What I Spend My Money On (And what I don’t)

If you’ve read this blog even just a few times you’ll know that we live on a fairly limited budget. One salary doesn’t stretch as far as it did in years past and as a result, choices have to be made as to what I choose to spend our money on and where I choose to save. So today I thought I’d share what I spend money on and also some things I specifically decide not to spend my money on.

Let’s start with what I don’t spend money on:

  • Tobacco products-pretty easy choice here considering my husband died of a heart attack at age 35. Suffice to say I also don’t spend money on illegal drugs.
  • Alcohol-very, very occasionally I will purchase a bottle of Malibu rum and some pineapple juice or a cheap bottle of wine. I almost never buy drinks out since they are so overpriced and I’m just as happy with a non-alcoholic beverage
  • Manicures and having my hair professionally colored-I color my hair with a box of Miss Clairol at home (using a coupon of course) and although I might get one pedicure a year since my feet are especially ugly, I don’t bother with manicures
  • Expensive shoes-I just don’t have a shoe fetish like most women. One pair of tennis shoes (which I really should replace more often then I do), one pair of canvas-type shoes, a couple pair of sandals, and two pairs of work shoes
  • The newest and shiniest IPhone/Apple products-I can appreciate these but it’s just not in the budget so I will use my current model of IPhone until it dies (literally-just replaced my iPhone battery in an effort to not have to purchase a new phone). I am using my son’s old Surface Pro for my writing since he decided a laptop better served his needs for school

So what do I spend money on?

  • Internet-we have to have a fairly good internet connection since there are three of us streaming or using the internet almost constantly
  • Netflix and Sling subscription-We’ve had Netflix since the days when it was just a service where they sent you a couple DVD’s in the mail each month. We recently added a Sling subscription when we moved to our new place and I decided to try and “cut the cord” on cable. We were previously paying $134 for internet, cable and Netflix. Now we’re paying about $87 and honestly I’ll probable drop that down a little further once Nick leaves for school.
  • Occasional drinks at Barnes & Noble when I’m writing but I try to use gift cards I’ve either received as gifts, earned through survey sites or I’ve bought via discount sites or when Kroger has fuel promotions
  • Eating out-I’ve tried to do better with this but honestly I don’t mind an occasional meal out with my kids or other family or friends. I do try to save costs when possible though
  • Lottery-but usually only $2 a week through our work lottery group. Hey, somebody’s going to win, might as well be us
  • Health insurance-one of our largest line items but with a kiddo with a chronic illness, this is a non-negotiable
  • Annual trip to Holiday World-a nearby theme park that is reasonably priced and clean. We go with friends every year and spend a full day at the park and then we hang out at our friend’s campsite for an evening and considering this will probably be my only vacation of the year, it’s a reasonable splurge. I know the time is quickly approaching that the boys will no longer have the desire and/or time off to spend vacation time with me so I’ll continue this tradition as long as I can

So there you go. Stay tuned, maybe next time I’ll tell you everything I want to buy once I get in a better/more secure financial place.

June’s Goals

The month of May and Graduation is officially a wrap. Both my boys have officially joined me as Eastern High School alumni. I won’t lie, I did shed a few tears but Graduation was nice, Nick had fun at Project Graduation and even won a microwave, and I think his graduation party was a success as well. Now the boy has to figure out his summer job plans. I have several things on my to-do list as well.

I am feeling a hint of freedom in my life. I still have a bit of wrap-up work to do with our Lacrosse Booster Club duties but I don’t think that will be too time-consuming or difficult. I loved every minute of watching my boy play lacrosse over the last 6 years and I treasure the relationships I’ve formed with many of the parents and players but I have to be honest, I will not miss the busyness that came with acting as treasurer over the last two years.

Crusade for Children is a charity drive that occurs over the first weekend of June that our family has been volunteering/working over the last 7 or 8 years probably. The  local fire departments collect donations from the communities/districts they serve over the course of several days and the money goes to various Children’s charities throughout the area. This generally takes up the first weekend of June so this weekend will be busy with that.

Getting my house finally put together is the main goal of June. I’ve got to get my bed put together, the last few boxes unpacked, and figure out some space-saving measures for our new, smaller home. I’ve given away a few items to friends and family members but I have a few more pieces I will need to purge as well and I’m hoping to be able to sell those and make a little money. I’ve also got to put a maintenance request in for a couple of plumbing issues and I need to talk to my contractor friend to see what ideas he has to close off Michael’s room. Praying he will have some low-cost ideas.

I’m also hoping to squeeze in a few days at Holiday World this month. It’s been a tradition of ours to go with friends for a few days the week of Father’s Day and although I feel a bit guilty spending the money I’d like to do that one more time if we possibly can.

