Financial Literacy Month: 5 Lessons Learned

After a month of really working to study, learn and understand about financial literacy in our country at this time.

Financial Literacy Month: 5 Power Lessons to Use Today
Financial Literacy Month: 5 Power Lessons to Use Today

Know what it all came down to?


Not in that super egotistical way you’re thinking either.

In the way that financial literacy is all about  “What I do with the information/knowledge that I have right now.”

Try one or two or all five of these while you are making financial decisions.

1.  Another way to say financial literacy? Use your noggin.

Sure, that seems way oversimplified.  Your typical college professor might say, “Financial literacy is a complex topic to measure your understanding of debt, wealth, and the correlation of small decisions…”

Oh please, girl.

Your Mama taught you to be smart.  You know when you’re not “Using the noodle.”  Being financially literate is being smart with your money.

As you are smart about these smaller decisions you have opportunities to learn more.

2.  Learning to manage money is a process.

There’s no way we can expect small children to comprehend the mortgage payment.  We don’t even expect them to.

But, if you haven’t done any research, like really learned the power of compound interest- how on earth are you supposed to make major decisions wisely?

Through the school of hard knocks.  Life is one tough teacher if you don’t look ahead.

Think about the car you want.  How much is the price tag?  How much will you have to pay over time if you want to drive it off the lot?

The actual result will shock you.  But you’ll never know until you start to learn.

So don’t beat yourself up for a really cool car you bought in 2011 that looks so good, but the payments are oh, so painful!  You weren’t aware of the situation right then.  Or, if you knew and you just didn’t care- you’re paying for it now.  That’s the old news.

The news today is:  You start afresh.  You make this point and on the very best you can.  And when you know better you’ll do better.

3.  Make small decisions wisely.

Sometimes it’s great to just go have a fun afternoon/evening out with friends.  No one disputes this.  In fact, none of those really smart personal finance bloggers are telling you to quit those.

But they are saying, make sure you have figured out all of those small decisions.  Know how?  Make a budget.

We’ve talked about that a lot this month.  But, it’s because the budget sets the framework to give you….FREEDOM.

Yes, freedom.  When you have that freedom, you are able to enjoy the day and know that you have choices in the future.

4.  Do the right thing consistently for today. And tomorrow.

What you are doing for this week may be tough to spend less.  Much less than you used to.  But when you understand exactly why you are doing it- it becomes easier.

But that doesn’t mean next week you’re all done.

This one was hard for me to grasp.  Yes, I had made sacrifices. Yes, we ate at home all the time the first couple of weeks. But I wanted to go out to dinner.  Not because I was too lazy to cook, I enjoy it.  But it was the overall experience of doing something special.  Why was it special?  Because I decided it was.

I had to re-program the phrase, “Something special.” It’s one tiny thing but that sure made a difference to me.

And I still don’t always get it right.  There are times when I have to remind myself that this isn’t like a one-week fast from life…this is a lifestyle change.

What a big change that has been!

Try that:  consider frugal living your new lifestyle and try it for the month.

5.  Enjoying your decision.

Enjoy the choice you make!  This is a big one.  You are working hard.  You are doing your best to make sure that you have your needs taken care of…you should enjoy the celebrations!

Budget ahead of time.  Do you have money saved up for Christmas?  It’s coming, you know.  What about summer vacations?  We have opened a couple of extra savings accounts just to put a few dollars away- really away so that we have money for major upcoming events.

So when it is time to enjoy something new, travel or just have a wonderful kick back day with friends you can truly enjoy it.

You’ve worked hard.  It’s time to enjoy!

Tell me now, what is one thing you’ve learned from Financial Literacy Month?

The Christmas Gifts of YOU

We’re a lot alike.  I’m pretty confident of that.  You have had a year of lessons.  So many lessons.

Give the Gift of You
This Christmas, Give the Gift of You

It’s been  a year of change.  What have you learned as you’ve gone through this growth?

When I sit down with a friend to catch up, I really don’t care about what’s happening in the world, I always ask, “So, what are you learning through this?”

The answers are incredible.  As long as you are learning something, failure isn’t happening.  You are growing.  You are becoming better.  Provided that you’re learning there is still possibilities.  This makes life challenging and exciting.

As we have been working on becoming debt-free, this Christmas has brought about the biggest transition I’ve ever imagined.

Change.  Not like a change of wardrobe.  The kind of change I’m talking about is that massive, rock your world kind of change.  It’s been really good.

But has also provided some big challenges.

The season has given me pause.  Without spending money, Christmas has become an entirely new experience.  I’ve had some serious struggles feeling like I’ve let everyone down. I’ve felt like I wasn’t doing my part, or giving enough.

