How We Spent It 5/16/2016

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I meant to post this sooner. How can time move so slow AND so fast?

I went to see a long-time family friend graduate college and Mr. Brickie forgot to check the mail. That means his check didn’t get deposited until after 8pm on Thursday so it wasn’t available until today. Monday. Sometimes I wonder if he isn’t trying to kill me.

Paying bills is pretty much the only self-care we can afford right now. It keeps me calm, makes me feel like I’m on track, and no matter how bad he feels for not depositing the check on time it doesn’t take away that I had to resort to plan B to get that taken care of.

Like, just do your very, very small part. I swear it only entails getting off the couch, like, once.

So, today is Monday and the check is cleared. What I did last week so I could pay bills and not freak out was move the amount of his check ($721.30) from the Emergency Fund to the checking account and then today when it cleared I just moved that amount back into the emergency fund.

Thank goodness I had the emergency fund back up to $1000 or it wouldn’t have been nearly as easy. Also, there is a part of me that thinks with such an easy fix maybe I shouldn’t be frustrated at my (BROKEN) husband. Then I think no, because if I was fine with that mistake I’m sure he’d find a way to double down and make more interesting mistakes.

I could see him eventually being that guy who comes home out of the blue with a boat and a giant grin and yells, “Surprise!” like a boat is a thing that you do that with.

Violence would ensue.

I paid the car payment ($285.93) and the first installment of my 21-month dental bill ($125). The rest went to fill the buffer (aka overspending fund) from last week and grocery money and some of it was wasted gloriously when we took the whole family to local amateur wrestling. At $10 a head, local wrestling is expensive to take a family of five to go see. It is, however, worth every penny in entertainment value and we all needed a night out where we could hoot and holler with reckless abandon.

So here is where we stand on all the accounts. The Citi Diamond Preferred is nothing but dental work, which will have one more charge added tomorrow when I have my final appointment for the right hand side of my face. The reason the Discover

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The Mr. has his next follow up appointment this Wednesday and I’ll let you know how it goes. I’m hoping they take the stitches from surgery out because he’s being all crabby due to itching and general discomfort of the stitches, which usually means it’s time for them to come out. I am not a medical expert so whatever I say about anything remotely medical, disregard it outright. Thank you.
I’m also hoping his check comes on Wednesday like it did the first two times instead of Thursday like it did last time. It seems like it’s not a big difference (and really, I know it’s not) but I like paying bills on a Thursday because that’s when he got paid when he was working and it’s soothing because it reminds me he’s going to go back to work and this isn’t my “forever life” right now.

Ugh. After going to the dentist on Tuesday, the final bill came out to a bajillion dollars and my new 20-month payment to pay it off before the interest-free thing expires is $140. After $2500 in insurance coverage. My mouth was a mess. (On the bright side, from everything I’ve read online and asked my friends offline I got a good price for all I had done!) Now I just get quarterly cleanings so this was a one-off expense.

I’m also considering selling plasma to reduce debt and/or pay for summer activities. I’ll let you know how that goes.

I’m seriously trying to look on the bright side. See you Thursday (or Friday) with another How We Spent It!

Staying Busy and Under Budget

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There won’t be any tips or tricks on how to live with someone who is injured in this post because I’m struggling. He’s struggling. The kids are struggling. We’re all antsy and tired and stressed out. We are under each other’s feet. Slowly, we are learning ways to get out from under each other though so I guess that’s a start. I send him out to do errands because he can drive fine with one hand as long as he doesn’t do too much in a day. Errands make him feel like he has a purpose so he’s less crabby. He went on a walkabout last week and even though I was really worried because he was gone a few hours, when he came back he was in a much better mood.

mr brickie walkabout

I spend time in other rooms. It’s my therapy. He can watch TV and I’ll hide out in the kitchen….

clean kitchen

Or I’ll spend a few extra minutes in the bathroom……

clean tiny bathroom

 

Everything is clean and sanitized and if you look closely, yeah, even the sides of the toilet are clean. I’m doing my best to just…be productive. My computer is here in the living room and that’s why I haven’t updated. I try to type but there is no peace and quiet to collect my thoughts. The reason I have a minute to write this is he’s at Menards replacing the sink sprayer because I broke ours trying to take the limiter out (spoiler alert: It wasn’t the limiter. Oops.)

