32B's Blog

…where I write my words

Taxes & Financial Discipline

This is the season for stupid questions.  My ex-husband pays child support bi-monthly.  Per our legally signed divorce agreement, he shall claim one of our two children when he is current on his child support payments for that tax year.  He has never been current on anything.  Late 2009, he voluntarily quit a job to move elsewhere with hopes that the Great Recession was a myth.  This unemployment flowed into 2010 but he ended up with a job.  I started getting child support payments again which was a definite plus to my bottom line but that job was short-lived.  Weeks turned into month before I received another payment.  It was not until August 2010 that the payments became regular again.  I had to contact my attorney to have the withholding agreement forwarded to the correct HR dept so everything could be set-up….again.  Never once during his unemployment did he send any money my way, try to have the kids when they were out of school so I wouldn’t have a childcare bill, or anything that would have helped.  Did that stop him from asking me to claim one of the kids on his 2010 tax returns?  Of course not.  Audacious?  Absolutely.  Surprising?  Absolutely not.  He didn’t really ask though.  He said, “which kid are you claiming on your taxes this year?”  I immediately thought, “I didn’t know it was Stupid Question Day! Yayy, let’s play.  Both!”  I referenced the divorce papers even offering to call my attorney and ask her to FedEx another copy to him but he said he has read the papers and know what the agreement is but he also know I can go over the agreement if I choose to.  You’re correct.  I can but why would I ever decide to do that??  I love Stupid Question Day 🙂 it’s funny.

So, I filed my own taxes again this year.  I think this is my 3rd year filing on my own and I must say I am starting to know forms by name and understand what they mean/do.  My return this year was accepted and will be about $1k more than it was last year.  I have no plans other than to put 90% of it into my Emergency Fund which will finally bring the balance to $10k by March 2011.  Yayyy!  I am inching closer and closer to my goal which is awesome so I can start pursuing financial goal #2: either saving for a house and/or consistently maxing out my Roth IRA contribution.  No desire for a car (although my kids think we desperately need one), new purse/tote, big stupid TV (although everyone keep begging me to upgrade my ancient big booty one), or to buy stupid stuff.  What I probably will do is grocery shop like I’m at the mall.  I follow a set grocery budget every month and I have tried to plan meals out, go to the store with a list, and find sales but for once I just wanna throw some stuff I want and need in the cart with little regard to price.  For now, that is my idea of a splurge.  Homeowner: years in the future since I have no intentions on leaving Chicago any time soon and I have no intentions on buying a house in Chicago.  I am still working on improving my horrible credit score too so the additional time saving up about 20% for a down payment would be helpful on both fronts.  Retirement: I hope to live long enough to see retirement and I plan to have money to sustain my lifestyle at that time.  I do not have any 529 or other college savings for my kids because, imo, planning my own retirement is more important since there are a wealth of options available to pay for college educations.  Retirement?  Social Security isn’t even a safety net and I don’t want to burden my kids in my old age with financial help so the more I save the less they have to worry about mom.  However, if I never live to see my own retirement, at least they will have thousands of dollars at their disposal to use when they need it.  That reminds me, I need to figure out how to add stipulations to things like this in writing.

The AFP officially granted me permission to sit for the CTP exam!  I knew I had to buy the textbook, study, and take the exam but I totally forgot about certain criteria I had to meet to be admitted to take the exam.  I’m on chapter 2 of 17, using my flashcards, taking 3-4 hours to study kid-free on Thursday evenings, and lugging this heavy textbook with me during the week to read on the train to and from work.  Chapter 2 is about regulations and regulatory agencies.  To say this part is boring is an understatement.  I would much rather the test consisted of computations than concepts and terms but I didn’t write the test.  But, given the Great Recession, this is the important stuff.  How, why, and when all these regulations came about from the beginning of the banking/financial system of this great country.

