Thursday, August 27, 2009

End of August - Start of September Update

What we're doing - How we're doing
Summer is a hard time to stick to the budget. Isn't it? There's always something to do and only so much in the Entertainment Envelope to do it with. What to do when the itch isn't satisfied when the money runs out? We re-established our Netflix account and filled up our queue with movies we missed all summer.

Despite playing catch up with our slow months we had this year, we were able to take a real healthy bite out of the Chase credit card. The 0% teaser rate is over and I was really hoping to have knocked that out before that happened - but I also wanted to throw some of this extra money into the Gifts Fund because alas .... Christmas is coming! Don't shoot the messenger! The remaining balance will be under a grand and I'm hoping that my hours for fall won't change too much that it will accommodate saying "Zippee-dee-doo-da" to the Chase Disney Card AND fun the rest of my Christmas shopping.

Budget Lines that Need Help
We have to sit down and look at the budget really hard. We've been running with a strapped budget and using the extra summertime wealth to try to kill that Chase card. There are a few budget lines that got cut that I really need to start funding....and fast!!! House Maintenance and Vet Fund. I'm down to my last $100 in the House account and although we have a newer house, I'm not too terribly comfortable going into the winter months with a mere hundo in that account! We adopted two kittens (brother and sister) and the entry vet bills are a little more than I had anticipated or planned for. I've got a couple months to come up with Spay and Neuter money before little Miss Nala goes into her first heat!

No Credit Cards
Still no NEW DEBT on the credit cards! The credit card companies have been sending transfer checks like demons. I haven't cancelled any of my cards - but I did find that Sears closed my account due to inactivity. I'm not sure if I got a letter on that or not. I didn't pay attention to it.
I should probably pull my credit report and see what the dealio is with that and other cards. I wonder how that effects the credit score.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Our 2 Year TMMO Anniversary

July 1st marks our 2nd year of our Total Money Make Over with Dave Ramsey. Those who read my blog knows where I stand now.... but how did this all start for us?

How we got so far in debt - in a nutshell

Two Words: Credit Cards
One Idea: Living WELL past our means
Why?: Keeping up with the Joneses
Frame of Mind: Scared Stupid

It was just too easy to live on credit cards. It wasn't even that we were charging wonderful wardrobes, stereo equipment, vacations, posh furnishings for our house, etc. Because we weren't. Don't get me wrong, we were buying things we didn't really need but the brunt of our debt was basic survival charging: Groceries, Doctor's Visits, Bills, Dining Out, Diapers, Clothes, Gasoline etc. It was insane, but we charged over $1000. a month almost EVERY MONTH! Then there's Christmas, birthdays, weddings, etc. We didn't really see any problem with it as long as we were paying the min balance due every month - we were fine! Oh crack me in the head! It was just too easy to live on credit. The stupid thing (besides the obvious) is I could justify everything. I would cut coupons and save at the grocery store - but use my charge card to pay for it. I kept track of my grocery "savings" and put that money into a vacation fund so we could go to Disney. Stick with me on the thought process.

1. So I was taking money out of our checking account and moving it into a savings account for a Disney trip.
2. I used credit cards for the groceries at like a 12.5 APR.
3. Needed to use the charge card more because the extra cash was sitting in my savings instead of paying for things I needed or at least the groceries I bought!

Worse of all ... I didn't see a problem with this.

Our other survival tactic: The Balance Transfer Check
Can't pay the bill? Transfer the balance to another card! That means we don't have to make a payment this month! I did that often. Too often! Wayyyy too often.

So when Dave Ramsey says, "I've done Stupid." I can nod my head and raise my hand because friends... "I HAVE DONE STUPID!"

When to say when ...
I've attempted several times to throw up the white flag. "We need to cut back our credit card use" "We need to pay some of this stuff down" And we tapered down successfully for a little while... until a birthday or school clothes and supply shopping or Christmas. We were paying about what we were charging and while that was better than what we had been doing - it wasn't getting us anywhere! We were skimming yet we felt triumphant.

Finding the Light called Dave
Purely accidental. I had no idea who he was - this concept or anything about him until I was on a website/message board for coupons, deal hunters and freebie deals. There was a banner ad for Dave on there with comments from the forum regarding it. The banner ad was for Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. I clicked the ad and have followed ever since!

The Cold Hard Truth
How bad is bad? The numbers paint a story. Dave's first lesson is to come to reality with the debt. Add it all up. Get a number. Find out what kind of hurdle you need to leap. Our hurdle was in access of $65k - easy! In fact, I can't find the exact number when we first started but I know it including some very high balances on credit cards that had been surfed there for safe keeping and a car payment. I had read about people committing suicide for being in debt less than that or at the very least filing bankruptcy to try to get rid of it. Embarrassment had kept me out of bankruptcy court at first - Dave has kept me out of it since. My debt. My responsibility.

