Category Archives: House & Home

Signs Of Emotional Abuse

I’ve been talking recently about toxic family because of my own personal experiences. I’ve been trying to understand why someone would need to do those things or act that way and I ran across a list of signs of emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse is serious subject that isn’t afforded enough attention or education. It wasn’t until I was much older and saw other parental interactions that I realized how weird my childhood really was. From 2 AM trips to Walmart to appease my mother’s boredom to feeling more liker her sister or parent than her child, my childhood was weird. And while I know my mother was abused by her siblings (and her siblings friends) that doesn’t excuse the behavior. I mean my father came from an abusive family…and while a bit abrasive and brutally honest, he wasn’t abusive.

Such behavior can often fly under the radar. Which makes it even more important to see the signs. I can’t tell you how many people thought my parents were cool…only to get to know my mom and not want to come back over.

It wasn’t until I started looking for support that I started to understand what I wish I had seen so long ago. If you’re going through the same thing or think you might be, seek help. Life is hard enough without this weight upon your shoulders. You are worthy of love, support, and validation, no matter what they said or did or thought. And you’re not alone. There are facebook groups, community forums, and even live support groups.

So without further ado, here are some “signs” of an abusive parent we need to be aware of:

1. Withholding or Making a Child “Earn” Necessities

Parents who intentionally or not deprive or make their children earn their basic needs are abusive. Making a child feel guilty or like they have to earn things like the roof over their head, food, or clothing is wrong. It’s one thing to remind a child of whose house and rules you’re under. It’s another to make them fear that they could lose it over petty squabbles.

2. “Parentification” or Enmeshment

“Parentification,” also known as “covert incest” or enmeshment, describes a “too close for comfort” relationship between a parent and child where boundaries are blurred. The child can end up feeling less like a child. They end up becoming the emotional support for the adult instead. More like a sibling, parent, or lover of their parent instead of their child.

Someone who grows up with parentification can find it hard to keep that boundary with their own child or with others. They don’t tend to have good relationship boundaries because of the lack of boundaries in their childhood relationships.

This is one of a few of these that really gets to me. I can remember over and over again my mother competing with me for resources then turning around and asking me to be her support system. Especially during the few times in which my father was unwilling to enable her. And when we were competing for resources from my father like children she always had to one up me, putting us deeper in debt…even over school supplies and clothing. It went so far as her telling me that it was my duty to take care of her no matter what the circumstance.

3. Favoring One Child Over Another

In many of the support groups I’ve been visiting recently two terms are used. The Golden Child and the Scapegoat. It’s easy to see which serves which function. But in an abusive relationship involving siblings a parent can choose one child that can do no wrong and another who can do no right. We see this often in crime serials.

It’s damaging for both children however. the Golden Child grows up with an inflated sense of self which may become deflated when they enter the real world (harming their self esteem). The other child starts with a deflated sense of self esteem and may never recover or struggle to believe they are worthy of anything better.

I would make an argument that this can still occur in single child households as well. Many of those in the support groups I follow find this to be the case after they have their first child. In the abusive parent’s eyes the grandchild can do no wrong and is pitted against their parent, putting that relationship at a strain so that the emotionally abusive parents can get whatever it is they get out of this type of interaction.

This can also take the form of pitting a child (or other family members against each other. Which only serves to reinforce the lie that love has to be earned instead of freely and unconditionally given. My father and I would often be pitted against each other. Looking back, I realize that she was trying to keep us both at each other (intentionally or not) so that she could more easily get her way.

4. Incessant Teasing/Humiliation

There is a difference between teasing and humiliation and abuse. It’s one thing to gently tease your child for a silly remark. It’s another to call them out or call them names in front of an audience. It can be a fine line as well. Making this sign particularly hard to call out.

5. Denying a Child Privacy

When you deny a child age appropriate privacy it does destroy their ability to trust others. While not entirely avoidable, growing up (until we moved) My room was either a pass through to my parents room…or had no door and was connected to the living room. I had no place where I could go and have my time to process or work things out. I’m not saying this was intentional abuse, but there are parents who would do this intentionally. This also includes invasions of privacy like reading a child’s diary.

In my mind this also includes not allowing a child to assert their boundaries. For example, one day the Valkyrie told me she wanted to get dressed by herself. So I helped her pick out her clothes and then left the room and allowed her to do her thing. She let me know if there was a problem and we all went on about our day.

If a child is old enough to do that by themselves, then I don’t think we have the right as parents to infringe on that privacy unless they abuse it in some way. Ignoring their right to privacy teaches them that they don’t deserve to assert their needs and that their boundaries will not be respected.

6. Threatening Physical Violence (Even Without Intent To Act On It)

I never personally experienced this one, but it terrifies me. I cannot imagine how unsafe a child might feel in that environment. Even if its never happened I would be terrified that one day it could.

7. Using Religion to Shame a Child

We’ve all heard stories of parents who have used religion against their children. It’s sad. It gives spirituality such a bad rap, even when the problem is the individual, and not the faith. I sometimes wonder if this may be one of many reasons people turn from established faiths. In addition, this form of emotional abuse can break a child’s ability to have that spiritual connection, whatever path they may choose.

Religion can be a beautiful thing for many families, but in some cases can be twisted and used as an instrument of shame and condemnation. Using religion to shame a child (as opposed to lovingly pointing them to spiritual values) can be damaging because in many religions, God is a father figure. This implies that not only is the biological parent ashamed of you, but so is the ultimate father of the universe.

8. Emotional Neglect or Being Absent

Abuse can be less about what a parent does and more about what they don’t do. I can relate to this article from Scary Mommy about neglect. And its tricky as she says, because its not active, its passive. It’s not something you see. It happens when your mom doesn’t keep her stuff together enough to make dinner. It was common at my house that I wouldn’t get dinner till 8 or later because mom supposedly couldn’t get up and do that. I don’t know for sure one way or the other, she was ill to some extent, but I question that now.

I understand her description of going numb when someone yells at me, or when someone ignores me because they are having a bad day. Of not knowing how to respond or what is expected of me. And if I feel that the interaction was bad, it morphs into fear, anger or shame, just as she describes. With me desperately trying to figure out what I’ve done wrong or what is wrong with me as a person. The withdrawal despite logically knowing that my suspicions are likely unfounded.

9. Showing Love Conditionally

Unconditional love is fundamental to a child learning they are wanted and loved…even if they make mistakes. Conditional love causes children to struggle with perfectionism, self esteem, and abandonment issues. It is not the same as a moment you pull away to calm down before talking to your child, especially if you make sure they know they are loved before doing so.

10. Using a Child to “Get Back” at the Other Parent

It is completely unfair to put a child in the middle of an argument or to use them as a tool for leverage. While usually associated with divorce, there are parents who do this on a regular basis. An abusive parent may use a child to get information or secrets about another parent or to poison them against them. Forcing them to choose a side. You become a pawn in their games.

11. Accepting Nothing Short of Perfection

No one is perfect. We especially cannot expect a child to be perfect. Perfectionist expectations only teach children that love is based on performance…which isn’t true. A study done in Singapore found that perfectionistic “helicopter parents” can make children excessively self-critical and undermine their confidence and self-belief.

12. “Guilt-Tripping”

Guilt Trips are another one of those triggering memories for me. Anytime my mother didn’t get her way, she was prone to make me feel guilty about something. When I wanted to move out I wasn’t being a dedicated daughter. I was taking her granddaughter away from her. When I took a trip to recharge I was abandoning my daughter (despite leaving her the ex’s parents house) and I obviously didn’t care.

And I have a hard time with healthy boundaries because of this. To quote the Mighty, it manipulates the power inequality between a parent and a child. It is unfair and exploitive.

Being “guilt-tripped” by an authority figure like a parent can cause real damage, often making it hard for a child to assert healthy boundaries in adulthood. It’s abusive because it uses the power inequality between a parent and child in a way the child often doesn’t realize is unfair and exploitative. It causes you to deny yourself things that you may deserve, or at least want. It can lead to anxiety, depression, fear, and stress, among other things.

13. Victim-hood and Blaming

I went through a very angry phase. I was unable to take responsibility for my actions and often saw myself as the victim. These are things I learned from my mother. She was never at fault for her own poor health choices and the way others treated her (even when she brought it on herself). And it was a hard habit to break. I like to think I’m mostly there now, but especially when I’m feeling worthless or self critical I can fall back into the victimhood side of the equation in the very least.

