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September 4th, 2016 at 07:12 am

I'm a changed woman. My youngest child finally went off to school ALL DAY. It's strange and liberating to have 7 hours in a row to get things done, five days a week!

(In that time, I started writing novels #2 and #3. Still no bites in the traditional publishing world for Novel 1, but that's okay).

I finally feel like I can breathe and concentrate. I'm trying to figure out my new routine and schedule.

Now that I'm not so frazzled, our financial lives are improving. (funny how much money you can save when you aren't stressed out and in a rush all the time.)

We went back to a weekly all-cash family budget for all spending other than bills. ($400/week, and Hubby has a $43 weekly allowance, for his weird hobby shop stuff).

Man, this really helps. Our credit card kind of got out of control over the summer. It's too easy to spend more than you thought when you're always swiping and not thinking about it.

I've had several three-day stretches of no-spend and no-drive days.

Other things are on auto pilot.

On payday, we're finally able to put 15 percent into savings. In the next month or so, I hope to raise that to 20 percent. (into the savings account. I'm not counting the 401k, which we max out every year).

If we can stick with the cash budget, the credit card from all or our family obligation travel will be paid off in four weeks, and after that, we should have a lot of free cash every payday to stash in savings and start fixing/repairing/upgrading the house.

In the meantime, I'm controlling my home improvement urges by doing cheap and free stuff around the house. I borrowed a pressure washer from my mom, so I'm about to head outside to clean off the back patio and wash the siding. Woot!

It's funny how a cleaner house can make you feel better about things. I really have to force myself to scrub though, because I hate cleaning, and I'm not very good at it. My friend has an immaculate house, and I have no idea how she gets and keeps it that clean!

Rejection and unreasonable neighbors advice

August 2nd, 2016 at 07:29 am

I started sending out query letters for my YA novel. I've sent two versions to 20 agents total. It's only been one week. I've received my first three rejections. Which is okay (I'm just happy they at least emailed me back to say no. Most agents never write back.)

Still. I see why people self publish. The rejection combined with the unknown no call back thing is driving me crazy already and I just started!

As for the neighbors. We have this one pair of neighbors. About 64, no kids. every time we've tried to be friendly, they look at us like they're scared of us or with thinly-veiled contempt and run inside. I don't get it. We're generally very open and friendly. it's like they decided they didn't like us before they even met us.

Anyway, last year, the man neighbor told us we "needed" to cut down our 60 foot honey locust tree because it was "dropping leaves in his pool."

Hah. We're not the kind of people to cut down a beautiful, healthy tree because it's dropping leaves in someone's pool. That's ridiculous.

Apparently, he didn't like our no. So, we got a certified letter from the city on friday. He filed a property maintenance complaint about the tree, saying it was a hazard that would fall on his house. We have 30 days to remove the tree. (according to the letter).

I was so angry. First, it'd cost $5000 to remove this tree. At my expense. And, it's healthy.

So, I called the city, and the arborist said if we trim out any dead branches and our arborist says it's healthy, we don't have to cut it down. Apparently, there are some laws to protect me from unreasonable complaints from neighbors.

That made me feel a little better. Still, I'm pretty upset knowing I live next door to people who are passive aggressive enough to file complaints with the city instead of having a real conversation with their neighbor.

We aren't going anywhere anytime soon, so how do I keep this civil?

Thanks, Snafu!

July 30th, 2016 at 05:49 am

A few months earlier I posted about fixing all the broken things and cleaning all the dirty things around the house. I complained that I just could not get grout clean in my bathrooms and Snafu suggested an inexpensive handheld steam cleaner.

After watching some youtube videos, I finally bought one and it arrived yesterday. Oh my gosh. I wish I'd known about these years ago!! The dirt just flew off the grout. It isn't perfect, but it's the best and cleanest and whitest it's ever been. And all using just water and no chemicals.

Thanks Snafu! I'm addicted to the steam cleaner now!

(PS It was a Bissell Steam Shot.)

finally saved money. woot

July 15th, 2016 at 06:33 am

We finally were able to put a chunk of money in the savings account. Maybe we're finally out from under the expenses from all those family (obligation) vacations in spring. It's only $500, but still. It's a start.

My plan is to eat from the pantry and minimize expenses for the next week or two, in hopes of freeing up more money for savings.

A scare, and book news

July 14th, 2016 at 11:18 am

For two months this spring I had a weird pain in my armpit that was always present and didn't seem to have a logical cause. All signs pointed to breast cancer (I'm 41, no meds, no health problems so far in life) and I finally made it through the battery of blood tests, exams, and mammograms, and well, there's nothing there. No cancer. Yay. But still no idea what could have caused that weird pain, which also seems to have disappeared.

So this is all good. I'm a don't freak out until there's something to freak out about kind of person. I didn't tell my mom, sister or friends about this, because I didn't want them to worry until there was something to worry about. Good thing. DH was scared and freaking out the entire time. He seems to have calmed down now.

In other news, a wife of a former coworker is a NYTimes best selling middle grade author, and she has offered to review the query letter and synopsis I will be sending to agents soon, in my effort to get my first YA novel traditionally published.

Fingers crossed I'm on the right track. I've been working on all the required 'sales' pieces for the novel since June. a query letter, 1 and 3 page synopsis, author bio, etc. It's a lot of work! I had no idea. Hopefully I'm on the right track, and my author friend will be able to help me polish it all up.

