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Frugal Fatigue

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Frugal fatigue is a popular term thrown around on a lot of personal finance blogs. Apparently it’s as contagious as mono. And evidently I must have missed the vaccination against it because I have a severe case.  Symptoms include being sick of penny pinching, hyperventilating when you open your son’s summer tuition bill, and sleepless nights as you debate what else you can cut out of the budget or whether you can squeeze a second job in.

As I’ve already talked about, non-stop it probably seems to everyone who knows me, the budget has been stretched increasingly thin since losing Michael’s Social Security money last summer. In preparation of losing another huge chunk of money next summer when Nick graduates I’m trying to be proactive on several levels. My primary mission at this point is to sell my current condo and either move into an apartment or, preferably, a smaller and cheaper condo. I’ve been scraping together a bit of money for some necessary repairs/improvements to my current place before putting it on the market in anticipation of this.

One of my favorite sayings is “Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans.” And unfortunately, it’s proven to be true again as we recently discovered that my son’s required summer class is going to cost us about $1700 out of pocket and we’ve got to come up with this money by the end of July. It’s not that we were unaware of this bill. Michael found a grant that paid for half of his summer class and we were advised we could roll the balance onto his student loans but we just found out that you have to take a certain number of credit hours during the summer to do that and his class doesn’t meet the requirements. On top of that the first two things on my “prepare the house to sell” list that I’ve priced out have come in quite a bit higher then I was expecting.

I found out about the tuition bill and one of the higher repair estimates right before we were scheduled to take our annual Holiday World vacation. This is our only scheduled vacation this year. It consists of a day and a half at a nearby amusement park and since it was only going to be me and my older son (since the younger one sadly elected to skip this year so he could work extra hours), we’re talking about approximate expenses of $250-300 between the one night hotel stay, park tickets, food and gas. This shouldn’t have been a big deal at all considering this would be our only vacation this summer but suddenly it was a big deal and I was tempted to cancel our plans.

I debated back and forth for several days but ultimately I chose to go. The fact that my 19-year old still wanted to go on this annual trip with me and our friends, and knowing he would be starting his summer class a few weeks later, and his grueling sophomore year of nursing school a few weeks after that was the main reason I didn’t cancel but partly it was based on my frugal fatigue. I was tired of skipping out on fun things I wanted to do because of money. I had already missed out on an outing part of my book club was doing to a haunted hotel in our city that was featured in one of our books we’d read because I didn’t want to pay the $25 when tickets first went on sale and they sold out before I got around to getting them. Yes, I had $25 in my bank account so don’t think that I’m completely destitute and set up a Go-fund me account or anything, I just thought I could put it off until the next paycheck and then I thought maybe one more paycheck and then I forgot about it…

What’s the remedy for frugal fatigue? Obviously I’ve given up on money falling out of the sky anytime soon. The bills coming up aren’t going away. My son’s tuition bill is the priority, followed very closely by the repairs needed to get out house on the market as quickly as possible but here’s how I’m going to combat my fatigue. I’m going to focus on all those little things that most people probably take for granted. I love to read but I don’t have to buy books, we have several great library branches close to me and I’m just as happy to wander my local Barnes and Noble store as  a stress buster without actually purchasing anything.  A $3 bottle of fabulous-smelling Sweet Honeysuckle and Orange Peel body wash in the morning can start my morning off a little better. I love to go to the movies, it’s my favorite budget-buster. If I have a little extra in the funds department then I try to catch the first showing of the day, which is the cheapest ticket. If funds are tighter then I can find a $1 Redbox movie or better yet find something I’ve recorded on my DVR or on Netflix.

Hopefully things aren’t always going to be so tough financially. Hopefully this is just a short season in my life that’s a little tough and I’ll get back to a point where I can walk into Target and pick up that cute top or a new laptop or splurge and see two movies in one weekend and get the large diet coke and popcorn with extra butter.  I have my friends and family and cheap guilty pleasures to get me through my frugal fatigue until then though.

