Saturday, September 29, 2012

Reality as I know it

A recent comment on one of my posts has me thinking and trying to figure.  While the commenter had definite valid points that there are usually cheaper ways to get things done, I'm still trying to wrap my head around trying to accomplish a couple other of  his/her opinions regarding my finances.  I'm always trying to figure out a better way to get where I want to be financially, so am trying to see if this opinion is viable and how I would go about achieving it.

Based on my income I should have tons of savings and paid for assets.

A little more history: I was a SAHM mom until my youngest (now 16) was almost 6. DH was self employed in a seasonal type construction industry and monthly income was very up and down. We got by with our personal expenses but running your own business with construction equipment is costly and everything he made extra went into trying to grow the business, rather than buying ourselves personal assets. At this same time I went back to work (10 years ago) DH started having his health problems, which  made running his business and also working much harder. He struggled with it for years, cutting back to a size he could manage and trying to do the labor (as he'd always done) himself when he could. As he went through 2 years of doctor visits, every test there was and even a trip to Dallas to see a specialist, anything we had saved up went toward paying those expenses even though we had (and still do) insurance there was always a deductible and co-insurance costs out of pocket along with the travel expenses to Dallas.

As we went into the end of 2008 and into our usual slow season for work/income the recession also hit. When spring came and it was time to get busy again there was no work at all. The large construction company he had done most of his subcontractor work for had laid off 90 of it's 100 or so construction workers! They sure weren't going to use a subcontractor anymore and neither were any of the other 20 or so smaller companies DH worked for. We tried to keep it going, hoping it would pick up - and yep, you guessed it - there went any other savings we had and up went his business credit cards. By that summer he realized his business was over, along with the fact that his health was getting even worse.

Fast forward to 2 years ago and we had to file for bankruptcy. He was a self employed sole proprietor so we had to file personal bankruptcy. Of the debt discharged only $500 of it was from a personal credit card, the rest was business loans and credit cards.  I think it's common when most people file for personal bankruptcy they of course get to stop making payments on all their debt and their personal monthly income available to save goes up. This wasn't our case.  The bankruptcy did nothing to help our personal monthly outgo of money, except for the small payment on the $500 credit card. The rest that got discharged had been coming out of DH's business account and when the money stopped coming in his business had to stop paying the debt.

Our bankruptcy was discharged a little over a year and a half ago. We didn't have any savings and our personal assets were basically our house (which was now underwater after the real estate meltdown), 3 older paid for cars, our racing equipment for DS and our personal household belongings, along with a 401k/profit sharing plan I have through my employer.

So we basically started over less than 2 years ago.  Up until last month (when I got a $280 net raise) our monthly net income was about $5330.  While salaries are higher in this area compared to a less populated area, we also have the expenses to go with living here. We live in a very high cost of living area - housing is not cheap anywhere around here and it takes gas and lots of time to get anywhere. Just to get out of the city I live in from our house to the freeway (6 miles) usually takes 20-25 minutes because of the traffic.   In order to make the salary I do I had to find a job in the main city. The job I had in my own suburban town prior to this job only paid $40k a year. I knew we couldn't live on that so I took the job I have now, 7 years ago.

Here's the breakdown of our expenses. Since some expenses aren't monthly I just averaged them to a monthly amount:

Mortgage                      $1397
Home Equity Loan       $400
Gas  (cars)                    $250  (DD is now paying her own gas since she got her job last month, so about $70 less now)
Car payment                 $250
Auto insurance             $295 (DS is now paying $50 of this)
Car maintenance/tabs   $65 (annual registrations, oil changes, tires)
Health/Dental insur.     $477 (this is the cheapest most cost effective plan I could find for DH and kids)
Chiropactor copays      $20
Medicines                    $364 (this is what we have been averaging, but it keeps changing and was alot higher for the past 2 months)
Electric                         $175
Cell phones                  $45 (this will go down to about $15 a month soon as I switch DH to pay as you go plan)
Pest control                  $44 (spraying for ants - this is the only way that has worked to keep them away)
Food/cleaning supplies/pets/health and beauty  $950
Comcast                       $138 (phone, tv and internet)
DH "allowance"           $60
DD allowance              $30 ($0 now that she has a job)
Garbage and water       $37
Hair cut                        $12 (averaging mine and Dd's cuts)
Hair color                     $5 (I color my own hair)
Home maint/repairs     $30
Gifts                             $80
Clothing                       $40 (most goes to DD's annual school clothes shopping)
Lawn maint                  $20 (weed and feed, gas for lawnmower, etc)
   Total                          $5184/mo

