Young, Dumb and in Love

Young, Dumb, and in Love

Yesterday was the anniversary of our first date.

We met six years ago at, but our relationship truly blossomed on a little relic called (We were both too cheap to auto-renew for one more month at the time!)

After several weeks of emails, Kristin and I decided to meet face to face for the first time. As many online couples do, we chose our first encounter at a Starbucks. I was excited and nervous that day, as was she.

We talked about life after school, the rush and worry of existence that only a young person in their mid-20s could, and cell phones.

(For the record, six years ago I had the Palm Centro and Kristin was in love with the Blackberry Curve 8330 with a pink case)

We’re pretty nerdy, I know.

I had such a great time that day, thinking I could talk to this woman forever and not be bored. She was so much like me, had similar struggles and success like me, and we just clicked from day one.

Our first picture together

Ever the hipster, Kristin had blogs and took selfies way before most of the world knew these were even things. She was as smart as could be about stuff before it hit the mainstream, and so I even learned what a hipster was from her!

Kristin's selfie circa 2008

From an outsider’s perspective of our relationship, it was such a different dynamic, most people did indeed think we were crazy back then, but that was ok with us.

I think we were talking about rings within 2 weeks of meeting each other, and the great Cincinnati Wind Power Outage of 2008 ensured we made haste when moving in together.


This past weekend, for our six year dating anniversary, I took us both on a trip back down memory lane by compiling the 1st 30 days of our Gmail chats and making a scrapbook of them all. (thanks Google for wanting to know our entire lives, sometimes it actually comes in handy!) We read it at Starbucks.

Kristin and the Scrapbook

Coffee and Gchats

I had a complete blast doing this, and something really struck me as I read all of the late night messages, giddy conversations and talk of the future with the two of us together.

One singular statement really read true in all of these love letters.

We were idiots.

It turns out we were both not great with money. Messages abound of “spotting” each other tens of dollars in between waves of the feast and famine that was payday.

My favorite text in particular talks about not having enough money for both a loaf of bread from Panera and gas, and how we were actually choosing between the two:

gas or food

Gas won out if I recall. We didn’t have money for a loaf of bread, people.

As is often the case when no one has told you otherwise, we had no clue that we were living our lives in chaos in our mid-twenties.

As the relationship grew, we started facing our money fears head-on. I started working with a budget and telling Kristin how bad I really was with handling money. It was difficult, sure, but it saved us. We realized that we wanted more from our lives and struggling like this was not going to get us there.

Slowly but surely we began to turn our lives around. Not just with money but in all habits. The uphill battling together only made us stronger.

We started treating ourselves and others better. My life began improving because I admitted there was a problem. I started living a life of integrity and a sense of purpose that had somehow evaded me for so many years.

If you feel that you’re stuck and your life is not getting any better, or if you just can’t seem to move the needle enough on a project, know that we all start somewhere. For us, it was making plans to not want for so much and appreciate what we have.

If you struggle, know that there is always something better beyond today. Know that you can make those miracles happen.

If Kristin and I had not kept moving forward in our efforts with money, we would still be where we were at all those years ago. I can honestly say now that we are far better people, much happier in life and live with a renewed sense of gratitude.

We can’t wait to see what the next six years bring.

A New Site Theme and Purpose


Welcome to the re-imagined Hello, Flecks!

In March, we started this blog project with many ideas. We had a lot to say and wanted to get it all out there for everyone to benefit from. We covered everything that we thought you might want to read about.

In short, we painted with a very broad brush.

The problem with trying to help everyone is that we were not focused. We wanted to cover all topics, yet sometimes we felt like we were saying nothing. It was time to go back to what we know and what we can help others with the most.

If you go back and read both our stories (Kristin’s here, and Ethan’s here) you’ll see that these two posts are really at the heart of what we wanted to share. It tells two great stories about how we weren’t engrained with success, it was a skill that was learned along the way.

This is what we will share with those that are ready for a journey.

We will be focusing on personal health and wellness going forward.

Many of our topics will remain, but the content is directed to start or maintain your success in those areas.

Welcome to the re-imagined site, we think you’ll find it even better than before.

