I sold my house on Friday. I still can’t believe that I actually did it. The house is gone. No more planning my weekend around getting over there to mow the grass. Planning my budget around mulching a house I don’t even live in. No more worrying about something breaking, or being damaged, or what’s happening to the house while I’m not there. I am done!

Not only is selling the house a huge relief, it somehow feels like closing a chapter in my life. I’ve made a decision that is bettering my future, financially, emotionally, and physically. I can let go of all of the mistakes of the past, and concentrate on what I’m doing for the future. I can’t go back and change anything. But at least from here on out, I can concentrate my efforts on the present and the future.

Selling the house is going to have a huge impact on my financial picture. Sure, I didn’t walk away with a ton of money: $2,262 from the actual sell of the house. But I don’t have a mortgage payment anymore ($400/month). Or utilities ($100-200/month). I don’t have to worry about maintenance, or repairs, or upgrades. I’ll have an extra $130 each week that I can throw towards paying off my car loan. That’s going to make a huge impact on becoming debt free!

So, what did I do with the money? In responsible adult fashion, pretty much nothing: I put the $2,262 directly into my emergency fund. In the next few weeks, I’m hoping to bump it up to $5,000. I don’t know, I just feel more comfortable with that number right now. At least until the end of the year; If I’m really close to paying off the car at that point, then I might lower my emergency fund temporarily to get out of debt. But, for now, I’d like to have $5,000 in the bank, just sitting there, in addition to what is in my regular accounts.

What about the $300 from selling the mower and curtains? I’ve decided to set that money aside for the present. I feel a little guilty that my expenses are so low right now, with only paying half the rent and the weekly grocery bill, while Bryan still has a mortgage and other expenses from his house. So, I’m setting aside the $300, plus any money we make at a yard sale we plan to have in the next month or so, towards something we decide we want right now. We have a few ideas of what that might be, but it will depend on how much money we have, and what kind of deals we can find. Nothing extravagant; Possibly a new mattress, or a new recliner. Notice I said want, not need. I’m well aware that we could make do with what we have. I’m not against the occasional want, so long as it is budgeted for, and doesn’t derail the overall financial plan. Yes, that money would make a nice dent in my car loan. But, in the long run, it will put me back less than a month towards final payoff. So long as it doesn’t become an all the time thing, I’m fine with that.

And there you have it: My boring financial plan, that I’m super excited about!

– Cindy W.

Well, it’s Friday, May 15th, and the house has officially sold!

We sold the house!

True to the Realtor’s word, we closed at noon today. And with hardly a hitch! Well, one slight hitch: When the Buyer had asked about buying my curtains, I’d asked the Realtor to offer her the lawnmower as well. He never got back with me on the mower, but apparently she did want it. She arrived at the closing with a pre-written check for both the curtains and the mower. But, thinking she wasn’t buying it, we’d already moved the mower. So now we’ll need to borrow a trailer AGAIN to move the mower back to the house (it’s a riding mower).

I walked away from closing with a $300 check for the curtains and mower, and a $2,262 check for the house. When I run the numbers, the house was a total loss for me. But at this point, I’m happy to be walking away, and with a little something to show for it. I’m saying goodbye to the past, and looking forward to a better future with Bryan.

Despite losing money on this house, I’m not totally against buying a home with Bryan in the future. However, there are a few things I’d do different the next time around:

1) Buy a home I could see living in long-term. I always knew my one bedroom house was going to be a temporary thing. IF I buy again, I’d like to know it will be someplace I can hopefully stay for a couple of decades. You never know what might happen, but it’s always a good idea when buying a house to make it a long-term thing.

2) If buying a fixer-upper, be realistic about how much it will cost to fix, and whether the return will make it a good investment. Sure, you never know what future housing values will look like. But I pretty much always knew I wouldn’t be able to get back what I put into my house.

3) Have a decent down payment at the time of purchase. I bought my house with $0. With a mortgage, you pay the majority of the interest during the first half of the loan, which means it takes FOREVER to build up much equity in the house. Especially on a lower-value home. A small dip in the market can quickly push you upside down on the house. Next time I buy, I’d like to have a down payment saved up in advance. Possibly at least enough to avoid PMI. Having some equity in the house right off the bat means you have the option of selling much sooner, if need be. I probably would have sold my house 4 years ago, but I didn’t have the equity to do so. Again, you never know when your plans are going to change! Better to leave room for options!

