How We Spent It


Thank you for your feedback on yesterday’s How Should I Spend It? post.

I obviously love Wendi most for giving her advice publicly. People are going to think only, like, two people read this blog when I think it’s obvious I have at least ten readers.

Consider your minds blown. That’s right. Double. Digits.

Okay, I’m done mocking myself. Let’s get to the money stuff.

Thank you all for your advice, however you chose to give it. This includes Mr. Brickie. I know, it seems like I never bring him in on anything but I assure you that’s just because the conversations would be excruciatingly boring. They all go a little something like this…

“Hey Mr. Brickie! How do you want to allocate this money?”

“What are my options?”

“You can choose Option A or Option B or maybe there’s another Option I haven’t thought of.”

“Either one sounds fine.”

End financial conversation.

This might be a problem but he hasn’t been a jerk the few times I’ve made a mistake and chosen the wrong option. I wouldn’t let him get away with it if he just did it to try and abdicate responsibility for fear of being wrong. He just trusts me. It’s a lot of pressure, but we all have our row to hoe.

I just want you to know I did talk to him in addition to asking everyone else.

We decided to pay off the Target card and the Macy’s card, put aside $100 in savings, and put the rest toward the big credit card.

We picked $100 as the savings amount because he’s missed two days of work this week already and the next bill that needs to be paid is our cell phones which is about $90 for the two phones. The buffer means if we don’t make enough or if there is a rain day we already have the money set aside for the next bill.

The house won’t go to auction for the next 60 to 90 days. Then the mortgage company will regain possession of the title and it usually takes about three months for them to start eviction proceedings which take another three months.

Our 9 month plan is still (mostly, sort of, hopefully) in play.

I just want to get the kids through this school year and deal with moving in the summer. That’s it. Okay, wait, I’m lying. I also want to get the tax return so we can easily afford to move. That’s a big deal and I really shouldn’t be forgetting it.

After Bills and Coffee Update: Well, it looks like setting aside that $100 was a great idea. It turns out today is a rain day and a rain day = no pay. It does look like he will be working on Saturday, as long as the weather passes. Stay tuned…


What Should I Spend The Money On?


When you have some money but not enough to make a dent you end up, well, where I am right now.

The car payment is paid, next weeks check will be short two days from Mr. Brickie not working Monday/Tuesday, and I have $444.00 after the car payment is paid.

$160 has to go for gas and living expenses.

$40 has to go toward the credit card for tolls.

That leaves me $244 (I know, not a King’s Ransom or anything) and I don’t know where I should put it.

I could pay off a credit card or two.

I could put it into savings.

I could put it all toward the big credit card (we had paid this down a lot but the balance went back up when the six month auto insurance payment went through).

$16.13 is the Target payoff balance.

$56.98 is the Macy’s payoff balance.

If I pay off those two cards then I would be left with $170.89

I could put that all toward the big credit card or I could put part of it into savings and part of it toward the big credit card, leaving me a mini emergency fund.

What do you think?

How should I allocate my small but important pile of dollars?

Need a cheat sheet for the credit card balances to help you decide? No problem!

Walmart $584.63
Amazon $533.00
Capone $1,128.70
Kohls $157.97
Old Navy $150.35
Macys $56.98
Target $16.13

If you want to keep up with the dramatic work changes as they happen, make sure to click that link to the right and “Like” the jennydecki page on Facebook. Sometimes things just aren’t long enough for a whole post and when they aren’t, I put them over there.

To see how we spent this week’s flexible cash, click here!

The First Foreclosure Moving List

We risked everything on the potential that our foreclosure would drag out and there would be an auction and the house would be bought back by the mortgage company.

That might still be happening, but I don’t think so.

We received paperwork in the mail today from the attorney’s office of our mortgage company. It says

Within 60 to 90 days title to the property is expected to be transferred to citimortgage. Sometime thereafter, ownership of the property will probably be transferred to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

HUD generally require that there be no one living in properties conveyed to the Secretary as a result of a foreclosure.

If you are not entitled to remain in the property pursuant to the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009 (we are not because we are the former owners, not tenants) or state or local law, you may nevertheless be eligible to remain in the property upon conveyance to HUD, if certain conditions are met, as described in Attachment 3, Conditions for Continued Occupancy.

Attachment 3 has a list of things like avoidance of vandalism and how much inventory HUD has. You also have to agree to one month’s advance rent as well as signing a month-to-month lease with “fair market rent.” Now that you have rented your former home you have to be willing to allow access to the property during normal business hours to HUD representatives, HUD contractors, and real estate brokers and their clients (all with two days’ advance notice).

Not to sound petulant, but if I’m going to live in a house getting electrical and other work done to bring it to code and let everyone who wants to be in my house into my house I’m renting with two days’ notice I certainly don’t think that warrants fair market value when I’m not actually going to be living in a house where I can expect relative privacy.

At first, we hyperventilated thinking something had changed, that having an FHA mortgage meant there would not be an auction and our timeline was wrong. It still might be. The one thing I am pretty sure of is that if we are receiving mail from the mortgage company’s law firm it’s something we want to be very wary of filling out because it may not be in our best interest.

