We made it.
It sounds crazy to say that. I just keep thinking, "Wasn't 1996 like a few years ago?"
Anyway, for so many of us, waking up on January 1st brings a renewed sense of motivation and excitement for what can happen in this fresh new year.
Over 2018, I read several books to work towards becoming the best version of myself that I can be.
Almost every single one of them spoke in the beginning about the importance of having a vision for your life.
"Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others." ~ Jonathan Swift
Your vision has to be yours alone.
Picture the life you want and decide TODAY to take steps to get there.
I'm hosting a "Twelve-Week Challenge" group here on the blog and over on Facebook.
So that's my one non-negotiable daily habit.
However, I have some other habits that will definitely help our days run more smoothly, so I have listed nine other daily habits that I would like to track each day.
I love using a habit-tracker for things like this, so I created one on Google Docs to track my progress.
You can view MY January habit-tracker HERE and follow along, if you'd like.
If you would like a printable BLANK copy of my habit-tracker, click the image below.
Using the insight I gleaned from these authors, I have set up a 12-week challenge to set goals for the first twelve weeks of 2019, to keep myself accountable, and to check my progress throughout the next three months.
After setting up my goals and weekly challenges, I thought to myself that maybe you all would want to join me!
Excited for the new year here at the farmhouse,
It was December 29, 2006.
I had been on bed rest for almost three weeks.
Mr. Farmhouse and I had headed up to the doctor's office because I couldn't get my blood pressure to go down at home, no matter what I tried.
We got to the office and the nurse checked it again.
My doctor came in.
"Your blood pressure's not going down...I'm just going to send you guys on over to the hospital and we'll induce today."
I wasn't due until January 18th, so I will admit that this came as a bit of a shock to us.
We headed over to the hospital and prepared to welcome our first baby girl into the world.
Very early the next morning...December 30th, 2006...she was born.
She was, and still is, all we could have ever dreamed of.
She loves basketball and hunting, reading and farming.
She is the best big sister to Claire & Mattie.
She speaks kind words and encouragement to those around her.
Her smile lights up the room.
She is a leader.
I know I'm hard on her.
I hold her to a very high standard and put a lot of pressure on her to be an example to those around her.
She is harder on herself than I could ever be.
Happy, happy 12th birthday, my dear sweet Harlee-girl.
We cannot imagine our lives without you. ❤️
The Saturday before the new year.
Historically, this is the day where I lay out my vision and goals for the year to come.
I officially decide on my "word for the year" and start to build some specific goals around that word.
The last three years, my words (phrases) have been "simplify", "be intentional", and "be present".
This year, I've had four words that keep coming up as possibilities..
These are all wonderful words.
They encompass all that I want for myself and my family.
And as I have written these goals out on paper and dreamed about what my life will look like in December of 2019, one year from now, I am realizing that all of my goals revolve around inspiring others to live their best lives.
So...I think that's it.
My 2019 Word of the Year...Inspire.
Setting goals and making plans at the farmhouse on this final Saturday of 2018,
Like LITERALLY a week and a half ago, our checking account was OVERDRAFTED by over $1,000.
I had gone into the ol' Dollar General to grab a few gifts for the girls' friends.
I went up to pay and when I ran my debit card, it was declined.
"What!?! That can't be right. Try to run it again."
Sure enough, I pop open my banking app on my phone and we are in the hole...like WAY in the hole.
But why? We track our spending and I watch the bank account like a hawk. So what had happened that day that put us in the red???
Well, when two mortgage payments come out two days before pay day, THAT can be an issue when you stick to a zero-based budget every month (in other words, when you budget for and spend every dollar, in order to pay down debt).
So I went through that entire evening and the next morning feeling sick, just waiting for the bank and our mortgage company to open so I could make some phone calls.
Our bank was very understanding and said they would wait to hear from me after I talked to the mortgage company.
When I finally got through to the mortgage company, the sweet lady on the other end of the line was very confused because we had never been late on a payment.
In fact, we were running a month ahead. She couldn't understand why the payment would have auto-drafted twice.
So she started scrolling through the previous months.
And then...she saw it.
