Tag: bricklayer

Staying Busy and Under Budget

There won’t be any tips or tricks on how to live with someone who is injured in this post because I’m struggling. He’s struggling. The kids are struggling. We’re all antsy and tired and stressed out. We are under each other’s feet. Slowly, we are learning ways to get out from under each other though so I guess that’s a start. I send him out to do errands because he can drive fine with one hand as long as he doesn’t do too much in a day. Errands make him feel like he has a purpose so he’s less crabby. He went on a walkabout last week and even though I was really worried because he was gone a few hours, when he came back he was in a much better mood.

mr brickie walkabout

I spend time in other rooms. It’s my therapy. He can watch TV and I’ll hide out in the kitchen….

clean kitchen

Or I’ll spend a few extra minutes in the bathroom……

clean tiny bathroom

 

Everything is clean and sanitized and if you look closely, yeah, even the sides of the toilet are clean. I’m doing my best to just…be productive. My computer is here in the living room and that’s why I haven’t updated. I try to type but there is no peace and quiet to collect my thoughts. The reason I have a minute to write this is he’s at Menards replacing the sink sprayer because I broke ours trying to take the limiter out (spoiler alert: It wasn’t the limiter. Oops.)

Mr. Brickie’s next appointment isn’t until the 18th. He’s trying to wean himself off the pain pills because his quality of sleep is awful on them. He’s doing good. I’m proud of him for even trying. He’s really being a champ and I don’t have any real complaints. It’s a stressful situation and he wants to be working and I want him to be working.

On the very, very bright side his workman’s comp checks are coming in regularly so far. We haven’t had any problems with the claim adjuster, the insurance company, his company he was working for when he got hurt, or the union. Everyone is being kind and helpful. We are still keeping detailed notes. The amount he gets paid is what he got paid when he was at 60% so we are struggling but making it, which is fine by me.

Okay, let’s have a really real honest moment though….it’s NOT FINE. He finally got the promotion where I could breathe. His paycheck was enough plus we could pay down debt a little. There was just a little bit extra. The noose finally loosened and we breathed. REALLY BREATHED. For probably the first time in years and now this. It’s killing me inside. It’s killing HIM inside. We are fucking gutted over it emotionally.

But then we remind ourselves how much worse it could have been, how lucky we are, all the things that you have to say so you don’t just lay in a puddle of sadz on the floor.

It doesn’t put us behind in terms of bills or our timeline for life. I mean, it does put him back a little toward his next promotion, because every week he doesn’t work is 40 hours he’s not getting credit for working toward his next promotion…but there is nothing we can do about that so worrying about it doesn’t do any good.

So I cook and clean and try not to spend money and he watches wrestling and runs errands and tries not to go stir crazy.

It’s a holding pattern. We are holding on to “being okay” with the skin of our teeth. Determined not to sink down into the bad place with the bleak thoughts.

Surgery Looms and Workman’s Comp Update

Mr. Brickie is going to need surgery. He will get a plate and pins in his wrist. I have no idea how long recovery time is for something like this. Google (so reliable!) tells me it will be anywhere from two to six months.

So there’s that.

The insurance adjuster called yesterday and let Mr. Brickie know that his first worker’s comp check had been cut and sent. She told him the amount but he worked on Monday so I don’t know if that’s a four day payment or a five day payment. He forgot to ask and doesn’t want to call back. Who am I to argue with a guy with a broken wrist?

So the payment she says is in the mail is $721.30. It’s enough to pay the bills, so I’m not complaining, but it does put us in a tight spot for the savings accounts. For example, the check that’s in the mail needs to go toward the car registration and to pay for both kids to go to summer camp. It was also supposed to have enough left over to pay into the rent savings $240/mo. but with groceries and stuff I’m not sure if that’s possible. We’ll see.

I’ve had to redo the budget for May entirely because the difference between his normal take home (barring rain days – which he had more than a few of in April) and this new reality is a drop of about $800/month.

Just when you think you’re going to start really getting ahead, right? It’s tough not to be angry and bitter about this. I’m trying to focus on the good things like the not dead part of the whole injury thing. I’m happy it’s just a wrist. I’m happy the surgeon feels good about Mr. Brickie getting back to work and how he feels the plate and pins will give him the strength he needs to do his job again. Everyone is very hopeful.

