Category Archives: money honey

Disentangled after Divorce

entagled It takes some effort to disentangle your finances from another person. If you’ve done this before, then you are probably nodding your head.

The process of delving into couple’s finances typically takes it’s course of time, depending on how your relationship develops. I tend to take the dive right in approach in love, though I suppose it actually took seven years of marriage to actually have a functioning joint household account (though we opened savings accounts for goals before we were ever married). It can take a much greater effort to disentangle your assets after a marriage has ended.

My divorce finalized in August, but that is really just the beginning of the disentanglement that comes after divorce. This is exacerbated if you shared businesses and the like with your ex.

The task is one of those that has loomed over me and felt like a weight this entire fall. Luckily when I finally set myself to it, it was less of an effort that I feared it might be. It was more of a mental block. I did have to change numerous automated transactions for various mortgages, condo fees, and utilities. Now I’m down to closing a final account to call it done.

My lesson here is that the barriers we face in finances are most often in our head and are not financial at all. We make things more difficult than they have to be.

What is on your list of financial tasks that you are making harder than they are?



We’re Broke But Not Busted

Holger Flickr I never thought that I would need to feel broke before I could authentically write about our family finances (and hopefully help other in the process). Yet, that seems to be the case.

We’ve suddenly found ourselves in debt for the first time. Our true financial situation dawned on me when I realized that we were overdrawn. I had gone to meet Kevin in Old Town for lunch and our debit card was rejected. It shocked both us, but the truth is that we had each been in denial.

The tipping point was a check that I had written for our new nanny. We’re sharing the expense with Miel, but since she had left her check book in D.C. when she moved, it was up to me to sign off on the first two weeks of care (which I still believe is one of the best moves ever and I don’t care how badly I need to cut the budget to still afford the care…more on that topic very soon). The check obviously didn’t sync up with Hubby’s payday, and we were suddenly in trouble.

Yet, our financial situation is more complicated than a bounced check. I can only explain with three factors:

  1. Our home has drained our savings
  2. We haven’t cut costs enough since I left my City salary
  3. Life with three active kids is expensive

1) I already shared a fair amount of detail in my recent post about feeling underwater, but there’s still a “story behind that story.” When we decided to put on a new roof for $10k and spend $4k trying to make our basement dry, we agreed to take out a line of credit loan on our home to pay for it. Yet, somehow we had a misunderstanding. We had talked about it and agreed that we would spend the money that we had earned from AirBnB to pay down the loan faster. So, I took out money from that account and paid down $4k of the loan (even though I had originally hoped that it would be our vacation fund…) Then, in an inexplicable lapse in judgement, Hubby decided that we needed to pay off the the entire loan from our savings. To make matters worse, he didn’t see that I had already written the $4k check (just above in the ledger!) and so he actually overpaid the loan and overdrew our account (prior to the bounced check). Whew. Talk about a SNAFU. My only explanation is wishful thinking.

2) As extremely frustrated as I was about the situation, I didn’t have the heart to get mad though. Since I felt at fault for the random overspending that seems to plague me. Yes, we have a budget, but somehow there’s always some completely justified expense that comes up. That month we had several unplanned expenses. The truth is that I need to start earning a real income in order for us to continue our current lifestyle.

3) We love our kids pure and deep. We do our best not to spoil them or bribe them (although few parents can truly claim either). We don’t indulge in impulse spending, but even the planned stuff truly adds up. Yet we have a weak spot for the experiential expenses. At the moment, if we’re honest, we probably can’t afford all the extracurricular activities our kids are involved in (as much as it pains me to admit it). Somehow we sign them up before we’ve actually put it in the budget, and then it’s like “whoops” and we shrug, knowing how much they each grow through social learning. Plus, after all those activities, our kids get really hungry. Lately it feels like we can’t control our food/snack bill, and Teagan is just starting to truly chow down.

