Tag: budgeting

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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The Perfect, Ideal, Most High Budget that Rarely, if Ever, Gets Used

When I do a “How Should We Spend It?” post it’s the most perfect version of the budget that will ever exist. Planning in advance means not adding in all kinds of things that can come up between point A and point B.

I thought the money would be available today and I could do a How We Spent It post, but I can’t because at some point the date changed and that money will be available tomorrow.

Also, a few things came up in between then and now.

  1. Bike Stuff – We bought seat covers, handlebar covers, and chain oil for the bikes we got. It came out to $60.
  2. A Shed – Mr. Brickie is insisting we need a shed for the bikes in the backyard. I agree because we can lock them up. A 6’x8’ shed is $240 after tax. That’s the best price I could find for the quality.
  3. Middle Sister got a scholarship for Camp Invention. It’s a $100 scholarship so I still have to pay $120 for her to attend. It’s a day camp for a week.

So there’s $420 that was not budgeted for when my beautiful Perfect Budget was created. I think it’s how Dr. Frankenstein felt when his creation first saw fire. Like, DAMN I thought I *had* this. Aw, crap.

So we end up with an interim budget where we are starting from $420 less than we were during the ideal budget.

Notice how I said things came up? I did not call any of those things “Emergencies” because these things are absolutely not emergencies. I’ve been looking for a way for Middle Sister to go to camp this summer because Big Sister got a big opportunity for sleepaway camp that was *woah* affordable. This is a science-based day camp held at the elementary school for a week.

It’s perfect because Middle Sister wants zero to do with sleepaway camp right now.

OH! One other thing that’s really important! Mr. Brickie is back on the job today! That’s great but it also means no Friday Side Work check coming on Friday. He’ll get paid for this week of brickie work next Tuesday. So there is some transition there.

I think it’s going to shake down like this:

$1195.34 – Balance as of tomorrow
-$200.00 – Living Expenses for the week
-$300.00 – Bike Stuff and Shed
-$120.00 – Middle Sister Summer Camp
-$195.00 – Gas/Electric Payment
-$25.00 – Amazon.com minimum payment
————————-
$355.00 ← all going to Chase Visa

While I realize a shed isn’t the smartest purchase, Mr. Brickie doesn’t ask for much so if he wants something I kind of say, “Okay, let me see how fast I can make that happen.”

Next week he will receive a check for four days this week and last time he got a two day check it was $330 so I’m tempted to assume $660 for four days. It will be his first check of May, so he won’t make as much as possible for the month of May. I don’t remember the guy made a straight 40-hour check. It’s either over or under.

The bills remaining will be the $260 to the rent savings fund anytime in May and the $495.12 car payment due May 24th. I also need to prepare for the Auto Insurance payment of $440 to go through on May 18th. The job Mr. Brickie is on right now should go for 3-4 weeks and then – hopefully – he’ll move to the next job with the rest of the crew.

I’m not secure enough in those numbers to assume he’ll make full time checks in May, even though that would be quite lovely. Knowing how much he makes and the union dues I should be able to run it all through the calculator but there are so many variables it never ends up working out. It’s only a comfort insofar as it’s busywork with numbers and that’s as close as I get to meditation.

Most realistic guess-case scenario for May?

He makes $2800 and we pay out:
$25 for minimum walmart card payment
$800 for living expenses
$440 for auto insurance
$495 for the car payment
$260 for the rent savings payment
$151 for the bills that auto-pay to the credit card
$220 to top off the emergency fund back to a thousand
————–
$409 right to the Chase Visa

Wouldn’t that be lovely?

It probably won’t happen but hey, if we don’t have goals we just meander blindly. It’s a small, short-term, tiny goal but it’s better than nothing.

I guess I’m just kind of stuck because it really doesn’t matter which card gets paid off when. So I’m going to get the Chase Visa down below $1000 and then will switch to doing the snowball method and kill the Amazon.com then the Walmart card then the CapOne credit card, and THEN I will come back to the Chase Visa and pay it off to zero.

