Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Payday Wednesday Update

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas....the snow is falling and I could not be happier!

As it usually does, the money came in today, and went right back out again. I paid my credit card in full and that was pretty much it. But, HOORAY! Christmas is paid in full. Now I have to remember when I get home to take that credit card OUT of my wallet and put it back in the safe. :)

I'll update the sidebar to reflect our most recent payments and additions to savings. The E-fund is growing which I love. We added $56 to it. Other than that, our numbers are moving very slowly in the right direction. As I mentioned last month, our plan was to be cautious with our debt repayment through the holidays and then hit it hard in January.

We are pretty low on funds for 'extras' until next week's check arrives, but we will have enough to get through. The house is well stocked with food and all the gifts are purchased. We'll be OK.

On the non-personal finance side, our daughter has gone to Nana's for a couple days. We have a few friends coming over tonight to play cards and visit since we won't see them at Christmas.  Tomorrow we have work, and then tomorrow night we will wrap the kiddo's gifts.  Friday morning we'll do our housework and pick up the seafood for the Christmas Eve feast. The in-laws will arrive on Friday afternoon and we will begin our festivities!

I am  feeling very blessed and happy this holiday season. I hope all of you out there in blog world are enjoying yourselves, too.

Happy holidays,

Monday, December 20, 2010

'Tis the Season!

Hello blog world!  I can’t believe Christmas week is HERE! Unreal.
The week is shaping up to be a good one. The presents are all purchased and wrapped, besides the little one’s gifts.  She is going to Nana’s house Thursday and we will wrap them while she’s gone, then put them back in the basement until Santa brings them on Christmas Eve. I really love having a child this age at Christmas. It’s all about the magic and excitement!
I did one last stop today during my lunch break. My husband reminded me that we need almost all sizes of batteries, so I made a quick run to CVS to get a bunch of packages. There’s nothing worse than getting a gift on Christmas and realizing the batteries aren’t included and not having the right size on hand!
The only thing we will need to do prior to the in-laws arrival on Friday is stop at the grocery store for our seafood. We like to make bacon wrapped scallops for an appetizer and they need to be really fresh, so we’ll do that Friday afternoon. The rest of our Christmas Eve dinner will be ham, scalloped potatoes and salad, all of which we already purchased when we did the regular shopping. Oh, and we might need to pick up a little more wine and liquor, too, but that’s it!
I have to say, I am very proud of us for the way we approached the holidays this year. We have a whole new mind set on shopping, spending and budgeting and it shows. Just the fact that we planned ahead to save ourselves (okay, mostly me) the stress and aggravation is a big step. Mike and I have never really planned for large expenses (hence the lack of a steady E-fund.) It’s embarrassing, but true.  We always approached personal finance with the attitude that ‘we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.’ Well, that hasn’t worked – see our sidebar!  This new strategy – planning and saving (gasp!) has taken a lot of weight off our shoulders and allowed us to enjoy the holiday season so much more.
On Wednesday, I will update once again since it’s payday, and I will change the sidebar to reflect the new numbers. Our progress has been slow but steady. I am looking forward to really getting the year off with a bang in January! Stay tuned!

Friday, December 17, 2010

I've been MIA!

Sorry I haven't been around much, but work is crazy busy. I am very happy it's Friday!

I did a quick update to the sidebar to update the E-fund which now stands at $394 - up from $320.

And most importantly I finished Christmas shopping last weekend and wrapped everything but the little one's gifts. We are standing at $10 under budget as I write this! We did it! I will pay my credit card next week on Wednesday.

The house is clean, the groceries bought, I have cash in my wallet, and life is good. I'm really enjoying the holiday season this year.

More to come...gotta run for now.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Payday Wednesday Update

Once again it is payday and I am feeling pretty positive about this month. The numbers on the sidebar are updated as of today. We are making slow but steady progress.