Lastly my writing goals are to keep up with the blog and I’m also tempted to do my own NANOWRIMO during July this year since it’s a less busy time than November normally is for me. I will most likely have a second job by July again so that means this month I’ll need to get some prep work done if I want my NANO month to be successful.

Mid-May Update

Well, I totally underestimated how April was going to kick my butt. I set May goals and even had a blog post on it but since today’s the 20th I think it’s safe to scrap that post.

May has been jam-packed with activities. Nick has prom tonight, and will graduate from high school this Wednesday. Lacrosse season play is over but we have our end of the season banquet Monday evening and I still have a lot to do to work on the lacrosse booster budget reconciliation and preparing to hand it over to my successor. Also have a lot of senior activities to help with including planning some type of graduation party and helping out at their Project Graduation lock-in.

We’ve moved into our new condo and it’s a crazy mess. I thought we were going to be okay space-wise, with the assumption that I would be selling a few more pieces of furniture but then Michael moved all his stuff home that was in his dorm and I realized, Oh Crap!! We have a lot of downsizing still left to do… So here’s the checklist for the remainder of this month:

  • Plan out graduation duties (announcements, lacrosse finances and banquet, grad party, etc). And most importantly find time to ENJOY the moment
  • Tweak new monthly budget as first bills for the new condo come in and with our Social Security payments stopping once Nick graduates
  • Continue updating blog. I don’t want this to fall by the wayside just because I’m busy with life
  • Take at least 30 minutes daily to work on putting things in order with the new condo
  • Read two books
  • Get a contractor in to give me ideas/estimates on how we can close off dining room space that Michael is currently using for a bedroom-contractor has been in, just need to consult with him on his ideas

There you go. I think this is more than enough to try to accomplish for the remainder of this month.

 

April Goals

April 1st! It’s hard to believe that we’re already a quarter of the way through 2017. Time just seems to be flying by the older I get.

I’ve got soooo much going on in my life right now and truthfully I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. I decided I should get back to my old routine of setting monthly goals so that I’m sure to stay on track.

Assuming all goes as planned, we’ll be closing on a new condo later this month. Buying a house is crazy expensive, even a cheap one. The actual process of moving is also expensive so my financial goal for this month is a bit vague but very important and that is to be uber-frugal. I’ve got closing funds to come up with, funds for some minor repairs to the condo, painting costs, and mover costs so I’ve got to be really aware of any other spending I do this month. I’m going to cut costs as much as possible and hopefully try to sell some extra furniture and appliances that aren’t going to fit in the new place anyway to try and offset some of these costs.

Taxes are done for all of us so that’s a big stress off my plate but I need to work out a dummy budget for the new place. I have a rough draft in place but of course that will have to be fine-tuned once I get my first utility bill or two and figure out if I can go without my precious cable or not. Also I will have to figure out if I will need to come up with another part-time job this summer.

We purged quite a bit when we were putting our old condo on the market but we still need to purge further since our new place is almost half the size of our last and we’re also losing a garage. I want to sell what we can and donate the rest to either family and friends or Goodwill.

Despite the busyness this month will bring I want to keep some me-time carved out so I don’t lose my mind. 4 blog posts for April and reading two books is the goal.

What do you think? Do I have enough going on to keep me out of trouble this month?

Another Birthday

    Two weeks ago I turned 43…sigh.

I have friends that celebrate their birthdays all month long if they’re allowed to. I’ve just never been one to get excited about my birthday. I know, I know, having another birthday, even if it means you’re getting older, is much better than the alternative of not having another birthday. The only perk of having another birthday for me is getting the “green” cake my mom makes me each year.

I was trying to figure out why birthdays make me a little melancholy every year (because that’s what I do-over-analyze every single thing!). I think part of it is the fact that each year pops up and I think to myself, oh, now I’m 43 years old, wow, this isn’t where I thought I would be at 43. Somehow I thought I would have more and be more. I’m currently living in temporary quarters (Thanks Aunt Janet!) since I can’t find a new condo in my meager price range, still single with no romantic prospects in sight, and my kids are almost grown and both are on the verge of flying the nest.

So I figured I better come up real quick with some reasons to celebrate my on-going existence before I get thoroughly depressed…lol.

