Since March families have been forced to scramble, rework, and readjust their money, homes, and routines to deal with the pandemic.
Today we'll look at how you can reset, rework, and simplify to reduce the stress and overwhelm this summer!
Summer Plans: Rework Your Money, Home, and Routines
Right now 2020 seems to me to be a cross between a disaster movie and a rollercoaster.
The original plan was to return last month to Simplify and Enjoy, but things needed to be adjusted. I partnered up with our sponsor Coastal Credit Union for mini-series focused on dealing with the financial side of the fallout of the coronavirus.
But as happy as I am to have the ability to do that, I also realize how that’s only one piece of the puzzle.
Our finances are something we deal with regularly, but life is more than money. I believe that money is not the goal.
A tool that you can use to build a life around who and what matters most to you.
I think having the stay at home orders really hit home how we don't need more stuff. Time is the resource to look at.
How are we spending our time? What are our lives focused around? Then build your finances around that.
Little by little. Step by step.
There’s a connection between everything and that’s why this second half of the season is going to look at.
How do you move forward in times like these?
Many of us are resetting and reworking our finances, our homes, and our lives. It’s not easy and in fact, for many families, it can be daunting. We’re still in the middle of the crisis.
So for the next round of episodes we’ll peel back these layers on how you can simplify during this summer and beyond so you can have more options and less stress.
Specifically, I want to talk about where you can get some big wins with your money, home, and life.
In this episode we’ll get into:
- How to rework your budget
- Transform your home to fit your family’s current needs
- Adjust your routines so you can feel less stressed and overwhelmed
Let’s get started!
Resources to Help You To Reset Your Finances and More
If you’re ready to get your budget up and running this summer, here are some handy tools and resources you should check out!
- Best Budget and Money Apps: Personal Capital, Tiller, Mint, Honeyfi, Zeta
- 50/20/30 Spreadsheet Template
- Jumpstart Your Marriage and Your Money
- The One-Page Financial Plan: A Simple Way to Be Smart About Your Money
- How to Talk to Your Spouse About Money
Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal!
Support for this podcast comes from Coastal Credit Union. If you’re living in the Raleigh Durham area and looking to bank better, come check out Coastal today!
They not only have fantastic customer service, they also have competitive rates on their checking and savings accounts!
How to Redo Your Budget and Win with Money
Before we jump into how to rework your budget, we should take a step back and just talk about why we should even bother having a budget.
Believe it or not, I believe your finances is a lot like your health. Now, some people think of their budget the same as a very restrictive diet.
They can't do this. They can't spend here. It's just a bunch of no's. And just like any hard core diet. Most people will quit after a while.
Now, you will have some people be on a very strict diet for a specific reason. Or you might have some people just that personality fits that. And that's the same with budgets.
Sometimes when you have a very specific goal, when you have a high interest that you're trying to get rid of. You may be more intense than you would otherwise.
For the most part, though, if you feel like your budget is more like a straight jacket, then you're going to quit.
If you see your budgets like that, that they are restrictions, that there are basically a cage, then I can understand why you don't like them. So I'm going to tell you, please try something different.
Let's look at this as a healthy diet. Now, around the world, there are healthy people and they're eating a variety of foods based on what's available to them.
What you see here is no matter where you go, there are going to be certain principles with a healthy diet. You got to watch your portions. You want to avoid highly processed foods. However, there's space within those guidelines where you can eat well and enjoy it.
So try to see your budget that same way, too. There are definitely essential guidelines with budgets, you know, like spend less than you earn. Pay yourself first and avoid unnecessary debt.
With a sustainable, financially healthy budget, there's also going to be three main goals that your budget should be hitting.
The first one is making sure that you take care of your essential bills, gaining some financial stability, and then having some money to spend so you can enjoy life now.
When there's friction with finances I've seen with couples and with families, a lot of times it's because one or more of those goals aren't being met.
For example, if your bills are being paid, you almost have this like weight on your chest. And if you don't have any savings or anything, really as a financial buffer, you're going to have this kind of anxiety or not in your stomach. And then when you don't have any money to spend now, any money to enjoy. You just feel resentful.
