About a year and a half ago my husband was in a pretty serious car injury. He was taken to the hospital unconscious. It turned out he had a blown to the head, which has been exasperated by the fact that it was not his first head injury (he can cite at least 4 other concussions before this point).

Immediately after the accident he slept constantly. He would watch TV with me and not remember the next day that we had watched anything. We would have a conversation and a few hours later he would have no recall of the conversation. He had, and still has, massive migraines constantly, dizziness, and soreness and pain in his neck and back.

Initially he tried to go start back to work, which was a big mistake for his recovery. But he believed that what he had would pass quickly.

He quickly used up all of his PTO time leaving work early due to massive headaches.

Eventually his boss told him he needed to fill for FMLA or if he missed anymore he would be fired. So he did. Within about six months he had used up his FMLA and was told that he needed to apply for short term disability. He did this.

He’s been seeing two different neurologists, a speech therapist for memory issues, a chiropractor and massage therapist and physical therapists to deal with the back and neck pain, an ENT and vestibular therapist for his dizziness. And while time has seemed to help him with his memory and cognition, though he isn’t perfect according to our neurocognitive analyist, he has definitely improved. But his headaches and dizziness have seemed to have gotten worse despite all the different treatment plans that his two neurologists have put him on. He still, a year and a half later, can’t drive because he can’t focus on the road and moving his head left and right causes his vertigo while driving. The few attempts that he has made have nearly resulted in other accidents.

Well, at the end of February, his short term disability ended and we also found out that the first review of his long term disability was denied. So here is a guy who WANTS to work, but can’t because he can’t mentally and physically hold a conversation (required by his job) for longer than 10 minutes… and he is denied? Anyway, so now we’re having to pay for COBRA for health insurance because he is now technically on a leave of absence at his work and since we only get one appeal for the long term disability we also have to hire a lawyer. Combine that with about 40% less income than we had previously – and well, things are financially tough over here.

I’m still working my part time job, so that is helpful. But right now we’re making *just enough* to cover our daily expenses. The medical bills we’re just working on one day at a time and chiseling them out with the $100 I get each month from my HSA (here’s $15 to you, $15 to you, and $15 to you… we know it isn’t enough, sorry).

In other words, things are stressful financially here. His appeal is due by the end of July. So we just keep hoping that one way or another that will settle things. However the lawyer keeps talking about suing if he gets denied again and then there is of course the next option of public disability (right now we’re applying through the long term disability benefit from his job benefits).

Because we don’t know what will happen next to us financially except that we know there WILL be expenses and that we WILL have to pay for them. We’ve decided to stop paying down debt. Paying down debt assumes a luxury of not getting in to more debt. We don’t have that luxury, we HAVE to incur medical debt right now.

Instead we’ve decided that our best method of debt prevention is to build a healthy savings of the extra money we do get so that we can pay for the “unexpecteds” that come along the way. When/if the disability gets approved, he’ll be getting a back payment of enough to pay off the majority of the debt that we have except for student loans, so it isn’t like we’re just giving up on paying it.

We’re essentially going back to Baby Step #1 and saying: “For us, $1000 isn’t enough. We need more because we know that big emergencies are likely in the next few months.”

So instead of my extra money at Kohl’s going to debt, it is now going to savings. Instead of my overload money at work going to debt, it is now going to savings. Instead of some of these wedding checks going to debt, they’re going to savings. Instead of the tax refund going to debt, it is going to savings. Instead of my summer teaching money going to debt, it is going to savings.

As strange as it may sounds, money and debt and finances have taken a second seat. It used to be my main focus, my drive. But now it is about getting my husband out of pain. Or at least helping him find a way to manage his pain so that it doesn’t get to the disabilitating levels that it has achieved recently.

However, money stress doesn’t help his recovery, so that is my “job” in helping him get better. I just have to make sure the money stuff is taken care of as best I can until we move past this and in to the next phase of our lives together.

Insane 6 Months: Six Weeks Down!

Mr Woodpecker and I are working really hard to get all of the credit card debt paid off in 6 months. We’re now through 6 weeks and we’ve done an amazing job so far. In 6 weeks we’ve paid off $4087 in credit card debt!

