Time B4 Money – Kids are Getting It

It is the holiday season and our house celebrates Christmas. The true Christmas centered around the birth of Christ. Our family also celebrates Christmas with gifts and other worldly traditions (cookies/carols/movies/get-togethers). These celebrations always leave us a bit underwhelmed and a lot overwhelmed all at the same time.

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We do a fair job of controlling things for our house and have a 3 gift limit…..two from Santa and one from mom and dad. If 3 gifts were good for Baby Jesus, they certainly should be more than enough for our kids. Now, that being said – Christmas at our house is still CRAZY. Just simple math will demonstrate this……there are 8 kids that get 3 gifts eachblog3.

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So, MrTB4M and I spend time trying to get something the kids will like, that will be useful, and that will give them something to do. Of course, we also follow a budget. These trips to shop often lead to a few differences of opinion. You see, MrTB4M is great at picking out things the kids would “really like” (such as the newest electronic game system or the largest Lego set) but he is ADVERSE to things the girls really would like (such as new clothes/shoes).

 

Our kids make lists every year and the older they get, the smaller the lists get. Our older boys really ask for fewer and fewer frivolous things and include things they need or will need that they don’t want to have to buy for themselves (clothes/sports equipment). The little boys make lists that are filled with things from their imagination – for example this year J7 has asked for a lawnmower, weed eater, blower, hat, and safety glasses. This of course is for the lawn business he runs to mimic that of the older boys. J6 asked for a multitude of things including a phone (which he won’t getJ). Somedays you can start to wonder if they really are so caught up in the commercialism that they don’t really understand what Christmas is.

AND then – out of the blue – I am in the middle of a shuttle run for some activity or another and J6 says to me “Mom, do you remember that place we stayed with the really cool bunkbeds?” “No, what are you talking about?” Back and forth it goes, like 20 questions, trying to figure out exactly what J6 is referring to. Finally he says “You know mom. Before the boys went to college we stayed in a hotel – all of us – so we could swim and hang out.” Ah ha! First weekend of August we took a little weekend trip – the last weekend everyone would be together for a while and we were doing a little early birthday celebration for J4.

Now this trip was nothing to speak of; a four hour drive, a basic hotel (but, it had a “waterpark”) and nothing else planned. It was a great time while we were there – everyone had a lot of fun and we really enjoyed the time away. We returned home and shuttled boys off to college, started school for everyone else, and fell into our normal routines.

Who would have thought that was what J6 would remember? Now that I figured out what he was talking about, I still had to answer him. “Yes, I remember. Why?” “I think we should go back again. I really liked us all going away together and I miss my brothers.” Sniff, sniff! “J6 that costs a lot of money, I am not sure we will be able to go back there anytime soon.” Then, he says (very quietly) “We don’t have to pay to do anything there, can’t we just go so we can all stay together in the same room as a family.” My sweet (and yet very trying) 7 year old just wants a chance to have us all together in one space doing “nothing”.

Maybe the kids are getting that there is more to life than stuff and money and that the important things are the people. Maybe that was a message to us to step back and stop always focusing on what we need in the future and enjoy a little now.

Maybe there is hope for the future that the choices MrTB4M and I make are changing our kids for the better. Maybe the little things really are making big impacts. AND hopefully we will not have to explain to any Grinches in our house that “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas – perhaps – means a little bit more.” – Dr. Seuss

 

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Thankful

The stock market is plunging, the gains of an entire year are wiped out, and college accounts are tanking. With two in college from now until J7 graduates in 16 years (YIKES) none of this seems like anything to be thankful for. Now, I am not talking about being thankful for basic needs – that is not what this is about at all. We are eternally thankful that we have our family, their health, and the means to provide for daily needs without problem. We are aware of the less fortunate and are able to give to them weekly as well. What this is about, is the position we are in; where we can be thankful that this series of events (tanking accounts, plummeting stocks, college forever) does not define us.

The events are not good for us by any stretch, but at this point – we can take a step back and almost relax. NONE of these things directly impacts the daily needs of our family. We know that our vision, of what we will be able to help with college wise, may have to change; we know our retirement portfolio looks different than 6 months ago.

What we can be THANKFUL for is that none of this defines us and none of it changes the way we will live our lives. We have trained ourselves to live with a purpose and spend with a purpose. It is second nature to us at this point. All we have to do is stay the course.

