<< Back to all Blogs
Login or Create your own free blog
Home > Archive: September, 2012

Archive for September, 2012

September mturk earnings

September 30th, 2012 at 07:15 am

I earned $50.17 this month doing surveys on mturk.com.

In August I started doing some survey work on mturk.com after about an 8 month hiatus. I discovered this site last year and in the months leading up to Christmas 2011 I earned about $150 that I used on Amazon.com to order Christmas presents.

I really hadn't been on the site all year until August. I found that without a goal to shoot for, without a prize pictured in my head, it was very hard for me to stay motivated to log in to the site and find work. The survey work is really quite easy, it's just the hourly wage I earn on there is anywhere from $3-$8 and I can only work about an hour at a time before running out of work. So then I have to come back the next day or in a few days and repeat.

But in August I decided to pick it back up again. Actually I started at the end of July, and by the end of August I had earned over $100! Going in to that month I decided to earmark all of my August earning to buy my daughter a birthday present. I had my eye on this pink Radio Flyer tricycle on Amazon that was around $65 with tax. So originally $65 was my goal. With my total mturk earnings of over $100 (plus $5 from Swagbucks) I was able to get her the tricycle and a helmet, a purse, a Lego set and a DVD. I was ecstatic!

I decided to keep going with mturk and dedicate the entire month of September to earning money for my son's birthday. I was hoping to earn close to the same as August, but it just didn't happen. My husband was traveling for 2 weeks in the month and during those weeks I was not able to get on the site nearly as much. In fact, I went almost a full week without logging on at all. But, still, $50 aint bad. I just ordered him a Dream Lites Pillow Pet and a Wii game for his birthday. I'll pick him up a few more things out of our normal paycheck budget before his big day.

I like mturk because, unlike other survey sites, you know upfront if you will qualify for the survey or not. I've tried other sites but found I spent so much time on the pre-survey part seeing if I qualify and having most of them end up not panning out. There are a lot of surveys from graduate students at universities on here, as well as political surveys. I sort my search results to get things that pay at least 35 cents or more. And I only do surveys on there--not some of the other stuff like writing articles or setting up a dating profile for a new site.

I also like working on the site because it's totally flexible--you can work on there any time of day or night for as long as you want. I only work on the site at night after my kids have gone to bed, or occasionally during the day when 2 of my kids are at school and my 3rd one is napping.

Of course the downside is the hourly wage ends up being very small...so for me I have to pick a dollar goal and a spending purpose for that goal in order to stay motivated to keep up with it.

I have new goal for October...I guess I'll save that for tomorrow's blog post!

Looking ahead to our big picture goals

September 27th, 2012 at 11:34 am

I'm so excited because this is going to be the year, that we FINALLY achieve our goal of having an emergency fund! I know we technically have our desired number in the bank right now, but I'm not going to count it as official until we also have enough cash to pay our house property taxes in December. But, barring any more "emergencies", we are on track to make that and possibly have a little beyond that for a slush fund.

I'm excited to get this emergency fund set up because that will lead us to getting back on track to our bigger picture goals. DH and I decided that we'd like to pay off our house early, before our oldest son enters college in 10 years. We'd like to be completely debt-free at that point (no mortgage, no car loans, etc.) so that we will be set up to retire without depending on our kids, and so that we can help pay for whatever remains of our kids' college expenses.

Earlier this year we re-financed our home loan to a 20-year note. When January rolls around and our Emergency fund and taxes are all paid for, we are going to make several changes:

* Increase DH's 401k contribution to 15%

* Continue to have less taxes taken out of DH's paycheck so that we don't get a huge refund at the end of the year. Put $500/month into savings so that we can pay for our property taxes at the end of the year.

* Contribute $100/month per kid into their college funds (3 kids = $300 total)

* Contribute additional principle to our home loan every month. I actually have an amortization spreadsheet that I can play with. To start with, we are going to contribute an extra $300/month. Starting next Fall, we will have 9 months where I have no kids in pre-school, so we will roll that extra money over to the mortgage as well. When my youngest enters kindergarten in 4 years, my plan is to start some part-time work that will go towards the mortgage as well. With these extra payments, we are showing that we could actually pay off our home in 8 years. But I'm giving ourselves a 10-year-goal.

