The Pros and Cons of Online School Shopping

school-suppliesWhen I was young, I had to be bribed to go shopping.

I hated trying on clothes. I didn’t like or understand fashion, and looking cute was never something I cared about. (Yes, this turned out exactly as you’d expect. I was horribly teased most of my life. Now? Surprise! I know fashion like you wouldn’t believe and have three daughters who love fashion. Nature? Nurture? Who knows. I still don’t care about fashion and basically live in Old Navy v-neck t-shirts, jeans, and capri pants & jeans.)

All this to try and convey how much I hate shopping.

Mr. Brickie does all the grocery shopping for the house. Yes, all of it. Even now that he works 58 hours a week. I am incapable. The rows of stuff overwhelm me and cause me to end up standing in the middle of some random aisle just trying to catch my breath and minimize the overwhelming panic. He, of course, is a saint for being willing to do the shopping for a family of five.

Also, funny little sidenote….no one has ever looked at him funny or said anything when he used the EBT card at the register. They’re also really nice to him when he goes into the public aid office. He gets pats on the back and support from the workers. I shit you not. Maybe it’s because he’s really polite or maybe it’s because he doesn’t seem defensive. Whatever it is he has done a much better job navigating the government than even I have and I thought I was doing a bang up job back when it was my responsibility. (Another post is coming soon about grocery budgeting because since he’s working now we’re about to lose our EBT benefits. As we should. I’m not complaining but it will be a reality that the extra money we have right this second is about to go straight toward groceries.)

So, taking all that shopping mess into consideration and pretending I didn’t just spend a paragraph talking about EBT use and public aid this post is about school shopping. As an Amazon Prime member, there are two times of the year I go nuts on Amazon.com and those times are school supply time and Christmastime. The world gets shipped to my door. The picture in the header isn’t everything. We got three more boxes and six mailers in addition.

We also got the biggest frustration I’ve ever dealt with on Amazon.com when I checked my credit card balance and saw that I was somehow double-billed. I went into the online chat and asked what was going on and eventually found out there was more than one of certain things in her list. I realized I needed to open all those boxes and check them against the orders.

Now, I’m a savvy Amazon shopper. I check quantities and delete things that aren’t fulfilled by Amazon whenever possible. I want to make sure I can make returns easily if I need to.

I was double charged and double fulfilled on multiple items and there was one order listed that was $278 that was entirely a duplicate except for one item. Now, when you order on Amazon you have to actually go through and hit the order button so I’m still not sure how this happened. After talking to the customer service people I realized I was going to have to return all this extra stuff.

Unfortunately, with returning so much stuff I couldn’t say it was defective or was in addition to what I purchased. The only return reason that made sense was, “Accidental order.”

So I’m going to end up paying something (probably) for returning all that stuff. Shipping charges. I will probably call and try to get that charge reversed but won’t even know what it is for a few more days.

Also, even though I personally remember removing all those “Not fulfilled by Amazon” choices there they are on my kitchen table with their own very specific and annoying return practices.

I’ve decided to keep them. I mean, can you really have too many Crayola products in your house? We had an art box but it’s been around a few years and there are a lot of dry markers and broken crayons. As for the loss of money that this will entail the time and gas and frustration saved by not wandering aimlessly into Target or Walmart to pick up everything on the school supply list is worth the mistake.

Next year I will make smaller orders over time. I have a feeling such a large order is more likely to have a mistake happen (although I have no proof or actual evidence to believe that) and fixing it is difficult and annoying. Being on a chat and having someone list off almost fifty items in the space of an Instant Messenger chat box? Straight up rage inducing.

Again, maybe that says something horrible about me that I would rather people not know but even at a straight up $50 loss it’s still better to order my stuff online and have it delivered than go to the store and shop. Especially with the pros that enjoy nabbing the last package of crayons or the last pink eraser. I just don’t have it in me to fight people off like that.

So here is my new art supply stash. I had no idea there were Ultra Clean markers now. Since the 4yo will be using them on the regular, that might come in super handy when she decides to use the red as lipstick again. (Yeah, maybe she won’t. Let’s live the dream together.)

crayola-products

Six washable markers

Two packs of colored pencils

….and a partridge in a pear treeeeeeee!

Mr. Brickie had a great idea. He says other than the one pack for the young’un we should put the others up for next year. They won’t go dry if you don’t open them, right? Either way, there are things we can do with markers, so if I’m going to have stuff in my house I can’t return, let it be things that are used to make art because my girls all love art and coloring.

I mean, hey, it could have been filler paper, right?

How do you go about buying your back to school supplies? I know some people were shopping at a particular retailer because they were donating money to kids who didn’t have school supplies. Maybe I should just ask the girls’ teachers if there are any students who don’t have markers or need colored pencils and then use this as a way to give.

I’ll figure something out. Of course, now that I mentioned the giving that’s what I’m going to lean toward because I love donating money, it makes me feel special.

chicken-border-bottom

A Nice Financial Surprise

cash-money-update
You remember me trying to figure out what Mr. Brickie’s check was going to be after the raise with overtime, right? If not you can check it out but it might make you feel really confused because I was crazy confused while trying to do the math.

