Monthly Archives: November 2010

A Day Late, but not A Dollar Short.

I started this yesterday, but collapsed in bed before I got around to finishing and hitting the publish button.

A Giving of Thanks, stream-of-consciousness style:

  • I am thankful for this home, and that I am warm and dry inside, while it is raining outside.
  • I am thankful for central air, especially heating, on this cold, wet, Fall day.
  • I am thankful for grocery stores.
  • I am thankful for modern appliances so I am not working myself to the bone to cook for my family and put food on their plates; to wash those plates; or to wash the clothes we are wearing while eating that food on those plates.
  • I am thankful for my husband’s steady income.
  • I am thankful that I am able to stay at home with my children, and I don’t have to work a j.o.b. just to pay the bills.
  • I am thankful my husband’s income pays our bills and provides for many of our wants to boot.
  • I am so thankful for coffee.
  • I am thankful for Christmas music. And for kids who love to listen to it with me.
  • I am so thankful for my kids!
  • And their health.
  • And their strength.
  • And their intelligence.
  • And the kindness in their hearts.
  • Yes, even in my teenager’s: he’s a tender soul.
  • I am so very thankful for my husband’s sense of humor.
  • He makes me laugh every day, no matter where he is.
  • I am thankful for the internet.
  • And for social networks that make this world smaller and smaller every day.
  • And for the ability to chat with my husband, no matter where he is.
  • I am thankful for random and inane texts from my husband.
  • I am so very thankful he can come home for Christmas.
  • I am thankful for the opportunities he has with his new assignment.
  • I am thankful my husband continually works hard and strives to better himself and his career.
  • I am so thankful I had no desire to go shopping Black Friday morning. Or afternoon. Or evening.
  • No desire.
  • I am thankful that our house continues to have showings.
  • I am thankful I got to sleep in two mornings in a row!
  • I am thankful for naps.
  • And hot showers.
  • And large water heaters.
  • I am eternally thankful for my faith.
  • And my knowledge in Him and the future in His Kingdom; without this truth the world would sometimes be a very scary place indeed.
  • I am thankful for you, every one of you reading this! I sincerely hope you have so very much to be thankful for, too, wherever you are.

Try writing this out for yourself, without a single Even If or Even Though. And be conscious of your mind wanting to add those words. It’s a very powerful exercise.

What’s on Your Thanksgiving Menu?

Typical American Thanksgiving fare, as dictated to my daughter,

“ham; mashed potatoes; dressing; green bean casserole; sweet potatoes; salad; pumkin [sic]-pie”

…minus the semi-colons.

We’re having a quiet Thanksgiving around here, just the four of us: me and the kiddos. We contemplated driving to my family in Kansas, but Conner nixed it: didn’t want to have work to make up from school. And I can’t say I was excited about a 14-hour drive myself.

I talked to some friends about spending some of the holiday day with them, but Conner nixed that, too: he wants the day to be “relaxing” and hanging out with other families with (more) small children isn’t his idea of a good time. Grumpy. But I don’t blame him, really. Seems like most of my friends have kids his little brother’s and sister’s ages, and circus music really isn’t his cup of tea.

So we’re cooking up some grub and having a whole Thanksgiving fare just ourselves, all cozy and comfy in our own home (which we do still own, by the way) and getting a head start on our favorite Christmas movies. With John gone, Conner is huge for motivating me to go all out with tradition and not pansy out by ordering out or just having pasta. And for that I am very thankful indeed. I’ve already made the salad, which is marinating (is that the word I want?) in the fridge. Conner mixed up a super-dooper easy pumpkin pie (looking very seasonal in his orange fleece, I must say), which is cooling on the stovetop. Ham will go in the crockpot first thing in the morning (recipe with apple juice, honey, mustard and sugar, m-mmm) and the rest will get done at some point during the day tomorrow, no hurry. It’s just us, after all.

I hope you are all enjoying a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends near and dear. As for the non-American readers, have some turkey on us. (Or ham, if that’s your pleasure.) Bon Appetit. :)

Sometimes You Gotta Cut Yourself a Break.

Do you ever decide to pay someone to do something you would usually do yourself? Just to give yourself a break?

The kids desperately needed a haircut. Conner was the only one complaining, but I had ignored the little ones for too long, pun intended.