It was many years in the making, but I finally accomplished my goal of selling the house! Now that my student loan is paid off, and my mortgage is gone, I only have the car loan left to worry about. And the extra cash flow is going to be a huge help in knocking that out! I’m super excited about moving forward with Bryan and my plans for the future. And not having the house anymore is a huge amount of stress off of me!

– Cindy W.

In my early teens, I belonged to a small youth group at a church in my neighborhood. There was a young couple that often helped out, giving us rides to events, acting as chaperones when needed. They were the epitome of what we all were taught to strive for: Married, living in a nice neighborhood (downright rich compared to where we lived), good jobs, involved in the church, and with two of the most adorable kids ever. They were wonderful people, but what I loved about them most were there children; A baby girl named Emma, and a toddler named Owen. I could spend hours playing with Owen. He was smart, well-behaved, and of course, always impeccably dressed. On top of that, the kids were cute.

I’m guessing I talked a lot about Owen during that time period, because it became a running thing with my sisters and mom. I was the child that always did things right. I enjoyed school, and got fairly good grades. Was involved in lots of extra-curricular activities, including sports, even though I sucked at all things sports. I was involved in church. I went to college. I was responsible. It only followed suite that I would get married and have little “Owens” of my own someday.

Such became the expectation, and my fictitious Owen became such a part of my future that it was never an “if”, but rather a “when”. Over the years, I’ve heard my future son Owen talked about more times than I can count. It got to the extent that, when my younger sister was struggling with her kids as babies and toddlers, she would become bitter about my future perfect child, Owen, as if he actually existed, and really was perfect. To which I always reminded her that, for all we knew, I could end up with a bunch of wild little monkeys, instead of perfect little Owens.

I never even questioned whether I would have children. It wasn’t just that children were the expectation; I really did want to be a mother. Unlike my older sister, who has been proclaiming her lack of desire for children since the age of 20, I never imagined my life without children. I always assumed it would happen in the traditional order: I’d meet someone, get married, buy a house, and start a family. I didn’t even consider dating men who didn’t want that life.

And then, my 30’s came. I didn’t give up hope, and I was still planning for things to work out “as they should”. But, as a woman, I knew I was on a limited timeline. Sure, my grandma had her youngest at 42. But my aunt was infertile by the end of her 20s. There were no guarantees. Not long before I started this blog, I started to consider whether, if Mr. Right didn’t come along soon, I should start pursuing single motherhood. Did I need to include saving for a baby in with my short-term goals? Would I be able to afford a baby on my own? Were there doctors in the Midwest that would help a single woman become a mother? How much would that cost?

I’ll be honest, when I first went out with Bryan, neither one of us thought it would lead to anything. We were just two lonely people who were looking for company. But it wasn’t long before things started getting more serious. In our day-to-day life, we were very compatible. But we had different long-term goals. I wanted to settle down and start a family. He wasn’t interested in fatherhood a second time around. There were a lot of tears. And reconsideration, And soul-searching.

And finally, right before my 35th birthday, I walked away.

It didn’t last long. We both decided that, above everything else, we enjoyed our life together. We’d both spent a very long time looking (him about 20 years longer than me), and realized that finding someone who you were that compatible with wasn’t an easy thing. Above all else, we wanted to be together. We were happy together. We didn’t exactly agree to never having children. We just agreed to wanting to be together. What would be, would be.

I slowly started accepting the idea that I might never be a mother. Would I regret it later? Maybe. But who knew what the future held? I honestly enjoyed our daily lives. On a day-to-day basis, I didn’t feel like anything was missing. I wasn’t yearning to have a baby right now. Actually, selfishly, I enjoyed that I didn’t have to get up in the middle of the night, or put someone else’s needs first, or set aside part of my weekly pay for diapers, or daycare. As much as I wanted to be a mother, I enjoyed our child-free life.

And that has made the past year and a half so much easier to accept. As it turns out, I may not be able to have children. It isn’t a given; As much as science has figured out, there are still a lot of unknowns when it comes to making babies. But, it’s unlikely I’ll ever be able to get pregnant without the help of IVF treatments. And even then, I may not be able to carry a pregnancy to term.

Infertility is a heartbreaking road, and one I’m not sure I’m emotionally ( or financially!) equipped to travel. So I’m choosing instead to embrace the happy, childless life that I have with a man who loves me. We’ve both agreed that, should life bring us any surprises, we’ll adjust to a new course. But our plans right now are for just the two of us.

