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“Afraid of Money”

by J. Money on Monday, July 15, 2013

afraid of math monster

That was the subject line of this email I just got and responded to :) I have a feeling many of you can relate to it. Check it out below, along with my response, and then tell us what you think in the comments below. Let’s help out our fellow BudgetsAreSexy reader!

His email:

So, not sure if there is an answer to this but you are the finance blogger I most relate to so I figured I’d give it a shot.  Let me first try to paraphrase everything so you get an idea of my financial state.

- I live in a super affordable area and make decent money between a full time job and a side business.
- With my business income varying and me wanting to budget, I just take out a set amount every month. If I make more I use it for future expenses.
- My wife is a struggling teacher trying to find a job in a shitty market. Until then she is subbing which isn’t great money.
- Only debt we have is a mortgage, 2 vehicles (under $300 ea) & student loans.
- My wife’s student loans are barely cheaper than the mortgage (gotta love the cost of a masters) which is killing us.
- When my wife is working we have a few hundred left at the end of every month which goes into savings
- We have 2 months of living expenses in an emergency fund, another month in some stocks.
- The job I currently have I started last fall and am not putting any money into a 401k as I’m trying to beef up the emergency fund. I have about 20k from my previous employer (I’m 30 so even though I know it’s not ideal I’ll play catchup once the wife lands that job).
- We are expecting our first kid in January (hoping for December for tax write offs though ;) )
- I have expensive hobbies including racing cars. An event which I like to do is around $500-600 for 2 days plus consumable parts, tons of gas, and possible travel.

Now. Years ago I was stupid and racked up an insane amount of debt while building my car. I had a come-to-senses moment and paid off a ton of credit cards quickly, built a decent emergency fund, and was on track financially. Then I met me wife and between life crap, a wedding, a wife that isn’t as budget savvy, and no summer income, my emergency fund dwindled which put me in panic mode as in we can’t spend money.  This is keeping me up at night fearing I’ll rack up that 15k in CC debt again and have to start all over.

The no “real” job thing makes my wife feel guilty that she’s not pulling her weight (she works her ass off and is good at what she does, there just aren’t the opportunities for an actual job) which causes arguments. She doesn’t like talking about budgets as a result. I know it’s a communication issue here and we’re awesome at it normally, it’s just a really touchy subject for her. Add that that the fact I’m pissy because I work my ass off at my job and business and can’t seem to find the money or time to do the car stuff I want to (missing a big event next week for the first time in years). I feel guilty when I do spend money on stuff even if it’s for the business in a way (such as buying parts for my car to show-case which does help sell parts (oh, my side business is a performance parts retailer). To off that guilt I spend the spare business money on personal stuff, for example…parts for my bicycle (another expensive hobby).

So, I’m sorta coming to a head with everything. I’m financially responsible but maybe too financially responsible? Should I saw screw it and do what I want and let my wife do the same and if we get too out of control then reign it in?  With a kid coming it’s not helping my OMGWENEEDAMILLIONINTHEBANKTOBEOK mentality… especially with a wife who, while subbing, barely makes enough daily to cover childcare and no maternity leave with her job. So yeah, I guess money just scares the shit out of me at this point and may be causing more problems trying to control it than just saying screw it (to a point) and doing what we want.

I hope that makes sense and I didn’t ramble too much. A perk of my job is super relaxed hours which means it was time for me to go home 15 minutes ago so I sorta rushed through this. If you do happen to make sense of all this mess I appreciate your help in advance.

Here was my response:

Haha, no problem my man – I’ll have to admit it was a pretty interesting read :) I don’t know if I have any real answers for you since I don’t know you two very well (or at all?) but you did paint a pretty good picture about your money and situation. And actually you remind me a lot of my wife who needs a TON of money in savings to feel secure. We went from $80k in cash last year (she was in dream land) to now $28k and she’s freaking out again. As am I. So I think there’s power in knowing what makes people feel safe vs others. Especially in a relationship like marriage.

I guess my first question to you is – what WOULD make you feel safer? I mean, I know it’s more money and your wife getting a job, but is there a certain number you have in mind that’s realistic? Like, say, $20,000 banked? It doesn’t really help your current situation directly, but I know I always feel a lot better when I know the end goal with a plan. My wife too.

