Tag Archives: Budget

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to Work 2016!

Great News!!!!!!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always, I’ll keep you updated!

6 Ways to Spend Your Tax Return Wisely

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We both know that’s total bull, right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sometimes our passions choose us.

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

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

Taxmas 2016

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

I’m not gonna lie, I’m giddy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great rest of the week!

Unexpected Windfall (Tiny but Mighty!)

Yesterday I practically jumped out of my chair when I heard the creak of metal the mailbox makes when the postman comes round. I’m waiting on that one. last. W2 and yesterday was the first day you can file taxes and let me tell you I am on pins and needles. PINS AND NEEDLES – GAAAAH!

The sooner I file the sooner we get the refund and the sooner I can pay off the car and have that albatross off my neck. I can have that mistake in my rearview. I can have that money to put toward debt and finally kick this whole being poor thing in the ass. (Not being poor won’t happen overnight but this is it, my friends, this is the tipping point where it’s going to get so much EASIER and It’s going to feel like the things we do MATTER and it will finally stop feeling like peeing in the ocean! I mean, not that I’ve ever peed in the ocean. Who does that? Weird, right.

Moving on.

There was not a W2 in the mail, but there was a check for $92 from our former dentist. We went there right about six months ago (I’m a fanatic about getting my kids into the dentist twice a year like clockwork) and since we’ve moved it’s a 34 mile drive that costs $12 in tolls to get to the dentist but I kept going because the whole setup was cool and kid-friendly and my kids love the dentist and that’s worth a lot of time and effort in my book. But the last time we went they charged me for fluoride on all three kids and it came out to $92. They knew it was only covered by insurance once a year and we’ve been going there YEARS and this is the first time they did it and when I told the woman behind the desk she was so mean and was all, “Oh, well, you have to pay.” I was all, “You do this and we won’t be back.” She was all, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” (Said in that way that is clear she is saying don’t let the door hit you where the good Lord split you, not in a really sorry way at all.) So I left and searched high and low and found a local dentist who has the same kid-friendly philosophy and wrote them off mentally. I got a reminder phone call and explained why I wouldn’t be coming back and like mana from heaven I got a refund check for the fluoride.

Part of me wishes they just hadn’t charged me in the first place. Scratch that. I really wish they had asked me about the fluoride so I could refuse the treatment since it was in my file what the coverages were for my kids and it hasn’t changed. I really wasn’t trying to get anything for free. It’s not even the money, really, it was that awful woman’s attitude toward me when it was HER mistake she was covering up.

Oh well. Now I don’t have to spend four hours getting three kids’ teeth cleaned and find parking downtown in Chicago for the privilege.

I’m not sure why I felt guilty when I opened the mail and the check was there. I wanted to pick up the phone and say I was sorry but for the life of me I don’t know why. I didn’t yell or cuss at anyone during this whole process on any of the phone calls. Why would I feel bad or guilty or icky because they made things right?

It doesn’t make sense.

I deposited the check and for now it’s in my “Buffer” category in my budget because I don’t know exactly what I should do with it. I could pay off the Target credit card (I bought the three girls comforters on sale because the ones they had before literally fell apart during the move and our afghans weren’t enough when it turned really, really cold. I had them in bed with me until the comforters came in the mail and we were all just bundled all up under there and I was getting kicked in the face like you wouldn’t believe.

Man, I need my space when I sleep.

So I could just pay that off and have a little less that the refund needs to go to.

I could also get the reduced-price YMCA membership which is $87 for six months. We live a block away from a lake and I really want them to take swim lessons and that would give me a way to do that.

Maybe it’s all just stupid to worry about because once the taxes are in I could do any of these things. I don’t know. There’s not going to be a lot left after the rent gets paid and the car gets paid off so maybe it is worth worrying about.

My brain is a mess.

I’m still sick but less sick than I was. Now I just feel like crap first thing in the morning (until my sudafed and ibuprofin kick in) then I’m good until about 7:30pm when I crash and feel the hot pressure in my ears again. It is, however, a little better every day so I’m on the right road to recovery.

I just don’t know what to do with the windfall. Keeping it in the buffer makes YNAB (not an affiliate link) show $0.00 in my Available to Budget … that way I’m not tempted to spend it somewhere I shouldn’t. Oh who am I kidding? I’m tempted as all get out but I’m still not going to spend it on crap.

Welcome Back, Winter Uncertainty and Fear

Two steps forward, one step back is a terrible way to get someplace. It takes a long time and requires a lot of stamina.

We celebrted the payment of the rent and insurances and then Mr. Brickie was laid off. There is not enough side eye in the world to express how I feel about that one-two punch.

Here is where things get complicated.

I know from experience the first thing to do the day after Mr. Brickie is laid off is to file for unemployment. Most of the time he is not unemployed long enough to actually use the benefit but it’s a “just in case” measure that I always take.

