Monday, December 6, 2010

Debt-Free Christmas & November Numbers

Last month, even before Thanksgiving, we started - and finished - Christmas shopping. Thanks to a budget, our ING Christmas account, and careful shopping, we will enjoy a very nice holiday season without adding to our debt. In fact, while this past month our debt reduction was minimal, December should see us right back to our big payments. It will feel good going into the New Year without the added weight of holiday expenses to worry about!

Total debt for November:
Down by $335.41

Friday, November 12, 2010

Something New

I have a great affinity for trying new things. It bodes well for me that our homeschooling lifestyle is free-flowing enough for me - and the kids - to continually try new things, take up new hobbies, and embark on new adventures. From a monetary standpoint, this has been both a blessing and a curse.

The good: I've explored, and continue to explore, lots of ways to make money (some successful, some not-so-successful) The not as good: I've also explored lots of things that cost money, in some cases a lot of it. $100 for lip-balm making supplies, $50 for ribbons, hair clips and hot glue guns, $40 for a better cupcake tin, flour sifter, and decorating set. Yes, I like to do new things.

This year I've been a little bit more focused. I am one final exam away from becoming certified to be a nutritional consultant, something I've wanted to do for most of my adult life. Next year, God willing, I am going to complete the training to become a registered yoga teacher, before I move on with the Master Herbalist certification, the next piece of the Holistic Health Practitioner Bachelor's degree. All of those things of course cost money, but anything that is furthering a passion (and will eventually lead to a career) is money well spent.

This month, I am writing my second novel for NaNoWriMo, and because that's apparently not enough newness for me, a few days ago I also signed up to be an independent distributor for Beachbody, because I believe in their products.  Beachbody is the company that sells such workout programs as P90X, Insanity, TurboJam, and Slim in 6;  as well as a whole line of supplements including the Shakeology shake.  Because I've actually learned something from all my past endeavors, I know that I am not a salesperson.  I know that approaching strangers, hosting home parties, and passing out catalogs is not for me.  I am however, very excited to apply some of the internet marketing techniques I learned from my last e-course to share both the products and the business opportunity with others.  I'm approaching it like I approach most new things:  as a fun new challenge, and an experiment to see how much I can learn and how far I can take it.

If you want to join me in my challenge, this is a GREAT time to do it, because it is completely free to sign up from now until the end of the year (it is normally $39.95 to get started)  You can check out my website for all the details, or you can just send me good thoughts and good luck, and vibes for another fun and successful venture.  :)

Friday, October 29, 2010

October Numbers

October was a good, good month.  Going full steam ahead into the last couple months of the year.  Total debt for October:

Down by  $1553.51

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Book Recommendation - 9 Steps to Financial Freedom

It's not a new book... in fact, it's a decade old.  But I saw it for $2.00 at Goodwill the other day , remembered how much I'd liked it way back when, and thought I'd buy it and give it another read.  It's full of good practical advice on everything from 401Ks to mortgages to life insurance, and she keeps it interesting with lots of personal stories from her clients.  But what I really love about Suze Orman isn't so much her nuts and bolts financial advice (which is of course helpful and sound) as it is the emphasis she gives to the spiritual aspect of money. 

I'm a highly spiritual person, so I believe that everything is spiritually connected, but I think it's easy to lose sight of that when it comes to money.  This book proved to be a good refresher.  Everything from our earliest memories of money, to how we view money, to how we treat it (even in such seemingly trivial matters as how we line it up in our wallets) to how much and with what attitude we give to others.... it's all connected, and it's all important.   Every bit as important - if not moreso - than paying your bills on time.