I won’t actually have the pay stub until the mail comes this afternoon (Oh, what’s that? You get your mail in the morning? How NICE for you. Yes, I *am* jealous.) but the check itself was direct deposited and my guess of $891.59 was wrong. The check was $1013.43.

Yes, I screeched. It was a happy screech and then I looked like a cartoon character grabbing my priority budget and scribbling changes wildly based on the new numbers. I know that maybe for some people $121.84a week extra wouldn’t make much of a difference but for us this is a life changer. That’s almost $500 extra per month which is huge. HUGE. We can use that money to pay off debt and save, save, save.

Please remember: This blog is written in real time. When I say we WILL this or we will be debt-free by THAT DATE it is accurate as of the moment it is written. If an emergency comes up or something changes, I will blog about it! 

In redoing the budget that extra money is going to see us credit card debt free by the end of August. That includes the $300 in school supplies I bought on Amazon.com and the $462 that will go onto the credit card automatically for auto insurance. Everything. It includes everything.

It will open up September to save for Christmas and my girls’ birthday parties they want this year. (One is “Turning Tween” as she calls it. The other is having her “Golden Birthday” and so they are both beyond jazzed and asked if they could just this once have a big party.)

As much as I want to push all extra money after those credit cards toward the car or buying a second car (because y’all the freedom having a second car has given me is beyond amazing and I don’t know if I can go back to not having access to a second car) it’s important to me that the girls have something very nice now and then to keep in the memory bank. They don’t really know how much they are sacrificing compared to other kids. In fact, they have cell phones (because of our Freedom Pop debacle) and electronics and books. Really, I’m not sure if they know we are poor.

It is a real bummer that the foreclosure went through when it did. The way we save and the money he’s making right now? We could more than pay the mortgage. Timing just isn’t going to work the way we hoped and we will have to move next year (hopefully next summer) and we will probably move to Indiana because the cost of living is lower and it won’t add but fifteen minutes to Mr. Brickie’s commute. We know people who are renting now and they are happy and have a guy who rents houses so we are going to go through a friend of a friend (which always makes me feel special because, “I know a guy…” is awesome lol)

Now it’s time for the grind. No more surprises until the next raise. If he keeps working overtime, will happen 10/23/2014 and that is the absolute soonest it can happen so don’t write that date down in pen because I have it written in the lightest pencil possible … things happen and clinging to a hope as if it were a fact is a recipe for despair.

So today with the magic-big check we have to take out $150 for Mr. Brickie to buy a new pair of boots. He’s been dealing with $20 Walmart boots that last 2-3 weeks because we didn’t have a chunk for a better pair. He tried last week to get a $42 pair at Payless he thought were stitched instead of glued. That would make them last longer and be a better long-term value. Unfortunately those stitches weren’t real and the boots fell apart in four days. So he needs good boots.

Here is how we spent this week’s check (we are switching back to a zero-based budget):

$1,013.00 Check
$200.00 Living Expenses
$150.00 Work Boots
$161.00 Utilities (past due)
$95.00 Net10 (cell phones)
$407.00 CapOne CC Pmt
$0.00 Leftover

After so many bummer surprises and so many weeks of not having enough money today I feel really good.

I feel lighter.

Of course my good mood might also be attributed to the mile walk I took this morning. I know, I said I was going to yesterday and I did it today. I did it before I had coffee to make sure it was going to get done. It didn’t take long but I am doing my best to commit to #wycwyc (What You Can When You Can) and getting in more hugs, more dishes, more walking, and more smiles whenever I can.

I’m doing kind of a Baby Step approach to the money that’s coming in. Pay off debt first, then save 3-6 months of expenses. I’m a little nervous because when winter comes … I’ve heard it’s going to be a crazy-mild winter which means Mr. Brickie will be working but it’s possible he won’t work during the winter again which means a combination of unemployment and working where and when he can get it.

I hate to always be looking toward the next possible problem, but I want to have a plan and be prepared.

I’m so bad at balance.

chicken-border-bottom

Feeling Inspired and Wrapped in Cotton

past-future

Big shout out to Johnna for sharing this on FB =)

I have been in the slumpiest slump that ever slumped.

First, though, let me tell you the amazing thing that happened to me. I am not the girl who wins contests. Cool things usually don’t happen to me. Getting to the point where I am anticipating Mr. Brickie’s check tomorrow like a lotto ticket clutched in my hand took years of research on my part and years of hard work on his. Things don’t fall in our laps.

I’m not trying to be whiny, I just don’t have that particular kind of luck. (Yes, I believe in luck. I’m a little superstitious, too.)

So two weeks ago when a friend came to my door I didn’t think anything of it. She placed an envelope into my hands, hugged me, and said she had to go. She’s in school and is a quirky person to begin with so I just roll with it when she does things I don’t understand instead of questioning it. I turned to Mr. Brickie and said, “Um, she left me an envelope and said I had to take whatever was inside.”

He gave me a look somewhere between, “Huh?” and “Is it a badger?” I’m sure I looked just as confused.

