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The One Thing I Never Talk About.

MONEY.

There’s a reason, it’s because I suck at money.

Not in your typical way, I don’t have expensive habits or tastes that cause me problems. I get my hair cut a few times a year at the walk-in place next to Target, I only ever wear mascara and I only do that about once a month. I carry purses that cost $30 – but when I have splurged for a fun Fossil bag – I carried it for 3 years. I don’t have “money problems” in the typical way.

My way is actually so atypical, it’s hard to explain. The first round of issues occurred when I got divorced a million years ago. Single Mom in College with Credit Cards is what I like to call that phase of my life. I used a Scarlet O’Hara technique in money and just kept telling myself, “I’ll worry about it AFTER I graduate and get a real job.” That was when you first started being able to use credit cards for groceries and while that helped feed us, it caused me TONS of issues later because the debt I was in after graduation was excruciating.

So that was a huge issue, but then I spent 10+ years not doing a great job managing our family finances. I had this very simple budget and carried around receipts for weeks and when I finally entered everything in nothing ever balanced and we spent every month struggling.

Donnie finally took over a couple of years ago and things have only improved since. BUT! That’s not what this entry is about! This entry is ACTUALLY about budgeting tools. When Donnie took over we started with a Google Spreadsheet budget. He entered in items that were connected to the budget and the numbers would edit accordingly. He felt like this was a little archaic though, and would have liked to not to have to enter in all of the transactions, so we tried Mint for awhile. Mint synced with cards/accounts automatically, but you still had to go through and put their categories in the budget. And a lot of the “auto syncing” didn’t really make things easier. It actually made things more confusing. Especially because we were using one credit card for bonus so Donnie needed to make sure the cash from the bank was set aside to pay the bill every month, and it was tricky since that meant we were accounting for the same purchases twice. Mint did NOT like that.

So we went back to the spreadsheets for awhile. The spreadsheets were just so easily edited to suit our needs. Yes, it felt archaic, but it was also something we could easily manipulate because it wasn’t something so robust like Mint. The MAIN problem with our spreadsheets was that it was SO EASY to make a mistake. So, Donnie was still on the quest for something with a little more protection from stupid errors.

6a01347f997a3b970c0133f4fc1e9a970b-800wiTHAT is when he discovered You Need A Budget. It is, for all practical purposes, a really robust spreadsheet. It has suited our needs PERFECTLY. It has an app on our phone so, as soon as I get gas, I can enter it into the “transactions”. Gas is tricky because it doesn’t show up on our bill for the “real” amount until it clears, so Donnie would basically have to worry about that item for a few days longer than most. Same with anything that required a tip. He still rectifies with the bank account and the credit card every day.

ProTip: Everyone should log into their bank/credit cards every day, because that’s how you catch Credit Card Theft. We’ve had cards/numbers stolen twice but we’ve caught it because we log into our accounts every day to at least LOOK at them.

It does take a bit to set up, get your budget in place, set it up for different accounts so you’re tracking when/if you spend on credit cards or from your bank. But here’s something I learned, it should take time to deal with your money. It’s important and managing it shouldn’t be easy or an afterthought. I still suck at it, luckily, most of it’s out of my hands.

But once it’s set up, it’s just tracking your spending and making sure your purchases are put in the correct category. He checks every day and things that come through like grocery purchases from Publix, he just adds those transactions because he knows what budget category they are. But anything weird that I purchase, I add and categorize either from my phone or from my desktop. And I can add notes on each purchase to show what it was because somethings are not obviously one category and I need his feedback on where it should go. I can also split up a receipt and show that $40 of that Publix purchase was cash for a babysitter which falls under “entertainment” in our budget.

The splitting of receipts is KEY. So many purchases at, like Target, are for more than one thing. Birthday gift PLUS groceries. Or clothing PLUS groceries. Being able to split a purchase into two budget categories was something we couldn’t do easily with Mint or with basic spreadsheets. But YNAB makes it SO EASY.

