Thursday, July 31, 2014

money worries: a few solutions (part 1)

I posted in June about how we have already started worrying about not only the cost of a second child but also about some new costs with Sawyer going to PreK and a few other payments coming up. We sat down and met with our bank and looked at what we spend money on each month and were pretty shocked to find that we actually should have $1500 left over each month after bills. How we spend that "left over" money was mystery though and we had to find a way to reign in what we're spending.

We looked at areas we couldn't change such as our utilities, mortgage, tithes and cell phone plans. We have a set payment plan with our utilities company (that Josh refers to as the "po' folks plan"), we certainly aren't going to downsize our house and we have a pretty decent cell plan, nor are we going to deny the Lord money that belongs to him. We then looked at some areas where we could possibly make some changes.

  • Takeout/Fast Food
Problem: We realized that while we don't spend a lot of money on luxuries like new clothes, gadgets, going out to restaurants and movies or travel we do spend a lot on random weekday lunches, lazy night takeout and quick breakfast runs to BoJangles or the local cafe.

Solution: We made a grocery list of lunch and breakfast foods and decided those little trips have to stop. We also set an "allowance" for the nights we both have meetings and have to make quick drive thru stops. I realize we could technically pack dinner on those nights too, which we will do some times but a little wiggle room for when we don't is nice.

  • Hospital Bills
Our next task was to figure out a better way to handle our extensive hospital bills from my & Sawyer's recent (and not so recent) visits and procedures.

Problem: We don't have any control over how much we owe nor over the probability of one of us ending up in the hospital again, but we decided to try to do something about how often/much we pay. Our hospital sends us five separate bills a month just for Sawyer on top of the ones we get from the radiologist and ENT.

Solution: I gave the customer service number a call and had a rather stern conversation (to put it nicely) about the way our account is handled. I finally got the representative to combine three of the bills into one so we can send one payment to the Greenville location, one to the Tarboro location and one to the Surgicenter verses five separate payments. One thing you may or may not know about a hospital, they can not send a collections agency after you over your bill as long as you make some amount of payment on time each month. We talked over taking out a personal loan to cover our hospital bills, but since the hospital cannot charge interest and can't get us when we can only pay them $10 instead of $30 a month, we decided to just leave them the same.

  • Cable/Internet
Problem: Here is where we hit a major snag. We pay around $150/month for our cable/internet services. We don't have a choice about the internet since we do have to take work home with us occasionally and Sawyer enjoys playing fun (educational) games on Nick Jr. and such. When it comes to the TV, I realize a lot of the shows we watch are available on Hulu or on the actual TV channel's website - but our sports are not. We have no desire to watch a football game after it has already happened.

Solution: We thought about canceling the service in all rooms but the living room and just letting Sawyer watch his shows on the iPad and then streaming Hulu to our TV in the bedroom but then realized that with our bundle it wasn't going to save us that much money. So, we haven't quite solved this issue yet.

Stop by tomorrow to see how we tackled our next biggest financial issues: our love for Pirate football (and how much it costs us) and the need for a car with better mileage and a lower payment!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

extra pieces

As you may have already read in this post, our spare bedroom is going to become a nursery in November so we have slowly been figuring out what to do with all the things we store in there and extra pieces of furniture with no home. And when I saw 'we" I mean "me" since all of my folded-in-the-dresser clothes were housed in the spare room in my dresser from my college apartment (and most of my hangup stuff was in that closet). 

the messy spare bedroom before all the moving around
To begin the clearing, I sold my beautiful Lilly Pulitzer comforter, recovered the upholstered headboard with a maroon sheet to use in Sawyer's room, promised my sister my white desk, and took down all my girly pink & green decor. 

Then I had to figure out what to do with my clothes. Knowing that I couldn't sacrifice an entire dresser full of storage for clothes, I convinced my lovely husband to paint the spare room's dresser & nightstand (since my little sister is about to move into a house with friends in Wilmington and could use our old nightstand) to match our current bedroom furniture and then just move both pieces into our room. 

the master bedroom
The dresser got tucked into the corner behind our door where we had a wicker love seat, that served as a storage spot for Josh's discarded clothes usually (the below picture is from when we first moved in, hence the over-the-toilet shelf sitting on the floor). 

