Financial Perspective

Hubby is an orderly Accountant. I’m an free-livin’ Artist. We’d get along just fine if I had more financial control, and if he had more financial perspective.

Hubby gets wound up in the moment, and his entire personality completely changes from fairly casual to worried, stressed, moody and worried. Did I mention worried twice? He loves to worry. But once a month he ESPECIALLY loves to worry. I call it “his time of the month”. Bills time.

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The other night I was out with a girlfriend, but started to text him that I would be home soon. He answers:

H : “I’m worried and depressed. We can’t seem to get on top of our finances.”

Me : “Don’t worry – we’ll be fine. We’ve always been fine, we are fine, and we’ll always be fine.”

H : “But, this, this, this and this came up and now we have to go into our line of credit – again. I just can’t see how we’re going to get out of this hole. That’s ok, I don’t mind going to Kelowna for my bday this year. It doesn’t have to be special.” (We’re supposed to go to Maui – his special pick – for his big-decade bday this year) (do note the self-pity party…).

Me : “Well, how much are we short this month?”

H : “We have to go $800 into our line of credit.”

Me : “$800? Total?”

H : “Yep.” (you can just feeeeel the mood in his texting)

Me : “THAT’S AWESOME!!!!!!

H : “Huh?”

Me : “$800 short? And that’s all this year?’ (In the first 3 months of this year I’ve spent $2,000 LESS than our daily budget, I’d really like to add here).

H : “Yep.”

Me : “Well, last year at this time we were $9,000 short AND I was working last year. We’re only $800 short in the first quarter of the year and that’s without me working? That’s awesome!! We’re doing great!”.

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All in your perspective.
Same $800 short this month (we bought the boys bunkbeds, and apparently used lots of heat).
Same financial glass. But when it’s his time of the month, he always sees it half empty.
Different perspectives.

I’d refused to come in the house until he’d smartened up.
When I finally did, he was smiling again.
Whew – made it through another PMS’g (Perspective-free Money Stress) Hubby episode! We’re good until May.

And Maui, here we come ;-).

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Other posts you might enjoy:
PB + J Finances
Finances 2009
What Happened to Pennies?

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PB+J Finances

One month down of super tightening of finances and my budgeting and – drum roll – our Visa bill this month was HALF. Less than half if you discount A’s volleyball registrations this month. Whew!

Which begs the question, what on earth was I spending money on before?

Of course I HAVE been living off PB+J’s for lunch for an entire month… OH, wait – groceries! – THAT’S what we’ve been missing!

What helped:
– fewer (but, yes, still many) trips to Starbucks
– bigger weekly grocery trips rather than daily smaller ones
– less eating out
– eating up some of the stock around the house that’s been in cupboards for-ev-er!
– no new shoes 😦 or boots 😦 *sigh*
– no Toys R Us! actually, no malls in general!
– less driving (it’s been “off season” for the girls sports for a month)

I’m takin’ those holidays if I have to eat PB+J for an entire year, man.

Maybe I’ll just mix it up with PB+B once in awhile…
(PB + Banana)

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Finances 2009

I have a new financial challenge for 2009.

The last 6 months of 2008 were spent (lol) trying to find ways to cut down on our (meaning MY) needless spending. However, debt still remains because, well, we took a giant trip to Italy last summer for one. And for two, since cutting the cost of having a 2-afternoon-per-week nanny I’ve been completely unable to work.

Looking ahead at 2009, I want to know that we can still do SOME travelling. So Hubby has challenged me to “save up” for my personal list of desired holidays out of my daily budget.

I have a daily budget of $100 for groceries, gas, activities, books, lattes for the 6 of us… Believe me, I’ve been doing the math. I think we can survive on canned beans and salmon for the next 6 months. Maybe I’ll even lose those last 8lbs around my middle!

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This is Manteo Resort – our favorite stay in Kelowna. Generally we end up in Kelowna 2-4 times per year, mostly in spring when the girls play volleyball. While we COULD stay at the cheap team hotels, this resort is actually reasonable off-season if we go early enough. The other one we like is Grand Okanagan, but mostly I just like it because it’s downtown and there’s a great Mexican place downstairs. When/if we go in the summer, Manteo has a boat rental shop right there for our wakeboarding/waterskiing thrills.

