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2011, It's a Wrap!

January 12th, 2012 at 08:27 pm

So 2011 was the beginning of my total money makeover following the Dave Ramsey plan. I am glad to report it has been an amazing process and has literally changed our circumstances and our future! Here is a snapshot of our successful year:

January 2011 total debt = $103,565
This eye popping number consisted of a student loan, braces, 2 credit cards and 3 cars.

As of January 2012, our new debt balance = $43,794...while we are cash flowing about $12k in college tuition for DD.

It has been a very interesting year....I hate to say hard bc it is just so stupid we put ourselves in that situation to begin with. We did deserve the discomfort bc we clearly enjoyed too much stupid spending! Honestly, it was hard and involved a lot of creativity, mathematical hoop-jumping, budget-crunching, dollar-stretching, discount-asking and unhappy kids are just a few descriptions that come to mind. We did have a few things here & there that we splurged on but for the most part we were gazelle intense on getting this debt gone!

Of course our plan is to have everything paid off this year and live debt free forever! We are also selling our house now bc we plan to relocate soon....this should also give us some cash to put towards the debt. If we do sell, we plan to rent for a bit and save up enough to pay doe our next house or save enough to pay half....I'm not super worried about that right now but it would be nice to achieve that as well.

This site has also been a great tool for inspiration throughout this last year. While misery does love company (haha), the shared wisdom and success stories have been very motivating as well. ...so thank you all for the helpful information!

Now I'm off to do some more budget crunching....wish me luck ;-)

Another doctor bill reduced!

November 29th, 2011 at 06:25 am

On my previous entry, I was talking about some doctor bills that came in for both of my older daughters. One had a birthmark removed and one had some testing done. Neither had any prior medical expenses this year so we have not met the deductible....which means I basically had to pay for a lot of this stuff out of pocket! I have already depleted my HSA which is usually only $1000 a year so that was no help.

Anyway - I'm stuck with 3 doctor bills to pay and I wasn't too thrilled about it b/c I'm still trying to get my cars paid off. It occurred to me to just ask for a lower price to "settle" the account. Turns out that works pretty well!! I got the first one reduced from $697 to $600. I recently got the second one reduced from $650 to $500! I tried it on the 3rd one and they turned me down...their reason was that their rates were 'contracted' with the insurance company and to reduce them would be to violate that contracted rate. Blah, o-well....it was a little difficult to argue b/c I don't know anything about that. So they offered to let me pay it out at $65 per month, no interest -- I said ok. I think it is something I will always do now, just ask for a lower price to settle the account. Worst case scenario is they tell you no, best case you save some money! I'm always game for saving some moo-lah.

On another note, I did do some Black Friday shopping. I don't think I like the new format of the stores opening at 10 pm on Thursday night b/c many more people come out!! I prefer the super early mornings where many people prefer to NOT get out of bed. It is still crazy early in the morning, but not quite as crazy as it was last Thursday night. I didn't have too much stuff I was trying to get -- turns out I was pretty lucky with what I did get! I got a $10 crockpot, $10 blender, a $200 Compaq laptop and a few little odds & ends for small gifts and usables for our family. In total we spent $325 and I think we did really good considering what we got. We got home pretty late and didn't do any other shopping on that Friday in STORES but I did snag a few things online. I'm not a huge fan of online shopping - mainly b/c I like to see/touch/try things in the store. PLUS there is rarely any issues with me checking out or returning items, etc. Of course the items I purchase on Friday are with a company that has a huge backlog so I did not get any confirmation of my order nor did anything hit my bank account. So I waited all day and then finally called the customer service department....they don't see the order either and advice me to place another one if I wanted the sale price that ends at 12 am PT. So I place a 2nd order for the same items and go to bed. I wake up to receive an email confirmation of the 1st order that they did not see...and shortly thereafter I get another email cofirmation of my 2nd order. HA -- so then I get back on the phone with customer service to try and cancel one of the orders which have already processed against my checking account. Errrhhhggg...this is why I don't like online shopping, too many things can go wrong and you have to WAIT to get your money back if needed. O-well.

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving holiday. I got to spend some time with my mom and her husband. Very fun time and we are looking forward to Christmas now!

Having fun yet? No.

November 18th, 2011 at 02:43 am

Still trucking along with our budgeting and paying off debt, etc. I ran into a little snafu that I completely drove myself into....regarding the HUSBAND and now I am really questioning just how serious he is on getting out of debt.

