Monday, June 30, 2008

My Car Insurance Pays Off

A few weeks ago, I was walking out the door to go to work when I saw something that stopped me dead in my tracks.

A thunderstorm had passed in the night and this branch broke off the tree, falling directly onto our car. That's just suuuper. I said a few choice words, then turned around and walked back inside to get my husband.

We assessed the damage and determined that the only thing wrong with the car (besides the huge branch still on it) was that the window was cracked. Not smashed, fortunately, but messed up pretty bad.

Since the crack was on the passenger side, the car could still be driven. We wanted to fix it quickly, though, before it got any worse.

I did a little research online and determined the cost to replace the windshield to be about $200. Then I called our insurance company to report the damage and see if they would cover any of it. I was skeptical, as we have a $500 deductible. Come to find out, in MA insurance companies cover 100% of windshield replacement. I was shocked! The insurance company even arranged for a windshield repairman to come to my office and replace the windshield.

I was impressed. I have never dealt with my auto insurer, as we have never had a claim with them. This experience was almost pleasant. I never had to worry or stress about the damage; as soon as I talked to them, the wheels were turning to fix the problem. Now that is what insurance is all about - peace of mind.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Independence Day Challenge Complete! (Mostly)

One more credit card down!

A few weeks ago, I challenged myself to run a 5K and pay off $5K of debt by the Fourth of July. Unfortunately, I have fallen off the running wagon. Again. My dad hurt his ankle in the week following my original post and, without my running partner, I let the training slide.

But on to better news: yesterday I paid off our Discover card! I have been chipping away at the balance all month, and still had $1907.22 left to go. I planned on using part of my husband's next paycheck, due to arrive on July 3, to sneak in the final payment and wipe it out. However, I was surprised to find that my commissions last week included a bonus that I thought I hadn't qualified for. After some calculations in Quicken, I sent off the last payment. We are now free from this credit card!!

Our newfound financial freedom is particularly gratifying when you consider the original cause of this debt. We opened the account in October 2005 based on a 0% balance transfer offer. All of our other credit cards were maxed out and at that time we didn't have a lot of resources. We decided to take the 0% offer and transfer part of another balance to the new Discover card. Only it didn't end there. Before we knew it, we had charged up to the limit of the Discover card and the original card. So we were worse off than before.

If you think of debt as a hole you're stuck in, the Discover card was a false step in the right direction. We were trying to climb out of the hole, only to find that the floor was falling out beneath us. I am so excited to finally be one step closer to complete debt independence.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Cheap Date #7- Canoeing

I try to find fun, interesting dates to go on with my husband that cost less than $20 for both of us. Not all our dates qualify, but we try to make at least half of our dates cheap dates that don't break the bank.

Around Christmas 2006, my in-laws moved to another house. When they were cleaning out their basement and garage, they came a across a bunch of things they no longer used or needed, including a couch, armchair, a variety of my husband's childhood items and a canoe. My husband rented a U-Haul and brought the whole lot up to our house one weekend.

It was great to get their only slightly used furniture, which I am lounging on right now. The canoe, however, was put into storage. Our garage doesn't have a lot of room in it, so the canoe went into the basement. Until a couple of weeks ago, when we had a stretch of 90 degree days. We decided the time was right to take out the canoe.

It was a little tricky putting it on the car, but we figured it out. My in-laws gave us the foam blocks, but we bought the tie down straps at Job Lot. They cost $7 apiece, which will amortize over each use. One for the front, one for the back.

Our first excursion, it turned cloudy and cold as soon as we hit the water. We paddled around for a bit, saw some turtles, a heron and a pair of beaver dams, then headed back in.

Turns out there's not all that much to do when canoeing. You paddle around and look at the scenery. We got a little bored after a while so the next time we went canoeing, we came prepared with books and snacks.

Then we really enjoyed ourselves! We paddled around for a a little bit, then beached the canoe and read our books for a little while. I think next time we'll even pack a picnic lunch and some drinks and relax for an afternoon. There is a lake about 5 minutes from our house that we can pop over for an hour or so to unwind. This is definitely a cheap date we'll be doing all summer!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Paying Uncle Sam

Last week I got the revised bill from the IRS. Incidentally, I was driving home from work and cursing myself for not calling them yet to inquire about our economic stimulus check. I stopped at the mailbox and there sat the shiny, updated bill. The IRS and I must have some sort of psychic connection. Either that or I procrastinated the perfect amount of time. It's an art.

But I digress. The Grand Total came to $1834.39, which is the previous total of $3030.91, minus the economic stimulus of $1200. There was also some additional interest added in to the tune of $3.48, which makes me wonder if there will be any more residual interest between the time I received that invoice and the time my check is cashed.

I sent the payment in (finally!) last Tuesday and I am waiting not so patiently for it to be processed. I'm so eager to be rid of this once and for all.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Independence Day Challenge

Back in high school, I ran cross country. I was even first team all state my senior year (Thank you, smallest state in the union). Since then, I have kinda fallen off the running wagon. I played rugby in college, which interfered with the cross country season, and then switched the gym (intermittently) after that. For the past few years, I haven't run at all.

My parents recently participated in 12-week fitness program that jump-started a more active lifestyle. Fresh off that, my Dad decided he needed a new goal to work towards and enlisted me to partner with him. So basically, I got roped into running again, as we are planning to run in the town's annual 4th of July 5K.

Yesterday I was planning on going for a training run, and I wasn't really feeling like going. I made myself get up and do it anyway, because I have to be ready for the 4th of July road race. I made a commitment to my Dad and to myself that I would run in that race. It's only a month away. I don't have time to skip training runs.

So as I was running, I was thinking about the road race and how it mirrored other goals of mine, specifically getting out of debt. I realized that the reason I agreed to run in the race was that I knew I could prepare in time. If I just followed a training schedule, I would be in good enough shape to run the 5K. Similarly, if I follow my budget, I will be able to pay back my debts.

I decided to make a short term goal for the debt payoff. Wouldn't it be nice if, on Independence Day, I was independent of debt? Well, that's definitely too much of a stretch, but what about one debt? What if I can kick one credit card to the curb before the 4th of July?

As it turns out, the next debt on my list (after the tax bill, which is already planned for) is my Discover card. The current balance on that card is $5329.33. Just about $5K, huh? So although it won't be easy, I think we can do it. My Independence Day Challenge is to pay off the $5K before I run the 5K. I have 30 days to do it.

I am challenging myself - and everyone out there - to set a short term goal. By the 4th of July, promise yourself that you will be in a better financial position than you are today. Maybe you'll be independent of credit cards by taking them out of your wallet and promising not to use them again. Maybe you'll be independent of worry by setting up an emergency fund. Maybe you'll be independent of one of your debts, like I am trying to do. It doesn't matter what it is - only that we make positive steps towards financial independence. The point of money is the freedom it provides - so why not celebrate Independence Day a little more free?

How will you be more financially free before Independence Day? Leave a comment, write a post, let me know! Let's all have a little more freedom.