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Christmas spending strategy

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Every year we have a crazy travel schedule and a lot of people to see and catch up with over the holidays. It’s always a lot of fun driving cross country, staying in random hotels with family and friends, being fed everything and anything (mostly sugar, cookies, and gas station food) and eventually wearing dirty socks because everything in our suitcases has already been worn twice. It doesn’t sound like fun but it’s slap happy and full of my favorite people! I can’t wait for the adventures this year.

We try to plan for extra Christmas spending every year and do a good job of that. My issue is that we do the majority of the gift buying on the fly and that leaves very little time to plan and that means we don’t save money on our any of our gift purchases. What typically happens is at the very last minute, (less than a week before christmas) we find ourselves with a list of names and a general idea of what we might want to get each person. We end up running to the store with a list of names or paying crazy shipping for things we buy online. Not fun or practical.

This year I am doing cheerleader kicks, cartwheels, and I’ve been high fiving myself left and right because WE are hosting Christmas at OUR house!!!! YESS! I’ve loved Christmas hosted by everyone else, but hosting has a lot of advantages. For one, we don’t have to travel. I’m hoping that staying home for Christmas will take some of the stress of travel away and leave us time to plan purchases better. Instead of worrying about getting us across the country with everything we need and gifts, we just have to worry about gifts. What a relief!

Also, not having to travel will save us a ton of money. Even driving expenses really add up. Because I’m hosting, I feel like I can ask guests to forgo big gifts and stick to stocking stuffers for this years christmas for the adults in the family. I can’t guarantee that my family will play along, but as the host, I can make that suggestion and cross my fingers. I’ve always felt like I had to play along with our parents wishes for the holidays, and we did so respectfully. This year I’m excited to try some alternative ways of sharing and spending the holiday together. Maybe they’ll even like doing a white elephant exchange? You never know! It’s not that I don’t want to spend money on giving gifts to my loved ones, I think it’s more that we should spend time enjoying each other rather than focusing on gifts. Just pondering this.

What’s your gift giving and spending strategy this year ?
Last leg of last years travel:

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Last years tree:

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Ice skating at whole foods: (I was showing off and ran into that guy 3 seconds after this was taken)

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Our week in review

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This weeks ups and downs in our little world:

The good:

We were interviewed for a radio segment on Marketplace for NPR. Depending on how ridiculous we sound, we’ll post a link to the podcast for y’all. Overall a really fun experience talking to an expert about our financial situation and getting some third party advice on our debt payoff strategy.

I moved out of my studio space: I’d been renting a shop/ studio for over a year, which had its own ups and downs. While it would’ve been possible for me to work from home in the last two rental houses, I felt it would have been inconsiderate to the neighbors (because of the noise and clutter) disrespectful of our agreements with our landlords, and could have hurt my business because both neighborhoods were kind of sketchy- ghetto (but cheap).
Luckily, I was able to move over the course of the week, which gave me time to clean and organize while I went. I did 90% of the moving on my own, which saved me the expense of hiring a crew. It definitely wasn’t easy and I got pretty beat up and exhausted, but at the end of the week I could see what I’d accomplished. I love that feeling! I’m looking forward to the money saving benefits of running my business from home! I wont have to pay rent (about 450 a month) I’ll be saving in gas (300 a month) and hopefully Ill be able to cook, clean, and get household chores done throughout the week. Hopefully this working from home gig will also help us spend less on groceries and eating out! YAYYYY!

We may be borrowing some mini donkeys: One of my clients offered to let us borrow them for two weeks to help accelerate clearing the land. I’ll keep y’all posted on if we get them or not. I am SO excited! MINI DONKEYS!!!