Mr. Brickie’s next appointment isn’t until the 18th. He’s trying to wean himself off the pain pills because his quality of sleep is awful on them. He’s doing good. I’m proud of him for even trying. He’s really being a champ and I don’t have any real complaints. It’s a stressful situation and he wants to be working and I want him to be working.

On the very, very bright side his workman’s comp checks are coming in regularly so far. We haven’t had any problems with the claim adjuster, the insurance company, his company he was working for when he got hurt, or the union. Everyone is being kind and helpful. We are still keeping detailed notes. The amount he gets paid is what he got paid when he was at 60% so we are struggling but making it, which is fine by me.

Okay, let’s have a really real honest moment though….it’s NOT FINE. He finally got the promotion where I could breathe. His paycheck was enough plus we could pay down debt a little. There was just a little bit extra. The noose finally loosened and we breathed. REALLY BREATHED. For probably the first time in years and now this. It’s killing me inside. It’s killing HIM inside. We are fucking gutted over it emotionally.

But then we remind ourselves how much worse it could have been, how lucky we are, all the things that you have to say so you don’t just lay in a puddle of sadz on the floor.

It doesn’t put us behind in terms of bills or our timeline for life. I mean, it does put him back a little toward his next promotion, because every week he doesn’t work is 40 hours he’s not getting credit for working toward his next promotion…but there is nothing we can do about that so worrying about it doesn’t do any good.

So I cook and clean and try not to spend money and he watches wrestling and runs errands and tries not to go stir crazy.

It’s a holding pattern. We are holding on to “being okay” with the skin of our teeth. Determined not to sink down into the bad place with the bleak thoughts.

Surgery Day (After) – Part 2

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Oh wow.

He’s in so much pain. They gave him norcos (Vicodin + acetaminophen) but they aren’t doing a damn thing. In conjunction with the top and bottom ice packs it feels like we’re reducing his pain by, like, 20%. He’s in SO MUCH PAIN.

I’m scared but trying to remain calm because:
A) No one else is going to remain calm.
B) The doctor sees him at 11am and maybe he can help.
C) I don’t have any more energy for freaking out.

So we are here and he is suffering and it sucks.

I slept last night but woke up every time he whimpered, called out, or moved in his sleep.

Thank goodness it’s Friday. The kids are going to go feral this weekend because we’re all just going to hunker down and get through it.

Or try.

Thank you for all your kind wishes. We will get through this.

Surgery Day – Part 1

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Surgery Day!

I’m so nervous I could … oh, hey, I have pills for this. One sec.

Okay. I should feel better in about 15 minutes or so. I used to have a prescription for klonopin and I didn’t use it that often but kept refilling the scripts so even though they’re on lockdown now (I need to find a pain management specialist locally) I have backup pills to take in times of great anxiety.

You know, like when you’re afraid your husband won’t wake up from the general anesthetic. That kind of anxiety.

My kids are all optimists and seem fine with the situation. I’m obviously not freaking out in front of them but I have told them I’m worried because I’m trying to walk that line between honest and selfish. I can’t use them for comfort, they’re kids.

He is still asleep, which is good, because he can’t eat or drink anything (including water) before his surgery. I’m not going to nudge him until about five minutes before we have to leave if he can stay asleep.

We haven’t received the first worker’s comp check in the mail yet. It should get here today, I hope. We haven’t been spending a lot of money, either, except for going out yesterday together for dollar taco Wednesday at the local bar because the tacos are awesome and he wanted a beer and to get out of the house.

Having a broken wrist is making him cabin fever crazy. He’s a doer and this is not going well for him. But he’s not crabby, so I’m counting my blessings.