When you are able to create a sustainable budget that hits those three targets, you're more than likely able to enjoy the now save up for later and stick with the budget.
Key Numbers You Need for Your Budget
OK, so hopefully you're on board with getting your budget to work. Now, how do you do that? Well, there are two key things that you need to do.
The first one is you have to define your goals. And we're going to look at the summer since we're kind of going over this. Reset of our finances during the summer. And then your long term goals.
The second part is assessing where you are now. You really have to weigh in both so you can come in with the right budget that fits you.
We are all being hit by this pandemic, but it's affecting us differently and therefore we're gonna be approaching things differently as we rework our budget.
You might have a family new on their path to financial freedom when this pandemic hit and their income has dropped or is on shaky ground because of what's going on. So they're going to have a different goal than a family who's further down the line on their F.I. journey and whose jobs are somewhat stable.
Let's take us at the beginning when we were married and then us versus now.
Now, when we were first married, my husband had a job, his first job out of college, making I want to say like thirty-five thousand a year, if I remember correctly.
I had a part-time internship. I was wrapping up school about 13 an hour, so weren't making a ton of money.
If we were in that situation now where I have a part-time job, I'm not sure what's going to be happening in the next few months if it's still going to be there. And then if he has that job where it's a little more steady but the income is not great, then I would say for your goals, start looking at building that financial cushion.
You want to have that safety net. And the typical advice you hear is to save a thousand dollars as a starter one.
But because of this situation, you want to really kind of hone in on at least three to six months of just essential expenses.
So should one of you lose your income? Should that be a drop in income? You can at least take care of the essential expenses and kind of ride things out a little bit. So that would be the advice that I would give for a couple for their more immediate goal.
Now, if I was talking to us today, like when we were looking at our finances with the pandemic, we were hit. My husband's job is more steady. But I seen a drop of income being a personal finance writer. There are some companies are pullback in scaling back on some of their projects, but that's fine.
We do have a financial cushion, but so far we haven't had to tap into that. So what we're looking at, though, is making sure that we are shoring up because there's still always a possibility it can be more drop in income. But then also taking opportunities.
Could we invest in the market sometimes being down? That's a possibility.
Another goal that we've been working towards anyway, long term is opportunities to give.
It's sometimes is discussed in finances, but I don't think nearly enough where if you are in a good position, are there ways that you can help others, especially with something as huge as this? And with such disparity between how you're going to get through this.
So that's a key step – defining your goals, both for right now, more immediate goals.
And then, of course, talk about your long term goals. Where do you want to work from?
The second piece is assessing where are you now. And if you're not exactly sure how you're doing financially, please understand that's typical.
I know we were guilty of this years ago where we had an idea of where our finances were, but we could not give you an exact number.
This is where I see a fintech being a great option for a lot of families. You have money apps like Personal Capital, Mint, Honeyfi,and Zeta, where you can pull that information all in into an app and then see all your accounts in a snapshot.
If you're more of a spreadsheet person. You can definitely go that route. Google Sheets is a great option. But then also there's a tool called Tiller, which gives you the best of both.
You can have a completely customized spreadsheet, but the data is pooled for you from your bank and other accounts.
So when you have options like this, this makes that second step easier, which is where are we now with our finances? And the reason you need these two is you're building a plan to work towards that.
Your money should be taking you closer to whatever your goals are. Yes. You're going to have those traditional financial goals, like saving, you know, and hopefully down the line, like investing for the future. But then also goals like vacations, goals like, you know, if you decide that you want to switch careers or help out family members, whatever those goals are when you define it.
When you know where you're starting from, it's easier to work backward and come up with a plan.
Right now, though, I know it feels like it's almost impossible to think very long term. So just focus right now on what where you would like to be in the next year if that's easier to start reworking your budget.
What Budget Should We Use?
There are so many different ways that you can handle a budget. But one framework that I recommend as a starting point is the 50, 20, 30 budget.
The reason I like this is that it really simplifies things.
We talked about those three targets. Well, that's what the budget hits, 50 percent goes to your essential needs. You have 20 percent for savings. Or, you know, for example, if you're paying down debt, that would kind of fit in that category. And then 30 percent would be discretionary or things for now.
