There is something about a new year that brings about a renewed sense of vigor.

In 2018 my husband and I finally paid off ALL the debt. It’s gone. BYE BYE!

We have all of these goals we’re trying to tackle with our house. Vacations. Our children. (I’ve had 2 since the last time I posted in this blog!)

The past 3 months have been an awakening for me in who I want to be. How I want to live my life. And I feel like instead of wishing I’m finally developing the skills to create my new reality.

But I actually had those skills all this time – this blog is evidence of it. Small Steps for Big Change.

I started applying small steps to my life. Creating new habits. Forming a new me by changing my routines.

Here is what I’m doing

  • Eating a protein rich breakfast
  • Making sure every meal has fruit or vegetables in it – every one
  • Being active (within the constraints of my body) at least 3 times a week
  • Spend 5 minutes picking up my house each day
  • Wipe down the kitchen counters and table each day
  • Sweep the floor each day
  • Empty the dishwasher each day (and fill it again)

Here are the plans for my future

  • Spend time listening to my bodies satiety clues
  • Pick up my office before I leave each day
  • Learn to keep the TV off and instead turn to books, board games, and conversations as a method to unwind
  • Plan a date with each of my children (individually) every month
  • Plan a date with my husband every month
  • Add journaling and gratitude to my daily routine (there is a reason I’ve come back to this blog, and it isn’t about money)


ImageWell, the wedding day has come and gone. It was an absolutely wonderful day. We had a small ceremony in the morning with our family and close friends, we had about 30 people at the wedding all together. It was held in my in-laws living room and my father married Mr Woodpecker and myself.

After the morning ceremony there was a lot of hanging around and chatting and drinking mimosas and eating finger foods. It was a lot of fun.

After the ceremony and mini-reception Mr Woodpecker and I received the BEST possible gift. I fear to tell you because a quick internet search would then completely remove all anonymity. So I’m going to keep it silent, but suffice to say it was so awesome we were featured on two local news stations and many national news organizations. That’s how awesome it was.

We then spent the next week on a cruise down Baja (on Carnival, I know we’re risk takers!) It was a wonderful honeymoon.

It feels so surreal to be married finally to the most amazing man I’ve ever met. I never could have imagined I’d be this happy.

Our total damage for the wedding + honeymoon? A bit over $7,000. And that was doing things exceptionally inexpensive.

ChoreWars – Make Chores Fun!

So Mr Woodpecker showed me the other night the most amazing website ever: ChoreWars

You know how you can’t get your hubby to get off Madden, or GuildWars 2, or World of Warcraft to come help you with the dishes or mow the lawn?

Or perhaps your kids are super motivated by games and rewards?

ChoreWars is just perfect. So Mr Woodpecker and I created accounts on ChoreWars and decided to make our ChoreWar pirate themed. So I am  Azriel the Pale and he is Bloody Tom Flint (both pirate name generated).

Then you add in chores to do. Give the chores XP and coin rewards. A chance for a super treasure and perhaps even an encounter with a monster! We tried to make all of our “mundane” chores into epic adventures. Instead of empty the dishwasher and load it again: “Scrubbin’ the Cap’n’s Cuttlery”. Instead of mow the lawn we have “Cut th’ Green Sea”.

Here is a screen shot of some of the adventures that Mr Woodpecker and I created to do:

chorewards adventures


You can see the name of the chore, what the rewards are, the 5% chance for a treasure or a wandering monster. And then on the right side is the amount of XP that you will get for completing the chore. The symbols underneath highlight what characteristics you need to have to complete the task (strength, constitution, dexterity, wisdom, intelligence, etc).

So, Mr Woodpecker and I had a fun time last night creating our chore adventures.

This morning? Well, it was a race to the dishwasher this morning to empty it and put in the dirty dishes so that we could claim our experience points.

For kids? Perhaps when they “level up” (perhaps reach a certain XP) they get a special rewards (date night with dad?)

Or perhaps you and your husband can trade in treasure for certain rewards (“I’m spending one Elixir of Life and a Silver Spoon to pick which radio station we listen to today”).

I could also see this working really well in an elementary school classroom to earn “points” for doing things in the class (picking up the books after story time, putting your chair away, etc). And the game is set up that you can have a Dungeon Master (teacher) and all the other characters as Non-Player Characters (students) so that the DM can assign the points to each student when they complete the tasks and then students can simply view their character sheets that show what they’ve completed and how much experience they’ve earned.

