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It's Been Three Years???

January 6th, 2018 at 03:52 pm

Oh my goodness, it has been three years since I checked in.  Just the highlights of 2018 then.

Daisy graduated from high school a year early.  She was old for her grade anyway, so it's okay.  She continues to live with us and is a legal adult.  She is working as a barista and going to community college.  She's anticipating a career in a business-oriented field.  

Mr. H bought the business he worked for for the last 20+ years.  More detail than I want to give, but the financial risks to us were low.  Over the 20+ years the business has gradually lost clients with no replacement clients coming in.  Mr H talked like he wanted to grow the business, but I think he would have to develop new skills, something he does not seem willing to do.  I encourage him when I can, he poo-poos what I have to say.  From what he has told me, they are on track to lose a couple more clients in 2018 with the result that he will have to let his one office staff member (a family member) go.  He will also have to move his office.

I did take a couple of classes in my former field in 2015.  Then I re-engaged in Daisy's education for the next couple of years.  When she graduated this spring, I felt lost.  I knew it would be bad for me to sit around and pout, so within a week I volunteered myself at a local charitable organization.  I would have done whatever they asked, but when they realized that I wasn't afraid of computers, I started working with their systems.  Then, to help with some of the reporting using said computer systems I enrolled in a couple of classes at the community college.  Just like riding a bike - it all comes back.  One of my instructors noticed my work there, and recommended me for a part time job.  I started this week.  I'm slowly moving back into a branch of my former field.  Those are the doors that are opening anyway.  It's surprising to me.  

We have fairly simple finances but we are stable.  I just calculated our net worth - with our home it's 700,000+.  Shocking to me.

The best thing that's happened over the last few years though, is the sense of peace I have about life, most of the time anyway.  Did I gain wisdom from growing older?  Am I just supremely fortunate?  I have no idea, but I am so, so grateful.  A couple of months ago my instructor and one of my classmates both told me that they thought I was "so zen".  I didn't know what to say to that but at least it validates my experience.

Car Fixed . . . Again Using Google

June 9th, 2013 at 04:13 pm

I while back I posted about fixing my car using Google:

I didnt actually fix it, but narrowed down the source of the problem and presented it to my car guys. The problem was intermittent and they had tried several ways to fix it that didn't work.

Yesterday the in-car fan in Mr. H's car stopped working. (No defroster! No air conditioner! No air movement in the car, except the 4-60.) Today Mr. H fixed his car using Google. . . and Youtube. He actually did fix it though. Using Google he found car owners of his make and model discussing this problem, as well as some more technical information. He watched some Youtubes and went out and got the replacement part. Installed the part and his fix seems to work.

The part was $50. Im guessing it would have been $150 to $200 for the car guys to fix it.

Waiting. . . .

January 21st, 2013 at 08:17 pm

My Roth contribution continues to sit in the money market of my mutual fund, and now I am waiting. . . for the share price of various mutual funds to go down a bit before I purchase them. My various mutual funds have been hovering around the 52-week high share price since the 1st of the year. From what I could glean from the Wall Street Journal the markets were "happy" (my paraphrase) that we didn't go off the financial cliff, and then they were "happy" because of what went on with the debt ceiling. Seems kind of kooky to me! I'll watch and wait a bit longer, but would really like to complete this so I can get it off my list for another year.

Mr. H made his Roth contribution also.

Contribution Made

January 4th, 2013 at 08:21 am

As planned, I made my Roth contribution for 2013 on January 2nd. The funds went into a money market to be allocated later. I have been watching the price per share of my mutual funds at the end of the year and now, and they have gone up! Is that because we didnt quite fall off the fiscal cliff? I'll wait a bit and see if they come back down before reallocating out of my money market. They adjusted a bit yesterday.

Mr. H received his annual bonus, and I've encouraged him to put some of it in his Roth. I think he will do that.

Petunia in a Flower Garden

October 16th, 2012 at 08:47 pm

Wow, it's been a while since I've been here.

I've come to the realization that, despite all my efforts, Mr. H and I are unlikely to ever be on the same page regarding finances, or a lot of other things. When we got married I believed that we had much more common ground than we actually do. I had hopes for many years that we would eventually come together on things, in a way we could both live happily with. Now, after almost 20 years, I think it's unreasonable to keep thinking that. I've spent the last six months developing a sense of peace about this. It's a thin peace, but still it's peace.

I'm in a denomination that discourages divorce, and I've had the opportunity to observe a number of marriages over the course of many years. Some people have great marriages that are sources of joy and pleasure for them and some have difficult marriages that create lives of patient endurance. It's a comfort, really. My situation isn't all that different from many women (and men).

We are still together, and likely will continue so (divorce is expensive!). . . but it's a different kind of together than I worked so hard for, for so many years. Frankly, I don't think anyone would get married and hope they would have a life like ours. But it is what it is, and I've decided to put more of my energy into things that will be fruitful, instead of trying to influence a situation that will not.

As such, I'm going to rename my blog to Petunia in a Flower Garden. . . . when I figure out how to do that. The French onion soup was helpful, but I'm moving on emotionally.

Daisy continues to grow, and our financial situation continues to be stable. We aren't rolling in cash, but we've weathered the current economy pretty well so far. I've kind of checked out of our finances for the last year and a half or so - now it's time to check back in.

I have achieved none of the goals I have on my side bar. . . still there's two and half months left in the year. Probably some time to make some progress on them. . . or rewrite them entirely.

Final Things

February 1st, 2011 at 07:29 am

A close, older family member, "Lily", recently died unexpectedly. While neither Mr H nor I are the executors of her estate, I am getting a close-up look of what happens with a person's money and possessions after they die.

Lily lived with another family member, and we went to the family member's house every day for a while. We've looked at old photographs (who are all these people?), called family and friends, gone to the court house to record the will, enjoyed the company of many family members and friends, passed around the kleenex, met with the church people to help plan the funeral, and eaten lots and lots. The family member that Lily lived with has a network of church and work friends who brought food to the house every day. Mr H made some of the phone calls to get insurance straightened out, and met with the cemetery folks to find out what would be involved in the burial. We discovered that there is a fee for everything connected with death. We both helped with some parts of the funeral, and helped entertain out-of-state family members.

