In other news…

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Totally unrelated to money, but….

The building I work in is super old. One of the oldest on campus (and our campus was built in the 1800s so…). Anyway, the elevator is ancient and moves at the pace of a snail. It’s not actually broken. It’s always that way.

But I think people often panic by how slow-moving it is and think the elevator is broken and/or they’re stuck in it. There’s an alarm you can push if the elevator breaks and from my office I hear people push it probably about once every 15-20 minutes. And it’s still the summer. Can’t imagine what it will be like when the Fall semester begins and people are in-and-out all the time! Constant alarm buzzing???

Also…the elevator kinda scares me, too. I know its just slow and will eventually get there/open, but its an unsettling feeling to be inside and worry that you might get stuck (I’ve been stuck in an elevator before for 45 minutes! It sucked!). So I always opt to take the stairs. Being on the fourth floor, I feel like I’m getting some pretty good exercise. So I guess that’s a positive. ; )

Have you ever been stuck in an elevator? I’m not even claustrophobic, but I remember feeling totally panicked! I was a grad student at the time and had a ton of journal articles with me so I sat on the floor and started reading to try to occupy my mind so I wouldn’t freak out. The fire department eventually came and rescued me but it took forever and I was late to class!


Back to School

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How quickly the summer has flown by! Even though it doesn’t feel like Fall yet (and I guess technically its not for another month and a half!), the Fall semester is soon upon us!

This month is going to be a little on the pricy side for childcare. Our current childcare facility (the JCC)’s last day is on July 31st. They close for a week for teacher planning before the next school year begins. But our new childcare facility doesn’t start until August 12th. So we’re left with 7 weekdays with no childcare! Yikes!

Although my job does allow some flexibility for working from home, there’s no way I can stay home for the entire 7 days in a row. Especially at this time of year (being brand new, trying to get all the prep work done for my classes, endless meetings, setting up my new office, etc. etc. etc.) it’s just not feasible.

So after racking our brains for possible options we’ve finally resigned ourselves to the fact that we’re going to have to pay someone hourly to come to our house to watch the kids. This is WAY more expensive (per hour) than taking them to a childcare center. But I also don’t feel good about just throwing them in a random childcare center for 7 days and then moving them again to the new place (they’re not great with change, and moving to the new facility is going to be enough of an adjustment. Plus – anyone remember our bad experience with a childcare center last summer? That experience has scarred me a little so I’m extra careful about vetting places now). To me, this is really our only available option.

And, even so, I’m still going to have to take off work. Our babysitter is a senior in high school and schools start back next Thursday so she can only watch our kids Monday-Wednesday. The plan now is for me to stay home Thurs-Fri, and for hubs to stay home the following Mon-Tues, and then they start the new place on Wednesday, August 12th. Whew!

In addition to babysitting expenses, the new school has a whole list of things we need to bring. I’m going to use our same lunch boxes, but we need a new backpack (I’d only bought one last year and we never even used it, but the new place requires them and I want them to each have their own), we have to bring some school supplies, oversized shirts (to wear over their clothes for art projects), and it seems like a ton of other things that I can’t even remember right now. I just remember going through the paperwork seeing dollar signs as I was reading.

Even so, I’m VERY excited for them to start this new preschool. I absolutely loved the JCC and will sing their praises to the very end. But it’s not practical to stay there given the distance from our home (especially now with me working), and our new place seems really awesome, too. I ADORE their teacher, its closer to our house, the curriculum is incredible (it follows NAEYC standards), and it’s cheaper! A win-win-win all around!

So hopefully after this first month of extra childcare expenses (due to babysitting costs and back to school supplies), costs should even out a little bit.

I don’t know if its just because I’m in higher education, but I have always LOVED back-to-school excitement! You can just feel the energy and buzz in the air! I find it especially true on a college campus, but I’m sure it’s a similar feeling everywhere.

When do your kids go back to school? How much do you typically spend on back-to-school supplies?


Staying Cool is a Breeze

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Every night I listen to the air conditioning click on and off all night.  I turn it down to 68 at night because I can’t sleep when I’m hot.  But every time I hear it click on lately I’ve been starting to panic about our electric bill because it’s been running ALOT!

On top of that, without a programmable thermostat, I will often forget during the day to turn it back up for just can’t stand the thought of being hot while I work!

So I’ve been anxiously awaiting the bill…it came in today.  $132!  I am so relieved.  This means I don’t have to “sweat” running the a/c as often as I have!

Another argument is my book for staying in our shaded, first floor cozy apartment this year I might add when talking about our Housing Options.


