Category: Budget & Finance

The Best Day to Do Your Budget

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

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

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

The First Time? Now.

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

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

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

The Recurring Monthly Budget? Same day, every month.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My checkup looks a little something like this.

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

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

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

4. How much? (About $250)

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

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

7. Leftover goes to savings. ($90)

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

Re-Doing the Budget. Once a Year.

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

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

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

High quality budgeting takes multiple coats. LOL

Foreclosure, Reality, and Emotional Pain

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I knew we had an appointment in Chancery court on July 11th. I knew we did.

Sort of.

We’ve had previous appointments with the court and they always sent us something in the mail. Mr. Brickie, after the last court date, said, “I’ll just show up at the date they say to. Just in case.”

I am the one who told him to wait for the papers to come in the mail.

I am the one who flicked the first domino and chose this path.

I am the only one to blame.

Chancery court is so far behind in cases (I said) and you shouldn’t have to take a day off work (a day you’re working overtime, I said) to go to a court date that might not even be yours (I said) and get sent home with no pay for the day and no information (the way they do, I said) even if I want just one. more. stay. before they decide forevermore they are going to sell our home at auction (because one more stay would have guaranteed one more full school year, I said) because they have been so good about informing us of our next court date (I cooed into his ear before we slept at night) and he believed me.

I am so rarely wrong, you see. I do my research and I find out the facts and I don’t share untested theories as fact and I don’t rely on “I hope so” and “It’s probably okay” so he had no reason not to believe me.

Really, everyone believes me. I’m a very believable person. I’m right with astonishing accuracy because I hate being wrong. I do not accept mistakes as a natural outcome of the law of numbers. I am better than that (I said) and we will persevere and get through this (I said).

I was mistaken.

I was not just a little bit mistaken. I did not tell my husband to take an umbrella with him on a sunny day. I was mistaken about something wicked important. Our house (which is no longer our house) that I have the papers stating and have to tell Mr. Brickie about when he gets home from work today (his last day as a 40% apprentice.)

The Reality of the Situation

According to the first lawyer we ever talked to (the lovely, young lawyer who paled and stuttered when I asked, “Out of everyone you’ve ever talked to, has it ever been a wise financial decision to fight for the home?”) who told us our time frame from this moment or, rather, the moment from July 11th when the clock (the foreclosure auction sheriff-at-the-front-door clock) starts ticking like something out of only the largest, scariest MC Escher painting.  We have – about – nine months from July 11th to get out of our home. We might have a little extra time but the real clock – the big  TIME TO START OVER Y’ALL clock is now ticking for real and we are no longer living in a state of flux. Or, as I liked to call it, “Our state of grace.”

In nine months(ish) we are going to give birth to a new life. I have a feeling it’s going to physically hurt less than childbirth and emotionally tear my brain in half. Maybe I’m overreacting and it will be an easy move. We’ve been decluttering for a year here and there and plans are in place for what will come with and what will go in storage and lists are made. So the focus of the blog will change slightly and we’ll be talking about getting ready to move.

Same family stories, just stories about a family transitioning to a new place, probably a new school system, and all the things surrounding the move and the finances getting us there.

Even when you prepare for all outcomes (and yes, I mean all outcomes, you should see my charts) it doesn’t make getting hit in the gut any less breathtaking. You can know in your head you’re making the best possible financial decision and feel with every feel in you that you’ve lost this round of the game of life.

My breath is taken.

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Praise the Lord and Pass the Wine. (Priority Budget for Unpredictable Income)

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Months.

I’ve been telling everyone and their dog for months that Mr. Brickie would be working any month week day now.

“Soon,” was a constant refrain.

Hope a word used so much it became meaningless.

Faith like a childhood stuffed bunny’s ear rubbed through with worry.

But…it paid off. It happened. He went back to work Friday before last (right before my birthday – happy birthday to me!) and is doing great. Actually, truth be told it’s more than great. He starts working 10 hour days today and the idea of working Saturdays has been broached. So he might work 56 hours this week. Overtime would be a game-changer in terms of financial security. So much of a game-changer I’m willing to use that term which is so not one I would normally use. 

I’ll stop doing my “I wasn’t proven wrong by the universe” dance soon and get to the nitty-gritty of dealing with actual income in a hot minute. In the meantime, thank you for your patience with my outbursts and my joy and my palpable relief at things finally turning around. I’m not a person who is ever truly sure about anything (because I’m a realist) and so this happening was something I honestly almost didn’t expect because I might tell you I’m a realist but really I’m a bit of an Eyeore now and then.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst is a DEPRESSING, HORRIBLE WAY TO LIVE. I wish someone had told me that before I jumped into that rabbit-hole headfirst, for sure. The preparation takes over everything and the hope becomes this small light across the lake on a dock trying to convince you of something that isn’t even real.

Now, on to some budgeting specifics!

We ended the off season with credit card debt, student loan debt, and car debt. The credit card debt is new. I’m not proud of it but I don’t regret it, either. I’m basically credit card neutral at this point. Yes, we could fall into a hole and be stuck there forever and I could also get abducted by aliens and butt probed. We just have to pick our worry battles, now, don’t we?

Irregular Budgeting for Large Bills and Small Income

There is a snazzy blog post on how to budget with irregular income over here. I plan on using a variation on this budget to pay down/off the bills that we accumulated over the winter.

It’s going to go a little something like this. Since I know what bills are due when I can kind of make a list of what to pay off based on priority as well as amount plus a little bit of foreknowledge. For example, I’d love to be able to pay the car insurance in one chunk instead of splitting it into payments. That means trying to free up about $500 on the credit card by August 10th-ish. So, when you see the line item down there about throwing money onto the Credit Card.

Here is what my payoff list looks like:

  1. Pay $120 on CC to cover automatic payment of tolls. (Already done.)
  2. Pay minimums on Macy’s, Kohl’s, and Walmart ($75 total) & Pay off Target card ($18.29) (Did it today aka Payday Wednesday.)
  3. Pay past-due amounts on Electric and Gas bill. Pay current garbage bill. ($240) (I want to do this today but am afraid with overtime we might need more-than-normal amount of gas cash on hand so waiting until next Wednesday.) 
  4. Pay the car payment. ($496)
  5. Pay the CRAP out of the CC to get down the balance. (Car insurance auto bills to this card on August 15th for around $461.)

The incoming for the rest of the month including what’s in the bank right now is going to be around

Of course, Mr. Brickie’s first raise is going to go through this month so there could be more money. *shrug* I’m not counting on it because this whole journey has been about baby steps and not jumping the gun.

The best-case “I don’t know how to calculate taxes and union dues on overtime money” incoming cash scenario this month is probably $3400. I’m 100% sure this is wrong. I calculated the base pay and then multiplied the projected overtime and subtracted $100 for tax off the overtime of this week since he just started working overtime today (Wednesday) and for the projected two weeks I took off $200 from the projected 20 hours of overtime per week because why not?

So, obviously, when you have hinky numbers you don’t rely on them. This is why I’m doing payments the way I am instead of breaking out the traditional by-due-date spreadsheet. Hinky numbers can spell disaster and overdraft fees if you trust them!

If I subtract 40% off the overtime- which may or may not be accurate – we get a more reasonable $2250.

