Missing Money

Last week, I checked my credit card account only to discover I was over budget by nearly $1000.

What.

The.

Heck?

It threw me into a bit of a panic.  How could we possibly have spent an extra grand without knowing it?

We didn’t buy new furniture. ¬†We didn’t buy new computers.¬†We didn’t buy a new car.¬†We didn’t take any trips.

Oh, wait.

I did take a trip. ¬†I went to work headquarters for three days. ¬†That’s about a $500 mileage allowance, plus three days of restaurant meals.

I forgot to file my expense report.

That’s where my money went.

Somehow, in all of life’s wonderful hustle, I neglected to ask my company for the almost $1000 they owe me. ¬†That’s an oversight, for sure.

Luckily, we keep that much padding in our other accounts, so I don’t have to pay interest on that money, but still.

That’s my money and I forgot about it.

I’m so not happy with myself.

What’s worse, is that even though I figured out the problem last week, I still haven’t gotten that expense report filed.

It’s not procrastination, I swear. ¬†I’ve just been absentminded and keep forgetting to do it. ¬†Right now, I’ve got “EXPENSE REPORT” written on my whiteboard to remind me to file it.

Cuz I’m going to do it tomorrow.

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My New Windfall

Tax season is over.

money

money (Photo credit: 401(K) 2013)

This year, TurboTax and Amazon teamed up to offer me a 10% on up to $1200 of my refund if I took it as an Amazon gift card.

$120 free if I spend that money with a company I’m going to spend money with anyway?

Yes, please.

I spend lots of money with Amazon. ¬†I subscribe to many of my household items there, because I use them and I don’t want to have to think about buying them. ¬†I get my soap, shampoo, toilet paper, paper towels, and garbage bags automatically delivered. ¬†There’s a bunch of other stuff, too, but that’s what I remember off the top of my head. ¬†If I have 5 items in a monthly delivery, I get 20% off.

Free money, free shipping, and none of the hassles of shopping?

Yes, please.

So now I have a $1320 credit with the company I use for most of my non-grocery shopping.

I also have 962 items on my wishlist with Amazon.

To recap: $1320 burning a hole in my metaphorical pocket and 962 items that I have wanted at some time in the past, begging me to bring them home.

That’s a dilemma.

The smart answer is, of course, to let that money hide in Amazon’s system and slowly drain out to pay for the things I actually need.

The fun answer is to stock up on games and books and toys and gadgets and cameras and, and, and….

Some days, it’s hard being a responsible adult.

I think I’m going to compromise with myself. ¬†I’ll leave the vast majority of the money where it is, but I’ll spend a little bit of it on fun stuff, and a little bit more on stuff I don’t quite need, but would be useful, but not so useful that I’ve already bought it.

A new alarm clock to replace the one next to my bed that automatically adjusts for daylight savings time but was purchased before they changed the day daylight savings time hit so I have to adjust the time 4 times per year instead of never. ¬†That’s on the list of not-quite-needs.

The volume 2 book of paracord knots is on the list of wants that can’t possibly be considered a need, but it’s going to come home, anyway.

I figure, if I spend a couple of hundred dollars on things I really, really want, I’ll scratch that itch and leave most of the money alone.

What would you do with a $1300 gift card at a store you shop at every week that sells every conceivable thing?  Spend it right away, or stretch it out, or something else?

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The Lord Will Provide

Debtors like to make excuses.

When I used to work collections, I’d try to work out a payment plan to get people out of debt, and I often heard “The Lord will provide” as their only excuse for not paying the money they owed.

That’s crap. ¬†It’s not a financial plan. ¬†It’s not a life plan.

It’s a crappy excuse to make you feel better about why your life sucks, has always sucked, and will–most likely–continue to suck.

Over the weekend, I got to spend quite a bit of time with family, including some that we don’t get to see often. ¬† One couple in particular really stands out. ¬† Neither of them are employed. ¬†She’s got some medical problems and has several major surgeries recently. ¬†I’d give her a pass for that, but she was unemployed for many years prior to that. ¬†He used to have a job, but lost it a couple of years ago, and is now milking welfare with his wife and daughter. ¬† They recently lost their house and had to move in with his mother.

Neither one is looking for work. ¬†Between the two of them, they smoke 4-5 packs of cigarettes a day. ¬†They want to buy a house soon, or rent an apartment, or something. ¬†They aren’t very clear in their planning because, “It’s in God’s hands.”

No plan, no ambition, no goals. ¬†I don’t understand how anybody can go through life with no intention of improving it. ¬†How can you try to hide behind platitudes instead of making things better?

Here’s the bumper sticker that can actually improve your life: “Good things come to those who bust their asses and make good decisions.”

It’s not the easy path, but in the long run, it’s a better path and one of the few paths that doesn’t lead to royal life-suckitude.

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How We Handled The Windfall

Landlord

Landlord (Photo credit: FletchtheMonkey)

Three years ago, my mother-in-law died. ¬†She didn’t have a will, but that’s a story for another day.

My wife, being an only child, inherited everything.  All of the assets, and all of the problems.

She inherited the house, which was completely paid off.  That was nice.

My mother-in-law was a hoarder who didn’t buy into the idea of maintaining your property. ¬†That was not nice.

Between the life insurance policies and the ready cash, she inherited about $60,000.  Also nice.

It’s all gone. ¬†Not so nice.

Now, I know you’re asking where it went. ¬†Lucky for you, that’s what this post is about.

We paid off the last $10,000 of our credit card debt, and haven’t accumulated a balance since. ¬†Now our cards are paid off in full every month.

We put $5,000 down on the Chevy Tahoe we bought in 2012 and paid off in full 9 months later.

Every last cent of the rest went into the house we inherited.

Huh?  45 fricking grand to get the house ready to rent?

Yep.

  • $3000 to clear out the brush and landscape the yard
  • A few hundred to have the hardwood floors sanded, stained, sealed, and buffed
  • An intense carpet-cleaning
  • Painting every single room
  • 3 large dumpsters to handle the garbage we pulled out of the house
  • New refrigerator
  • New washing machine
  • New boiler
  • New stove
  • New patio door
  • New locks for the doors and windows
  • Security lights
  • Food for all of our helpers whom we can never thank enough
  • Finishing the basement

All of that pretty, pretty money, gone in less than a year.

What did we get out of it?  A rentable asset that is bringing in $1200 every month, with minimal work.

We could have chosen to sell the place, but we would have had to do nearly all of that work, anyway, so it wouldn’t have saved anything.

I like having the new stream of income, even though it will take several years to turn a profit. ¬†That house isn’t going anywhere, and since it’s only 3 miles from Minneapolis and 5 miles from downtown Minneapolis, it will always be an in-demand area for renters.

It was just a lot of work turning it into a useful property instead of a year-long drain on time, patience, and money.

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