Thursday, March 28, 2013

This Saturday: The Secret Life of Money

I got invited to watch a screener of an upcoming Discovery Channel special called The Secret Life of Money, and I found it really interesting!

You deposit your money in your local bank - where does your bank deposit its money?
How are coins made? 
What does a gold ATM machine look like - and what does it dispense?
What does the new $100 bill look like?
Are you ready to say goodbye to physical money and hello to a digital-only currency?

All of this is covered, along with a lot of other stuff. One segment of the show particularly caught my attention, about an artist who makes art that looks like money - and attempts to exchange it for goods at stores around New York City. I imagine he's turned down more often than not, but his method is sparking conversations about what money really is (an agreement) and what value it inherently has (none, other than what we bestow upon it). And he's got a neat little plan for helping the store owners who take him up on it get something they can take to the bank in exchange for taking a chance on him - but you'll have to watch the show to see that. 

It sort of reminds me of the episode of 30 Rock where Liz dates her cousin, because (before they know they're related), they argue with a bodega guy about whether he has to take a $100 bill. Since it's "legal tender for all debts public and private", his "no bills over $20" is an illegal policy and those signs always used to drive me bonkers when I lived in NYC. If we can agree that these pieces of paper have value, then they should always be accepted, and if they're not accepted then they don't really have any value and so why don't we just barter something else and skip this whole carrying money around thing in the first place? 

Anyway, check out The Secret Life of Money on Saturday at 9 eastern time for all that and more. There's more about the special on the Discovery Channel website.  

Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post, although I did get to watch the episode ahead of its air date. I just think this is really cool!

Sunday, March 24, 2013


So, in the interest of full disclosure, I have not yet read Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In. I've read a lot of the posts around the blogosphere that the book has inspired, and it leaves me with one question.

Why is being a business leader - male or female - the pinnacle of achievement to which we are all supposed to aspire?

The assumption is evident in the editor's note on this article, which really stuck in my craw:  What's really holding women back? The glass ceiling? The boys' club? Having a family? Or is it women themselves?

What's really holding women back FROM WHAT? Why is it a given that everyone regardless of gender wants the CEO's office or salary or responsibilities? Or even upper management?

In the hierarchy of every office that I've ever worked in, the number of people at each subsequent level of management gets smaller. And I'm not talking about the percentage of women but the straight up number of people - you've got one CEO, three executive VPs, six middle managers, 27 staff people. Obviously, not everyone is going to be able to rise to the top - so why does it reflect badly that some people just decide from the get-go that they don't want to deal with eighty-hour weeks and having nannies watch their kids grow up?

I have mentioned before that I realized that I don't want to be the boss - and I mean that in both the sense of the corporate cog-in-the-wheel and the entrepreneur. Two quotes from this article in New York Magazine sum up how I feel:

"Maybe most important, what if a woman doesn't have Sandberg-Slaughter-Mayer-level ambition but a more modest amount that neither drives nor defines her? "


When Slaughter tours the lecture circuit, she is often approached, she says, by women younger than 30 who say, "I don't see a senior person in my world whose life I want."

That last one is especially important - when I lived in New York, everyone above me seemed so stressed. They had hours-long commutes, and they worked 60+ hour weeks. They "worked hard and played hard." They slept poorly and ate worse, they complained about how the nanny raised their kids, they tried to bow out of work parties because they were so exhausted. Worst of all, for someone working in publishing - they didn't have any time to read. They read summaries of the books we were working on, but they never read for pleasure, never read anything else that was being published in the world. Why work with books if you don't have time to read them?

That was a big reason why Peanut and I moved away. We wanted to live in a place that allowed us the freedom to quit jobs we didn't like, to have a nice place to come home to and time to enjoy it, to have time for hobbies. We wanted to be close to family and friends and be able to spend time with them instead of working. All of these decisions were made for US, without regard for gender. We knew that we would be "hurting" our careers by moving to the midwest and "settling" for a "mediocre" life.

