Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

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….