I re-painted the pink and green knobs that were already on the furniture and just moved some pictures I already had on my nightstand and in the bathroom, painted a glass container to match the knobs and hung up a bird picture that had just been sitting in my closet needing a home. 

Sadly, as an idiot college student I threw out the handles that went with this dresser convinced I could find some cuter ones to fit. I was wrong. The holes on the dresser are a weird distance apart so in order to buy some handles to fit the drawers I would need to putty the existing holes and then have Josh drill new ones. That isn't going to happen (aka aint nobody got time fo' dat). So for now, there is grosgrain ribbon in the holes serving as handles. And yes, those are the throw pillow and shams stacked beside the dresser, because making the bed is hard.

You see that big strip of black fabric behind the nightstand? That's a blackout curtain that is literally thumb-tacked to the window casing. We already had the curtains from the hold house and I really need to recover them to match our bedroom (not to mention hang them) but for now, they are keeping the room sun-light free in the mornings and that's all we need. 

I am so pleased with how the dresser and nightstand came out (and extra pleased that I wasn't the one who had to paint them). Now we have more or less cleared out the spare room, the fun crafty things for the nursery begin!

Monday, July 28, 2014

slowly recovering and book reviews

I am finally crawling out from under the mountain of "to do" items on my list after recovering from ole Gary's removal two weeks ago. I have felt like such a wuss during my post-surgical weeks because I really thought I would bounce back a lot quicker. I was wrong. I made it to work Wednesday and Friday for only four hours each day and attempted to respond to 158 emails (that is not an exaggerated number, I legit had received that many in the 5 work days I was out). Sadly I not only missed lots of emails and meetings but also a baby shower (that I was helping throw) for our friends Laura & Samuel and a fun dinner with six of my girlfriends.

Thankfully, my time at home wasn't all bad. I finished Mad Men season six, read two Gillian Flynn books and got some prep work done for some nursery crafts! And now, my thoughts on "Gone Girl" and "Sharp Objects", both by Gillian Flynn.

I'd heard lots of different opinions about "Gone Girl" so I was excited with my friend Kate let me borrow it and make my own judgement. One thing for sure, is that it was was by far one of the most addictive books I've ever read. I can't say a lot about the plot without revealing some major spoilers, but here is a plot summary from Flynn's website:

"On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick Dunne’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick Dunne isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but hearing from Amy through flashbacks in her diary reveal the perky perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer? As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister Margo at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was left in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?"

I found myself disliking a lot of characters in this novel, and often saying aloud "this chick is crazy". It was a great read and I thoroughly enjoy Flynn's writing "voice", but was not pleased with how the book just kind of ended. I felt like it has been building up to a climactic ending and then just fizzled. But definitely worth the read!

When I finished "Gone Girl" I immediately started "Sharp Objects", hungry for more of Flynn's way with words. I was even more anxious to get into the book when I saw that the main character was a newspaper reporter (my former profession). Here is the plot summary, once again from Flynn's website: 

"WICKED above her hipbone, GIRL across her heart
Words are like a road map to reporter Camille Preaker’s troubled past. Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, Camille’s first assignment from the second-rate daily paper where she works brings her reluctantly back to her hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls.
NASTY on her kneecap, BABYDOLL on her leg
Since she left town eight years ago, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed again in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille is haunted by the childhood tragedy she has spent her whole life trying to cut from her memory.
HARMFUL on her wrist, WHORE on her ankle
As Camille works to uncover the truth about these violent crimes, she finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Clues keep leading to dead ends, forcing Camille to unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past to get at the story. Dogged by her own demons, Camille will have to confront what happened to her years before if she wants to survive this homecoming."

Yes, those words "WICKED above her hipbone, GIRL across her heart" are literal, the main characters had a very unique form of self mutilation, she actually carved words into her skin instead of just cuts. This story was even better than "Gone Girl" in my opinion. It was equally dark, made me constantly second-guess my own assumptions about the identify of the murderer of the preteen girls, and was once again written wonderfully. I will say that the only problem with the story was that it left me feeling very disturbed. Like, all I could do was think about this book. I couldn't sleep without thinking about it. In fact, I had to finally sit up in bed (which I was sleeping in alone due to fear of Josh or Sawyer hitting one of my five incisions) and read an excerpt from the bible to try to clear my head. 

I highly recommend both books! You can check out other books I've read and enjoyed on my "Shelfari" shelf at the bottom of my blog!