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What is Going Well v. What I'm Struggling With

January 18th, 2019 at 04:28 pm

I'm going to start on a positive note... these are the things that are going well (and there are a lot, I feel very grateful!)
- my family
- went to California to see my niece (and spent too much money, but we did stay with them, so no hotel cost)
- I have Asian Meatballs in the crockpot and a rice cooker of rice cooking away... tonight F has soccer practice at 8 pm so we had to have dinner worked out.
- School was canceled today due to snow; so got to hang out with F all day! She came to the gym with me. It was the third time I'd taught in 2 days, and I'm pretty exhausted
- I'm reading the new Robert Galbraith novel (really JK Rowling) from the library
- I am in decluttering mode, and getting a lot done; I feel really proud. I have 62 books to take to the library (they have a little store).
- I think my husband got a small raise, but not sure yet - haven't seen a new paycheck.


And here are the things I am struggling with... it's pretty much work stuff.
- I worked my tail off last year in order to make enough money for 2019 to buy myself some time to figure out my work situation, but I've been so busy with work, I haven't had the chance.
- I had a really awful experience with the civil engineer I used on this fire station project; the County would not let me use my usual civil, and so I had to use someone new. It is a very reputable company, but I was driven crazy by the project manager I was working with. I made the uncomfortable call to his boss, and just laid out my displeasure (and the County's). I asked for three things: make things right with the County (by assuring them that they will perform for the rest of the process), do not bill me 100% when the project is not done, assign a new project manager. It was a really hard phone conversation, and I almost went home and went to bed at 10 am!
- The County made what we call a "change in approval" on my project, and now want me to change my drawings in a way that would be detrimental to the cost of the project. But I still have to come in on budget. I came up with a way forward and the Fire Department (my actual client) is happy. I am working up a price for additional services to change the drawings if that's what needs to be done. But the hand-holding and hysteria on this continue, and I'm not up for the stress.
- I don't think there will be any more work for architects with the County; they have decided to go Design-Build (hire the Contractor to do a turnkey project without anyone to represent their interests). And I don't really want to work with the County anymore anyway (see above).
- Which brings me back to the first bullet point: I need to rethink my career (about 30-40% of my billings are to the County currently). And I need to find the time to do that.

So, there you go... Starting fresh next Tuesday to spend a couple of hours each day figuring out different options, and what I would need to do to get to those options (classes? certifications?).


Thinking Big

January 5th, 2019 at 04:47 pm

The big plan last year was to delay some of my billings so that I'd have enough money in my business to start the year off with a significant amount of money. The goal is to be able to take some time to Think BIG and figure out where my life/career/business is heading.

There are lots of possibilities, but also lots of moving pieces.

1. I delayed enough billing that I've essentially made all of the money I need to for 2019. That is GREAT! And sort of bad, because I will make more, and will need to figure out where it goes (SEP? yes. Higher pay? probably not). Now I have more things to think about and arrange. A good problem to have, I know.

2. We have always said we might move back to Europe; this was always in the future, but next year F will be in 9th grade, so that's now in the 5 year plan! Need to think about career here AND there.

3. We may want to add a portal (that is New Mexican for covered outdoor area!) on to the front of our house and outside F's bedroom. I will need to figure out a budget, do plans, get a permit, find a builder, cost everything, figure out how much of it I can do).

4. Some of the Thinking Big may involve some classes and certifications. I need to get going on this! BUT I still have a ton of work! I just said no to a project; saying no is hard, but it felt so good! I need to free up time. Probably mid-January things should (better!) quiet down.

Anyway, this is all good, and I am thankful for the privilege.

Have you gone through the process of making career adjustments or changes? Any books you recommend? Or did you hire a career coach? Or...?

Work Budget

April 5th, 2018 at 09:16 am

My work financials are tied into my personal financials because my business is an S-corp and I am the only employee. I have things very separate, so sometimes it's hard to remember that in the end, it's all just our money.

#1 - Projects
If I don't have projects, I don't have work, and then I don't have a paycheck. I have to do marketing (proposals) to get projects. I just turned in 4 proposals and got shortlisted on 3 (the other one I just turned in, so not sure yet). Of the three, I was contacted that I won one of them, lost one of them, and the other won just had the interview on Monday, so not sure about that yet either. Anyway, we are in negotiations on the one I won, and it's making me so nervous. It's a new fire station, and I really want it, and I submitted my fee. They came back that they wanted me to include landscape architecture from a certain firm and a professional cost estimate. That's about $10k of extra work ($10k I have to pay someone else). I absorbed most of it. I hope this works out. But every penny of the $10k comes out of my pocket.

#2 - Dining Out
I have a budget for taking clients out, but like my personal budget, this seems like excess, the only place to cut costs. But it's a marketing cost, really. I just made a lunch meeting with head of one of my Design Review Committees.

#3 - Supplies
I hate buying supplies. Ink for the printer costs so much. This is another category which is one of those rare places I can save. I have to keep supplies at home, too, because I work from there in the afternoons after I pick up F from school. So I need the printer there to have ink, paper...

