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Procrastination Pays Off

January 18th, 2015 at 05:54 am

I noted in my last entry that I was planning to sign up for a class during winter quarter related to my former field. When the class information was posted, I noted on the website that it had a different instructor than the one who taught the class I had visited. Now, anyone who has taken classes knows that instructor quality varies greatly. I liked what I saw for the instruction of the teacher I had visited. The new instructor was an unknown quantity.

After I wrote my previous entry I also looked into a program related to my field. It would be several classes, all on-line, with a certification at the end. The fees would be minimal - the bulk of the cost is paid by the government through a "back to work" initiative. But. . . all on-line, on-your-own classes. And I wasn't wild about the offerings.

As I mulled over my options, I was deluged by Christmas and all that entails.

Ultimately I decided, for a lot of reasons, that the certification program would be my second choice. I went to register for the class at about a week before quarter start, and discovered that not only was the class full, I would be pretty far down on the waiting list! I contacted the school and found out that they were working to get another section of the class opened. I was contacted the first day of classes - a new section opened, and the instructor is the one I visited with in the fall! Normally procrastination comes back to bite me but in this case it paid off.

I am loving my class. I've been out of this field, at home with Daisy for over a decade. But - it's been just like riding a bicycle. It's coming back. I'm not a rock star in my class, but I'm a good solid performer.

YMOYL - The Purpose of Paid Employment

October 1st, 2014 at 07:43 pm

I've been re-reading Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez. A lot of people don't like this book, especially the investment advice. But I've found that there are useful nuggets even if you don't do the whole program.

One of the things that stood out to me on this re-read is the purpose of paid employment. Per the book many people look at their jobs as a source of security, enjoyment, power, personal growth and friendships. All these things that people want to get from their jobs they can get through other ways, such as volunteer work and hobbies. The only thing that a person cannot through other means is - pay. Therefore, they argue, the purpose of paid employment is to get paid. (The larger work of your life may be something else completely different than your paid employment though.)

I have been mulling over this thought. I stepped out of the workforce over ten years ago to be a stay at home mom. I have no regrets over this decision and would do it again in a heartbeat. I am now looking at going back into the workforce. I have been hemming and hawing over it during the course of this year. I haven't been really sure what path to pursue.

One of my stay-at-home friends got back into the world of work via retail. Another person I know was retrained in an area that is desperate for workers. (The retraining was paid for by the hiring company when my friend was hired.) One mom friend stayed at her job, working part time when her children were little and then going back to full time when the youngest was in elementary school. Another mom friend got back into her former line of work after many years out. A couple of my mom friends fell into starting their own businesses.

I'm surprising myself by thinking that I'm going to attempt to get back into my former line of work. I worked in a somewhat specialized technical field that was in demand at the time I left it. But I heard then that that particular technology would disappear, and I just have given it no thought since I left my last job. I figured that I would do something completely different when I re-entered the workforce.

After discussing the possibility of going into my former field with a friend, I decided to go visit a class at the local community college that relates to my field of work. Classes just started last week so I could take the class if I wanted to. When I got there I almost chickened out, but I faced my fears and bravely walked through the door. I was able to follow what the instructor was discussing (even after missing one class, and not having thought about the topic for over ten years) and had a good discussion with him during a class break. After hearing about my background, he encouraged me to take the class and believes that I can get back into my original technical field.

An internet search reveals that this could easily be true - the technology didn't go away as predicted. Many of the people who work with it are nearing retirement - and younger people aren't that interested in pursuing it because - it's old technology. The internet predicts a worker shortage in this area.

I am now planning to take the class during winter quarter. In the interim I'm going to study my previous work field using books from the local college library and also the internet. Oddly, I found a paper on the internet describing the conversion of the old technology into the specific new technology that I will study in winter.

Using It Up

February 17th, 2014 at 02:21 am

Thanks for a great idea, rob and CCF!

I am making cupcakes and they are going to be spread with 5 bits of leftover frosting. (Yes, there is such a thing. Some of the frosting was frozen.)

Tonight I served grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.

My grilled cheese sandwich had leftover feta in it, along with more melty cheese.

The tomato soup was made from leftover marinara, leftover salsa that had chicken cooked in it, a can of tomato paste, roux and water.

The sandwiches got burned and Mr H refused to eat his and made another.

I am going to find a use for the slightly burned sandwich. Any ideas?

Birthday Party

October 18th, 2012 at 06:32 pm

We are usually pretty low key about Daisy's birthday. We have a family dinner (includes some extended family), cake, ice cream and presents. Daisy likes to decorate cakes and usually decorates her own each year. That's about the extent of it. But this year was a big number birthday - Daisy has entered the teenage years. She wanted to have a Star Wars themed-party, and so we did. She drew up a guest list and we invited everyone on it. I thought, we're less than two weeks away from party date – we'll probably get about half of our guests. We had over 20 guests, not including adults who stayed. The only two invitees that didn't come now live in another state.

This can't really be a post about how to do a Star Wars party on a budget, because I spent way too much money on it. But we had fun, and I learned some things that could help me in the future.

The internet is full of Star Wars party ideas, and we borrowed a few. One idea, not specific to Star Wars parties, was to focus party decorations on a wall behind the table where most of the food will be placed. We covered the wall with black paper and attached glow-in-the-dark stars to it. I made a banner, using a Star Wars font, that said "Happy Birthday Daisy". We also decorated ceilings with black streamers and silver balloons. The limited, yet focused, decorations worked well.

