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Money Independence

February 19th, 2019 at 11:38 am

I took youngest son (14 year old 8th graders) to the bank today and we opened up his student virual wallet at PNC bank. He has a debit card now and is going to be financially independent in the sense that he his allowance is going into the bank - and he'll have to manage his spending accordingly.

He's also growing like a weed (last month I spent $140 on older son who is also growing). So we had some conversations about economic choice, working within your budget, and balancing what you need with what you want. He actually only spent $60 of his $140 and with some great President's Day sales he got two pairs of pants, two long-sleeve Ts, and one short-sleeved T. (He wears a uniform to school M-F). He had a long list of other things he wanted (not needed) and he's deciding on a particular name brand sweatshirt for $60 or some other things. He's thankfully not one of those who feels he needs to spend all of his money at one time.

I also spend $250 and purchased a small computer desk and coordinating shelf from Target. I like farmhouse industrial and the ratings were really high for furniture you need to put together. There was a 15% off sale and a 5% additional off thanks to using the Red card. So I've made my economic choices and actually spend all of my money until March 1.

We're all slowly getting there. I did get hit with a $35 over draft fee that I'm irked about, but not lamenting. So progress being made over here. I'm super-annoyed about it, but am better organized now so that my checks go with the proper accounts. I entered it in the wrong place. Frown

My Experience Living Between Socio-Economic Classes

February 9th, 2019 at 10:34 am

Reading the posts and comments on poverty levels has me thinking a lot, and not about my grand-parents or great-grandparents. But my own experience. I am now a middle-aged person, married almost 30 years, with a family of my own that is growing. And I am who I am today fiscally because of how I was raised and the money management that I saw.

I was born to teen-agers six months after their high school graduation. At the time, marriage was the only option. My biological father had also father another child born six weeks after me who was placed for adoption. Three of my four grandparents were born in Europe, with the one born here raised on a farm. None of my grandparents graduated high school, yet made money and prospered in real-estate and also owning a gas station and a fleet of taxis.

My parents lived in an apartment in a building owned by my grandparents. My father went to college and then law school. (Paid for by his parents) But he was a bully along the way and my mom left him at the age of 21 with two kids and no means of real support. Her parents were pretty clear it was up to her ex-husband to support her. After the divorce she ended up staying an additional 3 years because of no education and no way to support the kids. [The only benefit to this decision was when she left again there was no legal battle, that was already done.] So she stayed again until the bullying got really bad. So she left. And worked part-time. menial jobs to pay the rent and keep food on the table. See, the ex-husband didn't pay child support like he should have. She didn't have money to get an attorney. Her parents didn't know bad it really was money-wise because she was told it was her problem and her ex-husband should be paying support.

It meant living in a one bedroom aparetment. It meant having little to no furniture. It meant mac and cheese and hot dogs and bologna. It meant new clothes only received as gifts. It meant shoes falling apart. It meant washing clothes in the sink because there wasn't money for the laundromat.

Biological father at this point has had a string of live-in girlfriends (with kids) who he lavishes money and attention on. It means he drives a Corvette while his ex-wife drives an unsafe car because she's saving money for brakes. It means a whole lot of confusion to the kids.

It improves a bit when grandparents on both sides realize how bad it is. There are some after-school activities now, visitation with bioloigcal father transfers to his parents who are good about giving "allowances" to my brother and I, my mother remarries and they buy a modest but very nice house in the suburb we were renting in. I then attend a private Catholic school, etc.

I am the victim of financial abuse. I was hungry and thin and didn't have insurance as a child and also almost died from an anaphylactic reaction. I decided to make my kids' well-being a priority. I also became educated on the outside chance that I would end up a single parent with no support from an ex. I learned to worry needlessly. I also learned that my father uses money as a manipulative tool to get people to do what he wants. I didn't have my emotional divorce from him until the age of 21 and it resulted from a money tactic he tried to pull. I still wonder if I have enough money despite a net worth of close to $1,000,000 (disclosure 75% of that is real estate). I live a middle class existence and pay cash as I go. I don't use credit. I have a budget and a cancer diagnosis derailed our finances a few years ago (still paying on $17K debt and add $3K to that annually with follow-up scans and Rxs).

So poverty can be istitutional. It can be because of circumstances beyond someone's control. I can also say that I have several first-cousins who are previously homeless and now reside in public housing (a result of drug use and poor choices - on both sides of the family). I can say that education is a key but not always, since my biological father is still living off of his parents' estate. I can say that despite my education, I had four surviving children in six years and I stayed home with them. I also had my nephew who was orphaned part of that time. I pay on a student loan still. My husband has nothing more than a bachelor's degree and we've managed to send our kids to from K-12 at Catholic schools. We have paid for the first two years of college for the oldest two so far.