Here's what happen: Over this past summer we got to a point where we paid off everything but the cars which included my husband's dream truck that was LEASED, my car & my oldest daughter's car - both at 0% interest. Anyway, the truck was a real drag on the bank account due to the payment and the gas consumption ON TOP of being a lease deal. I had broached the topic of selling off cars and he wasn't wanting to do it -- said we needed good cars b/c we had went through hell trying to keep older cars running and stuff before (true story). I told him we didn't have to have old clunker cars but we could get nicer used cars for less money. But he still wanted to just keep what we have, pay them off, drive them forever, etc. Still wasn't good enough for me...I just couldn't rationalize why we would spend 2 more years paying off all those cars when we could get rid of them and be done much sooner. So while all of this is happening, he is also talking about wanting a nicer guitar. He is a musician (not professional) who has been playing a guitar since his teen years -- he is very good and loves music, etc. It is a reasonable request but it was just not in the budget. One day he had started in on the guitar again and I just threw it out there, "we'll get the guitar if you sell your truck!" Suprisingly, he agreed and then we sold his truck. Now he is wanting the guitar and I am still wanting to pay off debt...I'm not backing out of my end of the deal but I was hoping we could hold off for a bit. He is temporarily appeased but his expectation is to get the guitar before we are out of debt. His truck had to be replaced with another car that we owe on so it is not like that payment is gone -- it is just replaced with something much more cost effecient overall (gas, payment, longevity, etc.). Anyway, I made a random comment the other day to his ongoing guitar discussions about "if we got a guitar now, it would have to come out of the emergency fund" -- just trying to see what his response would be. I'm thinking he would say, "no, we don't need to do that -- it is our EF" but all I heard was crickets. He seems to be ok with using the EF for his guitar!! I didn't say anything b/c I know I am the one who got myself into this situation but I was very concerned. I thought we were on the same page...but that is not the case. I am a little saddened but not suprised to be honest. Not sure what to do!!

The wind in my sails....is slowing fading

November 9th, 2011 at 06:09 am

I wrote a blog entry yesterday but somehow managed to wipe out my entire screen before I could post it...so I was very annoyed & decided to put it off, wasn't gonna write it again. So this is my 2nd attempt -- hopefully I don't blow this thing up.

My motivation has been struggling lately...making me feel depressed. We are 11 months into our debt snowball and have paid off over half of our debt and will be on track to have reduced our overall debt by at least $70K by the end of the year. While it is an exicting milestone, it is also somewhat nauseating b/c this has been a big ole whippin!! it is hard to squeeze every penny out of your budget week after week...pushing the limit every month and really restricting our spend. I am also the enforcer - my husband is onboard with the plan but sometimes I feel like I am the one having to keep us on track. I have thought of 'quitting' once or twice but then I think to myself, quit for what?? so I can be broke forever instead of just these few miserable months? So quitting would make me ultra stupid -- just doesn't make sense to quit and go back to what we were doing. So having resolve that internal conflict, I have no fear that I will quit but I can still complain that this plain sucks!! It will be something that will stay with me forever -- will not be repeating this again.

On a brighter note, I did some 'dave ramsey' negotiating today and it worked! One of the things I've been putting off buying are new tennis shoes for me...mine still look good/clean but they are at least 3 years old and they are broken down internally/structurally so they hurt my feet after a while. Anyway, I had a fairly large medical bill budgeted to pay this pay period (about $698) and that is pretty much all that is stitting in my bank account right now. I found some shoes today that are what I wanted and they were on sale for $20 off so I took a gamble that I could call the dr. office and offer them LESS to settle my account in full today. So I went ahead & bought the shoes and made the call to my dr office when I got home. Not suprisingly she said she would have to ask the doctor and call me back when I asked if I could setting in full for $600 today....she called back in about 10 mins and said YES! I was very pleased that it worked out b/c I do feel guilty about buying new shoes right now which is why I kept putting it off, etc. BUT I am tired of my feet hurtingn all the time so I don't think this was a wasteful expenses. I have 2 other larger dr bills I have budgeted to pay in the next pay period...I'm gonna try it again! See if I can knock off about $100 if I offer to 'pay it off today' :-)

I'm back to the grindstone for now -- squeezing dimes out of pennies and quarters out of nickels...wish me luck.

