Tag Archives: Planning

How We Plan to Spend It, a Rain Day, and Planning

I keep a google sheet with two month’s of budget forecasting. If I go more than two months out it all gets totally messed up and I spend hours fixing months that won’t come for, well, months! Even with this month and next month being the only ones I still make a lot of changes based on things that come up in any given month.

My goal is to streamline this so I don’t have to make those changes.

This next check is the “extra check” or “fifth check” and while my true desire is to plunk it all in the emergency fund, I think a better use is pre-paying gas and tolls for next month to the tune of $150. What I really wanted to do was prepay the gas and tolls AND cat food/supplies but there was a rain day so Mr. Brickie only worked 32 hours last week, not 40. It will still be a better paycheck than if he was hanging out at home being sad and injured and receiving workman’s comp so please don’t think I’m complaining. Rain days are part of life.

Also, I don’t know if I told you but he did get a raise while he was away from work. 77 cents an hour. I’m telling you guys, if you have someone who likes working with their hands, steer them to a union. He doesn’t have to read Cosmo articles on “getting the raise you deserve” and his life isn’t in the hands of one guy who thinks himself superior because he’s middle management. I also understand that unions aren’t awesome everywhere for every trade and they might not be right for everyone but man, it’s been a life changer for our family. The kind that makes me wish we had found it when we first got married.

How different our lives would be now!

But we all know you can’t go back and we’ve learned so many lessons going the route we did, I don’t know that we would be such a solid team if we hadn’t had so much adversity.

I also have a birthday to pay for with this check. The birthday girl wants to go to a hibachi restaurant. She was fascinated the last time we went. I want to get her a cake from the local bakery. I don’t know what I’m doing about a gift but I’ll figure it out. Lucky for me it’s only a family party and I don’t have to worry about goodie bags or anything like that. Whew!

We have been really optimistic since Mr. Brickie has gone back to work. We aren’t sure how we are going to afford all these things coming up like Christmas and next year’s summer camps for the kids, but we are taking it one day at a time, one purchase at a time.

I’m glad we have the steam mop and the chest freezer and they have both come in so handy since their purchase. We are going to buy a shed for the winter to keep bikes and things in so we free up some space in the basement for other things. If we are going to stay in this apartment for a few more years, I want it to be a pleasant and organized place to live. Plus, I want to make sure there isn’t ONE thing in this house we wouldn’t move with us when we do move. I’m planning years in advance to make sure my next move is organized and uneventful. 

Until then I dream of moving and either buying or renting a nice house. I have a very boring fantasy life. I’m either daydreaming about a house or I’m daydreaming about paying off debt and what that will feel like to be stable and debt free. That’s right about when I remember we have student loans and the expansive feeling of freedom gets tamped down a little bit. We’ll get there, I know we will, it just feels like it’s taking forever.

Today I had a list of things to do – including shopping for dinner – but Little Sister has a little fever and is nauseated so she’s staying home from school today. There go my “leaving the house” errands. I hope she feels better tomorrow because I have to go to the bakery to order her a cake!

Update on the Five Year Goal

When the five years started is up in the air. Is it when he started looking for union jobs? Is it when he got the interview? Is it when he started training? Is it when he started working? There’s almost a whole year between when he started to look and the day he started actually working. I guess that means our five year plan is more of a five-ish year plan.

It’s not about how many years the plan is. It’s having a real, long-term plan.

I thought, at first, it was all about the goal. I had this dream at the end of five years we would be in a different house, paying a mortgage, and living my vision of watching my kids play in our backyard. Mr. Brickie would be a full-fledged journeyman and in my wildest dreams he would be considered for transition into the actual union. After moving and deciding to ramp up the kids’ activities faster than originally intended and Mr. Brickie’s injury, the only part of the five year plan resembling the original is the job front. My estimate (which are always wrong) for when he will be journeyman will be around a year and a half from now. It’s definitely past the five year magic mark but stuff happens.

The point of the long term plan is to help make all the little decisions every day. Will buying this or that bring me closer or farther away from my goal?

Now that I don’t have a goal and home ownership has dropped down on the priority list like a boulder in the water things become more hazy and I think that has contributed to those less-than-ideal financial decisions (steam cleaner, chest freezer) that are really great for the now but I bought them because I don’t have a dream of having a home and I’m not thinking about my stuff in terms of moving it somewhere. We are going to buy a shed and put it up in behind our apartment so we can store bikes and other things that don’t need to be indoors. Right now our basement is jam packed and there’s just no need for that. As much as I love minimalism, I’m not getting rid of my kids’ bikes. We are in a position where minimalism is great but our problem is lack of storage space for things we really and truly use pretty darn often as well as seasonal items. I don’t have a bunch of decorations for the holidays but I have a few and I’m not getting rid of them because they make me happy.

