Tag: finance

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.)

How We Spent It 9-8-2016


First, I would like to apologize for the twenty half-written pieces of crap I have not finished and posted.

Second, you’re welcome because I didn’t post twenty half-written pieces of crap.


It deserves all caps, I promise.

Here are the bad decisions and good decisions I’ve made this month that cost tons of money:

  • OrthoK lenses for Middle Sister $1100
  • Chest freezer $140
  • 2 Tires $165
  • 2 Cats $700 (this includes two vet visits with a range of shots and a year of revolution) the cats also have a lovely godmother who donated $100 to cover the adoption fee because they are shelter kitties and she wanted to support that. (It happened after the fact and had nothing to do with the decision.) I am very appreciative!
  • Steam Cleaner $60 (on sale – $20 off!)
  • OIl Change $33 (was a special)
  • Shed ($250)
  • Volleyball for Middle Sister $300
  • Swim Team for Little Sister $400
  • Paint for living room $70
  • 2 of those 9 square storage cube things for the living room and bedroom and six cubes to go into the cube things $90
  • 5 clearance T-shirts from Old Navy $30
  • Probably more things I’m forgetting right now.

As much as I could I covered within the budget and the rest is new credit card debt.

This is why Dave recommends cutting up all your cards so you can’t go back to using them again. He knows you’re going to get tired of not being able to buy a box of waffles, a package of ground beef, and a package of chicken from Costco and not have them all fit in my freezer (I have a basic apartment-level freezer because I live in an apartment. It’s very nice and I’m not complaining, but it’s an apartment with an apartment refrigerator.

I don’t regret any of the purchases. The cats and the paint have made my anxiety plummet. More than anything I was freaking out because I did all this spending BEFORE the doctor appointment where we knew Mr. Brickie was going back to work on Monday. It was a gamble and I hate gambling but I did it because I just got so tired of being so careful all the time.

Not, like, normal “I’m so tired of this crap” but this ground-down boot-heel-on-my-neck tired. I was over everything and didn’t care anymore. I had run out of steam to keep my husband and kids not worried and feeling like everything was normal for the last almost five months while he healed. Tired of pretending I wasn’t scared and making sure I only cried in the shower. Tired of not knowing what the next year would look like. Tired of berating myself for putting all our eggs into one bricklaying basket and not knowing if that was going to work out after all.

So tired.

The thing is, I don’t regret the purchases and I don’t think paying for them is going to cause a problem. I sacrificed our future earnings for present comfort … while he was injured. It’s not like I decided we were going to live beyond our means. I might be rationalizing but come try and get me to return something and I assure you rationalization or not I’m perfectly content with the level of spending and all the decisions. Nothing was an impulse buy.

It’s Thursday and how we spent it for Check 2 of the month is easy because it’s household stuff and a car payment. That’s it. We are budgeting $87.75/wk toward cat care. It should cover food, litter, and savings for their annual vet visit plus annual revolution when they need that next year.

But this morning I had $177  in spending money. Usually it’s $200 but we were a little short this week because of the cats being an extra expense. So I thought to myself, “This should be easy. Kids are in school. Mr. Brickie is going to start work, I don’t leave the house…I won’t spend it all!”

Hello Thursday at 9:25am…

  • A new cooler (his was ruined on the job site after his injury) for Mr. Brickie ($20)
  • Two kids have school pictures today ($64) ← cheapest package for each
  • Celebration lunch with margaritas Wednesday! ($30) ← including tip!
  • Oil Change yesterday for Mr. Brickie ($33)
  • Swim Cap for Little Sister ($10)

So I’m at $20 in spending money until next week. Yeah…that might work but it might not. I’m not sure. It depends on Mr. Brickie’s lunch needs and if some other random thing comes up for one or more of the three kids I have in school. I’m not complaining, we got to celebrate and it felt great.

Now I have to spend some time on financial projections and figuring out how to fix all the credit damage I’ve done to us over the last month. I also have to figure out exactly how the transition from workman’s comp checks to work checks is going to happen. I have to look up when he was getting paid before his injury.