We’re still a work in progress. It took a bout a year of monitored spending to really settle in on what our budget should actually be. When I was in charge we ate out several times a week. Now? It’s only once a week. BUT! We budget money for coaching because, in the big picture of our lives, that’s more valuable than a few meals out. We also budget race fees and kid’s sporting costs. These are all things we spent money on before, but I just kinda lumped into one under-funded category. It’s hard to sit down and make a perfect budget if you don’t monitor your spending. We’re about two years in of Donnie being in charge, and it took us one of those years to really work out the details of our budget.

Anyway – I’ve never talked about money before because I suck at it. I could still tell you horror stories involving me and finances, but I won’t. Because I’m actually really embarrassed about it. Instead, I’ll tell you some of our saving graces. 1) My husband, you can’t have him. 2) YNAB. It costs money if you want the connectivity between several devices, but it’s the best money we’ve ever spent.

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And So It Begins…

We signed a contract with a realtor this week to sell our house. We’re hoping to get the majority of the work WE need to do done in the next two weeks and hopefully have someone professional come over to do some of the stuff we can’t/don’t want to do. We’re hoping neither costs us too much out of pocket.

We signed the contract and got our “To Do” list on Monday and I started my full blown anxiety meltdown about 12 seconds later. There’s just SO MUCH that needs to be done to get it ready to sell and I was struggling where to “begin”. Also, I was struggling when to begin because – I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before – but we’re kinda busy. The whole reason we were motivated to sell this house to begin with is that it’s 4100 square feet and we have NO TIME to keep that size of house picked up or clean or organized. So, in order to SELL the house because we have NO TIME to care for it, we have to DO A LOT OF STUFF TO IT first.

I’m sure you see the problem.

featuredI did fork out the GIANT bucks for the really expensive paint from BEHR that they guarantee will only take one coat for E’s bathroom. It’s the worst of ALL painting situations. It’s orange. It’s textured. And it’s covered in Sharpie where he commemorated every show he was in by writing some of the lines he had on the walls of the bathroom. It was a cute idea until we decided to sell the house. But y’all? The paint might actually be working! You can’t really tell by this picture (paint was still wet when I took the photo) I don’t think, but that’s only ONE COAT and I’m doing it with a brush to make sure I get all of the weird texture covered and it’s going on smooth and I can’t see ANY of the orange under it. NO LIE. I really didn’t believe it would work, but I was okay with it keeping me to TWO coats because I’ve painted over red/orange before and it’s IMPOSSIBLE. So the fact that this looks like it’s going to work in ONE COAT – is a damn miracle.IMG_1807

This is the BIG project for me. Painting his bathroom. And I thought that was going to be the biggest pain in the ass, but after walking through the house and finding out what all we have to move, take down, hide? Nope. There are much bigger pains in the ass.

Although, I’ll admit, there were several things she said, “No! That’s fine! Leave it there!” which I was pleasantly surprised about. Like my plates hanging in my kitchen or our race wall. She was completely fine with that.

I sat down Wednesday with my bullet journal and organized every room on a page with a list of things I need to do. And that simple moment? Made my anxiety SO MUCH LESS. Just organizing it all somehow made it seem less overwhelming. It’s still six pages worth of stuff, but it seems a lot more doable when spread out in a list like that.

So. If you are local and find yourself thinking, “Wow. I really wish I knew someone who needed help cleaning/organizing/staging a house.” Then you know who to call.

If I’m absent here or anywhere online in the next few weeks, don’t panic. I’m just using my free time to do things like organize toys or stage bathrooms. (Who knew you needed to stage a bathroom?)

How To Post A Negative Response On The Internet

It happens. You find something the internet tells you “Tastes Great!” or “Works like a charm!” so you try it and it does just the opposite. You trust the internet and then the internet fails you. What do you do?

Do you make a mental note and walk away? That’s often what I do, and I’m probably making things worse by doing just that: Nothing. Or are you the type to post your dissatisfaction? Well! If you are – to those of us who visit that guide/recipe/review in the future – can I offer a few tips? Many people might read your comment to see if they want to try this craft or meal or solution to their problem – and your comment could make a difference. Especially if the original author of the item comes back in and chats with you about your results, maybe even coming up with a solution!

