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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 03:33 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 07:06 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 09:52 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 04:20 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!


October 16th, 2023 at 02:57 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 08:41 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 02:51 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 06:04 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 05:26 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!

Unusual Spending for October

September 28th, 2023 at 03:44 pm

Every month we usually have some unusual spending. I don’t call it unexpected spending because it’s not unexpected. It is just random expenses that don’t occur monthly but always occur. I used to track them each month so that I could budget for them and somehow, I got out of the habit of doing that.

In another effort to improve our financial footing I’m going to start doing that again and writing a blog post each month detailing any unusual spending that I can think of. In years past it has been things like soccer sign-ups, school pictures, or costume fees for dance. Going forward it will probably be things more related to birthdays, car registrations, and the like.

For October some unusual spending I have thought of is our daughter’s international trip starting on 10/6, a wedding we are attending on 10/7, and Halloween. More might pop up, but this is what I am planning for so far.

Our daughter is taking an international trip with her best friend’s family, and we are helping her. We are paying for half, and she is paying for half. We have already purchased and paid for her airfare. We will pay for half of her entrances to different attractions, but she has to pay for all her own food and any souvenirs or gifts she purchases on the trip. We have paid $1600 so far (of which she owes us $800) and I anticipate paying another $1000 (our contribution).*

The day after our daughter leaves, we will be attending a wedding about an hour and 15 minutes from where we live. We will drive home after the wedding even though most of our friends are staying in a hotel. We do need to budget for a wedding gift, however.

Lastly, Halloween. We always forget to budget for Halloween. Not this year. We will add $75 to our food budget so we can buy candy to give out to the kids who come through our neighborhood.

*I know this isn’t a very good use of our money and the money spent on her trip could help to replenish our emergency fund or be used towards debt, but we did budget and save for it. That’s why it is called personal finance.

Frugal-ish Wins

September 26th, 2023 at 05:01 pm

I am not especially frugal. I’m not a spendthrift (though I used to lean that way), but I’m not super good at saving money either… I fall somewhere in the middle, but I want to start trying to celebrate my frugal wins. Every so often I will write a post about ways I saved money, or maybe just ways I didn’t waste money. I think the more mindful I am of some frugal wins, maybe the more I will see.

I have 29 nieces and nephews and there is nothing frugal about that, but I do look for ways to cut costs. One of my nieces, whom I am very close to is pregnant. I wanted to get her a nice shower gift without having to pay too much for it. I went to her registry and picked out what I wanted to get her and put it in my Amazon cart – to the tune of $90! Eek! Before checkout, I realized I had points (from our insurance) that could be redeemed. We always redeem our points for Amazon gift cards. We had (more than) enough points to cover the entire cost of the gift! I know I still paid $90, but it wasn’t $90 out of my budget. To us it was “free” money.

I was given 2 large shopping bags of figs, which I love. But there was no way I could eat them before they went bad. We kept a few aside to eat, used 32 cups of figs to make fig preserves, and we dehydrated the rest. We now have 6-pint size jars and 9 half-pint size jars of fig preserves and a quart sized baggie of dried figs! They turned out really well and taste so good! I will be giving a couple jars to the woman who gave me her figs!

For Christmas this year, I am giving all the males in my family homemade wood butter, a wooden spoon, and a buffing rag to go with it.  I have several candle jars that I have been rinsing out and keeping and they are the perfect size! I don’t have nearly enough to exclusively use candle jars so I will put the rest in mason jars, but it is a good reuse of an item that would otherwise be thrown away and I won’t need to buy as many mason jars to fill.

We had to put our dog down about 2 months ago, but we still had all his stuff. Recently, our neighbor got a chicken and they needed a home for it. We offered them our dog crate. We were happy to pass the crate on to a new home and they were grateful for an immediate answer to their needs. It was a win-win, and we were glad it found a good home.

Every year we have a huge Christmas party open house. Planning ahead, I just ordered the invitations. My credit card had a special deal that if I ordered from I would get 10% back in the form of a credit on my credit card, so that is a savings of $5.40. There was another deal for Autozone of 1% cash back. My husband just bought some of the parts to replace his breaks from there so we will get another .60 back. (I know that’s not much, but when you are on a debt payoff journey, every little bit helps!)

