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Helping friends help themselves

September 7th, 2012 at 06:06 am

I have a friend. Yay! OK actually he's been my best friend since we were 8 years old (that's awhile back!) He's the kind of guy that would stick his neck out for you no matter what. We pretty much share everything about each other's lives because we can trust each other completely. So it KILLS me to find out he's struggling financially. Well not struggling per se...but he just has never had a plan. He's the kinda guy that if he had the tools I would have no doubt that he could succeed.

That being said I've tried a few things to get him rolling on a plan. He knows we worked the baby steps and he's read TMMO and even gone through FPU with his spouse. I understand Dave isn't one size fits all so I'm not pushing him to follow Dave's plan. I've said I don't care what you do but do something. I think procrastination is his worst enemy.

So here's a quick synopsis: He's 35, wife is 46. Two kids (his stepkids) in college. Net income: $12k/mo. Net expenses: $6k/mo. Debt: $84k (47k student loan, 20k car 1, 12k car 2, 4.5k credit card.) No liquid savings and not currently contributing to retirement (has $150k in retirement.) I'm sure you can already see my frustration just on this little bit of info.

I don't know if anyone else has someone they know in a similar situation. Based on the numbers that float around about people not saving enough and not putting enough away for retirement I'm sure there are a lot more people out there like my friend. I just really want to help him...even though I can only provide the map. I can't drive him there...he needs to put it in drive and go. I'm just trying to think of ways to help him get to where he wants to go. Any advice as always is appreciated. Smile

The importance of having an emergency fund

August 30th, 2012 at 06:20 am

Most of you here already know how vital it is to have an emergency fund setup for those times when Murphy kicks the door in and sets up shop in your life. I have an example of how not having that baby EF can cause undue stress!

I was at the car dealer yesterday getting my car inspected when a gentleman came out from the service area in a bit of a panic. He had been having problems with his brakes and was told it was going to cost him $300 for the repairs. I thought he was going to pass out with how red his face was! He said "My car has 160,000 miles on it and I don't have $300 to fix the brakes!" I thought to myself "Oh boy could this guy use a $1000 baby emergency fund!" I didn't engage him directly only because he was so flustered and just started pacing really fast around the dealership but it triggered in my mind BABY STEP ONE: $1000 in the bank.

Anyone else have stories like this when they're out and about? I found myself really feeling sad for the guy. He just seemed so stressed out about a $300 car repair bill. It's a friendly reminder to make sure you stock away that emergency fund money so you don't end up stressed to the max like our friend here. Smile

We're going to miss August

August 27th, 2012 at 12:54 pm

August 2012 was a very good month for us financially. We have been blessed to have been given a sizable shovel to work with over the years but we were able to double that shovel in August (including payday coming up this Weds) with work bonuses, ebay sales and some Intellishop work. We're going to be able to use this last check to pay all of our monthly September bills and our mortgage due Oct 1 before September begins and that's always a great feeling.

I opened up a 529 plan for my granddaughter and since she's less than a year old hopefully down the road she isn't going to have to think twice about where she'll want to go for college.

We've been able to really simplify our budget over the past few years and it's become a well-oiled machine. There are a few things on our budget today that when we were in debt we certainly considered frivolous. Now that the only debt is our primary mortgage we've been able to relax a bit and enjoy life a lot more. The kids being out of the house and on their own (for the most part) has also lightened some of the everyday expenses that we had when they were under our roof.

So here comes September and it's looking pretty good. Hopefully there aren't too many Murphy's hiding in the bushes!

September 2012

Income
Paychecks (after 401k contributions): $11450

Expenses
Maids: $310 ($155/visit)
Netflix: $8
Electric: $360
Life Insurance: $147
Cable TV: $160
Everyday Expenses: $1000
Oct Mortgage: $2768

Total Expenses: $4753

Income - Expenses = $6697 for September.

EE is our cash spending categories like food, clothing, transportation, entertainment, electronics, pharmacy...basically the "out and about" spending.

That excess will be spread across the mortgage, savings and investments so we can continue to grow in multiple areas (I know DR would want it to go to the mortgage being on BS6 but we're happy with spreading it out across the friend with three hats (Save/Invest/Pay down mortgage.) Smile

Gift cards

August 18th, 2012 at 06:44 pm

Anyone have those gift cards that you use up until there is a couple of bucks here or there and you just can't figure out what to do with them? If you do any shopping online it might be worth it to consider cashing them at Amazon. Amazon will issue a gift card directly to your email and you can redeem the gift cards on your account and accumulate a balance that you can spend at checkout. As long as you have a minimum of 15 cents you should be able to redeem the card there. This goes for those generic Visa/Mastercard/AMEX/Discover gift cards of course (not merchant cards.) We just redeemed quite a few cards and accumulated a 21 dollar balance which my wife will turn into some music and a kindle book.