Not to mention all the other little one time expenses that come up. DD's ASB and school parking, etc. That has only been leaving me about $1750 a year to save. Between a bonus, a tax return, and other scrimping and saving I managed to save $5700 since our bankruptcy was finalized 23 months ago. $2200 was used to paint our 20+ year old house that had never been re-painted, $1500 was use for a the retaining wall and the rest hs gone to the deductible and prescriptions for DH's medical expenses that we have had so far this year.  Not much I can do about the medical and it's hard to anticipate year to year how much it will be. The past few years he had been in a mode of just living with it and we didn't really have any medical expenses, but when a year ago the pain got so bad he had to start going back to doctors and also added the prescription costs, which have increased last month when his health insurance dropped generic prescription coverage.

Sure, I can put a set amount into savings each month, but if something unexpected comes up (like the dr. switching him to Lyrica and that being $202 out of pocket two weeks after I had just spent the same for a different medicine) it's just has to come back out.  That is why I just usually wait to see what I have left over at the end of the month and that becomes savings.  As of now, with the salary increase, and the kids starting to pay some of their expenses I will start seeing a nice increase in what I will have available to add to savings. Whether my money is sitting in savings or checking, I don't worry about spending any of it on unnecessary things. It's just not in my nature to spend money on things I don't need. I hate spending on things I do need!

Other than the car I drive (which gets almost 10 mpgs more than the other car I was driving) and our home, we own everything else we have free and clear. We haven't financed furniture or appliances. Any furniture we've bought the past 2-3 years came from money DH got from gradually selling off tools and equipment he no longer needed. We had to replace the couch - the old one was literally falling apart.  The recliner came out of our Christmas gift budget  for each other. We had to replace the range - the 20 year old one died. I went for 3 months without one (luckily it was summer and I could bbq, stove top cook and microwave) until I could save to pay for a new range with cash.

Compared to most people I know, I hardly spend anything on myself at all. I don't get fake nails or tanned (neither does DD), I color my own hair, cut every 2 months for $15 (with tip), if I get Starbucks it's from giftcards I got as a gift or from Mypoints. My clothing budget is pathetic.  My "treat" to myself is a monthly chiropractic adjustment ($20 copay) to keep myself aligned and feeling well after a car accident 5 years ago. Entertainment is books and movies from the library. We go out to a restaurant (low to mid priced) about every 2 months. We watch tv at home and enjoy the internet.  All my magazine subscriptions are free from mycoke rewards points. None of us smoke or drink alcohol. Neither DH or I have fancy smart phones (the kids pay for their own phones).

So, there you have it. I'm still trying to figure out how to support 4 people AND add to savings and little by little I am finding ways.  I don't feel I have my head buried in the sand or not facing reality when it comes to our finances nor am I out there trying to get credit cards again to charge up. If there are better ways I could be doing this I'm certainly open to suggestions, but I'm not going to live on rice and beans and I'm not going to cut out cable and internet, that is our entertainment budget and I need internet in order to work from home and do my side jobs, as well as DS, who does website work. I have been trying to get the food bill down, but it's been a gradual process as DH is a very picky eater. DS is on his way to soon being able to support himself and DD is about 4 years away. Her getting her AA degree while in high school will shorten her time of financial dependance on us by 2 years. At that point I should really have expenses cut down and be able to really amp up the savings. That's my hope anyway........barring anything like me losing my job or health issues..........that's the next post!



  1. Sounds to me like you're doing the best you can with what you're bringing home - not a lot of fat to trim. The $80 for gifts - could that be cut back - possibly to some home-made gifts (sew/crochet/knit/baking?).
    As far as gifts - you just can't spend what you don't have - and if you don't have enough to save, then I'd say stop giving gifts. People HAVE to understand - and if they don't, too bad. Like you said - you aren't lavishing yourself or family with anything - so it's obvious (or should be) to others that you are scraping bottom here. Have you or hubby ever thought about doing some Ebaying for extra income? I do it and it's amazing the money I bring in. With you working FT, I'm sure you don't have much "free" time, but what about husband? I know he is having a lot of pain issues - but could he possibly get out on his "better" days and pick up some items to sell? (from thrift, garage sales, estate sales?). You just need a small amount of $$ to start (say $20-$30 bucks, then sell that, with profit, and then continue to use the same amount to buy, pocketing the extra). Just a though. But sounds to me like you are really doing an amazing job.

