Category Archives: Budget & Finance

Plan: Balance Transfer That Debt and Get Through Winter

First, I want to congratulate Mr. Brickie on becoming an 80% apprentice! He had to take a test that consisted of building a wall and he failed it twice (once he was sick and once he was overconfident) but the third time was truly the charm! That’s the last test he will have to take before becoming a journeyman. Now it’s just a matter of working the hours and taking the training classes. (If all that is gibberish you can see more about how his bricklayer apprenticeship works at this link.)

So it’s great he got a raise and is now making a serious hourly rate that makes me blush to say out loud. Still, though, regardless of hourly rate a bricklayer has to work to get paid and now is the time of year where I try really hard not to whine about winter and the totally predictable lack of work Mr. Brickie is experiencing.

But wait! It’s different this year!

How, you may ask?

He’s working just enough that we don’t get unemployment.

Now, this is great on one hand because our tax return is hit hard when we use unemployment benefits (even though we have taxes taken out of his unemployment check it seems that 10% fed and 3.25% state isn’t enough) so getting through with a $200(ish) check every week is super unfun but I’m trying to think of how great it will be at the end of the beginning of 2018 when I file taxes and don’t have to put in unemployment benefits.

Does it sound like I’m grasping a little for a silver lining? I am, a little. Winter is always tough because we want to save and we want to have a savings account for this time of year. We do. January is when I sit down and make a plan for the year. As you know I’m a firm believer in spending the tax return before we ever see it so there is no temptation to spend that big check on something fun when we have responsibilities that need to be taken care of like rent and several small but annoying medical bills that have popped up on Mr. Brickie’s credit report.

This year’s big success is that we used ZERO credit cards for Christmas. I’ve been trying to achieve this goal for a couple years and this year we did it. Hooray!

This means every extra penny we make this year goes toward those darn credit cards. It’s time to pay them all off and get right with the balance sheet. If you like my page on Facebook you may have seen me talk about shifting 11k in debt from the Discover card to three other cards to take advantage of 0% offers and buy time to pay them off interest-free.

So, without further ado, here is the list of my credit card balances as of right now (balances include 3% transfer fees):

  • Chase Freedom $33.35 (This is the 5% gas rewards card. I pay it off weekly with the gas budget money.)
  • Costco Visa $2,220.16 (0% until Sep 2017 – This is the first one to be paid off.)
  • Citi Diamond $3,620.64 (0% until Dec 2017 – this card was only used for dental work.)
  • Chase Amazon $2,395.70 (This is one of the Discover xfer cards 0% until Feb 2018)
  • My Quicksilver $4,999.62 (Discover xfer 0% until June 2018)
  • Mr. B Quicksilver $3,999.49 (Discover xfer 0% until June 2018)

Don’t cringe. Don’t be sad. Don’t get mad. I didn’t use the cards to take vacations or buy drugs. We have a frugal lifestyle and I truly think I can get rid of this debt by – at the very latest – February of 2018.

I’ve even talked to the kids about it and they’re on board with a razor thin lifestyle to pay the cards off, too. They know the more we sacrifice now the better things will be in two years. Last time I asked them to tough it out for two years we moved and they are so much happier here, so this time it was easier for them to trust me.

I don’t want to let them down. I don’t want to let us down. I wish I could feel more secure in when things will be paid off but it’s almost impossible to do a proper financial forecast. The winter weather makes the paycheck lower and although he will start working full time again once the weather is getting nice he could get another promotion as early as June but maybe later, so there is no way to reliably have an idea when milestones will be hit in terms of paying down debt.

Last fall I was toying with the idea of sending the older two girls to fancy summer camps this year that teach things like electrical engineering and mobile app development. We’ve tabled that idea and they’re only going to go to the local nature camp. I refuse to increase our standard of living to match his paycheck or we’ll never get ahead.

Sometimes I think about how much farther along we would be if Mr. Brickie hadn’t broken his wrist. I’m sure he does, too. Five months out of work…who would have guessed that was in the cards? But the thought quickly passes because I felt about his injury the same way I feel about winter. Yes, it’s tough, and yes, it’s mentally exhausting but I love spending time with him.

What’s that people say about time or money? You have to spend one or the other? In our case it’s either we have time together or we have money and both are important to our long-term survival/success as a couple and as a family.

Nope Nope All The Nope

The credit cards are starting to shift from blessing to curse.

Or I’m losing my ability to say no.

Same thing, really.

That means it’s TIME TO BRING THE HAMMER DOWN on spending.

Which is an easier decision to make after making sure everyone has winter boots and coats that fit. So now is a perfect time to be in it to win it especially since I can claim Christmas is coming for anything I’m asked for.

I’m saving up for Christmas.

Mr. Brickie is still having some pretty serious pain in his wrist so is going back to the doctor at some point soon. He’s able to work but wants to make sure it’s nothing more serious. I don’t see that settlement coming for a long time at this point. I can’t find any online resources that give a general timeline so I’m just going to stick with “a long time” and not count on it for anything.