 

 

Buying vs Renting

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One of the benchmarks of becoming a grown-up is getting your own place. Typically you live with your parents until you graduate high school and by the time you become a teenager you just can’t wait until it’s time for college and you get to move out. College arrives and if you’re lucky you get to live in a dorm and get that first taste of freedom, even if it does mean you’re crammed into a small room with a complete stranger and find yourself sharing a bathroom with multiple people and that meal plan at the university dining hall is not near as great as it seemed those first few weeks. And the food certainly doesn’t taste like mom’s home cooking, which if we’re going to be totally honest, in my kid’s case, might be a blessing. My first college roommate at my small Catholic college was a wild child. She borrowed (stole) my car while I was asleep one night to make a Taco Bell run. One day I came back to our dorm after class to find that the highway sign that announced our college was the next exit, was prominently showcased across one of our walls. I told my roommateI was going to the library to study and the sign better be gone from our room when I returned since I was sure that having it in our room was some type of felony offense. I wasn’t exactly Catholic so I didn’t think I’d go to Hell for the offense since I wasn’t involved but I was sure my parents would kill me anyway if I was suspended from college for it. Luckily (for me, not her) that roommate got pregnant and had to leave school but regardless, dorm life was not a great experience for me.

My husband and I started our marriage out with a really ghetto apartment that had a wall with at least 5 layers of wallpaper that we thought we could strip and replace as a nice home improvement project. We quickly learned that we should not do home improvement projects together. It was a true test to our newlywed bliss and I’m pretty sure I looked up the requirements for an annulment at least once during that project. We survived though and moved onto nicer and newer apartments and had even rented a cute little house right before he died.

After Rick died, the boys and I moved back to Louisville and in with my parents. It was supposed to be a short-term solution until I regrouped emotionally and financially but it ended up lasting 5 years while I finished my college degree. God bless my parents. It was not easy going from an empty nest to having your grief-stricken adult daughter and her infant and toddler sons move in with you. It was very convenient staying with them while I was working full-time and going to school since the boys could be watched at home instead of being carted off to grandma and grandpa’s house or having them come to our place but eventually I bought us our own house and the grandparents could go back to being grandparents again instead of surrogate parents.

Home ownership was not really my thing though. For one thing the house I chose was a little more expensive then I should have bought since I assumed my income would quickly rise once I got my accounting degree (it didn’t), and the house was a little further out of the way then it should have been in relation to our life (school, work, etc.), and thirdly, I HATE YARDWORK!!

Sooo….I sold the house and bought a condo. Perfect, right? Home ownership without the yard work. It was in an ideal location, 3 bedrooms and 3 baths, great set-up. Let me stop right here and just explain something to those of you who don’t know me well. My life has been a series of unfortunate events and that’s partly due to just plain bad luck and partly due to me being an idiot. Because I’m about to try to sell this place I won’t go any further into that right now but this decision fell into both those categories. This place is just not going to be affordable for me in another year so I want to be smart and sell now before it becomes a necessity.

So now what?? Part of me just wants to rent an apartment once I sell my place. I’m done with bad luck and if there’s bad luck to happen then I want someone else to be responsible for fixing it. The problem is that in my area it’s actually cheaper to buy then to rent. I’ve lost a huge chunk of income with Michael’s Social Security stopped and Nick’s money stopping in another year so it will be easier to qualify for a rental then a purchase though so I’m feeling rather stuck. Plus, it’s difficult trying to downsize in cost and size since one boy is currently in a dorm and the other probably will be in another year but I still have to have space for them both at least on school and summer breaks.

So in the end, like most things involving personal finance, I don’t think there’s one correct answer in the decision to rent or buy. I understand not wanting to pay someone else’s mortgage but at the same time, my living situation is so fluid now. Money is tight, the space I need now isn’t necessarily the space I’ll need in a year or two, and who knows what the future holds. Will I need to move again if one of the boys decided to move home for a bit after college or if one or both of my parents needs to come live with me? So stay tuned to see what I decide.

