Tag: debt

Positive things, a few worries, and the placebo effect

Max - One of my two tabby cats. The bitey one.

I’m trying to update but Max keeps biting my ankles and shins. I played fetch with him today for almost an hour with that yellow pineapple there and he was fed not ten minutes ago so there’s no reason for this. He wants attention. I love giving him attention but sometimes I would like to sit down and write without the fear of being bitten hovering in the back of my mind. We had a heart to heart about it and I’m pretty sure his meow meant, “I don’t care what you want.” Such is life with cats.


I paid the minimums on the first half of the credit cards for the month today. I should have done it on Wednesday when he got paid but I’m moving in slow-motion lately. The second half of the minimums plus the car and gas/electric will get paid in two weeks.

This is the part where I pause to pray to the universe and the heads of all the religions I learned about in theology class that he has a job by then. He did get a stipend for going to a protest last week so that will be helpful, for sure. I don’t want to dip into the savings if I can avoid it. We need that money for other things.

A Nice Dent

Any day now, we’ll get the check from Costco with our cash back. It will go right back on the card as a payment, but it will be nice to see the balance drop. It’s over $600 and we maxed out the gas benefit so at the very end it went down from 4% to 1%. That was good to know. Gas is the one thing you know you didn’t buy extra that you used credit card reward points to justify. You get gas when you need gas and goodness knows I didn’t get out of the house more because I knew we’d get cash back. It would take a lot more than that to make me a person who likes leaving the house.

The Kids

I’m still stalling on signing them up for camp. We got our IL tax return (even though we live in IN since he works in IL we file taxes in both states. I had to write a check to IN for just under $300, but we got a little over $600 back from IL so it was a net positive. That means it’s not all going on a credit card. Heck, I think I can do it without touching a credit card. Mostly I’m trying to avoid paying for summer camp this year but I know how much they love it and they’re both Junior counselors this year and that leads to experience that darn near guarantees a fun – room and board included – repeat summer job down the road located 20 minutes from home. I don’t want to mess that up.


I’m truly hopeful we will be able to pay off our credit cards by the time he’s laid off again in winter. If not, I am hoping to make a substantial enough dent I can complete the payoff process with our 2019 tax return. I haven’t planned out anything specifically, I’m in the “big picture” portion of planning. We are coming to the end of the five-year plan and I don’t know what the next five years is going to entail so I can’t really make a new plan. We should have a much better handle on that by the end of this year. Probably by June of this year. As soon as I have something solid I’ll let you know but for now I have to keep so many things vague and it makes me feel bad. I’m not withholding information because I’m ashamed or unhappy. I can’t risk anyone finding out who shouldn’t know because there are seventy things that could happen and seventy ways it could get all mucked up and I’m keeping my mouth shut so there are only 69 things that can muck it up and I’m not one of them!


Of course I’m worried that our hopes are going to get dashed. I’m trying not to worry and I signed up to take this 40 day “raise your vibration” course. After learning that the placebo effect has extremely powerful benefits even if you know it’s a placebo I decided that what I needed a placebo most for was positive energy and chakra alignment. Doing a thing makes you feel like you’ve done a thing and it can make a difference. The worst that happens is I look silly in a room by myself and that’s not really anything to be afraid of even if I am when I think about sharing that I’m doing it. But between being loud and a goof, I’m used to looking silly in front of other people and not caring one bit so even though I’m my harshest critic I’ve decided to let it go and feel at peace and become one with the universe. Ohm…..volt….resistance…. (that’s an electrical joke in case you were wondering)

Good News

Middle Sister is going to state for chess. I’m pretty excited about it. She isn’t a prodigy or anything, it’s her first year playing and I’d only shown her some basic moves, but she gets to go and that’s amazing. She’s really excited. It felt wonderful to sign her up for the US Chess Federation.

Big Sister is back on meds for her ADD and I feel much more comfortable now that she’s old enough to make sure she pays attention to how it makes her feel and I don’t have to give her multiple choice questions that feel leading and disingenuous. Her grades have improved and she has no failing grades right now. I’m happy that the improvement in her grades is making her happy.

