Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Logo Love

When I first decided to start Newkirk Photography, there were many things that just didn't cross my mind.

I knew I wanted to capture people through photography and other than that, I hadn't thought much about the "business" aspect of things.

One of the things I didn't think about for a LONG time was a logo for my business.

For many months (perhaps even a few years), I would just watermark my photos with a little text line of "Newkirk Photography" with no real beauty or meaning to the logo.

A few years ago, I started looking into having someone design a logo for me and I realized that I could probably do this on my own.  I started to experiment with various fonts and ended up with this...


The two hearts on the left side of the logo represented the reason I got into this business...my two darling daughters, Harlee & Claire.  The bigger heart, of course, represented Harlee and the cute little heart represented her little sister, Claire Bear.  People asked me where my heart for my darling husband was.  Well...he's right there in the "Newkirk" part... :)

This past June, though, something changed.

We added Miss Mattie to our family.


After getting used to the whole "three children" situation (who am I kidding?  We're still adjusting and she's six months old!), and getting back into the swing of things, I realized that my logo once again needed to change.

Here is the new and improved version...


Isn't that tiny little Mattie heart just adorable???

Anyway...on this cool December morning, my heart is just full and I thought I would spend some time sharing about the story behind my logo.

Thanks for all of your love and encouragement friends, and Merry Christmas.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Life.

Lately God has been convicting me about my schedule.  My way of life.  Who I have always been.

You see, way back in late-spring when we hired our new minister, he sent me a list of sermon topics that he was going to speak on.  For our fall kickoff, however, he asked for some suggestions of what we needed.  I spoke with our worship planning team at ACC and we kept coming back to the idea of balance, busyness, and being overwhelmed with the "stuff" of life.  Out of this conversation, came the series title for our fall kickoff in September..."Overload".

Brother Matt had three sermons that absolutely spoke to me.  

The thing that stuck with me the most was when he said that we should focus on the jobs that ONLY we can do.  For example, me being a wife to Matthew.  I'm the only person who can fulfill that role.  Being my girls' mom.  I'm the only one.  It's just me.

We all have roles like this.  The ones that only we can fill.

And yet, what do we do?  We push those important roles off to the side in the name of people-pleasing...involvement...caring for others, outside of our family circles.

When we found out we were expecting Mattie, I made the decision to step back from my photography business.  In doing that, I was able to reevaluate how my home, my classroom, and my business were being run.

I was able to think.  A lot.

And I came up with some conclusions.

Having a clean and organized house is good for you.

I'll be the first to admit that we really struggle with keeping our house neat and tidy.  However, this summer, when we implemented chore charts for the older two girls, the house stayed clean, they played well together, and we all lived a less stressful, more peaceful life.  It was incredible.

We all felt better, knowing what was expected of who.  We worked together to keep the house picked up and it was actually (gasp) enjoyable.

Supper on the table at night and clean laundry to put on in the morning was icing on the cake.

A business doesn't have to be everything to everybody.

I was at a spot with my photography business that I was taking pictures every waking moment and spending lots of evenings and through the night to edit those photos and get them to people.  

It was ridiculous.  

It was unfair to my family and unfair to myself.  It was even unfair to my clients.  I felt rushed in editing and wasn't able to spend the time I wanted to spend on my work.

So when I decided to make some changes, I blogged about the changes and received wonderful support.  

What I didn't anticipate is how much I would miss taking pictures.  Or the hospital bills that would follow Mattie's birth.  :)

So I decided to take some sessions.  But only a few.  And only the ones that I felt I was able to do well.

It has been so freeing.

My teaching job is a huge part of my ministry.

I knew from a very young age that God created me to teach.  In fact, when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I don't remember an answer other than "teacher".  I don't think I even went through the veteranarian phase that so many kids go through.   

I knew that I was MADE for this.

Now...photography is definitely a passion of mine and something I enjoy, but when I was so overwhelmed with photography sessions and edits and orders, I know I was doing a disservice to my students by not being able to focus as much on my fulltime career as I would have liked.

