Kim Hall, Author at Engaged Marriage | Page 2 of 5

All Posts by Kim Hall

About the Author

Kim Hall created Too Darn Happy to help you build stronger and more joyful relationships through offerings of fresh perspectives and practical advice. Having been a wife for thirty years and a mom for almost as long to two daughters, she also shares occasional cautionary tales of her own character building life experiences. Kim recently authored her first ebook, Practicing Gratitude and Discovering Joy-Thirty Days to a Happier You. You can connect with Kim on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, too!

What’s in your wallet?

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

whats in your walletThe question in the headline may bring to mind ads full of burly, weapon-waving Vikings in all sorts of amusing modern situations.

However, the question What’s in your wallet? is a serious one because it will determine your ability to think outside the box when you and your spouse have set your sights on a purchase.

You don’t necessarily need cash to do the deed, and especially if you’re working on dumping your debt, you know you don’t use credit cards, either.

You can use the other currency in your wallet, though: time, talent, and treasure.

Especially treasure.

Like a Vitamix, for instance.

The resources of time and talent

These are the resources that most couples reach for to generate more cash so they can buy what they’ve set their sights on.

You might spend your time and take on a second job.

If you’ve honed your talent over the years—your marketable skills and abilities—you might ask for and receive a raise, move to a higher paying position, or you can freelance.

But there is one more oft overlooked source of revenue.

The resource of treasure

Treasure, in this instance, is anything you own that you no longer need or want.

In some cases, it may also be something you still enjoy, but you’ve decided there’s something you want or need more.

For instance, friends of ours were redoing their kitchen and needed some appliances.

They knew there were deals to be had on Craigslist, so that’s where they headed with their treasure.

Will you take a Vitamix?

I’ll let my friends tell their story, which I’ve edited just a bit.

I had a Vitamix that was given to me and collecting dust on my countertop. I happened to be searching for an appliance set on Craigslist. I felt like I hit the jackpot when I found an ad for a much desired convection oven with the option to swap for a Vitamix blender. What luck! I replied right away, but didn’t hear back. We needed appliances ASAP for the house we were moving into. I continued searching and found a GREAT set of matching appliances for a GREAT deal. We had to take everything, including appliances we didn’t need, but we didn’t mind.

We borrowed a friend’s box truck, tossed in the Vitamix just in case, and drove the hour and a half to the nearby city. We loaded the appliances. I was a little bummed the set didn’t have a convection oven, but it was still a great deal without it. Just then the other person called me, very excited about trading for the Vitamix. We headed over to other side of the city, made our swap, and headed home with our finds: a matching set of stainless steel oven, microwave, dishwasher and refrigerator, an older model washer and dryer, and my beautiful convection oven.

Our cost? $500, plus the Vitamix.

But we weren’t done making deals.

A friend of ours was looking for appliances for an apartment, so we offered him our extras. He named a fair price of $400 for the nearly new refrigerator and oven, which we accepted. Then we sold the washer and dryer for $50.

The final cash outlay, after all of our wheeling and dealing: just $100

We now owned a “new” stainless steel dishwasher, microwave, and convection oven—with the nice glass top I wanted 🙂 —making them just $33.33 each.

This couple looked in their wallet, and in addition to their money, they saw the Vitamix.

At the end of the day, not only did they get what they wanted at a terrific price, but they also got to do a teensy bit of decluttering by letting go of the blender.

The next time you get ready to make a purchase, step back and take a moment to asses your situation, and remember to ask yourself that very important question:

What’s in your wallet?

Comment: How have you used time, talent, or treasure to obtain something you wanted?

The Opportunity Cost of Your Job: Live with it or leave it?

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

opportunity cost of your jobThe hours you have available to work represent a fertile field of opportunity to grow in skills, obtain wealth, gather knowledge, gain power and prestige, form strong personal and professional relationships, and to live with a true sense of purpose and satisfaction.

How and where you choose to spend those hours determines the Opportunity Cost of your job.

Think of it in terms of how you choose to spend your money, except your currency is the time you offer in exchange for your labor. Once you spend your money—your work hours—it isn’t available to spend elsewhere.

The question before spending is this: Is the value you receive worth the price you pay, not only for you, but for your marriage as well?

This value is the Opportunity Cost of your job.

If you are in the nearly three-fourths of employees who are dissatisfied with their jobs, this opportunity cost is possibly too high. You are spending your valuable, limited capital—your time—in exchange for something worth far less.

You can continue on as you are, or you can use your experience as a springboard for some changes in your career/workplace, your perspective, or both.

You expect the situation to change

You’ve seen the lists of the top reasons people hate their jobs, and you nod in agreement as you mentally check off many items yourself.

