Thursday, December 30, 2010

tripple crud

three days back to work and i caught the crud. then i gave it to the baby. a few days later. my husband rounded it out by catching his own version of the crud a few days after that.

i'm finally better, but the baby is not. he's snotty and stuffy. avoiding the bulb syringe has helped him hone his aim, backhand, and scream.

he also seems to be outgrowing his reflux meeds dose. the plan with his doctor was to try and maintain his dose as he grows as a way to wean him off. the acid in his stomach seems to disagree. the last few days he's been fussier when spitting up about half of the time and generally cranky. today when wiping up some spit up i noticed reddish orange flecks suspended in the yuck. so somewhere between his stomach and lips there's a little bleeding happening.

because fun comes in three's our boy is also gassy. and trying to pass gas makes him spit up.

dealing with the fussiness and general unhappy is no fun. though there isn't much i wouldn't do for him to feel good.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Big Changes

Outside of the whole growing a person thing there have been some big changes at Casa POMF. Last night we signed closing papers to refinance our house. Last week we paid off the Prius. Now we're just a wee bit broke.

The refinance will save us $300/month, cut out PMI, and cut our rate 1.67%. Sadly, refinancing was almost (if not more) complicated that originally purchasing the house. The biggest pain was the appraisal process. The short story is appraiser 1 committed appraisal fraud. In between appraisal 1 and 2 we were doing things like choosing paint colors, getting supplies/packages for baby, and just a general me being pregnant. Scheduling time off to meet people and keep things neat while trying to finish up at work was no fun. The up side of the crazy is our house appraised 20K higher than when we bought it. This was also 20K higher than appraisal 1.

We kept the mortgage in just my name due to credit reasons. Though I had no problem getting a mortgage the first time around this time our debt to income rations with just my income were too high. So after a few discussions of the options we decided to pay off the Prius. This wiped out the majority of our cash on hand. I just updated our spreadsheet/Networth IQ and we went from around 20K in cash to 6K in cash. Half of that is currently allocated to something specific, but liquid if we need it.

The upside is we should be able to rebuild our cushion pretty quickly. Making those two moves is saving us $810/month. For the next few months we'll send the money we would have sent to the mortgage/etc to our efund to get it rebuilt. This also reduces how much we need in case of emergency, because we don't have as many obligations.

While all of that has been going on we've also gotten the nursery painted, bought the last of the baby furniture, purchased carseats and gotten the carpets cleaned in anticipation of the baby/my mom's arrival. This weekend was my shower, so the living room looks like a baby store threw up all over it, in the best possible way.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Thoughts on Space

In the 3 months since I've posted time has sped by. The baby is due in 5.5 weeks. We've gotten all of the big baby stuff (car seat, crib, dresser, stroller)- or at least ordered it. I closed out the fiscal year at work and am getting my coworkers prepped for my maternity leave. Half of the fall programming I run is scheduled and the other half is underway. We're also in the middle of refinancing our mortgage, possibly paying off the Prius, and getting ready for the added expenses of baby.

There is a lot to blog about in that last paragraph but something a friend put on facebook yesterday is bugging me. The friend is married, both working professionals, and recently they had twins. I don't know the numbers, but I'd guess they earn in the $100-150 range as a couple.

They live in a 3 bedroom, 2 story house in a suburban style neighborhood not too far from us. Zillow says it's 1800 sq feet. They have a master, an office, and the twins currently share a room. The house is upside down, I'm guessing by approx $40K, though the area is slowly starting to rebound.

With twins they feel that the house is too small. Our friend has said multiple times that they're bursting at the seams. They just found out that they can't qualify for a short sale because they make too much money. Until then the plan had been to short sell their current place and buy a bigger place*. So now they're considering letting the house go into foreclosure.

To me the whole thing just seems crazy. Totally screw your credit, ability to buy anything for 7-10 years, and your neighbors because you think your house is too small.

My husband and I were discussing this last night and I realized that a big part of the outlook has to do with our beginnings. This couple has always lived (even as kids) in suburban type homes. Hubby and I are both city kids. Each of us remembers periods where multiple relatives were living with us for whatever reason in less than 1,000 sq foot homes. Our families made due because that was the circumstance they found themselves in and what was necessary to take care of everyone.

To us enough space is a very relative thing. Our current house is large (2500+ sq ft). We bought when the market was crashing with the idea that we could stay here for 20 years, raise 2-4 kids, and be happy if necessary. But if we only had 1,000 sq feet we could make that work too.

It just seems like such a waste to ruin so much of your financial life over 500-1000 sq feet.

*Though the logistics of that makes my head hurt.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Unexpected Pregnancy Expenses

There are a couple of things you expect to spend money on when you're pregnant. The are the clothes, the doctors appointments and prenatal classes. In the past few months I've noticed a few other areas.