2017 is when all these cards we currently have lose their 0% APR status. So I have to figure out how to pay them off or transfer them before that happens. Pay them off is my first goal, of course but if I can move what I can’t pay that would be better financially.

I just found out our insurance is going to add a dental PPO come January so that $3500 I wasted on dental work was truly unnecessary spending. My bite is still off and I still live in fear of chipping/breaking my front tooth cap so really my whole mouth situation is a sad mess but I look good in pictures so isn’t that what really matters? (That’s me being sarcastic, it doesn’t happen often so I like to point it out!)

The kids have been a little down because they want a yard to decorate for Halloween/Christmas (not at the same time it’s just the complaints flip back and forth depending on the kid and the mood the kid is in) and I won’t let them decorate the common yard because, well, I don’t know. They’ll be happy when we put the lights in the windows and the tree up. You can see that from outside and that will make them smile.

We aren’t sure where we’re spending Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s right now. It’s the most up in the air we’ve been about holidays in years but I’m less stressed than I’ve been about it probably ever so I’m trying really hard not to look that gift horse in the mouth. If I’m not stressed, I’m good with that, and can keep on moving forward.

I wish we had a house, too. At this point I don’t even care if it’s a rental or an owned home. I don’t even have a type of house in mind … there are some in this town that are new and beautiful and look like every other suburban house … there are others that look like old farmhouses (they probably were) and have beautiful detail on the house and the yards are either tiny or stunning … there are also mid-century modern homes dying to be updated with my retro chic IKEA modern sensibility … there are also crap heaps that are $30k that could be made into something much nicer.

A whole range of home choices in one town. It’s strange. Oh, and there are also plots of land for sale and builders happy to build what you want. Some are in HOA communities and you have limited options and some are just land next to someone else’s house and you can do whatever you want on the land as long as it’s to code.

Oh, hey, did you see what I did there? I started with this whole thing about not wanting to spend any more money and getting down to brass tacks with these credit card payments and I almost seamlessly shifted into daydreaming about a house.

Yeah, I’m good at not thinking about stuff when I don’t want to. It’s a blessing and a curse, for sure.

After paying $1200 for Middle Sister to be on a travel volleyball team (maybe not my soundest decision) and a couple thousand to get the cats home and set up with vet visits and food and litter boxes and whatnot we have about $15k in credit card debt.

It’s stupid scary.

Tomorrow I’ll put the overtime money back into the emergency fund like I’ve been doing and it will be at just over $1k. Then we are going to go Dave Ramsey style and pay off the cards smallest to largest. Since workman’s comp isn’t taxable income, we should get a crazy good tax return because without that five months added to the bottom line we have a pretty low income.

It’s weird. This was supposed to be the year we didn’t qualify for earned income anymore. Ah well. One more year I guess. It’s going to be helpful, that’s for sure.

But even assuming an $8k return (which we both know I could be totally wrong about) $6,750 will immediately go toward rent and that will not leave enough to make up for the sloppy way I’ve been acting with the plastic. Even if the tax return is $10k we’re only going to be able to put $3250 toward credit cards and that will almost…ALMOST…pay off the dental work credit card.

Of course, snowballing will be much easier when Mr. Brickie gets his next raise. 70% (his apprentice level now) is enough to pay the bills but when he gets bumped up to 80% it will increase his check about $220 a week ($880/month) and every penny can go toward credit cards which would have us all paid off in 17 months. But! In that time he will get another rung up on that apprentice ladder which means another $220 a week as well as another tax return.

Also, at some point in the distant future, he will get a settlement from the insurance company. We can wait.

Nothing can be predicted at this point.

In the meantime, I’m going to stop spending money as much as possible. There are things that are going to come up. A perfect example is Big Sister being in band. She needs black shoes, black socks, and black pants for a recital she’s having this month. I picked up the black shoes last week when we went shopping for Little Sister (she had grown out of every shoe in the house!) and I used a coupon and some rewards thing from DSW to get those shoes for a few dollars instead of $25.

I’m not good at couponing, but I do what I can.

So I’m saving money when I do have to spend, spending less and aiming for $0 of spending on wasteful things.

Time to tighten up the belt if our family is going to get everything in check. I’m looking forward to it. The better the budget the more it feels like freedom!

I wanted to end on a hopeful upnote (upnote? I don’t think that’s a word…) but honestly I’m embarrassed we let this happen. It’s not a bunch of charges for stuff, it’s not a bunch of things I regret, so I don’t feel bad about the spending…I just…understand it’s time to yank the reigns and pull the spending horse to a fast and sure halt.

It’s time to get these ducks – if not in a row just yet – at least in a pen so they’re easier to chase. =)

How We Plan to Spend It, a Rain Day, and Planning

I keep a google sheet with two month’s of budget forecasting. If I go more than two months out it all gets totally messed up and I spend hours fixing months that won’t come for, well, months! Even with this month and next month being the only ones I still make a lot of changes based on things that come up in any given month.

