Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 year end review

2013 brought some incredible changes to my life that impacted my finances and debt reduction mission.  I went through a complicated pregnancy that reduced how much I could work but brought home two healthy, adorable (and expensive) additions to our family.  I combined finances with S and worked towards having a unified financial outlook with him (not an easy task and will probably be an ongoing battle for years to come).  I totaled my car which turned out to financially be a good thing even though I don't recommend it as a way to get out from under a hefty loan.  Became a responsible, mature adult (ie. got life insurance, which I think counts as a milestone towards being a responsible, mature adult!).

Through all the financial challenges I only had one goal for the year- no net increase in debt.  I knew there would be some trade-offs such as paying down the credit card debt while racking up the medical debt.  I hadn't foreseen that S and I would finally decide to look at our finances as one big picture.  In order to compare apples to apples I've gone back and added in S' end of 2012 numbers to mine to see if we really did accomplish my one financial goal for 2013...

End of 2012:
Student Loan 1 (My fed loan): $36,284
Student Loan 2 (S' state loan): $21,719
Student Loan 3 (S' fed loan): $5,454
Car Loan: $8,605
Credit Card 1: $0
Credit Card 2: $4,261
Credit Card 3: $117
Misc. small debts (S' small debts in collections): $5,443
Parents: $0

2012 Total: $76,883

And here's were we are today:
Student Loan 1: $35,230
Student Loan 2: $20,800
Student Loan 3: $5,197
Car Loan: $0
Credit Card 1: $0
Credit Card 2: $3,825
Credit Card 3: $3,253
Misc. small debts: $4,284
Medical expenses: $700
Parents: $0

2013 Total: $73,289

Which means we exceed my goal by roughly $3,600!!

And to think we started in Oct 2011 with $101,123 in debt!

Which all boils down to $27,834 paid off!  We've also been building our emergency savings back up and have $100 in savings plus another $200 put away in a savings account for the boys' education/ braces/ band camps/ tattoo removal or whatever other expenses the future holds for them :)

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The last hospital bill

Since we're nearing the end of 2013 and I would like to have a complete financial picture heading into the new year, I decided to try and tackle the babies $4,200 hospital bill one more time.  After bouncing between the hospital billing department and the babies insurance company I finally had a breakthrough!  Someone at the babies' insurance finally took enough time to really look into the claim denial.  Apparently my insurance should have covered it due to some state law.

So I called my own insurance back and again lucked into a person who was willing to look a little deeper into why the original claim was denied.  Turns out my insurance WILL cover 100% charges!  All they need are the babies names from the hospital billing department because right now the claims look like duplicates!

This is fantastic news for our finances and I'm relieved to be close to the end of the hospital bills.  Even though the hospital bills are not accruing interest, I think I'm going to pay off the balance with our tax return just to be done with the headache!

Friday, December 6, 2013

The twins are 6 months old...

Do you know what that means?  That's right, it means that the hospital and the insurance company have now had six months to haggle over who is paying for what and how much for the birth of our twin boys!  I passed the point of irritation a couple months ago after spending countless hours on the phone with the hospital going over the insurance information and the insurance company going over the boys' information.  Now I just find it sadly comical that this is how our health care system functions.

Anyways, I had really hoped I could end the year knowing how much I owed for their birth.  Is it $500 or is it the full $5000 we've been billed?  For now it doesn't really matter what the number is, the medical debt is not our first pay-off priority and we won't be itemizing so there's no tax advantage to paying it off this year.  But still, I've developed a certain level of comfort in knowing exactly what my financial picture is over these years of debt reduction... ah well, guess I'll have ring in the New Year with more phone calls to the hospital and insurance company!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Looking back on two years of debt reduction

Monday was officially the two year anniversary of my decision to start this debt reduction journey and blog.  I've been taking a little walk down memory lane today, reading some of the very first posts I wrote back in 2011.  It's kind of strange looking back and seeing the details of the little steps I have taken and as well as the big events that have thrown curve balls at my debt plan.  When I started all I had to think about was me- my money, my spending, my debt.  In two short years, I've added S and the babies to the mix and have to think about finances in a whole different way.  And even with all the ups and downs along the way, I was able to get rid of over 25k (40%) of the debt that I had been dragging around for years!

In my first post I talked about the shame and guilt I felt about my financial situation.  It's funny but I can't even remember the last time I felt either of those negative feelings.  I actually feel quite proud of my accomplishments financially and can openly discuss my situation with my loved ones without feeling embarrassed.  And my journey is no longer just about the road to debt freedom.  I am learning a tremendous amount about all aspects of financial planning from taxes, insurance, savings and investment options to living a less wasteful and simpler life.

What a wild ride it's been so far... exciting to see what the next two years brings me!

Friday, October 18, 2013

tax thoughts

A random thought occurred to me today: neither S or I have adjusted our tax withholding since the babies were born which means a bigger tax refund next spring.  The thing is... I don't want a big tax return in 6 months, I want a bigger paycheck now!  I know some people like getting a fat tax return but for me the idea of loaning the government money, interest free, seems unfair given that the government isn't about to extend me any interest free loans.  However, I don't know enough about taxes when it comes to having dependents to know whether I should adjust my withholding or S should adjust his.  I do know that the extra cash each paycheck would help us pay off our debt that much faster so it seems like this should be investigated quickly.

Other questions that flooded my mind once I started down the tax rabbit hole:

  • Since I was on maternity leave this year, S stands to make more... should he file as head of household with the babies?
  • Would I qualify for the EIC since I didn't make as much this year if I filed with the babies?
  • Is it possible to split the babies since we aren't married?  Is that the best bang for our buck?
  • What other kinds of credits are out there for people with kids?
  • What difference would being married make?  Is it significant enough to consider going ahead and getting married this year? 
I'm adding tax research to my to do list for this week but I have a feeling this may be complicated enough to warrant visiting a tax pro.  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Debt pay off priority list

Now that I have a clear picture of where we stand as a family, it's time to figure out how to pay everything off in an equitable way.  What I mean by equitable is that since S and I are not legally tied together we need to make careful decisions about how we handle finances jointly should something happen that leave us as single parents (like death or splitting up).  This may sound pessimistic but I think it's necessary to use a better safe than sorry approach, similar to getting life insurance, I obviously don't want either of us to die but we need our family to be protected should that happen.  

Our basic plan is to pay off joint debts first with the other debts receiving minimum payments only, from there we'll split the money we have to pay towards debt each month so that 50% go to each of our debts.  

Here's what I've come up with so far (arranged in order of priority and pay off time frame):

1. Credit Card 3: $2,657- This is a joint debt in my name.  We used my card to cover the household expenses accrued during the maternity leave and the budget shortfall we had.  It has a relatively high interest rate of 8.9% so we need to hit it hard and get rid of it as fast as possible. 

