The Latest…

I’m having a hard time braining together sentences and paragraphs today. So… updates.

A child support payment came in today. I don’t think it’s the IRS garnishment, I think it’s the paycheck garnishment. I hope that’s what it is, because I’m anxious to create a budget.

Monday I saw the counselor. She was super nice. She suggested I ask the kids lots of open-ended questions about their lives away from home. She thinks this will actually make them feel better about spending time away from me. Maybe by not talking to them about what they do with their dad, I’m inadvertently sending out the message that I don’t like when they’re away. Also, she thinks I’m too in the dark about basics– how they’re eating and being cared for, what their interactions are with the people they spend most of the time with, etc. She says it’s important to know those things and just because he’s their father doesn’t mean I should just accept that everything is ok.

As we were wrapping up, I missed a call from my mom and from my office. I got a text from my Office Manager telling me to call her. I told the counselor to give me a moment and called. The OM informed me I had to call my mom. When I asked if everything was alright she said no, my mom sounded really nervous. I called my mom, who was obviously panicked and starting to calm down, and she explained the kids did not show up at school that day and K-Fat had just now started responding to her. K-Fat told my mother he and his girlfriend had stomach viruses and were unable to take the kids to school.

He did not answer my calls and attempted to brush me off with a text explaining he was sleeping and that he had spoken to my mom already. Long story short, on the advice of the counselor AND the OM, I left work to go pick them up at his house. I told him he needed to communicate. This wasn’t right. There were lots of people he could have contacted. When I got into the car, I asked the kids what happened like the counselor suggested. They told me K-Fat was really sick and couldn’t take them to school. I asked about the girl and they said no she was fine. I told them K-Fat had told us both of them were sick and that’s why we were so anxious to pick them up. When I asked why she couldn’t take them to school they explained she was too busy taking care of K-Fat.

I then told the kids, like the counselor told me to, that in the future if this sort of thing happens they need to call me. They all know my number. There was a protest about how K-Fat’s mom called him too much to let them use the phone, I told them this was an emergency situation and they could get a call in. It also debunked K-Fat’s texts to me saying he couldn’t answer my phone calls because he had no reception. I asked what they had eaten for breakfast and they said Pop Tarts. What about lunch? Nothing. Or snack, Baby added. It was almost 2 in the afternoon. So yeah, drama. I’m going to see the counselor again in two weeks. She thinks the kids don’t need anything extra right now but if bad behavior is sustained, that might be different.

My midterm was yesterday. I think I did pretty badly. I tried my best, I really did. But I just don’t think it was good enough. I felt in the dark on many questions. And I took longer than an hour and he said no way should it take that long. I’m SO frustrated with the class and the professor. At least the class is free for me because if I was paying for it, I’d be PISSED. Better to just buy the textbook and teach yourself is what it seems like. I got home and decided to just start doing my own things. So I designed and wrote a Random Shakespearean Insult Generator. Spring Break is next week for us and I’m going to use the time to go hog wild with the textbook and teach myself as much as possible. I really like the textbook. It’s called Building Java Programs. Right now Amazon has it for $98 but I bought it two Mondays ago for only $37 so keep an eye on it. I think if you add it to cart they email you when the price changes. It has LOTS of exercises and the answers for all of them. The style is conversational and easy to understand. If you’re interested in learning Java programming, pick it up.

Speaking of books, I got a TON of awesome suggestions on Google+ for books for Eldest. In my browsing, I came across The Ranger’s Apprentice series and got the whole thing at the library. It’s ten books long and he is loving them. He started Book 1 Monday and finished it yesterday. He started Book 2 yesterday and was halfway through by this morning so he grabbed Book 3 to take with him to his Dad’s house. When he saw the stacks I brought home from the library, he hugged me so hard. And he keeps thanking me for bringing them because he really likes them. I love that my little boy loves books so much. I also got some of the ones people recommended like Peter and the Shadow Thieves, Inkheart, and The Boy in the Dress which my Mom took for herself to read. I am still reading Nell Gwynn: Mistress to a King but I don’t know how much reading I’ll be doing now that I feel so behind in class.

I won tickets at the Gala to see the ballet this Sunday. Daughter and I will be watching the Miami City Ballet perform Program III at the Adrienne Arsht Center. I am really looking forward to it. I’ve never been to a show like this. And they’ll be performing The Steadfast Tin Soldier which I’m dying to see. Who am I kidding, I’m dying to see all the numbers they’re doing.

