Giveaway: Financial Peace University

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On June 16, 2017 we made my last student loan payment EVER and became DEBT FREE (except for the house)! It was crazy. It still feels kinda crazy. Some things have MAJORLY changed, a lot of things haven’t, but the fact that we paid off $96k of debt, including my seemingly insurmountable mountain of private school loan debt kind of blows my mind.

It took us six years to do it, we both worked several jobs simultaneously, we cash flowed a lot of house projects and births of babies, but we did it. And we are totally normal people with normal people jobs!

The whole thing was Dave Ramsey’s idea. His Financial Peace University course changed everything for us. We were given the class as a gift when we got married and one week into our marriage we were sitting in class, making our budget together. It truly completely changed the trajectory of our lives. I am so thankful we had the opportunity to do the course and I am so excited to give the opportunity away to somebody else!

Here’s all the details from Uncle Dave’s website:

Your Financial Peace University membership includes:

  • Access to nine online video lessons, plus online tools, community and financial coaches
  • Subscription to EveryDollar Plus, our premium budgeting tool
  • Member workbook for all nine lessons
  • NEW! Dave Ramsey’s 6-lesson course, The Legacy Journey 
  • NEW! Smart Money Smart Kids 6-lesson course 

Take the course with a local group near you or online at home!

What is Financial Peace University?

Financial Peace University is a proven program that will show you how to master budgeting, save for emergencies, pay off debt, plan and invest for the future, and live and give like no one else. Start your membership and get everything you need to work the program: 

  • Transform how you handle money with courses taught by Dave Ramsey and his team of financial experts. 
  • Watch your progress skyrocket with our suite of digital tools and EveryDollar Plus.
  • Get answers to your specific money questions by one of our trusted financial coaches.
  • Stay motivated from others walking the same journey by joining a local, in-person group. 

Okay, so the giveaway!

TWO WAYS TO ENTER! 

  1. Share this blog post with a friend or family member. Comment on this post and tell me what you would do with your life if you were debt free and who you shared the post with! 

  2. Tag a friend on the Instagram post and in your comment tell me what you would do with your life if you were debt free! 

OFFICIAL RULES: Each individual can enter up to five times on each platform (a total of 10 entries). This giveaway is open worldwide and ends Tuesday, October 9th at 12:00PM Eastern Time. Giveaway is in no way affiliated with Instagram, WordPress or Dave Ramsey. Winner will be chosen randomly and announced on Wednesday, October 10th, 2018. 

Let the debt free times roll!

February Goal Type Things 2017


  • set up and start bullet journaling 
    • I have the most wonderful undated monthly/weekly/daily planner from Target that I discovered was a one time collaboration and it sent me spiraling into the depths of the internet to find a new one. I’m super duper not interested in paying more than $20 (even that’s more than I’d want to pay…) for something I will scribble on, spill coffee on and that potentially has features I do not need, care about or plan to use. Per the recommendation of my sweet friend Marie, I finally Googled some bullet journaling tutorials and that is TOTALLY how I already run my work flow/schedule– except I was using a pre-made undated planner. Amazing. I’m excited to try it, and am looking forward to having a central location for lists too. I have a running tab of lists in my phone and legal pads about and the idea of having them all in one place gets me so excited. I found a cheap-ish one on Amazon that will arrive tomorrow and now I just need a good black pen. Hit me with your favorites. 
  • start teaching round 2 of Financial Peace University
    • It’s starting February 19th! We’ve partnered with Elevation Raleigh to offer this course AGAIN with free childcare, coffee and no rush hour traffic. We will meet at Millbrook High School on Sundays during the 9:30 worship experience. The course runs for 9 weeks and you are free to come check it out without investing in the kit– it WILL change your life! Register here: https://fpu.com/1036068
  • go to Ikea (FINALLY YOU GUYS) 
    • I get paid on February 10th and we have quite an Ikea list. Several house projects are in the works and we are borrowing a mini-van and plan to fill ‘er up! Yippee! 
  • assemble king bed + move queen bed to the Big Boy Room + move crib into the Baby Girl Room! 
    • We’re playing musical beds! We’re getting a memory foam king bed (adulting, so much adulting) and our queen mattress is going in Lincoln’s room and his crib (now toddler bed) is getting moved into baby girl’s room. 
  • make a nesting to-do list and clean out, organize and start preparations for Baby Girl’s Room!
    • We’ve already gone through the clothes, downsized tremendously and have a ton of NB through 3mo stuff washed and ready, just need to get it in the room, put it all away and hang stuff on the walls. Post coming soon with inspiration for her room. EEEEEEP. 
  • complete Foto February Challenge
    • I came up with this photo challenge for the month just for funsies. I’ve only done one so far, and it’s really fun! And really challenging to let go of the pretty image ideal… jump in! There are no rules! 
  • finish reading Respect Dare
    • This book has been pivotal in this season of transition. We’re not quite newlyweds, we’re preparing to transition to two kids, we’ve been in our house for five years.. it’s an interesting place to be and this book has provided such a shift in perspective for me. It is cheesy at times and the lil’ feminist in me sometimes screams and wants to stop reading it, but I’m finding it important that I challenge my thinking on all front and see things from other perspectives.  I’m slated to finish it in the next two weeks (I’m a bit behind) and there are already quite a few “dares” that I haven’t really done full out and I’d like to do again. Perhaps this fall will be a good time to do that, I think! Regardless, I totally recommend it if you’re looking for some guidance in approaching marriage biblically. Men speak respect, women speak love and it’s a really great combination of these ideas with some practical tips, “dares” and reflections. A great “quiet time” piece and has sparked some wonderful conversations between Marshall and I. Highly recommend! 
  • maintain existing + continue developing good habits
    • I’ve upgraded my water bottle to a 1L and am drinking 2-3 liters a day. Want to keep that up! 
    • I’ve been getting up early to work in the mornings and it has been a game changer for my stress level! Finding such peace and joy working in the wee hours of 5 and 6am. I don’t even know who I am anymore…
    • I lowered my step goal to 6k a day, and some days it’s easy to hit and surpass, others not so much. Get back to walking every day and yoga 1x a week once I hit 30 weeks. 
  • enjoy at least one Lincoln + Mama day each week
    • I’m getting all nostalgic about only having ~13ish weeks left of this pregnancy, and the transition to 2 YEARS OLD hasn’t been too bad, but there are definitely a few more tantrums than there used to be. It’s getting more difficult to wrangle him in public when he decides to not obey, BUT– it’s worth it. We’ve been going to Marbles a lot, would like to maybe go to Pullen Park and ride the train one day, go get special donuts at Levant… and also, would like to document one of these with my big camera. 