Okay. It looks like he will get his last workman’s comp check Thursday, September 15th and the first direct deposit from going back to work will be Thursday, September 22nd. I am guessing the direct deposit will be smooth because it’s the same company as before and so he already did the “waiting thing” where you get a check first and then you get direct deposit after that. It could actually be a seamless transition. Fingers crossed.

These are the things I worry about at 5am.

Plus the fan that brings the air conditioning from the bedroom window unit to the living room just broke. So…that’s another unexpected expense. I’m so tired.

I know we are doing great because even though there is $7 in my emergency fund I have three months of rent in a savings account. Things aren’t bleak or even dark. I should even be able to replenish the emergency fund back to $1000 by around the end of October (okay, Little Sister’s Birthday is coming up so maybe that might put us back a little but not much) so I know this bone-tired feeling is temporary.

It might be the memory of this feeling – a feeling that was constant and unrelenting for a decade – is too easy to conjure. Emotional muscle memory of a sort. We had just gotten out of this scary place and found ourselves back in a version of it that was different but looked awfully similar.

I really look forward to getting back on the five year plan track we were on. This has set us back more than I would like but it didn’t derail us, and that’s what matters.

I Gave My Kids’ Savings Accounts to Stop Stealing Their Money

There is nothing easier to grab than cash lying around the house. I *could* put the pizza on the debit card but that takes three days to clear and I don’t like to wait on cleared charges on my budget so I’ll just grab that $20 out of Middle Sister’s piggy bank and pay her back tomorrow.

Uh huh. Sure I will. You and I both know I mean it at the time but I ended up with a bunch of post it notes that showed how much I owe my kids. I started calling them Indulgences because that’s exactly what they were. I needed to fix the problem. It seemed the easiest way to get rid of the temptation – and the post-it notes – was to get rid of the money.

It was time to follow through on the idea I had floated to the kids previously. It was time for savings accounts. The kids have been excited about the idea for the past couple weeks. Ever since the conversation about compound interest and how in the bank your money earns more money.

We collected all the change from around the house. We checked couches, stuffed animals, pillows, and nightstand table drawers. My husband got in on the searching and brought out his poor guy bag of change he’d been saving and taking from since probably college. He’s not the first guy I’ve seen with a giant bag o’ change. I think they start collecting it when they need quarters for laundry and it becomes a catch-all for every penny and nickel they come across.

I was amazed when he brought the bag in and asked, “Are you sure?” because getting him to get rid of the change was like asking him to get rid of a blankie. It was his security. “Yeah, it’s fine.” (the Mr. is terribly eloquent, isn’t he? LOL) and I just rolled with it, not wanting to make it as big a deal outside my head as it was inside my head.

We went to our local bank (it’s actually a little regional bank) and lucky for us there was no wait. One by one my girls came into the office with me and the very kind lady asked them their personal information and signed them up for savings accounts. She explained how they worked to each one and let them choose stickers to put on their little savings passbooks. She made it special for them and the girls felt really important.

The bank lobby even has a cool Nescafe coffee/hot cocoa machine. The output is similar to gas station coffee. Super sweet, frothy cappuccinos (that the Mr. loved) and that almost whipped-tasting hot cocoa the kids adore. The girls split a cup of hot cocoa after they finished opening their accounts. It was a great day for all of us and they all felt really grown-up.

We felt really grown-up, too. It was a parenting bucket list moment for me, for sure.

I do still owe Big Sister $20 because I borrowed it to start Little Sister’s account, and I do still owe Middle Sister $30 because I took it out of her piggy bank and there was a post it note that told me I did, even though I can’t remember what it was for. Now that their accounts are electronically attached to mine it will be a lot easier to pay them back one last time.

The Day I Changed Personal Finance Religions

There are several religions within personal finance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I still have the book. It changed everything.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It leaves us at a crossroads.

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

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

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

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

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

I’m very nervous.

