We have a weekly ritual in my house & that is on Saturday or Sunday we clean.
There is nothing like decluttering and cleaning your house to make you realize how much you have and don't need more.
Often times, when I clean the house - I find stuff I no longer need and put it in the pile to donate. I guess I could always sell stuff, but since I don't have 10% of my income set to tithe, no matter how little we've ever had, we just donate it.
I've realized that the only kids that will need new clothes for school come September are my oldest and my son. That I have MORE than enough stuff for my kitchen. We have more DVDs than I desire - in fact we should probably try to sell some back to GameStop or something.
The kids have more than enough toys. SO when my son has his birthday next month we'll probably just buy him 4 Hot Wheels cars and a cake he wants, and I know he'll likely be thrilled.
But yeah, there is something about cleaning your house from top to bottom that eliminates your desire to spend and want more because it forces you to take note and reorganize what you already have.
Archive for May, 2008
We have a weekly ritual in my house & that is on Saturday or Sunday we clean.
I'm sort of proud of myself. We did spend money yesterday - BUT this is how it happened.
The family is all sitting in the living room and we are talking about maybe going out to eat.
My 7 (soon to be 8 y/o) comes up to my DH and says she needs more pants and shorts. Meanwhile our DVD system (we've had it since 1999 or 2000) is about to quit, or sounds like it.
So I'm calculating these costs in my head. Get up and tell them we aren't going out to eat after all. That $30-$50 we are going to save by eating in, will allow us to buy more clothes for the kids.
We eat Spaghetti & Meatballs then get ready to go out to Target. I think I'm done buying clothes for the kids at OldNavy and Gap - I see the other kids at school wearing Target clothes so mine will be fine with Target clothes and shoes too.
Of that $170... $110 of that was spent on clothes. We got:
1 pair of pants
3 pairs of jean shorts
3 pairs of other shorts
and one $5 outfit for my youngest
They had a bunch of $3 tank tops too but I wanted to get stuff that she could also wear at school so we didn't get those. But I'd be tempted to.
Other than that, I got socks & we bought a new cable that we needed for the TV. The cable was probably the most expensive thing since it was the HDMI cables, but we got the cheaper brand (Belkin) vs the Sony one that was $20 more. Oh and a $5 lens cleaner for the DVD player, so hopefully it lasts a bit longer.
Hopefully we'll have another no-spend weekend. We were talking about going grocery shopping but DH hates crowds and the commissary tends to be crowded around paydays - so we probably won't go.
But what I'm proud of is... instead of scaling down our eating out like last time. We didn't go at all and made the conscious choice that instead of eating out, we'd get something we needed for the kids.
I think if I have any motivation to start saving more - my son's health is one major reason.
The doctor told me yesterday she suspects he has Thalassemia, a genetic blood disorder. He's had frequent ear infections, nosebleeds, a mild anemia that is unresponsive to iron supplements, and an elevated platelet count for all of his CBCs in the past year.
I'm not really certain but the one thing do know is I need to start saving up to pay for copays and deductibles now.
For years we've taken for granted that healthcare is/was 100% free.
But I don't trust the military healthcare facilities anymore so I need to switch him from Prime to Standard so I can see a civilian provider without a referral. So for the first time I will need to think about copays & deductibles. $300 annual copay and 15-20% deductible with a $1000 catastrophic cap. Not bad by a long shot... but its also something that has never been in our budget before.
I hope they can figure out what it is though. I can do all the searching I want on the internet, but I'm not a medical professional so I don't know - and all I may accomplish is scaring myself in the end.
There are a few silver linings to this... and perhaps makes me think even more about how life has a way of working itself out. Well the first one is I read that a common treatment is blood transfusions, so when I read that I thought "Thank god he's a universal recipient." But the other thing is really more telling.... I remember how my baby girl happened so suddenly, still don't even know when she happened - and yet, if I had listened to DH and had an abortion we wouldn't have her or her cord blood. Which I did read that bone marrow or stem cell transplants from cord blood have cured some children of Thalassemia. What if the whole reason his litte sister happened was to help him out?
We'll see though... but it does make me wonder sometimes.
This isn't finance related... just had to post about this
So yesterday we saw the ad in the paper for the golden retriever puppies & I had DH call the guy.
