Thursday, February 26, 2015

Part of the Solution

Parentunplugged - Part of the Solution - Parent Actions Speak Loudly
If you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem. I wholeheartedly agree with and live by this statement.  It’s truly not enough to just have opinions on the way things should be.  It’s necessary to actually live your life under the umbrella of what you believe in.  

Once enough people do this….making daily decisions regarding behavior, practice, and lifestyle based on the values they hold, other people start to notice and think, 'Hey, maybe I should think about X and incorporate it into my world.’  It spreads.  It becomes commonplace to act or think X, and next thing you know it is an issue, a real hot button topic and the masses at large are weighing in on it and sometimes putting it to law or banning 'it.'  It’s amazing how it happens, really.

There will always be opponents to whatever you believe or hold dear, and I’m not necessarily talking about politics or religion, two of my least favorite topics, but just simple viewpoints or beliefs.  That’s okay, heck that’s even great, as it’s the various takes on the “hows” of the world that make us think and consider the opinions we’ve actually honed, or in some cases, should develop.  Discord keeps us on our toes and in some cases, forces us to take action on our beliefs.

Complacency, on the other hand, does nothing to help a cause.  Never considering your own opinion on a topic, thereby choosing not to weigh in at all, or even worse, doing nothing when you know the right course of action, based on your own opinions and value system, can actually inflate a subject.  Just as taking a stand or an action is contagious, doing zero, or doing nada except complaining is also infectious, causing those around you to do as you do.  Desensitized to the issue, it actually becomes worse, as it appears as if there is no case at all, since there is no attention being pointed its way.

Let’s apply a super general example to prove my point:  Using common manners when interacting with others.

It’s super important to many that manners be used, as they are a symbol of respect when communicating with other people.  If you share that principle, most likely you utilize manners yourself when you interact with the population at large.  You teach those niceties to your children, and they in turn, model your behavior and that which is expected of them, in their own.  Hopefully, if one of you occasionally ‘falls off the wagon’ and forgets or consciously chooses not to be respectful by, the family, subscribing to the same belief system, will keep the individuals in check.  

But other people other people enter the picture. 

“I want a snack now” a 6-year-old whines while at the house visiting.  “What do you have?”

What do you do now?  It’s someone else’s kid….in your house.  To me it’s the same as those mystery books I read as a kid where you could choose the outcome of the story yourself, based on the choices you made during the book….If A, then turn to page 114, if B, then turn to page 64…..the ending was different every time.  You can correct the child and suggest he use “please” or give him the opportunity to rephrase his statement as a polite request.  Or you can take a mental note of his lack of manners, but ignore it and give him his snack options and deliver the goods.  Or maybe you’re already so desensitized to so many kids not using manners that you don’t even notice the infraction or recognize the teaching moment.

Your action, or lack thereof, has impact.  If you create a learning experience and give the child an option to use good manners, not only does it have affect on him, it also is recognized by your own children and teaches them how to use and ask for respect in their own lives.  Maybe the child will say please or thank you next time he asks for something from another child or teacher or parent.  Maybe he won’t.  But he’ll know that the expectation is out there, even if just at your house. Choose another path, and do nothing, and the child learns that there is no expectation whatsoever.  Your child learns that she has to use good manners but her friends don’t, and maybe your child even deducts from the situation that she doesn’t need to use manners at another friend’s home.  

Now multiply this exact scenario.  If every parent acted on the principle of good manners with every child, not to mention adult, that crossed his path, imagine the effect!  Every child would know, in no uncertain terms, that manners were not only expected, but required.  Manners would, by necessity, be incorporated into acceptable behavior.  Conversely, if every parent opted out of mentoring manners in those crucial teaching moments with their own or other people’s kids, children walk away feeling not an ounce of obligation toward respect, but also with a cemented behavior pattern.  After repeated exposure to enough passive parents, lack of manners in communication simply becomes a way of life for kids.