* Eventually, after our car is paid off in 3 years, I'd like to set up a separate car savings account and roll over our current car payment amount into that every month. Then we will be all set to buy our next car with cash.

* I'm also going to start a separate vacation savings account in January. Even with our goal of paying off our house early, vacations are still a big priority. Our kids will only be young once. Two of our kids are adopted from Russia, and we'd like to take them back there to visit before our oldest turns 17 (they are still Russian citizens and they can be conscripted if they visit between the ages of 18-26). So that trip will cost a bundle and we will definitely need to save for that. DH and I would also like to take a kid-less trip to the Olympics in Rio in 2016. Plus we'd like to take one more Disney Cruise and go to Disney World in an off-season time before our oldest leaves elementary school. Washington DC, Seattle and New York City are also on our wish-list for family trips.

So that's where we're headed. I'll admit that paying off the house sure seems like a daunting task. Our mortgage is about $140,000 right now. I just think the feeling of being debt-free by the time we are 50 is going to be great! We just need to have the discipline to stick to our plan.

Saying No to Too Much Halloween

September 25th, 2012 at 12:40 pm

When I was a kid, my memories of Halloween were mainly of one thing: trick-or-treating on actual Halloween night.

We may have gone to one other Halloween-related event (like a school dance or a random Halloween party), but I just remember Halloween as being a simple, one-day event.

Now I don't know if it's where I live, or if it's a sign of the times, but Halloween is like a 6-week long party & event fest here. And I've discovered that it's so easy for me to get carried away with activities and overspend our entertainment budget, based on all the activities available and the peer pressure from other people to do all those things.

Where we live, here are some of the things that happen around Halloween:

* School parties (free, we usually volunteer to bring something)

* Neighborhood HOA party (free, or rather included with our HOA dues, but usually a nice festival with bounce houses, etc.)

* Neighborhood Mom's Club party (free except for candy we buy to hand out)

* City activity (trick or treating downtown, pumpkin patch, other activities)

* Fire department Halloween festival for kids (free, we've never made it to this one)

* Mall trick-or-treating in the afternoon

* Arboretum Halloween event ($10 plus $5 parking)

* Church Fall Festivals (most of them around here have one)

* Several museums have Halloween events (varies, around $10)

* Boo at the Zoo (3 local zoos do this, included with cost of admission)

* Pumpkin Farms (we have 5+ that are close to us; admission ranges from $8-$12 a person)

* Lowe's Build & Grow Halloween event (free)

* Haunted trolley rides, ghost walk tours, haunted houses (varying admission prices)

I'm sure I haven't even captured all of the local events above.

The list of events seriously overwhelms me. Two years ago I tried to do it all. Well, not all, but more than I should have. I think we went to 3 pumpkin farms (1 as a family, 1 with a mom's group, then my son went to one on a school field trip). The cost added up! Not to mention the overwhelming amount of candy my kids accumulated from all of these events.

And it's not just about the cost of all these events X 5 people in our family...it's about the stress of trying to keep up with the Jones' and constantly being on the go. Last year, we decided to do just one pumpkin farm. One. And it was totally fine. We still did the school parties, the neighborhood party, the Mom's Club party, and I think that was it. And of course the actual Halloween trick-or-treating.

I've already turned down 3 invites to events this year--2 pumpkin farms and 1 museum. We're going to try to keep it simple again this year.

I know we're lucky that we live in an area with all of these activities (many of them free) and it's nice we can pick and choose where to go.

Do you get overwhelmed by activities around Halloween or other holidays? (Am I the only one?) How do you decide what to do?

DH in charge of dinner tonight

September 23rd, 2012 at 04:08 pm

I think I've mentioned this before---I quit my job to be a SAHM 3 years ago. And about a year and a half ago we cut back drastically on eating out--we only eat out about once a month now. DH's job (until recently) put him on call 24/7 and he was frequently working during dinner time and in the evenings. Therefore, cooking meals was solely my responsibility.

Which is fine, except I found that I get really burnt out on cooking. I search online for recipes, read reviews, make a meal plan, make a grocery store list based on that plan...every. single. week. It just gets tiring and my once-a-month break (when we go out to eat) just wasn't cutting it.

