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My Top Money Savings Tips

January 20th, 2019 at 05:28 pm

I won't have time to participate this month (by coming up with a list), but this is a list I already had in my sidebar (under "My Pages").

It was an article about the "7 Secrets of Super Savers" and I am glad I wrote all 7 down because I can no longer find the article.

1 - Set goals and make them specific

2 - Live below your means

3 - Delay Gratification (Super savers often save up for months or YEARS in order to pay cash for all purchases)

4 - Avoid Debt (Super Savers pay cash for big ticket items like cars and homes)

5 - Save on the everyday expenses (compare prices, clip coupons, buy used)

6 - Have multiple streams of income (Live on one income and saver the other. Single earners have side hustles to earn extra cash)

7 - Track spending (*I* certainly know where every single penny of our income goes! With modern technology, doesn't take much time and effort to track)

8 - Automate Savings (AKA: Pay Yourself First!) ~ We always fund our savings goals before we live on the rest of our income. Or in other words, treating savings goals like a "monthly bill".

We've absolutely always been "live below our means/pay ourselves first" types, but I guess the rest is more the *how* to do that.

2018 Wins and Losses

January 8th, 2019 at 06:08 am

2018 WINS:

**I survived!

Honestly, that's good enough for me. Anything beyond that is gravy. It was definitely the most difficult year of my life.

**I figured out the "next phase" of my career. Time will tell, but I feel like I ended up with a good combo of significantly less stress/responsibility/work, in exchange for better pay than I was expecting (based on the regional job market). I was very open minded going into the job search (open to anything), but fell into a job that hit most of my marks. In the end, is probably a bigger break on the career front than I expected at this point in my life. That is a major win.

**Somehow, in the middle of that madness, we ended up having our highest income year ever.

{If you missed it, my small employer fell ill and sold the business to some super scammy company. I eventually quit without another job lined up. I had wanted to take some time off to regroup, but ended up getting a "too good to refuse" job offer on my very last day at old job. The catch was they needed me to start like "yesterday", which was the general vibe coming from employers. Any other job, I might have gambled some time off, but didn't want to lose this one. Then my old employer ended up undoing the business sale and hiring me to help them through some rough patches. So my expectations of unemployment and a significant salary cut ended up being more "drowning in work" all year}.

The end result? I quit my old job around 9/1 and took a 15% cut in compensation, but we ended the year with $875 more income than we did in 2017. 2017 had been our best income year ever, finally surpassing our 2001 income, last we both worked full-time. 2018 was somehow better.

**Net worth was up $51,000, or in line with our "big picture" goals.

**We finally ditched our gas guzzler (that we have been scheming to get rid of most the years I have blogged here). This newer car purchase was spurred by a cash gift, accepting a job that doubled my commute, minivan getting hit on the freeway, and minivan also needing a medium-sized repair ($750) the last day of my old job. By itself, the repair wasn't a big deal, but I still hadn't gotten around to determining if the vehicle needed any body work or just had cosmetic damage from the accident (or if I would have to spend thousands to repair). With my pay cut, we were extra motivated to invest in a car that used significantly less fuel. I got to buy my "dream car" and we are saving about $200/month in fuel costs. So that is very win-win.

Plus, it's nice to have a significantly nicer car now that I actually spend time in my car. All those years we drove older cars, meh, we never really drove that much. I am glad I saved my pennies for a time in my life where I am spending a lot more time in the car.

LOSSES:

Okay, so my gut reaction was to just use wins/losses, because I didn't like the word "fail". But, now that I am typing this out, I want to use the word fail.

FAIL:

**As an adult, I have never failed so miserably on the work/life balance front. It was definitely a FAIL.

I have no idea what in the heck. I suppose I feel like it was all completely out of my control, and not sure what else I could have done to set my life up to be any easier to deal with it all. So maybe "fail" is a strong word. But I just feel like I so completely failed on this front.

2019 will be a year of trying to find my balance again.