Am I resentful for being hungry at times and having to walk to school in clean, but damp clothes on some cold fall mornings? Sometimes. But it is always worse for other peope. And if being poor freed us from having to live with a bad bully, it was worth it.

Point, everyone has a story. Everyone makes choices. Sometimes you are a victim of circumstances, sometimes you are a victim of your own stupidity. All I can do is try to be a good example to my own kids who are learning to make their way in the world.

Weekly Spending Recap

February 7th, 2019 at 09:53 am

Variable expenses (groceries/gas/miscellaneous) for the week 2/1-2/7 was budgeted at $212.50.

I'm car-sharing today with my daughter so its a no spend. Here's the spending breakdown for the week ending today:

Groceries $100/Spent $89
Gas $50/Spent $35
Miscellaneous $62.50/Spent $69.50
Coupons Savings $8.75

Miscellaneous was $7 over and included a turning arrow bulb for the car, battery for our scale, three pizza lunches in Feb for younger son's hot lunch, one coffee date for me, a cross stitch kit, and a dress I ordered on Zulilly (and saved $12.00)

Tomorrow is payday and I'll stick with the $212.50. I'm glad I came in $19 under for this week. Let's keep it up. Going to do valentines on the cheap for the family, just still figuring that out!

It's all good!

Looking at the Bigger Picture

February 3rd, 2019 at 05:22 pm

In my previous post where I recapped January, I didn't include looking at the bigger picture of actual dollar amounts that we put into savings. Here is a recap:

$580 - 10% 401(K) contribution
$172 - 6% 401(K) employer contribution
$50 - Retirement annuity
$175 - Vanguard money market interest
$125 - Contribution to Vanguard for even out amount

At a quick glance, that's just over $1,100.00. It was eye opening that bits and pieces in the money quilt can add up.

Also since both my husband and I are on my father's payroll, there is extra money coming in too. I've decided to forego a desk overhall-repurpose and just purchase a smaller computer desk and shelf from Target. They are more in line with my aesthetic and they have good reviews. I definitely want to work smarter not harder. It's also rather nice to bid farewell to hand-me-downs and second hand furniture that served us well, but is time to move out.

Happy Super Bowl Sunday!

January Recap

January 31st, 2019 at 08:34 pm

I managed to track every red cent that we spent. Rather eye opening because my interest usually wanes and I don't get a full picture of things.

What we spent:

Consumables (all food/household/cleaning/pet/personal care/paper items) > $575 (this was high because it includes groceries through 2/4)
Gas > $225
Other > $450 (of which $250 was a replacement iphone for DH, other items were oil change, dog grooming, hair cut, drivers license renewal fee, $40 for dinner party with 12)

Goals for February are:
Consumables > $450
Gas > $200
Other > $300

I have put in an application for one of two part-time jobs available with a domestic violence not for profit. I am also considering a temporary agency, but haven't pursued that too seriously.

I am working on taxes. We are looking at getting about $2,000 back.

My son broke his hand and we're waiting to see how much that will cost. Yet another xray this upcoming week.

I'm decluttering tons. I'm returning a set of china to my mother. I have enough funds to cashflow the installation of the tub and shower and the plaster repair. I have a rebate check at Menards and am going to purchase a new utility tub for the laundry room and tile flooring for our master bathroom. I am getting antsy about moving on getting the house ready for listing. I am happy about the progress in the dreaded basement which isn't nearly as dreadful anymore.

My younger daughter is applying to colleges for her last two years. She's finishing up at the community college. She's also having to decide on an internship with my brother's law firm (she's pre-law) or being a counselor at sleep away camp this summer.

My older daughter is meeting with an agency from London on Tuesday. She's had solid offers from Asia, but London sounds so much more fun. Closer with no language barrier and I'd go too (one of my good friends is in Oxfordshire). Fingers crossed that she's UK-bound. She's gone vegan and has lost weight, has good measurements and skin and her mother agent is very excited about her possibilities.

We had our family dinner at Buca di Bepos on MLK Day. I used a $20 off coupon and we brought left overs home. I also used my Christmas money and bought a cocktail dress that I was pining away for. It was $200 but went down to $97. Yes, I bought it. We have two events coming up and I'm super excited to have something I really love to wear.

I have managed to save $20 in $5 in January. This is for Christmas 2019.

DH and I are both working for my biological father with rental property management. I made $100, he's at $400 for January with about $1,000 in February. He'll use his funds for brakes for his Corvette. I'm saving mine for vacation.

I also managed to send small amounts to our retirement annuities with my husband's fraternal order. This was also the first month with 10% going into 401(k) with 6% match.