2. Medical expenses: $2,565- Also a joint expense from the birth of our twins, and also primarily in my name.  Even though this one has no interest we have set monthly payments for the larger bills and owe the smaller bills upon receipt meaning this one will get paid off fast regardless of whether we would rather be putting our efforts elsewhere.  Besides, it will be nice to just have all these little medical bills out of the way so we can move on to bigger debt chunks.

3. Student Loan 3: $5,628- This is one of S' student loans we refinanced it together to get it out of default.  We have a set monthly payment for the next 3 years to pay it off but can throw extra money at it whenever possible to pay it off faster.

4. Credit Card 2: $3,975- This is a debt in my name and although it currently sits at 0% interest thanks to a balance transfer it will eventually start accruing interest at a ridiculous 15.4%!  We're going to try to pay this off fast but may need to do another balance transfer to get it done.

5.  Misc. small debts: $4,284- This is a bunch of small debts of S', currently none of them are showing up on his credit reports and they are not accruing interest so they have become a lower priority.

6. Student Loan 2: $21,100 and Student Loan 1: $35,230- Loan 2 is S' and Loan 1 is mine.  

Friday, October 4, 2013

New numbers: combined family debt

As I mentioned in my last post I am revising the debt numbers on this blog to add S' debts to the mix.  As we continue to take baby steps towards marriage and a combined financial outlook it was obvious that I can't just focus on my debt and ignore S' mountain anymore.  So drum roll please (and you might want to sit down for this)....

Here's what the debt load would have looked like two years ago if I had included S' debts from the beginning plus I added in the medical debt we just accrued from the birth of our twins:

Student Loan 1 (My fed loan): $38,339

Student Loan 2 (S' state loan): $21,719
Student Loan 3 (S' fed loan): $5,454
Car Loan: $11,684
Credit Card 1: $10,577
Credit Card 2: $3,635
Credit Card 3: $0
Misc. small debts (S' small debts in collections): $5,443
Medical expenses (This number may change since there's still a couple bills that the insurance hasn't processed): $3,672
Parents: $600

Total: $101,123

And here's were we are today:

Student Loan 1: $35,230
Student Loan 2: $21,100
Student Loan 3: $5,628
Car Loan: $0
Credit Card 1: $0
Credit Card 2: $3,975
Credit Card 3: $1,858
Misc. small debts: $4,284
Medical expenses: $2,565
Parents: $0

Total: $74,640

Paid off to date: $26,483 paid off + $108 in savings

So we have a long way to go but have already paid off 25% of the debt in the last two years!  Next steps are to come up with a debt pay off plan that equitably takes care of both of our debt loads.

Monday, September 30, 2013

End of 3rd quarter 2013, tomorrow is a new beginning... literally

S and I have now been engaged for a year and what a year it has been!  We put our wedding plans on hold pretty soon into our engagement when we found out we were expecting our twins but that didn't mean we stopped working towards a more unified and family oriented lifestyle. Over the past year we have been overhauling the way we relate to finances together.  

Previously, we were like two little islands in archipelago, connected on a deeper level but completely separate and independent on all surface level issues like finances.  We split all our household bills and paid each other back and forth to keep things equitable.  This method was great at keeping the peace between our completely different financial outlooks but it wasn't great for achieving anything financially related together and it was annoying to constantly be thinking about who owed who what.

Over the past year we created a combined budget, got a joint checking and savings account, and started looking at our debts together.  There have been plenty of arguments along the way and we still haven't come up with a method that we are both satisfied with but we are making tons of progress in the financial communication department. Anyways, long story short, this blog has always been about my own personal journey to pay of my own personal debt but starting tomorrow I'm going to be adding S' debts to the tally plus our joint debts from the babies/ maternity leave and revising the "starting" point numbers.  It's been a long time coming since I can't consider myself truly out of debt if my partner is still buried in it!  So the following numbers will be my last report on the progress I made on my portion of our family debt load...

Student Loan: $35,230
Car Loan: $0
Credit Card 1: $0
Credit Card 2: $3,975
Credit Card 3: $0 (actual balance is $1,858 but we consider it "joint" debt from the maternity leave)
Parents: $0

Total: $39,205

Here’s my starting point back in October 2011:
Student Loan: $38,339
Car Loan: $11,684
Credit Card 1: $10,577
Credit Card 2: $3,635
Credit Card 3: $0
Parents: $600

Total: $64,835

Paid off to date: $25,630 paid off + $53 in savings

Friday, September 20, 2013

Little mouths, big expenses

Throughout the pregnancy people where often curious to know if I was planning on breastfeeding or formula feeding given that we were having twins.  My answer to those curious people was that I was going to try to breastfeed.  I understand the health benefits of nursing for both me and the babies but a big reason I wanted to try was the expense of formula.  I never even bothered calculating out what it would cost for formula because what could possibly beat free?!  Plus the promise that I could keep eating "extra" helpings and still lose the baby weight had plenty of appeal!

The boys are 15 weeks old and I've been able to mostly breastfeeding with some formula to supplement but now that I'm back at work providing that free food is becoming more challenging.  Pumping is a total drag.  Cleaning all the parts, lugging everything back and forth to work, going in an hour early so I can make up the time lost to pumping throughout the day, plus I can't pump enough in the day to cover what they eat at daycare so I have to have a late night pumping session, and the general awkwardness of pumping in a super small, super quiet office all make pumping a pain.  Since I'm questioning my resolve to keep on pumping, I decided it was time to calculate out what formula would cost us should we need to fit it into our already very tight budget.  

Using a price of $.08 per ounce of formula (for generic brand formula) it would be $150 a month to feed the boys.  Now, I generally use generic products for just about everything in our household including food but something about generic baby formula doesn't sit well with me, so recalculating for the name brand formula at $.13 an ounce it comes to $240 a month.  We currently end up spending a little each month on formula for supplementing plus some pumping items that make it a little easier but that only adds up to $40 a month.  So in my cost comparison I am saving us $200 a month by keeping at it... and that's just the kind of motivation I needed right now!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Deep breath, now re-group

Lately I've been feeling like our financial life (and non-financial life) is in a bit of a tail spin.  Trying to stay on top of everything when a lot of the variables are constantly shifting has been extremely challenging and frustrating.  I'm not going to sugar coat it: I've been feeling hopeless and wondering if my constant battle with finances is even worth it.  But then I remember that I have two very adorable reasons to keep chugging along towards a better financial future so I need to find a way to get rid of the hopeless feeling.