The Recipe for A Life Goal

I asked my friend what she wants for 2016 and she said, “Less problems.” I asked another and he said, “More fun.” When they asked me back (because they have manners, God love ‘em) I said, “I’m not sure yet. I’m listening to see if I want someone else’s goal, first.”

Don’t we all do that now and then? We decide we want to be a police officer or firefighter or doctor because we see one on television or in person or in a book and we take their goal as something we want for ourselves. It’s copy and paste goal setting.

I’m not putting it down. It’s a very effective form of goal setting because it is very difficult to have a goal you can’t comprehend.

So when I was a child and my goal was to have a good life, well, I’m still not sure what that looks like sometimes.

It’s like having a recipe but without the measurements of anything. So I have a shopping list for a good life.

  • Money
  • Love
  • Security
  • Hope

In what amounts or proportions, though?

I was winging it when I chose to add both husband and children to the mix when I was measuring out the love portion. I also added in family and a sprinkling of in-person friends and cups and cups of online friends I could love.

As for money, it’s even more difficult. Am I happy where I am? Is my recipe bitter because it only has one car, a hand-me-down winter coat, and no vacations? When I taste the recipe does it feel like it’s missing something?

Safety is the umami of the recipe. Some people love it, some people claim it gives them a headache because it’s MSG, and I just need a dash. Okay, maybe a few dashes! I do like a little more than a little security.

Hope is tough. If you have a little it goes a long way. If you don’t? Well…it becomes your saffron. The most expensive of all the spices. It is also the most difficult to find if it’s lost. I’ve had more than a few situations where I faked being hopeful about the future because when I can’t muster something I need I pretend I have it and act like a person who has the thing.

I question my own happiness regularly because I’m not sure if I’ve settled or if I’m really just in the middle of a five-year plan or if this is as good as it gets. It’s pretty good.. That critical point in the middle. It’s like being sick for a long time. I had a horrible internal infection in my chest and then various cold and flu symptoms for a total of over three months. I didn’t feel like myself. It turned into forgetting I wasn’t feeling myself and claiming my sick self WAS the real and true version of myself. I got lost and forgot there was a way back.

I wonder if my life here in this little town in the midwest is another version of forgetting myself. Am I obligated to be more and do more only because it’s possible? Is it giving up to enjoy life and not strive for more and more all the time?

How much is enough? Will I know when I’ve gotten there?

When did you know you had enough and everything beyond that moment was just a bonus for your life?

I’m still learning the recipe for my life goal. Even if I’m not entirely sure what else I’m going to add to the mix, I do know I’m going to tend what I have so it doesn’t scald. I think that there are certain delicate things like family relationships and marriages that you can’t fix if you leave them alone too long and let them burn even a little.

What does your recipe for a goal life consist of? Money? Love? Security? Or something else entirely?

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.


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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One Step Backward, Two Steps Forward (Finance & Fitness)

I finally got another date night! We got a sitter and Mr. Brickie and I went to a local fest and hung out in the beer tent and watched a couple bands. We ran into people we knew and it was a great night. Seriously, we had so much fun and it reminded me I’m not getting out of the house enough.

Between you and me, I know I’m not going to get out of the house until August when the kids are in school again. It’s okay, there are only (Google prefills the date when I type in “how many” because Google knows I want to know how many days until school starts. Google knows…) FIFTY ONE days left until all my girls are in school.

This day has been a long time coming.

My oldest has sleepaway camp next week, so I have to shop and pack her for that this week. I’m nervous and have watched probably a hundred hours of “What I Packed for Camp!” videos on YouTube. Go do a quick search and you will understand my brain is basically liquified now. Especially the “Here are my four boxes of makeup” campers. Like, no. Just…no. It’s all very cringeworthy, but it’s also helpful, so I keep chugging through them.

