Tag Archives: Budget

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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How We Spent It 5/13/2015

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A late payment from a winter sidejob came through and cleared at the same time as a four-day paycheck today.

Which means, how we spent it today is going to involve MAGIC.

Behold! Imagine in your mind four credit cards.

You look away from the table – only for a moment – and when you look back there are only three!

We were going to do the Amazon.com card first because it has the lowest balance but my husband asked if I could do the Walmart card so we could never use it again and I said, “Sounds good.”

Because it doesn’t matter.

The level of debt we have and the number of cards we have means that picking between the interest rate first method or the lowest to highest balance method don’t matter. All that matters is paying them off so if he wants to do Walmart? Fine by me.

I worry, of course, that what I really should do is just hoard the money just in case.

But we all know that won’t help.

So today is payoff day for a credit card.

I’ll be over here celebrating with a cup of black instant coffee made with my trusty teapot.

The one thing I hate about checks is when the person you give them to (I’m looking at you, school) doesn’t cash them for weeks. Like, seriously, you’re just being mean. I’m lucky I have a bank where I can enter those checks in and be regularly reminded of them.

Sure, I could balance and track my checkbook on paper but let’s be honest, who does that anymore? Anyone? I never did. I used to track my checkbook in my head and now I track it online and with the bank’s app.

I don’t know if it’s anyone else’s but between this and the Costco meat in my freezer I really feel like I’m starting to live the life I’ve always imagined.

A life where I’m not afraid all the time.

So we paid:

  • $779.11 to payoff the Walmart card and now it’s in the safe.
  • $32 Capital One minimum payment.
  • $151 to the Chase Visa for the automatic bills that go on the card. (Ins, Internet, Cell Phones)
  • That leaves $28.99, so I put that on the Chase Visa, too, because why not.
  • As always, $200 for gas and iPass and toilet paper for the week. Mostly gas and iPass. We don’t use THAT much toilet paper!

I reversed the plan for sure, but it’s all the same money going toward the same debts.

I know I seem a little flighty with the money right now but…well…no but, really. I’m feeling flighty and kind of devil-may-care. Next week will be boring. Just the car payment and living expenses. On the bright side I’ll be able to pay both and still be on track to paying the car off in November. (It’s a long shot, but hey, let’s have a stretch goal for once, right?)

Dreaming big. Hoping for a pre-Christmas car payoff. It would be a great way to start the new year for sure.

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Happiness is a Ruined Budget

Today I posted on Facebook, “Mother’s Day lunch at Costco. I wrecked my budget. LOL”

I wonder if my friends thought my LOL was the kind where you’re laughing sadly at yourself because you messed up. It was actually an honest out-loud laugh somewhere between not-giving-a-damn and knowing it was a mistake I could afford to make.

We spent $338.34 in food that went on the EBT card. (Balance is $66.66 until the 9th of next month.)
We spent $94.81 on non-food items (including allergy pills and batteries) that came straight from the emergency fund.

It had to be the emergency fund because his work check doesn’t clear and become available until May 13th (Wednesday!) and this was the day we had available to shop. I am all about sticking to the budget but seriously, I know I have to be flexible sometimes and I figured Costco wouldn’t be too crowded early on Mother’s Day (I was right!) and we went aisle-by-aisle through the entire store!! I haven’t been in one since I went that one time with my friend Becca back in Illinois so I had no idea what the layout was.

Mr. Brickie usually does 100% of the shopping so he knows the prices of everything. He was pleased enough that I can really just shop at Costco and he won’t cringe or complain about the grocery bill.

For a family of five there are some things you just need to get from Costco. Like croissants. Everywhere else they top out at a 6 pack. Five people and one six pack lasts zero. That’s math. A cool dozen of those lovely bakery croissants will last three days out of the week and my kids absolutely love them.

It seems like a whole lot of money but, in all honesty, we filled and stacked in the hatchback, the folded down back seat, and still needed to put things in between the girls and under the little one’s feet to get everything in the car.

I’m stocked on so many things for the month. Most important one? Meat. I have meat for the whole month. We got fruit. We got greens. We got 10 pounds of carrots that I’ll be shredding and separating into ziplock bags to add into pretty much everything from now until the end of time. Yes, I will freeze the shredded carrots. They were a great deal and go with almost everything.

My Mother’s Day treat? A case of San Pellegrino mineral water. (a 12pk of 750mL bottles was $14.49)

Team Mom F*** Yeah.

I’ll be over here having a wine spritzer (SO fancy!) and recalculating the budget because this trip was totally worth it. Plus we fed everyone and shared sodas at that weird food court for under ten bucks.

I have seen the Costco light.

We probably won’t get SNAP benefits beyond this month because Mr. Brickie is working and making enough money I think they’ll get cancelled (I’m not sure, but I think, you know what I mean?) so we need to start budgeting for food which is a huge expense.

