Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Dave Ramsey Week 3 & 4

Sorry you guys, I am a week behind due to our trip to GA so this is going to probably be a lengthy post with a lot of information so I apologize.

Week 3 was all about cash flow planning, or making your budget.  In week 2 we did our “quick start budget” but for week 3 we took it a step further and did the “monthly cash flow budget”.  For this budget your objection is to assign a job to every dollar that you have coming in.  Each category of your budget should add up & equal the same as your take home pay so when you subtract your spending from your earning, it equals 0.  I had never done a budget like this before so it was hard and I was definitely making it harder than it needed to be.  Do you have things that you only pay for annually like life insurance?  We do.  Do you save for it each month so that when the time comes to pay it you’ve got the money?  We weren’t.  Starting this month we will have what is called a “sinking fund” for those items so that we are saving for them each month.  This is a totally new thing for us and we’re doing it for a couple different things we don’t pay for regularly.

For our situation we don’t earn the same amount each week, my check is pretty regular, but Joe’s is not.  If your situation is similar, what Dave suggests is taking your lowest month of income from last year and using that as your base salary.  What we decided to do was use what Joe would earn for unemployment as our base.  He also gets paid weekly and I get paid bi-weekly.  There are some additional budgets that you can also incorporate if you’ve got irregular income.  One is called the “irregular income budget” and the other is called the “allocated budget” both of which can be done if you don’t receive the exact same pay each week.

In my mind before, as long as our bills were paid then we were doing fine.  Anything extra I’d either put into one of our other savings accounts or just spend as I felt necessary on things like clothes, eating out, shopping of any kind, getting nails/hair etc. done, I never had a plan for our extra income.  Everything was paid for on my debit card and I never carried any cash in my wallet.  With Dave, you have a plan for EVERY SINGLE DOLLAR that comes in.  He also really stresses using CASH rather than plastic because it’s harder to let go of actual money.  You have more of an emotional connection to cash than you do to plastic.  I can tell you I 100% agree. 

For me, what I’ve started doing to ease myself into using more cash is Dave’s Envelope System.  You can use envelopes for whatever you’d like.  I decided to start with one, an envelope for gas.  I get gas about once a week roughly and it costs between $20-30 to fill up.  Now that gas is back up to $1.99 it’s roughly about $30 to fill my tank.  I also use the Hyvee Fuel Saver program so I typically have some extra savings on what I pay at the pump because of that so I averaged it out to $25 a week for gas.  We received Dave’s envelopes in our class kit so I took one of them and put $100 in it for gas for the month of April.  I will definitely keep you posted on how this goes.  Does this lose the convenience of paying at the pump?  Absolutely it does, but, taking a couple extra steps to go inside the gas station is not the end of the world.  I did it for years before I got my debit card in college, I can certainly do it now.

Week 4 of Dave was Dumping Debt.  In this lesson Dave talked a lot about debt myths.  He talked at length about car loans, credit scores, and how by using his plan, you can quickly get yourself out of debt.  Depending on the amount of debt you have, you may need to go to some extreme lengths to do that, but it is possible.  He suggests starting with something like a garage sale to sell all of the unused “stuff” that you own.  It may also benefit you to sell your car and buy something significantly cheaper with CASH.  This all depends on what your situation is. 

The Debt Snowball, which is baby step 2 was also a large focus of the class.  This was also our homework for the week which we will bring in on Friday.  The Debt Snowball is a simple concept.  You write your debts down, smallest to largest in one column and then your minimum payment in the second column.  Once your first debt is paid off you take that minimum amount you were paying on that debt and you put it towards your next debt.  So you’d be paying the minimum amount on your second debt PLUS the minimum from the first (once that 1st one is paid off) which is creating the snowball effect.  Interest rates do not matter in Dave’s plan.  I will tell you too, by paying off those smaller debts which can be easy to knock out quickly, you start feeling a sense of accomplishment and confidence in yourself that really inspires you to keep working at it.  Some people may feel as though the debt with the highest interest rate should be paid first but I can tell you, my biggest debt (minus my car) has the highest interest rate that is my credit card.  It would take a while to pay that off by making just the minimum payment but because I’ll be paying the minimum payment plus the minimum from the 2 smaller debts that come before it, I’ll be paying it off so much quicker!  I know that sounds confusing, but it really is a simple concept.

