I love the New Year's feeling. Finally, the stress and go-go of the Thanksgiving to Christmas season is finished and I can take time to get my/our lives back in order!
Our plan for New Years is similar to other years.
-Live on a cash weekly budget. $400/week for everything but bills.
When we stick to this, it improves our financial lives immensely. It's usually me who falls off track when I get busy or stressed out about the kids. So, fingers crossed, here we go again!
-Save money from every paycheck. (401k set to max out ($18,000) as usual. $500 every two weeks to savings, $288 every two weeks to property taxes, $200/month per kid to the 529.) My freelance checks go to my IRA.
-Give more. We set up our monthly contributions for charities in 2017, and we went from 2 a month to five a month. We'll see how this goes!
Our non financial and more life-quality goals include:
-Try new independently-owned bakeries and donut shops. The boys love seeking these out and it's a fun, not too expensive treat/adventure.
-Eat quality food, like meat from the local farm family, veggies from our garden and from our farmer's market, organic when possible, minimally processed as much as possible, etc. To this end, I am thinking of thrifting a bread machine to try to make my own. Some friends have one and love it, and I see the darn things everywhere for cheap!
-I'm ready to dress well. I've kind of let that part of me go since the kids but I'm ready to have a decent wardrobe. I'm not talking ridiculous designer duds. I mean a well-chosen, useful, mix n match minimalist wardrobe where everything is in good repair and fits.
I'll be doing a closet purge, and be on the lookout for useful items. I'm also going to read some books at the library about dressing for your body, etc. for ideas!
My goal is also to become a professional fiction author this year. Like CJ, I plan to self publish my first novel or two this year. The timeline I had planned is in question now, because I'm a finalist in two Romance Writers of America contests and as part of entering, agreed the books were not published. SO, I have to wait until that's all over. A good problem to have, I suppose.
Speaking of books, this time of year I usually dust off and re-read some of my favorite go-to books to get inspired not only for a more meaningful and frugal life, but also for my spring garden (Seeds are ordered already!)
These books are:
"The Freedom Manifesto" by Tom Hodgkinson. This is kind of a weird little book I picked up on a lark from Barnes and Noble ten years ago. And I love it. It's a very unusual personal finance -kind of- book.
"Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver. I can't tell you how many times I've read this. It helps on an intentional living front, on garden inspiration, on clean eating. All of it. And of course it's beautifully written.
"The Good Life." BY Scott and Helen Nearing. Technically a homesteading book, I like it for lots of reasons. Frugality, intentional living, garden plans, being resourceful, etc.
So, let the fun of 2017 begin!!
I love the New Year's feeling. Finally, the stress and go-go of the Thanksgiving to Christmas season is finished and I can take time to get my/our lives back in order!
Hi All. Some of you have expressed interest in doing fitbit challenges with other SAers. I've started an SA fitbit community on the fitbit site.
Sign up here if you want to fitbit with us!
In a week or so, once everyone is signed up, I'll take the group private, so don't wait!!
In-laws have gone home. No more house guests. My house is mine. I spent all day yesterday in a super-charged cleaning mood. Every scrap of laundry and bedding washed, dried, and folded, bathrooms scrubbed. Floors and rugs vacuumed.
Although, the house keeps falling back into chaos thanks to the boys nerf bullets!
For those of you eating popcorn and watching my MIL drama unfold, here is the takeaway: The FIL enlightened me about who she is and what motivates her. And, I feel like a weight has been lifted off of me. No, I can't get rid of her, but it clearly is her problem, and I'm justified with pointing it out when she's being critical.
I avoided alone time with her as much as possible this trip because I didn't want to deal with her. Plus, her ire was aimed at the FIL because they fought on the way here about how controlling she is.
Besides him telling me that she has to be in control all the time (which was a gem, and reaffirmed what her sister told me) FIL explained that she isn't controlling or domineering because she wants to be the boss, she does it when she is outside of her comfort zone and is incredibly uneasy/scared/uncomfortable.. so, she unleashes the controlling and the criticism in an attempt to reign in the situation to something back safely inside her comfort zone.
This explains why she is worse when we travel. She is the consummate homebody. Being in the world freaks her out, ergo, she's already off kilter when traveling. Then throw me into the mix...
And... the problem with me is that everything I do is outside of her comfort zone, and outside of the zone of what she understands and is comfortable with. (she's incredibly old-fashioned. As in, married couples are even supposed to shop together all the time, and never be on their own! Me and DH taking trips to be with friends without each other drives her nuts. She thinks we're having affairs.)
