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Archive for December, 2013

Happy New Year, and Revised January Goals

December 31st, 2013 at 08:29 am

Hard to believe it is time to say good bye to 2013. It went fast, and I enjoyed it, learning from my experiences along the way. I hope that everyone has a safe and enjoyable time tonight. As for us, we are staying home, eating snacks and watching the ball drop in NY. We, in the Midwest, always celebrate on The Big Apple's time! We had briefly considered going out (my brother's band has a local gig), but at $75 per person, I didn't need to consider it too long.

I was giving more thought to January. I like to prepay things as much as possible, and this will be the last month of big money (3 paychecks). So I used the remaining $725 in the checking account to pay the utilities and bills for January. ($714 was the total for electric, gas, sewer, insurance on all cars and properties, Comcast, dish).

So this is how the breakdown for January looks:

Total in: $7,000
Less mortgage - $1,750.00
Less tuition - $1,500
Less prepay taxes - $1,500
Less living expenses (6 weeks) - $1,200
Less February utilities and bills - $725
Less Chase Secondary EF Start up - $325 (anticipating $200 bonus in the near future to accomplish monthly $500 goal)

Remainder $0

The only real place to start slashing is the $200 per week gas/groceries. We're both still driving and I'll be trying to cut down on that. There really isn't much needed as far as household items. So I anticipate LOW/NO SPEND days in the multitudes. Our calendar is pretty full of soccer and basketball games. We do having things on the calendar (my mom funded our dinner dance) and I am anticipating making money in dog care for my brother's dogs (he has a trial down state and has several hearings this month alone).

Anyhow, 2014 is going to be my year of Simplicity and Contentment. I'm going to strive hard to maintain those two concepts. Happy New Year!

Gifts and Frugal Doings

December 29th, 2013 at 08:46 am


My parents have decided to pay for my husband and I to attend our parishes "Post Christmas Mayhem Party" - $25 per person, at a local golf course. With dinner and dancing. I am looking forward to our night out on 1/11. It came up when my mom saw the pile of things involving money on my counter. I said that I would have enough for the Annual Father-Daughter Dance (it is cheaper this year and in the school gym, not at a fancy venue). So, my mom is paying for us to attend.

Frugal doings for yesterday: I used the ham bone and made Navy Bean and Ham Soup. The kids like it! I imagine I'll keep my eyes open for sale hams. I never bought one.

Inlaws are coming over for the game today, and it is free pizza for lunch/dinner!

January's Goals, Moment of Squirreliness

December 27th, 2013 at 11:08 am


Hope that all had a wonderful Christmas Eve and Day! Ours was joyous and full of excitement!

I had a moment of squirreliness signing online this morning to see "Millions of People to Lose Unemployment Benefits on Sat". But, I can rationally work my way through thoughts like this and I have a plan for January (which is three paychecks and the normal monthly rental property income).

1) Make February's mortgage payment on the 17th, have half of March's mortgage payment on the 31st (this is normal spending practice)
2) Have $500 in reserve account (to be started at Chase to take advantage of a $200 bonus offer)
3) Prepay property taxes in the amount of $1,500 (income tax refund in Feb/March will also be applied to this and that will be gone from the table for the next year)
4) Pay $950 to outstanding balances for tuition/soccer
5) No spending for the month other than groceries/gas
And I'll be limiting driving and focusing on home reorganization and purging. I succumbed to a moment of jealousy looking at a friend's newly constructed and organized closets - maybe I'll ask to borrow her label maker? I will use whatever bins I have in the basement.
6) Move toward less processed and prepackaged things. Grow my collection of homemade recipes the family like. Found a very simple potatoes au gratin recipe that used swiss cheese and heavy whipping cream as the sauce (I'm sure I can find a lower cal recipe on line)

That's all for now. I'm sure I'll have more random thoughts about January as it nears!

Merry Christmas!

December 23rd, 2013 at 07:41 am


Merry Christmas to all my fellow Christmas-believing SA friends! Happy Holidays to all else. Smile

We're going to Mass at 4:00 on Christmas Eve, followed by dinner and gift exchange at my mom and stepdad's. We come home and watch "Toot and Puddle's I'll Be Home for Christmas". Then on Christmas morning we open the gifts from Santa and our Advent Buddies (our version of Secret Santa). I make peppermint bark with my oldest daughter. We're having my parents, inlaws, brother and best friend over at 1:00. The menu is ham, scalloped potatoes, green bean casserole, jello, rolls and the cake for dessert.

