july tuition update

this past month has been, to say the least, wonderful. i only have one job, praise the Lord! and while i've cut back on work, so has bryan. he's taking a sabbatical if you will.

just in case you think we're awesome at money stuff with all these posts, i'll have you know that bryan hasn't worked all of july for no particular reason and we're totally okay with that. after all, bryan just has one more year of school and then he'll begin working fulltime for the rest of his life. i think it's totally okay for him to have one more summer in which he doesn't have to work his butt off.

sometimes, it's good for me to reduce my "gazelle intensity" for the sake of being human. i'm not going to be perfect all the time, no matter how much i'd like to be. we are definitely still striving to remain debt-free through college and i'm often intense about that goal. but bryan is going to get some good turnover hours this weekend and has a potentially awesome opportunity to work this fall, so we're trusting God and His provision.

we've also had to do some budget slashing due to the fact that i'm not working like crazy anymore. i'm soooo thankful for one fulltime job that i love, but it does mean that i'm not making as much money.  i'm also okay with that. i'm actually kind-of excited to start couponing more and making every effort to save as much money as possible.

all that being said, we were able to put a good chunk in savings this month, thanks to paychecks for june work that didn't come until july. here's the update:

tuition for 2011-2012 school year: $9,654.00
savings at the end of july: $3,724.36
difference: $5,927.64
percentage saved: 38.58%
percentage left to save: 61.42%

we only need $427.64 more and we'll have everything except for the $5,500 in loans we're taking out (the good kind-of loans-where we'll have 6 months to pay it off with no interest). even if we can't avoid loans entirely, i'm pretty confident we'll be able to avoid paying any interest. we're getting there!


fabric flowers with tutorials

i made three different kinds of fabric flowers this week. i might be addicted.

the rosette
i found a great tutorial here for these little rosettes. i made 4 or 5 before i really got the hang of it, but after that it was a breeze! i never pass up a chance to use hot glue either. i love that i know how to make these because they are so versatile. they can go on wreaths, shirts, pillows, headbands, necklaces, etc.

the button flower
this tutorial uses felt to make these flowers, but i used regular old scraps of fabric because i don't really love the felt look. but i loved this tutorial because of the buttons and the "S" formation [genius!]. these were much easier to make consistent flowers and once again, i love hot glue!

the target flower or the mikki flower
mikki, congratulations! you've now been mentioned twice on my blog!
my flowers were originally inspired by a hairpin from target, but made possible by my friend mikki, who made a bunch of this type of flower for her bridesmaids and as party favors at her wedding shower-what a cute idea! the only sad thing about these flowers is that there is no hot glue involved. it's a shame really. i'm going to try to whip together a little picture tutorial later on today if i can figure out indesign.

as you can see, i've attached all of these to headbands. my adorable but bald niece is turning two next month and i'm working on a bunch of cute things to send her.

happy crafting!


july [a song]

a little over 4 years ago, three boys dropped off easter baskets for three girls at apartment #312. this song was in one of the baskets. this song is going places. if you don't own ryan seiler's album yet, you should probably buy it right now. it's soooo good.


basic budgets & sinking funds

calculating kids

dave ramsey preaches the zero-based budget. personally, i highly recommend this idea.

the basic idea is that you "spend" all of your income on paper. when you receive your paycheck, write out where that money needs to go. the order i use is giving (or tithing), bills, sinking funds and cash envelopes. all are equally important, but my order goes from least flexible to most flexible.

for instance, we give a "non-negotiable" amount to our local church
next, our bills are mostly the same every month
then, we have our sinking funds and some are more flexible than others
and then our cash envelopes, and i'm the master fudging our grocery budget : )

subtract all of the above expenses from your net income and your number should be $0.00. thankfully, it's not a super complicated idea.

it's also not the only way to do a budget, it's just our method of choice.

what is a sinking fund?
a sinking fund is a "savings account" that you deposit small monthly amounts for those large irregular expenses such as auto insurance, property tax, christmas, vacations, etc.

here is why i love sinking funds:
they save you money
we save over $200 each year by paying our car insurance in full every six months. if we didn't use a sinking fund to save up for our car insurance, we would be unprepared to pay this larger amount and have to pay a more expensive monthly price.

they save you from stress
what? christmas is here already? i have seven immediate family members, six in-laws, one niece, four "adopted" family members and one husband. that's a lot of presents! not to mention mailing out christmas cards, travel expenses, and a slew of other things i always forget that cost money around christmas time. because we save up for the expense of christmas all year round, it's not nearly as stressful.

they keep it real
sure, it would be great to spend thousands of dollars on vacation every year, but realistically, we can only afford to save $40 per month toward a vacation, which totals up to $480 annually. we can still have a lot of fun with 500 bucks, and it keeps us from having unrealistic expectations for our vacations.

here's a list of our current sinking funds:
general savings
auto insurance
eye exams
home insurance
property tax
vehicle tax


she wasn't always patient


a while back, i was thinking of my mom. as i was reviewing how awesome she was in my mind, i remembered potentially the best ami quote yet!

