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My life isn’t very organized.  Today I spent a few hours organizing and updating my blog.  Gone are the broken links and the lack of post categorization.  Now we have updated categories and the blog links on the sidebar are actually blogs I read every day on google reader.

Speaking of organization, Money Saving Mom just wrote a new book! It’s called The Money Saving Mom’s Budget. 

Beautiful!

It’s one of those books that I’m going to buy as soon as I open up my budget for some book shopping! In the meantime though, I think I’d really like to read her older book, “21 Days to a More Disciplined Life.” 

I think being more disciplined will help with organization, yes? Maybe it will just help me not buy her new book.  I guess then she’s kind of hurting herself if that’s the case… but I’m sure she thought of that and decided it was worth the risk!

Anyways, if you want to buy the book (for me OR for yourself) feel free to go to follow this link to happiness.  Ahem.  Or send it to me.

Whatever!

I have gotten so excited about buying a house that I COMPLETELY forgot that Patrick Rothfuss’ second book in the Kingkiller Chronicles (The Wise Man’s Fear) comes out the same day I close on the house. It’s not fair, really. I’m not sure how in the world I’m going to manage THAT.

The Wise Man’s Fear is going to be one of those books that needs to be savored and enjoyed, so I think as MUCH as I want to read it nownownownownownow, I’m going to have to wait and reward myself with it after I get moved in. But really, ridiculously excited. I’ve waited to read that book since I read the first one (The Name of the Wind) in late 2007 or early 2008. Fantastic fiction that every single one of you should go read. Seriously. Go. NOW. That way you can be excited about March 1st too!

As a brief recap of things not related to my book obsession (by the way, this is the first book I’ll actually be buying for my e-reader!):

-My son Benjamin just started crawling! I really need to upload some pictures, but I also really need to pack up my 1200 sq foot house. I’m sure you see where my priorities are.
-I have to pack up a 1200 sq foot house :(
-Justin and I really want this picture in our living room! We like it. It is pretty. And very “us.”
-We are getting the new house popcorn tested for asbestos. Just in case. Most asbestos in popcorn should have stopped in 1978, but around here it’s been seen in houses all the way to 1986, and my house is 1984, so it’s worth the 50 bucks to get it tested. We will hopefully know Friday if we’ll be able to do it ourselves. I can’t WAIT for the house to be de-popcorned and painted. It will look SO much better.
-Speaking of, I have to de-popcorn a house. And paint it. I’m really glad I have help.
-I need to find babysitters. Or a respirator for an 8 month old! Just kidding. Sort of.
-Some days I miss my parents so bad I can’t hardly take a breath. Especially on days where Benjamin gives me a big hug and I want to put him in their arms. The 2 year anniversary of their death is coming up (March 4th, actually) and I’m hoping that I will get to see some of my family that day because I really could use a hug from some of them (Aunt Lynn and Aunt Tina I am looking at you).
-I had found these AMAZING purple wall sconces and I had to wait till I got paid, and I just checked, and they’ve been sold. I’m heartbroken :(
-I just spent a ridiculous amount of money on Amazon but got lots of stuff to help make a house a home (ladder, painters tape, paint sprayer, home repair book, etc). It’s still pretty much impossible to believe that in 5 days I’ll be a homeowner.
-I have vacation time coming up at work, you know, so I can move into a house. I’m really looking forward to the time off.
-My schedule at work very likely will change in the next few months involving a change I am very happy and very sad about…. but one that will hopefully give me more time with my family.
-My life has been reduced to bullet point lists for now. Oddly enough, I find great comfort in it.

Things on my mind right now:

1. Copper door hardware. I’m leaning towards these or these, but I think Justin might like these (with these knobs) better. I didn’t realize how difficult the knob vs. handle decision was. Depending on the design, we will probably mix it up. Also, hi, copper door hardware is expensive! Especially for 21 doors and 7 drawers. Especially since I’m going to have to more than likely replace most of the kitchen cabinet hardware including the hinges (2 per door, ouch). If I wasn’t I could just get some antique copper spray paint and call it a day.

