Tag Archives: Unemployment

Plan: Balance Transfer That Debt and Get Through Winter

First, I want to congratulate Mr. Brickie on becoming an 80% apprentice! He had to take a test that consisted of building a wall and he failed it twice (once he was sick and once he was overconfident) but the third time was truly the charm! That’s the last test he will have to take before becoming a journeyman. Now it’s just a matter of working the hours and taking the training classes. (If all that is gibberish you can see more about how his bricklayer apprenticeship works at this link.)

So it’s great he got a raise and is now making a serious hourly rate that makes me blush to say out loud. Still, though, regardless of hourly rate a bricklayer has to work to get paid and now is the time of year where I try really hard not to whine about winter and the totally predictable lack of work Mr. Brickie is experiencing.

But wait! It’s different this year!

How, you may ask?

He’s working just enough that we don’t get unemployment.

Now, this is great on one hand because our tax return is hit hard when we use unemployment benefits (even though we have taxes taken out of his unemployment check it seems that 10% fed and 3.25% state isn’t enough) so getting through with a $200(ish) check every week is super unfun but I’m trying to think of how great it will be at the end of the beginning of 2018 when I file taxes and don’t have to put in unemployment benefits.

Does it sound like I’m grasping a little for a silver lining? I am, a little. Winter is always tough because we want to save and we want to have a savings account for this time of year. We do. January is when I sit down and make a plan for the year. As you know I’m a firm believer in spending the tax return before we ever see it so there is no temptation to spend that big check on something fun when we have responsibilities that need to be taken care of like rent and several small but annoying medical bills that have popped up on Mr. Brickie’s credit report.

This year’s big success is that we used ZERO credit cards for Christmas. I’ve been trying to achieve this goal for a couple years and this year we did it. Hooray!

This means every extra penny we make this year goes toward those darn credit cards. It’s time to pay them all off and get right with the balance sheet. If you like my page on Facebook you may have seen me talk about shifting 11k in debt from the Discover card to three other cards to take advantage of 0% offers and buy time to pay them off interest-free.

So, without further ado, here is the list of my credit card balances as of right now (balances include 3% transfer fees):

  • Chase Freedom $33.35 (This is the 5% gas rewards card. I pay it off weekly with the gas budget money.)
  • Costco Visa $2,220.16 (0% until Sep 2017 – This is the first one to be paid off.)
  • Citi Diamond $3,620.64 (0% until Dec 2017 – this card was only used for dental work.)
  • Chase Amazon $2,395.70 (This is one of the Discover xfer cards 0% until Feb 2018)
  • My Quicksilver $4,999.62 (Discover xfer 0% until June 2018)
  • Mr. B Quicksilver $3,999.49 (Discover xfer 0% until June 2018)

Don’t cringe. Don’t be sad. Don’t get mad. I didn’t use the cards to take vacations or buy drugs. We have a frugal lifestyle and I truly think I can get rid of this debt by – at the very latest – February of 2018.

I’ve even talked to the kids about it and they’re on board with a razor thin lifestyle to pay the cards off, too. They know the more we sacrifice now the better things will be in two years. Last time I asked them to tough it out for two years we moved and they are so much happier here, so this time it was easier for them to trust me.

I don’t want to let them down. I don’t want to let us down. I wish I could feel more secure in when things will be paid off but it’s almost impossible to do a proper financial forecast. The winter weather makes the paycheck lower and although he will start working full time again once the weather is getting nice he could get another promotion as early as June but maybe later, so there is no way to reliably have an idea when milestones will be hit in terms of paying down debt.

Last fall I was toying with the idea of sending the older two girls to fancy summer camps this year that teach things like electrical engineering and mobile app development. We’ve tabled that idea and they’re only going to go to the local nature camp. I refuse to increase our standard of living to match his paycheck or we’ll never get ahead.

Sometimes I think about how much farther along we would be if Mr. Brickie hadn’t broken his wrist. I’m sure he does, too. Five months out of work…who would have guessed that was in the cards? But the thought quickly passes because I felt about his injury the same way I feel about winter. Yes, it’s tough, and yes, it’s mentally exhausting but I love spending time with him.

What’s that people say about time or money? You have to spend one or the other? In our case it’s either we have time together or we have money and both are important to our long-term survival/success as a couple and as a family.

The Worst Week of the Year 2016

I realize it’s January and calling it the worst week of the year sounds an overreaction because it’s only the fourth full week of the year. I want you to know I know I’m overreacting just a smidge.

On top of this being the worst week of the year because I’m waiting on Taxmas to come down the chimney of my bank and put presents under my account number, yesterday Mr. Brickie’s unemployment was only half of what we expected it to be.

