Tag: bills

Positive things, a few worries, and the placebo effect

Max - One of my two tabby cats. The bitey one.

I’m trying to update but Max keeps biting my ankles and shins. I played fetch with him today for almost an hour with that yellow pineapple there and he was fed not ten minutes ago so there’s no reason for this. He wants attention. I love giving him attention but sometimes I would like to sit down and write without the fear of being bitten hovering in the back of my mind. We had a heart to heart about it and I’m pretty sure his meow meant, “I don’t care what you want.” Such is life with cats.

Finances

I paid the minimums on the first half of the credit cards for the month today. I should have done it on Wednesday when he got paid but I’m moving in slow-motion lately. The second half of the minimums plus the car and gas/electric will get paid in two weeks.

This is the part where I pause to pray to the universe and the heads of all the religions I learned about in theology class that he has a job by then. He did get a stipend for going to a protest last week so that will be helpful, for sure. I don’t want to dip into the savings if I can avoid it. We need that money for other things.

A Nice Dent

Any day now, we’ll get the check from Costco with our cash back. It will go right back on the card as a payment, but it will be nice to see the balance drop. It’s over $600 and we maxed out the gas benefit so at the very end it went down from 4% to 1%. That was good to know. Gas is the one thing you know you didn’t buy extra that you used credit card reward points to justify. You get gas when you need gas and goodness knows I didn’t get out of the house more because I knew we’d get cash back. It would take a lot more than that to make me a person who likes leaving the house.

The Kids

I’m still stalling on signing them up for camp. We got our IL tax return (even though we live in IN since he works in IL we file taxes in both states. I had to write a check to IN for just under $300, but we got a little over $600 back from IL so it was a net positive. That means it’s not all going on a credit card. Heck, I think I can do it without touching a credit card. Mostly I’m trying to avoid paying for summer camp this year but I know how much they love it and they’re both Junior counselors this year and that leads to experience that darn near guarantees a fun – room and board included – repeat summer job down the road located 20 minutes from home. I don’t want to mess that up.

Hopes

I’m truly hopeful we will be able to pay off our credit cards by the time he’s laid off again in winter. If not, I am hoping to make a substantial enough dent I can complete the payoff process with our 2019 tax return. I haven’t planned out anything specifically, I’m in the “big picture” portion of planning. We are coming to the end of the five-year plan and I don’t know what the next five years is going to entail so I can’t really make a new plan. We should have a much better handle on that by the end of this year. Probably by June of this year. As soon as I have something solid I’ll let you know but for now I have to keep so many things vague and it makes me feel bad. I’m not withholding information because I’m ashamed or unhappy. I can’t risk anyone finding out who shouldn’t know because there are seventy things that could happen and seventy ways it could get all mucked up and I’m keeping my mouth shut so there are only 69 things that can muck it up and I’m not one of them!

Fears

Of course I’m worried that our hopes are going to get dashed. I’m trying not to worry and I signed up to take this 40 day “raise your vibration” course. After learning that the placebo effect has extremely powerful benefits even if you know it’s a placebo I decided that what I needed a placebo most for was positive energy and chakra alignment. Doing a thing makes you feel like you’ve done a thing and it can make a difference. The worst that happens is I look silly in a room by myself and that’s not really anything to be afraid of even if I am when I think about sharing that I’m doing it. But between being loud and a goof, I’m used to looking silly in front of other people and not caring one bit so even though I’m my harshest critic I’ve decided to let it go and feel at peace and become one with the universe. Ohm…..volt….resistance…. (that’s an electrical joke in case you were wondering)

Good News

Middle Sister is going to state for chess. I’m pretty excited about it. She isn’t a prodigy or anything, it’s her first year playing and I’d only shown her some basic moves, but she gets to go and that’s amazing. She’s really excited. It felt wonderful to sign her up for the US Chess Federation.

Big Sister is back on meds for her ADD and I feel much more comfortable now that she’s old enough to make sure she pays attention to how it makes her feel and I don’t have to give her multiple choice questions that feel leading and disingenuous. Her grades have improved and she has no failing grades right now. I’m happy that the improvement in her grades is making her happy.