Ultimately we won’t know until we see it in the bank account. I’ve tried to crack the math on his checks for the last year. I just haven’t been able to figure it out yet. Enough paychecks and I’ll get there but by that time he could get a raise and it changes. *shrug* I’m not sure it’s even worth the effort anymore.

Rain days could also change the bottom line drastically. Monday night there was a storm or rain or something overnight and I woke up in a cold sweat like I was having a night terror – sitting straight up in bed with my eyes wide open – and couldn’t fall back to sleep until I checked the weather in the area where Mr. Brickie is working. Maybe more chamomile tea before bed and less coffee would help with that. I creeped myself out.

You probably noticed the house payment isn’t on there. Yeah. We’re in the middle of court stuff. Payments wouldn’t be accepted at this time and we’re not in a position to put that money into an escrow account or something because we are just not there yet. Things are really dicey with the house situation and it’s being handled by not-for-profit groups, the court, lawyers (not us, them, we can’t afford a lawyer nor do I think we want one), and the mediation department at the mortgage company. Pretty much the very definition of too many cooks spoiling the broth. I’ve mostly resigned myself to moving at this point.

The list above will allow me to make decisions based on the amount of money coming in at any given time. Since Mr. Brickie could not work if it’s raining or work overtime it is more important to have a list like this than pay things based solely on due date. While a bill-priority list might not work for everyone, I have found it to be a life saver. I don’t have to constantly recalculate what is owed where and how much to pay what. It’s done once, and when the paycheck goes in I check the total, subtract $150 for gas and living expenses, and the rest goes to bills.

If I get through number 5. on the list (which might be possible with overtime, a raise, and weekend work) the plan is to go back to the store cards and knock those off the list for good.

For now? I’ll be thankful and thrilled he’s working a 10 hour day today. It’s great news and gives me the hope I so desperately needed for the rest of the season.

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Fighting For The Shore

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Today I got to experience the unmitigated joy of filling out a direct deposit form.

It sounds sarcastic, right? Like who on earth enjoys paperwork? Yep, you guessed it, I do. Especially when it means I don’t have to worry about Mr. Brickie in all his, “I think I left my check in the glove compartment” glory.

The interesting thing about being a bricklayer is that he works with different companies. They all know the workers move around and the company he is with now is known for its extensive blacklist of people they refuse to rehire. It’s a feather in Mr. Brickie’s cap for sure that he is working with them again. It’s generally frowned upon once you are with one company to shift to another company unless there is a day with no work and then you’re a free agent all over again or you can wait for your current company to start again.

I feel this gives more job security than a normal one-employer scenario. If anyone is doing work there’s a chance for a bricklayer to be on the job. A lot of things go into that chance but Mr. Brickie has one thing that very few other people do … the ability to network like a madman. He’s really good at it.

His employer for the vast majority of last season didn’t do direct deposit. We had just switched over to Capital One 360 so this posed a bit of a problem.

Online Bank
+ No Direct Deposit
= Mobile Deposits

While I have never been so thankful for technology in my life, it still takes longer for the check to clear than if it was direct deposited. Plus there was the occasional, “Where did I put that check” delay that comes from having a slightly forgetful husband. No matter what, though, I have to say if it wasn’t for mobile deposit I would probably be one of those people rocking my check at the Currency Exhange rather than deal with one of the big banks around here. Capital One might be a huge company but they’re keeping the ING Direct vibe at the online 360 location and the customer service is easy to access and super nice, so….I stay with them.

Today was also wonderful because I was able to open the Google Drive spreadsheet an add 8 more hours of work to the apprentice tracking I have been doing since the first day he began work last year. Meticulous records seemed like a good idea since promotions are based on a combination of hours worked, training sessions attended, and union meetings attended. (Although we have seen promotions occur without the union meeting requirement so I guess that one is more of a suggestion.) As of today I can – with one click – tell you that he has to work 13 more days to get to that next level. (If he works every possible day that will be 7/17 at the very earliest due to weekends and the 4th of July being an official holiday.)

I cannot even tell you how excited I am. Honestly, I don’t think there are words for it.

We are finally back in the game and he’s got work and a company and possible overtime in the future and I’m just tickled pink to be able to save like you wouldn’t believe.

Even though there are things I absolutely have to deal with very soon like the car insurance we pay in full every six months, the insurance bill we may receive in August, saving for the lean times next winter, and saving up for Christmas as soon as possible so I don’t have to use credit cards like I did last year…we are going to be in a stronger position by the end of this year than we were last year. If we can continue this trend every year it will be a very, very nice life.

We are the tortoise, for sure.

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Wendi’s Story | Hearts & Homes Series | Updated June 2014

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Wendi blogs at Sudden Silence. Her story is ongoing and will be updated when updates are available. 

 We walked in to the Making Home Affordable seminar with high hopes.  Arriving just after it opened at 1 pm, we signed in and took a seat to wait for a rep from our mortgage provider, CitiBank.  As we waited, a video clip played over and over.  We listened to homeowners who had received mortgage assistance last year at this seminar talk about what a relief it was, how important it was to save your home and not let it go into foreclosure.  The various options were described (modification, interest rate reduction, principal write-down) and the basic message was:  You did the right thing by coming here and talking to your lender, because now they can help you.  There’s help for everyone if you just ask!

After waiting for over three and a half hours while other people with other lenders were taken back within five minutes of sitting down, we were finally called to meet with our rep.  (Apparently computer trouble was the reason for the horrible delay.)  We had every document required; we had every form on the website downloaded and filled out…all nine pages of information.  I was feeling unexpectedly hopeful after listening to the video clip for over three hours.  I should have known better.

We sat down and explained that nearly half of our mortgage was currently being paid by the Illinois Hardest Hit Fund, and that agreement was ending in July of this year.  We were hoping to get a permanent modification similar to what we had from HHF (Hardest Hit Fund) – where you pay 31% of your monthly income instead of your full mortgage payment.  We had been doing this for over a year and getting by okay, but we would not be able to handle the full mortgage come August.  We hoped that our track record of 100% on-time payments on all of our debts would work in our favor.

What Do You Do When You’re Only Offered A Bad Deal?

As the rep asked questions that we had already answered on the documents we’d filled out (which were apparently unnecessary), he scrolled through screens and eventually mumbled that he could offer us a 3.5% interest rate.  We’d already explained that we weren’t interested in an interest rate reduction; our rate is currently a low 4.5% already, and a drop of 1% would barely make a dent in our monthly mortgage payment.  He was apologetic, but said we didn’t qualify for any other programs because we have a VA loan, and they don’t participate in principal reduction plans.  Within 15 minutes of sitting down, we were done.  We got up, shook the rep’s hand and left.

We tried to salvage the waste of an afternoon by reasoning that at least we had done what they recommended, and we had tried everything.  We got the information we needed, just not the result that we wanted.  I hadn’t gone into the seminar with high hopes, but I had gotten progressively excited as we waited.  It was very, very hard to leave there knowing we were still facing August with no plan in place.  I had to fight back tears as we silently walked the long, long path back to the parking garage.