If you've read it already, it's a good one to re-read.  If you haven't, put it at the top of your next library list.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

September Update and Money Issues

First, for some old business:

Awhile back I posted about some news that would have a positive impact on our finances that was not yet official. Well, it's official now and I'm excited to share it. Mike just got another promotion (the second in three months), and has now officially moved from a Manager to a Director position. I am so proud at his growth in the company, as it obviously speaks volumes to their satisfaction with his performance and work ethic. I am also very thankful - very thankful - that in this poor economy that he even has a steady job, one that not only puts food on the table and keeps a roof over our heads, but also allows me to continue to stay home with the kids. It is a blessing, and it's not one I take for granted.

Financially, the past few months have been .... weird. As excited as I've been at the blessing of having extra money, I've also been squarely confronted with the fact that I still have a lot of hang-ups when it comes to money and spending. And just like a dieter can never permanently lose weight until they identify and face WHY they were overweight to begin with, I know that we can never truly be financially free until I deal with my attitude towards money. It still makes me anxious, it stresses me out, and it takes up entirely too much space in my head.

A few weeks ago I went to Hobby Lobby with the kids because they wanted to buy a chemistry set. We spent a long, long time browsing through all the cool science kits, bought the chemistry set and then some, and ultimately spent twice as much as I'd planned. We had the extra money. All our bills were paid, all our cabinets were stocked. We'd paid extra to our credit cards. But I was still so wracked with guilt that I came home and immediately listed some unused Wii games on Ebay to make up the difference. Why? And why, when my sister invited us to go horseback riding (something I really love, and hadn't done in over 20 years), why was my first inclination to say no? Why was my first reaction, "That's crazy, we shouldn't be spending that kind of money"? Is there something wrong with spending money if you have it? Should you not be spending any extra money at all if you're under debt?

I'm not looking for answers to these questions... just sending them out into the great unknown. I've been surprised over the past several weeks, realizing how much work I still need to do.

It's not a bad problem to have though, and I'm thankful I have it. I know it's just another step in the journey. And any step, large or small, is a good thing.

Total Debt for September:
Down by $1101.70

P.S. Thanks to a little bit of sensible prodding from my husband, I did go on the horseback ride. And it was wonderful.

Monday, August 30, 2010

August Numbers

This is lower than it should be because 1) we funded our TV project, 2) we had some unexpected expenses this month, and 3) we registered Everett for t-ball, which while not unexpected, we'd for some reason neglected to plan for it.

But it's still down, and down is good.  Since Mike's raise in June, we've paid off $2720.71

Total debt for August:
Down by $542.46

Thursday, August 26, 2010

(Almost) Free TV

I feel stupid.

I feel like I should be doing one of those commercials.... "I can't believe I was spending so much for car insurance."  Only instead of car insurance, it's satellite television.  For years now, we have paid - way too much - for the privilege of watching TV, first through Directv, and for the past three years, through Dish Network.  We didn't have the most basic package, but we didn't have HBO, Showtime, etc either.  We still paid $90+ a month.  Almost $100/month.  For television!!  It was our last really superfluous bill, and we've toyed with dropping it for awhile now, always coming up with some reason not to.  The last time it came up though, we were determined to do it, which required some research and planning to make sure that everyone was happy and comfortable with the decision.

And yes, we could have just dropped it, gotten rid of the TVs and stopped watching altogether.  Of course that's always an option.  But, well, we like our TV.  It's a funny thing.  So many people (not all, but a lot) who choose not to watch it come off very self-righteous about it.  Instead of watching TV, they're spending their time reading, crafting, playing board games, solving the world's energy crisis [insert any other "worthwhile"-sounding pursuit here]  But it's not either/or!  I LOVE to read, do crafts, and play games.  But I also, unabashedly I might add, love my TV, and wanted to find a way to watch it without spending $100 a month.

The first step for us was to switch from Blockbuster to Netflix.  I feel like we were the very last Netflix hold-outs, but I was stubbornly clinging to Blockbuster because 1) I liked that we could exchange our mailed movies in-store, and 2) I liked that the boys got a free game rental every month.  As it turns out, neither of those things compare to the wonder that is Netflix streaming.  TV shows, movies, documentaries.... all streamed to your house 24 hours a day, all included for the same monthly fee (which starts at $9 for one movie out at a time)  You can watch live streaming on your PC, or if you have a Wii or PS3 you can request a (free) DVD to stream through those as well.

