Managing Finances

 

Thank you to TurboTax for sponsoring my writing about household finances.Learn more about how TurboTax can help you find every tax deduction you deserve. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

My parents didn’t teach me about managing my finances very well. I was on my own by the time I was 17, so I had to learn myself and by trial and error.

A LOT of trial and error. In the beginning of my relationship with my checking account, I used to go by the balance that I was given when I called the bank’s 800 number. What I missed was the concept of “pending charges”. Needless to say, I overdrafted when I was younger. I overdrafted several times, once to the tune of nearly $400.00.

Ouch.

As I got older, I learned my lesson when it came to overdrafting. The more you overdraft, the more fees the banks charge you and before you know it you’re up to your ears in overdraft fees. I’ve tried many different methods of managing my fiances and balancing my family’s budget, ranging from keeping a ledger and every single receipt to tracking only from online banking. I’ve set aside money for certain bills, and figured out exactly how much expendable income that I have each week. In our younger years, Josh and I had loads of expendable income. Now? Not so much. We do have some, but we used to just blow money like crazy. Movies, dinners out, drinking.. I marvel (and cringe) and how much money we just wasted before we had kids.

I’m still not great with saving. I have been trying to better my spending habits a little at a time. I know exactly how much I need to pull in each week to cover our expenses. Now, if I make more than that set amount I take 5% of whatever my paycheck is,  I put that 5% into our savings account. It may not seem like much, but it will add up eventually!

I think the biggest thing that’s helped me is creating a spreadsheet of our monthly expenses versus our income and using a formula to decide exactly how much we have to “play” with each week. This helps me keep track and not get in a tight bind when the end of the month bills come around. I’ve thought about taking that concept a step further and each week, taking out what we’re allowed to spend on things other than expenses out in cash so once that’s gone, I’m not tempted to just charge that Starbucks I want on my check card. If the cash isn’t there, then neither is the latte.

I know that as I get older I will learn better and more effective ways to manage our family’s money, and hopefully I will be able to clearly pass those skills down to my children so they don’t find themselves scratching their heads the first time they try and balance their checkbook. I’m not perfect, but I’m learning!

What are some tips that you have for managing a family budget?


 

 

Wordless Wednesday :: Love, Sweet Love

Thanks to my friend & singin’ sistah Stephanie for this beautiful photo.

Weekend of Harmony

I’m back from my Sweet Adeline weekend. I always forget how amazing and exhausting regional competition weekend is. I’m really proud of my chorus; we came in 3rd place overall and 2nd in our division (mid-sized chorus). We improved in score since last year, and I am just very proud to call myself a member of the Scenic City Chorus!

The quartet competition was fantastic. Loads of great quartets got up there on Friday and my chorus’s director’s quartet won! Her quartet is called Dream and they were absolutely amazing. I mean breathtaking. I kept telling my director all weekend that I wanted to be like them when I “grew up”. Since they won the quartet competition for our region, they get to go on to the International competition in October where they will compete against the top quartets from all over the world! I’m so excited for them!

It’s hard sometimes coming back from a Sweet Adeline weekend. It’s a truly amazing experience; sharing a space with hundreds of women who all share your love and passion for singing barbershop harmony. There’s flair, bling, and glitter in pretty much every nook and cranny that you can find. It’s not unusual to find people who don’t even know each other singing barbershop tags in the elevator, lobby, and even bathroom. I am positive that the cleaning staff dread our regional competition weekends because there is  glitter all over the floors EVERYWHERE.

I’m unwinding and relaxing now, and trying to gear myself up for getting back to reality tomorrow! I hope you all had a great weekend because I know that I did.

 

Stop: Glitter Time {2011 Competition}

If you’re new to Mommy Boots, you may not have read any posts about one of my passions: singing. Specifically singing a capella barbershop harmony. I sing with a local chapter of the Sweet Adelines International and I’m also a member of a barbershop quartet called Route 41.