For class 4 we were also allowed to bring a guest.  You guys might remember my friend Jessica and I are doing this class together.  Well, I was able to convince Joe to come with me and although he was very reluctant at first, he was impressed with the class & really liked how well Dave spoke.  He has really been participating and asking questions more about our budget for the month & is trying to be supportive because he knows that I am doing this and I want to take it seriously.  He said he might even try to come with me again to a future class.  I was a happy wife, that’s for sure!

I know this is a lot of information, but I have been getting great feedback on these posts so I’m going to continue to update you guys.  This Friday I am planning on cutting up my Kohl’s & my Pier 1 credit cards.  My biggest challenge with this class will be cutting up and closing my Chase credit card account.  I have a very strong emotional attachment to that card and feel like it may be needed for our upcoming DEIVF cycle for bills that we are paying out of pocket that we didn’t prepare for.  Our situation is kind of unique because Dave does say that once you’re expecting a baby that you should stop paying on your debts and save that money towards the baby.  In our situation we are actually paying to conceive that baby so we have to tweak Dave’s system a bit to work for us, but our leader is aware & has been great in helping us make those adjustments. 

I am highly recommending this class so far.  It has been a real eye opener for me and has really started making me question and think twice about my spending habits.  4 down, 5 more to go!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Our Trip to Georgia

First of all, it went by entirely too fast!  Why it is that time drags and drags when you’re waiting for something (like meeting your egg donor in PERSON) and then when the time comes those days just go by in the blink of an eye?  Regardless of the time going by too quickly, this trip what nothing short of AHHHmazing! We seriously had such a great time with our donor, Amy and her family, travel went smooth, our rental car was nice, the hotel was decent, I mean, EVERYTHING was amazing. 

Saturday was spent traveling.  2 hours to the airport in the car, 2 hours on the flight, 1 hour in line for the rental car, and 2.5 hours in the car to Augusta.  It was exhausting to say the least, but we got to town around 7:00 and we were determined to at least go out and find some local food.  Amy gave us some suggestions and we did some Googling and made our way downtown Augusta.  Such a cute area with some really neat looking bars, all of which had over 1 hour of wait time to eat.  This girl was HANGRY by this point.  It was probably about 9:30 and I was seriously starved.  We finally found a Mexican restaurant called Nacho Mama’s where we ordered at the counter & sat down and finally were able to enjoy chips and cheese, margaritas, and quesadillas.  I felt much better, but we were both exhausted so we called it a night. 

Sunday morning we got up and headed to Amy’s house to meet her and her family for the first time!  The suspense was killing me and I was so ready to meet them finally in person!  I didn’t feel nervous, just anxious and excited to spend the day with them.  Amy, Allen, & their kids Stella and Maxwell are seriously the sweetest.  They’re so down to earth and we have so much in common with them.  The guys got a long great and we really had a great time getting to know each other even better in person.  Unfortunately the weather was crappy, cold, and drizzly, but we made it all the way through the zoo and then went to The Melting Pot for probably one of the best meals I’ve ever had.  Amy talked this place up to me for a couple months and we were really looking forward to trying it.  It was everything she made it out to be & more.  After dinner we made the hour drive home from Columbia.  We were all very full & tried so Joe and I headed back to the hotel and went to bed early. 

Monday was our doctor’s appointment with Dr. Edouard Servy.  I liked him a lot and he seemed to be as baffled as we are about WHY I cannot get pregnant.  He did a full exam on me and we reviewed all of our history with him.  We sat down in his office where he suggested that we try a batch of my eggs along with a batch of our donor eggs.  It was nothing we had considered before but I felt like I was up for it & we ended up doing an ultrasound and having FDA bloodwork done in preparation for me to also do a fresh cycle.  Joe was able to have his sample frozen which was what we were hoping for.  Overall I liked the doctor.  I have heard great things about their clinic and was really happy with how polite the staff was.  The IVF coordinator is so sweet as were the other office ladies.  He also said (like Dr. Sherbahn) that I am borderline polycystic.  I also have a retroflexed (usually retroverted, or tilted back rather than forward) uterus that really isn’t too much of a cause for concern, but he said it could be causing my tubes to have trouble catching the egg when it’s released.  He said in the olden days they would do surgery to fix this, but that’s a thing of the past now and not really a cause of infertility.   I’ve known about this since we started with infertility treatment, but it’s nothing that I will ever have corrected. 

