Saturday, January 30, 2016

SAHM No More

Little Miss Moneybags is now a working mom!

There's so much to the story that it's hard to figure out where to start. The last month has been fairly chaotic - we've bounced around from both ends of the "SAHM returning to the workforce scale" and looked at multiple options for childcare. We've been frugal in some ways and spendthrift in others. Each event has enough to talk about to generate its own post, but I don't know if I'm ever going to catch up to my own life in that regard, so I'll just sum up here.

I've been home for about three years, since Pickle came home from her very long NICU stay. While I never intended to be a stay at home mom it was definitely the right choice for our family at that time and I am so, so thankful that Peanut and I had made arrangements in case it was required - we were able to be a one-income family without any trouble, and still managed to cash flow every month (even with emergencies), pay down student loan debt and save for retirement, and live comfortably. To be sure, our emergency fund is nowhere near where I'd like it to be, we've managed to do no college savings for our kids (aside from gifts they've been given for that purpose), and while Peanut has done very well increasing his earnings every year, our expenses have risen as well. After about two and a half years at home, I started to feel a little stir-crazy and was having a pretty hard time emotionally and intellectually with the challenges of being around small children 24/7. It got to the point where we felt like even if we had to take a loss on childcare costs in order to get me back into the workforce, it would be worth it for our family.

I took a standard approach to job searching - applying for relevant positions, letting my network know I was looking - and also reached out to companies that might have a need but no job posted. I had a lot of interviews but wasn't getting any offers. I had just started thinking seriously about starting a full-time freelance business when I got an offer for part-time work. Freelancing was very much a last resort for me (the whole point of going back to work was to get out of the house and talk to other adults every day, and I've talked before about how I don't want to be an entrepreneur). So I took the part-time job, even though it didn't cover daycare expenses.

In a way, it was a nice transition back into the working world and possibly a better transition for the kids to be away from me only three days a week instead of five. It's been great to be working but not awesome to know that we are literally paying a price for me to do that, not to mention the additional costs of my commute and the additional food costs (lunches out, takeout for dinner, and a lot of food waste that I wasn't able to manage very well). But it definitely fit in with the stories I've heard of women who stay home for a few years - what it does to our career trajectory, what it sets us up for in the future. Well, this is my bed, and I'll lie in it.

Then, the old saying that the easiest way to get a job is to have a job came true for me. A series of events led to me being offered a high-level position with unbelievable pay (more than Peanut will make for several more years), excellent benefits (financial and otherwise), challenging work, something that makes a few ticks on my bucket list and also sets up the rest of my career in an interesting and possibly life-changing way. Literally overnight, I went from being a drain on the family finances to the breadwinner and a potential employer, as we can now afford things like a nanny and a housecleaner. Peanut has the opportunity to take some creative risks with his own career. This is the kind of thing I dreamed might happen after leaving the workforce, but I never actually thought it would happen. It's very much like winning the lottery - it's made that kind of difference in our family's financial future.

It's been a little bit mind-boggling, to say the least. I'm hoping that as things shake out I'll have more time to talk about it here - there's a lot to unpack.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

2016 New Years Resolutions

Well, perhaps one of my resolutions should be to finish what I start, since it's taken me more than the first full week of the year to finish this list! Better late than never, I guess - I took the time to think hard about these instead of dashing off some less personal resolutions.

1. Say hello first. I've noticed that I often wait for someone else to be the first to acknowledge me when I'm not sure what else to do - things like dragging the garbage cans out to the curb at the same time as a neighbor, or waiting at preschool pick-up with another parent. It feels like we should say hi or maybe chat a little, but I am waiting for someone else to take the lead. I'm going to say hello first from now on, whenever the opportunity comes up.

2. KonMarie my house. I've been decluttering according to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and it is, indeed, life-changing. But there are some areas of the house I haven't really tackled as well as I could - my own wardrobe, my book collection, the basement in general. I've gotten rid of a ton of stuff, but I know there's more that I can send back out into the world.

3. Pay for childcare. Things are hap-hap-happening on the job front, which is great, and I have some other opportunities as well. This requires paid childcare (and probably additional free childcare from my in-laws). My goal is to earn enough net income to pay the childcare bills - and a nice bonus would be bring in a little more than that, too.

4. Better sleep hygiene. I go on jags about this where I'm good about it and then I fall into terrible habits like watching Scandal for two hours later than I wanted to stay up. My kids have better bedtime routines than I do, and this is an area where I need to treat myself like a kid, I guess, and get strict.

5. Be curious about parenting. I often feel frustrated that things don't go the way I expect them to with my kids. I find that when I just let things unfold, I am almost always pleasantly surprised. I learn things that I didn't know they can do, just by wondering if they can - so my goal this year is to be curious more often and see what develops.

6. Align how I spend my time with what I want to be doingThis article about a seminar that helps first-year college students plan the next four years of their lives struck a chord with me, particularly the suggestion to make a list of how you want to spend your time, and then to make a list of how you actually spent your time the previous week. I know that there would be quite a disparity between my lists, so I'm striving to make active, conscious choices on a daily basis that brings those two things closer into alignment.

