Total Money Makeover Update: September 2011

Hello, internet. It’s been several weeks since I’ve blogged. School started, we got a second renter, Dexter and I have been talking and praying about future dreams, and I just plain didn’t want to.

This blog and I have become frenemies. I love the chance to write, to interact with the nice people online, and to urge myself to be creative. However, I think I’ve been taking it all too seriously in light of my other priorities. I also struggle with what to write about–freedom is a blessing and a curse for the no-niche blogger.

I did, however, commit myself to updating the blog monthly with our debt repayment. I knew what to write about. I didn’t feel like I was contriving something to write just so I could talk to you. I thought some math symbols would break the ice or anesthetize the awkwardness. Whether or not it’s working, here I am.

close up picture of keys on a calculator

In August, we paid o.5% of our debt and we have 71.5% remaining.

It’s far enough into September that I know what our extra loan payment situation looks like. Last month, I naively wished that for my birthday in October, I could pay off Debt #3 or at least get down into the 60%s rather than the 70%s. Then, we paid for six months of auto insurance, a year of life insurance, three new tires, and new front breaks and rotors. So, not only do we not have any extra payments, we’re dipping into our baby emergency fund.

I was really frustrated when I prepped the budget for this month. I really want to be out of debt. I’m tired of the bondage and having an eerie voice whisper in my ear in the checkout lane.

You shouldn’t be buying this. Underpants without holes aren’t a need, they’re a want. Who cares about animal welfare; you need money.

While I successfully smother these voices long enough to buy what is good and practical to buy, the feeling they leave is uncomfortable.

What’s wrong with you? Why did you let yourself get into so much debt in the first place? Was a college education really worth it? Why is it taking you so long to pay off? You must not be smart enough to take care of your finances. Other people are done paying off their debt after 18 months. You’re not even 30% of the way there.

My inner-monologue is not always very friendly.

I had to remind myself that we made the choice to make less money at the beginning of summer. I didn’t tell you why, but I’ll tell you now.

My extremely talented (and handsome) husband cut down his paid hours at the coffee shop and was accepted as an intern at an innovative, well-respected web development company, Cramer Dev.

It was a gutsy move on Dexter’s part. He took the cut at work without knowing he’d get the internship. He worked really hard crafting a layered print resume that combined an 80s color scheme with professional quality. (Yeah, he’s that good.)

Since June, I went from understanding 99% of what he told me about his coffee shop job to giggling in the middle of his how-was-your-day report because he sounded like the trumpet-voiced teacher from Charlie Brown to me. I listened really hard, though, and figured out what the words meant.

He has learned so much in the past three months, and he has been so happy learning it. When he used to get on facebook or Tumblr to kill time, now I catch him writing CSS on the sly. My new question for him, whenever I see what he’s created, is, “So, did you make that by just typing some words?”

So, when I remind myself that, aside from slowing down our debt, this summer has allowed Dexter to pursue a passion and develop skills for his vocation (which may end up helping us to pay off our debt faster down the road!), the sacrifice of staying in debt just a little longer is a no brainer.

