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Viewing the 'Personal Finance' Category: Another Family Debt Blog
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Viewing the 'Personal Finance' Category

Yearly Update

March 18th, 2016 at 02:04 am

I admit we're not doing much with our TMM right now given me being in school. But I still feel the need to post occasionally given how prevalent our long-term financial situation still sits in my mind. And besides, I only have 9 months of school left! My goal is to be working by Feb of next year, and I am pretty sure I will be starting around $59K.

I want to dump as much of that new income as possible into my student loans so that we can finally be done with them once and for all. Even still, I'm guessing that's going to take about 5 years. Because I owe A LOT. Currently $121K and counting. Thankfully, there is a union work program I will qualify for that will pay off about $25K of that over 5 years, starting after 1 year of work. But, that's still $96K and I'm barely keeping up with the interest payments right now.

We could probably get it done in 4 years if we were really strict about it. But then I would lose $10K of the tuition repayment benefit. And we're going to be trying to save for a house down payment for part of that time as well. The boys are in kindergarten right now, and by the time they're in middle school (6th grade), we want to be in a better school district. So that again gives us about 5 years. (2021 should be an interesting year for us!) We have a fair amount of equity in our current home right now, but I don't want any PMI next time and who knows what the market will do by then.

Right now we're kind of treading water financially. I'm not working anymore now that I'm in school fulltime. And we have new before/after school care expenses on top of it. Medical expenses have gone down a little, but tuition/fees have gone way, way up. I managed to avoid taking out more student loans while doing just my pre-reqs part-time, but at this point its costing about $12K/semester and there's just no way around it. Ugh, ugh, ugh.
On the bright side, the amount I paid/borrowed for this career change is equal to or less than the gross amount I will make in just one year of working. And I will have a pension. So I think it will all be financially worth it in the end. And emotionally it's not even a question. A change was necessary.

Hubby got a nice bonus again this year, but not a very nice raise. We had kind of figured that due to the job hopping he did this year (3 different positions within the same company in 1 year). He seems happy now in his new position and hopefully next year will be a little better. But this new position is not as demanding as before, and therefore it is unlikely to come with the large pay increases he was getting for a few years while working his butt off. We'll manage though. Work/life balance is more important to us than higher paychecks.

This year, the bonus money was spend in some fairly unexciting ways. A lot of it just went into our emergency fund, to top it back up after the dips we had been making into it since I quit my job. Hopefully a combination of hubby's pay increase and some further belt tightening will keep that from happening again this year.
We also got a new water softener, which has been sorely needed for over a year now. We set aside some money for summer daycare since it will be double what we're used to paying during the school year. And then with the remaining amount we bought new deck furniture (our last set was about 14 years old and in poor shape) and new beds/dressers for the boys. They were finally getting too big for all their old toddler/preschool stuff. Now they have big boy beds and are no longer sharing an old dresser. All grown up!
Oh wait, and I got a new laptop. My old one was about 5 years old and died. The new one is nothing fancy, but a must for school. But that reminds me, the boys broke our old TV so we got a new one of those too. So I guess we did get a few fun things after all, even if they were mainly replacements. Hubby wanted one that was about 10 inches bigger than our last one, but I think TVs that big are just ridiculous. We compromised on one that was 5 inches bigger and it seems like a good fit for our living room, even though I can't, for the life of me, figure out how to use it. (Gosh that makes me sound old.)

Looking ahead to next year, a "new" car for hubby is on the horizon once I get a job. His car is about 12 years old now and is starting to show it. I know I had posted previously about planning to pay off my current car loan with last year's bonus, but somehow that didn't happen. Probably because of all the medical expenses we had for the boys back then. It's hard to remember now. By this time next year, I think we will still owe about $7K. Which, after taxes, is going to eat up most of hubby's next bonus, but so be it. I don't want to take out another car loan until we have that one paid off.

Someday, somehow, I really, really want to be able to take an awesome family vacation together to someplace like the Grand Canyon or Disney World. Not to mention a romantic vacation with just hubby to someplace like Greece or Machu Picchu too. But it's really hard to picture that being in the cards anytime in the next 5 years. Especially when I start thinking about retirement on top of it. None the less, I need to at least throw that wish out there.

We're both turning 40 this year, and should have at minimum about 2 years worth of income saved at this point. Instead, we have more like a quarter of 1 years income. In 5 years, I think we'll finally be ready to start tackling that head on, but by then we should have 3 years saved! Pretty sure retirement is going to have to be closer to 70 than 65 at this point. Just need to stay healthy so that I can still enjoy it! Feb 2014
Start 6% 401K withdrawals: Sept 2013----->Feb/Mar 2014
Save for/Pay off "new" car: May 2014----->Feb 2015

As I said: Ugh.

A new reflection though: I saw on FB recently that an old friend of mine I've lost touch with the past few years, is selling her house. She has been dying for a bigger house for years, and her husband had a well paying job. But they also had a lot of debt and not the best of spending habits, and with the housing market crash they felt completely stuck.

About 4 months back, her husband's department was downsized and he was laid off. He had a few months severance though and lots of job interview lined up, so they weren't too concerned at the time. Thus, when I saw her recent FB posting, I at first assumed he had found something even better and that with the housing market upswing they were finally able to afford the new home they have been wanting.

But then I read further. Turns out, they are not buying a new one, just selling the old one. She didn't elaborate more but a quick check on LinkedIn confirmed what I feared; her husband has been out of work since Oct. Now I am purely speculating at this point, but given what I know of their past financial situation, it's not at all hard to draw a line that without a high paying job, the large debts have are going to sink them once the severance pay ends, and they are trying to find a source for more funds.

I say all this not to gossip or point fingers (presumably, you have no idea who I'm even talking about), and I actually feel very bad for her, though not really close enough anymore to question her about such a personal matter. But for me, she is such a stunning reminder of why hubby and I are doing all this.

Our financial situations were close enough at one time that it is easy for me to picture how something very similar could have happened to us, had we not begun to exercise financial restraint. But I admit that it was very hard for me to hear about their fancy trips, and see their pretty new cars and how beautifully decorated the inside of her home was. I wanted those things too. I wanted to look that good as well. But we were pouring all our extra cash into debt and had nothing visual to show for it.

We are still a long way from where we want to be. And without more savings, we are still not even insulated from going through something similar ourselves were hubby to lose his job. But we have no credit card or car debt dragging us down anymore. And we have a very clear picture of our budget and of the steps we need to take to get from A to B. So, even though this is a total drag, and even though I feel like it's taking way longer than it should, reflecting on where we could be instead leaves me still feeling thankful about where we are. Maybe not happy, but thankful. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [105872] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 105872 [entry_title] => Commencing Baby Step 3 [entry_stub] => commencing-baby-step-3- [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/11/24/commencing-baby-step-3-_105872/ [entry_date] => 1385315344 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-11-24 11:49:04 [entry_text] => We've finally finished wading through all the home maintenance projects (including an unexpected $1000 repair on the roof a couple weeks ago) and even set aside $1000 for Christmas. We've reached our family health deductible for the year and are scheduling appts like mad for these next few weeks to take full advantage of paying only 20% rather than 100% for the rest of the year. And we were also incredibly blessed to have my aunt unexpectedly send me a check to cover my first semester of tuition and books for the community college I will be starting at in Jan. And so, with that all finally behind us, it's time to commence on our TMM baby step 3 (beef up emergency fund to cover 3-6 months of expenses).

It has been almost 4 months since we finished baby step 2, so I am relieved to finally be getting back on track again. We made a lot of prudent purchases and repairs, but as the money kept flowing out rather than in, I worried that our financial plan had become derailed. Apparently though, even without CC debt, we do still have some motivation and dedication to this plan after all. And it's time to buckle down again.

My main goal for this coming financial year is to see our next worth begin to rise finally. Although given it is currently -$46K, it might be more accurate to say we want to see our gaping net worth hole begin to be filled in. It's actually much better now that it was a year ago. Partly because of paying off the CC's and car loan. But also in a large part due to home values bouncing back again finally, and we can't really take credit for that. Plus that part could go again as easy as it came.

But I was realizing the other day that we are at an exciting point none that less because from here on out, we will mainly be investing in ourselves. Even the $25K we hope to save for a "new" vehicle over the next year and a half will be savings converted into an asset, rather than simply blown out the window. And yes, yes, I know their will be depreciation, but you get my point. We're finally investing in our own net worth. And that is exciting!

Plus, during the open enrollment period this year we made sure to max out our HSA contribution for next year, as well as bump up the life insurance and disability policies a little bit. And it feels wonderful to know we are getting an adequate financial safety net into place. Almost like we're becoming real adults finally!

From this point on though, we're going to be breaking a bit from strict compliance to the TMM plan. For instance, we're going to start baby step 4 (retirement savings) as soon as we get $5000 towards baby step 3. Which should be by the end of Jan if we practice restraint over Xmas. We are way too old to be putting it off any longer and we're going to be doing baby step 3 for quite some time. We want our final emergency fund to be around $20K, but we need to buy a car along the way, so almost as soon as we get it we're going to empty it out and start again.

I consider this an EF worthy purchase though because, as discussed previously, our current family vehicle is a 1999 and has over 225K miles. It's just not going to be around much longer, and when it does finally die, it will certainly be an emergency. After doing a lot of research we decided that the most financially wise options were to either buy a cheap 7-8 year old car in decent condition and plan to cover fairly regular repairs until we can afford an upgrade. Or to buy a reliable low mileage 1-2 year old vehicle that shouldn't need much work for a few years, and which would be just as affordable as long as we keep driving it at least 10 years. And given how very tired we are of highly used vehicles at this point, we have decided to go for the 2nd option.

We're going to save as much as we can for it until May and then get a loan for the remainder. We want to give the old one to our daughter when she comes home from college for the summer so that she will have her own vehicle to get to and from her summer job. And then we're going to pay off the car loan as fast as possible, though right now it's looking like Feb 2015 before we get there.

So that's the plan right now. Hubby is in the process of applying for new jobs that pays more though, and if one of them pans out, maybe we can even do this without a car loan. Hoping for the best!

[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [105329] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 105329 [entry_title] => TMM Year 2 [entry_stub] => tmm-year-2 [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/10/20/tmm-year-2_105329/ [entry_date] => 1382288284 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-10-20 11:58:04 [entry_text] => It's been forever, I know. Not sure what the deal is with all this crazy /// nonsense in my info section since I left either. Anywho...

This Oct marks the beginning of the second year for hubby and I's Total Money Makeover. And how far have we gotten in a year? Well, considerably farther than we pictured ourselves one year ago for sure. We originally thought we'd be nearing the end of our credit card payments about now, and just starting to work on the car loan. The was before we discovered what the power of a budget and willpower can actually do. So instead we finished both by the end of July.

On the other hand...we are considerably less far than we had pictured ourselves being by now last June. Our revised goal was to have the initial $5000 for our emergency fund fully stocked by now, as well as kicking off the retirement 401k we need so badly and also making headway towards the "new" car we need. Instead we are in a much more dangerous no man's land somewhere between Baby Step 2 and Baby Step 3. I don't feel we are derailed from our TMM, but we do need to start getting this show on the road again soon.

So what have we been doing instead of all those June goals? Well, a lot of home stuff actually. Things we put off forever while dealing with our CC debt. We finally got a new toilet for downstairs (which lowered out water bill by $35/month!). We got a few trees cut down that had died and got our gutters cleaned out. We are also getting a large rip in our kitchen linolium repaired as well as some baseboards re-added that we never replaced after our mold damage issue a couple years ago.

We're getting our radon remitigation system installed this week ($1200). And we also had to take care of a couple big car repairs as well as buying hubby a new suit for job interviewing after all the weight he lost. Additionally, we finally replaced a few items that were wearing out. Like hubby's desk chair that was held together by duct tape and the kitchen rug that was coming apart at the seams. And we also spent more than typical on entertainment too, given it was summer and we had more family outings than usual.

Some of that stuff qualifies as emergency fund type things. Some doesn't. But it's all stuff we've been wanting to take care of forever and I'm glad we did it. By the end of this month we should be done with all that and ready to begin on Baby Step 3 for real. Trouble is, the boys are finally in preschool and I am finally going back to school myself to begin a second career. My first tuition/books payment will be due this Dec (just in time for Xmas) and is probably going to be around $2000. Long story short, I don't think we're going to be able to start the 401k until about Jan instead of Sept like we had planned and that sucks.

Regardless, compared to where we saw ourselves a year ago, we are doing much, much better indeed. Hopefully by this time next year we will be finished with Baby Step 4 and be looking ahead to a bright financial future!
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [103651] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21492] => Array ( [category_id] => 21492 [category_name] => Investing [category_stub] => investing ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 103651 [entry_title] => Closing In [entry_stub] => closing-in [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/07/13/closing-in_103651/ [entry_date] => 1373733962 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-07-13 11:46:02 [entry_text] => Almost at the finish line for TMM baby step 2: debt snowball. Actually, we could have been there on July 19th, but, the laptop hubby has been wanting for so long went on sale for the 4th of July week. We saved $100 by buying it now and pushing the fridge payoff out one more paycheck (Aug 2). Which I think is fine given it's no interest for 3 more months and definitely will be paid off on the 2nd. We chose snail speed shipping though to save on that part, so it will still be another week or so before he gets it, but I'm sure he will be very happy when it finally arrives!

We are starting to look into what the next financial steps are. Dave Ramsey says baby step 3 should be saving a 3-6 month emergency fund (building on the $1000 one from baby step 1). That would be about $18,000 for us and would take quite some time. And in the meantime, we would still not be taking advantage of the 3% 401K matching hubby's company offers (not to mention just plain starting to save for retirement period, even though we're both entering our late 30's.) Additionally, our '99 SUV is probably not going to last much longer and certainly will be an emergency when it dies. And we want our next car purchase to be a slightly used, reliable family vehicle with low miles that we can count on driving for at least 8-10 years.

So, we're thinking of taking a middle of the road approach. I've opened a money market account with Ally bank and transferred our $1000 emergency fund there. As soon as the fridge is done we are going to work on building that up to $5000 as fast as possible. After that, we have some home maintenance issues we have been putting off forever that we need to take care of. Getting all of that accomplished is going to push us well into the end of Oct.

But once we're there, we are going to start putting 6% of hubby's paychecks into the company 401K (the maximum matching amount). And come open enrollment in Nov we are also going to up our HSA/FSA medical contributions to the max for the coming year. That's going to take quite a dent out of our monthly income, but with all the debt we've now paid off (as well as the decrease in taxable income from the 401K/HSA/FSA), we should still be able to raise our entertainment budget from what it has been these past 9 months, and still work towards saving for a new vehicle.

We originally wanted to save for it completely before purchasing, which would have taken about a year, but our daughter really needs a car for the college internship she wants to do next summer. Assuming the SUV is still running then, we'd like to pass it off to her by next May so she can do that. That said, we should be 80% of the way there by May with hubby's bonus, so it shouldn't be too bad to take out a small loan at that point and pay it off in 4-6 months.

At that point, I will be starting school again (just a few classes at a community college to begin with) so there will be some tuition to take care of. But we will also need to start kicking up our savings as well. I'm looking into a Roth IRA for that, and Ally bank seems like a good place to help us with it. Given that you can withdraw contributions without penalty if needed, I feel like this could double with retirement and most of our remaining 3-6 month emergency fund. Short of job loss, I doubt we will ever need more than the $5K we will already have set aside in the money market (which I will keep separate). And $18K seems like too much money to just have sitting in a low interest account, when it will likely never be used, while we make no progress on retirement. Dave Ramsey would not approve, and I'm still looking into the details, but right now that's the plan. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 7 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [103087] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) ) [entry_id] => 103087 [entry_title] => We Did It!!! [entry_stub] => we-did-it [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/06/11/we-did-it_103087/ [entry_date] => 1370976855 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-06-11 13:54:15 [entry_text] => Just a quick note to say: We Paid Off Our LAST Credit Card last week!! We reached our goal a full 7 months early! I am so happy to be done!!

Of course, now that the old debt is done, it is time to acknowledge the new debt for the fridge we purchased on store credit. It has no interest for 6 months and we plan to be done in half that time. I have updated my debt stats accordingly. This debt milestone would feel a lot more exciting though if we didn't now have this to take care of that debt too. But at least it's debt for only one physical object that we use literally every day, rather than for a whole bunch of things transferred from card to card for so long that we had no idea what it was we were even paying for anymore. It is also nice to look at my wedding ring now and know that it is completely paid for. Smile

We may or may not make much headway on the fridge debt this month. Depends how my home business goes this month; this tends to be a slow time of year. Our car was in need of a $675 repair this week and we have a plumbing issue too now that is probably going to be at least $300. But guess what? For the first time, we don't have to tap into our emergency fund to pay for that. The mechanic told us the amount and we just sighed and said, well, at least we know we've got it. That is a very nice feeling.

Really looking forward to the end of the summer when we will have taken care of the back log of expenses we put off forever while doing our debt payoff. Because that's when the real fun begins. The accumulation phase that will (finally!) prepare us for our future.
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 12 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [102806] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) ) [entry_id] => 102806 [entry_title] => A Talk with Hubby [entry_stub] => a-talk-with-hubby [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/05/27/a-talk-with-hubby_102806/ [entry_date] => 1369628147 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-05-26 23:15:47 [entry_text] => Many of you have pointed out to me that my hubby seems to be a reluctant partner in this Total Money Makeover of ours. To which I could not agree more. And it's certainly not as if that's something he and I haven't discussed. But its been a difficult topic for him. He feels like he works and works and works and yet has nothing to show for it (there's some truth to that right now). And generally speaking, since he lets me decide how to spend most of the money even though he makes most of the money, I try not to be too hard on him.

I did get annoyed enough the other night to bring it up again though. I was trying to have just a strategic, non-emotional discussion about what we should prioritize first once we finish paying off the last* credit card next month (*please ignore the fridge for now. I need that to be separate so I can be done, or I will implode.) But it once again turned in to a whine fest.

I managed to mostly keep my cool and said that while this certainly is hard, and there certainly is reason to whine about it occasionally, that shouldn't have to be the case every time money is discussed. That it made me feel like I was making him do this even though he has agreed many times that he feels it is what's best for us as well. That in order to feel like partners in it, I needed to just be able to talk strategy with him sometimes so that we could figure out how to best prioritize things together. I didn't say it all quite that nicely, but I did my best.

He didn't take it all that well at the time (it had been a long day and perhaps was not the best time to bring it up in retrospect). But later that night he did seem to come around some. And since then he has actually been much better. He even offered to put off getting the new laptop he so wants until the fridge payoff is done. We talked about how we might generate a report for him to look over after each paycheck so that he has a better understanding of how the numbers are moving (we're nerds like that). I told him that I was actually frustrated about it all the time too, and that if I didn't have my spreadsheet to look over and fiddle with almost daily I would probably be a wreck. Simple tasks like changing box shading from yellow to green to show it's completed do wonders for keeping me sane.

So, hopefully that was the talk that will finally change things. And we are so, so close. One more paycheck (don't talk to me about the fridge yet). It's really hard to not fixate on it. To a level of being unhealthy probably, but it's just been soooo long and part of me just can't believe that we're really about to frickin' do this. I keep checking and re-checking because it seems surreal. As if any moment a large, unforeseen expense will rise up and swallow us whole. But so far, the spreadsheet says we're on track. It says we're okay. Just one more paycheck...



[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 5 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [102098] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) ) [entry_id] => 102098 [entry_title] => Financial Goals [entry_stub] => financial-goals [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/04/10/financial-goals_102098/ [entry_date] => 1365562254 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-04-09 21:50:54 [entry_text] => Last post

Text is http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/30/save-now-live-later_101898/ and Link is
http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/30/save-no..., I was feeling pretty down about the state of our penny pinching lives right now. We've made great progress, but it's been all work, little play for quite a while now. This past couple weeks, I've been "running the numbers" and trying to figure out IF/WHEN and HOW MUCH fun money we might be able to squeeze in, while trying to meet our many financial goals over these next few years.

We're still putting most everything extra on hold until we finish paying off the credit cards in the next couple months or so. But I would like to start going on date night's out once every couple months again despite not being there yet. I'm fine with it just being something like TGIF's and a movie. Right now even McDonald's would be a splurge for us so that sounds great to me! But I want to get an actual baby sitter and not have to cook the meal myself. To watch an actual new release in movie seats rather than a rental on the couch. And to be able to start spending time with hubby before 8pm when the boys are finally in bed and our eyes are already getting droopy. This particular splurge, I am not willing to put off any longer. Even it it adds a little extra time to our goal. I need a life again. And once every two months hardly seems over the top.

The trickier part is what to allow when we do finally finish paying off all this debt. Not throwing hundreds, and even thousands into our credit cards each month will certainly free up some funds! But as discussed
Text is http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/25/march-madness-ends_101832/ and Link is
http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/25/march-m..., there are a lot of prudent ways those funds could and should be allocated. So we decided to determine which financial goals were our most important ones to meet in the first year after paying off our credit card/car loan debts. And to set aside the money for those things each month first. Here's what we came up with:

1) To replace the ancient fridge that is probably costing us a small fortune to operate and can barely hold a food safe temperature anymore. Also, all of the drawers are broken and every time the cheese drawer is pulled out it smooshes everything below. This was the single hardest item for me not to "splurge" on spending to replace.



2) Replace hubby's ancient desktop computer that needs rebooting at least once a day to even barely run these days. Preferably with a moderately priced and more portable laptop. Hopefully before, rather than after it bites the dust, but it's going to be close.

3) Get that $800 car repair for hubby's car that our mechanic mentioned is going to sneak up on us any day now.

4) Start putting in the maximum employer matching 401K contribution. At least it's pre-tax and won't be quite as big a chunk as it seems, but like it or not, it's the most important thing we can be spending our money on at this point.

5) Increase emergency fund from $1000 to $5000. Still far short of our long term goal, but it should be enough to cover, say, an ancient furnace that we were just glad made it through one more winter. Thankfully hubby's job is very stable right now.

6) Come re-enrollment this fall, up our HSA contributions to max that out too. That will be more than double what we're doing now but not doing so has totally bit us in the butt this year with unforeseen dental expenses (given that dental insurance is pretty much a joke). Long story short, I am going to be without a bottom right tooth for a while, and I would like to get that fixed soon.

7) Save about $12,500 for a "new" car. Again, preferably before the current one dies but that will also be cutting it close. In truth, we are going to rely on hubby's bonus next spring for about half of this. At the fortune 500 company he works for, it's a pretty sure bet. We even know pretty much how much it will be. If we're wrong though, we'd still rather get a small car loan that we paid off ASAP rather than wait any longer for any of these other things.


So those are the goals. There will be no family vacations in the foreseeable future, and we're going to keep date nights out at once every other month for now as well. We also will have not yet started saving for me to go back to school, and that will certainly need to be a priority in the year following. To say nothing of our longer term investing goals.

But thankfully, there is some wiggle room in there. A little cash for lunch with friends. Maybe a shirt from Kohl's and a new book once a month. Perhaps I can finally replace that pitcher I use every day that I'm missing the lid for? And we're definitely starting our Audible subscription again. We're going to have more fun. Ahh, the good life! Let me never take these small luxuries for granted again! [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 0 [contains_images] => 1 ) [101898] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 101898 [entry_title] => Save Now, Live Later [entry_stub] => save-now-live-later [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/30/save-now-live-later_101898/ [entry_date] => 1364658384 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-03-30 10:46:24 [entry_text] => We're making awesome progress on our debt. In the last 6 months we have paid off $16,406 in credit cards/car loans and we now have only $5900 to go. On paper, it looks really good. In life- it looks kind of bleak.

I have always struggled with living my life more in the past or future than in the present. The Now. I am good at putting off short term reward for long term gain. Hubby has a harder time with this, which is one reason he is so good for me in this regard. He helps to balance me out and remind me that life IS now. In turn, I help to give him direction so that he moves towards his longer term goals. This tug of war plays out in our total money makeover all the time, as it does with most everything in our marriage.

Recently though, I have hit an emotional wall that makes me realize I need to start focusing more on the Now. To put it bluntly, I am not enjoying my life right now. I miss working and having space for intellectual pursuits in my life outside of two year old play dates and fish sticks. I feel that me being home is what's best for them and I love them to pieces. But I am coming to accept that it is not what's best for me. None the less, they don't have a lot of part-time options for women with PhDs in science fields, and I didn't like what I did much before anyways, and I will need to be retrained before I can begin a new career path. Which will only be affordable if we stick to our financial plan and cut expenses now. For now, and the next few years, I'm stuck here.

And hubby and I have been working our butts off for this money makeover. I run after our darling boys all day while he works his day job. And then by night, once the boys are tucked in, we both spend at least half the nights a week doing our side jobs, which has created the surplus for our finances. But we have almost no time for ourselves or each other. We've turned all date nights into at home affairs and cut all plans for family vacations. We don't buy clothes, or toys or really anything that's not required. We stick to the plan. And it blows.

Part of why we have felt the need to push this hard in the short term is that we have been treading water financially for years now. With every increase in funds getting eaten up by something else unplanned for, I watched my goal of going back to school slip further and further away. We were always barely making ends meet. Always "a little bit short this month but next month should be better." Looking into the near future we could already see the big raise hubby was expecting being eaten up by needing to replace the family car that is on its last leg. And we have nothing for retirement. We needed to do something Now.

So we're doing this. And the credit cards part of it is almost done. Which is awesome. But if we don't want to just replace all that work with another car loan then we need to start saving pretty aggressively for a car as well. And there are a whole ton a medical expenses that have crept up recently that I don't even want to think about factoring in to the plan yet. And yet - life is NOW. Not when we finish saving for a "new" car or finally start that retirement fund or get money pulled together for me to go back to school. But now. And Now - I am miserable.

Clearly there has to be some balance here. It does no good to live high on the hog now and just be miserable in the future instead. But it is not healthy to put off everything Now for a future that may never come either. They used to say money doesn't buy you happiness. Though they're finding that's not actually true! (
Text is http://www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2013/01/25/money-does-buy-happiness-we-were-shocked-too/ and Link is
http://www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2013/01/25/money-does-...,
Text is http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2019628,00.html and Link is
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2019628,00....,
Text is http://www.wired.com/business/2012/12/wealth-happiness/ and Link is
http://www.wired.com/business/2012/12/wealth-happiness/). Regardless, I have never been a collector of things for my happiness. But money does buy experiences. And experiences are the stuff of life in my opinion.

In times past, I know it has definitely made me happier to have a fun family vacation to look forward to, or a fancy night out with hubby taking in dinner, wine and a show somewhere. It made me happy when I was able to splurge on a massage or a special outing with the boys. Though these things are fleeting without knowing they are financially backed by having the longer term goals of ones life fully funded as well. Again, I recognize there must be balance. But right now the balance is clearly too far to the future game, and we need to adjust that.

In the very short term we are going to restart monthly date night outs, though nothing too fancy until the credit cards are done (only 3 more months!). Then, we'll have to decide what additional changes we can make at that point, and which ones we need to put off at least until a new car, and the increased emergency fund, and the 401K and all that have been saved for. I don't know what the right balance is here because all these things are important. But my emotional outlook is making it very clear to me that our current answer is not where it needs to be right now. I will be working on sorting that out this coming month.

PS Please, please, pretty please, do not respond to this post with a list of low cost entertainment options that I could "fix" my problem with. And no, we do not have good options with family or friends for child care swapping right now. I am aware that these options exist and we are considering them too, but we want to feel able to enjoy some of the "finer" things in life as well. This is really more about giving myself permission to enjoy than it is about the actual solution. Once I feel it's allowed, coming up with the options should be the fun part!
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 9 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 0 [contains_images] => 0 ) [101411] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 101411 [entry_title] => Making Progress [entry_stub] => making-progress [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/02/making-progress_101411/ [entry_date] => 1362265644 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-03-02 17:07:24 [entry_text] => I am frustrated that I have not been able to keep up with this blog very well lately due to some other projects I have been working on. I think it is a really good outlet for the stress this financial overhaul creates in our lives sometimes. And I think its a really good tool for keeping us accountable. Should be able to put more time into it again by the end of this month though I think, so I'll have to be content with that for now.

As for where we're at right now, do you see that side bar?! Talk about progress! Yes, the windfall has finally begun. Hubby got his bonus from work, which was about $5K after taxes got done with it. Originally, I had planned on paying off credit cards first with that, but after reading A LOT of material of financial planning recently, I decided a better use would be to pay off the car first, due to its higher interest rate. So, that one is done! And that payoff alone increases our monthly income by $198/month. Yay!

We also got our state return, a little under $500, and with that and some other surplus, I did pay off 1 of our 4 credit cards as well, though that one only increases out bottom line by about $30/month so not as exciting. But still progress! Supposedly, the IRS is going to finally start processing returns for people with mortgage interest credits within the next week. So hopefully, we will get that soon too (assuming no audit as discussed previously:
Text is http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/death-and-taxes_100945/ and Link is
http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/death-a...). And when we do, I plan to knock off a couple more cards, this raising our bottom line another $180/month. Wow, were we ever wasting a lot of money of this crap.

After that, it will just be the one big one left, which I'm hoping to have taken care of by the end of the summer, maybe sooner depending on how my business goes (summers tend to be slower). And then, we finally get to start the more fun part of personal finance: investing in ourselves.

Certainly we still have a lot of debt to pay off, between my student loans and our mortgage. Actually, even after paying off the the rest of the credit cards, I was disappointed to find that our net worth will still be around -$84K. Ouch. Though it is above the -$100K mark now for the first time in years. But as one financial planner I read stated, we're working really hard just to be worthless right now (ie $0 net worth).

None the less, after receiving some comments about how silly we are to not be taking advantage of the 401K matching hubby's company offers, I did a bit of research and decided in the end that, yes, we are being incredibly stupid not taking this free money and we need to get on that train ASAP, Dave Ramsey be damned. If we were being completely logical rather than emotional about it in fact, we would probably be prioritizing that even above our credit cards given that they have very low promotional interest rates. After much discussion though, we have decided we simply cannot bring ourselves to make this credit card thing go any slower. We feel spread much too thin as it is, and we need to be done with those debts and never use credit that way again. Our emotional sanity depends on it. Especially given how close we are.

If it were going to be something that was a few years away from being accomplished, like our mortgage and student loans, it might make sense to do it with more of a long view in mind. But we are literally within 3-5 months of our goal and our monthly income will increase by another $300 compared to now, once we sunset this. And that will certainly help our long term bottom line as well. That's our thinking at least. But at least we're almost there!

Anyways, very happy to be making some definite progress finally and looking forward to a 3 paycheck March this month as well! [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 4 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 0 [contains_images] => 0 ) [100947] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21491] => Array ( [category_id] => 21491 [category_name] => Food / Groceries [category_stub] => food-groceries ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) ) [entry_id] => 100947 [entry_title] => Feb Zero Dollar Budget [entry_stub] => feb-zero-dollar-budget [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/feb-zero-dollar-budget_100947/ [entry_date] => 1360431810 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-02-09 11:43:30 [entry_text] => Income:

Hubby's Job (after tax): $5271
Hubby's Hobby Income: $550*
My PT-WFH Job: $670*
Hubby's Bonus (after tax): $5104
(*subject to change, though usually for the better!)

Total Monthly Income: $11598 (umm...holy crap!)

Expenses:

Non-Fixed Expenses:
Groceries: $861
Gasoline: $188
Misc: $500
Entertainment: $250
Gifts: $10 (Valentine's Day Treat!)

Fixed Expenses:
Mortgage/Insurance: $1509
Student Loan: $619
Utilities (water/sewer, gas, electric, etc): $349
Services (phone, computer backup, garbage, cable*, etc.): $285
(*reimbursed through hubby's company)
Leftover Leaf Cleanup Bill: $150*
(*he still has not billed us and I'm not calling again. This is his last chance.)
Auto Insurance: $73
Credit Cards (minimum payments): $299
Auto Loan: $198
Early Childhood Program (spring session fee): $120

Total Expenses: $5525

Difference (to be applied towards credit cards): $6073 (woo hoo!)


Still need to do an accounting for how we did in Jan but I think I'm out of time this morning so it looks like it will have to wait again.
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 2 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [100945] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) ) [entry_id] => 100945 [entry_title] => Death and Taxes [entry_stub] => death-and-taxes [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/death-and-taxes_100945/ [entry_date] => 1360430275 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-02-09 11:17:55 [entry_text] => I had this entry all written last week, but the blog site was acting funny that day, and when I submitted it, it just went off into the oblivion somewhere. Was too annoyed to retype something right away, but I am trying really hard to get caught up today.

So anyways, apparently our $8000 some dollar tax return was a bit too good to be true after all. You see, that tax form our DD said was from her school, the one we thought we already had, was really from her 529K that we just opened this year. Entering that form changed the picture a bit because apparently, you do not qualify for education tax credits if you pay for education expenses using a 529K. Huh? What the heck is the point then? Well okay, I get that they are tax deferred and gain interest if you start when they're young. Ours was more of a savings account tool that would penalize withdrawing funds for non-education expenses. A disincentive we felt our spend thrifty daughter needed. (To be fair, she's done quite well with it.) None the less, our tax return will be at least $2000 less than we had thought due to losing the credit. And I have to amend. Frown

Really, it hardly matters because due to our mortgage interest credit and congress's ineptitude, our pending tax return will be delayed until lord only knows when anyways. I just hope they don't realize our mistake and allow me to fix it instead of holding the fund until I do (or auditing us!) because who knows how much longer that will take then. Had originally thought that check would be coming late this month but now we're thinking more like April. Boo!

