MONEY TALK: OUR FINANCIAL HISTORY

MONEY TALK: OUR FINANCIAL HISTORY - This Wild Home

I’ve wanted to do some kind of money talk on here for a while. I’ve said a few things here and there, but I want to get specific. I feel like it’s important to talk about money. Things that work, things that don’t, and what realistic expectations really look like.

There’s a lot of people who wait and talk about money when they’ve found the opportunity to actually change their financial situation and well, I’m one of them. I haven’t felt like I have a voice on financial responsibility and stability until recently because I really haven’t been extremely financially responsible until now.

Before I dive into our future and plans for our finances, I wanted to share a bit of our history. Our mindsets and general incomes throughout the last four years. I want to be able to relate back to our history when looking at our future because it’s important to remember what it’s like to live with less. It’s really important to remember that we made it through the tough times with food on our plates and a roof over our head to keep things in perspective as we move forward.

So I’ll start with the first year of our relationship and go from there.

OUR FINANCES THROUGH THE YEARS

YEAR ONE

The first year, we were doing pretty good actually. We just had no idea how to manage it. We were making over 30K a year, but we didn’t quite get our taxes figured out so we wound up owing a good amount at the end of the year.

Ian had a job at a church as the sound engineer while I worked at a coffee shop. We lived in an apartment well outside of our means because we hadn’t learned budgeting yet. We were living paycheck to paycheck, though I can guarantee that we didn’t need to.

We went into our relationship with about 40K in debt. Student loans, of course. Maybe a couple hundred here and there in credit card debt, but mostly student loans. It’s been our biggest struggle. Initially we deferred them again and again. We’ve put them off as much as possible cause guys, the monthly payments are almost enough to pay rent. And until recently, we honestly haven’t been able to afford the minimums on top of everything else people have to pay for in a month.

YEAR TWO + THREE

These two years were fairly similar to each other. We wound up getting new jobs. Mine have always been in the service industry. Mostly coffee, sometimes tacos. Ian has jumped around looking for a job that he could turn into a career. Starting with sound engineering, moving to the more industrial install aspects of the AV industry, and then to delivering food. (You’d be surprised that this is the one he’s turned into a career! You really never know what’s out there until you look.) So for these two years, we really weren’t making much at all.

We moved twice which we paid for with credit because we have (yes still have) no real savings, bringing our debt up a couple thousand. We continued living paycheck to paycheck, and while our less than 30K income warranted that, I still believe we could’ve found a way to have an extra $50-$100 a month, which in reality is not that much but could’ve made a real difference.

These two years especially were tough. We were both working opposite schedules. Year two, Ian had a job where he was over worked and under paid which left both of us emotionally exhausted. It’s true that people who say “money can’t buy happiness” already have money. Financial stability is a key pillar in a healthy marriage, and we’ve learned that first hand.

As the years have gone on, our loans came out of deferral one by one, each time putting more strain on our finances and relationship. I still to this day don’t know how we made it every month. We learned our lesson from the first year and have since made the choice to live in places we can truly afford, which definitely helped. We’ve very slowly implemented more meals at home into our routine which has also helped. But still, I have no idea how we made it those last 2 years.

YEAR FOUR

This was our turning point. This is when we started figuring stuff out. I think having a baby helped. Having to be responsible for someone besides ourselves definitely made us put our heads on straight and fight to find a way to grow.

That’s probably been our biggest fear all along: an inability to grow financially. Neither of us have degrees (though we did try, hence the student debt), but we’ve been doing our best to set ourselves up for some kind of growth. We’ve moved locations at least once a year since getting together (which has been a big part of our debt rising about 10k more). We’ve changed jobs to try and find something that can give us some amount of stability. I’ve pretty much always worked in coffee, but it can be a place that offers growth if you really put yourself out there. Ian has jumped all around from service jobs to skilled jobs to corporate jobs. I’ll tell ya, corporate may be the best bet so far.

So here we are, coming up on the end of our fourth year and we’re finally getting it.

Ian has found an amazing company that has given us the opportunity to find a little stability while also giving me the chance to stay home and have and care for a bunch of babies. We have reached the point of maintaining the lifestyle we’ve always dreamed of. It’s truly incredible and I really never thought this would happen for us.

Still, this past year was a transition into that as Ian worked very hard to make his way into a position that gave us this chance. I worked for the first while of this year as we patiently waited for opportunities to present themselves but I have to give my husband lots of props. He started with his current company from the bottom and he has worked harder than anyone I’ve known to move forward one step at a time. He’s stayed humble and hard working every step of the way and you know, that is a really key part in finding your footing in the working world.

