Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Money, Money, Money....MO-ney

I think about money a lot. Too much. My life is a constant scramble to bring in and push out the almighty dollar. Everything seems to always hinge on it--who owes me and who I owe. It comes in and goes out. Sometimes some sticks around, but it is almost always already spoken for.

I always try to pay everyone I owe promptly. Now, there may be some of my contractors who would argue with that, but by pay promptly, I mean way better than the average guy. I wish clients understood that when they pay late, I pay late and then the people I owe (great women I work with who also have families) pay late.

So, here are our priorities.

1) Taxes. Always taxes. When the hurricane was coming to Texas, Andy kept mumbling "stupid Texas." "No, Andy," we all kept saying, "stupid taxes." He got that straight from me. For months, usually February through May, I mumble those words every time I want something fun and don't have the money to buy/do it. I hate them. I understand why I need to pay them--but why so much? What is the incentive to make more? I am guessing you can figure out whose tax plan I am for in the election. Let's just say Obama will cost us even more.

This isn't a political debate (well, okay maybe it is just a little bit of a political debate), but I will say if I have to pay even more in taxes, there goes our charitable contributions and any chance of making it to Disney in the next ten years. Really, when I think about what I paid in taxes last year, it is depressing and I love to hear people moan about having to pay $3,000 at tax time. Oh, that's just awful. Whatever. We are doing better tax planning this year so we don't get hit so hard all at once, but pay it now or pay it later--we still have to pay way too much.

2) Mortgage. Mortgage always comes first. We both take the mortgage very seriously and it always remains a very high priority. My unpopular opinion is too many people today think a mortgage payment is optional and a flat screen is a better choice to spend their money on. Wrong people, you have it wrong. The mortgage company will take your house, but Citibank probably won't walk in your house and take your flat screen.

3) Education. And, that's education as like in the immediate. Yeah, we have college savings plans, but when we are paying for a private education for three kids, there isn't much left over to sock away for college, at least not at this point. I am the first to say that school is worth every penny, we love it and so do they. But, it's at the expense of many, many other things in life (and, quite frankly, I am sort of fond of material things), like a BMW...or college savings.

4) Eliminating debt we are tired of carrying around. Hello, I graduated from college in 2000. I haven't even put a dent (until now) in my student loans. Jeff's are the same and they are all rolled in to one big (small compared to many other people, I know) loan that has just sat there for years. We are ready to wipe it out and are pressing hard to do so.

5) Groceries, cable, XM radio and tennis. A family of five who buys good quality food and tries to eat everything humanly possible that is organic, fresh and farm-raised, our grocery bill is enormous. (see previous entry re: food issues, I have them). Cable, you know what a TV junkie I am. Really, I don't need all the channels, just like ten of them--and no movie channels. XM, I love it. That's all. I just love it. Tennis is a constant, so it's rolled in to the budget.

5) Everything else. Utilities, car payments, spending cash, home repair, cleaning lady, home repair, lessons and classes for the kids, clothing, etc. New windows this summer have helped with the utilities for sure. Home repair, more just around the corner. Seriously, after this--there won't be a room in the house we haven't touched. Finishing off the two upstairs bathrooms then laying low until the market picks up and planning our next move (it will be years, people). Clothes are pretty focused--The Gap (me and kids), J.Crew (him). And, everything else that chases us.

Money, money, money. It really is all-consuming. So, for the past few months, we have been very focused on trying to simplify our financial life. Simplify and relieve some of the pressure to keep it coming in just so it can go out. I am exhausted just talking about it!

Monday, September 22, 2008

I Am...

...a sloucher. I caught my reflection in a window the other day at lunch and I looked like a little old lady. It's getting worse and I am only 36. In fact, I am such a sloucher that I have a series of pictures of me from a photographer where I am leaning back out of fear I will appear to be slouching.

...a head tilter. Whenever I smile or listen carefully, I tilt my head to one side. I remember a school photographer telling me to stop tilting my head and he placed it center, I felt like I was leaning over to the left and going to fall!

...borderline obsessive compulsive. I may have told you this one before. I love order, things to be organized by color, by size, in groups, etc. I love uniformity and like to count in my head. Yes, I know. I told you I am borderline. My husband is the only thing that keeps me from going over the line. If the stack of papers is messy (anywhere in the world, except my office) I cannot just walk away--must...fix...paper!

...a chatty person in lines. I love to talk to strangers--anywhere, anytime and any place. Thank God I live in Indiana, where just about everyone talks to anyone. It is one of the things I don't like about traveling, going to cities where no one talks to you.

...some sort of food addict. I just don't know what kind. But, I clearly have food issues. Otherwise, a diet would work, but it doesn't. I eat to feel better when I am depressed, stressed, overwhelmed. I eat to express love and happiness (celebrations, fellowship of friends, etc.). I eat because food just tastes so stinkin good.

