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Drivers License : It Could Change Our Lives

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One adult, Four children, Three Two dogs, One cat – three working, two days a week of homeschool co op, four in activities, all social.  The amount of time I have spent in the car every week…well, it makes me dizzy just thinking back on it.  But now, I’m getting some relief!  Please join me in congratulating History Buff on receiving his drivers license this week!

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For now, he’s only driving himself places until I and he are comfortable with the idea of him truly driving (ok, mostly me.)  But that has already taken a load off since he works almost every day.  Woot, woot!

Financially this is actually helping me…he is paying his own car insurance at $72 per month (he already pays part of his phone bill) and I am going to fill up his car one time per month approx $20 for times he helps me by running errands or taking others to an activity.  He will otherwise be responsible for all gas and car maintenance for his car.

So even during the challenges we are facing, some exciting things are happening over here!


What to do When You Lose Your Job

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I’ve been attending a Job Transition group since I got the news of my impending lay off.  It’s been great to connect with like minded people (faith based group) who are going or who have gone through similar situations.  This morning the talk to turned to me with questions of healthcare now, unemployment benefits and general “what to do when you lose your job” tasks.

It’s been a LONG time since I was here…2006 to be exact.  Then it was pretty cut and dried.  I applied for unemployment benefits that lasted 4-6 months, paid for COBRA medical coverage for up to 18 months to continue our medical benefits and started a job hunt with weekly reporting to the Employment Commission to continue to receive my unemployment payments.

Now I’m not leaving corporate, I’m leaving contract work so no unemployment as far as I know, no COBRA and I had three weeks notice rather than the single day I had last time.  Very different and not so cut and dried.

So I’m hear asking for your collective wisdom…what do you do now when you lose a job?  Here’s what the Job Transition group advised me this morning….

  1. Apply for unemployment…let them tell me if I’m eligible or not.  At least it might result in some temporary income.
  2. With the new Obamacare, I cannot let my medical insurance lapse or I will face penalty, so I have to do something about that.  And without steady income, well that could be problematic.
  3. There  are lots of alternative resources out there, research them now, apply for help now, just in case, so that I don’t get to the point where I’m panicking and reach the point of no return with certain financial matters…suggestions are United Way (strict guidelines for help that I probably wouldn’t meet at this point,) local churches are not governed by strict regulations, grants for single moms, etc.

So here I am asking for your best advice, what would you do in my shoes?  What steps do I take now?


Year of Becoming an Adult: October Update

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Just last month I told you guys that we’d completed 2 out of our 4 2015 goals on our Year of Becoming an Adult list. Here’s where we stand now:

  1. Wills: Completed a couple months ago.
  2. Life insurance for hubs: I’d mentioned in my last update about hubs losing a bunch of weight (50 lbs, to be exact!!!) He still wants to lose about another 20, but decided to go ahead an initiate the life insurance process now. I remember it taking two or three months last time around (not a quick process), so hopefully by getting the ball rolling now he’ll be able to be insured before the end of the calendar year. And, just to show you how far he’s come, check out this incredible before/after photo comparison (note: I forced him to do this –he’d be embarrassed to do a mirror selfie himself; I also forced him to wear the same shirt for comparison purposes. The difference is incredible, right?!?! So proud of him!!!).

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  1. Open retirement accounts: We opened a Roth IRA back in April, and I also started funding an additional account through my work (a 401a) in July. I’m investing 10% of my paycheck into the 401(a) + my 7% employer match, plus still doing the $100/month toward the Roth (I know its not much, but better than nothing!)
  2. Open college savings accounts for the kids: I finally did it! I opened two 529s (one for each child) and have set up an auto-deposit of $25/month for each of them (a total of $50/month). Once we’re further along in the debt-payoff process we may increase contributions a bit, but I’m happy with where they’re at for now. It’s not much, but every little bit helps.

It’s been a crazy whirlwind of a year! Some serious happy times and some serious lows have been had. And in the last few months as I’ve transitioned back into full-time work I feel like I’ve let a lot of these “household” type tasks fall to the wayside as I’ve been trying to balance my work obligations and father caretaker tasks.  I’ve alluded to this without outright saying it, but I’ve taken over 100% of my father’s financial matters. Since he owns two separate properties, it feels like I’m essentially running THREE households myself. Hubs and I still have our budget meetings so its not like he doesn’t contribute to our household, but I’m still the person who balances the YNAB budget and physically pays the bills. It’s been a lot to take on, but I’m of course happy to help my Dad and just trying to stay on top of everything. I’m eternally grateful for the accountability I’ve received here!!! I’ve always done Excel budget spreadsheets, but I don’t think I was as uber-careful about where every single penny was being spent until I started blogging here (and, really, YNAB has been a life-changer in that regard. Check out my review if you’re interested.) Without the organization I’ve gained since I started blogging here, managing 3 separate household budgets would be really tricky. I mean, its tricky either way, but it’s certainly much easier being organized.

