Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Living like no one's freaking hard!

Living like no one else so later you can live like no one else…….I hear Dave say this all the time. The other day I heard a man, 63 years old, call the Dave Ramsey show with a question as to whether or not he should buy a house. He had $2.9M in his retirement account and wanted to see if it was ok for him to buy a $300K house. Dave was shocked/pleasantly surprised by the amount of money this guy had saved and said he was the typical “millionaire next door”. The man laughed out loud and said “yeah, driving a 10yr old car”.  Oh and the caller made an average of less than $100K but he had been funding his retirement for 36 years.

Can I just say WOW! This is living like no one else so later you can live like no one else. But the truth is, this is not easy! We started the Dave Ramsey plan 4 years ago and continue to work the plan but I have to be honest, there have been times we have fall off the bandwagon; times where I just want to say “screw it, let’s go on a cruise and forget about having a fully funded emergency fund….we can save for that later”. But the truth is we were not smart with our finances for many years so we are still cleaning up our mess.

Is it hard? Yes it is! Especially when you have children and want to give them everything you “think” they want: cool toys, nice trips, fancy clothes, etc. So how do we keep ourselves from living from paycheck to paycheck and not spend every penny on “stuff’…..we stop and think about the kind of legacy we want to leave. I think Gracie and any other children we have, 20 years down the road, will appreciate more if her parents have a good size retirement fund so that we are not a burden to them later in life; they will appreciate having a fully funded college fund at 18 rather than the latest toy at 2; they will appreciate having a family legacy that’s all about giving rather than a family that keeps up with the latest gadgets and takes the coolest trips (nothing wrong this) at the expense of spending every penny they get and more (everything wrong with this).

So… day I want to be that caller! But I know the path to that final destination is not easy.  What can I say , I’m human, I’m a girl, I’m a mom and I like STUFF…LOTS OF STUFF! It’s not easy but if we, as a family, can make the hard decisions now, we can do whatever the flip we want at 63 because we lived like no one else and now we can live like no one else. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Great Enemy of Success

The great enemy….it will keep you from succeeding; it will convince you that “the little men can’t get ahead”; it brainwashes you and makes you believe you are a victim of society; it will keep you from being grateful and will invade your life with envy and jealousy…..the great enemy is “entitlement”.

This sense of entitlement makes you believe that just because you breathe you are entitled to succeeding in life! Well I’m sorry to burst this bubble but that is just not the case. Success only comes to those who work hard and are intentional about what they do.
Just like going to the gym and sitting there won’t get me a six pack, neither will living in America and believing  I'm entitled to being successful.

You see when you feel entitled to something this weakens and debilitates your motivation to go after that thing you want. On top of that you start to envy those who do have it and this just sets you up for failure because now “ you’re just a victim of your circumstances, you’re a victim of the government, you’re the victim of your upbringing, you’re the victim of the economy”….and so on!
So what is the solution?
* Having a grateful heart! Being grateful where you are but not satisfied! Knowing that if “it” is going to happen….it’s up to you…not the government, not your family….YOU!
* Be happy when others succeed….instead of trying to figure out how to “take it” from them, or thinking they are evil for having so much and should really re-distribute what they have…why don’t you become friends with those people and learn from them! That’s what my husband and I did….we surrounded ourselves with people that were smarter than us. We are far from where we want to be but we know we have the right people in our lives and we have chosen to celebrate their victories because we know that if it can happen to them, it can happen to us. After all, it’s like what Jim Rohn said: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” So the question is, who are you spending time with?
* Don’t ever buy the lie that you are the victim! I had a rough childhood, some years were good, some years were not….my adulthood was not easy either…mother had stroke that left her disabled…I had to pay for my own wedding and put myself through college while working and paying off some of my mother’s debt…..disabled mother got divorced (which I had to coordinate) and now lives with me….worked for almost a year on getting her medical insurance….I had two miscarriages before having Gracie, etc. etc. etc. I too could stand here and tell you that I can’t succeed in life because I was a victim of all these things and without a doubt many of you would agree with me. But I have CHOSEN to not buy that lie….and yes, although we all face challenges and have unfair things happen to us we can CHOOSE to move on and work hard towards success.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