I just want to take a time-out from being responsible and thoughtful and punch a pillow and scream and just be scared for a minute. I can’t because the either the kids are around or Mr. Brickie is around. He feels so bad this happened (even though accidents happen to everyone and he honest to goodness didn’t do anything wrong) if I were to just let go and feel the scary feelings it would make him feel beyond awful. He doesn’t deserve that.

Yesterday on our way home from the doctor I started to cry in the car. He just looked all forlorn and started at his lap. That made me feel even worse so i started crying harder and he got a tissue out of my purse for me and just looked so damn sad I wanted to never cry again in my whole life because now my crying was making him feel like that. It’s just a mess.

So I’m forecasting the budget with the new weekly number (I hope it’s weekly. If it’s bi-weekly we are about to be in a world of hurt. I’m sure he said weekly.) and the one thought that keeps going through my head is, “Thank goodness we were living below his paycheck.” All the extra money from his promotion was going toward credit card debt payments. It’s a shame we bought a car, though, isn’t it? Ah well, at least the payment is only $285 and not the previous payment we had on the Mazda of $495.

I’ve been doing a pretty good job of not going back and judging past decisions. It wouldn’t do any good. It was an accident that could not be predicted by any budget.

Right now we are in stasis. I only called one family member about this yesterday. I only posted about it on FB because he did and I didn’t want to seem weird by not saying anything.

When faced with a real crisis I tend to go into hiding. I don’t want to talk about it until I have a plan for it. I want to curl up by myself in a dark room and figure out the puzzle so when I do talk to people it’s not just, “A bad thing happened.” I want the conversation to be, “A bad thing happened and here is how we are dealing with that bad thing.”

Lucky for me a friend offered to come with me on Thursday to wait while Mr. Brickie is in surgery. Until she offered I assumed I would be there alone with a book. I was so happy she offered to be there and bring coffee but still I almost said no because I didn’t want to be a bother.

I told that voice in my head to shut up and I said, “That would be great, thank you so much.”

I need to say yes more often.

On Broken Bones and Broken Finances

Finance-Small-CircleOh my friends. We have come so far. Financially we have struggled. Lately I’ve been feeling a little weird because all this normalcy and regular bill and debt payment made me feel shy and like maybe it was only interesting to write about things being bad. I was assured by many kind and loving folks that it’s okay to celebrate stability when you finally have it.

Well, I guess when I had stability would be the appropriate tense. I did enjoy those two months in the sun, though, I really did.

On Monday, Mr. Brickie fell off a ladder and broke his wrist. He was being super safe, the ladder was not rickety, and he was almost at the bottom after taking care of some bolt thing. The ladder kicked out from under him and he fell on his right side. He texted me before driving home, “Hurt my wrist at work, should be okay. On my way home.” I figured he sprained or tweaked it a little and made sure we had enough ice in the freezer to make an ice pack of some kind. No problem.

When he got home his arm was hanging by his side, he couldn’t move it, and it was very swollen. I told him he needed to go to the ER and he said, “Yes, I would at least like to get it checked out.” Neither of us thought it was broken. Him because he didn’t think it hurt enough to be broken and I was just wishing the break away with all my might because you can’t lay brick with a broken wrist and we just got to this place where we’re stable and boring and were even doing better than we have in years and it couldn’t be broken it would be too awful.

The x-ray confirmed it, however, and he got his temporary splint cast until we can get to the orthopedic surgeon for a full diagnosis and permanent cast.

First off, I’m thankful for worker’s compensation and knowing we don’t have to pay for his treatment. I’m less thankful for all the hoops I feel we’ve had to jump through the last couple days to get a claim filed. The company he is with is new and I think this might be their first worker’s comp claim and, as such, they aren’t a whole lot more sure of the procedure than I am after a Google information binge. We should have what we need this morning, I hope. Then we can get him a cast and on the road to mending for good.

