How We Will Spend It Tomorrow & July 2015 Net Worth

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Our bank updated the depositing rules and it looks like *fingers crossed* Mr. Brickie’s check is going to (GASP) clear on Friday.

Available cash the same week he gets the check? I am…..amazed.

Thank you CapitalOne360 for getting your depositing act together. This pleases me greatly because it makes all the budgeting nice in that way a five check month does. Where you can use that fifth check and feel really good about making some progress on…something. Anything.

Since June 1st there was a small raise, an increase in union dues, and – I think – we moved into a new tax bracket? (I don’t actually know how to check that.) All those changes resulted in about $18 more in his check net over a check with the same amount of hours from May.

File that under every little bit helps, right?

We have come up with a new overall budget plan here at Chez Decki where the first check of the month goes to the car payment. That way it’s out of the way first. Neither of us are entirely sure this is a good idea, but at the same time it isn’t a bad idea, so we are going to roll with it until further notice.

Check: $738.94
Car Pmt: $495.12
Living Expenses: $250 (gas + tolls + groceries)
Surplus: -6.18 (negative sadness!)

So, living expenses get reduced to $243.82 and we go on with our week.

Next week will be a short check due to rain on Monday and being off on Friday for the holiday. Yes, he gets holidays off. No, he doesn’t get paid for them. It should be fine because next week’s bill is the autopay bills + auto insurance ($225 minimum) so maybe we will have a little extra to send to the credit cards finally!

July 1, 2015 Net Worth

I haven’t calculated our net worth in a while. Assets minus liabilities. Easy peasy. Okay. *take a deep breath and hold it* (just kidding, don’t do that, you might pass out)

Total in savings/checking (including rent savings and insurance savings and what’s left of emergency savings): $2000
Plus the value of the cars: $13,000 (kbb.org) & $500 (for parts?)
Minus liabilities (including student loans): $81,500 (yikes!!)
Net Worth: -67,000 (ish)

It’s still better than it was and honestly that’s not the worst number in the world. I mean we won’t be selling the car so it’s not like that car value is liquid but we’re going to be able to get rid of that in not a hundred years.

Also this probably shows why I set the student loans off to the side as the thing to conquer once everything else has been taken care of. Adding it in now just seems silly when in just a couple years Mr. Brickie will be making almost twice as much and as long as I’m careful with the spending and we don’t raise our standard of living by too much we will be able to take care of those student loans in a couple years from start to finish.

I know throwing the numbers together like that is fairly haphazard but I have the exact numbers in a spreadsheet. I just get a little leery about giving to-the-penny numbers too often. I’m not sure why. I don’t think any of you would try to steal my identity but at the same time it would be silly to trust my exact numbers on the Internet, so I try to keep a balance.

Overall Feeling Going into July

Every time I feel myself chomping at the bit to gain traction (“Faster! Faster!” I cry as I whip the already frothing galloping horses into a panic.)  I have to remember part of the journey is Mr. Brickie’s as he progresses through his apprenticeship. Our once upon a time totally insurmountable income problem has diminished over time to the point of being not only surmountable but something we occasionally get giddy about. The closer it gets the more actual amazement we feel.

Sure, this was all part of the plan but I still can’t quite believe it’s actually working. Did I think it would work? Yes! Did I also feel like that much confidence was misplaced? Yes! The only way to go was through, however, and so through we all went. It’s overwhelming when I stop to really think about what we have accomplished in the last few years.

But now is not the time to relax and enjoy. Patience and focus are what we need to get through this part of the journey. It won’t be as difficult as the last parts (not by a long shot!) but it will still be rough waters come winter if we don’t store some nuts. Seriously, I love a truly awful mixed metaphor. I’m just trying to say that being complacent now could set us back farther than we would like.

We’re in the “just don’t screw it all up” portion of the program. As long as we don’t make any serious blunders we are totally on track to the middle class. Hell, we might already be there for all I know. We are a dollar-ish below average for construction work right this second, so maybe not. We’re close. We’re so darn close.

I hope you all have a safe and happy Independence Day. (In case I don’t post before then. If I do, I’ll just say it again.)

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Outside Focus – A Birthday Story

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When I’m really stressed out, I try to ignore my feelings.

Sure, I’ll tell you what’s wrong if something specific is going on but you will, inevitably, have to listen immediately to my plan for solving that specific problem. I am a problem-solver of the highest order. Years of practice and execution of plans has made me efficient and confident. There are very few times I get thrown a curveball I can’t hit. It might not be a home run, but it will get me on a base, at the very least.

I’ve spent much of my married life … well … probably much of my life-life but have you ever noticed how it feels like when you get married there’s a kind of starting over that happens? Like, I’m this person now instead of that one (with a new name and everything) and maybe I started judging that as my new and improved starting point to erase the mistakes that happened before. As if this new woman with a new name had a whole different way of dealing with problems and wasn’t just the same person with a different driver’s license photo.

