Confessions Of A Busted Budget

Do I have to get up?I must confess that for the past month our budget has flown out the window.  I have not even done the math to see the damage yet.  I’m avoiding it because I know it will be ugly. 

The stress of everything surrounding the move got to us and we lost ground with many of the positive changes we had made in the year leading up to getting the new home.  We saw some of the bad habits creeping back into our lives but we seemed to have a lot of excuses (stress, lack of time, too tired, etc) to justify the behavior at the time.  I guess things like that are bound to happen.  The real test will be making sure we work hard on restoring our frugal habits now that we are getting past the worst of the moving ordeal. 

After contemplating the whirlwind of activity that has happened this last month (and still continues actually) I believe that these stress-induced bad habits led to our busted budget during the move. 

All home cooking came to a grinding halt.  I simply stopped cooking and opted to pick up most of our meals while out and about.  Sadly, cooking even simple meals at home lost all priority.  Eating out all the time not only affected our budget in a huge way but it degraded my sense of well being (physically and mentally).  Cooking brings me genuine happiness and during the time when I could have benefited from the stress relief most I felt I had bigger concerns to deal with.  It’s ironic.  “Forcing” myself to cook during this move could have saved more than just money; it could have helped save some of my sanity.    

We stopped using coupons and comparison shopping for the small things.  We still comparison shopped for the big things like our new refrigerator but I stopped looking for the best deals for the small things like paper towels or trash bags.  Clipping coupons went by the wayside and I shopped for convenience rather than savings.  For instance, instead of getting the cheaper kitty litter I normally get at Sam’s I took the easy route and got the brand name version at Target.  When faced with finding the best deals on the rare big ticket item purchases suddenly putting the time and effort to save some change on a bottle of dishwashing liquid didn’t seem to matter as much.  The problem is that those little things add up.  The extra money I paid for convenience could have helped pad our budget, especially when so much money was being spent everywhere else.

We lost our normal schedule and stopped waking up early.  This one bothers me a great deal.  I feel the most productive and happy when I’m waking up early and getting a good start to the day.  Rolling out of bed at 8:30 or 9am when I have pressing matters to take care of doesn’t feel good.  Instead of feeling proactive I feel reactive to my day.  It makes me feel lazy, and worst of all, it makes me feel bad about myself for not being as productive as I know I can be.  This affects the way I look at many aspects of my life, including money.  I stop having that sense of pride about managing my money closely because I feel I have bigger fish to fry and less time in my day to accomplish it.  It’s funny how something “unrelated” can touch so many facets of your life.

Although I wish we could have maintained our frugal ways a little better during this upheaval we realized a possible financial regression could occur and put aside extra money in the house fund for “miscellaneous moving expenses”. I know fast food and expensive kitty litter aren’t traditionally considered moving expenses but thankfully we have that savings to help cover these overages.

What’s important now is that I take back control of my budget and my habits.  It’s time to get back on track and develop a plan for the new year!

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My Big Fat Rambling Update

I’m almost there, folks!I thought it was about time that I give an update on how things have been going lately.  I know I have been noticeably absent around here.  I am getting closer to being in a place where I’m able to get my life and schedule back to where I need it to be.

We have officially moved to the new home!  We spent our first night in the new place ten days ago.  Although we are technically living here now it still doesn’t feel like home.  It feels foreign and strange.  I assume that feeling will linger until we get a schedule and routine in place.  The fact that most of our possessions are still in boxes probably doesn’t help much either. 

The place looks like chaos and it is taking a surprisingly long time to unpack.  Unpacking the kitchen is particularly painful because I feel the need to analyze the best places for everything to go.  Flatware should be close to the dishwasher and the pyrex dishes should be close to the oven.  But wait, now where does the Tupperware go?  I’m finding that trying to optimize the space complicates and draws out the unpacking process.  I even find myself taking things out of boxes and putting them into other boxes while I figure out where they need to go.  How is that unpacking?  *sigh* I’ll get there eventually.         

We’ve had our share of home related issues, too.  I know Eric told you about the burglary of our appliances.  We did get replacements and the new microwave was fixed on Monday.  In addition to that drama so far the A/C broke down, the front door stopped latching, the dishwasher wasn’t pulling in water, and after taking the first shower we discovered that the master shower doesn’t drain.  Just yesterday the plumber was finally able to fix that.  The drain was stopped up with mortar and rocks from the tile guys.  Nice.  Luckily, our builder has been great so far and has been prompt to fix any issues we report. 

