Category: Hodgepodge

Poor at Christmas (Part 1)

Red-Christmas-OrnamentSince there are about 40 days until Christmas, this is not going to be the only post about this. That’s why it’s marked as Part 1.

I have three kids and need to buy for Christmas.

One thing my two older girls are going to get is cell phones.

I know, right, you think I’m kidding. Or maybe you think I’m horribly irresponsible.

The thing is, I took a risk a couple months ago and spent $99 a piece for a couple of FreedomPop cell phones. They come with free service (200 talk minutes, 500 text messages, and 500MB data) forever and ever. The call quality turned out to be complete crap I can’t rely on, free or not. But you know what it is good enough for? The kids. I now have free emergency cell service and two phones. That’s one Christmas present taken care of.

Luckily, it’s a pretty big damn present.

My big problem is how to determine my budget for the holidays. Is it better to get them five small gifts or one bigger gift?

I don’t know how much money I have to spend for Christmas because if I did a budget it would be ZERO for Christmas and the rest for bills and savings. I tried to save in advance, really I did, but then the weather got sketchy and when a union man isn’t working he’s not getting paid. That means my Christmas budget turned into a laughable moment of optimism instead of a reality I could bank on.

So I basically have to figure out how much to spend and then somehow make it all up with the tax return. I rely on that tax return and someday I hope I’m in a place where I’m not relying on a tax return. I’d love to be able to put that tax return into the college fund or toward a big debt like the student loans. Anything that’s not something I already spent.

It fels too much like gambling for my liking.

Maybe if I was smarter or more dedicated I could pop my numbers into the tax preparation software I use and get an idea of what the return will look like. Maybe if I was just a little less tired…

In the meantime, in order to quell my panic, I applied for and got an amazon store credit card.

Because goodness knows that for a smart person, I make some very unsmart decisions sometimes. A woman focused on being debt-free getting a credit card. Dumb with a capital D.

 

On Being Sick for 7 Months (or…the cost of insurance coverage)

pillsI went to the Urgent Care last week. I found out I have some kind of bronchitis/pneumonia thing.

The same thing I had when I went to the ER back in April. In the ER, the doctor offered me antibiotics but told me that they “may or may not help” because what I had “may or may not” be something that could be cured by antibiotics.

I said, “No, thank you.” I figured with how many times antibiotics are prescribed unnecessarily, I wasn’t going to be the fool who took them without needing them.

Now I feel quite stupid, because if I’d just taken them then, maybe I wouldn’t still be sick now.

I should have just accepted and taken the drugs.

Instead, I got five prescriptions last Tuesday and have spent the last week accepting that my mistake has cost me seven months of my life. Months where I told myself I was being lazy unnecessarily. Months where I told my husband I was just “not in the mood” to do dishes or sweep the floor. Months where the best moment of my life was bedtime so I could finally sleep.

Months feeling like the way I felt was normal.

It wasn’t normal. I was sick. Very sick.

The bright side to all of this, of course, was being able to hear from professionals that I’ve been sick all this time and it’s okay that I’ve felt this way and I’ll be better eventually because now I have antibiotics and other drugs. Things that will heal me. Things that will make me better.

Of course, going to the doctor wasn’t all ribbons and puppies. Those five prescriptions cost cash money and my husband has insurance now. That means no more medicaid. That means, instead of the state being kind enough to provide my sick body with necessary medications, I had to pay a copay. Since we have a PPO, that means I got to pay $95 we did not have for prescriptions.

Another stroke of luck was my husband calling our benefits department. They let him know that going to Walgreens for our ‘scripts was a no-go because they were out of network. We needed to go to Target or Walmart. That reminded me I had a Target credit card. So we put my ‘scripts on the Target credit card. In my “we don’t use credit cards” world, that is certainly not ideal, but I wasn’t going to wait days to be able to breathe again. Some things are more important than ideals…breathing is absolutely one of them.

A week later? I can breathe better than I’ve been able to in months. A glass of wine doesn’t make me need to reach for the Albuterol inhaler. (Yeah, that was particularly scary.) I feel like there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I may actually get back to a place I used to be at where I danced and did the dishes regularly.

That would be so nice.

In other financial news, we are coming into the time of year where my husband’s work becomes more dependent on the weather. It took him a long time to go from his first job in June to a company where he can know he’s a real and necessary part of the team. Really, if you look back, we’ve been on this journey from husband to turn into Mr. Brickie for over a year now. Then it was spotty work availability because Brickies in general haven’t had a year this bad since horses and buggies and black plague or some such craziness.

