Financial Embarrassment

I bounced a freakin’ check.  Really.  It’s embarrassing.  We make too much money for crap like this. 

What?

The “bouncing” actually occurred a little over a week ago, but I was too mortified to write about it.  Thankfully it was our water bill and not a check to someone we actually knew.  That would have been so much more embarrassing. 

When I logged into our bank account a day before pay day and saw RED in the balance column.  I didn’t believe it at first.  I somehow miscalculated $176 and some change in our checkbook.  Don’t ask me how it happened, because I really don’t know.  Additionally, being a terrible forensic accountant, I was unwilling to go through more than 4 months of bank statements to try to find the error. I never did find the error, so I still don’t know where I went wrong.

What makes me upset is that we have money.  I mean, not “we’re ridiculously rich” money, but we have some stashed away in several places. I have almost $1,500 in cash at home, Henry has almost $1,000 in what he calls his “crusty cash” stash.  We have almost $9,000 in Online Savings, and at that time we had approximately $1,200 in local savings.  There were no excuses for bouncing a check.

How Did This Happen?

The answer to that answer is multi-fold.  1. We have a lot more expenses now that we pay $560+ every month for child care, not to mention the extra expenses of a baby.  2. Sometimes I really push the envelope in bill repayment.  I tell myself “If I pay X amount on the student loan, we won’t spend this money.”  It’s true, with us, out of sight, out of mind works with money.  That payoff strategy would probably work IF the CFO of the house (me) could count (I cannot). 

The Solution

To prevent this from ever happening again, I decided to create an “invisible buffer” in our checking account. I took $500 out of our local savings account and put it in the checking account.  Then, I drew a line in the check register both adding, and then “hiding” this money.  That way, if I make another screw up, we will not have to pay a $30 insufficient funds fee.  There’s probably a better way to prevent bouncing a check, but this was the best solution I could muster.

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Babies Aren’t What They Used to Be

I’ve been thinking about children a lot lately.  Probably because I have a 4 month old and she requires lots and lots of time and attention.  🙂 My life has changed very drastically since she was born, so obviously, I think about kids a lot.  Erica over at Newlyweds on a Budget recently posted about babies.  The discussion that ensued in the comments was very fascinating to me.  Also, HS over at Our Debt Blog posted a somewhat humorous view of staying home with a baby.  Although HS is notorious for writing from a tongue-in-cheek perspective (many of his readers call him selfish), his observations of being home with an infant were fairly accurate.

More Modern Couples Question Whether they Even Want to be Parents

My parents’ generation did not really question whether they would or would not have children.  If you got married, you had kids.  Unless you couldn’t and then you wanted to have kids.  It is rare to meet a married person in their 50’s or 60’s who did not produce one or more offspring.  However, this line of thinking has changed drastically.  Maybe it goes hand-in-hand with people getting married at older ages so they are smarter about their procreation choices.

I do not feel that there is a right or a wrong view on whether or not a person/couple should have children.  For me and my husband, it was right.  However, 5 years ago, I would have told you I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to have kids.  As a teenager, I would have emphatically said “no way” to kids.  But then, as a teenager, I never wanted to get married and I certainly did not stay single.

Having kids is both a sacrifice and a gift.  It’s hard to describe.  There are many days I want to just go home and crash, veg out, do nothing.  With a kid, that’s impossible.  There is always SOMETHING to do.  Yet, I love Baby Girl with all my heart and it makes me horribly sad when I have to be away for longer than expected.  I love making her smile and I love spending time with her.  However, I realize the sacrifices of having children.  It is still very fresh on my mind what life was like before children.  I had so much more free time.  I don’t think I fully appreciated how much free time I had.  To all of you out there who are planning to have children, enjoy that free time.  If you want to go to a local park and read a book–do it!  If you want to go to a local museum that just opened up–do it!  It’s not as much fun with an infant, trust me. 🙂

Do We Celebrate our Offspring More Today?

Another aspect that amuses me about modern couples and their kids is that they (we?) tend to celebrate our kids a great deal.  There are are endless expenses that our parents certainly did not indulge in.  For instance, my daughter had her first photo shoot at 9 days old.  Yep, a photo shoot.  Changes of outfits, different poses, different props.  Then again at 3 months, she had another.  I will tell you, she has more photo sessions scheduled for 6 months, 9 months, and 12 months.  When I visit my parents’ house, I am lucky to find a few, faded snapshots of myself as a baby.  I think my first professional photo was taken around 9 months, and it included my 2 older brothers. 