I was hoping I would discover my new goal as I wrote this. The dream of having another house and the picture of our life I had in my head was strong and kept me going during some dark times. I don’t know what our lives will look like in five years. I don’t mean I’m not sure, I mean I honestly have NO idea.  I could be applying for my oldest to go to boarding school for her last two years of high school (A real possibility.) I could be dealing with my middle daughter being a volleyball prodigy and travelling all around the place for games. My youngest joined the swim team this year and in five years she may have five years of competitive swimming under her belt and be the best darn 11 year old swimmer on earth.

Or I might be writing posts like this wondering what happened to my life, unsure of where we are going next. That’s a dark thought, huh?

I should have titled this one, “I need a new goal. No wonder I can’t focus on anything these days. I’m like a ship without a destination just bobbing along in the sea.” But that would have been too long for a title, wouldn’t it?

Where will you be in five years?

 

Planning After Taxmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 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?

Outside Focus – A Birthday Story

When I’m really stressed out, I try to ignore my feelings.

Sure, I’ll tell you what’s wrong if something specific is going on but you will, inevitably, have to listen immediately to my plan for solving that specific problem. I am a problem-solver of the highest order. Years of practice and execution of plans has made me efficient and confident. There are very few times I get thrown a curveball I can’t hit. It might not be a home run, but it will get me on a base, at the very least.

I’ve spent much of my married life … well … probably much of my life-life but have you ever noticed how it feels like when you get married there’s a kind of starting over that happens? Like, I’m this person now instead of that one (with a new name and everything) and maybe I started judging that as my new and improved starting point to erase the mistakes that happened before. As if this new woman with a new name had a whole different way of dealing with problems and wasn’t just the same person with a different driver’s license photo.

So back to married life and me spending most of it anxious out of my mind. A husband that went from being a pizza guy to a painter to a coffee slinger to a barista to a financial advisor. It didn’t start that way. It started with me working in insurance and him finishing his degree. I was actually that wife that worked while her husband finished school. I had heard about them but never actually realized how that whole thing would look like while it was happening. It looked a lot like anger if you were me. Especially if I came home and Roller Coaster Tycoon was on the computer monitor. I was neither kind nor forgiving early on. Mostly because I was scared out of my mind about the house and the bills and the money and this husband-interloper who felt it was his money too! How dare he! (I’m mocking myself, here, I know I was awful.)

Then he had a degree and we were so happy until it turned out – surprise! – to be totally not helpful at all in getting him a job. So he ended up with a string of jobs he wasn’t too fond of. I was fired from Allstate for being atrocious at customer service and started working from home. Next is the “famous among family and friends” story of the two hours I lasted at the Disney Store in the mall. The only thing I am worse at than customer service is customer service in a crowd.

In retrospect, I should have seen the failure coming a mile away but you would be amazed at what I can convince myself I can do if I just don’t wuss out. If I power through my anxiety and confusion and just do the damn thing, I am sure I’ll be great and of course I’ll get used to the physically debilitating symptoms of overwhelming fear I feel in situations where I have to deal with strangers in a crowded, loud setting. I can do anything! Except then I can’t and I walk out and have a panic attack and I’m sitting on the floor in a bathroom stall in the mall on my phone crying and begging my fiancee to let me quit. The fiancee that may have warned me against taking the job in the first place who was rather confused I needed his permission because we totally do not have that kind of relationship but I just needed to know it was okay, you know? That he would still love me even when I was failing so spectacularly.

Really, I’m so bad at timelines. I thought the Disney Store debacle happened after the Allstate debacle but for some reason I know we weren’t married when I was at the Disney Store so they can’t be related.

This is why I can never write a memoir. I can’t keep track of time.

A journal? Of course I have journals from before we were married…from before we even dated….sure the information is probably in there. But then I would have to read them and there is about a zero chance in hell I’m going to do that in the near future. I’ll let my kids read it when I’m dead and they can marvel at how unhinged their mother really was.

Look, kids! Look at all the coping skills your mother didn’t have when she was young!

It will blow their minds.

I’m trying to get to the good story about the budget. I don’t have a good transition. This will have to do.

I will always remember the day I wrote down our bills on a piece of paper. Then I wrote down our income. (I didn’t even know this was a budget at the time!) The number in the bills column was bigger than the number for income. This is why I’m so understanding of friends I know and readers who have never set up a budget. I remember wondering why I had never thought to do that before.