Top Ten Ways to Make the School Year Smooth

  1. Easy dinners – I love making fresh, healthy meals. However, I’ve come to the conclusion that a homemade meal–even if it’s quick and easy–is much healthier than ordering pizza every night. I try to follow the rule that I can only make one “complex” dish per night. For example, if we’re having burgers (easy), I can make frozen green beans (easy) and couscous and black bean salad (more time consuming).
  2. Pizza once a week – I’m going to budget to order pizza once a week. We have church plans on two weeknights, and I tutor after school one of those days. I don’t have time to cook and clean up afterwards. In the past, I would have cooked at home anyways and been depressed about how messy my kitchen was for 80% of the week. No more! Besides, I am very popular around here when I order pizza.
  3. Date Night – We used to cram date night into a week night, and then I’d want to eat out again on Friday because I was so exhausted after a long work week. We’ve moved date night to Friday night, and now I have something to look forward to all week!
  4. Delegating – With pizza night and date night out of the way, I’ll only cook on three week nights. We’ve made an arrangement that Dexter and Luke (our renter) will each do all the dishes once a week, so I’ll only do dishes one night a week! Luke and our future second renter will also clean the upstairs bathroom–so all I have to clean is a half bath.
  5. Decluttering – We’ve worked hard this summer to get rid of a lot of stuff. We’ve even give away the now-empty plastic totes we stored our junk in so we’re not tempted to re-fill the empty spaces. Having fewer possessions means I have fewer responsibilities. We’re not finished yet, but I can already feel the weight lifted from my shoulders!
  6. Waking up on time – Even though we’re almost 26 and have been married for 5 years, Dexter and I are awful about waking up on time. No amount of morning misery has been able to convince us to just get out of bed when the alarm goes off. We’ve instituted an extrinsic reward system to pry us off our buns in the morning: our Friday night date budget hinges on our waking up on time. For every week day we wake up at the designated time, $5 goes in the date night fund. Needless to say, I had a very productive morning today!
  7. Prep the night before – I am notorious for saying, “I’ll do it in the morning.” This is a dangerous thing for a person who can’t wake up to say. (See #6) From now on, I’m making lunches, getting my bag ready, and even picking out my clothes the night before. No more stressful mornings for me!
  8. Family calendar – Dexter and I will have two friends renting rooms in our house this fall. With four adults sharing our home, and three adults eating together, it’s important to know who is going to be where, when. Instead of making an ever-effective “mental note,” we got a big family calendar with plenty of room to write. I think I use it the most, and even if no one else touches it all year, it’s taking away my burden to remember everything all the time.
  9. Saying no – I’m trying to realize that there are some things I won’t be able to do as much as I’d like, and some things I won’t be able to do at all. I haven’t run for a couple of weeks because of school activities (and I didn’t run for a couple of weeks before that). I’d like to keep running, but it may not be four times a week like it was in the past. And I’m deciding to be okay with that.
  10. Having ONE priority – We often talk about our “priorities,” but only one priority can be at the top of the list. I’m making an extra effort to keep my relationship with God at the top of my list at the expense of a clean house, of time to run, and of time to blog.

I’m linking up with OhAmanda’s Top Ten Tuesday.

Total Money Makeover Update: February 2011 and One Year Review!

First Birthday
One year ago, Dexter and I made the decision to buckle down about getting out of debt. We pored over Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover book, and my aunt and uncle gave us a subscription to Financial Peace University. Then we put what we learned into action. We cancelled our credit cards, switched to using a cash envelope system for most of our purchases, and we revised and tracked our budget month after month. We were encouraged as we tracked our debt repayment and had big months like April and July. We were discouraged the months we were lax about our spending or didn’t have much extra income.

It’s been a month since our last Total Money Makeover Update. In those 31 days, we paid off 0.9% of our debt. We also brought our baby emergency fund back up to $1,000 (because we realized after-the-fact last month that the money wasn’t all there to fill it up). We also took care of a few yearly expenses. We stayed pretty close to budget in most areas and succeeded in using the cash system *most* of the month.

Let’s take a look at the year in review, seeing what percent of our debt was repaid each month in the last year.

This brings us to a total of 22.3% of our debt GONE! We have 77.7% to go. Let’s break it down some more.

  • Highest Month – April (thanks to the tax-credit we received for buying our home!)
  • Lowest Month – September (my third consecutive month without a real paycheck)
  • Average Per Month – 1.9%
  • Projected finish date at the beginning: March 2014
  • Projected finish date at 1.9% paid per month: June 2014
  • Projected 50% date at 1.9% paid per month: May 2012

I so badly wanted to sell off everything we own to get down to 75% this month. I thought that being a quarter of the way through our debt in a quarter of the time we wanted to take to pay it off sounded really good. It’s disappointing to realize that we’re a few months behind schedule. However, I’m so thankful for how far we’ve come. Our debt is scheduled by the banks to be paid off in 20-30 years. Four years and some extra months is so much more encouraging than 30!

I’m also refusing to be discouraged because of some things we’ll be changing in the next year.

