Tag Archives: Budget

Budget Update (Feb 2014)

February-2014-Budget

You can probably tell I plan on making this a regular feature. Hopefully I can keep it interesting and fun. Goodness knows I could talk about budgeting forever but I know not everyone is as excited as squishing pennies to death as I am. You are always welcome to let me know if there’s something you’d like to know about my interesting financial situation. (Facebook, twitter…let me know!)

Also, I figure if it’s not fun at least it’s suspenseful, so that’s something anyway.

Our expenses don’t change dramatically, so this may turn out to be a quarterly update. I don’t even know. Also, I wanted to make the budget before I got the Tax Refund because then I get to feel extra-good about myself the next time I put one together. One of the best ways I know to keep yourself excited about finances and budgeting is to set yourself up to win. I would rather do two budgets and feel amazing about the second one than do just one budget and feel okay about doing it.

So, let’s get our not-so-awesome on, shall we?

feb-2014-budget-spreadsheet

This doesn’t include the Xbox Live Gold membership we get once a year. I could not buy it if I really had to skip it, but we use the Xbox for a great deal of our entertainment and I would be hella sad without it. I can usually find a 12 month card on sale somewhere for $39.99 during the year and then I add it on to the current year.

Also, for you math majors out there you can see that what I have right now is officially not enough. We are brainstorming a solution for that. I actually made more than that writing last month and it’s only the first week of this month, but the writing is sporadic and not something I can count on so I thought it would be best to put a lower number there. One I’m sure is attainable rather than the potential income which could honestly be in the thousands if I apply myself and luck is on my side and I can click “accept” faster than the other writers.

I’m also mulling over a potential side-hustle that has nothing to do with writing and plays more to my love of software. I don’t want to say too much and jinx it because the more I talk about something the less likely I am to do it, but I have a few sketches and ideas written out and I’m just the littlest bit excited about it.

Like I said before, don’t worry, once we are through this winter those expenses are going to stay firm except for adding in gas and tolls. Of course, if Mr. Brickie’s next job is where he’s been told it is the gas will be minimal and there will be no tolls, which means we will be able to save money hand over fist.

We all know that more income without increased expenses is a great place to be. I hope to be there sooner rather than later, but really, as long as I get there at all I will be a very happy woman.

I’m excited to look at the budget next month.

 

Professional Advice to Cut the Budget

modem-imageToday Mr. Brickie talked to NACA for his second intake interview.

To their credit, they had all 65 pages of the fax organized and only needed to go through about six questionnaires. They covered budget, expenses, and other financial things. The irony (and I know you are not going to be surprised) is that he used the information we faxed over to answer the questions.

So that was an hour and half that didn’t need to happen. He didn’t mind and was super-polite but still, what is the point of hunting down and sending over all that information if you just have to answer the same questions over the phone? Ah well. Not the worst thing in the world. They got the fax and that is the number one concern I had.

The Advice

Where this story gets a little crazy is in the “budgeting” section. If you have seen my budget, you know we don’t have a lot of expenses. We cut our lifestyle drastically so we didn’t end up in a deep, deep hole by the end of winter. The line items are a little different now because I had a panic attack and ran up a couple credit cards for Christmas shopping and since Mr. Brickie isn’t working we don’t have a hundred plus dollars in toll expenses right now. Plus, we spend almost nothing on gas since we aren’t going anywhere.

So the intake person says we have to look like we are making budget concessions to show we are serious about getting our mortgage right. With the expenses we have she suggested four things very strongly:

Do not buy any more clothes.

There were some expenses for clothing on the budget and she said that had to stop. The items in question? Boots, snowpants, and shoes for the children. Also, one pair of jeans for Mr. Brickie four months ago.

Do not eat out anymore, ever.

The expense in question? A $30 payment for the one time we went out to eat in the last four months. With a coupon. Because I can feed people at a casual dining restaurant and leave a good tip for $30. I’m magic.

Get rid of the Internet.

So, that happened. When my husband informed her that we use the Internet for our freelance businesses she said, “You can go to the library and use theirs.” While he was silently dumbfounded (because who wouldn’t be?) she followed up with, “You have smartphones. Use those.” I am not exactly sure what to say about that except if you knew how much more money we would spend if we didn’t have Internet and the answer to the question, “What do I do with my kids while I’m at the library on the computer for an hour because they have time limits?” isn’t even in the top three of reasons I cannot conceive of getting rid of my Internet connection.

Get rid of hosting.

“Get a free website and free email for your businesses.”

Stop paying your credit card bills immediately.

She said her prior job was as a third party credit card collections person and since that was unsecured debt we didn’t have to worry about anyone taking anything away from us. She advised we call and get them to put us on a payment plan that could be “as low as a few dollars a month” and then use that tax return money for something more important.

Did I mention Mr. Brickie stayed kind and polite during this whole conversation? The man is a saint.

After I picked my jaw off the floor I asked him if he thought the advice was valid about the credit cards. “Maybe she knows what’s what better than I do. This is my first house-issues rodeo, this is her job.” He looked at me like I was crazy and said, “No. We pay those debts off.” I nodded.

If I’m only making little payments – less than the minimum – for years and years the balances are going to become intense. I mean it will actually become more expensive every day I don’t pay it off. She recommended putting our tax return toward the car. If I could pay the car off entirely, that would be valid advice. But a car payment plus credit card payments or only a car payment seems like a no-brainer to me.

