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First Day and Family Drama

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Hi all! Thank you so much for all the well wishes for my first day of work (it was this past Monday) and all of your comments about our plans to start saving for a house after all our consumer debt is paid off (hopefully by December-ish). There were a TON of great comments and I plan to dedicate some posts specifically to the house topic in the future, but that will have to wait for another day.

Right now, indulge me a little in talking about my first few days of work!

To be 100% honest, the first day was….a little boring. I had to do a lot of administrative type stuff (getting a new employee ID card, submitting key request form to the key authorization office, filling out paperwork, ordering instructor textbooks, etc. etc. etc.).

Here I was ready and rearing to go (with a huge, long To Do list already compiled) and I ended up spending much of the day doing non-job related/administrative stuff. It was fine and I got a couple hours of “real” work in, but not what I’d expected.

So Tuesday I hit the ground running with about a 30-item To Do list and started knocking things out left and right. Wednesday was more of the same (along with several meetings), and now I feel like I’m chugging right along!

I will say that I feel a real struggle in regard to spending. On my first day I bought lunch (even though I’d made and brought a lunch with me), Tuesday I bought a soda, and Wednesday I had to fight the urge to buy a Starbucks on the way to campus. At least I’m aware of the temptation to spend, so I’m trying to psychologically combat the urge. Eventually I’ll build a little stockpile of sodas and snacks in my office so the urge isn’t as strong. Right now I’m in a temporary office so I’ve been holding off on bringing a lot of stuff in just yet. My new office is supposed to be painted soon – hopefully! (The bureaucracy in academia is alive and well because I’ve been told it could take up to a month until the painting is completed due to permissions, other building/maintenance work orders, etc.). After that’s done I’ll officially “move in.”

I know we’re still only a couple days into the new job, but one big surprise is that it hasn’t been as hard emotionally/psychologically to leave the girls at preschool as I’d anticipated. I thought I’d be a wreck driving to campus but – nope! And they seem perfectly happy too, which certainly helps. Right now they’re still at the JCC but we switch to our new preschool in mid-August so we’ll see how that transition goes.

Work stuff aside, I’ve got to say I’ve been dealing with additional family health-related drama lately. I really wish I could just gush all the details to you guys because – as weird as it seems – you do feel like friends in a sense (and I get SO MANY helpful comments!!! I’d love to pick your brains on the health issues). But I want to maintain my father’s privacy so…..yeah. Just…stuff sucks. I hate what he’s going through. I don’t like that I’ve been thrust into the role of caregiver. It’s hard to be someone’s advocate from across state lines. And just the whole thing is a steaming pile of poo.

I’m going back next week for another doctor’s appointment. Again – the devils in the details and, unfortunately, I just can’t divulge his personal info. But you can imagine. Lots of stress. Anxiety. And so on.

I don’t believe we’ll be getting an official diagnosis yet – there’s one more scan the doctor wanted to order but its very expensive so insurance only covers it once everything else has been eliminated (and my Dad’s had many, many appointments the past couple weeks). But this is the appointment with the head honcho specialist so my siblings and I feel it’s important for someone to be there. I was elected. My sister will probably go back for the diagnosis, and my brother will likely be the one to go retrieve my father if/when its time for him to move closer to family. So at least we’re trying to share the burden (not that my father is a burden by any means, but you know what I’m saying. We all work, have families, etc. so logistics are difficult).

In terms of finances, I believe that my Dad will reimburse me for my flight expense (like he did last time). This time I’ll be flying in and out in a single looooooong day (flight there departs Tucson at 6:00am, return flight lands back in Tucson at 10:30pm). I know there are businesses people who do this type of commute all the time, but this is my very first out-and-back in a single day type excursion. I’m grateful its worked out this way since now I have a job I’m expected to be at, but I also wish I was going to be there a bit longer. The logistics of what the future holds (selling two separate properties in two separate states; clearing out said properties, etc.) makes my head ache. I know surely others have been in a similar spot before. Words of advice or encouragement? I know its hard without knowing specifics, but you can kind of read between the lines a bit I’m sure.