Lessons Learned in Dating (While Married As Parents With No Money)

We’ve never really been big daters. We’re both somewhat homebodies and find looking for a parking spot to be a “hassle” (Marshall’s catch phrase), so given the choice in going somewhere or sitting at home, we mostly choose to sit at home. A movie on Netflix and a snack, and we are good to go.

The first couple of months of parenting held so much sitting at home, and once I was working from home I really needed to get out of the house and dress up (read: wear something besides leggings) every once in a while. That’s never really been something I enjoyed before, but now I love an excuse to wear a dress and big earrings and go outside. So, to all you childless couples out there, there is something you should know: every night is date night. Savor. 

Currently we are in the final stretch ($14k left!) of our debt free journey. I’m so motivated, I don’t want to spend money on anyone or anything, but I also need some time away from my precious son, dogs and messy house in order to maintain my sanity and be a nice person. Here are some lessons I’ve learned so far in our adventure in married dating as parents with no money.

We had to secure free (or cheap) childcare.
We’ve only but dabbled in the whole getting a babysitter scene, but just for the record, finding a good, dependable, polite, direction following babysitter is hard. We’ve capitalized on all the family members that want to spend time with Lincoln, grandparents, aunts, uncles and it’s been great! If we do pay them, it is not as much as we would a regular babysitter or most of the time they’ll do it for free. The best thing we’ve done so far is The Babysitting Swap with our close friends. We essentially trade nights of babysitting so it is totally free and amazing. Be sure to read that post for how to get your own swap started!

We had to plan ahead and plan on it. 
Mostly because of scheduling our babysitting swap we had to sit down at the end of each month and pick our two date nights. This has served us so well, in that we can plan financially (like, not blow all our restaurant money before date nights come and also we try to schedule them around celebrations (like, pay day! or big student loan payments! or completion of a work project!). There’s also no rescheduling (unless there’s like a legit reason to, like puke or blood). The date is precious and is scheduled– we go.

I had to adjust my expectations.