I'll note that I have one Visa gift card from TD Bank that doesn't seem to want to redeem (and it has a $12 balance...darn it) so if you have a card from a specific bank you may have to call them to find out the deal.

If anyone has any other great ideas for gift cards I'm all ears! Smile

Playing Bank Bingo

August 16th, 2012 at 07:14 pm

Over the years we've probably had our money in just about every so-called "big bank" on the planet. We had moved our money to Commerce Bank a few years ago and were really happy with them. Then TD Bank took them over and ever so slightly they've been taking away benefits and making it a little bit more expensive to do business there. I also have family in the Midwest and the West Coast and TD just doesn't seem to be where I need to be when I travel.

We have also been ING customers for about 11 years now and I have always been very loyal to them. They were a very important part of our path to debt freedom since keeping the emergency fund with them kept it somewhat out of the immediate area. Now that Cap One has taken them over and the interest rates have been dwindling we're not as keen on the Orange Dot as we used to be.

I think the point of my rambling is to just remind everybody if you're not happy with your bank you have a LOT of choices out there. It's making me woozy comparing all the different banks to each other. This is a case where personal finance really is PERSONAL because you really need a list of what you want out of your bank. Is it convenient? Can you get your money out when you need it? Do you have to wait an eternity to access your deposits? Do you do mobile banking? Is it free? Do you have to have a minimum balance? Do they offer mobile check deposit? Do they link with Quicken? Do they hammer you with fees? E-I-E-I-O.

if anyone out there is happy with their bank I'd be happy to hear about it. You never hear enough about the happy customer...especially in today's era of negative news. It'd be nice to hear a happy note or two from the Saving Advice realm about where they're putting their hard earned dollars (and cents!)

FWIW we also have money at a credit union. I love credit unions because they're very personal and personable but they also have their limitations for us in spots.

Thanks (in advance!)

The Calendar Game

August 11th, 2012 at 03:31 pm

I know the topic probably could cover a host of different topics but I'm actually referencing a game that we like to play with our day-to-day finances to make them a little less boring. As the nerdy husband I scoff at finances being boring but my wife's more smiles and sunshine than calculators and computers so we like to play a game that takes very little effort to setup and really gets the whole family into it. Even my kids find this way of relating to personal finance more friendly and fun so maybe it makes sense for you to give it a shot in your home. Smile

All you need is a calendar and two different colored markers (preferably a color you like and a color you don't like...you'll see why soon.) I like to use a dry erase calendar but those big flat desk calendars work nicely too. Set it up anywhere you like but usually somewhere common that's friendly to everyone.

Now grab the marker you really like and write in your net income for today (or whatever day you start the game.) If you get paid monthly or bi-weekly or weekly just figure in what you average per day. It doesn't have to be exactly precise but you want to get an idea of how much you make each day you work. An easy example is you make $3000 a month so you'd divide $3000 by 30 days and get $100 a day. So you'd write in $100 in today's date. If your spouse/significant other works too you can add both daily incomes together. Remember to use your happy marker.

Now go through your normal day. If you buy something do what you usually do to keep track of it. You don't need to put it in any category for the game...you just need to know what you spent. Anything you spend regardless of what method of payment just jot it into that day on the calendar with the marker you don't like the color of (we use red for bad and green for good.)

Now you can see in plain view on each day if you made more that day than you spent! What we like to do is write the total (good marker number minus bad marker number) in the bottom right corner and then update it as we go through each day. Obviously you'll have days when you get paid and you pay a bunch of bills at once (so that may be a negative day for that day) but by keeping the running tally you have a nice visual representation of how much you made vs how much you spent as you went along through the days, weeks and months. If you get extra income on certain days always add it to that day's happy marker total.

It's a very easy and fun way to track income and expenses on a very basic level. The real nerds can get really creative and calculate what an investment made that day or how much interest they were charged on that day on a debt. The main thing is not to take the game too seriously because you don't want to lose the people in your household that may not be so into the numbers. One thing it helps us with is impulse spending. Taking a quick look at the calendar before going shopping or going out to eat really makes us think a little harder about what we're going to spend our money on.

Just thought I'd share since we really enjoy playing the game in our house. Have fun with it!

Murphy = Inconvenience vs Tragedy

August 9th, 2012 at 03:32 pm

Well I get home from work and as I'm switching my sunglasses off and putting my regular glasses back on I feel a SNAP! and they break in half right at the bridge. Doesn't that just figure. I now have my 1995 backups on and they're a little bothersome but they're doing the job for now. I called and left a message for my eye doctor and I'll probably be on the hook for at least one pair of frames. Back when we were digging out of debt I'd have probably panicked about how to pay for it (I'm still going to try Krazy Glue...although that never works considering how thin the bridge is.) Now I know I have plenty of money in the medical budget category and a new pair of frames is going to be a minor inconvenience instead of a Murphy tragedy.