Little Sister is a handful who is happy with school and goes to Karate once a week. She loves it. The teacher gave her a pair of nunchucks (nunchaku?) and she practices katas with them at home. I’m a little nervous about my 8 year old learning how to attack with a weapon (Karate doesn’t have that “don’t start fights” part drilled into them like Taekwondo does.

Mr. Brickie has another protest to attend Monday. I’ll be here hoping he gets a call to start work since we know of three companies starting jobs as soon as the foundation is poured and set. If I get too stressed about it, I’ll meditate. Meditation has a scientific basis so I feel really good about doing it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Research_on_meditation (I’m not linking to Wikipedia as a one-and-done source, I’m linking to it as a location for the 113 sources cited at the bottom of the article. They’re not all rock star citations but some seem legit.)

Post-Disneyland Christmas Budget Reality Hangover Remedy

I want to be a great mom.

Yes, it sounds obvious because who doesn’t want to be a great mom…but I really have a deep desire to be a great mom.

Do I know what a great mom is? No. I have no idea what I even mean when I say to you, “I want to be a great mom.”

Part of me thinks it means making sure my kids want for nothing. Taking them to Disneyland for my brother’s wedding was amazing. They were wide-eyed bushy-tailed thrill seekers the whole time we were there. Even the angsty tween couldn’t help but be sucked in to the Disney Magic ™ … we all had a blast.

Coming home and entering all those line item spending items to the budget REALLY brought me back down to earth. Like, woah.

But as soon as that pain of how much we spent settled in there was (with almost whiplash speed) a whole bunch of Christmas stuff all over my world telling me that all that spending we just did wasn’t enough because we had to buy Christmas presents for the kids.

I almost immediately bought an Xbox One S from Costco. “It was on sale,” I said. “The kids will love it,” I said. “A group gift will SAVE MONEY,” I said. Then we started talking about how the kids play minecraft all the time with split screen and didn’t they need a bigger TV so they didn’t have to stand in front of the smaller TV to see the little screen quarters.

I’m not lying to you…I literally woke up out of a dead sleep in the middle of the night and thought to myself, “What the hell are we doing?” We were about to fall down some kind of consumer money-pit rabbit hole where I spent a thousand dollars on my kids for Christmas after spending more than I feel comfortable admitting to publicly on a week long vacation. (That price includes wedding gifts, clothing, like…everything but it’s still madness.)

We are in enough of a hole and digging ourselves deeper isn’t going to make it any better.

So, against my desires of wanting to give a lavish Christmas to the kids (that we cannot afford) I am going to teach them about restraint. I’m going to teach them that we are going to do a small holiday because the date on the calendar does not determine our spending habits.

Maybe we’ll do the gift guide I see going around social media: Give them something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.

It sounds good in theory but my new (too strict) goal is $100 for all of Christmas for the three kids…including stockings. I’m not sure if it’s possible but I’m going to try. I picked the number in a very scientific way. I bought my youngest a LOL Big Surprise the day after Halloween this year because I heard from a mom friend online it was going to be the IT toy this season. I had totally failed on getting my daughter a Hatchimal last year (she really wanted one but was awesome about waiting until after the holidays) so was thinking I’d save the day this year.

They are going for a hefty sum on eBay right now. I’m thinking I can use the sale of the LOL Surprise to fund Christmas if I time it correctly.

I’m done being sans souci about money. It’s time to get focused and build muscle for squeezing pennies in 2018. There are some amazing things in store (I hope) and I can’t wait to share them with you as they happen! I’ll keep you updated on my cheap-as-heck Christmas plan.

A Balance Transfer to Hit Pause on Interest

I’m a little torn about which card to use next month.

I love the cash back card we have from Chase (the Amazon Visa) but that’s about to get cleared off the books because, well, I did a thing.

We bought a car last Saturday and the finance guy went nuts over my credit score. Turns out it was 721. One whole point above some mythical line in the sand that gives you excellent credit.

I remember from getting a mortgage you can have a grouping of credit pulls in a short period of time and they all lump together and don’t hurt you like it would if you submitted applications for cars or houses or credit cards once a month.

