LearnVest Does it Again!

I have a very strong attachment to LearnVest’s Psychology of Money Blog. It gets me. It really gets me.

This week they ran a piece called “7 Ways to Deal with Money Envy“. And it was glorious.

How did they know that I’ve been struggling with this lately??? Can they read my mind??? ARE THEY WATCHING ME???

Lately, my friends are hitting career strides. They are getting fancy big kid jobs and buying houses and investing money and essentially kicking financial ass and taking names. And I am so proud of each of them. But I am also jealous (or envious….I never understand the specific difference). This article took that jealousy/envy and kicked it upside the face!

If you need motivation and good kick in the jealousy/envy pants, then this article is for you. Read it and tell me what you think!

REALITY CHECK: Thank the gods for emergency funds

So remember that happy dance I was doing yesterday when I had confirmation that I had paid off my big credit card? Yea. That’s over.

Not 2 hours after posting, I checked my mail. I had a bill from my local hospital. I was expecting it because I had a TON of blood work and testing done recently. I thought it would look like the last bill they send. Under $20 and easy to squeeze into the budget. And then I opened it…..

$215…..$215 that I don’t have budgeted this month…..$215 that is due before my next paycheck…..

Last year, this would have sent me whirling. I’d be canceling acupuncture sessions and eating rice and beans for the rest of the month. And likely still borrowing $100 or so from my savings account.

BUT THIS YEAR, my bananas are in a row, so to speak. I have an emergency fund. Sure, it’s not fully funded. But it’s got $215 in it. So that is what is paying this bill. Now some of you might be thinking this is not an emergency. I haven’t lost my job. And I’m able to work. This is just an unexpected expense that you should have been saving for. And you’re totally right, guys. I agree with you. But I haven’t been saving for unexpected medical bills. Because I have been budgeting (and using) over $200 every month for medical expenses. So I know I need to go back and rearrange things. But for the time being, my emergency fund was there to absorb the blow. I can buy fresh produce (on sale of course) for the rest of the month with out panicking.

WILLKNITFORBOOKS LIFE LESSON #1: Maintain an emergency fund. Always. You’ll thank me. 

Do Gift Cards Count?

Next month, I will start a habit of writing down every expense going in and coming out of my bank account. Every penny dropped in the gutter, every automatic payment, every movement of cash will be documented. Additionally, I will break down the expenses to the line item, so that every tub of yogurt or sweater on-sale at Target will be documented. This is one of the initial steps recommended in Your Money or Your Life. I dabbled with this in January. It was really successful as it required me to be extremely mindful with my purchases. Even though my spending was wonkadoodle that month, I felt more in control of my finances. February…less so….

But one of the things I will not be tracking are gift card purchases. Why? They were gifts. The money isn’t mine. It was never mind. The card is fundamentally a placeholder for the “gifts” that the cards procure me. I feel like the YMoYL-ers would disagree with this philosophy. But I feel that keeping the gift cards separate is going to help with my general mundane feeling that life on a budget sucks.

What do y’all think? Gift card spending: actually an expense? Or just a fun treat?

Overspent with 5 days to go!

If you had asked me last week, I would have giddily told that this month I would come in under budget. There would have been light behind my eyes. I might have danced.

As of this morning, that is not happening. I’m overbudget. Wamp wamp. The good news is that I purposefully budget with a buffer. My budget is set lower than what I bring in each month. The bad news is that I’m pretty sure I’m surpassing that one too.

The lesson I am learning every month is that I suck at budgets. Looks like it’s time to get back to writing down all my purchases neurotically again. A month without led to another accidental overspend.

Putting my serious pants on right now.

Roll call: How do you budget? Are you a 50/20/30 girl? Cash only? What works, people?

Travel SNAFU & Temptation

So I took a work trip to the MidWest on Tuesday. I was invited to participate on a panel. I thought I would just fly in and out so I could minimize the dent to our office’s travel budget. Boy was I freaking wrong.

My flight home was supposed to be last night at 7:30. Thanks to the Winter PAX (whatever that is), I’m here until Friday at 1:30pm. Not only is this rather inconvenient on all fronts, it’s creating some seriously difficult temptation. I want to go shopping at book stores and yarn stores. I want to go eat all the delicious foods. But my budget for February is tight. Super tight. And after January’s epic fail, I’m determined to get back on track.

So here I am, in my hotel room, reading books & watching the olympics, trying to not spend any money that isn’t completely necessary.

Thank goodness I was smart enough to bring 2 books and rent 2 movies from iTunes before I left!

How are you surviving the Winter PAX?