DH gets the info and then gets off the phone. Tells me the guy is a "good ole country guy from North Cackalacky" as he says in his... whatever country accent it is.
On the 1 1/2 hour drive there, he's making fun of me and talking to me in his country accent. Which I have no clue what he's saying so I would ask him to repeat himself... and finally just said "You better stop unless you want me to keep asking you what you are saying... or if I don't care what you said I won't even bother asking."
So DH stops and eventually we get to the guys' house in North Carolina and he's using a tractor to do something to his garden.
The guy comes out and says "So iz dis yer firs pit?" (we're looking at goldens)
I look at him confused, hoping he'll say something else so I'll understand what he's saying.
He repeats what he said... and just by default... I say no cause I have no clue what he's saying but don't want to be rude and say I can't understand him through his accent.
Then he says "So this'll be y'alls firs puppy"
Ohhhh THATS what he was saying.
Five minutes later or so, the kids are talking about our other dog and the puppy & I wonder if the guy thought "Did this lady just lie to me?"
Anyhow, so as we get ready to go... the guy starts talking about his golden retrievers and he'd throw a ball off the pee.
Again I look very confused but just keep listening, hoping he'll say something else so I can figure out what he's saying.
Turns out he was talking about taking his dogs fishing with him and throwing a ball off the pier and they'd go get it for him.
We leave and I just look to DH and say "I had a hard time understanding what he said."
DH just looks at me and says "Yeah, I could tell you were having problems."
Not proud... we did great on the no-spend weekend and then today had to succumb to buying a puppy.
Thats probably where I feel like crap... love the puppy... but I probably could have been smarter. We paid cash with the TDY money DH got for his South Carolina trip, but because I felt guilty about the purchase I took the remaining $210.58 and paid down the credit card. So out of guilt, I have put an additional $605 towards paying down the CC.
I'm not really sure if this is a good strategy... guilt = debt being paid off sooner. But to feel guilty means I would have spent money senselessly and therefore empty my savings account to somehow rationalize the situation and make myself at least feel a little better about it.
I don't think I did real well for the month of May.
My biggest financial regret revolves around our rental.
In 2005, I should have listened to my DH and just waited to buy a house when he got back from deployment.
Instead, I went out on a househunting trip before we moved. Purchased a house he had not yet seen, and that became ours.
In 2 years, he hated the house, the neighborhood, everything about it. But we were stuck.
I told myself it would be okay, this was just our starter home and future investment property. This would be the place to provide us with income to supplement the kids' college tuition and my lack of a pension.
We took a trip to Hawaii in May 2007, only to come home and find our neighborhood tagged and the gangs starting to come out because of the nice weather.
It was then DH and I decided to move. We had looked at houses for a year before, but the "tagging" is what made us take that leap.
I love this house, but I knew when we bought it we couldn't really afford it. But I was afraid of selling the other one at the time. We can now afford this house but I look at the rental now as a burden and bad decision. Yet I would tell myself I could take the $12K loss last year against my taxes so it was benefitting us in the end.
I know now the only person I was lying to was myself.
I took the time and sat down today and decided - if I took that $600/mo loss on the rental and invested it instead, by the time the rental would have been paid off - I would have had - at a 5% rate of return - $440K and generating $21K in interest a year. MUCH less stressful than being a landlord.
So the decision is final in my mind. As soon as the latest contract is up, we are going to put it on the market. Even if we have to walk away with the HELOC still in our debt, it will be much better for us in the end.
My next regret is more a concern now... this house.
If we have to move in 2010, I'll probably take a $4K/year loss on the property. I won't be able to rent it out at a profit till 2013... and this home is much more expensive so we would stand to have to pay back anywhere to $30-$50K if we sold. So although I would LOVE to go back home to Hawaii, financially it would be better for us to stay here.
So I guess we'll see. I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.
However, I am done buying houses. Unless we end up in Hawaii or Missouri next - we will rent. I think the only way we'll buy again is if we do have 20% to put down, KNOW we will be there for more than 3 years, are confident in the area, and not just buying to buy because everyone else is.
If there is anything I can learn from this and be thankful for... it is just that I'm young enough that we can still recover from this mishap and still have hopes of retiring in our 50s and being debt free.
This is the question my best friend recently asked me.
And to which I did not know what to say. Its not like I set aside $400 every month for kid money. We don't pay for childcare, healthcare, diapers, or formula.
