Browsing posts in: Monthly Spending

Spring Break (+ Feb. Debt Update)

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Hi All!

Last year, my first year back to full-time work, my Spring Break happened to align with my kids’ Spring Break. I remember at the time colleagues mentioning how lucky that was and to appreciate it. So it was no real surprise when this year rolled around and, looking at our academic calendars, I realized our Spring Breaks did not align. Bugger!

But, I think we’re also making the best out of having separate Spring Breaks! This week is my school’s Spring Break (and hubs’ Spring Break as well). I’ll be back in Texas for a couple days to deal with some dad-related issues. But otherwise, hubs and I are looking forward to doing some serious manual labor out in our backyard. When we bought the house, it had nothing but chest-high weeds all through the back. We mowed them all down, but have done very little since then. Hubs has a friend who owns a landscape company and came over to take a look at our yard and offer some practical suggestions in terms of plants, placement, etc. So for the cost of some plants + weed killer + some hard work and elbow-grease, we’re hoping to get our backyard into a more presentable condition. We’ve allotted $200 to the project. It would be a project the girls could help us with…but will probably be easier without the interference, er, “help.” And I like that the couple days I’ll be gone are on days that they’re already in school. Makes it a bit easier for the hubs and makes me feel less guilt about being away (quick Dad update for those who have been following along and are interested – skip this part if you’re only here for the financial -my Dad, who has frontotemporal dementia, continues to decline. His speech is almost gone at this point and he lives in a constant state of agitation, presumably from the confusion and frustration associated with what’s happening to him. He’s been living in an independent living facility but we’ve been touring several assisted living and dedicated memory-care places. It’s a tough move to make but it’s coming up probably sooner rather than later so we’re trying to research and prepare accordingly. Being that the purpose of my trip is for things related to his care, my sister and I decided he would cover the cost of my airfare – something he would have done in the past if he had the mental capacity. I’ll be staying with my mom so I’ll have free lodging, and will only be paying my meals out of pocket which should be minimal. I’ll be there not quite 3 days.)

Next week is our girls’ Spring Break. In the future, I hope that we can plan family vacations (or even staycations) during Spring Break week, but with our looming tax debt ahead, that’s certainly not in the cards this year. Instead, we’re lucky to be able to hodgepodge together some childcare without having to pay extra to a babysitter. Hubs has class Mon/Wed (but is available other days) and I teach on Tues/Thurs (but am available other days), so between us, we’ll be able to always have one parent home with the kiddos.

I’m still on operation minimal-spending, too. It’s not a complete spending freeze because we still have to purchase essentials like food, fuel, etc. But I have been extra mindful about every dollar being spent. As an example, one of my daughters lost her water bottle for the second time this school year. Last time, I just jumped on Amazon and bought her a new one. This time around, I’m making her take my water bottle as a back-up. I explained that we can’t just get something new every time we lose our old item. It’s been a nice lesson in natural consequences and how its important to keep track of our things. It’s a bit of a punishment because my water bottle isn’t a nice or “cool” as the kid version, but at least it’s an adequate replacement so she’s not going without one. I’m really trying to scrimp and save and see if we can pay our full tax debt ourselves rather than relying on borrowing. I really want it PAID IN FULL by the deadline. I did talk to my sister, however, and if I need to borrow money from my dad it would be an option available to us. I really want to avoid this. It’s such “messy” terrain and I just don’t like the feeling. But I would be able to save the interest + penalties associated with an IRS payment plan. Something to think about, should it come to that (I still don’t have exact figures from our accountant).