– Ethan & Kristin

How the Fleck to Buy a Home

How the Fleck to buy a Home

You’ve heard it is one of the most important, most emotional, and biggest decisions you can face, but how exactly do you buy your first home?

We are not claiming to be experts, but we successfully purchased our first home even though the experience scared the crap out of us. We learned a lot, and we’d like to share some personal advice with you.

There is no shortage of information on buying your first home, but we wanted to put a list together that you wouldn’t find elsewhere. This is advice that the experts don’t talk about, advice you would get from a friend. 


Message from the Realtor about our Home

Message from the Realtor about our Home

1. Study

As a first-time homebuyer, this is a BIG decision. Pre. Pare. Don’t let the situation take you for a ride. Be in control by doing your own homework. Read the advice of professionals.

Don’t walk into house-hunting blind, you will get hit by a firing squad of advice, information & marketing.

As long as there is a loan & money securely in place, it is shocking how easily you can purchase a multi hundred-thousand dollar asset without really letting it register emotionally.

We recommend Buying a Home: The Missing Manual. It provided a good broad set of information about the entire process. Being prepared makes the it go so much smoother on everyone’s end, especially yours.

2. Build your team

Realtor, Broker, Home Inspector. Insurance Agent. These are just a few of the people that you want with you along the way.

Some people like to shop all on their own, do all the legwork themselves, access the MLS and save the commission for themselves, and that is great for them. They’ve probably done all of this before.

The vast majority of first-timers have no experience  & want people on their side who can help guide them through this process. Good people that will be on your side can be hard to find. If you want a good team, be willing to pay the 3% in commissions for them. They are usually worth so much more than money, they are worth peace of mind.

Build a team of people you trust and you’ll relieve a lot of stress and worry.

3. DON’T fall in love!

The reason most people get house fever is that they fall in love with one property and then get dead-set on it. There’s a tunnel that separates them from the rest of the homes and they can’t imagine living anywhere else.

There were a few houses slightly above our price range that we thought we loved. By staying firm on price, we were able to find a house that had everything we wanted along with the right price tag.

4. DO make some snap decisions

We had started looking for houses with 3 whole months to find something. Then, even if we didn’t find anything, we were prepared to keep looking and stay put.

In actuality, it really only took 3-4 weeks to find something we really loved. We busted our house-hunting butts for weeks and we were both exhausted by the time it was over.

In this hectic pace, we had to make quick decisions. There are so many options and choices to make that some must be made quickly in order to succeed.

Good houses can move lightning-fast, and sitting on the fence with small decisions can cost you a lot in the long-run.

(Side Note: Don’t waste the realtor’s time on wild goose chases for properties you only half-like, either. There were many times we would check out a house that looked good in pictures, and within seconds of entering the home, we knew it wasn’t going to work. You don’t have to be nice and cordial with your realtor by wasting their time walking through an entire house you won’t buy.)

5. Stay firm on budget

Plan your family’s budget and expenses. Houses are expensive, and you must be financially prepared when buying.

General rules are to allocate no more than 25%-30% of your take-home pay to PITI (or Principal, Interest, Taxes & Insurance for the home), and know that if you go over this, you are potentially cheating your family out of the ability to build up savings in other areas of life for other expenses and emergencies.

If the home you like is on the high side of your price range, step back and think if that’s something you really can handle in the future.

6. Stay organized

If you’re really looking for a house, chances are you’ll be looking at more than a half-dozen homes in a Saturday or more. All of the little nuances of a home can quickly get lost in the shuffle.

Many recommend taking pictures of each home, which is great if that helps you. We found that we didn’t end up needing a ton of pictures and we spent more time inspecting the details of each home while we were there.

  • We only took pictures if we really liked a home.
  • We reviewed the houses at the end of our trips and wrote down comments on the printouts from our realtor.
  • When we got down to 2 or 3 properties, we made a Pros & Cons list so it was easy to see the differences in properties
  • We kept our communication consistent with our realtor & broker. We CC’ed each other in email chains and made sure we all knew what each other were doing.

7. Go to the home inspection & pay attention!

We were shocked when we realized that not everyone attends a home inspection. We were expecting someone from both parties and likely both realtors to be attending the home inspection.