We buy them clothes 1-2 times a year as a major thing where last year we spent $400 on them at Old Navy. Between that we buy them $10 shoes at Target.
So here is our child budget if I think about it...
$100 out of our food budget
$0 for healthcare and prescriptions
$0 for childcare
$375 for my son's preschool
$0 for diapers
$0 for formula
$50 for clothes/shoes
$50 for school lunches/field trips
$575/mo for 4 kids
Of course as I told my best friend, she shouldn't use my family as an example. We are not the typical family. I work from home, cloth diaper, breast feed, and we receive free healthcare from the military.
She does not work from home and healthcare is not free for her. When she decides to have kids I am not sure if she'll do the cloth diapering and breastfeeding that I have.
Of course this budget also does not include the 5 bedroom house with a large yard on a cul de sac we bought because we have a large family and want the ability to let them have room to play. Or the minivan with the safety ratings that it has.
Without kids, my DH and I would be perfectly happy with two small commuter cars and a 2 bedroom condo.
So how much do children cost?
And I think the answer is truly hard to measure. Sure you may have the monthly costs, but children transform your whole life. How do you weigh those costs?
The costs where you can no longer live in a 2 bedroom, need a larger vehicle, have to buy more plane tickets when you travel.
To be honest too, there are some months I don't think we spend anything on the kids except food. During the summer, my son is not in preschool and my daughter therefore isn't eating school lunches, and that $50/mo it usually saved up each month and then spent in one huge chunk just before school and then if one of the kids has a growth spurt we go out and buy more later in the year.
So I'm sure my answer was a little vague to her... but if I really think about it. $575/mo for 4 kids probably covers it.
Being overly ambitious tends to be a problem of mine. I'm just one of those types of people... for example, when I tell people I got my bachelors degree in 2 1/2 years - most times they think thats already ambitious.
What I don't tell them is I tried to finish it in 2 years. How? For my associates I finished that in a year with the help of online courses and in person classes... I was able to complete 23 credits in one semester (with the college's permission of course which they let me since I was taking 18 credits and had a 4.0). But my original goal was to graduate in Summer '04... not Fall '04. But yes, I did overload myself and towards the latter part of my degree had to drop/withdraw from a few courses in order to keep my GPA up. Hence, it took me a semester longer than I hoped.
So I'm trying to set realistic goals for myself in this "get out of debt" process. And I find it extremely hard to do.
My thought process goes... OK, I can comfortably pay $400/mo and put DH's bonus to pay down the card.
BUT if I can pay $400... why can't I just put an extra $50 to help pay it off sooner... and before I know it I've set a goal to pay $750/mo to have it paid off by the end of the year and I'm eating ramen noodles and spaghetti.
I really need to work on this. But small progress doesn't seem so large cause I always feel like I could be doing something more... be doing better... then I get overloaded and I don't meet the initial goal. I've done this with my weight loss too.... my initial goal was to lose all the baby weight when my little one was 3 months old.
She is four months and I still have 10 lbs to lose in order to fit back into my pre-pregnancy 4s. Now the goal is to lose the weight by her 6 month checkup.
So I wonder - how do you set realistic goals and just stay content with that? I know part of this has to be my mindset.
I need to come to terms with the fact the CC will likely not be paid off this year. Things will come up but if I can get the CC down to below $5K this year, that is paying off $9K in one year which is a good feat. Meanwhile, I've still managed to save $800/mo for retirement.
Yeah... my problem isn't lack of ambition... its too much, all at once. Hence, my username.
Other than that... its a pretty quiet weekend so far. No real plans. Dog must be feeling better since he is no longer having accidents, baby is still a little fussy from her shots but not too bad, and DH is out and about mowing the lawn and fixing up things around the house. Money spent so far this weekend? ZERO.
So I took the dog to the vet today while DH got the kids from school. I figured I would be more stingy and well versed with the finances in order to argue with the vets.
DH got a sample from the dog so that saved us some money. The original quote from the vet - $140
Turns out he does have a bit of a UTI.. so they sent us home with antibiotics
Total of my bill $85
BUT I was charged $90
After they ran my card I questioned what was on the bill and they charged me for the urine sample. $5 but I brought in the sample so they credited my account and I know next month he'll need flea & heartworm prevention so that can offset those costs when we bring him back in 10 days.
