Kim Hall, Author at Engaged Marriage - Page 4 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!

10 Places to Find Free and Nearly Free Stuff

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

10 places to find free and nearly free stuffSome folks are just not comfortable with the thought of obtaining previously owned clothing and household items, and that’s fine.

Others, like my husband and I, make our dollars go much further by taking advantage of gently used goods.

What we especially love is finding merchandise in good, usable condition for free or nearly free.

We joke that we have a finely tuned sense of Freedar—that’s like Radar, only different 🙂 —that alerts us to big bargains.

This has been developed over the years due to our desire to get the most Wow! for our money.

Plus, we get a real charge out of discovering deals!

To help get you rolling towards more savings and a debt free marriage, or just for the thrill of the hunt, here is the list:

Ten places to find Free and Nearly Free stuff!

1.  Free pile at work.  More than one previous employer had a designated area, such as a side table in the cafeteria, where employees were welcome to bring in clean, usable items. Books, clothes, holiday decorations, household goods, and more made regular and very short appearances there. If your workplace doesn’t have a free pile, you can always suggest they start one, and you can offer to oversee it.

2.  Church clothing exchange.  Our church hosted these twice a year. In May and then again in October, families would bring in clothes they no longer wanted or needed. The event lasted for about three weeks, which gave plenty of time to donate and “shop.” Whatever was left at the end was donated to a local charitable thrift store.

3.  School clothing swap.  Our daughters attended a private elementary school, where we held a similar twice yearly exchange. This was incredibly helpful financially, as the children wore uniforms. In another local public school, the parents group organized a clothing swap for the families. Kids grow so quickly, so it it’s always helpful to find free clothes!

4.  Rummage sale.  Watch the public bulletin boards in your local grocery store, in the library, and of course, Craigslist, for notices of rummage sales (usually under the garage sale category). Typically, clothing and so much more can be had at very reasonable prices. If you go after noon, though, they tend to offer huge deals so they don’t have to handle leftover donations.

Get to know the dates of the best annual events, and mark them on your calendar for next year. We had a couple of huge ones where I previously lived, and people would line up at least an hour in advance to get first crack at the bargains. Our daughter furnished her first after college apartment almost completely during the late afternoon big bargain time at one of these very inexpensive and fun sales.

5.  Craigslist.  This busy site has a Free section within the For Sale area. Although the pickings are a little slim here, sometimes you can find a real gem. The trick is to just keep checking. In the Yard Sale section, folks will post “Curb Alerts.” These are notices of yard sale leftovers they are leaving for free on their front lawns/curbs, or things they no longer want or need.

Always be courteous, do what you promise, and be safe. If you are new to Craigslist, take the time to read over their FAQ’s, including the information on general help, fraud, and safety.

6.  Freecycle.  The goal of this network is to reduce and recycle goods you no longer want by giving them away to others. They have over seven million members worldwide, and over 5,000 groups. My town of just over 2,000 individuals was even part of a small area group. You sign up for one or more groups in your area. When another member posts an item, you email them to let them know of your interest. Like Craigslist, always be safe and smart about your on and offline transactions.

7.  Family and friends.  Let these folks know you are interested in locating particular items for free or nearly free, and offer to stay similarly on the lookout for them. Putting the power of a larger group to work is a wonderful thing. We always have other folks in mind as we peruse merchandise. If we pick up something and the person no longer needs or wants it, we can just give it away, no harm done.

8.  Town convenience/recycle center. These places may have different names depending on where in the country you live. Many of them provide an area where you can drop off used goods for others. I know of a wealthy town whose area is so well-stocked and wildly popular that the managers have created a two-step ID check-in process to keep out non-residents.

9.  Neighborhood curb shopping.  Most suburban areas have a regular trash pickup day. Find out what day that is, and drive there the night before. If you see something on the curb you’d like beside the trash containers, you can check with the owners before taking it. Let comfort, common sense, and courtesy be your guide! Trent of The Simple Dollar wrote about this practice here. You can certainly do this in your own neighborhood, but some folks are just more comfortable curb shopping where they aren’t approaching friends and neighbors.

10.  College campuses.  At the end of the year, students are focused on final projects, exams, and going home. In their hurry to flee, they often leave lots of useful merchandise at the curb. This is true for dorms as well as off-campus housing.

This list should give you plenty of places to start your search for free and nearly free goodies.

Remember this: Just because someone has discarded an item does not automatically mean it is trash.

It may very well be the treasure you have been seeking!

Question: Where would you recommend searching for free and nearly free stuff?

Photo credit

Your Life is a Job Interview: 10 Tips for Creating Luck

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

Your Life is a Job Interview: 10 Tips for Creating LuckEvery day, whether you realize it or not, your life is a job interview.

You might be interviewing for a promotion, a change in responsibilities, or a completely new job, even if you aren’t necessarily looking for something different.

