Category: Budget & Finance

I Gave My Kids’ Savings Accounts to Stop Stealing Their Money

There is nothing easier to grab than cash lying around the house. I *could* put the pizza on the debit card but that takes three days to clear and I don’t like to wait on cleared charges on my budget so I’ll just grab that $20 out of Middle Sister’s piggy bank and pay her back tomorrow.

Uh huh. Sure I will. You and I both know I mean it at the time but I ended up with a bunch of post it notes that showed how much I owe my kids. I started calling them Indulgences because that’s exactly what they were. I needed to fix the problem. It seemed the easiest way to get rid of the temptation – and the post-it notes – was to get rid of the money.

It was time to follow through on the idea I had floated to the kids previously. It was time for savings accounts. The kids have been excited about the idea for the past couple weeks. Ever since the conversation about compound interest and how in the bank your money earns more money.

We collected all the change from around the house. We checked couches, stuffed animals, pillows, and nightstand table drawers. My husband got in on the searching and brought out his poor guy bag of change he’d been saving and taking from since probably college. He’s not the first guy I’ve seen with a giant bag o’ change. I think they start collecting it when they need quarters for laundry and it becomes a catch-all for every penny and nickel they come across.

I was amazed when he brought the bag in and asked, “Are you sure?” because getting him to get rid of the change was like asking him to get rid of a blankie. It was his security. “Yeah, it’s fine.” (the Mr. is terribly eloquent, isn’t he? LOL) and I just rolled with it, not wanting to make it as big a deal outside my head as it was inside my head.

We went to our local bank (it’s actually a little regional bank) and lucky for us there was no wait. One by one my girls came into the office with me and the very kind lady asked them their personal information and signed them up for savings accounts. She explained how they worked to each one and let them choose stickers to put on their little savings passbooks. She made it special for them and the girls felt really important.

The bank lobby even has a cool Nescafe coffee/hot cocoa machine. The output is similar to gas station coffee. Super sweet, frothy cappuccinos (that the Mr. loved) and that almost whipped-tasting hot cocoa the kids adore. The girls split a cup of hot cocoa after they finished opening their accounts. It was a great day for all of us and they all felt really grown-up.

We felt really grown-up, too. It was a parenting bucket list moment for me, for sure.

I do still owe Big Sister $20 because I borrowed it to start Little Sister’s account, and I do still owe Middle Sister $30 because I took it out of her piggy bank and there was a post it note that told me I did, even though I can’t remember what it was for. Now that their accounts are electronically attached to mine it will be a lot easier to pay them back one last time.

The Day I Changed Personal Finance Religions

There are several religions within personal finance.

  • You can’t take it with you when you go!
  • Build wealth, leave a legacy!
  • Think and Grow Rich!
  • Build a Business!
  • Leave Below Your Means!

There are different ways to get where you’re going and each way has rabid fans that will tell you their way is the only way.

  • Snowball Method
  • Avalanche Method
  • Invest single stocks / Invest in index funds / InvestInvestInvest
  • I’m sure there are a lot more I don’t know the name of!

When I started on my personal finance journey, all I did was write down our bills on a piece of paper and show it to my husband. “No wonder we’re constantly behind,” I said, “we don’t make enough to pay our bills.”

It was a light bulb moment in our lives. When I look back I think to myself, “How could we not know our bills? How could we not know our monthly income?” It seems so easy and elementary now, over ten years later.

I’ll never forget the shock of that moment, though.

Back then I was always anxious. Not “I feel a little nervous” anxious, but “long-tailed-cat in a room full of rocking chairs” anxious. I have prescribed medication for my anxiety disorder, but rarely use it. I find that my learned coping mechanisms work better and better the more money we have in the bank. (Shocker, right?)

Sometimes when things got really bad I would turn on Christian radio and listen to the way they talked. The lilt of the preaching was calming. (There has to be some kind of study on that. They all talk the same way, it has to be for a reason.) There was this guy talking on the radio about his book Financial Peace and I was like, “Woah. Those two words together are an oxymoron!” Yes, I literally said that in my car. I was parked in front of a friend’s house waiting for her to come downstairs so we could go to lunch together or something. I called the number and donated $10 to some clean water mission in some other country place and for my donation they sent me the book.

