Tag Archives: BHE

Away From Home

Hello, followers and friends!

Thoughtfully Sought has been neglected these past few months, as I started a full-time position outside of the home.  Being a full-time mom doesn’t change when you become a full-time employee.

This has been an eye-opening experience, to say the least.

SAHD

Although I am quite sad to miss out on my babies’ activities for much of the week, I am blessed with a wonderful husband who is trying quite hard to “fill my shoes” as a stay-at-home dad.

I keep telling him (and have to remind myself) that neither of us should be expecting him to do as I did when home with the children.  We are different people; we are going to pursue common goals differently.

Plus, his workload while home with the kids isn’t what mine was.

I worked on the house.  I was a mother as much as I was a cook and housekeeper and teacher.

The BHE just isn’t.  He is the driving force behind all the work that needs done on all of our properties.  Getting two houses ready for the market while doing upkeep on the third so it won’t be so much work when we go to move into it is much different than what was on my plate when the kids weren’t demanding 100% of me.

Still, this has been bumpy.  That’s parenthood.

And marriage.

Goals

The Murphy Momentum is the same.  We still want to get the little house done and on the market to be sold, so we can use the proceeds from that sale to fix the house at the farm.  When the farm house is ready for us to move in, we can finish the work on the big house to sell it.  And those proceeds will go into creating the farm itself.

The property is there; soon we must prepare it for animals and gardens and more.

My long-term goals have not changed since I began my job.  The steps I’m taking to get down this path are to be thought out differently, though.  Let’s not neglect the idea, either, that some of my loftier goals may need moved to the Dreams column on one of my ever-present spreadsheets.

Blogging

Sadly, this blog has been moved further down my priority list.  Spending time with my children, catching up on the housework that’s been neglected, and sleeping are really my top three just now.  I feel like I’ve fallen behind with my friends, too.  There’s just so much and it feels like it is all at once.  Even though I’m constantly thinking, “Hey, that would make a great blog topic,” I know that blogging is on my back burner.

Speaking of back burners, I’m losing my touch with creating new menu items.  I feel like it is more of a rush to get food on the table than before.  I have two new recipes to share with you, though, so stay tuned to Thoughtfully Sought to learn how I make a super-fast Italian dinner for a weeknight and our family favorite Asian-inspired dish that changes every time I fix it.

Bear with me

I want to grow this blog.  I want my readership to grow.  I want to reach more people to help them discover their own paths through life and how to thoughtfully seek out the best steps to take towards their goals, be it with family, diet and weight, marriage and children, household, or faith.

Stick around.  I will do what I can when I can.

Make sure you’ve liked Thoughtfully Sought on Facebook and are following my path on Instagram.  You’ll find me on eBay and Etsy and Bloglovin’ and Twitter and Goodreads… and there’s more to come.

Thanks for your support.  God bless.

Plea to My People

**This is an edited version of the post I added to a Facebook group I lovingly dubbed “The Village Fountain”.**

Dear Villagers,

I need your help.

Yesterday, I accepted a job offer to become the Communications Specialist for the Diocese.  I will be working on their newsletter, subscriptions, website, web presence, and parish websites.  This job is basically my dream job; I say “basically” because I’ll be working for a non-profit, which means I won’t be making $2 million a year doing it.

As my new boss said, my skill set is vast and my education is impressive.  I also know that I am stubborn and prideful.  But beyond these things, I am intelligent.  I am smart enough to know when to shelve my pride and stubbornness to ask for help.  None of us were meant to go through life alone, so I am reaching out to each of you for assistance.

Taking this position means that I “switch” with the BHE:  he will stay home with the kids, work on the houses, start projects at the farm, and take Angel to preschool in the Fall.  We keep talking about how we can’t make it a 100% switch since our skills are different and our work around the properties is so different.  This is where you come in!  We would like to have someone watch the children on Tuesdays and Thursdays, starting April 18th, and lasting until we sell both in town properties (goal:  by the end of 2018).

We would prefer that someone we know take care of Angel and Rover in our home or, if they have children of similar ages, in their home.  We will pay, of course, but may need some flexibility on pay being cash or work.  The BHE is very handy and I’ll totally do someone else’s laundry without issue.

Would you or anyone you know be interested in helping us a day or two a week?  Think on it, ask around, and get back to me, please.  I know the power of networking and the power of prayer, so I am confident that among us, we can come up with a solution.  I’m so excited about this job, but I know we need the help of our village to raise our children.

