Tag: budgeting

Secrets of Small Success: What to do with 8 dollars.

It was a red letter day when we paid our first week of bills this month and there was money left over! Sure, it was only eight bucks but that’s more than zero.

We considered adding it to the grocery budget. We thought about putting it toward debt. Since I’m not sure what the right answer is at this time it’s going where all my “I don’t know” money is going .. right into the emergency fund.

One of the benefits of moving money into a savings account – even in such a tiny increment like 8 dollars – helps sustain the habit of saving during the lean winter months when money is less reliable and jobs become scarce. I have been known to transfer less than a dollar into the emergency fund (it’s a savings account linked to our checking account) in order to not have anything I would consider “extra money” lying around inside my checking account.

It’s also part of that little psychological trick where small successes help you propel toward larger success. After you’ve put <$10 into your savings account a bunch of times it becomes really gratifying when there is occasionally, finally a decent chunk of money to deposit. Even $20 feels like something to cheer about and those small amounts add up.

Another benefit? It’s easier to not take small amounts out of your savings. If you were only able to put a couple dollars into your savings you’re not going to withdraw it because you’re running low on grocery money. Two dollars isn’t the difference between Whole Foods and Aldi. Neither is $9 or even $20, really.

More than anything it’s about what works for your life. I think zero-based budgeting is great but I honestly don’t understand any other way. “You spend the money until the money is gone” is just how I remember things always existing. As long as I consider my savings account “spent” I’m fine and I consider the money gone unless a real emergency comes up.

What’s the smallest amount you’ve ever saved?

Nosedive, Life Change, Worrying Less

We thought we were waiting a couple days for Mr. Brickie to go back to work.

We thought he would be working until the snow started.

We were wrong.

He got official word of his layoff yesterday. His mistake was telling me in front of his friend instead of telling me before his friend came over. Like, give me a minute to process, you know? But I didn’t yell and I basically made raspberry noises with my tongue for ten minutes to get through the desire to yell and stomp and make faces.

I’m super mature.

He’s at a side job today and has called a higher-up to figure out what to do now. There is a little confusion on my part because Mr. Brickie has a week of training this month and his dude told him to talk to the coordinator and tell them how highly this company praised him and how they want him back come spring.

The fear place in my heart tells me this means they’ll keep him off jobs until spring so he can go back with this same company.

The logic place in my brain thinks that’s stupid because why would they purposefully have him not work when not working leads to finding other jobs. I mean, Mr. Brickie wouldn’t find a new permanent job but… why would they risk it if they love him as much as I’ve heard them say they do?

The intuition place in my gut says there’s something going on and I’ll never know what it is but I need to just chill because everything is going to be okay and even if it wasn’t, I have no control over it.

He is 9 working days away from his next apprentice promotion. He was getting paid as if he had already been promoted at the company he was working at, but getting the actual percentage jump means he gets the higher rate no matter where he works. Also, it’s a milestone. I like milestones. (Who doesn’t like milestones?)

Money from side jobs is still in the works so we aren’t going to be immediately destitute or anything and I already had money set aside to be our paycheck for this Friday from a side job last week and he should be getting a partial payment from his other side job on Saturday so I’ll set that aside toward the paycheck after this Friday so we stay on track.

I’m not as worried as I have been in prior years. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing. I finished antibiotics yesterday but my stomach is still a hot mess and I’m not leaving my house anytime soon because being near a bathroom is a necessity of my life until further notice. I don’t have any of the four “you might be dying if…” side effects of the antibiotics I’m taking so I’ll take the tummyache I have and be thankful.

I really thought this job was going to go until January. I’m a little bummed out because I am so tired of being optimistic and “we’ll get through this” all the time. What choice do I have, though? If I decide to be a grump and unhappy about it all the time it doesn’t change the situation and I just bring the whole family down with me.

So I’ll be optimistic. It’s the only option that keeps my quality of life intact.

I’ll update you as the situation unfolds.

A Financial Conversation With Middle Sister

My middle child is a math whiz. I’ve always been more afraid of her than the others when it comes to handing out the raw numbers of our budget because I don’t want her to worry. (She’s a worrier.) Lately, I have noticed she has been asking more and more questions about money and I think she wants to figure out where we are and what things cost and …. I think she’s planning her adulthood in advance.

Yesterday Middle Sister asked how much her father was going to make this week.

Me: “A little over $800.”

Her: “But a couple weeks ago it was a thousand?!”