One thing I’ll say about this new job (sorry to jump around on topics), is that it has made my days feel extremely long! I’ve been waking up at 5am to have time to get a quick jog, shower, dress, make lunches (for me & the girls), make breakfast (for me & the girls), do dishes and general clean-up, wake the girls, get ready, go to preschool, go to work/school, back to preschool, home, cook, eat, clean dishes, do a load of laundry, baths, girls to bed, more work (for part-time job), then bed for me and hubs. I’m definitely not complaining! I’ve been so, so lucky to work from home part-time for the past 3 years with a killer make-my-own schedule so its just an adjustment. Not bad (no “poor me” attitude here! Still super psyched about the job!), just different. One huge perk of working in academia is that we tend to have more flexible schedules than other professions. Right now I’m here all day every day working furiously on prep, but once things settle down a bit and we get into a routine during the semester I think I’ll have more flexibility to run out if I have a doctor’s appointment, or whatever. But for the time being, I’ve turned into a super-planning ninja! I have to be in order to have food for dinner every night (as opposed to ordering take-out). It’s also a good transition, but still a transition nonetheless. Really, I like being back in the world of the gainfully full-employed. There were perks to the work-from-home part-time thing, too, but I really feel this is where I belong. : )


Dad’s Health and Job Update

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I’ve got good news and bad news. Which do you want first?

Bad?

Good choice. Let’s just get it out of the way.

The trip my sister and I just took to be with my Dad for some scary appointments was met with mixed results. The specialist wasn’t convinced of the preliminary diagnosis my Dad had been given by another doctor. He’s scheduled appointments for additional tests and has ordered additional scans be done. My overwhelming feeling about this is disappointment. Although it does offer a sliver of hope, I feel in my gut and my heart that I know where this is headed and its not good. I wish we could have received a conclusive diagnosis and began to make some plans for the future. Without an official diagnosis, however, we’re stuck in a bit of a holding pattern. My sister and I have arranged for someone to accompany my father for his remaining tests and we plan to make a return trip when the diagnosis is officially being handed down. Not sure yet the exact time-frame for when this trip will take place, but certainly sometime this summer. On the bright side, my Dad did indeed give us money to reimburse the costs of the flight. I still incurred a few additional costs (e.g., I had to park at the airport instead of being dropped off due to the flight schedule, so I paid for airport parking and a couple of fast-food type meals while I was out of town). Nothing too major in the grand scheme of things. I’m certainly thankful that the largest expense (the $425 flight) was covered by my father. I would also be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to thank you all for your thoughts, prayers, and kind words in response to this family crisis we’re dealing with. Please keep those prayers and thoughts of strength and courage coming our way. This has been an incredibly stressful time, as I’m sure you can imagine.

Glad that’s out of the way.

Now, onto something good.

While I was out of town I received a call from the dean of the department where I just had an interview last week. It was so bizarre! In the voicemail message the dean literally said, “I’d like to meet and see if this will work so we can offer you the position.” So, I take this to mean that we’ll be discussing salary and job duties a bit more, but I’m officially being offered the position as long as we can come to terms. That’s very exciting news for me – my first full time job offer since graduating! I’m still very nervous about the salary negotiations given that the job was posted as DOE (salary depends on experience). I need to make enough money to make it worth my while emotionally and financially to move my daughters into full-time preschool (a huge transition psychologically and practically). I know this is such a random and broad question without additional background information – but what is the lowest amount you would accept if you were in my position? (or maybe a better question is – what salary would you try to negotiate for?) To give some more financial perspective, I think full-time preschool at our new childcare facility will run us about $1300ish/month. Also remember this isn’t just any random job – it’s advertised as only available for people with Ph.Ds. (so taking into consideration the extensive training – and accompanying student loan debt). Also, I’ve never given my precise salary but I’ll give you a range that I make between $30,000-$40,000 working part-time from home teaching my two online classes per semester (3 semesters in a year: fall, spring, and summer). That’s a LOT of money for working part-time. I tell you this to explain that I’m not going to accept an offer of $40,000 for a full-time job when I make nearly that much working from home part-time. Also, this job is not a tenure-track position, which means that if I accept it I’m basically taking myself out of the running for ever moving into that type of job position (limiting my future job options). I know every individual is different, every situation is different, and ultimately I just need to meet with the dean and discuss these concerns to see if I can get a salary offer that I feel comfortable with and that I think adequately compensates me for the work I’ll be doing. But I’d still love to hear your opinions on the matter and if there is a “magic number” you’d try to negotiate for given some of the parameters I’ve outlined above. Oh, by the way, my meeting with the dean is tomorrow (Friday)! So, yeah. Get me those suggestions asap! ; )

One final thing – I still haven’t heard back from the dean of the other department (remember I talked to the department head last Friday and was told the dean would likely contact me the beginning of this week. It’s now Thursday and….crickets over here). Should I reach out to the dean and/or department head and say that I’ve received a job offer from another department? This could help me in negotiations, right? And, honestly, I don’t know enough about the job parameters and responsibilities to know which job I’d prefer (since I’ve now talked with two department heads about two slightly different positions: one as lecturer/online program coordinator; the other as lecturer and academic adviser – though both jobs seem to have some fluidity of the responsibilities and could shift across time).

