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Moving Smarter in the Money World

March 21st, 2018 at 09:04 am

I found a bonus offer for a checking acount that requires NO direct deposit of other funds to be bonus eligible. It's thru 5/3 and will pay $200 after a $500 balance is maintaind for 60 days. I can do that. I am doing the bare minimum since I already put some of the EF in a share certificate with a Christian credit union and given the uncertainty of our situation (though unemployment is certain and date certified).

I am also allotting $15 the week of the 19th and the 26th to begin for the April grocery challenge. There are some pretty good prices this week: 4# of sugar ($.97), canned beans ($.50), cake mix ($.80), and canned pineapple ($.80).

I'm also using a gift card to a more upscale grocery store for my ham. Spiral cut is $1.37/#. I got the gift card for transferring an Rx to their pharmacy. Not sure how many will be coming to Easter Brunch this year, so depending on what I have left over, I may go with a bottle of wine or Fannie May mint meltaways as a splurge.

I appreciate all of the suggestions for meal ideas for April. I've compiled an excel spreadsheet and have decided to keep it fun. I'm looking forward to trying some of these recipes. I think a good attitude will be key to the success of this experiment.

Spring Break is next week and since we don't want to break the bank, I'm coming up with some ideas. I have saved some money and have looked on Groupon. I think it might be fun to do a family outing to an escape room. There is one for 6 people for $58. That is what it would cost to bowl or roller skate. We also go to the Garfield Park Conservatory (a wonderful place under the Chicago Park District, and it is free!) and color eggs and go to the Easter Vigil. We also go to the Morton Arboretum with my parents and they take us out for lunch.

I've also started a list of movies for a Family Movie Night. The first is Angels and Demons (my older son really liked the Davinci Code - watched it with him on Monday when he was sick).

So here is what is happening at Easter Brunch:

Sprial cut ham; cornbread casserole; green bean casserole; crockpot mashed potatoes; jello salad. Dessert: Cake Pops and maybe Fannie May meltaways

What's on your menu for your Spring celebrations? (maybe there are Passover celebraters here?)

What traditions do you have?

Aside from the trip to the flower house, coloring eggs, attending Easter Vigil, we also watch "Easter Parade". Sometimes "Brigadoon"

Grocery and Meal Plan Challenge for April

March 19th, 2018 at 10:36 am

The writing is on the wall and DH's official last day is 5/31 with his final check on 6/1. That being said, I need to cast some attention to the budget and spending. I will readily admit to being on money autopilot since I started back to school in January. We aren't over spending and I am tracking, but I am seeing that things can definitely be done smarter to conserve money if I just put forth the energy and plan and commit.

We had two trips to Sam's Club in the past month. One was for $270 (I used $100 of the tax return toward that) and the other was for $230 (I used $100 from DH's bonus for that too). We did stock up on toilet paper, feminine hygiene products x2, batteries, razors, dishwasher pods, and vitamins. Since our local Sam's closed, we did have to drive to suburbs north for the trips and we did fill up on gas while there.

My goal for April is $300 for all consumables. That's $10/day for a family of six. I'm planning on no processed food items and am on the fence about Gatorade since my boys are practicing daily for soccer/track/and volleyball.

I've been spending some time on websites reading about frugal meals and was wondering if anyone has any tried and true economical recipes that their families like?

Our cheapest eats lately have been: curried chickpeas and ground turkey with peppers. I've also made crockpot granola with success, and instead of Belvita bars for my daughter, we found a simple recipe for sweet potato pancakes that are very tasty and economical.

I've found a new recipe for quinoa broccoli bites. And am looking to expand my new recipes for this endeavor.

Thanks in advance!

Plan for April

March 15th, 2018 at 05:53 pm

DH's boss's last day is 4/30 with the final reduction in his current department is 5/31. The office will become a satellite office as the work has migrated to HQ, with a kick-back of some of the more complicated contracts for a final transition.

This means a finite number of paychecks. This thankfully coincides to a completion of my program and I would surmise that I should be able to find a job relatively easily or at least get a paid internship for the summer.

So the plan for April is to do a low-spend, uber frugal month challenge. There isn't much anticipated and it will be a month full of soccer, boys' volleyball and track. I won't need to outfit the boys with summer uniforms because they're set.

I'm going to see about borrowing the text books for the upcoming quarter. I'm using the library for books on tape and videos. I'm thinking that it can definitely be a practice run at economizing.

Definitely giving thoughts to how to contain costs while increasing savings.

Smarter in General

March 14th, 2018 at 03:27 pm

Thanks for all the feedback on where your sinking funds are parked. I also found a particularly helpful youtube vid about it at JennPlans. Thanks to Scottish Girl for recommending that. Since forever, I've been lumping all those things together into one EXTRANEOUS/MISCELLANY category (other categories in the budget are mortgage/utilities/consumables (food/household/personal care/pet)/gasoline. So that would be education/clothing/gifts/entertainment/etc. And that has been at around $300 a month.

I've tracked every red cent spent since 1/1/18 and feel that I have a fairly close estimate to what I have spent, yet I need to work some magic and come up with actual amounts for each intended sub-category.

