MM’s Money

September 15, 2008

Reduced Circumstances – Still Partying!

Filed under: Uncategorized — mmsmoney @ 12:00 am

SingleMa over at Fabulous Financials wrote a compelling post this past weekend – from a reader’s question about comparing people’s reactions to lifestyle changes/financial struggles. Head on over & check it out! My comment:

That’s the thing – our perceptions are based on US not them – and you can never know all about the circumstances of another family. When my DH’s income went south, we made lots of changes in our lifestyle, but we didn’t stint on certain areas – because those were and are part of who we are!

Example – we LOVE to have people over the house to socialize, break bread and have a beverage or two. And comparably to the Family A’s party, we changed from providing ALL the steaks, sides & beverages to ask our friends to pitch in – we provide the main course and people bring a bottle of wine and salad/bread/etc. And most were HAPPY to be asked to bring something.

Some might think that’s crass (at that point it’s less a dinner party and more a communal meal), but the community and enjoying time with friends was too important to sacrafice even if we couldn’t live up to our prior ‘generosity.’ Of course that generosity had been financed with BAD DEBT and I’m dealing with that now! And just FYI – the ‘friends’ that resent this reduction in our hosting are the same ones who never reciprocated with invitations, either – strange how that works!

Moving on…it is hard to resist the temptation to judge, thanks for addressing the issue!

I still find peoples’ reactions to the change kinda funny – there were people who in the past, when we did tell them, “Just bring yourself,” that would always show up with a bottle in hand to share and another to leave behind as a hostess gift. Then there were those who would say, “you’re sure you wanna host – let’s do it at our place so I can clean up afterwards!” And someone else would bring a gorgeous gourmet salad that they had spent time, love & dollars putting together – and they’d make sure to tell me well in advance that it was already done, they were gonna bring it and I shouldn’t make a salad, ’cause they got it covered. And I love that – these are the greatest friends – generous in return. So the first time I said, “We’re grilling killer pork chop, but I don’t have anything to go with” these were the ones that jumped right in and said, no prob – I’ll bring the salad, I’ll bring the taters, I’ve got a couple of bottles of red that would go so well with that – I’ll bring those! And they were the ones who had invited us over to their homes, too. And my buddy – a long-time friend of DH’s – who’se been unemployed for 6 mos and has NO money – he’s the one that always helped load the dishwasher and made sure to be there to help with the grill and setting up – making his contribution the way he can (and we feed him often and ask him to dinner even when it’s not a ‘party,’ Lil One LOVES her honorary uncle and it’s just as easy to cook for 3 as 2 – as I’ve said before).

Then there were others that had the uncanny knack of arriving for the party just as dinner was hitting the table and making a quick departure as I started clearing the table. That when asked over knowing we were providing the main dish and maybe they could contribute, would bring a can of green beans from the cupboard and expect me to cook them! Thanks for pitching in! (I know – that’s me being judgy, too). Strange how you get to know the differences between friends when the money stops flowing out!

I know people have different feelings about entertaining and having people in their homes – I have one friend who is paralyzed with fear that her house isn’t clean when people come over. So she never invites people over – ever. I’ve known her and her husband for 6 years, they are regular fixtures at our house for dinner, and I’ve never seen their house. And that’s fine – she knows she has a problem and she would rather bring a fantastic homemade dessert and help me clean up afterwards than reciprocate. So in her mind, it evens out – and it sure does – can that lady BAKE!  (aside – I’m pretty sure it’s an OCD thing, I know she takes the meds for it).  So again – some stuff I can understand, but others – like the lady who will send her hubbie over early in the party and have him call her when stuff comes off the grill so she can show up with her can o’beans just as dinner is served? That I can’t understand and I don’t let her attitude affect me! She’s the one with the issues!

People are different – and people’s reactions to changes are different, too. We’re thankful we’re blessed with some really cool friends and we’re still enjoying them, even if we’re not throwing down $200 bucks per weekend to entertain them.

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September 11, 2008

Conflicting Goals, Maybe?

Filed under: Debt,Planning,Uncategorized — mmsmoney @ 12:00 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

So part of my family financial makeover is to start saving. Family Financial Makeover has a nice ring to it…Googling…No, it doesn’t appear that I am using someone else’s trademark/copyright (I get those confused). OK. It’s MINE. My Catch Phrase. Hands Off! Now how do I trademark/copyright it? Can I get people to pay me for usage?

 Ok- back to topic: Yes, I am trying to build the buffer between me & disaster (that YNAB Rule#1 one-month’s expenses discussed in the previous post – listed as Goal 1 below), but at the same time, I have equally important and compelling goals:

  1. Goal: Generate Buffer. Execution – slash & burn expenses and allocate avoided dollars to buffer.
  2. Goal: Pay down debt. Execution – begin snowballing personal loan (at the YIKES! interest rate of  18.6% !) to free up cashflow in the budget ($201.50 per month). Current Snowball Amount: $100/month
  3. Goal: Start saving for Major Emergency Fund/Baby College/Car Fund. Execution: start slowly at $10 per payperiod in 3 accounts (total per month: roughly $60).

Now why would I try to accomplish all three goals at once? Am I setting myself up for failure?

