Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sweet, Sweet Fantasy, Baby

Today I found myself daydreaming about improvements to my life. Being a personal finance blogger, you would probably think that I was imagining what it would be like to have more money. That wasn't the case today (although some days it is). Today I fantasized about having more time.

Time, the elusive minx, that, along with love, cannot be bought. Between working 60-70 hours a week, commuting, and housework, I rarely have any time to myself. Unless you count the time alone in the car. I have to squish regular things like laundry and grocery shopping into my schedule, often making my lists or cutting coupons on my breaks at work. Not to be outdone, my husband works 80+ hours a week, so I rarely see him as well. Simple trips to see our families have to be orchestrated weeks in advance so we can clear our schedules - and even then we have to take time off of work.

I know this is being whiny, but I'm leading up to what I would do with more time. In random order, I would
  • Work out more (I doubt the gym will recognize me at this point)
  • Spend more time with family and friends. And husband.
  • Make improvements to my house (nothing drastic, but lots involving paint & elbow grease)
  • Elaborate on my hobbies - I love cooking and try to make it exciting, but too often it ends up being hurry-up-and-get-the-food-on-the-table because it's 9pm and we haven't had dinner yet.
  • Better maintain my daily tasks instead of leaving the laundry until there are no clean underpants left
  • Write more on this little blog thing I've got going on
  • Sleep more - 8 hours a night is a once a week occurrence. Unfortunately for the people who know me, I really need 8 hours a night. :)
At the end of the day, my daydream works as motivation to keep paying off the debt. Once it's all gone, I can leave the second job and the income that it brings. This is essentially paying for my time back, but I'm looking forward to having my life again and I'm willing to deal with the reduction in income. (See, it all relates to personal finance somehow!)

If you had more time, how would it affect your life? What could you do with a few more hours a week?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Paycheck Quad-fecta

As I mentioned in my sick post, the paycheck planets have aligned for November, starting with this week. We each get paid on separate schedules, so it's very rare that we get paid at the same time.

My husband is simple - one paycheck on the first of every month. Quick and easy, direct deposit. At my day job, we get two types of pay - salary and commissions. The salary is paid every other Thursday. Commissions are paid on the last day of the month. These are all direct deposit as well. For my part time job, I get paid every other Thursday as well, on the same Thursdays as my day job. This is via a live paycheck, so I have to make a trip to the bank. Got all that? This is why I have Quicken!

Because there are 52 weeks in the year and I get paid every 2 weeks, there are 2 months a year that I get 3 paychecks. This year, those months are May and November. So November has two extra paychecks, one from my full time job and one from my night job. These paychecks are the basis for my Christmas budget, so I'm psyched that November is one of the months with an extra paycheck.

On top of that, for the first time ever, we will receive all four types of paychecks this week because November 1 is a Thursday payday. Do you have any idea how exciting that is? Our bank account is usually pretty low by the end of the month, and by Friday it's going to skyrocket. Then it's dropping again as I send a bunch of the money to the debt!

Since the extra paychecks are going to Christmas presents, our total amount of debt payoff won't change drastically. However, we'll have more money at the beginning of the month so I can front-load our debt payments. I just need to make sure to keep the rest of the month on track.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Being Sick is Bad for my Budget

As I mentioned earlier, I had a little bit of a cold this past week. Then my husband got it. While things are finally getting back to normal around here, it kind of threw us for a loop. I never really thought about how much energy we put into being frugal - until we had no energy.

I ate out 4 times this past week (including last night for the Sox game), which is way more than usual. Two of those were fast food, and one was using a gift certificate, but it really shows how lazy I get when I'm sick. We also had food in the freezer, ready to be made, and I made an emergency trip to the grocery store for comfort food - grilled cheese and tomato soup. I didn't cook once this week. That's unheard of! We ate leftovers and sandwiches and the aforementioned restaurant meals.

