All Posts by Kim Hall

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Jul 06

How to Say Good-bye to Limiting Financial Beliefs

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

good bye to limiting financial beliefsPersonal money management has two very important, but unequal, parts.

The how-to is actually only about 20% of the equation, while your behavior holds the overwhelming majority of the control.

The nuts and bolts of the how-to are easy ones to address, but your behavior is a more interesting matter.

Your behavior is guided by your core beliefs: what you value, what is appropriate, what is possible, etc.

As a married couple, that makes handling finances all the more interesting, because you each bring different beliefs to the table.

Core beliefs can help you see a world full of possibility in successful money management, or they can cripple your movement forward.

History is littered with examples of limiting beliefs:

It’s impossible to sail around the world.

There will never be a true flying machine.

Humans cannot run a mile in less than four minutes.

Fortunately, pioneers existed who didn’t share these sentiments.

They broke through the barriers and set new standards of what was possible.

Self-limiting beliefs are psychological barriers that get in your way.

Here are five self-limiting beliefs and examples of how they might show up in your conversations.

Hopelessness.  “There’s just no way to get out from under all the money we owe.”

Helplessness.  “We’ve always been clueless about money management. It’s just too complicated.”

Uselessness.  “It doesn’t matter what we do. There’s always something that sets us back.”

Blamelessness. “It’s not my fault. My parents never taught me. My spouse is the problem.”

Worthlessness.  “We’re just not meant to have enough money. It’s just the way things are.”

There are many other shapes these can take.

Pay attention to the chiding voices in your head and the negative things that roll off your tongue to identify yours.

However, if one or more of these already resonates with you, that’s actually good news.

Being aware of a limiting belief is not much different than realizing your foot aches because there’s a pebble in your shoe.

You aren’t going to be able to achieve a fitness goal, whether walking regularly or becoming a marathoner, until you take care of the pebble.

Similarly, you need to say good-bye to limiting beliefs to clear the way to setting and achieving financial goals.

Saying good-bye to limiting financial beliefs

Identify your self-limiting beliefs about money. Note that these are typically so deeply ingrained you and your spouse treat them as the absolute truth. They are not. Take note of the beliefs above that resonated with you. This is critical because you will remain stuck in an unhealthy financial place until you deal with these obstacles.

Recognize your mind is really, really, attached to these beliefs. Your mind will automatically go in search of evidence to support the beliefs, even when there may be much more evidence to the contrary. 

In Stop Saying You’re Fine! Mel Robbins writes about what happens in your mind when you’ve been stuck, and you begin entertaining some game-changing thoughts.

It’s a constant battle between your game-changer thoughts (lose weight, start a business, find love) that want to upset the current order of your life, and the protective thoughts (I don’t feel like it today, what if I get hurt) that want to preserve order by keeping things the same. Your mind is always scouting all the incoming signs from the outside world, and trying to make predictions about what might happen next, all in order to maintain a high level of safety and a reduced level of risk. When it sees a threat of any kind, it finds a reason to retreat. It’s the wet-blanket theory of motivation. If your mind can kill a great idea by dampening it with emotional turmoil, it will.

Now that you have the tactical advantage of greater awareness, you can take the next step.

Ask quality questions to help bust those beliefs.

Author Jay Arthur shares simple ones:

If you believe “It’s hopeless,” ask “How is it possible?”

If you believe “I’m helpless,” ask “What do I already know about it?”

If you believe “It’s useless,” ask “How is it desirable?”

If you believe “I’m blameless,” ask “How am I responsible?”

If you believe “I’m worthless,” ask “How do I deserve it?”

Pull examples large and small from all parts of your life, not just the financial area. Sometimes your spouse is much better at seeing where you have been successful, so ask each other for input. Be sure to be encouraging, supportive, and open-minded in this conversation. Read stories from and about people who have walked this road before you and have help and hope to share. Dustin has great resources on money and communication, and here’s a Pinterest Board devoted to Debt Freedom stories.

Take action and create new beliefs in their place.

When you look at the list of limiting beliefs, you will see they can all be transformed by gathering more accurate information that contradicts and undermines them.