Over the weekend DW (the wife!) and I cleaned out our master bedroom closet (well at least the bottom of it.) Normally my wife would stay well clear of this process but I enticed her by making it like she was at the store. She had dozens upon dozens of shoes and purses so I pulled them all out and put them in another room. Then one by one i brought each pair of shoes and each purse in and had her look them over. She got to keep, donate, ebay or toss the shoes depending on how attached she was to them. Instead of paying with cash she was paying with space. We have only so much space in our closet and I always give her the majority so I said you can keep enough to fill the shoe racks in the closet but once they were full we needed to compromise. She was great and we eliminated over 30 pairs of shoes! The closet now has a whole floor of space and she still kept a lot of shoes. We also emptied out all the purses and found a lot of change and even a few gift cards. I took the change to the bank today and put it in one of those penny arcades and we deposited $156.56 in change! I also deposited $169.23 from ebay sales to the checking account. Now she can get her hair done and I'll put the rest towards my glasses.

You can take anything that seems like a chore and turn it into a fun time (and cleaning out the closet ended up making us money...so talk about a no cost activity.) Who knows what you might have around the house that you don't need (and that someone else sure could use!)

Getting up to speed

August 9th, 2012 at 06:24 am

OK so I thought I'd start the comeback trail by updating a few key points of where we're at. In case you don't remember our story we were buried under $117,500 of credit card debt when we finally got serious about getting our finances in order. It took a lot of work but we eventually dug out and got to debt freedom (thanks largely in part to this place and the Dave Ramsey way of thinking...the TMMO forums were very motivating and helpful for us.)

A few good bullet points since that debt free day:

1) I became a grandfather. Smile

2) We're still debt free! For you DR fans we're rolling through BS6.

3) We're cash flowing both of our kids college educations.

4) We have a good sized emergency fund and are building savings as well. We're also maxing out our
Roth 401k's.

5) We still budget as if we were in BS2. Instead of having debt payments we have savings payments.

6) Credit cards are still not welcome. We've been there done that and we're not going back.

7) We were featured in a DR Gazelle Gazette (the newsletter) for paying off all the cc debt. It was awhile ago though...I haven't had an active subscription there in a couple of years.

8) We're still selling stuff on ebay for extra money!

9) I still listen to the DR FPU audio lessons on my phone at work in between songs. They're in my playlist. Smile

Don't get me wrong it all sounds great but we still have to be very vigilant about our money. We have a good stream (I like that I don't have to call it shovel anymore) of income and we're content. Although I'm the nerd and still get OCD about doing budgets and the numbers all the time. I'm hoping by coming back I can continue to be accountable for our expenses (the expense tracker will come back to life) and hopefully some of the things I post will help others who may need some extra motivation to stay on the plan they're on and stay focused. We got to the point plenty of times where we said "is this really worth it" and I can tell you now sitting on the other side of that mountain of debt is one of the most beautiful views you can have. It's worth much more than just the numbers. Smile

Wow nearly 3 years to the day...

August 3rd, 2012 at 12:58 pm

I can't believe how long it's been since I last updated my blog on SA. So much has happened since September 2009. I'm going to start back up in the hopes that it will help us stay focused on the task at hand and help others that might be wrestling with similar issues as we are. So this is a welcome back of sorts! I'm excited to keep our story going (and there is a lot to talk about!) Smile

Putting the paychecks to work

September 3rd, 2009 at 05:44 am

Well now that we're one day past payday and the budget has been implemented here's how it went down. Below is a copy of the budget I had created for the pay period from 9/2-9/15 with notes on how it was executed.

09/02 - 09/15
Income: $4741

Electric: $242 (PAID)
The Maids: $140 (9/8)
Netflix: $12 (9/8)
Equifax: $7 (9/13)

Cash: $500 (DONE ATM)
This covers food, clothing, entertainment, medical copays and any other discretionary expenses we have during the two weeks. We do this stuff in cash only because it works really well for us.

Son's birthday: $150 (DONE TXFR)
His 16th birthday was on August 25th and we need to deposit $100 to his checking account (was a gift from us.) We also are going to purchase him a dock for the car for his Ipod for $50.

Amazon: $10 (PAID)
This is for a replacement Tassimo filter.

HVAC Filters: $69 (PAID)
This buys us two replacement HVAC filters. I vac'd out the one we had in there but it is so bad I'm going to have to replace it. It's been in there for almost a year now so it's time.

Now for the other part. At this point we had $3611 left to spend and there were some important things to put the money towards.

Wedding Ring: $2911 (PAID)
I was able to get the ring back and it looks great. The wife was EXTREMELY HAPPY to get her ring back fully repaired (it had met an unhappy garbage disposal courtesy of our cat) and with a new diamond installed. Insurance did pay a portion of it but I still had to go out of pocket for nearly $3000. It was actually ready a couple of months back but we wanted to wait until the debt was gone before paying for it.

This left me with $700 to put to savings. We have a check coming next week for over $7000 which will be put to savings as well as we continue to bolster up the cash in the bank. I can safely say this was a fun budget to work through with no debt payments attached to it.