Most recently it's been gasoline. Before I started growing another person I was always cold when it was cold and really good at withstanding the heat. Like I lived in DC for 2 years with no A/C and didn't melt. What people failed to tell me is that being pregnant is like turning on a furnace in your body. Now if it's warmer than 73 and sunny I have to have the A/C on in my car. I have tried all sorts of things (cold water in the car, fan going, windows, A/C for a few to cool the car then the fan) and none of it works. I end up crabby at best, but most days it's more along the lines of feeling faint.

Similarly, I'm expecting our electric bill to go up over the summer. Usually we just open windows at night and do nothing during the day over the summer months. Hubby complains here and there but otherwise deals. Something tells me I won't be able to. This is still uncertain because warm days in clumps it's still been pretty cold here. Our furnace is still going since I caved in October and got it started for the season.

Then there's food. Not so much the volume, but the kinds/quality. I'm trying to buy more organics when it comes to fruits and veggies. I'm also being careful about protein. I met with a dietitian last fall and her main point for my vegetarian pregnancy was getting 3 animal sources of protein a day and eating enough protein in general. I made the switch from regular yogurt to Greek yogurt because of it's higher protein ounce for ounce.

On the other hand there are the things that I inexplicably crave. Like K*raft Mac and Cheese. The volume of prepared things I buy because I'm often lacking in energy or the going out to eat is not good, but I have to eat. Also, all of a sudden I hate leftovers. I put a 24-36 hour window on anything I bring home in case it appeals to me again but my husband is definitely benefiting.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Neighborly Fences

This year will be our second full summer in the house. On a to do list since we got the place has been putting in a back fence. The sides of our yard to the east and west have fences (but in by those neighbors) but the north and south ends are open. To the south we have neighbors and the north side is the front of the house where there would be two smaller portions.

Our plan had been to save up enough cash and approach the backyard neighbors about splitting that part of the fence. Only within 2 months of us moving in the backyard neighbors moved out. The house was on the market for 8-10 months and mid last summer we got new neighbors. The fence would have probably been at the top of the list of things to do this summer but I'm trying to be conservative with the baby on the way.

The other bit of info is that we've never actually met the backyard neighbors. On their second night my husband tried but failed miserably. Since there is no backyard fence (and social graces aren't his strong suit) he decided to just walk across the yards and knock on their patio sliding door. Other than the inviting himself onto other people's property business, he did this at dusk. He's a former college football player (defensive stuff) who was sporting a pretty crazy afro. So hubby walks up to the sliding door when it's a bit dark (and in my opinion) scares the bejesus out of the new neighbors. The neighbor husband freaks out and starts yelling. Mine gets offended because he was just trying to be neighborly and comes back to our house in a huff.

Not too long after that I got depressed. Around when I started feeling better mother nature decided that lots of snow was in order. From mid-October to late February our backyard was buried (the front yard didn't fully melt until late April). All of this was followed by the first trimester. Otherwise known as the 'why is my body made of lead' or 'can I take another nap yet' period of life. That's the long way of explaining why 10 months later I haven't introduce myself or mended fences.

So tonight when I get home there's an envelope in the door with a note and an estimate. The note essentially said hi, can't believe we haven't met, we're getting a fence installed this weekend. The fence will match your other parts, if you have questions give us a call. The estimate is from the fencing company. It breaks down the work on the north, south, east, and west portions of their yard. They highlighted the description of what will border our property.

My initial thought is we should offer them some cash towards that part of the work. Hubby thinks it was a veiled way of asking us to contribute and if they want money they should have asked.

So do we offer? Do we take it as a nice note letting us know there will likely be workmen in our yard? Or do we just keep on moving?

Half is approx $550. If we shift around some of the priorities/plans that I wrote about last time we could probably get this out of our next checks. Getting the rest of our yard finished (based on their estimates) would be another $700. Just in case that factors in for anyone else.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Baby Changes

Over the past few months I've read a lot about getting your finances ready for baby and we'll be making so significant changes to where our money goes. Most of these changes will be temporary- but help us handle any big changes after the baby. Each month I'll pay the required things- mortgage, monthly credit card bill, car payment, student loan, utilities and what we set aside for insurance. In a perfect world I'd pay these all directly from my husband's check but I don't think that will be possible again until June/July. Any additional funds that are left (including my paychecks) will go to new sub account titled baby stuff and oh baby.

Baby stuff is for (shocker) the things we'll need to get for the baby. I'm giving us a tentative budget of $3000 for gear, including the crib, mattress, car seats, and clothes that we aren't otherwise gifted at the baby shower. I'm hoping that our friends with older babies will want to give us their used stuff so we don't have to spend anywhere near this amount.