Those are all I can think of right now, but I’m going to try to notice my frugal wins!

Some Extra Money

September 25th, 2023 at 04:32 pm

I bought something for someone a few months ago and haven’t see them in a while. My daughter actually delivered it to them last month but forgot to get the money. I finally saw them this past weekend and they paid us back…with a little interest. They owed us $237 and gave us $250. Because it is money already spent, for us it’s not earmarked anywhere, so it will go straight to the credit card! YAY! Payday is Friday and I will go to the bank and take out the money we need for our envelopes for this pay period less $250 and then I will schedule the payment.

Then, when we got home from our weekend trip and were going through the mail, my husband walked up to me and handed me something we had received in the mail: a refund check for $190. We overpaid for some medical appointments for our daughter way back in April. We knew we had overpaid and they told us we would get a refund, but we had forgotten all about it. I was super excited and deposited the check right away and scheduled a payment for $200 to go towards our credit card.

That is a $450 swing in one day! I’m super excited!

Emergency Fund

September 21st, 2023 at 03:19 pm

My current emergency fund is very small. I have more than the $1000 baby emergency fund suggested by Dave Ramsey, but not by much. I’m starting to feel very anxious about it. We do have a little more money, but it is all earmarked for certain things like our daughters schooling and a tax bill do in early October. Our actual emergency fun is only about $2000.

Our daughter wants to be a personal trainer. She has decided not to attend college and to take a nationally accepted certificate program to become a trainer. As our contribution to her, we paid for her course.  We finally purchased it over Labor Day. (It has been a planned expense and we have been funding our “kids” and “education” envelopes until she was ready to begin the course. All along we had planned to use money from our savings account to pay the difference. We had $600 in cash and needed to use $1000 from savings.  (The $2000 we still have in the bank is independent from the money to pay for her course.)

Luckily September is a three-paycheck month, so we are splitting the third paycheck between savings and debt. After September we should have about $2700 in savings, but that still doesn’t make me feel comfortable. $2700 could cover most true emergencies but being a parent and a homeowner means the next emergency is always around the corner. I like to have a minimum of $5000 in our savings. We are trying to work back to that while continuing to pay down debt.

We could quickly replenish our savings account back up to $5000 in just a couple of months if we slowed our debt payoff. However, we are finally making some progress, so we don’t really want to do that.

We do have an entire regular month’s worth of cash at home that could be stretched into two months of bare bones expenses (that includes our sinking funds and some other cash we have on hand) if needed.

I’m very anxious over the small size of our emergency fund right now because I feel like we are just starting to get real traction in our debt payoff.  I will continue to stay the course and hope that the money we currently do have in our emergency fund will be enough for any future emergencies. We will also continue to add a little bit each month to our savings account. Right now, we are adding about $400 a month to savings. Hopefully we can get our savings built back up and pay off debt at the same time.

Debt Update

September 19th, 2023 at 03:10 pm

It took us a LONG time to truly get serious about debt payoff. At its highest point, our credit card debt was $24,905.68. Last month, our total credit card debt was $14,867.79.

Our credit card statement just closed and our current balance is $14,012.36. We decreased our credit card debt by $855.43. That is a total decrease of 6 percent.

I am excited by the decrease and am so happy to see continued progress, but I’m a little bummed that we didn’t make our goal of being under $14,000. We were so close. Having said that, we have already made our first payment of this billing cycle and are now under $14,000, but I really wanted our statement to show $13,something. We make payments on our credit card debt several times a month based on when we are paid and any time we have extra money come in.

We were paid on the 15th so scheduled a $200 payment to go on the 18th. We get paid again on the 29th. September is a three-paycheck month so a big chunk of that paycheck will go straight to our credit card, in addition to all our regular payments.

Overall, we have paid off nearly 44% of our total credit card debt from its highest point. More than anything, I want to see continued progress like decreasing debt and increasing our savings. Every move we make right now is improving our financial health!