Oh and I almost forgot! I called our cable provider and was able to get a $16 discount on our monthly bill. All I had to do was ask! It's always a good idea to call up your utility providers like cable, phone and internet (even if you bundle) to see if they can do anything to help you save some money. Smile

September Budget Part I

August 31st, 2009 at 07:25 am

September is shaping up to be a great month in our household income wise so we should be able to do a lot of good with our money. We get paid biweekly on Weds so we're looking at 3 paydays in September and a bonus in the middle of the month to boost our income even more. I usually do our budgets per pay period and any bills that are due within the pay period get paid. We have a few things we need to pickup online so those will be budgeted into this pay period's budget.

Here's how it looks right now:

09/02 - 09/15
Income: $4741

Electric: $242
The Maids: $140
Netflix: $12
Equifax: $7

Cash: $500
This covers food, clothing, entertainment, medical copays and any other discretionary expenses we have during the two weeks. We do this stuff in cash only because it works really well for us.

Son's birthday: $150
His 16th birthday was on August 25th and we need to deposit $100 to his checking account (was a gift from us.) We also are going to purchase him a dock for the car for his Ipod for $50.

Amazon: $10
This is for a replacement Tassimo filter.

HVAC Filters: $69
This buys us two replacement HVAC filters. I vac'd out the one we had in there but it is so bad I'm going to have to replace it. It's been in there for almost a year now so it's time.

So far we've spent a total of $1130 and that leaves us with $3611 to use as we see fit.

What's really crazy is the only thing we actually HAVE to pay on this list is the electric bill. The rest of the list (other than the cash...which we could cut down in half) is wants. Now that we're debt free we feel we can open up the discretionary spending a bit more but we're still retaining 75 percent of this biweekly income. That's not a bad thing.

We still have some long term goals to work on as well. My wife's wedding ring is still at the jewelers and I believe it'll take $2700 to pick it up now that it's been repaired. FYI to everyone make sure you have a proper rider for jewelry on your homeowner's insurance policy. We only had a small reimbursement and we now have the rider but you have to get it appraised and get it on your insurance properly. Check with your agent as to what you need to do to do it right.

We also need to pay off our son's Spain Trip which I mentioned in an earlier post. That'll be exciting to see that gone.

We're also going to be funding Roth 401k's (15-20 percent of net income with a 25 percent match to a traditional 401k by the company), saving for cash flowing college (we start paying the piper in Fall 2010) and accelerating our mortgage payoff (increasing the amount to principal) so it's not like that money doesn't have anywhere to go. We have a long haul ahead of us but we're excited at the prospects of being able to knock all of this stuff out.

Smile

First cool debt free expense

August 24th, 2009 at 12:17 pm

I just wanted to share the first cool thing we were able to do after clearing all of our non-mortgage debt. We were able to pay cash (well..debit card from our checking account) for our son (turns 16 tomorrow) to trek out of the USA to Europe in April with his classmates through a school trip. They'll be over there for 11 days total and the balance is due in full by December 19th. Well we've paid nearly $2000 out of the $3000 it cost already ($1750 of that $2000 in the last 4 days) and we'll be able to pay the remaining balance in full on September 2nd without batting an eye. A full three months + before the balance is due!

The best part is having the cash to do it instead of going into debt to do it. I can remember a time when that $1750 was going to minimum payments on credit cards. No more! Now it goes to things we WANT to do instead of obligations we HAVE to do. Yippie!

So for anyone mired in debt and wondering if it's worth the effort and sacrifice to bulldoze your way out...I can say absolutely! You can pay for a trip without paying more than the trip costs in credit card interest and fees. Smile

A thank you to everyone who followed our road to debt freedom

August 17th, 2009 at 04:41 am

I just wanted to send out a "thank you" for everyone here who gave us advice and ideas from the time I started this blog 2.5 years ago. We spent the last 4+ years wading around in over $75,000 of credit card debt and could never figure a way out (at its peak in April of 2008 it was at $110,000) and it took a lot of focus to finally just cut down the lifestyle and get it all paid off. I want to answer a few of the replies in the announcement here so here goes.

To everyone who sent congrats THANK YOU!! We really do appreciate it.