A little circular, for sure. If my numbers are even close on that guess-case scenario I will be able to get rid of both the Amazon.com and Walmart in June and then get rid of CapOne in July. It might happen faster.

Our expenses including $200/wk. for living are just about $2,022. Anything over and above that number? It will go toward paying down/off a credit card.

I need to catch them up as quickly as possible because I really want to save up for Christmas and birthdays.

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How Should I Spend It? (and a check depositing mistake)

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Car repairs had laid us a little low and the auto insurance is coming due. I think to myself, “Self, take the money from the emergency fund and put it on the credit card you’re going to have it billed to (because 3% amazon credit) and everything will be fine.”

We get a check from the side-job and I think to myself, “Self, you’re a genius and here’s how you’re going to do a genius thing. Deposit that check right into the emergency fund account! You are so smart, self, now pat yourself on the shoulder because you’re not nearly flexible enough to pat yourself squarely on the back!”

I’ve deposited checks from this party on numerous occasions and it takes two business days to clear. I’m used to it. Before I would say I was knowledgeable. Now I would say I was spoiled.

I was shocked when my mobile deposit screen said the money would be on hold for five business days. So the check I deposited last Friday still isn’t available today on a week later Friday! It will be in there and liquid on Monday. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a long time!

I don’t need the money. I don’t plan on spending the money.

It still bothers me.

Wihtout further ado, however, here is the current rundown of what’s going on!

Expenses for MAY (I’m not paying these yet but they’re all due sometime next month)
$260 – Rent (savings)
$496 – Car Payment (we’re at under 6k left that we owe!!)
$195 – Gas/Electric
$440 – Auto Insurance (6 month bill)
$151 – Credit Card Auto-Bill (Internet/Renter’s Insurance/Cell Phones)
—————-
$1,542

Credit Cards
$779.11 – Walmart Credit Card
$308.11 – Amazon.com Credit Card
$1,144.72 – CapOne CC (We have stopped using this one.)
$2,270.33 – Chase Visa
—————–
$4,502.27

Other
$260 – Top off emergency fund to $1000

Current Liquid Balances
$289 – Checking Account
$760 – Rent Savings Account (Nov – Jan $2250 by Nov 15th)
$740 – Emergency Fund (Included is the $400 deposit not available until Monday)
—————
$1,789

Incoming as of Today
$700 – Side Job Money  (not bricklaying)
$334.74 – Two days working last week (He got a promotion to 60% apprentice over the winter.)
——————————–
$1,034.74

The incoming deposits will be available on 4/29. (TWO business days. See? Gah. Never again!)

Projected Incoming in the Next Week

At least another week on the side job ($800? $700? $200? Really, I can’t be sure. In addition, we have a tentative return to bricklaying work scheduled for mid-to-late next week. All this means I don’t have any numbers on income but he’s doing SOMETHING that will get him paid next week.

We received another check today for $700 and I’m obviously going to deposit to checking so I don’t have to wait over a week to have access, but I’m trying to decide what to spend it on!

I would love to use the Incoming Payments pay off the Walmart card and the Amazon store card. I just have to make sure there is more than enough room on the Chase Visa card for the Auto Insurance autobill on May 18th. (I hate paying extra for the monthly payments. Hate!)

I’m just kind of at an impasse here because the income is SO up in the air.

But…I think he’s going to continue working. Sure, it’s a risk but there’s also an emergency fund. I would love to just get those two cards paid off. It would feel like we’re making some real forward progress.

I think that’s what I’m going to do. Pay off the $1,087.22 (Walmart & Amazon) with the $1,034.74 in checks we deposited today (that will be available on Wednesday) and the $52.48 difference will come from the checking account, since we only leave $200 in there for living expenses.

The math sounds a little funny and “too good to be true” but I think we can swing it.

What do you think?