I still have the book. It changed everything.

I am not proud to admit this but I laughed most of the time while reading the book. Live on less than you make? Easy for this guy to say. What if I make no money? How do I live below zero? I kept the book and didn’t really commit to it for years but kept going back and reading it because I knew there was something to it, even if I couldn’t tell exactly what the something was.

I didn’t have Dave Ramsey on the radio yet and had never heard him say, “You don’t have a budget problem, you have an income problem!” which is absolutely what we had.

It took us a long time to figure out our income problem. When we did figure it out the solution was horrible. We would lose our house, have to move, uproot our children. We did all those things. We were so broke we had to be those people that had an online fundraiser.

I laugh when people say online friends aren’t real. My online friends saved my family. I’m not overstating it at all. They saved us.

We all sacrificed. We all sold things we would have rather kept (yes, including the children) and even though the kids were scared they kept a brave front because even though they trusted me, they also knew I couldn’t stay strong if they showed weakness. They comforted one another at night when they couldn’t sleep. They talked through the stress of moving with each other.

I feel both pride and shame when I think about that.

Since we have moved here we haven’t eaten out a lot, we haven’t done but a couple things that cost a dime. Most of our summer was spent at free events.

I don’t want a pat on the back or comfort, this is just how things have been. It’s how they had to be. We were in scorched earth survival mode. It was necessary. Now that Mr. Brickie is a 70% apprentice we have passed the magic invisible line between surviving and starting to thrive,

It leaves us at a crossroads.

We could continue on at this scorched earth level that has become our normal or we could start to incorporate some balance in our lives. I don’t want to be old, broke, and afraid but I also don’t want to be that old lady that has a bunch of money in the bank but never spends it on anything fun.

Balance. I’m not good at it by nature. I would, however, really like to try it on for a little while and see how it feels.

So we are turning away from scorched earth and the snowball method and the baby steps and blazing our own trail. One that includes investing in an index fund in a Roth IRA as well as going on vacation. One that allows for a second car, but one that gets paid off in two years or less.

Let’s see if I can do it. A new financial religion. One I haven’t read about online or seen talked about in a blog. Something new.

The only way to know if it works is to try it out.

I’m very nervous.

Back to Work 2016!

Great News!!!!!!!!

Mr. Brickie just texted me from training – he starts work Friday!! (Training is M-Th)

This is, by far, the earliest he’s started working. Last year he started in April. The year before he started in late June. The earlier he starts, the more hours he works. The more hours he works the more he vests into his benefits and health insurance. The more hours he works, the sooner he will get to the next apprentice level and closer to the goal of being a Journeyman!

Also, the sooner he begins working the more money we make through the year and the more likely it is I will be able to pay off that credit card debt and start on a proper winter emergency fund for next year!

Due to the weather he may not be working 40 hour weeks but if he did he would make $919. So we are absolutely in a position now where 40-hour checks are a lot of income for us. I will lose SNAP benefits pretty much immediately when he begins working (as it should be…I would much rather be able to afford to buy groceries) so we will have to budget $600/mo. for groceries. There will be higher gas costs and there will be toll costs to take into consideration as well. I need one day to figure out how much to budget for tolls and one week to figure out how much to budget for gas.

I don’t even start hoping to budget for job income until March – I couldn’t be happier for the surprise.

Our monthly bills and expenses add up to approximately $2300. So if he DID work full time that would free up $1300/month to pay toward debt.

I like to calculate the best possible month (The Model Month) first. Then I calculate the bare minimum and have a sliding scale in my head of what gets paid and how much goes to groceries based on what those two months look like. I also prioritize how I pay things so if something is going to go unpaid it’s going to be a savings account I’m putting money in for insurance, not the grocery budget. (I can always pay insurance monthly if I have to.)