Focused on Housing

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All debt pay off is on hold for this moment as I focus my energy and quite possibly my money on our housing situation.  We were SO close at the beginning of this week to making a decision and making a move, but in the end I backed out.

I have all channels open in the housing search and am giving myself until Sept 1 to make a decision.  Here is where we are at:

House to Buy

I have qualified for a down payment grant so with just 3.5% down I can buy a house.  I have set the limit on this right at $100K which would make my house payment right around $600-700 and leave me plenty to make improvements and tackle any issues that came up.  A very gracious real estate agent is on the lookout for this.  If it doesn’t work out by my Sept 1 deadline, I have a second deadline for her of May 1.  Here’s what we are looking for: 1) within 30-40 drive radius of our city, 2) 4 bedrooms, 3) at least 2 bathrooms, 4) first floor master and 5) at least an acre, prefer a bit more and isolated enough for chickens.

Status: We found our DREAM home, a fixer upper with 4 acres for $90K.  Unfortunately, it needed to much work to qualify for a regular mortgage.  Boo!

House to Rent

Seeking 3+ bedroom, 2+ bath for rent that will allow all our animals.  Still want first floor master but am finding myself even more willing to compromise on that as we get closer to the deadline.  Very unrealistic goal to stay around same rent level at $1300, so have looked a bit higher lately but it makes me cringe.

Status:  Have pretty much ruled this out.  Found an amazing home that would have suited perfectly.  It has been on the market for a while and seller seemed rather anxious to rent it as a result, but after a conversation regarding our animals and his nervousness AND more importantly running numbers, I have decided that this would be a STUPID financial decision (rent $1700) and did not quite trust him on the animal front.  So I emailed him yesterday and graciously said, thanks but no thanks.  Kids were quite sad, but I think they understand.

Three Bedroom Apartment

I wrote earlier in the summer about the large waiting list at our current apartment complex for their three bedrooms.  Well, when I went into to discuss options for terminating if we found a house, I asked again.  There are 2 available in September!  And more importantly, they are on special for $1300, approx the same I’m paying for the 2 bedroom.  But it is on the second floor (I hate stairs if you haven’t figured that out,) and on the other side of the complex so not quite the ease of use for the dog park.

Status: Kids are all voting to move.  I’m in limbo, reasons being 1) not sure who would get the single room and 2) would not be as comfortable with the little ones taking the dogs out alone.  Not to mention to pack and move, when I have a definite end game goal of moving to a purchased home in May when the school year is over.

Stay

Stay where we are, sign a lease through May and just deal.  Maybe rearrange rooms again because Princess is definitely struggling with not having any privacy…ever (ahem, I am too,) and Little Gymnast and the Twins are ALWAYS often at each others’ throats.

Status: This is definitely the way I’m leaning.  No packing, no moving, no stairs, no inconvenient dog park, no fighting over small single room.  And I keep thinking with the school year picking back up and us getting back to our busy schedules, there won’t be quite so much togetherness so maybe the bickering and stress levels will settle back down.

So this is where my time is being spent these days…the housing debacle.  I am SO ready for this to be done!

SIDE NOTE: Have you all heard of this contest where a couple is giving away a farm here in Virginia on an essay contest… I’m sorely tempted to enter!


My Thoughts About My Month Off

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I hope everyone is having a fantastic start to their week, even after the bad news we all got (Ashley’s Father). Ashley- if you’re reading this, my heart goes out to you and your family during this time.

Writing this post seems pretty trivial after this weekend, but now it’s nearing the end of my month off from paying off any debt, I want to provide everyone with my what my feelings have been during this time:

