Technical Difficulties


I’ve been writing my posts on Monday nights so I can publish them for everyone first thing Tuesday morning, but this Monday night my computer decided not to cooperate. I’m currently writing this from my iPhone but I plan on provided a full update once I get my computer up and running this afternoon, assuming (and hoping) it’s an easy fix.

Interest Payments


It’s that time of year again….TAX time!!!

Maybe some think of it as a “fun” time of year, particularly if you are expecting a refund (in which case…why are you doing that?? You’re essentially loaning the government money interest-free for a period of time! Change your withholdings so you end up with a smaller return. That means you’ll get more money in each paycheck!)

For our little family of entrepreneurs (him) and contract workers (me), this time of year isn’t so fun.

We pay estimated quarterly taxes, but last year we had underestimated our taxes and ended up owing a bit when April rolled around. This year, I fear the same thing may have happened. We haven’t finished taxes yet so I don’t know for sure, but I’m a little nervous of the bill we may find ourselves facing. We’ll see. *fingers crossed*

Relatedly, because I’ve started gathering the relevant documents, I’ve seen how much INTEREST we’ve paid this year and it is sickening!

Between student loans, the car loan, and the credit cards (note:  we no longer have credit card debt at this point, but before they were paid in full we did accumulate some interest from them at the beginning of 2014), we ended up paying a total of $5988.95 in interest.

Can you believe it? That’s sooooo much money to be simply giving someone in exchange for them lending us money. It sickens me as I think of all the things we could do with $6,000!

Perhaps not surprisingly, the majority of the interest came from the student loans (just over $3,000), the rest came from the car loan (a little less than $2500) and credit card debt (remaining).

I know you can deduct interest payments for tax purposes*, so that’s what we’re planning to do. Still, I’d much rather pay taxes on that $6,000 of income and get to keep the money in my pocket rather than paying it out as interest. Booo!!!!

Have you started figuring out tax stuff yet? Do you get a refund? How much did you pay in interest last year?

*I should mention that I know next to NOTHING about tax preparation, as I never do my own. Sooooo, don’t take anything I say about taxes as a 100% fact without double-checking for yourself : )

Ashley’s January Debt Update


I pre-wrote and scheduled a couple of posts for today because I’ll be doing my campus interview all day (my itinerary is from 9am-7pm)!!! I probably won’t have a chance to respond to any comments until tonight or tomorrow so I just wanted to give you a heads up on that. Please send me some good vibes, positive thoughts/energy, prayers, good juju, whatever works for you! I am trying to come off as confident (but not cocky), enthusiastic and likable (but not desperate), professional, and articulate. Remember – I’ve kinda got all my eggs in one basket on this one, so it feels like a BIG day for me! Wish me luck!!!

The numbers are in and here’s how my debt has been shaping up this month…

PlaceCurrent BalanceAPRLast Payment MadeLast Payment Date (original debt, March 2014)
Capital One CC-17.9%-Paid off in March ($413)
Mattress Firm-0%-Paid off in May ($1381)
Wells Fargo CC-13.65%-Paid off in May ($7697)
BoA CC-7.24%-Paid off in June ($2220)
License Fees$22082.5%250January ($5808)
PenFed Car Loan$159782.49%1000January ($24040)
Navient - Federal Student Loans$44448.25%16January ($4687)
Navient - Dept of Ed$722318.25-6.55%260January ($69191)
ACS Student Loans$210407.24%77December ($21035)
Medical Bills$64110%75January ($9000)
Totals$122,312 (Last month = 123,667)Total: $1,678Starting Debt = $145,472

Maybe it’s just because we’ve reached the 10-month mark so some of the newness and excitement has started to rub off a bit, but I’m just not as enthusiastic about my progress as I was early on in the debt-repayment process.

On one hand, we put over $1,600 toward debt this month! That’s great, right?!

On the other hand, my student loan balances went up. Again. (my minimum payments don’t cover the interest, so the balance keeps slooooowly growing).

And my total debt ($122,000+) is still so out-of-control. I cannot WAIT for the day that I break the $100,000 barrier and dip into the $99,999s.

Hubs ended up making an extra debt payment toward his license fees at the end of last month. So if you were to compare the balance this month to the one from last month, that’s why there’s a discrepancy (the table says $250 was applied this month, which is true, but hubs had made a payment of just over $250 at the end of last month, too, so it’s gone down by $500 compared to last month’s beginning balance).

Can I make a little confession that will become pretty apparent anyway real soon (when we talk about how the budget went this month)???