My OM told me this morning she feels it in her bones that things are going to start turning around for me. I hope she’s right. I turned this quote into a little poster and pinned it at my desk.

JK_Rowling_Quote_Rock_BottomDo you have any updates??

 

 

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If you’re thinking about a new bank…

Here is a light post until I get together a proper response to your amazing comments on the $tre$$ post because they were wonderful enough to warrant their own proper response and I’m in a calmer place now too.

So ING Direct is having a big savings sale like they do every Black Friday weekend. The one that benefits you and me the best is the Electric Orange deal. If you open a checking account using my referral account with a $250 deposit by December 15, I get $100 bucks and you get $25. If you open that account by tomorrow and use the debit card ten times in 45 days, you get $125 on the 50th day.

I love my Electric Orange account. If you have problems overdrafting your account, this will help you in a big, big way. They don’t charge you fees per transaction and they have a tiny overdraft limit to keep you in check. This account has saved me again and again and again. And I know I can use $100 and I know chances are pretty good you could use $150. So there you go. I hope this helps you out!

They have been told

Last night I called a family meeting and talked with the kids. I explained to them the change in income. I showed them four pennies and told them to pretend that was all the money I used to get every month and now I only get this much, and I took away two of the pennies.  They looked a bit shocked so I told them we were going to be fine but that I am going to need their help to be very cautious with money. We cannot be wasteful and have to be very careful with what we have.

Then I talked about this weekend. I told them there wasn’t enough money for any park but that I asked around and a friend of mine gave me free tickets for one of the parks. So I scrounged together some money and we would be going to one of the parks this weekend. I told them it was Universal. I told them we would not be going to Disney this weekend. Baby started to cry. A little bit, and I could tell he was fighting not to do so, burying his fists into his eyes.

So I explained Disney was not cancelled. We would not go this weekend but that we would go. I told them we needed to save money for the trip. They asked me how much. I explained the cost of the tickets and the hotel (Daughter thought hotels were free!) and the gas and the food and said to be absolutely safe, we would need one thousand dollars. The number was met with wide eyes and wows and then they started suggesting different ways to make money. Eldest thought he could sell comics he draws out in the front of the house. Daughter suggested we hold a garage sale. Baby just watched and got excited because they were excited and that was good.

So I calmed them down and said that we would save the money and I would draw a thermometer and we would track the money and when we filled it to the top we would go. And then I told them I needed to measure them and that they should go to Universal’s website to see what rides and shows they liked the most and that was that. After the meeting, I drew the envelope and showed it to them. After Universal, we’ll start saving somehow some way.

It’s funny, yesterday I felt SO good. I mean I felt really powerful and ready– for anything, for everything. Today I’m sort of hovering. Not bad not great just sort of in the middle. But it’s weird because I can’t seem to push myself over into really excited and happy while at the same time, I feel it’s too easy to fall the other way.

Their dad sent me an email last night that he was going back to working for a company, that he already had two offers on the table, and was in the process. he said things would be back to normal soon and he was sorry. I just shrugged.

What exactly is normal anyway?

The Compromise

On Friday, I let everyone in on the stressful situation that is going on in my life right now. And there was this huge flood of amazing support and words of advice and encouragement. Thank you to the Grumpies, by the way, for steering so much of it this way. You two are my Cheerleaders but totally awesome feminist ones.

I have been reading, and responding, to your comments all weekend. You are a very wise bunch. And what I decided was to compromise.

This trip does mean a lot to me. It’s not as simple as Take Kids to Theme Park. It’s more layered than that. And one of the things it means to me is keeping promises. I hate broken promises, I really do. Probably because I’ve been the victim of so many in my own life.

So I thought about it and vented on Stallion in a big, big, big way. I pretty much threw my tantrum with the tears and the boogers and the, “It’s not fair!” Very classy. And after he hugged me and told me it’ll be ok I calmed down and made a decision.

We are not going to Disney, but we are going to Universal. The tickets for Universal are free, they are for both parks, and their confirmation number was sent to me last week. They are there waiting for me. And it is scheduled for the 12th of August, Eldest’s birthday. As I had mentioned, the kids received money for the trip, and my grandmother and mother have told me they will be giving me Eldest’s trip money as well. With that money, I have the cost of the hotel covered, the gas, and I think even the food. The only big ticket item that is not yet covered is the one ticket for Stallion’s daughter which is her birthday present as well. Her mother is giving her money for food so that should be perfect.