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How We Spent It – TaxMas Edition! (big money, no whammies!)

 

how-we-spent-it-TAXThere are lots of important things in the world. Almost all of them are more important than money. Love, respect, caring about other people…all of them more important than money.

That being said, tax season is really important to my family. What we do with this chunk of money will speak to all financial decisions through the rest of the year. It’s like the financial version of your significant other saying something stupid and the split second it takes to decide if what comes out of your mouth is understanding or the next step toward a fight.

This year we are in a new state in a new place and I want to make sure we make the best possible decisions. While our foreclosure was emotionally devestating, it was also a gift. A chance for a do-over. A path where this new job turns into a new, modest-but-fully-funded life. One where maybe, someday, we could go on a family vacation. (We’ve never done that.) I’d be happy with a mini-vacation of a weekend in a hotel lounging by a pool.

Maybe next year.

My federal refund is $9,061. A king’s ransom. A huge sum. So much damn money it’s like winning the lottery. You can be sure I have already spent it in a thousand ways in my mind. I’ve taken my family to Paris, Egypt, Philadelphia, and Las Vegas. We have stayed in hotels and B&Bs and cabins. We have gone swimming and sightseeing and to amusement parks. I have bought them game systems and bikes and wardrobes.

It’s like a teeny-tiny version of “what would you do if you won the lottery” but every decision is one I could make here in reality. Every joyous moment that would translate into months of pain and fear and not knowing how the bills would get paid.

The most important thing I do with our tax return is spend it on paper before it hits the bank account.

On paper, I have a list of every place the cash is going to go. There will be no new clothes, no trips, and no bikes at this time. No computers, no swimming, and no sightseeing. While I feel a pang at every one of those realizations, I know that I’m sacrificing now for a better life later. Getting my ducks in a row is painful and not super-fun, but it needs to be done if I’m going to give my girls stability when they really need it.

The kids at this age are still fine with books and games and time with mom but soon…soon there will be more expenses and more comittments and I need to be able to take care of those with more than a sad look and an, “I’m so sorry.”

Mr. Brickie is on unemployment right now which is barely enough to take care of the bills even after the rent is pre-paid. That’s okay, though, because everyone is predicting a boom year so he should start working sooner than last year and work more overtime this summer.

A regular budget is almost impossible with his work schedule, so we are aiming for a savings account that will take care of Christmas and the girls’ January birthdays as well as Nov – Feb rent and a “Winter Fund” that will supplement unemployment in winter.

I have a savings goal for the year. Once the savings goal is met then I’m going to move on to paying off credit cards. The savings needs to come first so credit cards don’t get used for Christmas or birthdays this year. I need to break that cycle because it’s a horrible feeling. I barely bought them anything for Christmas so I didn’t have to spend too much but still, a little managed to get to a credit card.

We won’t know if we qualify for food stamps here in our new state until the 9th. My husband has a phone interview that morning and then we will collect our paperwork, turn it in, and hope for the best. I’ve been collecting recipes and planning meatless meals to try and stretch our money as far as possible.

We are doing okay. We will be doing better when he’s back to work.

I feel very mature and grown-up making sure we get those old bills from the old town paid. I don’t want those following me around forever no matter how much I’d rather use that cash to pay off credit cards.

Here is how I spent it!

tax refund spend 2015

I still need to replace the crib mattress (*cringe* I know…) that’s on the bottom bunk with a twin mattress for my youngest. That is the main reason I’m leaving that much in the checking account. Also, softball registration for all three girls is coming up and it will be $130 for all three kids for the season. Yeah, not even my cheap “want to do better” butt can pass up that deal for a team sport experience like that for all three kids. The bike path a block from my house goes right to the softball field. It’s a mile away. We can ride there together.

It’s worth the money, for sure.