No Spend September Update

September 14th, 2023 at 03:24 pm

I made another grocery shopping trip last night. I went to Winco and spent $126.68.  $20 of that was right outside the store to a man selling strawberries. They were the best-looking strawberries I’ve seen all year. (I tried them when I got home, and they are so good! Worth it!) I bought a lot of other fresh produce: lettuce, bell peppers, onions, cuties, and bananas. I bought 4 half gallons of almond milk, 7 boxes of chai tea latte mix*, 2 quarts of heavy cream, coffee creamer, mustard, peanut butter, 4 cans of tuna, sausages, one big can of canned peaches, and two cans of cannelloni beans.

It wasn’t a huge trip, but I picked up a lot of things that we have run out of and needed. Added to what we spent a couple of weeks ago, our grocery total for September is currently at $277.59. My husband is going to go to Costco tonight to pick up milk and bread, so we will likely be at $300. That is a little over where I would like to be right now, but we still might be able to swing $500 or less in total. It just depends on what we run out of in the next couple of weeks.

Other than milk and produce, I don’t think we will need much for the rest of the month, but time will tell.

(*It’s kind of pricey, but way less than Starbucks. Each drink ends up costing me about $1.43 which is much less than $4.95 at a coffee shop.)


Goal Check-In

September 12th, 2023 at 05:03 pm

Still doing pretty well on the No-Spend September front. We have had some necessary car repairs to make to the tune of $100, but those were necesarry and not in impulse purchase, so they don't bother me. I haven't been back to the grocery store but will make a trip this weekend and update my totals after. Last Saturday, my daughter asked me to go shopping with her and I did. She has an upcoming international trip and needed some things for that. I was proud that I only acted as her sounding board and didn't buy anything... even though I was tempted.

On to our 2023 goal check-in...

Our 2023 financial goals were pretty simple: decrease debt and increase savings.

So far, we have done really well on one front and not quite as well on the other. We have decreased our debt by more than I thought we would have by this point. Our goal was to have our credit card debt below $13,000 and right now we are on track to have our credit card below $11,000 by the end of the year! I am really hoping we can continue to decrease our debt as we are inching closer and closer to the most expensive parts of the year: holiday season.  I’m not unhappy with our progress and I definitely think we will make our goal!

As far as the other half of our 2023 goals go, savings, we have not saved as much as we would like. In fact, when I wrote our goals, our savings stood at $7500, now it is only $5000. We have, however, cash flowed a lot of unexpected or unusual expenses: putting our dog down, trip to Disneyland to watch our daughter dance down Main Street, all senior year and dance activities, and an exploratory trip to Tennessee (we are considering moving there) among other things. We are continuing to build our savings back up but realistically, I don’t think we will get our savings to $10,000 by the end of the year as I know we have some expenses coming up that will eat into our progress.

We will see where we stand in December.

Looking for Money

September 8th, 2023 at 11:50 pm

I'm trying to come up with $175 by Tuesday. Today, when I got home from work I rolled my change and I had $55. I will deposit it in the bank on Monday so I can send it to our credit card bill. 

I'm really excited! I figured I'd have only $25... $55 is a good dent. I still need to come up with $120, but I'm a little bit closer now!

Our (Not so Good) History with Credit Cards

September 8th, 2023 at 03:38 pm

Our history with credit has not been particularly good.  Our credit score has always been very good, but our use of credit was almost always irresponsible. There have been times in our life when the use of credit was absolutely necessary to keep us afloat. There have been times that we used credit to live far above our means; and there have been times that we have been living just at our means. Currently, we are actually living “below” our means in that we are saving for both short and long term and decreasing our debt a little bit each month. However, while we are living “below” our means, we are still paying for all the times we lived above them.

When we bought our first house, we had a one year old and I was three months pregnant with our second child. I didn’t work much. I worked 2 days a week at a shoe store, making decent money and my husband was working in IT for Safeway. Once our second child was born, I took 6 full months off and then went back to working at the shoe store part time. At times, we had to charge groceries because we didn’t have enough money to cover all of our expenses. I wouldn’t even say we were living paycheck to paycheck because our paychecks weren’t cutting it. This is where our debt roller coaster really started.