When I opened the envelope there was a note letting me know the car parked in front of my house was reliable and insured and I was to use it to take my kids to the park, library, wherever for the rest of summer. A car key slid out of the envelope.

My friend lent me her car for six weeks so I wouldn’t feel trapped at home anymore.

Can you believe that?

I smooshed all the worries and warnings that immediately popped up in my brain back into a dark spot in the attic of my mind and locked the door to keep them contained. I texted, “Thank you.” because I did not trust myself to speak. I don’t ask for help. I’m not good at accepting help. This time, though, I knew the only right answer was appreciation and thanks.

Because for six glorious weeks I have a daily reminder in my driveway that I am that girl. The one who is appreciated. The one who is heard. The one who is free to leave her house and go wherever she wants.

So far we have been to the park multiple times. The kids are thrilled and think it’s a new adventure every time. I’ve tried to go to the library a couple times but my fear at watching three kids in a library keeps me driving past the library to the park. I’m doing the best I can.

Back to Feeling Slumpy

Did you know you can feel completely drained and thankful at the same time? I did not.

It seems that even eating good quality food and sleeping good quality sleep I am still feeling just overwhelmingly blah. Happy, but blah. It’s a muffled sort of goodness that is not entirely unpleasant.

My dishes are only half done. My living room is only mostly picked up.

I feel like I’m only half checked-in to life most days right now. Is this normal for a wife who has a husband working six days a week? Is this caused by an overwhelming sense of fatigue taking care of three kids day in and day out? Or is it something more?

I wish I had a threapist that wasn’t crappy. I read an article somewhere online today about someone who was working through some issues with this ah-mazing therapist and I was like, “Where is one of those I can talk to?” I get the bad-breath guided meditation therapist that tries to trample my boundaries during the second visit. Gross. (I actually have a long list of examples much like that one. I have bad therapist luck. <– see, superstitious.)

I want to get up and put on my shoes and take the kids for a walk, but it just feels so overwhelming. At the park, I don’t get on the equipment because I’m not insane. Mr. Brickie does but I get nervous about park equipment so I stay clear. I think I need to just start from square one and pop in a Leslie Sansone video first thing in the morning and let that wake me up for fifteen minutes before coffee. Not because it’s exercise, but because it will get my brain firing and blood pumping and make me feel mentally better.

Over on Carla’s blog she introduced me to the concept of #wycwyc and at first I had no idea what it meant. Turns out it means to do What You Can When You Can in terms of almost anything. Fitting in exercise, meditation, and everything else. I think it’s another way of saying baby steps. Today I just feel like I can’t do anything. Well, except feed the kids breakfast, keep them from fighting, set timers for their turns, make them lunch, sit with them and talk to them about their day while they eat lunch, brush the youngest’s teeth while the older ones are brushing theirs, take out the recycling, figure out what we’re having for dinner (I plan the list at the beginning of the week but then based on my energy for the day I pick an easy/medium/difficult to prepare meal) supervise and help the two older girls do dishes, make sure the youngest is brushing her hair, sweep, and wait what time is it?

11:47am? Wait. It’s not even noon?

SEE. I think I’m such a lazy beast but if I break down my morning I’ve done stuff. Not all the things and not even most of the things but I haven’t done nothing and I certainly haven’t been sitting at my computer doing nothing but hanging out with the cool kids.

I guess I don’t have a proper way to how much is a good amount to do. When I ask myself, the only answer I hear back from the depths of my mind is, “More.” My mind has been known for not being super-helpful in the past but I give her a pass because she’s really good at budgeting.

Does anyone know how much should get done in a day? (Suggestions are always welcome!)

chicken-border-bottom

 

 

 

 

Making Grownup Decisions and Being Mature

danger-sign

Is it safe to blog?

One of the biggest things I get asked (which means, like, three people have asked me … I’m the opposite of Internet-famous) is how I can feel so comfortable sharing our very personal financial information online.

In the past I’ve always said, “We don’t have anything and I don’t see a problem letting people know that.”

How things change once the numbers increase. I have been thinking about yesterday’s post where I’m anticipating Mr. Brickie’s check on Wednesday and, let’s be honest, salivating at the prospect of having extra money. Well, not extra, we’re going to be kicked out of this house in a minute so it’s going toward paying off credit cards and then savings so we can move but still, it’s not money beyond the bare minimum which is how we’ve been living for longer than I’d like to admit.

Yes, it took us far longer than the other grownups to figure our finances out. We are not head of the class by any means. I don’t pretend to be.

So while I was not sleeping last night I thought about what could go wrong from posting our very specific finances online.

We could have our identity(ies?) stolen. I’m not exactly sure how this works. I have extra security on all the accounts I can (i.e. texted passcodes) and have different, insane passwords for all accounts. I’m not sure how knowing what my husband makes or how much we owe, specifically, could lead to more information.

I could get asked for money. This has happened already by someone who thought I was over-dramatizing my stories of being poor. I smiled politely and said, “I’m not able to do that.” I got huffed at but, really, I’m not going to feel bad when someone who has never been there for me thinks it’s suddenly very important for me to be there for them.

