144 Rolls of Toilet Paper

I have out done myself in the crazy department. This is what word problem nightmares are made of. I’m sure we all remember getting those problems and wondering “who’s ever going to make 20 dozen cookies? Who is ever going to buy 174 oranges? I’m never going to use this stuff in real life.” Well, you’re wrong! Because I just got my shipment of 144 rolls of toilet paper from Amazon.

As a frugal woman, comparison shopping is second nature. Budget conscious folks want value for our dollar so we don’t blindly throw money at any particular brand or store. Our loyalty is to the green, not the brand. So when I went on BJ’s website and saw that a 45-pack of mega rolls was $23, but Amazon had the same brand in a 48-pack for $21 (3 more rolls for $2 less), it was an easy choice. However, there’s a catch to any good deal and in this case, it was shipping costs. Since I’m not a Prime member*, I needed to have a minimum purchase to qualify for free shipping. But I wasn’t about to start adding random unnecessary things to my cart to qualify. What’s a girl to do? How about getting 3 48-packs**? Don’t mind if I do! (Word problems for your kids: how many dozens is that and what is the square root of the total rolls delivered?)

After the boxes were delivered, I was grateful for the incredible amount of storage space we have. I saved money, time, gas and set myself up for a year’s worth of clean lavatory experiences. This might have been one of my craziest purchases, but at least we know that if you have the misfortune of running into some as chili, my house is the place to be.

*I’ve been using Amazon since undergrad where I bought my books and sold them back at the end of the semester. I also used them to rent books in grad school. So I’m an avid user, but I’m not interested in Prime. Their biggest advantage is the free 2-day shipping and it costs nothing to plan ahead and wait a few extra days to get my order.

** No recommended for ketchup purchases.

Advertisements

October Budget Buster

img_4486

What a disastrous month it has been for my budget. I’m usually not so doom and gloom, but my goodness! Our finances need a break.

Despite some non-recurring, high expenses in September, we finished the month really strongly in the black and earning $2,500 more than we spent. We had an out of state wedding which meant lodging, eating out, gas, tolls, a gift, hair & make-up, on top of getting a new dress. Therefore, despite going over budget, I consider September to be a success because we had some serious expenses to contend with. But the glow did not last long as October came in swinging, taking names, kicking ass and stealing my lunch money.

October is both my and my mom’s birthday month (we are 2 days apart). However, gifts and 2 birthday steak dinners in 1 week aren’t enough to set us back. We are fortunate enough to have multiple sources of income. However, this particular month of October 2016, also happens to be when my husband’s younger brother was getting married. And that’s right: out of state. Since it’s his brother, my husband was also a groomsman, meaning that we had to spring for a tux despite the perfectly well-tailored and expensive suits he has hanging in his closet. I remember when I got the call from the groom saying: “we are on our way to pick up the tuxes and the store manager said he hasn’t paid yet. He’s not picking up his phone.” Sure, here’s my credit card number.

Then there was the hotel. 2 days.

The gift.

We had to eat and put gas in the car.

Do you have anxiety yet? Well, it gets worse.

We go home after the wedding to find out skylight shades in the great room broke. It was just hanging there, swinging. My husband is very bright and pretty handy, but given that the ceiling is 10+ feet tall, I wasn’t going to risk an injury to save some money, so we called a company. The quote? $2,000.

I just checked my budget app and not only did we run over budget, we spent $600 more this month than we made.

I’m ready for this month to be over. There’s way too much month left at the end of my money.

(Jokes aside, this shows the importance of having a solid cushion, both month to month from an income perspective, and a savings point of view. If a month like this happened to anyone living paycheck to paycheck, it could have been a catalyst for getting into debt or the final straw that breaks the debt camel’s back. At least one would hope that people on the brink of financial disaster would be less frivolous with their money, carpooling to the wedding and crashing with acquaintances rather than paying for a hotel. But they didn’t get that way by being mindful of money so maybe my statement still stands. In any case, for me this is a frustrating stumble that will make me even more motivated to tighten up for the 2 months left in the year. But it is by no means going to unravel my year since this situation is the exception for us rather than the norm. I look forward to making a positive year-end update!)

Net Worth Tracking

I stumbled upon a article of someone discussing when they first realized that they crossed the million dollar mark. He listed his net worth which shows both an impressive and simple path to achieving the lofty goal: increase your income, reduce your expenses, save and invest the difference as much as you can.