I know it sounds like this is a sponsored post or something like that by ChoreWars, but it isn’t. We just had so much fun setting this up and I thought it could be a great way to make chores a game in your house. I’m trying to figure out how I could use it in one of my classes without my students thinking it is too cheesy. But perhaps accepting the cheesy nature of it is what I need to do. =)

December Reading

One of the things I just don’t have time to do when school is in session is pleasure reading. This December my book choices have been mainly non-fiction. Mostly about money (and a little on weddings). Here’s what I’ve been reading so far this winter break:

1. A Practical Wedding by Meg Keene

I knew that planning for a wedding could lead to me being insane. Paralyzed by choices. Bridezilla-type attitude. So I checked this book out from the library to get some practical advice about not going crazy with wedding stuff. After I finished the book (on the plane ride back from Vegas), I decided that there are only a few things that are important to me for the wedding:

  • A party with all of my family and Mr Woodpecker’s family.
  • Amazing photography.
  • Financially responsible.

That’s it. So for now Mr Woodpecker and I have decided to follow the advice of the many readers who are able to look at this objectively, and we’ve decided to postpone ANY wedding planning until after the credit card debt is paid off. We still have a general date in mind, and it may be that the wedding is more “thrown” together than detailed plans, but both of us just want to focus on one thing at a time. Debt first, then wedding.

2. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

This book really kind of blew my mind, but in a way that it made me think about earning money very differently than I had before. It made me actually understand the difference between an asset and a liability and understand how rich people think differently than poor/middle class.

And I know this is probably not the conclusion that most people come to, but it also made me realize that I’m okay being middle class. I’m okay not being rich. I’m okay with not thinking out of the box. And I know that isn’t what the book was supposed to do and I’m definitely okay with applying some of the techniques to build assets, but it also made me realize that I just don’t care enough about money to be rich. And I’m just fine with that.

3. Smart Couples Finish Rich by David Bach

I read Bach’s book in about 4 hours. I loved it. Couldn’t put it down. I even took breaks after each chapter to talk with Mr Woodpecker about what I was reading and learning. The basics? Figure out what your values are and make sure that your spending aligns with your values. Mr Woodpecker and I sat down and made our list of personal values. I was actually really surprised by some of the things that were most important to him and it was great for me to communicate to him what I thought was important.

What really sold me on Bach’s book was his chapters on goals and on baskets. His three main “baskets” (or areas we should be saving money) are for retirement, security, and dreams.  The retirement makes sense, obviously. Security included things like health insurance, life insurance, wills, disability insurance, etc. Again, things that made sense but I definitely needed a reminder of how all of this fit in with the marriage I’m about to enter in to.

The dream basket really sent me through the roof. He instructed the reader to sit and dream and imagine about what they *really* want in life. To be outlandish and dream big. Then to share these dreams with your partner and figure out what the couples shared dreams would be. When I shared my two big dreams with Mr Woodpecker he loved them and even had similar ones of his own. So what are my 2 big dreams I’d like to work for?

a. I want to work and save enough so that some year Mr Woodpecker and I can travel for an entire year together around the world. Perhaps working online in the process or maybe we just quit our jobs for a year and just travel. Those details aren’t worked out, just the dream of being able to travel at our own pace around the world. Expensive? Yes. Doable? Absolutely.

b. I want to own a home on a decent size piece of land. One of my main values is “Peace of Mind”. And part of this peace of mind is knowing that if “anything” should happen I have the ability on what I own to sustain myself and my family for a moderate amount of time. This means I’d like to have an orchard, my own family garden with vegetables, and some chickens for eggs. I’d love to have some acres for kids to play on and build tire swings and tree forts. And perhaps a lake for the dogs to swim in. Oh yeah, and also, I’d like this piece of land to not be too far away from town. Good thing I live in Kansas where something like this is actually possible and not to unreasonably expensive.


So what’s next? What book recommendations do you have for me? I’m due to go to the library tomorrow and would love some great recommendations!

Wedding Planning Drama

I’ve watched enough movies and television and had enough friends that I know that every wedding plan comes with a little bit of drama. But me, being a relatively drama-free person and my fiance (Mr Woodpecker) definitely being drama-free, I thought maybe we would be immune.

See it all started the night that I got engaged. My grandma called and of course wanted to know what the plans were.

Rather than doing the SMART thing and telling her: “Grandma, we’re still in the deciding phase, I’ll let you know when the plans firm up” I said something like this: “Grandma, we aren’t sure yet, but our tentative plan, that could change at any moment since we just got engaged an hour ago, is to do a small ceremony with just us and then do a road trip reception where we visit everyone. But it could change, that is just the idea right now.”

