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Fighting for FI

I read a lot of personal finance blogs. Like…. a LOT. I have about 40 of them bookmarked in my faves list and i cycle through them. Daily. I love reading everyone’s philosophy on personal finance. But more importantly, I keep looking for the “secret”. The magic thing I need to do to achieve financial wellness. Freedom.

But here’s the rub.

If I read ONE MORE ARTICLE about maxing out your 401K (keep in mind that is $18,500/yr) to be a millionaire by the time your 65 and how I should have simply started saving $1,000/yr when I got my first allowance at 8 yrs old, I am going to seriously VOMIT all over my keyboard.

Folks.

No shit.

Who are these people that can seriously set aside $18,500 EVERY YEAR??? That’s almost DOUBLE what I pay for my mortgage every year. If I could save $18,500 every year for retirement, I certainly am not reading your blog about clipping coupons and downloading apps to save 15 cents wherever I can.

Also, hey, just spend less than you make and save the rest!

OMG> No kidding!

But what about the rest of us? The ones who don’t have a gap? That’s what I call it. The money left over at the end of the month when you tally up everything you made and everything you’ve spent.

I don’t have a gap. I track my money. Every penny. I have an entire workbook devoted to my finances. And someday I’ll share it with you.

For now, I’m just figuring out how to survive. Here are a few things I have going for me:

  • $10,000 emergency fund in a 1.85% money market account. I don’t touch this. Ever. I can’t.
  • I have one credit card with a $1,935 balance at 0%. If I continue to pay $100/month it will be paid off by end of promo period. I keep telling myself that’s $100 that will become part of the gap. Right now it pisses me off that I have a balance/payment at all. I abhor debt.
  • I use a credit card for EVERYTHING. All of my utilities are set up to auto-pay on that card. I buy all my groceries, gas and everything else on that card. I get 1.5% rewards cash and it’s an easy way to track spending.
  • I do not use cash. Ever.
  • I always pay off my credit card in full. Sometimes I make payments every week to keep the balance small. I can’t afford to pay interest.
  • I recently invested $1,000 in lending club. It’s an experiment. But every month I will take the money I receive (principal + interest) and put that money towards extra principal payment on my car.
  • I have a few thousand dollars in an online investment brokerage. This adds about $14/month in dividends. It’s not huge, but it’s a start. Right now this broker is transferring everything to another online broker. Dividends are not being reinvested. Instead, I’m pulling them out and putting them towards the principal on my car.
  • I need to pay off my car loan ASAP. This will help create a gap. Only $11,700 left to go.

Although I am a single mom, I won’t allow that to be my story. There’s no room for pity. Just action. I want to be successful regardless of my relationship status.

Because I don’t have someone else to bring in a second income, it scares the crap out of me. I don’t have room for error. There is no safety net. I need to create several passive (or active) income streams so that I have breathing room. And someday, financial independence. To have enough passive income that I don’t have to worry about the economy or my job. To give me choices.

 

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Ground Zero

Today. Today is the deadline for my ex. I know the day will come and go, and nothing will happen. And I will have to take him back to court. Again.

Today I’m exhausted. I tired of fighting. But instead of feeling sorry for myself, I feel anxious. Anxious to do something about it. But I don’t know what.

So I thought I’d make a checklist. Of where i’m at in life. And figure out where to go from there. Like a scatter plot. Maybe there is a trend. Or a pattern. Or a rorschach test. Maybe i can see soemthing… myself maybe? My life? Maybe if i can see where i am…. i can see where i need to go.

Let’s see:

  • single – check
  • mom – check
  • mortgage – check check
  • work full time – check
  • volunteer – check
  • love life – crickets
  • supportive and loving friends – check, meh… some crickets
  • vindictive ex – check check check
  • stress – check check
  • happy son – check
  • roof – check
  • full bellies – check
  • car repair – needs attention
  • eye twitch – check (ughhhh)
  • positive pants – MIA
  • anxiety – check check
  • tenacity – check

Okay…. I think this is a good start.

Sooooo…. now what?

My ex owes me a lot of money. Like, a LOT of money. Money that would ensure my son and I live a comfortable life. My salary will provide for us. But it would be a very austere existence. And that’s okay. But i WANT my child to have a wonderful and memorable childhood. I want him to be able to experience life and go places.

So. Obviously, I will take my ex back to court. Again. And hopefully the judge will force his hand. Again.

But in the meantime…. i need a plan B. And C and D. And F and G3 and M4a. Cuz I’m a planner. And a do-er. And I know that life is not a fairy tale. A knight in shining armour is not going to adorn my doorstep and save the day. My fairy godmother is flat out of pixie dust. Nobody is coming to rescue me.