Good thoughts are appreciated. I’ll update later today after surgery.

Surgery Looms and Workman’s Comp Update

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Mr. Brickie is going to need surgery. He will get a plate and pins in his wrist. I have no idea how long recovery time is for something like this. Google (so reliable!) tells me it will be anywhere from two to six months.

So there’s that.

The insurance adjuster called yesterday and let Mr. Brickie know that his first worker’s comp check had been cut and sent. She told him the amount but he worked on Monday so I don’t know if that’s a four day payment or a five day payment. He forgot to ask and doesn’t want to call back. Who am I to argue with a guy with a broken wrist?

So the payment she says is in the mail is $721.30. It’s enough to pay the bills, so I’m not complaining, but it does put us in a tight spot for the savings accounts. For example, the check that’s in the mail needs to go toward the car registration and to pay for both kids to go to summer camp. It was also supposed to have enough left over to pay into the rent savings $240/mo. but with groceries and stuff I’m not sure if that’s possible. We’ll see.

I’ve had to redo the budget for May entirely because the difference between his normal take home (barring rain days – which he had more than a few of in April) and this new reality is a drop of about $800/month.

Just when you think you’re going to start really getting ahead, right? It’s tough not to be angry and bitter about this. I’m trying to focus on the good things like the not dead part of the whole injury thing. I’m happy it’s just a wrist. I’m happy the surgeon feels good about Mr. Brickie getting back to work and how he feels the plate and pins will give him the strength he needs to do his job again. Everyone is very hopeful.

I just want to take a time-out from being responsible and thoughtful and punch a pillow and scream and just be scared for a minute. I can’t because the either the kids are around or Mr. Brickie is around. He feels so bad this happened (even though accidents happen to everyone and he honest to goodness didn’t do anything wrong) if I were to just let go and feel the scary feelings it would make him feel beyond awful. He doesn’t deserve that.

Yesterday on our way home from the doctor I started to cry in the car. He just looked all forlorn and started at his lap. That made me feel even worse so i started crying harder and he got a tissue out of my purse for me and just looked so damn sad I wanted to never cry again in my whole life because now my crying was making him feel like that. It’s just a mess.

So I’m forecasting the budget with the new weekly number (I hope it’s weekly. If it’s bi-weekly we are about to be in a world of hurt. I’m sure he said weekly.) and the one thought that keeps going through my head is, “Thank goodness we were living below his paycheck.” All the extra money from his promotion was going toward credit card debt payments. It’s a shame we bought a car, though, isn’t it? Ah well, at least the payment is only $285 and not the previous payment we had on the Mazda of $495.

I’ve been doing a pretty good job of not going back and judging past decisions. It wouldn’t do any good. It was an accident that could not be predicted by any budget.

Right now we are in stasis. I only called one family member about this yesterday. I only posted about it on FB because he did and I didn’t want to seem weird by not saying anything.

When faced with a real crisis I tend to go into hiding. I don’t want to talk about it until I have a plan for it. I want to curl up by myself in a dark room and figure out the puzzle so when I do talk to people it’s not just, “A bad thing happened.” I want the conversation to be, “A bad thing happened and here is how we are dealing with that bad thing.”

Lucky for me a friend offered to come with me on Thursday to wait while Mr. Brickie is in surgery. Until she offered I assumed I would be there alone with a book. I was so happy she offered to be there and bring coffee but still I almost said no because I didn’t want to be a bother.

I told that voice in my head to shut up and I said, “That would be great, thank you so much.”

I need to say yes more often.

Reducing the Grocery Budget for Fun and Advancement

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I am not 100% sure if we are middle class, but I think we live like we are. We live in the Midwest (so we aren’t paying LA rent or Alaska milk prices) and my husband is in a union so health insurance is an included part of the package and not a deduction from his check or something we have to pay for separately. The “Middle Class Mondays” series covers things I’ve always felt would be different when we had what I consider “enough” money and how those experiences compare to how things used to be for us or how they compare to how things were when I was a child.