Me: “He had overtime that week.”

Her: “How much does daddy make?”

Me: “An hour?”

Her: “No, like in a year.”

Me: “Well it’s different every year, I don’t know how much he’s going to make this year.”

Her: “Do you know how much he made last year?”

Me: “Yes”

Her: “Can you tell me?”

Me: “He made a little over $20,000 last year.”

Her: “Is that a lot?”

Me: “It depends on who you compare it with.”

Her: “Well we have shoes and food and do fun things, so it’s enough. That’s what matters, right mommy?”

Me: “Yep, that’s what matters.”

I’m torn. It makes me happy she has good priorities, but makes me sad she even has to think about what really matters at nine years old. They are starting to make connections and while I think we all know that one day they will realize $20,000 for a family of five was not quite what most people would call “enough” they will be amazed (the way all poor children grow up to be amazed) at what their parents could do for them with so little to work with.

Later That Day….

Her: “Mom, remember when my glasses broke the first time and we had to wait almost two months to get them replaced?”

Me: “Yes.”

Her: “This time you ordered new ones and paid for them the same day they broke.”

Me: “Yes….?”

Her: “We make more money now, don’t we?”

Me: “Yes.”

Her: “I think I’m getting the hang of it.”

Me: “You most certainly are.”

I’m not worried about Middle Sister because her plan for life is to work as a bricklayer during the summer and teach elementary school during the rest of the year. It’s actually a genius plan because she will make a lot of money as a summer-only bricklayer that would allow her to boost that schoolteacher salary to something liveable.

What? All the things a teacher has to buy for the classroom every year? I fully intend on paying for every. single. one. She wants cutouts? I’ll buy them. She wants an extra bulletin board? Okay, no problem.

They have been the best kids a poor parent could ask for. Not greedy, not demanding, and so full of love and understanding. When we have money? I will be happy to give them whatever makes them happy. (As long as my retirement is funded first. I’m loving, not dumb.)

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A Reliable Indicator of Financial Stability and How We Spent It 8/21/2015

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I’m not great with writing headlines. I know the “rules” (I have for years) but just can’t make myself write, “This Mom Has Medical Bills…You’ll be Amazed How They Make Her Feel!”

Technically the medical bills are for the children. There are the two dentist appointments that were over $350 this month, the bill from the pediatric neurologist for our percentage after insurance, and money we still owe the pediatrician because the billing department lied when they told me how much I owed and, WHOOPS, we really owe more.

Then, Friday afternoon, Middle Sister’s glasses fall off her face, broken. They just gave up on life. So I had to run out and order a new pair for her and that was another $83. Medical has been out-friggin-rageous this month.

Add that to the almost $500 we spent on school supplies (over $250 on fees) and it’s been one hell of a money-drain of a month.

Here’s how we spent it for this week.

We have the usual Gas, Groceries, Restaurants (of course restaurants doesn’t mean an actual restaurant since I only put 40$/wk. in there, but if Mr. Brickie wants to stop at 7-11 for a pop on his way home that needs to be accounted for in advance.)

Set aside are also $20 for Mr. Brickie’s Union Dues and the $184 for the NIPSCO bill. I love having gas & electric on one bill. So much easier.

Mr. Brickie’s birthday present (a beer tasting and babysitting money so we can both go) was $150. His birthday isn’t until September 20th but I’m trying to be prepared in advance. You know, keep the budget right and not do last minute spending. I also put $100 back into the emergency fund. I drained it before and am trying to build it back up. It’s only at a little over $200 now but that’s better than the little over $100 it was last month.

Since there will always be ways (like broken glasses!) to spend money last-minute no matter how well we have budgeted, I consider buying Mr. Brickie his birthday present a month in advance normal life planning. I have no comparison so if it’s not normal then so be it.

There was no overtime this week and we thought Mr. Brickie was going to training next week but it turns out they need him on the job site and the guy in charge of the training is fine with him skipping this one one and coming in for a week of training in October instead. So we won’t be missing a paycheck the first month of September AND October is a five paycheck month so we won’t even be missing a paycheck when all is said and done!

It feels good to have the budget under control to the point where a bad thing happens and I can fix it. When Middle Sister’s glasses broke last year it took us two months to replace them. It felt awful. Terrible, terrible awful.

Feeling moderately annoyed and a little nervous about having to buy glasses OMG RIGHT NOW THIS MINUTE because school just started and Middle Sister needs to see the far-away things in the classroom is not only a relief it is a joy. I would choose being inconvenienced every day of the week over not knowing where the money is coming from for this, that, or the other thing.