In the meantime, I want to share my February 2017 Debt Update. As mentioned in a previous post, the debt payment was less than my originally intended $3,000 payment because I decided to just pay debt minimums toward my student loans so I can try to save up the extra money to put toward our IRS debt. Here you go:

PlaceCurrent BalanceAPRLast Payment MadeLast Payment Date Original debt, March 2014
Navient - Federal 2 (unsubsidized)$11,1055.8034February82433 (all school loans, combined)
Navient - Federal 3 (subsidized)$86085.8025February
Navient - 2 (subsidized)$84966.5533February
Navient - 7 (subsidized)$71976.5529February
Navient - 8 (subsidized)$63726.5525February
Navient - 9 (subsidized)$84976.5534February
Navient - 10 (unsubsidized)$98056.5519February
Balance Transfer Student Loan #2$14000% (through Sept 2017)$800February$7650
Balance Transfer Student Loan #3$45940% (through October 2018)$0N/A
Medical Bills$43700% (must be paid by April)$1216February$9000
Balance Transfer student loan #1$00% -Paid off in March 2016$5937
PenFed Car Loan$02.49%-Paid off in January 2016$24040
License Fees$02.5%-Paid off in April 2015$5808
BoA CC$07.24%-Paid off in June 2014$2220
Mattress Firm$00%-Paid off in May 2014$1381
Wells Fargo CC$013.65%-Paid off in May 2014$7697
Capital One CC$017.9%-Paid off in March 2014$413
Totals$70,444 (Jan balance = 72,560)$2215Starting Debt = $145,472

This month (March), I’m putting less toward the balance transfer card – only $400 instead of the $800 I gave in February. I do NOT want to add “IRS” to the debt spreadsheet, so I’m just stockpiling money in hopes we can pay them their money and not move backward in our debt progression. That will mean lower debt payments for the next couple months (March & April). Even small progress is moving in the right direction.

Have you had any financial set-backs lately?

 

 


Mid-Life Career Changes

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I come to you today with a bit of an announcement…..though nothing has actually changed yet, so it’s more of an announcement of things to come (not of things that have already transpired).

I’m sure it’s pretty evident that I’ve been overwhelmed with work lately. I haven’t been able to blog nearly as frequently as I’d like; I’ve sometimes written reactionary/overwhelmed posts (like this one); you all know the vast amount of time that it takes to deal with my Dad’s stuff; finding “balance” has been a reoccurring theme in my blog posts, etc. etc. etc.

It’s something I’ve been talking about with hubs quite a bit over the past several months (I just want to note that this is not another reactionary thing – it’s been on our minds for a long time).

So here’s the deal….I want hubs to quit his job.

Hubs is a flooring contractor. He has a couple of crews of people who work for him but he, himself, also goes out and installs floors all day every day. He’s quite good at it and takes a great deal of pride in his workmanship. But for some reason, we have been unable to grow this business. He’s done it for nearly 7 years here in Tucson (with lots of experience prior to living here, both in Florida and Texas on high-end homes). But every time he starts to expand his operations, we’re hit with HUGE blows. Typically he has someone from an install crew make some mistake and he’s left having to cover the costs to rectify the situation. I think, at most, he was once hit with a $15,000 repair. But he’s had several jobs over the years that have cost him $5,000 here or there. I’ve gotten away from giving our monthly budgets (just due to time constraints as those are one of the most time-intensive posts to write), but when I reported our income monthly I’d sometimes talk about how he had a no-income month or a negative-income month. Yes, these things tend to even out (there are super high income months, too). But, on the whole, things just don’t seem to be progressing. We feel stagnant. And unable to gain traction.

And aside from that, hubs isn’t getting any younger. Let’s face it – his job is manual labor. He’s going to need knee replacements at probably a very young age. His back aches daily and even now (at 34 years old), it takes him a couple minutes just to get up and start moving around some days. He has to stretch to make sure his knees don’t buckle beneath him.

We’ve always known this job wouldn’t last forever. But we’d hoped he would transition away from doing physical install work and toward just managing at some point. Unfortunately, we’ve been trying to do this “transition” thing for nearly 4 years now and every time he gets close, he’s hit with these huge expenses and forced to go back to working, himself. It’s just not a sustainable business strategy long-term.

Looking at the past couple of years’ taxes, we know that I make roughly the same from my part-time job that hubs makes from his full-time job. I say this not to shame him, but just to state a fact

(As a side-note, I want to mention that hubs was the sole income earner in our family for a very long time. I’m blessed beyond belief to have a work-horse as a husband! I’ve seen friends with lazy husbands who drag their feet applying for jobs or just basically refusing to work and in no way can I relate. Even when we first moved to Tucson and hubs had no official employment, he was buying and selling things on Craigslist and trying literally anything to make some extra money for our family. The man is one of the hardest workers I know).

