Our 1st Month with a Cash Budgeting System!

It’s January 31st, which means we made it through our first month of using the “cash in envelopes” budgeting system!! We kept talking off and on about trying this and finally just went for it with the start of the new year!!

When I posted about this on Instagram in the beginning of the month, a bunch of people commented or messaged me and said they were curious to hear how it went, so I decided to just write my “review” of the whole process for anyone who’s considering trying this for themselves.

What’s involved in this envelope system?

This system does require a little bit of up-front planning, but once you get that done, it’s really not that tough. We sat down at the beginning of the month and figured out what our categories would be for the envelopes, and then created a simple spreadsheet to plan for how much cash we would be putting in each one. Keep in mind, we didn’t use the envelopes for bills because those are automatically deducted from our account each month. We also still used our debit cards for gas, because that just seemed easier and it’s not like we’re really tempted to spend extra money at the gas station (although I am a sucker for QT’s iced tea…).  😛

How to decide on the amounts for each envelope: 

Some categories, such as “gifts for friends and family” will change every month, so it’s important to have your calendar nearby so you can check and see what needs you’ll have for each category in that specific month. We had 3 family members to buy birthday presents for this past month, as well as a gift for a baby shower, but some months that number will be a lot less.

We also went through a simple inventory of our home supplies to see what was getting low (TP, paper towels, light-bulbs, etc.) and budgeted accordingly for those things. This entire “planning meeting” took us about an hour, so it really wasn’t too bad.

The next day, I went and withdrew the cash from the bank and put it in the envelopes.
Once the cash was in the envelopes, we wrote the beginning balance and the date on the back of each one. Then, when we went to withdraw money from an envelope, we would write that amount, (along with the date and the purpose for the withdrawal) and subtract it from the previous balance. This made it easy to track where our money was going!

Is it tough to say no to random shopping trips??

Several people asked me if it was tough not to spend extra money with this cash system, and yessss there were several times I found myself entertaining the idea of running into Target but then realized, “I don’t have cash for that!”  😛  (Target has some sort of magic power that tries to lure me in there even when I know I don’t NEED anything! Please tell me I’m not the only one.)

So, even though it was tough to say no to random shopping trips, it actually felt GOOD because I knew we had budgeted for the things we needed and anything else I would have bought was just going to be extra money that we didn’t actually need to spend.

Do you feel like you saved money with this cash system??

YES, definitely. To be honest, we were already pretty frugal with our money before we tried this system, but when we’d look at our bank statement we’d still notice random purchases at places like Target (guilty as charged…), Home Depot (ahem…haha!), and we also ate out more frequently than we realized, I think.

This cash system definitely helped us feel more aware of where we are spending our money, and there were several times we would talk about buying something and then realize we really didn’t need it.

Did the cash system take all the fun out of life??

Someone asked me this the other day when I told them about our cash-system experiment, and it’s actually a really good question. I did wonder at the beginning of the month, would this cash thing make us into miserly, penny-hoarding people who freaked out every time they spent money on something?

Surprisingly, though, it was quite the opposite! I actually had MORE peace about our financial state and I loved knowing that we were staying within a reasonable budget. We made sure to have envelopes for categories such as entertainment and eating out, so it wasn’t like we didn’t allow ourselves any fun! But by having the cash for those fun times built into the budget, it felt like we could spend that money worry-free because we knew we could afford it and that we weren’t overspending. It’s so easy to just swipe a card at a Starbucks here or a Chick-fil-a there and not realize how much it’s adding up over the course of the month. So knowing that we had a certain amount allotted in the envelope for such occasions was actually really freeing and great!

Will you do it again??

Yes!! We actually just had our “budget meeting” yesterday for February and it went even faster this time, now that we have a handle on what we’re doing. For now, we’re really loving this cash system and the way it’s helping us be more aware of where our money is going.

I listened to an awesome series of messages by Andy Stanley on finances about a year ago, and I remember one of his first points that he emphasizes before you dive into the actual nitty-gritty of budgeting and financial planning was, “You need to know WHERE your money is going.”

We did this about a year ago. We printed off the past 3 months’ statements from our bank account and went through with colored highlighters, categorizing our purchases so we could see exactly where we were spending our money. It was so eye-opening. I think purple was our color for “Miscellaneous Purchases” which basically meant random trips to Target or $20 charges at Walgreens that we couldn’t even remember what they were for, and when we added up all those purple transactions, it was crazy how much we were spending like that!

We’re not sure how long we’ll continue this cash system, but for now it is really helping us be more aware of our finances and better stewards of what we’ve been given.  (And it’s definitely helping me say no to the ever-tempting aisles of Target.  😉 )

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

Have you ever tried the cash budgeting system? Do you have any budgeting tips to share, that work well for you? 

