Currently | December

Currently | December // Kelsey, Especially

APPRECIATING | lazy evenings at home on the couch with the wifey.

CLEANING OUT | the extra bedroom in the basement so that I can start a new project I’m REALLY FREAKING EXCITED ABOUT!

WRAPPING | so. many. presents…aaaand…

HOPING | the kids aren’t disappointed with their Christmas gifts. It’s the first year that both littles “get” Christmas and I really hope the day lives up to their expectations!

WONDERING | if I’ll get a raise in the New Year. I could use one, that’s for sure.

DEBATING | which New Year’s Eve party to attend.Our friend TJ booked us all a suite at the Westin DC so now we just have to decide which party to attend…decisions, decisions.

BUMMING | over the two pairs of work pants I ordered from Gap.com. They fit, but not like I thought they would based on the photos online. Definitely not work appropriate. UGH.

DREADING | the long lines at the mall to return said pants. DOUBLE UGH.

READING | as much leisure material as I can before the Spring semester begins in 3 weeks, and…

WRITING | as many draft posts as I can before then, too.

PREPPING FOR | Saturday night. *Breathe* I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t I-just-threw-up-a-little-bit-in-my-mouth-just-thinking-about-it nervous. #thepressureison

LOVING | that I get to spend even just a tiny moment of the holidays with Shannon this year.

WISHING | I’d known about the National Symphony Orchestra’s “Messiah” performance schedule for this season earlier than yesterday. It starts today and only runs through Sunday, which means attending this year is a big fat NO. Womp.

DRINKING | the green label Angry Orchard. Way better than the blue label, y’all. (And better than the orange or red labels by default, too, since those both suck by default.)

COUNTING | down the hours until my work week is over tomorrow at 11:30 am. It’s been a long week, people. I’m ready for a break.

Bigger isn’t always better

I did a real-life grown-up thing all by myself last week, you guys! Well, not entirely by myself. I had RJ tag along to entertain the kids while I was busy signing papers, but other than that I did a real-life grown-up thing all by myself last week! I BOUGHT MYSELF A NEW CAR! …and we’re all really excited about it!

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So, it’s not exactly brand new brand new, but it’s newer than my old SUV (a GMC Acadia) and it’s new to me. Besides, the only prior owner was the federal government, who used it as an embassy vehicle and took amazing care of it, so it pretty much looks and runs brand new, which means it basically is brand new. Or something. Whatever. After the piece-of-shit Acadia, it’s good enough for me.

I’ve been wanting to get rid of the GMC for awhile now, and for a lot of different reasons. Mostly, though, to save money (you wouldn’t believe how much money I wasted on the POS GMC) and to have something real and grown-up that’s mine. Not mine + RJ’s, like the GMC was. MINE. You know, part of that whole moving on and separating from each other as much as possible even though we still live together thing.

Anyway, after almost a week of driving the new car I’m still really happy with my decision to buy it. I won’t be able to get a solid feel for its true fuel economy until my work/commute schedule returns to “normal” at the end of January, but I can already tell that the Tucson is wayyyy better on gas than the Acadia. I’m going to write a separate BROKE series post breaking down all the financials of this deal, but here’s a little taste of the money I’m saving: I went from a vehicle with a 22 gallon tank that averaged 300-ish miles per tank in highway miles (that’s a measely 13-ish MPG) to a vehicle with a 14.5 gallon tank that averages 280-ish miles per tank in city miles (about 20 MPG) (the only full tank of gas I’ve driven in the new car has been city miles; I’m stoked to see how much more better the MPG will be when I get back to my regular highway-miles commute). You don’t even have to be good at math in the slightest to realize that’s a huge savings.

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There are small adjustments I’m still getting used to (first world problems, for sure), but there are a bunch of little bonuses, too. The headlights don’t turn on automatically when I start the car (which apparently I came to rely on thanks to the GMC), but the interior dash lights are a really calm blue instead of that gross green that the GMC had. The new car isn’t equipped with remote start and the key fob doesn’t have a button that opens the trunk for me when my hands are full or when I’m feeling lazy, but the trunk’s locking mechanism is functional, which means the trunk actually stays open without slowly shutting on your head (like the broken-ass GMC would do). The new car isn’t as smooth of a ride as the GMC was, but it has a helluva lot more kick to it and doesn’t take an hour to accelerate to 55 MPH (or waste 20 gallons of gas in the process).

