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Mid-Month Check

February 13th, 2013 at 07:34 am

Tomorrow is 1/2 way through the month so I did a check on some of our budget numbers. Some, like the car repair accounts I just throw an amount into that "bucket" every month and I let it accumulate until we need it. Some, like groceries, we try to stay under the budget amount and then I zero it out and move the money into savings or do something fun at the end of the month.

These are some of the check numbers

Grocery - we have 53% of our budget left
Auto Fuel - we have 53% of our budget left
Clothing - we've used all the budget up
Home Maint - we've used all the budget
Miscellaneous - I have a slush fund of $122 to cover anything unexpected

There's more but I'm feeling fairly solid for the month. I don't think we're going to end up with a surplus like last month but we should stay on budget overall, after moving some amounts from fund to fund.

More on the Mom situation. I have raided my cleaning supplies and put them in a box to take down there. I also bought her a new vacuum because I'm not sure she has a working one at her house. I'm pretty sure the carpets are toast but I have to get it to a point where we can at least get them pulled up and hauled out of there. I'm taking our shop vac the next time I go down there, but it will have to come back home with me.

After I had forced my way in there last week it was obvious nothing has been vacuumed or cleaned in a very long time. I was trying to remember the last time I'd been inside the door and I think it was last summer. I called around to other family members and a neighbor of hers and she's pretty much been keeping everybody out of the house. Whenever anybody goes over to meet her or pick her up for something she meets them on the front porch and carefully shuts and locks that door so nobody can see in. The psychiatrists classify her as a hoarder but I don't agree because she really doesn't "hoard" anything. She just lives in filth and then things start to break but she won't tell anybody because they'd have to come over and see the house for it to get it fixed for her. I'm going to start a list next time I'm down there of everything that needs repaired. After I start making in-roads on getting things cleaner and stabilized, my husband is going to start helping with some of the repair work.

I've been looking hard at some of our savings accounts and I found that I have enough in the Education funds to get son #1 graduated this spring and then pay for son #2 through next winter. That's more than enough to get us through until the next bonus, which should pay for the bulk of son #2's tuition bills for the year after. I've been saving $400 a month into that account and I think we're going to cut that down in order to pay for the increased Mom-care expenses.

Ups and Downs

February 11th, 2013 at 06:16 am

I went to visit my Mother over the weekend and it was a really, really very bad no good day. Long story short I'm going to have to spend much more physical time with her and what she needs is going to have an impact upon our finances just in driving costs alone as well as huge physical and emotional toll.

If I drive my husband's car, it is about $50 in fuel to go see her. If I drive my big SUV, it is over $90. So to say the least, several of those trips in one month can really add up. Plus, I always have to take her out to lunch. There are huge amounts of drama, dysfunction and other stories behind all of this that I won't bore everybody with. Let's just say I first hope to get her house cleaned up to the point where she will let some other people in the front door. And then I hope to repair some relationships to where family members who live a bit closer to her will once again agree to help out a little. Dealing with Mom isn't easy on anybody .... family, neighbors, church members. She's pretty much destroyed any sort of support system that exists that might help out.

In up news, we are doing really well on our food budget this month. We are approaching the 1/2 way point of the month and are well under 1/2 of our food budget spent. Yay!

I'm very much looking forward to spring and improved weather. We have big plans for some backyard improvement work this year and my husband has been visiting some online sites like mad trying to find a good deal on some outdoor furniture sets.

A Tale of Two Girls

February 6th, 2013 at 09:02 am

Yesterday, I was staring into my pantry at about ¼ of a bag of potatoes that needs to be used soon and I was hit by a childhood memory. One of my best friends was a girl who lived, as we used to say, out in the country. I loved visiting her house and farm, but one visit in particular sticks in my mind. It was her birthday and I had been invited to spend the night for a celebration.

Visiting my friend’s house was always a little like visiting a foreign country to me, but that night in particular was even more different. In my house birthdays always meant the birthday girl got to choose the restaurant. At my friend’s house, her Mother was cooking her favorite meal - cheeseburgers and home made fries. The act of watching her Mom cut up potatoes (real potatoes, not even a frozen bag!) was fascinating to me. Meals at my house primarily came from bags and boxes, or restaurants. Fries came from McDonalds. I don’t think I had ever before even realized that a person could “make” their own fries. That night we had the birthday meal, including a cake baked by Mom, sang the birthday song, my friend opened her presents and we did the dishes together. It really was a fun time.

In reflection, I think that our family view my friend’s family was probably a little “poor.” Mom and Dad never really said as much to me, but that sort of idea was always in the background. My friend’s family didn’t seem to go on vacations much, my friend dressed in respectable but lower priced clothes, and when our sixteenth birthdays hit she didn’t have a car.

But, when high school graduation time came, my friend was one of the few in our class with the parents who paid her tuition in full. This was, at the time, a rather shocking bit of events. I can remember even my parents talking about it and wondering in hushed tones: “How on earth can they afford that?” I remember my Father speculating that maybe they had received an inheritance or something. But, in fact, my friend’s family sent five children through college and as far as I know, paid the bills for all of them.