After our appointment we headed back downtown Augusta to check out the River Walk and do a little exploring.  We made a few stops then headed over to Amy’s house for dinner.  We decided to cook steaks on the grill & have some drinks.  It was very casual and relaxing.  Since we finally had met with the doctor I was able to give her a little more insight into the timeline and the process.  She’s totally on board as is her husband & we are so grateful that they are so determined to help us.  Amy will meet with the doctor on April 1st and she’ll have her exam and blood work done.  Once that’s all finished & the results are back we will be able to get the legal documents drawn up and signed & hopefully start the cycle sometime in April. 

After saying our goodbyes on Monday night we headed back to the hotel to get ready to head home bright & early the next morning.  I was seriously on Cloud 9.  I never felt so certain about anything before.  I truly followed my heart from the beginning of this new chapter & nothing has felt better.  It’s an amazing feeling to go with what your intuition is telling you and to have it work out so wonderfully.  I can tell Joe is excited and feeling good about it too.  He told them how thankful he was to them for being such gracious hosts to us and welcoming us into their home & for being so willing to do this for us.  I think we all agree that we are a great fit for each other. 

Joe and I did talk more about using my eggs again and my gut is telling me not to.  In the moment I really thought that was a good idea, but the more I thought about it, I realized it would be a lot of time, money, and effort, put again into something that just isn’t in our favor.  I have had my heart set on donor eggs for a few months now and I am totally content leaving it at that.  I know that this doctor, seeing that I have no clear diagnosis, probably thinks he can make this work for us, but after 3 fresh, 3 frozen, etc. etc. I am just not in the place to move forward with another cycle of my own eggs, and I don’t think I ever will be.  Not only do I just feel it in my bones, my bank account is also telling me otherwise.  This clinic is able to offer discounted IVF cycles because they don’t bill insurance so they can charge less.  I love the idea, but because of this, all the money for the cycle is due up front & then I would have to turn the bill in to my insurance and hope to recoup some cost.  Between my cycle and the donor cycle we’re talking $20,000 up front and that just isn’t possible for us.  I’d much rather spend my money with our donor where I think there’s more of a guarantee of good quality eggs & embryos. 

Once again I am beyond thankful to Amy and her family.   We are so blessed to have crossed paths with her and it seriously gives me chills just thinking about how this has unfolded so far, truly amazing.  I am so excited to get started and am very hopeful our cycle will take place sometime in late April or early May.  Thank you to everyone who has stuck around with us on this journey.  We know that it’s been a long road and we know we have so many people rooting for us and waiting for the day we get that BFP.  I really have a good feeling that this new journey will finally bring us to that point and we will get to be parents to a baby made with an abundance of love and generosity. 

You can check out more weekend snaps on my Instagram

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Financial Peace University – Week 2

Well, this post is a little later than I wanted it to be, but here it is.  Week 2 of Financial Peace University focused on determining if you’re a Nerd or a Free Spirit when it comes to budgeting.  Our homework for Week 1 was to fill in our “Quick Budget” form & also do the snap shot of our current debt.  Our table had a lot of questions about the budget, me included.   Everyone’s situation is different and we got a good lesson in that this past week.

To determine if you’re a Nerd (me!) or a Free Spirit there is a quiz that you can take, but the concept is pretty easy to figure out.  Nerds like to be in control, they’re not really flexible about the budget and they don’t really like input from anyone else.  Free Spirits really don’t care about a budget and usually tend to say “do whatever you want” when it comes to how the money is spent.  This is Joe and I to a T.  Although Joe isn’t my accountability partner I mentioned the homework to him and explained that we needed to review the budget together & he needed to give me some input in which he responded, “you do whatever you want with it babe”.  I explained to him that his response was exactly the opposite of what he was supposed to do.  We haven’t reviewed our budget together yet, but Joe is pretty well aware of what our bills our and where most of our money goes. 

