Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October Recap/November Goals

October Recap
1. Stay on top of medical bills. Success-ish. Which is to say that I'm doing my part to stay on top of things, but I have no control over whether they handle their follow up in a timely manner. :p

2. Watch food spending. 
Success. I've pretty much quit grocery shopping so things don't go bad. I cleaned out the fridge, freezer and pantry in anticipation of Baby's arrival home, so I have a good sense of what we have. And I did do a little bit of freezer cooking, with what little room remains in our freezers aside from what I'm pumping.  

3. Start planning for when Baby comes home. 
Success. The nursery is taking shape. I made a big long list of to-dos before she comes home, and I'm steadily checking things off. They include things like finishing the quilt for her room, writing Christmas cards, reorganizing my clothes so that nursing-unfriendly clothes are stored out of the way, getting the car's oil changed and filling in her baby book. 

4. Take advantage of paying out our deductible. 
Peanut went to the dermatologist and I got my flu shot. 

5. Take a break. 
I have been careful to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night, even when waking once or twice per night to pump. I have taken some time to meet friends for a beer (pump and dump!), pass out Halloween candy to the neighbors' kids, and go back to yoga. I certainly haven't been having a life of leisure, but I have been successful in staying well and somewhat balanced. 

November Goals
1. Self-care. I go back to work next week until Baby M comes home from the hospital, so I need to be extra vigilant about taking care of myself, getting enough sleep, pumping frequently and not getting stressed out. 

2. Financial plan of action for Baby's homecoming. We will be dropping to one income when Baby M first comes home, for an indefinite period of time. I will feel more comfortable about this by having a budget in place (which will also stop me from buying cute baby clothes just because they're cute!). 

3. Ask for help. There are some projects I've undertaken that I am just not going to be able to finish on my own; for example, Baby M's quilt. I have finished the piecing of it and will hopefully pick up some backing this week, but it's awfully unrealistic to think I am also going to drive 30 miles to rent a longarm machine for a day to do the quilting - when I could be at the hospital snuggling or reading to my baby. I need some help with this and some other projects. 

4. Figure out taxes for 2012 and make adjustments. I need to do a dry-run of our taxes, which are going to be a nightmare this year, in order to make any last-minute adjustments. We'll be contributing to our Roths, but we have until April to do that. I'm thinking of things like charitable contributions and particularly scheduling dental work. If our medical spending is more than 7.5% of our income, we can deduct the overage, which will determine whether I schedule some procedures this year or next. 

5. Not go crazy on the baby spending. There's another consignment sale this month that I want to go to, and I am having two baby showers the same week. Those things, plus a package of preemie diapers and a new crib and car seat, really should cover all the possible needs we have for baby, at least at first. I really don't need more adorable preemie onesies, as cute as they are. 

What are your goals for November?

October Spending


Baby $358.93
Business expenses (deductable) $13.76
Cat $83.57
Charity $10
Clothing $27.79
Dental $333.40
Food—dining out $215.68
Food—groceries $135.19
Gifts $38.21
Household items $114.95
House $1,661.54
Hygiene $5.75
Jeep $95.16
Mazda $218.95
Medical $1315.04
Student loans $403.83
Transportation $100
Utilities $296.70

Total Spending: $5,428.45

Things of note:
Not too much out of the ordinary here. Our food costs are pretty low since I am eating at least one meal at the hospital each day, taking advantage of not having to think too much or spend money on preparing meals.

We have one outstanding bill to meet our deductible, which I will pay when I get an itemized statement from the hospital, so that should be the end of our medical spending for the year.

How was your October spending?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Consignment Sales

I have found a new holy grail sale, and it is not held in a garage.

Oh, no.

It is the kids consignment sale.

This is not to be confused with a consignment store, although it works pretty much the same way. Sellers provide clothing and other kids' stuff to be sold in a central location, and the organizers collect a percentage to cover the space, advertising and overhead.