OH OH OH I almost forgot to tell you the best thing happened! We had planned to pre-pay our rent since almost before we moved. It seems like a good way to stay stable without worrying about scary things like not having a home. Two days ago our landlord texted us to let us know if we paid a few months in advance he’d give us a discount of $25/mo.! If we paid the rest of the lease to November he’d give us an extra $25 discount. So not only am I paying off my lease to November, I got a $250 discount!

It seriously felt like I won the best prize in the world at that point.

When Mr. Brickie is back at work I can focus on saving for

  • Nov-Feb rent ($260/mo.)
  • Christmas (I haven’t figured this out yet even though I know I should have.) and
  • Birthdays for three girls.

Then I can start paying down/off credit cards from lowest to biggest and rolling the minimum payments into the next one “snowball method” style. Also, we are still expecting about $900 combined from state returns, so that will go toward something, too. Probably fixing Mr. Brickie’s $500 commuter car.

Also? We only owe about $7,300 on the car and the payments are about $500/mo. so I have a feeling if it’s not paid off with overtime money this summer? It’s GONE come next year’s tax return.

I don’t know about you, but I am SO excited to see where we are at this time next year! If everything goes well we might just be spending a week or two in Las Vegas hanging with the girls’ grandmother.

We’re really getting there, friends. Really and truly. I’m so happy you’re here with me for this part. It’s the part we bet everything for years ago. I’m almost crying just thinking of how close we are to real stability.

Thank you so much for hanging with me for this.

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Stupid Mistakes I Made In The Last 24 Hours

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Surprise! This isn’t a list post. There are really only two dumb things I did yesterday.

1. I posted my mess on Facebook. Everyone knows when you’re freaking out you get off social media. Right? I know. The problem is the only time I truly crave being noticed is when I’m basically crying out for help because something has gone wrong in my brain.

2. I picked the wrong person for support. In the middle of freaking out I talked to someone and made a bad “let’s email a stranger” decision. I take full responsibility for the decision and my actions. That the person I talked to gave me the information while I was in that state, I guess, shows she isn’t in a place right now where she can be considered a person who will keep me safe when I cannot keep myself safe. It is pretty well known among my people and readers I do stupid things for the sake of reaching out and connection when I am in that place. I do not blame her. I am not mad at her. I can’t trust her when I am vulnerable and that is a fact with no value judgment attached.

Really, in the big, huge, wide world of stupid mistakes mine are small infractions. I am a little embarrassed about the posts and I want to crawl under a rock because I totally emailed some poor, unsuspecting person, but I wasn’t dancing on a bar and I kept all my clothes on and a bunch of other COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE things are running through my head on a loop as a reminder of what I could have done but did not.

But I still basically feel like this right now:

The Reason Might Be More Than Just the Foreclosure

I’ve been worried the foreclosure would go through before the loan modification for almost a year now. It has been a familiar daily thought. I have the budget so closely controlled and I save as much as I can when I can and I’m even in the middle of a copywriting project right now because we are all doing what we can. (On a side-note, I can’t wait to show you the project. It’s cute tag lines on packaging. It’s so perfect for me.)

There is such a sense of relief that we are not in limbo anymore. It’s a strange, backhanded kind of relief, but in its way it is better than stagnation.

There is also relief in Mr. Brickie working overtime and giving me the opportunity to save money every. single. week. toward Christmas and school supplies and the girls who desperately want a birthday party this year and I’m tired of saying no to everything. Saving toward moving expenses and not having to spend the tax return next year on anything and getting it in a savings account, again, for moving expenses.

We are finally on the upswing. The problem is when you fall down a deep valley the falling is easy. You hit bottom? That’s like a low-lying plateau where nothing happens. The upswing is actually a steep hill. There is more work and more control necessary when you have money to pay the bills. You have more opportunity to make bad choices because you can fund your bad choices. There is a sense of fear in having this money we now have to use properly. Having no money is one problem. Having money and allocating it properly is a whole different situation.