After much Google searching without much actual result we think the bolded sections in the quote up there are the important bits. Lawyers do not use words for no reason, right? When do you see lawyers throw around b.s. words like expected and probably? I’ve seen other letters from this company and they’re no joke.

It reads to me like, “Since we know no one will buy your house at auction it’s expected to go back to the mortgage company because duh!” If you fill out this paperwork to bring your foreclosed home under some HUD arrangement and pay them (which why wouldn’t you we sent you the paperwork, amirite?) it will probably be transferred to HUD.”

The same way the mortgage company keeps sending us these packets talking about going and finding out about our options which mean Cash for Keys or a Short Sale. The letters always imply we could stay here but in no way does it actually mean we have that option.

Understanding Came Later – First We Panic

Reading the paperwork we started really freaking out like maybe we weren’t going through the same process we thought we were and everything we thought we knew was nothing and we were about to be evicted and homeless in a minute. (Don’t get me wrong, we’re not paying money to live here right now. I’m not saying we feel entitled to live here. We do not. We are so lucky every month we are able to rebuild a little bit more.)

So I called my cousin to make sure we could stay with her if it was a true emergency. Of course she said yes because she’s pretty much the nicest person on the planet. I just needed to hear it and I think Mr. Brickie did too because the #1 thing you want to make sure of is that you won’t be taking your kids to a homeless shelter if you can possibly avoid it.

So the worst case scenario phone call was made and our worst case scenario is one rung up from there.

Mr. Brickie Was Surprised

You guys know it. He knows it. I’m sure my mailman knows it. I’ve been saying it for a while. Things are going to get worse before they get better.

One moment while I quote myself from a previous post:

There is a little secret I want to share with you about my life. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. There is going to be a gap between where we are now and being “okay” and that gap is steep and dark and it has spikes and water on the bottom. Don’t get me wrong, it’s going to look like it’s getting better and that won’t be fake at all. But then… well, we’ll get back to that. <– This is the “BUT THEN” I was referring to! Right now!

We are not going to be “okay” in any kind of a baseline traditional sense until Mr. Brickie’s next raise that puts him at a 60% level apprentice. It’s just not going to happen. The money won’t be there. He has been nodding and telling me he understands for a year now, but I think this letter just hit him in the brain and cracked it wide open and understanding just poured in and it was almost too much for him to take for a minute there.

He looked – for just a moment – like he might crumble.

But he didn’t!

We Assessed the Situation

I showed him that, if we needed to, we could become Fast Move Ready without sacrificing a whole lot of our daily living. We have two crockpots, a toaster oven, and a little George Foreman Grill. All we would need to be able to sell our refrigerator, oven/stove, and standing freezer is a mini fridge for milk. That pretty much takes care of the big things to worry about in the kitchen.

I would also want to bring with pots, pans, baking sheets, dishes, and cooking gear. Maybe the shelves we have on the wall. Probably the bars with the hooks that I keep all my hanging spoons and things on. Of course all my spices.

The Living Room

The desktop would be a problem if we had to move fast and did not have a place to move to.  We have a chair that won’t be moving with us and some TV trays that need to be replaced. Really, the only things coming with us from the living room are the kitchen table, turtle tank and stand, desktop computer and a little IKEA laptop desk. Everything else can get tossed into a bonfire.

The Office

Only things we need are the TV, the xBox, and maybe the filing cabinet because it’s all tall and useful and we use it as the gift cabinet.

The Playroom

One bookcase filled with books, two chickens, and his grandmother’s china.

Our Bedroom

Pictures, the bed, clothing.

Their Bedroom

The beds, clothing, assorted toys and electronics. We have gone through their toys once this year already and weeded out broken toys for the trash and toys they do not play with anymore for donation. We could use to go through the clothing again for things that do not fit or do not get worn for donation.

Other Stuff

Blankets, sheets, towels, the contents of the one closet outside of my bathroom. We would take a bike for little sister but the other two sisters have outgrown their very small bikes and need new ones. We would take everyone’s scooter, of course. Mr. Brickie’s tools and beer making equipment, too.

School Worries

The biggest problem we would face if we have to move before next year would be school. Potential residency checks aside, we would have to be able to get Mr. Brickie to work (assuming he’s working which is a valid assumption) and the girls to school from wherever we were. That would mean two cars. Even though we have two cars now one of those is only on loan until the kids are back in school, which means it has to be returned soon and we will be back to a one-car family.

We Continue to be Vigilant

We will continue to monitor all incoming mail like hawks to try and keep from being blindsided. Mr. Brickie finally having the full soul-deep knowledge that this is really happening means he’s going to step up his game and start getting rid of things we don’t need and selling things to pile up cash for a security deposit and first month’s rent somewhere new. Maybe we could sell enough big stuff we could even buy a beater car for him to commute to work with.

Mr. Brickie started talking about the shelving units we have in the garage and how he wants to use them for a “Staging Area” and I had to shoot it down. I told him that we are beyond quaint, long-term ideas like staging areas and system creation. We are now in the land of chaos and that is where I do my best work. His job is to follow orders and get rid of everything we don’t need.

As you can see, I have a very short list of what we are keeping. Things like the china are going to live in a storage unit until we are sure we have found a place we are staying a while.

I’m glad he is on board. Now we can really start clearing out, cleaning up, and getting ready to streamline our lives and keep forging forward.