Wow, first the title, then this. Who knew I could be so…  punny?

Normally I would pull out the scissors and just hack away at Olivia’s and Peter’s hair myself. And despite my choice of words I’m perfectly capable of cutting hair without it looking like a hack-job. But it does take me f o r  e v e r. I did finally succumb to adolescent pressure several months ago and start regularly paying a professional for Conner’s haircuts: there was only so much his patience (and mine) could handle. But I still prefer to save money by cutting the little ones’ hair myself.

Until now. When I found myself talking to a friend about something completely unrelated, and she mentioned they were on their way to get haircuts that were on sale at a local national chain, I realized how much relief I felt and made an instant decision: I am going to cut myself a break.

The chain was about to close for the day, so I quickly hung up and yelled at the kids, “Go! Go! Go!” like the house was afire. Witnessing a mom on a mission is a sight indeed. Conner was slightly put out but not unimpressed. Besides, he was the one desperate for a haircut, so he could hardly complain about having his facebook time abruptly interrupted. (Oh, the travesty.) I had already made him wait an extra week to allow more healing time for his skin where he recently had a mole removed. (Yes, from his scalp.) (We’ve been having so much fun around here lately.) So he was more than willing to go, after a minute of getting over himself.


No picture of the teenager. Adolescent pressure. You gotta choose your battles.

Haircut Sale

  • $6.99 / haircut
  • $20.97 = three haircuts
  • Total with tip: $26.97

Yes, I tip. Even at national chains.

  • Have you cut yourself a break lately? And paid someone else to do something you would normally do yourself?

We all need that now and then, in my opinion. Can I get an amen?

The Activities That Almost Were (and the cost of the ones that are).

Rowing on the Great Miami River

It took a few weeks for us to settle into our Fall routine of school and various activities. Mainly because my kids kept changing their minds about what they wanted to do!

I’m no soccer mom. But.

I’m all about dabbling at the younger ages: what better time for them to explore all that is out there? And I admit that I get a little excited about the opportunities myself: growing up in Small-town, Kansas some… years ago, I simply didn’t have the chance to try most of the things that my kids have access to today. But there’s a fine line between Taking Advantage and Going Overboard. And I think we almost crossed it when Conner decided to try Rowing for the first time.

Did you say… Rowing?

Thing is, it was actually my idea.

What Conner really wants to do is play tennis. In fact, that’s all he wants to do. But boys’ tennis isn’t until the Spring, so when I saw some information about the Greater Dayton Junior Rowing Team for the Fall season I brought it to Conner’s attention. “Think of the great workout and how strong your arms would be for tennis!” I had no idea that rowing actually utilizes more of the leg muscles than the arm. Nor was I thinking of how perfect a fit Conner’s body was for rowing in general, his being in the lighter category, you might say, thereby requiring less raw muscle to propel along the surface of the water. In fact, I knew very little about rowing at all other than it requires a boat and some oars and some water and was associated with highfalutin ivy league schools on the East Coast.

Conner readily agreed to give it a try. I think he had visions of bulky biceps in his head. I didn’t have the heart to tell him his genetic disposition tends more toward the lean look, no matter how much muscle he acquired.

The Truth About Rowing

The Rowing program allows you to try it for a week before any payment is due. Conner was nervous at first, not having any clue about rowing in general, other than the occasional ride in grandma and grandpa’s canoe in the park in their backyard. Like many kids, Conner felt like he’d be the only one not having any idea what he was doing.

Of course, this fear was alleviated within the first five minutes. And Conner was sucked in pretty quickly. It was beautiful, sunny, Fall weather! Who wouldn’t want to be out on the water, coasting along under a canopy of Ohio trees on the cusp of displaying their fall foliage?

Thing is, you’re not exactly “coasting,” and Conner discovered what hard work rowing is by the second day when his blisters started to rear their ugly heads. And while he relished the soreness of his muscles and gained great satisfaction from perfecting the rowing technique that alluded him the first day but seemed natural to him by the fourth, he contemplated the dedication and commitment that would be required of him — and me — if he decided to continue for the rest of the season. And ultimately he decided it wasn’t for him.

And I was more than okay with that. After all, he had tried it, and considered it seriously. That was enough for me. Just because you try something doesn’t mean you have to do it.