Step two was Playon.  Playon is $39.99/year for the first year, and $19.99/yr after that, and makes it so you can watch from free websites such as Hulu or right on your TV, through your game system.  Where Netflix is great for catching up on past seasons or older series, Hulu is the perfect solution for watching current favorites.   They don't have everything, but they do have most shows, and most everything else can be found somewhere, whether it's from Amazon's Video on Demand, on DVD a few months later, or..

on good, old fashioned live TV, which was Step three:  hooking up to our local channels with an antenna.   We'd never tried it before because we've always had satellite, but lo and behold we get several local channels over the air - for free - and they come in beautifully.

We absolutely could have stopped there, and the total cost would have been for the Playon, which breaks down to $3 and some change per month for the first year, and $1.60/mo every year after that, and the Netflix subscription (which starts at $9, but we decided to get the $18 plan which I'll explain in a minute)  That's $21 a month, instead of the $114 we were paying before!!  ($96 for Dish, $18 for Blockbuster)

But because we have four kids and five TVs and wanted everyone to be comfortable (and did I mention how much we like our TV?) we did make some initial investments.  We bought two Roku boxes (about $70 each), which allow you to stream Netflix right to the TV without having to go through a game system or a computer.   Extremely user friendly and easy to use.  We also bought a newer TV for our bedroom, because we wanted to hook it to my laptop and watch Netflix and Hulu that way, and the one caveat to that is that you need a TV that has the proper outputs and inputs.  Finally, we had to buy some new cable to get it all hooked up.  And we opted for the $18/mo, 3-out-at-a-time plan with Netflix, because you can simultaneously stream to as many devices as movies on your plan.

We have been testing it all out over the past few weeks, and have so far been extremely happy with our decision.  We've really been enjoying discovering new things to watch on Netflix, and are able to watch nearly anything we want the day after it airs on Hulu.  In a couple of months, it will have all paid for itself, we will still be enjoying our TV, and we will be saving over $90 a month. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

July Numbers

Mike got this fortune from Panda Express a couple of weeks ago, and we liked it so much I pinned it up.  Just days later, an unexpected event (so new and unexpected in fact, that it's not yet official) did begin to unfold.  While it won't bring a fortune exactly, it will indeed make another positive impact on our finances, and for that we are thankful.  God works in mysterious ways, and I'm keeping the fortune in my line of sight so it reminds me of just that.

Total Debt for July:

Down by $1689.10

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Surveys, revisited

I have posted in the past about the sites I use to make money through surveys. About a year ago, it was actually affording me a nice little consistent flow of spending money. Like anything else though, it soon took a backseat to, well, life.... The kids, school, medical stuff, etc, etc.

This past week I decided I was going to start doing it again, and have since been faithfully checking the email I'd set up for that purpose, and doing my surveys while I watch TV at night. To my pleasant surprise I found on checking my sites that I have over $40 ready to be cashed in right now, and have already added to it significantly. Hurray for free money! As a bonus, I'd forgotten how much fun I have doing it.

These are the sites I've made money with this week:

Say Nation

Quick Rewards

Treasure Trooper

Inbox Dollars

This is just a very partial list, as I'm still just dipping my toes back in the survey waters.  Visit my survey site for the entire list of sites I use.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Budgets and New Plans

For someone who's not especially fond of numbers (I am, and forever will be, a word girl), I get a lot of pleasure out of making budgets. I like setting them up, changing things around, playing with different scenarios, and calculating the numbers again and again and again.

