Tag Archives: lifestyle

It’s Another New Year. Now What?

Many of you stayed up late on New Year’s Eve, reflecting back over 2018, thinking about some of the things that you said you wouldn’t do, but found yourself at some point over the last 12 months doing it. Or perhaps you were taking note of all the things you said you were going to do in 2018, but now realize how many of them you didn’t take the time to follow through on.

Others of you woke up early New Years Day, grabbed your journal, and started outlining your resolutions for yet another new year; making promises to yourself to check off each one of the items as an accomplished success over the next 364 days. You had the same good intentions last year, and the year before that, and before that.

For most of us, it’s so much easier making resolutions than it is fulfilling them. There are many reasons for this. Sometimes we’re on our way to success, and LIFE gets in the way. We may resolve to save more money this year, and then end up in a car-totally accident, forced to purchase another vehicle, gaining monthly car payments, because that insurance company you’ve been paying premiums to will only give you about half the cost of another reliable vehicle. Maybe you resolved to look for a new job, and before you land that dream position, you lost your old one. Now, you’re just trying to figure out how to pay the bills, while searching for any new job to provide a paycheck.

Yes, unexpected things come into our lives. Some times we have to change our plans of doing more traveling this year; or put off registering for that foreign language course you’ve been promising yourself; or we may be forced to spend from our savings account to cover medical expenses we didn’t see coming. Life definitely happens.

But many of us fail to reach our goals because we don’t put a plan in place for how to accomplish them. We start talking about all of the things we want to accomplish and think that just writing them down is enough to keep us motivated and focused. In reality, writing resolutions or even setting goals, without including a list of strategies on how you plan to accomplish each goal, is little more than just dreaming. And strategies alone won’t do it, unless you’re willing to follow through with your plan.

If you desire to get out of debt this year, but you don’t do anything to change your current spending habits, then it’s unlikely that you will accomplish your goal.

A couple of weeks ago, I was astonished after reading a post by a woman who was asking advice in one of those social media forums where the focus of the group was on sharing ways people become more financially responsible; how they’d gotten their finances, credit scores, budgets, and other things under control. After reading what she posted, I saw MANY things that was obviously out of balance with her thought process and actions, beyond what she intended to be the main focus of her question.

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This woman was writing for advice on whether or not she should ignore her phone bill (amount in the several hundreds of dollars) until after she got back from an international vacation she had planned because she didn’t have enough money to do both — pay her bill AND keep her plans for the trip. Her reasons were both humorous and sad to read. She had already paid for the actual trip and had saved up money to use for spending (presumably for meals, tips, excursions, etc.). A couple of weeks before she was suppose to leave, she gave her sister that money to get her car out from repossession. Then she talked about how her phone bill, now due, was so high because her sister and a cousin were also on her plan, and that neither one of them had paid their portion of the bill. She went on to mention that her sister said she didn’t have the money to repay her for the car or her part of the phone bill; etc. etc. You know where this is going.

Perhaps traveling outside the country was a dream of hers that she’d planned for all year. She did the right thing paying for it throughout the year, and then saving up for spending money. But the other things she was doing with her finances is what’s baffling. Having other adults on your phone plan is risky. I seriously doubt that the December bill was the first time one or both of those family members failed to pay their part of the bill. I could write five more blogs on the dangers of extending too much financial grace to grown adults. The title of the first one would be “Stop Being an Enabler!

Then there’s the question of giving up your hard earned and saved money to help someone get a car out from repossession. Is it unfortunate that her sister won’t have access to her car for a few days or weeks? Yes. Is that an emergency worth spending her money on? No. There are other ways for the sister to get around, including getting rides with friends, family, and other forms of transportation. Is it her responsibility to bail her sister out of a situation like this? NO. If you’re ever considering doing something like this, first ask yourself how did that person get to the point that their car got repossessed. And then ask yourself, can you afford to go without ever seeing your money again, since it’s likely that they’re not going to have the financial resources to pay you back anytime soon, if ever. 

