Category Archives: budgeting

Family-friendly Budget Template

Try our Family Budget Template

Just as my twin sister, Miel, disentangles her finances from her recent divorce, I feel like I’m starting from scratch again with our budget.

After my family bought our dream house and Hubby got his dream job, now it’s my job to create a new budget. In hindsight I know that I should have done this months ago, but I was too busy unpacking, settling in, paying contractors, and celebrating the holidays. Now nearly six months after our move, I am finally ready to create our new family budget.

The good news is that I have an awesome budget template to start from…it’s actually one that Miel helped me create for this blog five years ago. We made the budget template specifically for families and all the expenses that come with them. It’s also easy to personalize our budget template. It’s nice to see that it’s still as valid and important of a tool.

I know that my family will benefit from the time and energy that I put into creating and consistently updating our budget. When I’ve been really “good” at updating it, we’ve been able to save more quickly than I ever imagined.

Truthfully, it’s been a source of tension lately, since we don’t have a current calculation of our exact monthly bills, which changed a fair amount when we moved. We also spent a toooon of money on home repairs when we first moved in, which I’ll save for another post soon.

Yet, I know that I also have mixed feelings, not wanting to focus on our lack of money and to plan for things that our current budget doesn’t actually allow for. That’s where I think gratitude comes in, and by acknowledging how you are currently providing for your family makes a difference. To put things in perspective, I was in the grocery store when I overheard a Dad saying to his son how he had to work for an hour to earn $10, enough to buy a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread. Even when money might seem tight, I know that practicing gratitude helps me feel abundant.

Have you used our budget template? Do you update it daily, weekly or monthly?

Happy budgeting!


PS I’m going to post a Google Doc version for everyone else who has moved their finances to the cloud, like me.

Dream Job for Half Your Salary?


Would you take your dream job for half your salary? Say you spent your entire career dedicated to a vision. You worked hard and were paid well. You loved what you did. In my case I traveled to some of the most dangerous places on earth and worked on incredible projects that literally saved peoples lives.

When I left Portland for DC just over a decade ago, I had a vision to return as the Executive Director of an international nonprofit organization. When I finally decided to take the leap out West, I was delighted to find the job advertisement for the ED role at Green Empowerment. It was a perfect fit. All I had to do was beat out the several other hundred people who thought they were also a great for the job. I’d done the same before.

I knew the salary would be lower than what I was making in Washington, DC. It is Portland after all. Plus a much smaller non profit. I had already learned the salary scale from someone I had connected with during the interview process, so when I got the initial call back and heard that the salary range was between $60k-$70k, I said without hesitation that I could work with that.

After a long interview process, with external pressures around needing to have the job offer in hand to close the deal on our place in Portland as initially scheduled, I took the offer of $62k with the caveat that my salary would be raised as the organization’s budget grew.

The thing is, this meant that I took an effective cut of half my salary . I was making $109k, plus an additional 13% towards retirement, so a total of $123k annually.

But, heh? This is my dream job after all. It shouldn’t be about the money.

That’s all well and fine, but there is still the inevitable clash of reality versus dream. While I couldn’t be happier with my position with Green Empowerment, it seems that several months in, the crunch is being felt. When I initially moved out from Washington I had to pay for the expenses related to our move, so I wasn’t as focused at the time on day to day budget aspects.

Now the reality is starting to sink in. I now make less than I did in my late twenties. I have more responsibility than ever, but have regressed ten years when it comes to my salary. While my salary has been cut, trimming my lifestyle and fixed expenses takes some adjustment.

Would you do it? If you could do what you love and make a difference in the world, would you do it for half the money? I think of all the entrepreneurs out there who go out on a leap of faith, often with no real income to speak of, and know that I will continue to adjust and make it work.

Thanks for any comments on whether you’d take a cut in salary for your dream job.



Repairing Your Credit in 2015

With the calendar flipping over into a new year, resolutions are on everybody’s mind. Maybe you’ve resolved to pay off all of your debt this year. Maybe you are determined to get rid of those bad money habits that landed you in hot water in the first place. It’s important, though, when figuring out plans for the coming year to remember to focus as much on building something as on breaking old things down.

So, in this post, we’re going to talk about the things that you can do to repair your credit rating.

#1. Start at the Beginning

Before you can take action, you have to know where you’re starting. Getting your hands on a copy of your credit report is the best way to do that. You’re entilted to one free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting bureaus every twelve months. What better time to get yours than during the start of a new year?

#2. Fix Any Mistakes

Go over each of those credit reports with the finest of fine toothed combs. There is no such thing as a “minor” mistake when it comes to your credit report. Dispute every single detail that is not 100% accurate. The credit bureaus allow you to do most of this through their websites. They will check into each dispute and if they cannot prove that what they have on record is the truth, that item will be taken off of your report.

Be patient with this. It can take a few months to get these blemishes erased. The credit agencies have 30 days to act on a dispute, then there’s a 30 day wait for the information to be proven and then they have up to 30 days to correct the information on your record. It won’t happen in just a few hours.

#3. Take Out a Secured Credit Card

If you’ve just paid off a ton of debt you’re probably reluctant to take on anything new. And, if you have a history of only paying minimums or maxing out cards, you aren’t yet ready for an unsecured credit line.

A secured credit line is one that you open up with some sort of collateral, typically cash. They are typically granted in smaller amounts–most start at around $300. You pay the bank your $300 and they give you a card with a $300 limit. You then use that card like you would any credit card: paying for things and then paying off the balance. If you default, the bank simply keeps the money you gave them as collateral. It’s sort of like a gift card except that your payment history gets reported to the credit bureaus. Secured lines of credit are great ways to teach yourself new and responsible habits while also building up a positive payment history on your credit report.