  • Last year, we saved $200/month to replace our car whenever that becomes necessary. Because we think we have enough saved to replace our car’s transmission if that were to go out or to buy an old car to tide us over till we’re out of debt, we’ve decided to stop saving for a car. From now on, we’ll have an extra $200 a month to put toward our debt!
  • Starting this summer, we’ll be having the housemate who lived with us last year move back in. Although last summer he lived here for the cost of groceries and a little for utilities, since he’ll be staying here long-term, we’ll actually be making a little profit from rent. We researched how much he’d be paying for accommodations nearby and are charging him a lower price. We’re hoping to save him money and speed up our debt repayment a little, too!

Most importantly, we’re refusing to be discouraged because we’re trusting God to work out our financial situation as he sees fit. If he wants us to be done in March 2014, that’s when we’ll be done. If he wants us to be done in June 2014 (or later), we’ll trust that his plan is good. If he wants us to be done earlier, I definitely won’t fight him either!

We’d like to say thanks to all of you who have encouraged us over the past year. Your positive comments, especially in the slowest months, meant a lot to us. Although we’ve heard stories about people being mocked and even berated about their decision to live frugally and become debt free, we’ve been blessed to have family and friends who think it’s cool that we’re making these financial decisions.

Let’s get year 2 of this Total Money Makeover started!

Saturday Stumbles: Current Events, Stress, and Health Tips

I’ve been building up a mental lists of posts I’ve loved for the past month or so, and I thought I’d finally participate in my first Saturday Stumbles to share them with you. Enjoy!

These two posts are from Elise, a long-time friend who is cool in lots of ways I wish I was.

Weekend Reading – Addresses current events that are making headlines as well as human trafficking, always an issue but something I think about a lot.

Releasing Stress’ Hold on Me – Tips about stress relief from her personal experience.

Stephanie at Keeper of the Home has three related articles about stress and depression that I learned a lot from. Although I don’t have depression, I am prone to anxiety and depression, so “be prepared” is my motto.

My Journey to Burnout

Treating Depression Naturally: Supplements, Herbs, and Foods for Feeling Better

Naturally Neutralizing Stress: Herbs that Calm

Sarah at Loved Like the Church, who also recently guest posted here!

Half Marathon Training Guide: It might seem ambitious for the girl who hasn’t completed 5K training to want to do this, but a girl’s gotta dream.

Total Money Makeover Update: January 2011

Photo Credit: brokenarts

Thanks to Dexter getting three paychecks this month instead of two, we were able to recover from last month’s spending spree, refill our emergency fund, and make a big extra payment on Debt #3. The first digit (biggest place value) in Debt #3 dropped by two this month, which is exciting for me as I look for any glimmer of hope as I calculate our debt each month.

Our day-to-day spending wasn’t as good as our big payments. We ate out more than we should have this month, and I definitely didn’t update my checkbook every day like I promised. I also gave myself permission to only use envelopes for groceries. This wasn’t very effective, because I kept forgetting about my envelopes altogether and used my card anyway. We’ll be back to the envelope system next month. We only use our bank card for the ATM, gas, and online purchases. I’m trying to devise a way to leave my bank card at home so I’m not tempted to use it or don’t accidentally use it. I wonder if I can use gift cards to pay at the pump at any gas stations? Then, as long as I get all my cash ahead of time or by going inside the bank, I shouldn’t need my card.

I was thinking about buying a refill of Dave Ramsey envelopes and reinforcing them with packing tape, but they’re currently out of stock. I like that they’re bound together, but they didn’t last long. I’d also probably cut the flaps off the envelopes because it takes too long to find my envelope and open it when I’m checking out. (It doesn’t seem like a legitimate problem, but I felt so slow when I used it before!) I also found this template for cute tabbed envelopes. I’m still deciding if it’s worth my time to make these when I can just use the plain white standard envelopes I already have. Maybe it would give me some inspiration to get back on track with my envelopes!

In summary, we paid off 1.8% of our debt this month and have 78.6% to go. We hope to pay off the rest of Debt #3, almost 8% of our total debt, this summer. Then we’ll just have two (miserably huge) debts to go!

Tune in next month for the one-year summary of our Total Money Makeover!

That’s Your New Year’s Resolution?

dishes

My house will not be clean in 2011.

Granted, my house has not been clean since I’ve had a place to call my own. And before that, my bedroom at my parents’ house wasn’t clean. In fact, in high school, my mom gave me a choice between picking my clothes up off the floor and doing my own laundry. I chose the laundry.

