Friday, February 6, 2009

Anxiety... Yeah I Got It

I spend a good portion of my day (okay all waking hours) thinking about, strategizing, and... well... stressing about our financial future.

I don't know about you... but... whenever I heard stories about The Great Depression it didn't sound like it was a whole lot of fun.

I'm doing my best to get a solid game plan up and running. Whether you are feeling it now or not... most likely you will be soon. I talk to people EVERY day who are either being laid off or know someone who is. Seriously... people... what if Mr F loses his job?! I don't want to get all paranoid but I also don't want to be eating powdered potatoes anytime soon.

I've been going over our spending and how it is allocated and that's what is scary. We are already down to: housing, utilities, TV service, gas, food & tuition. You'll notice there is no clothing, medical expenses... not to mention entertainment, etc.

The TV and (currently) tuition are our only *wants*. There is really only so much I can cut from our utilities and food budget. At a certain point those costs are what they need to be. The problem for us is that our mortgage (and property taxes) takes up nearly half of our take home pay. (And that's not because we got some crazy no-down-payment mortgage... no that's with over 20% down.)

You know when you read financial books and they say you should have a certain percentage of *needs* versus *wants* versus savings? Well it is currently impossible for us to do that. And I'm starting to feel like we are trapped. We CAN afford to stay in our house... but at the expense, I'm realizing, of having a rounded out life.

However, during these times, maybe that is to be expected. Maybe, right now, the idea of having a percentage for *wants* is off base.

Friends, Romans, Countrymen

You all know of my love of Trader Joe's.... the frozen chocolate croissants, fantastic store brand EVERYTHING from dishwashing detergent to olive oil. I mean the place rocks the house on the cheap front but has enough high end products to assuage the inner food snob.

You also know that we do not have a Trader Joe's here.

Well in my frugal shopping research I discovered that there are two ALDIs here.

Do you know about ALDI?

We didn't have one in Ann Arbor so I never really investigated it before. Then when I was watching The Duggars (what?!!!) I saw that they shop there. That's when I got the low down that this place maximizes savings by not providing free bags (how very environmentally progressive of them), making you rent a cart (25 cent deposit), only taking cash for payment (or equivalent), and eliminating shelves (you pick product off the pallet).

Yeah it sounds so crazy I kind of need to see it. There is one just about a mile away. I hadn't bothered making the trip (until TODAY) because I figured they wouldn't have any organics. Plus they only carry their own private label stuff... and how do I know it's not crap?

How do I know?!! Well it turns out that ALDI and Trader Joe's are owned by the same company. They are essential the low end and high end versions of themselves.

You read that right.

So if you love your "hand selected" private label Trader Joe's olive oil there is a pretty good chance you are going to equally love the private label ALDI's olive oil.

Take that in... all you foodies on a budget.

Now I don't know for a fact that I'm going to find my beloved organic soups (for now)... as ALDI caters to a different market... but I do know that the fish filets are going to be the freaking same... for LESS. Same goes for condiments. And baking products.

I'm doin' it.

I'll report back later.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


I have that horrible feeling that I'm forgetting something.

It could be that I just have one thousand things on my plate. Trying to catch up with all the things I haven't been able to do... and now... am able to (mostly).

I am over the hump of the recovery. I'd say that it now feels like what I expected a broken tailbone to feel like. Isn't that encouraging?! (No... seriously... never break your tailbone.) It is now just sore and a nuisance. Which is what you'd expect a little piece of broken spine to be... isn't it? Yes, that is what I thought too. And now finally that is all it is. I go back to the doctor next week. I'm hoping that everything is healing satisfactorily and not that my pain has finally decreased because that bit of spine has given up and is now floating around somewhere deep within my nether regions.

So, now I have about 6 weeks worth of organizing and whatnot to do. I'm sick of the way the kids' room looks like a tornado just touched down and I'm sick of the toppling pile of art supplies that I've never gotten around to reorganizing. I'm trying to tie down a budget and debating going all cash (why am I resistant?).

I've got all of Kid's applications either turned in or due to be turned in within the next week. And (according to Kid's teacher) the teacher who wants childcare does want for me to watch her baby.