So I saved $50 just by bringing in the urine sample. But after this year, I'm going to start taking him to a normal vet and not the PetsMart vet. I don't trust the vet there, whenever we go there they are always trying to say we need something else for him.
Not for myself, but for work.
I hate Excel - and I hate having multiple spreadsheets one to send to accounting, one for our weekly reporting. I hate being sent emails telling me to change one spreadsheet to reflect such and such invoice. Cause if I'm really swamped, there may be a chance that in the midst of updating one spread just before a conference call, I'll be in a rush and forget to update the other spreadsheet. Cause theoretically I only need to update one spread monthly and the other one every Monday.
There has to be a better and more automated way. Until then, the best I know how to do is create a "Check figure" in Excel to compare. I don't know how to link the two spreads together though without creating a whole new set of problems.
I'm sort of nervous about going back to school. I'm not really in my field, but my bosses know that and are in full support of trying to help me get closer to my goal. I told them one day I want to be a Controller and I have a performance review next Thursday to go over goals.
I actually asked the boss to set it up since it had been six months since our last "goal assessment" and with some things in our reporting process changing, I want to make sure my goals and the company's goals remain in alignment. Not sure if I'll get a raise.
I'm kind of cavalier about that. I feel like if I make more money I won't really learn anything from it. We just adjust our lifestyle UP... and we are already on the cusp of the tax bracket, so I don't see a raise benefitting me as much as learning to live on less will.
On the same token, I won't turn down a raise either. My last one was in March of last year, and last summer my performance kind of went to the wayside because Dh and I were having serious problems. I was going to school, just found out I was pregnant with my 4th, and my husband told me that if I kept the baby he would leave me. Wasn't exactly focused on work at the time while I was combatting all that and morning sickness. I could have gotten an A in my class that I was taking too had I done a 20 pg paper, but again - emotionally having all that hit me at once SUCKED... so I was content with my B... and lived with it.
Two months later I found out my Dad had nasopharyngeal cancer. So I didn't go back to school in the Fall.
2007 is certainly a year I will not look back on fondly. I was so excited when it turned 2008. And named my daughter "Calm of the skies" in Hawaiian.... I figured after the year I had, I could use some calm.
So yeah, here I am in 2008. I think I got back into the groove at work awhile ago so if I get a raise that will be awesome... but I won't be totally bummed if I don't. I know things work out for the best anyway. And if I don't get one, perhaps it is just to teach me how to become better at living on less so when I do get the raise, I don't waste it like I have previous ones.
Yesterday I spent $57 filling up my van and DH spent $51.02 filling up his commuter car.
So we used up our gas budget for the month. Actually we were $23.04 overbudget for the month... total for the month that we've spent is $223.04
Today I had to take my youngest to get her 4 month shots. She's stuck at 12 lbs so they want me to try rice cereal with her & supplementing with a bottle... then the preschool called. My son threw up, probably related to his allergies. So I had to go get him.
We took him to his appointment that afternoon to get a second opinion on what is going on with his blood and allergies. He has a double ear infection, the 4th in 6 months. The doctor said if this continues it might be time to consider tubes in his ears. My DH is dead set against it, not sure why - but he's an enlisted healthcare provider so I'm sure he has his reasons.
We go to the lab for my son to have a CBC drawn. Get my oldest daughter before she comes home, dog peed in his crate - been dealing with this for 3 weeks now. He was neutered on the 28th, so I'm convinced this is no longer related to the surgery.
Call the vet... dog has an appt tomorrow. They wanted me to drop him off but I know what happens when I do that... they do a bunch of "extra" work I wouldn't authorize but then have to pay for cause they did it anyway. Last quote I got from the vet was $140 for a urinalysis, "sediment check" and U/S... its a freaking urinary tract infection or separation anxiety. Take a sample of pee, tell me if there is bacteria in it and give me antibiotics. He doesn't need an U/S or something that requires his sample to be "spun for sediment". *sigh*
We go out to eat. Thought about not... but decided instead of stopping cold turkey, we'd cut back in small ways. Like no appetizers, no desserts, and one of my kids would share a meal with me.
So we spent $31 at Chilis for 5 of us to eat. And left a $6 tip. Not the most frugal thing, but one of the less expensive dinners we're used to. I remember we used to eat out and easily drop $70 each time.