"collect your thoughts and get back to me"

now you know my mom wasn't perfect, just in case you had the impression she was.

she would say this to us often. her time was precious, she had six mouths to feed, six dirty shirts every day, six heads to count at all times. and you know how children are, they call for your attention only to hmmm and ummmm their way through what could be a very short question.

i know i did this a fair amount of times, but i remember my brother adam being the worst. he would take so much time to ask a simple question.

so, in all her wisdom, she would look him in the face and say gently:

"collect your thoughts and get back to me, adam."

he'd either spit it out right then and there, or he'd really have to collect his thoughts.

it worked like a charm.


'member that time?

'member that time my grandma tried to get my grandpa to stop smoking (after he had been for 50 years)? 'member how she thought the best way to do that was to put handwritten notes underneath his clear ashtray so that he'd be immediately convicted to stop right then and there? 

my favorite thing she wrote on one of them was a bible verse about the second coming or something and her words below it:

"think about that!"

[it's 'member that time monday at the van voorst's blog!]


for my non-facebook friends

Photo on 2011-07-22 at 13.42 #4

sometimes, i get cahrazy and chop my hair off. and i know at least one person (ahem, leah) doesn't have facebook. so this is for you, leah! here's the new do! i'm pretty much in love with it!

here was my inspiration:

the book list

the first 6 months of 2011 have completely flown by for me. i believe this to be the result of working a bunch and barely having time for anything else. but life has started to slow down-God is good! 

these past couple weeks have been blissful, i've slept a lot. like 10 hours a night some nights. it is seriously as if i'm catching up on all the hours of sleep i missed the past year. but sleep is boring, it's not really worth it. i'm just as awake if i get 10 hours or 6 hours. i think i'll go for a happy medium. but what i'm trying to say is that i want to be more productive with the extra time i have.  

i rather enjoy having a list of goals on my blog, it really motivates me to actually reach them. one of my goals is to read 20+ books this year. so far, i've finished three. like i said, i've been busy!

speaking of goals, craft of the week will be back next week! how excited are you?!

cheers to knowledge, recreation and relaxation. cheers to reading. cheers to book lists:

mortom by erik therme (not yet published, but very entertaining!)
a knitters home companion by michelle edwards
stuff christians like by jon acuff

on the list:
organized simplicity by tsh oxenreider
for women only by shaunti feldhahn
the life you've always wanted by john ortberg
sticky church by larry osborne
quitter by jon acuff
gazelles, baby steps and 37 other things dave ramsey taught me about debt by jon acuff
the appomattox saga series by gilbert morris
a lineage of grace by francine rivers
something (suggestions are welcome) by karen kingsbury
slaughterhouse 5 by kurt vonnegut
catch 22 by joseph heller
the grapes of wrath by john steinbeck
east of eden by john steinbeck
the hidden art of homemaking by edith schaeffer

that's what i've got so far. my goal is not necessarily to read all of those books this year, but i definitely want to read at least 17 more books. 

any suggestions? 


oh harry


the debt snowball

calculating kids

note: in the last couple posts i stated that we had $13,000.00 in debt at the beginning of 2009. after going through our financial records and realizing i don't have much recorded before june of 2009, i'm going to revise that statement. we had approximately $13,000.00 in debt in june of 2008. i thought you might appreciate correct facts! 

here's what 2008 & 2009 looked like for us, debt snowball style:

in six months (june-december), we paid off roughly $3,000.00 in debt. i didn't keep great records of our finances personally, and mostly relied on online banking. so this a rough estimate.

started the year off with a little over $10,000.00 in debt
fully funded our honeymoon budget with christmas money/bonus
started financial peace university with our connection group
paid off debt

started couponing more
received a tax refund
put $1,000 in an emergency fund
paid off debt

found out my dad lost his job, God provides for our wedding.
purchased our wedding bands on 0% interest credit: increased our debt by $500
shared all of the above with our connection group
paid off debt

worked on our married budget a lot
decided to live off my income after we get married
paid off debt

got married!
paid cash for our honeymoon
wrote hundreds of thank you notes to our generous wedding guests
cashed our wedding checks!

started married life with about $8,000 in debt
paid my car payment down by $2,000
started saving for tuition

paid my car payment down by $900

paid off my car (our only interest-accruing loan)!

paid off our wedding rings!
paid down our debt to bryan's parents by $850
ended september with $2,600 in debt

bryan's car requires $2,620.68 in repairs

paid for the car repairs with the money we were going to pay off our debt to bryan's parents
stopped in awe at how precise the numbers were
revised our debt pay off plan
ended november with $2,600 in debt

bryan's parents gave us the gift of being debt-free by forgiving the balance on our loan from them!