So, armed with my credit score and Mr. Brickie’s I decided to improve his credit to the same level as mine since he’s the one with the income and having him with the income and me with the excellent credit isn’t going to get us as far as both of us having excellent credit.

So I came home and went on what they call an app spree. You apply for all the damn cards over a couple day period. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. You don’t apply for ALL the cards. You apply for the best ones you qualify for. I did a balance transfer onto a Discover card for both my current credit cards so I’ll get 0% interest while I pay those off. I left the Macy’s store card we bought the mattress with alone because it’s $1,300 and I should be able to pay that off by the end of March.

I could pay it off now but our lovely (not new) car needs a new axle and an oil change so we’re looking at a $700-$1000 repair depending on the labor. That eats quite a tidy hole in the “pay off Macy’s” fund but I feel very good knowing I can pay for a large car repair in cash.

I will be adding Mr. Brickie as an authorized user on all the cards I receive and I also signed him up for his own credit card based on his credit level. It has an annual fee ($39) but I credit the last card I got with an annual fee for improving my credit the way it has and that can save us thousands on a mortgage down the road.

I think it’s worth the cost.

Now that the app spree is over it’s time to “garden” where you pay off debt and keep very low balances on your cards (between 1% – 3%) so you are seen by your magic FICO number as a super-responsible user of credit.

I’m considering putting the bills that currently go on the Chase Visa on different cards and then have those cards autodraft their totals on the due date from our second checking account. Then I can just deposit money at the beginning of the month into the second checking account and those payments will come out through the month. Mostly hassle-free and all the bills get paid and all the cards get used.

It might be too complicated to do it that way. We’ll see once the dust settles on all the crazy stuff we’ve done in February.

New car, new direction with money, new credit cards. We could be positively “normal” if I’m not careful. Lucky for me, careful comes very naturally after 13 years of practice and habit. I see a $5,000 credit limit (or $6,000, or $8,500) and it’s just a number that is part of my credit utilization score. I don’t think of these numbers as money or opportunity. I don’t think about what I deserve or what I wish I had.

It’s a puzzle to be solved to save money.

I can’t figure out Kohl’s cash for the life of me but credit scores? I think I get how this works.

Funny sidenote: I had a friend over last week and she was telling me she thought her credit was terrible. I had her download Credit KarmaSesameWhatever and it was a 736 (or 763, I can’t remember) so her credit is even better than mine.

I was super happy for her!

So for 2016, I’m hoping we can get the credit cards paid off for good and do Christmas with cash. It’s more possible than it’s ever been before.

I’ll start showing how we spent it again next month when things are back to normal. Even my budget doesn’t make sense anymore this month. It’s all a jumbled mess of numbers. I know a lot got done and a lot got paid and some got wasted but overall it was a good month packed with payoffs and good choices.

I don’t think it will ever get old paying my rent through November. It feels good.

Oh, the car! We bought a 2016 Nissan Versa. The cheapest new car in America. $14k out the door with bluetooth, manual locks, and manual windows. Yep. Manual windows. Mr. Brickie loves it.

nissan versa 2016

Isn’t it lovely and boring and just….a car. Which is all we needed or wanted. This isn’t our exact car, it’s the same color but ours doesn’t have the sweet chrome trim because that costs extra. He gets to commute in it because it gets 40mpg and even with his local driving he’s averaging 37.5 right now. So gas is much less expensive than when he was driving my minivan to work.

We are probably going to come out ahead between gas savings and the additional $110/6mos. of car insurance. We’ll see.

I’ll tackle paying this off as soon as the credit card debt is gone. We financed it at 5.04% which isn’t perfect but finance said get his credit where mine is and we’ll qualify for any 0% offer we want in a year.

I don’t plan on buying a car next year but that’s GOOD information to have. We could be those people, the ones who qualify for offers on the TV, in a year. Things feel closer than I thought.

Don’t worry, I won’t go buy a pony and fly it to Disney to celebrate. I don’t even like Disney. Ponies, on the other hand…

Time to Buy a Second Car

I was staring at the numbers on the paper in front of me. Sitting on the couch with my legs crossed under me and the yellow pad balanced on my knee. “What am I missing?” I mumbled over and over under my breath. There had to be something. There couldn’t be extra money.

