I have to say that I'm somewhere between skeptical and a snort of disbelief, when I read that the economy is recovering. Don't take that oxygen off just yet Doc! Case in point: I had some nice big man sized clothes that came to us when my FIL passed away over a year ago. We got them because my Hubby is the same size. Only problem, my FIL was 5'4" and Hubby is about 6'. So after shuffling them around in the closet for a year, I put them on the local freecycle website. I had 29 replies in the first 8 hours! Several people wrote me about how expensive bigger sizes are, and they can't find them at the local WallyWorld (yeah, you know), I ended up splitting them up into several bundles. Our local newspaper ran a front page story this week, on how to apply for free and reduced price school lunches. Who to call, where to get the paperwork, if you apply and are denied, you can re-apply any time your income changes. This is front page news?! We have a group at church that makes hats and scarves, and they go to the local mental health support group. 8 or so years ago, when we first started, we offered the school social worker, who is also a member of our church, first dibs on any she might want for the school. She said at that time, she really didn't need anything, she had other sources that more than covered the few requests she had. Now I hear that she has called US wanting to know if the offer is still open! Well of course it is! Would any of us want to see a child go without a hat in a Michigan winter? I am thinking that a bare-bones lifestyle may soon be considered the "normal" way to live. It doesn't hurt my feelings any, we have been doing it all along. But, I do fell a little badly for the thirty-somethings, that grew up hollering "let me eat cake!" (apologies to Marie-Antoinette) They expected that they could "eat cake" forever, and it doesn't look good at this point. They will have to first bake the cake, with a mix they got on sale, and use a coupon, to improve the bottom line. The new normal. Voila'.
Viewing the 'Budgeting' Category
Spend or save? a hot topic in the financial world today. Which is better for the economy? I don't know, but if President Obama happened to email me some day (yeah) I could tell him a few things. A short, first hand lesson in modern economics. I was the President of the county 4-H council for several years, and part of that job was helping to set the annual budget for programs. I admit that when I first stared looking at some past budgets, I thought we must be doing something very wrong, we weren't taking in anywhere near the amount of money , as shown in those previous years. Then I learned the secret to modern funding: you didn't actually have to HAVE the money, you just write it down to make the bottom line look better! OMG! I couldn't believe it. The county agent wanted the program to look much more prosperous than it actually was, or the state might cut the funding that we DID get, thinking we really didn't need it! We allocated funding that didn't exist, for workshops and other things that no one ever used/requested, and just hoped that requests for those funds never came, or we would have had to cover them from other categories. My first lesson in government finances. This had apparently been going on for years. It might still be, but I doubt it. The state is now so broke, that I'm sure they have audited every possible source of income, because in theory, they could have reclaimed some of that money if they wanted to. It should be no surprise that the average Joe/Jane is spending money they don't have, they learned it at Uncle Sam's knee! I don't think you can spend your way out of a crisis, and if you don't learn how to save, everything will be a crisis. I don't feel like the government is interested in a real spending plan, and I don't think that they have any more idea than I do, how to get out of the mess we are in. But the phantom budgeting isn't helping.
Well its 2 months into the new year, and I just peeked back at my resolution list for the new year. I am actually doing better than I thought! The big #1 is almost a reality, paying off the medical debt. I will write the last check this morning! Wahoo!!!! And I'm making some progress on at least a couple more. Paying off the workwear debt is under way, and planning the home improvements, list is in my mind, need to get it on paper. The only major bump so far is DD#3 needing her wisdom teeth out, but I do have that figured into the budget for the month. Luckily, when we had to reschedule from October, her dental benefit year restarted ,and I only have to pay about $600 out of pocket, instead of over $1000. Well, once they are out, you never have to worry about them again. And this is a contract year for Hubby's job, and they are already talking about strike/lockout. The last time they negotiated the contract, the company locked them out for 6 weeks too "hurry negotiations", and the health and dental stopped. Lovely! Actually, I'm glad that I thought of the contract. That would be about the time that summer taxes are due! I'd better make a note in my budget folder to be getting that money put away early. Boy, it never ends!
