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Random Update

April 26th, 2021 at 07:45 pm

It’s been a couple of months since my last entry and I feel like a lot has gone on! This is probably going to be a long post!

A big part of the reason that I fell off the face of the blogosphere is because we started back hybrid in my district. First of all, as a teacher, it is EXHAUSTING! It’s been a lot but I finally feel like I am starting to get into a rhythm. My kids went back to school two days a week and sports resumed as well. The Boy plays both football and baseball and this year, they were played in the same season and kids could play two sports concurrently, which is not allowed in a “normal” school year. It has made for a crazy schedule. He had 6 hours of practice or games a day and we were attending anywhere from 2-5 games in a given week. We’ve done really well planning dinners through this time and have only bought fast food once. That was a small win for sure! Along with the football and baseball seasons came some costs: pictures, new baseball bag, and some other small (mostly forgotten at this time) purchases. Nothing was too expensive and we had enough money in our “school” or “kids activities” envelopes to cover any costs.

We did make one very costly purchase for school, however: a letterman jacket. The Boy has talked about getting his letterman jacket since he started high school. He would have gotten it last summer or at the beginning of last school year, but due to Covid he didn’t earn a varsity letter. With playing two varsity sports, he earned it this spring. We ordered his jacket, to the tune of $340!!! Ouch! And that doesn’t count the embroidery on the back. We were lucky enough to have enough money in the school envelope to pay for it and still have some money left over for various expenses, including embroidery when the jacket comes in.

We filed out taxes. We have to pay federal and got a refund from state. We have extra taken out for federal and still have to pay every year! It’s very frustrating! We have decided not to readjust our withholdings, however, because the refund from state offsets what we have to pay.

We refinanced our house. We actually refinanced our house about 18 months ago, but the rates are so low right now that it was worth it for us to do it again. We started the process back in January and we didn’t finalize our loan until the middle of April. It was a long process for no reason in particular. Even though it took a long time, we locked our interest rate in back in January. We are happy with our interest rate of 2.7%. We lowered our monthly payment by $200 a month and took a little over a year off of our loan. Unless rates were to drop considerably (which is very unlikely) I don’t see us refinancing again, but I’m very glad we were able to take advantage of the low rates.

Our high schools have elected not to hold prom this year so I thought that was another thing that kids in general, and The Boy in particular, was going to lose out on; but one of his friends since kindergarten is holding a backyard prom. Formal, catered, with a DJ and a photobooth. I’m happy he gets to have that experience. For him we had to rent a tux, buy a corsage, and pay for the tickets at $50 per person. More money. The churches in our city also got together and are holding a city-wide prom for all high schoolers. Our daughter is a sophomore and we didn’t anticipate her going, but she was asked by a junior to attend… more money. We only had to get her a dress and buy her ticket. (Her date was going to purchase her ticket, but because parents need to sign a waiver, he could only buy one ticker and he offered to give us money for hers, (we declined) which we thought was incredibly sweet!) So far, we have been able to cash flow all of these expenses between our clothes, school, and kids activities envelopes so I’m happy we didn’t add to our debt with them!

I'm sure we have had a lot of other financial news during this time, but these are the things that stick out to me!

The Best Laid Plans

February 17th, 2021 at 05:46 pm

We had such plans to save money and pay off debt. We still do, but some things have conspired against us.

We have an outside fridge/freezer in our garage. And it's going out. As a family, we go through a lot of milk! We average a gallon a day. We generally buy 10 gallons at a time and that doesn't all fit in our inside fridge, hence the fridge in the garage.

We were given that fridge free over 10 years ago so we more than got "our moneys" worth. Now we need to replace it. For the last two months, The Husband has been filling up 2 liter bottles and freezing them and then rotating them in the fridge to keep it cold. We finally decided to purchase a new fridge.

We found one that is almost the same size as our current fridge. It is less than 1 cubic foot smaller. It is a freezer/fridge combo with the freezer on top (which is our preference). It does not have an ice maker or water dispenser as it is a fridge for our garage and it still cost us $750 plus tax and a $25 fee to take away our old fridge.

It was on sale for President's Day, but was still about $200 more than we wanted to spend. When our old fridge started to go out, we were hoping we could hold out until prices went back down, but we decided to go ahead and buy a fridge as we were too worried that something would happen and the freezer would go out too and then all the food we had out there would spoil.

I am also having car issues. It has a leak (power steering fluid, we think). It also does something funny when shifting gears every once in a while.  I love NOT having a car payment and am not looking forward to having to make one. 

We also recently recieved an "unexpected" (more accurately, forgotten) car insurance bill.  When The Son got his license, we obviously added him to our insurance. They did not bill us right away and told us they will bill us when what we have "prepaid" is up. We pay our policy in full each year, so we forgot we had an extra bill coming. 

Happily we have the money to pay for the fridge and our insurance, but using that money to pay for these things means it doesn't go towards debt. BOO!

Okay, rant over. I just wanted to complain and now I feel a bit better. 