Pressing Pause

Last night Rob and I were reading a devotional that talked about taking time to be silent and still. This part especially felt like it was written directly to me:

?”Soaking in silence is a time of saturating yourself in the presence of God. No words, actions, or thoughts are necessary for soaking. It’s a time of just being, allowing the silence to minister to the busy mind, tired body, and weary soul.”?

I said to Rob, “I feel like this describes me so well right now: busy mind, tired body, and weary soul.”? 
? My mind is always busy, going a million miles an hour trying to keep track of everything I need to do, from endless loads of laundry and making meal plans to designing workouts for my clients. 
? My body is tired. Tired from waking up every two hours during the night for the past several weeks with a baby who is going through a sleep regression.
✝️ My soul is weary. Weary because in all the craziness of packing and moving into a house, getting ready for Christmas, and just trying to stay on top of my wife and mommy duties, I haven’t made much time the past few weeks to quiet my heart and just be with God in stillness. ?? I haven’t really dug into the Word like I want to; my prayers have been sporadic and quick, and my heart craves peace and needs to be re-centered and refreshed. ☀️
 I feel like life has been rush-rush-rush for the past month and I just want to retreat to the woods for a couple days with my Bible and journal. (introvert alert, haha! ☺️) 

? Rob is so good at listening to my exasperated vents and ramblings and helping me figure out what I can do in a practical sense to bring some positive changes.☺️ He helped me realize that instead of running around like crazy during Lydia’s naps, doing housework, laundry, emails to clients, and all that kind of stuff, sometimes I need to just press the pause button, and use that time of silence to actually….be silent. ? So today, as tough as it was to let the laundry and dishes sit where they were, I curled up under a warm throw with a cup of coffee ☕️ and spent Lydia’s naptime reading the Word and just sitting in silence with God. ??

This half hour of peace and stillness helped me reconnect with Him and slow down the frantic pace of my life and my heart. Stillness is not highly prized in our fast-paced, “microwave society” where everything is rushed and instant and people pride themselves on how busy they are. ? But stillness is something I think we could all use a little more of in our lives. Taking the time to press pause ? let go of our to-do lists for a little bit, and just spend a few moments focusing more on what really matters. It refreshed my heart today, and reminded me of how much I treasure these quiet times with God. ❤️
Maybe if you’re feeling stressed, exhausted, burnt-out, or weary, you can find a few moments tonight to press pause and be refreshed. I was reminded today that I need to be intentional about making time for this. I need to set rhythms in place so that I am prioritizing what really matters most. ✝️
“In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.” – Pico Iyer (The Art of Stillness) 

Social Media vs. Real Life

Friends, I’ve been wanting to make a PSA for awhile now but haven’t known exactly how to say what’s on my mind. But today, I finally just decided to sit down and start typing, so here we go:

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you’ve probably noticed that I love to post pictures of my little family. And most of the time these pictures are fun, happy ones that show you the highlights and great times of our life. That’s just it, though. You’re only seeing the highlights. Social media tends to be like that; most of us gravitate toward posting pictures of the date nights, Christmas parties, smiling babies, and the moments where we feel like we’ve got this whole life/parenthood/spouse/friend thing figured out.

I think (hope) that we’re all aware that social media is just a tiny glimpse into someone’s life, but it’s definitely easy to assume that the perfectly posed, Instagram-filtered photos are the way someone’s entire life is lived. I struggle with this a lot, because I enjoy taking and posting pictures so much and social media – Instagram especially – is like an online journal for me, a way to memorialize some of the fun adventures and highlights of my family’s life. But I also don’t ever want to seem fake or like I’m trying to project some false image that I “have it all together” (in case you didn’t already know: I DO NOT have it all together ?).

I never want to seem like I’m trying to project this “perfect life” on my social media. I’ve toyed with posting more “raw” photos of some of the tough times (like when my baby refuses to nap or I spill the entire contents of the vacuum cleaner bag all over the kitchen floor…those both happened last week?) but I also don’t want to be a complainer or use social media to broadcast all my troubles.

And the reason I’m REALLY gun-shy about posting about the tougher parts of motherhood is because of something that happened when I was pregnant. I had posted a “bump photo” of me at some point into my third trimester and talked about how excited we were to meet Lydia and how she was the size of whatever fruit or vegetable right now… and then at the end of my (very positive) post about my pregnancy, I made a lighthearted comment, “now if only my nausea would go away! ?”