The Model Month is a super-rosy view on the situation considering the view out my window is fairly heavy, thick snowfall. It’s going to be a while before full weeks will be worked, I think. The job should go through fall and that’s always the best news because we won’t have to worry about him finding a new job until probably the end of August. Since he hasn’t been to the job site yet we don’t know if it’s indoors, outdoors, block, brick, or stone. So maybe it’s a situation where he can work when it’s snowing. We’ll see.

Even though I hate the waiting, I’m getting better at it. Funny, having to learn to be calm waiting for him to work has reduced my anxiety around a lot of other things in life, too. It’s like an exercise in how to remain calm in the face of the unknown.

Back to him being an apprentice and working partial weeks….now that he is at the 70% apprentice level, even partial paychecks are better than unemployment for living on. We might not have to go to the food pantry anymore *knock on wood* (I only care because I have never been able to shake the feeling that when my family uses the food pantry we are taking from other families who might need it more) but at this point I just got the good news so I’m letting myself dream big before I pull myself back down to earth to make real plans and start plotting out possible financial futures so I use our resources as wisely as possible.

We might be able to pay cash for Christmas this year. (I said this last year and the year before, too, so I know I’ve hit fantasy football levels of optimism but whatever, I don’t care, I’m happy.) Sometimes even I am an optimist.

I can tell you we are better off than we were this time last year but in some ways maybe we aren’t. I do have more credit card debt overall, not less. That’s negative for sure. I do have a paid off car, though, and that is so important for having traction paying off everything else!

A lot rides on the weather, on materials, on deliveries, and on other factors that go into the logistics of making a building. The longer he works as a bricklayer, however, the more I realize that everyone is really pretty darn honorable. Mr. Brickie hasn’t had anything really shady happen at any of his job sites, no one has asked him to do things that were unsafe or illegal, everything has been on the up and up for years now.

He’s at his required training this week (only two more to go, ever!) and he’s working with stone and kicking butt. He has a natural gift for working with stone safely and quickly…weird how people find hidden talents, isn’t it? You wouldn’t know you were gifted with stone any other way than to become a bricklayer and lay some, would you? (Unless maybe you became an artist that chose to use stone? It’s possible…)

As always, I’ll keep you updated!

6 Ways to Spend Your Tax Return Wisely

This year I spent my tax return on 9 months of rent and paying off my car loan.

A lot of finance people want you to pick that magic number on your deduction form when you start a job so you don’t owe tax but you don’t have to pay tax so you get all the cash you can in your paycheck. That’s great for people who are willing to save money in small bits during the year but even when I was young, single, and making decent money I claimed zero because I’m better at doing things with a chunk of cash once a year than with four dollars a week more. Your mileage may vary but if you’re like me, this might help you out.

If you ran a business last year and found at the end of your taxes you owed the government money this year, I salute you. I’ve been there and it hurts when everyone else is getting a big refund check and you’re writing a check. I wish you well and wanted you to know I know you’re out there since most business owners get ignored or glossed over during this season.

Last but not least, I realize that because of where we are at financially we get a very large tax return ($9200 this year) because Mr. Brickie works but we are still below poverty level so we get a lot in Earned Income Credit as well as the Tax Credits for three kids. Here are some things you can do even if you get a smaller tax return. If you get a bigger tax return, you can do more of them.

If this is your first year doing something boring responsible with your tax return, do one or two of these and use the rest to have some fun like your normally would.

