Category: Budget & Finance

School Fees (or I Was Not Prepared Even Though I Thought I Was)

You all saw I set aside cash money for school supplies. “I’m a bigwig now!” I thought. “I can buy them shoes whenever they need them!” I walked around the house practically looking like Mick Jagger I was chicken dance-walking so hard around my living room.

This is NOT Jimmy McNulty from The Wire

Then we registered the children for school.

$281 in fees later my school supply budget is at closer to $70. (We don’t actually pay the $31 in fees to the Kindy until next week, I think but I’ve included it in the total because it will be paid next week.)

Which makes me feel very confused and strange.

On one hand: Hooray!! We were prepared and paid school fees in a new neighborhood (in the last neighborhood being poor waived fees – here you get a $75/kid discount on textbook rental only) and have money left over!

On the other hand: Damnit!! I finally thought we were ahead and here we are, barely making it, yet again.

I’ve resigned myself to feeling a combination of both feelings, because both are true. If I hadn’t been budgeting my tail feathers off, who knows how much spare cash we would have had for registration. We might have been caught short and had to make payments. Or, worse, write checks for money not in the account and then go find money somewhere to put in the account.

Yikes.

At least I didn’t write the checks and then put something else on credit cards to cover the “emergency” … which is probably the most likely scenario for how this would have gone down before having my to-the-penny budget.

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Happy August!

I’ve used You Need A Budget for a month and it’s been wonderful. I thought I was doing fine with my spreadsheet and my forecasting and all those changes. I felt like having to track every single penny would be awful and make me feel strangled with details. On the contrary, it feels like we could do so much  more with the money we had. I can look and see exactly how much we spent on groceries in July without calculating anything.

It’s great.

There is a change I made to Wednesday’s How We Spent It. I took $40 off of the overpayment to Capital One and added it to a brand new “Other Kids’ Birthdays” category. There are two birthday parties in August and making sure we have those covered will ensure we can send the kids with a gift. We can even pay with a credit card like Target for 5% off and when it goes on the card, I pay immediately with the money in the category. No more revolving credit trap.

Mr. Brickie says there may be rain next week Wednesday which means no work for the day. He wants to maybe go do a side job after work for two hours a day to build up an extra day’s pay. I told him that as much as I would work him into the ground because I’m not him and that’s easy for me to ask for, I have a conscience and don’t think that’s a good idea while he’s working six days a week.

He’s feeling good working six day weeks, but if he passes the point where he no longer feels good he can’t scale back. So it is better to take the Wednesday off and relax during this overtime period to make sure he stays rested and healthy.

It killed me to say it. I don’t want to make him feel like getting excited about paying off debt is bad, but I can’t risk his health. He’s working 48 hours a week. Bricklayer work. Outside. In the heat.

I have to keep him healthy for the rest of summer. He has a whole month of at least 48 hour weeks coming up in August heat. There’s no way I can let him do 10 hour days on top of that because that will take away from his relaxing time, his sleep time, everything.

He’s more important to me than debt payoff. I mean, it’s a classic goose with the golden egg scenario. Appreciate the golden eggs, don’t get greedy and kill the goose.

He said he would think about it. He thought I would high-five him and holler, “Yes, please!” and I think my reaction confused him. Understandable, because it certainly confused me!

We fluctuate now. We have these moments of peace where we aren’t stressed out and worried about money and our future. They’re pretty fleeting but they exist. Those moments are also addictive. We want more of them and we want them as soon as possible. He wants to just go whole hog and I feel like I have to be responsible and keep the slow and steady wins the race perspective.

It’s going to be so nice when we are down to the one card. I told Mr. Brickie if we had eighty-three cents left over at the end of the month I would send it to the card. There wouldn’t be any question of, “Where should it go?” because there is only one option.

Oh, to be debt free. Ah, well, we’re getting there.

Last night I had a dream I ended up with an unexpected windfall of 2 million dollars. The whole dream was about trying to give away 1 million as $14,000 individual gifts (so I wouldn’t incur further taxes beyond the taxes I would have to pay from the windfall itself) and how I would get the money to people. It was a really good dream.

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Bigger and Maybe Longer Windfall & How We Will Spend It 7/31/2015

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It’s Wednesday. I’m early on the How We Spent It so it’s really a How We Will Spend It. We get checks on Wednesday but they’re dated for Friday but CapitalOne360 lets me deposit on Thursday and clears the check on Friday which is fantastic, by the way. So I have the check and am posting about it today even though I’ll deposit it tomorrow and it will be technically spent on Friday.

