Friday, December 30, 2011

Year In Review

As 2011 comes to a close, I'm reflecting on all I've accomplished this year. I started this year out with a lot of goals. My primary focus was to change our lives financially.

At this time last year my family of 7 was living in a single wide, 3 bedroom trailer with absolutely no elbow room. Our bank account was overdrawn as usual. Our bills were all past due, as usual. We didn't have a dime to our names. I was uneducated and unemployed.

At the start of 2011 I set out to change most of that. I did not expect to change our living situation within the year, I figured that would take some time. I also wasn't really planning on enrolling in school. I just wanted a job. Any job. Just a job to help make ends meet and start changing things for the better. I just wanted our financial life to be easier.

January was a big month. I did get a job, working part-time at Subway. I also enrolled in college so that I could eventually have a good job.. possibly even a career.

Since January of 2011 we did not overdraw our bank account even once. I also managed to open up 2 savings account which for most of the year held a balance of a couple hundred dollars each, though of course both of those savings accounts were drained recently to supplement our holiday shopping.. but I have a full year ahead to rebuild those accounts and hopefully not need to dip into them as much next Christmas season.

Also, since January 2011 none of our bills were paid past due (except rent once, but it was done on purpose.. and I'll explain that in a second here).

In October of 2011 I got a new job, at a bank, where I am still employed. (I know it's been awhile since I've posted so I will say that I am loving my new job, and I did quit Subway early in November).

This last month of the year hasn't been such a great one. Our holiday was good, much better than previous years due to having some extra cash to spend on gifts for the kids. They all made out very well and were all very happy with their gifts. (I also got a Coach purse that I am very happy with).

However, my husband's father, who was diagnosed with Leukemia, started getting worse during the month of December, and finally died on December 27th. He'd been sick for 2 years, but there was nothing that could be done due to his age and other illnesses.

Three weeks ago my family moved into my father in law's 4 bedroom home. Our intent was to be there to care for him during his final weeks because we were told on Thanksgiving that his time was limited. However, the same weekend we moved in, my father in law was told that his illness was too severe to allow him to return home again. He remained in the hospital until space opened up in a hospice facility a few days before Christmas, and he was there when he passed.

We moved into the house anyways, as it was left to us in his will, and there's really no reason the home should be taken away for any reason. FIL did not have any major medical bills since he went to the Veteran's Hospital free of charge.

So as I prepare to start 2012 life is completely different than it was a year ago. I have thus far completed 3 semesters of college and should obtain my degree by this time next year. I am employed part-time at a bank, making a decent wage. My hope is that I get more hours at the bank by this time next year. And my family no longer lives in a cramped trailer. Instead we have a nice sized 4 bedroom home with a large yard in a nice neighborhood.

Considering these facts I have not really set any New Year's Resolutions. I just hope to continue on the path I'm currently on, finish school, remain in this house and fix it up a bit more, and hopefully have more hours at the bank in the coming year.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Started my new job today..

Yet again it's been awhile since my last post, but understandably, things have been a bit hectic around here.

I'm currently at the mid-point of my 3rd semester in college. The way my school works, they split each semester up into 2 sessions, so instead of taking 4 classes at a time, I take 2 classes in the first session and another 2 in the second session. So I'm currently on the last week of my first 2 classes, and next week I'll start 2 new classes. Although I've never had to take 4 classes at one, I think our way has many benefits. First, you don't get too worn out from classes. By the time the class starts making me nuts, it's just about over! Also, having only 2 classes at a time limits the work load. The only down side is we have to squeeze more work into a smaller amount of time. So far I'm still doing well in my classes and still have a 4.0 GPA, but of course I have final projects coming up and bad grades on those could ruin my GPA.
\
The kids have kept me busier than ever over the past month and a half. Each of the older 4 have been in soccer! As I mentioned in my previous post, the oldest child, a ninth grader this year, made the varsity team and has been doing well. Over all the team has done poorly, but I blame that on the coach who is only coaching our team this year. Next year they'll have a brand new coach. I had also mentioned that I signed the 8 year old and 5 year old boys up for soccer. Well, after the first practice my daughter announced that she wanted to play also. Normally she does dance, which is far more expensive, but she told me she'd rather play soccer than do dance. So, I signed her up for soccer as well. Since she's been in dance since she was 3 I decided not to pull her out of that, so she did both, but it wasn't overwhelming. Dance started 2 weeks ago, and soccer just ended this past weekend. The oldest finishes his soccer season this week as well, so things will be calming down a little bit for the time being. However, I decided to sign the oldest up for a winter soccer league, which will begin the first week of November, and the 8 and 5 year old boys are signed up for basketball which will begin the end of November. The daughter has decided to only do dance for the remainder of this year.

While the youngest isn't old enough to participate in organized sports, he has recently started something that we all find very exciting. I enrolled him in nursery school/daycare! My youngest son is 3, and he has been wanting to go to school since last school year. I seriously debated a nursery school, but since I knew I was looking for full time work, and nursery schools are usually part-time, a few hours a day, a couple days a week, I held off. Until my older son's teacher told me about this particular nursery school which is also a daycare. Not only is it full time, all day, 5 days a week, it's also extremely affordable. It was actually shocking how affordable it was. An average babysitter who watches children in their home would charge more than this daycare. And the best part is, it came highly recommended. My current kindergartner's teacher has her daughter in this daycare, and the teacher who had my twins for kindergarten also had her child in this facility. How could I pass this up?

At the time I enrolled him in the daycare, I was still only working at Subway. I begged and pleaded for more hours to ensure I could pay the fees, which turned out not to be problem. But of course I'm hardly making over minimum wage at Subway so I need to work a ton of hours to make sure I can cover the daycare costs, and with a job like this my hours are not guaranteed. I might get tons one week, but none the next.

Thankfully, the universe had a way of working itself out for me. My husband convinced me to upload my resume to CareerBuilder.com. I'd been reluctant because anytime I've ever uploaded a resume to a website, I've been hit with a ton of spam mail and scam jobs. But, I took his advice and submitted my resume.

At first it was a few spam mails and nothing else, but then I got a phone call from a recruiter for Bank of America. After filling out an online profile and doing a phone interview, I was set up with a face to face interview. The very next day I was told I got the job!!

It is a part-time job, only 20 hours a week, but I'm making a decent salary plus I am eligible for benefits!

As the title stated, today was my first day. Nothing special to report just yet, today all I did was watch a training video and meet some of my co-workers. The next few weeks are going to be much of the same, just a lot of training. But I have a really strong feeling that I'm going to really like this job! The people seem very nice and very easy going. I think it will fit me perfectly. I'm very excited to go back in tomorrow and continue my training!

For the moment I'm still working at Subway. I'd like to continue to work there 1 or 2 days a week when I can, especially through Christmas. After Christmas we'll see how things are going with the new job and determine if I can afford to quit Subway or not. As long as I leave in good standing I can always go back later if I really need to.. but I'd like to not have to!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Summer is winding down..

My kids start back to school on September 6, so we're gearing up for that. For me, the first day of school is better than Christmas! I'm definitely looking forward to it. Of course this year I also go back to school the day after the kids do, but my schooling is so much easier on me when the kids aren't home all day to distract me.

Back to school shopping was a breeze for me this year. Normally right now I'd be freaking out because I'm not completely ready, but this year has been different. I've bought the supplies a bit at a time all summer long, and that is complete now. Clothes I've also done a little at a time here and there. Got the oldest some nice name brand things at garage sales and on Craigslist. Got the younger boys some nice things off Craigslist very reasonably priced. They each got at least 1 brand new outfit from K-Mart (I'm not made of money you know!). Shoes will be taken care of this week.. I put them on layaway at a store called Marshall's, which, if you're not familiar with it, sells overstock or discontinued name brand items at a major discount. I spent $30 on each pair of shoes and got Fila, Nike, and Puma. Beats spending $20 at Walmart for Faded Glory shoes that will fall apart in a month! However the kindergartener did opt for Walmart shoes, because Marshall's doesn't sell anything with Spiderman on them. I was given a bit of money from a relative to help with back to school stuff, and that all went towards that ridiculously overpriced graphing calculator the high schooler needs.. ugh! But, it's all done and I can relax and be excited about school.

I've also been working on getting the kids their physicals before school starts. Last week was the oldest 2 boys. Tomorrow will be the daughter and kindergartener. The youngest had his physical over the winter so no need to get him seen again.

