Category Archives: $aving Money

Bargains? What Bargains?! Deconstructing the Shopping Day…

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Last Friday, otherwise known as Black Friday, was a bit ho-hum for me.  The news just announced that 3.8% more people hit the stores, but that sales were down by 1.8%.  I’m not surprised.  I thought the stuff on offer mostly sucked.  Before I left to see what was to be had, I searched the sales papers like everyone else.  I marked a few things down and then headed out not at the ungodly crack of dawn, but at a more reasonable mid-morning start.

This is the first Black Friday where I went looking for mostly deals on things for the home as well as a hopefully good Christmas present or two.  But truthfully, I haven’t shopped Black Friday purely for Christmas presents in a long, long time.  Why?  There just doesn’t seem to be much value in it for a budget glam girl.  I guess to me, it seems as though you either need to roll in cash to take advantage of the electronics on sale, or aim for a much more modest list of possible deals for the home and *maybe* you’ll find something nice for someone in the process.  I went in search of sheet sets at a good price, and I didn’t really find any that fit my bill.  Maybe I’m too picky.  I did come away with a wonderful red quilt at a steep discount, given that one of my quilts is in tatters at this point.  A couple of clothing items, dog doodads and beauty supplies later, and I was done.  Just like that.  There are a few reasons for my shopping malaise.

First, I make a list pretty early about what I am buying for other people.  I may not put “Betsydoodle Art Kit” down for little Susie, but I will put “art supplies” or some category like that and then I look for deals.  I try to figure out what I can make (like fudge!) to help pad the Christmas giving each year.  So, when I go to the mall or other stores, I’m looking for some very specific categories.  I will browse the rest of the store, but I get overwhelmed pretty easily.  Having a list for family members helps keep me from just grabbing a sweater here, a piece of jewelry there and calling it done.  I try to put some thought into my giving and I find it helps my budget.  This year, very few things in any of my categories were on sale.

Also again, just like decluttering helped with my closet, decluttering the home helped me know what I really needed.  Do I want one more fluffy and comforting throw?  YES.  Do I  need them?  No.  But I do need a quilt and after 7 years, I can give myself permission to buy one!  So my home categories were pretty slim.  I needed a coffee maker, a quilt and a sheet set as well as a good, safe space heater for downstairs.  I *wanted* a fire pit for the yard.  My sister asked to get me the coffee pot (getting stuff for me has been trickier since I decluttered and do a lot more with fewer things), I did find my quilt, but the sheet sets were disappointing.  I got the heater and it’s wonderful, and the fire pit was 50% off, so I’m picking that up today.  Getting things for other people is trickier.  If most other people’s homes are any indication, they don’t really need one more set of dishes or towels or fluffy throws.  They especially don’t need (in most situations, at least) any stupid coffee machines or other devices that lock them into buying *other* products just to use them.  So finding stuff for others in the home area was difficult.

I don’t think there were as many things on sale this time around as in years past.  This is all anecdotal, of course, but many of my friends were commenting that they, too, were unmoved by the sales papers.  Couple this with the fact that I find many things made today to be either unflattering, cheaply made or otherwise a piece of junk, and you have a recipe for Black Friday let down.  I find many of the clothes to be too bizarre, made out of poor fabrics and poorly sewn, though the prices have climbed higher and higher.  The trends are a bit bizarre for my tastes and the color schemes I find a bit garish.  Maybe I just need to get my eyes checked…

It could be too, though, that some stores are just saving it for later.  The aforementioned art kits I noticed are suddenly on sale this week at a screaming deal (some as low as $5).  So, maybe there is more to come!  Maybe I just have no idea how to find a bargain.

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Resoling Boots & Budget Glam Fashion!

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Doesn’t it seem like everything happens to the budget at once?  If it’s not a car insurance payment and a car repair bill, it’s death by a thousand nickle-ings and dime-ings.  I am in such a budgeting conundrum when it comes to clothes.  Slowly but surely, though, I plan to solve these issues without going into the hole and not sacrificing quality (I hope!).

First, I have tried to develop a good sense of what I actually wear by decluttering the closet regularly.  Every single season I look at what I’m putting in the closet or what I’m trying to store away.  If I haven’t worn it and likely won’t, it goes.  Decluttering has the odd outcome of creating a list of things you actually need to buy.  But it’s what you actually need, not just what looks good to you at the time.  This is how I know that I need, among a few other things, a trench coat, boots, some new jeans and a pair of red cargo pants, lol.  I don’t need new suits no matter how pretty they are.  There isn’t anything wrong with the suits I have.  But until I went through my closet thoroughly, I had no idea what I actually owned or how nice some of it really was.