What disturbed me the most about this scenario was how many respondents on the page actually told her to go on her trip on not to worry about the phone bill; someone suggesting she just cancel the service. Their advice was that the phone bill could wait, and that she “deserved” to do something fun. One respondent even said (when challenged by someone else who felt otherwise), that people “can’t just work all the time;” that paying bills wasn’t everything in life; and that everyone deserved some time to have some fun and enjoy themselves.

Even as I write this, I’m still baffled by a response as financially ignorant as this one. You’re not only messing with your credit score when you fail to pay your bills, but the bill will still be waiting on you to pay when you return, only it’ll be higher. And depending on how much time lapses, there’s also the possibility that the phone company turns your account over to a collection agency.  Then there’s the reality that if your family members can’t afford to pay you back, AND you just left to go out of the country for vacation, spending the rest of the money you have, how are you going to make good on that bill when you do get back?

Unless your financial planning includes putting aside money each paycheck to use to bail other people out of their financial problems, then don’t do it; at least don’t unless it’s a real emergency. This is especially important if your attempts to help someone else with their financial crisis then creates a financial crisis of your own.

If you want to make changes to how you approach your resolutions, then start by creating a Plan. Don’t just journal thoughts in a book. Write down your Goals. List your strategies. Create a timeline. And outline the tactics to keep you on  point.

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Not Another Women’s Conference!?

As we close out another important month — National Women’s History Month — I couldn’t help but take the timing of the ending of March to announce the kickoff plans of Catching Raindrops in Water Buckets “house events” later this year!

My “adjusted lifestyle,” hasn’t just been about journaling and starting a website. It has been about making some real changes in my life that impact how I am living. Our finances are a big part of the way we live. There are financial issues you control (spending, utility usage, entertainment and luxury items, etc.), and there are financial issues you can’t control (the economy’s impact on your 401K, increase in property taxes or insurance, loss of a spouse or loss of a job, and many other things.). Regardless of the source, when something impacts your financial life in a negative way, you’re the one who suffers the financial consequences. Those consequences can be huge and long-lasting if you don’t face the reality of your new normal and make some adjustments.

The impact can be even harder on those who only have one income. Whether it’s a married couple with a stay-at-home spouse, a single person with no family or roommate, or an older couple in retirement, when your “normal” changes, you have to change with it, or get caught up in the financial repercussions.

One of the things I learned through the process of going through my last nine years of change, along with decades of watching my own mom figure out how to make ends meet during trying times; especially with a large family, is that planning is key.

People plan to finish school; plan to go to college; and plan to get a “good” job. But most people don’t plan, financially, for what happens when one of those other “plans” get interrupted. Ignoring the possibility that it can happen doesn’t change the reality when it does. So why not be ready.

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The Catching Raindrops in Water Buckets conference is designed to Inform, Educate, Encourage, and Challenge women of all ages on how to plan for a successful adjustment when life throws unexpected surprises at them. 

INFORM attendees on ways to save money, stretch dollars, and invest wisely simply by planning ahead.

EDUCATE attendees on resources available to offer assistance during their adjustment period.

ENCOURAGE attendees to try new things; be creative in finding or creating secondary sources of revenue.

CHALLENGE attendees to step out of their comfort zone; start a new business; turn a hobby or a passion into extra income.

While we can’t control many of the circumstances that may happen to us, we can have some control over how well prepared we are to handle those stops, detours, and many times life-altering events when they happen.

We’ll be kicking off the larger conference (launching in 2019) starting first with doing small group house events. 

Ultimately, the conference is designed for women to meet, network, learn, feel encouraged, and for some, to come to the realization that they need to stop trying to live the lifestyle they used to know, and start learning how to live a changed life, adjusting to their new normal

Stay tuned!

Adjusting Your Life to Your New Normal

Why the name Catching Raindrops?

The verb Adjusting means “to change (something) so that it fits, corresponds, or conforms; adapt; accommodate.” Adjustment is defined as “adaptation to a particular condition, position, or purpose.”