Um…that’s about it. If you can think of other things that could come back to haunt me for this, feel free to let me know. The way I see it, I’m going to really enjoy blogging about saving and investing and eventually maybe even a vacation. When I read blogs where people are doing all that I always want to know how they got there. So this is me trying to paint an accurate picture of what crap finances look like and the transition from crap to not-crap.

I’m attempting to blog my “Before” financial picture so the “After” picture won’t seem unbelievable and out-of-nowhere. Also, it keeps me from painting the past as rosier than it actually was. As you can see I’ve stopped with advertising. I decided I want this to be more of a memoir so maybe if my kids don’t remember they grew up dirt poor they can read back and see what it was like. Maybe when they’re in their teens or 20′s and hate me or something I can be a little more human and a little less “Mom Archetype” for them. *shrug* It’s better than a paper journal that I would inevitably lose or burn in a campfire for healing at some point. (Yes, I’ve burned my share of journals. I like burning things as a form of closure.) 

Another Mature Decision!

Another super-mature decision I’m making is to quit the online game I’m playing. Mr. Brickie and I were not on the same page about our gaming a little bit ago but we managed to compromise and now get along pretty well. Unfortunately it’s become not much fun for both of us for different reasons. He misses a bunch of things that happen at specific times because he’s working and I miss spending time with him when he gets home from work because he wants to “catch up” the best he can before bedtime. (There is now a strict bedtime for both of us and it’s working out beautifully.) Also, the whole free-to-play/pay-to-win game genre stinks. I’m too cheap for basic cable, I’m certainly not going to put money into paying for a game. I just can’t. My brain would break.

If we decide we are going to play another MMO we will probably go with Elder Scrolls Online because it’s got a flat fee to buy the game and a monthly charge that includes everything. I would rather pay $15/month and just play instead of seeing that I could be doing more/better at every turn if I just spent a little money on the free-to-play game I’m on now. Yuck.

It is pretty much the opposite of my nickel-and-dime strategy of financial security. It’s a nickel-and-dime path straight into a bad, bad place. (Full disclosure, I did pay for the VIP membership on this stupid game, which is $6.99/month because it was the only way Mr. Brickie could even keep up a little with the game and I’m sorry, I might be a good wife but I’m not good enough to be all, “Oh, baby, here, you have the cool membership with benefits and I’ll pass on that to save money.” No. Just…no.)

Like I said, I’m no finance savant. I’m wasting $15/mo. on a game right now. Yes, I’m embarrassed to admit it. While we’re at it I also spend money on hosting and domains every month that is no longer supported by ads in any way so it’s a hobby expense as opposed to a business now as well. Speaking of unnecessary expenses….

Wine Tasting

Since it seems the brand/flavor of (extraordinarily cheap) wine I enjoy the most is impossible to find and goes out-of-stock regularly where it is sold, I’m trying a new wine today. Barefoot Riesling tastes like mildly fermented, slightly carbonated apple juice. It’s refreshing in a weird way. I’m going to keep this one far away from the kids because I seriously think they’d drink it if given half a chance. Oh, I’ve got it! It tastes like Indian Summer apple juice! I haven’t had that brand in a long time so I might be wrong but, wow, I’m getting sensory memory flashbacks.

chicken-border-bottom

Chicken Update & Check Anticipation

Okay, I promise I won’t write about this again until Wednesday when I have the actual, real number on the actual, real check. I just need to put out there that when your primary household breadwinner gets a raise but you haven’t been able to figure out the “check math” that you pretty much obsess over what the magic number could be while trying to be patient and wait to find out what the number actually is.

I’m cycling through anxiety, fear, joy, and a desire to just do math all day with different percentages.

The reason I can’t figure it out (even though I’m really quite awesome at math) is because here are the things that come out of the check. Not the Federal taxes, state taxes, FICA, and medicare. Those are well within my wheelhouse and there are even websites that help you calculate those things. No problem, right?

It’s the overtime that gets me. Well, the overtime and the union dues. I can’t seem to figure out the formula for those.

So even though he just got a $4/hr. raise I have no idea how different his check will look because part of it will be normal hours and then there will be 18 overtime hours on top of it.

Which means I can only speculate and wait. I think I already mentioned his check last week was about $740 and that was the last check before eh check with the raise on it.

But you know what, let’s do some math and we can all check back on Wednesday to see how close I got. Feel free – if you’re bored – to try and solve the problem with me. We can sit around a campfire and drink wine and mock me for finally being so excited to have a different kind of money problem!

I found a cool website article called How to Calculate The Taxes on Overtime. Sounds perfect! If only I could figure out how to calculate union dues! I’m pretty sure there’s some easy calculation I just haven’t found.

After some searching online it looks like the union dues are a flat per-hour rate. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to say what they are but it doesn’t seem like I would be breaking the rules since you don’t know his local or whatever. I checked two checks with different hours and it looks like he pays a flat $2.20/hr. in dues. (If that seems high please remember he pays to the local and International funds and there are multiple pensions he’s paying into along with other fringe benefits. Two pensions. Be still my heart, right?)

So let’s figure this out.

58 hours.

