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July Update

July 20th, 2011 at 07:18 pm

Is it really almost the end of July? I have no idea how that happened. The summer has been crazy with two extra kids being here during the day and I am very happy when the end of the day comes around each day.

Money wise, things have been very weird. I had planned on having a bunch of additional income this summer since I would be having the daycare kids more hours with school being out. However, their hours have been much fewer than I anticipated and it has but my income back significantly. Then we got hit with a large medical bill when the payment plan we had worked out was suddenly revoked (long story) and we were told to pay it within the next 3 months. But we were able to add it to the snowball and get it rolling again. The best news is that June was a 3 paycheck month of my husband (paid every 2 weeks) and we sent that extra paycheck directly to the credit card as planned, even though we knew we were going to be tight on cash for July & August. Instead of frittering away the money we did what we had planned and took a HUGE bite out of the credit card we are paying down. That big payment brought the balance down to half of what we started with in January! Victory! Happy dance!

So as of the end of July (six months of progress) we have paid off $8900 in debt while not accruing any more. Yippee! We are over the moon excited. We still have a long way to go but we are starting to breathe again after a very long time.

I just saved $596!

March 17th, 2011 at 09:38 am

First a little background: we decided to sell our paid for Jeep Grand Cherokee this past August in order to buy a much larger Chevy Suburban. It was mostly a business decision since I needed to be able to put 5 car seats in a vehicle and the Suburban was the only thing big enough. I do in-home daycare and needed to be able to transport the kids to/from pre-school, but couldn't justify a vehicle this big as being solely a work vehicle so it would have to double as our family vehicle. We found a great used truck but it still set us back $23k @ 5.25% and added a $443 car payment that we didn't have before.

That was 8 payments ago. Today, I noticed on our credit union's website that they are offering a special low interest rate of 3.99% for used cars; our interest rate from August was 5.25% so I called to see if we could refinance the loan to the lower rate and how much it would cost. Good news! For a 1-time fee of $85 we could "buy down" the rate keeping our term AND payments the same, so we would just be paying off the loan faster. Over the remaining payments this will save us $681 in interest and get the loan paid off in 2 fewer months! Less the $85 fee, that puts us $596 ahead and cuts 2 months off the snowball without have to put more money in each month.

February Summary

February 28th, 2011 at 08:48 am

I know it has been a while since I posted an update, but a couple of my posts got eaten by being auto logged out and I was pretty frustrated. Decided not to redo them right away.

February has been a great month for us! We paid off $999.57 worth of debt and managed to save $1000 for our baby e-fund as well as almost $500 toward future known expenses (i.e. property taxes, water bill, kids activities, etc). We managed all that and had money left in our account at the end of the pay cycle! We didn't use overdraft protection AT ALL! We stayed within our grocery budget and our eating out budget and managed to squeeze out $150 extra to pay toward the credit cards. And tomorrow we will be paying off the second of our 4 credit cards!

I can't wait to see what March is going to bring, however, I have a feeling that a bunch of our potential extra savings will be going toward putting gas in our vehicles since the gas prices jumped up $0.35/gallon this weened. Ouch! It already took about $100 to fill my truck at $3.09 a gallon. Thank goodness I only have to fill it about once a month!

Switching topics for a minute, I came across a suggestion of making your own laundry detergent to save a bunch of money. This sounds like genius but maybe a little too good to be true. Does anyone here do this? Do you use the powder or liquid version? Do you see good results with this? With a family of 4 including one toddler, this could be a SIGNIFICANT place for savings for us, to the tune of $25 per month or more! Nervous about jumping in with both feet though. We use a "scent free" version do to skin sensitivity and wonder if the homemade stuff will cause a possible reaction. Thoughts?

Done shopping for the month? YES!

February 15th, 2011 at 10:55 am

Those of you who bothered to be bothered by my posts last week know that I was struggling with grocery shopping on a budget. Well, I accomplished that goal and was thrilled by it, but in looking at what I have in the fridge/freezer/pantry I have decided to try to make it through the rest of the month with out ANY more shopping. (There is one very small exception of having to get more milk. There are 5 kids around here who guzzle the stuff!) This is a personal goal as I am the one who does ALL the shopping, cooking and cleaning up, so I am really going to have to fight against the urge to "grab something" when I am tired of all of the above. This weekend saw $400 go out of our account to replenish our supplies and plan for the next 2 weeks between Woodman's, Sam's Club, Costco and Target. Whew!

If I can make it 2 more weeks without shopping (or eating out) we will be roughly $250 ahead of our budget between Food:dining out and Food:groceries categories, allowing us to be $250 closer to our buffer. Or maybe use it to pay $250 more to our credit cards. I can't decide which! My heart says leaving it in the account will get us that much closer to a lot less stress no longer living paycheck to paycheck (YNAB) but my head says "think of the interest payment we would save, BE GAZELLE!" (DR). Don't know which to listen to right now, but I am going to have to make it to the end of the month without do any more shopping before I can answer that question.

We only have one more credit card payment to make this month and it will be leaving our account on Friday. For the first time ever, I find myself looking FORWARD to getting the credit card statements because I can't wait to update my snowball spreadsheets, clear them in YNAB and re-total my debt progress. First statement should hit tomorrow followed by another on Friday, but I am actually stalking the accounts online looking for info instead of hiding from the mailman. Man, is that a change in behavior!

