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Counting Chickens

February 20th, 2024 at 05:13 pm

Lately I’ve been counting my chickens before they’re hatched… which is never a good thing. I’m so sick of this monkey called debt on my back and I’m working out all the scenarios I can to pay it off! We have some money coming in from various places over the next few months and if it all comes in as expected and when expected, we could possibly be credit card debt free by the end of May. But that is only if all the stars align.

Teachers in my district have not been working under a contract for salary since August. Our union reached a tentative agreement last week for a 6.25% raise (retroactive to July 1st) and 2% one-time monies. With that check I would net between $4500 - $5000 after retirement contributions and taxes.

I am also the soccer coach at my school. When I get paid after the season, I will net $1750, again after retirement contributions and taxes.

March is a three-paycheck month for my husband, one of two every year. We will put a chunk of the extra paycheck into savings and fund our gas and food envelopes like normal. However, retirement and benefits are not taken out of his third paycheck, so we should have an extra $1100 to put towards debt in March.

Lastly, I am selling one of my rings to my daughter’s boyfriend to be used as an engagement ring. (We gave him a good deal, but since the ring is already paid for, it’s all profit for us.) That will be another $1000 to go towards our credit card debt.

The extra monies alone add up to $8350! But, again, as of right now, these are all speculative funds, they haven’t hit our bank account yet.

All of these “extras” are in addition to our normal debt payments which range anywhere from $750 – 1000 a month depending on what expenses we have each month.

I don’t know if everything will pan out as planned but sometimes, it’s good to dream!

February Debt Update

February 16th, 2024 at 05:55 pm

This debt update is based on our most recent credit card statement which posted on 2/16/24. I do this mid-month because our credit card closes on the 15th. I can't wait until we are credit card debt free!

As always, we are not paying off our debt as fast as I would like, but I am happy to say that our debt decreased! It actually went down by more than I was expecting this month because we have had some unexpected expenses pop up!

Here is our current credit card debt total:

            $10,000.30 at 19.99% interest  

Our total credit card debt stands at: $10,000.30 That’s still a lot of debt, but we have seen more progress in the last 18 months than we have seen in the last 8 years. All we can do is just keep plugging away. We are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and the light is getting bigger and brighter every month.

Plus side: Our debt decreased! We have the least amount of credit card debt that we have had in several years! This is the first time our credit card debt has been below $10,000 since before we moved in 2017! (Although it’s not technically, I’m counting it because when our car was stolen, they drove over a bridge and that triggered a $25 charge on our FastTrack. Since the charge wasn’t ours, and will be reimbursed, I am counting it as our debt is below $10,000, because without that charge, we would have been under $10,000!) That is a major plus! We paid off $760.66 of credit card debt (after interest); that amounts to 7% of our current debt! And we have paid off 60% of our total debt from our high of almost $25,000! The amount of interest we pay monthly has decreased by over $150 per month from its peak! I’m super happy that I received an expected paycheck at an unexpected time to push us past the $10,000 threshold!

Down side: No matter how much debt we pay off, it’s never enough. I’m a little bitter about the stolen car triggering an automatic purchase so we aren’t technically under $10,000, but all I can do is roll with it! Of course, I hate that nearly two hundred dollars went towards interest on our debt instead of towards the principal! We still have a ways to go before we are out of credit card debt!

Looking forward to: continued progress on our debt. I’m excited for March because it has an extra payday for my husband (which won’t actually affect our debt until our April statement, but I’m still excited for it).

I hope your debt freedom journey is smooth, uneventful, and beyond successful!

Murphy... Again. And in a Big Way!

February 14th, 2024 at 06:16 pm

One step forward, two steps back! That’s how I feel right now. We are making good progress on out debt. We are budgeting and saving money in our sinking funds. But life keeps throwing us curve balls!

Last night my husband’s car was stolen. My son had to drive over an hour to work so they traded cars that day. It was stolen off the street in broad daylight. There is video surveillance of it being stolen, but all we could do was file a police report. (It could have been worse. I’m so glad it’s just a stolen car and wasn’t a carjacking or worse! And I’m so thankful that my son is safe!)

It was our “reliable” car and our car that got the best gas mileage. It was a 2015 Hyundai Sonata. We have two remaining vehicles, a 1990 Chevy Silverado and a 2001 Ford Ranger. (Full disclosure, my mom lives with us and graciously allows us to use her 2017 Subaru Forrester which is also very reliable and gets good gas mileage but isn’t OURS.)

Luckily, we have full coverage on that vehicle so we will call insurance and go from there. We should get around $7000 from insurance. We have started a new car fund, but we haven’t saved as much as we would like because we are having to buy a new vehicle earlier than expected.

We will have $12,000 to work with. We haven’t decided if we will buy the best car we can for $12,000 or buy new and have a car payment. (I know the math and I’m not asking for suggestions, just sharing where we are.)

We tend to prefer new cars but then we drive them until they die (or get stolen in this case). We have purchased 4 new cars in our 23 years together: 2001 Honda Civic (drove for 9 years when it was totaled in a hit and run accident), 2003 Santa Fe (daily driver for 12 years (7 with me, 5 with my husband) and kept as our “Home Depot” car for another 4 years), 2010 Chevy Traverse (driven for 12 years and 230,000 miles until the repairs started to become too frequent and costly), and our 2015 Hyundai Sonata (driven for 9 years and 170,000 until it was stolen).

Last night and today have been rough, but I am a glass half-full person so I am looking at the bright side. Everybody is safe, no one was hurt, and my husband’s work is very understanding and working remotely indefinitely won’t be a problem.

It just sucks but it could always be worse. Whine over.

Extra Paycheck

February 13th, 2024 at 03:52 pm

I AM SO EXCITED!!! I got an expected paycheck at a very UNexpected time.

I was the assistant flag football coach at my school this year. It is a paid position (that I did NOT want, but 3 different people asked me to take the job… long story involving lots of work drama!). I knew I was going to be paid as a coach, but I thought the check would come in summer. I was, and still am, the head soccer coach at my school and I was paid in July last year. Anyway, unexpectedly, this paycheck came on 2/9.

After taxes, I received just over $900. I put one third, $300 into savings and the remaining $600+ went towards our credit card debt.

Our credit card cycle closes on the 14th and I think and am hoping, this extra payment will push me past the $10,000 threshold. It has been so hard to get below $10,000 and we are so close.  

I was tempted to put the entire amount towards our debt, but I am happier splitting it up and adding some towards our savings. Security is a big deal to me, and I am trying to grow our savings while at the same time paying down debt. We have two main goals right now: decrease debt and increase savings. Splitting this extra paycheck helps us to address both of them.

I’m so thankful this extra paycheck came when it did! I will know in a couple of days if it was enough to bring us below $10,000 in credit card debt! But even if it isn't, it's another step in the right direction!

Wish us luck!

Financial Binder

February 9th, 2024 at 06:14 pm

With everything, I find the more organized I am, the less stressed I am. My finances are no exception. So, I decided to make a “financial binder”. The nerdy, Type A person in me is LOVING it! In general, I am pretty organized. I’ve talked about the fact that even though we are in debt, we have never missed or been late on a bill. I’m a credit card company’s dream customer. I always pay (at least) the minimum payment and I always pay it on time.