Little Sister is a handful who is happy with school and goes to Karate once a week. She loves it. The teacher gave her a pair of nunchucks (nunchaku?) and she practices katas with them at home. I’m a little nervous about my 8 year old learning how to attack with a weapon (Karate doesn’t have that “don’t start fights” part drilled into them like Taekwondo does.

Mr. Brickie has another protest to attend Monday. I’ll be here hoping he gets a call to start work since we know of three companies starting jobs as soon as the foundation is poured and set. If I get too stressed about it, I’ll meditate. Meditation has a scientific basis so I feel really good about doing it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Research_on_meditation (I’m not linking to Wikipedia as a one-and-done source, I’m linking to it as a location for the 113 sources cited at the bottom of the article. They’re not all rock star citations but some seem legit.)

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

Bad Decisions I Have Made

jennydecki-cash-money-update

Yesterday, a reader (Hi Kay! I appreciate you!) asked me if I was overpaying my car payment because it seemed high.

It got me thinkng … I started blogging about finances after I made a pact with myself to stop doing things that were horrible, bad decisions. I’ve still made bad decisions since I’ve been blogging. The big ones were last Christmas when I got more credit cards to use for one holiday and looking for that post made me realize I glazed over the truth. I see myself saying I got an Amazon store card, but I ALSO got a Walmart credit card at the same time. I paid them back off after Christmas last year with the tax return.

This year I got all three kids a group gift for Christmas and then gave them stockings that were donated by a friend of mine. The group gift took one of my credit cards from 0 to max balance! Luckily, it was the card with the $300 balance. I got them the Skylanders game and we wrapped all the little people individually so they all had stuff to open. While $300 probably seems like a lot it is also the least I’ve ever spent on Christmas for three kids. So it’s an improvement for me.

That leads me to telling you about the most recent very bad financial decision I have made. I got the two older girls Kindle Fire tablets for their birthdays in January. I realized it was never on my radar to blog about and then I thought about it a few days ago and told myself no one would be interested. This morning I realized it would be stupid not to tell you I bought my kids VERY EXPENSIVE gifts for their birthday.

Maybe it was becuase I wanted to wait and make sure they were “worth it” before telling you about them.  Maybe telling you about the reading and spelling scores going from Fs to Cs and Bs thanks to educational apps will make it sounds like a less-awful decision. I don’t know. Every time I look at them I feel a little sick but I know that my girls have benefitted from them immeasurably and then I try to tell myself, “Hey, it wasn’t laptops, right?” So then I’m rationalizing my decision. I don’t know if the Kindles were a bad decision or not. I do know I saved $70 on them because I was like, “Sure I’ll apply for the card I won’t get since I just foreclosed on my house.”

Then I was approved. It’s a fee-free card with 3% back in Amazon credit so if I do keep a credit card this will be the one. I set up all my bills that could be put on the card onto the card (Internet, auto insurance, cell phones, renter’s insurance) and have a line item for that amount on my budget that’s {$240 – Credit Card Bills} and it’s actually scheduled for next week’s unemployment payment.

The month we didn’t have food stamps (EBT, SNAP, whatever) was a hard one. We found the local food pantry so several meals were covered that way. We had rice and pasta and ate everything in the house until all that was left was a loaf of funny wheat bread (I just had a slice for breakfast) and ramen noodles (which we will have for lunch) and then tonight I am so lucky we got the food stamp card so Mr. Brickie can go out in this weather (ugh this weather) and stock us back up on our staples. I will be so relieved when I can get back to making real food from scratch but until then we eat what we have and we are grateful for it.