When I was a kid, messes didn’t bother me. I could tune out the Barbie clothes all over the floor while I was reading. It wasn’t until I was in college that I realized how much messes bothered me. Most days, after classes, I’d clean up my half of the room and throw my roommate’s crap back on her half. (Don’t worry–she did it to me, too. We got along well, despite our passive-aggressive cleaning habits.) At home, if my bedroom was a mess, I could go to the den and have a clean workspace to do my homework. In college, that one small shared space was all I had, so I had to clean it.

After Dexter and I got married, we moved into a 650 square foot apartment that used to be military housing. It had cinderblock walls and ugly tile floors. At first, I was so overwhelmed with the extra space (compared to the dorm room that I had been in for the past two years) that I let my cleaning habits go. And I didn’t clean. And I didn’t wash dishes. One day–and this is not a joke–the only clean dishes we had were one knife and one chopstick. What’s more impressive that our dishes consisted of 8 plates, 8 small plates, 8 bowls, 12 sets of silverware, and then we broke into our 14 “nice” bowls that were wedding gifts and a mixing bowl small enough to eat cereal out of. All that was dirty. We were pigs.

At some point, I decided I couldn’t live that way anymore. I had so many clean friends who, in my eyes, were perfect wives with perfect homes and perfect child rearing tactics. I’m sure they didn’t think of themselves that way, but in my mind, they were the bar and the bar was high.

So, about three and a half years ago, I decided my house needed to be clean. Perfectly clean. And when it was, I could relax. But that hasn’t happened. Even when we moved, moving has been a messy process, and the only point at which any of our places has been entirely clean was before we moved in (even then, it was only clean by the standard of whoever lived there before) or after we moved out. So, since the summer of 2007, I haven’t given myself permission to fully relax.

I was listening to a sermon last week, in which the pastor said, “Whatever you sacrifice yourself for is what you worship.” In the past few years, I’ve sacrificed time with Dexter, sleep, time with God, time with friends, and exercise, in the pursuit of a clean house. A clean house has become my idol. The thing about idols is that they’re not God–they can’t do what you want them to do. Despite all my sacrifices, “the cleaning gods” have not blessed me with a clean house. Instead, I’ve “cursed” myself with discontentment, shame, and hopelessness.

So, in 2011, I’m going to clean my house. But even if my house isn’t clean, I’m going to enjoy snuggling on the couch with Dexter. I’m going to read my Bible and spend time in prayer. I’m going to push crap off the floor and do pilates. I’m going to get a good night’s sleep. I’m going to return my friends’s emails. I’m going to blog. I’m going to knock items off my 30 Before 30 list. And I’m not going to berate myself about having a messy house. I’m going to accept that God loves people with messy houses and that he cares more about the condition of my heart than he cares about the condition of my clutter.

I feel a little stupid about having this be my resolution–it goes against everything resolutions are supposed to accomplish, but I think it’s a good thing. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve felt hopeless and depressed in the past several years because of a messy house. Now, really, the problems were perfectionism and pride and harmful patterns of thought, but they manifested themselves in my dissatisfaction with my messy house and myself as a housekeeper.

Although I’ve made the decision to change how I think about my home, I know it’s not going to be easy give myself grace in the area of cleaning. I still believe that my house should be clean and that if it’s not that I’m lazy. I told Dexter that I wish some authority would tell me it’s okay for my house to be messy because then maybe I would believe it was true. He took the opportunity to pull the husband authority card and instructed me to relax my idea of how clean the house needs to be. It’s awesome to be married to a guy who would be happy if our house was a wreck and we ate frozen pizza every day.

table

My new mantra is, “Yes, that’s my house. No, it doesn’t bother me.”

What are you letting go of in 2011?

Total Money Makeover Update: December

If I were to choose a month for Dave Ramsey himself to swing over to my blog to check up on how we’re doing, I would not choose this month.

I didn’t use envelopes. We used money from our emergency account for a definite non-emergency. Gasp! (We bought a camera and fixed the car. I’m going to pretend the car stuff was a surprise so it will count as an emergency.) We bought lots of Christmas gifts and didn’t pay any extra on our loans.

I really loved not using envelopes. I’m so tempted to stop. 

I promise I would update the budget on the computer every single day.