I mean, I had even read Financial Peace by Dave Ramsey (that I received as a gift from a Christian radio station when I donated $10 to give orphans in Africa a well for fresh water, I kid you not) and I still have that book and I remember reading it and thinking, “This is for people who already HAVE money.”

Figuring out how people made money became an obsession. I wanted to know what everyone did for a living and I spent more hours on the BLS than I care to admit – even to myself. There are so many jobs that people have that no one tells you about. It’s like a secret system where people randomly find jobs they end up at. It felt like a lottery until we found the unions and, eventually, bricklaying. As he went through training I had this feeling that things were going to get really difficult but they would be so much better after the bad part. On the heels of this moment of clarity was when I toldl Mr. Brickie, “I don’t want to work. I want to take care of the kids and, beyond that, do whatever I want with my days. I want to find a job for you that will take care of all of us and I’ll make sure our lifestyle doesn’t surpass that salary. We’re going to find a happy medium. Oh, and by the way? We’re totally going to lose the house in the process. Let’s talk again after you have a few days to be okay with losing the house because I know it’s important to your whole man-pride image.” (We had some conversations about feeling like a failure and what real failure was and taking steps backward and forward in the interim but we were back to focusing on HIM so I was all good with that. HIM is outside of ME so it was a fine thing to focus on.)

Some of you have probably heard me say, “I don’t have a passion.” That’s because I couldn’t afford to have one. All my neurons and synapses were dedicated to not being homeless. They were all dedicated to keeping my family safe. They were all dedicated to things OUT THERE instead of my inner world. How can I decide what I want when I have to figure out how to feed my kids?

So now it seems I’m starting to be able to take little peeks inward instead of feeling like I have to focus on everything else around me and balancing it all so it doesn’t come crashing down like so many spinning plates. I feel calm in a way I didn’t think was possible.

Which is funny because I was told recently (in writing, my reactions were at my screen not in person) that I was going through a transition and I took a mental step backward and said to myself, “Who? Me? You’re talking to me?” Here I am, safe and calm and feeling totally chill and someone is telling me I’m in a transition period? It amazes me how sometimes people with the most book learning are the most unknowledgeable when presented with a real-life case study of someone in a stable place. Also I know this whole paragraph sounds like something I made up. You can just disregard it because it was a long story that ended that way but I assure you none of it was about me transitioning to anything but a deeper state of contentment.

One of these new and fun peeks into myself (sounds dirty but it’s not) let me see that my decision to start actively writing when my kids are all in school for a few hours a day is absolutely the right decision. I don’t have a genre in mind, I’m going to just write for anthologies and submit and see what sticks. I’ll edit and revise before sending, I don’t mean I’m going to throw a first draft at anyone. That would be gross and mean. But I’m going to see where my talent and interests intersect. For example, I know after writing sexy stories professionally for marketing purposes. So I may be very good at that kind of writing, but I do not enjoy writing those stories, so you won’t see my name in the erotica section anytime soon. I’m on the fence about horror because sometimes I don’t sleep well after I write those stories. I look forward to seeing all the different genres I can try to write for and seeing how well I can do.

Even if nothing comes of it just doing it and trying and being free to write what I want and have fun with it means the world to me. It will be like giving my mind and my heart wings and letting them soar free without worrying.

That freedom comes from years of learning how to budget, learning how to make things happen automatically, and having a plan. Also, I’ve learned to be patient. Things don’t get amazing overnight, they take time and effort and hard work. I won’t write something amazing on August 20th at 7am when my kids get on that school bus. I will be able to look back on that date and know that is when I started down the path but that path will start with research, not writing. Also, I have been writing stories in fits and starts for years, so I’m not really starting from scratch, I’m just choosing to be dedicated to it like I’m dedicated to budgeting and finance now. It’s like I’m giving myself a first-day-of-work start date.

Instead of constantly seeing everything in terms of opportunity cost, cause/effect, and problems/solutions, I feel the bonds of my brain cracking, see the dust fall from squeaky, unused hinges as the door to my imagination finally begins to open again. It’s been so long since I’ve been able to focus on, say, the shades of brown on my desk or pay attention to how the light hits my blinds. Daydreams have been my enemy for far too long and I look forward to letting my mind play.

I should probably put this entry aside and edit it later to make sure I don’t sound silly or completely off my rocker. If I do put it in mothballs I know I’ll probably never share it and it will live forever in my Google Docs Drafts folder. So you can have me the way I am. Slightly edited, proofed for spelling (I hope) and mostly raw but free of Salmonella.