I created a binder to keep everything together and in order. I scoured Pinterest to find different budget forms I would need then I created them to my own preferences. By making it myself, as opposed to buying someone else’s premade Budget Binder, I was able to use only the forms I wanted and make them in a way that would be most beneficial to me! I picked fonts I liked. I set the forms up the way I liked. It’s all mine… and I love it!

I decided on 5 different dividers for my financial binder: Budgeting, Debt, Savings, Goal Setting, and Planning. I used a regular 2 inch binder and colorful dividers. Many of the pages are in plastic sleeves, but the pages that are accessed and written on regularly are just hole-punched and put in the binder. In the front of the binder, I have a pencil pouch that holds pens, pencils, highlighters, and post-it notes.

My “Budgeting” divider holds:

a list of our monthly recurring expenses with a check-off sheet for each month

a budget categories list that lists everything we budget for in a month

blank calendars for each month of the year to be used as bill payment calendars

completed monthly budget sheets for each month of the year (I only print out 3 months at a time to leave a little room for change. However, our wages are very predictable.)

My “Debt” divider holds:

a debt worksheet where all my debts (including my mortgage) are listed

debt payoff charts where I fill in squares with the amount of debt paid off each month (each one is $2000 of debt erased!)

My “Savings” divider holds:

sinking fund trackers for each of my sinking funds

savings charts (I currently have two savings goals)

increase our emergency fund savings to $3000

repay $2000 to a savings account we have set aside for possibly moving

no spend challenge calendars to track how many no spend days I have a month

My “Goal Setting” divider holds:

a monthly goal check-in where I put my goals for the month (be they personal or financial) and can track my progress

an immediate goal (to be accomplished in 30 days or less)

a short-term goal (to be accomplished in 3-6 months)

a long-term goal (to be accomplished in 1-2 years)

My “Planning” divider holds:

bank account information

credit card information

a charitable donations tracker

a Christmas list

It’s such a little thing, but it actually makes me excited to pay bills and track my spending and saving. It’s fun coloring in the squares on my savings chart and my debt pay-off tracker. And anything that makes paying bills fun is a win in my book!

           

I Need a New Cell Phone

February 6th, 2024 at 06:27 pm

I need a new cell phone. My phone is an Apple 10. I am trying so hard to limp my cell phone along until we can get out of credit card debt. Some days, my phone works fine and there are no issues. Other days, it freezes for minutes at a time and no matter how many times I click on an app, nothing happens.

I don’t upgrade my phones very often. I try to use them until they die. The phone before my 10 was an iphone 4. I don’t’ want to use my (already small) emergency fund for a phone. I also don’t want to slow our debt payoff to fund a phone. Lastly, I DON’T want to go into more debt by trading in my phone and then adding the payment to my phone bill for two years.

When my phone is working well, I think “I might be able to sneak by with this phone for another 12-18 months. But when my phone is glitching, I think I can’t get by with another 12-18 minutes! In all honestly, my phone works way more often than it doesn’t, but it does glitch a couple of times a week. The glitches are usually less than 5 minutes long, but they are still so frustrating!

Lately, however, I haven’t been getting text or call notifications. My phone doesn’t go off. I see the notification on the screen afterwards, but I am missing texts and calls. This is proving to be more problematic than an app not opening.

In my opinion, phones are so expensive. I don’t understand people who upgrade every time a new phone is released. My brother-in-law does that. EVERY TIME.  He upgrades for himself and his two teenaged children. I just don’t understand it. It is so expensive to get a new phone, plus you have to learn all the new nuances and work out all the kinks. The hassle and cost just aren’t worth it to me.

I am so hoping I can make this phone work for another year or so. Once our credit card debt is paid off, we will be able to buy me a new phone outright within a month or two. Then we will be able to get serious about saving. But… one step at a time. First we just need to keep plugging away at our debt!

Best Laid Plans

January 29th, 2024 at 04:16 pm

Well… Murphy came to visit this weekend. Luckily, we were mostly prepared for him.

We are hosting a foreign exchange student from Belgium for the semester and on Saturday we planned to be tourists for the day in San Francisco. Before we left, my husband went out to the fridge in the garage to grab something and found water all over the ground. Apparently, our hot water heater was leaking. We actually think we caught it pretty early, which is a blessing!

My husband attached a hose to it to drain it and called my brother, who owns a plumbing company, to ask some questions. He then had us call my nephew (who works for him) to order a new water heater. The upshot of it is, it’s being delivered and installed today, and it didn’t ruin our plans to go to SF.  We are also very lucky to have generous neighbors who we are close to who allowed us to shower in their house. We were like a parade going in and out on both Saturday and Sunday nights.

We could have gotten a water heater yesterday from Home Depot and been in business one day sooner, but we decided the cost savings was worth it to wait one more day… in both time and money. We will get the water heater at cost and my nephew, who is a plumber, will install it for us. My husband will help, but the learning curve will not be there because he isn’t doing it himself. (My husband is very handy and takes on a lot of home repairs. But sometimes, we choose to leave things to the professionals. Especially when they are our brothers and nephews!)

As you all know, we are in credit card debt, but about 6 months ago we started some new sinking funds, two of which were appliances and home repair so, coming up with the money won’t be an issue because it’s already there. I will be sad to part with it but am SO happy we have it. What could have been a major setback (especially to our hearts and minds) just became a relatively minor inconvenience.

We were able to play tourists for the day and not stress too much about our water heater issue. We had a jam-packed day in San Francisco. We visited and walked over the Golden Gate Bridge, drive down Lombard Street, climbed to the top of Coit Tower (the only touristy thing I had not done before, I’d been there but never to the top), ate clam chowder on Pier 39, played games at the Musee Mecanique, walked around Fisherman’s Wharf, and ended with dinner in North Beach, which was a special request from our student who loves Italian food! It started out rough but ended up being a great day!

We don’t know the final cost yet of our water heater, but we will pay it and keep plugging away, at both our debt and replenishing our sinking funds!

THANK YOU!

January 26th, 2024 at 05:44 pm

Just a quick thank you post to all the kind people who have commented on my posts. I read and appreciate all the comments and suggestions you guys are giving me and am even trying to put some of them into practice.

I have so enjoyed being a (mostly quiet) part of this community. I blog for my own accountability and rarely comment on other blogs, (but I'm working on it). But I love to read the comments on everyone's blogs. This is such a smart, creative group of people and I appreciate how willing everyone is to share their knowledge and ideas!

Thank you all!

How a 44-Year-Old Views Her Progress

January 22nd, 2024 at 05:38 pm

It has literally taken me 25 years to dig out of the hole I started digging when I was 18, and I'm not done yet. At its peak, our credit card debt was $24,904.68. We are down to $10,760.96, progress, sure, but not credit card debt free. 

We have had periods in our life over the last 25 years where we were credit card debt free, but inevitably, we would rack the credit card debt back up. 20 months ago, we hit our all-time high in credit card debt and are finally seeing the light and making real changes. We are adequately funding our sinking funds, planning for upcoming expenses, and cash-flowing everything we can to avoid going backwards with our progress. We even have a baby emergency fund for real unexpected expenses.  Our progress has been slower than we would like, but it's still progress. 