If you want to see celebrations of kids taken to the extreme, you have to look no further than celebrities.  Jay-Z and Beyonce’s baby Blue comes to mind.  I can remember a time when Hollywood’s couples didn’t have children or waited until they were 40+ because having children wasn’t looked upon as a blessing.  Now, one of the hottest couples alive (in my personal opinion) has SIX children

There’s really no point to this article, it’s just an observation of mine.  It seems like having kids has just changed in some hard-to-desribe way.  Maybe the change is really in my perspective.  What do you think?

Life Lately

Life is good right now.  Not like vacation-on-the-beach-in-Tahiti good, but good.  I have found new arrangements for Baby Girl that are making my life a lot easier.  Today she started her first day in the “new place.”  I found a stay at home mom of a 10-month old girl that lives 8 min. from my office.  I feel like the stars have aligned. haha!  Now I may even have time to exercise again.  Yay!  Can’t lose the mommy tummy if I’m not hitting the gym, and Lord knows I have not been for the past 3 weeks.  Ugh.

Anyway, football season has also started.  I love me some football.  Especially college ball.  Henry and I are avid fans and dutiful tailgaters, so Fall is a fun season for us.  He is also a big deer hunter, so he LOVES Fall.  That’s about all that has been happening in our neck of the woods.

Link

This past weekend, my sister-in-law and I got together to “batch cook.”  We had been talking about it for a month, and we finally decided to do it.  I’ve read on so many blogs, namely on The Simple Dollar about cooking large quantities and freezing them in smaller containers for later consumption.   Some people call it “once a month cooking” or batch cooking. 

This seemed like the perfect idea for a busy family who is trying to eat healthy and not spend so much money eating out.  My SIL and I were not willing to tackle an entire month on our first go-round.  Instead, we settled for two weeks of prepared and frozen meals.  We made 9 dishes.  It’s just her and my brother at their house and just Henry and myself eating “real” food at our house, so 9 meals is about 2 weeks worth of meals once you count leftovers for lunch and the one or two meals Henry and I usually eat out.

The surprising thing to me about the whole process was, it was not as exhausting as I thought it would be.  Maybe it was because we were working as a team, or maybe it was because we had an awesome 90’s music station blaring on iHeart radio. 🙂  Either way, it was pretty fun.  I realize that if we keep doing this every 2 weeks, it may get less fun as we go.  However, right now, I am enjoying not cooking again for 2 weeks.  I feel so super woman-ish having food all ready to go in my freezer.  I think it’s a new form of empowerment for a modern woman to be able to take care of work, children, AND dinner.  haha!

Another benefit of this system, all of the supplies to make these 9 meals (18 total with SIL’s share) was just a little over $100.  So, two families, 2 weeks of meals, about $115.  Not too shabby.

Gratitude Instead of Attitude

Today’s commute was so much better.  At my husband’s suggestion, I took a different route from MIL’s house to work.   It shaved off 15-20 min. and I think it would have saved even more time if there had not been an accident on the highway.  Henry would take Baby Girl to MIL’s house, but he has to leave for work at 5:00am most mornings, and he would have to leave at 4:00am if he took her.  That is not sustainable for anyone who wants to say awake past 7:30pm. 

Yesterday I was stressed out, worried, and wondering how the heck I was going to be able to take Baby Girl to MIL’s house every day.  I was scrambling for ideas of who I could leave her with.  I know from co-worker’s that daycares in this area are BOOKED and if you want in, you have apply while the child is still in utero.  I’m so glad today went better.  I know now that I can do this 3 days per week without too much hassle.  Sure, it’s inconvenient, but Baby Girl is in great hands.  I’m hoping that being at MIL’s house, and being only around 2 other babies, that she will not get sick as frequently as some of my friends’ kids who are in daycares.  Probably not, but here’s to hoping.  🙂

I also realized last night that I needed to be grateful and thankful for so many things.  Here are just a few of those things:

1. We have a beautiful Baby Girl that needs to be cared for.

2. Henry and I have  jobs that we love (most days) that requires someone else to care for our child.

3. We have wonderful family members nearby (comparatively) who are willing to take care of Baby Girl.  Many of my friends do not have family close and don’t have that option.