I’m blessed.  I see other situations people are in, hear their stories, and think of how I used to be there and pray I never find myself there again.  Turning anything into a habit takes great discipline.  If I didn’t have at least a goal or desired to achieve something outside of what I was told I should have, then I wouldn’t be here.  This morning, I texted a friend about how great God has been to me.  “Absolutely phenomenal” was the exact phrase I used.  In a consumer world, few understand the concept of saving, investing, and making smart financial decisions.  It’s not that I expect to live forever to enjoy any of the sacrifices I have made to get where I am.  I saw my parents and their parents struggle.  I see friends struggle.  I see family struggle.  I know what it’s like to want for nothing even when my bank account is overdrawn.  I know how it feels to be poor with thousands of dollars at my disposal.  It’s not about money and never will be.  Freedom is all I desire for myself now and for my kids later.  To never feel pressured or a slave to something or someone just to uphold a ridiculous lifestyle or definition of what “rich” truly is.  I’m babbling but I’m happy.  OAN, did I mention I got tickets to the Janet Jackson concert in March?  Ms. Jackson if you’re nasty!!  Hasta luego 🙂

January 28, 2011 Posted by | Life | , , , | Leave a comment

Frugalista

Last night, I couldn’t sleep because I kept thinking about money.  As much as I am trying to improve my personal finances, I hate to check my account balance because I hate to visually see the breakdown of how much I overspent.  It kinda burns my eyes and I become overwhelmed with this feeling of guilt.  From getting the kids to Indianapolis to this holiday weekend, my account transactions have been less than favorable.  So, last night I couldn’t sleep because I was worried I’d be broke when the kids returned barely able to pay all the expenses related to moving plus daycare plus extra daycare to run, attend my race in September, make it to sorority meetings/functions (instead of just paying my dues), and have a social life.  I do not mind chiseling away at the social life since “socializing” requires some money but I want to continue my active running schedule and get the kids active in things too which, as we all know with kid activities, requires money.  I said a quick prayer that God will release any worries and fears from my mind so I could get some sleep – I was knocked out after that.

Moving is not as much of a hassle as it seems.  Besides finding men who will move your stuff without wrecking, ripping, and/or breaking things – the cost is pretty low.  There is the deposit which is usually one month’s rent, plus the rent to move in, plus the cost of a truck, and time cleaning up the old apartment.  My landlord says I have plenty of time to move and everyone seems to agree esp those who have gone through a foreclosure saying it takes months to complete and ask tenants to vacate the premise.  I just don’t want to move during a Chicago winter.  And, I need to make sure I get my deposit back.  My kids have broken a few parts of a window blind, the walls need repainting in some spots, and my youngest locked his self in the bathroom once so part of the door frame is kinda sitting in the corner of my bathroom (lol I’m not asking for the full amount back) but I deserve something.  I am not picky when it comes to apartments except expecting it to be clean, in a good area, and rodent/roach free.  My main thing I cannot live without is a washing and dryer in the building.  Currently, I do have a regular (non-coin operated one) but I guess I will take a coin one if that’s my only option.  Plenty of rentals in my neighborhood but not sure if I should move now or later since my landlord still expects the rent although I doubt she is paying the mortgage.  What she does with the money should be of no concern of mine.  I am simply renting the space upstairs. 

Still no child support.  I knew it would take weeks to get the paperwork in the system and the HR dept up-to-date with the changes but it’s been almost 3 weeks.  Ok, maybe I’m impatient since 3 weeks isn’t that long of a time but I want my money.  That will help me buy the kids’ back-to-school crap now rather than later.  Cover more summer fun stuff rather than picking an event every so often.  And, since kids out grow everything, it calls for new clothes for the upcoming fall & winter months.  I am still saving but not as much as I had hoped during the summer.  I put aside $200 from my check last week and will be able to put aside $500 from my check next week so that’s a little extra.  I will attempt the same next month as well.  My student loans are in repayment in September.  I have an outstanding tuition bill for $500 due that I need to pay off.  And an outstanding medical bill that I can have my Medical Flex acct cover.  Once I get the tuition bill paid and work my $350 student loan pymt into my budget then I will be cool.  By then, I should have child support coming in to lessen the blow.  I upgraded my phone plan from 450 anytime minutes to 900 anytime minutes since my Support role involves more phone calls than before.  If I surpass that amount then my only other option is to go back to the unlimited plan.  My job does not cover my telephone bill since working from home is optional and something I’d rather not give up.  I save $160/month in daycare with my two wfh days so upgrading my phone bill to an extra $30/month is a small price to pay.  However, when my contract ends, Mr. D is putting me on his family plan which will give me unlimited minutes for about  $30/month.  Let’s pray we are still together by then – if not, I still want that hook-up!