When Lincoln was first born, we were able to get out once for an open house at school and went on our first baby-free date afterwards. It was kind of terrible. We literally went to open house, sat silently at a random restaurant and inhaled our food (we were used to eating quickly because babies always cry when dinner is hot…) and then we sat silently in the car on the way home while I pumped and played on my phone. I think I was expecting some magical romantic evening, and I think the reality was we were both just trying to get out of the house alone and alive. Slowly, I started to realize that it was really quality time with Marshall that I wanted, not the thing that we did together. And then it started getting awesome. 
We had to be creative. 
When we started the babysitting swap, we’d go for the traditional dinner and a movie thing (and sometimes if time permitted we’d go walk around Target or some place afterwards to talk or shop), but after a few date nights at the end of the month when the budget for restaurants and fun money was depleted we had to get creative and find things to do that didn’t cost money, or if it did, very little money. Here are some of our most favorite date activities:
  • Shopkick. We will drive all over town to collect all the Shopkicks so I can get a free Starbucks card. I’ve tried to talk Marshall into downloading the app so he can get himself giftcards but he is not interested. With our occasional Shopkick binge hunt, I pretty much earn $10 in Starbucks money a month. This can mean walking around the mall, an outdoor shopping center or just driving really close to stores. We love to drive around and talk, listen to podcasts, or the Hamilton soundtrack (ok, that just happened once, but we loved it). Sure, gas costs money, but we aren’t driving to another town, just to the shopping centers within 20 minutes of our house. 
  • Walk around. This can be a companion activity to Shopkick (or, uh, Pokemon Go, but we aren’t that nerdy…) but once we went downtown for dinner and an outdoor movie night, and the movie was cancelled so we just wandered around downtown for a couple of hours. We read all the notes on the memorials near the capital, and if you are out earlier in the day both museums in downtown are free and would make a great date spot. It is also fun if you’re the Fit Bit type and are trying to meet your goal/beat each other. 
  • The grocery store. Pre-baby, we used to grocery shop together and it was my favorite. I don’t know that Marshall enjoyed it as much as me, but it was just one of those fun activities that we started doing when we got married and I never got over the novelty of it. I think now he likes coming home to finding the fridges stocked (I mean, who wouldn’t?), but to me there was always something really fun about going together and getting our groceries. So fun. One of the first times his parents came over to watch Lincoln we snuck away to Aldi and Lowe’s Food and it was my favorite! It was so fun to be out just the two of us midday and it didn’t cost anything extra since we had already budgeted for groceries. Later on, one of our babysitting swap nights we were out of money for the month (the risk of scheduling a date night the last week of the month) and we ate before the babysitter came and just went to Aldi (and impulse bought a new trashcan). 
  • Budgeted gift shopping for us. One of my favorite dates ever was when we went to Bed Bath and Beyond to get a food processor. It was our Valentine’s date. We decided that instead of buying gifts for each other (although, I think I still got flowers because #doublestandard) we would splurge on a new food processor and we went to buy it together. We ended up not getting it that night because they were out of stock. That is a tradition we will continue for sure, it was so nice to have the pressure off for a gift giving holiday and be able to spend money on something we both really wanted. 
  • Events at church. Yep, I call these dates. Part of what makes a date great for me is being off the hook of mom stuff, and totally present in whatever activity we’re doing. In the past year we’ve gotten really involved with serving at our church here in Raleigh, and they do monthly meetings for the creative teams. They typically have a speaker and a short message then we do breakout sessions for whatever team we are on. We’ll do dinner before, or while we are there or go do something afterwards just the two of us (like, picking up bananas at Target). Most of the time we end up staying as late as possible because we really love to be there and to hang out with the people we serve with, but it’s so fun to get away together to focus on something we both enjoy! 
  • There is not a gift card not good enough. Last year for Christmas we asked for iMax gift cards (our favorite date of all time– so pricy though!) and any chance we have to get a gift card to virtually any place, we’ll take it. It’s tricky eating out sometimes and avoiding dairy/grains, but at most places I’ll get a salad or a gluten free option of something and it’s all good. The most recent gift card awesomeness was finally redeeming a $25 gift card for Regal Cinemas from Ibotta. It took a few months, but it was SO awesome to go to a real movie for free! I used to be picky about restaurants (and I always prefer to go someplace that isn’t a chain), but if it’s free, it’s food. And it’s filling when you don’t have to share with a toddler. 
So there’s you have it, how we date these days. My hope is after our debt is paid off we can increase our date budget a bit and eat at some cool restaurants downtown (this would involve me driving and parking, as to make it as hassle free as possible…) but in the meantime, Shopkick it is! 
How do you date on the cheap? 

The Babysitting Swap

Snaps from our last date night. So GREAT. 

About a year ago, we were close to celebrating our 4th year of marriage (+6 years of dating prior) and finally had implemented a bedtime for Lincoln, who was about 7 months old. We started getting really consistent about putting him to bed at 7pm and it was a game-changer for our marriage. Becoming parents and resuming our normal work duties had been challenging and really hard on our marriage and even though we saw each other a lot, we hadn’t really connected in months or had conversations about things that weren’t baby, family, work or house related. Once we had a guaranteed bedtime for him, suddenly we found ourselves with time in the evening to, like, talk!

While we enjoyed being able to hang out in the evenings, going out on an actual date seemed hilarious and far-fetched. One time we actually did have to go to an open house for school, we arranged to have my sister babysit and we made an evening of it and went to dinner and I just remember being really disappointed. So much effort, and so much expectation and months building up to this date and all we did was sit in silence while we inhaled our food and then drove home and I played on my phone while I pumped. Not so magical.

Enter: The Babysitting Swap.

It was suggested by one of my best friends, Sarah. A little background: I prayed for a family to babysit for back in 2006 when I was about to move to Raleigh for college and I was the first to respond to an email to my then-bible study leader and I landed the job babysitting Cole, who was 2 years old then and she was pregnant with Adison. Fastforward 10 years, I lived with them one summer, Cole and Adison were in our wedding and they are the only people I’ve let keep Lincoln overnight (more than once). They are family! 