Days like yesterday, though, are the ones where you really question if you made the right decisions. If you did the right thing. The days where you know you will only know if you made the right choice years later when you look back and assess the situation with the benefit of hindsight.

Either way, I hope you’ll stick around to see how it unfolds.


I Think I Have Mental Whiplash



Two Weeks Ago: I think overtime is done for the season.

Last Week: Overtime is back!

Sunday: Phone call from Mr. B (the guy at the company who tells everyone where to go) saying work has skidded to a halt, tells Mr. Brickie to start calling around for work.

First, I’m about to dislocate my shoulder trying to pat myself on the back for not freaking out. Mr. Brickie wrote a list last night and is making calls right now to get on another crew. I know from last season and this season that it’s nothing personal and he did nothing wrong. I’m feeling okay and my hope is at a solid 9.

Second, he got this call while we were driving to an amusement park. Since he worked another 52 hour week last week we decided we could do a small splurge for the kids the weekend before school. While it did cross my mind to skip the amusement park and save that money, I realized that would not only break the kids’ heart it was also not totally necessary and might be an overreaction.

So we went and had a blast and the kids had so much fun.

The car insurance payment went through on the credit card, so while it’s great that I paid it down so there was room, it also feels like we worked really hard for not much traction. It’s just a perspective issue that, I think, will get better with a little time.

Today I’m taking the kids in to the dentist (they’re very excited, they LOVE their dentist) for a checkup appointment scheduled six months ago. I’m feeling great we will be able to get it in before we lose our insurance for three months.

The kids have been flossing but can’t reach (or can’t get the floss between) their molars. We’re going to ask the dentist about it.

Oh, speaking of the kids, I had the phone connected via bluetooth when I played the message from Mr. B. I did it so I could write down the address I thought he was going to give Mr. Brickie. Having it on speakerphone means the kids heard the message. They didn’t seem bothered but I had a feeling they might worry, so I explained what it meant and how daddy wasn’t unemployed, just between gigs, and they asked questions about how daddy’s job is different from having a job at McDonald’s. (I don’t know why but my kids always use McDonald’s as their job analogy. They used to want to work there as their first job so I just kind of roll with it because it makes for some great compare/contrast moments.)

Today will most likely turn into kind of a relaxed day for me. I can’t get much done with everyone home because they always get under my feet and I’ve kind of given up on trying to improve the house before the girls go back to school. I have clean kitchen counters and can maintain it but I am at the end of my 24/7 sandwich making, mess making, arguing, fighting, summer rope. Even though they read for an hour every day and do writing practice an hour a day and play outside and we go to the park and we go to the library there are just so many hours in a day.

Middle sister said last night, “Mommy, I can’t wait until school starts because you’re going to wake us up with the morning song again.”

Big sister, “Oh! I love the morning song! Yes!”

Little sister, “Morning song, morning song.”

I just smiled and said, “Of course I am.”

They cheered. I kid you not, they actually were like, “Yeaaaaaaaaaa” like the Muppets.

So there, at least, is a reminder my girls have something they love I have given them that didn’t cost any money at all. I guess I need to take some more time to remind myself that giving my time is what I do and, like everything else, you give money or you give time. (Yes, some people can give both and that’s fine, too.)

I’m going to go eavesdrop on Mr. Brickie’s phone calls and see how things are going. He always goes and sits in the sunroom to make calls so if the girls do start making noise there are three doors shut in between them and his phone calls. He likes to keep it professional, but that means I have to sneak behind door number 3 to hear what’s happening.

I hope he’s back to work soon.




Realism ≠ Negativity

Warning: Possible incoherent rambling ahead due to frustration. I should be participating in Come Play in May but I am not right now because I cannot stop thinking about this. At first I was wondering if I should share it, but hey, self-improvement is the reason we’re doing everything we are with our lives and the finances so I guess this counds under that umbrella. Or something.

I managed to see a therapist three times before swearing off of the whole thing forever. Again.

My biggest problem? She had me journal and then insisted (I really mean INSISTED) I read her everything I wrote. I told her if she wanted me to read everything how was that different than her just reading my blog (because audience) and she said, “Because of the interaction inherent in the Internet.” <– you saw those quotes, right? I asked her what that meant and she said that I censored my thoughts because I have an Internet audience and I said, “But I don’t know you, either, so if I know you’re reading everything you know I’m going to censor that even more than I do my blog. I mean, I know most of my readers. I LIKE them.” Or, I would have said that if I wasn’t trying to process what she said and how those words seemed to mean something to her when she said them but I would be damned if I could figure it out.

That’s okay. I realized through the relaxation therapy we did together (even though I told her I do guided meditation every night before bed and am well versed with relaxing breathing and do it every day) but she just ignored me and then took me on this awful “meditative” journey to the beach. (I find that the beach is very romantic to people who don’t GO to the beach. I’m sure I’m wrong, but it feels that way to me because when I walk through the sand I look like a land hippo with gorilla arms trying to wade through unseen jello.)

Plus, her overwhelming desire to talk about my husband because she seemed absolutely incredulous that I could be happy and calm about him when I was an anxious wreck about other things. She asked me why I didn’t want to talk about my husband and I told her, “Marrying him is the one decision I have never regretted.” I even thought right after I said it, “I should write that down. That was a really cool thing to say!” It’s also true. She just gave me therapist-nod-half-smirk and I was like, “Whatever.”

