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The Votes Are In


We have been so encouraged by all the great ideas everyone has been leaving in the comments on the last several posts!  We don’t get around to responding to everyone, but we probably do discuss every single idea and bit of advice we’ve gotten.

And so, we have some good news to share…Drumroll, please…….

We have an August Spending Plan!  We are going to try several of the ideas you gave us with this month’s plan:

  • Emergency Fund. We are going to start saving $300 a month to increase our emergency fund.  After the discussion about having greater rental reserves and saving for home maintenance, our puny emergency fund that we had while we were renting began to feel inadequate.
  • Budget Categories.  Instead of having envelopes for 8-10 categories like in the past, we are going to reduce the categories to just a few necessary ones.  All bills will be paid from our bank account directly.  We will still use our debit cards for gas.  We will set aside specific amounts for car repairs, groceries each week, pet food, and hair care.  Everything else will be lumped into one big category that we will call Spending Money.  We will each get $75 per week for all our personal needs:  clothes, cosmetics, restaurants, coffee, household supplies, entertainment, etc.  The $75 sounds like a lot but when you start some of these items, I’m sure it will go fast!  I have to get tires on my car this month so I can pass state inspection, so that reduces the amount of spending money we have available.
  • Cash.  Our spending money will be withdrawn from the bank each week in cash.  No more debit cards for day to day purchases.  When it’s gone, it’s gone!
  • Hair Care.  This is Emily speaking: I’ve known for a while that I couldn’t keep spending that huge (unmentionable) chunk of money on my hair, so I was ready to look for other options. (I only went to such a fancy salon in the first place because they offered a really great Groupon deal for a cut and deep conditioning treatment.) Although I liked the suggestion to try Groupons for hair services, visiting a different salon every time, I am still a bit hesitant to try this because I’m afraid I’ll get hooked on another fancy salon. So at the recommendation of a few commenters, I tried going to The Aveda Institute. I have a few other options in mind, but I thought I’d start with this one, as it was something I’d been wanting to try for a while. I’ll give a full review of the experience once I’ve tried a few other options, and we can compare the results at that time. For now, I’ll just say that it was so-so. It took more than half a day to complete, they had to redo the cut AND the color, and it’s still wrong, but not totally awful. I wanted just a refresh of the color and the roots, and I ended up with a totally different style of (brown) hair. On the upside, I got a free massage, free tea (YAY!) and it was less than half of what I’d been paying. It felt great to spend so much less than I was spending, but I’m undecided about the experience. On to the next suggestion! Back to Adam: We are going to budget $100 per month for Emily’s salon visit and we agreed that if she wants to go once a month, she can find a $100 salon, or if she wants to spend $200, she can go every other month.  I wish it was less money, but I learned a lot from the discussion here about what it’s really like trying to get a woman’s hair taken care of.
  • Online Tools. We used to use Mint.com.  It was easy when our budget was cash-based, but when we got away from using cash, then tracking all the debit card transactions in Mint became overwhelming.  Since we’ll mostly be using cash, I may try to dust off mint.com and see if we can start tracking again.

It feels good to have a plan.  I feel confident that we will have enough money to make it through the month, and that alone is a burden lifted.  However, I know that $75 per week will be a significant pinch to how we’ve been living.  I think we are both sort of dreading it.  If we work together, we have $150 a week and should be able to do just about anything we want.  If we act independently, it may be a lot harder.  For anything that costs more than $75 and we have to save up for, we’ll have a much harder time.

So, thank you to everyone who shared their experiences and ideas with us!  Hopefully August will be the month that we start gaining control over our finances!

I was ROBBED by an ATM! :-(


USAA reimburses me for the fees charged at other bank’s ATM machines.  Yesterday morning I zipped by the nearest ATM to get more than my usual amount in cash for the week.  The kids have various end-of-year events that I needed cash for so I needed $300 for the next two weeks.  I went to a Compass ATM right by my place and went through all of the usual ATM steps.  At the very end, when my money was to be dispensed, the screen said “this machine is having technical difficulties, your transaction has been cancelled.”  It did not spit out a receipt in spite of my requesting one.  Frustrated, I moved on to the next ATM and got my cash. 