My goal is to streamline this so I don’t have to make those changes.

This next check is the “extra check” or “fifth check” and while my true desire is to plunk it all in the emergency fund, I think a better use is pre-paying gas and tolls for next month to the tune of $150. What I really wanted to do was prepay the gas and tolls AND cat food/supplies but there was a rain day so Mr. Brickie only worked 32 hours last week, not 40. It will still be a better paycheck than if he was hanging out at home being sad and injured and receiving workman’s comp so please don’t think I’m complaining. Rain days are part of life.

Also, I don’t know if I told you but he did get a raise while he was away from work. 77 cents an hour. I’m telling you guys, if you have someone who likes working with their hands, steer them to a union. He doesn’t have to read Cosmo articles on “getting the raise you deserve” and his life isn’t in the hands of one guy who thinks himself superior because he’s middle management. I also understand that unions aren’t awesome everywhere for every trade and they might not be right for everyone but man, it’s been a life changer for our family. The kind that makes me wish we had found it when we first got married.

How different our lives would be now!

But we all know you can’t go back and we’ve learned so many lessons going the route we did, I don’t know that we would be such a solid team if we hadn’t had so much adversity.

I also have a birthday to pay for with this check. The birthday girl wants to go to a hibachi restaurant. She was fascinated the last time we went. I want to get her a cake from the local bakery. I don’t know what I’m doing about a gift but I’ll figure it out. Lucky for me it’s only a family party and I don’t have to worry about goodie bags or anything like that. Whew!

We have been really optimistic since Mr. Brickie has gone back to work. We aren’t sure how we are going to afford all these things coming up like Christmas and next year’s summer camps for the kids, but we are taking it one day at a time, one purchase at a time.

I’m glad we have the steam mop and the chest freezer and they have both come in so handy since their purchase. We are going to buy a shed for the winter to keep bikes and things in so we free up some space in the basement for other things. If we are going to stay in this apartment for a few more years, I want it to be a pleasant and organized place to live. Plus, I want to make sure there isn’t ONE thing in this house we wouldn’t move with us when we do move. I’m planning years in advance to make sure my next move is organized and uneventful. 

Until then I dream of moving and either buying or renting a nice house. I have a very boring fantasy life. I’m either daydreaming about a house or I’m daydreaming about paying off debt and what that will feel like to be stable and debt free. That’s right about when I remember we have student loans and the expansive feeling of freedom gets tamped down a little bit. We’ll get there, I know we will, it just feels like it’s taking forever.

Today I had a list of things to do – including shopping for dinner – but Little Sister has a little fever and is nauseated so she’s staying home from school today. There go my “leaving the house” errands. I hope she feels better tomorrow because I have to go to the bakery to order her a cake!

How We Spent It 9-22-2016

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I cannot express properly how happy I am we are back to regular paycheck updates. No more workman’s comp! He’s back and doing really well at work. We are all much calmer now. It was getting tense around here, I tell you….TENSE.

There was some much-needed breathing room in the budget this week. Most of it went to continue to fix the overspending mistakes of week before last through part of this week. I feel like I’m back on track to stop spending money now, I hope. 

Paycheck (with raise) $939.77 (up from $920.21)

  • Gas/Electric $202 (love that budget plan!)
  • Prescriptions for October $22
  • Gas/Groceries/Cats/Tolls/Other $457.75
  • Union Dues $20
  • Insurance (auto/renters) Savings $120
  • Refill the $100 buffer from last week’s overspending $100
  • Pay for going to to lunch yesterday which was not on the budget $20

Next week is the “extra” check for the month and it gives me a chance to put away gas and toll money for next month. The eventual goal is to pay everything a month in advance … or have it in next month’s budget waiting to be paid since some bills – like the gas/electric – can’t or shouldn’t be paid in advance.

There was a rain day yesterday so Mr. Brickie only worked two hours. It was nice to have him home for a “surprise” day off. I mean, sure, I would rather he was working but my mood isn’t going to change the weather so I choose to enjoy surprise alone time.

It’s wonderful having him back to work. The days are back to their normal rhythm. The afternoons are strange with one child getting home a full hour before the other two. When the younger two get home they are both excited and get loud and talky and folder shoved in my face-y all at once and it’s a bit overwhelming, to be sure. I have to come up with some kind of system where they take turns being first to show me stuff and it will calm down. When he was home he would look at one kid’s stuff and I would look at the other. Not a big deal, but something to figure out.

I’ve been dabbling back in fiction writing. I keep startings stories that shine bright like a sparkler and for just about the same amount of time. The ideas are interesting, but I don’t think any of them are strong enough to be the backbone of a novel. They feel more like short story ideas. I will continue to work on it, though, because it’s what I want to do. You know, my passion or whatever the kids are calling it these days.

We still haven’t decided on a solution for my daughter’s trombone dilemma. She’s been lugging it home but that’s not going to work come winter. I don’t know what to do. Renting a second instrument seems both expensive and excessive. The band department said they would check if they had an extra but another person in the department said they were all being used by kids in need. She really likes playing (and is turning out to be really good at it) so I want her to have as much access as possible. I’m torn.