All this to show you what might be my worst financial decision ever. The thing is, when I look at my credit card statements there are very few things that I don’t remember buying and usually when I don’t recognize one it’s Mr. Brickie getting gas. When I splurge I get a $19.99 Whirley Pop to make popcorn because I don’t have a microwave and pop popcorn about four times a week for the kids to take for snacks or to have when they want a snack. Or I get a $10 8″ frying pan because that way we can make five grilled cheese sandwiches at once and eat as a family. I know, it could sound like I’m explaining but it could also sound like I’m just rationalizing.

It’s a fine line I guess.

Life Expenses In No Particular Order
Payment Total Owed Estimated Payoff
Car $495.12 $6,839.49 April 2016
Utilities $195.00 n/a n/a
Rent (Savings) $260.00 $2,340.00 by November 15th
Auto Insurance $88.38 $444.74 renews May 2015
Cell Phones $88.96 n/a
Internet $37.99
$1,165.45
Credit Cards Listed In Order of Payoff
Payment Total Owed
Macy’s CC $25.00 $86.12
Target CC $25.00 $217.68
Amazon Store CC $35.00 $537.72
Walmart CC $25.00 $755.23
Capital One CC $35.00 $1,180.07
Amazon Visa CC $25.00 $2,328.11
$170.00 $5,104.93 <– embarrassingly large number
Money
Cash $81.00
Checking $262.03
Rent Savings $260.10
Emergency Fund $214.88
$737.01

So my emergency fund is looking a bit wrecked because of car problems, but also that direct sales thing where everyone gave me cash, I had to pay with a card, and that’s where the $81 in cash is coming from that’s on my desk.

The IL Tax Refund is going to pay off the lowest two credit cards and the rest will go back into the emergency fund. Then, when I get paid on the 9th from Scentsy that will also go back into the emergency fund and that will bring it back up to about$ 875.

I took my eye off the ball.

The joy of being you (the reader) instead of me (the writer) is you get to armchair quarterback what I’ve done and what I should do going forward. I wish I could go back and unpay those bills from Illinois and just let the gas and electric companies chase me and call me and have that $800 go toward the credit cards. I think, though, if I had I would wish I had done things the way I already did.

Sometimes choosing a path doesn’t mean choosing the better path it just means moving forward.

I am going to get through this. The kids are already signed up for an activity this summer and that’s paid for thanks to their amazing sponsor who I am a huge fan of. I will spend my time and energy on that with the three girls and every overtime check Mr. Brickie gets this summer is going to pound out those debts because we are THIS CLOSE to being out of debt. Overtime checks at his new 60% apprentice level will be big and I LOVE paying bills.

So stick with me through this mucky, dark, gross winter of discontent and poor decisions and you will be able to watch me make good decisions as soon as I can actually afford to.

Also, Miss Kay reminded me of something I want all of you to know….I welcome questions and don’t mind answering them. If you’d rather keep it private than put it on blast in the comments just shoot me an email at jennydecki at gmail dot com and I’ll answer it in a post.

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How We Spent It! (10/5/2014)

how-we-spent-it

This is how we spent it – partial paycheck edition.

Mr. Brickie has gotten paid (first check direct deposited!) and so it becomes time for my favorite time of the week which is the How We Spent It! post. For his 29 hours of service he was paid $420.13 (personally I think something is wrong with that number. I projected $467 and my numbers tend to be low but okay, alright, we’ll figure that part out later and for now let’s deal with the monster in front of us. The bills.

November’s List of (not gas/not tolls/not toilet paper) Bills

november-2014-bills

Two Hours Later….There was already a hundred dollars in the account that had not already been spent because we just leave money alone for the most part. Right now we’re starting with $550.43 in the account. Here is how we are going to spend it.

Okay, I’m having trouble deciding. I could either pay off the two credit cards with sub-$100 balances or I could pay minimums and pay right down to the water bill. Mr. B has worked solid since Monday and weather doesn’t look like it’s going to get ugly (he can’t work if it’s below 32 degrees) so he should have a full paycheck next Wednesday ($680) which would allow for the water bill, the Internet bill (it’s an autopay bill so that money would actually be paid to the credit card) and most of the car payment would be set aside.

