Category Archives: Budgeting

Re-DO!

Deja vu all over again?  I’ve started and stopped this post for a while. I need a re-start on the whole blog process.  I have been trying to find my motivation, and may have stumbled onto something while going through my own struggles. De-cluttering efforts went very well.  Had our home on the market, but took it off to let Jr. finish his senior year of high school in the same school.  Now we are just letting things ride until we are closer to graduation. In the mean time, we are working on our budget, dealing with some extra debt and expenses that we didn’t count on and trying to build Kevin’s tennis business.

I’ve read a lot of blogs and articles about finances, debt, money issues, etc.  And one thing that stands out is that there is not a lot of training done for our youth on how to handle money. They can’t take a class in high school, and frankly many parents don’t have a great handle on money either.  They may be ill equipped to pass along advice when they are in debt or not sure how to budget for themselves.

Since becoming a step parent, my goal has been to make sure Jr. is prepared for the world.  Having never been a parent before, and then getting a teenager (14 at the time) full time, I made a mental list of the things he needs to know before leaving the nest.  I had about 4 years to get these things done and now we are winding down with one year left to go before he’s off to college. How to iron a shirt, cook a meal, do laundry, clean a bathroom and balance a checkbook are just a few that came to mind immediately.  We’ve tackled these, and then some.  But in going through this process, I realized that many people don’t leave home knowing how to budget or deal with credit/credit cards, etc. This leads many kids to get into trouble during college or in their 20s. According to a recent report by the Department of Education, half of today’s 27 year olds are more than $10,000 in debt. While that may not sound like much, more than 80% of them say finances are at least somewhat stressful.

Queue the motivation.  I’m determined that Jr. will at least have a good foundation of understanding household finances from which to make decisions for his future. We are about to start college application season.  There is no college fund sitting out there to pay for all of the expenses.  We are fortunate to live in a state with a lottery funded state school “scholarship” for all residents who meet minimum requirements.  But even with that, a full year of a state school, including room and board, starts at $12,000 depending on the school. Jr. will have to get student loans to pay for his education.  Assuming he has to borrow all of this cost, he could graduate owing $50,000 or more!  That’s a heavy burden for a 22 year old.

We will be researching options including:

  • Living at home and commuting to school – at least to begin
  • Going to a community college (while living at home) to get some of the core classes completed. Besides, no one cares where you went, just where you graduated from!
  • Finding schools that will accept his lower AP scores so he has less classes to take
  • Looking into as many scholarships and grants as we can find

The other idea that came to me during this process is wondering whether or not I could develop a training plan for parents to assist them in preparing their kids for the world.  I’m going to try and document how we are doing and use that to develop a product for parents to use to break down teaching about money into short lessons. What do you think?

How did your parents teach you about money?  How do you teach your kids?

Update on Financial Training for a Teenager

A few weeks ago, I posted about an idea we had for teaching our 16 year old son about money.  (Read it here) He is very smart, but has no clue what things cost. One of the things I was really concerned with when I became a step parent was what things he needs to learn before he is on his own.  I began teaching things like how to brown hamburger meat, cook simple meals (follow the directions on a taco kit or box of Hamburger Helper), how to iron a shirt, etc.  Money was another thing on that list.

I have had a job since I was 15 and babysat before that.  My mom was a single parent when I was a kid, so if I wanted anything I had to buy it (school clothes, cheerleading expenses, year books, etc.)  I have excellent credit and have been very fortunate.  I’m in my 7th home (5th that I purchased by myself). I’m by no means perfect and have let the credit cards get out of hand more than once.  But we are on the right track now and working to get out of debt. I want my SS to benefit from my experience and start off on the right foot. Many college kids get a credit card and think it is free money.  We have all learned the hard way that this isn’t true.

We are pretty generous with the SS, and he doesn’t ask for much.  Mainly we suggest that he could use some new jeans, shoes, etc.  But he has no idea what goes in to making enough money to live comfortably. He has lofty education and career ambitions, but needs to know how to manage his money once he gets it.