If we are talking about the cause of my anxiety it certainly isn’t Mr. Brickie. He has been a calming influence in so many ways and I adore him for that and many other things.

The other thing she just kept bringing up was how negative I was. “You have to be less negative. It’s bad for you. Being negative is going to kill you.” When I responded, “Then how do you explain so many crabby old people?” She smiled her therapy smile and responded, “See, there it is again.”


The reason this is more difficult than you might immediately think is that I’m actually not a negative person. I’m a realist. My motto is, “Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between.” (Thank you Maya Angelou for that last part on the end. I really love that part.)

Preparing for the worst, however, means running all scenarios … including the negative ones. I’m very optimistic, I mean, have you read my blog? You all know I think I’m coming out of the other side of what we are going through right now and into a much better situation for my family. I really do. I mean, find me a percentage of people who are where I am at right now that are happier or more carefree.

This woman, though. The hubris of grinning at me ear-to-ear at the end of our first appointment to find out during the second appointment she has decided she’s figured me out (or something) would have been unbelievable if she hadn’t been doing it to me. I tried to go along with it and trust the system. I asked her what a positive person sounded like so I could model the behavior. She couldn’t come up with an example. She just kept telling me to focus on the positive because anything else was, I am not kidding, “BAD FOR YOUR ORGANS.” (not the musical kind, I have to assume).

I am jealous of everyone who has a therapist that helps them. One that gets you through things and lets you vent. I was hoping to get one of those, but obviously, I did not. I have no ill-will toward her but she was – for me – a very bad therapist.

She kept getting me in a catch-22. She would call me negative, I would try to explain why it wasn’t negative, and then she would gently chide me for overexplaining.

Now for all of you smart people or psych majors or both (they’re not mutually exclusive or inclusive categories, natch) I’m thinking she was just doing some basic cognitive behavioral stuff. But causing a traffic jam in my brain because you tell me I can’t have Option A or Option B but there is no way to learn what Option C is and there are no examples to be found but you have to have Option C or you will die from organ failure is nuts. To tell a person who is in therapy to only talk about things in a positive light and not talk in a negative way during sessions and the rest of your everyday life – including your thoughts – is nuts. I’m thinking to myself , “Are you sure you don’t read ALL THE BLOGS where people are doing that and how utterly unhelpful it is or maybe FACEBOOK where people are only sharing the most positive things for the most part?” Being fake does not make a person positive. It makes them fake and just crushes the negativity down.

But I didn’t say that because I wasn’t being negative.

Instead, I did the most positive thing I could think of and I cancelled my next appointment because the amount of negativity I felt after the last one is something I would like to never ever ever repeat again in this lifetime.

If you’ve read my post from a while back about not being allowed to try new churches anymore because of the disappointment I feel when they inevitably let me down? This was very similar. I guess churches and therapists are things I just don’t have good luck with.

My husband – in one of those rare moments where he just amazes me with his insight – said, “Of course if you look for someone else to fix you, to give you community, or make you someone you are not you are going to have a problem. Every church or therapist you have gone to was because you wanted something only you could do for yourself.”


Take A Break for Thanks


I make spreadsheets, pay bills, and write up financial forecasts.

I buy school clothes, supplies, and do Internet research about the school my girls will attend next year.

I cook dinner, keep the house passable, and spend time with friends.

I spend my life waiting for the next paycheck to make another small dent in the wall that blocks the here from the there.

I am focused. I am intense. I AM TIRED.

The thing is, the silver lining on my cloud is thick and bright. So I’m going to take a break from finance for a second and share why it’s worth it to drive myself into the ground focusing on every single penny every single day. My silver lining is my family.

My Girls

I want to do the things I see other moms on Facebook and Twitter do. I want them to go on horseback rides and take them to museums. I want them to go to summer camp and make lifelong friends.

But today? One turned on the Keurig when I woke up so I could make coffee. I got out yogurt and bananas and grapes and orange juice for the girls and we all sat and had breakfast together. They laughed and told me what they had built in Minecraft today. It’s this giant person with a sword that is entirely hollow and they put a spawn point in it and it’s entirely filled with cats. Probably ten thousand cats. We took a breakfast break to look and she had made nose holes for the cats to fall out of.

It was hilarious.

They are very good about their end-of-summer routine where they each get an hour and a half of gametime and then everyone reads for an hour and a half. (The older girls each spend 45 minutes reading to their little sister for her hour and a half.) This takes us to right about time to make dinner and then they help me make dinner and we sit and eat dinner as a family. I make lunch on demand when a kid comes and says they are hungry.

We have blueberry picked this summer and we have gone to the splash pad and we have gone to the beach and we have gone to parks and the library.

They do not complain about the places we do not go. They are always happy when we go places.  They are not demanding or spoiled or entitled.

I am so thankful for my flexible, loving children and I want to give them everything in the world, but I know that when they are old they will know I did the best I could with what I had and they will always know that there is not a moment where I do not love them with every bit of my heart.

Except the part of my heart reserved for loving…..

