Life as a mom


Last year we bought a riding mower and I have written before how the benefits of this purchase were getting a tan and escaping my children.

There may be one more benefit coming our way.

A class action lawsuit may put $75 bucks back in our pockets:

The lawsuit claims that the Defendants sold certain gasoline-powered lawn mowers and lawn mower engines with false and misleading horsepower ratings. The Defendants deny these claims and deny that they did anything wrong. The lawsuit does not concern the safety of these lawn mowers. The parties have agreed to resolve this case by settlement. (via lawnmowerclass.com)

If you bought a lawnmower (Ride-on $75 OR Walk-Behind $75) between January 1, 1994 and April 12th, 2009 you may be eligible.  So if you bought your lawn mower 16 years ago you can still file!  You just need the engine brand and ID Number (located on the engine itself).

You can file a claim online here.

Your lawnmower is included if your engine was manufactured by:
Briggs & Stratton
Honda
Kawasaki
Kohler
Tecumseh
Toro
Or, your lawnmower is included if your lawnmower was manufactured by:
Deere
EHP
Honda
Husqvarna
MTD
Sears
Toro
Brands manufactured by these companies include, but are not limited to:
Yard-Man, Cub Cadet, Honda, Bolens, Exmark, Deere, Sabre, Scotts, Toro, Yard Machines, Craftsman, Troy Bilt, Husqvarna, Poulan, Poulan PRO, Lawn-Boy, Weed Eater, White Outdoor, Snapper, Simplicity, Brute, Murray, and other brands.
These lawsuits tend to go on forever but I filed a claim anyway.  If someday down the road we get a check for $75 in the mail – BONUS!
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Would you ever gamble with your personal finances?

Is there room for informed risk with your family finances if you feel the cards are stacked in your favor?

I expect to get completely slammed for this but:

I’m thinking about gambling a little with our financial future…

While in debt do we need/should we have a LARGE emergency fund?

There is a delicate balance between saving money for emergencies and getting out debt.  It’s a race against the unknown.  You try pay off high interest debt as quickly as possible, all the while saving money for the inevitable little emergencies that are certain to pop up along the way.  Therein lies the catch-22.  The more debt you have, the more emergency savings you’ll need to keep up with your debt payments if a BIG emergency such a a job loss loss occurs.

Next month, barring any major/minor catastrophes, we will have $1500 in the emergency fund.  At that point, I’m not sure whether I want to keep adding to the fund our use the monthly amount I would put towards the emergency Fund and instead put it towards paying off high interest debt.

Is a $1500 emergency fund enough?

Why in our case I think may be:

My husband’s job will end at some point (the company has been ‘in liquidation’ for over 9 years) but senior management has assured him his position secure for at least another year, probably 2, maybe even 3.   They need him to keep working at his job TO MAKE his job obsolete – how’s that for another catch-22? When the company does finally close, he will receive an extremely generous severance package (including paid medical coverage).   Companies with similar dire financial  positions have implied they would love to have him when his company finally does go kaput.   (It seems he may never work for an actual viable company but someone has to clean up the mess of the imploded businesses these days.)

The experts recommend 3-6 months living expenses.  But saving this amount would prolong the debt and greatly increase the interest amounts we pay.  It would split our focus, and I feel the severance package and the $1500 in the bank is enough for the one year it will take to pay off the credit cards.

Is this plan too risky?

Possible Outcomes of my Gamble – Would you put your money on RED or BLACK?

GAMBLE ON RED:   $1500 Emergency Fund – earmarked emergency money now goes towards Debt

Worst Possible Outcome of betting on RED:

Over the course of the next year every appliance breaks down, someone gets so sick where we must meet the $500 deductible, a tree falls on the house.  We have used up the $1500 emergency fund.  If another emergency occurs we must resort to using a credit cards  because the emergency expenses have outweighed the fund balance.  This possibility exists , although I believe small, and we are right back where we started.