Hopelessness turns into possibility when you see the ways different families have successfully tackled debt, and you take one or more of those strategies on as your own.

Helplessness is replaced by capability when you learn the simple steps to creating a home budget.

Uselessness changes to purposefulness when you envision how wise financial management is desirable and doable for your family

Blamelessness becomes empowerment when you embrace the satisfaction and growth that responsibility brings.

Worthlessness evolves into value when you realize you are able to not only provide well for your family, but also to help others, too.

With each step you take, every dollar you control, your hope and confidence will grow.

Your belief in yourselves to truly be in charge of your finances will strengthen, and your marriage will be healthier as well.

Comment: Which limiting belief do you struggle with the most?

Jun 01

The Tale of a Red Envelope and a Job Offer

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

red envelope and a job offerHave you ever been so tired of or discouraged with what you do that you are ready not just to change jobs but switch to a completely different field?

A young woman I know was in that very difficult place.

She had been employed in the healthcare industry for over five years, working her way from a per-diem position to full-time, and she had recently been promoted from assistant manager to a management position.

She was very excited about her new responsibilities, but it wasn’t long before she realized the fit was not right.

After lengthy discussions with her fiancee about the pros and cons of the situation, they decided it was time to not only time for her to leave the job, but to leave healthcare altogether.

The opportunity cost of staying was too great, and it was time for a big change.

After taking stock of her skills and what she loves to do, and then researching businesses that might be a match, she decided to apply to a company that caters to creative consumers like herself.

They do not accept online applications, so Ellie filled out the lengthy questionnaire, tailoring her experience to the needs of the company, making sure her responses were complete, well-thought out, and neatly and legibly written.

When she was ready to hand in the paperwork, she wanted to make sure it would stand out.

She knew she’d be in a large pack of potential employees because the company pays considerably above average for the area for hourly part and full-time employees.

Plus, the company didn’t even have any positions posted at the time.

After brainstorming different ideas for making her application memorable, she decided to put her creativity to use.

She wanted to fashion a colorful envelope, something that would be eye-catching.

It would need something on the outside—decorations, or perhaps a name or message—for some extra pop.

She found the perfect inspiration on the company’s website career page where there was a statement in large, bold letters: We’re looking for you!

She proceeded to create her envelope from bright red felt and applied white letters to read the following: I heard you’re looking for me.

This light-hearted project would potentially set her apart and make her memorable in other ways as well:

Showcasing her creative nature

Sharing her sense of humor

Illustrating her awareness of the company’s desire for great employees

The most important role of the envelope, of course, was to get the right person curious about what was inside so she would be invited for an interview.

When Ellie brought her colorfully packaged application to the business, she asked to speak to a manager.

They spoke briefly, and he explained they weren’t currently hiring.

He was amused by the envelope, however, and commented positively on it.

With the delivery of her application complete, Ellie thanked the manager for his time and again expressed her interest in working for the company.

A couple of months later, Ellie received a call from that same manager asking her if she was still available.

She went for her interview, and the first thing she noticed on his desk was her red envelope.

The manager told her there had been a hiring freeze, but he had been intrigued enough by her approach to read and keep her information close by so he could call her when an opening came available.

The questions and conversation began, and Ellie was hired that day.

Her skills, personality, and experience were a match for what the business needed, and she did all she could to be sure her information was seen by the person who makes the hiring decisions.

Consequently, this tale of a red envelope and a job offer had a very happy ending.

The good news is that while the red envelope may not work in your situation, there are other similarly clever and related ways to get your application to the top of the pile and in front of the right person.

As Dan Miller notes in his best-seller 48 Days to the Work You Love:

The major difference between successful and unsuccessful job hunters is not skill, education, age, or ability, but the way they go about their job hunt. 

So, get thinking, get intentional, get creative, and get hired!

Comment: What have you done or can you do to stand out to stand out to a potential employer?

May 11

Enabling your children can weaken your marriage

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

enabling your children can weaken your marriageWhen Kansas farm girl Dorothy closed her eyes and murmured longingly, “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home!” she was speaking as a twelve year old who had come to recognize the true magic of home, not as a young adult comfortably and seemingly permanently ensconced under your roof.