Especially because we don’t actually have enough money and I have to make right decisions now so we will get to the “enough” place faster and without too many extra obstacles. At least no accidents that should have been foreseen or mistakes that cost money. Those all need to be avoided at all costs. Get it? Costs! Har har. *groan*

All that to say I believe I’ve just kept a lid on my emotions here in survival mode so long that when the pressure was relieved and the top came off it was more like the cork from a shaken champagne bottle than the gentle pop of the top of a jelly lid. It was a release of so many emotions all at once. Fear, shame, forced calm, control, dedication, and all those other grownup emotions that keep you feeling still and safe in the middle of a snake pit.

How I Will Move Forward?

First, I will hope that the person I emailed just deletes the email. Really. So embarrassing. I’ve tried to think of ways to send a follow up email to cancel out the original email but that just seems like a really poor idea. You don’t fix a dumb thing by putting more dumb on top, right? I’m just going to hope that goes away.

Second, I need to get off social media and walk away from the computer. I will still write on the computer (I would write by hand but my hand cramps after less than a page. It’s always been that way) and by write I mean both blogging and non-blogging type. A social media vacation will let me step back and get some perspective on how I share, how much, and where.

Third, I need to get my house in order. I don’t mean the normal stuff. My dishes and laundry are kept up and the floor is swept daily…I mean the more detailed stuff. Organizing and downsizing, I guess is what I mean. Either store it, organize it so it’s easy to move, or get rid of it. Everything just needs to make sense as a thing we choose to have in our home. I’ll keep my paintings and elephants and giraffes and my much-loved Anubis statue of course. But I have about 20 tote bags. I don’t mean the cloth shopping bags, I mean legit tote bags. No one needs that. I probably could use to go through my clothes again and decide what to keep and what to get rid of.

By the time we move I want to have everything that’s going to be stored in a storage space and the rest moved in one or two Uhaul trips. I do not want a long, drawn-out moving process if I can avoid it even a little bit. I want to know when we move it’s the simplest transition I could have possibly made.

So I’m moving forward, double checking next week’s numbers against my priority budget list and we’ll keep on keepin’ on.

Oh, and I found out yesterday Gertie is a rooster. So now we have to get rid of him or we’ll have a friggin’ hatchery in three months. *sigh* Knowing I’m going to lose another chicken might also be part of my freak-out. I really love my chickens.

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Praise the Lord and Pass the Wine. (Priority Budget for Unpredictable Income)

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Months.

I’ve been telling everyone and their dog for months that Mr. Brickie would be working any month week day now.

“Soon,” was a constant refrain.

Hope a word used so much it became meaningless.

Faith like a childhood stuffed bunny’s ear rubbed through with worry.

But…it paid off. It happened. He went back to work Friday before last (right before my birthday – happy birthday to me!) and is doing great. Actually, truth be told it’s more than great. He starts working 10 hour days today and the idea of working Saturdays has been broached. So he might work 56 hours this week. Overtime would be a game-changer in terms of financial security. So much of a game-changer I’m willing to use that term which is so not one I would normally use. 

I’ll stop doing my “I wasn’t proven wrong by the universe” dance soon and get to the nitty-gritty of dealing with actual income in a hot minute. In the meantime, thank you for your patience with my outbursts and my joy and my palpable relief at things finally turning around. I’m not a person who is ever truly sure about anything (because I’m a realist) and so this happening was something I honestly almost didn’t expect because I might tell you I’m a realist but really I’m a bit of an Eyeore now and then.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst is a DEPRESSING, HORRIBLE WAY TO LIVE. I wish someone had told me that before I jumped into that rabbit-hole headfirst, for sure. The preparation takes over everything and the hope becomes this small light across the lake on a dock trying to convince you of something that isn’t even real.

Now, on to some budgeting specifics!

We ended the off season with credit card debt, student loan debt, and car debt. The credit card debt is new. I’m not proud of it but I don’t regret it, either. I’m basically credit card neutral at this point. Yes, we could fall into a hole and be stuck there forever and I could also get abducted by aliens and butt probed. We just have to pick our worry battles, now, don’t we?