A little alliteration anyone? I'ts the end of the financial quarter, and budget revue time. I kind of like going over the numbers from the past quarter, but Hubby hates to go over the "waste". The totals of what it costs to live, always blow his mind. It actually wasn't all that bad, we didn't get much extra saving done, managed to keep ahead of the payments on everything, even tho he has been on sick pay for almost 6 months now. Now, I need to get the dentist paid off, $450, and the primary Dr., almost $900, and we will be debt free! Oh, almost forgot the car, $150/mo. for about the next year. Shh, say that quietly, Murphy is probably listening. I would really like to be able to revisit retirement issues before the first of 2010, but we probably won't. Right now, all we have is Hubbys 401K from work, and we are only contributing enough to get the matching funds. I want to open a Roth IRA for both of us, and take another look at the 401K plan that my employer offers. I really have been thinking about our retirement (both in late 40's), but with one child still at home, and two others who seem to come and go with the economy, (it's BAD in Michigan)there are just no more pennies to go around. I keep telling the kids to keep a broomcloset open for Mom, I may need it someday. (only half kidding!) I work at an assisted care facility, like a step up froma nursing home, for people who don't need real nursing care, only some help with basic things, or just don't want to shovel a driveway anymore. Anyway, there are a certain number of residents who end up moving on, because they can't afford to stay anymore. They usually go to one of two places, in with a family member/friend, or on to the county nursing home. The county home here must take you if you have no where else to go, whatever you can pay, I think its the same everywhere. But, oh the long faces when they must leave, then their choices are over. Some days that broomcloset doesn't look half bad!
Hubby and I went out to eat tonight, it cost $17.70 for the two of us, plus $2 for the tip. We went to the Chinese buffet. We don't go out very often, because I am a hard to please eater outer. I always moan and groan about how much it costs, and how I could make something just as good, and cheaper, at home. But I do admit that I couldn't cook all of the things on the buffet, and don't really want to. So I just have to make up my mind to enjoy, which I did, and I certainly ate enough to get my moneys worth. I freely admit that I am sometimes a whiner, especially about money. And the more nervous I get about money, the tighter I hang onto it. A knee-jerk reaction to too many years being flat broke, I'm sure. Well, time to toddle off to work. TTFN.
Today I found myself doing something that I don't do very often anymore, writing checks! I pay most all of our bills online, but there are still a few things that you can't pay that way. Life Insurance! Every couple of years I forget this, and end up calling the company, asking why I can't set up online payments, and the secretary very kindly reminds me that we've gone thru this a time or two already. Something about anonymous parties not being able to take out a policy on you without your knowledge, or something... My property taxes! Our rural county isn't set up for this. My appliance repair buddy (dryer is definately fixed!) Local newspaper subscription, maybe they have a website, but I only pay once a year, and just haven't bothered to check and set it up. I have to say, online paying is quick and easy, but I don't get that same rush of satisfaction that I do when I write that check, stick it in the envelope, and mail it. (stamps, OUCH) It's like tangible proof, in a little pile of envelopes, that I am succeeding! I am making my way in the world, and being a contributing member of society! And sadly, my cell phone bill. (heavy sigh) I have finally given up on the beast. I just CANNOT navigate their site without freezing up my computer at least once, and lets not mention the 10 minute waits for the bill to download! And I have a very speedy DSL connection. I don't know what it is about that one site, I have never had that problem with any other. I ended up on the phone to customer service,almost every month for the last six, because I would get part way thru the payment process, and the pages would just not load, or I would get popups about technical difficulties, or only part of the bill could be viewed, etc. etc. So, 2 months ago, I went off the paperless billing, so I could actually READ the bill (I don't pay what I don't read) and then this month, I just wrote a check. It was worth the 44cents to avoid the hassle. And this is a major, national company --&-. Great sevice, crappy website. Well, I'm sure that their website is fine, my computer just won't talk to it, like neighbors who smile and give a little wave, but never have anything to say to each other. My computer is the Gladys Kravitz of the neighborhood, always peeking in the windows, but never really knowing what's going on. (that's a Bewitched ref for U youngsters) So with a twitch of my nose (or mouse)..............