That doesn’t mean it’s always easy. I don’t tell people that I can’t have kids, because I feel like that isn’t necessarily proven fact. After all, I’ve never tried. But when people ask, I tell them that children aren’t part of our plan. My older sister sobbed when I told her there would likely never be an Owen. And I know that my grandma will ask, every Tuesday night when I go to visit. And even though I know the question is coming, I still tear up a little every time I give the answer. I’ve learned that you can be happy and sad about a decision all at the same time. And that’s okay.

Life doesn’t always work out the way we think it should. That doesn’t mean we can’t be happy with what we’ve got.

– Cindy W.

I really did love this house. But I'll be so glad when it's gone!

I really did love this house. But I’ll be so glad when it’s gone!

My Realtor says we’ll close on the house on May 15th.

Granted, when he said that he hadn’t actually scheduled anything. And hadn’t checked with the bank to make sure everything checked out on the buyer’s mortgage. And closings in my state are notorious for not closing on the first scheduled date. But, I guess if everything aligns, I’ll be done with home ownership on May 15th. At least until Bryan and I are ready to buy a home together.

Selling this house has been a bit of a rocky road. Nothing major, just a lot of missteps by an inexperienced Realtor. I knew that I was taking a risk hiring someone with literally zero experience. But, even in the Midwest, where housing values are low, it’s hard to find a good Realtor when your house is valued under $100,000. Usually you get stuck with the newbies looking for experience, or the Realtor that’s struggling to make it, or just doesn’t care. This being my Realtor’s very first listing, I was assured that his Mentor would be checking over everything, every step of the way. And I knew that having the successful mentor “on my team” would help me get a better asking price.

I'm not even sure I paid $100 for the curtains when I bought them.

The curtains in question.

The asking price did work out in my favor: The accepted offer is $10,000 higher than another Realtor was suggesting I list at. The having someone looking over my Realtor’s shoulder? Not so much. The last few months I feel like every conversation between us involves me saying “You can’t do that” or “That’s not how it’s done” or “This doesn’t seem right.” Some things are working out in my favor, like the fact that he didn’t know to include the draperies in the buyer’s offer, so now the buyer is paying me $100 to keep the curtains. On the other hand, I ended up spending $95 on a termite inspection, which should have been an inspection cost of the buyer. I finally had to contact his mentor when he told me that I needed to hire a Structural Engineer so the buyer would have enough information about the rafters on the house to negotiate any repairs that might be needed. When you buy a house, after the inspection (which the buyer pays for) the buyer has the right to request repairs be made, and the seller has the right to refuse or try to negotiate on said repairs. If an agreement can’t be reached, the parties are free to walk away. I’m working on a pretty tight margin with this sale; Since we’ve agreed that I’ll pay the buyer’s closing costs, it looks like I’ll probably only be walking away with around $2,000. I feel lucky to walk away with anything, but after putting about $30,000 into fixing up the house, I’d like to keep every penny possible when I sell. I wasn’t about to shell out hundreds, or maybe thousands, of dollars for a Structural Engineer, before we even started negotiating what repairs I might have to pay for! The house was built in 1929 for goodness sake!

And it turns out, I was right: The mentor said that either the buyer can ask for a specific repair, or if she feels she needs more information, she can hire a Structural Engineer. It’s part of her “due diligence” of buying a home. I’m definitely not on the hook for paying for what essentially is an additional inspection.

Since my Realtor is representing both myself and the buyer, Bryan worries that he’s taking advantage of me. I just think he’s new, and excited about selling his first home, and isn’t thinking through what’s in the best interest of both parties. Someone said Structural Engineer and, in his desire to please, he said “Sure, no problem!”. I’m hoping that we have everything sorted out now. Honestly, I’m questioning the wording on some of the paperwork (the Realtor was very vague on some areas, and worded things completely incorrectly on others), and a bit afraid something is going to end up biting my in the butt when we go to close. Title companies can be sticklers about the details, and if everything isn’t done correctly the whole deal may end up falling through.

I’ve mentioned to Bryan several times since we accepted the offer on my house that we really should start moving some things over to the apartment, which is always met with “There isn’t that much to move. We’ll get around to it.” This past weekend, I finally convinced him that it was a good idea; He mowed the grass, while I started packing things up and loading them into the Suburban. True, there isn’t a ton of stuff. But you’d be surprised how much you can hide in a little house! On the way back to the apartment we started discussing when we’d move the furniture. He suddenly looked at me with a concerned expression. “Is the buyer taking possession at closing?” Yes. “Do you realize there’s only one weekend between now and then, and it’s Mother’s Day weekend? And we both have plans that Sunday?” YES!