Rather than harvesting the fruits of a job well done, you realize you are regularly frustrated by management who isn’t willing to lead, annoyed by a boss who is a micro-manager, and disheartened by the bad apples that are publicly lauded and rewarded while your valuable contributions go unnoticed.

Your expectations seem so simple: to be treated as you treat others, with respect, honesty, integrity, flexibility, and a positive attitude, and you just don’t understand how the situation doesn’t for the better.

You might be knee deep in the Big Muddy

Barry Staw coined the phrase “knee deep in the Big Muddy” to describe decision-making in which individuals continue to pour time, money, and effort into something that just isn’t working and shows no sign of ever improving.

This “escalation of commitment” can be seen in jobs in which people just don’t want to let go in spite of clear evidence that there is no change in sight and no solution to make things work the way they are supposed to.

Yet, folks persist in staying, believing they have invested too much to walk away and start anew.

Time to change your point of view

Long ago, my photography instructor taught me that in order to see what I was missing I needed to change my point of view.

I learned there was much that I couldn’t see because I wasn’t looking for it or wasn’t open to seeing it.

The same is true when you are stuck in the Big Muddy at work.

Taking the time to step back will give you the information you need to determine the opportunity cost of your job, and whether you can live with it or if you should leave it.

Determine the Opportunity Cost

First, make a list of the main areas that make up your life: Financial, Family/Marriage, Career, Personal Growth, Physical, Spiritual, and Social.

Beside each area list the opportunity cost or value.

For example, under Career, you may note that you thoroughly dislike your boss, yet you love the work. The long hours you are required to put in may pose a difficulty for your family, and yet the experience is invaluable for your future.

Go through all areas to make as complete a list as possible.

Have your spouse help you, as they can provide another perspective.

I highly recommend doing this over the course of at least one overnight so you come back to the list with fresh eyes and more ideas.

Decide to live with it or leave it

Once you have the list as complete as possible, set aside time to discuss it with your spouse.

Use your values as guideposts, because living a life aligned with your values creates more peace and joy.

Years ago, my husband and I wrapped up an amazing five years as innkeepers—which is pretty much a 24/7 job—with my parents.

My hubby and I agreed on some key points before we started our search for different work. We wanted time to attend church and related activities, volunteer, and have weekends for our family and marriage.

But then I landed my dream job of working for a professional photographer.

My commute was an hour each way, and I worked weekends and often into the evenings.

I was stressed, conflicted, often cried on the way to and from work, but kept at it, thinking it would get better.

Needless to say, we never did a final values check before I took on the position, and I didn’t recognize a Big Muddy when I was waist-deep in one.

You will find, as we did in retrospect, there will be costs and value associated with your job, and the decision to stay or go can be a complex one. I encourage you to keep at it until you come to a decision with which you and your spouse can be at peace.

If you decide the opportunity cost is worth it, yet still have to face a difficult environment, author and business journalist Suzy Welch offers a helpful solution to get through those challenging times.

For more help and hope, be sure to read these posts, too:

Dealing with the Mistress: 4 Considerations for balancing work and home

4 Ways a Midlife Career Change Can Help Your Marriage

When a God Wink feels more like a snake bite

Comment: How have you dealt with the opportunity cost of your job?

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3 essential keys to furnish your home on a budget

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

3 essential keys to furnish your home on a budget

You’ve been watching those shows about how to buy and makeover a house, and visions of your very own HGTV style home are now dancing in your head.

You’ve pinned hundreds of images of cheery kitchens, welcoming living rooms, and restful bedrooms on Pinterest.

Furniture and home decor catalogs litter your apartment, and you can’t wait to be on a first name basis with the folks at Target, Ikea, and Pottery Barn.

While this may lead to impromptu happy dances in the store aisles, it will most likely lead you down a path to more debt and deep regret.

There is a way to furnish your home on a budget, though, and to make it a space you love and can live with.

You just need to know the three essential keys: contentment, patience and gratitude.

The Key of Contentment

Contentment, as described by Dale Carnagie, “isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.”

That means understanding your worth as a person is not measured by your home or any of your possessions.

You stop comparing where you are and what you have with others, because as Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Contentment frees you from envy and pride, two emotions that can easily push you to break your budget in an effort to keep up with the proverbial Joneses.

Being content allows you to be comfortable and at peace with where you are, while charting a course for goals that uniquely suit you and your circumstances.

What might contentment look like in your home furnishing budget?

Depending on where you are in your financial journey, perhaps it’s about making do with the dated and worn living room furniture you’ve been given because there’s space for everyone to spend time together, or finding a deal on Craigslist on a kitchen table and chairs, so there’s room for hosting family and friends.

For my husband and I, it meant being content with our well-used, thirteen year old, oversized sofa and loveseat while we searched for a new living room set.

The Key of Patience

Adding patience to contentment makes for a powerful combination to maintain your budget while furnishing your home.