Tonight kicks off the beginning of Region 23 (the region that my chorus is in)’s competition weekend! The Young Women in Harmony quartet competition starts tonight. My quartet was asked to be microphone testers, which we are so excited about! Tomorrow night is the quartet competition and I cannot wait to sit and watch the competing quartets. We’ve been running around town the last week promoting the contest with TV appearances (if you’re feeling ambitious and want to see us on TV, check out this clip. You will have to let it load, and then fast-forward to the 48:00 mark to get to the point where my quartet sings) and radio spots. Last year, Route 41 sang for evaluation only. We decided not to sing for eval or compete this year, so I will get to relax and enjoy where last year I was a bundle of nerves!

Saturday is the big day. On Saturday, my chorus takes the stage to compete against all of the other choruses in the region (which I believe is about 14)! We’ve taken third place overall the past three years and we are pumped and excited to sing our hearts out this year. We’ve been working really hard and I just cannot wait to show everyone what we are made of.

I will not be around online at all this weekend. I’ll be surrounded by Sweet Adelines, soaking in the harmony and excitement of the weekend and generally geeking out. I hope everyone has a fun and safe weekend! I know I’m going to!!!

 

 

Fighting in Front of the Kids: Never, or Sometimes Needed?

My husband and I were raised completely differently. Not just because I was raised in Chicago and he in the South, but our family dynamics were pretty much polar opposites. His parents were married before they graduated high school, and are still married today.  My parents were married in their mid-twenties and by the time I was 13 they were divorced. Josh’s family dynamic is generally a very healthy one… And I come from a broken home. Shattered is a better term for it, really. I will write more about that in a later post.

Joshua once told me that growing up, he never heard nor saw his parents fight. If they had an issue with something, they hashed it out behind closed doors where their children didn’t witness the conflict. My parents? Screaming. Shouting. Name-calling. Door-slamming. My brother, who is 6 years older than I am, would let me into his bedroom (which almost never happened otherwise) when my parents would start fighting because he knew that it scared me.

I got to thinking about the different ways Josh and I were raised, and started wondering: what is the right way to go about handling things when you and your spouse/partner disagree and have children? Is it better to present a united front – a team – in front of your kids and save even a small argument for when you are alone, or is showing a little bit of disagreement every now and again okay…. And even healthy? The one thing I am absolutely sure of is that the type of fighting my parents did is unacceptable and unhealthy. It’s scary for a child to witness the two people who are the biggest influences in their lives screaming at each other, and it’s emotionally damaging to hear your mother tell your father (and vice versa) that she hates him. As a child of parents who raged at one another, I can tell you that it teaches you to be afraid because you don’t know if they’re going to turn that anger on you and it’s hard to see two people who are supposed to love one another act so hatefully.

Clearly the raging and angry fighting is a no-no, but is keeping your children ignorant and deaf to any sort of marital conflict whatsoever just as damaging? As parents, you definitely want to be on the same page when it comes to how you raise your children. You want to show a strong foundation of stability and love to them because it makes them feel safe and secure. That is undeniably the healthiest way to parent, but is teaching your children that married people never fight detrimental to their future relationships? We often mimic our parents’ relationships, and learn how to build our own from the way they work. If you grow up your entire life never seeing your parents argue, I wonder if one may enter into a relationship with rose-colored glasses thinking that it’s going to be easy street all the way through… And anyone who has ever been, or is in a long-term relationship knows, that is most certainly not the case,  especially when children enter the picture. Children add joy and happiness but they also add stress. You find new things to disagree on, even if it’s something as simple as whether or not to give your kid organic milk. If you find yourself in the middle of an argument you may feel like your entire relationship is failing or crumbling because after all, your parents never argued like this and they are in a happy and successful relationship.

Coming from a family full of yelling and anger I can say that I used to feel that hiding any and all conflict from your children was the way to go but now that I’m a mom, I think that I may have changed my mind. I feel that you most certainly need to be a team when it comes to parenting; no undermining your partner’s authority in front of the children (this goes for BOTH parents BOTH ways), do not demean or degrade your significant other in front of your kids (or any time, really) and as far as discipline goes, you both need to be on the same page. But I think that arguing a little about some things in front of your children can be good for them. It shows them that it’s okay to disagree, that even though you and your partner are a little angry with one another, that doesn’t mean that you don’t love and respect each other. I think that calmly and respectfully hashing out a conflict in the presence of your children can teach them how to work through differences not just with their future partners, but just in everyday life as well. If you show them that it’s okay to disagree and how to get through an argument in a healthy way, that is what they will learn and take with them. If you yell at each other, they will model that behavior. But if you do all of your disagreeing behind closed doors, how will they learn how to cope when they are put into the same situation down the road?