In addition, I called out sick from my second job one night. I really hate calling out sick, but it was definitely the best thing to do, as the next day I felt 1000 times better. Still, it really frosts my cookies to lose out on those hours. I work there to make extra money, so it's pretty pointless to stay home. It's only about $35 before taxes, but still. Since I spent last weekend away, my next paycheck is going to be half what it normally is. Fortunately, November is a three paycheck month, so it won't affect the budget too much.

I'm really looking forward to this week getting back to normal. Once the World Series is over and I can sleep again, things will go much more smoothly. My husband isn't traveling, and the paycheck planets have aligned so we will get 4 paychecks this week. All in all, I'm expecting a very good finance week.

Friday, October 26, 2007


It's something we've known for a while. The car needed new tires. They were pretty bald, so much that even random coworkers of mine noticed how bad they were. And one (ok, two) were leaky. The car has a nifty little "low pressure" indicator light. Every 2-3 days, it would pop on, gleaming in my eyes, reminding me of our nagging problem. We put off buying tires as long as we could. We would fill the low tire every time we filled up the gas tank, we'd put air in the tires. We'd even put some air in at home if necessary. Ever pump up a car tire with a bicycle pump? I have.

We bought this car, a Mazda 3, in 2005. Since we drive all the time for work and my in-laws live about 7 hours away, our poor little 2 year old car has over 50,000 miles on it. We definitely needed new tires. Since it has to do with the car, my husband stepped up to the task.

After some research, he discovered that new tires would cost about $250. Each. Without installation. IF we found a good deal. The car has low-profile tires, which they should call high-cost tires. Then my husband came up with a brilliant idea.

A few years ago, he found one replacement tire on eBay when we ran over a nail. If he could find one, why not four? He put in a search for all the requirements and, a couple of weeks later, got an email for an auction of 4 "slightly used" tires. They had less than 5000 miles on them. The cost? $230 for the lot. When we received them, we did a thorough inspection and they were perfect, just as promised.

Using our trusty mechanic, Dave, the installation only cost us $32. Our total cost was less than full price for 2 tires. I love it when we're able to beat the system like this. It's like sticking my tongue out at all the people who expect me to throw my money away. Frugality pays off! Woohoo!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Transfer Complete!

I got an email today telling me that my balance transfer is complete! I checked the card's websites and it's true - the Amex is now at $2363.59 and the AT&T has $5100 at 0%. Although I know it's not really paid off, I am so excited to see the Amex drop like that. That card used to have 29.99% interest. Twenty nine point nine nine! Are you kidding me?? It currently has 16.99%, which is a big difference, but still awful. It's the highest interest rate we have. Getting rid of $5100 at 16.99% is going to save us some cash.

The interest-ing thing (sorry, I couldn't resist the bad pun) is that both cards have no minimum payment for November. I guess if you think about it, it makes sense. The Amex counts the transfer as a payment, so the minimum has been satisfied - and then some! The AT&T 0% card has already passed its billing cycle for the November payment. This is great, I can apply the money that would have gone to AT&T to the Amex instead and kick it fast. I can't wait to see it gone!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Transfer Limbo & Updates

Last Thursday I finally initiated the balance transfer from our highest interest card to the new 0% card. While the transaction hasn't shown up on either card's activity yet, the 0% card now has only $200 available credit remaining. At least this reminds me that I didn't imagine making the transfer. :)

Somewhere between traveling all weekend and staying up late watching the Red Sox win the ALCS, I got a nice little head cold. I have a bunch of posts half composed in my head that I promised will spill out into the computer soon. The expense check should be coming in this week, so that will go back to normal. The Christmas shopping is off to a nice start, and that budget is well in check. All in all, things are boringly normal. Not a bad thing to have no financial crises so far this week!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Shopping Extravaganza

This weekend I am at my Aunt's house in NJ with my mother, sister, grandma and 2 aunts. Why? It's our Annual Christmas Shopping Extravaganza!

Every year we all get together and go to a group of outlets on the East Coast. We get to see everyone and buy Christmas presents, gab and laugh, eat and drink and be merry.