Any thoughts? Do you think cash is worth the hassle? When I first started using it, my grocery spending dropped by 1/3. I’m hoping I’ve just developed wiser shopping habits and that I’ve been trained to spend sparsely.

As I predicted last month, we didn’t make monumental progress on our loans this month. Without making any extra payments, we paid of 0.8% of our debt this month and have 80.4% remaining.

Next month, we’ll refill our emergency fund and resume making extra loan payments. Funding for my after school job was almost cut entirely, but thankfully, I’m still able to be paid for 5 days of tutoring a month. I’m looking forward to having a little more planning time after school while still getting to work with my students once or twice a week.

Top Ten Tuesday & My First Blog Giveaway

Top Ten {Tuesday}

Ten months ago, Dexter and I started on our Total Money Makeover journey. Since then, we’ve built a $1,000 emergency fund and paid off almost 20% of our debt. Last month, Dexter and I gave a presentation at our house church about the basics of Dave Ramsey’s baby steps and biblical money principles.  Dave doesn’t pay us to be excited about his financial plan or to tell people about his methods, but beginning to follow Dave’s baby steps has changed our financial future so much that I can’t help but be excited about the hope it can bring people.

Don’t buy it yet? Here are our top ten reasons to do a Total Money Makeover with Dave.

  1. Freedom from financial bondage. Proverb 22:7 says, “The rich rules over the poor, but the borrower is slave to the lender.” There are things we can’t do or don’t feel like we can do because of our debt. Once it’s gone, no one will be making claims on our income.
  2. Building character through discipline. Many people believe God doesn’t care about their money. In one sense, they’re right. God doesn’t love rich people any better than he loves poor people. However, our money habits often shed light on the condition of our heart, and God cares about our hearts. Persevering through a journey toward debt freedom can build character as well as financial security. James 1:4 says, “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
  3. When we honor the Lord with our finances, we reap his blessing. I’m certainly not saying that God will reward you financially or immediately for the responsible choices or generous giving you do. However, Proverbs 3:9-10 says, “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will be bursting with wine.” God sees the bigger picture and may choose to bless you eternally rather than materially on Earth.
  4. Ability to give generously. It is thought that Theophilus, who was mentioned at the beginning of the book of Luke, allowed Luke to dedicate time to writing important accounts of the life of Christ and the early church by providing financial support. Being able to support children through Compassion or missionaries through Gospel for Asiais a great way to participate in the spreading of the gospel worldwide. Right now, Dexter and I do tithe at our local church and give to certain charitable organizations, but once we are free from debt, we’ll be able to give more and accomplish more with our money.
  5. Know how to provide for loved ones through debt-freedom, insurance, savings. We’ve learned about the benefits of debt freedom (and how to get there), important kinds of insurance to purchase, and what good savings goals are. Hopefully, we’ll be able to keep our future children’s childhoods free from stressful financial chaos, teach them biblical and practical truths about finances, and help our family and friends on their journey to financial security.
  6. Everything is simplified. After we canceled our credit cards, I was amazed at how streamlined balancing the checkbook and tracking our budget became. Instead of tracking purchases from 3 or 4 cards, forgetting to pay bills for cards we didn’t use often, and accidentally recording transactions for the wrong card, I now only have to look at our checking account. Since we use cash for groceries, household items, and discretionary spending, the number of transactions I have to track has significantly reduced. This has been a huge timesaver.
  7. Preparation for emergencies. Things that used to be stressful emergencies can be planned for, or at least taken care of with the emergency fund or sufficient insurance.
  8. Actions and patterns of thinking to set us apart from the world. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing, and perfect will.” Dave Ramsey often says, “If normal is broke, I don’t want to be normal.” Having the priority of financial responsibility and generosity will set us apart in a consuming culture.
  9. Fulfilling dreams. Some of our dreams include traveling, working from home, and adopting children. All of these will require saving money and building financial security. What dreams could you fulfill if you weren’t worried about finances?
  10. Learning how to change your financial future just got easier! Because Dave Ramsey’s plan has blessed us so much, we wanted to pass on some of our newfound knowledge to you. Below, see information on the books I’m giving away and how to enter the giveaway.

