A New Beginning

October 6, 2013 · Posted in Change, Love, Money · Comment 


So many changes have happened over the past year, and I have had many thoughts of deleting the contents of this blog and starting fresh because so many of the posts are no longer relevant. The task itself is daunting, however, so I decided to just forge ahead with some new posts and make changes as time allows.

I used to focus primarily on money and finances, partly because we were in debt and also because I was trying so hard to learn all of the things I should have learned (why isn’t finance taught in school?) about how to be responsible financially. However, I don’t find money to be so important anymore. We’re still working on reducing our debt, but I honestly think that the value of the dollar is going to change in ways we can’t predict. I no longer think that if I had enough money in the bank and in my retirement accounts I would be assured a secure future.

Ironically, the title of the blog is Money, Love, and Change. For some reason, I never focused as much on the middle one, perhaps because I want for my private life to remain private (or as much as the NSA will allow). But I have spent a lot of time removing, or at least ignoring, the things and people which bring me down. We are homeschooling now, and are trying to find a good rhythm. I am working online, and I am focused now on work that is more personally satisfying.

I’m also a lot more comfortable with change. A few people close to us passed away, and it helped me to develop a greater appreciation for what is important and meaningful in life. We’re constantly struggling to be organized, and are always working to simplify things.

So now, hopefully I can keep up with the blog as I did before, and may again over time even find a small audience. We shall see!

You Need a Budget Software (YNAB)

September 1, 2012 · Posted in Money · 1 Comment 

photo: 401(K) 2012

 A failing hard drive last weekend (thank goodness for Time Machine for my Mac!) reminded me of how I should really find an alternative to Microsoft Money 2007 on our PC.  I have to admit that although I have been mindful of the bills and the budget, it’s kind of a drudgery to keep everything balanced; I was using Mint to keep track of debt, but I cannot use it exclusively since my credit union does not connect there (they used to, but with a security update it hasn’t been working for at least a few months).  So to make a long story short, I’ve been going back and forth between Mint and Microsoft Money, but not being very attentive to either one in terms of keeping everything balanced.

A few months ago, I tried to find something for the Mac, since it is my primary computer, but I wasn’t really impressed with anything.  The thought of entering all my past transactions was really almost too much to bear.  Everything I tried just seemed to cumbersome, and I aborted the mission.

Last week, I did another Google search and stumbled upon a program called You Need a Budget.  I am still using the trial version, but it seems to be the answer to what I have been looking for!  I’m really excited – I have a copy on my PC, my Mac, and the free app on my iPod Touch (no smartphones in this house), and everything stays synced through Dropbox.  It did take me one of the free seminars to understand the concept completely, but I am really looking forward to having more control over the financial aspect of our lives.

Each month, we charge almost everything to our Discover card to earn cash back, and we pay it off in full each month.  We have done this successfully for over 3 years now, so I feel that we use the card responsibly.  When I look at the statements, I can tell you, for example, what was purchased from Amazon or Target (when we make these purchases), and we consistently spend less than $50 per month on things that aren’t needed (ie. iTunes apps, a trip for ice cream, etc.).  The bulk of the charges are for groceries and gas.  Our problem lies in the fact that many months we are cutting it close to cover the bill because:

1.  We have to spend extra money for minor emergencies (or major ones).  July was a really bad month, for example.  We spent $1500 on major car repairs, had some unexpected medical bills and I spent some money to get parts for our leaking toilet and faucet (I had the time to fix them, which is not normally the case!).

2.  My income is highly variable.  There are months when I bring home more than my husband, but there are other months that are especially lean (ie. I didn’t get a contract to teach the first semester of the summer, and my second job tutoring does not pay in the summer).

My first goals with YNAB are to:

1. Bring ourselves to the point that we can cover an entire month of expenses on the Discover card ahead of time.  I really like how we can look to see how much we are spending in each category.  I hope to be more mindful about grocery shopping this month, for example, by not buying as much to stockpile.  This should help to compensate for our increased gas costs because the kid starts school this month (an hour commute each way, four times a week; I stay in the area while he is in school to save $).

2.  Create a positive net worth.  We still contribute to our retirement and the kid’s 529 plan despite having debt.  With YNAB, I am not factoring in the market value of our home, but I am including our mortgage debt.