2. Ladders. We are going to buy one. Maybe this one. I love that I can get free shipping on a 54 pound item though Amazon. Amazon, you are my hero.

3. Dear Jesus, I am so glad we are able to do this without going into debt. I mean, besides the actual cost of the house. That will set us back. But all this random stuff we have to buy. Although, I have to admit, I am EXTREMELY tempted to throw caution to the wind and go ahead and spend a ridiculous amount of money to install custom closet stuff before we move in… would be sooo nice to just paint and move right into my pretty closet but I think good sense (and the need to buy things like flooring and paint) will win out over the stuff I want. Will have to save pennies for the closet upgrades, I think.

4. The brain pain I have been experiencing (and subsequent bad taste in my mouth) that is somehow due to allergies has gotten MUCH worse since going to the ENT and getting on their spray. This depresses me. I’m kind of hoping that it’s one of those get-worse-before-it-gets-better things, but I don’t know for sure. Will be calling them on Monday. It pretty much made the first half of my shift at work miserable and almost unbearably unhappy.

5. My son is 8 months old. That number is unreal! He’s almost one! My coworker has a great philosophy: parents throw their 1 year olds huge birthday parties not for the child’s sake, but in celebration that they’ve made it through the first year. I never would have understood that before, but I do now. I am so in love with this tiny little version of Justin and I, and I daily get reminded of all the great things I get to teach him and introduce him to when he gets older. I can’t wait, but I’m also enjoying this time of exploration.

6. My family is possibly planning a vacation in August and I miss them all so much, I hope we can work it out so that I can go.

7. I miss my parents so much. I’m hoping to be distracted on the 2 year anniversary of their death (which is quickly approaching) but honestly, there’s a part of me that just wants to curl up and cry the entire day. Why is it that it hurts more now? It just feels more fresh, more raw.

Anyways.

Let me add one more so I can end on a happy note.

8. Justin and I wanted to do our bedroom in brown and blue, but I love this so much I think I might make him add YELLOW!

When I was around 9 years old I was your average bookworm with an unaverage amount of pride about it. I knew I could read well and liked to show off and receive admiration for my talents (I’m not actually sure I ever outgrew that; but anyways). I have a very vivid memory of my Aunt and Uncle visiting our family and giving me a book – one of Janette Oke’s, but I can’t remember if it was Roses for Mama or Bride for Donnigan (both are still much-loved favorites). I was bragging about how fast I’d be able to finish it, and how quickly I could read, when my Uncle Scott challenged me. He opened the book to a random chapter and asked me to read the entire first page while he timed me. I remember reading over those words as fast as my little eye would go, to finish just a few seconds later. He then took the book from me and proceeded to question me about very simple things concerning the words I had read. What is the characters name? Is the person in this scene talking to a male or a female? What room are they in?

I couldn’t answer any of the questions. Sure, I had read the page, but I hadn’t comprehended any of it. My ego bruised, I slumped away.

I’d love to tell you that I learned my lesson and slowed down to absorb more, but I never really have. When I read books that I consider “easy reading” – books by people like Janette Oke, Neta Jackson or even Dean Koontz, I scan read. I get the entire story, don’t get me wrong, but my mind scans the page and absorbs the story, but not the particular words. This would be in comparison to books like Tom Clancy’s books or anything by J.R.R. Tolkien, where I really have to focus to comprehend. In both cases though I usually walk away from a book having thoroughly enjoyed the story but not being able to remember particular character names or locations. I know the story – but if I was to retell it I would say something like, “There’s this guy named Odd and he sees dead people and he runs around having all these adventures, and I remember at some point he walked around this abandoned hotel, or casino I think? And there was a mystery revolving around his girlfriend, and it had a happy ending.” See? That’s utter rubbish. Or, Tom Clancy’s novels, so much happens that I can’t really give you much other than an overview of the basic plot – “There’s Russians, they’re bad, and the main character has a thing against them and he goes undercover and rescues some good guys.”