Eventually I need to figure out how to adjust our with holdings so that our returns aren't so big. Our tax situation has changed so much over the past 4 years though that its hard to sort it all out. Buying a home, starting a small business, getting married, changing jobs, promotions, having twins, sending a child to college (while still paying on my own student loans). Turbo tax informs me that due to all these things, our effective tax rate is only 4.4% right now. So our checkbook may have taken quite a hit from all that, but we're beating Warren Buffet's tax rate, so we must be good! Probably makes us part of Romney's 47% though. Wink
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 1 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [100943] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) ) [entry_id] => 100943 [entry_title] => Hubby Got Promoted!!! [entry_stub] => hubby-got-promoted [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/hubby-got-promoted_100943/ [entry_date] => 1360428955 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-02-09 10:55:55 [entry_text] => The day we have been waiting for all year is finally here! Many of you pointed out previously that in the future we should probably not count so many of our eggs before they hatch so to speak. And yes, I know what you mean. I tend to always be about 5 years ahead of myself. That works well for some things in life, though not for others. This one was particularly hard because we *thought* this promotion was going to happen last year. His boss had suggested as much. Then we came to find that the company likes to get new managers feet wet for a year by giving them most of the new duties they will have, without the pay increase until the following year, after they see how it goes.

I get the logic that they don't want to end up promoting people who aren't going to be a good fit for management. But man that was an annoying year. We had thought it was already in the bag. And Hubby worked his butt off and understandably felt uncompensated for it. But no more! He broke the six figure income ceiling in fact! Well, more like scuffed it: he's getting exactly $100K now. But he also got a sweet $8000 bonus, though that'll be about $5100 once taxes get pulled out. Additionally, he gets an office and a garage parking spot. And he will now be eligible for even larger bonuses going forward. Possibly as much as 15% if he keeps "exceeding expectations".

But okay, okay, let's not go there yet. Let's let next years chickens come next year. How 'bout them eggs this year though! Wink We should be getting the bonus check next week. And once we do, CC#1 and #2 that you see on the side bar there should finally be gone! And just in time too, one of our balance txfr promotions is about to expire.

It may seem like a simple thing to send in a big check like this to a credit card that needs paying, but for us, this in and of itself is a debt victory. We were never disciplined enough to make that much headway before. We *might* have ended up paying off the smaller of the two. But we certainly wouldn't have knocked out that second one also (with some spare to throw at the third as well). So this is a big money management win for us.

Additionally, we should start seeing about $250 more each paycheck after taxes, and that will certainly help as well. Credit Card Free 2013, here we come!
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 5 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [100049] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 100049 [entry_title] => Our Debt Snowball [entry_stub] => our-debt-snowball [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/01/05/our-debt-snowball_100049/ [entry_date] => 1357369587 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-01-05 01:06:27 [entry_text] => This is it! The year we're going to conquer our credit card and car loan debt. Time to layout the plan so I can hold myself to it!

We are still only 3 months in to our Total Money Makeover. So far, getting our debt "snowball" rolling has been really slow going due to a number of unfortunate factors. Child support back-pay ended last month, and as glad as I am to finally be done with my ex-husband, it left a new $500 hole in our budget. We knew this was coming though, and could have handled it alone, but unfortunately, it overlapped with a slow quarter for me in my home business. I have been making only about 1/3 of my usual profits for this time of year. And then to make matters worse, just a month before Xmas my normally biggest contract of the year cancelled on me due to going out of business. That left us short another $1600, and was pretty much our Xmas "budget" out the window. The same week our newer car need a $1000 repair. Needless to say, its been rough.

The amazing part of all this though, (as I tried to explain to hubby tonight when he got all forlorn about how little actual credit card progress we've made so far), is that we have not dug ourselves in any deeper for once! Had we not started a budget and drastically reduced our spending in recent months, these problems would have crept up on as as they always did. With us already overspent and not knowing where we were going to come up with these extra funds. I would not have been at all surprised if we ended up putting at least $1000 or so on a credit card, even after wiping our emergency fund out. Nor would we have had any plan to restock the emergency fund before our tax return came in late Feb. But that's not how we're doing things these days.

Today, I can honestly say that we have not used a credit card in over a year, even for emergencies. That's a first. And that as of this Monday, despite Xmas being barely over, our emergency fund will be restocked with $1000. And that even after all that, if we stick to our budget, we may still have about $50 extra to put towards credit cards in Jan. That may not be much, but it's a heck of a lot better than where we would have been before all this.

But then Feb is where the real fun begins. The month we finally start getting some momentum on this debt snowball. Because due to circumstances previously discussed, we will be getting a huge tax return. Probably around $8000. And then come March hubby should be getting his annual bonus, which will probably be around $4500. And then in Apr., hubby's new promotion raise will kick in and he should start bringing home about $500 more a month (which BTW, cancels out that child support that ended. Sweet.).

In the past, we would have initially *said* we were going to put a large amount of this extra towards our credit cards. But as it got closer, our wish list would have grown and grown. We may have ended up throwing $1500 towards it, but the rest would have gotten set aside for "in case" or spent this way or that. Our goal this year though, is to send no less than $13,000 to our credit cards for the months of Feb & March combined. Hold me to this!

By the end of all this fortune we should have wiped out three of our four credit cards and will already be about 2/3 of the way to our 2013 debt goal. From that point on it will be more slow and steady progress. If we stick to it though, that last credit card should be gone by the end of June, and our car loan will follow at the end of Sept. And that will be it! Almost one year after we started to the date. And then on to baby step 3 we'll go!

If we stick to this plan, about 28% of our take home pay over the course of a year will go towards our credit card and car loan debts. Compare that with the only 7% progress we were making before. (And we were wondering why we were never getting anywhere?) A four fold increase. Not too shabby for only 3 months of restructuring. And who knows what else we'll come up with by then?

All of this, of course, is subject to change. I'll feel a lot more confident once the tax return, bonus and raise are in hand. Until then, they are only projections, not realities. (At least the fiscal cliff is done!) Also, who knows what else will happen with cars and appliances and goodness knows what else in the months ahead. I have estimated my business income a little on the low side to help offset this, but it being on the low side has been a reality for me as well lately, though one that is starting to improve. If necessary, we still have a 3 month buffer to make it to the end of 2013 credit card/car loan debt free!

All said and done, we have a plan, and now its time to get to it.

[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 10 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 0 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99544] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21496] => Array ( [category_id] => 21496 [category_name] => Shopping [category_stub] => shopping ) ) [entry_id] => 99544 [entry_title] => Taking the Bad with the Good [entry_stub] => taking-the-bad-with-the-good [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/taking-the-bad-with-the-good_99544/ [entry_date] => 1355427405 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-13 13:36:45 [entry_text] => (Last old entry!)

I haven't posted our month's end update yet because our financial situation this past week has been so in flux. In a recent post I talked a bit about hoping our Xmas shortfall might "magically" fix itself. And believe it or not, we actually have had a fair bit of good fortune magic come our way recently in terms of income.

Hubby's writing/website management hobby is really taking off! He's just landed a new deal that should pay a minimum of $300/month starting next week, and possibly up to $500 or more. And that's in addition to the $220 he was already making through another deal, plus some smaller bits on the side. All together that is more than enough to make up for the back pay child support that is now ending (last check tomorrow!) and also enough to bridge the income gap we were expecting for Dec/Jan.

Additionally, I've had a little bit of work come my way as well! My worse case budget scenario was assuming I would continue to have only about $140/month of income (that used to be more like $600). For at least Dec/Jan though, I think I can count on that being around $400 instead, so that's another extra $260 that also kind of feels like it just magically appeared in time for Christmas.

Were in not for the car repair that suddenly fell into our laps as well then, we would probably feel we were raking in the dough. But alas, this was no ordinary car repair. This was a $992 doosey. I'm not even sure we've paid that much for a car repair before. Usually when the repairs start getting that expensive and close together, the car is old enough that we decide its probably not worth it and time for a newer one instead. But this is hubby's car and we are still making car payments on it as it is. It's also the newer of our two vehicles and therefore not allowed to reach the end of its life first!

Anyways, that completely cleaned out the emergency fund. All but $10.17. So that's a little scary. Cause it's a good two and a half months until tax rebate season. Additionally, our discretionary account has only $4.81 in it, while even our fixed checking, which we use for things like the mortgage, has only $728.42. Not cool. Luckily, hubby gets paid tomorrow, though there are still lots more gifts to get. I should point out here that the order these fluctuations came in as was: my income increase (Oh, good, that will help a little), then the car (Oh, f**k. We're screwed again.), then hubby's income increase (Woo hoooo!!! We're saved!). It's been a long week.

We ended last month with about $260 surplus, which we would have liked to use to pay down our credit card debts given that that is the point of this whole thing. Unfortunately, as the month ended, we were projecting a $750 shortfall for Dec./Jan., so I felt I needed to hold on to that extra to help somehow bridge the gap. When my extra income came in, we had high hopes that end of Dec or at least Jan. might afford us some surplus after all. But then the car crapped out, and Dave Ramsey says our first priority now should be going back to baby step 1 to replenish the emergency fund. I'm not quite sure yet where that puts us in terms of catching up again, but it may well be Feb still. In the meantime, we will continue making our roughly $500/month in minimum payments.

More good news; some very preliminary numbers I ran in the newly released 2012 Turbotax seem to predict that we will be getting back around $8000 this year! Holy s**t! I think that's even bigger than when we got our first time home buyer's credit, though I might be wrong about that. We only claimed 4 deductions rather than 5 on hubby's W-4, so as to cancel out my estimated business taxes, but I didn't make very much compared to normal, so it ending up being a lot more withholding than we really needed. Plus, we get some kind of a $2000 education credit for my daughter starting college, since she is still a dependent on our taxes for this year. Yay!! Until the car died, we were considering buying a new fridge with some of that. But at this point, we may just muddle through and try to just get done with this ASAP. Hopefully by next Xmas we'll be on baby step 3!
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 4 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99542] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21496] => Array ( [category_id] => 21496 [category_name] => Shopping [category_stub] => shopping ) ) [entry_id] => 99542 [entry_title] => Cancelling Christmas (Except Not!) [entry_stub] => cancelling-christmas-except-not [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/cancelling-christmas-except-not_99542/ [entry_date] => 1355427101 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-13 13:31:41 [entry_text] => (Only a couple old ones left...)

So bad news this week. That big job I usually get this time of year that has paid for the last couple Christmases will not be happening this year. Or anymore at all actually; it appears they have gone out of business. And given how much we were counting on it, that is quite a bummer.

The net effect of this is that Dec and Jan are not going to be just tight as I've mentioned, they are going to be negative in terms of cash flow. Even putting off getting the new tires we need, and even adding in the savings we scraped out of this month, I estimate we are still going to be about $500 short by the end of Jan. And given that bonuses and tax returns won't come in until the later half of Feb, the first half of that month is not going to be pretty either. Things have already felt so tight on this Total Money Makeover that it's hard for me to even picture how much more this is going to suck now.

Given all this, and in the spirit of maintaining gazelle intensity for our debts (I mentioned I hated that phrase, right?), it seems we probably should cancel Xmas this year. Or presents at least, that is. In fact, that would simple act alone would about take care of that $500 shortfall we have (so would winning that $500 million Powerball right now, but I digress). But we are not going to do that. Does this mean we are not really serious about our Total Money Makeover? I don't know, perhaps. But I just can't. It would be too sad for me and I think my husband would just lose it. We would lose our drive to do this because it just wouldn't feel worth it anymore. We're going to be smart about it and stick to our budget, but we're going to have Xmas, so tough.

So where is this $500 going to magically appear from then you ask? That's a good question. Cause we do have $1000 sitting in our emergency fund still, but we all know how Dave Ramsey feels about acting as if Xmas is an emergency. Well, one solution is that it might magically appear. Okay, okay, not magically. But so far hubby's side writing hobby has been bringing in a little more money than expected each month. I think its quite possible we could end up with up to $250 more from that then I currently have budgeted. Also, I could get another job through my business (hah!). I mean, probably not this month, but it could happen. At one time, I made over $20K/yr with this little side gig. (Will probably be lucky to hit even $6K this year.)

Other, less magical avenues include the possibility of me getting a very part-time job in the evenings. I'm looking into this and will in fact be putting in an application by the end of the week I hope. Not sure I will do it for any longer than necessary, but I feel I must do something. It just sucks because I will probably make only a quarter as much per hour for my efforts doing that then for my business. But a quarter as much still meets the gap my business is just not producing right now. I really hope that changes again eventually. Frown

If worse comes to worse though and none of those things pan out, I guess we will be tapping into the emergency fund. All I can say in our defense is that I promise we will pay it back in February. Needless to say, there will be no extra credit card/car payments for the next 3 months. Our minimum payments total to almost $500/month though, and our credit cards are all no interest promotions, so as long as we don't use those, we'll still be chipping away at it. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 2 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99541] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 99541 [entry_title] => My Student Loan Baggage [entry_stub] => my-student-loan-baggage [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/my-student-loan-baggage_99541/ [entry_date] => 1355427008 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-13 13:30:08 [entry_text] => One of the few topics in Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover that really irks me is his discussion of student loan debt. I'm not saying his points are all without merit. But when he talks about credit cards, he seems to understand that the mental/emotional game is just as important, perhaps even more important, than the financial one. And so he recommends paying off your lowest balance card before your highest interest card, purely so you can see results sooner. And I totally get that. But he does not allow for the same types of emotional weakness when it comes to student loans. Consider the rant of his in this link for instance:
Text is http://www.daveramseyfan.com/dave-ramsey-rants-stupid-on-education/ and Link is
http://www.daveramseyfan.com/dave-ramsey-rants-stupid-on-edu... Ouch. That's all I can say. And since I am one of those previously professional, now stay-at-home mom's with over $100K in debt he's ranting about, it can't get much more personal than that.

When I look back over my life, there is only place I can think of that I maybe should/would have made a different decision about my education. And that was when I chose to keep pursuing a PhD in a field I wasn't sure was a good fit for me, instead of being willing to start graduate school over, or at least stop with a masters. Given that my graduate tuition was paid for, however, and that I was receiving a stipend for most of my living expenses, cutting out that leg of the journey wouldn't have changed that much. Maybe $20K less at best.

Growing up, we were poor. Like free school lunch, hand me down clothes from cousins, can't afford a school yearbook poor. I vividly remember my mom dividing one family size can of spaghettios between the 4 of my sisters and I, plus a glass of milk, for lunch. I was a small, hungry, skinny and very active kid, who hung out a lot at my friend's houses bumming snacks. My mom and dad fought constantly, and would have no matter what, but certainly a major theme of their blowouts was money. There was never enough of it, and it seemed that would never change. My mom often grew wistful in private about how, despite how smart she had been, she had dropped out of college after only a year or so at her first husband's insistence (my father) and never found her way back once the babies started coming with her second. And worse, how she could never leave her abusive second husband because she could never support the 5 of us on her own.

I'm not sure how directly it was ever stated, but I grew up with the clear impression that it was absolutely imperative that I go to college some day so that I would be able to support myself without a man. But that there would be absolutely no financial help for me to do so. This was further complicated by my step-father's abusive put downs of me compared to my sisters, and his continuous proclamations that I was never going to be good enough for anything.

Given the trouble I was often into growing up in a home like that, there were many years it seemed like he was right. There were many years I didn't bother with homework. For a period of time, I was suicidal. And I was pregnant before I was out of high school. But I harbored a deep, driving need to prove him wrong as well. And despite his insults otherwise, I was actually quite intelligent. And seriously driven to believe that there was a way out of my childhood and into the type of future I had always dreamed of. Halfway through high school, I turned over a new leaf and started to show what I was capable of academically, though my new daughter senior year complicated things a bit.

When I was applying to colleges, the last thing on my mind was the amount of money I was taking out in student loans. Certainly I qualified for every need based option possible, not to mention a few merit based ones as well. Imagining what that payback would look like 5 to 10 years down the road when I finally had a real job and was out of this mess seemed besides the point. My burning questions were: Am I really capable of this? A 4 year degree at a respectable university with a child? What if they see only what my step-dad saw? What if I am doomed to repeat the same life for my daughter as the one that was given to me?

But I got in and I did my best. My first year I did outstanding actually, but the second year my young marriage began to fall apart and afterwards, it took a couple years of struggle before my daughter and I found a new equilibrium. My last two years of undergrad I did much better for the most part, and somewhere during that time, I realized that to become anything more than a lab rat with my degree, I would need to apply for graduate school. In this sense, Dave's rant doesn't completely apply to me. I did understand that I needed to be highly marketable to pay for all this.

At that point in life, I was pretty clear that I wanted to be a working mother. I loved my daughter dearly, and was very much looking forward to being done with school and having more time eventually. But I was the kind of person who got depressed without something intellectual to pursue. Something for myself separate from my role as a mother. Perhaps partly because I had become a mother before I had gotten time to be just myself. As exhausting as it was during the semesters, school holidays were often worse because I just got so depressed with nothing to work towards.

If you had told me that I would one day choose to be a stay at home mom, I would have laughed in your face. Dave can say that young women without kids yet have no idea how they're going to feel when they do, but I think that's overly simplistic and implies we all want to stay at home deep down. I'm a stay at home mom now, and I'm still not always sure its what I want to be doing. Furthermore, I already had a child at that point. I did know what it was like. If I could have had the option to work only part time with a young family, that probably would have been my first choice. But that is not a realistic possibility in most fields, least of all mine, and I was not unrealistic. I figured with a PhD, I could make enough that my future husband could stay home if we wanted.

Graduate school was hard though. Really hard. My fears about not being good enough were constantly at an edge when surrounded by so many other brilliant people. I had developed a fuzzy, idealistic picture of my doctoral field while leisurely pursuing undergraduate research with lower expectations I had no trouble meeting. This vision was shattered to make room for the more brutal and difficult reality of what higher academia really was. The relationship with my advisor slowly went from love to hate. Somewhere along the way, I began to question whether I was really doing this for myself, or just to prove that I could. Some days, I began to acknowledge that despite how far I had come, it was possible I was moving in the wrong direction.

That is the one point in my academic journey I regret. If I had been brave, or maybe even just less tired, I would have thrown in my first 2 1/2 years of research and allowed myself to start again in a new field. If I had done this, perhaps I would be happily pursuing my new career even now? I had an inkling of what at least some of those other possibilities could have been. It wouldn't have set me back more than a couple years (though that would have added even more to my debt!). But that light at the end of the tunnel I had been impossibly chasing for so long was finally so close. I had already passed my preliminary doctoral exam. I had my project all mapped out. I just needed to buckle down for 3 more years and do it.

And so that's what I did. I figured when I was done I could work on re-branding myself in an area of research I was more interested in for the job hunt. Instead, I found myself perfectly trained to do exactly the type of research I did not want to pursue. But it sure payed well. Even if it did necessitate moving halfway across the country.

It seemed like that would be enough, eventually. But it wasn't even close. And despite my husband (then boyfriend) being brave enough to come along with my daughter and I and start this new life together out west, it just never felt right there. We just couldn't get settled. We couldn't get to a place where the future we had pictured together seemed possible. We couldn't define what needed to shift. And despite crossing the 30's threshold, we couldn't possibly imagine starting a family in that life and place.

Through all of this, my daughter moved into her teenage years, and despite being very close when she was younger, she suddenly wanted nothing to do with me. It became painfully obvious that though my school was finally done and I was ready to focus more fully on her, she no longer had any interest in focusing on me. That ship had sailed, so to speak, and I had missed my boat. That was hard. That was very hard. And it made me reflect a lot on my plans to start a family again soon. The role I wanted to play in my new children's life and the type of mother I wanted to be. As my regret grew, I also stopped giving a crap what other people thought about how capable I was. I had gotten a PhD for cripe sakes. What more could they expect of me? And it was my right to decide what I wanted to do with that degree from that point on. Obviously, it was always my right. But that was when I finally realized it.

So anyways, long story short, with my boyfriend's blessing, I quit my high paying job and decided to become a stay at home mother with over $100K in student loans instead. It was a rough few years of transition. At this point, my husband finally makes a pretty decent income. Almost as much as I used to (and adjusted for the midwest, probably a lot more). But with three kids, primarily one income, and a student loan payment of over $600/month, it never goes as far as it seems like it should. It's going to take us a while to get out of this mess. And though we are now over 4 years into this new life path, it's hard sometimes to accept where we are now compared to where we used to be. Hard to know that we will probably never live in a beautiful home/location like that one ever again. That it will be years, eons, before we can afford another fancy trip. That given the realities of our budget, money is going to continue to feel like a struggle for probably at least another 5 or so years until I'm working again. My husband and I find that hard. And depressing. And Dave would probably just say "What did you expect!?!"

...A chance to live a life much different than the one my parent's gave me I guess. A chance to feel like I had enough money to never be trapped in a relationship that was bad for me. A certainty that my children would always have enough to eat, as well as year books and new clothes and maybe even stories about trips to Disney World with our family last summer. I probably didn't need a $100K education to secure all those things, but it was an emotional journey for me that took a while to figure out.

For now, I comfort myself with the fact that though this is not always the life of my dreams, it is finally the life of my choice. I am choosing to be much poorer than I could be. I am choosing to temporarily give up most personal and intellectual pursuits (though I did start a secret blog!) so that I will have fewer regrets next time about the mother I am to my children. I could do it differently, and from time to time I check in and make sure this is what I still want. So far it is. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 0 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99539] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) [21496] => Array ( [category_id] => 21496 [category_name] => Shopping [category_stub] => shopping ) ) [entry_id] => 99539 [entry_title] => Apparently We're Good at This [entry_stub] => apparently-were-good-at-this [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/apparently-were-good-at-this_99539/ [entry_date] => 1355426799 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-13 13:26:39 [entry_text] => I keep trying to find more things we can do, something we must be missing, to make this debt thing go faster. So far, no luck. If anything, the book I checked out from the library recently (did you hear that, the library not the book store) called "Your Money: The Missing Manual" made me feel like we're taking this more seriously than I sometimes feel we are. Consider all these recommended measures we have implemented:

Cancelling cable: As of last week, Check! My husband's company pays for the internet portion of our bill already. And our recent purchase of an Apple tv will pay for itself in less than two months of not paying for cable.

Get rid of home phone: We got rid of our home phone line a couple months ago since we were really only using our cell phones anyways. This has been causing us to use more of our cell phone roll over minutes though, so I'm hoping we won't have to up that eventually.

Cancel monthly subscriptions: To my surprise when we began this, hubby volunteered to cancel his Audible subscription until our debt was paid off and just re listen to old favorites instead. We also cancelled our Netflix a few months ago since we hardly ever used it and I've already decided not to renew Newsweek this coming year. Half the issues never get read anyways.

Make a Unit Price Grocery Spreadsheet: Still working on that but I have started to collect that info and I'm already getting the hang of when something is a good price. I have also learned to...

Use Coupons Wisely: I do not fall for buying things with coupons that a) I wouldn't usually get anyways b) are still more expensive than the store brand or another location. This also meets his suggestion to...
Discard Brand Loyalties: Even for toilet paper, I got over it.

Buy In Bulk - When it Makes Sense: Hello new big box warehouse store membership. Can't believe how much money we've saved there (per unit price at least!) so far.

Waste Not: Finally plugged in the big freezer downstairs again and started labeling and storing all left over canned and other items. I've even started buying things like yogurt in bulk, freezing it before it goes bad and then thawing it as needed. Its a little more liquidy than it would have been but still tastes fine (the boys don't know the difference!).

Shop Less: Not a problem. There's no money anyways and neither hubby or I were ever big shoppers. Probably the biggest success in this area though was when we separated our checking account into discretionary and non-discretionary expenses and then limited ourselves to a budgeted discretionary amount. In theory we were doing that before, but since I didn't track where each individual purchase went, it was hard to know how well we were sticking to it. I still don't always track it that closely. But now, when the discretionary money's gone, its gone. And so that takes care of that.

Replace Light Bulbs w/ Florescent: Done! We even got a Groupon for a home energy checkup a month or so ago in which we also got some weather stripping applied to a couple doors and well as thermometers to check refrigerator/freezer and water heater temps. We would have gotten more but they said we were already doing great on most everything else! Especially considering our gas energy company gave us a rebate to get our attic re-insulated this past summer which has already significantly impacted our energy bills.

Increase/decrease the setting on your programmable thermostat: We haven't made any huge sacrifices here compared to people I hear setting their winter thermostat to 65F or waiting until Halloween to even turn on heat but we have lowered our winter setting from 75F to 72F and raised our summer setting from 72F to 74F. It not much I know, but we do have two year old boys and I don't want them to be too cold or not sleep well. Bedroom space heaters make me nervous with such little ones (and I don't think they could be trusted with them once we switch to "big kid" beds), and we haven't had the money yet to invest in summer ceiling fans.

Play Board Games for Fun: We don't always play board games, but hubby and I have completely let go of our monthly night outs for the next year and turned all our date nights into at home affairs instead. We always make a nice dinner together after the boys are in bed and then talk or watch a movie or something.


So those are all the things we're doing right. Perhaps I will devote my next entry to all the things we could still improve though I worry it will just turn into a big excuse fest! Wink
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 0 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99522] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21492] => Array ( [category_id] => 21492 [category_name] => Investing [category_stub] => investing ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 99522 [entry_title] => The Big Picture [entry_stub] => the-big-picture [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/the-big-picture_99522/ [entry_date] => 1355371250 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-12 22:00:50 [entry_text] => This may be simply an exercise in idealistic dreaming, but I want to paint for you (or maybe mostly just me) a picture of how I see this new financial plan unfolding for us in the coming years. Cause I have big, unrealized but hopefully not unrealistic, dreams. In Dave Ramsey's book, he tells you that it takes most people about seven years to reach Baby Step 7: Build Wealth. Longer still to get to the Pinnacle Point where your money finally starts working harder than you have to. Certainly, that is the long term goal. And the short term goal is the credit card/car payment debt payoff I've already outlined. But it'd be nice to have a picture of our mid-term plan as well. Especially given that I don't think we will be following the Baby Steps precisely.

So, one year out, give or take a few months, and hopefully our small debts (non-mortgage/student loan) will be paid off. At that point we will hopefully be more used to getting by with a lot less monthly discretionary income. Maybe we can at least add enough back in to be able to go on monthly date nights again though. But I don't want to get too slack because we still have a lot or work to do. Baby Step 3 is to Finish the Emergency Fund, which he defines as 3-6 mos. worth of expenses. For us, that would roughly be $15K-$30K.

Projecting out both raises and expenses, once we get our small debts paid off, I think we could save roughly $25K/yr. So, that should take us 7-14 mos. depending on how much cushion we want. My thought is that we should save as much as possible, setting aside the minimum $15K to touch only for emergencies, but then factor in the fact that our family SUV will be 15 years old (already has 223K miles) by then. I am fine with driving it until it dies, but its pretty much a given that that is going to be before too much longer (please, please, please not this year!). I am also fine with not getting a new car when it does die. But I would prefer to get something gently used with at least a few more bells and whistles than our current one has. I think we could probably get something 5-6 years old for between $15-$20K.

That's not the only big ticket item we need to save for though. In a few more years, the boys will be ready to start school and I will be more than ready to jump back on the career train. But that is probably going to require a bit of retraining on my part, and I am not willing to take out any more student loans. (Above and beyond the $105K I already put my foot down on of course). So, if I want to go back, which I very much do right now, we will need to save for that too. I am conservatively estimating about $20K for that right now, plus after school daycare (maybe $5K? Though that will be more of an on-going expense), but given the rising cost of education these days, who knows?

The point of all this speculating is to point out that with these extra purchases, the time it takes up to save about $30K for an emergency fund is going to be more like 2-3/4 to 3 years rather than 14 mos. That's a long time. And who knows how many set backs there might be in the meantime. At some point, hubby's car will need to be replaced as well, though it is 5 years newer than the SUV at least. But I guess I'm okay with it as long as we get to Baby Step 4: Retirement Investing, by the time I re-graduate, which I am predicting will be in 5-6 years. If we get to that step before I graduate, then I guess we will start putting at least the company matching amount into hubby's 401K. Actually, if we don't get to that step before 40, we probably should do a lot more than that, and I kind of doubt we will. Once I do graduate and start working again though, we are going to kick step 4's butt.

And then we get to Baby Step 5: College Funding for the kids. Except we're going to re-package that one as college payoff for the adults. By then my daughter will be done with college (or darn well better be at least). Until we get fabulously wealthy, I have done the best I can for her by insisting that she go to a school where she would graduate with a maximum of $40K in debt. Still a lot I know, but less than half as much than me, and within the amount considered reasonable by the income to debt calculators. She hated me for it at the time, but now seems mostly happy.

I am hoping that with a new masters degree I will be able to make at least $50K, although about half of that will probably have to go towards retirement, and the rest will get taxed. But lets just say that after stocking up our emergency fund, we have about $25K/yr extra from hubby's income and $25K/yr from mine. So $50K/yr extra after I start working to do with what we will. (OMG, is that really possible?) What to do with all that cash?? Pay off my damn student loans!! If we stick to the plan, that should take us only two more years. At that point, we can look into some minimal investing for the boys' college (and maybe some back pay for my daughter). But they are going to be expected to chip in as well because we are heading off to...

...Baby Step 6: Pay Off the Mortgage! Honestly, not quite sure what's going to happen when we get to this step because you see, before we focus on paying off the mortgage, we'd like to focus instead of getting the house we'd really like to have. The exciting thing is, once the student loan is paid off, we could afford about $600 more per month for a mortgage without changing anything else. Assuming the market continues to improve, we should also have a fair amount of equity at this point, having lived here for about 11 years. I am not sure yet whether we would rather buy or remodel. It will probably depend a lot on the location of our jobs at that point. There are some things I really like about both this home and this area, but our home was built in the 1960's and it really needs some updating. I think it would take between $175K-$200K to get it to where we want it, and only about 60% of that could be recouped in re-sale value. Whether or not that's worth it will depend largely on what we could get for the same value given the housing market at the time.

I also really like Dave Ramsey's idea of taking out only a 15 year mortgage and keeping your mortgage payment to less than 25% of your take home pay. Whether we decide to buy or remodel, I do very much want to keep those rules in mind. After all our hard work, I certainly do not want to end up house poor. It will be hard to feel like we can't afford just about whatever we want once we've taken care of all that other debt. And I do love big, pretty homes. Nonetheless, regardless of what we choose to do, at that point it should be a maximum of 15 years until we are entirely debt free, and if we continue with the $50K/yr rule, I think we could take that down to 6 years.

Which means this is more like a 14 year than a 7 years plan for us, but by the time we enter our 50's, it is very possible we will have no debt remaining (maybe we'll bump up the boys college fund at that point) and hopefully by the time we hit our 60's we will have reached that fabled Pinnacle Point which will leave us set for a long, happy retirement. Its certainly not a get rich quick scheme. which makes it seem somewhat more believable. Though it will certainly require a lot of dedication and sacrifice. But it seems like by the time the boys graduate from high school, we will finally have both the time AND money to do all sorts of things.

So that's the big picture. And now back to Baby Step 2.
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 6 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) ) -->

A Quick Check-In

August 23rd, 2014 at 04:05 am

I was feeling a bit lonely and neglected today, but then hubby brought me home flowers (most unlike him) and it made the whole rest of my day better. Just needed to tell someone that. Smile Things have been so busy lately and I've just been stressed.

Got the final medical insurance refund check today from all the crazy bills we had to pay before the TEFRA coverage for our twin boys' autism disability came through. We're still going to have to plan for fairly high medical expenses. Probably about $5000/yr for the TEFRA and at least another $2K/yr for hubby and I, if not $5K to max it out and be safe. This is in addition to our regular monthly insurance premium mind you. But at least we know everything is covered now, and the payments will be more spread out and manageable. Additionally, the refunds will allow us to payoff the balance transfer we did in Jan of this year in order to max out our HSA.

Tuition for fall semester is paid, though I still have one text book left to buy. My aunt hasn't said anything yet about helping us out again with it like she has the last two times. I'm guessing she will, but I would never ask. Regardless, we had to dip into our emergency fund to cover it which is why it's still looking pretty tepid. If you count our slowly growing 401(k) though it looks a little better!

We had a series of misfortunate plumbing issues this past Aug, almost all of which were related to one of our "darling" boys. All said and done we spent over $700 on repairs. Ugh. It seems like such a paradox to me that at the same time in a child's life that you would prefer to keep the bathroom off limits, you also need to be teaching them independence in potty training. No bueno.

I calculated out that even if we apply my hubby's entire after tax bonus this winter to the car loan we got in May, we will still be $1000 short of paying it off. We probably still will but this bums me out as it means the payments won't be done like I had hoped. What with tuition around every corner though, I just can't see how to do it any faster right now. And with my student loans on deferment right now, we should really take advantage of any "extra" cash to pay that primary down. Will reaccess come Jan though.

