Tag: budgeting

Money and Budgeting and Opportunities for My Kids #NaBloPoMo

I got the kids to testing on time!

I was sure I was going to mess it up. I even managed to make scrambled eggs and toast for them for breakfast before they went. I packed snacks and water bottles. They had sharpened pencils and calculators. I WAS ON FIRE!

I got a few odd looks taking my 12 and 13 year old kids in among the hundred plus high school kids in line but no one said anything and no one questioned it. I’m guessing they were all too nervous. The ladies checking my girls in didn’t look at them twice. I saw one lady look at them then walk back to someone else, say something, and come back but I’m going to choose to believe that was coincidence.

Generally, I keep what I’m doing with my kids close to the vest. I was always an awful “mom blogger” because I hated violating their privacy or telling stories I felt were theirs and not mine. I’m doing what all parents do. Looking at what I’ve been given to work with and figuring out how to best turn it from a lump of kid-clay into a grown-folk who can go out and have a life of their own. I don’t know loads of important people, so I need to get them into environments where they can be seen. I don’t know, really, how smart or talented or funny my kids are. I think they’re great people but I’m not an objective judge of what they really bring to the table. So I research and choose to have them tested to see if they qualify for things like the Northwestern Center for Talent Development. If they don’t, that’s fine. If only one does, that’s fine. (DukeJohns Hopkins, and the Western Academic Talent Search have similar programs.)

I don’t mind if my kids turn down any opportunity, but I would be heartbroken if they didn’t have the option simply because I didn’t do enough research. Of course, the programs they may qualify for will cost money. A lot of money. The summer program is thousands of dollars. It’s the reason Mr. Brickie and I are so happy about the opportunity he has been given through going to this training in Maryland. Our family sacrificing him for two weeks is truly for the whole family. If we can get him in there making money as soon as possible and pay down debt, we’ll be able to use the freed up money to send the kids to camps that will allow them to learn new things and meet new people. People from different places and cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Every day I look at my children and feel this crushing pressure. I have to be good enough for them. I have to do the research and read the reviews and figure out how to help them find what they truly desire in this life. To guide without pushing. To ask without expectation. To help them learn to make decisions and choices on their own. In the meantime, I want them to try as many things as possible so they don’t miss the thing that could have been THEIR thing.

The way I’ve always felt like somehow I missed what my thing was supposed to be. I’m fairly good at a large number of things but there’s no one thing that really defines who I am. I have always wished there was. Like an anchor. Hello, my name is jennydecki and I’m an accountant. Hello, my name is jennydecki and I’m a spree killer. You know, whatever, something that makes me….me. Beyond just my name.

I don’t want my children to spend their lives feeling this constant sense of being adrift.

How We Spent It 8-11-16


In this moment, I know the truth.

We are going to be apartment dwellers for at least two more years. I like being a renter in some ways, well, most ways really. I have checked calculators to see at what level owning is smarter than renting and can’t wrap my head around it. With Mr. Brickie being injured and off work for four months on the 18th everything feels unreal. Plans are nothing but dreams and we are living day to day.

We did get kittens from the County Shelter, though. Not the greatest financial decision since they cost $50 each and then we had to buy litter boxes and litter and food and take them to the vet for an initial checkup. They did already come neutered and with some initial vaccinations so the $50 was a great deal, but it was still money.

I also dropped the first $650 on Middle Sisters Orthokeratology (OrthoK) lenses. She has had them for a week and they are AMAZING. They’re hard contacts she wears overnight while she sleeps. They come out in the morning and *poof* perfect vision all day. She will never have to worry about her glasses or contacts while in a pool, while working out, while playing sports, while riding her bike. It’s probably my proudest moment as a parent to be able to give her that. Especially now that she seems to be over-the-moon in love with volleyball. No sport goggles. Hallelujah. I bought them with money I set aside from selling that domain name or I don’t know what I would have done. To be honest, I probably would have put it on a credit card. It’s my kid’s eyes and the lenses also reduce how severe her myopia will get through her life. It’s not convenience, it’s a possible life-changer. She’ll never have to worry – like I do – about retinal detachment.

Every night I put her contacts in for her. It’s awful. Tonight she will try to do it herself. I’m scared, but I know it has to be a hundred times easier to put them in your own eyes than to have your mom’s finger coming at your eye, right? I have soft contacts and can’t imagine someone else putting them in my eyes. I mean, it’s not physically awful, just uncomfortable for me knowing she’s uncomfortable with me coming at her eye with my big ol’ finger. (Tuesday update – she puts in her right lens and I put in her left. When she has the right lens mastered I’ll have her work on the left eye.)

How We Spent It!

Workman’s Comp: $721.30
Car Payment: $285.93
Subscription Savings: $50
Medical Savings: $15.37 (I went over on cat stuff last week and needed to put $15 back into this category)

That’s it.