So back to married life and me spending most of it anxious out of my mind. A husband that went from being a pizza guy to a painter to a coffee slinger to a barista to a financial advisor. It didn’t start that way. It started with me working in insurance and him finishing his degree. I was actually that wife that worked while her husband finished school. I had heard about them but never actually realized how that whole thing would look like while it was happening. It looked a lot like anger if you were me. Especially if I came home and Roller Coaster Tycoon was on the computer monitor. I was neither kind nor forgiving early on. Mostly because I was scared out of my mind about the house and the bills and the money and this husband-interloper who felt it was his money too! How dare he! (I’m mocking myself, here, I know I was awful.)

Then he had a degree and we were so happy until it turned out – surprise! – to be totally not helpful at all in getting him a job. So he ended up with a string of jobs he wasn’t too fond of. I was fired from Allstate for being atrocious at customer service and started working from home. Next is the “famous among family and friends” story of the two hours I lasted at the Disney Store in the mall. The only thing I am worse at than customer service is customer service in a crowd.

In retrospect, I should have seen the failure coming a mile away but you would be amazed at what I can convince myself I can do if I just don’t wuss out. If I power through my anxiety and confusion and just do the damn thing, I am sure I’ll be great and of course I’ll get used to the physically debilitating symptoms of overwhelming fear I feel in situations where I have to deal with strangers in a crowded, loud setting. I can do anything! Except then I can’t and I walk out and have a panic attack and I’m sitting on the floor in a bathroom stall in the mall on my phone crying and begging my fiancee to let me quit. The fiancee that may have warned me against taking the job in the first place who was rather confused I needed his permission because we totally do not have that kind of relationship but I just needed to know it was okay, you know? That he would still love me even when I was failing so spectacularly.

Really, I’m so bad at timelines. I thought the Disney Store debacle happened after the Allstate debacle but for some reason I know we weren’t married when I was at the Disney Store so they can’t be related.

This is why I can never write a memoir. I can’t keep track of time.

A journal? Of course I have journals from before we were married…from before we even dated….sure the information is probably in there. But then I would have to read them and there is about a zero chance in hell I’m going to do that in the near future. I’ll let my kids read it when I’m dead and they can marvel at how unhinged their mother really was.

Look, kids! Look at all the coping skills your mother didn’t have when she was young!

It will blow their minds.

I’m trying to get to the good story about the budget. I don’t have a good transition. This will have to do.

I will always remember the day I wrote down our bills on a piece of paper. Then I wrote down our income. (I didn’t even know this was a budget at the time!) The number in the bills column was bigger than the number for income. This is why I’m so understanding of friends I know and readers who have never set up a budget. I remember wondering why I had never thought to do that before.

I mean, I had even read Financial Peace by Dave Ramsey (that I received as a gift from a Christian radio station when I donated $10 to give orphans in Africa a well for fresh water, I kid you not) and I still have that book and I remember reading it and thinking, “This is for people who already HAVE money.”

Figuring out how people made money became an obsession. I wanted to know what everyone did for a living and I spent more hours on the BLS than I care to admit – even to myself. There are so many jobs that people have that no one tells you about. It’s like a secret system where people randomly find jobs they end up at. It felt like a lottery until we found the unions and, eventually, bricklaying. As he went through training I had this feeling that things were going to get really difficult but they would be so much better after the bad part. On the heels of this moment of clarity was when I toldl Mr. Brickie, “I don’t want to work. I want to take care of the kids and, beyond that, do whatever I want with my days. I want to find a job for you that will take care of all of us and I’ll make sure our lifestyle doesn’t surpass that salary. We’re going to find a happy medium. Oh, and by the way? We’re totally going to lose the house in the process. Let’s talk again after you have a few days to be okay with losing the house because I know it’s important to your whole man-pride image.” (We had some conversations about feeling like a failure and what real failure was and taking steps backward and forward in the interim but we were back to focusing on HIM so I was all good with that. HIM is outside of ME so it was a fine thing to focus on.)

Some of you have probably heard me say, “I don’t have a passion.” That’s because I couldn’t afford to have one. All my neurons and synapses were dedicated to not being homeless. They were all dedicated to keeping my family safe. They were all dedicated to things OUT THERE instead of my inner world. How can I decide what I want when I have to figure out how to feed my kids?

So now it seems I’m starting to be able to take little peeks inward instead of feeling like I have to focus on everything else around me and balancing it all so it doesn’t come crashing down like so many spinning plates. I feel calm in a way I didn’t think was possible.

Which is funny because I was told recently (in writing, my reactions were at my screen not in person) that I was going through a transition and I took a mental step backward and said to myself, “Who? Me? You’re talking to me?” Here I am, safe and calm and feeling totally chill and someone is telling me I’m in a transition period? It amazes me how sometimes people with the most book learning are the most unknowledgeable when presented with a real-life case study of someone in a stable place. Also I know this whole paragraph sounds like something I made up. You can just disregard it because it was a long story that ended that way but I assure you none of it was about me transitioning to anything but a deeper state of contentment.