After getting a real list of things I need, the next thing to do is figure out how much I can afford.  The real answer is, not much.  But I’ve also learned that if you’re not careful, paying $20 when you should’ve probably paid $100 only guarantees you’ll end up buying something that comes apart in the wash.  It’s not a bargain if it falls apart, is sewn improperly, etc.  Unless you simply cannot afford anything else, I’ve learned that it’s best to wait, save that money up for the one good thing, and then get it.  OR, you can shop consignment!  I had turned away from consignment for many years, the result of my mother having dragged us through so many “nearly new” stores it would make your head spin.  The items were usually very out of date or very worn.  I’ve realized later that this was probably because of what a depressed area we were in.  Here, though, I’ve managed to find a lovely leather swing skirt jacket with a real fur collar for about $15.  There is also a store that offers designer or upscale brand items for a great price.  Jeans normally priced $100 – 150 are in the store for about $20.  Still, it pays to carefully try things on and really study it.  Sometimes people give what looks like a good item away because it fits funny.  Been there, wasted money on that!

But by far the smartest thing I’ve done for the budget and my wardrobe this fall has been resoling two pairs of boots.  In our throwaway society, I don’t think many people in my generation or certainly younger think to resole boots.  But really, that’s usually where the most damage is done.  I paid about $150 apiece for each pair of boots.  To me, that’s a lot of money.  Even with Black Friday “savings” on many shoes coming up, I stalked the stores for weeks and couldn’t find things that were comparable to what I already had.  I really liked those boots!  While whining about not being able to find comparable things, a friend suggested I get them resoled.  But good luck, she said, in finding someone to do it.  It is a dying trade, apparently, as people just chuck their shoes in favor of getting something new.  And while I did find a few people had gone out of business, I found a shop right on main street that dealt in leather goods and were capable of resoling shoes.  Resoling them cost about $30 – 40 per pair of boots.  So between the two pairs, I paid less than I probably would’ve had to for one new pair, and I’ve breathed new life into them!  They came back to me all shined up and I swear they looked like new.  The soles are actually better, I think, than the original ones.  I bought those boots at least three years ago, I’m thinking more like four or five years ago.  These new soles have bought me at least another 2 years, I’m thinking!

What a great deal and a great way to support local artisans!

Small Victories: Mortgage Shenanigans

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Today I paid my mortgage payment with the start of my new mortgage payment book.  Yes, I know I can do it online.  I get a certain charge out of ripping the payment out of a book and mailing it in.  Anyway, I noticed that my payment was now about $20 cheaper per month than last year.  I think this is the result of two things, and I think it’s a small money victory!

First, my escrow was set too high.  I got a small check back for that last month.  Second, I always pay a tad bit extra on the mortgage payment.  Now, it’s only a tiny bit at this point because I cannot afford to do more, what with my other bills and savings goals.  But it’s something.  And between the two things, I suddenly find myself with an extra $20 in the mortgage to put towards it.  Whoo hoo!

I passed on a program to have my mortgage put into bimonthly payments, even though that meant it shaved about 5 years off the mortgage.  I discovered that I could essentially do the same thing by paying an extra mortgage payment each year and avoid the “one time” fee they charge to get it set up and the “small” monthly fee to debit it out of my account automatically.  When other debt is gone, I can easily ramp up this payment and meet my goal eventually of paying off the mortgage for my 50th birthday.

In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy my small victory where money just “happened” and continue to try to apply that measly $20 toward the mortgage instead of trusting myself to move it into some other account for debt.  For one thing, I’m used to the payment.  It’s a good payment, much cheaper than my first one (even more with an extra $20 thrown on top of it lol).  For another, I’m not sure I’d remember to add an extra $20 every four weeks or so.  I’m kind of money-daft.  Better for me to let the money compound on the payment, even if it’s a little bit at a time.

But hey, even if that $20 is like throwing a little snowball in the face of debt, it’s one extra snowball I have to lob!  I’ll drink my cup of tea to that!

Hurt Me, Hurt Me!

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Well, the first of the international student housing checks has rolled in and that has fulfilled the little $1000 emergency fund and allowed me to press onward to summer money savings.

To that end, I’m saving ’til it hurts.

And boy, does it hurt!