Well the oldest got a clean bill of health.. except for the growing like a weed part. He's now 5'8" and only 14 years old. He's barely started his major growth spurt.. so it sort of scares me to think of how tall he might be when he's done growing. Bad enough he's practically in the same shoe size as my husband, and wears the same length men's pants. It's also pretty sad that I can no longer shop for the boy in the little boys department.. he needs the men's department. When did my little boy grow up??

The 8 year old son raised a little red flag at his appointment. Overall he's healthy, but he appeared to have some vision issues. So I had to take him to see the eye doctor today. Apparently he has a lazy eye. Thankfully they no longer seem to treat that with patches like they did when I was growing up. Nope, he just needs glasses. Though to him that's still a bit upsetting.. it's also a little upsetting to my wallet.. but I gotta do what I gotta do. He picked out some glasses today and should have them before school begins.

With the start of school, a lot of sports also begin. I registered the 8 and 5 year olds for the community soccer league today. This will be the 5 year old's first time playing an organized sport, I hope he enjoys it!

The oldest is also playing soccer, but through school. As a 9th grader he'd most likely be on the "modified" team, which is their way of saying Junior Varsity. They have modified for 7th, 8th, and 9th graders and then varsity for those in 10th, 11th, and 12th. Well, this year 48 kids signed up for the modified team, so the coach suggested that the 9th graders try out for the varsity team. I didn't really have my hopes up too high. But we went to the try outs anyways. I figured it would be a long shot, and that there'd be a lot of older kids who've played the past few years (my son played football for the past 2 years but wasn't really good at it, but he's great at soccer hence the switch this year).

As it turns out, only 16 kids showed up to the varsity try outs, so they all made the team, including my son. That's not to say he's not good enough to be a varsity player, he just didn't have a lot of competition like I assumed. Either way, I'm really excited for him. That also means there's a few open spots on the modified team so fewer kids will need to be cut. Not that I was concerned, as a 9th grader on the modified team my son could not have been cut, they'd cut 7th graders first. But my son's position on the varsity team opens up opportunities for other kids to play modified. It's a win-win situation.

Not many other major actitivities going on, aside from gearing up for the State Fair which starts this Thursday and runs through Labor Day. We plan on going sometime next week while hubby and I are both on vacation from work. Hubby and I are also going this Thursday because we have tickets to the Maroon 5 concert that night at the fair. Very exciting!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Happy August!

Summer vacation is already half over for the kids.. but for me it hasn't quite started yet. I'll be finishing my 2nd semester next Monday, then I will get a break from school until September 7. So far I still have a 4.0 GPA, but of course I'm waiting for some final exams and research essays to be graded. If I receive a bad grade on any of these assignments my grade could drop below a 90. So right now it's really just a waiting game.

I am certainly looking forward to the break, it's been a stressful few months. Especially with the kids being home and expecting me to entertain them. I feel guilty if I don't get them out everyday, but I also feel guilty and overwhelmed if I don't spend enough time on my school work. So, for the next month I really don't have to worry about that.

Actually there's a large part of me wishing the kid's summer vacation wasn't quite so long. I feel like we've already had a fairly good summer. The weather has been very cooperative, so we've visited the pool many times as well as done some other activities. The older kids spent a week at camp, which was great for them. We even went to a water/amusement park last week. So other than the state fair, we've accomplished about everything we've wanted to this summer. There's not much left to be done.

Unfortunately the kids are getting restless and I'm getting stressed. It's probably just boredom on their part. They've been fighting with each other a bit more frequently, making each other scream and cry.. that's always a pleasurable experience (NOT!). They're getting lazier about keeping the house picked up even though I keep getting on them about it. I can't be expected to do everything myself. I spend a third of my day doing school work, another third at work, and the other third is generally spent taking them somewhere like the pool or a playground (sometimes even a playdate). So it would be nice if they could do their chores and keep the house picked up so that I have more time to focus on what I need to be doing.

But no, everyday is a constant struggle.

The past couple of weeks have been the worst. I'm feeling extremely stressed and worn out. The kids keep testing me and pushing their limits, and all I want is for them to behave and do what is needed so we can spend a bit of time in the afternoon doing something enjoyable. But it's gotten to the point where they don't deserve these enjoyable activities and I end up being the one to suffer.

Especially today. The heat is giving me a headache, and I've spent all morning staring at my computer screen to get my school work done. I'd love nothing more than to relax in the pool for a bit before needing to go to work tonight. But the kids did not do their chores without 3 or 4 reminders, so I feel as if they should be punished by not being able to go to the pool. Otherwise they'll never learn that they must take care of their responsibilities before they're allowed to do anything fun.

Just one more month, then they're all back in school and things will hopefully be a bit more peaceful around here!

As for work.. well, that's been getting to me too. It's becoming more and more difficult to get myself geared up for work these days. I'm trying to keep a positive attitude, but some nights that's not so easy. There's a large part of me that just wants to quit so I have more time to enjoy myself. But of course I know we need the money and I need the good reference for when I look for a more permanent job. Speaking of which, I've decided to start looking for something in the clerical field just to get myself out of the current situation. So far no luck, but I'm going to keep looking.

Mostly I think I'm just losing motivation. I feel like I'm in a rut again, and it's only been 6 months. School isn't really a problem.. actually that's pretty easy to keep up with since the classes change every 7 weeks. By the time the class starts getting difficult, monotonous, or stressful, it's over and I'm gearing up to start a new class. So that's not difficult at all. The job, yeah, that is repetitive and stressful. I suppose most jobs probably are. I probably just need to change my thinking.. but since I was a stay at home mom for 8 years not holding down any long term employment in that time, it's hard to shift gears and stick with a job that isn't very enjoyable most of the time.

My mind has also been preoccupied with the possible move into my father in law's house. Not sure if I've mentioned this before. It's something we've been thinking about, and periodically working towards for over a year now. After my mother in law died we were invited to move in with my father in law. He's got a bigger house with a yard. It's beneficial for us because we'll have more space and fewer bills. It's beneficial for him because he'll also save money on bills along with having company and someone around to help with household chores since he can't do too much on his own anymore.

Well, aside from the house needing many repairs and a whole lot of cleaning.. we've been hemming and hawing over it because moving in with someone else is a big leap. There are a lot of negatives about where we currently live, and a lot of positives about moving in with FIL.. but there's still the fears and anxieties about if we'll all be able to coexist in the same home. I guess that has been the biggest deterrent.

However a week or so ago FIL had a heart attack, so that has kicked hubby into high gear to get us in there to help him out and keep an eye on him.

We're sort of hoping to be in there by the end of this month, though realistically with all the work the house needs, it will probably take a few months to make the move. We may even change our minds a few more times in the meantime so it might take even longer.

I suppose I should just stay positive about the idea because honestly the pros definitely outweigh the cons.. and for the next few years we won't really have any other options when it comes to leaving this house. Our credit is not nearly good enough to buy a house, and we don't really have the finances to afford anything more than we're currently paying for rent and utilities.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Father's Day

My family is not well off by any means. We cannot afford many nice things.. least of all a brand new gas grill. However I've been wanting to buy my husband a new gas grill for years! We had a gas grill.. something we took with us when we moved out of his cousin's place back when we first got together. His cousin had purchased it, but never used it. So this grill is well over 10 years old. Over the years we've replaced the burners on it to keep it working, but it's small and old and doesn't work that well anymore. Actually we haven't used it in a couple years now, and a few months ago hubby mentioned buying yet another new burner for it to get it working again.
A couple years ago I was able to buy hubby a small charcoal grill, and he was thrilled. But of course grilling with charcoal means you must buy charcoal periodically.. and since we have a large family we must use a lot of coals. Basically we use a whole bag of charcoal everytime we grill. It gets expensive. Also, since this grill is a couple years old and wasn't put away after each use, it is rather beat up and rusted (the bottom actually fell out of it on Memorial Day so I had to replace it with another cheapo charcoal grill).
So, earlier this year I decided hubby would get a gas grill for Father's Day this year. It was probably in March that I began putting aside $20 a week as I could towards purchasing this grill. I did my homework and found a grill I wanted for him, and the cost was around $200. So I set that goal for myself to save $200.
Mid-May I began purchasing small items to go with the new grill.. a grill brush, utensils, grill cover. I also planned to purchase a new propane tank as well, since ours hasn't been used in a couple years and I don't know how much is in it.
May 20th I was wandering through Walmart doing my weekly shopping. I headed back towards lawn and garden to buy another item to go with the grill (I was getting 1 small thing a week) when I saw this gorgeous grill on display with a sign over it that said $148. I didn't believe it at first, so had to hunt down some more of these grills to ensure that was the correct price.. and believe it or not, it was. At that point I had saved $120.. but I thought to myself that if I did not snatch this grill up right then and there, I wouldn't find it again when I came back for it, or I'd find it but it wouldn't be this price any longer.

