Total Disclosure and Total Reform

 

Welcome to the October Carnival of Natural Parenting: Money Matters

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how finances affect their parenting choices. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while. It’s been rambling around in my head, but I just haven’t been able to do it. I haven’t done it because I’ve been afraid, but this opportunity to get it out was just too good to be true, so I’m taking the plunge.

I am awful with money. Absolutely awful. I do not live within my means. I do not budget. We always end up spending more than we make in a month and I am the reason why.

Wow. It actually feels pretty good to get that off my chest.

I feel like I’ve been lying to the blogging world. I’ve mentioned here and there that I’m not good with money, but I doubt that any of you took that as how awful I actually am. I’ve been trying to change for ages and I’m getting better, but I still need to entirely reform my way of thinking. I need to get a handle on my money so I can live a happy life without worrying about how much I’ve spent this month. Money is an important part of life, but in the grand scheme of things it’s so miniscule. Do I really want to spend my time worrying about money rather than having fun with my kids and watching them grow?

So I’m starting a policy of full disclosure on my blog. Sorry if this will make some of you who know me in person uncomfortable. Money can be an uncomfortable subject and I know that. I’ve talked to my husband and he thinks this is at least an acceptable idea. I’m hoping the accountability will make me take control of my finances.

So I’m giving you all my numbers for last month. A couple of notes: We made more last month than we normally do because my student loan money came in. This is the last time I will be getting student loan money (grants only from now on) because I have taken all of the substidized (meaning the government pays the interest while I’m in school) money that they will give me and I don’t want to start getting loans that accrue interest. Yes, I will be paying a lot of student loans once I graduate Second note: I stopped keeping track of money about half way through the month. One of my problems is that if I end up over-spending, I just stop trying at all. This is something that definitely needs to stop, but it’s also the reason why some of these numbers are pretty high in comparison to past months.

Going out: $91.98

Surprisingly, this is a good number for us. I know for some of you this may be a shockingly high number and I agree that we still need to cut down, but we’ve had much worse months than this. My husband gets an “allowance” of $30 per month for going out for work. I still pack him lunch (at least snacks) every day, but his department goes out for birthdays and they go to $.50 tacos on Wednesdays and stuff like that, so that’s not where I’m looking to cut. Something I need to do here is not buy stuff out of vending machines at school.

Pets: $73.05

This month the only thing we bought for pets was the materials to make a bunny box for our backyard. We tried to keep it as cheap as possible, but considering that thing will be out there for all sorts of weather, we needed to make sure it keeps her warm and doesn’t fall apart. Most months we actually don’t spend anything in this category, but then every few months we buy food or whatever, so I’m okay with where the average is at this point.

Personal: $124.07

This probably isn’t “personal” in the way most people would think. This is stuff like doctors appointments, our Bradley Method classes, exercise (my husband plays basketball on Tuesdays and when the church they go to isn’t open, they go to a rec center that charges). This one included a visit to Peanut’s allergy doctor (copay of $50) and one of three payments to my Bradley Method teacher ($50). The next couple of months we are paying the Bradley Method teacher again. I don’t anticipate any doctor appointments.

Groceries: $567.76

This is obscenely high in comparison to a regular month. Well, I at least thought that until I looked back at other months. Definitely somewhere I need to cut down, especially since we’re getting some free food from WIC now.

Cars: $207.58

Broke down a bought a parking pass for my school ($68 for one year) after missing the bus a few times. We filled up each car one time. It hurts to fill up my minivan even though it lasts more miles than my car because it’s like $90 at once. Hoping to continue filling up each car once a month.

Gifts: $4.00

Needed a couple of things for the breastfeeding basket I made.

House: $18.31

Bought a couple of whiteboards. One for a to-do list (which we’ve been using happily) and one that’s a calendar (which we use, but needs to be hung still).

Children: $1050.75

No, we don’t normally spend this much on Peanut. $900 of this is her preschool tuition for this semester, which is the reason we took out the rest of my student loan. The student loan covered her preschool plus an extra $600. This category is also unusually high because Peanut started her dance class and I didn’t realize I would have to buy her dance clothes and shoes. We also got her a three pack of Melissa and Doug toys off of Kids Woot that is partially going to go to Christmas, but I don’t know how much of it will so I just put the whole amount in this category.