We have soooo much to be grateful for though, starting with the fact that we didn’t explode at each other when we realized we had drained our accounts. All our Money Honey talks have strengthened our financial resolve, even if we don’t seem to have gotten any savvier. Second, I was able to ask for a personal loan of $5k from my Aunt Carol (who initially helped us in invest in the cabins, and lent us money on one other occasion…thankfully the banks can’t compete with interest rates). Third, I feel like actually feeling the pain of being in debt is probably the best motivator for helping me adjust my spending habits. I’m also feeling more resourceful and creative than I have in a long while, and I have complete faith that I can help my family get out of debt fast.

Have you ever been broke?

What motivated you to get out of debt?


My Financial Vent Tunnel

I haven’t been blogging lately, and I know that it’s in part because I’ve been frustrated by our finances. There are a combination of factors, none of which ease the stress. I naturally wish that everything was ideal, and the disconnect between my desires and reality is getting under my skin. I realize that it’s time start using this blog to vent as well as to dream.

One of the clever tools I use in my Mama Bliss Coaching is to create a “Vent Tunnel” where you create a safe space to simply rant about whatever is bothering you. So, here it goes:

  1. After writing a lovely little article about being a “Budget Believer” for Metro Parent, I haven’t managed to update my own budget. I had the best of intentions when I wrote the article to rebuild our budget. Initially I waited because I knew that our August vacation budget didn’t reflect our real budget, but then September flew by and now October is half over. I’m feeling a tiny bit better after I just spent the last hour taking the first stab at it. But I’ve been feeling like a major fraud though, and I know it’s going to take diligence to heed my own sage advice…
  2. We’ve spent too much money on our 1904 Victorian. When I left my City paycheck, we agreed that we couldn’t afford to take on major home improvements. But the winter storms left of with a small leak in our roof, and it was old enough that a patch job didn’t feel sufficient. Then, despite us trying multiple different fixes over the years, our basement has continued to leak with each major rain storm. It’s made it impossible for us to make it into a livable family space. So, we committed once again to spend more money to at least make it dry. There’s more to this story, but I think I need a whole post to vent on it…
  3. In the process of Miel searching for her new Portland home, I ended up touring lots of beautiful places in nearby Irvington. Our kids transferred into Irvington School, but we have to walk them “across the tracks” of MLK to get there (the italics are for Kevin, who loves to use this phrase, but it makes me cringe). We’ve been truly happy in our home for the past six years, and there are still so many things that I love about our place. Yet, the location has felt awkward ever since the kids started in school. Aside from a long walk, it’s the fact that there’s only one set of boys for them to have impromptu play dates with. Makenna, and soon Teagan, have no one within a reasonably nearby radius to play with. I know that it sounds ludicrous and probably very privileged to want to move homes for social reasons, but Kevin and I would love to have more community friends too. There are other factors too, like that we could really use some more guest space, and I’ve had a goal of hosting exchange students when the kids are a bit older, but that can’t happen our current home. More of a story on this too…
  4. I need a part-time nanny. Teagan is very close to toddling around on her own. I spent a lot of time off during the summer, and I knew that my windows of available work time were getting shorter and shorter. Plus, with ramping up my coaching, I need to have truly uninterrupted appointment times available. I was planning to hire someone in September, but then with Miel moving out, we decided to share a nanny and are hopefully close to doing so. But there is also the obvious need to afford the nanny. Thankfully, we’re finally starting to earn from our investment in the beach cabins. Yet, I had been doing coaching alone, it would have continued to feel like a chicken/egg syndrome of needing the kid-free time in order to work, but needing the income to afford the care.
  5. We’re in serious need of a Money Honey talk, but I feel like since I’ve been “off work” our money conversations end up being all about how I spend too much money. Yes, I did go on a spending binge back in the spring, but I’ve kept my spending in check for the past six months. Yet, I feel like Kevin is constantly “accusing” me of spending on things that are within our budget, and worse than that is the feeling like I’m not contributing financially to our household and am therefore undeserving. I am sooooo ready to start making some real cash, and I know that my desire to earn is linked to my sense of self worth. I’m tired of feeling like I can’t fully live the life I want.