When I got to the office I checked my account and learned that I had withdrawn $600 (my daily limit, by the way) because the Compass ATM transaction posted!  ARGH!  What a way to start the week!!!  I immediately called USAA and explained the situation.  A dispute was filed but based upon what I understood from that phone call (although, admittedly I was pretty flustered so I may have heard incorrectly) I cannot get a credit to my account b/c this isn’t a credit card transaction, but instead involves cash.  USAA will contact the ATM owner (which apparently isn’t Compass?  It’s Brinks?) and they will investigate. Worst case scenario I’m looking at 60 days for them to count the money in the machine and confirm it is over and/or check the video to confirm I did not get money.  What a fiasco!!! Oh and I did call the Compass branch where it happened and got the standard response you’d expect from a bank in Texas–“you aren’t our customer so there is not anything we can do.”  I happen to know a little about that “not the bank’s customer” thing from a case I sat second chair on years ago where a bank permitted a wrongdoer to open an account using a DBA and millions were stolen from my firm’s client in a Ponzi-like-scheme.  The Texas Supreme Court declined to hear that case and thereby reinforced the “not the bank’s customer” provision. But, I digress…

I have never heard of this happening before and did some googling to find out if there was anything else I should be doing to get my money back.  Tips online say to immediately call the ATM owner (there will be a number on the machine) so as to keep time on your side but I left there thinking the transaction had cancelled.  I explained not getting a receipt to myself by saying the machine simply broke in the middle of my transaction.  Everything online says it can be a real challenge to correct this situation.  Anyone have any insight on this fun issue?

So while I am super frustrated I am also thankful that I’ve learned to have a cushion.  There was a time not too long ago that losing 300 bucks would have spelled disaster for my budget (well, there was no budget so I guess it would be more appropriate to say it would have spelled disaster for my already existing financial disaster).  Now I am in a position to adjust either what I pay toward my debt or take money from the emergency fund. 

Silver lining I suppose…



I went off the grid for too long but with good reason.  My mother had a health scare with an emergency surgery for a femeral hernia.  There was a scary point that they thought it was a strangulated hernia which can be extremely dangerous and even fatal if not caught quickly.  She is home now and recovering well.  As strange as it is to say this, our family needed this jolt right now.  Ever since my aunt’s death in May of 2012, there has been tension.  I think that situation made all five of us think about what we face with our aging parents. 

We are lucky in that our parents have everything in order on the legal front.  We know who does what and each of us has some responsibility.  We are also lucky that all five of us can be counted on to step up when the time comes; although certainly the two of us that are local face more day-to-day stuff with the parents.  We all use humor to deal with the reality but I like to think we are in a better position than most when it comes to being prepared.

As I go about living my regular life–even these stressful moments–I keep thinking about the blog and what financial issues are arising in the moment.  There was good news and bad.  I always like to start with the bad:  I blew the budget over the last 5 days.  I was on the go like a maniac and any plan I might have had for my spending went out the window as I drove up and down IH35 to help my parents and then also take care of the kids.  I was eating crap out of windows (I don’t know how to spell out the sound of a seagull but please insert it in your head at this time) and running to the store I do not know how many times to get things my parents needed.  I stocked them up on groceries and prepared as many meals as I could before having to plug back into my reality.  I haven’t even sat down yet to see the damage done but this experience did help me decide what to do with my “extra money” once my debt is gone:  I want six months of living expenses socked away in my emergency account.  If I keep this mentality that I’m broke it won’t take long to get there.  Then when things like this week hit (which they inevitably will), it is but a mere speed bump and not a “situation to be solved.”

It’s nice to make decisions and really nice not to have to consult with a difficult husband when I do so!  🙂


$100 Emergency Fund Starter Giveaway


We have decided to make a little change to the bimonthly giveaway this time around and instead of giving away a number of small amounts, we are instead going to give $100 cash to help someone start (or reinforce) their emergency fund. When it comes to getting out of debt, one of the most difficult aspects many people have is getting that emergency fund in place, but it really is an important factor to succeed in your long term financial goals. There are plenty of ways to enter and I truly hope that we can help one of you get that emergency fund in better shape:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Of course, you should stop with entering this giveaway. Most people could probably benefit by spending a bit more time making sure that their emergency fund is adequately funded. Are you one of those people?