Lots of things to consider. Thanks for supporting me every step of the way with these two potentially HUGE life changes (e.g., Dad health issues and full-time employment opportunity).

Hugs to all you guys/gals!


Guess Where I Am!

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On a trip! Wish I could say it was a trip for “pleasure” (even a trip for business would be good), but no. It’s a trip related to the medical issue I referenced here.

It’s really impossible to keep it vague so I’m going to divulge a few more details while still trying to maintain a level of privacy for the afflicted individual….

My Dad has been given a concerning preliminary diagnosis. He was given a referral for a specialist and told to bring a family member to the appointment. Due to a myriad of personal reasons, my sister and I have decided it best if we both fly out to be there in person. I spent $425 on a plane ticket. My Dad did say he would reimburse our flight expenses. Once there I don’t plan to push the subject (so I’m prepared to simply pay for the flight if needed), but if I’m offered a reimbursement I’ll accept it.

I’m talking in the future tense because I’m writing this in advance, but my flight schedule has me arrive on Sunday afternoon and leave on Tuesday evening. By the time this posts, I’ll be preparing to go to the doctor’s appointment.

Any and all prayers, good vibes, healing energy, or simply thoughts of strength sent our way are appreciated. After baring so much of my financial soul here (and, lets be real…I talk about more than just finances, too) I really feel like you are friends. So I’ll keep you updated on the financial implications of what’s happening in my life (family crises and all), and I’d love for you to keep us in your thoughts and send positive energy our way!

Thank you!!!


Financial Ups and Downs

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We already know that this month is tough – emotionally and financially!

Here are the latest happenings in this roller-coaster called life…

Good: I got called to do a campus visit interview for the job I recently talked about. It’s really kind of odd. They told me to pencil in 1-4 on a couple different days and they’d get back to let me know which day works for the committee. Very different than my other interview experiences where I’ve had a full day worth of meetings and activities, complete with detailed itinerary and dinner with faculty. I’m hoping this has more to do with the last-minute nature of this job posting and is not a red flag of a potentially low salary (no salary range was listed in the job posting, it just said DOE. I’m very nervous about a surprise super low salary offer, where we might be too far apart to even negotiate).

Bad: Hubs’ truck was making a super scary noise and not braking correctly so he took it into the shop. We were hoping brakes were the issue (they were recently replaced and are still under warranty), but nope. It was related to power steering (he told me more specifics, but I can’t recount the issues here because I’ve already forgotten the names of the leaking/broken parts). Price tag = $1350. Could not have come at a worse time.

Good: We had nearly $900 in our car repairs saving account! I’m going to pay for the repairs on a credit card so I can buy myself an extra month until it has to be paid (note: I still use the credit card for large purchases for the extra assurances and to earn some credit card rewards points, but I always pay it in full when the bill is due). I’ll be able to put $900 toward it from the money we already currently have and the other $450 will come from next month’s budget (since the bill won’t be due until next month). Wiping my brow, thankful we have that savings to cover the majority of the expense!

Bad: I cannot get my husband into the dentist. Cannot do it. Does anyone have any tips on this? From a logical perspective, he totally agrees he needs to go and should really have better oral hygiene – taking more preventative measures instead of waiting until things hit “crisis” level (aka: root canal) and being hit with a much larger bill. So – that’s not the issue. He “gets” it and he agrees. Part of the issue is work-related. Especially with the lower income he’s been drawing he really wants to focus 100% of his energy on work and not take time off for dental appointments. The other part is more psychological. He hates the dentist. I want him to go to a new dentist (an awesome local family-run office who has cut me deals for paying cash and works with me on price), but he refuses to get another dental x-ray. After his health scare in late 2013 when he had a million medical procedures performed, he’s very aversive to any additional procedures. He’s especially reluctant to have new x-rays done because he thinks he’s going to get cancer from all the exposure. He did try to call and have his dental x-rays transferred from his old office, but they send some file format that can’t be opened by the new dentist. The new dentist would even do it for FREE, so it’s really not a cost thing. It’s all about hubs’ fear of dentist/x-ray/dental work and his reluctance to take any time off work. Suggestions? I’m at a loss.