The tricky decision is to decide whether or not to apply for SNAP. We have an emergency fund but I’m not sure if it’s enough to keep us in food and get the bills paid. It might. Also, he might be working again soon so I’m not sure. The last thing I want is to apply and receive SNAP and then he starts working and we end up owing the state money. That would be SO bad.

The uncertainty of what the “right” decision is feels overwhelming and scary.

Will he be working? Should he apply for the job in Indiana? He can’t yet because his guy from his Local is on the lookout for local work for him now but it’s almost Thanksgiving and I’m not sure how that changes what jobs look like out there.

There is too much uncertainty.

Winter patience is not something I’ve ever been good at channeling. I should meditate or something but I want to have a plan, to know what’s going on. Even if the news is bad it’s news I can base decisions on.

On the bright side Christmas is shaping up well. I love the community I live in and they have amazing services to help families that can’t make the Christmas budget happen. Even typing that I feel like I’m such a liar because it was just a couple months ago the Mr. was working overtime and we were catching up on things. But that’s just a couple months out of the year…but it feels like it was just a minute ago.

I get just a taste of what not being poor feels like before it all comes crashing back down and reality hits and we are horribly close to where we started.

Speaking of which, it’s Thursday and the Mr. is home and that means it’s Food Pantry time. Thank you for reminding me. It’s quarter to ten and the pantry closes at ten (and is only once a week) so he’s going to make it just in time. Whew! We still have a little grocery money left but it’s far better to take what you have and mix it with pantry items because if you wait until you have nothing and then go to the food pantry it’s much more difficult to get meals together. This way the grocery money lasts longer.

Overall I think we will end up using the food pantry less this way.

We Should Be ….

Working harder, doing better, trying more. I don’t remember if it felt this way last winter but really last winter we had just moved here and everything was upside down and we ended the year feeling like we were grasping for our new normal so to have come far enough that I am berating myself for needing to use the food pantry feels like maybe a positive step?

If you’ve stopped being desperate enough that you can feel like a leech that has to be a good sign. Not in a normal, good way of course but in a twisted, backward kind of way.

It’s better than nothing?

Can you feel how hard I’m trying to be positive? Perhaps I’m only feeling this bad about everything because I’ve been sick all week. It’s just a stupid cold with a sore throat and sinus shenanigans .. nothing serious … but it’s kept me mostly down for the count and I keep falling asleep all over the house. Couch? Sleeping. Computer chair? Dozing. I’m normally not even a napper so it’s a sign that my body is trying to heal despite my best attempts at ignoring the situation entirely and wishing it away.

I haven’t been able to write this week. Being sick makes my brain all cobwebby and I can’t keep a train of thought to save my life. It makes writing impossible. I wonder if this post is going to come across all thready and loose as well?

If it does I wonder if it’s different from any of my other posts. I’m kind of all over the place in terms of thought process. Maybe that’s why it’s just us here. Of course I like it being just us. I crumble under scrutiny and the thought of a wider audience scares me to bits. This with you and me feels intimate.

I feel like I can be honest with you. You’re not an audience, you’re my friend.

Even the couple people who read because they are actively hoping I fail used to be friends and that’s okay, too. Maybe I deserve to fail. Maybe I’ve done too much emotional damage to too many people on this journey to be salvageable. Perhaps I’m like Sisyphus and once I get this boulder to the top of the mountain I will not even be able to take a breath before watching it roll right back down to the bottom. Forever doomed to feel the deep sting of failure at the moment I should be reveling in the sweet release of success.

We’ll see, I guess.

Either way I’m glad you’re with me.

I really hope he starts working again soon. I don’t really care if it’s in his home district or if he takes the $10/hr. hit and works all winter in Indiana. Either way he’s getting his hours in toward becoming a journeyman as well as getting his hours in for health and retirement benefits.

I don’t want to apply for SNAP because I don’t want to need it this winter. I want that part of the journey to be behind us. I want to feel like we’re moving forward, not back.

Unfortunately that just isn’t something I can know with any certainty right now.

Such is life.

A Rambling, Random Update

There’s the woman at the bus stop who accused one of us moms of calling child services on her. She promised if her kids were taken she would take us all down with her. Dun Dun DUNNNNN! (She cold-clocked her kid upside her head in front of the mandatory reporter school bus driver and four neighbors … I don’t know why she thinks one of us moms called but she seems pretty sure.)

There’s the cyst I had that turned out to be a raging staph infection requiring serious antibiotics that made me feel worse than the stupid abscess did. No, I didn’t record it. Yes, it was glorious if you’re into that kind of grossness. The doctor who had to clean it out with an assistant was horrified. My friend who took me to the ER was in heaven. Everyone digs different stuff. I don’t judge. Mr. Brickie had to stuff this sterile string in the hole every other day for a week. He was a trooper.