Now take this elementary example and apply it to every other creed you follow.  Your politics, your religion, you human rights stance....are you talking the talk and walking the walk with each view, or are you on cruise control and only setting the behavior portion to action when its convenient or non-confrontational?  I feel like it’s a constant struggle to put myself out there and consistently live the life my personal philosophy dictates.  But then I remind myself that it’s not just about me.  It’s about what my kids and their friends and my associates and friends and the community at large sees me practice.  If I don’t break down my own ideals into actions that are clear, my complacency makes just as loud of a statement….that my beliefs aren’t really that important.  

Look at your own actions in relation to your beliefs.  Are you part of the solution or part of the problem?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Stick to Your Guns

Stick to Your Guns - ParentUnplugged - Stacy Snyder
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Living Large is not always easy.  While living well within your means and enjoying the things you love most in life sounds like a no-brainer, it actually requires discipline.  And restraint, whether it applies to your interaction with your kids, your employees, or yourself, can be taxing.  It is totally doable, though, and you’ll be happy you stuck to your guns on following your budget once the end of the quarter or year rolls around and you’ve managed to save more than you thought or spend less than you’d bargained.  

Once your budget is in place (click here if you don’t have a budget yet) the key to success is following it.  Assuming your budget is thoughtfully construed, meaning it's a relatively accurate account of expected expenses and is zero-balance based, meaning all money coming in over a specific time period, is accounted for as going out, whether to expenses, savings or investment, you’ve won half the battle. 

Planning and flexibility is required to stay on point with your budget. While you’ve probably already anticipated unexpected expenses in your yearly budget, you may not have considered the will power necessary to spend just the allowances set aside for each category, especially when shopping on the fly.  

Even though I have subscribed for years to the mindset of only purchasing what I’ve planned on buying, and nothing more, each day can be a new challenge. Just today, I visited a new gym I had planned on joining with my wife.  I had already researched the gym’s website and acquainted myself with its fees, its offerings, and its commitment and cancellation policies, yet I still decided we should visit it to get a feel before joining online.

I knew I hadn’t budgeted money in our recreation category for the year.  My wife already owned a pre-paid membership at a gym downtown and I had an existing membership at local pricey gym, currently on hold because I was on a long road of recovery from a recent knee surgery and was facing another one in the upcoming months, which will keep me off my feet and unable to utilize the gym for quite some time.  However, our situation had changed recently in that my wife’s gym was no longer easily accessible after a job change and I was recently given the clearance to use an elliptical machine, which I desperately wanted to try.  I was confident, however, in the fact that if I finessed the budget a bit and spent X number of dollars on gym memberships this year that I hadn’t planned for, I could spend the same X number of dollars LESS in another category in order to make my zero balance budget jive.  I just needed to adjust to the situation.

Armed with a dollar amount in my head that we could spend this year on memberships, we visited the gym, prepared to try it out and join on the spot if we liked it.  But we were met with roadblocks that made us reconsider.  There was no “trial” the gym offered for before joining unless a $20 fee was paid per person per day. No thank you.  The low monthly, no-commitment-based fee with an almost nonexistence sign-up charge was no longer available as of 2 days ago, but was replaced with a decent wad of cash for a joiner fee.  Top that off with the full-court sales press toward the super-sized membership that touted bells and whistles and had a price tag double the monthly fee plus a year-long commitment, and our day was all of a sudden not so clear cut.

My wife and I had to take a minute to regroup on our own without the salesman.  We considered every angle of the membership info that was thrown at us.  We quickly moved past our inability to “try the gym out” for the day before deciding and went right into negotiations.  We went back and forth with our separate lists of wants and needs, haggling the terms for half an hour.  Our visit ended with the two of us walking out, each from a separate set of doors on opposite ends of the gym because we were barely speaking, with no membership at all as we couldn’t make and combination of concessions work for our budget on the spot.  

On the longer-than-I’d-like-to-drive-in-a-car-to-get-to-a-gym car ride home, we bickered over the outcome of our gym visit, and ultimately I decided the location was too inconvenient an option for me to personally consider.  My wife went back and purchased the mac daddy membership she had, unbeknownst to me, wanted all along, for the exact price we had allotted for the total money spent for gym memberships.  She received unlimited guest passes with her sign-up, so I’m in for an elliptical workout or two a week with her.  It all worked out in the end after much scrutiny, but there was nothing enjoyable about keeping those scales balanced.