This was Thursday, and I really needed the weekend to recover from the disappointment.  I was trying not to panic, trying to really believe things would work out and that whatever happened was meant to happen.  I really, really like having a safety net, though, a Plan B.  I felt so vulnerable and unsure of what our next move should be.  I really didn’t want to foreclose on the house, even though we’d met with a Realtor the previous month and she’d told us we could not sell the house for anywhere near what we needed to pay off the mortgage.  The real estate market in our area of Illinois is still very depressed, and we have lots of houses either in foreclosure or short sale that are killing the value of the surrounding homes.  It was so frustrating – we want to move and sell the house and do the right thing…pay off our mortgage and other bills, then downsize to a smaller house in a more affordable area.   But no matter what we do, it just will not come together.  Everything we try seems to fall apart.

Maybe A Lawyer Could Offer Some Solid Assistance

Dave had made an appointment for Monday afternoon with a bankruptcy attorney.  I knew we’d have to file bankruptcy at some point, since the housing market was so terrible.  Our original plan, back when our house was valued at over $270,000, was to get the kids both through high school and into college, then sell the house, pay off all our debt, and move to a smaller place.  Now, we couldn’t even sell the house at a price high enough to pay off the mortgage; there was no way we could pay off our credit card debt, which had grown to an enormous amount over the past 11 years.

I went into this meeting with a very downbeat attitude.  I expected to find out that we didn’t qualify for bankruptcy or hear some other hope-dashing announcement.  I was hoping to be able to wipe out the credit card debt but keep the house.  As it stood, we could afford to either pay the credit card minimums or pay the mortgage, but not both.  I figured if we wiped out the credit card debt and kept the house, maybe the market would rebound in the next year and we could sell it for enough to pay off the mortgage.

So we met with the lawyer, and he confirmed that we could file for bankruptcy with no problem.  We talked some more about our long term goals and he pointed out that we really would probably need much more time, possibly 10 years, before we could sell the house for what we needed to get.  I kind of knew my idea wasn’t realistic, but it was different hearing it put so plainly.  So we talked about the ramifications of including the mortgage in the bankruptcy.  Even though it seemed like a fairly obvious course of action, I needed some time to digest this new information and decide if it felt like the right move.

By the time we left the lawyer’s office, I pretty much knew that I was on board with including the mortgage in the bankruptcy.  And as some time passed and I thought about it more, I could feel a huge weight lifting off my shoulders.  There were so many things connected to selling the house that were worrisome to me – passing the two inspections (one required by the village, one for the buyer) and how we would afford to make any repairs that were required; all the stress involved in having the house for sale and showings and worrying if we’d ever get an offer on the house that was enough to even pay off the mortgage, let alone pay for the closing costs and leave us with enough to buy another house; all the improvements we still needed to do just to list the house and even have a prayer of getting within $10,000 of the amount we needed to pay off the mortgage.  After that visit from the Realtor in March, I really was not feeling confident that we’d ever sell the house because she seemed to think a LOT of improvements would need to be made before we could list.  Here I was, thinking the house was really in good shape and looked good enough to list just as it was!

My main concern with giving up the house was finding another place to live.  I felt like we could never qualify even to RENT a place with a bankruptcy on our record and the subsequent hit our credit score would take.  (For the record, as of June 2013 my credit score was 749, which is fairly decent.)  I was under the impression that as soon as the bankruptcy was filed, that meant we stopped paying on the credit cards (thank God) but also that we would have to leave the house and immediately find a new place to live…a place that would allow us to bring our four cats.

The lawyer explained that that’s not how it works.  The foreclosure has to go through the courts, and right now that’s taking 18 months.  As he said, “You stay in your house for 18 months and you save the money you would have paid on your mortgage.  (Note:  For us, that’s $1,500 per month.)  When you do have to leave, you’re leaving with enough money to put down six months’ rent or a big down payment on another place.  With so many people filing bankruptcy, they will most likely understand your circumstances.”  Our goal all along had been to find a place in Michigan that we could buy on land contract, which is like a rent-to-own situation.  We could put enough down that we wouldn’t need to make payments for very long, and we don’t have to secure a mortgage through a bank (something we most likely would not be able to qualify for).

Uncertainty Eats Away At Hope No Matter How Prepared You Are

There’s still some uncertainty that makes me nervous, since there’s no guarantee exactly how long we can stay and, therefore, how much money we can ultimately save.  I really don’t want to be in a position where they’re dragging us out of the house and we have no place to go – I’d like some warning, so we have enough time to find a new place and get moved.  But that’s less stress than the stress that would be involved in trying to sell the house in this terrible real estate market, AND find a new place to live with pretty much no money down.  So I’m going for the lesser of two evils.

I’m writing this over time, adding on as things progress.  It’s now the second week of June and we’ve given the lawyer the retainer fee and the paperwork he needed, and we’ve taken the online Debtor’s Education class that we’re required to take.  That was a hoot and a holler, and deserves its own special section!

The first thing that I found amusing was that you have to pay for the online class…with a credit card.  Which is one of the main things that got us in trouble in the first place!  We aren’t using credit cards anymore, and we had to come up with a way to pay for this class.  Thank God for PayPal; I was able to use our PayPal debit card for the payment, since it’s a MasterCard.  (I don’t let PayPal pull from our checking account to cover debit card transactions; if the money isn’t already in our PayPal account, the transaction won’t be approved.  I prefer the extra security in case someone nefarious gets a hold of the number.)

Once we figured out the payment issue, we settled in to take the class.  It was a timed class, 60 minutes, and there was a timer at the top of the screen so we could keep track of our progress.  You weren’t allowed to finish the class in less time.  We’re both fast readers, but we read through each screen slowly and then got up to do things around the house to kill enough time on each screen.  Most of the information I already knew; we didn’t get in this situation because I’m an idiot and have no self control.  I know how to save, I know the right and wrong things to do with credit cards, and I use a budget.  We don’t have ANY extra expenditures.  We never go out, we don’t drink or smoke, we don’t eat out, we never buy clothes (except, rarely, at Goodwill).  But I went along and read the suggestions, basically just to confirm that I hadn’t missed some kind of magical way to save money that I didn’t already know about.

Along the way, we plugged in our monthly income and monthly expenditures.  I didn’t bother with the credit card payments because we already knew we were filing bankruptcy and wouldn’t have to deal with those much longer.  I mainly wanted a budget we could follow once the bankruptcy was filed.  I did enter in the mortgage payment, just out of curiosity.  Again, we knew we were giving up the house and wouldn’t be making the mortgage payment, but the amount we plan to save is just about exactly the amount of the mortgage payment.  I wanted to see if that was something we could really handle financially.

Saving Money By Doing Everything You Were Already Doing

As we went along, the class gave us suggestions on ways to save money, all of which we were already doing.  But I was surprised at how little advice we really got; there are many things we did to save money that were never suggested in the class (increasing deductibles on home and auto insurance comes to mind).  In fact, the main thing the class advised was to get a second job.  This advice was given to those who had already lost their ONE job and couldn’t find another.  Just get a second job!  Everything will be fine!

It got to the point where Dave and I were just laughing out loud at each new screen, as the timer counted down.  I suppose this would be a helpful class for someone who was absolutely clueless, but for two intelligent adults, it was really a waste of time (and money).  We learned nothing, except that our mortgage should only be 30% of our income and ours is currently over 80% of our income.  All it did was solidify our decision to let the house go, save our money until we absolutely have to leave, then find a more affordable place to live.