Mr. Brickie

I have a husband that is perfectly happy being the (mostly) sole breadwinner of the family. I have no pressure to get a job, there is no resentment that I stay home and take care of the kids and blog and make dinner. My house is messier than it has been in a year but he understands without me having to explain that it’s the end of summer and I’m exhausted and the kids want to go back to school and I’m getting them out of the house more to get that energy out because they know it’s a week until school starts and the countdown is on par with the Christmas countdown for intensity and fervor.

He was unemployed on our wedding day. I supported him while he got his degree that we thought would be the key to our success. It was not and he did everything from working at a coffee shop to becoming a licensed financial advisor and everything in between to keep our family afloat. He did not resent me when I was the sole breadwinner for our family and he did not mind if I made more than he did.

We do not have a perfect storybook relationship. We argue. We yell. When I yell at him he has a tendency to sometimes yell at the kids and then I have to call a family meeting and air out what’s happening so the kids can understand what’s going on. I make sure if the kids see the fight they see the resolution and he goes along with it because he gets that he’s raising girls who will be women and they will marry a man like him more than likely and so he needs to be the man he wants his daughters to marry. (Don’t get skeeved out, you know what I mean!) When he was in the room and the kids somehow asked about Ellen being married because we were talking about marriage and one of them pointed at Ellen on mute on TV and asked who she was married to he did not bat an eyelash as I explained about Portia and googled the wedding pictures.

He takes that pressure and tries to be that man. Which is great because that man I want my girls to marry? It’s not the one I married. It’s the one he has become.

I know to the tips of my toes that there is no more perfect partner for me on this earth. He is smart enough to keep up with me without being so smart he becomes smug and unflexible. He trusts me. He listens to my stories like a girlfriend (even though sometimes it’s tough for him to stay awake) and comforts me with hugs when I am sad.

He is the most optimistic person I know. While I run around yelling about the sky falling he just does what he can and knows its enough. He falls asleep in about 30 seconds at night. Wait. I kind of hate him for that sometimes so I guess I’m not thankful he falls asleep so hard and so fast it’s more I’m thankful that he isn’t up all night worrying because that makes for not great work performance. Or something.

He rarely reads my blog because he already knows everything in it. He acts as interested in stories about my day as I am about stories of his day.

Finally and probably most importantly he let me change his mindset. He was raised in a white collar family and learned that a degree and a job with a suit was the goal. When I sat him down and showed him the evidence of what made him happy and floated the idea of a blue collar job he listened. When I asked around and learned more about it he listened. He went to every Union Hall in a 50 mile radius and applied. He followed up.

He still occasionally thanks me. (Not for getting him the job because he did that all on his own. He thanks me for paying enough attention to see what made him happy and finding a way to make that happen in the world. He doesn’t say all that, he just says, “Thank you” with this one look on his face but I know what he means.)

So while my blog is mostly about being poor and struggling and trying to claw myself out of the pit we are in, I have so much to work for. Museums and vacations and horseback rides with people who love me.

I am poor but I have so much.


Weekly Budget Update (There Goes the Insurance)


My posting decreases dramatically when my nails get too long.

I need to clip them because they get caught in the keyboard. I’m trying not to bite my nails because it’s gross and I don’t want my kids to start doing it. Unfortunately, it seems I need to attach a clipper to my underwear at all times so I have one when I need it.

That has nothing to do with the budget. It’s not an analogy. Well, I guess we could look at it as a representation of how breaking habits can be difficult when you do not have a readily available solution for problems you are not used to having.

So. Deep.

Okay, this week in budget spending we have a regular 40-hour check at the new 50% apprentice rate and getting the past due electric and gas out of the way. There was a little bit leftover in the bank already from the copywriting gig.

How We Spent The Money This Week


We are leaving $100 in the checking account as a super-mini emergency fund. Basically it’s there in case I make a math mistake. It’s rare, but if I did make a mistake even of a few dollars and we didn’t have anything sitting in that checking account it could mean overdraft fees and credit card use that we have not planned for.

That little bit of cushion makes all the difference in the world when it comes to my mind and being able to be less afraid about paying the bills that need to be paid. I understand and empathize with people who have a tendency to hoard because I feel that way about money.

The car payment (in full) is $495.12 but I’m putting $100 aside into the savings account so that is not all coming out of one check. A regular check has $435.16 that can go toward bills at this time and that’s not enough. Rather than cutting it super-close one week we are going to split it up. My budget projection goes out to the end of December and in future months it is split a little more evenly. I also have the gas and electric being paid again in August which doesn’t make much sense so I have to go back to the drawing board and update those totals. Next week some credit card payments are on tap as I am trying to get those paid off by the end of the year.

Want to Talk About Insurance?

Remember when we used the rest of our savings account to pay for three more months of insurance? We got another bill in the mail because he didn’t have enough hours banked again (we thought he would start working sooner this year than he did) we needed to pay another almost $1900 for three more months of coverage. There were some very supportive people last time but a lot more people were very, “Oh no you didn’t.” when it came to paying that much cash for care. Not when we make so little and could easily be covered by medicaid for three months if an emergency did occur.

While I am not thrilled about the prospect, we really don’t have a choice. We don’t have the money. I cannot come up with almost $2k by the end of the month.

So we will be insurance-less for three months.