It turns out we were the only ones who actually attended! It was an invaluable opportunity for us to learn about:

  • The internal structure of our new home purchase
  • Potential problem areas
  • Basic home maintenance
  • Items to prioritize for future replacement
  • Good working knowledge of the home and its basic functions.

We would also be remiss if we didn’t mention our wonderful realtor Barb Carroll. She was professional, punctual, and had a great sense of knowing what we wanted before we did. If you are in the Cincinnati area, check her out when you are ready to buy.


We hope that some real-world advice from actual first-time buyers will ease your mind about the whole home-buying process.

Be a Budget Superhero! (In 5 Easy Steps!)



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Sticking to a budget can be really difficult, especially when you’re first starting out. It can be confusing, hard to maintain, and in need of a lot of tweaking as you find out what works for you. Our budget today looks a lot different than it did 4 years ago. 4 years ago, our “budget” was more like a general overview. It wasn’t nearly as planned and purposeful as it is now.


Our journey to being what I lovingly call “Super Budgeters” started 2 years ago. We had just gotten married, and Ethan had just purchased a Lincoln MKZ on a loan. We weren’t what either of us would call “bad” with money. But we were definitely spending, and we weren’t saving. In April of 2012, I read The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey. This put us on a path to pay off over $30,000 in debt in less than two years, including our car and all of our credit card debt. We now only have student loan debt, which we are working through, but at a slower pace.


The Dave Ramsey plan set us in motion to be a lot smarter with our money. I’d like to note that we do not follow Dave Ramsey’s plan to a tee, but we did during the time that we were putting all of our extra money towards debt. Do what works for you. We’ll talk a lot more about the things we did on the Dave Ramsey plan in the posts ahead, but today, I want to focus on the budget. Here are some budget tips that will help you get the ball rolling on your own budget.


1. Open and close EVERY month. Sit down with everyone in your family that spends money and PLAN YOUR MONTH. On the 1st, we sit down, write out our budget, and plan where our money is going. At the end of every month, we sit back down and review what we’ve done.  Every month is different, so don’t skip a month!

2. Put it on PaperPutting things on paper makes them much more real that typing them into a spreadsheet. Ethan had always used an excel spreadsheet to work his budget. I also had my own way. But sitting down and looking at what Ethan had done didn’t make the budget feel real to me, and vice-versa. Do it together, and write it down. When you put it on paper, it’s there forever. There’s no delete key on a bad month when you write it down!

3. Find tools that work for you. We went through a few different types of calendars, and a few different ways of organizing what we did each month. It took us a while to find what worked for us, which was a basic monthly calendar along with a small notebook for making additional notes.

4. Write down your mistakes. There will be months where you feel like you just ruined everything that you planned. It happens. But when you make budgeting a habit, you’ll be better financially prepared for those unplanned times. Writing down where you’ve slipped up will help you be more prepared for next month. You can make adjustments, cut back on things to make up for those “oops” moments, and get yourself right back on track.

5. Budget in FUNWhen we first started budgeting and paying down debt, it was really difficult not to want to put every last penny towards our end goal. Remember that you have to give yourself some fun money, even if it’s just a little. Budget in a date night once a month, or a new outfit. Having a little fun will make your budget a lot easier to accept.


Spring Forward the Right Way! (Yorkie Edition)

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It’s that time of year again. Time to “Spring Forward.” Doesn’t the term “spring forward” make it sound like so much fun? In reality, we all know that springing forward makes us sluggish and tired and entirely unproductive. But today, we’ve got our health correspondent with some personal tips on how to navigate Daylight Savings. Just kidding, we don’t have a health correspondent. It’s our yorkie, Chase. But he has some great tips for you!


Worried about adjusting to the time change?



Try going to bed a half hour early!

Try going to bed a half hour early!



Limit your screen time right before bed. You're eyes will thank you!

Limit your screen time right before bed. You’re eyes will thank you!


Save the partying for another day. You'll end up exhausted!

Save the partying for another day. You’ll end up exhausted!


Get Some Sunshine!

Get outside for some exercise and sunshine.


Take a Short Nap If Needed

Take a short nap if needed, but make sure it’s short!


There you have it, folks. We hope that Daylight Savings is a breeze for you! Do you have any other good tips?  We’ll be sure to pass them along to Chase for you.


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