So we’re borrowing a trailer from a friend, and cleaning out the house this Saturday. There isn’t much big stuff; You can’t fit a lot of furniture in a 680 square foot house, and all the appliances stay. We’ve already taken the bed to my brother’s, and are hoping he’ll take the small dresser and night stand as well. What 25-year-old single boy doesn’t need furniture? That just leaves the couch, the lawn mower, and a few random odds and ends. And I really do mean random: There’s a 6′ giraffe and a 3′ and 4′ candle (in wrought iron holders) that need to be moved. Don’t judge.

And if all goes well, I won’t be a homeowner in a week!

– Cindy W.

Everyone has their breaking point. As human beings, we’re only capable of mentally/emotionally handling so much. About mid-April, I hit that point.

I was already expecting April to be a stressful month: My grandma was moving into an assisted living facility, and there was a lot of family drama surrounding that. My house is in the process of being sold, and there were inspections that needed to take place, and negotiations that needed to happen. My inexperienced Realtor managed to make a mess of more than a few things, and it ended up costing me (and adding to my stress). My six month visit with my doctor led to a biopsy, which led to the news that I’ll need a minor medical procedure next month. I’ve been training my replacement at work, while simultaneously learning my new position. The stress of everything that’s been going on means that my reflux/stomach issues have been out of control, which led my doctor to schedule an endoscopy next month.

When my sister’s fiancée passed away, I tried to minimize everything else that was going on so I could concentrate on what was important. There were travel arrangements to be made, work to be taken off, paperwork to be sorted through, and people to be notified. Since the services were being held so far away, we decided to hold a small Memorial for his friends and co-workers locally. We also felt it would help my sister’s two young sons find some closure, since they didn’t go with us for the services. While we were away, I made arrangements for the Memorial. My sister reached out to the funeral home there to have an obituary printed in our local newspaper that would include information about the Memorial.

Having never done this before, we weren’t sure what we should do for the Memorial. Should we provide beverages? Snacks? What would people do? We decided the best bet was to have things setup similar to a Showing, where people could stop in after work, pay their respects, but not do anything formal. We’re all introverts, and no one really wanted to do speeches or anything like that. His family had prepared a video for the Showing, and gave us a copy to use for the Memorial. My sister made picture boards to set up throughout the room.

As we got closer to the date of the Memorial, I realized the one thing we hadn’t considered: Flowers. I’ll admit, floral arrangements are about the least frugal thing there is. They’re ridiculously expensive, and in the end, you have nothing to show for them. But I knew that it would seem like something was missing if there were no flowers. And flowers are a huge deal to my sister: She broke up with a guy a few years ago because he didn’t buy her flowers for her birthday. She had made several comments about the flowers at the funeral home; How she liked the arrangements his family had chosen, how his employer had sent several nice arrangements. And, since people had already sent flowers for the funeral, I knew there would be no flowers at the Memorial. So, I decided to order some.

I decided that I wanted three arrangements: One traditional (but not too large) funeral arrangement for my sister, and then a smaller arrangement for each of her boys. They’d both spent the past week and a half with their Dads, and I wanted to make sure they knew that their grief was not being overlooked. There is a small floral shop called Steve’s Flowers and Gifts not far from my house; I’ve used them numerous times, and they’ve always been fabulous. But, with everything that was going on, I didn’t really feel like talking to anyone, and their online selection is limited. So, I went the inexpensive route: I found the website with the least expensive selection, and placed my order one day while eating lunch at work.

A few clicks, and it was done. A funeral arrangement and 2 “any occasion” arrangements. Except, it wasn’t as easy as I expected. The system kept giving me errors when I tried to have the smaller arrangements sent to where the Memorial was being held. No big deal I thought, I’d have them all delivered to work, and take them myself. Except, I was leaving work at 1:00 pm on Friday. So, I paid $4.99, per arrangement, to ensure they were delivered before noon. Plus $14.99 per arrangement for “handling”. My inexpensive flowers ended up costing me $164. Ouch!

Noon that Friday came and went, and there were no flowers. Sometime past 1:00, the two smaller arrangements showed up. I’m not sure of the exact time, since the delivery person just dropped them out front without anyone signing for them. When I opened the packaging, they weren’t at all what I was expecting. I had ordered one with wild, colorful flowers for my wild and colorful nephew, and one with more traditional, primary colored flowers for my older nephew, who loves comic books. The colorful flowers ended up being brown and orange, and depressingly wilty, and the primary colors were hot pink and fluorescent orange. And they were TINY.