I'll tell you what, though, I am happier here. I am happy in a deep, secret part of me that I never had access to while I was surrounding myself with Beautiful People doing Interesting Things on their Way to Greatness. And I only got that way by stepping off the treadmill for less prestige.

But of course, the discussion that Sandberg's book has prompted is most specifically about women leaving the workplace to raise children, and I'm in a peculiar place with regards to that right now myself.

I've had a lot of jobs and have worked in two different industries. I'm goal-oriented and I like to work. Right now, I'm staying at home as a fulltime mom - I can't even get to the housewife or homemaker part of it, because being a mom is more than a fulltime job. And it's the hardest job I've ever had. The pay is abysmal, the hours are terrible, the boss demanding. Compared to this, my office job is a piece of cake. I'm good at it, I know what I'm doing, I understand the expectations, the compensation and hours are more than reasonable. No one throws up on me.

I have a few more months of maternity leave before I have to decide whether I am going back to work or not. I know how lucky I am in that this actually is a choice available to me, financially, but I'm frustrated that I live in a world that seems to think that only one of those choices is a valid one, and that the other option is "holding me back".

The best commentary I saw on Sandberg's book was over at The Simple Dollar, where Trent covered the idea that "leaning in" can apply to men as well as women, and that the most important thing anyone should do is to take time to consider where they'd like to lean and how far. I totally agree with him that we should all take an honest look at our lives and realize that it's impossible for anyone to truly have it all, regardless of our gender, and to make sure that we're making the choices that really will give us the lives we want.

On a related note, I think I would like to teach Baby M to respond to questions of "What do you want to be when you grow up?" with "Happy!" and hope that the asker lets her define that for herself.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

What do your habits cost you?

This is a neat little website that tallies up the cost of your vices - smoking, drinking, fast food, lottery tickets - and helps you visualize how much you could save if you gave them up. Very clever!

Cost of Your Vices

Here's mine:

Source: eBay Deals Blog

As a new mom, I guess I don't have many vices! I haven't had an alcoholic beverage in months, and I avoid caffeine while pumping as well. For fun, I put in how much I used to smoke, and quitting has saved me $613 per year - probably more than that, since I was buying cigarettes in New York where they cost about $12 per pack.

This is a neat little tool for figuring out where you can quickly cut down extraneous spending. What's your cost?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Baby M Update

Thanks for your comments on my recent post about coming to terms with feeding Baby M. Several of you mentioned that she's thriving at home, which made me realize that it's been a while since I've posted an update on her health.

Because, well, she's not thriving.

She's doing okay. We don't have an official diagnosis yet of failure to thrive, but she has gained less than a pound since leaving the hospital nearly eight weeks ago, and babies are supposed to gain around two pounds per month. Moreover, she has lost weight between her last two weigh-ins, and is taking in only half the volume of formula that she should be taking. She has dropped from the 10th percentile (respectable for a preemie) to between the 2nd and 3rd percentile.

It's a complex situation. Due to her severe chronic lung disease, she has to work really hard to eat. Making things more difficult is the fact that we have to thicken her formula to the consistency of honey to keep her from aspirating on it (basically sending it down the wrong pipe and choking on it). That makes it even harder to suck. And then there's her reflux, which is heartbreaking to see - she doesn't spit up that often, but you can tell that the acid is traveling up and down her esophagus and hurting her. She doesn't like to swallow anything from the pain, and frequently screams, fights, or refuses her bottles. She's on meds, and we keep her upright, and we have feeding therapy, and we're trying every remedy under the sun but this is something that we may just have to wait out.

What all of this means is that I am expecting her doctor to recommend supplemental tube feedings, either by nasogastric tube (which goes through her nose) or g-tube (which requires surgery). At the end of February, she was given a few more weeks to turn things around and start gaining weight but since she's now losing weight, I'm not optimistic that we will avoid a tube. We should find out more next week.

