Random Thoughts about Investing



Investing can be a scary word especially to those who have never done it.  There’s lots of reasons why people put it off, and usually the reasons boil down to simply fear of the unknown.  That’s how I felt before I took the plunge and started investing.  So I thought I would just casually talk about investing from someone who isn’t an expert.


It’s no secret that I used Dave Ramsey’s baby steps to get out of debt and start planning for my debt free future.  However, when he talked about investing I glazed over like most people.  So many thoughts came to mind – How in the world do I do that?  I’m no investing expert. Do I have enough money to start investing?  There were lots of fearful thoughts, but my favorite was the image in my head of a financial planner looking at me and shaking his head and saying “Boy you have lost a lot of time!”  The truth is, everyone has made financial mistakes.  The important piece of the puzzle is moving on and learning from our mistakes.  So let’s move on.



After summoning the courage to let someone look at my finances, I made an appointment with an ELP (endorsed local provider) from Dave Ramsey’s website.  The financial planner had a list of things he wanted to see.  Basically everything in my life pertaining to money.  So I prepared for the worst and went to our first meeting.  He looked over everything and said we were in better shape than most people our age.  Really? I thought.  I didn’t feel like we were, but I was just glad the meeting was headed in a positive direction.  It was a very different experience from the one in my head.


The planner took time to show us how we needed to invest and why.  He was able to give us our numbers we would be retiring on, and they were way bigger than we ever imagined.  The planner advised us how to invest in the funds he was setting up, and the funds my husband’s job offered.  We left there more confident in our retirement, and we knew how to get there.  Plus, we didn’t pay a dime for that meeting.  So many people believe they can’t afford a financial planner, but they really can.


Money Tree

Okay stay with me.  You really want an investment planner that’s a fiduciary.  All that means is that they have to put you first.  So they aren’t going to just make money for themselves, but you as well.  There are a few ways your planner gets paid, but my planner is paid from Front End Load.  Basically they take their cut before investing the contributions.  For example if you invest $10,000 and the front-end load is 5.75% or $575 the remaining $9,425 is invested.  Some people like this, and some people don’t.  Dave recommends paying your advisor this way.  Some people complain about the investment fees, but honestly I don’t mind.  The bottom line is I can’t make myself the money I am making without a paid professional.  I know people are turning to online investing because the fees are cheaper. Call me old fashion, but I like looking my financial planner in the face while he explains how my money is being invested and why, and I am able to ask real time questions.


So what kind of advice do you get from a planner?  I know this will come as a new revelation, but diversify!!! We have all heard this somewhere or another, but it’s great advice.  If one fund goes south, chances are you have other funds doing really well.  So it balances itself out.  You want all your investments diversified – even your 401K.  We were glad all our eggs weren’t invested in my husband’s companies stock because it went down quite a bit.  So we lost a little bit, but it’s an unrealized loss considering we didn’t do anything with the stocks.  The bottom line is it hurt us on paper, but we have the next 25 years to recover.



Time is your biggest asset when it comes to investing.  Take a look at this.  www.darwinsfinance.com , but don’t let it scare you though.  I didn’t invest in my twenties.  I just want you to see how important time is.  Investing smaller amounts of money over a longer period of time is better than larger amounts over a shorter amount of time.  That’s the magic of compound interest.  Plus, it can be fun to invest in your twenties because you can invest more aggressively due to the fact have time to recover.  So if you like a little excitement, and you want to take some risks you can.  My son is in his twenties and we have talked about him taking some risks that I would never do because of my age.


Dave Ramsey suggests you invest 15% of your gross income.  You first want to max out the match on your 401K if you have one at work.  Then max out your Roth IRA.  If you still haven’t hit your 15% then put the rest into your 401K.  We also opened a fund to save up to pay cash for a car.  Instead of paying interest, we make interest.  Plus, the car account keeps me from doing something stupid like buy an expensive car.  Cars depreciate, so that is not where I want a huge part of my money going.  It’s better to have a more expensive home than vehicle.



Think about this too when paying cash for a car. That $20,000 car looks much better than the $30,000 one, considering I have to write the check and not just sign a piece of paper to finance it.  Here is a little math to prove my point.  If you have $30,000 to buy a car, but only use $20,000 and kept investing $500 dollars a month over 11 years when you go to purchase your next car you will have around $106,000 to buy your next car!  That’s at a 5% rate of return.  That’s a pretty nice car.  Okay let’s say you decide to buy a nice car at $50,000.  You take out enough for capital gains and you are left with around $51,409.10, so you keep investing $500.00 a month for 11 more years and you have $177,429 for your next car!!  Even if your rate of return is less, it’s still better than financing a car for 6 years. Saving for 5 years with a rate of return at 5% you would have $42,000.  The point I am making is that living way below your means and investing the difference will build wealth. Get ahead of the curve, not behind it.


This is my favorite part.  When I first went in to see my financial planner, I was like most Americans.  I was going to save up money that I could retire on.  So most of us plan for about 30 years right.  I guess we are hoping to be dead by then.  I am not sure what we are thinking?  What about our kids?  We should be empowering the next generation financially.  The Average American inheritance is around $180,000.  Honestly, we could spend that in a day by paying off debt, house, car etc.  Besides, that’s average. Half of us aren’t going to receive that much of an inheritance.  I am one of those people.  So I wanted to change that for my son and the next generations.  Now I’m getting to the fun part.  My financial advisor informed me that I don’t have to live off my retirement savings.  What??? I didn’t know that.  Then what do I live off?  He said you live off the interest of your investments and never touch the principal.  I never thought of that.  See, a financial planner is worth every dime.  I know year to year it will go up and down, but if you are bringing in enough to put a side to handle the lower years you really could live without touching the principal.  I like to estimate low, so my husband and I could live on 3% of the interest return and be fine, and even travel.  Then my heirs will inherit the principal of my investments.  Leaving them with way more than the $180,000 the average American gets.  Now that is changing your family tree. Let me just add this…Maybe you are in debt, and don’t feel like you have anything to invest. Go see that financial advisor. He or she will help you get out of debt, and probably even show you how you CAN start investing just a very little now. Don’t wait. It will be hard work. There will be sacrifice, but just five or ten years from now you will be grateful you made those decisions today.



Okay last thought…Protecting your assets from the government.  There are lots of ways of doing this, and again, a financial advisor is there to help guide you through these obstacles.  The protection I want to hit on here is long term care insurance.  This is an important insurance to have in case you need in home nursing care, nursing home care, assisted living facility, etc.  If you don’t have this insurance then Medicaid will step in, but they will only pay out after you have exhausted all your financial resources.  In other words bye bye inheritance for your kids.  Plus you have more options for your future care with having this insurance than you have without it.  Personally I want as many options for care as I can get. When do you purchase long term care insurance?  Around 50 years old is the suggested age.  Again, talk to your financial planner about this because they will know where and how to purchase the insurance.   Check out www.nerdwallet.com if you want all the particulars.



Left Overs:  I wanted to cover things that you might not think are that important in your retirement like Long Term Care Insurance.  I hope to take the scare out of retirement and get you moving toward planning your retirement.  After I got over the fear of the unknown, I actually found I like planning and talking about retirement.  I am looking forward to traveling and doting on my grand kids.  There is so much to be said about retiring with dignity.  I highly recommend talking to an advisor.  Check out www.daveramsey.com for a list of Endorsed Local Providers in your area.  Enjoy every aspect of your life.


While I’m not a certified financial advisor, I’ve learned some valuable lessons about budgeting and investing. If I can help you, feel free to reach out to me. I’d be happy to do whatever I can!

You can reach me anytime at info@needfree.com



Happy Full Plate Friday!!!!

Clarissa Hallowell




Living Out Freedom


Living free is more than just your finances.  We have been hearing a lot about being debt free, and that’s great.  I believe it’s a must to gain wealth.  I also believe that you can apply the same principals you are using to crush your debt to any area of your life.  We all have areas in our lives that really could use an over haul everything from weight loss to just cleaning our houses.