But when I’m literally talking about quitting my part-time job because I can’t keep up with it, yet it only takes me about 15 hours per week and is bringing in the same income as hubs’ 40 hour/week job…..it just doesn’t make sense for me to be the one to let my job go.

When I first broached the subject with hubs, he was vehemently against it. Again – the man is a work-horse. He’s considered it and come to the conclusion that he would not be happy or personally fulfilled to be Mr. Mom. He wants to work. He yearns to work and provide for our family.

But then we started considering some other options. Instead of quitting work and becoming Mr. Mom/Homemaker, what if hubs throws his time into securing a new career. We’ve looked into it and he can take college classes at the university where I’m employed for literally $25/class. Yes – twenty five dollars per class. So, what if he takes a few years “off” of work, during which time he helps out more around the house and with the kids to afford me the time to dedicate to work, and simultaneously goes back to school himself so he can change career trajectories???

Hubs has “some college”, but never finished an actual degree. One field we’ve talked about, specifically, is engineering. It doesn’t require a crazy amount of school (typically the four year degree is all that’s necessary), and you come out on the other end pretty employable (unlike many fields that require different advanced degrees just to be competitive on the job market).

The big drawback to this is age. If we do this, he likely won’t be graduating until he’s 38 or 39 years old. Is that “too old” to make such a major switch in careers???

Like I said, nothing has happened yet. IF we do this (still a big “if”), we’ve talked about doing it as a slow transition. He would ramp down his business across the course of the next few months. He’d likely keep at least one crew working under his business license for the time being (he has one crew that is totally self-sufficient and does great work, so he could continue drawing a small income from the profits on their job). Then he’d look into some college courses for this coming Spring semester (starting in January).

It’s just scary to make such a major life decision. It would obviously affect our debt payoff at least a bit, but the way things are operating currently are just not sustainable. I’m talking about having to quit my (very lucrative) part-time job, which would be a big blow to our income. Losing hubs’ income would also be a big blow, but when looking at it from a perspective of time versus money, it just makes more sense to keep my part-time job and give up his full-time one given that it’s basically the same amount of money either way. To test the waters, he’s already been ramping up his help around the house. He basically does 90% of the laundry at this point, 75% of the general cleaning, and significantly more childcare (he picks up and drops off at preschool much more regularly than he used to last academic year & always takes them somewhere once every weekend so I have a few hours of dedicated work-time on Saturday or Sunday).

It’s just hard. There’s no guarantee on the other side that he’ll 100% for sure be able to go into this completely different career field. And we know that this can not be a long-term plan because, like I said, he would not find it to be a personally fulfilling lifestyle (which is very important, even though I’m sensitive to the fact that many would bend over backward to be in the position to quit their job and not have to worry about the financial implications).

So I’m just kind of laying it out there for you. I’d love to hear if you have stories of mid-life major career changes (into a totally different field all together). Do you know any books on the topic that might be helpful to read as we consider this type of major life transition? Do you have any suggestions of things we might want to research or take into consideration? For the record, yes, it will have an impact on our budget and debt payments. But, as I’ve mentioned, that’s likely to happen anyway (since the alternative is that I quit my part-time job and at some point down the road we would still need to figure out an alternative plan for hubs because he cannot physically stay in his current career forever).

In addition to constructive criticism, advice, and suggestions, I also welcome happy thoughts and prayers for clarity while we try to figure out what the best move is for our family in the coming years.

As always, thanks for your unwavering support! : )

 


All about the Money – Tracking

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We got all settled this past weekend, and it is glorious!  Everything is unpacked, we have far more space then we’d anticipated and the kids are fully engaged in building a fort up in the trees and tending the animals.  The twins’ 15 year old brother (they have additional siblings who were fostered and adopted elsewhere) came to spend our first couple of days with us and they had a blast!

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My view from my kitchen.