After recalculating our December budget to add in some additional monies we will have coming in (and deduct some bills we don't have to pay this month) we are in good shape. I allotted extra dollars to medical, groceries and misc. categories to give myself a little wiggle room.

I did decide to shop early because the knot in my stomach was growing bigger and bigger when I thought about waiting. I am happy to report I am right on target with my holiday budget thus far. I have spent $130 on the credit card out of $700 I am expecting from the second pay period.  The rest of my Christmas spending has been in cash. We have $570 to spend this weekend when we embark upon the shopping marathon Sunday. I am tracking total spending in Excel so that we don't exceed the holiday budget, whether items are purchased in cash or not. We can do this!

I added $70 to the E-fund today also.  It's growing - hurray!

All in all, we're in a great place for December. The tree went up Monday and the holiday spirit has found its way to our house. It is shaping up to be an enjoyable holiday season and that makes me very happy.

Happy holidays!

Sunday, December 5, 2010


I am sure I am going to get some strong opinions on this but I am seriously thinking about using my credit card. I have all ready figured out our Christmas budget and we are cash flowing our entire budget amount. It's coming out of our second December paychecks. The issue is that we get them on Dec 15th and Dec 22nd respectively and I am a little nervous about waiting to finish shopping that close to Christmas. In particular, there is one large and very hard to find Christmas gift for a certain little girl that I want to make sure we have under the tree, and right now the closest one I can find is in New Hampshire. I am afraid if I wait too much longer I won't be able to get it at all.

So, I am toying with the idea of using one of my cards to do all the shopping now and then paying it in full on the 15th and 22nd. Is this a bad idea, even if I stay within the amount I know I will have out of those two checks, total?

Part of me says don't do it...but another part says it make sense to save me time and my sanity, as long as I don't carry the balance into the next month.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Another one bites the dust!

I passed in my grad class final Monday and grades came out today. Not only did I get an A in my class, but I crossed three more credits off my degree plan. Three classes to go and I will have my (free) Master's degree in June! Wooo hoooooo!

Monday, November 29, 2010

2011 Goals

For me, personally, the best way to get over setbacks is to look to the future. With that in mind I have begun setting my 2011 goals. Here's what I have come up with so far:

1. Establish a $1000 E-fund.
2. Pay off $8,800 in debt. This includes our medical and credit card debt, and would bring the truck loan balance down to $3,000.
3. Graduate from college (again.) Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I'll have my master's in June.
4.  Continue to lose weight. Goal is 8-10 more pounds.
5.  Find a way to make $50 in snowflakes per month.

This is a partial list and I am sure I will add to/tweak it. But it's a start!

One step forward...

Just when I was starting to feel like we were on the right track..

...I woke up this morning to a very sick kiddo. After a trip to the doctor, a prescription for antibiotics, and a stop at the store for over-the-counter needs I was out beaucoup dollars. (Typically I would get these funds back at the end of the week from my FSA, but I finished out my FSA dollars for the year last week!)

Then I came home to a chilly house which reminded me to check the oil tank. OOPS! Glad I looked. I thought we had a quarter tank, but the gauge was just over "E." So I called and ordered oil.

So much for that extra chunk I added to the E-fund last week. I drained the E-fund from $549 down to $199.

I'm glad I had the money but so discouraged. I can add back those funds out of my second December check but that's a long time to wait. I'm wondering if I need to keep more cash on hand - really, I shouldn't have to use emergency funds for these items, but I have been so focused on accumulating a cushion that I haven't been leaving myself much in the way of wiggle room in my budget. Sigh.

I think this is where most people who are working on debt get discouraged - it's one step forward, and two steps back. It just seems so pointless to work toward a goal when it keeps getting further away.