So, I purchased it and asked them to assemble it for me (which took 2 weeks due to some unforeseen circumstances on their part.. thank goodness I was not in a hurry).
I finally picked it up with less than 2 weeks to go until Father's Day, and I hid it in the shed.
I was so excited about this gift that I could barely contain myself. There were so many times that I wanted to give it to my husband early, or tell him about it.. it was practically killing me!!

But I held it together, because I knew the surprise on Father's Day morning would be priceless.
So, Sunday morning I woke up super early because I was too excited to stay in bed any longer.
I occupied my time that morning with baking. I made hubby some cupcakes, his second favorite flavor. I also made my homemade macaroni and cheese with bacon (one of his favorite dishes).
At 10:30 a.m. I let the kids wake him up and give him the gifts they'd made for him in school. After which I sent all the kids outside to wait by the grill.
I ushered hubby outside with his eyes closed and positioned him properly in front of the grill.
He opened his eyes and said "Whoa!!". He immediately asked for something to grill.. which I had planned for. I bought some frozen burgers to grill for lunch.. and steaks to grill for dinner to go with my macaroni and cheese.
Hubby called everyone he knew to brag about the grill. He also kept saying through out the day that he wanted more food to grill.. and was thinking of all the other dinners we'll plan this summer using his new grill.
At dinner time he posted this on his Facebook page: "Steaks on my awesome new grill and my wife's homemade mac n cheese. Could Father's Day be any better? Absolutely not!!"

Friday, June 10, 2011

Bad Luck!

Over the past few weeks I've been dealing with a string of bad luck. It seems to have all hit at once. It's honestly nothing absolutely horrible.. but the fact that it's all hitting at once does make it hard to handle.

I don't want to go into major details.. that could take awhile, but I will give a basic idea of what's going on:

My sh*t hole of a trailer is slowly falling apart. The boys' bedroom floor caved in on Memorial day, one of the light fixtures fell out of the ceiling, there's a leak under the trailer making the whole place smell like sewage, to top that all off the maintenance truck seems to have taken permanent residence in my husband's parking spot forcing him to park way up the road and walk to and from his car after his 12 hour shifts at work. I also got into a fight with my neighbor last week when I tried to park his car in the road after I'd worked an 8 hour shift.

My grades are slowly falling in one of my classes. Nothing major, at the moment I'm still in the 90's, but any more low grades and I can kiss my 4.0 goodbye and every low grade throws me for a loop because I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform well. Again, this is nothing major.. but added to everything else it feels rather major.

I was dealing with some issues with a co-worker last week as well. For some unknown reason she decided not to speak a single word to me whenever we worked together. I could feel the tension. I'm not sure what the problem was but it made me dread having to work with her. She seems to be over it now because we talked during our last shift but I still don't know what her problem was last week.

I'm still dealing with the stress of my FIL not being able to handle my children while I work. They don't seem to want to behave for him and it gets very difficult on him sometimes. They have good days and bad days, but last week they had an absolutely terrible day and my FIL almost quit on me.. which would have forced me to quit my job since I can't afford to pay a babysitter on my salary.

And to top it all off, finances have been a bit tight for the past few weeks. We've needed a lot of car repairs lately which have cost more than expected. We drained our checking account, and even needed to take some money out of my savings account to cover all the repairs. Thankfully all of our bills are still paid, but I don't feel as if I have any breathing room right now, and I haven't been able to send off any more money to the bankruptcy lawyer, so my plans are being put on hold until the finances loosen up again.

We also had to take $300 out of another savings account this past week to purchase an air conditioner for our house. This will be our 3rd summer here and I honestly don't know how we survived without a/c this long. Wednesday was 95 outside, and probably 105 inside. I think my cats were pretty close to death in that heat since one of them was throwing up all over the house. So while the a/c was certainly a necessary expense, it's still upsetting that I had to take the money out of savings in order to buy it.

So.. those are the majority of my problems in a nutshell. May not seem extremely major to a lot of people. I know plenty of people deal with worse on a daily basis.

But at the moment it seems that I have nothing positive to speak of. At least that's how I feel. I know over all there are plenty of positives in my life. But when everything is stressing me out it's hard to see those positives.

Last week all the stress had me in an absolutely terrible mood. Well, to be honest I'm still in a terrible mood, but I'm a little better than I was last week. Last week there were absolutely no good thoughts running through my head at all. It was a little scary.

This week I'm just trying to remind myself that yes, bad things happen.. but eventually something good will happen again. My "Nana" used to say: "This too shall pass". It's true. Eventually all of these bad things and all of this stress will just be a memory. Life tends to go in cycles. You have a cycle of good luck followed by a cycle of bad luck, then back to good again. So right now all of the bad luck is piling on me.. but if I tough it out, I'll see some good luck again.

Man I wish that good luck would hurry up!!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Planting a garden..

I took a little time out of my busy schedule today to plant a flower garden! Actually everything I did today was quite unexpected. I woke up with the plans of perhaps going for a walk or something. Instead, shortly after waking up I began cleaning my room. Not because I finally got sick of the mess.. but because I had to find something..

Yesterday I did a little clothes shopping. I had to buy some shorts for my daughter's baton recital this week.. and wanted to get myself some shorts for work since the weather is getting warm. I was quite disappointed to see that most of the clothes I tried on were rather tight. So I decided I need to get back into going to the gym. Of course when thinking about going to the gym, I realized I needed to charge my iPod which I haven't used in months.. so I needed to find the USB cord for it. I also had to hunt down my daughter's baton t-shirt.

So.. I began cleaning. It was a difficult task that took quite a bit of time.. but I completed it and am quite pleased with the results!

Meanwhile I had to get the husband out of the way.. and he'd been talking about doing some yard work lately. We moved into this house 2 years ago. We've lived here for 2 summers. And thus far all we've done is mow the grass. We haven't done anything else to the yard but mow the grass. So, hubby and the oldest son went out and cleared out some weeds and raked while I cleaned inside.

When we were all done hubby had some landscaping ideas floating around his head. So we went off to Lowe's and bought some mulch and top soil, then stopped by a local greenhouse to buy some flowers. We bought some purple daisies, yellow marigolds, and some ornamental grass. Then we came home and began to plant it all.

I'm honestly very pleased with how it turned out. I'm hoping the flowers fill out a bit more, because it doesn't look like much right now, but it looks like it has potential. Also we are planning on buying some more flowers in the future to fill it in some more.. but this is a good start.

Mostly I'm just happy we finally began to do something with our yard and our whole place looks a lot nicer now. Up until now I just haven't had the desire to make the place look any better. I've never taken any pride in living here, and I guess I just felt like it was pointless to spend money on making it look nicer when I didn't feel like this was my home. But it's amazing how it feels now that it's done. I do have a little more pride in this place. Not that I'm ready to settle down and make this my permanent home.. that will never happen. I'll never stop fighting to move out and have a better life beyond this cramped little trailer. But since we're here for at least one more year while we work on our finances.. at least now we can be a bit prouder of the way the outside of the house looks!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A time for celebrating..

We're getting into a very busy time of year for my family. This Saturday will be our 8th wedding anniversary. Sunday is of course Mother's Day. Next Thursday will be my birthday.. or as I like to call it, the 10th anniversary of my 21st birthday. To top it all off, next Friday is my oldest son's 14th birthday. Yes, busy busy.
It has always been a difficult month, especially for my husband. Obviously money has always been tight, and what little extra we had always went to my son for his birthday presents and parties. I was lucky if I got one gift which was considered to be an anniversary/Mother's Day/birthday gift.

This year money isn't quite so tight since all of our bills have been paid on time and I have extra income. However we still had a minor set back this week with my car needing a new water pump.