Before we were at like $50k in savings and she was constantly worrying and so we chatted and found out her ideal money in savings number was $66k cuz it was 12 months worth of living (different now, but that was the situation back then). So we worked on getting that and then once we hit it I could do whatever I wanted with all the extra money if we had any cuz I knew she was safe and secure. So I’d come up with that number first, and really there isn’t a right answer since it’s totally relaying on your personality and feelings.

After that, I’d probably figure out a way to give you both some “do as you please” budget money so it helps eases the stress each of you have when it comes to that stuff. Like if you had $200 to spend however you wanted every month, and she had $200 (or $100 or $300 or whatever) that each of you could do whatever the hell you wanted with.

It’s kinda a ‘screw it’ plan like you’re asking in that you can blow all that money, but it’s also only a certain amount so you can never go overboard, know what I’m saying? And even if your wife had, say, $500 or like double what you give yourself, even if it pissed you off a little at least you’d *know* exactly the situation and more importantly BOTH of you are eye-to-eye on it. Which of course requires a conversation in order to get to there ;) But I’d imagine one that started with “let’s budget money for each of us to do whatever the hell we want with” would go a lot smoother than the others have, haha… You just both have to agree on SOMETHING, and then see how it goes for a few months – the numbers themselves don’t matter as much as that first part.

At least that’s what I’d do in your situation. Easier for me to say, of course, but I genuinely think it would solve a lot of your stresses at the same time. And hopefully carry you through to when your wife gets a solid job again and things are looking rosier.

Either way, though, I wouldn’t sacrifice all your good work you’ve done with your finances right now just to blow off some steam or forget about it for a while. Eventually it’ll only stress you out even more, and then you’d have double the problems to work on :( If you were leaning that way, just up the amounts of money you both can spend in your “do whatever” budgets so at least there’s a cap on there.

Oh – quick question about your 401k at work before I forget: Do they match anything or no? If no, then keep on doing what you’re doing. If YES, then I’d strongly think about at least putting in whatever they match cuz it’s all FREE MONEY for you. And even though it’s not directly in your savings account, it still might make you feel better in terms of money saved ya know? $200 in your 401k vs $100 in your savings could make a difference as the numbers keep climbing every pay check and you’re doing the same work.

I don’t know if any of this helps or not, but I hope it does… I think you gotta give yourself a pat on the back for being aware of everything going on around you and “taking one for the team” there. If it makes things better, I’m currently the only provider of income right now too – also with a baby in full-time day care (congrats on yours coming soon btw!!) – and I’m feeling some pressure as well. Especially since just dropping $20k+ on renovations and my businesses not doing as well this Summer. The one thing I’ve learned though is that stuff is rarely perfect. As long as we’re workin’ it 80% well, things will be fine in the end :) So keep at it!

What do you, the readers, say? Any tips/advice for our nervous friend here?

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[Photo by jimmiehomeschoolmom]


{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Free Money Minute July 15, 2013 at 6:32 am

With the baby on the way, that may be helping you to freak out about your situation. I think you know your life is about to change drastically (assuming this is your first child). I would not be afraid of money, but come up with a plan. You were able to come up with a plan and knock out that credit card debt some time ago. Personally, I would develop a plan and just knock out all of your debt. It will take some time and sacrifices, but you will be in a much better place just a few short years from now. Then you can continue your hobbies every year for as long as you want. At the very least, I would sell your cars and eliminate the car debt for sure and at least not add any more debt. Spending more now may help you feel better initially, but you will be even more stressed when you look up in a year or two and see even more debt hanging over you. Remember, that child is now completely dependent on your for the next 18 years (at least). It is your responsibility to care for him/her emotionally, spiritually and financially over this time. Developing a plan and executing will be a big step in doing this. Best wishes as you go forward. You will be fine!

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2 J. Money July 15, 2013 at 5:25 pm

So freaky but so TRUE about children being dependent on us – I don’t think it’s fully sunk in yet over here.