No parent is right all the time nor is it fair to blame a child for things that go wrong…especially if they are things they cannot control. I think back to all the times she talked about how she got disabled. Things like “Yeah, I got disabled having my daughter.” She always phrased it like that. She might elaborate and blame the doctor as well, but those were always the first words out of her mouth. Damaging words that made me concerned to have my own children and made me feel an obligation to take care of her. No matter how awful she treated me.

14. Refusing Communication

Children should always be allowed to communicate their fears and needs. I worry that I am guilty of this sometimes. That it is something that has seeped over from my own damaged past. When a child is not at least heard and acknowledged, they don’t feel safe. It makes them even more fragile. Though we also have to teach our children to express their emotions appropriately.

15. Verbal Abuse or Ridicule as “Discipline”

Words have power as I often tell my hypnosis clients. Sticks and stones definitely break bones, but words can hurt too. Especially if the person inflicting the damage is a parent.  In a study examining whether childhood verbal abuse increased the risk for developing personality disorders (PDs), it was found that childhood verbal abuse may contribute to development of some kinds of PDs and other co-occuring psychiatric disorders.

16. Telling a Child to “Stop Crying” or Calling Them “Too Sensitive”

Feelings are okay. And it is okay to be a sensitive child. I know my valkyrie gets upset easily and we’ve made an effort to grow our collection of coping tools. We have our volatile moments of course where we are in public and I have to put a stop to unacceptable behavior, but I attempt to be careful about doing so.

We have to make a point of making sure our children know when they overact that its not the emotion itself that is bad or good. It’s their reaction. The way they handle it. And we have to help them develop good coping skills. Something I struggle with concerning my own little one as I didn’t (and sometimes still don’t) have all the coping skills I need. We never want our children to feel that their emotions are not valid or that everything they do is an over reaction.

17. Stealing or Taking the Money a Child Earned

Parents are not entitled to the things their children have earned. I had a friend who went through this in college with her mom. Until she opened a new account her mom would constantly take money out of hers anytime things got tough or she needed cigarettes. When you take from your children it teaches them that they owe their parents for raising them. Which is not something we should be instilling in our children. We should hope that we did a good enough job that they will want to and be able to help us when we need them to be there.

18. Making Your Child Who You Want Them to Be vs. Who They Want to Be

While this should be self explanatory…I feel like a see or hear about this a lot. A relationship with a parent becomes toxic when a parent tries to force their child to be something they are not. All in the name of helping them realize their potential. Having your true identity rejected can lead to poor self esteem and perfectionism.

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Toxic Parents: Identification & Action

Recently I’ve been talking about the caregiving relationship turning toxic. There are many reasons why this can happen. Today I thought it might be beneficial to talk about how or why this can happen as well as how to identify a toxic relationship with your parent.

When Elders Turn On You

So what causes an elder to start abusing their caregiver?

Safety

The easiest answer is that you are a known quality and they feel safe with you. Which is great except for when it turns toxic. We went through this with my father not long after he had his stroke. He was kinder to the aides who were there the least than to his own family. He just was afraid of letting them see his weaknesses after the stroke (being the proud man he is).

Frustration

A change in your mental status is frustrating. It makes it harder to do the things you used to do. It’s also scary. This is another one we temporarily went through with my father. He was (and sometimes still is) so frustrated that he would often get angry when we tried to help him. Sometimes he just needed to be reminded that we weren’t the enemy and only trying to help. This can be a temporary or permanent reason behind a potentially toxic parent.

Predisposition

Your parent may have just been toxic before. Sometimes this is noticeable, but I’ve found that most emotional abuse is far more subtle. Often outsiders will not even see it unless they are spending a lot of time with your family. My boyfriend had trouble pinpointing it for nearly two years. He knew something was off but couldn’t figure out if it was intentional, abusive, or what. We’re still not sure if its intentional, but her behavior looking back now was definitely abusive at worst or manipulative at best.

How to Cope with an Abusive Elder

The most effective and simple answer when it comes to a loved ones abuse it to remove yourself from the situation. However, that isn’t always possible. We love those we care for and there may be no one else willing or able to assist. In my case I’m an only daughter. My half sister could take care of dad, but then he’d have to move across the country to California.

A mix of hope, love, fear, obligation and guilt typically compel the primary caregiver to continue seeing to their loved one’s needs. But to make that relationship work there has to be clear boundaries or it becomes untenable and both parties will leave with hurt feelings. The caregiver has to balance the needs of their loved on with their own well being.

What Can You Do?

The good news is that there is a number of things you can do. Some of them easier than others. The absolute first thing you should do is take a step back. Find some sort of respite care through your local aged and disabled organization or a friend. Get a break even if its a weekend. So that you can clear your head and take a look at whether this is something you can manage, change, or have to walk away from. Make sure that before you take your break you talk with the person you care for. Make it clear that you are doing your best. And that if that isn’t enough then someone else may have to take over.

Other articles that I’ve read say to follow through unless you see an immediate change in behavior, but having been in and out of the healthcare field from both sides, I don’t agree with this advice. If you have a parent that has a personality trait making them toxic they can manage to manipulate you into thinking they’ve changed until the next blow up. Which has been a reoccuring theme with my mother for most of my life.

The Nuclear Option

The nuclear option is to leave. It’s not something I suggest lightly, hence calling it nuclear. However, there are some people that no matter how much counseling, boundary setting, detachment, or respite care, will continue to act toxic. It is unfortunate but true. Continuing to provide hands on care for someone who refuses to respect or cooperate with you will ultimate you jeopardize your health and well being.

It hurts and its hard, but trust me this can be for the best if you’ve gone through every other option. I’m not saying to just drop them off at the nearest home either. I had to place mom somewhere due to an emergency situation, but we spent a good three months going through other nursing homes and assisted living facilities, before finding a group home with adult day services that we like. She didn’t, but I knew they would be good to her there. And they were for the four months she chose to stay before moving in with her sister up north.

Regardless, it is very important to know when to get out. Whether you feel you’ve been roped into doing this for them or do it out of love, you have to take care of yourself first. Or you are no good to anyone else. Finding a good fit in a facility is difficult but will give you the assurance that they will get the assistance that they need while allowing you to choose your amount of interaction with them and their care. It’s not an easy decision to make, but sometimes it is the best option.

But The Guilt

The complaint I had with the entire process the guilt I felt. I was raised to believe that you do everything to help and protect your family. Even at a cost to yourself, but that isn’t entirely true.

Yes, I do feel that you have an obligation to do everything within your power to help your family. To hold your end of the obligation. Especially if your parents went to bat for you. But not everyone is cut out to be a caregiver. Nor does everyone have the time or resources to do so. It is okay to get the best professional help possible if your assistance comes at the cost of other family members and your own well being. As was the case here.

My mother was toxic. She undermined all my efforts to help her in the ways the doctor prescribed. She undermined all my efforts to save money for an emergency or to pay off their debts. My mother made it impossible for my father’s health to improve. She refused to turn off the tv at night (volume set at 50+) so that my kiddo could go to bed at a reasonable time. Heck, some nights she even riled her up right before bed! My personal experience with a toxic parent had her keeping me so stressed that it was easy for her to manipulate me into putting myself more in debt for her own benefit and detriment (in terms of eating bad food and ignoring doctors orders).

This may not be the case in your instance, but if the care of your family member is risking the well being of your kiddo, your relationship, or another loved one, then you also have an obligation to those people. We cannot let our family dysfunction get in the way especially of a child’s well being. The self harm attempt (albeit attention seeking) that my mother engaged in, was my final straw. I could no longer expose my little Valkyrie to her behaviors and even mentioning moving out had made it significantly worse.

It’s Your Choice

I learned the hard way that enabling my mother as a means to get her off my back was a bad decision. One she had been using on my father for a long, long time. It only makes things worse. The same goes for just giving in for any other reason. This process is still teaching me that I matter and that my feelings are important as well. Something I didn’t get growing up. You count in this equation too and you always have options. I made a choice to focus on protecting and caring for my daughter and father who were willing to work with me rather than against me. You have the right to make that or any other choice for yourself as well.

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What Happens When Your Care giving Relationship Turns Toxic.

toxic cargivers

Recently I posted about my own experience having a toxic parent and where I had to draw the line. Many of us are raised to think that we have this obligation…and that is fine. However, where do we draw the line? At what point can we say that enough is enough? When do you say that your care giving relationship is toxic?

