Archive for the ‘family’ Category

Paid Tuition for Son’s School

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

Yeee-OUCH!  I just got back from paying son’s private school tuition, and I honestly cannot remember writing a check that large before in my life.  No joke, I just wrote a check for $5900.  Wow.

I have not only been expecting this, but have planned for it all summer long.  Next week I will probably be authorizing an online payment for my own tuition, so August is the dreaded “tuition month” for us.  I’m expecting my tuition to run $2300-2500, and that will seem easy after this one.

The good news is son’s tuition is for the entire school year, and frees up almost $500 per month since last year I didn’t have enough saved to do the one payment and instead dragged it out over the year.

This year, being debt-free-but-the-mortgage gave us the opportunity to do this all at once.  I thought I would feel good walking in and just writing the check, but now that it’s done all I can think is “Holy cow!  That’s a lot of money!”

Five thousand nine hundred and no/100s dollars.  Wow.  It actually feels weird “moving up” in the world like this.  Maybe it will feel better in a few hours.

Then again, a few years ago writing any four-figure check seemed huge.  Now I can write out $1xxx checks without really blinking an eye (as opposed to nearly having a hairy cat fit in January of 2007 when writing the $1140 check to fix the heat).  Checks for $2xxx (like MY tuition) still make me blink, but don’t quite provoke the “ouch” response like this one did.

Five thousand nine hundred and no/100 dollars.  It’s there.  It will clear.  It will be rebuilt before the first frost.  Wow.  I love not having consumer debt anymore.

Hubby, Money, and Investing

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Yes, I’ve been quiet recently.  A little over a week ago I had a very eye-opening money talk with hubby that really threw me for a loop.  Where to begin …?

It all started with a discussion about the economic “stimulus” payment that came in half of what we expected (granted, I hadn’t bothered to run the numbers through one of the website calculators out there).  So instead of having $900 or $1200 to play with, we only got $600.  I shouldn’t fuss, since we are in the ZERO % tax bracket.  Hubby has asked for $150 of it, and I agreed, figuring he had some anniversary plans he was keeping secret.

Well, after the anniversary evening out, hubby asked if he could write the check for the money market/big emergency fund deposit for only $400 instead of $450 … Yes, it was “only” $50 but I thought I was being generous by letting him have one quarter of the “stimulus” to begin with!  I of course wanted to stuff all but $50 of it into the big emergency fund.

It was time for another Big Money Discussion, with capital letters.  I learned he feels “poor” because he doesn’t have as much spending money as he did before he went to Korea (and before I started budgeting).  He learned (?) I have a deep psychological need to have a big honkin’ emeergency fund for security, as the expenses section of the budget keeps growing due to gasoline and food price increases combined with concerns about upcoming tuition bills.  So far, so good …

Then I made the remark I wanted to hurry up, tighten the belt, and get that big emergency fund funded so I could move on to investing.  Hubby said he didn’t like investing … he preferred to keep his money in his checking account, or maybe a money market account at best.

GASP!!  CHOKE!!!  cough, sputter … !!!!!  Insert mental image of me banging my head against the desk!  After making quite a few shocked noises, I asked him how he could say that …??!?

This is a basic synopsis of several conversations over the past week and a half: Hubby doesn’t understand investing.  It’s a huge blow to my ego as a PF blogger that I can write things here on my blog … but can’t seem to explain why investing is a smart thing to my own husband.  Hubby says this “investing idea” seems to be losing money, not making money so he’d rather just earn interest in a regular savings account, checking account, or a money market account.

“Ok, so just TEACH him about why investing is the best idea…”

That would work IF he was inclined to learn.  Hubby feels he has his hands full with negotiating with re-up and studying for the promotion board, and I can almost SEE him tune out when I get started on the subject.  His eyes either become unfocused or begin to wander about.

The best I’ve gotten from him in the time since he uttered that jaw-dropping sentence is “You take care of it … I don’t want to see it or bother with it.  Just like my TSP.”  Considering what the markets have been doing over the past year, I am extremely grateful the TSP only mails out annual statements.

So now I am thinking hard about how I can sneak little tiny microbits of investing info into our everyday conversations, since hubby is not inclined to sit down for an hour or longer crash course on what little I know about the subject.  The problem is Hubby is every bit as stubborn as I am … but y’all probably figured that out months ago LOL  He’d have to be, to marry me.

It sounds like hubby’s leave has been approved, so we will be heading down to Florida to spend a little time with my in-laws in less than two weeks.  Perhaps I can get a little help from them.  If not, there is still the 12 hour drive to get there and back … when he will be a “captive audience” so to speak!  Wish me luck on this endeavor.  I’ll probably need it.

Economic Stimulus Payment is Here, and Smaller Than Expected

Friday, May 9th, 2008

Just checked the account balance, and our “economic stimulus” payment is finally here.  While others got theirs early, ours came when the IRS schedule said it would.

