Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Let's Play Catch Up

I bet you're ready for an update, yes?  I don't think there's been any question that the last half of 2012 has been a blur on the Morton-Wood crazy train.  

Mike's Homecoming

The cats were absolutely thrilled when Mike swapped the 100-degree temperatures of the Middle East for the balmy weather of Iowa.  Several weeks of sleeping in, eating food that isn't reconstituted, and an influx of relaxation time has acclimated this wacky vet to our time zone.  

Mike's next plan is to recommence classes in January and obtain a job, both to keep his time occupied and our finances in good shape.
Teaching Demands

Right as Mike got home, I started two classes back in Waterloo.  Now I've done two classes at a time before, but I split them between Cedar Rapids and Waterloo.  I can't say that I regret driving 60 miles away two nights a week, but I have learned that I should avoid such an arrangement in the future.  There's something about that extra two-hour roundtrip that throws off my schedule.

Right now I'm teaching my standard film class and the new-to-me public speaking.  It's only the second time I've taught oral communications and my class is 3x larger than the first round (ok, increase of 6 to 22 students, but still ...).  I'm starting to get a real feel for the class and have gained considerable confidence since this summer.  But it's nonetheless a huge amount of work because it's still experimental for me.  And, much like a writing course, public speaking is a heavy work load between activities and grading. 

I also got offered a temporary editing gig with my university.  All students have to write a 15+ page paper to graduate. Beyond their subject area teacher, another faculty member offers feedback and edits - that's me.  I only had a handful of papers to edit, but they were drafts by students, not finished articles from my magazine colleagues, and accordingly took a lot of time to comb through.  A fantastic challenge for my editing skills though!  

Sometimes I wonder why I teach so much though.  This year I've taught 5 courses (one more than I usually have) and 2 were for the first time.  I suppose it's a teacher sin to say you do it for the money, but let's be honest about adjuncting - like any job, it's to pay the bills.  I love teaching; believe me, I'm very passionate about exposing my students to new ideas.  I just so happen to need an income boost that adjuncting can support - I don't think admitting that devalues what I do in the classroom.

Mike's deployment income has finally wound up.  With some vigilance, we were able to accomplish the following with our windfall: 
  • I can proudly say that we have ZERO credit card debt!  Not a penny is owed to any financial institutional (beyond loans, of course).  That's $7,000 that is no longer hanging over our heads or collecting interest.
  • We paid off our family debt. 'Nuff said. 
  • Our Jamaica vacation of $4,700 was paid for out of pocket.
  • Using my teaching income, we have rent secured through April 2013.
  • Our savings account is the healthiest it's ever been 
I always do a double take when I log into online banking.  Originally we were going to pay off a $9,000 car loan.  But we got to talking about the future and how we're now back to a single-income family.  We agreed we would feel more comfortable stashing that money away while Mike looked for jobs.  Financial advice recommends that you have 3-6 months of expenses available for emergency savings - we're more than covered now.   

I have never had that much money in savings in my life and it frankly scares me.  At least we're both good about keeping money locked up - no crazy plans to buy gizmos and gadget we don't need.  We do know that our 1998 truck will likely need to be replaced in the next 12 months.  Good motivation to leave those funds where they are.  

Salary Increases
Part of that drive comes from our 2013 financial outlook.  I recently earned a cost-of-living pay raise at work amounting to 2%.  While appreciated, an extra $80 a month is nothing to sneeze at.  Sure, that represents two tanks of gas or a workable amount of groceries, but nothing more.

Instead, I'm going to finally open a 401k.  I won't miss that money and it will at least be a start to retirement savings.  Would love to contribute more, but we just aren't there yet.  Can't be taking away from the utility bill to fund the future.  Just need to keep working on reducing our other expenses so I can eventually put in more. 

What's going on with you?


  1. First off, I adore that photo of the two of you. Beautiful.
    We have few expenses and there are even fewer things we think we need, or want. After the first of the year, I am hoping to have a job that I enjoy and can make some money doing. Beyond the aforementioned expenses? All of it will be socked away to replenish the funds that we have needed to use just to get by...
    We would like to retire sometime and travel. To do that we must build those reserves.
    Wish I had been thinking like you when I was your age, though!

    1. Sounds like you have some good goals in order! I just try to absorb the financial examples around me. I learn best by watching and asking questions, so I always pay attention to others who share their experiences, good or negative.

  2. We're still struggling. The VA's inconsistant (to put it nicely) paychecks have hurt us this year. Every single penny of my Post-911 GI Bill housing allowance was needed to pay for daycare. When I don't get checks for 2 months in a row things get screwed up. However, with my impending graduation (3 days!!) Alta will be coming out of after-school care and Maddie will be leaving daycare bringing our child-care expenses from $1000/month (our mortgage is only $736 for a reference point) down to $420/month for Lilly to stay in pre-school. I feel its important for her to stay in school since she starts Kindergarten in the fall.

    Hopefully this will work out. One of my biggest jobs as a Stay At Home Mom will be to manage our finances with a strong hand. Meaning monthly budgets, clear communication with everyone (Alta is certainly big enough for money talks), and being way (way!) strict with myself about impulse purchases (fast-food and lattes are my weaknesses).

    1. Ugh, I'm sorry to hear that about the VA. Because you mentioned it, that's another reason why we put so much in savings. I don't want to get into a tough spot counting on the GI Bill. I hope you guys can recover from the setback quickly.

      As for finance management, I keep reminding myself that it's a process. You have to make small changes to make overall progress. One thing, a few manageable goals, at a time.

  3. Ah, Emma, you don't know yet what you will have to do to get by. Fast food and lattes are the very least of it. The hardest part of what you face is not the actual finances but figuring out what is vital, what is important and what is something else... Maybe there is no money for something, maybe there is money but it could be better used elsewhere, maybe something needs to be put aside because, you know? Weird stuff happens. I wish you the best of luck and the wisdom to figure it all out.