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Browsing posts in: Confessions

Knowledge versus Behavior

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When I was an undergraduate, I remember taking a workshop on conservation education. Basically, the purpose was to teach people about conservation of natural resources: its importance, how to practice it, and how to spread it to others. One thing I remember learning in the workshop was in regard to recycling. Research has shown that you can teach people all about the impact that recycling can make and, after education, these people will express that they highly value recycling. BUT, if you actually observe these people, do their recycling habits (or lack thereof) actually change?

The answer is NO….usually.

Basically, studies have found that unless recycling is made EASY, that most people will continue to simply trash things. If, however, there is a recycling bin placed directly next to a trash bin, then they will indeed opt to recycle. But if the recycling bin is across campus they won’t make the effort to recycle their bottled water or old newspaper. They’ll simply chuck it in the trash. It’s easier.

I give this little anecdote to demonstrate that changing someone’s knowledge (by teaching them something new) does NOT equate to a change in behavior. The behavior is harder to modify. It has to be made easy.

Unfortunately, I have succumbed to the knowledge versus behavior problem this past month. Since starting blogging, I have learned quite a bit about my spending habits. I have worked diligently to change them. For the most part I have succeeded. But in the month of September??? Not so much.

I’ve already told you all about how I went way over budget with our grocery purchases. Why is this?

Well, I leaned back on grocery shopping like the crutch it’s always been. I have historically used grocery shopping as an easy “outing” with the girls. I feel like I’m being productive by buying things that we “need” and, at the same time, I’m getting the girls out of the house for a bit and using the time to serve as a distraction or you could even call it entertainment. I prefer to go to parks and have been making more park trips in the mornings, but its still dreadfully hot in the afternoons here in Tucson and the afternoons drag on and on and on.

The problem, of course, is that this means we end up buying all types of things that we don’t really need or things we could make do without. Then we wind up at the end of the month and I realize our grocery budget is beyond shot – it’s been blown out of the water!

So this broken record is probably getting a little old at this point, but something’s gotta change. I’ll brace myself for your groans and eye-rolls but here I go…..

…I’m going back to the envelope system.

Oh, the envelope system. My much loathed system of paying for goods.

Here’s what I’m going to change for the month of October: instead of actual paper envelopes for all my different spending categories, I’m going to focus solely on groceries and eating out. My other categories, including entertainment ($20 budgeted), personal maintenance ($30 budgeted), and other ($150 budgeted) have not been as big of a problem – I’ve never gone over in entertainment or personal maintenance since I started blogging!! And in the past it made me feel uncomfortable to carry so much cash. BUT, my wallet actually has 2 separate money tabs. I’m going to designate one as being for groceries and the other for eating out. This way I won’t be carrying paper envelopes, I’ll always have my money with me (instead of accidentally leaving an envelope at home), and I’ll be limiting my cash-on-hand to only 2 categories instead of 5.

Oh yes, this is happening. A modified envelope system is back! I’ll let you know how it goes.

Pssst:  I’m spending the weekend hanging with my family who is in town visiting! I’ll be back Monday with a full budget update from the month of September.

PS: Thanks to the reader whom, in my old money envelope posts, had given me this idea by saying that she simply used a regular wallet and labeled the tabs for different categories.

 


Coffee Date

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I saw this posting-style over at Gina’s blog (it’s a fitness/healthy living blog and its great! She posts lots of free workouts, youtube videos, etc.). Anyway, I loved the idea of a virtual coffee date (or wine date) and wanted to do one! We’re at that level where we can have a coffee date, right? I think so! Let’s get started!

If we were having coffee right now…..