  1. Pay your insurance. Monthly fees range but are usually around $7/mo. to pay monthly. You can save $84 if you set the cash aside and pay that auto insurance twice a year or your home/renters insurance once a year. (Shop around now and then for better rates, too. You might be surprised at how much less you can pay for the same coverage.)
  2. Make an emergency fund (or fill yours up a bit!) If you don’t have an emergency fund (or it’s not big enough) you can choose not to spend your tax refund at all and set it aside in case you need it. The relief you feel at having backup money might be worth not going shopping for a new pair of shoes.
  3. Pay off a credit card. If you’re working toward being debt-free, pay off a card. This is the first year I haven’t wiped out all my credit card debt with my refund. It made me sad but paying off the car was too important to pass up.
  4. Clean up your credit report. If you have a bill you owed to AT&T or Comcast years ago that’s still hanging out on your credit report and it might keep you from getting a car or a house or an apartment … get rid of it! Call and see if you can negotiate a deal to get the overall amount you owe reduced. A chunk of cash gives you negotiating power.
  5. Prepay utilities. If you know you’re the type of person who can’t have an emergency fund without spending it, send extra money to your gas/electric company or pay a few car payments in advance. It can give you some breathing room to get the rest of your finances on track. Put $20 in an online savings account and practice not spending it. Like exercise, you can’t become a budget ninja in a minute, you have to start with baby steps. Once you can keep yourself from spending that $20, bump the amount up to $40. Eventually your discomfort will fade and you’ll enjoy seeing that number sitting there, waiting for you, just in case.
  6. Get an Oil Change! If there is some routine maintenance you have been avoiding on your car because it’s not that important or it’s just a little too expensive…now is the time. If you google your car year/type and routine maintenance you should be able to find what’s recommended and get your ride spruced up. If your car is already running it’s usually cheaper (and a hell of a lot less expensive) to get that routine maintenance and keep her running right instead of ignoring the little things until they become a big thing that costs a big chunk of cash.

I try really hard to keep it classy and not judge people who buy name brand accessories or phones or whatever instead of doing the above super-responsible stuff for the future. If I did judge it would be out of sheer jealousy and I don’t want to be that person. Seriously, I would be lying if I told you it was easy and fun to pay off the car instead of going on vacation somewhere warm and swimming in a pool with my kids while we relax, laugh, and order copious amounts of room service. I feel like a crap mother most nights because my children don’t directly benefit at all from paying the rent in advance or paying off the car. Sure, you can tell me (like I tell myself) that giving them a stable childhood is the most important thing but you and I both know that’s not something they can feel or touch. It’s difficult to choose the intangible option, even when you know it is the best possible decision for the whole family.

If you need me I’ll be laying out getting a tan next to the pool in my mind palace ordering an imaginary Bellini from my imaginary butler, Jarvis.

Planning After Taxmas

The tile of this post should be, “Crap, how do I not mess this up now?” After paying off the car and the rent I’m left with a couple credit cards that need to be tackled and killed off. I have to decide how much to spend per card and which one to pay off first. I am pretty sure I’m going Dave Ramsey style and getting rid of the lowest first (which is the bed we bought on the Macy’s card) and then the second lowest and then throwing everything at the Amazon Visa until all the non-student-loan debt is gone, baby, gone!

I do have a few savings accounts I would like to fill up asap as well. One is the $2250 goal for the “other three months of rent” we pay when the lease renews in November. Another is the auto/renters insurance payment savings account. The third is what I call the “Subscriptions” savings account…it includes the Costco membership, the annual fee for my blog hosting, the domain name payments, and the car registration fees we pay to the state annually.

What I am pretty sure I’m going to do is pay minimums to the savings accounts ($260/mo. into the rent savings gets me where I need to be by November, for example) and then the remainder over and above that will go toward debt.

By the end of the month he will receive a stipend check for training class and he will get one more unemployment payment. Maybe. Work seems like it might come sooner rather than later. He got a call while we were out shopping this week asking him if he could work a job next week Monday. He had to decline because you are not allowed to miss training and it doesn’t count against you as an apprentice to decline work for training. It’s the rules.

But one call means more will come. I hope he’s back to work by the end of the month, that would be fantastic for our finances and our family. This is the time of year we start to really get on each other’s nerves.

I have to tell you though, the better our financial situation looks the less we get on each other’s nerves. FUNNY HOW THAT WORKS, HUH? It’s like being poor and not having enough anything makes you a pile of stress looking for a target and golly if it doesn’t look like Mr. Brickie has a big ol’ target painted right on his chest when that happens.

