Tax Refunds and Stupid Ass Responsibilities

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Tax season used to be fun. ¬†I’ve been working since I was a teenager, so every tax season I’d get a little bit back as a refund. ¬†*Sighs* Tax Season… when I was younger this often meant getting new clothes or shoes… maybe using it as a down payment on some stupid shit car I didn’t need. ¬†Tax Season = OH MY GOD NEW BEDDING SET.

Well not anymore folks! ¬†Somewhere over the last 5 years, I became responsible. ¬†Like really, financially responsible. ¬†Sounds great right? ¬†NOT. ¬†Now instead of getting those sick ass boots I’ve been eyeing for like 4 months, I’m paying down loans. ¬†I wanted to go and buy some new jeans for spring… but no, alas, I’d like to lower my car payments.

This year I received a pretty decent refund, for me anyway, and over the past few months I’ve been negotiating all of my re-occurring payments *down*. ¬†One of the ways I was able to do that was paying down on my cars. ¬†So by parting with half of my refund, I lower my remaining 12 payments by $100. ¬†Which doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up quickly. ¬†I put the rest towards my mortgage… because sheesh… looking at the remaining principle just hurts my head.

I know that being financially responsible is a good thing, getting out of debt is even better (I’m looking at you credit cards!), but sometimes it’s downright depressing. ¬†Especially with social media these days. ¬†I can’t open up facebook without seeing someone buying something new, especially around tax time. ¬†However, I want to be out of debt in 10 years (including my mortgage, unless I sell) and if that’s even remotely feasible, I will find a way.

Hey, I’m old school. ¬†I still have a change jar! ¬†That’ll be my new boots fund!

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Black Friday – Because Thanksgiving isn’t worth shit.

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I’m up north at my parents place.¬† The middle of nowhere, with just my family and their cat, Max.¬† We came up yesterday, early afternoon, and are staying until tomorrow at some point.¬† Thanksgiving was technically yesterday, but we’re doing it tonight since my step-siblings just got here.¬† Right now, I’m relaxing with a cup of coffee, when all of the kids are outside on the ice (it’s right on a lake).¬† It’s calm, and oh my god, the amount of food is amazing.¬† It’s about family and friends, which is what this holiday is supposed to be about.

We spend Thanksgiving spouting off about how thankful we are for what we have, for who we have in our lives.¬† We tout ourselves as thankful people, who appreciate life and I’m sure you’ve already read 56 hundred posts about ” Things I’m Thankful For”.¬† Americans take a holiday (which isn’t based on reality BY. THE. WAY.) which has it’s heart in family and thanksgiving, and use that one day a year to show how much they appreciate everything and everyone.

AND THEN.  Black Friday.  Less than 12 hours after most of America sits down to eat Thanksgiving dinner, the same Americans are standing in line, before the sun is up, just to fight each other for the best deals on material possessions.  Less than 12 hours after a day dedicated to being thankful for what you have, for the people you surround yourself with, Americans are barging down isles, grabbing items out of other peoples hands, raging.  In Romeoville IL, in the rush this morning, there was a knifing, and a shooting.  All at a Black Friday sale.

Now imagine this.  This consumer fueled, greed filled day, forces people in retail to work jobs (a lot of them hate) at horrible hours instead of spending a holiday with their family.  These past couple of years, Black Friday has started on FUCKING THURSDAY.  Who needs a holiday when sales start at 6pm on Thanksgiving.  Start your shopping NOW, forget being THANKFUL, waste your money, neglect your family all at the expense of a person who now has to work a holiday in order to keep their job.

Greed is pathetic.¬† Do I support Black Friday?¬† No.¬† Do I blame the corporations and business owners for it?¬† Partially.¬† Unfortunately the problem is us.¬† Humans, Americans are so money driven, material driven that we bowl over everything else.¬† If we didn’t FUEL consumer black holes such as Black Friday, they wouldn’t exist.¬† Corporations couldn’t make money off of us so there would be no need for the biggest shopping day of the year.¬† Yet here we are, the day after Thanksgiving, and I’m watching the news about people injured at a sale, about *Buy THIS at THIS PRICE, a Black Friday Special!!* and about the few righteous people who lost their jobs for REFUSING to make their employees work ON Thanksgiving.