The truth is that line varies. Each of us has our own tolerance level. Each of us have a different set of boundaries. However, there are things that we can be looking for and identifying when evaluating whether or not that line has been crossed. And we need to be looking. Otherwise we set ourselves up as caregivers (and family) for a world of hurt.

What Do You Mean?

While I haven’t been posting here, I have been talking to a lot of caregivers and other abuse victims in online chats and support groups. As well as friends and family who had had to go through some of these things with their own loved ones. And the stories are awful.

While I cannot share examples I have been given due to promises of confidentiality, I am willing to share my own.

So I posted the gist of what happened to me. If you haven’t read that update you can find it here. The short (er) version of this is that my mother made a series of decisions that made it untenable for her to continue living with us. It also made the rest of us emotionally and physically unsafe. Especially after she chose to team up with her crazy sister. I had to choose the safety of my father, the little one, and myself over her. Not an easy decision, or one made lightly.

What Happened?

So I’m going to break this down into categories and describe what happened an its impact. Because there was a lot.

Financial

The biggest hit was financial. For as much as I had worked to prepare financially for losing one of my parents income or moving out, we got hit hard. There were not only costs for facilities and changes and covering everyone’s needs, but we were doing it with less money.

I was being paid to care for my mother through an agency. When she left the home, I lost my full time pay, plus had additional costs. I ended up racking up another 600-1500 in debt on my credit card between the beginning of August and the end of 2019

And even after my mother burned her bridges and took all her money from the household….we had more complications.

Paperwork

This next part is still partially financial, but was a huge mess.

So in addition to our financial crisis I had to protect my father’s finances from my mother. I had to create a new bank account, move his SSI, move his retirement payments, all while preventing her from getting a hold of the bank account. Not because she didn’t have a right to it, but because she (and her sister) is historically known for mismanaging money and I didn’t want to be liable for any of that.

I also had to forward her mail and find her documents. Which she promptly lost after receiving. I had to nullify the POA….a lot of which cost time and/or money we did not have.

Emotional

This all caused a lot of stress on my family and those around me. I had my aunt blasting falsehoods (an attention seeking effort to get her way) all over Facebook. I was fending off family who did not have a complete story. Stressing my father out. Telling my child I was an awful person. It was bad. We got to the point that we had to block some of them on social media.

It also messed with the kiddo and my father. My little warrior went through another bout with night terrors, fear of sleeping alone in her room, and behaviors due to all the chaos being created by the situation.

For myself and my father it has been hard seeing my mother turn her back on our family due to her own poor choices. It was hard to decide to this and I would be lying if I said I didn’t have some level of guilt and frustration over this. It freaked us all out to make this decision, but it came down to one simple thing…what was best for the kiddo (as well as everyone else in the houses) sanity.

Frustration

And we are still not done. We still have things to give her. We’re going to set a deadline with firm boundaries…something I am concerned about. I fear either her or her sister coming to the house, it gives me massive anxiety and it upsets my father who is hurt by her choices.

Now What?

And I’m sure there are more consequences to come. But it is hard. And not many people realize this is a possibility if your relationship with the person you are caring for becomes toxic. The best thing you can do is find a way out. Which is why over the next several weeks I’ll be posting articles about how to identify these toxic relationships (vs healthy ones) and the tools you have to get help if you find yourself in the same situation.

If you are there, either reading this not realizing it (as I did for a few years) or already eyes wide open…you are not alone. Find support. There are groups online and on social media where you can share your story and see what others have done to combat their own fears and situations.

Nor am I telling you to just drop the people you care for. That’s not what this is about. This is about protecting yourself as a caregiver from potential abuse. We hear more stories about caregivers abusing their elder parents. However, the opposite can be just as true and we don’t tell those stories.

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Being the Light: How to Shine Bright

 

We all have what I like to call an inner flame. When we shine we can do anything. The things we love, the things we have to, and even the things we hate. Many of us are not only hard on ourselves, but we neglect this light. Even I have been guilty of neglecting my inner flame.
 

The House

Today I want to talk about that light. Our individual flames. But, I need to explain a group I call the house. The people who are my chosen family. The people who always stand by me, no matter how far away we are from each other. No matter what is going on. I know they won’t judge.
 
We call this group the House. I don’t remember how the name came to be. Nor does it matter. I met all them through some alt-lifestyle groups I was a part of during my time in Evansville. I am the youngest in the group and I learn something from them every time we interact in person or online.
 
I’ve known most of them for over ten years now.
 
Either way, the people in the house weren’t something I was looking for. They chose me.  I received help from them when I didn’t know where to go.  They became my chosen family. The house is my rock.
 
Over the years we’ve sort of developed our own code of conduct.
It arose when we realized that we were all teaching within our little community. We were all working to help others. And we realized that we were doing this through love or compassion, honesty, honor, and trust.
 
But we have one special saying. It started a few years ago.
 
Be the light.

Be the LIght

We all teach each other, but I will always remember this moment. The day that our fearless leader shared a poem with us. I tried hard to find that exact poem for you, but I couldn’t. But, I did find one that shared a similar spirit I’ve posted it below.
 
You are a precious gem amongst stones. You are a star shining most brilliantly In the darkness of the night.
Be that star and hope that you can serve As a beacon of hope and light the path For those around you.
 
Be a shining example of beauty and divinity Leading the way and leaving a trail For others to emulate.
 
Live so that others may look up to you, And follow the path of goodness and nobility Which you tread upon.
 
When situations seem tough at times And circumstances are beyond control Don’t stop shining.
 
Remember that stars glitter most brightly And shine with all their exquisiteness In the darkest of hours.
So be the light, be the brightest star And continue being who you truly are…
Blessed!
 
By Vijaiya Ramkissoon
 
The poem reminds us that we each have the power to fuel, guide, and love not only ourselves but others. To live so that you model a path for those lost. We each have a light and it our responsibility to help it shine as bright as it can.
 

No easy task right?

 
Today, we live in a world full of negativity. It is hard to be our authentic selves, much less be the light for our family, friends, and even ourselves. We have busy lives. We have fears we want to avoid. Some of us may still be hurt from past trauma. Due to these things, very few people ever let themselves be true to their authentic self.
 
Every day we can stile our own lights through our choices. Worse, we can deny others of the benefit our light might have on them as well.
 
I like to think of the light as the core of my soul. As the cornerstone of who I am. As the values that I wish my daughter to learn from me. Every day I strive to ensure that I shine my light. Some days go better than others.
 
But I want to make sure that I am being who I want to be. That I am teaching her the things I feel she needs to learn. The things I want to see in the world around me.
 
So now, let’s talk about how we feed the light. How we let it shine.
 
Your Inner Fire
 
Recently I read a book called The Right Questions by Debbie Ford (add link). As I read it reminded me of the house and my light. It is an uplifting book about becoming more authentic to your true self.
 
 
While I cannot verify the claim, I’m still exploring, I do know that it has gotten me thinking about my inner flame.
 

Your Inner Flame

 
Imagine your light as the keeper of your life force. A flame. Each choice I make each day, either ignites my flame or dampens its light. When the flame roars and cackles I can move mountains. Nothing is beyond my capabilities. This is where people can achieve higher forms of consciousness or greatness.
 
When we neglect it yet, we feel the opposite. Vulnerable. Others can easily hurt me. We feel anxious and can get depressed. We begin to doubt ourselves and fail to communicate with others. Worst of all, when the light is at its lowest that we are not worthy of love or happiness.
 
When the light is burning out we can feel burnt out. I think that may be where that phrase comes from. We don’t have anything to give others. We are so busy trying to keep the last embers from burning out.
 

Our Flame and Others

Our flame doesn’t just affect us, however. The flame in our souls affects everyone around us. When we are off or worried, our families worry. They want to tend to us, regardless of whether there is anything for them to do to help. Worse, we can become physically, mentally, or verbally abusive when our fires are weak. We can harm them and theirs.
 
Just as we are dependant on our support systems, they are dependant on us! Whodda thought right?
 

Bringing Others Down

In additions, when the flame is low, we look to others for help. We can become needy. Needy like a bad stereotype. And if we do this often, we can burn out others as well as ourselves.
 