We have both short- and long-term savings goals within our envelope system. Long term we are saving for: new (to us) cars, home repair/furniture, and appliances. More immediate savings goals are for: car repairs/tires, car registration, annual car insurance, home essentials, health essentials, clothing, school costs, and Christmas. Funding all these different sinking funds “slows down” our progress, but they are the reason we have progress. Without these sinking funds, we would have to charge every expense that pops up.

We also contribute to our retirement. As a teacher, nearly 11% of my income is taken out of my paycheck and put into CALSTRS, before I even see it. I also contribute an additional 15% to my 403b. My husband contributes 13% of his paycheck to his 401k and gets a 3% match from his employer. On top of that, on his first paycheck of every year, his company gives another 6% into his 401k they call profit sharing. All told, we contribute about 23% of our pre-tax income to retirement every year. (I know we could be out of debt faster without doing that. I know the math supports pausing retirement to pay off high income debt. But I also know that our peace of mind is worth the extra time/money in debt. We watch my husband’s parents struggle in their retirement because they didn’t plan well and never want to be in that situation.)

We are also trying to be strategic with any unexpected monies that fall into our lap.  Right now we only have a baby emergency fund and want to grow that so we put a small amount (based on how much “extra” money we get) into savings, a very small amount of unexpected monies gets dedicated to the buffer in our checking account and the rest goes towards our credit card debt.

I wish it didn't take us 25 years to learn these lessons but at least we have learned them. Our kids have seen us struggle and hopefully won't make our mistakes. They both (by their own choices) use the envelope system. They both save 20% of their income. They both tithe 10% of their income. Our 20-year-old has started his Roth IRA and our 18-year-old has earmarked $1500 in her savings to start her Roth IRA.

Our kids are so far ahead of where we were at the same age and my only consolation is that I think part of the reason for that is the struggles we have had. Hopefully they will never struggle the same way and will live within their means, which was our biggest mistake.

All these choices and how we handle our money are a result of our credit card debt and how we have treated credit cards since we were 18. We don’t blame the credit cards and we don’t blame the credit card companies. We blame ourselves. I CANNOT wait for the day that we owe nothing to our credit card! The way we use and allocate our money will change drastically. Right now, we have to use our money in the present to pay for purchases from the past, and it will be so freeing to have more choices.

44-year-old self, you are growing up. You are handling your finances and credit cards more responsibly. And you are going to get out of debt. All the hard work has taught you so much and will help you in the second half of your life. The mistakes in your past don’t have to be the mistakes in your future. But, remember, it's okay to stumble. You don't, and won't, get everything right. The important thing is to persevere! Keep going!

44-year-old self, you are making progress, but it’s also okay to need a pity party once in a while.

Today, I’m pulling myself up by my bootstraps and getting back to it. I will get break the $10,000 threshold. I will stay the course, and I will get out of debt. I have to remember that this debt is 25 years in the making. It didn’t happen overnight so it’s not going to go away overnight… but it is going to go away!

Credit Cards Are Bad For YOU… A Letter to my 18-Year-Old Self

January 19th, 2024 at 06:14 pm

Let me start by saying, credit cards aren’t inherently bad. Actually, when you manage them correctly, they are good. I, however, have not been a good manager. In fact, I’ve handled them poorly for more years than I have handled them well.

Dear 18-Year-Old Self,

Don’t sign up for credit cards yet. You don’t have enough experience with finances: paychecks, bills, reconciling bank accounts, etc, to make informed decisions with credit.

Among other things, you don’t make enough money to warrant needing credit cards. You work at a retail store making just over minimum wage and you live at home. You don’t need credit. If you can’t afford to pay cash for it, you can’t afford it and you don’t need it.

Let me reiterate, credit and credit cards are not intrinsically bad, but the way you will handle them at 18 is. For the first month of two, you will be so responsible and pay-off everything you charge. But as the months go on, you charge more and can afford to pay less, and before you know it, your card will be maxed out and you will be making minimum payments.

As a young and naïve adult, you will think that because you can afford the minimum payments, you can afford whatever it is you are buying. That’s just plain wrong!

Think about it this way: do you want to be paying for that sweater you are wearing now, at 18, when you are 25 years old and don’t even have anymore? That is how credit works. In your present, you are paying for your past, with no end in sight. It truly is a viscous cycle.

You are not responsible enough for a credit card and it will take you literally 25 years to dig yourself out of the hole you started digging at 18. You need more experience managing the money you do have before you start trying to use money you don’t have.

You will get there but give yourself a better foundation first. Try the envelope system, try only using your bank card, write checks, but don’t sign-up for credit cards yet. I promise, your future self will thank you.

 

Response from my 44 year old self coming next week.

Breaking $10.000

January 17th, 2024 at 09:25 pm

I’m starting to get “debt-pay-off-fatigue”. (I don’t know if it’s a real thing, but it sure feels like it!) We have been slogging away for 20 months and it’s still not gone! (We know it’s our own fault and that we did it to ourselves. We take full responsibility but are just sick of it!) We have paid off 57% of our total debt and are hoping to pay it off this year, but we are tired.

When we first got deep into credit card debt, we worked hard at payoff. We got “down” to around $19,000 - 20,000 very quickly. And then we hovered around there for months… like 10 months! For one reason or another, we weren’t making much progress. Some months we only paid off $100 and some months we put $200 back on. It was infuriating! Then, we finally broke that threshold, and we were so happy. Progress was fast and furious for several months… and now it’s almost non-existent.

Christmas and the holiday season are always expensive, but they massively slowed down our progress! Our last three credit card statements have shown almost no progress.

Right now, I’m really feeling debt-fatigue. We are so close to breaking the $10,000 threshold, but we still feel so far away! Even though we “only” have $10,700 in credit card debt, I don’t think we will be able to break $10,000 by our next statement. Due to some upcoming expenses, we only assigned $774 to go towards our debt, but then we need to add interest.

We hovered at the $19,000-20.000 threshold for months and now I feel like we are doing the same thing at $10,000. We just can’t break it.

I know we will… I know we are close… I know we will get out of debt. I’m just having a pity party today.

(Mostly) Frugal Self Care

January 10th, 2024 at 10:57 pm

I know this is a weird topic to write about on a financial blog, but I have found for myself that I start to spend more when I am not taking care of myself. These are some of the ways I recharge my own battery without spending too much money.

Renewing yourself and self care are super important in this fast-paced crazy world we live in. But when you are on a budget, it can sometimes be difficult to find ways to do so frugally. In a lot of ways, I’m really lucky that I am in introvert and recharge my battery best when I have some “alone” time. Most ways I recharge my mental batteries are pretty cheap.

The best thing I can do for myself and my mental health is to take a long, hot bath with a good book. I love to take baths and I love to read, combining the two is heaven… and it’s free. However, even with adult children, sometimes it’s hard to find the time to take a long bath, but I try at least once a week. I like the time by myself without a care in the world.

Just spending time reading helps me to recharge. Although not always free, it’s definitely a pretty frugal way to spend my time. I love to read almost anything. I read both fiction and non-fiction alike and enjoy them equally. When I am really low, I will almost always choose fiction because I don’t have to think about it. It gives me time out of my own head where I don’t have to worry about my problems.

I love tea. Just sitting and enjoying a great cup of tea in a beautiful bone china tea cup and saucer feels incredibly decadent to me and mentally fills my bucket, for a nominal cost. I have dozens of tea cups and saucers to choose from as well as many flavors of tea. Tea time becomes a well deserved break from every day.

