Budgeting-It’s not a four-letter word

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Future-2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2017-New Year and New Goals

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

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

Financial goals:

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

Personal/Career Goals:

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

Health Goals:

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

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

Life: Take 2

Here’s a brief synopsis of my life so far. Just the highlight reel of course because nobody wants to read such a boring Novella.

March 1974: Super adorable, chunky baby born in the small town of Bloomfield, Indiana.

1994: Met this really cute guy named Rick. Thought he was too old for me so I blew him off at first but he fairly quickly convinced me he was the love of my life.

1996: Married the love of my life.

Later in 1996 (whoops): Met another love of my life when Michael was born.

1998: Met the third love of my life when Nicholas was born.

Mothers day 1999: Life fell completely apart when Rick died unexpectedly. Had to figure out how to be a single parent. NOT what I signed up for at all.

Present day: Michael is a sophomore in college at Bellarmine and Nick will be headed to WKU in about 8 months. Not sure how this has happened at all. Somehow I’ve managed to raise two great young men. Neither has been arrested (knock on wood), needed rehab (knock on more wood), and so far neither one has had any whoopsies of their own (which would cause me to knock their heads against some wood).

Sounds like a successful end to my single parenting era but it’s not. I’m struggling with this. I know a lot of parents struggle when their kids grow up and go off into the real world for the next stage of their lives, that’s what is supposed to happen after all but let me wallow a bit here. I think it’s a tad harder on us single parents because there’s no spouse to lean on/commiserate or distract us when the kids leave. The last 17 years I have been completely focused on not screwing these two kids up raising them on my own. Every single thing I’ve done, whether it was the right thing or wrong thing, was done with their well-being in mind. So now what the Hell do I do when they venture off to their next adventures in life. Obviously I’m always going to be their crazy, semi-psycho mother (just at random moments, most of the time I’m fairly sane) who worries about them and offers them all types of advice that most of the time they don’t really want to hear despite the awesomeness the advice generally contains.

So now I’ve got to figure out Act 2 of my life. I’m 42 years old so I figure that’s a little young to become the crazy cat lady living alone in her condo watching the Hallmark channel all the time. Granted I am looking to purchase another condo and I do love the Hallmark channel and thanks to my youngest and his girlfriend I do kind of have a cat now but I can’t let those things become my whole identity because, well, that’s kind of sad.

I started questioning what I would do if I hit the Powerball and money was no object. That is going to happen one day by the way, I just figure with my luck it will happen three days before I die because my life thus far has been kind of ironically funny that way. If money was no object though I would take a year off to write a book. I also would want to travel more so I’m thinking I could combine those two desires by traveling to quaint little places to both explore and to hunker down and write for long weekends. I’d also like to go back to school. I’m one of those weirdos that really liked the whole college experience.

Okay, so I probably lied earlier because honestly I’m not convinced that the Powerball is ever going to happen for me. The reality is that I’m most likely going to have to work full-time until approximately 6 hours before I die. That’s okay though, I don’t mind my job and I’m a fairly simple person with simple interests/hobbies/lifestyle. I’m already in the process of down-sizing my living quarters and more importantly my mortgage payment. I’m also getting ready to start working a second job every other weekend. The money from that small job is going to be earmarked to pay off some debt and create a slush fund for me.

What’s the slush fund? It’s pretty much going to be my Holly fund. It’s not going to be for bills, it’s not going to be for my emergency fund, and it’s not going to debt. I already have money going to all those categories. This is my account that I will use for Holly. I might decided to purchase a course on web design to pretty up this blog, I may decide to use it to book a weekend at a little hotel by the beach, I may use it to buy three venti Chai tea lattés at Barnes and Noble or Starbucks while I have a writing marathon, or I may decide to send it to my kids if they’re running tight on funds one semester. WHAT?!? Did she just say she was going to send it to her kids?? Maybe I am. It doesn’t really matter what I use it on as long as it’s something that makes me happy and knowing I can help my kids a little more sometimes might just make me happy one week. Of course the next week I might be telling them “Suck it up buttercups. You’re in college, you’re supposed to be poor.”

So there you go, I’ve got a little bit of a game plan for part two of my life. I think sometimes that people get wrapped up in thinking they can’t do the things they want in life because they don’t have money. Well, obviously it helps to have money, and I’m certainly not going to be able to jet off to Cancun anytime soon or take a year off right now to write my novel but there’s nothing to stop me from taking some weekend trips or writing at night after I get off work or on the weekends. I don’t have to go back to school full-time ( I can almost hear my sons cheering at this fact since they probably figured I would enroll at their schools and yeah, I probably would have) but I can take some online courses or even a course at night if I wanted to. 2017 is not going to be a year that I limit myself.