So the deal we came up with was one night of babysitting for one night of babysitting. She comes over and watches Lincoln on our agreed upon date night, I go over and watch Cole & Adison on their’s. It’s a win win win! We get a guaranteed date night AND (and!) Sarah and I both get a night solo once kids are in bed. I think our arrangement works the best because our kids are different ages. She enjoys the toddler shenanigans and snuggles, and I enjoy that her kids prepare and feed themselves dinner and can put themselves to bed without little to no supervision. And the THIRD win, you can spend more on the actual date night experience because you don’t have to budget $50+ for a babysitter. Not to mention, we’ve known each other forever and there’s no pressure to have a clean house, or leave detailed directions, or anything. We legit just leave when she gets there and it’s the best.

We do ours 6-10pm (mostly because I can’t really imagine being up much later than 10 most nights) but some people do later so the babysitter doesn’t have to do bedtime, but for me part of the magic of date night and being “off the hook” so to speak, is not having to trick the little one into surrendering all the fun he’s having being awake into sleepy time.

We’ve recently taken it up a notch and gone to two date nights a month which has been so wonderful. We often use one of ours for a church event so we don’t have to worry about bringing Lincoln past bedtime and then the other for just a good old fashioned date night where we can unplug and just hang out together.

As for what we do on the dates is another post, because we are spending as little money as possible these days on anything that isn’t debt and our idea of a date may not exactly be the most common interpretation. Being able to schedule them out at the end of the month for the next month really allows you to plan and budget for some fun activities, and takes the pressure off to super connect during the normal busy weeks. Obviously we talk every day and invest in each other, but we allow ourselves to be busy and work and give our full attention to work/home/Lincoln because we know date night is coming and we’ll have a chance to really give our whole attention to each other and be fully present.

All in all, The Babysitting Swap is where it’s at! Here’s a starting point:

  1. Find a family you are comfortable leaving your kid(s) with and vice versa. Kids don’t have to be the same age, it may actually be fun to bring big kids to play with little ones or if one parent will be babysitting, it is a nice change to help bigger kids get ready for bed if the parent has a smaller child at home. 
  2. Lay out expectations, times, dates, frequency, etc. It would even be a good idea to get these things in writing, perhaps a follow up email after a face to face conversation that way there’s a place to reference and everyone is on the same page (looking at you, dads. This is for you too!). It’s great to nail down these things at the beginning (and be super thorough) so that there are no surprises or weird feelings later on. Sometimes babysitting friends’ kids can be awkward, but not if you nail down details out in the open! Things to think about:
    • What time of day will the swap happen? How long of a period of time?
    • Will it be when kids are asleep? Will the caregiver need to put kids to bed?
    • Will a meal be provided for the caregiver? 
    • Are there any parenting preferences in regards to food, screen time, books, etc?
    • Will the kids be awake during the swap time? Will both parents be caregivers and the kids play together, or will one parent babysit while the other stays at home? 
  3. Plan ahead! Pick dates month-to-month that work for you, or decide that Couple A gets to date the 1st Thursday of the month and Couple B gets to date the 3rd Thursday of the month. And plan on it. Fight for it. Make it happen. Say no to other things because YOU HAVE A DATE. 
  4. ENJOY ALL THE DATES AND FREE BABYSITTING! 

April Goals


How is it possibly April already?! March was exciting. I aspired to eat more vegetables, which I was successful at most days. Some days, I still ate vegetables but I also ate other things…. Marshall was tracked out from work, so we played hard. He doesn’t really get a summer break since that is his busy time with work, so spring break was our time to play and spend time together and it was so wonderful. Especially celebrating Easter right in the middle of it, total icing on the cake. 

Probably the most exciting thing in March was that we paid off my bottom Sallie Mae loan. There is one more left that is now resting at right at $5k. That is totally insane! All that remains is my Federal Loan which is a little less than $19k. Barring any major job changes, or any major expenses (like a car dying) we are on track to have the rest of my student loans paid off by January. Which is just surreal! And so exciting! And a little bit scary!? 

Goals for April:

  • Blog Emily’s baby shower (check out photos from my friend Amy, here)
  • Finish New Order: A Decluttering Handbook for Creative Folks (and Everyone Else)
  • Re-read Boundaries as part of the Nancy Ray Book Club
  • Blog Lincoln’s First Fiesta
  • Blog “everyday” photos from March
  • 10pm bedtime and 6am wake up Monday through Friday.
  • Go to outdoor yoga every Saturday in April. 
  • Walk every day that it is not raining / weekly Fit Bit challenge with friends. 
  • Celebrate Marshall’s 28th birthday!
  • Rest on Sundays. No work, just church and family time. 
Happy April! 

March Goals

Hellooooooo March! I can’t lie, I am overjoyed to see that February has passed. Fingers crossed we are done with winter weather and moving on towards greater things (like, I don’t know…. SUMMER?!). February was great! I did a pretty terrible job of my goals overall, but I’ve seen the areas that need improvement and I have a plan. And in the words of Lara Casey who spoke to me yesterday through her book: Progress– not perfection. And I’ve made some progress. Some.