Oh baby is the baby related emergency fund. A few days a week I listen to Dave Ramsey at lunch. Anytime someone says they're having a baby he tells them to pile up cash (what you would send to debts otherwise) until the baby gets here. If everything goes fine make a huge debt repayment. If there's a problem for mama or baby you have the cash to help deal with it. I was on the fence about this initially but then I got a survey from my HR department. They're currently shopping for next year's (July 1 for us) rates. Right now I have an HMO and delivering the baby would be $1000 but the survey made it seem like everything, including high deductible HSA plans, was on the table. Since I'll deliver within 2 months of our new plan start I want to make sure we're covered if the costs change drastically.

Any money in the checking account above the regular bills will go into two funds or the low months fund. It will be 30% to baby stuff, 30% to Oh baby, and 40% to the low months fund. Once we get baby stuff to $3,000 I'll reevaluate the percentages. Last year I optimistically thought $3,400 would get us through the low months. This year I want to aim for $10,000. I won't be able to work the extra hours over the fall/winter and maybe spring. I also don't want to worry about money while we're getting to know the baby.

The only bill we will pay more that what is actually due on is my student loan. When I switched to reduced payments it was with the understanding that I'd be paying the original amount each month to avoid extending repayment.

Friday, April 16, 2010

How much is a week worth

Our fiscal agent for work, who is also technically our employer, has a kind of crazy vacation policy. The start of this fiscal year we could accrue PTO without limit. This year they decided that at the start of each fiscal year they don't want anyone to have more than 80 hours, scaling us down in 32 hour increments each quarter. If you don't meet the new limit you don't accrue new PTO.

Yesterday I sat down with HR to ask about some of my maternity leave questions. We don't technically have maternity leave. We have a burn all of your vacation hours and then you can access an extended leave bank plan. Though I work for a non profit, so I'm not really complaining. After those two options you can also take 30 days of unpaid leave. When we talked HR lady brought up an alternative to what I had been planning- stop taking PTO now (and accruing in July) if that will give me more time.

I'm aiming for about 10 weeks off full time and then coming back 1-2 days a week at a time. The baby is due September 10th. The other thing about my boss that is great is she will let me flex time around appointments, so I don't have to take off the time for appointments.

Currently I have 110 hours. We accrue 18.7 hours each month. April's time hasn't been accrued yet. The extended leave plan will be at 190 hours by then.

Plan A- Take enough time off over April, May, June to get down to 80 hours. This is aprox 1 day a week until the end of June. The time off is wonderful, though sometimes a challenge to fit in. My boss is awesome though and sometimes lets us fudge things a bit. July-baby I will accrue 18.7 hours/month. (117.4 hours)

Plan B- Stop taking time off now. I will accrue the 18.7 hours for April-June and stop accruing (166 hours total)

Plan B gives an additional 48 hours or 1 week and 1 day of time post baby, for a total of 4.15 weeks of paid time before extended leave. Plan A gives 2.93 weeks post baby before extended leave. But plan 8 means taking 86 hours over the next 2.5 months.

I can't decide if the time now or the time later is better. Since I have the additional buffer of 30 days leave without pay it comes down to my pay for that additional time. Is 6-7 days of pay worth not taking time off between now and the baby?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A bit much

In a move of stunning brilliance I think I've really over scheduled my next 10 days. Today I have a quarterly report, a letter telling someone I can't pay for her class, creating certificates, and editing multiple MOUs while missing 3.5 hours due to meetings. Tomorrow I'm off, which means all of the work stuff must happen today. Tomorrow I'll be doing my hair (it's an all day process) in preparation for a banquet for hubby's job Saturday evening. That morning I'll be subbing for one of my trainers for 6.5 hours. Starting Sunday morning I'm babysitting overnight for a week for a 7 yr old boy.

Just typing that makes me want a nap.

On the up side I get paid for the last two things. I didn't discuss a rate for babysitting, but that will be somewhere in the $300-400 range. This is more because she's a great friend of my mom's than for the money. If they didn't have the relationship I wouldn't have taken the job. On Saturday I'll make $27/hr for those 6.5 hours. Though if I can find another sub in the next 36 hours I'll happily give it up.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A little conversation

The sceen: Our living room. Sitting on different couches, laptops in both of out laps. Project Runway playing in the background. I'm working on the month end numbers, he's listening to something on his laptop because he hates PR.

Me: Pause what you're doing, I want to tell you something.
Him: What?
Me: (very excited) All of our debt is under $200K.
Him: (very dejected) That's just depressing.
Me: Dude, we've paid of $10K in 3 months. In the three months where you make the least. That's pretty impressive.
Him: No no, still depressing.