2016 Wrap Up

I can’t believe there’s only 14 days left in 2016. I swear it seems I was working on my 2016 goals just a few weeks ago and now it’s time to plot out my 2017 goals. I decided to do a recap of my 2016 resolutions and goals before announcing 2017’s plans.

My first resolution was to lead a more healthy lifestyle. My purchase of a Fitbit was helpful. It definitely makes me much more aware of how much I’m moving (or not) during the day. I set a goal to walk a minimum of 50,000 steps a week, drink more water, and get a minimum of 6 hours sleep a night. I only achieved the step goal 9 weeks this year and I have not done well with drinking more water. I do think for the most part I’ve succeeded in getting at least 6 hours of sleep nightly though and that’s huge for me.

Home-wise I wanted to clean, purge and organize my home. I’m giving myself a passing grade on this one. We put our home up for sale in September and a lot of work went in to purging our excess and keeping it spotless for showings. It sold in November and I went through another round of purging since we’ve not found a new home yet so the majority of our belongings are in a friend’s basement and we’re “borrowing” my aunt’s condo until we can locate a new home.

My personal goals were a big fail as far as my writing goes. I wanted to blog three times a week, submit at least one piece of writing a month, and see one movie in the theaters a month. So far I am a terrible blogger, this post makes 10 for the year. Ugh… I also didn’t submit any of my writing (although I did go back and work a little on the story I started for NANOWRIMO last year).  I did see a few movies but pretty sure I didn’t see 12. To be fair, putting a house on the market is a crazy, time-consuming process but my writing is something that makes me happy and is important to me so this will definitely be back on the list this year.

I’m pretty satisfied with the progress I made with my financial goals. I used my credit cards very minimally this year (just a little for Michael’s medical supplies at the beginning of the year and an unexpected summer tuition bill for him). I kept a thousand dollars in my emergency fund. I contributed consistently to my HSA account although it never reached the $3,000 balance because I was also consistently using it for Michael’s diabetes supplies but that’s what it’s there for and I reaped the tax benefits of it as intended. My goal of increasing my income on a quarterly basis is a little hard to quantify. I side hustled a bit, worked my rewards programs as much as possible, and received a decent raise at work so I’m counting this as a success.

So there you have it. Quite a few goals I didn’t reach this year, quite a few that I did. The way I figure it though, even the goals I didn’t reach I at least attempted them so I’m further ahead then I was before so maybe I should count that as successes also?

My year in a recap? I sold my condo and I’m currently on the hunt for a smaller, more affordable place. Michael is halfway through his sophomore year at Bellarmine. He’s pretty sure nursing school is going to kill him but he’s trudging through and I’m proud of him. Nick is 99% sure he’s going to WKU in the fall. Not thrilled that he’s chosen not to play lacrosse in college but proud that his focus is on going to a school where he’ll hopefully not have to take out any student loans. Work for me is very, very busy but we’ve finally gotten some decent raises and I’m happy there. I still have plans on creating a second stream of income for myself to help offset the Social Security losses. Overall, 2016 was a good year. 2017 will be full of more changes but I’m trying to prepare for them and praying for a good year for us all.

42 Things About Me

So I have lots of financial things I would love to write about but really shouldn’t at this point so I thought I’d do something a little more light-hearted today. I’m 42 so here are 42 random things about me you might find interesting…or not.

1. My sons are my world!!

2. I miss being married.
3. I will write a novel one day.
4. One unfulfilled dream I have is having a career in law enforcement. I always thought    that would be so cool.
5. I am addicted to reading personal finance blogs.
6. I love HGTV and sappy movies on the Hallmark channel
7. My favorite stress buster is either going to a movie or visiting the bookstore.
8. I’m a sucker for calendars. I usually buy at least 3 every year.
9. I’ve bungee jumped twice.

10. I was locked in a freezer during an armed robbery at the Dairy Queen I worked at in high school.
11. I’ve lived in three states: Indiana, Kentucky, and Kansas.
12. I love to watch college basketball and any type of lacrosse, but especially the lacrosse games my son is playing in.