I found that the biggest hurdle for me when I needed to create my first emergency fund was starting it (and then consistently adding to it). When the main goal is to get out of debt and there are so many other bills and expenses which need to get paid, it’s easy to ignore the emergency fund. My guess is that this is the case for many people. The problem is that you end up ignoring the emergency fund at your own peril, and Murphy’s Law is bound make you regret not making it more of a priority. here are a few things that you should do today if you are one of those that has been ignoring your emergency fund:

1. Decide a emergency fund goal amount. My fist emergency fund was $500. Once you reach that minimum, set a new goal. Then another until you reach the point where you feel confident that your emergency fund is enough to withstand any possible emergency.

2. Figure out a way to reach that goal as quickly as possible. I funded my first emergency fun by selling stuff around the house. Chances are you are going to have to go beyond your regular income to make this happen, but that shouldn’t be a reason to give up. Yes, it will take effort, but having it in place will make reaching your financial goals so much less stressful.

3. Don’t forget about it. The emergency fund is something that should be added to on a consistent and regular basis. The more you are able to fund it, the more secure you will be in reaching your financial goals.

I have been quite thankful that I have had an emergency fund in place a number of times in my life. It includes one time when my car decided to break down in the middle of nowhere and required a several hundred dollar tow to get it to the nearest gas station (this was even with AAA). Or the time I had a tooth broken at the nerve during a basketball game and dental insurance that still left me with a $500 dental emergency bill. In both cases, the payments were painful, but I had the money to take care of them right then and there without stressing about how I was going to come up with the money.

Do you have an emergency fund and have you ever had to use one in the past?

If you are a blogger and would like to participate in future giveaways, you can get more information here. It’s totally free, and it will help your blog improve its social media accounts.

Why we need that emergency fund…


I’m so thankful that I decided to give myself a break this month and just sock extra money into the emergency fund.  I knew it was important given the tenuous times I am in right now, but I didn’t know how important until my paycheck didn’t show up on Friday.  I changed the direct deposit from the joint account to my separate account as soon as Steve told me he was moving out.  As these things often go, there’s a delay. So, the direct deposit was successfully cancelled but the direct deposit into the separate account was not successfully set up.  A paper check is “in the mail.”  So glad I had enough set aside to bridge the weekend.  That may not seem like a big deal but given these uncertain times, I’m taking it as a small victory.

Also, because I am really sticking to my budget and still had plenty of cash in my pocket I just did not have to worry.  There is so much relief in that!  While I was certainly aware that I didn’t get paid, it did not send me into an all out panic.  My budget habits are intact even throughout this turmoil and I do recognize how fortunate I am in that regard!

I did receive a waiver of service in the mail and although it was simply a form provided to Steve by the district clerk, I was not willing to sign the document.  It is entirely too broad.  So, I filed a pro se answer to the divorce outlining just three issues.  The first is that the signature loan that we just got earlier this year needs to be ordered by the court to be in my name only.  The loan is too new to be refinanced per the credit union but I can get a court order to put it in my name only.  That consolidation loan paid my separate obligations so that is how it should be.  We also have a $1100 tax obligation for 2011 that we need to split 50/50.  Finally, I asked for a name change back to my maiden name.  If all goes according to plan, the divorce will be final mid-November.  We have had no communication but I do know he refinanced his car loan b/c I had to sign the power of attorney to transfer the title.  Everything is happening via snail mail.

The overall feeling of relief continues to take root.  I can’t believe it has been just 3 weeks because it feels more like 3 months.  To have the distance from the unhealthy relationship has given me so much clarity.  I have my joy back and I am so thankful it was only 3 years of my life and not 20+ years like it is for so many.

Blog Impact


A reader had a great question last week–is the blog impacting how I am financially handling my separation and divorce?  When I read that question I said out loud to my computer, “ABSOLUTELY!”