In taking a break from photography, and stepping back significantly when I did come back, I've been able to be a better teacher to my babies.

I am constantly learning.

Life doesn't come with a manual.

Every situation doesn't have a cookie-cutter answer.

And that's okay.  I'm 30 years old and I'm still trying to find what works for me.

Thanks for going along on this journey with me, friends.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Well, it happened again.

My summer break has almost come and gone.  

I have enjoyed this summer immensely and I had some time this past week to reflect on last school year and this summer, as our family enjoyed our annual lake vacation. 


Here are some of the things I thought about this week:


First of all, I was pregnant for the majority of last school year. 

I was the sickest I've ever been in the early pregnancy stages. I didn't have much "morning sickness" with the other two girls. I got a few pretty hardcore migraines when I was expecting Claire, but with this pregnancy, I was exhausted. I was nauseous. I was HUGE. 

I realize that with two older kiddos to follow around and with me being (cough) 30 (cough) now, maybe I'm just not as young and able to bounce back as I once was.

Regardless of the reason...I was tired. And therefore, I was not as good of a teacher as I could have been. I sat a lot. I closed my eyes and rubbed my temples sometimes. I ate lemon-drops like they were going out of style.

And although my students were wonderful during the whole year, I'm looking forward to a year filled with energy! A year marked by me feeling GREAT and not sick. A year where I walk around the classroom...and keep my eyes open...and lose weight instead of gaining it! 

Yes, I'm looking forward to THAT kind of school year!

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Secondly, I reflected on the changes I've made in my photography business. Wow, what a difference a year makes! 

At this time last year, I was swamped with sessions. My weekends consisted of photographing families and I was at the studio editing, ordering, and trying to stay caught up at least three times a week...sometimes late into the evening.

When we found out we were expecting...things changed.  I had already decided that I needed to cut back and spend more time at home with my darling husband and girls. At the thought of three children, I started looking at our budget and seeing what I could cut out to make the transition from basically a full-time photographer, to a less than half-time photographer. 

We had really made a lot of gains on our debt snowball using my photography income and with some cutting back in other areas, we realized I wouldn't really NEED to photograph anymore. 

I could just take a few weddings and a few sessions every season, for the sheer joy of capturing the journey! What a blessing!

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The third thing that I spent much time thinking about on our lake trip was the various changes in my ministry over the last several months. 

I have always thought of my teaching as a huge part of my personal ministry. Every year, God seems to put students and families in my path who need to be loved on. 

Sometimes, it is as simple as meeting a student where he or she is and not giving up on him or her. God always fills my cup to overflowing through these situations, with encouraging cards from parents, "just because" gifts from students, and of course, those homemade coloring pages that say, "Mrs. Newkirk is the best teacher ever."  

Sometimes, the situations aren't quite as easy though.  Like this past school year, when one of my kiddos lost his mom.  I'm not gonna lie...it was rough.  I was unsure of what to say sometimes...unsure of when to not say anything at all.  But again, God gave me an awesome opportunity through the situation, when I was able to talk about Jesus at the funeral.  That just doesn't happen in the public school system, and yet last fall, there I was, sharing my faith in front of a bunch of strangers.

I have been singing in our praise band at church for almost as long as I can remember.  I think I probably started helping with leading worship shortly after junior high.  I joined the worship planning team after high school and have been involved in the planning aspect of our services since then.  It has been a joy and a reward to be involved in this manner.

In the last six months, my role has changed significantly.  Both our senior minister and associate minister moved on to other ministry positions this past spring.  They were both mostly responsible for the worship planning and leading in the past years.  When they both finished their ministry with our church in March, the responsibility fell back to the worship planning team. 

Because of my involvement with the band for the longest amount of time out of the current band members, I was asked to plan the service and lead worship.  Of course, I said yes.  But I'll admit, it wasn't without some reservation.  