Now it is Monday and I’ve been busy with work all morning.  Tomorrow I head out of town again for work, so I wanted to get this post done and ready for Wednesday.  Here’s what I’m thinking, a weekly recap of where my money (household operations account) is coming and going…

Here’s a small example of what I’m thinking, this is how my money has been spent since Moving Day, Friday, April 15th:

Week of 4/15-4/18
Category Amount Balance
Moving Day 339 339
Auto – Gas -55 284
Savings -100 184
Food – Eating Out -100 84
Birthday Present -20 64
Debt -40 24
Child Support 150 174

I started with the balance in my household operation bank account on Moving Day and went from there.

You will see my gas was high for just covering a weekend, but I filled my car and History Buff’s car up on account of the multiple trips we both made for the move. (I typically fill his tank up once a month and he covers the rest.)

We ate out three times due to the move. And I received $150 in child support from the little ones’ dad.

I also transferred my first 30ish% in savings. I know there is A LOT of controversy about the percentage post; however, one thing is certain, I MUST save.  This housing situation, as generous as it is, is only temporary, and getting to a good place savings wise is number one on my priority list right now.  I will write a full post on how that is going to look for the time being, but right now, first thing I do when I receive money – 30ish% to savings.  Balance as of today in what will be my primary savings account = $100.

Now what this doesn’t show is the $300 I spent on groceries when we moved in, I have been saving a little bit at a time for the past few months in anticipation of the day when 1) we moved and 2) we no longer received food stamps. The total in that savings account was just shy of $700 the day I went grocery shopping. So I anticipate being able to live off it until mid-May as far as groceries go. I am keeping it separate from my operational account so I don’t spend it, I just transfer it to the account at time of checkout.


A/C is on….

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It could only last so long, right?

After our outrageous electric bill back in February I turned the A/C totally OFF and it has remained that way ever since. The impact on our bill has been HUGE! Our most recent bill (to be paid this month) is less than one hundred dollars! I think that’s the lowest electric bill we’ve ever received!!!

In my last budget update I’d mentioned that I wasn’t sure how long it would last. We’ve had a few days in the mid-90’s temperature range, and it’s been a little tough to deal with the heat lingering around well into the night. Even so, I was secretly hoping to leave the A/C fully off until after our cruise (which would put us in early May).

Not so much. heh.

I got home the other day from work after what had been another day in the mid-90s and the FIRST thing I notice is a sound….the sound of the air conditioner running.

Gotta love sweet hubs. He set the thermostat at 80 degrees, so it’s still quite high and the A/C isn’t running for long. But he’d been off work early that day and the house was just too hot to handle. Fine. So we compromised on an 80* setting for the time being.

I don’t anticipate this having a huge impact on our electric bill or anything. Living in Tucson we have some HOT summers so we always have higher electric bills in summer when the A/C is busy cranking away for most of the day. But it makes it a bit more “real.” Summer is right around the corner. The hot temps are already coming in full-force. It will be interesting what next month’s bill will be.

 


Ashley’s Year In Review (2015)

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I know we’re now a full week into the new year, but I always like to look back and reflect on the previous year around this time. So indulge me in a week-late review of some of the big highlights of 2015.

Personal and Financial Goals

The year began (or really was preceded by) setting some big goals. We had one list of financial goals, and a second list of goals related to “growing up” (in my mind this meant doing things like getting wills, life insurance, etc.). By the end of the year we hadn’t quite met all of our financial goals, but we’d made incredible progress. In all, we paid off over $26,000 in debt!!! We did even better on our “year of becoming an adult” goals. We fully accomplished 3 of our 4 goals and are well underway on the 4th goal (see update here). We’ve set some pretty lofty financial goals for 2016, too!

Budgeting

In early January, we made some pretty big changes to the way we did our budget. This eventually lead us to using YNAB for budgeting (we’d previously used an Excel file). I still can’t say enough great things about YNAB. I really think it’s made a huge impact on how well we’ve been able to stick to our budget and, therefore, how well we’ve done with paying off debt (see my full review here).