At this point, we’ve received the bankruptcy papers and had to go over them to verify all the information and make sure nothing was left out.  This was my job, and it was very hard for me – I was in the throes of monthly hormonal turmoil, which didn’t help.  I basically sat in front of the computer, reading along with tears dripping down my face as I silently sobbed.  I know this is the best move for us; really, it’s the only move for us that makes any sense.  I know this.  It was still very hard to see it all laid out in black and white.  It makes me feel like a complete failure.  Dave keeps telling me to look at it as a business decision and to keep emotion out of it.  I know he’s right.  I just can’t help myself; it feels like I’m getting a big fat F in ‘Life.’

Cut to July 13

We are officially filed, as of June 30.  It took a while to get the official document in the mail (which contained our case number).  Then things started rolling along briskly.  Bank of America canceled our cards, as well as American Express (which is pretty funny, considering we had a ZERO balance on that account).  We also started getting lots of offers for car loans in the mail, for people with ‘credit problems’ and things of that nature.  The sharks start circling pretty quickly, don’t they?!

We were surprised and happy to see our creditors’ meeting is July 23, just a couple of weeks away.  I’m a little nervous about this, just because, not for any specific reason.  It should be short and painless, though.  After that we wait; creditors have 60 days to dispute things in that time period.  After that, we should get a notice that the bankruptcy has been discharged, providing nothing crops up to screw with the process.

We had to take a second and final debtor’s education class online within a month of the filing date, so we decided to get that out of the way quickly before we forgot.  Again, it was $9.95 with payment method via credit card which just seems ridiculous when they know you’ve filed bankruptcy.  (We used the PayPal debit card again.)  We figured this class would be an hour long like the first class, but no – it was TWO HOURS long.  Still, though, if I have to waste two hours of my life I’d rather do it at home than in some class at a physical location with other people.

I was sort of looking forward to this class, since it was meant only for people who’d filed bankruptcy.  I thought we’d find out what to expect in the bankruptcy process, maybe learn some ways to help repair our credit, or at least find out how it would affect things for us in the future.  But no…instead, we sat through two hours of the same unhelpful ‘budget advice’ from the first session.  We couldn’t believe it!  Parts of it were even exactly the same as the first session.

When we realized what we were in for, we knew we’d be killing LOTS of time to make this last for two hours.  I don’t understand how they expect people to take two hours to read through this material; we could have done the whole class in 30-45 minutes easily.  It’s timed, though, and you can’t finish with any time left on the timer.  We ended up turning it into an exercise class; we would read the screen, get up and jog around the house a few times.  For every screen, we did something after we finished reading: calisthenics, jogging, walking, check the mail, go to the bathroom, check on the garden.  It was really silly but it was the only way to kill two hours on a class that you could finish in a quarter of that time.

So we finished, got our certificates, and then we had to rate the class.  Now, you have to understand that the class was not helpful AT ALL.  I mean, the budget advice was condescending and didn’t apply to us at all; I am the queen of budgeting.  What got us in this mess was mostly the horrific real estate market in our area, since we aren’t able to sell our house to pay off the debts like we planned to.  Of course, living off the credit cards didn’t help but I also didn’t plan to go deaf and incur huge medical bills, and we never planned for our business to take a nosedive after Google changed its algorithms a few years back.  It all mushroomed from there.  But yes, I know how to live on a VERY tight budget and we were doing things way beyond what the class was teaching.  We certainly didn’t get into this situation by buying designer clothes and Caramel Macchiatos all the time.

I wanted to be honest but Dave refused; he didn’t want it to jeopardize anything.  So he gave the class high marks across the board while I sighed in disgust.  I guess I could see it being helpful for someone very young, just starting out in life and basically clueless, but I think most adults already know this information.  Who knows, though?  Maybe other people find the classes immensely helpful.  All I can say is, thanks to the class I got a nice workout that day.  *rimshot*

Get Me To The Judicial Building On Time

Skipping ahead to the last week of July here, and our 341 Meeting of Creditors is now behind us.  Even though I’d read over and over that this was nothing to worry about, and I hadn’t really been worrying about it (just a little anxious when I thought of it), I found myself seriously nervous the day before and in the hours leading up to the meeting.  I just felt that if anything was going to go wrong here, it would happen to us.  I mean, all over the US we’re hearing about real estate booming back and people selling their houses right away, and for us it is the worst it’s ever been, with no chance of our house selling for near what it’s worth.  So I figured even though nobody else ever has any creditors show up at this meeting, they would be there for ours.

We got to the judicial building with plenty of time to spare, went through security and up to the second floor to look for the room we needed.  We walked past a man in a little cubicle area and Dave stopped, backed up, and asked, “David?”  To my surprise, the man nodded and stepped forward to shake Dave’s hand.  I had no idea what he looked like; we met with Stuart initially and never saw his partner.  I found out later that Dave had seen his photo on their website.  Smart!

He asked if we had any questions, and my only real question was about the mortgage.  For whatever reason, on our bankruptcy filing they had checked off that we were interested in a loan modification for the mortgage.  This really baffled me, but I figured it was a way to drag out the foreclosure and give us more time in the house; the lawyers did know that we planned to include the house in the bankruptcy and not reaffirm the mortgage.

Because of that checked box, the mortgage company had been contacting us (with Dave’s approval) to try to get information for a loan modification.  (Which cracks me up, by the way, considering that we ALREADY DID THIS, YOU IDIOTS…don’t they keep any of the copious paperwork they make us fill out?!)  So I asked the lawyer if we should be doing anything regarding these attempts at contact – was it okay to ignore them or were we supposed to be playing along and acting like we wanted to try (AGAIN) for a modification?  He confirmed that if we weren’t planning to keep the house, we should just ignore these attempts at contact.

He went off to meet with a couple other clients who were waiting, along with us, in the hallway.  Things were behind, so we spent about 30-35 minutes sitting on a bench.  I eyeballed everyone who came down the corridor, trying to see if they looked like a Creditor who might possibly be arriving for our meeting.  Luckily nobody seemed to fit the bill, and when our name was called (‘KAST!’) we were the only ones who walked into the room, other than our lawyer.

The room was small, with a basic table and a few chairs.  A woman sat behind the table with a laptop, and a younger girl (assistant?  trainee?) sat next to her, silently.  We took a seat, took an oath that what we declared on the bankruptcy papers was true, and then answered the questions that were quickly volleyed our way.  No, we didn’t have valuable jewelry or coins, no stocks or bonds (other than my meager IRA CD), nobody had died and left us money.  I explained about my failing candle business.  We confirmed the general value of the house and what was owed (although Dave said I heard incorrectly and told her what the house had been valued at, $150,000, was what we still owed on the mortgage; we really owe more like $160,000).  Even with my little screw-up, the questions went by quickly and less than 10 minutes had gone by before the trustee said, “Okay folks, I’m finding No Assets.  Thank you and have a good day.”