Edited: & to be clear, it was more than just WORK. It was "work" also in the sense of chores/obligations, etc. I suppose I said work/life balance because it seemed to start with that, but it has little to do with work at this point. I've always been a "raising kids and working full-time is more than enough" type and don't have any other commitments, but my friends and family have been going through such hard times, and life has been non-stop Murphy hell. I don't know if I've ever had so little down time during my entire life. It feels mostly out of my control. I felt this way when I was between jobs and two weeks off, because I just had a mountain of chores I am finally starting to have the time for (now in January). It's not all going to magically get better if I stop doing side work. It's just how life is going right now. I don't know how to fix it yet, but am trying.

Good Riddance to 2018!

January 5th, 2019 at 07:35 am

Good Riddance to 2018! Woohoo!

I wish I could say 2019 was going better. I suppose it is in many ways. I feel like my work life turned to a sea of calm a few days ago. Just the complete polar opposite of this one long year of "putting out fires". I took 10 days off from Job #2 (end of year). At Job #1 we finally "caught up" (last Friday). The employee (on leave) that I have been covering for (the entire time) should be coming back next week. So the mood at my primary job has shifted about 180.

Back to, "I wish I could say 2019 is going better..." *sigh* I had an emergency dental appointment yesterday (because life is apparently still non-stop emergencies). I also saw "twin" at lunch Thursday. While discussing everyone that had passed away during the last week or so, my mom called to tell me someone passed away. So, that is how 2019 is going.

Last weekend was actually pretty peaceful though and I finally got caught up on some stuff around the house. Phew! Literally, for the first time in about 11 months, I feel "caught up".

MH drew the short stick and went to the DMV Monday. Probably for the best because he also had to renew his license. In the end, the DMV was closed last weekend (I was going to go transfer the car title because MH was crazy sick), but he had Monday off so was the only time either of us could go. I then mailed the application for carpool stickers this week. & after all that, we still have to go back in about 10 days so MM can get his learner's permit. I think that is enough DMV for one month.

It was nice to have a little bit of a breather, but my January is shaping up to be pretty crazy. I am wrapping up 2018 for 3 clients I have on my own, and then I am shifting them all to "twin" and her new firm. That's about all I will have time for. MM(15) did some work for my old/forever employer this week and so I stopped by to talk to "workaholic" yesterday. Told him I honestly didn't think I'd be able to help them at all this month. I will see where they are at the last few days of the month. They are losing clients left and right, and have two new employees, so hopefully it equalizes a bit. I also started to temper workaholic's expectations about the rest of tax season. I don't know if he is listening because he thinks we should want to live in the office like he does. I am probably going to cram pretty hard the next two weekends and hope to mostly be done. Some of this is self inflicted because we are going away for a weekend. I just wasn't thinking what a hit that would be as to "job #2" hours. So it will be crazy, but I am continuing to lessen my workload.

I don't think I will realistically be able to hit the "reset" button until February 1.

I will do a separate post about 2018 wins and losses. It will just be a gloss over and I don't expect to have any time to do anything in depth until next month. Which I may or may not ever get to.

Three Car Family

December 25th, 2018 at 06:00 am

& just like that, we are a 3-car family.

Where in the heck did the time go??? How on earth is that wee little baby old enough to learn how to drive!?

I will back up. The in-laws told us 2+ years ago they wanted to give their old car to MM(15) for Christmas. He turns 15.5 next month and will be getting his learner's permit. Our ideal world would have been buying a very used car from a friend or a relative, someone we knew who took good care of their cars.

I don't know that we would have thought at all about getting him a car before he turned 16, but I guess it works out because we have two new-ish cars and aren't really thrilled with the idea of him learning to drive on our cars. This is maybe extra so after having much older cars most of our lives.

So, the in-laws starting telling us this about 2 years ago. We were skeptical. We were just kind of, "Will see if you still have your car in 2 years." You know, anything can happen. I believe they had recently replaced their other car because it had been totaled in an accident, when they first brought it up.

It came up again in the last 2-3 months, and I guess MH and I were more ready to start making concrete plans. We made very clear that we were able and willing to buy the car from them, and did not expect them to just hand it to us (or to our child). They insist, but we just wanted to make sure we made it very clear that they don't have to give us a car. The other thing is they have *4* grandchildren, and I think they were jumping the gun significantly and probably hadn't thought it through too much (particularly when they brought it up years ago). So we wanted to make sure at this point they had thought it through. MIL keeps telling me that her daughter and her kids are "too good" for her old car and don't want it. I don't know if it's actually been discussed or if this is a presumption. But, whatever. I say, "whatever" because I can't control that. As long as they think they have discussed it, whatever. Last we brought it up, she told us the car was for BOTH of our kids. I think it just works out about as well as it can. It gives MM(15) two years to save up for a car, maybe 6+ years if he doesn't need a car for college. My kids are exactly two years apart, so should give them both a car to drive their last two years of high school.

