Archive | November, 2009

Finances Part II – The Holidays

15 Nov

So as mentioned in previous posts the holidays are coming upon us (yay!) but that tends to mean big spending for us. However, this year will be different. Because I’m determined to stick to a budget and only spend exactly what I’m going to allocate. I liked comments suggested in the previous post about having a gift fund that you contribute to throughout the year that you then use for gifts as needed. I think I might try something like that in 2010. If I put in $30 every month that would give me $360 for gifts throughout the year. Which actually I think is pretty good. I don’t anticipate any weddings in 2010, though perhaps a baby shower! (Crossing my fingers S!) and so that will pretty much all be for Christmas and birthdays.

Very reasonable.

It helps that this year I’m not really exchanging that gifts with many people. My planned $200 budget is:

  • $0 for the Husband (we’re going to Mexico in 3 weeks as a belated honeymoon/Christmas/Anniversary present)
  • $50 for my parents
  • $25 for his parents
  • $20 for his sister
  • $10 for a co-worker I always exchange with
  • $95 for my son

But here’s the great thing: Gift cards. We have Medica as our health insurance and they offer gift cards as an incentive to do all of these healthy programs on their website. We’ve got $150 in gift cards right now to redeem with $50 more at the end of the calendar year. So I intend to redeem these gift cards at places that I plan to buy said gifts. Likely to be Target and Amazon, perhaps Borders or Old Navy as well. You can redeem them in $25 increments for over 300 companies. Its wonderful. So essentially I’m hoping out of pocket cash costs will be minimal because of this.

The $75 that’s being spent for our parents can’t come through the gift cards because Kodak isn’t one of the companies available and I always get our parents a calendar of pictures of our son and my mom wanted a tote bag as well with his photo on it.  But luckily Kodak is doing this thing right now where you get a $15 credit to use in anyway you want and I have 3 of them :-) So essentially I can get $75 worth of merchandise for $30 plus shipping.


So everything sounds dandy right? No. Because the thing above and beyond gifts (and really we’ll have to see what happens when all the Black Friday sales are released) that we spend by far the most on is decorations. And I LOVE Target’s Christmas decorations this year… Plus our neighbors go all out crazy in decorating their houses and its hard for me to not want to.

Reminds me of something I read in a different blog. This person was able to finally get a grasp on his finances when he stopped caring what other people think. I think that’s huge. If I really think about it 90% of my non-fixed purchases are probably on some level to “keep up with the Joneses” and to impress people.

I’m toying with this concept of really trying to not care what people think, except its so ingrained in us to focus the superficial as a means of keeping up with colleagues and friends. I think it’ll prove to be difficult.

Finances Part 1

12 Nov

Ah money.

I’ve probably been struggling with money for as long as I could earn and spend it. I think there were 3 pivotal moments in my financial life that have led me to the position I was in 6 months ago and the one I’m in now.

1) I had $200 (cash) stolen from me at the Pancake House I worked at in High School. I had just gotten done babysitting all weekend and didn’t have time to go the bank before work like planned. For that moment on I’ve never carried cash, ever.

2) When I turned 18 and could get a credit card or 6.

3) My parents own financial philosophy. Which generally is “Charge it.”

So while I’m not remotely comfortable discussing exact specifics I can make generalizations. Also, when I talk of debt I mean specifically credit card debt. I’m not including our mortgage, car, or my $30,000 in student loans.

I find that while I’ve generally usually had some sort of balance on credit cards it wasn’t until 6 months after our son was born that the balance exponentially went up. I’m talking an average of around a $1,000 a month. I have some ideas why:

  1. Hospital Bills are expensive. Really f’ing expensive and we weren’t prepared for that.
  2. Because I hadn’t worked at the museum for a year when I went on leave I got really screwed over on leave. Promises were made that weren’t kept and my income was significantly less than I was told it would be.
  3. I’m not a person that does “idle” well. So my son and I spent a lot of time at Target shopping while I was on leave, because there was not much else to do.
  4. Our expenses went up (childcare, diapers, etc) but how we spent our money didn’t change.
  5. And of course the Holidays.

Clearly, I acknowledge that we were at fault for the things that happened. And while on some level I’ve always cared it isn’t until the last few weeks that I really care and I’m stressing out about it. Mostly because I do want to have a second child sometime in 2011, and want to be able to do it right this time. Be prepared for the medical bills, the loss of income, and tailor our spending to match our new increased expenses. It would also help if we were credit card debt free too (but I’m just shooting for a realistic goal of close.)

However, this sucks. Changing 6 years of spending habits isn’t going to be easy. It also doesn’t help that our fixed expenses are damn close to our income not leaving very much after food, gas, and my weekly Chipotle for paying down debt. It also doesn’t help that we’re about to enter our spendy season (we typically pay down our debt for 6 months of the year, increase it the other 6 months and come out higher in debt every year and after 3 years its high.)

  • December is Christmas obviously
  • January is my birthday, my 25th actually.
  • February is Valentine’s Day
  • March is our son’s 3rd birthday
  • April is Easter
  • May is my husband’s 25th Birthday

And then the gift giving finally ceases.

Full Circle

6 Nov

I feel like I’ve come full circle and am back to where I was (mentally/emotionally) Spring 2008 before the time period I will now refer to as Downward Spiral #2. The naming convention comes from a friend of mine who referred to my second semester senior year of high school as my “downward spiral.” I then and still now consider that to have been one of the funnest times of my life, similar debauchery I feel ensued in DS#2.

However, now I’m back to domesticity. Which is a good thing. I sort of got my quarter-life crisis “I never got to have a 20s” angst out and am back to preferring to stay home, watching TV with the hubby, planning dinner parties, etc. I alluded to this in my previous post about sort of being “over” going out. That night I did get out of my shell and two games of flips cup, 2.5 tequila shots and a game of beer pong later I was having a great night. However, I had just as great of time playing (and winning) Settlers of Catan and playing Cards Against Humanity’s version of Apples to Apples on Sunday.

For me its always about balance. I have the hardest time balancing the desire to go out with a desire for domesticity because both provide me joy. But never together. I usually want one or the other. So now, going out provides me none/little joy whereas previously staying in left me with the same feelings.

I also find that by reverting back to this domesticity, as I like to refer to it, means that I’m not taking care of myself any longer. Another form of balance I struggle with. I find it hard to do anything for myself because I’m focused on doing things for others (specifically my family) all the time. DS#2 I was actually taking care of myself (arguably at the expense of others.) I need to find that balance where I can do both. Where I can work out and eat well (which I haven’t done since August) and other things that are just for me while still being able to focus on everyone else.

I think the difficulty I have in balancing is that I don’t feel like my family life and my personal life mesh, I can’t seem to combine them into one. They’re like two completely different aspects of myself and I don’t know how to mold them into one (balanced) version of myself. It doesn’t help that for the most part these two different versions also exist in different states: Chicago Me and Minnesota Me.


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