It feels so good to pay it off! Here are the nuts and bolts of how we’re paying this debt off:

  • Living on my salary and putting his salary to debt payment.
  • I picked up two part time jobs: tutoring for $40/hr for 2-4 hours per week and working ~20 hrs/week at Kohls.
  • Mr Woodpecker has picked up my responsibilities at home while I work more.
  • Trimming the fat on our budget for things that aren’t necessities.
  • Sticking to our budget!
  • Talking regularly and openly about our budget and what we spend on things.

The stuff above is actually the easy part. The hard part I’ve found in the past is motivation. Here is what we do to stay motivated about getting out of debt:

  • Every time I get paid, I put it on the credit card immediately. I get texts from my bank everytime Kohl’s pays me. So as soon as I get that text I log on and put that exact amount on the credit card. On my way home from tutoring, I stop at the ATM and deposit the money. Then when I get home I put it immediately on the credit card. This keeps the money from being spent any other way. Last month I ended up with almost 15 payments on the credit card. Some large, some small. But all felt amazing!
  • I keep a record of our payments on the fridge door. Every time I make a payment I write it on a piece of paper that is on the fridge with the date of the payment. Seeing it there every time we open the door reminds us of what we’re doing and keeps us going. Mr. Woodpecker has told me that this is his biggest motivator because it is “right there” every time he goes to eat.
  • We celebrate every payment and milestone. By celebrate I mean high fives, hugs, and kisses. When I put a $58 payment on the credit card it is awesome to know that I have a partner who will congratulate me on that and be just as excited as I am about it.
  • We got engaged. Okay, not everyone can do this. But now we’re extra motivated to pay off this debt because we want to start our married life without it and we don’t want to have our wedding until it is paid off and we can save for our wedding and pay for it in cash. This is also another amazing motivation to keep us going.

I won’t lie, the past 6 weeks have been exhausting. Working 45-50 hrs per week at my normal job and then going to my part time job in the evenings and weekends is just hard. I miss him a lot. And he misses me. The only way I can do this is knowing that he is taking care of everything at home while I’m not there and knowing that it is only temporary. It has definitely made us cherish the 1 or 2 nights a week that we get where I don’t have to work  all the more!

Oh Hey! I’m Engaged!

I’m a bit behind in this post, but on Halloween Mr Woodpecker and I got officially engaged.

There’s no crazy story behind it like some people.

We talked about it. He asked me. I said yes.

The next day we discussed a budget for a ring.

The next day we went shopping.

I found one I liked that was a about twenty cents over our agreed upon budget (no debt on the ring!).

He put it on hold so that I could sleep on it overnight.

The next morning I woke up and told him I was sure that I wanted it.

That day he went and bought it. And within about 15 minutes of him getting home that night I had the ring on my finger.

It is perfect. He is perfect. I’m just happy.

We’re looking at getting married after we pay off the credit card debt and save for the wedding. So probably next Christmas break. I’m happy and so excited. Being engaged (at least at the beginning) is quite a thrill.

The Nature of Loss

This past weekend has been pretty hard for me. Friday was the anniversary of my brother’s birth. He passed away at 22 years of age from cancer. For some reason this year his birthday has been a hard one as I remember him. I feel compelled to post the letter that I read to him at his funeral.

Dear Daniel,

I don’t know if you knew this, because I never told you (so how could you?), but when I was growing up my worst nightmares always involved you. I remember having one where we had been raised in seperate homes for a while and I saw you in a grocery store and you were smoking cigarettes. It hurt me so much to see my brother doing something to harm himself like smoking that I woke up in tears and couldn’t get back to sleep for hours afterwards just thinking of how awful it would be if anything bad, like cigerettes, would ever happen to you.

I don’t know if you would remember this. But in my room in our house on Berrendo road I had a big stuffed lion in my room that I just loved. One day I remember asking you to come in for a second. Your unsuspecting five year old curiousity obliged. You came in and sat down on the lion next to me and I asked you to give me your arm. You did, so willingly. And then I bit you. I didn’t really have a reason for asking you to come in, and so once you sat down the only choice I had was to bite you. I think about this day a lot. And I know you were only 5 and probably don’t remember me doing it, but I’ve meant to tell you for a long time that I’m sorry that I did this. So Daniel, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have bit you.