Things have been done a specific way for many years.  The congregation was accustomed to a specific style of worship...a specific group of people on stage leading every Sunday.  I, myself, was used to (and completely satisfied with!) the way we did worship at ACC.

However, as usual, God came through in a mighty way.  The other band members have been such a huge help through this process...continuing to show up every Sunday for practice, helping to get out the music, and sharing in the planning of each service.  The congregation has been so encouraging.  

I've been blessed beyond belief by stepping into this role, even though I was so, so nervous at the beginning of the process.  

It hasn't been easy and it hasn't been perfect, for sure.  There have been days that I have stopped the song because I started it too fast...or in the wrong key.  There was even one Sunday when I accidentally turned the volume all the way down (which almost abruptly ended the song!), even though I meant to just make it a little quieter.  

The mercy and grace that the congregation has given me during this time has been so humbling.  So edifying.  Just wonderful.

It's a great reminder of the grace Jesus has shown us, even though we are a messed up group of people.  And perhaps a greater reminder of the grace I need to extend to others.

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My family life, school life, photography life, and church life have changed a lot over this past year.  

And I'm so, so very grateful. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Budgeting, the Newkirk Way: Step 4

Well, I took a little break from posting to enjoy the 4th of July holiday week with my girls.

But I'm ready now to share about Step 4 of our budgeting plan.

Step 4 will include using the monthly calendar to track bills, like my mother-in-law showed me a few years ago.  

This is a step that might seem a little unnecessary to some people, but it is SO nice to have things written out on paper.

Okay, so the first thing you're going to do is buy a cheap monthly calendar.  I have found that the kind of calendar that has one month on a two-page spread works the best.  The boxes are big enough to write in, but you can still find these calendars for next to nothing.

After you have your calendar, you're going to get your monthly budget out and start plugging in your income on the dates it will come in.  Matthew gets paid on the 5th and the 20th, while I get paid on the 25th and the 30th.

Our bills are due at all different times.  The time period between the 5th and the 20th is the time we have to make our dollars "stretch" the most, so we only plug in the bills that are absolutely due between that time period on our calendar.  The majority of our bills get paid between the 20th and the 30th because the majority of our income comes in then.  We also track our fuel expenses, groceries, and other expenses on this calendar.  

So after plugging your income in, you're going to write down all outgoing funds on the dates that you'll pay them.  Start with those debt snowball items, add in your other fixed expenses and utilities, and then add in your other necessary items (groceries, fuel, etc.).  

If you fill up your gas tank once a week, choose a day from each week and write "Gas $__" and however much it takes you to fill up.  

If you grocery shop once a month, but seem to run out of money during that pay period, you might have to break it up into two shopping trips or a once a week trip.  We try to only spend $50 from Matthew's first check on groceries and then spend $150 (or less) later in the month.

Add in your tithe and charity giving, your kids' lunch money, daycare expenses.  If any of these expenses are taken out more than once a month, list them on the various dates that you will pay them.

  
Here is what my budget planner looks like.  We have various expenses that come out during each pay period and I add those onto my calendar in pencil.  When we have some extra income, I plug it in to the first item on my debt snowball and change the expense in this calendar.  I try hard to remember to track even unexpected expenses (and unexpected income!) on here, so we can have a record for building our next month's budget.

When I pay each bill, I put a checkmark through it and when the bill comes through the bank, I mark through the bill completely.

Okay, so that's your job for today...add all of your income and expenses into your monthly calendar so you can make sure you don't miss anything each month!  :)

Hope you're still enjoying these!  
Hannah

Friday, June 27, 2014

Budgeting, the Newkirk way: Step 3

Today, we're going to actually get a preliminary budget down on paper.

The first step is to choose a form to plug things into.

This can be a paper/pencil format, an online budget-building tool, an excel spreadsheet, an app, or a template on Microsoft Word or Pages for Mac.  

Surprisingly, although I prefer technology for everything else, for this step I use paper and pencil.  

