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Money Down The Drain

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First, thanks for the responses, comments, and helpful feedback on my last post.

Edited update: I did type up a full proposal and email but, after thinking better of it, I never sent it. Instead, I sent an email asking for a brief meeting sometime in the next couple weeks and already received a reply that we’ll meet on the 20th. Further out than I’d like, but better than nothing. Then we can discuss the changes in roles/responsibilities and the mis-alignment between contract and current duties in person. One commenter suggested asking for the changes to be implemented in the next financial cycle (like future planning) instead of insisting on immediate change. I think that it makes sense for me to be flexible and open to that, if thats what’s necessary. Ultimately, though, all this will be discussed in person. Not via email. I’ll keep you updated. I sincerely thank you for your suggestions!

 

Today I just wanted to tell you a little story of how being more aware can save you money (or, rather, how failing to be aware COST me money).

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One of my friends is due with a second child in October. She had a baby shower over Labor Day that I had to miss since I was in Austin. I still wanted to get her a gift so I decided to shop Target.com since 1) she is registered there, and 2) I have a Target card so I get free shipping and 5% off all purchases.

Cool.

So I log in and pick out a couple things for her baby (a book for big brother and a 3-pack of onesies for the new baby). I thought it was a nice touch to throw in the “big brother” book. I try to stay around $15-25 for most gift-giving occasions (weddings, baby showers, birthdays, etc.) and the total cost of the gift was right at $25, so I was in that range.

But…

I have another friend who is organizing a big Lego drive for kids with cancer being treated at our local children’s hospital. One of her friends (an acquaintance of mine) has a son who has been battling cancer for 3 years (after 3 relapses at only 4 years old). I generally don’t do “Go Fund Me” or similar such things, but I felt moved to donate to this Lego drive for kids fighting cancer. So I added two $12 Lego sets to my Target.com order. My idea was to let my girls help wrap them up and go to drop them off at the Lego drive (they’d each have one to give).

With the legos added to my cart, my total was now right around $50. The Legos, alone, were about half of the total amount.

After placing my order I received the standard email from Target (I order from Target.com for most of my gift-giving occasions, so I have an account with them, etc.). The order looked correct, I saw the dates things would ship, and all was good.

Then a few days later…

I get a text from my friend with a ‘thank you’ and a picture of her son playing with one of the Lego sets I bought!!!

WHAT????

It turns out that since I ordered off her registry, it automatically shipped my order to her house. I didn’t even notice!!! Because I have an account with target.com I never have to enter my shipping information (it’s all saved), so I didn’t even realize that the gift wasn’t coming to me as I’d intended!

I immediately texted that I was so embarrassed it had gone straight to her – I thought it would come to me so I’d have an opportunity to wrap it, etc. She lol-ed and that was basically it. But because her initial photo was of her son playing with the open Legos package, I didn’t feel like I could ask for the other one back to give to the kids with cancer. And she didn’t inquire about why I sent 2 identical Lego packages (clearly not intended for a newborn baby). Left it at that.

Lesson learned.

Failing to pay more attention to what was going on caused me to spend an extra $25 (basically doubling the price of my “gift”) AND means that my donation didn’t happen. Not sure what to do about that one, as I feel guilty not donating to the cancer kids, but I also didn’t have planned to donate an additional $25 worth of stuff. Thoughts on that one?

Have you ever experienced a similar shipping snafu? If it were you, would you have asked for the other Lego package back, or just chalk it up as a lesson learned?


Lessons from Therapy: Day #1

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I just had my first therapy session this week and I’m happy to say that it went better than I’d expected! I was nervous about whether we would “click” and be a good fit, but we really gelled in terms of personalities and it felt like I was chatting with a friend (albeit a friend I’m paying to listen to me. heh).

I’m only one session deep at this point so, obviously, this person doesn’t know all of my “issues” yet. We mostly focused on my Dad’s health issues (and the time it takes to deal with said health issues – there’s a literal crisis every week) for my first session. And while I don’t plan to divulge all the inner details of my therapy with everyone reading (sorry!), I do want to touch on some things that come up as they relate to my finances.