I have, historically, been awful about budgeting enough for food. I need to just suck it up and give us a $600/month budget for the five of us and let everything else fall where it will. It might slow down the get-out-of-debt plan, but it will keep us off ramen noodles, too. (Yes, I know you can make amazing things out of ramen noodles, but if I underbudget us, we won’t be able to afford any of those cool ingredients to add and I’ll only have the packet to season it with.)

I also bought a couple of laundry baskets. I felt very fancy getting new ones to replace the ones we have that are half broken and pinch your arms all the time!

Being able to buy something frivolous that I love (like mineral water) without guilt? Wow. I wish I could bottle the feeling and send it to everyone so we could all share the feeling together. It’s like a hint of what’s to come.

This may have been the best Mother’s Day ever.

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I Am Bad At Planning the Expected Unexpected

  • I somehow totally didn’t factor in Mr. Brickie’s $20 union dues payment.
  • I need to go to the mall this weekend and pick up a graduation gift for a friend.
  • I paid for school pictures last month and will pay for softball pictures this month.
  • At the end of May, Mr. Brickie will need to pay another $20 union dues payment.

There are probably other expenses I haven’t put into the budget. Small things. A once a year $50 hosting payment for this blog. Domain names (I don’t have many).

I always wonder if there’s another thing I’m forgetting. There probably is.

Oh! I should probably let my children buy me something for Mother’s Day. Mr. Brickie and I don’t usually exchange gifts for Christmas and birthdays and Father’s/Mother’s Days. It saves money. The kids, however, want to buy gifts for us and I haven’t been able to figure out a good way to say no. This Christmas my daughters gave me: A pair of slippers, a wall calendar, and a box of Turtles with the turtle on the front that reminds me of Mr. Peanut. I was happy because they were all very thoughtful without being expensive.

I just think if we can keep our extraneous expenses locked down I can pay off $1000 in credit cards by the end of May. Sure, something could come up and Mr. Brickie could make less money or something, but if he does work 40 hour weeks in May, I can do that. If that continued we could actually have our credit card debt paid off by (or during) August. That would put us in a great position for back-to-school shopping. Yes, that’s a best-case scenario but there’s nothing wrong with having a hopeful goal.

Sometimes the hope is all I have to get through the day.

I know $1000/mo. toward debt is really ambitious. But think of it this way…if we’re credit card debt free in August, the car could be paid off by the end of November. (For those of you who might not remember, I have a really high car payment – almost $500/mo. Right now my balance on the loan is $5962(ish) so the normal payment plus $1000/mo. would be enough to pay it off by the end of November.)

To get rid of that car payment would be amazing!

I could open a new savings account and put $500/mo. into that (since I’m used to paying that much a month anyway) into a New Car Fund and just save until we need another car.

Wow. No credit card debt & no car payment?

Our bill list would look like this:

  • Gas/Electric
  • Internet
  • Auto/Renters Insurance
  • Cell Phones
  • Rent

That’s it.

I’m so close. SO close.

The kids were happy with a budget christmas last year. They really were.

It’s official! My goal is to pay off the car by the end of November.

Let’s see if I can rock this out. I’m going to put it on my debt paydown spreadsheet so I won’t forget about my “amazing idea” I just had. Sometimes the ideas run away as fast as I can catch them!

So if you ever wonder why I keep $200/wk. in the checking even though I don’t actually remember a week in which we needed that much money…it’s these unexpected expenses I just don’t think about. I build a little slush into the fund.

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How We Spent It (5/30/2015)

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I f#%^ed up!

After the babysitter (so I could take my oldest to the doctor without the youngest), gas in the cars, and an iPass toll payment the total dollar amount we had to work with was $1119.

$260 went to the emergency fund (bringing it back to $1000.)
$195 – gas/electric.
$25 – Amazon.com card minimum payment
$120 – I sent in a check for Abby’s summer camp.
$440 – to the Chase Visa. It was calculated as $240 for the shed / $151 for May auto-payments / $49 for uh…I’m not even sure…I had a list and followed it and usually after ten sets of calculations leaves me with a list I just execute when the time comes.
$35 at the store (toilet paper, etc.)
A list I executed and just realized left us with $44.

That’s a lot less than the $200 I try to keep for a week of living expenses. Sure, Mr. Brickie will get paid next Tuesday, but that won’t go through on the account as new money until Friday. So that $44 is our target spend for today (Thursday) through NEXT Friday.

I have obviously mathed very poorly.

DO NOT PANIC FOR ME!!

I have room on the credit card and a thousand dollar emergency fund and a rent savings account I try to pretend doesn’t exist but, let’s be honest, it does.

Five years ago this would have been a HUGE DEAL and I probably would have CRIED and overdrawn my account and tried to sell my blood. Overpaying or mispaying bills was the #1 reason we ended up overdrafting back in the day. Every once in a while I just bork the math.