Let me emphasize the PENCIL part of that.  It bothers me to scratch anything out in pen, so I use pencil with a really good eraser.  Otherwise, I have to start all over if I mess up or if something changes.  

Start by filling in your estimated income.  I always shoot LOW on Matthew's checks because he is paid hourly, not salary.  I use a lower number than he usually gets paid and sometimes we're pleasantly surprised by a bigger check.

Next, start subtracting out your monthly fixed payments.  This would be any items from the debt snowball you worked on in step 2.  It would also be any fixed utility bills or other payments (charities, insurance, etc.).  You should have these listed on your notebook paper from the other day.

Finally, subtract an estimated amount for each of your other necessary expenses.  This would be fuel, food, household items, pet items, etc.

When we were first starting to budget, I left off any entertainment items, eating out, and other unnecessary purchases.  We lived VERY frugally for several months, until we got our credit cards paid off.  

After that, as I mentioned before, I became a little lazy and unfortunately, started spending more on entertainment, eating out, and other unnecessary items.

I'm revisiting our budget because of the dollars we are WASTING every month on these items.

In our current budget, we try to plan for eating out two times a month.  We take the girls out once to a nicer dinner and then Matthew and I try to go out on a date every month.  A lot of times, we use gift cards for these nights, but it's good to plan for no gift cards and if we have extra money leftover...that's even better!

In our monthly budget, Matthew gets $100 cash a month.  That way, it's coming out early on and not when I see online that he spent $14.00 a day at Casey's on breakfast.  :) 

When the $100 is gone, it's gone.

Okay...now that you've got your income listed and you've subtracted out all of your estimated expenses, evaluate your spending.

There is a chance, that since you are just starting this budget, you might be at a negative number by now.  Well...that simply can't happen.  You can't build a budget and end up in the red.  So this is where it's time to start cutting.

Of course, the best place to start cutting would be with those estimated expenses you added at the end.  Fuel might be hard to cut down on with the prices going up, but your grocery bill is a great place to start!  I'll be posting about how we plan our menus and do our grocery shopping in another post in a few days!

Your budget should equal $0 by the time you're finished.  After you have cut where you can cut, you take whatever you have leftover each month and plug it into your debt snowball.  By adding extra dollars on top of your snowball, you will start paying off those debts in no time!

When we got to just a few low-interest items on our snowball, instead of putting our extra dollars on top of the snowball, we started putting them into a separate checking account to use for things like medical copays, gifts throughout the year, and our year-end taxes.  

Our main goal is to not touch either savings account through the year, unless it is absolutely necessary.   There have been a few times that it has been necessary, and it is a great feeling to know we've got a little saved back to take care of that.

Alright...so work on that step 3 and I'll be back with another post SOON!

Thanks again for listening!
Hannah


Budgeting, the Newkirk way: Step 3

Today, we're going to actually get a preliminary budget down on paper.

The first step is to choose a form to plug things into.

This can be a paper/pencil format, an online budget-building tool, an excel spreadsheet, an app, or a template on Microsoft Word or Pages for Mac.  

Surprisingly, although I prefer technology for everything else, for this step I use paper and pencil.  

Let me emphasize the PENCIL part of that.  It bothers me to scratch anything out in pen, so I use pencil with a really good eraser.  Otherwise, I have to start all over if I mess up or if something changes.  

Start by filling in your estimated income.  I always shoot LOW on Matthew's checks because he is paid hourly, not salary.  I use a lower number than he usually gets paid and sometimes we're pleasantly surprised by a bigger check.

Next, start subtracting out your monthly fixed payments.  This would be any items from the debt snowball you worked on in step 2.  It would also be any fixed utility bills or other payments (charities, insurance, etc.).  You should have these listed on your notebook paper from the other day.

Finally, subtract an estimated amount for each of your other necessary expenses.  This would be fuel, food, household items, pet items, etc.

When we were first starting to budget, I left off any entertainment items, eating out, and other unnecessary purchases.  We lived VERY frugally for several months, until we got our credit cards paid off.  