End of the Year Business Money

December 28th, 2017 at 04:21 pm

So after paying for various things this year in order to make my profit less for 2017, I moved money from an online account to my regular checking account to cover those things. I chose to transfer the money today rather than tomorrow or the 29th or 30th or 31st...

A few minutes later I got an email that says: "Your request for an immediate transfer from your account to your external bank account has been received. You should expect to see the funds in your external account within 2-5 business days."

What? Two to five DAYS? I panicked and moved money from my business savings account, but I'll still be $656 short unless the transfer is more like 2 or 3 days rather than five. Five days? I'm pretty angry about that!

It should work out because my landlord usually takes a week or two to cash the rent check, but I am going to have to watch the account carefully and transfer from my personal account if I need to.

If you have a small business, do you "spend out" your business account at the end of the year? My business is an S-Corp (pass through). I am taxed on my profit, so I want to minimize that.

I did put $2000 into my SEP which is great - that means I had a profit this year, which was amazing because I didn't have any large projects, just a bunch of small stuff. Next year, fingers crossed, I'll get a larger project and things will be easier!

I'm Still Here!

December 21st, 2017 at 04:07 pm

It's been a crazy winter break so far! I've had F home but have also had meetings and work to do. Have not been able to blog here, but I am here now!

So here are some financial and not-very-financial facts:
- I taught F to knit! This is keeping her brain and hands occupied!
- I went to two pre-proposal conferences for possible projects; I had to take F to one of them. There will be another right after the holidays, so three possible projects.
- Had my office Christmas lunch today. Since I am the only employee, and F is working for me during break, I took her!
- It's been unseasonably warm which is sad. No white Christmas.
- Once again I was in charge of gifts for the soccer coaches. We had contributions from the team members. Some pitched in $20 and some $25. We did $25. We had enough for $95 gift cards to our local movie theater (the one that serves food in the theater!). I made it $100 each. I am hoping two of the $20 people will add $5 each so I don't have to do $35.
- F had her annual well-check today; she is doing very well on a GF diet (digestively speaking - all problems gone!) and a side benefit is that her allergies are also better. So... no gluten. It's hard for a 12 year old. Not the food, but the attitude of other 7th graders.
- We went to F's conferences... A+ in Algebra, History and Latin. A in English and Science, PE and Acting. English teacher said it would be A+ but she can't give an A+ in English due to school policy. All of the teachers wanted to make sure she wasn't spending all her time doing homework. She has less than an hour a night, usually half an hour. She gets it done in school so she can go to her sports!
- I played basketball yesterday. Swimming tomorrow. F is keeping me busy.
- Dinner is all planned through next Friday. I bought almost everything. Just need to get fresh veggies tomorrow. I don't want to be in the stores on Saturday!
- Saturday is a mother-daughter get-together with F's three best friends hosted her closest friend who has to go be with her dad on the Navajo reservation for a week right after Christmas.
- Sunday we'll have frito pies because I can't make tamales anymore (too time-consuming!).
- I worked out my business income; I am waiting to invoice my clients on the first because the gross receipts tax is going up.

That's it for now... need to get dinner going soon!

How is your holiday season going?

Spreading out the Pain of a Big Bill

March 6th, 2017 at 03:14 pm

I don't know how much people care about the minutiae of other people's financial arrangements... sometimes I like to see how other people are handling things so that I can figure out my own finances better.

Anyway, for the record, here are the minutiae of how we are going to fit our big tax bill into the finance stream.

Federal tax bill $4033
State tax bill $411
Estimated payment for April $1649
Total = $6093

The PLAN!!
Since we have some savings and money allocated but not yet spent, we have a cushion and can pay the tax bill and estimated taxes and pay ourselves back little by little. YNAB helps with this... I've set up a category called "Estimated Taxes" that will be negative for about 4 months.

This method will allow me to maintain cash flow in my business and to maintain a good balance in our Irish account. Those two things (business profit and Irish house rental profit) are the reasons for the big tax bill.

March - Deposit into our personal account $1000 as a distribution from my business, $300 from the Irish account, $200 from my husband's side business account
balance will now be: $4593

April - We pay the big bill. Already have $1500 allocated. Deposit another $1000 as a distribution from my business, $300 from the Irish account
balance will now be: $3293

May - Deposit another $1000 as a distribution from my business, $300 from the Irish account
balance wil now be: $1993

June - Deposit $1000 as a distribution from my business
balance will now be : $693

We will cover the $693 with underspending in other categories, little by little.

So there you go. That's my creative accounting method, to soften the blow of the Big Tax Bill. We still have to pay it of course.

I feel privileged to have made a profit this year.

New Work and... F Won the School Spelling Bee!

December 1st, 2016 at 07:24 pm

I was starting to panic a little bit about not having a lot of work right now. It's the scariest part about having my own business. Yesterday I looked at the legal notices online (nothing) and called a contractor I work with a lot ("I will definitely keep you in mind").