To help me get back on track, I've decided that the rest of September needs to be a re-grouping month.  Now that I'm back at work we'll have two paychecks coming in and that in itself will help alleviate some of the stress.  Over the next month I expect we will have all of the medical bills in hand after the insurance has paid out their portions.  I'm also hopeful that we'll have the car and daycare debacles all sorted out.  Plus S' student loans should be out of default and back on track.  My goal right now is to have a clear understanding of where we are financially speaking and at least a three month plan in place to get us moving in the right direction by the end of the month.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Family to the rescue

I can't remember how much I've posted about our ongoing car dilemma, so I'll recap the three year saga quickly.  When S lost everything three years ago while we were still living in Florida, we bought a cheap used Honda to get him around.  I had recently purchased (using that term loosely since I financed most of price) a used Mazda.  When we made the move to Boston, we debated selling the Honda in Florida so we wouldn't have to move it thinking that S would use mass transit to get around.  In the end, we decided to keep it for various reasons which turned out to be a big mistake.

Even though the car ran just fine, it wouldn't pass the Massachusetts car inspection.  It would take about $1000 to get it up to regulations which is almost what the thing was worth in the first place.  So it sat in our driveway like some redneck lawn ornament collecting leaf litter and bird droppings.  We went back and forth on what to do with it: should we drive it to my family in Kentucky, where there are no State inspections, where we could sell it for what we bought it for?  Should we sell it for cheap, as-is in Massachusetts and cut our losses?  Should we keep it for emergency use only and risk the fines if we got caught?  

After listening to me go around and around about the dilemma for long enough, my dad offered to lend us one of his vehicles (he has a fleet of cars for his company and personal use) while we made the transition to parenthood.  We took him up on that offer and decided to sell the Honda as-is in Mass to put towards baby funding.  Fast forward to today where I have a totaled Mazda to replace.  We like the Volkswagon my dad lent us but we quickly found out we wouldn't be able to afford one for the settlement money without getting a new loan.  I'm really not interested in having a new loan... I'm trying to see the accident as a blessing in disguise to get out from under my car loan.  So what do we do to replace the Mazda on the limited settlement money I will receive?

Again, our families became our sounding board about the ongoing car dilemma.  And our families came to our rescue (or maybe they were just tired of hearing us complain)!  My dad offered to sell us the VW for a very, very low price (like half off the blue book value) and S' brother, aunt, and mom all worked together to give us one of the used family cars that they were going to sell.  Not only will we finally have two good condition, working vehicles completely paid for and in our name but we'll also have money left over from the Mazda settlement to pay-off some of the maternity debt!  This is all such a big relief for us, I really wish I could see our families right now so I could give them all a big kiss for helping us out in our time of need!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Daycare fail

Only three days into daycare and we've had an epic failure.  Apparently our in-home daycare provider, who is a very nice older woman that's been running a daycare in her home for 27 years, misunderstood some component of the State regulation on how many babies she can have under 15 months old.  Besides our boys she has a 13 month old but apparently she can only have two babies under 15 months.  Bottom line, we have to make other arrangements for our boys starting TODAY!  Yes, you heard me.  She had a visit from the State yesterday and has to be in compliance today, meaning our boys can not be there when the State person comes back.

Now I understand the purpose of regulations but seriously, the State only gives one day to come into compliance?!  It's not like she had too many kids in her care or that there was something unsanitary or unsafe about her place.  Just that one of the kids she has is TWO months shy of the 15 month mark.  And S and I have to pay the price for this mistake.  I am completely aggravated right now.  The boys went with S to work today and the daycare lady put us in touch with an alternate sitter for the time being but I just can't believe I have to deal with one more thing on top of all the other crazy stuff that's happened over the last month!  Some expressions come to mind... When it rains it pours.  If it doesn't kill you it will make you stronger.  C'est la vie.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

House of cards

When one is in as much debt as S and I are, one little thing can topple the whole house of cards.  Well, we've faced a while slew of little things in the past year and right now I'm feeling pretty frustrated.  The meager little $1000 emergency fund was no match for a twin pregnancy with complications.  We weren't able to save up what I was going for to cover the maternity leave let alone an unexpected trip to Kentucky for the funeral.  Add to that the car wreck and I feel like our financial world has just crumbled!

Our debt is quickly on the rise with thousands of dollars owed for the medical expenses, thousands more on the credit card for everyday living expenses and the emergency situations that came up that we didn't have the savings to cover.  How will we recover from all this?  I feel like I can't even get a plan in place before some additional factor comes up to change it all! 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Car totaled

The insurance company called to inform me that they are declaring my car a total loss.  Once the loan is paid off (yes, the loan I JUST refinanced) they'll send me the balance which should be around $4000.  They also informed me that I have to turn in my rental car a week from today or start paying out of pocket for it.

So the week I return to work and have to leave my babies at daycare for the first time, I ALSO have to buy a car and find the time to go clean out my totaled car.  And since it may take a bit before I have the insurance cash in hand I'll need to come up with the cash to buy a cheap car outright (we have $0 savings to our name so this means turning to mom and dad) or take out another loan to buy a car more comparable to what I had.  And since I just refinanced my loan and therefore pinged my credit I probably won't get the best interest rate.

I'm super angry with myself right now for getting in this wreck.  I'm trying to see the silver lining here, I should consider buying a car that I can pay for outright with the insurance money and get out from under the loan, plus I won't have to pay my deductible or buy new tires.  Overall though, I just feel stressed out and pissed off.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Child care... and we have a winner!

The hunt for child care was pretty ridiculous but we've finally selected someone (cutting it pretty close since I return to work next week)!  After touring countless day care centers it was pretty quickly apparent that we couldn't afford to have two newborns in a center with our current debt load/ budget.  Nannies were also out of the question for the same reason.  Once we were directed to the list of certified in home providers on the State website we finally started finding people that were in our price range.   

The lady we chose is right around the corner from us, has been doing in home care since her children (my age) left the house, and seems like a very caring person.  We'll be doing a trial run of drop-off tomorrow so S and I can get used to cramming all the morning activities into a short amount of time!  

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

car accident

Just when I thought our financial situation couldn't get any tighter, I go and wreck my car.  I am feeling extremely fortunate that my baby (I only had one of the boys with me, the other little guy was hanging out with dad) and the people in the other vehicle were not injured in the crash.  However, it's going to cost us our $500 deductible to get the car fixed plus some amount of money for a rental car since my insurance only covers a measly $15 a day.  

Since we are already completely out of cash, all of these expenses are going to have to go on the card which already has a hefty balance.  I'm so upset with myself for getting in this totally avoidable accident, which put my little one and others in danger AND puts our finances in even worse shape.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

I've got the loan forbearance blues

In order to get the budget to balance, I had to make the difficult decision to put my student loan in forbearance.  I applied for a six month forbearance.  This will allow the $225 that was going towards the loan to be used to pay towards the medical debt.  I am hoping the medical/ maternity leave debt can be paid off within the 6 months but I still don't know exactly how much we owe in medical expenses yet which means I may end up needing to extend the forbearance.