Our vacation fund is still at $4000. My children received their cash bequests from my grandmother's estate and I had everything set up at Vanguard. That is a nice thing. For them to have some money put away. We are still waiting on $70K of education funds.

All in all, things are going pretty well. I've managed to turn the corner on anxiety, but the SAD is really bad this time of year. Worse than last year.

I am ready for February!

Broken Hand

January 21st, 2019 at 09:35 am

Well, things were bopping along boringly with only stupid things breaking: like replacing DH's iphone the first week of the month ($250) and then a necessary computer repair and update ($250 the second week of the month).

This, the third week of the month, brought a broken hand. That hand belongs to my third child. Collectively the children that I have birthed have occupied space on this planet for almost 71 years and this is the first broken bone that any one of them has procured.

Scenario for event: 9:30 PM on Monday night. Younger son says something completely annoying to his older brother and there is some type of tussle. Younger child sprints up the stairs to avoid retalliation by his older brother. Older brother runs up the stairs and trips on the top one, falling forward and catching all 120 pounds of his weight on his right hand.

"It's broken," he wails. "I heard a pop,"

"You didn't hear a pop. I don't think it's broken," said I.

Younger brother trots down to get him a bag of ice because Older Brother E is almost crying.

In the space of 15 minutes the pinky on the right hand (medically known as Number Five) swells. A bruise forms on the palm of his hand. I give him motrin and more ice and tell him to go to the bed.

Tuesday morning its worse looking and The Patient is convinced he is indeed correct that it is broken. I, not letting him know that I secretly agree with him, say "Let's get that checked out before you go to school!" Cheerfully, like going into school late is a real treat.

We see the nurse practitioner who has the first available appointment. She looks at it and winces. Son almost cries as she pushes and moves and check for range of motion. "Well, we'll need an xray to have that checked out. Good news is that I think its really only the finger and not the hand."

We got to xray. Son goes to school. I get a call with the results: fracture, growth plate, orthopedic visit required.

I call to make appointment and have to decide: pediatric orthopedic or hand specialist. I pick hand specialist. I email son to let him know he's got a fracture. He informs me via return email that he already knew this. No smugness, just assurance that he was correct on his first guess. And he did hear AND feel the pop, which he now refers to as THE FRACTURE.

Next day we see the orthopedic specialist. Good news: no surgery. Bad news: needs a cast. More bad news: hand is so swollen they can't put the permanent cast on til next week so they put him in a temporary splint. That could seriously hurt someone if Older Son decided to go for their solar plexus. He's dysgraphic to begin with and the cast does nothing to help his handwriting. Good new is he can still type!

So we are off to the orthoped again on Wednesday for an additional xray and the cast. The fracture is on the growth plate of the left pinky. I want him to have normal size hands so I'd do surgery if necessary, but thankfully that isn't required.

The good news is that we received our debit card to access our HSA funds. I'm wondering how fast we'll go through them with this little exercie so early in the year.

And, oh yeah, in my scatterbrainedness, I somehow managed to throw out my oldest daughter's inhaler. That cost me $96. I had to spend an hour with CVS Caremark Pharmacy Folks for a vacation over-ride to get them cover the replacement inhaler. The good new is that inhaler (same thing) only cost me $35. Not sure on the origins of that decrease, maybe my family deductible is already met with the hand fiasco? I'm sure that the mystery of that will be revealed with some EOB's coming my way.

And my 16 year old son is now the consumer of copious amounts of chocolate milk for added calcium. And The Patient fought with me about going to early Friday AM soccer practice. I said No. He said Yes. I did win that one, but only until the real cast is put on.

I lose. Please, just no more broken things from here on out!

UH OH. OH NO. Where'd they all go??

January 19th, 2019 at 06:34 pm

this is a test

UFMC Update - January Ist Half Spending

January 15th, 2019 at 03:10 pm

I've been a diligent tracker since 1/1. Here is the spending for the first half of the month of January:

All Consumables (food/pet/household/personal care)
was $232.10
[Budgeted Amount was $200]

Gas for three vehicles: $95
[Budgeted Amount was $100]

Extraneous: $178.50.
[Budgeted Amount was $200]

Total coupons savings on all consumables was $36.00

My extraneous spending included the following: $31 for my drivers license renewal, $25 oil change, $20 pet grooming, $18 haircut, $40 to host Italian dinner for 12, $18 birthday gift for my stepdad, $15 for a sweater for myself, and a $7 pendeflex and $3.50 salt and pepper shakers).

Not included was a replacement iphone 7 for DH for $240 from Amazon. That was cashflowed with Christmas gift money that wasn't designated.

All in all, I'm fairly happy with the way it is going.