Aside from the feeding issues, she is doing well. She's generally cheerful, very smiley, interested in the world. She sleeps well, including through the night. And she's reaching a lot of her milestones for gross and fine motor and social skills. This is one of those things that can be par for the course with preemies, so we're doing everything we can to support her through it, and get through it ourselves.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Mid-Month Goal Check

Here's where I'm at with this month's goals:

1. Once again, get this whole estate planning thing taken care of. In progress! I've read a NOLO book about estate planning and have started a second book, which I'll just skim. The Modern Gal pointed me towards the excellent website Get Your Shit Together, and between the downloads available there, the books, and a few quick google search for state-specific questions, I think I can actually take care of this WITHOUT a lawyer. No need to make an appointment, find childcare, and pay for advice makes me much more likely to follow through on this. 

2. Do some menu planning! I made a menu plan for this week! And I bought the things I needed and for two nights in a row I have made the things I said I was going to make! I like this. 

3. Start - and hopefully finish - taxes. Success! Federal taxes are filed and we are waiting on our REFUND! I have not had a federal tax refund in....oh, eight years or so. Due to freelance work, we always end up owing, but we had a banner year last year between buying a house and having a baby and not doing a lot of freelance work, so we are getting money back this time! We did state taxes by hand, something else I haven't done in the better part of a decade. Those just need to be printed and sent off with a tiny payment. 

How are you doing on your March goals?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Costs of Feeding a Baby

I really connected with this article about breastfeeding a preemie. Well, it's not really about breastfeeding - it's about pumping. I've been pumping for six months now, and over the last eight weeks I have realized that Baby M is never, ever going to breastfeed.

That's been really disappointing to me. I had planned a natural birth, I didn't get that. I planned a full term baby, I didn't get that. I planned to nurse until she was ready to stop, and I figured that even though I didn't get anything else that I wanted, I could get that - I started pumping immediately and had a great supply. I haven't slept more than four hours straight since she was born and I was happy to do it, if it meant that someday we could have that connection.

But it's not going to happen. She learned to eat by bottle, and that's hard enough for her. She can't latch properly. My letdown is too strong for her. She chokes on liquids that are thinner than honey. And she has to eat upright because of her reflux. It's just not going to happen for us. I mentioned this to her feeding therapists, and they gently confirmed that I'm right.

So, now what? Do I gleefully throw the pump away and sleep all night long? Not quite - in addition to the milk that I've donated to preemie moms in my area and to Prolacta, I am supplementing for a friend whose supply is not enough to meet her baby's needs. I am happy that I've been able to do all of this.

But I'm done. I'm going down from five pumping sessions a day to four, and in a week or two I'll drop another one. As I slowly wean down my body's milk production, I will also learn to become comfortable with the fact that Baby M's first year of nutrition will not cost nothing like I'd hoped - in fact, since she got switched to the hypoallergenic formula, it now costs $45 PER CAN. (We are getting some  financial assistance with that since it's a prescription but that won't last forever.) With a can lasting about four days, we're talking several hundred dollars a month in formula - a far cry from the slight increase in our grocery bill that I envisioned as I ate everything in sight.

But you know, the author of that article is right - sometimes the best thing we can for our babies is not the thing we've been led to believe. Baby M got breastmilk via feeding tube for four months, and we've got a freezer full for her to drink from a sippy cup when that day comes. And that's okay. What's best for her, ultimately, is that I let go of my preconceived plans for how things will go, and just roll with the punches.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

When a treat's not a treat

The other day I popped into the Starbucks in our local Target. Staying home with Baby M, who can't leave the house except for doctor's appointments, means that I don't get out much, so I was excited to treat myself - plus I had a gift card, so it was basically a free treat!

I always order a tall soy no-water chai latte from Starbucks. The spicy, nutty flavor is divine and the size is just right. It was the perfect complement to a snowy day.

Of course, you can probably see where this is going. I tossed in a little packet of cookies to use up every last cent on the gift card ($.28 out of pocket) so I didn't notice that the cost of the latte was a little more than usual. I had gloves on so I didn't notice that the cup was slightly larger than usual. And it wasn't until I was out of Starbucks that I took a sip and realized that this was not my tall soy no-water chai.