I'm off to list some items on Ebay to try to make a little extra cash.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Super productive day

I don't have much news on the money front, except that I used a Black Friday deal to open an ING account for our daughter and got a $25 account bonus. She already has a savings account at a brick and mortar bank, but I couldn't pass up a free $25 for literally 5 minutes worth of work. I can withdraw the free cash or add it to my own ING account after 30 days. Since ING is where I stash the majority of my E-fund, this is super convenient for me. Hooray for free money. It will be added to the snowflakes. :)

On the non-money front we had a super productive day: scrubbed down the two upstairs bathrooms, vaccuumed the whole house, got four loads of laundry washed, dried, folded and put away, made a corn chowder, did two loads of dishes, cleaned the front hall closet, and matched up a mountain of socks. Speaking of which, am I the only one who leaves socks in a basket to be matched at a later date?  I HATE this task. We had a whole laundry basket full and did them all today.

The only housework we didn't get to was cleaning out my truck and the other half of our garage. Currently I'm only able to fit in there; we need to clean the other side so the husband can park inside too. It's getting way too cold to keep the cars outside. I think we might do this next weekend - I have a mountain of baby items stacked up out there to give to my niece who is expecting on 12/27. Her baby shower is this Saturday, so I am planning on bringing those items to her then. It will free up a big chunk of space for the car.

It's been a good five days off but it's back to the reality of work tomorrow. I also owe a big project for my grad class - it ended on the 17th but I missed the end due to surgery. The professor was kind enough to give me the final as a take-home test, but it's due tomorrow and I haven't started yet. I'm really not into grad school right now, but in order to get a grade I have to pass this in. Ugh. I'll get it done...probably at 11:59 pm tomorrow night. I'm very glad that when I turn this in, I won't have any schoolwork until January.  :)

That's it, blog friends. Have a great night.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Payday Wednesday Update

So once again the money came in...and went out again in a hurry! I paid all the bills this morning. With my minimum payment on our next medical debt, I lowered our balances to under $104,000....woo hoo! It's still incredibly overwhelming, but we'll get there.

I had  $241 after I paid bills. I am still expecting an FSA reimbursement of $54 this week, also.  All together that totals $295 for spending money (gas, personal items), savings and debt goals.

I added $186  to the Efund today- my $50 auto withdrawal from paycheck, $11 snowflake from an Ebay auction, and $125 out of the $295 "extra" from this paycheck. I could have added more, but wanted to keep a little more cash on hand in case I decide to do a little holiday shopping this weekend, which is entirely possible. I will have $170 to last me two weeks.

So, the sidebar is updated with our progress for this week. Since we're heading out of town tonight for the next two days, I won't be back on to post until Saturday most likely.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, folks! I know I am incredibly grateful for all the blessings in my life, my family and friends in particular.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Like many of you PF bloggers out there, I love my snowflakes and find lots of great ways to earn a little bit of money on the side. I've never really tracked my snowflakes though, and I am wondering if now might be the time to do so? For those of you who track your 'odds and ends' of money, have you found that helpful in conquering debt? And do you have a certain way that you handle your snowflake money which ensures it goes directly towards your savings or debt goals? Enlighten me, please.  :)

(I have an Ebay auction ending tonight.)


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Consumerism and Children

As the holidays and their rampant consumerism approach, I have noticed an increase in the "I Wants" that come out of our daughter. Specifically, it's about every other commercial on her TV shows that she wants us to buy her.

Now, I can't blame TV entirely for her consumerism. The truth is it stems form several sources. Advertising is only one.

To be honest, our daughter is an only child and is..doted on. We're not extravagant, but it is pretty normal for her to get a small treat when she goes to the store with us. So we are to blame for a lot of it.

Secondly, our daughter's closest friends in school come from pretty wealthy families. One girl she's close to in particular is the only child of a high earning, high consuming couple. Two other girls she likes have parents who buy their kids pretty much whatever they want. They're always bringing the latest trinket or gadget to school.