Whew.

Timing is the most difficult part of personal finance for me.

That being said, let’s begin!

Wow. Wow! WowWowWow!!!

Remember in the last post where I said that Mr. Brickie’s boss was happy with him and there was this vague, out-there possibility he could get bumped to 70% with a raise?

It was on this paycheck. It already happened, we just didn’t find out until today. That whole conversation was to prepare him so he wouldn’t be shocked when he saw his rate was ≈$4 higher per hour.

Holy Crap!

So his 48 hour check (yea! overtime!) was $1171.93 – the first time he’s made over a thousand dollars in a week since that one week he worked 60 hours last season. I’m totally blown away.

BUT…

It’s only for this company. He is still a 60% apprentice officially until he has the hours to be 70% for real in about two months. Mr. Brickie thinks this is an incentive for him to stay with this company because bricklayers are becoming hard to find and when bricklayers become hard to find, good quality bricklayers get paid not to leave for another company that might be closer to home or whatever. (Lucky for me, Mr. Brickie has been going to all those union meetings since the beginning where the old timers talked about the “good old days” during those lean years when he started so he was able to remember some of those stories for me!)

It feels wonderful. I feel like we have been given such a gift. Yes, it was his hard work and positive attitude that got us here, but he had to be at the right company at the right time around people that noticed and were willing to pay him more for that hard work.

I want to climb on the roof and scream #SOBLESSED all non-ironically and then laugh at myself for doing it. Mostly because you know I would actually scream, “HashtagSoBlessed!!!” as all one word. I mean do it right or don’t do it at all. Of course if I did I would probably fall off the roof and become one of those living warnings of what not to do when something goes good in your life.

The goal with the money bump, of course, is to pay off credit card debt.

Friday when this check clears I’m paying off the amazon store card and then starting to pay off the oh-so-old capital one platinum card that’s at just under $1200. If I can get that paid off then I’ll move on to the “put my bills on it” amazon visa card.

The overtime most likely won’t last past August 19th (it’s a school gig and that’s the first day of school) so I’m trying to cram as much debt-reduction as possible into one month’s worth of supersize checks. If my (never been right before because something always comes up) Excel forecasting spreadsheet is right I should be able to get the CapOne card paid off by the third week of August.

Obviously I will have to put my awesome future food subscription on hold because I need that cash for debt payoff. I cannot justify $255 extra dollars a month no matter how much I love it. I might be able to get by with 2 weeks worth a month and if I can we might be able to squeeze that into the regular grocery budget. We’ll see. If nothing else at least I know it’s awesome and it works and in the future when we’re more financially stable, I can revisit the whole idea.

So…on to how we spent it…

July 31st $1,171.93
Groceries $150.00
Gas $80.00
Restaurants $40.00
Amazon payoff $379.80
middle sister dentist $275.00
ipass $160.00
Capital One CC $87.13

As you can see we have those Middle Sister cavities to fix in August that I need to fund with this 5th check of the month so we’re putting aside that $275 to cover those out-of-pocket costs.

If something unexpected comes up, I will steal from the restaurant category. I know we shouldn’t even have a restaurant category while we are getting out of debt but you know what? We are going to eat out once in a while so it’s better to accept it than not budget for it.

A refresher on apprenticeship: Apprenticeship starts at 40% and goes up 10% every time you
1) work 750 hours
2) Attend union meetings
3) attend training sessions

100% apprentice = Journeyman = Journeyman wages. The percentage is the percentage of the prevailing journeyman wage you make. So, if journeyman wage is $50/hr. a 40% apprentice would make $20/hr.

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Planning and Lamenting and a Mini Windfall! 7/28/2015

We received a check from our former home insurance company for overpayment. Windfall! I used it to pay off the Walmart store card. This Friday when we get a check + overtime I’m paying off the Amazon store card. That will leave us with just the two credit cards.

It looks like Mr. Brickie is working Saturdays through August 19th. If he does, I should be able to pay down the Capital One card by about $500+ because all the extra is getting thrown there. I’m excited to see what his paycheck looks like this week because it might actually be over $1k and that would be so awesome!

You Need A Budget has given the Mr. and me a way to see where every single penny was spent in July and he’s been a champ about logging transactions he makes (gas, soda) in the app so it’s categorized. Being this diligent about where our pennies are going makes it seem like we have a lot more pennies.

I still use the Excel spreadsheet for forecasting but now I can look at what I planned vs. what actually happened and make better changes in the future based on what our family actually spends.

In work news, yesterday Mr. Brickie said to me, “I’m really hesitant to tell you this…..”

