So, now that the first month of 2009 is over, I think it might be a good time to sit back and reflect on how I’ve managed my New Years resolutions so far:
The Diet Resolution: Considering that I’m typing this one-handed because I’m holding a rice crispy treat in the other, and I haven’t worn anything but sweat pants for the past two weeks, I’d say this resolution isn’t going too well. I’m headed to a Super Bowl party tonight with tons of snack-y finger foods ….. maybe I’ll just start my diet again TOMORROW. (Famous last words of fat people everywhere, right?)
The Exercise Resolution: I have been to the gym exactly one time, and have walked on my treadmill exactly twice. In thirty-one days. Clearly, this resolution isn’t going too well either.
The Money Resolution: This is actually the reason for my post today …. NOT because I’m going to talk about money or personal finance in one of those “boo-hoo me, I’m so broke, what is wrong with the economy” kind of ways. Just that I feel compelled to share with you how finance ideas are sometimes …. “Not quite what I had planned.”
When we moved here, our mortgage payment doubled. Blaine’s income …. Did not. We’ve managed fine …. It’s not like we’re eating beans and rice, or hawking my jewelry to pay utility bills or anything like that. But the past year we’ve had to face the fact that at the rate we were spending, we weren’t able to save as we would like. Or at all. And since retiring on nothing more than Social Security and the change in our spare change jar isn’t an idea that appeals to me (Call me crazy!) I decided sooner is better than later to put on the brakes and get back to our savings routine. To that end, I read several personal finance books during the month of December to settle on the best way for us to take control of our finances, both short term and long term. And, much to my surprise, I discovered this new-fangled gadget out there called a BUDGET. Apparently, people go on them and actually SAVE MONEY --- I know! Who would have thought?!?!
So, January 1st saw us implementing the new Escoe 2009 Monthly Budget Plan. And at the end of the month, when I looked back over our progress, overall, we did ok. I mean, Bill Gates isn’t exactly calling us for money advice, but we did alright. For the first month, obviously, some of our budgeted amounts were guess-work. I wound up within ninety-five cents of my budgeted amount for “groceries”, which I thought was pretty cool. We were within twelve dollars of what I guessed for “gasoline”, which also impressed me. We went slightly over on “clothes” because Blaine needed a new winter coat …. And slightly under on “entertainment” because of the day I canceled our Family Fun Night at the movies because my children were such brats.
The category that got us was “Other”. I knew full well we would need money to spend on ….. stuff. You know what I mean --- that “stuff” that doesn’t fall under “groceries” or “gas” or “entertainment”. Stuff like dish towels from Target, new printer ink, new folders for school, postage, my book for Bible Study, birthday presents, etc. And while there is probably a more scientific method for categorizing those types of expenses ….. my lazy self is comfortable with using the concept of “other” and calling it a day.
It was the OTHER-other that got us. The stuff I completely didn’t budget for ….. life’s little surprises, I guess.
The $70 oil change I got. Lesson there? Just say NO to synthetic oil.
The $50 vet bill. Lesson there? Even cats that sleep in your garage deserve to be healthy and receive round two of their vaccinations.***
The $239 mechanics bill. Lesson there? Be grateful you have a mechanic you trust when your (my) van starts leaking antifreeze all over the garage floor.
But still ---- we were doing ok, within our new budget. Even better, for the first time in months, I was able to put money back in our extra accounts …. the vacation account, the savings account, the new furniture account, etc.
Obviously, I am a financial genius and Wall Street will be offering me a job any day now. Lots and lots of self-back-patting-congratulations going on at this point.
Then, the mail came yesterday.
Apparently the escrow on this house, our primary residence, was miscalculated. The amount due? Almost $2500. Option A – pay it in full and our mortgage payment *only* goes up $150 per month. Option B – pay it out and our mortgage payment goes up $350 per month. Option C – well, I’m still waiting on option C to present itself. In my fantasy world, option C involves another letter from the mortgage company telling me the first letter was a mistake and a check for the $2500 is on its way to me.
Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaahhh. That’s not happening, is it?
So, much like the Diet Resolution and the Exercise Resolution, I think I must face the sad fact that the Finance Resolution didn’t go so well, either. At least not for January. Oh well, like Scarlett O’Hara would say….. February is, another month! At least until we get another letter from the damn escrow people.
***Sadly, Blackie the cat has disappeared. (Figures, doesn’t it, since in the last six weeks I’ve spent $300 getting him healthy.) Brayden is devastated. We installed a pet door in the garage door about eight (?) months ago and he’s been sleeping on an animal bed in there ever since, coming and going at will. We keep cat food and water in the garage for him, and most evenings we bring him in the house to hang out with us. Thursday night he enjoyed American Idol, sitting in Brayden’s lap, and then she put him back in the garage like she has every night for months and months. Friday morning I noticed he wasn’t on his pillow, and I remember thinking, “Hmmm. Blackie is up and about early this morning” because he almost ALWAYS greets us when we leave for school each day. Friday afternoon he still wasn’t in the garage, and we didn’t see him Friday night, either. By that point both Blaine and I were getting worried …. Brayden attended a sleepover that night so she didn’t realize he hadn’t come home until Saturday morning when she couldn’t find him. It’s now Sunday afternoon ---- we still haven’t seen him ---- neither his food nor water has been touched.
He doesn’t like people, so I can’t imagine he’d be in someone else’s house. We’ve scoured the neighborhood looking (although deep down I’m terrified we’ll find him on the side of the road …..) calling his name, putting up flyers, etc. I just don’t know what to do … he’s an outdoor cat, and we never bothered to put a tag or collar on him because, well, he comes and goes as he pleases, but he’s always come home at night. It never occurred to me that one day he might … not. My concern was that I wasn’t sure I really *wanted* a cat, not that I’d decide that I liked the guy after all, and then he would disappear.
Brayden has cried for two days; I feel terrible for her.
This morning Blaine and the girls walked the neighborhood again looking for him. They didn’t find him, but guess what they *did* come home with? Two stray dogs.
Who are now in my garage, lounging on a sleeping bag, with food, water, and toys.
Who my children have named “Fluffy” and “Noodles.”
I think they’ve seen the “Hotel for Dogs” trailer one too many times.
And although I’ve long considered myself a dog person, as opposed to a cat person, who would have thought that the day would come, when I would not only miss a cat named Blackie, but would be willing to trade the two stray dogs in my garage for him.
It’s almost as big a mystery to me as that whole “budget” thing.