I recently read these guidelines for setting up the ideal household budget, recommended by the experts such as Dave Ramsey and Suze Ormen:

       Housing - 40% (include your mortgage or rent payment, insurance, water, gas, electric)

       Credit Cards, School Loans, etc - 10%

       Car - 15% (include car payment, gas, insurance, repairs)

       Savings - 1 to 5%

       Food - 15%

       Entertainment - 10% (cable, cell phones, Netflix accounts, etc)

       Misc - 5%

I plugged in our own numbers, fully expecting to see one or more areas where we needed some adjustments.  To my (happy) surprise though, everything fit neatly into its recommended allotment.  We're doing something right!

Looking at the budget inspired me to once again make a list of financial goals, complete with a loose time table.  I like making lists even more than I like making budgets.   There are certainly smaller goals along the way, but these are the big goals, in order, that make up our plan for the next five years.
  1. Pay off the rest of the credit cards
  2. Pay off my Sequoia
  3. Pay off the second mortgage
  4. Save up for a good down payment on a new house (which we can do quickly by rolling the payments we'd been making on the credit cards, car, and mortgage into a savings account)
  5. Sell this house and buy another, with NO debt other than the new mortgage, which we will of course:
  6. Immediately start paying extra payments on, to pay off in a short amount of time
I like it.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

June Numbers... onward and upward

This past week was Mike's first paycheck with his new salary.  While a big portion of the extra money was already spoken for, as we still had to get some i's dotted and t's crossed, our total debt did come down.  And any reduction after the past few months is a very good thing indeed.

Total debt for June:

Down by 489.15

Monday, June 21, 2010

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

A financial tightrope.

Living paycheck to paycheck, whether it's because of a low income (been there), a fine income, but too many bills (been there too), or just because of unavoidable life circumstances, is not a fun place to be. It's a stressful balancing act. If you stay upright, no problem, but that threat is always there... that one little thing that will knock you off-kilter and send you flailing off to one side. You might waver and sweat and feel your heart beating faster, and then you somehow right yourself again only to live in fear of the next gust of wind.

The past few months, we have been clinging to that tightrope tighter than ever. Every single paycheck has been a juggling act. If we hold this bill another couple weeks, this one will still be on time. If we borrow money from this account, we can get that one current. If we use our Christmas money (again), we can fund that trip that we probably shouldn't have taken.

Yes, it's not fun. Somehow, it all works, but it is stressful. It's stressful, and it's HARD! The ironic thing is that with the exception of our credit card balances, everything looks a-okay on paper. Everything is current. Our mortgage and car payments are paid on time... our electric, our cable, our water, our phones... we make our minimum credit card payments, plus some... we're doing what we need to do. We're doing what responsible people should do.

It's all in illusion though. It's NOT okay! As long as we have this debt, as long as we're living paycheck to paycheck: we're still walking that precarious tightrope.

Last week, we were given an answer to a prayer, when Mike received a promotion and accompanying raise that's been long in the works. Now, I know there's no magic bullet here. I know that money doesn't solve everything, and I know that unless we do the work and make the right decisions that our situation won't improve.

But... (and oh how I love that but!)

I also know that if God's willing, and we're able, that this can be a major turning-point for us - the time we can finally start making those big credit card payments, the time we can finally stick to a budget that actually has room in it for occasional treats like going out to eat and seeing a movie in a theater, the time we can finally step off that tightrope and feel the ground beneath our feet. I'm hopeful, and it feels good.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

May Numbers

Because I promised I'd keep it real...

Total debt for May:
Up by $629.88

Now we wait for the dust to settle after two back to back trips, and look forward to a less crazy, less scheduled, and hopefully less expensive summer.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

April Update

I was actually pleasantly surprised that this month's numbers weren't worse than they were, and am once again feeling cautiously optomistic as we move into May.

Total Debt for April: Up by $77.07

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Desperate Times

Last year at this time, we took most of the money out of our Christmas account 8 months before Christmas. It was painful to do it, as we knew we wouldn't be able to fully replenish it by December. In the end though, we had a lovely Christmas, and didn't miss the lacking money at all. It had virtually no impact on our enjoyment of the holiday. In fact, last Christmas was arguably one of the best Christmases we've ever had.