It feels great to get this off my chest, even though I still need to dig deeper and share more on many aspects. While I know that I’m opening myself up to criticism, I would rather share our full story than unpersonal finance tips.

What does your “Vent Tunnel” look like?


Darcy’s Money Story – Life After Death

A photo of us at Wally’s wake, held at Sam Bond’s with barely enough room for all his friends.
The photo I’m holding still hangs in the bar.

One way to identify your own limiting beliefs is to ask yourself “If money wasn’t an issue or if you “won the lottery” today, what would your do with your life?”I’m sure that I had done this little self-growth exercise along my journey, but it wasn’t until my father passed away that I was able to answer it deeply.

  • My (Our) father, Wally passed away suddenly three years ago. His passing was one of the most surreal and transformational experiences of my life. It was heartbreaking, but in a surprising way. Instead of feeling depressed or lonely, I felt like my capacity to love had been expanded tenfold. In the days and weeks after his death I felt a vibrancy and aliveness like never before. I also felt a deeper joy (even in the midst of sorrow) and a deep gratitude for everything in my life. Wally had soooo many friends, and the outpouring of love that came from our friends and family was truly amazing. It was also sensing the preciousness of each moment in life.
  • Above all else, Wally was a friend to everyone. He lived life on his terms and defined his own success. He was a ski bum in his teens, then a college drop out hippie, but he didn’t feel the need to seek other people’s approval. He was unapologetically easy-going. Our Mom called him lazy growing up, but we enjoyed just hanging out playing cards and listening to him play his guitar. While his lack of money was embarrassing at times growing up, it wasn’t something we held against him as adults. Our relationship/friendship grew as we hit adolescence and deepened as we explored the world, with him always being so eager to learn from our travels. He always loved to listen and debate, and even when we disagreed with his perspective, it helped us think through our own position better.
  • I remember lying in bed grieving, my mind racing with intense feelings and thoughts. I didn’t know the exact total, but I knew that I (we) would be getting a large inheritance, via our grandparents. So, I asked myself the question, “What would I do if money weren’t a concern?” I immediately realized that I wanted to have another child. I felt like, similar to my father, that my true legacy will be found in how I grow as a person through parenting and in turn through my children’s own legacy. I didn’t think of quitting my job, even though the thought of working half-time did appeal to me, versus the very hectic schedule with 9 hour days for two full-time working parents we had been managing.
  • Receiving an inheritance also felt like a big values test. I didn’t want to blow the opportunity or make choices that my grandparents would have disapproved of (although they were veerrrry frugal, so I’m sure I’ve made a few splurges that they would have questioned). So, initially I made simple choices like paying off my student loans, and then buying our Toyota Sienna outright.
  • We still kept to our exact vacation budget on our already planned trip to Denmark, and truly didn’t splurge in advance of our inheritance actually being deposited.
  • Knowing that the money would be coming did shift my money mind frame in some ways though. I certainly wanted to be more generous now that I was “able.” About a month after Wally passed away a community member I had been working with to bring sculptures to Pittman Addition HydroPark sent me a link to her campaign where she was raising funds to do an art project with kids at an orphanage in Honduras. She’s one of the most bubbly and vivacious people I know, always ending conversations and emails with “Have a blessed day!” So I couldn’t help but want to fund her project, plus she was offering a unique “Destiny Map” session if you donated $100. So I did. But even though I felt great about my choice to sponsor her, Kevin completely wigged out when we reviewed our credit card bill during our “Money Honey” chat (which also included a thousand dollar vet visit that he was furious about). I realize now that I glossed over this part of our conversation, I guess mostly because $100 didn’t seem like much money in comparison. But the reason money issue is/was that I am intrinsically more generous than Kevin. We’ve always had this rub in our money relationship.
  • Prior to getting an inheritance I was already donating small amounts regularly, but once I had more money I certainly felt the desire to tithe/donate more. I set up auto-donation through my employer for my top five favorite charities (Rotary International, International Medical Corps, Oregon Environmental Council, Friends of Trees and McKenzie River Trust). They each got $5 per paycheck, so it was a total of $50 a month, $600 a year in extra donations. We were already tithing a small amount to our church, Grace Memorial Episcopal, but we finally upped past a $100 donation. Altogether we weren’t donating nearly a true 10%, which is something I would like to do. At the time our childcare bill was so expensive that we figured out what we could afford after all our expenses.
  • Another “donation” that I started was to lend out $1000 through Kiva in what I dubbed, The Kiva Experiment. So far that thousand dollars has been relent over 60 times, and made a $5k impact around the world to aspiring entrepreneurs who wouldn’t have a chance at a traditional loan.
  • Upon returning from an amazing trip back to Denmark, I also decided to join the Portland Pearl Rotary Club. Joining the club was/is a big commitment in terms of both time and money. I volunteer regularly through the club and pay a monthly dues of $550 a year, plus an expectation to donate at least $100 to the Pearl Fund and $100 to Rotary International. We now donate a rental our beach cabins to the annual auction as well.
  • While growing our family has been a long journey, I couldn’t be happier with my initial instinct to have a third child. Teagan brings us such joy every day. (We even had a new babysitter last night, and she agreed that she’s never met such a happy baby. She literally woke up and played with her for a full hour and half before she even started to wonder where we might be). Yes, she will cost us more, but any potential sacrifice would be worth it.