Because we had paid a little extra each month, it had added up to a whole extra payment this month...
and that whole extra payment went in two days before it was supposed to, which had put us a little bit too early on our payment schedule...
which in turn caused the computer to put our ENTIRE payment amount on the principal, as opposed to counting as our payment...
SO the mortgage company had auto-drafted our December payment in addition to the one we had already paid because it looked like we hadn't paid!
They fixed it and refunded it (two days later), but it was a stressful few days there!
But at least there was a logical explanation.
I would love to go explain to the Dollar General clerk exactly what happened because I'm sure he thought I was ridiculous trying to look at my bank account right then and there and over-explain the reason my card was declined.
Maybe he'll read my blog. 😉
ANYway, now that I've gotten that off my chest, let's talk about how Mr. Farmhouse and I set up our annual financial goals, our debt snowball, monthly budget, and spending tracking.
The first piece of the puzzle that I'm going to talk about is the debt snowball.
I've mentioned this before, but I'll do a quick review for new readers.
The debt snowball is based on the work of Dave Ramsey.
You take all of your debts and you line them up from smallest balance to largest balance.
Interest doesn't matter and monthly payment doesn't matter.
It's all about small victories in this scenario...the motivation that comes from a little success.
As you pay off the smallest debt, you take that monthly payment and "roll" it into the next payment.
I really don't like to talk about the specifics of finances, but I will tell you that we have a large amount of debt.
Some of our debt includes:
Just this, without the random little medical bills and the two credit cards we still need to pay off, is a pretty daunting amount.
However, with the debt snowball, we are making big progress each month towards paying it down.
But as you can see, the house and student loans will be our last two debts that need to paid off and without ANY extra money thrown onto the snowball, we'll still be completely debt-free in less than ten years.
So I use the snowball app to let me know how much needs to be paid on each debt monthly and those payment amounts fit into our monthly budget.
Monthly Budget & Spending Tracking
For our monthly budget, we use a free web-based software and app called EveryDollar.
We build our budget every month on the computer, but we mostly track our spending using the app.
The app syncs across all devices and the web, so it's pretty handy for a husband & wife team who hardly ever gets to sit down and talk about income and expenses.
If you are just starting a new budget, I would first take a piece of paper and write down every single expense you have each month.
Use your debt snowball to track your monthly debt payments, write out every utility amount, any insurance costs, groceries, fuel, home & car maintenance savings, other savings, charitable giving, childcare, costs associated with pets, business expenses, cash for spending on "fun" (Sonic drinks, in my case!), and anything else you can think of.
After you have all of those items written down, start building your budget on EveryDollar.
You'll need to write down expected income sources and amounts, as well as expected categories and amounts for expenses.
Your online EveryDollar budget will look similar to this sample screenshot below.
Because we get four different paychecks each month, I divide our expenses up and pay them on those four days. We also take our "fun money" out of the bank on those days and account for daycare/preschool expenses, as well as putting money into various savings accounts using sinking funds, which I explained in THIS BLOG POST last year.
I write out every expense on the planner. Most of them are automatic withdrawal, which means after I write them out on the calendar, I don't have to think about them again. If they're not automatic, however, I set up the payments to come out on the correct day or I write out the checks and date them to be sent when the correct pay period rolls around.
In terms of tracking other expenses, Mr. Farmhouse and I both use the EveryDollar app to track what we spend each month.
We used to be good about putting each expense in right when we spent it.
However, over the last few months, we have been tracking a few days worth of receipts in one evening.
We're planning to go back to the daily tracking in January though!
Those small expenses sure add up when you're not being cognizant of them!
Annual Financial Goals
The last little piece of the puzzle is to set some annual financial goals.
We have found that if we sit down together in the end of December and set some financial goals for the following year, it can help to frame our year, financially speaking.
A few examples of our past goals have been:
If we want to be able to give and live the way we want to in the future, we HAVE to be intentional right now...today...this year.
We've had times where we get to the end of the month and wonder where in the world all that money went. It's no way to live!
When you're not being intentional with your spending, not only are you missing the opportunity to make progress on your debt snowball, but you're also missing out on that feeling of peace and freedom that comes from knowing where your money goes each month!
Not to mention, the fact that these money conversations with your spouse are good for your marriage!
So today...think about your financial goals for 2019.