These stealth Q & A’s can happen in these situations, for instance:

  • When you ask a business to fix a mistake
  • When you shop for a new house
  • When you reach out to help others

Honestly, though, they can happen anywhere or anytime.

The common thread, of course, is the quality of interaction you have with others.

Here are a couple of stories to illustrate how life is a job interview.

Our oldest daughter had been going to the local library since she was a baby. By the time she was a fourteen, her overwhelming enthusiasm for books, her quiet and polite demeanor, and her general knowledge of the library was well known to all who worked there. Around that time, the head librarian offered Alexis a job. Our daughter was thrilled at the opportunity and remained with them throughout high school.

Some years back, I was helping my husband pick up loaner gas grills for our annual church barbecue. At one stop, we chatted at length with a friend from church. One topic led to another, and the conversation ended with us trading phone numbers. She wanted to schedule me for interview for a position that was due to open up in a few weeks in her office. I was offered and did take the position.

Neither of these positions were ever advertised as available.

They were filled by virtue of people who had “interviewed” us over time.

Each interaction, request, and problem was an opportunity for others to see our abilities and character in the real world.

We were able to show over time what kind of individuals we were rather than just say it in an interview.

Earl Nightingale said that luck is where preparedness meets opportunity.

I would say that is exactly what happened in our case.

Following are 10 tips to help you to create that same “luck” in the job market:

1.  Keep your skills polished, and add new ones, too.

2.  Embrace failure, as it’s part of stretching your comfort zone.

3.  Maintain a positive attitude, especially when the going gets tough.

4.  Treat others with respect.

5.  Be slow to anger, quick to forgive, and learn to fight fair.

6.  Keep your social networks clean and appropriate.

7.  Practice gratitude, particularly by being generous with thank-you’s.

8.  Perform random acts of kindness regularly.

9.  Offer help with no strings attached.

10.  Encourage others.

It’s really about putting your best foot forward daily.

Not only will you be happier, but you will also shine brightly as a potential job candidate!

Question: What step can you take to be better prepared for the next stage of your work life?

(photo source)

7 Steps to Leaving a Legacy of Love

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

leaving a legacyWhen you think of leaving a legacy of love, what comes to mind?

How about writing a will, choosing a guardian for your children, and generally leaving your affairs in order?

Those suggestions probably are not the ones that came to the forefront.

After all, no one likes to think of themselves as mortal, especially when they are young and vibrant.

I imagine that may be the case with you as well.

Let’s face it: This is a discomforting thought and one we’d rather not dwell upon.

Here is the problem, though.

When you move on without having a plan in place, completely apart from dealing with the grief, life for your loved ones gets really, really, difficult.

This is true whether you are single, married, with or without children, or whether you are 21, 102, or somewhere in between.

When you do lay the groundwork, even though it may sound cold and clinical to do so, you are leaving a legacy of love.

In essence you are saying, “Here is a lifeboat. I know I can’t prevent the storm, but this vessel will help ease the way to calmer waters and sunnier days.”

Chanel Reynolds lost her husband and was left behind as a single mom:

The reality of my financial situation hit me like a ton of bricks: our income immediately went from ‘healthy’ to ‘zero’, we did not have an emergency fund, our life insurance policy hadn’t been updated in 5 years, we had no disability insurance. Without short term help from friends and family and the life insurance that came later, I would have quickly lost everything, including my sanity. I was frighteningly vulnerable, it’s embarrassing, but it’s true. And it is true for many of you.

She shares her hard-won lessons about getting your life together and planning ahead at her website, along with tips, resources, and hope. (Caution-strong language warning.)

Following are seven steps to leaving a legacy of love.

1.  Get yourself and your marriage debt free. Dustin addresses the reasons for this here. I know you’ve probably heard this before, but it can’t be said enough. Being debt free means there aren’t lots of bills to track and pay when your mind is elsewhere. It also means you aren’t at risk of losing your car or other property because, in your grief, you forgot to or couldn’t make the payments.

2.  Create a Legacy Drawer. This is the mother lode of all of your critical information. Dave Ramsey describes the what and how here. I will caution you from experience that putting all the information together can be a bit daunting. It is much easier for you to do it now, though, rather than leaving your loved ones to ferret out this information.

3.  Get your passwords into one place. How many passwords do you have for all those sites you belong to? Be sure they are accessible. This will be part of the Legacy Drawer, but deserves its own mention. I like a duel-pronged approach. Keep a paper copy on hand, using a word document or index cards. You can also save passwords digitally and be more secure online using a password manager program. LastPass and 1Password are a couple of reputable sites. Reviews and more choices are here.

4.  List your social media sites and any related information. Have you thought about what happens to your digital life when you pass away? Mashable provides insight here. I had never thought of adding a social media clause to our will as they suggest, but will be doing so.