So, how does this tie into my Sony E-Reader?

I read, for the first time ever, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. And I read every. single. word. I have tried to read that book several times, but I kept scanning over boring parts to the point that I would get lost and then frustrated and then throw the book away in disgust.

But with my Sony E-Reader, I didn’t scan read. I could have, of course. But it’s not as easy to skip ahead 20 pages just for the fun of it. You’d actually have to key in a page number, or scroll forward 20 times, and who wants to bother with that when I can just pay attention to the story? I completely credit my E-Reader with having forced me to read through that book – which was an alright read, all things considered.

I have the newest Sony E-Reader, the Sony Touch edition, which is their mid-sized reader. I got it for Christmas and I have since read 4 books. That’s pretty awesome, considering I hadn’t managed to pick up a book since Benjamin was born and finish it. Four books! Including The Name of the Wind, Pride and Prejudice, a kid’s book (for Benjamin) and a Harry Potter book.

The Sony Touch is sleek and beautiful (I got the red one) easy to hold and one of my favorite things to do now is curl up in bed with it. I used to not be able to lay down and read because of my love for huge, 500+ page novels, but with this reader it doesn’t matter how big the novel is, I am good to go. I plan on re-reading the LOTR series next. Imagine! That many pages, that little weight. I had looked into all the readers, but Sony’s product is by far (in my opinion) the superior reader. I’m not tied down to their store, either. Sony accepts .epub format, so even if I buy a book from google or directly from a publisher, I can read it on my Sony. Unlike some of the other readers *coughKINDLEcough*. But what really sets my Sony apart from other readers is that it is beautiful to look at. And I know that might not matter to some people, but if I’m going to be staring at something for several hours a week I’d like to be able to appreciate the aesthetic appeal if at all possible. Sony delivers that beautifully. And I read and read and read and I went down to a single bar out of 3 power bars, but in the amount of time it took me to re hook in to my computer to upload a few more books (about 15 minutes, total) it had recharged itself.

The only drawback to the Sony is the somewhat antiquated software on the computer interface, but I’ve seen enough complaints about it that I’m hoping for Sony to pay some attention to that sometime soon. In the meantime it works, it’s just a bit cumbersome. And who wants cumbersome software with such a beautiful piece of technology?

In conclusion, I’m reading more and comprehending more (I can actually give you a pretty good overview of what occurs in P&P) and enjoying the process of reading again. I specifically didn’t buy one with internet so I wouldn’t have that temptation and I’m quite glad I did.. it’s just this simple, compact, amazing library that weighs less than a pound. I can carry 10,000 books with me.

I love living in the future. It’s not a flying car, but for now, it will do.

Things I’m thinking about right now:

-Baby poop.

-Whether or not Justin finished the border in the nursery or not .

-I have to give birth. Soon. Without drugs. (edited to add: I know I don’t have to give birth drug free, but that’s the birth I want. If the birth I WANT and the birth I NEED are different, then I am *OK* with that, but the goal is drug free!) It’s going to be scary! I keep trying to remind myself: I can do this. I am capable of doing this. It is best for me and my baby to do this. But I’m still absolutely terrified if I *actually* stop and think about it.

-Breastfeeding. All the books talk about getting my nipple aimed/lined up with the babies mouth, but I don’t have depth perception. And I’m really bad at depth awareness for things very close to me – say within 12 inches or so. I’m kind of scared I’m gonna try to poke the kid in the eye with a nipple before I get it figured out right. I’m joking, except for the part where I’m not. I’m glad I’ll have my husband and midwifes there to help me line everything up until me and Benjamin get the hang of it.

-Back to the birth thing – can I pick when I go into labor? And can I go into labor once, with none of this false labor crap? Because I’d like to be able to go into labor at about 2am, so I can call into work if I’m scheduled to work the next day and not have to worry about going back to work after that. I’d like to be able to focus on labor. That would be great!

