Month End

Here’s my confession – I am a spreadsheet geek.  The last day of the month is my absolute favorite because that’s when I tally up every expense (and I mean every last one) and see how well I did with my budgeting and planning.  I’ve been tracking my income and expenditures this way since 2003, when I tossed my checkbook register and decided to track every penny I spend on a spreadsheet.

No need to tell me how odd this is – I am completely aware.  Still, there’s something so satisfying when I see what I’ve spent in each category, all of it tallied nicely in each column, an accounting of everything that came and went.  I find it strangely comforting to know how much money I spend annually on rent or gas or groceries or entertainment. 

It’s also a diary of sorts. Toward the end of the year, I make a copy of the spreadsheet for the coming year.  In August of last year, I was planning a wedding shower for my youngest son.  There was the expense for my dress and accessories, the invitations, the postage, and the decorations.  It brought back sweet memories of the shower and all the preparations that went into their beautiful wedding. 

These spreadsheets also show the flip side – what things looked like when I was on the verge of bankruptcy, a long list of creditors and not nearly enough money coming in to pay them all.  During those years I had a special tab in the spreadsheet for debt reduction.  If I hadn’t put that in there, along with the plan of how much I needed to pay every month to get each debt paid off, I think I might have given up hope and tossed in the towel.  Instead, it was easy to see what I could do each month, what categories needed to be drastically reduced, and how much closer each sacrifice got me to my goal.  One day soon I’ll write a longer post about this painful experience and tell you all about how I was able to turn things around.

This month I’m happy to report that all expenditures came in under budget and I had a bit of money leftover.  September is starting out with a little surplus that I’ve spread around all my existing expenses that aren’t fixed. 

Since my love of spreadsheets might possibly border on obsession, I can’t in good conscience tell you to follow my example, but I can tell you that you absolutely need to have a budget and at least a general idea of where your money is going to go BEFORE you spend it.  Of course, my spreadsheet is practically a work of art, but there are all kinds of budgeting tools out there that you can use.  If this is an area where you struggle, I’d love to  help.  You can reach me by leaving a comment, which I won’t share unless I have your permission. 

If you are a spreadsheet geek, please let me know that, too, so I don’t feel all alone. 

Budget Spreadsheet

Any Other Name

Today’s guest post is written by Linda.

What did you call your Mom? I called mine Ma sometimes, other times Mom. When I got home from school I’d yell out ‘Ma, I’m home.’ I think my siblings mostly called her that too. My Dad called her that as well most of the time, but if he was feeling playful or figured he was in trouble for something, he’d call her Mummy. Which made her blush sometimes so you knew what those two were up to or if she was mad at him for something she’d give him a look. Ah, those two were in love til the day they died. But I digress.

Eventually I had my own kids, five to be exact, and of course I spent a lot of time getting them to say mama and the like when they first started to talk. Now that they are adults, they have fallen into a few different camps. Nick and Andy call me Ma. Laura calls me ma, mummy, mama, madre, and other variations. Jenny calls me Momma and mostly Kate calls me Mom or Grandma.

Which brings me to the best part, grandma. I love being a mom, but being a grandma is by far the best. I have new little ones to love and I also get to see my kids as parents and words can’t even describe how great that is.

There are currently four little ones that I am grandma to. When I found out my son was having his first child, my first grand, besides being overjoyed at the idea I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what the baby would call me. I mean, I wanted something special, unique that would be the way all future grandkids and the world would know me! I struggled for months with this and finally a wise friend said,”how about grandma? nobody’s a grandma anymore”. And there it is.

Brecken, 4 and Mabel, 3 call me grandma. Emerie, 2 calls me Ma and always with a twinkle in her eye for some reason and Eleanor is 10 months old and I look forward to hearing what she calls me.

Recently I went to a concert in the park to meet up with the kids and grands and as I struggled to carry my lawn chair and picnic basket over to them, Brecken saw me coming, and yelled out so everyone could hear, “grandma” and came running to me. It is a moment I will never forget. I’m tearing up just remembering it.

So no offense to all you Nana’s, G’s, Gee’s, Mimi’s and all other variations, just call me grandma.

Brecken and Em

Mabel and Eleanor

Pure and Lovely

8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Philippians 4:8

We live in a broken world.  There are so many things wrong that it would take me days and days to list them all.  It’s doubtful that the world has changed a whole lot since Paul was sitting in prison writing to all the churches in modern day Europe, yet instead of focusing on all that was wrong and needed to change, Paul told the people in Philippi to focus on good things. 

That makes no sense – how can you think about lovely things when you’re in prison?  Or when your world is falling apart?  Or when you’ve lost your job?  Or when you’re broke?  Or when you haven’t had a good night’s sleep in a week?  Or when someone you love loses their battle with cancer?

For the most part, I am able to find something to be grateful for every day.  And I do appreciate the beauty that’s found in nature.  However, the time I spend thinking about all the things for which I’m grateful or that are beautiful is very disproportionate to the time I spend thinking about what things are wrong, things that have inconvenienced or annoyed me, things that are just plain stupid. 

What’s even more disturbing is that Paul isn’t telling us to stop complaining (murmuring) or whining, he’s telling us what to think about.  Not gonna lie, just keeping myself from murmuring since I posted almost two weeks ago has been a challenge and now, not only do I have to keep from uttering things out loud, I also have to change what I’m thinking about?!?!

Yes, apparently, I do.  Actions and attitude are reflections of my thoughts, and when I allow myself to be consumed by negativity, I’m of little use to anyone.  It’s easy to find someone to commiserate with (we all know misery loves company) but what we really need is to build each other up by reminding each other of all that we have to be grateful for, all the beautiful things that surround us, and the people who work selflessly to make the world a better place.

The next time you’re tempted to think about everything that’s wrong in your world, replace those thoughts with something lovely or praiseworthy.  I’d love to hear what happens when you start replacing those negative thoughts with good ones.  I’ll be taking this journey right along with you.