What I do is first calculate my bills for that pay period.  I calculate my expenses I know I have to incur after that (for example, birthday presents or car repair).  Then I look at what is left over and I transfer money to the point where it makes me feel uncomfortable into savings.  I know that many people preach pay yourself first, and I sort of do that, too.  I have retirement money direct deposited into my account rather than relying on myself to do it.  But as a single mama, my expenses often vary, so for savings, I do have to look at second rather than first.  So I look at the amount remaining and pinch out of it until I squeal.  And you know what?  It’s working.  I leave myself a pittance for coffee and lunch out, things I cannot seem to do without. But I have to make those dollahs stretch like a yoga beginner!

I realized that if I didn’t feel pinched, I probably wasn’t saving enough.  And so I took a good, hard look at just how much I was saving and whether I could afford to do more.

The obvious upshot of this is, duh, I save more money.

But the unintended upshot of this plan is that it makes my situation feel very real to me.  I effectively make myself live as though I’m broke (or rather, very close to broke) for the whole pay period after the first couple of days post-paycheck.

Now, I’m not broke.  Most of my disposable money went into my online savings account.  But it takes several days for that money to transfer back into my checking account.  So, effectively, I am without funds to just randomly blow on sushi.  It creates in me the mentality that I am broke, and so I act as though I am.  I don’t use the credit card and I make any pennies I do have really stretch.  It just puts me in a whole ‘nother frame of mind.  I pay more attention to where the money goes, because it’s a royal pain to get more of it.  I might have Burger King for lunch, but I’m ordering from the dollar menu instead of the already frugal Junior Whopper meal.

And because I have to actively log on and move money, I don’t do so unless I absolutely have to.  And sushi, apparently, is not a “have to.”  Sad that I have to play psychological warfare with myself.  But hey, whatever gets you to save that dollah, right??

Budget Glamorous Gardening Strategies

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One of the things I enjoy doing so much is playing around with flowers and vegetables in my wonderful little yard.  I actually own 1 1/2 city lots to go along with my delightful little home.  But I have champagne wishes and caviar dreams when it comes to landscaping –and a budget glamorous reality.  I’m also kind of a doofus when it comes to growing things.  I have no natural skill at it and I don’t know a ficus from a freakus.  Still, I enjoy it, and I try to find ways to do it that won’t break the bank.

My ultimate dream is to have edible landscaping, a decent little herb and vegetable patch, a butterfly and rose garden, and next to no mowing required.  Maybe even a few chicky-wickens in the backyard.  I’d like to have flowers I can pick and put in the house.  This all takes a while to establish, especially with a limited budget and even more limited skills.

The biggest cost, I find, is the cost of plants.  Ye Gods, but they can be expensive!  And because I have limited patience, I want everything Right. Now. so I can get it going and growing.  It’s so easy to walk into a plant section of a store and walk out having spent a hundred dollars or more on just a few gorgeous flowers or flowering shrubs.  I have even less success but just as much fun with gardening, though I love planning one, planting one and worrying over one.  Most of my plants don’t actually produce anything, though, for reasons why I have no idea.  So pretty much dollar for dollar my vegetable gardening is a waste.  I also have an urban deer problem that the city is trying desperately to control.  So many times I’ll plant things, beautiful, wonderful things, and the deer will graze them down to stalks, and I’m out that money too.  Plus it makes me mad at nature.  Grr.

As I think about my landscaping wish list for this Spring, I’m going to take advantage of some powerful lessons learned over the couple of years I’ve been a homeowner here.

I have lots of savings goals, as you are by now painfully aware of, so I don’t really have the budget to fence in the property or spend loads of money on plants.  So this coming planting season, I’m going to practice patience and wait out the home improvement stores until they decide they can’t water many of their plants and tuck them all away in the back on a rack that’s marked down to between $1 – $5.  I had no idea how common that practice was until this previous growing season.  Apparently big home improvement stores receive plants at certain times of the year whether they’re really ready for them or not.  Oftentimes they just won’t have room for the old plants, or the time to water them all and keep them going, so they’ll discount them deeply and move them to a sale rack.  I found lots of plants this past Spring in just this way and I spent a fraction of what I would have if I’d purchased now.  I positively felt like I was stealing!  The downside is, you have to wait and don’t have the immediate gratification of having something now while everyone else gardens away.  You also need to develop an eye for what you can save and what you can’t.  I look for green stems.  If the flowers just need deadheaded or the foliage is turning brown, but the stalk seems good, I can usually bring that back to life.   If I can do it,  you can do it.  My plants actually have rebloomed several times over the growing season and they’re still going now!

