Category: Budget & Finance

February Wrap-Up and March 2014 Predictions

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I was feeling all deep and smart today so I decided to make my own quote. I hope I didn’t completely steal it from somewhere else. It sounds kind of like the end of the Rocky Horror Picture Show song at the very end of the movie. It’s also possible I just have the last word of that song stuck in my head, which kind of happens every time any quote or sentence ends with the word meaning.

If you’re not someone who has seen Rocky Horror, I’m so sorry I just did that to you. My grandmother loved that movie so I saw it a lot when I was younger. I had a very odd grandmother.

February Was Rough but We Made It

Thank you all for finding this blog and reading it and I promise I’ll do my best not to let you down in March. My goal is a post a day and I’ve done a pretty good job sticking to that. If you have any questions for me, please, get in touch via email or Facebook or Twitter and I’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have. I tend to do great when I have some kind of prompting to work with.

I’ll be doing the budget post with the actual copied and pasted spreadsheet budget on the first Sunday of the month, so in two days you’ll have what my budget looks like, this is more kind of a reflection/prediction so we can all kind of place bets on what’s going to happen! I mean, not real bets, you know how I am about gambling (even though I’m fine if you partake) the stress would kill me.

How Did February Go?

Oh we did pretty good this month. Just today the elliptical went out the door for a cool $300. Sure we bought it for like a thousand when I had money and thought I loved cardio but from here on out it’s all kettlebells for me. The 15lb. one I have was less than $20 shipped and the next size up is less than $30 shipped. That’s a great value for weight training and add in some free YouTube videos and I’ll be working out for a fraction of the cost of other methods.

Selling the elliptical means that with unemployment we will have enough to pay the main bills for the month. This does not mean we will stop trying to bring in extra money – oh heck no! – but it does mean there isn’t that cold feeling in the pit of my stomach while I look. That metallic feeling of cold desperation won’t hang over my search for writing work. It is a very nice feeling not to have.

There is always the lingering, small hope of the weather that looms. Mr. Brickie did work two days this month I think. Days he went to with a spring in his step and a happy heart. He really loves his job. Even though it can be a really rough start I cannot recommend the trades highly enough. That man worked in marketing for years and I seriously thought he was lazy and had no ambition and would nag him like a prize pony.

Now that he’s doing this work? He never forgets a Union meeting, can’t speak highly enough about the people he works with/for, and takes pride in his work.

It’s been a little sketchy this month because it’s been so cold and we’ve all been cooped up together in the house and I sometimes feel like Jack Nicholson from the Shining and want to kind of mutter, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” as I wander around the house, but I think the family is safe. For now. *grin*

How Is March Looking?

I have to say March is looking interesting. The whole month can’t be bitterly cold, right? Watch me as I go find my husband to knock on his head and say, “Knock on wood!” sometimes I seriously have the sense of humor of either a really young kid or someone with just a really bad sense of humor. He laughs, because he has to and we are married. It stopped being funny years ago, I promise.

The thing is, if he starts working…even one day out of the week knocks him back out of the unemployment system. It’s better if he works, of course, because money and hours toward his next bump in apprenticeship, but it adds another layer of “stuff only unemployed people deal with” hassle as he has to go back into the unemployment office the day after he works if the next day is crappy again to sign back up again. It’s amazing how much time it takes, overall, when you consider we get enough in a month to pay the car payment.

I am not complaining about receiving unemployment benefits! Some people don’t qualify at all, others don’t get as much as we do. I’m not whining, far from it, I’m only stating the reality of having to go in person when the system is all online for people applying for the first time. See, again, I’m not complaining because with the whole system moving online you better be good at using a computer if you want to apply for unemployment. You also better have access to one.

Even for people who can go use the one at the library, you still have to get to the library and it’s baby it’s cold outside. If a person doesn’t have a car to get there they have to walk. I sincerely hope everyone who has to walk to the library has proper shoes, socks, and winter apparel because if not they are going to end up being bitterly cold.

Our inconvenience is nothing compared to people who have to go through all that just to get to a library to use an application system that takes me over an hour because it’s set up in such a way that there are questions for every possible situation and you have to determine which ones are right for you and which ones aren’t and if you make a mistake you’ll just get denied. I can’t imagine how difficult it is for someone who is not computer savvy to navigate the whole thing. Plus, the application has a time limit. They say it’s for security but I kind of think it’s to add one more layer of pressure on to people who might already be feeling under the gun having to figure out this whole computerized system all of a sudden after losing a job or being laid off or running out of work, which already makes you half-crazy with stress.

But enough about my crazy conspiracy theories about how the state uses stress and technology to make people give up and thus save a bunch of money. I’ll put my tinfoil hat right over here by the Time Life Mystery book series I got that one time. I’m kidding, I don’t have the book series. I do still remember the commercial though.

The part I remember most vividly was the woman in the Midwest (probably because I, too, am in the Midwest) feeling the sharp pain. I wondered if I hurt myself if my mom would feel it.

My great-grandmother always swore she woke up from a sound sleep, sat straight up, and said her brother was dead when he died in WWII though, so she would scowl at you if you made fun of the commercial. She wouldn’t say she believed in the stuff, though. She liked to kind of hang out in the middle ground and keep an open mind without actually picking a side.

I get that from her.

I am predicting March is the month where Mr. Brickie starts bricking again with the bricklayers doing the laying of brick. As the weather gets warmer, his work schedule will become more full. Honestly, if he works a full two weeks in March it would be beyond our wildest expectations. It’s all going to depend on the weather.

Our next court date in Chancery court is supposed to be in March, but we haven’t gotten any paperwork from the mortgage company’s law offices or from the Chancery court itself. I’m not sure what’s going on there, but I’ll let you know when I find something out.

Do you have anything big or interesting coming up in March? 

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Leaning In (or, Don’t Poor People Always Relax?)

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There are some people who can Lean In™ and say YES to everything and are completely jazzed and energized by doing so.

I think they are the people that inspire shows like House of Cards. There we have a whole bunch of people who Lean In and play to win. It’s a certain kind of person and by golly, if they are that kind of person, more power to them. Enjoy.

The thing is, when you are poor or unemployed or just in a bad place, it’s entirely possible someone is going to suggest you, too, Lean In and make new networking contacts and you know, just do a little more because if you did you would be so much better off. Since you are now able to identify this person as the Priority Police you can realize they have no idea what you’ve been doing or if you really haven’t been trying to network or find a job or polish your resume and – if possible – turn and walk the other way.