No, it was a grande non-fat chai, with water added to the chai concentrate. UGH. I peeked at the receipt, and sure enough, that's what had been rung up. Since I missed correcting the cashier when she rang me up and was already out of the store, I decided to just suck it up and stick with my incorrect beverage. It would probably be close enough to give me the little pick-me-up I'd been hoping for.

Only it really wasn't. The soy gives the chai a nutty flavor that was utterly missing from my drink, and the watered-down chai left it not nearly as spicy as I like it. Plus, cow's milk - ick!* And since I can't finish a grande size of the version I do like, of course, I didn't finish the grande version of the one I didn't like.

It got me thinking about value - the expected value of something and the actual perceived value of something. I would not have paid real money for that drink - and in fact, if I had paid the $4 in cash that it cost, I would have gone back in and apologized that I missed the mistake but asked for the drink I really wanted. Because it was a gift card, I just sort of accepted it, even though it wasn't that enjoyable. But someone spent that $4 in real cash - the person who gave me the gift card. I'm sure they wouldn't have wanted me to get something I thought was actually kind of gross.

Even more than that, I had gone in expecting a treat and didn't get what I was hoping for. This left me unsatisfied, and was, I think, partly responsible for the unplanned purchases that I made while grocery shopping afterwards. Ice cream in a blizzard? Pre-made sausage pancake corndogs? Who am I? 

When a treat is rare, anticipated, and hits the spot, it erases desire for itself. This gives it power. Taking away any of those elements, I would argue, leads to something that can cause financial or other excess - too much spending, too many calories, too many wasted minutes.

*I hate cow's milk! I feel like I can taste the grass and the onions and whatever the cow has been eating.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Proud Parent of a Preemie

Today is Parents of Preemies Day. I'm generally not one to become an activist about causes, be they political, religious, community-based or otherwise. But being a parent of a preemie has changed my life forever, and I can't not speak about it.

Once upon a time, I did not feel like I was cut out for motherhood. I did not believe that I possess enough patience, or gentleness, or selflessness to care for another person the way I believe a child should be cared for. Over time, my opinion on that changed. I was excited to try to have a baby, and devastated when I thought I couldn't, then elated when I found out I was going to, and terrified when I had only five weeks from two pink lines on a stick to ten pink fingers and ten pink toes waving at me from an incubator.

The thing is, it's not just my daughter who was born prematurely. I was born into motherhood prematurely. Peanut was born into fatherhood prematurely. Becoming a parent is a process that starts during - perhaps even before - pregnancy, and the weeks and months of pregnancy allow for parents to prepare for how their lives are about to change. I didn't have that. And that's been hard.

But although my little family is a premature one, it's perfect and I'm proud of it. Peanut is a great dad. He's gentle and infinitely patient with both me and Baby M. I'm a great mom. Turns out that I can put aside my own concerns for someone else. And Baby M, well. She's beat the odds and every time she smiles, she lights up our lives.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Women's Money Week: Future Planning & Financial Planning

I have written on here for, oh, the last year or so about how I need to get around to creating a will and advance directive and all that.

And I keep avoiding it.

I just...I just really don't want to face it. I don't want to answer hard questions about what might happen in my future. I don't want to make decisions about things that make me sad and scared. I don't want to face the fact that I am mortal.

It's irresponsible, especially now that Peanut and I have a child. I know that. I guess I am superstitious that the universe won't cause anything bad to happen to us without these documents in place, and perhaps bad things will happen if we spell out how we would like them to be handled.

I realize that this is not true. Anyway, it didn't work very well in the case of Baby M's birth, when we purposefully refused to choose a name as if that would prevent her from being born early. Newsflash - it didn't, and my daughter spent her first 24 hours as Baby Girl Moneybags (okay, they used our real last name in the hospital but you get the point).

But seriously, I owe her this. I owe my other family members this. It's a sign of love, even though it isn't fun - sort of like getting your sweetheart's name tattooed on you. Okay, it's not really like that at all, but it IS important.