Some days are much easier than others and it just becomes a way of life.  It’s all a tradeoff though.  If you get into the habit of putting more thought into your purchases, maybe even just large ones at first, that will spill over onto smaller ones, it will become a routine.  Just like quitting a bad habit like smoking, it takes the same 21 days to institute a new good pattern, like sticking to your guns on your finances.

Give it a try.  It’s amazing what you can accomplish in just a short period of time.  And then your attitude starts to change when you see how much money you can actually save just by preparing for purchases and honoring your budget.  You’ve got nothing to lose…..but spending too much green!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Teaching Moments Important, Despite Disappointment

ParentUnplugged - Stacy Snyder - Teaching Moments Important, Despite Disappointment
You can’t help but look at the story of the Chicago Little League team that was stripped of its US Championship title this week and feel sorry for the kids involved.  They played their butts off and showed heart to win that standing and then got it taken away because of a technicality.  

But what a great teaching moment for these kids, their parents, and the population at large watching this story unfold!  While the situation seems a bit unfair to the kids, who themselves had nothing to do with Jackie Robinson West using a falsified boundary map to build a super team of excellent players, they’re old enough to understand right and wrong.  They’re mature enough to realize that every action has a ramification and that sometimes you end up standing on the wrong side of the equation, regardless of whether you make the active choice or end up there because of someone else.  Bottom line, they’re learning accountability.

They’re witnessing first hand that you can’t win by cheating.  It stinks that the lesson is at their playing expense, but I’m guessing that this particular gem will stay with them and help build their characters, which will affect the type of players and adults they become.  

I bet those kids are mad and they have every right to be.  Maybe they’re upset with the officials that made the under-handed boundary changes responsible for their unseating.  Could be they’re annoyed at their parents for buying into the scheme or not questioning the change.  Possibly they’re ticked at themselves for no listening to their guts, which may or may not have alerted them to a potential problem.  I can’t even imagine what they’re feeling, but I do hope that they will take away from this moment in time a great lesson in integrity.  Doing the right thing, or playing fair, as it relates to sports, even if it feels so horrifically bad right now, is always the way to go.

While no one want to see kids lose trust in a coach, a parent, or an organization, the reality of the world is that there are cheats out there, folks that want to win or get or take, no matter what the expense of the actions taken to get there.  What better way for our kids to learn to trust their own basic instincts and common sense when it comes to navigating their own lives?  If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.  

While the specifics of the involvement level of the parents is up for grabs, there is no question that this scandal exemplifies the entitlement trend of adults and parents conveying the clear message to child athletes, students, and participants of any activity, that its no longer good enough to play, compete, or do just for the sake of fun, recreation, and building life skills  No, in today’s world we will stop at nothing to make sure our kids are THE BEST at whatever they do.

It gives me pause to re-evaluate the “why’s” of my own children’s activities.  Am I part of the trend?  Are you?

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Is That Money Mine?

ParentUnplugged - Stacy Snyder - Is That Money Mine?
Have you ever rummaged through one of your coat pockets to see if you might have left a few dollar bills in the pocket, as you head to the door to tip the pizza guy, catch the ice cream truck, or catch the bus?  It’s always such a thrill to find a forgotten fiver or ten-spot.  Now imagine your delight if it was $20,000 you forgot about.

I was walking with a friend a few weeks ago and she had to finish our walk early so she could meet her husband at the notary’s office.

“Bummer,” I stated.  “That sounds like a drag.”

“Actually, it’s okay,” she replied.  “I’ve been meaning to do it for a while.  I need to notarize some paperwork so I can collect money from a check that was sent to an old address where I used to live some years ago.”

“How did you even know it was there?” I asked her.

“I randomly checked the Illinois State Treasurer’s Unclaimed Property Website.  After buying some shares of such-and-such-stock at the IPO some years ago, I ended up moving and forgot about the statements.  The company did well after a certain point in time, they cashed out my stock and sent me the proceeds, so now I have a $20,000 check that I need to claim.”