Grocery shopping success

February 11th, 2011 at 07:47 am

Yesterday I posted about how I was nervous about being blindsided by the cost at the register. The suggestions I got were wonderful (THANK YOU!) and I went around the store writing the approximate prices next to the items on my list, then added them all up when I was done. If I picked anything extra up I put it on the list with a price. That sure kept me from putting too much in the cart! At the end, my total was $130 and everything rang up at $127! Pretty darn close and I felt great about knowing that I stuck to the budget but got everything I needed. Huge sigh of relief there! And it was so easy that I think I am going to start doing the same thing at Target and Costco too! That way I can put things back easily if I see I am going over.

Also, while I was at Target I signed up for there Red Card that saves you 5% every time you shop. But NOT the credit card.....they offer the exact same thing in a DEBIT card! All you need is a drivers license and a voided check to get started and they hook it right to your checking account with a pin number. Took less than 5 minutes to get started and saved my $4 last night. I hate coupons so this is a great way to save that I don't even have to think about.

Headed to Costco and Sam's sometime today to finish the great stock up, but then I don't think I need to do any shopping for at least 2 weeks, with the exception of bread and milk thanks to menu planning and shopping with a list. Whew!

Tonight is date night with the hubby. We have a little childcare co-op going with 2 other couples where we rotate which couple watches all 5 kids on Friday night and the other 2 couples get to have a date. So for every time you watch 5 kids, you get two Friday night dates. Have been doing it since November and it makes going out on a date actually affordable since we don't have to spend $50 on a sitter. Plus, DH and I are getting a chance to reconnect and that has been wonderful and definitely necessary.

We did it!

February 10th, 2011 at 11:40 am

We made it to payday! No overdrafts, no borrowing from savings, no getting caught off guard by check clearing unexpectedly. A HUGE sigh of relief! The balance in our checking account last night was $4.07, but we made it. I know many of you may think I am celebrating a silly thing, but I feel like running down the street shouting about it. We had gotten into a cycle of going backwards further and further with every month and now we are actually going the other way! WOOOOOOHOOOOOO!

Ok. I'm better now. The much anticipated YNAB update came out this morning so I spent about an hour moving things around in my budget/register to work right. They added a couple of great features so I no longer need to worry about "tricking" it into doing things the way I want with the credit cards. Allows me a chance to have everything back in one place so I can think about retiring my old spreadsheets. Who am I kidding....I LOVE my spreadsheets and they aren't going anywhere!

Did my menu planning for the week and made out my grocery and Target lists for tonight. I really hate grocery shopping, but am extra anxious this week because I know I have to stick to a budget for the month and don't want to spend too much this trip. I know it sounds silly, but this is the first time I have ever grocery shopped with an actual budget amount. I have always just shopped then adjusted the "budget" to reflect what I spent. I am determined to not do that this time. I don't want to be surprised by the amount when I get to the check out but don't know how to do that other than using a calculator, but I am afraid that it will get cleared out and I will have to start over half way through. Anyone have any hints?

How much "Dave" is the right amount?

February 8th, 2011 at 05:36 pm

DH and I are trying to follow Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover, but having some trouble figuring out how much of his advice we are truly comfortable with. First, we will be done with Baby Step 1 (EF=$1000) on Thursday. We have already begun Baby Step 2, the debt snowball, and have some great projections. However, we are combining it with the YNAB buffer method of having 1 months income in the bank at all times to help with our cash flow woes, so funding that is happening concurrently with the snowball. Our buffer should be fully funded by the end of June and then we can attack the snowball even harder from there. Both DH and I are comfortable with this.

The part that is giving us trouble is the part about using all of our savings to blast the snowball. Right now we have about $15,000 in an annuity that we have been funding for the last 12 years. If we cleaned out this fund (or left just enough to keep it open), we would be able to pay off 1/3 of our overall debt, but when we even THINK about doing that it feels like a punch in the gut. This account is the only thing we have been doing RIGHT with our money since we got married and we both hate to un-do it. What do you think? Is this a necessary thing to really get us "on the program" or can we just look at it as already having Baby Step 3 done before we are done with BS2? Are we drinking enough of the Kool-aid to make it work?

Down to $70 and doing alright

February 7th, 2011 at 11:52 am

Well, Thursday is payday and we are down to $70 in the bank, but I am determined to make it there without having to "borrow" money from savings. We are low on milk and out of juice, but we have bread and peanut butter so we can eat. Usually by this time each month we are close to being this low on funds but have already "borrowed", actually stolen, from savings and that money was gone already. This time we are low on funds but I know we can make it!

In other news, DH is going out of town tomorrow for a trip to Providence, RI so he will have to take a credit card with him. We don't want to ever use them again, but he has to pay for hotel/travel and then get reimbursed for it. Hopefully he can get paid back quickly so we don't have to pay interest charges on it.

Also, for the first time EVER, we had a budget meeting this morning. DH's head was spinning quite a bit by the time we were done, but he seemed to be on board. Apparently YNAB, 3 spread sheets and 2 websites were too much information for one sitting. But we talked about his concerns and he seems to be completely on board for the first time since I met him. This has me flying on cloud 9 and believing for the first time that we can actually get out of debt!

Just saved $40!

February 3rd, 2011 at 08:32 am

With all the snow yesterday and school canceled, I had an extra kid here all day which earned me $30 unexpectedly. Will be adding that to the buffer fund next week when I get paid.