As for the finances, I have a little over $200 in my Digit account I can withdraw if I have to. I have the $555 in the emergency fund (yes, I do wish I had prioritized the emergency fund over debt payoff right about now) and I have no idea what his worker’s comp payment will be or when it starts. I assume we will find that out when the adjuster calls today. From what I’ve read it’s 2/3 of your after tax income based on the last 52 weeks of work. With rain days and winter off and a couple pay raises there is no reliable way to calculate that number. I mean, I do have all the paystubs but that seems like some serious overkill. I took the number from our tax return ($33k) and did the calculation with that. It’s not after tax but it’s also not accounting for a raise so maybe it’s close? I don’t know.

I’m working with the assumption that it will be eight weeks before he’s back to work. I will update my assumption when more facts come in. Eight weeks seems like a safe, middle-of-the-road starter assumption so I can at least start making a plan. Having your bills written down or in a spreadsheet really helps when you need to know the bare-bones of what you have to have to survive. (Bare bones? Really? Now is so not the time for awful puns…and yet…here we are.)

Tomorrow he will receive a full paycheck and the rest of this month’s bills will be paid. The last check of the month (next Thursday) will only have one day of work on it, but the whole thing was slated to go into savings accounts (rent savings and insurance savings) so I can make those up with the emergency fund or by not paying into them until he’s back to work.

I hate to put off rent savings, but I know myself well enough to know we can prioritize it once he’s back at work. We have until November 15th to come up with that money so it’s not an immediate priority. Right now there’s $485 in that savings account so I’ll try and avoid using it but at the same time I’m not going to feel bad if I have to use it to keep the lights on.

I thank everything good and holy that this happened:

  1. In spring.
  2. On a job that’s going to be years long so he has something to go back to when he heals.
  3. On a crew that considers him a real part of the team.
  4. On a crew where several guys he works with have called to ask how he is and making him feel better with their own broken bone stories.
  5. On a crew where everyone tells him they look forward to having him back.
  6. With a company that has changed when and how ladders are used so this doesn’t happen to someone else. It’s a small thing but very telling because it shows they view this as something that can happen to anyone and aren’t “blaming” him for the accident.

I’m trying to find my comfort in knowing this is temporary and I’m trying very hard to be thankful it’s only his wrist. It could have been so much worse but it wasn’t because he prioritizes safety and always faces his ladder so if he does fall he doesn’t fall off the edge of a building…because this happened on the second story and if his ladder was positioned the other direction he would have fallen two stories instead of three feet. He could be dead.

So….yeah…I’m kind of a messy jumble of emotions and emergency planning.

A Reliable Indicator of Financial Stability and How We Spent It 8/21/2015

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I’m not great with writing headlines. I know the “rules” (I have for years) but just can’t make myself write, “This Mom Has Medical Bills…You’ll be Amazed How They Make Her Feel!”

Technically the medical bills are for the children. There are the two dentist appointments that were over $350 this month, the bill from the pediatric neurologist for our percentage after insurance, and money we still owe the pediatrician because the billing department lied when they told me how much I owed and, WHOOPS, we really owe more.

Then, Friday afternoon, Middle Sister’s glasses fall off her face, broken. They just gave up on life. So I had to run out and order a new pair for her and that was another $83. Medical has been out-friggin-rageous this month.

Add that to the almost $500 we spent on school supplies (over $250 on fees) and it’s been one hell of a money-drain of a month.

Here’s how we spent it for this week.

We have the usual Gas, Groceries, Restaurants (of course restaurants doesn’t mean an actual restaurant since I only put 40$/wk. in there, but if Mr. Brickie wants to stop at 7-11 for a pop on his way home that needs to be accounted for in advance.)

Set aside are also $20 for Mr. Brickie’s Union Dues and the $184 for the NIPSCO bill. I love having gas & electric on one bill. So much easier.

Mr. Brickie’s birthday present (a beer tasting and babysitting money so we can both go) was $150. His birthday isn’t until September 20th but I’m trying to be prepared in advance. You know, keep the budget right and not do last minute spending. I also put $100 back into the emergency fund. I drained it before and am trying to build it back up. It’s only at a little over $200 now but that’s better than the little over $100 it was last month.

