Posted in Another Monday

Monday 142: Thoughts on Our Sunday Conversation


Monday, 17 October 2016

I’d be lying if I said our conversation on finances yesterday was easy.

It wasn’t difficult.

It was frustrating and rather tiring.

The truth is, it is really difficult to sit still and listen to another person talk about his perspective on our financial situation.

Listening is really hard.  I had to bite my tongue.

Being heard is hard.  Speaking about frustrations and hearing about frustrations is really difficult.  Hearing “We need to make more money and spend less” is hard to hear because I want to say “Let’s work at not upgrading things and focus on paying things off without having to work more.”

We had to clarify things with each, such as coming to agreement on common terminology, such as what I mean by “savings account” and what he means by “savings account.”  Little things like that to clean up communication.

I am not sure what we got out of this.  It’s all a bit of a mystery to me.  I do know that I need to believe it is for the best, even when right now it is more depressing than inspiring.  I also know that oftentimes when we begin on new adventures, there is discomfort and confusion simply because things are new and unknown.  I do have faith that things will improve – I always do – but it is hard to believe that at times.


What did we do so far this month?

Well . . . Amazon has not taken a lot of money, which has been good for Credit Card #3, and Credit Card #2 is down another $700.00, for a total of $1300.00 for September and October, which does not include that hideous interest rate.  (I am still debating about the 0% transfer.)

 We are not likely to be too far over our monthly food budget of $350.00.


The question is still up in the air as to how much the consolidated student loan payment is going to be.


And, despite feeling rather depressed as I write this, even if we don’t add to our income, we need to continue to pare away at debt and be conscious in our spending.  It’s as simple as that.

Posted in Another Monday

Monday 143: September Recap and a Bright Idea

Bright Ideas

Monday, 10 October 2016

It is proving to be eye-opening, interesting, and scary to have discussions about money.  A lot of emotions are running around, and that is because we usually avoid talking about money.  But, before we continue there, let’s do a bit of a recap on September’s expenses.

The September Budget

This month, all the usual expenses were met, with additional costs of vehicle registration ($274) for the truck.  Food was over by $241 (we laid in a lot of meat from Costco), gasoline costs were up (filling the diesel truck, which has a huge tank) to $169.72, costs for two adult ed classes ($205) and professional license renewal ($164), and a birthday present cost $200.  Still, nothing was put on any credit card, and a $600 payment was made toward the next one to be paid off.  We knew about the costs for the professional license and the truck registration, as well as upcoming expenses for birthday and bulk meat purchases.  Next month, we will be increasing our food budget a bit, as we are eating a lot more fruit and vegetables than previously, but that is all for the better.

Looking At October

We are on track with most things, as we know that October is a birthday month.  The food bill is being watched, as are the itchy Amazon fingers.  Ten days into October has seen only one small purchase for about $10.  What we do see is being able to put $1000 into savings and, hopefully, close to $1000 toward the next credit card.  That may be a bit less, depending on a couple of other things, but so far, so good.  We have also spent $212 on Acura repairs.

A New Thought

One thing that came up after last week’s money talk is the fact that my income is variable every month.  Consequently, I started thinking about it and realized what I should do is divide my salary by 12 and then use that as an average income.  From there, I determined what we needed every month, and came up with a number to cover all expenses, put $1000 in both savings and toward credit card debt, and still have a comfortable bit of wiggle room for life.  That amount is pretty generous, really, but anything left over can be applied to the next month, or to ongoing debt reduction.

The most interesting point about deciding what I need to put in monthly from my wages was the realization that on flush months, money would go to savings, and on short months, money would come out of savings, or be met by the previous month’s leftovers.  I really like having a predictable amount of money every month, and I am very surprised this simple idea didn’t occur to me earlier . . . . But, truthfully, I think our beginning to open up about finances is opening up new ideas about what we need to do.

Next Weekend:  The First Joint Bill-Paying Session

Next weekend will be the first weekend we will review the budget together.  I have no idea how it will go, but I hope it will be good.  Touchy and tough, too, and potentially volatile . . . who knows!  New things are uncomfortable, so we will acknowledge it move forward.

Posted in Another Monday

Monday 144: A Discussion


Monday, 3 October 2016

This post is a bit late, just because I wanted to think about it.

DH and I had a very serious conversation about money after an outburst about having to put $200.00 into our old Acura (which is 11), and the knowledge that the air compressor could go and cost $1000.00 to replace or repair.  In a way, it was an emotional meltdown without thought, but it was not violent or insulting to either of us.  In fact, what it did bring about was more willingness on his part to become involved with the finances.

