minimum payments for each card. Then, we took the amount that we set for debt payments from our budget, minus the minimum payments. This gave us the extra amount to apply to our debt. It ends up looking like this {this example uses the debt breakdown above}:

$900 {debt budget}

- $235 {minimum payments}

= $665 {extra debt payment}

Step Four: We then add the “extra” to the minimum payment of the first debt {the smallest debt}. Repeat every month to knock out debt from smallest to largest. This creates a “rolling” effect that accelerates the debt payment process.

An example of rolling debt payments:











665 + 35




665 + 30 + 35


If “revised” amount is greater than debt owed, simply apply to the next debt. As debts are paid off, we continue to roll the minimum payments from the previous debt to achieve a greater revised payment for the current debt.

{Rinse. Repeat Step Four. Every Month.}

Note: This is a series on the blog to share our path to financial fitness. We are no experts in personal finance. We are, however, on our way to becoming smart{er} consumers.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Inspired Tuesday: Ceremonials

Have you heard Florence + The Machine's newest album "Ceremonials"? I'm in love her voice and the complexity of her music. See my favorite performance here.

Here's a video of one of my favorite tunes from the new album. I could not find a video for my most favorite "Never Let Me Go", but if you're a Spotify member give it a listen. It's, well, brilliant.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Nike Running Gear

So it's become a tradition {at least for the past two years} for Dad and I to run on Thanksgiving morning. This year, we did not do the 8K Turkey Trot {mostly because I'm ran a 5K on Saturday}, and instead headed out for a 4 mile run with my friend B. It was an absolutely gorgeous day for a run!

A few months back when Dad and I attended the Nike Chicago LunarGlide+3 event, Nike graciously sent a new pair of kicks and some tech shirts for myself AND for my Dad! We finally snapped a few photos of us in the running gear. I have been wearing the Nike Chicago LunarGlide+3 for my regular running shoes and I love them.

{our Turkey Day running gear}

{our sweet kicks!}

{the tech shirts and our sweet kicks!}

Thank you again to Chicago Blogger Network and Nike for the gear!



Saturday, November 26, 2011

Grant Park 5K Turkey Trot

Saturday morning my friend B and I ran the first Grant Park 5K Turkey Trot. We kicked butt, both of us setting new personal records for the distance. We ran, we finished, and then we brunched at Ann Sather's. A perfect end to our morning.



Friday, November 25, 2011


The Hunger Games. Have you read the series?

Confession: I read all of them.

Confession: I'm obsessed.

Confession: I cannot wait until March 23, 2012.



Thursday, November 24, 2011

Turkey Day Meal

Here are some snaps of our Turkey Day meal. The food was incredible. I prepared the turkey {the same as I have for the past two Thanksgivings}. Again, it was brined and roasted to perfection. Mom's homemade apple pie, cheesy potatoes, sweet potatoes, and green bean casserole were incredible {as always!}. I also made the stuffing {cranberry, fig, sausage} and cranberry-apple chutney. Both turned out incredibly delicious.

Overall, it was a great day spent cooking, baking, and spending time with family. So good. Now, I have to roll myself out of bed tomorrow morning to go back to work. Boo.




{Source: A Girl and A Camera Photography}

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday {not only because I love cooking, baking, and eating all the delicious food}. It always holds such meaning and reminds me to spend a day reflecting on my life and the good things in it. My family has a tradition of going around the dinner table, each person sharing the things that they are the most thankful for. I love it.

Since I joined the "Weekly Gratitude" project, I have enjoyed the regular reflection of thankfulness. It's fun to reflect on my week and think about the events {big or small} that leave me feeling blessed.

These are the things I'm most thankful for this Thanksgiving holiday:

I am grateful for my parents {whose love truly is unconditional}.

I am incredibly blessed to be connected to something greater than myself {others, the world around me, my faith}.

I am thankful for each day that I can spend loving others.

I am thankful for friends that celebrate the good and commiserate the bad.

I am thankful for a meaningful career.

I am thankful for sisters.

I am thankful for Hubby {my partner for life} who loves me so completely.

I am thankful for Lennon {who gives the best cuddles in the entire world}.



Friday, November 18, 2011

Weekly Gratitude

{via Pinterest}

Things I'm thankful for:

  • I had a great time in Michigan with my sisters and momma last weekend. So fun for all of the girls to be together!!

