Tag: saving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nosedive, Life Change, Worrying Less

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

We thought he would be working until the snow started.

We were wrong.

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

I’m super mature.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll update you as the situation unfolds.

How We Spent It | July 17, 2015

how-we-spent-it

Are these posts becoming boring?

I feel like they are starting to drag since it’s the same thing over and over. We are becoming boring. (Which I’m THRILLED with, personally.)

July 17st $650.92
Groceries $150.00
Gas $80.00
Rent $140.00 Deposited into Rent Savings Account
Gas/Electric $184.00
Restaurant $35.00
Sitter $50.00
Leftover: $11.92  Put into Back to School Fund

So that’s that for the 3rd week (out of five) of July. I’m putting the extra toward Back to School because I need to fully fund that next week. We want to be prepared in advance and use cash – not credit – to take care of those back to school expenses! (Our goal is to put aside $350.)

The restaurant category in the budget includes take out, of course, but it also includes things like soda if Mr. Brickie wants to stop at 7-11 on the way home. The sitter is something that came up recently (we pay our sitter well) and is something we want to keep as a regular budget item filled with enough for a night out just in case!

We are still floundering a bit as we find our footing on everything that needs to be funded. One off expenses here, there, and everywhere seem to keep creeping up and reminding us that we forgot something or another. It’s really overwhelming.

Don’t even get me started on Christmas. We are determined beyond belief not to use credit cards for the holidays. Seriously. Determined. If we pay cash for Christmas we might be able to eradicate all our non-student-loan debt with next year’s tax return. That would put us in an amazing position. Amazing. We could make such progress!

Progress like…

  • Saving for our next car.
  • Fully funding our 3-6 month emergency fund.

I’m sure there are other things like fully funding the Rainy Day Car category or one of the million other savings categories in the budget program. Those up there, though, are the two main goals once we aren’t in a bunch of consumer debt.

It’s this back and forth between where we are at right now and the future. The future projections change so fast it feels like whiplash. This is the first week money I budgeted has some sitting leftover in the category and I put the new week’s money in and I’m wondering if I should leave the money alone and just have a surplus sitting there or move the surplus somewhere else.

I think I’ll leave the grocery surplus (it was only $21 from last week) until the end of the month, and the fuel surplus maybe I’ll move over to the car repairs rainy day fund.

Or I could leave all surplus money where it’s at until the end of the month and then use all of it to pay down credit card debt.

I think I’m being guided by my need for new windshield wiper blades on my car, which is probably not the best way to make long-term financial decisions.

Mr. Brickie is working Saturday as a make-up day for the Monday he got rained out (they call it a make-up day because he won’t get overtime since it’s a replacement for a day they couldn’t work due to weather) and he also let me know overtime is starting soon. So, really, who knows what next month is going to look like in terms of the budget. As much as I want to pay down credit card debt I think it’s best to let it stay stagnant while I fund Christmas as soon as possible. Or maybe not. I hate interest charges.

I don’t know.

I should also pay off the car as soon as possible to free up that huge car payment that will help me pay down debt faster.

I don’t know.

All these paths lead to the same place so, I guess, it doesn’t matter if I don’t know as long as we keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep paying everything down/off. Nothing will make more than a few months’ difference in any direction, will it?

Actually budgeting for a sitter is some kind of milestone, I’m sure of it. Planning in advance? I am beside myself with glee. It makes me feel like I’m being a real grownup in the best possible way. It’s a little embarrassing to complain of debt that needs to be paid off while putting money aside for eating out but it is going to happen and I best budget for what’s actually going to happen instead of hoping for the best and then Mr. Brickie is hot and tired and he just wants to pick something up on the way home for the family and what am I going to say? No?

I could say no, sure, but no way man. I’m about balance. I’ve had my nose to the damn grindstone for so long I barely have a nose OR a grindstone left. If I don’t build some chinese food into the budget now and then the whole family is going to rise up and then there will be anarchy.

You can deny yourself and your children nice things for years. As the queen of hand-me-downs and staycations I can attest to this. Kids can grow up happy without designer labels or flashy vacations. Sure they can. But if they want egg rolls every once in a while? If they want a new game to play? You can only say no so many times. You have to build some flexibility in the budget no matter how much you want to be debt-free because if you have a plan – like ours – that takes time (with apprentice promotions, etc.) in addition to focus and hard work you have to pace yourself.

The future is the goal, yes, but today is also for living. The balance of today and tomorrow is the tightrope I walk. It is a path lined with egg rolls and regret.

Can you tell I’m hungry? How many times can I mention egg rolls in one post? I don’t even want egg rolls. Weird.