As for Disney, it is not cancelled, but it is postponed. I am going to work my little tookus off and see if I can manage to put together enough to fund a trip to Disney in December when it’s all decorated for Christmas. We’ve never seen the park that time of year, the weather will be nicer, and the two littlest ones will get their birthday wishes filled then. That will be the new goal– survive and Disney in December.

Like I told Stallion, the reason this has been so hard for me to let go of is because how long I’ve been working at it– and how close I was. I have been diligently saving and saving and saving. Over half the child support payments have been going to saving up for things like the school’s $2700 registration fee (private school, my parents pay the tuition if I pay the registration) which I paid in full at the beginning of the year. When my tax refund came in, I did the math and put a portion of it into my emergency fund, a portion into my big ticket savings like the summer camp, the trip, and Christmas, and sent a huge chunk to my credit cards. You know, the responsible thing.

And it was working!

When my car broke down in March I had enough money to pay for the repair. When school let out, I had the $3000 to put them in summer camp. When I woke up one morning to find my cat had been vomiting everywhere and had a fever, I had the $450 to cover the vet bill. I think I might rename my cat and call her Disney.

The big thing now is what I am going to tell the children. My kids are pretty young. The youngest just turned 4 and 6 in June and the oldest turns 9 this Sunday. Money is really hard to explain to the youngest ones and unfortunately, they are the ones who wanted Disney. Eldest is the one who wanted Universal as he is obsessed with Harry Potter.

I’m thinking of going about it this way.

First things first: Be (vaguely) Honest. I’m going to explain that I had to make changes to the trip this weekend and that one of the parks is going to be postponed. I’m going to explain I am not making as much money every month as I used to. I might use coins to explain this. Show them four coins and explain that’s how much I was making, take away two coins and explain that’s how much I’m making now. I am extremely wary resistant to the idea of explaining their father’s role, or lack thereof, in all of this because of how young they are, how sensitive a topic it is, and how complicated it may get to explain. Eldest can probably handle it and maybe he and I will have a separate conversation later, if he wants one. I think I’m just going to explain that there were two ways I was making money and because the economy is bad, one of them isn’t making money right now. It might start making money again one day, but I’m not sure when, etc. etc. etc.

I am then going to explain we are going to Universal Studios only because the tickets were free. I did not choose which park we went to. I asked around my group of friends and the connection that came through was for Universal. I want this to be clear because I don’t want them to think I was choosing favorites or anything and besides it’s completely true. If the tickets to Universal weren’t free, we wouldn’t be going anywhere.

I’ll then lay out my plan to try and make more money so that we can go in December to Disney to see the park at Christmas time. And then I’ll ask them to please look at the Universal website with me and try and get them fired up about what we’re going to do and see there.

The bad part is, it’s the youngest kids’ trip whose getting postponed. The good part is, they are distracted easier.

I feel a lot better about this weekend now that I’ve made this decision. One of the things that struck me after reading your comments and throwing my tantrum was the reason I’m so frustrated and angry about postponing part of the trip is exactly the reason I need to postpone part of the trip.

I have been doing things the right way for so long, why blow it? If there’s one thing I’ve learned is that it’s far easier to create problems than to fix them. The right way worked. It did what it was supposed to do– I just hadn’t been able to fund it long enough to cover me more than it already has.

The wrong way, I’ve already done that before. I know where that goes and what it does to a person. So thank you for helping me get to this place I am in right now. I’m not going to lie, I’m still a bit down at the mouth and I would really like to practice some sort of physical violence, but I am trying very hard to pull up and out and I just wanted to thank you all for the boost.

And here we go

This is a money post. And it’s not a pretty money post. It’s actually one of the worst kinds of money posts I’d ever want to make. So you know, if you’re not in the mood for that on a  Friday, feel free to skip out and look at something else somewhere else. No offense taken, seriously!

Today marks the day I am officially, totally, and completely broke. Almost every single August bill is paid for except two. I think I can cover one but I’m not sure about the second one. I get paid once a month, on the last day of the month, and that paycheck covers most of my bills. Actually it used to cover all of them but recently my car insurance and my electric climbed up so it doesn’t cover everything anymore. I have absolutely no idea if or when I will see another child support payment. Last week I’d sent him a stern email that was very polite but expressed the direness of the situation. He never replied. I actually haven’t heard a peep from him in over a week. But the kids are really excited because he got a puppy. Just this week.

I could go on. I’ve heard a lot lately about the extravagant purchases he’s been making ever since he quit the job that had an Income Deduction Order garnishing child support from his paychecks. I could tell you all about those but frankly they make me sick and really angry and it just doesn’t help me in my current situation. At all.

So I won’t.