We don't do that, and I think she has begun to notice. She asks for a lot more things now. When I tell her we don't have money for something, she says, "Just use your credit card!"  (Eeeek! Eeeek! I can hear you all out there in blog land screaming now. Truth is, she doesn't know the difference between a debit and a credit card, she just sees me swiping a piece of plastic.)

So, since we have begun this blog we have used cash or debit only, with a much larger emphasis on cash. I will admit I still pay for some things with debit or checks.

I struggled for a while on how to teach her the basics of personal finance. On a recent business trip I bought her a small, cute, age appropriate wallet. I put two dollars in it.

I brought it home, gave it to her, and explained about her money. I also told her that when we go to stores now she needs to bring her wallet. If she wants something, it will depend on whether or not she has enough cash for it. She was delighted!

So far this seems to go well. She got a $5 bill in the mail from Grandma at Halloween. We put it in her wallet. Later that week we were at a store and she asked me for something in the checkout aisle. I told her she could buy it with her money, and she agreed. She made her very first purchase all on her own. I am not sure who was prouder, her or me!

So far, the wallet seems to be helping us teach her about money. She knows she has a savings account with money in it, but it isn't spent - she only spends what's in her wallet. Just this past week, she's been asking for less at stores, and counting her money when she does ask for things. It's a step in the right direction. It seems like the tide is turning. Additionally, since she's still learning numbers, the dollar denominations have been helping her in that area.

It seems our first attempt to thwart consumerism in our child has worked. I am curious, how do you deal with this with your children? Our daughter is still quite young, but I am interested in other ideas as she grows.

Happy football Sunday,

Saturday, November 20, 2010


I'm actually feeling quite a bit better. Thanks for all the get well wishes!  I went out to lunch today with the fam and went to a store to buy boots for kiddo for the winter. We had a coupon for a free meal and hadn't done anything as a family like that in a long time. It was a good day. I wasn't able to eat much, but it was nice to get out.

The boots cost  $36 so that took most of what I had set aside in the bank. I had planned on around $40 and had left $41 in my checking account for when I shopped for them, so now checking's down to $5. I know we can get boots cheaper but when it comes to winter boots for the weather here, I like to pay a little more and know my little darling's feet will be toasty warm and dry. Her winter coat (LL Bean) and snowsuit for this season are hand-me downs and I bought an inexpensive but warm hat and mitten set at Target for her. She's all set to go for the snow!

Buying the boots meant I didn't have any more cash until payday (Wednesday)....or so I thought. When I got home I was cleaning out some paperwork on the hutch and found a $10 bill! Woo hoo! So that will last me until my next check.

 I've calculated our bills for the next payday and it looks like I will have roughly $300 left over. The only thing we absolutely need are haircuts which cost  $37 for the 3 of us. Other than that, I am not sure what we will do with the overage.  We do need to start thinking about Christmas. Typically we cash flow our Christmas money because my husband gets a large commission check on Dec 15th. This year, not sure of our plan - if we will want to save ahead, or just take it out of our larger-than-usual income. It's something to think about. We need to discuss it more.

The other thought I had was oil...I will need to order soon, so maybe we should use our overage toward that. Ahhh, winter in Maine.

I have pretty much resigned myself to not making any large dents in our debt until after Christmas, and I'm okay with that. I had hoped to have the medical bills paid off by then end of the year, but the unexpected $430 one we received a couple of weeks ago pretty much destroyed that hope. At this point, I will be okay with just making it through the holidays on cash only and building our Efund a bit in the meantime. Then, tackling debt come Jan 1. It's not ideal, but it works for me.

I'm just so impatient that I want the debt to go away NOW...but it didn't grow overnight, so I can't expect it to disappear quickly, either. It's a lesson for me. In fact, I think that's one of the biggest lessons in personal finance. The has-to-happen-now attitude is what led us to debt in the first place. It won't lead us out.  Slow and steady wins the race.

Anyhoo, I'm rambling again so I will wrap this up. I am working on our Christmas list for 26 people in Excel right now. I'm glad I have all ready bought some things.  Eeek! How is your holiday shopping going?