Today’s big chores are to pick up cat food, order a cake for Little Sister’s birthday, and shop for dinner. I’m actually skipping the shopping for dinner because we had frozen chicken in the freezer and I put that in the crockpot with some liquid and ranch seasoning and bacon crumbles. I’ll serve it over pasta with a couple sides of veggies and the girls will be thrilled. I try to cook healthy but unless it’s some kind of raw, vegan pile of veg….I’m not actually sure what’s healthy anymore.

On Credit Cards and Reports and the Future

I zip the bag that holds my unused credit cards and said goodbye to the Chase Freedom card.

As much as I love revolving categories, I love simplicity even more. I don’t want to have an index card folded in Mr. Brickie’s wallet that clarifies what card to use for what purchases. We are down to using the Discover IT card (we are still in the promotional first year where all purchases are a minimum of 2% cash back) and the Costco Anywhere Visa.

As previous inquiries drop off our scores are going up. The goal is to have great credit if we decide to buy a house and even though that decision isn’t going to get seriously considered for another two years, now is the time to start improving the score so it’s already taken care of when we need it.

There are also a couple medical bills on the report but two of them are from a company that does “pay for delete” (legal for medical bills) and the third is a crappy debt scraper company that probably has non-legitimate debt they’re trying to collect on… so I’ll cross that bridge in the next couple weeks after I get some ink for the printer and print out our credit reports.

The two medical bills I’m going to have to pay make me really angry. We are being charged because a hospital billed the wrong insurance. Then it was too late to bill the original insurance and they never contacted us or sent anything from the hospital, they just sent us to collections. Even though everything is correct in the system at the hospital, the collections company has the proof of debt owed from before they fixed it so they have the proof.

So we’re going to pay it because I don’t want it on our credit.

It’s bad enough to have things on your credit report you legit made a mistake with and can honestly say you owe the money. I’ve cleared things like that off in the past and always consider it a lesson learned. These new debts owed from mistakes and debt scrapers? They’re infuriating.

I’ve done a lot of research and all roads lead to, “If it’s under $500 just pay it.” We don’t have that kind of cash for debt payment right now, but we might soon. We’ll see.

Luckily, now that we’re out here in our new digs I only go to a handful of places and they all have amazing customer service. If I call the hospital, they’ll tell me exactly how much I owe them and I can make it right – sometimes they even offer 10% off just because. I have a PPO so I tend to owe the hospital money for the 15% copay we are responsible for if we go to urgent care, the emergency room, or if I go to my lady doctor who has an office in the hospital and bills through the hospital. Even the off-site but same-parking-lot mammogram facility bills through the same department and everyone who works there is absolutely stellar.

We have done a great job keeping on top of our bills as Mr. Brickie’s income has increased. No vacations, no fun stuff, just noses to the grindstone and the occasional day out for fun. So I guess there has been some fun stuff but within reason. It’s a good thing we did or when his income went down to 70% we would have been struggling. As it was we were able to pay the bills and get by and now we’re back up and next week we will go back to the budget the way it used to be.

My poor emergency fund. The $400 for swim team was a cash-only deal so I wrote a check and there went the rest of the emergency fund. This week is the last low paycheck and it’s going toward the gas/electric bill and the subscription savings. Next week I won’t be able to because it’s all spoken for. I’ll tell you about it when it happens. My projections get wrecked and I’d hate to show off how dramatically they change. It can get embarrassing.

Heck, even posting here is embarrassing sometimes! I want to be so much farther along than we are right now. I want to already have clean credit reports and a six month emergency fund. I want Mr. Brickie to already be a Journeyman. I want to hit the financial fast forward button. Of course, since we were on pause for almost five months, maybe being back on track will feel like we’re on fast forward anyway.

One can hope.

If your’re curious about your credit report but don’t know where to start, I learn about credit reports and getting things off my credit report and credit cards from several places online. I use more than one site – always – so I can see different opinions on the same issue.

And That’s Why We Will Always Live in an Apartment

We were in Michigan visiting family this past weekend and talking about all the little expenses that come up throughout the school year. I mentioned school pictures being $62 for two kids for just the CD with the digital image and the class picture, paused, and said, “…and that’s why we’ll always live in an apartment.”

It became a running joke through the afternoon. I talked about sending them to an additional camp next summer but worried the price is so much more than the regular camp they attend during the summer now….and that’s why we’ll always live in an apartment.

The expenses of having children are going to increase at a rate that feels like it will outpace Mr. Brickie’s earning potential during those same years. If it were a graph you’d look at it, nod your head, and say, “…and that’s why they’ll always live in an apartment.”

If we were to consider getting a house we would have to save up a down payment. We would have to pay earnest money and (possible) closing costs. We would have to decorate the place or at the very least paint the bedroom and kitchen. All of that costs money and if that money is going toward a house it’s certainly not going toward our kids. Plus, we would have to save for things like a broken water heater or replacement lawn mower. Even if we used the emergency fund you still have to pay yourself back for the next emergency.