Also have been really bummed about the dive our home price is taking again lately. We have a couple new foreclosures in our neighborhood which is probably why, but it still makes my net worth look sad(er). Easy come, easy go.

That's all for now!
Feb 2014
Start 6% 401K withdrawals: Sept 2013----->Feb/Mar 2014
Save for/Pay off "new" car: May 2014----->Feb 2015

As I said: Ugh.

A new reflection though: I saw on FB recently that an old friend of mine I've lost touch with the past few years, is selling her house. She has been dying for a bigger house for years, and her husband had a well paying job. But they also had a lot of debt and not the best of spending habits, and with the housing market crash they felt completely stuck.

About 4 months back, her husband's department was downsized and he was laid off. He had a few months severance though and lots of job interview lined up, so they weren't too concerned at the time. Thus, when I saw her recent FB posting, I at first assumed he had found something even better and that with the housing market upswing they were finally able to afford the new home they have been wanting.

But then I read further. Turns out, they are not buying a new one, just selling the old one. She didn't elaborate more but a quick check on LinkedIn confirmed what I feared; her husband has been out of work since Oct. Now I am purely speculating at this point, but given what I know of their past financial situation, it's not at all hard to draw a line that without a high paying job, the large debts have are going to sink them once the severance pay ends, and they are trying to find a source for more funds.

I say all this not to gossip or point fingers (presumably, you have no idea who I'm even talking about), and I actually feel very bad for her, though not really close enough anymore to question her about such a personal matter. But for me, she is such a stunning reminder of why hubby and I are doing all this.

Our financial situations were close enough at one time that it is easy for me to picture how something very similar could have happened to us, had we not begun to exercise financial restraint. But I admit that it was very hard for me to hear about their fancy trips, and see their pretty new cars and how beautifully decorated the inside of her home was. I wanted those things too. I wanted to look that good as well. But we were pouring all our extra cash into debt and had nothing visual to show for it.

We are still a long way from where we want to be. And without more savings, we are still not even insulated from going through something similar ourselves were hubby to lose his job. But we have no credit card or car debt dragging us down anymore. And we have a very clear picture of our budget and of the steps we need to take to get from A to B. So, even though this is a total drag, and even though I feel like it's taking way longer than it should, reflecting on where we could be instead leaves me still feeling thankful about where we are. Maybe not happy, but thankful. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [105872] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 105872 [entry_title] => Commencing Baby Step 3 [entry_stub] => commencing-baby-step-3- [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/11/24/commencing-baby-step-3-_105872/ [entry_date] => 1385315344 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-11-24 11:49:04 [entry_text] => We've finally finished wading through all the home maintenance projects (including an unexpected $1000 repair on the roof a couple weeks ago) and even set aside $1000 for Christmas. We've reached our family health deductible for the year and are scheduling appts like mad for these next few weeks to take full advantage of paying only 20% rather than 100% for the rest of the year. And we were also incredibly blessed to have my aunt unexpectedly send me a check to cover my first semester of tuition and books for the community college I will be starting at in Jan. And so, with that all finally behind us, it's time to commence on our TMM baby step 3 (beef up emergency fund to cover 3-6 months of expenses).

It has been almost 4 months since we finished baby step 2, so I am relieved to finally be getting back on track again. We made a lot of prudent purchases and repairs, but as the money kept flowing out rather than in, I worried that our financial plan had become derailed. Apparently though, even without CC debt, we do still have some motivation and dedication to this plan after all. And it's time to buckle down again.

My main goal for this coming financial year is to see our next worth begin to rise finally. Although given it is currently -$46K, it might be more accurate to say we want to see our gaping net worth hole begin to be filled in. It's actually much better now that it was a year ago. Partly because of paying off the CC's and car loan. But also in a large part due to home values bouncing back again finally, and we can't really take credit for that. Plus that part could go again as easy as it came.

But I was realizing the other day that we are at an exciting point none that less because from here on out, we will mainly be investing in ourselves. Even the $25K we hope to save for a "new" vehicle over the next year and a half will be savings converted into an asset, rather than simply blown out the window. And yes, yes, I know their will be depreciation, but you get my point. We're finally investing in our own net worth. And that is exciting!

Plus, during the open enrollment period this year we made sure to max out our HSA contribution for next year, as well as bump up the life insurance and disability policies a little bit. And it feels wonderful to know we are getting an adequate financial safety net into place. Almost like we're becoming real adults finally!

From this point on though, we're going to be breaking a bit from strict compliance to the TMM plan. For instance, we're going to start baby step 4 (retirement savings) as soon as we get $5000 towards baby step 3. Which should be by the end of Jan if we practice restraint over Xmas. We are way too old to be putting it off any longer and we're going to be doing baby step 3 for quite some time. We want our final emergency fund to be around $20K, but we need to buy a car along the way, so almost as soon as we get it we're going to empty it out and start again.

I consider this an EF worthy purchase though because, as discussed previously, our current family vehicle is a 1999 and has over 225K miles. It's just not going to be around much longer, and when it does finally die, it will certainly be an emergency. After doing a lot of research we decided that the most financially wise options were to either buy a cheap 7-8 year old car in decent condition and plan to cover fairly regular repairs until we can afford an upgrade. Or to buy a reliable low mileage 1-2 year old vehicle that shouldn't need much work for a few years, and which would be just as affordable as long as we keep driving it at least 10 years. And given how very tired we are of highly used vehicles at this point, we have decided to go for the 2nd option.

We're going to save as much as we can for it until May and then get a loan for the remainder. We want to give the old one to our daughter when she comes home from college for the summer so that she will have her own vehicle to get to and from her summer job. And then we're going to pay off the car loan as fast as possible, though right now it's looking like Feb 2015 before we get there.

So that's the plan right now. Hubby is in the process of applying for new jobs that pays more though, and if one of them pans out, maybe we can even do this without a car loan. Hoping for the best!

[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [105329] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 105329 [entry_title] => TMM Year 2 [entry_stub] => tmm-year-2 [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/10/20/tmm-year-2_105329/ [entry_date] => 1382288284 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-10-20 11:58:04 [entry_text] => It's been forever, I know. Not sure what the deal is with all this crazy /// nonsense in my info section since I left either. Anywho...

This Oct marks the beginning of the second year for hubby and I's Total Money Makeover. And how far have we gotten in a year? Well, considerably farther than we pictured ourselves one year ago for sure. We originally thought we'd be nearing the end of our credit card payments about now, and just starting to work on the car loan. The was before we discovered what the power of a budget and willpower can actually do. So instead we finished both by the end of July.

On the other hand...we are considerably less far than we had pictured ourselves being by now last June. Our revised goal was to have the initial $5000 for our emergency fund fully stocked by now, as well as kicking off the retirement 401k we need so badly and also making headway towards the "new" car we need. Instead we are in a much more dangerous no man's land somewhere between Baby Step 2 and Baby Step 3. I don't feel we are derailed from our TMM, but we do need to start getting this show on the road again soon.

So what have we been doing instead of all those June goals? Well, a lot of home stuff actually. Things we put off forever while dealing with our CC debt. We finally got a new toilet for downstairs (which lowered out water bill by $35/month!). We got a few trees cut down that had died and got our gutters cleaned out. We are also getting a large rip in our kitchen linolium repaired as well as some baseboards re-added that we never replaced after our mold damage issue a couple years ago.

We're getting our radon remitigation system installed this week ($1200). And we also had to take care of a couple big car repairs as well as buying hubby a new suit for job interviewing after all the weight he lost. Additionally, we finally replaced a few items that were wearing out. Like hubby's desk chair that was held together by duct tape and the kitchen rug that was coming apart at the seams. And we also spent more than typical on entertainment too, given it was summer and we had more family outings than usual.

Some of that stuff qualifies as emergency fund type things. Some doesn't. But it's all stuff we've been wanting to take care of forever and I'm glad we did it. By the end of this month we should be done with all that and ready to begin on Baby Step 3 for real. Trouble is, the boys are finally in preschool and I am finally going back to school myself to begin a second career. My first tuition/books payment will be due this Dec (just in time for Xmas) and is probably going to be around $2000. Long story short, I don't think we're going to be able to start the 401k until about Jan instead of Sept like we had planned and that sucks.

Regardless, compared to where we saw ourselves a year ago, we are doing much, much better indeed. Hopefully by this time next year we will be finished with Baby Step 4 and be looking ahead to a bright financial future!
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [103651] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21492] => Array ( [category_id] => 21492 [category_name] => Investing [category_stub] => investing ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 103651 [entry_title] => Closing In [entry_stub] => closing-in [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/07/13/closing-in_103651/ [entry_date] => 1373733962 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-07-13 11:46:02 [entry_text] => Almost at the finish line for TMM baby step 2: debt snowball. Actually, we could have been there on July 19th, but, the laptop hubby has been wanting for so long went on sale for the 4th of July week. We saved $100 by buying it now and pushing the fridge payoff out one more paycheck (Aug 2). Which I think is fine given it's no interest for 3 more months and definitely will be paid off on the 2nd. We chose snail speed shipping though to save on that part, so it will still be another week or so before he gets it, but I'm sure he will be very happy when it finally arrives!

We are starting to look into what the next financial steps are. Dave Ramsey says baby step 3 should be saving a 3-6 month emergency fund (building on the $1000 one from baby step 1). That would be about $18,000 for us and would take quite some time. And in the meantime, we would still not be taking advantage of the 3% 401K matching hubby's company offers (not to mention just plain starting to save for retirement period, even though we're both entering our late 30's.) Additionally, our '99 SUV is probably not going to last much longer and certainly will be an emergency when it dies. And we want our next car purchase to be a slightly used, reliable family vehicle with low miles that we can count on driving for at least 8-10 years.

So, we're thinking of taking a middle of the road approach. I've opened a money market account with Ally bank and transferred our $1000 emergency fund there. As soon as the fridge is done we are going to work on building that up to $5000 as fast as possible. After that, we have some home maintenance issues we have been putting off forever that we need to take care of. Getting all of that accomplished is going to push us well into the end of Oct.

But once we're there, we are going to start putting 6% of hubby's paychecks into the company 401K (the maximum matching amount). And come open enrollment in Nov we are also going to up our HSA/FSA medical contributions to the max for the coming year. That's going to take quite a dent out of our monthly income, but with all the debt we've now paid off (as well as the decrease in taxable income from the 401K/HSA/FSA), we should still be able to raise our entertainment budget from what it has been these past 9 months, and still work towards saving for a new vehicle.

We originally wanted to save for it completely before purchasing, which would have taken about a year, but our daughter really needs a car for the college internship she wants to do next summer. Assuming the SUV is still running then, we'd like to pass it off to her by next May so she can do that. That said, we should be 80% of the way there by May with hubby's bonus, so it shouldn't be too bad to take out a small loan at that point and pay it off in 4-6 months.

At that point, I will be starting school again (just a few classes at a community college to begin with) so there will be some tuition to take care of. But we will also need to start kicking up our savings as well. I'm looking into a Roth IRA for that, and Ally bank seems like a good place to help us with it. Given that you can withdraw contributions without penalty if needed, I feel like this could double with retirement and most of our remaining 3-6 month emergency fund. Short of job loss, I doubt we will ever need more than the $5K we will already have set aside in the money market (which I will keep separate). And $18K seems like too much money to just have sitting in a low interest account, when it will likely never be used, while we make no progress on retirement. Dave Ramsey would not approve, and I'm still looking into the details, but right now that's the plan. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 7 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [103087] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) ) [entry_id] => 103087 [entry_title] => We Did It!!! [entry_stub] => we-did-it [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/06/11/we-did-it_103087/ [entry_date] => 1370976855 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-06-11 13:54:15 [entry_text] => Just a quick note to say: We Paid Off Our LAST Credit Card last week!! We reached our goal a full 7 months early! I am so happy to be done!!

Of course, now that the old debt is done, it is time to acknowledge the new debt for the fridge we purchased on store credit. It has no interest for 6 months and we plan to be done in half that time. I have updated my debt stats accordingly. This debt milestone would feel a lot more exciting though if we didn't now have this to take care of that debt too. But at least it's debt for only one physical object that we use literally every day, rather than for a whole bunch of things transferred from card to card for so long that we had no idea what it was we were even paying for anymore. It is also nice to look at my wedding ring now and know that it is completely paid for. Smile

We may or may not make much headway on the fridge debt this month. Depends how my home business goes this month; this tends to be a slow time of year. Our car was in need of a $675 repair this week and we have a plumbing issue too now that is probably going to be at least $300. But guess what? For the first time, we don't have to tap into our emergency fund to pay for that. The mechanic told us the amount and we just sighed and said, well, at least we know we've got it. That is a very nice feeling.

Really looking forward to the end of the summer when we will have taken care of the back log of expenses we put off forever while doing our debt payoff. Because that's when the real fun begins. The accumulation phase that will (finally!) prepare us for our future.
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 12 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [102806] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) ) [entry_id] => 102806 [entry_title] => A Talk with Hubby [entry_stub] => a-talk-with-hubby [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/05/27/a-talk-with-hubby_102806/ [entry_date] => 1369628147 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-05-26 23:15:47 [entry_text] => Many of you have pointed out to me that my hubby seems to be a reluctant partner in this Total Money Makeover of ours. To which I could not agree more. And it's certainly not as if that's something he and I haven't discussed. But its been a difficult topic for him. He feels like he works and works and works and yet has nothing to show for it (there's some truth to that right now). And generally speaking, since he lets me decide how to spend most of the money even though he makes most of the money, I try not to be too hard on him.

I did get annoyed enough the other night to bring it up again though. I was trying to have just a strategic, non-emotional discussion about what we should prioritize first once we finish paying off the last* credit card next month (*please ignore the fridge for now. I need that to be separate so I can be done, or I will implode.) But it once again turned in to a whine fest.

I managed to mostly keep my cool and said that while this certainly is hard, and there certainly is reason to whine about it occasionally, that shouldn't have to be the case every time money is discussed. That it made me feel like I was making him do this even though he has agreed many times that he feels it is what's best for us as well. That in order to feel like partners in it, I needed to just be able to talk strategy with him sometimes so that we could figure out how to best prioritize things together. I didn't say it all quite that nicely, but I did my best.

He didn't take it all that well at the time (it had been a long day and perhaps was not the best time to bring it up in retrospect). But later that night he did seem to come around some. And since then he has actually been much better. He even offered to put off getting the new laptop he so wants until the fridge payoff is done. We talked about how we might generate a report for him to look over after each paycheck so that he has a better understanding of how the numbers are moving (we're nerds like that). I told him that I was actually frustrated about it all the time too, and that if I didn't have my spreadsheet to look over and fiddle with almost daily I would probably be a wreck. Simple tasks like changing box shading from yellow to green to show it's completed do wonders for keeping me sane.

So, hopefully that was the talk that will finally change things. And we are so, so close. One more paycheck (don't talk to me about the fridge yet). It's really hard to not fixate on it. To a level of being unhealthy probably, but it's just been soooo long and part of me just can't believe that we're really about to frickin' do this. I keep checking and re-checking because it seems surreal. As if any moment a large, unforeseen expense will rise up and swallow us whole. But so far, the spreadsheet says we're on track. It says we're okay. Just one more paycheck...



[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 5 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [102098] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) ) [entry_id] => 102098 [entry_title] => Financial Goals [entry_stub] => financial-goals [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/04/10/financial-goals_102098/ [entry_date] => 1365562254 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-04-09 21:50:54 [entry_text] => Last post

Text is http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/30/save-now-live-later_101898/ and Link is
http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/30/save-no..., I was feeling pretty down about the state of our penny pinching lives right now. We've made great progress, but it's been all work, little play for quite a while now. This past couple weeks, I've been "running the numbers" and trying to figure out IF/WHEN and HOW MUCH fun money we might be able to squeeze in, while trying to meet our many financial goals over these next few years.

We're still putting most everything extra on hold until we finish paying off the credit cards in the next couple months or so. But I would like to start going on date night's out once every couple months again despite not being there yet. I'm fine with it just being something like TGIF's and a movie. Right now even McDonald's would be a splurge for us so that sounds great to me! But I want to get an actual baby sitter and not have to cook the meal myself. To watch an actual new release in movie seats rather than a rental on the couch. And to be able to start spending time with hubby before 8pm when the boys are finally in bed and our eyes are already getting droopy. This particular splurge, I am not willing to put off any longer. Even it it adds a little extra time to our goal. I need a life again. And once every two months hardly seems over the top.

The trickier part is what to allow when we do finally finish paying off all this debt. Not throwing hundreds, and even thousands into our credit cards each month will certainly free up some funds! But as discussed
Text is http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/25/march-madness-ends_101832/ and Link is
http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/25/march-m..., there are a lot of prudent ways those funds could and should be allocated. So we decided to determine which financial goals were our most important ones to meet in the first year after paying off our credit card/car loan debts. And to set aside the money for those things each month first. Here's what we came up with:

1) To replace the ancient fridge that is probably costing us a small fortune to operate and can barely hold a food safe temperature anymore. Also, all of the drawers are broken and every time the cheese drawer is pulled out it smooshes everything below. This was the single hardest item for me not to "splurge" on spending to replace.



2) Replace hubby's ancient desktop computer that needs rebooting at least once a day to even barely run these days. Preferably with a moderately priced and more portable laptop. Hopefully before, rather than after it bites the dust, but it's going to be close.

3) Get that $800 car repair for hubby's car that our mechanic mentioned is going to sneak up on us any day now.

4) Start putting in the maximum employer matching 401K contribution. At least it's pre-tax and won't be quite as big a chunk as it seems, but like it or not, it's the most important thing we can be spending our money on at this point.

5) Increase emergency fund from $1000 to $5000. Still far short of our long term goal, but it should be enough to cover, say, an ancient furnace that we were just glad made it through one more winter. Thankfully hubby's job is very stable right now.

6) Come re-enrollment this fall, up our HSA contributions to max that out too. That will be more than double what we're doing now but not doing so has totally bit us in the butt this year with unforeseen dental expenses (given that dental insurance is pretty much a joke). Long story short, I am going to be without a bottom right tooth for a while, and I would like to get that fixed soon.

7) Save about $12,500 for a "new" car. Again, preferably before the current one dies but that will also be cutting it close. In truth, we are going to rely on hubby's bonus next spring for about half of this. At the fortune 500 company he works for, it's a pretty sure bet. We even know pretty much how much it will be. If we're wrong though, we'd still rather get a small car loan that we paid off ASAP rather than wait any longer for any of these other things.


So those are the goals. There will be no family vacations in the foreseeable future, and we're going to keep date nights out at once every other month for now as well. We also will have not yet started saving for me to go back to school, and that will certainly need to be a priority in the year following. To say nothing of our longer term investing goals.

But thankfully, there is some wiggle room in there. A little cash for lunch with friends. Maybe a shirt from Kohl's and a new book once a month. Perhaps I can finally replace that pitcher I use every day that I'm missing the lid for? And we're definitely starting our Audible subscription again. We're going to have more fun. Ahh, the good life! Let me never take these small luxuries for granted again! [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 0 [contains_images] => 1 ) [101898] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 101898 [entry_title] => Save Now, Live Later [entry_stub] => save-now-live-later [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/30/save-now-live-later_101898/ [entry_date] => 1364658384 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-03-30 10:46:24 [entry_text] => We're making awesome progress on our debt. In the last 6 months we have paid off $16,406 in credit cards/car loans and we now have only $5900 to go. On paper, it looks really good. In life- it looks kind of bleak.

I have always struggled with living my life more in the past or future than in the present. The Now. I am good at putting off short term reward for long term gain. Hubby has a harder time with this, which is one reason he is so good for me in this regard. He helps to balance me out and remind me that life IS now. In turn, I help to give him direction so that he moves towards his longer term goals. This tug of war plays out in our total money makeover all the time, as it does with most everything in our marriage.

Recently though, I have hit an emotional wall that makes me realize I need to start focusing more on the Now. To put it bluntly, I am not enjoying my life right now. I miss working and having space for intellectual pursuits in my life outside of two year old play dates and fish sticks. I feel that me being home is what's best for them and I love them to pieces. But I am coming to accept that it is not what's best for me. None the less, they don't have a lot of part-time options for women with PhDs in science fields, and I didn't like what I did much before anyways, and I will need to be retrained before I can begin a new career path. Which will only be affordable if we stick to our financial plan and cut expenses now. For now, and the next few years, I'm stuck here.

And hubby and I have been working our butts off for this money makeover. I run after our darling boys all day while he works his day job. And then by night, once the boys are tucked in, we both spend at least half the nights a week doing our side jobs, which has created the surplus for our finances. But we have almost no time for ourselves or each other. We've turned all date nights into at home affairs and cut all plans for family vacations. We don't buy clothes, or toys or really anything that's not required. We stick to the plan. And it blows.

Part of why we have felt the need to push this hard in the short term is that we have been treading water financially for years now. With every increase in funds getting eaten up by something else unplanned for, I watched my goal of going back to school slip further and further away. We were always barely making ends meet. Always "a little bit short this month but next month should be better." Looking into the near future we could already see the big raise hubby was expecting being eaten up by needing to replace the family car that is on its last leg. And we have nothing for retirement. We needed to do something Now.

So we're doing this. And the credit cards part of it is almost done. Which is awesome. But if we don't want to just replace all that work with another car loan then we need to start saving pretty aggressively for a car as well. And there are a whole ton a medical expenses that have crept up recently that I don't even want to think about factoring in to the plan yet. And yet - life is NOW. Not when we finish saving for a "new" car or finally start that retirement fund or get money pulled together for me to go back to school. But now. And Now - I am miserable.

Clearly there has to be some balance here. It does no good to live high on the hog now and just be miserable in the future instead. But it is not healthy to put off everything Now for a future that may never come either. They used to say money doesn't buy you happiness. Though they're finding that's not actually true! (
Text is http://www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2013/01/25/money-does-buy-happiness-we-were-shocked-too/ and Link is
http://www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2013/01/25/money-does-...,
Text is http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2019628,00.html and Link is
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2019628,00....,
Text is http://www.wired.com/business/2012/12/wealth-happiness/ and Link is
http://www.wired.com/business/2012/12/wealth-happiness/). Regardless, I have never been a collector of things for my happiness. But money does buy experiences. And experiences are the stuff of life in my opinion.

In times past, I know it has definitely made me happier to have a fun family vacation to look forward to, or a fancy night out with hubby taking in dinner, wine and a show somewhere. It made me happy when I was able to splurge on a massage or a special outing with the boys. Though these things are fleeting without knowing they are financially backed by having the longer term goals of ones life fully funded as well. Again, I recognize there must be balance. But right now the balance is clearly too far to the future game, and we need to adjust that.

In the very short term we are going to restart monthly date night outs, though nothing too fancy until the credit cards are done (only 3 more months!). Then, we'll have to decide what additional changes we can make at that point, and which ones we need to put off at least until a new car, and the increased emergency fund, and the 401K and all that have been saved for. I don't know what the right balance is here because all these things are important. But my emotional outlook is making it very clear to me that our current answer is not where it needs to be right now. I will be working on sorting that out this coming month.

PS Please, please, pretty please, do not respond to this post with a list of low cost entertainment options that I could "fix" my problem with. And no, we do not have good options with family or friends for child care swapping right now. I am aware that these options exist and we are considering them too, but we want to feel able to enjoy some of the "finer" things in life as well. This is really more about giving myself permission to enjoy than it is about the actual solution. Once I feel it's allowed, coming up with the options should be the fun part!
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 9 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 0 [contains_images] => 0 ) [101411] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 101411 [entry_title] => Making Progress [entry_stub] => making-progress [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/02/making-progress_101411/ [entry_date] => 1362265644 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-03-02 17:07:24 [entry_text] => I am frustrated that I have not been able to keep up with this blog very well lately due to some other projects I have been working on. I think it is a really good outlet for the stress this financial overhaul creates in our lives sometimes. And I think its a really good tool for keeping us accountable. Should be able to put more time into it again by the end of this month though I think, so I'll have to be content with that for now.

As for where we're at right now, do you see that side bar?! Talk about progress! Yes, the windfall has finally begun. Hubby got his bonus from work, which was about $5K after taxes got done with it. Originally, I had planned on paying off credit cards first with that, but after reading A LOT of material of financial planning recently, I decided a better use would be to pay off the car first, due to its higher interest rate. So, that one is done! And that payoff alone increases our monthly income by $198/month. Yay!

We also got our state return, a little under $500, and with that and some other surplus, I did pay off 1 of our 4 credit cards as well, though that one only increases out bottom line by about $30/month so not as exciting. But still progress! Supposedly, the IRS is going to finally start processing returns for people with mortgage interest credits within the next week. So hopefully, we will get that soon too (assuming no audit as discussed previously:
Text is http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/death-and-taxes_100945/ and Link is
http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/death-a...). And when we do, I plan to knock off a couple more cards, this raising our bottom line another $180/month. Wow, were we ever wasting a lot of money of this crap.

After that, it will just be the one big one left, which I'm hoping to have taken care of by the end of the summer, maybe sooner depending on how my business goes (summers tend to be slower). And then, we finally get to start the more fun part of personal finance: investing in ourselves.

Certainly we still have a lot of debt to pay off, between my student loans and our mortgage. Actually, even after paying off the the rest of the credit cards, I was disappointed to find that our net worth will still be around -$84K. Ouch. Though it is above the -$100K mark now for the first time in years. But as one financial planner I read stated, we're working really hard just to be worthless right now (ie $0 net worth).

None the less, after receiving some comments about how silly we are to not be taking advantage of the 401K matching hubby's company offers, I did a bit of research and decided in the end that, yes, we are being incredibly stupid not taking this free money and we need to get on that train ASAP, Dave Ramsey be damned. If we were being completely logical rather than emotional about it in fact, we would probably be prioritizing that even above our credit cards given that they have very low promotional interest rates. After much discussion though, we have decided we simply cannot bring ourselves to make this credit card thing go any slower. We feel spread much too thin as it is, and we need to be done with those debts and never use credit that way again. Our emotional sanity depends on it. Especially given how close we are.

If it were going to be something that was a few years away from being accomplished, like our mortgage and student loans, it might make sense to do it with more of a long view in mind. But we are literally within 3-5 months of our goal and our monthly income will increase by another $300 compared to now, once we sunset this. And that will certainly help our long term bottom line as well. That's our thinking at least. But at least we're almost there!

Anyways, very happy to be making some definite progress finally and looking forward to a 3 paycheck March this month as well! [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 4 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 0 [contains_images] => 0 ) [100947] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21491] => Array ( [category_id] => 21491 [category_name] => Food / Groceries [category_stub] => food-groceries ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) ) [entry_id] => 100947 [entry_title] => Feb Zero Dollar Budget [entry_stub] => feb-zero-dollar-budget [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/feb-zero-dollar-budget_100947/ [entry_date] => 1360431810 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-02-09 11:43:30 [entry_text] => Income:

Hubby's Job (after tax): $5271
Hubby's Hobby Income: $550*
My PT-WFH Job: $670*
Hubby's Bonus (after tax): $5104
(*subject to change, though usually for the better!)

Total Monthly Income: $11598 (umm...holy crap!)

Expenses:

Non-Fixed Expenses:
Groceries: $861
Gasoline: $188
Misc: $500
Entertainment: $250
Gifts: $10 (Valentine's Day Treat!)

Fixed Expenses:
Mortgage/Insurance: $1509
Student Loan: $619
Utilities (water/sewer, gas, electric, etc): $349
Services (phone, computer backup, garbage, cable*, etc.): $285
(*reimbursed through hubby's company)
Leftover Leaf Cleanup Bill: $150*
(*he still has not billed us and I'm not calling again. This is his last chance.)
Auto Insurance: $73
Credit Cards (minimum payments): $299
Auto Loan: $198
Early Childhood Program (spring session fee): $120

Total Expenses: $5525

Difference (to be applied towards credit cards): $6073 (woo hoo!)


Still need to do an accounting for how we did in Jan but I think I'm out of time this morning so it looks like it will have to wait again.
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 2 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [100945] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) ) [entry_id] => 100945 [entry_title] => Death and Taxes [entry_stub] => death-and-taxes [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/death-and-taxes_100945/ [entry_date] => 1360430275 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-02-09 11:17:55 [entry_text] => I had this entry all written last week, but the blog site was acting funny that day, and when I submitted it, it just went off into the oblivion somewhere. Was too annoyed to retype something right away, but I am trying really hard to get caught up today.

So anyways, apparently our $8000 some dollar tax return was a bit too good to be true after all. You see, that tax form our DD said was from her school, the one we thought we already had, was really from her 529K that we just opened this year. Entering that form changed the picture a bit because apparently, you do not qualify for education tax credits if you pay for education expenses using a 529K. Huh? What the heck is the point then? Well okay, I get that they are tax deferred and gain interest if you start when they're young. Ours was more of a savings account tool that would penalize withdrawing funds for non-education expenses. A disincentive we felt our spend thrifty daughter needed. (To be fair, she's done quite well with it.) None the less, our tax return will be at least $2000 less than we had thought due to losing the credit. And I have to amend. Frown

Really, it hardly matters because due to our mortgage interest credit and congress's ineptitude, our pending tax return will be delayed until lord only knows when anyways. I just hope they don't realize our mistake and allow me to fix it instead of holding the fund until I do (or auditing us!) because who knows how much longer that will take then. Had originally thought that check would be coming late this month but now we're thinking more like April. Boo!

Eventually I need to figure out how to adjust our with holdings so that our returns aren't so big. Our tax situation has changed so much over the past 4 years though that its hard to sort it all out. Buying a home, starting a small business, getting married, changing jobs, promotions, having twins, sending a child to college (while still paying on my own student loans). Turbo tax informs me that due to all these things, our effective tax rate is only 4.4% right now. So our checkbook may have taken quite a hit from all that, but we're beating Warren Buffet's tax rate, so we must be good! Probably makes us part of Romney's 47% though. Wink
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 1 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [100943] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) ) [entry_id] => 100943 [entry_title] => Hubby Got Promoted!!! [entry_stub] => hubby-got-promoted [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/hubby-got-promoted_100943/ [entry_date] => 1360428955 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-02-09 10:55:55 [entry_text] => The day we have been waiting for all year is finally here! Many of you pointed out previously that in the future we should probably not count so many of our eggs before they hatch so to speak. And yes, I know what you mean. I tend to always be about 5 years ahead of myself. That works well for some things in life, though not for others. This one was particularly hard because we *thought* this promotion was going to happen last year. His boss had suggested as much. Then we came to find that the company likes to get new managers feet wet for a year by giving them most of the new duties they will have, without the pay increase until the following year, after they see how it goes.

I get the logic that they don't want to end up promoting people who aren't going to be a good fit for management. But man that was an annoying year. We had thought it was already in the bag. And Hubby worked his butt off and understandably felt uncompensated for it. But no more! He broke the six figure income ceiling in fact! Well, more like scuffed it: he's getting exactly $100K now. But he also got a sweet $8000 bonus, though that'll be about $5100 once taxes get pulled out. Additionally, he gets an office and a garage parking spot. And he will now be eligible for even larger bonuses going forward. Possibly as much as 15% if he keeps "exceeding expectations".

But okay, okay, let's not go there yet. Let's let next years chickens come next year. How 'bout them eggs this year though! Wink We should be getting the bonus check next week. And once we do, CC#1 and #2 that you see on the side bar there should finally be gone! And just in time too, one of our balance txfr promotions is about to expire.

It may seem like a simple thing to send in a big check like this to a credit card that needs paying, but for us, this in and of itself is a debt victory. We were never disciplined enough to make that much headway before. We *might* have ended up paying off the smaller of the two. But we certainly wouldn't have knocked out that second one also (with some spare to throw at the third as well). So this is a big money management win for us.

Additionally, we should start seeing about $250 more each paycheck after taxes, and that will certainly help as well. Credit Card Free 2013, here we come!
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 5 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [100049] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 100049 [entry_title] => Our Debt Snowball [entry_stub] => our-debt-snowball [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/01/05/our-debt-snowball_100049/ [entry_date] => 1357369587 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-01-05 01:06:27 [entry_text] => This is it! The year we're going to conquer our credit card and car loan debt. Time to layout the plan so I can hold myself to it!

We are still only 3 months in to our Total Money Makeover. So far, getting our debt "snowball" rolling has been really slow going due to a number of unfortunate factors. Child support back-pay ended last month, and as glad as I am to finally be done with my ex-husband, it left a new $500 hole in our budget. We knew this was coming though, and could have handled it alone, but unfortunately, it overlapped with a slow quarter for me in my home business. I have been making only about 1/3 of my usual profits for this time of year. And then to make matters worse, just a month before Xmas my normally biggest contract of the year cancelled on me due to going out of business. That left us short another $1600, and was pretty much our Xmas "budget" out the window. The same week our newer car need a $1000 repair. Needless to say, its been rough.

The amazing part of all this though, (as I tried to explain to hubby tonight when he got all forlorn about how little actual credit card progress we've made so far), is that we have not dug ourselves in any deeper for once! Had we not started a budget and drastically reduced our spending in recent months, these problems would have crept up on as as they always did. With us already overspent and not knowing where we were going to come up with these extra funds. I would not have been at all surprised if we ended up putting at least $1000 or so on a credit card, even after wiping our emergency fund out. Nor would we have had any plan to restock the emergency fund before our tax return came in late Feb. But that's not how we're doing things these days.