  • Gloves: I forget how cold my hands get during these months. I'm so grateful for my fingerless gloves {so I can still text, of course!}

  • Dinner with friends, cracking up and spending time catching up on life

  • Good girlfriend telephone call

  • Receiving a letter in the mail from a long-distance friend {yes, we are old-lady pen pals}

Things I'm looking forward to this weekend:

  • Running with "B": We are on track for our 5K training, running 4 miles!

  • Sleeping in on Saturday morning {and cuddles with Lennon}

  • Saturday afternoon event {see below} and seeing some of my newly found blogger-friends

  • Saturday evening Chick Flick night

  • Sunday brunch



Thursday, November 17, 2011

Financial Fitness: The "B" Word

It would be entirely dishonest to say that setting up a budget is “fun”. It is, however, completely necessary. Over the last few months, I have dreaded our bi-monthly budgeting less as we have more control over where our money goes and how it’s being spent.  Like everyone says {and I agree}: It’s important to know where your money goes. Setting up a budget allows you to tell your money where you want it to go.

Over the last few months, Hubby and I have spent hours {literally} going over our budget. Every two weeks, we spend about an hour discussing when, where, and how we will spend. I don't anticipate it will always take that long, but for now, it's a discipline that we have embraced. Every two weeks we go through the following steps:

 Step One: For each paycheck, we start with our income and gradually work our way through the next two weeks making a list of all of the bills that are due {mobile phone, internet, storage unit, etc.} until we have reached the next paycheck. Side bar: I find that it works best to do this every two weeks instead of just once a month. It keeps us accountable to each other and very motivated to complete our goals. Plus, our paycycle is every two weeks, so it just makes sense to follow it.

An example of our bi-monthly budget for bills:

  • Mobile Phone Bill: $180

  • Storage: $120

  • Netflix: $7.99

Step Two: After we have paid all bills {or simply marked that they will be debited}, we make a list of all of the things that are coming up: occasions to purchase gifts, dinner dates, activities, etc. We make a list and prioritize what we need to have available.

An example of irregular occasions:

  • Movie night: $25

  • Friend’s birthday party: $30

  • Family birthday gift: $25

  • Bridesmaid dress: $120

Step Three: We have a debt payoff goal amount {to be discussed next time} which we have broken it down into 12 monthly goals. Each time we sit down to do the budget, we have a specific amount of money earmarked for debt-only payments. This is a handy reminder that our end goal is still to have no debt.

 An example of our bi-monthly budget for debt:

  • Student Loan: $290

  • Consumer Debt: $900

Step Four: We allocate our remaining expenses into the following categories and take out cash to make all purchases. Cash has proven a very effective way to hold us accountable to our spending and to stay within our budget. We have an accordion file with various sections labeled {clothes, groceries, dining out, etc.} where we keep our cash. If there are certain purchases we would rather make with a debit card {fuel, online shopping, etc.}, we simply leave the amount in our checking account, and indicate on our budget worksheet. Side Note: We track our cash withdrawals from previous weeks to give us an idea of what we should withdrawal for each category. We adjust as necessary. For example: if there’s a week where we want to dine out more than cook meals at home, we will adjust our grocery budget to be smaller and our dining out budget to be larger. We remain flexible with our spending budget to adjust categories accordingly.

 An example of our bi-monthly budget for spending:   

  • Groceries: $140 (cash)

  • Dining Out: $80 (cash)

  • Target: $40 (cash)

  • Haircut: $20 (cash)

  • Lennon: $40 (cash)

  • Transportation: $40 (cash)

  • Gifts: $20 (cash)

  • PJ: $20 (cash)

  • Hubby: $20 (cash)

  • Fuel: $20

{Rinse. Repeat. Every Two Weeks.}

So there it is, folks: our budgeting steps. Do you and your partner have a monthly or bi-monthly budget? I'm interested to know how others tackle the "b" word.

Note: This is a series on the blog to share our path to financial fitness. We are no experts in personal finance. We are, however, on our way to becoming smart{er} consumers.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Inspired Tuesday: Marcel The Shell With Shoes On

Do you know Marcel? I fell in love with little Marcel the Shell last year, and have been waiting for a sequel.

Here's the original:

[vimeo w=400&h=225]

MARCEL THE SHELL WITH SHOES ON from Dean Fleischer-Camp on Vimeo.

And the sequel:

Hope you enjoy as much as I did.


Sheldon Conch

Friday, November 11, 2011

Weekly Gratitude

{via Pinterest}

I love that this quote bends either way to apply to the kind things you say/do and the mean things you say/do. The words fade, the actions fade, but the feelings remain. So true.