I think MM(15) was somewhat aware, because some adults have slipped up in front of him. & I know I change the subject any time we get on this topic. He knows we are planners and he knows it's weird we have not discussed this at all. Beyond, "You should be saving up for a car."

He was definitely not expecting a car *right now*, and so I think it worked out pretty well as to surprising him. MIL/FIL put a bow on the car and hid it in their garage. After doing Christmas stuff at SIL's house Sunday, we drove over there and they opened up the garage door. He is very surprised and happy.

We drove the car home, Sunday night. I will need to get insurance on it. We were paying around $500 per year for our 2005 minivan, and this should only be cheaper. Is higher miles and is a small sedan, so should be cheaper to insure.

The year has been so chaotic and in-laws have never had any details when I asked in the past. I thought it was maybe a 2003 or a 2005? (Just subconsciously remembering that they bought it when the kids were born?) I guess in the end it is a 2004 and has 188,000 miles.

The car is worth about $2,500. Is probably about just exactly what we would be buying our kids anyway (private party) except we'd probably be looking for a $2,500 car with 130k or 150k miles. For a free car that we just want to last for 4 years, it should be more than ample.

I am guessing we will be paying $250-ish for liability insurance on the car for the next 6 months, and then we will get MM insured on the car when he turns 16 this summer.

When he turns 16 he will probably bear all of the costs of the car. I've already been quoted $1,000 per year for a teen male driver (roughly). I was happily surprised because I know that is less money than I paid as a teen driver. Will see what the real numbers end up being. But everyone makes it sound so scary and awful, especially with a teen boy. I did discuss numbers with my insurance agent at some point, because I did realize a year or two ago that probably most people are more price sensitive than we are and maybe it won't be quite so bad as I was imagining. We do not plan to let him drive our cars, which is where it can get really expensive. Apparently we don't have to insure him to learn on our cars though, which is nice. Practically, he will have to be practicing in our cars once in a while.

Because the car was gifted by a family member, we also don't have to pay any kind of transfer tax on the car. I suppose if we have to pay any license or registration fees though, we will cover them, this first year. We just think it's important for our kids to learn about all the costs of owning a car. If they end up with some large car repair because the car has almost 200k miles, we will cross that bridge when we come to it. I could see helping with any major repairs.

Merry Christmas to us, because that's a can we can kick down the road. Phew! I don't think saving the $2,500 is particularly life altering, but I just feel like we'd be taking a lot more risk on the private party market, otherwise. I feel extraordinarily blessed to have found a (well cared for) hand-me-down. I know we are probably saving a lot more than $2,500, given the circumstances.

Allowance Raise

December 20th, 2018 at 05:36 am

In our family, the point of the 'allowance" is so that you learn how to manage money and make money decisions (at a very basic level) long before you get your first job and start making significantly more dollars. This is just until kids make their own money. My husband seems reluctant to turn off for our oldest son, but there is no doubt that it is time. He made $700 in the 6 months since he turned 15. & that's really barely lifting a finger. I expect that he will be making a ton more money when he turns 16 and can drive himself to any jobs.

As to learning how to manage money and make his own money decisions...

**Mission Accomplished**

The kids' allowance is $2/week. Because we started when they were *5*. I of course expected to bump that up over the years.

MM(15) takes after his father and is an extreme money hoarder. I really expected to at least bump up when he started high school. But he's not very social (he is laser focused on sports and academics). It will be interesting to see how that changes when he gets a car. But for now, he's not much for hanging out, and I get the feeling when he has a car he'd rather be working. Will see.

Though his brother (13) is more balanced and an entirely different personality, he is frugal enough I was starting to think that he would also be happy with the $2 indefinitely. But I failed to account for the high school bump. He is super social, in contrast.