  2. The $960 a year for gifts is about a $600 xmas budget for the 4 of us, DS's girlfriend, my mom, grandma, uncle and 3 nieces. Since we don't spend much on our kids during the year I spend about $150 each (it's usually practical things they needed anyway, but I will probably cut down to $100 each this year), $75 each for me and DH to exchange, $20 each for mom, grandma and uncle (we set that limit years ago), I only spend $5-$10 on each niece and about $30 on DS's girlfriend. Birthdays are about $100 for each of my kids, $40-$50 each for DH and I, $25 for girlfriend, and $15-20 each for my mom and grandma (which is combined with mother's day as both birthdays coincide). With working full time and 2 side jobs I just don't have time to make gifts, but I have done that many times in the past when I was a SAHM and we didn't have much to spend.

    DH has done some selling on ebay, the year before his pain got so bad. We are hoping that if he can get some pain relief he can get back to doing something like that to earn a little extra. At this point I'd end up being the one doing all the running around to find stuff and I just don't have the time or the energy left.

  3. It's hard sometimes isn't it? Our income is dropping & therefore our savings will drop as well.. :( You can only do what you can do. What about shoving any budget $$ left at the end of the week into savings??

    1. That's too bad your income is dropping. Makes it so hard. I'm very blessed that this past month has brought some positive changes to our income and expenses.

  4. All I can say is that in my opinion(not that THAT is worth anything lol)you are handling the money stuff well. Sometimes it gets to a point in anyone's situation where there is nothing left to cut or not enough to cut that would make the situation substantially better.
    There is that balance of quality of living vs. spending thing too.
    The only way I can see to cut costs significantly, from what financial info you've provided, is to sell the house. But with your situation(negative equity)and the real estate market(and the current entire housing market-including rentals-where you live, which I am not privy to)that is NOT realistic at this time.

    Sometimes the only way to improve things, rather than cutting is to increase the income in some way. I know you are stretched thin already in time, energy and having to handle so much of the day-to-day stuff with your husband's condition. Until his prognosis improves and you have the children off the family payroll(so to speak), maybe the best you can do is to tread water for now.

    2 suggestions I will make....
    1. About the chiropractor copays--Daughter was referred to a chiropractor for her back issues by our family GP earlier this year. Our medical insurance only covers 15 chiro visits per year(plus our copay). It was recommended that she have 2 x week treatments for the 1st month and then 1 x week treatments the 2nd month and then go on a maintenance program for her back of an adjustment every month or so as needed. We ran through those 15 insurance paid visits quickly. We went to the chiropractor and explained the situation that we had to pay out of pocket fully for any visits after those 15. He has a policy of only charging the co-pay once the insurance coverage runs out per year, so now we pay him directly the co-pay and he no longer bills our insurance.
    I may just be lucky with this(as we have many other medical bills), but it might be worth it to talk to your chiropractor about reducing your co-pay amount(if your insurance covers all treatments per year)or just paying OOP the co-pay(if your insurance only pays a set # fo visits.) Just trying to give some ideas here, as I don't know the specifics of your chiro. treatment.

    2. Since you get folks coming to your blog who don't know your backstory now and then, it might save you and them time and energy if you had a small blurb, like an "About Me" on your side bar explaining who you are and how/what/why you are "One Family One Income". Then you might not have to rehash the bankruptcy, medical issues, etc. every time someone new stops by.
    Just a thought.....


    1. That's a good idea on the "about me" section. I will work on that.

      Regarding the chiro co-pay. He's already doing me a huge favor with this. I started going to him 5 years ago after my auto accident. Same thing on visits - 3x a week, then 2x then 1x then every other week (this was covered by the other guys auto insurance). Eventually I got to where I just go once a month. My insurance was covering 12 visits a year. Then last year my company changed health insurance companies to a company he is not contracted with. I was going to find a new chiropractor as I couldn't afford to pay out of network amount but he said I had been such a long time patient that he agreed just to take my $20 copay as payment in full each visit and he is getting nothing from the insurance. He has been such a help with my neck and back and he's only a mile from my house, so extremely convenient. Actually, I've been stretching it out over 5 weeks, so really works out to $17 a month.

    2. What a great chiropractor you have.

  5. I think you are working hard and doing great! It's easy to judge when you don't know the circumstances.For example, your combined income is double of what we are getting but when I look at your expenses, we have A LOT less to spend on. Like my husband gets reimbursed for gas and his cell phone etc.etc. Do you think you can shop around for cheaper car insurance. It looks like you are paying too much. But then again, I understand that it could be because of the area where you live. Good luck with everything!

