April 2014 Recap

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Status compared to Dec. 2013.

A friend called me “frugal” this month, but she called me “frugal” in the way that people do when they’re trying to be nice and avoid calling you “cheap.” That’s cool. I own it.

I know this is a little early but I want to go ahead and get it done. It’s a busy side-hustle week and I don’t want to miss an opportunity to get this post up! Because I’m posting a little early, there may be some things that won’t be perfect, but that’s okay. (I doubt anyone but me would notice anyway!)

According to my calculations (and I always worry that I’m not doing something right), we had a total debt reduction of $1444 this month. This is substantially bigger than our debt reduction of $885 in the month of March. It’s still depressing when you figure that we’re paying MUCH larger debt payments each month but still only reducing it by a fraction of what we’re paying (does that make any sense at all?). We spend a total of $2142 in debt payments (mortgage, Citibank credit card, and Car Loan) a month – and that’s the minimum! Usually we are able to snowflake even more than that. Anyway. Math. Interest. Ugh.

But check out the total debt reduction from December 2013 to now! More than $7K in about 5 months!

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Click to embiggen.

I got my first paycheck for my Side Hustle in the first week of April. I was disappointed that we had done so poorly in March, because this is how I had to spend that check:

  • Some went to H’s business expenses: $375
  • Some went to L’s activities: $130
  • Some went into sinking fund savings (otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to contribute any sinking funds this month): $450
  • Most of the rest went to CC payments: $35, $235, $334 (numbers have been rounded)
  • Was able to snowflake the remainder ($125) to the Car Loan

Snowflaking: $265.82

  • Side Hustle Check Remainder (as mentioned above): $125
  • Chase Cash Back Rewards check: $30.89
  • Propay (for selling Mary Kay): $109.93

Review of our 2014 Goals

Mintly Goal #1: Pay off our Citibank credit card 

Verdict: It’s down to $1000! This is awesome.

Mintly Goal #2: Pay off our car loan

Verdict: Getting there! The goal is still June 15th, though it might be even harder to achieve that than I originally thought. As soon as I get my side hustle check for April, I’m really hoping to take a big chunk out of this!

Mintly Goal #3: Save for known expenses that don’t occur monthly (sinking fund)

Verdict: Yes. It’s disheartening to see the money actually leave the account as often as it does, but… that’s what it’s for, right?

Mintly Goal #4: Snowflake any extra money to consumer debt

Verdict: Yes! $265.82!

Mintly Goal #5: Track Goal Successes

Verdict: Trying not to get discouraged, so this does help…. As does looking forward to June 15th, when hopefully the Car Loan and the Citibank card will both be $0!


Money Accomplishments this Month:

  • Still hustlin’!
  • Those two tubs worth of clothes that I consigned in March have finally been processed and while only four items have sold so far, they accepted a large number of the items and have priced them pretty high! I only get a percentage of course, but I’m hopeful that the items will sell quickly and I’ll make around $40 for them… maybe more, by the time all is said and done.

Money Setbacks this Month: 

  • We didn’t get reimbursed for any of our business expenses in February. Grrrr. Keeping fingers crossed that they come early in May.
  • I bought Starbucks without a giftcard. I think I might feel too guilty about this.
  • I had a business trip that will involve being reimbursed for my food and hotel, but it makes our finances look extra bad this month (being waaaay over budget on food, for one).
  • Due to these expenses, I still have a balance on one of the cards. I won’t be able to pay it off until we get paid again (or else we’ll overdraw the checking account! dear, dear). I guess the difference between the payment and what’s left in our checking account will come out of my side hustle paycheck. Should be only about $50.

Life (as in, Non-Monetary) Accomplishments this Month:

  • I applied for an opportunity only open to teachers. It would involve a year’s worth of research and work if I’m accepted, but it pays a cool $10K (before taxes). Daay-um! (Bonus: looks good on a resume!) I’ll find out about it at the end of May…. Keeping my fingers crossed.
  • Went to the last chamber orchestra concert of the season with my friend and sister-in-law. We’ve had season tickets and I’ve loved every concert. Spirit-renewing. Worth the money.

What I’m Looking Forward to in May:

  • Spending my Side Hustle check for April! I haven’t decided how I’ll divide it up, but some will go to the Car Loan, and some may go into some combination of Roth IRA and / or Savings. May need some advice in this area….
  • H will maybe actually get paid for his gigs that he did in April and maybe we’ll get reimbursed for his business expenses from back in February?!
  • L’s birthday on May 1!
  • Spending less on daycare, because we’re going down to two days a week after the first two weeks of the month! Looks like we’ll save over $200! And hey, this is the last month we’ll ever pay for daycare! Craaaaaazy…..

I have a few posts in the works – will be getting them up soon. Looking forward to getting some feedback on some money quandaries…  And how was your April?

– M.

Applying and Applying… and Getting Nowhere (In which I throw a pity party)

I know I’m fortunate. So, now you know it’s going to be bad, because I led off with that. We all know we have many things to be thankful for. But seriously… is it too much to ask for more?