The weekly checks get spent like clockwork these days. I still have an excel sheet (okay, a Google Doc Sheet, whatever) where I look at the current month and the next month in case something changes or comes up, but I don’t even know if that’s necessary anymore. I could just write where the bills go on an index card and tape it on the wall.

Which is pretty much my dream for how easy I want my budget to be every week. One index card. Heck, I could probably fit it all on a post it note. All leftover money goes to a credit card but right now there is no leftover money because he’s making 70% of his income home injured. (NOT that I’m complaining, thank goodness for workman’s comp or we’d be under a bridge living in a box. You think I’m exaggerating. I don’t see another outcome.)

How We Spend It Paycheck by Paycheck (after gas/groceries/tolls/spending money categories are filled which is $370/wk.)

1st Check: Credit Card AutoPayment Bills (domains, cable, cell phones), Medical credit card minimum payment, prescription payment, union dues payment

2nd Check: Car Payment, Subscriptions (amazon prime, hosting, costco membership, car registrations)

3rd Check: Nipsco, Insurance Savings

4th Check: No bills (Usually rent savings but I used the domain sale check to fill this category up)

That’s probably going to change next month when I figure out what our weekly cat expenses (food/litter/savings for vet bills) will be.

I need to fill the Christmas category and Summer 2017 category but I am pretty sure those won’t see a penny until Mr. Brickie goes back to work. I need to replenish the emergency fund because school supplies and cat stuff (neither one a real emergency) have me down to $493. September is a five check month regardless of Mr. Brickie being home or at work but I can tell you right now that if he could go back to work during a five-week month that would really go a long way to getting jump-started toward Christmas.

To mention Christmas is to summon an angry, magic blue fairy who comes down (or up) and curses me immediately. Saturday Mr. Brickie took the car in (because I was tired of him pooh-poohing the low tire pressure light every time I mentioned it) and there was a slow leak in one tire (covered by warranty) and the other tire had such low treads we needed to replace it … because it was a summer tire. No wonder I hated driving in the snow last winter. There went $169 I wasn’t planning on spending…but hooray for good tires for this winter! A good thing to come out of this is Mr. Brickie promises he’ll never doubt me again when I say something is wrong with the car. I know he meant it in a good way but my brain was like, oh, okay, it only took 13 years to convince you. Nice. (All the side eye. All of it. All for him in this moment.)

Or maybe my budget got thrown in the dumpster because I was talking about how smoothly it was going and how everything had its very own check.

But it probably happened because the tire treads wore down from use and it was just time to replace the tires.

The angry blue fairy is way more fun though, isn’t it?

On the super-bright side it’s looking like he might be cleared for work at his next appointment with the orthopedic surgeon September 7th. It’s all up to the doctor, of course, so I’m trying not to be TOO hopeful but by golly there’s a spark of happiness in my heart. He could be back to work next month. Yes, I was hoping for this month, but again, I trust the orthopedic surgeon and he’s done right by Mr. Brickie since day one. I really respect the guy.

In the meantime, Mr. Brickie is going to physical therapy and practicing laying mortar at home so his skills aren’t trashed when he goes back to work. He’s doing everything he can to get back and I’m so proud of him for working so hard to get well and go back. His work ethic is a beautiful thing.

I started writing this on Thursday and now it’s Tuesday, the day before school starts. This blog post should be amazing with all the time it’s taken to write!

So all the things I thought I had MORE time for this summer (writing, breathing, etc.) I actually had less time for with the whole family home all day. I will do my best not to forget that again.

Money is tight but not overwhelming. With Mr. Brickie on workers comp we qualify for reduced breakfast/lunch rather than free this year, which I’m cool with. My job is to provide accurate paperwork. Whatever I qualify for is based on a chart and I’m thankful for anything, really, because every little bit helps our forward momentum.

But let’s be honest…nothing is going to help like him going back to work is going to help. Now I have “It’s the Final Countdown” stuck in my head.

How We Spent It 6-30-2016


The fabled and much-awaited fifth check of the month has arrived.

It makes for a boring read but trust me the feeling of relief and the relaxation in the muscles of my shoulders and neck are very exciting for me.


  • Workers’ Comp: $721.30


  • Living Expenses: $370 (Gas, Groceries, Spending)
  • Buffer Refill: $100
  • Rent Savings Refill: $251.30

Last week I blew through a lot of money. I bought hiking boots for two girls (for sleep away camp) and they were on clearance for $25/ea. They are Merrill so hopefully both pairs can be kept and reused when Little Sister grows into them. They seem very well constructed. We also spent $50 at Meijer getting odds and ends they would both need for camp. So…I spent twice as much as I needed to right now in order to not have to go shopping at all (or so it seems right now) at the end of next month when both older girls go to sleep away camp for the week.