#4. Work with Bad Credit Financers For Bigger Things

You don’t want to take on a lot of debt, but after successfully managing your secured credit card(s) for six months or so, you will probably feel ready to take on a larger type of debt. A good way to do this is to buy a car. The best way to do this is to work with a “middle man” who helps people with bad or sketchy credit get auto loans. One such “middleman”, Consumer Portfolio Services, buys automobile contracts from dealerships and retailers and then “sells” them to people whose credit will get them turned away at a regular bank. You then take the loan from CPS (or whoever) and they report your positive payment history to the credit bureaus.

If you manage to go a year without any major slip ups–missing payments, only paying the bare minimums, defaulting on a credit line, congratulations! You’re on your way to having positive and solid credit for good!

Busted…Caught Overspending

I’ve been busted. Hubby caught me in the act with an overdraft notice.

The truth is that lately the buying bug has caught me. It started on our spring break vacation, which was an expense in itself. We were buying lattes and pastries, and generally enjoying ourselves along our travels.

There’s nothing wrong with that if you have the money. The problem is that we don’t at the moment. We only have one income, which thankfully is enough to pay the mortgage, utilities, and general bills. However, it’s not enough to pay for the “extras” that we are still frankly accustomed to buying.

I am a spender by nature (as opposed to Hubby and my Twin Sis who are definitely savers). If I have money, I will find a way to spend it. My father was this way. As a tree planter for most of his life, he barely made ends meet. Yet, every time he was paid for a contract, he was suddenly flush and ready to make up for the lost time spent scrimping.  

My intentions are good, and my justifications are many. But if I’m honest with myself, I have gone overboard lately. Here’s a list from our credit card balance:

  • Jeanne Verger Necklace – $71 (An early Mother’s Day present)
  • Foster & Dobbs – $4.89 (coffee and croissant)
  • Laurelwood Public House – $52.65 (unplanned dinner out after b-ball game)
  • Jr Rock Star Camp – $440 (for two kids – plus we’ve signed up for two other camps)
  • Little Big Burger – $7.50 (lunch by myself…it was delicious but we had leftovers)
  • Bridges Cafe – $19 (Treating Kieran to lunch after a Dr. appointment)
  • Overstock – $649 (3 rugs for bedrooms)
  • McMenamins’ Yoga + Michael Franti/Brett Dennen Concert- $134 (B-day tix with Twin Sis)
  • Garden Fever – $153 (Plants for patio and hanging baskets)
  • Books for coaching – $61 (I could only get two from the library)
  • Bill Sullivan books – $38.90 (present for Hubby and book for cabins)
  • Multnomah County – $21.45 (months of overdue fines…dreaded missing books) 
So, I obviously need to stop overspending. Today.

I’ve agreed with Hubby to start tracking my spending, and to stop spending on things we don’t really need. Even though I love earning miles on my credit card, I’ve also decided to spot buying with the card for at least the next two months. Even though we pay it off at the end of every month, obviously this past month we overspent and this next payment will be coming out of savings. That hurts. None of my spending is worth the stable nest egg that we’ve built to keep us out of debt.

So, here are the things I committing to doing publicly (please hold me accountable!)
  1. Track my daily/weekly/monthly spending using a simple tally system.
  2. Not spend beyond my $50 monthly allowance (save toward summer spending)
  3. Only use my debit card (no card until at least July 1st)
  4. Plant our garden seeds…harvesting kale and spinach now!
  5. Water my business seeds and start to earn an income.
Lastly, I’m committing to blogging regularly again. I’ve actually been in the process of drafting several blog posts and have been brainstorming ways to really relaunch this blog, but the key is to post regularly. So, that’s my first step, writing two posts per week. One will be a finance heart-to-heart and the other something that is inspiring me, and hopefully will inspire you too. 🙂

Have you ever overspent? 
What did you to get back on track?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Sugar Daddy Budget Comparison

Long-time readers and friends may recall that when my Hubby was faced with a very potential layoff a few years back, I got busy creating a Sugar Mama Scenario

So, when I set my sights on working for myself part-time from home after baby #3 arrives, it meant reviving the old budget and creating a comparison with our current/anticipated finances. This was partly to validate my own assumptions about our budget, but more to convince Hubby that I’m not going to put our family in financial jeopardy by pursuing my dream of blogging and being a Simplicity Parenting Group Leader (more on those plans soon…)

Thankfully, our financial circumstances have improved significantly in the past few years. We no longer have my student loans and we own our Swagger Wagon. These two line items used to be nearly $700 of our monthly expenses.  We have also been diligent about saving for a rainy day, and have enough savings to live on no income for several months if we ever faced that hardship.

Childcare has been our biggest monthly expense for some time now, even with our Big Guy now in grade school and only needing after school care and summer camps. Adding another childcare tab would bring our budget way out of balance: a full 3/4 of my income would need to pay for childcare. This was the most convincing aspect of the whole budget comparison, but once Hubby could see that we could still be in the black each month on his income, he was able to understand my perspective on our finances.

Honestly, since I became pregnant (now 27 weeks), Hubby has been a bit panicked about our finances. The idea of one more mouth to feed terrifies him. It’s also because I’ve been quite seriously “threatening” to leave my financial secure career for a part-time pursuit of my passions.  For me, the dream of having a third child came at the same moment as wanting a complete shift in my life and creating an independent career.

So, I was relieved that our recent Money Honey check-in went so well, especially given the level of changes we are planning for with a growing family. Hubby’s fears haven’t gone away entirely, but his confidence is growing. Through this process I’ve reflected more deeply on our divergent views on scarcity In my mind, abundance and wealth is all about your perspective.  

Has your family made the shift to a single steady income?
What were the challenges and advantages?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.