I had a bit of rude awakening at the amount of the net pay AFTer 10% 401K contribution. I also sent $92 even out amount to Vanguard and $35 to my own retirment annuity (not much, but every little bit counts). Also we increased our HSA contribution by $750 this year.

We're moving onto having the bath tub and showers replaced in our current home. We continue to declutter and our downsize is so close I can almost taste it.

January 2019 Goals

January 8th, 2019 at 09:23 am

I already upped 401K contribution to 10% at the end of December and am expecting that to be in effect on first paycheck 1/11.

1) Save $25/week from variable expenses. Budgeting for $225 but hoping to only spend $200.
2) Save $25-$40 in $5 bills from weekly spending for Christmas 2019
3) Cashflow tub and shower installation from rent
4) Add $150 to retirement funds
5) Coupon and save the difference in cash for fun $
6) Continue with monthly dinner out as a family
7) Continue to socialize with our family and friends (Italian dinner with 10+ people set for Friday the 11th)

UFMC is going well so far. Eating from pantry and only spent $75 on groceries and $30 on gas. I did need to cashflow a replacement iphone for DH ($250 on Amazon, upgrade from a 5 to a 7) and $18 on haircut for youngest son. Frugal win: Using ECB on the most recent round of OTC cold meds for us.

Happy New Year SA Family

December 31st, 2018 at 02:06 pm

I'm ready for 2019. We've ended in a good place.

The tenant didn't the rent before going to Poland and it didn't wreak havoc on our financial life. The 12/28 paycheck covered everything and a $250 tuition payment for 1/11. The tenant did contact us and will pay on 1/7. And again on 1/20. In our old life this would have caused major headache and heartache and juggling. Now, not so much.

My grandmother passed away in October, and that is still a very sore subject. But I have $90,000 in a money market at Vanguard. We are also awaiting additional funds. We also have $4000 in our vacation fund. Vacation is on the horizon for February/March.

Biggest goal for 2019 is to downsize from current home to a townhome paying cash. We've located the subdivision where we would like to live; its near to train and walking distance to downtown area of the town we've selected. Excited about that. Every step is moving toward simple.

I've filled out the requested preliminary background check for a job that I'm hoping to get. I'll follow up with the recruiting department on Wed.

I've nothing but high hopes for the future. And I wish my fellow SA-ers nothing but the best.

Happy New Year. Bring on 2019!

Honking My Own Horn

October 30th, 2018 at 02:15 pm

Every year at my husband's current employer, there is a Halloween event that includes a chilli cook off and a pumpking contest. Two years ago we won the pumpking decorating contest (turned one into cookie monster thanks to pinterest).

Last year we didn't fare very well in either category.

This year I am proud to say that I won the chilli cook off! I found a simple recipe for a creamy chicken chilli in the crockpot.

Here it is:

Place two pounds chicken breasts in the bottom of crockpot.
Add drained can of corn and rinsed and drained black beans.
Add can of diced tomatoes WITH liquid.
Add one yellow onion chopped.
Add one green pepper chopped.
Season with one packed of dry ranch dressing mix.

Cook on high 3 hours.

Remove chicken breasts and shred. Return to crockpot and mix well with vegetable mixtures. Add on brick of cream cheese cut into squares, stirring til well blended.

Cook an additional 15 minutes.

I've never considered myself anything beyond basic in the kitchen. I'm pleased that my simple recipe was recognized and won.

Prize: Engraved ladle with our names on it.
And a $15 gift card to AMC Cinemas. I'm thrilled about that since I've forgotten how much I like seeing movies in the theater. Hello Date Night!

Happy Halloween!

Lost my grandmother

October 16th, 2018 at 10:10 am

Eight days ago my grandmother died at the age of almost 99. I was able to spend time with her one month before she passed, and I think that she might actually have waited to see my daughter. D arrived on Friday the 5th and had a really great day with G. The chaplain came and they had a wonderful 45 minute visit and my daughter got to pray over her great-grandmother. Saturday my grandmother was tired and they figured it was just the excitement of having D there. Then on Sunday she was tired, but in good spirits, having spent time outdoors in the Cafornia weather which she so enjoyed. They had her favorite dessert at dinner and the next morning my uncle and aunt were notified that my G passed away in her sleep.

My grandmother wasn't in bad health, but was definitely frail and having a hard time maintaining weight and had become more oxygen dependent. So while it wasn't completely unexpected, I had still hoped to see her again.

I am sorry that the other Laura lost her mom. And I hope that Lucky Robin's Dear Girl get a diagnosis and reliable medical treatment so she feels better.

I guess this was really just a lament post. Nothing here has changed one way or the other moneywise; we're still just moving along toward the future.

Prayers for everyone who needs them.