by God's grace, we started 2010 with a plan to move to iowa city, and nothing in our way. we had no debt! hopefully this encourages you that in time and with a lot of effort & hard work, being debt free is possible!


we've had a good run, netflix


well, i thought i'd step up on the proverbial soapbox and give my piece about the topic you've undoubtedly heard something about: netflix is raising their prices.

as i'm writing this, i wonder if it's even blog-worthy, but hey, i'm not one to hold back.

the price increase came at a great time for us. we loved netflix instant streaming for watching older television series' such as x-files. we loved getting not-good-enough-to-see-in-theatre new releases delivered right to our mailbox. and we thought the price was fair for how much we used it.

for myself more than bryan, i haven't watched something that i actually wanted to see on netflix instant for a few months now. i just watched disney channel shows on netflix because they were there, not because i woke up those many days and thought, i really want to see what happens to teddy on "good luck, charlie."

bryan enjoyed a lot of the crazy misunderstood movies that netflix offers. but even he was complacent to netflix when i proposed we cancel.

we cancelled out netflix subscription as a result of the price increases, but more as an effort to simplify our lives. while we really enjoyed having such convenient tv & movies for a year and a half, we decided we'll be better off with it.

thank you family video, for staying in business these past few years. i know it's been rough, but you're about to get a lot more business from us!


'member that time?

'member that time when me and my bff got to go on vacation together? 'member how we kept ourselves busy by arguing about who's hair was fine or coarse and counting all the "cow's toilet paper?" what? you don't know what cow's toilet paper is?

it's that giant "roll" of hay/grass. duh. we counted over 200 easily.

[it's 'member that time monday at the van voorst's blog!]




which ron swanson face is your favorite?


financial peace university

calculating kids

[sorry this post is a week late!]

as i mentioned in my last post, at the beginning of 2009, we had about $13,000.00 in debt. also at this time, we enrolled financial peace university with our connection group.

a few things about financial peace university:
  • dave ramsey is the creator/author
  • it can be a semester long course, around 13 weeks, there are "quickie courses"
  • it usually costs around $100
  • it centers around dave ramsey's "7 baby steps"

i'm going to give a quick summary of our thoughts on those above bullet points.

dave ramsey
first impression: he's a little nuts. giant scissors and a deer on stage? is this guy for real? bryan doesn't take well to overly excited people, and dave ramsey's one of those people. i'm a little more unaffected by the hype but i can understand why some people (my husband included) are a little overwhelmed by him.
my advice: listen to what he has to say and ignore the hype if you must. don't tune him out completely, even if you're a little overwhelmed! he has a pretty incredible personal story, and he has a lot of wisdom but hey, he's an excited guy.

long or short course?
we went through almost every week in the series with our connection group and we were also required to complete a quick version of it for our engagement class. we did have some debt, but we had pretty good foundations for personal finance already, so i think we could have just taken a day-course and called it good.
but, there are many benefits to taking a semester long course, and it's what i would recommend to any one who needs help with their personal finances. one huge benefit of the longer course is that you have incredible motivation and accountability with your class or small group. every one shares stories each week and it's so encouraging to be walking through the learning experience together. plus, you can all make inside jokes together about dave.

the cost
to someone struggling with finances, $100 can seem like a small fortune. but i strongly feel that it's totally worth it. spend the money, it will save you a lot more later. i promise.

the 7 baby steps

  1. quickly save $1,000 in a baby emergency fund
  2. become debt-free using the "snow-ball method"
  3. fully fund your emergency fund (from step 1) with 3-6 months of living expenses
  4. contribute 15% of your income to retirement
  5. fund your kid's college educations
  6. pay off your mortgage
  7. invest money and give a bunch of it away-live like no one else
one of my favorite blogs did a short, simple series on the seven baby steps, check it out if you want more detail on any of these. 

another plug for taking the long course is that everyone will likely save that $1,000 and pay off a few debts while you're still in class together. it's so fun to see progress in other's lives!

while bryan and i don't consider ourselves to be held tightly to this plan for the rest of our lives, we both agree that it is a really great foundation for financial freedom. we will loosely follow this plan as we continue on in life. we are still young, so we're staying "stuck" at step 2 until bryan is done with school.

coming up:
the alsbury debt snowball
sinking funds=genius  


i work at a church

now that i've been an official employee of veritas church for a week, i thought i write a blog post about what it's like. but, i've been reading (yes, reading! for the first time in months!) a book called stuff christians like by jonathan acuff and i like his version of what my job is like. you can just go read his blog post and that should be good.

what's that you say? i shouldn't be publicly announcing that i'm the most powerful person ever? my bosses might read this you say?

okay, here's my take on things.

i work at a church, so naturally, everyone i work with is awesome. it's a requirement of staff members. if i was required to turn in a resume to get this job, i would have put I AM AWESOME right at the top.