They wanted me to spend my money and I said No No No

Aside from budgeting what else did we do to get out of debt? Well, first let me just say that we wanted to get out of debt more than anything in the world! That is actually key….because when you want something so bad you will do pretty much anything to get there.
In our case not only did we budget but here are some practical things we did:
* Dave Ramsey says that when you’re in debt and broke you should not see the inside of a restaurant unless you’re working there. Well, as you probably know Luis and I are no slim figure human beings….we like to eat!  So avoiding restaurants all together was HARD! So what we actually did was buy Groupons, order water instead of soft drinks or teas (you can easily save $7-$10 for two people here!). This was actually a great habit that stuck with me even when I could afford to buy tea J. Whenever possible buy a meal that can be shared or you can have some leftovers. That being said our budget for dining out was about $100 a month (for the two of us). We have yet to visit a fancy steak house for our anniversary!
* We went to the dollar movies. We fought the urge to see a movie when it just came out….instead, I kept a notepad listing all the movies that were coming out and we wanted to go see. Then we would wait for them to come to the dollar (really $1.50-$2) movies. We would eat before heading there to avoid the temptation to buy the million dollar bag of saturated fat….I mean butter popcorn. Because once you buy the $30 bag of popcorn….you have to buy the $20 soda to go with it in case you start chocking mid-way through the movie.
* When we needed clothes or wanted to buy clothes we would only shop off clearance racks! And by clearance I don’t mean 30% off…. I mean 75% off and more! If you go to my closet 80% of the stuff was bought off the clearance rack….that may explain to you why my colors are always a season behind.
This is me celebrating my bargain of the year! $44 outfit priced down to $4

* We found fun things to do that either required very little money or no money at all. Like the dollar movies….going to the mall (now we both have self-control and have learned to not be impulse buyers but if you don’t trust yourself just don’t take your wallet with you….I doubt the stores will trade you a pair of jeans for a blood or plasma!).
* I would say the most important exercise you can do is practice saying “no”. We learn this word as kids and have no problem saying it but for some reason it gets eradicated from our vocabulary as we get older and this can create a big mess! I know it sucks to turn down invitations all the time but trust me….when you meet your goal it will all be worth it! You can also get very creative…one time a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to meet her for lunch at the Plaza (which has a food court). I wanted to see my girl so I agreed but I told her I would be bringing my own lunch and I did! She went to corner bakery and I brought my homemade (actually my mother in law made it for us) chili….all I asked my friend was to bring me some crackers and a spoon.
* On Christmas we didn’t spurge money on each other….we actually got each other stuff we needed most of the time and a nice “want” gift. In fact, even now that we have Gracie we still didn’t go crazy last Christmas…we just bought her three toys that we had wanted to buy her since early on. Not only does she not need 100 million toys….we want to start setting a precedent that although it is nice to get gifts on Christmas…that is not the reason for the season and we want our children to know that. I don’t want them to be that person that throws a fit because her husband gave her perfume one Christmas when she had clearly stated “give me anything EXCEPT perfume”. I may or may not be this person.

* You know how hard it is to have a ridiculously gorgeous baby girl and not buy her every outfit out there? Yes! Super hard! But….same principle has applied to her….most outfits we have bought Gracie were either on sale (remember 75% or more) or used outfits from local facebook swap pages.  I also go on Zulily and add a million things on my cart and just let them sit there till they are no longer available….this kinda satisfies my urge to shop for cute clothes. When I was reading Smart Money Smart Kids there is a chapter where Rachel talks about watching her mom buy stuff only from the sale rack and growing up thinking that was the norm….and thinking how weird it was that people bought stuff for full retail price….that’s what I want Gracie to see!
Anyway…. we did more stuff  but bottom line is these are things we did during our journey to get out of debt but honestly they have now become a lifestyle for us and we are so excited to lead our Gracie and any future children this way.  

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Nerd and Free Spirit unite...or do they???

Now many of you know that Luis and I are very different….let’s just say it, we’re complete opposite, even when it comes down to money. Using Dave’s terms I’m the nerd and he’s the free spirit. So achieving our goal to pay off debt was no easy task….so how did we do it?
The keyword is the “B” word….yes, the budget! The most dreaded thing for the free spirit and the most exciting thing for the nerd (yes….i consider reviewing and monitoring my budget a hobby…one of my leisures!).  Before we took financial peace university Luis and I had a “budget” but it was more of a very lax/flexible budget. If we were in the red, we would just make a note to use our credit card for the deficit. However, after taking FPU and having a goal in mind (get out of debt and build wealth) we had to treat our budget different and more seriously. So….ever since mid-2010 we’ve had a budget committee every first day of the month. In reality, we have two…one closer to the end of the month to see where we stand and set raw numbers for next month’s budget. Then on the first of the month we set the budget for the month (now….remember that I enjoy monitoring our budget so every weekend I take a couple of minutes to review and then talk to Luis if I think we’re going over or if we’re doing great!). Also, if there’s an emergency the budget committee chair will call for an unscheduled meeting (I’m the budget committee chair…we have elections at year end and I always win!)
Now….this sounds simple enough right? Every month you meet for a couple of minutes and set that month’s budget…that’s pretty straight forward…or is it? Not the case when we first started! I wanted to save it all and Luis wanted to expand our misc amount to the hundreds! I lost count the number of times I threatened to close our joint checking account and open my own account and just split the bills! However, we worked through it and we now rarely have money fights….now, is Luis still a spender? YES! Am I still the saver? YES! But we both have learned to work together towards a common goal. We both get spending money at the beginning of the month (I’ve saved most of mine and have about $850 and if you ask him at the end of the month he probably has about $10 left). The key has been communicating and both of us being discipline enough to stick to our budget….we tell our money where to go at the beginning at the month and then our budget tells us where our money should go as the month goes by.