After that, as I mentioned before, I became a little lazy and unfortunately, started spending more on entertainment, eating out, and other unnecessary items.

I'm revisiting our budget because of the dollars we are WASTING every month on these items.

In our current budget, we try to plan for eating out two times a month.  We take the girls out once to a nicer dinner and then Matthew and I try to go out on a date every month.  A lot of times, we use gift cards for these nights, but it's good to plan for no gift cards and if we have extra money leftover...that's even better!

In our monthly budget, Matthew gets $100 cash a month.  That way, it's coming out early on and not when I see online that he spent $14.00 a day at Casey's on breakfast.  :) 

When the $100 is gone, it's gone.

Okay...now that you've got your income listed and you've subtracted out all of your estimated expenses, evaluate your spending.

There is a chance, that since you are just starting this budget, you might be at a negative number by now.  Well...that simply can't happen.  You can't build a budget and end up in the red.  So this is where it's time to start cutting.

Of course, the best place to start cutting would be with those estimated expenses you added at the end.  Fuel might be hard to cut down on with the prices going up, but your grocery bill is a great place to start!  I'll be posting about how we plan our menus and do our grocery shopping in another post in a few days!

Your budget should equal $0 by the time you're finished.  After you have cut where you can cut, you take whatever you have leftover each month and plug it into your debt snowball.  By adding extra dollars on top of your snowball, you will start paying off those debts in no time!

When we got to just a few low-interest items on our snowball, instead of putting our extra dollars on top of the snowball, we started putting them into a separate checking account to use for things like medical copays, gifts throughout the year, and our year-end taxes.  

Our main goal is to not touch either savings account through the year, unless it is absolutely necessary.   There have been a few times that it has been necessary, and it is a great feeling to know we've got a little saved back to take care of that.

Alright...so work on that step 3 and I'll be back with another post SOON!

Thanks again for listening!
Hannah


Monday, June 23, 2014

Budgeting, the Newkirk Way: Step 2

Alright, so now that you have gone through your bank statements and, if you're like me, beat yourself up over those $5-10 purchases that have now added up to hundreds of dollars, it's time to move on to step 2.

You did go through your bank statements, right?

If not...don't keep reading!  Go do that first!  

It's a very important step!

Step 2: Building Your Debt Snowball

As I mentioned in my first post, Dave Ramsey has been a huge influence in the way we're focusing on paying off debt.  His "Total Money Makeover" method has helped us to build an emergency fund, put a little money into another savings account each month, and pay off debts faster than we would have originally, if we had just stayed with the minimum payments each month.

One of Ramsey's claim to fame is his "debt snowball" method, that I'm going to share with you today.

He outlines steps to becoming debt-free, building wealth, and then being able to give generously with no worries.  One of his biggest taglines is to "live like no one else now, so you can live like no one else later."

It's really about putting our instant gratification aside, and focusing on the big picture.  Before making any purchase, I always think to myself, "What Would Dave Do?"  :)

Okay, so back to the debt snowball.

If you've been reading my blog over the last few years (or if we're friends on social media), you might recall a post I wrote back in April of 2013 on our debt snowball.  It has changed a bit since then, but that might give you a little background knowledge on our financial progress over the years.

Alright...ready to get started?

Ramsey's first step is to get a $1,000 emergency fund stored away somewhere, just in case.  The way we did this was to put that emergency fund as the very first item on our debt snowball and then pay a payment to that account every month.  We started with $100 a month because it's what we could do.  If there was any extra money leftover in the budget at the end of the month, I moved that money over to the emergency fund also.  It should have taken ten months for us to build our emergency fund, and with the snowball method, it took us six.

The next step is to list all of your debt, from the lowest balance to the highest balance.

Now, I will be the first to admit that we strayed a bit from this method.  Mary Hunt, another well-known financial guru, says you should list your debts from highest interest to lowest interest.  Ramsey says lowest balance first because those small victories of paying debts off will propel you into paying the higher balances off with newfound motivation.