PERSPECTIVE

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I recently had the chance to go back to my hometown in Indiana for a few days. My hometown is in a small town in Indiana and as my boys have gotten older and involved in more and more activities, it’s been harder and harder to sneak away for a visit. I had the opportunity to take a few days off work on my son’s spring break though and since he was going to Florida with his girlfriend’s family and my older son was busy with his college classes I decided to slip away for a few days.
The drive from Louisville to my hometown is about 2 ½ hours and the majority of the drive takes you through various small Indiana towns. I love taking road trips and making the drive by myself this time around gave me a lot of time to think about everything I have going on and the goals I’m wanting to accomplish soon, most specifically trying to get my house ready for sale and figuring out if we’re going to have to go into an apartment for awhile or possibly be able to buy another condo. As I drove I passed some lovely homes with pretty wrap-around front porches and I found my feeling a little sorry for myself since my impending move is, in all likelihood, going to be a downsize and downgrade from what we currently have. Man, I’d love to be able to have a gorgeous house like that, I found myself thinking. It really sucks that I’m as old as I am and still struggling so much just to find something decent we can afford. I’ll be honest, I was having a serious pity party.
A few miles down the road I drove through another small town and now I saw a broken down modular home with an air-conditioner unit hanging precariously out of a window. There were broken down cars and car parts and couches and broken toys in the front yard. I thought at first it was an abandoned property but then I saw a little kid run around to the front of the trailer. And just like that I felt ashamed of myself for my earlier pity party.
Yes, it’s true, money is tighter then I like and in another year it’s going to be a whole lot tighter when my youngest graduates high school and we lose his Social Security money. We have what we need though. I don’t worry about the lights or water getting turned off, we have food in our fridge, all three of us have vehicles to get us to school and/or our jobs. The mortgage gets paid every month on time. Do I get a new outfit every week? Nope. Do I get my nails done every month? Nope (although I do have a gift card I got from my boss at Christmas that I hope to use soon). I just got my hair cut yesterday, 14 weeks after my last appointment. I think you get the drift. None of that stuff is important to me though. Spending $5 to get into my son’s lacrosse games and then maybe having dinner afterwards, or having breakfast on the weekend with one or both of my boys, or occasionally catching a discounted movie. These are the things that I’m happy to spend a little bit of money on.
I can’t even imagine the struggles the family in the modular home probably face. I know people that can’t pay their bills, I know other people that have experienced a medical crisis recently and I’m sure they’re struggling mightily. It’s definitely a matter of perspective and I have to remember that when I start feeling sorry for myself. Yes, I’m almost certainly going to have to find a second job soon and yes, we’re going to have to downsize but Michael is already in college and living on campus the majority of the year, and Nicholas will most likely be living on campus somewhere in another year too, so although I definitely need to carve out room for them for their breaks, it’s not going to kill us to be in tighter quarters during those times. In fact, I honestly felt we interacted more when we were staying at my aunt’s smaller condo during the repairs this past summer to our flooded place. Our current set-up has Michael’s room on one side of the condo, mine on the other, and Nick downstairs so sometimes we tend to gravitate to our own spaces. If I’m going to have more limited time with them on their breaks then I really won’t mind the closer space.

So that’s it, I’m sure the pity party will show up again when I actually get my current house on the market and have to find a place in my new tighter budget but I’m going to do my best to remember that trailer and focus on my blessings rather than my hardships. Hopefully my friends and family will help keep me in check.

Life Right Now

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I thought my last post was a bit of a downer so I’m piggy-backing off of one of my favorite bloggers, Ginna, at My Pretty Pennies, and doing something a little different this week. This is what’s going on now in my life.

ENJOYING the fact that Spring is coming. We’ve gotten off fairly easy with winter weather this year but I am definitely ready for some sunshine.

WEARING my standard uniform of jeans and a V-neck t-shirt as often as the weather cooperates and hopefully soon I’ll be able to swap the jeans for a pair of shorts.

LISTENING to the radio lately since I’m bored with the music on my phone. My son played the Hamilton soundtrack when we drove to Tennessee a few weeks ago though and I really enjoyed it.