“Ex-squeeze me?  Baking powder?” as Wayne Campbell would say. 
ParentUnplugged - Stacy Snyder - Is That Money Mine?

I went home and immediately checked my own name, as well as my wife’s.  I have a payroll check under $100 and she has 2 checks, each over $100 from a previous company’s stock plan, waiting to be claimed from one of our old addresses in Chicago.  I am LIVING LARGE today.  Free money always works for me, even if it was my mine to begin with and I had forgotten it!

Do you have unclaimed property or money attached to a previous address?  Check today and find out.  In Illinois, visit Illinois State Treasurer’s ICASH.   In California, visit California State Controller’s Office and in Indiana, visit the Indiana Attorney General.  In all other states, simply search online for ‘unclaimed property search’ for that state.  Maybe today is your lucky day!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Start with a Budget

Living Large by whole-heartedly enjoying the things in life that are most important to me happens most naturally when I practice the other piece of it, which is living within my means.  Simply stated, it’s spending only what I make or less.  It sounds simple, but it’s actually quite complex when you consider that the norms in our society include borrowing liberally to leverage our purchase power, creating financial peer pressure to spend more than we make.  Creating and sticking to a balanced budget each year, though, can not only keep your financial house in order, it can also help you choose your life’s passion. 

Start with a Budget - ParentUnplugged - Stacy Snyder
As a kid and teenager, it was easy to budget as I made so little money at my part-time jobs that I could only spend so much on clothes and outings before my wallet or bank account was empty.  When you were out of money, you simply couldn’t buy anything.  Those years were fun and simple.  Turning 18 threw a wrench into the plan for me.  Credit card company promotional tables lined the commons that first week of college with their reps taunting, “Buy it today and pay it off later,” and “Establish your own credit history,” as they handed me my free dorm-room-shower-caddy for opening up a revolving credit account at 21% interest.  It went downhill from there and I loaded up on debt for six years. 

Consumer Credit Counseling showed me, among many other debt-reduction ideas, how to create my first written budget in my early 20’s.  The advisor used a sheet of paper and a pencil, I later transferred it to an excel spreadsheet, and now I use Quicken, but regardless of the platform, the format is still the same.  You simply have to write down every dollar you bring in and match it to every dollar you hand out.  Do it in your photographic memory, on a bar napkin, in your phone, or in a piece of DIY software, but you have to do it if you want to get a handle on your finances. 

Start with the basics of a budget.  While doing it by month seems to be the easiest for most, since many payments are due monthly, use whatever period of time makes most sense for you, such as week or quarter.  First track the amount of your paycheck(s), allowance, stipend, grant, support, alimony, and any other source of income.  If you don’t make a static salary or wage, but say work on commission, calculate an average based on your last 3 months’ income earned.  Next create a separate column of regular expenses.  Regular doesn’t necessarily mean just monthly, but can mean a one-time expense that happens each year, like registration fee on your car or a 3-Day Pass to Lollapalooza.  Write each expense on a separate line with the name and amount.   If you’re not sure of what you spend on a regular basis, start by guesstimating.  You can go back and finesse the numbers later.  While utilities and car payments and bus passes usually make it onto these lines, many people forget the everyday “little” items that add up to big expenses when multiplied to equal a year’s worth of expenses, such as personal care such as grooming, salon visits, and products .  Household expenses like paper towels and tissue and toilet paper many times get forgotten, and expenses like dining, entertainment, kids’ sports and activities, and drive-through coffee really add up.  Take, for example, the year I reviewed my budget in December and was shocked to see that $5K had been spent in stocking our bar at home!  While the number itself is relative to the situation, for me that number represented 5% of the total income brought into our household that year.  It was more than the amount we spent in groceries for the year, more than we spent on our vacation, and topped what we gave to charity in a 12-month period.  Priorities people. 