So back to the plan… We started out on the right foot.  I took him down to the local credit union (in our neighborhood) and opened up a checking account.  The idea was that he will get an allowance every two weeks.  The original plan was for him to pay for all of his expenses including snacks and eating out (teaching how to tip was another on the list).  However, that has proven to not be feasible.  I do most of the grocery shopping and it just makes more sense to combine that stuff.  Eating out is still a grey area.  But we haven’t been out much lately anyway. The checking account idea was working fine until the debit card came in.  First day, he texted a picture of the card to some of his friends (palm to forehead).  So we explained why that was not a good idea, cut up the card and ordered a new one.  The new one is in now and we will be setting up auto pay for his cell phone bill, lunch account at school and gym membership.  So far, he hasn’t spent much money.  We will go through his account – maybe next weekend.

Summer is right around the corner, so now he must find a job.  He’s not too eager about that just yet.  I’m hoping that he will start wanting to drive and wanting a car and will see the benefit of having a job to enjoy that freedom.  We sure did at that age.

Anyone else have a teenager that doesn’t want to work?  Any strategies for teaching about handling money? Would love to hear your feedback.

Lent

I’m not Catholic, nor am I religious at all, but each year I try to give up something for Lent.  I started this when one of my friends was joining a church and was giving up chocolate for Lent.  I joined in to support her.  Now each year I look for some way to test myself by imposing this 40 day ritual.

Since I’m in the de-clutter mode, I decided to give up shopping this year.  Nothing coming into the house that isn’t essential to make it through the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.  Boy, does email and social media make this hard!  I’m a regular email subscriber to several stores and flash sale sites.  It’s very hard not to click on Rue La La to see what is on sale today. (If you want an invite, click http://www.ruelala.com/invite/jenscape) “Only 3 days left in the Old Navy jeans sale!”  But I’m not shopping… The list goes on and on.

The only downside to this is that I didn’t purchase some of the organizing tools I was eyeing  before imposing this restriction.  Technically a pot lid rack isn’t essential.  It can wait.  But it sure would make my cabinet look more organized!  I guess I’ll have to keep a list of the things that would be nice to have and see if I still want them after Easter.

I’m hoping this will also help with my debt control.  Along with de cluttering, I’m also working on reducing my debt this year.  Consolidation and low or no interest offers are my method right now.  Anyone have a story about becoming debt free?  I’m open to suggestions!

Teaching the value of money

I am a relatively new step mom to a 16 year old boy.  He lives with us full time.  He sees his mom about once a month and on school breaks, but they live 5 hours away.  So it’s a lot of driving to make that happen.  He’s a pretty good kid.  Respectful, smart, funny.  But he doesn’t have a clue about money.  He isn’t very social, so he doesn’t go out with friends a lot.  He is more comfortable around adults than kids his own age.  (Likely the result of being around his dad and all of his dad’s friends all the time.) I’ve been trying to figure out how to get him to understand money, budgeting, etc. and we were discussing it over dinner Friday night with some friends.  They don’t have kids, but she told us what her parents did for her and I am so excited to start this with him.  Her parents gave her a checking account and a fairly large allowance.  But she was required to pay for EVERYTHING out of this money. Lunch, clothes, football games, etc.

Saturday morning, I got out my computer and my mint.com account and started trying to figure out what we were spending that could be handed over.  School lunch, cell phone, gym membership (just for him, I don’t go…) meals out, the snack food that we buy just for him, cases of gatorade, haircuts, etc.  I was blown away with how much this costs.  And this is before we start paying for car insurance!  So we have broached this subject with him.  I gave him a spreadsheet with all of the things I can think of that we buy specifically for him.  He is supposed to make a budget and come back with how much money he thinks he needs.  We will come up with a reasonable amount and open a checking account for him.  He will get deposits every two weeks when I get paid.  That way he can set up time to pay bills, save for certain things, etc.  We will monitor his accounts to make sure he is making wise choices, but if he runs out of money for school lunch, then he will go without.  Or if he doesn’t have any money for snack foods, he will go without (you can tell the boy eats a lot…)

The hardest part in sticking to this plan is going to be keeping my hubby from buying him things.  And making sure we separate his things when shopping for groceries, etc.  I’m not sure how he is going to react to this new responsibility/freedom, but we will see. I will post updates about his progress and our tenacity.