To crazyliblady: What we ended up doing to figure out how much we had to throw at our debt was to go line by line through each and every item we were spending money on and really decide if there was something we could do to cut it down. We ended up trimming out a lot of things we thought we couldn't live without and we basically used a zero based budget approach to make sure all the money was allocated before payday so there were no surprises. We did keep some money to the side for emergencies but not a lot because we didn't want to continue to get eaten up by interest. I would just list everything out and prioritize everything you spend money on each month and you can find all kinds of places to save. When it comes to credit cards make sure you don't use them (it's easier to pay them off when they're not nibbling back at you) and another thing we did to earn extra income was to sell little stuff around the house on ebay and craigslist. We made selling stuff we didn't need our 2nd job and were able to really help supplement our income that way (especially in the beginning.) Just try to focus as much of the extra $ as possible at the card and shut the card down so you don't incur any more payment than you have to. Smile

fern: There wasn't really any trick to what we did. It was really just focusing as much extra income as possible at the lowest balance at the time. We had tried paying it off by interest rate before but really just kept spinning our wheels so we flipped to try lowest balance and that seemed to do the trick. We had three cards with $27,000+ balances but knocking them down one at a time really energized us to continue throwing as much disposable income at them as possible (we ended up putting about 50 percent of our income to the debt while we were working to pay it off. The really cool thing about that was we realized we could support the household on one income since my wife and I make around the same amount of money.) We did a lot of coupon shopping and sale shopping and cut out a lot of the stuff we did on cards before like vacations (we did go on one vacation but we had $10,000 in non-refundable reservations so we went and just used cash while we were away.) The cards went locked up in the drawer and then we closed a bunch of them down (we had way too many credit cards) because we were getting all kinds of fees (annual fees, monthly fees, etc) and it just didn't make sense to keep them open.

campfrugal: The synopsis is we paid off $117k in credit card debt over the last 15.5 months ($110k in APril 2008 + $7k in interest.) We did it by cutting down our lifestyle and just lining up the cards and paying them off one at a time. We availed ourselves of as much extra income as we could by cutting down lifestyle and budgeting our income to the last penny. Smile

Don't worry I don't plan on leaving anytime soon now that the debt is gone. I'll continue to update the blog and try to add some words as to what we did and how we did it to get here. Again thank you everyone for the kudos and congrats as we are so happy to be done with debt!



We finally did it...debt is all paid off!

August 16th, 2009 at 02:43 pm

Debt Tracker (08/14/09)
$0.00

Well we did it! We received a bonus deposit of $5000 on Friday and cleared the last $3815.04 from our debt. We are now debt free minus our mortgage! It's been a long battle between us and our debt load (which ended up being $117.5k) but we have finally climbed to the top of the mountain.

It's really nice to know that all of our income will be ours to keep. We're going to be able to pay cash on Weds for our son to go to Spain with his class a full three months before the payment is actually due. We paid cash and bought a patio table for our back patio (we had lost three due to wind) and this one has a heavy custom stone top so it'll be plenty heavy for the hilltop winds. We'll also be able to cash flow our daughter's college education starting next fall AND our son's in a couple of years. We are so excited!

All I can say is to anyone who is frustrated with debt just get on a budget and keep the faith! You can do this. If we can do it anyone can. Trust me on that. Smile

WOO HOO!!!

This is the end of the debt reduction tracker! Not sorry to see it go at all.

Under $9k to go!

June 30th, 2009 at 04:47 am

Well you knew that Card 1 wasn't going quietly into the night so they did hit us with a $138.45 finance charge but we batted them back by selling some old computer stuff to a friend and now we're under $9k to go! Since July is going to be a slow month for us I'm doing what I can to generate a few extra bucks here and there and it starts with this $243 payment!

Debt Tracker (06/30/09)
Card 1: $8968.92 (8.99)

Soooooooooo close! July is going to be painful though. Normally I would make a $3000 payment (or so) on Card 1 with our first round of paychecks but I have to hold onto the majority of the money thanks to a preplanned vacation for the family to the Outer Banks. My mother rented the house and to cut down on costs we're driving the family down for the week. I'm going to keep as much of the $ as I can for the vacation and then once we get back throw everything left over that I can muster at the debt but I'm sure it'll be a lot less than $3000. SIGH...this is a battle I gave in on so I think I am doing the right thing. Everyone has been great about this whole process so I don't feel as badly about it and it doesn't change our debt free date of September (we will be getting a bonus check in Sept that will pretty much wipe out the remaining balance) but I still would have rather put it on this last card considering how close we really are.

Sometimes though you have to let off the reins a bit to keep the peace. I'd of course rather do no new debt than pay the card off and rack back up $2000 worth of expenses. That would really put a damper on the vacation. Smile

Thanks for letting me vent!

A sad day for Microsoft Money users like me

June 11th, 2009 at 04:52 am

Well as some of you probably know Microsoft has decided to discontinue the Microsoft Money software package. In an effort to cut costs up in Redmond they are doing away with certain software suites that they feel aren't as useful as they once were (like Encarta and Money) and software they haven't fully developed (like OneCare Antivirus.)

To me as a user of Money since March of 2000 this is a really dark day. In the past nine years I have purchased six different versions of the software and actually still have most of the versions on CD in my possession. The latest of which (Microsoft Money Plus Premium) I really enjoyed using and customizing to work best with what I need to get out of a comprehensive personal finance software suite. I really wish Redmond would reconsider the decision and plan on writing a letter stating my feelings but I know it will not do a lot of good.