One of the categories in our budget that we really struggled with this year was our grocery budget. I talked several times about our efforts to make cheap meals, saving money by making homemade yogurt (super easy and so tasty!), DIY-ing pumpkin spice coffee (a personal fave), and trying my hardest to meal plan (which was much easier when I worked from home compared to an office-setting, and I’m still learning to balance competing needs).

I also saved a lot of money on self-maintenance this year. With the exception of 2 professional cut/colors (which I did prior to big job interviews), I’ve saved money in our budget by cutting and coloring my own hair for the past 21 months (but who’s counting? hehe). I’ve even received compliments on my self-maintained hair and really like my new darker color. To be transparent, I did just barely receive a professional cut/color from my Mom as a birthday gift, so this totals 3 professional jobs (only 2 that I personally paid for) in nearly 2 years.

Employment

I interviewed for 3 separate jobs in 2015:  one in January (recap), one in March, and one in June. I was offered the third job (third times a charm!) and accepted the position soon thereafter. I started the position in July and have been very happy in the job ever since (though I have plans to try to negotiate for a title change and more money).

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Gift-Giving

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Before I started our debt reduction mission we really spent a ton of money on gift-giving. Since starting to blog here, I’ve drastically reduced the amount spent on gifts. I now try to spend an average of about $15-20 per gift (though hubs and I set a $50 limit on gifts to each other). I talked about a cheap classroom gift here and waxed poetic about the impact of a hand-written thank you note (as opposed to an expensive flower delivery). I also talked about a cheap going away gift basket, a cheap Mother-in-Law (or grandparent) gift, an inexpensive alternative wedding gift, and relatively inexpensive ($50 limit) anniversary gifts.

Kids Crafts

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The kids did lots of fun and cheap crafts this year. A sampling of crafts include: a  Valentine’s craft, a Mother’s Day craft, and an Easter craft. All of these doubled as cheap cards/gifts for family, too!

Entertainment

Our entertainment budget was really bare bones this year as we tried to funnel all our extra money toward debt. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t have fun! I talked about a free family activity here and a free painting class (courtesy of Yelp Elite) here. I also shared how we got cheap Halloween costumes for the kids and had fun with a cheap-ish birthday day date for hubs’ 33rd birthday.

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Successes

In April we celebrated kicking hubs’ license fee debt to the curb! That left us with only the car loan, some medical debt, and the monstrous student loans to contend with. That same month I did a balance transfer of a higher-interest student loan (8.5%) to a 0% APR credit card to pay off one of my Navient student loans at a lower rate (just paid a 2% initiation fee). I also celebrated when we paid off another of my Navient student loans back in October. It’s no secret that I freaking hate Navient, so I can’t wait to rid them from my life!

Personal

In June I let you know something I’d been keeping a bit of a secret. I have a very close family member experiencing a debilitating illness for which there is no cure. I later told you all that the “close family member” is my father and divulged that his diagnosis is frontotemporal degeneration (a type of dementia). I had a rough time in regard to processing this information. I was painfully honest about the scary feelings and emotions experienced knowing that his health is quickly declining and my siblings and I will be tasked with becoming his caretaker and all of the other financial implications of the situation. I also discussed prioritizing the costs of therapy so I could take care of myself. I never updated, but I did in fact search for therapists but there was only one person who really stood out to me as a good fit. Of course, that person was not accepting new clients at the time and, feeling overwhelmed by life, the new job, etc., I never pursued any other options. To be honest, I do think I’ll try again to find someone to talk to in the New Year. I feel like I am in a much better place mentally than I was when I first wrote this post (or this one, too), but I know my Dad’s health issues will continue to be a HUGE deal in my life and I would like to see someone at least occasionally to help me process everything as his disease progresses.

Summary

2015 was a wild year! Lots of great successes – Can I get a high five for that $26,000+ of debt that was paid off!?! and some tough times, too. In 2016 we plan to split our priorities a bit between saving for a house and continuing to pay off debt, but I know that we’ll continue to make great progress along the way. I’ve admitted before that I may loosen up the purse strings slightly. I think it’s important to have more regular date nights and such. But I also can’t wait to make some big dents to our debt this year. This will be the first full year of me having a full-time job and income (in addition to my part-time job & hubs’ job). With the additional money we really hope to do some crazy things in 2016. A house, a car (not a new one, but our current one being paid off), punching Navient in the nose, and so on. Great things ahead, friends! Thank you for joining me on life’s wild ride!


