Good morning all

Since I’ve started to come out of lurkdom, I’ve actually got a pretty substantial homework report to provide. And maybe some extra credit which will help others.

As most of you know, DH and I had really frayed relations during the first few months of this year. Lots of reasons why, but most of them boil down to fundamental disagreements about how to spend, save, allocate and earn money. So I’ll share a few of our accomplishments over the last few months.

I’m happy to report as my first homework assignment that we have worked through a lot of those. Not all, but many. One thing which came to the surface, which is of importance to those folks who are self-employed and/or run their own businesses, is that we can be married to people who love us and want us to succeed, but that doesn’t mean they are qualified to help us make good business decisions. Likewise, we may really want to succeed and be heavily invested in our business, but we don’t always make sound business decisions either. DH and I ran into a number of scenarios where we had made choices on behalf of the business, which almost sank the business. For the time being, we’ve both started to defer to what our business mentors are telling us is the prudent choice to make in any given category, which has helped take a lot of the reactionary aspect out of things. For anyone who is constantly arguing with a spouse about how to run a business, I’d highly recommend some objective third-party guidance. Having said that, make sure the guidance is qualified as well. Both my parents have been self employed in other industries and they tried to “help” the situation by offering their suggestions. In the end they could have done more harm than good as well. So, if seeking opinions or “help”, make sure that help is qualified. That right there has restored a lot of peace in the household, and given the farm business a good strong dose of “help” which is actually helpful.

Second, both DH and I came to agree that the farm wasn’t bringing in enough, and just for the time being I needed to earn something from some additional source. Yet that additional source needed to meet certain criteria which at first seemed almost insurmountable:

1) I needed to be able to work from home, both because I need to monitor things here but also because time spent on the road is a killer financially, emotionally and energetically. Many other folks are able to do something useful with that time, like read on the bus or do books on tape, or homework or whatever. But having commuted for 5 years myself, with very few options for mass transit here, it wasn’t a good choice.

2) The pay needed to be better than minimum wage before it would be worthwhile. Some folks, including DR I believe, would argue that any part-time job is better than nothing. Well, when you figure in fuel and time spent away from a business that is already making money, and could make more if I was there working on it, that argument starts to go out the window. I needed a job that would make more than I was already making.

3) I needed a job where I could vary my hours from full-time to almost nothing, without a lot of hoops to jump through to get that flexibility. That would be almost impossible in a standard corporate or business environment, where they expect you to be there a predictable amount of time. But if the hay is ready to harvest right now and rain is due on Friday, I can’t be messing around until Thurs afternoon with getting time-off permissions. So we were obligated to find something flexible enough to keep our primary business operating the way it demanded.
Believe it or not, I found a job that fits all the above criteria. And instead of going into the details of what I’ll be doing, which isn’t important, I’ll share where I found that job. I signed up for a subscription job listing service called www.flexjobs.com which is the single best source of telecommute, flex-time, part-time and other non-traditional jobs I’ve ever found. And no, it’s not all sales calls or stuffing envelopes or selling pencils on the corner. It’s a very good variety of all the normal jobs you’d expect to find on any job site; they just happen to allow stuff like telecommuting, flex-time, part-time, etc. It beat Monster.com hands down in terms of bringing me exactly what I was looking for. During previous job searches I’d find maybe one job per week, after scouring a variety of job list sites. With flexjobs.com, I had applied to 20 different jobs within a month (roughly one job posting per workday), and found my current job within 5 weeks. It’s a $15/month subscription cost, which is dramatically less than Monster.com’s $70/month referral service. For anyone needing either part-time or full-time work under non-traditional working conditions, I highly recommend it.

Third, I finally decided to clean up some incorrect entries on my credit report. I had been getting the free reports per year as recommended in FPU class, and had consistently noted two collections entries which I had tried to resolve with those companies years ago. One of them was a dispute I was having with Washington Mutual, which became Chase, over a $25 checking account charge which ballooned into over $200 in fees. I fought that for years and kept getting stonewalled by Chase. A second account was settled verbally many years ago (stupid of me I know), but then someone higher up decided nope they wanted to stick to the previous written terms, and started piling on charges there too. That one went from a flat $100 to over $200 thanks to late fees, etc. I had done all I could with both vendors to settle, and they wouldn’t budge. My most recent contact with either one, was in 2008. So I contacted TransUnion back in March to formally contest both entries. About 30 days later, I got word that both collection entries had been dropped from my credit report because those two parties couldn’t verify the information. Finally! Geez, I should have done that YEARS ago, but at least now it’s done. If anyone has been dragging their feet on cleaning up incorrect entries on their credit reports, I have to say this was very easy. Just file the dispute, wait the 30 days and see what happens. It cost me all of 10 minutes, and no $$. Now I don’t have to snarl every time I look at the darn thing – everything still on the report is correct. Yay!
So, things are looking up here. We still have a long way to go, and yes we still argue about money. But now we’re getting some better traction on the DR road and making some progress together instead of pulling in different directions. And that feels great.