Budgeting & Planning here at the Farmhouse today,
One of the comments I hear often from friends and family is, "I don't know how you do it all."
Well, let me be frank...there are days that I DON'T do it all.
I am a known procrastinator, who has been fortunate (or unfortunate) to be able to put things off until the last minute and still successfully pull them off...for YEARS.
One of my biggest struggles in life has been to keep our house clean and organized and we are STILL working to put systems into place to help keep things together.
A few of the successes I had over 2018 were:
While I've made lots of changes over the last year to help with the simplification of things here at the farmhouse, I'm still a work in progress.
None of the growth I've made in 2018 would have been possible without some tools that I have discovered and used over the last nine months.
The Getting Things Done method has five main steps and the first one is to "capture" all of the thoughts in your brain by writing them down or typing them somewhere.
Allen calls this capturing and I call it a brain dump.
As part of my evening routine (and sometimes through the day if I'm having a hard time focusing on one task), I set a timer for about five minutes and start typing out every single thought that comes into my head.
These could be tasks that I've been putting off, worries that I'm struggling with, gifts I need to buy, people I need to call, projects that I'm dreaming about, blog posts that I want to write, and a thousand other things.
I'm basically taking all of the thoughts in my brain and capturing them so I can "clear my head", as the old saying goes.
When I first started this method of productivity, I would use a piece of paper to complete my brain dump.
And then...I discovered Trello.
Trello is a list-making platform that has a web-based component, as well as an app.
It's an online tool for managing projects and to do lists and it is AMAZING.
Simply stated, my Trello is filled with boards that are made up of various areas of my life (shown below).
I have everything...a long-term Bucket List, Christmas details for this year, a board for each girl, Farmhouse654, Finances, Meal Planning, Newkirk Photography, School, and Self-Care.
On each of these boards, there are categorized lists and cards on each list.
You can add notes, links, images, due dates, checklists, and lots of other details to cards...AND you can easily drag cards from one list to another!
My Brain Dump is on my "Getting Things Done" board. I set a timer and add things as they pop into my head.
Today (so far), I'm planning to finish our Menu for this week, get the Christmas decor put up, and go through a daunting stack of envelopes on my desk (that I've been putting off!).
I need to update my KonMari list for our purging project that we're planning between now and spring break, so I will move that task to "Current Projects", as it's an ongoing project and not something that will be completed today.
In my "Daily" column, I have those items that I need to do each day -- cleaning out my school bag each night, so I don't forget something important, reviewing my calendar each morning, and going through my list of current projects to see if there is anything I could move to my "TODAY" list.
My "Waiting On..." list are tasks that I cannot complete without some other piece of the project being complete. An example would be planning our Alaskan cruise for next summer. The cruise and flights are booked and we got our passport paperwork all sent off for verification last weekend. Now we're in the process of waiting for them to be sent back to us before we need to move forward with the rest of the detailed planning. So that task is sitting in the "Waiting On..." list until we get passport confirmation in the mail.
Someday Maybe includes items like "Explore Doctorate program", "Finish Book", and "Design Home Addition" -- dreams or thoughts for somewhat far into the future.
My last two lists on this board are "Desk Items" and "Waiting Room Items".
These are lists of tasks that don't have to be done right away, but could be completed while I'm sitting at my desk waiting on hold on the phone or sitting in a waiting room, working from my phone. It's nice to be productive when you're tied up on a phone call or waiting on a child to get finished at the orthodontist.
Google Calendar (with Reminders)
Google Calendar is where it ALL comes together.
From my calendar on my desktop at home or school, as well as my iPhone calendar, I can see all of the personal and school events we have going on, my Special Education meetings, event invitations, and my personal favorite part of the calendar...reminders.
I can easily add tasks by clicking anywhere on the calendar and setting a reminder.
The option is there to add a time stamp and have the reminder pop up at a specific time or check the box next to "All day" and have the reminder be part of the ongoing "to do" list like the one you can see above.
When you click the "Add day" option, whatever reminders don't get checked off that day will automatically move to the next day! Fancy-Schmancy!
I hope my Brain Dump, Trello, & Google Calendar explanation makes sense! My system is definitely still evolving, but I feel more in control than I have in a long time!