I know a lot of people are turning their focus to putting their houses in order.  Some are simply cleaning and organizing.  Some going all the way and minimalizing, and throwing stuff out that they don’t need.  I am always working on both of these goals.  Getting rid of stuff can be tricky especially if you have a family that loves their things.  So my approach to minimalism has been too slowly eliminate things we don’t need and give them to people who need them.  Which reminds me I need to go through the drawers that I keep putting off.


baby steps

Taking baby steps in getting our goals done is key when it comes to any goals.  I started minimizing by literally going through a box a day.  My husband and I decided if we would commit to going through one box a day we could get rid of a lot of stuff and free up space in our home.  One box a day seemed possible, so that’s what we did.  We had a room filled with boxes and boxes of stuff from our move.  So we did our box a day for a few weeks, but what we were finding was that we wanted to do more boxes.  We were doing 2 and 3 boxes a day, and some days more. Getting boxes behind us motivated us to do more.  It took about six months and all the boxes were done.  Our initial goal was to have them done in a year.



Honestly our biggest obstacle was just getting started. Getting started is probably the hardest thing to do when it comes to our goals.  I can be bit of a perfectionist, so if I can’t start things perfectly I tend not to start.  I had to learn to overcome that mindset.  I realized I had to give myself permission to start sloppy sometimes.  At least it gets me out there and once I get started I get motivated and everything comes together.  Writing this blog for instance, I didn’t want to write and I didn’t feel like I had anything to say.  So I decided to just sit down and try, and after a while if I had nothing then I didn’t have to write, but as you can tell words started coming.    What are your biggest road blocks set up in your mind that you need to kick to the curb?  These mindsets have to be dealt with in order for us to truly live the free life we desire.  You won’t catch me saying it’s easy.


We have to employ our self-discipline like when getting out of debt.  I know it’s my favorite word too. LOL!!!  I hate self-discipline at first it’s hard and then I struggle until I find my motivation.  Motivation is like the wind in our sails when it comes to accomplishing our goals.  Once it starts filling us up we become unstoppable.  Then watch out because we will accomplish whatever we want.


Lately I have decided to confront one of my biggest nemesis sugar and carbohydrates.  I can admit I am a carbohydrate junkie.  I love the burst of energy I get from it and when I start to come down, I just eat more.  I have been thinking about doing a sugar cleanse for months.  I finally got motivated and started the Whole 30 diet. https://whole30.com/whole30-program-rules/  This diet is basically a food sugar cleanse for 30 days.  You just eat meats, vegetables, and fruits, and they can’t have added sugar.  Surprisingly I found out bacon and sausage have sugar in them.  I did find a paleo bacon at wholefoods that I can eat, so that was a win.  You can’t eat condiments because of added sugar and preservatives.  So I learned to make mayo just today.  It actually was a quick process and I know there are no preservatives.  It’s not too bad either.


frustrated beautiful young businesswoman

I will say my first week was rough.  I had dizzy spells and I was sweating.  My body was basically throwing a temper tantrum.  I told myself “you can do whatever you want, but you can’t quit.”  That was the only thing I could not do. I knew my first morning of coffee with no sugar was going to be rough, so I googled ways of drinking coffee without sugar.  Thanks to Youtube I was introduced to many different ways, but the most interesting was bulletproof coffee whole 30 style.  I say Whole 30 style because it’s not the original way of making it.  I can’t have dairy on this diet, so you use ghee and coconut oil.  You mix it in a blender and it gets all throthy and looks really good, but I haven’t ventured there yet.  I am using coconut cream, and no it doesn’t taste like coconuts darn it, and I added a little cinnamon.  Honestly my first cup of sugar free coffee went surprisingly well.


I am on my second week and my dizzy spells have gone away.  I am still sweating, but I think that’s just my body detoxing.  I am drinking a lot of lemon water to help the process.  I have never eaten some many vegetables in my life.  I am trying all kinds of new dishes.  The food has been really good.  My husband has been eating it even though he is not doing Whole 30.


So what started out with discipline has ended up being inspiring and I am learning a lot about my body.  I have learned white potatoes don’t agree with me at all.  So I took it out of my diet and I am doing better.  I also learned vegetables I wasn’t able to eat before I can now eat.  I am looking forward to learning what other foods don’t agree with me when I start adding foods back into my diet after 30 days.  So this has been a good experience for me and all I had to do was just start.


The obstacle I have and I am facing seem to be working themselves out too.  I  had a Father’s Day cook out, so I cooked Whole 30 with extras added for our guests.  I also did dessert, so I bought it instead of preparing it.  It’s too tempting to dip your finger into the batter for a little taste.  I also had my God sons for a week, so I planned meals ahead of time.  If I have my plan in place I will stick to the diet.  My husband has been preparing me by eating ice cream in front of me. LOL!! I am really not craving sugar, so it’s all good.


future ahead

I find it helpful if I start looking ahead to future goals as I am accomplishing my immediate goals.  I mentioned my plans for after the diet.  I already know I am not putting sugar back into my diet.  It wasn’t benefiting to my health, so it can stay out of my diet.  I am planning on adding steel cut oats, organic tortilla chips, and beans back into my diet.  If you add a new food once a week it will help you decide what is good to take in and what foods to leave out.  I have already seen some amazing results my Raynaud’s is getting better, my sinuses have cleared, and I haven’t had any swelling.  I can’t wait to find out what foods were causing the problems.


Getting motivated for your future goals keeps you moving forward, but don’t forget to stay focused on the right now.  I find being present and in the moment helps keep my energy flowing.  Like when you are paying down those credit cards, it’s nice to think about when the debt is gone, but you are seriously enjoying paying off each card one at a time.  Being present can be hard when it feels like all work no play.  In the beginning of any task will feel like that, but then things start coming together, you see results, and boom your motivation is back.  So don’t let a little work discourage you.  Self- discipline is the conduit that gets us results, so it’s not all bad.


When you accomplish your goals it’s a sweet victory.  You feel great and you’re ready to take on the world.  Just remember between starting and finishing you have a middle, and that middle is what lasts the longest.  It’s better than your beginning, but not as fun as your ending.  During that middle you find periods of plodding along and sometimes waiting.  Waiting can be the worst because you want to do something, anything to help the process go faster.  That is how I feel about paying off my house, but I can only pay on it when I have the money.  So I wait for those moments I have cash in hand.  Eventually the task will be accomplished and the moment will be sweet.


little 4

Little steps are better than giant ones.  I have always been a giant stepper.  I like to wait until I have significant amounts of cash before paying stuff down, but it’s the little bit by bit that accomplishes the goals.  If you take giant step then when you go backwards you have to take giant steps back and that can be discouraging.  If you plod along little by little, the steps backwards aren’t as great.  Believe me you will have moments of stepping backwards.  A slip on your diet, you over spend on something, bills you didn’t expect, etc.  These little life happenings can be frustrating, but if you are focused on the bit by bit you will get there.



Whatever your task you can accomplish it with perseverance, self- discipline, and sweet motivation.  These are the tools you need to accomplish any task.  So enjoy working with them and embrace their purpose in your life.  Pass these tools down to your children, so they can taste victory in their lives as well.  Enjoy your journey and look forward to your sweet victory.


Left Over:  I wanted to encourage those of you that are struggling with the process of accomplishing your goals.  Sometimes it looks really tempting to deviate from the plan, but that always makes you feel worse and delays real gratification.  Small rewards along the way can help you stay motivated.  Deep breathing and refocusing can be a great way to alleviate the stress too.  I find just getting out into nature helps relieve stress, even if it’s for a few moments.  Whatever helps you relieve stress, employ that for the journey, and the road will seem smoother.


Update: Since I wrote this I finished the whole 30 diet.  Yay!!! It wasn’t easy, but I am glad I did it.  I am gradually adding foods back into my diet this week is dairy.  I did really well with oats, but I do need to stay gluten free.  It will take several more weeks before I know exactly what I can keep and what I need to eliminate from my diet.  This was a small victory that is making a huge difference in my health.





Happy Full Plate Friday!!!!

Clarissa Hallowell



The Why


The more time I spend in budgeting Facebook groups, the more I realize that we are all in different stages of shedding our debt.  Some are just beginning and learning to budget.  Some have everything paid off including the house.  Having everything paid off is where we all want to be, but do we have the stamina? Do we have the commitment?  If getting out of debt was as easy as getting into debt, we all would be debt free by now, right?  So why is getting out of debt such a struggle?