So now we are making enough to pay ALL of the student loan minimums (because they are all out of deferral at this point) and credit card minimums. Once all of our loans came out of deferral, we lost the couple hundred each month that was suppose to help us put extra money into different things. But we’re moving again for a new position that will officially put us in the financial position we need to actually tackle our debt, create savings, and set ourselves and our kids up to actually have a little stability in our lives and eventually give back where we can.

WHAT I’VE LEARNED SO FAR

IT’S REALLY HARD WHEN YOU DON’T MAKE ENOUGH

That is probably the hardest part when you’re starting out. You feel so irresponsible when your bank account balance hits $2 a week before your next paycheck. Yes, we did some irresponsible spending here and there and we weren’t the best with budgeting, but we tried very hard to use our money wisely. We just simply didn’t make enough.

You can’t argue numbers and when your income is as much (if not a little less at times) than your mandatory expenses, it’s hard to feel like you’ll be able to do anything besides work and struggle your whole life. And I know, if I were reading this somewhere else, I may be thinking, “well you didn’t have to go to school and get loans.” But you know the world we live in. You know the expectations that are put on us from day one about education. You know the promises made. And you know what it feels like to be in school, one that you took out a hefty loan for, and see people around you failing because a degree doesn’t necessarily get you as far as people say it will. Luckily, we stopped before our debt grew even more.

The point is, if you simply don’t make a lot and you’re not sure how to make more, I feel your pain.

I can honestly say that it may be impossible to feel growth when you’re not making as much as you need. I don’t have a lot of advice for that situation. I wish I did. I wish we found a way to make it work from the beginning, but honestly, even making slightly more than our mandatory expenses each month doesn’t add a lot of room for saving and paying off debt.

The best advice I have is to set realistic goals and make drastic changes in small increments.

Want to save for an emergency fund on a tight budget or need to pay down a little debt? Eat rice and beans for a month. Turn off your lights more. See if you can make a small batch of something to sell, like cookies at a farmers market. Sometimes, when finances are tight, it’s better to think in a very short term mindset with small goals to at least give yourself the ease of knowing you’re doing something.

EVALUATE AND REEVALUATE

I have an app that I use called Mint (but they also have a website). It has been a game changer for our budget. Basically, you link all your accounts from loans to cards to accounts to bills, what have you. Then, it tracks everything. You have different spending categories, you can set budgets, you can create goals. It’s an amazing tool for anyone trying to grow financially no matter what stage you’re in. It’s how I learned that we spent $700 on food last month (WHAT???) and now I can definitely trim that back because we’re only two and half people here.

Along with having months of sacrificing some basic first world “necessities” to meet goals, having a very good visual of where your money is going is important. Keeping track of spending and budgets while constantly evaluating where your money really needs to be going is one of the best ways to keep your mind on the right track.

JUST DO WHAT YOU CAN

I’m sure a financial advisor would shoot me in the foot for saying this, but you know what? People in the red need to hear this:

It’s okay to have priorities and put payments on the back burner sometimes.

Now, if it’s between paying a bill or buying a new car… I mean, come on. BUT if it’s between groceries and a student loan, the loan can wait. If you get an unexpected doctor bill but you have electricity and rent and gas to pay for, the doctor can wait.

You shouldn’t starve yourself or live without running water or electricity just to save your credit score. You’ll get to it when you get to it and if right now is impossible for you, don’t let it stress you. I know it’s hard, but just remember it’s okay to do what you can when you can. Just make sure you keep track of what you’ve put off and maybe pull a rice and beans month next month to catch up.

WHERE WE’RE HEADED

Okay, so we’ve reached the point of making enough to start tackling our debt and create a real savings safety net. I can’t tell you how much a relief it is to have made it here. I can truly say I never thought we would. We never imagined we’d feel capable of climbing our debt mountain.

So here is what money talk is all about: It’s about our finances and how we manage them. It’s about learning from our past to conquer our future and set ourselves up to find peace and security in our bank accounts.

Money may not be able to buy happiness, but responsible budgeting and living wages can certainly give you the opportunity to find it.

A GIFT GUIDE FOR TODDLERS

A GIFT GUIDE FOR TODDLERS - This Wild Home

Up until now I’ve kept Oliver’s toys pretty minimal. He has one box of toys that is full of random items we’ve picked up over the last year, a truck that came with some Mega Bloks, and a few stuff animals. That’s pretty much it.

The thing about babies is, they don’t really need much in the way of toys. Oliver didn’t even really start interacting with his toys until he reached about one and he hasn’t been consistent with them until recently. So the need for toys, at least for my son, has not been a big one. All of that paired with the fact that household items and kitchen things seem to be way more entertaining than his actual toys and we’ve really not seen a need.