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Another tournament is in Bellevue, 20 mins east of Seattle, and it should come again this season. Twice I’ve been out to Alki Beach near Seattle for a lovely walk, so this year if we hit the May tournament this will be one of my destinations. Also because I’ve already bought all the kitchen gadgets I can manage at Sur la Place downtown Seattle.

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In April Hubby plans to take an ENTIRE WEEK OFF to hang with me + the boys, so I thought it’d be a great chance for another ROAD TRIP. I’ve mapped it all out – I think we can hit San Fran to visit my bro + sis-in-law, Disneyland, a day “off”, Legoland, Sea World and head on home in 10 days. Whew! Ya, not much of a “holiday”, but it’d be nice to do something for the boys, and I DO like to drive…

0-maui_masterHubby has a “big” birthday coming this summer which I won’t mention TOO many times because he says it’s starting to depress him. BUT, what can cure the blues like a vacation in Maui?? HOPEFULLY there is enough money left/saved to book 5-7 days in Maui. And maybe even to hit a tacky touristy LUAU to sing in his new decade.

Well, that all would get us to the end of August 2009 (plus remembering to save for GRAD stuff/gifts/etc and Hubby’s actualy PARTY). I doubt as though there would be ANY money saved or left for one last trip, but it would be nice to spend 3-4 days or so in Vegas or Palm Desert with Hubby in the fall. How many cans of salmon can we possibly eat again?? And who needs gas for the car! We’ll just walk 3 hours to swimming lessons.

Another day, another dolla’

Tt loves toys. Partly because he’s completely spoiled rotten, and partly because he just loves toys (I was never spoiled rotten, and I still loooooove my toys, so I’m sure it’s not ALL linked to being spoiled). Anyhow, every time we go out now, he asks for a toy. My fault. Entirely. 1 monster, created by me. But, now that he pretty much has any toy that costs less than $10, he’s set his sights a bit higher. $40 higher, to be exact. Actually, it’s $50US , so… ya, anyhow.

BUT, I figure, what a great way to teach him about money, counting, saving, etc. We have the piggy bank all set up, so why not teach him how it works? So we briefly reviewed how when we get some money, these different variations of coins equal $1.00.

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Then we talked about how out of each $1.00, some goes to “INVEST”, some goes to “SAVE”, some to “TITHE” and the rest for “SPEND” (about $0.60 on the dollar). He doesn’t really get it for now, but that’s ok. He does know that all my spare change goes into his various jars.
But, really, I just wanted to teach him patience, and the exchange of reward for work.

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So, we instituted 2 things – allowance, and child labour. Allowance is now $5.00/week, and once he divides it all up, that’s about $3.00 in his pocket. He has to clean his room and toys for free, but he can help out around the house (cleaning all the tops of those baseboards with a wet rag was a great one) for some extra allowance. When he has a babysitter, he can make some money if I hear that he HELPED babysit his little brother (plus I get peace of mind that the sitter might possibly want to come back one day!). If he gets “gift” money, he can keep some in his “SPEND” jar.

And, OF COURSE, we set up a chart for him to follow and keep track. (I love charts like I love spreadsheets and lists…).

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He’d been doing mostly great – even told a friend once that “I’m not buying a toy today because I’m saving my money”, so I offered him an extra boost ($50 is a long ways off for a $3.00 allowance, after all). I told him if he wrote (dictated) and drew out a story for me, I would pay him $1.00 “royalty” on every copy I made to give away as Christmas presents to family. He did such a fantastic job of creating a story about a Knight named King Arthur (how orginal) and a dragon named Filosoby, I added $10.00 just to his “SPEND” pot alone.

51yqxdfqoml_sl500_aa280_By the time he was just a few dollars away from his $50 goal, Hubby took him to buy his hard-earned treat (with one more allowance “owed”). I wasn’t there, but apparently Tt asked if it was “on sale”, and when it wasn’t, he chose a $10 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toy instead. Just as happy as a clam.

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I’m not sure he got much out of the exercise, except that for just a few weeks he actually said “no” to new toys all by himself, and that now he actually has spending money in his piggy bank because he saved it. And of course his enabler mother bought him the Lego for Christmas.

We’ll try to do it all again later (counting, money responsibility, etc).
(and maybe next time we’ll explain US exchange and taxes/duty to him…).

What happened to Pennies?

With me, a passing interest (and a few hours at a computer to Google) can quickly turn into a complete obsession. So, along with my newfound SAVER attitude, and armed with Google, I have found many ways to save the pennies along the way as well as the bigger dollars.