Today, I can honestly say that we have not used a credit card in over a year, even for emergencies. That's a first. And that as of this Monday, despite Xmas being barely over, our emergency fund will be restocked with $1000. And that even after all that, if we stick to our budget, we may still have about $50 extra to put towards credit cards in Jan. That may not be much, but it's a heck of a lot better than where we would have been before all this.

But then Feb is where the real fun begins. The month we finally start getting some momentum on this debt snowball. Because due to circumstances previously discussed, we will be getting a huge tax return. Probably around $8000. And then come March hubby should be getting his annual bonus, which will probably be around $4500. And then in Apr., hubby's new promotion raise will kick in and he should start bringing home about $500 more a month (which BTW, cancels out that child support that ended. Sweet.).

In the past, we would have initially *said* we were going to put a large amount of this extra towards our credit cards. But as it got closer, our wish list would have grown and grown. We may have ended up throwing $1500 towards it, but the rest would have gotten set aside for "in case" or spent this way or that. Our goal this year though, is to send no less than $13,000 to our credit cards for the months of Feb & March combined. Hold me to this!

By the end of all this fortune we should have wiped out three of our four credit cards and will already be about 2/3 of the way to our 2013 debt goal. From that point on it will be more slow and steady progress. If we stick to it though, that last credit card should be gone by the end of June, and our car loan will follow at the end of Sept. And that will be it! Almost one year after we started to the date. And then on to baby step 3 we'll go!

If we stick to this plan, about 28% of our take home pay over the course of a year will go towards our credit card and car loan debts. Compare that with the only 7% progress we were making before. (And we were wondering why we were never getting anywhere?) A four fold increase. Not too shabby for only 3 months of restructuring. And who knows what else we'll come up with by then?

All of this, of course, is subject to change. I'll feel a lot more confident once the tax return, bonus and raise are in hand. Until then, they are only projections, not realities. (At least the fiscal cliff is done!) Also, who knows what else will happen with cars and appliances and goodness knows what else in the months ahead. I have estimated my business income a little on the low side to help offset this, but it being on the low side has been a reality for me as well lately, though one that is starting to improve. If necessary, we still have a 3 month buffer to make it to the end of 2013 credit card/car loan debt free!

All said and done, we have a plan, and now its time to get to it.

[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 10 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 0 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99544] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21496] => Array ( [category_id] => 21496 [category_name] => Shopping [category_stub] => shopping ) ) [entry_id] => 99544 [entry_title] => Taking the Bad with the Good [entry_stub] => taking-the-bad-with-the-good [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/taking-the-bad-with-the-good_99544/ [entry_date] => 1355427405 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-13 13:36:45 [entry_text] => (Last old entry!)

I haven't posted our month's end update yet because our financial situation this past week has been so in flux. In a recent post I talked a bit about hoping our Xmas shortfall might "magically" fix itself. And believe it or not, we actually have had a fair bit of good fortune magic come our way recently in terms of income.

Hubby's writing/website management hobby is really taking off! He's just landed a new deal that should pay a minimum of $300/month starting next week, and possibly up to $500 or more. And that's in addition to the $220 he was already making through another deal, plus some smaller bits on the side. All together that is more than enough to make up for the back pay child support that is now ending (last check tomorrow!) and also enough to bridge the income gap we were expecting for Dec/Jan.

Additionally, I've had a little bit of work come my way as well! My worse case budget scenario was assuming I would continue to have only about $140/month of income (that used to be more like $600). For at least Dec/Jan though, I think I can count on that being around $400 instead, so that's another extra $260 that also kind of feels like it just magically appeared in time for Christmas.

Were in not for the car repair that suddenly fell into our laps as well then, we would probably feel we were raking in the dough. But alas, this was no ordinary car repair. This was a $992 doosey. I'm not even sure we've paid that much for a car repair before. Usually when the repairs start getting that expensive and close together, the car is old enough that we decide its probably not worth it and time for a newer one instead. But this is hubby's car and we are still making car payments on it as it is. It's also the newer of our two vehicles and therefore not allowed to reach the end of its life first!

Anyways, that completely cleaned out the emergency fund. All but $10.17. So that's a little scary. Cause it's a good two and a half months until tax rebate season. Additionally, our discretionary account has only $4.81 in it, while even our fixed checking, which we use for things like the mortgage, has only $728.42. Not cool. Luckily, hubby gets paid tomorrow, though there are still lots more gifts to get. I should point out here that the order these fluctuations came in as was: my income increase (Oh, good, that will help a little), then the car (Oh, f**k. We're screwed again.), then hubby's income increase (Woo hoooo!!! We're saved!). It's been a long week.

We ended last month with about $260 surplus, which we would have liked to use to pay down our credit card debts given that that is the point of this whole thing. Unfortunately, as the month ended, we were projecting a $750 shortfall for Dec./Jan., so I felt I needed to hold on to that extra to help somehow bridge the gap. When my extra income came in, we had high hopes that end of Dec or at least Jan. might afford us some surplus after all. But then the car crapped out, and Dave Ramsey says our first priority now should be going back to baby step 1 to replenish the emergency fund. I'm not quite sure yet where that puts us in terms of catching up again, but it may well be Feb still. In the meantime, we will continue making our roughly $500/month in minimum payments.

More good news; some very preliminary numbers I ran in the newly released 2012 Turbotax seem to predict that we will be getting back around $8000 this year! Holy s**t! I think that's even bigger than when we got our first time home buyer's credit, though I might be wrong about that. We only claimed 4 deductions rather than 5 on hubby's W-4, so as to cancel out my estimated business taxes, but I didn't make very much compared to normal, so it ending up being a lot more withholding than we really needed. Plus, we get some kind of a $2000 education credit for my daughter starting college, since she is still a dependent on our taxes for this year. Yay!! Until the car died, we were considering buying a new fridge with some of that. But at this point, we may just muddle through and try to just get done with this ASAP. Hopefully by next Xmas we'll be on baby step 3!
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 4 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99542] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21496] => Array ( [category_id] => 21496 [category_name] => Shopping [category_stub] => shopping ) ) [entry_id] => 99542 [entry_title] => Cancelling Christmas (Except Not!) [entry_stub] => cancelling-christmas-except-not [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/cancelling-christmas-except-not_99542/ [entry_date] => 1355427101 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-13 13:31:41 [entry_text] => (Only a couple old ones left...)

So bad news this week. That big job I usually get this time of year that has paid for the last couple Christmases will not be happening this year. Or anymore at all actually; it appears they have gone out of business. And given how much we were counting on it, that is quite a bummer.

The net effect of this is that Dec and Jan are not going to be just tight as I've mentioned, they are going to be negative in terms of cash flow. Even putting off getting the new tires we need, and even adding in the savings we scraped out of this month, I estimate we are still going to be about $500 short by the end of Jan. And given that bonuses and tax returns won't come in until the later half of Feb, the first half of that month is not going to be pretty either. Things have already felt so tight on this Total Money Makeover that it's hard for me to even picture how much more this is going to suck now.

Given all this, and in the spirit of maintaining gazelle intensity for our debts (I mentioned I hated that phrase, right?), it seems we probably should cancel Xmas this year. Or presents at least, that is. In fact, that would simple act alone would about take care of that $500 shortfall we have (so would winning that $500 million Powerball right now, but I digress). But we are not going to do that. Does this mean we are not really serious about our Total Money Makeover? I don't know, perhaps. But I just can't. It would be too sad for me and I think my husband would just lose it. We would lose our drive to do this because it just wouldn't feel worth it anymore. We're going to be smart about it and stick to our budget, but we're going to have Xmas, so tough.

So where is this $500 going to magically appear from then you ask? That's a good question. Cause we do have $1000 sitting in our emergency fund still, but we all know how Dave Ramsey feels about acting as if Xmas is an emergency. Well, one solution is that it might magically appear. Okay, okay, not magically. But so far hubby's side writing hobby has been bringing in a little more money than expected each month. I think its quite possible we could end up with up to $250 more from that then I currently have budgeted. Also, I could get another job through my business (hah!). I mean, probably not this month, but it could happen. At one time, I made over $20K/yr with this little side gig. (Will probably be lucky to hit even $6K this year.)

Other, less magical avenues include the possibility of me getting a very part-time job in the evenings. I'm looking into this and will in fact be putting in an application by the end of the week I hope. Not sure I will do it for any longer than necessary, but I feel I must do something. It just sucks because I will probably make only a quarter as much per hour for my efforts doing that then for my business. But a quarter as much still meets the gap my business is just not producing right now. I really hope that changes again eventually. Frown

If worse comes to worse though and none of those things pan out, I guess we will be tapping into the emergency fund. All I can say in our defense is that I promise we will pay it back in February. Needless to say, there will be no extra credit card/car payments for the next 3 months. Our minimum payments total to almost $500/month though, and our credit cards are all no interest promotions, so as long as we don't use those, we'll still be chipping away at it. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 2 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99541] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 99541 [entry_title] => My Student Loan Baggage [entry_stub] => my-student-loan-baggage [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/my-student-loan-baggage_99541/ [entry_date] => 1355427008 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-13 13:30:08 [entry_text] => One of the few topics in Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover that really irks me is his discussion of student loan debt. I'm not saying his points are all without merit. But when he talks about credit cards, he seems to understand that the mental/emotional game is just as important, perhaps even more important, than the financial one. And so he recommends paying off your lowest balance card before your highest interest card, purely so you can see results sooner. And I totally get that. But he does not allow for the same types of emotional weakness when it comes to student loans. Consider the rant of his in this link for instance:
Text is http://www.daveramseyfan.com/dave-ramsey-rants-stupid-on-education/ and Link is
http://www.daveramseyfan.com/dave-ramsey-rants-stupid-on-edu... Ouch. That's all I can say. And since I am one of those previously professional, now stay-at-home mom's with over $100K in debt he's ranting about, it can't get much more personal than that.

When I look back over my life, there is only place I can think of that I maybe should/would have made a different decision about my education. And that was when I chose to keep pursuing a PhD in a field I wasn't sure was a good fit for me, instead of being willing to start graduate school over, or at least stop with a masters. Given that my graduate tuition was paid for, however, and that I was receiving a stipend for most of my living expenses, cutting out that leg of the journey wouldn't have changed that much. Maybe $20K less at best.

Growing up, we were poor. Like free school lunch, hand me down clothes from cousins, can't afford a school yearbook poor. I vividly remember my mom dividing one family size can of spaghettios between the 4 of my sisters and I, plus a glass of milk, for lunch. I was a small, hungry, skinny and very active kid, who hung out a lot at my friend's houses bumming snacks. My mom and dad fought constantly, and would have no matter what, but certainly a major theme of their blowouts was money. There was never enough of it, and it seemed that would never change. My mom often grew wistful in private about how, despite how smart she had been, she had dropped out of college after only a year or so at her first husband's insistence (my father) and never found her way back once the babies started coming with her second. And worse, how she could never leave her abusive second husband because she could never support the 5 of us on her own.

I'm not sure how directly it was ever stated, but I grew up with the clear impression that it was absolutely imperative that I go to college some day so that I would be able to support myself without a man. But that there would be absolutely no financial help for me to do so. This was further complicated by my step-father's abusive put downs of me compared to my sisters, and his continuous proclamations that I was never going to be good enough for anything.

Given the trouble I was often into growing up in a home like that, there were many years it seemed like he was right. There were many years I didn't bother with homework. For a period of time, I was suicidal. And I was pregnant before I was out of high school. But I harbored a deep, driving need to prove him wrong as well. And despite his insults otherwise, I was actually quite intelligent. And seriously driven to believe that there was a way out of my childhood and into the type of future I had always dreamed of. Halfway through high school, I turned over a new leaf and started to show what I was capable of academically, though my new daughter senior year complicated things a bit.

When I was applying to colleges, the last thing on my mind was the amount of money I was taking out in student loans. Certainly I qualified for every need based option possible, not to mention a few merit based ones as well. Imagining what that payback would look like 5 to 10 years down the road when I finally had a real job and was out of this mess seemed besides the point. My burning questions were: Am I really capable of this? A 4 year degree at a respectable university with a child? What if they see only what my step-dad saw? What if I am doomed to repeat the same life for my daughter as the one that was given to me?

But I got in and I did my best. My first year I did outstanding actually, but the second year my young marriage began to fall apart and afterwards, it took a couple years of struggle before my daughter and I found a new equilibrium. My last two years of undergrad I did much better for the most part, and somewhere during that time, I realized that to become anything more than a lab rat with my degree, I would need to apply for graduate school. In this sense, Dave's rant doesn't completely apply to me. I did understand that I needed to be highly marketable to pay for all this.

At that point in life, I was pretty clear that I wanted to be a working mother. I loved my daughter dearly, and was very much looking forward to being done with school and having more time eventually. But I was the kind of person who got depressed without something intellectual to pursue. Something for myself separate from my role as a mother. Perhaps partly because I had become a mother before I had gotten time to be just myself. As exhausting as it was during the semesters, school holidays were often worse because I just got so depressed with nothing to work towards.

If you had told me that I would one day choose to be a stay at home mom, I would have laughed in your face. Dave can say that young women without kids yet have no idea how they're going to feel when they do, but I think that's overly simplistic and implies we all want to stay at home deep down. I'm a stay at home mom now, and I'm still not always sure its what I want to be doing. Furthermore, I already had a child at that point. I did know what it was like. If I could have had the option to work only part time with a young family, that probably would have been my first choice. But that is not a realistic possibility in most fields, least of all mine, and I was not unrealistic. I figured with a PhD, I could make enough that my future husband could stay home if we wanted.

Graduate school was hard though. Really hard. My fears about not being good enough were constantly at an edge when surrounded by so many other brilliant people. I had developed a fuzzy, idealistic picture of my doctoral field while leisurely pursuing undergraduate research with lower expectations I had no trouble meeting. This vision was shattered to make room for the more brutal and difficult reality of what higher academia really was. The relationship with my advisor slowly went from love to hate. Somewhere along the way, I began to question whether I was really doing this for myself, or just to prove that I could. Some days, I began to acknowledge that despite how far I had come, it was possible I was moving in the wrong direction.

That is the one point in my academic journey I regret. If I had been brave, or maybe even just less tired, I would have thrown in my first 2 1/2 years of research and allowed myself to start again in a new field. If I had done this, perhaps I would be happily pursuing my new career even now? I had an inkling of what at least some of those other possibilities could have been. It wouldn't have set me back more than a couple years (though that would have added even more to my debt!). But that light at the end of the tunnel I had been impossibly chasing for so long was finally so close. I had already passed my preliminary doctoral exam. I had my project all mapped out. I just needed to buckle down for 3 more years and do it.

And so that's what I did. I figured when I was done I could work on re-branding myself in an area of research I was more interested in for the job hunt. Instead, I found myself perfectly trained to do exactly the type of research I did not want to pursue. But it sure payed well. Even if it did necessitate moving halfway across the country.

It seemed like that would be enough, eventually. But it wasn't even close. And despite my husband (then boyfriend) being brave enough to come along with my daughter and I and start this new life together out west, it just never felt right there. We just couldn't get settled. We couldn't get to a place where the future we had pictured together seemed possible. We couldn't define what needed to shift. And despite crossing the 30's threshold, we couldn't possibly imagine starting a family in that life and place.

Through all of this, my daughter moved into her teenage years, and despite being very close when she was younger, she suddenly wanted nothing to do with me. It became painfully obvious that though my school was finally done and I was ready to focus more fully on her, she no longer had any interest in focusing on me. That ship had sailed, so to speak, and I had missed my boat. That was hard. That was very hard. And it made me reflect a lot on my plans to start a family again soon. The role I wanted to play in my new children's life and the type of mother I wanted to be. As my regret grew, I also stopped giving a crap what other people thought about how capable I was. I had gotten a PhD for cripe sakes. What more could they expect of me? And it was my right to decide what I wanted to do with that degree from that point on. Obviously, it was always my right. But that was when I finally realized it.

So anyways, long story short, with my boyfriend's blessing, I quit my high paying job and decided to become a stay at home mother with over $100K in student loans instead. It was a rough few years of transition. At this point, my husband finally makes a pretty decent income. Almost as much as I used to (and adjusted for the midwest, probably a lot more). But with three kids, primarily one income, and a student loan payment of over $600/month, it never goes as far as it seems like it should. It's going to take us a while to get out of this mess. And though we are now over 4 years into this new life path, it's hard sometimes to accept where we are now compared to where we used to be. Hard to know that we will probably never live in a beautiful home/location like that one ever again. That it will be years, eons, before we can afford another fancy trip. That given the realities of our budget, money is going to continue to feel like a struggle for probably at least another 5 or so years until I'm working again. My husband and I find that hard. And depressing. And Dave would probably just say "What did you expect!?!"

...A chance to live a life much different than the one my parent's gave me I guess. A chance to feel like I had enough money to never be trapped in a relationship that was bad for me. A certainty that my children would always have enough to eat, as well as year books and new clothes and maybe even stories about trips to Disney World with our family last summer. I probably didn't need a $100K education to secure all those things, but it was an emotional journey for me that took a while to figure out.

For now, I comfort myself with the fact that though this is not always the life of my dreams, it is finally the life of my choice. I am choosing to be much poorer than I could be. I am choosing to temporarily give up most personal and intellectual pursuits (though I did start a secret blog!) so that I will have fewer regrets next time about the mother I am to my children. I could do it differently, and from time to time I check in and make sure this is what I still want. So far it is. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 0 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99539] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) [21496] => Array ( [category_id] => 21496 [category_name] => Shopping [category_stub] => shopping ) ) [entry_id] => 99539 [entry_title] => Apparently We're Good at This [entry_stub] => apparently-were-good-at-this [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/apparently-were-good-at-this_99539/ [entry_date] => 1355426799 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-13 13:26:39 [entry_text] => I keep trying to find more things we can do, something we must be missing, to make this debt thing go faster. So far, no luck. If anything, the book I checked out from the library recently (did you hear that, the library not the book store) called "Your Money: The Missing Manual" made me feel like we're taking this more seriously than I sometimes feel we are. Consider all these recommended measures we have implemented:

Cancelling cable: As of last week, Check! My husband's company pays for the internet portion of our bill already. And our recent purchase of an Apple tv will pay for itself in less than two months of not paying for cable.

Get rid of home phone: We got rid of our home phone line a couple months ago since we were really only using our cell phones anyways. This has been causing us to use more of our cell phone roll over minutes though, so I'm hoping we won't have to up that eventually.

Cancel monthly subscriptions: To my surprise when we began this, hubby volunteered to cancel his Audible subscription until our debt was paid off and just re listen to old favorites instead. We also cancelled our Netflix a few months ago since we hardly ever used it and I've already decided not to renew Newsweek this coming year. Half the issues never get read anyways.

Make a Unit Price Grocery Spreadsheet: Still working on that but I have started to collect that info and I'm already getting the hang of when something is a good price. I have also learned to...

Use Coupons Wisely: I do not fall for buying things with coupons that a) I wouldn't usually get anyways b) are still more expensive than the store brand or another location. This also meets his suggestion to...
Discard Brand Loyalties: Even for toilet paper, I got over it.

Buy In Bulk - When it Makes Sense: Hello new big box warehouse store membership. Can't believe how much money we've saved there (per unit price at least!) so far.

Waste Not: Finally plugged in the big freezer downstairs again and started labeling and storing all left over canned and other items. I've even started buying things like yogurt in bulk, freezing it before it goes bad and then thawing it as needed. Its a little more liquidy than it would have been but still tastes fine (the boys don't know the difference!).

Shop Less: Not a problem. There's no money anyways and neither hubby or I were ever big shoppers. Probably the biggest success in this area though was when we separated our checking account into discretionary and non-discretionary expenses and then limited ourselves to a budgeted discretionary amount. In theory we were doing that before, but since I didn't track where each individual purchase went, it was hard to know how well we were sticking to it. I still don't always track it that closely. But now, when the discretionary money's gone, its gone. And so that takes care of that.

Replace Light Bulbs w/ Florescent: Done! We even got a Groupon for a home energy checkup a month or so ago in which we also got some weather stripping applied to a couple doors and well as thermometers to check refrigerator/freezer and water heater temps. We would have gotten more but they said we were already doing great on most everything else! Especially considering our gas energy company gave us a rebate to get our attic re-insulated this past summer which has already significantly impacted our energy bills.

Increase/decrease the setting on your programmable thermostat: We haven't made any huge sacrifices here compared to people I hear setting their winter thermostat to 65F or waiting until Halloween to even turn on heat but we have lowered our winter setting from 75F to 72F and raised our summer setting from 72F to 74F. It not much I know, but we do have two year old boys and I don't want them to be too cold or not sleep well. Bedroom space heaters make me nervous with such little ones (and I don't think they could be trusted with them once we switch to "big kid" beds), and we haven't had the money yet to invest in summer ceiling fans.

Play Board Games for Fun: We don't always play board games, but hubby and I have completely let go of our monthly night outs for the next year and turned all our date nights into at home affairs instead. We always make a nice dinner together after the boys are in bed and then talk or watch a movie or something.


So those are all the things we're doing right. Perhaps I will devote my next entry to all the things we could still improve though I worry it will just turn into a big excuse fest! Wink
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 0 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99522] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21492] => Array ( [category_id] => 21492 [category_name] => Investing [category_stub] => investing ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 99522 [entry_title] => The Big Picture [entry_stub] => the-big-picture [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/the-big-picture_99522/ [entry_date] => 1355371250 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-12 22:00:50 [entry_text] => This may be simply an exercise in idealistic dreaming, but I want to paint for you (or maybe mostly just me) a picture of how I see this new financial plan unfolding for us in the coming years. Cause I have big, unrealized but hopefully not unrealistic, dreams. In Dave Ramsey's book, he tells you that it takes most people about seven years to reach Baby Step 7: Build Wealth. Longer still to get to the Pinnacle Point where your money finally starts working harder than you have to. Certainly, that is the long term goal. And the short term goal is the credit card/car payment debt payoff I've already outlined. But it'd be nice to have a picture of our mid-term plan as well. Especially given that I don't think we will be following the Baby Steps precisely.

So, one year out, give or take a few months, and hopefully our small debts (non-mortgage/student loan) will be paid off. At that point we will hopefully be more used to getting by with a lot less monthly discretionary income. Maybe we can at least add enough back in to be able to go on monthly date nights again though. But I don't want to get too slack because we still have a lot or work to do. Baby Step 3 is to Finish the Emergency Fund, which he defines as 3-6 mos. worth of expenses. For us, that would roughly be $15K-$30K.

Projecting out both raises and expenses, once we get our small debts paid off, I think we could save roughly $25K/yr. So, that should take us 7-14 mos. depending on how much cushion we want. My thought is that we should save as much as possible, setting aside the minimum $15K to touch only for emergencies, but then factor in the fact that our family SUV will be 15 years old (already has 223K miles) by then. I am fine with driving it until it dies, but its pretty much a given that that is going to be before too much longer (please, please, please not this year!). I am also fine with not getting a new car when it does die. But I would prefer to get something gently used with at least a few more bells and whistles than our current one has. I think we could probably get something 5-6 years old for between $15-$20K.

That's not the only big ticket item we need to save for though. In a few more years, the boys will be ready to start school and I will be more than ready to jump back on the career train. But that is probably going to require a bit of retraining on my part, and I am not willing to take out any more student loans. (Above and beyond the $105K I already put my foot down on of course). So, if I want to go back, which I very much do right now, we will need to save for that too. I am conservatively estimating about $20K for that right now, plus after school daycare (maybe $5K? Though that will be more of an on-going expense), but given the rising cost of education these days, who knows?

The point of all this speculating is to point out that with these extra purchases, the time it takes up to save about $30K for an emergency fund is going to be more like 2-3/4 to 3 years rather than 14 mos. That's a long time. And who knows how many set backs there might be in the meantime. At some point, hubby's car will need to be replaced as well, though it is 5 years newer than the SUV at least. But I guess I'm okay with it as long as we get to Baby Step 4: Retirement Investing, by the time I re-graduate, which I am predicting will be in 5-6 years. If we get to that step before I graduate, then I guess we will start putting at least the company matching amount into hubby's 401K. Actually, if we don't get to that step before 40, we probably should do a lot more than that, and I kind of doubt we will. Once I do graduate and start working again though, we are going to kick step 4's butt.

And then we get to Baby Step 5: College Funding for the kids. Except we're going to re-package that one as college payoff for the adults. By then my daughter will be done with college (or darn well better be at least). Until we get fabulously wealthy, I have done the best I can for her by insisting that she go to a school where she would graduate with a maximum of $40K in debt. Still a lot I know, but less than half as much than me, and within the amount considered reasonable by the income to debt calculators. She hated me for it at the time, but now seems mostly happy.

I am hoping that with a new masters degree I will be able to make at least $50K, although about half of that will probably have to go towards retirement, and the rest will get taxed. But lets just say that after stocking up our emergency fund, we have about $25K/yr extra from hubby's income and $25K/yr from mine. So $50K/yr extra after I start working to do with what we will. (OMG, is that really possible?) What to do with all that cash?? Pay off my damn student loans!! If we stick to the plan, that should take us only two more years. At that point, we can look into some minimal investing for the boys' college (and maybe some back pay for my daughter). But they are going to be expected to chip in as well because we are heading off to...

...Baby Step 6: Pay Off the Mortgage! Honestly, not quite sure what's going to happen when we get to this step because you see, before we focus on paying off the mortgage, we'd like to focus instead of getting the house we'd really like to have. The exciting thing is, once the student loan is paid off, we could afford about $600 more per month for a mortgage without changing anything else. Assuming the market continues to improve, we should also have a fair amount of equity at this point, having lived here for about 11 years. I am not sure yet whether we would rather buy or remodel. It will probably depend a lot on the location of our jobs at that point. There are some things I really like about both this home and this area, but our home was built in the 1960's and it really needs some updating. I think it would take between $175K-$200K to get it to where we want it, and only about 60% of that could be recouped in re-sale value. Whether or not that's worth it will depend largely on what we could get for the same value given the housing market at the time.

I also really like Dave Ramsey's idea of taking out only a 15 year mortgage and keeping your mortgage payment to less than 25% of your take home pay. Whether we decide to buy or remodel, I do very much want to keep those rules in mind. After all our hard work, I certainly do not want to end up house poor. It will be hard to feel like we can't afford just about whatever we want once we've taken care of all that other debt. And I do love big, pretty homes. Nonetheless, regardless of what we choose to do, at that point it should be a maximum of 15 years until we are entirely debt free, and if we continue with the $50K/yr rule, I think we could take that down to 6 years.

Which means this is more like a 14 year than a 7 years plan for us, but by the time we enter our 50's, it is very possible we will have no debt remaining (maybe we'll bump up the boys college fund at that point) and hopefully by the time we hit our 60's we will have reached that fabled Pinnacle Point which will leave us set for a long, happy retirement. Its certainly not a get rich quick scheme. which makes it seem somewhat more believable. Though it will certainly require a lot of dedication and sacrifice. But it seems like by the time the boys graduate from high school, we will finally have both the time AND money to do all sorts of things.

So that's the big picture. And now back to Baby Step 2.
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 6 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) ) -->

Winter Blahs and Some Reflection

January 7th, 2014 at 03:41 am

I'm usually pretty positive about our TMM, even after 15 tedious months in the trenches. But today, this week, ugh. Maybe it's just too cold and dark for a brighter outlook right now. I am frustrated though that we are clearly not going to make our Jan. 31st goal date for scraping together a $5000 emergency fund. Right now we're about $913 short and the best we can hope for is maybe on Feb. 14th.

This wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the fact that our original goal for this was late Aug. last year. I've discussed some of the setbacks in other posts. And this month the setback is mostly due to my home business going very slowly this past month. But it's always something, ya know? I feel like we're never going to actually get there. Somehow it's always another month or two out.

Even this would not be so horrible if it wasn't the case that despite my hubby and I entering our late thirties, we still have not a dime saved towards our retirement. I am literally starting to panic. We need to get going on this. But we also need to have at least a few thousand set aside for an emergency first, because heaven knows those certainly seem to keep creeping up on us.

So right now our TMM timeline has shifted thus:

Finish stocking $5K EF: Aug 2013----->Feb 2014
Start 6% 401K withdrawals: Sept 2013----->Feb/Mar 2014
Save for/Pay off "new" car: May 2014----->Feb 2015

As I said: Ugh.

A new reflection though: I saw on FB recently that an old friend of mine I've lost touch with the past few years, is selling her house. She has been dying for a bigger house for years, and her husband had a well paying job. But they also had a lot of debt and not the best of spending habits, and with the housing market crash they felt completely stuck.

About 4 months back, her husband's department was downsized and he was laid off. He had a few months severance though and lots of job interview lined up, so they weren't too concerned at the time. Thus, when I saw her recent FB posting, I at first assumed he had found something even better and that with the housing market upswing they were finally able to afford the new home they have been wanting.

But then I read further. Turns out, they are not buying a new one, just selling the old one. She didn't elaborate more but a quick check on LinkedIn confirmed what I feared; her husband has been out of work since Oct. Now I am purely speculating at this point, but given what I know of their past financial situation, it's not at all hard to draw a line that without a high paying job, the large debts have are going to sink them once the severance pay ends, and they are trying to find a source for more funds.

I say all this not to gossip or point fingers (presumably, you have no idea who I'm even talking about), and I actually feel very bad for her, though not really close enough anymore to question her about such a personal matter. But for me, she is such a stunning reminder of why hubby and I are doing all this.

Our financial situations were close enough at one time that it is easy for me to picture how something very similar could have happened to us, had we not begun to exercise financial restraint. But I admit that it was very hard for me to hear about their fancy trips, and see their pretty new cars and how beautifully decorated the inside of her home was. I wanted those things too. I wanted to look that good as well. But we were pouring all our extra cash into debt and had nothing visual to show for it.

We are still a long way from where we want to be. And without more savings, we are still not even insulated from going through something similar ourselves were hubby to lose his job. But we have no credit card or car debt dragging us down anymore. And we have a very clear picture of our budget and of the steps we need to take to get from A to B. So, even though this is a total drag, and even though I feel like it's taking way longer than it should, reflecting on where we could be instead leaves me still feeling thankful about where we are. Maybe not happy, but thankful. Feb 2014
Start 6% 401K withdrawals: Sept 2013----->Feb/Mar 2014
Save for/Pay off "new" car: May 2014----->Feb 2015

As I said: Ugh.

A new reflection though: I saw on FB recently that an old friend of mine I've lost touch with the past few years, is selling her house. She has been dying for a bigger house for years, and her husband had a well paying job. But they also had a lot of debt and not the best of spending habits, and with the housing market crash they felt completely stuck.

About 4 months back, her husband's department was downsized and he was laid off. He had a few months severance though and lots of job interview lined up, so they weren't too concerned at the time. Thus, when I saw her recent FB posting, I at first assumed he had found something even better and that with the housing market upswing they were finally able to afford the new home they have been wanting.

But then I read further. Turns out, they are not buying a new one, just selling the old one. She didn't elaborate more but a quick check on LinkedIn confirmed what I feared; her husband has been out of work since Oct. Now I am purely speculating at this point, but given what I know of their past financial situation, it's not at all hard to draw a line that without a high paying job, the large debts have are going to sink them once the severance pay ends, and they are trying to find a source for more funds.

I say all this not to gossip or point fingers (presumably, you have no idea who I'm even talking about), and I actually feel very bad for her, though not really close enough anymore to question her about such a personal matter. But for me, she is such a stunning reminder of why hubby and I are doing all this.

Our financial situations were close enough at one time that it is easy for me to picture how something very similar could have happened to us, had we not begun to exercise financial restraint. But I admit that it was very hard for me to hear about their fancy trips, and see their pretty new cars and how beautifully decorated the inside of her home was. I wanted those things too. I wanted to look that good as well. But we were pouring all our extra cash into debt and had nothing visual to show for it.

We are still a long way from where we want to be. And without more savings, we are still not even insulated from going through something similar ourselves were hubby to lose his job. But we have no credit card or car debt dragging us down anymore. And we have a very clear picture of our budget and of the steps we need to take to get from A to B. So, even though this is a total drag, and even though I feel like it's taking way longer than it should, reflecting on where we could be instead leaves me still feeling thankful about where we are. Maybe not happy, but thankful. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [105872] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 105872 [entry_title] => Commencing Baby Step 3 [entry_stub] => commencing-baby-step-3- [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/11/24/commencing-baby-step-3-_105872/ [entry_date] => 1385315344 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-11-24 11:49:04 [entry_text] => We've finally finished wading through all the home maintenance projects (including an unexpected $1000 repair on the roof a couple weeks ago) and even set aside $1000 for Christmas. We've reached our family health deductible for the year and are scheduling appts like mad for these next few weeks to take full advantage of paying only 20% rather than 100% for the rest of the year. And we were also incredibly blessed to have my aunt unexpectedly send me a check to cover my first semester of tuition and books for the community college I will be starting at in Jan. And so, with that all finally behind us, it's time to commence on our TMM baby step 3 (beef up emergency fund to cover 3-6 months of expenses).