Today is the day I start living solely on credit. I have two lines of credit that I’m planning on depending on– Target and Chase. They both have high APR’s but Target’s is lower and you also get 5% off your purchase which helps barely mitigate the APR ouchies. The Target card will be for life’s necessities that can be bought there like upcoming school supplies, certain clothes items, etc. Chase is going to be for everywhere else. Oh yeah and it’s going to be for the Orlando trip as well.

Yes. I am making a very dumb decision. I am still taking my kids to Orlando next weekend for their birthday gift. They received money for the trip for their birthdays. They got small birthday gifts to save money for it. And I did have every dime of that trip saved up for. Until the money dried up.

I can’t take it away from them. I just can’t. A friend gifted me the tickets to Universal. I have to pay for Magic Kingdom and for the hotel. I have the money that was given for the trip. And the rest is going on the Chase.

As absolutely illogical as it may sound to many, it’s worth it. I can pay for that trip for the next 18 years and it’ll be worth it. But to take it away from them? Less than two weeks away? I can’t do that. I simply cannot do that. Maybe I lack a spine. Maybe I’m just dumb. Maybe I’m materialistic and don’t really get it. At this point, I honestly don’t care.

I am in the dark as to what the future holds. School starts for me on the 22nd. Stallion starts school the 29th. Stallion is trying to get a second part time or a full time job and is willing to go to school almost full time and work more hours. I honestly sat down and considered a part time job for myself. But I don’t see how I could do it. The next four months are my busiest months of the year work-wise. People have suggested freelance writing to me. I think that is awesome, I do; but I have no clue where to start and not get taken advantage of and honestly, I don’t have that much confidence in myself. Especially right now when I feel incapable of making a good decision.

The state got in contact with me. They have enforcement orders for him. I don’t really know what that means or how that works. They mentioned something about their first step being to try and track down the employer listed but I warned them that itself is a very bizarre thing. The company has a website but it doesn’t exist in the state’s business listing. And every business in the state has to be in there. And the address for his employer is the same address as a different company that does the same thing. But at this point, it’s their turn to play detective.

The website says this about enforcement:

Some of the ways we get parents to pay are:

  • Notify the parents when they miss payments
  • Suspend Florida driver licenses
  • Take IRS tax refunds
  • Take Florida Lottery winnings if over $600
  • Take support payments from workers’ compensation and reemployment assistance (formerly unemployment compensation)
  • Tell employers to take payments from paychecks
  • Place liens on the parent’s car, boat, or other property
  • Report past due support to credit agencies
  • Place a hold and take money from bank accounts
  • Take the case to court because the parent did not do what the order says
  • Work with the court to issue a writ, also known as an arrest warrant. If you would like to see if there is a writ on your case, please use the Department of Revenue’s Writ Search Site.
  • Collect Medical Expenses Not Covered by Insurance

I don’t think he’s hiding money. I don’t think he’s making money. I think he quit a job that paid him enough for child support and living expenses plus gave him medical benefits and other perks because he didn’t like the amount that was leftover after child support. So he got the idea to go into business for himself. And I don’t think he’s doing too well. And he didn’t save up a dime to do it, he just jumped ship and did it. Maybe he got fired. Who knows?

What I do know is the income is gone. Pretty much the way I imagined it would go. It’s happened before and I have tried so hard to protect myself for when it would happen again. And I think I did a pretty good job. The last month child support was being paid regularly was in April. So I got through a few months you know? That’s something.

Up until this month, I’d paid way higher than minimum amounts on my credit cards. And when I used my Express card for work clothes, I paid the full amount off. But now, it’s back to minimum payments only. And I’m turning off my retirement contributions to get me about $190 a month.

The light at the end of the tunnel is a dim speck in November. Because you see, I should make my very last car payment in October. So that should free up $400 a month and it should also allow me to get a lower insurance. Oh and there’s Tinsel. She’s pretty heavy and should cough up a few dollars. That might be helpful for Disney actually.

So, three months I have to depend on credit. Maybe it won’t be so bad. Maybe some kind of child support will come in. Maybe Stallion will get more work. Maybe I’ll get more work. Maybe the Lottery fairy will leave me a winning ticket under my pillow.

Maybe I’ll wake up and it’ll have been a really really bad nightmare.

I know this is long. And I really don’t expect anyone to actually read all of this. I write this for therapy more than anything else. And that’s why I’m going to say one more thing.