Lily had some items that could be considered monetarily valuable, but it's surprising how many family members are just not interested in them. I have asked for one of Lily's cookbooks, and Lily herself gave Mr H her crche set right before Christmas. (No, she was not ill.) For us, those two items have significant value.

Later this month I'm going to talk with Mr H about final things. We do have wills, but there are some parts of them that need changing and updating. I think I will look into cemetery plots, headstones, funeral homes and all that go with that. I don't anticipate that Mr H and I will move out of this area. Having a final resting place for us and having made some of the arrangements for that time will make it easier on Daisy when the time comes. Even though Lily and her husband bought plots many decades ago, Lily's husband requested to have his ashes scattered. She could never do that. He was still sitting in the living room (in an urn) when Lily died. When the paper work about the plots surfaced it made the decisions much easier for Lilys children. They went both to the plots they purchased together, and have combined headstone. Having them be together has been a great comfort to some of the family. I am going to add Final Things as a goal on my side bar.

I took Lily's library book back to the library and cancelled her library card. The only book she had checked out was called "Throw Out Fifty Things". How weird is that?

Mortgage Decrease

January 3rd, 2011 at 08:28 pm

Here we are, on the third day of the year, and there is already progress on paying off the mortgage.

The regular payment was made on the first through the magic of auto-deduction. Plus, we discovered that the interest rate change in June hadn't been entered properly in Quicken, so we actually owe about $25 less than we thought. It's almost like paying extra. Smile

New mortgage balance: $4887.17

We Have a Goal

December 30th, 2010 at 08:09 am

Yes, it's true. WE really have a goal for 2011. It's as much Mr H's as mine. . . although it helps when you can see the finish line coming pretty quickly.

Our goal is to pay off our mortgage. As of today, December 30, 2010, we owe $4,990.38. Our mortgage payments themselves are very low we bought our house 13.5 years ago using an ARM and just paid extra. When the mortgage re-amortizes every year our payment drops. We don't have a specific plan for paying it off, but as extra monies present themselves they'll be applied to the mortgage.

Would You Ever Have a Blog?

December 28th, 2010 at 07:06 pm

My mother asked me this the other day as I read something from my blog reader to her. She was visiting from out of state for Christmas.

I don't really like to lie to my mother, so I think I side stepped the question. Did I want to explain to her that I already have a few languishing blogs, including this one? No I did not.

But. . .

Thrift-o-rama recently commented on how blogging must be magic, because if you write it on your side bar magic seems to happen and the goal you were pursuing falls in your lap. When I started this blog almost three years ago my biggest money issue was really a relationship issue - how to get Mr H involved in our finances. In the early part of our marriage he was somewhat involved. I woke up one day about 10 years ago and realized that he was not involved at all I was making all the decisions, paying all the bills and dealing with all the stress by myself. As time passed I realized that I could drop the bill paying on him without too much stress on either of our parts. I had set the finances up so the bill paying was all done using an account that didn't generally run short (the stressful part of bill paying) and Mr H excels at routine tasks. Paying the bills and making entries in quicken was easy for him (and he does something similar as part of his job) and also exposed him to our general finances. But he still wasn't really involved in financial decision making. He also wasn't very engaged in other parts of our mutual life that are outside the scope of this blog. I wrote several times about my attempts to get him involved in our financial life. Each attempt required planning, preparation and strategy. My attempts were somewhat successful although they did wear me out a bit.

In this last year. . . something happened. Part of the something was that Mr H's father died after a short illness. A death of a parent pretty much always seems to get a person to think about their life. Mr H tends to avoid thinking about and dealing with stuff (I don't mean this unkindly; I think even he would tell you that about himself) but I think his dad's death coupled with some boundaries I'd set got his attention. In the last months he:

Initiated a Sunday meeting to discuss general finances. We now do discuss finances more regularly and HE initiates it.
Had his car totaled (he's fine, was hit on an on ramp while waiting for a flow restrictor light). Used insurance proceeds to purchase a new used car and handled all the details with it.
Received his annual bonus; realized that he'd made more money this year than any year previous. Seemed quite proud of that.
Worked extra on an irregular basis; set money aside for taxes and, using percentages we'd decided on together, allocated money for family fun, car replacement, retirement, and mortgage payoff.
Opened a Roth IRA. Was tickled when it made more money than our savings accounts and CD's.
Thanked me for not giving up on long term goals even though he didn't participate for most of our marriage. He realizes that my focus got us where we are today. Although we've had lots of other problems (outside the scope of this blog) our financial picture has been modest but comfortable. Focusing on a long-term strategy means that the bumps of life (like his car being totaled) are just bumps and not huge stressors.
Wanted to discuss what to do with his annual bonus. He already has ideas he didn't wait for me to make suggestions and then just agree with them.

Is this really my life? Maybe this year will bring us out of the onion patch and into a flower garden.

More on Checkbook Number 1

September 15th, 2010 at 07:39 am

In our two-checkbook system, Checkbook Number 2 is used to pay the bills - monthly, bi-monthly and annual. Money for Daisys educational expenses is also put there. Checkbook Number 1 is used for groceries, gas, church contributions and everything else (gifts, yard and garden, clothing, trips to Starbucks, etc.). When I started this blog in April of 2008 Checkbook Number 1 was overspent by $100 to $500 pretty much every month. April was the point at which I realized that we had run out of savings and could no longer do that. Mr H paid the bills - I had dumped that on him about a year or two prior - but was uninvolved in most financial decision making. I finally got spending in Checkbook Number 1 under control in December of 2008. At that time Mr H was oblivious to the problems with it, and has continued to be oblivious to those problems.

Mr H was shaken out of oblivion in July. That's when he learned two things about Checkbook Number 1: if not watched carefully it will be overspent, and there are several hundred dollars extra in the account, not shown in the register balance, to help smooth the rough spots. In other words, while the checkbook register might be showing negative numbers, the actual balance in the checkbook isn't negative. His reaction to this discovery lead to some, uh, discord. But in the larger scope of our financial lives it was a good thing.