Our plans for vacation are a trip to the Morton Arboretum, either Brookfield Zoo or Museum of Science and Industry to buy a membership, making the Pinewood Derby Cars for Cub Scouts, sleepovers with friends, etc. All good fun, and mostly lowkey (membership will be purchased with monetary gifts already received).

I hope your plans are wonderful. Again, I count my community here as one of my blessings!

Personal growth in my relationship with money (other people's money)

December 19th, 2013 at 08:38 am


Thought I'd share a milestone that I seemed to have passed successfully. Worrying about other people's money. I suppose it finally comes from my own sense of financial well-being (that of my family's). Because of our faith, financial planning, and support of friends and family, we will be fine when the "ax falls".

Firstly, my brother has been employed in the new job for several months, has impressed the pants off the boss, was given a nice salary and bonus, and he bought a new car. I was happy for him. Not a smidge of jealousy, like "why can't I buy a new car". It wasn't piggish and he's driven used cars forever. He seemed to be excited that I was excited and he came over to take me for a ride. I was sick, but put my nap off for awhile. And I told him I'd pick up new floor mats that are on sale at Aldi's for $9.99.

And long story short, my best friend was almost arrested yesterday. To the point that I thought she had been arrested, called lawyer brother, prior to planning to call the police station. Anyhow there wasn't a bench warrant, and bail would have been $3K, costing $300. I told her that I would have bailed her out. Like I would leave her in jail. And I really didn't have much to say about her lack of judgment before and after the incident. Maybe I'm conserving my own energy?

And my biological father sent me a Christmas card with $1,000 in it. My brother shared our situation and he doubled what he usually given me for Christmas. We had a nice conversation, one of the better ones we've had in awhile. And when/if we need to pay Cobra for insurance, he would like to help us and pay for it. He told me that as a parent he always worries about me, and can cover that expense for as long as needed. He pays my brother's law school loans - and I was jealous and pouty about that for quite some time. So, I have an added measure of comfort with that. I can't really write about how I feel about the whole thing - other than that I am relieved.

I definitely be paying more toward the tuition bill tomorrow. And we decided on purchasing a membership as a family gift; now to decide whether it is the Brookfield Zoo or the Museum of Science and Industry.

So, if I tend my own garden, I can enjoy both smelling the roses in other people's gardens, and helping them weed if need be.

That is all.

Sharing a pic ...

December 18th, 2013 at 05:51 am

Remember our frugal outing a few months ago to Indiana, the one I was super-excited about, for our Christmas photo shoot at the "Flick stuck to the Flagpole"? I thought I would share one of the ones we took:





Slowly finishing up the cards (cut the list way down). Perhaps not enjoying the Season to its fullest, battling flu and stuff like that, but enjoying life nonetheless.

The interesting thing is I am not obsessing about money, or the limited potential of it in the future. DH is most likely in the rounds of pink slips for 3/1. He was told 2/15, but the temps are not going to be coming back, so maybe that gave him the extra two weeks? Not sure. But whatever, my husband is back. The pressure of the job is gone. No more tied to the laptop regarding the budget numbers. No more stress of meetings with the OD people. He's cheerful, engaged, and serious about losing the 20 pounds he's gained back in this position (past 5 months). He'd like to return to healthy eating and has pulled out the VitaMix from my MIL (juicing) and going to the Y.

Money-wise what is going on here:
1) Should be on target to make large tuition payment with Friday's paycheck.
2) Christmas was all cash and I ended up spending $35 on each grandparent/uncle which were all nicer items purchased on sale and with coupons
3) Will still make January's mortgage payment this month also
4) Tenant only paid $500 of $725 because of a car repair and Christmas. I didn't fret. She called to let us know and said she'd add $112.50 to the next two payments.
5) Looking into a less processed life for January - no prepared or prepackaged food, and considering homemade cleaning supplies
6) I've started a list of things we use regularly and things the kids will be needing so I can shop with a purpose. I think if I frequent Goodwill once a week, I'll be able to anticipate things and have them on hand.

So, that is all that is new here.

A quick: I'm baack, and Post-Employment Plan

December 12th, 2013 at 09:23 am

Thank you for all the kind words of reassurance from Tuesday. It is difficult to be home alone and let your mind run when you hear the words "definite unemployment" of the sole breadwinner and you are a SAHM with a largish family. DH also received a lot of support from his fraternal organization and already has had offers to pass on his resume, the offer of a mentor, and some other ideas have been shared. We are definitely blessed with supportive communities, both faith-based and cyber-based. Smile

DH will receive his pink slip on Monday the 15th. Our state requires 60 days notification, so February 15th will be his last day. Severance won't be offered as a lump sum, rather spread out as regular pay over 14 weeks following that. Our insurance premium will remain the same during that period. Once that is up, we will be eligible for COBRA for 15 months.