Being content means it’s much easier to bide your time while you search for a piece or pieces that meet your needs and desires and costs no more than what you’ve set aside.

Nonetheless, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to be patient. It just seems so much easier to spend lots more to have what you want right now!

Patience was a struggle for my husband and I as we searched for living room furniture to fit our recently purchased, smaller home. We had budgeted $500, and our goal was to find a well-built, real leather set. We found lots that we loved, cost at least twice our budget, and that we were sorely tempted to buy. But, we held fast. Finally, five months into the search, we hit the jackpot: a four piece, relatively new, charming and comfortable real leather set, and it was $500.

Being patient has multiple benefits. Not only do you stay within budget, but you can enjoy the thrill of the chase, the additional sense of satisfaction of sticking to your goals, and the deeper appreciation for that rare gem when you finally locate it. Plus, as my parents would often say to me, and I said to my children, “Patience builds character.” 🙂

The Key of Gratitude

 Counting your blessings is not only is a critical component of eliminating your debt, but is a tremendously steadying force, especially when you become a homeowner. 

It’s very easy to become discontented with what you don’t have or can’t afford, and the solution is to create a firewall of gratitude.

When you develop a firewall of gratitude, you erect a barrier of thankfulness which effectively blocks pride and envy, as well as negative, cultural messages to buy and have more.

The good news is that being grateful becomes easier with practice, just like contentment and patience.

Still, it can be too easy to go from feeling grateful for being able to purchase a home you can afford, to being annoyed as you struggle against your budgetary restrictions on how to furnish the house. Refer back to contentment if you find yourself here.

I could choose to be embarrassed or annoyed that our house is filled with furniture and decor gathered over time from thrift stores, yard sales, Craigslist, and the like

Occasionally, I start to feel that way, but in the end, I always circle back to gratitude.

Because, at the core, it’s about being at peace with and finding joy in the choices we make.

Comment: How have you used these keys to furnish your home on a budget?

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There Must Be a Pony In Here Somewhere

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

pony in here somewhereDo you remember the cool prizes that used to come in the cereal boxes when you were little?

Did you pray every week that your mom would buy the brands with the best freebies?

Were you disappointed when she’d bring home some “But it’s good for you!” cereal which never had any surprises inside, and didn’t taste anywhere near as yummy as Frosted Flakes, Lucky Charms, or Cookie Crisp?

At that tender age, it is certainly difficult to look on the bright side when your friends are showing off their nifty stickers, puzzles, and small toys, and all you have to show is a bit of oatmeal that dribbled onto your shirt and has turned into a hard, dry lump.

🙁

Who knew that years later you would probably be grateful to your parents for their food choices, which helped contribute to your overall healthier state as an adult?

🙂

Seeing—and taking full advantage of—opportunities for gratitude, especially where there don’t seem to be any, will help smooth your journey across the often stormy seas of life.

Plus, the earlier you recognize those circumstances, the more joy you will experience at home and at work.

There is an old joke that illustrates this concept very well.

I am sharing it below as an excerpt from the book How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life by Peter Robinson.

“Over lunch today I asked Ed Meese about one of Reagan’s favorite jokes. ‘The pony joke?’ Meese replied. ‘Sure I remember it. If I heard him tell it once, I heard him tell it a thousand times.’”

“The joke concerns twin boys of five or six. Worried that the boys had developed extreme personalities – one was a total pessimist, the other a total optimist – their parents took them to a psychiatrist.”

“First the psychiatrist treated the pessimist. Trying to brighten his outlook, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with brand-new toys. But instead of yelping with delight, the little boy burst into tears. ‘What’s the matter?’ the psychiatrist asked, baffled. ‘Don’t you want to play with any of the toys?’ ‘Yes,’ the little boy bawled, ‘but if I did I’d only break them.’”

“Next the psychiatrist treated the optimist. Trying to dampen his out look, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with horse manure. But instead of wrinkling his nose in disgust, the optimist emitted just the yelp of delight the psychiatrist had been hoping to hear from his brother, the pessimist. Then he clambered to the top of the pile, dropped to his knees, and began gleefully digging out scoop after scoop with his bare hands. ‘What do you think you’re doing?’ the psychiatrist asked, just as baffled by the optimist as he had been by the pessimist. ‘With all this manure,’ the little boy replied, beaming, ‘there must be a pony in here somewhere!’”

Gratitude is all about how you perceive what is in front of you.

The first little boy, when faced with a mountain of toys, couldn’t see any reason to be grateful for a pile of broken junk.

The second, when faced with a mountain of manure, saw delightful possibilities.

Maybe you spend your hours with someone who always assumes clouds on the horizons means rain pouring down on their parade.

Perhaps you spend time instead with someone who eagerly awaits the rainbows that the showers bring forth.

Whatever the case, gratitude is a skill that can be learned and cultivated, one baby step at a time.

