Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas Tree

If you had been outside my house last night you would have seen the following:

The taking down of the pitiful Christmas Tree. The poor thing was chopped down sometime this last year and left in our yard until we got around to completing the cutting of logs, and piling of branches several months later. It was already 1/2 dead, needles falling off, lopsided, curved trunk. Lately there was a solid carpet beneath it of fallen needles - the husband was done - "out today or else". It was decorated with just what was deemed unbreakable due to cat & dogs & children running next to it's instability. Pitiful, yet lovely in an almost Charlie Brown kind of way!

You would have heard the sadness in children's voices at the ending of the Christmas Tree, and a Mama who agreed that it was too early to be without - after all, more family was coming over on the 2nd for a Christmas Party.

You would have then witnessed the comedy of the Box Elder Branch, followed closely by the comedy of the Willow Branch.

I figured I had found the perfect solution - a branch wouldn't shed like the pine does, it would still hold our ornaments, still fit in our tree stand, still look pretty at night with the lights on it...

The first branch was brought in, and I easily put it up. The kids & I set to work decorating, it was 95% done when Vin decided to put the "necklaces" on - bead garland. He threw it at the tree, and it toppled on top of him. He was fine, no ornaments broke, so I hoisted it back up into place, warning him that we couldn't pull on the tree. I spent the next hour trying everything i could think of to get it to stand up again. I tried just putting it back up, but it kept leaning, and toppling. I tried putting playdough under it, cutting the bottom (3 different times), putting it in a pot of dirt - nothing would keep it up. I broke 2 ornaments, started dinner, sister showed up with my niece to stay the week, got part of dinner on the table, sister got ready to go, finally decided that I needed a different branch. Yes, I know, I should have just given up at this point, and been contented with our "yule log" that was decorated on our dining room table - but I just couldn't! I even undecorated it in case it was unbalanced from the preschool decorating (5 ornaments on one branch). So as my sister left, I went out and found another branch. This one a much lighter willow with what appeared to be a straighter stem.

Well, it had longer branches, and I nearly broke several valuable items trying to pull it from the kitchen to the dining room. I finally pulled it in and started pruning, then sawed down the trunk, and set it in the stand... twice. FINALLY! It was up. Unfortunately at that point I was so frustrated that I wouldn't let the kids help, and warned them repeatedly that they couldn't go anywhere near it.

And as I lay on the sofa, having put the children to bed, stretched out and enjoying the Christmas lights and silence, my husband returns from his work day and I show him proudly how the Christmas tree is gone, and the needles all clean up, and how lovely the new "tree" is, and he says "Why?" ppppbbbbbtttttt! I'm sorry, you're overruled, we want Christmas to last longer!

I love holiday lights & ornaments. Every year it is my one "splurge" to buy myself a fancy ornament. I used to keep them out all year, hanging in my windows, but they were getting in the way of the opening & closing of said windows so I've had to stop except for a few. I even used to have a red, fiber optic tree that I would keep out as my Valentine's tree - but that got "forgotten" in storage when we moved.

I don't like the urgency with which the holiday is packed away until next year - and yes, I am someone who keeps the pretty painted eggs out on display all year as well!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

From the bottom and looking up

I am paying the consequences for my poor choices and mistakes.

1. my attempts at refinancing and consolidating debt have so far failed. (appraisal came back very low in value)
2. my attempts at taking advantage of my high credit limit credit card and transferring balances have failed. (credit card cut my credit limit)
3. my attempts at selling stuff to increase my income have failed. (no one has followed through in purchasing)

On the positive side, I've been able to keep our spending under control - well, except for the day when we had to get the cars repaired, and we didn't have any money to pay for it, so we put it on the credit card. sigh.

When every penny goes to bills. And what little is left is barely enough to cover groceries and gasoline. What do you do? I know the other expenses are going to come, but I just can't find the money to keep any savings around.

This weeks tasks include calling my insurance company to reduce my home insurance rate, calling my county to see if they'll lower my taxes based on the new appraisal, calling credit card companies to see if someone will consolidate and transfer balances. Things I'm considering - dropping our life insurance again or dropping the value, in the grand scheme of things I know it's not a good idea, but for the temporary I only have so many expenses I can cut. I should also try to find all my medical expenses and try to get reimbursed by my HSA card. hmmm. I wonder if there is a time limit on that.

On another positive note, I have not yet exceeded my "Official Holiday Budget" which is supposed to encompass all November & December events and gifts. I need to reevaluate tonight and go shopping tonight too. We have two parties to attend on Saturday, and some ideas of things to purchase at the big T. Also planning on taking V's Birthday Funds to purchase some fun new bedding for his new big bed. Wheee.

I'm getting excited for our Christmas cards to be finished. This year I had the kids write Merry Christmas, and then hold their words while I photographed them in front of our wood pile, and then we'll put them in the black paper with silver marker drawings they've been doing. I can't wait to see them put together.

Other things I'm hoping to do this Christmas: Cookie baking on the 20th. For unexpected gifts, I'd like to put together gift "baskets".

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Financial Stress

I understand money. I've chosen to ignore it for most of a year. Well, not really so much as only let myself be stressed by it twice per month when I sit down to pay the bills. I do periodically sit down and try to make a budget. I do check my bank balance most days to be sure I'm not overdrawn...

All that being said, I've come to the point where I'm tired of living in denile. I HATE DEBT! It is exactly what everyone says, the evil thing that drags you down. I am up to my eyeballs in it. All those things that just couldn't wait, and now I'll be paying on for the next who know how many years.

My major problem is that I am not currently bringing in enough income to cover everything. That is, the normal day to day, expected expenses - no problem. But as is evidenced by the past few months, I don't have any room for unexpected expenses. Not to say I don't expect them, it's just I keep hoping they won't show up. Like car repair. I plan my gasoline and oil changes, but anything beyond that goes on the credit card because i don't have the money for it. Then there are the weeks I forget to pull my $20 allowance, or the husbands, and one of us wants to get something, and it happens a couple times, and without the cash only restriction, it goes above the planned amount, and I find myself $10 short, and another autotransfer of $300 "richer" from my bounce protect loan. So to keep myself from stressing, I leave it there, and end up with another month of debt accrual.

So here is the plan today, I will call my insurance company and try to reduce my homeowners insurance. This will in turn reduce my mortgage! I will also talk to the tax office to see if they'll agree to use the appraisal value for my taxes instead of the tax value. This should reduce taxes, and reduce my mortgage. I've already switched to slower internet, and smaller trash can. I'm trying to remember to turn off electrical sources - but I need to try harder. I did request the electric budget plan - where it's the same amount each month - hopefully that helps a little.

We currently have listed our vehicles online for sale. I am hoping to find somewhere or someone to buy my stuff - whatever that is, so I can increase income a little. I'm pondering a 2nd job, but don't know how we'd fit it into our current schedule, unless I never sleep, or we get childcare - which would most likely cancel out the income.

My refinance didn't come through the way I hoped. Instead it said my home value was WAY lower than expected. Also learned that the lovely government programs don't apply to me either. So I continue on dragging my head and praying for miracles.

The reason for this slump down instead of the last posts positive tone: It's only the 3rd, and I'm already out of money until next weekend, so all my gasoline, and anything else we need has to come off the credit cards. No way around it because I didn't get to evaluating the autopay bills in time to stop any of them from clearing my account, and ended up over budget.

Ain't life grand.