Have a great weekend!

P.S. The silver lining to tonsillectomy?  I have lost 11 pounds! I had wanted to lose a few; I'm not overweight, but needed to drop some to be at a weight where I feel I look my best.  Now I am thinking I might try to lose about 8-10 more...if I did I would weigh what I did in college. It's something to think about. As a diet plan, though, I would not recommend surgery. :) I'll go a healthier route if I decide to lose more.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wednesday again

Sorry I have been absent....the recovery from the tonsillectomy has been torturously slow. I'm still not there yet but I am getting there.

Not much has changed on the debt and saving front. I paid bills and updated the balances on the car loans, and also added another $50 to savings. Slowly we're building it up.

We're on cash, it's one week until payday, and I have $41in the bank and $22 in my wallet. The only expense I have this week is possibly new boots for our daughter, if I can find some we like. Also, I am home right now and not driving or going anywhere, so I have had lots of no-spend days. Good for the budget!

I guess that's all. Please pardon the rambling nature of my post as I am still on pretty heavy painkillers.  I will update again this weekend with thoughts on how to spend the second paycheck of the month.

Ta ta for now!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wicked Wednesday

There isn't much news to report. Today was payday and I paid the bills with not much to spare. The first check of the month always gets eaten; the second half of the month we do better.   I haven't paid down much more debt but added another $50 to savings today. Our Efund is growing!

Though there hasn't been much progress on the debt front, a couple good things have happened. I've completed a little bit of Christmas shopping (with cash.)  And more importantly...

It's been one month since I started this blog. And one month since I charged ANYTHING!  Woo hoo!

I'm off now to the hospital to have my tonsils removed. The fridge is full of goodies for my recovery. Please forgive me if I don't post for a few days...or if I do and my posts are full of typos and poor grammar due to the drugs. :)

Have a lovely day,

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sooo, this is a drag

Our unexpected medical bill has absolutely drained us. We have literally about $20 until next Wednesday when I get paid. Oh, and did I mention I am having my tonsils removed Wednesday? Yeah. This sucks.

Should I have not paid that bill in full?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Update on expenses

I've made a little progress on our monthly expenditures:

1. Canceled data plan on my phone. Savings: $20/month
2. Reduced cable bill. Savings : $32/month
3. Deferred student loan payments until June : Savings: $560/month (not really saving, but I don't have to pay it out right now)
4. Groceries:  Reduced this last month by about $25. Not great, but it's something

That's it so far, but it's a little encouraging in the face of a big expense we didn't expect.


Although the Halloween weekend was fun, I have had a bit of discouragement over the past few days. The first was that I WAY overspent this wekeend. Clearly, I should not embark upon a weekend out of town with a large amount of unspoken-for cash sitting in my checking account. I blew about $160 on my debit card on Halloween supplies, food, and gas. Ick.

Secondly, I got an unexpected medical bill in the mail over the weekend. I had thought the balance was taken care of because I hadn't heard from the provider or gotten a statement in about 2 months. Turns out, the office was in transition to a new medical practice/location and they hadn't billed at all during the's a one-man operation more or less, and they just didn't send bills during that time. Though they gave me a large discount on the balance I still owe $430.32.

So, long story short is this: what was a large amount of idle money to be devoted to my goals is now gone. Ugh.  I'm so depressed.

At least I didn't use my credit card...there is at least a ray of hope for me.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What to do?

I'm in a little bit of a quandary as to what to use this paycheck for. I have paid all the bills I need to pay and have about $700 left. I could put it all in my baby Efund and be pretty much done with the $1000 goal, or I could throw it all at the last medical bill.  Anyone have any thoughts on the subject?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I Made It!

....not only am I back from Massachusetts (again), but it's also PAYDAY and I have a whole lotta paycheck to use towards my various targets.  :) I made it through on cash only and I am a happy girl...I will post later with the details.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Muddling through...