Our class as a whole (I’d say roughly 20-25 people) has $449,000 in debt, $70,000 of liquid cash (cash you can access right now), and 65 open credit cards.  That number is pretty crazy and is roughly about $20k in debt per person, give or take.   I have a hard time with the credit card part.  I’m going to be completely transparent with you guys, I have 3 credit cards.  One is for Kohl’s (paid off), one is for Pier 1 (also paid off), and one is through Chase (not paid off) and I really hate the idea of cutting them up or doing “plastic surgery” as Dave likes to say. 

To make a 100% commitment to the class you’re supposed to cut up and close all credit card accounts.  A closed account can still be paid on.  I however, feel as though if you can use a credit card responsibly and pay it off each month then there’s not too much of an issue with having one.  Before we built our house we were very responsible with our card and very rarely carried a balance.  Once we started building we used our card for a lot and because we used it so often they kept increasing our credit limit.  When we started building our credit limit was $5,800, a year later when we finished our credit limit was up to $9,800.  It was really a cruel trick in my opinion.  We have made some really good progress with our card, but we aren’t where I want to be which is with it paid off.

Credit cards aren’t supposed to be used for “emergencies”, that is what your $1000 emergency fund (and eventually your 3-6 months of expenses) is for.  If you want to go on a vacation you don’t charge it all to a card, you save the money into a fund and pay cash for all of it.  It’s a great concept and one that I think is possible, but I am having a hard time letting go of my cards.  I am definitely willing to get rid of the Kohl’s and the Pier 1 cards.  Kohl’s has really gone downhill to me (at least ours has) and my Pier 1 card I use once a year at Christmas time.  It’s silly that I even have it but I used it to buy our dining room table & get a bigger discount and points.  You can see that I can easily justify why I have my cards or why I spend money on certain things.  That is also a habit that I need to work on. 

Also in the lesson for Week 2, Dave’s daughter Rachel Cruz came out and talked about how as a child she did certain chores to earn money rather than receiving an allowance each week.  I love this idea.  I had something similar when I was a teenager to earn extra money before I got a job.  She also said having a visual for kids really helps them so a big clear plastic container that they can see their money in is a great idea.  She said that her parents told her that when she turned 16 they would match whatever she saved up to buy a car.  She had saved $8,000 and ended up with a $16,000 car at 16 years old!  It was truly inspiring to hear her enthusiasm and success. 

So far the classes are going good.  There’s still a ton of room for improvement and money mistakes are still being made (hello new pair of Nikes for Georgia) but I am trying to be better about using my debit card rather than my credit card for purchases.  Both my Kohl’s charge and my Pier 1 charge have been put away in my safe & my Pay Pal credit, although tempting, has been paid off for an entire month without any purchases which is huge for me. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

A big ball of emotions...

1 WEEK from tomorrow we leave for Georgia for our first consultation for DEIVF!  This is the first of many steps to take before we can actually even start a cycle.  I don’t have too much worry about this first appointment, I am nervous but I get a lot of anxiety about travel (I hate planes) and I don’t think that will wash away until we are settling in at the hotel, or maybe once we board the plan and I order a beer!

Our first day in Georgia will be mostly full of travel.  Our flight leaves from Chicago at noon and arrives in Atlanta at 3.  We then have to take a rental car about 2.5 hours to Augusta.  I imagine by the time we get off the plane, get our luggage, get our car, get on the road, and get to the hotel it will be close to 7pm.  I’m sure we will be exhausted and probably starving by that time so I’m hoping for some local cuisine at a casual place where we can relax with a cocktail & Joe can enjoy some seafood.  Our donor Amy’s son is turning 1 and they are having a birthday party Saturday so we probably won’t get a chance to meet her until Sunday.

On Sunday we plan to meet Amy and her family and I cannot wait!  From the sounds of things so far via texting, her husband sounds a lot like Joe and I think they will get along well.  I can’t wait to meet her daughter and her son as well.  We are going to take the day and drive to Columbia which I think is about an hour away from Augusta and go to the children’s museum and the zoo, and Melting Pot for dinner.  I have never been to one but Amy has been talking it up and sending me pictures of her rice crispies and strawberries dipped in chocolate.  I’m really looking forward to a day of fun with her and her family.