As we have discussed so many times, having a plan and being organized is critical to keeping the budget in place.  Within an hour of learning of the split, I was digging into the numbers.  To some that may sound like an emotional disconnect, but instead I think it was the smartest and best thing I could have done in that moment.  Looking at the financial situation and confirming that A) my kids and I are going to be okay on the money front and B) finding places to tighten the belt even more so that the inevitable spending that is going to come with this experience will not hurt quite as much was exactly what I needed to do.  The entire time I was scanning numbers I thought about the blog and the accountability it brings.  In short, it was going to be hard enough to share about the divorce and I did not want to add to that report that I went and spent a bunch of money and have no $ plan.

I’ve thought about how I would have handled this if I wasn’t blogging.  I would not have gone on a crazy shopping spree at the mall but I would have done that “debit card bleed” that I so often did in the past.  Where I just become a swiping robot postponing any thoughts of the impact of the behavior and telling myself I’d figure it out later.  Then when it came time to figure it out later, I would have been getting cash advances from credit cards, hitting up my lines of credit with the credit union, shuffling money from one place to another….and that would have been AWFUL!  Even as I type it I can still feel the adrenalin and anxiety building and I do not like that feeling!  Thank GOD I am not in that place!!!

Instead I have been extremely conservative with my cash already rolling over $150.  We have eaten out too much (still good food choices, just not good money choices) so this weekend I’m back on the real food plan.  I’ve also decided that I’m going to give myself a break on the debt payments for just a month or two so I can increase my emergency fund.  That was a hard decision because I REALLY want to kill the debt but that EF is more important than ever right now.

Oh!  And the washer was an easy fix.  The repair man was very kind and said he sees this issue about 10 times a month with this particular machine.  Apparently the machine has unusually small “water jets” and our limestone heavy water clogs them on a regular basis.  I felt pretty silly that I had a repair man come out for that but he did tell me what I can buy to prevent the problem in the future.  Obviously I don’t have a water softener but there are small cartridges I can attach right to the water connection to the washer.  You learn something new every day!




I may not have shared in detail just how spreadsheet incompetent I really am—but today’s post will solidify me as forever “excel challenged.”

I checked our bank account this morning and was confused to find a transfer from savings to checking.  We certainly didn’t initiate it which, of course, is not good news.  Yep–overdraft protection kicked in–but WHY?  We showed a very positive number on our register (the spreadsheet)!  I called in my excel expert—Steve–for help.

I seriously contemplated not sharing this info but I know that honesty is critical to my recovery so here goes–the thought of not sharing was that knee jerk shame thing but I quickly moved on.  Until the end of April we may have swiped the debit 3-5 times per month since Jan 2012.  We  enter those debit amounts into the spreadsheet to have a constant running balance.  This is more for self-discipline and a huge step in the right direction. You don’t even want to know how tracking was done before this blog.  As things started getting very busy in the last week of April (and since) those swipes have increased.  This isn’t just a matter of overspending but also the consequence of not being prepared (like I talked about in my first weekend in May post) and event after event just coming at us!  Which leads to overspending!

My fabulous data entry skills are the culprit.  Instead of using a “-” sign I used a “+” sign.  Are you kidding me?!?!  No, I am not kidding you. Debits ended up as deposits! I feel like an idiot!   Steve takes his share of responsibility because he was not helping on the record keeping and two sets of eyes are better than one.  What’s the damage?  Oh about $300.    I WAS wondering why things seemed to be a little easier but that thought didn’t have time to sink in as I went to the next school event, work event, family event, etc.

What’s the lesson learned?  NO more swiping.  Budget for regular expenses.  Keep receipts and enter spending into spreadsheet on a regular schedule and together for the timebeing.  And keep Claire away from the “+” sign.

We’ve spent this evening making adjustments and we will be okay.  Our plan is not impacted really but it stings.  The emergency fund took a hit.  We’ll be on a very tight budget this coming week to make up for the error.  It really is a great lesson and we will take it as such.  It could have been much worse.  It is scary how quickly something like this can happen and derail you!   Thankfully there were no fees incurred from the credit union.