We have one new car, and two old ones – the Acura, and a diesel truck which has been completely rebuilt.  The Honda is only now hitting 6,000 miles.  Because he works at home, the DH doesn’t need a commuter car; I do as I drive about 20 miles round trip 4 days a week, in an area without decent public transportation.  The thought of losing the Acura is not pleasant – the truck is huge, and used for transportation of big things, not a casual drive for cookies from the grocery store.  The real question on the line is would it be worthwhile to keep the Acura or get rid of it at sometime in the future?

Up ahead, there are student loans which will be needing to start payment on for The Student’s education; the final payment(s) remain unknown at this point.  A new car, with payments, is not feasible or desirable.

We discussed everything – money, feelings, frustrations.  Our conversation ended with the DH becoming more willing to look at our money on a regular basis.  This means every two weeks when I do the bills.  For the first time in 25 years is he willing to walk into the checkbook to see what is on the line, what is in the budget, and other financial plans.  And talk about it and be part of the decision-making process.

This is a very big step as we are now facing the reality of our finances together, not alone.  I won’t be alone pondering this and that and making all the decisions, and he won’t be alone and feeling guilty about buying a book.  As with all new endeavors, it is unlikely to be comfortable, but it will be productive for both of us.


Posted in Another Monday

Monday 145: Frustration & Inspiration


Monday, 26 September 2016

The end of summer means the end of sunshine, shorter days, cooler weather, and increasingly longer nights.  Time change occurs with the end to daylight savings . . . and I come home in the dark.  With three days a week running nearly 11 hours, including commute time, and 30 minutes to snarf down lunch without interruption (if I am lucky), it is easy to become a bit melancholy.  Being outdoors during the day becomes really important as it does change attitudes.  Luckily, I am not prone to depression, nor do I live in the far northern latitudes, and we are not hemmed in with blizzards and ice.  Still, the end of the year is always a bit of a downer because of less money in September and October from summer’s shorter work hours, and the looming of property taxes being due in December, and again in April.  When we were really underwater with a second property, it was a real scramble to find money for anything.

We sold the second property, which gave us more money, a good tax refund, and the opportunity to pay off some big bills.  Did we?  No.  Instead, we spent it on a long vacation.  Do we feel guilty about it?  I suppose we could, but that is over and done with, and we had a good time.  Mentally, we were not on the frugal wagon.  Emotionally, we were just worn out.  I was more worn out than the DH simply because he didn’t want to discuss it, didn’t want to join in the discussion, and only complained.  However, when I put my foot down about the second property and said, “We’re done!” he took some notice.  I think that is when our attitude change toward our money began, even if we didn’t handle it too well.

Getting rid of the second property was a good thing.  Even it had its trigger point.  Prior to selling the second property, we were giving $100 / month to a brother leading a derelict life.  When I found myself teetering and feeling guilty about spending that $100 on glasses for the DH versus the brother, I knew something was really wrong.  That’s when the bro was cut off.  He did nothing to earn money, he had a nasty attitude, and the last word in his vocabulary was “Thank you.”  He wanted money even when he came to live with us, and was pissed off when I got $110 / month from the county to house him since he was indigent and I didn’t give it to him.  The idea was he would stay with us and look for work.  Did he?  No.  He spent the first three months just reading science fiction books and smoking on the patio.  DH wouldn’t come out of his office at all.  Altogether, this was a pretty dark space.  And, we never heard a “Thank you” at all.  After five months, we gave him four weeks notice, and he could only curse us for our charity.

I pity my brother.  He died without anyone caring too much; he alienated both friends and family.  I expect I was the least charitable of the lot as I did not have a positive attitude about him for years.  He did not make it easy to like him, though, and was capable of holding grudges for decades.  He smelled, he had no manners, and he stopped trying to improve his lot in life, which, to me, is the saddest statement of his life.  It is also the frustration I have when I look at him – I could not save him.  He died a year ago, and I still wrestle with my feelings about him and people like him.  Yes, it is easy to say there was nothing I could do – which is true, I tried – but he did not want do anything for himself.

In reality, we have had our own hard lessons about money.  We still do.  We have to decide to implement change and to stick to that desire through thick and thin.  Fortunately, we do have a good income and decent jobs, but if something did happen, we would lose a great deal.  I expect family would help us out, though some would say we were fools – even my brother, if still alive, would tell me we were financially foolish!  (He did while he told me was given a $30,000 credit line on a credit card which he had no intentions of paying off!!)


Change is not easy.  It can seem impossible.  It is frustrating to reign in spending and say “No!” when you are used to ignoring the consequences.  In those darker times, inspiration is the guiding light.  We have paid off one credit card.  We are our own inspiration – we know we can do it.  That is so empowering.  Besides this, reading about other people’s financial paths is also inspirational – we are not alone in our failure, nor in our success.  We all need a light, a refuge, for financial pain or other pain.  This is where we learn and grow.  And this is also where we can help others without ever knowing it.

