Tag: budget

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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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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On Food and Fooding and Always About Money

Now that we’re off the public assistance and I’ve been tracking our spending with that You Need A Budget program (happy birthday to me!) I’m able to tell you right now we are going to spend right around $1000 for food this month. Right now we are at $713.47 for groceries and $122.05 for eating out. For our family, $122.05 represents eating out four times this month. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. When I see it as once a week it seems both good and bad depending on how you decide to argue it. I’m not sure. According to the May 2015 USDA food cost guideline numbers we are still hitting on the low end of spending for a family of five.

While we were part of the SNAP program our benefits for a family of five ranged from $426/mo. to $892/mo. the changes did not really mesh with income changes so I have no idea about all that. When we moved to our new, more conservative state we received $19/mo. more in assistance than we had been getting in our former state. I was surprised.

Also, our income would have kicked us off the program in either state. It wasn’t because of the move. I feared that might happen before we moved here but it didn’t. Also, the people in the offices here are so nice and so helpful it was downright confusing.

Back to food spending. This month I have budgeted $150/wk. toward food. At the end of the month, the budget will let me know how much I should budget for next month. There is, however, a $255 sneak attack that’s made our grocery spending as high as it is.

The groceries are what they are. I don’t buy name brands and we are about to cut down a lot on breakfast stuff because one of our big expenses this month that will roll through to next month is Soylent.

Yes, Soylent.

You might remember the Kickstarter back in 2013 (I do! I do!) or may have read the book or seen the movie (Fun Fact: Soylent is named after the book, not the movie. It actually makes a difference.)

It’s a nutritionally-complete food replacement.

NOT a diet.

A way for Mr. Brickie to have a decent breakfast. I have been researching it online (especially in the /r/Soylent forum on Reddit) to make sure we do everything we can to make it a smooth transition. Mr. Brickie has been skipping breakfast (bad for someone who has a physical job, no doubt) and, well, I’ve literally dreamed about not having to eat since watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (what? that wasn’t the message of the movie?) so it has it’s uses for both of us.

We will wean on slowly, of course. No jumping in crazy-style. Mr. Brickie will start on Saturday morning in case there are any gastro side-effects he won’t deal with them while he’s at work. I can start Friday morning because the package arrives Thursday and you have to let it sit in the fridge overnight for best results.

I’m not doing it to lose weight, I have been getting out of the house to the park and the pool and playing with the kids to try and stay active and healthy. I want to stop worrying about food. There is not one food I can look at and feel completely good about eating anymore. There’s always some flaw that makes it not a good choice. It’s really stressful. I see it the way I see getting off of Facebook. Walk away completely for a little bit and when you come back you can see things from a better perspective. Get a little distance on the issue.

Plus science is fun. I’m not going to lie. I’m so excited.

I will still eat solid food. After that month I was vegan and then couldn’t drink milk anymore? I know doing something funky can have long-term ramifications. So I will still eat food. Heck, I can even put stuff IN the Soylent if I want to make sure I get some chewing in (to release those lovely digestive enzymes) because it’s not a diet.

I see our grocery bill dropping in the areas of breakfast and lunch, but especially breakfast. I’m terribly picky about breakfast and the whole “can’t drink milk” means cereal is a distant dream of my past. I was eating Costco croissants and muffins but those are too greasy. I just want to not eat but not be hungry. So, no we will buy less of those things and the kids can have cereal and fruit and if I want fruit I can still have fruit and it might just work out.

You will be the first to know.

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How We Spent It | July 17, 2015

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Are these posts becoming boring?

I feel like they are starting to drag since it’s the same thing over and over. We are becoming boring. (Which I’m THRILLED with, personally.)

July 17st $650.92
Groceries $150.00
Gas $80.00
Rent $140.00 Deposited into Rent Savings Account
Gas/Electric $184.00
Restaurant $35.00
Sitter $50.00
Leftover: $11.92  Put into Back to School Fund

So that’s that for the 3rd week (out of five) of July. I’m putting the extra toward Back to School because I need to fully fund that next week. We want to be prepared in advance and use cash – not credit – to take care of those back to school expenses! (Our goal is to put aside $350.)

The restaurant category in the budget includes take out, of course, but it also includes things like soda if Mr. Brickie wants to stop at 7-11 on the way home. The sitter is something that came up recently (we pay our sitter well) and is something we want to keep as a regular budget item filled with enough for a night out just in case!

We are still floundering a bit as we find our footing on everything that needs to be funded. One off expenses here, there, and everywhere seem to keep creeping up and reminding us that we forgot something or another. It’s really overwhelming.