As we left the room, David told us that we’d be getting a letter in about 60 days telling us that our discharge was final.  He said we probably wouldn’t be hearing very much from them in the meantime.  Now, I know that during these 60 days our creditors can object to the discharge, so I won’t breathe easy until we get the official letter.  David’s attitude gave me the feeling that objections don’t happen very often and that they don’t expect anything to happen in our case.  Hopefully that’s true!

As of this date, we’ve gotten letters from American Express and Bank of America canceling our accounts.  Every day we get more offers for car loans.  I checked online, and our Chase and Discover accounts appear to be canceled even though they didn’t notify us.  Of all those accounts, only American Express had a zero balance so I expected the accounts to be canceled.  Out of curiosity, I checked today to see if I still had access to my Kohl’s account, which had a zero balance when we filed for bankruptcy.  It’s still there and I still have access.  It will be interesting to see how the credit card accounts play out when the discharge is final.

Dave signed up for a Credit Karma account yesterday and it shows the bankruptcy (called a Derogatory Mark).  Even with that, his credit score with TransUnion is 710 right now.  We’ll keep an eye on our credit scores over the next year, obviously.

No mention was made of the Parent Plus loan, which we’re due to begin paying back in November.  I know student loans aren’t included in bankruptcies and Stuart said they are only discharged in rare instances, so I expect to be paying it back.  It will be a good way to rebuild credit.  But I can’t lie … if we found out it had been discharged, I would be pretty happy!

September 2013

The bankruptcy is discharged!  Now we just have to make sure we don’t win the lottery or come into some money (an unknown rich relative dies and leaves their estate to us) for the next six months.

We consider the credit cards to all be canceled, which is fine.  A couple show up as still active (Sears, Kohls) on credit reports, but my online access is gone so I cut up the cards.  The Parent Plus Loan is still there (sigh) but the $50/month payment is doable.

October 2013

We decided to apply for secured credit cards, because having NO credit cards is really a pain.  We don’t plan to charge them up, but it’s nice to have a credit card number for places that require one.  Dave got a $200 secured Capital One card with an $80 deposit.  I tried for an unsecured Capital One card and was approved (!) with a $3,000 limit.  Color us shocked!

March 2014

We are now free and clear from the bankruptcy; those unknown rich relatives can bestow their riches upon us left and right.  The few things we’ve been charging on the credit cards (mainly the monthly TiVo bill of $7.95 and random things that we can’t pay for with PayPal) are paid off in full.  It feels so weird to have no debt beyond food, utilities and car insurance.

The car has acted up twice since we filed bankruptcy – it figures.  In July we had to fix the AC to the tune of $700, and this month a cable for about $200.  We also had to replace tires and wheels in January, so that took another $450.  Since we paid cash for all the repairs, it cut back on our monthly savings.  In the months that have no big setbacks, we’ve been able to save between $1,000 and $1,300.  We live very frugally, trying to save every penny to put down on a new place to live.

Dave is watching houses in Michigan, many of which can be had for under $50,000.  We can’t qualify for a traditional mortgage, so it will be renting or (ideally) a land contract for us.  We aren’t sure we’ll be able to rent because of our four cats (we refuse to give them up).  That’s probably my biggest worry right now – will we find a house on land contract?  It’s not like we can just rent an apartment in the meantime; I think it will be very hard to find a place to rent that will accept cats, especially since they aren’t declawed.

The next step is a trip to Michigan in May, to check out the towns we’re interested in and hopefully find a realtor we can work with.

Right now we feel like we are in limbo, just biding our time.  I’m no longer worried that the Sheriff will knock on the door and drag us out of the house; I finally realize that so much has to happen before it reaches that point (plus, they try to avoid scenarios like that because it looks bad and costs the mortgage company money).  But I am itching to have this all behind us, to know where we’re going to land.

June 2014

If you remember, we stopped paying the mortgage in July 2013. We got the actual Notice of Default in Jan. 2014. Everyone in IL seems to get about 2 years from the NOD before they get an auction date, so we assumed it would be the case for us too. We were planning to look for a place in Michigan in early spring of 2015.

Luckily, my husband was checking the DuPage County foreclosure auction website every day, just to be safe. And on June 6th, he found our name on the list with an auction date of August 12, 2014. !!!! (And, BTW, as of today we still don’t have an official notice from the mortgage company or anything — I think they will wait until August 12, and then give us a notice saying we have 30 days to move. Nice, huh?!)

Let’s just say that I became hysterical. That’s putting it mildly.

We’ve been saving, but didn’t have near as much as we planned to have. On top of that, we have pets (cats) and a bankruptcy, which makes renting in a complex basically impossible. All the cute, cheap little land contract homes in MI suddenly disappeared. We had NO IDEA where we could move.

We spent some time looking at super-cheap mobile homes ($5,000 to $8,000) that we could buy, since we did have that much saved. Lot rent in that area of Michigan is around $350-$400/mo. so I figured I could keep saving if our housing was that cheap. It was so depressing, though — either the mobile home was really trashy, or the park it was in was trashy, or both. I was crying every day, it was so depressing and scary.

Finally we started looking for houses to rent. We didn’t think we could find one that would allow the cats but we figured we’d try. I’ll spare you all the details, but on Monday we went to see a place about 2 hours away in Michigan. It’s tiny (the two bedrooms are 9.8 x 9) but in great shape, on an acre of land, has a full unfinished basement so we can store all the furniture that doesn’t fit upstairs, and we can bring the cats. We had to wait a nerve-wracking 24 hours for her to show the house to 4 other people and then decide who was going to get it (yikes!) but we found out yesterday that she picked us. I am afraid to consider it a done deal until the lease is signed (hopefully we’ll get it later this week).

I can’t wait to get moved and put this all behind us. I’m ready for downsized living, to be honest. And I really, really hate Citimortgage. They can kiss my ass!!

Jenny here…I know I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of Wendi’s story as it unfolds… how about you? 

Good Morning Starshine! Peace & Quiet Says Hello…

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One of the side effects of being married to a bricklayer is early mornings.

Sometimes it’s a plus, well, usually it’s a plus. The only time it really backfires is if I went to bed too late or – and this is the worst – if I know I have to wake up early and my brain decides to backfire and wake me up every hour or so to make sure I don’t oversleep.

I haven’t woken up 4:15am-level early for months and months. Probably since (let me look this up in my handy dandy google doc spreadsheet) January 16th. Whew. It’s been a while, huh? That kind of long-term job instabliity is a hard row to hoe. I truly believe that the, “Call me on Wednesday for an address for Friday.” is solid, because that’s how these people do business. The last several times he worked on jobs for this particular company it went the same way. There is a shred of doubt, but no more than any other person would have in the same situation and probably a lot less than some might have.

It’s what I imagine faith feels like. A little difficult, sometimes a lot difficult, but ultimately the only choice in the face of all the others.

In these early mornings there is a much more common side effect. When the world is quiet and my children are asleep and it feels like I’m the only person in the world my mind can just take a break. The neverending chitter-chatter of to-do lists and dinner plans and listening for sounds that are unusual (bumps, falls, yells, arguments, etc.) aren’t part of my day yet. There is this calm that lets me see things in their simplest form. These times reassure me. I know things are going to be okay.