  • Two awesome kids, well technically they’re adults now but I don’t see them that way. They are kind, they are motivated and ambitious, generally well-behaved and mannered and I’m pretty sure they love their momma. I couldn’t ask for more.
  • We’re all basically healthy
  • I’m still young enough to create a Part two life if I want.
  • I have fabulous friends and family
  • As much as a whine about being poor, I do know that I have much more than so many others
  • I may be chronically single but lucky for me I am pretty fabulous company and most of the time I can entertain myself
  • I have job security and I don’t mind my job (most days)

I had previously declared 2017 to be the “Year of Holly” and unfortunately so far the year has proven to be pretty consistent with most of my previous years. It’s only March and we’re still having difficulty finding a place that will fit us all that I can afford and to top it off our family has had not one, but two wrecks, but hey, maybe we’re just getting all the bad out early. Bring it on year 43!

 

Sorry Shonda-It’s the Year of No for me

I’m currently reading Year of Yes, written by the amazing Shonda Rhimes. This inspiring lady is the creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, Executive Producer of How to Get Away With Murder, and has her own production company named Shondaland. How freaking amazing is that? I didn’t even realize that’s something I would love to have…a company named after me. How about Hollywood? Oh wait, that’s already taken. Oh well, back to Shonda. This crazy successful lady in Hollywood actually hired a publicist in order to avoid having to make public appearances because she would get such extreme anxiety at the thought of attending such events. Her sister pointing out that she never said yes to anything was a pivotal point in her life so she decided to say yes to everything presented to her for one year.

I haven’t finished the book yet. Do you want to know why? Because unlike Shonda, I apparently never say No to anything. I work full-time already but I also became treasurer of my previous condo association when no one else would. I’m currently the treasurer of the booster club for my son’s lacrosse team. I also picked up a second job working every other weekend because apparently the 45-50 hours a week I work at my full-time job and the busy lacrosse season wasn’t time-consuming enough for me. I’m in a book club (which I love) but even if life has been crazy busy and I’ve not had time to read the book I will have marathon sessions of staying up until 2am to finish the book and don’t you dare suggest that I skip a month. I think it’s possible I have border-line OCD tendencies when it comes to breaking commitments. If I say I’m going to be somewhere you can bet I will be.

My 20-year old son recently informed me of his summer break plans. He is currently going to college full-time, working part-time in his school’s Health Services department, and working at Lazer Blaze on the weekends. In addition to keeping the Health Services position and the Lazer Blaze job this summer, he is planning on adding a job at GoApe, which is a local ropes course facility, and holding periodic CPR certification courses. Ummm….son….are you crazy?? You can’t possibly have 4 jobs this summer, what are you thinking boy?

I was moaning about his crazy plans at my work last week and my co-worker just laughed and said, Gee, wonder where he gets that from? Ummm…his father? Okay, not fair, he gets it from me. I don’t know how to say no to anything or anyone apparently. I also tend to incredibly over-estimate my ability to do it all without eventually becoming exhausted and perhaps a tad bit grumpy and crazy. I’m not totally sure when this problem came about but I suspect it was after having kids. I think I’ve overcompensated since the kids started school. I didn’t want them to feel like they were missing out just having one parent so I tried to make sure that I was there for every activity/sport/meeting, etc. Know what happens to parents like that? People notice you are always around and they volunteer/elect you to things. It’s a slippery slope folks.

So my younger son, who will be graduating from  high school in a few short months, was watching me work on Lacrosse treasurer stuff the other night and he said, “You know mom, you’re going to have a ton of free time when I leave for college. I think you’ll probably just get really attached to Kobe (his cat) and then you’re not going to want to give her back to me when I get my own place.”  I’m not sure what was more alarming about his observation, that he suspected I was going to become a crazy cat lady or the idea that he was right and I’m soon going to have a lot of free time that I’m not used to.  I immediately started planning for what I could do next. Should I join Big Brothers/Big Sisters? Maybe I could volunteer at a shelter…

Holy Crap, what is wrong with me?? So I thought back to Shonda’s book and I’ve decided for at least 6 months after Nick leaves for school I am going to say “No” more often. No, I’m not dropping out of my book club and I’m not going to become a crazy cat lady locked up in her apartment/condo but if it’s something I’m asked to do that requires a significant time commitment and I’m not passionate about then I’m going to say, “No thank you,” or maybe “No, I don’t have time to commit to that right now.”  I am going to say yes to things that I’ve been neglecting a bit, mostly me. And of course if Shonda Rhimes calls and invites me to Shondaland, I’m going to say Hell Yes! Be right there, got a great idea for a new script!

 

Budgeting-It’s not a four-letter word

Okay, so I will admit that I am a bit of a numbers geek. I love playing around with numbers and creating my budget each month. Creating a budget gives me a sense of security so I’m truly baffled that the word Budget strikes fear in so many people. Don’t you want to have a plan for your money?