Though he thinks it's depressing I'm still excited. That's every penny we owe someone else, including our mortgage.

Dear CO,

You rock. We submitted out taxes on a Saturday. By the following Friday our refund was in our bank account. It has long since made it's way to our car loan. I am happy.

Tonight I should get through out month end numbers and get those posted. There's also been some maternity shoping. And lots of sleeping.

Happy Tuesday :)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Taxes Done!

This morning, for the first time in my life, I paid someone to do our taxes. It took around 1.5 hours and cost $190. I wouldn't say it's the best money I ever spent, but it's pretty high up there. I like not worrying about if I made a mistake in my interpretation and avoiding my husband freaking out. Though in the end she said I seemed really on top of things- which made me smile.

2009 was less complicated than 2008, but we still had a lot going on. 2 W-2's, 1 1099, bank interest, student loan and mortgage interest, donations, car purchase deduction (federal) and credit (state) & a home energy credit (door replacement).

I ran our taxes a few different times at home in February. One program had us getting a little more and one had us getting a little less than where we ended up. Though on the one where we had more I definitely didn't get enough guidance from the program I was using about the property loss not covered by our insurance and would have claimed something illegally.

In the end we're getting back just over $7,000. The state car credit was a huge ($3,110) part of that. The rest is due to unexpected deductions/stimulus stuff and my husband being squeamish about withholding. One year when he was single and working in the mortgage industry (with only 401(k) as tax shelter) he ended up owing a lot of money. Ever since he's wanted to claim 0. Logical thinks like being married and owning a house and having (my) student loan debt don't seem to compute. I'm trying to get us to both claim 1 for the rest of the year to avoid another huge return.

Approx $3,400 of the return will go to the Prius. My thought is if we get the money for buying the car it should help pay for the car. I'm pretty sure one of us, or maybe the dealer, used the state credit when discussing price. He wants to figure out which of us overpaid by how much (after the credits/deductions things like the car) and give 20% of that back to each of us, but that seems like a lot of math and brain cells. After the $3400 I think the remainder should be split in thirds and send to the baby fund, medical savings, and efund.

Baby fund is new and somewhat amorphous, but at least helping to buy baby furniture/stuff that we'll need after the baby shower. Medical savings is also new, but this year will be a pretty expensive medical year. Copays on OB visits are going to run around $350. Delivery will either be $500 or $1,000 depending on if a perk from a year ago still exists. So best case we're looking at $850 until the baby gets here and assuming absolutely nothing is out of the ordinary.

We have around 2 weeks (if not more) for the money to actually show up so I'm not going to stress about it right now. But it feels good to be done for the year.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Two years ago I started this blog I was a few months out of grad school, starting a new job, and trying to get our finances on track. In the year before my husband had a hard time finding a job that was a good fit as his industry (mortgage) started to fall apart. I'd just acquired almost $40K in debt between school and my car. I knew we needed a plan to get out of debt and I needed a space to talk about it.

A big part of my motivation has always been choices. Owing others reduces the options you have- short and long term. We're not there, but we're closer and each month I feel like our options open up more.

Though I never really talked about it (or at least can't find in my archives) I wanted to have a choice when we had kids. I didn't want to have to work if I chose not to. I didn't want to have to stay home because all of my income was going to child care. I also didn't want be stuck with a child care situation I didn't like because we couldn't afford more. At any point I wanted us to be able to make the best financial choice for our family.

Until January 3rd all of the planning was pretty theoretical. We got the very exciting news that we're expecting our first child in September.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Networth- $12,998

I finally updated my networth on Networth IQ this month after taking a January break. Things are moving upwards, despite some spending, so I'm happy.

In less than a year we've paid off 32% of the Prius. In the middle of 2009 my goal was to get the amount owed under $20K before they year ended. In 2010 we're working to get the balance under $10K. There will be some tax return money headed to the car (state hybrid credit, federal stimulus on the car tax) that will definitely help out. When I gave him my estimate (I've run our taxes 2-3 times now) he started daydreaming about what we would do with it until I quickly shut him down. I think if we're getting money back on the car purchase that money should pay down the car. He reluctantly agreed.

Our emergency fund also seems to have made significant gains- up to 70% of our goal. When we had the break in the efund was used to replace the stuff we lost. Our check was issued but got lost in the mail and reissuing it took forever. While all of that was happening $500/month from my salary was going into the efund so we're getting close to our short term goal of $10K. Any refund outside of the car items will go here.