You know how you hear things and you think it’s b.s. but then when it happens to you suddenly you get it and kind of feel silly for not believing the hundreds of times you’ve seen some universal truth shared online or told to you in person? Yeah, the money causes marital stress thing was a big one for me. I didn’t think being poor was affecting our marriage because we were communicating and getting through it, but man, the difference is huge but not in any kind of way I could explain with words.

We are both so much more relaxed about everything. We haven’t had a fight like The Taco Incident in months. We look back on our money fights and it feels like maybe, just maybe, those are things that are all in the past now.

It would be nice. In the meantime, the optimism alone is worth the risk.

I don’t have a cool calculator showing where we were vs. where we are but it looks a little like this:

|–(where we started)———————————(where we are)———————|

They say that graphics make a blog better. Let me know if the above gripped your soul the way it was supposed to. (wink, wink)

Avoiding Pitfalls: New, Bright and Shiny Things Don’t Make You More Betterer

Today I made a very difficult decision to not buy a flat iron. I’m 40 and my hair has seventeen inches of roots (that is an exaggeration) and greys shooting through and I’m tired of my hair not looking pretty. I want pretty hair.

My cousin and I went to see a movie today (The Boy – it was good) and after it was over we stopped at Sally Beauty Supply because she needed some hair dye and I found this straight iron on sale. It also came with a free matching brush and a high heel flat iron holder. No, I don’t need a brush or a high heel flat iron holder. I don’t even need a straight iron. I don’t use the curling iron I have now, why would I use a flat iron? It doesn’t matter because it’s on sale and it has polka dots and I just know if I buy this flat iron I’ll use it every day and be so happy with my new, smooth, lovely, pretty hair.

We both know that’s total bull, right?

My cousin offered to let me try her flat iron before I committed to the purchase and I wanted to say no because I wanted THIS flat iron. The one I was staring at. The one I was practically drooling on. The one with polka dots. The one that would make my hair pretty!

When I was young I thought having just the right pencils, paper, and folders would make me a super-student. I never had the right pencils, paper, and folders so obviously that’s why I was not a super-student already. Duh.

Getting a gym membership is not going to make me go work out.

Getting a budgeting program is not going to make you spend time budgeting and focus on your expenses.

My budget started on paper. It moved to excel. If I hadn’t had excel I would have kept writing it on paper. If I had never gotten You Need A Budget, I would have still budgeted on excel…or paper. If you want to do a thing the tools aren’t going to stop you.

If you try, I’m sure you can find a million exceptions to this but I’m making a general point that if you weren’t going to workout at home, you probably weren’t going to workout at a gym. Maybe that’s just how I’m wired and this isn’t some deep, universal truth.

Maybe you would have been a straight A student that became a Nobel Prize winning scientist that cured cancer if you just had a Pilot G2 instead of a sad little Bic pen. I’m not curing cancer even if I have a pen made of gold that uses melted platinum ink. I’m not a scientist. I never will be. No pen will change that fact.

So I put the straight iron back on the shelf. Trying my cousin’s is the best idea and costs zero dollars up front. It’s a good one too so I’ll know if it will work on my hair if I get one of my own. Most likely I will try it and not want super-straight hair and say thank you and not own a flat iron for the rest of my life.

Who knows. I do know that the worst outcome is I save a hundred bucks I didn’t have on a product I didn’t need.

It would be nice if just having a gym membership got me all toned up by itself but I know I have to put the work in. As I finally start to feel like a human again instead of a sick person I’ve tried to stretch more and move whenever I can. I don’t ask people to grab things from the kitchen, I get up and get them myself. I’m trying.

I would love to lift a kettlebell and put YouTube on the TV and do a workout, but instead I dusted my living room, did the dishes, and cleaned the doorframes (according to the dictionary this is one word, who knew?) Slowly but surely I’m creating a home I’m proud of.

Sometimes our passions choose us.

No, I don’t think I’ll be passionate about a clean house forever. I’ll stick with it as a priority until I get a system down that has a routine and doesn’t take effort and then I’ll move on…same as I did with the budget.