February Goals:

  • Check Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter only once a day. I really, really did a terrible job at this. I’m pretty sure there’s some science out there about abstaining from something and then bingeing on that thing…and that’s pretty much what happened. I started checking social media more. Anyway, I’ve decided to check it morning and night, and keep it off during my work day when I go upstairs to work. Logging out and everything. 
  • Post daily on Instagram an iPhone pic of the “ordinary” for my #chaney366 project. It was bound to happen, but I missed a day: February 28th. Womp. I decided to post twice on leap day (the whole point of the #366 thing, too!) but it’s all good. I’m loving this. Totally doing this every year from here on out. I am finding it so hard to pick one picture for the day though! I am constantly torn between a Lincoln pic and a just-because pic. 
  • Finish work before Marshall gets home so we can relax after dinner once Lincoln goes to bed.  This did not happen most days, although it happened some days. We were transitioning to a new babysitter this month so I didn’t have any help for the month of February which basically meant I started my week behind. The new babysitter started yesterday (and she is wonderful!) and I have high hopes for the month of March. It all boils down to being more disciplined and not resting or procrasti-cleaning when L is napping. 
  • Get in bed by 10pm (at the latest).  This happened some. Cracking down this month! Sleep is EVERYTHING. 
  • Go to the dentist. This happened and it was terrible. Marshall went too and we both have cavities and will be going back again before our 6 month check this summer. So much adulting.
  • Blog my personal “every day” pictures from January! Check! 
  • Blog Lincoln’s first Christmas and birthday. Didn’t blog his birthday yet, but I will in March!
  • Move our personal photos on to my Smug Mug page from Lincoln’s first year and my pregnancy. Smug Mug is changing my life! A post all about it will follow. 
  • Savor this season of “long days” and “short years”.   Wondering if I jinxed myself into the no-babysitter situation with this goal, because MAN days are long when you’re constantly back-and-forth momming and teachering. Cutting back on social media has really allowed me to really take-in the everyday moments that I usually miss when I’m scrolling through Instagram. Appreciating that. 
  • Celebrate my nephews turning 2 and 4! 
  • Go to at least one free yoga class at Grow The Boutique. 
  • Start a new book.  Started and Finished “Make it Happen” by Lara Casey! A good quick read, although in this current season I feel pretty content. I think it will be good for me to re-read in a couple of years when we are out of debt with older kids and I’m looking for new direction. I feel pretty confident and content in where I am and my purpose these days. 
Goals for March:
  • Host a baby shower for my sweet friend Emily! She’s expecting a little girl this summer and I am so excited!
  • Be going to bed consistently at 10pm and waking up at 6am by the end of the month. Transition by getting up a little bit earlier each day until I reach the goal. I have discovered the bliss of having time to fix myself breakfast before little people get up and demand things. 
  • Host and participate in the #moreveggiesinmarch challenge on social media! More about that here: http://www.wearehandpicked.com/2016/02/more-veggies-in-march-challenge-giveaway.html. I’m shooting for 5 servings a day! Tomorrow is grocery day, so pickings are kind of slim around here… I’ll probably be eating 5 salads.
  • Read (Un)Qualified by Pastor Steven Furtick. 
  • Read New Order: A Decluttering Handbook for Creative Folks (and Everyone Else). (Two books in one month is VERY ambitious!).
  • Blog Lincoln’s First Fiesta.
  • Blog “everyday photos” from March.
  • Go to “The Most Excellent Way to Lead” conference at Newspring Church in SC!
  • Go for a walk every day that it is not raining. 
  • Pay off the bottom Sallie Mae loan.
Happy March-ing! 

Friday Favorites: Podcasts

Back when I worked outside the home I had a 45 minute commute both ways (for both jobs– ugh! Never again, my friends. Never. Again.) and I got into a good routine of listening to talk radio and then one day, out of nowhere, I discovered the Podcasts app on my phone. Now working from home I still listen to podcasts a lot throughout the day, while I’m working or cooking or playing with Lincoln. I always seem to focus better with something going on in the background. So, here’s the round up. There’s probably nothing new here that you haven’t heard of already, but I like them!

Serial: Pretty much everybody and their mama has heard about Serial at this point, but if for some reason you haven’t this is a must! The first season outlined the case of Adnan Syed in the murder of Hae Min Lee. Overall, a captivating story (although the finale was quite disappointing). Season 2 is in progress now and Sarah Koenig tells the story of Bowe Bergdahl.

Undisclosed: An unintended sequel to the first season of Serial. Rabia Chaudry, Colin Miller and Susan Simpson are lawyers and analyze the case and evidence (or lack thereof…) of Hae Min Lee’s murder. Totally captivating and gives you a little more in depth look at what Sarah Koenig started with Serial. Definitely worth a listen!

Your Move with Andy Stanley: Andy is the pastor of Northpoint Church in Atlanta, and these are the meat of his sermons cut down to ~30 minutes. In the Meantime was one of the best sermon series I have ever heard! It helped me through a really tough time this summer. I highly recommend, Andy is one of the greatest teachers of our time!