I’m only going to buy perennials with a splash of annuals thrown in.  I don’t have the budget to spend money on flowers that last a season and never grow back.  I’m trying to build a giant garden that incorporates all sorts of plants for both shady and sunny land and just gets bigger and lusher each year.  Annuals don’t do that for me.  They’re more of a space filler for empty sections of garden.  The problem for me is that annuals are often the brightest colored plants in the store.  I want them.  😦  But, I’m only going to get the cheap/reduced plants that have a chance of establishing themselves and coming back every year.  Then I’ll wait and get the cheap annuals for a few color splashes.  As my garden gets bigger and healthier (as does my budget), then I’ll buy more splashy annuals.  Otherwise, they don’t get me nearer to my goals.

Over the years I’ve had two flower box beds put in at the front of the house running basically the length of the house.  It cost me some lumber, some stain and bags and bags of dirt from Lowe’s, but it was worth it.  Overall, I’d say the project cost me about $75 per flower bed, given that the labor was free.  But it has made the curbside appeal of my house shoot up tremendously.  Everything looks so wonderful when it’s in bloom, and most things come back bigger and healthier year after year.  It makes me very happy to pull up and see the things in my flowerboxes and I hope that ten years hence, it’ll be huge and lush and awesomeness.  So I’m going to figure out simple home improvement projects that I can barter with someone to do that will enhance the property and enable me to garden more thoughtfully.  This past summer I also bought some cheap landscaping timber, stained them, drilled holes through them and shoved rebar into them — instant flower beds in the bottom part of the yard.  Very cute, very sturdy.  Load it up with some good dirt, and you’re ready to plant whatever cheap, discounted flowers come your way!

Don’t forget about swapping plants with other people who are dividing things like irises, daylillies or other sorts of plants.  No idea how to be a better veggie grower, though.  That one still eludes me, as does the solution to my deer problem.

What are your glamorous gardening tips?

All or Nothing? A Compromise

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I find myself getting locked into unholy combat with the dilemma over saving money or saving time.  As I read many of my favorite PF blogs, they seem to struggle with the same issue from time to time.  I tend to drive myself nuts with it, and it is because of my all or nothing outlook toward saving in some category or other.  This ultimately stresses me out, doesn’t work or save money.  Sometimes, as I just discovered, a compromise is just as good.  At least for people like me.

I don’t have a lot of wiggle room in my budget, but even a glamorous little shoestring budget like mine has SOME places it can be, nay MUST be, cut back.

Case in point:  parking fees.   Parking costs vary for me, but they average around $135 a month.  Just to park in the garage for work five times a week.  I’ve often come down very hard on myself for not riding the bus to and from work.  Not only would it save gas, but with my I.D. it’s FREE to me.  That’s right, f-r-e-e-e-e-e.  So every week that I chose not to take the bus, I’d get busy being mean to myself over it.  I’m not that bad with a budget; but I’m not nearly as frugal as some people on the internet seem to be.  I don’t wear all black clothing and then dye it when it starts to fade just so I have a few extra bucks.  I don’t brown bag constantly or eat rice and beans constantly.  So sometimes I feel like I have no right to bitch about saving money or needing it.  After all, I’m not doing EVERYTHING I possibly could to save a dime.

The trouble is, will power is a finite resource.  You do not have an endless supply of it to draw down on whenever you want.  This is why so many people’s New Year’s resolutions don’t even make it to the end of the month.  If you pick one thing, you’re drawing down on that supply.  Pick three more things, and you won’t find you have the energy for everything.  You have less to work with, so less determination can be spared to get the job done.  I’m a single mama, I work full time and I have a house to run and a teenage boy to understand and guide.  Oh, and savings goals.  Nothing ever gets done 100% perfectly all the time.  Most times it’s a compromise:  80% work efficiency, housework has dropped to 40% lol, teenager took 115% this week…etc.  And so my compromise might be an extra cup of coffee at work or a sandwich out for lunch.  I just can’t do it all.

Further, I don’t *want* to do it all.  I get tired or demoralized sometimes and I need a pick-me-up.  Or it’s just too much effort.  This is not a big city, so the bus routes are on fixed times.  They don’t go everywhere I need, and it costs me an extra hour minimum to take the bus to and from my house, just in waiting on it, routes taken, etc.  If I have an extra errand to run, switching buses to get it done sometimes means I’d wait quite a while to get back home.  So, I just took the car and bitched about the cost to park in the garage.  Then, I had a minor brainwave.  If the parking garage offered student passes, maybe they offered us working stiffs a pass as well.  Turns out, they sure do!