Debt update & other things

November 1st, 2011 at 03:59 am

Haven't posted in a while so I thought I would make some time tonight. From a debt standpoint we are still clucking along with only a few hiccups along the way. We've had several expenses come up that I wasn't anticipating so our snowball has not been as big as it could have been over the last couple of pay periods. A little discouraging but I find that I wouldn't have done anything different if I could do it over again....so it is what it is. I've had an emergency flight to the northeast to be with a dear friend who lost her husband unexpectedly, our TV went out and we've had a few smaller trips & expenses come up that we needed to take (family weddings, etc.) PLUS several unexpected medical expenses came in from both of my older daughters. I take back my earlier comment -- I would take back one of these medical expenses had I realized I was using an 'out of network' facility for one of the bills! Apparently that would have saved me lots of money...but I didn't ask the right question when I was researching. I asked them if they took my insurance and they said YES...so I assumed that meant they were in-network. Shows how much I know -- i don't have many run-ins with the medical world thankfully but next time, I will be dang sure to clarify my questions to avoid that extra cost for out of network crap. Anyway, all of those extra expenses collectively has cost me about $3,000+ so it has been quite a set back for my debt snowball. I've still been able to make a fairly sizable payment to get my car paid off within 2-3 months but it has pushed out my overall timeline to get it gone!

Aside from this fun fall season of mishaps and financial mayham, I am annoyed with myself for not being more organized. I didn't even pull out my halloween stuff this year. Not a major life issue of course...but it is small stuff like that I don't like to skip out on b/c I know my kids like it, etc. I've just been too busy and very forgetful about every day stuff b/c my brain is overloaded. The house is a mess and I seem to be putting off more and more stuff until later...so I am always rushing around, forgetting stuff and everything is a mess!! I don't like it and it is not very typical of me but it seems to have become more common these days. I can only hope that November will slow down and return to normal...otherwise I'm going to have do something drastic -- what, I have no idea, but drastics times call for drastic measures, right? BTW - the baseball playoffs & world series are always a 'stop down' for me too so that is part of the reason I'm so behind...I've neglected some of the stuff I would normally do in the evenings b/c I was screaming, I mean watching, the sad Texas Rangers thoughout their playoff run and tragic ending. :-(

Anyway, cheers to a simplified life and slowing down this November!

My list of stupid financial mistakes

September 20th, 2011 at 03:43 am

Brace yourself, this is going to be ugly. This is my list of financial blunders that I hope to overcome in the future and NEVER repeat again. I don't know why I've been so terrible with money before but I am determined to pay off debt and stay out of debt. I hope to teach my children to avoid my financial mistakes as well. it is very important to me that they do not follow my footsteps.

1) For some reason having a nicer car was always important to me. I don't know why -- i wasn't going for luxury or a status car but it was always important for me to have a car that was not a clunker or older than my mother. I have worked since I was 15 so I think from that point I assumed I would always be working so I could 'afford' a car. Anyway, I do recall going through the process of buying cars and then upgrading, upgrading, even before I turned 20. Dummy.

2) Just out of high school, I took out a student loan that I didn't understand to go to college that charged me waaayyy too much money. I don't even recall knowing how much I was borrowing at any point during the process. Completely oblivious. I did graduate with an associates degree and over $12K in student loan debt.

3) I married my highschool nightmare right after I graduated. For some reason I seemed to think that he was capable of paying our bills and being responsible so I was not invovled in the financial aspect of our marriage at all. I think I KNEW how terrible it was so I 'left it up to him' just so I wouldn't have to deal with it. That was a bad choice. It was ugly -- cars, toys, 4 wheelers, and stuff we could not afford or make payments on. He was also a big gambler so we were broke 99.99% of the time. It got so bad that his mother had to take over our finances and pay our bills. I am not blaming him for it but he was the main reason for our circumstances. I was so stupid b/c I did not take a stand to change any of it...i just went along with it. Needless to say, we divorced back in the 90's.

4) After we divorced, I bought a house of my own and happily enough I did very well with managing my finances. The issue was with a car again -- at the time I had a nice older car that I only owed about $3500. Instead of paying it off and driving it for as long as I could, I had to trade it in for a $15K high interest rate car loan on something 'newer'.

5) After about 2-3 years, I had to trade that car in again for a 'new' car....and so the cycle began of rolling in negative equity into the new loan.

6) After getting engaged to my (now) husband, we buy my ring on a credit card. He also sells his house & I sell my house and we build a new house...a huge new house. Together we were probably making $10K a month so we signed up for a $2400 house payment. We should have just stayed in my house and not sell it.

7) After a while, I got the bright idea to refinance the house and put in a pool and include it in the new loan. So we did that and spent $30K on a new pool and increase the amount of our home loan.

8) We have $1000 a month in car payments that cost a small fortune to fill up with gas.