Well, we have to discover what it is that put us into debt to begin with. Why are we getting sucked into over-spending?  The answer is different for all of us.  Some people want to belong to a group, so they buy products that announce to the world they belong to the group that wears certain brands, lives in certain houses, drives certain cars, eats at certain restaurants, goes on certain vacations, etc..  Our desire to be seen by the world in a certain light has driven us deep into debt.  Everyone has different reasons for wanting to belong.  Some people are insecure and want to identify with a certain group.  With some it’s pride.  They can’t stand the thought of being seen as not having possessions, or looking successful.  Some people just simply have no self-control and end up in debt, and having bought things they really never wanted.  There are many reasons.  The big question is what is your WHY?



Once we know why we are in debt, we can work on dealing with that “why” and when that critical moment to spend or not to spend comes we will be ready.  Overcoming the “why” will help us become successful at overcoming our debt.  Our human nature dictates to us that we must appear desirable.  This comes from the desire to attract a mate.  This desire is very natural.  Without this natural instinct we would spend our lives alone. Marketing strategists have figured out how to manipulate our desire through their advisement.  That’s why most marketing has to do with sex appeal.  It appeals to our desire to be loved.  We also have a natural desire to belong to a group, a community.  I would say that’s why Facebook is so popular.  It gives us opportunities to connect with numerous groups all at the same time. Humans weren’t meant to be alone. We naturally gravitate towards groups of people based on our desires and common interests.  So we have corporate marketing telling us that if we own a Coach bag you belong to the group of people who own coach bags.  Even though we never actually have a relationship with these people, we still get hooked into this thinking because of our natural desire to fit in.  I am just trying to get you thinking about “why” are you over spending? How much does marketing influence your desire to spend?


Marketing is extremely successful. That’s why it’s a billion dollar industry.  They have mastered the art of dictating to us what we should want. It’s manipulation. Since their suggestion appeals to our natural desires, we can be defenseless against their tactics until we become aware of the intent behind the message.  So what can we do to help us stop spending and start saving?  Well one thing we can do is stop watching commercials.  I stream TV, so I don’t watch commercials any more.  It has really helped keep me on track.  I am not being bombarded with the idea that I need something.  Honestly I could go for the next ten years without buying some kind of product and be just fine.  I don’t let Facebook dictate to me either.  I don’t compare my life with others. It’s fine with me how people want to spend their money.  I just don’t let it affect the way I spend mine.


Keeping our goals in front of us helps a lot too.  When we feel tempted to go into debt for that vacation, we can remind ourselves of the bigger picture.  Staying focused on our goals is key to the achievement of them.  In the beginning of getting out of debt, we are motivated beyond belief.  We are paying off credit cards, car loans, student loans, etc.  It’s exhilarating, but when it comes to paying off the house, it takes a bit more patience.  This is when we need to stay focused on our goals. Budgeting or financial Facebook groups can really help out here, because there is always someone in the group who has paid off their house or reached the goal we have set.  It gives us hope.  It also motivates us to keep going.


Ever asked yourself “why” I am I doing this?  Why am I sacrificing to live a debt free life?



If getting out of debt were easy everyone would do it.  You will hit obstacles, setbacks, and pot holes along the way.  I know how frustrating it is to have the cash to finally pay something off, but something else comes along and takes the money right out of your hands.  Then you have to start all over.  UGH!!!  Having a fully funded emergency fund (3-6 months of expenses), will definitely help out in this case.  You can take the money from there and pay yourself back monthly until your account is back to where it needs to be.  You still would be able to pay off debt.  That’s why your emergency fund is so important. It breaks the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck.



It takes patience to get out of debt.  Patience doesn’t jive with our microwave society. We want what we want, and we want it now.  Unfortunately, this mindset doesn’t ever accomplish anything.  I get impatient waiting to have my house paid off, but I know if I keep at it I will achieve it sooner or later.  If you find joy in the little things, paying off debt won’t seem so long.  Be thankful! You are on the journey and not where you were the day you realized you had to make some changes.  Rejoice with others when they reach their goals!  Always be moving forward even if it’s a small step at a time.  Don’t beat yourself up when you fall off the wagon.  Just get up and keep going.


Paying off debt goes against the social norm.  While everyone around you is accumulating debt, you are getting rid of debt. While everyone else is buying the latest and greatest products, you are making due with what you have.  While everyone else is spending lots of money entertaining themselves, you are watching a DVD at home.  This doesn’t help our human desire to fit in.  I think that’s why it’s so hard for a lot of people.  They have to go against their natural instincts, and that’s never easy.  But it can be done.  With patience and time it will get easier and easier until one day living without debt is your norm.


hang in there

Finding an accountability partner is becoming popular in the budgeting world.  Even if it’s someone you have met in a budgeting group.  I love this idea because it appeals to your nature to belong.  You suddenly aren’t digging out of debt by yourself, you have support behind you to help you along the way.  I think having an accountability partner is a win for both parties involved.  Plus you might think twice before binge shopping or taking out a that loan.  Anything that can help us succeed is a good thing.


Reading books that encourage getting out of debt, minimizing your lifestyle, and saving is a great way to stay focused too. (Hint: Libraries have these.) I joined an online budgeting book club that has helped me keep my momentum to live debt free.  The book we are reading right now is “The More of Less by: Joshua Becker.   He is also in the documentary “Minimalism” on Netflix.  It’s a great documentary to check out.  Next month’s book is “The Joy of Less” by: Francine Jay.  The book deals with decluttering and I’m always looking for ways to do that.



Staying active and involved with living a debt free life helps keep the energy flowing that you need to achieve your goals.  Stay connected to a debt free community and you will not only get out of debt, but thrive as well.  Keep your family involved in your debt free lifestyle and your family will thrive.  A debt free lifestyle can be fun and not only change your life, but every generation coming behind you.  Dave Ramsey calls this “changing your family tree”

Happy Family Standing On The Beach


Left Overs:  I wanted to encourage you from a different angle this week.  I have been seeing a lot of posts about the need to stay motivated to get out of debt.  It’s not easy watching everyone around you buy everything they want and you scrimp and save for the basics to live debt free, but it’s so worth it.  The freedom that comes with owing no one anything is priceless and worth every struggle.  You will have the freedom to spend your money the way you want, not the way you have to.  That in its self is reward enough.  So keep going; embrace every moment of the journey and one day you will look back with a thankful heart.

Want to keep up with everything we’re working on? Stop by our website to check it out!



Happy Full Plate Friday!!!!

Clarissa Hallowell

Budgeting American Style


After making the decision to budget, there is always the question of how much should you allot for each category.  That was my big question.  I wanted to know if my budget was reasonable or unreasonable when compared to the average American household, so I looked at the percentages the average American was paying for food, housing, savings, and transportation.  Then I compared my budget.  I found in some areas, I needed to decrease my budget, but in other areas I was well below the average American.  How do you compare to the average American budget?  Lets find out.


The resource I am using for percentages is one of many, but when I looked at other resources the numbers only differed by a few points.  So you can raise the percentages a few points or lower it and you will be in the same ball park.



First we are going to look at housing.  Housing includes mortgage or rent, utilities, insurance for mortgage or rent, and homeowner repairs.  Most taxes and insurance on the home are usually rolled into the mortgage payment, but if not, you’ll have to add it too.  The suggested housing percentage is 30% of your monthly income.  My household is at 27%.  It’s only a 3% difference, but I will take it.  I got to this number by totaling the monthly housing cost and dividing by our monthly net income (take home pay).


Ford C-MAX

Second is auto and transportation.  This category consists of auto payment, insurance, gasoline, oil changes, license, parking, tolls, registration and repairs.  The suggested transportation percentage is 15%.  My percentage is at 18%.  My husband’s new car pushed us up a bit.  However, I don’t have a car payment. I have a mutual fund car account we pay into every month to pay for a newer car when it’s needed.  We drive our cars for a long time, so we can save up quite a bit before getting a newer one.  This allows us to make interest on our money instead of paying interest on our depreciating vehicles.



The Third category and the most challenging for me is Household items.  This includes food, (eating out is included here too), cleaning and household supplies.  The suggested household items is 15%.  The biggest challenge for me is the food part.  I love to cook and bake and that costs a little more, so we work hard at trying to stay under that 15% mark.  I eat organic meats, so when they go BOGO (but one get one free), I stock up my freezer and that helps a lot.  I am not a couponer.  Most coupons I come across aren’t for foods I buy, so I shop the grocery store ads.  Our local grocery store has lots of BOGO’s I can take advantage of each week.  I follow budgeting groups to see how others save on groceries and a lot of them shop Aldi grocery stores.  From what I understand they have quite a few organic products too.


