Sunday, February 01, 2009

Good Intentions

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.


Katie said...

Aw, I really hope Blackie is on his bed waiting for you when you guys wake up tomorrow morning. :(

I'm right there with you on the budget woes. Never did I expect that this month I would have to spend well over $400 to buy my eldest child a new set of freaking FRONT TEETH!!

I mean really. How do you budget for THAT?

Anonymous said...

And I thought times were only tough in California! Keep trying the budget. Next month will be better.
Your kids look so healthy. Who would know Kendrie was so sick! Theres a lot to be thankful for right there.
Love your blogs! Love reading all about your sweet family.
Old Granny Charlotte
Auburn, Ca

Anonymous said...

Ah. The...Budget. [grimacing look on my face, eyes rolling] We just did ours. From the looks of it, I'll be able to buy new socks again in 2017.

Claire in Indiana

Angie said...

Just want to let you know to clean up that anti-freeze that leaked (if you haven't already)...especially if you have pets that stay in the garage. From what I've heard, animals are attracted to the sweet smell and will ingest it...and it's not good for them! I'm not sure how much they would have to consume to be lethal, but who wants to find out, right?

Dawn said...

Check the animal shelter. The fact that you have not found him anywhere leads one to believe he may have been picked up. You can call and ask if a cat matching his description was brought in...

Natalie said...

Gaaaahhhh! The escrow thing happened to us in our old house. Now we just found out our current mortgage company has TOO MUCH of our money in escrow. Give me my money!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Sorry to read about Blackie. I am the stray puppy finder at my house, so I know how that goes!

Read the letter again. Maybe it was from the Escoe people?


Pat said...

I was gonna echo Angie on the anti freeze. Hopefully Blackie didn't get into it & wander off not feeling too good. I'm sure you thought of the fact that even if he DOES come home, he probably will bypass the garage when he sees the dogs....cats can be funny that way! :-)

Pat in CA

Kari said...

Hi.... you don't know me, but i feel like I know you. LOL. I've been "following" your family adventures for a while now... love your style of writing. I first "met" you by reading the caringbridge site. I had just become involved with cancer warrior/angels and started praying for families battling cancer. The little boy in the family we supported has been off treatment for a year now!

Hope Blackie comes home soon. I really feel for your daughter.

Blessings to you!

Anonymous said...

Honey- ANYONE who is willing to take in a stray animal is A-ok, top of the heap, numero uno, super duper groovy in my book. I say big time kudo's to you. I know how hard times are - and yet, you can find a place for a stray. Amazing.
Please don't beat yourself up for the other crapola budget mess. You are a gold star just because you are willing to help an animal in need. I love to read your blog- oh - i am going on a cruise to Alaska in June with my mom - Ya got any advise??

Cathy said...

When one of our cats went missing for a couple days, I checked the Humane Society and the Animal Shelter in our area. Sure enough, Maddie was taken to the Animal Shelter by the MAN IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD WHO IS TRAPPING CATS!! What a jerk; who does that in a residential neighborhood? That was back in September and a few weeks ago she went missing again. Not wanting to pay the $125 to bail her out of kitty jail, my husband knocked on the door of said cat trapper and he eventually agreed to check the trap. Sure enough there was Maddie. He apoligized up and down and swore he'd let her go the next time it happens. Yeah; right.

Check the shelters in your area; maybe our neighbor has a relative that lives in your neighborhood...

Good luck, Escoes!

Santa Clara, CA

Anonymous said...

Our cat disappeared once for 10 days. We had given up hope that we would ever find him, then he just showed up early one morning. He was starving, so we thought that maybe he got trapped in someone's shed or garage.

I would check the animal shelters and while there, turn in the dogs. Maybe their owners are frantically looking for them and I doubt Blackie will come back in they are there.

IF you find him, look in to micro-chipping. That way if he gets picked up, yu'll be notified. (Some cats never get used to a collar.)

The Running Girl said...

Poor Blackie. I hope you find him soon. I've told the kids we are at our limit for animals right now. One cat and two dogs is enough.

When you figure the whole "other" part of the budget out, please pass on your knowledge. That one does us in as well.

Jeanette in GA said...

This is the time of the year for romance in the animal world. Blackie is probably on one big booty call in the neighborhood. Unless he's been neutered of course.


When you mentioned cat and anti freeze and missing in the same post I have to wonder... If cats get sick they will often wander off to a quiet place. Check all the bushes, sheds etc. Good Luck!

Missy said...

A couple of other people have mentioned it, but is it possible Blackie consumed some of the antifreeze leaking from your van? Cats like it, it's sweet to them, and it's also deadly, even in small doses.

We have a cat, Spooky, that just showed up one night and we started feeding. He kept coming around, eventually we took him to the vet, and now a year later, he sleeps all over my clean laundry and my daughter's pillow. He is the most awesome cat, too. And once in a blue moon, he'll go outside and disappear for half a day. He always finds his way home, though. Hopefully your Blackie will, too.

Estrelleta said...

I wouldn't worry about Blackie. I have two cats (one of them for 11 years!) and sometimes they disappear for a while: two, three days, and a couple times it was even a week. But they always come back. So don't put away your cat food yet, cause Blackie is probably going to be back today or tomorrow.

Vicky said...

Hoping you find Blackie...they don't really need to lose another pet.

I know all about good

Alisa said...

sorry about the missing pet-

and you had me laughing with the resolutions- and the budget- oh the budget ... we have been doing the cash system and it has been a great blessing for our family- but that other category gets us too- this month it was the plumber-
and those unexpected letters in the mail- the worst!!

Rita said...

Take Blackie's pillow and some of your kids' shoes and put them in front of your house. Worked for us. We lost our cat (several times) and our resident "cat lady" told me this tip. She said after the cat is lost for a few days, especailly if they are treed, they get disoriented and need the smell of their loved ones to get them back. Good luck!

Cathy in MI said...

I don't do a budget but I should. Sorry 'bout your escrow...

I hope Blackie shows up.

My resolution to grocery shop on a regular basis (rather than eating out too much) is working pretty good. I just need to remember to take stuff out of the freezer for when we are going to need it.

Trish in Leesburg, VA said...

Aww! I know how Brayden feels cause I had a black cat named Ranger when I was in high school and he went out to do his business one day and never came back :(

lynne said...

Sorry to hear about your cat, my beloved black cat is currently sitting on the edge of me keyboard. I have the furriest keyboard in North London.

Good luck with the budget, I hope it gets easier. Rises in mortgage payment's suck I know. I freelance so I'm taking things on a month by month basis and hope I don't have to touch my nest egg. Sigh.

Regards the gym thing, your a wise woman, I wouldn't go to the gym in January either wayyy too crowded with all those people plunging headlong into their new years resolutions. By February they will have thinned out ;)

I hope Blaine's treatment is going well.