So a few weeks ago I asked DH if he would consider taking over one meal a week (on a Saturday or Sunday). And by that I meant he can research what to make, make me a list of what to get at the store when I do my normal grocery shopping, and he can cook the dinner. And it has to be under $10. (Most of the meals I make are under $5, and the few times DH has cooked he buys expensive pre-cooked ribs or something else pre-made and I didn't want our food budget going up by that amount every week).

So this was his first week doing it, and tonight was the night. He made beef fajitas. I bought some beef skirt steak, he researched seasonings to put on top...tortillas, cheese, onions, beans. The beef was about $5 but the whole meal was under $10. And it was good. And the best part was, I got to sit down and just wait for it to be ready!

Who does the cooking/meal planning at your house? Do you trade off? Any tips for saving time or not getting burnt out?

Added $225 to our Christmas Fund

September 23rd, 2012 at 12:07 pm

DH just got reimbursed for some mileage from a work trip, so we were able to add $225 more to our Christmas fund. So now we've got $700 in there, our goal is $1000. Yippee!

I'm so glad I won't be stressing in January when we see our credit card bills from November/December, like we've done for so many years in the past.

Our Frugal Saturday

September 22nd, 2012 at 07:01 pm

This morning we took the kids to the Lowe's Build & Grow clinic. Have you been to these before? They have them twice a month, they are free but you have to register in advance. This month they were building little fire trucks.

They also had a fire safety thing going on at the same time, and they had bean bag toss games with prizes, a face painter, and some fireman picture spots. And it was all free!

Tonight we stayed in for another family movie night with our Netflix DVD. We watched We Bought a Zoo. It was too long for the kids but it seemed like a sweet story.

Friday Savings and Spending

September 21st, 2012 at 09:34 am

So...some of you may know from my previous entries that my daughter broke her leg last week. I decided to look on our insurance site to see how the charges are looking.

I'm not sure if all the charges are there yet, I sure hope so, because right now the total is $6039.71. That includes one ER visit, with x-rays, one pediatrician visit, and another doctor's visit at the Children's Hospital with more x-rays and a cast.

Luckily (?) we have already met our $4500 deductible this year, so I think our out-of-pocket cost will be 10% of our total bills, so around $600.

Wow, what do people with no insurance do? It's crazy. I'm very thankful we have health insurance and we can absorb the cost of this with our emergency fund.

Anyways....today is Friday and my 4-year-old doesn't have school and my 1-year-old is also home with me. My husband usually works from home but I suggested he go into the office today so that I don't have to work so hard at keeping the kids quiet while he's working.

I've realized, now that my daughter is in a cast and can't swim or go to parks, how much time I usually spend with my kids doing those 2 activities and how much I miss doing those things! Going to parks, being outside riding bikes, etc. are my go-to activities for cheap entertainment with my kids. Because typically on a Friday with the 2 younger ones we'd be at a park right now.

So instead, our big outing today was going to Petco. I needed to get some pill pockets for my cat (he's 17 1/2 years old, has stomach cancer, but is still holding on!). A trip to Petco with my kids is very entertaining because we stop and look at all the animals. Ferrets, birds, mice/gerbils/rats/hamsters/guinea pigs, frogs, turtles, snakes, lizards...and of course all the fish. It's like a mini-zoo trip. And we can easily stay for 30 minutes checking out all the animals. Does anyone else do this with their kids?

Other somewhat frugal things I'm doing today:

I saw that the Disney Channel has Return to Neverland on this afternoon, so I'm recording it for a future family movie night at home.

I got an e-mail from Groupon this morning for $5 off any deal. And they have a Studio Movie Grill deal for $5 for a movie and a drink. So I bought 3 movie/drink tickets for a total of $10 (that's $3.33 a movie ticket, not bad). I should preface this by saying that we rarely go to the movies. I think my kids have been to a movie theater once so far this year. So my plan is to take my 2 boys to see that Hotel Transylvania movie sometime in the next few weeks. Since this is one of those theatres with tables and real food, I'm going to try to keep it frugal and go at an off-eating time (like a mid-afternoon show) and just order one thing of food to split. Like popcorn, or french fries.