Not Perfect
Last July there was a moment of weakness and her name is: Golden Sand Mazda 3 to the tone of $325 a month. It is what it is. It's proof that I'm human. It's proof that I am still capable of making bad choices. It's proof that although I have come a long way .. there's still traveling left to do. If I hadn't bought the car I would have had that much more going into the snowball and I'd be that much closer to being debt free.... but instead: I'll be stumbling through Baby Step Two a little longer. So be it. As the snowball works it's magic the car will be paid off in half the time the loan was for.

Happy Anniversary
Here we sit at our second year - a little smarter, a little more secure and a lot more happy!
What an experience!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

How sweet it is ...

Happiness is ....

Realizing that no matter what's been happening .... WE ARE SURVIVING!

It looks as if my husband's job is back to normal swing. My job is at normal swing plus a day. The overtime I worked that I thought was going to kill me -- didn't and I have two really sweet paychecks to show for it.

Through the darkness - we never used a credit card. We never fell behind in payments. We never once felt as if we were strapped or stuck.

With our stashed cash (extra paycheck, tax refund money etc) and overtime check we were able to:

  1. Send an extra $2000.00 to our lowest debt in July.
  2. Pay Extra towards what we owed for Property Taxes due in July
  3. Put aside some Play Money for summer (Summer Fest and Brewer game)
  4. Did all of our annual outside maintenance.

For those still wondering if ENVELOPES are a good idea:
So far this summer we needed -
$200 for lawn repair
$200 for an air conditioner replacement part and labor
$45 for driveway seal coating
All of which came from an account already funded for Household Repairs and such. The only inconvenience I had was transferring the money from my Savings acct to my checking!! Thank goodness for thinking ahead! That would have been $445 on a credit card if we hadn't planned ahead!

I'm truly thankful for the lessons I am learning!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Has it really been that long since an update?

Hello Wendy! Where have you been?

Looking back - it's been almost two months since my last update. Where the heck have I been? Working for one. Spring means leading the training classes above and beyond my normal work load. With that also comes some nice overtime hours - but less time for other things. More news on the work front - I have been (maybe temporarily) been given an extra day a week. I haven't noticed that so much because with the training, I've been working 6 days a week anyway.

What does this mean for the financial outlook?

We used some of the extra income to re-fund envelopes that had been neglected, did our outside spring maintenance and flowers, put some aside for summer entertainment (you know what they say about ALL WORK AND NO PLAY) and put some aside for our real estate taxes next month as I was a tad short.

My husband's hours are still shortened. They can't seem to make up their minds between 32 and 40 hours. It's been a week to week thing. So my extra hours is also supplementing our regular income when he's not working 40.

I see a light at the end of the tunnel!

It's funny. With the economy being in the shape that it's in - the theme seems to be: Cut back, make concessions, spend less, save more. I've seen so many people struggle with this "new" concept. Since our family has already been doing this, it hasn't phased us. We had the stockpiled groceries to fall back on, stashed cash for a "rainy day" that we haven't needed to use and the knowledge that we needed to stay out of restaurants and bars. You'd be surprised how many people I work with who are complaining - yet go out to drink, eat and I won't even start my rant about those who still smoke with the prices as they are! The truth is the economy nonsense hasn't really touched our business too much. We are still thriving in our tourist town because of the obvious - people will still take day trips even if they can't take week long vacations.

What's next?

As soon as my husband's hours get a little more reliable I will be sending our "stash cash" to debt number one. All our efforts will go to batting that puppy down if not off before the 0% APR special wears off in September. It will be good to get on the "more than mins" wagon and start going gazelle like we were all last year. There is big fun with that! I really miss watching those balances fall.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Attending: Dave Ramsey's Town Hall for Hope

Marching out of Darkness
If you haven't checked for more locations, check again! I found one extremely close to me so I will be attending this broadcast town hall meeting! I'm very excited to find a positive light and move forward!

April Update
The 40th year has happened to me. Despite the "over the hill" gifts that I was given, I don't feel old or depressed about the landmark birthday. I am going into my 40th year of life with a positive outlook. It's so easy to fall into the negative and point fingers for why you are not happy with your own life. I'm taking control of my own happiness! Sounds like a bit of trouble is in store.