Okay the three categories above should not exceed 60% of your net income.  For example, if you spend 40% on housing then food and auto together cannot exceed 20%.   What did you come up with?  Mine is at 60% so I would say that I am right on target.  This really gives you a good view of what you need to cut back on and what you could spend a little more on if you choose too. The second half of this exercise is the savings, debt, and miscellaneous part.


Savings are funds saved from net income (take home pay) to cover emergencies for household, auto,  medical, and dental expenses, insurance deductibles, tickets, down payment on large purchases, or vacations, etc. The suggested savings amount is 10% or more.  Since I already have a fully funded emergency fund(3 to 6 months of expenses), I added my Roth IRA here. That brings me to 15% of my net income. In this case, going over the set percentage is a good thing.  My husband’s 401K is not added in because it’s taken out before we get the net income amount.  I like Dave Ramsey’s advice to have a fully funded emergency fund before contributing to a Roth IRA.  I followed this advice in my own financial practices and believe me, it has served me well!



Next comes debt and charitable contributions.  Debt is anything you owe to a company,
person, or family member. Your mortgage is not included here.  Charitable Contributions refer to any amounts given to church or other non-profit organization.  The suggested percentage for debt/charitable giving is 15% or less.  Our charitable contributions are around 10%.




Last but not least, and again, a challenging category is miscellaneous. These are extra expenses like phones, internet, cable TV, gifts for birthdays, weddings, Christmas, etc. haircuts, nails, facials, entertainment, basically anything you spend money on monthly that don’t already fall into one of the above categories.  The suggested percentage for miscellaneous is 15%.  This category is challenging because there is always something to spend money on, so I set an amount in my budget and refuse to go over.  I look on my calendar to see what I have coming up for the month and factor that in.  It does fluctuate month to month, but we stay between 9 and 12 percent.  I am always figuring out ways to cut this category.  We recently decided to let go of cable.  We are streaming now for less than half the cost, and we did get to keep Turner Classic Movies (my husband’s favorite).  We are streaming through Direct TV Now which has TCM on their lowest package.  That has helped keep our miscellaneous category lower.  What are some ways you keep your miscellaneous down?


Okay, basically you want to reach 100% of your income going to each of these categories.  My last 3 categories came out to 37% of my income, and since my top percent was 60% I ended up having an extra 3% to add to savings.  Because I have paid off all my debt except for my house I have a pretty good bit going to savings.  Now that was not always the case though.  We struggled and made sacrifices to keep our money.  For instance we drive old cars.  We keep them well maintained and they are great reliable cars. We also don’t go to movie theaters very much, maybe once a year. We rent from Redbox instead and pop popcorn at home.  That’s some serious savings considering how much concession cost.  We also cook at home a lot more than the average American. (American’s now eat 50% of their food outside the home).  We try to keep our house organized too.  Organization alone can save thousands of dollars because you aren’t constantly buying stuff you forgot you already have.  I was great at stocking up, but I would forget where I put things, thought we were out,  and had to go buy more.  I realized how often I was doing this when I would find my supplies and go “Oh man,  I just bought that!”  So I got organized and I don’t keep buying things I don’t need.  There are millions of different ways to save money.  America’s Cheapest Family is one of my favorite books for money saving tips.


Paper cutout family with expenses on torn paper scraps

I hope you found this Average American Budget feature interesting and encouraging.  It definitely helps to have some guidelines when it comes to budgeting.  Now, you can make it your own by increasing or decreasing categories, and remember, as long as it all comes out to  100% of your monthly net income you’ll be good. Also remember that this is a monthly budget. You have to stick to it and if you spend more that 100% one month, you’ll need to cut it the next month.


Left Overs:  I wanted to throw in the percentages my family spends, so you could not only compare America’s Average, but a real person’s too.  I hope this helps you create a budget that benefits you and your family.  The goal is to spend less and save more for our families’ future.  What motivates me is leaving an inheritance for my son.  I think it’s important to leave the next generation better off.  Eventually, your family’s wealth will increase with each generation.  However in order for this to work, you have to teach your kids financial responsibility or all your hard work will be lost.  Find whatever motivates and drives you to put your family in a better financial situation and use it as fuel for the journey.  Your income is your tool to building wealth, and you will get there one pay check at a time.


Need help teaching your kids about financial responsibility?  Check out daveramsey.com for great resources like: Financial Peace Jr. and Smart Money Smart Kids.




Happy Full Plate Friday!!!!

Clarissa Hallowell

To Cut Or Not To Cut, That Is The Question?


This has been topic of discussion this week.  Do you cut up your credit cards after you have paid them off or do you continue use them in a responsible way?  Dave Ramsey advises to cut those cards up and close the account.  Others recommend to keep the account open and only use the card once a month to keep your credit score soaring.


If we take Dave Ramsey’s point a view we would pay our cards off, cut them up, and close out all accounts.  The reason being that if you aren’t using credit you don’t need a credit card or a credit score.  He calls your credit score a “I Love Debt Score”.  But what if you want to buy a house?  Apparently you can work with a mortgage company to underwrite your loan which allows you to qualify without a credit score.  So looking at the issue of keeping your credit cards open after paying them off, from this point of view, makes sense not to even have a credit card period.


But there is always two sides to the coin.  This point of view is to keep the credit cards open after pay off and use them wisely to build your credit score.  The reasoning behind this is to assure you have a good credit score for a future purchase of a house.  Many people use their card once a month on gas or food to help their credit score rise.  Having a good credit score assures you a better rate on a house loan which in returns saves you dollars.  A dollar saved is a dollar earned, right?



There are always pitfalls.  In the standpoint of Dave Ramsey there are fewer pitfalls.  Your only problem is securing a mortgage with a good interest rate.  If you put 20 to 30 percent down on your house, you are likely to get the interest rate you want.  Plus you don’t have to pay PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance).  That alone could save you quite a bit of money monthly.  Assuming you have your fully funded emergency fund (3 to 6 months of living costs) saved I don’t really see any real pitfalls with this side of the coin.  You just need discipline to walk this path.

pitfall road sign illustration design

Now the “keep those cards open” point of view involves a little more risk.  You obviously got into trouble with those cards and to have them laying around can be too much temptation for some people.  You risk reverting back to old ways.  One major credit card purchase or shopping spree could be a major setback. You could end up having to start all over with getting out of debt.  That would be a bummer after all your hard work you put into becoming debt free.  This could be disaster to the progress you’ve made.  I do see why cutting those cards up and closing out the accounts makes a lot of sense.


I wanted to write about this because this is an issue I struggle with.  I have a credit card I use every day for all my purchases.  The reason I use a credit card instead of my debt card is because when your account gets breached the credit card companies take the items off your bill and immediately issue you a new card.  The banks however give you a ten page report to fill out and tell you you’ll get your money in seven to ten days.  When this happened to me I was a little afraid to use my debt card.  So I use my credit card and get cash back every month.  I have not carried a credit card balance in 12 years.  So I consider myself a person who has learned to  handle it.



But there are questions I keep asking myself.  Would I spend less if I used cash or a debit card?  Even though I stay within my budget, I wonder if I would spend well below my budget if I were using cash or a debit card.  I do like saving money.  I keep saying I am going to try using just cash or a debit card for a month and see for myself what happens.  So I am going to do it this year and see if I save as much as I think I will.  Sometimes you just got to do it.


Going to the bank and getting cash is a hassle.  This is one of my excuses I like to use.  Never mind that I drive right past the bank twice a week.  The thought of my checking account getting wiped out again is a real fear.  That one I need to think about for a while.  I can use cash for everything though, except when I order items online.  I order everything from Amazon.  I hate shopping, so ordering has become my thing.  Again, I am within my budget but I am just challenging myself to save even more.  Using cash would probably do the trick.  So I think I’ll need to try it.  Do you have any hang-ups about trying different ways to save money?  Even if you rock staying within budget, could you save even more by using cash or a debit card?


As much as I love Dave Ramsey’s methods, I still have my own hang-ups that I need to overcome.  I am human.  His approach to debt helped us pay off thousands of dollars.  We are still working on getting the house paid off and still using his methods.  But, we all have our hurdles.  Is there anything in your way of getting out of debt?  What keeps you from pushing forward?  We have obstacles to face when accomplishing anything in this world.  The obstacles keep us moving forward because we don’t want to go back through them again.  So we press on.