This weekend I endured another rant from family about how cheap I am.  They kept saying how I make “good money” or have a “good job” – what the hell does “good” mean in this context?  So, since I make “good money” I should be able to buy that $80 BeBe dress from my sister which does not fit her.  I have never paid $80 for any dress – not even my wedding dress which I bought brand new off eBay.  I should be wearing expensive (and often ugly) shoes like Aldo for $50 from the clearance rack.  I told my sister that clearance should be about $20 or less – I have only paid $50 or more for shoes I can run/sweat/exercise in.  My mom said she tells her co-workers all the time about her cheap daughter.  They laughed but I don’t care.  I have never felt the need to buy expensive brand names or look like I have a “good job”.  It has never been me although people expect it.  Mr. D called me a yuppie.  He says I do not dress like I have a corporate job because I rarely wear business clothes.  I walk around all day everyday in jeans, sneaks, flip flops, or running shorts.  He also says I remind him of someone like Ellen or Bill Gates – people who can afford to splurge but would rather dress comfortably in regular everyday clothes.  I am a regular everyday chick – why change because of what my job consists of.  I know I am no more important than anyone else so my priorities are aligned perfectly – money only has the power you give it.

July 7, 2010 Posted by | Life | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Stacking Paper/Building Wealth

Monday I came home to find a check waiting for me from Peoples Gas (our gas company) in the amount of $100+ so I was confused.  It said “CR” but I am sure I never over-paid anything.  I flipped it over and it said something about a deposit refund plus interest.  Looka here looka here looka here!  I have never received my deposit back before so I was proud of myself.  I know I usually require a deposit because of my crappy credit history but paying on-time for however many months they require was a good accomplishment.  So much so that I didn’t even know I was doing well.  I have been doing good with my e-bills sent to my bank account, setting up payment when I get them, and paying by the due date.  So, this extra money will go straight into my savings account.  I was complaining about having to buy a new dresser for the kids when Mr. D asked if I’d filed my taxes.  I said “yes” and he said “you must have spent it already” to which I said “naw!”  Who does that?!  Spend their entire tax refund check??  I told him I put a good chunk of it into my savings account too to which he said “wow, I’m impressed”.  He sleeping on moi.  Somebody wake this fool up!  I found some nice real wood dressers on Craigslist but I need someone to deliver which has been a hassle.

My sister lost her job so she asked if she can borrow $180 until further notice.  Trust me, I laughed out loud on that one.  She says she needs it to pay her half of the bills but I was wondering why can’t her live-in boyfriend pick up the slack.  Why live together if you can’t cover me until I find a job?  What kinda relationship is that?  If he ain’t got it then ok but don’t ask me because next month will be the same issue and I’m nobody’s ATM.  Here she is constantly calling me cheap calling me “notoriously cheap” just yesterday.  Here is she spending her financial aid check on a $1,000+ laptop when all she need is a basic one to write papers and research stuff.  Here she is spending $200+ on braids and other hairstyles when she really need to do her own hair once in a while.  I don’t get how people complain about shoes all the time.  My sister will likely get all her bills turned off before I give her any money because a) she is clearly living beyond her means and refused to hear me in the past so I know she won’t now b) I’m not her man and blood ain’t that freaking thick lol and c) you gotta let some folks fall on their butts so they can see their own mistakes.

