It’s Not a Race and It’s Not a Contest

Let’s start this post off with a confession. I am a tad bit competitive. Not crazy competitive like cheating or tripping people or anything like that but I do like to win if there’s a contest and although I know I’m generally not the smartest, prettiest, or most athletic in most rooms I walk into, I’m always going to do my best to make sure I put full effort into whatever I’m doing.

So, after considering this confession I just made you can see where it might be a little deflating when I’m reading all these personal finance blogs that I’m addicted to that have headlines like the following:

“We paid off $65,000 in one year….”

“We saved $13,000 this month…”

“We reduced our expenses by $20,000 a month and quit our jobs…”

“We retired at 36 years old and travel the world now…”

Okay so let’s talk about these headlines.

I don’t make $65K a year…

I don’t spend $13K a month…

I’m not going to be able to reduce my expenses and quit my job unless someone wants to pay for my family’s health insurance…

I’m just shy of 44 years and truthfully I’ll probably be working until about 36 minutes before I die at the rate I’m going…lol…

Well, that’s it, I guess I’m never going to be able to improve my financial standing so I might as well give up and buy that new smart TV I’ve been lusting after for months or that new Prada purse. And afterwards I’ll stop at a restaurant and drown my sorrows into some fancy $12 cocktail and think about how unfair life is and everyone else has it so much better and easier than I do.

WRONG!! Okay, first off, I googled Prada bags just to see how much they were and nearly had a heart attack. Those things are a couple thousand dollars. That’s insane, if I hit the Powerball and become a millionaire I can assure you that I still wouldn’t spend that much on a purse. I would like a new larger smart TV though but I don’t need one so that will wait for a bit.

Personal finance is exactly that, it’s personal. My financial story is not going to be the same as yours most likely. I’ve probably made different mistakes than you in the past and I probably have different goals than you going forward. That’s fine. You might even want to buy a Prada purse some day (if so, then I probably would have to re-evaluate our friendship though because that’s ridiculous money to spend on a freaking purse!) and think I’m goofy for wanting to spend $300 on a slightly larger smart TV.

I’ve made dumb financial mistakes in the past such as giving up a full-ride scholarship because I didn’t like the major, not making sure we had sufficient life insurance,  buying too much house for my income level, getting in the car-leasing cycle for too long and perhaps getting too comfortable in jobs instead of job-hopping for higher paying positions at other companies. Some obstacles in my life were really bad luck/fortune, some were bad decisions, and some were a combination of both. Of course that doesn’t stop me from being all judgey sometimes when I’m reading someone else’s story. What? Why are they spending money on alcohol and cigarettes when they can’t pay their electric bill? Why are they putting that trip to Disney World on a credit card when they don’t even have an emergency fund?? See what I mean? Those are definitely financial mistakes but why am I judging them when I have my own closet of financial skeletons?

My focus this year is on focusing on my wins and not my roadblocks. I’m a single mom of two kids in college so it’s not realistic to compare myself to a couple with no kids and two high paying professional jobs. I have a full-time job that I’m certainly not going to get rich from but I enjoy it for the most part and it provides me with health insurance and I’m not worried about corporate lay-offs or anything. I have a second job with flexible hours that I can adjust as needed and provides me and the boys with a discounted food benefit. I adhere to a fairly strict budget as I try to steadily pay down our debts. I’m trying to build another stream of income with my writing. I’m trying to help my boys minimize their expenses while they’re in school. It’s definitely a slow and steady race for me at the moment and that’s frustrating sometimes but I just have to remind myself that I am moving forward and not backwards and someday maybe I’ll have that great debt payoff story to share. It won’t be a story about a race, more like a marathon, but that’s just fine with me.