I'm also outlining a book to write during NaNoWriMo. It'll be my first one. if any of you are doing it I'd love to make our own support group!

I also had a surprise 4 day freelance gig last week, which will mean $1450 to the Ira for this year. What a nice big boost! It's interesting work, and it pays well. That's the kind of gig I want.

Fixing all the little broken things

June 28th, 2016 at 10:24 am

One of my friends once described all the little not quite working or broken things around her house as 'death by a thousand cuts.'

Now that I'm home even more over summer vacation, I realize I too am suffering from hundreds of little frustrations around the house.

There are a million little things that are broken or wobbly or not quite right and we just never bothered to fix them because it wasn't an emergency or we were too busy.

I've started fixing them all, one by one, vowing to do one or two a week, until this place is running much more smoothly. The best part is, most of the repairs take time, but not a lot of money, so it's helping me stick to my summer budget.

Here's my list so far....

-I fixed the broken shower door. It was stuck on the track instead of running through the track, and it'd been like that for at least six months. It took a measly five minutes to fix.

-I replaced a broken hinge on the cabinet door.

-I replaced the broken dimmer switch in the dining room. It's soooo much better. Why did I wait so long????

-I unclogged the drain in the master bathroom sink. It's super slow, and has been forever.

-I cleaned the grout (mostly) in the master shower. I'm open to tips on a product that actually can get grout clean!

-I killed the weeds in the front patio (with boiling water. eco conscious and cheap), and refilled the brick spaces with sand.

-I propped up a sagging section of brick out front by putting sand and gravel underneath. Finally!

-I finally called the windshield company and scheduled the replacement of our cracked windshield. They're coming Thursday and it cost about half what I thought it would (only $200!)

-I took all my empty garden plastic pots to Lowe's. They recycle them for free. With a big garden, I had hundreds of these things sitting around.

-I took three carloads to GoodWill, hence clearing out the boxes in my basement office I've been tripping over forever.

-I'm dropping off a bunch of toy trucks and truck videos to a friend with a younger son today. Our kids are too old, hers will really appreciate them.

-I started cutting down the invasive honeysuckle on our property. I'm going one section at a time, trying to fill up one garbage can a week so the city can come by and compost it.

Oh my gosh. It feels better already....

Does this happen to you, too? Or am I just really bad at being a homeowner??

Finally, the calm.

June 25th, 2016 at 09:26 am

Do you ever get the feeling that life is a rushing river and you're just trying to hold on for dear life until you can make it to calm waters?

That's kind of how I've been feeling the last few months. I had tons to do with the kids' school, my trip to New Orleans, the family trip to Arizona, managing two boys at home all day for summer vacation, etc.

I think I may finally have hit the calm. We got home from AZ about 10 days ago, and are starting to fall into some sort or normal (for summer at least).

Sadly, despite paying off the mortgage, we have managed to put very little in savings, in part because of all the trips, required paid in advance days for the kids summer camp, etc.

The bright side is, starting next payday, we should be out from under all of that and should be able to start putting money in savings and start paying for repairs for things around the house.

I am a little mad at the bank/ county about the mortgage though. I was expecting a bill for property taxes, and nothing came, so I logged onto the county auditor's site only to discover taxes were due that day, and for some reason, my bill was mailed to the bank, not me, and not forwarded, despite the lien being cleared in april.

So, I had to pay online and pay a $78 fee to do it, instead of mailing a check. I'm a little peeved, and I tried calling the county office to make sure they will be mailing my bill to ME next time, but the lines were busy all day, probably because bills were due. Oh well.

In other news, things seem to be going where they need to go for my youngest son. We found him a psychologist to help us with the anger / social issues he has with peers and at school. (Long story).

Let's just say that two professionals have suggested we get his IQ tested because he might be having social problems/ boredom/ frustration because he's bright. Well. I'm not that kind of mom who brags or pushes for my kids to be gifted, so I had to laugh to myself, but hey, it can't hurt to have another test right? If anything will help him, I'll do it.

He's also still seeing his school counselor over the summer.

As for the normal day to day, the garden is finally producing, which for me is like Christmas all summer. I picked mulberries off my sister's tree last friday, and made them into 8 half pints of jam. (I wish there were an easier way to de-stem them!)

I picked and froze all of our home grown strawberries before our AZ trip, and will be making them into jam later this week. (We also made two strawberry pies, and had two rounds of strawberry shortcake and strawberry pancakes before that!)

And, I haven't had to buy a lettuce green at the store since mid-May, although I might try a new variety of lettuce next year. Something milder.

The big news!

June 12th, 2016 at 01:08 pm

It's taken five long years and five huge revisions/rewrites, but my first novel is officially finished. Now, I'm crafting a query letter so that I can send it off to agents and fingers crossed, get a book deal.

I know it's hard work, but I don't have blinders on. I've been a journalist and writer since age 18, and now at 41, I'm right where I need to be. So yes, this month, I'll start querying agents and writing my next book.

With two little kids and a freelance job, this has been a long time coming. But I'm excited and optimistic, and I'm excited to really get going writing more books. I have so many ideas--too many really- and I'm anxious to birth them all.

My life will change drastically in the fall-- for the first time in 8 years, I will have kids in school ALL DAY, and will have a large uninterrupted block of time to actually work on writing projects. I suspect this will be life changing.

(For those of you who are curious, it's a young adult supernatural suspense novel. No vampires, I swear.)

In other news...


