Friday, September 30, 2011

September Update & Naysayers

I have been keeping this blog for three years this month, and for the vast majority of that time, everyone has been extremely supportive and kind. In fact, it took almost this entire time before I received even one negative comment about my writings about money. It wasn't even here; it happened when I took the - rather uncomfortable - step to talk about one of my shortcomings when it comes to money on my main blog. I think it's interesting that it's practically commonplace for people to brag about money, and it's completely socially acceptable to complain about money... but somehow saying the hard things and admitting an area where I might have need for improvement, and I'm ripe for ridicule.  And you know what?  Go right ahead, be cruel.  Make fun of me, throw my vulnerability in my face, try to make me feel bad. I'll pick myself up, remind myself of Dave Ramsey's words, "live like no one else so you can live like no one else", and shake it off. While it would be nice to be debt-free and, therefore, free of the need for the blog in the first place... it isn't happening in the near (or not as near) future. So, I'll keep plugging and I'll keep blogging... naysayers be damned.

Total debt for September:
Down by 2020.11

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

August Update

I spent a good portion of last month extremely stressed out about money... feeling the impact of a three week cross country vacation, and anticipating another 4 day, 4 figure jaunt to San Diego for a conference. What on earth were we thinking spending that kind of money? Was it a responsible thing to do, given that we should be focused on getting out of debt? But I don't regret it, on either front. It's paid for. And this month, I'm once again feeling hopeful and positive, because 1) we have no more vacations or extra big expenses planned for a good long while, and 2) we just took advantage of a great transfer interest rate and paid off one of our existing cards... which means that we're down to just two cards, our payments will have much more spending power and our balance will come down even faster. Yes!

Total Debt for August:
Down by $1263.16

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Updates, Vacations, and Staying on Budget

It has come to my attention that I skipped an entire month of updating. I thought about going back and doing an update for June too.... but ultimately decided that I'd just consider my hand slapped and move right along into July.

Our three week vacation has come and gone, and if you read my main blog, you'll know that it could not have possibly gone any better. Truly. We've been home for almost three weeks now, and I'm still a little awed by it (and still a little tired by it.) In hindsight, was it really the best idea to take such an expensive vacation when we're trying to pay off so much debt? Probably not. Was it 100% worth it anyway? Absolutely. And the great part - financially speaking - was that it held no unpleasant surprises when it came to money. Husband worked for weeks and weeks on a budget... figuring gas money, hotel money, food money, entertainment money. Over and over he'd make these little tweaks here and there until he finally pronounced it finished.

Anyway, when all was said and done, and we'd visited all our people and gone all our places and bought all the souvenirs... we added up all the receipts. And we were over his proposed budget by barely $200 ($80 of which was an unplanned nose piercing) Pretty amazing really. I couldn't even begin to make a budget like that, but he did it well, and even seemed to enjoy it (which might have something to do with the fact that he is involved in making budgets for a living, and I am not)

Of course, facing expenses now that we're home is another story. There are suddenly a lot of them, from Cub Scout and basketball and gymnastics registrations, to Diamondbacks games and birthdays and an unschooling conference. It'll work out, and we'll get there. Of this I'm sure. And I am very, very thankful that we're able to do all the things we do with not only not going further into debt, but also continuing to pull ourselves out - however slow it may seem at the time. Still, it is frustrating to have that constant feeling of, "Next month we'll get back on track."

I need to say it though: Next month we'll get back on track.

Total debt for July (only because our most recent payments for the trip are not yet reflected):
Up by $1334.69

Saturday, June 4, 2011

May Numbers and Car Repairs

It's been a bad couple of weeks to be a vehicle in this household. First was husband's brakes. Next was a pricey timing belt (and some other things I can't remember) on mine. This past weekend husband's transmission went, and yesterday mine decided to simply not go after it had been stopped at a red light.

Some of it has been paid for, and some of it has not. Coupled with trying to prepare for nearly a month long vacation, it's made for a financially stressful spring. Still, we're making (slow) progress, even if it's of the two-steps-forward, one-step-back variety.

Total debt for May:
Down by $586.10

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Upgrades, Downgrades, and April Numbers

Wow, what a month we had. Lots of financial ups and downs in a short period of time. And in the span of just a few days, we traded in my Sequoia for an older (but nicer) Land Cruiser, which netted us around a $3000 savings in car loans, and spent $2500 on a host of repairs for Mike's truck.