Since there will always be ways (like broken glasses!) to spend money last-minute no matter how well we have budgeted, I consider buying Mr. Brickie his birthday present a month in advance normal life planning. I have no comparison so if it’s not normal then so be it.

There was no overtime this week and we thought Mr. Brickie was going to training next week but it turns out they need him on the job site and the guy in charge of the training is fine with him skipping this one one and coming in for a week of training in October instead. So we won’t be missing a paycheck the first month of September AND October is a five paycheck month so we won’t even be missing a paycheck when all is said and done!

It feels good to have the budget under control to the point where a bad thing happens and I can fix it. When Middle Sister’s glasses broke last year it took us two months to replace them. It felt awful. Terrible, terrible awful.

Feeling moderately annoyed and a little nervous about having to buy glasses OMG RIGHT NOW THIS MINUTE because school just started and Middle Sister needs to see the far-away things in the classroom is not only a relief it is a joy. I would choose being inconvenienced every day of the week over not knowing where the money is coming from for this, that, or the other thing.

For those of you who supported us when we had a fundraiser last year to move? I paid it forward a little this week. I sent in a box of fruit snacks and a box of Goldfish crackers (Costco sized boxes) in to the kindergarten and told the teacher that people helped us when we didn’t have a way to give our kids school snacks and I wanted her to have the snacks for kids in the class that didn’t bring one. She was really happy.

Thank you for helping my family get to a place where we can give snacks to children who don’t have any. Giving feels amazing.

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How We Spent It 8/14/2015

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Today is a bittersweet day.

We are spending the last overtime check. It was so nice while it lasted.

This one was super easy and quick because none of it left the house. We had to refill the buffer because we went over budget on school fees and I put $10 in each of the kids’ lunch accounts online just in case.

HWSI-august-14-2015

GGR is Gas/Groceries/Restaurants and the defaults on those numbers are still $150/$80/$40 but I’ve been known to steal from the gas and restaurant budgets for other things if we need cash. For example, Mr. Brickie’s current job has him way closer to home. So after adding this week’s $80 to the budget the total we have in that section of the budget is $151.04 which means we have been rolling over money for a couple weeks now. We’re leaving it and calling it a car repair budget because he’s going to need an exhaust system on his old beater soon and my nice car is going to need new windshield wiper blades.

I might move some of it to a Car Care category I already have set up but haven’t used yet. Having it all sitting in gas when we know we don’t need it? That kind of seems like it’s going to go horribly wrong.

We have only spent $102.34 on gas since August 1st. Huh. That’s not much at all. I mean I don’t drive a lot except to go downtown for the dentist so my car doesn’t get filled up on the regular. It will go a little faster once school starts and I’m driving Little Sister to kindergarten. Mr. Brickie needs to keep gas in his car on the regular because he commutes. Maybe it’s those Indiana gas prices? I’m honestly not sure but I’m shocked at how low the number is. (We have every transaction entered into the budget program so with one click on the $102.34 number it pops up the dates and amounts and location of each specific purchase in the category.)

You Need a Budget was really difficult for me to get the hang of the first month but I’m so glad I kept on with it because it’s really great. Knowing exactly what we really spent and when and where is valuable information.

Soylent/Health Issues Update

I told my friend Dawn in the comments on the last post that I stopped with the Soylent because it made my pits smell funny. Last night I had a gallbladder attack. So now I’m wanting to go back on immediately and for all my meals so I can avoid having that happen again. I mean, we had tacos. Made at home, from scratch. Beef isn’t fat free but damn, I really drained it good and didn’t eat but a half cup of the stuff in two tacos. I … I just don’t know what to do to keep it at bay. I’m so scared because I don’t want surgery. (Even though I know how lucky I am to have the option of getting surgery.)

In the meantime, I’m going extremely low fat in terms of food to give my gallbladder a break.

Scentsy Update

I’m considering pulling down the website as it costs $10 a month. The new setup they are launching next month is just too much hassle and I don’t like the increase in a minimum party order and some other things. Yes I’m impressed they got rid of the logo written in the Harry Potter font and everything but…I don’t know. I’d kind of rather buy what I want and just pay for shipping. I’m on the fence. (Please note, I’m still planning on using the product. I love the stuff. I’m just not sure the discount is worth it. We’ll see. You know I won’t make any final decisions until I do a cost/benefit analysis.)