So that's a lot. A lot to take in and a lot to prepare for.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Snow Day... Take 2

This time there was actual snow... not much... just enough to close the schools again.

You can see that it ranged from 0-1.5"... so a dusting really. It is however legitimately COLD today. It's noon and the thermometer just hit 12 degrees.

So a full bundling up was necessary to take advantage of the first *real* snowfall we've had here.

Man, I do not miss the 1 hour of tugging and pulling on of 3 layers of snow clothes! Poor Baby was ready first and had to wait broiling in her snowsuit.

The kids were really into making snow angels.

I don't even know how Baby knew what they were but as soon as she got out there she got down and made one.

She even had her little friend make one.

Here's Kid adding hair and eyes to hers.

Hell, even I couldn't resist making one... despite the inherent risks involved in getting down and up in the snow.

It was fun for the 20 minutes we lasted before our nose drips turned into icicles on our faces.

We have a pretty big city yard with a slight slope. I looked everywhere for our sledding sleds to no avail... but Baby did get a couple go 'rounds in our cool old fashioned pulling sled. Kid and I took turns trudging her about.

God, I love that Kid... she really is one hell of a big sister.

It's kind of nice when it is SO cold... you get not complaints when you suggests it's time to head back in and warm up.

I told them we'd come back out later on...

but... I might have been lying.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Feelings Are Mutual

Kid and I routinely take part in the parent child tradition of one upping each other's declarations of love.

You know... "I love you to the moon and back."... is often countered with... "I love you to Pluto and back."

Of course I know I love her more but in the end we settle on a tie. "We love each other the same." We say in unison.

Tonight Kid came up to give me a good night kiss.

"I love you." I said.

"I love you more." Kid replied.

"I love you more than there are grains of sand." I told her.

"I love you..." Kid started and then paused.

I wait in baited anticipation of her grandiose declaration of love.

"But... I don't love your breath." Kid concludes.


I really didn't see that one coming.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Opposites Attract And Other Things That Will Make You Lose Your Mind

Tonight I wanted to kill Mr F.

He and I have our differences. One of us commits to things and the other one wants to commit to things.

Guess which one is Mr F.

Today I got an updated bank statement. It appears that a couple of days ago Mr F took $20 out of an ATM.

"Big deal." You say.

You'd be wrong about that.

On the surface 20 bucks is just 20 bucks. But if you consider that tomorrow I have to call the hospital and negotiate payments on Kid's EEG and we still can't cover her tuition and our mortgage... 20 bucks becomes a very big deal. Sometimes we are so close that just a couple of dollars can swing our balance into insufficient. That's why I don't allow Mr F to take cash out of the account.

That doesn't mean he can't spend money if he needs to... he has a credit card... but Mr F is one of those people who just can't have cash. Case in point the $20 withdrawal.

"Did you take $20 out at an ATM last week?" Mrs F asks

"I guess." Mr F replies ( no likey that answer)

"What did you need it for?" Mrs F continues.

"I wanted it just in case I needed it when I was on location." Mr F says.

"What did you buy?" Mrs F inquires.

"A soda." Mr F lamely reveals (okay so I'm not terribly impartial).

"What did you do with the rest?" Mrs F pushes.

"I still have some... but I think I spent some on some of the stuff we needed." Mr F continues (you see what I'm up agaisnt... right?)

So this is the problem with cash. If Mr F has cash he will spend it. On small piddly things like soda and gum... but it will magically disappear over time with no accounting for what it was spent on or why.

The soda,I gathered, was probably $1.25. I told Mr F that just this afternoon I put back the turkey meatballs I usually buy and bought meat to make my own. It'll take a couple of hours of my time but it'll save us... get this... a dollar... so I did it. Cause saving that dollar was worth it to me.

Mr F got a soda.

Do you see the problem here?

I don't need Mr F to apologize for getting the soda (okay maybe I do) I need him to want to fix our situation badly enough that he (on his own) wouldn't even think of wasting $1.25 on carbonated sugar water. There is no amount of money so small that it doesn't count. As I said to him I need him to be an actual partner in this with me. I feel like I'm bailing out a boat that has a bunch of tiny holes in it. I can't win if he doesn't stop chipping away at the bottom of my goddamn boat.