Mr. Brickie wanted to go to Shoreline Brewery while we were shopping for kid shoes and that ended up being $90. I kind of died inside a little because we didn’t expect it to be that pricey when we went in. Lesson learned.

Last but not least last Monday we paid $90 for the two younger girls to attend another two week swimming class while the oldest is at camp. Today was the last day of this two week session and I feel a sense of relief whenever I see them in the water. They used to be petrified of the water and wouldn’t go near it but now they stay safe and close to the edge but have a level of confidence that makes me so happy.

I’m sure there were many other things because I spent a lot, but I’m going in to this new week feeling refreshed and feeling NO need to spend money outside of next Tuesday being the last two week swimming lesson session and all three girls are signed up for it. That will be $135 ($45/kid/session) and should really mark the last of the summer spending.

The sense of knowing what was going on financially this morning is probably the best thing I could ask for on a birthday. Since my oldest is away at camp until tomorrow afternoon, I won’t celebrate with a cake until Saturday so she can join in on the fun and not feel left out.

While I wish very much Mr. Brickie was back at work already he has been able to have some great experiences with the kids this summer that we will both cherish the rest of our lives. Watching our 6-year-old jump off a diving board was some majestic unicorn-level stuff since she’s always been SO SCARED OF THE WATER OH NO SOMETHING IS GOING TO KILL ME WHAT DO YOU MEAN THAT DOESN’T HAPPEN IN THE SHOWER HERE IT COMES I’M GOING TO BE KILLED BY THE GENTLE SPRAY. Now she’s a rock star. I’m really thrilled she’s come so far because I love the water and last year watching her take two hours to get into the two foot deep kiddie pool at the public pool was painful. This year she’s going at the water like a little duck.

I managed to get all my bills separated into the four weeks of paychecks, in order to even things out and have more of a flow during the month. I do wish there was a program where you could put in all your bills and then how much you make a week (approx.) and the program would separate your bills for you in the most even way possible. I love to use technology as a way to double-check my work.

I’m trying to increase Mr. Brickie’s credit score to help us qualify for a mortgage once we’ve saved 20% down (which could be forever, and we may change our minds and continue to rent, who knows…it’s early days) but no matter what good credit scores won’t hurt us, you know?

Thanks to the budget program I know what’s owed on each card and that the money is there to pay it since we don’t spend if it’s not in our budget. If I go over budget I take it from a savings category because NO NEW DEBT is where we are at right now.  I’d rather be at PAY DOWN DEBT but being able to accrue no new debt is pretty much unicorn status considering he’s injured and out of work so you won’t hear a peep from me about what I’d rather be doing if he were working because he’s not and I live in reality. Most of the time.

Also, Sam’s Club is having this thing right now where Costco members can use their cards to shop at Sam’s. We checked it out but the only thing they don’t have that I thought was kind of cool was 50 packs of Cheetos because who doesn’t love Cheetos? Mr. Brickie reminded me that we don’t send chips as snacks with the kids to school so there was really no reason to have that many bags of mini Cheetos in the house. He also said the mini bags of Frito’s could not come home even if I swore to make walking tacos once a week until they were. He said something about getting everyone sick once a week and blah blah that’s not how you show love to your family yadda yadda.

So we left with nothing but might be going back for this set of six stoneware bowls because we are desperate for bowls and Goodwill has not been terribly helpful. It was $12 for six HEAVY stoneware bowls with a nice pattern. Regular kitchen bowls, not mixing bowls. So yeah that’s probably going to happen. I like splashes of color in my kitchen and would like to have bowls that are sturdy.

I’ll be back with you sooner than next week, I have a list of topics unrelated to specific budget numbers that I’m going to work on writing in between how we spent it entries. There’s so much happening but most of it is better suited to a parenting blog or a wifing blog. I try to work it in a little so you know what’s happening but I like to keep my eyes on the financial prize.

The only part of this post that bothers me is the paragraph in the beginning about spending no money and then the later paragraph written after we went out for a few hours talking about just one bowl set. That’s how it starts. Slipping down the SPEND ALL THE MONEY rabbit hole. I have to find a way to determine what’s a want and what’s a need and if something is a need is it okay to get ….but in an objective way.

There are so many things swirling in my head right now it’s difficult to keep any one train of thought pinned down enough to progress. The issue with my dental work and messed up bite, should we buy or rent, blah blah blah it’s all too much. I want to enjoy my kids and their activities and get through having Mr. Brickie home for a few more weeks and please can someone get him back to work? I need to get my mind right and that’s going to require more of a break than the couple hours here and there I get while he’s at the park or at an activity.

I appreciate him, don’t think I don’t….I just want him back to work. Let me miss him….just a little bit.