Finally Monday is the day of our appointment.  We go at 9:30.  I’m excited to meet the doctor and the staff that I’ve been communicating with through email these last several weeks.  It sounds like we will have a sit down with the doctor, an exam, and then Joe will have to give a sample.  That’s typically the process for a consultation.  We may also have some blood work done.  Once we finally have our appointment we will be able to get Amy scheduled for her first consultation, exam, & bloodwork.  She will have infectious disease & genetic testing done.  I don’t have any doubt that she will pass all of her tests and qualify as our donor. 

Based on how the clinic runs their IVF cycles, I’m really hoping we can start in mid-late April.  I’d really love to have my transfer by May if possible, but of course that will depend on a multitude of things.  We also have to have our legal contract written up and signed but we won’t be doing that until we know that Amy will be able to donate to us. 

There are a lot of steps and hurdles that we have to jump before we can start a cycle, but I am excited to finally get the ball rolling.  I’m also a big ball of nerves because I know that the road of infertility treatment is coming close to an end.  We have tried so many things for so many years and I don’t know what we will do if for some reason this didn’t work.  I try not to get too far ahead of myself and really feel like this will be our answer, but I’ve thought that many many times before only to be left broken hearted with no baby in my arms.  I do have a renewed sense of optimism about this because this is something we have never tried before and I am confident that we will end up with some really good quality embryos for transfer, something I haven’t been able to produce our last 2 fresh cycles. 

I never in a million years thought that it was going to take this much effort and this much grit to produce a child.  I never in a million years thought that there would be a third party involved in making a baby.  I was very naïve to think that Joe and I would make our baby in our own bed in the way that so many have the pleasure of doing.  But from all that we have been through, the road we have been down, the heart break we have experienced, the perseverance we have shown, I don’t think there’s a baby born that will be as wanted as ours (in reality, of course there is, but I can say that if I want) or as loved as ours will be. 

I am so thankful to first of all, my husband for going along with all of this, he always has my best interest and my feelings very well protected and is always just wanting me to be happy.  Second, our donor, I will owe her so much for the rest of my life for doing this for us and she doesn’t want a thing for it except for it to work for us.  She is a true blessing.  And third, my family, friends, and all of you who continue to support us and root for us for all of this time; we would never get through all of this madness if it wasn’t for all of your love. 

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Financial Peace University – Week 1

This past Friday was our first FPU class.  I think I told you that my friend Jessica and I are doing this class together so she is my accountability partner.  Joe will just be updated as the weeks go along.  He doesn’t spend much money at all, gas and beer each week are about the extent of it for him so I didn’t press him to go to the class.  I handle all of the money in our marriage.  I pay almost everything online except for a few minor things.  I get on my account and check my balance every day.  I use an app called Checkbook that I use to keep my balance as I use my debit card 95% of the time for all transactions.  I’m a saver by nature, but I’m impulsive, that is what I need to work on most & that is one of my goals for the class.

The first class is obviously an introduction to Dave & also a focus on Baby Step 1, $1000 in your emergency fund.  We already had this step in place & then some.  For the homework this week we were supposed to fill out our budget for the month & a small snap shot of our current debt.  We also have to log in online & read a chapter from the book (that I haven’t done yet).  The kit comes with everything that is needed for the class including DVDs of all of the sessions, the work book, Dave’s book, the envelope system organizer & envelopes, even a pencil & sharpener.  You can actually do the classes online, but I think going to the class is an easier way to hold yourself accountable. 

For us, we have 4 debts that I want to work on, the biggest being my car, then the credit card, then 1 personal loan for our kitchen cabinets, and a 0% interest loan for our furniture & appliances.  Almost all of our debt is related to building our house.  With Dave’s plan, you don’t worry about what has the highest interest (my credit card! 23% yikes!) you work on paying your minimum on each debt until the smallest one is paid off, then you continue to use the minimum from the paid off debt on your other debts, it’s called the debt snowball. 

Taking the class and having the group discussions, I realized that we are very blessed and we aren’t that bad of a situation.  I definitely need to work on my impulses and my mindless spending.  I like to shop & I really do, like many people, feel a sense of euphoria when I shop.  I can see how people can get addicted to shopping and literally drain their savings & max out several credit cards & put themselves in financial ruin.  I am nowhere near that bad, but I still would like to be less impulsive. 