Last Saturday he came in while I was working on the spending plan for Checkbook Number 1. When I finished I showed him the numbers. On gas, groceries and church contributions we are doing okay for September. The everything else category is getting spent pretty fast though. Because wed overspent Checkbook Number 1 in August the dollar amount in the everything else category is lower than usual for the month of September. We may end up doing some shifting around. I do my budget keeping manually, so it was easy to hand him the paper and explain to him how things were falling out. He even asked some questions. I think he is now on board with the issues with Checkbook Number 1.

People reading this blog might wonder, why didn't I ever tell him about this before? Why am I hiding this from Mr H? I have learned through the course of our marriage that unless something is personally affecting Mr H RIGHT NOW he generally doesn't pay any attention to it. He is also very easily overwhelmed and avoids hard things without easy answers.** He does spend money out of Checkbook Number 1, but until it impacted him (Daisy and I were gone for most of July and he was forced to deal with Checkbook Number 1 in our absence) he saw Checkbook Number 1 as my responsibility and nothing he had to be concerned with.

** Single readers, take note. These are hugely frustrating qualities in a life partner.

We've Come A Long Way

September 11th, 2010 at 06:29 am

Our financial life, in a nutshell:

* Mr H's job continues to be stable. I anticipate it will be stable for another five to seven years.

* We haven't had any economic catastrophes. In that way our life is good.

* In March I bought two used curriculum items at the Goodwill outlet for $1 total. I sold them for a total of $8, less 15% (they were sold at used curriculum fair - 15% to the sponsoring organization). Correct my math if it's wrong, but isn't that a 485% profit?

* My brain has been in other places that aren't financial. We have overspent Checkbook Number One for a few months. The big difference between now and a few years ago: Mr H actually knew about it. I have made no progress on any of my goals.

* To counterbalance my lack of progress, Mr H has been consistent in the saving of money for retirement and a replacement vehicle. He has neatly handwritten all amounts in a manual ledger for several months.

* Mr H, on his own, opened up a Roth IRA with the saved money. He has a pretty conservative investment (he's even more risk averse than me) but he is happy with it. It's made more so far than our various savings accounts and CD's. He's tickled by that fact. **

* We meet regularly and have discussions about our finances. Mr H originally said every Sunday night. He's not that consistent, but I take what I can get and I don't remind him. If he "remembers" - great. If he doesn't it irritates me but I try to let it go.

A discussion about finances is really a discussion about future plans, hopes and goals. In that area we have more productive conversations than we have ever had. I wish I could be happier about this, but it feels like the first 16 years of our marriage (we have been married 17 years) were a complete waste of time. But if I set those thoughts aside (hard to do for me) we really have come a long way in the last three years.

** As a side note, I read on The Simple Dollar blog about the blog author's retirement investment strategy. He and his wife vary in their ability to tolerate risk, so they each choose what they want in their porfolio as if the other didn't exist. That seemed like a good strategy for us. It helps that they are reasonably financially sensible people.

Vermin and Used Items

March 5th, 2010 at 01:42 pm

I have had various run-ins with vermin over the years. I stayed with my sister in roach-infested apartment for a while. Years later, I had a mouse visit me in a studio apartment that I lived in. (I shrieked and jumped on a chair, just like in the cartoons. Did cartoons influence me? Or do cartoons mimic life?) Mr H works in a downtown area, has had to deal with vermin as part of his job, and as a result I have learned quite a bit about various kinds of vermin. Previously it's been roaches and rats, primarily. Now Mr H is dealing with bedbugs.

Yes, bedbugs.

Mr H has had to learn about them, and as a result I have learned quite a bit about them over the dinner table in the last few months. You can google them; it might gross you out though. Did you know that cochroaches are one of their natural predators? (This led to a rather amusing discussion about using cochroaches on leashes to take care of bedbug problems.) Mr H has requested that any used clothing items I bring home go into the dryer on high for about 20 minutes to kill any possible bedbug eggs. I'm happy to do this. Now that I know way more than I want to about this topic - I sure don't want to take chances with them getting in my house!

Mr H picked up change the other day. He was cleaning up an area for work. He picked up 115 pennies, 3 dimes and 1 nickel. Wow! I was impressed.

I'm putting my mileage for March on a page. With only 5 days in to the month - it looks like if I get in the car I drive at least 20 miles.

Just. . . Wow

March 1st, 2010 at 07:11 am

He did it.

The other night Mr H approached me with his old paycheck stub and his new paycheck stub and asked me if I wanted to talk about what to do with his salary increase now or on Monday (the first). Not being one to want to let grass grow under my feet with this one, I said "Now".

Mr H asked me how much I wanted to put towards a new-to-us car. I said that it depended on where else we wanted to put the increase. If we had five items to put it to I would suggest a different amount than if we had 3 items to put it to. After discussion it became clear that we had two items to put it to - retirement savings and new-to-us car. I suggested a dollar figure, he agreed and that was that. 31% of the increase will go towards the car, the rest will go towards retirement.

Mr H will deposit these funds into a somewhat unused savings account and keep a ledger of how much is going to each item. He volunteered to do that. Eventually I'm anticipating that the retirement funds will be automatically invested somewhere. We discussed IRAs. I suggested that we open one in Mr H's name. I do have an IRA - the funds in it came from my old employer. Mr H has no retirement savings anywhere.

I'm still kind of in shock. It looks like Mr H is engaging more, involving himself more in our mutual life. Are things really changing? We've been married quite a while, and his involvement has been extremely limited for most of that time. I'm open, but naturally pretty skeptical. When I first started trying to bring up my car and its lifespan, at least seven years ago, Mr H said that when my car died we'd just buy a new car and take out a loan to pay for it. At the time I said, Mr H - if we can't afford to put money into savings for a new car, how would we afford a car payment? He had no answer. He's come a LONG way since then. . . most of the distance traversed in the last three to six months I think.

Music to My Ears

February 24th, 2010 at 03:22 pm

After reading the comments to my last post, and responding to them, I decided to attempt a(nother) conversation with Mr H regarding my car. I've been attempting these conversations since my car approached ten years in age. Usually my concerns were met with vague responses and when I pressed for specifics Mr H would start to sputter and yell. Not conducive for problem solving, to say the least.

I realize that my last post and my response to comments may have sounded a tad whiney. I'm pretty discouraged in many areas concerning Mr H. All I can say is - if you are single choose your life partner very carefully. I'm a shining bad example of what not to do in that department.