The funny part? (Oh, there IS one!) Mr. Brickie has already worked MORE than enough hours for our insurance to kick right back on come December 1st. It’s a done deal. Plus, the hours over the 350 he needed to qualify go into a bank toward the Mar/Apr/May quarter of insurance next year. I would consider doing some forecasting to see how many hours he will have by the time winter hits but I don’t have three key pieces of information:

1. How many days will it rain by the end of the year?

2. Are there enough jobs/work that they’ll tarp job sites during the cold days of fall/winter?

3. Can I believe the reports from Tom Skilling that it will be a fairly mild winter?

Pretty much none of those questions have reliable answers so doing projections will give me a best/worst case scenario to work with but I can suss those out with my brain and not have to do lengthy, complex spreadsheets to figure them out, you know?

Coming Up

The current budget spreadsheet is a thing of beauty. All those payment boxes are filtered into another set of boxes at the bottom that show the monthly credit card payoffs. It’s a bear to keep maintained because if a change happens it can affect a few months’ worth of entries. For example, if a card gets paid off sooner for whatever reason in October I’ll have to change November and December. Not a huge deal but a detail that is begging to be overlooked.

Another slight anomoly I can’t quite account for is that tolls are coming out of the $200 weekly living expense. The tolls are auto billed to the credit card. So $40 of the $200 is always a payment to the credit card but it’s not really considered a payment because it’s just a living expense. So it doesn’t matter much in terms of anything but the perspective of paying $40/wk. to the credit card vs. $160/mo. in CC payments. I have tried to account for that in the payoff plan because the Internet bill is also auto-billed to the credit card and we are moving the Net10 cell phone payment to the credit card as well. I hate things touching my checking account automatically.

Moving next year and not paying $2k for insurance for the next three months will be great in the long term. I keep trying to focus on the big picture.

Sometimes it’s difficult. I desperately want to be on the Blue Cross / Blue Shield plan. So much. But it’s just not going to happen this time around. We’ll get it back Dec 1st and I can breathe a sigh of relief. Until then we can hope no one gets sick and, if they do, that there is a social worker or some other person on duty that can take care of the medicaid information.

Because as of right now? All the progress we’ve made since he started working again June 28th? It hasn’t even been two months and he has only made, year to date, a little over $6k. I was thrilled to feel not-impoverished for a four-week stretch and maybe even for the rest of the year but we’re not even going to clear $20k this year in income.

I don’t know how we’ve done as well as we have. (It’s no wonder we’re losing the house, though. There was no way.)

Milestone! We are Out of Poverty!


I was thinking out loud to Mr. Brickie yesterday and I was telling him how happy I was to finally be able to buy underwear.

Yeah, I said underwear. I’ve actually been lucky because friends have given me underwear that they ended up with for various reasons and didn’t need/want anymore or they turned out to be the wrong style and everyone knows that if you have undies you can’t use (that are new) I’m the woman to call.

Yesterday I bought 11 pairs of underwear.


I pretty much own all the underwear in the world now.

Spinal Tap loud levels of underwear.

For the sake of clarity I could have purchased underwear before yesterday. I could have bought underwear instead of clothes for the kids for school. I could have bought underwear instead of work shirts for Mr. Brickie. It was always an “instead of” purchase. No one had to sacrifice for me to buy some new bloomers.

The underwear conversation (and taking a moment to laugh at myself because no one in their right mind gets that excited about underwear) led to the “I wonder if we are still in poverty” conversation because it’s those little things like being able to buy something after so long that kind of shock you into thinking your standard of living might have gone up a notch.


I realized that if you break it down monthly we did it. ($27,910 /12 = $2325.83)

When I add the last four checks Mr. Brickie received (plus my awesome copywriting gig) we made $3592.18 over the last four weeks.

——————-> WE ARE NO LONGER IN POVERTY  <——————-

Sure, it might only be for one month and we may or may not clear $27,910 by the end of the year.

But for now? We are out of poverty and I bought underwear.

It’s a great day.





Anxiety, Fun, and Family Time


Did you know I have an anxiety problem?

You could say I’m wound tighter than a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, sure, or you could say I have a medically diagnosed anxiety disorder. You could remember me as the lady you know who went to the ER for a panic attack, but I’d prefer you remember me as the woman that made you smile. Who among us wants to be known for our weaknesses? I want to be known for the positives I bring to the table, not the problems. That being said, this post is dedicated to my biggest problem. Anxiety.

Since my friend loaned me her car for the summer, I have used it to go to the library and all the parks. I’ve visited family and gone to pretty much all my safe places over and over.

Then over the weekend I had the bright idea to bring the kids to the beach in Michigan without another adult. Well, there was the possibility of another adult that actually turned into another adult being there with me, but it was all up in the air before going and up in the air is my personal nightmare. I like plans and knowing where I’m going to be and when. It makes me feel safe.

The night before, I had everything pre-packed. Breakfast would happen in the car and each child had an individually prepared bagel and cream cheese in a baggie in the fridge. Water bottles were packed in an inuslated bag in the fridge so they would stay cold as long as possible once removed. We had a bag of pretzels and bug spray and sunscreen ready to go. Towels and extra outfits in another bag. I had a checklist and made sure everything was taken care of. (Like I said, I’m a planner.)