Group shopping can be dangerous. Peer pressure abounds and the attitude is very "oh, go ahead, buy it!" The trick is to prepare for the trip and stay within your budget. I made this beautiful, geeky Excel spreadsheet with all the people I was buying presents for and how much I was spending on them. You enter in the items you buy and their costs, and it calculates how much you have left to spend. Then I couldn't get it to download into my phone... so I played it by ear. This was the beginning of the shopping, so I knew that I wasn't going to overspend any of my budgets.

The BEST part of shopping with a group is the instant feedback and openness. If I saw something I wanted, my sister would buy it for me to give as a Christmas gift, and vice versa. I know that everything I bought today is something they will love. The satisfaction in that is better than opening a surprise on Christmas.

I love shopping, and rarely let myself do it, so today was especially great. We shopped til we dropped today (and we're exhausted!), got a good start on the holidays, and had fun at the same time. Group excursions get a big thumbs-up from me!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Fudge-It (the Budget)

Recently, I have been fudging our budget. I "borrow" money from other categories so I stay under budget in all aspects. The most common instance of this is borrowing from my grocery budget.

When we get take-out or go out to eat in a restaurant, our system is to split that down the middle and take it out of our fun money, or pay with the cash fun money we have on us. We've been caught a few times without the cash to cover it, so we payed with the debit card. When I download the transaction into Quicken, I will sometimes put it under groceries instead of fun money, thus leaving us with more fun money for other expenditures.

We only get $100 fun money a month (each) and if we go out to eat, it uses quite a bit. The other night we went to a concert in Boston. Tickets were $52 total and dinner was $46. If I counted all of that as fun money, it's be $49 each! Almost half of the month's budget gone in one night!

Instead, I filed the $46 dinner tab under groceries. We had a little extra room in the grocery budget due to my husband being away on business. We'll still be under budget with the groceries, so our total money flowing out will be within budget, and our total money spent will be the same.

I feel kinda bad about fudging it, but at the same time, it helps keep me sane. I choose to sacrifice some nice dinners for a night out on the town, and that's OK. As long as I don't go crazy doing this, and I keep the total spent under the total budgeted, I'll keep on going.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Great Groceries

I usually like to do my grocery shopping on the weekend, so I can take my time and enjoy it (weird, I know). I don't get to do a lot of shopping, so groceries are pretty much it. This past weekend, however, things were a little crazy, so I didn't get to go until Monday nighthic.

At Stop & Shop, I was kicking butt and taking names. I made my list beforehand, including some great sales they had. This week they had chicken breasts for $1.79/lb, pork tenderloin for $1.99/lb and italian sausage for $1.99/lb. I bought a total of $27.97 on meat this week. I saved a total of $19.37 on meat this week. This is why I only buy the meat that is on sale. :)

The other thing that saved my grocery list is I didn't buy any deli meat. All our lunches this week have been leftovers. When I plan ahead like this, it really pays off. We spent $70.56 in groceries this week, which is below our budget 0f $75.00. We're going to end up low in the grocery budget for October (I hope), so I am planning on fudging a little of that in with out fun money (more on that in a later post). My stomach and my freezer are both full and happy!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Welcome Paid Twice Readers!

I had a guest post on Frugal Adversity go live today at Paid Twice. If you haven't already, make sure to check her site out. She blogs about getting out of debt while raising her 2 kids and all the challenges that entails. PaidTwice really puts the personal in personal finance.

If you're coming from Paid Twice, welcome! Here are a few of my favorite articles to get you started:

Thanks for checking out my blog & to PaidTwice for letting me take hers over for the afternoon! If you like what you see, please consider signing up for my RSS feed.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Better-Than-Free Lunch

A couple of weeks ago, I dropped my business card in a fishbowl that boasted "Free Lunches!" hoping I would get lucky. Shortly thereafter, I received a phone call from Charles at Ameriprise, telling me my card had been drawn. I hadn't realized that the free lunch came with a consultation, but hey, I can endure 5 minutes of blab for some free eats. I booked the lunch for today.

My husband, 2 coworkers and I met at the restaurant at 1pm. It was held at a 4 star restaurant about 15 minutes from my house. We sat down, ordered drinks and our meals. Then Charles came in.