Enough of Me Telling You What to Do – Let’s Talk About What I *Actually* Do

I’m happy to tell YOU to walk away because that’s what I should do, but don’t. I want you to have it better than I do, and one of the easiest ways not to feel like crap is to stop making this mistake that I seem to insist on making repeatedly. When the priority police tell me I should be doing more I immediately feel insecure, then I feel shame, then tell myself how horrible and lazy I am, and then I list all the things I could be doing that I’m not doing right now.

By the time I’ve gotten home or walked away from the laptop (depends on the conversation) the list has made it out of my head and onto some mix of paper, post-it notes, and index cards. It’s on tables, walls, counters, and floors. It usually looks like a jumbled mess between a mind-map, a resume, a cover letter, and a suicide note apologizing to everyone I’ve ever known for never doing anything with my life. What I’m trying to do with all this mess is figure out my life’s purpose immediately. It doesn’t matter that I already have a plan and am actively working on it. Instead of trusting my plan, I have given my entire brain and life over to the impressions of someone who doesn’t know me well enough to know what I have or have not done in the last day, the last month, maybe even the last year.

That’s how my brain is wired. I am willing to trust the opinion of someone with no information on me as long as it feeds into my overwhelming fear that I am not good enough.

There are people who can sense they are making a dent in your psyche. I don’t even think they all do it on purpose. Maybe they get some kind of rush when they feel your mental pushback. Like they’re really getting through to you! So they just keep drilling down until you feel you’re at the dentist’s office in Little Shop of Horrors and I start to wonder if they’re enjoying giving me all this Life Advice I could use if I was a completely different person living in completely different circumstances and – usually – by hiring people with my non-existent disposable income.

I tend to just start imagining that they are melting in front of me. Then the melty bits kind of swirl.

I’m sure if they notice me doing this they think I’m too dumb to pay attention long enough to be successful at anything, but at that point I’m hoping they think I’m too dumb to be saved and maybe, just maybe, they’ll decide to leave me alone.

Want to Know A Secret?

The people that do this…the people who judge and who tell you what’s what in your own life in an unhelpful way? They are always dealing with something messed up. I have never run into someone happy and unbroken wandering around telling other people they need to put more effort into things.

I mean, sure, happy people will give you advice and people who don’t have secrets will try to give you a hand or a referral or a suggestion but by and large if you are dealing with someone who won’t stop? Who is telling you to Lean In and read more business books and start something up? Their life is jacked up in ways you can’t imagine. Whether it’s childhood trauma or current events there’s something there.

Engaging with that madness is always a mistake.

You will lose because the other person is just not coming at you from a place of kindness or love, so they won’t hesitate to hit below the belt the first chance they get. If you’re sensitive like me and you make the mistake of engaging (I told you, I’m telling you to do as I say here, not as I do…you know I’m engaging with these people…it’s a sickness) you will find it takes mere minutes for the long list of things you need to be doing and the tone of “it’s SOOOO easy” quickly turns into “You don’t really want help, do you?”

Every. Damn. Time. I say, “No thank you.” See, I told you, I can’t resist.

What I mean is, “Not from you because it’s obvious you are not anywhere close to where I would like my finish line to be.” What they hear – no matter what form your “No thank you” takes or the actual words you use – is that you are a lazy cow that should be taken out into a field and shot like the glue horse you are.

What Are Unemployed People Doing if They Are Not Working?

There was this whole rash of posts online about 20-somethings who were unemployed and kind of considered it a vacation. I’m trying to remember the term … I remember! Funemployment. (That link will take you to a Google search so you can see the overview of articles on the term, nothing fancy.) So there was this weird sub-culture of people who were enjoying being unemployed and that kind of seeped into the general consciousness as something people did when they were unemployed.

Like, as a rule as opposed to an exception.

I don’t even understand that. You can only get away with that if you are in a very particular set of circumstances. Namely, you have relatives or friends willing to put you up for free and feed you. That can’t be a long-term prospect for any but a very few people, can it?

We spend a great deal of time on the phone with the mortgage company, the cellular company, calling medical providers who haven’t put through our insurance properly and are instead telling us we owe thousands of dollars for a couple ER visits I had in December after insurance, and researching what food banks in our area are open and not completely out of stock on food. Since our SNAP benefits were reduced and we are a little nervous about making it to the end of the month, food banks are where we go next.

But If You Can Find A Volunteer Run Food Pantry that Does Not Take Government Funding….

Here is a little secret about finding food. There are two kinds of food banks. One receives government funding and has a lot of rules about the things they can accept and give out to people. The second kind – what I call the Magic Food Bank – is one staffed by volunteers and does not take money from the government. The one we have goes to all kinds of local stores and gets their food before it goes in the trash. The big downside of this kind of food bank is you have to pay. The entry fee for today was $10 and let me show you what we got. (These food banks are also not income contingent so even if you don’t qualify for government benefits you can go get food!!)

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This has seriously been such a load off knowing we can freeze a whole bunch of that bread to use through March. Sure, the white bread will be a little iffy once it’s thawed back out but put some peanut butter and jelly on it and it’s great, really.

The pepper picture was taken after my 4yo ate half of it. She really, REALLY likes peppers. We all do. The rest went into a salad with the organic baby romaine. We are saving the rutabaga for soup, because rutabagas are awesome in soup.

I also read on Poor As Folk about the possibility of picking up discarded/abandoned food shares from CSAs, so we are going to look into that as well. Produce is my priority.

Back to Leaning In

I have to tell you, for those of us who are poor leaning in is a whole other animal. I mean, should I spend my days making my children the best they can possibly be? Should I spent my days cleaning everything until it’s toothbrush-scrubbed? Should I spend my days making money? Should I spend my day researching ways to find healthy and fresh food for my family?

Really, I don’t have to be the CEO of anything other than my family to know that sacrifices have to be made in order to stay happy, healthy, and sane. I dedicate part of every other day to working out. That is a priority for me. It makes me feel good. It helps me to be a better mother to my children and keep my cool.

Really, all we have are our choices. The things we can think about at the end of the day and say, “Yeah, I totally did that.”

What are some things that make you happy when you get them done? 

Last but not least…huge hat tip to Carla (who is absolutely apologetically herself…Always!!) for the inspirational Facebook post that made this post possible. It linked to an article at the Washington Post about reclining instead of leaning-in.

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Food Insecurity: What it Looks Like for My Family

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When I see commercials (it’s rare, but it happens) about food insecurity I’m always a little confused.

Even though our snap benefits were $495 for a family of five for a month I have felt very little stress using my spreadsheet and price lists. I buy the frozen stuff all at once and anything fresh throughout the month with the rest of the SNAP benefits. I don’t feel food insecure. I spend a lot more time feeling awful for kids who don’t get breakfast. I have fantasies where I invite them over and give them scrambled eggs and toast like my kids had for breakfast this morning.