For instance…my therapist suggested we hire a nanny/house-keeper. She got that one of the key stressors in my life right now revolves around time. Lack of it, to be precise. So she suggested I look into agencies where I could hire someone to come and help with the kids, drive to/from school if needed, do laundry, clean, cook, etc. etc. etc.

omg – that would cost a small fortune, right?

But even though I really don’t think that’s feasible, I kind of liked the idea of trying to hire out some help. I started thinking about “what if we hire a cleaning service to come monthly?” That’s not something I’ve ever done in the past. Never. But, given our imminent move (and likely to a place that’s a little bit larger), coupled with the fact that we’re already always behind on cleaning, it does relieve a good bit of stress to think that – at least once a month – our house could be thoroughly cleaned.

Again – the therapist doesn’t know all my “issues” yet, and we haven’t even touched on finances, financial goals, financial stressors, etc. etc. etc. But seriously….maybe not a terrible idea if it helps keep my mental health in check???

What do you guys think? Is it silly to even be considering hiring a cleaning service when we’re still so entrenched in our debt payoff? Or could I think of it as one of the costs I pay to have such a great income (meaning – since I’m working 2 jobs and making more money than I’ve ever made before, I have to make some trade-offs in other areas. Like, paying for cleaning help so I can spend that time focused on work)??? Thoughts???


Work Trip = $$$

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I have a conference for work that I’m attending in early August.

It’s a conference that I’ve heard people talking about and suggesting in the online-teaching world for over a year, but I’ve never been before. I’m super excited because I applied to be a presenter and was accepted so it’s also a nice little CV-boost as I venture more and more into the world of online education (all my previous work/conference/research has been in my actual content area that I studied for my Ph.D. Read more where I waxed poetic about work-life balance here.).

I’m also really excited because of the location! Believe it or not, it’s coincidentally located in the same city where one of my best friends moved last summer! I’ve never been to the place, but it’s supposed to be gorgeous in summer (meanwhile, Tucson is in crippling death-heat mode so I can’t wait to escape!)

But there are two things that are major bummers about this trip:

  1. The timing is far from ideal.
  2. Cost

Let me explain.

In relation to the timing – I’ll miss my girls’ first day of preschool for the year (already feeling the mom-guilt). I hate knowing that I’ll miss the first day, but I’m trying to mentally prepare for it now.  Also, my friend is due to have a baby literally the same week that I’ll be there. I hope to meet the little guy, but I won’t get to really “hang out” with my friend like I would otherwise have done if she weren’t due any minute and/or in the hospital having a baby.

In relation to the cost – I work for a major university. I know different departments do different things, but in my department we are given a small annual amount of funds to cover “professional development” type expenses (including conference travel). This year, the limit was set at $500/person. Unfortunately, this conference is super pricey, so I’m going to be shelling out quite a bit of my own money. Gulp.

To be fair, I actually received over the $500 limit because I’m a presenter (and because I asked for more. Sometimes you just have to ask!) But in total, I was given $650. The conference registration, alone, was $595. Add in airfare + lodging + food =  Cha-ching!!!

So here’s another reason why the timing is not ideal. At another time, I otherwise would’ve stayed with my friend for some free housing. But she’s expecting her first baby and their house is undergoing major renovations, and I just can’t put her in the position of asking to stay with them. I’m going to have to shell out for a hotel.

Also, I’m not in the Education department on campus, but the conference I’m going to is basically about online education. That means no one I know is going, so there’s no sharing of rental cars, hotels, etc.

On the plus side, I really do think this is an important conference for me to attend (at least once!).  I’m really branching more into this field and I plan to try to market myself as an expert in this arena for any future employment, so it’s important for me professionally and personally (and in terms of networking, etc.)

But I’m guesstimating it will probably run me a solid $1,000 or so to go. Gulp! Luckily, we have a high income this month so I’ll be putting money aside this month to cover the expense for next month. But still, it’s a big number.

What do you guys think about paying for your own professional development opportunity? How much would you be willing to spend per year? What do you feel is “fair” and “normal” for you to cover (versus your employer) in your career area?


Last Day of School – Teacher Gifts

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Last Wednesday was the last day of school for our kiddos. Remember when I wrote about summer childcare options? We ended up going the babysitter route for MWF during the summer so I’ll still have some extra time with the girls to go to the zoo, library, parks, pool, etc. etc. etc, but I’ll also have some dedicated work days. I’m hoping the mix will work out well.