So we are still struggling. There are lots of mini family meetings to determine ways to increase income during this on-again, off-again time and then other plans for what to do when the “not working for a couple months because snow every day” time comes. There are so many plans. Planning for the unknown is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever had to do, but it’s worth it. When something happens, we have a response that can be put into play immediately.

It is very comforting. Also, very useful.

It keeps tensions down, too. We have contingency plans upon contingency plans. We have long term, medium term, and short term plans.

Above all, we have an end goal. The place we want to be when Mr. Brickie becomes a Journeyman. That’s the goal, here. Journeyman. When my husband makes more than twice what he does today. The time when we will have the same standard of living we do today but with a larger income so we can pay off student loan debt and put the kids in activities and do all the things I fantasize “normal” families doing.

The things every parent wants to give their kids. A full childhood. Full of love and experiences and lessons learned though practice and joy and teamwork.

In the meantime we are on a shoestring budget and trying to find ways to get through winter not on unemployment, but through work and profit and Craigslist ads for everything that’s not nailed down.

In addition, Mr. Brickie is doing his best to get noticed and known within the union structure itself. He wants to make sure he has opportunities beyond building walls … that’s the long game, here. He enjoys his job and gets a deep sense of satisfaction from what he does, but you can’t be out in five layers in Novemeber forever and he’s trying to see where he’s aiming beyond what he’s doing now.

He’s doing a great job.

Any suggestions on something I might be forgetting to plan for?

How to Budget With Irregular, Fluctuating Income

winter-treesOne of the things I have realized is that winter is coming.

Now I sound like an episode of Game of Thrones, but with Mr. Brickie being in a skilled trade, weather is a big deal. If it’s under 40 degrees, they can’t work. If it’s snowing, they can’t work, if it’s raining, they can’t work.

That’s a lot of conditions under which work can’t occur.

I’ve been trying to do my fancy-dancy income projections but they make me feel like I’m chasing my tail around in circles. With checks for 32 hour weeks, 38.5 hour weeks, 40 hour weeks plus the whole not being a weather witch (is that a thing?) means there is just no way to know for sure what’s going to happen.

So I have been taking some time looking into budgeting with an irregular income. I always thought irregular income budgeting was for people on commission and/or in sales. Look who was wrong…again! I’m telling you, if there’s one thing Mr. Brickie’s job has taught me it’s to dump all my assumptions right out the window.

So in preparing for Christmas and winter and possible job issues (only possible because there’s always the possibility of inside walls that don’t have the same weather issues) the next few months are going to be very ebb and flow and completely unpredictable.

The first place I found with information on irregular income is (of course) Dave Ramsey. Here is a link to a pdf from The Total Money Makeover that talks about how to budget with an irregular income.

If you’ve already been working for a year or more, you can use the system explained in this 99U article. You use the average of your last twelve months of income to determine your baseline. it makes sense. Unfortunately we don’t have near twelve months of data to work with.

You Need a Budget (YNAB) has some great customer testimonials on their page for how the system works on a variable budget. I love individual stories. They help me picture myself in the same situation. Also, I’m a sucker for stories of people succeeding. I love it.

One of the things about budgeting is you have to have more income than expenses or there’s not much to do but pick your priorities and hope for the best. This is going to be the first month in a while where we’re in a position we can actually budget properly. I’d feel much more comfortable if it wasn’t the holiday season on top of everything else.

So I’m just trying to count and re-count the money to make sure it’s all there and not getting spent on anything frivolous. I’m hoping for some great Cyber Monday deals (I’ll be stalking the Cyber Monday page on Amazon as usual) and maybe a fabulous Black Friday deal. I’ll be stalking my Black Friday deals on BFads.net as usual. Of course the day after Thanksgiving isn’t a technical holiday so I have no idea if he will be working or not. If he is working I will be thrilled and happy to pass up Black Friday deals, if he is not, I hope we have saved enough to take advantage of a deal that may or may not be perfect.

So many uncertainties.

Through them all, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I know we are on a good path to financial independence. Everyone knows waiting is the worst. In this case, however, it’s also the very smartest decision we could make for our long-term success.

The Reality of the Job Situation Out There (At Will Work States)

cards-straight-flushMr. Brickie was not getting Brickie gigs. He scoured craigslist every day and replied to scam after scam, job listing after job listing, selling everything that wasn’t nailed down to get our bills paid and try to create a buffer.

One day – not too long after he started looking, thank goodness – he found a landscaping company that was doing painting work. Mr. Brickie has a lot of history painting and is very good at it. He went in and lo and behold was hired on the spot.

He worked overtime and everything.

Then Mr. Brickie got SCARY sick. Fever, chills, trouble walking, the whole nine yards. He was sent home from work and his boss told him to keep him updated via text. Mr. Brickie went to the totally subpar antibiotic dispensary medicaid walk in clinic. They gave him antibiotics and told him not to go to work for two days and they provided him with a doctor’s note for work. He texted this information to his boss and let him know when he came back in two days, he would bring the doctor’s note.