I think it doesn’t matter. If it doesn’t matter than paying off credit cards to get rid of them is going to be the smart play. Right?

So, the How We Spent It will look like this:

how-we-spent-it-nov-5-14

The Internet bill is an autopay that goes on the main Capital One CC so I will pay that 75.00 to the card even though it is listed as Internet because that’s just how I do the accounting for now. My goal is to have my gas/electric/internet and whatever else I can be billed automatically to a credit card so I only have to look one place and make payments one place. Since I will never, ever feel comfortable having money directly removed from my debit card for the iPass (for tolls) there will always be one credit card out there to be paid and I’m okay with that. The goal – of course – is to make it a bill-collection card and not something we use to buy stuff we don’t have money for.

So that’s how we spent it! Or how I will spend it by the end of the day. I still need to sit with it for a few minutes to make sure I”m not forgetting anything or making a mistake doing it this way. I always try and sit with my decision for a little bit to make sure I haven’t forgotten something important. There is one $20 check out in limbo for the dentist and we do owe some money for a couple of medical bills that Mr. B incurred when he was really sick and we didn’t understand how a PPO worked yet. (You pay 20% so when hundred dollar bills come in the mail – not the green kind, lol – you have to pay them and you don’t resubmit them to insurance.)

But other than that there are no hidden costs or expenses.

I think I’m going to just pay off those two cards. It’s all going somewhere and as long as it’s not being wasted or going toward something frivolous, that’s all that matters.

bottom-flowers

 

How We Spent It

how-we-spent-it

Thank you for your feedback on yesterday’s How Should I Spend It? post.

I obviously love Wendi most for giving her advice publicly. People are going to think only, like, two people read this blog when I think it’s obvious I have at least ten readers.

Consider your minds blown. That’s right. Double. Digits.

Okay, I’m done mocking myself. Let’s get to the money stuff.

Thank you all for your advice, however you chose to give it. This includes Mr. Brickie. I know, it seems like I never bring him in on anything but I assure you that’s just because the conversations would be excruciatingly boring. They all go a little something like this…

“Hey Mr. Brickie! How do you want to allocate this money?”

“What are my options?”

“You can choose Option A or Option B or maybe there’s another Option I haven’t thought of.”

“Either one sounds fine.”

End financial conversation.

This might be a problem but he hasn’t been a jerk the few times I’ve made a mistake and chosen the wrong option. I wouldn’t let him get away with it if he just did it to try and abdicate responsibility for fear of being wrong. He just trusts me. It’s a lot of pressure, but we all have our row to hoe.

I just want you to know I did talk to him in addition to asking everyone else.

We decided to pay off the Target card and the Macy’s card, put aside $100 in savings, and put the rest toward the big credit card.

We picked $100 as the savings amount because he’s missed two days of work this week already and the next bill that needs to be paid is our cell phones which is about $90 for the two phones. The buffer means if we don’t make enough or if there is a rain day we already have the money set aside for the next bill.

The house won’t go to auction for the next 60 to 90 days. Then the mortgage company will regain possession of the title and it usually takes about three months for them to start eviction proceedings which take another three months.

Our 9 month plan is still (mostly, sort of, hopefully) in play.

I just want to get the kids through this school year and deal with moving in the summer. That’s it. Okay, wait, I’m lying. I also want to get the tax return so we can easily afford to move. That’s a big deal and I really shouldn’t be forgetting it.

After Bills and Coffee Update: Well, it looks like setting aside that $100 was a great idea. It turns out today is a rain day and a rain day = no pay. It does look like he will be working on Saturday, as long as the weather passes. Stay tuned…

 

What Should I Spend The Money On?

how-should-i-spend-it

When you have some money but not enough to make a dent you end up, well, where I am right now.

The car payment is paid, next weeks check will be short two days from Mr. Brickie not working Monday/Tuesday, and I have $444.00 after the car payment is paid.

$160 has to go for gas and living expenses.

$40 has to go toward the credit card for tolls.

That leaves me $244 (I know, not a King’s Ransom or anything) and I don’t know where I should put it.