All this to try and kind of be clear that we have been doing okay on $495 a month. On the rare occasions I make enough for there to be leftovers, you better believe we eat those leftovers. Food does not go to waste in this house. 

So when we received a letter in the mail from the State of Illinois Department of Human Services my heart dropped a little and I opened the letter while holding my breath. (That’s just normal. Most government benefit agencies are more “no news is good news” kind of places.)

The letter was announcing the Notice of SNAP Availability Date Change

The Illinois House Task Force on Hunger and the Efficient Distribution of SNAP Benefits charged IDHS to spread SNAP issuances more evenly throughout the month rather than limiting availability of benefits to the first ten days of the month. To accommodate the task force decision, IDHS agreed to move availability dates for active 94/96 cases in Group 22 from the 4th, 7th, and 10th to the 13th, 17th, and 20th.

TL;DR They’re moving the dates they refill the Link/EBT card. Okay, I can handle that. 

It’s a staggered thing. They push the date by three days for the next two months and then four days the last month so in May we will receive our SNAP on the 17th instead of the 7th as we do now.

Plus, our (because government) benefit reduction went through. New benefit amount = $439.

I would like to introduce you to how those facts translate into what food insecurity feels like. I mean beyond the cold panic that blooms at the base of your neck and moves up slowly to cling to the sides of your skull while your brain furiously tries to figure out what has just happened and how you are going to cope with the changes. It’s when you find out you aren’t going to be able to go shopping on the 7th like you had planned. It’s about knowing that you have to make $439 last for not just a month, but from March 10th through April 13th. That’s 34 days on the new, reduced benefit amount. 

Let’s break it down to a per serving price tag y’all:

Kids Adults Times Occurring in Benefit Month Number of Servings in Benefit Month
Weekday Breakfast 3 0 25 75
Weekday Lunch 1 2 25 75
Weekday Dinner 2 3 25 125
Weekend Breakfast 3 0 9 27
Weekend Lunch 3 2 9 45
Weekend Dinner 3 2 9 45
Total Number Of Servings 392
Benefit Amount $439.00
Price per Serving $1.12

One of the ways we make the money stretch is Mr. Brickie and I never eat breakfast. We put half&half in our coffee and consider it dairy and protein and balanced. That is why there is a zero by adults next to weekend/weekday breakfast. Trust me, we spend a fraction of money on half & half that we would on food. I will admit that sometimes we wake up sick hungry in the morning and when that happens we have toast and peanut butter. It’s pretty rare, though, so I don’t want to factor that in.

In addition to meals we generally buy coffee (instant), half & half, and snacks for the girls at school. We usually send them with homemade popcorn (we don’t have a microwave so we make it in advance on the stovetop). We could cut the half & half out if we had to, but if we get rid of coffee, we will end up having to eat.

I might not have a good idea of how we are going to make the meal plan, but I do know that the number one priority as of this moment is vegetables. Luckily the kids were amenable to the idea of having the veggies first (like a first course) and then having the meal. When I serve it this way the veg gets scarfed down because the kids are hungriest. That means they’ll get more good stuff in them before they get the pasta/rice bulked follow-up. 

Also, my feeling of food insecurity is just that…a feeling. With $439 in SNAP benefits we are in NO danger of going hungry. The very worst thing that happens is we have to not buy coffee and Mr. Brickie and I will skip a few meals before he goest back to work. But, honestly, this is America, land of cheap and plentiful food and if we buy everything on sale or right past the sell-by date we are going to be fine.

I am much better off than many because I know how to cook and I have a drawer full of spices to make things taste better. I have a crock pot to make tough meat tender and I know how to braise and marinade meats to make them flavorful. I have Internet access for recipes and people who care about me. I am much better off than people who do not qualify for SNAP and wish they had the benefits my family gets to buy food with. Again, this is just the story of my family and I do not want ANYONE to think I’m trying to show off how bad I’m doing. I’m not. We’re fine.

The purpose of my blog is to feel like I’m not experiencing this journey alone. My wish is that my posts make other people feel less alone. That is what this whole thing is about. I’m just giving and receiving virtual hugs of understanding and maybe even hope once in a while.

So, feed the children first. Give them vegetables. Everything else is secondary. Or, technically, thirdly since there are two things there and not just one, but you know what I mean. Priorities are in place and my faith in the things I have faith in is doing okay.

Lucky for me there are a lot of blogs out there with super-cheap meal recipes. I’ll let you know if I find some good ones!

Hope Stretched Thin is Still Hope

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We really thought Mr. Brickie was going to get some work in this past week. Now the weather forecast looks horrible for yet another week. I’m balancing bill-paying with writing work and unemployment and trying to gauge the weather because if he does work that’s going to cost gas money and money for the toll-road and food for him to take for lunch because he needs to eat more when he’s doing physical labor outdoors for 8 hours.

Things We Sold This Week

  • Baby Swing
  • Baby Walker
  • Over 200 books, records, DVDs, and CDs
  • A mini-fridge
  • Two office desks (we actually gave these away because they were huge, clunky, ugly, and we couldn’t get them sold. I just wanted them out of the house at this point)

Of course, most of the money went to buying our new (to us) kitchen table. It’s perfect and the table and five chairs are in great condition and we got it for $80. While we really didn’t have the extra money, I feel the time I’ll be able to spend (and Mr. Brickie will be able to spend) with the kids at the table will be worth it.

The first night we had dinner together and the kids talked more about school and what happened during the day than they have in weeks, so I’m really hopeful that Board Game Night (on Sunday evening) goes as well!

But back to selling everything we own…

Selling all our stuff is twofold. One, it’s less to move if it comes to that. Two, it gives us a cash buffer in case we run out of money. I guess it is us building our emergency fund so we don’t have to use the credit cards ever again. I’m not comfortable cutting up the credit cards because I need to sleep at night and that’s how I’m getting through.

The voices in my head (the ones we all have, nothing special) chastise me for complaining because there are so many stories worse than mine. “How dare you share these things?” the voices say. Because I have enough flour and yeast in the house I can make a loaf of bread if we run out of the bread in the cabinet (which happened ten minutes ago so guess who’s making bread today). The kids will eat. Work will begin again. Even if it does not begin as quickly as I would like that is better than having no job at all, which is a situation we were in at this time last year, right when Mr. Brickie started his training program and before he found “his company” he would be an apprentice for until he becomes a journeyman. So sometimes I feel like since there is hope on the horizon I don’t deserve to tell my stories because there are others with more deserving stories than mine.