I have dabbled in alternatives (Quicken being the obvious one, Mint, YNAB, etc.) and none of them really met my needs like Money did. Money was simple where it needed to be and was more complex where I wanted it to be (like with reporting) and that mix really made it fun to manipulate all of my numbers to play out different "what if" scenarios and things like that. Money's inventory module made me think and actually go room by room to track what we owned and made it easy to attach pictures to those lists. I use it daily (multiple times a day in fact) and have never had system problems or corruption of my data (something I've heard Quicken users really fight with right now.)

So now that I've rambled on about Money I wonder if there are others like me out there who are dismayed about this announcement and really will miss the product that we all "grew up with" over the years. It really is a sad day.

FYI you will have two years from the day you activated the Money Plus software packages to still get online updates to your accounts but after Jan 31, 2011 everyone's online access will be shut down. You can still manually update the software yourself beyond that date but you will not be able to use any of the online features. If you have a Money Plus software package and want to know when your copy will cease to work online click on Help and About Microsoft Money and you'll see the date there.

Frown

Finally over $90,000 in cc debt paid off in less than one year!

April 15th, 2009 at 06:44 am

It's official...we're finally over the $90,000 paid level in our scramble to get rid of all of our non-mortgage debt asap.

Today is payday and we were able to throw an additional $3100+ at the last credit card. So here's the update:

Debt Tracker (04/15/09)
Card 1: $26204.24 (8.99)

Since April 30th, 2008 we've paid off $90,728.50 in credit card debt! It's the only debt we have/had other than our mortgage so the sooner we get to zero the better!

Just wanted to celebrate a little bit with everyone. Woo hoo!

Hooray for Payday

March 18th, 2009 at 05:01 am

Today is payday and we really didn't have a lot of bills to pay (yay!) Next month is really going to be fun with three checks on the 1st, 15th and 29th but for now I was able to take a big bite out of lonely Card 1. It's great that it is the ONLY card left to pay off because with the fewer number of bills coming in the easier it is to really track them (and once Card 1 is done then the only debt we will have to our names will be a mortgage. Yippie!)

I cash flowed my vehicle registration, took cash out for day-2-day expenses (we only use cash for food, entertainment, household stuff, etc.), put some money in the kids bank accounts (18 yo has checking and 15 yo has savings that will soon flip to checking) for work they did (they get $2 for every year of age per day), bought a programmable thermostat (checked consumer reports first to make sure it was a best buy and it was easy to program...looks like it) and some CFL bulbs from thebulb.com (they have pretty good prices and a portion of every bulb bought goes to help the environment...not to mention the bulbs themselves!)

Had $4600+ left over for Card 1. Yippie!

So since 4/30/08 we've paid off $76,271.80 in credit card debt and we have what's left below to go. It just feels like we're really starting to see the finish line.

Debt Tracker (03/18/09)
Card 1: $34090.02 (8.99)

Payday (and a another dent)

January 21st, 2009 at 04:37 am

Well I actually feel some sense of accomplishment today because for the first time in a LONG TIME Card 2 is under $10,000. I expect that once the statement closes next month that it will probably push it back over with the interest charge but for now I'm doing a happy dance (good thing no one can see that...it would be ugly!) So close to getting under $50k in total consumer debt and I can't tell you how excited I am to see the 40's (supposedly in temperature soon too!) Paid the mortgage (we have a $405k at a fixed 5.875 with about 400.7k left) this payday and I had about $500 in ebay money to help pay on Card 2. I've got carpet cleaners coming Friday for about $500 worth of work and I have to pay my ugly gas bill with the next check on 2/4 ($1450.00) but at least I only have to pay it twice a year and we will be cash flowing the whole thing (YAY!)

Debt Tracker (01/21/09)
Card 1: $40840.04 (8.99)
Card 2: $9959.69 (7.99)
Total: $50799.73

Just a reminder where we started:
5/1/08
$110,000 on NINE CC's. It's been a battle for the last 8.5 months but it's been worth it!

Cutting down debt and O Canada!

January 18th, 2009 at 12:47 pm

Well in the last 10 days we've managed to do some serious horror movie type slashing on some of our debt. Thanks to some bonus money and cutting back on plans to go from PA to AZ in March for my birthday we've made quite a little dent in Card 2 on the debt reduction planner.

As for why O Canada...I have been watching this show called "Til Debt Do Us Part" which is shown on the Canadian network Slice and it basically has these couples who are desperately buried in debt (a lot of consumer debt...but then a lot of total debt as well) and this woman comes and basically gives them a massive wakeup call and a plan they can move forward with to reign in their spending and excess. It's actually not that bad (and not dry at all...the challenges are not just based around $ but based on communication and working together in your relationship to get to the best result.) If they do all the challenges Gail sets forth for them they get $5000 to put towards their debt load. First step is always taking the credit cards AND debit cards away (and doing some Dave Ramsey Plasectomy-esque things to rid these people of their cc's) and then bringing back the debit cards back every week so they can refill the budget jars (glass jars with a category for each thing they would spend on discretionary wise...like food, clothing, transportation, etc.) If it's ever on here in the US I'd highly recommend it to people (though some of what she teaches is Canadian based most of the principles would work here for us.)