I was like, “OH NO WHAT ARE YOU FIRED?”

He laughed and said, “No…but the supervisor says I do work better than my percentage and he’s going to talk to someone about that.”

I said, “What does that mean?”

He said, “It means that IF he remembers and IF the guy he talks to passes it up the chain they COULD decide to bump my apprentice level early. It’s a thing.” (Quick Reminder: Those apprentice bumps come with a $4/hr. raise.)

Holy crap! Of course, it might not happen so I’m not getting excited, but even just knowing that someone feels he’s doing such good work means the world to me because that makes Mr. Brickie feel so appreciated and special that he’s happy and works even harder.

If it did happen it would be a hell of a boost. Going the way we are now (without a magical, early bump) it looks like he’s going to promote to the next level (and raise) at the end of September. A couple months head start would be a really big deal for our family.

I’m not betting on it but I’m so, so proud of my husband. He works so hard and always gives his best. Sure, he forgets stuff sometimes. Sure, sometimes it’s important stuff and it drives me nuts. Even when he drives me nuts, at the end of the day I wouldn’t trade him in for anything.

Oh, the other thing that’s happening with the “bonus check” at the end of the month? Setting aside $275 for Middle Sister to get cavities filled. I’m pretty crazy about making sure we all brush and floss twice a day and Middle Sister was slacking. We had a talk and I showed her the budget and showed her what couldn’t be funded because she felt two minutes was “too boring” to brush. I told her to count dollars with every brush because this could have been prevented. The same thing happened to Big Sister last year and she hasn’t had a cavity since. My fingers are crossed. (We would all brush together but we have a very small bathroom. The three girls can’t even brush together, really, without being totally squished together.)

I’m excited to see how much the check + overtime is. I can do approximations with calculators online, sure, but when overtime is involved it gets a little funny. I do my best and try to underguess. It is always easier to find a place to put extra money. If you plan and get less it’s much more difficult to cut back.

It’s summer. Time to catch up on some things! The “wish upon a star” goal is to have the cards and car paid off before the tax return but the “might actually be able to manage it” goal is to pay off the cards before the tax return and the portion of the tax return that doesn’t go to rent will pay off the car. I’m aiming for the wish upon a star goal because better goals get better results!

A major part of how we do is going to be based on how much overtime Mr. Brickie gets, so I can’t get too attached to any goal because it’s up to the weather, the project manager, and other things that aren’t in our control.

I’m a little nervous about Christmas, but if we have to have one more low-rent Christmas like we did last year then so be it. I’d rather get the finances under control and have money for the kids when they really need it later instead of digging ourselves deeper over some toys they won’t remember.

I’m trying to let myself off the hook so I can stop worrying about Christmas in July. I realize that’s a little over-the-top, even for me!

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How We Spent It | July 17, 2015

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Are these posts becoming boring?

I feel like they are starting to drag since it’s the same thing over and over. We are becoming boring. (Which I’m THRILLED with, personally.)

July 17st $650.92
Groceries $150.00
Gas $80.00
Rent $140.00 Deposited into Rent Savings Account
Gas/Electric $184.00
Restaurant $35.00
Sitter $50.00
Leftover: $11.92  Put into Back to School Fund

So that’s that for the 3rd week (out of five) of July. I’m putting the extra toward Back to School because I need to fully fund that next week. We want to be prepared in advance and use cash – not credit – to take care of those back to school expenses! (Our goal is to put aside $350.)

The restaurant category in the budget includes take out, of course, but it also includes things like soda if Mr. Brickie wants to stop at 7-11 on the way home. The sitter is something that came up recently (we pay our sitter well) and is something we want to keep as a regular budget item filled with enough for a night out just in case!

We are still floundering a bit as we find our footing on everything that needs to be funded. One off expenses here, there, and everywhere seem to keep creeping up and reminding us that we forgot something or another. It’s really overwhelming.

Don’t even get me started on Christmas. We are determined beyond belief not to use credit cards for the holidays. Seriously. Determined. If we pay cash for Christmas we might be able to eradicate all our non-student-loan debt with next year’s tax return. That would put us in an amazing position. Amazing. We could make such progress!

Progress like…

  • Saving for our next car.
  • Fully funding our 3-6 month emergency fund.

I’m sure there are other things like fully funding the Rainy Day Car category or one of the million other savings categories in the budget program. Those up there, though, are the two main goals once we aren’t in a bunch of consumer debt.