Things that have helped with the money flow:

- I have two daughters who are at home now, and since the use of my car has increased, they contribute to gas and insurane payments. Since they both work (older nannies and models, younger nannies and dog sits), they pretty much cover all of their own expenses.

- Our medical expenses have been lower since we have a Flex Spend account set up and that should cover the next three months of expeses (so 1/2 year). We did not have that last year.

- We are still contributing 10% of DH's pay to 401K. I'd like to save more, but there is still uncertianty in our future.

- I took advantage of a CD (savings certificate) paying 4% (thanks FrugalTexan Laura for recommending the CU!)

- I'm parking the sinking funds into the Reserve Checking Account associated with the PNC Virtual Wallet.

- This is the first time that we aren't anxiously awaiting the check from DH's side job to cover some expense. It's rather nice to not feel the anxiety of Paycheck To Paycheck living. Best thing I ever did was apply the income tax refund to YNAB's income usage concept. I'm actually looking forward to April 1st when I will pay pretty much everything that isn't automated.

- I will declare April a Low-Spend month since I will be back in school (starting up last quarter on 3/26) and am taking one 4 hour course over two weekend seminars. I also plan on incorporating a simple but detailed meal plan for most of the month.

- We are eating healthier and it does cost more.

- I'm feeling desperate about lack of sleeping pill usage, but will ride it out. I've started training for a 5K in April and ran yesterday and today despite it being cold. I've learned that older daughter does not like to run in the cold. I'm hoping to take off another 6-8# this month. No sugar either.

- Today I made homemade granola in the crockpot. Nut-free since older daughter had her allergy testing done and lots of things came up. Frown

- Anyhow, just feeling smarter in general.

Where do you park your sinking funds?

March 12th, 2018 at 09:21 am

I never paid attention to these sorts of conversations before, because I was a financial mess and figured I'd never get to the pro-active point in money management since I was mired down by anxiety and reactivity.

Fast forward to current situation where we are much better and stable (despite uncertainties) and I have started a sinking fund for future car expenses. It's $25.50/month so that we can pay for three car registrations in February 2019.

So my question now is: Do you park your sinking funds in an additional external account that you make transfers to monthly?

Also, opinion on laddering CDs as a safety measure? This is something that my father did with my grandmother's funds years ago. Did Ima Saver do this too?

Any and all opinions appreciated.

Also what other categories do you plan for? All of our insurance premiums are monthly. I am thinking to add for gifts and maybe insurance deductibles in case of a car accident or incident.

Half Way Done

March 11th, 2018 at 03:04 pm

Today I uploaded the last of the papers which I needed to write for this past quarter. I've completed 8 graduate hours and am half way done with the certificate in Organizational Development and Change. I am confident that I will have a 4.0. I submitted a partial sample of my writing for this last paper and received positive feedback, so I am cautiously optimistic that this will be considered a success.

I have two weeks off and then will take the final two 4-hour courses, one Tuesday nights and the other in a two-weekend format. Upon completion I will at least have a current skills set that should make me marketable in the public sector.

On the money front, spending is within reason. I took $100 from DH's bonus and put it toward a shopping trip to Sam's Club. I stocked up on quite a few items and feel that everything purchased will be used. We're eating healthier, more fresh produce and less processed food. The athletes are eating more and everyone is back at home.

We are anticipating $115 from DH's side job with my biological father and for once we don't need those funds for necessary expenses. We'll put that in the savings. I am also expecting a $300 refund from an overpayment on my oldest daughter's Hawaii trip back in January. That will go to savings also.

I'm feeling a wave of relief not to have papers hanging over my head and have decided to continue a serious declutter of our house and I'm going to take up running again. It's been awhile and I really do miss the training that I did for a 5K a few years back. I'm a size 4 and may have to buy myself some new clothing items and lots are just getting ridiculously big. I actually fit into one of my daughter's sweaters (size Small) and it looked good and was comfortable.

I think the fog of winter depression is lifting, too, though this year I was really too busy to let it rule my life, though there were spurts of exhaustion and lack of motivation.

Here's to the turning of the corner.

Positive Changes

March 9th, 2018 at 01:55 pm

New beginnings with YNAB, and I'm seeing some progress (well, more like small steps) in a positive direction.

1) We transferred 10% of DH's bonus into savings. The balance is going for some car repairs and new doors at the rental property.

2) We established the first sinking fund and deposited $25.25. That's 1/12 of the cost to renew the license plates for three vehicles next February 2019.

3) The paycheck today is earmarked for the first half of April 2018.

4) I am very close to finishing up the third paper for this first quarter. I earned 2 A's so far, and got positive feedback on the draft I submitted for this paper, so I'm feeling that I will end with a 4.0. And I should add that these are real classes at an academic university; my previous academic run was in a seminary where everything was rather "fluff". I am proud of myself for making the decision and sticking with it. One more quarter and I will be done.

YNAB One Week In

March 6th, 2018 at 03:32 pm

I made the decision to use YNAB the way it was intended/recommended by living on last month's salary. I could never actually figure out a way to fund it since our existence is in all reality very paycheck-to-paycheck. I earmarked one month of living expenses from the tax refund to start it, and March's paychecks will be lived on in April.