When that “more” isn’t a new car or a new dress or a new “thing,” but a new job? Being respected in the job I have? A good school for my daughter? A safe and challenging after-school program for her when she’s in kindergarten? Time? Energy? Will?

Welcome to my pity party! There’s ice cream on the counter, help yourselves!

I spent a good number of hours filling out paperwork to apply for kindergartens for my daughter. I’m not talking private schools, people. I’m talking a charter school and the local magnet school in the city school district (we’re technically outside of the city, so we had to apply). She’s on the waitlist at the charter school (reeeeeeeeally far down the waitlist!), and she didn’t get into our first or second choices of schools in the magnet programs. Sadder still, her best friend (I know, they’re 5… but still, bffs!) is at the school of her first choice, which was our first choice as well. This is a mom who got the application done but didn’t seem to worry about her daughter getting in at all. I turned my application in the very day it was due – hers was later than mine. I can’t lie, I’m pretty upset about L not getting into that school.

It’s not like we don’t have other options, but I was looking for a school that not only had a great reputation and great teachers and a great learning environment, but also a safe, challenging after-school care program. Both of our other choices have those, but the school we’re left with doesn’t. L will have to ride the school bus to an after-school program (which I hear is great, so that’s a little less painful). It costs money, of course. (Well, all of the after-school programs do, pretty much.)

I’m just so disappointed. It’s yet another thing that I invested a lot of time and energy into, and it’s gone belly-up. I know I wasn’t personally rejected (the charter school has a lottery, and who knows why one kid is chosen over another kid in the city school district – whatever), and neither was my daughter, but seriously…. I’m just tired of the rejection and disappointment.

I’m in the process of applying for a program through the state that will be basically a side-hustle, but it’s directly related to my day job as a teacher. I want it pretty badly because I want the money (uh, $10K?! YES, SIR!) and I want it on my resume. I also – can’t lie – want it because I want someone to read my application and validate me – I just want someone to say yes to me.

I have that side hustle job already, and they said yes to me. That was only a couple of months ago. So why does it feel like I’m constantly downtrodden? Maybe because it also includes H, who is in that same constant cycle of searching for jobs, applying, and hearing nothing. Working hard at his job, only to have people tell him that he can’t have the same privileges as others who have been doing the same job he has, but not as well.

Maybe it’s because we both feel like we’re in a holding pattern. This isn’t the life we envisioned for ourselves at 34. If we had envisioned this life, would we be happier? Are we reaching for things that are simply not possible for us? If we decided to want what we have instead of wanting other things, will we be happier? Is it possible to change that mindset?

And, to add insult to injury, we’re getting pizza delivered for dinner tonight. Because honestly, I feel like it doesn’t really matter right now. I know we should be saving that money. I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW. And I even care. But the caring doesn’t outweigh the pity party I’m throwing.

So, what am I going to do about all of this? When does it get to the point where you give up on a couple dreams (or set them aside for the time being) and decide that what you want is what you have right now? Anyone have ideas? Or you can just tell me to suck it up. That’s cool, too.

In Which I Lament the State of My Closet

I’ve been watching the Lizzie Bennet Diaries (I’m just a couple of years late, I know, I know). And their clothes are so cute. So cute. Anthropologie, mostly. Banana Republic. Ann Taylor. All my favorite brands. All more expensive than I can afford. 

So, I started thinking about how I don’t have many cute articles of clothing. It was only a month or so ago when I realized that people don’t really wear turtleneck sweaters anymore. (But who am I kidding…? I like them and will still keep on wearing them.) I have two pairs of jeans that I love from Old Navy, which was my most recent clothing purchase (on sale, last July). I also got two pairs of shoes online (on sale), and although I think they look super cute, I can see why they were so inexpensive (they smell like some weird faux leather/formaldehyde mixture). Anyway. The last clothing items I bought for myself were the two pairs of jeans and the two pairs of shoes in the summer of 2013. I think before that, I hadn’t actually bought anything for about 6 months. 

What do I currently wear? 

Tops: 

  • Faded, stretched-out cardigans
  • Too-big tank tops (that I hide under the aforementioned cardigans)
  • One black cowl-neck sweater from Banana Republic that I love (but is getting pill-y)
  • 3 school shirts – t-shirts that advertise my school – woohoo.
  • Two turtlenecks (one black, one brown) that I love during the winter
  • A brown v-neck sweater
  • A dark green dressy polo shirt (I can testify that there is such a thing) that I got from a thrift store – generally I wear it underneath the brown v-neck as the sleeves are a little too short for me to feel comfortable
  • Two long-sleeved t-shirts from Target (one in teal, one in purple) 
  • I can’t actually think of any more tops that I wear right now? I know there are probably more….?