After Wally’s death, we (being my sister and his best-ex, Karen) came up with a way to reference things through Wally’s unique lens on life. We called it WWWW: What Would Wally Want?? We’ll talk about this in our next shared post.

Have a blessed day!

Darcy’s Money Stories: Before becoming a Cronin

As I begin to write this next round of stories, I have a feeling that it will be the most complicated as far as emotions go. It’s not so much in the past, but still feels like part of my relationship with money. Hoping it will be a chance to forgive and learn, and that Hubby won’t get upset for me being completely honest.

It’s also complicated in the fact that there are so many daily stories around money. Money is part of our everyday conversations, and an integral aspect of our relationship and life partnership.

  • After dating for barely six months, Kevin and I were ready to move in together. This was obviously a big step, but we felt ready for it and by that time we were spending time almost every day together, and were ready to try out this thing called being adults (Kevin was seven years older than me and worried for some time that I wasn’t ready to settle down yet). During that courting time we were obviously getting to know everything we could about each other.
  • Before Kevin even hit on me (asking me if I gave dance lessons after seeing me swing dance with another guy!), he had talked with every friend we had in common to find out more about me. He had also looked me up in the directory and found that I came from a tiny place called Days Creek, and he then struggled to find it on a map, which is more of a bend in the road than a town. It was obvious that I grew up in BFE, but he was still intrigued enough to want to take a chance.
  • In our early conversations about money, it was obvious that we had grown up in two very different worlds. Kevin grew up the youngest of five in an upper middle class Catholic family. His Dad traveled across the country regularly to court doctors as a high level pharmaceutical rep, and had recently retired. They were snowbirds and went to their second home on Marco Island in Florida each winter. They enjoyed tending to a beautiful Bucks County countryside estate before downsizing. His parents were members of the Doylestown Country Club and had a long standing gourmet group that rotated dinner parties. His mother volunteered as a docent at the Michener Art Musuem (still does), played tennis with her girlfriends on a regular basis, was active in a antiquing club called Questers, and generally had made herself an active and lovely lifestyle. They traveled regularly, and growing up Kevin had never camped. The closest he had been to roughing it was on a fishing trip to Canada staying in cabins. Naturally, he grew up not needing to worry about money, although I think his parents did their best not to spoil their kids (his siblings are all very kind and generous). He was picky about things though (still is!!), wanting only the popular designer clothes and somehow turning down an offer to go to Ireland to meet distant family in high school (I couldn’t imagine doing such a thing!). Meanwhile his parents owned a “hobby farm” where his Dad was very strict about making the kids (especially the boys) do projects like painting and pruning on the weekends. So, despite being catered to, Kevin also felt like he worked hard growing up, and still had a relentless work ethic.
  • Essentially Kevin forgave me for growing up poor. He fell in love with me in spite of my meager upbringing, knowing that I was determined to be successful in life. In turn, despite being frustrated by his finicky standards, I forgave him for growing up never having to worry about money. Our common ground was and is our values, and that we both wanted to create a life together where we could live in sustainable abundance.
  • After becoming Kevin’s “Sugar Mama” during my senior year, we were ready to move in together after my graduation.
  • Serendipitously, we both landed jobs in Portland within a week of each other (moving in together hinged on us both getting jobs in PDX…again, I was in awe that I had managed to land a full-time job as an environmental activist…my dream job at the time!).
  • I was making $24k, plus full benefits and retirement after six months. While it was a pretty typical entry level salary at the time, it was actually more than any of my parents were earning. It felt strange and awkward to earn more than them, even though they were very proud of me. It felt like my college loans would be justified, which I started paying six months after graduation.
