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Archive for November, 2008

$32.50 More to the Challenge and Lifestyle Changes

November 25th, 2008 at 10:55 am

I had planned to list some of my curriculum items on Craig's list in January or February. This isn't really the time of year that people are buying this kind of item.

But, someone put a "wanted" posting on a local homeschooling yahoo group for a curriculum item that I had. From my first response to the requestor to when I dropped the item off and had the check in my hand was about 24 hours. I cashed the check about three hours after that. Woo-hoo!

*************

Yesterday I reset the programmable thermostat to 65 during the hours that I was home. It wasn't that bad. I was surprised - I'm really a wimp when it comes to being cold. I also took a navy shower.

But the thing I wonder about these lifestyle changes is - is there anyway to calculate how much money is saved by doing them? I know I can look at the bill when it comes in, but is there anyway to estimate how much these actions save each time I do them?

NSD's

November 20th, 2008 at 10:40 pm

People, I have a confession to make.

I have a bad, bad habit.

I have an Americano-and-pastry habit. Costwise, I figure it's close to a pack of cigarettes a day. (No, I don't smoke. I just glanced at the price of a pack of cigarettes in a store one day.)

But I'm now at a cross roads.
Do I:
* Keep my bad habit and get a job to support it
OR
* Give up my bad habit (some or all) to support new goals of an emergency fund and a budget that works

I'm going to work at getting rid of my bad habit and replacing it with something else. No, I'm not planning to replace it with another bad habit. (Yes, that was my first thought too.) I'm planning to replace it with another habit that fills the get-out-of-the-house-and-see-people-in-a-friendly-casual-way need.

I've added this as a goal to my sidebar, although technically it's not a goal yet - doesn't have an deadline and is not measurable.

EF Revisited

November 20th, 2008 at 05:43 pm

Before I made the last post about Goal 1, DH and I had a discussion about the EF.

It was initiated by him. I think he's getting more concerned about the economy and his job.

Anytime he initiates a conversation about money I'm there. I've worked hard to get to this point. I did not let being under the influence of a head cold (and feeling like I'm under water) get to me.

He reiterated what we'd agreed on for the dollar amount. I agreed that this was a good place to start, but countered that I wanted to reevaluate the dollar amount later. (I think that as a final total it's too low.) He agreed to that.

He wanted to include only the money we have in a certain savings account. (I had initially included money in that account as well as a CD in the sidebar.) I agreed.

He also said that he feels more comfortable if the bill paying account (Checkbook Two) is kept at a minimum of $1500. It's currently below that - with property taxes and work done on both our cars in the past month. He'd done two side jobs in the past month - the checks were coming in soon and he wanted to put some of those dollars in the EF and some in the bill paying account. I agreed.

I told him we needed to set a target date for putting the dollars in the EF. He suggested July 1st. That is 8 months to come up with $4,428.15. It doesn't seem like a terribly ambitious goal but I'll take it. For us it's progress.

The next day he deposited $250 from the side job into the account. Only $4178.15 to go.

Goal 1 - A Work in Progress

November 19th, 2008 at 10:31 pm

Goal 1 on the side bar used to be: Get Mr. H more involved in our financial life. At some point after I finish posting this I'm going to change it.

I've been giving some thought to what I might mean by "getting Mr. H more involved in our financial life". To be a goal it has to be measurable and have a deadline, right? So I started by trying to figure out where we are:

* Mr. H pays the regular bills and handles that account (Checking Account Two), I handle the account that pays for groceries, gas, clothes, gifts, etc (Checking Account One). I also figure out how to pay the credit card bill each month.
* We now both have debit cards for Checking Account One. I requested this. Mr. H gets paid once per month, and I hate writing a check to the credit card company for 1/3 of the money that goes in checking account one right off the top. I'd rather pay as we go. Gas is the main expense put on a credit card. We are likely to have some glitches with this, as we have not had to work together very much with this account.
* We have one tiny joint goal regarding the emergency fund.
* If some unexpected money comes in, we usually discuss it. We don't always come to a conclusion about it but at least we're both aware of it. Mr. H has also started to initiate these conversations.
* If something needs to happen regarding our financial life I usually bring it up, and have to follow up on it. Where Mr. H used to always agree with me during these conversations but not follow up with action, today he's better about bringing up what he wants, and he's better about the follow up.