I ended up going a bit over on a couple categories this month. I think some of the holiday-spending spilled over into January and I was just a little too loosey-goosey on my spending. Nothing crazy or extravagant. Mostly just up to my old tricks again….spending too much on groceries and crap that we don’t really need because its oh-so-easy for me to justify grocery purchases as a necessity, even if they aren’t.

Anyway, my plan at the beginning of the month was to pay extra toward my student loans (above the minimums) so I could pay the interest in full and not have a growing balance. *Sigh* Having gone over on my grocery budget (by a lot, I should add), I re-allocated those funds to cover my frivolous food expenses and, alas, the student loan balances continue to grow. Very discouraging.

I will do better next month!

Another confession, since we’re on that train now…

Hubs and I have fallen off the wagon with our monthly finance talks, too.

For long time readers, you’ll know that hubs and I have a unique financial relationship (I talked about it here when I first started blogging). Some of it is changing (e.g., we’re adding each other to all of our accounts this month), but one of the big things is that I’ve always been the one to sit down and actually pay the bills. When I first started blogging we started loosely following a Dave Ramsey-esque type program where hubs and I would have a monthly budget discussion to decide exactly how to allocate that months’ funds.

Over the holidays we’ve sort of slipped back into our old patterns where hubs has simply given me money and I’ve put it where I think it should go. To be clear, I really am doing what I believe to be best with the money (in terms of debt allocations, etc.), but I do think it’s important for hubs to actually be in on these decisions rather than simply letting me handle the funds how I see fit. Things seemed to be moving faster and progress seemed to be better when we were working together. So that’s coming back at the end of this month as we discuss our plans for February.

Hopefully in the coming months we’ll see some stronger progress!

How’ve you been doing with your debt payments? How do you and your significant other handle finances/bills/etc?

More Interview Questions


First, I just want to say thank you for all the great comments and feedback on the vasectomy post! There’s no immediate rush to make a decision TODAY, so I think we’re going to take a little time still, but its been great to hear your experiences and thoughts on the matter!

I know you’re all probably getting really sick of hearing about my interview again and again.

If you’re new or need a refresher to jog your memory, check out this post first so you have some context of what I’m talking about….

So my interview (the “real” interview) is Monday.

I’m about 90% ready at this point. Got my interview outfit mostly ready to go (I say “mostly” because we have a safe that has some of my jewelry in it – I rarely wear anything aside from my wedding band – but I really want to wear pearls for the interview and I CANNOT FOR THE LIFE OF ME REMEMBER THE SAFE COMBINATION!!! ARGH!!! I’m going to work on figuring that out this weekend.)

My presentations are mostly done. I’ll be giving two presentations: A longer one that serves as a teaching demonstration, and a shorter one on “My Vision of Teaching in Higher Education.”

In reference to the second one, I have a question to throw out there…

During the presentation, should I be keeping things more general (e.g., “I see education moving toward increasing online options, hybrid classrooms, etc.) or should I also include more personal things about my actual experience and education (e.g., “I can do this better than other candidates because I possess [X knowledge] that will help with the transition as more classes move toward an online format.”)  I put these sentences in quotes, but I likely wouldn’t state things so bluntly….

I guess my real question is do I keep the talk specifically about teaching in higher education??? OR do I talk about how I will be the most effective instructor for the changing student and university needs?

Basically, do I reference my “competition” or not (by saying I’d be the best, it’s implying “better than the other candidates”)?

I’ll be meeting with people all day long, so I could certainly keep the talk more general about teaching in higher education and slip in the personal experiences bit in my individual meetings. Just wanted to see what you all think about it.

AND, I’ve been in talks with the “not a real interview” university. They’re flying me out in late March – paying for the flights, a hotel, and a rental car, as well meals while I’m in town.

I still feel super weird about it. The most recent email, the search chair’s last sentence was (quote): “We’re really excited this is going to work, Ashley!”

What does that even mean?? Excited WHAT is going to “work out”???

We’ve established that there’s not currently a position available (see the whole post I wrote about that here). It could be that one is opening up soon, or this is just good HR to make a connection for when a position does come available. I’m going to see this out until it reaches a natural conclusion, as one reader suggested. But my HOPE is that I get the “real interview” job, and if that’s the case, then this whole trip feels a little moot. It would certainly be conflicting IF I were to land a position here in Arizona, get started, get situated, and then end up being offered a position at the “not a real interview” university the following year (my guess is it would be a full year later, since academic positions usually start in August….though not always).