I could pay off a credit card or two.

I could put it into savings.

I could put it all toward the big credit card (we had paid this down a lot but the balance went back up when the six month auto insurance payment went through).

$16.13 is the Target payoff balance.

$56.98 is the Macy’s payoff balance.

If I pay off those two cards then I would be left with $170.89

I could put that all toward the big credit card or I could put part of it into savings and part of it toward the big credit card, leaving me a mini emergency fund.

What do you think?

How should I allocate my small but important pile of dollars?

Need a cheat sheet for the credit card balances to help you decide? No problem!

Walmart $584.63
Amazon $533.00
Capone $1,128.70
Kohls $157.97
Old Navy $150.35
Macys $56.98
Target $16.13

If you want to keep up with the dramatic work changes as they happen, make sure to click that link to the right and “Like” the jennydecki page on Facebook. Sometimes things just aren’t long enough for a whole post and when they aren’t, I put them over there.

To see how we spent this week’s flexible cash, click here!

Hair Dye Conundrum — August Budget Done In Advance

Today’s big conversation in my house was my daughter’s hair.

It’s a light brown and she wants it to be black. She’s been telling me she’s goth for about a year now and black and red are her favorite colors. The black hair request was not a surprise. My feelings about the request went about like this…

  • My daughter is going to look like Wednesday Aadams! WooHoo!

wednesday-aadams

  • It’s only hair. But wait. Would I be this supportive if she wanted pink or purple hair? Am I only supportive because she’s picking something I think is fantastic on a personal level?
  • She has picked a “normal” color “found in nature” … does that make it more acceptable?
  • Are my reservations based solely on what other people will think of me being the mom who let her daughter dye her hair?

She had spray-in black hair for Halloween last year and could not stop looking at herself in the mirror. She loved how it looked. So I’m not shocked by her request. This is probably the first time I’ve looked at my situation and my instinctual choice, I feel, goes against the normal grain of society. “No died hair until 13!” my brain screams.

Facebook has been, overall, blissfully supportive and some very respected people agree with me that it’s only hair.

What do you think? Let me know why you think so, please, because that truly helps me make a logical argument in my own brain. Thank you.

On To The Budget!

I have our August budget sketched out. It’s more like a flow chart, because there are a couple things that can be changed if necessary. This month the six-month auto insurance payment needs to be taken care of. I have it set to auto-bill on the credit card so my goal is to pay off enough space on the credit card for the insurance to safely bill. Right now there is $232.83 on the card. I also have to take into consideration the $40 a week that bills onto the iPass toll account.

Here is the current plan for the next five paychecks. I still don’t know how much his check will be next wednesday so when you see ??? listed, it means the amount left over after designated bills are paid. I’m assuming a $750 paycheck because that’s about what he makes now with all the overtime. If overtime stops, that number drops like a rock. With is raise, it could be higher. Stuff isn’t super stable right now and when that happens, you do the best you can with the information you have.

July 30th – Pay past due ComEd ($133.85), past due Nicor ($26.36), and Net10 ($95.00). Leftover to Credit Card ($289).

Aug. 6th – Pay minimums on Macys.com, Kohls.com, Walmart.com, and Amazon.com (Total $100). Leftover to Credit Card (≈$450).

Aug. 13th – Car payment ($495.12) and leftover to credit card (≈$50).

Aug. 20th – ComEd & Nicor (Whatever the current bill is, don’t know yet) with leftover to Credit Card.

Aug. 27th – Put aside cash for Net10 ($95) with leftover to credit card ($450).

The entire balance on the credit card is $1020 and this plan has a payoff on the card of about $1439 but then there will be the $461 charge for auto insurance and the $40 a week for iPass and at the end of the month my domain payments and hosting ($14.95) go through. So I’ll end the month with a balance but a small one.

Alternate Bill Payment Option

On August 6th, I could pay off the two lowest-balance credit card balances (Kohls $182.97 & Macys $81.98) which would lower the overall amount that goes toward the big credit card but would eliminate two credit card balances totally. I think it’s just playing with numbers at this point and probably doesn’t matter.