Good: We were officially accepted to a new preschool starting in mid-August! I will be very sad to leave the JCC. They truly have an incredible program! But I really like the new school too and I will LOVE the close proximity to our house and the lower cost! One caveat is it only operates during the school year (not year-round), so I may still enroll the girls in summer camp at the JCC next summer (which, of course, means summer months will be more costly for childcare since JCC costs more). I do like that as a possible compromise though.

What are some good (or bad) things that have impacted your finances lately?


Disappointing Debt Payment

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First, thank you so much for all of your kind comments regarding our family health situation. I’ll try to keep you updated (especially in terms of finances) as I get more information.

In the meantime I wanted to tell you about how this situation, coupled with the no-income May, are going to affect debt payments this month.

It kills me to do this….but I’m going to have to pay only minimums.

We live on last month’s income, so having such a low income for the month of May is really hurting us in June. Hubs’ business drew no income last month (thankfully it didn’t cost us anything so he had enough income to cover his expenses, but no profits were earned). Also, remember how we owe the IRS money? Yeah. We already have some of the money set aside but I was going to use my May paycheck to cover the rest of the bill. BUT, since my paycheck was our only source of income for the month, I’ve put some aside for IRS bill, but I’ve kept some to help cover part of our expenses this month. And we’re raiding our EF hard-core. I’m trying to minimize the amount we have to withdraw from the EF (we’re trying to sell everything possible), but it could come close to being wiped out this month. A very scary feeling.

Given all this (and uncertain future spending) I think that it’s better to keep some money in the bank, pay minimums on current debt, and try to build some reserves this month. Debt payments will be as follows:

  •       PenFed (car payment) = $0 (I’m prepaid ‘till next April so no fees incurred)
  •       Student Loan Payments = $433 (minimum payments:  $77 to ACS ; $356 to Navient)
  •       Medical Bill = $25 (minimum)
  •       Balance transfer = $0 (no interest currently, but this means later payments will need to be higher to cover this month’s deficit)

That’s only $458 in debt payments this month!

I hate it! This is my lowest monthly debt payment in the 15 months I’ve been blogging here.

To compensate I’ve also taken away all monthly savings in their entirety. That means nothing toward:

  •       Cruise 2016 fund
  •       EF (in fact, we’re raiding the EF)
  •       Car repair fund
  •       Health/Dental/Vision fund
  •      Semi-annual fees fund

Usually I put several hundred toward savings each month (up to $1,000), but all savings is being suspended until we can get the financial bleeding to end.

So…minimum debt payments, no savings. Pretty much sums it up.

I’ve got to get back to work – Mondays are always a busy work day for me because assignments are due on Sundays. : ) Still thankful for my job!


Something’s Come Up

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I’ve written this post several times in my head but have had a difficult time putting it down on paper. First, because it’s a difficult subject to discuss. And second, because while I have tried to be as open and honest with y’all as much as possible in many regards (you all know more about my financial life than just about anyone in my real life except my husband!), I don’t think it’s fair for me to bare all the details about other people’s business.

And so with that being said, I’ll tell you now…something has come up.

A very close family member is experiencing pretty debilitating health issues, the full extent of which has yet to be determined. This was a semi-gradual thing, as I started noticing warning signs and symptoms over a year ago. But in the past few months things have reached the next level.

I don’t know what will happen next in terms of this person’s health (though I hope for the best, my fear is that the incident that brought this all to light is really only the beginning of a long road ahead). But I can tell you, in terms of my finances, that I’ll be incurring some additional expenses I hadn’t previously anticipated.

To be more specific, hubs and I have decided that we are going to be making a trip this summer that was previously unanticipated. In the big scheme of things, this won’t be too costly. We went on a trip this past summer and again over Christmas time. So from that perspective, it falls directly in line with last year’s spending habits. It’s just the fact that we hadn’t thought about or planned to take a trip this summer so its money that would otherwise have gone directly toward debt (not to mention the no-income month of May).

I will also say, with the limited medical information I have at this time (hopefully I’ll learn more soon), I think this could have future financial implications as well. I won’t dive into “what ifs” until more is known, but there is a possibility of future trips as well (not just the one this summer).

Our time is so fleeting here on Earth. Remember back when we had 4 new bloggers and we were doing a weekly Q&A series? One of the questions asked, “What is the hardest sacrifice you’ve made to get out of debt?”

We never did get around to answering that question as a group, but even at that time I absolutely knew my answer: Not living near family. THAT is my biggest sacrifice.