There is a lot going on outside and in the lives of people I know and people I love, but I just have this little bubble of drama-free calm here at home. All roads point toward having time to write and take care of myself and the family this fall. We have all worked so hard to have this level of stability for our family. Even the kids did their part and accepted the move with grace (not perfect grace, there was an adjustment, for sure!)  and use email to talk to their old friends and use different means to talk to their new friends.

I’ve been off social media now since the 14th or 15th of June. I should probably check my Facebook profile because I put up a message letting people know (the one time I just deactivated my account people thought I had unfriended them) and, I can tell you that after two weeks? It was a really smart decision and it has been really relaxing. I check in VERY briefly every few days to make sure I don’t miss any huge news or invitations to events. There was a home party I was invited to that I couldn’t attend yesterday because my oldest was SO SO sick and asked me to stay home, so I did. She’s all ten and trying to be grown up 99% of the time so if she wants to cuddle with her mommy because she feels gross? I’m all over it.

I feel so calm these days.

There was a part of me that wondered if I would miss the drama and the stress and the last-minute nature of how our finances were during the transition. I worried I had been scared and planning for the worst for so long I wouldn’t be able to just go with the groove and enjoy it when the easy part came.

Lucky for me I discovered something amazing.

When I’m not stressed about budgeting and finance I CAN turn that focus to something else. I’m eating a low fat diet now to keep my gallbladder stabilized as much as possible. I am finding it pretty easy to stay within my calorie goals for the day and I don’t stress eat. So I’m just using MyFitnessPal to track and I’m trying to get up out of my chair every chance I get. I feel good. I know it’s not sexy or dramatic but I’m okay with that.

It’s so much easier to say no to the “fun foods” when you are in a position where you really and truly know you can have them anytime you want. I didn’t even have funnel cake on our date night to the fair because there will be other fairs. That is truly a mind-blowing statement for me to make. It’s my food thing. I love them, but I just wasn’t in the mood. I’m honestly shocked even writing it. Those are the kinds of changes not being quite so poor has brought on. It’s amazing because I used to think it was a weakness/failing of character/willpower thing, but now I realize that it really was rare we would go to a fair or carnival so damn right I would get the funnel cake. It’s not just the five bucks for the funnel cake, either. It’s the price of getting in or rides or games or whatever else a day at the fair entails. Last night for my birthday date we spent a hundred bucks. Admission to the show, beer, his elephant ear (don’t get me started – there are funnel cake people and bad people and my husband sometimes forgets) and paying the sitter all add up.

Knowing things are just going to keep getting better? That allows me to relax and make better food choices without them feeling like a punishment. It’s also made me a lot less tolerant to people who bitch about the food choices of the poor, but hey, I think that’s been happening for a while.

Mr. Brickie got rained out of his job this morning so he’s driving over to a sidework project he has in the works and is going to work on that today instead. He’s also off on Friday for Independence Day so he’ll work there on Friday too. Any other day he might get rained out he’s going back to it as well. It’s nice to have the cushion of a backup job.

Two more days of softball and then the season is over. Middle Sister’s team came in third in her division. Big Sister’s team came in second in her division. Little Sister’s division doesn’t do tournaments. Middle Sister’s favorite game was against the special needs team because it was all teamwork and having fun with no competition. The games on Monday and Tuesday are just make up games and have no bearing on the season at all. They all had a blast but being out in the heat that much has them on the fence about doing it again next summer. We’ll see. I’m fine either way as long as there is something they are involved in. The more kids they are around in different situations the stronger their skills will be as adults. Mostly I’m just trying to raise kids that don’t want to cry when they find out they have to do a team project in school like I did. Maybe if I just nurture them enough we can bury nature under a pile of kid rubble.

That analogy sounds unnecessarily violent. It’s probably just latent stress from the memory montage summoned up by my brain as punishment for mentioning team projects. *shudder*

This month has flown by. (Not being able to remember a week or so because of that gallbladder thing probably helped. sad-LOL) I wonder if July is going to fly by as quickly?

I hope your summer has been great so far!