There is never extra money.

Sure, I could put it in a savings account. I have one for rent and I have one for insurance. I could put it into the emergency fund and deal with it later. I could start paying down a credit card. The best answer was eluding me and I felt like maybe I was forgetting something entirely and it wasn’t really time to start paying anything down or putting anything away. I felt like I was forgetting something.

Naturally, Mr. Brickie sees my distress and says, “It’s time to get a second car.”

After I wiped my now-exploded brain off the floor I asked him, “Why now?” He said, “Because we have the money.” I said, “The money for what?” He said, “A second car.”

Of course when I said “The money for what?” I meant what kind of car. New/used/beater/decent/yours/mine/ours/big/small, etc. I was looking for a target … but my husband is a really literal kind of person so he thought I misheard. Actually, who knows what he was thinking but when he’s not sure what to say he’s known to repeat himself.

Plus, he’s not going to pick the car. Who are we kidding?

Now I do have to give him a heap of credit. He has been looking with me on Craigslist for months to learn the market and what brands sell for what and to learn how cars in our area are sold and what a normal price is vs. a too-good-to-be-true price that probably means something nefarious is going on with the vehicle.

He can tell you if a car is over or underpriced on Craigslist pretty accurately. So he does have his niche of knowledge to bring to the table which would be very helpful if we go the used car route.

Based on this knowledge, we started looking at used cars. Small ones that he would drive to work, not one that had to fit the whole family. I could go back to using the minivan for after-school activity pick ups and doctor appointments.

After checking umpteen listings, we decided it would cost between $4k and $7k for a truly reliable vehicle that would last a few years and not leave him stranded on a highway somewhere between his job site and home.

We are also looking at potentially getting a new car. I know people hate new cars and they drop in value blah blah blah but you know what, it’s nice to know that someone didn’t screw up the axle in the first ten thousand miles by hitting every curb known to man, too. As people who take oil changes and other routine maintenance very seriously there is a safety factor to consider with a new car. No one has screwed it up yet. If we were to go the new car route it would be something like a Nissan Versa for $12k. Nothing expensive or flashy is on our radar. We are focused on gas mileage and reliability.

The goal is a $2k down payment that will bring our payment to under $200/mo.Then all the extra will be paid toward the premium. I wouldn’t recommend this to someone else but I know from years of doing this we are not “minimum payment” types and I will absolutely budget to pay this car off. Hopefully in one year but certainly in no more than two.

We haven’t set a date to actually test drive anything, and we won’t buy the first day we go out because I’m not going to get trapped in some weird car dealership pressure drama. I want to make an informed, relaxed decision and I know the Mr. does, too.

This is part of the balance I was talking about the other day in my personal finance religion post. If we were really being intense, we wouldn’t buy a car. We would keep sacrificing. But at what point is sacrificing a poor decision? It’s not a contest to see who can sacrifice the most.

Maybe I’m hitting that same wall that I do in church when people talk about being Christ-like and I’m all, wait a minute…that’s a little extreme. I will take my financial advice from anyone as long as it’s based in logic but there is no need for me to feel like a horrible person and drag a financial wooden cross through the streets barefoot until I get my student loans paid off.

I’m not ashamed of that debt. Maybe I should be, but I’m not. I’m not ashamed of any of my debt.

Debt isn’t real. It’s a construct based on pieces of green paper or little electronic ones and zeros flying from one computer to another. It’s something we all agreed is a thing that exists to make it easier to get along in the world with one another.

We are going to get out of debt because it’s a good short- and long-term decision for the future of my family. But shame? Naw, you can keep it, brother. I have no use for it. It does not drive me. The last time I felt soul-sucking shame is when I made my youngest quit preschool because we could no longer drive her there because the second car died. Student loan debt has nothing on that moment. It never will.

You know what drives my financial journey? Hope. Comfort. Familiarity. Faith. Freedom. Love.

….but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

See what I did there? Oh yeah, I brought it all back around. I feel silly for doing it but in the moment it felt totally deep.