I'm back in Maine and still on cash though seriously depleted. Luckily, I am getting a reimbursement tomorrow that should carry me through payday.

I feel like a baby bird who's been thrown out of the nest and is expected to figure out how to fly. There were a couple times on my trip where I thought about stopping at a store...then realized I didn't have my "back up plan" in place (aka my cards) in case I overspent. There IS NO overspend anymore. It was a wake up call!

I'll post in a couple days to show my progress. The good news is I am less than a week from payday and have lots of ideas on how to spend that  a responsible way  :)  Stay tuned...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I was born a ramblin' (wo)man....

And yes, I like the Allman Brothers.

Things are going well so far, and we're just cruising along. I'm still on cash only.

I do travel a fair amount for my job - I'm in Mass right now- and the only thing concerning me right now is making sure I have enough cash for incidentals and toll money for my trips. I use a corporate card for hotels, meals, gas etc., but there are things I need to pay out of pocket and then submit for reimbursement.

Since I am new to the cash-only plan, I'm being very cautious with my cash to make sure that it lasts through next Wednesday when I get paid.

For those of you who travel for your job, how do you budget for toll money? I don't know how to plan ahead for the cost, since the tolls on each trip vary, so I'm hoarding my cash so I have enough. Is there a better way?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I'm very tempted to spend...on bills.

My husband and I both have a paycheck coming at the end of the month. His is earmarked for the mortgage, 2nd grocery trip (we shop every two weeks) and final daycare bill for the last week of October, all due November 1st.

All the bills we pay with my paychecks are paid through the end of the month. I took a look ahead and I only have two small bills due on November 1...they total $46.

I have enough in checking to pay those two small bills and still have $22 left, on top of the cash in my wallet ($35.)

Part of me says don't do it. I'm new to this cash-only thing, what if something happens, etc etc.

But the other part says....if I pay those now, nothing will be due until after my first November paycheck. Which would mean I could devote my ENTIRE 2nd October check (coming 10/27) to savings and debt.
I am really tempted to do this.

Sobering Thought

A coworker's young son died unexpectedly last week. They had no money set aside for his funeral, and don't have a lot of money to begin with. We all chipped in to put money in a card for him; I contributed $20.

Two things struck me about this:

1. I can't imagine the grief of losing a child, coupled with the stress of not knowing how to pay for his burial. It's an unthinkable thing. My heart goes out to them.

2. When you're on a cash only diet, pulling a crisp $20 out of your wallet to contribute hurts. I can afford it, but I thought about my contribution much more because it was cash in hand. Funny how that happens.

Bottom line:  Given the chance to do it over, I would still chip in the $20. If it makes the burden their family faces even a tiny bit less, it's worth it to me. But it was also a great life lesson.

Feeling Bad

Since I posted those numbers I have been feeling really crappy.

But, I have to remind myself that it could be a LOT worse. This time last year, we had over $4,000 in medical bills and another small credit card balance and those are PAID OFF. The first target on our debt chart, a medical debt, is to one hospital. That's all we have left after paying off about eight other doctors and hospitals more medical bill.

So we have been doing something right.  We just need to do better.

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly - Mostly Ugly.

Here's a list of our monthly expenses and let me just say, wow. We spend a LOT of money on monthly bills.

House 1464
Truck pymt285
Car pymt284
Stu Loan 1190
Stu Loan 2370
Car Ins112
Life Ins26
Misc Expenses*50

I wasn't really sure what we pay on those last few categories so I honestly guessed based on receipts from this month.

A couple things:
What I noticed right off the bat is that our expenses are super high. Besides that, though, our take home pay (after health insurance, short and long term disability, 401k contributions, and automatic payments to savings) is typically around $4600-$4700 a month. So where is that $150-$250 extra going?  My expenses, big as they are, don't total that amount. And that's just an average month....if my husband does well commission-wise, we bring home MORE than that. I guess that's why I have been haphazard about debt repayment, which you'll notice isn't included here. I'm throwing $10 here, $20 there at it with no rhyme or reason. No wonder we're all over the place.