CELEBRATING my friend’s new baby boy and my son’s lacrosse season.

LOOKING forward to some time off work even though I’m not going to be able to go anywhere warm and it now looks like it’s going to be rainy weather.

EATING the last of my Pistachio birthday cake that my mother makes me every year. (This was actually a few weeks ago but it was the last thing I ate that truly made me happy).

SPENDING money like it’s going out of style unfortunately. It’s not been a good money month between paying for my son’s very expensive diabetes medicine that has to be paid in full, out of pocket, until we meet his $3,000 deductible and replacing a laptop that was stolen out of my son’s car while we were on vacation.

DRINKING diet coke and sweet tea…really need to start drinking more water but it bores me.

DREAMING of ???. Life has been chaotic and crazy and not even had time to do much dreaming lately, which is sad and needs to be remedied immediately.

STRUGGLING to find the time to prep my house to get it on the market sooner rather than later. Lots of little projects and decluttering and cleaning to do around an already jam-packed schedule.

INSPIRED to focus on my writing again. Still struggling to make time for this but I’m trying.

WATCHING too much TV but it’s how I unwind. My favorite new show is Code Black.

READING several books. I just finished Secret Sisters by Jayne Ann Krentz  and Blue by Danielle Steel and really enjoyed both of these. Now I’ve started All the Light We Cannot See, which is our next bookclub book. It’s good so far but it’s along the same lines as Nightingale by Kristin Hannah which I found to be a much easier read.

What are you up to?

Diabetes sucks!

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I just spent $711.64. Mortgage payment? Nope. Car payment? Nope. That’s a one month supply of insulin for my son. That’s our cost with the Humana discounted pricing apparently.

Two days before my son’s 13th birthday we found out he had Type-1 diabetes. Terrible, devastating day for us all. We had gone to the doctor with a complaint of a stomach ache. They originally diagnosed him as having a virus but once I mentioned that he had been especially thirsty lately they decided to take a blood sample and within a few minutes our doctor came back in and told us to pack a bag and head to our local Children’s hospital. Michael was one of the lucky ones, many kids are placed in intensive care unit their numbers are so high before they are diagnosed. We were in the hospital a day and a half and then came home to our new “normal life”. Normal life with diabetes is watching sugars and carbs when you choose your meals and it’s worrying about low blood sugars and high blood sugars. It’s your child having to prick his finger 5 or 6 times a day or more and then injecting himself with insulin. It’s knowing that a simple cold is enough to throw those blood sugars into a tail spin and make him very sick. Too much exercise or too little can create havoc. High blood sugars can make my sweet kid turn mean as Hell and low ones can make him disoriented and shaky. His dream of becoming a firefighter was put on hold, partially because of an over-zealous doctor that seemed determined to disqualify him rather than qualify him. I won’t even get started on that.

Money-wise diabetes is also a horrific disease. I work for a small company and as a result we change insurance companies often in an attempt to get better rates. Every year it seems I have to figure out what this particular insurance company and/or plan will and will not cover. The last few years we’ve had a high deductible plan. Currently I have to pay the first $3,000 of his care out of pocket, then everything will be covered. This means, IF he stays healthy, we will most likely meet his deductible by April. Insulin at $711 a pop each month and his test strips will probably be around $300 for approximately a 3-month supply. I’m currently waiting to hear if his insulin pump supplies are going to be covered with this insurance but last year with Anthem insurance it was about $800 for a three month supply of insulin pump pods. If they decide not to cover his insulin pump I guess we’ll have to look at a new pump and I’m sure that will eat up the remaining $2300 of our deductible and will really suck because the insulin pump he currently uses is the only type there is that is cord-less.