Also, since DH was snowed in with us, we took the time to give both him and my son their haircuts. Used to spend $40 a month taking them to get hair cuts at the local Sports Clips and now I am getting pretty good at cutting their hair at home with a clippers. Before we started this budget last month though, I looked at it as a chore instead of a savings. Yesterday, I finally saw it as money in my pocket for the first time. Yeah!

The mortgage was paid last week, which means we have very little money to last us until the next paycheck on the 10th. Just over $200 for a family of 4. We are getting good at making it through these rough patches, but that was usually by "borrowing" from savings to bridge to next pay period and then never getting that money paid back to savings. That landed us in mega trouble last month and I am determined to make it to the 10th without needing to transfer anything into the account. It can be done and we WILL do it! Then next check we don't start out in a hole and can begin to build a buffer to get us out of this situation entirely. Can't wait!

New budget, first payday

January 27th, 2011 at 11:04 am

Today was the first payday that we had while on our new budget. You are probably thinking this is no big deal, but this is the first time that the end of month/beginning of month pay period has not made me panic. Let me explain. Traditionally, the paycheck that comes at the end of the month or near the beginning of the next month goes to pay the mortgage, due on the 1st of the month. DH gets paid every 2 weeks, so this means that we only have the portion of the check NOT dedicated to the mortgage left to live on, so we go into "crisis mode", only spending money on things that are ABSOLUTELY necessary. The funny thing is, after doing this every month for over 2 years we are getting pretty good at it. We have managed to make it 2 weeks on less than $200 for a family of 4! However, now that I am using YNAB and giving every dollar a job before it is spent, I know exactly how much we have to make it through until the next payday and what it will need to be spent ON. Luckily, very few of our bills are due during this time period, so we just need to pay for food, gas and other items needed to live our lives. I also know exactly where the NEXT paycheck is going and that is a wonderful feeling as well.

I feel a sense of peace for the first time in a very long time. And I hope DH never gives me that mean look he tends to send my direction when I had to tell him to only put $10 worth of gas in the truck again.

Credit cards are out of our wallets!

January 26th, 2011 at 06:08 am

That's right....we took the credit cards out of each of our wallets....even had a little ceremony as we tucked them into the safe. Until doing our budget and "giving every dollar a job" we used these cards as our safety net. Just a couple weeks ago I had to put a bunch of household necessities from Target onto the credit card because our balance on the debit card was too low and was denied. I felt awful! Not anymore!

From now on we are only getting rid of debt, not making more. Period.

Starting Over and Digging out of a deep hole

January 24th, 2011 at 06:38 pm

Wow! I did not realize it had been 3 years since my last post. I am sure no one will remember me, but I am going to update you anyway. Smile So much has happened in the last 3 years that I don't quite know where to begin. Three years ago we were well on our way to being out of debt. We had a road map to freedom and then the worst happened. In April of 2008 I lost my job. Needless to say, I was completely blindsided by it. I was told on a Friday afternoon that I was being transferred to a new team and the following Friday I was told my job didn't exist anymore. That same week I found out we were pregnant with our second child, which was wonderful news but the timing was hard. The emotional fallout has been intense and I am still not back to being "fully employed". Working in a male dominated field that is closely linked to the housing market made it impossible for me to find a job while pregnant. There were very few jobs to go around and no one wanted to hire some one who would be taking leave shortly after being hired. We survived on unemployment for a while and once that ran out I decided to start watching my friends children to bring in extra money. I am still doing this, but find it extremely soul-sucking. While I enjoy being a mom, I do not enjoy being a stay-at-home-mom.

We did/do have an emergency fund, but we never touched it. Seems counter-intuitive, but we didn't think this was bad enough of an emergency. What would happen if we were already strapped and had a medical emergency? Or my DH lost his job too? THESE seemed like the worst case scenario once we were in what we once thought was our worst case. We were doing OK, but looking back on things we were using credit cards to plug the gaps in our budget which just made the gaps in our budget bigger. We are back up to $23,000 in credit card debt and unfortunately had to take on a $22,000 vehicle loan this summer. Grand total of $45,000 in debt makes me want to cry and scream because we were so close to getting off the debt roller coaster just a couple years ago.

As of this week we are back on track. We are plugging away at the debt and embracing the Dave Ramsey "baby steps". We are using YNAB to keep us on track and both my husband and I are on the same page for the first time in a very long time. We are ready to take this debt done NOW! Each little step we take feels like we have reached an enormous milestone, just by getting our debt moving in the right direction.

Been a while

January 7th, 2008 at 02:37 pm

OK, so I haven't posted since the end of August. What have I been doing all this time? I am not really sure, but I definitely wasn't posting on here. Smile I did go through a miscarriage in October and haven't felt like doing much of anything since then, but I am coming around slowly.

Debt wise we seem to be doing really well. We decided to take money out of our long term savings to pay off our truck, with the understanding that we will increase our investment amount by equal to what the car payment was each month. This way we own the truck, save the interest payments each month and have a smaller debt load. Win-win all the way around.

We have continued to make the snowball payments that we had committed to. We are down to the last 2 debts and it is all paid off (besides the mortgage). Took a big chunk out of it at the end of December with my insurance opt-out check and my DH's bonus.

The dirty little secret is that we have managed to put way too much onto the "everyday" credit card. Things that we don't have the money to pay right that second, like swim lessons, have gone on there and it just keeps snowballing in a bad way. Once the original snowball plan is done we have to attack that in a big way, but one step at a time.

