Browsing posts in: Confessions

Budget’s Busted!

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We’re nearing the end of the semester at my university and this time of year is notoriously crazy. Fortunately, I’m seeing a light at the end of the tunnel (and the cruise! Can’t wait!!!). But the past 4 weeks have been insane. It hasn’t helped that I haven’t had weekends to catch up on things, either! Last weekend I had a 2-day workshop that I hosted and ran (= TONS of work, not to mention the whole weekend was taken). The weekend before, hubs was out of town the entire weekend for a conference (= quality mommy-daughter time, but impossible to catch up on other household or work tasks because there’s no “time off”). So it’s felt like the past 3 weeks were just one continuous week with no end in sight. I’m really looking forward to this weekend.

But there’s one thing…

I’ve let time get away from me. The first time I sat down to reconcile the budget this month wasn’t until just a couple days ago (usually I enter purchases pretty immediately). I sat down and typed in all the numbers and discovered that we’d already blown our entire restaurant budget for the month…only 1/3 of the way through the month.

It’s kind of ironic coming on the tail of last month, where I’d finally tamed our food budget and was talking about what an impact meal planning and food prep had been making. This month has included far too many nights where I’ve had to unexpectedly work late, resulting in a quick run to a sandwich shop or chick-fil-a on my way home so the kids could eat immediately and not wait for food to be cooked. We’ve also been dealing with more illness (this entire semester has been back-to-back sickness! It’s been tough!). There was a solid week straight that was affected as first one child had a stomach virus, then me, then hubs, then other child. While hubs and I were sick (and our bugs overlapped. Ugh!), it was impossible to cook food for the kids, but they still needed to be fed. Take-out pizza to the rescue! I think you’re seeing the general trend.

Realizing what’s happened, I’m going to buckle down and try to have no more eating out for the rest of the month. That being said, we luck out a little since our cruise is on the horizon. Any “eating out” at that time will come from our cruise budget (not our regular eating out budget). However, my mother-in-law is coming out to help travel with the kids. While she’s here we’ve always treated her to at least one meal out at a local restaurant, so I know there’s going to be at least one more eating out expense.

It’s tough. There are giant peaks and valleys in academia. During summer, things are pretty tame. But right now I’m getting my butt whipped and just barely treading water as I keep battling illness, trying to plan for a vacation, etc. I’ll be honest. Early in our debt-reduction mission I might face this type of challenge with gumption and determination. Right now though…..when I added all the numbers and saw we’d blown the budget….I just felt defeated. Like it’s not even possible to go the rest of the month without any more eating out.

I really am going to try my hardest, but just wanted to be honest about my feelings. Don’t know whether the difference can be attributed to just the craziness of this time of year with work, or whether its a more general issue of being so entrenched in debt-reduction. It’s no longer this shiny new thing that I’m just beginning. I’m still just as dedicated to get out of debt, but I now feel like I’m dead in the middle of an ultra-marathon. I’ve come so far, but still have so far left to go and digging deep to find the energy to continue isn’t always easy.

I’ll just keep pressing forward.

How do you handle disappointment when you realize you’ve blown your budget? How do you continue with resolve rather than simply blowing off the rest of the month? What do you do to keep your spirits high?


Why I Decided not to Pay My Rent

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It didn’t start off this way. I had every intention of paying my rent on time for my last month in my apartment. In fact, I even went in a week early and handed them a post-dated check since we would be out of town when it was due.
But then I woke up this morning beyond stressed about this month. It’s the first month I don’t have food stamps since I now make too much money. Ha, that’s a joke! And then I have all my regular bills, debt payments and additional moving expenses. Oh, and I won’t receive any of my ‘payments’ until the end of the month. So literally after paying rent a couple of small bills due the first week of the month, I would be BROKE for the next few weeks, and have to move.
I just couldn’t do it. I just can’t stomach it. So this morning, I woke up and put a stop payment on my rent check. And immediately the stress lifted, well, at least a tiny bit.
Now I’m not trying to dodge paying my rent at all, I will pay it and the ginormous amount of fees they will tack on, but I will do it in bits and pieces as I get back on my feet.
That’s where I am today, right now. Breathing again.


Confessions of a Grey-Haired Girl

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You know how I’ve been cutting and coloring my own hair for the past 18 months? It’s still going strong. With the exception of 2 professional hair cut/colors prior to interviews I’ve been exclusively doing my own hair (one professional cut/color was back in November 2014, the other was in January 2015…funny enough, neither of those are jobs I actually landed. Before the interview for my current job I hadn’t done anything special to prepare myself physically. Just wore my interview suit – third time was a charm – and styled my hair normally).