Penny wise and Pound(cake) Foolish

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve posted. Why? Health stuff. I won’t bore you by complaining about it here. But it’s been pretty emotionally debilitating, so I have been spending my nights watching too much Scandal and eating my feelings.

Today, I did both something positive for my budget and something negative.

The Positive!

I maintenanced my vaccum cleaner. Thrilling, no? I really wanted a new one, but then thought that would be incredibly wasteful. So I took it apart, cleaned all the filters and hoses, de-haired the roller-brush thing, and put in back together. All it cost was 1 hour of my time.

The Negative. 😦

I spent. And spent. First, I bought replacement parts for the vaccum. Though $30 for parts is better than $150 for a new one, it was still an unplanned and unbudgeted expense. Then, I bought flowers for Valentines for my best friend (it’s a 10 year long tradition that I refuse to give up on). It was (of course) unbudgeted. How do I forget every year that I do this? Anyway, I have added it to my irregular expense account. So now, I set aside $5/month. Then, I ordered new glasses. A budgeted expense, but a painful and expensive one. But my eyes need it. And then, I went to Target and bought a bunch of stuff that I needed but hadn’t budgeted for as well as somethings I did not need but bought anyway. I did go in with a list to minimize extraneous purchases. But that candle and box of Luna bars where NOT on the list…

The lesson I learned is never shop (or let yourself anywhere near your credit card) when living in pity party land. The result are spending spurts that put dents in the budget.

What are your spending triggers? What do you splurge on at Target? How do you stop yourself for pity-shopping? (No really. Tell me. I clearly need help.)

Hives! Hives! I have burned your bridges!

Fun Fact! (Actually, Fun Rant!) I have an autoimmune disorder. My body attacked my thyroid, and now it under functions. It’s slowly on it’s way to not functioning at all. The great part of this process is all the symptoms that pop up out of nowhere that doctor’s keep telling me A.) I’m imagining or B.) are part of said autoimmune disorder and are fundamentally things I have to learn to live with. It’s super fun…..

Today, the new symptom of the week is hives. I had a bad bout of them last spring, which lead to my initial diagnosis as hypothyroidic. They resolved 3 months later, after trying almost every drug in the book. My doctor and I attributed it to the thyroid medication I started. It was a welcomed relief to shave my legs again.

Welp. They came back. With a vengeance.  I have never been this itchy in my life. EVER.

Having hives makes me feel pretty desperate. Desperate for a quick fix. Desperate for resolution. Desperate for a way of understanding what my body is trying to tell me so that I can understand what it needs to heal. This typically leads me through a few phases.

  1. The phase where I give modern medicine a shot in hell.
  2. The phase where, becoming disillusioned with modern medicine’s inability to fix me, I turn to integrative medicine.
  3. The phase where the sheer cost of integrative medicine becomes so overwhelming, I have panic attacks (and my hives get worse).
  4. The phase where I decide I can do it myself, and start researching DIY integrative fixes to my problem on the internet, including dietary changes.
  5. The phase where I take on some monumental very strict dietary change. And it lasts about 3 days.
  6. The phase where I give up and accept that I’ll be itchy for ever. Then, I eat a donut.

These phases are pretty cyclic, though the speed of the cycle varies. I’ve cycled through all of them in one day (like today!). I’ve also taken a month to get there. The lesson I learn every time is that my health problems are expensive, financially and emotionally. The traditional doctors aren’t free. The integrative doctor’s aren’t covered by insurance. The searching and living in the unknown is stressful, which makes the symptoms worse! Everything has an upfront cost that I can’t pay because every last dime I have has been funneled to debt repayment. My debt is now the thing standing between me and fighting chance of not itching. Those gourmet donuts every weekend aren’t sounding quite so appealing anymore….

So it’s time to tell the cycle to go suck an egg. It’s time for life style changes. Big ones. But not to be implemented immediately. Nor all at once. But rather change to be taken one step at a time in an effort to find balance. Physical balance. Hormonal balance. Emotional balance. Financial balance. There has to be a way. So I’ve just got to find it!

This may all sound defeatist and sad and pathetic. But as I sit here trying to distract myself from the incessant pulse of itchy flesh right between my shoulder blades and I try to figure out how I might be able to pull off $3,000 worth of blood work and $1,000 worth of supplements from the latest snake-oil purveyor, I realize that my situation will never change. This is my life now. It’s not what I intended. It’s what I was dealt. And it’s not changing. So I have to face facts and learn to deal. It’s tough love, at it’s finest.

Ok. Rant over. Back to work!