I hate discussing politics so I’m not going to get into that here. My health insurance has stunk with the Republicans and the Democrats in charge. I can tell you this though, anytime a life-saving medicine is 30% of your take home pay yet you still don’t qualify for help with the cost, then the system is broken!! We are fortunate that overall Michael is a good diabetic, he’s only had one trip to the emergency room for problems with his diabetes and that was just done in an abundance of caution from his trainers at the fire department when his blood sugars spiked and they couldn’t reach me. According to his doctors, they have many patients that make multiple trips to the emergency room because they aren’t vigilant about taking care of themselves. I’m very thankful I can keep Michael on my insurance until he’s 26.  He’s 19 now and he’s studying to be an ER nurse so I hope by the time he graduates that he will have access to a decent health insurance plan that won’t be such a hardship on him as it is on us right now.

Rant done. I’ll try to make my next post something a little more light-hearted.

 

Lottery Fever

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Lottery fever struck the United States the past two weeks. It culminated in 3 winning tickets for a 1.6 BILLION Powerball jackpot. That is insane. I can’t even fathom winning that amount of money.

My department at work has a lottery pool. Ten of us throw in $2 a week and we play the Powerball. I play an occasional scratch-off ticket as well and scratch off tickets are always a fun stocking stuffer in our family. I did not, however, spend any additional money on Powerball tickets as the jackpot climbed over the last couple weeks. As I’ve made clear, I’m on a pretty strict budget and although it’s fun to think about all my money worries vanishing overnight, I realize it’s probably not going to happen.

It’s impossible not to dream though when you are holding a ticket so that’s what I did a little bit this week. What would I have done with my share? I honestly don’t believe I would go crazy with the winnings. I’ve been living pretty simply for quite awhile and I’m not someone who needs a fur coat or 10 fancy cars in the driveway or a mansion. I think if I had an extra million dollars in my bank account, I would still be using my Target cartwheel app and checking the clearance racks before the regular shelves.

I would find a lawyer and trusted financial advisor before I came forward, that’s for sure. I’d set aside a decent amount in trusts for my sons that they can only access after they have their college degrees. I would make sure their college tuitions are paid for. They each have vehicles right now so although I would pay off the small loans they have on them, I would not be buying them fancy sports cars.

I would sell my condo at a discount to someone who NEEDS a home. I would purchase a home in a near-by neighborhood and renovate it if necessary since homes in these neighborhoods tend to have their original late 70’s/early 80’s décor. We’re talking about maybe 1800 square feet, not a mansion. I’d like something with 3 bedrooms so even after my kids fly the nest they know they always have a room to come home to. I’d also like an office space, and a nice big living space to host friends and family and a nice deck for the same reason.

I like my job and co-workers so I wouldn’t be in a big hurry to quit but it would be nice to take a year sabbatical to try and write a novel. How wonderful to be able to try out your dream job worry-free.  Not worrying about paying for expensive health insurance would also be a dream come true.

The hardest, yet most fun part, would be to decide how to help my friends and family. There are some that I would be happy to give a lump sum to and let them choose how they spend their money. I have some friends and family that I feel would probably be better served if I were to perhaps pay a mortgage payment or bill instead. I know of a family specifically that could use some money paying medical bills, I have a friend that I know could use a new vehicle, and others that have similar needs.

No one needs 1.6 Billion dollars, most just need some breathing room… a bit of a break so that they don’t feel so overwhelmed trying to make ends meet. I’ve been there, heck, I’m currently there and I have wonderful friends and family that have been there for me when things have gotten especially tough and it would be wonderful to be able to pay it forward. I pray that the winners of this current jackpot are smart with their money and choices right now. You hear way too many stories of people losing the money by spending carelessly or spending millions on bail money for their boyfriend. Seriously?? I have to admit that I do hope my dating circle might expand a bit if I became a millionaire. Not that I would want someone who would just want me for my money but surely I could find someone to date that doesn’t need bail money for all their drug dealings like a recent lottery winner in the news.

Happy 2016

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Wow, I can’t believe it’s already 2016. The years really do fly by so much more quickly the older you get. I think I’m less sad about myself aging and more so that my kids keeping older and more independent. It won’t be long before I have an empty nest and I can assure you that I will not do well with that.