Jen

Pondering “stuff”

I am enjoying a (finally) sunny weekend, so haven’t done a lot of work on my de-clutter mission. But I’ve spent a little time thinking about how to break this down into smaller tasks. I’ve read a couple of other blogs on organization and I actually cleaned out the fridge. (step 1)

A little background… In my many years of being single, I acquired a lot of things. Retail Therapy was my middle name. I have a pretty large house for one person, so it wasn’t an issue if I filled it up with 3 different sets of martini glasses. But now, I am married and have a sixteen year old step son (full time). They moved in about 2 years ago, but the house still pretty much feels like MY house. I want them to feel at home here. And I want them to take ownership and pride in the house. Neither of them are naturally neat, but I think that it could be better if they have more of an influence on the home. This is going to be really hard for me, because I like a lot of my “stuff”. But I know that I don’t really need it and it is just taking up space. Getting to a place where we are organized and everything has a place will make life much easier for me and make it easier to enlist their help (when I can be specific about where things go, etc.)

Kitchen and Pantry first…
I want to get to a place where I have nothing on my counters that isn’t used daily. I want the cabinets to have room for the items in them. I want the pantry to be organized so I can quickly determine what is missing (what goes on the grocery list). I want to make a place for SS to put his snacks, etc. since we are about to start giving him more responsibility with money and purchases. (more about that later). I want a place where I can hide my few items that I want, for when I want them. (Hubby doesn’t understand that just because I didn’t eat all the cookies when I got them, doesn’t mean I don’t want – no NEED – one at a certain time.)

I think the Pantry has to go first. That way I can make room for some of the countertop stuff. I cleaned it out a couple of years ago, and added shelf covers (hate the wire shelving!) But I think the time has come again for a complete unload-and-reload-only-what-is-used type of clean out. So that will be next weekend’s mission.

Kitchen – a couple of weeks ago I cleaned the oven. SS had turned it on to cook pizza rolls, or some other snack food, and when he opened the oven door, so much smoke came out that the alarm went off. When I was single, I rarely cooked at home. So the oven didn’t get much use. But now, we cook at home most nights. So the oven needed to be cleaned pretty badly. Whew! Scratch that off the list! But this mission isn’t necessarily about cleaning. It’s about decluttering. Still have lots of cabinets that need a thorough purge. I know I have china (from a previous marriage) that I want to get rid of. I also have lots of duplicates of things like vases, platters, etc. This is going to be the hardest one for me. Getting rid of things that have sentimental value has always been tough for me. But I am determined.

The Butler’s Pantry will be next. I may need to enlist some help on this one. We keep the wine and liquor in this area. So we will probably need to throw some sort of alcohol-heavy party to use up all the extras in here. Hubby drinks mainly vodka or bourbon. I drink mainly Chardonnay. So why do we need 18 different types of liquor? Sure, it’s fun to be the neighbor that everyone calls when they need just a bit of blackberry brandy, but really?? I could use that space so much better. So I guess a shot party is needed! Anyone with a lot of great drink recipes?

Ok… so for a schedule:
Week of March 1
Pantry

Week of March 8
Kitchen cabinets

Week of March 15
Butler’s pantry

I will try to take before and after pics to share. Wish me luck! (I’m going to need an escape after this!)

Jen

Just getting started

My new year’s resolution this year was to de-clutter my life.  It is going pretty well.  I started with my Shoe and Purse closet (yes, I am one of THOSE people who has a closet just for my purses and shoes.)  I have a large pile of things to get rid of and have started eBaying some of them.  I’ve netted around $600 so far, but still have lots to sell, donate or just plain get rid of.

I need some additional accountability to keep motivated.  My good friend Kelli, who knows me very well, knows this and has issued a de-clutter challenge.  (Thanks KP!) I have decided to start a blog to help keep me accountable and hopefully inspire others to stay motivated in their goals.

So, here’s what I’m going to do.  There are three main areas in our home that need attention:

1. Kitchen/Pantry

2. Office (especially now that I share it with my husband)

3. Master bedroom (see #2)

The original challenge KP sent was for 91 days.  I have a very busy May coming up, plus we have a neighborhood garage sale at the end of April.  So I am revising this to a 60 day challenge for these three areas.  I’m going to take a few days to break down the tasks, so the full challenge will start March 1st.

Stay tuned for updates on my progress!