So instead of shopping this weekend, instead of running with the masses on Black Friday, I’m spending time with my family.¬† I’m spending time reflecting on what I do have, enjoying my family, and keeping my money in my pocket.¬† I do not support this consumer black hole, and more importantly, I don’t support companies who make their employees work horrid hours because Americans suck.¬† So while people are out in the stores, pushing each other over to get the best price, I’ll be right here, with my family, where I’m supposed to be.¬† I’m thankful I have this time to be with them, because back when I worked sales/retail, I didn’t.

 

 

Stand Up and Step Up

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Being a single parent is hard work.  I would know.  Divorced and all of that hoopla, it happens, and unfortunately is pretty common.  I was not the best mom at first, I had to fight with my new found freedom and learn how to do everything on my own again while dealing with active Crohns Disease.

It took me a bit, a year of fucking up to be exact, but I did it. ¬†I stay out of the bars (except for ¬†a rare and precious night out… which I usually stay sober for. ¬†Whodathunk?), I save my money, and I work on spending time with my family and providing a wonderful life for my daughter. ¬†It’s hard work, it really is. ¬†But to know that I am completely 100% self-sustained and my daughter doesn’t want for anything (beyond “ICE CREAM MAN MOOOOM”) makes me proud. ¬†I’ve done it all on my own, and now my home is even more stable and loving with Ryan in it. ¬†You all know how messed up my thinking had got there for a while. ¬†I’ll admit it, purely to prove that you can get through it. ¬†Especially if you have kids. ¬†Because of that though, I’m pretty tough on other single moms.

I’m sure you know the stereotype. ¬†Mom with a scraggly looking kid, standing in line at the welfare office, nails done, hair dyed, brand spanking new iPhone5 in her hand. ¬†I *hate* that stereotype. ¬†Actually, hate is a pretty mild way of putting it. ¬†I do everything I can to not be that mom. ¬†I busted my ass to get on my own two feet and give my daughter a better life. ¬†I just want to scream when I see it, or even more so when people are¬†surprised¬†that a young mom like me isn’t on welfare.

I have nothing against welfare, I truly don’t. ¬†I used SNAP benefits for 6 months after I threw my ex-husband out. ¬†Later on I lost a job and used SNAP benefits for a little over a month. ¬†Welfare is there as a step up, to give you that hand that you need when you’re super down on your luck. ¬†Without those benefits, food was too expensive to pay for and my utilities fell behind. ¬†It’s useful, it’s there for you to use.

However, it’s not there for you to live on.

When I met Ry, him and his ex-wife had officially parted ways (after being separated for months) a couple months before. ¬†It seems really amicable, everyone got along. ¬†I was on “Team-Single-Mom”, I felt for her, even though her ex still was very active in her child’s life… I could understand. ¬†As time passed, real attitudes and personalities started coming out and I distanced myself. ¬†I didn’t want to be that woman who picked fights with an ex-wife. ¬†It’s annoying, and I’m an ex-wife too, I could still understand… couldn’t I?

I tried really hard to keep my mouth shut but after¬†awhile¬†I started piping up. ¬†During her days, her son stayed at his grandmothers house. ¬†She had claimed she was working long hours at the bar, but after a little investigating (the whole knowing everyone thing comes in handy) we found out she spent equal time drinking. ¬†I still tried to remind myself, freedom is delicious after a failed marriage. ¬†I still liked going to the bar… I tried to forget the fact that I came home every night and never left before the kiddo was fast asleep and tucked in.

One day, her son told me, “I miss my mom, I haven’t seen her in more than a week.” The judgement was made. ¬†It was final. ¬†I was not a fan. ¬†Yes, I went out, a lot even. ¬†I got that, I¬†understood¬†that more than anyone else could… but I still spent every moment I possibly could with my daughter. ¬†Hell, I *STILL* get upset when Nood goes to school/summer camp. ¬†Anyone who could leave their kid “because it was easier” at their parents for days on end was not cool in my book.

I gave up on beating that horse. ¬†It’s been two years and he still sees his grandmother more than his mom. ¬†I finally just resigned myself to this thought… when her son grows up, he’ll find out the truth eventually. ¬†Then the only person she’ll have to face is the shame from her own kid. ¬†She just has to grow up.