It's interesting because I'm not "having to rob Peter to pay Paul." I paid an additional $18.50 on the mortgage to bring the balance owed to an even $218,475. All of the utilities for the month are paid. I used the FSA Debit Card to cover this month's medical/prescription costs.

DH's bonus is being deposited on Friday. With those funds we are installing a new front and back door at the rental property, having new garage door installed, and are attempting to reglaze the bathtub with the assistance of our handy man friend. I'm not sure the actual cost of those.

We are going to also to get two new tires and an alignment on our old '07 Dodge Caravan, this has been upgraded with an '07 Honda Odyssey from my parents. Also from this will be license plates renewal for the Dodge and my husband's Corvette. that will be $202.

I am almost officially done with my first half a professional certificate. I'm completing the final paper for the third class (I did receive two A's on two 2-hour graduate seminars). My motivation and enthusiasm are at a good level and I'm feeling proficient (it was a rough haul there with some of the weeks of being with nearing graduation MBA students and I'm a fledgeling).

So, hopefully the trajectory continues upwards in a positive direction!

Future Plans and Property Values

March 1st, 2018 at 08:55 am

We've started to plan again for a downsize from our primary residence to something smaller as well as selling the rental property. I know that the Z-estimates from Zillow aren't an exact science, but I'm using them for a quick snap shot.

Value of Rental Property: $250.000
Mortgage on Rental Property: $0.00
Value of Primary Residence: $460,000.00
Mortgage Balance for PR: -$218.000

Total Value: $492,000

The townhomes we are looking at are in the $240,000 range. I'm feeling slightly better about the overall picture of our fiscal health.

New Start

February 28th, 2018 at 12:24 pm

I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I have two more weeks of classes and then I am 1/2 done with the Organizational Development and Change Certificate. The paper writing is hefty, and my confidence and motivation ebb and flow, but with the light at the end of the tunnel for completion of 1/2, I'm propelling forward (maybe more like catapulting).
The feeling of drowning has passed, thankfully.

Suprisingly, DH is still hanging on - migration of the work is complete, but they still need some financial analysts for reports through March or June. He will be receiving a partial bonus on 3/9 since company only met 55% of target revenue. Better than nothing.

I've decided to utilize the tax return to full fund a month's living expenses to give YNAB an honest attempt the way it is intended. I've been fairly diligent on tracking expenses since 1/1 and feel that I can move forward with an accurate idea of how each category should be funded. I also look forward to implement sinking funds monthly.

My parents gifted us their '07 Honda Odyssey. They offered us the car with no warranty or $3,500 which would be the trade in. We currently have an '07 Dodge Caravan that is on its last legs, so this is an upgrade. It has all of the bells and whistles and has been lovingly maintained and its actually a huge upgrade to us. We do consider this a huge blessing and are hoping to make this one last for the next several years.

We have remained at 10% contribution for 401K, but I do need to be more future-oriented in putting other funds away. I am hoping to be able to do so upon becoming employed by target date of June.

I hope everyone is moving forward in 2018 and achieving their goals!

February I Review

February 15th, 2018 at 08:51 am

The areas that I am targeting for controlled spending are consumables (all grocery/household/pet item), gas, and extraneous (including everything else like clothing/entertainment/household items/books for school, etc).

In January we averaged (for Ist and IInd havles)
Consumables - $321
Extraneous - $192
Gas - $138

The total of extraneous for the month was $380, but that covered hot lunches for both sons, Zumba, textbooks, some witner clothing items, and $78 was from my trip to CA with my younger daughter).

In budgeting for Feb I, here are planned/actual:
Consumables - $225/$236
Extraneous - $110/$80
Gas - $135/$80

Observations: We are higher on consumables because we are doing a smoothie cleanse and I spent on protein powder and more produce, and we hosted a dinner party with eight additional people.

Extraneous: I didn't include my NYC spending money since I had been frittering away cash for that, but I did need to dip $35 into that, the rest was just odd amounts for books, socks, a movie admission, etc.

Gas: This is lower than average, mostly becasue I was gone 4/14 days in NYC, there is snow and we are driving less.

The amounts remain the same for Feb II, and I expect that we will fully utilize the amounts available.

I am plodding along with my classes. I am enjoying them and am excited by the prospect of employment on the flipside, the writing is, however, daunting. Just finished one 30+ page paper, moving on to second 20+ page paper.

NYC Spending Recap

February 12th, 2018 at 05:41 am

Our NYC trip was February 7-10th. Seems like we accomplished a lot in a short period of time; we saw Times Square, Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rockefeller Center, an LOL Comedy Show, my daughter had a photo shoot in Fulton Street Station (awesome images!) with a photographer she worked with in Chicago, I was able to hear my friend deliver the keynote speech at the Federal Bar Association's 5th Annual Fashion Law Conference, Chinatown, and the Museum of Modern Art.