The hubby and I do plan on going out to celebrate our anniversary this weekend. Unfortunately due to my work schedule, the only available day to have our night out is Sunday. This means my mother will be babysitting my children on Mother's Day. Though we will probably end up doing a mid-day thing as we'll have to get home for baths and bed at a decent hour since the kids have school Monday morning.. and of course we'd like to avoid much of the Mother's Day crowd if at all possible.

Beyond that we have no major plans. I gave up on throwing birthday parties many years ago when I spent a couple hundred on a pool party only to have 3 invitees show up. For my son's birthday we will have a cake and presents, but probably no guests. We don't have much family left anymore.. just my mother and hubby's father and since my mother can't drive and hubby's father already spends far too much time with my kids due to having to babysit them while I work, chances are neither of them will come over to help us celebrate.

I do plan on buying my son a new bike for his birthday. His old one is rather beat up and is too small for him anyway. Once he receives a new one for his birthday, the old one will be fixed up and given to the 8 year old since he doesn't currently have a bike that fits him either. Hopefully he enjoys his gift. I've already purchased a new helmet and I've saved $40 towards the purchase of his new bike so even if something detrimental happens to our finances, I should not have an issue getting him a new bike.

As per my gift.. well I doubt hubby has any huge surprises up his sleeve. I've been keeping a very close eye on our finances so he has not had a chance to sneak off any money to get me anything. The night out this weekend will most likely be my only gift. Though there will be something else which I already know about and I guess will be considered a gift to each other for our anniversary...

We live in NY and have a huge State Fair every August just before Labor day. Well, they're already announcing the concert line ups for the fair this year, and the opening day act will include Maroon 5 with Train and Gavin Degraw. We absolutely love Maroon 5. We saw them in concert back in 2008 after winning tickets from a local radio station. So, Saturday when these tickets go on sale I plan on buying a couple. I would absolutely love to see them again. So that will be our anniversary gift to each other.. tickets to see Maroon 5 in concert in August. Sure it's a long wait to be able to use the gift, but it's so exciting and we deserve it!

As I said, beyond that I will probably not receive any other gifts or have any other nights out within the next few weeks, but I think what I am receiving is good enough and far more than what I am accustomed to. I'm very excited to begin our celebrations.

I suppose I shall squeeze in a little update about everything else going on in my life. I received a grade of a 4.0 GPA for my first semester of school and I'm quite proud of that. My second semester just started yesterday. I'm currently taking a writing class and a transcription class. I think they'll both be slightly difficult. I'm not fond of research papers or typing up business letters.. and it seems these types of things will be my major assignments in these classes.. *groan*.

Financially we're still on a course towards bankruptcy. I contacted the lawyer we began to pay a couple years ago and they've agreed to allow us to finish paying off the balance.. though the balance has gone up a little since we first began making the payments. We will need to pay a total of $1,000 after what we've already given them, so Friday I sent off a small payment towards that. Hopefully within the next couple of months we can finish this off and move on with our financial future.

Nothing new to report about my current job situation. Except that I do believe my father in law is growing weary of babysitting my children. It's unfortunate because I feel that getting out of his house and spending time with his grandkids would be therapeutic for him, though obviously dealing with five children is stressful in the best of circumstances. Our circumstances are far from the best. We live in a tiny home where we're all right on top of each other at all times and have no yard so the children cannot get outside to play at all. They're all hyper children which is magnified by the fact that they cannot go outside to release energy or even play to their fullest potential inside the house. Of course they're also typical children who want to test their boundaries and not listen and not do tasks they're asked to do.

Needless to say I do get stressed about having to go to work and leave the kids with my father in law. I don't want him to feel overwhelmed by watching them, and I don't want him to feel as if he can't do it anymore. I need to continue to work as it has already had such a huge impact on our lives and will continue to have a huge impact on our future. Unfortunately with my measly income I cannot afford to pay any other babysitters and I have no one else available to watch my kids in order to give my father in law a break. Though I am brainstorming ways to make it slightly easier on him.. we both just need to hold out for about another year or so and hopefully by then life will be different and hopefully a little easier.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Bankruptcy might be our best option..

If you've read my previous post, you'll see we're in a bit of a jam. We spent too many years not doing the right thing, and it's come back to haunt us.

For two years we've been stuck in a place we hate. We're cramped, we have no yard, we don't like our neighbors. The only good thing about where we're living is that it's affordable and it's in the school district I want my kids to stay in.. and we're allowed to keep our pets. Everything else about it just sucks!

So we want to buy a house, but we have terrible credit. Now we haven't necessarily done anything to get horrible credit, except not pay certain bills. We've never owned credit cards or gotten loans or anything silly like that knowing we can't afford it. What we've done is gotten appendicitis when we didn't have health insurance, or had a baby and need to stay in a hospital for 2 days without knowing our insurance only covered 50% of that bill. Our biggest mistake was not finding a way of paying on those bills, and being too broke to be able to afford paying on those bills.

So, I've got it in my head now that I want to get out of debt and own a house and move out of this miserable place. I started taking some steps towards that goal. I found out that if I pay off my judgements (each judgement is a medical debt from either the appendicitis or having a child) my credit will be good enough to get a mortgage loan. So, I contacted the lawyer who holds my judgements. That's when the shock set in.

I knew I had about $6,000 worth of judgements. Both from having a child. I owed $4,000 to the hospital where my 4 year old was born, and $2,000 to the hospital where my 3 year old was born. Hubby has both of those plus a $7,000 judgement to the hospital where he had his appendectomy.

However, somehow there are more bills than just those that I knew of. In actuality this lawyer holds $22,000 worth of our debts. Unfortunately the lawyer did not send a detailed list of these debts, just claimed that's how much we owe (some account numbers were listed but no other information such as the creditor or the exact amount per account number.. just a list of account numbers and the total balance. I'm convinced this lawyer was vague on purpose.)

Sadly we don't have that much money on hand.. and chances are it will take years to come up with that sort of cash. Of course while we're working on paying it off the debts will continue to accrue interest (not sure how that works on medical debts.. but that's beside the point).

Well my goal isn't to spend my life paying off debts, my goal is to get out of this place as quickly as possible. So at this point we're looking at bankruptcy. I think it's just what we need right now. We were stupid in the past, but we're different people now. Now we're serious about paying our bills on time and staying out of debt. We're serious about fixing our credit and owning a home. We will not get into further debt at this point. We won't open accounts we can't afford. We won't buy a house if we know we can't afford the monthly payments. We've learned our lesson.

We looked into bankruptcy a couple of years ago, and actually did begin to pay a lawyer in order to help us file for chapter 7. However, we never finished making those payments and never filed bankruptcy. I think that happened for a reason. I don't think we were in the right frame of mind at that time to stay debt free. I think having good credit at that time would have dug us into a deeper hole.

As I said, we're different now. We're better, smarter, and more responsible. I think now is the right time to file bankruptcy.

So I put a call in to the lawyer we'd begun to pay to see if they'll let us pick up where we left off with the payments.. or at least give us a credit towards the total fee because we'd previously paid them at least $400. I'm waiting to hear back on that before taking the next step. Wish us luck!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bad Credit Ruins Lives

I really wish I'd known 10 years ago what I know now.

Over the years hubby and I have pretty much completely ignored any bills or debts that weren't an immediate threat. If we weren't going to face losing the roof over our heads, or our electricity, we didn't care. We racked up a lot of bills and never paid them off. I have to say 90% of it is medical debt, and those are the ones hurting us the most. We do have a couple other little things, a couple car repos from 6 years ago, an eviction 5 years ago, things like that. But mostly it's medical, and 2 of those medical debts have filed judgements against us (2 for me, 3 for hubby). Our credit is awful!

We're turning things around now. Our bills are being paid on time, even a little early. We've been making some payments on our debts. Things are starting to look up.

My main goal at this time is to get a house. I'm sick of living in a dump of a trailer. We have no space what so ever, we have no yard for the kids to play in. All in all it stinks and we're miserable.

I decided to look into the possibility of being approved for a mortgage. Unfortunately we don't qualify at this time. We were told by the mortgage company that if we could erase the judgements then they could work with us.

Well the trouble is I owe $6,000 on my judgements, and hubby's is double that at least.

Had I been smart enough to have been making some payments on those judgements, I could be in a situation right now where we could see about affording to own our own home.. or perhaps we'd already be homeowners. Instead, we were stupid and ignored our debts. Now we're faced with paying off these ridiculously expensive debts in order to escape our situation of living in a dump!

