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.

 

September Goals

October reward/incentive?

I can’t believe it’s already September. Only 4 months left in 2017. That’s crazy.

This is going to be a busy month I suspect. Starting next week I’ll probably be working my first “full” part-time schedule at the second job. Labor day weekend means an extra day off at the full-time job but unfortunately with the way this holiday (and most of the work holidays it seems) falls, we’ll all  probably be putting in extra hours on the other days to meet our strict accounting deadlines.

The last weekend of the month is parents weekend at Nick’s school and of course that falls on Michael’s 21st birthday weekend. There will be a bit of juggling but since Michael’s birthday actually falls on Sunday and I believe the parent’s weekend activities are just Friday and Saturday then it should all work out.

One of my primary goals this month is to be especially budget conscious. Parents weekend has some costs associated with it and I definitely want to be able to take Michael out to a nice birthday dinner. Unfortunately, due to a miscommunication on my part, I spent a fair amount of money on an activity I wasn’t planning on this past weekend so I’m scrambling a bit to make that money up now. Really irritated at myself since I’ve been pretty good at spending money “intentionally” during this lean period.

I definitely failed at my NANOWRIMO attempt in July. I started off really strong then missed a couple days and that was it….threw me completely off my routine and I honestly don’t think I’ve written anything for at least 5 weeks now. Nothing, nada….no blog posts, no work on the novel, not even a journal entry. Unacceptable because it’s something that makes me happy. So my September goal is to write something every single day. Facebook posts don’t count but working on my blog or my novel or journaling does. I found a fabulous journal-type book tonight that I would really like to splurge on but due to my previously mentioned financial fail, it’s not going to be possible this month but I think if I achieve my September writing goal I might splurge on it in October with my fun money.

Also on the list for September:

Read 4 books

Host book club-hopefully contractor will be finished with Michael’s room by then and I can sweet talk my parents into helping me hang my pictures and finish decorating my home.

8 blog posts-that’s two a week. Should be manageable

Have at least 14 no-spend days.

Finish my 30-day Ab workout-currently on day 6

What do you think? Enough to keep me busy for September?

 

Frustration vs Optimism

Frustration versus optimism: that seems to be my constant battle of the moods. I like to consider myself a fairly positive person. If I’m going to complain I try to do it in an upbeat, light-hearted way because honestly I’m kind of used to life being a struggle and I feel like I’m pretty good at rolling with the punches now.

My current challenges/frustrations:

Plumbing issues. I recently moved into an older condo. The previous tenants at some point, installed the shower/faucet in upside down. Cost to fix that? Approximately $900. My master bedroom bath needs the faucet in the shower replaced but it’s so old and corroded the plumber couldn’t get it off without prying it off and he warned me he would be happy to do so but there was no guarantee that wouldn’t break the pipe behind it which would be costly. Bad news/good news: both can be repaired for approximately $1600 and if I wanted to hire someone to rip out the lovely Golden Harvest tile at the same time (a far down the road project I assumed I would do one day) it would be more like $700 to fix both bath faucets since it’s much easier to do this plumbing work if the walls are already ripped out.

Microwave is probably not going to last much longer. If you use the timer or time cook feature then it erases the clock time at best and at worst creates a jumble of computer garble on the screen. Twice we’ve had to unplug it and plug it back in because it wouldn’t work at all.

Still haven’t had my car dents fixed from my fender bender in February and also Michael scraping my car over a year ago. That estimate is also about $800 plus car rental while it’s being repaired.

I’ve not had a vacation in 3 years.

I’d really like a new TV for my living room. Yeah, my current TV works fine, I just want a larger smart TV in there. Totally selfish want. Mainly because I’ve not been able to buy anything fun for awhile.

Current loss of income from Nick’s graduation means I’ve had to take a second job. I’ll now be working 6 days a week, about 60-65 hours. It’s going to require some serious time management on my part.

Still haven’t heard back from my contractor guy for an estimate on what it will take to close off our dining room into a bedroom for Michael.

The Bright side/Optimistic look of things:

The plumbing doesn’t HAVE to be done now. The plumber rigged a fix where the boys shower can be used. It’s just a little harder to turn the faucet on and off and you have to work with it a bit to be sure it’s not still leaking when you turn the water off.

Microwave: Should be covered under my home warranty. $75 service fee to fix hopefully.

Car: Still functional, this is just a cosmetic fix

No vacation: Going to make a trip to Indiana to visit family for a few days this fall. That will just have to suffice until I can save up for a trip.

TV: again, this is a silly want.

Current loss of income: my second job is at Dairy Queen. My friends own and run this and I worked there 20+ years ago and both of my kids recently worked there. They are willing to give me the hours I need at a more than fair wage. Still a lot to learn after being “retired” for 22 years but I’ll be working with friends I’ve known for years in some cases. It’s also totally different from my day job and I think it will be a nice change of pace.

Room construction: this really needs to be a priority as currently Michael has no walls/privacy. It’s really a inconvenience with our cat being able to roam in there in the middle of the night and wake him up. May need to get a quote from someone else since our contractor is especially busy right now. Worried about the cost this might entail though.