The short version of the following is below the asterisks:

Setting the stage:
I chose a reasonable time (Daisy was in bed) and approached quietly.

When to replace:
I told Mr H that I had been thinking about my car, and what criteria we might use to decide to replace it. He told me about the four vehicles he'd owned: Truck 1 was replaced when he'd spent $500 every six months fixing it. Truck 2 was replaced when he'd spent $500 every six months fixing it, plus he just wanted something new. Truck 3 (purchased a month before he met me) was sold 1-1/2 years ago when gas prices reached $4+ per gallon (truck got 15 mpg). Car 1 is an economical Honda purchased used from his folks, who took meticulous care of it.

I asked if there was a dollar limit in repairs at which he felt my car ought to be replaced. We easily spent $2000 fixing it last year. He couldn't really come up with one. I pondered if the $500 every six months was felt more in the 1980's, when his finances weren't very stable. Our finances are reasonably stable; we set aside money for car repairs so while it's a hit financially we aren't wondering where our mortgage payment is coming from. He agreed that this could be true.

In the end, he really didn't come up with a dollar limit. But he believed that if the engine or the transmission needed to be replaced the car should be replaced. Success! I believe this too, so we are in agreement here.

How much to spend:
Without really knowing how much a "good" used car costs, I had thought $5000. He suggested $10,000 as a figure. (The Honda was between $9000 and $10,000.) I agreed.

What to purchase:
He suggested another small Honda. I told him that if my car dies before Daisy leaves I'd like to replace it with a mini van. I'm entering serious kid-hauling years and frequently haul more kids than just Daisy; I'd like a kid-hauling vehicle. After she leaves home we'd downsize the vehicle. He agreed, although, again, neither of us really know what a "good" used min-van would cost. And, I suppose, it depends on your definition of good. My car is likely to go at some point after 200,000 miles. The clock is broken, the tape player is broken, the paint is chipping in spots and I'm taking it in this week to get a seatbelt replaced. A vehicle with 100,000 miles on it could look pretty good to me!

Where the money is coming from:
We'd been doing pretty well in our conversation, and so I brought up the big question. . . the fight starting question. . . where is the money going to come from? He is going to be negotiating a raise with his employer this week. He suggested that we table this conversation until March 1st so we'd know how much, but then. . . he said the words I'd longed to hear since I started these conversations seven or eight years ago: "I think we should set aside money every paycheck specifically for it. If we don't do that we will just spend the money on something else." Be still, my heart!

Now I'll wait to see if he brings it back up on the first. . . if not, I'll bring it back up later.


The end result was that we had a suprisingly reasonable conversation that ended in agreement on when to replace, how much to spend, what to purchase and where the money is coming from. No yelling or sputtering was involved.

Mr H's Car

February 20th, 2010 at 09:33 pm

Mr H's car was damaged in an accident last week.

Fortunately Mr H was not in the car. Someone's car wouldn't start and that person was pushing said car and lost control of it. Also fortunately said person had insurance. Mr H's car sustained body damage but apparently is okay otherwise. He is now working to get it fixed.

In a different conversation he mentioned taking my car to get it fixed this summer while Daisy and I go visit my family. My car sustained damage to its front bumper a couple of years ago when Mr H was pressure washing the house. Did you know that the exhaust from a pressure washer is hot and will melt the plastic bumper on a car if the exhaust pipe gets too close to it? Neither did I.

Mr H's declaration was music to my ears. After I discovered the burn mark on my bumper I asked Mr H about it. He swore he didn't do it. Then, when he realized he did do it, he didn't apologize for it. I took my car in and got an estimate for the fix. . . but worse than the estimate (body work is never cheap) was the number of days I'd need to be without my car - three to five, I think. I don't remember now. I live in suburbia. I figured I'd get no cooperation from Mr H with getting around and so the burn mark sits there.

Now that Mr H is dealing with someone else (besides him) causing damage to his vehicle, I think he's starting to understand why I was (and still am, kind of) upset by the damage to my car. It wasn't the damage so much as Mr H's unwillingness to accept any sort of responsibility for his actions, at least the ones that cause problems. It's a pattern of his, and it's hard to live with. But if he does get it fixed this summer I'll feel better.


I also have come up with a plan for when my car finally dies. It is a 17 year old Toyota, running pretty well, but it has 194,000 miles on it. I'm hoping that it will keep going until Daisy is done with high school but if not here's what I'm going to do: take some money from the emergency fund and buy a used car. I think I can do this with help from my car guys. I'm not mechanically savy but I do have good car guys. I don't love this plan and hope that I can come up with a better one, but I feel better at least having something lined up.


There has been no change under the bench at ballet. I checked when there were no other ballet moms around.

Missed Opportunity

February 12th, 2010 at 02:22 pm

Twice weekly I sit on a bench in a hallway, waiting while Daisy takes a dance class. The bench is quite long - room for many parents - it sits like an old church pew. Earlier this week while I sat waiting a child came by with his mom. "Hey, look, there's money!" he exclaimed as he looked under the opposite end of the bench from me.

I tried to watch without staring as he pulled the change from under the bench. . . two pennies and a nickel. He and his mom had quite a discussion about his keeping the money, and after asking me if it was mine (I was the only person sitting on the bench at the time) she convinced him that he could keep it.

After he left I thought, I'm looking under the bench the next time I come to dance.


I chose not to take the "job" I was offered in November - I just didn't feel comfortable with the group. A friend of mine left her one day per week job and was going to recommend me for it, but that didn't work out either.

My pursuit of goals fizzled out at the end of last year, and hasn't really picked up this year. I have hard time emotionally during December, and it usually continues through mid-February. Additionally, a family member died right before Christmas.

Mr H's coworker retired; Mr. H is likely to get some kind of a raise. I believe he and his boss are negotiating it this month.

I listed an item on Craig's list only moments ago. I tried selling homeschool materials on Craig's list a few times but didn't get any takers.

Still feeling like I need to get my head together!

Retirement Discussion. . . Again

October 21st, 2009 at 06:17 am

We had a second conversation in June regarding retirement savings, and that conversation went no where.