Elevation Church: Sermons are posted weekly, Monday around lunchtime from the previous weekend. I think there is a video podcast option, too, but I just like audio. Since I’ve been serving at church I usually miss the entire sermon so I always listen when it is posted. Lately they’ve been SO thought provoking I’ll listen more than once, especially before I meet with my bible study on Fridays so it is fresh. Love having this at my fingertips! The library goes back several years so pretty much any series is accessible.

Happier with Gretchen Rubin: I look forward to this podcast every single week. Gretchen and her sister, Elizabeth host this podcast. Gretchen is an author living in NYC and her sister is a TV producer that lives in LA. Occasionally they record together if they are visiting each other and they are a hoot. Basically they divulge tips for a “happier” life and each week have a “try this at home” challenge, award gold stars, demerits and drop many Friends and Harry Potter references. It’s not long and always makes me giggle.

The Paleo View: This is hosted by bloggers Stacy Toth and Sarah Ballantyne, who both blog about the paleo diet and lifestyle. The podcast is fascinating! They’ll pick a topic to discuss with their personal experience and then Sarah will go in depth into the science of it. I got hooked when they hosted Danielle Walker (my most favorite paleo cookbook person ever) and talked pregnancy and breastfeeding. This podcast is fun to listen to and you will leave knowing a lot more about food and your body.

Paleo Baby: The cover image of this podcast screams “amateur” (I totally judge podcasts by their covers), but the content is on point. This podcast talks a lot about the paleo lifestyle during pregnancy and postpartum. It still seems to be relatively new, but I’ve really enjoyed listening to it. They hit some great topics and have a lot of anecdotal discussion coupled with “the science”.

Semi-related: You should totally be using the (free) Overcast podcast app! Streaming and
downloading are seamless AND you can make playlists. It’s my favorite!

Usually by Wednesday I’ve listened to everything new for the week and am always on the hunt for something new to listen to. What are your favorites? Let me know in the comments!

Rebekah | portraits

Let me start by saying that I graduated from college with some really wonderful ladies. My four years at Meredith College are definitely among the greatest of my life so far, and that is mostly in part to just being around and learning with and from an amazing group of women, then, as students and now as alumnae.

I go back and forth with how I feel about my undergraduate education. I had little to no knowledge about student loans or that there was a difference in paying for a private or public education. Now, as a parent I will definitely encourage my children to do the community college to public university ‘pay as you go’ route. As we continue on our debt-free journey I truly hope though that we are out of debt and able to save so that someday if we have a daughter we can afford to send her to Meredith. It is such an amazing place to learn and I have some of the best friendships because of it!

It was actually while catching up with Bekah that I shared with her how grateful I am for the unique education I received at Meredith, and that even though I was unwise in going into debt to become a teacher, God has used connections I made while I was there to get me some really great jobs to help me pay it off. He’s so good like that, doing big things in those details and using decisions we make for good. All Romans 8:28-ey and stuff.

I think I met Bekah through Cornhuskin’, but as any small college is, we ran in the same circles friend-wise. We reconnected (not that we really disconnected thanks to social media!) at our 5 year reunion a few weeks ago and decided to do some anniversary pictures this fall for her and her husband. She emailed a few weeks ago needing some updated personal photos for a project for grad school so Lincoln and I met her one afternoon to grab some quick shots. She is so lovely inside and out!

Thanks for having me, Bekah!

On Babies, Debt & Big Dreams

It’s been about a year since I got pregnant. This spring weather has me feeling so nostalgic for those few weeks where I was pregnant and totally (shall I say, blissfully?) unaware. Every day I can’t wait to read my little Timehop app and see what I was doing and it just makes me giggle. Sweet Kellie. No idea about the little person in her belly just growing away. Drinking so much coffee because she was so sleepy. Oh, the giggles. 

Finding out we were expecting a baby was a total surprise, and –in total honesty– a little bittersweet. We had just paid of the second of five of my Sallie Mae loans after paying off all of Marshall’s. We were in the home stretch of our snowball (or as Marshall saw it, more like a giant ice mountain) and I was working face to face teaching elementary school Spanish. I switched to this job from teaching high school for several reasons: less planning required since I was teaching essentially 6 lessons a week (instead of 15), less grading (okay, no grading) and no extra duties other than the occasional open house. The switch made it possible for me to use my nights and weekends to work extra jobs online to add income to our debt snowball. 

Marshall had been the driving force  (In Dave Ramsey speak: The Nerd) behind our debt-getting-out-of-palooza and he, understandably, had lost some steam after two years, paying off his car, his loans, cash flowing a ton of house projects and the down payment on a house. It was like we had worked and pinched for so long and then turned a corner to see a mountain. It was discouraging. Paying off that second little Sallie Mae loan though, was just what I needed to pick up where he left off and I was SO motivated! We literally stayed up until 3am one night in early April just talking about life and we decided that we would definitely wait to be out of debt before having kids and then, we may even try to adopt first. Decided. Done. Cool. We were powering through the next two years to pay it off, a time investment now for a future of our dreams. 

