Get a Financial Life

You may be surprised (or not) to learn that Hubby doesn’t actually read my posts on a daily basis. But after five months of hearing my “tip-tapping” almost every evening, he’s grown supportive on this blog endeavor. I’m pretty sure it’s because he has seen how committed I am to reaching our family’s financial goals and making sustainable progress. He’ll be the first to say that we continue to make our mistakes, but the important part is that we are learning and sharing about it.

So, I was pleasantly surprised when Hubby found me a resource book at the library,  Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties. Yes, it does date us, but I am still in my early thirties whereas Hubby as entered his fourth decade. Even though much of this book covers the financial basics, it is gratifying to realize that we actually have been doing more right than wrong with our finances. I’ll share my thoughts on the financial advice outlined in the handy crib notes section:

  1. Insure yourself – We’ve made a point of building professions in fields that offer ample health care, and in fact I get $62.50 a month to opt out of double coverage.
  2. Pay off your debt – Aside from using credit cards to earn points and miles, we’ve never had credit card debt beyond the monthly balance. It’s not as hard as it seems – just don’t buy things you can’t afford – if you haven’t seen it, check out the hilarious SNL skit.
  3. Contribute to a retirement savings plan – We both take advantage of our employer retirement plans. Although we admittedly both really hit our professional stride in our early thirties, so we weren’t the ideal financial early birds.
  4. Build an emergency cushion – Our emergency fund has teetered over the years, depending on various needs. It certainly took drastic dips with each house purchase, but we’ve managed to achieve our goal of rebuilding by saving our tax refund.
  5. Consider investing in stocks and bonds – We’re not there yet, not a stock or bond to our name. Although I do have my eye on Portfolio 21.
  6. Find out your credit score and improve it – Our credit scores has almost always been gleaming, but there was one slip up…you know those clothing store credit cards, they’re pretty easy to forget about, especially when you move. Just make sure you limit them (preferably eliminate, because too many cards can lower your score) and you won’t have to learn the hard way.
  7. Think about buying a house – We’re on our second house, and thankfully managed a smooth transition between an ideal starter house and our dream family home. It did take sacrifice, and we were probably able to buy them by virtue of not spending our extra cash on too much much stuff. You also have to keep in mind that houses are a big responsibility to maintain, so make sure you’re ready to do the work or have the funds to hire professionals.

In conclusion, this post makes us feel very grown up…a.k.a. old.

What are your experiences with these financial tips?

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

Unfurling Finances

I’ve read lots of online stories about Green Mamas who turned an eco-leaf with the new role of motherhood. It’s really a no brainer that you want your kids to have a  healthy environment While it should be just as intuitive to manage your finances as protect the environment, for whatever reasons, I first started caring about our finances once we became a family.

I still consider myself a financial novice. The point is that I’m trying. With patience, my best effort is getting better. Some day my investment of time and energy will pay off, hopefully before the kids hit college .

My financial strategy is to simplify, and Hubby and I are inching closer to finally merging all of our finances. If I’m not mistaken, the only lingering bill is my student loan which needs to be mailed the old fashioned way. Then we’ll be ready to close our old accounts and celebrate.

I also try to celebrate the small financial successes, like updating our new budget template. Once I finally get all this management stuff dealt with, I can promise you we’ll be celebrating our next financial goal…

When did you decide to focus on your finances?
How do your prioritize your family finances?

Green Mama 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Eco-healthy Child Care

Before becoming a working Mama, I would have never imagined forking over half my salary for quality child care. Yet, for us child care is an investment in my career and our children that I’m not willing to scrimp on. Obviously with this type of expense, you want to make sure that you are “investing” in your values.

Fortunately, when I started searching for child care I had a wonderful resource. The Oregon Environmental Council had just started a program certifying eco-healthy child care centers. The program has gone national, and become a powerful resource for parents and care givers .

I would agree with the critique that some of the voluntary measures aren’t ambitious enough, but it at least sets a bar for caregivers to aspire to and the resources to learn how their business practices impact the children they serve. I’m certain that no caregiver would ever want to harm a child, but with all the toxins in the world today some education is required, not just good intentions.

How do you make sure your kids are in a healthy environment?

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

Pop Culture

For better and worse, pop culture is part of American society. Culture unconsciously shapes what we value, and how we feel about the environment and each other. In part pop culture has created a demand for “bling” and a desire for materialism. Yes, I grew up when Madonna’s Material Girl was on the lips of every girl.

So, without getting too heavy on you, I want to share a fun little video of a Ben Lee song called I Love Pop Culture. The lyrics include references to global warming and consumption, and yet it is so upbeat that you can hardly help but smile. I couldn’t get a grin off my face the first time I heard it. I hope this makes your day. 🙂

Do you think pop culture can spur sustainability?

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

Blue Sky & Smart Energy

Each month we choose to put our money where our mouth is by opting in to our local power utilities’ renewal power option. The Blue Sky program helps purchase renewable power projects that would otherwise come from non-renewable sources, like coal. 

The program is tiered with support levels to chose from. It’s not going to bust your budget, my last bill added $4, but it does help support projects that wouldn’t be possible without such voluntary demand.

For us the grid doesn’t end with power, since our home is heating by natural gas. NW Natural has a newer  Smart Energy program, where I you can offset all of your usage by sponsoring a new biogas plant to turn cow patties into . When you sign up they have an estimator tool to be able to see how much it would add to your bill, ours will add about $7. It will actually probably be less, since we just completed our Clean Energy Works insulation project.

The Oregonian’s PDX Green blog just wrote about why it’s an easy and important step toward reducing our collective carbon footprint. I love that she managed to sign up with a pleading child in the background; I can relate. I’m not condoning putting your “green” needs before your child’s, but your children will thank you.

Do you participate in voluntary programs?

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