Much love and peace to each of you!

Remember: Not one of us was meant to travel the paths of life alone. 

Friday Facts: Introduction

I am going to start this series, and this new formulated long-term goal accountability, with a brief introduction of what the heck we’re doing and why.  Feel free to leave feedback in the comments.

I have our plan through to April 2022.  I know where we currently stand financially.  I believe we are generously blessed with intelligence and entrepreneurial spirits.  I know we as humans were never meant to go through life alone.  I know that more change is ahead and that my plans can be derailed at any time.  I also know to trust in God because every step off the course I foresee is actually a step on the path He’s laying out for us.

The Short Version – Housing

We now have three properties.  All three properties need some serious work.

The plan is to sell the smallest property as soon as possible (re:  flip it) because it needs the least amount of work and there’s no debt attached to it.

Then we plan to use the proceeds to do the necessary work on the house at the farm we inherited from the BHE’s father; it isn’t a farm yet but a very old house in desperate need of renovations sitting on a big ol’ chunk of beautifully wooded land.

Once that is complete, we will move our little family and our pared down possessions into the farm house so we can begin the serious work on the big house where we currently live.  So much is already complete but there’s still much to be done and much to be redone (think:  serious repainting).

Once the big house is sold and the remaining debt on it paid off, the equity, the cash in our pocket so to speak, will go back into the farm to build up our dream, to complete the house, to finish the barns, to create the pastures and paddocks, to purchase our first chickens, cattle, and goats, or whatever we plan between now and then.

Recap:
Small house– fast work on the windows, gutters, carpet, and yard- on market ASAP- sold by August 2017– proceeds to Farm house
Farm house– quality necessary renovations like gut of kitchen and upstairs, redo of wiring, addition of outdoor wood burner and a water filtration system- ready for move in April 2018, on the BHE’s birthday- completely empty the Big house
Big house– complete all major renovations like the foyer and stairwell, repaint each room, refinish downstairs wood floors, update the curb appeal- on market by June 2018– sold by the time the Angel starts kindergarten

The Short Version – Farm

My husband’s father bequeathed to him a renovated 1800s schoolhouse on an acre of yard surrounded by almost 35 acres of woods.  From before I was ever a figure in his life, the BHE had grand plans for this house and property.  All through our relationship, he has discussed ideas and dreams for what he’d do with all of it if it were to become his.  A very serious conversation over 7 years ago between my husband, his father, and his sister about estate planning included the discussion and eventual documentation of my husband becoming the heir to the property.

Now we have it. 

It needs a ton of work.  The house, the yard, the woods, everything needs some serious TLC.  Or slash-and-burn, depending on if you’re asking me or him.  But the dream, folks:  the dream is a farm.

“Deich Mile Feirme” is our name for the farm that is ten miles in any direction to the nearest anything, our home in the country, our dreams coming true.  Here we will raise our children and our livestock, plant our roots and our vegetables, and grow in our faith, love, independence, and dirt.  This farm will hopefully be off-the-grid and organic, self-sustaining and supportive of our lifestyle as well as our families and communities.  This is where we will create and cultivate.

Planning and blogging and blogging about planning


The Short Version – Career

The BHE has never wanted to work for The Man.  He is fiercely independent, and he wants to work with his mind and his own two hands to build something to honor God and family, the earth and the community, free of someone else’s yoke.

I have always looked forward to entering a workplace each day, prepared to use my considerable brain and strong initiative to make changes for the better but with the assurance of first-world niceties like bi-weekly paychecks, business attire, one hour lunches, paid time off, and the like.  I would feel much more confident in my parenting skills if I knew my children were being provided with health insurance and regular dental check-ups.  Plus, I like getting out and about, interacting with people, trying new things, and getting feedback from peers, customers, community members, and friends.

Now that the BHE has left the workforce (for good), he can focus on his “career” of Christian, husband, father, farmer, and maybe even house-flipper.

Now that I am returning to the workforce, I can focus on honing my skills and developing a broader network, or a network of networks, to help us reach our major goals regarding a village to support ourselves and our children and a financial cushion that will enable us to live free of debt, to give and give some more, to leave a legacy for our children’s futures and our church, to never again worry about making it to the next paycheck or if we can afford the necessities or even our reasonable wants.