  • I’d tell you about all the fun things I’ve got going on in the coming weeks! A dear friend had her baby shower this past weekend, a new friend has invited us to her son’s first birthday party this weekend, and my Mom and sister (and their husbands) are coming to visit for a long weekend the first weekend of October! I cannot wait!!!!! In the entire time we’ve lived away from Austin (first moved away in 2007!!), this is the longest we’ve ever gone without seeing my family! In the past we have always gone back once during summer and once during winter and we didn’t go back this summer (we went to visit my Dad in Utah instead) and aren’t planning to go back for Christmas like we usually do, so I have been Missing them with a capital M!!!
  • I’d let you in on a little secret I’ve been keeping… I registered for my first post-baby half marathon and am freaking out about it! The registration was only $30 (I got the early-bird discount months ago), which is one of the cheapest prices for a half-marathon I’ve ever seen! Since I dumped the gym, I’ve been training (for free, thankyouverymuch) but am so painfully slow! I’m worried whether I’ll finish by the time cut-off (It’s the Tucson Get Moving half-marathon, so its geared toward a non-elite crowd, but I know many races have actual cut-offs and I’m so scared I won’t finish in time!)
  • I’d tell you about how well debt reduction is going. It’s been 6 months and has actually been easier than I thought. I credit it all to having a written budget. Of course, I’d say that in one breath and in the very next I’d tell you about the very real house fever I’ve got going on.
  • I’d tell you about the girls – they’re getting so big! I am in love with their preschool and even though it costs a small fortune, I think its one of the best investments we’ve ever made (investing in our children!!!) I’m so glad we decided to go this route (even though it was a very tough decision).
  • I’d also talk about my job(s). My teaching job is going well, but is a LOT of work this semester! I’m teaching two writing intensive courses that require a lot of feedback and I feel like I have so many students!!! Usually there are lots of “drops” with writing intensive courses but for some reason this semester everyone seems to be sticking around. I love to teach so I’m glad that something is resonating with the students enough for them to stick with the challenging courses, but it means a LOT of grading for me! My research job is also going well. I’ve mentioned before, but I’ve gotten into such a terrible habit of putting it all off until Sundays and then I’m working frantically all night trying to make my Monday morning deadlines. I always finish on time, but I might be up until midnight or later. I have GOT to get things under control so I don’t keep doing this! I’ve come to dread Sunday nights instead of looking forward to them as a time to recharge for the coming week. Need to change this!

Of course, if we were having coffee I’d want to know about you and how you’re doing, too! How’s the job? Where are you in the debt repayment process? Do you have any major obstacles in the way? What are your plans for the coming holiday season (I realize its only September, but the holidays will be here before we know it)?

If I know me, it’s been awhile since our last coffee date. We should do this again soon sometime!!!

*Hugs*


Dirty Little Secret

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It has always fascinated me how people spend their money. It’s such an intensely personal thing and to see what people value is so interesting to me.

  • Case: A 35-year-old adult male who lives in a tiny duplex in a bad neighborhood with 3 other guys to save money….but spends thousands a month playing cards (gambling).
  • Case: A new-parent/college student couple in their mid-twenties struggling to make it. They never eat out (ever) and share a single car to save money, but the wife gets mani/pedis religiously at a neighborhood salon.
  • Case: A low-paid design assistant who doesn’t shop, doesn’t travel, and doesn’t eat out….but has personal training sessions at her gym twice a week to the tune of $150/week.

We all have our “thing(s)” that we spend money on, right? You know, the thing that others might look at as being indulgent and unnecessary.

What’s your thing?

Want to know one of mine? I’ll tell you right now – it’s something I’ve never mentioned before and something I’ve done fine without the whole time I’ve been blogging.

Don’t judge, mmmkay?????

Until I started blogging here, I was regularly getting something done every 4-5 months. A very expensive cosmetic procedure. It’s called botox.

It started innocently enough and the youthful age of 26.

I had a medical student friend. She started getting botox injections as a “preventative measure” to prevent wrinkles from forming on her forehead.

Suddenly I became obsessed with my wrinkles. I noticed the crows feet around my eyes and the one permanent wrinkle that spans my entire forehead and is visible even when my face is totally relaxed. I wanted to eradicate my current wrinkles and prevent new ones from forming!!!! I wanted to do this!! Being that my friend was a medical student, she had the “hook up” on Botox. An actual doctor who would administer it on-the-side (not at a clinic/office) for cheap. Botox, itself, is pricey, but we’d be paying barely anything for the service of the injection. I ended up getting a little bit of Botox in my forehead for $50. I loved the results. And I was hooked.

I never wanted my face to have the totally “frozen” look to it, so I was conservative in my botox applications (“conservative” by a cosmetic surgeon’s standards). I would go about every 4-5 months and alternate where I received the injection (either at my crows feet, or my forehead). This all began when I was living in Florida. But I brought my new “thing” with me when I moved to Arizona. Although, suddenly, I no longer had a Botox “hook up.” I went from paying about $50/session to triple that – $150/session. And I put it on plastic and never gave it a second thought.

Now, we can all have our opinions on cosmetic enhancements. I know some are fiercely against it as perpetuating sexism and unrealistic standards of beauty. That’s totally fine. I won’t get into the politics of it and debating the sides. I’ll just say that I’m of the opinion that if it makes you feel good and doing it makes you happy (and you have the $$ to pay cash), then I’m all for it. Live and let live!

Obviously as a 100% unnecessary procedure, my dirty little secret (my affinity for botox) was immediately cut from the budget. But I’m sure I’ll be back one day. No time soon. But one day. You know what else I’d love to get done? Lasik! I have a friend who recently had Lasik eye surgery and said its the best thing she’s ever done! But at a cost of up to $4,000 per eye (though average is closer to $2,000 per eye), this is another cosmetic procedure that will be put on the back-burner for the time being.