40 at his new rate of $21.29 = $851.60 ($604.14 after deductions)
18 hours at OT rate of $31.935 (Yes it goes out three decimal places, I checked a previous check.) = $574.83 (No idea after taxes I just cut it in half. So $287.45)

I have to go with my best guess because that link to the overtime pay kind of broke my brain because the layout on the IRS circular E did not allow me to understand what I was supposed to choose in terms of the rate scale for income tax. For real. It was confusing, feel free to click the link and check it out. I think it’s going to be right around $891.59 but if you look at my math I didn’t do a good job.

I only added in the union dues for the first 40 hours but after taking out 50% from the overtime it’s not going to be that extreme. Even now he makes $250 a week in overtime above and beyond his base and I can’t imagine only getting $37 more. I should probably just delete all this stuff because it’s just admitting my calculations are awful and I’m not smart enough or patient enough to figure something very important out.

Because we’ll find out on Wednesday, anyway, so I should just post about being patient and waiting with the calmness of someone totally into Zen and cleanses and green smothies and yoga. You know, pretend I’m the person I want to be instead of being all honest and showing you what a hot mess I actually am.

IT’S CALLED BLOGGING, NOT HONESTING. I’M TOTALLY DOING THIS WRONG.

Also, I’m not sure if union dues are a pre-tax or post-tax deduction. I think they’re post tax because you can claim a credit for them on taxes. I think.

I’m done talking about money for the day. I’m going to move on to chickens and then make a sidebar graphic showing credit card debt so I can show it getting crossed off as time goes by. I hope.

Chicken Update

mr-brickie-gertie-collage

Gertie’s feet aren’t messed up. It just looks that way in the picture.

Another one bites the dust. Except this time in a good way. Well a far better way than when Penelope passed away after those horrible seizures. We realized a few weeks ago that our beautiful longhorn Gertie was not a hen but a rooster. My detective skills, as well as the crowing very early every morning which I would only wish upon my worst enemy, led me to this conclusion. I’m a genius, right? I mean, look at her (him) you’d never guess that was a rooster, would you? (Laugh. It’s okay. I did.) Besides wanting to sleep in the morning we realized we had to get rid of him because roosters are illegal in my town.

The last thing I want is a ticket for harboring a rooster. No matter how funny the story would be.

Mr. Brickie turned to craigslist I said, “No way.” because my deepest fear is that this sweet, loving animal that had never hurt any of us would end up being used in cockfighting. I will always remember the chicken I saw on the side of the road ten years ago that was so beat up and his legs were so messed up and later I found out that he had probably been used in cockfighting based on his injuries. So, knowing I’m in/near an area where that happens, I insisted on not using Craigslist.

I’m really happy a friend of mine recently took her kid horseback riding and there was a petting zoo there and she talked to the lady who said she takes in animals and Mr. Brickie called and she said she would be happy to take Gertie and make her (him) part of the family. The relief I felt at getting our mornings back as well as a safe home for Gertie was incredible.

We will miss Gertie but can go visit him at the petting zoo we gave him to. I’m really pleased because he’s used to being around people and being touched and held. He’s a great animal and deserves a good life.

Plus I’m super happy we can tell the kids, “He went to a farm.” then take the kids TO THE FARM so they know I’m not a liar that killed the rooster.

chicken-border-bottom

Three chickens. Was it an omen all along?

 

Hair Dye Conundrum — August Budget Done In Advance

Today’s big conversation in my house was my daughter’s hair.

It’s a light brown and she wants it to be black. She’s been telling me she’s goth for about a year now and black and red are her favorite colors. The black hair request was not a surprise. My feelings about the request went about like this…

  • My daughter is going to look like Wednesday Aadams! WooHoo!

wednesday-aadams

  • It’s only hair. But wait. Would I be this supportive if she wanted pink or purple hair? Am I only supportive because she’s picking something I think is fantastic on a personal level?
  • She has picked a “normal” color “found in nature” … does that make it more acceptable?
  • Are my reservations based solely on what other people will think of me being the mom who let her daughter dye her hair?

She had spray-in black hair for Halloween last year and could not stop looking at herself in the mirror. She loved how it looked. So I’m not shocked by her request. This is probably the first time I’ve looked at my situation and my instinctual choice, I feel, goes against the normal grain of society. “No died hair until 13!” my brain screams.

Facebook has been, overall, blissfully supportive and some very respected people agree with me that it’s only hair.

What do you think? Let me know why you think so, please, because that truly helps me make a logical argument in my own brain. Thank you.

On To The Budget!

I have our August budget sketched out. It’s more like a flow chart, because there are a couple things that can be changed if necessary. This month the six-month auto insurance payment needs to be taken care of. I have it set to auto-bill on the credit card so my goal is to pay off enough space on the credit card for the insurance to safely bill. Right now there is $232.83 on the card. I also have to take into consideration the $40 a week that bills onto the iPass toll account.

Here is the current plan for the next five paychecks. I still don’t know how much his check will be next wednesday so when you see ??? listed, it means the amount left over after designated bills are paid. I’m assuming a $750 paycheck because that’s about what he makes now with all the overtime. If overtime stops, that number drops like a rock. With is raise, it could be higher. Stuff isn’t super stable right now and when that happens, you do the best you can with the information you have.