I’m not giving up on myself and my financial goals. I’m not going to embark on a shopping bonanza to end all shopping bonanzas. I’m going to cover our needs for three months and one biggish want. It’s less than $1k so it’s ok to call it biggish, right? Whatever, it’s still a selfish want and I know that and I’m going to have to deal with it.

What hurts is knowing that three months could easily set me back three years.

And ok, yes the fact the kids’ dad is who he is and how he is hurts too.

And that I still need something from him to survive. That I am not 100% independent. We’ve been separated for three years and still… That hurts.

I appreciate all the support I’ve gotten from everyone on here in the past. I really hesitated coming here to begin writing this but I felt like if I just kept this secret, I wouldn’t be true to me. And I wouldn’t be doing anyone any favors either. Yes, here is more proof that divorce does not get easier after a few years pass. And I’m not sure I can argue it’s gotten better because it hasn’t. Communication is the worst it’s ever been. Believe it or not, now is when I get upset when my kids leave me for his house. Because before I used to trust him as a father. Now I don’t.

Would you trust a man who puts his children on a big and fast boat with no life jackets on? You should see how Daughter came back from his house a few weeks ago– her face swollen with some sort of allergy. Baby came home with sneakers two sizes too big that his little friend that lives on their block gave to him. He’s sent the boys to school without underwear. Their clothes comes back reeking of cigarettes. Baby asks every day if he’s going home with Daddy and if the answer is yes he cries and clings to me and says that no he doesn’t want to go, he wants to stay with me. And some times it’s Daughter that asks and gets very sad when the answer is yes, it’s Daddy’s turn. Eldest is the only one that seems unfazed. He actually seems hurt by his brother and sister’s negative reactions. Baby now tells me he’s going to miss me. I remember the divorce class teaching us, DON’T SAY I MISS YOU. What do I say then? “I love you. Call me whenever you want.” “But Daddy forgot your number.” “Daughter knows it. And Eldest too. They will help you.”

And all that heart wrenching knowing they are going with this man who shows through his actions how very low on his list of priorities they are.

Something’s got to give. I just hope it isn’t me.

 

Five Things I learned from Personal Finance Blogs & Books I wish I hadn’t

When I started this blog in October 2009, it was with Single Motherhood in mind. As it turns out, one of the cruxes of single parenthood is finances and so my blog eventually rambled in and out of personal financedom. It was never intended to be the focus of my blog but I have read up a lot on it and I have shared personal finance related stories on here. Sometimes, I learned some great information that has helped me evolve and grow tremendously. Other times, I learned things that started out awesome and promising but have gone completely wrong. So with that in mind, I now present you with:

Five Things I Learned from Personal Finance Blogs & Books I Wish I Hadn’t

1. Donna Freedman’s Coke Rewards Collection Methods

I love Donna Freedman. I admire her and respect her endlessly. I really do. That woman has been through some tougher than tough times and just came out sparkly like a diamond. And I’ve learned a lot from Donna, including about the pretty cool Coke Rewards program that she uses and abuses to earn free trips to the movies. But ever since I found out how Donna collects those Rewards points (hint: she doesn’t consume gallons of the stuff on a daily basis) my entire experience of walking to and from anything has completely changed. I see them everywhere. Sometimes I pick them up but sometimes I don’t. Basically it comes down to how many people are around me. Yes I’m ashamed of picking up trash in front of other people. But if I walk by the Coke Reward bottle cap, the inner war begins:

“Pick it up, it’s a COKE REWARD!”

“Dude no freaking way. I look adorable in my pencil skirt and heels, there are like a gazillion people around me, and there’s not a trash can right next to it. And I forgot the hand sanitizer. Again.”

“But hello it’s a COKE REWARD. If you saw a pile of three pennies, you’d pick them up!”

“Um, no I’m not sure I would.”

“Yeah right! Besides who cares what these people think of you picking up trash- I mean Coke Rewards? I bet most of them won’t even notice!”

“Excuse me but did you miss the part where I look fabulous today? Everyone notices me because I am amazing and fabulous and completely noticeable.”

“Oh get the hell over yourself, turn around, and pick up the trash- er Coke Reward.”

“Turn around? Are you out of your mind? I have to be somewhere like right now. And how crazy will I look then turning around and walking back… TO PICK UP TRASH THAT IS NOT MINE”

2. My FREE Credit Score thanks to CreditKarma

Almost every single personal finance blogger I know has at least mentioned CreditKarma if not dedicated an entire post to extolling its virtues. And sure, it provides information that is useful to know– if you plan on using credit in the nearish future. Which I don’t. But now that I know I can get this information, FOR FREE, I must know it. And it’s a downer of hangover proportions. My credit score is embarrassing and why shouldn’t it be? Ex and I let the house go to foreclosure a few years ago and this past December he allowed our co-signed leased car to get repossessed. My credit score is wrecked for the next decade or so. And CreditKarma reminds me of that– in two minutes and FOR FREE!