Once you have all of your income in one column and your expenses in another, add up the two columns.  Your income should be more than or equal to your expenses.  If it’s not, you need to balance out the numbers.  This may require a Come-to-Jesus talk with yourself and a sit-down with your family about prioritizing or it may be as easy as looking for glaring categories where you can spend less and alter the amounts to reflect what you WANT to spend instead of what you have spent in the past.  Maybe you spend $700/month dining out.  It’s less expensive to buy groceries and make meals at home, so in order to cut costs, you could prepare more meals at home.  My dad always says, “Every solution creates a new set of problems.”  Your new problem may be that you don’t currently have time to do that, as by the time you go to work, go to the gym, make meals at home, and spend time with your family, the hours in the day have been exhausted.  So maybe it means changes your priorities for a period of time, or maybe indefinitely, to allow for cost cutting.  Maybe you could lose the gym membership to both cut that category amount and allow for the cooking at home, allowing you time to work out with your spouse, kids, or a friend, after dinner.  Everyone’s different and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to budgeting.  Be creative.  You have to make the numbers work based on your values, priorities, and lifestyle.  Maybe you’ve cut all the proposed expenses you can and find that you’ll still be spending more than you make; time to look for extra income like a second job, or auctioning some of your possessions, or selling one of the items you own that you’ve financed, like a car or a home to alleviate the monthly payments.  No matter what your situation, there’s always options, some more palatable than others.

Start with a Budget - ParentUnplugged - Stacy Snyder
Once you’ve set up your budget of proposed spending, you then need to stick to it and track what you spend.  If you put $400 a month in your budget for groceries, then only spend $100 at the store each week.  Pick and choose your stores and purchases instead of shopping on demand.  Following your own financial recommendation is the key to success.  Track your daily expenses and tabulate your monthly expenses in each category.  Keep receipts, take pics of them, have them sent to you electronically, or keep a running tally in your head of what you’ve spent on what…it doesn’t matter how, just do something that makes sense for you.  Sounds dramatic?  It’s not.  Once you tabulate what you actually spend in a month, you will be shocked, as most of us don’t accurately depict our spending because we don’t have a handle on the facts.  Once you see what you spend, compare each month/quarter/or year what you spend to what you predicted and massage the numbers from there.

While budgeting helps me ensure my family’s financial security, which is hugely important, it also provides the bonus of giving me a reason to sit down and actually evaluate who I am and who I want to be.  How we spend our money tells a lot about us.  It shows me how I spend my time, how my family spends its time, what we hold near and dear, and what we’re teaching or not teaching our kids.  Sometimes I like what I see and I’m proud of our month or year.  Other times, I’m disappointed and ingest the data and use it to hone my priorities and passions, allowing me to refocus for the next year or period of time.  What does your budget or spending say about you?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Make Money and Save Money by Doing the Things You Love

Make Money by doing the things you love - Stacy Snyder - Parentunplugged
Before we get into the down and dirty money-saving concepts of what I call Living Large, I want to remind you of the basic concept, which is balancing the ideas of living comfortably within your means and whole-heartedly enjoying those things in life that are most important to you. 

My wife loves her job and truly “lives to work” in the service industry.  She’s been with the same company for almost fifteen years and never gets tired of a Potbelly Sandwich.  Conversely, for five years, I was simply “working to live” in real estate sales.  While schlepping anything from a house, a job opening, or even a date is in my bones, making it impossible for me NOT to make money in sales, I derived zero pleasure from the day to day work of a real estate agent, not even from the rockin’ financial payoff, except when I used it as a vehicle to pay down debt. 

I’ve always believed in the idea that if you love what you do, the money just naturally comes.  This is more of a soft approach than a hard-core job search for a specific position you love.  Basically it’s the mind-set that the more time you make for yourself to do the things you actually enjoy, even be it just as a hobby or project, the more opportunities you’ll come across to make money doing what you love.

Case in point:  a person who volunteers time to others to do the things he loves, such as teaching people how to do things, fixing broken stuff, preparing tax returns, teaching roller skating, baking sweet treats, heck, even writing, can often pick up paying job requests simply by showing up and doing what he does.  Experience shows over and over that people gravitate towards other people that are passionate about what they’re doing and will think of that guy first and reach out to him when another need arises.