Immediate financial things:

1) End this year, owing only $2,500 for tuition. We will have $0 consumer debt and $10K in the bank.

2) In January, take $1,500 plus the tax refund to pay off pre-pay real estate taxes on our primary residence. This will be a relief to have that off of the table.

3) Take an additional $1,000 from the budget for January-May and put it in the EF. This will take us to the post-employment/unemployment budget that we put together.

I looked into cheaper alternatives to the crown that my husband needs, and came up with surprise how much less expensive it is at the dental clinic associated with the dental school in our town. I used $160 of my $200 Target gift cards to shop for groceries and household items using sales and coupons. I am feeling less Mother Hubbard-ish looking at my "stash". I was able to replace one son's school pants for $10 and his jeans for $7 at Target and was happy about that (included in the $160 spent).

The interesting thing about this experience is my DH is back, personality-wise. He was home at 5:15 the past two days. He drove kids around to soccer and dance. He listened to the oldest daughter's speech which she gives today (albino persecution in Tanzania). That is what I've missed the most. So I suppose it is a win-win for us as a family. We did get derailed the past five months with the "promotion" that wasn't worth it. There is also talk about expediting things to get DH moving onto the diaconate in March. That boat didn't sail with out him.

Tonight we're off to Mass at 5:30 to celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe's Feast Day. We'll be having a fiesta with our parish family. It is free and nothing beats faith and fellowship. And tomorrow we're singing with the Cub Scouts at the Rehab Hospital and Retirement Home before a cookie exchange.

My daughters switched dance schools. This is a start up school and they are happy to have the girls. The tuition is way less for double the class time. Only negative is that they danced for two solid hours yesterday and came home with bleeding blisters. Oldest daughter just babysat for our well-off friends who pay her $25 an hour. She asked if I could take for new shoes (about $40 for the soft) and pre-wrap. And then was quick to say she only needed a ride, not money. She'd be taking care of this purchase herself.

So, I really am leaving now until 2014. I am blessed to have the support here that I have and if I could give you all big hugs back, I would. But, you'll have to settle for a big old cyber-hug. Blessings and peace to you all.

The uncertainty is now certain ... and Unemployment is on the horizon

December 10th, 2013 at 09:49 am

Well, on the day that I am feeling mostly emotionally vulnerable (given the recent losses in our lives), DH's company has finally announced the location of the new OM-OD HQs. And it is in Boca Raton, FL, where we do not live. That means that in the near future, DH will be unemployed. We have known that this was a strong possibility and I've worked with the budget and have Plans A and B and scenarios, etc.

But, the possibility is now reality. Not quite "Well, if it happens" but "When it happens." There really isn't much to do - could take another six weeks to two months - severance and 1/2 a bonus will be about 3-1/2 month living expenses.

The kids' Christmas gifts are done. Our gift buying circle is small and almost done. I managed to get DH a new warm Columbia coat free after Kohl's cash.

My parents were going to buy me book cases for my family room for Christmas. Do you think it is tacky to just ask for cash?

I kept back $96 cash of my birthday money (from November) for After Christmas sales, but I'll give some of it to DH to buy a Christmas gift for me. I've stressed to the kids the importance of kindness to their Advent Buddies (our Catholic version of Secret Santa) - I think we'll limit that to shopping only at FIVE BELOW. Our Christmas card list is going to be shortened. I wanted to start a new stitching project and will check out the free patterns at DMC-USA.

I think that I'll be going off radar for awhile. I need some time away from technology and stuff to redirect my efforts and energy. I will see you all in 2014 with hopefully a clearer plan to share and maybe some goals? Though I imagine it will simply be for self-sufficiency.

It is my sincerest wish that you all have a truly wonderful holiday season abundant with the blessings that only family and friends and good health can bring! Merry Christmas to my fellow Christians!

See you after the calendar page turns.

Edited to add: My mom and stepdad, after hearing of the certainty of unemployment, came over with a gallon of chocolate milk and a big bag of Babybell cheese (a splurge that I occasionally buy). Oh, to learn to smile and be happy with small indulgences ... instead I started to cry, and I HATE it when anyone sees me cry *sigh*

Definitely on an emotional rollercoaster right now. Prayers are appreciated.

Hoping for a happy day ...