 

Insurance woes

It’s my favorite time of year (please note,  I’m typing this with my sarcasm font). January brings a brand new insurance company and deductibles and so far this year, in the first 27 days we’ve spent the following:

Contacts and glasses for Nicholas: $283.00
Prescriptions for Michael:  $989.68

We currently pay $336.44 a month in insurance premiums. Our deductibles are $3,000 individual/$6,000 family. Once we meet the deductibles then we pay 20% of the next $2,000 towards the individual out of pocket or $4,000 for the family out of pocket. We had the large deductibles last year with Humana but the 20% after the deductible is new with our Anthem plan. This means a minimum of $2,600 more that we’ll have to pay this year then we did last year and that’s assuming that only Michael maxes out his insurance this year and Nick and I are lucky enough to not have to use our insurance plan too much.

I hate all things politics. I WILL NOT get into a political debate here but I can tell you that the United State’s current health insurance program is severely broken. This is not an attack on the Democratic or Republican party separately because my insurance has continuously sucked over the last 9 years regardless of who has been in charge. I say 9 years because that’s how long it’s been since Michael was diagnosed with diabetes and brought the issue of health care costs to the forefront for us specifically.

Michael is a “good” diabetic in that we’ve had very minimal diabetes-related issues such as hospitalizations. We had one ER trip that was a cautionary trip when he got overheated during his junior firefighting class and the training officers couldn’t get ahold of me. We had one intensive unit stay this past August when his insulin pump failed and he developed DKA. According to his doctors they have patients that are routinely hospitalized numerous times a year so I feel very fortunate and grateful that Michael manages his diabetes fairly well. Despite being a “good diabetic”, diabetes is a crazy expensive disease. His insulin is over $700 a month, test strips that generally last about 3 months was around $300.00 last time we paid for them, and insulin pod supplies for his insulin pump were about $800 for three months worth of supplies. I don’t even have a cost to reference for his CGM because we’d already met our deductible last year when we ordered those so there was no out of pocket costs for us then but I’m guessing that will probably be comparable to the insulin pod supplies. I think you probably get the drift…

Keep in mind, the numbers above is for our family, who has an employee sponsored health plan with a well-known national insurance company. What do the people do that don’t have insurance or can’t afford the medicine? I’ll tell you what they do, they either don’t take their medicine properly (taking less each time then prescribed or skipping doses) so that it lasts longer or they don’t take it at all and then they get sick or die. This is a problem Washington!!

Michael is currently in school studying to be a registered nurse. I hope and pray that he will have a job that has decent health insurance plans to pick from in the future but it really burns me to think of the financial burden this will have on him on top of having to deal the the physical and mental challenges the disease poses on a daily basis. Currently I take advantage of our HSA plan to sock money away each pay period to go towards these exorbitant costs and I use part of my tax refund money towards these costs as well. Once our deductibles are met for the year we make sure to get refills done on a regular schedule even if he’s not completely out of the product so that we have a little bit of buffer hopefully at the beginning of each year before we have to meet the deductibles again.

Let me just say, that despite this bummer of a post, that I do realize I have a lot to be grateful for. It’s definitely tight at times with the budget but I can pay for Michael’s diabetes supplies. I am grateful that I can keep Michael on my insurance if we need to until he turns 26. I do pray constantly though that something happens in Washington, sooner rather than later. Something has to change so that it’s not so tough for people to pay for their medicine or have to worry about battling their insurance companies over what they will and won’t cover for chronic illnesses.

 

 

2018-The Year of Being Bold

We’re almost a week into 2018 and I’m just now settling on my resolutions for the year. Granted it’s the busy time of year at my work and the juggling long hours with the hustle and bustle of preparing for the holidays is always a bit of a balancing act but I love setting my goals and resolutions for the year so I wasn’t sure at first why I was struggling with it this year. I realized something this week though as I was jotting down notes about different goals I wanted to accomplish. I realized that my goals for this year were very similar to my goals from last year and the year before.

There’s nothing wrong with the goals I’ve been setting. They encompass financial goals, personal and career goals, and healthy living…. all good things and although I didn’t meet some of my goals last year, which means they were somewhat challenging, somehow I am not feeling challenged in my life. That’s why I’ve decided I need to be more Bold this year. I need to stretch myself more than I have been in the past. I want to take more chances, I want to try things that might scare me, and I want to trust in myself a little more. So without further ado… here are some of my plans for 2018:

Financial

  • Double my emergency fund
  • reduce credit card balances by 20%
  • $6,000 in extra income

This might not sound that ambitious but it is because I have several home projects that are going to cost me some money this year and our healthcare costs will be at least $2,600 more this year.