I don’t know – can’t know – what will happen with my current job.  I can see how it is potentially a long-lasting career or even the doorway into a long term career with the Church.  I can also see how my work could one day be “done” and there be another employer on my path between comfortable income and benefits to confidently independent farmer.  I will always have a passion for libraries, I will always have a passion for the Church, I will always have a passion to do better and help others more. 

I will always be looking forward.

Another Step of Sorrow

This begins the third part of my series on grief.  I’ve decided to “write it all out”, defining this feeling and expressing just how hard it is to mourn with small children.  Please take a moment to look here for the first part and here for the second part.

And Yet Again

My words took their time forming and reforming in my head.  My thoughts weren’t ready to be shared yet.  It didn’t come together until last night, when I was awake again as my family slept, sobbing quietly while my brain worked overtime.  I wasn’t really able to put into words my experiences until just now, as I pound away on my laptop as the babes nap.

It didn’t make sense to share what I was going through if I couldn’t make sense of it either.

But yesterday I suffered another profound loss. Yesterday, I watched as my sweet, tolerant, loving, fluffy 14-year-old cat died.  I watched it happen, literally at my feet, with both my children in the room and witnessing it as well.

All over again, the lid came off my vast cup of grief and the sadness that was poured into it overflowed and washed over me.

It is Never JUST a Pet

I rescued that cat from a stray colony in the swamps of Florida 14 years ago.  This fluffy kitten with needle claws climbed my pant leg and mewed at me.  I scooped it up and claimed it, this purring ball of fur.  It wasn’t until Princess went in to be spayed that we learned it was a he to be neutered.  He has lived with me in over a dozen places, been through a couple relationships before meeting and moving in with the BHE, tolerating our parties and our home renovations, enjoying sunshine wherever he could lay in it, being the best snuggle buddy and friend to my other cat, loving to sit on laps, and allowing the roughness and shock of two small children be a part of his life.

A few weeks before adopting Princess, I euthanized my sweet smooshy-face kitty who was only 9 years old but dying of leukemia.  Now, I have watched two blonde long-haired cats die.  My children were with me this time.  My tender-hearted Angel watched as Princess had a stroke and died.  She obeyed without question or argument as I rushed to get her and the boy changed and loaded into the car.  She didn’t fight or fuss when I carried our sweet kitty outside, wrapped in a towel, to drive us to the vet.  She quietly sat on a chair at the clinic as the vet calmly said he was gone before we got there.

The Angel even thought to grab her toy stethoscope so she, too, could listen for Princess’s heartbeat at the kitty doctor’s office.

How to Explain It to a Three-Year-Old

The BHE lovingly picked up my favorite take-out last night then went to dig a grave after dinner.  Twice, I had to lift the bundle of quilted fabric with its satin bow to fit him down into the earth.  I took the shovel and filled the dirt back in around him.  All the while, I had to keep my sobs in check because of the questions coming from my daughter.

“Where is Pin-sess?  Why is he still sleeping?  What Pin-sess doing, Mommy?  When will he come back inside?  Mommy, what that sound?”

That sound, little lady, is what we call keening and it is the best I can do to keep the grief in check, to not lose the bit of control I’ve got over myself right now.

Because grieving with small children just isn’t possible.  You can’t let it out.  You can’t fully express it.  You can’t spill that cup of darkness and let the sobs break out of you until exhaustion takes over and the grief becomes more of a silent companion than an ever-present darkness threatening to slap you down.

This morning, as the Angel and I descended the stairs to start our day, she asked like she does every morning if she could feed the kitties.  There was just one food bowl, though, just Nicky’s.  I had to explain all over again that Princess had died, that he wouldn’t be coming back in, that we wouldn’t need to feed him ever again because he was enjoying the eternally filled bowl of kitty crunchies.

My tender-hearted angel put her hands over her face and cried.  Through her fingers and sobs, I heard her say, “I wanna pet he.  I miss he.  I worried he all alone out there.”

Loss is real to her now. Loss is a thing, not just something witnessed as Mommy cried at Great-Grandma’s and then Great-Grandpa’s funerals.  Loss is tangible and greatly affects her daily life.  And I have been blessed to receive this healthy, intelligent, loving child and have been blessed to be called to teach her, not just to read and to be polite but to experience and express each emotion.  I get to guide her through her grief.