Interestingly, the dictionary gives an example of “adjusting,” by this sentence use: “to adjust expenses to income.”

That definition lines up so perfectly with the actions that lead to the name. As I’ve shared before, I spent about a year looking at ways to make adjustments in my lifestyle to accommodate my new life. One of those changes included figuring out ways to cut back not just on expenses outside the home, but things that impacted my money inside the home. There was nothing I could do about the fixed mortgage, because I already had a good rate, so I zoned in on adjusting the other things that were variables – my utilities, groceries, clothes, and related items.

With that, I kept my heat at 66 and my air conditioner turned to 78. For most of my friends, they thought I was crazy, and actually had their own heat and AC settings exactly the opposite of mine. But then, I was trying to save money, and to understand that being comfortable didn’t have to mean ending up with hundreds of dollars in utility charges.

I forced myself to wear the clothes that were already in my closet; not that I was a fashionista to begin with. And limited purchasing new items only for special events, and with retail coupons. I did likewise with my groceries; using reward cards, coupons, and waiting for certain sales before shopping, still trying to stay with only buying the things I needed and not what I wanted. I think sometimes it’s harder to deny yourself from those things you want, than even the things you need! But I knew I had to do it.

I started cutting my own grass again and stopped watering the lawn and floor gardens, allowing nature to take its course. If it rained, they got water. If it didn’t, I just prayed the lawn and flowers wouldn’t all die. Fortunately, that never happened. And since I’d started a patio garden with vegetables and herbs, I took advantage of any opportunity that the skies would deliver water for FREE. I caught as much water as I could by placing water buckets around the deck in my backyard. Southern summers demand a regular watering of container plants if they are to survive. So the water-filled buckets I caught when it rained served to refresh plants later to avoid the summer’s hot sun from drying them out. And it didn’t cost me anything!

It was equating that literal process I was engaged in – taking advantage of free resources today to save and use when the need occurs later – that the name Catching Raindrops in Water Buckets, grew. Whether that was saving herb plants on the deck, cutting and using coupons at the store, joining loyalty programs for discounts on gas and other items; or even in the downgrade of things such as cable TV and my house alarm system — all of it was for the purpose of making adjustments in how I was living to survive these new times.

I was adjusting my life to my new normal!

Spring Break at the Beach

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Isn’t it beautiful?! There’s nothing quite like spending some vacation time at the beach, sitting on the warm sands, watching the sunrise in the morning. And then returning that evening, after  full day of doing nothing, to watch it set. One of the things I’ve missed about leaving South Carolina for Tennessee is that the once two-and-a-half hour drive to the Atlantic ocean now takes over ten!

I invited myself to the beach with them once I learned their spring break was the same week as mine! It’s the first time it’s happened since I started teaching, and my schedule became dictated by semesters instead of calendar years. I knew they wouldn’t mind, and after the last six months, I needed a real break; not the kind you take over the holidays, where most of your time is spent decorating the house, visiting people, attending events, and hosting family and friends. I wanted, no needed a REAL break! I needed to see the ocean again, feel the warm sunshine on my face while digging in to the sand between my toes. I wanted to not set an alarm clock, wake up to the sounds of the waves, and listen to the high pitched screech of the water birds, drowned out only by the laughter of young children running from the water’s edge. I didn’t want to wait until summer. I needed it now!

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But somewhere along the way, what I wanted; what I needed; and what actually happened didn’t line up!

Okay, yes, I agree. It was the grown-up thing to do to call and UNinvite myself from a week in (almost) paradise. But that was the point. I didn’t want to act like a grown up. I wanted some ME time. Sure there were papers to be graded, which I knew would be a challenge to do sitting pool side, most likely distracted by the splash of the swimmers, and the lure of the lazy river that meandered beside the swimming pool. And while taking long walks down the beach would have been just the kind of medicine I needed to help destress and refocus my mind, and de-tense my body, I probably would have been thinking about all of the other stuff that needed doing at my house — like sorting through stacks of papers, preparing my taxes, cleaning my den and home office, and picking up all those twigs and small branches that keep falling over into my backyard from my neighbor’s overgrown and unkept trees that line our border!