FIl said "You've lived a freer life than she has ever had." To which I said that was of her own choosing. He agreed, but then said she didn't understand, because it never occurred to her to make choices other than those she was raised with...
So yes, I wish I would have known all this 15 years ago so I could have reigned her in. But here we are. At least I have the information to set boundaries now.
Phew. Enough about that. I'm ready to move on and start a new (albeit politically frightening) year.
A New Year is Coming.
So... in short. We didn't make all of our savings goals for 2016. We did meh. But hey. At least we paid off our house. That is a coup.
Now, I need to move on and plan for a post-mortgage financial life.
We shouldn't have any CC debt from the holidays once payday arrives. But, we spend too much overall, and I feel with all the political uncertainty that we need to scrimp scrimp scrimp while at the same time upping our donations to nonprofits and political causes.
So... I guess my new year's plan for us is--Keep It Simple and Do What's Worked for Us in the Past!
We'll have $400 a week as a family for groceries, entertainment, and discretionary spending. (Pretty much everything that isn't a bill). Plus the kids' weekly allowances, and the adult weekly allowances.
(Each of us get $1 a week for every year old we are. DH gets $43, I get $41, DS1 gets $8, DS2 gets $7 a week, to spend on whatever we want.) This seems high for the kids, but we expect them to save up for and buy their own video games/toys/extra treats and donuts, etc. And, it seems to be enough that they have to save up, but can do it in a reasonable enough time that they don't think it's hopeless and give up.So, it works for us.
So really, with the $400 plus allowances, the budget is $499/ week.
We also need to save $280/ check to pay the property tax bill ($6,706/year). Plus, I have been putting $500 per check in savings. I can meet these goals and maybe more if we can stick to the weekly budget MOST weeks.
We'll see. I'm feeling ready to move on from the excess of Christmas. It's just too much!
I hope to start bringing in snowflakes again this year. I used to, when I first joined SA, and brought in north of $1,000 a year. I guess I forgot about all that once I had kids!
Now, I have the time to try to bring in some snowflakes. I started swagbucks again. The coupon part might work out for me. I'm open to any other suggestions!
So, I try to stay fit. Reasonably, at least. I just don't have the time and dedication to get buff.
I received a fitbit charge for Xmas. It has taken days to set up the app, but we finally seem to have everything working. Yay!
My plan is to see what my 'base' activity level is. As in, wear it for a few weeks without changing my routine, and see how many steps, etc. I average. Then, once the data is in hand, add more. (I'd love to get an SA fitness fitbit challenge going too!)
I'm trying to be flexible with these goals because I know how life is. But my daily goal, in the interest of simplicity, is to move and use my body every day.
I do 10 to 20 minutes of core and back exercises every day, to keep my lower back pain in check. (Seeing the physical therapist was a life changer. My advice? If you have degenerative disc disease, don't put it off. Go to the therapist. My pain was gone after 3 weeks and it hasn't come back thanks to the simple daily exercises she gave me.)
Plus, I walk to the library and the kids to school. So, Maybe I can add in walking/biking to the bank or to the grocery store at some point. We'll see!
I've been dreaming of it and talking about it for years, but 2017 is the year I become a professional fiction writer. I feel it. I have a plan.
My first novel is finished and is up for two awards sponsored by the Romance Writer's of America. (Trying not to be excited...) I find out in February how I placed in the final tally.
The final judges are editors at the Big Five publishing houses. Maybe they'll request the full manuscript. If not, I plan to self pub in March, in paperback and on kindle and in itunes.
The first draft of the second book in that series is 80 percent complete. I'd hoped to have it finished before Xmas, but alas, into January it will go. I try to write 2k words a day every week day. It goes quickly when I'm that productive. I'm still working on structuring my day to be more productive. I, like my novels, am a work in progress.
Anyway... The goal is to write two more full-length novels in 2017. (50k to 80k words) Book 3 in the series, and either book 4 OR one of the other book ideas I've been toying with.
I also have a couple short story/novella ideas floating around, but I'm not going to commit, because life always gets in the way! But if I do have time, I'd like to write the first draft of those just so I can get the ideas out of my brain and into the real world.
Overall, I'm optimistic. You have to make the life you want, right?
My hope for 2017 is that I can become a more giving person.
We have a friend, Steve, a single dad, an engineer. He's like an onion. He seems so gruff, and cursing, etc. on the outside, but he is pure gold on the inside.
One of our more casual friends mentioned to me over Thanksgiving that she was losing sleep over their property tax bill. They work hard, but they are low income, and have had a lot of health set backs the last couple of years. AFter they left, I told Steve and my two lady friends that instead of giving gifts to each other, we should pool our money to pay their overdue property tax bill.