It has been almost 4 months since we finished baby step 2, so I am relieved to finally be getting back on track again. We made a lot of prudent purchases and repairs, but as the money kept flowing out rather than in, I worried that our financial plan had become derailed. Apparently though, even without CC debt, we do still have some motivation and dedication to this plan after all. And it's time to buckle down again.

My main goal for this coming financial year is to see our next worth begin to rise finally. Although given it is currently -$46K, it might be more accurate to say we want to see our gaping net worth hole begin to be filled in. It's actually much better now that it was a year ago. Partly because of paying off the CC's and car loan. But also in a large part due to home values bouncing back again finally, and we can't really take credit for that. Plus that part could go again as easy as it came.

But I was realizing the other day that we are at an exciting point none that less because from here on out, we will mainly be investing in ourselves. Even the $25K we hope to save for a "new" vehicle over the next year and a half will be savings converted into an asset, rather than simply blown out the window. And yes, yes, I know their will be depreciation, but you get my point. We're finally investing in our own net worth. And that is exciting!

Plus, during the open enrollment period this year we made sure to max out our HSA contribution for next year, as well as bump up the life insurance and disability policies a little bit. And it feels wonderful to know we are getting an adequate financial safety net into place. Almost like we're becoming real adults finally!

From this point on though, we're going to be breaking a bit from strict compliance to the TMM plan. For instance, we're going to start baby step 4 (retirement savings) as soon as we get $5000 towards baby step 3. Which should be by the end of Jan if we practice restraint over Xmas. We are way too old to be putting it off any longer and we're going to be doing baby step 3 for quite some time. We want our final emergency fund to be around $20K, but we need to buy a car along the way, so almost as soon as we get it we're going to empty it out and start again.

I consider this an EF worthy purchase though because, as discussed previously, our current family vehicle is a 1999 and has over 225K miles. It's just not going to be around much longer, and when it does finally die, it will certainly be an emergency. After doing a lot of research we decided that the most financially wise options were to either buy a cheap 7-8 year old car in decent condition and plan to cover fairly regular repairs until we can afford an upgrade. Or to buy a reliable low mileage 1-2 year old vehicle that shouldn't need much work for a few years, and which would be just as affordable as long as we keep driving it at least 10 years. And given how very tired we are of highly used vehicles at this point, we have decided to go for the 2nd option.

We're going to save as much as we can for it until May and then get a loan for the remainder. We want to give the old one to our daughter when she comes home from college for the summer so that she will have her own vehicle to get to and from her summer job. And then we're going to pay off the car loan as fast as possible, though right now it's looking like Feb 2015 before we get there.

So that's the plan right now. Hubby is in the process of applying for new jobs that pays more though, and if one of them pans out, maybe we can even do this without a car loan. Hoping for the best!

[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [105329] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 105329 [entry_title] => TMM Year 2 [entry_stub] => tmm-year-2 [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/10/20/tmm-year-2_105329/ [entry_date] => 1382288284 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-10-20 11:58:04 [entry_text] => It's been forever, I know. Not sure what the deal is with all this crazy /// nonsense in my info section since I left either. Anywho...

This Oct marks the beginning of the second year for hubby and I's Total Money Makeover. And how far have we gotten in a year? Well, considerably farther than we pictured ourselves one year ago for sure. We originally thought we'd be nearing the end of our credit card payments about now, and just starting to work on the car loan. The was before we discovered what the power of a budget and willpower can actually do. So instead we finished both by the end of July.

On the other hand...we are considerably less far than we had pictured ourselves being by now last June. Our revised goal was to have the initial $5000 for our emergency fund fully stocked by now, as well as kicking off the retirement 401k we need so badly and also making headway towards the "new" car we need. Instead we are in a much more dangerous no man's land somewhere between Baby Step 2 and Baby Step 3. I don't feel we are derailed from our TMM, but we do need to start getting this show on the road again soon.

So what have we been doing instead of all those June goals? Well, a lot of home stuff actually. Things we put off forever while dealing with our CC debt. We finally got a new toilet for downstairs (which lowered out water bill by $35/month!). We got a few trees cut down that had died and got our gutters cleaned out. We are also getting a large rip in our kitchen linolium repaired as well as some baseboards re-added that we never replaced after our mold damage issue a couple years ago.

We're getting our radon remitigation system installed this week ($1200). And we also had to take care of a couple big car repairs as well as buying hubby a new suit for job interviewing after all the weight he lost. Additionally, we finally replaced a few items that were wearing out. Like hubby's desk chair that was held together by duct tape and the kitchen rug that was coming apart at the seams. And we also spent more than typical on entertainment too, given it was summer and we had more family outings than usual.

Some of that stuff qualifies as emergency fund type things. Some doesn't. But it's all stuff we've been wanting to take care of forever and I'm glad we did it. By the end of this month we should be done with all that and ready to begin on Baby Step 3 for real. Trouble is, the boys are finally in preschool and I am finally going back to school myself to begin a second career. My first tuition/books payment will be due this Dec (just in time for Xmas) and is probably going to be around $2000. Long story short, I don't think we're going to be able to start the 401k until about Jan instead of Sept like we had planned and that sucks.

Regardless, compared to where we saw ourselves a year ago, we are doing much, much better indeed. Hopefully by this time next year we will be finished with Baby Step 4 and be looking ahead to a bright financial future!
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [103651] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21492] => Array ( [category_id] => 21492 [category_name] => Investing [category_stub] => investing ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 103651 [entry_title] => Closing In [entry_stub] => closing-in [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/07/13/closing-in_103651/ [entry_date] => 1373733962 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-07-13 11:46:02 [entry_text] => Almost at the finish line for TMM baby step 2: debt snowball. Actually, we could have been there on July 19th, but, the laptop hubby has been wanting for so long went on sale for the 4th of July week. We saved $100 by buying it now and pushing the fridge payoff out one more paycheck (Aug 2). Which I think is fine given it's no interest for 3 more months and definitely will be paid off on the 2nd. We chose snail speed shipping though to save on that part, so it will still be another week or so before he gets it, but I'm sure he will be very happy when it finally arrives!

We are starting to look into what the next financial steps are. Dave Ramsey says baby step 3 should be saving a 3-6 month emergency fund (building on the $1000 one from baby step 1). That would be about $18,000 for us and would take quite some time. And in the meantime, we would still not be taking advantage of the 3% 401K matching hubby's company offers (not to mention just plain starting to save for retirement period, even though we're both entering our late 30's.) Additionally, our '99 SUV is probably not going to last much longer and certainly will be an emergency when it dies. And we want our next car purchase to be a slightly used, reliable family vehicle with low miles that we can count on driving for at least 8-10 years.

So, we're thinking of taking a middle of the road approach. I've opened a money market account with Ally bank and transferred our $1000 emergency fund there. As soon as the fridge is done we are going to work on building that up to $5000 as fast as possible. After that, we have some home maintenance issues we have been putting off forever that we need to take care of. Getting all of that accomplished is going to push us well into the end of Oct.

But once we're there, we are going to start putting 6% of hubby's paychecks into the company 401K (the maximum matching amount). And come open enrollment in Nov we are also going to up our HSA/FSA medical contributions to the max for the coming year. That's going to take quite a dent out of our monthly income, but with all the debt we've now paid off (as well as the decrease in taxable income from the 401K/HSA/FSA), we should still be able to raise our entertainment budget from what it has been these past 9 months, and still work towards saving for a new vehicle.

We originally wanted to save for it completely before purchasing, which would have taken about a year, but our daughter really needs a car for the college internship she wants to do next summer. Assuming the SUV is still running then, we'd like to pass it off to her by next May so she can do that. That said, we should be 80% of the way there by May with hubby's bonus, so it shouldn't be too bad to take out a small loan at that point and pay it off in 4-6 months.

At that point, I will be starting school again (just a few classes at a community college to begin with) so there will be some tuition to take care of. But we will also need to start kicking up our savings as well. I'm looking into a Roth IRA for that, and Ally bank seems like a good place to help us with it. Given that you can withdraw contributions without penalty if needed, I feel like this could double with retirement and most of our remaining 3-6 month emergency fund. Short of job loss, I doubt we will ever need more than the $5K we will already have set aside in the money market (which I will keep separate). And $18K seems like too much money to just have sitting in a low interest account, when it will likely never be used, while we make no progress on retirement. Dave Ramsey would not approve, and I'm still looking into the details, but right now that's the plan. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 7 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [103087] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) ) [entry_id] => 103087 [entry_title] => We Did It!!! [entry_stub] => we-did-it [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/06/11/we-did-it_103087/ [entry_date] => 1370976855 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-06-11 13:54:15 [entry_text] => Just a quick note to say: We Paid Off Our LAST Credit Card last week!! We reached our goal a full 7 months early! I am so happy to be done!!

Of course, now that the old debt is done, it is time to acknowledge the new debt for the fridge we purchased on store credit. It has no interest for 6 months and we plan to be done in half that time. I have updated my debt stats accordingly. This debt milestone would feel a lot more exciting though if we didn't now have this to take care of that debt too. But at least it's debt for only one physical object that we use literally every day, rather than for a whole bunch of things transferred from card to card for so long that we had no idea what it was we were even paying for anymore. It is also nice to look at my wedding ring now and know that it is completely paid for. Smile

We may or may not make much headway on the fridge debt this month. Depends how my home business goes this month; this tends to be a slow time of year. Our car was in need of a $675 repair this week and we have a plumbing issue too now that is probably going to be at least $300. But guess what? For the first time, we don't have to tap into our emergency fund to pay for that. The mechanic told us the amount and we just sighed and said, well, at least we know we've got it. That is a very nice feeling.

Really looking forward to the end of the summer when we will have taken care of the back log of expenses we put off forever while doing our debt payoff. Because that's when the real fun begins. The accumulation phase that will (finally!) prepare us for our future.
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 12 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [102806] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) ) [entry_id] => 102806 [entry_title] => A Talk with Hubby [entry_stub] => a-talk-with-hubby [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/05/27/a-talk-with-hubby_102806/ [entry_date] => 1369628147 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-05-26 23:15:47 [entry_text] => Many of you have pointed out to me that my hubby seems to be a reluctant partner in this Total Money Makeover of ours. To which I could not agree more. And it's certainly not as if that's something he and I haven't discussed. But its been a difficult topic for him. He feels like he works and works and works and yet has nothing to show for it (there's some truth to that right now). And generally speaking, since he lets me decide how to spend most of the money even though he makes most of the money, I try not to be too hard on him.

I did get annoyed enough the other night to bring it up again though. I was trying to have just a strategic, non-emotional discussion about what we should prioritize first once we finish paying off the last* credit card next month (*please ignore the fridge for now. I need that to be separate so I can be done, or I will implode.) But it once again turned in to a whine fest.

I managed to mostly keep my cool and said that while this certainly is hard, and there certainly is reason to whine about it occasionally, that shouldn't have to be the case every time money is discussed. That it made me feel like I was making him do this even though he has agreed many times that he feels it is what's best for us as well. That in order to feel like partners in it, I needed to just be able to talk strategy with him sometimes so that we could figure out how to best prioritize things together. I didn't say it all quite that nicely, but I did my best.

He didn't take it all that well at the time (it had been a long day and perhaps was not the best time to bring it up in retrospect). But later that night he did seem to come around some. And since then he has actually been much better. He even offered to put off getting the new laptop he so wants until the fridge payoff is done. We talked about how we might generate a report for him to look over after each paycheck so that he has a better understanding of how the numbers are moving (we're nerds like that). I told him that I was actually frustrated about it all the time too, and that if I didn't have my spreadsheet to look over and fiddle with almost daily I would probably be a wreck. Simple tasks like changing box shading from yellow to green to show it's completed do wonders for keeping me sane.

So, hopefully that was the talk that will finally change things. And we are so, so close. One more paycheck (don't talk to me about the fridge yet). It's really hard to not fixate on it. To a level of being unhealthy probably, but it's just been soooo long and part of me just can't believe that we're really about to frickin' do this. I keep checking and re-checking because it seems surreal. As if any moment a large, unforeseen expense will rise up and swallow us whole. But so far, the spreadsheet says we're on track. It says we're okay. Just one more paycheck...



[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 5 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [102098] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) ) [entry_id] => 102098 [entry_title] => Financial Goals [entry_stub] => financial-goals [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/04/10/financial-goals_102098/ [entry_date] => 1365562254 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-04-09 21:50:54 [entry_text] => Last post

Text is http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/30/save-now-live-later_101898/ and Link is
http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/30/save-no..., I was feeling pretty down about the state of our penny pinching lives right now. We've made great progress, but it's been all work, little play for quite a while now. This past couple weeks, I've been "running the numbers" and trying to figure out IF/WHEN and HOW MUCH fun money we might be able to squeeze in, while trying to meet our many financial goals over these next few years.

We're still putting most everything extra on hold until we finish paying off the credit cards in the next couple months or so. But I would like to start going on date night's out once every couple months again despite not being there yet. I'm fine with it just being something like TGIF's and a movie. Right now even McDonald's would be a splurge for us so that sounds great to me! But I want to get an actual baby sitter and not have to cook the meal myself. To watch an actual new release in movie seats rather than a rental on the couch. And to be able to start spending time with hubby before 8pm when the boys are finally in bed and our eyes are already getting droopy. This particular splurge, I am not willing to put off any longer. Even it it adds a little extra time to our goal. I need a life again. And once every two months hardly seems over the top.

The trickier part is what to allow when we do finally finish paying off all this debt. Not throwing hundreds, and even thousands into our credit cards each month will certainly free up some funds! But as discussed
Text is http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/25/march-madness-ends_101832/ and Link is
http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/25/march-m..., there are a lot of prudent ways those funds could and should be allocated. So we decided to determine which financial goals were our most important ones to meet in the first year after paying off our credit card/car loan debts. And to set aside the money for those things each month first. Here's what we came up with:

1) To replace the ancient fridge that is probably costing us a small fortune to operate and can barely hold a food safe temperature anymore. Also, all of the drawers are broken and every time the cheese drawer is pulled out it smooshes everything below. This was the single hardest item for me not to "splurge" on spending to replace.



2) Replace hubby's ancient desktop computer that needs rebooting at least once a day to even barely run these days. Preferably with a moderately priced and more portable laptop. Hopefully before, rather than after it bites the dust, but it's going to be close.

3) Get that $800 car repair for hubby's car that our mechanic mentioned is going to sneak up on us any day now.

4) Start putting in the maximum employer matching 401K contribution. At least it's pre-tax and won't be quite as big a chunk as it seems, but like it or not, it's the most important thing we can be spending our money on at this point.

5) Increase emergency fund from $1000 to $5000. Still far short of our long term goal, but it should be enough to cover, say, an ancient furnace that we were just glad made it through one more winter. Thankfully hubby's job is very stable right now.

6) Come re-enrollment this fall, up our HSA contributions to max that out too. That will be more than double what we're doing now but not doing so has totally bit us in the butt this year with unforeseen dental expenses (given that dental insurance is pretty much a joke). Long story short, I am going to be without a bottom right tooth for a while, and I would like to get that fixed soon.

7) Save about $12,500 for a "new" car. Again, preferably before the current one dies but that will also be cutting it close. In truth, we are going to rely on hubby's bonus next spring for about half of this. At the fortune 500 company he works for, it's a pretty sure bet. We even know pretty much how much it will be. If we're wrong though, we'd still rather get a small car loan that we paid off ASAP rather than wait any longer for any of these other things.


So those are the goals. There will be no family vacations in the foreseeable future, and we're going to keep date nights out at once every other month for now as well. We also will have not yet started saving for me to go back to school, and that will certainly need to be a priority in the year following. To say nothing of our longer term investing goals.

But thankfully, there is some wiggle room in there. A little cash for lunch with friends. Maybe a shirt from Kohl's and a new book once a month. Perhaps I can finally replace that pitcher I use every day that I'm missing the lid for? And we're definitely starting our Audible subscription again. We're going to have more fun. Ahh, the good life! Let me never take these small luxuries for granted again! [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 0 [contains_images] => 1 ) [101898] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 101898 [entry_title] => Save Now, Live Later [entry_stub] => save-now-live-later [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/30/save-now-live-later_101898/ [entry_date] => 1364658384 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-03-30 10:46:24 [entry_text] => We're making awesome progress on our debt. In the last 6 months we have paid off $16,406 in credit cards/car loans and we now have only $5900 to go. On paper, it looks really good. In life- it looks kind of bleak.

I have always struggled with living my life more in the past or future than in the present. The Now. I am good at putting off short term reward for long term gain. Hubby has a harder time with this, which is one reason he is so good for me in this regard. He helps to balance me out and remind me that life IS now. In turn, I help to give him direction so that he moves towards his longer term goals. This tug of war plays out in our total money makeover all the time, as it does with most everything in our marriage.

Recently though, I have hit an emotional wall that makes me realize I need to start focusing more on the Now. To put it bluntly, I am not enjoying my life right now. I miss working and having space for intellectual pursuits in my life outside of two year old play dates and fish sticks. I feel that me being home is what's best for them and I love them to pieces. But I am coming to accept that it is not what's best for me. None the less, they don't have a lot of part-time options for women with PhDs in science fields, and I didn't like what I did much before anyways, and I will need to be retrained before I can begin a new career path. Which will only be affordable if we stick to our financial plan and cut expenses now. For now, and the next few years, I'm stuck here.

And hubby and I have been working our butts off for this money makeover. I run after our darling boys all day while he works his day job. And then by night, once the boys are tucked in, we both spend at least half the nights a week doing our side jobs, which has created the surplus for our finances. But we have almost no time for ourselves or each other. We've turned all date nights into at home affairs and cut all plans for family vacations. We don't buy clothes, or toys or really anything that's not required. We stick to the plan. And it blows.

Part of why we have felt the need to push this hard in the short term is that we have been treading water financially for years now. With every increase in funds getting eaten up by something else unplanned for, I watched my goal of going back to school slip further and further away. We were always barely making ends meet. Always "a little bit short this month but next month should be better." Looking into the near future we could already see the big raise hubby was expecting being eaten up by needing to replace the family car that is on its last leg. And we have nothing for retirement. We needed to do something Now.

So we're doing this. And the credit cards part of it is almost done. Which is awesome. But if we don't want to just replace all that work with another car loan then we need to start saving pretty aggressively for a car as well. And there are a whole ton a medical expenses that have crept up recently that I don't even want to think about factoring in to the plan yet. And yet - life is NOW. Not when we finish saving for a "new" car or finally start that retirement fund or get money pulled together for me to go back to school. But now. And Now - I am miserable.

Clearly there has to be some balance here. It does no good to live high on the hog now and just be miserable in the future instead. But it is not healthy to put off everything Now for a future that may never come either. They used to say money doesn't buy you happiness. Though they're finding that's not actually true! (
Text is http://www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2013/01/25/money-does-buy-happiness-we-were-shocked-too/ and Link is
http://www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2013/01/25/money-does-...,
Text is http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2019628,00.html and Link is
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2019628,00....,
Text is http://www.wired.com/business/2012/12/wealth-happiness/ and Link is
http://www.wired.com/business/2012/12/wealth-happiness/). Regardless, I have never been a collector of things for my happiness. But money does buy experiences. And experiences are the stuff of life in my opinion.

In times past, I know it has definitely made me happier to have a fun family vacation to look forward to, or a fancy night out with hubby taking in dinner, wine and a show somewhere. It made me happy when I was able to splurge on a massage or a special outing with the boys. Though these things are fleeting without knowing they are financially backed by having the longer term goals of ones life fully funded as well. Again, I recognize there must be balance. But right now the balance is clearly too far to the future game, and we need to adjust that.

In the very short term we are going to restart monthly date night outs, though nothing too fancy until the credit cards are done (only 3 more months!). Then, we'll have to decide what additional changes we can make at that point, and which ones we need to put off at least until a new car, and the increased emergency fund, and the 401K and all that have been saved for. I don't know what the right balance is here because all these things are important. But my emotional outlook is making it very clear to me that our current answer is not where it needs to be right now. I will be working on sorting that out this coming month.

PS Please, please, pretty please, do not respond to this post with a list of low cost entertainment options that I could "fix" my problem with. And no, we do not have good options with family or friends for child care swapping right now. I am aware that these options exist and we are considering them too, but we want to feel able to enjoy some of the "finer" things in life as well. This is really more about giving myself permission to enjoy than it is about the actual solution. Once I feel it's allowed, coming up with the options should be the fun part!
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 9 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 0 [contains_images] => 0 ) [101411] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 101411 [entry_title] => Making Progress [entry_stub] => making-progress [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/02/making-progress_101411/ [entry_date] => 1362265644 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-03-02 17:07:24 [entry_text] => I am frustrated that I have not been able to keep up with this blog very well lately due to some other projects I have been working on. I think it is a really good outlet for the stress this financial overhaul creates in our lives sometimes. And I think its a really good tool for keeping us accountable. Should be able to put more time into it again by the end of this month though I think, so I'll have to be content with that for now.

As for where we're at right now, do you see that side bar?! Talk about progress! Yes, the windfall has finally begun. Hubby got his bonus from work, which was about $5K after taxes got done with it. Originally, I had planned on paying off credit cards first with that, but after reading A LOT of material of financial planning recently, I decided a better use would be to pay off the car first, due to its higher interest rate. So, that one is done! And that payoff alone increases our monthly income by $198/month. Yay!

We also got our state return, a little under $500, and with that and some other surplus, I did pay off 1 of our 4 credit cards as well, though that one only increases out bottom line by about $30/month so not as exciting. But still progress! Supposedly, the IRS is going to finally start processing returns for people with mortgage interest credits within the next week. So hopefully, we will get that soon too (assuming no audit as discussed previously:
Text is http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/death-and-taxes_100945/ and Link is
http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/death-a...). And when we do, I plan to knock off a couple more cards, this raising our bottom line another $180/month. Wow, were we ever wasting a lot of money of this crap.

After that, it will just be the one big one left, which I'm hoping to have taken care of by the end of the summer, maybe sooner depending on how my business goes (summers tend to be slower). And then, we finally get to start the more fun part of personal finance: investing in ourselves.

Certainly we still have a lot of debt to pay off, between my student loans and our mortgage. Actually, even after paying off the the rest of the credit cards, I was disappointed to find that our net worth will still be around -$84K. Ouch. Though it is above the -$100K mark now for the first time in years. But as one financial planner I read stated, we're working really hard just to be worthless right now (ie $0 net worth).

None the less, after receiving some comments about how silly we are to not be taking advantage of the 401K matching hubby's company offers, I did a bit of research and decided in the end that, yes, we are being incredibly stupid not taking this free money and we need to get on that train ASAP, Dave Ramsey be damned. If we were being completely logical rather than emotional about it in fact, we would probably be prioritizing that even above our credit cards given that they have very low promotional interest rates. After much discussion though, we have decided we simply cannot bring ourselves to make this credit card thing go any slower. We feel spread much too thin as it is, and we need to be done with those debts and never use credit that way again. Our emotional sanity depends on it. Especially given how close we are.

If it were going to be something that was a few years away from being accomplished, like our mortgage and student loans, it might make sense to do it with more of a long view in mind. But we are literally within 3-5 months of our goal and our monthly income will increase by another $300 compared to now, once we sunset this. And that will certainly help our long term bottom line as well. That's our thinking at least. But at least we're almost there!

Anyways, very happy to be making some definite progress finally and looking forward to a 3 paycheck March this month as well! [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 4 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 0 [contains_images] => 0 ) [100947] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21491] => Array ( [category_id] => 21491 [category_name] => Food / Groceries [category_stub] => food-groceries ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) ) [entry_id] => 100947 [entry_title] => Feb Zero Dollar Budget [entry_stub] => feb-zero-dollar-budget [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/feb-zero-dollar-budget_100947/ [entry_date] => 1360431810 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-02-09 11:43:30 [entry_text] => Income:

Hubby's Job (after tax): $5271
Hubby's Hobby Income: $550*
My PT-WFH Job: $670*
Hubby's Bonus (after tax): $5104
(*subject to change, though usually for the better!)

Total Monthly Income: $11598 (umm...holy crap!)

Expenses:

Non-Fixed Expenses:
Groceries: $861
Gasoline: $188
Misc: $500
Entertainment: $250
Gifts: $10 (Valentine's Day Treat!)

Fixed Expenses:
Mortgage/Insurance: $1509
Student Loan: $619
Utilities (water/sewer, gas, electric, etc): $349
Services (phone, computer backup, garbage, cable*, etc.): $285
(*reimbursed through hubby's company)
Leftover Leaf Cleanup Bill: $150*
(*he still has not billed us and I'm not calling again. This is his last chance.)
Auto Insurance: $73
Credit Cards (minimum payments): $299
Auto Loan: $198
Early Childhood Program (spring session fee): $120

Total Expenses: $5525

Difference (to be applied towards credit cards): $6073 (woo hoo!)


Still need to do an accounting for how we did in Jan but I think I'm out of time this morning so it looks like it will have to wait again.
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 2 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [100945] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) ) [entry_id] => 100945 [entry_title] => Death and Taxes [entry_stub] => death-and-taxes [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/death-and-taxes_100945/ [entry_date] => 1360430275 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-02-09 11:17:55 [entry_text] => I had this entry all written last week, but the blog site was acting funny that day, and when I submitted it, it just went off into the oblivion somewhere. Was too annoyed to retype something right away, but I am trying really hard to get caught up today.

So anyways, apparently our $8000 some dollar tax return was a bit too good to be true after all. You see, that tax form our DD said was from her school, the one we thought we already had, was really from her 529K that we just opened this year. Entering that form changed the picture a bit because apparently, you do not qualify for education tax credits if you pay for education expenses using a 529K. Huh? What the heck is the point then? Well okay, I get that they are tax deferred and gain interest if you start when they're young. Ours was more of a savings account tool that would penalize withdrawing funds for non-education expenses. A disincentive we felt our spend thrifty daughter needed. (To be fair, she's done quite well with it.) None the less, our tax return will be at least $2000 less than we had thought due to losing the credit. And I have to amend. Frown

Really, it hardly matters because due to our mortgage interest credit and congress's ineptitude, our pending tax return will be delayed until lord only knows when anyways. I just hope they don't realize our mistake and allow me to fix it instead of holding the fund until I do (or auditing us!) because who knows how much longer that will take then. Had originally thought that check would be coming late this month but now we're thinking more like April. Boo!

Eventually I need to figure out how to adjust our with holdings so that our returns aren't so big. Our tax situation has changed so much over the past 4 years though that its hard to sort it all out. Buying a home, starting a small business, getting married, changing jobs, promotions, having twins, sending a child to college (while still paying on my own student loans). Turbo tax informs me that due to all these things, our effective tax rate is only 4.4% right now. So our checkbook may have taken quite a hit from all that, but we're beating Warren Buffet's tax rate, so we must be good! Probably makes us part of Romney's 47% though. Wink
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 1 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [100943] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) ) [entry_id] => 100943 [entry_title] => Hubby Got Promoted!!! [entry_stub] => hubby-got-promoted [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/hubby-got-promoted_100943/ [entry_date] => 1360428955 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-02-09 10:55:55 [entry_text] => The day we have been waiting for all year is finally here! Many of you pointed out previously that in the future we should probably not count so many of our eggs before they hatch so to speak. And yes, I know what you mean. I tend to always be about 5 years ahead of myself. That works well for some things in life, though not for others. This one was particularly hard because we *thought* this promotion was going to happen last year. His boss had suggested as much. Then we came to find that the company likes to get new managers feet wet for a year by giving them most of the new duties they will have, without the pay increase until the following year, after they see how it goes.

I get the logic that they don't want to end up promoting people who aren't going to be a good fit for management. But man that was an annoying year. We had thought it was already in the bag. And Hubby worked his butt off and understandably felt uncompensated for it. But no more! He broke the six figure income ceiling in fact! Well, more like scuffed it: he's getting exactly $100K now. But he also got a sweet $8000 bonus, though that'll be about $5100 once taxes get pulled out. Additionally, he gets an office and a garage parking spot. And he will now be eligible for even larger bonuses going forward. Possibly as much as 15% if he keeps "exceeding expectations".

But okay, okay, let's not go there yet. Let's let next years chickens come next year. How 'bout them eggs this year though! Wink We should be getting the bonus check next week. And once we do, CC#1 and #2 that you see on the side bar there should finally be gone! And just in time too, one of our balance txfr promotions is about to expire.

It may seem like a simple thing to send in a big check like this to a credit card that needs paying, but for us, this in and of itself is a debt victory. We were never disciplined enough to make that much headway before. We *might* have ended up paying off the smaller of the two. But we certainly wouldn't have knocked out that second one also (with some spare to throw at the third as well). So this is a big money management win for us.

Additionally, we should start seeing about $250 more each paycheck after taxes, and that will certainly help as well. Credit Card Free 2013, here we come!
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 5 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [100049] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 100049 [entry_title] => Our Debt Snowball [entry_stub] => our-debt-snowball [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/01/05/our-debt-snowball_100049/ [entry_date] => 1357369587 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-01-05 01:06:27 [entry_text] => This is it! The year we're going to conquer our credit card and car loan debt. Time to layout the plan so I can hold myself to it!

We are still only 3 months in to our Total Money Makeover. So far, getting our debt "snowball" rolling has been really slow going due to a number of unfortunate factors. Child support back-pay ended last month, and as glad as I am to finally be done with my ex-husband, it left a new $500 hole in our budget. We knew this was coming though, and could have handled it alone, but unfortunately, it overlapped with a slow quarter for me in my home business. I have been making only about 1/3 of my usual profits for this time of year. And then to make matters worse, just a month before Xmas my normally biggest contract of the year cancelled on me due to going out of business. That left us short another $1600, and was pretty much our Xmas "budget" out the window. The same week our newer car need a $1000 repair. Needless to say, its been rough.

The amazing part of all this though, (as I tried to explain to hubby tonight when he got all forlorn about how little actual credit card progress we've made so far), is that we have not dug ourselves in any deeper for once! Had we not started a budget and drastically reduced our spending in recent months, these problems would have crept up on as as they always did. With us already overspent and not knowing where we were going to come up with these extra funds. I would not have been at all surprised if we ended up putting at least $1000 or so on a credit card, even after wiping our emergency fund out. Nor would we have had any plan to restock the emergency fund before our tax return came in late Feb. But that's not how we're doing things these days.

Today, I can honestly say that we have not used a credit card in over a year, even for emergencies. That's a first. And that as of this Monday, despite Xmas being barely over, our emergency fund will be restocked with $1000. And that even after all that, if we stick to our budget, we may still have about $50 extra to put towards credit cards in Jan. That may not be much, but it's a heck of a lot better than where we would have been before all this.

But then Feb is where the real fun begins. The month we finally start getting some momentum on this debt snowball. Because due to circumstances previously discussed, we will be getting a huge tax return. Probably around $8000. And then come March hubby should be getting his annual bonus, which will probably be around $4500. And then in Apr., hubby's new promotion raise will kick in and he should start bringing home about $500 more a month (which BTW, cancels out that child support that ended. Sweet.).

In the past, we would have initially *said* we were going to put a large amount of this extra towards our credit cards. But as it got closer, our wish list would have grown and grown. We may have ended up throwing $1500 towards it, but the rest would have gotten set aside for "in case" or spent this way or that. Our goal this year though, is to send no less than $13,000 to our credit cards for the months of Feb & March combined. Hold me to this!

By the end of all this fortune we should have wiped out three of our four credit cards and will already be about 2/3 of the way to our 2013 debt goal. From that point on it will be more slow and steady progress. If we stick to it though, that last credit card should be gone by the end of June, and our car loan will follow at the end of Sept. And that will be it! Almost one year after we started to the date. And then on to baby step 3 we'll go!

If we stick to this plan, about 28% of our take home pay over the course of a year will go towards our credit card and car loan debts. Compare that with the only 7% progress we were making before. (And we were wondering why we were never getting anywhere?) A four fold increase. Not too shabby for only 3 months of restructuring. And who knows what else we'll come up with by then?

All of this, of course, is subject to change. I'll feel a lot more confident once the tax return, bonus and raise are in hand. Until then, they are only projections, not realities. (At least the fiscal cliff is done!) Also, who knows what else will happen with cars and appliances and goodness knows what else in the months ahead. I have estimated my business income a little on the low side to help offset this, but it being on the low side has been a reality for me as well lately, though one that is starting to improve. If necessary, we still have a 3 month buffer to make it to the end of 2013 credit card/car loan debt free!

All said and done, we have a plan, and now its time to get to it.

[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 10 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 0 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99544] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21496] => Array ( [category_id] => 21496 [category_name] => Shopping [category_stub] => shopping ) ) [entry_id] => 99544 [entry_title] => Taking the Bad with the Good [entry_stub] => taking-the-bad-with-the-good [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/taking-the-bad-with-the-good_99544/ [entry_date] => 1355427405 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-13 13:36:45 [entry_text] => (Last old entry!)

I haven't posted our month's end update yet because our financial situation this past week has been so in flux. In a recent post I talked a bit about hoping our Xmas shortfall might "magically" fix itself. And believe it or not, we actually have had a fair bit of good fortune magic come our way recently in terms of income.