There’s no DVD player in the new car to keep the kids entertained while on the road, but there is Bluetooth connectivity, which is infinitely more important (from a safety perspective) than the kids being able to watch movies in the car. Besides, I imposed an “On Friday ONLY” rule for DVD-watching in the GMC weeks ago to cut back on the kids’ screen time, so this isn’t really an issue for them anyway. The Hyundai’s dash display isn’t as comprehensive as it was in the GMC (no temperature, no direction, no ‘current fuel economy’ or ‘tire pressure’ or ‘miles remaining in tank’ indicators), but the charging ports actually work and there’s built-in USB connectivity. Plus: heated leather seats. SCORE!

Like I said, I’ve been ready to downsize from the Acadia for awhile. RJ and I bought it when I was pregnant with Madden, and when Emma was still in a huge carseat and Briseis was still in a booster seat. We needed a shit ton of room to cart around three kids, and two sets of everything baby related (travel cribs, strollers, diaper bags, changes of clothes, snack packs, toys, etc.). Madden is the only one left in a clunky carseat, and we’ve been over strollers and cribs and diaper bags for awhile now. It was nice to have optional third row seating/huge cargo space, but we rarely utilized it and with all the mechanical and superficial problems the GMC had, I couldn’t justify keeping it. So I didn’t. And I couldn’t be happier.

Turns out that bigger is not always better, guys. Especially when it comes to a big vehicle with a big price tag and a big gas tank that doesn’t get big miles. But more about that in the next BROKE post.

Nap time (a video tour)

Nap time at our house has always been an issue. And now that both littles are bona fide toddlers who are very likely at the tail end of actually needing a mid-day siesta, nap time at our house is pretty much non-existent. Even still, every weekend I march them up to their rooms just after lunch in a doomed-from-the-start attempt at having some “free”/”alone”/”quiet” time to do homework/catch up on Project Life/clean the house/drink beer because it’s after noon and I’m looking for any excuse to be lazy, for which you can’t judge me. Recently, though, Madden and Emma have taken things to a whole new level. Here’s how nap time played out at our house on Saturday.

I was sitting at my desk finishing up my last final paper of the semester when I heard the kids upstairs. Specifically, I heard the faucet in the hall bathroom turn on and off, and then an exasperated Emma whisper-shout, “Madden! You can’t wash your hair!” The next thing I heard was Madden telling Emma to “Leave me alone!” and “Don’t tell me what to do”. At the end of my rope after approximately a billion trips upstairs to tell the kids to be quiet and threaten them with being locked in their rooms, I shouted down the stairs to the basement for RJ: “Your turn.” He headed upstairs with his phone in hand and caught the true essence of nap time at our house.

A couple things to keep in mind: (1) I’d just cleaned both of the kids’ rooms with them that morning, (2) they received strict instructions to stay in their rooms, which they clearly didn’t heed, and (3) this was about 90 minutes into “nap time”.

***This video is just under 5 minutes long and, in my totally un-biased opinion, worth being viewed in full. Just make sure you turn up your speaker volume and try to hold in your laughter, lest you miss anything important (aka: hilarious).***

What does nap time look like at your house?

Related: The girls’ DIY no-sew teepee and more messes – the day Madden got dirty in everything; getting in fights with gang bangs; and getting in more fights with gang bangs.

A parent’s worst mistake

A parent's worst mistake // Kelsey, Especially

I came across this quote on Pinterest a couple weeks ago and it really resonated with me; on a few different levels, for a few different reasons.