How We Spent It 6-23-2016

Happy Friday! Yesterday I was dealing with some tooth pain and the crying that comes with trying to figure out if your mouth is going to heal more or if room temperature grapes being painful to eat is your new reality forever. I cancelled my follow-up appointment. If I need more work I’m going somewhere else. I can’t deal with a medical professional that doesn’t listen to legitimate concerns except to answer with boilerplate answers parroted by her receptionist.

I feel better today. A little, anyway. I wish there was some way to know if the dentist you are going to is poor quality or if what they did is normal. Either way I’m getting a second opinion on my mouth because this is beyond sensitivity. This is affecting my life pretty significantly.

On to the money!


  • $721.30


  • Nipsco: $202 (new budget plan amount)
  • Buffer refill from last week: $100
  • Gas: $20
  • Groceries: $150
  • Spending Money: $200
  • Mr. Brickie’s Union Dues: $20
  • Big Sister’s Meds: $19.69

I need to break down fun money because it’s not what it sounds like. It should be Spending Money. Groceries are $150, Gas gets $20, and $200 goes into that Fun Money category. Yesterday I went to Target for athletic shorts for Big Sister (going to camp next week and owns ONE pair of shorts) a pair for Little Sister, a birthday present for a party Little Sister is going to this weekend, a mesh bag for Middle Sister to take to camp in a couple weeks, and some nail polish.

I just changed the category from Fun Money to Spending Money.

Oh, also a wallet for Big Sister to keep her picture ID and new debit card in. I need to post about that debit card. It’s been in the house less than a week, I want to test drive it with her before writing about it.

We spent about $100. Since I finally just put $200 in spending money I will pay that as soon as it pops in the Target credit card system and I’ll make the payment. I put it in the budget immediately (like you do) so that money is already earmarked to be a payment.

It’s a category that doesn’t build. If there is $20 or $5 left at the end of the week, I’ll only top off the category to $200. This way I don’t keep stealing from the $100 buffer category that’s supposed to sit there and make sure I don’t ever overdraft because of a silly mistake. I keep pulling from there when we go over on something else and that’s not a smart way to do things.

Here’s the way it was planned out from the beginning of the month with only some minor changes.


Next week every penny that isn’t going to living expenses is going right back to the Rent Savings because I stole from that category to pay off the Macy’s card. It’s nice not having that card hanging around anymore. Even after giving it all the “extra check” next week, I’ll still owe a little under $160 to that account. I’ll figure out how to get that in there next month.

If we’re being totally honest, I won’t figure out how to get that in there next month. The budget will do that for me. (You Need A Budget) I honestly don’t know what I would do without my budget program. It took a couple months for me to really “get” how entering transactions moved money from the categories to the section for credit card payments but now it’s just another thing I check when the funds clear in the account. Bills to pay? Check the excel spreadsheet. Credit Cards to pay? Check that section in the budget. If I underpay the Rent Savings it will recalculate how much I need to save monthly to have $2250 in the account by November. (I don’t work with YNAB or get a kickback or commission if you end up using the program.) I also don’t recommend spending money on a budgeting program if you can’t pay your bills. Stick with Excel if it’s on your computer already or the library computer or go with Google Drive Sheets which is still where I keep my stuff so I can get to it easily on my Android smartphone. I’m in a free trial of the new online based version until…I don’t know when…but when it expires I fully intend to pay for this program because it’s taken a lot of the load off when it comes to day-to-day tracking of money we spend.

One of the most difficult things is the overwhelming feeling of failure we both struggle with right now. We aren’t making headway like we planned and even though there is a very legit reason it still feels like we are moving at a snail’s pace. We try to remember we are doing really well considering my husband is home with a healing broken wrist. I mean, thank all that is good and holy there are things in place – like workman’s compensation – that protect workers or that accident would have cost us so much more.

He’s working so hard in physical therapy and doing his best not to take vicodin anymore because it makes him mean and sick to his stomach. He also thinks that at this point if he doesn’t feel pain he might overexert himself now that he’s no longer in the wrist brace/cast. I think he’s right. He does take one before he leaves for physical therapy but I think that’s just smart. Poor thing gets electrodes zapped into his muscles and ultrasound therapy and comes home wrecked. He’ll be in a lot of pain tomorrow.

We’re just here doing our thing every day and while one day may bleed in to the next with the only difference being what activity the kids go to, I know in my heart this will pass and things will go back to normal.

I’m trying to cherish the time I have with Mr. Brickie while it’s here and available. You know, consider it a gift and whatnot.