Irregular Budgeting for Large Bills and Small Income

There is a snazzy blog post on how to budget with irregular income over here. I plan on using a variation on this budget to pay down/off the bills that we accumulated over the winter.

It’s going to go a little something like this. Since I know what bills are due when I can kind of make a list of what to pay off based on priority as well as amount plus a little bit of foreknowledge. For example, I’d love to be able to pay the car insurance in one chunk instead of splitting it into payments. That means trying to free up about $500 on the credit card by August 10th-ish. So, when you see the line item down there about throwing money onto the Credit Card.

Here is what my payoff list looks like:

  1. Pay $120 on CC to cover automatic payment of tolls. (Already done.)
  2. Pay minimums on Macy’s, Kohl’s, and Walmart ($75 total) & Pay off Target card ($18.29) (Did it today aka Payday Wednesday.)
  3. Pay past-due amounts on Electric and Gas bill. Pay current garbage bill. ($240) (I want to do this today but am afraid with overtime we might need more-than-normal amount of gas cash on hand so waiting until next Wednesday.) 
  4. Pay the car payment. ($496)
  5. Pay the CRAP out of the CC to get down the balance. (Car insurance auto bills to this card on August 15th for around $461.)

The incoming for the rest of the month including what’s in the bank right now is going to be around

Of course, Mr. Brickie’s first raise is going to go through this month so there could be more money. *shrug* I’m not counting on it because this whole journey has been about baby steps and not jumping the gun.

The best-case “I don’t know how to calculate taxes and union dues on overtime money” incoming cash scenario this month is probably $3400. I’m 100% sure this is wrong. I calculated the base pay and then multiplied the projected overtime and subtracted $100 for tax off the overtime of this week since he just started working overtime today (Wednesday) and for the projected two weeks I took off $200 from the projected 20 hours of overtime per week because why not?

So, obviously, when you have hinky numbers you don’t rely on them. This is why I’m doing payments the way I am instead of breaking out the traditional by-due-date spreadsheet. Hinky numbers can spell disaster and overdraft fees if you trust them!

If I subtract 40% off the overtime- which may or may not be accurate – we get a more reasonable $2250.

Ultimately we won’t know until we see it in the bank account. I’ve tried to crack the math on his checks for the last year. I just haven’t been able to figure it out yet. Enough paychecks and I’ll get there but by that time he could get a raise and it changes. *shrug* I’m not sure it’s even worth the effort anymore.

Rain days could also change the bottom line drastically. Monday night there was a storm or rain or something overnight and I woke up in a cold sweat like I was having a night terror – sitting straight up in bed with my eyes wide open – and couldn’t fall back to sleep until I checked the weather in the area where Mr. Brickie is working. Maybe more chamomile tea before bed and less coffee would help with that. I creeped myself out.

You probably noticed the house payment isn’t on there. Yeah. We’re in the middle of court stuff. Payments wouldn’t be accepted at this time and we’re not in a position to put that money into an escrow account or something because we are just not there yet. Things are really dicey with the house situation and it’s being handled by not-for-profit groups, the court, lawyers (not us, them, we can’t afford a lawyer nor do I think we want one), and the mediation department at the mortgage company. Pretty much the very definition of too many cooks spoiling the broth. I’ve mostly resigned myself to moving at this point.

The list above will allow me to make decisions based on the amount of money coming in at any given time. Since Mr. Brickie could not work if it’s raining or work overtime it is more important to have a list like this than pay things based solely on due date. While a bill-priority list might not work for everyone, I have found it to be a life saver. I don’t have to constantly recalculate what is owed where and how much to pay what. It’s done once, and when the paycheck goes in I check the total, subtract $150 for gas and living expenses, and the rest goes to bills.

If I get through number 5. on the list (which might be possible with overtime, a raise, and weekend work) the plan is to go back to the store cards and knock those off the list for good.