Shopping Desires and Chomping at the Bit

I want a new mop. I want a dustbuster (do the young’uns call them hand vacuums nowadays?) and I want an $80 lunchbox for my kid. I’m feeling a bit…..shoppy. I’m going to figure out how to get past this feeling without giving in. Or maybe I will give in but just for a new mop that I can buy on the cheap somewhere. There are a lot of things I want and bargaining myself down to one thing that’s not expensive is usually the best way to keep the shopping under control. Of course, what I consider out of control most people consider a normal trip to Target so I guess maybe what I’m trying to say is sometimes I just want to be normal.

I hope you have a great weekend!

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Bigger and Maybe Longer Windfall & How We Will Spend It 7/31/2015

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It’s Wednesday. I’m early on the How We Spent It so it’s really a How We Will Spend It. We get checks on Wednesday but they’re dated for Friday but CapitalOne360 lets me deposit on Thursday and clears the check on Friday which is fantastic, by the way. So I have the check and am posting about it today even though I’ll deposit it tomorrow and it will be technically spent on Friday.

Whew.

Timing is the most difficult part of personal finance for me.

That being said, let’s begin!

Wow. Wow! WowWowWow!!!

Remember in the last post where I said that Mr. Brickie’s boss was happy with him and there was this vague, out-there possibility he could get bumped to 70% with a raise?

It was on this paycheck. It already happened, we just didn’t find out until today. That whole conversation was to prepare him so he wouldn’t be shocked when he saw his rate was ≈$4 higher per hour.

Holy Crap!

So his 48 hour check (yea! overtime!) was $1171.93 – the first time he’s made over a thousand dollars in a week since that one week he worked 60 hours last season. I’m totally blown away.

BUT…

It’s only for this company. He is still a 60% apprentice officially until he has the hours to be 70% for real in about two months. Mr. Brickie thinks this is an incentive for him to stay with this company because bricklayers are becoming hard to find and when bricklayers become hard to find, good quality bricklayers get paid not to leave for another company that might be closer to home or whatever. (Lucky for me, Mr. Brickie has been going to all those union meetings since the beginning where the old timers talked about the “good old days” during those lean years when he started so he was able to remember some of those stories for me!)

It feels wonderful. I feel like we have been given such a gift. Yes, it was his hard work and positive attitude that got us here, but he had to be at the right company at the right time around people that noticed and were willing to pay him more for that hard work.

I want to climb on the roof and scream #SOBLESSED all non-ironically and then laugh at myself for doing it. Mostly because you know I would actually scream, “HashtagSoBlessed!!!” as all one word. I mean do it right or don’t do it at all. Of course if I did I would probably fall off the roof and become one of those living warnings of what not to do when something goes good in your life.

The goal with the money bump, of course, is to pay off credit card debt.

Friday when this check clears I’m paying off the amazon store card and then starting to pay off the oh-so-old capital one platinum card that’s at just under $1200. If I can get that paid off then I’ll move on to the “put my bills on it” amazon visa card.

The overtime most likely won’t last past August 19th (it’s a school gig and that’s the first day of school) so I’m trying to cram as much debt-reduction as possible into one month’s worth of supersize checks. If my (never been right before because something always comes up) Excel forecasting spreadsheet is right I should be able to get the CapOne card paid off by the third week of August.

Obviously I will have to put my awesome future food subscription on hold because I need that cash for debt payoff. I cannot justify $255 extra dollars a month no matter how much I love it. I might be able to get by with 2 weeks worth a month and if I can we might be able to squeeze that into the regular grocery budget. We’ll see. If nothing else at least I know it’s awesome and it works and in the future when we’re more financially stable, I can revisit the whole idea.

So…on to how we spent it…

July 31st $1,171.93
Groceries $150.00
Gas $80.00
Restaurants $40.00
Amazon payoff $379.80
middle sister dentist $275.00
ipass $160.00
Capital One CC $87.13

As you can see we have those Middle Sister cavities to fix in August that I need to fund with this 5th check of the month so we’re putting aside that $275 to cover those out-of-pocket costs.