Honestly we are always going to be working on our finances.  There isn’t a destination to get to with our livelihood.  You just move to different stages with this stuff.  Mainly because you will have to deal with money the rest of your life, so learn to enjoy it.  Have fun with your finances instead of dreading the bank statements.  Experiment and see what works best for you and your family.


Leftovers:  My biggest motivation for getting a handle on my finances was my son.  I didn’t want him to struggle with his finances, so I learned how to deal with mine.  Our kids are always watching us.  He doesn’t mind doing his finances because he knows how to handle his money.  Plus I love the calls I get from him when he saved money.  We talk about his finances and he seeks advice when needed.  Finances was a topic of discussion in our house while he was growing up, so the discussion has continued into my son’s adult life.  You could say finances have kept us close.




Happy Full Plate Friday!!!!

Clarissa Hallowell

Finding Your Sweet Spot



Finding your sweet spot is the key to living on a successful budget.  The sweet spot is the place that motivates you to reach your financial goals.  Everyone is so different and what motivates one person might not another. So knowing yourself is vital when you are trying to achieve paying off debt.  I am a person who is motivated by positive reinforcement.  If I am positively motivated I can conquer the world.  Negativity shuts me down and I don’t want to move.  When I was a child if I was negatively directed or disciplined I would go inside myself and anything that person was trying to motivate me to do was not happening.  I know that about myself, so I have to use little rewards and have patience with myself while trying to reach my financial goals.  Some people on the other hand, will not allow themselves even one luxury while climbing their mountain of debt.  If that works for them then that’s not a bad thing.



Just getting to know yourself will save you more money than you think.  Are you a shopper?  Do you overspend on hobbies? What are your triggers that throw you off from achieving financial freedom?  I used to be a compulsive shopper.  I had a serious problem.  I would buy everything I wanted and, oh yes, I charged it too.  Knowing this about myself has lead me to set up boundaries in my life that keep me financially secure.  I don’t window shop.  What does that really mean anyways?  How many of us actually just window shopping without buying?  Probably not many.  I always have a list of what I am buying and I know my budget.  Remember the budget is the limit because that is your map to lifestyle you want.



Happy Family Standing On The Beach

What about our families?  My son was a huge weakness for me when it came to my budget.  We want our kids to have everything, but let’s face it, that doesn’t help them as adults.  So my first response was to say yes. I had to learn to say nothing until I got my feelings in check.  This saved me quite a few headaches and taught my son that he doesn’t get everything he wants.  So by middle school he found small jobs to do for money like washing cars, chores, and mowing lawns. It’s funny how when it came to the money he earned he became very conservative.  Spouses can be weakness too.  Who wants to say no to their better half?  But over the years my husband and I have had to say no to each other, and that’s been good for our marriage.  It keeps us working together and we accomplish so much more together.  You have to look at it as working together for the greater good to reach your goals.  It’s definitely sweet when you reach your goals together!



Triggers to spending like depression, boredom, pressure from friends or family, feelings of being deprived, etc. can really derail your budget and cause a huge setback. So again, knowing your triggers and making a plan for how to deal with these pressures will help immensely.  I was a depressive shopper in every sense of the word.  If I felt depressed, buying something new always made me feel better.  Well, for a while anyways, but the bill always came.  The bill made me even more depressed, so I would end up shopping again.  You can see the endless cycle.  Now when I feel depressed, I have “go to” things that make me feel better.  I use essential oils, burning candles (especially cinnamon), getting out of the house, and exercise, and basically being good to myself.  Those things have helped me overcome the trappings of shopping.  So my budget has a fighting chance each month to get me to my goal.





Okay so where is your sweet spot?  I call mine the middle of the road spot.  I allow myself some pleasures while working towards my goals.  We have an entertainment budget and it allows us to do some fun things along the way.  This helps keep my momentum going and I don’t feel like everything is work.  I have cable television.  I know I am weird, (or seem to be to those budget extremists).  Most people I know wouldn’t dare have cable while paying off debt.  My husband loves TCM (Turner Classic Movies), and we have looked to see if we can stream it, but no such luck.  We went back and forth over this for years.  Essentially it came down to my husband’s one pleasure, and his pleasure won out.  He doesn’t spend money elsewhere, so keeping the cable is what we decided to do for our house.  I know people who believe cable is a bad word and would never have it.  They might reach their goals a little quicker than me, but I am willing to be a little slower and keep my husband happy in the meantime. Finding Your Sweet Spot is finding what works for you, so you don’t give up.



Dave Ramsey’s Debt Snowball is very much about finding your sweet spot.  You pay off the littlest amount first until you get to the biggest amount.  Sure, you would save more money paying off highest interest cards first. But what if your highest interest rate card is a big sum and it will take you years to see anything happening.  Most likely you would give up.  So by paying off smallest amount first allows you to enjoy some victories along the way and that is positivity at work.  I thrive on positivity that’s why Dave Ramsey’s methods has worked so well for me.



So finding your sweet spot starts with knowing yourself.  Spend some time with yourself.  Make a nice lunch for yourself and sit down and list what you thrive on.  Then incorporate those things in your financial journey.  If you thrive on chocolate like I do make a date with yourself to eat something supper chocolaty when you get to a certain point on your journey.





Loving yourself is key.  You aren’t a bad person; you just made some bad choices.  Or maybe you didn’t, maybe life happened to your finances and now you need to buckle down to get out of debt.  Whatever reason or way you found yourself in need of a financial makeover.  It’s okay.  Be kind to yourself and encourage yourself and help yourself get out from underneath the debt. What are some ways to be kind to yourself?  Give yourself an afternoon or day to do all the things you enjoy every once in a while.  I am guilty of holding my feet to the fire until I am burnt out, so let yourself recharge.  I love walks in the woods.  Nature is a great way to recharge.  A long soak in a bath with salts is a nice way to recharge and it costs very little.  Rent your favorite movie and pop some popcorn.  There are so many ways you can show love to yourself without spending lots of money.  So have fun making a list of how you can cherish yourself.  Besides if you love yourself you will be able to love and care for others too.



So for me it’s work and play that helps me reach my goals.  For you it could be a completely different plan that brings you success.  Whatever it is that works, that becomes the plan.  Just be honest with yourself in the process.  I know I would be miserable if I went a whole week without chocolate.  When I  finally  get some I would way overeat, so I eat a little at a time.  It makes me happy and I don’t over-indulge.  That works for me.  So do what works for you and see if your life doesn’t gain some new energy and success.



Left Overs:  On my financial journey I have discovered that we all are very different people and it’s not a one size fits all journey.  I apply the basics of paying off debts principles.  Then I fine-tuned it to a customized plan for me and my family.  Hopefully I gave you some great ideas to help you customize your debt journey, so you will stick with it.  The goal is a financially free life, and whatever path brings you success is sweet.




And Happy Full Plate Friday!!!!

Clarissa Hallowell

The Art Of Giving


I call giving an art because it falls under the guidelines of creative self-expression.  Giving can be wildly creative when it comes to who you give to and how you give.  I personally believe that if you are open to sharing your resources with others then you open yourself up to receiving resources.  I am definitely not promoting giving to get.  The joy and freedom your life will experience through giving is payment enough; however, I can’t help but notice all the resources that seem to come my way the more I give.


A great example of resources coming my way is last week when I had an eye doctor appointment.  I needed to buy new glasses because I have graduated to the bifocal.  Yay me!!  Knitting and watching TV at the same time was proving quite a challenge, so I went to the eye doctor.  Well of course my lenses were more than I was expecting, and really hated departed with that much money.  But I went ahead and got what I needed.  The next day I received a check in the mail for almost exactly what I paid for my glasses.  I was happy and straight to savings it went.  Receiving doesn’t usually happen quite like that, but it’s almost funny how more comes in when I send out resources where they’re needed.



Here’s another example of getting resources.  For Christmas, I bought essential oils as gifts and let’s just say they weren’t cheap, but the benefits outweigh the price in this case.  The company I bought them from sent me four bottles too many, so I returned them.  When I checked my bank statement I saw that the company not only reimbursed me for the four extra bottles, but also reimbursed me for ALL the essential oils I had bought.  So I called the company right away.  The first lady I talked to looked my account up and said “it was their mistake, so you don’t owe anything.”  Well, a little while later I called back to speak with someone else.  Reason being that I  firmly believe  if you owe someone something you pay it.  So I talked with someone different.  She looked up my account and put me on hold for a while.  She came back and said “ma’am it was our mistake, so you don’t owe us anything.”  By now I am getting the picture that I just got a lot of expensive oils for free.  These little things happen too frequently in my life for me to dismiss them.  I firmly believe that since I have opened myself up to giving to the needs I see around me, that I am also opened up to receiving things I need. It just works that way. When I give generously, I receive abundantly.