I asked Mr H what he wanted out of retirement. I drew pictures of it with stick figures. I drew what I wanted in retirement. (The pictures didn't really mesh very well, no surprise there.) I tried to convince Mr H that if we want things to be a certain way now, we needed to be working towards it. He might agree in principle, but when it gets down to discussing strategies our conversation becomes . . . difficult. He even said something along the lines that he expects some sort of magic to occur to make this all happen.

I have been having discussions with Mr H regarding increasing savings for at least two years. I have expressed my concerns about the future. He agrees in principle, but when it comes to actually doing anything . . . well, he just can't/won't. At this point in our life together, it's hard to give him the benefit of the doubt, so I'd say that he won't. This is not a new interaction for us.

Having now tried the "sit down and discuss a problem like rational adults and come up with a solution that works for both of us then implement it" approach -- and failed at it -- it's time for a different course of action.

I've decided to try the "Tom Sawyer fence painting approach." If you've ever read the story ** Tom has to whitewash a fence. He convinces the neighborhood boys that painting the fence is the most fun ever, and the neighborhood boys end up doing most of the work. Well. . . maybe it won't be exactly like that. But I do plan to get the ball really rolling on retirement savings and then convince him that it's really not that hard.

In the past when Mr H has said Yes that's great/I agree/I want that too but No, I won't-can't/It's not me/I forgot/I don't know, I have gone on to do whatever it was on my own. I wanted whatever it was that "we" agreed on enough to do the work. Then in Mr H's mind "Things just worked out." (We'll call that the "Things Worked Out" approach. They worked out for him because someone else did the work.) But that strategy backfired a bit. "We" may have gotten what "we" wanted, but it didn't build up Mr H's ability to do hard things. This time I plan to look for more ways to involve him.

The "Tom Sawyer fence painting approach" is not my preference, but I don't see a lot of other options here. We've had two years and more of basically fruitless discussions. Mr H is not going to change. I'm not kidding myself - at this point I do anticipate putting in way more effort on this than Mr H does. But I'm just not willing to wait until we're 70 to see what happens.

** I think I read this in high school. I hope I get the gist of this right.

Change is Coming

October 5th, 2009 at 10:35 am

Mr. H let me know a few weeks ago about two changes coming at his work.

These changes are no surprise to me. About a year ago I figured that the business he works for would probably close in 10 years or less. They have lost clients over the years without adding any new clients, and his boss, the business owner, is about 55. If the business closed then it would leave Mr H out of a job at 55 or so. I have urged Mr. H to look for a new job. He reads Craig's List. He doesn't apply for jobs, talk to people or companies that have jobs, or develop new skills.

Mr. H does not deal well with change.

My current plan is to get back into the work force full time in about eight to ten years. I also have thought that I'd probably approach this incrementally - very part time, then part time, then more hours and so on up to full time and beyond. I'm not relishing the the thought of working full time plus at that point in my life, but with Mr. H at my side I think my options are limited. I haven't been successful in getting him on board the "do what it takes to save for old age" train, and he is not going to work any more (or any harder) than he already does. I'm only willing to let this situation go on for so long - *I'll* do what it takes to save for old age. I could write volumes on how frustrating it is to have a partner tell you that they want the same things as you, and then not be willing to take the actions necessary to get those things. We have been down this road many times.

In my snarkier moments I figure that, once this job is gone, I'll be supporting us because Mr H "can't" find a job. (Says the woman who is not working outside the home now, and hasn't looked for a job since 1992. I might be veering into over confidence.) I say this because I know Mr. H, I'm not going to let myself starve, and I have known several women who ended up in this position. Two of these women are part of my extended family.

At any rate, these two very significant changes at Mr. H's work - one definite before the end of the year, one looking more and more likely every day - may accelerate my time table a bit. If Mr. H's job lasted for another 8 or so years, that would work for MY time table - Daisy will be an adult. I'm going to keep tabs on this situation but I may have to start looking at the "very part time" work option now.

Weekend Shopping Trip - Frugal Family Fun

September 22nd, 2009 at 07:17 am

A few weekends ago we had a family adventure buying socks and underwear. I guess this is what the somewhat-frugal family does for fun.

On that day I was casually reading the newspaper ads for a local store. I saw a coupon for underwear, but it was men's underwear. And buy two get one free on socks, but I had just bought tights the day before (using basically the same coupon). I commented on both of these items. Mr H doesn't seem to read the ads, but apparently he needed both of those items. Suddenly we had a mission for the day. To these two coupons we added the 15% off apparel coupon (not to be combined with any other purchase) also in the paper and away we went.

When we got to the store Mr. H veered off to get his items, while I took Daisy and we headed to the ladies section. Zounds! There they had a buy one, get the second one half off coupon! Hmm, is 15% off a better deal, or buy one get the second one half off? Should I get two packages of three each or one package of five?

I actually stood there in the store, pen & paper in hand, and did the math. Yes, despite calculators I can still do arithmetic. *

Eventually Mr. H came looking for us, arms laden with socks and underwear. We were to meet in front of the electronics department and when we didn't show in a reasonable amount of time he came to the ladies' department. I'm pretty sure he grabbed what was applicable for his coupons and did not spend time calculating.

In the end, none of the above items was as good a deal as buying a package of the very same underwear marked as a clearance item. They were almost $1 less per pair than any of the above.

* Due in large part to homeschooling Daisy and tutoring last year. I had to practice my math facts.

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

September 16th, 2009 at 09:35 am

What I did with my summer vacation:

* Daisy finished school and we had to keep ourselves busy. And we did. We visited with friends, went places and did VBS.
* Daisy and I traveled. We were gone for two weeks, at the end of July/beginning of August. We went to my hometown, about two thousand miles from our current home. . . and in the middle of no where. It's seriously hard to get there except by car, even harder than in was in my youth. We had a great time. (For those curious, my mom paid for the trip.) Mr H doesn't really like to travel and he stayed home.
* Mr H and I had another fruitless discussion about retirement savings. He did remember our "appointment" but the discussion went about like the last one did. I am working on an alternate strategy.
* Mr H and I came to an agreement on and switched our health insurance. Our discussion opened with Mr H saying, "All of our options are okay with me except for this one with a Health Savings Account. I don't know anything about them and I don't want to learn about them." Should I laugh or cry? With gentle prodding Mr H did learn about Health Savings Accounts and that is the policy we now have. At the moment, the difference between what the old insurance cost and what the new insurance costs is going into the H S A.