Cooking day with my sister: we spent half a day cooking some meals for our families and one of her friends that just had a baby. My sister is a master at cooking yummy food on the cheap, and I was once a manager in a commercial kitchen (for a summer in college) so together we can get a lot of goodness done in a little bit of time. This time we just made Thai coconut chicken curry and meatballs with sauce, which were both were uber inexpensive and delish. It’s a good way for me to spend quality/ fun time with my sister and get stuff done at the same time. Lots of giggling and making fun of eachother. 🙂

Getting the rental cottage cleaned and occupied: we were both pretty nervous about our previous renter moving out and the new renters actually showing up and moving in. It turned out to be pretty stressful, but it goes in the good category because we cleaned and prepped the space together, without hiring a crew, and the new renters said the place looked great! I’m proud of us for getting all the cleaning done pretty efficiently and working together. I’m also happy the new renters are here, moved in, and paid. What’s that saying? It ain’t over until the fat lady sings? I think we both kept thinking they were going to back out, but it’s gone we’ll so far!

Free baseball game: A fun date on the cheap! Even parking was free! And the game was awesome!

The not so great:

Adjusting to a new budget: I feel like it’s just one more thing I’m going to worry about, and it’s going to take some more adjustment on my part to get used to the new way of spending money. Or not spending money. Bah humbug! 😉

Waiting for the previous renter to move out: This was really, really frustrating. We told him we had renters moving in on the first, and we would need to get in there and clean as soon as possible, and he said he would be out by Sunday the 28th. At 11pm on the 31rst and he was still over there “cleaning” and moving, leaving us to hustle booty to get it cleaned and ready for the renters who were moving in later that day. I was already pretty peeved at him for leaving the house so messy when we would have showings (it was so gross we were not sure we were going to be able to rent it), but this last minute move out was icing on my angry cake. It was really, really frustrating having to clean up after a grown man. I know he knows better than to leave the house in that condition for showing and when he moved out, but he did it anyway. Not cool.

Fighting about renovations: I really would like to at least try to make some updates to our home. It hasn’t been updated or really even cared for since it was built in the early 90s, and the wear and tear from it being a rental for so long really shows. I’m starting to feel like we shouldn’t have bought this house (or any house) if we knew we wouldn’t have the funds to make it a nice home. Before we bought this house, we should have agreed on a time frame for renovations and made sure our goals were clear. I think I’m just generally frustrated that we don’t share the same goals for making the house comfortable and homey. When we talk about it, Adam brings up good points about needing to save for a bigger emergency fund, retirement, paying down our debt and then paying off our mortgage early. I think he’s probably right, I just wish we could compromise a little 🙂

Work flow: With the move this week, it was hard for me to schedule appointments and meet with clients. I still have some rearranging to do at home before I feel comfortable inviting customers over for sales and consultations, and I need to get it done fast! This was a week with no sales, and that’s frustrating. I do have some great projects coming up, but I’m a little apprehensive about how I’m going to run the business from home. I’m hoping it will be a huge advantage to us and not an extra stressor.

Yay for the weekend! I’m ready to kick back a little and chill 🙂 Thanks for following us as we are on this crazy journey. 🙂

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Totally Irrelevant Post!

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Sometimes ya just gotta go random on the blog and share something that struck you and made you say “I gotta share this!”  This is that post.  Now don’t freak out by the name of the blog because it is a blog I have followed for awhile.  I discovered it as I was struggling in my marriage.  I grew to really enjoy the relationship info on it and that is why I still follow it.

I’ll also issue the disclaimer that I am not suggesting that marriages should end.  I am not saying that marriage is bad.  I truly believe in marriage–even after two divorces!  I value marriage.  I celebrate marriage.  I know some of you will be irritated that I don’t have a purely money post today but that’s okay.  I ask that you indulge me and remember that relationships and money are oh-so-very-tied-together-for-better-for-worse-but-seemingly-more-often-for worse so I’m not COMPLETELY irrelevant here. PLUS, my divorce has pretty quickly led to at least a little good news on my own financial journey!