Even though I realize that something had to give in the budget to make ends meet, I'm really bummed that I am pausing my student loans.  Right now our financial situation looks kind of bleak and it's hard to see the end when the debts are just piling up.  Trying to remember that each baby step we take towards paying off our debts puts us a little closer to having the future we want for us and our kids.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Car refinanced

I've been looking for ways to reduce our monthly bills so that we can get our budget to balance (there was at least $600 deficit before I started shuffling stuff around).  One of the first things on my list was to check into refinancing my car which I had stupidly never considered before because I just assumed I would end up paying more in the end.  Plus, I had originally planned to get out of debt pretty quick and didn't think extending my car loan was worth it... my how things changed when the twins entered the picture!

Anyways, I am proud to say I have completed the paperwork to refinance my car!  I was able to find a loan with a lower interest by almost a point and a half, so now my rate is 2.64%!  By extending my loan another 30 months I was able to cut my payment in half and the best part is that I won't end up paying more in interest over the life of the loan!  In fact, it will end up costing less in the long run.

I'm kind of kicking myself for not looking into this earlier. I probably could have been paying less on the car and, therefore, more on the higher priority debt for a while.  But oh well! That's what this journey is all about: learning to manage my finances!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Family emergency but no emergency fund

Last week one of the inevitable moments that we all dread occurred in my family; one of my closest uncles unexpectedly passed away.  This was a huge emotional blow to me as well as the rest of the family.  It was one of those times where I deeply regret living 1000 miles away from my family and I was not sure that I would be able to make it to the funeral.
With no emergency fund left, the high cost of flying me and the twins to Kentucky at the last minute was out of the question.  But driving myself and two infants there in such a short amount of time was also unrealistic.  S stepped up and decided to help drive us there even though he wouldn't be able to stay and we were able to get a reasonably affordable one-way ticket for him to go home the following day.
It is moments like this that the importance of having an emergency fund becomes so apparent and reinforces my mission to get out of debt.   I hate that I even had to consider missing the funeral and saying goodbye to someone so special to me all because of the financial mess I've created for myself. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Budget shortfall

I've started working on the budget for when I return to work in September and it's not a pretty picture.  Just plugging in the minimum payments for our debt and the basic household expenses plus the baby expenses we are looking at a shortfall of $600 a month.  This doesn't include putting anything aside to restock our emergency fund or include any money to cover big one time expenses coming up like new tires, auto maintenance, or my professional fees that are due in November.

There are a couple items in the budget that are currently just placeholder estimates. These line items are life insurance and S's student loan.  I was hoping to have life insurance squared away before the babies came but with everything that happened at the end of the pregnancy that to-do kept falling to the end of the list.  We are also in the process of renegotiating S's student loans which were in default.  Hopefully, I have included enough in the budget to cover these two items or we may have an even bigger shortfall than I am expecting.

The next step for us is to examine every way we can eliminate the shortfall and have enough left over for savings and large expenses.  The following is a list of the initial ideas I have for firming up our budget and getting the bottom line in the black (some of the ideas are obviously not desirable options but may end up being necessary):

  • Get life insurance
  • Complete S's loan restructuring
  • Refinance car loan
  • Look for lower car insurance rate
  • Reduce or eliminate 401(k) contribution
  • Look for less expensive health insurance option
  • Put my student loan in deferment until higher interest debts are paid off
  • Make more money... not sure how but need to think about this one!
  • Find new homes for some of the more expensive pets (last resort!!)
So there's the list of things I'm trying to accomplish before returning to work, all while juggling my twins!  Wish me luck!

Monday, July 29, 2013

The plastic debt is on the rise

I have passed the halfway point in my maternity leave and the end is in sight, which makes me sad to leave my babies but also relieved that we'll have two incomes again.  It's been stressful trying to live off of one income and our meager savings.  We've already wiped out the small savings account we had built up and are now in the "preserve our cash so we can pay rent/ put everything else on the credit card" mode to make it through to the end of my leave. 

Now, I'll be honest here, I never stopped using my credit cards through this whole debt reduction process.  I know most debt gurus would slap my hand for that but my goal in this process was not just to pay off my debt, it was also to learn how to manage finances (including debt) wisely.  I have come a long way in my relationship with my debt and credit cards.  I have one card that I use regularly and pay off, in full each month.  I only put charges on it that have been budgeted for and that I have the cash to pay for.  I also cash in the points earned on the card for gift cards for things like groceries or pet supplies.  I also have a card that carries a balance that I am slowly paying off.  This was the card I used to do a balance transfer to get all my credit card debt to a 0% interest rate.  Since we are now out of savings and putting everything that we don't have to pay cash for on the card, the balance is rising and I will not be able to pay it off in full.  After all this time, the credit card debt is rising instead of falling and I'm not happy about it.

Even though I knew going into the maternity leave that we would have to accrue some debt to make ends meet, this makes me very nervous for several reasons.  The most obvious one is that I've worked so hard over the past two years to pay off debt, going back into debt just sucks!  I keep reminding myself that my goal this year was NOT debt reduction.  The goal is to hold the line and not go further into debt than I was at the beginning of the year ($49,267 total debt) which is still totally doable but doesn't make me feel much better.

The second reason it makes me nervous to be relying on the credit card is that in my exhaustion and time strapped state, I find that I'm slipping back into some old bad habits.  Things like grabbing food on the go, making poor choices when I'm rushing through the grocery, and generally just not paying attention to where I can get a better price for things are all adding up.  Plus the old attitude of shrugging these small amounts off because they are so small, surely I won't have any trouble paying them off later is also sneaking back into my wallet.  

Lastly, because S and I are now a combined financial unit, there are times where he has to use my credit card to keep our cash preserved.  I wouldn't worry about it except that he and I are not on the same page financially speaking.  I have been diligently hacking away at my debt and revamping my attitude towards spending and debt.  He, on the other hand, has always lived paycheck to paycheck and doesn't easily recognize the difference between needs and wants.  He also lacks the ability to put off purchases until there's a better time to buy something either because we have more money available or because there's a better price.  He's slowly making changes towards a more fiscally fit lifestyle but there are still times where he spends unnecessarily and to see those expenses show up as credit card debt makes me uneasy.