I am not sure what the proper term for it is, but I think of it as a long con. You have short cons or the “short game” where it’s in and out. Easy peasy. This turning of a Titanic-sized life? It takes time and skill and finesse. Also I am constantly reminded of the phrase, “You can’t con an honest man.” Which, in our circumstances, means not to be greedy. We don’t take shortcuts or try and cheat the system. We follow the rules.

This is not a huge departure from where we were but living a life of integrity (our family definition of integrity is doing the right thing regardless of who is watching or what others tell you is right) while trying to change a whole family dynamic and almost ripping the social fabric of our lives in the process? It feels like a mistake a lot of times. Choosing the path that doesn’t lead to the biggest paycheck feels like a mistake almost every day. I do not consume a whole lot of media but social media is almost worse than commercials because at least you know commercials are fake. With social media there are vacations and shopping and trips and parties and all these amazing things going on.

In the clutter of all the noise my choices feel like a mistake. I feel like I’m letting my kids down. When I have late night conversations about decluttering we have to shelve it when we come to the part where we either give away all the clothes that don’t fit or we save them for the youngest. Last night Mr. Brickie said, “There’s no reason to save jeans when we can just get more for a couple bucks a pair.” I cringed. As much as I am the self-proclaimed master of getting fashionable jeans from goodwill it’s still not ideal for all of their clothing to come from there. Again, maybe it is ideal.

Sometimes the most confusing thing is not knowing if you are choosing something because it is a good idea or if you are choosing it becauase you have no other options. The balance between “all the clothes from goodwill” and “some clothes from goodwill” causes a lot of confusion.

I have also decided that hand me downs are also no longer a viable option. I love the offers but it’s so much to sort through I may as well go to the goodwill where it’s all hung up and I can see it at its worst. Mr. Brickie took so many clothes to goodwill last week. He took out the carseats, folded down the seats, and loaded bag after bag until the whole car was full. Even the passenger seat and every bit of floor space. Baby clothes, toddler clothes, everything that didn’t fit. There was even a whole bag of shoes. It was overwhelming but such a relief to let go and know other families would benefit next time they went shopping for something nice for a child to wear to school, to a holiday, to bed.

There is a real fear that I will err on the side of spending a lot more money on clothing if given half a chance. Not for me, I could not care less what I wear besides jeans and a couple pairs of capris or bermuda shorts with my standard Old Navy $6 t-shirt. It’s basically my mom uniform and it’s comfortable and makes me happy.

It’s the kids. I told Mr. Brickie before we ever had kids I would not let them be completely ignorant of fashion. We would help each child determine her individual style (by watching natural preferences, not dictating) and then dress them according to that style to the best of our ability. Big Sister has a preference for jeans and print t-shirts. Middle sister likes a dress now and then. Little Sister loves pretty clothes and skirts with frills.

Obviously Big Sister is easiest to shop for at the goodwill because jeans and print t-shirts that no one else has is their specialty. I have a feeling she’s going to grow up into the kind of woman who loves to shop and wear vintage clothing. She will pull it off beautifully.

If Mr. Brickie starts working on Friday as planned, the magic day where he gets his first raise (barring rain delays, etc.) will be 7/17. That’s when I can bump up the saving plan to a currently unknown amount. I never know how much is going to get taken out in taxes and every time I try and calculate it I fail miserably. I have a ballpark estimate but until it happens I don’t count on it. Well, I kind of do but don’t start planning that zero-based budget around it. I just have a general idea I use to make general plans I can firm up later.

Especially if there is overtime. I have no idea how to calculate that with taxes and whatnot, but overtime money uncertainty is the very best kind of uncertainty. That, however, is nothing more than a star in the sky right now. If he doesn’t get overtime so be it, but it was such a strange thing to hear about and it came from his buddy working the job he will probably be on, so who knows. I would consider him a reliable current source but not someone I would bet my future on. He’s a nice guy but they don’t tell apprentices their future plans, if you know what I mean. (There is a little bit of paranoia sometimes since guys work with different companies. It’s the reason we know Mr. Brickie will be on a job Friday but he won’t get the address until Wednesday or Thursday because, I don’t know, companies don’t give out a lot of excess information unless it’s need-to-know.)

This morning was a great meditative time. I feel like I will be able to easily carry the “It will be okay.” feeling with me through the rest of the day. I’ve already had to have twenty-ish conversations with my girls about tone of voice (they’re all snippy with each other, which kills me because I am careful of my tone with them about 90% of the time) but they’re constantly bickering and yelling and taking sides and fighting. I think they’re cooped up and we need a Daycation soon. (In case you didn’t know a Daycation is when you just go somewhere for the day to get out of the house. It’s the most common kind of vacation for those of us who do not take “real” vacations.)

The chickens are doing great. They have an indoor coop and a roost and their food is hanging and we let them out sometimes and they are big and happy and make far less noise than even I thought they would make. They sound like quiet not-shrill birds with the occasional cluck that seems to bubble up out of nowhere. When that happens you just can’t help but laugh.

I’m working on a post now that I’ll release today or tomorrow with some finance podcasts I’m going to try out and review. I need to move on from Dave R. because I just can’t handle the accusatory tone and the hardness that seems to be much more present now than it used to be. I still love the principles for the most part but can’t wade through the hours of him riling himself up to get to the phone calls, which I felt was the beauty of the show.

Do you know of a finance show (streaming or podcast or whatever) that has people calling in with personal stories that are solved by a host or hosts? Or you could just tell me your favorite finance show. I’ll check it out.

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I Think It’s Okay Now (Work and Hope)

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This morning started out really rough.

The phone rings and I find myself being pulled from dreams of sand and fire and so much violence. It is a relief but my mind barely registers the moments of peace before it switches to practical mode. “Who was that?” I ask my still mostly sleeping husband.

It was the president of the union.

“Why didn’t you answer it?” I ask, even though I know the answer as plan as the pillow on my cheek. “I was asleep.” He says in a tone not unlike one my daughter will use when she is a teen. The defensive whine cuts through the air and I am angry. Angry because I feel like if it were me waiting for a call my brain would be kind enough to wake me up faster, somehow better than his brain did for him.

I go from dreams of war to armchair quarterbacking the unconscious choices of my husband’s brain in less than a minute. Some might call that talent, but I think you and I both know it was a failure. If he had answered the phone groggy it would have made him seem like a slacker. It was 8am and bricklayers are already working, usually by 7:30am at the latest. You should be awake and chipper by 8am.

If only my “just woke up” brain was on board with being a little bit understanding. I mutter to him that he needs to get his feet on the floor and do jumping jacks or something to wake his brain up so he can call back as soon as possible. He looks at me like I’m insane. My natural reaction, of course, is to swing my feet onto the floor and begin making huffing noises as if his behavior just has me at my wit’s end.

Sometimes I’m not super mature. I want to be. I try to be. Mornings are not a good time for me unless I have structure. I do love structured mornings. It’s why I liked when the kids were in school so much. I would wake up a half hour before everyone, have coffee and toast, relax, and then wake them up when it was time. I was awake and smiling. Mornings were bliss.

Now it’s a madhouse.

I find out during the get coffee portion of the morning someone else had called him and left a voicemail while we were both still sound asleep. It was the project manager for the company he worked for last year in the very beginning. It’s a reputable company but one my husband would not say was his first choice in companies due to being moved around a lot last year and not getting a lot of “wall time” as an apprentice.