…I was sick my entire pregnancy with nausea that would send me dry-heaving into the bathroom if I didn’t eat every 2 hours on the dot. (And sometimes even the eating didn’t help.)  I didn’t complain about it much at all, and my mention of it in my post was simply meant to be a lighthearted comment, not a complaint. However, a man that I didn’t even know very well but was somehow friends with on Facebook commented on my post, “Maybe if you thought about all the women who would love to be pregnant but can’t, it would help you not focus on your nausea.”

I was so upset over this comment. I felt HORRIBLE that maybe my post had come across as being ungrateful for my pregnancy, but at the same time I was also frustrated that this person had chosen to take that one lighthearted comment out of context of my entire post and then make me feel guilty for not treasuring my nausea. It didn’t help that this guy was a former missionary and he projected a very godly presence on Facebook, which made me feel like such a sinner when he put me in my place.  :'( 
Needless to say, that entire experience made me extremely gun-shy of ever sharing “less than happy” aspects of my life, and specifically of motherhood. Once my baby arrived and she was healthy and safe, I felt paranoid that if I ever posted anything about sleepless nights or crazy postpartum hormones, people would think I wasn’t grateful for my adorable little girl and how blessed I was to have her. As a result, I tend to post only about the positive, happy times of parenthood. The days when my baby naps, the house gets cleaned, and dinner is on the table when my husband gets home. But then I end up feeling fake and I wonder if people think I’m trying to act like I have this whole parenthood thing perfectly figured out. (Because I most definitely don’t.) But my dilemma is how to share honest, raw, and real life glimpses into my motherhood journey, without seeming like I’m complaining. Especially with motherhood, I feel like this is such a sensitive issue because there ARE so many women who ache with the grief of infertility or the pain of knowing they will never be able to conceive, and I don’t ever want to seem ungrateful for the amazing little girl God has given to Rob and me.

I’m not sure exactly what my closing summary is in all of this, but I just needed to be open with my Facebook and Instagram friends because I’ve been feeling for awhile now that I might be giving off the impression that my life is easy or perfect or that I never get grumpy and exhausted or snap at my husband or feel frustrated when my daughter wakes up constantly during the night. I’m tentatively hopeful that I can begin sharing more real life photos and posts in a way that doesn’t seem grumbling about my life but rather just being honest about the everyday struggles that we all face in this motherhood journey. And I also hope, after reading this post, you will understand that even when I do post the smiley, happy, highlight pictures, they are really just a small part of our real lives and if you spent a day with us you’d know we’re just as much of a mess as the next person. 🙂
I’ve really wrestled with getting off social media altogether and shutting down my Facebook and Instagram, but the truth is that I love photos… I love taking them, sharing them, making photobooks on Shutterfly for our coffee table, and photos are the way I capture our memories and milestones as a family. I’ve thought a lot (and had several conversations with Rob, too) about whether I’m posting on social media out of a need for approval and praise from others, but at this point I don’t think that’s my motive. (Ok, let’s be real, it’s probably a small part of my motive, but I think it probably is for all of us if we’re being honest with ourselves??) I truly do just love to capture our memories all in one place and every so often Rob and I will scroll way back in my Instagram just to relive some of those memories and talk about the fun we had on certain dates, vacations, hikes, and family nights together. So, I’m not planning to stop posting, but I want to be more open about the day to day ups and downs of my life, because I know when I see friends of mine doing that on social media, it’s encouraging to me to know I’m not the only one who doesn’t have it all together!! I’ve just been so gun-shy up until now about ever posting anything but “we are sooo happy and look at our big smiles and our lives are so great!!” because of what happened with that pregnancy post.  :-\

I hope this makes sense. I just needed to get this all off my chest. Thanks for reading! If you have any suggestions or things that have helped you use social media in an uplifting-yet-honest way, please share; I would love to hear your thoughts!

— Hope


God’s Guidance + Slowing Down

Friends, it’s been one of those days where one cup of coffee just didn’t cut it. Baby girl woke up multiple times during the night last night, which has been the norm the past few weeks. I’d gotten spoiled with a baby who started sleeping 8 hours through the night at 4 weeks old!! Well, no worries, I have now joined the ranks of the sleep-deprived mamas, even if I’m a tad late with my arrival.
On the bright side, the little stinker wakes up SOOO happy every morning that it’s impossible to be grumpy at her for more than a second. The moment I walk into her line of vision (usually this is around 6:30am) she’s grinning up at me from her crib and jabbering on, always with one hand in her mouth, as if she’s got a lot to catch me up on since our 4:30am pow-wow. Couldn’t think of a better way to start my day, even if it’s a tad earlier than I would have preferred. 🙂

Since it was Tuesday, we headed off to BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) this morning! Rob and I used to be a part of the young adults BSF class here in St. Louis (we were both leaders when we were dating/engaged and then I was a leader again last school year too) but this year I’ve joined the all-women’s class so that Lydia can go to the little nursery there. The ladies in the nursery are so sweet  and shower Lydia with love. They sing Bible songs to the babies and tell them a Bible story while their mamas get to have some distraction-free time to study God’s Word together.