  • After graduation I headed to Down-to-Earth to buy some kitchen and household goods. I wanted everything to be as sustainable and as durable as possible. The shopping tab was maybe a third more than if I had bought everything at Target, but I wanted to invest in our future.
  • I also picked up quite a few things at a yard sale, and we still use several of the items.
  • We moved into Ladd’s Addition place in SE, which was a converted three bay garage with one bay as the bedroom/bath, and two bays as the kitchen/living space…it was cozy, but located between Ladd Circle and one of the four rose gardens. In the process we thought we had lost the place to another tenet, but it turned out that they had bad credit…another reminder of how important your credit is.
  • Soon enough it was time to buy our first vacuum cleaner. Up until that point I had been very intentional about keeping our purchases separate. I didn’t want to end up breaking up and having the complication of joint ownership. But Hubby really wanted to have it be our first purchase together, so I agreed…little did I know that he actually loves vacuuming…a good purchase indeed!
  • During our first year of living together we were diligent about tracking our expenses. We had a notebook where we wrote down every bill and grocery tab, and at the end of the month we calculated who had paid more and evened the score. It felt very fair and equitable.
  • We also alternated who picked up the bill when dining out. Whoever was paying got to pick the restaurant, for the most part. (We also alternated nights for making dinner, and whoever didn’t make dinner washed up…this only changed once we moved to Ashland and soon-to-be Hubby needed to commute longer and I was working fewer hours).
  • Overall, our first year of living together was about as harmonious as it gets. We both had decent jobs, our expenses were pretty low and we put fair systems in place.
  • Just as Kevin was finishing up his Master’s in Planning, he was offered a job as the planning manager in Talent, where he had served the year before we met in an AmeriCorps program (RARE). This offer put us at our first turning point, and for a brief moment we weren’t sure if we would need to live apart (or break up) because of our jobs. Thankfully, telecommuting was just beginning, and I was working for a national NGO. So, I managed to convince them that I could do my work from Ashland…so with very little time, we packed up and moved south. But not before having an important conversation…I insisted that if we were moving for his career that our next move would be for my career, likely to return to graduate school.
  • We were also both saving up for a trip to Europe, since one of my criteria for marriage was that we travel abroad together (After I had fallen in love in Denmark, but felt the need to break up even though he wanted to get married, I decided that I needed to set my own criteria before I fell in love again: 1) We needed to live together for at least a year 2) We needed to travel abroad together 3) I needed to be at least 25). Thankfully, we both managed to save up enough and meet up in London to travel to Wales and Ireland for two weeks (I had been in Bonn, Germany for a U.N. conference on climate change, and then continued on to visit Miel in Ghana in Peace Corps).
  • After an amazing six week adventure I returned to Ashland, where we had found a newly built apartment located directly across from a quiet beautiful little park just south of the university. Once again, it felt like we were building our dream life…which at the time included a great deal of hiking, learning to play Frisbee, playing volleyball and reading for leisure.
  • The good news was that Kevin was suddenly earning quite a bit more money, since his previous planning consulting position was more on an entry level position and this was the real deal, even if it was for a small community.
  • Then, barely two weeks after returning from my six week trip, 9/11 happened. As everyone, I remember it vividly and we were all in shock in the days and weeks following. It’s economic ripple effects hit me harder than I expected. As the stock market crashed, virtually all foundations gave word to the non-profit world that only the bare bones projects would be funded. Since my project’s funding was up for renewal (combined with the fact that with Bush in office, it had become very apparent that he would oppose any climate policy on his watch), I was told by mid September that I would be laid off by the end of September with no severance.