Salad Recipe

I’m adding a recipe because I’m hungry and this is what I’ve had for lunch every day for the last two weeks because it’s delicious.

  • One romaine lettuce heart chopped to hell and put in a small mixing bowl.
  • Half a cucumber chopped all to hell
  • Two slices of turkey breast cut into squares.
  • 1 Tablespoon grated pecorino romano cheese (I keep the hand-held crank grater in the fridge in a ziplock baggie pre-filled with cheese chunks for convenience.)
  • A few shakes of pepper.
  • Dressing of your choice (I usually do italian but occasionally do ranch)

It’s REALLY good.

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Fighting For The Shore

slow-and-steady

Today I got to experience the unmitigated joy of filling out a direct deposit form.

It sounds sarcastic, right? Like who on earth enjoys paperwork? Yep, you guessed it, I do. Especially when it means I don’t have to worry about Mr. Brickie in all his, “I think I left my check in the glove compartment” glory.

The interesting thing about being a bricklayer is that he works with different companies. They all know the workers move around and the company he is with now is known for its extensive blacklist of people they refuse to rehire. It’s a feather in Mr. Brickie’s cap for sure that he is working with them again. It’s generally frowned upon once you are with one company to shift to another company unless there is a day with no work and then you’re a free agent all over again or you can wait for your current company to start again.

I feel this gives more job security than a normal one-employer scenario. If anyone is doing work there’s a chance for a bricklayer to be on the job. A lot of things go into that chance but Mr. Brickie has one thing that very few other people do … the ability to network like a madman. He’s really good at it.

His employer for the vast majority of last season didn’t do direct deposit. We had just switched over to Capital One 360 so this posed a bit of a problem.

Online Bank
+ No Direct Deposit
= Mobile Deposits

While I have never been so thankful for technology in my life, it still takes longer for the check to clear than if it was direct deposited. Plus there was the occasional, “Where did I put that check” delay that comes from having a slightly forgetful husband. No matter what, though, I have to say if it wasn’t for mobile deposit I would probably be one of those people rocking my check at the Currency Exhange rather than deal with one of the big banks around here. Capital One might be a huge company but they’re keeping the ING Direct vibe at the online 360 location and the customer service is easy to access and super nice, so….I stay with them.

Today was also wonderful because I was able to open the Google Drive spreadsheet an add 8 more hours of work to the apprentice tracking I have been doing since the first day he began work last year. Meticulous records seemed like a good idea since promotions are based on a combination of hours worked, training sessions attended, and union meetings attended. (Although we have seen promotions occur without the union meeting requirement so I guess that one is more of a suggestion.) As of today I can – with one click – tell you that he has to work 13 more days to get to that next level. (If he works every possible day that will be 7/17 at the very earliest due to weekends and the 4th of July being an official holiday.)

I cannot even tell you how excited I am. Honestly, I don’t think there are words for it.

We are finally back in the game and he’s got work and a company and possible overtime in the future and I’m just tickled pink to be able to save like you wouldn’t believe.

Even though there are things I absolutely have to deal with very soon like the car insurance we pay in full every six months, the insurance bill we may receive in August, saving for the lean times next winter, and saving up for Christmas as soon as possible so I don’t have to use credit cards like I did last year…we are going to be in a stronger position by the end of this year than we were last year. If we can continue this trend every year it will be a very, very nice life.

We are the tortoise, for sure.

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Waiting, Fantasies, and Poor Christmas (part 2)

mickey-alarm-clockWe start with some great news today.

One of Mr. Brickie’s SEM side-clients – who was almost 90 days behind in payments – sent in a partial payment this week, so that gave us a little breathing room. 11% of the current amount due isn’t anything great, but I’ll take whatever I can get with thankfulness right about now. Plus, the act of the client making a payment at all shows that the client is still active and makes the odds of receiving the other 89% a real possibility come January/February.

In the meantime we’re going to start posting more things on Criaigslist. It’s time to sell everything non-essential. Not just for the extra money – although that will be great – but having less stuff around us will make us feel less stressed. Okay, maybe it won’t make anyone else in my family feel less stressed, but it will make me feel better.

My new motto is, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” – William Morris

In other Mr. Brickie news we are in a tumultuous time with the weather. He was not able to work on Monday but was able to work today even though he did not expect to. He is also probably going to work Friday and Saturday this week. The rumors of another job during the winter are still floating around but have not been confirmed. If he can just keep working, he will get this first bump in apprentice level (from 40% to 50% apprentice) in the beginning of January (sorry if I’ve mentioned it a hundred times, it’s a mantra I repeat to myself often) when that happens he will get his first raise. That raise will be about $4/hr. If he worked full time and didn’t have unpaid rain days that would be an extra $8300 a year.