Home is a wonderful place, and it’s no surprise that millennials find the idea of moving back in—or never leaving—appealing.

Certainly there can be healthy arrangements for adult children and families living under one roof based on respect, gratitude, and good communication.

However, if you are ready to throw your door open wide in the spirit of financial helpfulness, or if you already have, you’ll want to be vigilant so you don’t weaken your marriage.

How do you know if you are helping or enabling?

Christian Personal Finance defines the difference:

Helping is doing something for someone else that they are not capable of doing for themselves.

Enabling is doing things for someone else that they can and should be doing for themselves.

It is all too easy, as my hubby and I and many other parents will attest, to subtly and unwittingly transition from a situation that began as helpful to one that is enabling.

Helping, for example, is allowing your newly minted graduate to move back home for the summer while they continue to look for a job.

Enabling is still having that same child, now 27 years old, living at home, while you provide for their every need, plus footing the bill for those college loans, because they’re still weighing their options for the future.

If you have become an enabler, what’s driving you?

So many emotions might be at play:

Guilt: You are your child’s protector and provider.

Fear: Your young adult will fall onto extremely hard times, become homeless, go hungry, or will suffer in other ways.

Doubt:  You’ve never seen evidence they can actually take care of themselves financially.

Shame:  What will people think if they see your child living in poverty while you lead a comfortable life?

Discomfort: It’s easier to just keep giving the money than handle a confrontation.

Control:  As long as you write the checks, you get the major stake in continuing to run their life.

Pride:  You feel self-righteous as you sacrifice, believing you owe your children everything.

Responsibility:  It’s your fault you never taught them how to be self-sufficient.

Enabling your children can weaken your marriage

Very simply, it may put the opinions, needs, and the desires of your spouse below those whom you are enabling, thereby going against one of the most basic foundations for a strong marriage: putting your spouse first.

Husbands or wives may disagree on the amount and length of support needed, feel they are being taken advantage of, and especially may resent not being able to enjoy this season together as empty nesters.

Even if you agree as a couple that you both have become enablers, the financial stress in addition to the other difficulties that arise from this arrangement can spill over and create tension and arguments in other areas.

Learning to let go of enabling behavior

Remember that when you financially enable, you are effectively saying your offspring is not capable and is devoid of marketable talent or skills.

It’s time to change the message you are sending.

Get on the same page as your spouse. This may be the first of several uncomfortable conversations, but it is foundational to the ultimate success of launching your child into self-sufficiency. Here are a couple of terrific communication resources right here on Engaged Marriage: Thinking StylesImprove Communication

Put some breathing room into your life. When you are overwhelmed in general, problems can loom larger than life, and your response is often outsized in return. Use the ideas here to brainstorm with your spouse to create an environment that works for you, your marriage and your family.

Love your child enough to say No More Money, it’s time to make a plan to go. It is the ultimate in tough love and frees your child to behave like the responsible adult they have the potential to be. For more in-depth help on the how-to, here are some resources:

Slouching Toward Adulthood:  How to let go so your kids can grow up, by Sally Kowlow

How To Stop Enabling:  When Our Grown Children Disappoint Us, a thorough round up of articles and books

The Enabler:  When helping hurts the ones you love, by Angelyn Miller

Realize you may feel worse before you feel better. When you are asked to imagine your favorite dessert, you conjure up an image of an incredibly delectable dish. Conversely, when you think about how the conversation will go, you imagine the worst about what will happen to your relationship and for your son or daughter’s future. Generally, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Your situation likely has taken years to evolve, and you have been a party to prolonging it.

It’s time to draw that line in the sand.

The kids know what is appropriate, but they will push the boundaries just like they did when they were 2, and 7, and 12 and 16 years old.

Be the adult in the room and the loving parent you were designed to be and provide the guidance and wisdom and boundaries your children need so that your marital and family relationships can mend.

My husband and I have walked this path in addition to helping a single mom get the ball rolling, and I know you can do it, too!

Comment: What is your opinion on enabling your children?