No matter what your personal circumstances are, take a moment and step back. Look at the overall picture, regroup and decide where you are going, and then figure out step by step how you will get there. It is a journey – and journeys are filled with adventure. Adventure can be filled with adrenaline rushes or sudden pitfalls. Just don’t forget the journey.

What if?

So, what if we need a new roof? What if the car breaks down? What if someone is sick? What if there aren’t enough driving lessons? What if vacation plans change? What if we can’t pay for college for the kids? UGH! The list of “what ifs” certainly can damper the success of what we have accomplished so far.

There is ALWAYS the potential for something to go wrong – and we have been on the occasional derailed path of many things going wrong at the same time. We have had the furnace go out, the hot water tank quit, the remodeling jobs that would never end, the remodeling jobs that were finished and really aren’t right, mechanical issues with vehicles, and more mechanical issues with vehicles, and larger than expected college bills thanks to incidental fees. Sometimes we get several of these incidents all at the same time. It is easy to become overwhelmed; it is easier to start to panic; there is sometimes a little sadness as you watch the “categories” you have built up be depleted much quicker than they filled.

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But, reality is that this is life and we (personally) are in a position to manage all of these situations without difficulty. Our determination to buckle down and save has provided a financial safety net AND a psychological safety net. We do sometimes find ourselves still asking “What if?” but, when we take the time to step back and look at the situation – it never is as bad as we thought. The past 22 years have taught us many things (good/bad/scary). One of the most valuable lessons is to live life with gratitude.

                                        Gratitude turns what we have into enough!

 

The realization that these “What ifs?” are just part of life and that we CAN get through them really helped us kick into the quality versus quantity frame of mind. As I have mentioned in prior posts, we do have things that we “splurge” on – vacations; laundry detergent and cleaning supplies that I don’t make (don’t let this fool you, I still use a lot of vinegar and baking soda for various things); eating out with the family once in a while; and plenty more luxuries that just make our lives a bit easier or happier sometimes. Don’t judge us – we won’t judge youJ But, our focus is totally different on where and why we are putting money in certain “envelopes”. Literally, we have tipped the scales.

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The Slide Continues

So MrTB4M has a unit meeting scheduled at work for last week. All of the “big” bosses are coming into town for Monday and Tuesday. These are the kinds of meeting that the corporate world folks dread – a lot of man hours spent in close quarters listening to quotes and formulas, projections and short-comings; time being asked for opinions and feeling pretty strongly that the question is only a formality.

Then, the Friday before MrTB4M gets a call from a co-worker. The co-worker has been reassigned to a special project. The proverbial writing on the wall. We have anticipated this for weeks and now it seems it is imminent. Yet, the weekend was peaceful – no anxiety, no palpitations, no panic. There was still the Sunday night dread of what Monday and Tuesday would entail, but no panic over the announcement anticipated.

Sure enough, by end of day Tuesday, MrTB4M has about as many details as he will get. The department is being evaluated to be stream lined into desk operated positions utilizing external vendors for cost containment. The process will be quick with most of the pilots to be maximum of 6 months. Suffice it to say there were many in the group that were flustered, angry, nervous, and outright scared of what the future holds. But, not MrTB4M – he was calm, relaxed, and at peace. This solidified his plans to leave and maybe even pushed up the date a little. We had been planning on July 2019……….but, it could be much sooner. I dare say there was relief in his shoulders.

I never would have dreamed that we would be calm and relaxed when faced with the reality that we are a family of 10 with two in college and we will soon be operating on one income. I mean really, in this day and age there are plenty of two income families that are barely making it – and here we are almost looking forward to the hatchet falling.

MrTB4M didn’t miss a beat, he got right to what he does best – calculating. AND he found out that we were actually in a better position than we thought – even after the sliding stock market and the dives of our retirement funds. We can do it, it will be fine!

Don’t be fooled – it took a lot of work to get to this peacefulness (and a lot of envelopes and scratch paperJ). But, we made it and it feels so good!opportunity

On FIRE Despite Rain

We intend to be financially independent and retire early. We have 8 kids. We are transitioning to MrTB4M becoming a SAHD. We HAVE a plan. OK, well we have a few plans and backup plans and plans we didn’t even know were plans. But, the gist of it is we know where we are headed and have a decent idea of how we are getting there.