Fastforward a few weeks, and that pregnancy test took all advertised three minutes to flash “pregnant” and our plans changed. The debt snowball came to a halt and that money was thrown into savings and spent on baby things. We needed to replace the flooring to make our upstairs livable for a tiny crawling human. We needed to stockpile cash for labor and delivery costs and got the rest of the stuff off of our baby registry that we didn’t get from showers and hand-me-downs. I savored every second of my pregnancy, from the onset of first-trimester nausea, baby kicks and rolls in the middle, all the way to my swollen feet at the end. I was just filled with so much joy as we made the transition slowly from newly married to becoming a family of three. Yet, as I watched our savings grow to a number I had never seen before in a bank account that carried my name (I am ‘The Free Spirit’ of our family) I felt a twinge of remorse and starting wondering “what if”. What if we had made just one decision differently, what would our financial situation be like? Would we be out of debt even sooner? This of course prompted an onset of undeniable “mommy guilt” which I’ll save for another day…

So, now. Lincoln is here, four months old, healthy and sweet as can be. I remember putting him in his crib one of those first few weeks and looking at him, so teeny and tiny in that big boy crib. All of a sudden it was like my whole life was staring me in the face. I felt a little nudge that seemed to say: this is it. This is where it counts. I had heard people say that they didn’t remember life before their kids and at the time I could not fathom such a feeling. But now, with my new perspective, I totally get it. 
For me, it is not that I don’t remember life before (although at times I truly wonder if sleeping all night really was a thing I did for twenty seven years) but it is more like that previous life was a practice run. The stakes are so much higher now. I want every minute to count for something. I want every second to be filled with joy. I don’t want to spend my days working, working, working, just to get a paycheck just to pay my bills. I want a life.

Whereas before, I really believed our life was changed for the inconvenient, I see now that it is so much better. I now find myself dreaming with a fervor like never before. This is it. This is my life. Time passing was just dates on a calendar before, but this growing, thriving little babe is my daily reminder that time is indeed passing. Every new trick he shows me, holding his head up, rolling over, smiling, getting stuck in his crib– is time flying by! God has given me so much in this little babe, so much perspective.


The last four months have been wonderful. They’ve been difficult. They’ve been exhausting. But I wouldn’t have changed a second. I think the hardest part (besides the sleep deprivation) is just the whole transitional thing, and not really knowing what to expect. I am leaving my face to face job to teach online full-time so I can be at home with Lincoln. This is amazing. I feel so grateful to be able to work from home. Making this change throws us into some uncertainty in terms of income and cashflow, as most job changes do, and my motivation to get out of debt is stronger than ever. Since meeting Lincoln, I have been daydreaming day after day, wondering how I could bring in extra income to get this thing done. 

This brings me back to photography. I love photography. My parents got me a little Kodak film camera for Christmas when I was 8 years old I spent all of Christmas day blowing through the rolls of film they gave me. I set up different backdrops with my American Girl Dolls and took pictures of them. I could not wait to get those pictures developed! I loved a summer camp, or birthday party or family vacation that meant getting a disposable camera to take with us! And now in the digital age where number of pictures doesn’t matter? Even better! There is just something so special about life being captured in photos. I remember getting our wedding pictures back from Nancy Ray and just being in tears, reliving our sweet wedding day. Even now, I can go back and flip through our wedding album and I just feel the jitters and anticipation leading up to the moment of walking down the aisle to my now husband. I can feel the sweet breeze on my face and the nerves in my belly that made it impossible for us to eat anything. I feel the complete and utter joy of having our closest friends and family all in one place, celebrating our love. 
Now, having Lincoln and the whirlwind that was his labor and delivery (that seemed an eternity long) I am so grateful my sister was able to be there to take some pictures of the first few minutes of his life. The look on Marshall’s face while holding his son for the first time. Our first few minutes as a family of three. These images represent the biggest or happiest seconds of our life that I want to live in forever. I want to save these moments for others. I want to give them images of their happiest minutes that they can look at and savor forever. 


So, photography. I’ve tried to start a “business” before. I’ve tried having websites before. I’ve tried before. I tried to be bigger than I was ready to be. I’ve tried to be like other photographers. This time is so different. This is about being genuine. Being myself. Doing things right. Doing things slowly. Being honest in business and with myself. Doing what fires me up.  Taking pictures. Blogging. Creating. Writing. Being a photographer. I am a photographer. 

Dreaming these dreams and taking the steps to make them a reality, I just think about little new Lincoln in his crib. I want him to be proud of his mama. I want him, at my age, to look at me and my life and see that I spent my days doing something that mattered, not only to me, but to others. I want him to see that it is possible to take a dream and make it real with discipline and wisdom. I want him to see that I took a chance, and maybe I didn’t get it right the first time, but I learned, and changed and grew. I want him to know that there is nothing between him and making whatever fires him up a reality but creativity, hard work and patience. I want him to know that life is about being true to yourself, honest, genuine and hardworking. 
So, photography details are forthcoming. There will be a post outlining all the goodies that are in the works– giveaways, collaborations and more! I am so excited for all of it. Once released, details and pricing will live at the top of this page under that little ‘Photography’ tab. I am so excited. Did I say I was excited? I am excited. So thrilled to grow this little space of mine. I have so many talented and creative friends that are going to be a part of this and I am positively giddy.