We went on a lot of car rides together. Now a lot of these car trips were consumed by questions that you seemed to always have in your mind. “Which has more smog, Los Angeles or New York City?” “Which do you think has more trees, San Diego or Chicago?” But my favorite moments in these car rides were when we would sit in the backseat of a car together and sing silly songs. You were the perfect partner for our duet of “There’s a hole in the bucket dear Liza, dear Liza.” We even had a routine that involved a newspaper and an actual bucket that we liked to perform at our grandparents house after school. In fact, we sang that one so often that I remember one instance that we sang it together in the hospital. But, just between you and me Daniel, I could never understand why they were fixing this whole in the bucket with a straw. Why didn’t they just buy a plastic bucket?

They say that the highest form of flattery is imitation. When I was a kid it sometimes bothered me that you were constantly trying to do everything that I did. I took piano lessons, so you took them. I joined the band, so you did.  I ran cross country, so you wanted to run cross county. I joined Science Olympiad, so you joined as well. I was a lifeguard at the Lakes, so the next year you did the same. And honestly, while it was tough leaving home for me to go to college, in terms of you I’m so glad that I did. After I left you really started to discover who you were and what you liked to do. And as a result you became the best trombonist that I’ve ever met. Instead of trying to compete with me, you started to stand on your own and do things that I never did and excel at all of it. When you made All-State I was so proud of you that I told everyone I knew. There wasn’t a single person that I knew who didn’t know that I had a brother who could play trombone — and play it well.

Now I don’t want you to get a big head about the trombone playing thing Daniel, I do have a bone to pick with you. It’s just really not fair that you wouldn’t give me your recipe for your egg plant parmesian. It was so delicious and you knew I loved it (you must have, you were always offering to make it for me). But why? WHY? couldn’t you write down the recipe for me?

I enjoyed living with you so much. I liked sitting around watching movies together. Playing tennis at the apartment. Going to the beach. Hiking at Torrey Pines. Torturing my kittens by trapping them in boxes. Being with you as your broke the Red Lobster all you can eat shrimp record by pounding down 80 shrimp for dinner. Watching Texas Tech play at Trophy’s Sports Bar. Oh, and by the way Daniel, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but Texas Tech lost Saturday night to the Lobos — I think they could feel that their biggest fan was missing. We had so much fun riding jet skiis together in Mission Bay Park last year. And there was always the time when you and Matt bought panda and koala masks at the Wild Animal Park and walked around growling at all the people who walked by. You scared some little kids but you made the entire trip so much better.

Daniel, you were a man of few words with the exceptions of: “Texas Tech” “Hooters” or “I want some ribs/crab legs/chocolate pudding.” But probably the thing I will always and forever remember you saying was in the hospital when a nurse was trying to take your temperature and you were messing with a blood pressure cuff that was falling from your arm. The nurse kept telling you to keep still, to which you replied: “It’s hard to keep still when you’re moving.”

But, probably one of the most vivid memories I have of you, Daniel, is when mom was dying. We all stood around her. You were on her right side, and I on her left. And after we knew that she had passed away you sat down on Mark’s bed, put your hands over your face and just started weeping. You kept saying “No… no… no…” and shaking your head. I remember going over to you and putting my arm around you to try and give you some comfort. And now, I feel at such a loss. Because now it is me shaking my head, weeping and saying “No…no…no…” because honestly Daniel, I can’t believe you are gone. You were too young and there was and is so much more in life that you didn’t get to experience.

You were a wonderful brother. I loved living with you. I loved sharing my life with you. I loved your kindness, your generosity, your tenacity, your humor, your love, your passion to persevere, your will to live, you desire to go on no matter the cost, and the big hugs you would give me whenever I would tell you good news. I couldn’t have asked for a better brother… only to have had more time with you.