Entertainment: $115.80

This category includes our Halloween costumes, which I am almost done making. I am making them myself as I do every year and trying to get them as cheap as possible. I plan on doing a post on that later once I’ve finished buying/making everything. I also forgot to change our Netflix to streaming only, so for a month we’re being charged for both streaming and DVDs on the new plan. Bleh. My husband also had a rare outing to play Magic the Gathering and I paid a $14 library card fee.

Clothes: $9.56

I bought a couple of maternity shirts at a consignment maternity store.

School/office: $2.00

I needed drawing paper for my botany class. Luckily, I found some for cheap at Target rather than buying the real art books at school.

Other: $0.00

Bills: $2288.81 This category warrants breaking down further.

  1. Gas: $46.00 (We’re on a program that charges us the same monthly for easier billing.)
  2. Mortgage: $954.99 (This will go down by $54 from now on, there was some confusion and we got a check for the extra we’ve been charged the last few months.)
  3. Credit card: $67.00 (We no longer use this credit card, but we’re also purposely not paying it down yet as part of our debt snowball.)
  4. Husband’s student loans: $185.08
  5. Car Insurance: $79.67
  6. MacBook: $153.00 (This is the current bill we’re paying down in the debt snowball. We have a few months left.)
  7. My phone: $40.00 (Both of our parents have us on their plans still because they’re awesome, but I agreed to pay my share of the family plan.)
  8. DirecTV: $65.69 (Some may argue that we should give this one up and we considered it over the summer, but my husband loves basketball and this would mean that he wouldn’t be able to get games at home. Instead we threatened to cancel and they took $30 off our bill. We used $18 of that to get HBO over the summer, but I’ve just canceled it, so this will go down a bit.)
  9. Gym membership: $17.09 (I would love to cancel this, but can not find a way out of it.)
  10. Midwife: $450 (We normally pay her $300/month with the intention of paying her off before I am 36 weeks, but I forgot one month so we’re paying 1.5x twice.)
  11. Life insurance: $46.29
  12. City: $94.00 (Every other month. Covers trash, recycling, water, sewer, etc.)
  13. Power: $90.00 (We’re on a program that charges us the same every month for easier billing).
  14. Comcast: $0.00 (They messed up and didn’t auto-bill us in September, so we’re paying double in October. Normally $53.40 after we called and threatened to cancel, so they brought it down by $15. Since my husband needs this for work when he’s on call, we’re reimbursed $45 a month from his work, so it essentially ends up being $8.40 for internet.)