Personal/Career

  • One blog post a week
  • 4 pieces of writing submitted (these can include guest posting on other bloggers sites)
  • One class taken to aid me in my career progress (probably Excel)
  • At least two classes to further my knowledge for my blog and/or writing
  • Declutter my home and get it organized-starting this off with a January daily home challenge
  • Hang my artwork in my home
  • An actual vacation this year with the family
  • One getaway for me
  • Establish a new steam of income-preferably through my writing in some fashion
  • 36 books read

Healthy Living

  • 30 minutes of exercise 4 days a week
  • Gym twice a week
  • Take at least two exercise classes
  • Average 7 hours of sleep a night each week
  • Explore different relaxation techniques (meditation or yoga perhaps)

So here we go. Let’s see if I can crush these goals this year. Some things I plan on working this year also that I didn’t include since it’s hard to measure like the goals above are to be more present for others I know that need help. I have one project specifically in mind that’s of a personal nature. It’s easy to think, oh I don’t have enough money to help people but writing a check isn’t the only way to help people and I think there are some talents I have that I could use to help others, namely helping people set up budgets or helping out with social media. I also want to spend more time with friends and family.

2017 Recap

 

2017 really flew by. I know I’ve said it before but it seems like the older I get the faster life is moving and honestly I’m not sure I like that. Our family dynamic has shifted already quite a bit and although I can appreciate this stage of life, I do miss my boys “needing” me like they used to.

 

So before I get into my 2018 goals and resolutions, I’m going to provide a recap of my success and failures at last year’s.

On the financial side I did pretty well overall. Successes include finding us a new home that is both smaller and more cost efficient; keeping the emergency fund intact; surpassing my goal of $3800 in extra income funds; and reducing my credit card balances overall. I did not pay off two of my cards as I had hope too though. I had one paid off but various issues (plumbing repairs, new tires, etc.) means it once again has a balance. I’m going to work on that again this year.

My Personal/Career goals was more of a mixed bag of results. I did well with finding 3 hours of “me” time a week. I took not one but several mini trips; one to Tennessee, one to Bowling Green, one to Indiana, and of course our annual Holiday world trip. I enrolled in two different webinars, one covering freelance writing tips and the other on crushing your New Year’s resolutions. The resolutions one fizzled a bit with connectivity issues but I have the PowerPoint presentation to review so I’m counting that as a success. I was not able to write 5 days a week. I only submitted one piece of writing for publication, not three. My goal of reading 36 books is also a bust. I think I will end up with 32, perhaps 33, so that’s close. And I was not able to do one blog post a week. I ended up with 22 posts, which is just shy of 2 a month. I wrote 11 blog posts in 2016 so I doubled my efforts this year but I think I can do better with this one in 2018.

Healthy Living was definitely my biggest challenge this year-no surprise to me but still disappointing. I definitely don’t feel that I drank less diet coke and more water. No excuses there, I just don’t like water and I do like diet coke. Some weeks I exercised three times a week but I definitely didn’t do so consistently despite splurging on a gym membership mid-year. I’ve also discovered that it is nearly impossible for someone who sits at a desk job a minimum of 9 hours a day to get 7500 steps 5 times a week. The only goal I consistently hit in this category was getting 6 or more hours of sleep a night.

There you go, some successes and some failures. I’m still thinking about my goals and resolutions for this year.  My initial thoughts were to keep very similar goals for this year but I’ve also thought about reducing the goals down or perhaps focusing on one a month or 2-3 a quarter to see if I achieve better results that way. In the end I’m pretty happy with my efforts this year, especially considering it was a year with so many big life changes, including a move to a new home and Nicholas leaving home for college. As I sit here battling a horrific cold or respiratory infection, I do realize that my health should be a bigger priority this year though. I’m definitely not getting any younger as my aching knee and muffin top will tell you so healthy living goals will most certainly find their way on to my resolutions again this year.