Probable Outcome of Betting on RED:

Next month the emergency fund has $1500.   We roll the money we are currently adding to the emergency fund amount  towards the high interest credit card debt.  Throughout the year, the house needs $500 in repairs.  An appliance kicks the bucket – $500.  One or two ER visits @ $75 each.  All covered by “$1500 emergency fund.”   In March 2011, the credit cards are paid off. At this point we have freed up a tremendous amount of discretionary income, and are no longer beholden to outrageous interest rates and can reassess “the plan”.

GAMBLE ON BLACK - keep adding towards emergency fund/diverting money from debt until at least 3 months income is saved.

This really isn’t a gamble.   It’s the safest possible choice.  I would assume most people would recommend this plan.  But it is also the most costly – both in money and time to be debt free.  (It would take us close to 10 months to save up 3 months income.)

I hate casinos, the few times I’ve been in one, I put a $20 bill in the nickel slots.  Cash it out and physically place a single nickel in an old-school one-armed bandit.  I milk that single $20 for as long as possible.    So it’s not like I’m some adrenalin freak who can’t function without taking risks.  But I’m leaning toward betting on RED. The risk feels calculated.   The odds seem to be in our favor…

Would you take this gamble?

Suburban Dollar was kind enough to host “The Carnival of Money Stories” this week.  Check out his “Final Four Edition” with some great reads, including one from me.

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While in college I took mathematics courses like  – “MATH 101 – Math for Life” and “STAT 200 – Statistics for Liberal Arts Majors”. My husband on the other hand, graduated from a top 5 business school with BS in Actuarial Science. I never even had heard of that major before we met.  Even today when people ask me what my husband does I say, “Don’t ask me. I’m just a girl [tee-hee tee-hee]!”

Of course I’m trying to be a funny guy, but much like that ill-fated barbie doll, math really isn’t my strong suit.  I always assumed because I had trouble with Chi-Square tests I was doomed when it came to investing, finances and budgeting.

But Personal Finance really isn’t about math. Because even with a math-nerd husband we still found ourselves not doing the right things when it came to money.

Personal Finance, at least in its beginner stages, is about commitment, sacrifice and self-control.

When we decided we didn’t want to live paycheck to paycheck any longer and wanted to get control (FULL control) of our finances.  I researched all kinds of Personal Finance advice, read the blogs, learned all the lingo. Worked out the budget, planned for our irregular expenses. Basically, I prepared for almost a full year for the commitment we were going to make to be debt free.

It had been working out great.  We’ve been sticking to “THE PLAN”.  We no longer use credit cards.  I actually cook almost all our meals.  We have a small but growing emergency fund that we continually add to.   We gave up the Y membership, soda, name-brand coffee…

I have been waiting on the inevitable though.

And so we come to our first true test in our quest to be debt free:

The family TV broke this week.  It’s dead and it’s un-fixable.

I applaud and am in awe of those families with kids who limit TV watching to 30 minutes a day or the like.  We are not that family.   While I don’t worry for a minute that the kids watch “too much TV”  – they don’t.   I do use the TV as a crutch when I need to get something important done and having an almost 2, 3 and 4 year old under my feet is too much.  After the kids go to bed, my husband and I are *gasp* also TV junkies.  I admit it.  We don’t spend our evenings reading each other Shakespeare, we often sit slack-jawed, immersed in our favorite mindless entertainment.

In much the same way the TV was is a “crutch” so were the credit cards.   In the past we would have run out and bought a new TV AND put it on our credit card.   We had a very serious conversation (I’m not joking) discussing what to do with this dilemma.   Things like, “Will we survive without  TV?” and “After investing 5 frustrating years, will we never find out what’s really going on on LOST?!”, were said.

In the end we decided to do the grown-up responsible thing, not raid the emergency fund, and save up to buy a new TV with CASH.

In the meantime, my husband has agreed to don a smoking jacket and get a pipe.  Me and the little children will gather at his feet nightly by the fireplace, our chins resting on his knee, looking up at him with our angelic faces while he reads Dickens (my favorite!) to us…

(Full Disclosure – We do have a dinky old 19″ TV we can drag out if the above fantasy doesn’t work out.)