I am underwhelmed with the government’s “generosity” here: we only got $600 total, which breaks down to $300 each.  Apparently an E-4 at the top of the pay scale for that pay grade doesn’t make enough to get the full economic stimulus.  I really didn’t expect to get the full $600 for myself, since I only had an income of a little over $3,000 delivering pizzas only on the weekends, but sheesh … one would think the government would pay its active duty military enough of a taxable salary to get the full stimulus!  I had thought we were getting $900 for our “economic stimulus.”

Yes, I am griping (or whining, if you prefer).  We didn’t plan to do much “stimulating the economy” other than our trip to Florida next month anyway, but this just cut the amount I had hoped to sock away into the big emergency fund significantly!

Hubby asked for $150 of that $600 for himself.  I agreed without asking if that would go towards our vacation fund.  I have to trust that he won’t go blow it at the wargaming shop, but he indicated yesterday when we sat down to discuss money over coffee that he feels like he doesn’t have any money for fun stuff anymore, and it makes him feel poor.  Or maybe he plans to use that money tonight taking me out to a nice restaurant for our belated anniversary celebration (quite possible).

So, as it stands right now, our emergency fund will only be stimulated by $450.  So much for hopes and plans when they rely on the government.  I feel like our financial progress has slowed to a crawl, when last year we were running at full speed.

I know I should be thankful since we are out of debt now.  I know there are quite a few readers who are still working towards that goal, and are probably wanting to tell me to shut up LOL  But it’s a bit discouraging to see what should be the benefits of getting out of debt - extra money that no longer goes towards debt payments - disappear into the gas tank and at the grocery store and to school as tuition bills seem to go up even faster than the price of gas.

Where’s this “financial peace” I’m supposed to be feeling?  Expenses have crept up about 12% since the beginning of the year, while our income took an $800 per month hit.  This has resulted in over $1000 per month difference in the monthly budget numbers, and is probably why I am feeling so anxious lately.  This so-called “economic stimulus” payment doesn’t even make that difference up for one month!  Heck, it only covers two months of increased expenses, with a little left over for the anniversary dinner.  No wonder the latest CNN/Money poll says the average American doesn’t think it will help anything.

Hubby Home Early

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

Hubby came home early, surprising me at 0300 (zero-dark-stupid) when the dog woke up and barked at him as he fumbled to get the key into the door lock in the dark.  He grumbled that the dog makes it difficult to sneak up on me in the middle of the night to surprise me, which I think is still a good thing.

Today is hubby’s birthday, and I gave him a handcrafted ink pen from Hans that almost matches mine :)  Of course, I tried to be slick this morning by setting it next to his fresh cup of coffee, and ended up spilling my coffee in the process!

Instead of going out to eat to celebrate his birthday, I am fixing him a steak dinner tonight, and baking him a birthday cake.  Hubby picked the sirloin tip that I scored on big sale over the weekend, proof that his eyes are bigger than his stomach because he first thought he could eat the giant steak by himself until I pointed out I will be fixing side dishes.

Tomorrow he will be taking me out for dinner and either a movie or a show at the local theatre to celebrate our second anniversary (which was Monday).

So basically, there won’t be a whole lot of activity here on the blog for a couple days.  He’s been gone for “only” two weeks, as opposed to the year he spent in South Korea for almost all of 2007.  His unit is scheduled to deploy to NTC in California in July, then off to Afghanistan in the fall for a year.  Such is the life in today’s Army.

Somehow I feel it was easier when I was the one going places and doing things, instead of the one staying home.

We’ve already sat down and discussed money and plans for that money over coffee this morning, but more on that later.

Teenager on a Budget: Stocking Up

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

Over the weekend I had “the talk” with my son … not that talk.  I talked to him about inflation and grocery prices and our food budget experiment, and how I intend to give him $5 extra per week if he agrees to stock up on items he eats constantly that are on sale.

He’s already seen inflation in action at the grocery store for himself.  Remember the episode with the apples?  The first week we did the budget experiment, the apples were $1.29 per pound.  The 2nd week they were on sale for $1.19 per pound.  The next week, back up to $1.29 per pound.  Then, last week they jumped up to $1.49 per pound, and were that price again this week.

He didn’t buy apples last week or this week, but didn’t get the bagged apples either.

He also stuck with me for most of the shopping trip, seeking my input on what would be good to stock up on.  Hmmm, all it takes to get a teenage boy to ask his mother for grocery shopping advice is notice-able food price inflation!  LOL

I wouldn’t say he really stocked up on this trip, but then again I hadn’t given him *that* much more to stock up with.  Since his big bags of cereal were on sale, he grabbed an extra one at my urging.  He actually spent his entire $40 this week, and even went a little bit over for donuts and stuff to make banana pudding (I bought the bananas so I get some of it LOL).