    1. I do shop around for car insurance (and health insurance) at least once a year. This amount is also insuring 4 vehicles and also probably higher, like you mentioned due to the area we live. I switched to Progressive when I got my new(er) car and we added DD's car (she will pay her own insurance once she graduates). It ended up being less for 4 cars than I was paying before for 3 older cars. DS is now paying $50 a month for his car out of this $295. I've also put the 3 older vehicles on higher deductibles to keep the premiums down. DH could give up his pick up but it's the one thing he feels he has left after all we've been through and he's the type who is very attached to his vehicle (must be a guy thing!). Honestly, he doesn't need to be anymore depressed about how his life has turned out than he already is. It's 14 years old, in almost perfect shape, and having a pickup is very handy when we need to haul big things and we need something to tow the race trailer when DS races. (DS races on his own money he earns and sponsorship money - we don't help him anymore). Our homeowner's insurance comes out of our house payment, but I did just recently shop around for that, as I haven't done that in years but found I was already paying the cheapest I could find.

    2. Are your vehicles old enough to drop collision and comprehensive coverage? This saved me money on my husbands old rusty truck.

  6. I think the main area I need to keep trying to reduce cost is food. It's been hard because DH is picky, he won't eat leftovers and he is brand loyal, so it makes it really hard to try something cheaper of certain foods. I've been working on the fast food/take out and for September I spent $100, which is a big improvement.

  7. I am the one that made the comment and i'm glad it got you to think about things.
    I agree on a lot of things that you watch the cost etc very well.
    Like the first commenter husband is going to have to make side money (period)
    I have compassion for his pain but there is always ways to make money such as the lady said about ebay and control his issues.
    Also it so easy to say oh yeah we need this or that and spend the money when it doesn't seem like much the leaks are a problem. five here seven here. Oh it's only 12 at subway or 7 at wendy etc. That adds up and could be used to buy items that could be sold to double or triple your money. Don't kid yourself it adds quickly.
    When i made the comment i was looking back and read most all of your post from the beginning what i was seeing was tons of fast food, gifts, expenses etc.. that seemed to be little leaks but i know from experience create a much larger picture. I see alot of trips to stores and malls which from other bloggers you should know just adds to the spending.
    Forget the gifts. Send a card and bake cookies or gift slips that say good for one free housecleaning or whatever little task you can do. Also as you said the grocery things is way out of control. You can do better and not eat "rice and beans" Do you have an aldi or save a lot. I never buy "bertolli" it's outrageous!!!!
    I also have problems with the amount spent on the painting and the wall. That is a lot of money. If it had been me i would had been out there painting a half a wall a weekend if that was what it took even if it was 3 months to do it.:)
    On a positive note i really do see a lot of really great things you are doing. I just believe you have a lot more to do and from i see from you post I believe you can make it happen.

    1. It is always great to judge someone under the banner of anonymity. If you are so confident in your a real name.

    2. No sure on the trips to the mall comment - I rarely step foot in the mall. I HATE shopping like that and pretty much only go at Christmas time (and even then I try to avoid it by shopping online or at Target or Walmart), in the summer for DD's school clothes and when we absolutely need something like socks and underwear. I do make lots of trip to stores like RiteAid and Walgreens to stock up on their deals, usually when I can get something for free or nearly so on things we use. We don't have an Aldi or a save a lot store. Just a super Walmart and the regular big chain grocery stores and our Target has a small food section.

      The cost to the painter was $1800, which was a really good deal compared to other quotes we got (this was a friend of a friend). We did most of the prepwork ourselves and 2 of DH's good friends came and did all the pressure washing of the house) but the additional cost came in having to replace alot of rotted trim and a couple of panels of siding, along with the stuff to wash the house before painting. DH just cannot do this type of work anymore (we certainly would have done it ourselves in the past) and the one day I spent scraping paint turned into 3 days of misery and pain for me. My back went out on me the next day and my neck felt awful and I had to use a sick day of work and an extra chiro visit. Our house had never been repainted in 22 years, so I don't think spending $2200 amortized over a 20+ year period is much of a cost to maintain our home. It looks so nice and we are so happy with it. I have no problem with what it cost - we saved up for it and paid cash.

      I don't know how we could have reduced the cost of the retaining wall. The blocks cost what they cost. We got a discount for the quantity we ordered and the neighbor ended up chipping in $400 of the cost. ALL the labor was done by our son and the neighbors. I bought a couple of pizzas to thank them for all the help.