Hubby's writing/website management hobby is really taking off! He's just landed a new deal that should pay a minimum of $300/month starting next week, and possibly up to $500 or more. And that's in addition to the $220 he was already making through another deal, plus some smaller bits on the side. All together that is more than enough to make up for the back pay child support that is now ending (last check tomorrow!) and also enough to bridge the income gap we were expecting for Dec/Jan.

Additionally, I've had a little bit of work come my way as well! My worse case budget scenario was assuming I would continue to have only about $140/month of income (that used to be more like $600). For at least Dec/Jan though, I think I can count on that being around $400 instead, so that's another extra $260 that also kind of feels like it just magically appeared in time for Christmas.

Were in not for the car repair that suddenly fell into our laps as well then, we would probably feel we were raking in the dough. But alas, this was no ordinary car repair. This was a $992 doosey. I'm not even sure we've paid that much for a car repair before. Usually when the repairs start getting that expensive and close together, the car is old enough that we decide its probably not worth it and time for a newer one instead. But this is hubby's car and we are still making car payments on it as it is. It's also the newer of our two vehicles and therefore not allowed to reach the end of its life first!

Anyways, that completely cleaned out the emergency fund. All but $10.17. So that's a little scary. Cause it's a good two and a half months until tax rebate season. Additionally, our discretionary account has only $4.81 in it, while even our fixed checking, which we use for things like the mortgage, has only $728.42. Not cool. Luckily, hubby gets paid tomorrow, though there are still lots more gifts to get. I should point out here that the order these fluctuations came in as was: my income increase (Oh, good, that will help a little), then the car (Oh, f**k. We're screwed again.), then hubby's income increase (Woo hoooo!!! We're saved!). It's been a long week.

We ended last month with about $260 surplus, which we would have liked to use to pay down our credit card debts given that that is the point of this whole thing. Unfortunately, as the month ended, we were projecting a $750 shortfall for Dec./Jan., so I felt I needed to hold on to that extra to help somehow bridge the gap. When my extra income came in, we had high hopes that end of Dec or at least Jan. might afford us some surplus after all. But then the car crapped out, and Dave Ramsey says our first priority now should be going back to baby step 1 to replenish the emergency fund. I'm not quite sure yet where that puts us in terms of catching up again, but it may well be Feb still. In the meantime, we will continue making our roughly $500/month in minimum payments.

More good news; some very preliminary numbers I ran in the newly released 2012 Turbotax seem to predict that we will be getting back around $8000 this year! Holy s**t! I think that's even bigger than when we got our first time home buyer's credit, though I might be wrong about that. We only claimed 4 deductions rather than 5 on hubby's W-4, so as to cancel out my estimated business taxes, but I didn't make very much compared to normal, so it ending up being a lot more withholding than we really needed. Plus, we get some kind of a $2000 education credit for my daughter starting college, since she is still a dependent on our taxes for this year. Yay!! Until the car died, we were considering buying a new fridge with some of that. But at this point, we may just muddle through and try to just get done with this ASAP. Hopefully by next Xmas we'll be on baby step 3!
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 4 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99542] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21496] => Array ( [category_id] => 21496 [category_name] => Shopping [category_stub] => shopping ) ) [entry_id] => 99542 [entry_title] => Cancelling Christmas (Except Not!) [entry_stub] => cancelling-christmas-except-not [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/cancelling-christmas-except-not_99542/ [entry_date] => 1355427101 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-13 13:31:41 [entry_text] => (Only a couple old ones left...)

So bad news this week. That big job I usually get this time of year that has paid for the last couple Christmases will not be happening this year. Or anymore at all actually; it appears they have gone out of business. And given how much we were counting on it, that is quite a bummer.

The net effect of this is that Dec and Jan are not going to be just tight as I've mentioned, they are going to be negative in terms of cash flow. Even putting off getting the new tires we need, and even adding in the savings we scraped out of this month, I estimate we are still going to be about $500 short by the end of Jan. And given that bonuses and tax returns won't come in until the later half of Feb, the first half of that month is not going to be pretty either. Things have already felt so tight on this Total Money Makeover that it's hard for me to even picture how much more this is going to suck now.

Given all this, and in the spirit of maintaining gazelle intensity for our debts (I mentioned I hated that phrase, right?), it seems we probably should cancel Xmas this year. Or presents at least, that is. In fact, that would simple act alone would about take care of that $500 shortfall we have (so would winning that $500 million Powerball right now, but I digress). But we are not going to do that. Does this mean we are not really serious about our Total Money Makeover? I don't know, perhaps. But I just can't. It would be too sad for me and I think my husband would just lose it. We would lose our drive to do this because it just wouldn't feel worth it anymore. We're going to be smart about it and stick to our budget, but we're going to have Xmas, so tough.

So where is this $500 going to magically appear from then you ask? That's a good question. Cause we do have $1000 sitting in our emergency fund still, but we all know how Dave Ramsey feels about acting as if Xmas is an emergency. Well, one solution is that it might magically appear. Okay, okay, not magically. But so far hubby's side writing hobby has been bringing in a little more money than expected each month. I think its quite possible we could end up with up to $250 more from that then I currently have budgeted. Also, I could get another job through my business (hah!). I mean, probably not this month, but it could happen. At one time, I made over $20K/yr with this little side gig. (Will probably be lucky to hit even $6K this year.)

Other, less magical avenues include the possibility of me getting a very part-time job in the evenings. I'm looking into this and will in fact be putting in an application by the end of the week I hope. Not sure I will do it for any longer than necessary, but I feel I must do something. It just sucks because I will probably make only a quarter as much per hour for my efforts doing that then for my business. But a quarter as much still meets the gap my business is just not producing right now. I really hope that changes again eventually. Frown

If worse comes to worse though and none of those things pan out, I guess we will be tapping into the emergency fund. All I can say in our defense is that I promise we will pay it back in February. Needless to say, there will be no extra credit card/car payments for the next 3 months. Our minimum payments total to almost $500/month though, and our credit cards are all no interest promotions, so as long as we don't use those, we'll still be chipping away at it. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 2 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99541] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 99541 [entry_title] => My Student Loan Baggage [entry_stub] => my-student-loan-baggage [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/my-student-loan-baggage_99541/ [entry_date] => 1355427008 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-13 13:30:08 [entry_text] => One of the few topics in Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover that really irks me is his discussion of student loan debt. I'm not saying his points are all without merit. But when he talks about credit cards, he seems to understand that the mental/emotional game is just as important, perhaps even more important, than the financial one. And so he recommends paying off your lowest balance card before your highest interest card, purely so you can see results sooner. And I totally get that. But he does not allow for the same types of emotional weakness when it comes to student loans. Consider the rant of his in this link for instance:
Text is http://www.daveramseyfan.com/dave-ramsey-rants-stupid-on-education/ and Link is
http://www.daveramseyfan.com/dave-ramsey-rants-stupid-on-edu... Ouch. That's all I can say. And since I am one of those previously professional, now stay-at-home mom's with over $100K in debt he's ranting about, it can't get much more personal than that.

When I look back over my life, there is only place I can think of that I maybe should/would have made a different decision about my education. And that was when I chose to keep pursuing a PhD in a field I wasn't sure was a good fit for me, instead of being willing to start graduate school over, or at least stop with a masters. Given that my graduate tuition was paid for, however, and that I was receiving a stipend for most of my living expenses, cutting out that leg of the journey wouldn't have changed that much. Maybe $20K less at best.

Growing up, we were poor. Like free school lunch, hand me down clothes from cousins, can't afford a school yearbook poor. I vividly remember my mom dividing one family size can of spaghettios between the 4 of my sisters and I, plus a glass of milk, for lunch. I was a small, hungry, skinny and very active kid, who hung out a lot at my friend's houses bumming snacks. My mom and dad fought constantly, and would have no matter what, but certainly a major theme of their blowouts was money. There was never enough of it, and it seemed that would never change. My mom often grew wistful in private about how, despite how smart she had been, she had dropped out of college after only a year or so at her first husband's insistence (my father) and never found her way back once the babies started coming with her second. And worse, how she could never leave her abusive second husband because she could never support the 5 of us on her own.

I'm not sure how directly it was ever stated, but I grew up with the clear impression that it was absolutely imperative that I go to college some day so that I would be able to support myself without a man. But that there would be absolutely no financial help for me to do so. This was further complicated by my step-father's abusive put downs of me compared to my sisters, and his continuous proclamations that I was never going to be good enough for anything.

Given the trouble I was often into growing up in a home like that, there were many years it seemed like he was right. There were many years I didn't bother with homework. For a period of time, I was suicidal. And I was pregnant before I was out of high school. But I harbored a deep, driving need to prove him wrong as well. And despite his insults otherwise, I was actually quite intelligent. And seriously driven to believe that there was a way out of my childhood and into the type of future I had always dreamed of. Halfway through high school, I turned over a new leaf and started to show what I was capable of academically, though my new daughter senior year complicated things a bit.

When I was applying to colleges, the last thing on my mind was the amount of money I was taking out in student loans. Certainly I qualified for every need based option possible, not to mention a few merit based ones as well. Imagining what that payback would look like 5 to 10 years down the road when I finally had a real job and was out of this mess seemed besides the point. My burning questions were: Am I really capable of this? A 4 year degree at a respectable university with a child? What if they see only what my step-dad saw? What if I am doomed to repeat the same life for my daughter as the one that was given to me?

But I got in and I did my best. My first year I did outstanding actually, but the second year my young marriage began to fall apart and afterwards, it took a couple years of struggle before my daughter and I found a new equilibrium. My last two years of undergrad I did much better for the most part, and somewhere during that time, I realized that to become anything more than a lab rat with my degree, I would need to apply for graduate school. In this sense, Dave's rant doesn't completely apply to me. I did understand that I needed to be highly marketable to pay for all this.

At that point in life, I was pretty clear that I wanted to be a working mother. I loved my daughter dearly, and was very much looking forward to being done with school and having more time eventually. But I was the kind of person who got depressed without something intellectual to pursue. Something for myself separate from my role as a mother. Perhaps partly because I had become a mother before I had gotten time to be just myself. As exhausting as it was during the semesters, school holidays were often worse because I just got so depressed with nothing to work towards.

If you had told me that I would one day choose to be a stay at home mom, I would have laughed in your face. Dave can say that young women without kids yet have no idea how they're going to feel when they do, but I think that's overly simplistic and implies we all want to stay at home deep down. I'm a stay at home mom now, and I'm still not always sure its what I want to be doing. Furthermore, I already had a child at that point. I did know what it was like. If I could have had the option to work only part time with a young family, that probably would have been my first choice. But that is not a realistic possibility in most fields, least of all mine, and I was not unrealistic. I figured with a PhD, I could make enough that my future husband could stay home if we wanted.

Graduate school was hard though. Really hard. My fears about not being good enough were constantly at an edge when surrounded by so many other brilliant people. I had developed a fuzzy, idealistic picture of my doctoral field while leisurely pursuing undergraduate research with lower expectations I had no trouble meeting. This vision was shattered to make room for the more brutal and difficult reality of what higher academia really was. The relationship with my advisor slowly went from love to hate. Somewhere along the way, I began to question whether I was really doing this for myself, or just to prove that I could. Some days, I began to acknowledge that despite how far I had come, it was possible I was moving in the wrong direction.

That is the one point in my academic journey I regret. If I had been brave, or maybe even just less tired, I would have thrown in my first 2 1/2 years of research and allowed myself to start again in a new field. If I had done this, perhaps I would be happily pursuing my new career even now? I had an inkling of what at least some of those other possibilities could have been. It wouldn't have set me back more than a couple years (though that would have added even more to my debt!). But that light at the end of the tunnel I had been impossibly chasing for so long was finally so close. I had already passed my preliminary doctoral exam. I had my project all mapped out. I just needed to buckle down for 3 more years and do it.

And so that's what I did. I figured when I was done I could work on re-branding myself in an area of research I was more interested in for the job hunt. Instead, I found myself perfectly trained to do exactly the type of research I did not want to pursue. But it sure payed well. Even if it did necessitate moving halfway across the country.

It seemed like that would be enough, eventually. But it wasn't even close. And despite my husband (then boyfriend) being brave enough to come along with my daughter and I and start this new life together out west, it just never felt right there. We just couldn't get settled. We couldn't get to a place where the future we had pictured together seemed possible. We couldn't define what needed to shift. And despite crossing the 30's threshold, we couldn't possibly imagine starting a family in that life and place.

Through all of this, my daughter moved into her teenage years, and despite being very close when she was younger, she suddenly wanted nothing to do with me. It became painfully obvious that though my school was finally done and I was ready to focus more fully on her, she no longer had any interest in focusing on me. That ship had sailed, so to speak, and I had missed my boat. That was hard. That was very hard. And it made me reflect a lot on my plans to start a family again soon. The role I wanted to play in my new children's life and the type of mother I wanted to be. As my regret grew, I also stopped giving a crap what other people thought about how capable I was. I had gotten a PhD for cripe sakes. What more could they expect of me? And it was my right to decide what I wanted to do with that degree from that point on. Obviously, it was always my right. But that was when I finally realized it.

So anyways, long story short, with my boyfriend's blessing, I quit my high paying job and decided to become a stay at home mother with over $100K in student loans instead. It was a rough few years of transition. At this point, my husband finally makes a pretty decent income. Almost as much as I used to (and adjusted for the midwest, probably a lot more). But with three kids, primarily one income, and a student loan payment of over $600/month, it never goes as far as it seems like it should. It's going to take us a while to get out of this mess. And though we are now over 4 years into this new life path, it's hard sometimes to accept where we are now compared to where we used to be. Hard to know that we will probably never live in a beautiful home/location like that one ever again. That it will be years, eons, before we can afford another fancy trip. That given the realities of our budget, money is going to continue to feel like a struggle for probably at least another 5 or so years until I'm working again. My husband and I find that hard. And depressing. And Dave would probably just say "What did you expect!?!"

...A chance to live a life much different than the one my parent's gave me I guess. A chance to feel like I had enough money to never be trapped in a relationship that was bad for me. A certainty that my children would always have enough to eat, as well as year books and new clothes and maybe even stories about trips to Disney World with our family last summer. I probably didn't need a $100K education to secure all those things, but it was an emotional journey for me that took a while to figure out.

For now, I comfort myself with the fact that though this is not always the life of my dreams, it is finally the life of my choice. I am choosing to be much poorer than I could be. I am choosing to temporarily give up most personal and intellectual pursuits (though I did start a secret blog!) so that I will have fewer regrets next time about the mother I am to my children. I could do it differently, and from time to time I check in and make sure this is what I still want. So far it is. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 0 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99539] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) [21496] => Array ( [category_id] => 21496 [category_name] => Shopping [category_stub] => shopping ) ) [entry_id] => 99539 [entry_title] => Apparently We're Good at This [entry_stub] => apparently-were-good-at-this [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/apparently-were-good-at-this_99539/ [entry_date] => 1355426799 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-13 13:26:39 [entry_text] => I keep trying to find more things we can do, something we must be missing, to make this debt thing go faster. So far, no luck. If anything, the book I checked out from the library recently (did you hear that, the library not the book store) called "Your Money: The Missing Manual" made me feel like we're taking this more seriously than I sometimes feel we are. Consider all these recommended measures we have implemented:

Cancelling cable: As of last week, Check! My husband's company pays for the internet portion of our bill already. And our recent purchase of an Apple tv will pay for itself in less than two months of not paying for cable.

Get rid of home phone: We got rid of our home phone line a couple months ago since we were really only using our cell phones anyways. This has been causing us to use more of our cell phone roll over minutes though, so I'm hoping we won't have to up that eventually.

Cancel monthly subscriptions: To my surprise when we began this, hubby volunteered to cancel his Audible subscription until our debt was paid off and just re listen to old favorites instead. We also cancelled our Netflix a few months ago since we hardly ever used it and I've already decided not to renew Newsweek this coming year. Half the issues never get read anyways.

Make a Unit Price Grocery Spreadsheet: Still working on that but I have started to collect that info and I'm already getting the hang of when something is a good price. I have also learned to...

Use Coupons Wisely: I do not fall for buying things with coupons that a) I wouldn't usually get anyways b) are still more expensive than the store brand or another location. This also meets his suggestion to...
Discard Brand Loyalties: Even for toilet paper, I got over it.

Buy In Bulk - When it Makes Sense: Hello new big box warehouse store membership. Can't believe how much money we've saved there (per unit price at least!) so far.

Waste Not: Finally plugged in the big freezer downstairs again and started labeling and storing all left over canned and other items. I've even started buying things like yogurt in bulk, freezing it before it goes bad and then thawing it as needed. Its a little more liquidy than it would have been but still tastes fine (the boys don't know the difference!).

Shop Less: Not a problem. There's no money anyways and neither hubby or I were ever big shoppers. Probably the biggest success in this area though was when we separated our checking account into discretionary and non-discretionary expenses and then limited ourselves to a budgeted discretionary amount. In theory we were doing that before, but since I didn't track where each individual purchase went, it was hard to know how well we were sticking to it. I still don't always track it that closely. But now, when the discretionary money's gone, its gone. And so that takes care of that.

Replace Light Bulbs w/ Florescent: Done! We even got a Groupon for a home energy checkup a month or so ago in which we also got some weather stripping applied to a couple doors and well as thermometers to check refrigerator/freezer and water heater temps. We would have gotten more but they said we were already doing great on most everything else! Especially considering our gas energy company gave us a rebate to get our attic re-insulated this past summer which has already significantly impacted our energy bills.

Increase/decrease the setting on your programmable thermostat: We haven't made any huge sacrifices here compared to people I hear setting their winter thermostat to 65F or waiting until Halloween to even turn on heat but we have lowered our winter setting from 75F to 72F and raised our summer setting from 72F to 74F. It not much I know, but we do have two year old boys and I don't want them to be too cold or not sleep well. Bedroom space heaters make me nervous with such little ones (and I don't think they could be trusted with them once we switch to "big kid" beds), and we haven't had the money yet to invest in summer ceiling fans.

Play Board Games for Fun: We don't always play board games, but hubby and I have completely let go of our monthly night outs for the next year and turned all our date nights into at home affairs instead. We always make a nice dinner together after the boys are in bed and then talk or watch a movie or something.


So those are all the things we're doing right. Perhaps I will devote my next entry to all the things we could still improve though I worry it will just turn into a big excuse fest! Wink
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 0 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99522] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21492] => Array ( [category_id] => 21492 [category_name] => Investing [category_stub] => investing ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 99522 [entry_title] => The Big Picture [entry_stub] => the-big-picture [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/the-big-picture_99522/ [entry_date] => 1355371250 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-12 22:00:50 [entry_text] => This may be simply an exercise in idealistic dreaming, but I want to paint for you (or maybe mostly just me) a picture of how I see this new financial plan unfolding for us in the coming years. Cause I have big, unrealized but hopefully not unrealistic, dreams. In Dave Ramsey's book, he tells you that it takes most people about seven years to reach Baby Step 7: Build Wealth. Longer still to get to the Pinnacle Point where your money finally starts working harder than you have to. Certainly, that is the long term goal. And the short term goal is the credit card/car payment debt payoff I've already outlined. But it'd be nice to have a picture of our mid-term plan as well. Especially given that I don't think we will be following the Baby Steps precisely.

So, one year out, give or take a few months, and hopefully our small debts (non-mortgage/student loan) will be paid off. At that point we will hopefully be more used to getting by with a lot less monthly discretionary income. Maybe we can at least add enough back in to be able to go on monthly date nights again though. But I don't want to get too slack because we still have a lot or work to do. Baby Step 3 is to Finish the Emergency Fund, which he defines as 3-6 mos. worth of expenses. For us, that would roughly be $15K-$30K.

Projecting out both raises and expenses, once we get our small debts paid off, I think we could save roughly $25K/yr. So, that should take us 7-14 mos. depending on how much cushion we want. My thought is that we should save as much as possible, setting aside the minimum $15K to touch only for emergencies, but then factor in the fact that our family SUV will be 15 years old (already has 223K miles) by then. I am fine with driving it until it dies, but its pretty much a given that that is going to be before too much longer (please, please, please not this year!). I am also fine with not getting a new car when it does die. But I would prefer to get something gently used with at least a few more bells and whistles than our current one has. I think we could probably get something 5-6 years old for between $15-$20K.

That's not the only big ticket item we need to save for though. In a few more years, the boys will be ready to start school and I will be more than ready to jump back on the career train. But that is probably going to require a bit of retraining on my part, and I am not willing to take out any more student loans. (Above and beyond the $105K I already put my foot down on of course). So, if I want to go back, which I very much do right now, we will need to save for that too. I am conservatively estimating about $20K for that right now, plus after school daycare (maybe $5K? Though that will be more of an on-going expense), but given the rising cost of education these days, who knows?

The point of all this speculating is to point out that with these extra purchases, the time it takes up to save about $30K for an emergency fund is going to be more like 2-3/4 to 3 years rather than 14 mos. That's a long time. And who knows how many set backs there might be in the meantime. At some point, hubby's car will need to be replaced as well, though it is 5 years newer than the SUV at least. But I guess I'm okay with it as long as we get to Baby Step 4: Retirement Investing, by the time I re-graduate, which I am predicting will be in 5-6 years. If we get to that step before I graduate, then I guess we will start putting at least the company matching amount into hubby's 401K. Actually, if we don't get to that step before 40, we probably should do a lot more than that, and I kind of doubt we will. Once I do graduate and start working again though, we are going to kick step 4's butt.

And then we get to Baby Step 5: College Funding for the kids. Except we're going to re-package that one as college payoff for the adults. By then my daughter will be done with college (or darn well better be at least). Until we get fabulously wealthy, I have done the best I can for her by insisting that she go to a school where she would graduate with a maximum of $40K in debt. Still a lot I know, but less than half as much than me, and within the amount considered reasonable by the income to debt calculators. She hated me for it at the time, but now seems mostly happy.

I am hoping that with a new masters degree I will be able to make at least $50K, although about half of that will probably have to go towards retirement, and the rest will get taxed. But lets just say that after stocking up our emergency fund, we have about $25K/yr extra from hubby's income and $25K/yr from mine. So $50K/yr extra after I start working to do with what we will. (OMG, is that really possible?) What to do with all that cash?? Pay off my damn student loans!! If we stick to the plan, that should take us only two more years. At that point, we can look into some minimal investing for the boys' college (and maybe some back pay for my daughter). But they are going to be expected to chip in as well because we are heading off to...

...Baby Step 6: Pay Off the Mortgage! Honestly, not quite sure what's going to happen when we get to this step because you see, before we focus on paying off the mortgage, we'd like to focus instead of getting the house we'd really like to have. The exciting thing is, once the student loan is paid off, we could afford about $600 more per month for a mortgage without changing anything else. Assuming the market continues to improve, we should also have a fair amount of equity at this point, having lived here for about 11 years. I am not sure yet whether we would rather buy or remodel. It will probably depend a lot on the location of our jobs at that point. There are some things I really like about both this home and this area, but our home was built in the 1960's and it really needs some updating. I think it would take between $175K-$200K to get it to where we want it, and only about 60% of that could be recouped in re-sale value. Whether or not that's worth it will depend largely on what we could get for the same value given the housing market at the time.

I also really like Dave Ramsey's idea of taking out only a 15 year mortgage and keeping your mortgage payment to less than 25% of your take home pay. Whether we decide to buy or remodel, I do very much want to keep those rules in mind. After all our hard work, I certainly do not want to end up house poor. It will be hard to feel like we can't afford just about whatever we want once we've taken care of all that other debt. And I do love big, pretty homes. Nonetheless, regardless of what we choose to do, at that point it should be a maximum of 15 years until we are entirely debt free, and if we continue with the $50K/yr rule, I think we could take that down to 6 years.

Which means this is more like a 14 year than a 7 years plan for us, but by the time we enter our 50's, it is very possible we will have no debt remaining (maybe we'll bump up the boys college fund at that point) and hopefully by the time we hit our 60's we will have reached that fabled Pinnacle Point which will leave us set for a long, happy retirement. Its certainly not a get rich quick scheme. which makes it seem somewhat more believable. Though it will certainly require a lot of dedication and sacrifice. But it seems like by the time the boys graduate from high school, we will finally have both the time AND money to do all sorts of things.

So that's the big picture. And now back to Baby Step 2.
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 6 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) ) -->

Commencing Baby Step 3

November 24th, 2013 at 05:49 pm

We've finally finished wading through all the home maintenance projects (including an unexpected $1000 repair on the roof a couple weeks ago) and even set aside $1000 for Christmas. We've reached our family health deductible for the year and are scheduling appts like mad for these next few weeks to take full advantage of paying only 20% rather than 100% for the rest of the year. And we were also incredibly blessed to have my aunt unexpectedly send me a check to cover my first semester of tuition and books for the community college I will be starting at in Jan. And so, with that all finally behind us, it's time to commence on our TMM baby step 3 (beef up emergency fund to cover 3-6 months of expenses).

It has been almost 4 months since we finished baby step 2, so I am relieved to finally be getting back on track again. We made a lot of prudent purchases and repairs, but as the money kept flowing out rather than in, I worried that our financial plan had become derailed. Apparently though, even without CC debt, we do still have some motivation and dedication to this plan after all. And it's time to buckle down again.

My main goal for this coming financial year is to see our next worth begin to rise finally. Although given it is currently -$46K, it might be more accurate to say we want to see our gaping net worth hole begin to be filled in. It's actually much better now that it was a year ago. Partly because of paying off the CC's and car loan. But also in a large part due to home values bouncing back again finally, and we can't really take credit for that. Plus that part could go again as easy as it came.

But I was realizing the other day that we are at an exciting point none that less because from here on out, we will mainly be investing in ourselves. Even the $25K we hope to save for a "new" vehicle over the next year and a half will be savings converted into an asset, rather than simply blown out the window. And yes, yes, I know their will be depreciation, but you get my point. We're finally investing in our own net worth. And that is exciting!

Plus, during the open enrollment period this year we made sure to max out our HSA contribution for next year, as well as bump up the life insurance and disability policies a little bit. And it feels wonderful to know we are getting an adequate financial safety net into place. Almost like we're becoming real adults finally!

From this point on though, we're going to be breaking a bit from strict compliance to the TMM plan. For instance, we're going to start baby step 4 (retirement savings) as soon as we get $5000 towards baby step 3. Which should be by the end of Jan if we practice restraint over Xmas. We are way too old to be putting it off any longer and we're going to be doing baby step 3 for quite some time. We want our final emergency fund to be around $20K, but we need to buy a car along the way, so almost as soon as we get it we're going to empty it out and start again.

I consider this an EF worthy purchase though because, as discussed previously, our current family vehicle is a 1999 and has over 225K miles. It's just not going to be around much longer, and when it does finally die, it will certainly be an emergency. After doing a lot of research we decided that the most financially wise options were to either buy a cheap 7-8 year old car in decent condition and plan to cover fairly regular repairs until we can afford an upgrade. Or to buy a reliable low mileage 1-2 year old vehicle that shouldn't need much work for a few years, and which would be just as affordable as long as we keep driving it at least 10 years. And given how very tired we are of highly used vehicles at this point, we have decided to go for the 2nd option.

We're going to save as much as we can for it until May and then get a loan for the remainder. We want to give the old one to our daughter when she comes home from college for the summer so that she will have her own vehicle to get to and from her summer job. And then we're going to pay off the car loan as fast as possible, though right now it's looking like Feb 2015 before we get there.

So that's the plan right now. Hubby is in the process of applying for new jobs that pays more though, and if one of them pans out, maybe we can even do this without a car loan. Hoping for the best!

Feb 2014
Start 6% 401K withdrawals: Sept 2013----->Feb/Mar 2014
Save for/Pay off "new" car: May 2014----->Feb 2015

As I said: Ugh.

A new reflection though: I saw on FB recently that an old friend of mine I've lost touch with the past few years, is selling her house. She has been dying for a bigger house for years, and her husband had a well paying job. But they also had a lot of debt and not the best of spending habits, and with the housing market crash they felt completely stuck.

About 4 months back, her husband's department was downsized and he was laid off. He had a few months severance though and lots of job interview lined up, so they weren't too concerned at the time. Thus, when I saw her recent FB posting, I at first assumed he had found something even better and that with the housing market upswing they were finally able to afford the new home they have been wanting.

But then I read further. Turns out, they are not buying a new one, just selling the old one. She didn't elaborate more but a quick check on LinkedIn confirmed what I feared; her husband has been out of work since Oct. Now I am purely speculating at this point, but given what I know of their past financial situation, it's not at all hard to draw a line that without a high paying job, the large debts have are going to sink them once the severance pay ends, and they are trying to find a source for more funds.

I say all this not to gossip or point fingers (presumably, you have no idea who I'm even talking about), and I actually feel very bad for her, though not really close enough anymore to question her about such a personal matter. But for me, she is such a stunning reminder of why hubby and I are doing all this.

Our financial situations were close enough at one time that it is easy for me to picture how something very similar could have happened to us, had we not begun to exercise financial restraint. But I admit that it was very hard for me to hear about their fancy trips, and see their pretty new cars and how beautifully decorated the inside of her home was. I wanted those things too. I wanted to look that good as well. But we were pouring all our extra cash into debt and had nothing visual to show for it.

We are still a long way from where we want to be. And without more savings, we are still not even insulated from going through something similar ourselves were hubby to lose his job. But we have no credit card or car debt dragging us down anymore. And we have a very clear picture of our budget and of the steps we need to take to get from A to B. So, even though this is a total drag, and even though I feel like it's taking way longer than it should, reflecting on where we could be instead leaves me still feeling thankful about where we are. Maybe not happy, but thankful. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [105872] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 105872 [entry_title] => Commencing Baby Step 3 [entry_stub] => commencing-baby-step-3- [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/11/24/commencing-baby-step-3-_105872/ [entry_date] => 1385315344 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-11-24 11:49:04 [entry_text] => We've finally finished wading through all the home maintenance projects (including an unexpected $1000 repair on the roof a couple weeks ago) and even set aside $1000 for Christmas. We've reached our family health deductible for the year and are scheduling appts like mad for these next few weeks to take full advantage of paying only 20% rather than 100% for the rest of the year. And we were also incredibly blessed to have my aunt unexpectedly send me a check to cover my first semester of tuition and books for the community college I will be starting at in Jan. And so, with that all finally behind us, it's time to commence on our TMM baby step 3 (beef up emergency fund to cover 3-6 months of expenses).

It has been almost 4 months since we finished baby step 2, so I am relieved to finally be getting back on track again. We made a lot of prudent purchases and repairs, but as the money kept flowing out rather than in, I worried that our financial plan had become derailed. Apparently though, even without CC debt, we do still have some motivation and dedication to this plan after all. And it's time to buckle down again.

My main goal for this coming financial year is to see our next worth begin to rise finally. Although given it is currently -$46K, it might be more accurate to say we want to see our gaping net worth hole begin to be filled in. It's actually much better now that it was a year ago. Partly because of paying off the CC's and car loan. But also in a large part due to home values bouncing back again finally, and we can't really take credit for that. Plus that part could go again as easy as it came.

But I was realizing the other day that we are at an exciting point none that less because from here on out, we will mainly be investing in ourselves. Even the $25K we hope to save for a "new" vehicle over the next year and a half will be savings converted into an asset, rather than simply blown out the window. And yes, yes, I know their will be depreciation, but you get my point. We're finally investing in our own net worth. And that is exciting!

Plus, during the open enrollment period this year we made sure to max out our HSA contribution for next year, as well as bump up the life insurance and disability policies a little bit. And it feels wonderful to know we are getting an adequate financial safety net into place. Almost like we're becoming real adults finally!

From this point on though, we're going to be breaking a bit from strict compliance to the TMM plan. For instance, we're going to start baby step 4 (retirement savings) as soon as we get $5000 towards baby step 3. Which should be by the end of Jan if we practice restraint over Xmas. We are way too old to be putting it off any longer and we're going to be doing baby step 3 for quite some time. We want our final emergency fund to be around $20K, but we need to buy a car along the way, so almost as soon as we get it we're going to empty it out and start again.

I consider this an EF worthy purchase though because, as discussed previously, our current family vehicle is a 1999 and has over 225K miles. It's just not going to be around much longer, and when it does finally die, it will certainly be an emergency. After doing a lot of research we decided that the most financially wise options were to either buy a cheap 7-8 year old car in decent condition and plan to cover fairly regular repairs until we can afford an upgrade. Or to buy a reliable low mileage 1-2 year old vehicle that shouldn't need much work for a few years, and which would be just as affordable as long as we keep driving it at least 10 years. And given how very tired we are of highly used vehicles at this point, we have decided to go for the 2nd option.

We're going to save as much as we can for it until May and then get a loan for the remainder. We want to give the old one to our daughter when she comes home from college for the summer so that she will have her own vehicle to get to and from her summer job. And then we're going to pay off the car loan as fast as possible, though right now it's looking like Feb 2015 before we get there.

So that's the plan right now. Hubby is in the process of applying for new jobs that pays more though, and if one of them pans out, maybe we can even do this without a car loan. Hoping for the best!

[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [105329] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 105329 [entry_title] => TMM Year 2 [entry_stub] => tmm-year-2 [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/10/20/tmm-year-2_105329/ [entry_date] => 1382288284 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-10-20 11:58:04 [entry_text] => It's been forever, I know. Not sure what the deal is with all this crazy /// nonsense in my info section since I left either. Anywho...