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3 Debt Blag July 15, 2013 at 9:45 am

I don’t know. I’m starting to feel pretty good about being more frugal than I need to be. It’s always easier to dial back extreme frugality than to dial back heavy spending down the road

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4 Daniel July 15, 2013 at 10:09 am

This is probably going to sound really judgmental, but I find it kind of funny that he thinks he might be “too financially responsible.” I see a number of red flags here:

-A fair amount of debt, which is described as the “only” debt he has – as if a mortgage, 2 car loans, and 2 student loans isn’t a lot.
-Not only is he not saving for retirement, he’s prioritizing his hobbies (which he knows are expensive) AHEAD of his retirement savings. Personally I’d at least cut back a bit on the hobbies until I had the rest of my finances in order.
-The emergency fund is good, even if it’s a small one, but keeping money that you might need immediately in stocks doesn’t strike me as a good idea.
-”we have a few hundred left at the end of every month which goes into savings” – I’m not sure if this leftover amount is on top of other savings, but it doesn’t sound like it. It may be a cliche, but “paying yourself first” is always a good idea. If you only save when you have “leftover” money, it’s going to be a lot harder to get ahead.

Anyway, I don’t think saying “screw it” is the answer – that’s only going to make things worse. It sounds fixable. The monthly fun budget is a good idea, as is the 401k contribution if he gets any matching from work. Maybe he’s also just stressed out from working too hard. Cutting back his hours at the side business a bit could help – he won’t actually have any more money but he might feel better at least.

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5 Kacie July 15, 2013 at 12:58 pm

I totally agree with Daniel. Everything.

The good news is the credit card debt is gone. But it sounds like you have a LOT of debt. Not “only” a mortgage, two car payments and student loans for two people. That’s a lot.

Not sure why there’s a month of e-fund in stocks. That’s too volatile for a tiny e-fund.

What are your overall priorities and goals here?

It’s sounding like it’s not going to be worth having your wife full-time in the work force for awhile. Though discrimination over pregnancy is illegal, it still happens and I don’t know if that’s what’s going on here…but perhaps she can look into some private tutoring opportunities (and keep on subbing as it’s available) before the baby comes.

Is there any particular debt that you can knock out before the baby gets here? Getting rid of at least one minimum payment will be a big deal for cash flow and morale. Maybe a car? Maybe a student loan?

How’s your mortgage interest rate? If you’re able to refinance, do it now since rates are already moving up. Run the numbers to make sure it’s actually worth refinancing…if you’re far enough along in your loan it might not make much difference.

Don’t just “screw it.” You have an opportunity to make things a lot better for your growing family by making sacrifices now. Get rid of that debt. Build up more savings. SAVE FOR RETIRMENT ZOMGGG!! $20k at age 30 is nowhere near enough :(

Don’t panic. Channel that fear into something positive. Baby steps. You can do this.

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6 J. Money July 15, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Your comments are EXACTLY why I like posting up stuff like this, and also why I love blogging so much – to hear different perspectives on money. I didn’t get what you both did at all from it, so I thank you for just dishing it out :) It all helps us in our journeys!

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7 SavvyFinancialLatina July 15, 2013 at 10:11 am

The reader is in a tough situation. But everything is doable. I think what JMoney said about finding your number is good advice. I know I have a number in which I feel safe. Right now it’s around $20k in the bank. I know this is a lot, especially when it could be invested but it makes me feel safe! I don’t have kids, but if we were prepping for kids, we would try to clean up our finances as much as possible. Kids are bloody expensive! If there’s financial stress before kids, it could get worse before it gets better. Just a thought!

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8 Chris July 15, 2013 at 10:40 am

As someone in the field of education, I have to say the wife’s mistake was getting a master’s degree before landing the job. She just made herself a lot more expensive to hire, in addition to racking up all that education debt without having a regular stream of income. Many teachers choose to work on the master’s degree once they get tenure.

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9 Terry July 15, 2013 at 1:24 pm

I think you’re in a better market for education professionals then. Around here school budgets have been slashed leading to lay-offs so you have teachers with masters, multiple certifications, and years of experience. My wife has had plenty of interviews and even though she interviews well it’s always someone with 10 years of experience getting the job. I have other friends with masters in education and they’re settling for teachers assistants positions just to get something. Around here having a masters doesn’t make her more expensive to hire…it’s a complete necessity for the job along with the experience which is making it tough.