I called the florist listed on the cards to inquire about the third arrangement, and was surprised to learn that they didn’t have an order for those. As it turns out, when you order flowers online from ANY of the big online floral companies, they consider each arrangement a separate order, even when all ordered together, and most often send each order to a different florist.

By this point I was in a panic, and running late for a 1:30 meeting with an inspector at my house. I left with my 2 disappointing arrangements, and headed to the house. An hour and a half later, I finally had time to call the online company I had placed the order with. I wasted time while they called around to find my missing flowers, discussed me going back to work (which was 45 minutes away from the Memorial, where I was heading) to possibly meet the florist, and ran through all their policies and procedures.

And finally, I broke.

I no longer cared which florist made the error, or what their policies were: I ordered 3 arrangements from them, paid extra to have them delivered by a specified time. They didn’t deliver on what I paid them for, and I wasn’t happy. They made me late for an appointment, and added stress to an already terrible day. I wanted my money back. I spent the next 15 minutes asking to speak to a manager about 50 times. I never did get to speak to a manager, but finally, after being put on hold for what seemed like the 100th time, they agreed to give me my money back. So long as I brought the two smaller arrangements back to work with me on Monday, so that florist could retrieve them. Fine.

So there I was, at 3:00 pm on Friday, with a Memorial at 6:00 pm, having went through all that stress over flowers, and nothing to show for it. Honestly, part of me felt a little bad for demanding all of my money back. But then, they didn’t deliver on their promise. It wasn’t long after that I got a call from work; The big floral arrangement had finally arrived. I cried.

Tears in my eyes, I headed out to Steve’s.

As usual, they were wonderful, and I was kicking my cheap self for not just calling them to begin with. On a Friday night, 2 and a half hours before closing, with High Schoolers trotting in to get their prom corsages, the wonderful girl at Steve’s helped me through my order, which they would have ready for pickup in an hour and a half. Just enough time for me to run some errands, come back and get the flowers, and then get to the Memorial and setup before everyone got there. It cost me a little more: $175, as compared to the $164 I planned on spending. But, the arrangements were HUGE! And ended up being exactly what I needed: A big funeral arrangement in masculine colors (something that I hadn’t considered, but I’m glad the florist suggested), a smaller arrangement in primary colors for my older, more serious nephew, and a wilder arrangement for my wilder nephew. The smaller arrangements were at least twice the size of the ones I’d ordered online, and much more appropriate for the boys who were getting them.

Yes, I spent a small fortune on flowers, and completely stressed myself out in the process. Flowers at a funeral are a tradition that many people are starting to see as an outdated waste of money. And maybe they are. But I could see the relief on my sister’s face when she saw the flowers, and with tears in her eyes she whispered that she was worried there wouldn’t be any. It was important to her, and that made it worth it.

– Cindy W.

There are two posts that are fairly common in the personal finance community: The posts reminding us of how important it is to make good decisions early on in life, and the posts about overcoming past financial mistakes. I think both are very important, even necessary, for helping people better their financial lives. The problem? They always leave me feeling like a failure. An aberration in the personal finance community.

You see, I didn’t start early. And I didn’t make some mistakes. I made all of them.

Despite feeling like I was on the right track early on in life, I made a lot of mistakes. Big to small, I covered them all. The “little” mistakes are easy to live with. Spending too much on food? Yep. Been there. Done that. Spending too much on clothes? Do shoes count? Don’t answer that. And stop counting my shoes!

Across the board, I made a lot of bad choices. I started off picking an expensive, private, out-of-state school. Took out some big student loans. And then majored in something with meager job prospects in my area (Hello, Graphic Design in the Midwest!), without any real plan of actually pursuing it as a career.

Speaking of career: I kind of just floundered through working over the years. I didn’t chase a passion, and I didn’t chase an income either. I worked to live. And lived off everything I made. And then some.

I used credit irresponsibly throughout my twenties.

I’ve owned 3 vehicles in my life, all of which were bought new, with financing. Well, I bought the Honda twice, once with financing, and once with cash. But I didn’t keep it very long the second time around. In the 2 years since I started this blog, I’ve owned 3 different vehicles. Yikes!

I bought a house with $0 down, and $0 emergency fund. A “starter house”, that I knew I wouldn’t own long-term. And then sank close to $30,000 into fixing it up. Even though I knew I wouldn’t get much more (if anything more) than what I originally bought the house for when I sold.