If they get foreclosed on, they'll be in bigger financial trouble. Anyway, we all agreed. then I looked at the bill and realized it was $6,000. My two other friends bailed, and while I debated taking the money out of savings to bail them out, Steve just went and did it. He took the cashiers check down to the treasurer without a second thought.
He's always like that. Does the good and generous thing without a second thought and without a thread of selfishness.
I aim to be more like selfless Steve!
With that goal in mind, my mom and I volunteered in person to help set up the holiday store at the homeless shelter this year. It was a wonderful experience. We worked for two days, sorting, wrapping, organizing, etc. We had long supported the shelter with money and toy donations, but being in the building took it to a new level.
I hope to volunteer more this year for causes we care about.
Oh, and those friends with the tax liens? Steve paid off the liens, and I've paid the first half taxes for 2017, so they have time to catch up and make a plan. They have no idea....
Well, it's been an enlightening first 24 with the MIL.
She's her normal not- or fake- cheerful self, but she hasn't criticized me yet. She's reserving all that for the FIL.
Apparently, they got in a fight on the way here, and he isn't speaking to her. (Oh joy). But, when we were all in the living room last night... (Sitting. Because all they do is sit.).
I asked what they were fighting about and the FIL tells a long story about the GPS in their car, and her not following it. It soon became clear this wasn't a fight about the GPS.
Then he said, "This fight is really about her always having to be in control. She's always been that way. She always has to be in charge. She always has to be in control, and she's treating me even worse now that I'm getting weaker."
(He has parkinsons, and yes, she does stomp behind him huffing about everything he isn't doing 'right.')
I sat there kind of stunned, but also felt like I saw it all so clearly suddenly.
Backtrack to our doomed family trip to AZ, when MIL's sister pulled me aside and apologized for the MIL, then told me "she doesn't know how to have a relationship unless she is the one in power, and she is in charge."
EUREKA!! All the criticisms. All the butting in and trying to tell me how to live my life, the staying in my house and taking over every single part of my house and life like it's her life...
(Don't get me started on The trust she set up and put a rental property in--and made us manage it as trustees-- even though we told her we didn't want a rental property, but thanks to the trust, we're now legally obligated to manage it...But it's a gift, she says..)
It's all a manifestation of her control issues. No wonder she doesn't know what to do with me. I don't respond to control freaks. I'm my own person.
The worst part is, MIL turned to FIL after he said she was controlling, and said "It doesn't bother me, so I'm done talking about it. "
Uh yeah. I wouldn't say that to the man I'd been married to for 50 years. My bossiness is only your problem?? Really??
I also read this last night and it made me feel more secure in my game plan.
Also, DH finally grew half a spine. As I mentioned before, he specifically told them to arrive Dec. 23. We had house guests leave a couple days ago, and needed the time between to clean up to catch up on all the work we need to have finished before Christmas. All while juggling the two kids wrapping up school for 2016.
So, of course, the MIL emails me and says "Oh, we will leave Wednesday (the 21) IF there's bad weather." So, there is no bad weather. We get the call at 4p.m. on the 21st that they are at a hotel two hours from our house. (TWO DAYS EARLY!).
DH was livid. He actually yelled at them, and reminded them they were supposed to come on the 23rd, and we weren't ready, we just got our house guests out and had work to do, and told them not to come before noon on the 22nd. The MIL was surprised and offended that DH was upset.
Then, when they actually do show up. At noon. A whole day early. DH tried to make a joke in the vein of "What were you thinking? We told you to come the 23rd and you're here now."
And the MIL looks at me and said "Your wife clearly forgot to tell you I said we were leaving on Wednesday the 21st."
To which I said "You said you were leaving on Wednesday if the weather was bad. The weather isn't bad."
Then she huffed at me and pouted while looking very angry. She seemed galled that we had the nerve to be upset. Mind you, they have a long history of ignoring our wishes, and coming whenever they damn well please, and staying as long as they like (three weeks one time!)
All of this, I realize, is part of her control issue. She wants to drive and arrive when she damn well pleases, and she doesn't care what we think about it.
And if her attitude to her own husband is "It's not my problem." Then I can pretty much assume she feels the same way or worse about us.
I feel, in some small way, empowered by the tidbit of information the FIL let slip. I'm not going to let her come in and run my house.
Well, the MIL invades tomorrow. (A day earlier than we'd asked them too, as usual!)
I'm going to meditate more on it today, but I'm pretty sure I have a plan in place.