It’s just fun to think about these things sometimes. Fantasize a bit about what you’ll spend money on when you have the cash-money available, instead of financing and paying interest for years to come!!!

What’s your “dirty little secret” (your “thing” that you like to spend money on)?

Disclaimer:  This whole post goes totally against my overall belief that by trying to be satisfied with what you have, you will save money (as opposed to fantasizing over wants). BUT, sometimes a little fantasy is good for the soul! <3


Never Financing Furniture Again!

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Remember when I came to you with my nitty gritty debt details post. I admitted that we had financed a bed last summer to the tune of $2500. Insanity. I know.

And yet the urge has struck again. No worries, we didn’t rush off and finance new furniture (we will NEVER finance furniture again!!!). But if we weren’t up to our eyeballs in debt right now, buying furniture would be on the top of the list! Specifically….a dining room table.

For those readers who have been around since my first post (hi!! *waves*), you may recall this little tidbit about us. Remember, my husband and I are originally from Austin, TX but had been living in Florida for two years so I could get my Master’s degree (this is also where we accumulated the majority of our $150,000 debt). When we moved from Florida to Arizona we left just about everything behind. The honest truth is we were too broke to even pay for the U-Haul (estimated costs were around $5,000), so we just left everything behind that couldn’t fit in our trusty Kia Spectra.

When we got to Arizona we spent about $2,000 refurnishing an apartment, mostly with stuff from Goodwill, Big Lots, craigslist, and the like. Our kitchen table, for example, was a floor model at Big Lots so we got it for a steal – maybe $75 if I remember correctly? But it’s a tall barstool style table that is only meant for two people. We’re now a family of four.

At first with the babies it wasn’t a big deal because they were in high chairs. When they outgrew those, we transitioned our high chairs into a kids’ sized table and chairs (we had bought this set from Target < NOT a referral link, just an FYI in case you’re interested because I’ve found that a lot of people have no idea that convertible high chairs exist). This worked fine for awhile, but now the girls are growing and becoming less satisfied with the scenario. Every night at dinner is a battle because they want to sit with us, which translates to sitting on our laps since we can’t accommodate them at the table.

This is certainly a want versus needs thing. Obviously a new table is, in our situation, considered a “luxury” item and not a necessity. But it hasn’t stopped me from longing for one. A quick online browse told me that even “modest” tables are in the $2,000ish range.

So we’ll continue to make do with our 2-person kitchen table + baby table combo. A new table is definitely not in our immediate plans. But I’d be lying if I said my wheels weren’t spinning to try to figure out how to fit a used one into our budget (maybe save money from our regular budget for a few months and find a used one cheap at a moving sale or on craigslist??).

Be honest – is it ridiculous that I’m even considering buying a new (or new-to-us/used) kitchen table? Does anyone have experience scoring awesome deals on a used table and chairs? How much did you spend and where was it from? IF (big “if”) we even get one, I’d like to stay in the $200 or less range. Is this still too much? Should I just learn to make do with what we have and put this out of my mind for now??? But we’ll still be paying off debt for years to come, so eventually (before our debt is all gone) we HAVE to buy a table that will accommodate our family, right? Am I just making excuses now? UGH!!! NO GOOD OPTIONS – SOMEONE GIVE ME A TABLE FOR FREE!!!! : )


The Curse

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This is a multi-part series today.  Your best bet is to start at the beginning here before you read the rest.  This is the 4th part of my saga for today, and hopefully I will have a 5th part before the day is over, but it’s content is still unknown and thus we will both be waiting to see what happens.

As I pulled out of my parents driveway at 5:45am with 24 hours of driving and 4 overnights with friends on the way home, my brain was racing.  I had six weeks to not only continue my regular job, work my part time job, start the kids homeschool year and begin the new fall school schedule of activities as a single parent, I must now find a new place to live, purge even more of our belongings, pack our belongings and get us moved.  And that didn’t take into consideration the additional monies I would need to move and get into a new place.  Can you feel my overwhelmedness?  (Is that a word?)

So I drove and I turned things over in my brain…for hours on end as I faced the open road and the kids slept on.

And once we came to a stopping point, I began an urgent search for housing…housing that was affordable.  Housing that would accommodate 5 people.  Housing that would accommodate 3 dogs and 1 cat.  Screech….did your mind come to a screeching halt with that last one?  It should have.  I don’t know how long it’s been since you rented but finding a place that will take 1 animal is hard, finding one that will take 4.  Well…you’re probably able to calculate my odds now.

I didn’t sleep.  I tossed and turned.  I cried (quietly so the kids wouldn’t hear.) I felt like such a failure. How could I have made such bad financial decisions that we ended up in this mess.  And it’s just me.  Just me.