One of these new and fun peeks into myself (sounds dirty but it’s not) let me see that my decision to start actively writing when my kids are all in school for a few hours a day is absolutely the right decision. I don’t have a genre in mind, I’m going to just write for anthologies and submit and see what sticks. I’ll edit and revise before sending, I don’t mean I’m going to throw a first draft at anyone. That would be gross and mean. But I’m going to see where my talent and interests intersect. For example, I know after writing sexy stories professionally for marketing purposes. So I may be very good at that kind of writing, but I do not enjoy writing those stories, so you won’t see my name in the erotica section anytime soon. I’m on the fence about horror because sometimes I don’t sleep well after I write those stories. I look forward to seeing all the different genres I can try to write for and seeing how well I can do.

Even if nothing comes of it just doing it and trying and being free to write what I want and have fun with it means the world to me. It will be like giving my mind and my heart wings and letting them soar free without worrying.

That freedom comes from years of learning how to budget, learning how to make things happen automatically, and having a plan. Also, I’ve learned to be patient. Things don’t get amazing overnight, they take time and effort and hard work. I won’t write something amazing on August 20th at 7am when my kids get on that school bus. I will be able to look back on that date and know that is when I started down the path but that path will start with research, not writing. Also, I have been writing stories in fits and starts for years, so I’m not really starting from scratch, I’m just choosing to be dedicated to it like I’m dedicated to budgeting and finance now. It’s like I’m giving myself a first-day-of-work start date.

Instead of constantly seeing everything in terms of opportunity cost, cause/effect, and problems/solutions, I feel the bonds of my brain cracking, see the dust fall from squeaky, unused hinges as the door to my imagination finally begins to open again. It’s been so long since I’ve been able to focus on, say, the shades of brown on my desk or pay attention to how the light hits my blinds. Daydreams have been my enemy for far too long and I look forward to letting my mind play.

I should probably put this entry aside and edit it later to make sure I don’t sound silly or completely off my rocker. If I do put it in mothballs I know I’ll probably never share it and it will live forever in my Google Docs Drafts folder. So you can have me the way I am. Slightly edited, proofed for spelling (I hope) and mostly raw but free of Salmonella.

Thank you. To those of you who have shared birthday wishes online, directly, and otherwise. I have to tell you….40 is so much better than 30 was. This might actually be the best birthday I’ve ever had. Not because it’s so amazing, but because it so does not need to be amazing. A bakery cake and my family is all I need today. I can look inside my heart and the emotions are not fear and anger and panic. Today my heart is filled with love and contentment and joy. I have fought for these feelings and they feel like a gift to myself.

What I have is enough.

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One Step Backward, Two Steps Forward (Finance & Fitness)

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I finally got another date night! We got a sitter and Mr. Brickie and I went to a local fest and hung out in the beer tent and watched a couple bands. We ran into people we knew and it was a great night. Seriously, we had so much fun and it reminded me I’m not getting out of the house enough.

Between you and me, I know I’m not going to get out of the house until August when the kids are in school again. It’s okay, there are only (Google prefills the date when I type in “how many” because Google knows I want to know how many days until school starts. Google knows…) FIFTY ONE days left until all my girls are in school.

This day has been a long time coming.

My oldest has sleepaway camp next week, so I have to shop and pack her for that this week. I’m nervous and have watched probably a hundred hours of “What I Packed for Camp!” videos on YouTube. Go do a quick search and you will understand my brain is basically liquified now. Especially the “Here are my four boxes of makeup” campers. Like, no. Just…no. It’s all very cringeworthy, but it’s also helpful, so I keep chugging through them.

There is a lot going on outside and in the lives of people I know and people I love, but I just have this little bubble of drama-free calm here at home. All roads point toward having time to write and take care of myself and the family this fall. We have all worked so hard to have this level of stability for our family. Even the kids did their part and accepted the move with grace (not perfect grace, there was an adjustment, for sure!)  and use email to talk to their old friends and use different means to talk to their new friends.

I’ve been off social media now since the 14th or 15th of June. I should probably check my Facebook profile because I put up a message letting people know (the one time I just deactivated my account people thought I had unfriended them) and, I can tell you that after two weeks? It was a really smart decision and it has been really relaxing. I check in VERY briefly every few days to make sure I don’t miss any huge news or invitations to events. There was a home party I was invited to that I couldn’t attend yesterday because my oldest was SO SO sick and asked me to stay home, so I did. She’s all ten and trying to be grown up 99% of the time so if she wants to cuddle with her mommy because she feels gross? I’m all over it.

I feel so calm these days.

There was a part of me that wondered if I would miss the drama and the stress and the last-minute nature of how our finances were during the transition. I worried I had been scared and planning for the worst for so long I wouldn’t be able to just go with the groove and enjoy it when the easy part came.

Lucky for me I discovered something amazing.

When I’m not stressed about budgeting and finance I CAN turn that focus to something else. I’m eating a low fat diet now to keep my gallbladder stabilized as much as possible. I am finding it pretty easy to stay within my calorie goals for the day and I don’t stress eat. So I’m just using MyFitnessPal to track and I’m trying to get up out of my chair every chance I get. I feel good. I know it’s not sexy or dramatic but I’m okay with that.