Anyway, I’ve mostly been blonde but about a month ago I decided I wanted a change and I went dark for Fall. Dying my own hair, as usual.

Only….I made a terrible discovery in doing so. You guys! I’m going grey! Eeek!

Yes, at the ripe “old” age of 32 technically 31, but only for one more month. Grey hairs galore! I guess I hadn’t noticed before because they blend in much better with blonde hair. In fact, I bet it actually increased the length of time I could go between hair dyes because the grey masked any darker-colored roots. But with dark brown hair the grey is painfully obvious.

And now I’m in a conundrum.

I like the dark brown. I want to stay dark brown for awhile. But….yeah. The grey is an issue.

I feel like I’m going to have to dye my hair more regularly (maybe every 4-6 weeks instead of closer to 8-10 weeks, which was my norm with blonde hair). And I’m using cheap grocery store dye, not something professional. I’m worried about the condition of my hair. Especially with our colder weather it feels very dry and brittle. I’ve always been a person who has HAD to wash my hair every single day (because otherwise it would get so greasy!) but I’ve moved to an every-other-day wash schedule because my hair is so dry it really doesn’t need to be washed more frequently than that.

So, I don’t know what to do. I’m torn between my preference (I’d like to stay brunette for now), my pocketbook (more frequent dying = more $), and my hair quality (more frequent dying = more damage).

I know back when Adam and Emily were blogging I’d once commented on a post by Emily about hair care. I’d found some type of at-home salon-quality hair dye that’s professionally matched to the person based on hair type, color, etc. It’s a bit more expensive than the cheap grocery store hair dye, but it’s still much cheaper than going to a salon and maybe it would save my hair from some of the damage???  What do you think?

What would you do? Try better quality at-home dye? Go back blonde? Some other alternative? Any suggestions for good hair dye brands are welcome, too!

 


My Stomach was in Knots but it is Okay

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Written on Tuesday…

For the first time EVER in my life, I had to meet with someone and tell them I could not take care of my family.  I had to go to the same building that I visited so many times as a foster parent and later adoptive parent full of pride that I was doing something to give back, something good and right, and admit that I was a failure.  I had to look at a woman in the eye and in essence say “I’ve failed to prepare for this situation by not saving and by using my money un-wisely.”  It was the worst feeling EVER.

And what a lesson.  I hate this situation.  I hate that my decisions brought me here.  I cringe at admitting what a failure I am.  But if the last year and then have taught me anything, it’s that I AM going to do better.

In no way shape form or fashion am I making excuses, but the one thing that helped me get through this morning while I was turning in shot records, leases, bank statements to what turned out to a extremely compassionate worker was that this is temporary.  I will get another job.  I will choose more wisely where my career path takes me.  I will make better money choices, even better than the ones I have started to make.  And more importantly, I WILL give back.

I do not deserve the support my community has given me and yet people have reached out offering Thanksgiving meals, help with Christmas and just words of encouragement.  But I do know that when I am back on my feet, the first thing I am going to do is find someone who has entered a dark time and reach out to them as so many have to me.

I will find out in a few days if/what assistance we qualify for, and I’ve been told that I have 10 days after I get my first paycheck to report a change in status.  I continue to seek the next step in this transition.

(And just a side note: I just completed my first of two phone interviews scheduled for today…and the second interview is scheduled for Friday.  I am counting on God to steer me as I step out in faith to follow what He has for me next rather than what I would choose.  Use me, send me…that is my prayer.)


Gone Shopping!

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Not one week after happily exclaiming that I’m allowing myself to go shopping again….I get into some trouble!

Last weekend I went to the mall on a mission to find some black pants. It was over the Labor Day weekend and there were sales, galore! My first stop was Macy’s. I didn’t find any black pants I liked but I did find a beautiful dress that I just had to snag! It’s appropriate for both work and church and was marked down from over a hundred dollars down to just $9.99!!! Truly! I snapped a picture as proof!