Just thought I'd share...now maybe if the Eagles could get their act together and win this game...! Here's the debt update:

Debt Tracker (01/18/09)
Card 1: $40840.04 (8.99)
Card 2: $10571.23 (7.99)
Total: $51411.27

A month later!

January 8th, 2009 at 04:33 am

Well that was some kind of crazy holiday madness we went through the last 30 days. I ended up having to go from PA to Chicago on Christmas Day and then down to Orlando through New Year's before coming back up. We got to Universal Studios in Orlando as well before going to relatives of mine on the east coast of Florida (north of West Palm Beach.) For the first time ever we budgeted and cash flowed all our gifts and we actually did really well. With all of this hectic moving and shaking and holiday meals and planning and gifts and decorations and everything we stuck to our guns and incurred NO NEW DEBT! It feels really good to know we have no payments on anything we bought for the holidays. We didn't get as much of a dent in our debt tracker as I would've liked but we are getting a bonus of over $6000 on Monday and a good chunk of that will go to Card 2. I think now that we're out of the most expensive holiday time of the year it's going to be all out war on the last two cards so we can be debt free for Xmas 2009!

Here is an updated tracker. When I last left it we were around $61k and change owed. We were able to nibble at them a bit and since 5/1/08 have knocked out over $51,000 off of the total owed. We feel really good about the prospects of getting out of this for good by the end of 2009. Here goes!

Debt Tracker (01/08/09)
Card 1: $40840.04 (8.99)
Card 2: $17494.31 (8.99)
Total: $58334.35

Punching back (and happy Thanksgiving!)

November 26th, 2008 at 05:04 am

Well it's the day before the turkey day and we got paid today (yay!) so I went and paid a slew of bills including the mortgage (which dropped a few bucks thanks to an escrow adjustment) and electric. We're in great shape now with the money set aside for the holidays, my son's volleyball program and our landscaper (we had a soil analysis done by Penn State and we need a lime application to our lawn) PLUS I was able to pay most of what Card 1 took yesterday in interest on Card 2. It would've been a lot more than it was but I had to buy a plane ticket to Arizona for this weekend to see my brother (long story, he's getting divorced...family meeting of sorts down there) so I paid what I budgeted for minus the ticket. My mother did say she'd pay me back for the ticket but I'm even debating if I want her to have to do that (it's not like I couldn't afford it and I sure as heck would never have gone into debt for it. I paid with my debit card of course!) If she does that will go right to where it was going to...CARD 2.

Here's the update:

Debt Tracker (11/26/08)
Card 1: $41931.69 (8.99)
Card 2: $20815.56 (8.99)
Total: $62747.25

It's back below $63k at least! $2747.26 would be nice to be able to throw at it. We don't have another bill due until 12/22 (whoo hoo!) so I'm really confident we can be below $60k before New Year's Day. We'll see though!

Happy Thanksgiving (a day early) to the Saving Advice clan and your families!

Another $2500 less owed

November 24th, 2008 at 04:39 am

Well it's time for another update! We were able to slash another $2500 off of our debt last week so I am just a basketcase in wanting to get Card 2 under $20,000 and get the total kit and kaboodle under $60,000 (it looks a lot more ugly with those zeroes than if I just used the letter k so I'm using zeroes for motivation. Ha ha!) I can't wait for Weds either (PAYDAY!) so I can make another dent in the numbers.

Oh and those people you hear about getting their limits reduced...I'm one of those people! I had one company reduce my limit on one card from $14,000 to $500! It had no balance and really gets no use so it's not bothering me that they cut it other than for my credit score (which I could care less about at this point. I just want to quit owing cc companies money...I'm fed up with it!) The sooner I get this paid off and I can start cash flowing my daughter's college education (it's on the horizon!) the better.

I'm just happy that our household hasn't felt the economic squeeze nearly as much as a lot of other people (especially in PA!) Though I still think the media drives a lot of the panic and fear and that if people got back to basics they would be a lot better off. OK off the soapbox...here's the skinny:

Debt Tracker (11/24/08)
Card 1: $41619.94 (8.99)
Card 2: $21076.69 (8.99)
Total: $62696.63

They always stick ya!

November 14th, 2008 at 02:41 pm

I posted yesterday about how we had gotten down to just above $65k on our road to getting all our debt out of our lives and this morning Card 2 reminded me it still owns us by posting a $187 finance charge. Darn you Card 2!

So here's today's updated numbers:

Debt Tracker (11/14/08)
Card 1: $41619.94 (8.99)
Card 2: $23568.74 (8.99)
Total: $65188.68

I can't wait for next week. We finally budgeted out all our holiday shopping so I know I'll be able to put at least $2500 on Card 2 by the end of next week. We're really trying to get under $20k on Card 2 before the end of the month but it's not an easy chore with the holiday season approaching!