My husband has spent years fighting with me for an increase in the grocery budget.

Most of our marriage has been me insisting we can live on the food stamp amount and no more. He would want to get something crazy like yogurt and I would be so angry because I knew he bought it without telling me because I wouldn’t’ have let him get it otherwise no matter how much our kids love yogurt. He just wanted them to have something special.

There have been several times in our marriage when we did not receive food stamps and every time I kept the budget exactly the same saying, “It’s what we lived on then, we can live on it now.” Which was never entirely true but it felt true, you know? Numbers might not lie but I would just not look at them because it felt like it should be enough. Yes, I know now that’s some seriously faulty thinking.

I gave the Mr. $80 a week to spend and he asked me to raise it. Then we went to $100. Then we went to $120. Finally, he’s managed over years to convince me we absolutely must have $150/week for our family of five which is both a lot and hardly any depending on who you ask.

So after all his fighting and eventual success, when he came to me yesterday and said, “I think we can eat for $80/week by having the same thing once a week.” I was shocked but intrigued. Could he really do what I’ve been asking him to all this time now that he’s not feeling the pinch of money? Will he be able to do this thing by choice he’s never been able to do by necessity? While I was looking at him with what must have been a confused face he continued, “It’s only temporary so it’s a fun experiment and hey, it will let you pay off the Macy’s card faster if we can put up with Angel Hair and Veggie Mondays and Taco Tuesdays for the next few months.

So I said, “Let’s do it.”

I feel kind of gross, though, not gonna lie. To purposefully reduce the grocery budget while keeping veggies and health at the forefront isn’t something we could have done as easily when we were really poor. Here in Indiana our food stamp benefit when we received them was $407/month for our family of five and we were just angry all the time trying to make that work. Costco made it easier because we could do bulk meat one week and then fill in the rest of the week.

Now all that knowledge of where the cheapest veggies are and where to get the best cheap salsa (Aldi) so we can put the mild salsa on the tacos and not worry about separate tomatoes being bought and cut up once a week is being used to pay down debt. We can buy the meat up front at Costco and then separate it into baggies and freeze it for individual meals. He might not be wrong, we might be able to do this.

Part of my brain knows that is a smart long-term move but the other part of my brain feels that if I can afford better food and I choose not to buy it I am a bad, bad person … and even worse mother.

It’s a constant tug of war between what’s best for the family right now and what’s best for the family long term.

But right now we are choosing the long term and getting those credit cards off the table as fast as possible. If that means we have to repead meals once a week for the foreseeable future? So be it.

My 25lb. bag of rice says, “It’s GO time!”

This story illustrates how different it feels when paring back the grocery budget is a choice. We have both been forced to choose for pretty much the entire thirteen years of our marriage. We’ve never been able to just go to the store and buy stuff without thinking. I still can’t, even with a $150/week budget but to go down to $80 feels scary. I want so badly to get ahead and I don’t want to sacrifice my kids’ well being but they will absolutely be getting not quite as much of the good stuff they’ve been getting lately. When our credit cards are paid off I’ll make them

On Broken Bones and Broken Finances

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Finance-Small-CircleOh my friends. We have come so far. Financially we have struggled. Lately I’ve been feeling a little weird because all this normalcy and regular bill and debt payment made me feel shy and like maybe it was only interesting to write about things being bad. I was assured by many kind and loving folks that it’s okay to celebrate stability when you finally have it.

Well, I guess when I had stability would be the appropriate tense. I did enjoy those two months in the sun, though, I really did.

On Monday, Mr. Brickie fell off a ladder and broke his wrist. He was being super safe, the ladder was not rickety, and he was almost at the bottom after taking care of some bolt thing. The ladder kicked out from under him and he fell on his right side. He texted me before driving home, “Hurt my wrist at work, should be okay. On my way home.” I figured he sprained or tweaked it a little and made sure we had enough ice in the freezer to make an ice pack of some kind. No problem.