  • This was all pretty surreal. I had just moved to a very small town with a limited job market outside of the tourist business. Thankfully Kevin’s new salary could support us, but I was very professional motivated and too young to be a not yet married housewife.
  • In my not-even-mid-life crisis, I joined a rafting trip on the Rogue to consider my options. I remember feeling like I needed to draw on my faith that I could define what I wanted, rather than feel sorry for myself. When I returned I found out that one of the few non-profits in town needed a conference coordinator for their annual Forest Activist Conference. It was full time position, but only for four months. I think the starting pay was maybe $17/hr.
  • I worked my butt off to coordinate the conference, but I was feeling pretty poor and I still wasn’t sure what I was going to do once it was over. I had only one pair of dress shoes that were around four or five years old and truly falling apart. I was sooo very grateful when Kevin bought me a shiny new pair of Danskos just before the conference began. (Another money memory was that one of the keynote speakers was being a real prima dona and putting his stress onto me for something I had no control over…I remember chewing him out “Do you realize that you are earning more in one day than I’ve earned for four months of organizing this whole conference?! I will bend over backward for you, but I will not let you walk all over me.” I was so proud of myself for standing up to him).
  • I ended up coordinating the conference three years in a row, and after the first conference season, they managed to find enough money to keep me as a community project coordinator half time the rest of the year. It was barely enough to get by, even with Kevin paying the rent.
  • I took a job as a hostess two nights a week at Standing Stone Brewery. I really didn’t earn much, but I did get a nice dinner and it felt like I wasn’t entirely mooching off Kevin. I also started making more of the meals on the weekdays.
  • One of the things I loved about living in a small town was knowing the business owners. At the bank the tellers knew my name, even after just my first visit. There was sweet young woman my age named Rose, and I loved when she greeted me by name. But it was also embarrassing that my balance was perpetually low. I remember overdrawing a couple of times, and my Mom bailed me out with a $100, saying that she hoped I could keep it as a cushion, which I tried my best to do.
  • We spent the holidays with Kevin’s family back East, where he proposed to me. The engagement ring was his great grandmother, Mimi’s, and was an elegantly simple platinum ring with a lovely diamond from the 1920s. I had always been afraid of wearing a gaudy ring, and the ring felt both substantial and understated.
  • Two words, simple and elegant, continued to resonate in mind as the “theme” of our wedding celebration, and naturally as sustainable as possible. We budgeted well, knowing that we would need to share in the expenses with my parents. We got very creative and called upon my Umpqua Tribe to create a wedding that was truly a group effort. It was actually quite incredible our friends and family came together to throw us a beautiful celebration. At our 10 year anniversary I wrote a post that described how it took a village to throw a wedding!
  • It’s likely selective amnesia, but I literally can’t even remember a single fight we had about money p rior to getting married, although I know we had minor money squabbles. They were very likely about the same issues we occasionally argue about now: too much clutter/stuff, prioritizing home repairs, budgeting for vacation, and generally trying to manage our finances to best of our ability (and forgiving each other’s minor transgressions).
  • Despite coming from two very different perspectives, we had come into alignment with each others’ hopes and dreams. We both knew that I wanted to go to graduate school before having kids. We both wanted kids. We both wanted to travel, but were happy spending more time in campgrounds than hotels. We both had the dream of owning a small beach house. We both wanted to retire as early as possible in order to enjoy an active retirement. We both wanted to help our kids thrive, and give them an awesome start to life. We both dreamed of being able to give back to our community.
OK, that sums up our courtship period. Once again I feel very blessed to have found a life partner who shares the same sustainable values and is willing to work toward success, but still enjoy life along the way.
What money stories came before your marriage?