If something unexpected comes up, I will steal from the restaurant category. I know we shouldn’t even have a restaurant category while we are getting out of debt but you know what? We are going to eat out once in a while so it’s better to accept it than not budget for it.

A refresher on apprenticeship: Apprenticeship starts at 40% and goes up 10% every time you
1) work 750 hours
2) Attend union meetings
3) attend training sessions

100% apprentice = Journeyman = Journeyman wages. The percentage is the percentage of the prevailing journeyman wage you make. So, if journeyman wage is $50/hr. a 40% apprentice would make $20/hr.

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Planning and Lamenting and a Mini Windfall! 7/28/2015

We received a check from our former home insurance company for overpayment. Windfall! I used it to pay off the Walmart store card. This Friday when we get a check + overtime I’m paying off the Amazon store card. That will leave us with just the two credit cards.

It looks like Mr. Brickie is working Saturdays through August 19th. If he does, I should be able to pay down the Capital One card by about $500+ because all the extra is getting thrown there. I’m excited to see what his paycheck looks like this week because it might actually be over $1k and that would be so awesome!

You Need A Budget has given the Mr. and me a way to see where every single penny was spent in July and he’s been a champ about logging transactions he makes (gas, soda) in the app so it’s categorized. Being this diligent about where our pennies are going makes it seem like we have a lot more pennies.

I still use the Excel spreadsheet for forecasting but now I can look at what I planned vs. what actually happened and make better changes in the future based on what our family actually spends.

In work news, yesterday Mr. Brickie said to me, “I’m really hesitant to tell you this…..”

I was like, “OH NO WHAT ARE YOU FIRED?”

He laughed and said, “No…but the supervisor says I do work better than my percentage and he’s going to talk to someone about that.”

I said, “What does that mean?”

He said, “It means that IF he remembers and IF the guy he talks to passes it up the chain they COULD decide to bump my apprentice level early. It’s a thing.” (Quick Reminder: Those apprentice bumps come with a $4/hr. raise.)

Holy crap! Of course, it might not happen so I’m not getting excited, but even just knowing that someone feels he’s doing such good work means the world to me because that makes Mr. Brickie feel so appreciated and special that he’s happy and works even harder.

If it did happen it would be a hell of a boost. Going the way we are now (without a magical, early bump) it looks like he’s going to promote to the next level (and raise) at the end of September. A couple months head start would be a really big deal for our family.

I’m not betting on it but I’m so, so proud of my husband. He works so hard and always gives his best. Sure, he forgets stuff sometimes. Sure, sometimes it’s important stuff and it drives me nuts. Even when he drives me nuts, at the end of the day I wouldn’t trade him in for anything.

Oh, the other thing that’s happening with the “bonus check” at the end of the month? Setting aside $275 for Middle Sister to get cavities filled. I’m pretty crazy about making sure we all brush and floss twice a day and Middle Sister was slacking. We had a talk and I showed her the budget and showed her what couldn’t be funded because she felt two minutes was “too boring” to brush. I told her to count dollars with every brush because this could have been prevented. The same thing happened to Big Sister last year and she hasn’t had a cavity since. My fingers are crossed. (We would all brush together but we have a very small bathroom. The three girls can’t even brush together, really, without being totally squished together.)

I’m excited to see how much the check + overtime is. I can do approximations with calculators online, sure, but when overtime is involved it gets a little funny. I do my best and try to underguess. It is always easier to find a place to put extra money. If you plan and get less it’s much more difficult to cut back.

It’s summer. Time to catch up on some things! The “wish upon a star” goal is to have the cards and car paid off before the tax return but the “might actually be able to manage it” goal is to pay off the cards before the tax return and the portion of the tax return that doesn’t go to rent will pay off the car. I’m aiming for the wish upon a star goal because better goals get better results!

A major part of how we do is going to be based on how much overtime Mr. Brickie gets, so I can’t get too attached to any goal because it’s up to the weather, the project manager, and other things that aren’t in our control.

