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Winning the Lottery

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Winning the Lottery…Boy, wouldn’t that be great!  Do you ever lie around and dream of all the things you would do if you won millions of dollars?  I know, I do, especially when the billboards shout it in your face that the winnings are over over $200 million.  Even the kids have started making “plans” with their fortunes.

So as a fun school activity this week we gambled!  I went and bought a couple scratch off tickets for each child and we played the game.  But even more important then the fun “dream” discussions we had, and hopeful anxiousness as they would scratch off their ticket, were the discussions on chance, and percentages, odds and valuation.

It was so good to hear the thought out discussion as the kids discussed what else could have been with the $10 we spent on the tickets rather than “flushing it down the drain.”  It didn’t quite work out since we ended up $20 ahead in winnings when one $3 scratch off won $30.  But I was proud that the kids all decided to share the earnings and get a treat rather than reinvest and take a chance of losing it.

We finished off the excursion with verbal math problems throughout the day on chance and odds.  They had a blast and what a fun way to do “school” this week as we review all our computation rules as we get ready to dive into Geometry for the year!


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!


Education Excitement

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*THIS IS NOT FINANCE RELATED, so if that doesn’t interest you, skip it.

I’m not sure how much I’ve shared on here about the twins education, and I won’t go too far, but we have reached a HUGE milestone and I am so proud of them and their hard work.

A little background…

When the twins were placed with me, 2 weeks before their 13th birthday, it was quickly discovered that while they were avid readers and their reading comprehension was way above level.  Their writing skills and math skills were horrid — and that is not an exaggeration.  Within the first year, I had them evaluated via the schools and their levels were early elementary school or below…this was in 7th grade.

Of course, as a homeschooler I wanted to pull them out and get to work, but that was not allowed, nor would have been wise since the goal for those first two years they were here was for them to be able to return home.  So we started doing remedial work at home along with their public school work.  And we made a little headway, but as a mom, it was like pulling teeth.  I know it was extra work for them and they were really not used to school being so important.

Ok, so fast forward, 9th grade, the year they were adopted I was able to pull them out and we got busy.  A wonderful woman at our homeschool co op really worked with me and tutored them, I continued doing weekly math with them. Etc.   I think you get the picture…lots of hardwork and headaches and failures and triumphs and tears and slamming doors.

So the news…

The twins completed their end of the year testing…using the TerraNova test for those of you who are interested.  (Also, an FYI, we order standardized tests from Seton Testing, so these are the same tests that are given in public schools for those not as familiar with homeschooling.) We did the complete battery and across the board both twins are on or above grade level with the exception of math.  EVERY SINGLE SUBJECT, we are caught up!  And for math, they are both now solidly on a high school level.

These boys have literally caught up on 12 years of math in just 2 years of hard work.  Super proud mama here!  And History Buff worked so hard last year, that there is a solid chance that he could graduate early.

We will be tackling Geometry this year, so wish us luck.  We are getting started this week with hopes of completing the school year by the end of April again.

I hope you will celebrate with me, these boys have worked SO HARD and OVERCOME so much and I couldn’t be more proud.


Post Disney Vacation Update

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I’m back! And I’m feeling awesomely relaxed and ready the talk about my trip:

We left for Disney (via car- we decided to drive, as GF has an airplane phobia) on Thursday July 9th @ 8PM. The weekend prior, GF had stocked up on a ton of snacks, fruits, veggies and deli meat to make subs. We grabbed a large cooler from GF’s mom and filled it with pasta salad, fruit salad, subs (1 each for both of us for breakfast) a pack of bottled water, some fruit flavored waters and apple sauce. We filled the backseat of our car with our bags and all the other snacks.

A couple weeks before we left, GF and I came to a pretty reasonable deal- for the actual drives, she would pay for whatever food we needed (at the time, I figured this would be gas station fare) and I would pay for all the gas. I have to give it to GF, she saved a TON of money couponing, finding deals, and putting together the food for the cooler. As for the gas, there was really nothing I could do. The costs for gas on the way down came to $172.12. The costs for the drive up haven’t come in yet (why to gas stations take forever to debit your account?), but I’m assuming they’ll be roughly the same as the drive down. And then once we were in the parks, we’d (roughly) split costs as we’d go.

I would be lying if I said the ride down wasn’t tough (the ride up was even tougher), but having the food packed and ready to go made it a whole lot easier. The fruit salad didn’t last long (we ate it within a couple hours of leaving), followed by the pasta salad. Unfortunately, when it came time for breakfast, the ice in the cooler had melted and completely water logged our subs (which we wrapped in Saran wrap, not thinking about the ice water), so we stopped into McDonald’s to hold us over until we got to Orlando, which was at 1PM the next day.

I want to talk a lot about costs while we were there since they’re so intimately tied to everything we did. The biggest costs in any vacation were already covered for us:

  • My parents are in the Disney Vacation Club, so the room was covered in their membership
  • The Disney Dining Plan (their form of a meal plan, which covered 1 snack, 1 counter service meal and 1 table service meal each day of your trip) and the Disney Park tickets were covered by my parents. This is something that has eaten way at me since they told me they would pay for it. Originally, I wasn’t going to go on vacation with the family, as I wanted to be “a grown up” and pay my own way if I could, but of course, with the debt payoff plan, I couldn’t afford it and wasn’t going to burden my parents with having to pay our way. They convinced to come by saying they would handle the big expenses in order to have the family together and be able to celebrate my new nephew and their 1st grandchild together. Do I regret saying yes to going? Kind of (for not paying for it myself), but not really. We (and the family) had a fantastic time and I know my parents don’t begrudge me for paying for us, plus I know I’ll be able to get them back one of these days.