Mr. Brickie filled up the gas tank the night before.

The first bump in the road happened when my alarm went off at 6:30am. I got up, had a cup of coffee and prepared for my kids to wake up. My original plan was to leave the house at 7am. I went over the week’s budget and paid the bills for the week. I had another cup of coffee. At 7:30 I sent an email letting our family member know I was going to be running late because my kids all decided today was the perfect day to sleep in. The kids woke up – one right after the other – around 7:45am. I hugged them, told them to shake off the sleepies and get in their bathing suits so we could go.

They were happy to oblige. I’ve actually never seen my kids get ready for anything as fast as they got ready to go to the beach yesterday. It was magic.

The drive there was bliss, because it was still early enough the construction hadn’t backed the roads up. (We went to Michigan on Sunday and it took us over 2 hours to get there because of construction and backed up traffic. It was a nightmare. It also took just under 2 hours to get home taking the backroads, but it was still preferable because there is a certain sickening smell to the expressway when it’s a crawling almost-parking-lot like diesel and desperation and asphalt. Gross.)

We stopped for potty breaks and the parking pass at the family member’s house and the we were off to the beach. The girls helped me carry the stuff and we got down to the beach. It was about this time I realized we forgot the beach shoes, because the MI beach is rocky. I also completely forgot to put sunscreen on everyone. They are all fine. I (of course) look like my skin has been put on a grill because I’m bright red.

About a half hour after we arrived our family member showed up with her chair and sat with us. She was kind enough to take some of the beach pictures in the collage because I only took two. I was far too focused on watching my three daughters frolic in the small-but-angry waves coming at a constant pace. The girls loved it. From a not-mom perspective, the waves were really amazing and middle sister taught herself to body surf and couldn’t get enough. They all managed to stay close enough to one another I didn’t freak out completely and I just watched, and kept watching, to make sure no one went under at all.

At one point middle sister went out pretty far to the buoys with a couple kids from a blanket over. The girl she was with seemed very kind and went slow with middle sister so I wasn’t too worried but I kept an eagle eye on her knowing I would have to haul ass out in that water and grab her if something went wrong. Yes, there was a lifeguard on duty. Maybe I should have taken comfort in that, but I always assume if something happens to my kids I need to save them. I think that’s normal, right?

So, to kind of test the waters I get up and start to wade into the water. The first thing I notice is I”m sinking into the rock-bottom of the lake. About three feet in there’s a sharp little downslope that goes down about a foot and when my foot went down it just kept going into the rocks. Up to my knee. So here I am, in the water that’s now up to my chest because I’m under the ground, holding little sister’s hand because she’s scared of the waves but wants to be next to me, with my left leg still on top of the rocks so I’m almost in this weird scissor position with my legs spread out at, like, a 60 degree angle.

Then a wave hits.

All hell only breaks loose in my head for a second and I go under to hold little sister up because of course she fell and I’m stuck where I am because my leg is surrounded by little rocks and this isn’t fun anymore and I’m really thankful there’s a lifeguard because I don’t know that I could get to my daughter but maybe doing a belly-float-doggy-paddle I could and really if there was an emergency I’d try because I’m a pretty strong swimmer but for now I need to get my leg out of the rocks and so I have little sister back up to a safe, shallow place and pull myself up onto my knees and I’m thanking all that is good and holy for the beach pants my cousin got me for my birthday because they are the only thing keeping me from having about a million tiny cuts on my calves from being on my knees on rocks. Now my body decides to try and float because I’m not wedged in the ground like a pinwheel.

Then a wave hits.

Fwoomp! I’m on my face and my leg goes up and big sister is pointing and laughing at me. I realize I probably look hilarious so decide not to exact revenge on her at a later date. Little sister runs at me thinking my flailing means I’m having fun and she wants to join in and when she wraps her little arms around my neck I have a moment where I’m pretty sure my kids want to drown me and I look out to the beach in between waves and see my family member in her chair relaxing and looking out at the horizon and I thank the lord for the lifeguard again and wonder if she often has to save people in a foot and a half of water.

I use my arms to drag myself half out of the water because anywhere I try to put my feet they just sink into the rocks. I have a moment where I wonder if this is because I’m big but then realize I’m mostly floating (that’s why I can’t stay upright because I”m floating in the wave-water) and so that’s more of a wackadoo theory than a potential reason for my foot going straight through the rocks to the other side of the earth.

The kids (and the rest of the beach) aren’t staring at me so I must not have flailed that badly. I feel pretty successful at not drowning and walk confidently back to my foldy-chair about five feet away from the kids. I decide we need to go to the pool more because holy crap that was terrifying and if I never sink into the earth up to my knee again that would be awesome. My heart rate goes back to normal in a few minutes and I spend another couple hours enjoying the girls playing in the water, screaming when waves hit them, grinning from ear to ear.

They are happy and I am smiling and we leave after about three hours all out of breath and laughing.

We stop back by our family member’s house and the girls shower off and we have sandwiches and I’m so thankful for a few moments to relax before we leave to go school shopping.


This is normal. I know. You will never hear me say I’m doing something special when I’m doing something a billion other moms do all the time without any issues. The problem is me. I get so nervous. I get so out of sorts. I get so scared.