2021 Goals

January 12th, 2021 at 07:31 pm

These are a little late in coming. First of all, I couldn't finalize what I wanted my goals to be. Secondly, our world went a little crazy. Lastly, I was procrastinating.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post with some potential goals and those are mostly what I am going to go with for the year.

1. Decrease credit card debt by $8000. I would love to completely pay off my credit card debt but I'm not sure that's going to happen this year. I think an $8000 decrease is doable but will still be work for us. I also want to be realistic.

2. Add $5000 to our EF savings. For various reasons, our EF took a hit this year. I want to get it back up to $10,000 by the end of the year. I found a Pinterest savings challenge that has you save a certain amount each week that ends up being $5000 in a year. I modify it and only do one deposit monthly. I did this last year and it was a great motivator for me. (I know you are supposed to pay yourself first, but I'm not very good at that. However, putting a line item in our budget encouraged me to put more in savings.)

3. Give montly to our church. And increase the amount from 2020 to 2021. (I don't care if we only give $50 more next year, but I want to make sure that number goes up year to year!)

4. Increase my 403b contributions. (We were late getting on the "retirement savings band wagon", so we are trying to make up for lost time. The Husband contributes 16% of his salary (with a 3% match and 6% profit sharing) and I contribute an additional 10% above my CalSTRS requirement.)

5. Split any "found" money evenly between savings and debt. (This could be stimulus money, if The Husband gets overtime, overages pay for me, etc.) Usually this money gets frittered away so I want to give it a purpose.

I know it seems like some of my goals are working against eachother (saving and paying off debt) but we need to do both to improve our financial situation.

I also know most people would say it's more financially sound to pay off debt than it is to save/save for retirement. And while mathematically speaking, that may be true, it does nothing for my peace of mind. So, we are going to split our focus.

We don't have a lof of goals, but successfully completing each one will help put us in a better financial positions than we are in now.

Good luck to everyone on their 2021 goals! And may 2021 be a better year!

2021 Goals?

December 17th, 2020 at 09:14 pm

As we are getting closer to ending this hellish year and starting fresh with 2021, I have been thinking about what my financial goals should be in the new year.

I know I want to get out of credit card debt.

I know I want to complete a $5000 savings challenge. (This would probably be conucurrent with getting out of debt.)

I know I want to increase my 403b contributions.

I know we want to continue monthly contributions to our church.

But other than that, I don't know what we want to do or accomplish. Even those are vague. We need to sit down and flush out our financial goals. We can't achieve them if we don't define them.

Goals are always so hard for me because I feel pulled in so many different directions. I want to get out of debt. I want to save for short term goals. I want to save for long term goals. I want to give generously. But there never seems to be enough money to do it all. 

Last year, I had 20 financial goals for 2020. It was too many! We met about 65% (13 out of 20), but it was too much to keep track of and to try to meet them all. This year, I know I want to pare down my goals and focus in on what is the most important to us.

I'm looking forward to seeing everybody's goals and hoping maybe they can inspire mine.

Time Flies

December 7th, 2020 at 08:29 pm

I can't believe it's been over a month since my last post. Time certainly flies during the holiday season.

Not too much has gone on financially in the past month. We are just chugging away.

Our debt has actually stayed pretty stagnant. Most of our debt payment has been divereted to Christmas. However stagnant is better than increasing, but not as good as decreasing.

We had a nice Thanksgiving with family and are looking forward to Christmas.

Because 2020 has been such a difficult year, I was able to persuade my husband to allow me to decorate for Christmas extra early this year! He likes to wait until after Thanksgiving, but to me, the earlier the better! With the exception of our real tree, my house was all decorated by Veteran's day. 

The day after Thanksgiving, we drove up to the mountains and, for the first time in my life, cut down a tree. The daughter really wanted to do that so we did and had a great time. The husband picked out the tree and then the daughter cut it down almost all by herself. It was a great day.

Like many people, Christmas is my FAVORITE time of year. I love the cheer, the happiness, the excitement, and celebrating the birth of our Lord and savior. We decorate our whole house: bedrooms, bathrooms, inside and outside. This year we put up 10 Christmas trees. Every year we have a huge open house style Christmas party where anywhere from 75 -100 people come throughout the day. Due to Covid we are not having it this year and I'm so sad about it. I do believe the sacrifice is totally worth it, but it still breaks my heart. As we are all so busy there are some people I see only once a year at our party. Oh well, hopefully we can have a blowout shindig next year!

How We Budget

November 3rd, 2020 at 07:15 pm

I've already talked about the debt we have... and we know how we got ourselves into debt: living above our means. We both make good salaries but we used the excuse of living in an expensive area to spend more than we made. 

For the last couple of years, we've been trying to correct that. To help us budget, we use an envelope system. (This was much easier before Covid when you could actually go to the bank and withdraw cash in any denomination. We have had to modify the way we budget the last several months.) We have several sinking funds where we literally store the cash in an envelope until it's needed.