Don’t even get me started on Christmas. We are determined beyond belief not to use credit cards for the holidays. Seriously. Determined. If we pay cash for Christmas we might be able to eradicate all our non-student-loan debt with next year’s tax return. That would put us in an amazing position. Amazing. We could make such progress!

Progress like…

  • Saving for our next car.
  • Fully funding our 3-6 month emergency fund.

I’m sure there are other things like fully funding the Rainy Day Car category or one of the million other savings categories in the budget program. Those up there, though, are the two main goals once we aren’t in a bunch of consumer debt.

It’s this back and forth between where we are at right now and the future. The future projections change so fast it feels like whiplash. This is the first week money I budgeted has some sitting leftover in the category and I put the new week’s money in and I’m wondering if I should leave the money alone and just have a surplus sitting there or move the surplus somewhere else.

I think I’ll leave the grocery surplus (it was only $21 from last week) until the end of the month, and the fuel surplus maybe I’ll move over to the car repairs rainy day fund.

Or I could leave all surplus money where it’s at until the end of the month and then use all of it to pay down credit card debt.

I think I’m being guided by my need for new windshield wiper blades on my car, which is probably not the best way to make long-term financial decisions.

Mr. Brickie is working Saturday as a make-up day for the Monday he got rained out (they call it a make-up day because he won’t get overtime since it’s a replacement for a day they couldn’t work due to weather) and he also let me know overtime is starting soon. So, really, who knows what next month is going to look like in terms of the budget. As much as I want to pay down credit card debt I think it’s best to let it stay stagnant while I fund Christmas as soon as possible. Or maybe not. I hate interest charges.

I don’t know.

I should also pay off the car as soon as possible to free up that huge car payment that will help me pay down debt faster.

I don’t know.

All these paths lead to the same place so, I guess, it doesn’t matter if I don’t know as long as we keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep paying everything down/off. Nothing will make more than a few months’ difference in any direction, will it?

Actually budgeting for a sitter is some kind of milestone, I’m sure of it. Planning in advance? I am beside myself with glee. It makes me feel like I’m being a real grownup in the best possible way. It’s a little embarrassing to complain of debt that needs to be paid off while putting money aside for eating out but it is going to happen and I best budget for what’s actually going to happen instead of hoping for the best and then Mr. Brickie is hot and tired and he just wants to pick something up on the way home for the family and what am I going to say? No?

I could say no, sure, but no way man. I’m about balance. I’ve had my nose to the damn grindstone for so long I barely have a nose OR a grindstone left. If I don’t build some chinese food into the budget now and then the whole family is going to rise up and then there will be anarchy.

You can deny yourself and your children nice things for years. As the queen of hand-me-downs and staycations I can attest to this. Kids can grow up happy without designer labels or flashy vacations. Sure they can. But if they want egg rolls every once in a while? If they want a new game to play? You can only say no so many times. You have to build some flexibility in the budget no matter how much you want to be debt-free because if you have a plan – like ours – that takes time (with apprentice promotions, etc.) in addition to focus and hard work you have to pace yourself.

The future is the goal, yes, but today is also for living. The balance of today and tomorrow is the tightrope I walk. It is a path lined with egg rolls and regret.

Can you tell I’m hungry? How many times can I mention egg rolls in one post? I don’t even want egg rolls. Weird.

Salad Recipe

I’m adding a recipe because I’m hungry and this is what I’ve had for lunch every day for the last two weeks because it’s delicious.

  • One romaine lettuce heart chopped to hell and put in a small mixing bowl.
  • Half a cucumber chopped all to hell
  • Two slices of turkey breast cut into squares.
  • 1 Tablespoon grated pecorino romano cheese (I keep the hand-held crank grater in the fridge in a ziplock baggie pre-filled with cheese chunks for convenience.)
  • A few shakes of pepper.
  • Dressing of your choice (I usually do italian but occasionally do ranch)

It’s REALLY good.

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How We Will Spend It Tomorrow & July 2015 Net Worth

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Our bank updated the depositing rules and it looks like *fingers crossed* Mr. Brickie’s check is going to (GASP) clear on Friday.

Available cash the same week he gets the check? I am…..amazed.

Thank you CapitalOne360 for getting your depositing act together. This pleases me greatly because it makes all the budgeting nice in that way a five check month does. Where you can use that fifth check and feel really good about making some progress on…something. Anything.

Since June 1st there was a small raise, an increase in union dues, and – I think – we moved into a new tax bracket? (I don’t actually know how to check that.) All those changes resulted in about $18 more in his check net over a check with the same amount of hours from May.

File that under every little bit helps, right?