I agree with both Hunt & Ramsey's methods, so we took a cue from each and put the debts in an order that worked for us.

After the emergency fund, we put any debts that were under $500.  Those would be easily paid off within a few months and would give us extra dollars to put roll into our debt snowball.  

Then we kind of went with Mary Hunt's method and started higher interest items.  We have a vehicle loan that is our highest interest item.  It's not terrible...I think somewhere in the 6% range, but over the years, that 6% will add up for sure.  So we put that loan next.  We stay with our smaller loans first and get all of them listed in the best possible way to pay off debt quickly, stay motivated, but not give too much interest away, in the process.

Those "huge" debts you have should be saved until the very end.  In our case, this is our mortgage and my student loans.  We put those as very last.  Pay off your smaller debts and you'll be able to put thousands of dollars on your house payment sooner than later!

Alright, so here is our current debt snowball items listed.  Your list should look similar to this.

- Emergency Fund ($100 monthly payment)
- John Deere ($161 monthly payment)
- Overland Park Regional ($150 monthly payment)
- GMC Denali Payment ($352 monthly payment)
- GMC Truck Payment ($311 monthly payment)
- House ($860 monthly payment)
- Student Loan ($250 monthly payment)

Our Emergency Fund is already funded, so on our debt snowball, we have that marked off as paid.  

The $100 that we were putting into that account now goes on our John Deere loan, making that payment $261.  

When we pay off the John Deere loan (in just a few months!), we'll add that $261 onto the hospital bill and that will be a payment of $411.  

Do you see how this method is like a "snowball"?  We keep rolling our payments onto the next payment and we will have these items paid off in no time!  Plus, we'll be saving the interest that we would have paid to them!

Now, before you start rolling anything into a snowball, you must make sure you are current with all payments.  We cannot budget correctly if we aren't current on our bills.  And don't get ahead of yourself on the snowball.  Only add extra money to the top item and watch those smaller debts quickly fade away.  For me, it's like a game.  I try to pay off as much as I can in one month and try to "beat" myself on the dates I had originally planned to pay things off. 

Like I said in my first post...I'm a total nerd.

Okay, so now we have our debts in whichever order you feel is right for you.

Next, we're going to add those debts to some sort of a snowball tracking form.  There are many options for this.

You can write them down on paper and track it that way.  I did that for several years before I found the iPad app I use now.  Every month, I redid my snowball and accounted for any extra "found" income that I could roll on top of it.  Good old fashioned Pencil & Paper is totally acceptable!

You could make a spreadsheet on the computer.  I also did this for a few years.  At the top, I put the months and down the side, I put my debts.  Each month, I added the payments I would be making and added whatever extra I could to the next debt in line.  A spreadsheet works too!

Dave Ramsey has a website that will help you build your snowball, but it's a $9.99 per month subscription.  I did it for a while and one day just decided that I could be putting that $10 a month on top of my snowball!  Every little bit counts!

The tracking device I use now is an iPad app called "Debt PayOff Pro".  I think it's $.99 in the App Store.  Or at least it was a few years ago when I started using it.  You plug in your debt snowball items, with their current balances, interest rates, and monthly payments and then you choose a payoff plan.  This could be lowest balance first, highest interest first, or a custom set up.  You can also add an "extra" monthly payment.  For example, let's say in the fall, we teachers get a raise.  I could keep my budget completely the same and just add my monthly raise to my snowball.  

I prefer the app because it does all the work for me.  I can add just $20 a month and it shows me how much shorter I'll be paying on a specific bill.  You would be shocked at what $20 a month does in the long run.

Regardless of the method you choose to track your snowball, you have to track it somehow.  Otherwise, you'll lose motivation when it comes to paying down your debt.

Alright...so that's your assignment for today!  BUILD YOUR SNOWBALL!

Does anyone else think this is kind of fun, or is that just me?

Talk to you soon!
Hannah