December Goals

The months are absolutely flying by. We won’t even talk about my terrible progress with my November goals and obviously we’re more than halfway through December before I could eke this post out. Instead of focusing on what didn’t happen, I’ll give a brief recap of what I did manage to accomplish.

I did manage to take a few days off of work and took a mini-vacation to my aunt’s house for a little rest and relaxation.  I was able to do a little bit of writing, obviously not on my blog but I did get to work on my Bella Grace journal. I stayed focused on my budget and I think I’m in fairly good shape as far as being able to use rewards points and such for my Christmas shopping this year. I managed to read three books as well.

I decided to scale back on my December goals. It’s not because I’ve been terrible at accomplishing everything the past couple of months but more of a general realization that Nick is home from college most of the month and Michael also has a few weeks off of school and I want to be able to enjoy some extra time with them. My work has a scheduled shut-down period between Christmas and January 2nd and although my particular department will have to come in and work part of that time I’m still hoping to enjoy some extra hours off with some lazy days reading and writing and maybe catching a movie or two.

I really need to focus on making it to the gym at least once a week though.  My gym membership is $10 a month and if I can make it once a week then that works out to $2.50 a visit and I can justify that. If I can’t manage 4 visits a month then I may as well save my 10 bucks.

I still want to be better about posting regularly on this blog and writing something everyday. I’m just a happier person when I am able to write. I’ve also got to get my New Year’s Resolutions ready. I can’t believe we’re just a few weeks away from a brand new year.

Re-tweaking the budget is going to be one of my big goals on our scheduled shut-down though. Our company is changing insurance companies again and unfortunately it’s going to cost me anywhere from $2,600 to 3,000.00 more this year.  An already tight budget is about to get tighter. Fortunately I’ve been good about continuing to fund our HSA this year even after meeting Michael’s deductible so I think it it’s going to be manageable. I really do need to find another stream of income though.

Bye-Bye Cable

As a single parent, I’m always looking for new ways to cut costs, and of course that’s become especially important over the last three years as the boys graduated high school and we lost the Social Security payments we’d come to rely on since Rick died. Losing one monthly Social Security payment in 2015 was tough but when Nick graduated this past May and we lost the second one it became essential to cut expenses down to the bone.

Downsizing to a much smaller condo (half the size of our previous place) saved us several hundred dollars a month but not enough to offset the loss of the Social Security funds. The first item on the chopping block I decided was our cable package. Believe it or not, it wasn’t the boys that balked at this idea, it was me. The boys generally just watch Netflix on their smart TV’s, with the exception of ESPN for Nick during basketball season. On those rare occasions when our schedule is not jam packed though, I really enjoy unwinding in front of the television. HGTV, the Hallmark channel, and the network channels that have my weekly sitcoms are the most important to me. ESPN, again, was the only thing Nick was concerned about losing. I did some research and discovered that Sling TV offered a package of about 20 channels that included HGTV and ESPN. An antenna provided most of the network channels that I wanted (ABC for some reason is the only local channel I haven’t been able to pick up).

I have to admit that it’s a little embarrassing how stressed I was at the thought of losing my beloved cable television. Hello, television addiction. I finally decided to go for it though. I reasoned with myself that I was almost certainly going to have to pick up a second job anyway so that’s less time I’d be spending in front of the television and none of the streaming packages we were going to be using required contracts so if it didn’t work out for us then I could always re-order a cable or satellite package.

So are we saving money? Yes, most definitely, but not as much as I originally hoped because the internet is more expensive when it’s not bundled with a TV package. In our old condo we were had internet and cable bundled with Time Warner (now Spectrum) and we were paying $121.91 for a mid-level cable package (no movie channels or extra sports channels). We’ve also had Netflix forever, really, forever, like back to the original days where we were getting the DVD’s in the mail. So between the bundled cable package and our Netflix we were paying $133.90 a month.