Our financial outlook is still on a teeter totter. My husband's job is a true look at the economy. Some days it looks like things are getting better -- and then it retreats. They hint to the hours coming back to the normal 40 per week, but they make no promises to if it will happen or for how long it will last. In the meantime, my hours are picking up. It's amazing that our budget has withstood this crazy roller coaster ride - but we are still proud to say that we are still a CASH ONLY family! It amazes me when I look back on how dependant we were on credit cards. If you would have told me 3 years ago that I could remotely exist without a credit card I would have laughed in your face! Education is a beautiful thing!

Another 5 paycheck month is upon us too which is always quite helpful in budget making - although we will probably stash it into our Emergency Fund while we watch and wait to see what hubby's job does. I've learned that all is not always what it seems with that place. I'll keep it as a back up plan. I have to say though, when this breaks - there will be a very nice lump sum payment to that lowest debt. I can't even tell you how exciting THAT will be. It's been a long time since I've been able to comfortably do that!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Emotional Roller Coaster

Do I blame it on midlife crazies?
My fortieth birthday is right around the corner. I think that although I'm looking forward to the benchmark occasion, it's playing hell with me. Some days I'm the same as I always was, some days I'm just a mess of anxiety and other days I just want to bury my head in the sand. I'm forty. I'm still in debt - I don't have much on the lines of retirement savings to speak of- I'm bored but I'm broke. I need to do something ... but what?

Insurance Update
While I can't fully explain it to you because I don't quite understand it myself - the new insurance at my husband's workplace isn't as it was explained to me at first. It's better. I swear when it comes to important things like this they should invite the family in so more than one person hears the story because, love the husband - he only half hears things and if he doesn't like what he's hearing he either quarter hears or mutes all together. :)

Economy in a tourist town
It's not funny, but amazing that even in times of financial struggle that people will come to our tourist town for entertainment. We've had a busy week at work and while sales may be down (like everywhere else) they could be so much worse! I start a training class today (I play teacher for those who are new to my blog). It's a good sign when we are looking through applications to hire a full summer's worth of employees. That means we are planning for a good summer regardless. That helps the budget - and may even jumpstart the snowball. I'm looking forward to it.

When Dave Ramsey's plan gets boring
Man, for awhile there we were hacking away at the debt. So much money towards the snowball, balances were dropping fast and it was FUN! It was mindblowingly fun! We haven't made any extra payments towards anything for awhile because of the cut hours we both sustained and I'm telling you - Dave Ramsey's plan just doesn't have the fire in it that it did when you are acting like mad person just paying down and paying off things! I haven't even listened to his show, or visited his site or even really visit the message boards that I used to live on. I'm just following the motions and making sure that I stick to the budget --- that I stick to cash --- and we don't fall backwards!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Mid-month Update

Looking up?
Some hours are coming back. My son is back to work. (and working more shifts than normal for this time of year) My hours should start picking up a little bit - training will be starting soon, so it's inevitable. And my husband looks to have picked up a side gig for the summer. We are still holding tight and stashing money until we feel comfortable releasing it against our debt. The budget was so tight there it screamed. A few of our sinking fund envelopes need to be refilled too, so I think I will wind up doing that before I press "GO" on the snowball button.

Insurance Blues
My husband has complained about the cost of health insurance from his company forever - and last week's company meeting made it all the worse as they rolled out the bad word - "DEDUCTABLE". We've never had a deductable, just Co-Pays and a prescription card. The company went away from Co-Pay and Cards to this high deductable plan - which will save us a whole whopping $6.00 a week. Basically, it will be for major medical - because I can't imagine we'd ever hit the deductable. That's going to hit the budget because what went from a $55 sinus infection (co-pay and script card) to a $225.00 sinus infection. (more or less)

Spring .... really? You're not kidding this time?
The midwest has seen one long winter. I'm so thankful to get the car cleaned up and drive with the windows down! The backyard is going to need a little work this spring because we didn't do too much last year because I didn't budget much for flowers, goodies and the grill's propane tank refill. I've got to pull that rabbit out of a hat. :)

Happy Spring Everyone!!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Updates for March -

Temporary Transfer Rates Bite you in the Butt
I had transferred a balance to a low rate card for a specific time frame that I thought would have been no problem paying off before. Of course, that was prior to the latest changes in our financial situation.

I thought with the hours we were pulling I would have had it paid off in a couple of months. I thought with the extra money coming in that I would have killed off two of the small debts by mid year. What's the lesson learned? Don't think? NO! I guess, it's to plan for the worst case scenario and if you are able to do best case instead at least your backside is covered.

I wound up taking some savings and paying off the smallest credit card of $1,900. The new finance charges were a joke. Here's how the credit card companies get rich (in case you haven't noticed already) - Min payment due: $35.00, Finance charges added to the account: $26.00. Paying $9.00 towards principle will keep that card there FOREVER. Dumb. I can't wait until these cards are paid for!

