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A little background info.

June 19th, 2007 at 09:53 am

I'm 40-year-old mom of two boys, one of whom will start kindy in the fall and the other of whom will start 3rd grade. I have been a stay-at-home-mom for about nine years. I stay busy by volunteering at school - I'll be PTA president for the 2nd year in a row this year - by selling part-time on eBay - though PTA duties have cut into my selling - by running our household, and practicing yoga.

My husband is a lawyer at a two-person firm in our town. As lawyers go, he's not that well paid, but he's not much motivated by money, which is a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing because he would rather be with us than working, but a curse because it pretty much reflects his overall attitude toward money. He was a partner at a much larger firm at one time, and he was making good money, but he was expected to get out and develop more business, which would have meant more time away from home. He was offered an opportunity to work with someone he knew about a mile from our house. It was about a $20K pay cut, but we decided that we could handle it if he would be happier there. He draws a salary and then gets a certain percentage of billings that are his exclusively.

Some things have been better and others not; he really needs to be more aggressive about work-related money matters (getting paid timely, etc.) but he's not. In a large firm, he got paid reliably because there were enough other people getting paid on time, but in this firm, if his clients don't pay timely, he only draws his salary, not his percentage. The salary pays the bills; the percentage pays for the extras. He hates dealing with anything money related, so he's terrible about calling his clients to remind them to pay up. Then his partner gets on his case about it, which makes him grumpy and resentful.

To his credit, he never, ever says anything about what I spend, he never questions anything about the family finances, never doubts that I am doing the right thing, and is not a shopper; he doesn't care about gadgets, cars, power tools, clothes, or sports...his main vice is buying books (with his credit card, of course).

His in-denial attitude makes me nervous at times, because finances at his firm have been shaky at times in the past year. I feel very vulnerable sometimes because the rest of us are completely dependent upon his salary, and we don't have a lot of savings to fall back on.

I have been putting feelers out about a part-time job, but my volunteer commitments take up a lot of time, and to be honest, things are not to the point where I have to get one. In my former life, I was a paralegal, but my skills are seriously out of date. I wouldn't mind doing something like running an office, but the few times I've seen a part-time office job, it usually requires proficiency in some software I'm not familiar with.

I've had good luck selling on eBay in the past couple of years; I shop thrift stores for clothing to resell. However, the increases in eBay fees and postage have made it not so much worth it anymore. I limit myself to sure-sellers, but again my volunteer commitments have cut into my inventory shopping opportunities. Once my kids go back to school, I plan to sell again, at least a little bit, during September and October, which are usually good months for clothing sales.

We live in an area where the quality of life is excellent, including public schools, but it is also pretty expensive. Our house is not that expensive, but property taxes are quite high.

So, our debt consists of a mortgage, a HELOC (used for some home improvements a few years ago, plus some emergency expenses), one car note, an AMEX with a high balance, a VISA with a high balance, one store credit card with an interest-free option, and one gas credit card paid in full every month.

Additional monthly expenses include health insurance and life insurance premiums (neither is offered by Lee's job), a basic satellite dish subscription, internet, basic cell phone service for each of us, homeowner's assocation fees, utilities, and Netflix.

Of course that doesn't include groceries, other house or car related expensese, extracurricular activies for the boys or entertainment.

We have a few retirement plans to which we have not contributed to since Lee left his other firm two year ago.

I've read a bunch of personal finance books, the most recent of which was Jean Chatzky's "Pay It Down - From Debt to Wealth on $10 a Day", so I feel like I know what I need to know, but I can't seem to make any great strides with savings or debt reduction.

We don't eat out a lot, I'm not the avid shopper that I used to be (though I still have a hard time getting out of Target without finding something that I can't live without) but if I'm honest with myself, I do spend with the mindset of, "we work hard, we have a certain level of lifestyle, I should be able to buy this" whether or not it's really a wise purchase.

In a later entry, I will list all our debt and then detail what I've done lately to reduce expenses. Then I hope to use this blog to brainstorm more ideas for maximizing our money and keep tabs on our spending.

6 Responses to “A little background info.”

  1. Ima saver Says:

    Join us in the $20 challenge!!

  2. Debbi Says:

    Kayla -
    We have a lot in common. Check out my posts, and tell me if you identify with anything I have to say. I get a lot of people telling me about how to live frugally and cut back dramatically, though, living in a high cost of living area, in high earning social circles, and similar friends/associates makes it tough to jump over to the frugal side.

    I concur that the issue in both of our lives is the lack sometimes of conscious awareness that what we are spending could be better put to use to reduce debt and increase savings.

    I just met with a great financial planner last night who gave me a great formula and plan to pay off my debt in less than 2 years. ($7k credit card debt)

    I highly recommend you post your actual expenses/balances. It's the first step to getting "clear" and I have the best outlook I've had in years right now because I have support and accountability.

    Good luck, and welcome!

  3. Joan.of.the.Arch Says:

    Welcome. Sounds as if you are doing fairly well, except for the wants and needs that got put onto unpaid cards. But maybe you are at a point where you are just ready to relax in satisfaction with what you have so that you stay out of Target and do not add to the card debts. Sometimes the desire to have and to spend can be encouraged to fade by making deliberate efforts. Take frequent inventory of what good and beautiful things you already have.... Physically rearrange your possesions if it helps you to see your blessings in a fresh perspective, to appreciate them all over again... Find happiness in creatively reusing things.... Play with your children using imagination, music, active games, toys they already have.... Set the goal of teaching your children to be creative,inventive, and resourceful so that you, along with them, will become so and find your dollars stretching further.... Be a family who invites others to your home for simple get togethers that cost no money. (They will feel free to reciprocate in a simialr way instead of ewveryone feeling like they have to spend money to go have a good time.).... Set a goal to stay totally out of stores for a whole month, or whatever time period works for you---There is something to be said for "cold turkey" when breaking bad habits.

  4. fern Says:

    Welcome to SA.

    I understand your husband's mindset; i have an attorney friend who is very much the same way. I don't think he's really got the character to be an attorney, but that's where all his training was and so i guess he's still sticking it out, though his heart's not in it.

    Sounds like your husband exchanged higher income for quality of life, a choice i made years ago and have never regretted.

    You buy thrift shop clothing to resell on Ebay? Gee, doesn't that thwart the basic intent of thrift stores, providing an economical source of used clothing for those who can't afford the new stuff?

  5. mamayogini Says:

    I know some people have issues with buying thrift shop clothing for resale, but I don't. Every thrift shop I've ever been to is absolutely bursting at the seams with clothes, and I've been shocked to see the mountains of bags of stuff in the back rooms, waiting to be tagged. I also buy clothes there for myself and my kids, plus housewares and decorative items. There is a Goodwill in a ritzy neighborhood near me that has an awesome selection of nice stuff, much with the tags still on. I think thrift shopping, be it by a financially needy person or by me, is a big part of the "reduce, reuse, recycle" philosophy. Many, many eBay sellers buy at thrifts to resell, and not just clothes: dishes, silverware, books, electronics, you name it.

  6. shiela Says:

    Thrifts shop wants the cash anyway. They can do more things with cash.

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