He didn’t miss a beat, however, and called back right after calling the president. He got voicemail and made an executive decision to drive to the company’s headquarters and see if they needed him to fill out new paperwork for the new year. About halfway to his destination he got a call back. Mr. Brickie informed the project manager that yes he was looking for work but he has training M-Th next week so wouldn’t be available to work until Friday. (This is a known thing in the bricklaying industry and does not reflect badly on Mr. Brickie. Employers understand the training thing, thank goodness.) The project manager said, “No problem. Give me a call Wednesday or Thursday and I’ll give you an address to go to on Friday.”

Did you hear that?

Did you?

My husband will be back to bricklaying next Friday! It would be sooner but he has training. (Training threw a wrench into our lives last year, too. It’s part of the process, I guess.) He’s back.

We’re back.

I’ll have to do some savings calculations and see how little we can live on.

I’ll be able to blog about something other than hope gastanks running on fumes and feeling pathetic every time I say, “Any week now.”

Really, I can’t even tell you how happy I am to know I’ll be able to get back to the nitty gritty of saving and budgeting, which is what I always wanted this blog to be about. Sure there will be some other stuff, but I’ve felt so adrift with my main goal on hold for so long.

I don’t think I will feel a true sense of relief until next Friday when he actually works a full day, but it doesn’t even matter. I just texted him to call and see if our direct deposit information is with the right bank.

There are things I can do to feel part of the process now. Direct deposit forms. Lunch planning. Hydration planning. Getting him out from under my feet so I can organize the house some more.

So many things I’ve been looking forward to. I’m so happy, even though I know until he steps foot on the job site I should be cautious with my feelings, I just can’t help it.

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Fashion I Wish Was Still In Style – Come Play in May

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Come on now, you know I’m {mostly} kidding.

I tried to find a picture of a mom holding a baby and a martini and a cigarette but I guess they only have expert level parenting pictures in places I’m not looking for them.

Ah well.

That being said, I welcome all your Cancer stories in the comments. Speaking of cancer, if you haven’t yet read The Fault in Our Stars you can wish you had and check out some amazing nail art inspired by the book.

My mother and my grandmother spoke fondly of their experiences taking diet pills when they were young and married and had to be able to fit into all those “structured at the top, poofy at the bottom” Mad Men dresses from the first few seasons. I would love to have been able to wear those.

So I guess what I really wish was still in fashion was speed. My house would look great, I’d be thin as a rail, and I’d be supermom. I know they say dear Betty on the Mad Men used Weight Watchers but if you saw their success rates…well..between you, me, and the gum tree… that era was the era of skinny women who used to be fat women on speed and booze, smoking like their lives depended on it and lord did they party.

At least my family did.

Cheers, speed-prescribed-as-diet-pills, I never knew you but I wish I had.

Disclaimer: The ignorance of how amazingly unhealthy all the things mentioned in this post are is PART AND PARCEL of why I wish it was back in fashion. Feel free to comment with your cancer stories, your rehab stories, or your gun accident stories and I’ll totally publish them, but really, I know. I promise. One day I’ll tell you the story of the doctor that did prescribe speed to me as a way to lose weight and how much of a BEAST it made me. It’s just a fantasy as much as wishing Madonna’s cone-boob bra was back in style. 

 

Axis of Ineptitude

Looking for the whole list of prompts? They are in text form and image so you can Come Play In May!

The Price of Insurance & Saying Goodbye to Savings

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This post is not about the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare).

My husband’s job provides this magical pony of a Blue Cross/Blue Shield PPO that gives us access to pretty much all the care in the world. All he has to do is work 350 hours a quarter.

Unfortunately, winter was winter and this has been quite a slow start to the season in terms of bricklaying, so he’s not working yet. He’s doing odd jobs and whatnot, but no real income right now. So when we got the insurance bill we were expecting it to be painful but we did not, in our wildest nightmares, expect it to be $1866.37 painful.

But it was.

When we started having problems with the mortgage company I set aside part of our tax return in case we had to move quickly. A moving fund. We have just recently had to tap into that moving fund to keep the bills paid and ourselves afloat. There was still money left, though, more than enough to get through this. More than enough to keep the car paid until Mr. Brickie went back to work.

There was just about $1800 in that box buried in the backyard. Just about the exact amount we need to pay for our next three months of amazing insurance.

I seriously just want to hit my head against a wall until it all makes sense.

Thankful. I’m supposed to be thankful. I keep reminding myself if I hadn’t made the right decision when I did, if I had gone to Disneyland with that savings money instead of squirreling it away, if I had taken the kids on any kind of a vacation we wouldn’t be able to pay it.

We might have had to borrow money or beg on the Internet with our little virtual tin cups.

We might have had to try and navigate the Affordable Health Care website, which has been nothing but trouble when I’ve done it for friends and family.

Even if I might personally feel this is a horrible, painful money setback I am still thrilled with the care our insurance provides. The huge network, the low deductibles, the minimal copays and the amazing vision insurance just cannot be undersold.

So goodbye savings account. I will miss you with all my heart and you can be sure I will have twice as much saved this time next year. Because emergencies that clear me out only happen once. I learn from my mistakes and soldier through.

The Initial Plan

First, we were going to save $100 a week from Mr. Brickie’s paychecks. He will get about 32 paychecks before the season ends. That plus the tax return and we have a pretty good winter slush fund. Then, three weeks after he starts working he gets an approx. $4/hr. raise because he will be a 50% apprentice (he’s so close). So whatever that ends up being after taxes and dues will also be added on to the savings.

I’m going to be a hoarder when it comes to cash this year.

The irony is that because of our income (or lack thereof depending on the time of year) we currently qualify for Medicaid as secondary insurance. Of course, no one accepts it and if you tell the hospital about it they talk about you being a “partial write off” because they won’t even bother.

It might just kick in as primary, but I don’t want to take the risk. My kids have dentist appointments scheduled, I have new glasses to get a hold of this calendar year, and I’ve already been in the ER twice this year so….it’s important to me to have good insurance.

Am I just being stubborn? Or is this exactly what an emergency fund is for? I know it should be seen as an expense and we will absolutely look at it that way next year, but for this year…this is what it’s been sitting there waiting for. We can’t possibly get foreclosed on and evicted in less than about a year from right now, so a moving fund is nice but totally unnecessary right now.

So let there be insurance.

I guess.

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Mr. Brickie Goes to Chancery Court (May 2014)

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Part 1 – The Pre-Court Portion of the Blog Post

The saga of our maybe-foreclosure continues….

Yesterday, Mr. Brickie went downtown and basically dropped in on the legal aid department from Partners In Community Building (they also have a Facebook Page). Luckily, the receptionist was out and the door was answered by the amazing lady-lawyer we talked to the first time we had to file something with the court. (You can read about our first encounter with the young, smart lady lawyer on this post down to the section that says the Helper and the Lawyer.)