I’m excited to be not sick anymore. I think I can get a lot done this year if I can stay well. With the budget as well as with the house and hell maybe I’ll even get my kettlebell back out and work out. I hopped up and did squats yesterday just to show someone proper form so it’s possible.

Taxmas 2016

I’ve had this list made for a few days but this is the beautiful morning that my bank balance showed almost five figures.

I’m not gonna lie, I’m giddy.

Here’s how we spent it:
Rent until lease renews in November: $6725
Car Payoff: $1871
Emergency Fund: $625 (to get it back near $1000)

Have you ever seen $9221 spent so fast? Yeah, me neither.

I guess I could have spent it on clothes, jewelry, and video games but where’s the fun in that?

We owe the state of Indiana $101 so I’ll pay that off with the next side job payment.

There were so many other things I could have spent it on but paying the rent in a chunk is the most stress-reducing decision I’ve ever made. Getting rid of that car payment will free up $500 a month to go toward debt and rent savings (for the other three months of rent I pay in November!)

In case you were wondering Chase QuickPay™ will only let you send payments of up to $2,000. I just tried to use it to pay my rent and Chase was all, “No, thank you.” I guess it makes sense but I was hoping to get this money out of my account ASAP.

Looking at such a big number makes me fidgety. Not because I’m going to spend it and really, now that I’m using the budget program (I use YNAB) I only really look at the bank account to reconcile so it’s not a big deal. I still want that check cashed, though.

Happy Taxmas. I hope your tax season is wonderful and that you don’t owe. If you do owe, I hope it’s because you made enough money you can afford your rent or mortgage on a monthly basis!

Now it’s time to tackle the Macy’s credit card (interest-free mattress purchase … life changing) and then the two regular credit cards. With no car payment we are going to push to see how fast we can make them disappear!

I try not to get jealous when I see people getting big refunds and spending them on cool stuff. I want cool stuff just like anyone else…I don’t fault people for choosing cool stuff over boring bill paying, either. It’s not easy to always stay on the straight and narrow budgeting path. In fact, it’s really difficult and I have mad respect for people who even try to budget and keep their finances under control.

Have a great rest of the week!

Waiting for the Deposit to Hit

Listening To: Rizzle Kicks Radio on Pandora.
Thinking About: Paying bills tomorrow.

Last night we went on a date. I know going out to eat the day before Taxmas is probably not the most responsible decision but a friend offered to entertain the kids and we wanted to go out and be almost-well together just spending some time with each other.

I really didn’t know marriage could be like this. He’s a really great guy.

I know most of the time I try to keep this blog to the numbers but you know I have to tell you that most of what happens in this house is emotion. It’s the youngest asking for this, that, or the other thing. It’s the oldest asking for a Kindle book based on one of her favorite video games. It’s being me – the gatekeeper of the cash – and feeling that pang with every question. The pang of, “I don’t know, can we?”

The other day I told my three daughters that I always worry I’m not doing enough for them. After completely overreacting with fake shock and making me laugh they listed all the things I do for them and give them. It became a competition and the three of them were getting louder and talking over each other and trying to come up with the most things I do as a mom that made me the best.

After I got my fill of free self-esteem booster I brought them back around to being serious and said, “But really, on a serious note, I was very proud of how brave you were when you knew we had to move and none of us knew where we were moving to.”

Somber faces all around.

The oldest said, “Well we were nervous but we knew we would all be together and we can do anything because we’re Team Family so when we got scared at night we would try to come up with ideas for how we could help and we tried to be extra good and not fight so you and daddy could solve the problems.”

This is the part where I cried. Wow. These kids, man. They are the most supportive little people I could ask for in my life apart from my husband. They aren’t perfect by any means, they have their ups and downs and they fight and sometimes they get physical with one another and call names and don’t do their chores and aren’t helpful and forget to turn in work and get Fs but when they have these moments I can almost see what kind of grown people they will become and I am blown away.

I should do a whole series on kids and money and how my kids have accidentally become savers. We are going to open savings accounts for all of them this Saturday. One of my greatest achievements as a parent is not having stolen my children’s money no matter how poor I was. I have borrowed their money, don’t doubt it for a second, but even if they had to wait until Taxmas I’ve paid them back.