Anyway, I just wanted to give you all an update about that. So my interview outfit will get worn at least twice this year, lol. Speaking of, remember how I used my birthday money to purchase the suit? I was hoping I’d end up with some money leftover to throw at debt, but it didn’t work out that way. I really, really wanted to get a nice suit. There were several options I saw that would have been “okay” and in a much cheaper range (some as low as $60 for the coat + pants) but it was cheaper material, no inner lining on the coat, etc. I wanted something a bit nicer than that. In the end I purchased a $300 suit from Ann Taylor online, taking a leap of faith and hoping the fit would be okay. I was really pleasantly surprised with how nice it is and I think it looks really sharp. But between the suit + my hair cut/color, I wasn’t left with any money leftover for an additional debt payment. To be clear, I still made our normal monthly debt payment, but just not an extra one.

So that’s it for now. I’ve gotta wrap up my presentation (so suggestions on that would be awesome!). Hope you all have a great Friday as we head into the weekend!

Vasectomy or Vasecto-nope???


Can we talk about something a little more…errr, personal today???

If you’re a newer reader, my husband (32 yrs.) and I (31 yrs.) have twin 2.5 year old daughters. We love them oh so much and our roles as parents. Buuuuut, we don’t want to do it over again.

This is something that we’ve thought a LOT about in the past few years. From the beginning husband has always been fairly certain he does not want more children. I wavered a bit more. When the girls were infants I was firmly in the NO MORE KIDS camp. Then around their first birthday I thought….maybe we might try again at some point? Not soon, but someday? I love the idea of having a little boy. And what great helpers would two older sisters be?

Then the romance of those daydreams wore off. In the past year I’ve sold off and/or given away ALL of our baby stuff. The older the girls get the more I think I NEVER want to do the baby stage again. Over Christmas we held friends’ newborns and ooh’d and aww’d over them. When asked if we wanted another of our own I instantly (maybe a little too sharply) replied, “ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!!”

The truth is I really don’t want to do it again. I like the idea of having a boy, but (1) you don’t just get to choose the gender, and (2) I like the idea….but I don’t think I’d like the reality.

I just can’t do it again. The sleepless nights, the endless diapers, the spit up, the breastfeeding woes (I was committed to breastfeeding and did so for 6 months but it was a struggle every single day). Not to mention I had a very difficult pregnancy and came down with HELLP syndrome toward the end. I ended up delivering the twins via emergency c-section when my blood count numbers were plummeting and the doctors were afraid they might lose me. It was traumatic to say the least.

Here’s a snippet I’ve copy/pasted from my personal blog about the experience:

Nurse: *walks into room* – Where’s hubby?

Me: He went to go get some lunch

Nurse: At the cafeteria?

Me: No… a fast food place.

Nurse: Will he be back soon?

Me: He should be……why???

Nurse: *nervous giggle* (there’s a pause as she turns away from me, busying herself with something; after a couple minutes she turns, sits on the side of the bed and says): Well…..remember how I drew that blood from you this morning? It turns out that some of your levels are extremely abnormal. In fact, they’re so abnormal that I’ve talked to the attending OB, and she wants to go ahead and deliver your babies today.

The rest was a bit of a blur.

I never want to do it again. Never. Ever. Ever.

So all that being said, I am currently on oral contraceptives. However, I do NOT want to be on birth control the rest of my child-bearing years. I really don’t like introducing hormones into my body at all but I haven’t wanted to risk a pregnancy so I’ve resigned myself to this as a solution for the time being. I’ve played around with various types of birth control options over the years and I really just don’t like any of them. None of them are great long-term options for me.

Know what is???

Chop, chop honey!!! (tee hee)

Yes. A vasectomy.

If I’d known that we were for sure done with children earlier, I would have just requested getting my tubes tied when I was already in for C-section surgery. I wasn’t sure at that time. I am now.

Husband obviously isn’t crazy about the idea of the old snip-snip, but he also knows he doesn’t want more kids.

Plus, many insurance companies pay huge portions of the vasectomy surgery now (many pay the full thing, minus a copay). Alternatively, the cost of a child from birth to 18 is nearly a quarter of a million dollars (according to CNN money)

I’d love to get your opinions on this. Please, please keep your opinions to more financially-based (rather than religiously-based). I’d also love to hear if you have any personal experiences. I have one girlfriend whose husband had a vasectomy after their third child (7 years ago) and now she is LONGING for a fourth child. A vasectomy-reversal is much more costly than a vasectomy and it is more invasive, difficult to recover from, and is not always a guarantee of success. She regrets the vasectomy and has urged me to wait longer until making a final decision. When is the right time for this type of decision (especially since I’ve wavered in the past…I’m firmly in the NO MORE BABIES camp right now, but could I change my mind again in another year???)