I did enter transactions from August into YNAB to give me an idea of where our money was going and to have an idea of where I can make adjustments for September.  I also carried our credit card bill from July into YNAB, since I needed to show where our money went in August.  According to YNAB, we overspent $4584.82 in July.  In August, we overspent $2640.42.  Our net worth is currently $-10265.00.  I do have a few more accounts to add that will increase our net worth such as a few ING savings account, my business checking account, and our envelopes with emergency money.

I am really excited to begin making positive changes, and I think YNAB is a great match for us because we need flexibility.  I like Dave Ramsey’s general approach, but I don’t agree with certain tenets of his plan.  Quite honestly, I think it sets people up to be disappointed when the unavoidable emergency happens.  I started following Dave Ramsey’s plan, and then my husband’s father died unexpectedly.  When things like that happen, it’s impossible to focus with “gazelle-like intensity” on finances; there are obviously more important things in life.  I want to be mindful, but not obsessive.  I think that YNAB is the tool I need to help me do that.

Our Garden

May 16, 2012 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comment 

With the new dog, it became clear that a fence was going to need to be put in if there was to be any hope of having a garden this year. I think that the defining moment was when she ate the entire raspberry bush, prickers and all. She’s definitely not the sharpest tool in the shed..

Anyhow, the fence was finished last weekend, and I finished the first round of planting yesterday – tomato plants, snap peas, pumpkins, squash, broccoli, and brussels sprouts have been planted so far. I also had the opportunity to transplant some of my herbs. A nice bonus is that many of our neighbors have been visiting and commenting, and I hope that this is planting an “idea” seed; it would be wonderful if others began planting gardens as well!

I can’t wait to add to it; gardening is definitely a process, and we have added to ours each year. Now with a fence I am starting to envision some more vining plants and flowers. The kid really wants an apple tree… we’ll see!

photo by: Steenbergs

Mother’s Day

May 9, 2012 · Posted in Kids, Love · Comment 

My little man just couldn’t wait to give me my mother’s day gift from school. He hand-painted a silk scarf for me, and it is the most beautiful gift I have ever received. He told me how beautiful I looked as he wrapped it around me, and I feel so grateful to have him as my son. I honestly cannot wait until school is over with, and we have the time to slow down and be present for each other more often. I know these days will be gone before too long, and I feel like I don’t get to cherish them enough.

Organizing My Thoughts – 4/29/2012

April 29, 2012 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comment 


I know that many people are not going to be interested in whether or not I get things done, but I found that posting a list helped keep me on track in terms of getting things done – I really like the accountability factor. Perhaps I am just a glutton for punishment. Regardless, I’m going to keep it up for the time being, replacing items that have been done with new items. Here goes!

1. I will be mindful of the lettuce seeds for the next week, making sure that they come in at night and on cold days. When they are not outside, they need to be in the office in a sunny area but out of direct sunlight.

Progress – So far, so good! I am going to add a tomato seedling to my lettuce seedlings, and try to get it growing a little more than it has been.

2. Next, I found a pretty good deal on cedar square foot gardening beds at Ace Hardware; we plan on putting in two new plots this year, and these will be cheaper than buying the cedar ourselves. They are made in the USA as well. I am not sure what the catch is, but we’re going to go check them out tomorrow.

Done! They were not available at our local Ace Hardware, but we were able to find them at Home Depot. They are made in Cleveland, and they went together easily and look nice. We’re building a small fence around the garden area, and then we will be able to plant!

new 2. I don’t want to put anything into the ground before the fence is up, since the puppy and bunnies have appetites for destruction. So in the meantime, I intend to finish getting the old caning out of our canoe. I am down to the part that requires me patiently using small amounts of vinegar with a chisel to get out the rest of the caning and the glue before putting the new seats in. I estimate that this will take about 2 weeks or so.

3. I intend to pack up the clothes that the kid has outgrown so that a good friend can have them for her boy. We will be visiting in a few weeks, and being able to save on the shipping costs will make this well worth it.

Done! I just have a few things left:

new 3. I have to sew a new button in a pair of shorts so that I can put the elastic waistband back in. I also have to have the kid try on two pairs of lined jeans to see if they are ready to pass on.

4. I intend to go through some clothes given to me to see what will fit the kid for the upcoming summer. I will not purchase any clothes for the kid until this is done.

Done! This kid should be set for summer.

new 4. This kid is going to need a lot for this upcoming fall and winter. I intend to look for some deals online as well as make a trip to the local thrift store, perhaps even this week.