Then I remember this is a marathon, not a sprint. Maybe someday this will be the backstory of how my financial empire started. Maybe I can be the less-religious do it because you can not because the bible tells you to financial person on the radio.

Maybe not being able to pay my mortgage payment for months and repeatedly going to court and working through credit card debt, student loan debt, and all the bills while keeping the lights on will give me the background to give others sound financial advice. Hilarious, right? It’s okay, I think so too. Pretty much daily because I can’t quite shake the notion that if I keep learning through this I might be able to help others with what I’ve learned.

It’s part of what gives me hope to keep going and not just stop caring and trying every day.

When we had completely run out of unemployment and had to pull my youngest out of her preschool because we could not afford the gas to get her there anymore? That was painful. My youngest thrives on social situations with other children. Taking that away was horrible and she was so sad. She still talks about “her school” and remembers it clearly. I let her tell me the stories because it makes her happy, but it also reinforces the voices in my head that tell me what an awful parent I am because I cannot provide basic services to my child even if I have qualified to receive them free of charge. Free preschool with lunch and I just couldn’t do it. I remind myself that soon she will be the right age for Kindergarten. Well, sort of soon. Due to her birthday she can’t go this year even though she will be 5. She has to wait until next September to begin. Another blow to my mom-ego. I read to her at home and we play math games and I talk to her a lot so she is learning things every day, but it’s not as fun for her as preschool would be.

Some Days Are Easier Than Others

Today is kind of a low day. I have a friend who needs financial help and I want to give it to him but I just got enough payments in to cover the car payment and I’m afraid if I give a really low amount like $5 it will be offensive. When it’s anonymous like with the Jenn post, I know she won’t know so it’s okay to only give a little because my name isn’t attached to it. I don’t want someone to think it would have been better to give nothing at all. Of course writing that makes me think how stupid a thought that is. As long as nothing really bad comes up in the next week I can be down $10 and it’s not going to affect what the children eat. There is frozen beef and more beans and frozen chicken and so much rice. We even have Aldi-brand Bisquick (shi-shi, right??) So I think it’s the right thing to do because I know I would appreciate $5 over nothing and I’m going to do unto others. Again, you don’t have to be religious to realize a good idea. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Sure, some people will be jerks, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk. I have enough hope to give.

I have enough faith, even if it’s kind of an agnostic kind of “love thy neighbor because you have a heart to love” style of faith to feel we will be okay.

Wishing It Away

I know so many parents who believe you should just be in the moment and not wish anything away. I was totally fine wishing diapers away, I don’t miss those moments. This part, though, where we are poor but together? I worry I’m wishing this away for more financial security down the road. Like, I’ll be more engaged when I don’t have to answer questions about extra-curricular activities you want to be in with a sad, “No. Not yet honey.” It feels like I’m wishing this part of my life away so we can get to the part where I can take my daughters to the mall to go shopping. Okay, that will probably never happen because crowds, mall, overpriced, crap, mall, yikes, but I want the option!

I also want to know I spent as much time as I could with my children when I had the chance. We do game night once a week but while it is still winter I wonder if we couldn’t do more.

The wondering always turns into the should-ing and when I feel we should do more then there is never enough to make the should go away. There is always one more word I could write, one more ebay listing I could submit, one more item I could list on Craigslist. It’s enough to drive you crazy.

Right now I’m going to focus on getting a kitchen table from a Goodwill store or other Thrift store. That way I can do homework with my kids more easily. Plus, I can sell the school desks I got for them on Craigslist. They’re big, bulky, and really are pretty ineffective at doing anything for the girls except accumulate junk.

Becoming more minimalist in how we live is giving me great joy. Not just because we could move quickly if we had to, but because being surrounded by stuff has always made me nervous.

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The Job World I Am Sending My Children Into (or Better Work Smart AND Hard)

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I read an article today that kind of made me take a step back.

Not literally, because I’m sitting and that’s not something I could physically do even if I wanted to. Maybe I could roll back in shock, but I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t convey the actual feeling I have but would look more like I was suggesting we have a rip-roaring round of office chair races on my not-carpeted floors.

Which my kids have done before, so I know is possible.

Maybe chair races would be more enjoyable than thinking about what kind of jobs my kids are going to have when they grow up.

I might just come out of this article sounding like an old fuddy-duddy that’s against technology. If I do, I have not communicated well because I love technology.

Back to the Article

When Facebook announced it was buying WhatsApp I took a moment and thought, “Huh.” because I have the app and used it for a while on my iPhone before I got used to the Android keyboard when I had to make that transition. Now it has hundreds of millions of users.

It also has 55 employees.

My favorite quote from the article, the one that made my brain grind to a halt for a minute is: “In the emerging economy, there’s no longer any correlation between the size of a customer base and the number of employees necessary to serve them.” (click anywhere on the quote to go to the full article. It’s pretty short.)

True in so many cases. These amazing companies that give us beautiful technology that makes our lives easier, faster, and more organized are not giving us jobs.

It’s not just the tech sector, either, it is the sectors affected by the tech sector. The more we email the less we need paper mail. The more we use Amazon the less we need local stores providing those same things.

It’s not a zero-sum game by any means. We will always need a store with milk and bread for those last minute jaunts to the store at 11pm but we have Walmart and Target for that – and even Meijer – and for now the Jewel/Oscos of the world are hanging on barely but other stores aren’t faring so well. Whole Foods will live on because it’s niche. I’m not talking about imminent destruction, I’m talking about where my kids are going to shop in 30 years.

The landscape is changing so fast. I even get most of their yearly school supplies online now so I don’t have to fight the other mothers over folders that have to be red and pencils that have to be Ticonderoga.

Where Will My Kids (and I) Fit In?

In this scenario, what is left for my children to do? There will still be fast food and shelf stocking and cashiering to do and that’s great. I hope for my children to have those jobs to earn extra money while they are still in high school or to buy things while they are in college. Whether or not it will be true, I want for those to be entry-level, get-your-feet-wet jobs that give them the hang of going to a place to work and coming home when you are done.

A stepping stone. Not a lifetime.

But with tech becoming like American Idol where for every WhatsApp millionaire there are probably thousands of screaming-for-attention-in-the-stands-of-the-arena startups that failed and don’t have rich employees and venture capitalists patting themselves on the back. I mean, if the tech sector has the same risk as wanting to be an actor, a professional singer, or a professional football player…where does that leave everyone else?