I believe giving has to be a personal choice when it comes to how much, and whom you give to.  Sometimes, our gifts to people are well received, but there is no lasting impact on the person’s life.  I think responsible giving has an impact on peoples’ lives.  Irresponsible giving is called enabling.  I have done both types, and found saying “No” sometimes is actually a better “gift”. Here’s another example of giving both ways.  My husband has over a hundred associates where he works, so we are constantly hearing about needs that different people have.  We talk it over to see if this a need we should meet.  On several occasions we have met the needs of his associates, but quickly we realized we were pretty much helping them with their immediate problem without helping them with the probable cause. The same people seemed to always have a need.  I gave it some thought and decided they needed a financial change along with the monetary donation. So we went to amazon and bought seven used books by Dave Ramsey.  These books are given away with the financial donation along with lots of encouragement to read the book.  The book is the best gift because it holds the financial principles they need to get their finances on the right track.  If you are wondering, I bought two different books – The Complete Guide to Money and The Total Money Make Over.  They are both great books for introducing Dave’s financial principles. (They worked wonders for us!)




I did say giving can be wildly creative.  It can be so much fun too!  One unique way to give is take a gallon size ziplock bag and put inside resources for homeless people.  Generally items like snacks, socks (that’s a big one), hand sanitizer wipes, deodorant, a small cash donations, and whatever else you can think of.  Keep the bags in your car and when the opportunity arises you have a creative gift from your heart.  It takes the guess work out whether you should give to that homeless person or not.  I hate being at a stop light and trying to decide to give or not and then the big question how much?  By the time I have decided, the light is green and I have to go.  So the ziplock bag gifts are a lifesaver.  Plus they are fun to make and you are giving of yourself instead of just your checking account.  Another great way to give is give gifts you make.  I know people who knit scarves for the homeless.  I like to knit, so I knit “knitted knockers” for the Breast Cancer Society.  This way of giving is fun too!!  I get to do something I enjoy doing while helping others.  Giving doesn’t need to feel like a sacrifice or a drudge.  So using YOUR talents definitely falls under the creative way to help others category.  These are just a few creative ways to help others.  There are hundreds of ways if not thousands of ways to brighten someone else’s day. What can you think of? What comes to mind? Why not do THAT?


How about your time?  We hear a lot about giving of our time, but who has time anymore?  If you work and have kids you have a full schedule already.  So where do you find time?  If your child plays a sport, you can use your time to help the coach out, organize snacks or events for the team, work at the snack stand at the games, or simply meet a need of someone on the team.  While you are at work, look around for opportunities to help out.  You can do small things like emptying a waste basket, help the new person, or any other small task that would benefit your peers.  My husband’s job has a mentoring program that he takes part in.  He meets with the protege during work hours, so he doesn’t need to find time.  Actually it’s a fun way to give of yourself because they meet over coffee away from the hustle and bustle of work.  Keep in mind that giving is a fun way to express yourself to others around you. If you keep yourself open to these opportunities they will find you.




I feel like I am helping others and increasing my own gratitude in the meanwhile.  Giving is an exciting and uplifting way to live.  I actually look forward to finding different ways to give.  I also budget for my giving.  I know exactly how much money I have to give each month.  This takes the guesswork out it.  I used to hate giving because I would hear about a need I wanted to meet , but not know how much to give?  That was my struggle for years.  If I thought of going with an amount, I always felt like I should give more.  That is all in the past now because I decided how much I will give each month, so I have to stick to my “giving budget”.  Even if you decide to give $5 per week, just surprising someone with a cup of coffee will make you feel great the whole day! So if I can meet a need I will, but if I can’t I don’t.  It’s that simple, and best of all I don’t feel guilty. Having the ability to give is a place where we should live. But don’t feel “guilted” into giving. That kind of giving will lead to resentment.  I want you to be joyful and excited about giving, and the only way that will happen is if you give from the place of empowerment.


Giving is one of those things that connects us with others and brings freedom to both the giver and receiver.  Think about that one time when someone gave to you, and you felt so thankful.  I would dare say that many of us will give to someone down the road because we were given to. That’s called paying it forward, but again, don’t do it because you feel you have to.  Giving should always come from a place of wanting to help others.  That’s the place of empowerment.



So take some time coming up with a giving budget.  Think of creative ways to give and help others that make you excited.  Remember giving should bring joy to everyone involved, and that’s how the giving lifestyle is born.  Lifestyles are just that – ways of living, and we all benefit from a joyful way of living.  Watch out though, because this lifestyle can be contagious and your children might want to give too.  So give and live with intention, and see just how much your life is changed.


Left Overs:  Okay so the cat is out of the bag.  I used to hate giving, not because I was selfish, but because of all the guilt that went along with it.  I always felt like I should do more, but now that I have a giving budget I don’t feel the stress of giving anymore.  I basically sit down and add giving into the family budget every month, so I am not making hard choices with my emotions in an uproar. It has made giving a privilege not a sacrifice, and that is definitely a wonderful way to express myself.


I would love to hear about how giving has changed your life.  Or maybe how you want it to in your future.


And Happy Full Plate Friday!!!!

Clarissa Hallowell

Living Way Below Your Means



Living below your means is something we all can agree on as being beneficial to our survival, but very few do it.  We seem to think we need to consume 100% or more of our incomes, or we feel deprived.  Thanks to credit card companies we are able to go way beyond our incomes, and more than half of America indulges in this type of lifestyle.  Economist Paul Kasriel put it so elegantly when he said “Today’s ‘partying’ in terms of a disproportionate share of national output being ‘consumed’ by the household sector is a recipe for a ‘hangover’ tomorrow.”


With all the emphasis on living on a budget, saving money, and minimizing our consumption, I think I can safely say the hangovers have begun.  We all have a splitting headache when it comes to our debts. Some of us have a migraine that won’t quit.  I see so many people around me in dire situations with their finances.  By the time they realize what they are doing to their financial future they are overwhelmed and don’t see a way out.  But there is a way out and that’s where this blog comes in.


The first thing we have to deal with when it comes to our finances is how we think about money and working.  We have feelings of being deprived of something if we choose our savings over a material processions.  Instead of pushing through those feelings we give in and buy something that brings us happiness at the moment, and we end up giving or throwing it away later on down the road.  So if you want to break it down, you might as well just give the cash to someone because that’s essentially what you are doing, all because of our feelings.  Feelings come and go and can change on a dime.  I call this way of managing our finances transient accounting because it changes with our emotions.  Not a good way to govern our financial affairs.




I think the word deprivation scares Americans.  We can’t get our Starbucks in the morning, so we feel deprived, and boy does that feeling linger throughout our day.  I know this feeling all too well, and hate the feeling myself.  So we usually give in to our wants to avoid the dreaded feeling of deprivation.  Besides, we live in America. We should have everything we desire, right?  Obviously, the feelings of lack or being deprived of something is just our entitlement attitude coming out. This attitude is always extreme and one sided.  So if we are going to get any money saved we have to learn how to deal with our audacious ways.  I have introduced the word and phrase “NO” and “Get over it” to my thinking.  When I have those feelings of “I deserve this”,  I say to myself “Get over it” or “No”.  It’s that simple.  I want and need to stick to my budget and to save money.  I don’t need a $5.00 coffee.  Besides, I have coffee at home and I use flavored creamer and it’s just as good as buying it elsewhere. So the feelings of deprivation are not exactly accurate.  So I definitely don’t need false feelings governing my financial future.


Work ethic goes hand in hand with how we think about our finances.  Some of us have an impeccable work ethic and it shows up in how we manage our money.  That type of person would be my husband.  His work ethic is spot on and it shows in all the promotions he has received and even how he entertains himself too.  He would much rather be building something or learning something new than watching TV.  So this work mindset governs his whole life, and he is a happy person.  He really enjoys working.  Then you have me.  I wasn’t raised with a great work ethic.  I was pretty much taught to do as little as possible and get what you can get from other people.  Throughout the years I have had to change this mindset.  I still struggle with feelings of laziness today, but I use my words “Get over it” and “No” to push through.  I have learned to love the task of working. I also found that I love creating and learning new things.  Through this mindset I have become a much happier person.