This post hit so close to home as it perfectly describes much of my thought process through my not quite 3 year marriage to my second husband.  ESPECIALLY the “when I get sick…” part! Take a look at it and do with it what you will!  For some of you it may ring true and for most of you (I hope) it will make no sense at all.  And my wish for ALL of us is that we are in that latter group!

Enjoy.

Taken from www.apracticalwedding.com

Posts from APW moms are among my favorite (there is some wisdom there, y’all). But today’s post is extra special because it comes from my mom. My mother (who goes by Jennifer when it’s not me) often jokes that she doesn’t know where I learned about relationships, but that she thinks some of it might have to do with learning from her mistakes. But the reality is, what she calls mistakes actually look a lot like successes to me. Because if my mom has taught me anything about marriage and divorce, it’s that self-care is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your relationship. And sometimes self-care looks like getting out of a relationship that isn’t making you happy and never will. As I get older, I’ve witnessed many friends stay in unhappy marriages out of fear. Fear of failure, fear of being alone, you name it. And it kills me. So for today, I asked her to write a post about leaving a marriage when it’s just not working. Because sometimes all it takes is knowing you can do something to give you the courage to go ahead and do it. And now I’ll give the floor to my mom, with some of the smartest words I’ve ever seen grace these pages. Not that I’m biased.  -Maddie Eisenhart

Starting over from scratch. No one sees this coming when they’re marching down the aisle—whether the aisle is church stone, beach sand, or hardwood in a local VFW club—till death do us part is embedded deep in our hearts on that wedding march, and in our partner who’s waiting at the end, face beaming at the thought of you growing old together and retiring to a porch swing, sipping fresh lemonade.

Fast forward to the day you’re sitting on a beach in Mexico on a “girl’s trip” realizing how short life is, and that death-do-us part is a really, really long time when you’re married to a guy who prefers watching ESPN over viewing any part of you…even when you’re rocking lingerie. Or a guy who isn’t who you thought he was when you said yes.

This was me at thirty-one years old. Life had recently taught me I controlled nothing. I learned I could attempt to protect everything in my life—my family, friends, relationships, and my heart—but bad things happen despite efforts to prevent them. That trip to Mexico was an escape. Everything about me was broken. I had just lost my nine-year-old daughter to brain cancer, and during the time she was sick, had gradually discovered that my husband didn’t have the emotional capacity to help my dying heart survive the process of losing her. He wasn’t cruel or apathetic. He just didn’t get it. The day before I left for Mexico, my friend and neighbor Ray died of a heart attack alone in a hotel on a business trip. I was devastated by his death, as much for losing him as for losing any belief that life would be there waiting for me to live again if I ever healed. I learned the hard way that life is too short. I knew then there were things I needed to think about. Big things.

So there I sat at thirty-one years old—five kids, a cat, two dogs, and a husband I needed to decide on. Sitting there on that white, sandy beach at 6:45am, while my intentionally childfree girlfriends slept till noon, I thought about things. A lot. On that beach—day four of thinking—I finally decided. It was over. I was indeed—done. I could not come up with one reason to stay with my husband that had anything to do with my own happiness or comfort, just those around me. My husband was a great guy, I thought no one would understand my choice. My kids would be crushed. My family might be disappointed in me. My financial stability would be suddenly unstable. People would talk.

On that beach, none of it mattered. I would always take care of my kids. My family would get over it. I could make my own money. And who gives a sh*t what people say. The final decision came down to a crude, possible future reality—some day I may not have teeth or control of my bladder. I may get sick. Really sick. Would I feel loved and cared for no matter what? I didn’t think I would. Would he cry with me and for me if I did get really sick? I didn’t think he would. I thought a lot about this in particular. I shouldn’t have had to. This was not how I was going to live the rest of my life.