So... He asked for an allowance raise this weekend. Some part of me was, "Oh crap," because I did just take a large pay cut and I know his friends have insane allowances. But beyond that, I Was so proud he asked, and was kind of like, "What took you so long?" I asked what he was thinking about, and he asked for $3. I thought, "Phew!" and I think that is beyond reasonable. What is funny is that MH was shooting me the funniest looks because he is clearly not on the same page. Whatever. Not everyone wants to save every penny they ever make. Yeesh. When we discussed having $1 per week of blow money to hang out with his friends, this is when my MH really looked pained and uncomfortable. I am just, "He needs to learn to live in the real world." In the end, I guess DL was more in negotiating mode and he was kind of like, "Really? $3 is so much more money than I would ever need!" So everyone (but MH) seems pretty happy. I bumped up MM(15) to $3 just to be "fair".

MM is getting a car this weekend and turns 16 this summer, so we will probably re-evaluate his allowance shortly. When I bought my first car it was 100% on me, but I didn't have a sibling that I was expected to drive around or help my parents with. So if we need him to spend $20/ month on gas or whatever, might bump up his allowance and then let him manage all that. Him having a car will help us out so much, we still have a lot to sort through. His grandparents are just being crazy eager beavers and can't wait to give him their old car for Christmas. I think it's fine and good that he has an old car to learn on but haven't had any time or energy to figure out the logistics. It will be a bridge we cross when we get to it.

Anyway, after this whole allowance conversation, DL went on to tell me (as he has many times before) that he has a couple of friends with 10 times the allowance who are horrible with money, and so are their parents. I asked him if he thought they were bad with money because they have *So much* allowance. His answer: Yes! I think he is just observing how other people relate to money and their values, etc. & how maybe it's not so great to have a seemingly infinite allowance if your parents are struggling so much that you are talking about it with your friends. (I don't remember the details, if it's like they were working extra to pay off debts, in bankruptcy or what not. 10 years ago, they'd be losing their house, it was so ubiquitous to be in foreclosure). I think the kids probably try to tease my kids that they have a $3 allowance, but they just aren't having it. They know their bank accounts are fatter and that they live in a financially secure household.

I think it's more complicated than just the size of the allowance. Because lord knows I could give both my kids a 1,000% raise today, and neither of them would spend it.

This conversation gave way to sensible car and college choices. (My sons have NO IDEA they are being gifted a car to use through their high school years).

Who are these people? I don't know that I Would have thought of or discussed "sensible car or college choices" much before age 25. Given the reaction my husband was having to the allowance raise, it makes me wonder if maybe he did sound like this when he was 13/15 and is some of where the kids get it from.

Moving On

December 9th, 2018 at 10:53 am

I did my "life is still chaos" post, and am now hoping to just move forward.

I don't know if I will accomplish anything today, but honestly I'd just be happy to get a nap. I may just crash all day.

My birthday was last weekend. I spent about 5 hours doing my last class for this year. It is what it is. That was the day of the class, and it felt awesome to be DONE! I sent off my professional license renewal and got that huge time suck out of my hair.

Going forward, will have to maintain my professional license on my own time and expense, but now that I know ahead of time I can at least plan for that. I should probably be doing one class every 3 months or so. No more cramming. Phew!

Back to my birthday... Just stayed home and kept it low key otherwise. I did make sure to relax and enjoy the rest of my day.

Yesterday was absolutely exhausting. I had a Kohls return I wanted to sneak in as early in the month as possible. Went around 8am and thankfully there was no line yet.

I thought I was going to have to do that earlier, then take MM(15) to the animal shelter. But MH has more brain cells left than I have at the moment, and figured out he could drop off MM and I could pick him up. Doh. I really thought I Was going to have to sit there waiting for him 2 hours. Too exhausted to figure out the logic.

Anyway, I picked him up, grabbed some fast food (because that's what we do any more) and took him over to my old/forever employer to work. He worked about 4 hours and he is DONE for the year. Woohoo! I was exhausted yesterday, but it's all good. In discussing his availability and "awesome admin" availability, it was decided he is not needed for the rest of the year. Which is the only reason I would step foot in that office. So I will probably work a pretty long Saturday next weekend (from home) but then I am out and done for the year. December is a MASSIVE deadline month and no idea how they will get all their work done, but it's not my problem. I've been setting pretty clear boundaries re: the last 10 days of the year or so. The only reason I set foot in that office is if I am taking my son there to work.

