Let’s Talk

If you haven’t guessed, I’m a little bit of a perfectionist.

A few weeks ago, I had what I thought was going to be tough conversation with J. Before that, I had stressed about it for weeks — what if he was upset at what I said? What if I didn’t express myself clearly or completely and he was confused? What if I looked like a bumbling idiot? What if it didn’t go perfectly?

The same set of fears manifests before each post I write. What if I can’t get across what I want to say properly? What if it’s confusing, boring, incomplete or worse? What if I sound completely ridiculous or like an amateur? What qualifies me to be able to write about these topics?

I have this idea of how things should be — how our conversations should go, what our relationship should look like, how this blog should read and on and on and on. I measure myself against an impossibly high standard, and I’m always scared of falling short.

Eventually I mustered up the courage to talk to him. I put aside my fears of not being perfect and took action. (I even managed to be calm during our discussion!)

And it couldn’t have gone better.

Because I was calm and talked about things in a friendly, yet matter-of-fact tone, he responded in kind. I set the tone.

Each time I do these things, I’m setting a precedent that our relationship is important to me. It’s one where we can talk about things — things that are difficult, things that are important, things that are on our minds, or even trivial things.

Those things also include talking about money.

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10-10-80 Savings Plan

Have you ever heard the following sage financial advice?

Pay yourself first
Live below your means
Save 10% of your income and live off the rest
Don’t spend more than you make

Books like The Richest Man in Babylon and Automatic Millionaire cover the topic right off the bat in detail, but you may have also heard the advice from family or friends.

When I was younger, my dad had me take half of any gift money I received and put it towards a savings bond. We would go to the bank and fill out the paperwork, and I still have a stack of bonds to this day.

My aunt would also tell me to make sure I saved 10% of anything I was given (with instructions to also give 10% to the church).

National Bank of Mom Save 10 Percent

We’ve been using the envelopes for six months now, and so far I haven’t said much on how J should distribute any new money between them (although I might gently push towards making sure some money goes to savings). He hasn’t learned about percentages yet in school (he’s still on multiplication and division). A quick Google search says he might not learn them until 6th grade!? That’s not going to work. I’m going to have to start sooner.

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National Bank of Mom Short Term Savings Plan

Short-Term Savings Plan

When we first started learning to manage money, we had three envelopes — one for savings, one for spending and one for giving. The savings envelope was for long-term savings — I give J a monthly statement and interest (more on this later). What I didn’t account for, however, was short-term savings — things that he wanted to buy but didn’t immediately have enough money. He’d have to save up.

It was October at the time, and with Christmas coming, we thought it would be perfect to save for Christmas presents.

  • We got a new envelope
  • We made a list of everyone he wanted to buy for, approximately how much he wanted to spend on each person and added to get a total needed
  • We then decided on when he’d like to save the money by (two weeks before Christmas) so that we had time to shop and wrap the presents
  • From there we could calculate how much he had to save per period to meet his goal

In addition to the register, I made a small worksheet that we filled out with the above info.

National Bank of Mom Savings Plan

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National Bank of Mom Savings Envelope with Register

Our Savings Envelope & Register

Up until about six months ago, when my son J would receive money, we’d put it in an old lemonade jar on his dresser. It would sit there until it filled up, at which point we’d head to the bank to deposit it into his savings account.

All was well, but I had this feeling that I could be using this money to teach him some important lessons.

I did some research and came across the Moonjar. The Moonjar is a jar with three compartments — one for saving, one for spending and one for sharing (or giving). I also found the Money Savvy Pig — a piggy bank with four compartments for saving, spending, donating and investing. And for all the crafters out there, there are a TON (and I mean a TON) of DIY posts on blogs and Pinterest about creating your own jars.

These were good ideas, but the idea of lugging around a jar full of money was absurd. Wouldn’t an envelope or wallet be better? You know, like normal people carry? Plus, even more importantly in my mind, I wanted him to know exactly how much was in each “account” at any given point and learn to balance the accounts. (I am one of two people on the planet who actually balances their checkbook. Actually, I found another! Joan on Man vs. Debt!)

With a plan in place, we embarked on our hunt for envelopes and a register.

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Hey there, I’m new here!

First, let me start off by saying that I never wanted to start a blog. I thought that there were enough blogs out there and that mine would just be more noise in a sea of… well, noisiness. But it turns out that I have a few things to say, so even if no one ever reads this, that’s okay because I’m doing it for me. (I’m actually hoping that at least one or two people tune in, though, because maybe I’ll be able to help them. Like you! You there! How I can help you?)

In 2016, I started to get my shit together. The previous few years were some difficult years for me (read: apocalypse of epic proportions), but 2016 was going to be MY YEAR. (I think my cousin told me this. I probably laughed at the time, but thanks, Danya — you were right!)

I started meditating, exercising regularly and stumbled on the concept of financial independence. If you haven’t heard of it, financial independence is where you save money instead of spending it all so that you can get to a point where you don’t have to work. all. the. time. Don’t get me wrong — I like to work. I just also like to do a lot of other things.

So I paid off all my debt (bye bye student loans!) and started a real big-girl emergency fund. At this point, I’m almost fully-funded with six months of living expenses. I’ve been keeping track of my finances daily and monthly and am feeling good about my future.

Thinking more about it, I thought I should probably start to teach my son about money so that he would be in a better place at 37 than I am. I’m fortunate that at 8, he’s a captive audience. He’s also pretty good with addition and subtraction and likes money (and toys. And pizza. And talking. He’s a pretty happy kid overall.)

Which brings me here. We live in such an information-saturated time (I’m looking at you Internet) that there are SO many good ideas to choose from. Have you been on Pinterest lately? Unfortunately, there is also a lot of garbage to sift through. Being a researcher at heart, my plan is to dive in and learn everything I can. Then I’ll surface with all the good stuff and post it here.

So if you have little ones, or just want to get YOUR shit together, stop in. I’ll give you the best of what I find and show you what works for us.

Before I go, I want to note that I’m not about saving every penny at the expense of living today. I don’t want to be miserable right now so that I can be free some day in the future. I also am not for rampant consumerism or working a lot so that I can buy a lot of fancy cars, houses, the latest gadgets and mountains of stuff. You’ll soon learn that I’m not a big fan of stuff. My main goal is to be able to live the life I want to live, with all the good parts — friends, relationships, quality time, personal improvement, creativity — the list is endless.

Whew! If you got this far, thanks for reading. I hope to see you again soon!