At some point in our lives, every one of us has that person that we gave our all to. That person who each time we dealt with them we felt more and more drained. We felt defeated because we never managed to bring them up. Those are people whose lights are dim. Who is entirely relying on others to bring them back up?
 
Worse yet, these people don’t realize that while they may need help, that they also have to help themselves.

Choice and the flame

The good news is that we can change this at any moment. We can tend our fire, our inner flame, with our daily choices. Each time we are true to ourselves, follow our dreams and do the things that make us truly happy, we grow the flame.
 
When I say happy…I’m not talking about artificial things like money or stuff. I am talking about real experiences and expressions of joy in your life. Those memories that you build with your daughter or your father. The moments that bring a smile to your face.
 
Stuff doesn’t do that. Stuff brings us momentary hedonistic joy, not fulfillment in our hearts. Not to say that you can’t spend money to go and do something that creates a memory like that. However, you can have those moments without money. One of my fondest memories is my mom and me crafting with leftover felt and fabric.
 
I don’t remember what we made. Something for my barbies probably. What I remember is the feeling and the joy of that moment. I remember the connection.

Your Choice

If you feel like you are struggling with your inner flame think about the following:
 
Imagine that your only job in life is to tend that flame. There is absolutely nothing else that you need to do. It alone can feed you, provide for you, love you. Just take a moment to imagine that feeling of peace of mind. Imagine how motivated you would be to take care of that fire.
 
Next, take a moment to jot down some ideas of what truly makes you happy. Maybe its spending time with the kids. Or having a moment to yourself to meditate. Whatever it is, write it down.
And remember these moments of pure joy. Use them to fan your flame. Or to figure out new ways to do so. Seek joy instead of momentary gratification.

Choices that Dim the Light

  • Constant criticism
  • Perceived obligations like I should or I have to (will the world go on?)
  • Trying to be nice (when we really don’t want to be)
  • Aspiring for others approval
  • Lying to yourself
  • Gossiping
  • Constantly being late
  • Lack of empathy
  • Comparing your self to others or judging others
  • Living in fear
  • Thinking others are better than you
  • Ignoring your dreams
  • Overindulging in anything
  • Wasting time
  • Ignoring compliments
  • Not setting boundaries and limits
  • Not having enough alone time
  • Exhausting yourself
  • Ignoring your intuition and inner voice.

Choices that build the fire

  • Empathy
  • Taking time for yourself
  • Spending time with loved ones
  • Acknowledge what you’ve done well
  • Resting
  • Playing
  • Exercising
  • Spending money wisely
  • Planning for the future
  • Finding inspiration
  • Doing what’s in your best interest
  • Compassion
  • Being intimate
  • Charity work
  • Doing what you love
  • Telling others how much they mean to you
  • Going after your dreams
  • Making choices consistent with where you want to go
  • Forgiving
  • Taking responsibility
  • Being present
  • Listening to others from your heart
  • Empowering others
  • Creating a support system and contributing to others support system.

A Final World

No matter how strong your light is, remember that sometimes we all fall. Sometimes we all need someone to help us tend the flames. Other times, we have to be that person who helps our fellow man. You never know what a kind word will do. Or a harsh one for that matter.
 
You may make someone’s day or change their life with a few simple words. I’m not talking about advice per se. I’m saying that you through action and words may be the difference for someone someday. And you may never know that you can be that difference.
 
When we consistently work towards being the light who knows what can happen. When we keep our flames fanned, who knows how we might grow and change. How our light can spread. And the good we can bring into the world.
 
Be the light. Be the change. Both for yourself and for the benefit of others. Just be the best you, you can be.
 
Blessed Be

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Christmas Planning

So it’s March. Why am I talking about planning for Christmas now? Well, because if you’re like me there isn’t always a lot of money coming in. And I don’t always know what the rest of the year will bring. So what I do is I put away a bit each month and start planning now. Yes. I start planning at least how much, in the first quarter of the year.
 

So what do I do?

 
Well, the first thing I do no matter what time of year it is, I make a budget. I always have a budget. I may have to fiddle around with it or rearrange things, but there is always a budget. No matter what.
 
The budget is essential to keeping our household running. It lets me know where we plan to spend our money. Besides, I track spending to ensure that I know where that money actually goes. This stops me from overspending or misspending money. I personally suggest having some sort of budgeting program or online app to help you. There are plenty of options out there. I’ve used mint and personal capital, but my favorite is Every Dollar.
 
 

Every Dollar

 
To give you a quick overview, Every Dollar is an online resource created by Dave Ramsey. He designed it for use with his Financial Peace University program. The site offers both a free and a premium version. I have tried both and currently use the free. I can’t justify spending money just to have my bank account linked to the site for convenience.
 
Regardless, I suggest Every Dollar as well as the Financial Peace classes. They are definitely worth it. I was quite lucky to get a scholarship through my local United Way. A reward for completing their Getting Ahead course.
I just like the program. It makes it easy for me to organize my budget into bite-sized sections. I can see how much I’m spending on debts, savings, housing, and my other bills. The site/app also allows me to input my purchases and link them to specific budgets. So if I buy gas I can put it in there and see how much I have left in that budget. And I just update it when I double check my checkbook each week. Something you should do regardless of using checks or not.
 
The site also offers a lot of free information to help you along your own path to financial independence. Including a checklist of the baby steps (great if you cannot afford the class). There is a lot of good budgeting information there.
 
My only complaint is the mobile app. I don’t know about the iPhone app, but the android one does not function as well as I would like it to.
 
 

What’s Next?

 
After you have your normal budget, I tend to make a list of who all I’m buying presents for. The example below isn’t my shopping list but it is fairly similar. My list also includes the extra budget for food and stocking stuffers because I like to do that separate
 

Who:

A Present for Valkyrie’s Daddy from her.
Mom
Dad
Valkyrie
Myself
Boyfriend
Boyfriend’s kids 1-4
Sister
Neice 1&2
Friend 1&2
Other 1-8
 
Food
Stocking stuffers
 

How Much?

 
Once I’ve figured out who I’m going to figure out how much I’m willing to spend. This is going to depend a lot on how much you can put back between now and then. It is entirely up to you. The main reason that I start saving now, is so that I don’t have to put myself further into debt using credit cards. I almost have those things paid off. I don’t want to add more to the balance.
 
By planning and saving ahead of time I minimize that risk. Of course, I did have one year where I had no choice due to a roofing repair and several other things breaking at once. However, I do everything I can to avoid using the cards. To live within my means even if I know the plans may slightly change.
 
If nothing else, it gives me a starting point.
 
 

Who:                                         How Much:

Valkyrie’s Dad                          20
Mom                                          40
Dad                                            40
Valkyrie                                     100
Myself                                        40
Boyfriend                                  40
Boyfriend’s kids 1-4                20×4=80
Sister                                         40
Neice 1&2                                 20×2=40
Friend 1&2                               10×2=20
Other 1-8                                  10×8=80
 
Food                                          50
Stocking stuffers                     50
 
Now total all those numbers up.
 
For my example, I need 640.
 
The next thing I’m going to do is figure out how much I need to save each month to achieve that goal. So right now I have about 10 months until Christmas. So I’m going to divide 640 by 10. In this case 64 dollars per month. The earlier you start the lower your monthly savings will be.
 
For example, if you started in July your cost would be higher. 640/6 = 106.66 per month. By saving earlier in the year I make the saving easier on my budget.
 
The other option is to cut down on your list. Which I have done in the past.

Adjustments

 
Once I have The amount I’m going to save each month I make sure that the amount makes sense. Maybe someone gets a cheaper gift than I planned. (It is the thought and effort that count after all).So maybe my list changes to look something like this:
 
Valkyrie’s Dad 10
Mom 30
Dad 30
Valkyrie 50
Myself 30
Boyfriend 30
Boyfriend’s kids 1-4 20×4=80
Sister 30
Neice 1&2 10×2=20
Friend 1&2 5×2=10
Other 1-8 5×8=40
 
Food 40
Stocking stuffers 30
 
For a total of 430. And I’ll divide that again to get about 43 dollars per month. And I know I can afford that.
 

Checking it Twice

 
So first we set a budget. Then I figured out how much I was going to save. Now, I’m triple checking that I can afford to put that much aside. Then I’ll put the list somewhere safe.
 
Somewhere I won’t lose it because I don’t want to do all that math again. I’ll add the amount I’m going to save and do that for the next several months.
 