I’m not super close to my parents – literally or figuratively. We’re not estranged or anything, but we’re not super BFF-y either. I ran away from home multiple times growing up and left for good (the first time) at 17 when I enlisted in the Army Reserve (which is where/how I spent my junior and senior year of high school). After returning from training, I  lived at home for barely five months before moving out for good (the second time) just weeks after turning 18. On Father’s Day. #BESTGIFTEVER

Less than 18 months later I moved 2,000 miles away. Between the time I officially moved out of my parents’ and the time I moved across the country, I became pregnant, elected to be honorably discharged from the Army, moved twice more, and had a baby. On the day we boarded our plane from PDX to DCA, I was 19 years, 5 months, and 2 weeks old and Briseis was exactly 6 months old.

My parents weren’t exactly thrilled with my decision to move thousands of miles across the country to a place where I knew no one and had nothing – and take their at-the-time only grandchild away from them in the process – but they were supportive nonetheless. They recognized that I was, perhaps unfortunately (at least in their eyes at the time), a legal adult, and they respected my decision and my autonomy enough to not stand in my way. They helped me pack my life into a billion boxes; move the boxes into storage; and clean my apartment. They even dropped baby Briseis and I off at the airport. There were a few tears from my mom and some words of advice from my dad, and that was that.

But it isn’t just in that instance that my parents have let me be me. From declaring my non-belief in God and religion at the age of 12; to dyeing my hair at the age of 13; to gauging my ears at the ripe age of 14 (against their explicit instruction to not do, no less); to venturing downtown alone with friends for concerts at the age of 15; to road tripping to the Canadian border with friends to spend a few days at Warped tour the summer I turned 16; to joining the military at 17; to having a baby at 18; to moving across the country at 19, my parents have always been supportive of the decisions I’ve made – as long as they haven’t posed imminent risk or harm – even when they haven’t agreed with them.

As I sit here today a parent myself, I am filled with an immense amount of admiration for how my parents…well…parented me. I’m thankful to have parents who have always practiced ‘tough love’, but who have also allowed me to be myself. Parents who have always had enough integrity to be honest with me about their opinions, but also enough respect for me to allow – indeed, encourage – me to make my own decisions. Parents who have always had enough faith in their parenting and enough trust in me to make the right decisions, but also enough patience to stand beside me when I haven’t. Parents who have always had enough courage to let me be me, even when it goes against what they want – or hope – for me. Parents who have always had enough clarity to see the bigger picture and not freak out over the small shit, even when said shit doesn’t seem small in the moment.

Parents who don’t hold my past over my head, or manipulate or guilt me into doing things their way. Parents who have always let me be myself. Even when that meant having pink + purple + red hair. Even when that meant getting a bunch of piercings and tattoos. Even when that meant having a shotgun courthouse wedding and not telling them for months. Even when that meant ending that same marriage. And yes, even when that meant starting a relationship with another woman, to which not an eyelash was batted and not a negative word was said.

At only nine-and-a-half years into it, I’m still pretty new to this parenting gig. But I like to think that so far I’m doing alright. And I like to think that I’ll continue to be with my kids as rad and open minded and patient and…chill…as my parents have always been with me.

Because really, the worst mistake a parent can make is consciously disallowing their child to be themselves. To actively go out of their way to inhibit the autonomy and growth of their child. To purposefully stifle their child’s creativity; goals; passions and dreams; identity, just because their child’s ideal deviates from their own. Not only is it dysfunctional and unhealthy, but it’s also shallow, selfish, and shameful.

BROKE #07 | an update

It’s been about four months since I started this series, and just about three months since I’ve added to it. Oops. LIFE. It keeps speeding up instead of slowing down.

Just my luck // Kelsey, Esp. blog

To be honest, I’m feeling pretty discouraged with my finances. When I first started this series, the momentum was exponential. It seemed like every week saw at least a little bit of progress. But over the last six weeks or so, that momentum has reversed direction and begun to inch backward, bit by bit.  For starters, I’ve run into at least one MAJOR financial setback Every. Single. Pay. Period. since beginning this series. And silly me was counting on an annual bonus that my work doles out every year without fail to help me offset some of those expenses. Except this year, the bonuses never came. Or at least, I didn’t get one. Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to the possibility of selectively-given bonuses. It’s happened before…