I wasn't really expecting too much. The first thing he did was ask what the #1 cause for house foreclosures is. I replied medical debt, which he said is correct - that and disability. (I haven't checked if this is accurate, so don't quote me.) Then he started talking about goals and how to ensure that they weren't inhibited before they could be met. He touched upon 401(k)'s, IRA's, 529b's etc, etc, etc. Then we filled out a questionnaire about our current finances (Are you saving for retirement? Do you know what age you want to retire?), paid for our food, and went on his merry way.

Nothing he said during our meeting was revolutionary, at least to me. I read a lot of personal finance books, and, while I'm no expert, feel as though I have a pretty decent handle on things. I know at this point in our lives, our focus is on debt payoff, and we're pretty much ignoring retirement, savings and investing until then. This is a temporary plan, which we will alter once all the credit card debt is gone. I think it's the right idea, but maybe a second opinion wouldn't be so bad.

So I'm considering setting up a meeting with Charles, if nothing more than to go over our current course of action and get his input. He did say that we could have a free consultation. I'm going back and forth with myself about it. Does anyone use a financail planner currently? Is it worthless to see one when you're still getting out of debt?

My husband was smarter than I was, though, and ordered a pizza for his free lunch - so we have plenty of leftovers for lunches.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Go Green to Save Green

Today is Blog Action day, where bloggers worldwide post about the environment to raise awareness about the environment. To participate, here are the ways I go green that also saves us money!

  • Use less water. We try to keep the showers short and run the dishwasher and washing machine at night. Saves on the water bill, too!
  • Compact Fluorescent Bulbs. Almost all our light bulbs are CFBs (except our soul-sucking bathroom vanity lights). This helps us save on the painful electric room.
  • Less driving. I try to combine trips all I can, considering I drive too much for work anyway.
  • Recycling. Especially in MA, where we pay a 5 cent deposit on items like soda and beer. We usually just put the recycling outside (since we have little soda & beer), when we have a bunch we take them to the store for our deposit back.
That's all I can think of right now. This is obviously something we need to work on. I'm sure none of these are revolutionary, but please share any other ways you use. That way we can improve as well!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Pros and Cons of a Second Job

As I've mentioned before, I work a second job in a retail store. Some days I hate it, some days I only dislike it, some days I actually enjoy it. Since I love making pros and cons lists, I made one for my second job.

  • The pay is lousy. While I make above minimum wage, it still doesn't add up to that much at the end of the week.
  • There's temptation to buy. Ever want something really bad, but resist buying it so you can meet your financial goals? I walk by items I want every time I'm in the store.
  • Dealing with customers. Don't get me wrong, I love helping people pick out merchandise. Kind of like shopping without me actually spending money. But there are a few witchy customers that can really get to me.
  • Scheduling. If I need a day off, I have to ask for it 2 weeks in advance. Kills all spontaneity.
  • It takes up time. Not just a little time. I work at the second job 24 hours a week. I work 2 nights during the week, Saturdays and Sundays. All my housework, errands, and any social activities are planned around my hours at the store.
  • Employee discount. I get a neat 25% off everything in the store. I don’t buy a lot, but every now and then there are items I legitimately need (shower curtain liners, anyone?), so it’s nice to save some dough. Plus, about half of all gifts I’ve given this past year were from my store.
  • Access to the Deals. Every now and then, we mark some items WAY down. Whether it’s discontinued bedding or display glassware, we sell some things at unadvertised low prices. I’ve snagged replacement dishes for my sister and some sheets for my mom for a fraction of their actual cost. Not to mention I know what’s on sale before it’s on sale – even for Black Friday.
  • Friends. I’ve been working there for just over a year and have met a bunch of people. They help the time pass in the store and we socialize outside of work as well. Good people make everything better.
  • It keeps me busy. Not that I would sit around doing nothing otherwise, but working all the time has its advantages. I’m sure I would go out more and spend more money if I had the free time to do so. Working every day of the week naturally keeps that in check.
  • Pay down debt. This is the number one reason I have a second job. Even though the pay isn’t all that great, every little bit helps. The $650 I make working the second job in a month is $650 less on my credit card balance and $650 less that I am paying interest on. At the end of the day, it’s the paycheck that keeps me going.