For now the best I can do is keep reminding myself (and S) of the importance of only purchasing what is absolutely needed to get through till I return to work.  We will have to make paying off the card our first priority once we have two incomes coming in again.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The medical bills are rolling in

Between the pre-baby trip to the ER and admittance to the hospital for pre-term labor, the birth and recovery of the twins, and the ER trip with the little twin, we've got a mountain of medical bills piling up!  We added the boys to S' insurance and it took awhile to receive their cards.  That means that a good number of the bills we have sitting here haven't been paid out by the insurance company. I'll be spending the next few days calling each bill to report the insurance information because I sure as heck don't want to be on the hook for the full amount of these bills!

In the meantime, I'm tracking each medical event in a spreadsheet.  This way I can easily add information about when we receive the bill for that medical event, the amount owed, and I can double check to make sure the insurance company has paid out their portion of the bill.  This may seem like overkill to some but I've had some past experience dealing with medical bills and I don't think any amount of organization is too much when dealing with insurance companies!  Besides that, my time these days is severely limited, I need to be able to pick up a task for a few minutes and understand where I left off so staying organized is key.

I also realize that some of these medical bills are going to be too much to pay outright and we will have to set up payment plans.  I've added a line item in my debt counter on this blog, once I've got a clear idea of what we owe after insurance I'll be adding the medical debt to the list.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Child care, the hunt continues

Having no clue how to go about finding childcare, I originally turned to my two most trusted resources, Google and Craigslist.  I easily found a number of childcare centers around town on Google and toured several before becoming completely overwhelmed and frustrated at the high cost ($700-925 per week)!  I also found a number of nannys but that's even less financially realistic so I didn't even bother setting up interviews.  What I couldn't find were in-home private daycare facilities that had open spots for two infants and I knew they would be the most affordable option.  None of the in-home centers that were on Craisglist, Google, and Care.com could take the boys.  After several weeks of searching, I was starting to feel a little hopeless when I finally struck gold... 

One of the in-home centers I contacted was run by a woman who also heads up a committee for the State that manages all of the licensed child care providers.  Even though she didn't have openings she pointed me in the right direction.  It turns out the State website has a search engine of all child care providers and to make it even easier, I can narrow the search to only in-home providers!  I've spent the day calling every provider within the area and have set up several interviews for next week.  I'm hopeful that one of these in-home providers will fit what S and I are looking for at a price that won't sink our already stretched budget!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Is this child care or highway robbery?

For the time being S and I have decided he should stay at his job which means I'm starting the search for child care options for the twins for when I return to work.  I already had a vague idea of the monthly costs by asking friends what their child care cost and I also checked into a couple places prior to the babies arrival.  Now that the real hunt is on I am finding the costs for the "average" day care center are higher than I had expected.

One of the places I called, which is the closest to my home, talked all about their fancy curriculum, facilities, teachers, and finally asked me when I'd like to come in for a tour.  Thankfully, I went ahead and asked about the tuition before wasting my time... $925 per week.  I about choked when she told me.  This was the highest cost for a center I have found but even the lowest priced center is equal to one of our take-home pay!  I don't want to sound like I don't want the best for my children but geeze, how much curriculum does an infant need?!  Did my parents worry about my chances of getting into college when they were picking out my infant care?!  

Seriously though, I've heard that private, in-home care is more affordable than centers but so far have not been able to locate many or any with availability.  I'm trying hard to stay positive and to keep in mind that somehow people make ends meet but right now all I see are the HUGE extra expenses brought on by the babies.  That's all I've got for now...

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Life with twin newborns

Today is officially three months since my last posting and it also marks the day that my twins would have been due... if they hadn't come a month early!  My baby boys were born on June 6th, healthy, happy, and adorable (of course, I'm partial but I'm posting pictures here to prove that they are indeed the most adorable babies ever).

I'm sure you're asking what's been going on in my life for the last three months!  Besides the birth of the boys and the inevitable sleep deprivation, feeding, diapering, bathing, and general baby juggling, quite a lot has been going on!  Since this blog is a documentation of my financial journey I'll try to stick with the financially related items but you'll have to forgive my frazzled mommy brain if I go off on tangents...

The last 6 weeks of the pregnancy and the first couple weeks of the boys life were rough both emotionally and financially.  At 30 weeks I ended up being admitted to the hospital for pre-term labor, aside from being scary it was a hospital admittance co-pay that I hadn't factored in and when I was put on bedrest for the next couple weeks it also meant no paycheck/ no leftover money for saving.  We were fortunate in that the pre-term labor stopped, everything looked healthy and on track and my doctor allowed me to return to work on a part time schedule.  Of course, in all my financial planning I had been thinking I would be pulling in a full time paycheck until 38 weeks.  So that was another big hit to the financial plan  that would get us through maternity leave without going further into debt.

At 34 weeks an ultrasound showed that one of the babies wasn't growing very well anymore (no big surprise there, I was huge by that point and couldn't imagine being able to stretch any further so I knew they must be pretty cramped for growing room)!  The docs went into super monitoring mode and decided I should be induced at 36 weeks since I was also showing signs of preeclampsia.  The boys were both thriving and healthy at birth so we got to bypass the NICU, which was a big concern of mine for multiple reasons and would have meant more hospital co-pays that we weren't planning on. However, being that they were so small at birth (the little guy was 4 pounds and 9 ounces and the "big" boy was 6 pounds and 7 ounces), the car seats that we had purchased cheaply used from a friend with twins wouldn't work and S had to run out and buy new car seats for smaller babies. 

Within the first week home, we had a little choking incident with the small guy (which he recovered from so don't worry!) and took an expensive ambulance ride to the ER.  We've also had regular check-ins with the doctor to monitor growth, all of which have a price tag I had never anticipated in the financial planning stage.  And even though I stocked up on a bazzilion diapers and supplies, we have already made plenty of runs to the store for more stuff that I didn't know we needed in advance!

The bottom line is that, all my careful financial pre-baby planning didn't factor in a lot of the expenses we have already incurred and it's only the first month!  I'm chocking it up to my inexperience at being a parent.  I'm learning quickly that life with twins (or any kids for that matter) is going to be full of unpredictable twists and turns, unexpected costs, and any financial plan that I come up with now needs to be a little more flexible than pre-baby life!

Life with twin newborns is hectic and fragmented (it's taken me the entire day to write this post in increments of a few minutes at a time)!  Needless to say, I haven't had a lot of time to devote to our budget and financial plan.  I know we've pretty much blown the plan I had worked on pre-baby but I have no idea by how much.  In the coming weeks I'll be trying to devote a little time each day to getting our finances back in order as well as getting back on this blog... so stay tuned for the continuation of my financial adventures in babyland!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

March summary/ April planning

Compared to February, March was great on the financial front.  Although, I'm still struggling with coming to terms with the flat-lined debt reduction it's a relief to finally see our savings account growing.  After the financially abysmal month we had last month (which included $1,200 in vet bills) I was really happy that we were able to stash $1,000 into our maternity/ baby stuff savings in March.  