It might make me sound horribly old fashioned, but what happened to a job you love that you do well? There are even too many lawyers! That used to be a high-quality profession where you knew if you made it through you would have work for life. Trust me, because I almost went to law school when I was thirty-something because I realized I really loved it and had a knack for it. Too bad I wouldn’t have made it into a top firm unless I made it into a top school and I wouldn’t have made it into a top school unless I both paid top dollar and scored five points higher on my LSAT. So the dream was shelved.

Even if I had gotten into a top school and a top firm I would have been rewarded for all my hard work with 80-hour weeks and never seeing my family again. I look at my consideration of law school as dodging a bullet more than passing on an opportunity.

There’s still healthcare, I guess. Too bad two out of three of my kids are needle-phobic.  Also, we need to see how that all pans out in the next ten years. I was already hesitant to push the kids toward healthcare with the insane malpractice insurance premiums around these parts. If healthcare prices normalize because of the ACA I’m not sure how that’s going to translate to doctor/nurse/etc. salaries.

Maybe they (and I) can all just decide to become accountants. Every company has an accountant. We’re all whip-smart at math so we would be playing to our strengths.

Oh, see, I’m looking for something I can do once they’re all in school, too. Don’t tell Mr. Brickie, though, because he thinks I’m going to write the Great American Novel™ once I have the time to myself during the day. I might, but in the meantime I have to study traditional publishing models vs. self-publishing and figure out which is more lucrative. I mean, do I want the money now, or the legacy forever.

The money. Always the money.

Do I have to be a futurist to be a decent parent? Determine what the next big thing is going to be in the career atmosphere? Figure out where the shortages will be and figure out which of my kids can fill those?

Are we getting to a point in American history where we will no longer ask our children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and, out of necessity, ask them, “What does the country need you to be when you grow up if you want a life that is a little more stable than purchasing a lottery ticket?”

Ask not what your country can do for you, right? (I’m stealing, chopping, and paraphrasing a famous quote there. Shame on me!)

What About Academia?

That is what most grants are. Lottery tickets that let you do your work for a year or (if you’re really lucky) more. You have to keep going back and begging for scraps from the administration or from private companies. Always asking for money has to be a draining part of a job, don’t you think?

Or you could publish papers. Each of them take years and have to go through peer review which could help or you could be unlucky and someone you don’t like could be on your peer review comittee and good luck getting that paper through. Also, it has to be published in a good journal or it kind of doesn’t count.

Once you do all that? You might get tenure. Work for many years for a promise you won’t get fired. Sounds legit. Except it kind of doesn’t.

Make Your Own Luck!

Or they could be entrepreneurs. That would be great if they had an idea for a business. I’m still trying to come up with one and I’ve been at home with the luxury to think about nothing else for years. I’ve done customer service at home while trying to “figure out my passion” I’ve done surveys for money while I tried to “follow my bliss” and I’ve even written for money – and still do – all the while trying to figure out a way to have a “big girl business” instead of a freelance career that is kind of driving me insane.

I would not wish the ebb and flow of this on anyone except people with the strongest character and who do not have a tendency toward anxiety.

Maybe they will own a storage facility and then they can have a television show where they auction off the stuff inside units that people have stopped paying on. Or perhaps they will have a reality show that makes me look like an awful mother who raised kids that eventually had a reality show.

There are so many ways being an entrepreneur can go right…and so many ways it can go wrong. So, we are back to the gambling issue. C’est la vie.

You Know I Worry Too Much

Maybe they’ll be fine and fit in to everything like a square peg in a square hole. I shouldn’t let my ennui affect their chances of success in my mind. It just seems like the world has changed so much and I can’t quite put my finger on where my kids – or myself! – should be to position ourselves in the best way for the transition.

I also read (on a tech blog, natch) that everyone should learn how to code because it will be the thing to know as the future moves forward.

But here I sit in the backend of WordPress.org that looks an awful lot like Microsoft Word typing away not knowing a line of code. All that HTML I learned ten+ years ago? Worthless to me. The CSS I learned to tweak the way my blogs look? Probably going to be as worthless as HTML in another ten years. If I’m even blogging. Do you think I’ll still be blogging?

Let’s be honest. I’ll still be blogging. Why deny it? Hopefully I’ll be an amazing blogger sometime in between then and now because right now I’m producing one and a half thousand words and not sure if I’m getting my point across or if I even know what my point is. Then again, I’m not that much different in person, so it’s not an inaccurate representation.

The one I think I have. I do not begrudge anyone who works with or for WhatsApp their success. I don’t have a problem with anyone being successful or rich through skill or luck or a combination of both. It’s not about dragging someone else down, it’s about trying to figure out a way to lift ourselves up, right?

If I do ever come up with an amazing idea and get it to prototype format and actually launch the thing, this might be the best “in retrospect” post ever.

There is always hope!

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How to Identify Your Priority Police

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In this lovely time I’ve been spending in the land of the poor (sometimes I think of it as a vacation because then I’m having fun) I have learned a few things. Sometimes, those things are universal.

Today is one of those days. WooHoo!

One of the most surprising is that everyone thinks they know what my priorities should be. 

Sell your iPhones, cancel your Internet, get a job outside the house, move someplace with a lower unemployment rate, sell your computer. There is no end to advice I get for leaving the land of the poor and most of these are delivered with such a tone!

If you get SNAP you get the refrain, “Don’t buy junk food, don’t buy soda, don’t buy anything that’s not fresh but you better not buy organic because that’s too good for the likes of you.”

They assume you have SNAP money raining from the sky to buy liquor and smokes and junk food with enough left over to feed your family!

I wish as much as those people that my SNAP card could buy me champagne and lobster every night for dinner. But beyond everyone getting tired of having the same thing night after night for dinner – no matter what it is – you could probably afford to buy lobster once depending on your family size. (a single mom with one kid isn’t gettin much more than  hundred a month, if that) and you can’t use it on liquor. Those signs in the windows of gas stations and liquor stores advertising SNAP/EBT mean the chips, the candy, but more importantly the $5 milk and the $4 white bread about to go bad in a minute or the one lone canned good on the shelf. If you take a good look in your local grocery store there is food. Most of it is from 1980 but it’s there and if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time they want you to know you can buy some Cheetos or a dusty old can of Spaghettios (no meatballs, of course)

Back to the Priority Police!

These people in your life come out of nowhere.

Most of the time these people, whoever they are in your life, sound like they’re trying to be helpful. It’s easier for a poor person because our priority police come with a “tone” that is usually reserved for how you would hear the super-rich in your head. “Dear *little rich people sniff* you must know *hmmmm noise* if you just worked more hours *self-righteous nod* you would make more money.”