Weekly Savings Update #2- Savings Setback

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Hello everyone! I hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving!

Last week ended up being a shaky one for GF and me. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we both ended up coming down with colds. Instead of traveling to see my family and really enjoying the holiday, we spent most of our day laying in bed and napping. Later in the day, we went over to GF’s mom’s house to celebrate the holiday with her. We brought over some sides and a pie that GF made a couple of nights before, which was fantastic. A week later and we’re FINALLY feeling better.

Another important item came up last Wednesday- I noticed a lump on my dog’s leg that had not been there previously. Our dogs may as well be real children, we love them so much, so to find this lump on his leg really scared us. I immediately scheduled an appointment with the vet for as soon as we could. Fast forward to the vet visit. After getting a biopsy done, the vet couldn’t confirm whether the lump was malignant or not, and the sample had to be sent to a pathologist for more testing. During the same visit, I decided to update his vaccinations and preventions, instead of waiting the additional month when they were due. The cost of the visit tallied $482.29 (most of that being the biopsy and sending the test to the pathologist), and we don’t have the results yet. Adding to my savings over the past couple of weeks has already benefitted me. Thanks to everyone who recommended this option. Here’s hoping for the best.

As stated above, my savings took a large hit. The last paycheck of the month goes to my mortgage, car insurance and few other bills, leaving little to nothing to add to savings. Here are the final totals after the week:

November 17th BalanceCurrent BalanceAdded Since Last UpdateNeeded to Reach Goal
$997.53$917.71($482.29)$4,082.29

I hope everyone has a great week!


Confessions of a Grey-Haired Girl

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You know how I’ve been cutting and coloring my own hair for the past 18 months? It’s still going strong. With the exception of 2 professional hair cut/colors prior to interviews I’ve been exclusively doing my own hair (one professional cut/color was back in November 2014, the other was in January 2015…funny enough, neither of those are jobs I actually landed. Before the interview for my current job I hadn’t done anything special to prepare myself physically. Just wore my interview suit – third time was a charm – and styled my hair normally).

Anyway, I’ve mostly been blonde but about a month ago I decided I wanted a change and I went dark for Fall. Dying my own hair, as usual.

Only….I made a terrible discovery in doing so. You guys! I’m going grey! Eeek!

Yes, at the ripe “old” age of 32 technically 31, but only for one more month. Grey hairs galore! I guess I hadn’t noticed before because they blend in much better with blonde hair. In fact, I bet it actually increased the length of time I could go between hair dyes because the grey masked any darker-colored roots. But with dark brown hair the grey is painfully obvious.

And now I’m in a conundrum.

I like the dark brown. I want to stay dark brown for awhile. But….yeah. The grey is an issue.

I feel like I’m going to have to dye my hair more regularly (maybe every 4-6 weeks instead of closer to 8-10 weeks, which was my norm with blonde hair). And I’m using cheap grocery store dye, not something professional. I’m worried about the condition of my hair. Especially with our colder weather it feels very dry and brittle. I’ve always been a person who has HAD to wash my hair every single day (because otherwise it would get so greasy!) but I’ve moved to an every-other-day wash schedule because my hair is so dry it really doesn’t need to be washed more frequently than that.

So, I don’t know what to do. I’m torn between my preference (I’d like to stay brunette for now), my pocketbook (more frequent dying = more $), and my hair quality (more frequent dying = more damage).

I know back when Adam and Emily were blogging I’d once commented on a post by Emily about hair care. I’d found some type of at-home salon-quality hair dye that’s professionally matched to the person based on hair type, color, etc. It’s a bit more expensive than the cheap grocery store hair dye, but it’s still much cheaper than going to a salon and maybe it would save my hair from some of the damage???  What do you think?

What would you do? Try better quality at-home dye? Go back blonde? Some other alternative? Any suggestions for good hair dye brands are welcome, too!

 


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