The next 2, my student loan and our mortgage, are a bit more depressing. We're 1/4 of the way to getting out from under PMI/having 80% of our mortgage paid. Our PMI is less than $90/month, so it could be worse, but pissing away that money irritates me. In the next few weeks we may also tackle a refi. My student loan, despite 2 yrs of paying with a few over payments here and there, is only 17% paid off. As soon as the Prius is gone this baby is going to get knocked out. The recent rate reduction and my plan to get to another rate reduction in 15 months should both help.

In other news we bought a dining table and new couches, finishing out the downstairs. These purchases happened over the holiday break. Even though we're working on paying off debt we decided that we want to furnish our house over time instead of waiting until we are done. Until this point we haven't had a kitchen/dinning table. When we started living on his salary $250/paycheck went into a house stuff fund to take care of the table, chairs we'll need for outside, and any other house projects that come up.

The couches weren't planned for. On Christmas my husband broke the sofa that we had. Don't ask. At this point a love seat and sofa were the only furniture we had downstairs, so we decided to replace the set (moving the broken set to another area where the back of the couch can be supported). Luckily we had more than enough for the couches in the house stuff account. We were 4 days from the paycheck that would give us enough money when we bought the table. I honestly can't remember why, but we put them on a 0% store card. There was some logic at the time. Regardless, all of that money is hanging out and we could pay it off at any time. We'll enjoy the 1% interest the money is earning in the mean time.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Persistence Paying Off

A while back I wrote about issues with a student loan benefit. The short version is after 24 on time payments they do a 1% rate reduction. In month 22 they pulled funds 1 day later than my payment date & I set transfers too close together so it overdrafted. At first it looked like things were going to be fine, until the next months payments. Then my payment counter reset to 1.

Since them I've called my student loan company to talk about this 4 times. The first 3 times I was essentially told 'sometimes life sucks.' Since my counter was still moving (at this point 2 payments were made) I came up with a plan to get the rate reduction sooner. I was on standard repayment ($316) and realized if I lowered my monthly payments by switching to graduated payments ($209) but still payed $316 each month I'd hit 24 payments in 15 months instead of 24. The only thing about this that is a pain is I'll have 2 payments for the loan each month. They auto debit $209 each month and I have to manually make another payment for $107 each month.

The math is ($209 x 24)/$316= 15.8 months.

My student loans are fixed at 6.5, so the rate reduction was a big deal. With the graduated payments the amount I pay goes up every 2 years. Since we'll keep paying my standard payment this won't increase interest on the life of the loan. Also the student loan is next up in our debt snowball. It should be on deck (ie the Prius should be paid off) before the end of 2011.

When I called to sign up for graduated payments I got very hypothetical with the guy I was talking to. I told him my master plan was to get the rate reduced and asked if there was a better way for me to go. He got me signed up for graduated payments and said he'd look into the rate reduction problem.

I geared up for the 15 months of weird payments and forgot all about his promise. Yesterday I logged on to get numbers for our net worth spreadsheet and scanned all of the info like always when I saw the rate reductions. A little happy dance may have ensued.

The rate reduction won't change any of our plans for payment in the years. I'll make the two payments each month and we'll get to the next rate reduction (at 48 on time payments) that much sooner. Each of these changes will reduce the total interest we'll pay and the overall length of the loan, but at this point I'm late for work.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Eating my words

I met my husband when I was 19. Young and idealistic and prone to saying things that current me wouldn't. I don't think I'm all that different at the core, just more practical.

So one day 19 or maybe 20 year old me was having a conversation with 24 year old him about future kids and how we'd raise them. Language came into play and he said he wanted our kids to learn the national language of his father's heritage. As a bit of background, our parents are from all over. His mother is the only one who was born here and the others are all from different countries. Each of our father's are from countries where a language other than English is the main language. My mother's home nation uses English, but there's a dialect that most of my family speaks.

Most of my husband's family (including my husband) speaks language A, which is less well known in the whole country. He proposed that we both learn language B, the national language, and in turn teach it to our children. 19 year old me said yes.

Honestly I'd forgotten all about that discussion until a few months ago. He saw a language program at the mall during the holidays and brought it up again. For some reason I didn't stop him. Now he's ready to buy the program (to the tune of $500) and I just don't want to.

I'm not very good at learning language. Really, I'm stunningly bad. I'd say I speak English and can get by in Spanish and that's after 9 years of instruction and 4 months of living in a Spanish speaking country.

There's also the fact that half of his family won't talk to us. They're upset that he didn't marry someone of his nationality and recently snubbed us when we were in their hometown. Also, all of his family in the US (he doesn't have contact with those back home) speak English. His father doesn't actually know either dialect.