It's always something!

Another small step

November 13th, 2008 at 06:15 am

Well I managed to pay down another $700 on Card 1 so we're sitting right at $65k left to pay off to have no debt but the house (I'm looking forward to it!) We had the garbage disposal quit on us so we had to replace it (ended up $589 for parts & labor...ugh) but we were able to cut a check for it without batting an eye (rather than charge it to a credit card and carry it...thus paying MORE than $588 for it!) I'll be doing a little wood chopping on Card 2 before the end of the month but the holidays are approaching so I need to budget for my anniversary, my daughter's 18th birthday, Thanksgiving AND Christmas. Yikes!

Here's where we sit:

Debt Tracker (11/13/08)
Card 1: $41619.94 (8.99)
Card 2: $23386.37 (8.99)
Total: $65006.31

Some updated numbers and identity theft!

September 28th, 2008 at 09:24 am

Well I thought I'd update the debt tracker since I got an interest charge on Card 1 for $315.51 (ouch!) so the update looks like this:

Debt tracker 09/28/08
Card 1: $42694.47 (8.99%)
Card 2: $29891.21 (8.99%)
Card 3: $1970.14 (10.99%)

I also had a charge of $50 show up on Card 3 from Thrifty Car Rental in Chicago on Friday. I haven't rented a car from there since June of 2007 so I was needless to say a little concerned. I called the card issuer and they immediately froze the transaction and are investigating it. I was told I don't have to call the merchant (in this case Thrifty) because the issuer would handle it so I haven't pushed it any further. Anyone have thoughts on this? Thanks!

Raises and bonuses

September 17th, 2008 at 12:58 pm

OK well I haven't updated this in a bit but I will now. My wife found out today she is getting a $20,000 raise from $60k to $80k. Obviously we're thrilled. Not only that but I found out I'll be getting $3334 in bonus money every four weeks starting in late September and going through November ($10,000 total) so we will be able to really kill the debt AND have some money for the holidays.

I wanted to update the tracker because I was able to put close to $10,000 on Card 3 while I was away. Here are the latest numbers hot off the press:

Debt tracker 07/28/08
Card 1: $42378.65 (8.99%)
Card 2: $29891.21 (8.99%)
Card 3: $5711.32 (10.99%)

Card 3 has a very short life to live! Adding her income boost and the bonus money I'll be able to pay off Card 3 and make a serious dent in Card 2 by the beginning of October. Not only that but we have THREE pay periods in October so I can pay the mortgage on the 29th and use the paydays from the 1st and the 15th AND the bonus money in October ALL on paying off these balances.

This is going to be one sweet 4th quarter! I thought I'd share the love since this place has been so good to me for so long. I'm glad we're finally getting a hold of this thing!

Back from Hawaii

August 20th, 2008 at 05:51 am

Well we're back! What an amazing place to visit. We had a fantastic time and the best part about it was we were able to 100 percent cash flow the entire thing! Not only that but today (my first day back to work) is payday with my NEW paycheck! I'm excited to sit down today (or tonight) and budget the next couple of weeks out.

It's good to be back but I miss Hawaii already! Now we're even more motivated to get all our credit card debt obliterated to be able to take another trip like that. It was beautiful to say the least.

Whoo hoo! Good to be back.

Big day for me and the Mrs.

August 8th, 2008 at 10:20 am

I got a raise and promotion! I had proposed this to my bosses six months ago and after long, long, long deliberations (did I say long?!!) they have decided to bump my pay 20 percent and have me report directly to the CFO (I'm in IT.) This is a huge positive step for me one day before we are going out of town so I feel great about it. Look out debt reduction tracker!

The Mrs. also has a meeting today with her CEO about a raise so hopefully we both end up bumping up the income ladder. This will make getting out of debt even more fun!

Thanks to all who read my diatribe and post comments. It's really keeping me going in the right direction.

Airline fees are everywhere!

August 8th, 2008 at 05:21 am

Well I checked everyone in today for our flights to Hawaii tomorrow and took a look at the latest airline fee listings. Holy moly! They want $15 for the first checked bag under 50 lbs, if it's 50-70 lbs it's $65 and 71-100 is $115. Yikes. My wife and I are flying in first class because I was a dope and bought us first class tickets awhile back (when I was charging myself into submission.) The kids and my daughter's boyfriend are in coach and it's now $2 for all drinks on board, $7 for a meal and $5 for a snack box (US Airways.) Ugh! Well I did find a loophole since we're flying first class. We get to check up to two bags each under 50 lbs for no charge so we're both going to do that to save us on the fees. Of course we paid more for the flights so we didn't really save any money but at least we will not get hit again with more fees. Food and drinks are also free in first but who knows how much longer even that will be the case the way they are tacking everything on.

Ugh!


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