-I’m really, really, really missing my mom these days. I ran across a picture of her holding one of my infant nephews the other day and I absolutely lost it. It’s so hard when people ask me if my mom lives close enough to come help me out with the baby. I know I shouldn’t be parentless and the loss is felt very keenly – by both my husband and me these days. Yes, this is a time of joy… but also of a quiet and perhaps deeper mourning than I have experienced in some time.

-Finances. My brother-in-law is out of work and he pays ¼ of our bills. We can cover him if we need to, but if we have to continue this into June and July then Justin won’t be able to take time off work like he needs to. How do you politely beg someone to find work for the good of your family unit?

-Birthday Bash at the Bahn! Our Schlitterbahn tradition of a few days at the water park COULD be interrupted by me having a 2 month old, but the more I think about it the better of an idea I think it is. I’ll have enough family around so that I can take a break to go sit in the sun, swim in a pool or ride a few slides, and Benjamin will be old enough to survive a hotel stay with minimal emotional scarring (I hope). It will be expensive, but we’re going to start setting aside money for it as soon as we can. Assuming the aforementioned bullet point eventually takes care of itself.

-Pictures! I have to take pregnancy pictures even though I feel like a fat cow. Because this might be the only baby I ever have, and I need to document it. But I feel huge and ugly and unattractive and I’m not sure how excited I am about the experience. Luckily I have a good photographer. But still.

-Work. We lost a dispatcher to the Police Academy last week. I’m absolutely thrilled for him, but will miss him terribly. Then I just found out this week that we’re losing another dispatcher. This means that my wonderful plans of a modified schedule when I come back from maternity leave are out the window until we’re fully staffed. I’m sad, and hopeful that we get new dispatchers that are as awesome as the ones we’re losing.

I think that’s pretty much it. Thanks for letting me core dump.

I really wanted to write a big long blog post waxing prolifically about how amazing God is. But honestly, flowery words fail to sufficiently address my feelings. Our bills are paid. We can afford groceries this week. There’s gas in our car. I am going to go get an oil change on Monday and talk to Joe about fixing up my Dad’s mustang (finally). I can tithe. I don’t stress about buying diapers (ok, I do kind of dread it, but I don’t stress about it). My midwife is paid for. People have overwhelmed me with generous donations for my child, saving me hundreds of dollars in furniture and clothes and toys and supplies. See? Words are inadequate.

In the end I can just be grateful that God has blessed me. Today, I am overwhelmed and grateful for his goodness.

Justin and I have been doing a lot of things differently this week, some of which have been inspired by my pregnancy, some of which come of necessity for general health.

See, we’ve been planning our meals.  Now, for two people who work full time (often times at opposite shifts) and are relatively secure in our finances (although we can always save more, etc) we have been getting away with eating what’s been convenient.  Not healthy, mind you, convenient.  And it’s been great – except the fact that our vegetable intake consisted of the lettuce on our big macs.  Ok. I’m exagerating slightly, but you get the picture. Let me backtrack.

Since I got pregnant I’ve started doing small things in the house because I realize that by becoming a mother involves things like keeping the house relatively clean so the baby doesn’t eat the leaves the dog drags in.  And making sure that even if I don’t, the kid is getting healthy meals (when it’s old enough to eat meals and not just milk).  I realize more and more that I need to be doing things not just for the babies sake, but for mine and Justin’s sake.  If the roommates benefit, all the better for them, but the main focus was Justin and I.

I started reading flylady months ago, but never started.  I wasn’t ready, and she recommended something that I’m terrible at: baby steps.  I’m not good at them and neither is Justin.  I can’t start out every day with some small habit, I’ll get bored.  But if I write a control journal and say that I’m going to clean for 15 minutes every day and do three or four other things, then by golly I can do that.  We started about a week ago, and so far it’s working great! Well, great on the days that we’re not completely exhausted.  The days like today, when I come home exhausted and Justin’s been at work since the afternoon with a migraine and working until who knows when… those days are days where I don’t have anything special planned.  Just, you know, survive.  That’s good enough.  Baby steps, right?