4.  Henry picked up Baby Girl from MIL’s house so I could stay a little later at work to make up for my very late arrival.  It also gave me time to get home and clean up the kitchen and prop my feet up for a few minutes before they arrived home.  He’s a sweet and thoughtful man.

So, I’m done with whining…for now.

Hell on Wheels (or the Super-Whining of a Working Mom)

The full effect of being a working mom did not hit me until today.  For many moms, today was the first day of school.  For me, it was the first day of hell on wheels. 

Up until today, I have been spoiled.  Very, very spoiled.  My MIL has been coming to my house and keeping Baby Girl while the husband and I earn a living.  It’s been a good, no GREAT, arrangement.  Not only has she watched Baby Girl, she did our laundry…and folded it…and cooked…and cleaned.  I could cry right now thinking how incredibly awesome that arrangement was. 

However, we don’t pay grandma (MIL) enough for her to give up her day job to take care of Baby Girl.  We would if we could, but we simply can’t afford it.  So, grandma went back to her day job today as a school bus driver and I made a 50+mile round trip commute to her house.  Once there, the great-grandparents will watch Baby Girl until MIL finishes her bus route every morning. 

Big Problem

The trip to MIL’s house every morning is no problem.  The real problem is getting from there, back to work.  We live near the home offices for the nation’s largest retailer.   The time I need to travel through is the time EVERYONE in the area is heading to work.  And they all pretty much work at the same freakin’ place.  The trip should take 1 hr. 10 min. total.  NOTE:  IT DID NOT take 1 hr. and 10 min.  Nope. I left my house at 6:40 am and arrived at work at 8:40am.  Work starts at 8:00am.  Obviously, something is going to have to change. 

The Solution?

I’m not sure yet.  I’m thinking I should leave my house 30 min. earlier (yay) and wait to put on my makeup after I get to work.  The wall of traffic is on the return trip, so if I can get a bit ahead of it, maybe I won’t be so late to work.  My firm is understanding, but let’s face it, they aren’t paying me to cart my kid around.  I’m a salaried worker and time not at work means time they are paying me to do nothing.

I’d prefer to drive a tank or a small personal aircraft.  Since the government probably would frown upon my stealing a tank and technology has not advanced as fast as I’d hoped, I guess I’ll keep slogging along in my car.

Idiot Tax

Today I did something that is going to cost me what I like to call “idiot tax.”  An amount of money I’m paying because of an idiotic thing I did.

Right now, I’m driving my husbands large Ford F150 truck, not my little Honda Accord.  He works 30 min. from our house, I work 10, so he drives my car to save gas.  Anyway, I was coming back to work from a meeting and all the parking spaces were full except for one, very narrow spot.  I managed to squeeze Big Bertha into the spot and still leave a modest amount of room for the Tahoe driver next to me to get in and out. 

Bad Driving Hurts

Not 30 seconds after I pulled in, the little car to my left pulled out.  They had been hogging the line of their spot and now there was ample room.  I decided to back out and move over a little to give the Tahoe more room.  As I back out, I’m looking everywhere except where I should have been looking.  I hear the sound of plastic cracking and slammed on my brakes.  I had hit the Tahoe with my right mirror.  The mirrors are designed to fold INWARD, but I had managed to fold it halfway back.  Thankfully, I didn’t knock the mirror off of the much nicer Tahoe, but I did leave a quarter-sized dent and removed a noticeable paint chip.

Upon further inspection, I realized this brand spankin’ new Tahoe belongs to one of our assistants at work.  She’s a good, hardworking person, and is a friend of mine.  No way in heck I”m not going to confess and offer to fix it.  Rather than involve insurance, she’s going to get an estimate and we will pay her cash. 

That will be $200-$500 that could have gone to pay off student loans.  But nope, I had to be an idiot and not watch where I was going.  It makes me so angry at myself.  The only bright side–I did not damage Henry’s truck at all.  The mirror easily folded back to the original position and doesn’t seem to be worse for the wear.

The really, really bad thing is……………this is not the first time I’ve damaged Henry’s truck.  He used to have a Nissan and I crushed the driver’s side fender on a concrete pillar in a parking garage.  That happened when we had only been married about 6 months.  He may not be in such a forgiving mood after 7 years of marriage.  Fingers crossed.