13. I love Cracker Barrel and any type of steak restaurant
14. I like cookies and cream ice cream.
15. I love to read
16. I am in a bookclub
17. I post entirely too much on Facebook, my kids will vouch for this.
18. If I say I’m going to be somewhere, I will be there. I hate broken plans!
19. I am terrible about going to the doctor.
20. I am even worse about going to the dentist. I have an irrational fear of the dentist.
21. I am a night owl. I used to function on 4 hours of sleep a night but now I need more like 5 to 6 hours to be a semi-nice person.
22. I am NOT a morning person.
23. I am a diet coke junkie.
24. Sweet tea is a close second to my love of diet coke.
25. I am a big fan of to-do lists.
26. I love New Years resolutions and trying to force my boys to make them with me every year.
27. I have a daily planner that I carry with me everywhere.
28. I am a big numbers geek and love setting up my monthly budget. Even though just once I wish I had bigger numbers to play around with.
29. I hate my hair.
30. I love Pinterest and Houzz.
31. I love Chai tea lattes.
32. I love Target
33. I love Ikea even more.
34. I still prefer “real” books over reading them electronically.
35. I am a terrible housekeeper.
36. I am a lazy cook.
37. I am most comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt but do like to dress up for special occasions.
38. I sleep with a body pillow and I’m a pillow snob.
39. I love country music.
40. My favorite car was my Mazda MX-6 that I got my senior year of high school.
41. I’m kind of shy and quiet until you get to know me but once you get to know me I’m kind of obnoxious at times.
42. I have a degree in accounting and love messing around with numbers but my dream career would be as an author.

There you go. 42 fascinating things about me.



Lessons for my boys


I’ve got two awesome boys. I know parents say that all the time but mine really are. They are good students, hard workers, and most importantly they are good, kind people. My biggest concern when my husband died was how I was going to be able to raise two little boys on my own. I certainly never expected to be a single mother. No one is perfect but when life starts feeling overwhelming, and as a single mother I can assure you there are lots of moments like that, I look at my kids and know that I did something right.

Here are some lessons I would like for my boys to remember as they enter into adulthood though. These are things I’ve learned the hard way, so learn from my mistakes boys!

  • Get into the habit of saving something from each paycheck into an emergency account. Develop this habit now while you’re young and don’t have as many financial obligations and emergencies. Do something crazy like 50% of your paycheck if you can. You can always cut back a bit once you start having more financial obligations but I promise you that seeing that dollar amount grow each month in your savings account will be a great incentive to keep adding to it.
  • DON’T lease a car. I got sucked into that trap and it’s a hard one to escape. Get a used car, get it checked out by a reliable mechanic and pay cash if you can. (PS-I have driven some really awesome cars though!!  PPS-I also blame this a little on my brother since he worked at a car dealership and brokered most of these transactions, lol)
  • Start contributing to your company’s 401K as soon as you can, especially if your company offers a match on your contributions. You’re giving up free money otherwise. Free money is good.
  • Don’t buy too much house. Being house-poor is not fun and not worth it.
  • Don’t carry a credit card balance. Blood suckers, not fun at all. In my defense, a good portion of our credit card debt is due to medical bills but believe me, some of it is foolish, impulse purchases also.
  • Life Insurance!! As soon as you have a family, you need to get life insurance. It’s dirt cheap when you’re young, figure out what you need then add more to it. I definitely learned this the hard way. We had minimal life insurance when my husband died and it made things VERY tough on me. Pray that you’ll never ever use this but God forbid the worst happens, you or your family will have financial help.

I think those have been my biggest financial mistakes. But there have been lessons I think my sons have learned from me or can learn from me that are good also.

  • Create a budget. Super important and it’s been my best tool in figuring out how to pinch those pennies and stretch those dollars. I have a simple spreadsheet that I plug my numbers into twice a month (based on my bi-monthly paychecks). I know what bills have to be paid from each paycheck and I have a set amount each pay period for fun stuff too so it’s not all bad.
  • Be a smart shopper, which often means being a patient shopper. My youngest son is great about finding deals, whether it’s online or at a consignment shop but both are bad about paying too much if they decide they want something right now. Watch the sales, check the clearance racks, use promotional codes, and know where items are generally the cheapest to buy
  • Use rewards. Some of the various ways I use rewards include discount cards (Target debit card, Sam’s Club card, Kroger fuel points, Receipt Hog, different survey sites, Ebates, and rewards points for credit cards).
  • Figure out cheap entertainment. Rent a movie instead of going out to the cinemas (tough one for me, I LOVE going to the movie theater), read a book, go for a walk with friends, host a board game night, meet up with friends at someone’s community pool or park, etc. Spending time with friends doesn’t have to be expensive nights out on the town.

I think it’s a universal hope for all parents that your kids end up doing better than you in life. To be honest, some days I’m just thrilled to death I’ve raised them this far and they haven’t dragged me onto Dr. Phil to talk about how I’ve ruined their lives. But most days I just hope they take these lessons, the good and the bad, that I’ve tried to teach them and they go out into the world and be awesome people.

Frugal Fatigue


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

house picture

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.


country home

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.