Another way I recharge my batteries and tend to my mental (and physical) health is through exercise. I walk and weight train and both improve my physical and mental well-being for free. I’m not an outdoorsy person, but I love hiking, not because of the nature but because of the physical challenge it gives me. I strength train 4 days a week and I have noticed that when I work out consistently, in general I sleep better and feel better.

I love a myself a good pedicure. It is probably the most expensive thing I do for my mental health, although it’s not terribly expensive. Prior to committing to get out of debt, I got pedicures at least monthly, now I only get two or three a year so they are extra special and feel extra indulgent.  I do have a hair and nails envelope but feel guilty getting pedicures while I still have debt so I don’t get them often, but once our credit card debt is paid off, I think I will revert back to monthly pedicures. I love them. They are time to relax, be by myself, and read a good book.

The last thing I do to renew myself could become expensive if I let it. I love to go to Barnes and Noble, look at books, and sit down to peruse them with a chai tea latte. Unless I have a gift card, I usually only allow myself to buy one book. We don’t have a Barnes and Noble where I live so I don’t do this often, but just like a pedicure, it feels so indulgent.

PS Today I was on an interview panel for work and had to meet my principal at the District Office about an hour later than my usual work time. I chose to wake up, do a longer-than-normal-workout-on-a-weekday and take an hour long bath. It was glorious and just what I needed!

2024 Financial Goals

January 5th, 2024 at 06:33 pm

I know I’m a little late with my goals, but life has been hectic.

Last year I only had two goals, to decrease debt and increase our savings. We were only successful with one of those. We decreased our debt by almost 50% last year. But our savings decreased as well. On the plus side, however, we didn’t increase our debt and cash flowed nearly $20,000 of expenses in that year.

Our goals are pretty basic. I have the same goals for 2024 that I had last year as well as one additional goal. I want to decrease debt (with the outside goal of eliminating our credit card debt), increase our savings to $5000 (from $1500), and move across the country without accruing more debt.

Goal 1: We owe right around $10,700 on our credit card. We didn’t quite make our goal of $10,500 by 12/31 but I’m not trying to dwell on it. We will definitely decrease out debt, but I’m hoping we can actually get rid of this credit card debt once and for all. I think becoming consumer debt free is a stretch goal this year, but I don’t think it’s impossible. To stay accountable, I also want to write debt updates every month. Some months will be better than others, but I think consistency and accountability will help our overall progress.

Goal 2: Increase our savings from $1500 to $5000. Our savings took a hit this year. 2023 was an expensive year for us between travel and helping our kids launch into adult hood. This year should be better so we shouldn’t need to dip into our savings as much and in fact should be able to build it up some. With each of The Husband’s 3 paycheck months, we will dump an extra $500 into savings which should help us meet our goal.

Goal 3: We have a potential (but likely) move across the country coming. We know it will be expensive so we have been planning for it. We are hoping to be able to cash flow the whole move and what we will need to buy when we get there. We plan on leaving a lot of our furniture, as it is very old and worn down. We have a “furniture” sinking fund that we have been putting money into, as well as a sinking funds for appliances and home repair. We are hoping this will be enough savings to move without accruing any more debt.

That’s it. Those are our goals for 2024. All doable, but all needing planning and perseverance. I'm hoping 2024 is the year we finally get out of credit card debt!

What are your goals for the year?

Frugal-ish Christmas

January 3rd, 2024 at 06:06 pm

Christmas is expensive for everyone… so it always is my goal is to give a useful gift that doesn’t cost a lot of money.

This year, I made 5 different soaps for all the women/girls in my life. I made a Lemon-Poppyseed exfoliating soap, a shave soap, Rose soap, Mango-Papaya soap, and a Milk and Honey Soap. I gave 27 gifts of soap, 5 bars each. The total I had to purchase for each gift came out to $10.82 per gift. I have been making soap for a couple years, so I didn’t need to buy much in the way of equipment. (I did buy a new stick blender for soap use only and chose not to factor that into my per gift cost.) In addition to 27 gifts, I have several extra bars of soap left over. In total, I probably have about 20 “extra” bars of soap. My daughter and I will use them and I can still gift them as necessary.

For the men in my life (men only, younger boys got something off of their list), I made homemade, food safe wood butter. I also included a wooden spoon and microfiber buffing cloth. The total for each gift came to $7.16 and I made enough to give out 30 gifts plus have 3 left over.. The wood butter is made out of walnut oil and food safe beeswax. I needed to purchase 3 gallons of walnut oil, the mason jars, wooden spoons, and microfiber cloths. I already had enough beeswax from a project a couple years ago. (Clearly I bought too much then, however, I did factor in some of the cost of the beeswax when figuring out my per item cost.

I’m very pleased with my per gift price. I’m also very happy that the are useful, consumable gifts. I know we don’t need any more “stuff” in our lives and I imagine a lot of people feel the same way, so I have been trying to give gifts that are very useful and/or can be used up.

I’m already thinking of and looking for ideas for next year’s Christmas gift. Any ideas?

Unusual Spending for December

December 5th, 2023 at 05:06 pm

Obviously, the first thing on this list is Christmas… although it comes around every year, it doesn’t come around every month. We have been planning for Christmas all year. We have been putting aside money each month so that when Christmas rolls around, we won’t go farther into debt to pay for it. So far, so good. We won’t pay down our debt by much this month, but we won’t add to it either, and that is a win in my book. In previous years, we have added to our debt by as much as $2500 during the months of November and December. The goal this year is to not increase our debt. Anything we payoff in the next 4 weeks is a plus!

Along with Christmas in general, we have a huge Christmas party every year. It’s an open house and we invite about 100 – 115 people. We usually see about 75 people on this day. We have already bought a lot of the food but still have some stuff to buy. This should be covered by our grocery budget. We give a favor every year and this year I decided to make candied nuts. We have jars that I bought at Winco about 6 years ago that I am finally going to use. Because we already have the jars, the favors will probably cost us about $1.50 each. We give out 1 per family, so I will make 30-35 jars worth. The “leftovers” I give to people at work.

I haven’t actually written about this here, but I think I’ve alluded to it. I am taking an 11 day trip to England with my mom. We leave mid-December and return right before Christmas so we will be home for the holiday. My mom is 82 and has always wanted to be in London at Christmas time. (She has been to London several times, but never in winter.) My school schedule lined up with us going this year and it is one of her “bucket list” items so we are going. I have already paid my airfare. We got a pretty good deal at $867 roundtrip. Our hotel will be charged right before we leave and I have been saving for that and will have the full amount when we leave. I will just need to pay for food and any spending money. I have saved and set aside $600 for this. I don’t know if that will be enough, but it’s a good starting point at least.

This is all I can think of for our unusual spending for December… and it’s going to be expensive! The goal is to cash flow and not add to our debt!

Payday High to Next Day Low

November 28th, 2023 at 05:33 pm

Our finances are always in a better place when we pay attention to them, which makes perfect sense. What doesn’t make perfect sense is that we aren’t always on top of our finances. Anyway, the one downside I always feel when we are paying strict attention to our finances is the whole “payday high to next day low”.

Every payday that comes around brings with it this high of financial success. Paying bills, paying down debt, cash stuffing envelopes, tallying totals. I love all of it! But, then the next day, there is nothing going on with our finances for a week or two, and I feel this incredible low. That low is the part of our finances that makes it hard to stay the course.

