Gazelle Hooves & Hide (per my husband)

Last summer my husband and I went through Financial Peace University. We were so inspired, we wrote down some goals for ourselves! We set four years as our timeline to reach our listed goals. It hasn’t been a year yet, and we’re ahead! I know things will happen we don’t expect, that may set us back. But that’s what the emergency fund is for, right?

Anyway, I thought I’d share some pictures with you of a couple of my “Dave” clothes.

The toes all scuffed up...

The toes all scuffed up…

Four holes in the soles

Four holes in the soles

I don’t even really remember when I got these boots. I know it was before getting married, and we have been married for almost seven years. I wore these almost every single day at work. Fortunately we had enough money left over from Christmas bonuses this past year, I was able to buy a replacement pair!

Holes in the knees

Holes in the knees…

Not bought this way...

Not bought this way

These pants remind me how God has such perfect timing! I have had these pants for thirteen years. They did not get those holes until January 2013! after I received another pair for Christmas, and we had enough money for me to buy a couple more pairs of jeans. Crazy!

It can be a struggle to be “gazelle intense“, but when you have absolutely amazing goals for your future, and you and your spouse are on the same page, it can be pretty exciting too!

What crazy things have you come across in being “gazelle intense”? What made you go for it? Got any advice for us?

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Is Your’s a Wonderful Life?

This Christmas we started a new tradition–watching the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. A classic.

I cried throughout. Despite the positive title, it revolves around situations, people, and events that keep George Bailey from the life he’s always dreamed of. And to top it off, a seemingly impossible crisis finds George a very desperate man.

Many people have been there, or will be some day. What makes life worth living? And how can we follow our dreams?

Here are two key factors:  God and being intentional.

I believe God makes life worth living because he gives me unconditional love, forgiveness, true freedom, purpose, and a hope for the future. And in turn, I can share those with others. Do we really have those things without God?

We can’t always plan how our lives are going to go. Look at George Bailey:  Nothing seemed to be turning out the way he wished, but he was a happy man in the end. At the same time, the dreams we have for our lives won’t happen unless we are intentional with how we live. For example, say you want to be a famous painter, but you spend every spare minute watching TV. A few years later, those hours watching TV haven’t brought you a single step closer to being that famous painter. (You might be able to tell I’ve been reading Quitter, by Jon Acuff)

So. New Year’s Day, I will be working my way through Michael Hyatt‘s Creating Your Personal Life Plan. That is my first step toward being intentional with my life.

What’s your plan for New Year’s Day….or your life?

Creative Solutions for Christmas

This year my husband and I had to improvise a lot when it came to Christmas gifts… at least compared to what we normally do. As I mentioned in a couple previous posts, The Beginning of Our Impossible Dreams and Financial Obstacles, we technically live on one paycheck. This is our first Christmas season as such. Hope you can garner some useful tips from below!

  • Meaningful but Inexpensive

There are several different routes you can go with this one:  ornaments, stocking stuffer novelties, individual handy tools, candy, etc. We bought for three people out of this category, totaling $27.00

  • Rewards Points

Some people claim you should steer clear of credit cards. But if you can trust your self-discipline, they can come in handy. We have two credit cards, use them only for what we have budgeted, and pay the balance down every month. Our rewards points can be used to purchase gift cards. So this year we purchased an Amazon gift card and bought a Christmas gift that way, spending $11.00

  • Homemade

There are many options with homemade:  baking, knitting, crochet, embroidery (our sister-in-law embroidered our initials on a couple kitchen towels!), scrapbooking, ornaments, painting, drawing, etc. I drew a simple cartoon-like picture for our niece. And my husband, who is a wonderful realistic artist, did graphite drawings of our niece for his mom, brother and sister-in-law, and grandparents. You can visit his website at goginstudio.com  We did have to buy mats for the pictures, but my husband had a gift card he received to cover those. Those were $6.00

  • Clearance

If you know where to look, or you wait until it’s close enough to the holidays, you can usually find some pretty good stuff on clearance. We bought for two people, totaling $10.00

  • Something from Home

I’m not usually a fan of gifting something we own. But this year we realized we had something, never been used, that a particular person would greatly appreciate! $0.00

  • Remember the Love

My husband and I did not get each other gifts this year. Not enough money. Sure, I was disappointed I couldn’t surprise him as a means to show him how much I love him. At the same time, we have each other and we love each other. That’s more than many can say. $0.00

  • Expect the Unexpected

No matter the consideration put into careful planning, there are always going to be unexpected expenses. We wanted to purchase a gift for a couple people with our Amazon card, enabling the gift to be nicer than what we could afford with our own money. Due to unexpected timeframes, we had to use our own money instead. Also, we didn’t have the wrapping needed for our artwork, so had to spend for that too. The present was $10.00, and the wrapping $4.00

  • Wrap it Up

Gift-wrapping seems to be an expense many people don’t take into consideration. It’s not an actual gift, right? But it’s still an expense. In the past I’ve used newspaper and paper bags when needing to improvise. We still have wrapping paper we got on super duper clearance after the holidays a couple years ago. And we reuse gift bags given to us. So other than the wrapping mentioned in ‘expect the unexpected’, we spent $0.00 on wrapping.

Picture I drew for my niece

The Pictures My Husband drew of our niece

Obviously, you have additional holiday expenses. For us, that would include groceries for contributing to a work party and holiday meals, and travel expenses. Fortunately, we received a Walmart gift card, a $50 check from a friend, and a $100 bonus, pre-Christmas.

The total we personally spent this Christmas was $51.00 (not including taxes)

Most people I know spend hundreds of dollars on Christmas—it’s the American way. So our total may seem a little extreme. But when finances are tight because we aren’t receiving either of my December paychecks this month, we have to make some sacrifices to cover needs like our house payment, gas bill, and groceries. Fortunately, our friends and family value each other (us included!) more than material gifts.

Are there any more ideas you can add to the Creative Solutions list?

Pinching Pennies: Windows, Garage Door, and the Library

Winter isn’t the easiest season for finances, for various reasons:  The weather, expectations at holidays, and finding ways to entertain ourselves indoors. Below are three ways we have handled financial friction…

  • Windows

This past June we moved into our first house–a foreclosure. Beautiful house, 111 years old, affordable…..tall windows. A little drafty. Ideally, one would purchase a more efficient furnace, invest in insulation, or look at replacing windows. We are currently in a position to do none of those. Instead, we bought insulated curtains that were on clearance, for our larger windows, and hung blankets or towels over the others. And more importantly, taped heavy plastic around the windows. Hopefully that keeps the gas bill low enough!

  • Garage Door

After the cold weather started hitting, our garage door started complaining. Several mornings I had to hit the button multiple times before it was up enough for me to get our car out of the garage. Finally one morning, it jammed with the motor going and going and going. My husband came out and detached the motor. We could hired someone to come out and fix it for us. Instead, we are opening and closing our garage door the old fashioned way–using our hands.

  • The Library

In the past it’s always been easy to rationalize renting movies, going to the theater, or buying books. Individually those privileges don’t cost a lot. But when you’re on as tight a budget as we are, it adds up. Alternate solution:  the library card!

It’s always good when there are alternate solutions! This year for Christmas we had to be more creative because of financial reasons than ever before. Next week I’ll share our solutions for this year’s holiday…

Merry Christmas, readers!

Our Christmas Tree