I haven't been on here much since the mortgage was paid off. (Still loving that. ) I've been caught in the end of year rush.

I took a trip to New Orleans to see friends and go to a concert, then the boys got out of school, then we immediately left for a family trip to Arizona to see the Grand Canyon, et al, with kids and other family.

I'm still catching up financially from those two trips, and the initial charges for the summer day camp I'll be sending the kids. But, I'm optimistic now that I am home, and we will be settling into a routine, that I'll be able to put money into savings and really get going on other goals now that the mortgage is dead.

I've missed all of you!

proof of mortgage pay off came today!

April 27th, 2016 at 07:25 am

The letter saying we paid off our loan, along with a paid in full sticker on a copy of our contract came in the mail today. Yay! It's incredibly satisfying to get the official notice.

Our check for our escrow also came today. I saw hubby eyeballing it, and had to remind him we need to use it to pay property taxes in June!

Upromise / College savings rewards credit card?

April 3rd, 2016 at 08:29 am

Our financial lives have been on pause for the last five years. Our No.1 goal was paying off the house. Now that's done, so it's time to catch up on all the other things we should have been doing.

Honestly, I'm elated to be done with mortgage payments, but at the same time I'm a little overwhelmed wondering what to do first and next.

Our other big goals are to ...
-get the EF up by $20k
-save way way more money for each kid for college
-fully fund our retirement, and roth IRAs
-Save for cool vacations
-fix all our broken stuff and make the house more awesome

Gah. Always so much to do!!

Now, onto the college savings, which is the point of this post.

Today, I took one small step. I bumped up our monthly college savings auto deposit from $200/kid, to $300/kid. It won't be enough to fully fund college, but it'll help. (an extra $1200/kid/year, for the next 10 years = $12,000 more per kid!)


I also briefly considered the UPromise credit card to boost college savings. I'm not sure if it's worth the trouble? Basically, you get 1 percent into your 529 for all purchases, but with bonuses and careful spending, can get up to 5 percent.

Seems like it's work to get the 5 percent. On the other hand, any money that is a bonus could boost college savings and it could really add up over time.

Right now, we have an amazon card. We've been pretty happy with it. I usually redeem rewards for a statement credit. We get 1 percent base, 2 percent for restaurants and gas stations, and 3 percent for amazon purchases.

So what do you think? Is it worth a try with a new credit card? There might also be a $50 sign up bonus.

Upromise also has the option to register your regular credit card to possibly get credit for purchases. Have any of you tried that? Does it work?

I usually try to keep our financial lives simple so I can stay on top of everything. I don't know. Maybe it's worth it to try the card for a year and see how it goes?

OR, I could link our current Amazon card to our checking account, deposit the rewards as cash, and transfer them to the 529.

OR, I could do the bonus credit card thing, and find cards with big cash back bonuses and use those to put extra in the 529. Only thing is finding a card that will send a check rather than giving me statement credit or points to spend on gift cards.

Any thoughts?

Officially mortgage FREEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!

April 2nd, 2016 at 05:42 am

We're officially mortgage free as of today. Just have to wait for the courthouse to send us the deed! We're FREEEEEEEEEE!!!!

We bought this house five years ago on April 15. I'd hoped to have it paid off by the time DS2 headed off to first grade. He's still in kindergarten. We're ahead of schedule.

In other news, the state tax refund came, so yay! Some of the money I took out to pay the mortgage can go right back in!

Stress!

April 1st, 2016 at 07:24 am

So I logged into the bank account today expecting to see a zero balance on the mortgage, and instead it said we owed $19,000 and a payment was due today!!

I looked at the transaction history and they had reversed our last four payments. And, that money wasn't in my checking account, so it was as if all my money had vanished.

So I almost had a heart attack, and worse, I had to wait a whole hour before the customer service line opened for business. Gah!

I cleaned the house to pass the time.

So, after 20 minutes navigating the phone tree and getting transferred around to the mortgage department, I was told:

Yes, they did receive my cashiers check for the pay off amount

Yes, the loan will be paid off today.

They reversed the last few payments because they found an error in how they allocated the money between escrow, etc., and had to reverse them back to the error to correct them.

They assured me this was all a blip in the process and there's nothing to worry about.

I'm trying to play it cool. But gah. How can I not worry????????

$4,751.26 and an article relevant to our interests...

March 30th, 2016 at 07:13 am

That's the official mortgage pay off amount. It came from the bank today. (Balance, interest, and a county recording fee)

But boy, they sure don't make it easy to pay it off!

I thought I'd be able to send the balance through the online payment portal linked to my checking account. I use that for regular payments. But no!

I have to go to the bank, get a cashier's check, and then fed ex it to the mortgage department of the same bank. Oh well.

I'm going to the branch this afternoon to get it done. I'm trying to contain my excitement until the balance is officially zero!

In other news, I quite enjoyed this article about retiring early and totally agreed with their financial methods.

http://www.cnbc.com/2016/03/29/how-i-retired-at-33-and-so-ca...

Post-mortgage savings plan

March 28th, 2016 at 07:10 am

Thanks for all the advice, guys. Dh and I talked about it and we are going to transfer the money to pay off the mortgage from savings, then we'll pay ourselves back.

I started the transfer, and when the money arrives in the checking account, I'll call the bank and ask for the pay off amount. Squee! (I'm allowed to squee here, right?)

