My Hopes


Hi all!

Thank you so much for all of the fabulous tips and comments you left me on all of Monday’s posts. I always appreciate constructive criticism and love all of the ideas you have left in the comments – it gives me lots to think about.

Right now, I’m not making any big changes. I’ve decided to put off all non-essential purchases (including hair cut/color, dental work for my chipped tooth, vehicle maintenance, etc.). I think this month has really been tough financially and I just want to wait and see how the dust all settles before making any changes or spending any more money. All of these expenses are “necessary” (in that, yes, I need to have my chipped tooth looked at, we need to take care of our vehicle, etc.), but nothing is urgent so I’m just putting it all on hold for now.

Instead, I want to talk about what my hope is for the outcome of this month (calling them “hopes” instead of “goals” because I feel like, with 1 week left in the month, we’re a little late in the game for defined “goals”…though I will be updating our goals for the upcoming months in a post to come next week). Remember, with our variable income it’s always difficult to predict how a given month will go. That’s one of the reasons I’m so keen on starting to live on last month’s income!

Soooo, here are my hopes in order of importance (#1 being the most important hope, #2 the second most important, and so on).

  1. I hope we’ll have enough money leftover at the end of the month to do great things, as opposed to barely covering our expenses. Remember, we had some very pricey expenses this month (husband’s root canal, and my car maintenance). Currently, the “other” portion of my budget spreadsheet shows nearly $2,000 in expenditures (for reference, only $125/month is budgeted), so this is already a huge excess that will eat up a lot of our “extra” income. My first hope is that we’ll still have plenty extra even on top of this.
  2. I hope we’ll be able to put $2500 toward my “living on last month’s salary” savings. Last month we socked away $3200, so if I were able to add $2500 that would bring us to a total of $5700. That’s much lower than we’ve been earning the past few months (our income has been closer to $9,000ish), but it’s certainly a livable amount. Plus, it would only be one month with this somewhat lower income, because we’ll be stashing the full amount of all of our August paychecks for use in September. I’m very excited about living on last month’s income, so I have put this hope above #3.
  3. I hope to pay off the last of the license fees. I’m going to be honest and say….I don’t think we’ll be able to do this in full. We still owe a little over $4,000. Originally, I was thinking we’d be able to have that paid off by August (this is the bill we’re currently throwing our snowball at and our regular snowball payment is $1055/month). I don’t think we’ll have an extra $3,000 from July (on top of the $2500 going toward “living on last month’s income” and the $2000 already spent on car maintenance/dental care) in order to make this happen. But hopefully we’ll still be able to make somewhat of a dent.

Just to give a brief heads up about where our finances are sitting right now, today (with another week in the month to go), our expenses total roughly $7500, and our income is sitting at just under $9000…, yeah. It’s gonna be tough.

That being said, we shouldn’t have any other big expenses (knock on wood!) and husband still has another check coming his way so we’ll see how things all shake out. I guess this is what Dave Ramsey refers to as “more month left than money.” Ugh! I’m wishing August would just hurry up and get here already!!!! I can’t wait to give an updated budget, see where we stand with spending, and where we are in our debt payoff journey!

On a semi-related topic – we do have some extra cash in our regular checking/savings account. Remember that I like to keep a buffer of at least a couple thousand sitting there to cover bills (this is how I was able to pay all our expenses the first half of the month while we were waiting to get paid. I also talked about the buffer this post). Since we’ll be living on last month’s income…..could I eliminate this buffer and put that money toward these hopes??? Note, this isn’t an official “emergency savings” (I have that set up as a Capital One 360 account), and the money goes up and down depending on the time of the month, the bills that have gone through, when we’ve been paid, etc. But it occurs to me that if we fall short on some of this month’s hopes that maybe we can simply take money from here to try to make a larger dent in our debts (and/or make sure we have enough for living on last month’s income). Just so you have the full financial picture, we only have $1200 in our “emergency savings” account, but we have several sub-accounts for various things (car repairs, dental/vision, semi-annual expenses, vet expenses. A full list of our monthly savings can be found here.) and if something awful were to happen I could always tap into our money market mutual fund account (which has close to $6,000). So we don’t have a ton of liquid assets, but we do have enough that we may be “safe” to eliminate our buffer….