What I didn't do:

* I didn't keep up on my budgeting. I think we did spend some extra money, but we didn't overspend Checkbook One. I had no budget for July or August. I don't really have one for September either, but again, we haven't overspent it. I will have that together before the end of the month. I have some plans in the works with regards to our food dollars so I'll need to get back into it.

Other developments:

* I have decreased my Starbucks trips dramatically. I always knew why I went - to have a positive social contact. (Yes, this is sad.) I decided over the summer that both Daisy and I need to get out more - see our friends more, to do more new things, and to go places regularly where we see the same people. The more social outings we have planned, the less need for Starbucks. Right now my friends are the moms of children who are friends with Daisy. Many of us are in the same larger, church-oriented social circle. Mr H has a much smaller need/interest in social contact; most of these outings occur while he is at work.

More Retirement Discussions

June 26th, 2009 at 10:22 am

Mr H and I had another discussion about saving for retirement. ** As I've said before, Mr H's plan is to spend what's available to us now, work until he can't work any more, then let the government take care of him. I don't like this plan. . . at all. I would rather save money now for retirement so we'll have more options when we're elderly. Mr H seems to like the idea of saving for retirement. . . but he's not invested in it. I've been down this road with him before - it means he pays lip-service to the goal, and things go along well - as long as I'm doing the work. But in the end I realize that I'm by myself. It's a crappy way to pursue mutual goals.

After we'd gone down the "How are we going to rearrange the budget to save for retirement?" road for at least an hour, I could see the above scenario developing. Mr H agreed to saving a percentage of our income but with heel-dragging, moaning, and "woe is me". So I backed up. I don't think the problem right now is "How are we going to save for retirement?" but "Why should I (Mr H) save for retirement? What's in it for me?" While Mr H thinks it sounds like a nice idea, he still doesn't see a need for it.

"Why should we eat rice and beans now so we can eat rice and beans later?" "We need to get some enjoyment (with a new TV, vacation, etc.) out of life." "We could die tomorrow. Why sacrifice now?" We can talk all we want about how to shift the money around, but unless he's invested he won't be willing to work hard and to make the sacrifices it takes to save. He's very comfortable with the way things are.

We agreed to discuss it again this Sunday. Of late Mr H has been very good about keeping his appointments with me for these discussions. But I'm not waiting until Sunday to see what happens. I'm going to prepare in advance. And I'm not going to jump into "How do we do this?" - I'm going to prepare for "What's in it for me?"

Mr H is a very visual person, and probably a visual thinker. A spreadsheet, a list of bullet points, a lecture - he tunes out. The trick is how how to sell him on the importance of saving for retirement using visual methods, and with enough impact to get his buy in. I'm not as visual. . . but I'm motivated to convince him that this is important to him as well. I'll keep you posted.

** I actually thought this was going to be a discussion about generating more income, and had my list ready. We didn't discuss it.

Car Replacement Negotiations

June 3rd, 2009 at 12:35 pm

At some point during our latest car saga I caught Mr H and told him that we needed to discuss car replacement. He told me that he didn't have time/was too tired/some reason he couldn't do it right then. I said, "Okay, when?" "June 1st" was the reply. He surprised me by remembering this appointment and appearing willing to have the discussion. Frequently he "forgets" this kind of thing.

What came out of this discussion was that we should save about $10,000 for a replacement vehicle.

But as I thought about it, I was uneasy. There is no deadline, and no source for the money for this savings. This means in another year we will have the same conversation because no action will have occurred during that time period. I went back to him and requested a further discussion. It was down hill from there.

Basically, my experience has been problem occurs --> I bring problem to Mr H's attention --> I suggest we work to solve the problem --> Mr H verbally attacks me/reacts by "solving" the problem with the first solution that comes to his head (even/especially if it's one we both hate and it doesn't solve the problem!) --> I later solve the problem by myself or the problem remains unsolved (and uncomfortable for me) --> Mr H experiences that everything "just works out". Dysfunctional? You bet. At the beginning of our marriage I gave him the benefit of the doubt, believed that he would eventually come to see how unproductive this was. Now I realize that I was just way too nice and forgiving . . . but trying to change this pattern requires the full emotional amour because no woman wants to be verbally attacked by her husband. . . and yet I've been down this path enough to know that's pretty much what's going to happen. Much earlier in our marriage I asked Mr H what I could say or do differently to help this situation, or if there was another approach to take. He had no response.

In this instance, the problem is that there is no obvious source of money for these savings. Our budget's stretched pretty thin. Pointing this out to Mr H, and that, if it's not funded it's not a priority, and that bothers me . . . brought the predictable response. Mr H's solution was to sell my car and have us become a one car family, and since Daisy will be homeschooled next year she and I could just stay home all the time. He needs his car for work so of course he'll get to have it every day. It was way less pleasant than I'm reporting it here. Ouch.

At the heart of it though is what seems to be an irresolvable difference in priorities, and an unwillingness to change with circumstances.

Our income is unlikely to go up in the near future. Mr H will not work harder/smarter/more than he is now, and I'm unwilling to sacrifice my home life at this time for another corporate job. (I had two working parents and neither of them were really around to raise us. When Daisy is 18 I plan to work full time and more to make up for what was not saved during this time.) I'm very concerned about retirement savings, planning ahead for seen and unseen expenditures, and having a home life. Mr H appears to be concerned about keeping the house (and only this house) and not having to make any changes to anything about his life. I would be happy to sell the house and go to one car if we lived somewhere where walking and public transportation were more workable. Mr H wouldn't hear of selling this house. We're at something of an impasse.

In the end, I relentlessly forced us to stay focused on the problem. Mr H backed down a bit and apologized. It's progress for us, although sometimes I feel like having to work this hard (and unpleasantly) with him on *every* problem that occurs in our lives is going to kill me.

We agreed to discuss income generating ideas and saving ideas in a couple of weeks.

Reflections on a year of blogging

April 18th, 2009 at 08:50 pm

Well, my blogoversary has passed without much fanfare. I don't post much and I guess I'm kind of a lazy blogger. But even the little I've done in the past year has brought some positive changes in my life.