As if they had come in during the last ten minutes of CSI and revealed the killer single-handed. They honestly think they have all your shiz figured out in the five seconds they took to assess your whole life.

The first secret is to always remember: I AM ALLOWED TO PICK MY PRIORITIES.
The second secret is just as important: YOU ARE ALLOWED TO PICK YOUR PRIORITIES TOO.

There is always someone who thinks they can take a five-minute mental stroll of your life and come up with the perfect solution.

For me, it’s, “You can both work. Then you won’t be poor.”

If I had a second car or was able to get a second job I could get to by train and that job paid more than daycare for my three children plus a clothing allowance and train fare and of course a new wardrobe because you can’t go to a job outside your house wearing Old Navy $6 t-shirts and old yoga pants from 2005 and then and only then would I get to the part where I tell you it is important to me to raise my children myself as many hours of the day as possible.

When you are poor all the suggestions sound the same, but I bet if you’re a working mom, a stay-at-home mom, a dad, a fisherman, or an underwater basket weaver there is someone trying to tell you how you should re-prioritize your life to magically solve all your problems.

Take a few moments and see if you can think of anyone who does this to you. That person who over-simplifies your life and tells you how easy things would be if you did just that one thing they came prepared to share.

In case you’re having trouble coming up with one I have one more way to determine if you are dealing with the Priority Police. When they give you their advice like fairy dust from above, it will always take ten times longer to explain why it won’t work than it did for them to give the advice. If you try to explain because you’re being polite or some other crazy thing, they will act like you are making excuses or looking for reasons not to do what they have decided will save you.

Finally, and this is the worst and most insidious kind of Priority Police…it might be the voices in your own head. The one that tells you that you should have gotten that diploma, finished that degree, majored in something different, had a different number of children, had different partners in life, made better friends, tried harder when you were young.

You can see all those missed opportunities that may or may not have existed at the time clear as crystal. No one can “easy solve” your problems like you can if you take a trip to the past.

But don’t start from your past. Start from today. You can’t fix 13-year-old you (trust me, I’ve tried) but you can show TODAY you all the love you have to give. It might not put more money in your pocket but money comes and money goes. You might as well deal with your bank account without hating yourself on top of it.

Because even if you aren’t poor…people hate you without knowing you. Whether it’s because of your skin color, zip code, religious beliefs, political beliefs, parenting technique, sexual orientation, or a million other little things. So it’s not like people telling me what to do with my life is going to magically stop someday. It won’t.

Because it’s human nature.

Who are YOUR priority police? How do you deal with them?

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The Shame of Having Anything When You are Poor

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I was reading The Queen of Free (a new blog I found thanks to a comment a few days ago!) and one of her posts hit me like a ton of bricks! It’s part of her 31 Days to Kick Debt in the Teeth series and the title of this post is Don’t Tell Me You’re Doing Everything You Can.

As a person who spends probably hours a day working out ways to make money, save money, and scouring our house for things to sell this post took the wind right out of my sails. See, I have stuff. Not tons of stuff and certainly I’m not hiding a collection of designer purses and shoes in my closet just waiting to be discovered. It’s not like that.

But when I told you about the iPhone? I’m putting that back on a $45/mo plan that includes Internet. I could just as easily get one of those government flip phones with free monthly minutes (you qualify automatically if you get SNAP) and only use my iPhone when I’m around wifi. Since I’m around wifi most of the time, it would not be a bad plan overall.

The thing is, and I’m going to be completely honest with you here, I can only commit to being debt free with 99% of my being. I’m not going to take my three kids to the library for Internet access and I am not going to use a government provided phone for my communication needs. I just can’t.

We won’t qualify for SNAP this summer. Well, if I’m being completely honest I don’t think we will qualify for SNAP come this summer. Once Mr. Brickie starts working on the regular again and once he goes up to a 50% apprentice I don’t know how much money he will make. I don’t know if we will still be in foreclosure on the house or if we will be paying the mortgage or if we will have moved and will be renting somewhere else. With all those things fluctuating and finding it a necessity to call people about my medical bills from those two ER visits at the end of last year, I want (not need, want) the convenience of having my Internet lookup device and my unlimited minutes for phone calls all being on the same device. 

This might be selfish. It might be wasteful. Maybe I could get away with saving even more money than I already do.

I feel guilty about keeping the iPhones. I’ve had a few people tell me we should sell them once they are unlocked. Really, making the choice not to sell them makes me feel like an awful person who isn’t committed to making positive changes in my life. Then I think about all the things we have cut and wonder if it’s not okay to draw a line in the sand and say, “This is my line. This is how poor I am willing to be to achieve my goals and dreams in life.” I want to have a couple small luxuries while I’m working through all this craziness.

Maybe that makes me just another poor person on the bus with an iPhone and an EBT card. I don’t know.

I try not to wear my wedding ring out of the house, too. I talk about money a lot and pretty openly and I don’t know if it’s paranoia or what, but sometimes it seems that people are looking at my ring while I’m talking about house payments and court dates. My ring is gold and has three diamonds on it, so maybe people think it’s worth a bunch and I could solve all my problems by selling it. Or maybe I’m hallucinating.

When I drive around in my 2012 car with a $495 payment I feel like I am making a statement that has nothing to do with being frugal or having a good goal for my family. The car we bought before the Mazda was a beater. Come to find out it had a frame broken in two places and was pretty much a death trap. I freaked out because I drive my kids around in that car and immediately went and financed a car that makes me feel safe with my kids. It’s a choice. I won’t sell it and replace it with another potentially dangerous car.

There are probably more things I could list. We all make choices and I’m trying to sell an awful lot of things I previously thought of as important. We have been trying to unload an elliptical on Craigslist for months. I think it will be easier to get sold once the weather gets better because an elliptical is not the easiest thing in the world to sell. Also, I refuse to sell it to anyone I know. Once it’s out of my house if there are any problems I don’t want to know about it. (It works perfectly, I don’t anticipate issues, but I don’t do customer service. That’s the beauty of Craigslist!)

I have a wifi scale to go with my Fitbit Flex. My whole weight/fitness journey is connected directly to the computer. The scale was purchased with mTurk money but I could certainly have put it toward something else. Everything could always go toward something else.

It dawns on me this is why Dave Ramsey forces people to put blow money in the budget. I figure my blow money budget is buying one thing worth $100 a year. (My Fitbit Flex was a gift.) So I guess that’s like $10/mo. Not bad. But certainly not necessary.

I mean, what are the things I’m allowed to have that I had when I had more money?