To Mr. H's credit, he's very good about the regular bills. Where I frequently get bored and restless with too much routine he seems to thrive on it. (It's probably not too much routine for him, LOL.) It also helps that that account has some padding.

Contrast this with where we were about five years ago:
* I paid all bills, reconciled all accounts, made all decisions about investments and saving. Mr. H never asked about it, and pretty much agreed with everything I proposed. I actually became very depressed at one point and didn't reconcile any of our accounts for 18 months - and Mr. H never noticed.

I think what I mean by "getting Mr. H more involved in our financial life" is "get Mr. H to take initiative both in his life and in our life together".

Well. . . hmm. . . I can't change his behavior so that's not a very workable goal.

But maybe something like "encourage Mr. H to work together with me to build up our emergency fund" and "work with Mr. H to get a monthly budget that balances, that we agree on, that we follow and that doesn't cause us huge problems". While neither of these steps address the big picture (What do we want to do with our lives and how does our financial life support that?) they are steps in the right direction. I'll continue to flesh out these goals. I guess it should be noted that I can also work on them (EF and budget) somewhat independently of Mr. H if need be.

Emergency Fund

November 17th, 2008 at 06:36 pm

I'm still playing with goals. I left what I've had up in my sidebar as goals, although technically they are not goals. They aren't measurable and they don't have a deadline.

Laying in a significant emergency fund seems like a next good goal. Mr. H's job isn't stable, the economy isn't stable, and I'd like the added sense of security of it. So I've added that to the list even though it's technically not a goal either - no deadline.

After I came to this, I waited for a good time and ambushed, er, brought it up to Mr. H. * He agreed that this was a good idea and said that he thought we were already doing it. The money that was spent on his car this past summer was our savings and it's been slowly added to as random money has appeared. But we've never said it was an emergency fund. I think there's a difference in, well, purpose and feeling of intensity between savings and emergency fund. Then I asked him how much he thought we ought to aim for. He named a dollar amount, I agreed, and it's up on the side bar. The conversation, about 10 minutes' worth, was tense. Since we both had to be elsewhere shortly, we agreed to discuss it further the next day. **

When DH asked me about this again, *** I told him I thought our options to fund the EF were: 1) make more money or 2) save more money. Sounds pretty obvious, right?

To make more money either 1) he would need to get a different job AND/OR 2) he would need to get an additional job 3) AND/OR I would need to get a job (part time or back into the workforce). I don't see either 1) or 2) happening, and I would like to be available for my daughter which leaves out 3 (for the most part). So then it becomes saving more of what comes in. And this is where it becomes dicey for me. We can, and should, cut back on food expenses. But beyond that I feel like we're getting into more "extreme savings lifestyle changes". . . and while I recognize there are always choices, and I am choosing family relationships over money, I am just not loving the idea of "extreme savings lifestyle changes" - the things that came to mind are lowering the heat****, hang-drying the laundry, and "navy showers" (you can read about them here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navy_shower). I hope they will grow on me, as also the idea of working at paid employment in a temporary and part-time fashion.

This conversation was also tense. I believe that IF we set a goal to have an emergency fund of $XX, and IF we set a deadline, and IF we keep focused on it, THEN the opportunities to achieve this goal will appear. DH has a hard time if the opportunities aren't immediately apparent. Perhaps I just have more faith (well, and more experience achieving goals) than he does. At any rate this is where we frequently get stuck.