I went to my first sale last week and I was really amazed. Garage sale prices, but better quality. Effectively, multiple sales under one roof. Crazy deals. Half-price days. Pre sales for new moms. And on and on. I got a giant trash bag of clothes for Baby M and for me, a boppy, a mobile, crib sheets, blankets, change pad cover, carseat bunting, and tons more for just $75. The mobile and the boppy alone would have cost that much new, and I got way better prices than what people are asking on Craigslist!

I WISH they had these for other things, like household items, or regular adult womens' clothing. I would go to them all.

From what I hear from experienced moms, you can get into a very nice cycle of selling off your old, gently-used kids' clothes and accessories in order to do your shopping for the upcoming season. I'm all about this, and have already started a box of items to sell at the next sale.

Have you ever been to a consignment sale?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Little Miss Milkbags

Would you sell your breast milk?

This thought never even crossed my mind until I saw a posting on Craigslist from a woman who wanted to unload some of the bottles and bags from her freezer. Talk about a renewable resource, and it's a limited opportunity - there are not too many women out there who are producing enough milk for their own baby plus others.

But - I am.

We have a deep-freeze and a kitchen freezer full of milk, along with a bin in the hospital's freezer, and I will continue pumping to maintain my milk supply for when Baby M comes home. We are starting to run out of space to store the "liquid gold" but I am leery of pumping and dumping - this stuff is truly valuable for babies and modern science can't replicate it.

I checked and it IS legal to sell breast milk in my state. Is it any different from "donating" plasma or eggs? Donors get paid in both of those situations; in the case of eggs, they can get paid quite handsomely. I think what I'm struggling with is that banks for both plasma and eggs are doing the paying; established breast milk banks are truly donation-based and mothers are not compensated financially. If you sell your breast milk you are dealing with an individual who for whatever reason cannot produce enough milk herself, and might be desperate to provide the benefits of human milk to her baby. It feels almost like I would be taking advantage of someone in that case.

Still, if I were to sell my milk, shouldn't I be compensated for supplies (breast pump rental, storage bags or bottles, labels) and time (15-20 minutes eight times a day adds up to several hours, not to mention that I'm losing sleep when pumping every three hours at night)? It is possible to donate it, where it tends to go for preemies whose mothers cannot provide milk for whatever reason, and that's an awfully noble cause, especially given the situation we are in now. But does it make more sense to give away something so valuable, or try to get compensation for it?

This isn't something that I'm seriously considering at this time, but check back when I have to start throwing food away because nothing more will fit in my freezer...

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Linkfest

Via The Consumerist: If you are ever within an hour or two drive of Unclaimed Baggage, you should absolutely go. I've scored all kinds of crazy deals there, and I love the randomness of the items for sale. I hate to think of the people whose stuff has been lost, but I do like benefiting.

Rachel at Small Notebook asks, "Do I work for this house, or does the house work for me?" RIGHT ON. I try to remember that I like things to be a certain way for company, but the reality is that I live in my house 365 days a year, and ultimately, it needs to work for ME to live in it - not look nice for guests but be a pain to deal with.

I love this list of 42 Things in 42 Years that Budget and the Beach has learned.

From Lifehacker: Things for the homeowner to do before winter hits (um, note to self: it SNOWED* here the other day, so get on these things!), ways to earn money online (I'm trying some of these out, just to see how legitimate they are),

I'm adding these break-and-bake cookies from $5 Dinners to my freezer cooking list for sure!

A guest post at Money Saving Mom details five mindsets that are imperative for frugal living. The comments section has great advice, too.

I just love Sqauwkfox's pictorial how-tos, and this cheap nursery wall art post couldn't come at a better time for me!

*Okay, it didn't stick. But still.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

How much would you spend on a pet?

Our little black fuzzball went to the vet today for a routine teeth cleaning, and I got a not-great phone call while he was under anesthesia - four molars are in trouble, along with the lower canines. They're in varying stages of decay, and there may be exposed roots and it'll only get worse - and it'll be $1,100+ to remove them. And I had five minutes to decide whether to go ahead with the procedure or have them wake him, and in the latter case it'll be an additional $160 for anesthesia at that time. 