Over doesn’t always happen like mine did. It happens in many ways—getting dumped out of the blue, cheated on, or just realizing you plain old made a mistake in choosing your life partner and need to end it. No matter how the end happens, it sucks. Those first two scenarios are full of shock and awe. They’re rugged. Everything you thought was—wasn’t. Everything happening to you is out of your control. You can’t sleep or eat, and friends worry. It’s the making of a Carrie Underwood song. In these situations, you are forced to survive. You don’t weigh options, such as financial independence, who gets the kids, house, friends, dog, or cat, or what it will be like with way too much time alone. You successfully wing it all and make it because you have to. This is important to remember as you look at scenario number three—you will always survive the end and be better on the other side.

Because then there’s the third scenario: Deciding you’re done. This path allows for way too much contemplation. In this case, knowing you’re done is the real done, not the temporary, annoyed, “I hate the way he or she chews cereal” kind of done. I’m talking about the done when your smart-brain knows your relationship is unhealthy or awful, but your excuse-making, crowd-pleasing, desperate-for-it-to-work brain takes over and wrecks everything. This part of the brain allows for fear to creep in and trump your gut instincts and smart-brain knowledge that you are in the wrong place with the wrong person. If your brain is functioning in this manner, you may need an intervention. By me. Right now. So please pay attention.

If you read my first APW post, you’ll know I love lists. If you didn’t read it, then know this—I love lists. If you are in need of an I’m done intervention right now, I am going to offer you scenarios (some I’ve been through, some I’ve watched others endure) in list form, that will help you know that no matter what you’re afraid of, or don’t know how to do, everything will be okay. For real.

Scenario One: You’ve never lived alone. You know who you are—you lived with your parents, then a roommate in college, and now your current partner. You have no idea how to be alone. That’s okay. Alone, at first, is terrifying. Time drags. The phone never rings. Notifications don’t come. I’ll be honest. It’s tough. Don’t tackle this on your own at first if you don’t think you can handle it. Most can’t. Stay with anyone who will take you—temporarily. I stayed with my good friends Kate and Joel. Three or four days. Maybe twenty-five. It’s a blur. Joel asked me to surrender my phone so I wouldn’t torture myself through the night waiting for calls or notifications—even though I was the one who was done. He wanted to be sure, more than anything, that I didn’t make any calls or send messages I would regret based on my fear of being done and alone. I gave him the phone. It worked. I made it over that initial panic-filled hump. You will, too. Lean on the people who love you. They want to help. Doing this will help you stay true to your decision to be done and your decision to be where you need to be.

Scenario Two: You don’t know how to do anything—like pump your own gas. While this may sound extreme, it happened to a friend of mine. She had decided to leave her husband for another man—gasp! She didn’t mean to, but she fell in love with a close family friend. Her teenaged daughters took the side of her husband, her husband was destroyed, and her new lover’s wife was set on revenge. She could work through all of that, and rebuild, but could not get past what she didn’t know how to do—pump gas. Her dad had done it for her when she was young, and her husband had picked up where he left off after they were married. As she sat in my classroom crying about pumping gas, I offered to take her to the 7-Eleven to teach her. She learned. There are teachers everywhere. Look to them to teach you how to do what you don’t know how to do—the things that make you stay where you don’t belong.

Scenario Three: You don’t know how to start the conversation. Don’t over think this. Just say it. Be kind, empathetic, and gentle, but say it. I remember riding in the car on the way home to Portland from Boston after that Mexico trip. It was Valentine’s Day, by chance. My husband offered up a diamond bracelet, which made it tough to spit out the words. It wasn’t the bling biting my tongue, it was the thought and effort. Finally. It was weird. And nice. And confusing. But not enough to change my mind. I told him that things were not what I needed. I didn’t know what I needed, but I knew it wasn’t stuff. He knew what I meant. We drove the rest of the way home in silence, both beginning the end. For the next few years, we rode the stages of grief—the loss of our daughter and the end of our marriage—trying to figure out how to keep our kids stable and healing. He’d leave to stay with a friend four days a week, and I’d leave for three. We focused on keeping the kids in one place to give them a shot at normalcy. It worked for a while. We split accounts, talked to lawyers, and went to grief counseling together. I bought an apartment building, he and Joel moved me in, and it was done. I was alone. And I was okay. Alone let me learn more about me and what I wanted and needed. At times it was lonely and quiet, but I was okay. I called on Kate and Joel often. I stayed with my brother and his wife here and there to get through the quiet. I said yes to every invitation to do just about anything because it took my mind off of my doubts. I made it.