 

So there you have it. Lots to worry about but really in the grand scheme of things I can’t complain. The boys have had to take out minimal loans for their schooling this year. Thank you, thank you for smart, ambitious kids. Despite the issues with the condo that need to be fixed/worked on, I am so happy with our new tiny space. I love the location and quiet neighbors. My work generally gives a summer bonus and we’ve not seen that this year but I’m hopeful we’ll still get one and between that and the second job and keeping some tight reigns on the budget, that maybe I can get some bills knocked out so I won’t have to work a second job forever.

 

Mid-year Resolution Check-up: Part 3

Well, here’s the final wrap up of my goals:

Healthy Living Goals:

Less diet coke/more water-Not good, I just really like my diet coke and really dislike plain water. I’ve tried some of the flavorings you can squeeze in your water and just haven’t found one I really like. I like the Propel berry flavored water you can buy in bottles but that gets expensive. I have been better at ordering water in restaurants though, that was financially motivated but I’ll take the small win here too.

30 minutes physical activity 3 times a week-Actually doing okay on this. My new condo has a park right next to it so if I notice I’m short on steps I’ll do a couple laps on the walking path or around the neighborhood. Also bought a tennis racket and hoping to start playing with a friend again and I’m also testing out my son’s gym to see if I want to take over his membership when he leaves for college next month.

Minimum 7500 steps daily, 5 times each week-Nope, a definite fail here. It’s extremely hard getting this when you’re sitting at a desk 5 days a week for at least 9 hours a day. I am trying to at least 4500 a day at this point.

Minimum 6 hours of sleep at least 5 days each week-Another fail. I am not sleeping well at all. Part of it is having teens in the house who work late and then want to meet up with friends after and I just can’t sleep until I know everyone is safely in for the night. But truthfully a lot of it can be chalked up to stress too and who knows, maybe age is starting to play a factor. (Well I checked my Fitbit after writing this and according to it I am getting 6 hours of sleep most nights but I wake up multiple times a night so it’s not a productive sleep-still need to work on this).

Look into meditation-Fail here also. I just haven’t really taken the time to think about this. Probably need to make this a bigger priority since it could help with the stress and no sleep I just mentioned.

So I’ve gone from pretty darn good with my finances, to Not horrible but hang in there you’re trying with my Personal/Career goals, to  Girl, you’re not getting any younger, you better start making better healthy living choices now in my health goals. Obviously I’ve got some work left to do but overall I’m happy with my progress. I definitely recommend checking in on your goals and resolutions mid-year. It’s pointed out to me which goals I’ve been prioritizing and which ones I haven’t. I’m a little disappointed I’m not further along with some of my items but I still have time left this year and even baby steps mean I’m further along then I was before.

Mid-year Resolution Check-up: Part 2

 

So today’s Resolution check-up will cover the Personal/Career goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year. I suspect I’ve not been quite as successful at these but let’s see, maybe it’s not as bad as I fear.

Personal/Career Goals:

3 hours a week of “me” time-This is a pass. Both my kids are working two jobs this summer and they are pretty self-sufficient at this stage anyways. Between their jobs and friends they stay awfully busy so I’ve had plenty of “me” time this summer

Write 5 days a week-Started off a little slow on this one but right now I’m killing it and I’ve been writing everyday

At least one blog post a week-Fail on this one but trying to do better

Submit three pieces of writing for publication this year-Fail, I’ve only submitted one piece so far. Need to get busy and look for some different avenues on this. Maybe a guest blog post somewhere?

1 trip somewhere-Well, technically I guess this is a pass since we went to Holiday World for a day. I was hoping for some type of vacation this year but looking at my budget I just don’t see how it’s going to happen. I do hope to take a few days and spend some time in my hometown towards the end of the summer though. Boo to being poor!!

1 class taken for work/writing improvement-Fail so far. I do need to figure out what I’m looking for on this. A few classes I’ve been interested in just haven’t fit in either with my schedule or budget.

36 books read-Little behind on this. I’ve read 13 books so far. Pretty confident I will meet this goal before the end of the year though.

Mid-year Resolution Check-up


How is it that we are already half way through 2017? It truly doesn’t seem possible. As such, this seems like a good week to check on my progress with this year’s resolutions. I’m going to break it up over a couple of posts so I can elaborate on my wins/failures for each category.

 

             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 onSuccess on this goal. Emergency fund is still intact.

 

  • $3800 in extra income this year from all sources other than my main salary. Sounds like a random amount but it’s not: Failing on this one. Started off strong with a second job at the first part of the year but it got to be too much with my lacrosse club duties and senior activities with my son. Looking for another part-time job as we speak though

 

  • Payoff two bills: On track-one bill paid off and it will be a stretch but pretty sure I can get a second card paid off before the end of the year

 

  • Reduce all credit card balances: Success-all have lower 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: Success-we’re in our new condo and although it’s a tight squeeze right now we’ll make it work. The lower mortgage payment helps with our new reduced income and we’ve been able to reduce some other expenses too such as lower utility bills and cutting the cable cord

 

So all in all, I’m giving myself an overall grade of B+ on the Financial side of my New Year’s resolutions. I definitely need to get another second job in place sooner rather than later but other than that I feel like I’m on the right track.

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.