My happily ever after is up to me. And me only.

I just don’t know how the hell to move forward. How to write my next chapter. Perhaps I just need to work on this list for now. And evaluate where I am. My ground zero. And then start drafting a plan of what I need to do. To address what i NEED. What i WANT.

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Still going…..

I wish i could tell you that we are debt free and pursuing our next goals. But…… we’re not. If we had been able to stick with the debt management program, our last payment would be in a few weeks. Unfortunately, we had to drop out of the program last winter because we just couldn’t come up with the moo-lah anymore. We have been making the payments still, but much smaller.

The good news is this: we are current on all of our regular bills. The exception is a handful of medical bills. They have all been sent to collections companies eons ago, so the damage is done. The plan is to build up a comfortable emergency net in savings and then tackle them one at a time.

I’ve recently decided to alter my strategy. I had been aggressively paying down our credit card debt using the snowball method. In 2 weeks, another card will be paid off and we will only have 3 cards left. (We started with 14!) The minimum payments total $320 for all 3 cards. Instead of snowballing the next card in line, I’ve decided to take the “extra” cash and put it in my ING Direct savings account. I know, I know. I’m not giving up. I’ve decided that it would be better to build up our emergency coffers for the remainder of the year.

Being a type A personality, i fret over the unknown. Even though we have some savings, a larger cushion would help me sleep better at night. We only have 1 month’s worth of expenses in savings. If we need to dip into savings between lawn and snow seasons, it’s all gone. Not cool. And since it will be quite a while until the next card will get paid off, i’ve decided to take a break for a while. We’ve paid of 5 cards this summer. That freed up over $250 in monthly payments to snowball with. The remaining balances on the 3 cards are large enough that adding $250 to the payment won’t reduce the minimum payment significantly. I’d rather have $750 in savings than a $25 lower minimum payment. I’m sure the personal finance gurus are foaming at the mouth, but right now it feels like the right decision.

ugh………

Getting out of debt sucks.

It definitely does not happen overnight. So easy to lose momentum…

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In Between

So the good news is this should, potentially, be a good winter for making money.

The bad news is: It hasn’t snowed yet.

And we’re out of money.

My cell phone has been “restricted” until I pay the bill. Luckily, this week I get my paycheck early due to the holiday and can pay the bill. Unfortunately, I was hoping to using my entire check for groceries and Christmas shopping on Black Friday.

Not gonna have much money for shopping this year.

To add to the stress, I’ve recently been promoted to the Assistant EMS Coordinator position at the Fire Dept. Cool, right? The EMS Coordinator called me this morning and needs to move up her maternity leave – to now. So, until she comes back after having the baby, I’m in charge. yikes.

And i’m still on-call 24-40 hours a week. I’m at home though, so that doesn’t stress me out.

And i’m half-way through my EMT class. 2 nights a week/4 hours a night. Homework due and quiz every class.

And work has picked up a ton of work, so i’m working super full time.

My cup runneth over and is empty all at once. Life is good~!

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Please don’t grab a shovel…

I gotta tell ya, the view from Rock Bottom is amazing. I’d send ya a postcard, but i’m hoping we aren’t here long. No need to take pictures, the images are permanently engraved in my mind. This is a destination i never ever would have ever imagined being in some day.

We’ve arrived.

I hope our stay is brief. I’ve already mentioned that our gas and power are back on. Sneaking into the fire hall after midnight to shower and use the toilet is humiliating, mortifying, and downright depressing. We had to do it 3 days in a row. Luckily, nobody saw us and no calls came in.

I checked the bank this morning, and the mortgage payment went thru again. But, since hubby paid the gas and electric to get service back on, we are $400 short to cover it. Hubby is expecting to get paid for some work he did, so here’s praying its at least $400 worth…

My hours have picked back up at work and i am back to full time. yay! The bad news is that I have only been working 24 hour weeks most of the year and so now we are behind again on the credit cards. Working full time again is definitely helping, but as you already know, we are waaaaaay behind on alllll the bills.

Unfortunately, unless a miracle happens, it looks like we are going to have to drop out of the credit counseling program. We have 10 months left. So close. And because we can’t afford to even pay the minimum balance on all of the cards, welcome back late fees and 30% APR’s.

Hubby’s sales revenue has taken a hit as it has been a drier than usual summer. On top of that, some customers have taken longer than usual to pay, or have stopped paying altogether – including our largest customer.

Satan, errr i mean the mortgage company, is offering a face-to-face tomorrow to meet with a rep and discuss modification options. We’ve already been turned down for a mod, but I’m willing to go and try to see what other options are available, if any. At least it will show them we’re trying.