With the memes about people on welfare not allowed to have anything it makes me wonder sometimes, what am I not allowed to have? I’m not on welfare but we get food assistance for sure. Even if it’s not enough to feed a family of five for a month, it certainly helps. Maybe even the laptop I’m writing this on is something I’m not “allowed” to have if I was listening to the voices from around me.

Honestly, I think the only reason I can even think about this without freaking out is that thing I decided to do when I stopped comparing myself to other people because that also removes the power of letting other people judge me. If I’m not judging me, no one else can either. Does that make sense?

One thing I do think about is where other people are in their journey. What are other people selling? How are they selling it? Is Craigslist the best way or should I be looking into eBay for some items? Are there other things I could be doing to make the journey more effective right now?

I guess in Dave Ramsey terms I’m Gazelle Intense for 11 months out of the year and February I get a little sloppy.

It’s the best I can do right now.

Props to Haute Single Mama and her post Single Mom on Food Stamps for the header image! 

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The Levels of Poverty (or, what floor are you on?)

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Little known fact: I am an optimist.

If I put my life through the Facebook Positivity Filter™ it looks like this…

I have a beautiful laptop, 42″ television, can watch Hulu, Netflix, and premium cable anytime I want. My kids play on their Xbox or Wii when they want to do something, or, if they get bored they can read one of a hundred books in the house or play on iPhones or call friends on their very own cell phones. We live in a ranch house that is warm and there is food in the fridge. We have a beautiful, blue 2012 Mazda minivan and three computers in the house.

Now, if you look at that without the filter it looks different. I have a five year old laptop with a broken battery and a replaced keyboard (that I replaced myself because I can’t afford help so I use YouTube to teach me) my husband’s laptop is missing four keys, so he has to use a $10 USB keyboard and the screen has lines across it so he uses a monitor from a desktop we got in 2003 so he can kind of keep working on it. The desktop computer we have is from 2004 and I have no idea how it still works but it does and I pray it continues to. The cell phones the kids have are from FreedomPop which we bought because it was free cell phone service. Unfortunately, the call quality is so awful I couldn’t use it so I gave the phones to the kids because they could not be returned. My iPhones could not be sold for any real value because they weren’t unlocked and I owed money to AT&T for cancellation fees so I could not get them unlocked. My car is at an 11% interest rate and we are desperate to pay it off because I live in constant fear of getting it reposessed because I don’t know if we are going to have enough to make the payment. My house is in the middle of a foreclosure battle and the iPhones the kids play on are worthless on the open marketing because they are second generation. The books and video game systems were gifts to the children because most people know if you send us money we are going to spend it on bills, even if it is for the kids.

Both are reality. One is highly edited but sounds awesome. The other is what I’m thinking about when I’m trying to fall asleep at night.

Poor people trick: Buy all your kids’ jeans at the goodwill and then buy them a few name brand tops and a whole bunch of plain t-shirts. No one looks at the jeans closely enough for branding the way they do at the tops. So if the tops are the “right” brand it won’t matter if the jeans are. Do try to get jeans that are the right “type” aka flare, skinny, etc. but even that is just a detail as opposed to a necessity. Also, go to the Goodwill in the nicest neighborhood you can!! The nicer the neighborhood, the more likely you will find name brands in the racks.

Even with all that up there with the reasons and backstory and not-as-nice-as-it-first-sounds stuff going on, I’m still only a certain level of impoverished. I’m poor but I’m not REALLY poor. Honestly, we were never truly in any real danger of being homeless-level poor because I have a skillset that could get me a job if it was absolutely necessary. Luckily, my husband got the bricklayer gig and we just have to have patience and be able to exist at this level of poor for a couple years in order to have the family he has always wanted and I am totally on board with him having. 

We have hope. Hope is the difference between levels of poor. Hope is what you lose when there isn’t food in the house. I don’t mean, “There’s nothing for dinner.” when you’re looking at cabinets full of food you’re not in the mood for. I don’t mean you forgot to go grocery shopping and you don’t feel like it. I mean no. actual. food. That’s when the hope leaves.

I also got close to hopeless once when I put plastic bags on my toddler’s feet under her shoes so she could play in the snow. We could only afford boots for the older girls because they needed them for school. She was really sad about it. That made me feel pretty awful.

Oh, wait, there was also the gymnastics during the olympics where my daughter who is really gifted in gymnastics asked me if she’ll ever be able to go back to gymnastics classes and I told her yes but I could see she didn’t quite believe me. That was pretty bad. It will probably be a conversation when she is an adult as something she felt I truly denied her that could have given her the life of her dreams. It’s a shame.

That moment of almost-not-hope is what resolved me to use my tax refund to pay off everything so we can get back on track to the better life the whole family dreams of. It hurts to not use it for gymnastics classes or art classes for the other one, but if I want to be able to give them the things they need when they are 12, 13, 14…they have to sacrifice now, just like we do.

It hurts, but it’s a long-term plan. I have to hope that is enough. (But, see, there is hope.)

The next level of poverty that we are not at (because, I shit you not, there but for the grace of God go I…) I read about today. The thing is, there are a lot of “cryin’ poor” stories out there. What gets me about this one is that I have experienced some of the same symptoms. The devil is in the details, right?

Go read Jenn’s story. Her post on Poor as Folk is called, Jenn’s Words: “Living in poverty is like being punched in the face over and over and over on a daily basis.“ You can read it now and come back to see the details I’m talking about, or you can read the rest of this post and then go over there and just notice the details. Either way, you’re about to go on the poverty overshare roller coaster. Please keep your arms and legs inside the ride until it comes to a complete stop!

  • I have snapped at one of my kids because they asked for more food but we had made what was in the house. i.e. there was not enough for seconds and there was not more food in the house.
  • I have taken the kids to IKEA for free meals and picked food off of their plates because I could not afford my own. Also in the IKEA portion of the program, I have taken my kids to IKEA playland for something free to do that’s out of the house and temperature controlled.
  • I set my thermostat really low. So low, the kids use the Snuggies they were given as birthday gifts from gramma.
  • My daughters still wear sweaters and jeans with holes in them. They have decided it’s fashionable.

Even with all those similarities, I got a tax refund. While most of it was spent on absolute necessities and a few dinners out because how I missed being waited on instead of being the waitress of my children I still gave $5 to her. I refuse to let myself become so hard that I cannot help someone else or immediately decide the person must be faking it if they have a GoFundMe account. I know I should probably also give to my absolute favorite charity Modest Needs.

See, you don’t have to be a religious person or subscribe to the law of attraction or the universe to believe that good things come back to you. My theory is this. When you do a good thing you are more likely to smile for the next few days. Whether you are smiling while talking to someone on the phone or smiling in person the person on the receiving end of the smile is more likely to give you a good deal or help if you need it.