Also, I could switch the payments on Aug 13th and Aug 20th if I need more cash sooner on the credit card for the auto insurance payment.

I absolutely know that my readers who are Dave Ramsey fans are cringing and probably peeking through their fingers at my plans of using credit cards to further my financial goals. I guess we are just going to have to agree to disagree that no matter how poor I have been I have been I have never gotten out of control with credit. I have argued myself that it only takes one mistake to drop into a whirlwind spiral of failure and late fees. I agree.

What Do You Think?

Is it better to pay down the big credit card all at once or knock out the smaller credit cards so there are less cards overall to deal with? This is just an opinion question so if I take your advice and mess something up I certainly won’t blame you. I just trust my readers (I have very smart readers. I’m lucky.) and would love to know your thoughts.

I’ll keep you up to speed on what the new paycheck looks like and how we are paying down debt. Oh, also, you might want to check the sidebar where I have listed all my credit debt. Because financial oversharing is my jam, that’s why!

Oh, hey, also if you know someone you think is on the ball with their budget, feel free to send them over to share their opinion. I’d love to hear it!

5 Ways To Be Happy(er) About Paying Bills

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I can’t help it.

Music, coffee, and a smile are how I greet my bills. I’ve always felt awesome about paying bills but took for granted that was a normal feeling. Over time, I realize that many people are so busy feeling the loss of what they can’t do with that money that they are getting the joy of paying bills stolen right from them. That makes me sad and I hope to help out some of those people (maybe even you?) with these tips.

No One is Going to Disney-Land-World with the Electric Bill Money

One bill is not big enough for anyone to take a vacation on. I found myself slipping on this one a little while I paid my six-month auto insurance premium and my main credit card off. “If I just carried all that credit card debt I could have taken the kids to DisneyWorld, man.” I thought sadly. Then I kind of had a moment and swung over to the, “Wait. Then I’d come back with memories, mouse ears, and the same financial mess I left behind.”

That would probably suck at least some of the joy out of those vacation memories. Maybe it wouldn’t for other people, but I tend to regret spending when it is not done from a good place. I want to know when I’m on that vacation – that I’m sure will happen one of these years – I will come home to a clean house and clean finances.

Even if all your bills for one month could get you to Epcot but then come home with two months’ worth of bills and a stack of pictures it might have been better to just pay the bills and postpone the trip.

It Is More Important to Teach Kids Boring Responsibility Than Cram Them Full of Exciting Memories

This is probably more controversial, but the reason I am happy when I pay bills is I make it a togetherness experience for me and the kids. I talk to them about bills and why we pay them and, “Isn’t it nice to be cozy warm when there’s an eight foot snow pile in our front yard?” Oh yes, they agree, it is ever so nice to be warm.

In my fantasies my kids talk like the kids from Mary Poppins with the big eyes and the breathless voices and the English accents. They can also fly and do dishes without splashing water all over my floor. I have an amazing fantasy life.

Speaking of fantasies, I know a lot of parents out there (including ME, so no high horses here) that think if they don’t give their kids wonderful memories they are failing. Like, if the kid grows up and doesn’t have some kind of anchor-memory they are not going to remember anything and we will have just been the bland, “They were fine. They loved me. I guess.” parents that don’t have the other adult-children’s friends going, “Dang! I wish my mom/dad/caregiver were that cool!”

Almost everyone I know – myself included – don’t want to be boring parents. We want to be interesting, we know things because of the Internet and want to share them, I may have spent two and a half hours playing Minecraft with my daughter last night. I don’t even like Minecraft but I was determined to find diamonds in the mine because that would be the icing on the cake of her “stayed up late to play video games with mommy” memory. Without diamonds, I felt the whole thing was a waste of getting lost down a mine shaft.