Currently, we have high-speed internet through Spectrum ($44.99 a month), we kept our Netlix ($11.99), added Sling with an add-on for the Hallmark channels for me ($26.34), and Hulu. Our Hulu package started out as a two-week free trial (Thanks Totinos pizza) and it offers a lot of the network series shows a day after they broadcast so Michael liked that. I was paying $7.99 a month for that but just found out that if you have a college student who uses Spotify as their music service then they have a deal where you can get both Spotify and Hulu for $4.99 a month. Michael had been paying $10.99 a month for his Spotify subscription so he switched to that deal, which saved him $6 a month and me $7.99 a month so it was a win-win for us both. Plus now he can say he’s contributing to the household bills, lol. So grand total for our internet and television viewing now is $83.32, which is a monthly savings of $50.58 or an annual savings of just over $600.00.  The cable and internet companies still get you because it’s definitely more expensive to get the high-speed internet service by itself and you have a to have a decent speed to support streaming these services but saving $600 a year with very minimal disruption to my viewing pleasure is definitely worth it to me.

In order to stream these services, you might have some initial start-up costs. My boys both have smart TV’s so they can stream the Netflix, Sling, and Hulu easily. They used their Playstations before they had smart TV’s. I use a Roku device in our living room and my bedroom. I used a Chromecast for awhile but I’m old school and preferred the Roku since it has an actual remote rather than using my Iphone as the remote for the Chromecast. Alternatively, you can also use a blue-ray DVD player, an Amazon firestick, or Apple TV to stream. I also have an antennae so I can get the local channels on my bedroom TV.

So again, I’m saving a little over $600 a year by cutting the cord with cable. I know a lot of people have asked me about this and several have mentioned that they were paying much more than what we were for their cable packages so you might save a little more or less than us. If things got really tight we could also cut our services down even further but for now I’m happy with our savings and the fact that we can still watch our favorite shows.

 

November Goals

Surely there’s no where to go but up after last month’s dismal progress on my monthly goals. I have a few extra days off this month between the holidays and some vacation time I’m using so hopefully I can get some stuff accomplished this month.

Personal goals include reading three books and writing at least one blog post a week. I want to write something every single day, whether it’s a blog post, journal entry or work on my novel. I also want to make it to the gym twice a week this month. I feel like I need to do that to justify the cost of my membership.

Financially I’m aiming for at least five no spend days. I think this should be easily attainable (maybe too easy), I just have to remember to track it.

Christmas shopping needs to be on the lean side this year if I’m going to stay on task with my financial goals so I need to nail the boys down on a list of items they may want this year so I can be on the lookout for the best prices. Generally it’s tough to get a list from them because they always swear they don’t need anything but I know this year has been a little tight on them as they’ve been trying to work minimal hours while school was in session. I’m thinking they could use some gift cards for gas or restaurants if nothing else.

My work did not give us a summer bonus this year. I think this is the first time in the ten years I’ve been with this company that we didn’t get one so I’m praying we get our bonus that generally comes in November/early December this year. Also I’ve discovered that a negative of working a 2nd job at a Dairy Queen is that winter brings a little slower traffic and I’ve not been getting all the hours I was expecting/hoping but on the plus side I have been diligent about collecting points through various surveys, reward points, discount programs, etc., so I have some money earmarked for Christmas already. I’m going to try to gather a few more points from the various sites and then cash out towards the middle of November so hopefully I’ll have the funds for my shopping.

Happy November!!

 

 

Different Seasons of Life

This time of year is tough on people. Shorter daylight hours, often cold and gloomy weather, and the stress of holidays, whether it’s because of financial reasons or other reasons can cause a serious case of the blues for people. Holidays aren’t always to blame for the world’s problems though. I have several friends and family members struggling now with different issues and it’s caused some reflection on my part.

There might be 4 seasons to the year but I believe people go through different seasons in their lives as well. I had a brief but wonderful season where I was in the honeymoon stage of my marriage. I had a husband I loved and adored and two beautiful baby boys. We were living halfway across the country from our family for the first time and living paycheck to paycheck most of the time but we were happy with our little family.