MONEY SAVING TIPS:

1. The Spare Change Jar.
Every time Husband or I have spare change, we put it into a piggy bank for the Kids. I even made my own bank that has 4 parts to it – INVEST, SAVE, TITHE, SPEND. Invest goes into their bank accounts once a month (along with an extra $20 or so from Momma Bear) or so (NOT to be touched until they are about 30); Save is there for the next big holiday; Tithe is money they carry to Sunday School, or children’s charities; Spend is cash, baby. We figure their Invest accounts will get up to a downpayment for a house by the time they’re 30. Kids great-grandmother even saves all her pennies for us.


2. The Pop Bottles.
Kids pilfer the grandpa’s house then head with all our bottles out once a month to the return depot. It’s gross. Slimy. GERMY. But, it adds $20/m or so into their Invest section.

3. Plant a Garden.
This is my “Spring” plan for those Heirloom tomatoes that make such lovely salads. We eat a ton of tomatoes and raspberries, so I’ll start by planting those two and see if I can manage to keep them alive. (Hey, I’ve kept those danged feeder fish alive for almost 3 years, anything’s possible…). And at the prices of those tomatoes these days, there’s gotta be a good monthly savings out there. Besides, Kid #4 loves to be outdoors, so maybe I should get out there once in awhile too.

4. Coupons.
I hate coupons. I make a valiant effort once in a blue moon to find them and cut them out, just to leave them at home when I’m out shopping. So, I’m only going to look for coupons for the things I use THE MOST and give it one more best effort.

5. Have an automatic withdrawl into a savings acc’t.
I looked at the numbers for this, and I’m not really sure it makes a whole lot of difference in the long run unless you tuck away at least $100-200/m. And we might still miss that right now, so maybe this is one for 2010. Well, maybe if we start now but at $50/m it’ll still add up to the trip to Greece… or back to Florence… when we retire.

6. Bake bread.
This, I’ve realized, isn’t so hard since we actually HAVE a bread-maker! And the 12-grain whole what-ev-er kind of bread we buy is up to $4.70 per loaf – times 2 per week! So, maybe sticking in some ingred’s before bed once in awhile won’t be so hard. And could save a few more pennies. Maybe Husband can take this one on.

7. Use newspaper cartoons as wrapping paper. $4/wrapping x 10 relatives per year…
They just tear it up and toss it out anyhow, so why not.

8. Make your own cards. $4/card x 20 relatives per year…
They just toss ’em out anyhow, so why not.

9. Freeze food.
Bananas (for smoothies), Garlic, Fresh-squeezed Lemon juice (in cubes), etc.
We throw out a LOT of food, so freezing it in useable bits has gotta save SOMETHING.

10. Go to the Library.
This is for other people, not me.
For me, Libraries are horribly expensive places that I cannot afford.
Chapters is my Library. Besides, the one near us also has a Starbucks and a train table…
And even THEN it’s cheaper than paying my late fees!

11. Pack your lunch.
We mostly do this already, b/c it’s just plain healthier.

12. Make your coffee at home.
YAY for Starbucks Barista Machines!! Woot, Woot!

13. Walk more.
Now, with homeschooling, we actually can! No daily drive to drop off/pick up, except Kids #1 and #2 a few times a week. And, sometimes we actually just WALK for the day rather than drive about. Believe it or not.

14. Pay mortgage payments bi-weekly.
Just read this one… It means two extra payments over monthly payments, per year. ?? Will have Husband look into that one.

15. Record every purchase.
This will only serve to HIGHLIGHT the multiple trips to Starbucks a week… (and unnecessary trips when you have a machine sitting right at home!!).

16. Buy offseason.
I try to buy the boys’ clothes on sale a season in advance. But then, they’re boys. They don’t much care what they wear and they pretty much wear the same things every year. The girls had been much different…

17. BOXING DAY SALES.
Buy gifts for the year (birthdays, anniversaries, even next Cmas!) all during the big sale week and stockpile them. Also you don’t have to worry about last-minute stress of having to find s’thing for a last-minute party that you’d completely forgotten about.