But I was also on a roll after beach time so we stopped at the Lighthouse Mall (it’s an outlet mall) and went to Old Navy for jeans and shirts – Round 1. The girls were fantastic, jeans and shirts and bonus flip flops were purchased for everyone and when Mr. Brickie texted me I didn’t even notice until an hour later when we were back in the car and I was asking Siri to get me home and he was home! He asked me to text him when I passed an exit about halfway home so he could preheat the oven for pizza. (We had already decided the night before dinner would be “frozen pizza night” because there was no way I was going to cook after the beach and shopping!)

I texted him back (using the voice function, NEVER looking at the screen always at the road!!) and when we saw the road starting to get congested and traffic starting to back up, I got off and took backroads the rest of the way home. The girls were happy to show off their new clothes, I was happy to be home, and Mr. Brickie was SHOCKED I went shopping after the beach. He thought the beach would be more than enough for me for one day.

I told him that passing by the mall on my way home was too much and I couldn’t NOT stop. It was right there.

We had dinner and I am still basking in the glow of accomplishment today.

Also, as an added bonus there is no dry skin on my feet. Walking all over the rocks and sinking in them with every step left my feet baby soft!

Is there something most people find easy that you find terribly difficult?




Renting: House vs. Apartment (Round 1)


I have a year to figure out what we want. Okay, maybe 9 months maybe a year somewhere around there. I’ve been trying to figure out the difference between renting an apartment and renting a house. Family and friends are leaning toward house because music and noise and the potential of being under someone who walks like elephants. When I wax poetic about not having to shovel snow or mow the lawn or rake the leaves, however, I can usually sway people to the apartment side pretty quickly.

The problem is, I have no real preference.

One of the things that was created in the great real estate bubble of 2008 were people who could pay normal levels of rent but not extreme levels of rent created by adjustable rate mortgages. Okay, it’s way more complicated than that but the point I’m trying to get across is that $1200 in rent is not out of the realm of possibility anymore. If you live someplace that is not the midwest you may need to scale that number up or down for your area. I pick $1200 because that was my mortgage payment and it will be (after one more promotion for Mr. Brickie) totally in the budget to pay that much for a place to live if I need to.

We have friends who live in a town near where we think we’re ending up and they are renting a three bedroom house for $800.

I can’t even imagine paying that little. Okay, I can totally imagine not paying that little because we pay zero right now as we go through this process, but rent being so much lower and then everyone knows that renter’s insurance is so cheap that in some cases  you end up getting it for free because the multi-line discount of auto insurance and renters can sometimes be bigger than the cost of the renter’s insurance and then all your stuff is insured. (If you rent, please have renters insurance. Please. Consider this a public service announcement.)

Back to this rent thing. There are these new things I’ve seen around here called Luxury Apartments. They’re new construction, very pretty on the outside, and they have a lot of square footage for an apartment. One we were looking at was $895/mo. for 1200 square feet. It had two bathrooms, ample closet space, and a little storage unit in your apartment. The grounds had a swimming pool (I cannot stress enough how in my imagination we are having pool parties for the kids and I am lying next to the pool sunning myself with a  mimosa while all my kids are in school), built in barbecue grills, and a clubhouse. Each building had its own laundry facilities in the basement. (The Luxury Apartment link is to an article that sums up pretty well what makes an apartment luxury vs. standard.)

That’s the bummer, of course. The laundry facilities instead of having a dedicated “just for you” washer and dryer. Especially with my “load a day” philosophy that could get expensive pretty quickly. Plus I’m sure they take quarters and I remember scrambling for quarters on the regular when I was young and in an apartment. I’m older and maybe a little wiser now so I think I could remember to pick up a roll of quarters at the bank now and then.

Renting a house you have a washer and dryer. You also have snow removal and mowing to worry about. Renting a house you have a yard, but many apartment complexes have a park for the kids on the land. It sounds like I’m veering toward an apartment, I know. I probably am. But then I think about the kids screaming or fighting and I think about apartments and just cringe to my toes. I would hate to have to be quiet as a mouse all the time because, you know, the neighbors on the other side of the wall.

There are just a lot more unknown factors that cannot be accounted for in an apartment setting. What if the next door neighbors smoke weed and the smoke comes into your apartment? What if your upstairs neighbors don’t put their kids to bed and they’re playing wrestlemania at 3am on top of your bedroom while you’re trying to sleep? With a house you have people to the left and the right and maybe behind but you’re separated by a little land. A little breathing room.

But houses come with house sized utility bills whereas apartments come with apartment sized utility bills.

I’m torn. I’m trying to figure out what will be best for us in the long run. The long run where I want to make sure my kids don’t have crippling student loan debt later in life. The long run where we go on vacation. I find it all pretty confusing overall, but these are my initial thoughts. I’m sure that in a few months my brain will have been kind enough to prioritize some of my wants vs. needs and I’ll be able to make a better determination.

I just don’t want to get trapped in the place where I am renting a house because the goal is a house. I want to make the best financial decision because my kids won’t give a crap if they have a yard if I can put them back in some extracurricular activities outside the house entirely, you know?

Let me know your thoughts. I’m lucky to have smart readers and know you will probably think of something I have not even considered yet.