But at least now I have a little direction. I'm going to begin paying on these judgements, and hopefully by the time we get our taxes back next year I will be capable of paying them off completely. So hopefully by this time next year we'll be proud homeowners.

I also need to work a little harder on building up my savings. These past few weeks I haven't been saving any money. Actually I used my last two paychecks towards sending my kids to camp this summer.

I must say I am enjoying having the extra money from working. It's amazing how much our lives have changed already. Last year I couldn't have even considered the idea of sending my kids off to camp. Hubby's money alone barely covered the bills, and then we always needed or wanted spending money. We'd somehow manage to overdraw our bank account every week. The following week we'd have just enough to pay our bills, but in order to buy groceries we'd have to overdraw again. It snowballed out of control.

Now, our bills are paid, we usually have a bit of money left in the bank when the next paycheck hits. My money is being used mostly for extra cash or fun things, like sending my kids to camp. Plus we have money in 3 different savings accounts right now. Granted it's not much, pool it all together and we might have $500, but it's there, and it's more than we've ever had before. We're getting somewhere.

So I'm feeling really good about our current financial situation, I'm just not feeling good about our credit situation. But I'll be working on that.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Puttering along..

I thought it was time for an update, although I don't have much of anything interesting to share. It seems pointless to continually post that school and work are going fine and that I'm very busy with them and my family. Basically, that's what it all boils down to.

My first semester of school will end in about 2 and a half weeks. That's extremely exciting! After that I'll get a couple weeks off from school before the second semester starts in the beginning of May. It's hard to believe that soon I'll have officially completed four college classes. I did get my schedule for next semester. I'm taking English, Sociology, Medical Terminology, and a transcriptioning class. I'm a bit anxious as I'm slightly worried they might be difficult classes. But I think at least the medical terminology class will be interesting and fun. We'll see.

I don't really have a whole lot to say about work. They're keeping me busy. I'm getting around 25 hours a week, which doesn't sound like a lot, but it sure feels like a lot. I suppose that's because I haven't really worked much in the past eight years, and getting back into it has its ups and downs. I do like working, I like the people I work with, and for the most part I enjoy the job itself. The hard part is gearing up to get ready for work. It's not so easy with five kids. I don't want to pay for child care costs, so I've been having my father-in-law watch the kids for me. The problem is he's getting up there in age and his health isn't so great. He's not capable of doing a lot of things. Thankfully my oldest child is nearly 14 (but not mature enough to watch his siblings alone) so grandpa has some help. But the kids give him a hard time sometimes and of course I have to be sure everything is ready before I can leave for work. This usually means I have to make dinner before I leave so it's ready for the kids.
My most recent problem has been that my job is now scheduling me for some day shifts. They appreciate the work I do and really want me on their busy lunch shifts. I appreciate the vote of confidence, but having a day time sitter is a struggle sometimes. I am not comfortable leaving my father-in-law alone with a 3 and 4 year old all day without the older children around to help get snacks, drinks, and clean up minor messes. As I said, grandpa is a bit older and I don't want to put too much stress on him. I do have a friend who is willing to watch my kids for these day shifts, but she's not always available. She's got her own life and her own kids and has another on the way. She hasn't charged me for the few times she has watched my kids in the past, which I do appreciate. However.. this coming week I'm scheduled for two day shifts and they happen to be on days that this friend is not available. They're also 8 hour shifts so I can't expect my father-in-law to babysit on these days.. that's a very long day for him to be alone with my kids! I just don't have enough back up plans for circumstances like this, and it gets a little stressful.

Thus far I've been handling these stressful moments well enough. I continue to look for back up babysitters for situations like this, and thankfully have found one for this coming week's shifts. However the stress of trying to find adequate child care which is affordable takes its toll. Now I understand what all those working moms have been going through! It's not easy at all. I don't want to limit my availability or cut back on my hours because I need and want the money.. but I wonder if I'll be able to continue going through this stress every week of ensuring I have child care and ensuring the kids are taken care of before I get ready to leave for work. Then there's the added stress of coming home to discover they didn't behave for whoever was watching them, or they made a huge mess, or some other ridiculous thing. It's enough to make a mom nuts!

Then of course I'm already starting to feel guilty about this upcoming summer. I know our summer fun is going to be limited with my school and work schedules. I know I can take some of my school work with me to playgrounds or the pool or wherever we feel like going.. but my classes are online and I usually need an internet connection to get my work done, and there is no wi-fi at the playground or the pool. Then on nights or days when I'm scheduled to work the kids are basically stuck indoors because of our living situation. We have no backyard and we're too close to a busy road. I don't let them play outside here.. I take them elsewhere to get their fresh air and exercise. Grandpa can't take them places for reasons I've already mentioned. My back up babysitters can't take them places either and none of my friends live in areas that are any better than my own. The whole point of what I'm doing is to give us a better life.. but I'm feeling really guilty about the sacrifices being made by everyone in the meantime.

So I certainly give credit to moms who've been doing this all along. I can't say forsure who has it harder.. working moms or moms who stay at home. Both deserve a whole lot of credit for what they do!
Oh, and dads do too!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Overcoming Fear

I've been seeing a lot of posts about fear lately. A couple days ago I saw this post on Facebook by Simply Positive:

"Don't let fear take over & paralyze you. Store it, learn from it, cultivate it, CHALLENGE it, gather it into a "powerball within your core". Then mentally USE IT to PUSH you into action! Let it inspire/motivate a positive change OR a leap of faith! Fear can be a big set-back OR a "fierce motivator" . Eat it up. USE IT to propel you towards something positive! YOU ARE a fighter & you CAN do it! :) SP"

I didn't think much of it at the time. I don't feel as if there is a lot of fear in my life.

Then I saw a blog post today posted by Bob Harper, trainer for The Biggest Loser http://www.mytrainerbob.com/blog-posts/my-thoughts-last-nights-biggest-loser-4:

This is basically his thoughts on last night's (March 8, 2011) episode of The Biggest Loser. He is focusing on two contestants who are letting fear hold them back from their weight loss goals. Both contestants have previously been in car accidents and were told by doctors that they couldn't do certain things. One was told she'd never be able to walk again, the other gave up her volleyball career due to the accident. Now, years after these accidents, these two girls are extremely over weight and have looked to The Biggest Loser to help them. Bob and his partner Jillian Michaels are trying to show these girls, and all the other morbidly obese contestants that they are capable of doing anything. If your mind tells your body to do it, your body will do it. There's no question!

While watching The Biggest Loser, you see this fear all the time, even in contestants who've not been in an accident. When you weigh 200 or 300 pounds, you think "I can't run a minute let alone a mile". Then Bob and Jillian throw these contestants on a treadmill and say "Do It! No excuses." Surprisingly, the contestants are capable of doing it.

Fear is all in your mind. It can be a motivator or a hindrance, it all depends on how you use it. Most people let fear control them by saying "I can't do that." If you believe you can't, then you won't. If you believe you can, you will.

So I did a little thinking about this. Where is fear holding me back? Where can I use these lessons?

What dawned on me was that fear actually is holding me back.. or at least it was. How many years did I spend sitting here on my butt, miserable about my situation, but choosing to do nothing about it? I had a million excuses for each of my problems. I don't have time, I don't have the finances, I have five kids.

Then something happened. My misery over my situation overcame my fear. I became fed up with being over 200 pounds, so I found the motivation to pursue a weight loss journey. I found the means to join a gym for a low membership fee, and the time to go to the gym daily. In six months I lost about 80 pounds. Then I got fed up with my financial situation. My excuse has always been that I cannot afford child care in order to have a job, and I did not have an education to get a good job. This was fear holding me back. These excuses came from my fear. However my motivation to change my situation overcame the fear. Here I am now, enrolled in school and working part time. Yesterday I opened a savings account. We've gone over a month without overdrawing our checking account, and four days after payday we still have $200 in our account (typically by now we'd be overdrawn).

Where is fear holding you back? What areas of your life do you want to change, but are afraid to? What excuses are you making for yourself because of this fear?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

When life messes up your plans..

Our finances have been so great lately, and I'm still so proud of us for not being tempted to spend every last dime of cash we have. We found out that hubby's car needed another expensive repair, about $500, and we were capable of saving that money. Today he went to get that repair, and that's when we discovered he needs yet another $500 repair! (This is not a mechanic trying to dig more money out of us, this mechanic is a childhood friend of my husband's and usually give us an amazing deal on any work we get done by him and he only tells us to replace what is absolutely necessary, so I totally trust him when he tells us we need to replace or repair something.)