It’s so much easier to say no to the “fun foods” when you are in a position where you really and truly know you can have them anytime you want. I didn’t even have funnel cake on our date night to the fair because there will be other fairs. That is truly a mind-blowing statement for me to make. It’s my food thing. I love them, but I just wasn’t in the mood. I’m honestly shocked even writing it. Those are the kinds of changes not being quite so poor has brought on. It’s amazing because I used to think it was a weakness/failing of character/willpower thing, but now I realize that it really was rare we would go to a fair or carnival so damn right I would get the funnel cake. It’s not just the five bucks for the funnel cake, either. It’s the price of getting in or rides or games or whatever else a day at the fair entails. Last night for my birthday date we spent a hundred bucks. Admission to the show, beer, his elephant ear (don’t get me started – there are funnel cake people and bad people and my husband sometimes forgets) and paying the sitter all add up.

Knowing things are just going to keep getting better? That allows me to relax and make better food choices without them feeling like a punishment. It’s also made me a lot less tolerant to people who bitch about the food choices of the poor, but hey, I think that’s been happening for a while.

Mr. Brickie got rained out of his job this morning so he’s driving over to a sidework project he has in the works and is going to work on that today instead. He’s also off on Friday for Independence Day so he’ll work there on Friday too. Any other day he might get rained out he’s going back to it as well. It’s nice to have the cushion of a backup job.

Two more days of softball and then the season is over. Middle Sister’s team came in third in her division. Big Sister’s team came in second in her division. Little Sister’s division doesn’t do tournaments. Middle Sister’s favorite game was against the special needs team because it was all teamwork and having fun with no competition. The games on Monday and Tuesday are just make up games and have no bearing on the season at all. They all had a blast but being out in the heat that much has them on the fence about doing it again next summer. We’ll see. I’m fine either way as long as there is something they are involved in. The more kids they are around in different situations the stronger their skills will be as adults. Mostly I’m just trying to raise kids that don’t want to cry when they find out they have to do a team project in school like I did. Maybe if I just nurture them enough we can bury nature under a pile of kid rubble.

That analogy sounds unnecessarily violent. It’s probably just latent stress from the memory montage summoned up by my brain as punishment for mentioning team projects. *shudder*

This month has flown by. (Not being able to remember a week or so because of that gallbladder thing probably helped. sad-LOL) I wonder if July is going to fly by as quickly?

I hope your summer has been great so far!

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June 2015 Budget Update (Almost out of the woods)

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We’ve been lurching and spasming toward a longer-term gig since the season began mid-April. It began on Monday! (insert happy dance)

The foreman says there are seven jobs lined up for summer and a bid is in for a two-year job. That means overtime is going to kick in any minute now and if the long-term job bid goes through we won’t have to worry about the rest of Mr. Brickie’s apprenticeship because two years of steady work will sail him right through to Journeyman.

We’ve come so far.

I got word officially from the SNAP folks that our benefits won’t be renewed, but you know how surprised I was when we got them in June so the extra month really helped us transition from being in that dark, poor winter place into the light of summer and work and paying down debt.

I’m completely terrified to share what my credit card balances are but I’m nothing if I’m not honest and you can just gasp in horror with me. (I just keep muttering to myself “shame can’t live in the light” and hoping for the best) Also, we all know when I have an extra dollar it goes to the cards, so there’s really no reason to think this is how things are going to stay.

We have the following (I’m SO not proud of this, yikes.):

Visa Card: $4,549.22
CapOne Card: $1,157.24
Amazon.com: $337.73
Total CC Debt: $6,044.19 (eek!)

Currently owed on the car: $5,073.04. I thought it would be fun to share I owe more on credit cards than I do on my car, which feels SO wrong. It’s amazing to know that by the end of July that car debt will be under $5k! (We also still have tens of thousands in student loans but I’m not even cracking open that chapter of the debt repayment book until we get rid of this junk. Rest assured, however, we WILL get there. Soon!)

Yikes, right? I was paying the $151 to pay the bills but DUH I made a mistake! I didn’t add interest charges on that $151. So embarrassing! I couldn’t figure out why the total kept going up. So, yeah, even those of us who love math and numbers make mistakes. Durrrrrrr.

In the past, I’ve absolutely made those mistakes, but my budget muscles are big and strong and very “wanna come to the gun show?” in their awesomeness so I don’t mind showing you yet another 98 pound weakling finance picture because you know we’re going to get all pumped up this summer!

I should look back and see how much progress I made last year when Mr. Brickie finally started working full-bore. I’m not sure that will even help because he makes around five dollars an hour more than he did last year which will make a huge difference and then it will make an even bigger huger (that’s totally a word) monster difference when/if he starts clocking overtime.

A regular 40 hour paycheck (which we may or may not ever see. He only worked six hours on Monday because of those storms) would be $785. Which will be about $3,100 monthly. Our regular monthly expenses are about $2280 (that’s with $250/wk living expenses for tolls, gas, and groceries) and I SHOULD be able to eke out $800 a month toward that debt extra above regular payments.

But hey, if you’ve been reading for a minute you know that’s not how it’s going to work out. He will either get overtime and that will be more money toward the cards or he will get laid off for a couple weeks and we will scrape by with unemployment and side jobs or there will be rain and he will work 30 hours or something or another.

I guess it doesn’t matter if it’s easy if it’s worth working for, though, does it?