Thoughts??? Opinions? Personal experiences??

Getting Organized – Finance Style


When I was married, I managed the books for both of our businesses, did all his payroll, paid all the bills both business and personal, filed all our taxes and was obsessive about keeping my Quickbooks and Quicken files in balance.  I knew where every dime was, when every bill was due, everything.  It was a daily task for me, and by daily, I mean daily.  Fast forward six years almost seven years…

I’ve not maintained a Quicken/Quickbooks file at all.  Yes, on a couple of occasions, I would get it set up, do all the set up to synch my accounts and then promptly and completely forget about it or just plain ignore it.  I have lived by the seat of my pants since then.  Borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, forgetting that I paid Paul and then having to borrow from Jane…and so forth.  I’ve been the queen of knowing exactly how long payments took to come out of my account and then rolling the dice on whether a pay check would come in before then, or using my card and banking on it not hitting the bank until a few days later to buy just that much more time.  It got so bad that I have refused to use paper checks at all, since I couldn’t predict when they would get cashed and frankly, wasn’t really monitoring my accounts that closely.  It was bad, super bad.

I would guesstimate that in my worst years I spent several hundred dollars are year on overdraft fees.  I knew it was wrong, I knew it was dumb, but between the marriage fail, the housing debacle (this is not the recent one, but the two rental homes I have written about previously,) being the sole provider for then two children, well I was a mess.

Now, in the last maybe, year and a half, I have started to get myself in order.  Keeping lists of bills and due dates, monitoring my bank accounts more closely and trying my best to avoid that stupid bank fees.  But I’ve still not returned to my obsessive nature that was we marriage fail.  And now it’s time…

Okay, not necessarily for the obsessive, daily financial craziness, but for a more organized, traditional book-keeping methodology.  So as of this month, I have updated my version (previous 2012) of Quicken Home & Business, begun the set up with my existing budget and categories, etc.  And I am determined to get back into at least a weekly habit of checks and balances as far as budget, planning and business review.

These last seven years have been a long, hard road.  I would like to say that I never signed up to be a single parent, but the fact of the matter is that I would have become a foster parent whether I got married/had biological kids or not.  So I can’t say I didn’t sign up for that part.  I certainly didn’t sign up for it the way it happened.  It wasn’t my plan.  But you know what, I/we are in a really good place right now.  There is a light, not just a light, but a BRIGHT light at the end of this tunnel and we are plugging away for full steam ahead despite setbacks and hardships this past year.

So for your Quicken users, specifically those who may be entrepreneurs/business owners, got any suggestions or tips and tricks to share with me?

The Cost of Education


As we enter the final months of this school year, which always makes me antsy for the freedom of summer, I am starting to evaluate our school methods, curriculums, plans, goals and more importantly now, costs.  In April, all four kids will go through evaluation testing as a means of “proof of progress” which is what our state requires from homeschoolers.  The cost for this testing for all four will be right around $100 and give me a pretty clear picture of where they stand on all state mandated (requirements for graduation) courses, but of course, does not evaluate all the extras we do…gymnastics, dance, Navy Sea Cadets, Teen Pact, music, etc.

Next to my rent, our education costs are my next biggest chunk (since we have no car payment – yeah!)  I am completely confident that my children are getting a very well rounded education, focusing on things they enjoy and are good up and shoring up their challenge areas.  And this year for the first time, I let them all choose their subjects completely independently.  (Of course, I had some strong suggestions.)  But I have to say, the cost of our homeschool co op stands out to me, especially since I just had to pay it this week.

During the Fall semester, the complete courseload for all four kids was right around $2000.  Remember, I was able to barter for about of quarter of that.  This amount included a full load (all the classes he needed for the semester) for History Buff, a good portion of them for Sea Cadet, a well balanced load of LOVEs and must haves but enjoys for Princess, and 3 supplementary classes for Gymnast.

For this Spring semester, my cost is slightly less because I chose not to pay for classes that my children decided to slack off in…natural consequences! (The children will then have to pick up additional courses here at home or move on to another course.  It doesn’t mean they are not doing school, just that I’m not paying for someone else to teach them and them not fully participating…not wasting my money or the teacher’s time.)  Total I had to pay was about $1300 (still have bartered classes going on.)