I will warn you….the first couple of months is not easy! And you will make mistakes…you will underestimate the amount you spend in one category or overestimate. Luis is not necessarily a planner so the first intense fights were because of that….he would get birthday invitations and wanted to get everyone bday gifts but we only had budgeted $30 for the month and we had $5 left. Well, month after month we would both get frustrated because he was ruining my budget and I was ruining his social life! However, as we worked together I learned to be a little more flexible with the budget (I would move some money from one category to another one to allow for flexibility) and he started planning better. At our budget committee meetings he gets his phone out and looks at bdays for that month so we can budget for this properly.

 Pictures curtesy of
Now that we have Gracie, although she has no idea what we’re doing yet we sit her in the office with us as we discuss this month’s expenses and this month’s savings goal. For us it’s important that she sees us doing that so that it becomes a natural thing for her to do as she starts her budget in her early teens.
Although budgeting is key to winning with money, it’s important to remember that everything worth fighting for will come at a price. So, for us to achieve our goal not only did we budget but we had to sacrifice a lot! What did we do? Stay tuned!
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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Murphy and his 3 cousins moved in my spare bedroom!

So who is Murphy??? Anything that can go wrong….will go wrong! Now who are his three cousins? In Dave’s own words, his three cousins are broke, desperate and stupid!
End of July was here and it was time to clean out our apartment and move into our dream home. A two story home with beautiful high ceilings….with ONE AC UNIT! Now, that had no relevancy to us till we got our first electric bill. Since many of you know how unbearable Texas summers are, you can probably relate to the need to crank up that AC to 70…what you may not be able to relate to is the electric bill we got after only two weeks of moving in! By the third week of August we got our first electric bill not thinking much of it since I based my calculations off how much we were paying at our old apt. I figure that it would be about double or $200 for the month. Well, we were in for a ride because TXU billed us for two weeks and it was $400! I remember a tear rolling down my face when I saw that. Now here’s the funny thing….we had no idea that it was due to having one AC unit. We got an electrician to come and check all the outlets and ventilation in our attic…everything good. So October came around and there was no need for AC or heater and guess what? Our electric bill that month was for $100 or less….and that was how we figure out it was our AC unit!
Six months after we moved into the house…after we figure out what was driving our electric bill so high, Murphy made his presence known again! I was sitting in our office checking our budget and my needy puppy was hanging out with me. Since I could not trust him I kept turning back to check on him….then I see traces of wet paws everywhere in our office and I thought “that little stinker peed!” so I trace back the wet paws to see where it’s coming from and VOILA….our ceiling is leaking! Best part…there’s also a leak in our living room. Oh…but there’s nothing to worry, the previous owner paid for a year’s worth of home warranty so surely they will fix it…right? We call the home warranty people, the come over and dig a hole in our ceiling only to let us know they can’t fix the problem.
Now, neither of one of these problems have been permanently fixed….we have implemented temporarily fixes because they both require a significant amount of $$$ to fix. Now, if didn’t have debt and had a solid well-funded emergency fund, this would’ve been fixed. But since we bought the house while still in debt and are just now building are fully funded emergency fund, these are just sitting in the back burner for now.
Moral of the story people….buying a house while still in debt and with no emergency fund is not a good idea people! I know renting is not always fun but trust me….neither is being broke and when you buy a house when you’re broke, you just become broker!
 "Renting for a season shows patience and wisdom" Rachel Cruze  - Smart Money Smart Kids