Our spending splurge:

We decided, last minute, to sign up for another Parents' Night Out that is tonight. We usually try to have a date night once a month, and there is a local church that does a Parents' Night Out childcare for a reasonable amount of money. We already had our date night 2 weeks ago, but there is another local church that is now doing this for slightly cheaper (it costs a total of $24 for our 3 kids combined and that includes pizza for them for 3 1/2 hours). So we decided to splurge and have a second date night this month. DH and I are just going to go out to eat at our favorite Mexican restaurant.

How's your Friday going?

What I Will and Will Not Do to Save Money

September 17th, 2012 at 08:32 am

Yesterday afternoon I was outside putting pre-emergent weed control fertilizer on our lawn. Earlier in the year we decided to fire our pest control and lawn control services (which we were paying over $700 a year for combined) and do those things ourselves. I bought the supplies for the pest control applications, and then this summer I went to a local nursery and got a full detailed list of what product to use and when to use them to keep our yard bug-free and weed-free.

So yesterday as I was outside putting the herbicide on our lawn I was thinking, Yes, this isn't that hard and totally worth it to save some money to put towards more important things.

And that got me thinking about what I will do to save money, and what I will not do to save money.

I know this is a very personal topic--I guess that's why they call it "personal" finance. If there aren't too many things we're willing to give up or cut back on to save money, then obviously we won't be able to save much.

When I was a kid, I thought we were the poorest family in the neighborhood. I mean, I thought we were dirt poor. Compared to my friends, I didn't have nice clothes, didn't have as many toys, didn't go out to eat or to the movies nearly as much, etc. But also my parents were always very tight-lipped about money and never told us how much we had/how much we spent, etc.

Fast forward to about 6th grade, I remember being in Orlando for a family vacation to Disney World and we went to a timeshare presentation. The salesman was really trying hard to get my parents to buy a timeshare and asked them how much their monthly mortgage payment was. They said we didn't have a mortgage because it was paid off, and the salesman was shocked! I didn't really fully understand what that meant at the time.

My parents also never took out loans to buy cars. And when me and my siblings were older, and we got the chance to go on big trips with a high school class or group, they insisted that we go and they paid for it. We each went to London with our Advanced Placement English class our senior year, and I remember being shocked that we could afford it and some of my friends' parents, who I always thought were so rich, could not. I also got to travel to Spain with my Spanish class.

Now my parents are in their 70s and are comfortably retired. They own a modest condo but they are able to afford to travel at least once a year. They've been to Europe 4 times since they've retired.

I think for me the key to saving money is finding a good balance. Which is hard to do. I don't want to cut back so much that my kids are embarrassed of their clothes. I do want to talk to my kids about why we make the decisions we do when it comes to money and spending. I want them to understand that when we skip out on something, we put that money towards something that we value higher.

OK, so here are some things I'm willing to do to save money:

1. Cut back on my cell phone.

When I quit my job to become a SAHM, I switched to a pre-paid cell phone. I think the first year I bought $100 in minutes, but when I bought that highest minute package it enabled me to achieve gold status and from then on all of my minutes would roll over. I think now I spend between $25-$50 a year on my cell phone. I don't have a data plan on it and I only use it for emergencies. Sometimes I am tempted to get a cheap monthly plan with data, but I know that if I go to that, there will be no turning back.

2. Cut back on going out to eat.

This is a big one. I remember while I was still working, and after we adopted our first son, my hours were very hectic. We used to go out to eat for almost every meal on the weekends and get take-out frequently during the week. I remember I added it up one month and we had spent almost $1000 on going out to eat. In one month. It was crazy! So now we go out to eat about once a month. And it's a big deal. Usually DH and I go out to eat during a Parents' Night Out (while the kids are at church) and we will also take the kids out to a "fun" place (like McDonalds or somewhere with a playground) once a month. This has made my SAHM job harder since obviously I now have to plan meals for the week. The worst thing is to be unprepared with a meal and feel like we "have" to go out to eat. We've wasted so much money on that in years past. Sometimes we will pass by a McDonalds or Sonic and my kids will ask if we can eat there. If we've already done that for the month, I'll tell them no but explain that we are using that money to save up for our next vacation. And I think they are starting to understand.