Fast forward a couple of years and about $10,000 in credit card debt and I went to work full time and became a teacher. At this point, we could afford all our daily bills and then some. We could cover all of our monthly expenses, put some money aside for savings, and work on paying down our credit card debt. I said we COULD, not we DID. When I started receiving a paycheck, we used that as our excuse to spend even more money. We still lived paycheck to paycheck, and we started charging “stuff” and vacations we didn’t need and couldn’t afford. But we were paying cash for all our needs, and we could afford our minimum payments, so we just kept living that way.

That yo-yo went on for literally years. The lowest I remember our credit card every being was $8,000. However, it was at the end of this period (only 18 months ago) when we reached our highest credit card debt of almost $25,000. That was April of 2022. That was our wakeup call. We charged so much money that our credit card raised our credit limit because we had exceeded it. But, since they knew we were really good at making minimum payments, they were happy to allow us to dig our whole deeper. (To be clear, I don’t blame the credit card company for our debt. I’m just saying that we were their ideal customer, and they did appreciate that we always made our payments on time.)

April of 2022 our statement balance was $24,905.68. That was probably the scariest number I had ever seen! It finally gave us the kick in the pants we needed to work on truly decreasing our debt.

April of 2022 we finally started living “below” our means. We still contribute to our retirement accounts and put a small amount into savings, but our credit card bill is finally decreasing. We have decreased our credit card debt by $10,037.89… that’s 40% of our total. We still have a long way to go, but I feel like we are finally getting it. In addition to these wins, we are also working hard to fully fund our sinking funds. As envelopes becomes fully funded, we will take that envelope’s monthly allowance and add it to what we send to debt each month. Our sinking funds are one more step towards financial freedom.

It's sad that it has taken us until our mid-40s to get our financial life together, but we are doing it. We are decreasing our debt, paying more than the minimum payments each month, paying all of our bills on-time and with cash, slowly building our emergency fund, and contributing 20% of our income towards retirement. Small steps add up to big change.

We are on the right path and we are making progress. Currently, I am on a mission to find $175 by Tuesday, so that when our credit card bill closes, and after interest we will owe less than $14,000. As it is, we’ve brought the balance down to $13,925, but that’s before interest is added. I’m working every angle I can right now and trying to figure out where I can scrounge some extra money up from! Wish us luck!

Birthday purchases

September 7th, 2023 at 03:37 pm

I make exceptions for No Spend September, one of those is gifts. Two co-workers have birthdays this week, one today and one tomorrow. I am closer to the one with a birthday tomorrow, but she won't be here, so I brought her gift today. I got her Starbucks, a bag of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and a plant in a cute toadstool planter.  My other co-worker I just brought Starbucks.

I had $34 on my Starbucks app. (I rarely go there anymore!) I did get myself a drink as well because I had enough stars for a free drink, so I treated myself. The barista also let me know that I had enough stars left over to pay for the soy milk change for one of the birthday drinks. Total cost for three drinks: $10.60.

I also grabbed the peanut butter cups and plant. My original plan was to bring her flowers because she LOVES them. Then I realized she is not going to be at work tomorrow because shes going out of town. That means she wouldn't be able to enjoy the flowers for the first several days, and let's face it, flowers only last so long. Instead I chose a house plant in a super cute pot. The tag said $8.99. The peanut butter cups were on sale for $4.99. My father-in-law works for the same company so we get a small employee discount.  For some reason I got an additional $5.00 of my purchase. The receipt calls it a "basket discount". I've never seen that on a receipt before, but I will take it. The total for the plant and candy came to $9.27.

In total, I spent $19.87 and made a couple of ladies very happy! One couldn't stop thanking me and told me I literally made her day, which in turn, made my day. It feels good to do good things for other people and then to be appreciated on top of that is pretty awesome!

We do have a gift budget and today's purchase came out of that.

Otherwise, still chugging away at No-Spend September.  I haven't made any impulse purchases or bought anything from Amazon. It's only been a week, but I feel like that has got to be my longest streak since before summer, and the reason I'm doing the challenge!

Have a great day!