* While Mr H and I are unlikely to ever be on the same page, we have more productive discussions. I initiate most conversations, but every now and again he'll bring up something related to our financial life. It's progress.

* I've learned that to engage Mr H in almost anything involves stages. First he ignores what I'm saying, then I provoke him**, then he reacts, then I gently tell him that he's reacting and suggest that we look at different options to solve the problem. Then he'll come through. Kind of. It's kind of dysfunctional, but it works better than him ignoring the situation and me finally just solving the problem on my own. (That has been the dynamic for most of our marriage.) Not all of our discussions are this way, but bringing up anything new is.

* We have a budget that balances for Checkbook One. It took several months to get there. It didn't balance, really, for about five years.

* We have a grocery/food budget that balances. We have never spent that little on food. We're eating well. I actually don't mind this part. It's fun to get creative with food, and I have done it for many years. I'm just way more conscious now, trying to use leftovers before they spoil and figure out how to have great dinners with lower cost foods.

* We have an emergency fund, that is designated as an emergency fund. I feel a lot less anxious.

* We have a plan for increasing retirement savings.

Everyone here has been so kind and helpful. I have been so grateful for the support. Thank you all so much!

** Believe me, I really don't want to provoke him. However it seems to be the only way I can get him to engage.


March 28th, 2009 at 11:20 am

As you can probably guess, retirement is a source of contention in the onion patch.

Mr H's approach is: he'll work until he can't work any more, then he'll live on savings, then the government will support him. (You'll notice that it's "he" and not "we", although I think the "we" is somewhat implied.)

This is not what I would want for my older age, but I'm willing to live with it - up to a point. In order to live on savings, we have to be saving now, and all the time until then. We've saved relatively little - we have the 401k that I contributed to during my corporate years. That is 10 (or is it 9? I may not have been able to contribute the first year, although I don't remember now) years out of a total of 28 years of my working life (starting the count at age 18). DH has no pensions or 401k's from any present or past employers from his 28 years of working life.

Now that the budget is balancing with regularity I'm turning my sights toward saving 15% of our income savings for retirement. Is this enough? Probably not, but we have to start some where.

It seems like an impossible goal, but then we've managed to keep the food budget at a limit that I never would have imagined a year ago, and it hasn't been that hard. And with the few changes I made over several months getting checkbook one to balance hasn't been that difficult either.

After a rather heated discussion last week I think I've finally convinced him that in order to live off savings we have to be saving now, that he must be involved in this, and that a graduated approach (first 1%, then 2% etc up to 15%)* is the most reasonable approach. Starting in April we will be saving 2% of our monthly income towards retirement/old age.

*I have been setting aside 15% of my tutoring money since I started tutoring in January - trying to move us in that direction.

Do we have enough?

March 6th, 2009 at 01:53 pm

Do we have enough in Checkbook One to buy some bird food? Yes, Mr H asked me this last night. Looks like he's getting with the program.

I just finished running the numbers (I'm behind) and we had a $248.72 surplus in Checkbook One for February. Wow, this budget thing is working!

Unfortunately, the temptation now is to spend. I haven't yet figured out what we've spent so far for March, but I have given in to the temptation a bit. It's so easy to get careless. I'm reigning myself in and getting back into "keeping our money" mode.

I have decided that my tutoring money will go towards our annual Memorial Day camping trip. Expenses for this trip include space in the campground (already paid for), ferry fare for two vehicles, extra gas money and extra food costs. You would think that we would just eat normally but no. . . our camping diet includes things like s'more fixings, bacon, snack foods and beer and wine, and those food items add up.

I love camping. I love sleeping in a sleeping bag in a tent (even in pouring down rain), I love getting up and making coffee and looking at the beautiful surroundings, I love sitting by the campfire on damp mornings, I love Mr H's obsession with tarps, I love our friends who we camp with, I love my camping clothes (wool sweaters, long johns and rain poncho in addition to other layers). I'm getting giddy just thinking about this trip.

How'd we do in February?

March 4th, 2009 at 01:33 pm

These words came out of the mouth of Mr. H on the first day of March.

I'm shocked and thrilled. Mr H seems to be engaging a little more in our financial life. I didn't have the information for him - we had commitments throughout the weekend that kept me busy. But even with a last-minute burst of spending we are still had a surplus in Checkbook One for the month of February. Yay us!

I'm reading an interesting book called Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. It's apparently on the best seller list, and discusses why some people are super-successful in what they do. There are lots of interesting observations made, but the one I am finding useful at the moment is the contrast between Chinese rice-growing farmer's proverbs and Russian peasant's proverbs. (It's on page 237.) Here is one listed as the Chinese farmer's: "If a man works hard, the land will not be lazy." Here is one attributed to Russian peasants: "If God does not bring it, the earth will not give it." Do proverbs express what the cultural beliefs are, or do they shape the cultural beliefs, or both? In a way it doesn't matter. Gladwell discusses the cultures that produced both of these proverbs and how the proverbs might have developed.

I'm not a Chinese farmer and Mr H isn't a Russian peasant, but I think the two proverbs above express our very different attitudes towards life. I am working to make things happen and Mr H is waiting for something to happen that he will then react to. In a way we both have a self-fulfilling prophecy - things happen because of my efforts, but to Mr H it looks like things "just happened". It's become clearer to me over the last year that Mr H really doesn't see much of connection between his efforts and his results.* Which is fine, except when we try to work together. . . which in a marriage is pretty much all the time in one way or another.

Mr H handles Checkbook Two and I handle Checkbook One. I've written quite a bit in the last 11 or so months about Checkbook One - with persistence and changes to some parts of our financial life it's finally not being overspent. Part of these changes involve some real effort on my part to not just spend money randomly. Mr H has noted that Checkbook Two is running a bit low. He's concerned. . . but I'm not seeing much effort or involvement on his part to figure out and solve this problem.

I can't change Mr H's very deeply held beliefs. . . that I'm not even sure he recognizes as having. But I am going to continue to point out cause and effect in our lives, to the best of my ability to do so.

*I should qualify this. It looks like he does see this in very short term efforts, things that can be completed in four hours or less.