So then the “gimme-gimmes” started. ¬†I’ve always offered to buy clothes or his baseball shit, but we started getting calls for random stuff. ¬†The latest was six-flags passes. ¬†I finally had to put my foot down. ¬†Absolutely-fucking-not.

We don’t splurge like that in my household, I am not splurging like that outside of it. ¬†Maybe when the kids get older, but right now it’s not a necessity, and it’s not in my budget. ¬†She then started harping on how we should pay for school registration… after we paid for the school supplies (she was supposed to pay registration). ¬†She says $180 is too much for her. ¬†Considering I pay $180 a week for daycare/summer camp (It was $190 for Kindergarten), I don’t have too much sympathy, I still have to pay Noodle’s school registration for next year next week.

So I snapped. ¬†I told her that since she is on food stamps (3 plus years now), gets medical, free childcare and free utilities she will be fine. ¬†I am more than willing to help her if she ever gets her own utilities and falls behind not to mention anything the kiddo needs. ¬†Needs, not wants. ¬†I have no problem splurging for wants, but money isn’t growing on a tree here. ¬†I can’t pay for things like passes, when I have bills to pay.

I told her that if she can present me with a literal bill or invoice (for things like baseball, school, supplies, etc) I will pay them, but I will not be giving her cold-hard-cash when she hasn’t gotten a job that can support her son yet. ¬†As long as she’s on welfare, I will be paying anything the kid needs direct. ¬†I am not a walking wallet, and I am *not* going to support a welfare mom.

I am sick and tired of it to be blunt. ¬†I managed to pull myself up and fix my life, so can she. ¬†Her son depends on it. ¬†So unfortunately I’m sure I’ll be getting a lot of calls or texts whining for money, but the difference is, I’m good at saying no. ¬†I’m good at budgeting and I am well aware of what living within your means is.

I signed up for this to step up for the kids. ¬†I signed up to love my family, not to give my hard earned paycheck for a night at the bar. ¬†I hope this is a wake up call for her. ¬†She needs to be a better mom, I know she can, she just has to step up and do it. ¬†It’s going to be a long few months, but hopefully refusing to enable welfare-life gives her the reality-check she desperately needs.

Spoiling Yourself, Just Do It

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Anyone who has kids will understand this, hell singletons and child-free people will get it too. ¬†It’s something I refer to as Mommy-Guilt. ¬†Ever since I had A, I have always felt guilty spending money on myself. ¬†If I could finally convince myself that I need to buy some clothes (in a regular store – I’m also a thrifter), I’d never make it to the register with the *one* pair of jeans. ¬†If I did, I’d curse myself all the way out the damned door. ¬†If I made it to the car, 9/10 times I’d return it before I even got out of the parking lot.

I’ve always been a bit frugal (read: CHEAP), but after A was born it got out of hand. ¬†We’d go to the store with the intention of getting everyone a few new outfits, and I could never bring myself to get myself something. ¬†It was always “Well, the baby needs something new” or “I really don’t need more than the jeans I have, A needs new shoes (again)” or “You know, I have to pay a couple bills, I don’t need this *right* now anyway.” ¬†It didn’t matter if I was down to two pairs of undies and my socks were ruined, I put myself off because something always came before me.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized a little bit behind my thinking, and in the process got angry at myself. ¬†I got angry at my ex-husband for enabling it. ¬†What I had been doing was putting myself at the bottom of the list. ¬†I had the mindset that I was the least important, I didn’t deserve to buy things for myself. ¬†Who was I to spend money on myself when that money could go to (insert random bill here) or something new for A, hell, new toys for the cats came before I did. ¬†I was perfectly capable of buying another new jacket for my ex-husband or another set of baby shoes for A. ¬†Which is not bad in and of itself, but when it came to things I needed, I neglected myself. ¬†I felt like everyone else deserved more than I did. ¬†I felt like a “bad-mom” or a “bad-wife” if I spent money on myself. ¬†It seemed that surely that money could go somewhere else.

You know what? ¬†It could go somewhere else. ¬†I could skip getting myself clothes and save the money for the next bill. ¬†I could skip that new CD download because A will need something soon. ¬†I could put myself last because there will always be something else that needs me to throw money at it. ¬†No matter what you do, there will *always* be something else you could be saving your money for. ¬†Your kids need to be your top priority, but why aren’t you on top too?