Thank you. To those of you who have shared birthday wishes online, directly, and otherwise. I have to tell you….40 is so much better than 30 was. This might actually be the best birthday I’ve ever had. Not because it’s so amazing, but because it so does not need to be amazing. A bakery cake and my family is all I need today. I can look inside my heart and the emotions are not fear and anger and panic. Today my heart is filled with love and contentment and joy. I have fought for these feelings and they feel like a gift to myself.

What I have is enough.

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I Am Bad At Planning the Expected Unexpected

  • I somehow totally didn’t factor in Mr. Brickie’s $20 union dues payment.
  • I need to go to the mall this weekend and pick up a graduation gift for a friend.
  • I paid for school pictures last month and will pay for softball pictures this month.
  • At the end of May, Mr. Brickie will need to pay another $20 union dues payment.

There are probably other expenses I haven’t put into the budget. Small things. A once a year $50 hosting payment for this blog. Domain names (I don’t have many).

I always wonder if there’s another thing I’m forgetting. There probably is.

Oh! I should probably let my children buy me something for Mother’s Day. Mr. Brickie and I don’t usually exchange gifts for Christmas and birthdays and Father’s/Mother’s Days. It saves money. The kids, however, want to buy gifts for us and I haven’t been able to figure out a good way to say no. This Christmas my daughters gave me: A pair of slippers, a wall calendar, and a box of Turtles with the turtle on the front that reminds me of Mr. Peanut. I was happy because they were all very thoughtful without being expensive.

I just think if we can keep our extraneous expenses locked down I can pay off $1000 in credit cards by the end of May. Sure, something could come up and Mr. Brickie could make less money or something, but if he does work 40 hour weeks in May, I can do that. If that continued we could actually have our credit card debt paid off by (or during) August. That would put us in a great position for back-to-school shopping. Yes, that’s a best-case scenario but there’s nothing wrong with having a hopeful goal.

Sometimes the hope is all I have to get through the day.

I know $1000/mo. toward debt is really ambitious. But think of it this way…if we’re credit card debt free in August, the car could be paid off by the end of November. (For those of you who might not remember, I have a really high car payment – almost $500/mo. Right now my balance on the loan is $5962(ish) so the normal payment plus $1000/mo. would be enough to pay it off by the end of November.)

To get rid of that car payment would be amazing!

I could open a new savings account and put $500/mo. into that (since I’m used to paying that much a month anyway) into a New Car Fund and just save until we need another car.

Wow. No credit card debt & no car payment?

Our bill list would look like this:

  • Gas/Electric
  • Internet
  • Auto/Renters Insurance
  • Cell Phones
  • Rent

That’s it.

I’m so close. SO close.

The kids were happy with a budget christmas last year. They really were.

It’s official! My goal is to pay off the car by the end of November.

Let’s see if I can rock this out. I’m going to put it on my debt paydown spreadsheet so I won’t forget about my “amazing idea” I just had. Sometimes the ideas run away as fast as I can catch them!

So if you ever wonder why I keep $200/wk. in the checking even though I don’t actually remember a week in which we needed that much money…it’s these unexpected expenses I just don’t think about. I build a little slush into the fund.

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Financially Fit by Forty?

I was doing a bit of navel gazing today.

First we had pie for breakfast (a Pi Day tradition) and went to a maple sugar festival and tromped all over hell’s half acre learning about sap and checking out tapped trees and learning how the native americans tapped the trees before the pioneers got all high-tech with their big metal pots and ball jars.

It was mostly on the drive home I was thinking. Probably because we had just gone to a fabulous, free event and then scooted in and out of the gift shop without buying anything and were on our way to have lunch out as a family. I was considering how much we (a family of five) were about to drop on lunch and thinking about the other things we could do with that money.

Ultimately I decided I didn’t care what else we could do with the money because having lunch out with my family is a special experience that does not happen often. It gives me great joy to hear them treat the staff at the restaurant with appreciation and respect. I smile and think maybe I did something right when they are able to order on their own and get exactly what they want.

Some of the money we set aside in savings was to get the brakes on the Toyota worked on and it cost less than we estimated. So the money to pay for lunch wasn’t being taken away from anything else.

Yes, I started my financial journey with Dave and the belief that to be debt-free you have to put your nose to the grindstone. I’m still excessively frugal if you popped me on a bell curve. But I will not deny my children everything on the way to my own financial freedom.

Most things? Yes. Just not everything. I found the line in the sand I will not cross, I guess.

