Tag Archives: money

Breathe

After a good four nights of feeling like I was drowning in my own mucus when I tried to lay down at night, I slept fairly well last night. Still not 100 percent, but considerably better.

I’ll start posting regularly again tomorrow, but I have a mini-rant tonight.

Why is it that our society is set up to make the poor poorer?

Late fees for being five minutes late for anything, when you were probably late because of a lack of funds.

I’m irritated.

It makes no sense to me that a bank would put in deposits and cash checks at the end of the day, but cash the checks first.

So, for instance, say you put your $500 pay check in through the ATM to cover your rent and your car payment that you expect to cash the next day. Only when the bank is crediting and deducting things to and from your account, they cash the check, and then five minutes later deposit the money that was meant to cover said check.

Result?

$70 in overdraft fees.

And the $50 that you thought you’d have left? You’d already written a check against that. So it will be covered by the bank, but will result in another overdraft fee before you get paid again on Wednesday.

$35 more in overdraft fees, plus being overdrawn by the amount of the check.

And when you call the bank? They tell you that you should start keeping a register, and that they aren’t responsible for you writing a check that you didn’t already have the money in the account to cover.

So I get it. They’re right.

But do they not watch CNN? This is a fucking recession. Our income is a full 1/3 less than what it was a year ago. Maybe closer to 1/2, if I wasn’t so afraid to look closely at it.

We are doing the best we can.

Maybe the recession is what makes the bank choose to withdraw before they deposit, knowing that those $35 fee from borderline poor people will add up.

Maybe I need one more day to recuperate after all. It isn’t like me to be this irritated.

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Menu Plan Monday (And Some Thoughts on Money)

We did really well last week with not spending much on groceries. We’re going to try to continue the trend for the upcoming week.

So I’ve been thinking and thinking about how to manage getting unstuck. How to keep track, how to measure success. What does being unstuck mean to us?

Here’s what I came up with:

  • Being unstuck means that we can move away from where live now with confidence and security. That means:
  • Getting out of debt (about $10,000)
  • Having $10,000 in savings to fund the move, and to give us a cushion while we look for work
  • Being unstuck also means the least amount of outside-the-home work as possible. For both of us. That means:
  • Earning at $2500 per month from other sources. It’s possible we’ll need less to live on, once we’re out of debt. But we can be comfortable on $2500 per month.

So here’s the plan. We have a Paypal account. My freelance writing jobs, plus whatever we make from the Etsy store, funnels into that account. We’ll leave that money in there starting in March and let it build up until the end of the month. (With the exception of business expenses, like shipping. Customers pay their shipping fees into that account as well. After the item is shipped, we refund overage. All of that has to come out of the Paypal account.)

At the end of the month that money will go to pay off debt more quickly. We have been working with Freedom Debt for over a year. I called last week, because we had just about decided to cancel with them. But I was told that we’d just made our last payment where most of it went to pay our fee to them, and now all the money will build up to our account. When enough is in there, they’ll negotiate a pay off of each debt in turn. So we’ll send what’s in the Paypal account to add to the monthly payment they already take out. That should get us out of the majority of our debt (some medical bills aren’t connected to them) in six months or so. Then another few months to pay off everything else. And then the Paypal account will house our savings.

Sounds reasonable right?

I wish I wasn’t so notorious for big plans that get out of hand.

Okay…here’s what’s on the menu for this week:

  • Roasted chicken and potatoes with mustard greens
  • Sauteed spinach with feta cheese, walnuts, and dried cranberries over brown rice. (yum…this one is delicious. I’ll post a recipe.) Served with left over chicken.
  • Oven-baked fish, potatoes, and Brussel’s sprouts. (Super simple and very good. I’ll get a recipe up for this, too.)
  • Chicken Enchilada Bake
  • Poor Man’s Meal with gravy (thank you to the reader who posted that scrumptious idea. I’m so excited!)
  • A couple of left over/pantry nights.

More Menu Plan Monday here.

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Money, Money, Money

(Visit my little giveaway.)

Money has been a sort of looming thing in our house lately. Our income is a lot less than it was about six months ago. As a result, we’re gradually having to go more and more into the next month to pay the current month’s bills.

(I refuse to be too upset about it though. We are both working at decent jobs, and while we are definitely feeling stuck, there are people who would love to be stuck like we are. I spent too many years as a single mother in deep poverty to whine about our current situation.)