So, $45 a month later, I’m the proud owner of a new parking pass.  Am I saving $135 a month?  No.  But I am saving $90 a month.  And my time is not constricted by the available bus services.  Sure, I still want that extra $45.  But that is apparently the value of my driving time per month.  There is also the added sweetness of just waving a card in front of a scanner instead of digging for change and misplacing garage tickets, which I like quite a bit.

I can settle for that.  Now I just have to remember to move that same amount of money straight to savings instead of spending it on something stupid!

Disoriented Savings Strategy

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Gah.

Where I have had a few lean months over the summer, I’m looking at a bit of a credit card bill again in addition to having depleted my emergency savings substantially.  On the plus side, I’ve figured out three new ways to bring money into the house, even if it is sometimes at a trickle.  I find that my savings goals are absolutely overwhelming me.  There is simply too much to save up for and now I’m confused as to my priorities.  Halp!

Money needs:

Emergency fund.  Goes without saying why you need one.  While I’m so aggravated to have bled mine down, boy am I glad that I had one to bleed down!  It did its job.  But now I need to put it back.  I’m just always so confused on what constitutes a good amount of money for me.  Personal finance gurus all have a different number.  Dave Ramsey advocates $1000 while you’re digging out of debt.  People like Suze Orman say 6 – 8 months of emergency money.  That is nearly a year’s pay for me, as I work on a 9 month contract.  No idea what to do here.  My emergencies in general have been under $1000.  Should I consider that my lean emergency fund operating margins and once that is hit move on to the next money goal?  I have about $650 left in the fund.  Is this a number one priority?  I don’t know anymore.  My job contract is good for the next three years, but even that is no ironclad guarantee.  That’s as good as it gets in academia, though, for a non tenure-track person.

Summer money.  This is a critical thing for me to accumulate every year.  I only get paid for 9 months.  I have to live 12 months.  I need around $7500 to cover the amount of time I’m off work, as my operating budget is around $2500 a month, give or take.  I’m not sure if this is a #1 priority or further down the list, but it’s something I have to deal with every year.  Last summer, I was able to get some supplemental work with the college developing a course.  But between that and some copywork, I still had to hit the credit card and dig into the emergency fund a few times.  This is the main reason why it’s bled down to where it is now.  It just wasn’t enough.  I’m sure some of this is budgeting skills and money management related, but I also cannot always guarantee I can find 3 months of supplemental work every year to help me pay my mortgage.  Some years I might need more or less than $7500, but I know that’s what it takes to see me through to my next fall paycheck.

Random crap that keeps nickle and diming me to death.  This is eating me up alive.  It’s some school supplies here, a medical bill there.  I have no way to predict these things, and any extra cash I might be able to save dies a death by a thousand nicklings.  I don’t even know how to track this problem appropriately.  I feel like I’m fighting a thousand tiny foes and don’t know where to turn first!  Do I need a “mad money” fund or a “miscellany” fund or something??

New-to-me car.  This is the big x-factor in my future.  My trusty little 1998 car goes to the shop about four times a year.  She never needs anything huge, but she always costs me a couple hundred in random repairs.  I don’t think I’m going to stay this lucky for the next four years.  She has an oil problem and is basically blowing oil out of the exhaust.  I’d still rather pay a few bucks in oil every two weeks than a new car payment.  But the writing is on the wall — her final days are here.  I don’t want to be surprised with the need for a down payment and now a new bill to pay every month.  I’d like to prepare for this in some way.  I have no idea how much money to divert per month, etc.  I just know I’d like to pay cash.

Credit card balance.  Not very high, only a few hundred dollars.  But I end up having more month than money, it seems, so I’m dipping into the credit card more than what I want.  I do have a slight threshold for a credit card balance, mainly because I cannot seem to avoid it.  My rate is 7.5%.  I understand that a continuing balance is costing me money.  I’m just freaked out as to whether it’s better for my situation to have $200 in the bank cash on hand, or throw it on the credit card bill and have no cash on hand and have to use the credit card.  Ugh.  I’m feeling very demented chicken and egg on this one.