9) After another 2 years or so, we decide to sell our house and relocate. This is just BEFORE the housing market crashes...but it is already on a downhill slope. We went ahead & bought the 2nd house anyway...so now we are carrying 2 mortgages.

11) The new house (current house) was in shambles so we spent our cash savings of $30K to redo the entire house. We also put another $15K on credit for 'no interest till...' deals. Somehow we ended up at one point with $38K in debt on a BoA credit card -- flooring, granite, among other things, etc.

12) The first house did not sell outright -- someone approached us asking to buy the house with us owner financing for the first year. We agree and sign a contract with them. A year later they bail on the house and it is in shambles. My husband was unemployed at this time so we could not save the house and efforts to sell it failed. We foreclose and end up paying a $12K settlement on the smaller 2nd lien with Citibank.

13) We somehow manage to pay down the $38K but I am still leasing cars....then I run up another credit card with bigger ticket items. We weren't using our credit cards all the time either so it was strange how the balance jumps up! It was just stupid, thoughtless spending. Anyway, that got back up to about $20K give or take a little. I decided to pay it off with 401K money. Genius I know.

14) Taxes come due and KILL us -- we get our butts handed to us on the foreclosure situation + the 401K early withdrawal. When we settled the 2nd loan for $12K, the rest of the discharged balance was now income for us. So we owed the IRS several thousand dollars that we have to payoff over a couple of months at high interest.

15) At this point we still haven't learned our lesson and we continue with the new car leases and we are not saving a damn thing.

16) We get out from under the tax bill and would you believe me if I tell you the credit cards creep up again. Of course you would based on this list of monumental screw ups. Looking back I cannot believe I took from my 401K to pay off a credit card only to run it up again. It just doesn't get any more stupid than that.

17) Another embarrassing insertion is that my husband and I invested in a multi-level company to be his replacement career.... We took money from his 401K to pay for this inventory and the business did nothing so we lost that money too. We found out we were not natural born sales people or recruiters.

Several years pass and I am starting to get how much money we've made and how much money we have completely blown. It is shocking & appalling how much money came & went. I start to realize I need to make changes but for some reason we still get new cars...but at 0% interest (wink)!! And when I look back on our lifestyle, we are not really flashy or rich looking people. It wasn't really about looking rich or glamorous or having the best...I don't really know what our motivation was other than we thought we could afford it so we bought it.

Other than dealing with my husband's layoff and the foreclsoure on the 2nd house, during this entire timeline we never missed payments or were late on anything so we maintained excellent credit. That was partly what fed the problem, our credit score was probably around the 800's so we could easily get credit for whatever we wanted to buy. Our credit cards alone offered up to $60-70K in available credit. TV's, furniture, cars, a 4 wheeler at one point -- getting credit was super easy for us. Even after the foreclosure, our credit score dropped to the lower 700 range and we still qualified for 0% financing after we explained that 'one blip on the radar' to an otherwise very good payment history. We had too much available credit and my Dumb A$$ assumed that if I could afford the payment, I could afford to buy it.

After this legacy of disaster, we are finally on a written budget. While we are still paying off some debt, the credit cards are finally gone and cancelled. The student loan is paid off. My oldest daughter's tuition has been paid with cash and hopefully we will continue to cash flow college for her. We mainly just have car debt remaining other than our house. We are working to address this and I just sold off one of my cars. The plan is to pay off all cars and keep them forever...and if need, replace with used cars we can pay for with cash. After that, we will work to get our EF in place and double our efforts to prepare for retirement and ultimately pay off our house. We also want to save money for our family tree and give to those who need help.

God willing, he will continue to bless us with employment and our very good incomes. We understand how critical it has become for us to be smart and plan for our FUTURE instead of plan for what we can buy today.

That is all for now. If I think of any other completely embarrassing and colossal mistakes, I will add them to the list. Right now I am not looking forward to the list of OMG's you all will post in the comments.

Debt & Car Update

September 14th, 2011 at 12:55 pm

So on my last update I shared that I sold a car and reduced my overall debt by $28K...but that left our family with just one car. I personally didn't mind not having a 2nd car b/c I knew how much money we were saving but our current lifestyle just doesn't work with only having one car. Don't get me wrong, I would love nothing more than to simplify and REDUCE/REDUCE/REDUCE our lifestyle to a much more sedate, one-car family lifestyle but it is out of the question for now.