I know we are making great strides financially. We are paying down debt at a pretty good rate. We are slowly building our savings back up to (what we consider) an acceptable amount. We are adequately funding our sinking funds, we contribute 20% to our retirement, and we are making plans for our future, but after payday I’m always so sad that there is nothing I can do to better our financial situation until the next payday.

It's so hard to only feel like you are making progress a few days a month. I know that in reality, every step we take towards financial freedom is a step in the right direction, I just wish the feeling could last longer than payday.

I check my credit card and bank account balances almost daily and most days I don’t see any movement, but when I do, it’s truly the best feeling. For that moment, I feel like I will get out of debt and that I’m making great progress. Inevitably, the feeling fades and I have to wait until payday to feel it again. I can’t be the only person who feels like this, right?

Staying the course is the hardest part of debt payoff… but I am in it for the long haul, and we are making progress… even on the days it doesn’t feel like it!

November Debt Update

November 17th, 2023 at 07:16 pm

This debt update is based on our most recent credit card statement which posted on 11/16/23. I do these mid-month because our credit card closes on teh 15th. I can't wait until we are credit card debt free!

As always, we are not paying off our debt as fast as I would like, but I am happy to say that our debt decreased! It actually went down by a pretty good chunk, and by more than I was expecting this month!

Here is our current credit card debt totals:

            $10,761.64 at 19.99% interest  

Our total credit card debt stands at: $10,761.64 That’s still a lot of debt, but we have seen more progress in the last 15 months than we have seen in the last 8 years. All we can do is just keep plugging away. We dug our hole one shopping trip at a time and all we can do is pay it back one month at a time. We are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and the light is getting bigger and brighter every month.

Plus side: Our debt decreased! We have the least amount of credit card debt that we have had in several years! This is the first time our credit card debt has been below $11,000 since before we moved in 2017! That is a major plus! We paid off $1145.85 of credit card debt (after interest); that amounted to 9.6% of our current debt! And we have paid off 57% of our total debt from our high of almost $25,000! The amount of interest we pay monthly has decreased by over $127 per month!

Down side: No matter how much debt we pay off, it’s never enough. Of course, I hate that a couple hundred dollars went towards interest on our debt instead of towards the principal! We are heading into the holiday season and we always increase our debt, so I am afraid of that. I understand our progress will be slowed, but I am hoping and praying for discipline and the continued decrease of our debt!

Looking forward to: getting our credit card debt below $10,500 by our next statement and keeping it that way. It’s looking like we will actually meet our short-term goal of being under $10,500 in credit card debt by the end of the year! I’m also excited to make a new short-term goal! There is a slight chance that we might be under $10,000 on our next statement. It’s going to be close and I’m going to keep chugging along and doing the best I can! And whether or not that happens on our next statement, I’m super excited to drop a number on our debt in the near future!

I hope your debt freedom journey is smooth, uneventful, and beyond successful!

Money is a Tool

November 14th, 2023 at 04:43 pm

In our fast paced, crazy, celebrity driven world, money is seen as the be all and end all and we lose sight of the fact that money is just a tool. We can use the tool the right way or we can use the tool the wrong way. That’s completely up to us, but it’s still just a tool.

For many years, my husband and I used the tool not only the wrong way, but on the “wrong” things”. We were very irresponsible with our money and that lasted for about 20 years! (It kills me to see that and to know how much time and money we wasted!) We were busy collecting “things” we didn’t need with money we didn’t have, so when it came time for needs, we were putting them on our credit card. We often had to charge food and gas because we literally didn’t have the cash to pay for them.

We had periods of time where we were using the tool of money well and “correctly”, but those periods were few and far between and they never really lasted very long. The last time we were credit card debt free it was because we used a loan to pay it off. But we didn’t learn anything and before long were right back in the same debt boat.

This time, though, I think we’ve finally got a handle on it. And we are working to get out of debt and to change our lifestyle. We have paid off nearly 50% of our total credit card debt from when it was at its highest point of almost $25,000.

My husband always talks about using the right tool for the right job, but we were never doing that with money. We are finally using money wisely. We are paying off debt, saving for the future, and using sinking funds to keep us from falling farther into debt. I think we’ve finally figured it out!

Extra Money

November 7th, 2023 at 04:59 pm

As a public school teacher, there aren’t a ton of ways to earn extra money at my job. (I could make extra money tutoring or creating pages for Teachers Pay Teachers, but I mean actually at my job.) One way I can make a little extra money is for class coverage. If a teacher is out and we don’t get a sub, the students still have to go somewhere. We call that class coverage. Up until last year, if I covered a class for a teacher, we received pennies on the dollar of subs or of teachers at the comprehensive high schools (I teach at a continuation high school). I would cover 5 classes in a month and I would get checks of $1.52… You read that right one dollar and fifty-two cents. Last year, our union negotiated for us to get $48 per class for class coverage. (That is still well below what the teachers at the comprehensive school get, but way better than what we were getting.)

We were short subs a lot last month! I had to cover classes 9 times. At $48 per class, that works out to $432 extra before deductions. I am anticipating getting around $300 after all is said and done. All extra pay is paid out on the 10th of each month in my district so on November 10, I’m expecting about $300.

I am planning to put $100 into savings, $100 towards some expensive purchases we have coming up for our kids, and $100 towards debt. I feel like that is a good division of the money.

I am not happy with the low amount of our savings right now. However, with savings plus cash on hand and our sinking funds, we have about two months of bare bones expenses. But I do want to beef that up and I would like to have one month bare bones in our savings. (That is my mid-term financial goal.) I figure adding $100 from unexpected monies was a good use of extra money.

In the near future, we have an expensive purchase planned for each of our kids.* Neither of our kids have chosen to go the traditional college route and we are okay with that. Each kid has a big purchase for their chosen career coming up on the horizon. We are going to help each kid by paying half. Coincidentally, each purchase will be about $1200, so our half will be $600 for each. We adjusted our budgets for October, November, and December to save for these purchases. We increased the amount we will contribute to our “kids” sinking fund so that we should have the full amount we need by the end of December. The $100 I am adding from the extra monies will act as insurance.

The remaining $100 will go towards our credit card debt. The money will come at the perfect time as our payment is due by the 12th of each month. I am happy to have an extra $100 to throw at our debt. I would love to use it all towards our debt, but although that would feel better, I don’t think it would be the wisest thing to do. I think it is far wiser to designate the money as we have and stick to the plan. Otherwise, we would charge the expenses for the kids and be right back where we started.

I’m super excited for the chance to earn a little extra money. Every little bit helps and small things compound to be big things.

*Disclaimer: I know we don’t have to help our children, but we are choosing to do so. That’s why we adjusted our budget and are making sure to have the money saved as opposed to just putting it on the credit card with no plan. It is worth it to us to be in debt a little longer to give our kids some financial help. But it is not worth it to us to go deeper into debt to help them.

Frugal-ish Wins

November 3rd, 2023 at 07:29 pm

A couple months ago I decided to try to keep track of my frugal wins. I don’t consider myself particularly frugal so sometimes it’s hard for me to come up with any ideas. In this edition I have included some frugal wins and some extra money-making opportunities we’ve had.