What do you think? Should parents do their arguing in private all of the time, or is showing a little bit of conflict in front of the kids necessary and healthy?

 

 

Welcome to Crank City. Population: Nellie

The past few days, Nellie has been cranktastic. Even her grandparents, who normally praise her behavior until they’re hoarse, commented on how nothing seemed to make her happy. Nellie is a happy baby by nature and is very easygoing, so when she gets cranky it’s definitely out of character.

I started noticing it on Friday, when she and I took a side trip to Hobby Lobby before picking up Josh from work. I put her in the cart and she was happy for approximately 5 minutes before she began whining at me and stretching her arms out. At this point I’d already put a few things in the cart, so I calmly explained to her that mommy couldn’t hold her and push the cart.

Unfortunately my words did about as good as a bunny rabbit pleading with a hungry cat not to rip out its’ entrails and eat them for lunch. Come to think of it, the rest of the Hobby Lobby trip I was pretty much the bunny rabbit. Nellie won, and I pulled her out of the cart. It’ll be okay, I thought to myself. I’ve held her and pushed the cart before. But this time Nellie wasn’t just content with riding on my hip. Ohhhh no. She decided that she wanted to push the cart. Considering she is approximately two feet tall and cannot reach the handle to push the cart, I had to hold her so her little hands were wrapped around the cart’s handle. I then had to continue pushing, but also steer the cart with my free hand so we didn’t crash into the lovely knickknacks that lined the shelves of the Hobby Lobby.

Soon my sweet babe became bored with that and started to scream. I plopped her back down in the cart and handed her a sippy cup. She sipped happily for about a minute and then tossed the cup onto the floor. As soon as her juice hit the ground with a “clank” she began to wail and point. Ever the obedient servant, I bent down and retrieved it, handing it back to Her Crankness. I turned my head to admire a particularly pretty flower pot when I heard the cup hit the floor again.
Clank.
I turned my head slowly to look back at Nellie, who was staring at me doe-eyed. Then she started whining, reaching, and squalling for the cup.

This continued pretty much the rest of the time we were at Hobby Lobby. I tried to placate her with keys, toys, even a riveting pack of baby wipes which she could open and close. Nothing was making her happy. I became that mom. You know, the one desperately pleading with the screaming toddler to just, “hold on for one second because mommy’s almost done”? The mom who is sofuckingclose to being through with her shopping trip so instead of abandoning the cart and carrying her yowling offspring out of the store, she frantically presses on with a wild look in her eyes? The mom that I used to glare at before I had children?

YEAH. I became THAT MOM. And I silently apologized to every single woman that had ever been the recipient of my smarmy, snarky, childless glares in the past as I pushed my screaming, thrashing kid in the cart toward the checkout lane.

On Saturday, I had to go back to Hobby Lobby (a different one) and it was pretty much a repeat of the entire debacle the day before. Screaming, throwing, pleading, wailing, grabbing. I had pretty much decided that Nellie just hated Hobby Lobby. That the whole time she was in the store she was thinking how much she hated crafts and was all,  “fuck yarn. I hate yarn. That fabric offends me. Who needs colorful pom poms? WHY ARE THESE STICKERS SO EXPENSIVE? I HATE THIS STORE. DON’T WISH ME A GOOD DAY, I WILL TAKE A CRAP IN THAT EASTER BASKET RIGHT NOW, I DON’T EVEN CARE.”

Yesterday, however, we almost had a repeat performance of I Hate Hobby Lobby Starring Nellie Rose at Walmart. After about the tenth time of retrieving Nellie’s sippy cup, I decided she was just going through some personal baby issues and hated the world. I debated playing her the CD Jagged Little Pill, because it was always good for me when I felt angsty. She whined and cried the whole way back from Walmart. When we got home and I climbed in the backseat to release her from her carseat I saw her gnawing on her fingers, and it hit me like a ton of bricks.

