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It's the end of the month and we have money!

September 25th, 2007 at 01:50 pm

I'm not really sure how it happened, but it's true. I've paid almost all the bills that I had that were due around the first of the month, that normally I would have paid with the first of the month paycheck. I have the usual ones due, the mortgage, the car payment...but the utility bills, the BP card bill, and our equity loan payment are all paid. I even paid an extra $50 on my credit card and on our home equity line balance. I've also paid two medical bills, AND I've already deducted our life insurance premium (which is withdrawn Thursday).

Maybe it's because school is in and and we're not going to movies or using eating out as a diversion. But something is different. We are even splurging and eating out tonight (at our neighborhood cheap Mexican place, where kids eat free during the week) AND I got a pedicure today, the first one in months (on Tuesdays, all services are 20% off!)

I also transferred $25 out of my paypal account to checking, from two recent sales. I left about $15 in there to cover my eBay fees.

So though it still feels like summer right now (last week it was lovely and cool, and I didn't need the air all week!) it sure is nice to not be living paycheck to paycheck. I'm definitely going to enjoy it while it lasts.

On the job front, well, there is no job front. I applied online for temp/holiday job at Borders. Probably hundreds of people apply for those, and since it is all done online, there's no way to know whether you have any chance at all. At any rate, I've got a volunteer opportunity lined up which can probably keep me busy from now through November: our town sponsors something called "A Season of Giving" in which people "adopt" a child or senior for Christmas. I have worked on this project in various capacities for the last two years, and this year the woman who runs it (who is Volunteer Coordinator for the city) needs office help , and I told her I'd do it. So I may start on Friday, a couple hours a day, a few days a week. Even though it's volunteer, it would be a great thing to add to my resume, and she, a great person to act as a reference.

It feels nice not to be so desperate to earn money. I need to hold on to the feeling I had this summer, though, to get me through those times when all I wanna do is indulge in some retail therapy!

Part-time jobs.

August 30th, 2007 at 06:54 pm

I have been checking craigslist.org several times a week for possible part-time/temporary jobs. Nothing has really turned up....nothing that wouldn't require me to take some computer courses, anyway. That's always a possibility, but more down the road. Anyway, I was really hoping to find a seasonal/holiday job, though it may be too soon. I went to the newspaper's job website and searched for part-time temp/seasonal jobs. Macy's is already hiring, so I filled out an online application for a retail support type job - not selling, but stocking, moving merchandise, etcetera. I have done the retail thing before and I don't really want to do it again.

I am also going to think about the stores nearby where I'd like to work, make a list of them, and poke around their websites to see if I can apply online. There's a Borders a few miles away, and they have an online job application system. I'd love to work there over the holidays.

I probably need to get a few references lined up, though. I'm feeling really out of touch with this whole job thing - I haven't worked at a REAL job since, well, almost exactly nine years ago (my son turns nine on Monday!). There are at least two people at Michael's school (where I am PTA president) that I know will give me good references if I ask.

I hate to sound superior, and I really don't mean to, but in places like Macy's, I'm amazed that some of those folks have managed to apply for and get jobs. I keep thinking, if some of those clerks can get hired, surely I can. I am reliable, organized, reasonably intelligent and articulate, hardworking and detail-oriented. My resume, though, may make me look both seriously underqualified (not having had paid employment, other than eBay sales, in nine years) AND overqualified (all my work experience is in a professional office).

I just want to work a couple days a week, and on the weekends, through the holidays. I NEED to feel like I have some control over our family finances. I have had enough with living paycheck to paycheck, putting groceries on the credit card, and facing the fact that I am going to have to dip into our retirement fund in order to pay our property taxes in December.

Face it, DH is never going to be a go-getter, aggressive, money-earner. When I hear jokes about rich lawyers, I just want to laugh. Or throw up.

He wants to stay in the realm of the intellectual...he has zero interest in the business side. Court arguments? Loves it. Schmoozing clients? Hates it. Unfortuately, the latter is what gets you money in his field. He does it only reluctantly, and I think it shows. He hasn't gotten a new client in several years, and his ONE fairly big client happens to owe him $10,000 right now. Even when they do pay up, he only gets 15% of that, under the terms of the agreement with the person he works for. As I've said before, his salary pays the bills and his percentage pays for the extras, and there have been very few extras in the last several months. He also has a guy he's doing something for and not charging. I guess he kind of HAS to...he's a guy who's done a bunch of work on our house before, and he's a decent guy. Lee also did another paid legal matter for him recently, but way undercharged him.

Things are tight, getting tighter, and it SUCKS.

He tends to get grumpy when there's nothing exciting to eat...or when I tell him he needs to make his six pack of beer last...dude, it's not exactly fun for me either to have to be imaginative with basic groceries every single night. I know we can't afford the nicer, wider variety of food I used to buy and cook with. And no, we can't afford to eat out either. But taking on yet more FREE legal work isn't putting those groceries back on the table. It's like he's not even trying to do anything about it.....just moping around feeling defeated, snapping at the kids, sitting by himself reading a book. NOT spending more time working. NOT out trying to get clients.

It's not that he's lazy. It's that he's not in the least motivated to be successful, monetarily speaking, at his career. He does a good job. He's smart and likeable and has a lot of experience. He just wants to do his legal thing, have someone else take care of all of the details, and have a nice comfortable paycheck direct-deposited.

And I gotta say, being at the mercy, so to speak, of his funk about developing business, is getting very old. Here I am, out of the workforce for nine years, and my skills are obsolete. I don't regret staying home with my kids at all. DH never "made" me, or tried to control what I did at all. It was our choice, and I wanted to stay home. If money were no object, I'd not be looking for a job at all. But I can't keep on feeling like we are barely keeping ourselves afloat and not do anything about it. I have to have some control over this situation. I feel like there is a very thin financial line we could easily cross over, with one push from a disaster, illness, or major domestic catastrophe.

For all I know, thousands of people apply for these kinds of retail jobs and I may never hear back. But I have to try....I have to do something....I am the kind of worker that employers want. I am willing to learn, I love to learn, I will go the extra mile to help people. I've multitasked, run a household for nine years, volunteered in numerous capacities, served on our neighborhood board for three years, organized & ran the preschool library for three years, and am serving a second term as PTA president. I promise I am a person worth considering for a job.

Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Bad and good.

August 23rd, 2007 at 10:44 am

Bad: I took DH's car today. On the way home from the Farmer's Market, I hit a curb (or something), heard a really loud BANG! and two seconds later, knew I had a flat. On a busy residential street.

Good: I managed to pull over in the shade and I was only half a mile from DH's office.

Bad: I was supposed to join some friends today for lunch, to celebrate a birthday and I missed it, dealing with the car.

Good: I saved the money I would have spent on lunch.

Bad: DH was wearing a suit today, and I was stopped half on the curb, half off, so we called a tow truck instead of having DH change it (or taking DH home to change, then coming back so he could change the tire). That cost $60.

Good: He only had to tow us half a mile to the Goodyear place.

Bad: Two new tires aren't cheap.

Good: But the Goodyear place is having a special - free oil change with two tires, and DH's car was overdue for an oil change.

We were getting back in my car at the Goodyear place, and I, trying to be all chipper about it, say "When life hands you lemons...." and DH, all grumpy, goes "...pucker up."

A waste of money.

July 13th, 2007 at 11:30 am

Yesterday my parents and my nieces came to town and took me and the boys to the Georgia Aquarium in the afternoon.

I'd been once before, not long after it opened and I have to say, I wasn't impressed.

I thought it wasn't set up well, it was extremely crowded, the viewing areas too small, and ridiculously overpriced.

My opinion hasn't changed.

Dad paid for the tickets ($18 each for the boys, $24 for me), parking ($10, we tried parking at a cheaper lot but they were all full so we parked in the aquarium's deck), and lunch ($29 for me & the boys, all of which was pretty mediocre).

It was as crowded as it was the first time I went, and here's what I just do not get: all the people who didn't really seem interested in actually LOOKING at the exhibits - instead, they just positioned themselves where they could take a picture of it will their cell phones, then, without actually looking at what they photographed but instead looking at the phone, they walk away.

What the heck is wrong with people?

Anyway. I was grateful to dad for footing the bill for the afternoon, because the boys really enjoyed it and that's what matters. If I could just go when it's not jam-packed with people, I'd enjoy it more, I know.

However, I'll take the Chattanooga Aquarium any day over the Georgia Aquarium.

Everyone came over for dinner last night and we had burgers, dogs and chicken on the grill. I made some homemade baked beans which were exceptional, I have to say. I had half a bag of pinto beans languishing in the pantry, so I cooked those yesterday morning. Then I chopped a green bell pepper, a clove of garlic and an onion in the food processor (so as not to hear any complaints about large pieces of vegetables from kids) and browned it in a skillet. I mixed it with the cooked beans, then I mixed up a cup of chicken broth, roughly a half cup of ketchup, about a third of a can of cane syrup (leftover from a batch of gingerbread a few months ago), some molasses, and a generous amount of salt and pepper, poured it over the beans, then baked for about 45 minutes at 350. I usually don't make my beans very sweet, but I was trying to cater to my nieces, who wouldn't touch them. They apparently have extremely limited diets, ie, hotdogs, chee-tos, and cokes (that would be because my brother and his wife are major hillbillies, but his family is another story). Anyway, everyone else, including my kids, loved the beans.

Today was payday. When the paycheck hits the account, then I can get caught up AGAIN on bills and see where we are financially.

One thing we are doing this weekend: we are going as a family to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix at a matinee tomorrow. We are all shameless Harry Potter fans in our family (much bigger fans of the books than the movies, but we enjoy the movies all the same), and we're all very much looking forward to the movie tomorrow.

Happy 4th, and props to the USPS....

July 4th, 2007 at 10:55 am

As previously blogged, I spaced out and put 39 cent stamps on several bills that I mailed out last week, one of which was a past due bill to Cingular/AT&T.

Well, to my great relief, all but one of the checks has cleared the bank. The postal service delivered them anyway - I don't know if they charged the recipient for the two cents postage due, but I don't care. They made it. The only one still outstanding is the water bill, which I'm not worried about. They'll send me another bill if it doesn't make it in a week or two.

In other good news, I got a check for $59.17 from the consignment store for items sold in June. Unfortunately, I've got to put that in the checking account for money to live off for the next ten days.

In yet more good news, my dad called and said he's bringing my nieces up to Atlanta to take them to the zoo and aquarium and wanted to know if we would like to come along to the aquarium as well. I'd been planning to take the boys anyway and it's a bonus that I don't have to pay for the tickets. I'm sure that's saving me at least sixty bucks.

On the non-saving end, the carpet cleaning didn't work so well. I did the landing at the top of the stairs and after much effort, got it marginally cleaner. This carpet cleaner doesn't have a hand-held thing, just a long nozzle, and I thought the stairs would be impossible to do with the long nozzle, so I just gave up. Yeah, I know. But it really wasn't worth the effort. I'll wait until the boys are back in school and then call Stanley Steemer.

Tonight we are getting together with a bunch of friends at another house, potluck style with burgers, dogs & beer. I went to Family Dollar yesterday and bought several packages of glow stick bracelets to hand out to all the kids. At 9:00, we'll walk down to the end of the street to watch the city's fireworks display.

This morning I went to a hot yoga class and the teacher read us two great quotes during savasana:

"The only sure bulwark of continuing liberty is a government strong enough to protect the interests of the people, and a people strong enough and well enough informed to maintain its sovereign control over the government." - Franklin D. Roosevelt

"We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." - Viktor Frankl

Good and Bad

July 2nd, 2007 at 09:03 am

THE GOOD:

Yesterday I went to the thrift store. I bought a few things for me (a few tank tops, a pair of shorts, an awesome Gap skirt which I have on) but I found a few good things for resale: a girls Lilly Pulitzer dress (to be saved for next spring), a girls Hanna Andersson dress (to be listed at the end of this month), a beautiful Chico's tunic tank shirt, an embellished Chico's tee, and a St. John gray wool vest.

I also went to Old Navy to get the boys some desperately needed clothes. I had a $25 gift card from MyPoints and a 10% off coupon from filling out a post-shopping trip survey, so I bought a pile of stuff for them (shorts, t-shirts, swimsuit) and spent less than $25 of my own money. With my receipt, I also got another survey form, which I'm going to fill out for another 10% off the next time I go there.

This morning I had a dermatologists appointment and she took off a couple of spots with her nitrogen blow torch. She said they were probably fine, but asked if I'd feel better if she took them off, and I said yes, so she did. One on each leg and one on my right forearm. I expected to have a co-pay, but I didn't.

After my appointment I went to Kroger. They had Tide liquid laundry detergent for $4.99 a jug, and I had a 35 cent coupon (which they doubled), so I bought two jugs. I also had a $2 off $8 meat department coupon, so I bought a package of "manager's special" butterfly pork shops, which I put in the freezer, a pork loin which I'm probably going to roast today, even though DH & the boys won't be home until Wednesday, a box of Angus chuck patties (on sale), some boxes of frozen turkey sausage (10 for $10), and a few other things. I also bought a big jug of white vinegar, because my friend Beth loaned me her Rainbow vacuum/carpet cleaner. She says all she uses is vinegar in the soap chamber of the cleaner. I think I have figured out how to work the thing; now I have to haul it upstairs and hook it to the sink. I really need to do the stairs, the upstairs landing, and our bedroom. If it gets the carpet clean, I will have saved us about $150, which is what I usually spend to have Stanley Steemer come out once a year.

I also called our bank and closed our pitiful cash investment account, the one which paid next to no interest and cost $6 a month.

While I was on the phone, I asked the guy how much it cost to stop payment on a check, and this is THE BAD: it costs $30. UGH. I am worrying about that darned check to AT&T.

I wish it would hurry up and get returned to me by the post office already!

Uh-oh.....

June 30th, 2007 at 08:24 am

I just realized I made a boo-boo....

I mailed a couple of bills with old postage stamps, ie, 39 cent stamps, on them!

One was the power bill...one was the water bill...one was the termite bond....none of them I'm particularly worried about....but I also mailed that at&t payment with an old stamp on it.

Yikes!

I didn't realize because the stamps I used said "first class" on them, not 39 cents. When I went looking for more stamps, I found the new stamps, the ones that say "forever" on them, and then realized what I'd done.

I hope they all come back to me ASAP, or else I hope some of the good karma I've got out there in the universe will kick in and the at&t payment will make it.

Bill pay time...

June 29th, 2007 at 04:49 pm

I went ahead & scheduled a bunch of online bills to be paid, since they won't go through until next week.

Dish Network: $32.99
AMEX: $275 (leaves a balance of $11,884)
BP - $175.05 (pays the "statement balance" in full)
Termite bond - $318
Home equity loan - $169.69
Water - $73.44
Mortgage - $1070.21
Car - $410.17

So that leaves about $1400 until the next payday, but I have not paid my VISA bill yet - that comes instantly from our checking account, so I have to wait until tomorrow. Also, our health insurance premium, which is automatically deducted on the 10th, and car insurance, due on the 8th, which is $145.

Geez, it seems like the paycheck is just GONE, like *that*.

How depressing. And I thought that extra $194 was going to make a difference. Imagine if we didn't get that or a percentage check.

I have to remind myself, we're still in catch-up mode....

Nothing new to report...

June 22nd, 2007 at 06:34 pm

I'm kind of hanging out, financially speaking, until next payday when I see if DH's withholding has been adjusted per the w-4 I prepared and emailed to him. He's emailed it to the accountant, but if he's heard back from him, he hasn't told me.

Also, he did tell me that his main client has paid one of their bills, but there are several others up to three months old. I know they will be paid eventually, but it's tiresome to keep having to worry about it. Since one got paid, he'll get a percentage check on Friday, but it may not be for much.

I resisted going to Target this week and buying myself some cute shorts that a friend bought there recently.

Next week my younger son is in half day art camp, so my older son and I are going to see an exhibit at the historic courthouse in our town called "Anne Frank in the World 1929 - 1945": The largest of its kind in the world, this exhibit is a presentation of over 600 photographs and 8,000 words reminding visitors about the Holocaust through Anne Frank’s story. The exhibit chronicles the life of Anne Frank as told through her famous diary as the Nazis rise to power was unfolding around her. Combating bigotry, prejudice and hatred in today’s society are just some of the goals of this truly unique and moving exhibition.

In addition to being an awesome educational exhibit, it's also free.

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.

How do I....

June 19th, 2007 at 08:24 am

create the thing on the side where I can list my debt?