I have managed to sell quite a few things on half.com so that has helped supplement things very slightly, but every little bit helps.

So, moral of the story is that we are continuing to make progress, but have a ways to go.

Finally - something to help keep me organized!

August 30th, 2007 at 09:59 am

I am one of those people who can't remember what needs to be done unless it is written down. Therefore, I have about 4 to-do lists floating around at any one time. One for home, one for work, a grocery list, a Target list, an event planning list, etc. Unfortunately, the lists never seem to get shorter and they tend to get lost before they can do any good.

Well, I found a great site on-line called BackPack that has been helping me with my list problems. Basically, you can sign up for a free account that let's you create as many as 5 separate to-do lists at any one time. They can be accessed from any Internet terminal and has little check boxes for you to check stuff off as you get it done. You can even email stuff directly to a specific list from a blackberry or PDA if you are technically inclined (which I am not)!

In other news, we got the new rates for Caleb's daycare that go into affect next week. Was really hoping for a significant change so that we could put more towards debt payments. I should have known better. We went from paying $218/week to paying $213/week. Know we can almost afford to go out to eat once a month. Also, we found out that the cost for an infant for the next year will be $288/week which is more than we had planned on for sure.

All we can do is try even harder to get out of debt as quick as possible to free up a little more money for daycare payments. I am going to have to propose some pretty tough restrictions on spending if that is going to happen, though. Once again I have to be the bad guy...

Well, we were able to avoid having 3 separate repair people come to our house last night. I managed to fix the DirecTV ($0), Scott fixed the garbage disposal ($0), and then we both worked at fixing the weed whacker ($13 for parts). I figure we saved ourselves about $600 by repairing what we had instead of throwing it out and buying new.

6 months of progress

August 9th, 2007 at 08:37 am

We started this journey out of debt just shy of six months ago in the middle of February. When we realized that we were thinking about expanding our family and realized that we couldn't afford to pay for daycare for a second child with the amount of monthly debt payments we were under.

So I started doing a little research on the internet. Found out about the "snowball method" and knew that it was something we could stick to. As you can see at the left, we have paid off over $4000 in debt and are almost done paying off the THIRD of four outstanding revolving debt accounts. The best part is we have a PLAN and (for the most part) are sticking to it. There have been more downs than ups and most of the time I feel like I am in this battle alone, but I am determined that we will get there.

As for the birthday party update (see previous post) we have decided to go with the party at the local Children's Museum. To compensate for the money we will be spending, the party will be our present to Caleb and we will just tighten our belts in a few other areas. Thank you to everyone for the great advice and helpful hints! The biggest factor for me in making this decision was the fact that it will be a LOT less stress for me and at this point in time, that is what I really need.

In other news, Scott and I have made the decision to actually use some of the money we have been socking away into our vacation fund and go away for a long weekend together without Caleb. This will be our first time that we have been away together since Caleb was born, almost 3 years ago. We have each tended to get away for separate weekend things, but one of us has always been there to stay with Caleb. He will be staying with my parents so I know he will be fine, I just hope he knows it.

Anyway, we have decided to take a trip down memory lane and go back to our university town for the first time in almost 9 years. That is where we met and we will soon be celebrating our 9th wedding anniversary. It is located in the middle of no where (Houghton, Michigan; google it and you will see what I mean) and there has been no REASON to go back to visit, but we both realized how much we miss the area. Plus, we are going in the middle of September when the fall colors should be almost at their peak (did I mention we will be as far north in Michigan as you can go without a boat?). Can't wait!

And the best part is that we have enough in the vacation fund to pay for the hotel, meals and gas (as long as we don't go crazy) so we won't be putting ourselves further into debt to do it. Now THAT is what I call progress....

Birthday Party Planning woes

August 1st, 2007 at 09:40 am

My son, Caleb, turns 3 on Labor Day Weekend and we have decided to throw him a little party with his friends. After the last two years with all of the family there turned into nightmares, we will be limiting it to his little friends ONLY. Here is the rub....I have NO IDEA what to do. There is a local Children's museum that sounds fun, but it is a pretty big expense ($170) and if not many kids show up, I am still out that full amount. Of course, last year I spent at least twice that to throw the huge family party (food, goody bags, beverages, ice, etc) so this might actually be a cost savings in the end.

I know we could do cake and ice cream in the backyard, but I am afraid that his grandparents would want to show up and I WILL NOT go through that again (long story). Some how it is August already and I have to get the invites out in the next few days. Argh! I am going to have to figure this out quick!

Anyone have any other ideas? I have never done this before and am feeling a little lost...

Forever and then some

July 31st, 2007 at 02:57 pm

It has been a LOOOOOOOONG time since I felt like posting on here, but I am going to try and be a little more frequent. I have fallen off the debt bandwagon a wee bit but am in the process of getting back on. Don't get me wrong, we never quit paying down debt like we have planned, we just haven't been as diligent about not charging the debt back up. I updated the amount of debt paid off on the left if you want to take a look.

Looks like my fiscal year end bonus will be given out 8/11 but that will go to pay down the credit card debt that we charged back up in the past few months. This bonus was never figured into the debt paydown plan as it was intended to be used as part of the YNAB buffer....guess that is going to be delayed a while longer.

Our biggest problem right now seems to be getting a handle on cash flow. We have enough to meet all of our commitments, just not WHEN we need to meet them. I have dreams of developing a full month's buffer needed for YNAB, but that just isn't happening. I find myself dipping into and then replenishing our savings several times during the month. How do I get away from that? It is very nerve wracking and drives me crazy.