No Spend September: Shopping Trip 1

September 5th, 2023 at 06:02 pm

For my No Spend September, I will check in with my spend totals as the month goes on and I make purchases. In years past, No Spend September has been a great way to reset our spending habits and dig a little further out of debt.

My goals with this particular No Spend September are increased debt payoff and to slay the Amazon habit! I recently looked at how much we have been spending on Amazon and wowie was I surprised! And I am not talking about pre-planned expenses or even necessary unexpected expenses. I am talking about new clothes just because, or a new book, or new kitchen gadgets. I have been ordering from Amazon nonstop lately… and it NEEDS to stop! That is a place in our budget where we are bleeding money!

My husband has been ordering more from Amazon than he normally does, too. However, most of his items are needs, things needed for car repair or new work clothes. But either way, we have been spending way too much money on Amazon! I’m hoping this No Spend September will help reset my spending habits and make me think before I click “buy now”.

We did our first shop of the month on Saturday, September 2 and we spent $150.91. We shopped at Costco and only bought food items! I can’t recall the last time that actually happened. We mostly stuck to the list and only added one item that wasn’t on the list because we were low on them: eggs. All in all, it was a pretty good shop.

We got six gallons of milk, artichokes, bell peppers, a pineapple, a watermelon, apples, tomatoes, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, maple syrup, bacon, eggs, cheese, bread, and coffee beans.

We shouldn’t have to go to the grocery store for about a week. Hopefully we can stay within my $500 budget!

No Spend September

September 1st, 2023 at 05:57 pm

For many years, from 2013 to 2020, as a family we chose to do “No Spend September”. As we all know, 2020 was a crazy year that we still haven’t all quite recovered from. It changed the way we looked at life and money. And somehow, we fell out of the habit of No Spend Septembers after Covid. This year I suggested to my husband that we do another No Spend September and he really wasn’t on board. I’m okay with that. Like I said, we did it for 7 years and our kids saw our example of spending fasts. We also always told the kids why we were doing a no spend month and what our goals were to get out of it.

Even though my husband doesn’t want to participate in a No Spend September, I decided I still want to. For me, a no spend month resets the way I look at and treat money. Every family (or in my case, person) needs to determine what rules work for them. Obviously, I will continue to pay all my monthly bills: mortgage, utilities, water, credit card, etc. I just won’t be buying any extras. I will still buy gas as needed and, of course, food.  I won’t be buying new clothes/shoes, household décor, or cleaning products. I really try to stick to the basics and trim my budget as much as possible.

We both still need to get to work so we will buy fuel as needed, as well as any other necessities for the car. Our normal grocery budget runs about $700 a month. During the month of September, I will try to spend $500 or less on groceries. That might be a little harder than in previous years because my husband is not on board this year so when we grocery shop, he will probably still add in lots of “extras” and things not on the grocery list. In years past I have noticed I am never so good at sticking to the list as I am during No Spend September.

My one exception for No Spend September (that I already purchased) was eye cream. I ran out yesterday and planned to go grab some at Target, but I forgot my in-laws were coming over for dinner last night, so I didn’t have a chance to get some. I ordered it on Amazon this morning because they actually have it for a better price than anywhere else. I was able to order it with next day delivery for $15.40 including tax and the cheapest I could find it at a store in town was $21.99 plus tax.

Hoping for a good financial month!

A Step Raise!

August 31st, 2023 at 09:19 pm

I just started year 18 of teaching! I can’t believe it. I teach in Northern California at a continuation high school, and most days I love it. Year 18 means I get a step raise. It is not a traditional merit based rase, it is purely based on years of service. If I have done my math correctly, it looks like I will be taking home an additional $300 per month.

Most times when I get any sort of raise, we increase the amount I contribute to my 403b, but not this time. As we are trying to become more financially solvent, we are seeing where we have some holes in our budget. We have sinking funds for many categories, but we have inadvertently ignored some possible big budget busters: home repair/furniture upgrade, new car purchase, and appliances.