On the other hand my father & stepmother live in their home country. I never learned growing up because my parent's split. My stepmom's English has faded since they moved home 10 years ago thought my father's English is pretty good. All of the extended family in the US speak both languages, but tend to lapse into the other language when together because it's everyone's first language. I don't necessarily think I want us to learn my father's language (fall back on I'm really bad at language) but if we're going to learn one I think the one that will help our kids communicate with the family should take precedence.

I think if anything we should raise our children with a language that will help them as they grow. Our city is 35% hispanic/latino and 90% of job applications say something like 'Spanish preferred.' Or how about Mandarin? Outside of visiting his father's country language B is rarely used.

So here we are, my husband ready to spend a whole lot of money on something that I've technically agreed to that I don't think is practical. I know it's important to him, so in the end I'll cave, but I really wish I could go back 9 years and say something else.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The difference age makes

A friend and I spent some time discussing a proposal from her parents the other day. Her parents want to cosign an adjustable rate, $0 down mortgage on a condo for her and her sister. The parents will subsidize the mortgage up front, keeping her rent at it's current level but in much swankier digs.

Five years ago when we were just out of school I would have thought this was a great setup. I would have been envious. Now I shake my head at her parent's denial and try to talk her out of it.

The problems are numerous- adjustable rate, when rates are so low? Why oh why would you do that??? I'm guessing it has something to do with crazy factor 2, $0 down. Issue three- she and her sister don't really want to live together. They both like the lifestyle they could have together, but actually being together for the past few weeks they've reverted back to their teen years.

The greater issue is my friend has a shopping addiction. She has just under $5,000 in credit card debt even though her parents paid off her balances this spring to help her start fresh when she finished grad school. I cannot begin to fathom what you would spend $5,000 on in 8 months.

Her rent is pretty low, she has a full time job and has since picked up 2 side gigs to make some extra money. She understands that she has a problem. But every time she struggles her parents try to swoop in. Partially because they love her in their own crazy way and partially because they're controlling. I can't count the times where they've offered a car, apartment, trip, etc to get her to do something their way.

On the phone I told her that I love her and will support her in any healthy way that she needs. I also emphatically said she's not ready for a mortgage. Until she can handle her day to day bills responsibly taking on a 30 year commitment just doesn't make sense. She needs to put in the work to get rid of her debt on her own. More importantly she needs to face her addiction to keep from running up more debt. Then she can think about saving for a down payment.

I'm thinking about getting her a PF book to help her on her journey. Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover comes to mind, but can you think of anything better?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How much is your time worth?

A lot of people talk about the value of your time when talking about things like coupon cutting or running all over time looking for deals. Over the past month my mom and I have been discussing the value of her time.

My mom is 60. She has a master's degree that she never utilized. The degree and my arrival came within a year of each other. Instead of taking pay and benefits cut to start over in the industry where she got her degree she stayed at her secure job with good benefits. She stayed there for 25 years, leaving only when my step father's transfer took them to the south. When they first moved she looked at the available jobs and decided to go into real estate.

Can you guess where this is going? After loosing money in 2008 my mom and her partner hung up their shingles. In 2009 my mom alternated between fretting about work and considering it an early retirement. As an in between she signed up with a temp agency.

For the past month she's been working as a receptionist from 8-6. The people are nice and it's only 5 minutes from her house. She's making a little less than $10/hr. There's a possibility that it could go full time, but in the interview they made it very clear that $10.00 would be the max pay. Though she'd like more that's about average for where she lives.

So is it worth it?

My step-dad is working as a contractor for his former company post retirement. His income covers the household bills and he helps his grandson pay for college. So financially speaking, my mom doesn't need to work. She just misses having her own income. Her schedule for most of the last year included going to the gym 4-6 times a week, keeping their house up to her insane standards, cooking healthy food, reading, and being there whenever I need to talk.

Since she started working she's remembered how hard it is to do all of those things with a set schedule. She's only been working out 1-2 times a week and is stressed about getting everything done. My step-dad admittedly needs to pick up a bit more slack, but he works 4 10's with a 60 mile commute each way. So it's really 12.5 hr days 4 days a week.

I think she shouldn't take the job. If anything I think she should find something part time so she still has time to take care of her (and his) health. I don't need gifts/mom sponsored visits home which accounts for 1/2 the reason she wants her own income. She transferred 1/4 of what she's made so far into one of my accounts for my birthday. I'll get something fun because it will make her happy- but I'd much rather have a healthy mom 15 yrs from now than birthday/Christmas gifts.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

An Expensive Yes

Recently my friend Anne got engaged. She and her boyfriend recently took a vacation and I commented to my husband that if he didn't pop the question on the trip I'd have to beat him up. Luckily he did, at a place that means a lot to them, so I don't have to fly across the country and whoop his behind.