Now, of course, I have a plan to put all that money and more back into the savings account. We should be able to put $1,100 per paycheck into savings. I'm being conservative, so some checks it may be more. And, when the state tax refund comes, we'll put that right into savings, too.

Once the money is back in savings, I'm going to keep putting the same amount in every week, and we can maybe finally finally start inching forward on some of the goals we've put on hold while we were paying off the house. Like money in DH's Roth IRA, and a bigger EF.

In other news,

We're still doing 'low spend', which actually has worked out very well. If we keep taking $300 cash out every week for expenses, and using only that, we'll be in great shape.

It hasn't been hard to keep up this month, so I bet we can keep going like this for a while. $300 seems to be enough for groceries, kid expenses, eating out, etc.

$4,719.26

March 26th, 2016 at 06:13 am

That's how much we have left to pay on the mortgage before we're FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

The tax refund plus regular payment hit this morning.

Now, can I have your thoughts for the pay off strategies? If you were me, which one of these would you choose? (Or, do you have an option I haven't considered?)

A. If we did nothing and continued making our normal monthly payments, we'd have four more months of payments. (This timetable includes sending our state tax refund to principal when it comes, as well). So, our last payment would be in August.

B. If we took this amount out of our EF to pay it off now...It would take four paychecks, or two months to put that money back into the EF. Or, three checks, if we put the state tax refund right into savings when it arrives.

C. Wait for the state tax refund, send it to the mortgage, then take the remaining balance of about $3,700 out of savings to finish off the house. It would take three to four paychecks to put it back into the EF.

Any thoughts??

Mortgage-- so close!

March 25th, 2016 at 06:00 am

We're so close to being mortgage free I can taste it!

The federal tax refund came today (lightning fast!), which is awesome because today is the day I pay the mortgage, so I sent all of that refund along with our regular payment.

It comes to about $4600 to principal, but I won't know how the numbers play out until it posts tomorrow morning. I'm so excited!!

We're still waiting on our state refund. For the past two years, we've received a letter after filing asking us to verify our identity via an online quiz. We sat down and did the quiz and it took us three times to pass it! I'm wondering if there is some sort of error on our credit report or something, because it kept asking us about the value of his parents stuff in Vermont. Uh....

DH's never lived there and his name isn't on any documents, and he doesn't have the same first names as his dad, so I don't know what is up with that!

I'm going to try not to worry about it right this second, but I might check on it later.

Mid-life glamour crisis

March 23rd, 2016 at 09:46 am

I think I'm having a midlife glamour crisis. Is this normal? Until I had children at 33, I was tall, svelte, rock n roll and reasonably fashionable and on the go. Since kids, I've been a sports-bra wearing train wreck! (Although, I have gotten back to more of my normal self in the last year or so...)

Anyway, today I bought myself a watch and a dress. Both glamorous, both the style of my 'old self'. I'm wondering if this is part of a mid-life crisis or just a return to the old me? Any thoughts?

I was also wondering if glamour shopping online for myself is a reaction to our horrible spring break. Both of the kids are sick and have barfed all over the house. I've had no sleep and have had to clean up a lot of sick. Maybe that's made me pine for more glamorous days!

I'm also wondering how I can be glamorous and replace my old worn out duds while still on a budget!!

taxes filed finally!

March 18th, 2016 at 02:49 pm

I finally finished and filed the taxes today.

I don't know how all you early worms do it. I never seem to have all of my forms until the end of February!

Anyway, we should be getting about $4,700 back between state and federal. (Minus whatever we have to pay in City tax. We'll see). Whatever is left is going directly to the mortgage balance.

Here's to a speedy refund!

mortgage and primary

March 15th, 2016 at 08:07 am

The extra mortgage payment hit today, so I'm down to $9,422.72. Yay.

The regular mortgage payment will be made next Friday, and should bring that down to about $8,400.

I hope to work on and finish the taxes this week. If we get a refund, we will be putting that toward the balance as well. (Estimating $3500, which would equal $4,900 left!)

chip chip chip!

I live in Ohio, so I'm off to vote now. It's my first time in a primary. It's kind of exciting in a weird way.

Year ahead? Birthday thoughts...

March 13th, 2016 at 09:32 am

I'm 41 today. Woot. I always get too philosophical on my birthday. It's kind of like my New Year, the day when I sit and reevaluate and try to parse out what is good and bad from life.

I shouldn't complain. I have a nice house in a good school district, two healthy kids, and a DH of 14 years. Money in the bank and a plan.

But some things are still out of control! Any ideas or helpful hints would be greatly appreciated.

1. The mess. I spend soooo much time cleaning up, and yet the house is never clean. Two little boys and a hub sure do make messes and destroy stuff. Is there a way to manage this? Is it possible to keep the house tidier without spending all my time behind a broom?

(I am in my second round of major decluttering. I figure less stuff= less to manage/clean, But I'm not sure it'll work that way)

I got angry about this yesterday. It was my first day working outside in the garden, and I realized the yard was a huge mess. Raccoons had knocked over an extra trash can--which I thought was empty because I never put anything in it. Well, hubby apparently put something in it this winter, because there was an old garbage bag of food strewn everywhere. There's a stack of wood in the driveway that hubby promised he'd chop 6 months ago, and it's still there.

Gah. I got angry because I felt like I am the only one who cares, and the only one who does the work. We have a house in a nice area, and because of stuff like this, it's the shabbiest house on the block. I want it to look nice!