This past week, due to circumstances largely out of our control, we did it again. This time our Christmas fund is momentarily drained completely, its funds sorely needed to get us out of a small hole and over another little hurdle. While I have no doubt that Christmas will again be just as wonderful without it, having to do it was an uncomfortable hiccup in a month has already seen our finances take quite a few hits (including the one resulting from our wonderful - and much needed! - vacation)

May is two days away, and brings with it birthday parties, travel, and well, more things that require extra money. Right now, my hope and prayer is that June can be a turning point for us, and that we can then get back on track towards ridding ourselves of this debt.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

March Numbers

Yeah. I'm reminded why I was tempted to skip my monthly update for a few months.

Total debt for March:

Up by $1808.92

Good news: We've made my last school payment, and Mike's truck has had its much-needed repairs. Onward to April.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Being Happy With What Is

I am a big believer in setting goals, something I've repeatedly blogged about in the past. In fact, this entire blog's reason for being is because of our goal to get out of debt and become financially free. I think goals keep us moving forward, keep us on track, and keep us positive. But there's a problem with focusing too much on goals.

A goal is something that you plan or intend to achieve at some point in the future. By definition, a goal is not met until later, or next month, or 10 years from now. A goal is intangible, even theoretical. While we're wrapped up in plans, and distracted by the ultimate prize - whether it's a new house, a better paying job, or a paid-off credit card - real life is unfolding around us now, whether we're paying attention to it or not. How can we expect to appreciate a realized goal if we can't appreciate what we have already?

I read another article the other day, about the state of the housing market in the valley. It warned about an even bigger crash, still to come, due to what's called the "shadow market," the number of homes soon to be listed due to foreclosures, short sales, and fed-up homeowners simply walking away from their mortgages and their responsibilities. For months now, the predictions have been changing... Home values will start leveling! Home values will start rising! Home values will plunge even more! I don't know what's going to happen in the next several years, but this much I know:

1. Goal : to eventually move out of this house and into something better suited to a family of six.

2. Reality : the market is not going be favorable to our being in a position to sell anytime in the foreseeable future.

We can plan, we can crunch numbers, we can save, we can dream.... but what good would any of that do if it prevented us from living in the present; prevented us from enjoying the lovely, safe, and warm home we have now; prevented us from living in gratitude for Mike's job, for our health, for our families, for lungs filled with air and two legs to stand on?

Compared to many, we live simply. Compared to many others, we have an embarrassment of riches! From computers and cell phones to game systems and large screen TVs. I never want to find myself in a place of needing more stuff to make me happy. I never want to find myself in a place of taking anything in my life, no matter how large or small, for granted. I want to enjoy where we're at and what we have, and be at total peace with what is: We make a fine income, much of which is sucked up by way-too-much debt and payments on a house that is worth a fraction of what we owe on it. We buy clothes - and furniture and cars and toys - second-hand, and it's rarely in our budget to do things like go out to eat. Some of those things may change in the future... and I hope and pray that they do!... but in the meantime, I'm happy.

Today I choose to be thankful.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

February Numbers & Unexpected Expenses

I'm tempted to skip my monthly summaries for the next few months, as we are going to be see-sawing up and down between our tax return, my school payments, and two vacations we have coming up... but in the interest of accountability, I know that I can't. So, total debt for February (thanks in large part to some tax return money):

Down by $2727.57

Unfortunately, March has brought with it some new expenses. Right now, Mike's truck is in the shop for a few different issues, and most likely won't be coming home for under $800. And this week, the boys went to the dentist for a cleaning, and while 2 of them are cavity free (for which I am thankful!) the third needs a couple of fillings: Another $250 we were not expecting or planning for.