On the personal front, I have broken my Mt Dew free streak. I had gone almost 1.5 years without a Mt Dew, but one day I decided I could have just one. Well, several weeks later, I am having at least one per day and hiding the fact from my DH. Shameful and unhealthy addictive behavior, but at this point I don't care.

More about my other failures later....

"Vote early, vote often!" and other tales

May 18th, 2007 at 01:25 pm

I don't know how many of you saw it, but there was a blog contest out from 5/1 to 5/15 having to do with "Confessions of a...". There were several entries and everyone can now vote on their favorite 3. Go check out the blog section of the forums and vote! There were some great entries!

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming....

As of right now, my DH should be in New Zealand. He left yesterday afternoon and got there....tomorrow. He skipped Friday entirely. They are 17 hours ahead so it is already tomorrow morning. Can't quite wrap my head around it but what can I do. That means that for the next 2.5 weeks I am entirely on my own. I am not really "scared" just a littler nervous. I know it will be life as usual, but if something goes wrong, I will be the only one to deal with it. On the other hand, once I clean something it should stay that way for more than a few minutes. Smile

Right after work this afternoon we are headed to my parents house, about 2 hours away. Mom and I will be spending most of the weekend geocaching while Bumpa gets to play with Caleb. They are going to have a blast. Caleb is already talking about riding the Gator and Unky's 4-wheeler. He has a blast running around in the woods and chasing the dogs. We will be able to take him to the camp fire at the geocaching event on Friday night so that should be a good time. He will get to try his first Smore...mmmmmm can't wait!

Money wise, this weekend should be fairly low spend. Gas will be the only BIG expense. Put $65 worth in my car this morning and I am sure I will have to do the same before the end of the day tomorrow.

The past week has been a roller coaster for the budget. Scott needed quite a bit of stuff for his trip to NZ...power converter, travel size stuff, new pants, etc. That set us back a bit. Then I also had to buy a belated Mother's Day gift for my mom. I know she will love it, and I wanted to give her more, but I cringe just thinking about the money. Maybe that is a sign that I am healing my spend-thrift ways.

Rummage sale-o-rama!

May 11th, 2007 at 02:30 pm

Took the morning off of work today and went to some local garage sales with a friend of mine. The small community we were in has a city-wide sale at this time every year and they are fabulous! We spent 4 hours and only made it through ONE neighborhood. Spent $100 but got all of my sons summer clothes for this year, several toys, a folding easel, and 12 skeins of yarn. Great deals were everywhere!

Tomorrow are the neighborhood sales at the ritzy subdivision near our neighborhood so we may take a drive through there just to see what we can see.

The thing I love about garage sales, especially for kids stuff, is that when we are done with it we can get probably as much back out of it as we paid for it in the first place. Can't wait until I can start the stuff going out instead of only seeing it come in. My neighbor is having a sale in June and I might throw a few things in with her, just to be rid of them. Might as well make some money off it rather than sending it to Goodwill.

Should be a busy weekend around here. My parents are coming into town tonight, we are going to a friends house for dinner, tomorrow we are meeting friends at the farmers market, and then tomorrow night we are going to another friends house for dinner. The good news is that I don't have to cook for the next couple of nights, the bad news is that I have no time to get anything done. Oh well, there will be other weekends to worry about that stuff.

Went to the chiropractor last night about my spasming back and it turns out that my lower two ribs on the left side were completely out of joint. Don't know how I did it, but it hurt like hell. He put them back were they were supposed to be, then I had ice on it all night, finally took some Advil and this morning felt much better. Starting to get sore again tonight, but at least I can feel marked improvement. Will probably have to go back in on Monday, but we will see.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Back to normal

May 10th, 2007 at 09:35 am

Unfortunately, our total cash available was down to less than $100 before getting refilled this morning. We "borrowed" $1200 from ourselves in the form of OD transfers. OUCH! But, we are almost back to normal. We will have less to live on for the rest of the month than we are used to, but it will be a good challenge.

Took Ruby the Vizsla to the vet yesterday. Everything checked out just fine, but we are now out $150. Two shots and the heartworm test were most of it, but at least we know she is as healthy as she can be. The vet always remarks on how gorgeous her skin and coat are, but never asks what we are feeding her. That's OK, since most vets would flip out if they knew we were feeding her a RAW diet anyway.

Had to leave work early yesterday because Caleb had the WORST tummy pains. He vomited once at daycare, but didn't get sick again the rest of the night. However, every 15 minutes or so his little tummy would cramp up and he would be writhing in pain. There was nothing I could do and I felt horrible. I just held him until he felt better each time, then he was off an running again. He finally collapsed on the couch at 6:30 PM and didn't wake up until 6:00 AM. Woke up feeling fine this morning. At this point I am chalking it up to a weird bug and praying it isn't a food allergy (DH has bad food allergies and we have been very nervous about DS developing them).

I seem to have tweaked my back. I either pulled a muscle or pinched a nerve on my left side that is generally a dull ache until I reach for something the wrong way, then it is a horrible shooting pain. Getting out of bed was the biggest challenge of my day. Will be taking some Advil and hope I can make it to my chiropractor appointment this afternoon.