You can begin with something as simple as Thank Youand move forward from there.

Wherever you are in the process, here are three basic steps I recommend:

1. Become more aware. If you need the extra nudge, set the alarm on your phone to go off during the day and perform a random gratitude check on your circumstances when it does.

2. Choose where to focus. If you look for the good, you will find it. It really is that simple.

3. Write it all down. This reinforces your expression of thankfulness and gives you examples to look back on when you need a boost.

 There will still be times when you struggle.

The more you practice gratitude, though, the more it will become your automatic response.

Just remember to keep this phrase in mind to help you the next time you face down mountain of manure at home or at work:

There must be a pony in here somewhere!

 

For more resources on changing your point of view to gratitude, check out these posts:

How counting your blessings can help lower your debt

Finding joy in the journey when it’s raining on your parade

Gratitude Schmatitude

Question: Under what circumstances do you find gratitude the most elusive?

Photo: Sara Nel

The Secret to Buying a Home That You Can Afford

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

secret to buying a homeWhen the desire to become a homeowner latches onto your heart, it’s all too easy to lose your mind and ignore your budget.

Even on our most recent adventure—our fifth time around—my husband and I had difficulty keeping our priorities in the forefront.

It becomes even tougher when friends and family members are encouraging you to buy because It’s the same/a little more/a little less than renting! and You won’t be throwing your money away every month!

Whatever the source, that temptation can be hard to resist.

However, if you are willing to follow a simple formula, you will increase your odds of buying a house you can love and live with.

So what’s the secret to buying a home you can afford?

Live like you already own the house.

Here’s what that looks like:

1.  Add up the known expenses for the type and size of home you have in mind.

2.  Put these items in your monthly budget, and set the money aside as though you are actually spending it.

3.  Live with these finances as part of your life for at least six months.

If you can successfully and comfortably handle the increase in your budget, you’ll be well on your way to buying a home you can afford.

Plus, you will have set aside six months of the increase in expenses, which will add up to a tidy sum!

To know what you’ll want to include, see the list below.

There are several types of expenses you’ll need to cover.

Some are one-time outlays, and others are monthly or otherwise regularly occurring bills.

1.  Pre-purchase costs. When your offer is accepted on a house, you will need to have inspections done as part of your due diligence. These can typically cost $300-$900 per property.

2.  Down payment. Talk to your bank about what you can expect regarding requirements for a down payment.  As an example, our local credit union requires a minimum of 3%. If you are looking at a $150,000 home, that’s $4,500.

3.  Closing costs. There are various fees for the buyer in a real estate transaction. Typically, these fees—your closing costs—will range from 3-5% of the cost of the amount you borrow.

4.  Mortgage, taxes, house insurance, and PMI.  Again, your bank is a terrific resource for estimating mortgage payments. The yearly property taxes can generally be found in the real estate listing. Homeowners insurance can vary tremendously from region to region, so you might want to check with a local insurance agent to see if they can give you a very general idea of what to expect. PMI is the monthly insurance the bank requires on your mortgage until you have paid for at least 20% of the value of your home. Expect to pay anywhere from $35-$70 per $100,000 you borrow. You can subtract what you pay for rent from the total of these four items before adding it to the budget.

5.  Utilities.  You can call the utility company that services a neighborhood, and ask for the average monthly utility costs for the past year for a particular address. If that isn’t possible, speak to folks you trust to get an idea of what you’ll pay in your area for heat, water and sewer, electricity, and trash disposal. Remember, too, to subtract your current utility costs from this total before adding it to your budget.

6.  Appliances, furnishings, and equipment. You’ll probably be surprised at how much it takes to furnish an empty house. Everything from large appliances to installing a new toilet becomes fair game. Even smaller purchases like curtains and bedding can add up pretty quickly, so it’s important they are in the budget. Do a little window shopping, whether online, or in person, to get a feel for the cost of kitchen appliances, furniture, home goods, and equipment, such as  lawnmowers.

7.  Maintenance.  While there are many different variables that will affect how much you’ll need to set aside for repairs and maintenance, setting aside 1%-3% of the cost of your home is a good rule of thumb.

While these figures may seem daunting, they represent a pretty realistic picture of the cost of home ownership.

If going through this exercise reveals you are not financially ready for owning your own home, use this information to create a lifestyle and budget that will take you where you need to be.

That is a far better situation than purchasing your dream house and having it turn into a financial nightmare.

As the Boy Scouts say, “Be prepared!” so when you do buy, you choose a home that comfortably fits your heart and budget.

For a more insight on buying a home, check out these Engaged Marriage posts:

When Should Newlyweds Buy Their First House?

5 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Home

When Should a Couple Rent vs Buy a Home?

Comment: What would you add to this list to help couples buy a home they can truly afford over the long term?

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