Now personally, the percentage I would flip the 20 to 30. But the idea I love about this is that it helps you focus on a few main goals rather than changing everything and worrying about every single line item. So start out with that.
And so what you're doing here is that you're evaluating and making sure that there isn't a problem area with your budget.
As you're putting in and categorizing your expenses, you'll get a clearer idea of what area needs to be focused on first.
Don't try to change everything at once, but focus on one key category. Again, if you're at the beginning of your financial journey and you're at this point where your income is a question mark, you're not sure how it's going to be affected within the next three months. Definitely lean on hard on making sure you have that financial cushion.
If you're in a better spot., definitely look for opportunities to maybe invest more. Also see if you can help out donating your time or resources so that other families can be in a better spot, too.
So hopefully you got the tools that you need to create a budget that you love and will stick with!
Decluttering and Reorganizing Your Home
One of the biggest shifts that we've had to do because of the coronavirus and the stay at home orders is get our house prepared for remote learning.
We have an eight year old in third grade who needed a dedicated space so that she can have some quiet time, be able to focus in and watch the video lessons and be able to participate in projects where she's not distracted. And so we went ahead and we converted the guest room.
Probably like you, we realized we just had to create space by taking stuff out. And that was one of the biggest things that we've been doing throughout. This is declaring our space. And I feel like that has been one of the most beneficial things that we've done around the house.
Decluttering frees up space, but it also reduces stress. Our kids are less likely to ask for where certain things are because it's easier to find them. And then also we are getting rid of stuff that we're not using or they're outgrown.
Now, the challenge is I got some resistance from both my kids and my husband. They love to keep things even if it doesn't fit them or they don't even use it.
Instead of the whole usual pack and purge method is I did it in steps.
First thing I did was grab some grocery bags, like the paper bags with the handles or just the regular standard and put a couple in each room and with the kids.
I asked them what things don't fit. You put in this bag and for toys to rank them most favorites to least favorite in what was beneficial was having these containers where if it didn't fit in, it couldn't be included, allowed them to start prioritizing what was important to them going through that.
That allowed them to start seeing that there were certain toys they didn't care as much and that they're willing to part with. So that went to the immediate donate pile.
And then there were the toys where they still wanted them, but they didn't play with them as often as their favorites. And I made a compromise and I think this was helpful.
We put them in a dedicated space in the basement. And so if they wanted to get them, they could go ahead and grab them out of the toy box. But again, this was a way for them to discover maybe we don't need to have as much stuff until they went ahead and did that.
And just recently, we did another donation. So. If you're kind of in the middle of this transformer, your home trying to find space where you have it doing it. Insteps has made a big difference.
Having your kids part of the process has been helpful. And then with my husband, just like I think all of us are guilty with our all eventually fit back into those clothes. I separated the clothes, the ones that he hadn't used. And then he put some in the bag as well. And then just kind of put that to the side in a different room, in a closet. And if he needed it, it was there to access it.
I wasn't an immediately donated or sell it or whatever. But again, you see, not having it there didn't really affect them. So if you're struggling with this where you are trying to make space in, your family's kind of pushing against that.
See if you can do it in steps where it is still in the house, but not as easily accessible. And that can maybe make it a little less stressful on you and make the process of either selling or donating it much easier on them.
Reworking Your Schedule and Routines
I don't know any family that has not had their schedule and routine completely thrown off because of the stay at home orders between our own work schedules in having remote learning at home.
We've had to shift things around to make it work for everyone. And to be honest. Is it perfect? No, but we do have something that allows us to at least keep moving towards our goals and have somewhat of a routine.
I want to take you through some of the changes we've made in the spring to make things work for the family and then kind of go over what we're thinking about doing this summer. That way you can create a plan and routine that fits you and your particular family's needs.
The first thing I want to advise any and all parents as they're creating these routines is to give yourself some grace.
We are all trying our best to make it work. It's not going to be perfect and you have to be flexible enough to adjust it. For us, it was almost on a weekly basis.