I can't do it all alone. There is too much. Too many jobs, too much work, but DH doesn't seem to care, and the boys destroy destroy destroy...

2. Career. I have kind of always suspected that career was a hollow ambition. I'm thinking about this because the in-laws just left.

My inlaws were defined by their jobs, and worried constantly about career and doing 'what they were supposed to do' as far as the life script: moving up, up, up! they don't understand our casual approach to work, and my MIL is hand-wringing about my decision to let go of a lot of my freelance work. She's worried about my 'career'. She followed me around for 3 days nagging about it. Gah!

So... of course I am thinking. I have figured out a few things in the last year.

A. I don't want to work at a newspaper again. Journalism is no longer a field I want to be in.

B. I kind of want the next stage of my life/ career-wise to be a mix of fiction-writing and hobby farming. Okay okay. I know it sounds crazy. I am very realistic. It's not big money and it could flop. But I feel like I should try. It's now or never. And I don't expect to write a blockbuster, I'd be happy with eventually building up a small, but solid income from those sources.

3. Finally, I want more creation in my life. More creativity, more writing, more paintings. Now, time is the issue. The youngest isn't in school all day until fall. But I feel like my life and ambitions have been on hold for 8 years waiting for that to happen for two kids. I'm tired of being on hold. Is there a way to add more creativity into my daily life? I can't write when the kids are here. I've tried. They interrupt constantly. But maybe I could move some art supplies upstairs, so I could paint in the dining room while we're home together int he afternoons? Maybe they'd even join me.

So this is what I'm thinking about on my rainy 41st birthday. I'm not mental, I swear. Wink

$300 to mortgage

March 11th, 2016 at 07:23 am

I paid $300 to the mortgage balance today. I had hoped to make it more, but for some reason DH went on a post Low Spend Month shopping spree. I'm not super happy about it. Maybe now that he has it out of his system he'll return to his pre- LSM low spending ways.

I could send more to the mortgage balance, but I want to keep a pad in the checking account just in case he goes on another spending spree! If we still have extra next payday, when the mortgage payment is due, I'll send it then.

Oh well. I can't complain about much. The CC is paid in full, the other bills are paid, and we still have money left in the bank. Good living, right?

Oh, and I am planning to file the taxes this week. I think I finally have all the forms. Any refund will go to the mortgage.

$9,722.72. Debt strategy?

February 28th, 2016 at 08:24 am

I'm jumping up and down. The payment hit, and the new mortgage balance is $9,722.72.

Sadly, though, I need to come up with a new payoff strategy. My wishful math projections were off by $3,000. I'm not finished with the taxes, but anticipate a refund of about $3,500 (probably more, but not much. I'm being conservative).

Once that is in and filed, that would bring the mortgage down to $6,222.72.

I'd hoped we could have it paid off by June using this strategy, plus making our normal monthly payments. $1,035 of each payment goes to principal. But now it looks like if I do that, it'll still be six months until it's gone.

I just want to be free!!

I'm trying to come up with a plan B. What strategies have all of you used to pay off a $10,000 debt as quickly as possible?

I thought maybe. Big maybe, if I tried to keep going on low spend month in March and April, I could free up maybe $1000 to $1500 extra to send to the principal.

But there are a lot of maybes. I think we can reign in all the little expenditures and wastes of money, but I also have to pay for DS2s next session in his fitness class ($155), the freezer is empty and I need to call the farm to stock up on more meat ($200). And, we've got five birthdays between March 11 and April 8.

Birthdays

I've told DS1, who is turning 8, that we were going to do a birthday party at the house this year.

It's at least $300 to have a party at a 'place.'
His laser tag party ended up costing an arm and a leg last year, once all the extras were in.

I sold him on the idea of having a video game party with pizza and cakes at our place. Boys love video games. I don't know why. We're going to borrow more game systems and screens from friends, and set up stations around the house with multiplayer sega, wii, and playstation games going.

I hope it will be cheap, fun, and give me the incentive to clear out the other section of the basement and turn it into a tween hangout spot. I've been eyeing it forever. Now I have a deadline!

Trips

We can't do low spend forever though. I'm spending a week in New Orleans in May to visit friends. And, we have to take a family trip to Arizona in June, for DH's parents 50th wedding anniversary. They wanted to do a trip, and it's going to cost us a fortune, but what can I do. It's planned mostly, and it's a family obligation. Argh.

Low spend month/ mortgage payoff progress

February 26th, 2016 at 05:47 am

DH got a bonus today. I'm super thankful.

I was able to send $11,766 to the mortgage (which is our regular payment plus $10,000). I'll update the balance tomorrow when it posts to our account. I'm estimating we'll be around $9,750.

Still, the bonus was about $3,000 less than my wishful math projections, but I'll still take it. I'll just have to rework the plan to see when we can get this house paid off!

Part one of the new plan is to stick with low spending into March. I feel like No Spend February was a great success, even though on paper it looked like a disaster. We had a budget of $150 a week for food, entertainment, etc. We actually stuck to that!

On paper, the month looks worse because DH and DS2 destroyed my $1500 mac laptop that I adored by spilling coffee on the keyboard. $800 to fix it, so I said no, and bought a $500 windows laptop, which I actually do not like, but hey, I can't rationalize spending a whole lot on another Mac in a house with two little boys and a clumsy DH. I can't skip the computer. I need it to work. (I will be deducting it as an expense on my taxes next year!) But that was still $500 cash out that wasn't expected.

