We All Have Unique Financial Situations

photo-1421977870504-378093748ae6This post was written by Sarah Greesonbach

A few weeks ago, my husband and I began our first Financial Peace University as coordinators. It’s been awesome so far, despite my ongoing nervousness about speaking to large groups of people.

But the large groups of people part is very important. Because it’s when you have a bunch of people in a room re-learning the basics of handling money that you start to see how similar we all are… in that we’re all not so similar.

Sound weird? Stick with me. The coolest lesson I’ve learned so far is that we all have unique financial situations and the solution to all of these problems is the same. It doesn’t matter if your debt comes from student loans, stupid loans, or health crises. They all feel the same. You feel a little stupid, a little tired, and a little suspicious of people who don’t have those kinds of loans. And the solution is to find a way to make more money quickly, get a savings account together, and make a plan to pay off your debts.

I learned this lesson from several couples in our course in particular. They’re a little older than my husband and I, and their situations are very different. One couple is saddled with debt from medical emergency after medical emergency. It’s so stressful, and it feels a little unfair to have these accidents keep happening. The other couple is a little less in debt but staring down huge student loans for their children. If feels stressful, and it feels a little unfair to have to worry about this when they should be concentrating on retirement.

The answer for both? The only thing that will make you feel better again. Save. Pay off debt. Get your financial priorities in order and then take care of others. Because it’s only when you feel the peace of a financially-sound household that you can let go of that feeling of stress and unfairness.

Josh and I are still fighting Baby Steps 1 and 2 years after we started the program. But it’s reassuring to see that the solution is always right in front of us: find a way to make more money, then work together to save that money, and then put all of our resources together to pay off debt. And as we return to this process for the rest of the fall season, we look forward to seeing what kind of progress we make.

2 Surprisingly Valuable Skills College Accidentally Taught Me

There is no denying the fact that college is super expensive.

Most of its value comes from the promise of a better, higher paying job when you graduate. Unfortunately for many, that’s not what happens. College can’t really guarantee you a job any more than graduating from high school guarantees you a place at a college. There is no way to guarantee what life has in store for you.

College is still valuable, though. The classes, the friends, the coming of age that comes with growing up and being an adult… there’s plenty you can learn that will directly impact your future after college.

But while I learned tons from class, looking back I am surprised by how much I learned by accident. And those accidental lessons turned out to be far more valuable than what I learned from the syllabus.

Scheduling and Prioritizing My Time

There was a point in college when I was a Resident Advisor for a dorm, taking a full load of courses, putting on a 3 hour weekly radio show, and playing club rugby. Needless to say, I was a little busy! At a time when many people slept in until 11AM and wandered around looking for food, I had a color coded date book that scheduled out all of my meetings, dates, commitments, and study sessions.

Looking back, I’m so glad I learned this kind of scheduling and time committment because it helped me learn how to prioritize what’s going on in my life and make room for everything I want to do. As an adult, I can now see how to put together my weekly schedule to cook, sleep, eat, and socialize just enough without feeling too harried too many weeks in a row.

Socializing and Meeting New People

I’m also glad I was involved in so many activities and took so many classes outside my comfort zone (Telecommunications as an English major, anyone?). This helped me develop a wide base of conversational interests so that I felt comfortable making small talk with people in each new job I took and when I meet people out in town. Now, I’m probably still an introvert, but barring an occasional week of shyness, these experiences in college helped me know how to talk to people when I want to.

Nowadays, I feel like I have a good grasp on how to start a conversation and maintain it if I run into someone at the grocery store or meet a new person at a party. I also feel like I have a better idea of where other people are coming from since I met and befriended so many different kinds of people in college.

Did you learn any surprising things from college by accident? Do you think it’s by accident, or is this just how the educational process works?

3 Hacks to Decorating Your Home on a Budget

When we moved into our new house just a couple of years ago as first time home buyers, we were on a serious budget.

We didn’t know what it would be like to now have to pay a mortgage, plus property insurance and all of the extra expenses that came with owning a home. 

So we were ultra careful with our money, at least until we figured out what our budget and expenses would look like going forward.

That meant not spending on paint or home improvements at first, and certainly no spending big bucks on decorating.

But it was our first home, so we definitely wanted to spruce up our house with our personal touches.

My husband and I managed to decorate our home on a shoestring budget and spent almost nothing, and it looks great.

Here’s how we did it:

1. We Repurposed Cool Older Decorations

The thing about living in the suburbs is that, come garbage day, especially in the spring, there are always things that people no longer want out at the curb.

If you think about it, this is really a shame. After all, they should be bringing these items to the thrift store or Freecycle, but it was great for us when we were looking for decorating projects to take on.

One family ditched some beautiful ceramic lamps that we took in, painted, and cleaned up a bit.

They were perfectly fine lamps, though they were definitely not in our preferred colour. After we spruced up the lamps, they looked as if we bought them from the Pottery Barn. We still have them and we can feel good for not letting them end up in a landfill, too.

2. We Only Bought Second-Hand

This not only caters to my frugal side, but it also caters to my “green” side, too, like repurposing older things. Buying second hand gives items a second life and prevents them from ending up in a landfill or, worse, buying something new and taking on the environmental responsibility that goes with it.

So, when we moved into our new house, we needed a few pieces of furniture and didn’t want to buy them brand new. We ended up buying second hand furniture, and making slight alterations to it if needed (though often it was perfectly fine as it was).

You can can buy second hand Furniture on Gumtree and browse online, which is pretty cool.

3. We Frequented the Dollar Store

Depending on where you live, the dollar store can have some awesome stuff!

We bought vases, office supplies, and even canvas for our own art at the dollar store nearby and we saved a ton of money, especially compared to the prices of the same stuff even at Walmart or a department home goods store.

We were surprised to see the stuff that the dollar store sold, and the simple pieces that we bought there really changed the look and feel of our space.

We still get a lot of compliments on the vases that we bought from the dollar store.

 

Even though we probably could have budgeted more for our home decor when we moved into our new-to-us house, we’re glad we didn’t. We found some awesome decor for free or for cheap, including furniture and other home goods. So we definitely don’t regret saving our money for more important things!

How have you saved on home decor in the past?