He spent those two days in bed. Literally. He only got up to go to the bathroom.

His face was gray, I prayed the antibiotics would kick in, but had a sneaking suspicion what he had was viral. He had trouble breathing I was afraid he’d fall when he coughed because it wracked his entire body.

I brought him orange juice, water, toast, crackers, soup….everything.

I checked his phone toward the end of the second day (because I am a nosy wife and wanted to make sure he didn’t miss any important email) and saw a text from his boss that said, “Get another job.” I went back into the bedroom and let him know he could rest as long as he needed and not to worry about work. He was too sick to get the underlying meaning, but he stopped being stressed out about being sick and I think that helped him recover faster.

Luckily, he started a Brickie gig the next week and we had sold off enough stuff to pay for gas to get him to the gig that first week before he got paid.

Thus ends the story of the time that Mr. Brickie painted for a living in between Brickie gigs.

at-will-employment

Someone can go from giving a company 80 hours a week to getting fired in two days. Even with a doctor’s note. Even when he was always early to work and had a stellar reputation for speed and quality. It was not only a possibility he would get fired, but a probability.

It makes me want to scream when I hear people automatically assume everyone on SNAP or Medicaid or who is poor just isn’t working hard enough. Even worse is other poor people who know for a fact they are working as hard as they can and doing everything they can but will still point the finger at the poor in general and say THEY aren’t working hard enough. Even though they’re living through the same pain they accuse others of working not hard enough to get out of.

The deck is stacked, y’all.

I realize this is just my family’s story. I know others have it worse and others have it better. This is just a disclaimer so you don’t think I’m talking for the world’s work situation or think that I have it worse than anyone else. I don’t. I am smart and have a plan, which is what allows me to sleep at night. Just because I listen to shows and think to do research on the Internet about my situation to come up with a plan does not mean that’s something anyone could do.

When the smartest among us can be poor, how can we not be more understanding of the rest of us who are not?

The Big Reveal (Pay and Forecasting and Foreclosure)

broken-pigIf I unloaded all the negative things that happen in my life all at once I’d sound like a total downer who has nothing going for her.

I don’t think I’m alone.

Any of us could make a case for only telling our worst stories all the time. Some people do this on a fairly regular basis.

When people do this, I see others call them losers. They are categorized as a person who can’t make a plan, who can’t make money, who can’t make it in life, maybe even a dirtbag who wants to live off the government.

I don’t know what you, personally, would think because you’re more than what’s listed on your voter registration card. You’re more than your paycheck.

You are your heart. <– are you inspired yet? lol

Basically, people who know me think I’ve got a pretty good plan set up. People who don’t know me? Well, I don’t know what they think, but it might not be so good. Maybe they know me pretty well from reading this blog. Maybe they don’t. I don’t know unless someone tells me. I do know I haven’t gotten ANY hate mail yet. So…fingers crossed that trend continues.

I do remember in my last post I promised I would tell you our plan. We have decided not to take the horrible deal being offered by the bank. We’re going to foreclose on our house. Or, rather, we are going to let the bank and the court system foreclose on our house. It’s probably going to take in between a year and two years depending on various and sundry circumstances beyond my control.

I’m not signing up for a balloon payment and a new 30-year loan. I’m just not. You can call it shameful, or immoral, or stupid…but I’d rather be an absolute disgrace with a savings account than drowning in the mess we’re currently in and still have my upstanding citizen award from the Internet.

The thing is, what I really promised to tell you in my last post was why this is such a horrible time to do this to us. Not horrible for us, it’s actually quite auspicious timing for us to walk away from this house. The reason it’s a bad deal for the bank is the same reason they gave us the deal. Mr. Brickie’s job has built in raises that are pretty substantial and well above cost of living increases. He’s in the Union as an apprentice and right now he’s on the lowest rung of the ladder. He brings home $508 on a full time week. By the time he makes it out of the apprentice program and is a journeyman he will make over twice that. The actual increase will be about 148% more.

These increases are the reason the mortgage company is like, “Oh, hey, we’re going to take some of your principal, slap it on the end of the loan, give you a slightly lower interest rate, and then, in 30 years, you can just pay the $15,000-ish we moved to the end of the loan as one big ol’ payment. How does that sound?”

It sounds bad.

Mr. Brickie’s apprenticeship program lasts around two years. Maybe two and a half, maybe three. It depends on how much he works – which is determined by things like contracts and weather – so it’s a little on the fluid side. I’ve been using a February of 2016 date as the projection point for him becoming a Journeyman because it takes his training classes (four a year at a week each) into consideration as well as some rain days and holidays. There’s no way to do it perfectly, so I tried to assume five months for each bump.