What we spent:

Airfare from Chi to LaGuardia: $33 (used miles and had to pay $11/each in fees)
Accommodations at 109th and Broadway in Manhattan: $0 (thank goodness for family!)
Travel on the subway and bus: $50
Dining out: $190 (one major meal a day for four days)
Entertainment (museum admission/comedy show): $120
Miscellaneous (souvenirs, snacks, personal care items forgotten to pack): $84

Total for overall: $475ish.

Cash-flowed every last dime, banked every memory!


February 6th, 2018 at 09:03 am

I am half way through the ten week quarter and 25% done on my timeline for the organizational behavior and consulting certificate. I'm surprisingly on top of things for school and home. My enthusiasm and energy were keeping me going, but I'm feeling tired and lethargic and just moving toward the end line of this quarter.

I was in California last month and am going to NYC tomorrow for a few days with my daughters. Thank goodness for redeeming miles to fly for free and relatives with an apartment in Manhattan across from Central Park. We were told to bring good walking shoes and are taking a bus from LaGuardia to their place. Sounds like an urban adventure. I'd like to continue to keep on this trend of going places and seeing and doing things. All on a budget of course.

I tracked every red cent spent in January. It wasn't too bad, but could be better. The Miscellaneous category was high due to books (though I did download one on audible for free with a trial membership I cancelled), some needed winter clothing items for sons, and $80 while on vacation (souvenirs and gas for car rental). February is looking MUCH better, though we have everyone living at home now so grocery budget will probably reflect that by month's end.

I did the taxes. Our refunds amount to $6,250. That will be very helpful.

Onward to March.

Wow: Almost February. Update

January 29th, 2018 at 09:22 am

We participated in a modified UFMC. I did spend money on things: some winter clothes were needed as my boys hit growth spurts, I returned to school and that required textbooks. We are eating healthier, so the cost of food has gone up not by too much. I'm participating in weekly Zumba classes at the cost of $6/week (still cheaper than a gym membership).

Real school is different than Seminary school. I'm at a full-fledged university with classes being taught by leaders in the industry (I'm going into organizational design/behavior). I'm on top of the paper writing and there is a lot of reviews of literature. And the interesting thing about this is its the psychology side of business - and I already have the Masters in Psych. I am leading an organized existence and am surprisingly not feeling the same degree of SADD as in years' past.

We've also had some changes with the status of our college students; the one who went away came back as homesickness got the best of her. It is difficult to step back and let them make their own decisions -- but alas, I guess I'm challenged by the whole "roots and wings" paradox.

I still have no real concrete goals for the year, but we still have DH's paycheck coming in (slowed migration of his department's work down to FL is keeping him employed, though I really do think he is ready for the exit and is having to be accountable for decisions that he didn't make and sometimes there isn't the information provided on why decisions were made, so he's not exactly that happiest of campers.

But onward we go.

Moving Forward

January 12th, 2018 at 02:54 pm

Wow, hard to believe that January is going to be half over in only a few days. I made the decision to move forward on the certification in Organizational Behavior. 16 graduate hours of current and contemporary education will yield a marketable skill set. It's been a bit of a culture shock for me, after spending the past few years in a small seminary. But I'm back at a real university being taught by leaders in the industry. It is nice to feel that I am not floundering and wasting my time and money. After a frank analysis of the past few years, I am too liberal for the Catholics and too Catholic for the Protestants and I wonder if I really ever would have fit in anywhere, given the choices that I made.

We are spending far less than we use to. Just because there really isn't that much to spend. I will disclose that I am going off to Southern California for four days next week, a generous gift from my parents. R/T air and car rental for my daughter (who is also coming) and I is $500. And I am taking my daughters to NYC next month for a four-day visit. R/T air was covered by miles (but I did pay $33 fee) and we are staying for free with my cousin in Manhattan. Older daughter is doing agency visits in prep for NYFW 2018. I'm diligently saving my change and have frittered away several hundred dollars for New York. Do I feel bad at travelling given our situation? No, I don't. I'm not amassing debt to do it, and I've concluded that time with family is priceless.

I did find that I am spending more on fresh foods since I am moving away from processed foods. Homemade mac and cheese is about $4 versus the $1 box, but we are at least chemical-free. And we are going through produce a whole lot faster too. And chicken sausage has made its way onto the menu since breakfast items were lacking. Almost no more boxes of sugary crap cereal. But there is a definite increase in time and treasure.

Just checking in. Still here. Still watching the pennies. But moving forward. With purpose. Won't do anybody any good looking backward.

Advice for Selling Things

January 7th, 2018 at 08:30 am

OK, I'm clearing out and have things to sell, but am seriously wondering if it is worth it. I've had a lot of interest on one item and some on several smaller items. People don't show up, or show up and want to pay 50% less than asking, etc.

Any advice on using local selling FB groups or nextdoor.com.

And can you tell me about Swagbucks? At this point, I'm considering any and all ways to bring in extra funds.

Thanks in advance!

Word for 2018: Forward

January 5th, 2018 at 11:26 am

My word for 2018 is going to be "Forward" as in direction and momentum.

I'm guilty of stagnation and am just plain tired of feeling that I'm carrying heavy things. I can't even say that I want simple because my attachments, finances, life, and future is complicated.