When he got home his arm was hanging by his side, he couldn’t move it, and it was very swollen. I told him he needed to go to the ER and he said, “Yes, I would at least like to get it checked out.” Neither of us thought it was broken. Him because he didn’t think it hurt enough to be broken and I was just wishing the break away with all my might because you can’t lay brick with a broken wrist and we just got to this place where we’re stable and boring and were even doing better than we have in years and it couldn’t be broken it would be too awful.

The x-ray confirmed it, however, and he got his temporary splint cast until we can get to the orthopedic surgeon for a full diagnosis and permanent cast.

First off, I’m thankful for worker’s compensation and knowing we don’t have to pay for his treatment. I’m less thankful for all the hoops I feel we’ve had to jump through the last couple days to get a claim filed. The company he is with is new and I think this might be their first worker’s comp claim and, as such, they aren’t a whole lot more sure of the procedure than I am after a Google information binge. We should have what we need this morning, I hope. Then we can get him a cast and on the road to mending for good.

As for the finances, I have a little over $200 in my Digit account I can withdraw if I have to. I have the $555 in the emergency fund (yes, I do wish I had prioritized the emergency fund over debt payoff right about now) and I have no idea what his worker’s comp payment will be or when it starts. I assume we will find that out when the adjuster calls today. From what I’ve read it’s 2/3 of your after tax income based on the last 52 weeks of work. With rain days and winter off and a couple pay raises there is no reliable way to calculate that number. I mean, I do have all the paystubs but that seems like some serious overkill. I took the number from our tax return ($33k) and did the calculation with that. It’s not after tax but it’s also not accounting for a raise so maybe it’s close? I don’t know.

I’m working with the assumption that it will be eight weeks before he’s back to work. I will update my assumption when more facts come in. Eight weeks seems like a safe, middle-of-the-road starter assumption so I can at least start making a plan. Having your bills written down or in a spreadsheet really helps when you need to know the bare-bones of what you have to have to survive. (Bare bones? Really? Now is so not the time for awful puns…and yet…here we are.)

Tomorrow he will receive a full paycheck and the rest of this month’s bills will be paid. The last check of the month (next Thursday) will only have one day of work on it, but the whole thing was slated to go into savings accounts (rent savings and insurance savings) so I can make those up with the emergency fund or by not paying into them until he’s back to work.

I hate to put off rent savings, but I know myself well enough to know we can prioritize it once he’s back at work. We have until November 15th to come up with that money so it’s not an immediate priority. Right now there’s $485 in that savings account so I’ll try and avoid using it but at the same time I’m not going to feel bad if I have to use it to keep the lights on.

I thank everything good and holy that this happened:

  1. In spring.
  2. On a job that’s going to be years long so he has something to go back to when he heals.
  3. On a crew that considers him a real part of the team.
  4. On a crew where several guys he works with have called to ask how he is and making him feel better with their own broken bone stories.
  5. On a crew where everyone tells him they look forward to having him back.
  6. With a company that has changed when and how ladders are used so this doesn’t happen to someone else. It’s a small thing but very telling because it shows they view this as something that can happen to anyone and aren’t “blaming” him for the accident.

I’m trying to find my comfort in knowing this is temporary and I’m trying very hard to be thankful it’s only his wrist. It could have been so much worse but it wasn’t because he prioritizes safety and always faces his ladder so if he does fall he doesn’t fall off the edge of a building…because this happened on the second story and if his ladder was positioned the other direction he would have fallen two stories instead of three feet. He could be dead.

So….yeah…I’m kind of a messy jumble of emotions and emergency planning.

What the Middle Class Looks Like: Lice

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I am not 100% sure if we are middle class, but I think we live like we are. We live in the Midwest (so we aren’t paying LA rent or Alaska milk prices) and my husband is in a union so health insurance is an included part of the package and not a deduction from his check or something we have to pay for separately. The “Middle Class Mondays” series covers things I’ve always felt would be different when we had what I consider “enough” money and how those experiences compare to how things used to be for us or how they compare to how things were when I was a child.