BSF is such a breath of fresh air to my heart every week. Fellowship with godly women who inspire me in my faith journey. Talking with other mamas and being reminded that I’m not alone in this motherhood thing. Studying God’s Word. Grace and life from that Word washing over my soul. 

Today, during the large-group teaching time (which follows the small-group discussion), one thought especially stood out to me from the message:

“Do you consult God before making plans, or do you make plans and then ask or expect God to bless them?” 

This was convicting for me as I thought about it and realized that most often I just make my own plans without really much prayer. Of course, Rob and I pray about big decisions like buying a house, applying for jobs, etc., but when it comes to those smaller, day-by-day decisions, I tend to think I can figure that stuff out without God’s input. I don’t do this consciously, but I unintentionally leave Him out of the decision-making process. 
I was challenged by the message today to slow down enough in my day-to-day decisions and plans to ask God what would be best and ask Him to guide my steps. If someone had suggested this idea to me several years ago, I would have thought it was a little extreme to actually present these kinds of things to God or to even think that He cared about them. But the more I’ve learned about God and His character, the more I believe that He DOES care about even the littlest details of our lives. Not in an overbearing, control-freak kind of way. I don’t think He’s looking down from heaven and wanting to micro-manage every moment of every person’s day or take away their free will. But I think He’s like a loving father, who cares genuinely about his children, who wants to hear our desires, dreams, and longings. He wants to help us through the stressful parts of the day and the struggles we have with uncertainty about the future. He wants to be involved in even the most mundane parts of our lives because he truly cares that much about each of us. It blows my mind when I really stop and think about it. He loves each of us so much.

My goal for moving forward is to involve God more fully in my decisions, both big and small. Rob and I have been reading through 1 Samuel together and in 1 Samuel 3 is the story of Samuel learning to hear God’s voice. The priest tells Samuel, who is just a young boy at the time, that when he hears the voice calling to him, he should reply, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening!”  It’s such a beautiful picture of being open and eager to be led by God. So often I am too “busy” with the hectic speed of life to really slow down and be open to God’s guidance. Especially as we enter the holiday season – the most hurried and frenzied time of the year – I want to remember to slow down, be present in each moment, and be ready to follow God’s guidance every day. 

I’d love to hear from you!

Do you struggle with slowing down and being ready to listen to God? 

How can you be intentional this week to involve God in your decisions and plans?

On Black Friday, we eat cinnamon buns and stay in our pjs all day…

We had such a fun Thanksgiving, celebrating with our loved ones! Rob worked an overnight shift on Wednesday so he finally crashed into bed aound 7am when he got home. Lydia and I went on our own little turkey trot run with our friend Danielle at Creve Coeur Lake while he slept. 🙂 The rest of the morning was spent playing with Lydia, drinking coffee, and getting ready for the family 15252505_10210391183923649_3873663387622559765_ogatherings! We ate the big meal with the Varwig side around 2pm; it was delicious, as always! Around 5pm, we headed to my parents’ house to join them for dessert and a very competitive card game. 😉 So glad we got to see both our families; we’re really grateful to have them all here in town!

Rob and I toyed with the idea of trying to get a few things for our new home with the Black Friday sales today. We are in the market for a kitchen table and a TV. But in the end, neither of us really enjoys fighting crowds and decided we’d rather stay in and have some family time today. So, of course, I wanted to bake something special for breakfast.

I found this recipe for Gluten-Free Cinnamon Buns and had all the ingredients on hand which hardly ever happens. I love that you don’t need any yeast because, let’s be honest, it’s not like I keep yeast packets on hand in my pantry. Definitely not that domesticated. 😛

fullsizerender-2Lydia sat in her little sit-me-up chair and watched all the happenings in the kitchen. These were really not too complicated to make, and they turned out SO WELL. You never really know with healthy baked goods if they’re going to taste like the “real thing” but these definitely exceeded my expectations. We downed them warm out of the oven with glasses of milk and couldn’t stop talking about good they were. In fact, they’re so good that I’m eating my second one right now at 1 in the afternoon. Let’s call it a post-lunch snack. 

I think this is the beginning of a new Black Friday tradition for us: homemade cinnamon rolls and pajamas all day. Oh and listening to Christmas music, of course. I’m finally willing to fully embrace the Christmas music, now that Thanksgiving is over. 😉

If you’re looking for an amazing baked good (that’s just a bit healthier) to enjoy this holiday season, try these out!! Recipe is here: Gluten-Free Cinnamon Buns. ENJOY!