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June 2015 Budget Update (Almost out of the woods)

We’ve been lurching and spasming toward a longer-term gig since the season began mid-April. It began on Monday! (insert happy dance)

The foreman says there are seven jobs lined up for summer and a bid is in for a two-year job. That means overtime is going to kick in any minute now and if the long-term job bid goes through we won’t have to worry about the rest of Mr. Brickie’s apprenticeship because two years of steady work will sail him right through to Journeyman.

We’ve come so far.

I got word officially from the SNAP folks that our benefits won’t be renewed, but you know how surprised I was when we got them in June so the extra month really helped us transition from being in that dark, poor winter place into the light of summer and work and paying down debt.

I’m completely terrified to share what my credit card balances are but I’m nothing if I’m not honest and you can just gasp in horror with me. (I just keep muttering to myself “shame can’t live in the light” and hoping for the best) Also, we all know when I have an extra dollar it goes to the cards, so there’s really no reason to think this is how things are going to stay.

We have the following (I’m SO not proud of this, yikes.):

Visa Card: $4,549.22
CapOne Card: $1,157.24
Amazon.com: $337.73
Total CC Debt: $6,044.19 (eek!)

Currently owed on the car: $5,073.04. I thought it would be fun to share I owe more on credit cards than I do on my car, which feels SO wrong. It’s amazing to know that by the end of July that car debt will be under $5k! (We also still have tens of thousands in student loans but I’m not even cracking open that chapter of the debt repayment book until we get rid of this junk. Rest assured, however, we WILL get there. Soon!)

Yikes, right? I was paying the $151 to pay the bills but DUH I made a mistake! I didn’t add interest charges on that $151. So embarrassing! I couldn’t figure out why the total kept going up. So, yeah, even those of us who love math and numbers make mistakes. Durrrrrrr.

In the past, I’ve absolutely made those mistakes, but my budget muscles are big and strong and very “wanna come to the gun show?” in their awesomeness so I don’t mind showing you yet another 98 pound weakling finance picture because you know we’re going to get all pumped up this summer!

I should look back and see how much progress I made last year when Mr. Brickie finally started working full-bore. I’m not sure that will even help because he makes around five dollars an hour more than he did last year which will make a huge difference and then it will make an even bigger huger (that’s totally a word) monster difference when/if he starts clocking overtime.

A regular 40 hour paycheck (which we may or may not ever see. He only worked six hours on Monday because of those storms) would be $785. Which will be about $3,100 monthly. Our regular monthly expenses are about $2280 (that’s with $250/wk living expenses for tolls, gas, and groceries) and I SHOULD be able to eke out $800 a month toward that debt extra above regular payments.

But hey, if you’ve been reading for a minute you know that’s not how it’s going to work out. He will either get overtime and that will be more money toward the cards or he will get laid off for a couple weeks and we will scrape by with unemployment and side jobs or there will be rain and he will work 30 hours or something or another.

I guess it doesn’t matter if it’s easy if it’s worth working for, though, does it?

Sometimes I get really jealous of people who just make the same amount every week and know what each paycheck will look like every time. Not hateful-jealous just… wistful-jealous. The comfort of sameness.

Money Question!

I have a bill from my oldest daughter’s EEG (it was to rule something out and it was ruled out so yea!) After the reduced rate and the insurance payment we owe $323.59 … with the low work situation this month we do have it – but barely – in the emergency fund.

When I called to set up a 3-payment plan the lady informed me that this month they’re running a special and if I pay it in full in June, I’ll get 10% off (which would make the bill $291.23) and I’ve been mulling it over ever since. $32 is a really good level of savings off of the bill. We don’t have enough in our HRA account so we wouldn’t get the whole thing reimbursed but the amount in the HRA keeps going up while he works so I would get the money back eventually….

What do you think? Pay the three payments and leave myself some breathing room? Or pay the whole thing and get a discount? I’m leaning toward the discount. Even with the emergency fund a little low it’s still better to pay less, right?