She’s fucking teething. Her mouth is hurting. It’s her damn molars breaking through her soft, sensitive gums. I’ll be a son of a bitch. THAT’S why my kid has been such a cranker the past few days.

We got inside, I set down the groceries and gave my lady some Tylenol. About a half an hour later? Much less cranky, easier to please and not gnawing all over everything like a cracked out beaver.

Sigh. It’s been a while since I had a mom fail, so I guess it was a little overdue. While I hate that her molars are causing her so much pain and discomfort, I am kind of glad that it is teething and not just a general hatred of crafts in general because one day, maybe, I might get into crafting. Probably not because I am so un-crafty and uncreative that if I tried to knit, I would probably somehow start an accidental fire and if I tried to scrapbook, it’s likely that I’d accidentally cut my jugular open and bleed to death all over the pages.

But it’s nice to know that if I do decide to start crafting, the Hobby Lobby will be there for me and won’t have to fear the Wrath of Rose.

Perfectionist

Nellie will be 14 months old on Sunday and she isn’t walking yet. As a mom, it’s hard not to worry especially when there are babies 2-4 months younger than she is that are not just walking, but running. I’ve been told not to worry about the fact that she’s not walking until closer to 16 months old but still… It’s hard not to be concerned sometimes.

As Nellie grows, her personality and her quirks emerge a little more each day. Nellie is, by nature, a very cautious and deliberate child. She doesn’t do something until she is absolutely ready and has it absolutely right. She army-crawled until 10 months. I would catch her on her hands and knees rocking occasionally but as soon as she knew someone was watching, she’d flop back down on her belly and crawl that way. When it came to pulling up, she would do it very hesitantly and if there was any shakiness or unbalance in her legs, she would immediately lower herself back down to the ground where it was safe. From talking to other mothers, I’ve found that when most toddlers decide they want to get back down to the ground after standing up, they just sort of toss themselves on the ground or allow themselves to fall onto their butts. But not Nellie! Oh, no. If she is standing and holding onto the couch and decides she needs to crawl somewhere? She will crouch down while still holding onto the couch until her butt is almost touching the ground and then she will let go.

She is the same way with her words. She first started babbling, “dada” on her six month birthday. But she didn’t just come right out and say it. She whispered it. We’d hear her whispering in her tiny little voice, “dadadadada” over the baby monitor and when we’d go into her room and encourage her to say it, she would just look at us and smile.

So it would seem that our little girl is a perfectionist. It’s the most amazing thing to see this aspect of her personality. I’m reminded of stories I’ve been told about when I was in pre-kindergarten and we were learning how to cut with scissors. I refused to cut in the class and my teachers were concerned about my motor skills. My mom found me in my room one day hunkered over a piece of paper with a pair of child’s scissors in my hand, cutting and cutting until I had it perfect. It was only then that I would cut in front of my peers and teachers; once I had mastered the art of manipulating a pair of scissors. I see this same trait in my Nellie and it’s really kind of amazing.

Nellie is very careful and does everything with purpose, but she is also very silly. She’s actually sillier than I could have ever imagined…. But that’s a subject for another post.

So taking into consideration Nellie’s cautious nature I guess it’s no surprise that she isn’t walking yet. She will when she’s ready, and when she knows for sure that she’s got it down. And when she does… The fun will really begin.

 

Things I Never Thought I’d Say

There are a lot of things that surprise me about motherhood. How one can survive on 7+ straight months of sleep deprivation. How one tiny little person can make such a horrible, stinky mess in their diaper. How much love my heart can hold.

But I think what surprises me most are the things that come out of my mouth since becoming a mother. For example.

“Please get your mouth off of the kitty’s ear.”
“No, we do not eat rocks!”
“Did you just pee on the rug?”
“She would have napped.. If she hadn’t pooped ten minutes in and woken herself up.”
“Her poop was perfect! Not too hard but not too runny.”
“Oh my god. Did she just lick her diaper pail?”
“No! We do not put our mouth on the shopping cart!”
“No! We do not put our mouth on the slide!”
“I don’t think that your friend wants to be licked on the face.”
“Shoes are for wearing, not for eating.”
“I don’t think that doggy appreciates you pulling on his lips like that.”
“How old was that goldfish cracker she just ate off the floor?”