You need to take care of yourself too. ¬†You need to treat yourself every once in a while for your own sanity. ¬†As a woman and a mother I know I’ll always put my child and family before myself, but after almost 27 years it finally hit me. ¬†I deserve it.

So today we had to run to the store to get the animals some food and pick up milk and bread. ¬†I took a shower and was drying my hair off and I thought about buying a new round brush so I could do my hair right. ¬†Last week I had gotten my first haircut in over a year but had nothing to style it with. ¬†I shrugged, I figured I’d just keep using headbands. ¬†No big deal, it’ll grow out long enough for a clip soon enough. ¬†I turned around, stepped on my last clip and it broke. ¬†I picked it up and threw it away. ¬†I’d buy another one some day.

I went to get dressed. ¬†(I’m very thrifty – so I do have skirts, leggings and a couple pairs of jeans – I love Goodwill!) ¬†I noticed that a lot of my socks and undies were worn. ¬†I tossed out the ones that weren’t worth wearing anymore, or had too many toe holes. ¬†There wasn’t much left. ¬†I tried to think of the last time I bought some undies or socks for myself while I tried to find my bra. ¬†I have one bra that still functions. ¬†I found it in the laundry basket, one of the straps was almost frayed through. ¬†I laughed, I knew the last time I had bought a bra, it was the weekend after my divorce was final… ’09.

I finished throwing on some clothes, got Noodle dressed and put on my boots. ¬†I was super lucky at christmas, my parents bought me two pairs of boots for Winter. ¬†I love them and have worn them daily. ¬†I did however just buy Noodle her spring shoes, and she wanted to wear the gym shoes today. ¬†I dug through the closet and realized there were a lot of busted and old shoes that needed tossing (we all wear our shoes until they are in pieces or Noodle outgrows them). ¬†I started tossing the old ones in a bag, the use-able ones in a tote for the thrift. ¬†Once I found her shoes and the closet was organized, I realized that I had one pair of gym shoes and flip flops from dollar general. ¬†I thought about shoes for spring, then instantly thought “well, A will need clothes for spring soon, I’ll worry about it then.”

Something snapped. ¬†It hit me, all of the things I neglect for myself. ¬†All of the things I promised I’d buy myself when I got my promotion, all of the things I promised I’d get with my tax return when the promotion came and went and I still put myself off. ¬†Damnit, I had bought something for everyone but me, ¬†I wanted functional things too.

I dragged Ry and Nood out of the house and to the store.  We picked up the things we needed for the animals and the house, and then we went over to Target.  I told Ry that I was going shopping and told my mind that I *would* pay.

By the time I was at the register I had a pair of flats and a cute pair of wedges, 4 bras, headbands and a brush, bodywash (not the dollar general variety lol), post-its and pens (work), and some containers to organize pet crap with that I had been eyeing.  I had to think about anything and everything to keep my mind off of the money I was spending.  The nice register girl rang me up and I swiped my card.  The receipt printed out and I snapped at Ry and Noodle to get out to the car.

The whole way home I kept trying to justify that I needed these things. ¬†I kept thanking Ry for “letting” me buy things (haha, I control the finances), and reassuring (no one but me) that I had money for all the bills and such. ¬†I forced myself to take a deep breath and relax.

I do deserve nice new bras and shoes once in a while. ¬†I do deserve to buy basic hygiene crap even if it isn’t the generic version. ¬†I do need to put myself first once in a while. ¬†I need to remind myself to treat myself and take care of myself too. ¬†I need to get a haircut more than once every year, I need to buy undies and such when I need them. ¬†I need to buy us girls new nail polish, I need to wear shoes with out holes in them. ¬†If the bills are paid, my child has what she needs, there is plenty of food, then yes, I need to take care of myself too.

 

 

I just wish it didn’t take so long for me to realize this.

I wish that it wasn’t an acceptable way of thinking.

Happy Sunday everyone, make sure that you treat yourself once in a while.  You deserve it.

Painting and Splurging

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For those of you who have been to my house or have been keeping up on my blog for the past couple of years or so, you’d know that I’ve been slowly remodeling my house. ¬†When I moved in, it had cheap crappy carpet, shoddy drywall job, and anything that could have been ghetto rigged, was.

