Becoming a Better Adult by Taking Baby Steps

By Mary Pat Baldauf

Have you ever heard of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (FPU)? It’s a nine-lesson class on money management taught by financial guru, Dave Ramsey. The class focuses on the basics of budgeting, dumping debt and planning for the future. My boss had referred to it so much over the years that when my church offered it, I registered right away.1000-dave-ramsey-quotes-on-pinterest-dave-ramsey-financial-176713

Financial Peace University is offered nationally at different locations, many at churches and faith-based organizations. I was a little skeptical of a money class offered at a church, but it’s a non-denominational program offered at different churches in the Midlands, from my Presbyterian USA church (Eastminster Presbyterian) to United Methodist with a lot of churches in between.

Our class met on Wednesday evenings, and consisted of 10 people: three couples, a mother and son, and me. We met from 6:15 to about 7:30, where we watched DVDs and then held group discussions. For the $99 course fee, we received a book, workbook and a year’s access to a website featuring the video lessons, budget sheets and other online resources.

Ramsey breaks his class into the following seven baby steps. None of these steps are anything new or earth-shattering, but he presents them in such a way that really motivates you to think about things differently.

  1. $1,000 to start an Emergency Fund. (This was the hardest step for me, and I just completed it.)
  2. Pay off all debt using the “Debt Snowball.”
  3. Three to six months of expenses in savings.
  4.  Invest 15% of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement.
  5. College funding for children.
  6. Pay off home early.
  7. Build wealth and give.

One thing that wasn’t a baby step was the recommendation to use cash to “feel” your purchases. Ramsey says, and I agree, that when you use cash, you tend to be more careful of your purchases and automatically spend less. Still, it’s taking some time to get used to using cash. (Thankfully, you can also use checks and/or a debit card for those purchases that don’t work as well with cash.)

The hardest part of the course for me was committing to nine Wednesdays in a row. Going to class every Wednesday decreased my eligible gym days by one, which most weeks left me with no “rest day.” I ended up missing two FPU classes, but was able to watch the videos online at my leisure.

Another hard part, I’m embarrassed to say, was saving $1000. I’d started an emergency savings account a few months before I took the class, so I had a small head start, but it’s not easy to find additional money in your paycheck. I played games with myself to find it: if I passed on spending anything, such as a new lipstick or dinner out, I’d transfer an equal amount to savings.

Completing baby step one, the $1000 savings, has been quite empowering. I know that if I have a true emergency, such as car trouble or a leaky toilet, I will have the money to cover it without having to use a credit card or ask Mom or Sister for help. It’s such a relief to know that it’s there, and thankfully I haven’t had to even think about using it yet.

I completed the class just before Thanksgiving, but I already feel so much better about things. I feel like a grown-up, in a good way, being prepared and thinking toward the future. I’ve now started on Baby Step Two, paying down debt with the snowball method. You rank your credit cards from lowest balance to highest, and start on the lowest one first. As you pay one off, you add that money to the next account, and so on until the debt is gone. Dave recommends starting with the lowest first to have some successes and build on that momentum. This will take longer than a couple of months, but I’ve budgeted to pay off one credit card by the end of December. (YAY!)

 

Confetti

By Shannon Boatwright

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Life is crazy. Like, super crazy. It can be overwhelming, full of busy nonsense and before you know it, time has flown by and the buzz of this nonstop life seems to take away your time. In a flash.  Your day is gone. Your kids are grown. You might find yourself saying, what have I done?

Are you spending all your time focused on thinking you won’t be happy until you reach the top? Are your eyes so busy being set on the prize that you forget to live for the now and bring a little happiness into others’ lives?

All the awards, prizes and recognition won’t mean a thing in the end, because love is bigger. Happiness doesn’t come from “the stuff”, it comes from within.

We all know this. We know better. We’ve heard and read these types of words before. But do we make an effort to truly make it happen? Are you going to live your life always waiting for the confetti to fall or are you going to recognize that tomorrow may never come and you should live for right now?

So much in my complicated life lately has reminded me of the importance of NOT waiting for the confetti to fall.  I don’t want to be distracted by the noise of this ridiculous game most people play in this crazy life as they focus only on the hype, instead of the happiness. I want to cherish every precious moment and opportunity that I receive. I want to live, be happy and spread happiness to others.  I’d like to believe that when we genuinely live life and appreciate every moment, we’ll see that recognition and prizes aren’t a requirement and thus when we do receive them, they’re even more greatly treasured.Confetti

Singer/Songwriter Tori Kelly’s song, “Confetti” is beautiful and brilliant. I’m a big fan of hers and while listening to her station on iHeartRadio, this song recently played. It struck me immediately.  I took a screenshot and went straight to iTunes to purchase it.   If you have the time to take a listen, it will brighten your life. Really listen to the words and hopefully they’ll inspire you as they did me. We can always use a lovely reminder to live our lives – to really live our lives. 😉