We do not have this additional $500 right now, so this repair is just going to have to wait.

The bigger problem is our hot water heater. It's been acting up this week, the water isn't getting hot, and it's running out within a few minutes. I can't even get through washing up a few dishes before suddenly my water is cold. Hubby has been attempting a few cheap repairs, and none of them worked. He discovered today that the hot water heater is basically full of muck. We do have well water here, and it's not the most clean well water on the planet. The well water has already killed a few of my coffee makers, and even killed a Brita faucet filter. So hubby assumes that years of collecting junk inside the water heater has finally killed that too, and it's not surprising. This hot water heater was here before we moved in two years ago, so we have no idea how old it is or if it had ever been drained before.

The unfortunate part is, even though we rent our land, we do technically own our trailer, so these types of repairs are our responsibility.

Thankfully we do have enough money on hand to replace the hot water heater, which is actually a bit of a miracle. Normally we're flat broke. Normally our bank account is over drawn, our savings account has a zero balance, and we rarely have any cash on hand at all. This time, we still had a little bit in our checking account left over from the car repair, we have a little in our savings account, and I still have all the money from my paychecks that I've been saving up because I've still yet to be able to open a savings account of my own. So, using what's left in the checking account along with some of what I've saved, hubby is purchasing a new hot water heater.

I am thankful we had the money for it. I can't imagine what we'd be going through if we didn't have that money. However, I'm still very upset that life had to mess up my plans! I've said time and time again that I planned on using my paychecks to save up a little nest egg, and pay off some debts to straighten out our credit report so that hopefully within a couple years we can apply for a mortgage loan and own our own home. Now, the money I was going to use to get that started is being used on replacing a hot water heater which is just going to be killed again by our nasty well water. It's certainly a little disappointing. Even my husband was reluctant to take the money I'd been attempting to save. But what choice do we have? My twins haven't been able to shower all week due to our lack of hot water, and I've been washing dishes in cold water.

So, this has been a pretty big set back.

On top of these large expenses, I also have a couple of smaller things I may need to use my money on. My kittens are getting to that age where I need to start thinking about getting them fixed. I've already made the appointment for my male cat to be neutered at a low cost clinic, and I'm on the waiting list to get the female spayed at the same clinic. Depending on our bills, I may have to use some of my money to get these procedures paid for, but this is important to me, so I'm willing to do that.

Also, I'm hoping to be able to register my three older children for a resident camp this summer through my local YMCA. I received the brochure a few days ago, and I love the idea, and I think the kids will too. I am already a member of the YMCA, and qualify for subsidized payments due to our low income for a family of our size. So I have to apply to see if I can get the camp fees subsidized as well (they might pay up to half of the fee for camp). To do this I need a $50 deposit, then of course I'll have to come up with the rest of the payment to get the kids into camp. Again, this is something that I feel is important so I'm willing to use my money to pay for this if we cannot take it from hubby's paychecks.

Ultimately I would love nothing more than to use each of my paychecks for nothing but saving and paying debts, however I need to keep in mind that the primary reason for me working is to give us a better life and to be better capable of affording necessities as well as small luxuries. Ultimately, that's exactly what I'm doing.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Updates on School, Work, and Finances..

My first session of school (part 1 of the first semester) is done on Monday! That's 2 classes out of the way. Next week I start 2 brand new classes! So far my grades have been great, though I'll have to wait and see what sort of grades I get on my final projects for these 2 classes.

I also changed my major. I had been working towards an Administrative Assistant degree so that I could get a job as a secretary. However, the more I research this type of job, the more I realize that this field generally does not require a degree, only a high school diploma. So why am I paying so much money and wasting so much time to get a degree I won't even need? So, I changed my major to Medical Administrative Assistant. This way, I'm still doing work I want to do, but it will be in the medical field which does require an education, and I believe there are more opportunities in the medical field. I am now much more excited about school, as I do find medicine very interesting.

My job at Subway is going well, I've been there almost a month now. Actually I just got off the phone with my manager a little while ago and she was begging me to change my availability to work a few day shifts a week. She sees me as a very strong employee and wants me there during her busy lunch shifts. I find that to be a compliment, plus, working a few day shifts will get me more hours, and more money! I just have to find someone willing to watch my kids for me on those days, who won't charge me my entire paycheck!

I've not yet found a clerical position that I've been looking for in order to gain experience. I haven't given up, though I have lost a bit of steam when it comes to searching. I do look on occasion, but probably no more than once a week. I still think a clerical position would be helpful, even though I am going into the medical field now. I feel that having clerical experience of any sort will be beneficial when I begin searching for a medical administrative position.

As far as our finances go, our tax money is now basically gone, but I still feel really good about how we've spent it. We paid off a lot of old debts that have been hanging over our heads (though we still have a lot more debt we need to pay). We did make a few unnecessary purchases, but that is bound to happen regardless. Unlike last year, we did use a good portion of our tax money to catch up and get ahead on many of our current bills, that is a load off our minds! I used every dime of the money I received for selling my old Durango to put towards our cellphones.. so now we've paid for about 6 months worth of cellphone service, and we still plan on making monthly payments so that hopefully we will not owe money on our phones during the months of November and December, so we can put that money towards Christmas. As I said, I feel really good about this right now. It's amazing what a wonderful feeling you get from being smart with your money.

As far as my plan to use my paychecks towards savings and debts.. well I'm still running into a dead end in that area. I've not yet been able to open a bank account. A couple of old debts I had were stopping me, as they showed up on a credit reporting agency called Chex Systems. This is specifically for bad bank accounts. We had 2 old bank accounts that closed out with a negative balance. I've since paid them both off, but it takes time to remove my name from the Chex Systems. So now I'm just waiting for that to clear up. In the meantime I'm doing my research on various banks. I'm very careful to find a bank that offers totally free checking, and it's amazing how many banks claim to have totally free checking, but also a list of fees associated with their totally free checking account. Many expect a specific number of transactions per month in order not to be charged a maintenance fee, or they require a minimum balance. The bank we currently use for our joint checking account has a maintenance fee if you do not have money direct deposited into the account at least once a month. I had thought of opening my separate accounts there, but there is  no grace period for not having direct deposit, so for at least the first month I'd be charged a fee until I set up the direct deposit. I just wish banks would stop calling it totally free checking if it's not really totally free!!

I'd also like to find a savings account that offers a decent interest rate on a low minimum balance. So many banks want you to maintain a minimum balance of $100 or $300 on a basic savings account. I'm working part time for minimum wage.. it would take me months to come up with $300, and I did not want to sink my entire paycheck into a savings account, only about a quarter of each paycheck... that will take some time to come up with that kind of money!

So, while I'm waiting for my name to be removed off the Chex Systems, I'm just cashing my paychecks and hiding the cash in a pocket of my wallet, and doing my best not to touch it. So far so good as I'm highly motivated to use it the way I said I would.. for savings and debts!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Feeling so good right now!

So we got our federal tax returns back on Friday and our state returns today. Last year I couldn't tell you what we did with all our money.. we basically blew it all on dumb stuff. I think we spent about half of it on eating out everyday until the money was gone!

This year we were a lot smarter with our money, and I'm very proud of us! Well, mostly me, hubby did have trouble reigning in his spending desires. He kept promising the kids he'd buy them any toy they wanted and we'd go fun places and eat at expensive restaurants. All the while I just wanted to put all the money towards bills and other important things, and he kept getting frustrated that I didn't want him to spend any of it on fun stuff. Obviously we both need to find a happy medium here.

We had a few main goals. I need a new vehicle, hubby needs to get his car fixed, and I need about $2,500 worth of dental work (that's after insurance). Those three things have been accomplished! I bought a van which we're putting on the road today, and I'm selling my car for $1,500 (hopefully). We ordered the parts hubby needs for his car, and we just need to save a couple hundred to have the parts put on. I'm going to the dentist today and have saved the money I'll need for that.

So, important stuff: check!

Needless to say we do get a very large chunk of cash from taxes due to our 5 children and hubby's low income. So, we still had a bit left over after taking care of the important things, and I'm very pleased with the way we chose to spend it.

First, we bought a laptop. We were leasing a laptop from the company hubby works for and paying about $100 a month for it. We looked into how much it would cost to pay it off early, and it was still over $500. So instead we went to Best Buy and got a new laptop for less than $400, and we're returning the leased laptop. We just saved ourselves $100 a month!