Weighing all of your options—reasons to stay, reasons to go—is a great way to convince yourself that staying in a shitty relationship is the best way to go. Do not do this.

Do this:

Be loved. Know that you will feel loved when sh*t unexpectedly hits the fan in life. Accept nothing less than living your life with your one great love—the one who has your back—thick and thin—sickness and health—your best friend— even if it means being alone long enough to figure out what that means to you. Don’t be bought out to stay. Don’t stay for the kids, or the dog, or the cat—they will all see right through you. Go. It’s worth the leap. You will figure it out and find your way to the real thing.

I finally figured it out. I have my real thing. He’s sitting behind me in the recliner waiting for me to turn around and watch The Voice with him while the Bruins play the Canadiens on another channel—because he knows I love me some Adam Levine. Now that’s great love.

 


Another great financial article from More magazine

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I am loving this magazine More!  I shared once before that I received a subscription to this magazine and must say that I anxiously anticipate its arrival.  It truly has thought provoking topics and articles  in addition to some fun style & beauty tips.  My time reading this in the quiet has become a treasured moment in my month!

The finance article I read in the April 2013 issue can’t be located online yet (or at least I can’t locate it) but I did find another good one on their website.  This ties in nicely to what I shared yesterday re: all that “stuff” in our lives that lead to bad spending habits.  Oh and funny timing on something else: I am starting to be contacted by my ex-husband’s (#2) creditors. Seems he isn’t paying his bills and they have started looking for him!  I can breathe another sigh of relief, sing another song of gratitude that I was not tied to him financially!

Take a quick look at this one and cringe over this woman’s situation!  The emotions tied to money are dangerous!

http://www.more.com/reinvention-money/money/how-i-lost-500000-love

I’ll keep an eye out for a link to the one I read yesterday.  It is all about unequal earning power between spouses and how that did (and didn’t) impact their marriage.  Good stuff!


Where To Begin?

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I’m feeling slightly overwhelmed with where to begin now that the divorce is final.  I feel like I’ve been a racehorse in the starting gate just dying for the shot to fire and the gate to open so that I can return to my open, candid self.  I have so much I want to share and I need to be patient with myself and ask that you continue your patient reading as well.

The first thing I want to share is information about my vehicle.  Through a series of events I am currently driving a 2008 Toyota RAV with just 25,000 miles on it.  It is a long, drawn out story but the most important thing to share is that I am currently not paying a car payment.  This may be temporary until my higher interest debt is paid off, but for now I am trying to gracefully receive the help.  Right after the separation as I was about to take a hit on the minivan and get into something smaller with a smaller loan and smaller payment, my parents were kind enough to bridge a gap for me with a car they were not using.  I was successful in getting out from under the van relatively unscathed considering that we had just purchased it in November 2010.  I intially began the process to trade in my van but thanks to a series of events, I ended up selling it directly for what I owed before signing on the dotted line for the trade in.  It was a stroke of being at the right place at the right time (and it helped that it was a very nice, low mileage Honda Odyssey) and a number of individuals simply looking out for me and getting me the best deal possible.  In that sense, Steve’s poor handling of his departure paid off.  I did not ask for people to help in this way, but I do believe strongly in doing good deeds and that when you do, the blessings come back tenfold.  They came back in the form of my ending up without a car loan payment.  I could not have done this without my parents and it has been a humbling experience.  They did not want to take any money from me and I thought about insisting they take something.  After putting some thought into things and looking at my debt–I humbly accepted their generosity and vowed to tackle the debt even more aggressively.