What are we spending our money on?

The only good news is this: without trimming anything out of our budget, or adding any additional income to our cash flow, we now make enough to cover all our bills plus have money left over towards debt.  I think with a little tweaking we can free up a  big chunk of cash towards getting rid of this burden.

I'll tackle the bills in the next post. I know a lot can be trimmed, so I will do a line-by-line analysis next.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Cash Flow

Okay, more on the money situtation:

Our current gross income varies from year to year because my husband works on salary plus commission. Last year, he grossed about $57,000 and this year is on pace for about $62,000. Combined with my income, we should end up at around $95,000 this year.

The fact is, we make good money for the area in which we live. And the fact that we're swamped with debt is embarassing.

Here's another confession: we don't have a budget. We know what we spend on fixed expenses, but it's the other categories like gas, groceries, personal care, entertainment, etc. which are our downfall.

I'm going to put together a list of monthly expenses in my next post. I know there's a lot of fat that could be trimmed off our expenditures, but first I need to get everything down on paper.

Regarding assets:

We do have some savings. Here's a current snapshot:

Cash: $35
Checking: $65
E-fund: $141
401K 1: $XX,XXX
401K 2: $XX,XXX

So, there is a bright side. All our bills are current and are paid through Nov 1 except one that we haven't received yet. We have health insurance, life insurance, heat, food, lights and gas in the cars.

So my next steps are to figure out our expenses and also focus on some ways to build our E fund back up, since car repairs pretty much demolished it recently. I do have two auctions going on Ebay right now that end tomorrow, so I will funnel that money over to the savings acct as soon as they end.


Dirty Debts...Done Dirt Cheap

Well here goes nothing!

Medical                                       $878
Credit Card$3,158
Student Loan 1$24,682
Student Loan 2$55,364
Total non-house debt:$104,330

Yikes, that hurts. I will post more about our income and expenses also.

One week.

It has officially been one week since I charged anything. I have been carrying cash and have used my debit card a couple of times, but that's it! I'm celebrating this small victory!

To be perfectly honest, I really thought this would be harder. I have had a couple unexpected expenses this week, so I am lower on cash than I would like, but I'm OK so far.

I've gotten the debt figures together and will post those next.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Back Story

My husband and I met in college. We were 21 and 25 years old at the time, and both of us had student loans and some other small debts. 

Two years later we were graduated and got our first apartment together. Since we both had decent paying jobs, we weren't content to just get by. We got a nice place and promptly went about furnishing it - on credit, of course.

Two more years later the cracks began to appear. We were over our heads, and worse, employment problems began to plague us. Though we both had bachelor's degrees, one or both of us were at one point underemployed or unemployed.

It's a classic tale: credit card bills piled up and pretty soon we couldn't even pay the rent in a timely manner. Bill collectors started calling. I was solely managing the finances and I was doing a poor job of it. I'd pay off a chunk of debt and then 'something would come up' and we'd be right back where we started.

Then we got married and soon after, realized this was no way to live. We did what we had to do: tightened our belts, paid what we could, moved to a dumpy and cheap apartment, sold stuff, and hunkered down to weather the storm.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, things began to turn around. We both got great jobs that we still have today.  We had two used cars that were paid for. The huge student loans were lingering as always, but other than that, no other debt. I had credit cards, but there wasn't much on them. (My husband wisely abstained from credit cards after that first debacle.) Things were looking good. So, what did we do? We had a baby. And then we wanted to leave the crappy apartment, of course!

We built a modest home in a great area. We moved in July 2008 - and beside the mortgage we now had, and those ever-pesky student loans, we managed to stay out of further debt, largely due to a couple of unexpected cash windfalls.