DH's best friend and wife just stayed with us for two days, and the wife had a similar situation with her sister in law. She addressed it by calmly asking her to repeat herself whenever she made a critical comment or insulted her, then asking her to clarify what she meant.
By worked, she means the criticisms stopped, but of course, the underlying dislike was not addressed. Hey. I'd take that!
That is an idea I've been toying with, and have decided to try. I can't let her insults go. She just gets more aggressive. I figure this is the kindest way to let her know I see what she's doing and I won't let her walk over me.
The key, the wife said, is to not be angry or say anything mean that could possible be reproachable. Calm is the key! That's going to be the hard part, as my blood boils just thinking about her! So yes. meditation today!
Today is the kids first day of winter break. (no stress, really). Thankfully,. that means all the teacher gifts and charity donations have been wrapped, bowed, delivered.
I baked almond poppy seed bread for neighbor gifts this morning. They're all baking in the over and will be delivered with cards later this afternoon.
Most of my Christmas wrapping and Santa clausing is done. Boy being Santa is hard work. Especially because I have to wait until the kids are asleep after 9:30 to start wrapping!
Sadly, though, I realized one of my packages for DS1 has disappeared into the ether. Barnes and Noble said it shipped on Dec. 17, but USPS said it's still waiting to get the package. So yes. One gift missing.
And, I hope my sister won't be disappointed that she didn't get a ton of gifts from me. Her list was a mile long, but she owns so much stuff. Hopefully she'll understand. But she's a 46 year old woman with the insides of a 17 year old, so it could go either way.
Also, we always go in together on a gift for my mom, and after I'd bought and organized $200 worth of stuff, (A night at a cabin for mom, plus fancy dinner at the Inn) sister said she was broke and would pay me if she ever got the money. (at the same time, she's always buying stuff online and posting her purchases on FB...) So yeah... I'm on the hook for all that.
Which is fine, but still.
Guess I'll try to enjoy my house today, for it's my last day of peace until the MIL leaves!
As you know from my last post, I've been stressed out about the MIL coming for Christmas. There is good news, though. No, she's still coming, and No she didn't hit her head and awake with a nicer personality, but I can still dream, right?
I've been mindfully trying to let it go, to push the dark cloud over the holiday season away until she actually arrives, and then to have coping mechanisms and some sort of plan in place.
Letting go seems to be helping.
This week was good. My mom and I volunteered for two days at the local homeless families services nonprofit. We've donated money, household items, and toys to them for years, but this is our first year actually in the building. We helped set up their holiday store.
All of the families they serve come in and shop for free at the store (all donated, new items for babies to teens), they also get decorations and a tree, new winter coats, and a box of food for Christmas dinner. This nonprofit is near and dear to my heart.
Anyway, mom and I sorted donations as they came in and helped set up some of the displays in the store. (The rest were done by volunteers from Express corporate HQ. The people that design the real Express stores came in and designed the rooms to look like stores. It was pretty amazing...)
It was incredibly rewarding. I'm sure I'll do it again next year. So, that 'buzz' of warm fuzzy holiday spirit carried me through this week.
And, in other news...... I'm trying not to be too excited because I know I won't win, but I got a call that my novel is a finalist in a contest sponsored by a branch of the Romance Writers of America!
I'll get more details soon, but my book will go to the final round judges, who are editors at publishing companies and agents. No matter what happens, this has been a nice surprise. It's nice to be a finalist!
I just got word that my book is a finalist for ANOTHER contest hosted by the Romance Writers of America! So I'm a finalist in two contests!
This is nice and happy news.
I used to love Christmas. Now, the entire burden of everyone's expectations for a joyful holiday fall squarely on my shoulder.
I am santa for the kids. DH is a humbug and a bad planner, so without me, there'd be no cookies, no lights, no tree, no gifts. They still believe in Santa, so sadly they wish for mountains for presents without any concept of "mom and dad have to pay for these..." Hey, that's the magic of Christmas as a child, but boy, I'm hoping maybe next year they'll figure out the truth!
My child-free sister and mom celebrate with us. We have three days of traditions that I love, things we've been doing as a family for 46 years.... but....
-My sister, being child-free and unmarried, is still in the kid mode during Christmas, meaning she likes to wake up on Chrismtas morning with a ton of presents for her like when she was a kid. Her gift list was a mile long. Come on. We're in our 40s. Is there anything we really NEED at this point? (She was mad because I didn't have a list, then finally relented and told her ONE gift she could get me).