      I know it's very hard for most people to understand someone being disabled and really having to limit their activity. DH actually tried to help with the block wall (against me telling him no way) and of course spent days after barely being able to move. It's just not worth trying to do things he just cannot do anymore. We end up spending more in pain meds and doctor visits - so any savings gained by him trying to do the labor is just lost in that cost offsetting it, along with the fact that he then puts himself out of commission even more. I'd rather have him doing light things he can do - like the laundry, small house repairs, and mowing the lawn (it's a large lawn, so riding lawn mower) than trying to throw 60 pound blocks or paint a house. Even a half hour of holding his arm up to paint would cause him to have severe muscle cramps or at minimum extreme stiffness, not to mention the pain.

  8. Oh also when you replace couch etc.. why go retail? Why not craigslist? Why shop retail for anything? $400 on a couch no way. $100 or less on craigslist or moving sales. This is where the husband can come in and save the money these can be his task to help the family. If he's picky on the food then guess who the new cook is. and the new grocery shopper. Also when he gets more involved then he can see the expenses. Also a lot of his pain and problems can be due to not having other things to focus his mind on which can lead to depression which causes more pain. it wont be easy but that would be super if it could also help his health.

  9. My real name is tammy and i stand by what i say.
    I just post as anony because it easier than typing in abunch of stuff and i got more things to do with my time.
    You can take the advice or you can leave it.
    If just know what i felt and saw when i read the blogs.
    I also know what has worked for us.
    I'm a bootstrap kind of person and know humand nature is to justify actions.
    Self reflection is tough so self honesty.

  10. Also that fine if he can't do heavy labor i understand pain and problems have my own but buying and selling doesn't have to be big items and doesn't require heavy lifting.
    Also i saw a lot of your readers just going ra ra ra your great and a lot of them were not honest about the real feelings until someone else was willing to say something different.
    I gave praise where i believe it was right, where i saw issues i stated them.
    If you don't want the real talk and real perception of the this reader just say so and I will glady take my eyes somewhere else.
    And to the other readers- be honest if you don't agree with what she says and think she's headed down a wrong path. Isn't that what a reader is suppose to be about, honest and helpful insight, sharing perceptions, and helping the blogger through what ever their plight is?

    1. Tammy, guess that's where we are just different types and that is fine, too. I don't feel it's my place to judge any of the people who's blogs I read or comment on, nor is it my place to tell them how they should be running their life. I don't know ALL the details of their life from a blog and don't expect to. I try to ask questions or offer suggestions that might work for them (at least I hope that is how I come across to those of you I comment to). No biggie that you don't agree with how I spend my money - when someone wants to offer a suggestion- as many of the regular readers have, I will respond with an honest answer if that will work for me and my family or not. I'm not going to just agree to make them like me or sugar coat what my life is like. Most all of us are going through tough times and we do support each other and ra-ra each other on our blogs. I'm not charging on credit cards or spending on foolish things, but I will keep working on finding even more ways to save and cut back when we can or want to. Read if you want, don't if you don't like what I have to say. I'll respond honestly if a suggestion will work in my life or not (sending DH grocery shopping will NOT for many reasons! LOL).

  11. I don't think you give your husband enough credit.
    I think you could ask things of him and he would meet the challenge.
    Too many times people meet the expectations of people around them and if they are not challenged they do not believe it of themselves.
    Much the same as I have challenged you for what you think is possible of yourself and your family.
    I wish you well.

    1. You know how when a guy doesn't want to do something around the house they purposely do a bad job of it?! That's grocery shopping for my guy. After 28 years of marriage we both know grocery shopping is NEVER going to be his thing and we've both accepted it - long ago. I won't even let him go with me to shop! It's kind of a running joke for us for years and years. First off, he'd spend twice what I do, he wouldn't use coupons or shop sales and at this point it would take him forever to do the shopping if he were to try this himself every week. He couldn't walk around the store that long and then stand in line and those motorized seating type carts only have tiny little carts on front. He can do the laundry - he met that challenge just fine :)

  12. I meant to add that what might work fine and seem logical for one person might seem totally ridiculous to the next person. I've known my DH 30 years, he was a picky eater before I married and I married him anyway. 28 years later I'm not going to suddenly say "what? you still don't like spaghetti?? well then you are now doing all the cooking and grocery shopping!". I'm trying to do my best with what I have to work with picky eaters-wise and my own limitations as not the best cook in the world. But, it definitely an area I can make some improvements without turning into a mom who they suddenly think went off the deep end (or went into menopause, LOL)