First, for psychological reasons. I have been so beaten down by financial trauma, stress and discontent that I need to start on that debt ASAP. And I feel that with the help of YNAB, I can get to my one-month’s goal within the same timeframe as paying of that personal loan. And I do buy into the Dave Ramsey small-victories build momentum approach…I need to change my behaviors and I need to get positive reinforcement through accomplishing a goal. I should note I have not read any of Dave Ramsey’s books – I’ve heard his radio show two or three times, but I have read A LOT of blog posts and comments-debates on his theory and alternative approaches! I guess I am luck that my smallest debt and the highest interest rate are the same debt so I don’t have to be “stupid” according to varying groups of blog-commenters (and I’m pretty sure they are roughly divided in half in each of these camps).

Second, it’s kinda six-of-one, 1/2 dozen of the other to me. I’ve screwed up and screwed up badly in the past and have not done the requisite learning from my mistakes (yet – I need another disaster to prove/execute on what I’ve learned). Building the buffer will implement the YNAB approach, but only if no emergencies happen in the near term (til I get that loan cleared). My credit union really takes care of its members and in conversation with my branch manager, who yes – does know me by name, she indicated that the credit union is very willing to help members get out of trouble when they proven themselves dedicated to fixing their issues which (in context that I shan’t go into) to me sounded like my clearing my loan successfully (never been late, never asked for more funds, paid extra upon occassion and more regularly lately) would be beneficial if that near-term disaster were to appear. I really think my car is going to die soon – I really do. And being eligible for a car loan from them in 6 months is more likely than my being able to save $7000 for a good used vehicle. So as awful as it sounds, I’m almost resigned to needing another loan! and need to clear the current one to ensure this future one becomes available.

Last, the savings issue – I’m oh-so optomistic here. We have to have the major emergency fund – DH’s insurance (liability) has a $10K deductible. Where we would get that money should a project he’s working on go up in flames and we’re liable…Oh I could lose sleep over that. $10 at a time sounds miserly, but babysteps, right? Next – the baby. She will get college tuition paid for and I need to let the power of compounding interest begin to work its mojo. Simple as that – it is as important as any other goal in my personal view. And last – yes that car will die sometime. Maybe its death is 6 months from now, maybe 18 months. In any case, some money will be set aside for that eventuality and to avert the total need for another loan!

So tackling them concurrently, although with differing amounts budgeted against each per month, seems like a reasonable approach to deconflict the goals. Ultimately, it’s my job to make sure we don’t screw up again and this is the plan for now. Subject to revision, subject to God’s Will!

September 9, 2008

Another Non-Compromise for Quality

Filed under: Frugality,Lifestyle,Lil One,Uncategorized — mmsmoney @ 12:00 am
Tags: , , , ,

or won’t compromise. Lil One was breastfed for 15 months. Oh, that was an awful day she rejected me and made me feel unnecessary to her continued existence! It was a horrible, no-good, rotten day (that’s a book title…Googling…Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst). Horrible To me, of course, she thought Cow’s Milk the best thing EVER. 

 “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child” – King Lear, Shakespeare.

So that all being said, it was a transition for me, but not her. I started out buying Horizon organic brand milk – at 2007 pricing, it was $4.50 a gallon compared to $2.89 for hormone-riddled store brand milk. And at the time, the store didn’t offer their own branded organic option.

Every week, I go to the farmers market – for produce, it’s the only stuff that’ll do – in season, local producers, no food miles involved. well, about 6 months ago a new vendor appeared – a DAIRY. Organic, local, fresh milk! at $5 a gallon. Wow, it was like crack or heroin or potato chips. We were all hooked. It had about 10% more butterfat content than the horizon and was sweeter and glorious. Even to me, who had been suffering through fat free milk in her coffee and cereal. Lil One gained about 6 pounds instantaneously, and was getting a lot of chub in her little legs and arms (as a breastfed baby, she was kinda lean and I had weight issues on her behalf, thinking she was underfed).

Then 6 mos ago, the dairy abruptly stopped coming – I was devastated and the whole family was upset with the store brand organic (which was available at that point -how could they pass up the market)! And the dairy was close to 150 miles away, so it wasn’t as if I could go there to get the milk! Well, it turned out that the farmer had purchased another dairy and was integrating it (equipment, etc) and its herd into his operations – including being the recipient of their wholesale licensing. That licensing allowed the dairy he had purchased to sell their milk to groceries for resale to the public. The farmer hadn’t had that license and was only able to sell to companies that would use his milk in production of another product – BlueBell Ice Cream for one – and direct to the public via farmers’ markets, local delivery, etc. So this was a great thing for the farmer, but we were needing that milk!

So three months ago, I was shopping in the fancy local grocery (an upscale version of the regular grocery) and they were selling 1/2 gallons on the shelf of that milk – for $5. A half-gallon. I was so torn. Our family LOVED that milk. But to pay double? I was not willing to do it and kept the knowledge (that it was available) from DH. Silly of me, but I made that choice. And then considered and reconsidered that decision. A few weeks after that, the farmer reappeared at our farmer’s market – with gallons for $6.25. A hike, but not surprising – in that same period, Horizon went from $4.99 to $5.99 and local organic from $3.99 to $4.50. So now we’re hooked again. And $0.26 is a very very small premium to pay (comparing to Horizon) for this stuff…it is that good. I usually buy 4 gallons at a time, every other week. Its high-butterfat and the pasteurization required of organic milks keeps it fresh for up to 3 weeks (meaning I’ve bought it and not opened it for up to 2 weeks, then had the gallon working in the fridge for up to a week after), so it really seems a frugal and conscientious purchase rather than an extravagance…

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