At any rate, in spite of the haze that this year has been (can’t believe its already mid-October! Where is 2015 going!?), I’m really glad to have now solidly accomplished 3 of our 4 “Year of Becoming an Adult” goals and that we’re well on the way to completing the fourth as well.

Now….if we can just squeeze in some debt payoff milestones we’ll be set! ; )

Have you ever tried YNAB? What did you think?

Do you do goals or resolutions for the year? How are you doing on your 2015 goals?


The Year of Becoming an Adult: September Update

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In October of last year I wrote about some of the financial goals we have for the year 2015. I called it “The Year of Becoming an Adult” as a way to acknowledge that, at the ages of 31 and 32, we really should have had these tasks taken care of long ago! It was long past time and 2015 was our year to tackle these important adult milestones.

There were four things, specifically, that I had mentioned. Time for a little status update on each of them:

  1. First, we’re going to make a will. This is finally done! I actually made the wills on my birthday (December 31st), but it took us MONTHS to get them notarized! In our state we had to have two witnesses and we had a hard time getting people to be our witness. We asked bank employees (nope), we asked friends (yes, but had a hard time finding a time that worked for 2 separate friends at the same time), and finally we got it done when hubs’ mom and grandma came to visit a couple months ago. Kind of ridiculous that it required two people coming to visit us who could serve as our witnesses, but the bottom line is this task is finally completed and behind us.
  2. Second, husband will get life insurance. Quick recap for newer readers – hubs had a mystery illness at the end of 2013. In summer of 2014 I got life insurance and tried to get him some, but he was rejected due to the mystery illness (doctors never found out exactly what was wrong with him). He was advised to wait a year and try again. So initially we were going to reapply at the beginning of this summer. But hubs has been on a hard-core mission to lose weight and wanted to wait until his weight-loss is complete so he can try to get better prices on life insurance. He started his weight-loss mission on June 1st and in the 3 ½ months since then he’s lost a total of FIFTY POUNDS!!! Yes! It’s incredible! Like watching an episode of extreme weight loss in front of my eyes! He wants to lose another 20 lbs. but I think we’ll probably initiate the life insurance process early next month (October). I remember from last time around that it was a couple-month process – not a quick overnight thing like I had expected. So this should still be done by the end of the year, but hasn’t been handled yet.
  3. Third, we’re going to open retirement accounts. Success! In April (before tax day), we opened up our first Roth IRA for 2014. It was a meager contribution ($1,000), but it was a start. For most months this year we’ve been setting aside $100 to be added to the Roth. But then when I started my full-time job in mid-July things really kicked it up a gear. I’m now contributing 10% of my full-time job income to a retirement account, which is being matched up to 7% from my employer. In addition to that, I’ve opened up a FSA (flexible spending account) for dependent care. I contribute $500/paycheck of pre-tax money so I can pay for the girls’ care with pre-tax dollars. I actually haven’t made a withdrawal from the account yet (and I need to!), so I need to figure out how to do that. But the point is that we’re now contributing to various retirement accounts (mostly through my employer’s 401a but still a little in a Roth), as well as taking advantage of a tax-advantaged FSA.
  4. Finally, we’re going to open college savings accounts for our girls. This one still hasn’t happened yet. Starting in June (the month of their birth), we’ve been setting aside $25/month with the intention of opening up a college savings account. Honestly, I’ve been so overwhelmed with work and stuff happening with my Dad that I haven’t been able to investigate into this further. Matt made it sound like it was super easy-peasy when he opened up an account for his niece, so I just need to bite the bullet and do it. In the meantime, the money has been earmarked for this purpose (I categorize it using YNAB’s budgeting system), so it’s available when I finally do get around to actually opening an account. I’ll go ahead and put this on my To Do List for the beginning of October, too. So I’ll call this a half-success since we’ve actively started saving the money but haven’t actually funneled it into an appropriate account yet. The intention is there, so now it’s just a matter of the follow-through!