By being a natural efficiency helper, i.e. I like to help people do things more easily and in the shortest amount of time possible, I’ve had job offers galore.  Yes I'm good at it, but the job offers come because I'm passionate about it and that rubs off on people.  Because I grew up in a hoarder household, I love to go through and purge stuff….my stuff, your stuff, it doesn’t matter…I just like to clear it.  In doing so, I’ve picked up gigs to clear and organize other people’s homes.  Take it a step further to note that because I’m also a long-time fan of garage sales, I’m a natural craigslister, ebayer, virtual garage-seller, and free-cycler.  Just by talking about selling and purging things, or sometimes just by chance that other people view my posts, I’m often asked to sell or clear other people’s stuff for a fee.  I don’t set out to necessarily make money doing these random things that I am passionate (or obsessive, depending on how you look at it) about, but it simply comes naturally, creating a new source of income.  Imagine what could happen if you actually set out with a business plan to market the things that you do or make well?  Could you supplement or even replace your current income?  Of course you could.

When I wanted out of the real estate industry so bad I couldn’t see straight, my gut instinct was to look for another high-paying gig, no matter what it was.  But instead, I happened upon a business opportunity with a jewelry company by a fluke.  I had met a friend for lunch and she was wearing a super cool black onyx ring.  I love unique pieces of jewelry.  I don’t wear a ton of bling, but when I do, I only rely on pieces that I absolutely adore.  When I asked my friend about the ring, she told that she had purchased it at a home jewelry party, and that she was so impressed with the rest of the jewelry that the company makes and the high profits from the sales, that she decided to start selling it herself to make some extra income.  She asked me if I wanted to have a party to help her out.  I one-upped her and not only said sure, but asked if I could sell it too, as I wanted a way to afford to buy jewelry!  By the end of that first party, my friend and I had sold tons of jewelry, earning her a big commission, earned loads of free jewelry for ourselves, and I had booked 6 future jewelry parties from my more-than-willing guests.  I had set out just to find a new black ring and ended up with a full-time salary from a part-time gig.  Again, I didn’t set out to consciously make money selling jewelry, but simply because I allowed myself to do what I enjoy, wearing jewelry, even though I couldn’t really afford to buy it, I created a new source of revenue.   

Additional sources of income can be generated on a much smaller scale too.  I LOVE to give my opinion on things – shocker.  So for the past 15 years, I’ve participated in Market Research Study groups, where my input actually gets heard by companies whose products I use in exchange for a financial payout, usually anywhere from $75 - $300 for a 1-2 hour study.  This is different than giving blood, plasma, or sperm for cash in college so you could go out to the bars that evening, which I also used to do.  No, what I’m suggesting is choosing only those opportunities that actually appeal to you, as you’ll not only enjoy what you’re doing, but make extra money at the same time.  Here’s a few of the market research groups in Chicago:
·         Matrix Research
·         Smith Research
·         FocusScope 

One final example of making money doing the things you love, and I have hundreds of them, is to be a beta tester.  I love new technology.  I love to hear about it, get people’s feedback on it, and of course, try it myself.  Over the years I’ve been a default beta tester for at least 25 new ventures, from deal-saving apps to baby product websites to accounting software.  Again, I really like to give my opinion on things, AND I use all sorts of technology, so it’s a good match.  Sometimes beta testers are granted compensation, in the form of money, products, or services.  It’s a great way to keep your mind fresh, help companies out by giving your input on usability, and to make money or save costs on something you’d buy anyway.  Want to get started?  Beta test a new app called Payyourselfie which doesn’t offer compensation for the actual testing, but because it is designed under an emerging app category of "apps that pay money," which is an idea in itself in making extra money, it pays its users simply for taking selfies.  Simply visit the website and request to beta test.   