I blame this on feeling unsure of my overall plan. I lost sight of my goal and without that focus? The outcome suffered.

This is the first time I’ve ever had a thousand dollars to spend and felt like I didn’t really get anything DONE with it.

I need to do a projection for May so I know what to aim for when Mr. Brickie gets paid. It looks like he will be working the entire month of May so I can start projecting with a full 40hr/wk. income and then write up what to pay down in order of priorities and then if there isn’t quite that much money we will just ignore the last item on the priority list.

A great reason to have a budget … when you lose your focus and screw it up? You’ll know really quickly and it will be the kick in the butt you need to get back on track.

Here is my May projection.

may-budget

I can’t wait to see how different this is vs. the end of the month next month. What’s most important is having the plan and then I have a path to follow and don’t end up wandering lost in the woods and falling into a ravine. I love putting these projections in excel because changing the paycheck amount updates everything exactly how I need without more thought or calculation by hand that lead to human error.

My fingers are crossed I am able to get the Amazon and Walmart cards paid off by the end of May! (The Chase Visa payments of $40/wk. are for the iPass (tolls) to cover tolls and maybe a little buffer toward June.)

I used this hourly paycheck calcultor to get the numbers. They err on the side of being low from what I can tell when I calculted the paycheck I have in my posession to compare against. (Thre is also a salary calculator link at the top of that page.)

The current most-favorable projected date for the next promotion to 70% apprentice is 9/2/2015. I’m sure that will change based on weather or lags between jobs. But it’s a starting number and you know I love to have those!

Decision Fatigue and the Sundress

There’s a thing called decision fatigue (pdf download of an interesting journal article on self-control and decision making). Basically, after you make a bunch of decisions, the quality of your decisions decreases until, eventually, you’re making full-on stupid decisions.

Decision fatigue is one of the things that keeps poor people poor. You’re under this pile of bricks and each one has something written on it. This one over here says, “food” and this one over here says, “feed the kids” and this one says, “Gas bill” and this one over here says, “do something to maintain your marriage” and that one over there says, “save money” and there’s one right next to my face that says, “buy a sundress for your friend’s graduation party” or “just get fast food for dinner” or “spend time with the kids” or “check the homework and sign the homework planner” and “go to the gym” and “make a salad” and it’s like all the decisions forever are all etched into these bricks and it’s YOUR responsibility to lift every one and put it in order. Sure, the first bricks are easy to put where they need to be. “Get the kids to school” and “feed them a healthy breakfast” make the cut. “Do the dishes” happens but it’s a little tougher and by the time  you’ve gotten to “make a healthy dinner for the family” your  muscles are downright shaky any you’re starting to question if you can, in fact, keep this wall from toppling down on you. No matter how you feel the bricks – and the choices – keep piling up.

Decision fatigue changes that from, “stack all the bricks in order of what is most important and do it every day and don’t veer from it” to, “oh look a sundress wouldn’t it be nice to have something cute for a change”

Moving the bricks is drudgery. It’s the same thing, every day. Check the bank account. Make sure there are no surprises. (move the brick, move the brick) and it’s true that forming habits of checking the accounts and making sure things are paid and knowing my bills by heart is all helpful with not using so much thought on these things but it’s not a perfect system.

I dream of having enough money to just let everything auto-draft right out of my checking account. To just know there’s enough in there and we can cover it all. It would be like having a magical brick machine that moved the bricks off of me and put them … somewhere else where I don’t see them and only have to check in once a month to make sure everything has happened as planned.

I’ve spent so many years with “No” as my default answer. years NOT spending money and NOT shopping and NOT getting nice things for myself, my husband, and my children. Sometimes I berate myself for it because how silly to be tired from NOT doing things. Instead of the store I can hang out at home. Instead of the movies we can just play a game at the kitchen table. Instead of a museum you guys can just go to the park. How can I complain when I have all thse other alternate choices, I should consider myself lucky!

When they are things you really want to do (or normal things only you and the other poors can’t do) they wear down your decision fatigue. Not doing something is as much a decision as doing something when it’s an active choice.

Let’s be honest with one another. I’m totally buying a sundress. Decision fatigue is like an old volcano and it needs a sacrifice in order to stay quiet. I’ll do my best to not completely kill the budget by amiing for an at/under pricepoint of $35.00 so, obviously, it’s not going to be a fancy, designer sundress but if I seriously have to go to the thrift store one more time? Just…no. (I don’t know what your thrift store looks like but the plus section in my thrift store is like the eighth circle of hell.) I consider it a compromise even as part of my brain will – I’m sure – consider it a failure and lack of willpower.

So this is how it is. I stack the bricks and I move the bricks and I keep track of them as I build a wall every month and make sure the whole thing doesn’t topple on me and crush me and, every once in a while, I say fuck it and buy a sundress.

When was the last time  you gave in to decision fatigue and just bought something that wasn’t in your budget?

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