July 30th – Pay past due ComEd ($133.85), past due Nicor ($26.36), and Net10 ($95.00). Leftover to Credit Card ($289).

Aug. 6th – Pay minimums on Macys.com, Kohls.com, Walmart.com, and Amazon.com (Total $100). Leftover to Credit Card (≈$450).

Aug. 13th – Car payment ($495.12) and leftover to credit card (≈$50).

Aug. 20th – ComEd & Nicor (Whatever the current bill is, don’t know yet) with leftover to Credit Card.

Aug. 27th – Put aside cash for Net10 ($95) with leftover to credit card ($450).

The entire balance on the credit card is $1020 and this plan has a payoff on the card of about $1439 but then there will be the $461 charge for auto insurance and the $40 a week for iPass and at the end of the month my domain payments and hosting ($14.95) go through. So I’ll end the month with a balance but a small one.

Alternate Bill Payment Option

On August 6th, I could pay off the two lowest-balance credit card balances (Kohls $182.97 & Macys $81.98) which would lower the overall amount that goes toward the big credit card but would eliminate two credit card balances totally. I think it’s just playing with numbers at this point and probably doesn’t matter.

Also, I could switch the payments on Aug 13th and Aug 20th if I need more cash sooner on the credit card for the auto insurance payment.

I absolutely know that my readers who are Dave Ramsey fans are cringing and probably peeking through their fingers at my plans of using credit cards to further my financial goals. I guess we are just going to have to agree to disagree that no matter how poor I have been I have been I have never gotten out of control with credit. I have argued myself that it only takes one mistake to drop into a whirlwind spiral of failure and late fees. I agree.

What Do You Think?

Is it better to pay down the big credit card all at once or knock out the smaller credit cards so there are less cards overall to deal with? This is just an opinion question so if I take your advice and mess something up I certainly won’t blame you. I just trust my readers (I have very smart readers. I’m lucky.) and would love to know your thoughts.

I’ll keep you up to speed on what the new paycheck looks like and how we are paying down debt. Oh, also, you might want to check the sidebar where I have listed all my credit debt. Because financial oversharing is my jam, that’s why!

Oh, hey, also if you know someone you think is on the ball with their budget, feel free to send them over to share their opinion. I’d love to hear it!

The Best Day to Do Your Budget

the-best-day-to-do-your-budget

I have made so many budgets over the last – eight? – years.

I remember the first time I told Mr. Brickie we had to write down everything we owed to everyone. I’ll never forget the fear of having to write everything down. Of course that first time I forgot a couple things. I will still forget to add the water bill or the garbage bill once in a while because those are quarterly bills.

If you’ve never done a budget just keep reading. If you already know all your bills (and they’re written down) then skip to the monthly budget section. If you’re a rock star that always does a monthly budget just skip down to the third section for the budget spot-check. Hopefully you will find something here that helps your budget!

The First Time? Now.

Seriously. If you haven’t written it down yet, now is the time. Open a notepad file, Excel, a Google Drive Spreadsheet, Word, or grab a piece of paper and a pen. You’re not making something perfect, you’re just getting it out of your head and in front of you. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and don’t forget….

  • Quarterly or other non-monthly bills (water, garbage, auto insurance…)
  • ALL your monthly bills (including cable, games, netflix)
  • Credit cards (store & major)
  • Do you have domains that auto-bill? An iPass that auto-bills? Hosting?

After years of paying things off and whittling away at my little bills, my budget list is pretty short. Every time I was able to take something off the list for good it felt amazing.

The Recurring Monthly Budget? Same day, every month.

No one is perfect. A day or two before or after the “same day” is fine, you just want to check the list and make sure you’re not forgetting anything. You want to take off anything that has been paid off. Also add anything that’s new so it does not get forgotten.

This is the one where you should make sure your partner looks at the budget, too. It doesn’t matter if it’s on paper or electronic, everyone needs to look at it and understand what’s happening with the money. This way there is no confusion later and everyone is on the same page.

HYPOCRITE ALERT!
My husband hasn’t looked at the budget in years. He used to, but he is only wired to pay bills by due date, not priority. Our budget meetings were tedious and frustrating and caused arguments. He just wants enough money to pay for gas, tolls, and the occasional Big Gulp at the 7-11 on the way home from work. Should I be spending that extra Big Gulp $$$ toward my past due electric bill? Hell yeah, I should! Am I going to? Hell no. That man works like a beast and if he wants to blow ten bucks a week on soda, so be it. I do the budget, he doesn’t overspend. That’s our deal.

Weekly (or biweekly) Budget Check up? Any day EXCEPT payday!

The spot-check on your budget happens as many times as a paycheck comes into your home. If you’re a freelancer and you’re expecting a client payment, check the budget. If you get paid twice a week, spot-check the budget twice a week. If you get paid every other week or weekly you’ll have some months where you do it an extra time because there’s an extra check.

When I do the budget on the day I actually have money in my account, I try to put “just a little extra” toward one thing or another and it never ends well. Doing the budget check-up on a day when you’re not spending the money allows you to make the decisions with your head and your logic and not with your heart. Your heart wants to be free from the shackles of all those damn bills and it’s going to try and make you do more than you should.