5.  Purchase term life insurance for you and your spouse. There are other types of coverage, but my husband and I sit firmly in the term camp. We follow Ramsey’s recommendation of at least ten times your yearly income so that you can live off the interest without touching the principal. Remember that whether you work or stay at home, you will need to replace an income, all the work your spouse does, or both.

6.  Make a will. Again, this is part of the Legacy Drawer, but absolutely worthy of a separate note.  If you don’t have a will, the state will decide via the legal process who gets what. Wouldn’t you rather be in charge of those decisions? You can contact a lawyer, or a website like LegalZoom or TotalLegal to make your will. If you have made one already, be sure to update it as your life changes.

7.  Choose a guardian for your children. I believe that of all the steps, this is the most difficult. After all, there is no one who will parent exactly like you. However, if you don’t choose, the courts will choose for you. To get a sense of considerations, check out The Baby Center. I would add a couple of key questions: Who will love my children as I do? In whose home will my child feel deeply loved and cared for? Sometimes it helps to get a fresh point of view on a tough decision like this. I recommend this helpful technique to provide perspective from the future.

Make a plan to tackle each of these areas, and commit to being done by a particular date.

Consider that getting this organized is a very good thing, as it will also make your life run a bit smoother.

Remember that you certainly want to live a story worth telling, but you’ll also want to pave the way so the next chapters can to be written with more comfort and joy.

Question: What steps have you taken so far for leaving a legacy of love and what would you add to this list?

Photo credit: Sudanshu Goyal

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Budgeting: Change your perspective, change your life

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

Budgeting change your perspective, change your lifeWhen I think of budgeting, I am reminded of what Elizabeth George wrote in Putting on a Quiet and Gentle Spirit about learning to read the Bible:

There is the cod liver oil stage when you take it like medicine; the shredded wheat stage when it’s nourishing but dry; and the peaches and cream stage when it is consumed with passion and pleasure.

That quote has stayed with me, especially because I felt that way almost my entire life.

I was a cod liver oil gal for sure—Why in the world would anyone read the Bible?!?—and then, less than ten years ago, I was introduced to the beauty and blessing of having a relationship with Christ.

My world was forever rocked.

Now I’m a peaches and cream girl. 🙂

I realized that my hubby and I followed that same thought process with our finances.

We knew budgeting existed, but what a bothersome thing to do.

Why, it would be like taking cod liver oil when we were FINE.

*Shudder*

What would be the point?

The point is that budgeting is either tasty preventative medicine to help you become even more financially healthy or a welcome and necessary cure to help you back up onto your feet.

The truth is that about 7 out of 10 Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.

According to an article on CNN Money:

Roughly three-quarters of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, with little to no emergency savings, according to a survey released by Bankrate.com Monday.

. . . online lender CashNetUSA said 22% of the 1,000 people it recently surveyed had less than $100 in savings to cover an emergency, while 46% had less than $800. After paying debts and taking care of housing, car and child care-related expenses, the respondents said there just isn’t enough money left over for saving more.

Living on that edge means one event can push you over the cliff, and the odds of you going over are much higher than you can imagine.

Budgeting helps you avoid that steep and painful fall.

I have put together ten tips to help change your perspective so you can become a peaches and cream budgeter, too.

1.  Accept that in the beginning it may taste like cod liver oil. Yes, putting ALL your debts, expenses, and income on paper is painful, but it’s far better than continuing to live in ignorance. Been there, done that. Trust me on this, and please, just take this step. Dustin has a great how-to on the basics, and more on why to budget here.

2.  Understand where you are is not forever. Putting those figures down doesn’t condemn you to that place for your life. It’s  just a financial GPS so you can see where you are right now.

3.  Realize that once you have your bearings, you can plot your journey forward. You will never be able to move to where you want to be unless you figure out where you are.

4.  Know that you will mess up. Yes, failure is an option and an integral part of the learning process. It’s like piloting a ship to a distant port. The craft can’t travel in an absolutely straight line. The captain doesn’t throw up his hands in anger and irritation every time he goes off-course. He just adjusts direction as needed.

5.  See budgeting as freedom. Yes, sweet, sweet freedom! You may believe as we did that budgeting meant we’d never have fun again. EVER. But, like the optical illusion below, what we saw depended completely on our perspective. Duck or bunny? Chains or freedom? Once we realized the budget was our opportunity to choose intentionally where each dollar went, we saw the freedom we could have from guilt, worry, and fear.

duck bunny optical illusion6.  Embrace the hope that follows budgeting. We have seen hope bloom in folks my husband and I have helped with getting their finances in order, and we felt it ourselves. I can’t explain it. I can tell you there is a mental load you are carrying you probably don’t even know is weighing you down. Once you begin budgeting, you will be surprised at how much more hopeful you feel.