I have been told before that we have too many envelopes, but we have determined these are the categories that work for us. 

Here they are in no particular order.

     Car Repair - this is almost all things care related: repaires, parts, tires, etc.       It does not include insurance.

     Food - Self explanatory

     Gas - Self explanatory

     Clothes - clothes, underclothes, socks, pajamas, etc.  

     Hair/Self-Care - Hair cuts, (occasional) manicures/pedicures

     Essentials - Things like toilet paper, shampoo/conditioner, deoderant,           cleaning supplies, etc.

     Kids' Activities - Sports and dance expenses

     School - PE uniforms, pictures, yearbooks, field trips, sports fees, ASB             cards, etc.

     Pet - Dog food, shots, vet bills

     Christmas - gifts, food, Christmas tree

We have health insurance through The Husband's work (dental and vision insurance are through my employer) and we set aside a small amount for medical costs in an HSA at the beginning of the year through The Husband's work.

We also have a separate account where money is deposited from each paycheck to cover our yearly car insurance, giving to our church, and some small extras. We do plan for these expenses, but they aren't part of our envelope system.

For the most part, we carry money over month-to-month. Some months we don't need all of the money we put in the envelope and some months we need more than our monthly allottment. This has worked pretty well for us. 

We are still in debt, but since we have been using the envelope system, our debt has decreased and we have done better at managing our money and living within our means.

We also continue to contribute to our retirement. (I know a lot of people are against that when you are in debt, but we feel it's what is right for us.) I will do an entire post about our retirement contributions in the near future.       

Thank you!

October 21st, 2020 at 05:32 pm

Thank you all so much for the warm welcome! I read all your comments, thoughts, and suggestions! They were very appreciated!

I actually wrote this last week and tried posting it several times, but with all the issues the site was having, it got lost somewhere in the interwebs.

After reading some of the comments I was a little concerned that I painted too dire a picture of our financial situation.

 

Although I HATE our debt, I want to be clear that we are not struggling or living totally paycheck to paycheck (although we have in the past).

 

We do have savings. In the bank we have 3 months of bare bones expenses: mortgage, utilities, gas, and food. I know conventional wisdom says we should take that money and pay off our credit card debt, but it brings us peace of mind during this crazy time.

 

The Husband and I have both been very lucky during this pandemic and we have been working the whole time. However, we know that things could change very quickly in this economic climate.  My job is pretty secure. I am a public school teacher, but The Husband works in the private sector and we want to be as prepared as possible for any sort of job loss. That is part of the reason we are trying to get rid of our credit card debt so badly. To clarify, we do not anticipate anything happening to his job, (in fact he was asked to work overtime this weekend) but we want as many of our ducks in a row as possible, just in case.

 

Debt

October 8th, 2020 at 07:44 pm

We have a lot of debt. We have a mortgage, a 401K loan, a solar loan, and one ginormous credit card.

The credit card is the one that stresses me out the most and keeps me up at night. We have been credit card debt free only two times in our adult life and both times we paid off our debt with an unexpected windfall and both times we vowed never to go back into credit card debt. Yet, here we are.

We took out a 401K loan to help us buy a house about 3 1/2 years ago. It is a 5 year loan and we have about 18 months left to pay on it. It is automatically deducted every paycheck.

After having $725 utility bills in our new (to us) home, we decided to get solar. We took out a 10 year loan and are 2 years in, so 8 to go, before that is paid off. That is also on auto pay, but we are hoping to pay if off a little early.

We don't currently have any auto loans, but I don't know how long that is going to last. My car is almost 11 years old with 160,000 and The Husband's car is almost 6 years old with 93,000. Added to that we added a driver this year and plan to add another one next year.

Our most stressful debt to me is our credit card. We have $13,000 in credit card debt. This is actually an improvement. In January we owed $21,000 so we are making progress. Our goal was to have less than $10,000 in credit card debt by the end of this year. I don't know if we are going to make it, but we have made decent progress. This time getting out of debt we have actually been digging our way out one month and payment at a time. In the past, we used "windfalls" to get out of debt. I'm hoping it sticks this time because we are actually putting in the work.

Hello!

October 8th, 2020 at 06:13 pm

I have been reading blogs here for several years and finally decided to start my own!

I don't know that I have a particularly interesting story or much to say, but I think this would be a great place to keep a financial journal just for me.

Where to start... I am married to the man of my dreams, my high school sweetheart, and we have been together for over 25 years. We have two teenaged children that are pretty awesome. We live in California where the cost of living is ridiculous! Most anywhere else we would be living "high on the hog", but here we are solidly upper middle class.

Neither one of us ever developed very good personal finance skills, so we have made mistake after mistake and are trying to clean up our mess now.

Besides our astronomical mortgage, we have a 401K loan, a solar loan, and one credit card with a very high balance!

We own both of our cars, but they are getting up there in age and we added one driver this past summer and will be adding another one in the next year.

We are trying to escape the debt cycle we have been in for over 20 years.


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