We do have a general savings account and a small emergency fund, but none of these things should be emergencies. We know we will need to upgrade our furniture at some point. We also know that when you are a homeowner you need to maintain your investment. Likewise, cars don’t run forever, and we have not been putting away for a new car like we should have been. Appliances fall into that same vein. They don’t last forever, so we need to plan to replace them.

We plan to carve a little bit extra out of our budget and add that to the additional $300 from my step raise to start sinking funds for those categories. I know $100 - $150 a month isn’t much, but it is a start. Eventually, as we fully (to us) fund other sinking funds and pay off our credit card debt, we will be able to increase the amount we contribute to each sinking fund each month.

Baby steps. I always have to remind myself: we did not get into debt over night… It was over a period of many years, so we won’t get out of debt over night either. We need to be patient, stay the course, and be responsible.

These new sinking funds will put one more step between us and financial disaster!

Today is payday for my district. We get paid on the last working day of the month. It was so very satisfying to go to the bank, pull out the money for my envelopes, and then start three new envelopes! Each one doesn’t have much, but I’m so glad we started them! And I’m glad we are making a plan for the money I’m getting from my step raise and not just nickel and diming the money away.

Murphy Decided to Pay us a Visit

August 29th, 2023 at 06:22 pm

Murphy decided to pay us a visit. UGH!

We are strongly considering moving (I will do a full post on that eventually), and during the course of packing some stuff up, I walked across an area of carpet and it felt a little damp. I thought I was imagining things and I didn’t really think much of it. About 10 minutes later, I walked across the area again and it again felt damp to me. Just slightly damp, but damp. This time, I had my husband come check if it felt damp to him… and it did.

We have bookshelves lining the wall where we felt dampness, so we pulled the books and three shelves out and lo and behold, there was some wet drywall and baseboards and damp carpet. The other side of this wall is our fridge. We pulled the fridge out and saw that there was a hose leaking from our fridge. We don’t know how long is has been leaking, but it’s been long enough to damage the baseboards on both sides of the wall and about a foot of drywall too.

It sucks! Especially because we are trying to get our house ready to show in the event that we do move. This is a pretty major setback. We have fans set up on each side of the wall to dry out the water and then we will really be able to see the damage and what we will need to do to fix it.

This fridge has been nothing but a nightmare since we bought it brand new almost 7 years ago. We remodeled the kitchen in our old house and got all new appliances. The fridge we chose had an ice and water machine. The ice/water stopped working within six months of getting the fridge.  Also, things on the left side of the fridge freeze. (We have had to throw out sour cream more than once because it got shifted to the left side of the fridge and frozen. Sour cream just doesn’t defrost well.) Items also freeze in the crisper drawers. I have hated this fridge almost since day one… and this just gave me cause to hate it more.

On the bright side, my husband is very handy and he will be able to do all the work himself. It will just take time and money. It won’t be a super expensive fix money-wise, but it will be pretty costly timewise. Dry wall repair takes a while. The timing of this is not ideal, but it never would be. Hopefully we will be able to repair it relatively quickly and get back to getting the house ready to show.

Baby Emergency Fund

August 28th, 2023 at 06:05 pm

In February, inspired by another blog I read, I decided to start saving all my $1 for an emergency fund. The blog I was influenced by saves all of her $5 bills, but I don’t feel like we are in a financial position to take so much out of our daily budgets right now, but maybe someday.

As we primarily use cash, a fair amount of $1 bills go through our hands. We take them and put them in a separate envelope marked “emergency”. Each time we get to $100 in singles, I bring it to the bank and change it out for various larger bills. Currently we have $300 in the envelope, all in 20s. We are past half way to another hundred dollar mark and we will probably turn that into a hundred dollar bill when the time comes, and maybe after that we will change the singles in to fifties. We like the idea of having the money in different denominations so if we ever do have to use it, the money is actually useable and convenient.

Although it is not a huge emergency fund, it is a little extra money that might come in handy one day. And as it continues to grow, it will be more and more substantial. We don’t currently have a goal for our $1 bill emergency fund, other than to watch it grow, but have talked about different things we can use it for: appliances suddenly breaking, unexpected car repairs (that we can’t fund with our car envelope), unexpected medical bills, or maybe (once the numbers line up) we will use whatever is in the envelope to pay off the last of our debt. (That would be a dream come true!)  At this point it is all speculation, but it gives me a little peace of mind to know we have a small stash of money that isn’t already designated to somewhere.