$3000 freedom just isn’t working. We’re too far behind to start saving. Whenever there is extra money, it keeps getting used up for other things. I did manage to save about $500 from writing and selling books, but I had to use it this week to pay the enrollment fee to Goddard College and buy my ticket (!!!) to Vermont. (I’m so going to post about this later. I’m sooo excited!)

This week Kevin and I have been wracking our brains for a way to balance our finances again. And even more than that.

We are about $10,000 in debt, including some medical bills and our car.

Could we pay that off, plus save enough for a comfortable move in July 2011?

There is this tiny little glimmer of hope in me that says maybe, just maybe, we could get our acts together and actually be able to buy a house at some point. An external homestead.

February is housekeeping month, but how fun is it to see how that just blends right into finances?

We’re hammering together a plan. Our goals are these:

  • Earn enough extra money in the month of February to pay for February’s bills totally out of February’s money (this includes March rent, since we probably can’t earn $1200 all on the first of March. But April’s rent then becomes an expense for March, so it evens out.)
  • Get our outgo organized so that we have enough income in March (and subsequent months) to pay all the bills without seeping over to the next month. We’ve been trying to live the exact same way with about $1000 a month less, so clearly this is going to mean some serious cuts.
  • Have about $1200 extra each month. This is $20,000 over eighteen months (approximately), which is enough to get us out of debt, plus save $10,000 for our move. This won’t be easy. Remember, we’re $1000 down from our monthly income six months ago. So we’ll have to, starting in March, not only cut our outgo, but also increase our income.

No problem, right?

I’m such an optimist.

There are lots of ways we could lower our outgo. We could move. If we went to a three bedroom house, instead of four, we could probably save $300 a month. Maybe more. But for various reasons, including that we plan to move in 18 months anyway, we’ve decided to look at other options first.

We can definitely lower our power bill by keeping the heaters (our house is heated by four in-the-wall electric space heaters) and by making sure all doors and windows are adequately covered or sealed. We can also start hanging clothes instead of using the dryer. Using power strips and turning them off when we aren’t watching TV or using the computer will help as well.

Our original goal for the year was to spend $400 a month on food, instead of at least $800 (closer to $1000, if I’m being totally honest. A lot of this is from both Kevin and I eating work meals at restaurants four or five times a week, plus other meals out during the week.) We’ve probably gotten it down to about $600 a month. In the process of working on food and our bill, and examining food in relation to self-care, we’ve realized that price can’t be the highest consideration (see…see how The Plan all dovetails into itself?)  But I think we can do better than $600 a month, simply by cutting down even more on eating out.

We spend a little more than $200 a month for four cell phones. I almost never think about this, because it makes me a little ill. We can save $200 a month by getting rid of the phones. We can save maybe $150 by using track phones instead. Plus, we can then encourage the big kids to earn money to buy their minutes which is a positive.

We pay $225 a month to Freedom Debt with the idea that they will save our money for us and then negotiate a lower payment to pay off each debt in turn. We could stop this. We haven’t actually decided to do that. At the time we signed up, we were so overwhelmed that it seemed like a great idea simply because we had to stop paying the monthly debt obligations. Now I’m feeling like we could do better by taking charge of our debt repayment again.

So that’s the outgo.

But what about the income?

I’ve already talked about how we plan to open an Etsy shop. I’m super, super excited about this. It’s just shaping up so beautifully. I’m working on making some things to help encourage the internal homestead (wait ’til you see the little sewing kits I made up. OMG. Too cute.) and we’re working on a philosophy for the whole family business. Very cool. We hope to have things set by the end of February.

The easiest way for my family to have extra income is for me to write. I can earn the whole $1200 per month extra by writing 20 content articles a week. The ideal would be that Etsy and our regular jobs can keep us up to date on our regular bills. Then we can use the writing income to pay off our debts as soon as possible, then start saving that money.

In order for me to write that much, since I already work nearly full-time, it will actually have to become a family business. Because Kevin and the kids will have to start doing some of the work they’re used to me doing. (Okay, a little self-disclosure here. Kevin is a better housekeeper than me. By a lot. But he’s still used to me making a regular effort.)

So $3000 Freedom is dead. I’m done trying to work my way out of my 9-5 job. If I’m supposed to work from home full-time before we move, then I trust Spirit will work it out for me.

What rises from it’s ashes?

I don’t know what to  call it.

The internal homestead fund? The external homestead fund?

Maybe just plain freedom. Oh oh! Or Unstuck.

Regardless, I’ll be keeping track in the page that was for $3000 Freedom of our progress.

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