If the projections change, I’ll let you know.

Back to the mortgage thing. We were dual-tracked during the negotiations about our refinance. This means even as the bank was working toward a solution, they got the attorneys to set up the foreclosure (lucky for others, this will be illegal starting 1/1/2014 in Illinois) and it stars (I think) with the first court date that’s in a week or so. One we won’t be showing up to because I’m not going to have my husband lose a day of work for something we don’t have to attend and would not benefit us to attend.

So at the earliest, our foreclosure will become final around this time next year. At the latest, it will be around this time in 2015. By this time in 2015, Mr. Brickie will be making over double what he does now. (Again, according to the projection.)

Trust me when I say I’ve put days of hours of research into this. Lots of late nights, days at the library with law books, tired eyes from staring at a screen too long. I really wanted to find a way to make it work. But if you look at yesterday’s calculations on how much extra it costs to own a home and then look at how much we would be able to save, the numbers are crazy.

The thing with the projections is this. The first time Mr. Brickie gets a raise we are going to make too much to qualify for SNAP. That’s fine, because his raise will be about exactly enough to cover food for the family for the month. We’ll have to be careful, but we’re used to being careful, it’s not like SNAP gives you all the food money all the time you could possibly want. Most of the time it’s truly supplemental and not enough to cover the family. (I’m not complaining. Just an informational share.)

Note: Mr. Brickie does have clients outside of his regular paycheck but they’re very unreliable when it comes to regular payment. It’s frustrating.

Plus, Christmas and two out of three birthdays are right around the corner.

I’m hoping a client comes through. If not, we’re going to have to sell some more stuff to make Christmas come from somewhere other than just Five Below. (Not that Five Below is bad, just, with three kids it can be difficult to make Christmas an affordable affair no matter where you shop.)

Here is another post I saw today about being frugal.

Oh, and here’s a great Facebook group: Poor As Folk

We aren’t going to be receiving SNAP (aka Food Stamps) for much longer, but I still want to make sure people have access to safe places where they can talk about things without having to worry about being attacked or shit on for being poor.

help a girl out. Should I keep the name or change it? If you think I should change it…what to? Just curious if anyone has a genius idea. 🙂

Renting vs Buying and Why Human Nature is the Number One Factor

buy-vs-rentSo, I’m still in the middle of wrangling with the mortgage company for the modification on our mortgage. I’ve been considering a short sale as well, just because I’m looking at all the possible options.

One of the things I ran across while I was looking into foreclosures (because if I don’t take this modification that’s a possible option) was this article on whether foreclosure is a good choice from US News.

While I’m not sure I agree with the spirit of the article, I was really interested in the little bit of math kind of stuck in the middle of the article. If you’re looking to determine the difference between renting and buying, you have to look at all the things you pay for when you have a home that you do not if you are a renter.

For us that looks like this:

  • Property Taxes
  • Mortgage Interest
  • Homeowner Insurance
  • Maintenance
  • Water
  • Garbage/Sewer
  • Gas

Please Note: If you rent a house you may still pay Water, Garbage/Sewer, and Gas. If you live in an apartment you may be required to pay Gas or just Cooking Gas. My list does not constitute what a “typical” list will look like. It is specific to my situation. Also, I always recommend getting Renters Insurance for your rental. It’s a lot cheaper than Homeowners insurance and, in some cases, when added to your car/home policy discount has ended up costing nothing. Also, for my calculations I determined $1800 annually for maintenance, every slideshow and article I found lists the average maintenance cost as $2,000-$8,000 a year. So our numbers might be significantly lower. This is probably because Mr. Brickie does all maintenance like running plumbing lines and moving sinks to different walls in the kitchen by himself. If we hired people, it would cost substantially more. 

The total on those things annually is $13,875. That is before you even consider the actual house payment. On a 30 year mortgage, assuming no tax increases or huge maintenance problems or an insurance rate hike that’s an extra $416,250 that would be paid out over the life of the mortgage.

So, for the cost of a house and the low, low addition of four hundred thousand dollars, I can end up with a piece of property worth the price of the house + inflation. My mortgage insurance is less than $7k a year, so even when the house is paid off I’ll still have an extra $6,000 a year I’ll be paying out that I wouldn’t have to pay if I were renting.

I’m pretty sure with just the $13,000 a year I can put that in a mutual fund (or diversify, you get my drift) and make what my house is worth in a hell of a lot less than 30 years. In fact, let me check that out. You know what $1156 a month gets you in 30 years with a 2% return on investment? $564,854.33 (interest compounded annually – I really tried to make the numbers look as dour as possible) I used this compound interest calculator in case you’d like to play with numbers on your own.

