After reading the comments, I realized that unlike many personal finance blogs, Like Merchant Ships rarely mentions money. You know, what to do with it? Here's why:
I am not an expert. I'd much rather send you to Dave Ramsey, whose advice we follow.
When we were struggling with how to live on less (and like it), I found it most helpful to read the nitty gritty. So in the short amount of time I have to spend online, I try to throw out what I'm learning, in bite-size chunks, with occasional posts about contentment, stewardship, and consumer culture. Oh, and the yard sale finds!
Every family needs a financial plan, but all the planning in the world won't save you money if you neglect the daily details.
So what exactly do we do with our money?
Until the last year or two, we funneled most of our cash flow into my husband's graduate tuition and our series of fixer-upper houses, leaving only enough for an emergency fund. You could say we invested in real estate and education instead of stocks. It was a good gamble.
Now that graduate school is completed, we've become more aggressive about retirement. Neither of us expects an inheritance. My husband pays into a pension plan at work, and each month we scrape the checking account to fund our Roth IRAs.
We set aside a sliver of each paycheck into a money market account for future expenses: a car replacement, the new year's health insurance deductible, etc.
With my husband's next job move, we'd like to sell this house, take the equity, and pay cash for an old-fashioned farmhouse.
It sounds a little selfish, but we are not saving each month for our children's college fund. Given our ages and compound interest, we've decided our money will work harder in a retirement account. My husband and I both earned full college scholarships, so there's some hope that our children will be as blessed. If not, we will get creative as the time comes.
We both carry term life insurance, though I wish we could have afforded a little more. We paid a lawyer to write our will, including our wishes for guardianship of our children. We have a safety deposit box for sentimental keepsakes, family photos on CD, and important documents.
I sleep a lot better at night than I used to.