And - I mean it this time, guys - I'm going to do it. I will read one book about estate planning. I've picked four lawyers that I'm going to call. I will set up a visit with at least two of them, and I will put in place whatever documents we need. And I will, if at all possible given Peanut's schedule, do this by the end of the month.

Check out other posts about future planning from Women's Money Week bloggers.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Women's Money Week: Happiness, Hobbies and Money

How do your hobbies affect your happiness? What about your finances?

I've had some expensive hobbies. Dance (costumes, classes), quilting (fabric), and even reading (some books you just have to own) compete for my spare time and my spare dollars. But what impact do they really have on my happiness and my finances?

I think hobbies are actually a very important part of our overall happiness. All work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy, after all. Even if you enjoy your work, you should have something else to spend time and mental energy on in order to be a well-rounded person. In my case, all three of my hobbies have made me very happy. Dance provides physical activity, a sense of accomplishment, and when I was performing with a troupe, the thrill of performance and camaraderie that comes with being part of something larger than oneself. Quilting creates something satisfyingly tangible for my effort, something that can be given as a gift or used and passed down within my family. And reading is the perfect form of both escapism and education.

Accomplishment, satisfaction, and entertainment - three great aspects of happiness. And what about the financial impact?

Well, I could argue that dance was the overall most expensive hobby - I spent thousands and thousands of dollars on costumes and classes. But I was able to turn that into paying performance gigs, and most years I broke even when all was said and done. I doubt I would have kept up with it for as long as I did if I was just spending money with no chance of recouping it (also, I would have had no justification for all the costumes!). So it looks like quilting is taking the place of dance as my most expensive hobby - fabric can be had cheaply, but of course the fabric you love the most is the most expensive bolt in the whole store. I've taken a few classes and would like to take more. Good sewing machines are not super cheap, and the longarm machines are thousands upon thousands of dollars (luckily, I'm not sure I'll EVER be prolific enough to need one). Even so, renting them by the hour has a hefty fee attached. Reading is obviously the cheapest hobby - books can be had for free from the library or swapped with friends and are easily resold to recoup some of their original expense.

However, I think that the cost of all three of these hobbies is well worth the joy they have brought to my life. As my life has changed, my hobbies have moved in and out of active enjoyment - I'm not going to dance classes anymore and have started thinking about selling some of my costumes. Instead, quilting has become something I do more of, since I can do it in spare moments from my home - no need even to put real pants on! And this, I think, is the biggest key to allowing your hobbies to provide maximum happiness for the least financial pressure: you can do anything but maybe you can't do everything, at least not all at once.

Check out some other posts on happiness, hobbies, and money from Women's Money Week bloggers.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Women's Money Week: Money and Family

I've talked before on here about how my family of origin impacted my view of personal finance (short version: Dave Ramsey, no debt, cash spending, etc.). What kind of money legacy do I want to leave to Baby M?

Minimal debt
I would say "no debt" here except I don't want her to feel like a failure if she takes out student loans or a mortgage (I had to struggle with some of that myself). Some debt is useful in achieving long term goals, and used properly, is a good tool to have in one's financial arsenal.

Financial cushion
Instead of relying on credit to help in emergencies, I would like to teach Baby M to rely on herself by creating a financial cushion that she can use to replace a broken-down car, quit a job she hates, or take advantage of an amazing opportunity to travel.

Fun in this life
As they say, you can't take it with you, so I would like to encourage Baby M to also enjoy life while she's here. There's no point in eating lentils three times a day just to die with millions in the bank. Spent responsibly, money can buy great experiences and help loved ones.

Now, how am I going to develop this legacy for Baby M?

Well, to start, I will model these behaviors for her. Children learn best by example, so Peanut and I will be examples of all three aspects of the legacy we'd like her to have. We've started a college fund for her to get her started in her adult life with minimal student loan debt. We will be teaching her financial literacy in age-appropriate ways throughout her life and helping her establish a savings habit. And, of course, we'll show her some of the fun stuff that money can buy - within reason!