Pick up my son's Rx... thankfully its free.
Then go to Target to buy the "wide nipples" for the bottles so maybe my 4 month old will take a bottle (she won't bottlefeed). And spent $10.17 and so far no luck in her using the bottles
So... spent $48.17 out of our discretionary budget. Going to look at the budget now to see how it fits in and what is left. Backwards thinking, I know... I'm working on this though.
Need to see tomorrow what work the vet will do. DH will take the dog and he knows not to authorize any unnecessary stuff the vet tries to say he needs.
We did get DH's TDY deposit though... so $500 is going into our savings.
Oh well, tomorrow is another day. Gotta keep at this though.... this weekend my goal is to have a no-spend weekend.
There is a festival up the road for the weekend BUT we drove by today and saw them set up. I'm not going to pay $5 for parking on a grass field though just so we have to walk miles with 4 kids in the hot weather, so we'll probably just stay home. Blockbuster sent us American Gangster and Zathura in the mail so we'll probably watch those this weekend.
I'm really starting to think my Dh is starting to get on board with what I've been saying to him about saving more.
I went up to him yesterday and told him I messed around with his pay.
To which I got the naturally suspicious look.
"Don't worry, I just increased your TSP contribution to 10%"
And to which, I get this response "Part of me thinks I should just have a Roth and not even bother with the TSP."
Keep in mind, this is the same guy - that back in 2005 when I initially learned about a Roth IRA - he said he didn't understand why he needed one when he has a pension and the TSP. He still kept saying this as of last year as well, but I suppose the years of spending our Saturday nights watching Suze Orman has worn off on him (even though he SAYS she is really boring, he'll watch the show with me just because he knows I like her and I only have a handful of shows I do like).
So we went ahead and opened up a Roth IRA for him (after a discussion about why he should still take advantage of the TSP).
I don't think he realizes how lucky he is. I don't have a government job or a pension to fall back on, my employer doesn't offer ANY type of retirement savings plan... all I have is my Roth IRA.
But its starting to sound like he's getting on board with this whole saving more/spending less plan. Makes life a lot easier.
In my life, being mixed (I'm part Hawaiian/Chinese and the other half is white)... I always found myself doing something odd. When I lived on the mainland, I'd dye my hair - try to fit in and make it blond.
When I lived in Hawaii, I embraced my dark hair.
In 2006, I was spending $200 every 2 months or so heavily highlighting my hair.
My husband didn't understand this about me, he met me in Hawaii and loved me as I was. And he also didn't like spending $200 every other month to keep up this habit.
So I stopped, and let my hair grow. I'm excited that now ALL the highlights have now been cut out of my hair. And what's best, I find myself finally accepting what is me even though I'm surrounded by blond hair blue eyed people. Not to mention, my hair is sooo much healthier too. I think thats what I enjoy the most, my hair has not been this shiny or smooth since I was a child. I love it.
I wish I had come to just accept who I am a lot sooner. Certainly wasn't worth all this stupid money I spent on highlighting my hair to be something I am not & never will be.
Its best to just be who you are... and its a lot cheaper too. Thats the thing I am realizing with money too. When you live beyond your means, you end up wasting more money to be something you're not because if you can't afford it, you're trying to be something you just are not.
It took me 2 hours to get my hair highlighted... but 2 years to get my natural color COMPLETELY back. I didn't dye it while I let it grow out either, so for awhile my hair was two-tone. But I just kept going back and getting the ends cut off and eventually the blonde was cut away.
But again, another analogy I can relate to debt.
So even though it only took me a year or two to get in so much debt, I know it will take much longer to pay off - but in the end, it will be sooo worth it.
Although I am pretty pleased that just simply "going back to my roots" saved me an automatic $1200/yr.
And I must say... I don't know why I ever started highlighting it in the first place. DH likes me better with my dark hair. And even if people like me better blond... its not worth what I was spending for the upkeep. I'm sure nature has it right all along anyhow.
I sat down and realized today that maxing out one's IRA contribution is extremely important, even if you are trying to pay off debt.
Reason being, I could pay off our credit card this year. But I also realized, that because I can only contribute $5K a year to my IRAs, I miss out on a valuable opportunity to save this year.