Then, the electricity in the kitchen went out. All the outlets only. The circuit in the panel just got old and went bad. We paid our unemployed electrician friend $100 to come fix/replace it. Money out, but still cheaper than the service call alone for our normal electrical company. And obviously, it couldn't wait. As fun as it was to brew coffee on the floor in the dining room, and run an extension cord to the microwave...

Sigh. I'm still sad about the mortgage, but oh well. Part of it is our fault. The credit card spending got out of hand before and immediately after Christmas, and I had to send $2500 to the cc company today. (It would have been much worse if we hadn't done No Spend Month. We paid a huge chunk of it last payday.) I keep kicking myself, but it's done. It's like that every year. I'll try to do better next Christmas!

The good news is it's paid in full with a zero balance, all the other bills are paid in full too, and I have enough left in the bank to pay the next two weeks of expenses in cash. (Barring any more unforseen disasters!)

No Spend Month really helped me hit the reset button. I've had 3 NSD this week alone. I can't remember the last time I did that.

It also threw a light on my time poverty issue. I realize time management is key for me. I only have 2hours, 45 minutes alone every day to work, finish editing my first novel (so I can send it out for rejection. Yay!), and do anything I need to do but can't do with the kids around. So yes. Time is precious! With no spend month, I cut down extra trips and errands--to one a week-- and that did free up a little bit of time each week.

I told DH we're sticking with the cash in the envelope system we used for NSM. He seemed pouty, even after I told him the budget had gone up. I think he just doesn't like the idea of limits, even though he actually isn't a big spender.

Still, if we double the budget to $300 a week, we'd have plenty left each payday to throw at the mortgage. And really, after cutting back to $150 a week, $300 seems like a king's ransom!

Everything that can go wrong...

February 16th, 2016 at 05:44 am

No/low Spend Month was going great. We ended our first two weeks under budget, with $16 left over. I was feeling in control of life again and my urge to spend money was curbed. All was well.

Then, life happened. Dh and DS2 were watching videos of whales eating krill on my computer. Then they spilled a quart of hot coffee on the keyboard and immediately fried it. I hadn't backed up the data in two weeks (shame on me). So I lost two weeks of work on my novel and of freelance articles and interviews. The day before they were due. This was a beautiful Macbook air laptop that I adored. long battery life, quiet keyboard, no crapware. Alas, $2000 down the drain. The warranty doesn't cover spills. Despite my long-standing rules of no eating or drinking near my computer. Garrr...

I tried to disguise my sadness and anger. (You know how it is When you're a mom, you've got nothing for yourself. I just wanted one thing of mine to not be ruined, destroyed or messes with! No luck!). We took it to Microcenter. For $40 they did a diagnostic, to see what parts were damaged and if they could be replaced. The bad news: $800 to fix it. The good? The hard drive was fine. I paid $50 (!) for a 1 terrabyte external drive and they moved all my files to it. They saved it all! The guys at Microcenter were top notch. I'm a fan.

So...then I had to laptop shop. I decided I wasn't going to buy a new Macbook. I cant justify an expensive laptop. I have to think disposable, because I live in a house with three males, two of whom are 7 or under, and it's only a matter of time before one of them does something to the laptop that ISN'T covered by the warranty.

After much agonizing, I chose an Acer Aspire with an Intel 5 something or other and a 1 terrabyte HD . It had the longest battery life and the least clunky keyboard, and cost $479. More than I wanted to spend, but half the price of the cheapest macbook. But boy, let me tell you. I was spoiled. None of these windows machines are as quiet, long-batteried, or nice as macs!

The keyboard on this thing is still way too loud, which sounds crazy of me to mention, until I tell you I often have to work inside federal courtrooms, typing, and you can hear a pin drop in there--unless I'll be there typing!

So yes. Halfway through No Spend Month, and I'm it with nearly $600 out of pocket for a busted laptop. My heart is still sick over it, but there was no way around it.

*****In Other News******

On the bright side. I took my (single) sister to a movie for valentine's day. We saw Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies and you know what? It was way better than I thought it would be! The writers were very clever, and there were a lot of top-tier English actors/actresses in the cast. They did a nice job with what could have been a half-ass schlock movie.

As for the mortgage. In past posts, I've done some wishful math calculations in trying to figure out how to pay the mortgage off this spring, instead of in another 18 months as planned.

The great news is that DH is getting a bonus. It's $2000 less than last year, but that's okay. It'll be enough that we can make a huge dent in the mortgage balance. I won't know exactly how much until it's in the checking account.

I still haven't received two of my freelance 1099s, so I don't know exactly if and how much tax refund we will be receiving. I'm going to call the companies this week. Or company? One was bought out, and I don't think it exists anymore. Ugh. The headache! Anyway, the plan is to put the tax refund toward the mortgage as well. I'm estimating it'll be at least $3000. (Plus a possible state refund?)

In an ideal world, if the bonus and taxes work out, I maybe just maybe might be able to pay the house off by July without taking any money out of savings. Which is the huge part. When I came up with this crazy plan, I anticipated draining at least half the money out of the savings account, but it looks like it might not be necessary! Hazzah! Okay okay I'm getting ahead of myself! I already know how life throws curveballs. Let's hope for no more!

No Spend Month progress.

February 4th, 2016 at 05:09 pm

Here's a quick recap of the first few days of No Spend Month!

Monday
No spend Day, no car day for me, no spend day for DH. (He drives to the gym during lunch hour every day.)