I co-signed on a $25,000 private student loan, for a single mom with no income (my sister). Even though I had zero emergency fund. And credit card debt. And student loans of my own. And definitely couldn’t afford to make the payments on the loan I was co-signing on.

I quit my job, several times, with no job prospect, no emergency fund, and no plan.

I rarely contributed to retirement accounts in my 20’s, even though I knew I should, and had the opportunities to do so. I cashed out a 401k plan when I left one job, and have nothing to show for it. I also withdrew all the money I had put into my Roth-IRA. The money I have in my Roth right now is what remains of the interest I earned from my original investments.

And, when everything fell apart, I took the “easy” way out, and filed for bankruptcy. And then I learned the hard way that it wasn’t really the fresh start I was expecting it to be. The co-signed student loan, the “straw that broke the camel’s back”, so to speak, was still there, looming over my head. Suddenly, there were no credit cards to fall back on, no easy loan applications. I was ashamed, and broke, and still in debt. The black mark on my credit will follow me for years. The sense of failure will probably last a lifetime. More than failure; The idea that I can’t be trusted to uphold my word. That I would agree to something, and then not follow-through.

I’m working hard to get my financial life back on track. This past year I’ve made a ton of progress. I feel like I’m finally starting to turn things around. But my past mistakes will always keep me from feeling like a success story. I won’t have the “How I paid off $X in credit card debt” story, because I didn’t do that. My life has been more cautionary tale than success story. Sure, I’ve paid off all of my student loans, and hopefully in the not-so-distant future, I’ll be paying off the car loan. But it will always be tainted by my failures, the things I wasn’t able to get through.

But all the mistakes and failures have gotten me to where I am today. And, honestly, I’m happy with where and who I am today. I’m definitely far from perfect. But every day, I get a little better. I’ll never feel like I overcame my obstacles, and I’ll always feel guilty over some of the choices I made. I have to own the mistakes I’ve made. Regardless of the economy, or what anyone else said or did, I made choices. But I can change. And those changes will someday lead me to a place of stability.

I’ll never be rich. But, with hard work and patience, I can create a stable life for Bryan and myself. No matter what mistakes we’ve made in the past. No matter how late we’re starting. I’m thankful everyday for the opportunity to redefine my life, and create a better future.

– Cindy W.

April has been a crazy month for me, and definitely not in a good way. But, somehow, I made it through. And in fairly good shape:

Net Worth update as of April 30, 2015

Net Worth update as of April 30, 2015

I’ll admit, when the going got tough, the budget pretty much went out the door. Some of it was understandable, like the money that was spent due to the unexpected death of my sister’s fiancée. Some of it was pretty much unavoidable, like money that went towards doctor’s co-pays and medications. And some of it was just because I spend more when I’m stressed. Luckily (I guess), on top of everything else, I’m having horrible issues with my reflux/stomach. Usually when life takes a turn for the worse, I console myself with expensive foods, be they exotic or comfort. My waistline and budget are thankful for my digestive distress, even if I’m not.

So, despite having a really rough month, I still managed to grow my net worth by $1,306. Actually, that number should be $250+ higher, but my 401k contribution for last week hasn’t posted yet, which included my employer’s monthly contribution. I’m not sweating it though; I figure as much as the market fluctuates, that amount could easily have been eaten up if things had turned downwards. The delay isn’t being ignored however; I’ve been told our parent company is looking into a new processing company for the 401k plan, as posting delays are becoming more and more common.

I’m not expecting things to calm down much in May. If all goes well, we’ll close on the house sometime the middle of the month, although we don’t have an exact date yet. It’s looking like I might actually be walking away with some cash. It won’t be a lot, but every little bit helps. Then I have some minor medical procedures that are being done on the 13th and 21st. Luckily, I have great medical insurance, a very low annual deductible, and a Flexible Spending Account that I’m hoping will cover most, if not all, of my costs.

It’s definitely going to be a busy, stressful month. But I’m hoping to be in a much better situation by the end!

– Cindy W.

April is coming to a close, and I’d love to say that life is returning to normal. Unfortunately, it isn’t. On the plus side, I have lots of things I could be writing about. On the minus side, I’m struggling to find the time to write them. Such is life!