The kids (mostly girls, plus a couple of younger boys) came dressed in costume. That provided excitement for this particular event. We played three party games – two were Star Wars themed. One is the game where you get a Star Wars character name taped to your back and you have to figure out who that character is. The other was a Death Star piñata (soccer ball piñata painted gray – we attempted to make a piñata but it was a failure. I did several piñatas in my youth but I must have lost my touch). Dinner followed activities. Our dinner was a make-your-own burrito bar ("Greedo Burritos") and lime punch ("Yoda Soda"), and some cut up vegetables. Then cake and presents, and that was the party.

What I learned:
I used the "Ellen's Kitchen" website to calculate how much food to make. When do I ever cook for 30? But I added too much extra to Ellen's excellent calculations. Running out at the last minute, and overbuying, really sunk my budget.

Start earlier – much, much earlier. I think our original piñata would have worked if we’d started on it earlier. The balloon I bought to make the piñata center cost $10. (Yes, it’s a rubber balloon – but it's huge – I think 36” in diameter if you blow it up all the way. Special purchase at the party store.) That $10 was basically wasted.

If the party is huge, enlist help in advance. Some of the adults who stayed helped out - a lot - maybe even too much. But it's more pleasant to help out a lot if you know in advance you are going to do that. I did not ask for any specific help from Mr. H, but he did dishes after dinner and vacuumed after everyone left.

In order to keep myself out of financial denial, I wrote down all expenses on a spreadsheet. It wasn't pretty but I'm glad I did it. If I had a spending plan first, expenses would probably have come in under the budgeted amount.

Something I already knew:
We can host a lot of people in our house (1200 sq ft) if we can use the back yard and everyone is kept busy with engaging activities.

Our party was basically pretty simple – party games, food and presents. Oh, and costumes. With fun guests and a good theme, I think it was a good party.

Mortgage Decrease

January 4th, 2011 at 04:28 am

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 04:09 pm

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.


Overspent

October 8th, 2010 at 12:29 pm

September was another overspend month in Checkbook Number One. We had a problem with this in Checkbook Number One for several years, and I finally got it under control about two years ago. To keep it under control I have to work diligently, and it got away from me in May. We’ve been a little bit over every month since then. It’s time to get it back in line.

Checkbook Number One has four budget categories – Groceries, Gas, Church Contributions and Everything Else. (Bills such as Mortgage, Utilities, schooling expenses, and also Christmas are paid out of a different account). Gas was about right, and Church Contributions were accurate. The overspending occurred in Groceries – about 115% of the budgeted amount and Everything Else – about 125% of the budgeted amount.

I reviewed our Grocery and Everything Else purchases for September in detail. As usual it wasn’t one big thing that sunk the budget but an accumulation of little stuff. In Groceries, we spent a little too much in the treat category and I also stocked up on some household staples without decreasing spending in other areas of the grocery budget. In Everything Else. . . a few too many trips to Starbucks. There were some unanticipated cash withdrawls by Mr H. I don’t begrudge him that, but if I don’t know about it until later I’ve spent the money elsewhere by the time I find out. Due to overspending in August this category also had less money in it.

For October, inspired by Denise (Thrift-O-Rama) and Laura (Love the Life You Live) I went through and figured out how much grocery money I’d have to spend each week. Then I allocated how much I thought I would spend where (we get some food items on a schedule, direct from a farm). In the Everything Else category I tried to anticipate expenses for the month (ie, people’s birthdays, Halloween costumes, etc) and write them down.

One week into October this is already putting us on the right path for the month. I’ve already had to consciously choose to spend Grocery money on some items and not others. We are on budget as of October 7th. Only three more weeks to go!

Just. . . Wow

March 1st, 2010 at 03:11 pm

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 11:22 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.

Missed Opportunity

February 12th, 2010 at 10:22 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!

Where'd You Get All Those Coupons?

November 10th, 2009 at 02:18 pm

These words were spoken to me - me - by a grocery store clerk the other day.

I am not a coupon queen. I do the bulk of my shopping at a natural foods co-op. I have for decades. It is more expensive than the discount grocery, but I feel that I am feeding my family with a better quality of food, and supporting a local business. (We also buy some of our food direct from the farmer, get some via a wholesale supplier, etc. We have more than one way we shop.)

Over time I've figured out what we eat and how much of it we eat. I've learned how to maximize my dollars there, although there is still room for improvement.

This store offers a 10% member discount coupon each month. It used to be one 10% member discount day per month. When Daisy was a toddler I'd get her out of bed, put her in the car and off we'd go to to the store. I had my grocery list made to go with the aisles of the store, and we'd basically eat our way through the store while I shopped (and filled the cart) as fast as possible.

But I digress.

This month, before heading off, I hopped on-line and hunted for coupons for brands I typically purchase. I found some, and added them to the stack I had from natural foods flyers and newspapers.

I don't think many people who shop there have coupons. But here I was, scrambling to match my coupons with my items as they went past on the conveyor. The coupons saved about $15. Added to the in-store specials and the 10% discount I think I did pretty well. At least well enough to impress the clerk.

Weekend Shopping Trip - Frugal Family Fun

September 22nd, 2009 at 02:17 pm

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.

Catching Up

September 18th, 2009 at 04:15 am

I spent the financial part of my day balancing my check book and updating quicken.

Next steps are reconciling Checkbook One - tomorrow - and then figuring out how the money was spent during July, August and the first half of September - tomorrow and Saturday.

How's that for geeky excitement? Smile