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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 DateOriginal 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! : )

 


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