So barely making it turned into I don’t think I can pay the gas/electric bill just yet. It’s not due until the 5th and Mr. Brickie is on a side job right now and if he gets paid on Friday (pretty standard) it will clear well before the due date and I will pay it with time to spare. Even though a side job will kill one unemployment check from next month we would both rather have him work for that money.

This is the time of the year also where he’s been home long enough we start driving each other a little bonkers.

I love him with all my heart but he needs to go away and let me miss him for eight hours a day and have a minute to myself and my thoughts. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and no I do not want to watch wrestling what on earth would make you think that? I did dishes last time while you were clipping your toenails and can you do that in the bathroom next time and I don’t know if I defrosted any meat for dinner if I didn’t I’ll make something vegetarian because you won’t die if you don’t have a bit of meat with dinner once in a blue moon and if you keep complaining I’ll put soy in it and trap you in the bathroom for the next two days so I don’t have to stare at you staring at your phone checking Facebook. He may be my best friend but he’s my best friend I was starting to think about trapping in an attic.

On the very, very bright side my ears don’t hurt right now! I think the ear infection that would not go away is finally on the way out! I mean sure my throat is killing me but my ears aren’t so at least it’s a different kind of pain and honestly I’ll take throat pain over ear pain because ear pain is piercing, ringing madness-inducing awfulness and a sore throat is….a sore throat. I’m also pretty sure the throat pain is a post-nasal drip thing but I’m not talking about that anymore because I’ll start to gag because just the thought of that is gross. Sorry if me being grossed out grosses you out. It’s a horrible cycle. If you are grossed out you can cure it by grossing someone else out. Pass it on. It’s like when you pay it forward but in a much more negative way.

Between money and health it’s rough but I promise you I’m feeling quite optimistic. Maybe it’s because I’m naturally back-assward like that. Maybe it’s because I managed to get a really negative, unpredictable person out of my life for good *shimmy shimmy dance* or maybe it’s just knowing I’m THIS CLOSE to paying off my car.

I’m on a Facebook group (I Got My Refund) where people track their refunds and tell people where they filed and when they filed so everyone else can get a sense of how things are flowing this year. Some people filed as early as the 11th of the month. (Before tax season even officially opened on the 19th!) They were trying to get into the “test batch” of refunds that go out first. A risky proposition but I think a lot of people do what we have done almost every year before this one. You pay Christmas with taxes and try to right the ship when that big check comes.

I’ve seen some people troll the page for attacking people for getting free money for not working through EIC (Earned Income Credit) … we all know that you can’t get EIC if you don’t work, right? Like, you have to work. By the time we don’t qualify for EIC anymore I’ll be happy to pay taxes because I’ll be able to afford to pay taxes.

Mr. Brickie’s union meeting went well and he talked to people and the guys in the know say that with the weather it’s going to be an early-start season this year. Hopefully late February – early March he will be back to work. Now he’s a 70% apprentice and that’s enough to live on and pay bills with and afford food without SNAP so I’m excited for this year to happen and start in with the goal of being completely debt free (other than student loans) and have a Christmas account for next year.

I know the Christmas goal is one I have every year, but one of these years I’m going to do it. I get closer every year so I have faith if I just keep shooting for the stars, eventually I’m going to get one.

I hope your January has been healthy and safe. I look forward to all of us having a good year this year.

UPDATE: The reason the unemployment check was cut in half. You ready? We were paid for one week this time because our paid-through date was 1/16 and that’s when the year flipped to the new year and the need for a new, unpaid, waiting week renewed which was the week ending 2/23 . So instead of reporting in two weeks like I normally would I report again next Monday (the one in four days) get paid on Wednesday for one week again and then two weeks after that file like normal and get a two week unemployment deposit.

Gosh, don’t I feel silly for not knowing that off the top of my head. I’m kidding. How would anyone know that? Maybe there’s a letter in the mail I haven’t received yet.

 

Working | Expenses | Winter | Where’s My Brain At?

Last Wednesday we got Mr. Brickie’s unemployment check for $752 and we spent $496 on our car payment and left $256 in the bank.

I had that Scentsy party and sold a whole bunch. Since it was my launch party, I got the hostess stuff from the party, which included 3 half-price items. I wanted to put $130 in savings toward the rent but spent it on Scentsy. Okay, I didn’t spend it all on Scentsy. The three half-price items were about $50 and I spent about $50 on chips, dip, and drinks for my friends who came over. So it’s deductible, but I still spent it on Scentsy-related stuff.