She told us we were on the right track and that the thing to do today was to ask for more time to file a response. I thought – all this time – we were filing an answer to the motion they filed last time. I was dead wrong. Even with Google and the plethora of law resources all over the Internet, I was wrong. Thankfully, we asked the lady lawyer and she told us we were going to ask for time to file a response. Considering the lady lawyer remembered our situation exactly when Mr. Brickie saw her again, I am holding out hope the judge recognizes Mr. Brickie as well. Considering the judge thought Mr. Brickie was a lawyer last time he was there (because he’s the only one who bothered to wear a suit and call the judge Your Honor) I think the judge will remember him and that will work in our favor, because the judge knows we are doing our best to follow the process exactly how it is supposed to go.

It helps that we have a new specialist at Citimortgage and they are starting the hardship program all over again. So we have a bunch of documents that need to get into their system by June 4th so they can process everything and decide if they are going to give us a refinance or whatever they call it when they just redo your mortgage. Of course, when they redo it they’re going to add in about $40k in lawyer expenses (the last time I checked) so we would essentially be paying a lot more for the privilege of staying in the same home. It’s a bit confusing. It would be a lot more confusing if I was emotionally invested in this house and was completely blinded to the raw numbers and how that looks.

All this would have such a different look about it if Mr. Brickie were, you know, working. The season starting late is driving us both a little batty. It’s scary and difficult to have faith no matter how much we know there is no reason to despair. It would even look better at court if he just had a few paycheck stubs to throw out there instead of a record of odd jobs and unemployment.

I’ll know later what the overall outcome was at court. His appointment is for 8:45am so he will probably get an early start and be out pretty quickly. Last time he had an 11am court time and he was out pretty quick, too. They schedule people as best they can at Chancery Court, but there are so many foreclosures happening that when we come up with our files and proper etiquette and a plan for what we are doing next, it’s just easier for the judge to give us another court date in 30 days (which, inevitably turns into 90 days because the court is so backed up). That extra three months will give us time to have an appointment with legal aid and have them look over the affidavit I’m sure is a lie from the Citimortgage side. It will give us time to find the proof that they blocked our chance for getting an FHA streamline loan before we ever missed our first payment. It will give us time to print all the emails and show the deceit and lies that were told to us over and over.

We may subpoena the Citimortgage phone records for gems like the call where the guy told me the wrong numbers and then told me he was reading someone else’s numbers and then gave me my numbers which were way more awful. Then I asked him if I could get that in writing to look it over and he promised I would get everything in writing. Of course I did not and when I asked him about it he said we got in writing what we were supposed to get and would not be getting anything else.

I’m not sure how these things help. I really don’t. The only two options I know of are:

  1. Keep the home after getting a loan modification.
  2. Leave the home and start fresh with none of this monkey on our back.

In the beginning I really wanted to just get a loan payment we could afford (we could afford the original loan amount of $975 but over the course of 10 years with a fixed rate loan we were paying $1275 a month. I could never figure out how that happened even calculating escrow. There was also this $75 fee we had every single month. They never explained what it was for and told me it would never go away. I’ve been frustrated for a long time but you just put that to the back of your mind and pay the bill. It’s our house. We paid the bill.

Until we couldn’t.

Now I just have to wait until he gets back from court so I can finish this post with what happened. This is like the pre-court think-aloud portion of the post. There is still a whole post-court part of this I’ll update when he gets home. In the meantime I’m going to go work on another post. The Insurance Bill That Ate My Family. Feel free to read that one when you’re done here if you haven’t.

Part 2 – The Post-Court Portion of the Blog Post

Ooooh…well first of all the big bad lawyer from last time wasn’t there. We were up against the guy with his name on the door the last two court dates and today there was some Junior Attorney instead who didn’t seem to know what was going on.

His 8:45am appointment got him in fourth or fifth to see the judge. First off the judge noticed we didn’t have the head of the legal firm anymore. He totally noticed we were now dealing with a Junior Associate or whatever.

I wish I knew what that meant. It seems like it has to mean something, but maybe it just means the big guy was busy with some other case. *shrug*

They accepted our request for more time to file a response!

The judge wanted to do a straight 30-days until the next court date but Junior Attorney was all, “Your Honor, I can only come in on Fridays.” LOL! So it got pushed out. But the last two times it was supposed to be 30 days exactly it wasn’t so who knows how long it will be until our next “has to be on a Friday” court date happens!

Now the more sketchy not-quite-good but absolutely-not-bad news. We have to file our response by June 10th. If they have a brief reply the mortgage company has until June 24th. Our next court date is 7/11 (Feeling lucky? LOL) The thing is, the last time we were given 30 days, it turned into 90 for the next court date. So that July date might turn into August, September, or October. I’m not sure. We never know the actual next court date until we receive notice in the mail. So we are kind of back to being in limbo like before we got the court date for this meeting.

I know. I repeated myself there. I’m trying to let it all sink into my brain so I can understand what our next best steps are.

So now we have to get the stuff Citimortgage wants to them by June 4th and the stuff has to be filed downtown at the courthouse by June 10th. Plus Mr. Brickie is expecting a call to go in to work any day now.

Things are about to get hectic around here.

The last mortgage payment we made was in August of 2013. We were told to skip three payments so we could apply for the loan modification. It was the worst advice we ever took. So in three months we will have our year-long anniversary of no mortgage payments. It’s still possible to stay here, we just have to file all that paperwork we filed before all over again so they have up to date records of everything.

Mr. Brickie ran into the opposing council in the case and they talked for a bit. The opposing council Jr. Lawyer said to Mr. Brickie that the mortgage company doesn’t tell them anything so they keep showing up and just finding out as they go along. He told Mr. Brickie to email over what we email to the mortgage company because if we are in the middle of negotiations for a modification they aren’t able to proceed with the foreclosure stuff because of that dual-tracking law. So we might be able to go to court less as this goes along.

That would be nice.

Of course as it is right now, we don’t qualify under that dual-tracking law because it’s taken so long to get to this point. But the fact that they started sooner than 120 days might cause some problems. I mean, I don’t know what the outcome of all these problems is…do we just get more time? Is it more court dates? Is it more delays?

It’s confusing.

Unfortunately, if we don’t have paychecks from Mr. Brickie working, the only modification they’re going to offer us is the one where we modify our living arrangements and get out of this house because they don’t care about our savings account. They only care about the income. Not that we would have any savings to show after the next couple days. We have to completely drain it.

So we are still on a tightrope and the best thing I can say about it is either way we have a plan.

You know how I am about planning, though, did you expect I wouldn’t have plans? LOL

But my drained savings account (or, technically, my about-to-be-drained savings account) is for tomorrow’s blog post. Something came up and while we have the money for it, it’s a huge gouge in our finances. (Oh, hey, if you don’t want to miss that story you can put in your email address and hit submit over there on the right and you’ll get my posts right in your email so the next chapter of the story comes right to you!)

Other bad news. My computer totally died yesterday but turning on the air conditioning saved her. I guess she just needs perfect weather conditions to work. I’ve crashed a few times today already but as long as the air is cool she starts back up eventually.

I really need a new computer. Someone needs to set up a GoFundMe for my birthday or something so everyone I know can kick in a few bucks and I can have a computer that works and is reliable. I know it’s a pipe dream – especially because there are so many people with those GoFundMe accounts that are homeless or hungry or doing so much worse than I am – but you know the pipe dreams keep me entertained, and that’s something. 🙂

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