When I was in graduate school my #1 goal in life was to graduate and immediately move back by family. When we had kids (during my last year of grad school), that feeling only intensified. But things change in life. Husband’s business was growing and by the time I graduated in 2013 we really weren’t in a financial position to pick up and move. It just didn’t make sense to leave husband’s income and move to a place where he had none. What would we do? Move back in with parents? That wasn’t a desirable option for either of us. The much more reasonable and undoubtedly financially sound decision was to stay put. Husband keeps working his job, I keep working mine, and we keep chipping away at our debt.

But it was a tough pill to swallow.

During 2009-2010 (our early years in Arizona, before we had kids), my grandfather suffered from a series of health issues. He had 3 strokes – each worse than the one before. He had to have multiple surgeries. He ended up living on-and-off in different rehabilitation clinics so he could regain strength and motor ability following each of his health set-backs. Being so far away during that time crushed me. Not only did I hate not being there for my Grandpa, but I hated not being there for everyone else, too. You see, a major health issue like this affects the ENTIRE family, not just the afflicted individual. My poor mother was killing herself to try to be at my grandfather’s beck and call (mind you, the woman still works a full-time job, too). My sister had to run errands, buy groceries, cook food, and help with his meds. My brother went over to mow the grass, check the mail, and walk the dog. And on and on and on. You know who didn’t do anything? ME.

Granted, not for lack of caring. Of course I’d like to share in the burden and help my family! But the distance is extremely difficult. I’d call and chat and try to lift spirits a bit. We visited a couple times a year. But I was unable to help in any of the day-to-day duties that ended up piled on my other family members’ shoulders. That type of guilt is a difficult thing to overcome.

And so here we are again. A different situation, granted – different person, different health issues, different treatment and prognosis.

This type of storm would be so much easier to weather if we were debt free. Absolutely! It’s a big motivator to get out of debt.

But at the same time, it’s a big reminder that life does not wait until after the debt is gone. You can’t just push “pause” and hope everything remains the same for multiple years until the debt-monster has been eradicated.

So I will try to take a balanced approach. Nothing in my debt plan of action will change – I will continue on as usual (paying $500/month toward my balance transfer loan, as much as possible toward my car loan, and all else will be minimums), but I may end up traveling a bit more than anticipated, which means we may have a little less to put toward debt during those months than during others.

All we can do at this time is wait and see what happens. Visit more doctors. Gather more information. Come up with a health plan-of-action. And hope for the best.

What’s the hardest sacrifice you’ve made to get out of debt?


A Reward for Us

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Over the years that I was a reader of this blog prior to becoming a writer, I always found the “reward” posts interesting.  And as I have been facing down this “consumer loan debt free” date, after months of extreme budget living, I started thinking about giving ourselves a reward for all we’ve done this year to get to this point.

For those newer readers, we have done the following (some by choice, some not:)

  1. Moved out of our more expensive home to a tiny apartment.
  2. Sold our fabulously large, though gas guzzling family car.
  3. Tortured ourselves by squeezing like sardines into a tiny, though paid off and good gas mileage car (and learning to drive stick shift to do it.)
  4. Given up all travel since August – HUGE for us!
  5. Lots of individuals sacrifices to which my kids have learned to respond when someone asks “Budget Cuts” which cracks me up every time.
  6. Lived without many conveniences ie microwave, fenced yard, individual bedrooms
  7. Purge – we have sold, given away, trashed or donated almost 70% of everything we owned since September, 2014.
  8. Several months of pretty much living on nothing, not a single dime of money to spend.  We call it living on air.  This was by choice to reach the “living on last month’s pay” and “consumer debt free by July” goals, but we are doing it.

Did I miss anything?

So I have decided we deserve a reward and I need your advice on it!  This is what I want….Drumroll please….

A counter top water filtration system!

Not what you expected was it!  Ha!  I guess, I’m now so engrained in frugal and practical and all other things that continue to point us toward debt free living, that it’s now habit.

So here’s my reasoning:

1) Our apartment water is NASTY!

2) Gallon’s of water eat up our budget and we go through it FAST!  (Typically $0.79 per gallon.)  Lots of time when we are tight, I just won’t buy it and then we suffer through the nasty taste, and thus drink less water. (Ok, I can’t even drink it so we will put lemon in it or some of my essential oils to help.)

3) We need to drink WAY more water…all of us!

So while counter space is prime real estate in our tiny apartment, I have decided that a counter top water filtration system is a wonderful reward for us becoming consumer debt free.  I haven’t priced them, haven’t researched them, so now I am here…asking for your suggestions, advice and recommendations.

Tell me everything you can about your counter top water filtration system!  Anticipate purchase date…July, 2015!


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