We have to learn that work is not a bad word.  Nearly all rich individuals work super hard to get where they are, and they enjoy the process of tasks.  Movement is energizing and sparks your creativity within your mind.  I try to get all my tasks done for the day before I turn on the TV because once I stop moving it’s hard to get going again.  So for me, avoiding the TV is key.  I am learning to enjoy my daily tasks so much that I’d actually rather cook these days than eat out, and that is money in my pocket.  Instead of eating out for Valentine’s Day this year I am going to make us a delicious meal at home.  I am excited about making it for my husband and again, saving money.  Cha-Ching!!!  I had to say it.  LOL. I have been trying different recipes and creating a few of my own and I am loving the process, even the cleanup.  My husband loves when I cook and it increases our connections within our relationship.  That’s another plus. It also makes me more frugal because I know what it takes to make things, so I am more conservative with my resources. For instance, I started making my own almond milk.  It takes some time to make this stuff and it’s not as easy as pulling it off the shelf at my supermarket, so I find myself pouring less when I drink it. Making things really gives you a perspective that you would not have otherwise.  So dealing with these mindsets head on is the way to grow, build wealth, and secure a good financial future.


Now that we have discussed the mindset we do not want governing our money, what mindsets do we want?  We want to have a healthy view of our resources.  A stance that allows us to meet our needs, indulge our wants every now and then, and still have enough left over to save and give. So what’s the plan?  I hope that’s what you are thinking because I know I am.  Well, everyone one of us is in a different place financially.  Some are getting out of debt, some are saving their emergency fund, some are paying off their house, and some are saving and giving in a big way.  So wherever you are on your journey, we all share some common challenges.  First, we all care about our finances and are taking responsibility, and that’s huge!!!  Second, we are all on this journey together, so no matter what stage you are, there is always someone to help you along. Third, we all not only want ourselves to succeed, but we have the courage to rejoice with others when they have achievements.  In the budgeting community, I have seen lots of great examples of people encouraging others to succeed with money.  I have to say the people I have met along the way on my financial journey are the most caring, committed, unselfish people you could ever know.  And that is definitely my kind of community.


smallachievementsarethesecretingredientsforconfidenceOkay, the plan for living way below your means?  As I mentioned before, we have to manage two mindsets, feelings of deprivation and learning how to love and enjoy work.  When you are in the mall with your friends and they all are buying the latest and greatest clothes, but your budget doesn’t allow for such purchases, how are you going to deal with the “I am deprived” feelings?  I have found telling myself NO somehow lessens this feeling and I mentally move on.  I guess my inner self is much like a child.  When you first tell a child no they fight you, but over time the child relinquishes their position much more quickly and they peacefully move on.  Same with telling yourself no.  Another way I like to stamp out that “everyone else has and I don’t have” feeling is thinking about the money going into my savings. Yes, I like to check my savings account from time to time to lift my spirits and keep my head in the game because every dime saved was when I said no to myself.  It’s my little achievement that keeps me going.




The second mindset is the love to work mindset.  We need to see work through the eyes of gratitude.  Work is a gift.  So many people in this world can’t work, and it takes a toll on them emotionally, psychologically, and sometimes physically.  What elderly people struggle with the most, is feeling useful.  Work gives us a purpose, direction, and reward.  We weren’t meant to be idle.  Work can mean a variety of things. Sometimes our reward doesn’t come in form of money. Stay at home moms’ reward goes way beyond finances. Honing in on the desire and passion for your daily tasks can be daunting without gratitude.  Gratitude opens our eyes to just how fortunate we really are.  It opens our minds to be more creative and fills our hearts with joy.  There isn’t anything negative I can say about gratitude. It’s all good.  I practice gratitude every morning by sitting still while drinking my coffee because gratitude starts with coffee. (Well for me it does!) You have no idea how thankful I am for coffee.  I mentally go through the things in my life and acknowledge them as gifts and express my gratitude for them by saying thank you.  Thank you are powerful words that bring a sense of happiness and joy.  I try to make sure I always say thank you to whoever is taking their time to help me.  Be careful though, this gratitude can be contagious and rub off on people around you.  Gratitude changes the atmosphere around you and brings peace between you and every person and circumstance you encounter.  So with all the peace, happiness, joy, and contentment you will find through just being thankful, your tasks throughout the day will bring you joy and incite you to go on and do even more.  There are definite rewards for those who go the extra mile.  The great part of this equation is that you will be excited to go above and beyond, so it will not feel like work.  Give gratitude a try. You will be surprised how much it changes you.



With these two mindsets undercontrol, then we are free to move on and live way below our means.  With removing the mental stress of deprivation and work, it frees us up to do what we really want to do and that’s to get out of debt, save money, and invest into our financial future.  Letting gratitude have a place in our mind brings a sense of contentment, so you will spend less. Have you ever noticed that when you feel content you don’t even think about spending money?  Contentment brings with it a feeling of being satisfied, you actually will achieve living way below your means by letting gratitude grow in your life.


Left Overs:  These mindsets take time to achieve so be patient with yourself.  Encourage yourself to stick with practicing gratitude and watch your attitude be totally transformed.  In the beginning you will miss opportunities to show your gratitude to others and that’s okay.  When you remember missed moments let yourself feel gratitude in your heart, and move on.  Eventually it will become second nature to you and you will not only change your life, but others around you.  Think of all the people who will have their day brightened by two simple words “Thank You”.



I would love to hear how gratitude has changed your life.  Leave a comment below or post into the Full Plate Finances Facebook page.



Be Good To Yourself, and Happy Full Plate Friday!!!!

Clarissa Hallowell




This is a new word for me.  I purposely wrote it with dash to bring out its true meaning.  Mini meaning small or little.  The first word is the important piece here.  Malism, well by itself means an extremely bad joke.  LOL!!  No this post is not a bad joke even though minimalism can sound like one at first.


Over the years I have been drawn to leading a simpler lifestyle.  It’s been mainly out of necessity due to health reasons, but the more I research what a simpler lifestyle entails, the more excited I get about the process.  Minimalism is just what it sounds like – living with less, little, or necessities.  For an American these words can sound funny or like a bad joke.  Minimalism is opposition to the American culture of bigger and better.  Over the last fifty years our houses, closets, garages, and yards have all gotten bigger.  In fact, our houses are three times bigger now than when our parents were growing up.  So American culture dictates to us more, bigger, and best, but here’s the question of the century.  When is enough, enough?


Each person has to answer that question for themselves.  There is no right or wrong answer here, but I would recommending taking some things into account while trying to answer that question.  First is happiness.  Are you happy? What does happiness look like for you personally?  Second is peace.  Are you at peace in your life and relationships?  Third is contentment.  Are you continent with who you are and what you have?  There is no right or wrong answer.  It is only your answers that matters here.  But let’s face it, without happiness, peace, and contentment, we are some pretty miserable people.



So I would say minimalism is a quest for a better way of life.  A life that is rewarding to the body, soul, and mind.  It is a journey that puts us first instead of our money making ways.  I really should not have to say it, but just in case you aren’t sure: You Are the Important Piece Here.  It’s not your house, car, clothes, hobbies, or any other material possession.  If you are like me you probably had to let that sink in a little.  It makes since and we know it’s true, but we work so hard for material possessions that we totally get lost in the shuffle.  Buying things start out at such a young age.  I see three year olds with iPads???  Then we realize in order for us to keep our stuff we have to grow up and make money.  Now making money is not bad or evil, but it’s the “why” we are making money that may not be best for our lives.  If we are consumed with possessions and always buying the next best thing.  Then I would have to deem the quest of our lives as being frivolous and not very meaningful.  Basically we would have wasted our lives on things that deteriorate.


So like I said, I have been drawn to this simpler way of life and watched documentaries and TV shows on it, read blogs, books, posts, and anything else I could find.  Basically I had to find out in what capacity minimalism could benefit my life.  This is where it’s different for everyone.  There are the extremes, middle of the road, and a little involvement and you have to decide what works best for you.