Planning a Two Week Hiatus


Tomorrow we leave for Texas to visit my family…3 brothers, 1 nephew, parents and several doggy niece and nephews. We will be traveling for a little over two weeks.  While I am not taking any time off work, I do want to take as much pressure off myself as possible so I can enjoy this final ‘Hurrah’ of the summer.

With that being said, I am giving myself permission to take a hiatus the next two weeks.  Didn’t want you to worry or wonder why I wasn’t here.  I will  return with lots to write about I’m sure and may pop in if the time permits, but wanted to just give myself that permission to take a break.

I appreciate your understanding.

Looking Back


I had a quick call with my parents today in anticipation of our arrival at their home for our 1 1/2 weeks visit this coming Saturday (we leave tomorrow.) And I mentioned to my dad very briefly how it’s taken me nearly 40 years (not quite there yet) to realize just all that he and my mom did for me growing up. I know how blessed I was growing up, I realized that shortly after getting out on my own and having to pay my own bills. But I really did not know how blessed.

When I turned 16, I had shared access to a car, my insurance was paid and all my gas was paid.  I NEVER ONCE thought about what that cost my parents.  Not once. Until now. Now as my twins race towards the much anticipated day of driving license, I shiver at the thought of their car insurance bill, let alone gas.  My parents never brought up the extra burden that must have been for them financially.  (I was the oldest of five, so mine was probably the worst sticker shock with that new life milestone.) I am so grateful to them. Beyond measure grateful.

My dilemma and this is all in my head as I don’t really have many options with this.  But if you could, would you make the same financial decisions for your children as your parents did for you?  Would you follow their lead?

I go back and forth on this for two reasons:

  1. I have struggled with managing my money and making wise financial decisions my entire life.  I am in no way shape or form laying this at my parents feet, but I do wonder if I had had more visibility of these costs as I became a responsible young person, would I be different than I am today.  I am by my nature pretty forthright and do not beat around the bush, even with my kids and money, so I know I am already more open about the costs of living. But on the flip side, I don’t want my children to worry about money or give up any “child” ideals due to money.  Does that make sense?
  2. I already see my children with their “give me” and entitled attitudes and it irks me to no end.  I read that this is part generational but I also know it stems from how I raise them. When discussing the upcoming insurance and necessity of a job for this reason in particular, my son says…but will that leave me any money to spend?

I’m not writing this well, but I hope you are getting where I am going in my thought process.  If I had the funds, I would probably quickly fall in line with what my parents did for me, perhaps with a bit more visibility of the actual costs to my kids.  But the fact of the matter is that I do not, nor do I anticipate having the funds to cover the entirety of the additional costs for driving.

I want to use the blessings my parents gave me with absolutely no strings attached to guide me in making good decisions financial for my children. And I have to start thinking about it now as I budget for the imminent future.

I guess driving is just one example that just happened to come to mind as I was talking to my dad tonight, but in reality, I suppose I am doing a lot of soul searching as I approach some HUGE financial decisions and discussions.  I am trying to understand where my attitude towards money comes from and what my weaknesses in particular are so I can address them to help make permanent changes in my own life.

What did you accomplish?


I gave myself a financial task list last week to prepare for my impending departure (tomorrow!) Nothing got done. Rather, nothing got completely done.

I feel like my gazelle like intensity has come to a grinding halt, and has been there for a while now. And for a few weeks, I couldn’t seem to function because of it, just felt too overwhelmed.  Well, I’m happy to report that this is not the case now.

I made baby steps towards all of these goals. And I feel good about where I leave them as I head out of town.  But with that in mind, I’ve already got a long task list to accomplish once I return.

So here are some updates for you…

  1. The trip – housing will cost a big, fat $0 – woohoo for the entire 2 week, 4 day trip.  The route is planned, the food is planned.
  2. The jewelry – I’ve registered with a site, but because of timing I didn’t want to start the process and not be here to finish it, so the listings will actually go up on my return.
  3. Side jobs – I completed one of the side jobs and now await payment, the other one I will need to work on while I’m traveling.
  4. Purge – Whoa, mama!  I have made some serious progress here with large piles going to donation centers today, trash going out tomorrow and items all ready to list for sale on my return.
  5. Fall plans – I haven’t really had time to spend on this one, but it’s something else I can do while on the road.  All that drive time, gives me lots of “in my head” time so I should return with lots of things worked out, at least in my head.