What would you do?

Here's what I did: I cried. I called Peanut and I cried. I called my mom and I cried. Because $1,100 worth of dental work on a cat that doesn't seem to be bothered by these teeth is seriously not in the budget. Last week I found out that *I* need $1,200 worth of dental work (despite prescription toothpaste and religious flossing!) which I am delaying because, dammit, we cannot afford these things when I'm not bringing in my full salary and we have a child in the hospital. 

I feel a great responsibility for any creature that is under my care. I feel that to be the best cat parent I can, he should have those teeth pulled to prevent future pain and suffering. But I can't do it right now, I just can't. 

I told them to wake him up and felt terribly guilty when I went to pick him up. I'll be watching him closely to see whether his mouth seems to bother him, and when it appears that it does, I'll have to make this decision again. Unfortunately, I just can't afford to be the kind of cat parent I would like to be right now. 

I need to sit down and set a firm price limit, with Peanut's input. What if this were an emergency situation that required a decision to save the cat's life? Someone close to me has had to make that choice, and she chose to save the cat, twice, at great expense to herself. This is not a decision I want to be making in the heat of the moment. It's one I hope I never have to make at all, but if I do have to make it, I can't do it under duress.

I feel that my pets are part of the family, but at the same time, there has to be a limit on what they cost me. If you have pets, do you have a price in mind that is too high for you to pay to keep them healthy? What would you have done in my situation?


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

21 Days to a More Disciplined Life



One of the blogs I read on a regular basis is Money Saving Mom and today she's coming out with her new ebook, 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life. The ebook grew out of a series she did on her blog, and today, tomorrow, and Thursday, it's only 99 cents.

If you have a habit (or several) that you want to add or remove from your life, if you are looking for that extra bit of follow-through, or if you just want to figure out how to take charge of your life a little more, this is a great book to give you a kickstart.

There are no magical breakthroughs here, just a simple, methodical way to start changing your life on a basic level. And really, that's the best way to do it - that's the only way it'll stick after all.

My best advice to leading a more disciplined life is to take advantage of the little minutes. You know - ten minutes here, eight minutes there. Those minutes add up, but they are so easy to fritter away on the internet or on daydreaming. I try really hard to take advantage of the last five minutes before I leave the house or go to bed - are there dishes I can put to soak? A few things in this room I can pick up and put away? A small piece of a larger project I can complete? Taking advantage of those little minutes means that overall I am achieving my large goals without dedicating an entire weekend day to them.

My favorite part of 21 Days are the practical steps included to help you start practicing a more disciplined life - and we all know that practice makes perfect. To help YOU get started with a more disciplined life, I've got copies of the ebook to give away! To enter, leave a comment with your best tip for adding discipline and follow-through to your life. Winners will be announced Wednesday morning.
Disclosure: I received a free ebook to review, and this post contains affiliate links. My opinions are my own. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Dimespring!

Hey you guys! I'm one of 30 bloggers over at the new personal finance community Dimespring.
In sixth grade, one of my best friends seized on a new nickname for me: Little Miss Moneybags. He was teasing me about my changepurse, which was beaded (so cool!) and bursting with loose change. I collected change — pennies found on the street, dimes found in the couch cushions, quarters found in the cupholders of the family cars. He found it hilarious for some reason, but quit laughing when I was always able to get a snack from the vending machine.
Read more from my introductory post here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The WHY

I realized the other day my biggest WHY of personal finance: no stress.

Why do I clip coupons and try to match them to sales? Why is it so important to me to have an emergency fund? Why do I want to save part of every paycheck for "just in case"? Why did I live on a cash-only envelope system budget for years? Why did we buy half as much house as the bank said we could afford? Why do I try not to spend money on unnecessary stuff, even if it would be nice to have?

It wasn't so that Peanut and I could build a fancy nest egg and retire at 45. We like our chosen fields and we'd be bored with nothing to do. It's not so we could go on fancy vacations every year. It's not so we could ultimately buy All The Nice Things. It's not even so we can send our kid to college (we're not sure we want to pay her full tuition - working your own way builds character!).