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Happy with myself for my awesome deal of a find, I set out for Banana Republic. I’d scored an awesome deal on navy pants last time I was there and I was hoping for a big sale. Struck out. It’s okay, Express is right down the way and I love their Editor pants. I head in that direction hoping to find something black. But on the way I pass Bath and Body Works. They have a big 50% off sale sign up in the front of the store. I have not bought an item from B&BW in literal years – since before I started blogging here. I miss it. I LOVE their scented candles and nothing at the regular grocery store compares. They might smell good, but they aren’t as potent as B&BW candles. They smell nice if you’re in the immediate vicinity but they don’t make the whole house smell like B&BW candles do. And I’m also convinced they burn faster, too (is that possible? Like B&BW uses some additive that makes the candles slower-burning???). For the most part we just haven’t had candles at all. It’s a superfluous luxury we’ve just simply cut from our budget.

But I was on a shopping high, having just scored an awesome deal at Macys! I see the 50% off signs. And…I’m feeling indulgent.

About 15 minutes and 115 dollars later, I walk out of the store.

When she rung me up and I saw my total, I knew I’d messed up big time. I handed over my debit card and typed in my pin and silently walked out of the store as though I’d just seen a ghost. I wasn’t on the same shopping high I’d been on when I walked out of Macys. This time, I just felt sick.

I debated for maybe 5 seconds whether to continue on to Express. I still hadn’t found the black pants I’d been searching for (the entire point of my trip to the mall to begin with). I decided against it. Clearly I wasn’t thinking straight. I was like an alcoholic who’d just had a drink after months of sobriety. I knew the options were (1) go home now, or (2) get drunk as a skunk go on a shopping bender. Thankfully I had my wits about me enough to know I needed to leave.

On my way home I’d already resolved that I needed to return much of my Bath and Body Works haul. I simply couldn’t allow myself to have spent that much money on candles and body spray. It was insane!

So the following day I convinced hubs to come back to the mall with me, kids in tow, to return a bunch of the items I’d purchased. I kept 3 candles and a wallflower plug for my office (which I’d already opened), but ALL of the lotions, body spray, and body wash would be returned.

It was tough, y’all. I’m terrible at returning things to begin with. I don’t like the hassle of it and I rarely follow-through. But this was just way too much money to miss out on.

I nearly cried when we approached the front of the store and I saw the signs! In addition to the 50% off sign they’d had the day before, they now also had a $12 3-wick candle one day sale going on! It took every ounce of strength and will power to walk straight to the cash register rather than raiding their candle table.

I waited patiently in line while staring straight ahead (afraid the pumpkin table would pull me away if I dared glance in its direction).  When I got to the front I set my giant bag on the table and explained that I’d gotten carried away and needed to return a bunch of items. I also asked about a price adjustment for one of the candles I’d bought (2 were already half-price, but 1 had been full price). I was told that the adjustment could only happen if I had the candle with me. I was disappointed but said okay and waited while the cashier processed my return.

Only…..while I was waiting, I glanced down and saw their own store policies, taped to the counter top. Right there in black and white, it read that price adjustments could be done only within 14 days of purchase and only with an original receipt. NOTHING about needing to physically have the product with you. I pointed to the policy and commented, “This policy only says I need the original receipt. Sooooo????” (the question just hung in the air). She was obviously annoyed, but I met both of the requirements listed (it was a very recent purchase and I had the receipt with me). She had no other option but to refund me with the difference in cost between the full-price candle and the price advertised during their one-day sale.

After the refund from the return of 6 items and price adjustment on the candle, the total amount I actually spent was $50. Still a lot of money for candles and a wallflower (a type of air freshener). But a price I was much more comfortable with and a level of indulgence that our budget could withstand.

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I still never got my black pants. I think I just need to take an ice shower to get over the “high” from the shopping and Labor Day sales. Or better yet, maybe I’ll reinstate use of actual cash (a throw back to when I did the envelope system) to eliminate the possibility of going on an unchecked shopping spree. It will be an easy way to control my spending and make sure I don’t veer off course as I start incorporating little shopping trips back into my budget after so long with very minimal shopping. I definitely don’t want another Bath and Body Works experience at any other stores, either! But I think this was a good little learning experience.  I am capable of sticking to a very strict budget (been doing it for 18 months!). But gradually adding shopping experiences back into the budget can be a tricky thing. It almost requires even more will-power than simply not shopping at all. This is because when you’re simply NOT shopping, then you aren’t even at the mall! There’s no in-your-face temptation like when you’re in the mall with the intention of spending money, and walking by all the stores seeing their big sale signs standing tall. At least for me, I’ve found that I’m an easy target for a well placed advertisement and a good sale price. I have to keep reminding myself what I’m really there for and to try to stick strictly to the shopping list.