In addition, I have been so blessed with a week long visit from my friend (and her children) who is a great sounding board for me as I work out BIG financial decisions in my head and subsequently head to Texas where my dad and I will have serious conversations about my housing situation and near future of that.  I am EXTREMELY stressed out about my options and these discussions with my dad so if you pray, please pray for me to be open and willing to listen as well as capable of making good sound decisions for my family’s future. And help me not to cry, that always just gets in the way, and I cry really easily.

Prices are a’rising


This is nothing new. Happens every year, am I right? You get the letter from (insert name here) and you discover that the prices are rising.

I just got this letter from 2 different companies.

The first is my water company. They instituted a price-increase that was effective July 1st (thanks for letting me know after-the-fact). Since this is a basic utility and we only have one service provider to choose from, there’s nothing I can do about the price aside from simply trying to conserve (which is difficult in summer since it seems like grass and plants need extra water in order to survive the terrible death-heat in Tucson).

The second letter was from our cable company. All of the rates are being raised across the board. When I first started blogging this was one area that everyone said we should cut entirely but I stood my ground that we were going to hang onto our cable. This is mostly for my husband’s sake (he’s the real cable-watcher in the family), but I also mentioned that the price wasn’t too bad when you consider that internet, alone, was costing us $55/month and our combined package (cable & internet) cost $85/month, so it was really only an extra $30/month. Not a big price to pay for the marital happiness. But now we’re looking at closer to $95/month. And, on principle, the price-hike makes me angry.

I called the company, 100% certain that if I called and complained they’d surely lower my rate. This is standard practice, right?

Apparently I was WRONG.

Not only will they absolutely not touch my price, but I was also informed that my personal price is about to get a huge hike because we were locked into some 1-year promotional package that expires the end of this month. Come August, we’ll actually be looking at a price of $115 (not $95. If this is confusing – as it was for me – the “promo” price was being raised to $95, but my promo was set to expire so I’d be getting the “normal” price of $115).

Shut the front door.

So suddenly the $85 that I was barely okay with paying is about to morph into $115. I just can’t swallow that type of bill.

I talked to my husband about it and – sigh – the man really, really, really wants to keep his cable.

So what should I do? Here are what I feel my options are:

  1. Say “too bad” to the hubs, cancel our cable, and go to war with each other over the issue.
  2. Cancel with our current provider and try to find a new provider (although, the only other service provider in our area requires an initiation fee, a 2-year contract and only does TV so I’ll have to pay through a separate company for internet, eliminating any “bundle” savings)
  3. Try to go into the cable office to talk to someone face-to-face and see if that will make a difference in trying to get a reduced bill.

For obvious reasons related to marital happiness, I would like to avoid option #1. My preference would be to stay with our current provider simply because it would be the easiest option of all. But I also can’t stomach paying $115/month, so I could only do it if I somehow talk them into giving me a price-break (which, the customer service rep on the phone made seem like would NOT be happening. Period.) We’re also renters and currently have cable (Comcast/Xfinity), so if we have to switch to a dish provider, I’d have to talk to our landlord regarding whether we could even mount a dish somewhere.

I know the popular option is going to be canceling our cable all together. I totally agree that this is the most cost-effective and obvious choice for a couple trying to get rid of their debt. But let’s also take the marital relationship into consideration.

Update: I wrote this on Sunday and today I called (again) to try to get my bill lowered. Lo and behold, apparently it all depends who you speak to because last time the woman swore up and down there was nothing she could do. This time the guy knocked a flat $5 off my bill (from the monthly cable box fee) and said he would lock in a rate (no contract required) for $89 after our current promotional rate ends (side note: apparently our promo rate is actually $79, but with taxes and such it amounts to about $85….so I’m assuming the $89 rate will come out to closer to $95ish). It’s still more than I want to pay, but much better than the $115 (before taxes & fees) we were looking at. So I guess I’m happy with the situation and it looks like I won’t have to be switching cable providers.