I know we'll figure it all out - we always do - but I'm not excited about the $1000 blip in our debt repayment efforts. Ah, life.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Book Sneeze

If you're a blog owner, check out Book Sneeze. It's a simple (yet genius) program that sends free books to bloggers, in exchange for a review posted on said blog, and on a retail site such as Amazon. After you post your review, they verify it, then you can request your next book. Pretty slick. I just signed up yesterday, and I've already selected my first book.

I'm not into shoes, manicures, or purses. If I buy myself new clothes, it's usually limited to jeans and t-shirts. No, where I spend my money (or would like to spend my money) is on books and movies. I LOVE books and movies, so anything that helps me get either one for free - AND gives me an excuse to blog about it - gets my two very enthusiastic thumbs up.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Something Cool, Part Two

For Lesa ;) and anyone else who's interested...

The person who designed the program I mentioned in my last post is a man by the name of Michael S Brown, an internet marketing expert. I really love his products. After I worked through the Niche Blitzkrieg course, I told my husband that I was glad I spent the money just for the information alone, and that any income would just be a bonus. I really enjoyed learning about researching keywords, what works versus what doesn't, how to get listed with search engines, etc. It's a fun little project, and I approached it like I did most projects: as an experiment.

I always feel weird mentioning anything that would make me money, since that is not the purpose of this blog, so to bypass the whole shameless plug thing - yes, I would make a commission if you signed up with anything through my links, but I wouldn't share it if I didn't find it worthwhile, useful, and interesting.

This is the site I built to explain a bit about the process, and Michael's products:

Make Money Blogging

There are links and explanations for some of his products, including the one I used, and there are some free downloadable items there too. Hope you find something helpful!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Something Cool

Several months ago, I took a little e-course about making money through affiliate marketing. I was very excited about it, worked feverishly to start building my sites, and was thrilled by the first few pennies I started to make.

Then, because I'm me, I gradually lost interest and moved onto other things. My sites are all still up and running though, and apparently my due diligence in getting them set up properly is starting to pay off! My very first site, My Canvas Messenger Bag, is beginning to pick up in sales; and last week I made my first sale on this site: The Digital Book Reader, which netted me quite a nice little commission. Cool!

Seeing some returns has made me want to get back into it, and see what else I can do.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Taking Responsibility

I saw an ad for a debt relief company yesterday. It wasn't debt counseling, or debt consolidation, it was just plain old "Sign up with us, and we'll help you lower your monthly payments and get up to 50% of your debt excused." So basically, lucky you. That $30,000 you owe to credit cards, largely because you were irresponsible with money in the first place? Guess what, you no longer have to pay it all off!

Those ads, and all the others like them, evoke a myriad of emotions every time I see them. Mostly what they make me feel is straight-up anger. There, I said it.

I know that what others do and don't do with their own lives is not my business. The thing is, when others' choices are affecting me and my family it becomes my business. The economy is partly the way it is because of people's choices. The housing market is partly the way it is because of people's choices. I say "partly" because I understand and recognize that things do happen that are beyond our control. I've seen first-hand what layoffs and furloughs can do. I've seen how catastrophic medical emergencies can devastate a family in all areas, including its finances. It's a harsh reality, but people get sick, accidents happen, and jobs are lost. This isn't about those specific circumstances.

The fact remains that there are A LOT of people who face financial hardships because of their own poor decisions! And because of programs like the one I mentioned above, they have no incentive to make things right or change their habits or prevent it from happening again. Sure, buy that plasma TV. Take that cruise. Get those manicures.

What's that? Having trouble keeping up with the bills? No problem, let's just forgive your debt and send you back on your way. Enjoy that TV.

I've watched people live their rich, lavish lives on borrowed money, oblivious to their growing debt. I've watched others spend all their money on extras and entertainment, then turn around and bemoan the fact that they can't afford to pay their electric bill or their car payment or their mortgage.