Okay, enough with the melancholy. Despite my earlier words, I LOVE New Year’s. I love the idea of a new year and new possibilities and setting new goals. I am a firm believer in setting goals/resolutions for the new year. 2015 was one of those horrible, no good years for me. My oldest son graduated from high school (good) and moved into a dorm (bad) and his Social Security funds stopped (very bad). Our house and two cars flooded, which was financially and emotionally devastating for me. I am determined to make 2016 a better year.

I have quite a few things I want to work on this year and some would say too many but I think they are pretty manageable and I think they are all pretty important to setting me on a better path so I might figure out down the road that I need to postpone a few but I’m going to give it the old college try and work on them all right now.

Living a more healthy life style is one goal. I am 5’10 and blessed with a wonderful metabolism so I get some grief when I eat like a football linebacker and it’s not that noticeable but just because I don’t look unhealthy doesn’t make it so. If you catch me eating a salad it’s because I’m bored waiting for my steak to arrive. I just don’t like eating rabbit food. I am a country fried steak type of girl and I drink entirely too much diet coke. Water is boring. I don’t know how to put it any other way. I bought myself a Fitbit for Christmas and I’ve set a goal of 50,000 steps a week. I am NOT giving up diet coke because I don’t believe in setting myself up to fail, lol. I do plan on drinking a minimum of 3 glasses of water a day. I also am a major night owl, so I’m aiming to work on that by shooting for a minimum of 6 hours of sleep a night.

Home-wise I want to clean, purge, and organize my home once and for all and KEEP IT THAT WAY!! Martha Stewart (and my mother most days) would have a stroke if they were to show up at my house uninvited. I am not a natural born housekeeper. I am very lazy in that regards. My oldest son is even worse then me. We drive my youngest son crazy with how messy our house always is, even though admittedly, he has gotten a little lazier about housekeeping himself over the years. It’s possible Michael and I are contagious… I want to be able to have friends over on a whim and more importantly I would like to put my house up for sale this summer so we’ve got some work to do.

On a personal level I want to blog consistently at least three times a week, submit at least one piece of my writing a month for publication somewhere and catch at least one movie a month. I need to make some big decisions this year about my career and I want to have some options. If I were to hit the lottery (also hopefully in my life plans for this year!), and I was lucky enough to have the option of redesigning my life with no money concerns, I would choose to take a year off from work and try to write a novel. I love to write. As a single mom, I need to have a traditional job right now with healthcare benefits and a steady paycheck but I hope by focusing on this blog and writing on a regular basis I can at least develop some side income doing something I love.

And lastly finances. Ugh, who doesn’t have financial resolutions every year? I want to stop using my credit cards, KEEP $1,000 in my emergency fund, and put at least $3,000 in my HSA to cover Michael’s deductible (which we’ll meet by March/April even if he’s healthy since Diabetes is a crazy expensive disease). Lastly, I want to increase my monthly income by $250 every quarter this year. So I want to make at least $250 extra in January, February, and March, $500 extra April through June, $750 July through September, and a $1,000 extra October through December. These additional funds can be made through whatever methods I come up with, surveys, pay raises, side hustles, second jobs, etc.

I know, it seems like a lot of goals and maybe I’m crazy. Well, I’m definitely a little crazy but I’m talking about a little crazy setting all these resolutions and goals but I think they’re achievable. I just need to hustle. Truthfully I’ve gotten a little lazy this year. The flood really threw me for a loop and I’ve battled some anxiety and depression as a result and it’s been way too convenient to just get home and settle on my couch and watch too much TV and play way too much Candy Crush this year. This needs to be a big year for me because I lose another huge chunk of money in 2017 when Nick graduates and I need to have a game plan in place since I’m already running short each month trying to figure out how to live without Michael’s Social Security funds. I’m comfortable at my current job and I love my coworkers and the flexibility of the job but it’s no longer paying the bills so I need to stop doubting myself and aim higher.