I love you so much Daniel. You were… amazing.
Forever your sister,

Neither my brother nor my mother thought they were going to die. They refused to believe that death would take them because they knew that God would save them. Both of them at some point realized that this might not be the case. My mom got too sick and for months was mentally and physically incapable to do anything. My brother didn’t have enough time to realize he was as close as he was to dying. Earlier the day he passed he was breathing into the oxygen machine, let out a burp and said “Ahh… that was a good one!” Most people who are going to die a few short hours later would not make such a joke. It all happened within a matter of minutes.

I wish beyond anything in the entire world that I had something from my mom or from my brother that they wrote to me knowing that they were going to die. I wish I had a letter from my mother that said, in her handwriting, “I love you. You filled my life with so much joy. I know you are going to become a beautiful person as you grow old, I’m just so sorry I won’t be there to see it.” And while I would never expect such a thing from my brother I would love just a note from him that said “I love you. Thanks for being such a great sister.”

And this is where my point comes in. We’re all going to die. Some of us have years of preparing for it and some of us have only seconds. But please, please, please, leave something personal for the ones you are leaving behind. Even if you write it today and it just sits in a box in your room for 30 years, it’s the sweetest gesture I think you could ever do for those you loved.

The Price of a Gift

I’ll be perfectly honest, I’m a terrible gift giver. Well, not terrible at picking out gifts, but terrible in that there are very few people I actually give gifts to.

I’m not the type of person who buys gifts for semi-close acquaintances on their birthday. In fact, rarely do I even buy my closest friends anything more than a meal for their birthday. In my group of friends that has just been the status quo. We just don’t do gifts.

However, when it comes to a significant other or with family, I’m known to go all out. My ex and I (T.O. for those of you who also read my relationship blog) didn’t believe in just a little gift, we believed in purchasing experiences for each other. Some representative gifts  include me purchasing him flying lessons, me purchasing him scuba gear and diving classes, me purchasing him a weekend get-a-way to wine country plus staying at a bed and breakfast for the weekend. (He reciprocated with just as elaborate and expensive experiences in return, in case you were concerned this might be one-sided.)

All of these purchases, of course, brought to you by the debt building power of Visa.

This weekend was Mr Hive’s birthday. And that purchasing desire I feel when I want to buy something nice for someone I care about came out of me once again. I ended up purchasing him two gifts that we can enjoy together (one a board game we can play together and another a role playing game book for an RPG that we play). Total damage of the gifts? $95. Then my nice, quiet, romantic dinner with the two of us got turned into a dinner for 6. So my previous hope of getting out of dinner around $40 turned into over $80 once appetizers got thrown in for the party and my sister came so I had to buy her meal as well. I didn’t mind, the food was excellent and the company enjoyable. I just didn’t really imagine that I would be spending $175 on my boyfriend’s birthday.

I really should have set myself a lower limit on the gift. I know he would have been happier with one or the other of the two gifts and wouldn’t have cared what I spent. The dinner I probably should have been a little more forceful about the appetizers, though when the dishes are $15 a pop it is hard to make it out with tip for a reasonable price – good thing this isn’t something we’ll be doing regularly.

Anyway, the point of all of this is that I should probably start saving monthly for a gift fund. I’ve been lucky the past few years that I’ve only have to buy birthday gifts for my sister and my dad. They both have birthdays around Christmas so usually I just use my Christmas funds to buy them birthday presents.

This year I also bought my good friend who recently had a baby a $75 stroller for her shower. I have another friend who is getting married in June that I plan on buying a gift for (he also is one of only two friends IRL that reads this blog). And these aren’t just run of the mill friends. These are good friends. Friends I would go into debt for. You know, the kind of friend where if they needed me I would be on a plane tomorrow and charge it to my credit card and not think twice about it kind of friends. There are some people I would simply go to Target and buy something around $20 from their registry – these aren’t those friends. These are $75-100 friends.