P.S. our water heater recently just busted too….very conveniently it happened during one of the coldest weeks we had this winter. Thankfully, we were out of debt and had the money to replace it without going into debt….therefore, this was just an inconvenience rather than a crisis. But….when you don’t have money and are buried in debt anything that breaks becomes a crisis! Which reminds me of the next problem we need to tackle….cover up the hole in our roof where the squirrels are going in and out and then running wild in our attic! I think they're having a budget committee meeting and someone is not happy! Probably the free spirit :)

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Paying off....$97K

 Now, a lot of you know that Luis and I just recently became debt free (except for the house). However, what many of you don’t know is how much exactly we paid off. Well, here it goes…..ever since starting the Dave Ramsey plan Luis and I have paid off almost $97K in debt…..and no, that does not include our mortgage! So what did we pay off? Well, we were normal and financed almost everything so: sleep number bed, rooms to go furniture, laser hair removal, car, credit card, student loans, and medical bills that we cash flow and some we didn't etc. (please note this doesn't include stuff we financed early in our marriage that was paid off before getting on this.)
Now, when we go down to Tennessee you will hear that we paid $70K….that’s because even after going through FPU we both became “ill” with a disease called “ HOUSE FEVER!”. To me it didn’t make sense to “throw” away rent money every month and it really just made more sense to pay for something we would eventually own (I will talk more about all the hiccups we had after moving to our new house on my next blog….because for us Murphy and his three cousins really did move in!).
So here’s a quick timeline for you:
May 2010 – We start FPU for the next 12 weeks – we get excited about paying debt so we get our debt snowball going.
Early 2011 – We both became severely ill with house fever!
August 2011 – we buy our first home!
Mid Aug 2011 – we conclude that Dave is right…..a house when you’re broke and buried in debt is a CURSE! (it didn’t take long to figure that out!)
Sep 2011 – we decide to get gazelle intense and pay off debt!
February 2014 – We finally become debt free!
Now, between Sep 2011 and the time we became debt free my husband and I went through tough times as a couple (also subject for another blog) but we were both determined to get out of debt! We did derail from time to time but we would always re-convene and work as a team! And trust me that was not easy because I’m a NERD to the core and my husband is a FREE SPIRT to the core! For us though it was important that we changed our family tree and although we would’ve loved for our little Gracie to be born with us being debt free completely, we at least know that 1) she will grow up in a family that knows normal is broke  2) she will learn to handle money in a COMPLETELY different way from the way we were both taught or not taught! 
Stay tuned because this is what’s coming next:
Murphy moved in my spare bedroom!
The NERD and FS unite but not before threatening to kill each other (really the Nerd wanted to choke the FS).
Before we got here….we walked through what felt like HELL!
This is how we paid off almost $97k since 2010. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Teach your kids how to handle money so they don't....

In honor of April Fool’s day I thought I would share some of the dumbest things I or we (as a couple with my husband) did with money. Now, in all honesty, this may have to be one of those blogs I have to write from time to time because it’s almost impossible to list every single dumb mistake we both made.
Well, when my mom had a stroke in 2004 and had to go to Guatemala to get physical and speech therapy, I very coincidentally got in the mail a pre-approval letter from Citi for a credit card that would help me earn miles. I was thrilled that I could earn miles on my credit card so that I could start getting free trips to Guatemala. Now, that was not the dumb part (yeah….I know!). The dumb part was that this is how I believed the program worked: since Guatemala is only about 2000 miles away from the US, then clearly that’s how many miles (or 4000 if it was round trip) I needed to accumulate to get a free trip! So, as soon as I got the card I started making purchases left and right… much that by 2005 when my husband and I got married, I had a $4K or $5K balance! As Dave would say….this was stupid on steroids! Now by the time I got to about 4,000 points I tried to redeem those for a free trip only to be very disappointed when I realized I only qualified for a one year magazine subscription to some random magazine I had no interest in reading.
Now….it’s my husband’s turn. When we got engaged (with a financed engagement ring….which was fully paid a year into our marriage…so you can say I contributed to paying for my engagement ring) one day he called me very excited! Well, he had gotten a “great deal”. He had a received notification in the mail that he had been selected to win two free tickets for a cruise  and get this….IT INCLUDED AIR FARE!!!! (yeah…you know where this is going). The whole thing was only going to cost us $1200. I was beyond excited….our first cruise together! Well, we were both in college and in the middle of our fall semester when we got married so we couldn’t take any long trips so we decided to wait till the summer to use our phenomenal trip. Once we were approaching summer we started looking into this fancy, dreamy, once in a lifetime trip he had given a $600 down payment for only to realize it was one of those timeshare deals! I can’ remember the details because this was almost 8 years ago but basically you had to listen to a sales pitch in order to get the trip…..we canceled the trip but were not refunded the $600. Luckily though we had received plenty of student loan money that year so we were able to go to sea world and get VIP seats to dine with Shamu!
Now….this is why it’s so important for our family to teach our children how to make wise financial decisions! The number of stupid things we have done with money is more than we can count (and therefore merit more than one post!) and although we are aware that our children will make their own mistakes, our hope is they can avoid making the same money mistakes!
Stay tuned for more stories on the dumbest money mistakes the #teamvasquezvielman have made!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

He did what?!?