I have to say, my mind was completely blown when I did the calculations. I’ve seen some calculators that say after the sixth year of renting it would have been a better deal to own a home instead, but I’m just not seeing how the numbers bear that out. I finally found out what the big difference is! Here is an article from The Motley Fool that tells you that you might as well buy a home because you’ll just end up blowing the money anyway. It’s your forced savings plan because you can’t be expected to SAVE MONEY now, can you? You’ll just spend it all on Louis Vuitton handbags and purse dog jewelry.

Maybe that’s true for some people. They should buy a home. In the Decki household, we see having as few bills as possible as a badge of honor because as our income goes up (and it will, I’ll explain in a future blog post how that happens) our expenses stay relatively stable (we do have student loan payments coming up in 2014, but we’re preparing for those) and I can assure you we are not the people who need a mortgage to force us to invest.

My frivolous spending is about $20 a month on Starbucks. For real. I occasionally go out for dinner – maybe once a month. To someplace like Chili’s or Applebees. I know where every penny is spent and how it got there and none of it is frivolous.

None.

I’m left to look at the bare numbers without emotion. It seems to me that those numbers support renting. I mean, if you have emotional reasons for having a home, that’s great. I’m not judging anyone else’s decisions in life. Not even a little bit. Sharing my story has no bearing on how I feel about your story. We’re all just doing our best to get through and win with life and money, right?

But I gotta tell you, as the person who just went from the $41/mo. cellular plan to the $10.99/mo. cellular plan – I’m not your normal human and I certainly don’t spend money like a normal person. (I ordered one of those FreedomPop phones but haven’t received it yet. I’m excited to try it out! I paid for it and am not getting compensated for mentioning it.)

Of course, maybe it will turn out I have an absolutely average nature and I’m going to fail miserably. You should really keep reading to find out more. If I fail, I will do so spectacularly.

Before I go, let me leave you with one more calculator! I loved this one. You put in the information for renting vs. buying and it will show you the raw numbers based on length of time in residence! My results?

rent-vs-buy-calc-screenshot

Don’t misunderstand me! Home ownership is a wonderful thing. It’s nice to be able to put a garden gnome in your yard and, you know, have your own yard. You won’t be kicked out at a moment’s notice and you’re being forced to invest for your future. All those messages we received growing up that owning a home was a sign of success are quiet and happy. I still remember my great-grandmother writing the check for her last mortgage payment. It was such a great day for her and she cried a little. She was so proud of her home and what she had built inside her home. A family. She thrived on the memories in those walls.

When I think back to all the payments I’ve made and money I’ve already spent on this adorable little house and realize I could have bought it one and a half times already while looking at paperwork to reboot the whole thing to another 30 year mortgage, well, I can’t help but think with the right money management (and y’all KNOW I can beat a penny into a nickel) I could be in a position to buy another house free and clear in ten years. I look forward to showing you the numbers on my projections.

I :::LOVE::: projections. I really think they help you stay on the path. You can see – almost immediately – when you’re starting to veer off course! The more variables I’m able to use to create the projection, the more accurate it is. I know that seems obvious, but I get really, really detailed. 

For my family the financial and emotional equation seems like it’s becoming firmly stacked against homeownership. It’s starting to look like the grass might be greener on the other side where some landscaping company is paid to cut it regularly. Because landscaping and snow removal are included in my rent – I just choose not to pay for them as a homeowner so they aren’t mixed into any of my calculations.

I have to tell you though, this particular question and the ones surrounding it are one HELL of an Internet rabbit hole. I’ve probably searched from one to five hours a day for over a month now. It’s…really sad the different ways people end up in this situation. Most of them are depressed and feel horrible. Like failures.

In my next blog post I’m going to tell you what I can do with one to two years of no mortgage payments and why the mortgage company picked the worst possible time to offer us a crappy deal. Perhaps I’ll also cover why we are stupid for not contacting a lawyer because the crappy deal becomes partially our fault for not having a lawyer or an organization like NACA to fight for us.

Stay tuned!

I’ll leave you with this New York Times Rent vs. Buy Calculator if you want to play with percentages. It’s interesting, but there’s a lot that doesn’t go into it. Everyone is trying to oversimplify something that is complex both financially and emotionally. Also a great guest post on Get Rich Slowly that not only covers the rent vs. buy debate in an interesting way but has a bunch of links at the end that are also great resources.

If you have any specific questions you’d like me to address, you can send an email to jenny at my domain up there in the address bar and I will do my best to answer it in a future blog post. If you email make sure to let me know if you’d like to remain anonymous and what name/town you’d like me to use. As always, hateful comments will not be tolerated and will probably be edited to make you look like an idiot. You have been warned.