When I was in Junior High we lived in California. A little town that no one has heard of if you didn’t live in it or near it.  The most exciting thing that ever happened was a drug lab a few doors down and across the street burned to the ground one day.

It was the kind of town where a guy with no legs would sit in his wheelchair on the porch morning and afternoon waiting for me to walk by on my way to school so he could shoot rubber bands at me. Across the street from him was a large, barren yard with three very angry large dogs that would bark and jump against the rickety, old chain link fence every morning and afternoon as I walked by. I quickly learned to walk in the middle of the street, but if a car came by I would have to choose the fence that didn’t seem stable with the very angry dogs or getting welts from rubber bands on my arms and legs.

You know, that kind of town.

The Junior High was mostly in a building but there were also trailers out back to deal with the overcrowding that was a serious problem.

When a lice outbreak hit, it was rough on everyone. My mother yelled about how expensive lice shampoo was and how long my hair was and how awful the town was but she bought some and took care of my hair. I’m sure it cost her in some other area, because we didn’t have extra money ever when I was a kid. That’s where the yelling came from. Something unexpected can turn your world upside down without having to be something large like a broken-down car.

The house with the angry dogs? They had two boys and a girl. That family decided the best route for lice removal was to shave their children’s heads. There was no way they could afford lice shampoo. The next day at school the girl was wearing a ski cap. In California. In May. I felt terrible for her. It’s the first time I really remember feeling terrible for another human being. She was so unhappy.

Here in the present day, my youngest got lice from kindergarten. I called our family doctor and she called in prescriptions for Sklice. Sklice doesn’t burn, doesn’t smell bad, and you put it on dry hair. You don’t even have to comb the bugs and eggs out (but I do anyway because I’m good at doing it without hurting the kids). I found a coupon online that I printed at home reducing the price of the bottle to $10/ea.

The problem is the doctor’s office phoned in a prescription for regular Nix on accident and when we discovered the error (CVS called us to let us know!) the office was closed. I had to treat the kids so I went to CVS and bought the normal stuff off the shelf and treated the kids and us that night for about $60 total. The next morning I got a call from the doctor’s office apologizing for the mistake and letting me know the problem had been corrected and the right prescription was ready at the pharmacy.

Even though we had all been treated already I went and picked up the prescription stuff because it can’t hurt to have good lice stuff in your bathroom closet, right? So I got the four prescriptions for another $40.

At no point did I complain, yell, wail, gnash my teeth, or freak out. I just got the stuff and did the thing and sent everyone back to school the next day. We treated all the stuffed animals and comforters and couch cushions (they fit in the washer, hallelujah) and that was that.

Last week we got another note that the class had lice again. I trimmed my youngest daughter’s hair, did another treatment, combed her out, and she was done. Again. There is a lot of hassle involved in washing all the things but I have a washer and dryer right here in the basement of my housepartment and so it’s not that bad. I don’t even pay for water in this building so the hot water to sanitize everything isn’t my problem except the gas to heat the water.

Two entire lice treatments were covered by the $100 buffer I keep in my checking account. Not even the emergency fund. The “just in case we go over” money. The first time one of the kids got lice a million years ago I was so much more like my mom. Where will that money come from? How are we going to make this work? Why is this happening to us? It was overwhelming and stressful.

While the annoyance of having to do all the lice things was still there, the stress was not. It amazed me how different the experience was when that expensive shampoo doesn’t break the bank, even when you’re buying it for three kids and two adults.

Even now after round two I still have one more full bottle of Sklice in my bathroom closet. I’m looking forward to summer because I feel like my kid’s kindergarten is a hotbed of lice right now. My stylist says it’s been absolutely awful everywhere this year. She would know. Also, I’m not going to lie I did start out looking for a service to take care of the whole situation for me but I don’t care if there’s a money back guarantee, I trust my combing skills more than someone else’s … even if it is their profession.

So that’s the transition. From catastrophic life-event to something you keep extra of in the bathroom closet, how a school lice outbreak affects a family is so much different here in the middle class.