Sometimes I get really jealous of people who just make the same amount every week and know what each paycheck will look like every time. Not hateful-jealous just… wistful-jealous. The comfort of sameness.

Money Question!

I have a bill from my oldest daughter’s EEG (it was to rule something out and it was ruled out so yea!) After the reduced rate and the insurance payment we owe $323.59 … with the low work situation this month we do have it – but barely – in the emergency fund.

When I called to set up a 3-payment plan the lady informed me that this month they’re running a special and if I pay it in full in June, I’ll get 10% off (which would make the bill $291.23) and I’ve been mulling it over ever since. $32 is a really good level of savings off of the bill. We don’t have enough in our HRA account so we wouldn’t get the whole thing reimbursed but the amount in the HRA keeps going up while he works so I would get the money back eventually….

What do you think? Pay the three payments and leave myself some breathing room? Or pay the whole thing and get a discount? I’m leaning toward the discount. Even with the emergency fund a little low it’s still better to pay less, right?

Tire Talk

Oh! Totally non-sponsored shout out to Discount Tire Warranties! We put four really great quality tires on the car two years ago. Got the warranty. One had a huge hole in it on Thursday and the new tire (current model discontinued so the replacement for that … same brand a little better quality) was 100% covered (except some weird $13 charge to update the warranty) so that was wonderful. Get the warranty from them. It’s worth it.

An Apology

I didn’t keep good records in June. Training week he only made $250. Painting side-job week he made $400. That week he worked a partial week he made $458 and tomorrow we will get an unemployment payment of $360.

It’s been a rough month but I haven’t tracked anything really because it was just too sad to even think about. $1468 is our grand-total take home for June and it was literally barely enough to cover all the bills. It’s why the emergency fund is down and the credit card is up. I’m not proud of not doing more, I wrote checks for volleyball camp and basketball camp and camp invention and paid for Big Sister’s sleepaway camp. I spent when I should have saved, but I think it was a gamble that will pay off in the long run.

I mean, I have to think it was the right decision or I’ll just lay awake at night feeling like an idiot. At least this way I feel like an idiot and a good mom. All together, summer activities for the kids (not including softball) cost $300. Really I don’t think that’s bad for an all day camp, two kids in volleyball, all three in basketball, and a week of sleepaway camp. So I made bad budget choices on the cheap, anyway.

Social Media Break

I took a break from all the social media so there would be less of everything and I could spend the summer focusing on my family. I still like you my darling readers who I would have in my home for lunch or dinner or coffee or tea. I don’t have any apps on my phone and am logged off of all services on my computer. If you want to reach out and say “hey” just shoot me an email. It’s the name of the blog at gmail.com and I’ll respond. Or comment and I’ll respond. I just want you to know I haven’t ditched you even though you don’t see me bleating like a forever-dying goat on Facebook.

It’s been wonderful.

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Sorry I’ve Been Away

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I’ve been….sick.

I had a galbladder attack on Friday or Saturday (I’m not 100% sure because I’ve been in a fog) and today – Thursday – is the first time I’ve felt halfway decent since. Like “able to have one complete thought without staring off into space” decent.

It was a long recover time. I’ve decided that a low fat diet is in my best interest. Well, really I’ve just decided to eat more “fresh” and “yummy” things instead of “available” and “quick” things from the pantry.

As much as I wanted things to be different here and as VERY VERY MUCH as I’m happy they are different here it’s still really difficult to get used to going from staying in all summer to being out all the time doing things all summer all at once. So I’m doing things and the meal planning is suffering. I have no one to blame but myself.

I know normal moms (good moms) do things and get out of the house and feed their kids good food but I’m late to the not a shitty mom party and this is my first rodeo.

Is there a word for something that’s really difficult but feels really good? Masochism? (That’s a joke.)

Well my thoughts aren’t 100% yet and I’m still recuperating but I’m going to be okay. I should do a Google search on recovery from pain and why that makes someone feel confused for days and days. I’m bad at Google Doctoring, though, because I end up convincing myself I’ve got something awful and rare I’ll never recover from so it’s easier to just kind of live in mystery as long as every day I am improving.

I’m just over here trying to keep my organs in my body. Easy peasy. Right? Okay, maybe not but hey, I’ve done well so far. Except for my appendix. I did lose that one. Ah well, no one is perfect.

MONEY STUFF

So a painting side job created a cash influx. I also figured out how to make cash deposits into my CapitalOne360 online-only account. (We are nowhere near a Capital One ATM.) I went in to sign up for a Bluebird account at Walmart and then I connected the Bluebird account to my CapOne360 account and viola! I can deposit cash money at any Walmart and transfer it up to my checking account without any fees!

We used the money to pay the Gas & Electric ($244) and are saving the rest to use as gas money because Mr. Brickie is going back to work next week

Then I kind of freaked out (blame the fuzzy brain, I am) and used a giant chunk of the emergency fund to pay the autopay bills, the minimum on the amazon.com card, and put savings into the rent fund and the auto insurance fund.

So now, any other payments that come into the house (we’re waiting on a check in the mail right now for the week he worked after training week) will just go straight back into the emergency fund.