The season shifted and overnight I became a widow who had to figure out how to function on my own with two little boys. It was a dark and scary season that I thought would never end. Thanks to family and friends we adapted though. It was crazy hard and crazy rewarding, sometimes both in one day but it was worth it. I certainly wish we didn’t have to go through it but it made me stronger than I thought I could ever be.

This is a new season in our lives as well. Both boys are in college, one is living at home and the other is in a dorm in Bowling Green. They are both pretty self-sufficient now and it won’t be long before they’re both out on their own. I’m working two jobs right now. Financially it’s a necessity at the moment but honestly even if it wasn’t a financial necessity I would probably still be working a second job or be wrapped up in a volunteer activity because I don’t think I know how to not be needed like I was as a single mother. I find myself wanting to freeze time.

A friend that’s struggling right now recently confessed that she’s guilty of looking at others and comparing herself to them and feeling as if she’s lacking in some way in comparison. It seems like we have opposite problems but maybe not. It’s a rough season for both of us in many ways. She’s struggling to see past this season though or realizing that’s what this is… just a stormy season in her life.

This might be a stormy season for me as well but somehow despite the financial struggles right now and the worries over relatives that are struggling and feeling a little less needed by my boys, I’m somehow fairly content with my life. I’m concentrating on my finances, I’m happy in my new little condo, I’m writing more than ever despite the extra work hours and I’m trying to figure out what my second life stage will entail. Of course I’d love to be able to work just one job right now or help my boys a little more financially or help my struggling  relatives more but I’m content. Life has certainly thrown us some curveballs over the years so who knows, maybe it’s naïve to feel this level of contentness right now, but I’m going to continue to pray for my friends and family and help however I can without setting my own family back and hopefully the next season for us all will be full of sunnier days.

Failures and Setbacks

I knew September was going to be a busy month but Wow! I feel like I barely had time to breathe last month. Parents weekend was a fun time though and celebrating with Michael and friends for his 21st birthday was fun as well. It was my first month of working my “full part-time” hours at my second job and although I’m not as exhausted as I thought I’d be, it definitely requires some crazy time-management skills working 60 hours a week and still trying to eke out a life for yourself.

That being said, I totally bombed my September goals. Sigh…

I did not write everyday and I ended up with one blog post instead of 8. I did, however,  splurge and purchase the writing journal I’d had my eye on. I have flipped through it but not started writing in it yet. I want some devoted writing time to spend on it.

I hosted book club at my house but our barn door was not hung yet and neither were any other pictures in my house. Oh well, it was still a fun time with good friends.

Pretty sure I didn’t have 14 no-spend days but to be fair I didn’t track this in anyway. I would guess I might have had 7 or so. It was an expensive month between traveling to Bowling Green for parents weekend and celebrating Michael’s birthday. We also had some car repairs thrown in there. It could have been much worse though because I didn’t have to pay for lodging in Bowling Green thanks to good friends who let me tag along in their camper. Shout out to Jeff and Cyndi for saving me some $$$$$’s.

I also didn’t finish my 30 day AB workout. Why? Because it got too hard, lol. Sigh…

So it’s nearly the middle of October so it seems a little late to be issuing an October goals post but here’s my plans for the rest of the month…

Taking a mini-trip to Pigeon Forge with Michael for his Fall break. Found an inexpensive hotel for one night and hopefully we’ll be able to find some low-cost activities to do.  I’d be happy just finding a corner somewhere to read a good book and do some writing and be “away” from real life for a couple days.

I MUST complete the FAFSA. Not a fan of doing this in October now but also not a fan of having huge college bills for my kids.

Unfortunately it’s going to be another expensive month. Nick’s birthday is in a couple of weeks and I have to buy a new toilet and we have this previously unplanned trip. Hoping fall weather will show up soon and drop my electricity bill even further to offset some costs. I’ve been trying to meal plan also since I’m usually working at least two nights during the week now.