Roof.  When I bought my house 2 1/2 years ago, the inspector said I’d need new shingles within about 3 years.  That time is upon us.  I have the labor organized for it, I think, but I’m still looking at materials costs.  This will be around $1500 – 2000 I think.  The roof doesn’t leak, so I might could push it another year, but I feel like doing so potentially opens you up to bigger problems.  Ugh.  Not sure.

Divorce debt coming due in 4 years.  My biggest outflow is that in four years, my divorce settlement debt comes due.  I bought out my ex-husband’s down payment into the house.  So, $30,000 is what he has coming to him.  I *might* have enough equity in my home to cover that amount.  But probably not.  I will need to come up with the money somehow.  I’m trying to avoid a HELOC loan.  I’d like to pay for this in cash.  There is a very good possibility that I’ll have to pay at least some of it in cash and take the rest out in equity on the house.

Total Needed:  ~ no idea.  lol.  I was going to put around $55,000, but I realized that is hard to determine.  How much do I want to spend on a car?  How much emergency should I have?  That could push that figure to $70,000 in the next 4 years.  That makes me want to pass out.

Things that Compound or Help the Problem?

The money coming in is erratic.  My regular money, my paycheck, is usually mostly spoken for.  I can most times eke out about $200 a month to throw into savings.  But I only get paid for about 9 months of work.  Even if I faithfully saved that money, it’s a far cry from what I need to live on in the summer time.  Hence why I went looking for other income streams.  I took in an international exchange student, and I get about $2200 a semester for that.  It’s not guaranteed, however.  I go one semester at a time.  I cannot bank on this regularly, though it has been regular so far.  Additionally, I’d like to NOT do that over the summer, for example, and have some alone time.  But it pays my mortgage.  So I think I have to resign myself to doing this as long as I can and count myself lucky that I get on well with people and this opportunity is available to me.  If I did it year round, I could make $6600 on it.  My copywork is very erratic.  Some weeks I’ll make a couple hundred dollars.  Other weeks there will be no work.  I used to use it for my fun money.  Now I think I’m going to have to shove it all into savings regardless.  I also finally filed for child support, something I should’ve done a long time ago.  I don’t know what that will amount to, and that’s still an ongoing process.

Strange thinking about payments vs. paying in cash.  I really, really don’t want or need more payments.  I don’t want a HELOC or a car loan.  I’d like to figure out how to start paying for things in cash.  Maybe I need to get over this and just take the damn payment.  I can figure out how to come up with a payment.  I have a harder time figuring out how to come up with savings.  But this is a big skill I’d like to develop over the next few years.  Seems worth figuring out instead of taking the “easier” (and costlier) payment.

Not sure how to save the money for all these things.  I’m not sure if I add it all up and say I’m trying to save $X for everything.  I’m not sure if I rank order them and check the box each time I hit a new target.  The problem is, some of these are recurring costs.  I’ll always need $7500 for the summer — so even if I save it, it’s gone and needs replenished every year, while a car would be a one time purchase (and then hopefully it lasts as long as my old gal has so far!).  The divorce debt is also a one time gig.  Not sure how to even think about or process these things.

Hard to save.  I suppose I could try to save the summer money by living on reduced pay and saving what it would take to cover the summer.  Living on 12 months with 9 months of pay, basically.  But that means saving $350 a pay — I can barely seem to manage $200 a month.  I can try for a while, I guess.  Even if I am not 100% successful, it would be more saved than what I normally did.  This, of course, works only if there is no emergency (like car repair).  And with my first paycheck for the fall coming this Friday, I already have car repair scheduled.  Sigh.  I have, as someone else put it to me, “very thin operating margins.”  It doesn’t take much to shove me in the red.  If I hadn’t developed other income streams, erratic though they might be, I would be able to save very little.

Motivation.  I’m overwhelmed, not galvanized to do something about it.  On the one hand, I’m very proud of my little home, with its comforts and cheap mortgage.  I’m proud that I’m supporting my teenage son and myself on what money is coming in, and that our lives are comfortable — not fancy by any means, but comfortable.  But most times I feel like I’m treading water and that is the only victory I get.  I fear that I am one push away from a disaster — a skipped mortgage payment, a big, new bill that I can’t figure out how to pay, or taking on another part time job and being exhausted to make ends meet.  Granted, having divorce debt is a very temporary problem.  Getting a car is a temporary problem.  So it could be that this is just one of those tight, hard times that one has to live through.  But that is depressing as hell, and I need energy to meet such big goals.  I feel like I’m barely treading water and surviving, not thriving.  😦