March Budget - Back to the Basics
I started Dave Ramsey in July of 2007, prior to that I had built a budget - but it was for bills - not for life spending (doctors, clothes, groceries, hair cuts, etc). I found some of my old "budgets" and realized all of what I had learned since I found Dave. I have been credit card free since July of 2007 also as a result.

So my husband and I are on shortened hours. Actually, my husband has been using his vacation days to "fill" the missing hours of his paycheck. Sooner or later that will run out, so I am hoping we get back on track. I have built the March budget to be as lean as lean can be. I'm trying to exhaust all options before I do any panicking. There's discussions of mortgage adjustments and crazy things like 40 year mortgages. I don't want to do anything drastic that doesn't need to be done.

Obviously, we are still on minimum payments on our debts. The Snowball has been stuck on the hill for quite some time now and it's pretty depressing to just see it hover there. It was so much more fun to be paying these down rapidly. Looking at the new numbers monthly was exciting as well as rewarding.

Finding Happiness in a Gloomy Time:
In what would be a depressing time in my life, I have found some perks. I have been reuniting with old friends from a simpler time in my life and while some of them are doing so much better than I am, a bunch are living the same life I am. It's been a good distraction and has kept me from staring at numbers that don't change and beating my head against the wall for things that aren't changing fast enough. Thank God for those minor distractions!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Trudging forward ....

New Budget for Lean Times
February marked the first budget for the lean times and shortened hours for both husband and myself. Whoa! What a difference that money made in our existence. A lot of needed items were cut from the month to month budget for now and thankfully there's a surplus in the category's sinking fund so I'll be okay - for now. We are already backed to minimums on our debts which is still $600.00 a month and not much left to cut back.

I was able to tuck away my "extra" paycheck for January just in case we run a little short until this mess sorts itself out.

My husband's job happens to think that February will be the leanest month of the year and that things may return to a closer sense of normal in March. They've already done some severe and some shocking lay offs - so they are down to skeleton crew.

The restaurant business in a tourist town is a fickle thing, however the few things I can count on= Winterfest, Spring Break and Summer Kickoff (Memorial Day.) As long as I can keep it together until then, all will be fine. I just keep telling myself that. All will be fine.

Oh, I AM getting a tax refund!
With my son have turned 17 and we no longer get that great discount for having a child - I was a little concerned if we were going to be getting back much of anything. If I could jump on my soap box a moment: How in the world do they consider a 17 year old "not a child" when they are still in high school, not living on their own, and still raiding the pantry, going to to the doctor, dentist etc. I'm still responsible for him - the credit should last until the year he turns 18! ANYWAY, I did my preliminaries on the Tax Cut software to see that despite no credit for him, and the extra income from ChaCha and Mike's blessed overtime, that we are actually getting a refund. For now, I'm going to hold onto it as a monetary security blanket. Once things turn around - out goes our lowest debt. BANG! Right now, I need the security more. That debt costs me $24 a month. I'll ride on that thought.

How do you cope with stress? Not just money stress - but any stress? I've had some major upheaval in my life lately and the stress is starting to show in different places -- but I'm too broke too drink! ROFL!!!

Another Goodbye To a Faithful Friend
January marked the passing of our second 20 year old kitty, Chelsie Lynn. She was a remarkable cat who I think was in life and will be in death our family's guardian angel. She was such a blessing to us I can't even begin to write in a blog. Much like my other kitty that passed last year - they aren't replaceable. They will forever own my heart.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Happy New Year! (yes I know it's mid January)

Happy New Year!
I've never been more concerned about a year as I am entering 2009. I refuse to be Henny Penny and cry that the sky is falling, but holy cow! I hope all my blogging buddies are weathering this financial storm okay. All I can say is:

  1. I'm glad that I started Dave Ramsey when I did, so I have a whole lot less credit card debt than I had before which means lower monthly payments.
  2. I should not have purchased that car!
At a Complete Stand Still
Storm clouds all around and doesn't look to be getting any better until this economy shifts. My husband's overtime was such a blessing in helping whack the debt away - however without it it seems like nothing is getting done. No extra money to the snowball, and cutting back on some budget items that we could do without -- temporarily. Good news is -- that despite the lay-offs that have been rocketing through his workplace -- he still has a job.

My son and I work at the same restaurant. We got news that he will most likely get laid off until spring and they look to be cutting everyone's hours - including managers. These short checks really are starting to hurt.

Silver Lining
Having a stockpile is really going to come in handy! The grocery bills have been low and can probably go a little lower if need be (who am I kidding ...there will need be)

Wishing everybody the best!
Hold onto your bootstraps everyone!