This Oct marks the beginning of the second year for hubby and I's Total Money Makeover. And how far have we gotten in a year? Well, considerably farther than we pictured ourselves one year ago for sure. We originally thought we'd be nearing the end of our credit card payments about now, and just starting to work on the car loan. The was before we discovered what the power of a budget and willpower can actually do. So instead we finished both by the end of July.

On the other hand...we are considerably less far than we had pictured ourselves being by now last June. Our revised goal was to have the initial $5000 for our emergency fund fully stocked by now, as well as kicking off the retirement 401k we need so badly and also making headway towards the "new" car we need. Instead we are in a much more dangerous no man's land somewhere between Baby Step 2 and Baby Step 3. I don't feel we are derailed from our TMM, but we do need to start getting this show on the road again soon.

So what have we been doing instead of all those June goals? Well, a lot of home stuff actually. Things we put off forever while dealing with our CC debt. We finally got a new toilet for downstairs (which lowered out water bill by $35/month!). We got a few trees cut down that had died and got our gutters cleaned out. We are also getting a large rip in our kitchen linolium repaired as well as some baseboards re-added that we never replaced after our mold damage issue a couple years ago.

We're getting our radon remitigation system installed this week ($1200). And we also had to take care of a couple big car repairs as well as buying hubby a new suit for job interviewing after all the weight he lost. Additionally, we finally replaced a few items that were wearing out. Like hubby's desk chair that was held together by duct tape and the kitchen rug that was coming apart at the seams. And we also spent more than typical on entertainment too, given it was summer and we had more family outings than usual.

Some of that stuff qualifies as emergency fund type things. Some doesn't. But it's all stuff we've been wanting to take care of forever and I'm glad we did it. By the end of this month we should be done with all that and ready to begin on Baby Step 3 for real. Trouble is, the boys are finally in preschool and I am finally going back to school myself to begin a second career. My first tuition/books payment will be due this Dec (just in time for Xmas) and is probably going to be around $2000. Long story short, I don't think we're going to be able to start the 401k until about Jan instead of Sept like we had planned and that sucks.

Regardless, compared to where we saw ourselves a year ago, we are doing much, much better indeed. Hopefully by this time next year we will be finished with Baby Step 4 and be looking ahead to a bright financial future!
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [103651] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21492] => Array ( [category_id] => 21492 [category_name] => Investing [category_stub] => investing ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 103651 [entry_title] => Closing In [entry_stub] => closing-in [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/07/13/closing-in_103651/ [entry_date] => 1373733962 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-07-13 11:46:02 [entry_text] => Almost at the finish line for TMM baby step 2: debt snowball. Actually, we could have been there on July 19th, but, the laptop hubby has been wanting for so long went on sale for the 4th of July week. We saved $100 by buying it now and pushing the fridge payoff out one more paycheck (Aug 2). Which I think is fine given it's no interest for 3 more months and definitely will be paid off on the 2nd. We chose snail speed shipping though to save on that part, so it will still be another week or so before he gets it, but I'm sure he will be very happy when it finally arrives!

We are starting to look into what the next financial steps are. Dave Ramsey says baby step 3 should be saving a 3-6 month emergency fund (building on the $1000 one from baby step 1). That would be about $18,000 for us and would take quite some time. And in the meantime, we would still not be taking advantage of the 3% 401K matching hubby's company offers (not to mention just plain starting to save for retirement period, even though we're both entering our late 30's.) Additionally, our '99 SUV is probably not going to last much longer and certainly will be an emergency when it dies. And we want our next car purchase to be a slightly used, reliable family vehicle with low miles that we can count on driving for at least 8-10 years.

So, we're thinking of taking a middle of the road approach. I've opened a money market account with Ally bank and transferred our $1000 emergency fund there. As soon as the fridge is done we are going to work on building that up to $5000 as fast as possible. After that, we have some home maintenance issues we have been putting off forever that we need to take care of. Getting all of that accomplished is going to push us well into the end of Oct.

But once we're there, we are going to start putting 6% of hubby's paychecks into the company 401K (the maximum matching amount). And come open enrollment in Nov we are also going to up our HSA/FSA medical contributions to the max for the coming year. That's going to take quite a dent out of our monthly income, but with all the debt we've now paid off (as well as the decrease in taxable income from the 401K/HSA/FSA), we should still be able to raise our entertainment budget from what it has been these past 9 months, and still work towards saving for a new vehicle.

We originally wanted to save for it completely before purchasing, which would have taken about a year, but our daughter really needs a car for the college internship she wants to do next summer. Assuming the SUV is still running then, we'd like to pass it off to her by next May so she can do that. That said, we should be 80% of the way there by May with hubby's bonus, so it shouldn't be too bad to take out a small loan at that point and pay it off in 4-6 months.

At that point, I will be starting school again (just a few classes at a community college to begin with) so there will be some tuition to take care of. But we will also need to start kicking up our savings as well. I'm looking into a Roth IRA for that, and Ally bank seems like a good place to help us with it. Given that you can withdraw contributions without penalty if needed, I feel like this could double with retirement and most of our remaining 3-6 month emergency fund. Short of job loss, I doubt we will ever need more than the $5K we will already have set aside in the money market (which I will keep separate). And $18K seems like too much money to just have sitting in a low interest account, when it will likely never be used, while we make no progress on retirement. Dave Ramsey would not approve, and I'm still looking into the details, but right now that's the plan. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 7 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [103087] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) ) [entry_id] => 103087 [entry_title] => We Did It!!! [entry_stub] => we-did-it [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/06/11/we-did-it_103087/ [entry_date] => 1370976855 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-06-11 13:54:15 [entry_text] => Just a quick note to say: We Paid Off Our LAST Credit Card last week!! We reached our goal a full 7 months early! I am so happy to be done!!

Of course, now that the old debt is done, it is time to acknowledge the new debt for the fridge we purchased on store credit. It has no interest for 6 months and we plan to be done in half that time. I have updated my debt stats accordingly. This debt milestone would feel a lot more exciting though if we didn't now have this to take care of that debt too. But at least it's debt for only one physical object that we use literally every day, rather than for a whole bunch of things transferred from card to card for so long that we had no idea what it was we were even paying for anymore. It is also nice to look at my wedding ring now and know that it is completely paid for. Smile

We may or may not make much headway on the fridge debt this month. Depends how my home business goes this month; this tends to be a slow time of year. Our car was in need of a $675 repair this week and we have a plumbing issue too now that is probably going to be at least $300. But guess what? For the first time, we don't have to tap into our emergency fund to pay for that. The mechanic told us the amount and we just sighed and said, well, at least we know we've got it. That is a very nice feeling.

Really looking forward to the end of the summer when we will have taken care of the back log of expenses we put off forever while doing our debt payoff. Because that's when the real fun begins. The accumulation phase that will (finally!) prepare us for our future.
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 12 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [102806] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) ) [entry_id] => 102806 [entry_title] => A Talk with Hubby [entry_stub] => a-talk-with-hubby [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/05/27/a-talk-with-hubby_102806/ [entry_date] => 1369628147 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-05-26 23:15:47 [entry_text] => Many of you have pointed out to me that my hubby seems to be a reluctant partner in this Total Money Makeover of ours. To which I could not agree more. And it's certainly not as if that's something he and I haven't discussed. But its been a difficult topic for him. He feels like he works and works and works and yet has nothing to show for it (there's some truth to that right now). And generally speaking, since he lets me decide how to spend most of the money even though he makes most of the money, I try not to be too hard on him.

I did get annoyed enough the other night to bring it up again though. I was trying to have just a strategic, non-emotional discussion about what we should prioritize first once we finish paying off the last* credit card next month (*please ignore the fridge for now. I need that to be separate so I can be done, or I will implode.) But it once again turned in to a whine fest.

I managed to mostly keep my cool and said that while this certainly is hard, and there certainly is reason to whine about it occasionally, that shouldn't have to be the case every time money is discussed. That it made me feel like I was making him do this even though he has agreed many times that he feels it is what's best for us as well. That in order to feel like partners in it, I needed to just be able to talk strategy with him sometimes so that we could figure out how to best prioritize things together. I didn't say it all quite that nicely, but I did my best.

He didn't take it all that well at the time (it had been a long day and perhaps was not the best time to bring it up in retrospect). But later that night he did seem to come around some. And since then he has actually been much better. He even offered to put off getting the new laptop he so wants until the fridge payoff is done. We talked about how we might generate a report for him to look over after each paycheck so that he has a better understanding of how the numbers are moving (we're nerds like that). I told him that I was actually frustrated about it all the time too, and that if I didn't have my spreadsheet to look over and fiddle with almost daily I would probably be a wreck. Simple tasks like changing box shading from yellow to green to show it's completed do wonders for keeping me sane.

So, hopefully that was the talk that will finally change things. And we are so, so close. One more paycheck (don't talk to me about the fridge yet). It's really hard to not fixate on it. To a level of being unhealthy probably, but it's just been soooo long and part of me just can't believe that we're really about to frickin' do this. I keep checking and re-checking because it seems surreal. As if any moment a large, unforeseen expense will rise up and swallow us whole. But so far, the spreadsheet says we're on track. It says we're okay. Just one more paycheck...



[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 5 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [102098] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) ) [entry_id] => 102098 [entry_title] => Financial Goals [entry_stub] => financial-goals [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/04/10/financial-goals_102098/ [entry_date] => 1365562254 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-04-09 21:50:54 [entry_text] => Last post

Text is http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/30/save-now-live-later_101898/ and Link is
http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/30/save-no..., I was feeling pretty down about the state of our penny pinching lives right now. We've made great progress, but it's been all work, little play for quite a while now. This past couple weeks, I've been "running the numbers" and trying to figure out IF/WHEN and HOW MUCH fun money we might be able to squeeze in, while trying to meet our many financial goals over these next few years.

We're still putting most everything extra on hold until we finish paying off the credit cards in the next couple months or so. But I would like to start going on date night's out once every couple months again despite not being there yet. I'm fine with it just being something like TGIF's and a movie. Right now even McDonald's would be a splurge for us so that sounds great to me! But I want to get an actual baby sitter and not have to cook the meal myself. To watch an actual new release in movie seats rather than a rental on the couch. And to be able to start spending time with hubby before 8pm when the boys are finally in bed and our eyes are already getting droopy. This particular splurge, I am not willing to put off any longer. Even it it adds a little extra time to our goal. I need a life again. And once every two months hardly seems over the top.

The trickier part is what to allow when we do finally finish paying off all this debt. Not throwing hundreds, and even thousands into our credit cards each month will certainly free up some funds! But as discussed
Text is http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/25/march-madness-ends_101832/ and Link is
http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/25/march-m..., there are a lot of prudent ways those funds could and should be allocated. So we decided to determine which financial goals were our most important ones to meet in the first year after paying off our credit card/car loan debts. And to set aside the money for those things each month first. Here's what we came up with:

1) To replace the ancient fridge that is probably costing us a small fortune to operate and can barely hold a food safe temperature anymore. Also, all of the drawers are broken and every time the cheese drawer is pulled out it smooshes everything below. This was the single hardest item for me not to "splurge" on spending to replace.



2) Replace hubby's ancient desktop computer that needs rebooting at least once a day to even barely run these days. Preferably with a moderately priced and more portable laptop. Hopefully before, rather than after it bites the dust, but it's going to be close.

3) Get that $800 car repair for hubby's car that our mechanic mentioned is going to sneak up on us any day now.

4) Start putting in the maximum employer matching 401K contribution. At least it's pre-tax and won't be quite as big a chunk as it seems, but like it or not, it's the most important thing we can be spending our money on at this point.

5) Increase emergency fund from $1000 to $5000. Still far short of our long term goal, but it should be enough to cover, say, an ancient furnace that we were just glad made it through one more winter. Thankfully hubby's job is very stable right now.

6) Come re-enrollment this fall, up our HSA contributions to max that out too. That will be more than double what we're doing now but not doing so has totally bit us in the butt this year with unforeseen dental expenses (given that dental insurance is pretty much a joke). Long story short, I am going to be without a bottom right tooth for a while, and I would like to get that fixed soon.

7) Save about $12,500 for a "new" car. Again, preferably before the current one dies but that will also be cutting it close. In truth, we are going to rely on hubby's bonus next spring for about half of this. At the fortune 500 company he works for, it's a pretty sure bet. We even know pretty much how much it will be. If we're wrong though, we'd still rather get a small car loan that we paid off ASAP rather than wait any longer for any of these other things.


So those are the goals. There will be no family vacations in the foreseeable future, and we're going to keep date nights out at once every other month for now as well. We also will have not yet started saving for me to go back to school, and that will certainly need to be a priority in the year following. To say nothing of our longer term investing goals.

But thankfully, there is some wiggle room in there. A little cash for lunch with friends. Maybe a shirt from Kohl's and a new book once a month. Perhaps I can finally replace that pitcher I use every day that I'm missing the lid for? And we're definitely starting our Audible subscription again. We're going to have more fun. Ahh, the good life! Let me never take these small luxuries for granted again! [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 0 [contains_images] => 1 ) [101898] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 101898 [entry_title] => Save Now, Live Later [entry_stub] => save-now-live-later [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/30/save-now-live-later_101898/ [entry_date] => 1364658384 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-03-30 10:46:24 [entry_text] => We're making awesome progress on our debt. In the last 6 months we have paid off $16,406 in credit cards/car loans and we now have only $5900 to go. On paper, it looks really good. In life- it looks kind of bleak.

I have always struggled with living my life more in the past or future than in the present. The Now. I am good at putting off short term reward for long term gain. Hubby has a harder time with this, which is one reason he is so good for me in this regard. He helps to balance me out and remind me that life IS now. In turn, I help to give him direction so that he moves towards his longer term goals. This tug of war plays out in our total money makeover all the time, as it does with most everything in our marriage.

Recently though, I have hit an emotional wall that makes me realize I need to start focusing more on the Now. To put it bluntly, I am not enjoying my life right now. I miss working and having space for intellectual pursuits in my life outside of two year old play dates and fish sticks. I feel that me being home is what's best for them and I love them to pieces. But I am coming to accept that it is not what's best for me. None the less, they don't have a lot of part-time options for women with PhDs in science fields, and I didn't like what I did much before anyways, and I will need to be retrained before I can begin a new career path. Which will only be affordable if we stick to our financial plan and cut expenses now. For now, and the next few years, I'm stuck here.

And hubby and I have been working our butts off for this money makeover. I run after our darling boys all day while he works his day job. And then by night, once the boys are tucked in, we both spend at least half the nights a week doing our side jobs, which has created the surplus for our finances. But we have almost no time for ourselves or each other. We've turned all date nights into at home affairs and cut all plans for family vacations. We don't buy clothes, or toys or really anything that's not required. We stick to the plan. And it blows.

Part of why we have felt the need to push this hard in the short term is that we have been treading water financially for years now. With every increase in funds getting eaten up by something else unplanned for, I watched my goal of going back to school slip further and further away. We were always barely making ends meet. Always "a little bit short this month but next month should be better." Looking into the near future we could already see the big raise hubby was expecting being eaten up by needing to replace the family car that is on its last leg. And we have nothing for retirement. We needed to do something Now.

So we're doing this. And the credit cards part of it is almost done. Which is awesome. But if we don't want to just replace all that work with another car loan then we need to start saving pretty aggressively for a car as well. And there are a whole ton a medical expenses that have crept up recently that I don't even want to think about factoring in to the plan yet. And yet - life is NOW. Not when we finish saving for a "new" car or finally start that retirement fund or get money pulled together for me to go back to school. But now. And Now - I am miserable.

Clearly there has to be some balance here. It does no good to live high on the hog now and just be miserable in the future instead. But it is not healthy to put off everything Now for a future that may never come either. They used to say money doesn't buy you happiness. Though they're finding that's not actually true! (
Text is http://www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2013/01/25/money-does-buy-happiness-we-were-shocked-too/ and Link is
http://www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2013/01/25/money-does-...,
Text is http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2019628,00.html and Link is
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2019628,00....,
Text is http://www.wired.com/business/2012/12/wealth-happiness/ and Link is
http://www.wired.com/business/2012/12/wealth-happiness/). Regardless, I have never been a collector of things for my happiness. But money does buy experiences. And experiences are the stuff of life in my opinion.

In times past, I know it has definitely made me happier to have a fun family vacation to look forward to, or a fancy night out with hubby taking in dinner, wine and a show somewhere. It made me happy when I was able to splurge on a massage or a special outing with the boys. Though these things are fleeting without knowing they are financially backed by having the longer term goals of ones life fully funded as well. Again, I recognize there must be balance. But right now the balance is clearly too far to the future game, and we need to adjust that.

In the very short term we are going to restart monthly date night outs, though nothing too fancy until the credit cards are done (only 3 more months!). Then, we'll have to decide what additional changes we can make at that point, and which ones we need to put off at least until a new car, and the increased emergency fund, and the 401K and all that have been saved for. I don't know what the right balance is here because all these things are important. But my emotional outlook is making it very clear to me that our current answer is not where it needs to be right now. I will be working on sorting that out this coming month.

PS Please, please, pretty please, do not respond to this post with a list of low cost entertainment options that I could "fix" my problem with. And no, we do not have good options with family or friends for child care swapping right now. I am aware that these options exist and we are considering them too, but we want to feel able to enjoy some of the "finer" things in life as well. This is really more about giving myself permission to enjoy than it is about the actual solution. Once I feel it's allowed, coming up with the options should be the fun part!
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 9 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 0 [contains_images] => 0 ) [101411] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 101411 [entry_title] => Making Progress [entry_stub] => making-progress [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/02/making-progress_101411/ [entry_date] => 1362265644 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-03-02 17:07:24 [entry_text] => I am frustrated that I have not been able to keep up with this blog very well lately due to some other projects I have been working on. I think it is a really good outlet for the stress this financial overhaul creates in our lives sometimes. And I think its a really good tool for keeping us accountable. Should be able to put more time into it again by the end of this month though I think, so I'll have to be content with that for now.

As for where we're at right now, do you see that side bar?! Talk about progress! Yes, the windfall has finally begun. Hubby got his bonus from work, which was about $5K after taxes got done with it. Originally, I had planned on paying off credit cards first with that, but after reading A LOT of material of financial planning recently, I decided a better use would be to pay off the car first, due to its higher interest rate. So, that one is done! And that payoff alone increases our monthly income by $198/month. Yay!

We also got our state return, a little under $500, and with that and some other surplus, I did pay off 1 of our 4 credit cards as well, though that one only increases out bottom line by about $30/month so not as exciting. But still progress! Supposedly, the IRS is going to finally start processing returns for people with mortgage interest credits within the next week. So hopefully, we will get that soon too (assuming no audit as discussed previously:
Text is http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/death-and-taxes_100945/ and Link is
http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/death-a...). And when we do, I plan to knock off a couple more cards, this raising our bottom line another $180/month. Wow, were we ever wasting a lot of money of this crap.

After that, it will just be the one big one left, which I'm hoping to have taken care of by the end of the summer, maybe sooner depending on how my business goes (summers tend to be slower). And then, we finally get to start the more fun part of personal finance: investing in ourselves.

Certainly we still have a lot of debt to pay off, between my student loans and our mortgage. Actually, even after paying off the the rest of the credit cards, I was disappointed to find that our net worth will still be around -$84K. Ouch. Though it is above the -$100K mark now for the first time in years. But as one financial planner I read stated, we're working really hard just to be worthless right now (ie $0 net worth).

None the less, after receiving some comments about how silly we are to not be taking advantage of the 401K matching hubby's company offers, I did a bit of research and decided in the end that, yes, we are being incredibly stupid not taking this free money and we need to get on that train ASAP, Dave Ramsey be damned. If we were being completely logical rather than emotional about it in fact, we would probably be prioritizing that even above our credit cards given that they have very low promotional interest rates. After much discussion though, we have decided we simply cannot bring ourselves to make this credit card thing go any slower. We feel spread much too thin as it is, and we need to be done with those debts and never use credit that way again. Our emotional sanity depends on it. Especially given how close we are.

If it were going to be something that was a few years away from being accomplished, like our mortgage and student loans, it might make sense to do it with more of a long view in mind. But we are literally within 3-5 months of our goal and our monthly income will increase by another $300 compared to now, once we sunset this. And that will certainly help our long term bottom line as well. That's our thinking at least. But at least we're almost there!

Anyways, very happy to be making some definite progress finally and looking forward to a 3 paycheck March this month as well! [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 4 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 0 [contains_images] => 0 ) [100947] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21491] => Array ( [category_id] => 21491 [category_name] => Food / Groceries [category_stub] => food-groceries ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) ) [entry_id] => 100947 [entry_title] => Feb Zero Dollar Budget [entry_stub] => feb-zero-dollar-budget [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/feb-zero-dollar-budget_100947/ [entry_date] => 1360431810 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-02-09 11:43:30 [entry_text] => Income:

Hubby's Job (after tax): $5271
Hubby's Hobby Income: $550*
My PT-WFH Job: $670*
Hubby's Bonus (after tax): $5104
(*subject to change, though usually for the better!)

Total Monthly Income: $11598 (umm...holy crap!)

Expenses:

Non-Fixed Expenses:
Groceries: $861
Gasoline: $188
Misc: $500
Entertainment: $250
Gifts: $10 (Valentine's Day Treat!)

Fixed Expenses:
Mortgage/Insurance: $1509
Student Loan: $619
Utilities (water/sewer, gas, electric, etc): $349
Services (phone, computer backup, garbage, cable*, etc.): $285
(*reimbursed through hubby's company)
Leftover Leaf Cleanup Bill: $150*
(*he still has not billed us and I'm not calling again. This is his last chance.)
Auto Insurance: $73
Credit Cards (minimum payments): $299
Auto Loan: $198
Early Childhood Program (spring session fee): $120

Total Expenses: $5525

Difference (to be applied towards credit cards): $6073 (woo hoo!)


Still need to do an accounting for how we did in Jan but I think I'm out of time this morning so it looks like it will have to wait again.
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 2 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [100945] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) ) [entry_id] => 100945 [entry_title] => Death and Taxes [entry_stub] => death-and-taxes [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/death-and-taxes_100945/ [entry_date] => 1360430275 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-02-09 11:17:55 [entry_text] => I had this entry all written last week, but the blog site was acting funny that day, and when I submitted it, it just went off into the oblivion somewhere. Was too annoyed to retype something right away, but I am trying really hard to get caught up today.

So anyways, apparently our $8000 some dollar tax return was a bit too good to be true after all. You see, that tax form our DD said was from her school, the one we thought we already had, was really from her 529K that we just opened this year. Entering that form changed the picture a bit because apparently, you do not qualify for education tax credits if you pay for education expenses using a 529K. Huh? What the heck is the point then? Well okay, I get that they are tax deferred and gain interest if you start when they're young. Ours was more of a savings account tool that would penalize withdrawing funds for non-education expenses. A disincentive we felt our spend thrifty daughter needed. (To be fair, she's done quite well with it.) None the less, our tax return will be at least $2000 less than we had thought due to losing the credit. And I have to amend. Frown

Really, it hardly matters because due to our mortgage interest credit and congress's ineptitude, our pending tax return will be delayed until lord only knows when anyways. I just hope they don't realize our mistake and allow me to fix it instead of holding the fund until I do (or auditing us!) because who knows how much longer that will take then. Had originally thought that check would be coming late this month but now we're thinking more like April. Boo!

Eventually I need to figure out how to adjust our with holdings so that our returns aren't so big. Our tax situation has changed so much over the past 4 years though that its hard to sort it all out. Buying a home, starting a small business, getting married, changing jobs, promotions, having twins, sending a child to college (while still paying on my own student loans). Turbo tax informs me that due to all these things, our effective tax rate is only 4.4% right now. So our checkbook may have taken quite a hit from all that, but we're beating Warren Buffet's tax rate, so we must be good! Probably makes us part of Romney's 47% though. Wink
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 1 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [100943] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) ) [entry_id] => 100943 [entry_title] => Hubby Got Promoted!!! [entry_stub] => hubby-got-promoted [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/hubby-got-promoted_100943/ [entry_date] => 1360428955 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-02-09 10:55:55 [entry_text] => The day we have been waiting for all year is finally here! Many of you pointed out previously that in the future we should probably not count so many of our eggs before they hatch so to speak. And yes, I know what you mean. I tend to always be about 5 years ahead of myself. That works well for some things in life, though not for others. This one was particularly hard because we *thought* this promotion was going to happen last year. His boss had suggested as much. Then we came to find that the company likes to get new managers feet wet for a year by giving them most of the new duties they will have, without the pay increase until the following year, after they see how it goes.

I get the logic that they don't want to end up promoting people who aren't going to be a good fit for management. But man that was an annoying year. We had thought it was already in the bag. And Hubby worked his butt off and understandably felt uncompensated for it. But no more! He broke the six figure income ceiling in fact! Well, more like scuffed it: he's getting exactly $100K now. But he also got a sweet $8000 bonus, though that'll be about $5100 once taxes get pulled out. Additionally, he gets an office and a garage parking spot. And he will now be eligible for even larger bonuses going forward. Possibly as much as 15% if he keeps "exceeding expectations".

But okay, okay, let's not go there yet. Let's let next years chickens come next year. How 'bout them eggs this year though! Wink We should be getting the bonus check next week. And once we do, CC#1 and #2 that you see on the side bar there should finally be gone! And just in time too, one of our balance txfr promotions is about to expire.

It may seem like a simple thing to send in a big check like this to a credit card that needs paying, but for us, this in and of itself is a debt victory. We were never disciplined enough to make that much headway before. We *might* have ended up paying off the smaller of the two. But we certainly wouldn't have knocked out that second one also (with some spare to throw at the third as well). So this is a big money management win for us.

Additionally, we should start seeing about $250 more each paycheck after taxes, and that will certainly help as well. Credit Card Free 2013, here we come!
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 5 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [100049] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 100049 [entry_title] => Our Debt Snowball [entry_stub] => our-debt-snowball [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/01/05/our-debt-snowball_100049/ [entry_date] => 1357369587 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-01-05 01:06:27 [entry_text] => This is it! The year we're going to conquer our credit card and car loan debt. Time to layout the plan so I can hold myself to it!

We are still only 3 months in to our Total Money Makeover. So far, getting our debt "snowball" rolling has been really slow going due to a number of unfortunate factors. Child support back-pay ended last month, and as glad as I am to finally be done with my ex-husband, it left a new $500 hole in our budget. We knew this was coming though, and could have handled it alone, but unfortunately, it overlapped with a slow quarter for me in my home business. I have been making only about 1/3 of my usual profits for this time of year. And then to make matters worse, just a month before Xmas my normally biggest contract of the year cancelled on me due to going out of business. That left us short another $1600, and was pretty much our Xmas "budget" out the window. The same week our newer car need a $1000 repair. Needless to say, its been rough.

The amazing part of all this though, (as I tried to explain to hubby tonight when he got all forlorn about how little actual credit card progress we've made so far), is that we have not dug ourselves in any deeper for once! Had we not started a budget and drastically reduced our spending in recent months, these problems would have crept up on as as they always did. With us already overspent and not knowing where we were going to come up with these extra funds. I would not have been at all surprised if we ended up putting at least $1000 or so on a credit card, even after wiping our emergency fund out. Nor would we have had any plan to restock the emergency fund before our tax return came in late Feb. But that's not how we're doing things these days.

Today, I can honestly say that we have not used a credit card in over a year, even for emergencies. That's a first. And that as of this Monday, despite Xmas being barely over, our emergency fund will be restocked with $1000. And that even after all that, if we stick to our budget, we may still have about $50 extra to put towards credit cards in Jan. That may not be much, but it's a heck of a lot better than where we would have been before all this.

But then Feb is where the real fun begins. The month we finally start getting some momentum on this debt snowball. Because due to circumstances previously discussed, we will be getting a huge tax return. Probably around $8000. And then come March hubby should be getting his annual bonus, which will probably be around $4500. And then in Apr., hubby's new promotion raise will kick in and he should start bringing home about $500 more a month (which BTW, cancels out that child support that ended. Sweet.).

In the past, we would have initially *said* we were going to put a large amount of this extra towards our credit cards. But as it got closer, our wish list would have grown and grown. We may have ended up throwing $1500 towards it, but the rest would have gotten set aside for "in case" or spent this way or that. Our goal this year though, is to send no less than $13,000 to our credit cards for the months of Feb & March combined. Hold me to this!

By the end of all this fortune we should have wiped out three of our four credit cards and will already be about 2/3 of the way to our 2013 debt goal. From that point on it will be more slow and steady progress. If we stick to it though, that last credit card should be gone by the end of June, and our car loan will follow at the end of Sept. And that will be it! Almost one year after we started to the date. And then on to baby step 3 we'll go!

If we stick to this plan, about 28% of our take home pay over the course of a year will go towards our credit card and car loan debts. Compare that with the only 7% progress we were making before. (And we were wondering why we were never getting anywhere?) A four fold increase. Not too shabby for only 3 months of restructuring. And who knows what else we'll come up with by then?

All of this, of course, is subject to change. I'll feel a lot more confident once the tax return, bonus and raise are in hand. Until then, they are only projections, not realities. (At least the fiscal cliff is done!) Also, who knows what else will happen with cars and appliances and goodness knows what else in the months ahead. I have estimated my business income a little on the low side to help offset this, but it being on the low side has been a reality for me as well lately, though one that is starting to improve. If necessary, we still have a 3 month buffer to make it to the end of 2013 credit card/car loan debt free!

All said and done, we have a plan, and now its time to get to it.

[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 10 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 0 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99544] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21496] => Array ( [category_id] => 21496 [category_name] => Shopping [category_stub] => shopping ) ) [entry_id] => 99544 [entry_title] => Taking the Bad with the Good [entry_stub] => taking-the-bad-with-the-good [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/taking-the-bad-with-the-good_99544/ [entry_date] => 1355427405 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-13 13:36:45 [entry_text] => (Last old entry!)

I haven't posted our month's end update yet because our financial situation this past week has been so in flux. In a recent post I talked a bit about hoping our Xmas shortfall might "magically" fix itself. And believe it or not, we actually have had a fair bit of good fortune magic come our way recently in terms of income.

Hubby's writing/website management hobby is really taking off! He's just landed a new deal that should pay a minimum of $300/month starting next week, and possibly up to $500 or more. And that's in addition to the $220 he was already making through another deal, plus some smaller bits on the side. All together that is more than enough to make up for the back pay child support that is now ending (last check tomorrow!) and also enough to bridge the income gap we were expecting for Dec/Jan.

Additionally, I've had a little bit of work come my way as well! My worse case budget scenario was assuming I would continue to have only about $140/month of income (that used to be more like $600). For at least Dec/Jan though, I think I can count on that being around $400 instead, so that's another extra $260 that also kind of feels like it just magically appeared in time for Christmas.

Were in not for the car repair that suddenly fell into our laps as well then, we would probably feel we were raking in the dough. But alas, this was no ordinary car repair. This was a $992 doosey. I'm not even sure we've paid that much for a car repair before. Usually when the repairs start getting that expensive and close together, the car is old enough that we decide its probably not worth it and time for a newer one instead. But this is hubby's car and we are still making car payments on it as it is. It's also the newer of our two vehicles and therefore not allowed to reach the end of its life first!

Anyways, that completely cleaned out the emergency fund. All but $10.17. So that's a little scary. Cause it's a good two and a half months until tax rebate season. Additionally, our discretionary account has only $4.81 in it, while even our fixed checking, which we use for things like the mortgage, has only $728.42. Not cool. Luckily, hubby gets paid tomorrow, though there are still lots more gifts to get. I should point out here that the order these fluctuations came in as was: my income increase (Oh, good, that will help a little), then the car (Oh, f**k. We're screwed again.), then hubby's income increase (Woo hoooo!!! We're saved!). It's been a long week.

We ended last month with about $260 surplus, which we would have liked to use to pay down our credit card debts given that that is the point of this whole thing. Unfortunately, as the month ended, we were projecting a $750 shortfall for Dec./Jan., so I felt I needed to hold on to that extra to help somehow bridge the gap. When my extra income came in, we had high hopes that end of Dec or at least Jan. might afford us some surplus after all. But then the car crapped out, and Dave Ramsey says our first priority now should be going back to baby step 1 to replenish the emergency fund. I'm not quite sure yet where that puts us in terms of catching up again, but it may well be Feb still. In the meantime, we will continue making our roughly $500/month in minimum payments.

More good news; some very preliminary numbers I ran in the newly released 2012 Turbotax seem to predict that we will be getting back around $8000 this year! Holy s**t! I think that's even bigger than when we got our first time home buyer's credit, though I might be wrong about that. We only claimed 4 deductions rather than 5 on hubby's W-4, so as to cancel out my estimated business taxes, but I didn't make very much compared to normal, so it ending up being a lot more withholding than we really needed. Plus, we get some kind of a $2000 education credit for my daughter starting college, since she is still a dependent on our taxes for this year. Yay!! Until the car died, we were considering buying a new fridge with some of that. But at this point, we may just muddle through and try to just get done with this ASAP. Hopefully by next Xmas we'll be on baby step 3!
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 4 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99542] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21496] => Array ( [category_id] => 21496 [category_name] => Shopping [category_stub] => shopping ) ) [entry_id] => 99542 [entry_title] => Cancelling Christmas (Except Not!) [entry_stub] => cancelling-christmas-except-not [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/cancelling-christmas-except-not_99542/ [entry_date] => 1355427101 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-13 13:31:41 [entry_text] => (Only a couple old ones left...)