So, for this Christmas I’ve decided to go a little crazy on toys simply because, well, he doesn’t really have any, the few he does have need some upgrades, and he is now getting to a point of actually enjoying a little bit of creative and imaginative play with toys.

So welcome to my gift guide! This is including toys on the list for him this year as well as a few he’s already been loving.

STUFFED ANIMALS

Before I officially start the guide, I want to give a little insight on my experience with stuffed animals and my son and other kids I’ve seen. For Oliver, he does have some favorites that have been gifted to him, but his absolute favorite stuffed animal is this little beanie baby cat he picked out all on his own at the store. As soon as he saw this plain, grey cat amongst the bright and sparkly unicorns and platypus; he grabbed it and hugged it as tightly as he could with the biggest grin on his face and didn’t let go until we got in the car. Now, every night when he gets in his crib, he gives the cat the same big hug with the same big grin and it is heart melting every single time. - and I’ll add the he’s not usually one to grab at stuffed animals at the store which is how I knew this one was special

The point to this story (besides the fact that I wanted to tell a cute story about my son) is this: While it’s really fun to try and guess what stuffed animal could be your kids favorite or to be the person who gifts a child their favorite stuffed animal, I think for something like this it’s better to let them find it all on their own. I’ve noticed that when a kid finds their favorite stuffed animal, it’s a love at first sight experience that you can’t create artificially and will happen much more effectively if they’re not already weighed down by a mountain of stuffed animals in the first place.

So for all of that, I am very intentionally leaving stuffed animals off of this list.

A GIFT GUIDE FOR TODDLERS

A GIFT GUIDE FOR TODDLERS - This Wild Home
  1. DUMP TRUCK

    This is a toy that Oliver already has and loves. We specifically got him this one that comes with Mega Bloks (which is another toy he’s starting to enjoy), but they have wooden ones if that’s what you’re into! The best part about the truck is it works as additional toy storage and is an awesome motivator in teaching your kids to help with clean up by encouraging them to put their toys in their dump truck rather than a “boring old toy bin.”

  2. SHAPE SORTER

    This is another one that Oliver currently has, but we’re thinking of getting an upgrade for Christmas. Right now the one he has is plastic and the shapes are so form fitting to the holes that it’s even hard for me to fit them in the right spots, and I’m an adult.. So we’re thinking of going with something more like this. It’s a little more neutral and the shapes look like their a good size for kids to put in the box with ease.

  3. RINGS

    This is the final one that’s been tested and passed in our home. A good stack of rings (or a very neutral option) has provided us with lots of fun, only now it’s time for us to make an upgrade from plastic.

  4. NESTING BLOCKS

    You know, the rainbows (or neutral rainbows). Well I found these really cool waves as well - can you tell I have a thing for blue? There are so many different ways for kids to play with these and they really are becoming a classic amongst kids these days.

  5. A GATHRE PLAYMAT

    If you’re ever on a trendy mom’s instagram account, you’ve probably seen these mats. We picked up this one for Oliver, but they have many other patterns and sizes to choose from as well as some plain ones if you just want a good, portable playmat. The reason I decided on a Gathre mat is because they are made with leather, so clean up is super easy if there are ever any spills. They’re also easy to move from one place to another so we can put it out in the living room, in the kid’s room, to the park for a picnic, or we can hang it up if it’s not in use! Plus the design. I mean, it’s mom’s dream neutral palette to keep decor cohesive wherever you put it, but it also has a fun pattern for the kids to enjoy.

  6. TOY VINTAGE CARS

    This is partly something I think Oliver will love, but also I have a place in my heart for old 1950’s/60’s cars for no reason besides I think they look dreamy. For Oliver, he has grown an obsession for cars. Specifically the tires, but in general he loves to watch them drive by so I figured this would be a really cool addition to his toy collection.

    We’re going with this and this to start but you can get lost in a worm hole of tons of different models.

  7. TOY TRAIN

    My parents have been holding onto a wooden train set for a while (Basically it was my mom’s older brother’s when he was a kid, and then we got it for my brother. So it’s been in the family for a while.) but I can’t wait to see what Oliver thinks of it! We went to a local kid’s museum in Waco that had a big model train set up and he was mesmerized so I can imagine it’ll be fun to see him make his own little world of trains!

    If we didn’t have the old one, we’d probably ask for something like this.