I keep thinking, "next month will be a calmer month", but we have an upcoming conference to pay for, and of course our nearly month-long trip this summer. Clothes to buy, car maintenance to be done, hotels to book. Lots of little details that I'm trying not to stress about just yet.

All told, our total debt still went down for the month, and I have hopes for at least a modest reduction next month as well.

Total debt for April:
Down by $715.01

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Living Paycheck to Paycheck

We live paycheck to paycheck, and we always have... no matter how much we made, and no matter how much we owed.

For the past 5 years, Mike has gotten paid twice a month. And twice a month, the paycheck is completely spent on paper even before we get it. By design, one paycheck is somewhat tight. We pay the mortgage with that check, and like most people our mortgage is far and away our highest expense. The other check is much more comfortable, or at least it would be if we didn't devote SO much of it to extra debt payments. That's the check we use to pay for any "extras" for the month... birthdays, entertainment, new clothes... anything above and beyond. We try to plan for as much as we think we'll need, and the rest goes to debt. It's a good system, except.. sometimes it's not. Sometimes we find ourselves misjudging and scraping through, and it is a horrible feeling that I'd hoped to never have to repeat.

I get frustrated sometimes, knowing that we're keeping things so tight by choice now, and that if we weren't aggressively paying off debt that we'd be fine; that we'd be comfortable; that I wouldn't have that constant "Can we afford this?" hanging over my head every month. But then I think: We created this mess, so it's our responsibility to get out of it. And just because we can go back to minimums and live it up, doesn't mean we should. We have no business living all free and loose with our money as long as we have any kind of debt. We should feel tight. We should send all our extra money to our credit cards.

And for better or worse, whenever I falter, I hear Dave Ramsey's words in my head:

"If you will live like no one else, later you get to live like no one else"

Saturday, April 2, 2011

March Update and GOOD News

The last time I updated, I was worried, daunted, and stressed out. Today I am hopeful, humbled, and grateful. Somewhere along the way in our A/C replacement process was the suggestion to have an official inspection done for hail damage. (We had a very severe hailstorm a few months back) Last weekend we had someone from our insurance company perform said inspection, and this Thursday they sent out another guy, specific to A/C repair. And the verdict is: DAMAGED. And because the unit is such an old model, repair is not an option. Which means.... replacement is covered by our insurance. Covered by our insurance! AND, because they offer a trade-in value of $300 for the old unit (which they use for scrap metal), we will barely have to come up with any money out of pocket, even for the deductible.

I'm sort of still speechless about it. It all really does work out.

Total Debt For March:
Down by $3303.01

Thursday, March 3, 2011

February Numbers & Setbacks

The good news is that our debt went down for February, even with birthday parties and out of town visitors.

The bad news is that our A/C (which has been admittedly on borrowed time for awhile now) has died. Gone. Kaput. Finit. I feel like I say this a little too often, but... this is where an emergency fund would come in handy. And we have no such fund. So we - and by "we", I mean my husband - called around to a bunch of places, and got several estimates. We've chosen the company we want to go with, and now it's just a matter of getting it scheduled, and weeping while we write the check. Our debt reduction plan is going to be set back at least a couple of months while we deal with paying for this. :( But it's life. And we'll move on.

Total debt for February:
Down by $1111.49

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

January Numbers

The new couch, camera, and computer took more of a hit than I was anticipating, even though we came up with extra money. My hope for February is that it is a calmer financial month. We have two birthdays to plan, and out of town visitors to look forward to ... but even all of that shouldn't be on the scale of what we've spent the past two months getting things replaced.

Total debt for January:
Down by 698.20

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Decisions, Decisions, Part II

I don't know why I still get so worked up about money. Seriously. Everything works out, and I know this, and I've seen it happen again and again and

again, and


You'd think that after the first several dozens of times, I'd start to learn.  But nope.  I still stress out.  Then when things do ultimately work out - as they always eventually do - I vow to remember it.  I promise myself that next time will be the time that I'll go with the flow.  

And this is me, saying it again:  NEXT TIME, I won't stress out.  Next time, I'll go with the flow.