3. DIY home care.

As I mentioned above, we are now doing our own pest control and weed control. We'd also like to start mowing our own yard beginning next Spring (we don't have lawn equipment now, we are going to ask for some for Christmas and/or buy some used equipment on Craig's List). We spend almost $1000 a year paying someone to mow our yard, so combined with our savings on pest/weed control this will save us $1700 a year.

4. Buy used kids clothes.

This isn't something I could do too much with my boys, since there aren't many boys' clothes available at consignment shops, but I've saved a bundle by shopping at resale shops for my daughter. And online. And they are cute and look good.

5. Drive across town for the cheaper grocery store.

Yes, I will drive across town to shop at Aldi. It saves me a ton of money every week, without clipping coupons. I find it is cheaper than even the generic brands at regular grocery stores. It's only a 20 minute drive, I have to bring a quarter for the shopping cart and bring my own bags. But totally worth it.

6. Skimp on clothes and makeup for myself.

Ok, some women probably are not willing to do this. I don't wear makeup every day. Especially my foundation, it is expensive and I've tried cheaper brands and they just aren't the same. So some days I just don't wear makeup. I don't have a lot of new/trendy outfits. I can live with that. I don't look like a slob.

7. Cut back on family entertainment expenses.

We rarely go to a movie theater. Usually we wait for the movie to come out on Netflix or I go to Redbox and get it for $1 or less with a coupon. I record movies on our DVR that are played on regular TV and have a family movie night on Friday nights. I buy a big bag of popcorn kernels and make home-made microwave popcorn in a lunch bag. Or I'll even buy a small bag of candy at the store for a treat for these family movie nights. So at most they cost us around $2. We go to parks a lot on the weekends, we go outside and ride bikes, go to the library, and attend many of the other "free" events in our neighborhood and city. We don't do expensive things every weekend like the movie theatre, zoos, museums, etc. Not to say we don't ever do those things...we just do them rarely and as a special treat.

OK, I'm sure there are many more things I could write about what I'm willing to do to save money, but those are the big ones.

And now for what I will not do to save money:

1. Cut back on family vacations.

This is a big priority for our family. Growing up, we always took a family vacation every year. Now we might not have always stayed in a fancy hotel, and most of the time we packed everyone in the station wagon and drove, but I hang onto those memories as an adult. And I really want my kids to see places and treasure memories from our vacations. So we do go on a "big" one every year and maybe 1 or 2 local weekend getaways. I do spend a lot of time trying to save us money on the vacations we take. For example, when we went to Disney World in 2010 we rented a timeshare condo and shared it with extended family. We used airline points for our plane tickets. We ate breakfast and dinner in our condo and only spent money on lunch in the parks. Honestly, having groceries and cooking in a condo save a huge chunk on any vacation! I figure the kids are only young once, and we sacrifice our normal weekend entertainment in order to do some bigger things a few times a year.

2. Buy stuff that's on sale just because it's cheaper.

What I'm mostly talking about are birthday and Christmas presents. I don't want to get caught up in buying things just because they're a good deal, if it's not something my kids really want or would enjoy. I also will not get them socks and underwear for Christmas. Again, this stems from my memories as a child.

Ok, this is getting really long so I guess I'll just stop here. What are you willing to do or not willing to do to save money? Has it changed over the years?

Mid-September Financial Update & Zulily Purchase

September 15th, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Well, since DH got paid today I was able to move some funds and allocate things to the necessary places.

(Remember, we cut back on DH's 401k contribution, now down to 7%, and we are claiming more exemptions on his W4 in order to get to our emergency fund goal and get our property taxes/HOA fees before the end of the year).

So, the good news is we now have our $20k emergency fund! Yippee! I'm not as excited as I should be, though, because if you saw my last post you will know that we expect some big medical bills to roll in from our daughter's accident. I have no idea how much those bills will be, not a clue. That's the thing about medical bills....there are never any prices posted anywhere, of course the prices are different for each insurance company, and then there's the percent covered....who knows. I'm hoping it's not more than $1000 out of pocket. We have already met our $4500 deductible for this year, so our expenses are now just a straight 10%.