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10 Jake @ Common Cents Wealth July 15, 2013 at 10:47 am

That’s great advice, J Money. I think this reader is in a similar situation to a lot of people. Knowing how to budget and handle money is tough and most people don’t want to or can’t do it. I think the biggest piece of advice I’d give the reader is to not give up and just rack up a lot of cc debt just to try to pay it off later. He’ll be very mad that he did a few years down the road. Try to figure out a way to survive on the money he makes right now, then when the wife gets a job all of that extra money can go towards the loans they already have.

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11 Retire By 40 July 15, 2013 at 11:21 am

I’d say try not to fight and tell yourself this is just temporary. Once your wife find a good job, everything will improve. Cut back on discretionary expenses for now. Actually you probably need to get use to sacrificing because you’ll have a kid soon. That’s not cheap either.

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12 J. Money July 15, 2013 at 5:32 pm

“I’d say try not to fight and tell yourself this is just temporary.” – YES!

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13 Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) July 15, 2013 at 11:28 am

I’m the same way. I feel super safe when I have money in savings. It makes me feel like I am kicking ass. But, many of us all have the same concerns, and all the “what ifs” can drive you cray cray!! So, I would say keep working hard and allow for some fun spending as J$ said, that way your wife feels like she gets to do fun stuff too and not all the extra fun money is going to the cars.

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14 Alice @ Earning My Two Cents July 15, 2013 at 12:06 pm

I agree with JMoney’s advice to find the number in savings that gives you a financial security blanket. But remember, financial insecurity doesn’t have to do with a number, its a personal feeling of being taken care of and that often has less to do with money and more to do with a plan.

If you don’t already have one, get on a budget. Allocate each dollar each month at the beginning of the month so you know where its going. If you can’t make ends meet, cut down on expenses where possible. I would especially take a second look at the expensive hobby. I’m not sure how often you spend $500 on a show, but that can add up to a healthy savings. Check to make sure that the revenue coming in from that side business is enough to make it a business. If not, then its a hobby, as described, and hobbies that cannot be financed have to be abandoned for free hobbies when the purse strings tighten. Also, if your wife is going to have a baby in six months, it may be hard to find a job, especially when she starts showing. Not sure how teaching hiring schedules work, but i have heard that summer is best, though a school may not want to hire a teacher who will take maternity leave halfway through the school year. Unless she teaches college (depending on her qualifications) which would mean she could do a fall semester and take off the spring semester. Otherwise she may just need a “bread & butter job” which puts food on the table. Or abandon the idea that she will work right now till after the baby comes and she is ready to go to work (and hopefully can make more than child care costs, though I understand the intellectual need to work anyway).

My husband and I scaled back to one income while he is in school full time and the past few years have been tough but we had to budget and stick very close to it. I also get very insecure about an emergency happening because we do not have enough savings (we had a few car repairs, etc which ate into it and it needs to be replenished). But we have so far gotten by without being homeless and starving so I assume we will continue to do so. We have a plan which is a light at the end of the tunnel (ie. when he graduates and works we will double our income and we have other written financial plans and goals) and we are learning to make do with less. I think that making a financial plan, even if it seems so out of reach now, really helps calm the financial insecurity.

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15 Terry July 15, 2013 at 1:21 pm

So, I’m the reader so let me just clear some things up and provide a bit of an update.

- As for the debt I don’t believe any of it is “bad”. Student loans suck but are a necessity nowadays. Both car loans are a few thousand ahead of being underwater so if shit really hit the fan they’re easy enough to unload for some extra cash…at the same time, when getting out of CC debt I drove POSs and it wasn’t much cheaper with the upkeep. The mortgage is much cheaper than rent around here (housing prices are insanely cheap) and I’m not under water on it. I agree it’s not exactly debt free but I think for debt it’s not horribly bad…especially with really low interest rates.
- I can’t refinance the mortgage as I took advantage of a first time home buyers loan that paid my closing costs. I have to keep it for 10 years or have to pay back that money. Not a big deal as the interest is fairly low.
- As for retirement…the company I’m at currently doesn’t match at all (haven’t been here long enough) so I’m concentrating on building that emergency fund. If there was free money on the table I’d take it for sure.
- I did pick a number as J suggested. My job is very stable and if something was to happen I could go back to my previous job without an issue. Basically an e-fund is for something breaking in the house or other unforeseen money disasters. I should have that covered next month. The stocks aren’t really an emergency fund, it’s just money that’s there just in case…probably shouldn’t have even mentioned it.
- As for the hobbies before savings. I’ve been doing that for the last 2 years and it’s no fun. I know it might go against the grain of the personal finance advice but the part I’m struggling with getting over is actually using the money I do have for some fun.