How We Spent It 4-14-2016

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I am totally late posting this.

We spent this week’s check on bills. Except for the buffer refill which was money we spent the week before on going out as a family to a wrestling event. As you can see with the haircut line item, I’m trying to predict expenses better so I don’t have to keep refilling the buffer. (If I haven’t mentioned it lately the $100 buffer is money that sits in the checking account making sure we don’t overdraft. It was a Mr. Brickie request.) I am running out of ways to make bills interesting because they’re totally not. They’re a slow, steady drip of water from a midnight faucet in the back of the brain that never stops.

2016-4-14

I mean, we do the same thing every week. Pay bills, pay down debt. I did charge $555 to a credit card so now I have a new bill. $125/month toward the Citi card to get it paid off in 20 months. I wish I had the money in the savings account to not put it on a credit card, but I needed to get the work done before we got into root canal territory so I charged it.

Since dental isn’t something frivolous or fun I was torn if I should wait or get my mouth fixed.

I was so confused until I thought to myself, “What would I do if it were one of my children or my husband who needed this work done?” If it were one of them I would not hesitate to say, “I don’t care if we’re charging it – it’s your MOUTH.” So I’m trying to do unto myself what I would do for anyone else in my family.

Hopefully I will be able to pay it off sooner than 20 months from now but it’s the plan and the plan can be changed if something else gets paid off sooner.

The charge on the amazon visa is a book I pre-ordered. The money is in the category to pay it off but it hasn’t actually charged to the card yet because the book isn’t being released until May. As soon as it hits the card, I’ll pay that off.

2016-4-14 ynab

I also screwed up the Insurance Savings account and missed a month. I put aside $120/mo. and after six months it’s enough to cover the full policy premium payment and renter’s insurance annually. It used to be less but we bought a car last month and while I did calculate how much to save to cover six months, I did not take into consideration the policy would go up $240 for this upcoming six-month period. The insurance savings account only had $252 in it and the payment of $611 is going to autocharge on the discover card 5/18 so I needed to come up with a fix. I took that $252, paid it to Discover and I will make another $420 in payments over the next two weeks. (Next Thursday is a $240 payment, the week after $120.) That will mean I’ve paid down the card enough that when the charge goes through it will be a net-zero balance.

It stinks because the money next week was originally budgeted to pay down the Macy’s card, but insurance is always a priority. I will have to be content with a $15 extra payment to Macy’s next week and I’m trying to feel good because it’s a number bigger than zero. Every little bit helps, right?

It feels like I’m just about to make progress every week and then something trips me up. I know that Mr. Brickie getting a raise in June will make a difference and his promotion in July will make a massive, giant, huge difference. By the end of July he should be making over $5 more an hour than he does right now and that’s all going to go toward credit card debt.

I feel like everything is always on the wire still but we haven’t increased our casual spending at all. We eat out less now than when we had less money and no budget. I put aside $40 a week so we eat out nice once or crappy twice.

I do have about $200 in that amazing Digit account that steals money from you and saves it behind your back. I love the app and was trying to leave that there for Christmas but why am I saving for Christmas if what I really want is to pay off credit card debt?

The answer is probably, “Because you have kids, dummy.” I’m not sure which is the best answer.

If I were really committed, I would have a $0 eating out budget. I know. I get tired, I forget to thaw a thing, I have a million excuses for why I can’t commit at that level. Bottom line is I don’t want to commit at that level. I’m okay with that because $40 a week isn’t the problem.

The fact that I can realize I’m $240 short for next month’s insurance bill and can just reallocate money that was going to go to paying down debt and make a decision to put it on the insurance instead? That’s a huge win. I wasn’t filled with panic and dread, I was mildly annoyed.

If this were last year a mistake that big would mean not being able to pay the insurance all at once. It would be a lot of me crying and hating myself for being such a giant failure. It’s funny, the absence of self-abuse doesn’t really feel like a win because I never really notice I’ve stopped being such a total asshole to myself all the time. “Stupid. Not good enough. Loser.” the chant isn’t there anymore and what’s left isn’t a cheerleader telling me I’m awesome, it’s just silence. Fear, for me, is a loud, mean thing. Confusion is downright cruel in terms of self-talk.