Apr 06

Make Better Purchasing Decisions with the Power of 10-10-10

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

make better purchasing decisions with the power of 10-10-10Every so often you hear or read about an idea so simple and useful that you automatically add it to your life “toolbox”:

Using the 3 Door Rule for more peace of mind in a situation

Implementing the Five Why’s to get to the bottom of an issue

Remembering there’s a pony in there somewhere when the going gets difficult.

Last fall I read the book 10-10-10: 10 Minutes, 10 Months, 10 Years, A Life-Transforming Ideaby Suzy Welch, and my entire family picked up another powerful tool that changed the way we make decisions in all areas of our lives.

The concept is to make decisions by deliberately considering their consequences in the immediate present, near term, and distant future.

It is a reliable and methodical way to arrive at a sound decision that really works, yet takes into consideration your emotions, feelings, and values.

Here’s how to make better purchasing decisions with the power of 10-10-10

Begin with a question. You’ll want to define and refine this so you know exactly what problem you want to fix.

Recently I had had it with our side-by-side refrigerator. It came with the house we bought last year and runs just fine, but it doesn’t hold much, particularly in the freezer section. I began to dream about a shiny new French door model, and actually shopped a bit with my husband, but then caught myself. What problem was I trying to solve?

After doing some brainstorming, I realized the problem was more about my irritation and dislike of side-by-sides because I have to be more careful about how much I purchase or cook so I do have room to store it.

The question then became this: Can we buy a refrigerator we’ll love, that will meet our needs, that is within our budget?

Move onto the information collection to determine options.

For us, that meant figuring out what our optimum storage needs would be and gathering information on pricing. It also meant looking at buying used, as well as what it meant to keep our existing fridge.

Determine the short and long term effect of each option.

This is where the 10-10-10 comes in. The first 10 is the present and could represent today, tomorrow, next week.

The second is that point in the foreseeable future when the initial reaction to your decision has passed but its consequences continue to play out in ways you can reasonably predict. This could be 10 days, 13 weeks, 8 months, depending on your situation.

The final 10 is quite a distance out—so you’ll estimate the effects in more vague terms.

We determined the effects of our options thusly:

The present: We’d have an awesome new fridge that went way over budget, or we’d buy a used one and stay under budget, or we’d keep the one we have until it dies. We’d have plenty of space for storage if we bought something different.

Near future: In about a year, the effect is still the same, although each passing year means the existing unit could stop working. If we bought new, we may really need that money we had to take out of another part of the budget to cover the shortfall in the refrigerator budget, and that might create some hardship.

Future: In five years, we wonder how our need for storage may change, especially since we’ve had closer to three to four persons living here most of the time rather than just the two of us. Also, we’d like to remodel the kitchen and realize the plan would have to work around the newer refrigerator. If we wait, we can save more money and buy what we want and need, assuming the existing unit lasts. That’s a calculated risk we’re willing to take.

Analyze the information alongside your values

Once we started to analyze the effects in concert with our values, the decision was incredibly easy to make.

Living within a budget has given us so much more peace of mind and freedom than we used to have because we are not spending endlessly and mindlessly.

We deeply value our debt freedom, our commitment to be wiser with our finances, and to be great role models for our family.

wanted a new refrigerator, I did not need a new refrigerator.

We already owned a good used refrigerator, so we decided buying another used one at this time was silly.

We weren’t willing to buy a new refrigerator unless we loved it and it met our current and potential future needs, and we couldn’t do that in the budget we had.

So, the old refrigerator still hums along in the kitchen, but I don’t hate it anymore.

I love that it runs the way it should so that we can continue to save towards a different one down the road.

Sound decisions create a life you love and can live with

When you make your decisions using this process, you will come away with a solution that really works and with which you are really comfortable.

Every time each of us uses 10-10-10, we are thrilled with how it slows the adrenaline rush to buy just enough so you can make a decision that works for today and for your future.

Once you start using 10-10-10, you’ll discover it can be applied in all areas of your life including work, friend and family relationships and responsibilities, marriage and parenting, and finances, and eventually becomes an automatic part of your decision making process.

I highly recommend reading the book for more information and insight!