Now we can get it out of the piggy banks and into the local bank. Then they can actually keep their piggy banks in their bedroom and collect change like they used to before they had large bills in them and I hid them in my basement because I hate having cash hanging around the house.

Mr. Brickie is still on a side job. Probably until Wednesday. Then he’ll be home and next week he has another training class. It’s his Year 3 Quarter 2 training. It’s a three year program with one training per quarter so after this one he only has two left until he’s all done with apprentice training! He goes to all the meetings monthly so all he’s going to have after that is the hours requirement to get to Journeyman.

I don’t know if I told you his apprentice level flipped at the end of last season. He’s now a 70% apprentice. I’ve said since he started that 60% would be the most difficult level because we would lose food stamps (SNAP) but not be able to afford food. We went to the food pantry a lot in 2015.

At 60% we survive. At 70% we start to thrive.

I can’t wait for him to start this season because I want to feel it. Deep in my soul that feeling of enough. Not enough to go to Disney or hit Universal or visit Washington DC with the kids….but just having enough for everything we have right now. The feeling of being able to save money. The feeling of buying life insurance in case anything happens to Mr. Brickie so I’m protected from all this getting yanked away from us.

There is a family member we love dearly who was given a prescription she couldn’t afford. I offered to pay for it out of our emergency fund after Taxmas hits because she’s not in a position to do that right now and the timing couldn’t be better because Taxmas. .

In that moment I recognized myself. “There you are. The person you’ve wanted to be forever.”

It wasn’t a big moment. It wasn’t dramatic. It was just, like, oh…hey…there you are. You’ve been waiting to see the light of day for so damn long you wondered if you would ever make it but here you are. Thanks for not giving up on me.

I shouldn’t publish this. I should hold back and turn it into essays full of real, pinkies-up writing instead of posting this hodgepodge of thoughts but you know what, I don’t want to wait. I want to post it now because tomorrow is going to be a glorious day of paying bills and updating YNAB and waiting for everything to clear so I can do it again with the rest of the incoming funds for February.

My favorite time of year has arrived. The blissful few days I feel I’m taking care of my family’s future in a big enough way that it feels like it matters.

The feeling provided by the next few days keeps my soul fed through the rest of the year.

As always, credit for the term Taxmas goes to Jupiter from Poor as Folk

The Worst Week of the Year 2016

I realize it’s January and calling it the worst week of the year sounds an overreaction because it’s only the fourth full week of the year. I want you to know I know I’m overreacting just a smidge.

On top of this being the worst week of the year because I’m waiting on Taxmas to come down the chimney of my bank and put presents under my account number, yesterday Mr. Brickie’s unemployment was only half of what we expected it to be.

So barely making it turned into I don’t think I can pay the gas/electric bill just yet. It’s not due until the 5th and Mr. Brickie is on a side job right now and if he gets paid on Friday (pretty standard) it will clear well before the due date and I will pay it with time to spare. Even though a side job will kill one unemployment check from next month we would both rather have him work for that money.

This is the time of the year also where he’s been home long enough we start driving each other a little bonkers.

I love him with all my heart but he needs to go away and let me miss him for eight hours a day and have a minute to myself and my thoughts. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and no I do not want to watch wrestling what on earth would make you think that? I did dishes last time while you were clipping your toenails and can you do that in the bathroom next time and I don’t know if I defrosted any meat for dinner if I didn’t I’ll make something vegetarian because you won’t die if you don’t have a bit of meat with dinner once in a blue moon and if you keep complaining I’ll put soy in it and trap you in the bathroom for the next two days so I don’t have to stare at you staring at your phone checking Facebook. He may be my best friend but he’s my best friend I was starting to think about trapping in an attic.