Truth is that I perseverate, and stagnate, and remuninate. And all the awareness in the world isn't going to change that without action.

I will be able to finish up a graduate certificate in Organizational Behavior in 20 weeks (two ten-week quarters). I offically signed up for two classes and can add the second weekend-seminar for February. I have to move past the regrets that I spent time and money at a religious institution that qualified me to do nothing. A set of circumstances prevented me from petition for a grandfather clause under administration that changed, and in the scheme of things, my life was affected negatively far less than others that I know. And the reality is that I am too liberal some religious settings and not conservative enough for others. Bitter pill to swallow and lesson learned, but according to a career counselor, I should be marketable at the completion of this.

Money-wise, I will just try to continue to make wise financial choices and try to get ahead slowly. Can't do much other than that.

Happy 2018 to everyone.

Different Day. Different Attitude. Same Stress.

December 11th, 2017 at 09:19 am

We've decided to go ahead and re-rent the rental property. We met with the realtor and since our situation is somewhat complicated financially, it makes sense to wait until Spring 2019 to sell based on the numbers. And if we were to put some money into it we could get significantly more. However, at this point having NO money to put into it, nor the money to cover carrying costs. It is mortgage-free but still costs $500 a month in taxes and insurance.

My father called and has a smallish job for my husband to do the week of 12/26. I imagine he'll come up with some odd jobs to keep some money coming in. Thankful for that income stream.

I've finally got around to listing some items for sale on a FB group and on nextdoor.com. Only a handful of items (eight) so we will see if/how they sell before I expend the energy to list more stuff.

My daughter away at college went "thrifting" with a friend from home who attends another Milwaukee school. She was delighted that it was half off at Value Village and she got jeans, two turtle necks, and a sweater for $10. Go M!!

My attitude is somewhat better than yesterday (I have deleted yesterday's I feel sorry for Myself post). I've got plenty to be grateful for. Today I am volunteering while my 7th grader and others spruce up the church before they decorate for Christmas. I've not felt at home at the parish since I've broadened my belief base, but it is his home parish and I will be happy to be there with A.

Have a good day, Friends.

12/22 Looming Large

November 26th, 2017 at 01:14 pm

Last paychecks are 12/1 and 12/15.

Not sure how long before unemployment and severance and all that other jazz plays out.

I felt fairly decent going into this knowing it was a possibility. Then it became a certainty and the following happened:

1) Fuel pump died on our good car (2012 Nissan Versa). To the tune of $900 (includes tow bill).

2) Fraudulent use on debit card this morning put up $50 in the negative. DH used debit card for a $12 gas purchase at 7:00 AM this morning. Checked daily balance at 10:30 (thinking balance was $30 but it was -$50). Pending charge was $78 in gas at same station.

Long story short - they pulled the security camera footage - the next car that used our pump was 45 minutes later for $78. According to station, they're security measures erase the card data within 30 seconds. We disputed the claim with the bank, had the card cancelled and reissued, and then filed a police report.

Hoping this isn't the beginning of a trend of money negativity.

I spend $12 on Christmas lights (we're decorating today since daughter is home from college) and $25 on groceries at Aldi's.


Retiring and Wishing All Well

September 12th, 2017 at 07:44 am

Time has come to close the book on the money melodrama of my life (this blog). I've struggled to maintain momentum on money management and dedication to blogging here. I'm leaving some posts here that outlined particular chapters (like the whole rental property drama from one year ago) and I've deleted things that were anxiety-producing (like the posts relating to my husband's cancer and the car accident that totalled my car), etc. Some of it is good for laughs, so it will stay.

I've considered closing the book before, but this time just seems right and natural.

My money situation hasn't changed at all -now there are two in college, one in high school who has lost one substantial scholarship, medical bills that are looming on collections (and I'm still paying $300+ a month), my own job/education dilemmas that just seem to continue, etc). And DH's job is again the next one in line for "redundancy" - I like that term better than "on the chopping block". I wish I could say that I've gained so much wisdom to get those money ducks in a row, etc. However, the sad truth is that I'm still wallowing and swimming and living paycheck to paycheck (albeit with a small but increasing EF).

We do have plans for the (nearish) future such as downsizing to make maintaining two homes feasible. So maybe that will be the key to improving or changing our circumstances.

I do wish everyone well. This place was immensely supportive to me and my own little corner of the cyberworld where I could be really honest and vent. I appreicate all those kind words that gave me enough wind in the sails to propel me forward. I think that I am able to go foward now and trying to overcome introvert tendencies to make some real life connections, and I am pleased to say that I have made some new friends in the most recent chapter of my life and I am much more transparent and authentic. I will be okay and it will be okay.

Thank you, SA Friends! You are all fabulous. I'll continue to be prayerful for CB's dear friend C and that everyone can return to their homes post-hurricane. It's been a good ride. Smile

Friends, sigh with me!

November 10th, 2016 at 01:49 pm

'Rental property renovation is complete with two hours to spare.

The tenants sign the lease and get the keys.

The nightmare is over.

I will post later on the lessons learned from this little excursion.