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjaaZ-0D2CI

Experimenting with Tradition

By Rachel Sircy

I spent the better part of Monday driving to Ohio to spend Thanksgiving with my family. My mother is, like me, a celiac. Each holiday ends up being an adventure in trying to figure out how to enjoy all the traditional foods that we miss. One that we have been working on for a number of years is a sort of Midwestern favorite, chicken and thick egg noodles. This dish is similar to chicken and dumplings, except that instead of dumplings, the dish contains homemade egg noodles which are wide and thick and puffy like dumplings. The first Thanksgiving after I was diagnosed as a celiac, my mother attempted to make these noodles for me, but because we didn’t know much about how to work with gluten free flours (and because at that time there weren’t very many all-purpose gluten free flour blends available) the noodles didn’t stick together well once they were in the liquid. They disintegrated into mush and I was left holding a bowl of chicken flavored goo. It was so gross and so disappointing that I cried.

My mother has always been famous for her version of these noodles. The week of Thanksgiving always found my family having to eat dinner in the living room because our kitchen table was covered with stretched out egg dough and then by cut and drying noodles. A few years after I was diagnosed, my mother found out that she also has celiac disease. She continued to make regular egg noodles for everyone else while she and I sat back and had to watch everyone else eat what we wanted so badly.

This year, my mother made her classic noodles for everyone else, but she also made a small batch of gluten free noodles from an all-purpose gluten free flour for us. The brand of flour that she used was actually the Walmart Great Value brand. I had no idea until this year that Walmart made its own brand of gluten free flour.

Walmart Great Value brand gluten-free Flour

Below are the resulting noodles which have been dried and which my mother has frozen. We are hoping that the drying and the freezing will help the noodles to withstand being in the chicken soup base. Even some of the best gluten free noodles will disintegrate if left in liquid for too long. Whenever I make chicken noodle soup, for example, I always try to buy Tinkyada pasta (available at Walmart and other grocery stores) which have a great ability to stay solid even when surrounded by liquid. However, even when I undercook these noodles, they eventually become pretty mushy after a day or so.

Dried and frozen noodles, ready for cooking!

Our other plan for these noodles is to add them to the chicken soup base shortly before they’re served. My mother (who is notorious for cooking too much food) also refrained from making a ton of noodles and just made what she thought that she and I could eat on Thanksgiving day. Unfortunately, a lot of gluten free foods at this point aren’t good when leftover. They just don’t last well. So, we’re trying to make sure that don’t leave them in the soup long and that we eat the entire batch quickly.

I would love to share the recipe but, to my surprise, my mother doesn’t use one. I am ashamed to say I have never actually helped her or watched her make these noodles before. My great aunt taught my mother to make these noodles when she was a young woman and the recipe is simply this: think about how many people you want to serve and crack one egg per person into a mixing bowl. Add a little bit of salt (Salt to your taste since there is no measuring in this recipe) and add flour and mix until the dough feels ready to roll out for cutting. The dough should feel dry (doesn’t stick to your hands) and slightly stiff when it is ready to roll out. Roll the dough out on whatever surface is large enough to contain it. For the whole Thanksgiving crowd, my mother has to use the entire kitchen table. Let the dough sit for 15-20 minutes and then use a pizza cutter to cut into strips for noodles. At this point you can cook the noodles right away or you can dry them over night and store them in the fridge for a few days if you want to make them ahead of time.

So, in my next post. I will update you to let you know how this year’s experiment went. Here’s to experimentation and innovation!!

Put down the phone!

By Jeanne Reynolds

I’m pulling out of Ricky’s on Sunset Boulevard in West Columbia with a brand-new set of tires, heading back to work at the tail-end of the Thursday lunch hour. I’ve driven maybe 100 yards when whoosh! The red SUV next to me swerves suddenly into my lane.

I slam on brakes and jerk the steering wheel hard right, narrowly avoiding a collision. Really glad for those new tires right now.

My heart is beating hard, my hands are shaking and I can barely breathe. I look over to see if the other driver is acknowledging she nearly caused a wreck. An apologetic wave? A sheepish smile? No, because her right hand is raised to face level, holding what looks like … a phone.

Now, just before her ill-timed move, I noticed the car in front of her appeared to move into the left turn lane abruptly without signaling. Ms. SUV was following too closely to start with and I’d guess wasn’t paying enough attention to brake in time, thanks to her irresistible mobile device.

With one hand now pressed to my forehead as I try to calm down, I make it safely back to the office. And here’s the really ironic part: The National Public Radio news program I’m listening to as I navigate those last few miles is running a story on the dangers of technology and distracted driving. Yeah, tell me about it.

Friends, this time of year more than any, please put down the phone while you’re driving. Between all the extra errands we’re trying to cram into our lunch hours, the million things racing through our mental to-do lists and the scheduling squeeze of kids’ activities and holiday social events, most of us are distracted enough. Add in the now-early nightfall, and we really need to have two hands on the wheel and both eyes on the road.

If you don’t care about me in the next lane, think about how a cast on your leg will ruin your special holiday party outfit, or how a big bill from the body shop coupled with a hefty ticket will put a crimp in your gift-giving budget.