For those of you who supported us when we had a fundraiser last year to move? I paid it forward a little this week. I sent in a box of fruit snacks and a box of Goldfish crackers (Costco sized boxes) in to the kindergarten and told the teacher that people helped us when we didn’t have a way to give our kids school snacks and I wanted her to have the snacks for kids in the class that didn’t bring one. She was really happy.

Thank you for helping my family get to a place where we can give snacks to children who don’t have any. Giving feels amazing.

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How We Spent It 8/14/2015

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Today is a bittersweet day.

We are spending the last overtime check. It was so nice while it lasted.

This one was super easy and quick because none of it left the house. We had to refill the buffer because we went over budget on school fees and I put $10 in each of the kids’ lunch accounts online just in case.

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GGR is Gas/Groceries/Restaurants and the defaults on those numbers are still $150/$80/$40 but I’ve been known to steal from the gas and restaurant budgets for other things if we need cash. For example, Mr. Brickie’s current job has him way closer to home. So after adding this week’s $80 to the budget the total we have in that section of the budget is $151.04 which means we have been rolling over money for a couple weeks now. We’re leaving it and calling it a car repair budget because he’s going to need an exhaust system on his old beater soon and my nice car is going to need new windshield wiper blades.

I might move some of it to a Car Care category I already have set up but haven’t used yet. Having it all sitting in gas when we know we don’t need it? That kind of seems like it’s going to go horribly wrong.

We have only spent $102.34 on gas since August 1st. Huh. That’s not much at all. I mean I don’t drive a lot except to go downtown for the dentist so my car doesn’t get filled up on the regular. It will go a little faster once school starts and I’m driving Little Sister to kindergarten. Mr. Brickie needs to keep gas in his car on the regular because he commutes. Maybe it’s those Indiana gas prices? I’m honestly not sure but I’m shocked at how low the number is. (We have every transaction entered into the budget program so with one click on the $102.34 number it pops up the dates and amounts and location of each specific purchase in the category.)

You Need a Budget was really difficult for me to get the hang of the first month but I’m so glad I kept on with it because it’s really great. Knowing exactly what we really spent and when and where is valuable information.

Soylent/Health Issues Update

I told my friend Dawn in the comments on the last post that I stopped with the Soylent because it made my pits smell funny. Last night I had a gallbladder attack. So now I’m wanting to go back on immediately and for all my meals so I can avoid having that happen again. I mean, we had tacos. Made at home, from scratch. Beef isn’t fat free but damn, I really drained it good and didn’t eat but a half cup of the stuff in two tacos. I … I just don’t know what to do to keep it at bay. I’m so scared because I don’t want surgery. (Even though I know how lucky I am to have the option of getting surgery.)

In the meantime, I’m going extremely low fat in terms of food to give my gallbladder a break.

Scentsy Update

I’m considering pulling down the website as it costs $10 a month. The new setup they are launching next month is just too much hassle and I don’t like the increase in a minimum party order and some other things. Yes I’m impressed they got rid of the logo written in the Harry Potter font and everything but…I don’t know. I’d kind of rather buy what I want and just pay for shipping. I’m on the fence. (Please note, I’m still planning on using the product. I love the stuff. I’m just not sure the discount is worth it. We’ll see. You know I won’t make any final decisions until I do a cost/benefit analysis.)

Shopping Desires and Chomping at the Bit

I want a new mop. I want a dustbuster (do the young’uns call them hand vacuums nowadays?) and I want an $80 lunchbox for my kid. I’m feeling a bit…..shoppy. I’m going to figure out how to get past this feeling without giving in. Or maybe I will give in but just for a new mop that I can buy on the cheap somewhere. There are a lot of things I want and bargaining myself down to one thing that’s not expensive is usually the best way to keep the shopping under control. Of course, what I consider out of control most people consider a normal trip to Target so I guess maybe what I’m trying to say is sometimes I just want to be normal.

I hope you have a great weekend!

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Budget Birthday … Incoming!

Every time birthdays come up I am SO torn.

I want to rent a place and invite the class and have a huge party that my kids will remember forever and cherish.

Then I price those things and my heart nearly stops!

The next (kid) birthday in the family rotation is my youngest. We priced this option and that option and all of them are hundreds of dollars. The housepartment is a good size for us, but it doesn’t really accommodate a bunch of kids. It especially doesn’t accommodate a bunch of kindergarten kids. So I felt a bit trapped.