We had to adjust things. We had to regularly talk about what's coming up. So my husband has a traditional office job where he is able to work remotely. Thankful for that.
I work from home, been doing that for the last 10 years. And so I do have some more flexibility with my schedule, but I still have weekly deadlines and monthly deadlines with some clients.
So one of the first things we did was create a schedule and we do not have it by the hour. What we found that's been most helpful is to create a schedule based on blocks of time.
For my husband, he would let us know, like, here's where the meetings are scheduled, where he cannot be disturbed.
I would let him know when I'm, for example, recording podcasts, interviews or recording for the videos. When I needed time alone here in the office to get this done. And so that was one of those things that we had to kind of nail down by the beginning of week.
And then for our little one, we did not do a strict school schedule on that. Like she had to do it from nine to one.
What we did is we did blocks in the morning and in the afternoon we kind of separated it. So the morning block, we had her start about the same time that she did with her regular school schedule. And then for about an hour and a half, have her in her room, her little school room that we created in the guest room and take care of the lessons from her homeroom teacher talking about the core subjects like math, English, science and social studies. And then she would have a break.
And we use those breaks kind of as a reward for a way for her to kind of relax. So she would catch up with friends, work on her little projects that she wanted to do.
What we did is after lunch, we had another block of time in this would be for her other subjects. And in the school, they call them the specials, art, music technology, Spanish and media. And so by separating them, the morning routine and the after routine, we still kept her on the schedule. But then we also had to acknowledge said this is different.
It is very hard to tell a grade schooler, you know, to focus in on each of these task for the whole day continuously. So that helped us and took the schedule. We looked at blocks. It's helped us for our work and it's helped our oldest with her schoolwork.
Speaking of work, something that's been helpful is. Looking for opportunities where you can adjust your schedule. I know for some that is not an option, but in certain cases where you are working remotely and you have a more flexible manager or the company is focused on results and not sign in at very particular times. This can be very helpful.
So for me, again, I still had those weekly goals and deadlines I had to meet as well as monthly, and I've kind of done like a swing shift. So I do get up in the morning early. But if you're more of an evening person, you can adjust as you need to. So in the morning I took care of essentials, anything that I had a contract with or had deadlines I focus in on my morning block.
During the day, I'd handle the shorter admin things such as touching bases, email, pinging people, phone calls. But that was also the time I was helping the kids. So I found like doing those admins tests, work was best.
In the afternoon or evening anything, I did not wrap up that I had to I would do it then. And so, again, breaking it up into chunks and then realizing during this time of day, how noisy would it be with others working or the girls doing their schoolwork? How can I work and make that fit? So if you do have flexibility, take advantage of that.
Now, with summer break with our little ones, what we decided is we're still going to have that morning, afternoon schedule, but we have some flexibility.
So the morning we have programs like Khan Academy, the educational sites that they've been using for their school work, continue doing that. Having them shorter. And then in the afternoon, we tried to do some projects and activities outdoors.
If weather permits so that they're still getting engaged, is still getting active. But I still have windows a time where I can get certain assignments and work done and then also have some boundaries. That was an immensely important tip. So as you saw, I had to work early in the morning, so if the girls woke up early, that was fine, but they couldn't come down and interrupt my work.
And that's kind of hard, especially as a parent, to tell them no, to go back upstairs. But that made a huge difference. And honestly, it didn't work the first time. But after a couple of weeks, they got to the routine, to the point where now they know.
Finally, we talked about setting aside time for work, setting aside time for school, but then also making sure that you set aside time for some self-care. As parents, if we're working and taking care of the kids, you're gonna get burned out. You're gonna get tired.
So what we've done is we've blocked out times where one of us will take the kids. And even though it's like half an hour a day, it's enough for us to kind of clear ahead and relax and we can do whatever we want. It's just half an hour of quiet time or if you want to do some kind of activity, can.
So, again, the most important thing I want to say is do not beat yourself up. If you don't have a perfect routine, if you don't have a schedule where you keep 24/7, instead see the ones that you do have and just try to improve little by little and make adjustments as needed so that you and your family can take care of which you need to, but then also take care of each other and yourselves during these stressful times.