Bigger and Maybe Longer Windfall & How We Will Spend It 7/31/2015


It’s Wednesday. I’m early on the How We Spent It so it’s really a How We Will Spend It. We get checks on Wednesday but they’re dated for Friday but CapitalOne360 lets me deposit on Thursday and clears the check on Friday which is fantastic, by the way. So I have the check and am posting about it today even though I’ll deposit it tomorrow and it will be technically spent on Friday.


Timing is the most difficult part of personal finance for me.

That being said, let’s begin!

Wow. Wow! WowWowWow!!!

Remember in the last post where I said that Mr. Brickie’s boss was happy with him and there was this vague, out-there possibility he could get bumped to 70% with a raise?

It was on this paycheck. It already happened, we just didn’t find out until today. That whole conversation was to prepare him so he wouldn’t be shocked when he saw his rate was ≈$4 higher per hour.

Holy Crap!

So his 48 hour check (yea! overtime!) was $1171.93 – the first time he’s made over a thousand dollars in a week since that one week he worked 60 hours last season. I’m totally blown away.


It’s only for this company. He is still a 60% apprentice officially until he has the hours to be 70% for real in about two months. Mr. Brickie thinks this is an incentive for him to stay with this company because bricklayers are becoming hard to find and when bricklayers become hard to find, good quality bricklayers get paid not to leave for another company that might be closer to home or whatever. (Lucky for me, Mr. Brickie has been going to all those union meetings since the beginning where the old timers talked about the “good old days” during those lean years when he started so he was able to remember some of those stories for me!)

It feels wonderful. I feel like we have been given such a gift. Yes, it was his hard work and positive attitude that got us here, but he had to be at the right company at the right time around people that noticed and were willing to pay him more for that hard work.

I want to climb on the roof and scream #SOBLESSED all non-ironically and then laugh at myself for doing it. Mostly because you know I would actually scream, “HashtagSoBlessed!!!” as all one word. I mean do it right or don’t do it at all. Of course if I did I would probably fall off the roof and become one of those living warnings of what not to do when something goes good in your life.

The goal with the money bump, of course, is to pay off credit card debt.

Friday when this check clears I’m paying off the amazon store card and then starting to pay off the oh-so-old capital one platinum card that’s at just under $1200. If I can get that paid off then I’ll move on to the “put my bills on it” amazon visa card.

The overtime most likely won’t last past August 19th (it’s a school gig and that’s the first day of school) so I’m trying to cram as much debt-reduction as possible into one month’s worth of supersize checks. If my (never been right before because something always comes up) Excel forecasting spreadsheet is right I should be able to get the CapOne card paid off by the third week of August.

Obviously I will have to put my awesome future food subscription on hold because I need that cash for debt payoff. I cannot justify $255 extra dollars a month no matter how much I love it. I might be able to get by with 2 weeks worth a month and if I can we might be able to squeeze that into the regular grocery budget. We’ll see. If nothing else at least I know it’s awesome and it works and in the future when we’re more financially stable, I can revisit the whole idea.

So…on to how we spent it…

July 31st $1,171.93
Groceries $150.00
Gas $80.00
Restaurants $40.00
Amazon payoff $379.80
middle sister dentist $275.00
ipass $160.00
Capital One CC $87.13

As you can see we have those Middle Sister cavities to fix in August that I need to fund with this 5th check of the month so we’re putting aside that $275 to cover those out-of-pocket costs.

If something unexpected comes up, I will steal from the restaurant category. I know we shouldn’t even have a restaurant category while we are getting out of debt but you know what? We are going to eat out once in a while so it’s better to accept it than not budget for it.

A refresher on apprenticeship: Apprenticeship starts at 40% and goes up 10% every time you
1) work 750 hours
2) Attend union meetings
3) attend training sessions

100% apprentice = Journeyman = Journeyman wages. The percentage is the percentage of the prevailing journeyman wage you make. So, if journeyman wage is $50/hr. a 40% apprentice would make $20/hr.

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How We Spent It 5/13/2015


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

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

Behold! Imagine in your mind four credit cards.