The Cup Overflowed

But, I tell you, I can’t do it again.  That is three great losses in less than 10 months.  I can’t do it.  Every time I close my eyes, there’s this image of a cup the size of a galaxy, filled with more darkness than stars, swirling as more darkness is added to it, three large helpings of loss in a cup barely big enough to contain it all.  This cup is tilted precariously and near it is a wide, thin piece of cork that should serve as a lid.  The lid is off, the contents are starting to spill over the sides.  I can’t take another blow.  I have wept so much yet it feels not enough.  I have hidden my tears and sobs, I have silenced my grief.  I can’t afford to completely meltdown under the pressure and let that dark galaxy spill across my daily life.

Mourning is a luxury I cannot afford with children.  Grief has become a heavy companion.

Steps of Deep Sorrow on This Path

This begins the second part of my series on grief.  I’ve decided to “write it all out”, defining this feeling and expressing just how hard it is to mourn with small children.

The Big Blows

Throughout my life, I was compared to my dad’s mother.  My laugh, my body type, my sense of humor, my love of reading all seem to have come from this spunky old woman.  In the last decade, after I not only became an adult but really became aware of who I am and where I’m meant to go with my life, I became really close to her.

I talked to my Grandma Lucy at least once a week for at least an hour each time for almost 10 years.  I shared everything with her, and she listened and talked and guided and laughed with me.  She was, truly, a mother to me.  Lucy talked to me not like I was a grandchild to be doted on or coddled but like another adult.  We talked like we were old friends who had much wisdom to impart to one another.  And that meant so much to me.

She became ill shortly after I became pregnant the second time.  She entered a nursing facility as I entered my third trimester.  My son was born shortly after her birthday, right at Thanksgiving last year.  Lucy returned home at the beginning of the year so she could die in peace.

I buried my grandmother on a bitter cold, snowy day while clutching my newborn son.

My husband was my rock.  He guided me, he cared for me, he helped with the children, he answered our daughter’s questions, he listened and provided.

Mourning Needs More

But what he couldn’t do was completely take over the care of both of our kids while I gave into the grief.  I’m a SAHM with a duty, and our son was exclusively breastfed at that time.  I couldn’t drop everything, curl up on the couch with tissues, and spend days sobbing in my pajamas instead of eating or taking care of myself.  I couldn’t stop caring for my children, either.

I didn’t have the luxury of giving into my grief.

I have a family I need to care for, and I have two littles that require me to function and provide for them.

When my father called to tell me his mother had died, I fell to the floor.  I literally dropped to my knees.  I took a deep breath, thanked him for calling, and asked if I could call him later.  I let myself have one big gulping sob and then I heard my daughter ask, “What wrong, Mommy?”

Immediately, I had to suck it up.  I had to pull it together and use my words and try to explain the situation.  Through the next few days of buying the kids funeral-appropriate attire and booking a hotel room and arranging for someone to feed the cats, I also had to make three meals a day and change diapers and stick to a routine.

Which left the dark of night the only chance I could really cry.  And even then, I had to do it quietly so as not to disturb my slumbering family.

You Try to “Move On”

Life carried on afterward, as it does.  Like my friend warned me, the grief does creep up on me sometimes.  There are days where I look at the framed photo of Lucy and me, and I smile; there are days where I get tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat when I am reminded of the loss.

There are also the days where something wonderful happens and I immediately think that I need to call Lucy and tell her about it.  And quickly the joy snaps to grief and the yawning cup of sadness becomes thick as it reveals how full it still is because I recall that I can’t call her, I can’t share this with her.

Yes, there is the part of me that knows she did see it, she did share it with me, but we all know that accepting your deceased loved ones are in Heaven isn’t the same as talking to them on the phone or visiting with them in your home.  Is it selfish, or even unfaithful, for me to say that I don’t think that is good enough?  That Heaven isn’t good enough?  I just want to call her.

And Again

We knew my grandfather would follow his wife within a year.  It had been half-joked about in the past, and Grandpa even said at her funeral that he was ready to go with her.  It took a few months, but he did join her.  Frank passed in July, just 5 months behind Lucy.

Since our wedding anniversary and the Angel’s birthday are close in date, we generally take a short family vacation in early July.  I made plans for us to spend a few days in the city where I was born and had visited so often because my grandparents lived there.  I wanted to show the BHE and the kids the places where I played and went to school, learned to swim, got bit by a peacock, and ate my favorite meals.  I also wanted to make sure we visited my grandfather.

That was one of the hardest things I’ve done since saying goodbye to my grandmother.