* I know I've written many times about not feeling like we have much of a team effort here, financially or otherwise. But, as long as I'm here, I still need to make the effort, right? The difference is that I use different strategies to talk about things than I used to, and I'm less invested in the outcome than I'd like to be. I have to be less invested - a girl can only get her heart broken so many times.

** I suppose that's a guideline for possibly tense conversations - set them up to be short, so you can say your piece and go to your separate corners . . . you're not required to keep fighting about them.

***Yes, he does get credit on the teamwork balance sheet for bringing it up.

**** But I am sitting here with the thermostat set at 66, and doing okay so maybe I can get used to it.

Clutter, Weight and Money

November 13th, 2008 at 09:33 pm

** Warning: slightly dramatic and whiny post ahead. Read at your own risk. I don't plan to make a habit of this because in the long run I don't think it will help solve problems. But it helps me clarify some of my own thoughts, and it's a springboard for moving forward into 2009. **

I have recently read It's All Too Much and Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat? by Peter Walsh. He's the host of an organizing show on TLC that I've never watched. We don't get that station. But both books were good. He really tries to get you to get to the heart of the matter. With clutter it's not about how to rearrange your house, it's about the life you live now versus the life you've lived in the past or the life you want to live in the future. I think anyone who's ever bought an exercise machine that became a clothing rack can relate to this. With being overweight, it's about what kind of life you want to live - not necessarily tied to a number on the scale, but what you want to do with your life and how having a healthy body can help you achieve that.

After reading these two books, I realized that the clutter problem in our house, my weight problem and our financial issues are all related. For me, they are all the same issue - trying to fill a hole that cannot be filled. The real problem is not about stuff, food or money - it's about relationships, and one in particular. While this is not a completely new revelation, rearranging these piece of my life and looking at it this way is.

The primary relationship problem is not solvable, at least not directly. Truly solving relationship problems takes willingness and cooperation from the people involved. If only one person is willing then the problems become something to be managed, but not solved. Yes, I know this sounds completely discouraging. . . and if I'd only think positively. . . and be a good sport. . . then the other person would respond positively and everything would be perfect, right? That hasn't been my experience though. Has anyone ever worked on a team where one person just wasn't a team player? Different strategies are tried but the person's behavior doesn't change. Sometimes the person is transferred to a different department, sometimes they're moved to a different position requiring less teamwork, sometimes they're let go. Usually though, short of dramatic experiences (such as being knocked off your horse by a bolt of lightening and blinded for three days) the person's behavior does not noticeably change.

Right now many bloggers here are thinking about their 2009 goals. I personally am having a hard time with this, or any other goals, but am working hard to overcome self pity and set some goals anyway. Mr. H doesn't believe in setting goals or having dreams about life. . . and after many years of this I've decided that it is not in my best interest to live this way anymore. No, I'm not leaving Mr. H, but am trying to figure out how to have goals and dreams that 1) Don't require Mr. H's active participation or involvement 2) Don't require me to carry Mr. H through them and 3) are not obviously divisive to our marriage. Early in our marriage and for several years I sat down with Mr. H to discuss the upcoming year - what did we plan to do, what goals we had, etc. Eventually I realized that I was setting most of the goals and doing most of the work to carry them out. So I stopped doing this completely, and Mr. H never said a word. Each year now I ask him how many camping trips he wants to go on (which I then set up), and that's about it. Sometimes we talk about house projects.

CouponAddict's recent post linked to Money Saving Mom's blog, in which she (Crystal) describes their (ambitious) financial goals for 2008. They achieved them too, and I have no doubt they will achieve their very ambitious goal for 2009. I admire Crystal and her husband very much - they truly work as a team and their hard work has been rewarded. I'm inspired by them. . . but I also have a hard time reading her blog. I'm envious of her (not the best reflection of my own character, I'm afraid) and recognize that, no matter how many different ways I've tried, I can't bring that sense of working hard together for the common good into my own life.