So far I’m really digging this book! I like the practicality of it and that nothing is based on theory. Because we all know everything in theory “is perfect”. Kind of like me….I was the “perfect” parent until I became one!  
Anyway, there are many stories in this book (like the power point presentation Rachel Cruze gave her parents about how working and going to grade school would ultimately kill her! Hahaha….true story people!)  that are worthy of discussion and I will at some point. But this is the story about Daniel Ramsey (youngest of the Ramsey tribe) and how he saw his two sisters save money for their car and confirmed that the 401Dave car match did indeed work! So he saved $12,000 by the time he was 16! Now you have to read the book to get all the details behind this story but ultimately and although Dave did match dad, he told him he was not getting a $24K car….too much car for a 16yr old. This worked out for Daniel anyway because the car he really wanted was a $14K car. Now, this is what’s so fascinating about the story, Daniel had $10K sitting in the bank and after learning that Peru, which he had visited as part of a missions trip, had a massive earthquake, Daniel….a 16yr old decided to give all $10K away!
Now get this….this is a 16yr old that is probably into cool gadgets and maybe would even like to get every single Apple product available out there! But no….he decides to give it all away to charity.
This is an amazing story and it shows the power we have as parents to either raise selfish children that live in a bubble or children that are in touch with the outer world and know we are only STEWARDS of this money for ultimately it ultimately belongs to God!
Therefore, as a mom….I not only want to teach this to Gracie but I want to also model this. I want to show her that as stewards of God’s money our family has a responsibility to manage money well and again be the hands and feet of Jesus by helping those that are less fortunate or just bless someone just because we can!
So….my husband and I decided that now that we are out of debt and are almost done cleaning up our financial mess (by beefing up our emergency fund) we want to maybe on a monthly basis or every two months (not sure on the timing) take trips to the grocery store or gas station and spot someone who looks like is in need and just bless them by either filling up their tank or buying groceries! We want our children to grow up in this kind of environment so they too can serve people by giving their time, talent and treasure!
If you’re interested in learning more about the book go Presales are going on right now! They also have a sample of the first two chapters!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My first blog!

So…I decided to start a blog! I’m not the best grammar “guru” out there but dang it I like to write!
What trigerred this idea? Aside from the fact that I do like to write….recently I was very honored to be invited to be part of a launch group for the new book coming out on April 22nd called “Smart Money Smart Kids” by Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze. Now, for those of you who know me, you know I’m a big Dave Ramsey fan…probably because I’m a very logical person and therefore a big fan of common sense! If you know me, you also know that a few years ago we started a journey to become debt free which we just recently accomplished, except for our house….still working on that (our journey will be a separate topic for another day!). To us this was a VERY BIG deal! Why? Not only because we no longer want to owe anyone any money but because we want to change our family tree!
That’s where this new book comes in! Have you ever wanted to do something but don’t know how and you meet that one person that has exactly what you want?!?!?! Well, wouldn’t you want to ask them how they got there? Precisely! Sure, Dave Ramsey has some things I would like: wealth, financial knowledge, the spine to tell people things like they are….but for me the most important is…..ready? a family that gets it! Yes, a family that can make a difference in this world by doing things differently from the world. That’s what my husband and I want! We want our little girl and any future children we have to make wise financial decisions and never get into debt…but rather build wealth so they can GIVE like no one else. We want our family to build wealth so we can be the hands and feet of Jesus and help that single mom struggling to keep the light on because she recently lost her job and her husband has decided going to Vegas or buying a new car takes priority over child support….help that family whose dad recently lost their job and can’t look at his kids in the eye to tell them this year Santa forgot to make a stop! That’s the kind of thing that makes my heart skip a bit and gives me chills!
This is why this book excites me….it will guide me as to how I can make sure my child or children don’t make the same stupid money mistakes we made….guide me as to how I can help them give and spend wisely regardless of what their natural tendency is.
To end this post….I’m very lucky to have received a free copy of the ebook before it’s actually released so expect future posts related to that!
For more information on the new book to to

This is the face the encourages me to be a better person everyday and challenge the status quo