Tire Talk

Oh! Totally non-sponsored shout out to Discount Tire Warranties! We put four really great quality tires on the car two years ago. Got the warranty. One had a huge hole in it on Thursday and the new tire (current model discontinued so the replacement for that … same brand a little better quality) was 100% covered (except some weird $13 charge to update the warranty) so that was wonderful. Get the warranty from them. It’s worth it.

An Apology

I didn’t keep good records in June. Training week he only made $250. Painting side-job week he made $400. That week he worked a partial week he made $458 and tomorrow we will get an unemployment payment of $360.

It’s been a rough month but I haven’t tracked anything really because it was just too sad to even think about. $1468 is our grand-total take home for June and it was literally barely enough to cover all the bills. It’s why the emergency fund is down and the credit card is up. I’m not proud of not doing more, I wrote checks for volleyball camp and basketball camp and camp invention and paid for Big Sister’s sleepaway camp. I spent when I should have saved, but I think it was a gamble that will pay off in the long run.

I mean, I have to think it was the right decision or I’ll just lay awake at night feeling like an idiot. At least this way I feel like an idiot and a good mom. All together, summer activities for the kids (not including softball) cost $300. Really I don’t think that’s bad for an all day camp, two kids in volleyball, all three in basketball, and a week of sleepaway camp. So I made bad budget choices on the cheap, anyway.

Social Media Break

I took a break from all the social media so there would be less of everything and I could spend the summer focusing on my family. I still like you my darling readers who I would have in my home for lunch or dinner or coffee or tea. I don’t have any apps on my phone and am logged off of all services on my computer. If you want to reach out and say “hey” just shoot me an email. It’s the name of the blog at gmail.com and I’ll respond. Or comment and I’ll respond. I just want you to know I haven’t ditched you even though you don’t see me bleating like a forever-dying goat on Facebook.

It’s been wonderful.

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How We Spent It 06/01/2015

It’s a weird week.

The bank randomly decided the check would clear today instead of tomorrow so we’re just getting earlier and earlier on the How We Spent It.

For fear of not having any continuity I’m just going with the bank balance and deducting from there. There are still two checks that have not been cashed by the school and one was written on April 28th for $120 so I keep having to subtract this big check off my bank balance. I think holding onto checks is super rude because what if I forget to keep factoring that in? It would be easy to forget if I didn’t log onto my bank every few days because I’m a budget junkie.

Ah well, the important thing is I’m keeping track. I can only control me, not the check-cashing behavior of others.

So here it is. What we did with our money this week.


I called the school about getting the form home for the volleyball camp. The office lady said it was already sent home but I’m seriously all over the folders when the kids come home so I should have seen it and volleyball has been on my radar for a while now.

I have a feeling Middle Sister will love volleyball and I want to give her the opportunity to try it out early. I keep hoping they find something they absolutely love so I can be like, “That’s the months that are the season.” and the rest of the year can be stuff other than sports. She is also attending the Camp Invention day camp this summer where they (you guessed it!) invent something.

I’m always sure I’m missing something and just can’t seem to keep up on all the camps and activities and balancing art and music and science and sports and probably other stuff I’m not even thinking about. I will just keep on keepin’ on and have faith I’ll get the hang of all of it eventually.

If I don’t? Well I only have to do it for 12 more years. I can do anything for 12 years. I’ve been married that long and no one thought that was going to work out and he’s even still alive, so let’s all have faith I can trudge through this mostly sort of maybe unscathed.

tis but a scratch

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What if all this work I’ve been doing can be applied to other things?

Do you worry like I do?

I thought when I was young worry was a feeling. Like, “I feel worried” and I was either worried about something happening or not happening or just worried in general. I thought the way to deal with the worry was planning. If I had a plan for every possible outcome then I don’t have to worry because I have a plan.

As a kid, that was pretty helpful because kid sized problems have limited numbers of solutions and I went to sleep at night knowing I was covered.

Now? I have plans upon plans upon plans. I’m like an evil genius with all these post it notes strewn about my desk, on my monitor, stuck to my computer tower, and even on the walls. (I use a tiny piece of tape to keep them on the wall because my walls are slightly textured.) It feels like I’m constantly scribbling something on a post it so I don’t forget.