On the bright side, I have decided to pursue my EMT license. The township will fully reimburse me once i have passed the national test and have my license in hand. Paying upfront sucks, but it’s truly and investment since I can pick up some night/weekend shifts for area ambulance companies once I get my license. And since I’m already an MFR, the class is a breeze and my instructors love me. Here’s to hoping it could lead to a job offer…

And saving the best for last, I have just been promoted to Assistant EMS Coordinator for our department. The EMS Coordinator is pregnant and due mid-December, so I will have my hands full pretty soon. Looking forward to it! This is a paying position, which i did not know when i applied. Yup. $45/month. Every little bit helps, right? This stipend plus my average number of runs per month adds about $150/month to the family coffers.

Can someone toss me a rope please?

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Member of Gen Y? You’re f’d…

I came across an artice on MSNBC.com the other day. “Under 30? Looking for a job? You’re not alone” (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28663645/) Although it didn’t help my insecurity any, it really helped put things in perspective. Apparently, my generation has the highest unemployment rate in the nation.

The article starts off by describing how, in a deep recession, employers are more apt to hire older “seasoned” employees with more experience. Who can argue with that? As an employer, if i had my choice of 300+ applicants, I’m going to pick the best deal for my money.

However, the article takes a sharp turn and starts to describe how Gen Y’ers don’t work hard enough, are impatient, and should climb the long corporate ladder like their ancestors did.

Ummmmmm…………..

Wait a minute. Most of our ancestors weren’t nearly as educated as our generation, furthermore, most of them don’t have a college degree. They had no choice but to learn along the way. Now, i’m not saying that everyone with a college degree is brilliant and deserving of a CEO position. What I am saying is this article makes my generation sound like a bunch of spoiled brats who had the world handed to them on a silver platter.

Not so much.

I’ve had a job since i was 15. I paid for my own college education. I have never “job-hopped”. Yes, i do have a dream job (in mind). Shouldn’t we all? Apparently the author has a miserable job and thinks everyone should suffer 9-5 with her.

If there’s one thing i’ve learned in my short, unexperienced, unappreciative life is that life is too short to not enjoy. There is no point in being a corporate slave to a company that just continues to take and take until you have nothing left to give. And? At the end of your 40-50 years of servitude, sorry, we had to cut out the pensions to increase our executive salaries and bonuses. Enjoy social security, since we didn’t pay you enough to contribute to your own retirement plan. F  THAT!

I’m sorry, I WANT MORE. Call me what you want, but my ancestors did not risk life and limb to come to the land of opportunity to end up being a work horse for someone else’s gain. I believe that the baby-boomers recognized that and raised their children to believe that they can be anything, do anything. And you know what? They can. And they will.

Just watch.

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Well, it’s been a few days since i’ve had any free time. Last Sunday we discovered that our sump pump wasn’t working properly and our basement flooded. Not horribly – just where all our stuff is stored. It’s an unfinished basement, so picture bare concrete floors and plain block walls. You know, lots of porous surfaces for water to trap itself. We’ve been meaning to clean it for a long time, but if it’s out of sight it’s out of mind i guess.

Sunday turned out to be the day we cleaned the basement. Fortunately, most everything touching the floor was in plastic containers. The only cardboard box on the floor was an old Christmas tree. We don’t have any idea when the basement flooded, so we pitched it just to be safe. Although it sucked that the basement flooded, it was actually kinda nice to get down there and clean everything up. I even washed the windows! Now i’m kinda looking forward to doing some additional improvements down there. Maybe put some waterproofing paint on the walls and floors. Not only will it brighten the space up, it will make the next clean-up a lot easier.

 Work has been a blast. Not really. The past 2 weeks since coming back from the sorta Christmas break have been hell. Two new programs are supposed to be up and running at full production – one of them is in a newly leased building with issues of it’s own. The parts we are shipping have a 70% fallout at the customer. We are scrapping parts like crazy. I can’t get enough material in to keep them running.

My other hat, accounting, has not been touched in at least 4 weeks. No reports, no data entry, no check runs, nada. That’s gonna be a fun job when i finally get around to it. Especially since i’ve been breaking my own rules and ordering stuff without PO’s. Like i’m supposed to remember what i ordered 3 weeks ago. Not to mention the steady stream of people coming in my office asking, demanding items that they need now, not in 5 minutes, not when i get a second, right now. Then, when i track someone down who can get it for me right now, it sits on the dock for a week. Ugh. Oh, did i forget to mention that while i’m on the phone searching for said desired item another person comes in *panicked* looking for same item other *frantic* person is looking for? I can’t get anything done cuz 12 people are bugging me about the same thing. Until it’s the next thing, then another 12 people are worried about antother item.

Well, now i’m on the phone, my cell phone is ringing and my intercom is ringing.

To be continued…