Check out other posts about women, money and family from Women's Money Week bloggers.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Women's Money Week: Finding Time/Increasing Productivity

I've heard it said that if you want something done, ask a busy woman to do it. Even better if she's a working mom!

For some reason, women do tend to be ultraproductive. Working moms, in addition to putting in hours at the office, also shoulder the majority of childcare and housework, too. Are we martyrs or miracles? Well, you'll have to be the judge of that in your own life, but here are

Stay off Facebook
I have a friend who is amazing - she's raising two kids, working full time, and somehow manages to do things like make quilts (by hand! with embroidered names!) for new babies and bring meals to sick friends. I couldn't figure out how she does it all until I realized that she pretty much avoids the internet entirely. While that doesn't work very well for bloggers, I know that there are certain sites that I can easily waste two hours on while accomplishing nothing. Avoiding those sites gives me a lot of time to do things that are more valuable.

Turn off the TV
Peanut and I don't have a proper television. We do watch television series that are available on DVD, but the benefit of that is that we can do it on our own time - not a network's schedule. Obviously ignoring shows altogether would give you the most free time, but catching up on, say, Downton Abbey while pacing the floor with a baby in the wee hours is, I would argue, a pretty good use of my time. I'd be pacing anyway, after all. :)

Set realistic goals
One of the hardest things, I think, for women to do for themselves is to not try to be superwoman. There are some things that don't need to be done no matter how much time we have. Taking things OFF our to-do lists is the best way to get more time in our lives.

Check out some other ways to find time and increase your productivity from Women's Money Week bloggers.

Menu Planning Reboot

While I am staying at home with Baby M, I feel some responsibility for doing traditional stay-at-home wife/mom stuff, like having dinner ready when Peanut gets home. He has made it clear that he does not expect this, but I still want to try to do it - for one thing, I need to eat in the evenings anyway. For another, right now my bedtime is around 9 pm, so it's not like I have a ton of time to spend with Peanut when he gets home from work at 6:30. Having dinner together takes advantage of the limited time we have together right now.

However, my desire to do this has been shattered pretty consistently by reality, which says that Baby M is at her neediest during the hours when I would be preparing and eating dinner, and lack of sleep doesn't give me a lot of brainpower to think up healthy delicious any meals at all.

So I'm going to take the thinking out of it.

I came up with several categories (Pasta, Mexican, Crockpot, etc), and made a list of meals for each category. By assigning each day a category, all I have to do is look at the list and pick out a meal from it when planning meals for the week. No more coming up with recipe ideas from scratch!

Here's the plan:
Monday: pasta night
Tuesday: mexican
Wednesday: crockpot
Thursday: Stir fry
Friday: Leftovers or takeout date night

I'm not doing meal plans for weekends, because they're so unpredictable. But just taking care of the weekday evenings should take a lot of pressure off. Now I can simply select meals and make a list, no real planning required.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Women's Money Week: Increasing Income

It's Women's Money Week again!

Today's topic is Increasing Income.

Salaries today buy less than they did in the 1970s - one could argue that there are more things to buy, but the truth of the matter is that in constant dollars, our money simply doesn't go as far as it used to in spending power. This is why it's not enough to use coupons or find other ways to be frugal - we have to balance money-saving activities with actively bringing in more income.

This is one of the uncomfortable truths about personal finance. I say uncomfortable because for many women, negotiating a higher salary or asking for a raise are difficult things for us to do. So difficult, in fact, that I've almost always avoided doing either, waiting instead for my employer to reward me. (This has worked out okay for me, as I've gotten a raise at every performance review, but how much more could I have gotten if I asked for a raise? And of course, I've discussed my failure at negotiating salary out of the gate before.)

So, okay. Negotiating for a higher salary and asking for a raise are too uncomfortable. How else can you increase your income?