Anne and I met at my first 'real' job. Over a few months we got closer and she became a part of my circle of friends. We had regular chip + guac dates to discuss the guys we were dating. The night before her first date with Oz I ended up spending the night at her house. Maybe there was snow? Or we stayed out too late and I missed the last train? Or maybe because we were in our early 20's and why not? I ended up making her late to the date where everything went wrong in the best possible way.

This weekend she asked me to be her co-maid of honor. Without a thought I said yes because I love her and I love them and I can't think of a better way to celebrate their union.

Then the responsibilities and associated costs hit me. She's in the mid-Atlantic and the wedding will be in New England. I'm not. Assuming 2 trips (combined shower/bachlorette weekend then the wedding) at $300/flight, the trip to the wedding for the hubby, a dress, and food/lodging/alcohol for it all this is looking like a $1.5-2K answer.

On the up side my personal savings fund could pay for this now and I have 18 months to get things sorted out. I'll be renaming one of my ING subaccounts for the wedding and cutting back on my personal spending so I can save more.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Presumptuous Snow Guy

Over the holidays we got a bit of snow. As soon as we'd shoveled up one storm another 24 hour storm that dumped 8-1o inches came through. Just as I was gearing up to get round one done someone knocked on the door offering to shovel twice (that afternoon and the next morning) for $25. We told him we'd be open to shoveling in the future and gave him our number.

This week we had the first snow with any accumulation for the year. It snowed overnight and into the day. When I left for work it was maybe about 1.5 inches. At this point I should explain that my household has a pretty lazy snow policy. Less than 3 inches and we do the sidewalk and a path to the door and let mother nature take care of the rest. The rest of the week temps should be near 50 and the little bit of snow would melt away. So when I got home last night I was a little shocked that my husband had shoveled. He's been sick and had succumb to Ny*quil by the time I got home so we didn't talk about it.

This morning he found a note on the door from the snow guy basically saying that he hopes we don't mind that he shoveled and he'll be back in the morning for his regular $15 fee.

This is irritating on multiple levels. You never assume that someone has the money to pay you. If you want to work a side business (as many of you are familiar with) you hold onto things like phone numbers and build a relationship with your clients. Also, who charges the same amount for shoveling 2 inches and 6 inches? Finally, who even shovels 2 inches. When it's going to be 50 degrees in 2 days. Though I said our general snow policy is lazy, only one other person on our block (~9 houses) has a shoveled driveway. You shovel the walkway for the kids and let mama nature take her course.

So now we technically owe this guy $15 dollars that we don't have to spend.

What would you do internets?


Do you ever have so much going on that you don't know where to start? That's where my blog posts are. On my morning drive I think up all sorts of things I would like otshare vut can never decide what comes first.

Last weekend was the busiest I've had in a while and it was great. I went to a crafty baby shower, out to dinner and fell asleep on the couch before 9pm on Saturday. I also took a second stab at our taxes online. Largely because I'm anal.

On Sunday morning I had a horrible sinus headache due to the weather so I chilled on the couch. My doc doesn't want me taking my usual meds so there was much laying around/whimpering. On the way to our to the Super Bowl party I requested a drug store detour, where I met the most unhelpful pharmacist ever and bought a neti pot. We got to the party early enough so that I could help make some of the food and chill with my friend before the boys got loud. I realize that I like cooking for others and being around a group, but I hate hosting. This friend likes hosting so I try to get there early enough to help set up and also help her clean up at the end.

I may have also eaten half a bag of Doritos. Maybe...

Thursday, January 28, 2010


In last night's state of the union President Obama talked about the jobs that have been saved or created. In this morning's press leading Republican have claimed that the stimulus didn't do much of anything for jobs.

I'm getting ready to go to work this morning, as I have every morning since July 1, in large part due to the stimulus. My position is grant funded. Last year grants shrunk in a major way. So my boss spent a lot of May trying to figure out how we would be able to keep all 5 of us on. In the end we got stimulus funding via a state contract. The stimulus funds are paying for a large portion of the programming we offer, allowing our other grant funds to go to salary.

If we cut the stimulus out of our budget I would be working 1/3-1/2 time right now. Our admin assistant (a single mother of a preschooler) would be unemployed or not working more than 1/3 time.

We're not sure what will happen in July. But we're working hard to accomplish our goals and looking for new grants to keep us going.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sharing Passwords

I do 98% of my banking/bill paying online. I'm also the one in my marriage who handles the bill paying. My husband is in charge of starting up service when we need it and we alternate calling in when there's a problem. This system works for us in every way but one- passwords.

For my personal accounts I use a system with a word (ie green) a number (ie 49) and the domain name of the sight. So at Bank of America my password would be green49boa. The root stays the same but the domain name makes each individual password unique.