What do you do if you and your spouse/partner disagree about finances? How do you settle things?

This is an area I would tend to “pick my battles” and let my husband win simply because it clearly means a lot to him. Also, we rarely (if ever) go out – can’t remember our last date, trip to a movie, etc. So this is one of our only paid forms of entertainment (we also get a Redbox probably once or twice a month). Still…..I know its not a popular idea to keep cable when you’re trying to cut expenses and pay down debt. What are your experiences with balancing cutting expenses and keeping a partner happy???

Hair Care


For you readers who have been around awhile….

Remember the struggles Emily had with getting her hair done? I think hair care was one of her big weaknesses (as eating out is one of mine). Way back then, I remember commenting on one of her posts about the issue. For the first 3 years that I lived in Arizona (before I had babies), I would always go to the Aveda Institute to get my hair done. I LOVE Aveda (I’ve talked about their fabulous lotion before, too)!! They’re quite pricey, but the institute is a school, so you’re getting your hair done by someone who is learning. This worked great for awhile, but the problem with a school is that the people working there are new (duh!). Because of this, they take foreeeever to do your hair. I’m talking – a hair cut can take 2 hours. If you need a color (I usually do a partial highlight) in addition to the color, kiss a solid 5-6 hours of your life goodbye (and sometimes they have to schedule the procedures on different days!!!)

Once I had kids, this was no longer a viable option. In the pre-baby days, I lived by the mantra “I have more time than money,” so I was willing to get a 6 hour cut and color if it meant I was paying a fraction of the price. But with babies, time = money. Who is watching my kids? My husband works every day, so I’d have to be paying a sitter for those 6 hours. Suddenly, my half-price hair is not so cheap after all.

So once I had babies I transitioned to using Groupons. I would buy a different Groupon every time I needed my hair done. I would get lots of great deals (like $35 for cut + color), but I’d be going someplace new and foreign every time.

The last time I got my hair done it was a disaster of epic proportions. It was so horrendous that I yelped all about the terrible experience (which is why I am able to copy/paste this review for you and know that this is 100% accurate, not at all exaggerated in any way):

I bought a Groupon here after reading the rave reviews. Unfortunately I was super disappointed by the whole experience and do not plan on returning.

First thing is just weird – I had originally booked my appt for a Wednesday. I got a call the Saturday before at 8pm asking me to reschedule (so weird to call on a Saturday evening???), so I changed my appt to Friday.

2 – But when I got in Friday morning, my person was running behind then made some remark about how Fridays are crazy and I shouldn’t have booked a Friday (ummm, I tried to book a Wednesday – YOU made me reschedule).

3 – Because of my Groupon the person doing my hair knew I wanted a partial highlight and cut, but she didn’t ask me a single question. What color for the highlights? Do you want thick or thin highlights? etc etc etc – Nope! She just started working. I thought it was strange, but I didn’t have any crazy requests so I just let her do her thing.

4 – I was repeatedly asked to lean to my side so the woman could reach my head. I am not tall – 5 feet 4 inches – so this has never happened in my life. But I literally had to stoop and bend my neck to the side (like, putting my ear to my shoulder), causing a wicked crick in my neck. wtf? Relatedly, when she was doing my cut (I asked for subtle layers at the bottom), she asked me to stand up while she was cutting. Yes. Instead of boosting me up on the seat, she had me stand while she cut my hair. Again…wtf???

5 – The woman washed my hair only 1/2 at a time. As soon as she finished the foils, she washed the first half of my head. Then she waited 15 minutes for the second side to finish processing. Then she came back and washed the other half. I have also never had this happen in my life.

6 – Once my shampoo was done, I could see my hair color was definitely sub-par. There’s still a clear line around my hair from where my previous color has grown out, and the color she added does not match or blend my own hair color at all. I have a dark/dirty blonde color and her highlights are almost platinum blonde. Not at all natural.