These are the years. The important ones where the tweens start to make real decisions that have a lasting effect. I want to make these years the ones that matter in terms of extracurricular activities. They should be exposed to a whole bunch of amazing people doing really cool stuff. Summer camps where they learn to code mobile apps and take courses in electrical engineering. Where they learn that tech and science are fun and full of wonder and imagination. I want to send them to art camps and writing camps, too, so they can harness their fears and feelings into stories and colors.

The only priority I have outside of the kids is paying off credit cards and having a six-month emergency fund. I can pay off the student loans after they’re out of college if I have to. If I can swing it sooner, great, but I’m not feeling any pressure because I’m fine having them as a pet until my hair is gray and stairs become a challenge as long as it doesn’t get in the way of my parenting.

Oh, there is one other priority that is kid-adjacent.  We are going to save up so for the experience that will be my brother’s Disneyland wedding in November of 2017. We want to stay for longer than just the wedding so the kids can have some fun. I want to do the VIP tour guide thing so I don’t have to wait in lines or figure anything out. Of course it’s crazy expensive but I figure it will be our one and only Disney trip so might as well make it an affair to remember.

….and that’s why we’ll always live in an apartment.

Middle Class Monday: Mr. Brickie’s First Day Back

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Today’s Middle Class Monday is really special. We were in the middle class and then, five months ago, Mr. Brickie fell off a ladder and shattered his wrist and *poof* we were out of the middle class just like that. Today marks the day we’re back!

When a poor person gets injured they may have been working for cash or under the table. They may not get workman’s comp. They may not have a way to support themselves when they are hurt. Even if they do, they may not have a way to get to physical therapy and post-op surgery appointments. There are so many ways a situation can go wrong.

Because we are (barely? almost?) middle class we have a reliable car that got Mr. Brickie to all his appointments. Because we have a phone plan we were able to put all those appointments into Google Calendar and get reminders. Because he is part of a union he knew he would have a job to go back to. So much support was in place for him it felt like Disney’s version of a work injury. I fully expected bluebirds at some point.

Last but certainly not least his workman’s comp payment (70% of gross earnings) was enough to live on because he made a living wage to begin with. If he was making minimum wage those payments would have been about $185/wk. Certainly not enough to live on even considering our rent is paid through November.

It’s just another way being poor is so much more difficult. I wish people would see other people and think, “Wow, you’ve done a lot to get where you are.” Even if where they are isn’t someplace the looker would choose to be, you know?

Now it’s time to change the subject to Mr. Brickie’s first day!

Last night was awful for both of us. We didn’t sleep well, the cats were anxious, the kids even had trouble falling asleep. Everyone was so nervous about his first day back to work.

He went to practice at the training center last week, so he knows he can still rock it out. His trainers were really happy with his performance.

It’s like the first day of school. You know the place, you’ve been there before, you know the people, but you’re still nervous. He’s very lucky to be going back to the same company (the same job, even!) because they are looking forward to having him back and will understand if he has to ice his wrist on lunch or whatever.

Also, he’s already set up with direct deposit so I hope that sails smoothly next week.

I’m not sure there is a way to adequately express how relieved I am we are back on track with the five-year plan. I mean, it’s altered and set back five months but it’s still the same plan since we made the decision to stop fighting the losing battle to keep the house in Illinois.

Overall, it’s been better than I could have imagined. The school district is better for my kids here, I’m closer to people I know and trust here, I’ve made and lost friends here but I’m still coming out at a net positive so I’m doing great there, too. As soon as he gets that first paycheck from working next week, I’ll be able to replenish the emergency fund and then start paying down credit cards.

We have about $1,000 more in credit card debt now than we did when he got injured five months ago. It could be worse. It could be better. I did get that $5,000 windfall but spent it mostly on my daughter’s contact lenses and the rent savings account.

September is an “extra check” month, too. Not having any bills to spend the check on will give us about $462 and that is almost halfway toward filling the emergency fund back up.

I hope he’s having a good first day back. I’ll be home and worried, waiting for him. I mean, I have errands to run today but I’m going to spend a couple hours after the kids leave for school sitting silently on the couch contemplating my life changing back into something I am familiar with.

How We Spent It 9-8-2016

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First, I would like to apologize for the twenty half-written pieces of crap I have not finished and posted.

Second, you’re welcome because I didn’t post twenty half-written pieces of crap.

MR. BRICKIE GOES BACK TO WORK MONDAY!

It deserves all caps, I promise.