Mr F said he does want to be a partner to me... but... he just doesn't have my "intensity". Word to that. I have yet to experience a level of bad that is actually enough to make him commit to anything. And people for the record we have seen *BAD*... it was only 5 years ago that I had to take over the finances due to a serious level accrued debt... due mostly to just plain poor attention to detail... and quite a bit of wishful thinking. The man cannot give 100% (I think I've mentioned that before... he's actually pretty much pathologically set to only achieve 80%... for real).

Hilarious Update:

Mr F finds his wallet and hands over the change. He told me it was $14. In actuality it was $12.96.

I told him I'd give him $10 back if he thought he could challenge himself not to spend it.

"Just give me one dollar." He said.

At least he knows himself. That's something.

Hopefully I Won't Go To Hell For This

Today I did something I didn't want to do. More than that. I did something that I have been feeling guilt ridden about for weeks. Today... I canceled my charitable monthly sponsorships.

I knew I needed to do it. At a certain point even donations becomes a "want" and not a "need". I might be able to see, or hope, that everything will come together in time. But it will still take time... and I have a stack of medical bills piled up on my desk.

For the last 6 years I have been sponsoring a woman through Women For Women International and a child through Save The Children. Both of these are amazing programs that really do help change the lives of the participants.

I feel like shit... but have decided to adopt a airplane oxygen mask type philosophy for now... save yourself before you try and save others. At least financially.

To assuage my guilt I've been thinking of things that I could do instead. Those of you with small kids know that it can actually be pretty hard to find volunteer opportunities that allow child participation. Since I always have at least one shadow... that's kind of imperative.

A couple of months ago I went on a field trip with Kid's class to the local food bank. It was a great experience because it was one of the rare things that a kid could actually do. I still remember a church trip to a food bank when I was a middle schooler. It was a real eye opening experience for me to realize that not everyone could afford to buy food for their families. I'm going to find out if/how Kid and I can donate our time.

The other thing I want to do is help Kid start saving and donating a portion of her allowance. She is just starting to understand the money concept and saving. Now I'd like to help her earmark a percentage of her earnings for Heifer International (a charity her class raised money for and that she particularly likes since the idea of giving animals is something tangible) and then match her donation. It will take awhile at her current, one dollar a week, pace but I think it will be a positive experience to be working together towards something.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Good News Continues

I don't know if I should talk about these things I'm afraid of jinxing them... but then I think that's ridiculous. I think that maybe thinking positively has more of an actual effect than worrying does. So...

Two good things:

#1 Today a couple came to look at Mr F's car and they are interested. They are going to think about their offer and will get back to us. If we can settle on a number that we think is fair (or more than fair... haha) we might get this taken care of and I will not have to worry about how we'll cover Mr F's business taxes ANYMORE!!!

#2 I went online to check out our credit card statement. This has been maddeningly frustrating as of late because I just can't figure out why our monthly statements haven't been lower (well I know that it isn't my doing). I feel like I am constantly busting my ass trying to cut costs as much as humanly possible. It's so bad that this morning Mr F dropped a carton of eggs and I was trying not to get mad but also immediately counting up the wasted money. It's eggs, folks! But that is how tight I have been with the food budget... even an extra carton of eggs hurts.

Right about now you are probably thinking..."I thought this was supposed to be good news?!" Hold on... it is. So I was reviewing our statement. The one that is due in 2 weeks closed... well... 2 weeks ago and it was higher than I thought it should have been. It had some Xmas spending on it and Mr F had charged some work related expenses that pushed it up over what I had expected. That is partially what set me off into a financial depression last week... just the inability to account for all the spending (or predict it). I kept thinking that my grocery budgeting should be making a difference... and it hadn't been. Until today. Today I checked it and FINALLY all the work is starting to show up. Now we still have a couple weeks left on this statement but for the first time our total spending, for the entire month, will only be several hundred dollars. HUNDRED not THOUSAND. Finally we will have a complete statement that reflects our new grocery budget. I am elated and so much more hopeful than I was just a couple of days ago.

So if you are scrimping and feeling like it is never paying off... hang in there. I wouldn't have believed, even 4 days ago, that things could turn around... let alone so quickly. Proving yet again that the darkest times are often right before light.
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