I realized I needed to talk to Little Sister and find out what she wanted instead of making grand assumptions. So I just asked, “I have an amount of money for your birthday. Do you want me to spend it on the party, or the present?” She said, “How about both?” I said, “Absolutely, but I can get you a bigger present if we just go out and have fun as a family – or – I can get you a smaller present and we can invite your classmates.”

“But I don’t know them mama.” She said.

“That’s true.” I said.

“I would rather just have us so we can go out and have fun together because we never get to go out and have fun together and that would be cool. Also, I want six things for my birthday so that’s going to cost a lot.”

I’m thinking I’m sunk. What six things does she want?? I ask her. Turns out she wants the light and dark expansion packs for the Skylanders game we got them at Christmas. Both sets are a grand total of $60.

Bless the innocent children. Bless them so hard. I seriously thought she was going to ask for a tablet. Bullet dodged.

So now I can do this whole shebang for right around $100 and it’s the birthday she asked for. That’s a pretty big deal for LIttle Sister. She wants what she wants and usually has to compromise.

Kids just don’t require as much as we think they do to be blissful, do they? Some presents, some cake, and some dedicated attention is all she needs to make her happy. Here I am getting all stressed and whipped into a frenzy over presents and guests and her whole classroom and, “Oh no, but these kids will be her friends for life! I can’t mess up the first round of birthdays!” which has nothing to do with her and everything to do with me.

I have that $100 set to come out of the budget on the 3rd Friday of this month. I know her birthday is in September but I’m so nervous about this job ending because what happens if there isn’t another job after this one? Yes, Mr. Brickie getting a higher pay rate hints at jobs beyond this one, but a hint isn’t a paycheck. So I’m going to try and pay September’s car payment by the end of August as well.

As for my daughter and her birthday wish…she is human and she needs to be loved…just like everybody else does. My only job – an easy one, at that – is to ask her what will make her feel loved, then do my best to provide whatever that is in whatever way I can.

Yep, I paraphrased The Smiths up there. Doesn’t everyone listen to The Smiths when they can’t fall asleep when their husband leaves for work at 4:30am? No? Just me? *sigh* I want to be asleep right now.

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How We Spent It! 8/7/2015

I hate waking up early and getting crazy hungry at 6am. I don’t feel like I’m qualified to breathe yet, much less consume nutrients. Gah. I’m on some kind of crazy roll getting up way before my normal get-up time of 7:30am. I’ll just thank my lucky stars and consider it training for when school starts and we all have to get our happy butts out of bed earlier than we’d like.

As scared as I am (there is one Kindy for the whole town – a town big enough for three elementary schools) it looks like I’ll be driving Little Sister to Kindy for the first however long it’s going to take. The bus ride will be damn near an hour each way. That’s too much for a little kid with diesel fumes and a propensity for carsickness.

It’s a 5-7 minute drive to the Kindergarten so it shouldn’t be too hard on my gas budget. We’ll see.

Now it’s time for another exciting segment of How…We….Spent It!!!! It was another overtime week (hooray!) so there’s a lot of money to work with. I love having a lot of money to work with. It’s not a long list (that’s next week) but it’s important stuff.

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I set aside $15 for the prescription last month but they switched medications so the new copay is $20.53 – I’m just making up the difference.

The Capital One payment is 100% debt reduction. As long as overtime continues, there is a much bigger payment scheduled next week, and the week after that the debt should be gone. So every little bit really helps, even if it’s only $26!

We are both really hoping he works this Saturday and next. It’s critical to paying off that credit card and we both want that a lot. So much so he was thinking about working on top of his overtime hours to get more side job cash. We both decided that was not a great idea for his long term well-being. The overtime should set us up really well for the week of training where he will only get $250 for those four 10 hour days of training.

I want to tell them, “We get it, you want him to be dedicated!” Even though I know they really do teach them stuff and really train them while they’re there. Also, it seems like they get out earlier and earlier with every one of these simply because they know these are the dedicated workers that are willing to give up four days of pay to do what’s necessary to get promoted.

Like most people going through this, I just want to skip to the fun part where we’re saving our emergency fund and planning a family vacation. I’m done with the paydowns and the not-enough-money and the Oh! Wasn’t that a Close Call! moments that – at this point – feel neverending.

The closer we get the harder it is to wait. We’re so close.