House: I vacuumed and picked up the house. I also began the big job of sorting and organizing the library. We have a lot of books, and a lot of bookcases, but they are in disarray. I'm pulling books out, dusting the shelves, getting rid of some books, and then trying to organize the shelves. It's going to take a few days.

For dinner, we had grass fed ribs, roasted beets, and broccoli-cheese rice, ice cream with caramel sauce for dessert.

Tuesday
No spend day, no drive day for me,and for hubby

Hubby is moping about No Spend Month. He really wanted Mexican restaurant food for lunch. It's weird. He usually doesn't spend much or crave those sorts of things. He's probably thinking about it because he's been told he can't. Oh well. I told him I'd make mexican for dinner on Friday night.

House: I cleaned the microwave and the air hood filter (blech), and the fish tank. I made a batch of all-purpose cleaner (vinegar and seventh gen. dish detergent.) Also ran a cleaning cycle on the HE washing machine with vinegar.

Cool tip: use the dirty fish tank water to water houseplants. It's super good for them. Lots of nitrogen and nutrients in the fish poop!

For dinner, we had meatloaf, mashed potatoes, dinner rolls, and green beans.

Wednesday

Well, the spell is broken. I spent money today. And drove. We were out of milk, a staple for the boys, and needed a few other things from the grocery.

I spent $72.70.

$18.10 was at Aldi's, for cashews ($11), tortilla chips, sweet peppers for Friday's fajita dinner, and vanilla yogurt for DS2's breakfast.

The rest was at Kroger, 4 gallons of organic milk @$24, cat food @ $12, bubble bath and cheese curls, then all the valentines for both son's class exchange next week. (DS2 has a kid with severe allergies in the class, so I was limited in what I could pick), plus two fancy Godiva choco bars for each teacher @$3 each.

I drove 12 miles today, 7 of it taking DS2 to his morning gymnastics class. I tried to get a free vacuum for the car at the place next to the grocery store, but everyone else in town had the same idea, and there wasn't a free spot. Boo.

For dinner, we're having pork chops, sweet potatoes, home-canned apple sauce, and cauliflower. Strawberry jello for dessert.

DH is going to a movie with our friend tonight. (Spent $3 out of pocket because the old $25 gift card I found didn't cover two tickets!)

Thursday
Drove 15.1 miles, taking DS1 to swim classes. I knew it was far. I didn't know it was that far.

Spent : $10.49, Wendy's, usual once a week eat out after swim.
Junior frosty was free because we had a key tag.

We finished DS1's Pinewood derby car for Cub Scouts. It's our first time trying. It looks like something out of Mad Max but he did a huge chunk of the work, so I'm proud of him.

Dinner was creamy chicken soup with homemade drop dumplings and pumpkin muffins.

Random thoughts during No Spend Month

Doing more good in the world. I just realized DH's company matches 100 percent of charitable donations. That means we've left thousands of dollars on the table for orgs we care about these past years. Sigh. HIs homework this week is to find out how we can get the company to match our donations, so we can put more money into the organizations and causes we care about.

No Spend Month Budgeting.

I think the key to a successful No spend month is to spend as little as possible in the early days of the month, when the cupboards and the gas tanks are still full. I'd rather have money in the budget at the end of the month, when the reserves are gone and we're scraping by.

Wishful math-ing, counting chickens.

February 1st, 2016 at 02:10 pm

So, I'm doing wishful calculating, trying to figure out if we can pay off the house this spring. I know know know I shouldn't and can't count on anything until it's in the bank account, but I've been wishful math-ing.

First wish, that hubby gets a bonus this year, and it's close to what it was last year. Sigh. No word on that yet. Last year, it hit on the last paycheck in February. Fingers crossed we hear something soon.

Math wish. IF he gets a bonus and IF it's close to last year's amount, we can put $14,000 to the mortgage, leaving $6,000 to pay.

I'm working on the taxes. It is very frustrating because, although I try my best to keep our tax and financial lives simple, it takes forever to get all of our forms. I'm 1099, and I have gotten NO 1099s. And, one of the companies I work for was bought by another company in JUne, so that will likely slow things down even more. Ugh. So, I used placeholder estimates of my income, to at least see what maybe maybe we will get as a refund. So far, about $3500. Which would put the mortgage balance near $2500. We'd make two regular payments in between those big windfalls coming in, so we'd be at $500.

Which meant if my fondest math dreams came true we could PAY OFF THE HOUSE AND NOT TOUCH THE SAVINGS ACCOUNT. Which would make me die and go to heaven. But as I said, I'm counting my chickens. Fingers crossed.

Hopefully, we'll know something soon!

No spend month starts now!

January 31st, 2016 at 07:52 pm

And I'm totally excited! I'm not dreading this no spend month at all. We have $700 in cash to last us the month, a freezer full of meat and a full gas tank. What more can a family need?

Of course, the prize is in sight, which makes No Spend Month easier: paying off the mortgage much much faster. And, I'm planning to spend more time cleaning,scrubbing and organizing. I'm looking forward to having a cleaner house (fingers crossed it works...)

My only worry: the kids! We have Cub Scout and other events this month that are the most likely to be the budget busters. I'm trying not to stress. I'm going to focus on having as many No Spend Days as possible, especially this first couple of weeks, and then hope that we have enough money left to pay for the kid stuff.

Let the adventure begin!