Some people will say that a million today isn’t what it used to be because of inflation. High cost of living has eroded the purchasing power of the cool $1,000,000. In some ways I agree but it’s a pretty dim view of the world. You can’t retire early with a million in savings but I can’t imagine that anyone who’s worth a million is hurting too bad. And no matter what, saying you’re a millionaire will always ring much better than saying you’re a thousandaire. So I’ve decided to do some net worth tracking so I can record my own path to a cool million. I’ve settled on doing a quarterly update, and since we are in October, the first one will be scheduled for December. If you’ve been wondering if my methods are working for me, or simply want to know the money behind the blog, be sure to tune in!

VA Loans

I was reading an article not too long ago that said that the use of VA loans was in decline. Not because eligible veterans aren’t buying homes, but because their lenders and real estate agents are steering them away from VA products.

The VA loan, while it may not be necessary for everyone, as great advantages and I encourage anyone who is eligible to at least consider it. One of the biggest and financially tangible advantage of the VA Loan is the elimination of PMI. I don’t advocate for anyone to buy a house with 0% down because if you have no money for a down payment, you are clearly not ready for the financial commitment of a house. However, PMI is only eliminated after 20% down or more. So a family that has worked diligently to save 10-15% of the purchase price of a house shouldn’t be stuck with PMI payments because they weren’t fortunate enough to have $60,000 and “only” have $30,000. Some other advantages (or disadvantages depending on which side of the transaction you’re on) include their stringent inspection and appraisal standards.

For example when we bought our house using a VA loan, they required a termite inspection, at the sellers’ expense, and the inspection report had to be accompanied by a receipt in the seller’s name to show that we did not pay for it. In addition to the inspection, the appraisal was strict and very conservative (in my opinion). While that has the ability to tank your mortgage application if it doesn’t work in your favor, it is a boost of confidence in your decision when it does work out well.

Some of the service members interviewed for the news piece said they didn’t even know about the VA loan, which to me is mind boggling because when you sacrifice so much to serve your country, you should be aware of every possible benefit that you are entitled to.

You risked life and limb to earn every benefit out there. While you don’t have to use it, you should at least know your options. Read about the VA loan here and see if it could be right for you.

It takes Luck to be Successful

Don’t mind me; I’m just practicing my click-bait titles…

It is often said that if hard work was the only way to success, day laborers, farmers, etc. would all be millionaires. Hard work is a key to success. No one (except maybe lottery winners) has ever achieved anything in life by sitting around the house doing nothing. Whether it’s Harriet Tubman freeing slaves, Mark Zuckerberg founding Facebook or Obama becoming president, you won’t hear about high achievers sitting on the couch with a lot of free time on their hands.

On the other hand, we shouldn’t be insinuating that anyone who didn’t find great professional or financial success failed to do so because they lacked discipline. Many of those people lacked opportunity, money and some were lazy and poor planners, but some lacked good fortune.

I say luck because many of my peers who came from similar backgrounds as myself are doing very well while others, who didn’t work any less hard are doing terribly or did so terribly that even after being back on their feet are playing catch up.

I want to tell the tales of 3 of my peers, all of whom graduated college within a year of  each other and a year of the Great Recession, eliminating the disparity that graduating during prosperous times would create.

All 3 are women of color, giving them the same likelihood of facing sex and race discrimination in academia and the workforce.

All 3 were traditional students with parental support (albeit to various degrees), no teen pregnancies, criminal past, etc.

While they remain anecdotes, I wanted to provide that small glimpse of their backgrounds to demonstrate that some of the major things that tend to create inequalities were not factors or were the same for all women.

I’ll start with the one that graduated in 2007. That was pre-recession but her lack of meaningful experience limited her opportunity to find full-time employment in time before Sallie Mae came calling. She was a little stubborn about getting internships in her field because they paid less than the temp-jobs she got that were completely unrelated to her major. She eventually found a job a year later after she began managing her salary expectations a little better. She built her savings and got her own apartment. She was no longer living on whatever allowance her parents could spare but she wasn’t living a life of prosperity either. For example, she couldn’t afford a car in any state (new or used) because the added cost of fuel and insurance was too much for her tight budget to bear. Some days she didn’t run the heat to keep utility costs manageable.

A year later, Peer #2 graduates. All is well.  At least for a few months until the market crashes and Lehman goes out of business on a humid august day. It’s pandemonium and lay offs start rolling in. She got to keep her job but it was only a matter of time before she too was offered a severance  package. She takes it, finds a job in retail and applies to graduate school, but she falls behind on her bills. Shortly there after, she lands another, better paying job which offers to pay for her to finish her degree. She says goodbye to retail for good as she graduates, gets promoted and gets married. Her now-husband who also has a good paying job brings in solid additional income that allows them to move to a really nice part of town and she keeps thriving. 8 years after undergrad, she has a happy family life, has a successful career and is financially stable.