The rest of us kids obsessed over student loans and trying to find grants or scholarships.

There were many times over the years when I kind of envied my friend. She did after all live at a place where there were always baby animals around and her Dad would happily let any visiting child feed, water, and pet to her heart’s content. But, in between those bursts of envy, I always had this naïve sense that my family was better ….. because my parents bought things. We had video games, meals out, junk food bursting from the cabinets and I had a TV AND a phone in my bedroom. We had three cars, including one that was primarily used to drive me the ONE mile and back to school everyday.

I sadly have to admit that it took me a long, long time until I realized the true cost of all those “things” that are now likely buried thousands of feet deep in a landfill. Those things were not only likely the college funds of me and my sisters, they were also my parents’ retirement. Sadly, like many people, I spent several years emulating the financial habits of my parents until I gradually began to get the idea …. Our family was succeeding on the earning end of the equation, but our money was not going toward what truly matters the most in our lives.

My husband and I have been spending a lot of time recently speaking about our money. We are in a fortunate position to have it, and really have quite a bit of it. Like most, we have plenty of dreams and hopes. But at the same time I have over the recent months become quite in tune with the need to make sure my money goes not toward what is easy, not toward what is convenient, and maybe not even toward what everybody else spends their money on …… but instead on what is going to make my husband and I, and all the people we love, the happiest.

Drip Drip Drip Drip

February 4th, 2013 at 11:06 am

Tiny little snowflakes have been appearing all morning. $3.84 Paypal deposit from QuickRewards, a $22 check for some textbooks I sold and I won $5 in a Superbowl pool.

The funny thing is that I am such a numbers geek, putting all those little snowflakes into my YNAB and then dutifully assigning them a job gives me such a happy feeling. I wish everyday could be a happy little snowflakes day.

My husband this weekend discovered we live in what is known as YNAB Bufferland, which means we have one full month of budget saved up in our checking account and we are living on January's income in February.

"You mean I can have ALL my allowance for the month right now?"

"You betcha!"

So then later on he asked how our other savings was doing and I showed him our Retirement spreadsheets, Vacation funds, and Emergency Savings. He gets these bursts of interest in our finances about two or three times a year. Otherwise, he's content just to know the ATM will give him his allowance whenever he asks for it. LOL

We are very much opposites attract in that manner because I HAVE to balance my checking account daily or I get hives. I even do it on vacation -- wake up and balance the checking account online.

I Had Such Big Plans

February 1st, 2013 at 07:59 am

So earlier in the week I was looking at my Calendar and I noticed that February 1st happened to fall on Friday. Awesome! Because I had in the back of my mind this niggling thought that I should create a blog and what better time do accomplish that other than the first day of the month on a Friday --- which is typically the day when I have a good amount of free time.

Then Friday morning hit and my mind was a complete blank.

But here I am, and I had promised myself I would get this thing going, so let's all just push our way through.

My best piece of news for the week was that our family finished up the month of January $546.42 under budget. This was in categories such as Groceries, Entertainment, Clothing etc etc. Much discussion abounded amongst the household what to do with our windfall and the final decision was...

$100 to Emergency Savings
$100 to my Retirement Fund (separate from DH's 401k)
$300 to Our Big Adventure (vacations) and Gift Giving Savings Account

and the final $46.42 I gave to my older children to put onto their Student Loans. This was because they both spent a good amount of time here in January and I told them that if they would ~try~ not to eat me out of house and home and run us over budget in groceries I would split the "savings" with them.

So in other activity, I was recently watching a documentary from ESPN 30 for 30 titled "Broke." It has to deal with the enormous number of Professional athletes (over 70%) who find themselves bankrupt or in financial difficulties shortly after their careers ended.

I admit, I was fascinated as to how this could happen. These people make millions and millions of dollars and then it just ..... evaporates on them. My fascination is fueled a bit just by the sheer human nature of being attracted to other people's drama and failure as a means to make yourself feel better. I mean, sure I've made mistakes in my life but LOOK AT THEM, THEY'VE MADE MUCH BIGGER ONES!!! It is awfully judgmental of me.

Stepping back though I looked through that list of athletes and I realized they were all so young when they made their money and for the most part they went from relative poverty or at best middle class to enormous wealth. I tried to imagine what the results would be if somebody stuck a couple of million dollars into one of my 20-something children's bank account.

I have to tell you, it'd likely be a disaster. Just as it would have been a disaster if somebody had given me so much money in those early years of adulthood.

We talk much in this country about the lack of fiscal education. I think "Broke" shows this lack of such education at the most extreme level. It also shows our immaturity and failures personally (me included) and as a society. Most of us when we are young make financial mistakes, many of us (often me too) keep making them long after we are old enough to know better.

These athletes make them with lots of zeroes added onto the end as Dave Ramsey would say.

That's about all I can think of for now. I will try to get back in a couple of days to continue the blog. I do highly recommend the ESPN documentary Broke if you get the chance to see it.

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