I’m really (amazingly, bafflingly, overwhelmingly) conflicted spending money on stuff when I’m still poor. It’s not a regular expense, though, and Mr. Brickie was really supportive and the conflicted feeling, I think, will keep me from going overboard.

My Illinois tax return status changed yesterday, too, and it says they’re processing my return. I can top-off my savings account once it comes in. We had to use part of it to register and get plates for the vehicles in our new state because we didn’t want to get a ticket and then we had to use part of it because the car battery died and we had to buy a new one.

It was probably not a wise choice to pay off the bills from the old house. I should have let those sit until we were in a more secure position but I got cocky and felt $1000 would take care of us, but then *poof* there goes almost $500 on license plates and a new car battery. Thank goodness for the emergency fund.

At Mr. Brickie’s union meeting Tuesday night they talked about the Jobs Report and the sheer number of jobs that are waiting for the weather to break to get started. He keeps checking in with the company he last worked for to make sure they know he’s available. It never hurts to remind people you’re around!

In the meantime, Mr. Brickie is doing little side jobs painting and I’m keeping track of those payments for next year’s taxes. Between tracking the side jobs and now tracking the Scentsy stuff (stamps, notecards, other expenses) I have more spreadsheets than ever dedicated to not screwing up my taxes!

The move from Mr. Brickie being here 24/7 to being back out of the house is always an interesting transition. Maybe it makes me a crappy wife, but I really ENJOY having the chance to miss him a little while he’s gone. I have a chance to be home, hang out with my youngest, listen to the radio, and write.

Even though he’s been home so much we have bickered so much less than we did last year. We are finally at the point where we are becoming more secure and that lack of panic means less lashing out. Less lashing out is a cycle we are both really pleased with. I mean, we didn’t fight all the time or anything but I’m a nagger and he’s a forgetter and we’ve both worked for 12 years to be where we are now and it’s a good path heading in a calmer direction that we both enjoy an awful lot.

I know this update is disjointed but my mind is kind of all over the place today. I’m trying to get my money ducks in a row and the direct sales thing has me thrown for a loop because I am so worried it’s going to turn into a money pit and I absolutely refuse to let that happen. Oh! I actually set myself up to miss the first possible “award” from the company because the “award” was being “allowed” to buy a $200 enhancement kit. I didn’t want to even have the choice because it didn’t seem like a good deal. So when I realized I couldn’t get it because the date had passed I wondered in passing if I could call and convince them to let me buy it. I looked up YouTube videos on what was in it. I worried about it.

Then I reminded myself that I made a decision from a position of mental clarity and strength because I knew I’d panic and worry I was “missing out” on something. I took a few deep breaths and thanked myself for taking care of me. (Everyone talks to themselves like that, right? It’s normal. I swear. I think…)

I just feel like in the last few weeks everything has kind of become loose. I like to keep my finances and my financial plan very, very tight and locked down so when it feels like any part of it is floating rather than being chained to the floor, I start to worry. It’s not out of control and there is still savings but things are not as clear as I would like right now.

So, basically, guess what I’m doing today? That’s right. Go over everything and make sure it’s exactly how it should be at this time and making sure I have a good handle on where the money is going and where it needs to go and how it’s going to get there.

I’ll share it in my next update, because of course I’m going to do it on a spreadsheet.

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That Rollercoaster Feeling

When you check the bank first thing Wednesday morning to check and make sure unemployment was direct deposited.

It wasn’t.

Cue my stomach falling to the center of the earth.

As panic rises, I log into the online system and see that – according to unemployment – the desposit is complete and went to the correct bank account.

Not entirely trusting myself, I check the bank account again both on my computer and on my phone. Just in case.

It’s still not there.

I realize there is nothing I can do until tomorrow because it could still go in at any time today and calling a representative from the bank will yield standard timeframes because I don’t think any bank’s customer service is trained to say, “Government payments go through at 9:15am, ma’am.” Even though that would be bliss.

Yes, we have an emergency fund. It’s why I’m able to form words in my brain and send them through my fingers to the keyboard. It’s the only balm that is keeping me from a full on panic because if you have the right mindset for your emergency fund you still feel like you have $42 in your checking account and a long way to go until spring.

On a personal and petty note, I was really looking forward to doing a “How We Spent It” post today.

I will update this post when unemployment goes through. I hate being left hanging, too.

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Selling Your Life and Unemployment Stuff

book-collage

One of the things we have been doing around here in order to:

A. Not be hoarders.
B. Make the house easier to clean.
C. Make moving easier if we need to do that eventually.

…..is cleaning and throwing away and decluttering.

Of course, we are trying to make money at every possible point in this process.