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Planning and Lamenting and a Mini Windfall! 7/28/2015

We received a check from our former home insurance company for overpayment. Windfall! I used it to pay off the Walmart store card. This Friday when we get a check + overtime I’m paying off the Amazon store card. That will leave us with just the two credit cards.

It looks like Mr. Brickie is working Saturdays through August 19th. If he does, I should be able to pay down the Capital One card by about $500+ because all the extra is getting thrown there. I’m excited to see what his paycheck looks like this week because it might actually be over $1k and that would be so awesome!

You Need A Budget has given the Mr. and me a way to see where every single penny was spent in July and he’s been a champ about logging transactions he makes (gas, soda) in the app so it’s categorized. Being this diligent about where our pennies are going makes it seem like we have a lot more pennies.

I still use the Excel spreadsheet for forecasting but now I can look at what I planned vs. what actually happened and make better changes in the future based on what our family actually spends.

In work news, yesterday Mr. Brickie said to me, “I’m really hesitant to tell you this…..”

I was like, “OH NO WHAT ARE YOU FIRED?”

He laughed and said, “No…but the supervisor says I do work better than my percentage and he’s going to talk to someone about that.”

I said, “What does that mean?”

He said, “It means that IF he remembers and IF the guy he talks to passes it up the chain they COULD decide to bump my apprentice level early. It’s a thing.” (Quick Reminder: Those apprentice bumps come with a $4/hr. raise.)

Holy crap! Of course, it might not happen so I’m not getting excited, but even just knowing that someone feels he’s doing such good work means the world to me because that makes Mr. Brickie feel so appreciated and special that he’s happy and works even harder.

If it did happen it would be a hell of a boost. Going the way we are now (without a magical, early bump) it looks like he’s going to promote to the next level (and raise) at the end of September. A couple months head start would be a really big deal for our family.

I’m not betting on it but I’m so, so proud of my husband. He works so hard and always gives his best. Sure, he forgets stuff sometimes. Sure, sometimes it’s important stuff and it drives me nuts. Even when he drives me nuts, at the end of the day I wouldn’t trade him in for anything.

Oh, the other thing that’s happening with the “bonus check” at the end of the month? Setting aside $275 for Middle Sister to get cavities filled. I’m pretty crazy about making sure we all brush and floss twice a day and Middle Sister was slacking. We had a talk and I showed her the budget and showed her what couldn’t be funded because she felt two minutes was “too boring” to brush. I told her to count dollars with every brush because this could have been prevented. The same thing happened to Big Sister last year and she hasn’t had a cavity since. My fingers are crossed. (We would all brush together but we have a very small bathroom. The three girls can’t even brush together, really, without being totally squished together.)

I’m excited to see how much the check + overtime is. I can do approximations with calculators online, sure, but when overtime is involved it gets a little funny. I do my best and try to underguess. It is always easier to find a place to put extra money. If you plan and get less it’s much more difficult to cut back.

It’s summer. Time to catch up on some things! The “wish upon a star” goal is to have the cards and car paid off before the tax return but the “might actually be able to manage it” goal is to pay off the cards before the tax return and the portion of the tax return that doesn’t go to rent will pay off the car. I’m aiming for the wish upon a star goal because better goals get better results!

A major part of how we do is going to be based on how much overtime Mr. Brickie gets, so I can’t get too attached to any goal because it’s up to the weather, the project manager, and other things that aren’t in our control.

I’m a little nervous about Christmas, but if we have to have one more low-rent Christmas like we did last year then so be it. I’d rather get the finances under control and have money for the kids when they really need it later instead of digging ourselves deeper over some toys they won’t remember.

I’m trying to let myself off the hook so I can stop worrying about Christmas in July. I realize that’s a little over-the-top, even for me!

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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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Finally got YNAB (You Need A Budget)

Once upon a time I was given YNAB as a gift by the super-kind creator (Jesse). This was many versions ago and while I loved the idea of living on last month’s income there was no way that was going to work for us. Blah, blah, blah excuses, excuses, excuses later I shelved the idea of using YNAB and went back to pens, paper, and Excel. .

The truth was much more simple than all the excuses I came up with. I wasn’t ready to make the paradigm shift to looking honestly at today’s money. I couldn’t. It was too overwhelming. When I purchased (with my birthday money) version 4 a couple days ago I have to tell you I was worried I was going to mess it up again and this time I would have paid $54 for the privilege. (It’s $60 list price but I used the discount code on the YNAB website for 10% off. Also, lot of other bloggers and vloggers and whoever else have affiliate links for 10% off, too, so head’s up that’s a thing.)