And, DH is an only child, ergo, he has no siblings for his parents to visit on the holiday. Just us. With the only two grandchildren. So, his parents are either with us or alone. They didn't really celebrate Christmas per se before I came along. Now they feel 'obligated' to, without any joy, mind you. They're the type who do things because "that's what people are supposed to do" rather than because they want to. They live a sad, joyless existence. And they look to us to give it all meaning. No pressure, right?
Round about September every year, the MIL starts war dialing us at 7 am. every morning, begging for an invitation, and she calls every single day, interrupting getting the kids off to school, until DH finally gives in invites them to come stay with us for Christmas. She's a bully. And it makes my blood boil.
So, they'll be here again for Christmas. Which would be fine if my MIl weren't incredibly critical and unpleasant (no friends, no life, no joy). Her sister told me she only knows how to relate to people in situations wherein she is in power, ergo she's constantly putting me down so she can be on top. Yay.
Long story, but it doesn't make for a pleasant holiday. They come and they sleep in my house. They stay longer than we ask them to. (If we say 3 days, they come for six)
FIl is fine, but MIl complains about all of my family's holiday traditions --so only I can hear-- and makes it all miserable. I'm already dreading christmas because she'll be here.
DH asks me what I want for Christmas, and I'm thinking I want your parents to stay home so I can actually enjoy the holiday. I do all the work. All the shopping. All the cooking. All the housecleaning, wrapping, and coordinating, and none of it is ever good enough for the MIL. She's a dark cloud over all of it.
2 years ago, she insisted I spent $160 on a standing rib roast for the family for Christmas. It was her tradition. So of course I said yes, even though I couldn't really afford it. Then, she complained about the quality of the meat all during Christmas dinner. Meat I spent nearly $200 on.
So, last year, I served a $20 ham. She was livid. I told her I cancelled the roast (I had ordered it, but remembered her complaining), bought a ham, and I donated the extra $100 to the food bank. We get to eat well every day. We don't need a $200 roast for Christmas. It was true. We have so much. With so many kids and families going without in the U.S., I can't stomach complaints about a $200 cut of meat. She was angry about it.
So, she's already called saying she's bringing the roast. It's like she's trying to make this a power play with me. Just like everything else.
I've put up with her slights and criticisms, and bullying and stepping all over me in varying ways for 15 years.
But this year, I fear I will no longer be able to bite my tongue. I fear she'll be getting an earful for Christmas because I no longer will tolerate being criticized, and her constant battle to be on top. I'm afraid I'm going to explode and make Christmas miserable for everyone. HELP!!
Totally off topic again, I know! I'm prepping to self pub my first novel.
(inspired by the people at [url]www.kboards.com[/url], if you're interested, too.)
There's a lot to think about. Editing, story, covers, back cover copy. Blurbs, review copies.
Here is the blurb I've written to advertise/summarize the book. Any thoughts? I've already posted some cover options and many of you were gracious enough to vote for your favorites.
Seventeen-year-old Jess sees the killer in visions. He's a shadow, striking down the helpless, killing with lightning-like energy. After she finds the body of one of his victims, Jess fears the vision of her own violent death will come true.
To survive, she'll have to learn to control the newfound powers surging within her. Jess is the new kid in Salt Creek, an isolated town in rural southern Ohio with a ferociously guarded secret. Its residents are not ordinary humans, and they're changing Jess into something more like them. Billy, an outcast with an unsettling past, is the only one willing to explain her transformation as he guides her through the town's secret world.
As the killer's body count ticks higher, a growing pile of evidence links Billy to the crimes. Jesse has to decide if Billy is dangerous or has been framed, as she pieces together the clues to identify the killer before it's her turn to die.
A lot has been happening in thrift world. You probably know I am writing a book series (I'm almost done with book 2)... and have been looking for an agent to traditionally publish.
Looking for an agent stinks!! I did get a few replies back from agents, but they all said basically "hey. We really like this and it's well written, but publishers aren't buying paranormal books right now." So thanks, but no thanks.
Ugh. My book is a paranormal suspense/romance (a 17 year old girl who discovers she has super human powers and must stop a killer who is terrorizing a small town.)
Anyway, I'm not swayed. I've decided to self publish in paperback and to Kindle on Amazon. It'll probably go live sometime between January and March. I haven't decided yet.
When the paperback page goes live on Amazon, if any of you who like to read that kind of stuff would like an advance copy, I can email one to you, and you can leave a review for me!
In the meantime, I have some preliminary cover designs, if you'd like to vote for your favorite.
Here is cover 1
NEW OPTION!! Cover 6
New Option! Cover 7