But there is also something incredible happening, too.  I had to step back and ask myself, “What am I learning here?”

I’m learning about giving.

My whole life, I thought I was good at it.  Little gifts and favors to add a bit of delight and sparkle to the world around me.

Yesterday I read this post by Jeff Goins and I can’t get it out of my mind.

Giving, has nothing to do with presents.  Giving is all about your presence.  I’ve heard that said often, but I can’t find the source.  If you find it- let’s give that person credit, okay?

So here’s 4 ways to give without spending a dime.

Sure, they sound easy.  But it’s doing them that makes a difference.

I’m talking a HUGE difference.

1. Give the gift of listening.

If you are like most Moms I know, Christmas can get down right crazy.  I’ve decided to quit trying to make every moment, school party, Christmas lesson, every day absolutely PERFECT.

You know what?  My life is better.  [Tweet “Perfect has been killing my Christmas Spirit. How about you?”]

All those years before, I would buy some knick knack or crafty, cute thing to impart my ideal of perfection.  What a farce!

I want to just sit down with a good friend, or my husband, or my family, and just listen.  We are all trying to accomplish something.  We all dream.  We are looking ahead.  Who takes the time to listen?

This year, I choose to give the gift of listening.  And enjoying.  And delighting in the moment of true friendship.  True understanding and empathy of another.

2.  Give a smile.

Elf smiles
“I like to smile. Smiling’s my favorite.”

A wise Elf once said, “I like smiling.  Smiling’s my favorite. ”

When you are out shopping, running errands or at the post office- have you LOOKED at the people around ya?  Holy smokes.  Most people look like they’re going to a funeral.

And sadly, maybe they are.

One little smile sounds so insignificant- but for me, it just says, “Go on!  Do yo’ thang.  I like Ya!”  Doesn’t that message make a difference? Sure does to me.

Sure does to most people.  Think of all those people who feel overlooked, who are struggling to make ends meet, who are really lost in this world. What a difference a smile can make in someone’s day.

Have you seen that parent in the toy section of the store with kids running around, screaming with the Christmas spirit because they are so excited?  She can look completely frazzled.  One little smile can sure brighten that afternoon, without a word you can tell him or her, “Oh, I get it.  I totally know what you are going through.” And that sort of understanding may be all they need.

And I know, I hear the cynics saying, “That’s delusional. One smile from a stranger doesn’t change a thing.”  And to them, I will smile and think “Human decency is never delusional.”

3. Give your attention.

Holidays of presence
This holiday, be in each other’s presence.

Perhaps there are so many who could use just a little attention. Today instead of finishing up this blog post, I took an extra 15 minutes or so and just held my daughter as she woke up from a nap.  She didn’t want anything except to be held.  It was quiet and peaceful and I couldn’t help but realize that these precious moments will surely pass by too quickly.

Have you noticed that as the holiday gets closer we can easily forget to take time just to be together?  No agenda.  No holiday party.  No thing to attend.  Just attend to each other.

Imagine if the whole world was like that?  Today you, my friend, family, co-worker, mean lady at the check out, we’re just going to take care of each other.  I will not be half on my phone tweeting inane messages and you can text later, so I can give you my attention and you can give me yours.  Today we’re going to care and be completely engaged in this small transaction of human decency.

This concept gives me chills.  Think of the start up potential of that?

4.  Give a positive word.

One gift I keep working on giving is the gift of encouragement.  Life, technology, progress is always looking to eliminate errors.  We completely focus on the negative and find what’s wrong.

What about what’s RIGHT?

And yes, it can be easier to say, “That won’t work because…”  or the  “You’ve forgotten about…” than to really listen and encourage.

You don’t want to blow smoke and tell others what they want to hear.  Integrity really matters here.  However, take a moment and try to see the concept from another’s point of view and encourage, really encourage each other.

Again, what a world it would be if we were to all focus on encourage each other to achieve!

An encouragement can be as massive as “I believe in you!” or as simple as “Go.”

With the right zest, love and enthusiasm the words you share can inspire all those around you!  I know that on a few tough days, the words from friends, and especially my husband, have helped me to go on this year and work to achieve a few more goals.

So tell me now, what gifts of YOU are you planning to give throughout the holiday and new year?


Finish Your Goal

Today  is the final day my 31 days of 500 words challenge, as shared by Jeff Goins.

Finish Your Goal
Finish Your Goal

And I feel pretty good about it.

But what I learned has been incredible.  The lessons from this one challenge apply to every entity of life.  I plan to test it out in other areas.

The joy of the finish

I am feeling good about myself.  I accomplished something.

Not just a work project or another household chore, I put something out there that I hoped to do and worked for it.