It's because I'm the type of person who really needs to not be stressed out about money.

I handle stress pretty well in general, I think. I mean, a lot of it I internalize and stress about and maybe sometimes I cry in the corner of the bathroom in the dark for no apparent reason (ahem). But in emergencies, or Big Deal Stressful Life Experiences like having a child in the NICU, I do not freak out. I stay calm, I identify what needs to get done, and I make sure it happens. I am the queen of lists and reading all the books on the subject to have a well-rounded picture of the situation.

But if I had to worry about money on top of everything else, I would probably lose it. And that's the underlying reason why I am a sort-of obsessive saver, an underspender, and ultimately a personal finance blogger. Stressful life situations are bad enough, why add money worries on top of it?

Here are the things I am not worried about right now:

- Making the mortgage payment or putting food on the table. Peanut and I built a life that can survive on one income (we based it off of his income, when we probably should have based it off my [lower] income, but mine was more likely to be in danger at some point anyway).

- Paying Baby M's medical bills. I will never complain about our health insurance company again. I was sad when I found out that they didn't cover infertility treatment and I thought I would need it, but in all other respects I could not be happier that we chose the company we did. They are covering everything for Baby M's care after the deductible, and let me tell you: she is going to be a literal million-dollar baby. By her ninth day of life, her hospital bill was over $96,000, so that is no exaggeration.

- The future. Because Peanut and I are on the same page about our finances, I am not worried about how we'll make it. We'll figure out college savings versus retirement savings. We'll figure out daycare costs or dropping to one income for a longer period of time. We'll figure it out, and we'll do it together.

I say all of this not to brag, but to really highlight the importance of making choices for your future self. If old LMM had not avoided credit card debt, if old LMM had wanted a newer car, if old LMM upgraded her cell phone all the time or made lots of unnecessary purchases - my life would be a lot harder right now. Thanks, old LMM, for making those decisions.

If your old self didn't do you this favor, it's not too late. Start making those decisions now for your future self. Figure out your WHY and let that help guide you on your financial journey.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Linkfest!

This linkfest is brought to you by our cat, who is snoring adorably next to me right now.

Married with Debt
ponders life insurance for the working woman who doesn't have the higher salary and Money Q&A argues that even stay-at-home spouses need life insurance.  Whether you work outside the home full or part-time or you're a stay at home mom or dad, it's important to think about your contributions to your family in monetary terms, and make arrangements to continue those contributions in case the worst should happen.

I've been enjoying Budget and the Beach's updates on how she earns money via TaskRabbit. I love earning money in random ways, and I wish it had been around when I had time to do those sorts of things!

Four from Lifehacker: Finding a replacement when an online service you love shuts down (I really just like the links at the bottom of the article!) and reviving and refreshing foods that aren't quite fresh anymore (brilliant!). Facebook is up to shenanigans again with tracking things you do on AND offline - here's how to opt out. And keep this infographic handy for when bad things happen.


Budgets Are Sexy weighs the pros and cons of 529 college savings accounts. We haven't even started thinking of college savings yet - we'll get to it later this year though!

As usual, A Practical Wedding has something timely and spectacular for me to read: Pregnant While Feminist. (Editor's note: I was still pregnant when I read this. ;])

One Frugal Girl has kicked coupons to the curb. I haven't exactly done this - I just got my newspaper subscription situation worked out! - but I never did get drugstore couponing down. It's just too complicated for me, and I don't need most of that stuff or I'm brand loyal on those products anyway.

Plunged in Debt shares her meal planning guide - which allows her to keep her family's grocery budget to just $300 Canadian.

Trent at The Simple Dollar puts financial (and other) decisions in perspective by sharing the levels of thinking about life and money. This is a really eye-opening look at how the decisions that "don't matter" really do.

Erin at $5 Dinners has a list of items she's making to stock the freezer before her new baby is born. I am in the weird position of my baby already being born, but I'm totally going to stock the freezer for her arrival home this winter. Do you have any great freezer recipes to share with me?