Here are the bad decisions and good decisions I’ve made this month that cost tons of money:

  • OrthoK lenses for Middle Sister $1100
  • Chest freezer $140
  • 2 Tires $165
  • 2 Cats $700 (this includes two vet visits with a range of shots and a year of revolution) the cats also have a lovely godmother who donated $100 to cover the adoption fee because they are shelter kitties and she wanted to support that. (It happened after the fact and had nothing to do with the decision.) I am very appreciative!
  • Steam Cleaner $60 (on sale – $20 off!)
  • OIl Change $33 (was a special)
  • Shed ($250)
  • Volleyball for Middle Sister $300
  • Swim Team for Little Sister $400
  • Paint for living room $70
  • 2 of those 9 square storage cube things for the living room and bedroom and six cubes to go into the cube things $90
  • 5 clearance T-shirts from Old Navy $30
  • Probably more things I’m forgetting right now.

As much as I could I covered within the budget and the rest is new credit card debt.

This is why Dave recommends cutting up all your cards so you can’t go back to using them again. He knows you’re going to get tired of not being able to buy a box of waffles, a package of ground beef, and a package of chicken from Costco and not have them all fit in my freezer (I have a basic apartment-level freezer because I live in an apartment. It’s very nice and I’m not complaining, but it’s an apartment with an apartment refrigerator.

I don’t regret any of the purchases. The cats and the paint have made my anxiety plummet. More than anything I was freaking out because I did all this spending BEFORE the doctor appointment where we knew Mr. Brickie was going back to work on Monday. It was a gamble and I hate gambling but I did it because I just got so tired of being so careful all the time.

Not, like, normal “I’m so tired of this crap” but this ground-down boot-heel-on-my-neck tired. I was over everything and didn’t care anymore. I had run out of steam to keep my husband and kids not worried and feeling like everything was normal for the last almost five months while he healed. Tired of pretending I wasn’t scared and making sure I only cried in the shower. Tired of not knowing what the next year would look like. Tired of berating myself for putting all our eggs into one bricklaying basket and not knowing if that was going to work out after all.

So tired.

The thing is, I don’t regret the purchases and I don’t think paying for them is going to cause a problem. I sacrificed our future earnings for present comfort … while he was injured. It’s not like I decided we were going to live beyond our means. I might be rationalizing but come try and get me to return something and I assure you rationalization or not I’m perfectly content with the level of spending and all the decisions. Nothing was an impulse buy.

It’s Thursday and how we spent it for Check 2 of the month is easy because it’s household stuff and a car payment. That’s it. We are budgeting $87.75/wk toward cat care. It should cover food, litter, and savings for their annual vet visit plus annual revolution when they need that next year.

But this morning I had $177  in spending money. Usually it’s $200 but we were a little short this week because of the cats being an extra expense. So I thought to myself, “This should be easy. Kids are in school. Mr. Brickie is going to start work, I don’t leave the house…I won’t spend it all!”

Hello Thursday at 9:25am…

  • A new cooler (his was ruined on the job site after his injury) for Mr. Brickie ($20)
  • Two kids have school pictures today ($64) ← cheapest package for each
  • Celebration lunch with margaritas Wednesday! ($30) ← including tip!
  • Oil Change yesterday for Mr. Brickie ($33)
  • Swim Cap for Little Sister ($10)

So I’m at $20 in spending money until next week. Yeah…that might work but it might not. I’m not sure. It depends on Mr. Brickie’s lunch needs and if some other random thing comes up for one or more of the three kids I have in school. I’m not complaining, we got to celebrate and it felt great.

Now I have to spend some time on financial projections and figuring out how to fix all the credit damage I’ve done to us over the last month. I also have to figure out exactly how the transition from workman’s comp checks to work checks is going to happen. I have to look up when he was getting paid before his injury.

Okay. It looks like he will get his last workman’s comp check Thursday, September 15th and the first direct deposit from going back to work will be Thursday, September 22nd. I am guessing the direct deposit will be smooth because it’s the same company as before and so he already did the “waiting thing” where you get a check first and then you get direct deposit after that. It could actually be a seamless transition. Fingers crossed.

These are the things I worry about at 5am.

Plus the fan that brings the air conditioning from the bedroom window unit to the living room just broke. So…that’s another unexpected expense. I’m so tired.

I know we are doing great because even though there is $7 in my emergency fund I have three months of rent in a savings account. Things aren’t bleak or even dark. I should even be able to replenish the emergency fund back to $1000 by around the end of October (okay, Little Sister’s Birthday is coming up so maybe that might put us back a little but not much) so I know this bone-tired feeling is temporary.

It might be the memory of this feeling – a feeling that was constant and unrelenting for a decade – is too easy to conjure. Emotional muscle memory of a sort. We had just gotten out of this scary place and found ourselves back in a version of it that was different but looked awfully similar.

I really look forward to getting back on the five year plan track we were on. This has set us back more than I would like but it didn’t derail us, and that’s what matters.

How We Spent It 8-11-16

how-we-spent-it-workmans-comp

In this moment, I know the truth.

We are going to be apartment dwellers for at least two more years. I like being a renter in some ways, well, most ways really. I have checked calculators to see at what level owning is smarter than renting and can’t wrap my head around it. With Mr. Brickie being injured and off work for four months on the 18th everything feels unreal. Plans are nothing but dreams and we are living day to day.

