Sunday, March 30, 2014

Change: A How-to Guide of sorts

The past several years have been ones of great change for my husband and me.  We moved in together and had to combine our personal finances.  We got married.  We had a child.  We started looking at the future: things like life insurance, 401ks, and college savings plans became very important to us, but the more we looked at things the more alien they seemed.  We learned to budget.  We learned to stick to our budget (and no, those are NOT the same thing).  We learned how to save.  We learned how to cut out the extras and figure out what is really important. I started an online business, and my husband took on a part time teaching job.  We got involved in our church and took on responsibilities there.  And somewhere in there I made a New Year's resolution to read more nonfiction. 

You see, my husband is not much of a reader.  I have loved to read ever since I was 4.  My grandmother taught me to read early, and I loved the escape a story could offer me.  My husband was taught to read without phonics, and so he struggled.  He was not very fast at it, and he did not do it for pleasure.  However, he is a smart man, and he likes learning about things.  So once in a while, if a book is given to him or recommended to him, he will read one.  Because I read for fun, I read popular fiction.  Because he reads to learn, he reads nonfiction.  He always has interesting things to say about the books he chooses to read, and because they are few and far between, he gets a lot out of them.  I forget half the last story before I am through the next book.

All of this change forced us to take stock of our lives and learn some things.  I used to live 2 hours away from my husband.  I hated my job, and after we were engaged we started talking about me moving to the same city.  However, after a diligent search, I was having trouble finding a job.  My lease was ending, and we had to determine whether or not we could make ends meet on a single income if I moved.  So we made a budget.  Only the essentials.  The outlook didn't look good, but it was do-able.  We cut out things like cable, eating out, and having any fun whatsoever.  My husband took a second job.  I scrimped and pinched pennies while trying my hand at craft fairs and Etsy.

We got the opportunity to take a class called "Financial Peace University" at our church.  I know a lot of things have been said about Dave Ramsey and his ideas and his empire, but all that judging aside, it really helped us on our journey. We were already doing most of what he recommended, but had we taken his class a few years earlier it could have saved us a lot of headache.

Sometime after that, I decided to do what my husband does and read some things that would teach me something instead of entertain me.  I made a resolution to read one book every 2 months, and while I fell short of that goal, I think I came close - to 4 or 5.  Plus a few articles here and there that caught my eye.  All of which is way more than I had ever done before, so I consider it a positive change!  And slowly but surely, some of the things I read started to soak in to my thick skull.  I realized that many smart, successful, happy, well adjusted, effective people had a lot of the same things to say.  Things like how to manage change, or how to be reliable.  Things like being bold in your choices rather than always playing it safe and within your comfort zone.  Things like how to plan for the future and be financially secure.  Really important life skills, basically.  The things that you don't learn in school, even though they often determine your effectiveness in life (note that I didn't say success which changes based on what you value, but your effectiveness: how well you do what you value).  And I found myself stressing these points to friends and family. Even my parents and older relatives that should have it more "figured out" than I do.  And most of them kind of ignored me.  A few seemed to get it, but my passion seemed to fall on deaf ears for the most part.  But I still think it is really important to share what I learned.

So after that exceedingly long introduction, this post is to let you know that I will be starting a series of posts, probably interspersed with more normal posts for me, all about things that I have learned in the last few years.  I will try to keep it personal but applicable to all.  I think telling my story might give it some more impact, but try to keep an open mind when applying it to your own situation.  Not everything will map properly, but think about it and you will find something of use for you in your situation.

Just as a sneak peak, here are some topics I will be covering:

Be bold.
Do what you say you will.
Practice deliberately.
Invest in yourself.
Learn to budget (time and money).

I look forward to exploring these topics and many more with you.  I know this will probably not change the world, but you can't blame a girl for trying.

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