And it could be much worse than that: 9 people die every day because of car crashes involving distracted drivers.

Think it can’t happen to you? If you’d been riding shotgun with me on Sunset last week, you might reconsider.

 

The Gift That Keeps On Giving…

By Stacy Thompson

As an obsessed Gamecock fan, the only thing I love more than the game itself is the tailgate before, and usually, after!  Even the set-up and take-down are entertaining, as I channel my inner ‘pit-crew’ to improve on my time from the week before, while doing my best interpretation of a real-life Tetris game as I methodically pack the tents, chairs, tables, more chairs and TV into the back of my SUV.  Although we take great pride in our tailgate food, my favorite part is the chance to catch up with friends and just enjoy the atmosphere surrounding the stadium.  Our tailgate invitations basically have no limits, and are usually RSVP’ed with the standard question – “What can I bring?”

Typically I reply and say, “Nothing, just yourself!” but recently I was a guest at another rabid fan’s tailgate and started thinking about all of the things I could have brought my host/hostess.  Maybe it’s the Southerner in us, but I think most people do not like to join a social gathering empty-handed, so here are some suggestions if you’re tagging along at a tailgate or possibly attending one of many holiday parties this season.

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Best to bring:

  • Cookies – (store-bought more than acceptable) – everyone loves cookies!
  • Brownies – same reason
  • Boiled peanuts – usually available around the stadium; mixed nuts or roasted peanuts are always welcome
  • Flowers – yes, I said flowers – I’ve only had one person bring these to a tailgate, but it really brightened my day – so I’m going to add flowers to this list even though it may possibly be in violation of the Official Tailgating Rules (I’m sure there are some out there)
  • Your own beverages – you know what you like and unless you are a mainstream water-drinker, then your host/hostess may not have something to your liking – this goes double if you are one of those “Cherry Vanilla Caffeine-Free Diet Coke” people
  • Nothing – yes, this is contrary to the actual point of this blog post, but sometimes it really is OK not to bring anything – but your empty hands can be put to good use in the set-up or clean-up! As a hostess, I truly appreciate anyone who will hang out before or after the game and help out!

Best NOT to bring:

  • Prepared dishes/dips/desserts, particularly if they have to be kept hot or cold – if the host/hostess has planned the meal, he/she has also planned how to keep each dish hot or cold – don’t add to it!
  • Dips without chips or crackers – if you make a dip, bring the chip/cracker that the dip is served with – I know that sounds basic, but I have several unused jars of salsa in my fridge as a result of that oversight
  • Competing dishes – by that I mean, if your host/hostess sends out a menu featuring chili, then for goodness sake, don’t bring your ‘world-famous, can’t-tell-you-the-recipe-or-I’d-have-to-kill-you’ chili – and while we’re on the subject, you can tell anyone who will listen how amazing your chili recipe is, just don’t do it in earshot of your host/hostess and certainly not while you’re stuffing your face with the ‘inferior’ chili

Happy Tailgating Everyone!

Learning to Love it All

By Ashley Whisonant

As my boys get older, I am trying hard to let them both be individuals. This is not always an easy task. See, my first-born little man is a rule follower. He is the ultimate people pleaser—a teacher’s dream. My second little guy, three going on thirteen, is a sweetheart with a wavy edge. His wavy edge makes him who he is, just as my oldest, straight-as-an-arrow makes him special. Embracing Gray’s wavy edge is not always in my toolbox as a mom.

For Thanksgiving, Gray’s preschool send home a blank turkey to decorate any way they pleased. Gray and I sat down and talked about some of the examples his teacher listed: clown, princess, etc. He listened as we discussed and then promptly requested his turkey be decorated as a “bad guy”. Now, my initial thought was, “What in the world?!?! You can’t go to preschool and have your bad guy turkey displayed for everyone to see!” His face was so excited to create a bad guy turkey with his momma. people-2942933_1280

So guess what? The best bad guy turkey is displayed in the hallway of his preschool-complete with an eye mask, Halloween creepy stickers, and a small heart for his momma on the bottom. Bad guy turkeys love their mommas too.

Just like Wreck It Ralph has taught us: Just because you are bad, doesn’t mean you are a bad guy.

Hooked on Giving

By Chaunte McClure

The nightly news stories on deaths, threats, thefts, kidnappings and assaults lead some to wonder: are any good people left in the world?

Of course, there are and I learned of a group of them in Columbia who are hooked on giving and they are taking their craft to Main Street.

They are the Yarnbombers of Columbia and other generous knitters and crocheters in the area who are hanging handmade hats, and scarves for the homeless and less fortunate on the “giving tree.”

Earlier this month winter accessories adorned the giving tree, but last night when I drove by, the tree was bare.

You can change that because anyone can give and anyone in need can take a free, colorful, knitted find to keep warm.

Yarnbombers 1

The “giving tree” is in front of Mast General Store on Main Street. Hang a hat, wrap a scarf, warm a heart during this season of giving.

While you’re downtown, visit the State House Christmas tree. It’s a perfect spot to pose for a Christmas card photo. The official tree lighting ceremony is November 27.