He didn’t know me.  I knew from a few brief phone calls and the reports from my father, uncle, and brother that Grandpa wasn’t really all Grandpa anymore.  But to walk into their home, that still smelled like her, and have him look at me and not know who I was… was just too much.  The BHE handled it well, guiding the conversation and intently listening as Grandpa’s mind moved around his history: he wasn’t here with us in the present but jumping about his own life’s chronology and remembering people and places we didn’t know.  I busied myself with the kids.

A few weeks later, when my dad called to say Grandpa had died, I again hit my knees.  I again thanked him and said I’d call him back when I got it together.  I again took that long, keening gasp.  And I again had my little girl get in my face and ask, “What wrong, Mommy?”  Once again, I had to pull it together, tamp down the grief, explain in terms a 3-year-old could understand, and proceed through life with a lid loosely fitted onto that cup of sadness.

Overflow

Now, though, the cup was fuller, the contents pushing against the bottom of the lid.  In some ways, that made the funeral and all that entails a bit easier to deal with.  We had just done this: we knew what was expected, how to act, who we’d see, what needed to be done, what wasn’t so important.

In other ways, the grieving was that much harder, as I was grieving the loss of both of my grandparents rather than just the one.  I had not yet lost myself in grief over losing the woman who meant the most to me in all my life and here I had to keep that tamped down as I poured more grief on top, more sadness that I couldn’t express, as we buried my grandfather.

Mourning with small children is a luxury.

Giving into the sadness, letting the cup overflow so that it can wash itself out and be, not empty, but calmer and easier to deal with, just isn’t an option when so much is expected of you.

I don’t want to scare them.  I don’t want to abandon them.  I need to feed them, clothe them, bathe them, et cetera… but I also need to guide them.  I need to show them what grief looks like but really show them how to handle it, how to experience an emotion without it overriding your senses or your life.

Really, though, I wanted to let that cup fill up and splash out.  I wanted to wallow in my own misery for a few days.  I wanted to not care for a bit and wear every ugly emotion on my sleeve just so I could get it out of my system.  But I couldn’t.  I can’t.  That isn’t responsible parenting.

Why I Have to Write

So I’ve written this post time and time again in my head.  I have sat down at the laptop to pound them out only to keep hitting the backspace because I wasn’t saying what I wanted to say.  I tried to write it all out but it just wasn’t flowing right.  I wasn’t saying with my writing what I meant to convey.  The point of my blog is to share my experiences to enlighten and guide others, to show where I’ve done it wrong as much as where I’ve done it right, to speak to that bit in all of us that doesn’t want to go it alone and needs to know that someone somewhere gets us.

A Thought on Sevens

From a previous post:

The number 7 wasn’t arbitrarily chosen, either.  It is a number that is quite significant in the Bible.  I’ve been trying to incorporate it more into our lifestyle and these changes.

I feel that saying “five more minutes” or “ten Things” or “30 until dinner is ready” has reduced certain numbers to meaninglessness.  You can say something  will take you five minutes, like that’s how long you have until you walk out the door, but that time allotment has lost some meaning from overuse and could be a span from three minutes to 15.

Seven takes some thought.

Seven seems just so exact.  You obviously aren’t rounding or suggesting a number in the ballpark of…but you mean precisely seven.  Or a multiple of seven.

I decided to place this thought elsewhere on our path.  I decided to make a list of projects around the house that could be done in 7 minutes, or in a multiple of 7, for those times where you know you could be productive but don’t know where to start.

So Many Starting Points

We live in a 115-year-old+ house.  When we bought it, it was in definite need of major work.  We worked on it for 6 months before we moved into it.  That was 6 years ago and this little dream of ours has a ways to go before it is “ready.”

However, having two little ones plus the BHE working 55+ hours a week during two seasons a year, it is hard to find large blocks of time to get work done.  We have to break things down into bite-sized pieces if we want to make any progress.

That’s where I came up with the List of Sevens:  a large piece of craft paper, tacked to the wall, with different tasks listed under 7 Minutes, 14 Minutes, 21 Minutes, and 28 Minutes.  (Any project that takes more than a half hour needs to be better prepared for.)

Do It

This list is meant to be a quick reference during those times where we know we can do SOMETHING before dinner, naptime, baths, or whatever is coming our way in our routine.  If it is 5 o’clock and I know I need to start making dinner around 5:30 but I don’t have any other pressing thing to be working on, I can peek at the list where it is posted in our pantry to see what I can do.