Until then, please just sigh with me. Had I energy, I'd do a happy dance, but alas, I don't.


Adjusting Trajectory: Upward

November 6th, 2016 at 06:41 am

The tenants sign the lease on Friday.

We saved $160 by cancelling a junk pick-up. We've done two trips to the dumpster at my father's apartment building and will spend about $30 in refuse stickers.

We delayed driveway sealcoating until next year. Saved $160 on that, since we were an end of season request and we had workers needing access to the driveway for the interior work.

I spent $1,025 on new appliances (fridge/stove/dishwasher) at the Ding and dent event at Sears Outlet. And since I bought during Halloween season, I saved an additional 13%.

We saved tons of money doing all of the cleaning and painting ourselves. We recruited my inlaws for that. Any stepdad helped relay the bathroom floor and installed all the new light fixtures and closet doors.

My parents were helpful and purchased a set of four new tires for me. My inlaws purchased a needed tire for my husband's minivan. Plus both were helpful paying for an outing (movies/pizza) and dinner in (Chinese food, etc). Also sundries. And when my kids' were in need of extra funds, my mom put them to work at her house with tasks.

I've learned to stretch the budget by shopping only at Aldi's and The Dollar Tree. And I defrayed the cost of some convenience foods.

I was blessed with a dear friend who sent me a much-needed crockpot. Smile And I did find a find $10 Target card floating around an old purse that I forwarded to a young working mom making minimum wage trying to support her daughter. It was so nice to pay it forward. I clearly lived without it and passed it on.

I also cash-flowed older daughter's community college tuition ($1,450 plus helped out with about $200 in books). I did cover her $81 flight home from CA.

I did speak to the high schools about the inability to pay tuition until our financial situation changed; since my kids are partial scholarships, they front loaded those payments so the kids are current and can sit for exams (one in December, one in January).

So we've had to rental property income from 9/1-11/15 and thousands of dollars in expenses. I haven't tallied it up, but I will. We've cash-flowed most of it. We do have one credit card that we used to book work, though if it was billed, we paid it off.

This is a long and rambly. Just sort of a quick recap to myself of the timeline.

Next time you hear from me, I'll be setting some goals for ourselves for the remainder of the year.

I splurged yesterday at Walmart (while buying draino and light fixtures) and spent $.75 for a salt shaker on clearance. It was a cute fox that I admired when he was part of a matched set for $4.98. I already have squirrels that are on my mantle. Apparently the pepper shaker was gone, so he was reduced. I snagged him up and he's on the mantle with the squirrels and pumpkins. I decided he was too cute to pass up. Not needed, but wanted.

So upward.

32 Days to Better

October 30th, 2016 at 10:46 am

32 days until December 1st, which will officially end the Money Armageddon.

Still in "thrift is the only option" mode.

Our meal plan this week consists of breakfast foods (just because we have tons of that on hand), curried chickpeas, tacos and nachos, other canned convenience foods.

At Mass last night, our parish pitched the plea for pledges for a major campus improvement. To the requested tune of $20K spread over five years. And we've been invited to the parish Christmas dinner at $50/person. Wow. When I am in a better place financially, I am thinking that my money might make more of a difference in places where they need clean drinking water and other rudimentary things. My perspective on money is changing.

Well, I may just not post until December 1st. I've stopped tracking money since it was depressing. I'm simply monitoring success by how much money we have left before payday.

Looking forward to new beginnings.

Upswing Predicted

October 28th, 2016 at 11:18 am

November will be that last month of Money Armageddon.

December is looking better with no anticipated rental property renos and an upstart of rental property income.

Paycheck to paycheck living is tiresome. I'm tired of stretching the dollars and being creative and robbing Peter to pay Paul.

At some point in the future, after this is over, I'll detail the storm fronts that collided to create the perfect storm.

Other than that there isn't anything significant; I am just happy that the end is in sight.


October 21st, 2016 at 05:16 am

Well, I'm proficient in living paycheck-to-check. Today was payday and we cruised in with $4.xx in the checking account and $6.75 cash. Wa-hoo.

I still haven't touched the EF. It is indeed scant and meager, but it's still there, albeit on life support.

The spending is allotted down to the dollar. I'm doing fairly well keeping a cap on things by shopping every four days. I don't know why that appears to be the magic number in what I'm able to effectively manage. The cupboards don't seem to be as bare this way and there is at least always fresh fruit/veggies. Even if its only bananas and carrots.

The rental property reno is progressing as planned. We have been able to save some money here and there by doing things ourselves (like the painting/and we have recruited the inlaws for rolling). Tomorrow my stepdad is installing the new bathroom flooring and helping out with some other odds and ends. The crack in the foundation has been repaired. We have sealcoating of the driveway this week as well as the tub reglazing. I was able to push back the installation of the new front and back doors to 11/19 which given my budget a bit of breathing room, though I am hoping to factor in the cost of those from the funds we have. We're keeping the cost of trash down by using the dumpsters at my biological father's nearest apartment buildings.

Still tracking every red cent. Still humming "Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming" to myself. I think that I will really like 1/1 when we roll into the new year with funds from the 12/30 paycheck to start afresh.