When it comes to your budget, always trust your head….it will take care of your heart!

My checkup looks a little something like this.

1. Verify I followed directions with last week’s check. (I did! Hooray!)

2. Check what’s on tap for this week. (Car payment.)

3. Is there extra after paying the car payment? (Yes, there will be.)

4. How much? (About $250)

5. How much is still in the bank account from last week? ($40)

6. Setting aside $200 to live for the week (including gas and tolls)

7. Leftover goes to savings. ($90)

So my goal of setting aside $100 a paycheck is not going to happen. I’m close, and that’s great, but I’m a little disappointed. I always want to rush the part where we catch up. I think I’ll be able to breathe once the insurance is paid for another six months. Then I won’t feel like I’m scrambling to make that happen. It auto-bills on the 15th of August so there are still three more checks before that happens.

Re-Doing the Budget. Once a Year.

Going through this post and what I’m doing right now, it dawns on me that I need to re-do my budget for what we are currently making. I am so busy digging us out of a hole I forgot to make a plan for what happens when we can see the road again! Nothing wastes money like not having a plan and today I’m going to get on that and make a brand-new budget and see where we stand on things like the payoff date for the auto loan (Exactly 2 years left. Huh.)

I want to have a plan for how much is getting paid off and when. I won’t be able to do anything really solid until next week when we see what that promotion and raise look like after taxes and everything. But I’d rather work with the numbers I have and then change them – I love Excel SO much – than not know at all and just be like, “Oh, I’ll get around to it when I have all the information.”

It’s like using a primer before you paint. Get the general numbers as best you can and then you can paint over that with the real stuff once you get it.

High quality budgeting takes multiple coats. LOL

The Bliss of Days Off

I’m in that place where I”m so thankful Mr. Brickie is working and I’m beyond thankful and happy he’s working a boatload of overtime every week for the forseeable future.

It has been a kind of crazy transition around here a we all try to find our place in this new world with (seemingly) no end.

But it’s Saturday evening and that means a night where we an all relax because he doesn’t have to go to work in the morning. The one day of the week I don’t have to set my alarm for 4:30am to make sure he’s up for work because you can never have too many redundancy alarms!

I have the makings for biscuits and gravy (from scratch, natch <– I kill me, lol) that I’m going to make in the morning and I have the fixins for lasagna for dinner and we are going to light a fire in the backyard tomorrow night and roast marshmallows. Let’s be honest, lunch will probably be peanut butter and jelly. I have my domestic limits. 

Sundays are the family’s day to recharge and reconnect. To enjoy each other’s company instead of marking time waiting for daddy to get home. I know we will get used to him being gone and our everyday play and coloring and video games and reading won’t always be passing time until he gets home but that’s what it is now, and I just want to honor that he is such a solid part of our lives as both a husband and father that it takes us weeks to transition from him being off for the winter to him being gone so much.

We miss him. He misses us. When we all finally see each other we’re worn out and tired. Everyone wants to just be done for the day.

Tomorrow – I hope – will be amazing and calm. Tonight we are going out to dinner with a birthday gift I’ve been holding on to. You guessed it, it’s a restaurant gift card! The girls will be out of the house and having a fancy dining experience and I can sit next to my husband at a table no where near a screen where he won’t be looking at his phone to try and catch up on everything he missed while he was working.

I’m really looking forward to it.

For now? I have to make sure they put away their clothes so we can actually get out of the house and get on with our wonderful night!

chicken-border-bottom

Stupid Mistakes I Made In The Last 24 Hours

mistakes-spelling

Surprise! This isn’t a list post. There are really only two dumb things I did yesterday.

1. I posted my mess on Facebook. Everyone knows when you’re freaking out you get off social media. Right? I know. The problem is the only time I truly crave being noticed is when I’m basically crying out for help because something has gone wrong in my brain.

2. I picked the wrong person for support. In the middle of freaking out I talked to someone and made a bad “let’s email a stranger” decision. I take full responsibility for the decision and my actions. That the person I talked to gave me the information while I was in that state, I guess, shows she isn’t in a place right now where she can be considered a person who will keep me safe when I cannot keep myself safe. It is pretty well known among my people and readers I do stupid things for the sake of reaching out and connection when I am in that place. I do not blame her. I am not mad at her. I can’t trust her when I am vulnerable and that is a fact with no value judgment attached.

Really, in the big, huge, wide world of stupid mistakes mine are small infractions. I am a little embarrassed about the posts and I want to crawl under a rock because I totally emailed some poor, unsuspecting person, but I wasn’t dancing on a bar and I kept all my clothes on and a bunch of other COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE things are running through my head on a loop as a reminder of what I could have done but did not.

But I still basically feel like this right now:

The Reason Might Be More Than Just the Foreclosure

I’ve been worried the foreclosure would go through before the loan modification for almost a year now. It has been a familiar daily thought. I have the budget so closely controlled and I save as much as I can when I can and I’m even in the middle of a copywriting project right now because we are all doing what we can. (On a side-note, I can’t wait to show you the project. It’s cute tag lines on packaging. It’s so perfect for me.)