3. How to hold awesome garage sales

I live in the best location for a garage sale– right on a busy avenue directly across a park (traffic+parking). Once I started reading about all the money people made from them, I knew I had to have one. And I did and it was great selling all that crap from my stupidity of a marriage. And I even made a few hundred bucks!

But then I started wavering about future garage sales. When I want to get rid of stuff, I just want to get rid of stuff. But I knew I could probably sell it and make money. So where would I store it? Eventually I’d end up getting frustrated with the garage sale stuff slowly accumulating and I’d haul it to Goodwill instead. And feel bad about it. No money in my pocket so Goodwill could have some in theirs. And then I’d go through the cycle again.

I ended up having another garage sale when Stallion moved in and that was ok. Yes we made some money but it was seriously exhausting. When my grandmother passed away, it was generally assumed I would hold another garage sale. And I wanted to, I really did, but it felt like it’d be the biggest pain in the ass. So I wavered and hemmed and hawed and eventually just gave everything away again.

The thing is I keep not documenting what I’m giving away for tax purposes because I never intend to give it away and when I do it’s pretty spur of the moment. So recently I came up with a plan that is going to become my standard plan from now on and I’m going to say bye bye to Garage Sales. My grandmother often worked with Mother Teresa’s Sister’s of Charity here in Miami where they have a Women and Children’s Shelter and where they also manage the aid efforts in Haiti. The last couple of times I’ve donated to them have felt unlike anything I’ve ever felt before in my life. If you think giving to Goodwill feels good, wait until you start giving to something that has more of a direct impact.

4. How to coupon for groceries

Let me be clear, CVSing and couponing for groceries are, in my mind, two separate things. I love CVSing and I will CVS for a very long time. But couponing it up at the grocery store? I’m getting over this one in a big way.

It’s not even that I don’t have the space to properly coupon (I kind of don’t), it’s that bulk food buying has not made my life easier.

And now, we have Aldi. Not to mention, all of this coupons + sales math has really screwed with my sense of prices instead of improved them like most people do. Also, couponing and meal planning have never clicked together for me. I know they click for lots of people, just not me. And so I end up with lots of cans of tomatoes and not enough of everything else– especially meat. And the fruit and veggies? I buy a bunch because they’re on sale and we never eat them before they go bad. And I still end up caving in and getting take-out more often than I’d like.

I strongly considered experimenting with bulk cooking but that still gave me bulk food to deal with and didn’t appeal to me either so I’m going to try meal planning and food shopping on a weekly basis instead in a way very similar to what Carla’s recent interview with Simply Being Mum described.

5. Making Money from Blogs

Double-edged sword for me on this one. I go back and forth on this constantly. I really, really do. Right now, my WordPress blog is a free blog so outside of the occasional Amazon Affiliate link, I actually can’t earn money from the blog. I’d have to self-host it and then start figuring out just how to do this. And the thing is, when I first started blogging this was such an easy decision for me because I hated ads. So no ads meant no money from the blog. Simple!!

But since 2002, blogging has evolved and there are many ways to monetize a blog and actually ads have become the way I least despise because at least it’s authentic. An ad says, “Click me to earn this person some money!” and that’s it. You click it or you don’t. Where I really get all mixed up are things like Sponsored Posts and Giveaways, Product Reviews, Paid Guest Posts, and so on and so forth.

I used to do book reviews on here for free all the time and so I don’t think my reviewing a book I was given by a publisher would be out of character for me. And if I used something that I really really loved, I’ve come on here and told you so. But I was never given that stuff for free. Don’t we tend to naturally like things a little bit more when we didn’t have to pay for them?

And this is only half of it. There’s all that stuff about SEO and rankings and these people named the Yakezie that do something that revolves around something called Alexa that turns them into big money ballers. And there’s BlogHer and Facebook and Pinterest and Twitter and it feels like bloggy prostitution or something. But at the same time, it’s a sensible idea– get paid to do something you like doing. And so I go back and forth, back and forth.

 

So there you have it! What have you learned from personal finance blogs or books that you wish you hadn’t? Or just in general, is there something you learned thinking it would be super helpful to only have it backfire on you?