I bought this house from a guy who used to flip houses for a living. ¬†He apparently had like 3 going at a time, he’d buy the crappy foreclosures (mine was owned by drug addicts, yay!) and flip them to sell. ¬†Well, he bought my house. ¬†Started the work…. and the economy tanked. ¬†His other houses weren’t selling, and he didn’t have much money to put in on this one. ¬†Hence, the cheap price I picked it up at.

So at first (after the divorce settled down) I started doing little things. ¬†Just basic repairs, then my (then) 2 year old went through a phase which involved dumping syrup on my carpet. ¬†I dealt with it for as long as possible, then decided to tear it up. ¬†My dad and I spent an evening tearing up all the carpet in the front room and hallways and chucking it. ¬†He brought over some laminate “wood” tiles. You lay them just like you would with real wood, but with an adhesive. ¬†Super easy, and it looks pretty damn close to real since you lay them in planks. ¬†Best $300 investment ever (and I even have some left over!!).

During the “blast music and lay floor” fiasco, I met Ryan. ¬†Who I honestly think fell in love with fixing my house as much as he did with me. ¬†With in a few months, he was painting my living room, hallways, bathroom and bedroom. ¬†Just a bit of caulk, spackle and paint made it look ten times better. ¬†The “flipper” had used a flat paint that was sooo cheap, if you tried to scrub it (like when a toddler draws on the wall) all of the paint would come off… so a bit of extra money went into the quality of the paint.

Over the summer, we built a shed, spent too much time in the garden, and besides replacing the water heater and fixtures in the bathroom, it all kind of stalled. ¬†(I guess you can’t really say stalled but whatever.) ¬†I think now that spring is in the air, Ryan’s got the urge to be Mr. Fix it again. ¬†Him and Noodle are now re-painting the kitchen and Ryan spent a handful of hours designing a bigger shed for the backyard. ¬†We’re trying to decide on the size of a deck and the placement of the front fence (which looks like eta of 2014 summer). ¬†While he’s at all his man stuff, I spend time planning my garden, coming up with new ways to organize and be cost effective.

Lets just say it’s working. ¬†The house is looking great, and (even though I’ve been putting off pricing siding) with the money saved just from improvements (energy wise) and DIY instead of contracting, I’m treating my little painters to a greasy lunch. ¬†Italian Beefs, Chicken Strips, Buffalo Wings and fries are coming by delivery… and they have no idea.
What a great way to end a weekend. :)

Taking Financial Charge ( Read: Growing up Blows )

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Ahhhh, finances. ¬†The one and only thing that gives me enough of a migraine that I want to shoot myself. ¬†In the foot. ¬†Three times. ¬†Why my foot? ¬†Because my head hurts too much from staring at these goddamned numbers! ¬†Finances. ¬†I’ve been told it’s part of growing up and growing old. ¬†Checking Accounts, Savings CDs, 401Ks and Insurance Policies. ¬†Mortgages, Equity, Taxes and Profit. ¬†You know, I’d like to quit being an adult now, this shit is kind of pissing me off.

So for the past few months I’ve been playing catch up, I got behind on my mortgage and it took that to see the big picture of my debt. ¬†I had been ignoring a large chunk of debt that had just been sitting on my credit score, and getting behind on my mortgage made me look at all of it. ¬†So what wonderful conclusion did I come to? ¬†What mind-blowing epiphany? ¬†Well, I’m still going to ignore a fairly large chunk of it. ¬†Ha. ¬†Take that responsibility. ¬† I have a fairly large amount of medical debt, most of it I’m not even aware of, they’re still trying to figure out which address is mine, and I refuse to call on the accounts the credit assholes sent me with my credit score. ¬†That’ll be my next project. ¬†Oh, and the car my ex-husband got repo-ed? ¬†Yeah, I’ll ignore that too. ¬†They keep wanting to settle and the amount gets lower and lower, that can be pushed off until they get REALLY desperate.

However, there are some things I CAN take care of now that my mortgage is current. ¬†Like the previous entry stated, I’ve agreed to super-duper-low payments for my student loans. ¬†As long as I manage to keep the money in my account for each debit for 9 months, I will no longer be¬†delinquent¬†and it will be off of my credit report. ¬†My credit card also has a high balance (read: low balance but not acceptable to me) which I am going to start paying off. ¬†As well as minor bills here and there that have managed to pop up (read: lab work). ¬†So to do all of this I have started to alter the rough budget I have (not) been following.