I saw that on an old movie last night, and it's been floating around in my head ever since. I was just clicking thru a few other finance related blogs that I check most every day, and I relaized that I think about money all of the time, and very seldom write about it. I don't come here and list all of my expenses for the day, or how much I still owe to whom, but I think those things are always lurking around in my brain. And, I know for sure that they effect every decision that I make, and most conversations that I have with you all, and myself. I don't know how NOT to think about money. I believe that everyone must think about money all of the time, unless you happen to come from a fabulously wealthy family. And the few wealthy people that I've known, probably thought about money even more than I do. So, whatever my silly topic of the day is, see those dollar signs floating around it. Sure, the cattle will eat old zucchini, but only after I can't face another mouthfull, and everyone at work is tired of seeing me walk in with my pail 4 nights a week, at least it's still benfitting me somehow. I draw the line at massaging the cattle for more tender steaks like they do for the Kobe beef! A girl has to have standards you know! TTFN
Wasn't there a piece of music with that title? No, maybe that was popcorn? Whatever. I have about 30 ears of ripe corn that need something done with them, I would like to be frugal and freeze them, but I think I am going to chicken out, and take them to work. I put them in the break room for lucky non-gardeners to take. I am on the guilty train today, I have a mountain of garden produce ready NOW, and just not enough time to can/freeze it all. So, I console myself with the thought that someone is benfitting, even if I give it away, at least its not going to waste. This happens every year. I am always agonizing over whether my time is better spent working on some paying project, or spending time, canning/freezing, or some other money saving activity. Because, in the end, there is only so much of me, and 24 hours in every day to go around. Lots of questions, and no good answers. I have many friends who don't do any canning anymore, it is just about as cheap to get the veggies on sale at the discount store, and so much less work. Very true, I know. I guess that I just really LIKE the idea of providing for our family this way. There were many years that I was a SAHM, and this was just what I did, my contribution to the family economy. I did finally draw the line at butchering our own meat tho. It was too much of a pain with 4 little kids running around. So anyway, there will be more sweet corn, maybe next time (like tomorrow) I will get some in the freezer. I really like to can it better, but it takes way more time to process it, than to tuck it into a bag and into the freezer. Uh Oh, Hubby is listening to the oldies channel on the stereo, and YMCA just came on. I am hiding before I end up dancing that (bleep,bleep) dance! Bye.
You know, like the kind your money disappears down, never to be seen again. My DD#1 just moved out, so DD#3 is painting her old room, to move in. It really needs new carpet, it would be foolish not to put it in while the room is empty. Is this in my budget for August? Of course not! Another mole to whack. It's not a big room, so maybe I can get a remnant that will fit, and we will lay it ourselves, so installation is not an issue. One step forward, and two back.
With apologies to Mr. Disney, from whom I borrow the title. My bill paying day is Friday, a day that I secretly (or loudly) dread, when we gear up and play financial Whack-A-Mole once again. I told one of my GF's once, that I feel like my budget is a huge Mole game. I have the big hammer, the moles are the bills, and just when I think that I have them all lined up, and subdued where they are supposed to be, they start randomly popping up, and throwing me into a panic. So there I am, pounding away, no time to think, just Whack! Whack! Whack! The big fat mole this week is the farm insurance. If we didn't have to pay for insurance, we could be rich! Farm ins, life ins, health ins, auto ins, that's our biggest expense on a yearly basis, almost double any other category. If I was smart, I would invest in an insurance company, they must be making oodles of money (a lot of it mine!)I am a planner. I love to write out the budget every month, and see where the money is going, I feel powerful! But i'm just a little twitchy about the bills lately. Hubby has been off work since May, surgery, and should be going back in a week or two. And I am really proud, in a way, we managed to get everything paid thru the Summer, and not dip into the savings, yet. so I am "cautiously optomistic" Now I sound like a politician! I'd better go, channeling Walt Disney I could handle, but the other? (Big sigh) Back to the moles.