I’ve experienced this personally many times. I can’t say it works for everyone but it keeps me from becoming bitter (which happens to be one of my greatest fears) and that is enough.

I need to live in a world where everyone isn’t a liar. It’s a choice I make and I’m okay with it. That being said, the story of that one woman who turned out to not be poor and used her GoFundMe campaign to write a book? I didn’t donate to that one.

When you are poor, there is a tone and there are examples and you can generally tell when a story is a little too good (or bad) to be true. It’s in the whole narrative. For example, if I tried to overstate how poor we are and pretended I didn’t get a tax return at all to try and get more sympathy and then talked about donating $5 to someone else instead of feeding my kids? It wouldn’t sound right.

So, if you ever need someone to double check something for you, let me know. I’m happy to help. I want people to feel good about giving. It’s a great way to feel good about ourselves. 

Also, on Jenn’s post on Poor as Folk? Don’t forget to read the comments. She is not the only one. Even if you don’t donate (and I don’t think you should or shouldn’t, really, I just shared that I did because it’s what happened) leave a comment, maybe, or a few words of encouragement or even suggestions….community is important and so many of us are so isolated.

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Selling Your Life and Unemployment Stuff

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One of the things we have been doing around here in order to:

A. Not be hoarders.
B. Make the house easier to clean.
C. Make moving easier if we need to do that eventually.

…..is cleaning and throwing away and decluttering.

Of course, we are trying to make money at every possible point in this process.

Yesterday, Randy took a bunch of books to Half Price Books nearby and for some DVDs and a whole lot of books he got $125. Then he took our old CDs (get it, because we have it all on the cloud and on a backup drive in the hosue) and got another $30 from Disc-Go-Round. Certainly not the biggest score of our lives, but a hell of a lot more money than, “Let’s throw it in the trash.” for sure.

 

It was nice to add another $155 to the “Cash we might need one of these days” envelope we keep hidden deep in the bowels of the basement of the house. (You know we live in a ranch house that’s built on a cement slab, right?)

Especially since you know our run of great money luck had to end here any minute.

I was all excited yesterday, dancing around and singing, “We’s gonna pay our car payment early.” I kid you not, it was literal dancing and literal singing and I was in heaven.

This morning? The unemployment payment didn’t go through.

I check the information on the unemployment website (yea, technology!) and everything is correct. I call my bank and they cheerfully, lovingly tell me that there are no deposits on hold and no deposits have been rejected. I took a break from being freaked out about the payment to really enjoy the level of customer service I get from ING Direct Capital One 360 and how the promise that service would not decline has actually held true.

Then I go back to freaking out because the website says he was paid but no bank has the money.

The only thing to do is wait until tomorrow and hope it was just delayed a day because unemployment reliability. I was going to pay the car payment with that money! Okay, two weeks of his unemployment pays half the car payment, but I have the other half here, in cash, ready.

No one really has security if you think about it. Sure it might seem silly of me to rely on government payments in a state that’s pretty much bankrupt in a country that can’t decide on anything except how much money it’s running out of. I know a secret, though. It’s not any better anywhere else. I used to run accounts payable for an boutique advertising agency in Chicago. She would use angel investors and then transfer the money into the payroll accounts so the employees would get paychecks.

No one is truly secure. Down here at the bottom end of the spectrum, those mistakes can just mean a little more. They cut a little more deeply.

The worst part – for me – is that from where I stand there is still a long way to fall. I could pay my car payment today but I don’t because I require a little bit of “just in case” money to be in the checking account at all times for emergencies. For many families on unemployment not paying the car payment wouldn’t be a choice based on fear/comfort/risk levels … it would just be entirely impossible.

Making the smart choice in these situations requires so much planning and thought. That people with money think that anyone is capable of such mental gymnastics is just living in a fantasy world.

Another Two-Question Day!

1. What was the last bill you had to skip paying?
2. What did you do to catch up?

Medical Providers, Balloon Animals, my iPhone and a Debt Update

balloons

I’m pretty sure I already told you my kids are in love with the dentist and how at the end of the appointment they get balloon animals. If I didn’t that’s the super short version.

Yesterday we all had doctor appointments. At the end of our appointment the nurse – who is also a professional clown – made all the kids balloon animals.

We might be poor and we might be worried about actually being able to make our car payment but man, the kids are going to remember those balloon animals and if that is the defining memory of this part of our lives, that would be wonderful.

Back to the Debt

Now that I’ve paid off all the consumer debt (credit cards + a bill in collections) we are down to three debts.

  • Student Loans $70,000 total between the two of us.
  • The Car $12,000
  • The House $unsure
  • Other random stuff that may be on our tax return we’ll look at after everything else is in order. There might be a medical bill hanging out for all I know.

With my first/last/security set aside from the tax refund, that means right at this moment every extra penny is going to go toward one of two things. A $1000 emergency fund beyond the first/last/security we might need for moving if the house thing doesn’t work out or it will go toward the principal on the car.

Any suggestions? I can see good reasons for both choices and am kind of torn on a course of action.

About the iPhones

If you want to know why poor people have iPhones, I am here to solve the mystery for you. I’m about to be a poor person with an iPhone! You can glare at me on the street if you want to, it’s cool.

We bought iPhones when we were making good money. More than enough to buy iPhones and pay for the full-priced AT&T service that went with them. Once we weren’t, we didn’t get rid of them because they still worked on wifi and wouldn’t have brought a good price because they aren’t unlocked. Like I mentioned above, one of the debts we paid off was the cancellation fee from our AT&T cellular account. I still remember the moment it hit me an $800 cancellation fee ($400/ea for our two phones) would be cheaper than staying with AT&T and not switching to Cricket for a year. With our tax return I called and bargained the price down 50% and was thrilled.

Now all I have to do is wait 7-10 days for it to get wiped off my AT&T billing account and then I can get them unlocked, switch the SIM card to a new prepaid carrier (it looks like we are going with Net10 since they have good prices and take GSM phones) and I will be back in the land of the iPhone for $85/mo instead of the AT&T price of $170/mo. (That’s a savings of $1020 a year, so you see why I signed up for the cancellation fee in the first place.)

Seriously, I’m going to be beyond happy. I enjoyed living in the land of Android, really I did, and I don’t mind them at all. But when you have two expensive, fast, usable phones right on your desk it just makes sense to go back home.

Who do you have for cell service? Are you happy with the price and quality? Also, do you or your kids get balloon animals at the office?