For now? I’ll be thankful and thrilled he’s working a 10 hour day today. It’s great news and gives me the hope I so desperately needed for the rest of the season.

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Chat It Up Saturday (The “Is Craigslist Money Taxable Income?” Edition)

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We ended last month and started this month worried.

Very worried.

Now, thanks to a partial client payment that we thought would never come (He’s made four payments over the last year. We keep thinking about cutting bait but haven’t yet.), another blogging gig, and selling a glass desk on Craigslist things are looking noticeably more rosy and it’s only the 8th!

I had a couple comments about people who under-report income. I’m wondering if the money we got from selling the desk is income. We bought it for more than it was just sold for. If a business did the same thing they would be able to report a loss and have that not count toward their taxes. But since I’m an individual, I’m not sure what my responsibility is with that.

Let’s Google It!

The H&R Block Blog talks about Garage Sales, “When determining if a sale must be reported as income it isn’t the dollar amount that matters or how it was sold, but whether the item was sold for more than it was originally purchased. “ So it looks like Capital Gains works the same way for individuals and businesses in this case. Cool. It also has some other situations. It was a good read.

The NOLO.com website (a free law resource website) says the same thing. They even refer to Craigslist as the online version of a garage sale. I can totally see it.

In fact, the only place that says it is taxable is Answers.com and with no source or backup other than a big Yes. Call me crazy, but I’m thinking the tax website and the law website answers are far more reliable. Has anyone ever gotten a reliable answer from Answers.com? I don’t know. Yahoo! Answers used to be crap but I’ve found amazing and detailed answers with sources cited more times than not these days and actually don’t cringe when I see it in the list of websites Google returns as potential places to visit for an answer to whatever question I have that day.

Also, I think it’s completely obvious but just in case someone thinks I should mention it…If selling things for a profit on Craigslist or eBay is your business, the answer is different. I was just looking into this because I wasn’t sure if I should be claiming it as income.

We already claim blogging income and the marketing work income and the other writing income, not just because one of my biggest financial fears is an audit, but also because it’s better for us financially. The more we make this year the higher our EIC (earned income credit) will be. You can’t get tax credits without owing taxes, my darlings. As for the government benefits I help pay for with my taxes, the taxes out of Mr. Brickie’s paycheck when he has one, and the taxes out of his unemployment…SNAP reduction isn’t dollar-for-dollar reduction. So even though I claim more income, depending on the amount, it might make no difference in my benefits, so, personally, it’s better for me to claim every penny. It’s just better for me – and my sanity – to be up front and let the calculations handle themselves.

As much as I would love to boost the income numbers for this year, claiming income (like the Craigslist sales) when you aren’t supposed to can be as problematic on your taxes as not claiming income you don’t have. I think. Don’t take my word for it because I’m not a tax expert. So as much as I would like to claim that as income, I don’t.

Bottom line: We have kicked one more large item out of the house! *happy Snoopy dance* Every time something leaves I feel physically lighter. All this stuff was weighing me down. In my life I have moved more than the average person (but less than a military family) and I can tell you that even if this is my “forever home” I still feel more comfortable if I can move everything I own in 24 hours or less. You just never know, and I like to be prepared.  (Sounds paranoid when you put it in black and white like that. Yeesh.)

How Fast Things Change

We went from having $100+ dollars to make it through the month (which had me really worried because next week looks like it could be a work week and right now it’s a 2hr. round trip commute and a few dollars in tolls every day) but with other sources coming in we are looking at closer to $480 in the plus column for the month. I moved $100 into savings immediately and we are trying to live out of the “cash” envelope we have set up that we keep in a hidey hole like cartoon trolls. It’s cash from selling things on Craigslist. So we might be able to put even more in the envelope at the end of this month. It depends on how much he works and how much he needs to spend on gas and tolls and how much of that cash we need for food.

Now I’m super glad I do that monthly budget post because in retrospect everything makes more sense! 