We did get kittens from the County Shelter, though. Not the greatest financial decision since they cost $50 each and then we had to buy litter boxes and litter and food and take them to the vet for an initial checkup. They did already come neutered and with some initial vaccinations so the $50 was a great deal, but it was still money.

I also dropped the first $650 on Middle Sisters Orthokeratology (OrthoK) lenses. She has had them for a week and they are AMAZING. They’re hard contacts she wears overnight while she sleeps. They come out in the morning and *poof* perfect vision all day. She will never have to worry about her glasses or contacts while in a pool, while working out, while playing sports, while riding her bike. It’s probably my proudest moment as a parent to be able to give her that. Especially now that she seems to be over-the-moon in love with volleyball. No sport goggles. Hallelujah. I bought them with money I set aside from selling that domain name or I don’t know what I would have done. To be honest, I probably would have put it on a credit card. It’s my kid’s eyes and the lenses also reduce how severe her myopia will get through her life. It’s not convenience, it’s a possible life-changer. She’ll never have to worry – like I do – about retinal detachment.

Every night I put her contacts in for her. It’s awful. Tonight she will try to do it herself. I’m scared, but I know it has to be a hundred times easier to put them in your own eyes than to have your mom’s finger coming at your eye, right? I have soft contacts and can’t imagine someone else putting them in my eyes. I mean, it’s not physically awful, just uncomfortable for me knowing she’s uncomfortable with me coming at her eye with my big ol’ finger. (Tuesday update – she puts in her right lens and I put in her left. When she has the right lens mastered I’ll have her work on the left eye.)

How We Spent It!

Workman’s Comp: $721.30
Car Payment: $285.93
Subscription Savings: $50
Medical Savings: $15.37 (I went over on cat stuff last week and needed to put $15 back into this category)

That’s it.

The weekly checks get spent like clockwork these days. I still have an excel sheet (okay, a Google Doc Sheet, whatever) where I look at the current month and the next month in case something changes or comes up, but I don’t even know if that’s necessary anymore. I could just write where the bills go on an index card and tape it on the wall.

Which is pretty much my dream for how easy I want my budget to be every week. One index card. Heck, I could probably fit it all on a post it note. All leftover money goes to a credit card but right now there is no leftover money because he’s making 70% of his income home injured. (NOT that I’m complaining, thank goodness for workman’s comp or we’d be under a bridge living in a box. You think I’m exaggerating. I don’t see another outcome.)

How We Spend It Paycheck by Paycheck (after gas/groceries/tolls/spending money categories are filled which is $370/wk.)

1st Check: Credit Card AutoPayment Bills (domains, cable, cell phones), Medical credit card minimum payment, prescription payment, union dues payment

2nd Check: Car Payment, Subscriptions (amazon prime, hosting, costco membership, car registrations)

3rd Check: Nipsco, Insurance Savings

4th Check: No bills (Usually rent savings but I used the domain sale check to fill this category up)

That’s probably going to change next month when I figure out what our weekly cat expenses (food/litter/savings for vet bills) will be.

I need to fill the Christmas category and Summer 2017 category but I am pretty sure those won’t see a penny until Mr. Brickie goes back to work. I need to replenish the emergency fund because school supplies and cat stuff (neither one a real emergency) have me down to $493. September is a five check month regardless of Mr. Brickie being home or at work but I can tell you right now that if he could go back to work during a five-week month that would really go a long way to getting jump-started toward Christmas.

To mention Christmas is to summon an angry, magic blue fairy who comes down (or up) and curses me immediately. Saturday Mr. Brickie took the car in (because I was tired of him pooh-poohing the low tire pressure light every time I mentioned it) and there was a slow leak in one tire (covered by warranty) and the other tire had such low treads we needed to replace it … because it was a summer tire. No wonder I hated driving in the snow last winter. There went $169 I wasn’t planning on spending…but hooray for good tires for this winter! A good thing to come out of this is Mr. Brickie promises he’ll never doubt me again when I say something is wrong with the car. I know he meant it in a good way but my brain was like, oh, okay, it only took 13 years to convince you. Nice. (All the side eye. All of it. All for him in this moment.)

Or maybe my budget got thrown in the dumpster because I was talking about how smoothly it was going and how everything had its very own check.

But it probably happened because the tire treads wore down from use and it was just time to replace the tires.

The angry blue fairy is way more fun though, isn’t it?

On the super-bright side it’s looking like he might be cleared for work at his next appointment with the orthopedic surgeon September 7th. It’s all up to the doctor, of course, so I’m trying not to be TOO hopeful but by golly there’s a spark of happiness in my heart. He could be back to work next month. Yes, I was hoping for this month, but again, I trust the orthopedic surgeon and he’s done right by Mr. Brickie since day one. I really respect the guy.

In the meantime, Mr. Brickie is going to physical therapy and practicing laying mortar at home so his skills aren’t trashed when he goes back to work. He’s doing everything he can to get back and I’m so proud of him for working so hard to get well and go back. His work ethic is a beautiful thing.