Wow – did I really just rank my friends by how much I would spend on a gift for them? Yes I did…

Anyway, the moral of the story is that I used to believe that because of how my life was set up that I didn’t need a gift fund. This year is proving me wrong. And typically these expenses have (at least for the stroller and the excess of Mr Hive’s gift) come out of my Miscellaneous fund. Here are the two options that I see for how to save towards a gift fund on my already strapped budget:

  1. Change my Christmas fund to a Gift fund. Increase monthly contribution by $10-20. While Christmas does mainly pay for gifts, it also pays for other things like Christmas dinner and decorations. Saving as a gift/Christmas fund would mean that in a year where I have lots of gifts outside of Christmas my Christmas pot would be lower, but in years where I have few gifts it would be higher. Not sure it makes a lot of difference in the end. I’ll have to spend what I have to spend come December.
  2. Start a separate fund for Gifts. Start monthly contribution of $10-20. I like this idea because it is dedicated to gifts. But even at $20 per month I’m only saving $240, which I would have ALREADY spent this year on the baby shower + Mr Hive’s birthday.
  3. Ignore this as an aberrant year and get on with my life. I could always just keep things status quo and not change my savings towards gifts. But as my GOOD friends are getting to the point in their lives where they are getting married, having babies, and more are likely to come in the next few years – this seems inadvisable.
  4. Set up a savings account for gifts with a target money amount. This would essentially work like my E-fund does. Maybe I save to it monthly until I get $150 in it. Then I stop saving until I have to use it. Then once I use it I save up again. That way I’m only putting money in it when I use it – not when I don’t. This would mean in lean gift giving years it make never be touched, but in high gift giving years it is constantly in use. This would account for feast or famine years, but would require me to redo the budget every time I have to buy a gift to restock the gift fund. That itself is kind of annoying.

So this is where I need you, dear readers. What do you do about gifts? Do you have a gift fund or do they normally come out of your regular spending money? How do you budget for a gift fund when year to year they can be so variable? Or do you simply save for each once you know that it is going to happen (I mean, I have at least 6 month notices on most marriages and babies)? I’d like to know how others handle gifts before I make a decision on what to do myself. Please, speak up. =D

College For My Sister

Today my sister went in to do her assessments and meet with the counselors and take a campus tour.

She did FANTASTIC on her assessment tests. She scored an 86% on her college algebra test (not bad for not studying) and didn’t pass the trig test (56%). Not surprising since she’s never taken a trig course, so she’ll start there with her math classes. She’ll need to get through Calc II.

Her English and Writing assessments were amazing. She got a 95% on one and a 96% on the other. She speak Engrish good. 😉 Her scores also qualify her being able to take the Honor’s level English Composition classes – which is great because she likes being in classes with other motivated/strong students. Also, it means she can take honors contracts in any of the classes she chooses (including Chemistry!)

She loved the school and is exceptionally excited and motivated to get this college process started. I think if she could begin taking classes tomorrow she would!

The main problem is that she doesn’t qualify for resident tuition this semester. I’ve only been here for 5 months and I would have to be here for 6 months to qualify. Turns out they didn’t even CHECK our residency in any way, so I could have lied and they never would have known (if we didn’t apply for financial aide, that is). Alas, now she’s stuck paying out of state tuition for this semester – which is twice as much as resident.

Oh yes, and also because she (and her mom) didn’t pay any attention to the deadlines she won’t be able to qualify for financial aid this semester either. But as soon as my dad gets residency here then we can apply for it for next semester.

To take 11 units at the non-resident tuition (the bare minimum she needs to take to be able to finish before Fall 2012 when she would transfer) will cost us $2,000.

In the summer she’ll need 11 units again, which at the resident tuition will cost $850. (Such a difference!)

She’ll then need 42 more units over the course of 3 more semesters ($3,120) to finish her degree.

So all told, just for classes, it will cost us around $6,000 to get my sister the first TWO years of her education. My goal (I don’t know if this is anyone else’s) is to get her through this period of her schooling with no student loans. Then when she transfers to a 4 year school she can pay for that with student loans. Hopefully doing well enough in her community college classes to get some decent transfer scholarships (I know she can get at least a 50% tuition scholarship at the school I teach at).

How are we going to pay for this $6,000 over the course of the next 2 years?

Well, I’m putting aside $100/month for her. This will come off of my debt payment money. I’ll still be paying OVER my minimum payment, but not as much as I could be. This comes out to $2,400 over the course of the next two years just from me.