Fitness-wise my goal is to get to the gym at least twice a week and hit my 4500 step goal at least 5 days a week. I know 4500 steps doesn’t sound like much but for someone that sits at a desk for 9 hours a day, five days a week, it’s tough to get even that some days.

I’m also trying to write something at least 5 days a week and read three books. I think I’m going to aim for 4 blog posts. That’s probably more realistic than trying to crank out two a week right now with my schedule.

It’s rough having months like September where you feel like you “failed” at life because you didn’t hit all the goals you set for yourself but you have to keep plowing forward. I have a busy schedule and I like to set lofty goals and I know if I don’t set these goals then I’ll find myself getting lazy in my off hours and I don’t want to get stagnant in life. I might not be moving forward as much as I like but I’m still getting stuff done and without setting these goals the only thing I’d be advancing in is Candy Crush.

 

Financial Windfalls

Well, another big lottery winner last month and unfortunately, once again, it was not me and my co-workers. One individual won something crazy like $758 million and, in my opinion, made quite a few mistakes right off the bat. The first thing I would do is to get a good lawyer and financial adviser before I came forward and claimed the jackpot since the majority of states require you come forward publicly to claim your money in a press conference. She also called her employer and quit her job immediately. Money like this requires a lot of careful thought and planning.

Of course anyone that plays the lottery regularly has probably thought about the possibilities of what they would do with the money if they hit it big. I know I have. What if you came into some small windfalls though? Do you have a plan for that? I decided to figure out what I would do with some smaller windfalls. Of course most windfalls, whether they be bonuses or lottery or whatever will be taxed but for purposes of this fun little exercise I’m going to use round dollar amounts. I’m going to do $1,000, $10,000, $50,000, and $100,000.

$1,000: I’ve gotten bonuses in this amount before and they were usually handed out around early summer or Christmas so they were used for either summer vacation plans or Christmas presents. If I were to receive one now I would probably earmark half for Christmas and half towards my emergency fund since that’s a little lower presently than my comfort level prefers.

$10,000: $5400 would pay off two of my four credit cards and put a serious dent in a third, freeing up $115 a month that I can throw onto my last cards to get credit card-free that much quicker. $750 towards emergency fund, $2,000 for some plumbing work, $750 for my Christmas fund, $800 for repairs to my car from a previous wreck (body work only), and the remaining $300 for some fun blow money for me and the boys.

$50,000: Okay, now we’re into some life-changing money. Coming into money like this makes the decisions especially hard. The temptation would be to start having some fun and make some frivolous purchases after living lean for so long. I think I’m finally smarter than that though.

$34,500 would pay off all credit cards and student loans. $4,000 towards some plumbing issues and re-doing my master bath, $2,500 towards a family vacation since we’ve not had one in three years and very, very soon the boys will probably officially be out and living their own grown up lives and not willing to vacation with me anymore. $4,000 to the emergency fund, $1,000 for the Christmas fund, $3,000 to Michael’s deductible for 2018, and $1,000 fun money for some updates around the house or some little extra frivolous spending I don’t usually get to partake in.

$100,000: This would be heart palpitation-inducing money and probably throw me into panic mode and cause some decision paralysis for a few weeks. But here’s my general thoughts on allocating this much money: $54,000 pays off all the credit cards, my student loans, my car, and a small loan remaining on Michael’s truck. $5,000 to do the plumbing mentioned before plus add the bath remodel in my bedroom. $3,000 for a better vacation for us, $3,000 to next year’s deductible, $1,800.00 for new washer and dryer, $2,500 for updated kitchen appliances, $5,500 IRA contribution, $1,500 for Christmas fund, $4,000 to the emergency fund. That will leave me just shy of $20,000 and I think I would just keep that earmarked for some charitable giving, and helping the boys with any school expenses that crop up. Paying off so much also gives me a nice buffer in my budget to make much larger payments to my retirement savings and mortgage payoff.

I know, I’m boring. No fancy sports cars or toys for me. I am happy living a simple life and truly the peace of mind of knowing I’m not in debt anymore would make me happier than any sports car or newest smart phone or a Gucci bag.