A lot of what we are going through is less about numbers and more about perspective. Sure, it’s about numbers because that’s where the feelings come from, but worrying about about the next month’s or even next year’s money is something a little (teeny weeny) bit more in our control.

I don’t know. I worry a lot. I don’t want to be a worrier, but it’s so difficult.

Also, here’s a teaser for a post that will happen next month. I think I’m going to re-think how Easter baskets happen this year to try and get more bang for my buck, too. One nice thing and a little basket of candy is what I’m thinking. I’m sorry, I’m totally just thinking out loud here. I saw this cool box of 24 pastels for $10 (including shipping!) and that plus some art paper would be so much more appreciated, I think. Not for all the kids, just for the one who wants to be an artist.

Really, I need to have things for these kids to do that do not involve an electronic screen. They already read, play with ponies and matchbox cars and use their imaginations and play outside. They’re not attached 24/7, but every one-more-thing that’s not electronic gives another option.

Maybe I can look up some YouTube art tutorial videos. Since, as we all know, YouTube is the sum total of all human knowledge. At least, I think it is. YouTube has helped us replace windows, choose paint colors, make cute hairstyles, cut my own hair, and about a hundred other things. It’s magic, I tell you, MAGIC!

Basically, if I have ten dollars to spend I’d rather spend it on art supplies than even more candy. But that’s just me being a Scrooge, I guess.

One of the Secret Benefits to Planning with Money

Okay, I’m putting this at the end because I don’t want everyone to know I just figured this out recently. I’ve done a monthly budget for years on the last day-ish of the previous month. This means a holiday was as much a financial surprise to us as it was to people who don’t budget at all.

Now that I’m trying to forecast finances into the future (With the power of my mind. Seriously, there has to be a better way.) I’m thinking about Easter NOW (over a month in advance – craziness) which means I can set aside enough for gift baskets for the other kids that we usually see at Family Easter. As long as we keep our cash close to our hidey hole and don’t spend crazy cash (and trust me, we have become experts in not spending money) it will be no problem to sock that extra money into the savings account and be able to orchestrate an Easter based on value and not cost and time and  panic.

With a crazy, irregular, fluctuating income you just can’t do that whole, “I’ll put X amount of dollars a week into a savings account automatically!” thing that someone else’s bank might let them do. I would love to do that. I enjoy automating finances like you wouldn’t believe. Both because I’m lazy and because I remember when I worked for Allstate and we would look up accounts and the bills were paid by a service if the person was a celebrity most of the time and I thought, “Wow. You pay someone to pay your bills for you. That is a wealthy person.”

I will never hire someone to pay my bills for me but having them paid automatically says something about the level of financial security you feel that you CAN do that. Like, how cool would it be to have your bills auto-pay to your credit card every month and you just log in and pay the credit card bill once a month. That would be amazing.

It would be more amazing to do that with your debit card, but I get a little shaky and anxious even thinking of it because even though I know there will come a day when I have enough in my checking account I can pay bills automatically (I would love to use You Need A Budget for this. Someday, friends, someday I will use YNAB and it will be SO good.) that time is not now and the thought of anything coming out of my checking account I’m not prepared for gives me the chills.

No Offense

I know that some of my readers are very religious and I completely respect that Easter is a very symbolic and important holiday. As an agnostic, I come at it from more of an Easter Bunny “doin’ it for the children” perspective, but I do not think my way is better than a religious way.

My thoughts about Easter are completely financial for my family but I completely respect a family dynamic that incorporates a “There is more to Easter than chocolate” belief system. If you wrote a post on your blog or just want to share what Easter means to you, feel free to share your thoughts or your link it in the comments.

I’d like to think of this as an interfaith blog. All faiths and even no faith are welcome. We all get out hope and inspiration in different ways from different places.

Have a wonderful day! Tomorrow I am hoping it’s warm enough and not-wet enough to take the kids to the park. Here’s hoping!

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