I challenged myself to have 10 no-spend days in October. I wanted it to be a day where we didn’t buy anything, didn’t pay any bills, didn’t buy gas, nothing. And we were successful… barely! Our 10th day was Halloween, 10/31/23, but I’ll take it! I’m giving myself the same challenge for November!

I am a teacher so I dress up for Halloween every year. A couple people on my staff wanted us to do matching costumes, but I declined. I chose to reuse a costume from my costume box that I haven’t worn in years. It was new to the kids and free for me!

I was able to earn some extra money doing class coverage. Teaching is not a job where you can make a lot of extra money so I am always happy when I can make a little extra!

We attend the Charles Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco every year. The tickets are pretty expensive! This year, we planned ahead and were able to buy early bird tickets! We saved $50 by buying early! (Sidenote – we bought these with my BINGO winnings! Double win!)

We throw a large Christmas party open house every year. Anywhere from 60-80 people attend. We budget for it and plan all year and it is one of my favorite days of the year! On our last Costco trip, several of the foods we serve at the party were on sale. Although they weren’t on our list, we saved $62.50 by buying the items now while they were on sale as opposed to waiting 6 weeks and buying them the week of our party. (All the items are frozen, freezable, or have sell-by dates well after our party). I still have plenty to purchase but saving over $60 was worth it!

My son spent the last 6 months working on my cousin’s husband’s farm in Oregon and my husband went up there so he could make the drive home with my son. They raise animals for 4H. They had a ton of pork meat. My husband came home with 4 hams, several packages of pork chops and pork steaks, ham hocks, several pounds of sausage, and a couple pork loin roasts. All given to us for free! My husband estimates it’s close to half a pig! Our freezers are full to the gills but all with food we will eat! Between the half a cow we bought and all this pork, we won’t have to buy meat, other than chicken, for a while! What a savings!

Over time, small wins fuel big results.

Sinking Funds

October 31st, 2023 at 05:28 pm

Sinking funds is definitely how we are getting ourselves out of debt. We put a good chunk of money into our sinking funds every month. On average, we allocate about $2300 per month into our sinking funds. Our categories are: household, car repair, kids, beauty, school, clothing, health, home repair and furniture, appliances, car insurance, new car, and Christmas.

To look at some of these funds, it’s easy to say if we didn’t have them we could get out of debt sooner, but the reality for us is, not having these funds was keeping us in debt. Even though we weren’t planning for these categories, we were spending money on them (for the most part). During the COVID lockdown, both our dishwasher and microwave went out. Both those purchases went on our credit card because we needed them but didn’t plan for them. Now, we are setting money aside each month for appliance replacement, so the next time an appliance goes out, we will have at least some money to put towards it without depleting our entire emergency fund or putting it all on the credit card. Cars break down and need general maintenance. By not setting money aside for it, we were constantly having to put tires and oil changes on our credit card.  There are some categories on our sinking funds list that could be eliminated while we pay off debt, like beauty or clothes, but the reality is we spend money in those categories so it’s better to have the money set aside than to charge it and then feel guilty for weeks afterwards.

Our car insurance is paid in full yearly. We have a separate bank account that we have set up for automated savings. It funds our car insurance and registration each year as well as our giving and donations.  Our car insurance is due in July and is around $3300 per year.

Adequately funding our sinking funds has been lifechanging for us on the debt-payoff front. Since we started really using sinking funds, our debt has actually decreased by about 55%. We have paid off over $13,000 in credit card debt alone and built a small emergency fund. I won’t lie and say it isn’t tempting to send all “extra” monies to our credit card every month, but I know that will backfire on us because then we will spend money we didn’t budget for and be right back where we started.

Funding our sinking funds has been very empowering. Ironically, sometimes I feel like we spend less money because I like seeing our sinking fund balances grow. Admittedly, some of these funds are mini-savings accounts. It’s not every day you need new sofas or appliances, but it will happen, and it will cost money. Sinking funds are the key!

I am so excited to get out of debt. Knowing that we are already fully funding most of our sinking funds makes me so excited for the future. That means most of the money we send to our credit card right now, can become savings when our debt is paid off. (We will increase the amount we are saving for a car and our home repair sinking funds, but other than that the rest of the money can go towards savings and some longer-term goals.)  

Full disclosure, some of our sinking fund categories are new so the balances aren’t where we want them to be yet, but we are funding them! Current sinking fund balances as of 10/31/23:

Household: $285

Car repair: $500

Kids: $100

Beauty: $315

School: $100

Clothing: $295

Health: $160

Home repair and furniture: $475

Appliances: $350

Car Insurance: $336

New car: $3075

Christmas: $100

 Total: $6091

We also fund our food and gas envelopes bi-weekly but don’t count them as sinking funds. Some of our sinking funds are lower than we would like because we recently made large purchases. We paid for half our son’s welder and purchased him a new welding helmet for his birthday. That was paid for out of our school and kids envelopes.  Car repair is another envelope where we feel like we just can’t get ahead, but we are going to keep plugging away!

I like seeing our sinking fund numbers in black and white! It really is motivating to know we have a small cushion against emergencies and that we have given ourselves permission to spend some money. We are taking control of our finances, and this is another step in the right direction!

Unusual Spending for November

October 27th, 2023 at 04:33 pm

We are trying to stay on top of our finances, part of that includes planning for our unusual spending each month.

Honestly, there isn’t a lot going on in November. We have our son’s 20th birthday, The Charles Dickens Christmas Faire, and Christmas to plan and pay for.

For our son’s birthday, he always chooses meals made at home over going out to dinner. We will have very minimal ingredients to buy because we almost always have all the ingredients on hand for his choice. He has chosen cookies for his dessert this year and we have everything for that too. We have a couple small gifts and only need to buy his “big” gift. It's going to be expensive this year. He wants to be a welder and he picked a $600 welding helmet from Snap-On. He was going to buy it for himself, but one of our friends (who works for the county) said he can order things at a big discount. Our friend ordered it for him and the total is $380. It's expensive, but well worth it for his career and eye sight. We have chosen to buy this for him for his birthday. He was all set to pay for it and when we told him we would like to get it for him for his birthday, you should have seen his eyes light up. We have been saving up for some expensive purchases for our kids. (We also paid for half of his welder, which we had been saving for for several weeks. This has depleted out kids and school fund so we will need to keep saving as we are going to pay for half of our daughter's computer for personal training.) For our November budget, I added extra money into our “kids” category to cover these purchases. Now, we need to save, save, save over the next several pay periods so we can do the same for our daughter.

The Charles Dickens Christmas Faire is held in the Cow Palace every year and we have gone on Black Friday every year since we got married. The ticket prices have definitely increased. For our family of 5 (including my mom), tickets were $185… and this was the early ticket price. Normal ticket price would have been $230. We purchased the tickets the same night I won in BINGO and we used part of my BINGO winnings to pay for it. We will still need to pay for food and gifts/souvenirs while we are there, but that will come out of our food and Christmas envelopes, respectively.  Those budgets have been adjusted accordingly for November.

Lastly, Christmas… We finish up a lot of our Christmas shopping in November. We have been putting money aside all year and used it as we needed it, but in November we are usually putting the finishing touches on our gifting. We are doing very well this year and just need a few things here and there. Our Christmas sinking fund should cover it.