Tomorrow I’ll be posting my net worth update for April. Before I do that, I felt there was something I should touch on: A couple of weeks back, I posted about our travels to the South for my sister’s fiancée’s funeral, and the costs associated with the last-minute trip. I booked the plane tickets and rental car online, and paid for those items myself, while my Mom covered our hotels and food while we were there. I spent around $2,200; I’d estimate my Mom ended up spending close to $1,500. Our plan was to count this trip as our vacation for 2015. Once we all got home, Mom and I were supposed to sit down and calculate what we spent, and adjust so we each ended up covering about 50% of the costs.

Somewhere along the line though, my Mom had a change of heart. After all that I did to make sure everything came together, on our trip and once we came home, she didn’t feel it was fair for me to pay 50%. Especially given that it really wasn’t a vacation at all. Once everything was settled, she insisted on giving me $2,000. We argued back and forth over it for several days, with her holding my hairbrush ransom until I finally agreed to take the money*. She felt that, as our mother, the expense was her burden, not mine. She also pointed out that, being the sister that I was, I would eventually end up spending that money on my siblings anyway. I might as well put it back into my emergency fund for future use. Touché.

I still ended up spending a lot of money during April. Some of it was related to my sister’s situation, some of it was not. A lot of my spending could have been avoided. That being said, I don’t regret it. Hopefully in the next week or so, I’ll be able to delve into more details on that. But the point is, I’m ending April in a much better situation than I originally thought, and my $2,500 emergency fund is intact.

– Cindy W.

* Yes, my family is weird. And yes, it really is that great of a hairbrush that I was willing to accept $2,000 for its return. Although I kept explaining to my Mom that wasn’t really how ransoms were supposed to work. Her ransom, her demands, I guess!

It ended up being an incredibly long weekend, and I’m completely exhausted. However, things should finally start returning to normal. Or, I should probably say a “new normal”; Nothing will ever be the same again.

Surprisingly enough though, Sallie Mae did pull through, and sent a refund check for the extra $105 payment. Of course, as my luck goes, the check is made out to my Dad. D’oh! Honestly, I should have been expecting that: The loan was a Parent Plus Loan, so even though I’ve always made the payments, it’s technically his loan. It really isn’t that big of a deal. I see my parents every weekend. I just have to remember to take the check over there, so we can get it taken care of.

One last step before I’m done with student loans. Hopefully forever!

– Cindy W.

The last week and a half have been a complete whirlwind; I wasn’t even sure what day it was half the time. My sister’s fiancée passed away last Monday. Later that day, she announced through tears that she was expecting. There was last-minute travel to plan, arrangements to make, and his family to meet. Definitely not the best circumstances to meet your fiancée’s family. There were a few moments of drama, and some hiccups along the way, but all in all things went better than I could have expected.

There’s a lot I could delve into as far as what’s going on with my sister right now. But, that’s her business, and not really what this blog is about. But I would like to share the parts that relate to me, which is mainly travel, if for no other reason than to thank all of the wonderful people we came into contact with over this past week. Honestly, this entire thing could have been an expensive disaster from start to finish, but people went out of their way to make things go smoothly for us. And I am truly appreciative of that.

My Mom, two sisters and I decided last year that we would like to make an annual thing out of taking a vacation together. We’ve always been very close, but all have a lot going on in our lives; This was our way of staying connected. My two sisters have less than stable financial lives, so my Mom and I went into that plan with the idea that we would likely be splitting the cost 50/50, with my sisters each contributing when and what they could. To help curb the cost, we had the idea that we would do a big vacation one year (Disney last year), followed by a shorter, less expensive vacation the next. We were thinking we would wait until September or later for our vacation this year. That would give me time to recover from selling my house, and my older sister was planning to get married at some point this summer. Plus, with my younger sister newly engaged, there was a good possibility there would be a second wedding at some point this year.

When we realized the funeral would be held out-of-state, my Mom and I agreed that we would cover the cost of my sister going. It would be our “vacation” this year. My sister asked that we come with her, for emotional support. My older sister was unable to take the time off work. Honestly, I would have helped with the expenses regardless. And, while I wasn’t intending to spend the money right now, not having to plan for a vacation later in the year does take some stress off.

I’ve booked travel on short notice before, but never less than 24 hours. We originally thought the funeral would be on Friday or Saturday, so on Wednesday afternoon I purchased 3 tickets leaving Thursday morning, and returning Sunday night. Travelocity had the best deals, flying Delta Airlines, at $608 per person, round trip. The closest airport is 45 minutes away from the town where the funeral would be held, so we needed a rental car as well. It turned out to be cheaper to book the car directly through Avis, rather than combining it with our airfare. The advertised rate was $100, but there was another $40 in fees when I actually booked.