We also started shopping the sales and planning meals, which brings us back to the original topic.  I found a website that took planning meals to a basic level.  Pick one meat and two veggies per day – don’t plan what to do with them, just plan the basics – and be done.  That works great for us because that way we can still decide how to work it out at that particular time.  If I tried to plan how I was going to prepare the foods I would have unnatural amounts of pressure, obsession, and hours wasted planning because of my OCD nature.  You can’t even imagine.  So with this plan we found a roast on sale! Yay!  So we paired carrots and potatoes with that.  Might have worked out great, but who knew I thought roast was disgusting?  Of course, that might just be the pregnancy talking: I’ve had a weird relationship with meat since about week 8.  I was hoping it would go away, but it seems to be sticking around.  Justin’s a big meat eater, so as long as we plan the meats/veggies a bit more carefully than we did the roast it should work out ok.  We’ve even planned enough to have leftovers for work the next day.

Here are things we could improve on:

  • Don’t plan every day eating something new.  Sometimes (like today) we just want to eat a bag of popcorn and watch Law and Order: SVU reruns.  This should significantly cut down the cost.
  • We don’t need 2 pounds of meat for the two of us to eat two meals.  YOU DO NOT EAT A LOT OF MEAT, especially not 1/2 a pound!
  • Keep the meat and vegetables relatively separate within the meal.
  • Plan on any crock pot meals to be done on Tuesdays or Wednesdays when someone is off work and can keep an eye on it. This would ensure the potatoes get done on time.
  • Invest in some better storage containers to take to work.  Good storage means we’re more likely to take our lunch.

There you go.  Lessons learned from week 1.

Next week is Christmas, I feel kind of odd starting all these “new” habits mid-December.  But why put that much pressure on myself in January?  For a new habit to stick, I just need to be faithful.  We’re crossing my fingers.

Hopefully I’ll have more regular updating here in the next few days.  I’m working on my yearly recap.  It’s not pretty, but it’s true.  That says something, I suppose.

When my parents died, one of the first things we did when we got to their house (after we secured the firearms that were left on scene and glanced at the partially covered up crime scene with grim faces) we went in search of a will. 

Surely we could find that with relative ease.  Of course it would be in the gun safe.  That’s where it had been when we were kids, why change?

Only it wasn’t.

It wasn’t in their dresser drawers, it wasn’t on top of their freezer, it wasn’t in any filing cabinets and it wasn’t besides my mom’s bed in the stack of other important paperwork.

We looked for the will for days.  What did they want us to do with all this stuff?  Who was supposed to get what?  How do they want us to handle the money?  Who gets mom’s wedding ring?  What about the coin collection and Nanny’s old ring and Dad’s guns and the pool cue we’ve had for years and the paintings that have been in the family for decades and Mom’s watermelon collection?  What about the angel that sat on top of the tree for the entirety of growing up?

We were at a loss.  Eventually we had to give up and realize that while they’d had a will at one point, it hadn’t been something they had kept up with.  I found tax returns from 1987 and 1992 and lesson plans from the mid-90s when Mom was teaching Missionettes… but no will.  For either of them.

In their case, with minimum property and no children to distribute, my parents lack of will only caused a few disturbances.  I can’t imagine the legal battle over who would have taken us kids (there were 5 of us most of the time, that’s a heavy burden to give someone) or how things would have been dealt with as far as the costs of raising us if that had happened to us 15 years ago.

If there is one thing I can tell you (other than making sure to have some cheap landline in case you need to call 911, see post here) it’s that YOU NEED TO HAVE A WILL.  ESPECIALLY IF YOU HAVE CHILDREN.

Think about it.  If you don’t have a will, you give up your right to decide what happens to your property (including your children!) after death.  Maybe Mom had wanted me to pay off her car and keep it for myself? I didn’t know that, and I gave it back to the dealership.  Maybe Dad didn’t want Jake to have his truck, maybe he wanted Jean to get it.  We don’t know.  We had to guess. 