When the girls’ last day of preschool rolled around, I was kind of at a loss. I would have loved to do some Pinterest-worthy craft, but that was in the middle of all the Rocky stuff and I simply lacked the time/energy/focus to do anything super fancy or nice.

Quick craft to the rescue! (Am I getting good at these last-minute crafts, or what!?)

We made two crafts; one for each of our two teachers. One said “Thank You” and the other said “We’ll Miss You” (because one is actually moving away and the other we’ll see again next school year).

I wrote out the message in dotted lines, then the girls traced over it, and then I wrote a really nice and heart-felt message on the back. I also bought $20 gift cards for each teacher (the most I’ve ever bought before!) because our preschool costs were lower this month (since we were gone for a solid 1.5 weeks last month for the cruise), and because they really deserved it. We had a couple issues this year that I haven’t talked about on the blog just out of respect for our kids’ privacy. Nothing crazy, but some general adjustment stuff as I started working full-time for the first time since their birth. Our teachers were just amazing and really acted as extensions of our family. I’m truly so thankful for them!

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Regarding these quick little crafts, I’ll tell you the best buy I’ve made was a box of these colored oversized envelopes (they sell plain white, but since I use them mainly for mailing crafts back to family in Texas I wanted some fun colored envelopes). I bought the box last year so I can’t remember how much I spent (probably $3?), but I use them for EVERYTHING! When you’re sending pictures/crafts through mail, you don’t want to use a regular envelope where the picture will have to be bent to fit. Having these larger-sized envelopes has been clutch!  I love them!

So I simply use some scrapbook paper cut into rectangular shapes (to fit the envelope) and a piece of solid-colored paper to glue on top. Color a picture on the front (or trace words, or whatever other craft idea you have), and write a message on the back. BAM! Done!

What do you do for an end-of-year teacher gift?

As it’s Memorial Day today in the U.S., I’d also be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to thank those who have served or are currently serving our country – particularly to those who have given the ultimate sacrifice. I also want to extend a special thanks to our Service men and women’s family members! I cannot imagine how tough it must be with all the frequent relocations, deployments, etc. THANK YOU!!!


Teacher Appreciation

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Last week was Teacher Appreciation Day, but our school actually did a Teacher Appreciation Week back in early April! I’d meant to write a post about it at that time, but it escaped me until now.

I pride myself on giving pretty decent little teacher appreciation gifts without spending a bunch of money (see a previous teacher gift here, and a classroom gift idea here). This year was no exception. Since we did a full teacher appreciation week (not a single day), I spread things out a bit across the week. It helps that our school posted online a list of our teacher’s favorite things, and that they had a suggested calendar of things you could do to help celebrate the teachers. So here’s how our week looked:

  • Monday –  We brought our teachers’ favorite foods (we have 2 teachers):  one said her favorite snacks were cashews and the other said bananas. To make it work, we brought bulk cashews and dehydrated banana chips (both bought in bulk bins at Sprouts). I had the mini mason jars already at home and made a quick note and tied a ribbon around the neck from stuff we had on-hand. Maybe a $3-4 total cost (I can’t recall at this time, but couldn’t be more than that).

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  • Tuesday – I volunteered to come help during lunch time while the teachers had a special luncheon.  Free for me, plus I got to each lunch with my girls! Wins all around!

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  • Wednesday – nothing special
  • Thursday – I brought a homemade dessert (this recipe for churro cheesecake that’s incredible) because the teachers were having a dessert party in the afternoon. PRO Tip: I always buy stuff that we frequently use at Costco when it goes on sale, even if we don’t necessarily need it at the moment. Doing so meant I had all the ingredients on hand for this dessert because it’s made with mostly staples. The only “odd ball” thing, for us, would’ve been the crescent roll dough but I’d recently bought a Costco pack of it so we had plenty for this dessert.

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  • Friday – I wrapped up the week with $10 gift cards (per teacher) to Target along with a nice note of appreciation using thank you cards we already own.

A gift or act of service nearly every day of the week (for two teachers) for a total of under $25. You can’t beat that!