Mortgage Drama and Looking at All the Options (Underwriter Decision on the HAMP Remodification Deal)

Not actually my house. LOL
Not actually my house…

Normally my big daily focus is cleaning the house. Surprisingly, I do a really great job. Then I make sure the bills are paid.

Mr. Brickie got paid yesterday and I’m actually itching to spend the money.  Not on anything fun, but on bills. I want to take out $260 in cash to stash until next week when we make the car payment ($495).

I hear the question you might be asking. Okay, the question I ask myself every month as I make an almost five hundred dollar car payment … why the hell didn’t you buy a cheap or at least used car?

Funny story! My husband got into an accident with our old car (their fault) and we decided to use the money from the check to buy an older car so we wouldn’t have a new car with payments. It kept making this weird sound like the top of a Snapple bottle popping and finally I made Mr. Brickie take it in to the mechanic and the frame was broken in two places. I looked at the car, saw the baby seat and booster seats in the back and I completely lost my shit. I freaked out.

I freaked out and bought a new car.

So……that happened.

Also, I saw a question on Facebook regarding a post that was kind of along the lines of, “Why doesn’t that family try to live within their means?” She saw the snipped from the post that said my husband makes $16/hr. and our mortgage was $1213/mo.

Dude, I thought it was a fantastic question.

When we originally bought this house I made enough to pay the mortgage. Well, almost.

Ten years ago the Internet just isn’t what it is today. Trust me, if it had been I’d have been all over it because you know I’m the Research Queen™. When we put in an offer for this house our realtor told us we would pay $750/mo. for this house.

Don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t lying. She just didn’t tell us about property taxes and home insurance. (Our grossly, grossly overestimated home insurance. I can say that because I worked in insurance for years. I can’t fix it. It’s a gross overestimate. MORAL HAZARD, ANYONE?) The totals of those things added to the $750/mo. and we didn’t find out the specific numbers on those things until we were signing our lives away at the trade company actually buying the house. I walked in with my lawyer and (what I thought was a) firm belief in how much my home was going to cost. I walked out shellshocked and in a panic.

I have recurring nightmares where I know I should just walk out but choose not to because of that damn earnest money. It’s a nightmare because every time, I sit down and sign the papers, just like I did the first time.

It’s kind of awful.

That being said, we managed it for over ten years. I’m pretty proud of us.

In the past couple years, however, I was laid off and my husband couldn’t find work or freelance clients and the economy stank and no one wanted to spend money and no one was hiring. I came to the conclusion that marketing is a horrible, horrible profession to be in. I’m a good saleswoman, for sure, but when you’re in marketing there’s ALWAYS someone that’s better at selling themselves than you are, because it’s the job description. I’m no golden child of marketing rising above all the others.

So there we were, on unemployment and freaking out because, well, anyone would be.

Fast forward here because we decided to totally reevaluate our lives and how things worked around here and Mr. Brickie went into a ten week training program and it turns out it’s a job he loves and is really good at. Every 750 hours he works, he gets a substantial raise until he’s at 100% of journeyman rate when he gets to 100%. It’s a real path for getting into and clinging to the middle class (at least what I consider middle class, which is another blog post entirely).

Obviously my mortgage company realized this too. Underwriting had no problem coming  back and letting us know they would be happy to do a HAMP remodification for us.

Original Terms of the Loan (as of the moment we stopped making payments)

Balance: $106,000
Interest: 6.25% fixed
Total Payment: $1213 (including escrow)

New, Shiny, Bright HAMP Loan Terms

Balance: $90,453.84 (The other $15,699.98 is deferred – if you have student loans you know the punch line already)
Interest: 4.5% fixed
Total Payment: $799.85
Length of Loan: 30 or 40 Years (I forgot to ask. I’ll call back today and find out. It probably doesn’t matter.)

There was, when the gentleman was telling me about my nice new loan he also mentioned something about fees and late costs of $28,000 but when I tried to get him to specify if those were lawyer fees and late fees he said they were being forgiven then put me on hold for ten minutes, came back, said he was mistaken and then focused on the $15,000-ish in principal they were moving to the end of the loan.

Also, when I asked the man was kind enough to tell me that $15k-ish was going to be due as a lump sum at the end of the loan. Which means at the end of 30 or 40 years (I haven’t done the exact math on this deal to see, there are more than enough numbers to solve for X) that will have been accruing interest at 4.5% for the life of the loan. If it’s a 30 year loan, that’s just around $60,000 dollars.

Say what?