The Single Life

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I’ve been single again for 16 years. My husband died on Mother’s Day 1999 and it’s been just me and my boys since then.  I can tell you that being a single parent presents a lot of extra challenges in overcoming financial difficulties. It really doesn’t matter if you’re a single parent due to divorce or death or just by choice of having a child on your own. There’s no option of saving one spouse’s salary and living off the other’s paycheck. It’s difficult to work overtime or get a second job if you don’t have anyone at home to watch the kids or to pick them up from school or sports. If you lose your job or are in an accident and can’t work for a few weeks then things don’t get tough, they get impossible. If a kid gets sick then you have to worry about being a good parent or saving your job if you have an unsympathetic boss.

I’ve been extremely lucky. I’ve had lots of help between family and friends as backup babysitters with my kids. I’ve had sympathetic and flexible employers for those times I have needed to take off work for my kids. I was also fortunate to have some help with Social Security payments to help offset the loss of my husband’s salary. I know there are many people that don’t have these advantages and I really feel for them because even with these advantages I just mentioned, I know how hard it’s been on me financially and how hard it continues to be.

I certainly don’t have any magic solutions but there are some tips I’ve used that have helped:

  • I bought used clothes at consignment stores or shop places like Target, especially when my boys were younger and very rough on clothes.
  • We’re pretty simple when it comes to food and tend to have a few meals that we rotate out each week and I’ve learned what are good prices on those items and stock up when they’re on sale.
  •  I love to read and I had to learn to get my books either at the library or our used book store.
  • My younger son has always played sports, most recently lacrosse, which is very expensive. Equipment can sometimes be purchased used. Also, take advantage of community leagues that might be less expensive then private teams, especially in the beginning when you’re not sure if this is something your kid will want to continue.
  • Coupons can be found for just about everything but don’t get caught up in buying every Groupon you find. Our local grocery store often runs promotions on gift cards. You can buy a gift card for somewhere you generally shop and get fuel points to use at their gas station.
  • Shop around for pharmacy prices. My oldest son is diabetic and insulin and test strips and insulin pump supplies are astronomical, even with insurance. Also be sure to take advantage of an HSA plan if that’s something offered to you.

You want to give your kids everything, believe me, I know that. But honestly, you shouldn’t do that anyway because more times then not that creates entitled kids. I certainly haven’t been able to give my kids half what I wish I could have but they have never made me feel like they’ve gone without. They both have part-time jobs, they work hard at school, they pay for their cars and most of their extracurricular activities. I help out when I can but I couldn’t tell you the last time either one asked me for extra money because I’ve also helped them to create their own budgets. I had to bug the crap out of them to tell me something I could get them for Christmas. Both of them insisted they didn’t need anything. I’ve made many financial mistakes in my life (get life insurance peopleas much as you can afford) but while I hope my kids avoid the mistakes I’ve made, hopefully they’ve also learned a couple of things from me also.

Flash flooding times 2

Wow, so much has happened since my last post. A week after that last post we woke up to find that our basement and garage had flooded. The scariest part of this is that my youngest son’s bedroom is in the basement and he slept through the flooding of his room. I am not talking about a little bit of water got into his room, the water went up to his bed mattress and he woke up in a wet bed. Our basement, garage, washer and dryer, water heater, and two cars were all destroyed. Two days later another round of storms came through and we flooded again. Here’s the really fun part, our condo is not in a flood zone, therefore we didn’t have flood insurance and therefore our homeowner’s insurance didn’t cover any of the repairs or to replace any of our possessions. My car did have full coverage and they paid it (although I just found out this week that there’s an issue with that as well where they are trying to stiff me for an extra $1,000 but that’s a later post).

I’ve seen stories on the news about catastrophes such as fire and floods and tornadoes, etc., and I remember thinking, How terrible but until you experience something like this it’s just impossible to really grasp the devastation. Two months later we’re mostly put back together. We still have some painting and clean-up but we were able to move back in after a month.