This week was full of a few little rain showers on our flamesL In case you were unaware – the stock market was WAY down two days in a row this week. Now, there are plenty of people that follow the advice to not check your retirement and savings accounts everyday – and then there is MrTB4M. He checks at least once per day; and on days the market is swinging either high or LOW, he checks it several times. He can’t help it! So MrTB4M checked and checked and checked again and watched the numbers drop. Well, we think to ourselves, we can overcome this. Just a little mist on our FIRE.

Then MrTB4M finds out that his job (that is the current FTE job that he was going to work until July 2019) is more than likely going to be eliminated; and possibly eliminated in the next 3 months. Definitely rain shower number two for the week. But, this one was pretty easy to take. There was no sense of panic, no anxiety. We know that this means just a little different plan or plans – which we have already worked on: 1) we switch up the vacations we were planning long term and delay some of the bigger ones, no big deal or 2) the driving business will get a little more advertisement and bridge the gap. Neither of these options are very stressful. You notice we said we will switch up the vacations, not skip vacation; and we could actually advertise the driving business other than word of mouth referrals. What you didn’t read was that we were immediately updating CVs and looking for jobs for MrTB4M. Nope! We are in an amazing place right now and this is just a minor sprinkle.

Next up for the week is college talk. We filled out the FAFSA for the boys – again. It is that time of year. We really weren’t expecting much financial aid since this is our biggest income year – ever! That goes along with being on FIRE….you have to work at it. But, it was disheartening to see what our expected contribution was for each of them. It is so strange, 2 kids in college and 6 more dependents at home and it looks like there will be no financial aid for 2019-2020. Even more frustrating is that J2 had a higher expected contribution than J1. Who would have thought?! That was our third rain shower of the week.

After all that, our flame isn’t out. We haven’t changed our goal. We are embracing the possibility that it may happen sooner than July 2019. This path to FIRE sure is one big comfy umbrella for us.

Organized Chaos

Many times I have heard “How do you do it?” The “it” in question varies from keeping track of kids, to participating in activities, to homeschooling, to feeding a crowd. My standard answer is “Some days are better than others”. Now that may sound cliché – but I assure you that I mean EVERY word of it. There are some days that are just better than others and I pray that those are the days we are in public.

Here are just a couple of things we do to help organize around our house. First we use a buddy system. The oldest pairs with the youngest and second with second youngest, etc. This means when we go out as a family, there is someone “responsible” with the littles; someone to hold hands crossing a parking lot, someone to help get food from a buffet, someone to help go to the bathroom, someone to sit next to on the Zoo train, someone to push the swing, someone to help littles get dressed or bathe – the list goes on. Reality is that neither MrTB4M or myself can do all of this for everyone, we are simply outnumbered. As the older ones have left for college, the ones left at home have automatically restructured their system so that no one is left out.

So the buddy system assures that once we get somewhere everyone has a partner. But, how do we know where we need to be? The household calendar is a “small” project of mine. EVERY month I sit and create a family calendar. On this we list everything that has to take place outside of the house – appointments, youth group, volunteer activities, practices, games, travel. To make it easy to decode and simplify how much I have to include in print I have assigned everyone a color. This was an accidental process; but man am I sure glad I stumbled into it. See after kid 2 it was getting pretty tight in a calendar box – by the time I would write J1 – Dr. Knight 1100; J2 practice 1700 Ferdinand Park; J3 practice 1800 Ferdinand Park – I would be out of space and it was “busy” to look at. Now with an assigned color I get by with Practice 1800 Ferdinand; 1700 BMAC #1; 1800 Koch #2. I save space in the boxes and it is easy for the kids to pick out their specific activity based on color code.

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These may not be helpful to any of you, but both of these tactics work for us. AND whether or not these could be helpful to you or not, one thing is for sure – everyone can relate to the phrase “Some days are better than others”.

In Search of More….

 

Things were good, I was home; the house was running relatively smoothly; the kids were happy. Relatively smoothly, is such an odd term, really it means some days are better than others and the important things get done.