Speaking of recipes, The Prudent Homemaker has a list of recipes featuring beans - enough to eat them every night!

Mom Life Today has freezer recipes that'll take you just an hour each week.

Blessed Beyond a Doubt has a list of fall crockpot recipes.

And Meet Penny shared the ultimate beans and rice recipe list.

What great posts have you read this week?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

September Spending

Baby $137.77
Business expenses (deductable) $3.89
Business expenses (reimbursable) $65.89
Cat $206.20
Charity $10
Entertainment $53
Food—dining out $325.64
Food—groceries $189.71
Gifts $86.29
Household items $24.71
House $1,465.54
Jeep $27.36
Mazda $61.95
Medical $22.99
Student loans $403.83
Utilities $285.21

Total Spending: $3,369.98
 
Things of note:

When half (and then 2/3) of the Moneybags household winds up in the hospital for half the month, it makes for less spending than usual! Of course, that's only because the bills haven't started arriving yet...

The biggest surprise is the cat bill - poor thing got a skin infection of some sort right before I went on a trip and then went to the hospital, so we weren't able to get him to the vet for three weeks, by which time they weren't sure what caused it. So we treated him for parasites, fleas, fungus, and something else, just to be safe. I'm surprised he doesn't hate me now given the amount of pills and liquid meds I've forced down his throat in the last two weeks. But he's looking better, and part of what we paid for is a health maintenance plan that gets him unlimited free office visits - so next time it won't be such a problem to have a friend run him over to the vet if need be.

How was your September spending?

 

September Recap/October Goals

September Goals
1. Spend some money on the house! Fail. I still want to do some of this, but I'm aiming to do it with used stuff over a longer period of time ($) rather than running down to IKEA and taking care of everything at once ($$$). Plus, we need to focus on nursery stuff instead! Here's what my list was:
  • "built in" bookshelves and desks (also means new computer chairs)
  • enough bookshelves to hold all our books
  • solve the linen storage problem (move or purchase a cabinet for the upstairs hallway, purchase one or two leatherette storage ottomans for the bedroom)
  • reupholster the dining chairs and fix the loose seats

And what it is now:

  • new to me computer chair (I currently use a chair from the kitchen table, and ow)
  • enough bookshelves to hold all our books
  • solve the linen storage problem (move a cabinet to the upstairs hallway, purchase a used storage ottomans for the bedroom)
  • fix the loose seats on the kitchen chairs
  • crib, dresser/changing table, rocking chair for nursery
2. Research and book childbirth and prenatal yoga classes, research and choose a pediatrician, and begin researching daycare options. Fail all around! However, I don't need to worry about some of these things now, as the situation has been taken care of. :)

3. Start considering alternative financial arrangements, and do some stuff I put off. I actually asked in the original post, "what if I deliver early or am put on bedrest?" See, I was trying to be prepared! In actuality, I didn't have time to actually consider anything, because I was admitted to the hospital only a few days after writing the post. Luckily, we had set up our lives to not need my salary - it mainly goes towards savings, so doing with 60% of it for now is not a hardship. The one thing I didn't get to that we really need to remedy is drawing up wills including determining who will care of little Baby M in the event something happens to me and Peanut.

4. Set an entertainment budget and stick to it. I did pretty well on this, mainly because I only had time to do one thing (treat my mom to a place I really wanted to take her) and then I had a baby. So now by default our entertainment budget is shot for a long time! :)

5. Start doing some stockpiling. Success! At least if you count breast milk. But aside from that, I've been clipping coupons and stocking up on baby wipes whenever they go below $2 a pack (is that a good price? It seems like a good price...). I'm not sure about stocking up on diapers yet; who knows what size she'll wear and I wanted to do cloth diapers anyway. But I'm also starting to plan freezer meals for when she comes home and I did get a bunch of my usual personal care stuff on sale so I don't need to worry about that for a while.