So I need to acknowledge the strides I've taken this year to pay down our debt. At the beginning of the year we owed $14K on our credit card and have now paid it down to $9500 within the first six months.
I also hope that in starting to save, when our debt is paid off - we'll be used to saving so continuing to do so will just be natural.
I'm thinking of also increasing DH's TSP contribution to 10% of his pay (its currently at 5%). So that would increase our monthly savings amount to $1150/month from the $645/mo between EF and Retirement accounts.
I got a NL today from Military.com talking about 2009's raise. Another good thing. DH made board for Chief so hopefully he gets selected in August. He's got a lot of good things on his side.
Really though, I just am mostly thankful for the healthcare aspect. When my son was born, he had to go by ambulance to CHKD and stayed there for 2 weeks. I never had to pay 1 penny for that $20K stay. As a senior in college with two other little ones and DH as the only one working earning less than $30K a year... I was VERY grateful.
My son has another appointment coming up. Him and my youngest seem to have DH's genes and have allergies or something going on.
Needless to say I'm very thankful that we don't ever have to worry about health insurance, premiums, or copays. Rxs are even free if we go to the military pharmacy, haven't tried a civilian one but I think if we did we only had to pay $3 or $9
The raises on DH's part come at a very helpful time because I don't foresee myself getting any substantial raises anytime soon. I have a performance review soon & I'm definitely not a bad employee but I'm also not counting on it either.
Commissary privileges have also been very helpful. I definitely notice the difference in the price of milk. I started a spreadsheet with the items we buy and their price, the only price increases I've seen were a 6-7% increase on milk and vegetables. Not more than that.
Well, and of course the TDY stuff I mentioned yesterday.
DH and I did make some progress today though. We decided to sell the rental next year cause it is just too much of a headache and as someone else said, a financial disaster.
I have a plan in place that if we do that and even just get $250K for our rental, we'll be 100% out of debt by January 2012. So in a little less than 4 years. No CC debt, no car debt, no student loan debt - just the mortgage on this house.
Which if we have to move in 2010 or 2011 I'm not sure what we will do with this house. Even if we left here there is a good chance we'd have to come back and we can always come back and live here. Again, I love this house, the neighborhood, everything about this place.
Our rental, I despise... its an okay neighborhood so it is holding its value... but I don't believe in it as much as I do our house.
My DH told me today that after he is reimbursed for his travel expenses to South Carolina this past week, we'll get $579!!! I was only counting on $200.
I asked him what he wanted to do with it - savings or CC debt... and I think I pleasantly surprised him cause he said "Don't we have to pay the Navy back for the class I failed?"
"No, don't worry about that, if you REALLY looked at the budget I showed you this month you'd have seen I already have that covered."
After this he has a trip to San Antonio in June and a trip in August to South America. Hopefully if he stays frugal on the trips like he's been doing, we'll make more money off of them. Right now I'm estimating $500 for San Antonio and $1000 for South America.
We're not sure what to do with the $579 though. I figured we could put it savings for our trip in September, but our savings account only earns .76% interest and our CC is at 3.65%
BUT we want to make sure we have the $1500 saved in cash for the trip so when we go - we stay away from CC. On the flip side, Dh has said "I'm afraid if we know its there, it'd be too easy to spend it."
We have another bank account I told him we could put it in... completely separate from our usual bank. So when I log on, we won't see the money and hence takes out the temptation.
As you can see, we're working on the self-control department.
I really am likening this whole experience to losing weight. Its like how fad diets or crash diets don't work. Which is probably why although DH got $18K back in 2005, we were debt free for a little while but within a year started racking it back up. In order to STAY out of debt we probably have to do it the right way... slow steps... so it changes our behavior and becomes a lifestyle change.
I have a hard time with my weight still. We can't carry sweets or soda in the house cause that will be all I eat. Since I'm still trying to lose the baby weight (9 lbs left to go)... I've really buckled down on that. WE just don't carry sweets or snacks in the house cause I know my self-control in that department sucks. But I'm not obese... far from it really. I'm on the taller side of average and am now comfortably fitting into my 6s... and can start squeezing into my pre-pregnancy size 4s.
So anyhow... I'm excited about the $579... not bad for a 5 day trip! Just now not sure what to do with it... and we want to do the right thing. But wow, if he keeps taking business trips maybe we will be out of CC debt this year after all!!!!