The good news is he has more than a week’s worth of food now.  The better news is I am getting him to think a bit more about what is actually a good sale price and what isn’t.  The best news is he is learning that just because they post the price on bright stickers or cardboard does NOT mean it is actually on sale … sometimes they just want to push a product and try to make a regular price look like a sale!

As for myself, I was in full “lead by example” mode, scouting for killer deals on meat in particular for hubby and myself.  My efforts paid off :) as I snagged some beef sirloin tip for $1.79 per pound!  I have five impressive size steaks and one roast out of it after it was cut. (She shoots … she SCORES!)  I also snagged my hamburger patties and hot dogs BOGO (Buy One Get One … Free in this case) because it’s that time of year again, and hubby has been indicating all winter he wants a grill.

So, today’s shopping expedition was a marked success for me in the stocking up department, and a primer for the Teenager on just how to do it.  Now, if I can just teach him the “safe following distance” concept with shopping carts!

Teenager on a Budget: Frustration

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

We just got back from the grocery store, and I am feeling rather frustrated with my teenage son and his idea of grocery shopping.  For those new to my teenager on a budget experiment, this is week five of the budget experiment and here’s the back story:

It’s not as if I have never tried to teach him how to shop smart.  It’s not as if I have never taken him shopping and “led by example” for aggressive saving on food.  It’s not as if I didn’t point out great loss-leader sales as we went in the door.  It’s not as if I haven’t tried to teach him how to save by buying in bulk when it’s a better deal on items that will be eaten.

He’s being stubborn, clinging to the idea that he can outshop his mom *his* way.  Just one hour ago, he told me: “I only buy what I need for the week, instead of stocking up.  That way I am saving money.”  He was buying four large individual apples, and I pointed out to him he could save money and get more apples if he bought the prebagged ones, even if they are smaller.  By my calculations, he could eat two smaller apples at a time and still have more servings for about the same cost.  He bought the bigger ones.

One thing I absolutely love about shopping at the local Kroger is they put the price per unit on their price labels.  This helps immensely, especially when trying to determine which size of an item to get and whether or not the larger “bulk” size is actually the better deal (sometimes it isn’t).  I have pointed this out to my son several times over the past couple years.

Over the past couple years I have stressed the importance of knowing what normal price is, so I know when a sale is actually a good deal or when it’s just hype.

Apparently all my instruction has been for naught.  Or maybe he is just experimenting on his own, and will eventually come around to my way of thinking on his own.  I just know I am feeling frustrated right now as he is dismissing all my shopping advice.  For those of y’all who have survived raising teenagers, or have just come out of the teenage years yourself: Is this a “normal” phase for teenagers to completely blow off parental advice?

Home Again

Friday, April 18th, 2008

I got in from the funeral in Missouri last night, but was too tired to post.  The trip was about 320 miles each way, with driving back and forth between two small towns on Highway 50 while I was there.  As much as I cringe at the thought of climbing behind the wheel again, I still have to work tonight.

My thoughts are still pretty jumbled up about the whole situation.  I got to visit with cousins, aunts, uncles, second cousins, and even third cousins that I haven’t seen for years.  We all just wish it could have been for a happy occasion instead of a funeral for my younger cousin.

Moneywise, I did the trip for only about $230 including gas and motel expenses.  The desk clerk didn’t mention my room had a refrigerator and microwave, so I am really wishing I had brought the cooler along with some food and drinks.  It wouldn’t have cut much out of the expenses, but I could have brought some “comfort food” along with me.

On the feelings side, I am very glad I made the trip and got the opportunity to reconnect with my family.  My aunt brought out old pictures from when we were little kids, and they brought back fond memories of playing with my cousins during the summer at my grandparents’ farm.  That’s the way I’ll always remember Shelley: my younger vivacious cousin that I had so much fun with when my parents made the drive to visit.

There were a lot of tears, a lot of hugs, and a lot of memories. 

I’d like to thank my two guest posters for helping me out on short notice, and all of y’all readers for your kind words of sympathy.

Driving to Missouri

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

I am heading out to drive to Missouri shortly for my cousin’s funeral.  I’m staying at a local motel, as all my family members have already claimed the spare bedrooms.  I took a little while to work everything out, but am getting a halfway decent rate for such a short-notice reservation in a small town.

The biggest rule for driving to Missouri has always been to fill up before crossing the Illinois state line.  They must have high gasoline tax there, because as long as I can remember gas prices have been at least a dime per gallon higher than the surrounding states.

The Pizza Taxi is ready for a highway trip, as I put new tires on it in February and had its oil changed ten days ago (along with the mechanics’ check-up).  It has been a little while since I have taken it on a highway trip, so it should be interesting to see how it does on gas mileage.

I thought about loading up the cooler with some munchies and road eats, then started to think it might affect my weight ratio since the car is so small and lightweight.

While I’m gone, I have a few guest posts that will run for your reading pleasure.  Be sure to check them out, and big public thank you to the guys for pitching in and helping on short notice.  I’ll be back sometime Thursday night, and probably blogging again for Friday.