We went out and bought cellphones.. sad to say we did not have cellphones until now. We bought them last year but then discovered we couldn't afford the monthly payments, so they were shut off. We've been without phones since about May or June of last year. To ensure that doesn't happen again, we plan on taking the money I get from selling my Durango and putting it all on the cellphone bill.. basically paying the majority of the year in advance. This way we can pay around $50 a month (to make sure we don't have a full month's bill around Christmas this year) and if we can't afford it one or two months we are basically already paid. Smart thinking!

We also caught up all our current bills, something we didn't bother doing last year! On top of that I even paid off a few old debts. First, I paid Bank Of America. We had an account with them years ago which we overdrew then closed the account (all accidental of course, we were just really stupid with our money). Having this debt was stopping us from being able to open a new bank account with a decent bank. So that's paid off so I can now open a savings account at any bank I want, I might even open a second checking account too just to save towards paying more debts.

I received a couple of settlement notices from some other old debts. One was a credit card hubby had years ago, which had grown to over $700 from interest (it was a $200 limit!). They offered to settle for under $300.. needless to say I jumped on that opportunity! That is paid! I also got a settlement offer from another bill that was over $2,000, and they're willing to settle for just about $1,000. Paying that too!

Then, to make hubby and the children happy, we did do a little bit of fun spending. We did go out to eat, though only once and not at a super expensive restaurant. Then, we let the kids each pick out something for themselves. My daughter got a new Nintendo DS because her old one broke, my older two boys each picked out a video game, and the younger boys got a couple of toys. We also got them each some clothing. Nothing extremely expensive, most of what we picked out was already on clearance. Trust me it could have been so much worse! We'd almost debated getting a DS for the 4 year old (I do want to eventually) and we even debated getting the 13 year old his own cell phone (I'm not willing to have that monthly bill just yet!).

All in all I feel we were very smart with our money and did a lot of good, as opposed to what we could have done. It's amazing how good you can feel when you spend your money wisely!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Don't Worry About Me

The last interview I went on was about two weeks ago. I didn't get the job. Nobody ever contacted me to tell me I didn't get the job.. I found out because they reposted the position on Craigslist. What a cruddy way to find out!

No big loss. I have the job at Subway which I started on Saturday. So far so good there, though I'm thus far only getting 10 hours a week. I'm hoping that will go up a little once I'm fully trained.

Of course I'm also keeping busy with my school work. I'm currently in Week 4 of my classes, which are only 7.5 weeks long.. so almost done there! I'm doing very well, my grades have so far been in the 90's.

Enough with the recap.. let's hear something new. I have another interview tomorrow! I went on to Craigslist again looking for part time clerical work, and it's not easy to find. Most office jobs want full time employees, and I just don't think I can commit to a full time job at the moment, but I do want a part time clerical job for the experience.  So I found this one, the ad said the job will be about 25 hours a week. The downside is that the pay is barely above minimum, and the drive will probably be about 45 minutes each way, and I don't know what hours they're looking for. It's quite possible it could interfere with my current evening job, which I'm not willing to sacrifice at the moment. But, I will just have to go to the interview and see.

Well, a lot of people keep telling me they feel I'm taking on too much. Two part time jobs, full time schooling, and five kids. Hmm.. how is that too much? :)

Truth is, I don't know if it will be too much. As of right now it isn't. As of right now I only have the one part time job, and as I've said, that's only 10 hours a week. School doesn't take up too much time. I usually dive right in on Sunday and have all the school work done by Wednesday, leaving three days of nothing to do. So, if I were to get another job I'd just have to space the school work out a little more and perhaps not finish it all until Saturday. Thankfully Saturdays are the deadlines.. I have from Sunday morning until Saturday night to get all the school work done. No big deal.

If it does get too difficult to handle, there's always ways to cut down the stress. I could cut down my hours if need be, or quit one of the jobs if I felt I couldn't do them both. Obviously schooling will not be on the chopping block, though after this session I'm done with Math which actually is taking up most of my time.

Either way, I don't see it being too much for me to handle. I see it being a vacation! I get to get out of the house and meet other adults and have conversations. I love that sort of stuff! The kids get to spend more time with their grandpa while I work in the evening, and grandpa loves it! He's been lonely ever since my mother in law died. When hubby gets home he has some one on one time with the kids, then sends them off to bed and has some time all to himself, which rarely ever happens when I'm home. I see it as win/win for everyone involved! Sure a day job will be a little different. Most of the kids will be in school, the little two will have to go to a sitter, and hubby will be at work so he doesn't gain from it. However, the day job is to get clerical experience, to make it easier for me to get a full time clerical position once I'm ready for it. Not to mention, the extra money will mean more towards my debts and savings, so we'll move out of here and into our own home that much sooner.

Yes, when I set my mind to something, I get tunnel vision. I see nothing but my goal, and rarely do I ever not achieve it unless I somehow lose steam. Well I'm not losing steam this time! I've gone through a lot of struggles in my life. I've set a lot of goals and typically have accomplished them all. My past success has shown me that I can do anything I set my mind to. This is no different. I've set my mind to changing my financial situation.. and gosh darn it that's exactly what I'm going to do, no matter how hard it gets!

So don't worry about me not being able to handle everything I'm putting on my plate. Don't worry about me taking on too much and burning out. That's just not going to happen. I'm going to do this. I'm going to succeed!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Everything's starting to fall into place..

So, I got the job at Subway I mentioned in the last post. I start there tomorrow. Part-time, evenings, just like I wanted.

I also had an interview on Wednesday for a part-time clerical position. Not sure yet how that one went. I am not really qualified for a clerical job yet, but I think it would be wonderful to have this job. It's with a company that tests food packaging for bacteria and mold. I'd mostly be filing things and e-mailing clients. Two days a week, 5 hour shifts for a total of 10 hours. I think it would be great for the experience, but I'm not holding my breath that I'm actually going to get this job. Though I do think I'll keep looking for something similar. A clerical day job that I can do a couple days a week part-time, just for the experience.

Anyway, at least I have the Subway job, which is minimum wage, but hey.. money is money!

It seems as if most of my New Year Resolutions have been achieved. I am in school and doing well. I have a part time job to help with finances.

I even had a very serious chat with the hubby last night about working on paying down our debt so that sometime in the future we can qualify for a mortgage loan! Oh how I'd love to own a home someday. A place with a yard for my kids. Preferably a place where I can't hear the traffic from my living room, over the sound of my TV.

So, my next goal is to set to work on the finances. Hubby's paycheck is just about enough to cover our bills, but leaves us no spending money. So half of my money is for spending, the other half will go towards savings and debts. Sure it won't be a huge amount.. but a little in abundance is a lot!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Another Interview..

I tried to take a nap this afternoon.. I've been feeling so tired lately! So, I'd just started to doze off, and of course the phone rings.. it never fails! I check the caller ID and it's not a number I recognize. I let the machine pick it up. It's a manager from the Subway (sandwich shop) across from my house wanting to set up an interview, woohoo!

So, I have the interview set up for Saturday.

Why am I not more excited about this?

Well.. the thing is.. I was on Craigslist the other day looking for job openings. I saw a brand new post on there, the moment it went up, for a nearby liquor store. The moment I saw the ad I got dressed and went to the store to put in the application. I had a short conversation with the manager while I was filling out the application. She said the owner would want to look over my application, and the owner is out of town this week, but I should hear from them next week sometime. After I left I was feeling very confident about this job. I think my short chat with the manager went very well, and I think the job would fit me well.

The only downside to the liquor store job is that they're only looking for someone to work on Saturday and Sunday, 5 hour shifts each.. that's only 10 hours a week. On the plus side, this would leave me more time for my family and school work.. however I don't think 10 hours is quite what I'm looking for. I wanted closer to 20 at least.

Now, I don't know yet what Subway is offering.. I don't even know yet if I'll get either job. However, I'm going over it and over it in my head.. which job do I want if both are offered? Do I take the job at Subway which will probably be closer to 20 hours and more money, or do I take the 10 hours a week leaving me more time for other responsibilities, but less money? Hmm..

I guess the problem is that I feel so confident about the liquor store that I've already wrapped my head around having that job.. and now that another opportunity has arose, I'm having trouble changing my way of thinking. I guess in the long run I can see that Subway would be the better job, as it is more what I was looking for.. more hours = more money which is my current goal.