Yesterday, Randy took a bunch of books to Half Price Books nearby and for some DVDs and a whole lot of books he got $125. Then he took our old CDs (get it, because we have it all on the cloud and on a backup drive in the hosue) and got another $30 from Disc-Go-Round. Certainly not the biggest score of our lives, but a hell of a lot more money than, “Let’s throw it in the trash.” for sure.

 

It was nice to add another $155 to the “Cash we might need one of these days” envelope we keep hidden deep in the bowels of the basement of the house. (You know we live in a ranch house that’s built on a cement slab, right?)

Especially since you know our run of great money luck had to end here any minute.

I was all excited yesterday, dancing around and singing, “We’s gonna pay our car payment early.” I kid you not, it was literal dancing and literal singing and I was in heaven.

This morning? The unemployment payment didn’t go through.

I check the information on the unemployment website (yea, technology!) and everything is correct. I call my bank and they cheerfully, lovingly tell me that there are no deposits on hold and no deposits have been rejected. I took a break from being freaked out about the payment to really enjoy the level of customer service I get from ING Direct Capital One 360 and how the promise that service would not decline has actually held true.

Then I go back to freaking out because the website says he was paid but no bank has the money.

The only thing to do is wait until tomorrow and hope it was just delayed a day because unemployment reliability. I was going to pay the car payment with that money! Okay, two weeks of his unemployment pays half the car payment, but I have the other half here, in cash, ready.

No one really has security if you think about it. Sure it might seem silly of me to rely on government payments in a state that’s pretty much bankrupt in a country that can’t decide on anything except how much money it’s running out of. I know a secret, though. It’s not any better anywhere else. I used to run accounts payable for an boutique advertising agency in Chicago. She would use angel investors and then transfer the money into the payroll accounts so the employees would get paychecks.

No one is truly secure. Down here at the bottom end of the spectrum, those mistakes can just mean a little more. They cut a little more deeply.

The worst part – for me – is that from where I stand there is still a long way to fall. I could pay my car payment today but I don’t because I require a little bit of “just in case” money to be in the checking account at all times for emergencies. For many families on unemployment not paying the car payment wouldn’t be a choice based on fear/comfort/risk levels … it would just be entirely impossible.

Making the smart choice in these situations requires so much planning and thought. That people with money think that anyone is capable of such mental gymnastics is just living in a fantasy world.

Another Two-Question Day!

1. What was the last bill you had to skip paying?
2. What did you do to catch up?

Budget Update (Feb 2014)

February-2014-Budget

You can probably tell I plan on making this a regular feature. Hopefully I can keep it interesting and fun. Goodness knows I could talk about budgeting forever but I know not everyone is as excited as squishing pennies to death as I am. You are always welcome to let me know if there’s something you’d like to know about my interesting financial situation. (Facebook, twitter…let me know!)

Also, I figure if it’s not fun at least it’s suspenseful, so that’s something anyway.

Our expenses don’t change dramatically, so this may turn out to be a quarterly update. I don’t even know. Also, I wanted to make the budget before I got the Tax Refund because then I get to feel extra-good about myself the next time I put one together. One of the best ways I know to keep yourself excited about finances and budgeting is to set yourself up to win. I would rather do two budgets and feel amazing about the second one than do just one budget and feel okay about doing it.

So, let’s get our not-so-awesome on, shall we?

feb-2014-budget-spreadsheet

This doesn’t include the Xbox Live Gold membership we get once a year. I could not buy it if I really had to skip it, but we use the Xbox for a great deal of our entertainment and I would be hella sad without it. I can usually find a 12 month card on sale somewhere for $39.99 during the year and then I add it on to the current year.

Also, for you math majors out there you can see that what I have right now is officially not enough. We are brainstorming a solution for that. I actually made more than that writing last month and it’s only the first week of this month, but the writing is sporadic and not something I can count on so I thought it would be best to put a lower number there. One I’m sure is attainable rather than the potential income which could honestly be in the thousands if I apply myself and luck is on my side and I can click “accept” faster than the other writers.

I’m also mulling over a potential side-hustle that has nothing to do with writing and plays more to my love of software. I don’t want to say too much and jinx it because the more I talk about something the less likely I am to do it, but I have a few sketches and ideas written out and I’m just the littlest bit excited about it.

Like I said before, don’t worry, once we are through this winter those expenses are going to stay firm except for adding in gas and tolls. Of course, if Mr. Brickie’s next job is where he’s been told it is the gas will be minimal and there will be no tolls, which means we will be able to save money hand over fist.

We all know that more income without increased expenses is a great place to be. I hope to be there sooner rather than later, but really, as long as I get there at all I will be a very happy woman.

I’m excited to look at the budget next month.