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

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

Because it doesn’t matter.

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

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

But we all know that won’t help.

So today is payoff day for a credit card.

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

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

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

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

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

So we paid:

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

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

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

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

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


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)

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

$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)

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.)

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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Bad Decisions I Have Made


Yesterday, a reader (Hi Kay! I appreciate you!) asked me if I was overpaying my car payment because it seemed high.

It got me thinkng … I started blogging about finances after I made a pact with myself to stop doing things that were horrible, bad decisions. I’ve still made bad decisions since I’ve been blogging. The big ones were last Christmas when I got more credit cards to use for one holiday and looking for that post made me realize I glazed over the truth. I see myself saying I got an Amazon store card, but I ALSO got a Walmart credit card at the same time. I paid them back off after Christmas last year with the tax return.

This year I got all three kids a group gift for Christmas and then gave them stockings that were donated by a friend of mine. The group gift took one of my credit cards from 0 to max balance! Luckily, it was the card with the $300 balance. I got them the Skylanders game and we wrapped all the little people individually so they all had stuff to open. While $300 probably seems like a lot it is also the least I’ve ever spent on Christmas for three kids. So it’s an improvement for me.

That leads me to telling you about the most recent very bad financial decision I have made. I got the two older girls Kindle Fire tablets for their birthdays in January. I realized it was never on my radar to blog about and then I thought about it a few days ago and told myself no one would be interested. This morning I realized it would be stupid not to tell you I bought my kids VERY EXPENSIVE gifts for their birthday.

Maybe it was becuase I wanted to wait and make sure they were “worth it” before telling you about them.  Maybe telling you about the reading and spelling scores going from Fs to Cs and Bs thanks to educational apps will make it sounds like a less-awful decision. I don’t know. Every time I look at them I feel a little sick but I know that my girls have benefitted from them immeasurably and then I try to tell myself, “Hey, it wasn’t laptops, right?” So then I’m rationalizing my decision. I don’t know if the Kindles were a bad decision or not. I do know I saved $70 on them because I was like, “Sure I’ll apply for the card I won’t get since I just foreclosed on my house.”

Then I was approved. It’s a fee-free card with 3% back in Amazon credit so if I do keep a credit card this will be the one. I set up all my bills that could be put on the card onto the card (Internet, auto insurance, cell phones, renter’s insurance) and have a line item for that amount on my budget that’s {$240 – Credit Card Bills} and it’s actually scheduled for next week’s unemployment payment.

The month we didn’t have food stamps (EBT, SNAP, whatever) was a hard one. We found the local food pantry so several meals were covered that way. We had rice and pasta and ate everything in the house until all that was left was a loaf of funny wheat bread (I just had a slice for breakfast) and ramen noodles (which we will have for lunch) and then tonight I am so lucky we got the food stamp card so Mr. Brickie can go out in this weather (ugh this weather) and stock us back up on our staples. I will be so relieved when I can get back to making real food from scratch but until then we eat what we have and we are grateful for it.

All this to show you what might be my worst financial decision ever. The thing is, when I look at my credit card statements there are very few things that I don’t remember buying and usually when I don’t recognize one it’s Mr. Brickie getting gas. When I splurge I get a $19.99 Whirley Pop to make popcorn because I don’t have a microwave and pop popcorn about four times a week for the kids to take for snacks or to have when they want a snack. Or I get a $10 8″ frying pan because that way we can make five grilled cheese sandwiches at once and eat as a family. I know, it could sound like I’m explaining but it could also sound like I’m just rationalizing.

It’s a fine line I guess.

Life Expenses In No Particular Order
Payment Total Owed Estimated Payoff
Car $495.12 $6,839.49 April 2016
Utilities $195.00 n/a n/a
Rent (Savings) $260.00 $2,340.00 by November 15th
Auto Insurance $88.38 $444.74 renews May 2015
Cell Phones $88.96 n/a
Internet $37.99
Credit Cards Listed In Order of Payoff
Payment Total Owed
Macy’s CC $25.00 $86.12
Target CC $25.00 $217.68
Amazon Store CC $35.00 $537.72
Walmart CC $25.00 $755.23
Capital One CC $35.00 $1,180.07
Amazon Visa CC $25.00 $2,328.11
$170.00 $5,104.93 <– embarrassingly large number
Cash $81.00
Checking $262.03
Rent Savings $260.10
Emergency Fund $214.88

So my emergency fund is looking a bit wrecked because of car problems, but also that direct sales thing where everyone gave me cash, I had to pay with a card, and that’s where the $81 in cash is coming from that’s on my desk.