There may be a crisis or I may come into some money. Either way, I have a budget to work off of. I have a plan. And I don’t touch that money unless I deplete our emergency fund. (Which has yet to happen *knock on wood*).
 
For the case of this example, let’s say that I came into some money. Maybe mom needs a new walker. So I can up that amount to get her a larger present. The same thing works in reverse. It’s all about trying to live within your means. Again, I suggest avoiding credit cards. If you would like to know why to check out this article on Dave Ramsey’s site.
 
Now, I’m going to leave that list alone until around October. Normally, as soon as I’m doing making Halloween costumes, I start planning what I will buy. I may even go ahead and order some of the stuff to avoid price gouging.
 
I always attempt to have my Christmas shopping done before Black Friday. This way I avoid the rush and I can anticipate changes in the plan. Like a little one’s preferences changing (keep your receipts!). She will likely be the only person I buy presents for after that point. The only other budget items that wait till after Black Friday are stocking stuffers and food.
 
It also means that I’m never in a rush to buy everything.
 
For our example, my list may no look something like this:

Who                                  $$$$                      What

 
Valkyrie’s Dad                10                          Steam game 
Mom                              100                          walker and book
Dad                                  30                         Book and toilet paper (a running joke in our family)
Valkyrie                            50 ???                   (I’ll decide in December)
Myself                              30 ???                   (I’m slow at this if I buy myself anything at all)
Boyfriend                        30                         Nerdy shirts
Boyfriend’s kids 1-4       20×4=80              Gift cards 
Sister                               30                          Restaurant gift card
Neice 1&2                       10×2=20               Gift cards (Usually they want Starbucks)
Friend 1&2                      5×2=10                 Steam game on their wishlist (they love indi games)
Other 1-8                         5×8=40                I will get the same thing for everyone in this group.
 
Food 40
Stocking stuffers 30
 

Sit By The Fire & Relax

 
Now I can start buying. I already know how much I’m going to spend. The gifts are all mostly planned out. There are only one or two people I may have to wrack my brain about.  I don’t have to worry about having enough money.  Best of all, I have time to replan if something goes wrong. The key here is to stick to the plan once you have it. That is the hardest part of the whole thing.
 
If you can stick to the plan it will save you a lot of grief. Just imagine how magical your Christmas could be without the average holiday freak-out. No more worrying about how you’re going to buy this or forgetting to buy X for Aunt Mary Sue. It cuts out on the holiday stress and lets you focus on what’s important. Your family.
 
I hope that my method helps you figure out your Christmas plans this coming holiday season. If you have any questions or comments, as always feel free to leave them below. I do my best to get back to everyone on the weekends. It’s a bit hard given everything else I have on my plate. So I apologize if it takes a bit for me to get back to you.
For more financial tips and tricks, check out my Financial Independence pages.
 
Either way, hope your spring is bright and full of fun.

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Moral Relativism and Our Children

As parents, we all want to teach our kids about values, norms, morality, and ethics. We want our children to fundamentally be good people. However, our world tends to be torn between people who see morality as black and white or subjective to the individual or culture. Essentially moral realism vs. moral relativism.

If morals are important to us as parents then we have to consider where we stand on this point. If we don’t we are potentially leading our children down a dangerous path toward an ethical quagmire.

So today I wanted to attempt to briefly discuss both. Their points of view, their problems, their claims. And potentially show a middle ground, because you’ll soon find, the like most things today, they are extreme polar opposites.

I’ll try to keep it short and sweet, but philosophy and most of life is neither simple nor easy.  So please bear with me. 

What is Moral Relativism?

Moral relativism is the idea that all ethical standards are cultural and therefore subject to individual choice. We can all decide what is right and wrong for ourselves. You decide what’s right for you and I decide for me.

Scholars have argued that this implies that life is ultimately without meaning. It renders words like ought and should as meaningless and claims that morality is neutral.

Essentially, moral relativism says that anything goes, because life is ultimately without meaning. Words like “ought” and “should” are rendered meaningless. In this way, moral relativism makes the claim that it is morally neutral.

What’s Wrong With that?

While I love the idea of live and let live as a moral construct. It has a number of problems.

#1 Implies Neutrality

The question is whether or not morality can be neutral. Moral relativism implies that morals are dependent upon the viewpoint of the individual or culture. Which is true to an small extent. However, most cultures so have social norms against murder and stealing, which implies that some things are universally wrong.

 

#2 Infallibility

Moral relativists claim that morals are subject to the perceptions of individuals and their societal culture. However, that also leads to a problem.  It makes it exceedingly hard to come to any sort of societal agreement on moral actions. You can see this today in our polar politics with neither side being able to agree on the right course of action.

#3 Fact vs Opinion

Moral relativism is based more on feelings about an action than the facts.  We feel that a murder should go free because she killed an abusive husband. However, does that make what she did not wrong? Does it mean that she shouldn’t pay for her crime at all? And if you look at where that could lead, you quickly see that it’s a slippery slope.

From there we could justify that it’s legally justifiable to torrent something on the internet because we believe that Hollywood overcharges us. This may be true, but can we really say that makes it right to take something that people worked hard on for free because of our feelings and personal opinions?

And where else could all of that lead from there? Slippery slope indeed. Moral relativism gives us the misconception that we can justify wrong actions based on our feelings leading up to them.

#4 Contradicts Itself

A third problem is that relativism claims facts but then contradicts them. Even in the most black & white situations. True facts have no contradictions. We know that a circle is a circle. We know that a square is a square. A fact can be perceived differently by different people, but ultimately is still a fact. The law of non-contradiction applies to all facts. Morality, no matter how inconvenient, is no exception.

While it is a fact that cultures have different values to some extent, all societies and religions tend to have at least some similar foundations, which theoretically invalidates the argument as nearly every culture holds disdain for murder and thieves. They also tend to advocate that you be kind to your neighbor. There are things that are theoretically right and wrong such as murder and thievery.

Moral Realism

Moral Realism, on the other hand, suggests that moral facts exist and that these are objective and independent of our perceptions. Our feelings, beliefs, and attitudes do not affect them. This method is more based in logic reasoning, which may be why it sits in conflict with moral relativism, which appears to be based more on our feelings.

Problems with Moral Realism

So, I did a lot of research for this post. I wanted to be able to share the views, pros, cons, of both.  However, I’ve had a lot of trouble finding information about the problems with moral relativism. So I’m working simply based on my own perceptions of it here.

#1 Life is not Black and White

While I do believe that there are things that are absolutely right and wrong, moral realism leaves little room for shades of gray.  This implies that a woman punished for murdering someone out of spite should be the same as someone who murdered to defend herself. This is simply not true.

#2 & 3 No feelings or Compassion

It leaves room for no feelings about morals. It is an entirely logic-based system.  And we are feeling creatures just as much as we try to be logical ones.  Without feelings, we would be no better at deciding just courses of action than the computer in War Games. It takes out the potential for compassion.

And while I know compassion is a feeling, I think feelings do count a lot of our human experience. So I’m going to say that’s a two for one.

But is there a middle ground?

The people on the news and in the media would have you believe that one or the other is right or wrong. However, that’s too simple. I think both have a place. Just as I believe that determinism (that there is a pattern to all order and chaos/fate) and free will.  Just as I believe that there is a middle ground where science and religion meet, maybe even crosses over (quantum physics).

Personally, I think that there is still a lot about our world that we don’t understand. That we can still view as magical in nature.  Hell, everything that is scientific is still magical to me. It’s amazing to me that the world can produce so many neat reactions even if we can explain them. I think that our very existence based on our knowledge of the solar system and the universe is extraordinary.  The fact that our bodies function on such individual levels, each one having its own quirks, pros, and cons.

The magic of our scientific world aside, there is a middle ground for nearly everything in this world.

What is it?

 

I think that all of us can agree that there are certain things that are right and wrong.

Right:

  • Respect
  • Perseverance against adversity.
  • Compassion
  • Love
  • Honesty

Wrong:

  • Murder
  • Thievery
  • Deception
  • Manipulation
  • Bullying (being mean, hurtful, etc)

And I am sure that there are others. Again just trying to keep things simple.  There are things that we universally value as right or wrong.

Also,  I believe that there are things subjective to our experience. To our own perception of these values. I can’t define these for you. This is why there are so many differing opinions. I can share a few of my own opinions as examples, but these are going to be a little different for each of us.