My dad’s child support money will also pay for her tuition. So for the next year (she turned 17 today) he’ll be paying about $200/month to her. We’ve already agreed (her, her mother and I) that this money go to her tuition. That is another $2,400 this year. Total thus far: $4,800. Hopefully my dad will man up and actually pay this every month since she’ll be very dependent on it. Also, I hope he continues to contribute money to her until she graduates college. But that is between her and him after she turns 18.

Where is the rest coming from? Her mom wants to also help her. She’s giving her some money for food and books. She doesn’t have a lot of money because she’s been living off of disability and unemployment for pretty much as long as my sister has been alive. Her grandparents also want to help, but I don’t know how much, but since they’re both retired I doubt it will be more than a few hundred dollars over the course of a year. I plan on making a Smart Piggy account for her family to donate money to and see the progress. Hopefully each year we can get them to contribute $300-500 to help her pay for books.

Also, once she gets a job she’ll be paying me for rent and bills (15% of her income). Assuming that she worked 15 hours a week for minimum wage she’d get about $400/month. So I’d get $60/month for rent and bills (and $40 that would go to a savings account). I’m putting the rent/bills money right back in to her college fund. So assuming that she gets a job in February (a girl can dream!), we’d get around $1,200 to apply to her college fund.

Grand total (assuming everything works out!): $6,000.

Amazingly, exactly what we would need.

When I put it down on ‘paper’ like this it seems obtainable and reasonable. Also, the hope is that eventually she’ll be able to get some financial aide which will reduce this total significantly anyway.

Note: If I ever have kids, start saving for college immediately. Even $30/month for 18 years could pay for my sister’s first two years… no problem…

Rules for My Sister

My sister will be arriving soon with her mom. I plan on drawing up some rules for her to “live by” while she lives with me. Here are the few that I’m thinking, I would LOVE some suggestions from you guys:

  • She agrees to participate in weekly chores as assigned.
  • She agreed to not partake of any alcohol, smoking or drugs until she is of the legal age (if appropriate). If she is found to have done any of these inside or outside the apartment she will be asked to leave and sent home.
  • She agrees to get a part time job of at least 20 hours per week within 2 months of arriving, if not sooner. If a job is not found within 5 months with inadequate action taken to find a job, she will be asked to leave and sent home.
  • Once getting a job each paycheck she will contribute 15% of her take home salary to paying for living expenses (rent, electricity, water bill).
  • Once getting a job each paycheck she will contribute 10% of her take home salary contributing to apartment food fund.
  • Once getting a job each paycheck she will contribute 15% of her take home salary to paying for her education (tuition reimbursement to family members or to pay for books).
  • Once getting a job each paycheck she will contribute 10% of her take home salary to a savings account that will be used only for absolute emergencies (pay for living expenses in case loss of job, pay for emergency transportation, health care costs, ect – not for fun activities like vacations  or entertainment).
  • The remainder of her take home salary (50%) can be used at her discretion for entertainment, clothes, food, ect.
  • She agrees to meet at least once a week for apartment financial discussions.
  • We agree to not have more than 1 or 2 friends over without at least 24 hour consent of each other.
  • She agrees not to have overnight guests in her room until she reaches 18 years old.
  • She agrees to take a personal finance class at the local community college.
  • She agrees that while living with me she will continually be working towards her college education, taking at least 12 credit hours of classes in the Fall and Spring semesters and at least 6 credit hours in the summer.

Are there any other suggestions/rules you think that I should add to this list? Your thoughts are greatly appreciated!

More Fun With Transportation

So on my way home from picking Jack up from doggie daycare (4 hours before my flight for Thanksgiving was scheduled to leave) my alternator died. My console and radio went out first. The car started sputtering. I barely pulled into my apartment complex as the entire car shut down. Now, my car is parked on the opposite side of the complex (a good two physical blocks away, this is a huge complex). But it is still safe, in the complex, rather than in the middle of the street somewhere.

Jack and I walked the remainder of the distance home (which he was perfectly thrilled about the extra walk).

I called the auto people to confirm that, yes, all the symptoms I’m reporting are from the bad alternator. I’ll have to tow it in to the shop on Sunday (bummer).

Then I got on the internet and started looking up rates for airport shuttles. With only a 2 hour advanced notice for when I needed to be picked up and the Thanksgiving holiday I knew I would be cutting it close finding myself a ride.