I am feeling like we are in pretty good shape heading into November and just need to keep paying attention to our finances to make sure they don’t get away from us and we don’t overspend in any areas. 

Our credit card balance is (slowly) going down and our saving balance is (slowly) going up. I feel like we are under control heading into the holidays, which is good because this is usually when we overspend.

Financial Goals

October 23rd, 2023 at 08:06 pm

I read somewhere (in a Pinterest article I think) that people are 42% more likely to accomplish their goals just by writing them down.  Now, I didn’t fact check this and I have no idea if it’s true, but it definitely got me thinking.

What are my financial goals?

I decided writing down my goals was important. I know my “why” in my head, but I want to see my “why” staring me in the face. If I’m having a bad day, I want to be able to flip to my goals and remind myself of how far we’ve come and why we are working so hard to improve our financial situation. Each goal has our start date and our hopeful target date for completion. Each goal also includes action steps to meet our goal and possible obstacles that could derail us.

We came up with a short-term, mid-term, and long-term financial goal.

For us, a short-term goal is from 0-3 months. Our goal is to get our credit card debt below $10,500 by the end of the year. I wrote out our goal, created some action steps to get there, identified some possible obstacles, and wrote why this goal is important to us. The biggest obstacle to this goal is Christmas. If we keep our Christmas spending in check, we will accomplish this goal for sure. We have a Christmas sinking fund, we just need to make sure to keep everything within budget.

Our short-term goal is from 3 months-1 year. We made this a savings goal. I have mentioned before that I am unhappy with our low savings. We currently have only $2,500 in our savings account. (We do have some other liquid monies, but our official emergency fund only has $2.500.) Therefor, our goal is to increase savings and have $6,000 in our emergency fund by August 31, 2024. This is a realistic goal and also takes into account some spending that will be happening throughout the next 10 months (a trip, some expensive purchases for our kids, etc.). We add $550 into our savings every month, but we do have to dip into our savings occasionally, so $6,000 is realistic and still attainable, but with our planned spending a little bit of a stretch… in a good way.

Finally, for our long-term goal we decided on 1-3 years. For our particular goal, we gave ourselves almost 2 years from writing the goal to our target end date. Our long-term goal is to be credit card debt free by 8/31/25.  It’s been a long slog already, but most of that is due to our yo-yo debting. The last 18 months we have made good progress and decreased our total credit card debt by more than half. I’m hoping the next 18 months are as successful! We should be able to make this goal by our target date and with any luck, will actually finish it sooner. We wanted our goals to be stretch goals, but also to be realistic.

Our goals are SMART goals. They are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. We just need to work towards them and push ourselves to be responsible!

Writing our goals down has renewed my sense of purpose in our financial lives. I like being able to look at my goals and determine if I am on track or not. I like being able to look at my goals and know that we are making progress. Having my goals written down and seeing the progress gives me a sense of accomplishment and helps me to stay the course because it makes me accountable. I think sharing my goals will do the same thing.

Staying on Track

October 20th, 2023 at 10:52 pm

I think I’ve probably written about this before, but it never ceases to surprise me. My finances do so much better when I am paying attention to them. I’ve never been one to incur late fees, but there is a difference between paying bills on autopilot and truly being on top of your finances. When I am on top of our finances, things go so much smoother. We seem to save more, spend less, and get rid of more debt. There really is something to be said about “out of sight, out of mind.”

I go through periods of being really diligent about our finances and periods of putting them on autopilot. When we are on autopilot, our debt almost feels stagnant. We don’t usually incur more debt, but we pay almost nothing off. We just exist. However, when we are on top of our finances, we make the biggest gains in both decreasing our debt and increasing our savings. I wish it was easy to always be on it, but for whatever reason, we get lazy.

I need to make it a habit to check our credit card balances every day or so. Seeing how high our credit card balance is really motivates me to do better, but out of sight usually means out of mind. I have been very focused on our debt payoff for the last few months and I feel like because of that we are making some good progress.  

What habits do you have that help you to stay on track?

October Debt Update

October 17th, 2023 at 05:20 pm

This debt update is based on our most recent credit card statement which posted on 10/16/23.  . I do these mid-month because our credit card closes on the 15th. I can’t wait for the day when we are consumer debt free and I can do our financial savings updates at the beginning of each month and I don’t have to take into account when our debt cycle closes!

Although we are not paying off our debt as fast as I would like, I am happy to say that our debt decreased! It actually went down by a pretty good chunk! This was a fantastic month for our credit card debt payoff!

Here is our current credit card debt totals:

            $11,907.49 at 19.99% interest  

Our total credit card debt stands at: $11,907.49. That’s a lot of debt. All we can do is just keep plugging away. We dug our hole one shopping trip at a time and all we can do is pay it back one month at a time.

Plus side: Our debt decreased! By a lot! We have the least amount of credit card debt that we have had in several years! This is the first time our credit card debt has been below $12,000 since before we moved in 2017! That is a major plus! We were yo-yo debting for years and never got below $12,000. We paid off $2104.87 of credit card debt (after interest); that amounted to 15% of our current debt! And we have paid off 52% of our total debt from our high of almost $25,000! We did have some “help” this month in that it was a three paycheck month so we had an extra $1000 to throw at debt… but I’m happy because we did throw it there!

Down side: No matter how much debt we pay off, it’s never enough. Of course, I hate that a couple hundred dollars went towards interest on our debt instead of towards the principal! Lastly, it’s actually a little depressing to see how long we have been on this roller coaster called debt freedom. We made some poor choices and have been living in a debt cycle for too long! It’s all our fault and we don’t even have medical problems or emergencies to blame for it; we were careless and irresponsible, but we are on track now and making progress.

Looking forward to: getting our credit card debt below $11,000 by our next statement and keeping it that way. I’m also looking forward to staying on the debt pay-off and blogging band wagon! I was off it for too long and it feels good to be making progress again! I’m wondering/hoping if we will actually meet our goal of being under $10,500 in credit card debt by the end of the year! It’s going to be close and I’m going to keep chugging along and doing the best I can!

This was a good month and we are working a plan! Clearly, I’m not in an ideal situation. But if I have to get out of debt one baby step at a time, I can do that.

I hope your debt freedom journey is smooth, uneventful, and beyond successful!

Wish us luck!

BINGO

October 16th, 2023 at 03:57 pm

This past weekend I went to play BINGO with my mom and my sister. Truth be told, my sister and I are not on very good terms right now (families are complicated!) and I didn’t really want to go. However, I was invited as a sort of olive branch, so I went. I didn’t know about this at the beginning of the month, so I didn’t budget for it, but I keep a little purse that we throw “extra” money into once in a while so I took $75 out of that to go play BINGO. (We buy little treats or pay for small things out of the purse.)

When I got there, my mom and sister were already seated and had purchased our BINGO cards. My mom treated for both my sister and me, so I ended up playing for “free”. I have never gone to play BINGO before and didn’t know how expensive it is or how expensive it can get if you add all the extras. It was $45 to play the straight BINGO cards. Then there was a $25 pack for special games, plus you had to buy some $1 ticket each, so $71 for each of us. As we played, they sold lots of extra games and cards that we didn’t buy but were apparently big business!

The pots were huge for each game… $500. I still can’t believe it, but I BINGOed! Twice! The first BINGO I won was split 3 ways so I got $167. The next time I won… it was just me! I won $500! I ended up winning a total of $667!