18. Cut your own lawn.
Ya, we let go of the gardener, too…

19. Promotion Code.
Just read this one, too – Grama probably already knows it. When buying online, Google the store and the words “promotion code” and you’ll almost always get a hit for saving some $$ on your purchase, even if it’s just for shipping. Hmmmmmm. Shopping online… Wonder if I can buy them knee-high black leather boots online…

to be continued…

Money, Honey

money…

For 37 years now I have been a SPENDER. Not one ounce of SAVER in me.
BUT, I’ve gone from a 3-(expensive)-meals-out-a-day-single gal (GOSH I miss those days!) to a mother-of-four-get-your-butt-in-the-kitchen married gal in just 6 short years. Times change. Taking the family to Italy this summer made me realize that there’s a whole lot more interesting things to see out there than the insides of the Mall (well, actually, I never really liked Malls – I prefer those uber-expensive outdoor street-lining shops.) (GOSH I miss those days…). If I could become a SAVER (thinks me) rather than a SPENDER, I could be outdoor street-lined shopping in Greece (or Paris, I’m not that fussy) once in awhile.

SO, here we are, two months into my new SAVER attitude, and this is what I’ve done so far:

1. Discontinue daycare. $200/m.
This will actually cost money in the long run, but don’t tell Husband. Homeschooling is a license to be a SPENDER with a cause…

2. Discontinue nanny. $700 – 800/m.
This is making it harder to actually work – which I’m sure will surface a whole new blog on juggling caring for your 4 kids without daycare or nannies, working for yourself, feeding the masses, driving the masses everywhere they need to go, homeschooling, financial planning, retirement planning, yada yada yada… BUT, for now we’re getting by, so discontinued it remains.

3. Cancel house phone. $40/m.
This is in progress, but will be happening shortly. With our cell phones, won’t be needing it.

4. Put Mother Bear on a budget… $800/m.
This is a generous estimate – I’m sure we’re saving more because I’m sure I was overspending by more than that. I limited myself to $100/day for EVERYTHING – food, gas, school supplies, grad photo sittings, library late fees, shoes… you name it, EXCEPT Christmas gifts and hotels when we travel (other travel expenses will have to fit into the $100/day).

5. Put Mother Bear on a tighter budget. $300/m.
I figured that if I was still able to buy lots of shoes and go to the spa, I could probably be doing more to save our family money… I limited myself further to $90/day.

6. Change cell phone plans. $30/m.
I’m not really sure how much we’re saving by changing to cheaper plans, but anyhow… The cheaper plans actually allowed for more time, so I’m anticipating the elimination of extra minute billing.

7. Cancel Cable TV. $50/m.
We actually did this awhile back (a year ago?). Even the teenagers say they don’t miss it, but that’s probably because you can see pretty much whatever you want an hour or two after it ends on YouTube… (YouTube’s free!).

TOTAL SAVINGS SINCE SUMMER: $2,170.00/month!

Shouldn’t take long for Husband to treat me to a “job well done” weekend in Paris, now, should it??
Well, I have some more ideas for next year, just to make sure.

1. Reduce Bank Fees. $??/m.
Hopefully Husband will look into that for us. I have no idea what fees we’re paying or why or what can be done about it. We’ll get into it soon.

2. Pay off High Interest Debt. $150/m.
We’re currently carrying a debt with about $150/m of interest. We should be able to pay off 1/3 of it in the next few months, and the rest in about a year from now.

3. Sell Stuff.
Now that I’ve been banned from collecting any more children by Husband, I guess it’s time to sell all that pre-terrible-two stuff we have downstairs overflowing from our storage room. Maybe we’ll even sell enough for a real nice dinner out while we’re in Paris…

4. Smarter Food Shopping. $50/m.
Oh, I’m guessing at that amount. BUT, it can’t hurt to buy things we ALWAYS use in bulk or on sale or whatever. We’ll see. Next year.
(P.S. I also plan to plant an Heirloom Tomato garden… Have you SEEN the price of a few Tomatoes these days???).

5. Reduce Child Support by half. $200/m.
Well, we can’t reduce THE CHILD, but in a year Kid #1 will be 18!
(Note to future self – Kid #1 will suddenly be costing FAR more than $200/m in University costs…).

6. …
Ok – I guess I need more ideas than that…

It becomes like a contest – like trying to find THE perfect pair of knee-high black leather boots. How big CAN I get that “SAVED/m” number?? I wonder…
OOOoooh, but the higher that number gets, the more I’ll enjoy that trip to Paris…



Nov 1st update: Husband opened our latest Visa bill the other day – he was so happy to see a bottom line $2,000.00 less than he used to see! I’m happy to be off to buy my new knee-high black leather boots. Yay, me!