A little more income

May 9th, 2007 at 07:15 am

I did my first survey for Pinecone last week and am having the $5 sent to my bank account as we speak. Also, I sold 3 books last month on Half.com and they just deposited $19 into my checking account. Gotta love it! As soon as we are back flush with our savings account (tomorrow) I will be transferring this money into our buffer account. Any little bit that I can see that grow will not be wasted effort.

Blah blah blah

May 8th, 2007 at 08:18 am

Even though the days are getting longer, my time seems to be getting shorter. Scott was gone last night to Grand Rapids so of course I didn't get anything done around the house. We didn't get home until almost 7 due to chiropractor appointments and having to stop to pick up dog food, and of course it was tough dragging Caleb into the house, but I can't leave a 2 YO outside alone while I cook dinner. So there was much screaming and yelling and scratching....and that was just me! (ba da bum) But seriously, the evening went really fast.

Now for my big confession. I arrived at work yesterday to find 2 emails saying that OD protection had been advanced for my account to the tune of $1000 total. Ugh. Guess I wasn't paying as close attention as I originally thought. There is nothing I can do about it until pay day at the end of the week, so we are just going to have to pray for a miracle between now and then. I momentarily went back to my old ways and now we are paying the price. I will be able to pay back the OD this week, but we are not going to have ANY discretionary spending for the rest of the month. Scott is leaving for New Zealand in a few days and won't be back until June, so it will be up to me to keep things under control.

Yup, 2.5 weeks as a single mom. I am not really looking forward to it, but I am not as terrified as I thought I would be either. Originally, I was planning on going along with DH to New Zealand, but I just feel uncomfortable leaving DS for that long. I just hope that I have the chance to go there in the future. Has always been a dream of mine, I just hope I didn't squander my only opportunity.

I updated the total debt numbers on the side yesterday. Our credit card payment date is much earlier in the month now, so we are all of a sudden below 5 digits on your main credit card. Yippee! And we are quickly approaching the $2000 mark for payoff. That feels great for sure.

Savings for our "buffer" (equal to one months expenses) are completely non-existent. However, I have moved all of the money in our EF from our credit union to ING, so now I have a savings account that I can use to store the money until it is full. At this pace, it could take forever to get the account full. *sigh* One day at a time, right?

Confessions of a Compulsive Shopper

May 3rd, 2007 at 09:57 am

Hi, my name is Sara, and I am a compulsive shopper. Worse, I am married to another compulsive shopper. As a result, we are $33,000 in debt in about 9 years. The first step in many recovery programs is first admitting you have a problem and Saving Advice has been very helpful to me for this reason. After all, confession is good for the soul.

After years of research and reading, I have reached some conclusions. First, compulsive shopping isn't something that is obvious at first and there are varying degrees. Like almost everything, we fall into different categories:

The "I deserve it" shopper: this shopper feels entitled to anything and everything. May stem from childhood or simply be narcissistic.

The "I NEED it" shopper: this shopper feels they have been denied and can't go on without the latest gadget or life will be greatly improved, just by buying something.

The "But it's on sale" shopper: this shopper has good intentions, but you can't spend money to save money. Doesn't work that way. Buying something you may not use just because it is on sale it counter-productive

The "I work hard and earn plenty of money" shopper: this shopper is in denial and probably doesn't know what their bank balance is. After all, that is what overdraft protection is for, right?

The "I have to have this because everyone else does" shopper: the classic keeping-up-with-the-Joneses syndrome. Trends may come and go, but you will still have the debt.

The "If I buy this, I will feel better about myself" shopper: possibly the most sad, this shopper is trying to fill an emptiness with "stuff". In the end, it doesn't work, and you are left with the credit card debt.

Each of these shoppers has the same thing in common: an internal dialog telling them it is OK to spend money they don't have. That little voice in the back of your head isn't the same voice that controls your bank account and that is a very dangerous thing.

Now, I have never made an impulse purchase that was "big", thus I was able to deny that I was part of the problem. (DH managed to impulse buy a CAR, but we won't go into that) If there is a big purchase to make, I research it to death and know all my options before even shopping for the item. No, the "little" impulses are my downfall. I'm thirsty...go buy a water. I had a bad day....stop at the scrapbook store. I need some time alone....wander around Target putting stuff in the cart. Pretty soon, I have spent hundreds of dollars, a little at a time. In the end, the purchases made it hard to pay the credit card bill at the end of the month, so I just pay the minimum and promise to do better next month. But I never did, and look where it got me.

I have learned to combat these impulses in a couple of ways:

** Always shop with a list and never deviate.
** Know EXACTLY how much money you can spend.
** Carry a calculator, if you need to, to add the things up that are in your cart.
** Give yourself an allowance, separate from your household budget, for those "impulse" purchases you "need". You can't be cured in a day, but you can give yourself limits.

Remember, you are the only one in control of your life and your future. Choose to be responsible with your money and set goals for yourself. If you give yourself boundaries, stick with them. And, finally, find a supportive outlet so that you don't have to do it alone.