After 3 calls I found a place that would take me to the airport, for $70. Well, it is only marginally more than the airport parking would have been ($48 for the trip). I’m hoping that BF’s car will get fixed by next Saturday when I need to be picked up.

I hate feeling stranded, and definitely hate feeling stressed about getting to the airport. I know it will all work out in the end but MAN is it stressful in the process.

I’m off to Thanksgiving now guys… I have no scheduled posts in the wings… so if you hear from me before Sunday it is because I’ve managed to sneak on to my grandma’s computer OR that I completely missed my flight!

The Sister

I mentioned in my last post that my sister will probably be moving in with me. This is a HUGE change.

She’s 16, she’s going to be a senior in high school in the fall graduating in December. Her high school is online and the last semester she won’t have any classes that require actual “in the class” time. We had talked before about her coming and staying with me for a few weeks on Facebook.

Well, my sister has had continual issues with her mom (she’s my half sister, we share a dad). And a lot of those issues I completely understand and sympathize with. After my dad married my (now-ex) step mother I didn’t visit him again because she was a very difficult person to live with and be around. I could only imagine how much worse it would be as her daughter.

Things haven’t gotten much better for my dad since I last wrote about him. He has been taking care of my grandma who (at 95) is getting much worse in her condition and requires essentially 24/7 care. He still continues to work part-time at Costco. However, my aunt has decided that he  has outstayed his welcome in her home and has asked him to leave. She and my cousin will take over the responsibility of taking care of my grandma. I don’t think they fully understand how much work this will be.

My dad was initially very put out about being asked to leave, but from talking to him recently he seems to have found a peace about it. He can now go out and find himself a full-time job that he couldn’t get while taking care of my grandma. He’s moving in with a friend for the time being. So the moral of the story is, that while my sister would normally go and stay with my dad – my dad himself is going to be squatting with non-family. Thus, I have volunteered to take my sister for as long as she wants to stay with me.

I have mentioned my sister before in this blog. She is one of my primary motivations to become financially solvent. I want to be able to help her pay for college as much as I can. I want her to go to a 4-year school her freshman year and live in the dorms. After that she can live off campus or even switch schools if she wants, but there is an important development that occurs and relationships that are built in that first year in the dorms. All of my friends from college are people that I met in the dorms.

So she’ll be staying with me as she finishes high school in December. The apartment I’m in is just around the corner from a very good community college, so I’ll get her enrolled in classes for the Spring semester after she graduates high school if she decides to stay with me. And I’ll get her to take her entrance exams for college and get all the application due dates together for schools that we decide that she can afford to go to/she wants to go to.

My location in Kansas is such that she would be able to drive from my apartment to three different major state universities. All of which have a great emphasis in the fields that she wants to study. So if she wanted to stay in the state she could also use me as a home base for her applications to these schools.

The school that I will teach at also offers tuition remission for spouses and dependents of their employees starting your second year of employment. I mentioned this to my dad. I am not sure what will happen, but there is a possibility that my sister may become my legal dependent for the purposes of school tuition. Then she can continue to stay with me after her freshman year (my school requires ALL freshman to live in the dorms), so her room and board will be essentially nothing after her first year. My second year the remission would be 25%, my third year is would be 50%, my fourth year it would be 75%, and my fifth year it would be 100%. So she could get a private, liberal arts education for the cost of 1.5 years of school (or about $30,000 total including room and board that first year). Still a lot of money, but very little for a private education. Also, she’ll probably qualify for some scholarships on top of this. This is all hypothetical of course.

Okay, now how my sister living with me impacts ME.

First, I had to rent a 2-bedroom apartment. It was still within my budget, but costs more obviously than a 1 bedroom. (Also, my bedroom will be smaller, BOO!)

Second, I’ll have to buy more food. Granted my sister has had to live very frugally living with my dad and her mom who have both not had more than a part time job in the past two years. I also know that when my sister is there I’ll be more likely to “eat out” – but we may have to just make these for special occasions (like pay day).