How We Spent It 5/26/2016


Today another workman’s comp check cleared ($721.30) and it went to the usual suspects:

Groceries/Gas/Tolls/Etc. $270
Insurance Savings $120
Emergency Fund Refill $240.48
Buffer Refill $90.82

First I would like to point out something I think is super positive. Our lifestyle/bills and income have done some criss-cross in the graph of personal finance where the last check of the month only goes toward a savings account (so we can pay insurance in full and avoid extra charges for making payments) and that’s it. We are aaaaaaaalmost able to live on three checks out of the month. In my fantasy life, I pay all the bills with one check because it’s okay to have dreams. In reality, if I could pay the bills with two checks I’d be over-the-moon excited. Hell, I’m excited now. Celebrate the small things because they add up to the big things.

I tapped into the emergency fund last week for the girls to have tennis lessons and volleyball lessons over the summer. It was $490.40 and it hurt to take that out of the emergency fund. I feel really lucky we are in a position where even though my husband is injured we can pay for summer activities. Last summer the only thing we could afford was the $88 for one kid to go to a week of camp. It helps mightily not having a $500 car payment anymore (I know that was so dumb, I’m so happy it’s behind us.) There is still an outlay of $270 coming up for swimming lessons, too, which is why I’m replenishing the emergency fund instead of paying down debt.

I’m pretty sure it’s not financially smart to choose kid’s activities over paying off debt. I’m sorry. I don’t even know if I’m apologizing to you, to me, or to the universe but I feel like an apology is somehow in order. An apology for not being committed enough, for not being “nose to the grindstone” enough. For feeling like it’s not the smart decision but still going ahead and doing it because it’s what I want for the kids.

It feels like a very selfish decision.

I also had to spend $90.82 to refill the buffer we keep in the checking account to bring it back up to $100. I took out $10 for one field trip, $10 for another field trip, $20 for the 5th grader to take with her on the field trip so she can play games, eat awful snack bar food, and ride go karts. There were also two birthday parties so the gifts for those added up to another $50. (We normally don’t spend that much on presents. One was a Nerf gun party so we had to buy a Nerf gun for our daughter to take with as well. Well, we didn’t HAVE to, we chose to because we WANTED to let her participate fully in the party.) See, again, selfish in the moment but not really best for the long-term.

Finances were so cut-and-dry when there wasn’t enough. Decisions were easier because there were way less options. Now everything feels like a big ol’ grey area. I’m not good with gray areas because I don’t have a lot of practice dealing with them.


My “perfect budget” for June has the emergency fund filled and the Macy’s card $100 away from being paid off. I am going to do my best to stick to the damn script and follow the budget! I would love to know the first week of July I could really, finally get rid of the Macy’s card balance. I didn’t expect it to take so long to pay off (do we ever?) but I can’t say I’ve regretted the new bed once. I’ll still be paying it off way before the 12-month no-interest financing ends (November) so at least I’ll pay it off fast enough I won’t be punished with interest charges.

I figure if I have trouble sleeping at night because I wasted money, at least I’ll feel like I did right by the kids and wasted money. Or something. That rings kind of hollow.

Really, I swore to myself I wouldn’t expand my lifestyle to match his income in order to be in a good position later in life. I don’t know, though, because his worker’s comp is 66% of his actual pay and I should still have some left to pay down debt so we are technically still living below our means. How much lower below your means are you supposed to live to be doing it right?

I’m going to spend the whole darn day half confused. Probably the next few months, if we’re being honest, because budgeting when you’re not talking about bare bones survival is not something I’m good at.

2016-5-26 ynab

Here are the raw numbers in the accounts. The Citi Diamond card is the dentist bill. I have it set up on a $140/mo. payment plan to pay off before the 21-month interest free offer expires. I’m sure between paying down debt and tax returns it will be paid off before then but I’m a very “hope for the best, plan for the worst” kind of person so even if I can’t pay it off in bulk, at least I won’t pay interest!

Would You Pay Off A Credit Card With Your Emergency Fund?

This was the question of the week.

We have our baby emergency fund of $1,000 and I was batting around the idea of using the emergency fund to pay off the $315 balance that remained after the balance transfer.

I let it go and felt it didn’t matter either way. I thought the best decision was to let my subconscious ruminate on it and when I got a flash of inspiration on why one decision was better than the other I would do whatever that flash of insight told me to do.

That decision cost me $70.

I didn’t take all aspects of the situation into consideration. That little bit remaining on the card was racking up interest! Leaving my emergency fund untouched is a nice thought but in retrospect the better option would have been to pay off the card.

While I can’t go back in time and do anything different, I can change it up today and I went right into the bank account, made the transfer from the emergency fund, and paid off that damn card! A $70 mistake, but one that cannot repeat next month because that card is paid off. Now we can focus our efforts on the two balances left. The Macy’s card and the Discover card with the balances.

I’m not as good at making these kind of “not life or death” decisions. I put off the decision and have to learn from small, painful mistakes.

Your mileage may vary (of course!) but the lesson I’m taking away from this is clear: Don’t grip money so tightly it costs you more money!