anyway, everyone is awesome, and by awesome i mean really gifted and talented at what they do. and they don't necessarily do details, which is where i come in.

so far i've done a lot of researching, contacting and booking venues for the upcoming school year. i've learned a lot of new things about our church database, and i've been introducing myself to a lot of people i'll be working with in the future.

being at church on sunday actually did feel like work. but in an awesome way (of course). i really enjoyed having a part in such a great service. it wasn't all about me, it was about the people who came for the first time or for the 50th time. i was definitely okay with that.

i don't think i've screwed anything up yet, so i'm hoping that trend continues. and i'm still trying to figure out how to write a funny support letter that will also be taken seriously. it's a difficult balance.



'member that time? *sports edition*

much like my funnygirl idol, i'm running low on 'member that times. i think i'm going to call it quits on the weekly posts after july. but don't worry, the hilarity will continue with the long-awaited (by me mostly) "you know you live in a trailer park when..." series!

'member that time i played softball? and enrolled in jazz and ballet classes? and took a golf lesson? and gymnastics? and volleyball?

really?! you remember that? because i've blocked those out completely.

maybe because i always wanted to quit halfway through the season, three of those sports made me cry, and i peed my pants (or leotard, if you will) in at least one.

[it's 'member that time monday at the van voorst's blog!]



would you believe that almost everything i write has exclamation points after at least half of the sentences? and that i go through and change many of the points to periods, just for my more mellow readers?

would you?!?!?!!?!!!!!!!


Support Compassion International!

all you have to do is change your homepage to yahoo.com for two days. click on this link over at Money Saving Mom to read all about it (you'll have it go through her link in order for it to work).

bryan and i have supported a child in the domican republic for over 4 years, we love compassion international and really believe in the work they are accomplishing in many ways and in many countries.

by changing your homepage to yahoo, you are contributing to yahoo's contribution of up to $10,000.00 to compassion. moneysavingmom.com is also contributing $1 per person who changes their homepage and comments on her blog.

hurry, because this only goes through tomorrow!


'member that time?

'member that time when i was a kid and i hated lima beans but my mom made me eat them anyway? so, 'member how that one time, i got really smart and just threw my lima beans on the floor under the table when my mom wasn't looking? just like the kids did on tv?

too bad we didn't have a dog.

[it's 'member that time monday at the van voorst's blog!]


birthday week recap

to those of you using a reader or facebook to view my blog, congratulations, you get three blogs in one day! i know, i know, how could you be so lucky?

i got behind on blogging because it was my birthday last week and i was having too much fun to sit and blog. here's the recap.

a co-worker took my shift at the coffee shop, i got to sleep in until 7am!
i worked at home all day until 4pm, but it did so from the comfort of my bed. i celebrated being caught up enough to officially pass off my work to my replacement.
my friend liz came over and we talked about marriage and life and ended our time with prayer. it was incredibly encouraging.
bryan and i watched the bachelorette with clint and miranda.

spent some time working on veritas stuff in the morning.
i arrived at my home just in time for the ups man to deliver my birthday presents from bryan.
i received 2 seasons of gilmore girls, a book about pattern-making and designing your own clothes, a local natives cd, and crash bandicoot 3 for the playstation. my husband likes to spoil me.
ami duvick came to visit me!
we grocery shopped, ate lunch, met with brenda and searched for rehearsal dinner locations in iowa city for my little brothers upcoming wedding.
we ate hyvee chinese and chocolate and ended the evening with a chick flick.

my actual birthday!
i opened for the last time at the coffee shop, wrote several emails, and attempted to organize my life a little.
bryan left for des moines before i got home, but left me one more birthday present: sims 3 for the ps3. yesssss.
my mom and i spent the rest of the day shopping in williamsburg and we ate at t.g.i. friday's in des moines.
i received many birthday facebook messages, texts, and one very special voicemail from my dad. he's the sweetest. thank you everyone!

trained my replacement at iowa insulation for about 5 hours. once again, she is awesome.
spent the evening with bryan, audrey and james at hickory park and playing cards. ice cream and good times were had by all. especially me.
my connection group called me to sing me happy birthday. it made me almost cry. i felt very loved.

trained for 6 hours. done at iowa insulation!
went to meghan & brian's brand new house in ames. hugged them and chatted with them for about an hour.
went to my parents house, played texas canasta, and had a birthday dinner. bacon cheeseburgers and gold bars. deliciousness.
home in iowa city by 8pm.

it was a wonderful week of happiness. it's fun to feel so loved, many thanks to all who added to my fun!



which is more odd:
that i'm really good at unclogging toilets?
or that i learned my toilet un-clogging skills from the red-green show?

i could not for the life of me find the clip i remember watching from the red-green show, but here's a pretty funny one about toilets.