We probably could have got by with not paying anything else, but that wasn’t the point of my month off and going on vacation- I ended up spending $358.82 and GF spent $125.00. (Note- GF actually spent about the same as me but for a good part of our time in Disney, I only brought my wallet with me so she wouldn’t have to carry hers. Hence, a number of her purchases went onto my debit card and she gave me the $125.00 for the purchases she made on it). This is actually a whole lot less than I thought I would spend. Here’s the breakdown of how we spent the money:

  • $91.13 was spent on food outside of the dining plan. This included a lunch I got for GF and I in  Orlando prior to getting to the resort. For those of you who never tried- I’m enamored with Sweet Tomatoes, which is a salad buffet/vegetarian chain. GF loves salads, so I wanted to take her here since we don’t have any within 1,000 miles of here.
  • $123.47 was spent on booze- either for myself, GF, someone in the group, or the group as a whole.
  • $148.64 was spent on gifts for people other than us
  • $120.58 was spent on souvenirs for ourselves. What this consisted of was a Terror of Tower themed Clue game (we love board games, especially on weekend nights), a hanging 3-tiered picture frame and some glassware and coffee mugs (I like to collect coffee mugs).

The vacation was amazing and was worth every penny, especially to see family I haven’t seen in some time. It made me contemplate the potential of buying into the DVC, myself, when the time comes (many years down the road).

As for the drive up- it was long and tiring. We left the resort around noon on Thursday July 16th and didn’t get into Erie until 1 PM the following day. I have to be honest- I didn’t take anyone’s advice for the drive back. 1) We didn’t stop at a supermarket to get any food for our cooler 2) We didn’t stop over night at a hotel. Looking back, it was pretty dumb not to do these things, but we really wanted to have dinner in Savannah, GA to get a look at the city and I didn’t want to spend the money on a hotel, when I could sleep in my own bed if we pushed through the night. We ended up sleeping in my car for 3 hours around midnight to get some rest, which may have only made us feel worse. If and when we make this trip again, I’ll definitely have these mistakes in the back of my mind.

If anyone wants more specifics on our trip- where and what parks went to, how we battled the heat, how we tackled the large crowds, etc… feel free to ask me in the comments!


Month in Review- June 2015

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Hey Everyone! I hope you’re all having a great week.

It’s July 2nd, so that means it’s time for a month in review. June went by in a flash, didn’t it? The summer months always seem to fly by so fast.

Since I didn’t post on Tuesday, I want to share a couple of items that happened over the weekend:

  • The same couple that I went out with earlier in June, invited me and GF out again; this time for dinner AND a movie (BTW- Jurassic World is AMAZING). I happily said “Yes!” but it also broke my “fun” budget for the month, which I carried $50. It wasn’t a big deal since my buddy asked me earlier in the week and I was able to budget for the dinner and movie out of my paycheck vs. having to dip into my emergency fund. I’m just really excited that I don’t have to say “No” to everything anymore.
  • I didn’t have a debt update to share since my last paycheck of the month is delegated to paying my mortgage and some other smaller bills. If I didn’t have any plans during this week, I could normally set aside $70-80 for a debt payment. Since I went out to dinner instead, I made no debt payment this week.

As for June, there was a lot that happened, so to review:

  • Firstly, now that most of my smaller debts are paid off (with only one more to go below $10,000) I had an internal struggle (The Hard Wins) on how to deal with the the fact that the payoffs are going to be few and far between now.
  • The day after my “Hard Wins” post, I increased my 401k contribution from 4% to 10% (which I mentioned in the comments of that same post). Update: I think this was a wise decision. For one- I haven’t noticed much of a difference in my take home pay. It ended up being about a $60 difference, but it’s definitely not hurting my ability to pay my bills. Plus, it’s awesome to see my retirement account grow so much faster!
  • In the following post (Time Off), I decided to use the month of July as a vacation from paying off debt to both enjoy my vacation to Disney and clear my head so I can hit August refreshed and ready to go. Update: vacation is only 7 days away (yay!) and this Wednesday’s paycheck marks the first paycheck in a LONG time (if ever) where I didn’t have to make a debt payment. I’m using all the extra  money to buy myself some new clothes and to stock up on supplies (more on this on Tuesday)
  • I went out for dinner and drinks with a with an awesome couple, in which my “fun” fund came in really handy (here) and was most definitely worth it.
  • In this post (Birthday Party), I went to a good friend’s son’s 1st birthday party. Since I started an ESA account, I figured I give the gift of some cash for my buddy to start one of his own for his son.
  • In the same post, we began our planning for Disney. Since we are driving down, a lot of you had some great ideas our how to make our trip as fun and as frugal as we can. We’ve incorporated many of the ideas into our plan as we want to spend as little money as we have to on our drive down and then back up.
  • Lastly, we had a little Father’s Day celebration (Father’s Day) where GF did some amazing little things for me, as I am the father to our kids (lol, they’re dogs). We also started cementing our Disney plans and GF used her couponing skills to get us a whole bunch of goodies on the cheap.

As for my debt paydown, no big milestones met this month, but I still paid off $1,592.21. Down to a balance of $48,466.83. Not my best month, but not my worst, either.

Hope everyone has a great holiday!


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!!!