Having so many repairmen and installers coming in and out of the home has been very hectic.  And we still have more work needing to be done.  Whenever you have someone come to install something, say window blinds, just expect that they will need to come back again and again.  At least, that has been the case for us so far.  Installs never seem to go as planned.

Not forgetting about the “old house” has been a challenge, too.  Despite wanting to get the new home set up as quickly as possible we still have to fix up the old home to get it ready to go on the market.  And with the holidays quickly approaching it appears we won’t even be able to get a crew in there for an estimate until after Christmas.  This week we also discovered that we will, in fact, have to replace the roof due to recent hail damage.  Awesome!

It’s a good thing we decided to postpone some of the big purchases in the new house (like landscaping and sprinkler system) just in case.  We realized that there could be unexpected repair or carrying costs associated with the old home and that it would be better to have that cash available if we need it.  Looking back that was a very good decision, especially now that we have to pay the deductible for the new roof and won’t have the house ready to be listed by January as we had hoped.

Seriously though, it isn’t all headaches and stress.  We love the new home and look forward to making it more “our home” as time passes.  The kitties seem to enjoy all the extra space, too.  I need to be patient though, and get the old house fixed up and sold first, before focusing too much on the new place.  Every day that house sits while not ready to be listed is money in carrying costs we are throwing away.  Getting that house sold has to be our first priority or we could run out of savings with the double mortgage payments.

Whew – that was a long and rambling update.  I am looking forward to getting back on track with writing and hope to be back to my more frequent posting schedule by the end of the year.  Thanks everyone for hanging in there with me!  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now!

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First Arbitrage

No, not that kind of CDI talked briefly in the past about how I was considering playing the arbitrage game for some of our big purchases for the new house. We had the opportunity to get no payments and no interest for one year on two of our big purchases. We are going to take advantage of that and try to earn a few more bucks for ourselves.

We had saved the money for both of these purchases, but instead of paying them off right away, we are going to invest the money for part of the time in a 6 month CD, and for the remainder of the time in a money market or high-yield savings (whichever looks better at the time).

We have approximately $6000 we are going to invest for this.

Now, we’re only doing this because we already have the money and we are not getting things outside of what we had planned for. We have developed the discipline not to go spending this cash when we know we are holding debt. If I didn’t feel disciplined enough I probably wouldn’t be trying this.

We used to determine where we could get the most money. In this case, Countrywide was the top but required a minimum investment of $10,000. The second best was E-Trade at 5.25% and the minimum was $1000 which we qualified for.

If we were more risk-takers, we might consider investing in the stock market. However, with the possibility of the investment losing money and leaving us with debt that wasn’t really an option. We didn’t feel like taking that risk where others might be more than happy to take that risk.

The yield from the 6 month CD would be $160. Not a huge sum of money, but nothing to scoff at either. That’s a summertime electric bill. You can find calculators for CDs at too.

The remainder of the time (5 months) we’ll put the money in the E-Trade savings account which is currently paying 4.93% and is compounded daily. There are higher interest rates, but weighing more accounts vs. getting a good (but not the best) rate where I already have an account made us decide to keep the money at E-Trade.

So, taking the $6160 and investing it for those 5 months at 4.93% interest compounded daily yields $6209 or another $49.

So overall we’ll have over $200 we’ve earned and we’ll still be paying off the debt a full month early. Again, not a huge amount of money, but there is a lot you can do with $200.

Image source *** Fanch The System !!! ***

6 Ways To Help Your Pets Adjust To Change

It’s my cat in a box!As we busily pack and prepare for the big move (the movers come this afternoon), we have started noticing that we aren’t the only ones feeling the stress.  Our kitties have been showing signs of being affected as well.  They seem on edge and out of sorts.  Every time we move a piece of furniture or place more stuff into boxes they seem to react.  One is acting out, another is acting withdrawn, and yet another is becoming unusually clingy and desperate for attention.  We are noticing they are even getting into little spats right now.

Moving brings about a change in your schedule (not to mention your physical home) that can really affect your pets.  That home is their sanctuary, their territory, and their world.  No longer having that predictability and normalcy can be even harder on your pets than it is on you.  When the hectic pace of moving becomes a blur of activity, remember to think of your pets.