There’s the weird tantrum a friend had before storming out of my house to go stay in her bosses guest room. So if you need to live with someone for a week, I recommend not my house. It seems to be an inhospitable environment where I will make you feel bad. Consider yourself warned.

There’s the homecoming parade that was really blissful and my kids were part of this huge group of – I don’t even know – 13 other kids? A super cute moment in time I enjoyed a lot. Mr. Brickie wasn’t even home from work so I went with my kids, the kid of my friend who hadn’t stormed out yet, and the neighbors and their children. Everyone got candy and was happy. I managed to not have a full-scale social anxiety meltdown. Hooray!

There’s the bonfire we had at our friend’s house a block over where they rent a place on the lake. It’s really amazing to be a block away from a backyard with a fire pit and a view of the sunset over water. It was pretty much perfect.

There’s today’s apple picking and donut buying with family. Lots of fun. .

Things are really, really interesting around here these days.

The budget is not only doing great, I went over my bus stop mom’s budgets and they’re following the budget now, too. It’s given both of them a real sense of relief because they know how much “extra” they have and when things are due. I literally just set them up with four weeks in excel and tried to place bills in such a way that they’d have the same amount left over every week.

It was a deep relief to be able to share this with people who wanted to know about it, took it to heart, and followed directions. The men in my mom friend’s lives are also happy about the budgets. It’s removed money pressure off both relationships (not entirely, but a good chunk!) and that’s what budgeting is all about. More freedom.

Mr. Brickie didn’t work this past week because they’re waiting on permits downtown to put up one of those things they put over the sidewalk so if a brick falls it won’t hit someone on the head and kill them. There is a special company that puts those up so they have to wait on that company to do their thing. In the meantime he has been splitting his time between two other side jobs.

We got a payment from one side job that is designated as “Next Week’s Paycheck” and won’t be touched until Friday. We did a much better job this week of not spending ALL THE MONIES over the weekend and did a pretty good job!

I don’t like knowing where my husband is going to be working tomorrow. Or when he’s getting paid next. His driveway side job he’s been working on for a year now on and off pays at the end of the week. The new side job is painting a house before it gets sold and even though Mr. Brickie has an idea of how much the overall job will pay but there are some things he may or may not be working on that could change that number. So he’s not sure how or when they’re paying him. I know it sounds like a stupid plan to not know those things but these are really, really trustworthy people so I’m not worried about it at all.

Sometimes it’s okay to not know everything all at once. It’s a lesson I would not have been able to learn if our finances weren’t in order.

I’m excited to find out what other lessons I’ll learn now that I’m not terrified about finances all the time every day.

But hey, I still have sixty-five thousand dollars in student loan payments to worry about once I get our car and credit cards paid off. I’m still not sure what the right way to go about paying those is. I might wait to pay them off until he makes journeyman. In the meantime we can build a 3-6 month emergency fund.

Student loans can’t take our home or our cars, but not having a solid emergency fund can put us in a world of hurt really fast, you know? So I’m thinking I’ll stick to the income based repayment minimum payments on those until we fund the emergency fund and then attack them with a vengeance once we have that fund set up.

Also? We really need a second car. Getting the kids home from stuff happening at the school is no big deal, we can walk the five blocks or whatever to pick them up even in winter, but when sports happen farther away? I’m not so sure. It also totally messes up that grand plan I had for getting a doctor and a dentist and getting myself some regular checkups. I can’t go see a doctor or dentist until winter puts him out of work. So if I’m going to see a doctor I have to hope my husband is laid off due to weather. That seems silly, doesn’t it?

Maybe I could rent a car. Do people rent cars so they can go to doctor appointments? I wonder if that would be more or less expensive than a cab, but cabs can be really unreliable and if the cab shows up late I’m stuck with a no-show fee from the doctor.

I’m getting nervous just thinking about it.

So the big goal is to pay off the car and the credit cards then somehow figure out if we make the emergency fund next or get a car then an emergency fund.

Hopefully nothing happens in the interim because the emergency fund is at $150 right now. The rent fund is fully funded and the car insurance is on track to be funded by renewal, but that actual emergency fund? It’s struggling. I would like to fix that.

Don’t even get me started on Christmas.

Overall, I’m in a really good place and surrounded by really good people. I don’t know if the issue with my friend who was staying here will right itself but I’m going to give that one to the universe for now.

Tomorrow morning I’ll get up before the kids, have a cup of coffee, and meet my mom posse at the bus stop.

It’s going to be a good week.

If this were a parenting blog I would be gushing about my daughter’s fifth grade teacher and the wonderful human being she is. It’s a personal finance blog so I don’t write about that kind of thing but I can’t really communicate strongly enough how good it feels to have a teacher that genuinely likes your child. I want to buy her a pony and fulfill all her childhood dreams.

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.

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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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