These last few weeks have been filled with some really fun events. I'm particularly thankful for:

  • Opportunities to meet fellow bloggers in Chicago thanks to the Chicago Blogger Network

  • Fun with friends: playing games {I won my first game of Clue - ever!} and last-minute dinner dates

  • Amping up my runs to finish training for the 5K that I will run at the end of the month

  • Telephone calls with my girlfriends

  • Chicken nuggets {random, I know}

  • My Hubby that sees the good, the bad, & the ugly AND loves me anyway

  • Burt's Bees 'Hibiscus' tinted lip balm & Weleda 'Everon' lip balm have been my latest obsessions for protecting my kisser from the temperature drop this week

This weekend I'm headed to Grand Rapids to visit my Middle Sister. Momma and Little Sister are coming along, too, for a little road trip/girls weekend. Wee!



Thursday, November 10, 2011

Financial Fitness: Goals

When Hubby and I started planning to move in with family this year, it was not so we could spend our money on exploring exotic countries or tasting our way through all of the incredibly fabulous Chicago restaurants {although this is VERY tempting}. We wanted to focus on something far more important to us: our financial fitness.

Since the beginning of time {rather, since the beginning of our marriage} we’ve had an extremely difficult time being disciplined with our finances. Up until recently, the word “budget” would send me into a full-blown tantrum {no, really – just ask Hubby}. In May of 2011, we decided we were fed up with feeling like all of our money was spent before it reached our bank account. Suddenly, we were motivated to change things. And change them, we did.

Moving in with family offered an opportunity for us to hit the re-set button on our finances. We read articles, books, and blogs about living a debt-free lifestyle. We read about the importance of setting up an emergency savings fund to prevent future credit card purchases. Then, we read about accelerated student loan payments. Sounds like a lot of reading, no? It was. It’s just what we needed to propel us to make changes.

On May 31, 2011, our goals* were born:

  • Goal One: Set up Emergency Savings Fund // Completed 

  • Goal Two: Payoff Consumer Debt // In Progress

  • Goal Three: Decrease Student Loan Debt // In Progress

*We wanted our goals to be attainable within our timeframe, but challenging; so these were what we decided to focus on.

Do you {or you and your partner} have personal finance goals? How often do you set them? I think it's a great way to prioritizing needs and keep things in perspective.



Note: This is a new series on the blog to share our path to financial fitness. We are no experts in personal finance. We are, however, on our way to becoming smart{er} consumers. 

Friday, November 04, 2011

CBN Tribute Party: Darkroom Demons

One of my favorite parts of the CBN Tribute Party was seeing Mr. Tyler Curtis snapping photos. Here are some of the photos that he took. Be sure to check out Darkroom Demons and the event photos in their entirety at the Chicago Blogger Network Tumblr . Tyler was the perfect mixture of hilarity and honesty: I appreciated his advice about keeping the chin level and standing up straight. Again, a huge thank you to Tyler of Darkroom Demons, Tribute, and Chicago Blogger Network!




Thursday, November 03, 2011

CBN Tribute Party Recap: Food Demo

Wednesday night, I had the opportunity to attend the Chicago Blogger Network party hosted at Tribute. Prior to the main event, myself and three other food-lovers participated in a behind-the-scenes demo from Tribute's own Executive Chef: Jared Case. Chef Case prepared a Tribute speciality: The Big Nasty. Complete with homemade cheesy biscuits, fried chicken, sausage gravy, and cheese. Can you say "heart attack"?! We had a blast learning new techniques to achieve perfect sausage gravy and fried chicken. Chef Case is charming, hilarious, and was so kind to answer questions about what he was doing, and more importantly, why he was doing it. It was one of the most delicious of culinary treats I have ever laid taste buds on!

{Executive Chef: Jared Case}

{Pastry Chef making the biscuits}

{Fellow bloggers: Kelly, Lori, and Christina}

{Building The Big Nasty}

{Still Building The Big Nasty}

{The BIG Nasty}

{Chef Case and The Big Nasty}

{Tasting Time!}

Unfortunately, my photos of the actual CBNTRIBUTEPARTY were terribly blurry and dark, not even salvageable by Instagram. I had a blast hanging out with fellow Chicago Bloggers, and noshing on the tasty treats provided by Tribute.

A huge thank you to: Chicago Blogger Network for the tote bags. My tote bag was stuffed with these goodies:

Last but certainly not least, any readers interested in checking out Tribute and their delicious contemporary American fare, show them this photo below on your visit, and receive 10% off of your bill!