Maybe it’s not an emergency fund, after all.

It’s more like a flow-fund. So I can just pay all the bills and then replenish it through the month. Which I guess is how You Need A Budget Works but I need to have a full month of bills saved to make that happen. I asked my brain, “Hey brain. Are we going to have that much in savings by the end of the season?” My brain replied, “I’m not really in the mood to compute odds for that right now.”

That’s how I know my brain isn’t up to speed yet. Usually it loves math puzzles and will dive right in.

This morning we took the kids to a movie. One of those morning movie things where the whole family got in for a dollar each. It was a great time and the kids loved it.

Then they had a friend over and then I kept my promise from last week and we went to the market fair thing at the park and I let the kids go on the bounce house with a slide.

Last week there were too many big kids in the slidey bounce house of magic and love and I wasn’t feeling it – you know how you just look at a situation and have that moment where you know it’s not a good idea for the little one? It was like that. So I promised this week and she’s kept a daily countdown every day since then and so we went and she was happy and I’m not a giant promise-breaker.

If I had the energy to be full of optimism this would be SUCH a different post. Same details but more, “I’m so awesome I fought through the pain and the might-be-broken ribs and am here to change my habits to try and save my body part.” Right now, though…that whole upbeat tone? It feels fake as hell.

Some people are blessed with a natural optimism. I’ve had to cultivate it over years and years and years (and years) and it takes effort. Not a lot of effort. It’s such a habit at this point it takes barely any effort at all and I do it so well that everyone thinks it’s part of my wiring without it dawning on anyone that it’s a patch. I stuck it in there and made it stay. But now I’m too tired to even do that one little thing.

What feels real is being tired, recovering from pain that had me on morphene and toradol last time I went to the hospital and, instead, got through it with ten milligrams of vicodin. (I was given the vicodin as a “just in case” when I was discharged from that same hospital stay.)

It feels a lot less “Go me!” and a lot more “Can I go back to bed now?”

But at least my bills are all paid so I don’t have to think about that for another two weeks. Any checks that come in go right back into the emergency fund.

Maybe I did use it as an emergency fund after all.

Maybe I should do a better job of defining emergencies instead of downplaying them and harassing myself over how weak I’m being.

Either way the bills are paid.

For now, that’s enough.

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How Money Makes Life Easier

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I know you know this but I wanted to share a few ways money is making my life easier. Not loads of money, just a little bit of money, makes a big difference. I will say that my community makes a lot of these things possible as well. If we didn’t have inexpensive camps or an awesome school supply place money wouldn’t matter.

  1. School Supplies. Our local school supply place? You pay them and they do the shopping for you. Not, “Pick the seventeen things you need out of a catalog” or “Grab a buggy and go aisle by aisle in our store” but where you call or email and say, “Hello, I have a 4th grader starting in August and I’d love supplies.” They grab the list, fill the order, and you go pick it up. It’s already all packed together for you. It’s not one-cent crayon boxes but all the lists say Crayola and you know you’re not supposed to bring Rose Art crayons anyway.
  2. Summer Camps. The volleyball camp is $40. For five days, an hour and a half of solid practice. Also, a t-shirt. Also, lunch afterward.  That’s $5.33 an hour … PLUS LUNCH. The basketball camp? $20 for the first kid and $15 for additional kids. I can’t even with the overabundance of feelings. That’s $8/hr. FOR ALL THREE KIDS.
  3. Writing checks. Sure, it’s annoying when you wait six weeks for someone to actually cash a check. Absolutely. But being able to keep the money in the checking account for six weeks? That felt good.
  4. Guilt free lunch. There’s a food truck that feeds all the kids in my town lunch. I could probably feed my kids lunch without too much problem this summer but why would I do that when they can have free lunch? It’s a smart choice, now, instead of a necessity. The same damn lunch makes me feel good about myself instead of making me feel inadequate. Messed up, right?
  5. Only worrying about the schedule. I don’t have to worry about the MOST important or MOST helpful camp. I can do both camps. If I can find an art camp that fits the bill? I can add that on, too. As much as I want to be nose to the grindstone about money if I don’t spend some of it on my kids, what is the point of even having it? I’m not buying new stuff for me but I’ll flip you off if you try and tell me I could have spent that $50 more wisely than basketball camp.
  6. Bonus: Doctor Appointments. I generally don’t worry about a copay. If there is one, someone will tell me and I’ll pay it. No big deal.
  7. Extra Bonus: Not pining over stuff I didn’t really want that bad. There is a pair of glasses at Costco I really like. They’re going to be stylish in a minute and I could hop on that trend early and they’re really nice. They’re also a hundred bucks because Costco is out of my network. My glasses? I may not like them but they work and they’re the right prescription. So I’ll get the new glasses when I’m a little flush and not because I feel I need them. If they’re gone by then? There will be other glasses. Before? I would have been freaking out thinking about how I would get them if only I could afford them. It’s a big perspective change. I’m allowed to just not want something because I don’t want it that bad instead of constantly being convinced I was just talking myself out of stuff because I couldn’t afford it anyway.