  • I felt like I had more money than ever before. Which was true- I’ve never been able to spend like I spent this month without incurring extra. And even with this fact in mind, the money is all gone, sorta- I put $500 into my savings.  But I can plainly see how people’s expenses can grow to meet their income, and it a lot of cases, exceed their income, without a good deal of oversight.
  • I felt good spending the money. It was awesome (and greatly needed) that I bought new clothes. It felt good to be able to spend “freely” in Disney. We’ve certainly enjoyed eating out and going for ice cream and the other activities we did that we normally wouldn’t have.
  • But I don’t want to make it a habit. I had a ton of money to spend, I spent it, it felt pretty good spending it, but I don’t want to make it a habit. In the short term- I have the goal of paying off debt while saving as much as I can for retirement. In the long term, I may be debt free, but I don’t want to live with a mountain of stuff only because I’ll have the money available. I think this may be obvious to a lot of you that I wouldn’t want to end up this way after spending so many years tackling this debt, but I want to reiterate it here for my own peace of mind after all the spending I did this month. It was a fun month but not the lifestyle I want to live.
  • And at the end I’m no happier than I was. At the end of this month, with all the money I spent, I didn’t leave this month any happier than it began. It may be because I still have a mountain of debt to payoff, or it may be because after all the “stuff” I bought, it couldn’t buy me happiness, just like the cliche saying. The Disney trip made me unbelievable happy and I’ll always have those memories- but it was over in an instant and we we’re back to everyday lives, albeit with some added post-Disney depression.
  • However, it did make me ready to go again for more payoff. I think this was the biggest outcome I got from the month off. TBH- I was feeling very mentally drained towards the end of June, which I think you could all tell, so this allowed me a little bit of R&R. But now, I’m READY to get back into it! Like an athlete that had to sit out a year due to injury, I’m going to hit the next half of my payoff with a full head of steam, (while still having that oh so important life/payoff balance :))

What are your thoughts concerning my month off? Have you done anything similar? Was it worth it or did you regret it? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll have one more week of my month off (but I pay my mortgage this week, so it won’t feel like it), at which point I’ll be back with my weekly debt updates and my month ending reviews.

Have a great rest of your week!


2015 Goal Check-In

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On December 30th of last year I sat down and took stock of my progress with debt repayment and made some 2015 financial goals. Some of the goals were more about general bookkeeping (like splitting up my “miscellaneous” category, which I did when I joined YNAB). But my one concrete numbers-based goal was simple.

In 2014 I paid more than $25,000 toward debt. I made the goal that in 2015 I’d pay $30,000 toward debt.

So how have we done?

Wellllllll, not so great. We were struck with a series of months with lower-than-our-average pay, even during the months when we usually make the most (like during summer). There was one month where hubs literally didn’t draw an income at all and almost all of my pay was sucked up into an overdue tax bill. So we had some pretty lackluster debt payments.

We’re 7 months into the year, and here’s where things stand with debt payment.

2015 Debt Payments

January $1678
February $1822
March $653
April $1796
May $1708
June $725
July $2125
Total $10,507

By this point in time, we should really have paid closer to $18,000 to be on target to hit our $30,000 goal. So we may be behind, but I’m not ready to admit defeat on this goal just yet.

With my new income stream starting to come in (my first paycheck was this past Friday! Wahoo!), and another goal being to pay off the car by the end of the year (now with just under a $14,000 balance), I think if we focus and are conservative with our spending that we’ll be able to reach BOTH goals (paying off the car by end of 2015 AND putting $30,000 toward debt this year).

There are definitely still some unknowns (e.g., will I get to keep my part-time job???), but right now I’m thinking positive thoughts and I’m going to keep chugging along with the hopes of hitting that big $30,000 mark. Can we have a moment of silence in appreciation of how HUGE that figure is? Granted, that’s not all money going straight toward principal (its money paid toward debt in general, which includes a good chunk of interest, so it’s not the same as a reduction of $30,000 in debt). But still! I’m in amazement, given that just a few years ago our entire ANNUAL INCOME was around $30,000! And now we’re hoping to spend that much just on debt! It feels good! I’m ready for this debt to be gone! It’s far past time!

I’m coming for you, debt! Say your goodbyes now!!!


PAYDAY!!!

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Oh my gosh, I had forgotten how awesome it feels to have a real “payday!” Since I’ve been working contract/adjunct jobs, my pay schedule has been weird. I get paid once monthly for the online teaching job and hubs gets paid as work is completed (always at odd intervals). It’s been years since we’ve had a routine every-other-week Friday pay day and….it feels good!

I totally forgot this past Friday was my first pay day! Probably because I was a little consumed with other things. But then on Saturday I logged into my bank account and saw an extra $XXX (several hundred dollars) and realized – I got my first paycheck!!! It was only for half my normal pay because I started in the middle of a pay period. But still, it was very exciting!

Just wanted to share the fun news! Perhaps more exciting is the change in mindset I’ve had since starting to blog. If this were 2 years ago and I got a full-time job, my first paycheck would have probably been blown on some type of “reward” for myself. Now it’s sitting safely in the bank, waiting to be allocated in August’s budget (We live on last month’s income, so income from this month doesn’t get spent until next month). Instead of impulsively spending on some new clothes or a massage, I’m going to have a chance to really look at our overall income, assess our debt and savings goals, and make an educated/informed allocation of the money in a way that really feels much better long-term than the short-lived pleasure of a massage or new outfit.


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