January and February Update

February 25th, 2009 at 08:56 pm

We spent a little over a month being sick here in the onion patch - all of us, Mr H, Daisy and me. I finally went to visit my doc and got antibiotics. Normally I'm not in favor of that stuff (plus a doctor visit isn't cheap, even with insurance) but I could feel the difference within one hour of taking the first dose. So it was a good decision. Being sick put me in a stupor. It wasn't a terribly productive month.

Checkbook One had a small surplus in January and looks to have the same in February. That will be three months in a row now that Checkbook One has not been overspent. Pinch me, I must be dreaming!

We had a windfall and now our EF is funded for six months. That would be six *tight* months, but I feel relief about our EF.

I've been soliciting Mr H's feedback on the budget for Checkbook One. Usually he doesn't give much. One day he expressed frustration "because the money's already spent". I went back and tried to figure out what he meant, because isn't that the point of a budget - to prioritize and spend your money on paper first? I never did get a clear answer, but I suspect he wants to spend money on some items and doesn't feel like he can. I added a "wish list" to the bottom of the budget page. If there's a surplus we can look at spending money on those items. Some items Mr H would like are on that list.

I've made good progress on Goals 2 and 3, but none on Goal 4.

Mr H and I have had many, many short and sweet financial conversations in the last two months. The all start with one person stating something they want or something that needs to be purchased and the other person asking how we will pay for it. Fortunately they have been civil and productive discussions. It's definite progress for us.

Budget Update and Goal Update

January 24th, 2009 at 10:28 am

I've decided that updating the budget for Checkbook One on Thursdays works well. So far so good. We are still under or at budget in all categories for Checkbook One. I think we'll even make the budget in the grocery category this month and not be 21% over.

I've moved what used to be Goal 1 off to a page. It is fun to look at past accomplishments but I don't want to get stuck there!

Goal 3: Decrease food costs. I've given it a dollar figure. Some people here might wonder why the budget is set at $650 for just three people. Two reasons: It includes personal care and cleaning supplies (and also any eating out), and I value organic and locally produced food and that adds up. To bring the costs down I've done things like look for sales on food that we typically buy, change some things about our diets (oatmeal instead of cold cereal for example), and figure out how best to use meat and dairy products which seem to be the most expensive categories in the food budget. Last year's average was higher than this, so it's definitely an improvement.

Future goal: Develop a source of "egg money". Here's a definition I found of egg money:

Before World War II, most eggs were produced by small flocks that scratched their way around the barnyard. The farmer's wife usually supervised the operation. The money received from the sale of the eggs was considered hers. Source: http://www.georgiaeggs.org/pages/eggmoney.html

I started tutoring a couple of weeks ago. . . and I really like it! I'm tutoring math with younger children using materials I'm already familiar with. I'm not charging enough, and both my client and me know that. But as I told her, she's helping train me so we're both winning. We will re-evaluate the fees in a month or so.

While the definition of egg money posted above has it under the control of the farmer's wife, I asked the farmer what he thought we should do with the money. He had no opinion. So I suggested that a percentage of it be set aside for taxes, 15% for the EF or retirement and the rest in to Checkbook One. He was agreeable. It's not a whole lot in to the checkbook but it might be enough to fund our summer camping trips.

2009 Goals Update

January 18th, 2009 at 08:30 pm

Mr H and I had a discussion about the EF in December. We agreed to take some of his bonus money and add it to the 4496.85 already in the Emergency Fund. We later discussed what type of account to put this money in and decided to put it in a three month CD. While it's possible we could lose some interest if we had to tap in to the account, it wouldn't be a huge loss. If we don't have to tap in to it the account will earn better interest than a money market account would.

So, Goal 1 (emergency fund to 8625.00) on my list is completed, six months ahead of schedule!

Goals 2 (budget for checkbook 1) and 3 (decrease food costs) are in progress, with more progress on 2 than 3 I'd say.

Goal 4 (stay away from coffee shops) has had minimal progress. I was given a Starbucks gift card which has helped our bottom line but not my coffee-out habit.

Goal 5 will probably get moved elsewhere, but I may blog about it from time to time.

I will add a goal of earning part-time or sporadic income. This has been in my head for a while, but strangely it's also under way. I was asked by a friend to help tutor some of her children.

Checkbook One Conclusions

January 17th, 2009 at 07:01 am

I've been giving some thought as to why we suddenly didn't overspend Checkbook One in December. I have been concerned about this problem since I started blogging here in April, but feel like I have been chasing my tail trying to solve it.

I've come to the conclusion that it's just perseverance in trying to figure out where we went wrong each month and correct that. (Having bad weather for about two weeks which limited us leaving the house also helped. When you don't leave the house you don't spend money or use up your gas.) So, I suppose it's not really sudden at all.

Our top three problems with Checkbook One were the credit card, spending during the week between the time that Mr H got his check and the new month started, and not having a spending plan that works.

Credit card: Although we pay off our credit card every month, it's psychologically hard to write a check for one-quarter to one-third of the amount in your checkbook at the beginning of the month. Our credit card usage increased over the years as stores stopped taking checks. I got a debit card a while ago, and Mr H got one a couple of months ago. Where we regularly used to put gas and take-and-bake pizzas on the credit card we now put them on the debit card. "Pay as you go" is working better than "put off the paying until next month". Don't people spend 23% more when they use a credit card?

Spending during the week between the time that Mr H got his check and the new month started: Okay, that was me. . . and it wasn't THAT much. . . but enough to kill the budget. I wrote about this last spring. I called it "The Dead Zone". My brain kind of went on holiday during that week. What was I thinking? I wasn't thinking, and that was the problem.

Not having a spending plan that works: There are so many ways to write a budget. For this checkbook and us, having a limited number of categories and looking at the amount left in each category weekly, on Friday, seemed to do the trick. We have the following categories: Grocery/Personal Care/Cleaning, Gas, Church Contribution, Bowling, Master Card and Everything Else. (Regular bills like mortgage, insurance etc are paid out of another checkbook.) The Everything Else category scares me - the dollar amount is limited and it covers a huge number of other categories like clothing, gifts, office supplies, household items and yard and garden. But lumping these into "Everything Else" works better than trying to allocate a few dollars into each of the sub-categories. Or at least it did this month.

January is looking good so far.

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