Meanwhile, all those bi-weekly setbacks have been adding up: There’s been a $100+ trip to the chiropractor and massage therapist for a persistent back issue; a new iPhone to replace a shattered one; a sitter for Briseis during the last weeks of summer break so I could actually go to work during the day; $300+ in annual car tax fees; a $200 GRE test fee (that was half wasted); $50 in late fees at the library from one of the kids’ trips (I forgot to renew the books and went on like I had…because I thought I had); $300 for a new car battery and jumper cables; hundreds of out-of-pocket dollars for textbooks that financial aid didn’t cover; and surely at least one other ridiculous thing I’m forgetting. Oh yes! – the entire day of work I had to take off because I was subpoenaed in a court case from an accident in which I was hit and that occurred over TWO YEARS AGO, just to be told the case was dismissed and my testimony wasn’t needed – after nearly three hours of sitting around twiddling my thumbs.

Here’s the rest of what’s happened since the last BROKE post:

  • I finally filed my 2013 taxes (YAY!)…and owe about $1100 between state and federal (BOO!)…and have paid off all of my 2013 state taxes and 1/4 of my 2013 federal taxes (YAY!)
  • I paid off my only credit card (YAY!)…then halfway-maxed out a new one (BOO!)
  • I paid off the debt I owed to the local community college so I could re-enroll in school and finish my degree (YAY!)…but I borrowed the money from RJ and still owe him $440 for it (BOO!)…but at least he isn’t tacking on interest like a credit card would, and is patient in allowing me to pay him back (YAY!)
  • I was able to avoid taking out more student loans this term and pay for school this semester and next entirely through federal grants and Army Tuition Assistance (YAY!)…but have maxed out the grace period for previously-borrowed student loans and begin owing on them very, very soon (BOO!)
  • My credit score increased by 15 points (YAY!)…and then went back down by 5 (BOO!)
  • I qualified for a new, unsecured credit card (see second bullet point) with the highest limit I’ve ever been granted (YAY!)…and have halfway maxed it out in less than three months because of some really unfortunate unexpected expenses…and Christmas shopping for the kids (BOO!)

It doesn’t all suck, though. I’ve managed to stay within my measly 250MB monthly data plan on my phone, which means no pricey overage fees, and I’ve succeeded in keeping the one credit card I finally paid off at a $0 balance.  Plus, I haven’t been late on any payments for anything, and when our lease renewed last week for year number three, the landlords once again refused to raise our rent.

I’ve also been having an extra $50 withheld from every paycheck for the last few months, so hopefully that offsets some of my 2014 non-taxed 1099’d income. And I upped my contribution to my 401(k) plan from 3% to 5%, which raised my employer’s contribution from 6% to 8% (which is max), so beginning in 2015 I’ll be stashing away 13% of my income for retirement. That’s not particularly impressive – I know – especially considering I just began saving for retirement ten years too late, but it’s better than nothing.

So see? It’s not all bad. But I’m definitely not where I thought I’d be four-ish months into this thing.

I thought that after paying off my credit card and downsizing my data plan on my phone that I’d have an extra $100 or so dollars each month to throw toward other debts, and that I’d be further ahead on paying those debts off because of all the extra payments I’d planned on making. But because of all the unexpected expenses that have popped up, any “extra” money I have (still) goes toward just surviving, not paying ahead. It’s frustrating and discouraging and even a little demeaning (self-imposed, I know). But it is better than before.

I’m hopeful that 2015 will be kinder to me, financially. After graduating in May I’ll be more competitive in the job market; with Shannon moving in early in the year, my monthly living and commuting expenses will decrease a bit as she takes on a portion of both (we’ll be carpooling) (and NO, saving money isn’t the reason that Shannon is moving in); and after working almost the entirety of 2014 on a W-2’d job on top of my 1099’d job, as opposed to just a 1099’d job, all of my income will be exclusively W-2’d in 2015. Halle-fucking-lujah.

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Read the rest of the BROKE series:

01 | An introduction
02 | Income + assets v. expenses + debts
03 | Prioritizing debt
04 | Cutting expenses when there’s nowhere left to cut
05 | Living data-less in the digital age
06 | A simple savings tip for broke people

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