The Day I Changed Personal Finance Religions

There are several religions within personal finance.

  • You can’t take it with you when you go!
  • Build wealth, leave a legacy!
  • Think and Grow Rich!
  • Build a Business!
  • Leave Below Your Means!

There are different ways to get where you’re going and each way has rabid fans that will tell you their way is the only way.

  • Snowball Method
  • Avalanche Method
  • Invest single stocks / Invest in index funds / InvestInvestInvest
  • I’m sure there are a lot more I don’t know the name of!

When I started on my personal finance journey, all I did was write down our bills on a piece of paper and show it to my husband. “No wonder we’re constantly behind,” I said, “we don’t make enough to pay our bills.”

It was a light bulb moment in our lives. When I look back I think to myself, “How could we not know our bills? How could we not know our monthly income?” It seems so easy and elementary now, over ten years later.

I’ll never forget the shock of that moment, though.

Back then I was always anxious. Not “I feel a little nervous” anxious, but “long-tailed-cat in a room full of rocking chairs” anxious. I have prescribed medication for my anxiety disorder, but rarely use it. I find that my learned coping mechanisms work better and better the more money we have in the bank. (Shocker, right?)

Sometimes when things got really bad I would turn on Christian radio and listen to the way they talked. The lilt of the preaching was calming. (There has to be some kind of study on that. They all talk the same way, it has to be for a reason.) There was this guy talking on the radio about his book Financial Peace and I was like, “Woah. Those two words together are an oxymoron!” Yes, I literally said that in my car. I was parked in front of a friend’s house waiting for her to come downstairs so we could go to lunch together or something. I called the number and donated $10 to some clean water mission in some other country place and for my donation they sent me the book.

I still have the book. It changed everything.

I am not proud to admit this but I laughed most of the time while reading the book. Live on less than you make? Easy for this guy to say. What if I make no money? How do I live below zero? I kept the book and didn’t really commit to it for years but kept going back and reading it because I knew there was something to it, even if I couldn’t tell exactly what the something was.

I didn’t have Dave Ramsey on the radio yet and had never heard him say, “You don’t have a budget problem, you have an income problem!” which is absolutely what we had.

It took us a long time to figure out our income problem. When we did figure it out the solution was horrible. We would lose our house, have to move, uproot our children. We did all those things. We were so broke we had to be those people that had an online fundraiser.

I laugh when people say online friends aren’t real. My online friends saved my family. I’m not overstating it at all. They saved us.

We all sacrificed. We all sold things we would have rather kept (yes, including the children) and even though the kids were scared they kept a brave front because even though they trusted me, they also knew I couldn’t stay strong if they showed weakness. They comforted one another at night when they couldn’t sleep. They talked through the stress of moving with each other.

I feel both pride and shame when I think about that.

Since we have moved here we haven’t eaten out a lot, we haven’t done but a couple things that cost a dime. Most of our summer was spent at free events.

I don’t want a pat on the back or comfort, this is just how things have been. It’s how they had to be. We were in scorched earth survival mode. It was necessary. Now that Mr. Brickie is a 70% apprentice we have passed the magic invisible line between surviving and starting to thrive,

It leaves us at a crossroads.

We could continue on at this scorched earth level that has become our normal or we could start to incorporate some balance in our lives. I don’t want to be old, broke, and afraid but I also don’t want to be that old lady that has a bunch of money in the bank but never spends it on anything fun.

Balance. I’m not good at it by nature. I would, however, really like to try it on for a little while and see how it feels.

So we are turning away from scorched earth and the snowball method and the baby steps and blazing our own trail. One that includes investing in an index fund in a Roth IRA as well as going on vacation. One that allows for a second car, but one that gets paid off in two years or less.

Let’s see if I can do it. A new financial religion. One I haven’t read about online or seen talked about in a blog. Something new.

The only way to know if it works is to try it out.

I’m very nervous.

Planning After Taxmas

The tile of this post should be, “Crap, how do I not mess this up now?” After paying off the car and the rent I’m left with a couple credit cards that need to be tackled and killed off. I have to decide how much to spend per card and which one to pay off first. I am pretty sure I’m going Dave Ramsey style and getting rid of the lowest first (which is the bed we bought on the Macy’s card) and then the second lowest and then throwing everything at the Amazon Visa until all the non-student-loan debt is gone, baby, gone!

I do have a few savings accounts I would like to fill up asap as well. One is the $2250 goal for the “other three months of rent” we pay when the lease renews in November. Another is the auto/renters insurance payment savings account. The third is what I call the “Subscriptions” savings account…it includes the Costco membership, the annual fee for my blog hosting, the domain name payments, and the car registration fees we pay to the state annually.