So here’s some theories I have on why you don’t have or want a budget:

Maybe you have so much money you don’t need a budget because you’re free to spend whatever you want worry-free. In that case, I’m not sure why you’re bothering to read my little money blog, unless of course it’s just to have your weekly dose of Holly-ness.
Or maybe the more likely scenario is that you don’t have enough money and you think a budget isn’t for you. DUH!! I’m right there with you in the not enough money scenario and that’s exactly why I know it’s so important to have a monthly budget because you don’t want to be running out of money on day 22 of a thirty-day month.

Maybe you just think it’s too complicated and you’re not a numbers geek like me so you don’t even know where to start. Wow, this is your lucky day because guess what?? It’s not complicated and I’m going to tell you how to do it. My kid is taking calculus, that’s complicated. Geometry…that’s crazy complicated, all those stupid shapes. Setting up an easy budget is not complicated if you know how to add and subtract. You can even use a calculator or a spreadsheet…that’s not cheating, I promise.

I use a simple excel spreadsheet. You don’t have to though, you can do this with pen and paper if you want. First step is to figure out your income. Add up your net deposits for the month. For me this includes my two paychecks from my main employer, any paychecks I get from my second job, deposits from my kids for their car insurance (they pay their portion but the bill is taken out of my checking account), and Nick’s Social Security payment. Add those numbers up, I’ll wait while you punch the numbers in your calculator or carry the ones if you’re doing it by hand). I am lucky (well, that’s not necessarily the right word if you were to see the amounts but I digress) that I am on salary so my income generally stays about the same each month. If your income fluctuates then I would say to take a look at your past paychecks and base your budget on the lower paycheck amounts to play it safe. Okay, that’s the big number we have to work with, or small number in my case.

Next, you have to figure out your monthly debts. Generally my debts include my mortgage payment, HOA fee, car payment, credit card payments, cable bill, Nick’s Planet Fitness payment, student loan payment, Verizon bill, LGE, and car insurance. I also have a spot for Groceries, entertainment, restaurants, and gas. Your categories are probably going to look different then mine and that’s okay because we all have different situations. Okay, add those up. Don’t worry, it usually freaks me out a bit too but you got to know this number. Done?? Good.

Next step, take your income number and subtract the monthly debts number. Ideally you’re going to be left with a positive number. But don’t freak out if you don’t. If you are short (negative number) then you have to start tweaking the budget. Some of those monthly debt numbers are fixed, things like your mortgage, and student loan payment, etc. There are several categories you can probably adjust though. Entertainment, restaurants, and and groceries are usually the first to be tweaked for me. Yes, I fully believe you should have an Entertainment fund, even if you’re crazy poor. I personally budget $50 a week. This might cover a movie, or whatever potluck supplies I’m bringing to book club night, or whatever. Most of the time I don’t spend this amount each week so I’ll let the unused amount roll over to the next week. Running a little short this month? Guess what, your grocery fund needs to be adjusted down to include what’s on sale, or maybe the generic version of the cereal. The vices definitely need to go, if you’re short on funds then you shouldn’t be buying alcohol, cigarettes, diet cokes, eating out every other meal, whatever your particular vice is. Mine is diet coke and eating out when my son is home.

I update my budget daily. It takes just a few minutes and that allows me to see where I am at for the month. If I have already spent $60 of my $200 allotted for restaurants for the month and it’s only week one then I know I have to dial it back the next week or so. I’m disciplined enough to do that but if you’re not then maybe you could try the Dave Ramsey method of using envelopes. If you have $30 a week to spend on restaurants or alcohol then put that amount of cash in an envelope at the beginning of the week. When the cash is gone then you’re done. Pretty easy.

I’m telling you, even if you think I’m crazy, try it for two months. I say two months because if you haven’t used a budget before then you’re probably going to be way off on what you’re actually spending versus what you think you spend on some categories. And that’s okay, the next month you’ll have a better idea of what you’re spending, where you can cut back, and what you need to adjust your totals on. Believe me, it’s nice not to always have to worry about how you’re going to survive on no money the next two or three or seven days until you get your next paycheck.

 

The Future-2022

I found a book this year called 52 Lists by Moorea Seal and it’s a journal-type book that gives you 52 weekly prompts to write about to help you discover your strengths and dreams and such. This book really intrigues me and honestly I’m not sure why I haven’t bought it yet since I love both writing and self-help/reflection type books and this book rolls these things into one nice little package. Well, actually I do know why I haven’t bought it, it’s because I have a tough time buying myself anything and I’m hoarding money until I find a home to purchase and of course spending $16 on myself would be incredibly foolish right now. Go ahead, I’ll give you a minute to finish your massive eye roll before I continue.