What are some things that have come out of your mouth as a parent that you never imagined yourself saying?

 

Buzzed Driving = Drunk Driving. Don’t Do It. Ever.

How many times have you heard someone say, “I’ve just had a few. I’m more buzzed than drunk. I’m good to drive!”

How many times have you said it?

St. Patrick’s Day is tomorrow, and I wanted to write a quick post to remind everyone to enjoy the holiday safely. Let’s face it, St. Patrick’s Day as it is celebrated nowadays is about draping yourself in green and drinking Irish Car Bombs. I’ve been there. I’ve been to parties where I’ve gotten way more intoxicated than I should have, and I’ve also been to parties where I’ve gotten just a little buzzed. But there is one thing I have not done and will never do, and that’s drive under the influence. Even if I only feel buzzed, I will not get behind the wheel of a car and I urge you to live the same way.

Did you know that on St. Patrick’s Day 2009, *37 percent of the drivers and motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or above, according to statistics by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)*? Did you know also that in 2009, 1,119 occupants of other vehicles were killed in alcohol-related crashes due to impaired drivers? Those are brothers. Sisters. Wives. Husbands. Babies. Innocent children whose lives were taken because someone made a really stupid judgment call and got behind the wheel. Lives gone forever.

It’s simple. If you drink, don’t drive. Ever. Do not get behind the wheel if you have been drinking. There is absolutely no reason to ever drive if you’ve been drinking. Period, the end. What are some ways that you can get yourself home safely? You can pick someone to be a designated driver ahead of time and hold that person accountable. If your DD falls through, make sure you have cash with you so you can call a taxi service. Load the number of one into your phone before you leave so you are sure to have it. Crash on acouch if you are drinking at someone’s home if you have to. If you’re an “I can drive, seriously” offender give your keys to someone else the second you walk in the door before you get drunk and your judgment is impaired.

Don’t let what is supposed to be a fun evening and a good time ruin your life or worse – the life of an innocent bystander. There’s no reason to ever drive, even if you’re a little buzzed. Buzzed driving IS drunk driving. Please be safe this St. Patrick’s Day – and every other holiday. It’s not just yourself that you’re putting at risk by driving drunk.. It’s people like my family, too.


DISCLOSURE: I was not compensated in any way, shape, or form for this post. The words are entirely my own (except the sentence within the * *, that was quoted directly from the e-mail I received from resourceful mommy media about this post). I honestly believe the things I wrote in this post and did it to spread awareness about drunk driving and being safe.

For more information about Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving and how you can be safe, visit the Facebook and Twitter pages.

I’m in Shape. Round is a Shape.

After I dropped Josh off at work today, Nellie and I had a little breakfast at home while waiting for the sun to come up. Once it was light out, we hit a nearby walking track.

As I walked, one foot in front of the other, my knees ached. My shins hurt. My leg muscles groaned in protest and I realized just how miserably out of shape I have gotten. As I pushed Nellie up a slight incline in the track (and I do mean slight), I found it harder to breathe. And I realized even further just how out of shape I’ve let myself become. I used to be able to take an hour-long power aerobics class and only be somewhat out of breath. I reached my goal of running a mile about three years ago and now?

Walking makes me tired.

This is not okay.

We walked for about 30 minutes this morning, time which is usually spent letting Nellie crawl about the living room while I check my e-mail in the morning. I’ve decided to use the time that I have in between getting home from dropping Josh off and having to get ready for work more wisely: I’m going to take walks with Nellie during those 30 (or so) minutes. I’m not going to make any big promises to myself because I have continually let myself down when it comes to fitness and losing weight.. But this I can keep. I have to keep this. Because huffing and puffing when I push my kid up a slight incline isn’t acceptable. I’m 27 years old. My knees shouldn’t ache and pop when I walk and the muscles in my legs should be strong.. Not weak from sitting in a chair all day at work.

One foot in front of the other. One step at a time. I’ve gotta get my body back.