Sure, we all know there’s a load of laundry ready to be started or a dishwasher that could be emptied.  But those are daily chores that will get done.  I’m talking about the things we don’t necessarily think of until we are struggling to fall asleep and that little annoying lightbulb comes on in our heads to say, “DING!  YOU COULD HAVE DONE THIS INSTEAD!”

Clean a ceiling fan. Mop the bathroom.  Wipe out the fridge.

Organize the supplies to start painting the upstairs hallway.

Put away laundry.  Scrub the cabinet doors.  Pick 7 DVDs to donate.

Gather all the trash and recycling, and load the bags into the truck.

Write a ‘thank you’ card.  Clean out a file in the cabinet.  Throw away last month’s receipts.

Take inventory of the basement and make a list of what tools we need to buy for the next big project.

One Bite at a Time

What I’ve learned in our approach to a minimalist lifestyle is to break down everything into bites that we can chew in the time we have.

For the bigger tasks and projects, when we do find ourselves with a whole day or even a whole weekend to get some work done, we need to be ready to roll into those projects rather than wasting precious time gathering the tools, discovering we don’t have all the supplies, and making an extra trip to town to go to the store.

What I have also learned is that the more Stuff we remove, the less clutter we deal with in the physical sense, means we have fewer Things in our way on our thoughtfully sought path to creating a cleaner and happier home.  Without stumbling over boxes in the attic or having to move furniture we don’t need just to work on the house we love, we can get more work done and are that much closer to our goals.

Our long-term goals will not be achieved when we are inundated with unwanted work.

Our tasks that lead to completed projects will be finished more efficiently and with ease with fewer Things in our way.

Our to-do list is much more manageable when it is broken down into pieces.  Little pieces.  Seven pieces.

How do you break it down?

Why don’t you try creating a List of Sevens and let me know how that works out for you?

Basic Bill Spreadsheet

With free printable worksheet!

I am going to start this post with two facts:

  1. I am not a financial adviser.  My education is not in the field of finances.  I am not an expert nor do I give help or expert advice.  I merely am sharing what I learned the hard way, through reading financial advice books and trial-and-error.  If you are looking for more help or expert advice, seek an expert.  I suggest you start at a bank or investment office.
  2. The bill-paying, money-saving method I’m about to share with you has been my own system, developed by me, and used every pay period since late 2009. This system is what works for me.  Many people over the years have asked for this information because they have seen how well it works for our household.  Everything you read here is very personal but very easily tweaked to fit your financial situation.  If you are looking for more help or expert advice, see #1 above.

Quick Background

When I met the BHE in Fall 2005, both of us were financially stupid.  Neither of us had been raised by mothers who knew what the eff they were doing with money.  Both of us were living paycheck-to-paycheck.  The BHE was smart enough to recognize he was dumb when it came to money so had not opened any credit card accounts; I was not so had opened many as well as financed a brand new car.

Therefore, I was in a yawning black hole of debt.  At 22.  And I didn’t even have student loans!*

We moved in together shortly after beginning to date.  He had a much better paying job but I had aspirations to attend Purdue University.  We looked at our money, our complete lack of savings, our living conditions, and my debt…and rented a small house and secured different jobs right before I started at Purdue.**

The new job I got was as a teller at a local bank.  Boy oh boy!  I tell ya, nothing makes you want to fix your money woes more than dealing with lines of people on a daily basis that have it worse than you.  Or helping those customers that have it so much better than you!

This job was an amazing eye-opener for me.  So I took the advantage I had and probably made a nuisance of myself, pestering the coworkers who worked in the aspects of the banking industry that would have the knowledge and advice I sought.

One day when I was tellering from the drive-thru, I pulled out a cute notebook and created the basic layout of what you’re about to see.  Every 3×5 page in that book was for a different payday with the list of bills to be paid from that paycheck before the next pay day.  I put the person/company to be paid, the amount owed, and the due date on each page in chronological order.

When the paycheck would post to my account, I would pay those bills, subtract their total from my pay, and learned how much I was throwing away between necessities like gas for my car and frivolous bs like eating out or engaging in retail therapy.

Holy moly, was I dumb!

The Spreadsheet

I live by this spreadsheet now.  This is how I know what is due when, how much debt I am in, what money I have to work with in the budget for things like groceries and entertainment, and how I keep our finances in check.