Get a second job 
A part-time job can really help supplement a lower than ideal salary - Trent shows how even earning $180 per week raises someone up several percentages in the income distribution mountain. It doesn't just have to be delivering pizzas or newspapers, either - there are a lot of part-time jobs available that many of us don't think about. A friend works in the call center/warehouse of a large consumer goods store just a few evenings a week and makes really good money. Plus it's totally active work, different from her sedentary day job.

Similar to a part-time job, freelancing brings in money in hours that might otherwise be spent watching Better Off Ted marathons. If you have a skill that you can leverage for additional cash, why not do it?

Develop a hobby that brings in money
Hobbies can be a big money suck, but sometimes you can turn them into money-making enterprises. Making goods to sell on Etsy, designing websites, or performing (music, dance, improv) - these things might be something that you're already paying to do. Find out if you can get paid to do them!

Check out some of the other great posts about increasing your income from Women's Money Week bloggers. What are some of your favorite ways to increase your income?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

February Recap/March Goals

Here's how I did on February's goals:

1. Investigate ways to lower cell phone and internet bills. Well, I investigated and we are staying where we're at for now. Comcast is the only option we have for the internet speed we need (for when Peanut works from home occasionally) and we no longer qualify for any of their new customer discounts. I even looked into adding a landline or something but it wouldn't result in a lower total bill. And with cell phones I think we are getting the best deal we can for two smart phones with unlimited data. These are the most annoying bills that we pay, but it looks  like, unless we are willing to sacrifice some quality of modern life, we are stuck with them. 

2. Seriously, get estate planning taken care of. Grr, utter fail again. I had no idea how busy I would be staying home with an infant, especially one with ongoing medical needs, and this just didn't happen. It goes back on the list. 

3. Get the #couponchallenge going again. Pass. I used coupons on most of my shopping trips, and even got a few good deals (razors for pennies!). I did not renew my newspaper subscription, however, so I don't have any new coupons coming in. I need to use up some of the ones I have or try a different tack with grocery shopping. 

And here are some goals for March:

1. Once again, get this whole estate planning thing taken care of. Yes, once again. 

2. Do some menu planning! I have a new idea for menu planning that I'll share in a future post, and I'd like to try to put it into action this month. 

3. Start - and hopefully finish - taxes. I've been collecting all the paperwork we need but I think I'm still missing a few things. Our taxes are going to be ridiculously complicated this year - we bought a house, had a baby, paid thousands of dollars in medical expenses, and received freelance income and disability payments. It gives me a headache just to think about it, but we're still going to do our taxes ourselves. I'm hoping to get started on those this week during Baby M's naps. 

What are your goals for May?

Friday, March 1, 2013

February Spending

Baby $259.99
Business $3.89
Car (Jeep) $44.15
Car (Mazda) $111.02
Cat $35.59
Cell phones $111.46
Charity $10
Electric $76.66
Electronics $88.54
Food - Groceries $206.58
Food - Eating Out $113.34
Gas $140.18
Gifts $28.67
House $1,366.54
Household Items $27.32
Hygiene $23.99
Insurance $235
Internet $72.50
Robot $37
Sewing/Quilting $39.94
Water & Trash $61.75

Total $3,094.11

Things of Note:
This spending recap represents the first time our finances are somewhat normal since Baby M's birth in September. We've been home all month, which means we've been buying roughly a normal amount of groceries and eating out less frequently. We've been washing cloth diapers pretty much every day, along with the loads of other laundry generated by a baby. I was surprised to see that our water bill did not increase compared to last month but our gas bill sure did. Both our water heater and our dryer are gas-powered (I will be line-drying the diapers outside in the summer, but it's been below freezing for most of the month here, so that's a no-go for now. I do line-dry the covers in the basement but the inserts don't dry fast enough down there before they're needed.)

One-time expenses for this month include the Jeep license plate renewal, my life insurance premium (you might remember that Peanut got life insurance about a year ago - and now I have a policy too), and some hobby expenditures for both of us. The baby expenses included opening a 529 plan for our precious girl, and a bunch of cloth diapers.

This is our first month living solely on one income - my first round of maternity leave included disability payments at 60% of my salary. So far, so good!

How did your February spending go?