I attribute my ability to understand all this not just to being willing to actually look at where today’s money is going (because let’s be honest I was doing a form of that with Excel and have been for years) but also the education. I’ve been through three of the live classes and watched two of the not-live classes and have really been able to understand how to USE this program in a way I wasn’t able to “get” on my own or through the forums. It has a lot of thing built-in that I would have to build myself if I were to accomplish the same thing in Excel and – again, let’s be honest – I’m good at Excel but not “let’s reinvent the wheel” good.

I’ve picked up additional information from the forums both at YNAB and Reddit (/r/ynab/) and have found that YouTube videos are also helpful for figuring out how to input things and track things and why I want to have categories a certain way.

Moving from Future Focused to NOW Focused

I have a solid plan for the future. I’ll have to revisit and tweak that plan when we start investing but that’s not going to happen for a few years so there’s nothing to do before that time but learn. Learning doesn’t need a line item in the budget, it’s just something I’ll do.

What I needed was a way to put all my stuff in one place and not worry about it being monthly, annual, quarterly or whatever. Stuff like Amazon Prime memberships and car registrations and the other things that were overwhelming to think about when.

Things are still really tight here financially and we can’t fund a lot of those line items yet, but summer has only just begun and there is much income still to come in (even though it looks like there isn’t going to be any overtime for Mr. Brickie this summer – boo, hiss) and now that I have YNAB I feel really confident about where all of that money is going.

In addition to a $1000 emergency fund I’m creating a buffer so I can pay all my bills on last month’s income. I have a little category (I call them buckets) that I pour extra money into in order to build up that one month of expenses. Once I have the buffer and the emergency fund in place the next step will be…um…either a 3-6 month emergency fund or paying down debt or funding Christmas. Probably paying down debt. I know many people pay down debt before doing the buffer or the emergency fund.

It’s up in the air at this point. I figure if I do the buffer I can always change my mind and user the buffer to pay off debt. It’s not like the money goes anywhere if it’s in the buffer. It just hangs out being all secure and safe.

But maaaaaan,  as much as I want to make those awesome debt paydown decisions, seeing the Christmas line item every time I log in is a good, albeit painful, reminder that I have six months to figure out how to stay far, far away from the credit cards for Christmas this year. If I start funding it THIS WEEK there are 24 weeks to get some savings in before the day happens. Yikes.

While I was doing something like this in Excel, the YNAB program was just what I needed at this point in my finance life. It makes everything easier so I can just deal with allocating the money to where it needs to go. Categories that show running totals for savings accounts … I recommend going to YouTube and searching for some videos. If you have questions you can attend a live class and ask your question or ask on the forum or on Reddit or I’m sure there’s an email where you can get support, too.

I feel a sense of accomplishment that I am at a place in my budgeting life where I can use this tool and it makes sense and it’s helping me get the cash allocated in an effective way that lets me relax at night knowing I’ll have next year’s car registration taken care of when the time comes.

Whew.

Money Update

A side-job check ($400) clears tomorrow and here’s where it’s going:

  • Groceries:: $61.61
  • Gas: $65
  • Buffer (to bring it back to $100): $16.53
  • Chase Visa: $236.86 (internet, cell phones, renters insurance, comcast, scentsy website, finance charge)
  • Union Dues: $20

I’m still rocking a zero-based budget which is why groceries is a funny number.

The next check will be a wonky, partial week check from bricklaying and I’m not 100% sure how much it will be. Fluctuating income is tiring. (I am pretty sure that’s the same level of obvious as, “the sky is blue” or “water is wet” *sigh*) But this is the time. The time of the year where we do our best to catch up on everything and get ahead. Even when it’s tiring and even when it feels like we don’t have enough money we’re doing better than we were last year.

Now I have a tool where I can determine if I’m actually making progress instead of just feeling better about paying all the bills. Thank goodness.

All this? All this is so I can be in a position to worry about plots and characters and backstories when school starts. I need to free up the parts of my brain clogged up with numbers and bills and worry and fear. Clean it all out so I have a fresh brain to write with.

Even if I fail, at least I’ve improved where we are at and how we track things. I think.

Or maybe it will show that I’m stuck in a holding pattern that has been years in the making.

Which is, of course, my worst fear.

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