I started writing this on Thursday and now it’s Tuesday, the day before school starts. This blog post should be amazing with all the time it’s taken to write!

So all the things I thought I had MORE time for this summer (writing, breathing, etc.) I actually had less time for with the whole family home all day. I will do my best not to forget that again.

Money is tight but not overwhelming. With Mr. Brickie on workers comp we qualify for reduced breakfast/lunch rather than free this year, which I’m cool with. My job is to provide accurate paperwork. Whatever I qualify for is based on a chart and I’m thankful for anything, really, because every little bit helps our forward momentum.

But let’s be honest…nothing is going to help like him going back to work is going to help. Now I have “It’s the Final Countdown” stuck in my head.

How We Spent It – Windfall Edition!

how-we-spent-it-windfallI have a whole post about opening my 11 year old a limited checking account with a debit card but it’s so dry and boring I can’t bring myself to hit publish. Maybe I’m being too critical but I am a funny, interesting person and when I can’t bring that out in my writing it makes me sad.

We had a really unexpected windfall this week. I sold a domain name. The parenting blog I wrote for years before I decided writing about my kids without their consent didn’t feel right (you do you, no judgement). It was sort of, mostly easy to change over to finance blogging and viola, I let the domain name hang out and not go anywhere because there were articles and things with the byline and I didn’t want someone scammy to come along, scoop it up, and pretend my prior work was theirs.

Long story short I’m in the middle of a legit transaction that will be complete in about a week and someone else will be the official owner forevermore.

Here’s how I spent the first half of the payment for the domain:

$2,500 paid

  • $777 went to fill the emergency fund back up to $1k
  • $215 went to purchasing three cell phones and cases for the kids so we can all play Pokemon Go together (this is the splurge purchase, in case you couldn’t tell) I got the BLU R1 on Amazon Prime day so their phones have 16GB of storage and 2GB of RAM and were $60/ea. I think they were an amazing deal. We did not put sim cards in them or put them on a phone plan. When we all go out we tether them to our phones. (Our $44/mo plans from Net10 have 5GB of data per line so that’s more than enough for the whole family.)
  • $1500 to fill the rent savings buffer so it’s ready to pay the 3 month payment come November. (I raided it last month to pay off the Macy’s card so it would stop bothering me at 3am.)

$2500 (second and final installment)

  • $1100 for special contact lenses to help slow Middle Sister’s myopia progression. OrthoK are gas permeable hard contacts that you wear while you sleep and your vision is perfect during the day with no glasses and no contacts. It sounds like magic, doesn’t it?
  • $500 Back to school shopping (I don’t think we will spend nearly this much but after spending over $500 in registration fees for the three girls when I did the online registration for next year I kind of wonder if maybe I really will spend this much. They do get reduced lunch this year but it will be the last year, which I see as a blessing because if we make too much for reduced or free lunch we should have enough to send them with lunch or buy it.)
  • $200 for a chest freezer (I regret selling the one we had when we moved. We can’t fit Costco sized Eggo waffles and meat in the freezer at the same time even after we break it all up and put it into little ziplock bags.)
  • $400 for a doctor appointment for Mr. Brickie in a couple weeks. (Elective surgery)

The leftover ($300ish) is in the emergency fund account because there is nowhere it needs to go that will give me any more benefit than anywhere else so it will sit until it becomes the *oomph* we need later on. (Update) Whoops! When I first wrote this it was in the emergency fund. Then I spent some money on a giant bottle of Crown Royal for my friend’s birthday, took the kids out to eat at a “better than bargain but not elite eating” restaurant and that brought my extra down more than I even want to admit. Yikes.

This is why I spend money BEFORE I get it. If it’s spent in my mind, it’s spent. If it’s hanging out being extra…I’ll spend it. I also bought a really cute shirt. I blew the $300. I’m not quite ashamed but it definitely wasn’t the plan. Ah well, my spending all included the kids so it’s not like I had fun without them. Heck, if I had gone without them it wouldn’t have been so expensive! LOL Everything else is still the same as listed above. (End of Update)

Nothing exciting or sexy, no cool vacations or amazing stories are going to be created with this. We are using it to keep moving forward so when Mr. Brickie goes back to work we can use extra income to pay down credit cards and get rid of those before the interest-free period runs out.

Of course, if you ask me what the sexiest thing you can buy with money is I’ll tell you every time it’s a secure, non-stressed night of sleep.

The paycheck this week went toward the car payment ($286) and the leftover got split between putting $50 into our local account (we keep a little money in here because it’s the closest ATM and lets you take out as little as $5 from the ATM) and $20 toward Mr. Brickie’s union dues.

Doctor Appointment Update!

Mr. Brickie saw the doctor this week and is healing nicely. The doctor told him at least another month but his doctor’s note finally changed from no lifting activity at all to “lift to tolerance.” It’s a small but important step that reminds us this isn’t forever and he will be back to work eventually!