I tried to pay my mom back, but she wouldn’t let me. She allowed me to buy her a $2 candy bar. I bought dinner there to the tune of $5 and I donated $10 back to the high school we were playing at. I went home with $650!

The money has already been divvied up and put in different envelopes for different things. I treated myself to a new pair of shoes that have been in my Amazon cart for 5 weeks that I was saving up to purchase; that was $95. We are going to a Christmas fair next month (we go every year) and I was going to budget for it in our November budget but used this unexpected money instead. That was another $180. We have some super expensive purchases coming up to help our kids, so $160 went into our “kids” envelope. $15 went into our household envelope as the holidays always get so expensive and the remaining $100 is going towards our debt.

I still can’t believe I won… twice at that! This money could not have come at a better time. It helped with our budgeting for many different purchases we have coming up in the near future; and it will actually make our November budget so much easier to make!

In some ways, I feel like I should have sent all my winnings towards our debt but I think this will work better for us in the long run.

New Credit Cards

October 6th, 2023 at 09:41 pm

When I posted my credit card balance a few people in the comments gave some really good ideas and tips for us to help us get out of debt faster. One of them was to open new credit cards with 0% interest offers and do balance transfers. And yes, while to do that the math makes sense, the reality is I don’t trust myself not to fall back into bad habits.

We are working hard to get out of debt right now and I think we are making decent progress and making better and wiser financial choices. However, our change is still too new for me to trust it. Years ago, we did open a new credit card for the balance transfer offer. We transferred a huge chunk of the balance and proceeded to charge our old credit card right back up to the limit. Then we had two huge credit card bills to pay. I would like to think we are more disciplined now, but I’m actually not sure. I would rather pay the interest on our credit card debt, as much as it sucks, than end up with more debt, more payments, and more feelings of despair.

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel for our debt payoff. It’s faint and only a pinprick, but it’s there. When I post our next debt payoff, we will have paid off around 50% of our credit card debt from its highest point ever (and paid it down in 18 months) and be at our lowest point of credit card debt in 6 years. I’m willing to take the loss on interest to ensure ultimate success.

Full disclosure, we did just open a new credit card. Our daughter is traveling internationally (and I may be too, but more on that later) and she didn’t have a credit card. Getting a credit card is not like when I was 18, most kids can only get a secured card and nothing with travel benefits. I opened a new card with her as an authorized spender that she can take to Europe with her and she won’t have to pay any foreign transaction fees on her purchases. She has budgeted for the trip and will be able to pay the bill in full when she returns. She is using my credit to help build her credit.

Another reason I don’t want to open (anymore) credit cards is because there is a very good chance we are looking to move and buy a new house in another state in the very near future. We don’t want our mortgage affected in any way and are trying to keep our credit as good and clean as possible. We don’t want to have so much open credit that it dings us or that we have to pay (even) higher interest rates.

I think I have said this before, I am a credit card company’s favorite customer. I charge high balances, but always, always make payments on time. Because of this, I have great credit. According to the three main credit bureaus, I have “very good” and “excellent” credit scores. I am working to keep my credit scores and ratings, but get rid of all the debt! 

We decided we would rather be safe than sorry. I know it's all based on out own discipline or lack thereof... but we don't want to chance it.

Challenge for October - 10 No Spend Days

October 3rd, 2023 at 03:51 pm

Since No Spend September is over I want to give myself another challenge. I want to have 10 no spend days in the month of October. I mean real no spend days: no bills, no gas, no grocery shopping, nothing.

This is more than doable, but it will definitely take some planning. I’m going to print out a blank calendar for October and then put my bill due dates on it. Then I will try to make needed purchases on those days, much like the idea of combining trips when you are trying to save gas, I’m going to try to combine my spending days so I can have no spend days. I think having no spend days, or trying to combine my spend days, will help me to spend less. I have always liked the idea of a good challenge. Plus, trying to have no spend days and combine shopping days will automatically use the “wait” rule. Although I think I have tamed the Amazon habit, this will be another way to help curb impulse buys.

The only thing I won’t count as spending money is sending payments to our credit card debt. I make a credit card payment with every paycheck and any time we get extra money. Working to payoff our debt will not be counted as spending money.

Challenges that help us save money, payoff debt, or curb impulse buys are all ways to help us get on better financial footing. We do have a huge credit card debt, but other than that our financial forecast looks good. But the debt we have is keeping us from meeting our full financial potential. I read on a blog once a long time ago that paying off debt is paying for your past and I don’t want to do that anymore!

I think 10 no spend days in a month is more than doable and a fun way to not spend money. I like challenges because I like "winning". Hopefully it's going to be a good month!

Final No-Spend September Update

October 2nd, 2023 at 07:04 pm

Our grocery budget during No-Spend September was brutal! We did our last shopping trip on Saturday 9/30. Technically I could have played the game and not gone grocery shopping until Sunday, but either way, the money was going to be spent. We were at about $420 and spend another $198, so actually over our normal budget of $600. We spent (roughly) $618 on groceries for the month.

We got 6 gallons of milk, Greek yogurt, raspberry, oranges, apples, asparagus, artichokes, 4 loaves of bread, almond butter, 5 dozen eggs, cashews, mixed nuts, feta cheese, and sliced cheese. Fruits and vegetables were more expensive than usual but the price of eggs has come down a little.

Although I wasn’t successful on my grocery budget challenge for this No-Spend September, I feel like overall the month was successful. I charged way less on my credit card. I didn’t make any impulse orders from Amazon all month (and hope to continue this!), and we put some money in savings.

I’m still counting this No-Spend September as a good reset. It’s always good to reset and look at your spending habits and your triggers and I think this past month was good for me. Hopefully we will make a good dent in our debt this month!

No Spend September Update

September 29th, 2023 at 06:26 pm

This was a mostly successful No Spend September. I did save money. I did decrease debt. And I think I have a grip on my Amazon habit. The amount of charges on our credit card is drastically reduced as before this challenge most of them were Amazon charges.

I became addicted to the convenience.  Instead of putting things on a list, and then maybe changing our mind, I just bought whatever came to my fancy. Not to mention, these were credit card purchases because you can’t use cash on the internet. I even had cash in our envelopes, but somehow the money never got moved around. Amazon has definitely been my weakness the last few months and I hope I will have more discipline after my No Spend September.  As of this blog post, the only Amazon charge on our credit card is parts for the brakes for The Husband’s car, which was a planned and saved for expense!

As far as money goes, some tracking got wonky. We went to visit our son over the past weekend and we did buy some fast food while traveling and we made a couple grocery store runs.  I think we spent about $60, of which $20 was at the grocery store. My husband spent more at Costco than I had anticipated and instead of close to $300, we are close to $400. With the $20 from this past weekend we are right around $420. We will probably do one more grocery store run this weekend and will most likely exceed my goal of $500.  We need a lot from Costco: eggs, milk, yogurt, tortillas, almond butter, tuna, canned chicken, and fresh fruits and vegetables. We will probably be closer to $600 than $500. After we shop I will do one final update on how much we spent on groceries for the month of September.

I will challenge myself again next September, but I will keep better track of our food budget and know exactly how much I spent on groceries instead of estimating. But, overall, I still feel like No-Spend September was a win and that we made some good strides!


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