Well, even with all those qualifiers my grandma heard: “What we are definitely doing is having a wedding and none of the family is invited.” So, of course, she needed to TELL all of my aunts/uncles/etc that they are not invited to my wedding. Which whether they were or were not, wasn’t her place to tell them, it was mine. And the fact of the matter is that whether they are or not has, even of this moment, not been decided as we’re still trying to figure out what we are going to do for our wedding.

AND THEN, perhaps forgetting that she was told this was a tentative plan, started Facebook messaging my fiance telling him how she regrets that my aunts and uncles won’t be at my wedding.

AND NOW I have uncles and aunts messaging me on Facebook saying: “Why aren’t we invited to your wedding?!”

All of this because I was DUMB enough to share one possible idea out of the 10 or so that Mr Woodpecker and I have had in our month of engagement.

So I sent my grandma an email (I tried calling twice to no avail) and (tried) to politely ask her to stop telling people they weren’t invited to my wedding, it is my job to invite or not invite them. And to remind her that the only plan she has heard is the one I made clear on our engagement night was just an idea of the moment, not the “for sure” wedding plan.

And she wonders why I don’t like sharing things with her… every word she hears she shares with everyone else, whether she should or not.

Six Months to Freedom

So Mr. Woodpecker and I have been attending Financial Peace University for 11 weeks now. We only have 2 to go until we’re finished with it. It has been wonderful going through it with him, getting on the same page, etc.

We both have some significant debt.

I have around $15,000 in credit card or merchant card debt.

I have around $13,000 in student loan debt.

He has around $45,000 in student loan debt.

I have a home mortgage – $162,000 approx right now.

So we have a lot of debt. However, from a non-Dave Ramsey point of view, most of this is “good debt”. Yes, I use that good loosely.

The Dave Ramsey plan is to save $1,000. Then debt snowball all your debts except the mortgage. Then save 3-6 months in an emergency fund. Then after that is done start contributing 15% to retirement, funding college savings, and paying down the mortgage. Then build wealth and give.

However, we’re not going to do things the 100% Dave Ramsey way. My student loans are at 2.25%. His are at 4.5%. The house is at 4%. To me, these are interest rates that are not robbing us of our money and threatening to make us poor. So we’ve mutually agreed that, for us, the student loans are going to go at the same point as paying down our mortgage.

We both have $1,000 emergency funds. We’re both going to go with insane, amazing intensity for 6 months (contributing around $2,300 per month) to pay off the credit card. Then we’re going to ease up after that 6 months and go back to “normal living” while saving $1,000/month to get our 3-6 months funded and also starting to fund things like vacations, new car fund, house fund, etc that we’re going to stop contributing to in order to pay off the credit card. Then after we get 3 months of both of our combined income (or 6 months of his, around the same amount), then we’re going to tackle the student loans.

For us, this just makes more sense. It makes it happen faster. And it makes us feel more secure. Only having 6 months where we’re going “whole hog” makes the getting out of debt process seem faster. If we have to wait to also pay off student loans we’re looking at 5 years of “whole hog” – which, for us, isn’t sustainable.

So what are we planning on doing during this 6 months to make this debt go away ASAP? Well, let me tell you!