Here are some ways we are trying to ease the transition for our kitty brood:

1.  Don’t pack everything.  Leave their favorite beds and toys out and save them for packing last.  Mark this box as an “open on arrival” box.  We are packing a special box of their favorite things to open as soon as the kitties move to the new house.  Our “kitty comfort pack” includes their favorite treats, wet food, tuna, beds, and toys.  We have already moved a few well worn scratching posts over to allow them to take out their frustrations if need be.  This will help them associate the familiar items and the yummy treats with the new place and help them realize that maybe the new house isn’t so bad after all.

2.  Consider calming agents.  There are all sorts of pheromone and homeopathic remedies out there to help ease the tension in stressful situations for pets.  One of the first things we did at the new house was plug in several Feliway diffuser units all around the home.  We figure this will saturate the air with feel good scents prior to their arrival and will help calm everyone down during the transition.  Remember to use something specifically meant for pets – many of the treatments humans use for stress relief can be poisonous for your pets.

3.  Use a room to transition.  Big new places can be scary, especially for cats.  Start them in a small room and once they have explored that area and feel comfortable slowly introduce them to the rest of the house.  The first night in the new house the kitties will be spending the night in a single room so they can acclimate.  This will help them avoid feeling overwhelmed and frightened by the strange new house.  Baby steps are best.

4.  Keep them safe.  Lock the pets in a room that you cleared out while the move is underway.  I have heard many horror stories of pets being lost, injured, or even killed while furniture and belongings are being transported out of the home.  Keep them in a secure room with food/water/litter and put a sign on the door instructing everyone to stay out.  It is better for them to be safe even if they are a bit lonely for a few hours.

5.  Reassure them.  When you are at home give them extra attention.  With their world being turned upside down they need you more now than ever.  Show them that even though change is in progress you are still there for them.  This will go a long way in calming fears. 

6.  Be understanding.  Now is the time that those less than desirable behaviors might occur.  Change is one of the most upsetting things to happen to a kitty so don’t be surprised or upset if they act out during the move.  One of our kitties is taking the move pretty hard and decided to pee on a box today to show his displeasure with the process.  He has never done that before.  We feel confident that he is acting out against us boxing up his environment and he felt the need to claim that property as his own.  We didn’t get mad.  We just cleaned it up and gave him extra love.  Getting mad does nothing – we need to help him during this time so he feels secure enough to stop marking his territory.

Breaking The Silence

Looks like we are fresh out - please come back tomorrow!Sorry we haven’t been writing lately. It’s been lots of 7AM to 10PM days and just a short time at home. We didn’t do a good job ahead of time estimating how long we’d have to work on different tasks around both homes.

A quick update – we’ve been robbed! Our new house was robbed and the appliances were taken. The thief broke in and took the most expensive and easiest items to take. At least the thief was courteous and turned off the gas when he snipped the cable to the gas stove. We think it probably wasn’t his first time through this. We’re still dealing with that event but everything is being resolved. It was the builder’s responsibility to lock it up so they bought us new appliances. The only problem is the new microwave is broken. It’s getting handled through the warranty however. C’est la vie.

One thing to learn from all of that is to make sure to get things in writing. I trust the builder and the company to do the right thing, but when it comes to money sometimes people can be funny. It’s always best to get things in writing.

Another lesson – it may be cheaper to seal your own tile but it sure takes a long time. It took us nearly 4 days to get it done. We saved $1300 doing it ourselves, but lost all that time. Although I’m really happy we saved that money, I’m physically exhausted and feel like I’m behind in other areas.

We had a little debate about movers, too. We shopped around a little bit and found different movers estimate things differently. We were concerned about movers that estimated by the hour. Is there motivation to get things done quickly? If our move is done in 4 hours, then the hourly rate vs. flat rate turns out to be mostly the same. However, if the hourly folks take one more hour, that’s another $100. On the other hand, if it’s a flat rate, will the movers rush through and not be as careful so they can save time?

We decided, after some debate, to go with the flat rate. If we get any guff about the amount to move (they made us estimate boxes as well as the items we’d be moving) then we’ll move the small stuff ourselves. We’re not done packing our boxes yet so we don’t know where we’ll end up number-wise.

Here’s to hoping we’re done with the move soon and ready to get back into our groove. I need to get to studying and Melissa wants more time to write. We’ll get there in just a little more time…

Image Source: Mykl Roventine

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