We do have a small emergency fund in the bank, but we are nowhere near a fully funded emergency fund. Like I said in my last post, however, we are working hard at maxing out our sinking funds, so emergencies will be fewer and farther between, but a little extra insurance never hurt anybody!

The Way We Use the Envelope System

August 24th, 2023 at 02:54 pm

It's been a long time since I’ve written about it, but we use the Dave Ramsey envelope method for budgeting. We don’t follow Dave religiously, but we do like the envelope method for our sinking funds and it seems to work pretty well for us. Twice a month I go to the bank and take out anywhere from $800 - $1500 to fill our envelopes. This works for us and helps us to keep from charging on our credit cards and increasing our debt.

We have several different envelopes, as well as one separate savings account where we budget for car insurance (annually), car registrations, and tithing/giving to our church. Many people have told us we “have too many envelopes”, but we have what works for us.

Recently, as we have a little more money now because our kids are getting older, we went through and determined maximum amounts for our envelopes. Although we’ve never been destitute, we’ve never been in a place to max out our sinking fund envelopes and barely fully funded them each month. Now we are starting to see little surpluses each month and it’s exciting! It’s another sign of progress towards better financial health!

We have 9 envelopes: food, gas, car, household, hair/nails, kids, education, clothes, health/gym. We determined that food will never have a maximum because we buy ½ a cow every year and any excess in food will go towards that. We allot $600 a month towards gas and determined that the maximum we will put/keep in there will be $1000. We’ve never reached that before, but right now that envelope is sitting at $715, so we are getting close. Car is another envelope that will never max out. Car repairs come when you least expect them and can often be expensive! We have $440 in our car envelope right now. Household to us is shampoo, soap, paper goods, cleaning products, etc. and we set a maximum of $500. We’ve never gotten anywhere near $500 and usually that envelope is running at a deficit, but I’m hoping with fewer expenses and that we are now funding our envelopes with higher values, we will get there. We just did a big Costco run and got toilet paper (X2), deodorant (X2), ziploc bags, and dish detergent, and because of all that, we have $0 in that envelope, but will be filling it with our next paycheck. Hair/nails will max out at $500 as well. I actually only get my hair cut about once a year, but I’m going to be honest and say I love manicures and pedicures, although I don’t get them as often as I used to. This envelope currently sits at $290 so I could see us maxing it out in the near future. Both The Kids are now high school graduates and adults, but we decided to keep our “kid” envelope for various and sundry things. We will max “kids” out at $500. This envelope has $180. Our education envelope doesn’t have to be used to pay for senior year anymore, but as I am a teacher I am constantly paying for things for my classroom. The money in that envelope will be used towards mainly that. (The Daughter has decided she wants to be a personal trainer and as she has decided not to pursue college, we will pay for her certification course for personal training. Much of that will come out of the “education” envelope.) Once we have paid for The Daughter’s personal training course, that envelope will top out at $500. We have $0 there now as I just bought pens and pencils for my classroom and paid for my Sunshine Club membership; but we will keep plugging away at that envelope. Clothes and shoes can get expensive. This envelope currently sits at $390 and will top at $1000. Our last envelope is health/gym. We pay $160 per month to see a personal trainer. That envelope will top out at $320 which is two times our monthly cost. Currently, that envelope has $280 in it. We will only budget $40 toward it this month as that would bring us to our maximum.

Our sinking funds (not including car registration and insurance, which is directly deposited into its own savings account) sit at almost $2500. We are happy about that and feel like our sinking funds are another barrier between us and sinking further into debt. Of course we hope to only use the envelopes for their prescribed categories, but in a pinch this could function as another emergency fund.

These are the envelopes that work for us right now and as life changes, so will our envelopes. In the past, we have had envelopes for pets, dance, sports, etc. Each season of life leads us in different directions and with different financial responsibilities; there is no one way to do anything and this is what works for us right now!

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