At the end of the day, the pros still outweigh the cons. I'm pretty sure that once the credit card debt is gone, that will change. My number one reason for working a second job is to pay off the credit card debt, and I don't know if any other incentive will be able to overcome the pitfalls of the second job.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Money Already Spent

I was visiting a customer yesterday (I work in business to business sales) and I had a few minutes to kill before our meeting started. I picked up a book on humorous business quotes in the waiting area. Some of them were pretty good, but there was one quote that really stood out for me.

"It is especially hard to work for money you've already spent for something you didn't need."

I don't know how that relates to business, but it relates to me quite a bit. I feel like this every day. It can really be demotivating to work to pay for things we already have. Every hour I work, every dollar in our paychecks, has already been spent. Sure, we're building our net worth, if you count moving from a negative net worth to zero "building". I know we dug this hole we're in, but I just want out.

It's kind of paralyzing to be in this position. We can't make any big life changes until we fix this mess. Can't move, can't buy anything of substance, can't travel. I've been thinking of making some changes that could shake up our income, and I'm not sure I'll be able to. It will be really nice to work only one job, but we're just attacking this debt so we can be free again.

As awful as this feels now, it used to be worse. When we were at rock bottom, we had no plan for the future and kept making poor financial decisions. At least now we're on the right path. We even have plans for our money once we're out of this debt. I just can't wait to get to the point where we're building wealth instead of paying for our mistakes.

Friday, October 12, 2007


Guten Tag! This is a little late, but the carnivals for the week are up. I was pretty ambitious and participated in FOUR carnivals this week!

The Carnival of Debt Management was posted at Debt Consolidation Lowdown. I love this carnival because it reminds me that I'm not alone. There are (apparently) lots of other people out there who are obsessed with getting rid of their debt as well. My post on Why I'm Creating an Emergency Fund was include in the carnival. (Update on that soon!) Other posts I enjoyed include:

Next up is the Festival of Frugality hosted by My Retirement Blog. I love being frugal. Love love love it. My post on being Emotionally Frugal was included in the festival. I get lots of ideas from this festival; here are some from this week:

Moneymonk posted the Carnival of Money Stories, and my post on The Worst Financial Mistake I Ever Made was included. My picks from this carnival are:

Finally, Ask Mr. Credit Card posted the Carnival of Personal Finance. I actually submitted my article last week on Monopoly (late) and forgot about it, but it automatically forwarded to this week!

I can only imagine how long it takes the hosts of these carnivals to post, since this short wrap-up was time consuming! Please check out the carnivals, they include tons of great posts!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Guest Post on We're in Debt!

I had a guest post go live yesterday on We're in Debt about Owning vs. Loaning a car. If you haven't seen their site, check it out, they have a lot of great ideas. One of my favorite things about their site is that every day they have an update (even on vacation!). It's a great reminder that finance is a daily task. (Something I have been slacking on this week - I promise I will catch up soon.)

If you are coming to my site from We're in Debt, welcome! You might want to check out my favorite posts, including

Monday, October 8, 2007

My Christmas Plan

It's that time of year again! While there no snow falling (it was 80 here in MA the other day) and singing Jingle Bells is forbidden until Thanksgiving, Christmas is coming. It tends to sneak up on us as if the date changes every year like Easter. This year I am going to be ready. This year I have a Plan.

In the past, I have had semi-plans and done OK. Last year, we were just beginning our debt payoff and managed to pay for Christmas totally in cash. A huge accomplishment, but still disorganized. Using that as my basis, I have developed the Plan for the holidays this year. Without further ado, here are the steps I took to formulate my Plan.

1. Write down everybody you are exchanging presents with. Categorize them as definite, possible and expendable. Sounds harsh, but do you really need to get a gift for everyone you talk to/work with/pass on the street? My definite people include my husband, our parents and our siblings (in-laws included). That's it. Grand total: 11 people.