Today... I got an invite to submit a proposal (no guarantee of getting the job, but at least there's work out there!) for a museum renovation and then the contractor called me back to say he had a not-too-huge (but big enough!) project with him. About $15k fee, so that's good. And the fire station addition is starting asap!

This is all good news! I am no longer panicking about next year. If I can do these jobs now and get some more work in the spring I'll be set.

Phew.

Other stuff:
- Just got Stephen King's 11/22/63 from the library on my phone. I love the library.
- My finger is a lot better. I can now type most letters with it (not c or v... ouch).
AND
- Today was the school spelling bee and F.... WON IT!! Wow! Last year she came in second. She and her good friend L (who came in second) will be going to the County Bee. I am so proud! I made carrot cake for her (as requested). She won with two off-list words (after they'd spelled all of the study words correctly): solarium and zamboni (if you get your word right and the other person doesn't, you still have to spell and additional challenge word correctly to win). Other words she spelled correctly: physicists, phrenologists, perpetrator.

Working Mom + Summer = Guilt

July 21st, 2016 at 04:05 pm

I am super lucky that I have my own business and can (generally) set my own hours. Which means I can drop off F at school and pick her up, and hang out with her during the summer.

But I still have to do my work which means at least an hour or two every morning in the summer. And I still have meetings that can't be changed.

I dragged F to the office for an hour (where she ate her lunch) and then with me to a meeting at a jobsite today, which meant that she sat in the corner with a hardhat on reading Harry Potter (not sure which book since she's read them through more than once).

Oh, the guilt.

I just want a nice, fun summer with her. A summer where we have no cares and I don't have to make money, and I don't have to take work calls.

She has camp next week, and I'm so sad. I want to take her to the pool every day after camp! I want to get slushies or snow cones!

Waaaaaaaahhhhhhh! Frown

It Pays to Call

May 3rd, 2016 at 07:59 am

Just did my checkbook reconciliation for work, and - yikes! - there was a service charge on there!

I have overdraft protection for my business checking and there is about $26,000 in the savings that the overdraft draws from so I was surprised. I could have just let it go; it's just $5, right? But I called my bank, and they explained that the overdraft draws in increments of $100 and I have to keep a minimum of $300 in my account, so I dipped below the minimum amount.

The woman said there was nothing she could do, so I asked if there was someone that could do something because in my mind this isn't really overdraft protection. She connected me to a supervisor, who said she was increasing my increment to $500 to cover the minimum and then some. And she was returning my $5.

The call was only 5 minutes and I was doing work during some of it (while I was on hold). I realize some people don't think $5 is worth it, but I solved a future problem as well, so I'm pretty happy.

So Busy.... and People Who Aren't Frugal, Part III

April 25th, 2016 at 03:12 pm

It was a busy day...

First - Meeting at my daughter's school to help them get an idea of square footage for the new building they want to build (Art/Science/Performing Arts). I met with the three teachers, and it was fun! Of course I don't get paid at all, but I feel good donating time to the school I love so much!

Then - A little bit of work, and lots of telephone conferences. Fire station, waste transfer station. Engineer calls.

Then - F's teacher called and asked me and two other people to drive the kids on their field trip next week. I said of course. Hope she gives me an easy group! She is only asking three parents to drive, and the rest of the kids will go in the van that they borrow from the high school.

On my way to the next meeting I stopped by the bank to pay down mortgage principal and I saw my good friend H (the one who is having financial issues). I forgot to tell you that he was fired from the job he wanted to quit. Oh my. I talked to him for about an hour on Saturday. Anyway, he's coming over to my office on Wednesday so we can figure his financial situation out. He gave me a big hug. He looked tired.

Then - Meeting at a subdivision I work for (doing design review). There are two houses under construction that are having problems. I'm so glad I don't do houses.

Now - getting a little work done before soccer practice tonight.

Soup and Stuff

February 3rd, 2016 at 09:33 am

Yesterday for lunch I had free soup! One of the teachers at school made a big batch of a soup we both like (chicken peanut stew... mmm!) and left me a tupperware in the school freezer. So sweet of her! The community aspect is the thing I like best about a small school.

Last night the school basketball team had a game - we lost but F played so well! She was in defense, and the only girl on either team, and prevented them from making a lot baskets. Also had a great assist. So she was happy even though we didn't win.

When we left the gym it was snowing hard. Made our way home and this morning was a snow delay. But it's beautiful and sunny out now (and still snow-covered).

I finished my business taxes yesterday (including state taxes). And today I received a 1099. Which is completely peculiar because corporations aren't supposed to get 1099s. The amount isn't even right; it's lower than what they actually paid me. Since I don't use the 1099s anyway, I don't really want to spend the time untangling their financial mess, however.

Last thing - I think this is the month we will drop into the 39k's on our mortgage. I am pretty excited! But then all I can think of is getting into the 20k's.