What I am pretty sure I’m going to do is pay minimums to the savings accounts ($260/mo. into the rent savings gets me where I need to be by November, for example) and then the remainder over and above that will go toward debt.

By the end of the month he will receive a stipend check for training class and he will get one more unemployment payment. Maybe. Work seems like it might come sooner rather than later. He got a call while we were out shopping this week asking him if he could work a job next week Monday. He had to decline because you are not allowed to miss training and it doesn’t count against you as an apprentice to decline work for training. It’s the rules.

But one call means more will come. I hope he’s back to work by the end of the month, that would be fantastic for our finances and our family. This is the time of year we start to really get on each other’s nerves.

I have to tell you though, the better our financial situation looks the less we get on each other’s nerves. FUNNY HOW THAT WORKS, HUH? It’s like being poor and not having enough anything makes you a pile of stress looking for a target and golly if it doesn’t look like Mr. Brickie has a big ol’ target painted right on his chest when that happens.

You know how you hear things and you think it’s b.s. but then when it happens to you suddenly you get it and kind of feel silly for not believing the hundreds of times you’ve seen some universal truth shared online or told to you in person? Yeah, the money causes marital stress thing was a big one for me. I didn’t think being poor was affecting our marriage because we were communicating and getting through it, but man, the difference is huge but not in any kind of way I could explain with words.

We are both so much more relaxed about everything. We haven’t had a fight like The Taco Incident in months. We look back on our money fights and it feels like maybe, just maybe, those are things that are all in the past now.

It would be nice. In the meantime, the optimism alone is worth the risk.

I don’t have a cool calculator showing where we were vs. where we are but it looks a little like this:

|–(where we started)———————————(where we are)———————|

They say that graphics make a blog better. Let me know if the above gripped your soul the way it was supposed to. (wink, wink)

The Worst Week of the Year 2016

I realize it’s January and calling it the worst week of the year sounds an overreaction because it’s only the fourth full week of the year. I want you to know I know I’m overreacting just a smidge.

On top of this being the worst week of the year because I’m waiting on Taxmas to come down the chimney of my bank and put presents under my account number, yesterday Mr. Brickie’s unemployment was only half of what we expected it to be.

So barely making it turned into I don’t think I can pay the gas/electric bill just yet. It’s not due until the 5th and Mr. Brickie is on a side job right now and if he gets paid on Friday (pretty standard) it will clear well before the due date and I will pay it with time to spare. Even though a side job will kill one unemployment check from next month we would both rather have him work for that money.

This is the time of the year also where he’s been home long enough we start driving each other a little bonkers.

I love him with all my heart but he needs to go away and let me miss him for eight hours a day and have a minute to myself and my thoughts. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and no I do not want to watch wrestling what on earth would make you think that? I did dishes last time while you were clipping your toenails and can you do that in the bathroom next time and I don’t know if I defrosted any meat for dinner if I didn’t I’ll make something vegetarian because you won’t die if you don’t have a bit of meat with dinner once in a blue moon and if you keep complaining I’ll put soy in it and trap you in the bathroom for the next two days so I don’t have to stare at you staring at your phone checking Facebook. He may be my best friend but he’s my best friend I was starting to think about trapping in an attic.

On the very, very bright side my ears don’t hurt right now! I think the ear infection that would not go away is finally on the way out! I mean sure my throat is killing me but my ears aren’t so at least it’s a different kind of pain and honestly I’ll take throat pain over ear pain because ear pain is piercing, ringing madness-inducing awfulness and a sore throat is….a sore throat. I’m also pretty sure the throat pain is a post-nasal drip thing but I’m not talking about that anymore because I’ll start to gag because just the thought of that is gross. Sorry if me being grossed out grosses you out. It’s a horrible cycle. If you are grossed out you can cure it by grossing someone else out. Pass it on. It’s like when you pay it forward but in a much more negative way.

Between money and health it’s rough but I promise you I’m feeling quite optimistic. Maybe it’s because I’m naturally back-assward like that. Maybe it’s because I managed to get a really negative, unpredictable person out of my life for good *shimmy shimmy dance* or maybe it’s just knowing I’m THIS CLOSE to paying off my car.

I’m on a Facebook group (I Got My Refund) where people track their refunds and tell people where they filed and when they filed so everyone else can get a sense of how things are flowing this year. Some people filed as early as the 11th of the month. (Before tax season even officially opened on the 19th!) They were trying to get into the “test batch” of refunds that go out first. A risky proposition but I think a lot of people do what we have done almost every year before this one. You pay Christmas with taxes and try to right the ship when that big check comes.

I’ve seen some people troll the page for attacking people for getting free money for not working through EIC (Earned Income Credit) … we all know that you can’t get EIC if you don’t work, right? Like, you have to work. By the time we don’t qualify for EIC anymore I’ll be happy to pay taxes because I’ll be able to afford to pay taxes.