And besides the cost — which was daunting — the time commitment on my part as well as his was prohibitive. Naturally, rowing requires a river. And the river is downtown, through traffic and construction, and not exactly next door to our house. And it required me driving, every day, twice a day, to take him and pick him up. Yes, we were hoping to share that duty with at least one other rower and family, but Dayton Rowing involves kids from all over the Dayton area, and during our one week we had still not managed to become acquainted with anyone who lived in our little part of suburbia.

Dayton Area Junior Rowing

The Dayton Area Rowing offers Varsity- and Beginner-level rowing. The two differ in cost and time commitment.

  • Varsity practices six days a week, costs $400, and competes in three Regattas, all out of town.
  • Beginner practices three days a week, costs $250, and competes in the first two Regattas with the Varsity.

Unlike other sports, the level you participate in is dictated more by your own preference rather than in your ability. I learned that, in Rowing, success is mainly determined by persistence and commitment. The coach told me that, if he had his druthers, he would go to any school and pick out his rowers from the Academic Honor Roll with no regard for natural athletic ability. High-achieving students often possessed the dedication and determination that inevitably turned them into successful rowers. (Maybe this is why it’s associated with so many Ivy League schools?)

Rowers who could one day earn a college scholarship, I must add. Did you know that female rowers, in particular, are sought after by many university rowing teams? They’re needed to off-set all of the scholarships given out to football players and the like. The coach told me that one of their senior rowers just received a full-tuition rowing scholarship to a nearby university — and it was her first year of rowing! Just something you might want to consider for your ambitious daughter looking ahead to how she’s going to pay for a college degree…

But not for Conner — who, besides being a guy, has decided that rowing is just not for him. Which is okay! Rowing is certainly not for everyone. And I think if Conner had decided to stick it out for a season and I’d been driving him back and forth, to and fro, for these past two-plus months? I probably would have gone off the deep end. Pun intended. We’ve just had so much going on, physically and emotionally, with John’s move to California and trying to sell this house and still not selling this house and not knowing when the kids and I will be joining their dad and blah-blah-blah.  I’m not sure I could have handled the extra burden, as much as I would have wanted to support Conner’s commitment, had he decided to make one.

And this is besides the $400 we would have forked out.

And it’s not like Conner’s brother and sister haven’t haven’t been keeping me busy with activities of their own. In the spirit of Changing Minds, at the beginning of the year Olivia also decided she didn’t want to be involved in Girl Scouts (Brownies) after all. I lost the $12 I had paid at the beginning of the summer for pre-registration, but tore up the $30 check I was giving for the annual fee.

But never fear! For Olivia replaced that relatively cheap activity with one much more expensive: gymnastics!

All in All, the Breakdown of Costs for our Fall:

  • $40 Gymnastics registration fee.
  • $279 for Gymnastics: $93/mth. (Olivia started in October.)
  • $382.50 for Dance (Jazz, Tap & Ballet): $22.50/wk.
  • $350 for Karate: 3 mths.
  • Total: $1,051.50.

Ooch. It kinda hurts seeing it all in black and white like that.

And to think, Olivia wanted to take Karate, too. And she’s wondering when she gets to take swimming lessons again. And when she can start learning to play the trumpet…

She’s a whirling dervish, that one.

How about you? What’s the damage for your Fall activities? Anyone out there spending more than I am?

Anyone?

Anyone?

Oh, and stay tuned. Coming up next month will be a summary of what we’ve spent on kids’ activities for the entire year.

Woo-hee!

And no, I have never faced tallied anything like that before. I might need to gird myself with some extra fortification for that one.

Paying a Credit Card as You Go

Pay with credit cardI mentioned in a recent post that we started using our credit card for transactions that we were making anyway, but instead of waiting until the monthly bill is due, I’m paying off the balance every week.

For me, this method keeps away the mentality of, “I’ll just use the credit card for now and figure out how I’m going to pay for it later,” but still allows us the bonus of racking up rewards’ points. (That I desperately want to use toward a DSLR.)

(Okay, maybe not desperately. But I want one really bad.)

I would not recommend regular usage of a credit card for everyone.

Before you think it might work for you to use a credit card on a regular basis and swear you’ll never keep a balance on it, I think you need to have a few things in place.