October Goals
1. Stay on top of medical bills.
I want to make sure to pay all the bills that come in as soon as possible so they don't get turned over to collections (it seems like medical bills get turned over faster than anything else!) and I also want to make sure we are charged only for things that actually happened (it seems like medical bills are frequently inaccurate!).

2. Watch food spending.
Hopefully this won't be too hard, given that for the most part we are eating free meals at Ronald McDonald or from the hospital cafeteria. Mostly, I want to make sure I'm not buying a bunch of food for home and then throwing it away.

3. Start planning for when Baby comes home.
Planning the nursery, figuring out what our schedules might look like, stocking up on baby supplies, freezer cooking so I don't have to worry about dinners, and learning how to balance going back to work with visiting the hospital every day - welcome to my new life. 

4. Take advantage of paying out our deductible.
With a preemie, it's likely that we'll be maxing out our deductible for the first few years of her life - but just in case, this is also a great chance for us to get in any doctor's appointments for ourselves. We're both going to the dermatologist for skin cancer screenings and little things we've put off, and I will have my annual physical as well as my c-section follow up. We also will both get a flu shot, and Peanut will get the whooping cough vaccine (I already had mine this year). Anything else you can think of?

5. Take a break.
I am not to the point of being run ragged - I am making sure to take care of myself, sleep enough, take vitamins, eat good food and drink lots of water. I can't hold the baby if I'm sick, so I WILL NOT GET SICK. Still, being at the hospital every day can take a toll, so I want to make sure I take time to do something fun as well, preferably with Peanut. We didn't have a chance to talk about how having a baby might change our relationship, and I want to make sure we keep our marriage strong during this hard time and during the easier times that will come. After all, Baby M will definitely not want to live with us in about 18 years - but I want to make sure Peanut and I still want to live with each other by then!

What are your goals for October?


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What Happened

Things are falling into a rhythm here in the Moneybags household - Peanut goes to work, I spent most of the day at our daughter's bedside in the NICU. She's adorable. And doing pretty well - we've had some "setbacks" a few times, but nothing major. And I put "setbacks" in quotations, because they are things that were totally expected - things like baby coming off the ventilator and then going back on (hey, she shouldn't even know how to breathe yet!), two rounds of treatment to close the hole in her heart (it appears that it worked the second time), a slightly suspicious something on her head ultrasound (could just be that she's so small right now). Stuff like that - no major infections or illnesses or other complications. Just a tiny baby that we're asking a lot of.

As for me, I'd say I am 98% recovered - I can take care of myself and my home, drive, do the grocery shopping, prepare meals, do laundry, all that sort of thing. Pretty much the only thing I am having a hard time with is wearing "real" pants - yoga pants are far more comfortable across my incision, and besides, I can get away with it in the NICU. So I do.

Emotionally, I am also doing pretty well. This was an extremely traumatic event for us, obviously. I was planning a natural childbirth with midwives attending; instead my worst nightmare came true - an emergency c-section with drugs and a surgical team of 20 people. I was scared for my life and the life of my baby during her birth. We became parents much sooner than anticipated, and with less warning than most. I have to use a breast pump to feed my child, which is impersonal and not the most pleasant sensation in the world. And yet - I am so happy that she's here, and that we're all okay, and I know that even if things don't turn out perfectly, we will continue to be okay.

So what happened? I had a placental abruption at 24 weeks and 2 days of gestation. I started bleeding heavily out of the blue and was admitted to the labor & delivery ward where I was given multiple drugs to stop labor, which sort of worked. That is, they would stop labor and then it would start again a few days later, and they would stop it and it would start, and after a week of this, Baby M was like, I've had enough, let me out! She was breech and in distress when the doctor made the decision to deliver, so there was never a chance for me to deliver normally.

All in all, despite having pretty much nothing go as planned with this pregnancy, I could not be happier or more grateful to the doctors and nurses. Every single one was compassionate, caring, gentle, and reassuring. They did their jobs and saved two lives - and if that's a little dramatic, well, they certainly changed my life forever.