2. Determine your total expenditure. I did this by looking at last year's Christmas spending and our current financial situation. Obviously, we're in debt payoff mode, so we're not going all out, bu we're not giving just cards, either. Somewhere healthy in the middle. Definitely all in cash.

3. Divide the total budget amongst your gift recipients. This may take a few iterations, and be sure to leave a cushion.

4. Find the money. In a perfect world, I would have been putting money away all year for Christmas. And I would live on a tropical island sipping pina coladas all day. Back in reality, some budget adjustments have to be made to account for the extra outflow. At the beginning of 2007, I saw that November would be a three paycheck month for me. That's where most of our Christmas money is coming from.

5. Make a gift list. Don't rush out to the mall with$50 in your hand, searching for the perfect gift for your brother. Chances are, you won't find it or it's not $50. Plan ahead by paying attention now to what gifts people may want - or just straight out ask them.

6. Consider alternatives to traditional gift-giving. Next year we're (99% likely) going on vacation with my in-laws. For Christmas this year, we're not exchanging gifts. We're putting a deposit on the trip instead. Other ideas include donating to charity or doing a Secret Santa swap to minimize costs. For other recipients, food gifts can be frugal and festive. My sister's mother-in-law (got that?) makes ginormous cookie platters every year for her periphery gifts. She loves doing it, and the time and effort in making them is priceless.

I think having this plan in place will make Christmas more enjoyable for me this year. I am also going to try and get the shopping done early so there's no last minute rush. Except for the rush for the eggnog.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Emotionally Frugal

I have found recently that the reason I am not spending money isn't that I don't want to, it's that I don't want to enough. Buying things doesn't make me feel good. At all. In fact, spending money makes me feel bad. I think of times when I was spending recklessly, accumulating the debt, and how it didn't make me feel good then. Sure, it was great to get new things and much of our debt was for necessary items (groceries, utilities, gas). But we did do a bit of shopping in there, too.

When I wrote the post about the worst financial mistake ever, it rekindled the emotions I had at that time. As accomplished as it feels to have finally paid it off, reflecting about how we obtained that debt in the first place is inspiration to continue to be frugal. This past summer I got a little lax with the debt payoff. We lost the drive and intensity, partially as a natural result of being frugal for some time. I admire and envy those who work for years to pay off their debts. (Wait, did I just say I envy them? I mean I envy their intensity.)

Emotions can play a huge part in your finances. People buy things to feel better (retail therapy, anyone?) and avoid credit card bills so as not to feel bad. The trick is to use those emotions to your advantage, both positively and negatively. For me, thinking about how bad it felt to be in over my head, trying to stay afloat is a big part of what drives me to get out of the red. It also helps to celebrate the milestones, in small, frugal ways, of course. When reason and logic can't keep you from spending, try using emotion.

Friday, October 5, 2007

The Worst Financial Mistake I Ever Made

It was on a Friday. The Friday before we were leaving to get married, in fact. We were flying to St. Maarten early Sunday morning for our destination wedding that was 15 months in the works. We had to run to the American Express travel office to get our traveler's cheques to pay for the wedding - coordinator, flowers, officiant, everything.

Go backwards a month or two. We didn't have the cash to pay for the wedding. So, in a flash of inspiration, we took out a line of credit. Not a HELOC - we didn't even qualify for one with the debt we were already in. A fixed rate LOC through Bank of America, who I already had a credit card with. The rate? 19.99%.

Once we opened the LOC, we took out a $10,000 cash advance. There was a 3% balance transfer fee to put it into our checking account. So already we were at -$10,300 for this loan. I then took the money and paid off our American Express card. The intent was to use the Amex card to buy the traveler's cheques. Notice I said "intent".

Back to that fateful Friday in July 2006. We were happy and excited to be leaving to get married! We drove together to Amex Travel, went upstairs and asked to purchase $7,000 in cheques. Then we plunked down the Amex card. Now, I don't know too much about all Amex cards, but this was a students card, left over from the college days. You can charge traveler's cheques on a students card. But only $1,000 worth. We were, quite frankly, screwed. We needed the money in cash to pay everyone. We put almost all of the cash advance toward the Amex card.