We also now have some money set aside for our property taxes and our HOA fees that are due toward the end of the year. $1712 set aside, and we need $5000.

More good news--we came in $100 under our September credit card budget, so when it comes time to pay that card in October I will take $100 and put into our Christmas fund.

I have money in our budget this month to buy our kids some things--light jackets and Halloween costumes. In October I was planning on buying winter jackets. I've been out looking at resale shops and online for a good deal on jackets, and today I got an e-mail from Zulily and saw they have the puffy winter jackets for $20 each. With Disney and Marvel characters on them. So I pulled my oldest son into the office and asked if he liked any of them (he's 8 and the pickiest about what he wears) and he picked out one. I bought one for each of my kids, and went online to search out a promo code, so with shipping I got 3 winter jackets for around $62. Not too shabby!

Have any of you bought clothes from Zulily before? (I guess it's kind of like a Groupon site for kids' clothes?)

A big dip into the emergency fund

September 13th, 2012 at 03:02 pm

Well, it's been a crazy week. My daughter had an accident on the playground and broke her leg! She is 23 months old. This happened on Monday, I took her to the ER that afternoon, they said it wasn't broken and to wait a few days since it was probably a sprain. The next day she still couldn't stand on it or walk.

I then took her to our pediatrician, who I totally trust. She examined her and the x-rays and was pretty sure her tibia was broken.

So...the next day we were able to get in to the pediatric orthopedist at our local children's hospital, he confirmed it was broken, and now she is in a cast.

And of course during all of this, my husband has been out of town.

The positives: At least it's only a broken leg! And thank goodness we have health insurance and a partial emergency fund so that we don't have to charge these medical bills to a credit card. And it's the end of summer so the temps will be going down here and she won't be sweltering in the cast.

The negatives: She broke her leg! 5 weeks in a cast. 5 weeks without getting wet. Even with insurance I'd be surprised if this whole ordeal costs less than $1000 out of our pocket. She is fussy and learning how to deal with her cast. I can't put her in the shopping cart with her cast so I'll need to fit my grocery shopping in some time when my husband can watch the kids.

Well, life is full of surprises!

Another deposit into the Christmas Fund

September 6th, 2012 at 07:25 pm

We have a budget of $1000 to spend on Christmas gifts. We have 3 kids (we spend about $150 on each child) and 4 nieces/nephews, plus parents/siblings, etc. And we have 5 kid birthdays around the holidays which we loop into the same fund. Until I sat down with pencil and paper last year and detailed all the people we bought gifts for, I never knew we spent so much around the holidays!

So now we plan way ahead for it. We can no longer afford to charge $1000 of gifts in one month and expect to be able to pay off our credit card in full in January.

Last year was the first year we saved up our Christmas money before Christmas. I started in July and by the end of November we had squirreled away all $1000. We had a garage sale, sold some stuff on Craigs List, put aside health care reimbursement money, and I did some survey work on mturk.com.

This year we've done some of the same. Minus the garage sale (not so many things to sell this year). I just deposited some of hubby's work travel reimbursement money into our Christmas fund. We now have saved $475.25. And I've spent some of it already. Got a great deal on some Little People toys at Toys R Us last month.

And I took $200 of the fund and bought Amazon.com gift cards, since our grocery store is offering 4X fuel rewards for gift cards. We usually order quite a bit of our Christmas presents form Amazon, so this way we also get a discount on gas.

I actually LOVE saving for Christmas and trying to find the best prices on the things I'm looking for. I comparison shop for toys every week through the ads. Many people think I'm nuts for shopping this early, but I really enjoy it.

Have you started thinking about Christmas?

So proud of my hubby!

September 5th, 2012 at 06:55 pm

My husband is a cyclist. It's a rather expensive hobby--who knew that bike stuff could cost so much?

Anyway....he needs something new for his bike because it's not working up to snuff. Don't ask me what it's called...I don't speak the cycling language. It costs $70.

In our old lifestyle, hubby would have just gone to the bike shop immediately and purchased the part.

In the past year, he probably would have mentioned he needs it and asked if we could squeeze it into this month's budget instead of just immediately buying it.