Black pants, I’m on a mission to find you now! (just….maybe not until next weekend).

Have you ever had a shopping bender you’ve really regretted? How do you feel about returns (am I the only one who HATES returning things??)?


Frugal Living Topic: Therapy???

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I certainly don’t read every single frugal living/paying off debt blog in the world. But I browse a good handful! And one thing I’ve never seen anyone talk about is therapy. Because it costs a lot, right? And it’s kinda taboo to talk about?

I had to deal with a big emergency with my Dad in the middle of last week. Without going into details, it was insanely stressful. I started thinking about the most stressful events I’ve personally experienced in my own life. This is probably a good Top 5 list:

Ashley’s Top 5 Most Stressful Life Events

5. Moving cross-country the second time/tied with planning an out-of-state wedding

4. Moving cross-country the first time

3. First year of twins’ life (living in a state without any family support; trying to complete my Ph.D. during this time because I had the twins the summer before my last year of grad school)

2. Emergency c-section of twins after developing HELLP syndrome.

1. Current Dad health situation

So, yeah. Dad’s health issues definitely secure the place of #1 most stressful thing I’ve ever dealt with (I realize this is small potatoes compared to what many others deal with. I’m just talking about me and my situation, not making any judgments about anyone else).

Anywayyyyyyy….. I ended up spending nearly 6 hours on the phone on Wednesday after this emergency situation occurred. I had to speak to a hospital, a social worker, my brother, my sister, my uncle, my dad, the social worker again, and on and on and on. Six hours is seriously not an exaggeration. And that was just on a single day. The calls continued throughout the rest of the week (and into this week).

So my Dad’s last test was expedited and occurred on Monday.  And guess where I am today? Flying back to Utah. My Dad’s follow-up with the specialist is tomorrow. My sister and brother are coming, too. It’s a whole family affair. Diagnosis Day. After tomorrow, Dad will be able to apply for disability, he’ll need to permanently relocate, we’ll start trying to sell off his things, take over managing his finances, and on and on. Lots to be done.

And over the weekend I was struggling. Like, hard.

I’m really a very level-headed person, but the stress has been eating away at me. I’m now working a full-time job PLUS a part-time job, I’m spending HOURS a day with issues related to my father’s health, not to mention normal life stuff (which was busy enough before any of this ever happened). It was just all too much!

I had a good cry and let it out. Felt much better afterward. You all know I’ve been hit pretty hard with this process already, but this was my first real cry and it felt like a bit of a release. Cathartic.

And it made me think…..maybe I should look into therapy???

To be perfectly clear, I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with therapy.  That being said, I’ve never actually seen a therapist in my life. It feels a little foreign. I’ve always just talked over my problems and/or feelings with my friends, family, or hubs. But this feels different. No one I personally know can relate. No one knows what to say. And I just feel like its burdensome to continue bringing it up in conversations.

Enter:  health insurance!

Before starting my new job our health insurance didn’t cover any type of mental health care. My new insurance has a deductible, of course, but covers the majority of the cost of speaking with a professional.

In all honesty, right now I feel like I’m too busy to even take the time to talk to someone. I’m already struggling to keep up with my responsibilities.

But once Dad gets moved to a new permanent residence, the semester begins, and things settle into a bit of a routine…I’m thinking I might see a therapist a few times. Not an ongoing forever type of thing. But I feel like I need someone to talk to about this. I mean, clearly I’m having issues, am I right?

I can’t be the only one in the world. Why does no one else in the frugal living world ever talk about going to see a therapist? Maybe they think it’s cost prohibitive (before my insurance I would’ve thought that, too). Maybe they think it’s too personal to mention in such a public space (probably true?). Maybe I’ve just missed seeing people talk about it? Maybe they talk to a pastor or preacher or someone for free (we go to church occasionally…but don’t have anyone I’d want to talk to like that for counsel). I tried looking for support groups on Facebook, but it just doesn’t feel the same as speaking to a real human sitting across from you.

So I just wanted to throw this post out to the world. I don’t really want opinions on if I should or shouldn’t go (pretty sure I’m going to go. Just need to wait a bit for things to settle down so I have a chance to research people/places and find the time to go).  I’m just kind of curious why I haven’t ever seen anyone else mention therapy before.

Have you ever considered prioritizing the costs of therapy even within a tight budget? What have been some of the most stressful events in your life?


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!


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