  1. I’m stopping my contribution to retirement. I don’t get a match anyway and it is only for 6 months. When the 6 months is up I’m going to start contributing again either back to my 403(b) or I may consider just opening up a Roth IRA since I don’t get a match.
  2. We’re living on one paycheck. I make more money than Mr Woodpecker. So we’re going to live off of my paycheck for things like the mortgage, gas, entertainment, food, etc. Since it is only 6 months we’re not going to include clothing, electronics, etc. We can both go without new pants and a new computer for 6 months. All of Mr Woodpecker’s money will go to the credit card debt, or making minimums on our student loan debt.
  3. I’m getting a season job. Or at least I’m going to try. Because I’m a professor, I don’t work from December 15th (ish) to January 20th(ish). I also don’t work evenings and weekends. So I’m going to attempt to get a seasonal retail job to do during this time. Evening though I’ll be making minimum wage I still hope to work 15-20 hours per week. I know I will be exhausted, but it is for a greater goal and this is the only holiday season I’ll have to do this.
  4. I’m working overload next semester. The way my school works is that if you teach over a certain number of contact hours than you get paid for them… in February. So any extra teaching I do in the Fall and the Spring I get as an extra paycheck in February. Guess what… that falls within the 6 months. Hello $$$. Depending on how things fall with my classes I’m looking at 3-5 extra contact hours, or around $3,000-5,000 before taxes.
  5. We’re trimming fat in the day-to-day budget. Mr Woodpecker has a fairly large entertainment budget, around $150/month. He’s agreed that for 6 months he can give most of that up. We’re still giving him $40/month in his entertainment, but it will still be substantially reduced. We’re also cutting quite a bit in the food department. We’ve agreed to going out to eat only once a week, and then only so a place where the meal is no more than $10/person. This is a pretty big deal for him because he would eat out at every meal if he could. Lastly, the doggie daycare is going good-bye. I know this seems obvious to a lot of people. But our dogs love daycare. We love our dogs after they go to daycare. It is money, in our opinion, that is well spent. We’re going to try forgoing daycare and spending more time at the dog park. It is only for 6 months, hopefully the dogs will understand.
  6. We’re stopping yearly savings for non-necessities. I’m not going to contribute anymore to my Christmas fund (we’ll do Christmas with the money that I have currently saved, which is quite a bit). I’m not contributing anymore to my Vacation fund for 6 months. I’m not contributing to my clothing fund, beautification fund, new car fund, car repair fund, or my house fund. If anything happens to the car or to the house, the emergency fund will pay for this during this 6 month period. We’ll then fill the E-fund back up with debt money and keep on going. I will however still be saving for insurance and car registration since these are things I can’t stop having. We will also not stop saving to Mr Woodpecker’s medical bill fund, though we are looking in October to change his insurance from a high deductible to a low deductible plan since he’s going to doctor’s 4-5x per week right now.

We’re both excited about this fight for the end of the credit card debt and are both super motivated to get it gone. We can then start to build a budget without the obligatory $400/month just to pay minimums to the credit cards and can start to have a budget where we are contributing to retirement, paying down the mortgage, paying down the student loans, and not feeling guilty for going on vacations, saving for a fence, etc. It is a pretty great feeling and I’m glad, after 3 years of trying to get rid of debt, to have a partner who has motivated us to finally just take the plunge and go at this debt without reservation or hesitation.

What To Do With Extra Money

I’m sure that this has never happened to anyone but me. But sometimes I get extra money from some thing (overtime at work? tax refund? gift from parents?) and I don’t have a good plan for that extra money so it just ends up getting spent just like all my other money and then two weeks later I think “Huh, sure wish I had some extra money.”

Last week I was at Financial Peace University with Mr Woodpecker and Dave was talking about how to budget when you have an irregular income. Essentially you make a list in order of importance of everything in your life with a $ value and then you just pay down the list until the money runs out. (Let me tell you, I’m thrilled I don’t have an irregular income).

As I was watching the video though a lightbulb went off. Why couldn’t I use this plan for extra money?

Make a list of the things I want to put the extra money towards, then I put the money towards those things until I run out of money.

Here is what my list looks like:







Christmas and Gifts






House Fund



New Car Fund






House Fund






House Fund






So here is how this worked for me this month. I got an extra $1,100 this month from teaching summer school in May/June. This was money in addition to my normal monthly salary so I’m considering it to be “extra money”. The first thing I did with it was put money into my Emergency Fund to get me up to $1,000. Because that was more important than anything on this list. (I used up the majority of my Emergency Fund when I bought the house).

After I funded my E-fund to $1,000 I had $350 left. So I went down the list. $50 into Vacation, $50 into Gifts and Christmas, $20 into Clothes, $200 into my house fund, and the remaining $30 went into my new car fund. 

The way I’ve planned for this is that any extra money that I get THIS MONTH gets added on top of the $350. So if I get another $400 somehow then $70 will go into the new car fund (to get that to $100 total), and then the rest will go to debt.

However, if I don’t get any other extra money until NEXT month I’ll start over on the list again.

The reason that I am funding vacations, gifts, clothes, house and new car before debt is that I’ve taken these items either out of my regular budget or significantly reduced my normal contribution to them. By putting them at the top of my “extra money” category I’m funding them still semi-regularly but not having to contribute to them with every paycheck. I can only do this because I regularly get “extra money”.

One way I thought could be good for someone who didn’t regularly get extra money looked like this:







Blow Money









Blow Money







I like how this table is set up because the first thing you do is pay on debt. Any extra money below $200 just go to debt. But then, as a small reward you get $50 if you go over $200. It is good to give yourself a little spending money to just have some fun. And if it is planned you don’t have to feel guilty about it! Then throw some money at savings, then hit the debt VERY hard. And if somehow you made over $1,400, go ahead and blow a little more planned money.