The IL Tax Refund is going to pay off the lowest two credit cards and the rest will go back into the emergency fund. Then, when I get paid on the 9th from Scentsy that will also go back into the emergency fund and that will bring it back up to about$ 875.

I took my eye off the ball.

The joy of being you (the reader) instead of me (the writer) is you get to armchair quarterback what I’ve done and what I should do going forward. I wish I could go back and unpay those bills from Illinois and just let the gas and electric companies chase me and call me and have that $800 go toward the credit cards. I think, though, if I had I would wish I had done things the way I already did.

Sometimes choosing a path doesn’t mean choosing the better path it just means moving forward.

I am going to get through this. The kids are already signed up for an activity this summer and that’s paid for thanks to their amazing sponsor who I am a huge fan of. I will spend my time and energy on that with the three girls and every overtime check Mr. Brickie gets this summer is going to pound out those debts because we are THIS CLOSE to being out of debt. Overtime checks at his new 60% apprentice level will be big and I LOVE paying bills.

So stick with me through this mucky, dark, gross winter of discontent and poor decisions and you will be able to watch me make good decisions as soon as I can actually afford to.

Also, Miss Kay reminded me of something I want all of you to know….I welcome questions and don’t mind answering them. If you’d rather keep it private than put it on blast in the comments just shoot me an email at jennydecki at gmail dot com and I’ll answer it in a post.

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How We Spent It!


This is probably going to be a short entry.

It will take much longer to write because I’m actively avoiding checking the bank balance.

I’m scared.

There is nothing more I can do. I have a long term plan and am sticking to it, I didn’t waste money or spend it frivolously. My decision to change from paying down debt to having an emergency fund was basically a perspective shift, nothing more.

Mr. Brickie’s union meeting went really, really well. All indications are that people think he’s going to go places. His foreman on the job is teaching him about bidding and estimations because, “When you’re a foreman, you’ll need to know this stuff.”

Everyone assumes he has a bright future. I know he does.

I just wish the future paycheck could come a little bit faster. I always knew this was going to be a “down to the wire” situation and like I said yesterday, most days I just stay in the now and think about today because we chose this path two years ago and it has gone as planned (a little slower than planned, but you can’t predict things like Mr. Brickie’s first year with the union being “the slowest year in bricklayer history” for all the members.)

So I need to reel in my perspective from here, there, everywhere, future, past, alternate futures 1-458, and get back to focusing on today. Doing the actions I can today to move closer toward my goal.

I am nervous but it’s not like my bank account is Schrodinger’s Cat. What’s in there is in there whether I look or not.

Mr. Brickie’s current company doesn’t have direct deposit. He’s getting a paper check today and if the bank is close he may be able to cash it but otherwise we’re going to have to wait days for it to clear in the bank account.

So I guess looking did make it not be there.

I texted him to let me know the amount of the check and the bank it’s drawn on so we can plan our next steps.

$377.00 Check
+ $42.00 Already in Bank
– $200.00 Living & Tolls
– $95.00 Net10 (cell phones)
– $100.00 Emergency Fund
= $24.00 Leftover (To Credit)

I probably need to put the lines in the spreadsheet differently so the $40 in tolls per week is on a separate line because that gets paid to the credit card. Since the other auto-billed things on the credit card are the Internet, hosting, and domains I do need a little extra per check to go on the card and so even if Mr. Brickie has not used $40 a week in tolls that money still comes off the top and goes toward the credit card so there aren’t any accidents or “oops” moments that put us over limit or cost us a late fee.

Also, it turns out the bank is less than a mile from the job site he is currently on, but because we have Capital One 360 checking there is no way for us (in this area) to deposit cash into our account. Doing the “snap a picture of the check” method can result in days of the check being held.