5. Finish assessment grading by the end of the weekend.

Not done! But the deadline is Wednesday, so I intend to work only on assessments while the kid is in school this week as well as when everyone is in bed.

6. I intend to get through a section of a course I am taking by the end of the week.

Not done! I intend to work on this as soon as my assessments are done, as well as work on it when I cannot work on assessments.

7. There are a lot of Phish cd’s in the mix, so I need to separate out what might be going to Cleveland in a week and pack the rest away until we can give away the Phish stuff in the lot of a show this summer.

Need to do!

8. I intend to get that last coat of paint on a few patches in the office. It will take longer to clean the brush than it will to paint!

Woohoo! This is finally done. Next, I have two projects to tackle – the fence and patio, and the kitchen. I also have to replace some of the fixtures in the office and basement.

new 8. Replace the fixtures in the office and basement. I have what I need; I just need to do it!

9. I intend to have a total of 15 lenses on Squidoo by the end of the week.

Not done! Once the assessments are done, I will be able to focus on this.

10. I intend to write up a plan of the next ten steps to develop one of the websites I have been working on.

Done!

new 10. Complete steps 1 and 2 of my 12-step plan.

Let’s hope I can keep it up!

Organizing My Thoughts – 4/25/2012

April 25, 2012 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comment 


I know that many people are not going to be interested in whether or not I get things done, but I found that posting a list helped keep me on track in terms of getting things done. So I’m going to keep it up for the time being, replacing items that have been done with new items. Here goes!

1. I intend to replant those lettuce seeds within the next few days. First, I need to see if I have small planters.

Done – Sort of. As I was going to replant the lettuce seeds, the pot was accidentally knocked over. I tried to salvage some of them, but to no avail. So, I replanted lettuce seeds and I am trying to make sure they get outside on the days when the weather is nice.

new 1. I will be mindful of the lettuce seeds for the next week, making sure that they come in at night and on cold days. When they are not outside, they need to be in the office in a sunny area but out of direct sunlight.

2. I intend to order the bamboo and fencing needed to keep bunnies and dogs out of the garden.

Done!

new 2. Next, I found a pretty good deal on cedar square foot gardening beds at Ace Hardware; we plan on putting in two new plots this year, and these will be cheaper than buying the cedar ourselves. They are made in the USA as well. I am not sure what the catch is, but we’re going to go check them out tomorrow.

3. I intend to pack up the clothes that the kid has outgrown so that a good friend can have them for her boy. We will be visiting in a few weeks, and being able to save on the shipping costs will make this well worth it.

4. I intend to go through some clothes given to me to see what will fit the kid for the upcoming summer. I will not purchase any clothes for the kid until this is done.

5. I intend to finish my final grades by the end of the day tomorrow. This is completely doable, but breaking the grading into chunks is much more manageable and allows me to provide more meaningful feedback to students.

Done! I actually finished this morning, but I am satisfied with being a little later.

new 5. Finish assessment grading by the end of the weekend.

6. I intend to get through a section of a course I am taking by the end of the week.

7. I intend to take a look at the small box of cd’s in the basement to see if they are ready to be given away. I may need to copy the contents to the hard drive, but would like to be able to give these away when we travel in a few weeks.

new 7. There are a lot of Phish cd’s in the mix, so I need to separate out what might be going to Cleveland in a week and pack the rest away until we can give away the Phish stuff in the lot of a show this summer.

8. I intend to get that last coat of paint on a few patches in the office. It will take longer to clean the brush than it will to paint!

9. I intend to have a total of 15 lenses on Squidoo by the end of the week.

10. I intend to write up a plan of the next ten steps to develop one of the websites I have been working on.

Let’s hope I can keep it up!

Organizing My Thoughts

April 23, 2012 · Posted in Change · Comment 


I feel a little overwhelmed with all of the things I want to accomplish in the upcoming weeks. Although I usually have a daily to-do list to keep my head in check, the kid doesn’t always allow everything to flow as smoothly as planned. I find that sometimes larger lists are helpful, but I am hoping that posting some to-so items publicly may help with their getting done. So here goes:

1. I intend to replant those lettuce seeds within the next few days. First, I need to see if I have small planters.

2. I intend to order the bamboo and fencing needed to keep bunnies and dogs out of the garden.

3. I intend to pack up the clothes that the kid has outgrown so that a good friend can have them for her boy. We will be visiting in a few weeks, and being able to save on the shipping costs will make this well worth it.