By making a table like this and knowing where my extra money is going specifically, it was very empowering. I didn’t have to worry about “should I do this? should I put it here?” because I had already laid out before hand extra what my priorities for my extra money are.

Home Ownership

Last week I signed the papers and received the keys. I’m OFFICIALLY a home owner.

It’s been a pretty crazy week. Having to hand over a nearly $10,000 check was quite an experience.

Since then it has been a whirlwind. I hired a guy to replace the popcorn ceilings in the house. But I couldn’t afford the whole house, so he’s just replacing the ones in the living room/dining room/kitchen and in the master bedroom and bath. The other two bedrooms, basement, and other two baths will have to wait and just get put on the “to do” list that seems to be ever growing.

I’ve invested myself into project “remove all brass” – which thus far has entailed the purchase of 14 new door knobs, two ceiling fans, one dining room light, and 3 fixtures for the 3 bathrooms. The door knobs are now installed (that was last Saturday’s project) and the fans and dining room light are being installed by the guys doing my ceiling.

I am just now starting to pack up my apartment and remembering very vividly how much I hate packing!

Just like every move I’ve ever done, this is a great opportunity to go through my things and assess if they’re worth keeping. I’ve got a few bags of clothes to get rid of and some books so far. I know that the “give away” pile will get bigger as my rate of packing increases.

I feel very strapped for cash and Mr Woodpecker and I have both agreed that after the ceiling is replaced we’re going to put a hiatus on new projects until our savings account is at a comfortable level. For me this is around $3,000 now.

Being a home owner is so far great – well, it will be greater when I finally get to move in!

T-minutes 2 Days

I close on my house in TWO days. TWO.

I’ve called all the utility companies. Let them know that my closing date is the 9th. Now I’m just waiting to find out from my lender EXACTLY how much I’ll need at closing so that I can get my cashier’s check tomorrow.

I’m very nervous. Nervous about how much I’ll be paying each month, the changes to my budget, increased utility expenses. Everything. Everything is very nerve wracking. 

I feel so very unprepared for this now that the day is almost here. From what I’ve read this is a very normal feeling.

I’m feeling all the more how much more important it will be for me to get a hefty savings account as soon as possible.

Two days… unbelievable!

Weight Watchers

My best friend in Kansas is getting married in June. And guess what! I’m her maid of honor!

We’ve got our dresses (she let me pick whichever dress I wanted as long as it was a certain color) and everything is going really well.

Except, she’s been very sick the past 3 months and was recently diagnosed with hypothyroidism and fibromyalgia. The net result is that my former workout partner has been out of commission for the past 5 months. Last week she told me: I can’t fit into my wedding dress. I’m going to join weight watchers.

Well, being the good maid of honor I am (and having about 25 pounds I wouldn’t mind dumping) I immediately offered to join with her. That day we were at a Weight Watchers meeting and I had forked out $42.95. (gulp)

We vowed to give it three months of weekly meetings and monitoring points.

I had my first weigh in (162.8 lb) last Thursday and have been following the Weight Watchers plan diligently since Thursday night after the meeting.

Some things I’ve noticed:

  • I feel way more hungry when I track what I eat than when I don’t. Thinking about tracking my food makes me hungry.
  • Weight Watchers is a lot like budgeting. You get a certain amount of points (dollars) and you have to decide if what you want to eat is worth the points (money). I find myself frequently looking up the points values for foods and saying “Woah! Not worth it!” and choosing something different. Other foods I look up the points values and say “Well, I really want to eat it, so I’ll just have to take those points and cut back in other areas.” Yeah, it is pretty much just like budgeting.
  • With Weight Watchers all fruits and veggies (with corn, peas, and white potatoes as exceptions) are 0 points. Oh you sneaky Weight Watchers – I’m on to your ruse! Here’s what they do… First, eat less than you normally do but you still use all your points. Then, you’re still hungry but you’ve used up all your points. Next, you decide to eat some bell peppers or a banana to make you feel full because you’re still hungry. Finally, YOU’RE EATING MORE FRUITS AND VEGGIES! They’ve sneakily added fruits and veggies to my diet and that was very clever how they did that. I’m eating more fruits and veggies now than I ever have. Jerks. 😉

I’m very happy so far about joining even though it is costing a pretty penny.