...my father's daughter. The good, the bad and the ugly. I wouldn't have it any other way.

...terrible at phone calls. I feel like I talk all day long. To clients, to Jeff, to the kids, to people (total strangers, remember? See above), the last thing I want to do is talk on the phone. Oh, and our phones all suck and it is very difficult to hear on them. Or maybe, it's because...

...maybe almost deaf in one ear. I swear I have such bad hearing. Don't whisper to me, don't talk softly in a crowd and definitely don't ask me to read your lips--I suck at that. And, I am not good at talking with people who have strong accents, I for some reason am not good at translating.

...loud. I am just loud, that is all there is to it. Our house is loud, our kids are loud. We are a loud family. I try to remember that saying about speak softly and people will listen, but it doesn't work for me.

...going to bed because I am an early riser. Wake me up before dawn and I can accomplish a full day's work. I wake up right away, don't need time to warm up, I am ready to go. But, don't call on me for anything after 8:30PM, I am toast. See? It's 10PM, way past my prime.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Game Show Time!

Let’s play a game. I will ask the question and then you answer. Your choices are either:

A) The Utility Sink: a single-well stainless-steal sink conveniently located just inside the garage door and in between the washer and dryer. This sink is also located near the vast majority of cleaning supplies we keep in the house, including abrasive scrubs, carpet and upholstery cleaners, bleach, dish soap and natural household cleaners.


B) The Kitchen Sink: a double-well extra deep stainless-steal sink located in the room where we prepare all the food for the entire family—at least twice a day, sometimes more. The sink is deeply cleaned each Monday by our faithful Michele, who disinfects, polishes and shines it back to its original beauty. It is the source of all food rinsing, chopping, draining and more—food, that is that is consumed by my family (made up of humans).

Ready? Here we go!

Question 1: The place where you would clean out paint brushes…is it A or B? Hurry, the clock is ticking!

Did you say A? Oh, sorry. I know that seems right, but not if you are my husband. The answer is B.

Question 2: The place where you would clean out a Camelback (a backpack with water storage capacity) that has been full of stale, nasty water for three months.

Your answer? Okay, I could go either way on this one. I think both A and B are right. Stale water is gross and stinky, but really not too detrimental to our food safety after a gentle clean up.

Final question—double or nothing, ready?

Question 3: The place where you clean the container the cat eats its food out of that hasn’t been cleaned for probably over a year. Yes, I said the cat food container. You know, the cat. The furry one that licks its butt and hairballs all over the place.

…Still thinking? Come on, you can get this one!

What do you think the answer is—my husband’s answer is, not mine…any guesses?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Back to School

Dear Crestview Elementary School (Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township),

I saw your sign. I know you will soon be sending children to my door to buy paper-thin gift wrap, nasty cookie dough and tins of stale pretzels. Your fund raisers are about to get started for the year. And, guess what? We are not buying a damn thing. Why? Two reasons.

First, in this age of obesity, where over 40 percent of children in Indiana are obese and most of their parents are obese too, should you really be selling cookie dough, frozen entrees and chocolates? I mean really...is that responsible? Processed foods don't make our children smarter. Cookie dough (especially cookie dough loaded with hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup sold in a two gallon tub) doesn't make us healthier.

What about teaming up with local farmers and selling bins of fresh veggies or a reputable bakery that makes fresher items? Or selling bulbs, low energy light bulbs or any other number of socially responsible items. Get creative--get innovative--be the change you want to see (right, Gandhi?). But, no. It's still cookie dough.

Second, we are not giving you any more money. Did you realize we already give you thousands of dollars a year through our property taxes, but your school is so crappy we cannot send any of our three children there? We could walk--you are just a few blocks away. You have a great new playground and looks like the kids have fun playing soccer. But, we read the paper and we know what you are producing in that school. Lower than low test scores, children in first grade getting expelled, fights, huge classrooms. We know people who teach in the district. You should be ashamed of that school. And, honestly I think you are.

That is why every family in our neighborhood who enters the "lottery" for the magnet school gets in. So, those kids that come in my neighborhood selling crap for your fundraisers are not my neighbors. My neighbors who still have any faith left in your schools all go to the magnet (oh, and we are not buying anything from their fund raisers either).

So, here is where we stand. We will not be buying any cookie dough. We will not be buying ugly plastic wreaths. And, it's too late for any possible chance our children will go to school there--ever. You lost us, we tried another school and now, nothing can compare. We will pay our taxes and nod at those who choose to send their children to your schools (just because it's right for us, doesn't mean its right for everyone).

I should post this on my front door to spare them the frustration of ringing only to be told no. No. That will be the answer. No thanks, no cookie dough this year--no cookie dough EVER!