The first book I’ll be giving away is Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness. I’ve read this book a number of times and have consulted it to refresh my memory on some of Dave’s core concepts. It contains lots of inspiring stories about people who worked hard and succeeded at paying off their debt.

I’ll also be giving away a copy of Financial Peace Revisited, the companion book to Dave’s Financial Peace University class. In it, you’ll find information about Dave’s own journey from wealth to financial trouble and back again. It also contains snippets written by his wife Sharon.

Finally, I’ll be giving a way a copy of More than Enough: The 10 Keys to Changing Your Financial Destiny. In it, Dave addresses unity in marriage, building financial vision, and practical information about how to implement a financial plan.

If you’ve never learned about Dave’s plan, these books are a great introduction. If you are well-versed in the seven baby steps, these books make a great gift to someone you know who is looking for financial guidance.

Enter the giveaway up to four times by following the steps below.

  1. Leave a comment below telling me what you do if you were financially free. If I don’t know you in real life, include your email address or your name on Twitter so I know how to reach you if you win.
  2. Post about this giveaway (with a link) on Twitter. Leave a comment here telling me that you did.
  3. Post about this giveaway (with a link) on Facebook. Leave a comment here telling me that you did.
  4. Write about this giveaway (with a link) on your blog. Leave another comment telling me that you did.

The giveaway will end on Sunday, December 12, at 11:59 pm CST. Winners will be announced on Monday, December 13.

This post is linked to Top Ten Tuesday at Oh Amanda and Giveaways Galore at Money Saving Mom.

30 Before 30 Update

Shortly after creating my 30 Before 30 list, I made a list of 10 things I planned to do to get started. Here’s an update on how it’s going just over one month later.

  1. Learn to sew and wear something I made in public 
    Dexter’s mom Linda showed him how to thread the bobbin on the sewing machine she gave us, so the “machine not working” can no longer be an excuse. We’re in the process of turning the basement into a multi-purpose room with an office/art area, so when that’s done, hopefully I’ll be inspired to create…or practice sewing straight lines.
  2. Run a 10K 
    I don’t remember the last time I ran. Hopefully, I’ll be disciplined to restart my training on the treadmill this winter.
  3. Do 200 consecutive crunches
    Remember the first day of the 200 sit-up challenge I said I did? I forgot about that every day until today. Oops.
  4. Create the perfect veggie burger
    I modified a recipe from Vegan on the Cheap (by Robin Robertson who blogs here) to make a delicious “Very Veggie Burgers” with a butternut squash twist. (We’ll pretend I did this to be innovative. In reality, I just had stuff I needed to use up so it went in the burgers.) They were very sweet and much more interesting than your run-of-the-mill frozen veggie burgers. They contained onion, carrot, mushrooms (that weren’t too prominent), ground oats, and ground cashews. They were very moist, but imperfect because they weren’t very sturdy–probably because I used butternut squash instead of potato like the author suggested. However, I think they were a good first try! I’ll have to try them again being faithful to the original recipe.
  5. Read the Bible in 90 days
    Instead of starting this at the first of the year, I’m considering starting the first day of winter break. That way, I’ll have no excuse not to finish those first fourteen days. I plan on using this schedule (pdf).

  6. Watch Dexter’s top 7 favorite movies without multitasking
    On November 5 (Remember, remember the fifth of November…) we threw a Guy Fawkes Day party. Actually, our friend Luke wanted to throw a last minute Guy Fawkes Day party where we’d watch V for Vendetta–one of Dexter’s top seven. So, I made Nigella Lawson’s Easy Sticky Toffee Dessert for a British themed dessert, and Luke came over and watched the movie with us. (That’s what comes of not planning ahead, I guess. I didnt’ mind, though, because there was more sticky toffee dessert with vanilla ice cream for me.) I did multi-task a little bit by moving sugar cookies in and out of the oven, but overall, I paid attention to the movie. I’d actually “seen” it twice before but didn’t actually watch it. I liked it a lot, which was an unexpected perk.
  7. Do a blog giveaway
    You’ll find out about this on Tuesday!
  8. Memorize 120 verses (2 verses a month for 5 years)
    Let’s just say, I’ve got some catching up to do.
  9. Take a cake decorating class
    I haven’t done this yet, but I can say that my taste for canned frosting may have been ruined forever because of delicious, easy recipes like this and this. Thanks a lot, Ina.
  10. Take good pictures with a nice camera
    You can expect to see a significant improvement in picture quality around here thanks to Dexter’s and my early Christmas present to each other. I think we’re in love.