It’s a rare thing for me to forget. The system might be a bit loony and it might be weird and it might look like a post it factory threw up on my desk area but it WORKS.

The feeling didn’t go away, though. I still worry there is something I haven’t thought of. A scenario I’m not prepared for. I scan my post it notes and make sure all the scenarios are covered. I mean, I allow myself the luxury of not planning for natural disasters. I mean, you can’t plan for every-everything now, can  you? Just all the things up to (but not including) acts of God. If it’s good enough for my insurance policy, it’s good enough for me.

Also, if you ever find yourself saying that you may need to rethink your priorities. Insurance is not a good way to gauge anything you’re doing with your life.

I meandered again, didn’t I? I could seriously talk about my post it notes all day long because I love them and they comfort me like a kid with a teddy bear. No lie. Okay, so I was worrying about a lot of stuff all the time and making decisions for things that hadn’t even happened yet and decision fatigue would set in right around the time I would think of introducing a caloric deficit (however small) or increasing activity (however little) and those would just get swept under the rug of “not now” choices I was not prepared to deal with because I knew they weren’t one-shot deal decisions but choices I would have to be consistent about. So I maintained.

Fast forward to this year and for the last five weeks I’ve been taking a weight lifting/cardio class. I made it to 3 of the 5 classes at my local Y. I missed one because I had to take the kids to softball practice and I missed the other one because I had to take my youngest to her kindergarten kick-off. I felt great every time I *did* go, though, and it didn’t feel overwhelming or scary or like the world was going to fall apart while I was away from home. I learned that I really enjoy lifting weights and doing cardio before and after weights was a great way to warm up and cool down.

I felt absolutely over the moon victorious finishing a five week class.

That first weight class? It was like the first time I just wrote down all my bills. It was pretty good, I missed a couple things, but it was a start. I felt good afterward. Three out of five classes was a good start. I looked over the problem areas (missing classes) and realized that the misses had nothing to do with my desire to go but other obligations.

The fix? Classes that didn’t conflict with kid stuff. More classes in case I have to miss one due to a kid issue. One class a week means if you miss a class you miss the week. That’s not good.

This is exactly how I think through my finances.

What worked? Keep it! What didn’t work? Fix it. Less judgement and more improvement.

Judgement is the killer of improvement because judgement says, “To hell with all of it I’ll never be good enough so why bother. Improvement says, “How about two days a week since one didn’t feel overwhelming?”

I think this pattern of micro- improvements™ is so ingrained from applying it to finances all these years applying it to fitness has a decent chance of working. If it doesn’t, we’ll fix what doesn’t work.

One thing at a time or everything falls apart is my fitness motto.

April 20th – May 23

  • Monday: 5:30pm Cardio Kickboxing
  • Tuesday: 9:30am Cardio Mix
  • Wednesday: 9:30am Total Toning
  • Thursday: 9:30am Cardio Mix & 5:30pm Total Toning
  • Friday: 10:30am Women on Weights

Since I’m a member of the Y (Thank goodness for the reduced-fee membership!!!) these classes are included in my membership (except the weights class – that was $5). Childcare is available from 9-Noon and is free. There is no reason not to get an hour of activity a day in.

I tend to do better with the structure of classes and having a specific time to be at a place with a teacher and other people. Maybe, eventually, I will be able to just “go to the gym” like people do but I’m not there yet. I’m fine with not being there yet. I’m tired of throwing a dart at a mental dartboard and choosing a place where I “should” be or what I “should” be doing.

It’s self-care. Something just for me that will make me feel good.


If it turns out that I can actually apply all this consistency with the budget to OTHER THINGS? You guys. You guys…for real you guys….I don’t know exactly what that means but it feels like a secret to the universe or something. If it works. Let’s not get cocky now. (*whispers* I’m totally being a little cocky but only to myself in a really quiet way…)

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