We have come up with a new overall budget plan here at Chez Decki where the first check of the month goes to the car payment. That way it’s out of the way first. Neither of us are entirely sure this is a good idea, but at the same time it isn’t a bad idea, so we are going to roll with it until further notice.

Check: $738.94
Car Pmt: $495.12
Living Expenses: $250 (gas + tolls + groceries)
Surplus: -6.18 (negative sadness!)

So, living expenses get reduced to $243.82 and we go on with our week.

Next week will be a short check due to rain on Monday and being off on Friday for the holiday. Yes, he gets holidays off. No, he doesn’t get paid for them. It should be fine because next week’s bill is the autopay bills + auto insurance ($225 minimum) so maybe we will have a little extra to send to the credit cards finally!

July 1, 2015 Net Worth

I haven’t calculated our net worth in a while. Assets minus liabilities. Easy peasy. Okay. *take a deep breath and hold it* (just kidding, don’t do that, you might pass out)

Total in savings/checking (including rent savings and insurance savings and what’s left of emergency savings): $2000
Plus the value of the cars: $13,000 (kbb.org) & $500 (for parts?)
Minus liabilities (including student loans): $81,500 (yikes!!)
Net Worth: -67,000 (ish)

It’s still better than it was and honestly that’s not the worst number in the world. I mean we won’t be selling the car so it’s not like that car value is liquid but we’re going to be able to get rid of that in not a hundred years.

Also this probably shows why I set the student loans off to the side as the thing to conquer once everything else has been taken care of. Adding it in now just seems silly when in just a couple years Mr. Brickie will be making almost twice as much and as long as I’m careful with the spending and we don’t raise our standard of living by too much we will be able to take care of those student loans in a couple years from start to finish.

I know throwing the numbers together like that is fairly haphazard but I have the exact numbers in a spreadsheet. I just get a little leery about giving to-the-penny numbers too often. I’m not sure why. I don’t think any of you would try to steal my identity but at the same time it would be silly to trust my exact numbers on the Internet, so I try to keep a balance.

Overall Feeling Going into July

Every time I feel myself chomping at the bit to gain traction (“Faster! Faster!” I cry as I whip the already frothing galloping horses into a panic.)  I have to remember part of the journey is Mr. Brickie’s as he progresses through his apprenticeship. Our once upon a time totally insurmountable income problem has diminished over time to the point of being not only surmountable but something we occasionally get giddy about. The closer it gets the more actual amazement we feel.

Sure, this was all part of the plan but I still can’t quite believe it’s actually working. Did I think it would work? Yes! Did I also feel like that much confidence was misplaced? Yes! The only way to go was through, however, and so through we all went. It’s overwhelming when I stop to really think about what we have accomplished in the last few years.

But now is not the time to relax and enjoy. Patience and focus are what we need to get through this part of the journey. It won’t be as difficult as the last parts (not by a long shot!) but it will still be rough waters come winter if we don’t store some nuts. Seriously, I love a truly awful mixed metaphor. I’m just trying to say that being complacent now could set us back farther than we would like.

We’re in the “just don’t screw it all up” portion of the program. As long as we don’t make any serious blunders we are totally on track to the middle class. Hell, we might already be there for all I know. We are a dollar-ish below average for construction work right this second, so maybe not. We’re close. We’re so darn close.

I hope you all have a safe and happy Independence Day. (In case I don’t post before then. If I do, I’ll just say it again.)

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June 2015 Budget Update (Almost out of the woods)

We’ve been lurching and spasming toward a longer-term gig since the season began mid-April. It began on Monday! (insert happy dance)

The foreman says there are seven jobs lined up for summer and a bid is in for a two-year job. That means overtime is going to kick in any minute now and if the long-term job bid goes through we won’t have to worry about the rest of Mr. Brickie’s apprenticeship because two years of steady work will sail him right through to Journeyman.

We’ve come so far.

I got word officially from the SNAP folks that our benefits won’t be renewed, but you know how surprised I was when we got them in June so the extra month really helped us transition from being in that dark, poor winter place into the light of summer and work and paying down debt.

I’m completely terrified to share what my credit card balances are but I’m nothing if I’m not honest and you can just gasp in horror with me. (I just keep muttering to myself “shame can’t live in the light” and hoping for the best) Also, we all know when I have an extra dollar it goes to the cards, so there’s really no reason to think this is how things are going to stay.

We have the following (I’m SO not proud of this, yikes.):

Visa Card: $4,549.22
CapOne Card: $1,157.24
Amazon.com: $337.73
Total CC Debt: $6,044.19 (eek!)