My husband rotates through 3-4 passwords that look something like ThYgIfRk. Something I will never ever ever remember.

We've tried coming up with a root to use my system, but all of the things we can agree on I think anyone else could easily figure out if they know basics of our life (or take a look at facebook).

This is slightly irritating when I have to call Comcast or Verizon to deal with a service issue. The greater problem is this doesn't pass the 'hit by a bus test.' If I got hit by a bus tomorrow my husband wouldn't be able to get onto most of our online accounts.

So how do you share this info? Do you create a password together? Is there a piece of paper buried somewhere in your house with all of the passwords written down? Do you just not worry?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Utilizing My Best (Appliance) Friend

When we bought the house we bought a freezer for the garage. Until recently it was largely a place to store meat purchased at rock bottom prices. This fall I slowly started taking it over and I'm loving it.

Right now in addition to meat the freezer holds 3 casseroles, freezer jam, whole wheat flour, cooked beans, burrito filler and some shredded zucchini from the garden. I've accepted that on most weeknights I don't have the energy to say no to the temptation of fast food. This fall the Huz and I ate way too much take out and I'm working to break the cycle.

With the caseroles I make a double batch of our favorite recipies on weekends where I'm feeling particularly energetic/domestic. I put them in the fridge before work and into the oven when one of us gets home.

This weekend I made a bulk version of my favorite lazy dinner, which will take the laziness factor to a whole new level. The weeknight version is a can of black beans, a can of tomatoes, chopped onion, and whatever other vegetables we have around cooked together for 10-15 with some spices. The ultra lazy verzion- 3 cans of tomoatoes, 4 cans of black beans, a few carrots on the verge of looking scuzzy, shredded zucchini from the freezer and spices. I stored it in burrito sized portion so either of us can defrost, wrap in a tortilla, and have dinner.

At some point last year (November maybe?) I made 2 big batches of beans using this recipe from the Crockpot Lady. If you have a crockpot and don't know about this blog head on over. It's my husband's favorite recipe site. I honestly can't remember the last time he made something other than pasta on the stovetop. I've made quite a few yummy recipes from the site, but bean recipe is my favorite. It's cheaper, less pantry space, and most importantly- they taste better. They're not super salty or too mushy (unless you leave them too long). I've done this 4-5 times with lots of success each time.

None of these things has taken more than an hour of my dedicated time. Which is nice, even on the less frenzied weekends. I'm embracing the lazy.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

How Much Would You Spend On _____?

So far this year I have not been able to get back in gear at work. It took me 2 days to accomplish my Monday morning to do list. 2 DAYS. I also can't seem to accomplish much on the blogging front- this post has been hanging around since last Wednesday...

Here's a little something to pass the time. I got it from Budgets are $exy. For each category list how much you would spend on the item.

CATEGORY Sara J. Money
Purse (or Wallet): $85/40 $20
Winter jacket: $150/80 $100
A pair of (knee-high) boots: $80/60 $40
Formal dress (or suit): $150/100 $100
Pants/jeans: $50/30 $40
Computer: $1,500 $1,500
Tennis Shoes: $75/50 $40

I listed the most I would spend and then what I usually aim to spend in that category. Every once in a while you come across the special item worth a splurge, but day to day I'm aiming for the lower prices.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

I decided to spend the first morning of this new year reviewing and organizing our finances. I started by updating our spreadsheet, assessing all of our savings and loan accounts. Then I paid this months mortgage, which was fun because the site is down for mainteance. I almost had a heart attack.

My next step was checking out my credit. I use CreditKarma every other month or so to see how my Transunion score looks. I also took advantage of an annual credit report* from Experian. In September I checked Equifax and in May I'll check Transunion.

Everytime I look at a report it's like a trip down memory lane. I never got into credit card debt, but I did fall victim to the open a credit card for a free _______ (insert usless item here). There are accounts I remember opening and many more with low limits that make me wonder. Past addresses remind me of the family, roomates, schools, and jobs I've had along the way. This credit report also showed the payoff for my car. That made me smile.

I've gone back and forth about resolutions over the past few weeks. Our current financial plan makes things automatic. Short of an emergency or major life change we'll keep making a double payment on the car each month, we'll keep saving for short and long term needs and we'll keep paying our bills on time. So I guess my goal for the year is to stay on track financially. Stay on track and get once full month ahead on the bills. I'd like the money we're using to pay for any given bill to have come to us one month before.

The thing I most want is for 2010 to be better than 2009. For me, for my husband, for our friends and our family. 2009 seemed to have more than its fair share of angst, trauma, and woes for us all.

* You can check a report from each of the 3 agencies once every 12 months.