(BTW, for those of you wondering...I fall into all of the shopper categories that I described above, it just depends on the day) Smile


May 2nd, 2007 at 07:19 am

Homebody asked in a comment to my last entry, what I made at my latest OAMC (Once A Month Cooking) session. Well, the list is huge, but here goes:

Pepper Steak
Polynesian Steak
Greek Burgers
Jamaican BBQ Chicken
Chicken Fajitas
Apricot BBQ Chicken
Moroccan Chicken
Ginger Honey Glazed Fish
New England Fish Cakes
Cajun Pork Stir-fry
Hawaiian Pork Kebobs
Tex-Mex Pork Wraps
Caribbean Chicken
Stir-fry chicken & veggies
Garlic Steak

A while back I wandered across a website called www.savingdinner.com that had several freezer cooking documents available called "Mega Menu Mailers" or "MMM". It comes with a grocery shopping list, a prep list, and detailed assembly instructions to put together meal kits that you thaw and cook later, just like those meal assembly places that are so popular these days. Only problem is, my DH is allergic to CORN. All of those chain places use ingredients that are loaded with corn in the form of corn syrup, corn starch, modified food starch, maltodextrin, etc. With the MMM I can use the ingredients that I know are safe and I think I come out saving money. Basically for $150 worth of groceries I got 15 ready to cook meals that are safe for my family to eat.

There are 3 different sets of MMM that have 20 meals each (I don't make them all for personal tastes) and then there are several that are smaller with only 5 recipes, all for one type of meat. They just added a Vegetarian MMM too, but I haven't checked it out. Not really my cup of tea.

Here is the downfall....you have to pay for them. Not a lot, and it is a one time fee, but it is still money out of pocket. For my family, though, it is worth it. No corn for DH, no nuts for DS and I only spend 6 hours cooking per month, it is just all at one time. Smile

Long time gone

May 1st, 2007 at 03:12 pm

Man, it has been forever since I had a chance to post. Last week was just INSANELY busy at work. I had very little time to even think straight, much less fill you in on anything. Then, the weekend was gorgeous so we spent most of it cleaning, working outside and spending time as a family.

Today I am suffering from the weekend spending hangover. Spent WAY too much money and I feel like I lost all my control. The worst part....I am the one who spent all the money. There were trips to Target, grocery store and the craft store that together totaled over $200. My available flexible cash for 2 weeks was $50. See the problem? I am going to have to take another loan from the savings account to cover the expenses. Makes me want to cry. I am going to look at my purchases tonight and make the decision on whether any of it can be returned. The groceries were something that we needed, but most of the craft store purchases were wants, not needs. All of the stuff from Target was household stuff that we needed, but we could have probably gone without for a while.

Well, last weekend my OAMC session went fabulously. We put together 17 meals EACH so that should take us most of the way through the month without having to grocery shop, besides bread, milk and eggs. We spent about 6.5 hours between the shopping and the assembly, which is pretty good for that many meals, I think. Last time I did it alone it took me almost twice that.

We have been eating a lot of PB&J for lunches and have managed to only eat out a handful of times in April. I am going to try to do a better analysis tonight when I import all the final April numbers into YNAB.

I scheduled a big transfer from our credit union to ING this morning. This will affectively move our entire freedom/EF account to the higher interest bearing ING account. If it is just going to sit there until we need it, might as well be earing a better interest rate that 0.75%. I will still be keeping track of it via the old spreadsheet method, but now it is just in a different place. Here is the best news though....I have paid back all of the money that we had borrowed from the freedom account in the form of overdraft protection. We were over $800 short, and I have managed to pay it back in about 3 months. However, we are still $1500 short in the long term savings account, but now I will shift my attention to paying that account back.

That is the long and the short of it. We are still hanging in there, but just barely. The debt is going down, but our daily expenses are not. Have to get them under control or we are doomed to repeat how we got here.

Paid surveys and OAMC session

April 20th, 2007 at 11:15 am

After noticing that many of you are making some side money by completing online surveys, I thought I would check it out. Based on what I have read/heard/seen, I signed up with Pinecone Research (after finally finding a working link) and am waiting approval. I am thinking about signing up for another one as well and then trying it out before doing any more. The one I am looking at is Lightspeed Research. Anyone ever heard of them or done surveys for them?

Went grocery shopping last night for a few staples; OJ, crackers, fruit, etc. Didn't even have a cart full and came out with $99 worth. And everything we bought was on sale! We switched to frozen OJ, don't buy soda or chips, bought store brand everything that we could. It all just seems futile...like we are never going to be able to save money and eat well at the same time.

Will be going grocery shopping AGAIN tomorrow and Sunday because a friend and I are doing a marathon OAMC session. We are putting 20 meals together for each of us that will last us the better part of the month. But of course, buying the groceries is going to hurt the wallet A LOT! Last time I did this, it cost about $200, but the cost per meal was pretty low in the end. Took forever to put it together by myself, but should go a little faster with a friend.

Tomorrow is the first morning of the local farmers market. Around here, it is a wonderful social event and we look forward to it every weekend. This time of year they will have fresh asparagus, cheese curds, bedding plants, fresh baked goods. The weather is supposed to be beautiful and I can't wait. We start by getting a cup of coffee (chai for me) and then walking around the capitol square to check everything out. We buy on the second lap. Have to find the best price for asparagus!

Busy weekend, but should be fun. Looking forward to finally having some nice weather to enjoy. Should be in the mid seventies with sun and a breeze. In other words, perfect.

Lower cell phone bill?

April 19th, 2007 at 06:58 am

Well, I finally convinced DH to switch our cell phone plan last night. It was quick and painless and MAY save us some money. It will definitely save us from the standpoint of not going over on our minutes.