Mr. Brickie’s union meeting went well and he talked to people and the guys in the know say that with the weather it’s going to be an early-start season this year. Hopefully late February – early March he will be back to work. Now he’s a 70% apprentice and that’s enough to live on and pay bills with and afford food without SNAP so I’m excited for this year to happen and start in with the goal of being completely debt free (other than student loans) and have a Christmas account for next year.

I know the Christmas goal is one I have every year, but one of these years I’m going to do it. I get closer every year so I have faith if I just keep shooting for the stars, eventually I’m going to get one.

I hope your January has been healthy and safe. I look forward to all of us having a good year this year.

UPDATE: The reason the unemployment check was cut in half. You ready? We were paid for one week this time because our paid-through date was 1/16 and that’s when the year flipped to the new year and the need for a new, unpaid, waiting week renewed which was the week ending 2/23 . So instead of reporting in two weeks like I normally would I report again next Monday (the one in four days) get paid on Wednesday for one week again and then two weeks after that file like normal and get a two week unemployment deposit.

Gosh, don’t I feel silly for not knowing that off the top of my head. I’m kidding. How would anyone know that? Maybe there’s a letter in the mail I haven’t received yet.


The Hopeless, Dark Part of Winter

Winter becomes a bit hopeless around now. In between the Christmas lull where I have to scrape together even more money for two January birthdays and knowing that tax refund time is still at least a month away starts to get really dark.

Side jobs stop. Everything is cold and quiet. I start to wonder if they’ll call him back this year. Maybe this is it, he’s done being a bricklayer and there won’t be any jobs. Maybe the economy isn’t doing better even though everyone says building rates are up and more jobs are scheduled every year. Maybe the Bureau of Labor Statistics is lying about the jobs increase in his field. I start to forget he has a job that pays the bills when he’s working and start to feel my mindset shift back into that weird place where unemployment is all we have and the first thing I notice is I start to have a desire to spend money on things that are, frankly, a little weird.

Yesterday I told Mr. Brickie I absolutely needed to replace the scrub brush I use inside the water bottles. I argued for this five dollar purchase for an hour before he finally got a word in and said, “Ours is fine.” I probably looked like someone who had just seen a kitten thrown off a roof. I was shocked. How could he tell me I couldn’t have it?

Then I remembered we have a half-falling-off windshield wiper on the car and focused on that instead. I found the absolute cheapest one online and told Mr. Brickie I was going to get it. He asked me the price and when I told him said, “Oh, it’s cheaper to get that done at the dealership.”

Okay then. That’s two things I can’t take care of. I’ll be over here chewing my hair. (Not really. I haven’t done that in years and years.)

These are sure signs the low grade panic of seasonal unemployment is setting in … hard.

Even though we have a little bit of emergency fund left our one car needs a CV joint thing replaced so I know that’s going to go on the list of things that have to happen. Mr. Brickie says we can hold out for Taxmas (not that there is going to be a bunch of money left over after the rent and the car but hopefully that $750 emergency room bill for my stupid giant abscess is taken care of by the hospital’s charity program. We gave them two inches of paper proving we are poor so I like to think it will work out for the best.) Yes, we have insurance. It’s an 80/20 PPO so that was our portion. I didn’t realize you could apply for medicaid as a secondary insurance. We are in the process of doing that now.

I feel dumb I didn’t know sooner. I’m thankful to the friend who asked me why I hadn’t done it already.

Yesterday’s entry was a little skewed because my youngest daughter did get $100 for her birthday in September and wanted a Kindle. She wouldn’t let me buy it before Christmas unless Santa got it for her even though I explained a billion times Santa doesn’t leave high end electronics. I ordered it a few days ago and used the accumulated credit on my Amazon Rewards Visa to pay for the Kindle, the case, and get her a gift card to pick out some books and games. Then I took the $100 and put it toward the party for the other kids.

If money finagling were exercise I would be the fittest bird in the world.

I just want Mr. Brickie to go back to work. That’s all. He wants to as well. It’s the only thing that eases the panic. If I’m not able to pay off the car with the tax return because I have to pay for an emergency room bill, well, it’s not the end of the world.

I’ve been looking at the car payoff as the “tipping point” of our five year plan for a long time now.

I’ll be so disappointed.

I’m trying not to borrow trouble. I’m telling myself not to worry yet. I second guess every financial decision I made in 2015 and then I stop myself and remember I can’t change it so I try to stop thinking about it.

Tomorrow will be a brighter day.

Tomorrow is the food pantry, so that’s something to look forward to. Really I’m working on being positive. There is so much to be grateful for but I’m on antibiotics and my ears hurt and I don’t have the energy to be upbeat today so the best I think we can both hope for is a solid neutral. Neutral is better than negative. See, that almost sounds optimistic.