For the privilege of keeping my house and the punishment for being four months late with payments, I’m going to be stuck with a balloon payment at the end of my mortgage? A balloon payment that’s 50% of what my house is WORTH?

Um, yeah, I don’t think so.

The very worst part? I had to dig for most of this information. The man on the phone at CitiMortgage wanted to tell me two things.

One: My payment amount of $799.98
Two: My first payment was due November 1st

Everything else I had to get by asking just the right questions with just the right polite tone or I would have been stonewalled. I also asked him if I would receive the paperwork showing me this deal so I could see it all myself. He said only after I make my three trial payments and AGREE TO THE LOAN TERMS by paying those trial payments would I receive the permanent modification and at that time I would see the terms of the loan I already agreed to by making these payments.

I don’t know about you, but my grams taught me to never ever enter into a contract someone refuses to even show you.

So now it’s time to come up with a new plan.

The first step? I’m going to look and see if doing a HAMP Remodification is like a refinance. I need to know if it takes away my loan’s status as an FHA loan.

Decisions, decisions.

EDITED TO ADD: I found out the $15,699.98 being deferred will NOT accrue interest. I am totally incorrect there. It’s still a lump sum that will be due upon refinance or sale. The trial modification amount does not include lawyer fees or late fees from being dual-tracked for foreclosure during the process of being looked at for a modification. Last but not least, the new loan is a 30-year, not 40. So it’s not nearly as bad as I thought up front. (You would think I would have been given this information during the call, right?)

It also does not take away the FHA status of my loan (as far as I can tell.)

I’m still just worried that paying the trial payments is effectively signing off on a contract I’m not allowed to read. That’s still shady.

 

Watching Television for Free

tv-kidYou need some friends or family, stat.

One of the ways you can watch television for free is to pirate all your favorite shows, but that’s just bunk.

Another way is to stream as much as you can and wait for things to get old and hope for the best when it comes to buying your own access to television.

Or, probably the smartest thing, dump television shows altogether and start reading more books and walking around your neighborhood and being a more active person. Not to be thinner, but to be more active. Be healthy, make good decisions, have a happier life. All that happy jazz.

Otherwise, talk to your friends.

If you subscribe to Hulu Plus and can find a friend to subscribe to Netflix, guess what? You can trade logins and each enjoy two services for the price of one.

If you have a friend who was going to subscribe to Comcast or AT&T Uverse anyway, offer them a few bucks to give you a login to watch on your computer. You have less access (especially with Comcast On Demand) but it’s well worth it to throw some cash for access to so many shows!

I don’t personally do this, but I have friends who do and they love having access to all their favorite shows for $20/mo. instead of the almost s$200/mo. her friend pays for the full-on cable television experience.

If there are moral issues that keep you from doing this, then by all means, don’t do it.

Otherwise, use your friends wisely and let your friends use you in return so everyone can have the best experience possible.

Why I Listen to Dave Ramsey (even though I’m not Über Christian)

dave-ramsey-houseDave Ramsey is a really religious dude.

He also thinks fat people are lazy gluttons.

He’s not someone I want to be friends with. If I was in the same room, I wouldn’t get all geeked out to say hello, because I know he wouldn’t like me either.

All that aside, I listen to his show almost every day for three hours. Through the tirades on socialism, through the bitching about the lazy Americans, and through the repeated quotes from god and godly folks, there is an amazing amount of life happening on his show, every day, and the suggestions/advice he gives are financial. Simple and financial.

…and they work.

Let me tell you about how I “met” Dave Ramsey the first time. I have this thing where sometimes I like to listen to religious radio. I don’t know why. Therapy would probably be required to explain it, but suffice it to say I do. Years and years ago, probably the first or second year my husband and I were married, I heard on this religious show that if you donated $10 to something or other (I think it was a mission bringing fresh water to more of  Africa) you would receive a copy of Dave Ramsey’s new book “Financial Peace.”

Something told me to buy it.

When I received it, I read it and kept thinking, “This would be really helpful if we, you know, HAD INCOME TO SPEND.” It was years later before I heard Dave reference an “income problem” as an alternative to a “budget problem” and that’s when the last piece clicked into place.

I still have the book. I feel like I will always have the book. Even if my trajectory isn’t the same as everyone else’s and I don’t get debt-free as fast as other people who get on the Dave Ramsey bandwagon, I know I’ll get there and even if he’s the last person on earth I want to break bread and hang out with, I’ll have Dave to thank for it.

Pretty simple, right?

It’s why I don’t have a bunch of bills. While we may be poor, I have to tell you, without Dave we would be so much worse off than we are. I’m thankful for that. We have a plan. We don’t argue about money. Mr. Brickie and I both know how much money we have and where that money is going. No one shops, no one spends, without the other one knowing.