I did talk a little bit about our medical bills stemming from IVF.  We are so unbelievably lucky to have the coverage that we have (no plan maximum on IVF & IUI), but there are still bills that come since it’s not 100% covered.  Our DEIVF cycle is a big reason why I wanted to start taking this class & get our finances in better order.  With having to pay for this cycle out of pocket I really want to get rid of the extra payments that we have, mainly my credit card & the personal loan.  My car & the 0% interest loan I am not as worried about.  I know a loan is a loan and the quicker they’re paid off the better so I am going to work diligently at getting both of those paid off early too, but I don’t feel as much anxiety as I do with the other two.  The credit card & personal loan also happen to have the highest interested, the credit card is a whopping 23% and the personal loan is 8%.  It sickens me how much interested Chase has made off of me since we built our house. 

I’ll keep updating as the weeks go on.  This is a 9 week course and I’m really determined to make every one of them.  I’ll recap each class to hold myself accountable & also if any of you are considering it, this will give you a breakdown of information week by week. 

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Life Lately & March is here!!!!

March is here & I couldn’t be more excited!  March isn’t typically one of my favorite months.  It usually that crappy time between winter & spring here in Illinois, it’s damp, cold, and rainy.  We’ve been really lucky this winter with hardly any snow at all and some unseasonably warm days already.  Next weeks’ forecast shows days in the 70’s here and I am definitely not complaining.  Even more exciting about this month is our consultation appointment for our DEIVF cycle.  Am I starting to sound like a broken record with my blog posts?  Probably, but I can’t believe that we are finally about to officially embark on this journey.

Lately Joe and I have been working on some finishing touches to the house.  We finally put the trim up in our bedroom and it looks so beautiful and complete.  We’ve also been putting things on the walls and filling in all those blank spaces we’ve had to look at for the last 9 months.  I redid my grandma’s hutch and filled it up with her China that I had boxed up in the basement.  We also hung some old windows up that I’m going to adorn with wreaths I got from Magnolia Market.  Things are really starting to come together and we are loving making our house a home.

Being that its March means that the first day of spring is right around the corner and actually falls the weekend we are in Georgia.  I cannot to put my sweaters away and get out all of my cute warmer weather clothes.  I’ve been trying reallllly hard not to spend money on any clothing, shoes, purses, etc. I did however, find this super cute pair of Minnetonka wedges and luckily will be able to get them as an Easter gift from my mom so I don’t have to spend the money on them, although for the reasonable price, I definitely would buy these for myself too. 

Speaking of saving money, my friend and I are staring Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University this weekend.  I got my kit in the mail last week and the classes start Friday.  I am nervous but also excited to have a little guidance on how to get ourselves out of debt.  We don’t have a ton, but what we do have I’d really like to see get paid off sooner than later.  With this donor egg cycle being all out of pocket, we will need to save as much money as possible. 

There are other areas that need some improvement in my life too, most important being my diet.  I really want to focus on getting healthier and more in shape for this cycle.  I don’t believe that diet and exercise alone will change the fact that I have fertility issues, I do however, believe that it cannot hurt to make improvements for the success of the cycle.  Girl Scouts were out in full force to totally ruin the streak I was on with my diet.  I need to refocus, throw those cookies out (or just eat them all), and start being better about what I’m eating.  Exercise-wise I’ve been doing great.  Hitting my 10k step goal each day, getting on my treadmill each morning, and trying to take a 2+ mile walk after work each day (weather permitting of course.) have been my goals and I’ve been sticking to them pretty well.

And last, have you guys ever heard of Norwex?  My mind was seriously blown away when I went to a party a few weeks ago.  The first thing she had us do was wash our hands with their sugar scrub and dry them with their hand towel and I couldn’t believe how soft the towel was and how amazing my hands felt.  I ended up ordering their mop & decided to host a party.  If anyone is interested in any products you can check out their catalog online & order through me if you’d like!! My party is March 13th & I’ll keep it open for a few days after.  I got a travel kit of the Enviro cloth & the window cloth and have seriously cleaned my entire house with this tiny 6x6 cloth and water.  No cleaning products whatsoever!

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