So, yes. Perhaps I could have spoken up when she just started mixing the color (“Um?? Excuse me….Can we talk about my color before you just do it????”), but the whole experience was just so odd. Overall, my hair is livable and I’m hoping to color will fade. However, they will not be getting my return business, for sure.

This experience was back in March. It’s now 4 months later and I am coming up on needing to get my hair done. But now I’m at a total loss for what to do. I don’t have time for Aveda Institute, don’t have money for the “real” Aveda salons, don’t have the desire to throw caution to the wind and try another Groupon (I had specifically looked up reviews prior to purchasing that Groupon and still had a terrible experience, so now I feel like reviews can’t be trusted).

I’m leaning toward doing a grocery-store box of all-over color at home and going to a Supercuts or something for the cut (side note:  old school readers, I looked up this old post from Beks, who got her hair cut for $13 from Super Cuts). I really hate this, though. I feel like my hair looks drab and “blah” with all-over color, but I’ve also had bad experience with DIY highlights (I feel like, to be done right, highlights really need to be from a salon). I feel like there are no good options. I’ve also thought about saving up my “personal maintenance” budget money for a few months, but it would take forever to save enough for a “real” salon (I only allot myself $30/month and most salons charge in the $75+ range for cut and partial highlight, not including tip). My hair already has the straggly-needs-to-be-done look to it, so I don’t think I can wait another 3 months (which would put me at a total of 7 months from my last cut).

Do I need to stop whining and just go buy a boxed color and DIY at home? What do you do to save money on hair care expenses?

Eating Out


I was listening to an old Dave Ramsey radio show podcast this past week and heard an incredible couple who were doing their debt-free scream (side note: this is now a secret dream of mine. I’ve always wanted to go to Nashville. Wouldn’t it be grand to plan a trip to celebrate being totally debt-free!!!! It still feels so far off, but a girl can dream! While there, I would totally stalk sit-in on The Bobby Bones Show, too #fangirl)

Aaaaaanyway, this couple was asked the usual question, “What was one of the hardest things about the process of becoming debt-free?” Their answer was probably the #1 thing I also struggle with…..eating out. The husband joked that his in-laws probably thought he was abusing their daughter (his wife) because he was so adamant about never eating out. They laughed and talked about how worthwhile it had been, blah, blah, now it’s all rainbows and butterflies.

And….it totally made me feel like crap about myself.

Generally I find these calls to be so motivating and uplifting. But these peoples’ dedication and will power left me feeling….weak and quick-to-cave.

It’s no secret. Since I first started blogging here in March I have gone over on our “eating out” budget every.single.month.

On my best month, I was $12 over. On my worst? Well over double my $75 monthly budget.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I have the luxury of working from home, so it should be easy for me to prep dinner during the day and get it going so we can all eat at a reasonable time (it’s not like I can get stuck in an office, battling traffic, etc etc). I meal plan, we have food in the house….and I just lack the will power. There’s no other excuse.

What’s really weird is – I KNOW I can do it. I’ve only briefly mentioned this in passing, but as my husband was recovering from his mystery illness, his little brother had moved out from Texas and lived with us for a couple months. While here, he helped around the house and helped Chris with work and, in exchange, we covered all of his living expenses (including food). Having another grown man in the house to feed was a BIG change for us. Suddenly I was having to buy more food, there were never any leftovers, and probably the biggest change….I refused to eat out. In the two months he lived with us, we maybe ate out twice. Simply because I was so cheap frugal that I didn’t want to pay for another meal.

No matter what was going on – whether I was tired, sick, busy, whatever – I would make dinner every night, rain or shine. And many of those busy-don’t-wanna-make-dinner nights when I’d have to pull on my big girl britches and do it anyway, I found that it was totally no big deal. I’d have it done within 20-30 minutes, we’d eat, and I was fine.

All this to say, I know it can be done. I know I can do it.

But then why am I struggling so much?

What do you do when your will power is wavering? I would say that “eating out” has certainly been my biggest obstacle. I don’t find the same will power issues with my entertainment or personal maintenance budget categories (even though they have also been reduced from my pre-blogging budget). But eating out is like my kryptonite!

Please give me some advice! What do you do to encourage yourself and build back up your will power? How do you persevere against your biggest budget weaknesses?