So what's on the horizon for April?  I started putting together a maternity leave budget which I'd like to have solidified by the end of April.  Right now the biggest holes in the budget are health insurance, life insurance, and baby needs.  

The family health insurance is a pretty big issue for S and I.  Since we are't married we can't be on the same insurance however the babies will need to go on one of our plans.  My company plan is $1100 a month (my out of pocket cost after the company pays their portion) which pretty much makes it a ridiculously unaffordable option.  S's family plan is somewhere around $750 out-of pocket (although we don't know that for sure because the person who would be able to answer that question has been incommunicato for a while, just another frustrating element to the issue).  Additionally, if the babies are on his insurance, the birth would trigger an additional co-pay where if they are on mine, their hospital stay would be fully covered under my co-pay.  There's also the question of coverage past maternity leave since S may not be staying at his job (another big question we need to work out!!).  There are state and private options that I need to explore as well but the bottom line is a decision needs to be made by the end of the month just in case our babies come pre-term, an unfortunate possibility with twins.

Life insurance should be a much more straightforward issue to tackle.  Just need to research what we need for coverage and then find the best coverage.  Again, this should be in place by the end of the month in case the babies make an early debut in May.

As for baby needs, I'm hoping we have the majority of stuff we will need for the first few months purchased by the time they are born.  There will probably be some amount of stuff that I didn't anticipate so having some cash set aside for the unknowns would be good.  There's a huge used baby stuff sale the first weekend of April that the twins mom group I joined puts on.  My hope is that I'll be able to purchase most of the remaining stuff we need for those first few months at this sale.  I've also been diligent about searching Craigslist for used items and hope that I can continue to preserve the gift cards and returned gifts money for items like diapers that we'll need once they arrive.

April should also bring in some extra cash in the following ways:

  • The overtime I worked during March will be paid out
  • We can apply for our gym membership reimbursements through our health plans
  • Tax returns
  • Selling some stuff on Craigslist/ Ebay 
  • Sewing job
In all, April is going to be a busy month with a lot of big decisions being made!  

Sunday, March 31, 2013

2013: First Quarter report

I can not believe it's already the end of March!  Even though my priorities have shifted from debt reduction to savings and purchasing baby stuff in preparation for the babies I still thought I would share the quarterly report:

Student Loan: $35,832
Car Loan: $7,925
Credit Card 1: $0
Credit Card 2: $346
Credit Card 3: $4,219
Parents: $0

Total: $48,322

Here’s my starting point back in October 2011:
Student Loan: $38,339
Car Loan: $11,684
Credit Card 1: $10,577
Credit Card 2: $3,635
Credit Card 3: $0
Parents: $600

Total: $64,835

Paid off to date:
4th Q 2011: $5,051 + $0 in savings
1st Q 2012: $1,298 + $150 in savings
2nd Q 2012: $2,771 + $506 in savings
3rd Q 2012: $3,195 + $344 in savings
4th Q 2012: $3,253 + $1,381 in savings
1st Q 2013: $945 + $1,454 in savings

Total: $16,513 paid off + $3,835 in savings

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Simplifying my to do list

I've always been a list maker by nature and I think this financial journey I've taken myself on has really reinforced some great practices of writing the important things out in an organized way.  I've learned that some clear planning and focused effort can really make what initially seemed impossible, totally manageable.  However, lately I've found that my to-do list and planning efforts are out of control, I keep piling things onto my list, making commitments to people when I'm already short on time and energy and just generally feeling
overwhelmed by the number of things that I feel need to get done before the babies come.  Everyone around me, including my doctors, kept saying I need to slow down and start "taking it a little easier" as the pregnancy progresses.  But I kept looking at my to-do list saying "there's no freaking time to take it easy!"  

Finally my body ordered me to slow down last week in the way of having some minor heart palpitations after a particularly strenuous day of work, then errands, followed by some house cleaning.  Everything turned out  fine but after a trip to the ER and just being scared that I had pushed myself too far, I realized I needed to rethink my priorities.  And then it hit me, I've learned how to differentiate between needs and wants when it comes to tangible items in my life... why couldn't I apply that same mentality to my mile long to-do list?!

That night I sat down and wrote out a definition of what a "Need" to do task is and what a "Want" to do task is.  Here's what I came up with:

Need to Do:  Those things that directly impact my (and the babies) health and well-being.  Kind of a loose definition but when I looked at my list only a few things really stood out as Need to Dos.  Some financial items fell in this category (like getting my life insurance in order and taxes) and some household tasks also (like getting healthy food at the grocery and keeping a generally sanitary house) but most everything on my list wouldn't actually cause me or the babes any harm if it didn't get done. 

Want to Do: All the stuff that I genuinely want to do, the stuff that brings me joy or pleasure in doing.  Some of my Want to Do items are things like making valances for the nursery and giving myself a pedicure, or writing on this blog!  These are all the items that either got pushed constantly to the bottom of the list or I did in such a hurried way that it felt more like another task I needed to get done and checked off... either way it was taking the pleasure out of doing them!

I quickly realized there should be a third category, all the Should/ Could Do stuff.  My to-do list is constantly crammed with all the stuff I Could squeeze into my day, some of which Should get done eventually but have no real critical timeline.  The problem is that I was subconsciously putting the Shoulds and Coulds into the Need to Do category.  I was driving myself crazy and making myself exhausted trying to pack my day with stuff that just doesn't seem that important now that I've redefined my priorities!

I realize that other people are naturally better at taking it easy (like S for instance who can genuinely become blind to the piles of laundry, the squeaky door hinge, the tarnished toaster oven, etc) but I also know I'm not alone in the world of people that constantly feel like they've got too much to do and not enough time to do it.  For me, having a clear definition in my mind about what really matters, what really Needs to get done has already helped take a huge burden off my shoulders.  I will keep reminding myself of these definitions especially when the babies arrive because I don't ever want to look back and realize that I put something as silly as scouring the toaster oven ahead of spending quality time with my family!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Returning baby gifts for the cash: prudent or tacky?

When I originally registered for baby stuff in advance of the baby shower, I went into it with the attitude of registering only for items that we A) absolutely needed like diapers, health kit, etc. and B) couldn't or would prefer not to buy used.  My thought was that our friends and family would cover all these items that way we could focus our limited cash resources on the stuff that I don't mind getting used like cribs and clothes.  

That kind of pragmatic thinking was my first mistake.  My middle sister, who came along when I registered, kept picking up cute and fun stuff that to me looked like a waste of precious registry resources since I could find it all at yard sales.  She said that people would not want to get the boring items like diaper rash cream or nursing pads.  She said that people would want to pool together to get the big cool stuff like cribs and strollers.  I ignored her and stuck with the plan, assuming that my loved ones would also stick to my plan and get all the utilitarian crap on my registry.