What do you normally do for Teacher Appreciation Day?

How many gifts do you typically give your kids’ teacher and/or class in a year? At the beginning of the year we did a class gift, we did a teacher holiday gift around Christmas time, and now a teacher appreciation gift. Do you do an end-of-year gift, too??? Any other gift-giving occasions I’ve missed (we don’t know the teachers birthdays, for example).


A Tiny Little Splurge – Worth More than its Weight in Gold

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I have a confession to make, and to be honest, this is something I did months ago.  Like maybe three months ago.  But I just got the results, so at this point the money was long gone.  But…let me explain why first.

Months ago, I was sitting at dinner with History Buff, Princess and Gymnast.  And like all 10 years olds do, Gymnast went off on this tangent about tattoos, how he wanted one, would I let him get one, and so on.  Then History Buff brought up the tattoos he might get one day, mostly based on what his birth father has.  And then he starts this story about how his biological mom has his younger sister and brother’s names tattooed on her, but not his and Sea Cadets.  And as much as he will say he is over the hurt that has been caused by events with her, I could see the pain just this little thing caused him.

And I immediately thought of my Mother’s Ring.  (I don’t have tattoos and am too scared of needles to ever want one.)  My ex-husband got it for me some years ago and it had my younger two children’s birthstones on it.  They are tiny, but it has replaced my wedding ring over the last few years and I never took it off.

And then I realized that History Buff and his twin has been my sons for over two years now…and they weren’t on my ring.  Something I cherish because of what it symbolizes.

Okay, you can probably guess where the story goes.  Princess and I were out one day and I had some time to kill so I ran into a local jeweler to find out how much it would be to add the twins to my ring.  It was $85.  I thought it would be hundreds and completely out of reach.  Well, I left it that day and they’ve let me make payments over the last months, and this week I picked it up.

I am THRILLED!  Now I have all my children on my Mother’s Ring and I will cherish it forever!  Happy Mother’s Day to Me!

My updated Mother's Ring!

My updated Mother’s Ring!


All About the Money – April 19 to May 1

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We’ve just wrapped up our second week on the farm, and for the first time in years it seems I feel like I can breathe again. You just don’t realize the amount of stress you are carrying around until it gets lifted. I mentioned in my post this past weekend that I was really staying busy with work, but I am also doing a lot of work outside including spreading mulch, cutting down tress and bushes and general lawn maintenance. The kids and I even went to one of my new work client’s homes and worked on weeding and mulching their flower beds for 3 hours on a 90 degree day…I will check the weather before committing next time!

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And we are truly enjoying the chickens, mostly our 25, but we meander down to check on the other 420 once a day too! Here is how our household money has been spent over this last week and a half.

Week of 4/19-5/1
Category Amount Balance
Week 4/18 174
Auto – Gas -98 76
Savings -143 -67
Food – Eating Out -58 -125
Debt -98 -223
Child Support 160 -63
Salary 477 414
Reimbursement 111 525
Laundry -40 485
Dentist -65 420
School -24 396

I think most of it is self explanatory, but here are a few notes:

Gas – the gas money is going to be high, there is just no way around it.  While I am trying to minimize our trips to town, we have to go at least 4 afternoons a week for sports, 2 mornings a week for Princess’ Spanish class and my work.  So I’m trying to plan everything else like grocery shopping and misc other errands around those trips, but sometimes…well, it’s a lot of gas.  Even History Buff has noticed the difference with his car.

Eating Out – I cringe looking at that number especially since one of them was a total weakness on my part.  But I’m cutting myself a little slack and will do better.

Reimbursement – paid by a client to reimburse for a business trip I had to take on their behalf.

Dentist – I think I’ve written before of how we go to the local dentist hygiene school for our check ups and cleanings every 6 months.  It was that time of year again, and no cavities for anyone!

School – One of the twins is taking the AP Psychology exam this year, this was the fee for that test.

I know I have some out of pocket medical costs coming up this week.  One of my children has on going medical needs and we have exhausted the treatment covered by insurance for this particular issue other than the prescriptions.  And I have to make a $250 payment to the orthodontist per the payment plan we have just worked out.  So I’m keeping a bit of extra in my operating budget in preparation for those expenses.


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