This spreadsheet goes back to 2010.  I refer to it at least twice a month.  It is saved on a thumb drive that is the NUMBER ONE THING on my “If The House Were To Catch Fire, What Would You Grab After Your Kids and Cats Were Safely Out?” list.***

Thanks to this spreadsheet, our debt and our credit scores are much, much different (re:  better) than they were.  You could say we are worse off, considering our debt is vastly deeper…but I disagree since the debt is mainly a mortgage and my graduate school student loans.****  We don’t have ridiculous debt like in-store credit cards or payday loans (which neither of us were ever stupid enough to get suckered into, thank God).  You could say we need to save more…and I would agree with you.

But this little gem of an Excel sheet is why we aren’t living paycheck-to-paycheck, own two vehicles and almost have the third paid off, own one house and have the other mortgaged for very little, and can comfortably feed and clothe a family of four on one income.

If you’re still with me and feeling like maybe you need some guidance, keep reading.  But please keep in mind #1 and #2 at the top of this post.

What to List on Your Sheet

The top line of the spreadsheet is my column headers:

Pay Dates – the day of the month the paycheck will be deposited*****
Bill – Name of person/company owed
Amount Due
Due Date

Amount Paid – Yes, this is different from the amount due.  Debt snowball, anyone?  I like to round up from what is due on all our bills but, also, am putting a lot extra towards one credit card (the amount due plus what I had been paying monthly on a credit card we just paid off).
Auto Pay – if I have an asterisk here, I don’t have to log into the account to manually enter payment information each month
Confirmation Number – if the bill isn’t set to auto pay, then I type in the confirmation so (a) I have record and (b) know that I paid it
Balance – this is for loans and credit cards as well as saving accounts
Available – this is for credit cards, not so I know how much I can use, but so I can calculate the percentage of credit being used (a factor of your credit score)

What I Do

I am presenting to you, dear reader, a couple things here.

One is a blank printable that you can use for a month or just a pay period, to get a feel for it and see how the columns work for you.  Maybe you can scribble in your changes and come back to the post to comment what worked or didn’t work for you.

You also can have another handy free printable from Thoughtfully Sought that has those adorable sheaths of wheat made from little green footprints.  I’m quite proud of those, thank you!

bill-pay-printable-monthly

bill-pay-printable-sample

The other thing I am showing you is a sample that you can print to guide you on filling out your spreadsheet.  I’ve included two months with two pay periods each.

The spreadsheets on my thumb drive are created in Excel and each year gets its own tab.  I do a lot of copying and pasting.  I will happily send each of you the Excel sheet so you can use it for your own finances.  I’m not posting it here because, frankly, I don’t know how.******

What’s Next

Like I said, this spreadsheet works for our family and has done wonders for our debt over the past 7 years.  Give it a go and see how it helps you.

If anything, maybe you won’t face another late fee again.  I haven’t in yeeeeears.

If you need to color code, you do that.

If you want your bills listed chronologically by due date, do it.

If you are concerned about auto pay or paying bills online, I have no idea what to say to you.  I mean, this is 2016.  I’ve been paying bills online for almost a decade.  I’ve worked in different aspects of banking at two different banks and can tell you that online bill pay is a blessing and not to be feared.

There are two different ways I pay bills online:  log into each account on their secure sites or set up payment through my bank’s secured site (again, I am not a professional, just a friendly blogger giving personally-tested advice).

Come on back to this post to tell me what you liked and didn’t like, what worked great, and what you think I could make better. 

If you are a financial adviser cringing at my work, bless you and thank you for making it this far.

 

*Yet.

**Boiler Up!

***I keep meaning to write an inspirational blog post about this list, what is on yours, and how it all ties into Minimalism.  But I digress.

****Thanks to this spreadsheet and other money savvy moves, and praise Jesus for the scholarships I got through Purdue, I only have student loan debt from my masters.  I made sure what little I owed on my undergrad was paid off before I paid to take the GRE.  Since I was an out-of-state grad student at Southern Connecticut State University, seeing my currently-deferred student loan debt makes my eye twitch and my asshole double pucker.

*****In our case, it is the date that the BHE will deposit the set amount he gives me each pay period to cover the bills that I’m “in charge of” plus groceries.  This helps me stay within our budget because what he deposits should cover what I’ve budgeted, and we would have to discuss any other expenses since I would need to request another deposit.

******I hope to one day migrate ThoughtfullySought.com off of WordPress.com and just have it as a Word Press site on another hosted platform.  That is another project for another day.