There it is. I know some places that I need to work. I have some places that I’d like to get lower, but I just don’t know how. I happily welcome suggestions. I plan on posting a regular summary of money. Maybe more often than once a month because that was a really long post, but I’m not going to tie myself down to any specific time interval. Hopefully me just putting this out there for the whole world to know will help me stay under control.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama Visit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Money Matter$ — Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy shares her experiences on several ways to save money as a parent.
  • A different kind of life… — Mrs Green from Little Green Blog shares her utopian life and how it differs from her current one!
  • Show Me The Money! — Arpita of Up, Down & Natural shares her experience of planning for parenting costs while also balancing the financial aspect of infertility treatments.
  • Material v Spiritual Wealth – Living a Very Frugal Life with Kids — Amy at Peace 4 Parents shares her family’s realizations about the differences between material and spiritual wealth.
  • If I Had a Money Tree — Sheila at A Gift Universe lists the things she would buy for her children if money were no object.
  • Financial Sacrifices, Budgets, and the Single Income Family — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at the importance of living within your means, the basics of crafting a budget, and the “real cost” of working outside of the home.
  • Overcoming My Fear of All Things Financial — Christine at African Babies Don’t Cry shares how she is currently overcoming her fear of money and trying to rectify her ignorance of all things financial.
  • Confessions of a Cheapskate — Adrienne at Mommying My Way admits that her cheapskate tendencies that were present pre-motherhood only compounded post-baby.
  • Money MattersWitch Mom hates money; here’s why.
  • Money? What Money?! — Alicia C. at McCrenshaw’s Newest Thoughts describes how decisions she’s made have resulted in little income, yet a green lifestyle for her and her family.
  • What matters. — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life might worry about spending too much money on the grocery budget, but she will not sacrifice quality to save a dollar.
  • Making Ends Meet — Abbie at Farmer’s Daughter shares about being a working mom and natural parent.
  • Poor People, Wealthy Ways — Sylvia at MaMammalia discusses how existing on very little money allows her to set an example of how to live conscientiously and with love.
  • The Green Stuff — Amyables at Toddler In Tow shares how natural parenting has bettered her budget – and her perspective on creating and mothering.
  • Jemma’s Money — Take a sneak peek at That Mama Gretchen’s monthly budget and how Jemma fits into it.
  • 5 Tips for How to Save Time and Money by Eating Healthier — Family meal prep can be expensive and time-consuming without a plan! Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares five easy tips for how to make your cooking life (and budget) easier.
  • Belonging in the Countryside — Lack of money led Phoebe at Little Tinker Tales towards natural parenting, but it also hinders her from realizing her dream.
  • Total Disclosure and Total Reform — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl gets down to the nitty gritty of her money problems with hopes that you all can help her get her budget under control.
  • Save Money by Using What You Have — Gaby at Tmuffin is only good with money because she’s lazy, has trouble throwing things away, and is indecisive. Here are some money-saving tips that helped her manage to quit her job and save enough money to become a WAHM.
  • Two Hippos & Ten Euros: A Lesson in BudgetingMudpieMama shares all about how her boys managed a tight budget at a recent zoo outing.
  • ABBA said it — Laura from A Pug in the Kitchen ponders where her family has come from, where they are now and her hopes for her children’s financial future.
  • Money vs. TimeMomma Jorje writes about cutting back on junk, bills, and then ultimately on income as well ~ to gain something of greater value: Time.
  • An Unexpected Cost of Parenting — Moorea at MamaLady shares how medical crises changed how she feels about planning for parenthood.
  • 5 Ways This Stay at Home Mom Saves Money — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares 5 self-imposed guidelines that help her spend as little money as possible.
  • Frugal Parenting — Lisa at My World Edenwild shares 8 ways she saves money and enriches her family’s lives at the same time.
  • Conscious Cash Conscious — Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares her 5 money-conscious considerations that balance her family’s joy with their eco-friendly ideals.
  • Money, Sex and Having it All — Patti at Jazzy Mama explains how she’s willing to give up one thing to get another. (And just for fun, she pretends to give advice on how to build capital in the bedroom.)
  • Money could buy me … a clone? — With no local family to help out, Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wants childcare so she can take care of her health.
  • Spending IntentionallyCatholicMommy loves to budget! Join her to learn what to buy, what not to buy, and, most importantly, where to buy.
  • New lessons from an allowance — Lauren at Hobo Mama welcomes a follow-up guest post from Sam about the latest lessons their four-year-old’s learned from having his own spending money.
  • How to Homeschool without Spending a Fortune — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares tips and links to many resources for saving money while homeschooling from preschool through high school.
  • It’s Not a Baby Crisis. It’s Not Even a Professional Crisis. — Why paid maternity leave, you may ask? Rachael at The Variegated Life has some answers.
  • “Making” Money — Do you like to do-it-yourself? Amy at Anktangle uses her crafty skills to save her family money and live a little greener.
  • Money On My Mind — Luschka at Diary of a First Child has been thinking about money and her relationship with it, specifically how it impacts on her parenting, her parenting choices, and ultimately her lifestyle.
  • Spending, Saving, and Finding a Balance — Melissa at The New Mommy Files discusses the various choices she and her family have made that affect their finances, and finds it all to be worth it in the end.
  • Accounting for Taste — Cassie at There’s a Pickle in My Life shares their budget and talks about how they decided food is the most important item to budget for.
  • Money Matters… But Not Too Much — Mamapoekie at Authentic Parenting shares how her family approaches money without putting too much of a focus onto it.
  • Parenting While Owning a Home Business — In a guest post at Natural Parents Network, Lauren at Hobo Mama lays out the pros and cons of balancing parenting with working from home.
  • Crunchy Living is SO Expensive…Or Is It? — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy talks about her biggest objection to natural living – and her surprise at what she learned.
  • Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems — Sarah at Parenting God’s Children shares how a financial accountability partner changed her family’s finances.
  • The Importance of Food Planning — Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro discusses how food budgeting and planning has helped her, even if she doesn’t always do it.
  • Kids & Money: Starting an Allowance for Preschoolers — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings discusses her family’s approach and experiences with starting an allowance for preschoolers.