My point? Saying, “This sucks!” does nothing. It doesn’t really deter me from trying because you gave me no details about why it sucked. Especially if there are positive comments before you saying, “Worked like a charm!” No, please provide me a little more details and also – fingers crossed – if you are respectful and kind, then the original content producer might take the time to offer other alternatives to your failed attempt. I mean, if you need to leave a negative comment on something, then can we at least be constructive about it? I always read the comments before I try anything and the ones that say, “I did this and it didn’t work! Don’t bother!” irritate the crap out of me. If it’s a craft – what part didn’t seem to work? If it’s a how-to can you at least try to get feedback from the author? If it’s a recipe – what didn’t work? So many things could go wrong with a recipe – being specific helps the next people who may want to try. Maybe not everyone reads comments on those type of articles and entries but I like feedback before I try something, so I do read them!

Here are some suggestions from the person who reads your comments before attempting the item in question –

Domestic Problem Solving
(Like home-made grout cleaners, or methods to kill fruit flies.)
What you WANT to say:
“This did NOT work at all! My problem still exists! Don’t even bother!”

Try this instead:
“I had this problem and did exactly what you suggested, but it didn’t solve my problem. Do you have any ideas as to why it did not?”

Recipes
What you WANT to say:
“I followed this recipe exactly and it tasted awful! I do not recommend this at all!”

Try this instead:
“I followed this recipe exactly and it was a little spicy/bland for me. I didn’t like the consistency, it was too thick. I’m not a big fan of cilantro, I would suggest leaving that out if you aren’t either.”

Try this instead:
“I went on a Saturday and it was very busy and I couldn’t get very good service. The floors were also quite dirty and the food was lukewarm. I went back a second time and the service was better but the food was still lukewarm and the place was dirty.”

Negative reviews are funny things. I’m very glad people leave them, but especially with restaurants, I wish people would go back twice just in case they just had a bad server, or chose a bad menu item. Even at my favorite restaurant there are bad servers or items on the menu I don’t like. I would hate for people to judge based on just those things. But, no matter what you do, if you leave a negative review someplace PLEASE be specific! Maybe some people like bland food? Maybe – even if the service was bad – someone wants to try because they heard the baklava was AMAZING. Tell why as specifically as possible or else you’re just leaving negative detritus on the internet that serves no real purpose.

Crafts
What you WANT to say:
“I made this craft and it fell apart and looked nothing like the picture! Don’t waste your time!”

Try this instead:
“I made this craft but the glue I used (E9000) didn’t work very well as it fell apart. I also had a hard time getting it to look exactly like the picture. Mine turned out a little fluffier than the demo photo indicates.”

Restaurant Reviews
What you WANT to say:
“This place was dreadful. I’ll never go back.”

The internet is full of good tips, I search for them daily. I recently tried a concrete cleaner that the woman even posted pictures of the before/after – yet still – even as I followed her exact instructions…NADA. My concrete looked EXACTLY the same. I left a comment saying that in the nicest, most helpful way possible. I don’t like putting anything negative out in the world because I don’t want that negative coming back at me, but sometimes things don’t work. And you can at least help others who come across your negativity by being as helpful or detailed about the failure as possible. “This didn’t work at all!” does nothing to help anyone, really. Not only is it a harsh delivery but it provides no details as to how the process failed so it’s likely to be ignored.

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It’s The Little Things, Really.

10496188_10152918333128496_7606086885932320025_oSome time in 2000 Donnie and I decided we were sick of laundromats and we were close enough to graduating that we could put a washer and dryer on a credit card. We walked into Sears and just pointed to the cheapest washer and the cheapest dryer and said, “That’s what we want.” The salesman gave us a hard time because one was a Kenmore and one was a Whirlpool, but we just scoffed. We had never bought appliances before, but we were pretty certain that dryers were NOT brand exclusive. We were confident the Whirlpool dryer would not know the wet clothes inside of it had been washed in a Kenmore. So! We bought it anyway! We weren’t even married yet, so this was a HUGE decision. It was pretty much was like a promise ring. But way more useful.