Right now we have a nationwide family plan because DH was doing a lot of traveling for work. Base price: $69.99 for 700 minutes. Then we found out that we needed to add the unlimited incoming package when we tripled our minutes the first month because of all of Scott incoming calls at work (we had previously had it included but the new package charged extra). That added $14 per month for a total of $83.99 per month, add taxes and call it $90. YIKES! But in the past 3 months we have paid $220 EXTRA due to overages at 0.49 per minute. (DH is working on getting his work to pay most if not all of these costs)

The new LOCAL calling plan we are on still has the same base price, $69.99, (both of these are the lowest plans we can get) for 1000 minutes but the unlimited incoming package it $10 and the " free nights and weekends" starts at 7:00 instead of 9:00. Basically we will only save $4 per month, but will be a LOT less likely to go over our minutes. Also, the plan includes 45 minutes of roaming charges each month, so if DH DOES travel it is at least enough minutes for him to call and tell me he is OK.

Man, do I HATE paying this much money for something we survived just fine without when we first got married. Our culture sure has taken a big turn from just 10 years ago. When I was in college, I didn't even have a computer in my room! That was what the computer lab was for! Now the same school I graduated from requires all incoming freshmen to have not just a computer, but a LAPTOP! And there are 10 year olds getting cell phones!

Wait....did I just sound like my mom? Excuse me while I run screaming through the streets.....

A little bit of everything

April 18th, 2007 at 03:42 pm

This week has been a whirlwind. I can't believe it is already the end of Monday because it feels like I have been running non-stop. Work has been crazy and will only get crazier in the coming weeks. The weather is finally getting nicer so now I have stuff that I need to do outside in the yard and garden. One more thing that I don't have time to do.

Money wise things have been up and down. I did open an ING savings account yesterday. I will be transferring all the "short term" money that we have been saving. You know, those Freedom Account things. Did an initial transfer of $300 and will be sending about $900 more in a few days.

However, when doing my forecasting for the new week or so, I noticed we are going to be short on cash in a hurry. Even if we don't spend ANY unplanned money, we are going to be $100 in the hole come next pay day. Yikes! Oh, how I wish we already had a buffer in place! That would make this a whole lot easier. I have no idea how people can put together a buffer equal to one months expenses in just a couple of months. Oh wait...those people probably don't have to pay $900 per month in daycare expenses. So far I have not been able to put one penny into the buffer. But I have been able to pay back a lot of the money we owe ourselves due to overdraft transfers. I have paid back $700 in 2 months, which means we are only down $1500. Could be a LONG time before we are operating at full capacity again.

I have made a decision about our cell phones, now I just have to get DH to agree. We can pay the same price that we are paying now and get 300 more minutes by dropping from the national plan to the local plan. The local plan includes 45 minutes of roaming for the times when Scott is out of the calling area on business or something. With the extra minutes we should be able to keep from going over as often as we have the last few months. We have spent over $150 in EXTRA minutes. At 0.49 per minute, it really adds up fast.

The car payment processed through this afternoon, which means we have paid off $157 more on the debt. We have now paid off a total of $1442.30 since March 1st to our outstanding consumer debt. I am happy with this progress, but the total is still scary. We are currently paying $861 per month just to pay off debt. I can think of a thousand things I would rather do with that money.

Taxes are in the mail!

April 16th, 2007 at 03:35 pm

Forgot to mention that I put our federal tax payment ($1499) in the mail on Saturday. We got $1155 back from the state, so we only had to kick in an extra $344. Tried to carve it our of the monthly budget but ended up having to take it out of the EF instead. Oh well, at least it didn't have to go onto the credit card.

We are going to have to sit down with my parents (when they get back from vacation) to do some advance tax planning for next year. Scott got a BIG raise that is going to hurt our tax position. We increased his withholding which really took a chunk out of our monthly available income but I don't know what we are going to do if we need to pay a bunch in next year. Don't want to pay estimates if I can avoid them.

Weekend update & wage increase

April 16th, 2007 at 11:02 am

Another weekend has come and gone and I don't have a lot to show for it. My parents were in town for a few days, which was very nice, but not exactly relaxing. Since they were keeping the boy occupied, I was able to get a little bit of stuff taken care of around the house, though. Paperwork/filing had been taking over my dining room and I was finally able to get things put away/sorted. I am down to one small pile of stuff, but that is mostly catalogs so I should be able to go through it quickly. A little bit of laundry and keeping up with the dishes and that was about all I accomplished.

The weather finally started turn a little warmer this weekend so I did get my front planting bed cleaned up a bit. Still have a few bushes to prune, but it can wait a few days.

I did miserable with the menu planning this weekend. We ended up eating out most meals, but my parents insisted on paying as payment for them staying at our house. I SHOULD have put something in the crock pot for dinner last night, but I didn't get to it. Then all of a sudden it was 7:00 and I had nothing for dinner. We did have a small gift card to a restaurant in the area ($10) so we decided to use that. Still spent money eating out, but we tried to minimize the damage.

The good news that I have is that our wage increases came through for my company. I got a 3.7% raise which is above the company average (yeah!) of 3%. It works out to about $100 extra per month so I am going to put the "extra" money toward my buffer/debt payment rather than increasing spending like I have in the past. We will see how things work out. The wage increase is affective as of our next paycheck on the 27th so I will know better how much more money I am working with in my budget then.

Still haven't sold anything from half.com. Will probably keep them posted, but they are going to be in my way very soon. The idea of the rummage sale is still tickling the back of my brain but I am going to hold off making a decision for a few weeks. May ask my neighbor if she is interested in having one together. Of course, I may just wind up taking everything to Goodwill out of frustration before then. Will have to wait and see.

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