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Minimalism and Organization

I am slowly, but surely, learning that I am not a person who lives well in chaos.

Somehow regardless of that fact, I’ve grown up a very cluttery person. I’ve never been one to keep trash or dirt around, but I’ve just always had so many things that my areas would be cluttered with stuff. I emphasize those words because that’s what I really valued for such a long time. I’ve grown up using “retail therapy”, buying things I don’t need, and spending more than my means. I’ve known for a long time that this is a problem because—having such a frugal husband—it has caused arguments and unhappiness in my marriage. Little did I know, it has also been causing unhappiness in my life.

Not to say my husband isn’t part of my life. Of course, he is a very important part of my life. What I’m saying here is that I’m not a happy person when surrounded by things. There are certain items that are necessary for living or that make life better, but—at least in my world—there are many things that are just unnecessary and adding stress to my life.

I was turned onto the idea of minimalism when reading this post by Hobo Mama. If Hobo Mama introduced me to the idea, The Minimalist Mom gave me the road map to get there. There’s more to minimalism than the lack of stuff, but it’s a mind-set. It’s buying less. It’s reducing your carbon footprint. It’s having a clear mind. It’s increasing your self sustainability. For me, it’s being at peace.

I’ve been reading through The Minimalist Mom’s blog (which I very much recommend doing) to get ideas and inspiration, but a lot of it is just finding out what I need to work on. I’ve already gone through my clothes, my shoes, my bags, Peanut’s old clothes, Peanut’s toys, my {intensely large} pen and pencil collection, my books, and I’m sure there’s more I can’t remember at the moment.

I figured it would be hard. I figured I would start regretting losing my possessions as soon as I put them into plastic bags. Surprisingly, it’s been incredibly gratifying and {gasp} has made me happier.

When I say that I used to rely on retail therapy, I am far from using that as a cliche. In our most recent money argument, my husband went as far as to say I’m a “shopoholic.” Really, he hit it right on the money. I’ve used buying things as my “hobby” for as long as I can remember. I thought that I just enjoyed buying things and had problems saving. Hindsight, of course, is 20-20, and now I realize that it’s how I spent money was the problem. I would buy something new and make myself feel better short-term, but almost instantaneously I would start to feel bad again, so I would covet something else. I became so reliant upon the cyclic spending that I would actually start to feel sad if I didn’t spend money.

I can’t say that I won’t ever fall back into my habits, but I feel like I have an amazing new view on my financial habits. I realize that so much of my self worth is tied into my possessions and that’s not healthy. So much of my time is spent buying things, wanting things, managing my life around things and so little is spent on just making lasting memories. I took my dog to the park today. I played with my daughter on the floor. I wrote two blog posts. I made lunch and dinner. I lived.

So even as I take trash bags full of things to sell at consignment stores or give to good will or throw in the recycling/trash, I feel happier. I feel a burden lifted from my shoulders because I don’t feel like all the stuff surrounding me is going to eat me up. I feel less stressed about going to this store and that store and cleaning my house. You know what? My house is actually clean. It’s an incredibly easy thing to do as you decrease the amount of stuff to clean and/or work around when cleaning.

It’s easy to find things to let go of too. Do I need to keep purses that I will never be able to use because being a mom requires you carry too many things? Does my daughter really need to keep the toys that are pull-your-hair-out annoying or broken or she never touches? We have yet to go through any of my husband’s things because he’s not comfortable with that, but that’s just it—don’t do more than you’re comfortable with.

Some minimalists don’t have a TV. Some live in studio apartments as a family of 3 or 4. Some live with a total of 100 things. These are things that won’t work for me. Getting rid of books that I will never read again, that I’m okay with. That, I’m actually happy with.