It’s this back and forth between where we are at right now and the future. The future projections change so fast it feels like whiplash. This is the first week money I budgeted has some sitting leftover in the category and I put the new week’s money in and I’m wondering if I should leave the money alone and just have a surplus sitting there or move the surplus somewhere else.

I think I’ll leave the grocery surplus (it was only $21 from last week) until the end of the month, and the fuel surplus maybe I’ll move over to the car repairs rainy day fund.

Or I could leave all surplus money where it’s at until the end of the month and then use all of it to pay down credit card debt.

I think I’m being guided by my need for new windshield wiper blades on my car, which is probably not the best way to make long-term financial decisions.

Mr. Brickie is working Saturday as a make-up day for the Monday he got rained out (they call it a make-up day because he won’t get overtime since it’s a replacement for a day they couldn’t work due to weather) and he also let me know overtime is starting soon. So, really, who knows what next month is going to look like in terms of the budget. As much as I want to pay down credit card debt I think it’s best to let it stay stagnant while I fund Christmas as soon as possible. Or maybe not. I hate interest charges.

I don’t know.

I should also pay off the car as soon as possible to free up that huge car payment that will help me pay down debt faster.

I don’t know.

All these paths lead to the same place so, I guess, it doesn’t matter if I don’t know as long as we keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep paying everything down/off. Nothing will make more than a few months’ difference in any direction, will it?

Actually budgeting for a sitter is some kind of milestone, I’m sure of it. Planning in advance? I am beside myself with glee. It makes me feel like I’m being a real grownup in the best possible way. It’s a little embarrassing to complain of debt that needs to be paid off while putting money aside for eating out but it is going to happen and I best budget for what’s actually going to happen instead of hoping for the best and then Mr. Brickie is hot and tired and he just wants to pick something up on the way home for the family and what am I going to say? No?

I could say no, sure, but no way man. I’m about balance. I’ve had my nose to the damn grindstone for so long I barely have a nose OR a grindstone left. If I don’t build some chinese food into the budget now and then the whole family is going to rise up and then there will be anarchy.

You can deny yourself and your children nice things for years. As the queen of hand-me-downs and staycations I can attest to this. Kids can grow up happy without designer labels or flashy vacations. Sure they can. But if they want egg rolls every once in a while? If they want a new game to play? You can only say no so many times. You have to build some flexibility in the budget no matter how much you want to be debt-free because if you have a plan – like ours – that takes time (with apprentice promotions, etc.) in addition to focus and hard work you have to pace yourself.

The future is the goal, yes, but today is also for living. The balance of today and tomorrow is the tightrope I walk. It is a path lined with egg rolls and regret.

Can you tell I’m hungry? How many times can I mention egg rolls in one post? I don’t even want egg rolls. Weird.

Salad Recipe

I’m adding a recipe because I’m hungry and this is what I’ve had for lunch every day for the last two weeks because it’s delicious.

  • One romaine lettuce heart chopped to hell and put in a small mixing bowl.
  • Half a cucumber chopped all to hell
  • Two slices of turkey breast cut into squares.
  • 1 Tablespoon grated pecorino romano cheese (I keep the hand-held crank grater in the fridge in a ziplock baggie pre-filled with cheese chunks for convenience.)
  • A few shakes of pepper.
  • Dressing of your choice (I usually do italian but occasionally do ranch)

It’s REALLY good.

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Finally got YNAB (You Need A Budget)

Once upon a time I was given YNAB as a gift by the super-kind creator (Jesse). This was many versions ago and while I loved the idea of living on last month’s income there was no way that was going to work for us. Blah, blah, blah excuses, excuses, excuses later I shelved the idea of using YNAB and went back to pens, paper, and Excel. .

The truth was much more simple than all the excuses I came up with. I wasn’t ready to make the paradigm shift to looking honestly at today’s money. I couldn’t. It was too overwhelming. When I purchased (with my birthday money) version 4 a couple days ago I have to tell you I was worried I was going to mess it up again and this time I would have paid $54 for the privilege. (It’s $60 list price but I used the discount code on the YNAB website for 10% off. Also, lot of other bloggers and vloggers and whoever else have affiliate links for 10% off, too, so head’s up that’s a thing.)

I attribute my ability to understand all this not just to being willing to actually look at where today’s money is going (because let’s be honest I was doing a form of that with Excel and have been for years) but also the education. I’ve been through three of the live classes and watched two of the not-live classes and have really been able to understand how to USE this program in a way I wasn’t able to “get” on my own or through the forums. It has a lot of thing built-in that I would have to build myself if I were to accomplish the same thing in Excel and – again, let’s be honest – I’m good at Excel but not “let’s reinvent the wheel” good.