That is serious cheddar.

My original calculations will have us solvent with all bills and enough for gas and tolls and groceries at the 60% level. So it will be at least six months from January when we hit that level and get another raise of about the same level. (The reason it’s not exact is that the percentage is based of the journeyman rate and that changes year-to-year.)

While my husband only gets paid for the time he works, every hour goes into the health insurance bank, two pension funds, and an annuity fund. We might be poor, but it’s a straight shot of warmth to the heart when you hear the optometrist’s office manager exclaiming to a coworker, “This is the best insurance I have ever seen.” I get why people love their white collar jobs and paid holidays, but that just isn’t where my joy lies. I love skilled labor and think being able to make something is breathtaking. It’s so real and tangible.

I respect academia and do not begrudge people their choice to go to a college or university. I do, however, think people have really lost their perspective on skilled trades, considering “blue collar” work somehow “less than” white collar. I did too. I was very skeptical about unions and bricklayers and the whole nine yards when Mr. Brickie started his training, but at this point I’m so completely sold. I would be just as proud of my daughters if they learned a trade instead of going to college. Sure, both is fine, too. It’s a world where everything is possible. But if they were forced to choose, the only advice I would have is, “Pick the one you think you’ll love in five years. One that grows with you. One that makes you feel special in your heart.”

I can see it from both sides. I see how happy my husband is. I feel the difference in how he snuggles me at night and the confidence that comes home with him from work and turns into a side hug and quick kiss in the middle of the supermarket.

He was never this happy when his main job was search engine marketing. Never. As a side-job he loves it, but as his main source of income he absolutely detested the whole thing. Mostly because people make no sense a lot. Or so I think.

I have to say, the changes in his personality from going blue collar make me certain I could be poor and happy with him forever. Luckily, I don’t have to make that choice. He is doing great at work and will probably be with this company until he is a journeyman and who knows, possibly forever. There are several coworkers of his who have been there their entire career and one son who is second generation with the company. The reputation of the company he is with is that they’re always working on something, so he will be able to semi-rely on regular hours.

Plus my other mantra: The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a 40% increase in jobs from 2010-2020. The industry is going to grow and, pretty soon, it’s going to grow fast.

He talked to a coworker of his during a break who said he usually saves about $3k to get through winter. He didn’t always need the money but that was his slush fund. The nods from the others confirmed that was pretty much the rule among the guys.

So we even have our minimum savings goal for next winter.

It will be nice to see snow and be excited he’ll be able to spend a surprise day at home with the family.

In addition to minimum savings achievements and surprise snow days, I have lots of family fantasies of how things will be once we are in a financially stable position. Gymnastics lessons and art lessons and vacations and retirement accounts and museum trips are what I dream of on the good nights. Things we were able to do and put a hefty amount away in savings back when I was working full-time(ish) in marketing. He’s going to make more than I did. We already know how to save because we did it last time we made more money than we were used to.

We may be poor, but we are poised for success.

It’s taken almost eleven years of learning about each other, our priorities, our bad money habits…but we did the work and are happier now than we have ever been. We have a long-term plan, we have purpose, and we have the discipline to go the distance.

As long as we can make it through the waiting part. Which, I have to admit, is much more difficult than I could have ever imagined.

Update on poor Christmas

I only have two people left to buy for. The girls are taken care of for Christmas as well as for their January birthdays. I just wanted to be done with it. Now I am.

This involved credit card debt (yes, I’m a big ol’ hypocrite) and I seriously don’t even care. I got better deals on what I bought than I’m seeing listed for Black Friday pricing and each kid got five-ish things. Nothing is over the top, and most presents were purchased for under ten dollars on Amazon.com … I did get one the Nerf Rebelle Heartbreaker Bow for $15 and change, but I already have one in my closet from a PR campaign the girls have never seen. Everyone gets some Nerf for Christmas. They’re going to be thrilled with everything, I’m sure, and while I will have to pay some interest on the purchases, it’s something I talked to Mr. Brickie about and we decided it would be better to just be done with the whole thing and pay a little for the convenience.

We paid out most of our tax return last year to pay off debt, so, again, we know we’re not going to say, “We’ll take care of it with our tax return” and decide to go to Maui instead and hang the credit debt. It’s nice being a person I know I can rely on to do the responsible thing.

It might just be for today, but right now, I’m feeling hopeful for the future of my family.

I scored today’s quote from a post I read about a person moving into a 200 square foot cottage. You can find that article, which is pretty interesting, right over here.