Anyway, so we set about searching for a replacement car under the $10K mark -- and by under $10K, I'm thinking more aroud $6K or $7K but I was open to other options on the higher end for the right deal. I was very suprised at how difficult it was to find a decent car in my area without it being at or over $10K with a ton of miles on it. My husband and I spent a full day looking at dealership after dealership, etc. We also combed the ads and craigslist for private seller offers and we found some potential there but when we actually saw the car, the condition of the car was usually NOT what was advertised. PLUS there is also a ton of "Salvage Title" cars out there -- which is scary so you had to watch out for those situations. Turns out the used car market in my area is not a great one right now for buyers -- prices are high for what you are getting in terms of condition & mileage. Last night I ended up buying a 2005 Honda Accord EX for around the $9500 range and it was hard for me to pull the trigger on the deal!! I was trying to be super careful and not make another car mistake. At the end of the day when I thought about how much trouble we had just finding this car with 108K miles on it and in good condition, I had to resign myself that I couldn't wait forever for the perfect car and this one was one of the better ones I've found. So I did the deal and I don't have any regrets about the car (yet) but I do have a little bit of heartache about getting some new debt. When I sold my other car, I had to cover some negative equity so I pretty much depleted my savings. The good news is I should have this one paid off in a couple months but it does still throw off my snowball timeline for getting completely out of debt next year!!

I am off to start my work day now! Hope you all have a great & blessed Wednesday! :-)

Sold a car today

September 5th, 2011 at 03:53 am

Well, for those of you who may care -- I sold my car today! I did not make money on it and I had to come up with some money to cover the negative equity I had on a prior trade-in (I know, genius move). Anyway, we are down to just one car now between my husband & I so we will be looking for a super-duper good deal on a economical car. My husband seems to be in a hurry but I am not...i don't want to rush into something that won't get us through a couple years.

TRUE story and kinda funny: the car I sold was a Toyota Prius...LOVED this car and would have kept it and sold my husband's car if we thought his would sell better. Just so happens my car is somewhat in high demand b/c it is mostly manufactured in Japan which we all know has been dealing with the earthquake/tsunami issues so production is down (supposedly). Please don't quote me any Toyota know-it-all's, I'm just repeating what my sales person told me a few months ago. Anyway, I went in to get an 'official odometer reading' right before I sold it (private party) so i could cancel the extended warranty and get the cash refund (the extended warranty was not part of the deal). So as I was explaining what I needed, the guy interrupts me and offers to buy my car for HIGHER than what I was selling it for via private party. I was shocked into silence...NEVER has a car dealer done that but I was interested in what they had to offer. Turns out it was several hundred dollars more than what I was already getting and it would have lowered my out of pocket, but I felt like I needed to pass and honor my deal I had brokered with the person who bought my car. If it had been a significant amount, I would have given it a 2nd thought...but for just a few hundred, I thought I would save myself the embarrassement and uncomfortable conversation of 'killing' the deal with my buyer. So I thanked them & told them I would be in touch. If my deal would have fallen through, I would have just took the car to toyota and let them buy it. I was happy with 2 prospective buyers at the time.

I am happy with the transaction even though I loved the car!! So cute and wonderful on gas!! This deal offloads about $28K in car debt and brings us down to about $45K of debt to pay off over the next 12 months. According to my budget outlook, we should have it paid off sooner than 12 months but I'm sure there will be little things along the way that may impact that timeline. This also lowers our insurance rates too so there is a savings of several hundred dollars coming up on a renewal next month too. So yayy!

EVEN FUNNIER STORY: I am now super impatient to get this $45K gone!! Before we sold the car, we were dealing with about $73K in debt and MENTALLY that was definitely a bigger chunk to chew over a short time. With much of that now gone, I'm ready to get crazy and eliminate this ASAP too! Good news is I'm hoping to pay off another $15K by the end of the year so I will have about $30K going into 2012. Come on big money! :-)

Selling a Car with Negative Equity

August 29th, 2011 at 02:26 am

hi Folks -- I am on a mission to get out of debt. My latest plan of attack is to sell a call that I owe more than it is worth. Here are the details:

I owe $28K
I have an offer from someone to buy it for $22K
KBB says private party value is $24K

I have the money ($6K) to cover the spread but I don't know if it is stupid to pay that much to get rid of this debt?

I haven't really done this before and I've made mistakes so I am not really sure if I know what I am doing...?

Any advice from anyone on whether to take the deal or hope for someone else to come along and make a slightly better offer (and maybe save me $1k-$2k)?

Getting rid of this debt would bring me down to roughly $45K left to pay off by next summer/fall timeframe.

Any good thoughts?