I hate when he works for companies that don’t use direct deposit.

Is it worse to wait a few days for the check to clear through the online deposit system or is it worse to get the check cashed and use the cash to pay the Net10 (you can buy a refill card at Walmart) and pay the Tolls + Leftover money to the credit card ($1 fee to do at Walmart).

I get how people go through life without a bank account. It used to seem like a mind blowing concept and I couldn’t imagine. Now? I don’t have to imagine. It’s a legitimate choice. (I would consider getting a local bank but without direct deposit or a minimum balance I’m poop out of luck for an account that won’t charge me more in fees than Walmart does to pay my bills.)

We should really consider signing up with the credit union. I think we can join the AFL-CIO credit union which has sister branches everywhere but I’m not sure what’s involved in that and if the online banking is up to snuff since the website for the credit union looks circa 2003. Really, what’s the difference between taking a picture of the check and depositing the check in a local brick and mortar bank? Both are going to make me wait for the check to clear.

But if the bank of the company is local it can be cashed there and then the cash deposited into our local bank.

This whole thing is making me tired. Today’s batch of banana bread is out of the oven and I promised Little Sister – who is really sick right now – we would make cookies together today. You know, so we can get the rest of the family horribly sick. (Even though we will wash our hands she’s still gonna breathe.)


When Is It Time To Stop Paying Off Debt?


We are big fans of the Dave Ramsey seven simple steps to financial freedom. We have been in:

Baby Step 2: Pay off Debt

But, you see, we aren’t actually there yet. We think we are, we pretend we are, but I had a total crisis last night about Mr. Brickie’s next paycheck (it will be about $340 because he only worked 21 hours this week. Maybe less, I used a calculator again.) and how we were only going to have $20 to put toward the snowball.


I could use the $100 we put aside this week in case of emergency plus the $20 on Wednesday and pay off the Old Navy card.

Leaving us with no buffer. No emergency fund.

Which reminded me of something really important.

Baby Step 1: Save $1000 in an emergency fund.

“$1000 will change your life. 90% of life’s emergencies will be covered by having a $1000 emergency fund.” – Andres Guiterrez

Whoops. I’m trying to decide between a $100 emergency fund or $0 and it’s no wonder I’m so damn stressed all the time.

I keep thinking that if we could just pay off debt and get to tax return time, but I tried that last year and ended up with no cash and put Christmas on credit cards and started the whole damn cycle over again. I paid it off with the tax return but then we had to replace the tires on the car ($800) and pay for health insurance ($2k) and paying off the credit cards, and finally paying off a debt I owed to the government from a long time ago we were cleaned out.

That is not going to happen again this year. It can’t. We need that tax return money for moving expenses and possibly rent depending on how the season goes and how work goes.

I will not – under any circumstances – allow my family to end up homeless. (Which I’m sure has been said  by many a homeless family’s head of household. Don’t remind me.)

A 21 hour work week is a setback, for sure. But last year he didn’t work from 7/26 – 9/23 so this year is already far better at this stage than it was last year. I could decide to freak out or I could look at the information I have in addition to hearing what the industry is saying which is, “Last year was the worst year in the history of bricklaying. This year had a freakishly late start. Things are getting better and in about ten years it’s going to be boom times again.”

Why would I believe the fears in my own head over people who have been in this industry 20+ years other than a horrible anxiety problem there is just no logical reason so I’m going to try and knock it off and focus on reliable opinions.

In the meantime I’m going back to the budget drawing board for real and getting a legit emergency fund of $1000 in place.

Which feels entirely impossible.

Of course.

So, the answer to the question in the title of this blog post? Stop paying off debt when you don’t have an emergency fund. Pay minimums until you are in a position where paying off a consumer credit card won’t put you in a dangerous position if an emergency comes up. Old Navy doesn’t sell milk.

Get an emergency fund first.

It’s almost like someone already knew that. Oh well, better to get back on track all the way at some point rather than keep stressing myself half to death overpaying bills without a safety net.

If you don’t know all the baby steps you can check them out here.