The weird part? It doesn’t take thousands of dollars to make all that possible. Three hundred extra in the bank. Now, that’s a LOT LOT LOT of money for me, I’m not trying to throw around “a few hundred” like I’ve suddenly become landed gentry or anything, but I know in the grand scheme of things it’s a less than half a month’s rent, too.

Fortunes are fickle like the weather, so I know I could go back to food pantryland any minute, but we’re doing our best to keep that from happening. In the meantime I’m talking about the financial positives I’m finally experiencing.

It feels strange but kind of nice. It’s less stressful, for sure.

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How We Spent It 06/08/2015

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A rare sighting of the husbandus conversationist happened yesterday. It’s like sighting something in the wild that you almost missed but looked in the right place at the right time and saw a peek through some tall grass. You crouch to try and be unobtrusive and then, without a care in the world and no help from you, that damn lion in all it’s giant-maned glory steps toward you and you as if to say, “Drink it in. We have all the time in the world.”

Translation: My husband is a practical dude and getting him to talk about theoretical stuff – espcially economic stuff – is really rare. I’m hoping he will have more time for chit-chatting the less poor we are. But sometimes amid all the stuff he’s doing he stops and really talks to me. It really takes my breath away and I’m reminded of how SMART my husband is.

Last night Mr. Brickie and I talked about the stock market. We want to invest eventually and I want to make sure it’s not a last-minute decision. I’ve already decided that we are going to go into Admiral Shares of the Vanguard Total Index Fund to start with. It’s a “set it and forget it” approach that I think will work well for a Roth IRA. But investing is not going to happen soon (three years if we’re lucky) and we are trying to time the next bust cycle of the economy so we can get in while the market is low. It doesn’t have to be the lowEST and it doesn’t have to be a historic low, just lowER than the highEST and we should be good.

Like Junk Bonds, the savings and loan thing, dot com, and real estate the key is to figure out what the next big investment mistake will be. I think it’s going to be Big Organic, Mr. Brickie thinks it’s going to be farmland real estate. Don’t tell him I said it but I think he might be right because farmland prices are out of control and organic food has just become widely available, the market isn’t saturated with it. I don’t think we are going to be investing this bust cycle so we are honing our skills this time to identify for next time. If we can go in this bust cycle, well, we’ll know it if we see it because some talking head will be freaking out and screaming how we should all go into precious metals…because those have inherent value, see, not just assigned value. (That’s a joke. My finance jokes aren’t that funny.)

Work Updates!

Mr. Brickie thought he might be on side-jobs again this week but it’s back to the job he thought was finished. At least today and tomorrow. That’s good because every hour he works is an hour toward his next apprentice promotion. Also, he got a raise on June 1st with the rest of the union, so this week he is making more than he did pre-training. It will make a difference of about $25 per paycheck.

A hundred bucks a month is a big deal.

The next job is supposed to start no later than the 22nd and it’s going to be the juicy, good summer job that puts us in that sweet spot of having more money than we know what to do with for a couple two-three months. A school job. Where everything you do you have to get done before the first day of school because you can’t be laying brick with little kids running around. That means there will probably be overtime, but I’ll be happy with forty hour weeks.

With forty-hour weeks from this point forward (so the very best case scenario which, let’s be honest, probably isn’t what I should be looking at right now but why not let’s live dangerously) his next promotion is going to be on September 14th-ish. So still within THIS season. I’m kinda desperate for this promotion because it will mean we can afford everything we need.

Also, forty hour work weeks could get another credit card paid off and out of my life for good. The one with the annual fee. Banish that bad boy from my life! Then I can start hacking away at the one we use for recurring bills, gas, and tolls.

As for the potential September promotion to the fabled 70% Apprentice – I don’t remember the last time we could afford everything we needed without a food pantry, government program, or help from friends and family on the Internet. I mean everything. Including food. September seems so close and a million years away at the same time. I just have to orient myself, stifle the carsick feeling, and wait patiently through summer and through the budget and through paying things off and through everything else.

Even keeping myself as calm as possible I don’t think this is the last day I’ll be up thinking about it at 5:40am.

The paychecks right now are backward and mixed up. The stipend check for training (the 1st – 4th) cleared today ($250) but we’re still waiting for his check in the mail from the week before training (the last week of May for approximately $400.) So I had projected this week spending the end of May check and the stipend check and being kind of out of luck next week but it’s not going to work out that way.

Blessing and a curse, I guess.

How We Spent It

Stipend – $250

Living Expenses – $250

$150 stays in the checking account for groceries and $87.41 tops the emergency fund back up to $1000 and then I’m putting what’s left ($22.59 ) in the emergency fund as well because I have a car payment to pay that may or may not need to be partially covered out of the emergency fund.

Next week is going to be as exciting as this week. Watch with amazement as I take a $400 check and put $250 toward living expenses and $150 in the emergency fund to continue to save up for the car payment!!

The weeks right before we get full-time traction are really frustrating.

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How We Spent It 06/01/2015

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It’s a weird week.

The bank randomly decided the check would clear today instead of tomorrow so we’re just getting earlier and earlier on the How We Spent It.