Monday, January 4, 2016

2015 Spending Recap

Previous Years: 2010201120122013, 2014

2015 2014 % change
blog $40.50 $37.62 8%
business $46.68 $64.48 -28%
car jeep $669.95 $662.58 1%
car mazda $1,882.43 $3,065.02 -39%
Car Toyota $6,866.73 n/a 68667200%
cat $169.26 $344.20 -51%
cell phones $1,529.95 $1,345.62 14%
charity $454.18 $150.00 203%
clothing $1,183.10 $1,137.07 4%
dental $2,814.55 $1,188.15 137%
electric $1,178.40 $1,392.48 -15%
electronics $17.23 $468.37 -96%
Entertainment $989.82 $929.21 7%
food  groceries $5,234.81 $5,273.68 -1%
food  other $3,178.88 $2,719.13 17%
gardening $175.76 $21.95 701%
gas $727.39 $913.73 -20%
Gifts $1,185.30 $527.63 125%
helicopter/robot $0.01 $189.35 -100%
house $19,199.83 $16,761.92 15%
household $2,206.51 $2,893.55 -24%
hygiene $380.43 $380.30 0%
insurance $1,224.96 $560.00 119%
internet $803.13 $906.84 -11%
medical $4,407.81 $254.20 1634%
sewing/quilting $52.48 $6.99 651%
school $270.00 n/a 2699900%
transportation $140.00 $350.00 -60%
travel $1,167.03 $1,627.26 -28%
water & trash $919.73 $1,047.04 -12%
yoga $0.00 $40.00 -100%
Total $59,116.84 $45,258.37 31%

We are really consistent in some categories - hygiene, for example, clothing, entertainment, groceries. Like, weirdly so. A difference of $0.13 in hygiene? (which includes toothpaste, deodorant, feminine products, hair cuts). That's almost creepy. :)

The increases were the purchase of our Toyota, a big dental expense (root canal/crown, yay), a big uptick in gifts (lots of babies born in our lives in 2015!), and a major change from the last three years is that Pickle's medical assistance from the state ran out and we are now responsible for our out-of-pocket medical expenses. Previously, due to her special needs, state medical assistance covered all of her medical expenses that our primary insurance didn't cover - like the deductible, which we usually met very early in the year (and we have a high interest deductible plan). So we didn't have many out-of-pocket medical expenses for Peanut or I in 2013 or 2014, even though I had a baby! But Pickle has now aged out of her original approval for state assistance, and her remaining diagnoses do not qualify for her to continue to receive it. This is not even a mixed blessing - I am happy to pay for our medical care, because it means that Pickle is overcoming all the side effects of prematurity! After all of the excellent care we have received, paying our max out of pocket of $6,300 a year still seems like a bargain. We cycle our medical expenses through an HSA so we don't have to pay income tax on those dollars, too.

Despite the increase in our spending, we were able to save a little bit as well and also maxed out both of our Roth IRAs for the year as well as contributing to Peanut's 401(k) up to the match. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

2015 New Years Resolutions Recap

1. Less yelling. When I failed this one, I failed pretty spectacularly, so it's hard for me to dwell on it too long. I know that there were moments that I managed to succeed, but the moments that stay with me are the ones where I tripped up. On the plus side, I made the effort, I did a lot of research on parenting approaches to give me more tools to deal with frustration or manage our lives in such a way that yelling is less likely, and we've taken steps to mitigate the situations I have the hardest time dealing with.

2. Get stronger. I felt pretty weak physically at the beginning of 2014 after spending almost a full year in a high-risk pregnancy and then recovering from a c-section. I didn't manage to get any kind of regular exercise routine in place, but I did make an effort to walk to the park or preschool, take the stairs, carry both kids at once, and even do some home-based yoga for a while. I feel almost back to my old self. I'm in as good of shape as can be expected for this period of my life, I think. 

3. Treasure the moment.  At the end of 2015, I will have a preschooler and a toddler - no babies. I wrote that sentence a year ago, and it literally brought a tear to my eye today to realize that it's true. Baby Bear is a full-blown toddler, with full-blown toddler tantrums, a toothy grin, and those first wobbly steps about to appear any minute. This year, it has been really hard to treasure the moments - Baby Bear has been a much more difficult baby than Pickle ever was (colic, constantly nursing, never sleeping - oh, god, the not sleeping) so I have very much looked forward to milestones instead of sniffing baby heads and pinching baby toes. This is a year I will be relieved to never have to live through again, but I think I've managed to notice and be present for a lot of the really amazing moments (like the other day, when Pickle asked to sing Baby Bear a song for his nap, and then rubbed his back and sang to him in an eerily familiar mimicry of the way I do it for her). 

4. Max out retirement. Success! We maxed out our Roth IRAs and Peanut contributed to his SEP IRA to get the employer match (which has not always been managed correctly, but it's been documented and sooner or later all the money will show up there). 

5. Bring in some side income. Success! I sold a bunch of baby stuff, medical supplies, books, and other household items, participated in a medical research study, and did some Swagbucks/survey/reward app things. It wasn't a ton of money, but it did add up, and I also tried hard to find ways to save money on regular spending, which is a good use of my time as well.