But yesterday, wow, did he ever surprise me. He told me that he decided to sell some stuff on Ebay in order to come up with the money.

Wow, really???

Yes, he already sold 3 things and made about $38. He's looking for more stuff to sell. And this was totally his idea.

Now that's progress!

Our 3-Year Transition from 2 Incomes to 1 Income

September 3rd, 2012 at 02:18 pm

Since I am new here, I thought I'd give a little more background on our situation.

Approximately 3 years ago, I quit my full-time job to be a stay-at-home mom. We had just adopted our second son and my job was not very family friendly. I was really looking forward to my new role and since we had about $15-$20k in the bank and had done a budget on paper, I thought we would be ok.

And let me just say that is has taken us 3 years to adjust to living on one income and we are almost to the point of rebuilding our $20k emergency fund.

Why has it been so hard? I guess when we were both working, we had a budget but we had a rather large amount at our disposal for entertainment and buying miscellaneous stuff. That bucket totally shrank with one income but in the beginning we spent money like we had on 2 incomes.

When we had 2 incomes, we could absorb large expenditures in one month. The kids needed clothes for going back to school? I could buy them all in one month. Not anymore.

We were also blessed with an additional child--unexpected, and we made some major changes to accommodate our bigger family. We bought a minivan and took on a car loan, and moved into a bigger house in a different suburb. Major changes!

I had this vision of all the things I would do as a stay-at-home mom. Take the kids to museums, jump house places...you know, fun things every day. However, the reality is that those places all cost a lot of money! Now I still take the kids places, but they are mostly free places--the neighborhood pool, parks, the library, etc.

For the past 3 years we had this pattern of over-spending our budget every month, and then sneaking some money out of our savings account into our checking account so that we wouldn't carry a balance on our credit cards. And we also had the maximum amount of taxes pulled our of my husband's check so that we'd get a big tax refund. So we had this mentality that even if we dipped into our savings, we'd replenish it back with our tax refund.

And we repeated that. For 3 years. Every year we'd drain our savings down to almost zero, then replenish it with a big tax refund. Repeat.

So we maybe had our "emergency fund" for a month or two out of the year.

Last year we had a goal of getting our emergency fund up to snuff and keeping it there. But then we had some major pet health expenditures (like surgery and other treatments) and we got derailed.

This year, we have done much better. Of course, things happen to dig into our savings like they always will (both cars needed new tires). But, we have been sticking to our monthly budget. We are also not taking the maximum amount of taxes out of my husband's paycheck and using part of that to live on so that we won't have to wait on that money until tax refund time.

Overall, we are doing more planning ahead so that we're not caught off-guard during the month. I spread out the kids' school clothing purchases over many months. In July I bought backpacks and jeans. August was socks and underwear. September will be light jackets and long-sleeved shirts. October will be heavy jackets.

We have been putting aside money in a Christmas fund. I'm also spending it as I find things that the kids want when they are on sale.

Mid-year we decided to take Dave Ramsey's advice and cut back on our 401k contributions until we have our emergency fund in place. So we are down to a 7% contribution until the end of the year when we have enough money in our emergency fund and enough to pay our property taxes. Then we'll go back to 15%.

Anyways...it's been a tough road transitioning from 2 incomes down to 1 income and I feel like we are finally on our way to living smartly on the money we have.

Can anyone out there relate to this? Has the transition from 2 incomes to 1 income been tough for you?

My first blog entry on here....

September 2nd, 2012 at 02:09 pm

Hi, I'm new here. I found this website a few weeks ago and have read without signing up. I just signed up and am starting a blog so that I can blog about my finances anonymously.

The whole "anonymously" part is important to me because I have my own "saving money" blog on blogger. I love writing in it and I post my entries on Facebook. I've written about all the ways we are trying to save money so that we can save up for an emergency fund in case my husband loses my job. I've never mentioned what our goal amount is, though. (It's $20k).

However, I think because of my other blog, we've had people ask us to borrow money. And that has made me VERY uncomfortable.

I love writing about financial goals and struggles, so I thought maybe this would be a more appropriate forum for my thoughts.

Have you ever had friends ask to borrow money from you? How do you respond?