The next few hours were a blur of arguing, calling Amex & going to the bank to try and reverse the payment and get the cash back in our checking account. Remember, this was at 3:30 on a Friday afternoon. We got nowhere fast. In a tearfully humiliating phone call, we asked my husband's parents for a loan to pay for our remaining wedding expenses. They were able to work it out (no easy feat) to do so. There was and is no way to thank them enough for coming through for us. (Maybe public recognition on, say, a blog? :) Thanks Mom & Dad!)

The feelings I had that day were horrible. I have never been so mortified in my life. I am almost in tears now just writing about it. So why am I dredging up this tale of woe instead of burying the pain?

TODAY WE PAID OFF THAT LOAN!!!!!! The final $865.28 was transfered to Bank of America this morning. Once that posts, I'll see if there is any residual interest, but it would be minimal.

It's such an amazing feeling to cross that off the list. We've been married for 1 year and 3 months and have eliminated that awful, horrendous burden. (We paid his parents back first - that was completed in February.) No more will I have to chip away at this nagging debt that has plagued us since we got married. I feel as though a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

Whew! On to the next one!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

September Round Up

September was a mix of good intentions, good decisions and some lousy circumstances. We did OK. I have to remember sometimes that this is a lifestyle change and not just a "get out of debt quick"plan. We are still chipping away at debt aggressively.

At the beginning of September, we had $19,484.61 in credit card debt. By the end, we had only $18,094.82. This is a value of $1389.79 in principal paid. Lower than our goal, but still a great big hunk. The principal paid off this month is 3.6% of our total credit card debt (using our rock-bottom value of $38,621.13 as the total credit card debt figure). This also means we have broken the halfway point of $19,310.57! To date, we have paid off 53% of the total debt in just under a year.

My income was still low, under budget by $691.70. I know that October will be much better because I get paid commissions for September sales, and September was a good month. This and the business expenses for my husband's travel affected our finances the most. I forgot to mention this in my earlier post, but he also uses cash from our account when he travels. In September, this added up to $400.

In addition, we had an unexpected car repair to pay for. It helped to be under both our gas budget (by $132.53) and grocery budget ( by $65.56). This can be attributed to the fact that I use less resources when my husband is traveling. Hopefully this month's electric bill will reflect the same thing.

October is going to be a great month, I can feel it! We are going to try and build our emergency fund and keep on track with our debt payoff, all while we begin shopping for the holidays. Yikes! I better make sure to keep the income up!

Welcome, Lazy Man and Money Readers!

If you found your way here from Lazy Man and Money, welcome! I am a twenty-something newlywed who is climbing out of the hole we started our lives out in. This blog is a collection of my thoughts along that journey.

Some of my more popular posts include:

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Tales of a Cashier - What's Your Number?

This post is part of a series, Tales of a Cashier.

As I mentioned before, I work part-time as a cashier in a large chain home decorating store. At my store, if you can't find the item you're looking for, we call a nearby store and order it for you. Last week I did this for one of our customers. Once the other store had located the comforter she was looking for, I handed the customer the phone to relay her information to complete the transaction.

Usually when I do this, I try to turn away so as not to seem sketchy and as if I am secretly memorizing the customer's home address, phone number and credit card information. I try to keep an eye on them so when they are finished, I can hang up the phone. This particular time, I handed the customer the phone and started to straighten the items on a nearby shelf. When I heard her stating her credit card number, I turned, knowing that the transaction was almost complete. To my shock, I saw that she was reciting the number from memory. She knew her credit card number & expiration date by heart. I'd bet mone she even knew the security code on the back of the card.

I was aghast, trying to think of a reason to memorize the number. I suppose if you had a card for years and years, you might have it ingrained in your mind. But how often do you have to use the card to commit it to memory? I have no idea what my card's numbers are. I think there's an 8 in there somewhere. I like it that way. I use my debit card pretty frequently, for gas and groceries and the like, and I don't even know that number.