I’m a little nervous about Christmas, but if we have to have one more low-rent Christmas like we did last year then so be it. I’d rather get the finances under control and have money for the kids when they really need it later instead of digging ourselves deeper over some toys they won’t remember.

I’m trying to let myself off the hook so I can stop worrying about Christmas in July. I realize that’s a little over-the-top, even for me!

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How We Spent It 06/08/2015

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A rare sighting of the husbandus conversationist happened yesterday. It’s like sighting something in the wild that you almost missed but looked in the right place at the right time and saw a peek through some tall grass. You crouch to try and be unobtrusive and then, without a care in the world and no help from you, that damn lion in all it’s giant-maned glory steps toward you and you as if to say, “Drink it in. We have all the time in the world.”

Translation: My husband is a practical dude and getting him to talk about theoretical stuff – espcially economic stuff – is really rare. I’m hoping he will have more time for chit-chatting the less poor we are. But sometimes amid all the stuff he’s doing he stops and really talks to me. It really takes my breath away and I’m reminded of how SMART my husband is.

Last night Mr. Brickie and I talked about the stock market. We want to invest eventually and I want to make sure it’s not a last-minute decision. I’ve already decided that we are going to go into Admiral Shares of the Vanguard Total Index Fund to start with. It’s a “set it and forget it” approach that I think will work well for a Roth IRA. But investing is not going to happen soon (three years if we’re lucky) and we are trying to time the next bust cycle of the economy so we can get in while the market is low. It doesn’t have to be the lowEST and it doesn’t have to be a historic low, just lowER than the highEST and we should be good.

Like Junk Bonds, the savings and loan thing, dot com, and real estate the key is to figure out what the next big investment mistake will be. I think it’s going to be Big Organic, Mr. Brickie thinks it’s going to be farmland real estate. Don’t tell him I said it but I think he might be right because farmland prices are out of control and organic food has just become widely available, the market isn’t saturated with it. I don’t think we are going to be investing this bust cycle so we are honing our skills this time to identify for next time. If we can go in this bust cycle, well, we’ll know it if we see it because some talking head will be freaking out and screaming how we should all go into precious metals…because those have inherent value, see, not just assigned value. (That’s a joke. My finance jokes aren’t that funny.)

Work Updates!

Mr. Brickie thought he might be on side-jobs again this week but it’s back to the job he thought was finished. At least today and tomorrow. That’s good because every hour he works is an hour toward his next apprentice promotion. Also, he got a raise on June 1st with the rest of the union, so this week he is making more than he did pre-training. It will make a difference of about $25 per paycheck.

A hundred bucks a month is a big deal.

The next job is supposed to start no later than the 22nd and it’s going to be the juicy, good summer job that puts us in that sweet spot of having more money than we know what to do with for a couple two-three months. A school job. Where everything you do you have to get done before the first day of school because you can’t be laying brick with little kids running around. That means there will probably be overtime, but I’ll be happy with forty hour weeks.

With forty-hour weeks from this point forward (so the very best case scenario which, let’s be honest, probably isn’t what I should be looking at right now but why not let’s live dangerously) his next promotion is going to be on September 14th-ish. So still within THIS season. I’m kinda desperate for this promotion because it will mean we can afford everything we need.

Also, forty hour work weeks could get another credit card paid off and out of my life for good. The one with the annual fee. Banish that bad boy from my life! Then I can start hacking away at the one we use for recurring bills, gas, and tolls.

As for the potential September promotion to the fabled 70% Apprentice – I don’t remember the last time we could afford everything we needed without a food pantry, government program, or help from friends and family on the Internet. I mean everything. Including food. September seems so close and a million years away at the same time. I just have to orient myself, stifle the carsick feeling, and wait patiently through summer and through the budget and through paying things off and through everything else.

Even keeping myself as calm as possible I don’t think this is the last day I’ll be up thinking about it at 5:40am.

The paychecks right now are backward and mixed up. The stipend check for training (the 1st – 4th) cleared today ($250) but we’re still waiting for his check in the mail from the week before training (the last week of May for approximately $400.) So I had projected this week spending the end of May check and the stipend check and being kind of out of luck next week but it’s not going to work out that way.