  • A woman who murders her abusive husband still needs to pay for her crime, but maybe not spend as much time in jail. Or maybe she needs to spend one year in jail and the rest of her sentence be mandated to work in a program (potentially at a lower wage as those things generally do not pay well) that helps pull women out of those situations. How better to give back and pay for her “crime” than to help others out of the same situation.
  • Abortion. I personally do not condone abortion. However, I do not believe that it is my right based on my religious views to take that right away from someone else. Streaming. I stream a lot of things online. But I realize its wrong. I don’t justify it. While I don’t.

And there are many more examples. Just remember these are examples. Ideas. There is room for shades of gray, but there will always be prue right and wrong.

Think of the Children

As parents, we have to determine which of these views or to what extent our children are exposed to these views. We have to share with them our own personal views and help show them the pros and cons of both.  Only by sharing both can we come to a realization of what each means and what the middle ground may be.

None of us can exist at either extreme. Despite what the media may imply to the contrary. Extremes don’t work. They don’t empower us, the inhibit us from our full potentials. As with all things we need to find a balance. A middle ground. I don’t care if its a middle ground in politics, religion vs. Science, determinism vs free will. There is a middle ground to nearly everything and finding them is the way we find balances in our lives.

 

When we push to either extreme we have problems. In moral realism, we have a problem of not adding feeling to the equation of not seeing the degree of a moral. In moral relativism, we have the problem of ignoring logic.  We have the potential to ignore facts, both moral and otherwise.

Finding the middle ground is the reasonable option to balance both our logic and our feelings.

 

 

 

 

 

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10 Tips For A Well Oiled Home

We all know there is more than one way to skin a cat.  Not that we’d want to.  This is true of all things. I don’t care if you are just a caregiver, homeschooler, parent, or even working from home, there are a million ways or more to do just about anything you desire.

So today I want to share a few tips as well as show you an average day in my work at home experience.

#1: Priorities

It’s just a matter of finding what works for you.  What feeds your family and their needs. What makes life manageable. This is going to be different for everyone.  And a part of the process is realizing what you need to thrive.

The first thing you need to do is sit down and determine what those needs are.  Mine are as follows:

  • Freedom– Being able to do what I want to do (within reason). This is a big compent as to why I am pursuing financial independence.
  • Time for myself– Making sure that I take care of myself and my personal needs for space, time, and relaxation.
  • Family Time– Making sure to make connections with my little one and my parents. Family events and activities.
  • Spirituality– Ensuring that our family life is enriched. This includes getting my mother to bible study, exposing Freya to all sorts of religions as well as my own…and discussing questions we have in regards to spirituality.
  • Clearing of Old Projects– Over the years, we all end up with projects we haven’t finished. My big goal this year is to clear those projects off my list before starting any new ones. From sewing to woodworking, I have a number of projects to finish.  Getting those done will make my life easier.
  • Organization– I have been working hard since the end of last year to declutter and make sure that everything has a place. I would say that I’m about 60% of the way there. I would still like to get rid of some more stuff and refine where it is organized.
  • Cleanliness– I don’t expect to have a perfectly clean house. I gave up on that a long time ago, between all my other duties and the little one. However, I cannot tolerate a dirty kitchen and I hate it when coats get dropped on the floor.

#2: Savers

We all try to save time. I won’t try to put an exhaustive list here, but I will list a few things that help me save time and money.

  • Bulk cooking – When I make a meal I make enough to freeze for at least another if not two or three more meals. This way we can eat the same thing for dinner each week and I only have to cook it once or twice a month. I save so much time cooking and its especially great for busy weeks and weekends. It also leaves me time to make more fun treats throughout the week.
  • Life Skills – When I say this, I mean that I have miss Freya help me with everything I believe she can do. It does take a bit of time for a new task, but she loves helping and its teaching her valuable skills. It also gives me more time later as she can help take on those tasks. Currently, she gathers all the things I need for cooking and can grab her own plates, among other tasks.
  • Meal Planning – It takes the guesswork out of what we’re eating and it’s still adjustable. It also saves you on groceries.
  • Making my own cleaning supplies– Saves me both time and money. I can make one batch on laundry concentrate over the course of a day (there’s some waiting involved), with a hands-on time of about 30-60 minutes. For that time I have 5 gallons of concentrate that will last me at least six months if not longer. Other supplies are multi-purpose which allows me to take them from spot to spot and get my cleaning done more quickly.
  • Finding a flow to your schedule that works for you. -Probably the most important thing you can do.

#3 Be gentle with yourself

Some days you just aren’t going to get everything done. Things will go wrong. The important thing to remember is that you haven’t failed, you’ve just had a rough day. There’s no reason to be harsh with yourself. Or put yourself down.

I hear so many women, no people who are harsh to themselves.  We should never call ourselves failures and we should recognize that even we need days to recharge.  So next time a day doesn’t go as planned remember that you’re only human.

#4: Task Master vs Servant De List

It’s great to have a plan and a to-do list, but remember that you cannot be a slave to it. Again things can go wrong.  It is fine to have a plan, but if you don’t get everything done you need to take a look. You may have planned more than you could get done or unforeseen events could have prevented you from reaching your goals.

Again be gentle with yourself.  These things happen and its okay.  Being harsh with yourself is not going to make it any better. And stressing yourself out with more than you can manage in a day will only leave you more frazzled, less focused, and unable to accomplish more.

#5: What you do matters

It’s great to want to do everything but remember your priorities. What use is it to clean or work all day, if you don’t make time to enjoy your family or even yourself.  I often find on busier days that I’ll drop homeschool for the day or cut out something that needed to be done so that I can spend time with my family.

I know its tempting to just keep trucking along, but it will only lead to burn out and an unhealthy lifestyle.  It will leave your children, spouse, and other family members missing something they need as well. Your attention.

#6: Have a Schedule

Even if you work at home have a schedule. Having a schedule gives you and everyone in the house a framework for what should happen over the course of a day. Whether you have little ones or family members with dementia/memory issues, having a framework will help them function within your home.

I’ve also found that having a schedule keeps me grounded and reminds me of my priorities throughout the day.

My Day

The Daily To Do List

Every day I have a to-do list.  Here’s what it looks like. I prioritized the list by what I tend to do first, however, I always remain flexible and move things about as I need to.

  • Breakfast
  • Dinner Prep
  • Chores (3-5 cleaning items aside from daily maintenance)
  • Dishes
  • Homeschool

Then I have a list of things I try to do for myself each day

  • Read
  • Reiki/Meditate
  • Some work on one of my unfinished projects
  • Udemy class

Schedule

  • 9 AM- Wake up, reiki, meditation, organize for the day, get dressed, etc.
  • 10 AM- Breakfast and Dinner prep. Valkyrie Cartoons
  • 11 AM- Cleaning and Chores, Family Showers.  Valkyrie plays time.
  • 1 PM- Homeschool
  • 3 PM- Play with the Valkyrie
  • 4 PM -Udemy Class for me, Tablet time for the Valkyrie
  • 5 PM- Dinner at the table
  • 7 PM Project Time
  • 9 PM The Valkyrie and I do something together (Usually a show and read)
  • 10 PM Finish getting ready for bed and put the Valkyrie to sleep.
  • 11 PM My time to unwind.
  • 12 AM My bedtime (not always great at following this).

#7: Be Flexible

This is what works for us. No one in my house is an early riser, my parents, even less so than I. I get most of my work done in the morning and the Valkyrie helps a bit between playing her own games and depending on her mood.  Once my parents are up things tend to be more unpredictable in terms of what I might get interrupted with.

Some days they wake up early and I have to put off my chores until they are otherwise preoccupied. It can make for an unpredictable day sometimes, but for the most part, we all know what should happen and when.

#8: Relax your parenting

Everyone is terrified that they will not do good enough for their child. We rush everyone to everywhere and over schedule ourselves. We helicopter parent not even letting them play outside by themselves. Our world isn’t so scary that our children can’t play without our constant watchful eyes.

If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, I suggest two books I recently finished.

#9: Find Joy In Everything You Do

If you can find joy in any task you will enjoy doing it. While I know this is far more complicated than easy, it is true. And its something that I often have to work on.