It's pretty prejudiced to assume that because a person memorizes their credit card number, they're automatically a shopaholic. But that's just where my brain goes. If you have yours memorized, please explain to me why so I can stop judging people. Unnecessarily, that is. :)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Why I'm Creating an Emergency Fund

Ah, finally, a return to normalcy. Back in black! The direct deposit went through this morning and I am no longer a delinquent. The bank account is now positive again! Hurray!

The only problem is... the two $30 overdraft fres incurred as a result of this mess. Now I get to call the bank and beg & plead with them to take off the fees. Why does it seem like, now that I'm writing it all down, I'm running into more financial problems? :)

Nothing happens without something positive, though. Every cloud has a silver lining. Insert another cliche phrase here. But I did learn a few things:

  • We can only rely on ourselves. Not even something you think you can count on, like payroll, is 100% foolproof.
  • Nothing beats good old-fashioned cash. We've been using credit as an emergency fund, but some things can't be paid with credit. These things include the mortgage.
  • The cushion in our bank account is too small. I keep between $500-$1000 in the checking account to buffer against unexpected expenses and prevent overdrafts. You can see how well that worked out.
  • Our bank may not be the correct fit for us. I'll need to think about this more, and take into account their willingness to remove the overdraft fees. However, there are some bank accounts that don't charge overdraft fees and instead act as a line of credit. I have to look into this a little more.
All of this has changed our October objectives. Instead of plodding along and throwing every extra cent at the debt, we're going to create a real live emergency fund. Since I'll still be buffering the checking account, $1000 is the magic number. I tried to beat the system and I failed. Next time I'll be prepared.

This Week's Carnivals!

I am really getting into this carnival thing. I love seeing lists of personal finance bloggers and all the great posts they come up with with. It's a great way to read & find other blogs you might not have seen before.

This week I participated in the 107th Carnival of Debt Reduction at Moolanomy. This week it ofered a tour of New York City as the theme. Despite my intense hatred for the Yankees, it was a very cool idea. My post on The Value of Interest was included in the carnival. Some of my other favorites were:

My post on Expensive Reports was included in this week's Carnival of Money Stories, hosted at Building an Empire. There were lots of submissions and I picked a few of my favorites below:

Make sure to check out the other articles as well, there are tons of gems in there!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Still Red-Faced

So after the fiasco yesterday, I told my self not to worry. Everything would be all right. My husband's direct deposit would go through today, Oct 1 and that would take care of the mortgage. I slept easy knowing this.

This morning I was in meetings all day at work and didn't get to check the bank account until 11 o'clock. We were still in the red. Only now more so by $300, as I had also scheduled a credit card payment to go through. (Oh the irony!) In addition, I received an email from Netflix stating that they had tried to charge my monthly fee and it was denied.

By 1pm, I was getting nervous. We had always received the direct deposit before, no problems, first thing in the morning. I called my husband and he had no idea what could be happening. Since he's away on business, I emailed his company's payroll guy (who I know, their company is still relatively small). He looked into it further and told me there had been a glitch in the system. Unfortunately, they didn't fix it in time for payroll to be processed today. Our direct deposit will show up on October 2 instead.

This was awful news. Believe me, you didn't want to talk to me today, I was very angry. My anger was directed to 4 places:

  1. The glitch itself. This kind of stuff isn't supposed to happen anymore.
  2. The fact that I had no idea what was going on until I proactively sought out an answer.
  3. Myself for not keeping enough in the account to cover the mortgage and for not having an emergency fund.
  4. Myself & my husband in the past for getting into debt and in a situation where we live paycheck-to-paycheck in the first place.

After I calmed down a little bit (and left work, where I had to bottle up the rage), I called the bank to see what would happen. I felt like an idiot, asking them what to do now that my bank account is negative. Fortunately, he said that as long as the direct deposit goes through early enough on October 2, there will be no overdraft fees and no stopped payments. Man, I hope so. I want to believe this is true.