I've started a list of things that we need. And my crockpot died yesterday. That is a very sad thing since most of the warm meals my family eats come from the crockpot. My birthday is 11/15 so I think I'm just going to ask my mom to buy me one now as an early gift.

Well, that's it. Update: still alive, still spending, still in process of rental property reno, still have EF.

When the money gods smile on me ...

October 9th, 2016 at 12:34 pm

Nothing major as far as luck bestowed by the money gods. Still working our way through the rental property reno. I spent most of yesterday edging the living room and bedrooms. My husband painted the kitchen and bathroom and FIL is rolling the rooms that I edged on Wednesday and Thursday.

The budget is pretty much on empty, and I shudder at spending even on what I have to. That said, our money is going pretty far in what we are spending.

One-way airfare from California to Chicago for older daughter was $81.

Youngest son was in need of dress shoes for winter uniform that started 10/1. He now wears mens sizes and that is a budget-buster. However, he found a pair of Sperrys for $35 on clearance at Famous Footwear and $1 pink athletic socks (which he needed to wear today from the breast cancer awareness game today).

We also found new football gloves for him at Marshalls for $14. This was part of his birthday gift. Those regularly go for $29.99 (cheapest) and up at Dick's Sporting goods.

I scored cake mix and frosting for $.80/each at Jewel and stocked up for fall/winter birthdays and Thanksgiving meal contributions. I usually would run to Jewel for $5.00 mini cupcakes, but instead delegated to daughter to bake those.

Everyone is pretty much aware of our financial situation. My parents purchased me tires last month and slipped me some additional money for my son's football pictures and also brought paper products from Sam's (packs of toilet paper and paper towels). My MIL also gave us money for a tire for DH's minivan and bought a round of vitamins for us.

The old me would have been smug at accepting help. Not anymore. I've learned to just smile and say "thanks, that will really help."

Tomorrow we're going to the earliest showing of "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" ($4.50/ticket) and then going to the Arboretum (free using parents' membership) and bringing our own snack ($5 for 4-pack Starbucks Iced Coffee drinks that came with a free box of Otis Spunkmeyer snacks).

Still taking one day and task at a time, and taking time to enjoy life while on the journey.

4th Quarter

October 2nd, 2016 at 07:27 am

Well, the money situation remains stable.

The rental property situation remains unstable. We had a tenant and then we didn't. He gained residential custody of children and couldn't leave the school district. Now we have potential tenants for 11/1; they rent the house two houses over which has been sold, leaving them needing a house. I asked for them to commit by the 15th or else I will place an add.

The work is going slower than anticipated. On Thursday DH and our handyman replaced the floor underlayment and did some electrical work. No installation of basement vanity or repair of a/c leak.

What we've spent thus far:
$96 vanity for basement
$250 plaster repair of ceiling and walls
$50 underlayment for upstairs bathroom
$300 for handyman (4 hours)
$100 on paint and items for window reglazing

We still need to deal with the hardwood floors. There doesn't appear to be too much to be able to resand in the living room. We thought about carpeting, but might save that until next go around.

We still need the foundation crack repaired ($380), bathtub reglazing ($390), new front and back doors (est $400), new refrigerator, and new roof on garage.

The entire thing is overwhelming. But DH and FIL are painting next weekend, so progress is at least being made.

We're essentially on money-lockdown over here. With the income deflated and outgo inflated, it's paycheck-to-paycheck. I am relieved that Homecoming is over (it was costly since my two highschoolers don't have jobs).

My highschooler is looking for a job.

My stipend will hit the end of the month.

My inlaws generously gifted us $400, of which we're getting one badly needed tire and an oil change on DH's minivan.

DH has a stash of $60 cash for his "fritter away fund".

I have a stash of $60 cash for my "fritter away fund."

We're expecting $180 from DH's side gig.

Onward and upward has been replaced by "just keep swimming, swimming, swimming" (whenever I type it, I hear Ellen Degeneress signing it).

Here is to simply surviving the 4th quarter.

Only upside is: I've tracked every single rent cent spent from August 25 to present.

Budget Update and My List

September 17th, 2016 at 06:49 am

I just concluded the third week of budget lockdown and tracking my spending. The confluence of certain events occurred, and poor timing, diminished EF, and other craziness made this an inopportune time to "crisis"; however, that said, we are still managing (just barely). We are living the paycheck-to-paycheck existence, have not touched the EF, and are still fairly happy and definitely healthy. I'll say "we're managing in the money department."

That said, I capped the spending at $236 per week. I'm about $5 over my estimates. Here is the breakdowns
8/26-9/1 - $242.33
9/2-9/8 - $229.78
9/9-9/15 - $249.60
Average - $240.57
{That includes all spending outside of utilities and mortgage. We did have some clothing items (most from Goodwill), providing dessert for the team soccer dinner was $20, Netflix was included in that since its not a utility, admission to sons' football and soccer games, ete.}

In full disclosure, my parents gifted me a set of four new tires. I repeatedly turn down offers of help; however, since safety was involved and there was a great offer, I said yes. They were happy to help, and for once I was happy to be helped.

