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November 2015

episode 10. The joy of having less stuff

This episode brought to you by cough drops and sick days from work, ugh. But even when we're sick we love to talk personal finances.

In our money, Christmas spending is upon us! We have budgeted $500 for Christmas including gifts, Christmas cards and a Christmas tree. We're already $120 in, we hope we can stick to it! We also wax on our love of living with less stuff which has been life-changing for us.

Several listeners have asked about saving to help your kid's pay for college so we share our strategy. We have 529 accounts set up for each child (we chose the Arizona plans but as a U.S. resident you can choose any state's plan, it does not restrict the schools where the money can be used). We chose the 529 because of the tax advantages (we an write off our contributions and withdrawals from the accounts for qualifying educational expenses do not incur a tax) and because it is easy for relatives to contribute, if they are so inclined. We are not contributing much to college savings at this time because we are saving up to pay off our mortgage. But once we save up and pay off our mortgage we will turn our attention to saving for college.

episode 9. Advice to our younger selves

Our children are sleeping! Kelsey is podcasting at work! Chris sold his side business and made zero dollars! In other news, our full work calendars have us buying lunch and coffee out way too much - shut it down!

We also share some advice for getting a budget started. Budgets can seem stressful but are, in fact, a helpful and powerful tool. A budget puts you in control of your money because you can track where your money goes, and you can identify areas for improvement (such as increasing savings, or cutting down on certain expenses). We use a budget in an Excel spreadsheet (see our budget here) along with Mint to track our money. We've also heard good things about the You Need A Budget software, but haven't tried it yet ourselves.

We are big proponents of making financial goals and working with your partner to achieve them. It might be saving for a down payment on a house, paying off a debt or something smaller like spending less on coffee (not to name names...). As you work toward your goal, celebrate along the way. We've found it to be a powerful tactic to keep us motivated as we work to accomplish a financial goal.

A listener asked a great question about what advice we would give our younger selves. We said:

  • Save like CRAZY! You'll never be so flexible as you are when you are young (and pre-kids) so sock away as much cash as you can.
  • Don't buy a house with a notion of a "starter home". Buy the best quality house that you can while keeping the mortgage payment as low as possible and plan to stay.
  • Get rid of stuff a la The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and don't accumulate crap.

episode 8. How love is like the stock market

Happy November, friends! We are excited to share a new feature of the show. We invited interested listeners to submit some information along with money-related questions. We plan to occasionally feature listener profiles and share our advice for these listeners on the show. So if you're interested please use this form to submit your info. Thanks!

In this episode we discuss the very sad state of sleep in our household. But at least life hasn't been too busy lately and we have a super fun date night to look forward to: Book of Mormon with friends!

In money talk we give an update on our progress towards saving up to pay off our mortgage. We're at $17,300 and hope to make $20,000 by the end of the year. And just a reminder, we are investing that savings in a Vanguard total stock market index fund. The specific fund is VTSAX, which has a $10,000 minimum. A similar, alternative account with no minimum is VTSMX.

We answer a listener question about our process for deciding to have two working parents. Of course, this is not a financial decision alone and each family situation is unique. But here's a summary of what went into our decision: the fulfillment of our jobs was a big factor along with financial benefits in the short-term and long-term, and living near/being after to afford excellent childcare. Currently we pay about $2,000/month for childcare for two young children and Kelsey takes home $2,800. Because Chris has always earned more and been in a tenure-track or tenured university position we never considered a situation in which Chris would leave his job and stay home full-time. At face value that may seem like it does not make financial sense for Kelsey to be working but there are other financial benefits such as health insurance, dental insurance and a great retirement match (Kelsey and her employer both contribute 7% to her retirement account). 

And in one big thing, how love is like the stock market: when things are tough is the best time to invest.