There is such a sense of relief that we are not in limbo anymore. It’s a strange, backhanded kind of relief, but in its way it is better than stagnation.

There is also relief in Mr. Brickie working overtime and giving me the opportunity to save money every. single. week. toward Christmas and school supplies and the girls who desperately want a birthday party this year and I’m tired of saying no to everything. Saving toward moving expenses and not having to spend the tax return next year on anything and getting it in a savings account, again, for moving expenses.

We are finally on the upswing. The problem is when you fall down a deep valley the falling is easy. You hit bottom? That’s like a low-lying plateau where nothing happens. The upswing is actually a steep hill. There is more work and more control necessary when you have money to pay the bills. You have more opportunity to make bad choices because you can fund your bad choices. There is a sense of fear in having this money we now have to use properly. Having no money is one problem. Having money and allocating it properly is a whole different situation.

Especially because we don’t actually have enough money and I have to make right decisions now so we will get to the “enough” place faster and without too many extra obstacles. At least no accidents that should have been foreseen or mistakes that cost money. Those all need to be avoided at all costs. Get it? Costs! Har har. *groan*

All that to say I believe I’ve just kept a lid on my emotions here in survival mode so long that when the pressure was relieved and the top came off it was more like the cork from a shaken champagne bottle than the gentle pop of the top of a jelly lid. It was a release of so many emotions all at once. Fear, shame, forced calm, control, dedication, and all those other grownup emotions that keep you feeling still and safe in the middle of a snake pit.

How I Will Move Forward?

First, I will hope that the person I emailed just deletes the email. Really. So embarrassing. I’ve tried to think of ways to send a follow up email to cancel out the original email but that just seems like a really poor idea. You don’t fix a dumb thing by putting more dumb on top, right? I’m just going to hope that goes away.

Second, I need to get off social media and walk away from the computer. I will still write on the computer (I would write by hand but my hand cramps after less than a page. It’s always been that way) and by write I mean both blogging and non-blogging type. A social media vacation will let me step back and get some perspective on how I share, how much, and where.

Third, I need to get my house in order. I don’t mean the normal stuff. My dishes and laundry are kept up and the floor is swept daily…I mean the more detailed stuff. Organizing and downsizing, I guess is what I mean. Either store it, organize it so it’s easy to move, or get rid of it. Everything just needs to make sense as a thing we choose to have in our home. I’ll keep my paintings and elephants and giraffes and my much-loved Anubis statue of course. But I have about 20 tote bags. I don’t mean the cloth shopping bags, I mean legit tote bags. No one needs that. I probably could use to go through my clothes again and decide what to keep and what to get rid of.

By the time we move I want to have everything that’s going to be stored in a storage space and the rest moved in one or two Uhaul trips. I do not want a long, drawn-out moving process if I can avoid it even a little bit. I want to know when we move it’s the simplest transition I could have possibly made.

So I’m moving forward, double checking next week’s numbers against my priority budget list and we’ll keep on keepin’ on.

Oh, and I found out yesterday Gertie is a rooster. So now we have to get rid of him or we’ll have a friggin’ hatchery in three months. *sigh* Knowing I’m going to lose another chicken might also be part of my freak-out. I really love my chickens.

chicken-border-bottom

Secret Post of Marital Frustration

go-the-fuck-to-sleep

Oh my gosh, Mr. Brickie is going to be the death of me!

We play this video game, right? No problem. It’s something we both do and enjoy. This should not be a problem.

Except it is.

Working 58 hours a week and an hour-ish commute each way means he can only really commit to a “relaxing, fun” game experience. He doesn’t have enough time to dedicate to being competitive. I’m not particularly competitive, either, but I am able to access my computer on and off all day so I am able to get more accomplished.

To compensate, he stays up too late playing the game to get to a point where he’s happy with it.

He’s now gotten to work late TWICE this week. I stop playing and tell him we need to go to bed about an hour before he even thinks about logging off. Then he misses his alarm at 4am, gets up when my alarm goes off and I wake him up at 4:30am, and still somehow, SOMEHOW gets back in bed and falls back to sleep. This morning he was lucky he was only 15 minutes late to work because I woke up with a start at 5:15am and realized it was light outside and he was still in bed.

This transition period of me having to be this grown man’s mother is either going to stop, or I’m going to smother him with a pillow.

If it was just the game, I would consider quitting but I seriously am kind of over the whole, “I’m going to ignore everything in my view that would take two seconds to fix and create 20 more two second problems for you, babe.” attitude that’s been pervasive since he went back to work.

I’m pretty sure all this would be alleviated if he just got more sleep. How do you get a grown man to agree to – and stick to – an appropriate bedtime? 

Any suggestions? (Preferably suggestions that don’t involve the terms “a real man” or “you tell him” because he’s not always like this and is normally a rock star so I don’t plan to go all hair-flipping, finger-snapping, road rage on him. I’m looking for something more subtle/funny/effective/cunning rather than using the brute force of sheer personality to make him hateful-angry enough to wake up on time just to spite me. (Although, let’s be honest, we all know that’s available as a last resort.)

Thank you in advance!