But none of those things are the real reason why I’m sitting back here in Nashville instead of chilling out there, in North Myrtle Beach this week! The real reason for my grown up decision came down to the most basic of things — money! I was forced to count the cost of engaging in this “free” vacation, in light of something more significant that I’m saving for  happening later in the year.

Under normal circumstances, I would not have thought twice about spending the money in gas (for the 1400-mile round trip journey), snacks, meals on the road, and sharing in the costs of food and entertainment once I got there. But that’s just it. Most people don’t think about all of the extra money it takes to take advantage of something that’s FREE. If you’re on a budget, or just watching your spending, you can’t just count the things you want. Money spent is money spent. What goes out today isn’t going to be there tomorrow.

When I talk about budgets in class, I start by having my students write down the amount for everything they currently spend in a month. I think it’s important to have a visual of your habits so that reality sets in before you make out a budget. I remind my students that they have to include everything — every cup of coffee, pack of gum, bottle of water, smartphone upgrade, oil change, new shoes, hair cut, mani-pedi, and pair of sunglasses they just couldn’t resist. For me, that would have meant adding about $200 in gas and probably another $100 for food; not including money for going out.

So while I would rather be curled up in a chair on the balcony of the condo right now, reading a good book and taking in all of the fresh salty smells of the coast, I know that putting off instant gratification today means being able to do something bigger and better later; like maybe this summer, when I’ll have  an entire month to chill!

What about you? When’s the last time you’ve taken a visual of your spending habits? Why not do it now, instead of waiting until you’re ready to take off for somewhere.

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How to Save Money and Watch Free Movies!

I just finished watching the movie Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Yesterday I enjoyed the Denzel Washington movie Magnificent Seven; and before that, it was Meryl Strep in Florence Foster Jenkins; and then the day before that it was Storks. The best part about catching up on all these movies is that they were FREE!

I have a sister who went without cable television for over a decade! It’s hard to imagine, but even before Netflix became a household name, my sister chose to watch most her movies in the comfort of her home — either buying or renting DVDs. The only thing she enjoyed doing more than watching movies was reading books. And it was at her favorite book place — the public library — that she discovered a way to watch even more movies, without spending any money on them!

I remember 20+ years ago when I first moved to Nashville, I couldn’t afford much more than the gas in my car, and trying to make rent each month. Whenever I was feeling stressed; sometimes depressed, or even bored, I would find my way to the local library, plop down in the magazine section, and mindlessly flipped through the home and garden, fashion, and Southern lifestyle type of magazines, without having to purchase a subscription. I also occasionally looked through the stack of VHS tapes, hoping to come across an old movie I hadn’t seen, or one I wanted to watch again.

But that was the 1990s; just as DVDs were growing in popularity, and long before there was anything related to streaming movies, or binge watching entire seasons of your favorite television shows.

As I moved up the corporate ladder, and leisure time became limited, but money became less of a problem, I didn’t visit the library as often. This was also during the growth of the digital age, smartphones, laptop computers, and later, streaming services. I subscribed to magazines I barely had the time to flip through; ordered up extended cable services I mostly didn’t have time to enjoy the selections on. And jumped on some of the social media platforms as they unfolded.

But while visiting my hometown over the past couple of years, spending time at my sister’s house, I was reminded of the value of the local public library.

Before I arrived for Christmas, my sister put a number of movies on her list so that we’d have plenty of them to watch while I was home for the holidays. What’s really cool about doing that, beyond the free part, is that it guarantees at least two hours of family time to watch a movie together, sitting next to each other, without a group of strangers surrounding us in a dark, sticky floor, and uncomfortable general-public used chairs.

Unlike the VHS tapes I used to pick up, the current DVD service at the library is usually on par with services like the RedBox. So what if you might have to wait a few days longer, or get on a list that might take a couple of weeks. Being able to check out new to DVD movies within a couple of days or weeks of their release for FREE is totally worth it!