So, like I said I picked a number for savings. With an extra pay-check next month I should hit that then. We would occasionally go over our budget in a category occasionally and I would think the whole budget is failing even though we had buffers in other areas. So, what I did, is lumped any category that varies (including savings) into one big category. Whatever is left over in that at the end of the month goes into savings. If we’re set on savings and that number is big enough then we’ll put some in savings and split the rest off for something fun. This also helps with the wife’s (and mine, more below on that) varying income month to month. That category can grow on months where more money is going in. It’s new so I’ll see how it works. We had a bit of an expensive weekend as some friends were in town and instead of freaking out over spending too much on eating out I see a big number left there still when everything averages out. The hard part will be not letting that number get too low and have no savings but we still plan on being just as frugal so that shouldn’t be a problem.

My business income was tricky to handle to so I decided to go with a 60/20/20 split of transfer to personal, leave for the business, and fun money. The transfer to personal has a minimum so it doesn’t totally screw up the personal budget but I should hit that most months and use the percentages. This will allow me to have a plan on money set aside for my hobby.

I really think I’m realizing that sometimes stressing over money when we do have it is worse than stressing over it when you don’t have it. We’re no where near the area of not being able to afford bills (even after we factor in guesstimates on child costs) so is it worth losing sleep/hair/hours off your life to worry about putting that magic number in the savings every month?

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16 Aimee July 15, 2013 at 2:58 pm

I’m at work and just double checked with a 25 year CPA. You CAN refinance when you have the first time home buyer credit as long as you don’t sell the home. Have an accountant review your whole situation if you’re not sure or nervous, this is always best compared to isolated advice like I’m giving.

I have more tips for later, but had to add this now.

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17 Terry July 15, 2013 at 3:32 pm

It’s not the first time home buyer credit…it was a program before that (I missed qualifying for that by a week). It was a program where they paid the closing costs so it’s a bit different and there is a 10 year recapture tax on it.

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18 Aimee July 15, 2013 at 3:52 pm

SORRY!! I have some research to do on that one! I have not had the priviledge of dealing with that program.

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19 Walnut July 16, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Is this the $7500 credit program where you pay back at $500 per year? If so, I also used that program and I have refinanced since. It doesn’t hurt to check with a mortgage lender to verify.

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20 Terry July 16, 2013 at 2:54 pm

It was a first time home buyers program through the loan company (I believe it was sallie mae). They paid for closing costs (up to $5000) as long as I had the income qualification (it was something ridiculous), the house met the specs, and my credit was good enough. It’s scott free as long as I keep the house for 10 years. If I don’t, the amount they gave me is pro-rated for that time and I owe the rest back. I don’t think they even offer the program any more to be honest.

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21 Kacie July 15, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Thanks for those updates, Terry.

Not saying your debt is “bad,” but it is debt. Though we don’t know numbers and how long it might take for you to pay it off, I think it’s worth calculating for your own sake. How much are your monthly minimum payments, and what percentage of that is your take-home? No need to share here if you don’t want, but I think it’s important to know.

And, how long will it take you to pay off each item at current pace?

Because really, a $600/month car expense is hefty, and if your wife’s loan payment is comparable to a mortgage, it could be a fairly substantial amount of money to just pay off your debts each month.

Think of the cash flow you’ll have when just one of those is gone. It’ll be much faster to save for other things.

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22 Kacie July 15, 2013 at 3:13 pm

And, what about selling that stock? Could you wipe out a debt in one swoop? It would be amazing to pay off a car right away, for instance.

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23 Terry July 15, 2013 at 3:39 pm

It’s around 40%. None of them are quick pay-offs but I guess down the road, once we get savings to where I think it’s good and then some the plan is to start paying quicker on the higher interest debts but to be honest they’re all under 4% interest which is why they’re not a priority. I know everyone here loves the debt free thing but the majority of that debt is also tax deductible which even cuts down on the interest more.