4. I intend to go through some clothes given to me to see what will fit the kid for the upcoming summer. I will not purchase any clothes for the kid until this is done.

5. I intend to finish my final grades by the end of the day tomorrow. This is completely doable, but breaking the grading into chunks is much more manageable and allows me to provide more meaningful feedback to students.

6. I intend to get through a section of a course I am taking by the end of the week.

7. I intend to take a look at the small box of cd’s in the basement to see if they are ready to be given away. I may need to copy the contents to the hard drive, but would like to be able to give these away when we travel in a few weeks.

8. I intend to get that last coat of paint on a few patches in the office. It will take longer to clean the brush than it will to paint!

9. I intend to have a total of 15 lenses on Squidoo by the end of the week.

10. I intend to write up a plan of the next ten steps to develop one of the websites I have been working on.

Whew – that wasn’t so bad! Let’s see what I can accomplish :)

Leggy Lettuce Seedlings

April 22, 2012 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comment 


My son and I have been working on starting some of our plants from seed this year in an attempt to save money, and also to gain some experience with heirloom seeds. We planted lettuce last week and placed it by our south-facing window. The seeds sprouted quickly, but have become droopy or “leggy” after just a few days, much like the bottom right-hand corner of the image in the post. After reading some gardening forums, I am going to replant them with the leaves at the top of the soil, which is supposed to help the seedlings develop a strong root system. I am not sure what else to do; the weather over the next week is restrictive in terms of taking the seedlings outside, and we simply don’t have the money in the budget right now for a grow light, although I would like to get one in the future to start some food indoors once the growing season is over.

Has anyone else had leggy lettuce? What did you do?

photo by: tygerdsebat

A Sense of Urgency

April 18, 2012 · Posted in Change · Comment 

photo: ASurroca

After spending a couple grand to pay the taxes this year, repairing the front end of the truck after hitting a deer, and committing to just one more year of private school for the kid, I was informed that I don’t have a class for the next term. This kind of sucks, because there was no warning this time. But perhaps it is also a blessing, because it will give me some time to work on all those things I haven’t had time to work on lately.

I have this sense of urgency; I think that this may be my chance to work on some ideas that have been incubating for awhile but have not had a chance to come to fruition. I am hoping that despite the setback of not teaching a class next term, we can continue to work on getting out of debt and building some community connections closer to home.

In a general sense, I feel this sense of change coming. I think that sometimes it gets so easy to get set in a comfort zone, but in some ways I find this unnerving because then there is nothing to punctuate life. We have some upcoming small travels coming up, and I am hoping that getting together with friends old and new will help to reveal some new thoughts and/or opportunities.

Small Gestures

April 2, 2012 · Posted in Change, Simplify · Comment 


As part of becoming more mindful, I am in the (lifelong? Hopefully not!) process of decluttering our home. In the past, our lived in look has not bothered me so much. However, life has changed, and we are no longer 2 people with a dog, but 3 people with 2 dogs, 2 turtles, and a fish. I don’t think that the animals mind so much, but we are simply accumulating too much stuff to live comfortably in our modest home. The mindset of moving into a larger home to fit our stuff is unacceptable for a number of reasons, so the other alternatives are to live with it or do something about it.

Yesterday, I think we made a big step in the right direction by repainting what used to be the baby room, and is now the office and turtle/fish tank room. The kid is now 6 years old and has a room upstairs, and the sky blue color was no longer pleasant. It’s now a nice guacamole green, and although I do see a few spots on the ceiling that need another coat, it looks very nice. Since the room is small, we only needed one gallon of paint, so our makeover cost was only $25. It feels like a very positive step in the right direction, as much was cleared out in the process. So much just needed to go to the recycling bin; it was quite amazing!

This week my mom is coming to visit, so we have some general housecleaning to do, but I am looking forward to next week because the kid is on Spring Break, and I hope that we can work together to get rid of some of his old stuff. I see him clinging to toys that he no longer plays with, and although I understand this is a natural part of being a child, I am hoping that I can teach him the good that occurs when we let go of things to others that may need it more. I think it’s important that he understands that it doesn’t need to be replaced with more stuff, but that we will have more room for free play and enjoying the company of each other and friends. We’ll see…

Next Page »