Those were the main things I had discussed in my original Year of Becoming an Adult post, but I’m also happy to announce that hubs is finally getting a handle on his dental issues, too (never mind that it took an all out emergency to make that happen). Actually, TODAY is the day he’s getting his first quadrant of work done! He’d gone to the dentist right after the emergency but had to be put on antibiotics before any actual work could be done so today is the D-Day (D as in Dental work). We’re hoping to knock out one other quadrant before the new year (to max out our dental insurance benefits), but that probably won’t be scheduled until late November or December sometime to allow us a couple months to try to save up some more money. Remember – this round of dental work cost $665. I’m not sure what the next quadrant will cost but I’m assuming it will be pretty comparable. Allowing for a couple months’ buffer to restock our dental savings account is really helpful for us.

So there you have it!

#1 = check!

#2 = in progress

#3 = check!

#4 = in progress

BONUS (dental work) = in progress

 

I’d love to report more successes/check-marks but with the cards life has dealt us this year I’m pleased with our progress. When life gets crazy, baby steps is all we can ask for. As long as we’re moving forward we’re moving in the right direction! : )

I’ll be sure to update in a few months when I can hopefully report that ALL of these items have been checked off the “Year of Becoming an Adult” list!


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?


Paycheck Blunder

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I was oh-so-excited for my very first 2-week paycheck that was direct deposited into my account on Friday. I was giddy as a child on Christmas morning opening up my bank account information online only to discover…

I got paid nearly the same for my TWO weeks of work as I did on my last check for ONE week of work (in full honesty, this check was about $80 more than last time’s check…but for a full extra WEEK of work!!!)

My jaw dropped when I saw the deposit.

IMMEDIATELY I logged into my school account to view my paycheck and find out what happened.

And, as it turns out, it’s a combination of things.

First, I hadn’t elected my benefits yet in time to have them withdrawn from my last check. The only withholding it contained was the mandatory 401(a) contribution and my taxes. In contrast, this check had OVER A THOUSAND DOLLARS of deductions (not even including taxes)!!! Ouch! I elected for a LOT of things to be withheld, including: my mandatory 7% 401(a) contribution plus an additional contribution to bring me up to 10% withheld; all our medical, dental, and vision insurances, taxes, and the BIG one is the FSA for dependent child care to the tune of $500/paycheck. That one will serve me in the long-run because it allows me to pay for childcare with pre-tax money. But it still hurts to have that all added up to be over half my paycheck!!! (also, side note: the max I can contribute to the FSA is $5,000/year. So this level of withholding allows me to use $5,000 pre-tax toward childcare in 2015, then I’ll start over again in 2016. Once I hit the $5,000 max limit these withholdings will disappear and I’ll have to pay remaining childcare costs with after-tax money)

Only…those deductions shouldn’t equate to half my paycheck!

After a more careful inspection of my paycheck I realized I’m getting paid the wrong amount!!!

I’d been hired at ($X) over a 9-month contract. That way I can either take summers off or, if there’s additional work, I can get paid extra to work over the summer (essentially securing a 25% “raise” by working over the summer). When I was hired the business manager said that most faculty members prefer to have their pay spread over a full 12 months so they don’t go without pay over the summer. She could show me how to do that. I said thanks, but never pursued it. In my own mind, I’d rather get my money up front within the 9 months. Hubs still gets paid over summer, we could set up some type of “savings” to set aside some money for summer, or I could just hustle and try to teach over the summer for additional income. But, no, I was not a huge fan of just letting them keep my money and divvy it up over 12 months. I want as much as I can get now, thank you very much.

So when I calculated what was going on it was easy to see. Apparently I’d somehow been opted into the 12-month pay cycle instead of getting paid over 9 months as I’d intended. That essentially makes my income drop 25% (since it’s being spread over an additional 3 months).

Soooo, what would you do?

My knee-jerk reaction is to go to the business office and ask them to correct it. I want to get paid over 9 months, not 12. But are there any great reasons to keep my pay over 12 months? Anything I’m overlooking?

One additional piece of information is that if I opt for 9 months of pay, then I get double-dinged for insurance payments in the Spring semester (in order to cover the unpaid summer months). If I stick with the 12-month cycle then the payments stay the same year-round.

Thoughts?


Send a Prayer Up – Wisdom Teeth Removal

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Send a prayer up for Sea Cadet today please.  He will be getting his wisdom teeth out, and he is VERY nervous.  I’ve walked him through it from my own personal experience, the oral surgeon answered all his questions last week at the consultation and now it’s time.

I’m very grateful that his insurance covers this 100% and I’ve used that aspect to encourage him to get it done now before he is on his own.  Not to mention it will really help with the braces we are re-doing at the end of the month.