  8. WOODEN BLOCKS

    This is one my sister-in-law put on a list for her son and then I promptly put on a list for mine! It’s another one that I think could really add some creativity to his playmat by building a tiny town for his cars to drive around in. Of course, he’ll do what he will! The possibilities for blocks are truly endless.

  9. WOODEN ANIMALS

    If you haven’t noticed a theme here, I’ve basically made Oliver’s Christmas list full of things to create his own little town on his playmat. Of course he will use his toys however he sees fit, but I wanted to give him all the pieces he needed to go anywhere he wants to in his own little imagination land. Plus, these little animals come with a house that they can live in when he’s not playing with them!

  10. A WOODEN TOY CAMERA

    On a recent trip to visit my family, my brother had a disposable camera that Oliver was so interested in. He will also spend as much time as he can playing with a digital camera that I have so I figured he may be a little interested in cameras right now. I thought this one was a really cute toy to add to his collection so he can pretend he’s a little photographer.

  11. BOOKS

    I don’t have a master list of books to choose from. He has some that he loves right now and frankly, I’m tired of reading them 500 times a day. So I’ve put our family to work to find some new books for us to dig into! The only real advice I have for books right now is to have a good mixture of soft paged and hard paged books. Some that you all can read together, but also some that they can look at themselves without having to worry about the pages ripping.

WHY I CHOSE THESE GIFTS

Obviously, when choosing toys for your toddler, it is a little risky. There’s no telling what they’ll truly like and what will go unused. In addition, we like to stay in smaller living spaces which means our capacity for toys is minimal. Beyond that, I don’t ever want to overwhelm him with too many toys or have so many toys that he’s distracted from the world around him. So in order to keep Oliver’s Christmas list as intentional and minimal as possible, I ask these questions to determine what I think would be a good addition to his play time.

WHAT IS HE CURRENTLY INTO?

Looking at what your kids currently play with at home or on playdates or look at in the stores is a good way to gauge what peaks their interest. Oliver is very mechanical. He loves to figure out how things work which is why trains and cars seem like a really good fit. He can make them move forward and back while getting up close to see how it’s all happening. He also likes to make things fit together and build which is why the upgraded shape sorter and rings, along with the blocks, will be a cool addition for him.

Really, just take note throughout the year of what they get into the most. It’s a good guide for what they will enjoy as a gift.

WHAT DOES HE CURRENTLY NEED?

The nice thing about toddlers is, they don’t quite understand Christmas or gifts. They may enjoy opening the gifts and seeing new things, but they are not going to be eternally disappointed if they get socks. Maybe bored, but they’ll get over it. Last year I needed clothes so he got clothes. This year, we happen to need toys so that’s the majority of the list. For his birthday, I’m going to make a list of school supplies so we can start learning colors and shapes and letters and things when he turns two. A can confidently say a kiddie potty seat is definitely in his future gifts. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. Your kids will always benefit in the long run.

WHAT FITS YOUR VALUES?

This is a really good way to narrow down what you want on the list. I know plastic toys are becoming a big thing to avoid. Personally, if there’s not a better alternative, I’ll take the plastic but I do try to stick with wooden toys if for no other reason than it just plain looks better and our house is small so we’ll be looking at them a lot.

Beyond the material, there’s the actual toy to think about. Maybe you want to avoid barbies. I know my mom HATED Bratz dolls growing up because of the message they sent. Maybe you want to encourage more imaginative play or outside play. Whatever you want for your kids, your toys should align with that.

So that’s my guide for you all! hopefully this helps you find some good stuff for your kiddos!

What’s on your kid’s list this year?

A LIST OF ESSENTIALS FOR ALL-NATURAL HOME CARE AND BEAUTY

A LIST OF ESSENTIALS FOR ALL-NATURAL HOME AND BEAUTY - This Wild home

A couple years ago, I decided to be a health and wellness blogger. I dove into the world of essential oils and natural goods so quickly that my head nearly spun right off. It’s quite a rabbit hole to go down all at once so I very quickly went back to the easy, cheap stuff I could grab from the store.

The thing that I’m finding now is, natural beauty and home care don’t have to be complicated. Honestly, it can be a thousand times simpler than the list of toxic ingredients that are found in most of the “easy” products you see on shelves (even the ones that like to say they’re natural).

There is an ever growing list of stuff to avoid. From the packaging to the ingredients inside, everything will kill you. It’s terrifying and there is no real way to know what’s a marketing scheme and what is real. It’s also impossible to remember the giant list of stuff you’re suppose to avoid which has turned shopping for basic items like body wash and all purpose cleaner into a very stressful experience for anyone who’s attempting to be conscious of what they’re bringing into their home and onto their body.

