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Archive for February, 2015

Finally, we're ahead. Yay for the $400 budget.

February 27th, 2015 at 06:06 am

I've spared you guys the (most) of the misery of my complaining about our austerity budget of $400 a week for everything. It's actually for the most part gone well. And, it's not been as hard as I thought it would be overall. I've even managed to cut the weekly grocery budget from more than $200 to about $150 to $175, and I have no idea how! I feel like I'm shopping the same, but maybe I'm just getting better at cooking and budget meal planning.

Anyway, the point is. I knew if we stuck to it, one day there would be a big pay off. Today, that day has come! It was payday today, and because we stuck to the budget, the credit card bill is paid in full. The mortgage is paid and we managed to pay nearly $2260 in principal. (about $1000 extra). AND we have money left over in the bank for the next two weeks.

DH also got a small bonus from work, which was enough to fully fund my IRA shortfall for 2014 ($1993) and put some money in savings. If we hadn't been on the budget, I'm not sure we would have been able to do as much with the extra.

So yes, it might be snowy outside but it's sunny days moneywise. And hopefully, we're on the path to smoother sailing.

Need advice: Serious work thoughts at tax time

February 18th, 2015 at 07:57 am

It's tax time and this is the time of year I always get super depressed about work. I freelance, so I'm all 1099 income. That means self-employment tax (I pay all the SS and Med taxes because I don't have an 'employer' to pay half for me like w-2 workers).

I don't make that much. The last few years I've made about $20k working part-time. I cut back last year after I looked at my taxes (more on that later). In 2014, I made a little over $10k.

I work from home part-time because my kids are young and I've been struggling to balance work deadlines and the kids since they were newborns.It's been seven years. Of non-stop deadlines. I work in media, so there is always a deadline and the cycle of deadlines never ends. And when I say deadlines I mean more than one each week, whether or not it's summer vacation, a snow day, or the kids have pink eye.

It has not been easy. I frequently get stood up by people I'm interviewing who assume I work in an office all day and have plenty of time. This throws a complete wrench into my life, as does every snow day. My life is a house of cards and one little thing sends it all tumbling down. If I go out of town or know the kids have spring break, sometimes I have to do four or five extra articles and interviews in advance just to meet my deadlines for that week off. (Stress!).

But, my thought in doing it was that I wanted to have options. I didn't want to have a 10 year gap in my resume once the youngest got to first grade, if I needed to go back to work full-time in an office.

So here I am, seven years on. Even thought I've cut back on assignments, it's still a grind. Now I'm doing the taxes, and alas, I have to look at the cold hard numbers and what I actually "profited" from all that work.

And the reality is, it's almost all for nothing.

-I made $10,500
-I paid $4,555 in childcare to work (I have since cut back, from $555 to $225/month since I also cut back at work)
-I put $5500 in my IRA

On paper, it looks like I "made" $500. Before taxes.
Now let's look at that.
Before I factored in my income, we were due for a tax refund of $7,155
After? $3575, including a measly $943 tax credit for the nearly $5k I paid for childcare. Plus, I need to pay $400 in city taxes on the money I made.

So, the math after taxes?
10,500-4,555-3980(tax refund/city)= 1965 profit, not including the IRA.
If I hadn't worked at all, I would have put $3980 profit into the family account, in the form of tax refunds and tax savings.

So the question is, should i keep doing this?

I have felt as if any money was worthwhile in this economy, even if it wasn't much, but looking at the cold hard numbers just makes it all so frustrating. Is that small amount of money worth all the work I have done. All the stress juggling the kids and work?

I'm not sure.

Let me also throw in some background .

I work in journalism and we all know that's a dying industry. Very few people actually buy a newspaper anymore. My company has been laying off people since 2005. Going back to a full-time job in this industry probably isn't in the cards.

Even so, I've been passed over four times by my boss for full-time jobs. I was only once considered, and then immediately not when I said the salary would have to cover childcare for two young kids plus profit. Instead, they have hired all men, who either have grown or no children or a spouse who is like me and manages to make it all work with no hiccups for the husband.

After the company Xmas party it also occurred to me that I no longer want to work full-time in this industry. Talk about depressing. everyone is stressed out, overworked, understaffed and unhappy. I also don't have the fire for the industry that I did when I was younger. I felt deep down it was time to move on.

But that would be admitting my first major career is over and then figuring out what next?

So, what would you do? Do you have any sage advice? Am I looking at this all the wrong way?

What do you feed your kids?

February 11th, 2015 at 09:58 am

I have a 5 and 6 year old boys and I struggle trying to figure out what to feed them. Well, really just the oldest one. He is soooooo picky. The younger one will try anything. So, I have trouble meal planning because I can hear the complaining from kid 1 in my head.

I actually let him help me plan the week's menus this week and frankly, my grocery bill was a lot less because of it. I guess he has cheap tastes.
He picked, pork chops, grilled cheese, burgers, and breakfast for dinner as his choices.

We can't just keep eating these over and over. So, any tips for picky eaters, and for meals that are kid friendly but healthy, and don't require me making a special meal for kids and adults each night at dinner time.

I try to do protein, veggie, fruit, and starch for dinner.
HELP!