We’re honestly all terrible when it comes to packing for a trip, and not having been to the area before, or met any of the people we would be spending time with, we weren’t sure what to expect. Plus we didn’t have time to prepare, and everyone was emotionally worn at that point. So, we had to check 4 bags ($110 on first leg of trip). And we opted to park in a lot that was close to the terminals, because we didn’t plan enough time to catch the shuttle ($72). By Wednesday night, we found out the showing had to be moved to Sunday night, with the funeral on Monday. I couldn’t stay any longer, because of work, but as we checked our luggage and got our boarding passes that morning, we spoke with the Agent at Delta about switching my Mom and sister’s flight home to Tuesday. We were prepared to pay $200 per person, plus the difference in the cost in tickets. The Agent waived the $200 fees, and since flying back on a Tuesday was cheaper than flying back on a Sunday, gave us two $50 travel credits. I was completely blown away by that! Most airlines tend to nickel and dime you for every little thing. The Agent was kind, and helpful, and had us on our way in less than 10 minutes. My mom and sister were able to use the travel credits to check 3 bags on their return trip, so it only cost me $25 to check my bag coming home.

I looked into hotels when I booked the flights, but there wasn’t anything available in the town surrounding where the funeral was being held, and we weren’t really sure about the area. Several members of his family offered to take us in, so we weren’t without a place to stay. We decided to wait until we got there to look into the hotel situation. We learned on arrival that one town was having a Catfish Festival, one a Hog Rally, and another a Truck Rally. Who knew so much could be going on in one weekend out in the middle of no-where? Since we didn’t know anyone there, and there had been some family drama in the past, and everyone was grieving, we opted to look into hotels. Multiple phone calls later, we found a Hilton Garden Inn that had a cancellation, and could at least get us in for part of our stay (and agreed to try to rearrange any other cancellations to allow us to stay our entire trip). It wasn’t cheap ($160 per night), but the area was nice, and close enough to the funeral and family. Plus there was a restaurant in the lobby, which ended up being a Godsend: My sister refused to leave the hotel except when things were planned with his family, and didn’t want us to leave without her. The restaurant didn’t serve lunch, but at least we managed to have 2 meals a day.

Much to our surprise, the hotel was directly across the street from the Hog Rally. Even more to our surprise, a Hog Rally has nothing to do with roasted pig. While disappointed about the lack of pork, the hotel full of jolly bikers was a welcome distraction, and they were all wonderfully nice people. As an added plus, there were no children running up and down the hallways. The hotel was busy, yet somehow peaceful.

The only downfall to our trip (other than the obvious) was the car rental situation. Avis did allow me to rent a car with a debit card, for which they place an additional $100 hold until the car is returned. But a second driver can only be added if that person has a major credit card; My Mom didn’t bring her credit card, and they wouldn’t let her be added as a driver with only a debit card. They would allow us to book her a separate car. Which means we rented a car under my name for Thursday through Sunday, and then a second car under my Mom’s name from Sunday through Tuesday, which cost us an additional $150. It was ridiculous, but they would have had to take me to the airport anyways, so it just added an extra step. And it worked out well: All that was available when we originally booked was a Toyota Corolla, but when we traded cars we were given a Ford Focus, which my Mom was much more comfortable driving.

While we were away, I managed to contact one of the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) Posts in our home state. Since my sister’s fiancée had served in Afghanistan, they were willing to let us use the banquet room at their location to host a memorial this coming Friday. As all of the services were held out-of-state, we wanted to have something locally for all of his friends and coworkers. I went in yesterday to sign a contract and put down a $75 refundable cleaning deposit, but they’re letting us use the space free of charge. I am incredibly thankful that they are letting us use the space at all on such short notice, let alone not charging us.

Over the course of the past week I figure I’ve spent about $2,200; I paid for the plane tickets, parking, baggage, the first rental car, and the deposit at the VFW. My mom covered the hotels, all of our food, and the second rental car. At some point, we’ll sit down and go over everything and balance the costs back out. For now, I’m not too worried about it. Yes, it was expensive. But, I had the cash to cover everything, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I’m focusing now on rebuilding my emergency fund. I wasn’t planning to spend that money right now, but I did have plans on spending it at some point this year for a vacation. It just came sooner than expected. As my Mom said though, we plan a pretty crappy vacation.

The entire experience has been heartbreaking, and I feel so sorry for my sister and his family. I’m glad that she had the chance to meet his family. He was a wonderful man, and will be missed by many.

– Cindy W.