Beauty on a Budget

As much as I have tried to keep my De-Frumpiness Project from deeply impacting my wallet, not spending in this department has been impossible. And you know what? That’s the frickin point.

There are so many ways we put ourselves on the back-burner and spending on other things is definitely the easiest for many of us. In my case, I will justify the purchase of clothing and shoes for my kids when theirs shows wear or is ill-fitting or I just find a really good deal. Not so much for me.

I have found great deals on all sorts of things this year, and even with the De-Frumpiness Project, I have more often than not left the item on the shelf or rack muttering something about not having money right now and then spending the money I don’t have on something else for someone else.

The past couple of months I’ve been forcing that to change. It doesn’t always feel as great as it sounds like it would. Yes, you would think I’d be all excited by the idea of giving myself permission to spend on myself but I just don’t. I stress and moan, “But what about the children?”

Lately I’ve been a bit tough on that whiny part of me and have rebuked her with a sharp, “The children have more than plenty and they don’t even take care of it properly!” Which is kind of true. Ok fine, it’s a lot true. My kids are really lucky because they are part of a very big family that lives in the same city as they do. The very big family is of Cuban heritage mostly and is therefore quite fond of gifts for children. We’re the type of culture that firmly believes if you can’t afford gifts for everyone, at least make sure you get the children gifts. Always, the children.

So my children are inundated. They get clothes and toys and toys and more toys and clothes. Do they get all the clothes they need? No. They don’t get shoes for instance or underwear or socks. But they get a lot of the other stuff– shirts and shorts and skirts and dresses and on and on.

The point is, the kids get a lot more gifts than I do. And that is awesome. That is totally fine. That is the way it should be. BUT that is also the fact I have to remind myself of when I’m talking myself out of buying something for myself that is 1) a great deal, 2) that I can afford at that moment in time and 3) that fills a gap in my diminishing wardrobe. Well, mentally it’s diminishing. I’m having a hard time physically purging my closet this year but that’s another roller coaster post waiting to happen.

Anyhow, here are a few things I have been spending on lately and how I’ve been doing just that.

Clothes: I keep trying Goodwill and keep getting mixed results. Ok, honestly? I don’t find much for me. First of all, the Goodwill by my house is huge in an overwhelming way. It attempts to be organized, but let’s face it, it’s Goodwill. It’s not organized. I just don’t have much shopping time and the past couple of months, I’ve had even less as the kids have been spending more and more Wednesdays and weekends with me instead of their dad (also another post). When I’ve gone and browsed, I’ve found a lot of things that look good until I pull them out and take a look at them. They are the wrong size, stained, faded, or just not what I thought they were when I saw them on the hanger. Repeatedly having this happen to me is insanely discouraging. And when I have found something that is the right size, is not faded, is a good brand, it’s about a couple dollars less than I’d pay for it at a store like Ross.

That doesn’t mean I’ve been striking out in the clothes department completely. I’ve actually scored some major hits– at Ross and Marshalls. Surprisingly, moreso at Ross than Marshalls but I had a great haul last weekend so I can’t complain about Marshalls too much. Although I will complain a little bit. When did Marshalls get so expensive? I was strolling through their shoe section and OUCH. I couldn’t find a nice pair of shoes for under $40.

While Marshalls kills Ross in selection, organization, and brands it’s just not that great in the dollar aspect and that is way more important to me right now than anything else. Why? As much as I am mentally in a hurry to get my wardrobe revamped already, I’m not monetarily in a hurry to do so. I’m not even monetarily able actually. So I have time. I have time to go to the Ross by my house (closer than the nearest Marshalls too and with less nerve-wracking parking than the cramped garage the Marshalls is housed in). I have time to wander the clearance racks. I have time to wander the other racks. I have time to try things on. I have time to not take anything because none of it fits me right. And although that IS slightly depressing I am really tired of not looking quite right in my clothes.

This has actually been my savior. My shape has changed a lot in the past year and a half. While this has wreaked havoc on my wardrobe and my options at home, it has really slowed down my shopping. Before, I used to have the type of shape that was pretty standard for a size Small. Ok so not everything fit perfectly but more often than not things fit the way I expected them to.

Not so anymore. And so this means I force myself into the dressing room every single time no matter what the item is. I never used to use fitting rooms, that’s how standard I was. Fitting rooms slow me down. And fitting rooms make me really question and inspect my prospective purchases. So while my wardrobe overhaul is not going as smoothly or as quickly as I’d want it to, I’m more pleased with where it’s going.