Blessing and a curse, I guess.

How We Spent It

Stipend – $250

Living Expenses – $250

$150 stays in the checking account for groceries and $87.41 tops the emergency fund back up to $1000 and then I’m putting what’s left ($22.59 ) in the emergency fund as well because I have a car payment to pay that may or may not need to be partially covered out of the emergency fund.

Next week is going to be as exciting as this week. Watch with amazement as I take a $400 check and put $250 toward living expenses and $150 in the emergency fund to continue to save up for the car payment!!

The weeks right before we get full-time traction are really frustrating.

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Great News That’s Not Set In Stone Because What Is?

That union meeting on Tuesday was fantastic.

I wasn’t there and I didn’t even hear all the stories because Mr. B was so tired when he got home. I heard the most important thing – well, two things – I needed to hear.

  1. That BA was dead serious (his words) about making Mr. B a BA.
  2. There is no residency requirement.

So, excuse me while I do the cha cha slide all over my living room.

Of course, things change and we can’t know the future, but for today my fears are calmed…okay, for a few days because why not feel good as long as you can squeeze the feeling out of a hope-spike?

He’s finally someplace (besides our bedroom OH YEAH) where he’s being noticed for his talent and hustle. He’s finally not being underestimated and – even better – he’s being appreciated and everyone knows his name. He’s the up and comer.

I don’t even know how to express how it’s all making him feel.

The most important part of how it’s making him feel is probably the doing of everything. He’s become more confident in all areas and he works even harder on job sites because he wants to get to that journeyman level and see what shakes out more than anyone, including me.

Which I can’t even comprehend because I want him to get there (understatement of the year coming up!) pretty badly.

To know we won’t be forced to move into a community where rentals are $1400/mo. for a tiny condo and $2,200 for a little house? We can stay here in our awesome three bedroom with a basement for $775/mo.? That is going to be a huge help toward getting us to our financial finish line.

Oh, you guys, the next two years are going to be SO fun!

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Apprentice Update – 60%

Mr. Brickie is a 60% apprentice right now. That means he makes 60% of what a journeyman makes. Every 750 hours of work (plus two training classes, plus going to union meetings monthly) gives you a 10% bump. There is also a test at the 80% level, I think.

Each bump is a raise of about $4/hr. It is a big deal amount of money.

Right now we are at what I call the “bridge” between the apprentice level when we can no longer qualify for SNAP benefits and the level where we can afford food. We are 99.9% sure we are not receiving any more SNAP benefits (food stamps) because I did the math and we dropped off paystubs yesterday. We are nervous but the paystub drop-off was 100% voluntary because I don’t want to be caught up in fraud, even if it’s by accident or ignorance or “hoping for the best.”

In addition, Mr. Brickie’s next job location will involve a lot more tolls and gas. So we may be stretched razor thin this summer. I just don’t know yet.

Back to the apprenticeship.

This 60% – 70% bridge (in real numbers that are only accurate for this day and our situation are $25.55/hr. vs. $29.81/hr.)

60% → $764.43/week → $3057.72/month (assuming a 40 hour week)
70% → $889.84/week → $3559.36/month (assuming a 40 hour week)

In the example above I calculated taxes using the hourly paycheck calculator (it’s usually right to within about ten dollars) and then took off union benefit payments which for this union on this day are $2.20/hour.

The difference is a jaw-dropping $501.64 per month. Each subsequent raise looks the same. The only way you go above 100% of scale is if you are a foreman or something else within the union. Raises are negotiated by the union and go into effect in June of any given year.

Awwww, remember back when he started and he made $16.27 an hour? When the best we could do was a full time check of $478.52? Trying to figure out how to keep a house with a $1200 mortgage on an income of $1600/month that he only made during perfect weather when there was a job? …awwwww so cute!

Or….aww, remember when he really first started and took an 8 week unpaid apprentice course that paid a  $50/wk. stipend? AWWWWWWW….

Me too.

There has been a lot of scratching and crawling from there to here.

But when your pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is an actual pot of gold, well, like my friend once heard a garbageman say, “You have to dig through a lot of trash to get the fur coat.”

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