As I thought about it, I realized, I haven’t done that in a while…just set a goal, a new goal that pushes me to get out there and work for it.

How about you?  When was the last time you did something that pushed you out of the regular?

I’m noticing that in those moments is when I am feeling happiest.

Fulfilled.  Ready to achieve even more. Why?  Because I’m growing.  I’m trying something new and finding out some amazing things about my character, my sheer stubbornness to post after a long day and I’m tired, about me.

I missed a couple of days.  And that’s okay.

A few years ago I would have missed that first day during the month and thought, “Well, I’ve blown it.  I’m a failure. No reason to try now.”

That is so unfair.  I would never let my friends say that.  Why would I say that to myself?

It made me realize all those diets I had blown.

All of those organization projects that didn’t quite…pan out.

All the times I’d quit too soon.

Too often we are quick to call ourselves a failure without giving ourselves a break.

Or grace.  There is beauty in accepting that we’re human, and as long as we are trying to do a little to improve each day, we are making progress.

Excellence is created

Anyone can do something well.  The real trick is to do something well day in and day out.

It’s a choice to be excellent.  It’s a decision made saying, “Yes, I will do this.  And I will do my best at it every day.”

No one tells you to be kind to the grocery store clerk.  It’s a choice to create an excellent moment.

No one asks for your respect.  Excellence is created in relationships, business, life, with the other cool preschool moms by being excellent.

Your circumstances, like mine, are temporary.  Where you are right now certainly is not where you have to be in five years.

You can change that.

You create your own excellence.

Integrity shines through

This month, like no other, I’ve been able to connect with readers and really hear more about them.

I believe because I’ve been giving more of the real me- they are willing to share their stories.

I’m working on being a person of integrity:  showing you who I am.  Completely me.   Missed snacks and all.

Because I value you the trust of my readers.

And, my readers, read: YOU, absolutely ROCK.

I’m inspired by your stories of success, lessons on being a better military spouse, how to stay strong as Credit Cards and I are breaking up; and grandmas accidentally packing beers for kids’s lunch.  You’ve made me laugh.  Made me look at things in a whole new light and I’m so very grateful.

Tell me in the comments, what is the next goal you are going to set.  And finish. I want to cheer you on.


Whining doesn’t work

Whining doesn't work

Some mornings go beautifully.  Everyone is dressed and ready, everyone is smiling, we load up the car and as we drive to work and school the sunshine is bringing in the light. Like a cool car commercial.

Then there’s this morning.  Running late.  Hair is not quite done.  Child is screaming.  For no reason.  We are all wired.  That stressful feeling is thick in the air.

We barely make it to preschool on time.  I say goodbye to my toddler with a hug, kiss and a mildly terrifying threat to behave and be nice.  Or else.

Whew.  We made it.

Whining doesn't work
Whining doesn’t work

Of course, you have no idea what I’m talking about.

And as I was driving home from the insanity of this morning,  the parallel came in right away…

Here comes a highlight of the morning’s self-talk:

“You are working on your debt, girl.  Of course it’s going to be tough. You have to get through this. You need peace.  Your family deserves that.  You can give your best to your family and loved ones so much better when you aren’t whining about how tough it is…”

“But I’ve been tough in going through this for a while.” I think out loud.  “It’s really hard.  I’m tired of this…”

And then, in some strange cosmic force my inner drill sergeant comes in with the big hat and aviator glasses and starts letting me have it.  He looks a bit like Jamie Foxx but not nearly as charming.

“Well…DUH.  Anyone can start a major project.  They do start.  People start things all the time. But what people don’t do?  Is FINISH.  Know what people don’t want to talk about?  Is how it got too tough.  It was too much.  And they just… quit.  

They quit!  

They quit on themselves!  

You’ve done that before!  You know exactly how it feels to stop even when you can see the finish line.

You know how that last push is what makes ordinary into extraordinary!  You know this!  

What is the problem then?

Where are you?  

Are you going to PUSH?  Well, guess what, Missy.  You better start PUSHING. I want to see you working.  You have got to get this done!”

And somehow, the powerhouse peptalk is over.

Then I get to it.

I re-evaluate my life, again.  I’m finding the way to make every dollar s-t-r-e-t-c-h to pull us out of debt faster.

I know that my family is counting on me.

My integrity matters.  I have to do my best.  Today.  Even when it’s hard and I just want to spend money and have an escape.  Even when whining sounds little a pretty fantastic option.

I will do my part to get through this swamp of debt.  Because I want to move forward.  I want to show people that it can be done.  I want to inspire others to get out of this!

But that will never happen until I’m out.  Until I have paid the price.  Literally as well as figuratively.

Until we are there.