So based on those numbers, I am paying approximately $600 a month for 6 months, while our homeschool co op operates.  Almost a car payment for those 6 months.  There are lots of positives to this arrangement:

  • I get three hours a week when all the kids are at class at the same time.  It’s my only kid free time EVER.
  • The teachers are these classes are dedicated, they are not doing this for money and most of them teach in their area of expertise.  We have actual working scientist teaching sciences, military personnel teaching unmanned aerial vehicles courses, certified Montessori teachers teaching younger children, recent college graduates teaching music and drama, fabulous artists teaching art…ok, you get the point.  These are QUALITY classes.  AP certified classes are offered, high school classes can be taken as regular or honors, there are labs.
  • There are just somethings I don’t want to, know how to, couldn’t tolerate to teach here at home…ie high school sciences.  Now granted I could buy a stand alone curriculum ($$) and let them self teach with my guidance, but I am sure how you can see that this might now be as effective.
  • The classes are kept pretty small, same 12 kids.  Last year, the twins Algebra I class had them and one other boy in there.  It’s like private tutoring all year without the expense.
  • Friends…probably one of their favorite parts of co op is the chance to hang with friends between classes or be in classes with friends…kind of like a traditional school setting except the free time is not formally monitored.

Then there are negatives:

  • It does cost quite a bit more than me just teaching them at home. In addition to the the tuition, there are nominal supply fees per class per semester (normally about $10 per class,) books (widely varies but for high school classes books typically run $40ish,) and other supplies (Biology dissection kit and 4 specimens just cost $70.)   So it does add up.
  • While the co op does have enforceable rules and in our now 6 years of attending there haven’t been any major incidents, there are isolated incidents that can leave you as a parent frustrated (ie unsupervised younger children being mean or inappropriate, parents who have a hard time accepting their child just might have done something wrong, etc.)
  • It does tie us down on the co op days.  One of the great things about homeschooling is the flexibility of schedule.  Being regulated pretty much all day 2 days a week, goes against the grain.

So with all that being said, I am now starting to review what I did this year and what I will change for next year, especially in light of my singular desire to be out of debt…and the freedom to pursue other goals.

There are very obvious conclusions in some cases to me:

  1. There are some required HS classes that I just won’t teach, either for cost or competence, and the money for a experienced, dedicated teacher for those subjects is money well spent.
  2. I truly NEED the break I get from having all my kids in classes at the same time for at least a couple of hours a week.  It makes a HUGE difference to my mental health.  So paying for an extra class here or there to get that time frame is worth is to me, but if push came to shove, I could sacrifice it especially with a specific financial goal achievable within a semester or two, rather a temporary sacrifice.
  3. For those subjects which a particular child find challenging, I think getting it kind of as a double serving can be a positive thing.  Sometimes, they just need to hear it from a different perspective or different format for it to click.  This was exemplified to me with Gymnast.  I tried every method, every curriculum, every suggestion to teach him to read, but it was only after finding a tutor that really worked with him that he got it.  What I tried for 4 years, she achieved with him in 6 months and now he’s about at grade level (and this was just last spring.)  I know they say when they get it, they get it, but it is certainly scary for a mom to watch her son struggle and feel like a failure in helping him.

And then some not obvious ones:

  1. My kids LOVE drama, just love it.  The drama teacher is a young, college graduate who’s taught at the co op for the last several years and my little ones first experience with her was in a music theory class (where they were the only two students.)  I, on the other hand, well, I have a hard time stomaching paying for drama, especially since it is one of the more expensive classes.
  2. I held out for years in paying for art classes.  We always did art, crafty stuff at home, so the $100 per class tuition was hard for me to swallow.  But it to is one of their favorite classes and I do have to say, the projects they come home with are PHENOMENAL, like truly display worthy.  Luckily, this year, I was able to barter for all the art classes (elementary art, high school art, yearbook and drawing) so not a big deal this year, but next year?
  3. Like this year…classes that you just don’t see your class performing well in or that you see they are getting much out of.  This year I was fed up with it enough, compounded with my financial goals, that I hard lined it and just made them drop them completely.  But I’m not sure this is the best solution typically.

So I’ve definitely got a lot more thinking to do.  But I wanted you to know what was on my mind right now as far as more cost cutting on a long term basis.  But I also wanted to ask a question to those of you with older/grown children…at what age would you say your child really settled into their strengths.  Everything I read says “shore up” the weaknesses and focus on the strengths, but frankly, I’m not sure when those are solid.  And I think my twins are an exception to the tradition because they missed out on so much in their early years, they are still experiencing lots of firsts so I hate to pin hole them into what I think are/will be their strengths/weaknesses when they haven’t really even gotten to try things.  Make sense?