If you have any sort of property that means anything to you (especially if it’s titled property like a house or a car) then for the love of your loved ones: get a will.  If you have children and you have someone specific in mind that you’d like to raise them in the event of your death: get a will.  If you want a say in what happens to your money after death: get a will.  Even if you don’t have titled property, but you do have some family heirlooms that you don’t want to go to one person and you want to make sure go to this other person who will take care of it: get a will.

Is it sinking in? I hope so.

Legal Zoom has declared August as National Make-A-Will month.  I urge you – plead with you – do yourself and your loved ones a favor.  Legal Zoom has amazingly reasonable prices on wills – get one, go down to a UPS store and get it notarized.  Put it somewhere safe and tell 4 or 5 close friends or family where to find it.  Scan it into your computer.  Share this with your friends, your family, and pass on the message even if you already have a will.  Don’t leave your after-death wishes unknown.  The gift you will be giving to your surviving family is worth the small investment now.

July of last year I made a resolution to complete 10 things in 3 years. As I look back on the last year I’m surprised to know that I’ve actually, kind of, sort of, worked on a few of those things. I’ll post them here and add some comments regarding progress.  It’s always good to review.

1. Learn to have better penmanship - I have been practicing my cursive when I’m writing in my bible study. I think it’s improved a lot, at least to the point of being legible. It’s still habit to start writing in sloppy print, so I’m hoping to get rid of that entirely eventually.
2. Run a mile in under 10 minutes - I just hired a personal trainer. I’ll work up to this, I hope.
3. Improve my wardrobe to include more “polished” pieces that fit me better – Not a priority to me really anymore. I’d probably replace this with “Have more church clothes, practice modesty.”
4. Own a comfortable pair of high heels – I’m actually pretty sure they don’t exist! But I might try after I get down a few pounds and get some better balance.
5. Find a home church – MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! Legacy Fellowship is my temporary Home away from my Eternal Home. It’s pretty awesome.
6. Learn to give myself a good manicure/pedicure – I wouldn’t quite say I’m there yet, but I have been making progress on this too!
7. Be debt free – Only $7385.31 left!
8. Take a fantastic trip somewhere, anywhere – I’m pretty sure my trip to New York in August will count!
9. Learn Spanish enough to have a conversation with a native speaker comfortably – Erm, I have not even started on this.
10. Find 2 new friends in Austin that I can “connect” with – I’m definitely connecting with members of my church.

Wow. I’m actually pretty impresse with myself! Crossed one thing off the list already! Woo!  And well on my way to crossing off several more.  How does one go about learning a foreign language as an adult?

While this has been one of the worst years of my life, it has also had a few good things going on dispersed amongst the tragedy. I’m generally a positive person so any chance I have to embrace the positive is good in my book. So, on to the good news: we have been making pretty good progress with our debt this year! Yay! Let there be much rejoicing in the streets! It’s not as much progress as I would have liked, and more than I honestly expected… and in a year like this I can’t do much other than be thankful I’m able to make any progress at all.

I’m still quite terrible at budgeting. I can never figure our expenses. I’m not sure why, I use mint.com for my money-tracking and it’s pretty cut and dried… but nevertheless I always undershoot or overshoot how much I’m going to spend at any particular time. I’m getting a bit better at it – and with Mint I have several months to analyze. So maybe one day I’ll get it figured out. Until then I’ll keep doing what I’m doing because it seems to work. And without further ado, a very impersonal list of my debt. Because we all know that the more personal information you have to share, the more honest you are. Right? Sort of.

May:
My BofA Card
Payment: $40.00
Applied to principal: $300.00
Remaining balance: $1,000.00

Justin’s BofA Card
Payment: $79.00
Applied to principal: $40.00
Remaining balance: $1438.66

Prosper Loan
Payment: $242.00
Applied to principal: $197.56
Remaining balance: $2,395.29

Netbank Card
Payment: $94.00
Applied to principal: $28.17
Remaining balance: $2,551.36

Total debt in January: $10,856.65

Total debt in May: $7,385.31

A difference of: $3,471.34

And there was much rejoicing. Yaaay.

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