Beauty Products: It is all about the drug store sales. Well, it’s mostly about the drug store sales. It’s almost entirely about the drug store sales. If you haven’t figured this out yet, and you really do enjoy the occasional new lipstick, nail polish, eye shadow, whatever, it’s high time you got on this.

For me, CVS is king. Their coupon policy is easy-peasy. Their ExtraCare Bucks are generous. Their Beauty Club makes it even more generous. The fact they’re all over the place makes them easy to access and you can even shop multiple ones in the same day. I learned all about CVS at Southern Savers. Yes, coupons make CVSing even more rewarding but you can get by without them. You’re just not going to save as much money.

This week alone you can score free facial care products, free deodorant, and free floss (perfect for June’s De-Frumpiness project). You can also get a pretty good deal on razors, face wash, and makeup.

The thing with CVS is patience. Stick to the sales and you’ll be a-ok. Also, don’t be afraid to use their return policy. I had a makeup shopping spree a couple of months ago during a particularly good sale week and bought a powder that was supposed to shimmer. I got home and realized what I got was not what was listed on the rack it was in. The packaging on the products was identical despite the fact they had four different finishes. More than a month later, I finally got the chance to go back to CVS with the product and receipt and was able to exchange it for the right one– even with the first product already being open and used. In other words, be unafraid to purchase makeup you can’t try. If, when you get home, the shade makes you look freshly dead, exchange it for a different shade. Easy!

Walgreens is also quite popular with the savings crowd. I can’t suggest them as strongly as I can CVS because they have so many stupid rules and restrictions with their Register Rewards and coupons it’s a true labor to get things done. My suggestion? Don’t put Walgreens on the list of places you regularly shop at but DO make sure you check out their ad if you find you have to go there for whatever reason (prescription, ATM, medicine, etc.). I had to go to my Walgreens last night for their ATM (ING Direct-friendly!), checked their ad real quick and found they have a deal on Goody hair accessories this week– $2 in Register Rewards when you buy certain $2 hair accessories. That means free hair accessories– IF I have to buy something from Walgreens by June 21st. Turns out I do need some saline drops that never go on sale.So I’m wearing my cute little headband today and in the next few days I’ll go by and pick up the saline drops. Free hair stuff!

Of course, it’s also about keeping an eye out. I ventured into Sally Beauty Supply the other day in search of nail tip guides to find they are having a pretty big sale this month which includes a lot of Buy 1 Get 1 Free deals– even on nail art items (currently a thing). I’d honestly never been much of a Sally girl but rest assured I’ll be checking in on their ads more often now. They have lots of specialty items there you just can’t get at CVS and they’re not afraid to mark them down.

Lastly, there’s the internet. Today I purchased the June Mystery Box from Julep. Julep is a nail care company and every now and then they offer mystery boxes for $60. Each mystery box includes anywhere from $60 to $200 worth of merchandise. This month, you can get a limited edition mystery nail color OR the entire collection of Julep nail polish. Um yeah that’s pretty amazing right? But $60? Ouch. Well, use the code JUNEMYSTERY and your box is $19.99 with free shipping. I indulged. It’s $19.99. I wouldn’t hesitate to spend $19.99 on my kids. Each of Julep’s nail polishes go for $14 each and the mystery boxes include at least three of them from what I’ve seen in previous month’s reveals. Julep is a beauty company to watch. They have a nail polish subscription as well and they occasionally offer the chance to try a box for a penny. I’ve always talked myself out of trying it but next time I won’t, especially if the Mystery Box doesn’t disappoint.

Beauty boxes are very popular right now. I keep seeing mentions of them all over the place. Julep’s the only one though that seems to be willing to offer great deals. I’ve heard great deals on Glossybox but a $21 monthly subscription is out of the question. I might buy myself one month’s box for my birthday in August to try it out and then, if it’s as good as I’ve been seeing I’ll probably use Tinsel’s guts towards the purchase of another one in December or January. The value of the box’s contents tend to be much higher than the $21 so it’s worth it if the money is set aside for it. Definitely a great Treat Yo Self type of purchase, eh Nikki?

So there you have it. Some of the ways I’ve been spending on myself this year. I wish I could say spending and not stressing but it’s just not true. I still have issues spending on myself and I wonder if in a way I always will. I didn’t have this problem when I was single (no kids, no nobody) but as soon as the loves of my life started making appearances, this went out the window and what was once a fun thing to do turned into a guilt-ridden experience.

What about you? Do you like spending on yourself? What about on things that are outside the Needs Zone but not in the Communal Wants Zone? Things only you want that no one else would really enjoy?