Starting my 30 Before 30 Project

Top Ten {Tuesday}
I posted my 30 Before 30 list on Sunday. I am excited to get started, but I needed to find somewhere to start. These are the top ten things I hope to accomplish by my next birthday.

  1. Learn to sew and wear something I made in public 
    First, I need to make sure I know how to use our sewing machine. Then, I’ll practice sewing straight lines. Then, I’ll find a simple pattern and…sew something.
  2. Run a 10K 
    I hit a wall in my Couch to 5K training–when I was supposed to transition from the run-8-walk-5-run-8 to the run-twenty-minutes day. That seems like a big jump to me. I’ll either restart the program where I left off or try to add a minute to my run every time. Any suggestions on how to get over my slump?
  3. Do 200 consecutive crunches
    Yesterday, I started the two hundred sit-up challenge with Dexter. We both could do over 40, so we’re starting on Week 3. It should only take us about a month to reach this goal.
  4. Create the perfect veggie burger
    I ate an amazing curried lentil burger at Blanc Burgers and Bottles in Kansas City this summer, which made me believe that a great veggie burger might really be possible. I plan to try to mimic what I had there and see how far I can get. I might need a trip back to KC for a refresher, though!
  5. Read the Bible in 90 days
    My sister and I do an “accountability group” (read: talk about life session) once a week in the morning before work. I asked her if she’d read the Bible in 90 days with me. She said that after she graduates from college this December she’d be game to give it a try. It seems daunting, but I realized that it only requires that I read about 12 pages a day. I read more than 12 pages at a time from other books, so I think it will be more of a time management challenge than a how-much-do-you-love-the-Bible challenge. I think it will cool to see “the whole story” come together in 3 months. In case you’re interested, I’m planning on using this schedule (pdf).
  6. Watch Dexter’s top 7 favorite movies without multitasking
    I think Dexter’s top 7 movies are violent and depressing, but I think that watching them with him will give me some insight into his mind. Most of them have a noble hero fighting for his family or so that others’ families are protected, and I like that, although the movies are a tad blood-and-gutsy, he’s inspired by men like that. Dexter also thinks of watching movies together as a way of spending time together. I think of watching movies as an opportunity to multi-task. I’ve made him feel ignored by cleaning or working on the budget during a movie before, so I think these would give me a chance to spend time with him in a way he appreciates.
  7. Do a blog giveaway
    The item I plan on giving away came in the mail today. I’m waiting a little bit to see if I can make the deal even sweeter. Hopefully, you’ll know much more sometime in November!
  8. Memorize 120 verses (2 verses a month for 5 years)
    I know how I’m going to organize my verses on notecards, but I don’t know where to start. I’m hoping to get a few gospel and basic doctrine verses down at first, but I also want to make sure I’ll have verses to inspire me to press on. I also plan on trying to write down all the verses I think I already know and then make sure I really know them. Any verses on your must-memorize list?
  9. Take a cake decorating class
    I love baking so much that I figured I might as well know how to make my treats look good! I still owe my sister a cake decorating class from Christmas last year (she was too busy with school to take it), so I plan on taking the class with her. Maybe this summer, Keriann?
  10. Take good pictures with a nice camera
    Dexter and I have planned for close to a year to get each other a really nice camera for Christmas this year. He’s a graphic designer, and I’m an aspiring blogger who, although she rarely seems to get around to writing about her recipes, treats her camera like a kitchen utensil. Our last camera had a run-in with some dog teeth so my sister sold us her earlier model. I don’t know if it’s the complete lack of both artificial and natural lighting in our kitchen, our camera, or my photography skills, but I’m just not impressed with our pictures. We’re hoping to get a nice enough camera that we can take senior pictures for free for some of my low-income students. We did it last year for my only senior and it was a really fun experience. We  haven’t started our research on what camera to get, but we’ll take any suggestions you have!

Find more Top Ten Tuesday posts at Oh Amanda.