This summer they will get new (Flea Market/Craigslist) bikes because they outgrew their old (Craigslist) bikes. Between lunch today and the bikes I could probably make a dent in another credit card.

Or could I?

If they don’t have bikes am I going to be more likely to take them somewhere to have fun that costs money? I don’t know. The world is a complex place and just because in my head I think things are going to work out a certain way that does not mean it’s written in stone. I make the best choices I can with the information I have at the time.

I had an amazing benefactor pay for my girls to attend softball this year. So you bet your sweet butt I’m going to make sure they all have helmets and bats and mitts in order to play. (I’ve already procured bats and helmets for two out of three kids. One more trip to Walmart and I’m good.) My nose may be grindstone-adjacent, but it’s certainly not ON THERE the way it would be if I were dutifully following a “beans and rice” plan.

All that to say…. I turn 40 in a few short months. I’m not looking at it as a milestone because my goals are not based on the calendar but on things happening in my home and with my family. But hey, it’s a handy little mile-marker and if Mr. Brickie goes back to work early enough it’s entirely possible I could put such a dent in the three cards left to pay off that I could actually call myself Financially Fit by Forty. I would like to, but only because I adore alliteration. The best part? If I miss my birthday and we get Financially Fit by August I can just change it to Financially fit AT Forty and still have all the alliteration I could want in the world.

I guess what I’m trying to say is I think we did it.

It is actually possible that we could be in a position to take a family vacation next February.

If nothing else, we are in a position where dreaming about taking a vacation doesn’t feel fake and pathetic.

Sometimes I still don’t believe it. How close we are to being normal people instead of food pantry people. A family that can go out to lunch once in a while and it’s not going to keep us from sleeping tonight because we are afraid it was a life-sinking bad idea.

Maybe….just maybe….I can get a new cell phone this Black Friday. My iPhone 4s (from back when I had the AT&T subsidy and a job that allowed me to afford an iPhone) is acting sketchy as hell. But since I’m with Net10 (prepaid, awesome) I have to bring a paid-in-full phone to the table. Last year they had an iPhone 5c half price for Black Friday.

I kind of want a Windows phone but hey, I’ll probably take what I can get as long as it has updated specs and a decent camera.

See? I can actually dream about saving for big purchases in the future and it doesn’t sound like a total pipe dream!!

That feeling of surprise that it’s me thinking such positive thoughts just does not get old.
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Breathing In A Paper Bag

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I’m trying so hard not to hyperventilate.

Tomorrow is payday and it’s going to be a 21 hour check. If I was going to judge prior decisions I would say my decision to build an emergency fund is one I should have come up with a hell of a lot sooner.

Because I’m going to have flexible extra income tomorrow of about $20.

Even though there have been crazy, sky-opening torrential downpours the last two days, somehow Mr. Brickie has managed to get a full day in yesterday and today. Hopefully the trend keeps up, because the check after this one needs to pay utility bills and minimum credit card payments.

The threat of Christmas is starting to loom.

I’m having a bit of a fear-based week. As much as I want to be optimistic, as much as I want to have hope that from now until Christmas Mr. Brickie will work full time and we will be able to keep up with bills and save money and pay off all the credit cards, well, I’m just having  a week where that’s a little too much effort to keep up with.

But in times of crisis I try to look on the bright side no matter how dim it might be.

My numbers might be wrong.

I used an online calculator to project what tomorrow’s paycheck will be. Maybe I guessed low!

Maybe since I was sick over the weekend and am still feeling the trailing effects, I have somehow made a grave error and my math is wrong, leaving us with more money to spare and start our emergency fund with!

Positive solutions for other money issues.

The birthday cake Little Sister wants would cost over a hundred dollars if I get it done professionally, so I’m going to buy some colored fondant and squeeze tubes of colored buttercream and make her dream cake myself. I’m not sure exactly how but it’s a cat face on top of a round cake so I’m just going to figure it the heck out.

I’m exhausted and I need to go back to exercising in the morning. When I do, I don’t feel this pit of exhaustion in the core of my soul. I wish I didn’t forget that’s the solution so often.

Part of me wants to be proud of how we have come and how stable our situation is considering how bad it could be by now. Most of me just wants to hide in my bed, deep under the comforter for about two years until we are in twice the financial position we are today.

See you for the regular budget update tomorrow.

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

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We ended last month and started this month worried.

Very worried.

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

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

Let’s Google It!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Fast Things Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of the Secret Benefits to Planning with Money

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

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

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

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

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

No Offense

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

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

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

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

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