Honestly, if you do it right, staying natural with your products can actually be easier and even cheaper.

There’s always the option to go down the rabbit hole of natural products we all need, but I’ve found it’s much simpler to stick to a very basic list of items that can serve multiple purposes and branch out for fun every once in a while.

HOME

For my house, I keep it super duper simple. It really doesn’t take much to keep a house clean. So many things can be used multiple ways to where you really don’t need a different product for different things and half of the stuff you do need can also be used in your very own kitchen!

BAKING SODA

My holy grail of cleaning products. It single handedly cleans my whole entire bathroom. From a very effective toilet bowl cleaner to soap scum remover to faucet shiner (and really all things stainless steel shiner), it seriously does it all. It’s also great for freshening carpets and laundry or for cleaning stuck on food from pots and pans (with a little help from our next friend, white vinegar). You can add some essential oils to give it a little extra scent, but it really smells fairly neutral and clean all on it’s own. This ingredient single handedly acts as a super cleaner and deodorizer all in one. I’m actually about to make an “After Your Business” deodorizing shaker bottle thing (I really don’t know how to describe it. I’ll just share the DIY when I have it) for the bathroom because it’s so subtle, yet so powerful!

WHITE VINEGAR

This is a really good cleaner for counters and glass especially. For an all purpose counter spray, just do half vinegar and half water with some lemon juice or about 10 drops of essential oils for smell (or infuse it with some orange peels) and then use the same spray for your windows and floors! - The vinegar smell goes away when it dries. You can add two tablespoon of vinegar and sugar to flowers to help them last longer. It can also help with stains and pen marks and water marks and pretty much anything that needs to be wiped down in your house. It’s even a good thing to use to try unclogging drains before turning to the very intimidating drano.

COCONUT OIL

This is amazing for all things wood. It’s a naturally antibacterial so it’s really great for wooden cutting boards, utensils, or handles. You can also bring out your trusted white vinegar and mix the two with some water and lemon to make a wood furniture polish.

ESSENTIAL OILS

For my cleaners collection of oils, I like lemon, orange or grapefruit, and cedar wood. Along with being great for masking some of the stronger smells (like vinegar), they have a lot of immune boosting and anti fungal/bacterial properties that are never bad to add to your home. Cedar wood is also a natural insect repellers which is a nice boost for your home cleaning products to keep away unwanted pests.

BEAUTY

I have been making a very strong effort to make everything that touches my skin a natural product. For my face, I tend to try and let the professionals take charge by finding trusted, natural products. For everything else, I’m all into simplicity and homemade!

COCONUT OIL

Amazing amazing for so many things. I use a coconut oil + coffee scrub for my body that leaves it buttery smooth. Some use it as a moisturizer for their face and swear by it (my face is way too persnickety for that). You can also add a little (a very little) to the ends of your hair if it’s looking a little dry or frizzy. It’s amazing for your teeth, as weird as that may sound, and you can use it as a mouthwash. It’s also perfect for massages or just a general body lotion. Plus it’s like, $7 for a jar and a little really goes a very long way.

APPLE CIDER VINEGAR

This is a really great one for hair especially. I’ve been doing a no-poo thing for a few months now and apple cider vinegar not only helps to remove any dirt build up, but it also leaves your hair feeling soft and clean and smooth. Seriously, my hair is beautiful these days. It’s also great for balancing Ph levels in your skin which helps control acne and makes a great addition for a homemade toner.

HONEY

This is perfect for making a very simple face mask or you can add sugar to make a scrub. It’s moisturizing and soothing, full of antioxidants to help with aging, and antibacterial which helps with treating and preventing acne. Just throw a little honey in your tea and on your face and head to bath to relax while the honey does all the work for you.

CHARCOAL

Another great addition to oral care. Charcoal is not only cleansing, but it also can whiten your teeth. I don’t quite trust myself to make my own toothpaste yet, but I’ve been using this and I swear my teeth are whiter than any other “whitening” toothpaste has ever come close to. It also makes a great deep cleaning mask.

HERBS

Chamomile, rose hip, lavender, mint, and dandelion are all great ones. It can be a little cheaper on the front end to grab some herbs than their essential oil counter parts and they’re very effective for adding a spa feel to your baths or adding to a facial steam to open up your pores and let in some good stuff.

As you can see, natural products don’t have to get complicated. Keeping simple routines and putting on horse blinders can help you to not get overwhelmed by all of the “must-haves” or “must-not-haves” in the world of cleaning and beauty products. It can also save you money on things that say they do something that they really can’t do or from having too many products to store and maintain.

What are your go-to’s for natural products?