Bottoms:

  • Two pairs of black jeans my mom bought me from somewhere that I would never consider shopping at for myself, but actually are kind of cute and don’t even look like jeans, so I wear them to work anyway (though they attract cat hair like…. a cat-hair magnet?)
  • One pair of black pants from Target that actually fit, woohoo!
  • One pair of too-big khakis that always show every little wrinkle
  • One pair of fit-in-the-waist khakis from Target that are extremely unflattering because the legs are too wide and long
  • One pair of blue/grey corduroys that don’t really match anything but were from the JCrew Outlet store and totally fit when I bought them but now don’t
  • One pair of brown corduroys (also from JCrew outlet) that still fit
  • Black pencil skirt from Target (rarely wear to work, because then I have to shave (TMI?) or wear cute tights – which I don’t own – or leggings)

Shoes/Accessories:

  • A bunch of scarves (some knitted by my mom, some light/frilly ones that I purchased)
  • Black Mary Janes that never really were cute but I thought they were practical… but now the tread is worn so low that I skid every time I walk on smooth surfaces)
  • Two pairs of Target flats (one dark pink, one gray) – love these!
  • One pair of black Crocs flats (love these way more than I thought I would – I even wear them with black socks because my feet get cold and I don’t want to wear the black Mary Janes anymore – not really stylin’, but whatever)
  • Sneakers
  • Unattractive brown flats that are extremely uncomfortable – only worn when necessary
  • Ass-ugly brown old-lady type shoes that are pretty comfortable but are exceptionally hideous 
  • A pair of crappy cheap boots I bought online – cheap is as cheap does?
  • Super cute brown boots that were from Boden but I found at a thrift shop (I still felt bad about spending whatever amount I spent a while ago) – slightly too small for me, but I couldn’t turn them down

Lounging/Weekend Clothes:

  • Navy sweatshirt from Hershey Park in PA that I bought when I took a school trip there and it poured down rain and I was freezing – that thing is about 10 years old now, and still going!
  • Gray-ish brown hoodie that is part cashmere (from a friend!!!)
  • Pajama pants (I kind of hoard these, but I just got rid of 3 pairs recently, so that’s a step in the right direction)
  • 4 or 5 t-shirts that are pretty hip (but I can’t wear them to work)
  • What do I have in my closet that I only rarely wear but will still keep?
  • Black dress (from Target) that I wear for special occasions/work
  • Button-down Oxford-type shirts (three – one orange striped [what was I thinking?], one blue, and one short-sleeved maroon)
  • Dress shoes (brown pumps that are coming apart but I can’t bring myself to throw away yet – they are super comfortable and super cute!, and open-toed sandals that I rarely wear because my toes are rather long and those kinds of shoes make me feel uncomfortable)
  • Green corduroy blazer (turns out I like wearing blazers, but green corduroy isn’t as versatile as I’d like…ha)
  • Other stuff I can’t remember, probably

So, here’s the thing… there are many, many resources online that tell you what the “essential pieces” are for a woman’s wardrobe. So I know there are certain pieces that I kind of have (as in, technically I own a pair of khakis, a black dress, flats, and pumps), but I’m not sure that most of them are flattering or well-made. In fact, I’m pretty much sure that most of them do not fall into either of those categories.

But as long as the clothes cover my body, why should I worry about buying other clothes? I don’t think I look like a bag lady. But it’s at the point where my students are now making comments about my clothes and shoes. Leaving aside the fact that they shouldn’t feel comfortable joking about my attire to my face, I’d like to just point out that if middle schoolers think I look like crap, then they’re probably somewhat right. I know I don’t look “put together,” in a professional way, but I don’t look UNprofessional. Definitely not wearing low-cut shirts or skinny jeans to work. But it’s started me thinking about when I might be able to afford some new pieces for my wardrobe.

I think I may form a plan: maybe once we have the Citibank credit card paid off (currently at $1000 – yaaaaaay!), the car loan (about $2400 at the time of this writing) finished, and H’s private loan for his doctorate ($6000+) paid off…. maybe I could justify purchasing a few new items that are actually high quality that will last forever and be more versatile than the pieces I have. Maybe every once in a while. Because it would be more than a year before I would be able to justify getting new clothes (at that rate).

But how about I only buy one awesome piece every couple of months? But when I think about that approach, I feel like it won’t actually be helpful. Just one piece at a time? How would that work? Shopping is hard anyway… I think I would be better off saving up a good amount ahead of time, then saying I could spend $500 and finding outfits that could be mixed up. I know myself enough to know that I don’t do well trying to buy individual pieces – I really need to buy outfits that I can visualize. I have trouble putting together outfits by myself at home…. I might need a consultant. (But who could justify paying for that?!)

I often open my closet and think, “Really? What do I actually have in here that makes me feel good to wear?” The answer is, “Nothing.” But then I imagine spending money on new clothes (or even new-to-me, used clothes) and I think, “That money could totally be better spent paying down our car loan!”

I dunno. I might be getting close to the point where I need to make some investments in my wardrobe. There would have to be much planning to avoid overspending at some point. Do you know, I once bought a beautiful green jacket/blazer at Ann Taylor? And it wasn’t even on sale? I wear it every once in a while. It’s dreamy. But seriously. I teach middle school. Why dress up for them? Should I dress up for me? There’s gotta be some solution, short of someone nominating me for “What Not To Wear” and getting a weekend of shopping in NYC.

Musing on clothes and spending money on a Friday night is my idea of a good time. What are the things you dream of spending money on that are NOT necessities? Do you ever give in and just splurge? And with clothes – do you buy one piece at a time or go on a mini (or big?!) spree?