It also calls us to bring balance into our lives. If you hate cleaning, then maybe you don’t need to focus on cleaning quite as much. Maybe it’s okay for you to have a messier house. I gave up on keeping the sink clear at all times because my parents simply are not capable of it and I can’t seem to manage it on my own.  It still bothers me some days, but I’m less stressed by not trying to focus on it all the time.

#10 Find Magic In Everything You Do

In addition to balance, there is magic all around us. Our very breaths are magical. So don’t forget to take a moment to enjoy things. You don’t have to rush about. You can take your time and do it near perfect and find joy in that as well.

Find joy in having your little on help where they can. It’s magical to see them acomplish and learn right before your eyes.

Find magic in how much simpler your life is. When you look at a loaf of bread you find joy and magic in the fact that you don’t have to bake it in a kiln over a fire. Or that you have a mixer when three generations or so ago that would have been a novelty.  You can slow cook things without constantly tending a fire. We have heaters and water at our fingertips.

All of these things should make us feel blessed. They should help us to realize that we have far more time to do things than our forebearers did in the past.

 

 

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FI: Jan Resuts

I’ll keep this short and sweet. Just a few lists showing where we spent our money, how much debt we reduced, and what went right and wrong. So let’s get to it. Here is my post-January FI report.

If you haven’t followed my journey so far, check out my Financial Independence Page to see all the posts.

FI January

  • Savings 4.4%
  • Housing 27.9%     (A bit higher due to having to buy some furniture)
  • Utilities 10%
  • Food 5.9%  (lower than usual by about 13 dollars)
  • Transportation 6.7%
  • Health 3.3%
  • Children 2.9%
  • Obligations 28.2% (See heading below)
  • Entertainment 10.8 (See heading below)

First off we had some additional income and some money left from the prior month.    So that helped cover some of the extra expenses. Which was great. Most of it went into debt, but we also had some unexpected expenses, as we almost always do at the beginning of the year.

Obligations

I’m continuing to pay down my debts. By the end of last month, I had the credit card down to 2800.  Based on my last statement only 300 of what I put towards the credit card went towards unexpected expenditures that our budget couldn’t cover, like the first of the year medical gap, car problems, etc.  That means that I paid down my debt by 1350!

Fairly sure I won’t be able to put that much towards it this month and I’ve already had some expenditure flubs, but like I’ve said before, life is a learning process…..and I’m definitely still learning.

Entertainment

I have both done better and far worse than I did in January.  We had an additional expenditure for my parents anniversary, eating out, and both entertainment budgets. In short, I failed a bit here. However, that was okay as well. It gave me a chance to see my own spending cycles and to learn where I need to be more careful.  And that is what this tracking project is all about.

  • Anniversary 90
  • cigarettes (for dad) 15
  • Eating out 159
  • My spend 241
  • Parents spend 147

The anniversary I planned for.

Same thing for the cigarettes. I’ve tried to get him to start, but that just makes everyone in the house miserable. Frankly, at this point, so long as he doesn’t smoke in the house I’m good. I neither want to anger our landlord or smell it and have it mess up my sinuses.

Eating out was bad this month. Between being off-diet for Dec and Jan and my usual winter struggle with depression, I actually did better than I have in the past, so I suppose that is progress, even if it’s still frustrating. But there’s no point in beating myself up about it. The past is past and there’s nothing I can do about it. It won’t help me to lament only to learn from my patterns and mistakes. And if you’re tracking your own I suggest you do the same. Don’t take it as a true failure. Take your mistakes as an opportunity to learn.

My parents spending budget was out of control.  To put it into perspective we usually only spend maybe 30-60 on eating out. I try to make sure everyone gets out of the house once a month to do something, even if its just an unwhich at Jimmy John’s.  My parent’s entertainment budget is usually around 80-100.

My spending was actually in range, but my spending is a weird subcategory of our budget. It’s the money that I have to spend on myself, the Valkyrie, our homeschool endeavors, my clothing, etc.  While I have budgeted 300 I usually only spend 100-150 and put what’s left towards debt. Unfortunately, I have a feeling this one is still going to be a bit out of whack this month as well.  I may have to spend a bit more on my clothing, but next month I’ll try to break down my spending a bit better.

Overall

Overall I’m doing well. I’m on track to have the debts paid off by November 2014 putting me 5 months ahead of my original schedule. Hopefully this month I’ll get my tax check (just waiting on approval from the IRS) and I’ll be able to get even more ahead.

My current plan is to pay for two events, my parents taxes, a hotel for an event we’re going to in July. After that I’m trying to decide if all of it is going towards debt or if some of it is going to send me to a weekend retreat for my sanity.  Even if I go to the retreat that means another 3000 or so towards my debt reduction endeavors!

Well, that’s it for this months update. I can’t wait to see how I do next month!.

 

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Crushing the Budget

Everyone knows its nice to have more money, but what you do with your money is just as important as having it. A budget is the best way to help you do that.

So today we’re going to talk more about budgets and how to manage them. If you missed my first post you can find it here.  I’m going to give you three examples of how I could be using our money and what that could lead to in terms of our financial goals.  This post is going to be a bit more visual heavy than usual. I’m going to make some visuals to really show you the difference between these three different levels of spending.

In the process maybe I’ll be able to kick my own butt into gear while lowering my financial independence date.  (DEC 2024 as of right now)

The Budgets

  1. AVERAGE American Family. Overpaying for services and things that we simply do not need. Spending money frivolously and without any thought for the ultimate future.  These individuals would be putting nothing towards their retirement or savings.  No investments. No financial plans for the future.
  2. The Middle Ground. At least 30% of the income coming into the house is going into savings. This is approximate to the recommendation put out by financial advisors today. Notably that most people are not following. There may be some savings, but likely there will still be debt and they will have a nest egg, but not the one that they like.
  3. Mustachian Savings. I am aspiring towards Mustachian levels of savings. The term comes from Mr. Money Mustache and his blog. He advises saving at least 60% of your income towards your savings. If you like his budget he has plenty of advice, most of which I’d highly recommend.

A few notes before we continue

  1. My rendition of a mustachian budget is not nearly as far as one could go. I suggest you check out this post if you want to see the yearly mustachian budget from the man himself. Just their basic living expenses are under 25k per year!
  2. The following example is to show you how powerful controlling your budget can be.
  3. The following budgets are based on things my family would buy and probably don’t include everything else that others might include on their list.

So let’s get to it. Below is a chart showing three different budgets.

Now you notice that in Budget one, there is little concern for paying off the debt in comparison to the other two options. Honestly, even putting that much extra is probably more than the average American family can put towards extra. They are spending more on food, gas, and well everything. They find a way to spend nearly all of their money on something. Their personal spending is high.

Budget 2 exemplifies something close to our current situation. I save a bit back each month (though I will likely change that soon).  I pay off a decent chunk of debt each month. We’ve curbed back how much we spend on sitters opting to use my homebound parents for shorter outings and sitters for prolonged absences. We don’t have the best insurances, but we have a little extra since we just paid off a car, which a mustachian would call a bad buy. We also make sure to turn off everything we aren’t using and we even keep somethings unplugged or have surge protectors turned off.

The third budget is cut the most. The cell phone is a small carrier, barely any babysitting time. They dry their clothes on the line to save electricity. They may even keep their heat and air conditioning lower than their peers during their respective seasons of use (I wish I could do this, silly medical problems). Less spending. Lowest coverage on the insurances. They probably don’t have cable at all, though they have internet and maybe Netflix or Sling. They save a lot of money to put towards debt and to later put away.

The Debt

So what does all that mean in terms of their debt?

Well, nearly every American has debt and many of us have it in spades. It seems inescapable. Most households are in the negative if you count their debt.  So let’s look at what would happen if you took all that extra money you saved each month and put it towards lowering your debt.

The following image is based on results from the debt calculator I shared.  It shows how much they paid toward their debt and how that affected the date they finished paying off the debt.

(Again based on my 80k debt)

We have four debts

  • Credit Card     3000
    • Monthly Payment: 100
  • Navient           5800
    • Monthly Payment: 100
  • Perkins            5700
    • Monthly Payment: 80
  • Fed Loan         64500

The first budget is looking at another 11 years to pay off that debt. I don’t even want to think about how much interest would be accrued and applied at that rate. The second budget will take another 6 years, over half that of the first. The final approach saves yet another three or so years.  The difference between the first and the third is over 8 years.