Prepping for No Spend February, car update

January 29th, 2016 at 06:38 am

February is no (low) spend month. I'm setting the budget for groceries, gas, and all other spending at $700 for the month for the four of us. I'd like to skate by at $600, but the last time we did this, we only had one son and he was 6 months old, and we managed on $400 for the month. Now we have two, and they are 6 and 7, so they need things like food. They drink milk like we own a cow, so that's why the jump from $400 to $700. We'll see how it goes. If it goes well, we might do it again later this year for the same or lower budget.

We're hoping to free up cash to put toward the mortgage. I'm getting antsy and want to see if we can pay it off THIS year instead of next, with a combination of tax refunds (if we get one...) , cash and ef savings.

I'm excited about no spend month. I've lined up a bunch of cleaning and organizing projects around the house. (Hey, cleaning is free!) Hopefully, those will improve the look and function of our house, which always makes me feel better. I'm also kind of looking forward to being home more and being able to say no to things, as in, events and this or that. Every weekend, all we do is run around to this event or that. And granted, I love having friends and a busy social life. But it'll be nice to put that on hold so I can concentrate on all the stuff that gets pushed to the side when we're busy.

Yard Sale!
The kids want to have another yard sale, since they made about $40 on their cookie stand last year. If I can purge enough of their stuff and ours, I'll consider it. Yard sales are a lot of work, but we made more than $200 last year! I could use that!

But Before We Can Start...
Of course, this is a jam packed weekend ahead of no spend month. I'm throwing my sister a birthday party. She has severe anxiety about parties and having people over, but she wants to get over that, so as a gift, she asked me to help her throw a party at her house. This is HUGE for her.

So, I'm supplying the food and booze, music, etc. (This is where it will get spendy, although I think I can skate by for under $100.)

I think the party will be great. I want her to see that her home is her sanctuary from the rest of the world, and you should be able to share that with your friends without freaking out about it. Our bffs are at our house all the time, and it's great. I like that we can all stop by each others places and chat, or have a drink or a snack, and I want my sister to have that feeling too. It's life enhancing. And cheaper than always meeting them out somewhere!

Car Update!
Also, in my last post, DH's car wouldn't start and was kaput in the garage. Well, the darn thing only needed spark plugs. Can you believe it??? Darn thing needed a tune up. Honda knows how to make a car. He's had it since 1997, and all we've ever had to do to it was tires, oil changes and now spark plugs. The darn thing will never die.

Car is dead, plus free home improvement, with pics

January 11th, 2016 at 09:34 am

DH's car won't start. It's got 250k miles on it. (a 1997 Honda). It cranks but won't turn over. Yay. I don't know how much it will be to get that fixed, but it's a big cloud of unknown in my already stretched budget. It serves me right. His dad and I were driving around in it at Xmas, telling DH he needed to fix all the things wrong with it. And here we are. Darn it. Stupid thing couldn't wait to break until after the house was paid for????

Anyway...

I'm trying really super duper hard not to spend money unnecessarily. This directly clashes with being stuck inside in winter, which is the season I want to do and complete house projects. So, I'm been looking for cheap and free home improvement projects that improve the look and function of our house. Thankfully, cleaning and organizing are mostly free.

This weekend, I redid the hall closet. It's tiny, with a tiny door, and the kids are still small, so they just throw their backpacks on the doorknob and their coats on the closet floor and call it a day. Um no... It was a mess, first thing you see in the door.

I hung a lower rod for the kids, so they can hang up their own coats. I installed a few hooks on the inside of the door for backpacks, and sorted all the hats, mittens and sunglasses into a shoe holder on the inside of the door. I also put extra backpacks, lunch bags, and scarves in bins on the top shelf.

It was a free project because I used things I already had around the house. I was already using the shoe holder in the closet. But half of it was empty, so I cut it in half and moved an underused hook from another closet onto the door for the backpacks. The lower rod used to be for the kids costumes in their closet, but they never hung them there, so it was unused. I already had the bins on the shelf. I just added a box from aldi to hold the lunch boxes. Voila. Free. And functional. I might spring for a nice basket for the bottom, though, to hold all the roller skates and winter boots.



My second free project was organizing my dresser. I wasn't planning to, but I saw a short video on apartment therapy about the virtues of storing your t-shirts and jeans vertically instead of in stacks in your drawers. Something about being able to see everything. I thought it was worth a try. Boy. So far so good! It's so easy to find what I'm looking for AND each drawer holds soooooooo many things. I used to have two drawers of pants. Now, everything fits in one! And... now I know I have too many pairs of black pants.

In other unfun house news, I spent the weekend bleaching mildew off of my bathroom walls (the last owner painted with oil-based paint, a big no no in a bathroom, so now it molds. Argh.).


Feeling impatient

January 8th, 2016 at 06:31 am

I am feeling impatient and antsy. Normally, I'm pretty good about this, but right now I wish I could fast forward to the end of February.

Why? That's when we'll know if DH is getting a bonus and how much it will be, the taxes will be close to finished so I know if we're getting a refund and how much, and once I have all that I'D KNOW FOR SURE IF WE COULD PAY OFF THE HOUSE THIS YEAR.

I just want it done!! I'm so anxious! And excited.

But we have a lot to do between now and then. I've got to figure out how to pay off the Christmas bills without dipping into savings. I've got two birthdays to plan (DH and my sister), and February is a No Spend Month.
Gah! Still. I wish I had all the answers today so I could sleep at night!


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