Wish I could say I'd be getting any time off, but I am just in a new "crazy busy" end of year work situation. As I am guessing the majority of jobs in my field are. My new job is very 9-5 and will be a HUGE break compared to what I am used to Christmas break. Because I won't be cramming all weekend and during the evenings. I do look forward to that. But it's going to be crazy demanding during work hours.

After that I rushed home to ready for my new work's Holiday party. Which I was absolutely dreading. For one, I am an extreme introvert so it mostly sounded like torture. Secondarily, I was just exhausted and wanted to take a nap.

In the end, the party was GREAT!

I don't even know what in the heck, but the house was amazing and had an incredible view. This was at one of the owner's homes. He is not one of the "super wealthy" owners, but he does well enough and is a home builder and so of course built a custom home.

They had hired caterers and the food was absolutely divine.

We had a great time, in the end. Everyone I work with is *so nice*. No idea how on earth I found these people. I would never expect to have so much fun at a party with a big crowd of people that I barley know. (Many of them don't work in the office and I have only met in passing).

In other news, I found out I have two weeks vacation time to use whenever. Woohoo! I will have to ponder. I don't have a lot of time off with this job, so it's deciding if I am just, "OMG I need a week off now." Which probably wouldn't be too feasible until March, given workload. So I don't know if it's that, or I am willing to wait for kids' spring break in April and to plan around them. We've already discussed going to the beach for a few days, but figured that would just have to be a long weekend. I will have to look at calendars and ponder.

I Give Up!

December 9th, 2018 at 09:19 am

We got to enjoy our new washer/dryer for about 5 seconds, before MH tried to start his car and move it back into the garage. At least he was able to move it out of the way for delivery. *sigh* I was pretty sure a nice/convenient Sunday delivery would NEVER happen (because this year has been non-stop insanity). So I am happy that at least we could accomplish that transaction smoothly. (Apparently, just barely).

Anyway, car wouldn't start. Was kind of "meh" about it. I mean, I laughed. I swear I have spent every single week this entire year putting out fires (or dealing with fires that we can't put out). So all I could do was laugh. That we had barely put out the last fire when we had a new one! But it was Sunday night and obviously something *easy* like a dead battery, right?

WRONG.

Was the first time we had car troubles with new job/long commute. So Monday was total and complete chaos. It didn't help that AAA driver did a decent diagnosis on the car and told us it might need to be in the shop for days (to re-create the problem). UGH! In the end, is something with the fuel line probably (our mechanic agreed with the AAA diagnosis) but they cleaned something up for a few bucks and think it might be fixed. It's just the inconvenience factor that was so awful. & I suppose we are not 100% sure it is fix fixed, or if it has a bigger problem.

Got the car back and then someone ran into MH at a red light. Because... of course. It was as minor as can be, but... of course!

I completely give up on the house. I just had to, or I would FREAK! Every single time I plan to tend to household chores, something or other comes up. When you have *11 months* of this, your house looks like a total disaster. I really thought I was starting to get on top of things, and then... I don't know what happened. It seemed to take a pretty bad turn with the laundry/car issues. If I think about it at all I will freak. So I just give up.

I think at this point it's just "life is chaos". "Completely and utterly outside my realm of control" chaos. MH is really getting grumpy about job #2 situation. I told him literally I didn't have time to do ANY work for job#2 last month. !!! That is not the problem! But it will be stressful next month (deadline month). So I keep infinitely kicking the can down the road as to when I expect any rest or free time.

I just think he perceives, and is probably perceived in this blog, that I am killing myself over working so many hours. When the reality is, I can't even find time for that even. I just spend all my time to reacting to chaos. I've probably only had time to blog like 10% of the chaos. There is no way to get it across. I don't even remember all the chaos. This was a conversation we had recently: MH tells DL that my dad had been in the hospital, when DL got back from his Finland trip. I said, "Oh yeah, I forgot." Because seriously, I had 100 more important things to worry about. He was fine, so I had no more room in my brain for that. There is no world where I am just, "Oh yeah, I forgot about my dad being in the hospital 3 days ago". Or that is what I would have thought, but that is my world right now.

There's been some good things and I just wanted to do a separate happy post.