I hate that we have debt. I hate that we do without so many things so that we can make big payments on God-knows-what that we bought 2 years ago. I hate that we're paying on a mortgage that is a good hundred thousand more than the house is currently worth. I hate that we're in most ways stuck here until the market improves or we somehow fall into a great deal of cash.

But, we'll keep living the way we're living, and paying back what we borrowed, because WE BORROWED IT! We owe it! It's not the state's problem, or the government's, or the neighbors' down the street. It's OUR responsibility. If that means my getting a job - and it's very nearly come to that more than once - then it means my getting a job. If it means clipping coupons, shopping second hand, and staying home more often than we go out, then we'll do that too. Are there months that I'm tempted to just pay the credit card minimums and "blow" the rest? Are there times when we fantasize about what we could do with the money if we skipped paying some essential bill just once? Do we ever think about saying "Screw it," chucking our debt-paying efforts and living like everyone around us? Yes, yes, and YES!

Then I see those stupid commercials, and my resolve is strengthened yet again.

I'm angry that people can be irresponsible and just get rewarded for it. What's our reward for doing it the right way, the hard way? Besides the fact that we will someday be financially free, I guess there isn't one.

We do it because it's the right thing to do.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Dollar Stretcher

I haven't looked at this too deeply yet, but it was recommended on one of my homeschool lists, and it looks like it might be worth a gander. Any little tip helps, right?!

The Dollar Stretcher

Sunday, January 31, 2010


January is officially coming to an end, our first full month back to regular, non-furloughed paychecks. Total debt is up for the month by $237, a figure I'm content with. This month we made my first payment for school (which is worth so much more than the $237 we ended up netting!) and we have two more monthly installments ahead of us. With the big credit card payments we're able to make right now, we should be able to hold steady for February and March, and start seeing a reduction again in April.

Still feeling good about 2010.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The "List"

I'm a list girl. I make to-do lists, shopping lists, planning lists, lists of goals, wish lists, even lists referencing other lists.

One list that has been hugely instrumental in our journey to pay off our debt was one I made a couple of years ago, and periodically add to, edit and adjust. It's a wish list of sorts, a list of "extras" or things that we'd like to buy but need to save up for, both large and small.

Just like dieting without ever allowing yourself a treat will backfire, so it is with saving money. Sometimes a person needs to splurge a little to keep herself on track! So we plan for those splurges, and we save for those splurges. Instead of rushing out with a credit card in hand, we wait until the bills are all paid, all the necessities are taken care of, and we have the funds available. Waiting for something you want to buy makes you 1) be sure you really want to make that purchase. Sometimes things get crossed off the list before we get around to buying them, and 2) appreciate it so much more. Delayed gratification is indeed a powerful thing.

This week, we pooled some Christmas and birthday money and ordered a new telephoto lens for the camera, something that's been on the list for over a year. I can't wait to get it, try it out, and enjoy it... 100% guilt-free.

Yes, I love lists.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

2010 Goals

3 days into the New Year, and after sitting down with a pen, paper, and calculator, it didn't take us long to determine where we needed to be headed over the next 12 months.

Our specific goals for the New Year:

1. Begin a monthly savings for our trip east in 2011. We are planning (loosely for now) to take 3 weeks off and drive back east to visit some friends and family in the fall of 2011. It's an ambitious goal, to be sure, but we know the only way we can possibly make it into a reality is to start saving what we can, and start now.

2. Reinstate our 401K savings. With the furloughs, we had to cut back everything we possibly could, and that included the 401K contributions for a short period of time. We knew we could only responsibly do it temporarily, so next month it will go back into effect.

3. Increase our monthly savings for our car expenses. We save every month so that we have the cash available when registration, insurance, and repairs become due. Like many other areas of our budget, it took a reduction because of the furloughs. Next month that will go back up as well.

4. It should go without saying, but we will also continue to snowball towards our target credit card. This year we hope to see a substantial reduction in credit card debt by the end of the year.

We're ready.