It is humbling to share this with you and part of me just wants to continue hiding in the shadows on the car info but as someone wise told me, the readers will be persistent.  You do deserve to know if I am keeping this real.  I’m sure many of you will scoff at the fact that I am receiving this kind of help from my parents and I’ll just have to take the lumps.  It does REALLY suck but I am relieved to know that I have the help available and I will do everything in my power to both pay my parents back and pay it forward.

More to come this week but I am tired!  I had a very busy weekend with the kids!  One last thought to share:  My divorce was final on Friday but in light of the events in Connecticut, I couldn’t bring myself to “celebrate” via any social media.  I was reminded by that tragic event that  no matter what we are each going through in life, we don’t have to look far to see others facing much bigger challenges. Perspective. So I got duped by a man. I and my children are stronger for the experience and most importantly, I forgive myself.  Failure would have been to stay in an abusive relationship. There are far worse things than divorce. Remember there is always someone out there facing a much steeper climb than you.   Here’s to a great week!


Incomplete stories…

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I know that I have so many unfinished topics and stories on the blog.  You all know from my first 5 months as the blogger that I don’t usually leave a story untold.  I write today to express my frustration about not being able to be a completely open book.  It is really a terrible feeling for me to experience.  I know none of my readers are angry because of the many unfinished stories but it is really tough for me.  My nature is to just be an open book so to hold back is very stressful for me.

All of that said, I am also smart enough to know that no one is going to protect me but me and I cannot disclose everything at this time.  Although it is a silent battle, I cannot forget that I am indeed in the middle of a battle with a man who I do not recognize and I cannot predict.

The tax issue was addressed this weekend and it isn’t pretty.  I got a single line,  typed letter from Steve saying he will pay the IRS directly.  That’s it.  That is all he said.  I have no idea what that means but will not concern myself with trying to decipher his code.  I called in a favor to a dear friend who is a CPA (and one I’ve helped several times through the years with free legal advice–and isn’t that another great life lesson?  Pay it forward people b/c it will come back to you tenfold.  I could have been charged thousands for what my friend had to dig through this weekend and I was not charged) and while I certainly don’t like what I learned, knowledge is power.  I know now what I am dealing with and will act accordingly.  Forgive me for not being able to share details but I will eventually.

Even with this heaviness, it was a great weekend.  Church was all about the fear we all have of “letting go.”  Sometimes from basic material things and also the big stuff that holds us back.  I was there in my marriage.  I was so afraid of losing what I thought I had, what I had created as my reality that I actually ignored reality!  The message is that letting go always leads to bigger and better blessings.

Happy Monday!


2011 Taxes

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I snail mailed Steve our 2011 tax return that he had already completed before he moved out.  We owe $900.  I included a note asking him to sign and return to me with a check for $450 made to me or the IRS and I would file.  I have all of the required supporting documentation that I have to presume he intentionally left here b/c he was careful to take other legal documents and leave the tax stuff behind.   I sent it on September 30 and haven’t heard back.

Filing taxes has been yet another issue in the marriage.  I’m an early bird by nature and did not use any type of extensions in the past, but that’s where we are at this point.  This causes me a lot of anxiety and Steve knows it causes me anxiety.  I don’t want to think there is some intent behind this and instead just want to focus on getting the stupid taxes paid.  I have the money and will bite the bullet and pay the entire amount just to get this box checked.  I’m guessing he knows that I will do that but I’m not sure how to do that without his involvement.  Can I file without a signature (electronic or otherwise) from him?   I know many of you think I should know this stuff but I don’t so that’s why I am writing about it.  If I don’t receive something in the mail from him today, I want to take care of this in the next two days so I welcome any input you may have.  A friend suggested calling the IRS to explain the situation.  I am not looking to get out of payment or extend payment or anything like that.  I just want it done with no concern of follow up.  Blah.

Looking forward to filing separately for 2012 WELL before April 15, 2013!  🙂


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