So if one of your new year’s resolutions — spoken, thought, or written down — is to watch your spending habits, and create and stay on a budget, just know that you don’t have to give up enjoying life. You can still watch a great movie, without paying over a hundred dollars for cable or satellite service. You can check out books, DVDs, and even CDs from the library, or take an hour to relax and flip through current magazines. I have some friends who have never had cable in their house. They rent movies or stream them online. With a trip to your local library, you can take that a step further and pick some up for free!

Up next? Bad Moms and Ben-Hur! Yeah…I know. An interesting mix of drama.

Camp Stacy – Part I

How does someone who’s allergic to dogs, and allergic to most of the allergens outdoors, end up in a dog sitting and dog walking business?

That’s a good question. But to uncover the answer, you’d have to first go back many years to learn more about the type of person who would do just that. You would need to know who is Stacy Hostetler?

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Born and raised in Shipshewana, IN, Stacy started dreaming about living in Nashville before she was in high school. “I got into country music as a teenager, and followed several artists and their music,” said Stacy. “I always wanted to go to Fan Fare and to see some of the artists I was listening to.” Unlike most people who dream of moving to Nashville for the country music scene, Stacy wasn’t interested in becoming a singer or a songwriter. She just wanted to be closer to the people who were.

After graduating from high school, Stacy went to a small college in Kansas, but then left before finishing to move to New Jersey where she became a nanny for a year. After making friends with another nanny in the area, Stacy followed her then roommate to Nebraska where she lived for another year before returning to Kansas for four months. “I was just unsettled. There were things I was trying to run away from but the Lord kept following me.”

Although Stacy still felt drawn to Nashville, she returned home to Wisconsin instead where she lived with her parents (who had moved there several years earlier) for over four years, before moving on to Madison for another five years.  It was during that time when Stacy’s restlessness forced her to stop running, and to start listening. “I started praying and seeking God for clear direction. I didn’t want to have any regrets; I didn’t want to look back years later and have regrets about never going to Nashville.”

So in May 2006, Stacy packed her bags and headed for Tennessee, without a job, without a real plan for what she was going to do, and with knowing only one person. It only took Stacy a month to find a job; start attending a new church; and meeting new friends.  And it was through these new friends that her business idea began to develop. But not before, and perhaps even because of, some financial struggles along the way.

Shortly after Stacy met her new friend Stephanie, she was introduced to Stephanie’s best friend, Judge, a black lab. Before long, Stacy found herself dog sitting Judge on a pretty regular basis. “It’s strange, because it’s not something I really set out to do; it just happened, and I found that despite my allergies, I loved doing it.”

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Word spread quickly about Stacy’s service and availability to not just sit with people’s dogs in their absence, but to take care of them as she would her own. Before long, she had several regular clients and through word of mouth, was being introduced to new ones.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”  Psalm 46:10

Being paid to dog sit wasn’t just a hobby for Stacy. It was an answered prayer. “I’ve had a few rough years financially; just not making good choice with my expenses, and being really bad at budgeting,” said Stacy. “But last year (2012) I really struggled trying to get back on my feet back; get them steady.” Realizing she was barely making ends meet at her job, Stacy prayed about getting a second job. She asked God to provide her with something that she would enjoy doing.

“I’d spent plenty of time in my 20s working two jobs to pay bills, so I didn’t want to get another job just for the sake of having that second income,” Stacy shared. “Back then, I was always tired, and I grew to be mean, and maybe even mad at everyone and everything. I was always working, sleeping, or going between the two jobs. I didn’t want that again.”

While in the middle of praying to see where God would lead her, Stacy had not yet realized that God was answering her prayer faster than she could speak them. Right there in front of her was everything she’d asked for – a job that she loved, with great flexibility, and the extra money to help make her budget each month.

Without realizing it, Camp Stacy: A Dog Sitting, Dog Walking Business was born! But that was just the beginning of Stacy’s answered prayer, and just the start of her new journey. God had so much more in store for her.

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Come back here next week for part 2 of Camp Stacy with Stacy Hostetler!