Third, I’ll have to buy some furniture. She’ll need a bed in her room. I looked online and a place in Kansas near my apartment offers some really good Mix & Match box/mattress deals. Pillow top twin bed sets for $190. Can’t really beat that for a new bed. I’ll probably get a double so I can make the bedroom a true “guest” room, but I’ll check this out after I see the size of the room. Ideally I wanted my second room to be a “craft” room. So I may just get the twin and get some sort of desk in there that will double as a sewing table when she leaves (if she leaves). I’ll also need to get her some sort of clothes storage system. Will probably just go thrift store/garage sale/Craigslist shopping for this with her. There is a dresser I like at Ikea that would match the wood I want to put in the room, but it isn’t exactly the most “frugal” purchase. Especially because I (personally) think that dressers aren’t worth the money. I hang all my clothes and then have some $15 under the bed storage containers for my underwear/pajamas/ect. I suppose I could just get those for her and tell her to deal with it. 😉

Fourth, my social life. Of all the issues that her moving effects, my social life is the one that I’m most worried about. It will be more difficult to date, my challenging to stay out late with friends at a bar, actually more difficult in general to make friends, because I’ll have my sister “in tow” for much of these adventures. Yes, I know that she’ll understand that I have to go out on dates and stuff. But it is very different since she’s younger. I lived with my brother for a time while he was sick, and these things weren’t issues because I had already established friendships, my brother was an adult (20), and half the time my brother was in the hospital anyway. It will make things more challenging, but in the dating arena it will probably make me more selective of who I “bring home” – which to be honest – is probably a good thing.

Fifth, her social life. Since we will only have one car between us, her social life will also become one of my priorities. I’ll have to drive her to visit friends, potentially drive her to work, ect, ect. She claims she already has a friend in the area (she has a lot of people she knows online because of her favorite band), so I assume they would want to meet pretty quickly after she comes. If she stays longer than the 3 months, I’ll probably consider buying a second car for her to use. That adds in the cost of the car for me (I’d give her my old one and get a “newer” one for me), insurance, ect. I’d make her pay for her own gas.

There are a lot of unknowns and things to consider about her moving with me, but they are all things I will deal with and handle. The main concern is being clear with her about my financial situation, how much money we’ll have to spend on things in a two weeks period, and teach her how to handle money in the process.

Family Reunion!

I got a message on Facebook a few months ago from my uncle asking me if I was interested in going to my Grandma’s (she lives near Yosemite) in August to celebrate his 50th birthday. I said I might be, and that we could have a double party because I turn 30 just two weeks before my uncle turns 50.

Apparently this idea took storm with my grandma, un-be-knownst to me.

I got an email from her yesterday asking me when I thought I would be coming in. To be honest, I didn’t know when my uncle would be there, so I asked her when he was planning to arrive.

She replies with something along the lines of: Well, your three uncles are showing up “then” – and the your step-dad will be here X dates – and your Dad will be here X&X – and your cousins then…. Wait… ALL my uncles? my step-dad? My Dad? My Dad isn’t even related…

And that is when I realized. This wasn’t a birthday party for me and my uncle anymore – this is a family reunion!

Now I need to get on the ball with this. My grandma has a small A-frame cabin in the middle of no where. There are 2 bedrooms and a loft. There is no way that all of us will be able to sit at the dining room table in this house. But we’ll love it because we’ll all try. =)

Apparently there is a tiny bed and breakfast down the road, so I may call and get prices. If less than $100/night I may reserve it. But considering that it is at the foothills of Yosemite in late July/early August I doubt it will be this inexpensive.

Now, normally a trip like this would send my blood pressure racing and my heart pumping a million miles per minute. But it isn’t. I’ve PLANNED for a trip in my yearly savings. Okay, so not specifically for THIS trip, but for a vacation. And I think this will be JUST the vacation I will spend the money on. I currently save $40/month towards travel. This means that I have up to $480 that I can spend. The airfare will take out about $250 of that. So getting a room at the B&B down the street will definitely be dependent on price. Hmmm… I may need to get a rental car as well. We’ll see about that.

Perhaps I should also consider just buying a tent and sleeping out side. She does live in the woods after-all. I bet my cousin would join me in that endeavor – especially if I had a blow up mattress. =)