I’ve picked up additional information from the forums both at YNAB and Reddit (/r/ynab/) and have found that YouTube videos are also helpful for figuring out how to input things and track things and why I want to have categories a certain way.

Moving from Future Focused to NOW Focused

I have a solid plan for the future. I’ll have to revisit and tweak that plan when we start investing but that’s not going to happen for a few years so there’s nothing to do before that time but learn. Learning doesn’t need a line item in the budget, it’s just something I’ll do.

What I needed was a way to put all my stuff in one place and not worry about it being monthly, annual, quarterly or whatever. Stuff like Amazon Prime memberships and car registrations and the other things that were overwhelming to think about when.

Things are still really tight here financially and we can’t fund a lot of those line items yet, but summer has only just begun and there is much income still to come in (even though it looks like there isn’t going to be any overtime for Mr. Brickie this summer – boo, hiss) and now that I have YNAB I feel really confident about where all of that money is going.

In addition to a $1000 emergency fund I’m creating a buffer so I can pay all my bills on last month’s income. I have a little category (I call them buckets) that I pour extra money into in order to build up that one month of expenses. Once I have the buffer and the emergency fund in place the next step will be…um…either a 3-6 month emergency fund or paying down debt or funding Christmas. Probably paying down debt. I know many people pay down debt before doing the buffer or the emergency fund.

It’s up in the air at this point. I figure if I do the buffer I can always change my mind and user the buffer to pay off debt. It’s not like the money goes anywhere if it’s in the buffer. It just hangs out being all secure and safe.

But maaaaaan,  as much as I want to make those awesome debt paydown decisions, seeing the Christmas line item every time I log in is a good, albeit painful, reminder that I have six months to figure out how to stay far, far away from the credit cards for Christmas this year. If I start funding it THIS WEEK there are 24 weeks to get some savings in before the day happens. Yikes.

While I was doing something like this in Excel, the YNAB program was just what I needed at this point in my finance life. It makes everything easier so I can just deal with allocating the money to where it needs to go. Categories that show running totals for savings accounts … I recommend going to YouTube and searching for some videos. If you have questions you can attend a live class and ask your question or ask on the forum or on Reddit or I’m sure there’s an email where you can get support, too.

I feel a sense of accomplishment that I am at a place in my budgeting life where I can use this tool and it makes sense and it’s helping me get the cash allocated in an effective way that lets me relax at night knowing I’ll have next year’s car registration taken care of when the time comes.

Whew.

Money Update

A side-job check ($400) clears tomorrow and here’s where it’s going:

  • Groceries:: $61.61
  • Gas: $65
  • Buffer (to bring it back to $100): $16.53
  • Chase Visa: $236.86 (internet, cell phones, renters insurance, comcast, scentsy website, finance charge)
  • Union Dues: $20

I’m still rocking a zero-based budget which is why groceries is a funny number.

The next check will be a wonky, partial week check from bricklaying and I’m not 100% sure how much it will be. Fluctuating income is tiring. (I am pretty sure that’s the same level of obvious as, “the sky is blue” or “water is wet” *sigh*) But this is the time. The time of the year where we do our best to catch up on everything and get ahead. Even when it’s tiring and even when it feels like we don’t have enough money we’re doing better than we were last year.

Now I have a tool where I can determine if I’m actually making progress instead of just feeling better about paying all the bills. Thank goodness.

All this? All this is so I can be in a position to worry about plots and characters and backstories when school starts. I need to free up the parts of my brain clogged up with numbers and bills and worry and fear. Clean it all out so I have a fresh brain to write with.

Even if I fail, at least I’ve improved where we are at and how we track things. I think.

Or maybe it will show that I’m stuck in a holding pattern that has been years in the making.

Which is, of course, my worst fear.

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How We Will Spend It Tomorrow & July 2015 Net Worth

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

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

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

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

File that under every little bit helps, right?

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

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

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

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

July 1, 2015 Net Worth

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

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

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

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

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

Overall Feeling Going into July

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This day has been a long time coming.

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

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

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

I feel so calm these days.

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

Lucky for me I discovered something amazing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope your summer has been great so far!

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June 2015 Budget Update (Almost out of the woods)

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

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

We’ve come so far.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Money Question!

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

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

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

Tire Talk

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

An Apology

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

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

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

Social Media Break

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

It’s been wonderful.

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Sorry I’ve Been Away

I’ve been….sick.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MONEY STUFF

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Either way the bills are paid.

For now, that’s enough.

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