On the very, very bright side my ears don’t hurt right now! I think the ear infection that would not go away is finally on the way out! I mean sure my throat is killing me but my ears aren’t so at least it’s a different kind of pain and honestly I’ll take throat pain over ear pain because ear pain is piercing, ringing madness-inducing awfulness and a sore throat is….a sore throat. I’m also pretty sure the throat pain is a post-nasal drip thing but I’m not talking about that anymore because I’ll start to gag because just the thought of that is gross. Sorry if me being grossed out grosses you out. It’s a horrible cycle. If you are grossed out you can cure it by grossing someone else out. Pass it on. It’s like when you pay it forward but in a much more negative way.

Between money and health it’s rough but I promise you I’m feeling quite optimistic. Maybe it’s because I’m naturally back-assward like that. Maybe it’s because I managed to get a really negative, unpredictable person out of my life for good *shimmy shimmy dance* or maybe it’s just knowing I’m THIS CLOSE to paying off my car.

I’m on a Facebook group (I Got My Refund) where people track their refunds and tell people where they filed and when they filed so everyone else can get a sense of how things are flowing this year. Some people filed as early as the 11th of the month. (Before tax season even officially opened on the 19th!) They were trying to get into the “test batch” of refunds that go out first. A risky proposition but I think a lot of people do what we have done almost every year before this one. You pay Christmas with taxes and try to right the ship when that big check comes.

I’ve seen some people troll the page for attacking people for getting free money for not working through EIC (Earned Income Credit) … we all know that you can’t get EIC if you don’t work, right? Like, you have to work. By the time we don’t qualify for EIC anymore I’ll be happy to pay taxes because I’ll be able to afford to pay taxes.

Mr. Brickie’s union meeting went well and he talked to people and the guys in the know say that with the weather it’s going to be an early-start season this year. Hopefully late February – early March he will be back to work. Now he’s a 70% apprentice and that’s enough to live on and pay bills with and afford food without SNAP so I’m excited for this year to happen and start in with the goal of being completely debt free (other than student loans) and have a Christmas account for next year.

I know the Christmas goal is one I have every year, but one of these years I’m going to do it. I get closer every year so I have faith if I just keep shooting for the stars, eventually I’m going to get one.

I hope your January has been healthy and safe. I look forward to all of us having a good year this year.

UPDATE: The reason the unemployment check was cut in half. You ready? We were paid for one week this time because our paid-through date was 1/16 and that’s when the year flipped to the new year and the need for a new, unpaid, waiting week renewed which was the week ending 2/23 . So instead of reporting in two weeks like I normally would I report again next Monday (the one in four days) get paid on Wednesday for one week again and then two weeks after that file like normal and get a two week unemployment deposit.

Gosh, don’t I feel silly for not knowing that off the top of my head. I’m kidding. How would anyone know that? Maybe there’s a letter in the mail I haven’t received yet.


When Big Sister Didn’t Want a Bank Account

This is an absolutely true story. I may paraphrase a little because I didn’t record the incident but it was one of the funniest things that has happened in my family. Also, my kids might actually be learning something.

Two nights ago the dinner dishes had been cleared away and the girls were reading at the kitchen table (the one that lives in my living room because that’s the only place there’s space for it) and the mail came and there was a birthday check in there for $100 from her grandmother.

I said, “Congratulations, Big Sister! You know, we should open a savings account with that money so it’s not just hanging out around the house.”
She replied, “I have a piggy bank.”
I said, “Piggy banks are great for change and stray cash because it gives you one place to put it all. But eventually there’s enough in there it’s a good idea to put it somewhere even safer than your piggy bank. Plus, if you put it in a bank there is interest on the money.”

She responds emphatically with, “No, no. I don’t want one then. I’m good.”

I’m confused, but then Middle Sister says, “I think she’s mixing up interest you get on your money with interest you pay on borrowed money.” I figure it’s worth a shot and I say to Big Sister, “Honey, a savings account is where you loan the bank money so they owe you interest.”

I’ll be damned if she didn’t get a big grin and say, “Oh, then yes I want a bank account.”

I think the program at the bank that deposits $5 into your account for a report card with all As might improve her school performance as well.. We’ll see.

I’m amazed. My kids have actually been listening to me about money and compound interest. Hallelujah.