I haven’t looked at pay-off timelines but it’d be a while, none are quick pay-offs. And the car loans are actually $556 a month and to me, worth it compared to driving cars that you don’t know will get you there. We decided to replace my wife’s car after it needed thousands of dollars just to pass inspection.

I agree alleviating those would help a ton with cash flow and we have talked about consolidating cars once the kid gets here (I do have my “fun” car I can drive in the nicer months).

We’re not really drowning in debt here, we just aren’t as good as I once was with money which was worrying me a bit. I think the real problem is a combination of getting over that worry mentality while still being frugal and save/pay off.

Thanks for all the advice from everyone though, it’s always good to get another view point and it is giving me some ideas and making me feel better (well except I’m starting to freak out that I’m not stuff well enough again :p)

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24 J. Money July 15, 2013 at 5:36 pm

I’m glad you jumped in here my man – and even more so you were cool with me posting all this up for everyone to see :) It’s all these discussions which power blogs and help us learn, so big ups again for reaching out and now getting into the comments.

Also I tend to agree with you on this one: “I really think I’m realizing that sometimes stressing over money when we do have it is worse than stressing over it when you don’t have it.” You’ve got more to lose now :)

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25 Roz July 16, 2013 at 3:05 pm

You should attend Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University to get the fundamentals of money management – for all of lifes phases. Check out daveramsey.com for more info.

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26 Kacie July 15, 2013 at 5:16 pm

Glad to hear it’s all under 4% interest anyway. That helps move things along for sure.

I’m hoping that 40% of your take-home going to debt payments is also including your mortgage?

Either way, that’s still a pretty substantial chunk of cash, deductible or not. Depending on your tax situation, that means you’re working probably 2.5-3 days per week just to pay your debt minimums. Perhaps another day per week is to pay taxes (federal, state, property, etc.). So that leaves maybe 1-1.5 days per week of money working straight for you and paying your living expenses. Roughly.

Still, people have different views on debt and if the debt isn’t what’s causing you stress, then there are other things to look at.

I guess I’d suggest figuring out a firm goal of where you’d like your financials to be by year end.

A certain number higher in savings? If so, determine how much you’ll need to set aside per paycheck to pay yourself first, and automate that. At the end of the month, whatever ‘extra’ is left also gets dumped into that account.

Reducing your expenses by whatever amount? Look for quick wins by negotiating insurance, looking at your telecom bills, etc.

Nail down a firm, reachable goal so you can measure your progress.

Hope that helps. Not trying to be a big downer.

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27 J. Money July 15, 2013 at 5:37 pm

Thanks to you too Kacie for jumping in and out here! So fun to read and see all these opinions/ideas flowing :)

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28 Christine @ ThePursuitofGreen July 15, 2013 at 6:23 pm

Sounds like you and your wife need to sit down together to talk all this through and make a plan. While I’m not exactly in the same situation as you are, I am actually in a situation like your wife. I’ve been making some career moves that right now aren’t earning me much, but hopefully in the future. My husband has a steady job where he makes much much more than I do. I do feel guilty and touchy at times about it. He does a good job of reassuring me that if it were the other way around I would full support him also.

In the end, the two of you are a team. Both of you work hard for the money, and even though one of you makes less than the other, you’re in it together. Sit down and talk and plan it out together! It might be hard but afterwards you both will feel so much better!

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29 Aimee July 15, 2013 at 6:26 pm

1. Ahhh!! Dont’ say screw it! Although stressed, it sounds like you guys are doing OK so don’t create any problems.

2. It sounds like missing out on this yearly event for the first time is eating at you, and perhaps is your first future-daddy sacrifice. First of many, which I’m sure you’re wilting over. Props to you for making that sacrifice, it will pay you back in the future! Try to feel proud instead of depressed, because you should be proud!

3. You MUST find a way to communicate with your wife about money. Maybe not in depth right away, but if you don’t open that communication channel soon it will be too late in the pregnancy to “stress her out”. Maybe there is something she could get excited about, like saving money on eating out by learning to cook gourmet for cheap, or knitting/sewing items for the baby as a cheap hobby and alternative to buying brand new baby stuff, etc.