December 10th, 2013 at 05:58 am


Boy, it has been a rough couple of days. Lots of sadness mixed in with happiness and I'm sort of feeling the fatigue of the emotional roller-coaster.
Right after Thanksgiving, my ex-stepmother died. I've had several and she was the most mother-like, always nice to me, and whenever I saw her in the past ten years after the divorce, she was always fun and happy. She didn't have an easy go it, losing her son in a tragic accident, having my father as a whack-a-doodle husband, and the having her sister die. THEN my Godmother's father died the Sunday after Thanksgiving. He was 90, but always a happy little Italian man who loved me and my girls at family functions. And then this past Sunday, my husband's Great Aunt died. From the estranged branch of the family, but I always liked her and admired her character for retiring early (as the youngest unmarried sibling) who then just took of her older unmarried siblings who needed care (from Alzheimer's and Parkinsons, etc). Anyhow, there will no funeral or wake for her because ... I don't know why. I am having her acknowledged at a school Mass as belonging to our family. I am just too saddened by the whole fact that she was here and isn't and there is only a cremation with no service. So that has taken a huge emotional toll.

But then throw in some really fun things: dinner with the newly weds who are family friends, who loved my 6t grader's basketball game; my kids' first viewing of "The Christmas Story" on large screen. Shopping at Target for the Adopt-a-Family children in my 9th grader's homeroom (spent more than budgeted and didn't even feel bad), my youngest loves to give $1 to the Salvation Army bell ringers and I love that about him. Hot chocolate and Christmas carols.

My equilibrium is totally thrown. It isn't fun being dysthymic around the holidays!

It is horribly cold here (read that as: 1 degree). I am still caring for my brother's dogs, going over for breakfast and dinner and DH does the evening walk. I think I'm heading back to bed because I am tired.

On a money note, I received the $200 gift cards from Target (after the purchase of several ipods for Christmas gifts), so I am going to sit down with their ads and my coupons and see if I can make it til Christmas (taking into account a ham and other fixings for dinner, and baking needs). We've just finished the last of the leftovers from our Italian dinner on Friday, and it's meatloaf today.

Also, my girls are switching Irish Dance schools which will present a savings over what we are paying and they're going back to twice a week. Happy about that ...

All for now - if you're still with me, thanks for following the brain dump.

Confucius says ...

December 6th, 2013 at 06:26 am

"He who will not economize will have to agonize."

My 6th grader shared the above quote with me. Said it reminded him of me. I asked why. He said because I am a planner. Maybe I'm instilling something of value in my children - talking about plans A and B? I hope so.

Today was payday. I paid an additional $6.06 to the mortgage (small wa-hoo) (Our balance is $251,300 - I had hoped to get it below $250K this year, but didn't). I paid $1,250 in high school tuition, $125 to elementary school, and $125 to soccer. Goal for December: $1,415 to tuition, $150 to elementary school, $175 to soccer.

I paid cash for new ipods for Christmas for the kids. I'm waiting on $200 in Target gift cards which should be here in a few days. I used the Red Debit card and paid cash. I've earmarked those funds for household/grocery spending. Until then, it minimal grocery shopping every few days. We're having friends over for dinner tonight and it's Italian - so I have most ingredients in house.

Well, off to embrace some more "economizing" ...

December ... how did you get here so fast?

December 3rd, 2013 at 05:41 am


Well, a blink of an eye and time flies.

We had some wonderful time during our six-days off from school. My aunt didn't make the Amtrak from for her week-long visit. Apparently her pre-arranged ride died the week before, she didn't confirm, and missed the train. My parents were able to get their ticket fare back less $8.50. Yay Amtrak, for having spot-on customer service. My mom was bummed for all her planning, and it was a bit annoying to have keep saying, "But, *we* can still have fun without Aunt Linda!" We took a ride downtown anyhow and spent the afternoon at the Art Institute. We still had an awesome time at Drury Lane, enjoying "A Christmas Carol" and a kid-friendly brunch. We rang in the Liturgical New Year with our best friends and it was wonderful.

I'm learning to say only what I need to in some interactions with people who are or have been an energy suck in the past. Best friend, sadly included. She declared bankruptcy and needs to have hip surgery. It is difficult to make suggestions that are probably feasible, to have them shut down. So I don't have much more to say about it. She's mad at me and hasn't called in four days. I imagine she'll get over it and will need me in the next week or two. My volunteer companion for Scouts is back up to five emails a day, of which only one or two are really pertinent. His overbearing presence is that of "helper" even when you don't need "help", haven't asked, or even hinted that there might be a problem.

Our tree goes up tonight. YAY! Hot chocolate and peppermint sticks and snacks for dinner. Christmas music and ornaments ... my favorite things of the Christmas Season.

DH is still employed (unhappily) though we should know his fate this week. He's talking more to some temps that OM has hired on for the short-term. Maybe figuring which agency he'd like to work with.

Nothing new on the money front. All is quiet. That is not a bad thing ...