You can also save money appreciating those things that bring you joy.  While Groupon, Living Social, and have been out there saving folks money for some time now by selling discounted products and services in exchange for consumers buying them in advance, a whole new line of apps that save you money are out there ripe for the pickin’.  Snap by Groupon is a new app that allows you to browse and choose grocery and household items from a list of products you plan on buying in the future.  You then buy the promoted items at any store (I always recommend ALDI for best savings), snap a photo of your receipt, and accumulate a cash balance in your snap account.  It works on repeated use, so you have to hit $20 in your account before you can request a payout.  Genius. It's available for free download.   
Saving Money doing the things you love - Stacy Snyder - Parentunplugged

Saving money can be as simple a concept as enjoying eating doughnuts and coffee.  By being a doughnut lover, you probably pay attention to a social media post about donuts or notice if your favorite doughnut shop is offering a special or has a job opening. While it’s on a much smaller scale, than say, a full-time job’s salary, getting free donuts and coffee for a week is truly not only sheer happiness for a doughnut fiend, but also a true savings.  If you eat breakfast and drink coffee every day, that could add up to $5/day or more, totally $25 in savings.  If you like that idea, steal it, as Glazed & Infused is actually offering a FREE cup of coffee and doughnut holes at each of its five locations to every customer this week through Monday, January 26th.  They’d love a little social love in return, but it’s not required. 

As parents, we often forget to take time to figure out what is currently important to each of us.  Sure we can all point to family and security and friends and maybe even work, but what about those ancillary things that you truly love like, playing or watching a sport, road-tripping, or feeling good about the impact you can make by giving your time to an organization or a person.  These are the things that get swept under the rug and often forgotten, yet these are the things that can bring you back to being true to yourself.  And if you’re out doing the things that you already love on a regular basis, one of the by-products can be making and saving money.  Live Large folks!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Living Large

ParentUnplugged - Stacy Snyder - Living Large
I love being a parent to my kids and sharing my insights on parenting issues through ParentUnplugged.  It wouldn’t have been possible for me to spend enough time with my own kids, though, to come up with my ideas on parenting, had my wife and I not made the unpopular decision to change the way we view money. 

Six years ago, we found ourselves stuck in a financial mindset we had never actually subscribed to, yet felt obliged to perpetuate, because that’s just what people in auto-pilot do in attempts to keep the plates spinning.  We were living in an affluent neighborhood with big houses, big cars, big spending appetites, and big debt.  From the outside we looked happy, and we were, to an extent.  We had family, friends, and enough material things to keep a small country afloat.  But that happiness could only go so far as we were buckling under the overwhelming debt we had unconsciously accumulated. 

Everyone has their own reasons for taking on more than they can handle, but in our case, we had lost 2 pregnancies and we simply stifled our grief by spending money or shit that didn’t matter.  You name it, we bought it:  possessions for ourselves, our child, and our pet, meals out, entertainment, trips, experiences, new cars, new hair, and even a $40K “investment property” that is worth about thirty-seven cents on the open market today. While we could afford to pay the piper for all of our purchases by utilizing payments on multiple revolving or installment credit lines, we were just skating by and not saving a dime.  We were actually building debt daily at an alarming rate. 

ParentUnplugged - Stacy Snyder - Living Large
Sensing potential disaster, I picked up a copy of Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover.  I read it cover to cover on a 2-hour flight and de-boarded the plane with a new lease on life.  The chapters didn’t offer any fancy tricks or specialized financial advice, but simply supported the main concept of the book, which is to spend less or make more to reach financial security.  More specifically, reducing debt, creating surplus, dismissing the use of credit, and most importantly, living only on the cash in your pocket. 

I set off on a new course immediately, and within a year’s time, we had paid off over 80% of our accumulated debt, abandoned my job and its six-figure income, which allowed me to stay home and raise my own kids.  For the past five years, my family has been enjoying a quality of life I didn’t really realize was possible, almost exclusively within a one wage-earner family model.  Creatively saving money and generating income is now engrained in my being, and I’ve spent so many hours sharing my ideas and experiences with friends on my couch and strangers in line at the store, that I decided it’s time to start incorporating it into my writing.  

I’m passionate about balancing the ideas of living comfortably within my means and whole-heartedly enjoying those things in life that are most important to me.  I call it Living Large.  I’ve developed quite a diverse playbook of how to pinch pennies without much effort and how to bring in extra money without really working.  So look out for my Living Large suggestions in upcoming posts, as well as your favorite parenting stories.  Thank you for your continued support via feedback, comments, and sharing my blog and its posts.