Now my list:
1) I don't exactly remember when I started blogging since this is a third version of one. Maybe eight years?
2) I live in the Midwest, but came to love the West Coast this past summer.
3) I am one of two children and my husband is an only child, so we have a rather largish family.
4) I have met two SA bloggers in person, one follower person, and have several as FB friends.
5) I have been a dance mom (daughters Irish danced for many moons) and am now a soccer mom. I have been a Momager who was very involved in my daughter's modeling career when she was a minor. She now lives out of state pursuing her passion.
6) I hate labels. I struggled with the concept of being the only Catholic in a Protestant Seminary; but I've moved past that, and labels in general.
7) I have a fear of clowns.
8) My husband is a cancer survivor. One of my best friends is fighting cancer. I hate cancer.
9) I clip coupons every Sunday because I think I will use them. I usually never do. So I waste time on things I think will save money.
10) I love The Walking Dead.
11) I love Project Runway and am a huge Tim Gunn groupie.
12) I like to kayak and bike.
13) I love SA because I feel like this is my cyber family where I can get support and advice.
14) I recently started back to work as a teaching assistant to one of my favorite professors at the seminary I attend. I'm expecting my first stipend next month.

Open House Expenses; Or Where I finally track every expense and know exactly how

June 5th, 2016 at 09:41 am

much I spent.

The Open House for the 2016 graduates was yesterday; it went really well. It was a nice stream of people in and out, and ended up with the kids' friends having a s'mores fest on the deck.

I didn't know how many people to plan for and we had about 40+ people (30ish ate a meal, 10ish grazed or had dessert)

I paid cash for most of it. Here is what I spent:

1) Food (deli spread/meatballs/salad/fruit) > $107
2) Dessert (cake/cupcakes/s'mores) > $61.25
3) Decorations (streamers/nice frame) > $30.00
4) Souvenir autograph pillows > $36.75
5) Paper Goods (plates/napkins/cups/utensils) > $18.00
6) Flowers > $5.00

TOTAL SPENT >> $258.50

The upside is I also have enough leftovers to feel that family for a solid several days, plus one unopened bag of meatballs and enough supplies for one more night of s'mores.

The kids received generous gifts. They'll do their thank you's tomorrow.

My house is neat and clean and (for once) organized. Everything I borrowed from my mother is heading back tomorrow. I do really like her double-sided crockpot (actually keeps hot food hot and is an easy way for a buffet to look nice and neat). I borrowed my mother's table clothe and serving dishes. And will admit it looked nice, my food spread.

We're house-bound today with only a bike ride on the to-do list. Time to start thinking about California in earnest. We land on the 15th and on the 16/17 my daughter has five meetings with various top agencies in LA. So exciting. Though I'm scared at the prospect of driving in that commotion!

Open House on Saturday, Other Preparations

June 2nd, 2016 at 05:26 am

Our graduation open house is on Saturday; my first go at hosting something like this (with no definite start and stop times, though my relatives do tend to like to hang around longer than necessary). I've done some list making/comparison shopping/menu revision and here is where it stands:

1) Deli spread with ham/roast beef and Swiss/cheddar
2) Meatballs - half in marinara and half plain
3) Rotini pasta salad with ham cubes/peas/mayo
4) Tri color pasta salad with vegetables and Italian dressing
5) Orange cool whip jello recip
6) TBD other salad

I've priced out fruit plates and can do it cheaper by myself (versus picking up one at Sam's). We found a very nice and reasonable two tier cake at Sam's for $35. I've decided to round out the desserts and snacks with home-made pan cookies (might get exotic with mint chocolate chips for one).

For chips I am buying a 50 count bags of Doritos/Sun Chips at Sam's for $10 and will get two bags of veggie chips at Aldi's for a total of $14.00..

For drinks, Jewel has two liters on sale at $.88 if you buy in multiples of 4. I will get 8 and spend $7.20 plus cost of plastic cups. I was going to do cans but there is the potential for waste and its more expensive.

For decorations, I'll buy a bouquet of flowers and some balloons from the Dollar Tree on Saturday morning. Should spend roughly $15.00.

Today I am renting a Rug Doctor from Ace and cleaning all the carpets in the house. Fun? Not really!! But end result will make me happy. Cost for this: $30 plus cost of soap. My brother asked why I didn't just hire someone, or borrow his oldish spot cleaner.

I mowed the lawn yesterday. I find that highly therapeutic (not sure why). My brother asked why I didn't just hire someone, or pay my child to do it.

My mother also has some ideas on how I should entertain: such as how punch should be served, the service bowls that should hold the salad, etc, and suggested where I should purchase the cole slaw from (Culvers).

I'm finding it rather ironic that I'm able to now say (without angst) "That's a great idea. I will consider it." It acknowledges peoples valid points without stating that they may not be relevant to me. The old me would say yes and change my plans or defend my reason why I won't. Too much energy to talk sometimes.

And on a money-front:

My goal for over the summer is to acquire enough extraneous funds so I can live this month on last month's paycheck. The entire YNAB concept that confused me as to how I was going to achieve it.

Onward to clean carpets and cake orders!

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