But, alas, the self destructive spending returned as it always did, and shortly thereafter my aging Jeep began to act up. We purchased a nice used SUV - on credit of course.  And then, six months later, my husband's car needed major repairs worth more than the car itself,  so we financed yet another vehicle.

Since then we managed to pay off our credit card bills one more time. Murphy then again came to call in the form of two unexpected surgeries in our family, and despite having health insurance, we were left with some pretty hefty bills. Of course we fell right back into credit card debt again...except now, we had a mortgage, two car payments, the student loans, AND the medical and credit card bills. We were worse off than ever, albeit in nicer surroundings. Frustrated and tired, I vowed to find a way off the debt rollercoaster, once and for all.

In August of this year, facing my 35th birthday, I decided I'd had enough. Over the years when I was motivated and paying down debt I read every personal finance book, blog and message board I could. I revisited those sources and began to formulate a plan. Dave Ramsey's ideas stuck with me, especially since he advocated for an emergency fund - something we have never consistently had. In many of our worst debt crises, a cushion would have helped significantly if not solved our problem. Why hadn't I thought of this before? This August, I started cleaning our basement and garage and selling everything I could on Ebay, Craigslist, and at garage sales. In only a few weeks I had earned $850 outside of my normal job! I was stoked! I was only $150 short of Dave's recommended $1000 baby emergency fund. Then I would be rolling on eliminating debt next. I had a Plan for the first time in a long time.

So what happened?  Well, Murphy did, of course! (Murphy's a real bastard if you ask me.) My SUV needed some repairs. Luckily, we had the money in savings to cover the bill.

A strange thing happened when I left the auto repair center after picking up my SUV that day. I realized something: I had needed car repairs. I didn't stress about where the money would come from. I didn't reach for plastic. I had the money for what I needed. And while it sucked dishing out all that money, I felt.....calm.


Flash forward two months:  I had another epiphany this weekend. I was reading a personal finance blog (surprise) and the couple I read about became debt free this past Saturday, 10/9/10. The author went on at length about how they did it, and how good it felt to be free of the debt burden.

I thought: I said the same thing, but as I paid things off, I never stopped using credit.

I got up, went to my wallet, took out my cards and locked them in the safe in our basement.

Three days later, and here I sit, typing away on this beautiful fall day in Maine as I enjoy the sun. I haven't used credit or debted in any way since Saturday. And I began this blog. And you know what? I'm okay. I'm really fine. The sky hasn't fallen because I carried cash only.

And that's a good feeling.

Why Now?

It's time. I have, in the past, done tons of research and even managed to clear our credit card debt...a couple of times, actually.  But the truth of the matter is this:  since I was eighteen years old, I have always owed someone something.


My husband and I each came into our marriage with debt. We have, from time to time, managed to rid ourselves of large parts of it. But it's never been gone completely.

Today is our wedding anniversary. What better gift to ourselves than commit to changing our future? Our daughter is old enough now that she asks questions about money. What should I tell her about managing finances if we can't manage ours?

This is why it's NOW.

On Saturday, 10/9/10, I took my credit cards out of my wallet and locked them in the safe in our basement. (My husband doesn't carry any and hasn't for years.) From here on out, it's cash or debit only. And that's why I entitled this blog what I did...because the simple truth is, though I have often paid down debt, I've never actually stopped spending. This time, it's different.

There. I said it. That was a load off my chest. Up next...the dirty laundry. I'll lay all the debt dirt out there. I'll start with our story.

Taking a Deep Breath

Good morning blog world:

Well, here I am, joining the ranks of personal finance blogging with my own little blog. I'll be using this space to share my thoughts as I embark upon a journey to kill debt, build wealth, and live a great life.

The hows and whys of my debt and how it came to be will come in a seperate post. Suffice it to ain't pretty.  (Is it ever?) 

If you're seeing this post, welcome. I hope you come back for more.

Have a great day,