Of course she didn’t see it that way. She just loved playing Minecraft with her mom. I was the one putting the expectations on the whole deal. Don’t do what I did. Enjoy the moment even if it’s not diamond-encrusted. Also, we did find obsidion, so there’s that. (See what I did there? Silver lining!)

So get the kids involved at a level they can handle when you are paying your bills. Soon, I am going to let them pay a bill. I haven’t decided exactly how that is going to work out but I feel it’s important they are used to it by the time they have to do it themselves. I look back at myself and my $15 minimum payment to Sears when I was 21 and not paying it because I needed money to “go out” and I want to kick my younger self and make her pay that card off and start building her credit for later.

Remember Why You Pay Bills In the First Place

When I get crabby about my gas or electric bills I have this thing I do. First I go to the front door and open it. Then I open the screen door as wide as it will open. Then I either freeze or immediately start to sweat. Ta-Dum! I just reminded myself why I pay my bills. When the weather is nice my bills are low and I don’t get particularly bent out of shape about them. But those dead-of-winter prices and height-of-summer prices are a killer. Luckily those are the times where going outside is enough to remind me why I pay for climate control.

If I’m having a really smart day I look at the laptop I’m typing on and try to even wrap my brain around a life with no electricity. Then I freak out and stop thinking about it and move on feeling a lot less bitter about having to fork the cash over for my bills.

If you pay for daycare or preschool, have a few conversations with your child(ren). They will make you smile and you remember you would do anything for them. Same goes for older kids but the older they are the less a conversation will help because they get kinda mouthy as they get older and it might backfire.

If you have a spouse or significant other wandering around you might want to give them a hug. Hugs always make things better.

Remember Your Goals or Get Some Goals

If you think about a vacation or a coat or new shoes or a car or something else you could be spending the money on when your’e paying the bills, odds are good you do not have a budget with goals.

When someone has a budget they know where the money is going and how long it’s going to take to get to the goal. Then, when they pay the bills and put something away in the “Vacation Goal” savings  account (we use Capital One 360 for multiple savings accounts you can name whatever you want) you think about the vacation your’e going to take in the future and it hurts less to see the money from your checking account or from your purse/wallet going toward necessities.

Right now my Vacation Goal savings account has eight cents in it. We aren’t in a place where we can start saving for vacation. I still make sure to look at it when I’m paying bills because soon I’ll be able to put some money in there. My goal is to start saving for my goal. It works for me. It’s not perfect because I long to take a break and leave the house for some extended period of time that lasts longer than day, but it stops me from blaming my bills and that’s really all I need it to do right now.

If you haven’t written down your expenses and income on a piece of paper or in a Google Drive spreadsheet yet, do that. It’s the most basic of budgets and will let you know where you are at now so you can start making budget-based plans and decisions moving forward.

Stop Feeling Like Crap Because You Aren’t Doing Everything You Want

Whether or not you have kids, not doing the stuff you want can make you feel like a loser. I have watched other people having fun many times and wondered what I did wrong that left me in a position where I take my kids to the movies once a year. “Why can’t I just figure life out like everyone else?” is something I ask myself more times than any human ever should. I’m trying to stop beating myself up and focus on what I do have.

The big one is time. I might not be able to take my kids on a ski vacation, but I do spend time with them, talk to them, and I know they feel heard. That is important to me.

If I didn’t have kids my priority would be spending time with my husband. If I didn’t have a husband it would be spending time with my friends. I’m a very people-oriented person. Of course I want time to read, listen to music, and just dance in my living room but those are all a close second on my list to the people I’ve chosen to have in my life.

While I might not be able to give my kids name-brand clothing, I can give them attention. Even if I tell myself I’m a crap mother for not getting them better clothes, I still know the attention is important. No amount of negative self-talk can convince me otherwise.

Besides, everyone has something they want to do but can’t. Even the super rich have things they want to do that are beyond them. We all have goals, the goals just get bigger and more expensive with the size of your net worth. So don’t worry, you aren’t alone in wanting things that are just out of your reach.

Do you like paying your bills? Do you have any tips, tricks, or ideas for making your bill paying experience more fun?