So...what questions do you have for me? What did I leave out? Would a video be helpful?
Have you moved into online planning or do you enjoy paper/pencil more?
What are you doing this week to set yourself up for a successful 2019?
Dreaming of an organized new year at the farmhouse,
2019 is coming.
In fact, we have ONE WEEK left of this year.
The day after Christmas is always when I really start planning and thinking specifically about the year to come.
We take down our Christmas decorations and get the house "back to normal".
I go through my calendar for the entire next year and fill in various events, reminders, and appointments.
I sit down with a piece of paper and I start to dream about what's to come in the new year...things I want to accomplish, dreams I have, and specific goals.
This week, I thought I would go through each piece of my planning process for anyone that wants to follow along.
Some of the things I'll cover are:
One of my big goals for 2019 is to stay in touch with my readers more!
So with that in mind, I've started working on an email list!
I'm currently in the middle of a chat conversation with my email provider to figure out how to turn off my subscription form for those of you who have already subscribed...for now, just click the "X" when it pops up, if you're already a subscriber!
Thanks in advance for subscribing and following along with us during the new year!
Prepping for 2019 at the farmhouse,
If you've been following me for long, you know that I have had some Christmas card struggles over the years.
In fact, I posted about this EXACT problem last February.
So this year, instead of wasting money buying Christmas cards and not sending them...I decided to do a digital card.
Yes...I am that person.
I have moved away from the paper Christmas card (at least for this year) and moved towards the digital world.
(I can hear my friend Erin groaning as she reads this.)
Getting it designed, ordered, and mailed just wasn't "in the cards" for us this year (see what I did there?).
We did have some time to squeeze in a Christmas mini-session for the girls (thanks to my friend Brooke at Spread Your Wings Photography).
So I present to you...the Newkirk family Christmas card 2018.
A full year in the farmhouse,
A new job for me,
Harlee in middle school,
Claire in braces,
Mattie enjoying her last year before going to kindergarten next fall.
We've learned a lot and we've grown a lot.
We are blessed.
Merry Christmas from our family to yours and much love from the farmhouse.
I've been working hard to downsize since we moved into the farmhouse over a year ago.
I knew that since we were purchasing a larger house, it would be tempting to fill it up.
And I will admit...we have filled it up.
Mr. Farmhouse was able to head straight to the basement and grab the storage containers we needed.
We put up the tree, hung up some other decorative items, and smiled at school projects from the past years.
We made hot chocolate and listened to Christmas music and emptied every tub.
I'm not sure we've ever enjoyed the decorating process as much as we did this year.
What a welcome change to be able to relax and enjoy the tree-decorating experience with the girls this year because we have taken the last year to simplify.
Near the middle of December, I begin to think about my goals for the new year.
In the past, I have written down my annual goals on paper or typed into a document.
To be quite honest, it just wasn't too effective.
I wrote the goals out, sometimes shared the goals with a few close friends, and then I taped the paper in the back of my planner...never to be looked at again.
The intentions were good, but there was no inspiration in a checklist of "things to accomplish in the year ____".
No long-term motivation.
No real accountability.
So although my resolutions were good ones that would have helped me to become more organized, more healthy, and more financially fit...there was often not as much follow-through as I would have liked.
In December of 2017, I was introduced to the concept of the "vision board".
I was intrigued and started seeking out inspiration online.
These are three of the images I saved at the time because they just "spoke to me".
THIS. This was inspiring to me!
I started to think about where I would keep a vision board and realized that I might want to have a separate one for the different areas of my life because I had very specific goals for each part...home, faith, school, photography...the list goes on and on.
However, making fourteen different vision boards sure didn't seem practical.
We have worked hard to pay down our car debt and the truck is now paid off, with the Yukon coming soon.
Mr. Farmhouse is still working towards being a full-time farmer, but we are on the right track.
I have pages like this in my vision book about many subjects...
When December 2017 came around, I looked back through my vision book and took stock of all the things we had accomplished that year.
I added a few new goals for 2018, but I decided not to start a new book...just continued right on with a refreshing perspective.
And I'll do the same thing this week as I dream, plan, and prepare for 2019.
Doing some goal-setting at the farmhouse to celebrate Christmas break,
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