At the baby shower, I found out my sister was right.  I think I got a total of 5 things off the registry and at least two of them were items I only registered for to appease my sister's desire to scan cute stuff.  The shower itself was amazing, my mom, sisters, and bff did a fantastic job and the gifts were thoughtful, fun, adorable, and just what you'd expect to see at a baby shower!  I don't want the following to sound ungrateful, because I am truly amazed at the thought and care that people put into their gifts for our little babies and love that my friends and family came together for the celebration.  However, I did leave the shower feeling a little frustrated that we still didn't have our basics covered.

I decided that some of the items that we received should be returned, particularly the ones that we could find used in near perfect condition or for a much cheaper price.  In the end, we will still end up with the item we received as a gift but we will also have some extra cash left over to get some of those boring things we need.  For instance the $200 new pack n play was returned and we can find a $60 used one that's just as good.  That leaves $140 left over for other stuff.  I've only mentioned that I did this to a few people and have had mixed responses.  For some, this breaks some rule of gift giving that I apparently didn't know about.  For others, they seem to agree with my thinking but even a few of them seem to think I'm being a little too frugal.  

In the end, I just have to keep reminding myself of this financial journey I am on and try to make the wisest financial choices I can.  I can't be concerned with other people's opinions about what is prudent or what is tacky, what is a need or a want, or what is going to be best for my family. Our goal is to not increase our debt this year while covering all our extra expenses and if I feel like we need to return expensive gifts for the cash to meet our goal, then that's what we'll do!  

Friday, March 15, 2013

Wading through the bewildering world of baby products

Warning: the following is a rant about the insane amount of useless stuff that marketing campaigns, websites, blogs, magazines, and people (some of whom are close friends and family) tell me I need to have in order to provide for my babies.

I realized going into this whole parenting thing that I have a very limited knowledge of what baby stuff exists out there to make my babies lives better and to help me get along a little easier.  I accept that and I embrace the opportunity to learn but I am getting sick of the buy, buy, buy culture surrounding baby stuff.   On one hand, I’m taking this as a great sign that all of the progress I’ve made over the last two years in identifying my needs versus my wants has really taken hold.  On the other hand, I’m tired of being bombarded by all the stuff I “need” to get for the babies. 

Since this post is purely to allow me to vent, I’d like to list some of the stuff that has been suggested I need (either by a magazine, blog or well-meaning friend)...
  • A $70 contoured pregnancy pillow for sleeping.  Um, no!  I did however break down and get a $14 body pillow from Costco that has made sleeping more comfortable. 
  • Wipes warmer… yes this one is nice to have but it’s not essential although I do appreciate receiving one at the baby shower.
  • A decorative light switch cover (sorry sis but this one had to go one the list).  Yes, the nursery would look cuter with extra decorations and maybe the babies would benefit from a more stimulating environment but seriously “need” is the wrong word here.
  • Specialized towels for burping, changing, bathing, etc… this one I just don’t get and maybe I’ll change my mind after the babies are here but to me every piece of cloth that comes into contact with the babies including the clothes I’m wearing  is going to get something gross on it at some point.  Why do I care if I have the right cloth for the exact mess that’s occurring??  Can’t I just have a boat load of soft rags to take care of whatever mess needs to be addressed at the moment?  I seem to remember my mom using a lot of old socks, cut up t-shirts, and cloth diapers to take care of our childhood messes.  As a matter of fact, I’ve got some old blankets and t-shirts that can be repurposed for just this very task!

I could go on but I feel better having vented a little so I’ll stop here and say that so far my dad has had the best advice (and funniest) on what the babies need:  “you have your boobs to feed them and as long as you have a safe place to put them down when you’re tired of holding them, what else do you really need for the first few months?”  Of course this comment got an exasperated look and some choice words from my mom, my two sisters, and me but it really did help me put some perspective on what babies really need.  They need to be fed, they need to be diapered and clothed, they need to be bathed, and they need a safe place to hang out/ sleep/ travel.  As I wade through the bewildering world of baby stuff I just need to remember those basics and get the stuff that helps me meet those needs.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Overtime authorized

The project load has been steadily increasing over the past month at work which has finally led my bosses to ask all of us underlings to work extra.  At my last job that would have meant more hours for the same amount of pay since they had a "you are salary so we own you" kind of mentality but here it means extra cash money!  How much extra cash depends on how many extra hours I can get in a week above my 40.  It's going to be difficult since each week I'm already scrambling to make up extra hours to cover the ridiculous amount of time I have to spend in the doctor's office for the twin pregnancy.  However, given that I'm not having any complications so far in the pregnancy I feel like now's the time to push for some extra dough to cover my maternity leave.  Thankfully my job is not physically difficult and I sit at a desk all day with my feet up but I'll confirm with my doc next week to make sure I'm not overdoing it and sending myself into bedrest!

Friday, March 1, 2013

February summary

February was a complete wash as far as savings and only made the tiniest progress with debt reduction.  I realize that we are in savings for baby prep mode and not focusing on debt reduction but after so much time watching my numbers continuously fall, it's a little tough to see the numbers stagnate.  I just have to keep reminding myself that the whole goal for this year is to not accrue any new debt while we handle all the additional baby needs and financial transitions.  

We had some major expected expenses last month as follows:

$250 for my annual parking pass
$76 for car taxes
$66 for my professional license
$275 to register for parenting classes
$300 for a trip to my hometown for a baby shower

Even with all that we were still looking to be able to save $500 which I was pretty happy with until our oldest dog started getting sick.  A trip to the vet confirmed that he was in desperate need of some dental work and had a serious infection spreading into his sinuses.  When the vet brought out the estimate for all the work he needed I thought I was about to have a heart attack! We decided to go on the pet plan offered by Banfield which at least reduced the cost of the proposed work considerably and also allowed for some of the cost to be spread out in monthly payments.  His surgery is this coming Monday and we won't find out until they get in there how much the final balance is but I'm pretty much kissing the $500 we had set aside for February savings goodbye.

On the bright side, we were able to cover all these expenses without dipping into existing savings and March looks much better... right now I'm only anticipating a few small non-regular bills that need to be taken care of.  

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Operation Having Twins: Phase One underway

Just a quick update today.  S and I are thick in the process of merging our finances in preparation for the babies’ arrival this summer.   I’m viewing this year in terms of phases.   Phase One is the months preceding the babies arrival or me going on bed rest, i.e. both salaries coming in.  Phase Two is me potentially on bed rest, the babies’ arrival, maternity/ paternity leaves, and S potentially transitioning to a new job.   Phase Three is me going back to work and S potentially working part-time evenings and weekends.