Anyway… the week 5 prompt asks what you would like your life to look like in 10 years. Wow, in ten years I’m going to be 52.  I don’t think I can handle the scariness of thinking of myself in my 50’s so I’m going to modify this question to what would I like my life to look like in 5 years. 47 isn’t as scary as 52 for some reason.

In 2022 both my kids will most likely have graduated from college and be out on their own. That means I’m officially on my own too. That in itself is a scary prospect for me because I have NEVER been out on my own. I went from being in my parents house to being married to Rick to being back with my parents with the boys when he died and then finally it’s been just me and the boys since then. Granted my boys have been busy with jobs and friends and school for quite awhile so I’m often alone at home and honestly I’m fine with that. I do hope to have found some type of relationship within the next 5 years though. I enjoyed being married and I’m finally at the point where I think I could possibly be in a serious relationship again. Notice I didn’t say married again though. Although I loved being married, I think I’ve been single again so long that it would be tough to be married again now. Of course I might find that perfect guy that would be happy chilling on the couch and bouncing from the Hallmark channel to HGTV to Blue Bloods while eating cereal on the couch and then I’d have to reconsider the whole no marriage thing.

Work-wise I think I’ll probably still be at my current job which is fine. I like the work just fine and I love my co-workers and unless I have remarried, I will most likely need to continue with a full-time job for health insurance if nothing else but I do plan on also having a serious side gig making consistent money with my writing. Will I have finished my novel, or just have a free-lancing career, or just be making a bit of money with my blog? Not sure, which of these avenues I’ll have taken but one way or another I would like to be able to continue my love of writing and profit from it.

In five years my car will have been paid off. My student loans most likely will not have been paid off completely but hopefully will be close. Ideally I will be in a nice little condo with a cozy little office for me to write in. I also hope to be in a financial position to take at least one small vacation each year. I hope both my boys will still be in Louisville but if not it will be a priority that I’m able to visit them where ever they may be living. I want to be able to hang out with my current group of friends and maybe even be able to visit out of town friends and family more often then I’m able to now.

This ideal life of mine probably sounds kind of boring to most people I’m sure but not to me. It sounds stress-free and simple. The first half of my life has been anything but that but I will not complain about that because all the struggles and challenges have made me stronger and more appreciative of what I do have.

But please don’t make me think about my 50’s yet….

2017-New Year and New Goals

Well, we’re 7 days into the new year. It’s been a whirlwind first week. We’re swamped at work, both kids are back to school, temperatures have plunged, already a snow day for both boys, and I started a second job this weekend. Lots going on but I promised myself I was going to do better posting consistently so here we go.

I love New Year’s Resolutions. I firmly believe everyone should set goals and resolutions and they don’t necessarily have to be done on January 1st but I love the idea of a fresh year and a fresh start. I like to stay focused on becoming a better person. Some of this year’s goals are similar to last year’s, some may seem a little vague but I assure you I have specific action steps for all of them but I don’t necessarily want to bare too much on this blog. Also this is a big transition year for me financially and emotionally with Nick graduating. His graduation means the loss of the remaining Social Security benefits and most likely it means he’ll be moving to a dorm in another city this summer so some of my goals may need to be adjusted later.

Financial goals:

  • Keep my emergency fund intact. This is important to me between medical bills that are always looming and the single mom aspect. There’s no second income to fall back on.
  • $3800 in extra income this year from all sources other than my main salary. Sounds like a random amount but it’s not.
  • Payoff two bills.
  • Reduce all credit card balances.
  • Find a new home for us that will help us to downsize, both financially and space-wise. It’s a delicate balance between juggling our needs now and for the long-term.

Personal/Career Goals:

  • 3 hours a week of “me” time
  • Write 5 days a week
  • At least one blog post a week
  • Submit three pieces of writing for publication this year
  • 1 trip somewhere
  • 1 class taken for work/writing improvement
  • 36 books read

Health Goals:

  • Less diet coke/more water
  • 30 minutes physical activity 3 times a week
  • Minimum 7500 steps daily, 5 times each week
  • Minimum 6 hours of sleep at least 5 days each week
  • Look into meditation

There you go, lots of goals, lots of challenges. Some of these are just a matter of changing habits and routines. I truly think they are all manageable but as I said earlier, this is a year of transition so some of these goals may need to be adjusted. We’re currently searching for a new home and that’s a big priority right now and also I’m going to spend as much time with my boys as I can before Nick takes off for college in August. Our family dynamic is changing and change has always been tough for me so say a little prayer for us this year. Happy 2017!