This alone should be enough to prompt you to put as much as you can towards your debt.

What about Interest?

Interest plays a large factor in how much you pay over the course of your loan. The longer you have to pay the more money they make off you.  So let’s take a look at how much each budget pays in interest over the course

Budgets:

  1. Around $36,300
  2. Around $17500
  3. A little over 9,000.

So not only do you get out of debt more quickly but the more you cut, the more you save in interest costs. If I could cut my budget this much, I could be saving 27k over the course of my loans.

That is mind-boggling to me. The massive amount of savings is enough to help me aspire to spend less and save more.

What would you be willing to do to save 27,000 dollars?

The point is, that we can bargain our future or save ourselves now. Why make just the minimum payment when we can take much larger chunks out of our debts? Paying off debt just makes sense.

The Next Step

Where do we go from here?

To the next step of course. But first, let’s take a step back and recap what we’ve talked about so far. We’ve:

  • Made a Budget
  • Started an Emergency Fund
  • Paid Off Our Debt

In the next post, I plan to continue with the theme of financial independence. I hope to cover the following:

  • Building the full emergency fund
  • Starting Your savings

Until next time, I hope you enjoy the links and have a wonderful day. Maybe some of the content here will lead you to financial peace.

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Financial Independence: Getting Started

Well, my grand plans to work on my teeth project has fallen through. I’m still waiting on the book. In the meantime, I want to talk to you about something else extremely important to you and your family…financial independence.

What is FI?

All of us want to be able to spend our money as we want. And none of us want debt or even bills. While it may be impossible to be free of all financial obligation we all can work towards freeing ourselves.  Financial independence is making the hard decisions now so that you can create a better future for yourself later.

It’s a journey I’ve been on for about a year now. And starting today I want to share my experiences with you.

My Journey So Far…

Long, long ago, in a city far away I took a course called Getting Ahead in a Getting By World. I learned a lot about communication, expectation, and how to begin pulling myself out of my slump. I had just had a baby, moved in with my parents, the father left. He was not mentally prepared for a child. While he loved her, he had asked me to give her up or abort her and we were on the outs.

I had no job. No prospects. I was lost.

The class was just an excuse to get out of the house.  It helped that I got a gift card that we could use for gas. My parents were paying for everything. I was on food stamps. I had a disastrous experience with TANF that will never allow me to recommend that program to anyone. On top of that, I was on WIC…a wonderful program that you should use if eligible.

I was going nowhere fast.

That class changed my life and got me a scholarship to do Dave Ramsey. Now, you might think that I’m about to tell you to go do the whole Ramsey thing, but honestly, Ramsey is a conservative way to start. Still great if you aren’t really to make a big leap.  It will give you the information and a general plan on how to fix your situation. But since I took that class nearly two years ago now, I’ve found bigger and better ways to fix my financial situation.

Baby Steps

What I do agree with Ramsey on is the idea of baby steps. And I do agree that his first couple of steps are beneficial, maybe even essential to what I’m about to tell you.

Step 1: The budget

My first suggestion is to figure out where you spend your money. Knowing where your money is going will tell you if that is in line with your goals and priorities. If it isn’t, then maybe you need to make a change.  When I started budgeting, I found out that we wasted a lot of money. I realized that my parents were underwater on our house, their bills, and they were in danger of losing it all. To the point that I ended up filing bankruptcy for them just to give us some breathing room to get us back on our feet.

Now I budget every month. I use Dave Ramsey’s free version of Every Dollar.  It’s a great and simple program. It lets me track my spending. It categorizes your budget into sections so that you can balance where you’re spending your money.

For example, for a rough estimate:

  1. 20% in housing
  2. 30% in bills/food, essentials
  3. 20% in lifestyle (food, gas, babysitting money, dad’s cigarettes, and our entertainment money)
  4. 30% debt or so.

These are all rough estimates. As I share my journey I hope to get a better idea of exactly where I spend everything while helping you determine where you may need to make some changes. All of this involves both of our incomes (my parents and mine) which total around 5k a month combined.

Our budget could be estimated to be close to this:

Parents: 

  1. Household (Rent, utilities, internet) 1800
  2. Other BIlls (insurances, cell, etc) 300
  3. LIfestyle and Entertainment (food, gas, household expenditures, and luxury). I plan on giving a better breakdown of this at the end of the month. 1150
  4. Debt: 180

My Income

  1. Savings/Investment (IRA/Index Fund) 200
  2. My spending 300
  3. My monthly payments 100
  4. Debt Reduction: EVERYTHING LEFT (approximately 900-1000 per month)

In addition, anything left in my spending also goes towards either small events I save up for or paying off more debt.

Step 2: Partial Emergency Fund

The first thing I learned in Dave Ramsey is that you need an emergency fund. I suggest at least 500-1000 to start. Just enough to keep you afloat is something goes wrong.  This is in following with his teachings as will most of the next step.

I urge you to do this.

Everyone needs to have just a little bit of money held back. I learned this lesson pretty quickly. Right after we got ours funded, the roof gave. While we did it ourselves, even with insurance paying us the money, we still needed $1,200. With that emergency fund, we only had to scramble for an additional 200 instead of the whole amount.

It was sad to give up that money right after finishing it for the first time, but it was amazing to not have to entirely freak out about how I was going to pay for that roof repair.

Now, if you look above at the prior section, you will see that I do save/invest some money each month. It is entirely up to you how stern you want to be with the rules here. Personally, I want to make sure I make my max contribution to my IRA each year and that requires me to not put quite as much towards debt. The sooner you begin to build your retirement fund the larger it will be. So keep that in mind when planning for your future.

Step 3: Debt Snowball

I completely agree with the idea of the debt snowball. However, I couldn’t do it exactly the way Ramsey suggested. Do what works for you. If you want immediate rewards to build your momentum, then do the debt snowball.

Ramsey suggested that you start with the lowest balance.  That is where I started and it served me well for at least the first year of my debt reduction. After a while, however, I became more interested in the interest I was paying. I realized that for me, at least, it was better to go from highest interest rate to lowest.

I would much rather pay off the debts that incur more debt (in the form of interest) than those who are creeping my numbers up.

My situation looks something like this

  1. Credit Card: ~3200
    1. Monthly Payment: 100
    2. Interest Rate: 11.99%
  2. Perkins Loan ~5500
    1. Monthly Payment: 75
    2. Interest Rate: ~8%
  3. Navient Loans: ~5700
    1. Monthly Payment: 100
    2. Interest Rate: 6.8%
  4. Fed Loans: ~65000
    1. Monthly Payment: 0  (It’s on an IBR and I’m putting it off for now)
    2. Interest Rates: Between 2.5% and 6.8%

Currently, we are putting between $600 and $1200 towards debts each month. Based on the debt reduction calculator I use I will have it paid off By December of 2024 unless I can find more money to put towards it.

I could, of course, stop saving that would change my date to October 2024, but two months isn’t enough of an incentive for me to stop saving for my IRA. A better solution would be to look at what you can cut. The more fat you can cut from your budget the easier it becomes to kill that debt before it can crush you.

A Friendly Reminder

I hope that my journey so far can help you find that freedom as well. In the past two years, I’ve eliminated 2 credit card debts and a car loan freeing up over $400 dollars. We were able to move which lowered some of our payments for insurance and utilities. I also managed to get paid more for working at home by moving to the Indy area and gained more hours.

None of these things would have likely happened if I hadn’t started on this journey.

Also, realize that as time goes on your family’s needs may change. I hoped by this point that I would also be putting all of that 400 or so towards paying off more debt. But that hasn’t happened.  Things have changed. While we have lowered many of our expenses, changes in health have caused some of that money to go towards other endeavors.

You wil have setbacks, but financial freedom is a journey not a destination. It takes time, patience, effort and persistence to make it through to your ultimate goals, whatever they may be.

Which Leads Us To…

The next post!

Next week we are going to focus on how to break down your budget and see where you are wasting money.  There are tons of things you can do to lower your costs by a little or a lot.  It won’t be easy, but I hope together, we can take a look at our finances and lead ourselves towards a better future.

I want my child to know that she doesn’t have to rely on credit cards. I want her to realize we can sacrifice now for a better future later. By changing my habits now, I can be a better financial example for her than my role models have been for me.

If you want more information on this topic…I recommend a number of blogs. Check out the main page to see which ones may help you find your way to financial freedom.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather