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October 15th, 2016 at 04:25 pm

It's been a while!!

Updates: Spouse is doing a bit better--both with his memory and his physical strength. However, there are still issues and several repeated conversations and disorientation (and he insists on DRIVING!). He will undergo a test for early Alzheimer's in a month or so. Parents visited to assist with house-care. Great help!

Son is still dealing with anxiety, but is working part time (so far so good). Days are up and down, quite unpredictable.

I, myself, was ill for about 2 months (June to Aug). Double vision, headaches, neck pain, vertigo, dizziness, nausea. Doctor's didn't not find a cause, in spite of many tests, so I assume it was stress. Doing better now, but I was in COPING mode for quite a while. Cutting back on what I could, in order to get better.

Job is still stressful, but doing my best to manage. I've told myself that I've been dealing with job burnout for a long time, but have decided that I have to think differently in order to push through. Yes, I'm exhausted, and yes, I overwork and yes, I tend to stay in jobs (and relationships!) longer than I should, but there is still much to be grateful for. So for now, I'll do a better job of taking EXCELLENT care of myself. I'm sleeping more (with assistance from SleepyTime tea at night). I even went to a concert the other night with the girls from work! (Smokey Robinson! What fun!)

Money management has been on auto-pilot. Doing ok, but could be doing better. Lots of 'outgo' coming up -- car for my son (we're supposed to go half and half, but not there yet), replacement of our roof based on hail damage. Now that my energy is returning, I'll get more focused on my budget/spending plan and savings.

Still browsing the saving advice posts every so often. Not much time to do so, but I like to sneak a peek and get some motivation every now and then.

Happy saving!

Everything is Going to Be All Right

March 2nd, 2016 at 05:06 pm

A lot going on... This is going to be a long post..

Spouse had his hip surgery, but hasn't recovered well. His hip is progressing as expected considering his disability, but his memory is gone. Perhaps because of the anesthesia, and his 2 prior seizures within the past 5 months. He only knows who I am because of the nurse. He's in rehab and both physical and speech therapists are working with him. He's got our address, his children's names and the names of his brothers and sisters, but it's slow going. He was hiding things from me, his cane, his car keys, prior to his surgery so I wouldn't limit his driving, (he's the primary caregiver for his mentally retarded son, who is 31, which means laundry, paying bills and grocery shopping) but now he, of course, has no idea where he's hidden them. He barely remembers his son, let alone that he's his caregiver. I have no good plan when he gets discharged, but will work it out with God's help.

My son, who is 26 now, had another mental breakdown that required hospitalization. He was discharged the day before my spouse went into surgery. His current diagnosis is schizo-affective disorder. He was doing well without medication for about 6 months (which he requested and the doctor agreed, with caution), but now we have to begin again. He's doing better, but adjusting to the medication is going to take time. The thing about mental illness is the brain of the one who has it often doesn't know they are ill--it's not just denial, their brain just doesn't register it. So that's an additional challenge, but I'm working it out with support (NAMI is great) and all the reading I can do (re-reading I Am Not Sick, I Don't Need Help). He rear-ended a car in a car accident a few weeks ago and the car he was driving was totaled. I think that began his spiral into a mental breakdown.

So not only am I carrying the financial load by myself, I'm now also carrying the mental and physical load of my household. Watching my son for symptoms and helping him manage his recovery, visiting my spouse in the rehab everyday to assist with his therapy and memory. Explaining to his family that he doesn't answer his phone because he's confused and doesn't know anyone. (His surgery was 18 Feb, no idea of expected discharge.)

I'm working at my job half-days for now, still doing the financial record-keeping for the church I attend, the house is a mess, I'm cooking light meals and buying more fast food than usual, doing dishes and laundry.

I'm seeking the remaining needed occupational aids for spouse's return home (portable toilet, cushions for the car and wheelchair, replacing his favorite chair, which is now too low for him to sit).

I'll need to replace the totaled car eventually.

I'll need to deal with hospital bills X 2.

I need to stay healthy.

I'm managing extended family as best I can. I have to manage my job and paid leave, and manage all of our upcoming appointments. I'll also have to deal with a possible lawsuit through the insurance for my son's car accident, finish my taxes (almost done) and, to top it off, get exempted from jury duty (I just got a summons yesterday).

It seems like a lot, but I'm ok. I'm doing what I can to manage. I'm tired. And trying to keep from getting too overwhelmed -- it's minute by minute. It's taking a herculean effort to focus on the positive, but I gotta focus on the positive-- I can't go down with the ship!

In spite of the chaos, i'm still working on my savings plan. I even increased my retirement a little. Only my saving advice friends will understand that. It helps me feel like I have some control or order and it's also fun to focus on. Somehow, everything is going to be all right!

Happy saving everyone!

March Madness

March 23rd, 2014 at 03:06 pm

Checking in for March...

I'm functioning fairly well, still trying to manage my fatigue and job burnout. I know I mention this a lot, but I have lupus for those that aren't aware and I've had it for over 20 years. I'm fairly healthy, considering, but, lately the symptom of fatigue seems to overwhelm me.

Son is doing ok after his hospitalization in February. Medication works, but having trouble with him consistently taking his meds (which seems to be a typical problem with people with brain disorders/mental illness). Working on a plan and getting lots of support. He turned 25 this month - hate to be a hovering mother, but trying to save the young man's life. And my own. That's what it boils down to.

No mention from the spouse of d-i-v-o-r-c-e. Guess, discussion is off the table for now. Probably for the best. I have enough going on....

Financially speaking, I'm frazzled. The house and I are not getting along. The stove went kaput -- the burners quit working one by one and the one burner that worked would dangerously sizzle and pop when it was used. Then the oven stopped working. I shopped for a stove in the evenings after work (little energy to shop for appliances--not fun!) and found one in my price range $544 total (on sale) which was delivered last week. Cannot BELIEVE the prices of some of the stoves I saw while I comparison shopped! Some were $3,000! What the heck!! Who would have thought the need to boil eggs and bake frozen pizzas could cost so much?

The toilet in the master bathroom broke/leaked around the same time. Since we had to replace the toilet, we opted to get the bathroom floor done -- replaced linoleum and carpet with ceramic tile (yes, there was carpet in the bathroom -- came with the house. For the record, I DO NOT RECOMMEND carpet in the bathroom). That was just under $1,000 total.
That brought the house repair account down to $400.

In addition to that, dental expenses over the past month were $1,345. (Son's re-treatment of a root canal and crown. Grrrr.) And the car insurance was paid - $1,250.

Needless to say, I feel like I have a hole in my bucket.

Thank goodness for a steady paycheck and the freedom account and the house repair account. But I'd still like to plug that hole!!

All I can do is keep pushing forward and do my best with the money I have. It helps to check in and catch up on blogs... Like all of us, I just have to keep pushing forward.

Anyhoo... Happy saving, everyone!

Life Can Change in a Matter of Days

February 5th, 2014 at 11:44 am

Life can change in a matter of days...

A few days before my mother-in-law passed away last month (January), my spouse talked about moving out/separating.

Then his mother passed away. The conversation about separation/divorce has been tabled for now due to the sensitivity of grief. He's been in a state of grief and depression for days. She had been suffering from Alzheimer's for years and my spouse and 2 of his sisters were the care-givers.

And then... last week my son had a similar schizophrenic episode like the one he had about 4 years ago. Heartbreaking! He was admitted to the hospital from the ER. He was released after 5 days. He's stabilized and on medication but we're watching him closely.

After the first episode 4 years ago, we did not have a lot of medical info or support (the mental health arena is SO confusing!!) and his doctor discontinued his medication after about 8 months because his behavior 'normalized'. During the 4 years of time since that first episode, my son was doing ok, but not really ok -- functioning, but not functioning as well as a mother would hope (i.e, he dropped out of college, was fired from a couple of retail jobs, had several dramatic breakups with his girlfriend).

This time around he was released with a diagnosis of schizo-affective disorder. The prognosis is not great, but we have more info.

Life can change in a matter of days...

I'm ok. I've had a little time to process all of this and will continue to process it. I could crawl up under the covers and sleep all day, but I won't -- I have a great faith, a great family and church family and friends.

All of this brings up a lot of concerns. A divorce--if we do divorce--will not be ugly on my part--we've just run out of steam. I've been through a divorce before and this one--if it happens--will be far more friendly than my previous divorce, if I'm allowed to say that. I won't know anything until we revisit the conversation.

Being practical--the practical person I am--I have financial concerns. The possibility of splitting my retirement if we get divorced changes everything! And financially taking care of my son for the rest of his life... A lot to adjust to, but I'll have to adjust. I'll keep working my plan until I come up with a better one. And pray for a miracle.

The House and I

June 22nd, 2013 at 04:03 pm

The house and I are not getting along. Of the 3 major expenses I juggle: car care, medical care and house care, I'm currently overwhelmed by the monetary care and repair required for the house.

In trying to get organized, I made an official list of all the items needed or wanted for the house--the list that I've been trying to keep in my head. The list has 70 items. Yes. That's 70 items. (?!) It's a wonder I haven't run out the front door screaming.

The list includes small items like lamps and curtains, repair items like holes in the walls, electrical re-wiring and large items like new windows, new kitchen counters and flooring and one day a new roof. When we bought the house it was nearly 20 years old. That was 15 years ago. Wear and tear is natural but costly.

I'm doing cost estimates now, which are not happy ones. But necessary to help with planning and prioritizing (and procrastination!!)

In the meantime I count my blessings. We have to live somewhere. We've been rocking that lived-in thrift store chic look for years. A few more years won't hurt while I save, save, save...

Happy saving everyone!!

What to do about the to-do list

May 24th, 2010 at 04:09 pm

I haven't kept up with my to-do list. I just got overwhelmed and lazy about it. The same with my budget. And I haven't quite found a simple system that works well in remembering to do things and then DOING them. I think I'm just totally unmotivated about nearly everything at the moment. I'm hoping this 'un-motivation' will pass.

Unfortunately, no list means I forgot some basic things within the last week or so. I forgot to buy laundry detergent, which put my schedule off a bit for laundry. I forgot to call to make a doctor's appointment and now no appointments are available in the time I was hoping. I forgot to buy peaches for the grandchildren and they were quite miffed. (They love peaches, but their mom refuses to buy much fresh fruit, so I often have them on hand. I went back to the store to get them the next day.) I was off budget at the grocery store because I didn't keep track of my purchases or my grocery list. I also think I missed the deadline to add more money to the Certificate of Deposit I have (not sure...will check with the bank). None of these are big deals, but they all add up.

The good news is, I wrote down as many things as I could recall that I need to do within the month or even over the next few months. Things like buy stamps, gather my dry cleaning, sew a button on my jacket, call the doctor, etc. It might not help, but at least some of that clutter is out of my head and onto a piece of paper. That's progress.

It's the next step (actually DOING the things on the to-do list) that I have a problem with also. We'll see... One step at a time...I did begin with balancing my checkbook and checked that off the list. And I checked in with saving advice. Check. Only 984 more items to go...ha ha!


March 29th, 2010 at 04:37 pm

Oh My Goodness. That comment goes toward both my life and the savingadvice new look. Go figure--I'm unable to blog for several weeks and look what happens--a whole new format for savingadvice. I think I like it...

The sad sad news (the other part of the Oh My Goodness) is my son the Kid now appears to have what most people would see as a topic no one wants to talk about. He had a psychotic episode a few weeks ago (totally irrational uncontrollable behavior that he was hospitalized for) and has initially been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

This has changed our LIVES, emotionally, mentally and financially. (Already I have a hospital bill for $7,000, which scares me. I'll be calling my insurance company.) I've had several weeks to semi-adjust (I don't see a full adjustment since his behavior is now more potentially unpredictable). He appears to be doing fine on his current medication, but as a 21 year old is not willing to let me mother him much, which is all I want to do. He's also an adult in the medical world, which means I can't get much info from the doctors without his consent. So frustrating.

I've read a lot and prayed. I'm trying to reach out to people who might know what we're going through. We have a great church family. He just turned 21 and is attempting to get caught up in the college courses he's currently taking (he missed several classes), but I see that he's struggling.

I've found websites and information about the subject of Schizophrenia that's helping a lot. But I notice my finances are taking the back burner and I'm here at savingadvice to get some of my life back. My checking account is down to 26.33 and that's not helping my own mental state.

Everything is so connected--life, money, children, home, spirit, health. I'm out of whack right now, but will take steps to get it together. I'm so glad you all are still here!!

Quick Update & Christmas Lessons

December 21st, 2009 at 05:22 pm

It's been a little while. Took me a few minutes to find my own blog (smile).

I'm out of sorts this time of year since I work on our church's financial reports for the end of the year and not a lot on my own budget. So much to do, but I'll make it. I've been doing this same thing for the last 8 or 9 years so I know I'll make it....

I needed some motivation, though, and I came to the right place. I'm so motivated by everyone's blogs about the upcoming new year. I'm excited. It's budget-tweaking time and time to update my $20 challenge and sidebar.

I'm done with Christmas and somewhat over the budget I set when I count the gym membership I purchased (It was $335 for the year, prepaid.)

The kid is 20 and I'm trying to wean him of the expectation of stuff. But he did 'persuade' me to buy him a gym membership earlier, which counted as a gift that I wasn't even TRYING to buy him. He's been gushing grateful for it everyday and has met some new friends over the past few weeks, so it was a good gift, despite my reluctance. I also bought him boxers and socks on sale and found a pair of basketball shoes on clearance, spending an additional $60. I might give him $25 cash. Maybe $50. Hadn't decided yet. But I'm done.

My husband is harder to shop for--he claims to love everything I buy him, but most of the things I've bought him have remained hidden in a closet or dusty on a top shelf or in a pile for giveaway or otherwise mysteriously misplaced. We had a chat about my inept gift-giving, which he at first DENIED, but I had proof (slacks with the tags still on them and an empty broken CD case that he doesn't remember playing or receiving from me).

We agreed not to buy each other gifts.

Instead he wanted to donate to someone at our church who is struggling with Christmas gifts for 5 children. So we did that. I bought him chocolate. We might go out to a movie or something, maybe see Christmas lights. But I'm done, done, done. Have $300 left over in the Christmas account...a good start for next Christmas.

It's fun buying gifts if it's right and useful for the receiver, but not so much fun when it's been the wrong thing over and over. Plan to simplify even more next year. Maybe I'll just buy myself some gifts!!

Money Talks

September 28th, 2009 at 05:06 pm

I've been lazy and unmotivated about the budget and tracking lately.

It could be the time of year. Or the fact that I've had a lot of money go out (new refrigerator, dental work, the insurance was due, the kid's laptop was repaired). Or the fact that there are now 2 people at home who are not on the same financial page as I am (the kid and the spouse) and that appears to drain me, even though I'm trying not to let it. (I got accustomed to the kid being away at college.)

Also, without a computer at home I haven't been regularly reading Savingadvice to keep myself motivated. I'm reading a lot of entries today in an attempt to get inspired and motivated.

I also feel like groceries have gotten out of control, but haven't tracked the amounts I've spent in the past few weeks. I'm hoping it's just my imagination.

The kid has asked me to buy him a gym membership for Christmas (a year's contract). I'm considering it, but I hate contracts. And a year contract is expensive by my tastes. But the kid will be happy with this one gift (I think) and he can use it all year and I won't do any further Christmas shopping for him, which will simplify things for me. (Except I might still buy him socks and underwear... what's Christmas without new socks and underwear?!) We'll see...

My new pay with my new job has stabilized and I have about $35 each paycheck that I want to add to savings goals. I haven't done anything about that yet either, but I need to work on that (on payday!) so that amount doesn't get absorbed into other expenses. I was going to add it to retirement, but think I'll split it between retirement and my Freedom Account. (I sound like I have a million dollars coming to me...I'm always trying to divide a dime!)

Just feeling sluggish about all things financial, but still grateful to read everyone's blogs for inspiration. Maybe if I balance the checkbook tonight, I'll find some motivation and discipline...

Home Care - New Refrigerator

September 21st, 2009 at 05:23 pm

Spoiled milk is gross!! We just replaced our most basic model increasingly luke-warm refrigerator with the most basic model we could find (freezer compartment on top)--no ice maker, no water, just a refrigerator. We found one for $399 plus delivery and removal costs, which we felt was a good deal. Actually, it was a great deal, since at home our refrigerated food (and milk) was spoiling and our ice cream was melting as we shopped.

But why did our refrigerator only last 11 years? My parents have a refrigerator that is 40 years old or nearly my age. It's old and worn (the refrigerator, not me), but it still works great. Their milk doesn't spoil. Their ice cream stays frozen. How is this possible?? I'm so jealous!! My household owned our 'old' refigerator for all of 11 years and it just conked out. And who likes shopping for refrigerators on their day off work??

It must be true...They just don't make some things like they used to...

News about the Kid

September 14th, 2009 at 05:03 pm

Well, this has been an interesting summer.

Because the kid lost his scholarship, he waivered this fall semester about going back to the university he attended or remaining home with us and going to a community college to make up his credits and his GPA. (A decision made by him at the VERY last minute of registration. He failed every single class last semester.) Anyway, after a deep discussion of money, he's more mature about this then I expected he would be and despite my disappointment in all the wasted money, we are getting along pretty well. The bad news (besides the waste of money and the GPA) is that he's eating all my food and leaving all the lights on. The good news is community college is WAY more affordable then university.

Of course, his being home, means there's a transportation issue. His original plan for the summer was to work to earn some money to help purchase a replacement car for the car he totaled last September. He made some effort to look for employment, but not a grand effort as he was without transportation. Summer passed us by and no job.

He continued to think that I would purchase him another $3500 to $4500 car, that I would give in. We did go out to look at several used cars--I want a black one! he says or, Oooh, how about a Mitsubishi Gallant, he says, or How about an Acura Integra, he says. For a minute, I almost caved in, just like he thought I would. But Savingadvice friends, you'll be glad to know I didn't totally cave in.

He had $1000 in his savings account and I originally offered to add $1000 to whatever he saved from the 'summer employment'. (The $1000 in his account was there at the beginning of summer from previous income.) My spouse asked our mechanic if he knew of any used cars for sale and our mechanic happened to have a 1991 Honda 4 door hatchback Civic with a rebuilt engine for $1,400. We bought it. It's white and old and with a little rust, but I'm happy with it.

When it was in our driveway, we told the kid. He wasn't happy with it, because he's more concerned about appearance then anything, but I think he'll live. If he doesn't drive it, he can always walk. If he doesn't want to walk, he can try to catch a ride with someone or catch the bus if he can ever figure out our confusing bus routes. I feel fine about it all. I was finally making some progress in my finances and I just didn't FEEL like going backwards by $3500 or so. I realized I needed to take a stand for my finances because I'm the ONLY ONE WHO'S GOING TO TAKE A STAND. And I did it.

Thanks to all my savingadvice friends for your support!

The Search for Simplicity

August 11th, 2009 at 05:34 pm

I've spent my entire adult life trying to simplify things (my LIFE!) and free up time for creativity. I have a birthday coming up and I'm asking myself, how am I doing in my quest for simplicity? The answer is not so good.

Semi-Rant forthcoming...

Other then planned vacation time, my only regular day off is Saturdays. And I often end up running errands that day. What's happening to my dream of waking up and deciding what I want to do with my day? It seems to be getting further and further away from me...

I have achieved some success at simplifying the financial area of my life. I'm debt free, except the mortgage. I have bills that are easy to pay. I have (and I'm building) savings and retirement investments. I balance my checkbook regularly. I have a budget in place and tweak the budget when needed. (I love budget tweaking!) This is still a work in progress and my spouse and my son tend to add complexity rather than simplicity to the area (notice I said "I" and not "we" have a budget in place), but there is no longer an urgency or discomfort about the financial area of my life. (Thanks to all you savingadvice.com bloggers for your inspiration!)

Other areas, however, need intensive work. I find I'm constantly frustrated with how I spend my time or how my energy is drained from doing things I'm not that excited about but feel like I need to do. I've read many books on this quest for simplicity, on getting organized, on time management, on clearing clutter, and I'm disappointed that instead of having a simpler more joyful life, I seem to have a more complicated life than I ever imagined I'd have at this age.

It's not like I'm not trying. The areas I'm looking at now--if my life were a pie chart--are Work, Sprituality, Creativity and Family/Community. (I got this idea from Julia Morgensten's book Time Management From the Inside Out.)

Under the Work category, I put these things: home maintenance, car maintenance, my job, church work, finance record keeping.

Under Spirituality, I include self care, good friends/relationships, reading, studying, physical and spiritual health.

Under Creativity, I include writing, reading, creative projects and creative partners.

Under Family/Community I include church work (church work is in 2 categories), family time, spouse time, mentoring time.

(My financial life can be included in all these categories...work, spirituality, creativity and family. This is one area where I almost have it together.)

Each sub-category that's under each of the four categories has a long long(!) to-do list. For instance, if I were just to look at the home maintenance list...geez!!

But looking at my whole life, if I were to chart the 4 categories on an actual pie chart, WORK and FAMILY/COMMUNITY would be at least three fourths of the pie (WORK being the largest piece) and CREATIVITY and SPIRITUALITY a much smaller piece. CREATIVITY--my dream--would be the smallest piece.

HOW DID I GET HERE?!!? And how do I get more balance?

Rant's over. Now I have to try to do something about this. Happy Birthday to me...

Budget Busters

July 13th, 2009 at 04:37 pm

1. Still trying to figure out what to do to replace the home computer. The computer is dead. Dead.

2. Used a rental car to drive out of state to visit my parents. Great ride. I expected the cost to be around $350 to $400. It was $470. Not too bad, but it feels better to project/budget costs then it does to actually PAY costs.

3. The credit union where I have my CD sent a notice that they will no longer pay the 'tier' interest (an additional .01 or .02 depending on the daily balance). It's not a lot, but it was something.

4. The kid lost his scholarship (Spring 2009) due to his GPA falling below (way below) 2.50. Which meant we OWED the school $5,000 before we're able to register for Fall 2009. What!??? I cannot begin to TELL you how disappointed I am with the kid. We had a long LOOONG talk. He seems repentant and apologetic and willing to 'correct the error of his ways' next semester. But there's just one shot to do so (next semester) since money is a lot tighter without the scholarship. I want him to get through college with little or no debt and a decent transcript, but not if I'm the only one doing the work. Of course, I'm trying to avoid having the kid laying around playing Play Station all day, too, so I'd rather see him at college. But I can't do the work for him...he has to do the work. His success depends solely on him. (I must have said this to him about 20 times. It bears repeating.)

Other than all that, all is well.

Summer's Here and The Kid Is Home...

May 21st, 2009 at 01:49 pm


The kid is still insistent that I buy him a car to replace the one he totaled. I'm still insistent that the answer to that is 'No'.

His original plan was to get a summer job and save money for a car by September. (He currently has $1,000, which used to be $1,800...not sure how he spent $800, because he certainly has nothing to show for it. That's another blog entry.) He has been lazy about seeking employment the past two weeks and is extremely reluctant to catch the bus to 'anywhere'.

We (me and his step-dad) offered to help with transportation if he got a summer job convenient for us (i.e., not too far from home). I also offered to contribute 'some' matching money to money that he saves.

Even though family and friends tell me to give in and help him out, 'just buy him a car!' they say, I'm comfortable with my stance. He's not in high school anymore so it's no longer a power struggle for me. (It was at one time!!) But there's no more punishment, no more grounding of a 20-year-old (not sure that it worked in high school!) I'm allowing HIS choices and HIS consequences to affect HIS life. I just have to stay strong here.

My choice is to help, but remain focused on my own goals. My choice is to help him, but not to carry him. I feel like I've figured it out, like something snapped in my mind when he was ranting about it...the battle is more on him then it is with me. I HAVE a car. I HAVE a job. I BOUGHT him a car that he didn't take care of. I'm doing the right thing.

Plan to tell him 'No' a lot when he asks me for money or to buy him a car. Also plan to tell him I love him a lot when he doesn't ask. The two are so closely connected for him.

He's a bright kid and fairly independent... until we get to the subject of money. Heavy sigh... All my fabulous frugality has fallen on deaf ears...

Wow. What a rant. I was really just checking in, since it's been a while. It's great to reconnect with everyone's blogs. I've been working extra hours so I haven't made much time to blog. Think good thoughts everyone! And those who are staying on budget and reaching savings goals--keep up the good work!

New and 'Re-Newed' Clothes - Shopping With Mom

April 20th, 2009 at 05:00 pm

My parents were visiting during last week and my mother and I had some mother/daughter time by going shopping. I have a 'clothing' envelope that I'd been adding $30 a month to for the past several months and had a budget envelope of roughly $300 and some change. (I don't shop for clothes that often.)

My mother is a frugal queen. But she calls my father cheap. I intuitively know the difference, but couldn't explain it. It just makes me laugh. I have my money management skills from both of them. My brother is actually the only spendthrift in our family, but he, too, has saved and invested his income wisely.

Anyway, my mother and I had lunch (buy one get one free, of course), went shopping at one 'regular' department store (briefly), but the majority of our time was spent at a thrift store.

At the department store, I spent about $70 for one thing (I needed a new basic suit (jacket and pants) for work, that I can mix and match with my current wardrobe--this was an investment for me--and my mother bought nothing. One purchase at the department store.

At the thrift store, however, my mother spent about $39 and bought 2 skirts, a clothes hamper, a dress, a peach-colored skirt suit, a knit top, two work-pants for my dad, a straw totebag, a black purse, and 5 sewing patterns. I spent $70 dollars and bought 4 knit tops, 2 long sleeve blouses, 3 purses, 3 belts, two work-pants for my stepson, two tank tops for gym workouts, one pantsuit (which will mix and match with my department store pant suit) and one basic black skirt suit (which was the big ticket item on the "better clothing" rack, costing $19.) Needless to say, we had a much better time at the thrift store. What a bonding good time!!

My parents have gone back home, but there's a sale at the thrift store this week--50% of all clothing to celebrate Earth Week. I still have $160 left in the envelope, but think I'll only take $20... Maybe a few more 'new' shirts to go with my 'new' suits... Life is good...

"Travel" Not A Budget Item - Should It Be?

April 20th, 2009 at 04:20 pm

The kid's birthday usually falls on Spring Break in March. This would be FABULOUS for families that like to travel and combine a "Happy Birthday". Welcome to Disneyworld or Jamaica or whatever... Not one time have we traveled ANYwhere for the kid's birthday.

I grew up a military brat (my father was in the service) and my first spouse was an Army man--I moved almost every two or three years for most of my life growing up. Since my divorce however, I opted to stay put and raise my son in one place.

The kid turned 20 his last birthday. A good friend of mine has a daughter who turned 13 and she took her daughter shopping AND to Disneyworld. I thought: Wow! I must not be a good mother. I have deprived the kid of traveling and REAL vacations. My son was OBVIOUSLY born to the wrong mother.

I asked him if he wished we had traveled more as a family when he was younger, but he didn't know the answer, since he didn't know anything other than staying at home.

Vacations are costly. We did go on a family cruise once to the Bahamas with my parents. That was a one-time deal. (That took me 18 months to pay for.) I never even had a budget for travel, except for visiting my parents. Travel was never on the list. But now I wonder if we should have done more traveling (like to national parks or the Grand Canyon or Disneyworld) when the kid was growing up. What do you all do with your families and children when it comes to travel?

We can still do some things...it's not like it's too late. I'm thinking about a cruise to Alaska. A road trip to the Grand Canyon. A trip to Europe? The kid probably isn't that interested in hanging out, but he'll likely go if I pay for it. Plus, that would be another goal for my sidebar...hmmmm.... Do I really need another goal??

Family Stuff

February 2nd, 2009 at 04:37 pm

First matter: I plan to discuss the household budget with my spouse this week. (This should put him to sleep by 8 pm!) As previously noted, I get really upset that my spouse is bored by all things financial and that he and I are not on the same page when it comes to financial goals. But things could be worse. He's not a heavy spender, so I don't REALLY have to worry about that. But he is a heavy GIVER to his family (6 siblings, 23 young adult nieces and nephews) and his adult children from his previous marriage. (I'm not sure what he tells his family members, but they seem to think I'm rich. They've never asked me for money directly, but they hint a lot...)

Anyway, while I don't have to worry TOO much about the spouse over-spending, it would be nice to have a partnership in this area. I'll just keep at the financial goals like I've been doing. I'll work with what I've got and try not to rant and whine too much about you know who...

Matter number 2: The kid calls from college fairly often. He's still without a car and has made some unwise finanical decisions lately. I've stood my ground fairly well. (My spouse, however, might be sneaking him additional funds.)

The kid called today to remind me his birthday's coming up. (Like, I, his birth mother, would not know this.) I think he intended to ask for something ridiculous like a new car or an extravagant cell phone, but he didn't get around to asking. I took the opportunity to let him know that he'll be 20 years old on this birthday and that the days of Mr Gatti's Playland parties and extravagant gifts are over. That kid has wasted so much of my money over the past years, it's got to stop. I think food, shelter, college tuition, some spending money, and the car he totaled is plenty!!

Anyway, I figure this is as good a time as any to continue with having the kid develop more finanical responsiblity. I have another 6 weeks before birthday time and pray that I stay strong and silent about it. I want to do something nice and thoughtful for the kid, but nothing that goes financially overboard the way I've done in the past. I can no longer be his personal bail-out plan. Having said that, think good thoughts that I continue to show progress in this area! It's harder than it looks...

On Your Mark, Get Set...Wait a Minute...2009 has arrived with extra bills

January 13th, 2009 at 04:24 pm

I have some breathing space from the end- of-year church reports that I prepare so I'm baaaack. I've been working on my 2009 budget and saving plan, which will still need a little nudge with upcoming changes in my pay and in bills.

It's a fresh start and I'm still excited. The kid, however, has made his presence known on his Christmas break from college. Remember he totaled his car in Sep 08? Well, my spouse (his stepfather) let the kid borrow the Toyota a few times (my spouse's car) during the break and a funny thing happened while the kid was driving... One, he hit a curb in the fog (driving too fast, no doubt) and the car required a $332 strut and rim repair, plus a $50 alignment. Two, on New Year's Day (Happy New Year's to us!!), he backed my husband's car out of the garage with the car door open and crumpled the car door. (We were able to adjust the track on the garage door...the car door...not so much.) The cost of that was $270 for a salvage car door replacement and $45 for a body shop to replace it. My spouse is the one with the heart for children and family and all that, but I'm hoping he reconsiders allowing the kid to drive his car. There's nice... and then there's too nice. This is the very reason why I don't allow the kid to drive MY car.

Fortunately, we had the Freedom Account working for us, plus a cushion in the checking account which covered both expenses. I WAS ahead by $700, toward my cushion in both my Freedom Account and checking account and now I'm not. Thankfully, the kid's back at college now. (say it with me everyone--YAYYY!!!) We'll begin again.

New Strides with The Kid

October 23rd, 2008 at 03:03 pm

The kid continues to have a spiritual growth spurt and has matured a great deal due to surviving such an ugly car crash last month.

It's affected our relationship in a positive way. As a result of this, I've had more meaningful conversations and emails with him. I've expressed over and over how extremely grateful I am that he survived this crash and that he was ok. I found out that until this happened, he didn't seem to think that I cared one way or another about his wrecklessness or about what happens to him. How did we get to that point?? That says sad, sad things about our prior relationship, but I did read the Five Languages of Love (I believe that's the title, recommended by a fellow saver) and can see what I could have done differently. Anyway, I'm incredibly grateful that we both got a second chance.

This crash has also affected my budget. We lost a car which cost me $3500 and with only liability coverage there was no pay-out for it. We received $255 from the wrecker (who'll use it for parts). We're adding that $255 to the car fund as a start, since I (nor he) had no plan for replacing a car so soon.

The kid's looking into getting a job that he can walk to. He handed over his debit card when I asked for it (the week before the crash in September, he had $75 in overdraft charges). He's now only using cash, but a lot less of it, since he's without a car and on foot.

Without his car, the gas for it and the insurance are no longer needed. The insurance premium is about $550 lower (we had to cancel the insurance we'd just set up for him on his own and put him back on our insurance as a driver). He's also eating in the cafeteria rather than at every drive-through that's near campus.

His goal is to get by without a car until summer. He's hoping to save money to purchase one. So much has changed. I'm still so incredibly grateful.

The Kid is Doing Well

September 30th, 2008 at 04:39 pm

The kid is doing well after the car crash. He's back at school and grateful to be alive. He's settled and quietly maturing and I'm so grateful and quite proud of him. He's managing his classes and sports and has applied for work study to save money for a car, he tells me. He wants to have one before next summer in case he gets an internship job. Or he'll get a regular summer job if the internship doesn't work out. I didn't say anything to that except "Good for you, son." This was exactly the kind of maturity I was looking for. A lot of trauma to get there, but I'm grateful.

We had a pick-n-pull company come pick up the car and they gave us $255. I put that into an account to start him off in saving for his car. I think the kid will stay motivated, but we'll see. Think good thoughts...

The Car Crash

September 16th, 2008 at 04:17 pm

Well, the kid has done it. He totaled the car he drives. I was incredibly relieved to find him ok with very few scratches on him. Praising God for that all day and every day. He was pretty shaken up and I'm hoping this will become an important life lesson for him.

Here's what happened:
His college is about an hour and a half away. I called him Friday night around 10:30 to make sure he was at the dorm in case the storm (Ike) gave us any backlash. He said, "I'm ok, Mom, just hanging out here." We said good night, love you, etc, and I thought that was it.

At 1 a.m. we (my spouse and I) get a call from him. My son says "I've been in a crash, the car rolled over 3 times. I'm halfway (between school and home, which is all expressway). He asked if we could come get him... then his cell phone went dead.

We drove nearly to his college town (praying), then back again hoping to see him on the highway. We didn't find him nor his car and his cell phone was dead. There was no rain at all, so we were grateful for that, but we didn't find him. We went back home at around 3:45 a.m. and on the home voice mail was a message from him, except he was talking to the clerk in the gas station (not us), telling the clerk about the car crash and asking if there was a place to plug in his phone so he could get his step-dad's number out. (He didn't know it.) We called the gas station back (caller ID) to get the location, which was closer to home than we thought. We went driving again to see if we could find him. By this time, at least we knew that he wasn't trapped in the car.

We drove for another hour up and down the expressway, praying the entire time, and still didn't find him. We found the gas station but it had been 2 hours since he'd been there. At 5:45 my spouse's cell phone rings and my son is at the house. The tow truck had towed his car and him to the house. We were ten minutes away from home by then. By the time we got home again it was nearly 6 a.m., the tow cost $293 (for 15 miles), we had a copy of the police report (they were going to impound it, but the tow truck offered to take him home since there was no criminal or liability incident--nothing or no one else was hurt or harmed). Turned out my son walked for miles and miles on a dark access road trying to find help and he stopped at 2 gas stations and eventually found a church where firemen were setting up for evacuees from the hurricane and storm and they were able to help him.

Anyway, I was very glad and grateful and relieved to see him. So much so that I was in tears. The car, however, not so much. It is totaled. Rear windshield totally out, front windshield crushed and shattered, the trunk and gas tank area crumpled, tires blown, axle bent, etc. It's a 1997 Nissan so we only carried liability insurance on it. (We just got that insurance as a separate policy in his name at the beginning of the month!!)

He was speeding. Such a sad thing that this happened because he was speeding. And on the road when he wasn't supposed to be there, in the middle of the night. And it could have been SO MUCH WORSE!! But thank God, it wasn't. He'd already received 4 speeding tickets within the last year and he's had defensive driving classes and all the lectures about driving carefully, taking good care of the car, etc. It's unfortunate, but this may be the wake-up call he needs to take more responsibility - financially and personally. He is now without a car and without any plan for getting a new one.

I feel like I've done my part in purchasing the car and providing him transportation and insurance and rules. He didn't hold up his end of the bargain by respecting that. He could have died or killed someone because of his wrecklessness. Thank God he didn't. He now has a second chance to do better and I have a second chance to hopefully watch him learn. He appears not to be 'teachable' by me, but I'm hoping he will still 'learn' from his actions.

Right now it's a good thing for us that he stays in a dorm room--we dropped him off yesterday. We'll keep doing that until we (he) comes up with a better plan... But again, I'm SO GRATEFUL that he was ok.

The Kid - Part Two

August 27th, 2008 at 04:42 pm

After an earlier blog entry about my son and receiving some of the advice I got from fellow savers, I've made some steps over the summer to help train the kid in financial matters. He was destroying the budget this summer and it had to stop. I feel like I tried so hard to teach him financial foundations as he was growing up, but he wasn't interested before and now, at 19 years old, he still doesn't seem interested. And because I try to 'help' him financially by giving him money, I made the situation worse.

Anyway, I either failed at teaching or he failed at learning, but I made a few changes mid-July after some deep thought.

The things I decided that I'll continue to do are:
(1) Pay for college tuition until the $25,000 I saved over the past sixteen years (mostly savings bonds) runs out.
(2) Pay for the maintenance and insurance for his car.
(3) Pay for food at home. And shelter.
(4) Pay for his prepaid cell phone.
(5) Give him an allowance of $200 each month during the school year at college with the stipulation that he doesn't ask me for ANY additional money during the school year for personal expenses. The consequence of asking will be a slight decrease and a big lecture. (The lecture part being my motherly right and duty.)

This summer, here's what I decided NOT to do:
(1) Not pay for his gas. (I was doing that even though he was working a summer job. Don't ask me why.)
(2) Not pay for his fast food addiction. (I was doing that, too. Don't ask me why.)
(3) Not pay for his overdraft fees. (I was doing that, too. Don't ask me why.)
(4) Not pay for his speeding tickets. (I was doing that...well, you know the drill...) I'd already paid for 3 of his speeding tickets within the past year. He got a fourth ticket in July and will pay it with money from his summer job.
(5) Not buy his clothes or shoes.

He's a heavy spender and I'm a heavy saver. (We're both heavy-weights--ha ha!) All of our arguments are over money. To me, wasting money (like on overdraft fees) is a crime or a sin--it's that SERIOUS to me!! But he seems to think it's no big deal, that I make a lot of money compared to him, that I should spend a lot of money...on him.

These were small but serious changes for me as the mother of an only child. It's so intense! But already I can see the change in my cashflow. The kid has been angry with me for weeks because of these changes. But I was angry before. Now it's his turn.

School will begin for him next week. Eventually I want this money challenge with the kid to be win-win for both of us, but I think we have a ways to go...

Thanks to all for your previous encouragement. I'm taking baby steps, baby steps...

The Kid

July 21st, 2008 at 04:12 pm

Been without a computer for over a week. Blah!

Anyway, have had some interesting happenings with the kid, my 19-year-old--he needs a new crown (teeth issues), has spent most of his job money on fast food, and just got another speeding ticket this weekend. Heavy sigh...

The kid is keeping me from my millionaire status. Or at least keeping me from getting closer to my millionaire status. Depsite my years of thrift and saving and household cash management, my son has turned out to be materialistic, name- brand conscious, a fast food junkie, "forgets" to turn off TVS and lights, and he lacks a serious or consistent work ethic.

This is a problem.

I think the materialism began in middle school where although they wore uniforms he was obsessed by the expensive athletic shoes that the 'other kids' were wearing. So it began...

He's my only child, the kid, so I have trouble holding my ground. He's doing well in school with good grades and except for the money thing, is reasonably well-behaved. Somehow in spite of my efforts with him, I've gone horribly wrong in the finance department. While I avoided buying him a car in high school (and constantly argued with 'but all my other friends have one'), I did buy a small used car for college use ($3500) AFTER he graduated high school. He now has some independence and uses it to drive back and forth to school and to his summer job, but he has no greater sense of responsiblity. I neglected to have him sign on the dotted line for 'being more responsible.'

My goal is to save. The kid's goal is to spend. He has a huge sense of entitlement, which is partly my fault--a round of applause for the Bank of Mom!--and partly the 'fault' of our neighborhood and environment and society. In high school many of his friends had new cars, Ipods, laptops, expensive cell phones, name-brand every thing and NO JOBS! I didn't know any of these parent very well but would love to ask what the blazes they were thinking--obviously now I'm the one not thinking!

Things I regret or might regret, but am making a choice to live with: I bought him a car and required little extra responsibility from him. I still buy most of his gas and pay for his maintenance AND I added him to our car insurance. (The car is where we'll begin the second round of 'weaning.' This has been a financial mistake for me.) I recently bought him a re-furbished laptop for college. I pay $65 a month for his prepaid cell phone (namely so I'm able to call him, but his conversations with me are not really worth $65 a month!). I give him $100 a month allowance during college and will likely continue that or increase it due to the increase of gas prices. (He plays basketball for the school under partial scholarship--makes it difficult for him to work during school).


I have to forgive the kid for being 19. I have to forgive him for not taking my advice. And for not doing what I do. And I have to forgive myself for the mistakes I've made. (Boy! the mistakes I've made.) But as the Bank of Mom...the doors will be gradually closing. (Gradual because I have to wean myself as well as the kid. And somehow I have to get my spouse on board! My spouse is worse than I am...)

Still working with ideas and a better plan than what I have. Will keep you posted.

Family Matters -- How the Cash Flows

July 3rd, 2008 at 03:20 pm

As mentioned, neither my husband nor my son share in my excitement about saving. They do not have the VISION!

My husband is on disability and does not work (he has mild cerebral palsy). He may baby-sit on occasion (his daughter's 3 boys, his niece's children--lot of family!) for dinner out or a gift card. His income is approximately $9,000 a year. He deposits (by allotment) $500 in our joint account each month for bills, leaving him approximately $250 each month. Out of that $250, he pays for basic cable. (I watch cable, but can and would rather live without it. He would just as soon dive in front of a moving bus before giving up cable.) He also pays for his prepaid cell phone and gas for his car and has a $15 monthly allotment to his personal savings account.

I work full time. I have approxiamtely $455 per paycheck or $900 per month going to various savings and retirement accounts by automatic withdrawals or allotments. I deposit the rest of my net income into our joint account for household bills (about $2500). I withdraw 'allowance' for me and cash for budget items such as groceries, entertainment, household supplies, clothes, and 'the kid'. (about $400 per month, but I split it between paychecks) I write checks or have automatic debits for the rest of our regular household bills which run between $2500 and $2700 a month. We have no debt except our mortgage. I don't have a cell phone, I use dial-up internet at home, I take my lunch to work, I'm trying to carpool to save gas, and I'd love to get rid of cable.

"The kid", my son, makes little to no money, but spends and costs quite a bit. Because he plays basketball for school and they traveled, he didn't work during the school year. He's currently working this summer and I'm helping him with gas (!) and his car repairs for the used Nissan that I bought him for college after he graduated high school. I'm requiring that he budgets for school clothes and shoes, that he keep a cushion of $200 for next year's college spending money and that he begin a Christmas fund (ESPECIALLY if he plans to keep his current girlfriend). In addition, he's to manage his spending money this summer. I even offered to match his savings by 50% by Jul 30. So far...it ain't looking good.

We bank at a credit union. I've managed to build up various savings accounts and retirement accounts over the past several years and I get SO excited when things are going well and SO discouraged when I can't seem to make headway. My husband has $23.52 in his personal savings account. This is the account that he has allotted $15 to every month for the past 4 years. (I'll let you do the math.) For 'the kid', I've alloted or transferred $50 out of every paycheck to his account (the one that came with the debit card for college) for the past 10 months plus extra transfers for books, gas and other college expenses. The kid has .02 (yes, that 2 cents) in his checking account. In his savings he has the minimum balance he can have - $5. He's been working for 4 weeks now, though I'm concerned that he's missed a few days...

Obviously, it's too much to ask for my family to be excited or interested or aligned with any particular money goals, it's too much to ask for some cooperation, some common goal, some teamwork or team spirit within my household. It took me a long time to let this go (and as you may surmise, I'm still a little bitter--oops! maybe I haven't let it go!). But yes, I handle all the paperwork, yes, I handle all the bills, yes, I manage the household finances and yes, I have a lot of one-sided conversations about savings goals and money management. So let me add that I'm SO SO glad I found you folks out there. I need you guys. I need to stay focused and motivated and not let all my hard work be in vain.

New goal: I'm having trouble helping my son deal with the consequences of NOT saving and NOT managing his money, so I want my focus for a little while to be on his 'life-training'. Several of his consequences cost ME money and affect my savings goals. (For instance, he got a speeding ticket he couldn't pay for...yikes! I paid and now we have insurance concerns...)
One thing I've officially decided: I will not purchase any more school clothes or shoes for him and will let him be responsible for those items for the rest of his life. (He has plenty of clothes already, or he can use his own money, or he can go naked or barefoot--his choice.)
Anyone have any other ideas? How do you get your kids to cooperate or help out and be responsible with money? Especially when they're 19 years old and know everything? Am I asking too much or too little? Am I doing too much? Too little? Am I being too selfish about my saving goals?


July 2nd, 2008 at 04:16 pm

I discovered savingadvice.com a few weeks ago and LOVE it. Love reading everyone's blogs. I have been on the road to financial freedom for several years but have encountered several roadblocks. Heavy sigh...

Current financial standing: Income from civil service job, $55,000 a year and spouse's disability $9,000 a year. Wealth account, $5,900; IRA, $44K / 401K, $77K. Emergency fund: $1,500. Current checking and spend-able savings accounts total to around $5,500. Education funds for my son (a combination of savings bonds and savings accumulated over the past 15 years): $25,000 with bond maturities. (We've spent about $9,100 of that for his freshman year.)

The reason I wanted to start a blog is that NO ONE at my house is excited about saving money. NO ONE cares about my early retirment. NO ONE wants to hear about simplifying our lives except me. I live with my second husband and my son, who at 19 just finished his freshman year at college and is home for the summer. (Actually, he was about an hour away. He was home almost every weekend.) Both my husband and my son are spenders. My husband is thrifty and cheap and a spender all at the same time PLUS he's a rescuer (big family)--he rarely has money left at the end of the month. My son, on the other hand, has a champagne taste on a Koolaid budget, despite my efforts in financial training and despite my no-frills lifestyle. Both of them get a glazed look in their eyes when I talk about money and money goals. Me, I get excited over tuna being 50 cents a can.

My first dream was to be a millionaire. Now I mostly want financial freedom -- freedom to work when and where I want to work, freedom to pay for living expenses (and repairs to the house) without worry, freedom to spend my days the way I want to spend my days, freedom to give more generously to the causes that are on my mind and heart. How much will that take?