Currently owed on the car: $5,073.04. I thought it would be fun to share I owe more on credit cards than I do on my car, which feels SO wrong. It’s amazing to know that by the end of July that car debt will be under $5k! (We also still have tens of thousands in student loans but I’m not even cracking open that chapter of the debt repayment book until we get rid of this junk. Rest assured, however, we WILL get there. Soon!)

Yikes, right? I was paying the $151 to pay the bills but DUH I made a mistake! I didn’t add interest charges on that $151. So embarrassing! I couldn’t figure out why the total kept going up. So, yeah, even those of us who love math and numbers make mistakes. Durrrrrrr.

In the past, I’ve absolutely made those mistakes, but my budget muscles are big and strong and very “wanna come to the gun show?” in their awesomeness so I don’t mind showing you yet another 98 pound weakling finance picture because you know we’re going to get all pumped up this summer!

I should look back and see how much progress I made last year when Mr. Brickie finally started working full-bore. I’m not sure that will even help because he makes around five dollars an hour more than he did last year which will make a huge difference and then it will make an even bigger huger (that’s totally a word) monster difference when/if he starts clocking overtime.

A regular 40 hour paycheck (which we may or may not ever see. He only worked six hours on Monday because of those storms) would be $785. Which will be about $3,100 monthly. Our regular monthly expenses are about $2280 (that’s with $250/wk living expenses for tolls, gas, and groceries) and I SHOULD be able to eke out $800 a month toward that debt extra above regular payments.

But hey, if you’ve been reading for a minute you know that’s not how it’s going to work out. He will either get overtime and that will be more money toward the cards or he will get laid off for a couple weeks and we will scrape by with unemployment and side jobs or there will be rain and he will work 30 hours or something or another.

I guess it doesn’t matter if it’s easy if it’s worth working for, though, does it?

Sometimes I get really jealous of people who just make the same amount every week and know what each paycheck will look like every time. Not hateful-jealous just… wistful-jealous. The comfort of sameness.

Money Question!

I have a bill from my oldest daughter’s EEG (it was to rule something out and it was ruled out so yea!) After the reduced rate and the insurance payment we owe $323.59 … with the low work situation this month we do have it – but barely – in the emergency fund.

When I called to set up a 3-payment plan the lady informed me that this month they’re running a special and if I pay it in full in June, I’ll get 10% off (which would make the bill $291.23) and I’ve been mulling it over ever since. $32 is a really good level of savings off of the bill. We don’t have enough in our HRA account so we wouldn’t get the whole thing reimbursed but the amount in the HRA keeps going up while he works so I would get the money back eventually….

What do you think? Pay the three payments and leave myself some breathing room? Or pay the whole thing and get a discount? I’m leaning toward the discount. Even with the emergency fund a little low it’s still better to pay less, right?

Tire Talk

Oh! Totally non-sponsored shout out to Discount Tire Warranties! We put four really great quality tires on the car two years ago. Got the warranty. One had a huge hole in it on Thursday and the new tire (current model discontinued so the replacement for that … same brand a little better quality) was 100% covered (except some weird $13 charge to update the warranty) so that was wonderful. Get the warranty from them. It’s worth it.

An Apology

I didn’t keep good records in June. Training week he only made $250. Painting side-job week he made $400. That week he worked a partial week he made $458 and tomorrow we will get an unemployment payment of $360.

It’s been a rough month but I haven’t tracked anything really because it was just too sad to even think about. $1468 is our grand-total take home for June and it was literally barely enough to cover all the bills. It’s why the emergency fund is down and the credit card is up. I’m not proud of not doing more, I wrote checks for volleyball camp and basketball camp and camp invention and paid for Big Sister’s sleepaway camp. I spent when I should have saved, but I think it was a gamble that will pay off in the long run.

I mean, I have to think it was the right decision or I’ll just lay awake at night feeling like an idiot. At least this way I feel like an idiot and a good mom. All together, summer activities for the kids (not including softball) cost $300. Really I don’t think that’s bad for an all day camp, two kids in volleyball, all three in basketball, and a week of sleepaway camp. So I made bad budget choices on the cheap, anyway.

Social Media Break

I took a break from all the social media so there would be less of everything and I could spend the summer focusing on my family. I still like you my darling readers who I would have in my home for lunch or dinner or coffee or tea. I don’t have any apps on my phone and am logged off of all services on my computer. If you want to reach out and say “hey” just shoot me an email. It’s the name of the blog at gmail.com and I’ll respond. Or comment and I’ll respond. I just want you to know I haven’t ditched you even though you don’t see me bleating like a forever-dying goat on Facebook.

It’s been wonderful.

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