7.  Enjoy greater confidence in handling financial emergencies. Our youngest daughter and her boyfriend decided to surprise us at Christmas by driving nearly non-stop from Montana to New Hampshire. The 2,500 miles were not without excitement. They hit a deer, which ripped off the right side of their bumper. They drove over two big potholes in the middle of the night, which flattened a tire and bent a rim. The service that came to help backed into their car and put a hole in what was left of the bumper. The intrepid travelers had to rent a car to finish the distance from western NY to NH, and back again. Needles to say this was costly, but they handled it all in stride.

8.  Find a method to make it easy and convenient. Find a way that works for you, whether it’s on paper or in the computer. The longer you create budgets, the easier it becomes, and the more you can see the distance you have covered. That makes life go down so much more sweetly!

9. Use the power of the Wow! Factor. It’s about figuring out the opportunity costs, determining what you truly value, and what really fits you and your family today. Integrating these areas brings lots of joy and satisfaction to the process and follow-through.

10.  Remember that budgeting is a tool. It is a means to an end to help you to achieve a goal, like a car gets you to work. Just. A. Tool. When you realize this, you can let go of the negative emotions attached to budgeting.

Everyone has problems, and if you try to run away from them they tend to eventually run you over. Instead, embrace them and learn what you can. It is often the most difficult times that grow you the most, but are also the most gratifying.

Solving problems, whether after the fact or preemptively, is a task for which budgeting is wonderfully suited.

Now go create your budget so you can change your life for the better!

Question: Where are you in the budgeting process? Cod liver oil stage? Peaches and cream? Please share in the comments so we can help one another!

Original image credit: Alan Cleaver

10 Occasions to wear your Walk Away Shoes

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

10 occasions to wear your walk away shoesHave you ever worn figure skates or downhill ski boots?

Both provide very snug support for your feet and ankles.

While they may feel unusually tighter than your everyday footwear, their very support allows you to be more accomplished and comfortable at either sport.

The same goes for your Walk Away Shoes, which I wrote about previously.

They take a little getting used to, but their support is invaluable towards being successful in achieving your goals.

Now that you’ve completed the three simple steps to create your Walk Away Shoes (if you haven’t just go here), I’m sharing ten occasions to wear this uniquely helpful footwear.

10 Occasions to wear your Walk Away Shoes

1.  Yard sales. How often do you say, “It’s only a quarter, a dollar, a few bucks. What a bargain! I might need this one day!” Leave those items behind unless they meet a need you have already noted.

2.  Christmas. The season is notorious for overbuying. Use your shoes—and your budget—to walk unscathed through the minefield of marketing.

3.  Anniversaries. Bigger is better! If you love your spouse, you’ll buy them this very expensive gift! No, no, no. There can be much more value in providing what money can’t buy.

4.  Hostessing. I understand fretting over guests and being afraid of how they’ll judge you based on your home and what you serve. I’ve been there, done that, got the sleepless nights to prove it. My guests never did that, and if they did, they were not folks I’d want to spend time with anyway. I imagine the same is true for you.

5.  Vacations. Again, bigger is not necessarily better, especially if you have to go into debt to travel. Remember it’s the experiences that create the warm memories, not the pile of money you’re burning through.

6.  Activities. How full is your calendar? Are you living on the road because of everything you’ve signed on to do, especially if you have children in sports? Time to cut back, or at least begin to say no. Just as your car engine will overheat and shutdown when there’s no downtime, so will you.

7.  Career searches. I understand being very unhappy at work. When you go looking for something new, be sure to set your parameters in advance so you don’t end up with, for instance, a miserably long, two hour a day commute in good weather, when gas was at its most expensive ever, and you work nights and weekends when your goal was to get some sort of regular schedule in your life again. Not that I ever did that.

8.  Promotions. Yes, getting a promotion can feed your soul and fill your bank account. However, the cost may be more than you realized you would have to pay. Weigh your options and your life and family goals carefully  before moving up.

9.  Buying a home. Oftentimes, pride wants to take the lead in choosing your home. Bad idea. Focus instead on your long term goals, needs, and wants. Be sure to keep those Walk Away Shoes handy as you include quality questions as part of your research.

10.  Giving of yourself. When you become overwhelmed, discouraged, and resentful because of your giving, it’s time to take a deeper look at what’s going on. Perhaps it’s time to let go of one or more things to make room for something better.

Dr. Seuss wrote in Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

And so you do, have feet in your very unusual shoes.

These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg.

The more you grow accustomed to this custom-made footwear, the more occasions you will find to wear them.

Remember that when you use your Walk Away Shoes, you are focusing on the continuing hits of gratitude, joy, and flat-out satisfaction from making the best decision you knew how instead of allowing emotions to rule the day.

Question: Where will you use your Walk Away Shoes this week, or where have you worn them recently? We’d love to have you share in the comments!

Original image credit