Some extreme cases are living in a tiny home.  A house that is a few 100 square feet.  You can catch an episode of Tiny Homes on HGTV.  I love watching these shows.  They show you everything from design, build, and purchasing.  I always ask myself if I could do that?  Living in just 200 or 300 square feet of space would take some serious consideration.  I love the idea and it makes perfect sense if you want to just own a home outright.  Like I said, I love the idea, but it would not work for me personally.  I have too many guests throughout the year and I need bedrooms to put everyone in.  So going that small is not something I could do. But I don’t need to live in enormous house either, so I live in a medium size house and that works best for me.  So you could say I chose the middle of the road here.




Another extreme I love is the Project 333.  This is basically a way to unclutter your closets.  You basically cut your wardrobe down to 33 things to be worn over a 3 month period.  That does include jewelry too.  I totally loved the concept, so I attacked my closet the other day.  It was New Year’s Eve, so it felt like a good time to declutter.  I got rid of tons of clothes, (even the ones I reserved for that one day I will lose the weight).  LOL!!!  Three years later I need to just let it go!!!  Besides if I actually do lose the weight I should buy myself new clothes and throw a party, seriously.  I cleaned out all my drawers too.  I was so proud of myself.  I counted my clothing and I was at 50 articles of clothing.  I went back through it and well I really did wear everything I kept, so I am doing it middle of the road here too.  You know what?  I felt lighter and happier.  I love looking at my closet and actually able to see what is hanging on the hangers.  Minimizing my closet made me happy and feel freer, and that is exactly what minimalism is supposed to do – bring you happiness, peace, and contentment.   Remember that this is a journey not a destination, so allow yourself to grow and change over the years. Start with small changes – just start somewhere.


Basically there are hundreds of ways to minimize your consumption.  Some get rid of their cars totally and some buy smaller more economical cars.  Again, whatever works for you.  You can cut down on kitchen appliances. Get appliances that pull double duty.  Minimize your furniture, garages, or storage sheds.  To me that sounds so funny.  We have full garages, so we buy storage units for all our stuff.  Right now my husband and I are going through that.  We have a whole bedroom full of boxes of stuff.  We moved over the summer and haven’t gotten through all those boxes yet.  We are pricing storage buildings. However, I want to go through all the boxes before purchasing a building because I have a feeling we don’t need a good bit of it.  Let’s face it. It’s been in a box for the last few years, right?  I would feel less weighed down with less stuff.  Plus, think about all the maintenance you put into taking care of your stuff.  We dust it, wash it, iron it, polish it, change its oil, get it fixed, and move it from one place to another.  Sounds like a lot of work to me to just have stuff.





I am going to continue my journey towards being “stuff free” and who knows, by the time I am old I may have mastered taking care of myself as much as I have taken care of my stuff over the years.  Remember this whole journey is about you, and how happy, at peace, and content you are.  Our relationships with ourselves, family, and friends are the only thing we can carry into our next lives.  When I cross over to the next life I want to go rich in relationships, not poor because I had to leave all the material possessions behind.


Left Overs:  I think what makes a full plate is diversity.  At least a well-balanced plate.  When it comes to finances, a minimal lifestyle will save you money, but the reason for seeking out such a lifestyle goes way beyond money.  This lifestyle needs to benefit you as human being to really declare that it’s successful.  Minimalism is a way of life that so many people have found satisfying.  They are happier, healthier, and definitely more content. If you are interested in learning more about minimalism check out the documentary on Netflix called Minimalism.  Here is the website that put the movie out there.



Also Check out Project 333.



Let me know what you think…


Be Good To Yourself, and Happy Full Plate Friday!!!!

Clarissa Hallowell



This blog is only part of several projects my husband and I are involved in. Everything falls under our original website project called Need Free. We started needfree.com as a way to help others post things they were giving away, or a place to search for things someone else was giving away. (You really don’t need new everything). So as you think about decluttering, downsizing, and minimizing, why not post some of those things on Need Free? You’ll be glad you did!


When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going



I was reminded this week that the tough part of managing your money is the day after day of making the right decisions with your money to achieve your goals.  It’s not easy to watch everyone around you living it up on credit.  While you are eating rice and beans trying to pay off debt.  It’s especially hard when you live in America, where you can have whatever you want with a click of a mouse.  So why sacrifice when majority of people around you don’t?  Besides don’t we come out at the same place in the end?  The answer is a huge NO!!!  No, we don’t.


Let me break it down for you.  My husband makes decent money.  He has spent the last 16 years moving up in his company.  So why do we live on such a strict budget and have to budget for any extras?  The answer is the end result.  We know we could spend 30 years paying off a big house.  We could take car loans and drive expensive cars.  We could go on expensive vacations, but the end result is what holds us back.  See, after 30 years all I would have is a 30 year old house that needs fixing up.  I would have expensive cars that have aged and need replacing.  So basically all I would have is aged stuff.  That doesn’t really appeal to me.



So what is the alternative to buying aging stuff?  Well, there is living way below your means and paying off your debt early, so you get to pocket your cash instead of giving it to others and paying interest.  You could invest your cash and get paid dividends, buy real-estate and have a rental income coming in, or you could relax and vacation more.  I can say from experience that getting dividends on your money is so much fun.   Now that’s much more appealing to me than paying interest on a depreciating vehicle.


Okay so how do we get there?  How do we go from paying interest to receiving interest?  That’s where the sacrifice comes in.  We paid off all of our cars and started a car fund.  It’s a mutual fund that we pay into every month, so we don’t pay interest; we make interest.  Here’s where the patience comes in. We drive older cars while we wait for our money to grow.  After we have saved enough, we pay cash for our cars and continue to save some more.  You can never save too much money.  So the initial savings is harder because your money slowly grows, but with compound interest it speeds up the longer it sits.  We take a portion out to buy a car and leave some in and keep adding to it.  You will be amazed on how much you can save!

Business Graph with arrow and coins showing profits and gains

When we bought our house we looked for a year and a half for a good deal.  We bought a house that we could easily have paid double on.  So living below your means is key here.  We will have it paid off in several years, then we will see where we are, and decide how to use our money over the next 20 years to benefit us.  We will definitely increase savings, maybe buying a rental house, take a vacation, and give to causes we believe in.  This plan will yield us a great retirement, so we can enjoy our grand kids and God son’s kids too.  The best part is we get to decide how we want to live.   So sacrificing today for tomorrow is fine with us.  When I look back over the last few years I don’t feel like I have missed out on anything.  I feel like I have everything to gain.




Here’s the tough part; at least it was for me – saying no to your kids.  I can’t count how many times my son heard ‘no” through the years.  He had to raise his own money for all the gaming systems, movies, phones and whatever else he wanted.  One year he detailed cars for $50 a car.  He raked in the cash that year.  Plus he had birthday money and Christmas money.  He managed to save $5,000 over the years that he ended up putting toward a car.  He also learned a good work ethic over the years.  If he wants something he knows there is work to be done.  He now serves our country in the Navy, and he is definitely the kind of hard working person I want defending me.  Besides, with all the money he didn’t get through the years we were able to help him get a nice a car that will last him a long time.  He is happier that we were able to help with the car than he would have been with any electronics we could of bought him.


So yes, this journey is tough and we have to get tougher with our spending habits, but the payoff is so worth it!!!  The way I see it, is we have to pay the price somewhere along the line.  Either we spend like we want to now and scrape by in retirement, or budget now and live like no one else later.  What really motivated us to change our spending habits was my health.  We already spend quite a bit every year for medication, doctor visits, surgeries, etc.  So I want to be able to afford my medical costs in my later years.  I never want that to be a burden for my only son.  That was my motivation at first.  After seeing over the years how much we have won with money, I am more inspired today more than ever.


Left Overs:  My motivation for this blog this week was reading all the Facebook posts from people struggling to get out of debt.  The journey has gotten extremely hard for them and they just needed that encouragement to get them through.  This debt-free life style isn’t easy.  It’s hard and you’re constantly saying no to things you want today, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  You will get through the tough patches and will gain traction to move ahead to where you dream about being.  These principles work no matter what your income. Yes, it’s easier to save when you make more, but you can still do it. Chances are, if the extra effort is worth it to you, you can progress at your place of employment, or maybe find another job with better long term opportunities. In order to go somewhere, you have to leave somewhere you’re at. Final thought on sacrificing: A ‘no” today is a “yes” for tomorrow.



Thanks for viewing,

Clarissa Hallowell

Enjoy Your Friday