Right now we’re in Phase One, which will hopefully be until mid-June when the babies will be considered full term.  Obviously we can’t predict when they might arrive or if I’ll end up on bed rest at some point and ultimately we don’t have much control over that so the best we can do is continue shoveling money into savings.  We’ve already set up our joint accounts and come up with a pretty stringent budget for the next four months or so (until the babies come) that cuts back to the bare essentials/ minimum debt payments and allows us to stockpile as much into savings as possible.  During the coming months we’ll be:

  • Selling our second car (which is a whole story in itself that I’ll have to write about another day)
  • Going through the house room by room and selling as much of our “extra” stuff as possible
  • Taking on more side jobs (I’ve already got two sewing jobs lined up)
  • Researching and getting life insurance by mid-May
  • Researching our health insurance options (a complicated issue that I’ll have to write about another day)
  • Examining our student loans (another complicated issue that needs more space for explaining)
  • Exploring all options for acquiring free or cheap baby items.  I’ve joined a couple local twin mom groups and people frequently list free stuff.  Also, keeping our eyes open on Craigslist, at yard sales, and for curbside pickup items.
  • Get our taxes done (crossing fingers for a refund)
  • Getting a plan together for Phase Two and Three!

We’ve got a lot to do but right now I’m just feeling relieved that our plans are starting to come together.  Even more than that, S and I have really pulled together and are communicating about finances in a way I never thought possible.  This is going to be a bumpy year but I’m feeling hopeful that we can get through it without accruing any new debt.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Reluctant Costco members

First let me say that I’ve never liked stockpiling.  I can’t stand clutter and hate having to work around excess stuff even if it is stuff that we’re going to use in the near future that I got for a deeply discounted price.  It’s because of this mentality that I’d never seen the point of joining a discount warehouse type club.  Of course as a single person it didn’t make very much sense at all to buy in bulk.  Even when S and I joined households I couldn’t convince myself that it was worth it.  After all we had a very small urban house and we ate out a lot.  We didn’t have a place to store bulk items and bulk food just went to waste.

Slowly I’ve been warming up to the idea of having some “extra” items in stock that we use regularly.  By paying attention to sales and using coupons I’ve been able to dramatically reduce the amount we spend on everyday items we need.  We have a bigger place now that has plenty of storage so our extra stuff has a place to hide out of the way until we need it.  I still wasn’t convinced that the warehouse club was for me though.

And then I started calculating baby costs.  Just in diapers alone the discounted price more than covered the membership fee.  Once I looked at pet supplies and realized we could almost halve our pet costs each month by buying at Costco I was convinced that maybe a warehouse membership would be a good thing after all.  So S and I went and joined this weekend.  We got the months’ worth of pet supplies at half price… go us!  But we also got sucked into some other cheap stuff we “needed” once we had seen it… not good at all.  Add in the awful crowd and the inconvenience of the location and I’m not sure how I feel about going there frequently or if I really will save in the end.

For now I’m thinking that, like all the other cost reducing methods I’ve learned over the last year and a half, Costco will just take some practice to master.  Just have to remember the old DARE saying… “Just say no”… to the 6 pack of frozen pizzas and the 2 gallons of peanut butter that is! 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Financial pow-wow

S and I are sitting down this weekend to have a major financial discussion.  As I’ve mentioned before, he and I have always kept very independent financial lives.  This has worked for us for many reasons but times they are a changin’ and so must we.  I don’t mind saying that I’m really not looking forward to the idea of hashing out budgets together or coming up with a savings plan or how to handle family insurance or really anything that involves the two of us having to sit down and openly and honestly talk about the financial situation we are about to find ourselves in with twin infants. 

We have trouble communicating about finances.  In part this is due to the horribly crappy financial messes we were individually in when we started dating (me and my debt mountain/ him with his job loss and foreclosure).  Even though out situations are better now, we have the residual feelings of shame that keep us from wanting to open up about finances.  Also, we have completely different outlooks on money and how to handle finances which has led to some heated moments in the past.  Lastly, we are both stupidly independent sometimes to the point of stubbornness.  All of these things have led us to the comfortable arrangement we now have of just staying out of each other’s financial business.

It’s long overdue that we confront these issues and start working together but it’s taken the pregnancy for both of us to be ready to tackle this uncomfortable aspect of our relationship.  I’m writing this because I need a little accountability to make this sit-down happen.  We’ve actually “planned” on talking the last two weekends but really haven’t done anything but skim over the surface level  issues that we need to figure out.  During our last discussion we at least agreed to spend this week coming up with hard budget numbers so that this weekend we could sit down and make some real decisions.  To that end I’ve got a baby stuff list and budget, my own personal budget, my major expenses for 2013, some tentative childcare costs, and my company’s family health insurance cost.  I feel like I’m coming to the table prepared and ready to work with him to get a plan together for 2013… I’ll let you know how it goes!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Working on a 2013 budget

I don't have a financial plan for 2013 in place yet which makes me nervous for so many reasons.  I've spent the last year and a half on a mission that involved creating and sticking to real budgets, and I was rewarded by seeing my debt fall consistently.  But with the prospect of having two babies arriving mid-year I'm really flustered as to what I can even expect financially for the year.  I would love to be able to post a 2013 plan complete with specific financial goals and a solid budget but so far all I've got for the year is a list of budget items that need to be researched.  In addition to the regular monthly expenses I had in 2012 the following is the list of additional expenses I need to plan for:

  • Professional expenses: My professional license will expire this November so I will need to pay for continuing education classes and the renewal fees.
  • Travel expenses: We will be traveling at least twice to visit my family this year
  • Maternity leave: My company doesn't have any paid leave above my vacation/ sick hours so I'll need money set aside to cover my salary while I'm out of work.
  • Medical expenses: I do have great insurance but there will still be out of pocket expenses for the babies' arrival and care after, also need an eye check-up and contacts.  May need to cover a greater portion of the insurance costs during my maternity leave but will work with my job on that.
  • Baby stuff: I am clueless about what the babies will need and what those things cost.  I've started to pull together a list of recommended stuff so I can begin to price these items.
  • Childcare: This one is the biggest unknown on my list.  None of the centers list prices on their websites so it will take some real legwork to get an understanding of the costs.  I do know that in the Boston area I can expect some of the highest childcare costs in the country and that a coworker of mine pays the equivalent of my whole salary for childcare for his two small children.  There is the possibility of one of us being stay at home or both of us going to part time to avoid the added expense of childcare. 
Basically, I have a lot of work to do just coming up with a financial plan for this year.  Right now my goal is to have researched all of the above items and have a solid budget in place by the end of January.