Mr. Brickie reminded me that the woman he talked to was an intake person, not a housing counselor. She was trying to help based on her personal experience and view of the world. She was trying to help.

For that, I appreciate what she said.

But the only way you’re taking my Internet away is by killing me first. It’s my only luxury and I’m not getting rid of it. I regret the two weeks I cut off hosting and quit blogging like you wouldn’t believe. I may not be the best blogger on earth but I can’t stop doing it. I guess that’s almost as good as passion.

We won’t be eating out again for at least four months because we’re cheap and thank goodness for my family I’m a good cook. If that makes things look better for the mortgage company, that’s wonderful.

As for clothing, I haven’t bought clothes since I got that awesome $12 dress from eBay a year ago. Mr. Brickie got a new pair of sneakers for Christmas from my cousin so he’s all set with shoes, too. I did buy him a pair of Levi’s that were on sale for $20 four months ago so we’ll have to cut down on that. The kids clothing, however, is not really negotiable. The last time I replaced their sneakers it’s because one of my kids had a flapping sole and there wasn’t enough shoe to glue it to.

I hope the housing counselor can look at the numbers and see that we are living a bare bones lifestyle. I can assure you the $68 for Internet and the hosting price aren’t going to be the difference between paying a mortgage and not paying a mortgage.

In the meantime, they are supposed to somehow get our loan into forbearance which would halt the foreclosure. It would give us a reduced monthly payment for a specific period of time based on the probability of increased income.

So, we’ll see what happens.

We still need to have a follow up appointment with the downtown legal aid people when they have an opening with a housing counselor and then there’s the court date downtown on Valentine’s Day (I really do love the irony of going to court on Valentine’s Day).

Tomorrow I have to decide if I want to put my 4yo through an assessment through the UofChicago. She’s one of the control group because she didn’t get into the lottery-based charter school. They get to be impressed and have fun with my kid and they’ll give Mr. Brickie fifty bucks for putting her in the study.

They just ask her about shapes and stuff, plus they’ll send me the assessment. I do like having information about my kids academic prowess. I’ll check in and see if he’s in the mood to do it.

 

Update on 2014 Goals So Far

march-calendar

Whew! January was one heck of a month.

We scrambled, we worried, we fretted all over the house. Money-making ideas were batted around left and right and center. We researched ebay, etsy, craigslist, and other options of doing things to bring income in for winter.

Honestly, the best thing we did was write.

I wrote articles, Mr. Brickie wrote articles, and we banked cash in Paypal.

It looks probable at this point we will be able to pay our bills in February. It’s not 100% yet, but it’s looking good. The car payment is always the kicker.

I also have to do the taxes today. It is a time I both love/hate because with the kids and the working and the not having a lot of money we usually qualify for both the child care credit and the earned income credit.

This may be the last year we qualify for the earned income credit! I will be excited to see it go. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t give it up in a heartbeat in exchange for making enough in income to not qualify. Income is always better.

I have, of course, a list of things we have to buy with the income tax return. Not a big list, there’s not going to be that much. Credit cards that I opened in a panic right before Christmas so my kids wouldn’t be totally denied gifts are going to get paid off first. Then I’m buying tires for the car because it’s winter and they pretty much have no grooves left and riding around on almost-bald tires is really, really not smart.

Oh, and let’s not forget I have to save first month, last month, and a security deposit if this whole “fixing the mortgage” thing doesn’t go through. I swear, just when I think it’s official and we’re going to be foreclosed on and have a sheriff at our door throwing us on our butts we get another letter asking us to get in touch. We do, and some other process starts.

That can’t last forever, though, so I want to make sure I have enough money in a savings account that we don’t end up in a homeless shelter even for a minute. I’m just being practical. Or I’m being totally pessimistic. Either way, it’s going in savings so I can sleep at night!

Other than writing the only other thing I’ve been doing to add to the piggy bank is mTurk. It’s a crowdsourcing program through Amazon.com and I basically take surveys for money. I know, I’m making it sound like a survey site, but there are other tasks as well like transcription and article writing. The pay is horrific in most cases, so don’t go there excited that you’ve found a way to pay your bills. I use it for stuff I can’t afford like when I had to buy a new keyboard for my laptop because mine was broken. It’s the emergency-stuff that’s not really an emergency fund.

Mr. Brickie doesn’t have the patience to be a turker. I can’t complain. He has done the bulk of the January writing and I could not be prouder.

Well, to be perfectly honest, it took a lot of talks and pleading and manipulation and smiles and frowns and going barking mad to help him see that him doing the bulk of the writing in January was really just the best idea in the whole wide world.

As for me, I’ve got a new partnership set up as someone’s copywriter and I look forward to seeing where that takes us. I set up an about.me page but I don’t think that really highlights my skills.

In the meantime, I’m researching how all those super-successful bloggers are doing things and looking for ways to improve my reach. My biggest problem is that I’m not a niche blog. I talk about finance and relationships and food and health and wellness and everything else. I don’t really want to have six blogs so each one can talk about that ONE thing and nothing else.

I guess I just think that defeats the whole purpose of having a blog. My blog is a pretty accurate representation of who I am and I’m looking for friends. Like minded bloggers and people I can feel safe with. People I can smile when I see the name on my Facebook feed or read about their latest adventure. I’m looking for people and I don’t think I’m going to find them with six highly niched blogs.

Maybe I’m wrong. It happens once in a while.

What do you think? Is your blog in a niche? Where do you put the thoughts that don’t fit? Do you think I could just get away with a really great category system?