Comment: What decision can 10-10-10 help you make today?

Mar 02

12 Surprising Takeaways from our Debt Freedom Journey

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

12 surprising takeaways from our debt freedom journeyMy husband and I were Ostriches.

You know the breed: Not exceptionally self-aware, since when they feel threatened they will try to flatten their nine foot tall, 350 pound bodies against the ground in an effort to become invisible.

Assuming that move fails, they can run like the wind from predators at sustained speeds of over 30 mph. Contrary to popular belief, however, they don’t stick their heads in the ground.

When they are doing their I’m invisible! routine, their bodies are so large, that their heads appear to be buried.

Yes, that pretty much described us.

Thankfully, we have undergone a metamorphosis, much like a caterpillar into a butterfly, except we transformed from large, ungainly, birds that hide from financial trouble into gazelles.

With our transformation into intentional spenders, savers and givers very much in our rear view mirror, we were chatting recently about the surprises we encountered along the way.

Here’s our list of 12 surprising takeaways from our debt freedom journey.

1. We didn’t know we were ostriches. It seemed there was plenty of money in the checkbook every week, so how could there be a problem? Besides, budgeting was like taking cod liver oil. Yuck.

2. Budgets can be fun. Yes, fun and satisfying. It’s a lot like coming around to loving exercise because you love the results.

Which Budgeting Software Is Best for Busy Couples?

If you're looking to get started or revamp your budget so you can become debt-free, be sure to check out You Need A Budget.

We LOVE it and it really does make budgeting fun!

3. We are both more nerdy than we ever realized. I really dislike math and never liked balancing my checkbook. But, we are list lovers. Drawing up a budget is creating a different type of list that notes where we choose to have our money go.

4. Our discussions about money got more difficult at first. We were always on the same page financially because we always spent pretty much what we wanted. When we started budgeting, we had to start saying no to some things so we could say yes to others.

5. The process gets you communicating in ways you never have before. See #4. This is truly hard if you are conflict averse, but this communication is critical to the health of your relationship.

6. Your invisible scripts about money and marriage will bubble to the surface. See #4 and #5. Beliefs on earnings, priorities, goals, rewards, etc, that you may not have known you have will create questions that must be answered and agreements that need to be reached.

7. You really do feel more hopeful the further along you go. But first, there’s the abject terror when you experience a big life event, like an accident, job loss, or a pregnancy, and realize your finances are not up to the challenge.

8. You will backslide, especially once you become debt free. We were warned about becoming complacent, and we fell off the wagon anyway. Not in a big way, but enough so our budgeting—if you can even call it that—got sloppy and even non-existent. Once we realized what we’d been doing, we got back on track and started moving forward again.

9. You can change in ways you never thought possible. If you had told me that I would love creating and living within monthly budgets, I would have had you committed. Turns out you would have been right.

10. There is an easy to follow process to get your debt freedom train rolling. Often times, even if you are aware you need to change, you are stumped by not knowing how. We used Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps, as did Dustin, and he details them here on the site.

11. You are role modeling terrific money management behavior for your children. One of the greatest gifts you’ve given yourself you are now able to pass on to your children so they will be wise money managers.

12. You will have so many more opportunities and so much more freedom. When you aren’t bound by debt, you can make choices to move to a job you like better, to be a stay at home mom, or move to a different part of the country, for example. You can also give more generously if that is on your list of desires.

You, too, can make the transformation, just as we and so many thousands of others have done.

Yes, there will be difficulties to iron out, conflicts to settle, conversations to be held, and mountains to climb, and maybe even climb again when you tumble backwards. 

I have no doubt you will experience surprise, delight, frustration, hope, and so much more.

Trust me, though, when I say that it will be well worth it!

Which Budgeting Software Is Best for Busy Couples?

If you're looking to get started or revamp your budget so you can become debt-free, be sure to check out You Need A Budget.

We LOVE it and it really does make budgeting fun!

Feb 02

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?

Jan 05

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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Dec 01

3 essential keys to furnish your home on a budget

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

3 essential keys to furnish your home on a budgetYou’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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Nov 03

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

Oct 06

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. House 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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