Peer #3 is also a 2008 graduate. She’s an outgoing creative woman with a heart of gold. She’s generous to a fault. She’s active and participates in any and all activities that could enrich her undergraduate experience. She had lofty aspirations so she travels internationally and tries to get internships at various prominent organizations. Unfortunately her field of study is narrow and doors are closing fast. Her field is in demand but only for the most seasoned workers. There’s no desire to invest scarce resources into building inexperienced people. She bounces from paid internship to paid internship until things get so bad that she ends up working at the mall, focusing on just making a living since building her resume has done little for her career prospects. As a result of her basic costs (which are relatively low given that she still lives at home), she is unable to make her student loan payments which go into default and double in size after capitalized interest and late fees. 8 years after graduation, she is still making minimum wage and owes more on her student loans than she borrowed.

Next time you see someone struggling, don’t assume that they’ve done everything wrong. It could very well be that the necessary opportunities for success didn’t present themselves.

Living out here has me thinking like a crazy survivalist

I’m a city girl through and through. I can navigate any mass transit system, I have extre road rage, I can walk 2 miles in 45 minutes flat and I’m rude. It doesn’t get any more Boston than that.

But since moving out here to the ‘burbs and living on more than an acre of land, I’ve been harassing my husband about teaching me how to survive in the wilderness, increasing our dry food supply, and getting me in shape in case there is a war. Whatever is in that well water is not agreeing with me and has me talking all kinds of nonsense. I think the fluoride in city water killed all the crazy, so it might pay to move back where my biggest concern can once again go back  to being which side of the road won’t be affected by street cleaning this week.

Demanding Due Dilligence is NOT Victim Blaming

By now most of you have heard of the 10-month old who died (likely a painful and horrible death) after being sexually assaulted by her mother’s boyfriend. If you haven’t heard yet, you will soon. Everyone is angry and rightly so. This male creature, as I dare not call him a man, is evidently a sick person, with no conscience, and probably can’t even be rehabilitated. I may not be a health care provider but I am not stupid and anyone who would ever commit such a despicable act has to be beyond redemption. How many people with healthy brains and  true humanity would ever do something as deplorable and sickening as sexually violating a baby and leaving her to die? But this is not about him. This is about little Emmaleigh and other victims like her. So we are going to talk about that a bit.

I know this is going to be an unpopular opinion because keyboard activists are misguided and have misaligned priorities. However, this is not about your feelings. The lives of the murdered and raped children supersede your sensibilities.

I feel for the baby’s mother. She waited 9 months to meet her baby, nurtured her for 10-months only to watch her die at the hands of a man that she brought into her life. However, I have to ask: where was the mother in all of this? Why did she leave her baby with this man unsupervised? While she couldn’t have possibly known he would rape her, there are a multitude of stories out there that report on men killing, beating or abusing children, particularly  children that their girlfriends had from previous relationships. Knowing those facts, a wise woman would take extra precautions to protect her flesh and blood. Mothers have a responsibility to screen and vet all of their partners to an extent they normally wouldn’t if they were child free. Why? Because your kids don’t have a choice in who they frequent and since you make that decision for them, the least you can do is take steps to ensure their safety. As a woman, you can’t let your desire for penis overrule your protective instincts. Your children are vulnerable until they can make their own choices. As long as you’re making decisions for them, they are going to suffer the consequences of your actions.

I’m sure some of the belligerents will accuse me of victim blaming, in which case I will be pointing out that the mother is not dead or a rape victim. Unless they can point to where I blame Emmaleigh for her own abuse, they’d be better off not wasting their energy on false accusations.

Others might point out that biological fathers also kill. Of course they do, but that’s not the topic at hand is it? That’s nothing more than a straw man argument. I don’t care for anecdotal evidence of great step dads and terrible biological dads, because none of those negate this tragedy. No matter how good of a step father you are or your mom’s husband was, that won’t bring back this little girl, and it will not restore the broken little girls who have been raped. They also don’t change the statistics. Regardless of what we think biological fathers might do, we still have a responsibility to create a safe environment for those we bring into the world. Not that this is the point I’m trying to make, but maybe we shouldn’t be procreating with losers either.

We understand statiscal relevance in all aspects in life, except when it’s time to establish true accountability. People die in car accidents and people die in shark attacks. When you drive to the beach, you wear your seatbelt but you rarely thing of a shark unless you see one. That’s because you know that dying in a car accident is infinitely more likely to happen, so you protect yourself. A shark attack is not impossible, yet it is so unlikely it doesn’t stop you from enjoying the ocean. So how is it different?

I refuse to let my sympathy for her pain blind me to her missteps. She might have suffered loss, but she can rebuild. That will never be an option for her daughter.

Screen your mates (before and after motherhood). Give your children a chance.