My budget has gone to hell but I did ok for my first time.  This friday I start all over hopeful that I have learned some discipline and how to be more responsible with every penny I have.  My landlord qualified for a mortgage modification something program with her lender so now she doesn’t have to sell the building right now.  She still wants to move but she probably can’t afford to so soon.  Did she lower my rent?  I wish!  I paid April’s rent and now I have 2 more paychecks before I have to pay May’s rent.  I am going to put more into my savings account, get my freaking life insurance settled, and pay my bills careful to keep track of extras since my child support check is a distant thing of the past for a while.  I am looking for a part-time job during the summer while the kids are gone hopefully in accounting or bookkeeping since I do not want to go back to school and most accounting positions require a degree.  I even looked at internships too since the experience is what I need to break into higher careers.  But, I need to control my own spending and track it properly before I can do so for someone else.  Still building my money/wealth one dollar at a time.

April 9, 2010 Posted by | Life | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fiscal Chick

mochamoneypiggybankSince more and more people I actually know have gotten laid-off from I went into semi-crazy-saving mode.  I only say “semi” because every now and then I gots to have something or the boys require something so yea….budget out the window.  My goal at the beginning of the year was to pay down crap from my credit report so I can get on track to buying a house.  Thing is this, I don’t plan on staying in Chicago so I don’t want to buy a house here and feel the pressure to sell after just a couple of years esp in this market.  Sooooo, I have been saving saving saving!  I was told by Suze Orman, that crazy yelling guy from that Bull/Bear show, and ING (my 401k folks) that we should all have a six month emergency fund just in case.  According to my monthly expenses for BASIC needs (not counting cable, internet, or other extras) that would be about $6-8k.  Since I have stored most of my tax refund check, I am about halfway there. Notice the word “about” is in italics lol. 

My mom hates it.  She seems to think I should act like I have a decent job.  I do….when I can go out when and as I please.  When I can pay a bill after I forgot about the last two mths (I forget sometimes). When I can take the boys to any show they wanna go to on a whim.  When I can use my debit card without praying at the register that it goes through.  I like having that comfort of knowing I can as well as the discipline of knowing I don’t need to.  The downfall is that I like to see money accumulate in my account like it’s fun or something so I try to see how much more I can add.  I like to pay my monthly bills and tell Bank of America to transfer $300 into my savings account just so I’ll think I’m broke.  Yea…I’m crazy but I have slacked a lot lately.  I am extremely disciplined at holding onto money because we never had much growing up so I want to make sure the kiddies and I have what we need. 

When people started getting laid-off and relying on their 401k, savings, and unemployment checks I went into overdrive.  I didn’t wanna say my tax check is sitting in my living room on that nice stand or that it’s parked outside fully gased up.  Actually, I don’t have a flat screen….I am past due for a bigger TV though.  I don’t have a car…..but I do have a Chicago Card for every bus & train in the city.  I enjoy money, learning about money, how to grow money, how to lose money (always informative), and how to make your money work for you cause I ain’t tryna be slaving at work!  I wanna do like the executives….get the phat check, make some key decisions here and there (without sacrificing my soul), and spend some time on a beach somewhere.  I track my monthly grocery expenses so I only have to go once a month except for little things and buy in bulk as much as possible…I’m copying another blogger.  And I’m learning to knit because it is actually pretty easy, I can prb sell my crap once I master it, and that’ll save on winter stuff for the kids in roughly eight months. 

Bad credit and all I STILL refuse to give the creditors my money just yet.  As my 401k grows with the bull of the stock markets and my savings account balance increases I pray to realize my dream of being a homeowner but not now just because homes are cheap as hell.  Somewhere I want to be after I finish my Masters in a few years then I won’t have to hear that crap about needing a man to take care of me.  After I fix my credit then I can brag and say I can teach a man a few things about finances…..until then, let me shut up and stay as much on track as possible.  And, last but not least, God helps those who help themselves so maybe I won’t have to COMPLETELY pay everything on my credit report to get my house.  Let us pray….

April 23, 2009 Posted by | Life | , , , | 1 Comment