My brother gave me a gift.  The gift is to remember the value of our lives, and to not give up on ourselves, no matter how frustrated or angry we may be with our situation.  Others do the same.  Life is strange in that way, filled with dichotomy and humor.  The gods do laugh at us, and it never hurts to laugh at ourselves as well – it makes it so much easier to get up, dust ourselves off, and move on with life.

Posted in Another Monday

Number 146: The Second Snowball Begins


Monday, 19 September 2016

In August, we did the final payoff of one credit card.  September marks the beginning of the snowball payoff of the second credit card.

Now, we have offers coming in for 0% financing for any balance transfers from the card we just paid off, as well as others.  It feels like we should do a balance transfer to save money in interest, but we have decided not to go there.  The seduction of zero percent could lead us back to that scary path of acquiring more debt.

Why?  Our underlying fear is that we could start the debt cycle once more.  Keeping that paid-off bill at zero is the most important thing at the moment, not the money saved by a 0% interest rate.  Breaking the addiction to spending and irresponsibility with money is the point.  It would be easy to rest on our laurels with the accomplishment of paying off one credit card, and think otherwise, but this really is more of a test than I think we ever realized.  Like many others, we have paid off credit cards, and then promptly run them back up.  This time around, we are determined not to let that happen.

Spending money is a high for a lot of people.  It is also an emotional crutch, a way to hide pain.  There is actually a society called Debtors Anonymous which addresses these problems, much as AA does alcoholism.  Lauren Greutman has a recently published book on the subject of spending.  Like she says in her book, polite people do not discuss sex, religion or money in public  . . . but now all is discussed except money. For many of us, money is a forbidden subject and continues to be so.

Money is so often a thing of mystery, emotion, guilt, inadequacy, and fear.  The DH feels inadequate about handling money.  Only after 25 years of marriage did I learn this.  I feel guilty because I was always interested in money, but it was a secret in my family, and questions were sternly turned away.  Money was a volatile and dangerous topic.  We both have this feeling that talking about money is just plain wrong.  I don’t think either of us got any education in money and handling it, only guilt trips.  Guilt keeps people silent, and I know it kept us silent for a long, long time.  Breaking that silence is what has put us on this path.

We still have a long way to go.  Yes, we have hit a milestone, for which we are justifiably proud, but that is only one marker on the way.  What we continue to do is what is important.  Challenges do lie ahead, and they will test us, but I also think we have the experience to know we can succeed, so we will continue to strive for financial success.

Our spending habits have been with us for years, so it will take time for our not-spending habits to become more a part of who we are as individuals, and as a couple.

Each day is a challenge; some days we fall, some days we fly!

Posted in Another Monday

Monday 147: August Recap


Monday, 12 September 2016

Time to take a peek at the August expenditures. It was an expensive month, but the expenses, for the most part, had been planned for.

The big payoff was the credit cards. We worked very hard at this and paid one off (see last week!).  We made three payments, the biggest to pay off one card.  Cost toward all three cards: $3330.00

Next kicker was our vacation up to Mammoth Lakes. Total cost for the week, including gas, food, fees, and whatever, was about $1750.00.

The regular monthly bills were met, but the areas which increased were in the areas of groceries ($553.00) and personal supplies and unplanned little things: $264.00.  August was another party month (we’re such wild ones!).

Utilities vary every month because one month we get a water bill, and the alternating month is the trash bill. This month was water: $208.00. Rates are high in California, and we have cut back a good amount. Electricity: $167.00. Gas: $16.00.

Hobbies are always an expected expense. This is for brewing: $19.00. This was probably yeast.

August was expensive, but there was no accrued debt. And that is all because we planned!

Posted in Another Monday

Monday 148: Zero Percent

Zero Percent

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

A day late!  It was Labor Day yesterday!

Having paid off one credit card, it was a fantastic thing to get the last bill in the mail showing amount owed as $0.00.  Along with it has come a slough of offers from the same credit card company for 0% for one year.  We have other credit cards needing to be paid off.  Should I take up this offer, or not?  As you know, we have one hovering at 20% needing to be paid off.  The credit limit on the one paid off is not the amount of the other card . . .

This is sort of a dilemma.  Should we, shouldn’t we?  The interest we will save is substantial, but we are hesitant to go that route – not so much because of the money saved, but the potential – the very scary and very real potential – to use credit cards again.  The psychology here is the key, not the money.  It’s like offering a drug addict – a credit addict – a taste.  We don’t want that taste.  We want to stop this!