The financial implications of this has obviously been tough, especially considering our already shaky situation due to losing Michael’s Social Security money but we were truly blessed in so many ways throughout this ordeal. My aunt let us stay in her condo while we were waiting for repairs to our house, my work took up a collection for us, several relatives sent us money, my parents helped us out with replacing our washer and dryer. Another friend found us a contractor and helped out with the costs on this. The same friend’s brother was able to get his company to donate the construction materials we needed. My brother was able to work out a deal to replace my car and Nick’s car for a smaller car payment then what I had previously. Friends came over and helped us clean and are still helping with odds and ends that still need done. My dad spent days painting Nick’s room. There are so many more instances of help that we received that I couldn’t even begin to list each one but the support we received was just incredible.

As for a work update, my immediate supervisor left our company for another job opportunity in July. This was pretty tough news since our department is very close but we certainly couldn’t blame him for taking this opportunity. My co-workers and I decided to approach his boss, who was now our immediate boss, to see if we could split up his duties (and his paycheck) rather than the company hiring someone else in. The big boss was open to the idea and we’re basically in a trial period so I’m hopeful that this might work out and that the corresponding pay raise will be enough that I don’t have to find a second job. They gave us a small bonus last month for completing our month-end on a tight time-frame but hopefully we’ll hear soon about a permanent pay raise to go with our increased work load.

On the family front, my oldest son  moved into his college dorm in August and I’m adjusting to having just one kid at home now. Michael seems to be really enjoying his college and he seems to be juggling his classes and fire recruit school okay. Nick has started his junior year of high school, taking some demanding AP classes and working part-time.

We are still adjusting to the big hit of losing Michael’s Social Security money, I’ve just temporarily cut my credit card payments to the minimums and tried to watch the thermostat. Michael has a meal plan with his dorm so that’s helped cut the grocery costs at home and I’m trying to stay out of Target as much as possible and minimize my car trips (gas costs) , we’re not eating out as much and I’m trying not to spend much on the weekends as far as entertainment. I’ve been trying to catch up on some shows I’ve DVR’d and reading more. I have plans to cut my DirecTV as soon as my contract is up in November since the boys are happy with Netflix. I’ve been really busy between the flood repairs and getting Michael situated at college and the extra work load but I do want to try to find some possible writing work to help subsidize our income loss as quickly as possible. Of course the Powerball is still my ideal retirement plan but until that comes through we’re just going to muddle through as best we can and try to create some new income opportunities and keep cutting costs as much as possible.

Starting a blog-part 2

So starting a blog is a little more difficult than I first thought. I wrote my first post back in July of last year and the technical aspect of it kind of threw me for a loop so I set the blog idea aside.  I’m still not real sure about this but I do know I need to stop procrastinating and just get in the habit of posting on a semi-regular basis and figure out the technical logistics of making it pretty as I go along. Hopefully I can convince some people to read along and bear with me during my growing pains.

Here’s a recap of my life. Single mom of two teenage boys, widowed 15 years ago when my boys were just babies, about to lose my oldest son’s Social Security payment just as he gets ready to start an expensive private college and now I’ve got to figure out how to survive on an already tight budget with about $900 less a month. Guess what Social Security, I have a crazy news flash for you: your kid’s expenses don’t stop when they graduate from high school. (But I have appreciated the help the last 15 years…please don’t cut us off early!)

I currently work in the accounting department for a small company that sells medical equipment. I like my job okay although I’m kind of wasting my accounting degree in my job, I LOVE my co-workers and the flexibility of the job BUT there is no room for advancement due to the size and structure of the company, health insurance is expensive since we’re a small company, and the owner doesn’t believe in raises. Options: find a new job; add a second job; or try to find a side hustle to offset the shortage, preferably something to do with writing. Oh yeah, I forgot my favorite option, which would be winning the Powerball jackpot. I swear lottery gods, I would do such awesome things with the excess money if you could just let me win this!! Pinky swear!!

Anyway, it’s time to start hustling. Graduation date has not been set for my son yet but I’m anticipating his last Social Security check to be in May so I’ve got to get busy and figure out this next stage of our lives! This blog is probably going to be a hodge podge of topics as I talk about my financial life, raising two kids on my own, what I want to be when I grow up (spoiler alert, I just turned 41) and my slight panic at facing an empty nest sooner then I would like.