Anyways, wish me luck, and keep your fingers crossed that by this time next week I'll officially have a job!

Busy, Busy!

I have spent the past week feeling like there just isn't enough time in the day, which is a big change from my usual feeling of there being too much free time!

I've made a number of goals this year, which so far I'm doing well with, but I do find it difficult to fit everything in each day.

One of my goals was to lose some weight again. After reaching my goal weight I added a little weight back on, so I've been pushing myself to get to the gym everyday to work out. Well, that eats up my entire morning.. I go right after I drop the kids off at school, work out for an hour and half, pick up my preschooler, and we get home just before noon.

Then I have my typical chores, making lunch, doing dishes and laundry, etc. So that takes up a little time as well.

One of my other goals was to try to be more active on some of my online earning sites, as I'm saving all my online earnings this year towards Christmas (so it doesn't suck like this last one did!). So I have a number of sites to check on, watch videos, do searches, participate in discussions.. etc etc. This takes up quite a bit of time.

Then I have school work. I'm currently taking 3 classes, and each class is 7.5 weeks long. That's a lot of learning to squeeze into such a short amount of time. Each class has online discussions (graded as participation), homework, lectures to read, sometimes videos to watch, textbook reading assignments, quizzes, tests, and weekly summaries. This week I had to create a PowerPoint presentation for one of my classes! One of my other classes is math.. which is not my strong subject, so it takes me a lot of time to get through the work as I have to go through it a few times before I understand it.

I'm also actively seeking a job, (still no luck there).. so I have to spend some time everyday filling out applications, searching Craigslist for opportunities, sending my resume. I can only imagine how much more "cramped" my day will feel once I am working.. though I realize if I get a job some other things will have to be put on hold, most likely that will be going to the gym daily (I can cut back to once or twice a week) and my online earnings (visit each site once a week instead of daily).

I need to stay focused and mainly work on the things that are important each day, like right now aside from the family and household chores, my important tasks each day are school work and job searching. Everything else should be put on hold, yet all I've done so far today aside from dishes and laundry is played with my Facebook apps! Silly me!

Right now I'm just feeling exhausted and drained! I don't know if it's from trying to squeeze too much into each day, or if I'm just not sleeping well at night (I do tend to have too much on my mind as I'm trying to fall asleep).

I took yesterday and today off from the gym, yesterday so I could job hunt, today because I'm just too tired! I may attempt to squeeze a nap in this afternoon, though I really should finish my third chapter in math and do my weekly summary for that class!

Friday, January 14, 2011

First Interview and Rejection

I was so excited on Monday when I got a phone call from a local gas station that wanted me to come in for an interview. I set it up for Wednesday morning.

I thought the interview had gone very well. Most of the interview was spent listening to the hiring manager drone on and on about the company, company policy, other employees at that location, why those employees were so valuable, etc. etc. In my mind, I thought none of this would have pertained to me if I was not going to be hired, so why would she waste her breath? It must have been a sure thing!

The interview ended with the manager telling me she had other interviews that day, and that I should hear something by Friday.

Since I was so sure I had this job, I truly expected a phone call very soon. I began making plans for what I would do with my paychecks. I wanted to put a little bit in a savings account each week and not touch it. Then I'd set a little aside for paying down debt. I even told my husband that my money will go towards my gym membership and our cable/phone/internet bill which would free up a little of his money. Yes, I made big plans!! It was all very exciting!

So, Thursday goes by with no phone call, and I did start to get a little disappointed.

This morning I return home after going to the gym and the grocery store and expected to find a message on my answering machine, but alas, there were none. I was getting more and more disappointed, depressed, and frustrated. So I began thinking about calling the gas station to ask the hiring manager about my status, and suddenly the phone rings. The caller ID says it is that gas station! My heart soared!

"I'm calling to let you know that I've filled the position, but I will keep your application on file for thirty days."

Tears welled up in my eyes.

I think the most difficult part of this rejection isn't the fact that I wasn't chosen, but the fact that I'd had my heart set on getting this job because I was so certain it was a sure thing! I guess I learned a lesson here. If I ever get another interview, I will not expect or plan on being accepted for the position.

So, back to square one. I did submit around twenty applications for part-time evening jobs. Aside from this rejection I also got an e-mail from Lowe's stating that they were not interested in hiring me at this time.. at least they didn't get my hopes up by calling me in for an interview! I also know I won't be getting a job at Blockbuster because they've just decided they're closing down their store. However, there's still about 17 applications out there, and I could get a phone call for one of them. I also plan on going out and filling out more applications. I've even begun looking for day-time secretarial work on Craigslist. Sadly I feel it would be more lucrative to get an evening job as I wouldn't have to pay for child care in the evenings, but a day time secretarial job would look better on a future resume, and would lead to better opportunities.

Basically, my plan is to take the first job I'm offered! Wish me luck!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I am offically a College Student!

My financial aid has been approved, and I'm now officially a college student! Classes will begin next Wednesday, though I'm currently busy trying to get myself through orientation so I have a basic understanding of the online classroom. It's slightly overwhelming. I never realized I'd be graded on participating in online discussions and weekly summaries. However I'm still super excited about my future, and I can't wait to begin!

There's one New Year's Resolution down!

The potty training is another resolution I can cross off my check list, it's been successfully accomplished! Not quite as difficult as I thought it would be.

Finding a job has proved to be the most challenging of my resolutions. I've submitted around 20 applications, and haven't gotten a single call back. It's getting a little depressing. I went out for a little while yesterday to get a few more applications. Every business I walked into I heard the same remarks "We're not hiring!". Damn economy! I so desperately want a job right now. I don't think I've ever had this much trouble finding employment when I wanted it. I recall job searches where after I'd hit up a few different stores, I'd walk into one so desperate I'd be hired on the spot. I keep waiting for that to happen this time, but I doubt it will. It's really hard to stay motivated and determined with all this rejection. Not to mention, I'm running out of places to submit applications! I'm so desperate I may start applying at fast food restaurants, which I really didn't want to do. I'm not giving up though, my search will continue until I've landed a job!

Hopefully it's not this hard to find a job once I have a college degree!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Starting the New Year off right!

This first day of the new year has been a pretty good one for me!

My day started off with a message from my friend. She and I had taken our kids sledding together yesterday and the day before, and her family even came over to my house to hang out with us yesterday after sledding. Well this morning her message was to inform me that her husband wants to go sledding again, and do we want to go? My husband was working the two days we went so he missed out on all the fun. So we had an early lunch and both families went sledding! It started to rain when we got there, but we didn't care, we kept on sledding.. even the two dads did a bit of sledding.. but not the moms! Then sledding turned into a huge snowball fight, which was a lot of fun. It is so nice to be able to do stuff like this with friends.. and even nicer that we all get along so well! How often do you find a family where you like the mom but can't stand the kids, or your kids like each other but you don't like the parents.. or the guys don't get along, or something! We don't really have a whole lot of friends we hang out with. The last couple we made friends with, well, they didn't have any kids, and the girlfriend really got on my nerves!! So it's great that we know a family that we all totally get along with!

Oh, and one of my 2011 goals has been accomplished already. My youngest is potty trained (mostly)! He had only one accident today and that was while we were sledding. His only accident yesterday was a #2 which is almost always a difficult challenge with potty trainees.. we'll get there. He's been staying dry all night for three nights in a row now.. so I am officially done buying diapers forever!! I'm so proud of my little guy!

After sledding we did our grocery shopping and didn't go to Walmart.. as I promised I wouldn't. Problem is though that our new store doesn't have a few key things that Walmart has, like my 3 lb packages of ground turkey for $5. This store had 1 lb packages for $4! Yikes.. so I still have to go to Walmart to buy my ground turkey and a few other things. I'm thinking I'll probably split the shopping up each week. Buy some things at this store then get the rest at Walmart. At least that way Walmart isn't getting ALL my money, and that's good enough for me, at least for now!

Then I called my mom, who hasn't heard much of my great news yet. She had not heard that I'm searching for a job, or that I'm entering school (which still isn't official yet, still waiting on the financial aid to be approved.. I'll keep you posted). Well she is absolutely thrilled at the news! She is so proud of me, and it felt pretty good to hear how happy she was at my decisions.

So I must say my new year is starting off very well.. I just hope it keeps going in this direction. I'm feeling so positive right now and I love it!