We found a camera on Craigslist, which we paid cash for.  It is an almost new Canol Rebel XS, which is an even better camera than our Nikon.  We found a nice lens for it (also on Craigslist), so we were able to sell the lens that came with it.  That along with our barely used Nikon zoom lens was enough to recoup more than half the cost of the camera itself.  We then listed our broken camera and dead laptop as-is on Ebay, and the bids on those are currently over $100 combined.

We had $75 in Amazon rewards from our credit card, and we also took advantage of a half-price gift card offer from Living Social. We combined that with some Christmas money, and some babysitting money, and last night we ordered a new laptop.  

Our vacation is still on, though we've had to move the dates around.  Since it moved from August to July, I couldn't take this session of yoga training anyway, so I'm at peace with postponing it.  I can however, take the session starting in November, and because it's that much later in the year, we'll have that much more time to save for it.

It all works out.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Decisions, Decisions

My brain is spinning with numbers, and I don't like it. My brain's been spinning with numbers for the past few weeks now, and I finally decided to blog about it. If for no other reason, in the hopes of making the spinning stop.

Just before Christmas, our sleeper couch (an old, worn leather couch that we got for a steal on Craigslist) broke. After some careful thought and planning - as much planning as you can do in the span of a couple of days - we bought another, brand new set. We had a pressing deadline, nothing was coming up on Craigslist, and what did come up was snatched up within hours. So we took ourselves to our favorite discount furniture store to take advantage of their 20% store wide sale, and plunked down $1000 that we'd not been planning on spending any time soon.

A couple of weeks ago, my beloved camera fell off the counter and broke. Broke the lens, broke the body. Just BROKE. The following morning, my beloved laptop (which, if I'm being honest was already on very borrowed time) chose that moment to give up its ghost and finally die as well. Dead. Fried. Finished. In less than 12 hours span of time, we were in the hole for over another $1000.

Not the most auspicious way to start the new year.

And now, I'm in a financial dilemma. Neither the laptop nor the camera are NEEDS, per se, but very strong wants. We are very fortunate in that we could take a month or two, just pay minimums on our credit cards, and replace them both. But it hurts... literally pains me to take even a month off of aggressively paying our debt. Especially since we already did it in December. I already declined a birthday present (a new tattoo :( ) because I just couldn't, in good conscience, spend $150+ when we have a camera and a computer to replace.

And, if that's not enough, I was going to take a yoga teacher training this year... something I was very, very excited about. We were going to pay for most of it with our tax return, but as it turns out, we greatly overestimated what our tax return would be. We could come up with the money without it, but it would mean a good 4 or 5 months of barely above minimum payments on the credit cards. And again, I just don't know if I could do it.

And just to add to the equation, we decided to take a long-in-coming trip east this summer, for which we recently set up an automatic monthly savings. We're excited, we're ready, and yet that voice is there. Should we really be doing it when we still have all this credit card debt? Is it really the best time to take such an expensive trip? Nothing is set in stone, and I think the only reason I was able to save for it in the first place was because I knew it wasn't for sure; I knew we could still back out if we needed to.

Oh, how much SIMPLER life was when we didn't care; when we wanted something and we put it on a credit card without a thought. How much simpler it was when we just let our debt rack up, and worried about it later. Or someday. Or never.

I don't have the answers yet, but I will. I'm convinced that there has to be a way, has to be some happy middle ground that I haven't yet found. Something that allows us to have what we want and still be responsible and mindful about the goals that we've set.

And maybe then my head will stop spinning.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2010 Roundup and 2011 Goals

2010 is over, and so are our financial goals for the year.  Did we meet them?  Some.  Not all.  Not most.  December saw us with a few setbacks as well, as we were met with unexpected expenses (emergency fund anyone?)  And while we generally do well staying within a budget for our Christmas gift shopping, we usually grossly underestimate what we'll end up spending on "extras" like food, carpet cleaning, and entertainment.  This year we also made an extremely last minute purchase of a new sleeper couch, something we hadn't planned on replacing anytime soon.

Still, it has not been an unsuccessful year.  There is much to be thankful for for sure, and lots of reasons to be positive about heading into the New Year.

Total debt for December:  
Down by $877.22

Total debt for 2010:
Down by $6562.54

In 2011, we'd like that reduction to at least double.  We also plan to:

1.  Pay off two targeted credit cards, leaving just one with a balance
2.  Bring our credit card debt down to 4 figures. (!)
3.  Increase Mike's 401K contributions

and otherwise,

4.  Just keep doing what we're doing.

Best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2011.