Now there is space in my brain where those hateful voices used to be.

I’m doing my best not to fill the silence with anything new. I want to let the dust settle before I reevaluate my budget position and mental priorities.

In the meantime I’m not going to be angry at myself for buying my daughter a cookbook at the book fair yesterday because she wanted it and I want to start teaching her how to cook. Staying balanced without going overboard in either direction (being too loose or tight with finances) is not healthy. We went’ “scorched earth” when we had to and now we are very careful but eat out once a week and go to book fairs once a year. It’s not a crazy amount of money or change but it’s a little more than what it was.

I want just a few of the trappings that I consider part of the “normal life” I have dreamed of since forever. Nothing too fancy, just an occasional new color of nail polish or night out with my family to the local Elks club to watch wrestling instead of constantly dealing with the grind of barely surviving. It’s one thing to grind when you have to, I lived there for years and we all do what we have to do and I’m proud of myself for getting through it. Living that kind of grind by choice? That’s some monk-level hair shirt action I want no part of.

What the Middle Class Looks Like: Dentistry

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Disclaimer: I am not 100% sure if we are middle class, but I think we live like we are. We live in the Midwest (so we aren’t paying LA rent or Alaska milk prices) and my husband is in a union so health insurance is an included part of the package and not a deduction from his check or something we have to pay for separately. The “Middle Class Mondays” series covers things I’ve always felt would be different when we had what I consider “enough” money and how those experiences compare to how things used to be for us or how they compare to how things were when I was a child.


I have a great dental insurance plan. I know this because my dentist’s office keeps telling me so. It’s been years since I’ve seen a dentist because the last one was a public aid dentist in cook county and I was pretty sure she was trying to drown me in my own spit. (I had to sit up with the drill in my mouth because when I raised my hand she put it down and when I tried to shift she held my forehead.)

Needless to say, I’m a little bit freaked out by the dentist.

Yesterday I got a periodontal cleaning (that deep, under-the-gums cleaning you get when you’re old, not just the scraping off the front teeth one, they numb your whole mouth for this cleaning) and since I was in good shape the dentist decided to get the cavities on the left hand side of my mouth out of the way so she wouldn’t have to re-numb me later.

Eight cavities. Eight.

All the while I was praised by the dentist and the hygienist for how well I had cared for my teeth. I brush 2x a day and floss once – sometimes twice – a day. So while I was not surprised they praised me such consistent praise seemed almost overwhelming.

Then they focused on one another and started talking like colleagues do about kids, school, and life. I was much more comfortable when this started because I didn’t have to participate and could concentrate on being quiet and calm and not a person who freaks out at dental visits.

It all turned out fabulously. Sure, my copay (on an 80/20 PPO plan) was $555 but I had a new card I had opened with 0% APR for the first 21 months on new purchases. That means I have time to pay this off without paying interest. Great! I still need more work to the tune of 10 more cavities, a front tooth cap replacement, and probably some kind of whitening action. I’m getting the cavities finished this year. That means I need to start paying $125/mo. now in order to pay off the whole chunk in 20 months from now.

Almost 10 of my cavities are because my previous (public aid) dental work was shoddy and cavities were actually UNDER THE FILLINGS. So it’s not from lack of trying and lack of care that this happened. Which is frustrating.

So my overall total by the end of next month when all this is done (not including vanity procedures like whitening or tooth straightening which are total pipe dreams in my life still) I will end up owing a hair over $2,500 … for my teeth. With insurance. Very good insurance, according to the dental staff.

We could not have done this any sooner than this year. It wouldn’t have been even a little bit possible. It’s a shame, too, because I have to tell you I absolutely believe that dental should be part of all other medical and get covered like any other regular procedure at any regular doctor.

Mouths are important.