Then MrTB4M gets word that the company may be eliminating jobs within his department. UGH! A family of 10 and the possibility of no income.  As luck would have it, my old boss (as in former, not aged) contacted my husband to see if I was by chance ready to come back to work after a 3 year hiatus.  Maybe even a little divine intervention came into play.  A series of phone calls, an updated resume, an email or two, a background check and I had a job.

Then, about two weeks before my start date, MrTB4M finds out he was not without a job. So many conversations were had – along the lines of “what are we doing?” “How will this work?” “Do we really need this?”

Well, I can’t very well quit before I set foot in the building! AND there will be a college tuition coming soon.  So, April 11, 2016 I returned to work.

MrTB4M was thrilled, I was hesitant, and the kids were down right unhappy with the idea. It seems that they had gotten used to PBJ sandwiches and free outings to the park or museums; in their minds the extra income was not such a big deal.

We SHOULD have listened to the KIDS. (But, don’t tell them that.)  We arranged babysitting, hired a nanny made plan after plan.  The first few months went well.  Then, the nanny quit.  She reportedly didn’t know it was a long term commitment?

A few tears, a few screams, and MANY prayers – in a two week period I have enrolled 4 kids in school; taken their transcripts and book lists; bought uniforms and supplies; and essentially felt like I was letting my kids down. I tried to be “excited” so that the kids could be as well.  When they came home frustrated, we were prepared to tell them to give it time; assure them it would work out; and pray that some of that was true.

That worked for a while. J4 has the hardest time; girls are simply MEAN.  She didn’t wear short enough skirts, she didn’t have name brand shoes, she didn’t wear makeup, and she wasn’t “cool enough”.  Of course at age 11 she did not understand that cool enough really means that you are comfortable without sweating and still not in need of a jacket.  But, we were getting through it.  Then, I went to teacher conference.  I was not prepared at all.

Teacher #1 “I am impressed how well J5 has done, she is actually able to get along with the kids in the class.” Me – “Oh, I am sorry I forgot to tell you we didn’t live in a CAVE.” Teacher #2 “Everything is fine except J4 doesn’t seem to fit in and she reads well above level so I don’t know what to do.”  Me – “Really?  I thought we were paying tuition for you to teach her, not tell me that she is too smart for you to teach.  I mean after all she is just a homeschool student.”  Teacher #3 “where are you sending J3 to high school?”  Me – “considering homeschool.”  Teacher #3 “Why on earth would you do that?  He will never get into college that way.” Me – “Really?  Could you explain how we have 3 college acceptance letters at home right now for J1?  See, he was homeschooled too and he did get into college.”

I went home defeated. MrTB4M could do nothing but shake his head.  Our older boys were in disbelief.  That was a turning point.  I was beyond offended, I was nearing the point of disgust.  To think that in 2016 people still considered homeschooled children to be backwards and introverted and socially inept.  All the while, it wasn’t my kid that refused to make room for new people at the lunch table, or laughed because someone made “different” drawings.  No, those “special” traits were reserved for the perfectly “normal” traditionally schooled students.

Luckily, we got occupied with high school graduation and managed to finish out the school year. In the mean time we took the kids places, bought the kids things, and really never found that happiness we had.

College started for J1 and the kids were back in school. Only this time we were determined it was the last year.  NO MATTER WHAT, we were going to figure out how to bring the kids back home.  We needed the time with them; they needed the time with us and with each other; they didn’t need to be bullied or ridiculed because of having “extra” siblings.

The more we thought about it, the more we knew it wasn’t just the kids that needed more. It was all of us.  Thus we began our search for time over money.  We committed to living on one salary so that we can eventually both retire early.  Week by week and paycheck by paycheck we mark things off the list (college accounts/home repair/new vehicle/ vacations).

MrTB4M started his own business. 8Js Driver Training.  He likes it, and is busy.  Most weeks he is limited by his “real” job.  So our latest plan on the journey is that in less than 40 weeks he will be home, using the driving business to supplement the income and help with college; I will continue to work at the office 4 days per week temporarily.  You see, once he is home our next stretch will be for me to join him.

Oh, and this year we sent J1 back to college for year 2; J2 off for year 1; and everyone else is being homeschooled. Back to night/weekend school and help from dad since he works at home.  Best of all, the kids are happy.  When they smile, their eyes light up; they laugh; they help each other out (most of the time); and we can see the difference in our family.