  1. An Emergency Fund: A credit card is not an emergency fund! At least, it shouldn’t be. If you don’t have a liquid/cash emergency fund already in place, guess what you won’t be able to pay off when you have an emergency?
  2. A HABIT of tracking daily transactions: If you don’t know where your money is going, it’s difficult to know if you’re spending more than you would than if you were paying with cash.
  3. Willingness to test your credit card mentality: Going back  to #2:  if you really think that your spending habits are no different if you pay with a credit card vs. paying with cash, then I challenge you to…
  • give up the credit card for at least a month
  • Track your spending (see #2).
  • Compare cash spending with credit card spending.
  • Think about how you felt when you made the purchases.
  • Be honest with yourself.

cash vs. credit cardDo you think credit card usage is ever okay? Would you add anything to my recommendations above? Or is cash the only way to go?

Our Current “Emergency”

We have been spending money lately like it’s going out of style, what with John moving to California and all. He’s getting ready to plunk a $1000 deposit down on an apartment, for instance. And another $1300 for a month’s rent. This is not even mentioning the costs of the DITY* move itself. I’m still waiting for some dust to settle before I tally up that total.

*DITY: Do It Yourself. As in a move. In the military, you can do a “partial DITY” and then have movers move the remaining bulk of your stuff. In our case, the “remaining bulk” is waiting until we sell this house…

The good news is that he found an “affordable” apartment close to work that will do a month-to-month lease for him.

And yes, $1300 for a one-bedroom apartment is very affordable in California. Especially in Monterey. Can I get an amen from California readers?

This Is Why We Have a Savings Account

I’m getting ready to pull a significant chunk of change from our savings account to pay off the credit card, which John has been using quite liberally. And yes, this hurts. We have been working so hard on bulking up our savings for the past six months. I have to remind myself that, this is why.

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I appreciate those of you who voiced concern that our bank wouldn’t allow weekly bill payments to our credit card, or that the credit card might have penalties for weekly payments. I have read the fine print and could not find anything to suggest craziness from either direction. At the first sign of any such silliness from either institution, we will simply stop using our credit card. Immediately.

Personal Finance Update. Come link yours!

Debt Balances as of the End of October 2010:

  1. First Mortgage:  $169,668.33
  2. Credit Card Transfer #1: $23,875.00
  3. Credit Card Transfer #2:  $6,700
  4. Rental Property:  $107,001.45

Total Debt:  $307,244.78

This is a difference of –$824.56 in principle from the $308,069.34 owed in primary and rental mortgage debt* at the end of September.

*The credit card transfers used to be our second mortgage.

Yes, our debt snowball is still just sitting there until we sell this house.

Breakdown of Payments:

  1. First Mortgage: $1538.63
  2. Credit Card Transfers: $200.00
  3. Rental Property: $758.00

Total Monthly Payments: $2496.63.

In addition, in October we also made a final, regular payment of $283.90 toward our second mortgage.

The second mortgage was “paid off” by the credit card transfers. When I selected the amount of the final transfer, I rounded down, figuring I would pay the final odd balance once the dust aka interest settled. Lo and behold to my surprise, USAA wrote off the leftover $40.93 and marked our account “paid in full”!

I love USAA.

And no, I’m not getting paid to say that. Although I wish I were. USAA? Are you out there? You want to sponsor me for something? Or advertise on my site? I’ll gladly speak well of you and promote your services. Really. In fact, I just did. See?

We’re still working on racking up our savings, although even that has been on hold for now: can you say PCS? Come on, everyone say it with me. P-C-S. Oh wait, what’s that?

Permanent Change of Station.

Without compensation.

Hey look, I made a rhyme.

And we will be compensated, actually. Eventually. Just not until we all move out to Cali. Which we will do. As soon as we sell this house.

Any buyers?

Finance Updates Linky-Linky

I hope you all will link up your own debt and networth updates to my linky-linky below. And copy and paste the button to the right (and on the sidebar) if you’d like, as well. If you’re reading this by email or your RSS feed, you’ll need to click over to the post itself. But please do: I’m still hopeful that this will be a monthly get-together for all of us keeping track for all the web to see and cheer us on and gain motivation. This is inspiring, people! Anyone feeling newly inspired to face their debt head-on? Please tell us all about it in the comments below. We’d love to cheer you on, too. :)

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