For a few years, several years ago, the washer had to be beaten. I feel like I’ve written about that here before, but I can’t remember. But – you had to punch it in the exact right spot with the exact right force to get the water to fill up the drum. It wasn’t easy. Sometimes I punched it 4-8 times before it would finally fill up. But it would fill up! So who cared? And then…like a miracle…it just started filling up like a normal washer. I did nothing to it, it just started working. It was amazing!

For a few months.

And then the dryer started acting up. I thought it was broken at first and nearly panicked because A) We did not want to buy a new dryer and B) I was sentimentally attached to those appliances. But! It wasn’t broken! Instead – it would only dry for 20 minutes at a time. It would dry either on the “20 minutes” setting on the timed dial OR on the “touch up” setting which was also about 20 minutes long. Except for BOTH settings, it was only “hot” for about 10 minutes and then it was – more or less – fluffing. SO! Every time we had to dry clothes, it took about 3-7 cycles depending on the fabric and the size of the load. This meant that I had to CONSTANTLY be re-setting the dryer so that clothes didn’t just sit around wet.

I could not have lived with this type of dryer if I did not work from home. Even for the two years BEFORE I worked from home, I would come home on my lunch break to let out the dog and to re-start the dryer.

This has been going on for a good 2-3 years now. I basically have to do laundry every day because it takes so long to dry a load of clothes, you can’t get too behind or you’re screwed. Also? You know what never gets washed? Bathmats and bedding.

(Also? They are VERY small capacity so we stopped using a King Sized comforter a long time ago. We use a light quilt instead.)

WELL…we scored a free dryer recently! Family member replacing a set and we staked claim on the dryer. This meant we could get a working appliance but not have to pay for it, messing with my sentimental attachment to it. WOOT!

But – here’s the hilarious thing: It is the dryer match to our washing machine!

We didn’t know it until it was sitting next to our washing machine, but they’re the same make/model/series. How hysterical is that?

And y’all – I did not realize how much a crappy dryer had taken control of my life, until I had a working one again. First? I washed the bath mats this weekend and dried them and it was all done before anyone even showered for the day. Also? I didn’t realize that the first thing I did every morning was go into the laundry room and restart the dryer. I just ALWAYS had clothes going from the day before and they always needed another cycle of drying. The first morning I stumbled into the laundry room and went to start the dryer and realized…WAIT…I don’t have to do that, do I? And shook my head a bit to wake up and realized there weren’t even clothes in the dryer! There are always clothes in the dryer! WHAT IS THIS NEW AND GLORIOUS LIFE?

So. GREAT weekend. I actually stayed pretty caught up on laundry but without having to constantly go into the laundry room to reset everything. It’s truly amazing what something simple like – a working appliance – can do for your life. NOW! If only all three eyes of my stove worked, then I’d be one pampered little princess.

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People Should Pay Me For My Wisdom.

photo (6)When you live in a home with more than one person, and especially if the multiple people might have different eating habits, it’s hard for the person who is going grocery shopping to know what all is needed in the house. There are some things Donnie eats daily that I never even notice in the cabinets, much less recognize if they’re out or running low. So, our family has adopted the: Leave empty containers on the counter as a reminder until the item gets replaced – method of grocery listing.

Ideally, the items get added to my Bullet Journal to form an actual list to use every few days/weekly. But, I have given up on the Shopping Every Few Days dream of living. It’s just not workable for me, and it’s not really inconvenient to go to the store every day as both of our regular grocery stores are nearby or on the way to everything else we do. So! I shop every day! And I embrace that! SCREW YOU PEOPLE WHO DO IT ALL ONCE A WEEK.

(Sorry. I have some lingering feelings of inadequacy over my poor grocery planning skills.)

Anyway! Since I go every day, I don’t always have a “list” I’m working on. So, I simply take a picture of the counter of empty containers and use that as my list. I don’t forget anything that way AND I don’t waste the space in my bullet journal that I could be using for doodles the of “Kim and Donnie: True Love 4-Ever!” that I do while waiting on hold with the HVAC company.

Basically I’m giving you a Zoot Approved Life Hack here at misszoot.com >>> Leave your empty (and yucky) food containers on your counters when things run out, and then photograph the grossness in lieu of a grocery list.

You’re Welcome.