Dream big, today! 

2015 Goals: Financial Freedom | Debt Update + Every Dollar

You guys. One of my goals for 2015 was to pay off the smallest Sallie Mae loan and we did. Last week. It was a happy, happy day! While there are still two to go, totaling at about $17k, I see it. A teeny tiny light at the end of this tunnel.

Sallie Mae has tried to disguise herself by going by a new name, Navient, but we know who she is. You’re not fooling anyone, lady. The bottom one was the one paid off last year around this time, but the one up top with the ZERO balance, that is last week’s little victory.

There’s a big post coming soon about Babies and Big Dreams, but basically, I saw having a surprise baby now as financial suicide. I truly did. Once we got over the initial shock of the whole life-altering news thing, I may have shed a tear or two as we started throwing all our Debt Snowball money into savings. This was the best, and Dave Ramsey approved, solution, and I am glad we did, but after taking a year off and now having a little teeny human to raise, I am more motivated than EVER to finish paying off these loans.

In an interesting turn of events, after much speculation about whether or not we could live off of my husband’s modest income (we work at a school) we actually have to right now because of the whole maternity leave situation. I opted to split my FMLA so I did 8 full weeks off and then am doing 8 weeks of half days (read: half a paycheck) which was a GREAT IDEA. (Moms-to-be: take note. If you are like me and like to ease into major life transitions, this is the way to go. You do not have to take your leave all at once, look up the legislation! Anywho, that’s another post for later.) Because of the circumstances and that we are pinching all our pennies, it would seem that, should things go according to plan (ha) we’ll be able to eat a lot of rice & beans, pay our monthly expenses with hubs’ income and as long as I make enough teaching online to cover the minimum payments, we’ll be alright. Even better should I bring in more than minimum payments, that means paying them OFF. If you know me at all, you know that I am not afraid of a little work. I’ll be bringing in more. I would much rather be a distracted work-all-the-time-mom now while Lincoln is teeny tiny than later when he can walk and talk and make jokes and memories…

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So, enter Every Dollar. We’ve used the cash envelope system. We’ve used YNAB (You Need a Budget). We’ve used Mint. We’ve used a combination of all three. Marshall’s brain works well with any of these. My brain does not. I understood my role in YNAB and Mint where I was supposed to put my transactions in all the time…and often I forgot. Cash envelopes were good for me, I am a hands-on kind of person, so the visual of “there’s no more money in here” was good for me, but often I had no idea where or what I had spent my cash on. I, really, really, really like Every Dollar.

In our Dave Ramsey relationship, I am the free spirit and Marshall is the nerd. He makes the complicated spreadsheets that I don’t understand and then explains them to me. He pinches all his pennies, and I roll mine, cash them out for dollars and spend them. I was able to make our budget with Every Dollar in like, less than an hour. After talking to him I was able to quickly make changes to reflect it, and we’ve probably edited it 25 times since originally creating it, but oh my goodness. It was easy as pie to crunch numbers in there… what if I add here, take away here, etc. etc. and realize that it was possible for us to pay everything off of his income if we were just really intentional about giving every dollar (see what I did there?) a job.

But here’s the thing, it really is, as Uncle Dave says, about behavior. As I noted above, I would forget to enter in transactions. When we had cash envelopes I would forget to save the receipt and write it on the envelope. When Mint loaded my transaction FOR ME I would forget to categorize it all together. I am all about doing it later. You can put transactions in, the amount and merchant and then categorize it later. It just puts a little circle with the number of transactions that need your attention at the bottom, when you touch it they show more information and then you drag and drop to the appropriate category. What a little game changing detail. In YNAB if you didn’t categorize it, it just went into outer space and in Mint it had already categorized it for you, so it didn’t matter. And well, the cash was just gone.

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You have to create the budget on the website and must modify it there, but the companion iPhone app is solid. For those of you that insist on having an Android device you’ll get a version soon. Overall, I give this budget system two thumbs way, way up! For version 1.0, it is pretty great. Can’t wait to see what changes they make!
So there’s our debt free update, we’ve got a few more months of “just making” it ahead before I am actually bringing in any sort of real income to make a big dent, but I am making preparations! Anybody else on their debt free journey? We are 4 years and counting. I am finding that the most motivating thing at this point is listening to the podcasts and the debt free screams. So many people just changing their family trees every single day. My new commute routine may or may not be practicing what I will say in a few years when we finally get to do ours. In my hypothetical scream we have also paid off our house and Dave tells us we are “so weird”. Pretty sure my obsession with Uncle Dave, my hypothetical scream and his podcast is, in fact, pretty weird. What is motivating you on your debt free journey?