For fear of not having any continuity I’m just going with the bank balance and deducting from there. There are still two checks that have not been cashed by the school and one was written on April 28th for $120 so I keep having to subtract this big check off my bank balance. I think holding onto checks is super rude because what if I forget to keep factoring that in? It would be easy to forget if I didn’t log onto my bank every few days because I’m a budget junkie.

Ah well, the important thing is I’m keeping track. I can only control me, not the check-cashing behavior of others.

So here it is. What we did with our money this week.

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I called the school about getting the form home for the volleyball camp. The office lady said it was already sent home but I’m seriously all over the folders when the kids come home so I should have seen it and volleyball has been on my radar for a while now.

I have a feeling Middle Sister will love volleyball and I want to give her the opportunity to try it out early. I keep hoping they find something they absolutely love so I can be like, “That’s the months that are the season.” and the rest of the year can be stuff other than sports. She is also attending the Camp Invention day camp this summer where they (you guessed it!) invent something.

I’m always sure I’m missing something and just can’t seem to keep up on all the camps and activities and balancing art and music and science and sports and probably other stuff I’m not even thinking about. I will just keep on keepin’ on and have faith I’ll get the hang of all of it eventually.

If I don’t? Well I only have to do it for 12 more years. I can do anything for 12 years. I’ve been married that long and no one thought that was going to work out and he’s even still alive, so let’s all have faith I can trudge through this mostly sort of maybe unscathed.

tis but a scratch

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So Much Work for a Lateral Move!

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My friend Carla is a very smart woman.

But you know what? The Next Level? It doesn’t mean anything at all.

Taking something to the next level is a concept that can mean whatever you want it to be. It’s a new-fangled way of telling people not to stray off the path if they want to get to a goal.

Paths, levels, blah blah blah it’s all the same smoke and mirrors.

I spend time working on my budget every single day. I don’t honestly know why the budget is the thing that stuck but it happened the way every single, “I finally decided enough was enough and I lost a bunch of weight” story starts.

Sometimes we don’t know exactly why we start doing a thing but once it’s our thing? It’s what we focus on more than other things.

Now that my budget is going more auto-pilot, I keep thinking there has to be a way to move that daily dedication to physical activity.

The thing is, it took me years and years to become the person who checks the budget and works on financial stuff for at least a half hour up to hours a day. I think it was easier because I wasn’t surrounded by people doing their own budgets and telling people how this thing or that thing would work for them or how to take their budgets to the next level.

So what I’m trying to do is shimmy sideways and use the same, unidentified THING I have for my budget and for doing financial projections and calculating future income and making plans and all that madness and….move it to another arena in my life.

I’ve never seen a TED talk on this, I’ve never heard of someone else taking a well formed, lovely habit and trying to stick that on a different behavior.

I’m not even sure it’s possible.

A simple, lateral move. Not farther down the path, not on the next level…just a jump to the left (yes, that was intentional)  and it’s going to take more effort and work than I have ever remotely experienced before.

Because I think you only get one obsession in this life and so far, mine has been personal finance.

Yikes.

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Bricklayer Competition Part 3 – Outcome

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The competition was so, so long. I’m glad I brought every single electronic from the house because even with an “hour on, hour paying attention to daddy making a wall” approach, they killed every one of them.

I couldn’t blame them. I had no idea watching someone build a wall was so … boring.

We were there from 7:30am to 3:30pm. The drive was over an hour. There was a storm on the way home so visibility was crap and we ended up driving pretty slow making the ride home even longer.

He didn’t place, so he’s not going to nationals in Maryland in September.

I am sad for him but happy I won’t have to miss him for a weekend in September. He felt he could have done better, too, and is disappointed in his performance but he wasn’t the worst by far, I think he just came in somewhere in the middle.

It was a lot more fun than I’m making it sound. I’m just road/storm weary and a bit nauseous from waking up after sleeping in the car.

We went to Costco yesterday and ended up spending $334 on groceries. Yikes. I have our food budget at $150/wk. and I hadn’t spent any last week so I’m only over $34 taking last week and this week into account. I just can’t go shopping again until he gets paid again and the check clears. I think we have enough. Since the kids are going to be fresh out of school halfway through next week we will see if I can accommodate lunches with the grocery budget. I think we can.

I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and sluggish lately. With Mr. Brickie only working 18 hours last week because of the holiday and rain, I’m nervous. The week after he’s just getting a $250 stipend for training.

Even with June being a five-week month it’s going to be tight and I’m putting every penny extra into the emergency fund because we will probably end up needing to use it for the car payment. Unless he can work a side job next weekend but we have a graduation party to attend so I’m not sure if that’s going to be possible. Normally it would be no problem because we have two cars but …

In other “not fantastic but not life shattering” news, Mr. Brickie’s car has been acting a little funky. I’m hoping it keeps chugging along a bit longer because I would rather not have it die the same month we’re coming up short on two checks and I don’t have food stamps and I would really rather not drain my emergency fund in a minute!

Things are going fine, though, really. I’m complaining and worrying and whining but sometimes I do that. I can’t be puppies and baskets of flowers all the time. Sometimes my hope and optimism slip and I’m sure everything is going to go wrong and the sky is falling.

It will pass.

It just might take all my money with it!

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