Putting it out there like that it sounds sort of controlled, but it’s not. It’s just a normal part of our conversation. Money isn’t something we avoid, it’s a part of everything, like what kind of bagels to buy or if generic cream cheese is just as good as name brand (pro tip: it is).

So, if you’re lost about money and you’re not sure where to turn, log on to the Dave Ramsey show. There’s an app on the iTunes store and I think it’s available for android too. Or you can just watch it right from the computer. You can also listen to it on the iHeartRadio Dave Ramsey channel. Listen while you clean (that’s what I do) or listen when you’re falling asleep, waking up, or anytime in between.

You’ll probably sneer and balk at the over-simplified advice because you’re so smart, but keep listening. Listen to the people who got debt free on $40, $30, or even $25k/yr. Think about how much more free they are than you, right now, no matter what your income is.

Determine if your problem is an income problem or a budget problem – and then make a plan to get that debt monkey off your back.

That’s what we’re doing and it’s just one more thing I’m going to track on this site. I’m going to hold a dollar in my hand, someday, that is owed to no one. When that happens, I’ll show it to you.

I do want to make it clear I have no ill will or bad feelings toward Dave Ramsey. None. I just know that – in general – the more religious someone is, the more my personality doesn’t work for them. He might be the exception, so my thoughts about not wanting to hang out with him are just speculation. I don’t dislike him as a person, because I DON’T KNOW HIM and can’t make that determination. I’m just trying to get across that people who are not very, very religious can find great value in this message. More than anything, I think that I know he wouldn’t want to hang out with me because I don’t have anything to offer. Not in a “poor me” sense, but he has his friends and things and I’m a blogger who knows she has friends and people who dislike her and is making an educated guess that I think he wouldn’t like my lowbrow ways.

I could be wrong. Speculation isn’t fact and I’m not making any accusations! I just think you should listen and give it a go! Even though I am still poor (or broke, as DR says, because poor is a condition and broke is temporary, lol) I’d have more credit card debt if I wasn’t using every tax return to pay off debt.

Sure, I’d like to take my kids to Disney World someday. But I won’t do it by sacrificing their college funds or our emergency fund. Priorities help the whole family.

 

It is Always Darkest Before the Financial Dawn

stormy-skyWe are so poor right now. My husband makes, like, $16/hr. and we have a mortgage that’s $1200/mo.

That doesn’t add up, trust me.

I need to get a screenshot of our excel spreadsheet, but in the meantime, let me introduce you to our bills. You will notice we don’t pay for cable and we just changed from Cricket ($82/mo. for TWO cell phones) to FreedomPop ($26.96/mo. for TWO cell phones with unlimited talk/text, 500mb data and visual voicemail ($2.49/phone/mo.)) I dare you to find me a better deal. DARE. I could have taken less voice and text service and gotten FREE FreedomPop service but my phone is a lifeline that connects me to friends and it is important to me. So that extra $27/mo. is a choice in my budget.

Here are my line items in the budget:

  • Mortgage
  • Gas for the car
  • Tolls for the commute
  • Gas
  • Electric
  • Garbage/Sewer
  • Water
  • Car Payment (trying to pay off by February)
  • Guitar Center (need to pay this down/off very soon)
  • Target (currently a $0 balance but it exists)
  • Capital One Credit Card (balance is about $1k and is our current payoff focus)
  • Student Loans (currently deferred until January)
  • Car Insurance (I pay this twice a year because it makes me feel VERY grownup not to pay it monthly)
  • Domains & Hosting Service for the blog and whatnot
  • Internet

I was able to do all that but the domains/hosting by memory. I don’t currently have groceries in the budget because we receive SNAP benefits (previously but NO LONGER known as food stamps, not that I’d care if they were) but that’s the one thing that would be added to the list otherwise for an even 14 budget items.

Come on and go through this journey with me. I am going to go from poor as dirt to doing pretty well and it will happen (God willing and the creek don’t rise) in about two to three years. So let’s do this together and you can see me not from when I decided to take all my money and make it work from me, but having no money and then getting money and making it work for me.

Sure, part of this will be a flashback, because it was a year-long process for my husband to get his current job. The one that comes with benefits and a little security. The one I’m so thankful for I want to drop to my knees and turn into an old timey religious zealot.

I’m going to detail it all. From not having cable TV to maintaining one Gold account for the Xbox because we feel it’s worth it. The decisions, the path, the everything.

Maybe those of you who know me will realize that being poor isn’t some kind of disease, but poor people are also not temporarily displaced rich people who should be looking to push down other poor people who they feel are “using the system” … the system exists for everyone. If you don’t need it, be thankful, don’t be a jerk.