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If you didn’t get a chance to read Ninja’s post yesterday at “Punch Debt in the Face”, you should.

He tells a great story about the letter he wrote to himself, prompted by a high school teacher, that would be sent to himself to read six months later .  He admits while he didn’t take it that seriously at the time, it’s a great time for a proper re-do.

What would you say to your future-self?  He asked for some company in his mission:  Read his initial post and add your letter too.  This one goes out to: “FUTURE SELF” sahmCFO.

Dear sahmCFO plus 10 years,

You have been married for 15 years.   You have lamented to each other many times over the past three years how much you “miss” each other.  “With the kids so young,” you both have said, “once they are a little older we will have more “just us” time.”  Well now that they are, I hope you guys are living it up, and are back out in the big wide world.   Traveling, enjoying new places, experiencing everything and keeping open-minds (even if you do have to bring them with you sometimes).  He is so patient with you, I hope you have cut him some slack by now.  And if you are still leaving your old coffee cups on your bedside table, you’re a jerk. It really is the only thing he complains about.

You have 3 teenagers/almost teenager now.  How’s that working out?   They may be all hormonal and “too cool” to want to hang around you much anymore but remember this…They asked you to read them “Someday” by Alison McGhee again today.  They love when I read them that book.  All three of them sit in a little circle around me, they don’t fight, or scream “so-and-so is touching me!”.  They just study my face and listen to my voice.  It’s not story they care about,  it’s your feelings for them, on full display they seek.  They hear my voice crack at certain parts and scoot closer.  They watch my cheek intently for when the tear does fall and squeeze me a little bit.  I fight through it, relish it actually, finish, and they say happily, “AGAIN!”   Don’t you doubt for a second that you “didn’t show them enough” how much you love them.  They see it , they glowed in it, they know.

Today (well 10 years ago really), you worry about your debt, but 3 months ago you decided it was really time to take your family finances seriously.  You made a plan and then, a commitment.   I don’t think you are a millionaire by now, but if you have a credit card and use it you better pay it off in full every month.  Do you still stay up at night sometimes worrying about money?  You better not.  You’re an “older woman” now, you need your sleep…

Love,

“young” sahmCFO

I also have been accepted into my first Carnival (Thanks for the encouragement Out of Debt…Again!). Please head over to: “M is for Money” to check out the latest “Carnival of Money Stories”!
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It was 5 years ago today we were married in Iceland.

The ceremony was short and sweet.  The “reception” was unplanned and nontraditional, but we wouldn’t have done it any other way.

Maybe not the most beautiful setting but it got the job done.

Maybe not the most beautiful setting but it got the job done.

They said some stuff in Icelandic and we said "I Do"

We had a few drinks at the ICEBAR...

Me and this guy sang you our "wedding song", "Nothing Else Matters" by Metallica

Happy Anniversary - I love you.

Happy Anniversary. I Love You.

In honor of my anniversary I’m sharing the love.

Here are some of my favorite YAKEZIE posts of the week:

Little House in the Valley shows you the Mathematical Method – “Borrow and Payback” that we used to teach our children but no longer do.  Other countries do though!  Could this help explain why the United States is so behind in MATH and in DEBT? You may never look at simple subtraction the same way again.

151 Days Off asks “Is Travelling Worth your Money?” I guess you can see from above how I feel about travel.  I’ll use any excuse to travel.  My divorce is planned for Bora Bora. (kidding)

Want to show off how smart you are and feed the hungry at the same time for free?  It’s simple, painless, no registration required.  Check out Cool to be Frugal – Expand Your Knowledge and Feed the Hungry.

Simple in France wants to know “What do Gain by Living Simply?”. She also details some of the sacrifices she needed to make to gain the “simple” life.  Is it worth it in the end?

Your kick in the butt for the week: “Hope WILL NOT get you out of Debt” by Deliver Away Debt. If you’ve been crossing your fingers that it will all work out for you, you better read this post.

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