By the wee hours of the next morning, I was desolate and desperate.  I emailed my dad and asked him to reconsider, asking him to at least give us through Christmas, telling him of all my obligations.

The silence over the next few days from that email was deafening.  But the kids and I continued along our trek home and every free moment that I wasn’t driving or trying to keep a brave face and be present for my kids and friends or falling into fitful cat naps I searched for somewhere to go.

I had such great support from my friends during this time.  They expressed the appropriate amount of anger on my behalf while being respectful that this was my dad and it was not meant to harm me. And then they got behind me and starting searching with me.  Offering housing if needed, money if needed and just a ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on.

We arrived home 4 nights later and that email had still not been replied too.  I was cautiously optimistic.  I had finally broken down to call him expressing that I felt like I had a ticking time bomb hanging over my head and every second counted.  He said he would talk to me when we were settled at home again.  I called him as soon as we had unloaded the car. He was on his way out.

Several hours later, he called me back and gave a lengthy explanation and then final answer of No, he would not reconsider.  I was devastated and felt cursed.

And with that, I gave myself a few minutes to cry and then I arose to tell the kids. So Sunday night about 11pm our world got turned upside down as I told the kids that we have 6 weeks to find a place to go.

There were tears, there was stoicism and there were questions.  And with all that being said and done I made two promises to the kids that I would do everything in my power to keep us all together…people, dogs and cat and that we would finish this school year here with all their activities and friends and plans.

My daughter ended the discussions of the night looking around and saying “It feels like we are on TV.  You know like now that we have heard this curse, someone is going to jump out and tell us that we are going to be on Extreme Home Makeover or something.”  Oh, how I wish that was true, but even moreso I’m grateful that if I have to go through this really hard process I have the most wonderful children to go through it with.  I know that what feels like a curse right now could truly turn into a blessing, so stay tuned to see what has happened since Sunday night with this time clock ticking.


Why I Decided Not to Buy My House

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This is the 2nd in what I believe will be a 4 part story today. You can read the first part here.

As I have discussed several times here on the BAD blog, one of my motivating factors for making smart decisions on paying off my debt was to get myself into the position that I could buy my house from my dad.  We will have been here 4 years this fall and I am and always will be grateful for his generosity and help in getting somewhere stable for my children.  There are a couple of reasons for the urgency in this matter:

1. My dad is now retired and I’m sure he could use the cash he put into helping me get this house, not to mention the additional monies I borrowed when I lost a good portion of my income last fall.

2. With the financing the way it is, it will need to be refinanced next year to maintain a lower interest rate.

Over the last couple of years, I have really struggled with our permanence in this home for a couple of reasons:

Bedrooms

Adopting my twins was not my plan when we got a 3 bedroom home.  I struggled with the decision to adopt when it became available and I am at peace with the decision to keep the boys.  They are an integral and loved part of our family.  Please don’t make that decision the issue, it’s not.  It left us without enough appropriate bedrooms for the kids based on their sex and ages.

As a result of the bedroom issue, I explored every possible alternative for adding on to the home.  We have plenty of space to build out, but after receiving 1/2 quotes that had such wide and expensive variances I knew it was not something I could consider.

We then decided to close in the front room in the house (formal dining room or what was my office.)  It solved the immediate problem, but the walls have really begun to close in on me.  I realize how spoiled I sound, and believe me if this was the only issue, it wouldn’t be an issue.

Money

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned it before but as a reminder we live in a relatively expensive tourist city where the cost of living is high.  As I start to think about the costs of having older teenagers and my desire to help them out as much as I can, I think about where I can cut back to not only pay my debt back faster but also to put myself in a position to help them out…driving, college, life experiences, etc.

My home takes up a good portion of my income, and if I lived somewhere else not only could I get something substantially bigger but also less expensive. My housing expense would most likely go up significant too were I to purchase this home as I would have to pay closing costs again, inspection fees and more than likely PMI since some money would have to come out of the value of the home to repay my dad.

Conclusion

Our home has been fantastic to and for us.  My dad facilitated that. But based on my reasoning above and a couple of other misc reasoning going on in my head, I have decided NOT to purchase this home. I could not have asked for a better location, better neighbors, better floor plan, better yard, you get the picture.  I love this house, BUT I have to make the best possible financial decision for mine and the kids futures, and I am confident this is the right decision.

My reasoning was not new to my dad.  He had heard much of this last May, but not a final decision.  In fact, I know he agrees wholeheartedly on the cost of living where we live since he lived here himself until just a year ago.  In the next installment of today’s series, I will let you know how our conversation ended that day when he disagreed with my plan.

 


Planning a Two Week Hiatus

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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.