4. It sounds like it could be a whole year still until your wife starts a full time job. Hopefully it will be sooner, but let’s be conservative. It’s great that she’s doing sub work. I hear a lot of teachers say they got a full time gig by subbing for a teacher who never returned, plus it’s lots of connections for when a job opens up. Other posters have mentioned tutoring and teaching college courses. Are there any community colleges nearby?

5. Can you turn your hobby into something that at least kind-of pays for itself? I’ve heard of photographers who use vehicles as props. Perhaps you could create a color flyer of your toys to mail to local photographers. I’m not sure what the going rate would be, but I would guess that you could get $50-$100 to allow some one to sit in your car for some photos for an hour. Of course, they wouldn’t drive it so there wouldn’t be any liability issues. There might be other ways to get some cash from them too.

6. If the cost of the baby is really stressing you out, maybe you could discuss with your wife and whoever is doing the baby shower (assuming that you’re doing that) about frugal parenting. See what big items you can get second-hand for free or cheap or borrowed, restrict your registry to essentials-only and register at an affordable store so you can get more items etc.

It sounds to me like the main issue is that you’re stressed and not having any fun. Life is changing in a big way and there is a lot of uncertainty. Do whatever makes you feel better (except saying “screw it!) about your finances! I saw you wrote earlier that we talk a lot about reducing debt, but it doesn’t sound like you’re worried about that and you don’t mention any current credit card debt so if the debt doesn’t bother you then tackle the things that do bother you.

I hope things get better for you and your wife, and that you have a happy, healthy baby! :)

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30 Terry July 16, 2013 at 8:52 am

1. I never really intended to completely say screw it. Just get a bit more relaxed with finances and not freak out and come up with a solution for going $20 over budget on groceries. But yeah, definitely not throwing it all away.
2. Agreed x1000. I think that’s how everything came to a head. There were multiple factors about me not going so it wasn’t money 100% (or even the main reason) but it basically brought to front all these worries.
3. We’ve been working on it slowly. I showed her the new budget idea and she liked it because she was tired of me saying “we don’t have any money” when in actuality we just went over in one category and have extras in other areas to fill it up.
4. Yep, next school year is hopefully when it’ll pay off for her…at least for something. She is starting the school year with a long term sub gig so she’ll be set right up until the baby gets here. Unfortunately there really isn’t any super close colleges to make it worth tutoring.
5. I’m already doing that to a point. My side business sells parts. Like I mentioned in my “update” comment I’m going to take part of the profit from that and use it for the fun stuff without feeling guilty (or at least try). That will give me motivation to get that profit even higher also.
6. I know we’ll be fine once it gets here, it’s just another thing that popped up and added that stress.

Thanks a ton for the suggestions. And yeah, debt is down on my list after an emergency fund and retirement savings since interest is so low but it’s on my radar and probably even a bit more after some of the above comments.

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31 Shafi July 15, 2013 at 7:46 pm

I’d still consider contributing to 401(k). If you contribute, let’s say, $100 every paycheck or perhaps less than that, you’d be surprised how easily you can save money in your budget in other categories.

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32 harry @ PF Pro July 15, 2013 at 8:57 pm

I would contribute something to the 401(k) too, even if it hurts. As for the teacher income, that’s a tough gig but is she knowledgeable in any sports. Honestly, even if she isn’t she can probably still land a decent coaching gig and that could parlay into a teaching gig. I’m a volleyball coach on the side and there is pretty decent side income to be had there.

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33 Michael @ The Student Loan Sherpa July 15, 2013 at 8:58 pm

One important part of a budget is to have money for no particular purpose. It could be for an expensive dinner or a concert or travel. Even if it is just a little bit, it is a nice carrot that makes the rest of the budget possible.

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34 Jon B July 17, 2013 at 8:29 am

I think your advice was well-thought out J Money. I’m currently thinking about getting more serious in a relationship and wasn’t really sure how the spending aspect of things would work out, but having a plan on how much we each can just spend without worrying/feeling guilty about sounds like a great idea! Very insightful question and response!

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35 J. Money July 18, 2013 at 10:42 am

Thanks man, glad you got something out of it :)

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