So I’m sitting here, paying bills, tweaking my budget and I hate to say it, but it’s… nice. ¬†I’ve never been one to let things get too far behind but getting everything up to par is free-ing. ¬†These next couple of weeks will be tight, as the next paycheck of mine goes straight to the mortgage, but Ry’s paychecks can cover the smaller things as well as pay off some of the crap he has to deal with. ¬†It’s a shame though, this budget I’ve come up with? ¬†I’ll have to tweak in 3 weeks. ¬†Why? ¬†

Supposedly my first paycheck will come with my promotion on it.

Yup.  Yuppppp.  Little Miss Sarah got a promotion at work.  It took a year and a half, and some very unfortunate shiiiite at work went down, but I got the promotion.  Talk about the best holiday gift ever, both the cash portion and moving up in an office I was scared was stagnant.  So this year may have been tough on finances but hopefully this next year will even out.

So as far as I’m concerned. ¬†2012 can bite me, 2013 needs to get here. ¬†I’ve got a clean slate (as clean as possible lol) with my pocketbook, a good job, a great relationship and a wonderful family. ¬†Time to continue on the up and up. ¬†:)

Stand. By. Me.

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There is one thing I’m not. ¬†I’m not a doormat… pertaining to anything and everything. ¬†I have my opinions, I have my wants, needs and loves. ¬†Just like I have my dislikes and hates. ¬†I’m not one to sway one way or another because of someone else’s opinion/guilt trip/want. ¬†That’s just the way I am. ¬†As far as I’m concerned… either get used to it or take a walk… down Waukegan Pier… past the light house.

The current situation. ¬†Was invited to go bar-hopping on St. Patty’s day. ¬†A couple of years ago? (You know, when I was 21 and had money to blow) Sure. ¬†Now? ¬†Not so much. ¬†My friend wants to take a train with a bunch of other people and hit every bar from Des Plaines here (45 minute train ride). ¬†Then back. ¬†Then crash at another friends house. ¬†I don’t want to go. ¬†Why?

Lack of money: I’d have to get an all night sitter, have money for drinks, train ticket, and cab if need be (because come one now… nothing is more difficult than herding a crowd of drunk people on a train).

Sleeping at a strangers house: ¬†I’m not fond of it. ¬†I can’t sleep in an¬†unfamiliar place and don’t¬†particularly¬†want to sleep at someone I’ve never met’s house.¬†¬†I tend to feel like hell in the morning (Crohns) and would like to be in the privacy of my own house. ¬†That leads us to…

The Baiid Device: ¬†I will not drive my car even after one beer. ¬†I made the mistake once and got in a decent amount of trouble… for blowing the following morning after drinking. ¬†I don’t even risk it… if I drank the night before, my car is out of commission until the next evening. ¬†Simple as that. ¬†If I get a violation, that baiid device is in my car for another 3 months or removed. ¬†Sorry, no amount of fun will make me go out…. sure I can be the DD, but a car load of drunk people? ¬†Nah. ¬†I’m good.

Last but not least? ¬†Bar-hopping: ¬†You know, it’s fun if it’s local. ¬†Or in Chicago. ¬†No worries about a train or what not… even more so if you have a cab home. ¬†Even then, maybe 2 bars. ¬†I’m not huge on going in a bar for 45 minutes… having a drink… having a bit of fun and then bam… back on the train/cab/car to the next one. ¬†What can I say… I just don’t enjoy it. ¬†Never really have. ¬†I’d rather just go to my local bar or a pub to shoot some pool.

At first I felt a bit bad. ¬†My friend pulled a guilt trip about how they never suggest anything to do.. how I haven’t met any of their friends… blah blah. ¬†You know, I always thought that if someone was a good friend, cared about you even, they would respect your decisions. ¬†If they don’t agree, maybe trying to argue a bit… but a guilt trip? ¬†About something I can’t afford/risk/don’t want to do? ¬†That kind of hurts. It bugs me a bit to be honest.

But whatever. ¬†If I go out for St. Pat’s, I’ll go local. ¬†With people I know. ¬†For a handful of hours. ¬†Then sleep in my own bed. ¬†Thanks but no thanks.