Me and my money…what a complicated mess

Turns out that trying not to spend money is a whole lot easier said than done. So far I have gone off course though the money I set aside to save is still being saved and for me that is a step in the right direction. I decided against taking Dave Ramsey’s class since with my work schedule and the holidays, I know I couldn’t commit to full 13 week course which is a shame since I am sure there was something for me to learn despite having read his books.

So I am trying to be easy on myself and remind myself that Rome was not built in day but its hard because on paper I can make budgets that seem so reasonable, so doable yet the reality is shit always happens. I have tried the cash only route as well as sticking to the debit card but truthfully I have yet to find a system that works for me. I do find it works better to take cash with me when I go grocery shopping but carrying cash in general doesn’t always work.

Right now I am focusing on meeting my financial goals for the next two months which includes elder boy’s air fare for both Thanksgiving and Christmas break, paying off a couple sets of back taxes, setting aside cash for auto repairs since inspection time will be here soon and generally with a car as old as ours inevitably something needs to be fixed. There is also holiday related expenses which while we keep gift giving to a minimum and the Spousal Unit and I try not to do much for each other, our focus is on the kids and really on the little one. Lastly there is our trip to NYC to visit friends. I am also trying to stash away a few bucks to do some much needed work in the house since the wallpaper in girl child’s room needs to be replaced since it looks pretty bad.

So I have some goals and while I struggle with the occasional cup of coffee on the way home from work, I am trying to stay focused on meeting my goals. Once the year ends then we will set a new set of goals. I am sure my plans would make most financial folks cringe but I know me and after a year spent studying folks like Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman, its important for me to find a plan that is realistic to me.

So in case you cared, that’s what’s up with me and my money….besides I figured by sharing this it will help to keep me honest.

Getting serious about the cash

I vent a lot about my financial woes here at BGIM, in part because in my day to day life outside of a small handful of folks, I really don’t discuss money at least my money or lack thereof. Granted I talk a lot about class issues especially as they relate to the middle and working class but there is a huge difference in talking class as a general topic or as it relates to my work versus a discussion about the dreary state of my finances.

For the past several years, I have watched our income slowly decline…its funny because I graduated with my masters degree in 2006 and when I started the grad school journey the plan was that our income should grow…only problem was that the Spousal Unit’s income started dropping in 2006 and in 2007 the US economy decided to thwart me and I ended up a casualty of the beginning of the recession when the school I was teaching at decided my department should be closed.

I have sat by for a few years praying and hoping that things would change instead they have only gotten worse. We made some changes to our budget since losing several thousands of dollars a month meant we had to cut back, yet through it all there was one line item that until recently I considered sacred. It was the one item I felt we could not give up. What is it? Full time childcare for the girl. Now I have mentioned over the time that my girl is high energy, I love her but I admit I have often been glad we get a break, the old saying absence make the heart grow fonder!

Well mini me aka girl child is now 4, and old enough to go to a traditional very pt preschool, its only 9 hours a week but she will still get some socializing in and I will get a few hours a week to myself. Now how is this going to work with our work schedules? Thankfully unless I am in a meeting, I can actually bring girl child to the office with me since after all, what’s in my office? Kids. At 4 she is old enough to hang out in some of the programming that is offered by my center and being the head cheese also known as the director, there is no one on site that I report to since everyone who works at the center reports to me. Definitely a good benefit.

The Spousal Unit has created a space in his office for girl child to hang out in when he is working and I am not available, also right now there are only two weeks a month that the Spousal Unit is super busy so the plan is to trade off watching her around our schedules. If I have meetings that are not when she is at preschool, he will watch her and when he is uber busy I will watch her.

I have to be honest this new plan is scary since I am not exactly a SAHM, I have a job but I also have no emergency fund and a stack of extra expenses coming up as well as some bills that need to be addressed. One of my creditors, in fact one of the most pressing ones has made me an offer and with the money saved from no longer paying for ft childcare we will be able to get this huge burden off our backs.

I admit when this idea hit me last year I eventually said no, but this year there is a sense that we no longer have the luxury of having ft childcare, not when we have work schedules that do allow for our daughter to be cared for at home.

So while I am nervous about this change, I am also excited to know we have a viable plan for changing our financial situation for the better despite not having an actual increase in salary. I am reminded that in tough financial times, sometimes we have to think out the box and look at what we really need versus what we really want. For too long I have said ft childcare was a need when for the past year its really been more of a want.

Is there anything in your budget that you think is a need but deep down you know its more of a want? If so what are you willing to change?

Guest post: What Is This? Bizarro World?

Today’s post is brought to you by Deacon Blue of Holy Shit from Deacon Blue, he answered the call I put out a few weeks ago to hear from folks who are being impacted daily by this crazy economy,what follows is raw and open and a place I think many of us are in if we were to be honest. Thanks Deacon for being so open and sharing with us.  If anyone else wants to write about their struggles with the economy, I would love to have a guest post…hit me up at blackgirlinmaine@gmail.com.

My dad spent his entire career in blue-collar work, as a union electrician. There is no doubt that he spent most of that career, and all of my truly formative years, in the middle class.

I have a college education that I’m still paying for (and that my mom and dad helped pay for as well), a white-collar career, and I would call myself anything but middle class. In fact, I think this year I officially started skirting the “poor” category.

Oh, hell, who am I kidding? I’m on a state health-care plan now because my income has dropped so low. My family could, technically, qualify for one of those food cards that replaced the food stamps of old. The main reason I haven’t taken advantage of that is that, unlike with health-care, I still CAN afford food, and I’m not about to take from a program that other people still need more than me.

I find myself fearing at times that my dad, who has owned multiple houses in his life (and for some years has owned at least two, renting out one of them) must think I’m sort of idiot slacker. And he’s made enough hints and mentions that I must be doing something wrong with my spending or budgeting.

It irks me. Sometimes because he’s right. But mostly because he just doesn’t get it. And frankly, neither do many of my peers, some of whom are in similar straits as myself.

As I look back, I can see where shit started to fall apart for the middle class. After World War II, the middle class was created. Men and women (mostly men) who worked good paying jobs and got family benefits and eventually retirement benefits. They were able to buy homes, invest money and send their kids to college.

And then it began to fall apart, as more and more, those college educated kids found that they weren’t doing the jobs they supposedly got educated to do, and weren’t getting paid like their parents were. No, instead of defined work hours and hourly income, decent benefits, and overtime pay, we got salaries and some very fluid and changeable benefits. We had to work past normal work times, often with no compensation at all (except maybe “comp days,” which don’t exactly pay any bills). We were expected to give and give and give, but nobody compensated us adequately for what we did. And as the economy has globalized and now as the economy has begun to flounder, we are also expendable…or held hostage to our jobs, expected to do EVEN MORE, with even less compensation.

In essence, we were sold a bill of goods, and now if we say we don’t want to be worked to death for little pay and sometimes no benefits, we are told we aren’t team players. We aren’t hungry enough. We aren’t dedicated.

Welcome to Bizarro World.