So bad news this week. That big job I usually get this time of year that has paid for the last couple Christmases will not be happening this year. Or anymore at all actually; it appears they have gone out of business. And given how much we were counting on it, that is quite a bummer.

The net effect of this is that Dec and Jan are not going to be just tight as I've mentioned, they are going to be negative in terms of cash flow. Even putting off getting the new tires we need, and even adding in the savings we scraped out of this month, I estimate we are still going to be about $500 short by the end of Jan. And given that bonuses and tax returns won't come in until the later half of Feb, the first half of that month is not going to be pretty either. Things have already felt so tight on this Total Money Makeover that it's hard for me to even picture how much more this is going to suck now.

Given all this, and in the spirit of maintaining gazelle intensity for our debts (I mentioned I hated that phrase, right?), it seems we probably should cancel Xmas this year. Or presents at least, that is. In fact, that would simple act alone would about take care of that $500 shortfall we have (so would winning that $500 million Powerball right now, but I digress). But we are not going to do that. Does this mean we are not really serious about our Total Money Makeover? I don't know, perhaps. But I just can't. It would be too sad for me and I think my husband would just lose it. We would lose our drive to do this because it just wouldn't feel worth it anymore. We're going to be smart about it and stick to our budget, but we're going to have Xmas, so tough.

So where is this $500 going to magically appear from then you ask? That's a good question. Cause we do have $1000 sitting in our emergency fund still, but we all know how Dave Ramsey feels about acting as if Xmas is an emergency. Well, one solution is that it might magically appear. Okay, okay, not magically. But so far hubby's side writing hobby has been bringing in a little more money than expected each month. I think its quite possible we could end up with up to $250 more from that then I currently have budgeted. Also, I could get another job through my business (hah!). I mean, probably not this month, but it could happen. At one time, I made over $20K/yr with this little side gig. (Will probably be lucky to hit even $6K this year.)

Other, less magical avenues include the possibility of me getting a very part-time job in the evenings. I'm looking into this and will in fact be putting in an application by the end of the week I hope. Not sure I will do it for any longer than necessary, but I feel I must do something. It just sucks because I will probably make only a quarter as much per hour for my efforts doing that then for my business. But a quarter as much still meets the gap my business is just not producing right now. I really hope that changes again eventually. Frown

If worse comes to worse though and none of those things pan out, I guess we will be tapping into the emergency fund. All I can say in our defense is that I promise we will pay it back in February. Needless to say, there will be no extra credit card/car payments for the next 3 months. Our minimum payments total to almost $500/month though, and our credit cards are all no interest promotions, so as long as we don't use those, we'll still be chipping away at it. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 2 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99541] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 99541 [entry_title] => My Student Loan Baggage [entry_stub] => my-student-loan-baggage [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/my-student-loan-baggage_99541/ [entry_date] => 1355427008 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-13 13:30:08 [entry_text] => One of the few topics in Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover that really irks me is his discussion of student loan debt. I'm not saying his points are all without merit. But when he talks about credit cards, he seems to understand that the mental/emotional game is just as important, perhaps even more important, than the financial one. And so he recommends paying off your lowest balance card before your highest interest card, purely so you can see results sooner. And I totally get that. But he does not allow for the same types of emotional weakness when it comes to student loans. Consider the rant of his in this link for instance:
Text is http://www.daveramseyfan.com/dave-ramsey-rants-stupid-on-education/ and Link is
http://www.daveramseyfan.com/dave-ramsey-rants-stupid-on-edu... Ouch. That's all I can say. And since I am one of those previously professional, now stay-at-home mom's with over $100K in debt he's ranting about, it can't get much more personal than that.

When I look back over my life, there is only place I can think of that I maybe should/would have made a different decision about my education. And that was when I chose to keep pursuing a PhD in a field I wasn't sure was a good fit for me, instead of being willing to start graduate school over, or at least stop with a masters. Given that my graduate tuition was paid for, however, and that I was receiving a stipend for most of my living expenses, cutting out that leg of the journey wouldn't have changed that much. Maybe $20K less at best.

Growing up, we were poor. Like free school lunch, hand me down clothes from cousins, can't afford a school yearbook poor. I vividly remember my mom dividing one family size can of spaghettios between the 4 of my sisters and I, plus a glass of milk, for lunch. I was a small, hungry, skinny and very active kid, who hung out a lot at my friend's houses bumming snacks. My mom and dad fought constantly, and would have no matter what, but certainly a major theme of their blowouts was money. There was never enough of it, and it seemed that would never change. My mom often grew wistful in private about how, despite how smart she had been, she had dropped out of college after only a year or so at her first husband's insistence (my father) and never found her way back once the babies started coming with her second. And worse, how she could never leave her abusive second husband because she could never support the 5 of us on her own.

I'm not sure how directly it was ever stated, but I grew up with the clear impression that it was absolutely imperative that I go to college some day so that I would be able to support myself without a man. But that there would be absolutely no financial help for me to do so. This was further complicated by my step-father's abusive put downs of me compared to my sisters, and his continuous proclamations that I was never going to be good enough for anything.

Given the trouble I was often into growing up in a home like that, there were many years it seemed like he was right. There were many years I didn't bother with homework. For a period of time, I was suicidal. And I was pregnant before I was out of high school. But I harbored a deep, driving need to prove him wrong as well. And despite his insults otherwise, I was actually quite intelligent. And seriously driven to believe that there was a way out of my childhood and into the type of future I had always dreamed of. Halfway through high school, I turned over a new leaf and started to show what I was capable of academically, though my new daughter senior year complicated things a bit.

When I was applying to colleges, the last thing on my mind was the amount of money I was taking out in student loans. Certainly I qualified for every need based option possible, not to mention a few merit based ones as well. Imagining what that payback would look like 5 to 10 years down the road when I finally had a real job and was out of this mess seemed besides the point. My burning questions were: Am I really capable of this? A 4 year degree at a respectable university with a child? What if they see only what my step-dad saw? What if I am doomed to repeat the same life for my daughter as the one that was given to me?

But I got in and I did my best. My first year I did outstanding actually, but the second year my young marriage began to fall apart and afterwards, it took a couple years of struggle before my daughter and I found a new equilibrium. My last two years of undergrad I did much better for the most part, and somewhere during that time, I realized that to become anything more than a lab rat with my degree, I would need to apply for graduate school. In this sense, Dave's rant doesn't completely apply to me. I did understand that I needed to be highly marketable to pay for all this.

At that point in life, I was pretty clear that I wanted to be a working mother. I loved my daughter dearly, and was very much looking forward to being done with school and having more time eventually. But I was the kind of person who got depressed without something intellectual to pursue. Something for myself separate from my role as a mother. Perhaps partly because I had become a mother before I had gotten time to be just myself. As exhausting as it was during the semesters, school holidays were often worse because I just got so depressed with nothing to work towards.

If you had told me that I would one day choose to be a stay at home mom, I would have laughed in your face. Dave can say that young women without kids yet have no idea how they're going to feel when they do, but I think that's overly simplistic and implies we all want to stay at home deep down. I'm a stay at home mom now, and I'm still not always sure its what I want to be doing. Furthermore, I already had a child at that point. I did know what it was like. If I could have had the option to work only part time with a young family, that probably would have been my first choice. But that is not a realistic possibility in most fields, least of all mine, and I was not unrealistic. I figured with a PhD, I could make enough that my future husband could stay home if we wanted.

Graduate school was hard though. Really hard. My fears about not being good enough were constantly at an edge when surrounded by so many other brilliant people. I had developed a fuzzy, idealistic picture of my doctoral field while leisurely pursuing undergraduate research with lower expectations I had no trouble meeting. This vision was shattered to make room for the more brutal and difficult reality of what higher academia really was. The relationship with my advisor slowly went from love to hate. Somewhere along the way, I began to question whether I was really doing this for myself, or just to prove that I could. Some days, I began to acknowledge that despite how far I had come, it was possible I was moving in the wrong direction.

That is the one point in my academic journey I regret. If I had been brave, or maybe even just less tired, I would have thrown in my first 2 1/2 years of research and allowed myself to start again in a new field. If I had done this, perhaps I would be happily pursuing my new career even now? I had an inkling of what at least some of those other possibilities could have been. It wouldn't have set me back more than a couple years (though that would have added even more to my debt!). But that light at the end of the tunnel I had been impossibly chasing for so long was finally so close. I had already passed my preliminary doctoral exam. I had my project all mapped out. I just needed to buckle down for 3 more years and do it.

And so that's what I did. I figured when I was done I could work on re-branding myself in an area of research I was more interested in for the job hunt. Instead, I found myself perfectly trained to do exactly the type of research I did not want to pursue. But it sure payed well. Even if it did necessitate moving halfway across the country.

It seemed like that would be enough, eventually. But it wasn't even close. And despite my husband (then boyfriend) being brave enough to come along with my daughter and I and start this new life together out west, it just never felt right there. We just couldn't get settled. We couldn't get to a place where the future we had pictured together seemed possible. We couldn't define what needed to shift. And despite crossing the 30's threshold, we couldn't possibly imagine starting a family in that life and place.

Through all of this, my daughter moved into her teenage years, and despite being very close when she was younger, she suddenly wanted nothing to do with me. It became painfully obvious that though my school was finally done and I was ready to focus more fully on her, she no longer had any interest in focusing on me. That ship had sailed, so to speak, and I had missed my boat. That was hard. That was very hard. And it made me reflect a lot on my plans to start a family again soon. The role I wanted to play in my new children's life and the type of mother I wanted to be. As my regret grew, I also stopped giving a crap what other people thought about how capable I was. I had gotten a PhD for cripe sakes. What more could they expect of me? And it was my right to decide what I wanted to do with that degree from that point on. Obviously, it was always my right. But that was when I finally realized it.

So anyways, long story short, with my boyfriend's blessing, I quit my high paying job and decided to become a stay at home mother with over $100K in student loans instead. It was a rough few years of transition. At this point, my husband finally makes a pretty decent income. Almost as much as I used to (and adjusted for the midwest, probably a lot more). But with three kids, primarily one income, and a student loan payment of over $600/month, it never goes as far as it seems like it should. It's going to take us a while to get out of this mess. And though we are now over 4 years into this new life path, it's hard sometimes to accept where we are now compared to where we used to be. Hard to know that we will probably never live in a beautiful home/location like that one ever again. That it will be years, eons, before we can afford another fancy trip. That given the realities of our budget, money is going to continue to feel like a struggle for probably at least another 5 or so years until I'm working again. My husband and I find that hard. And depressing. And Dave would probably just say "What did you expect!?!"

...A chance to live a life much different than the one my parent's gave me I guess. A chance to feel like I had enough money to never be trapped in a relationship that was bad for me. A certainty that my children would always have enough to eat, as well as year books and new clothes and maybe even stories about trips to Disney World with our family last summer. I probably didn't need a $100K education to secure all those things, but it was an emotional journey for me that took a while to figure out.

For now, I comfort myself with the fact that though this is not always the life of my dreams, it is finally the life of my choice. I am choosing to be much poorer than I could be. I am choosing to temporarily give up most personal and intellectual pursuits (though I did start a secret blog!) so that I will have fewer regrets next time about the mother I am to my children. I could do it differently, and from time to time I check in and make sure this is what I still want. So far it is. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 0 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99539] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) [21496] => Array ( [category_id] => 21496 [category_name] => Shopping [category_stub] => shopping ) ) [entry_id] => 99539 [entry_title] => Apparently We're Good at This [entry_stub] => apparently-were-good-at-this [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/apparently-were-good-at-this_99539/ [entry_date] => 1355426799 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-13 13:26:39 [entry_text] => I keep trying to find more things we can do, something we must be missing, to make this debt thing go faster. So far, no luck. If anything, the book I checked out from the library recently (did you hear that, the library not the book store) called "Your Money: The Missing Manual" made me feel like we're taking this more seriously than I sometimes feel we are. Consider all these recommended measures we have implemented:

Cancelling cable: As of last week, Check! My husband's company pays for the internet portion of our bill already. And our recent purchase of an Apple tv will pay for itself in less than two months of not paying for cable.

Get rid of home phone: We got rid of our home phone line a couple months ago since we were really only using our cell phones anyways. This has been causing us to use more of our cell phone roll over minutes though, so I'm hoping we won't have to up that eventually.

Cancel monthly subscriptions: To my surprise when we began this, hubby volunteered to cancel his Audible subscription until our debt was paid off and just re listen to old favorites instead. We also cancelled our Netflix a few months ago since we hardly ever used it and I've already decided not to renew Newsweek this coming year. Half the issues never get read anyways.

Make a Unit Price Grocery Spreadsheet: Still working on that but I have started to collect that info and I'm already getting the hang of when something is a good price. I have also learned to...

Use Coupons Wisely: I do not fall for buying things with coupons that a) I wouldn't usually get anyways b) are still more expensive than the store brand or another location. This also meets his suggestion to...
Discard Brand Loyalties: Even for toilet paper, I got over it.

Buy In Bulk - When it Makes Sense: Hello new big box warehouse store membership. Can't believe how much money we've saved there (per unit price at least!) so far.

Waste Not: Finally plugged in the big freezer downstairs again and started labeling and storing all left over canned and other items. I've even started buying things like yogurt in bulk, freezing it before it goes bad and then thawing it as needed. Its a little more liquidy than it would have been but still tastes fine (the boys don't know the difference!).

Shop Less: Not a problem. There's no money anyways and neither hubby or I were ever big shoppers. Probably the biggest success in this area though was when we separated our checking account into discretionary and non-discretionary expenses and then limited ourselves to a budgeted discretionary amount. In theory we were doing that before, but since I didn't track where each individual purchase went, it was hard to know how well we were sticking to it. I still don't always track it that closely. But now, when the discretionary money's gone, its gone. And so that takes care of that.

Replace Light Bulbs w/ Florescent: Done! We even got a Groupon for a home energy checkup a month or so ago in which we also got some weather stripping applied to a couple doors and well as thermometers to check refrigerator/freezer and water heater temps. We would have gotten more but they said we were already doing great on most everything else! Especially considering our gas energy company gave us a rebate to get our attic re-insulated this past summer which has already significantly impacted our energy bills.

Increase/decrease the setting on your programmable thermostat: We haven't made any huge sacrifices here compared to people I hear setting their winter thermostat to 65F or waiting until Halloween to even turn on heat but we have lowered our winter setting from 75F to 72F and raised our summer setting from 72F to 74F. It not much I know, but we do have two year old boys and I don't want them to be too cold or not sleep well. Bedroom space heaters make me nervous with such little ones (and I don't think they could be trusted with them once we switch to "big kid" beds), and we haven't had the money yet to invest in summer ceiling fans.

Play Board Games for Fun: We don't always play board games, but hubby and I have completely let go of our monthly night outs for the next year and turned all our date nights into at home affairs instead. We always make a nice dinner together after the boys are in bed and then talk or watch a movie or something.


So those are all the things we're doing right. Perhaps I will devote my next entry to all the things we could still improve though I worry it will just turn into a big excuse fest! Wink
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 0 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99522] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21492] => Array ( [category_id] => 21492 [category_name] => Investing [category_stub] => investing ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 99522 [entry_title] => The Big Picture [entry_stub] => the-big-picture [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/the-big-picture_99522/ [entry_date] => 1355371250 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-12 22:00:50 [entry_text] => This may be simply an exercise in idealistic dreaming, but I want to paint for you (or maybe mostly just me) a picture of how I see this new financial plan unfolding for us in the coming years. Cause I have big, unrealized but hopefully not unrealistic, dreams. In Dave Ramsey's book, he tells you that it takes most people about seven years to reach Baby Step 7: Build Wealth. Longer still to get to the Pinnacle Point where your money finally starts working harder than you have to. Certainly, that is the long term goal. And the short term goal is the credit card/car payment debt payoff I've already outlined. But it'd be nice to have a picture of our mid-term plan as well. Especially given that I don't think we will be following the Baby Steps precisely.

So, one year out, give or take a few months, and hopefully our small debts (non-mortgage/student loan) will be paid off. At that point we will hopefully be more used to getting by with a lot less monthly discretionary income. Maybe we can at least add enough back in to be able to go on monthly date nights again though. But I don't want to get too slack because we still have a lot or work to do. Baby Step 3 is to Finish the Emergency Fund, which he defines as 3-6 mos. worth of expenses. For us, that would roughly be $15K-$30K.

Projecting out both raises and expenses, once we get our small debts paid off, I think we could save roughly $25K/yr. So, that should take us 7-14 mos. depending on how much cushion we want. My thought is that we should save as much as possible, setting aside the minimum $15K to touch only for emergencies, but then factor in the fact that our family SUV will be 15 years old (already has 223K miles) by then. I am fine with driving it until it dies, but its pretty much a given that that is going to be before too much longer (please, please, please not this year!). I am also fine with not getting a new car when it does die. But I would prefer to get something gently used with at least a few more bells and whistles than our current one has. I think we could probably get something 5-6 years old for between $15-$20K.

That's not the only big ticket item we need to save for though. In a few more years, the boys will be ready to start school and I will be more than ready to jump back on the career train. But that is probably going to require a bit of retraining on my part, and I am not willing to take out any more student loans. (Above and beyond the $105K I already put my foot down on of course). So, if I want to go back, which I very much do right now, we will need to save for that too. I am conservatively estimating about $20K for that right now, plus after school daycare (maybe $5K? Though that will be more of an on-going expense), but given the rising cost of education these days, who knows?

The point of all this speculating is to point out that with these extra purchases, the time it takes up to save about $30K for an emergency fund is going to be more like 2-3/4 to 3 years rather than 14 mos. That's a long time. And who knows how many set backs there might be in the meantime. At some point, hubby's car will need to be replaced as well, though it is 5 years newer than the SUV at least. But I guess I'm okay with it as long as we get to Baby Step 4: Retirement Investing, by the time I re-graduate, which I am predicting will be in 5-6 years. If we get to that step before I graduate, then I guess we will start putting at least the company matching amount into hubby's 401K. Actually, if we don't get to that step before 40, we probably should do a lot more than that, and I kind of doubt we will. Once I do graduate and start working again though, we are going to kick step 4's butt.

And then we get to Baby Step 5: College Funding for the kids. Except we're going to re-package that one as college payoff for the adults. By then my daughter will be done with college (or darn well better be at least). Until we get fabulously wealthy, I have done the best I can for her by insisting that she go to a school where she would graduate with a maximum of $40K in debt. Still a lot I know, but less than half as much than me, and within the amount considered reasonable by the income to debt calculators. She hated me for it at the time, but now seems mostly happy.

I am hoping that with a new masters degree I will be able to make at least $50K, although about half of that will probably have to go towards retirement, and the rest will get taxed. But lets just say that after stocking up our emergency fund, we have about $25K/yr extra from hubby's income and $25K/yr from mine. So $50K/yr extra after I start working to do with what we will. (OMG, is that really possible?) What to do with all that cash?? Pay off my damn student loans!! If we stick to the plan, that should take us only two more years. At that point, we can look into some minimal investing for the boys' college (and maybe some back pay for my daughter). But they are going to be expected to chip in as well because we are heading off to...

...Baby Step 6: Pay Off the Mortgage! Honestly, not quite sure what's going to happen when we get to this step because you see, before we focus on paying off the mortgage, we'd like to focus instead of getting the house we'd really like to have. The exciting thing is, once the student loan is paid off, we could afford about $600 more per month for a mortgage without changing anything else. Assuming the market continues to improve, we should also have a fair amount of equity at this point, having lived here for about 11 years. I am not sure yet whether we would rather buy or remodel. It will probably depend a lot on the location of our jobs at that point. There are some things I really like about both this home and this area, but our home was built in the 1960's and it really needs some updating. I think it would take between $175K-$200K to get it to where we want it, and only about 60% of that could be recouped in re-sale value. Whether or not that's worth it will depend largely on what we could get for the same value given the housing market at the time.

I also really like Dave Ramsey's idea of taking out only a 15 year mortgage and keeping your mortgage payment to less than 25% of your take home pay. Whether we decide to buy or remodel, I do very much want to keep those rules in mind. After all our hard work, I certainly do not want to end up house poor. It will be hard to feel like we can't afford just about whatever we want once we've taken care of all that other debt. And I do love big, pretty homes. Nonetheless, regardless of what we choose to do, at that point it should be a maximum of 15 years until we are entirely debt free, and if we continue with the $50K/yr rule, I think we could take that down to 6 years.

Which means this is more like a 14 year than a 7 years plan for us, but by the time we enter our 50's, it is very possible we will have no debt remaining (maybe we'll bump up the boys college fund at that point) and hopefully by the time we hit our 60's we will have reached that fabled Pinnacle Point which will leave us set for a long, happy retirement. Its certainly not a get rich quick scheme. which makes it seem somewhat more believable. Though it will certainly require a lot of dedication and sacrifice. But it seems like by the time the boys graduate from high school, we will finally have both the time AND money to do all sorts of things.

So that's the big picture. And now back to Baby Step 2.
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 6 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) ) -->

TMM Year 2

October 20th, 2013 at 04:58 pm

It's been forever, I know. Not sure what the deal is with all this crazy /// nonsense in my info section since I left either. Anywho...

This Oct marks the beginning of the second year for hubby and I's Total Money Makeover. And how far have we gotten in a year? Well, considerably farther than we pictured ourselves one year ago for sure. We originally thought we'd be nearing the end of our credit card payments about now, and just starting to work on the car loan. The was before we discovered what the power of a budget and willpower can actually do. So instead we finished both by the end of July.

On the other hand...we are considerably less far than we had pictured ourselves being by now last June. Our revised goal was to have the initial $5000 for our emergency fund fully stocked by now, as well as kicking off the retirement 401k we need so badly and also making headway towards the "new" car we need. Instead we are in a much more dangerous no man's land somewhere between Baby Step 2 and Baby Step 3. I don't feel we are derailed from our TMM, but we do need to start getting this show on the road again soon.

So what have we been doing instead of all those June goals? Well, a lot of home stuff actually. Things we put off forever while dealing with our CC debt. We finally got a new toilet for downstairs (which lowered out water bill by $35/month!). We got a few trees cut down that had died and got our gutters cleaned out. We are also getting a large rip in our kitchen linolium repaired as well as some baseboards re-added that we never replaced after our mold damage issue a couple years ago.

We're getting our radon remitigation system installed this week ($1200). And we also had to take care of a couple big car repairs as well as buying hubby a new suit for job interviewing after all the weight he lost. Additionally, we finally replaced a few items that were wearing out. Like hubby's desk chair that was held together by duct tape and the kitchen rug that was coming apart at the seams. And we also spent more than typical on entertainment too, given it was summer and we had more family outings than usual.

Some of that stuff qualifies as emergency fund type things. Some doesn't. But it's all stuff we've been wanting to take care of forever and I'm glad we did it. By the end of this month we should be done with all that and ready to begin on Baby Step 3 for real. Trouble is, the boys are finally in preschool and I am finally going back to school myself to begin a second career. My first tuition/books payment will be due this Dec (just in time for Xmas) and is probably going to be around $2000. Long story short, I don't think we're going to be able to start the 401k until about Jan instead of Sept like we had planned and that sucks.

Regardless, compared to where we saw ourselves a year ago, we are doing much, much better indeed. Hopefully by this time next year we will be finished with Baby Step 4 and be looking ahead to a bright financial future!
Feb 2014
Start 6% 401K withdrawals: Sept 2013----->Feb/Mar 2014
Save for/Pay off "new" car: May 2014----->Feb 2015

As I said: Ugh.

A new reflection though: I saw on FB recently that an old friend of mine I've lost touch with the past few years, is selling her house. She has been dying for a bigger house for years, and her husband had a well paying job. But they also had a lot of debt and not the best of spending habits, and with the housing market crash they felt completely stuck.

About 4 months back, her husband's department was downsized and he was laid off. He had a few months severance though and lots of job interview lined up, so they weren't too concerned at the time. Thus, when I saw her recent FB posting, I at first assumed he had found something even better and that with the housing market upswing they were finally able to afford the new home they have been wanting.

But then I read further. Turns out, they are not buying a new one, just selling the old one. She didn't elaborate more but a quick check on LinkedIn confirmed what I feared; her husband has been out of work since Oct. Now I am purely speculating at this point, but given what I know of their past financial situation, it's not at all hard to draw a line that without a high paying job, the large debts have are going to sink them once the severance pay ends, and they are trying to find a source for more funds.

I say all this not to gossip or point fingers (presumably, you have no idea who I'm even talking about), and I actually feel very bad for her, though not really close enough anymore to question her about such a personal matter. But for me, she is such a stunning reminder of why hubby and I are doing all this.

Our financial situations were close enough at one time that it is easy for me to picture how something very similar could have happened to us, had we not begun to exercise financial restraint. But I admit that it was very hard for me to hear about their fancy trips, and see their pretty new cars and how beautifully decorated the inside of her home was. I wanted those things too. I wanted to look that good as well. But we were pouring all our extra cash into debt and had nothing visual to show for it.

We are still a long way from where we want to be. And without more savings, we are still not even insulated from going through something similar ourselves were hubby to lose his job. But we have no credit card or car debt dragging us down anymore. And we have a very clear picture of our budget and of the steps we need to take to get from A to B. So, even though this is a total drag, and even though I feel like it's taking way longer than it should, reflecting on where we could be instead leaves me still feeling thankful about where we are. Maybe not happy, but thankful. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [105872] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 105872 [entry_title] => Commencing Baby Step 3 [entry_stub] => commencing-baby-step-3- [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/11/24/commencing-baby-step-3-_105872/ [entry_date] => 1385315344 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-11-24 11:49:04 [entry_text] => We've finally finished wading through all the home maintenance projects (including an unexpected $1000 repair on the roof a couple weeks ago) and even set aside $1000 for Christmas. We've reached our family health deductible for the year and are scheduling appts like mad for these next few weeks to take full advantage of paying only 20% rather than 100% for the rest of the year. And we were also incredibly blessed to have my aunt unexpectedly send me a check to cover my first semester of tuition and books for the community college I will be starting at in Jan. And so, with that all finally behind us, it's time to commence on our TMM baby step 3 (beef up emergency fund to cover 3-6 months of expenses).

It has been almost 4 months since we finished baby step 2, so I am relieved to finally be getting back on track again. We made a lot of prudent purchases and repairs, but as the money kept flowing out rather than in, I worried that our financial plan had become derailed. Apparently though, even without CC debt, we do still have some motivation and dedication to this plan after all. And it's time to buckle down again.

My main goal for this coming financial year is to see our next worth begin to rise finally. Although given it is currently -$46K, it might be more accurate to say we want to see our gaping net worth hole begin to be filled in. It's actually much better now that it was a year ago. Partly because of paying off the CC's and car loan. But also in a large part due to home values bouncing back again finally, and we can't really take credit for that. Plus that part could go again as easy as it came.

But I was realizing the other day that we are at an exciting point none that less because from here on out, we will mainly be investing in ourselves. Even the $25K we hope to save for a "new" vehicle over the next year and a half will be savings converted into an asset, rather than simply blown out the window. And yes, yes, I know their will be depreciation, but you get my point. We're finally investing in our own net worth. And that is exciting!

Plus, during the open enrollment period this year we made sure to max out our HSA contribution for next year, as well as bump up the life insurance and disability policies a little bit. And it feels wonderful to know we are getting an adequate financial safety net into place. Almost like we're becoming real adults finally!

From this point on though, we're going to be breaking a bit from strict compliance to the TMM plan. For instance, we're going to start baby step 4 (retirement savings) as soon as we get $5000 towards baby step 3. Which should be by the end of Jan if we practice restraint over Xmas. We are way too old to be putting it off any longer and we're going to be doing baby step 3 for quite some time. We want our final emergency fund to be around $20K, but we need to buy a car along the way, so almost as soon as we get it we're going to empty it out and start again.

I consider this an EF worthy purchase though because, as discussed previously, our current family vehicle is a 1999 and has over 225K miles. It's just not going to be around much longer, and when it does finally die, it will certainly be an emergency. After doing a lot of research we decided that the most financially wise options were to either buy a cheap 7-8 year old car in decent condition and plan to cover fairly regular repairs until we can afford an upgrade. Or to buy a reliable low mileage 1-2 year old vehicle that shouldn't need much work for a few years, and which would be just as affordable as long as we keep driving it at least 10 years. And given how very tired we are of highly used vehicles at this point, we have decided to go for the 2nd option.

We're going to save as much as we can for it until May and then get a loan for the remainder. We want to give the old one to our daughter when she comes home from college for the summer so that she will have her own vehicle to get to and from her summer job. And then we're going to pay off the car loan as fast as possible, though right now it's looking like Feb 2015 before we get there.

So that's the plan right now. Hubby is in the process of applying for new jobs that pays more though, and if one of them pans out, maybe we can even do this without a car loan. Hoping for the best!

[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [105329] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 105329 [entry_title] => TMM Year 2 [entry_stub] => tmm-year-2 [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/10/20/tmm-year-2_105329/ [entry_date] => 1382288284 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-10-20 11:58:04 [entry_text] => It's been forever, I know. Not sure what the deal is with all this crazy /// nonsense in my info section since I left either. Anywho...

This Oct marks the beginning of the second year for hubby and I's Total Money Makeover. And how far have we gotten in a year? Well, considerably farther than we pictured ourselves one year ago for sure. We originally thought we'd be nearing the end of our credit card payments about now, and just starting to work on the car loan. The was before we discovered what the power of a budget and willpower can actually do. So instead we finished both by the end of July.

On the other hand...we are considerably less far than we had pictured ourselves being by now last June. Our revised goal was to have the initial $5000 for our emergency fund fully stocked by now, as well as kicking off the retirement 401k we need so badly and also making headway towards the "new" car we need. Instead we are in a much more dangerous no man's land somewhere between Baby Step 2 and Baby Step 3. I don't feel we are derailed from our TMM, but we do need to start getting this show on the road again soon.

So what have we been doing instead of all those June goals? Well, a lot of home stuff actually. Things we put off forever while dealing with our CC debt. We finally got a new toilet for downstairs (which lowered out water bill by $35/month!). We got a few trees cut down that had died and got our gutters cleaned out. We are also getting a large rip in our kitchen linolium repaired as well as some baseboards re-added that we never replaced after our mold damage issue a couple years ago.

We're getting our radon remitigation system installed this week ($1200). And we also had to take care of a couple big car repairs as well as buying hubby a new suit for job interviewing after all the weight he lost. Additionally, we finally replaced a few items that were wearing out. Like hubby's desk chair that was held together by duct tape and the kitchen rug that was coming apart at the seams. And we also spent more than typical on entertainment too, given it was summer and we had more family outings than usual.

Some of that stuff qualifies as emergency fund type things. Some doesn't. But it's all stuff we've been wanting to take care of forever and I'm glad we did it. By the end of this month we should be done with all that and ready to begin on Baby Step 3 for real. Trouble is, the boys are finally in preschool and I am finally going back to school myself to begin a second career. My first tuition/books payment will be due this Dec (just in time for Xmas) and is probably going to be around $2000. Long story short, I don't think we're going to be able to start the 401k until about Jan instead of Sept like we had planned and that sucks.

Regardless, compared to where we saw ourselves a year ago, we are doing much, much better indeed. Hopefully by this time next year we will be finished with Baby Step 4 and be looking ahead to a bright financial future!
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [103651] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21492] => Array ( [category_id] => 21492 [category_name] => Investing [category_stub] => investing ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 103651 [entry_title] => Closing In [entry_stub] => closing-in [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/07/13/closing-in_103651/ [entry_date] => 1373733962 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-07-13 11:46:02 [entry_text] => Almost at the finish line for TMM baby step 2: debt snowball. Actually, we could have been there on July 19th, but, the laptop hubby has been wanting for so long went on sale for the 4th of July week. We saved $100 by buying it now and pushing the fridge payoff out one more paycheck (Aug 2). Which I think is fine given it's no interest for 3 more months and definitely will be paid off on the 2nd. We chose snail speed shipping though to save on that part, so it will still be another week or so before he gets it, but I'm sure he will be very happy when it finally arrives!

We are starting to look into what the next financial steps are. Dave Ramsey says baby step 3 should be saving a 3-6 month emergency fund (building on the $1000 one from baby step 1). That would be about $18,000 for us and would take quite some time. And in the meantime, we would still not be taking advantage of the 3% 401K matching hubby's company offers (not to mention just plain starting to save for retirement period, even though we're both entering our late 30's.) Additionally, our '99 SUV is probably not going to last much longer and certainly will be an emergency when it dies. And we want our next car purchase to be a slightly used, reliable family vehicle with low miles that we can count on driving for at least 8-10 years.

So, we're thinking of taking a middle of the road approach. I've opened a money market account with Ally bank and transferred our $1000 emergency fund there. As soon as the fridge is done we are going to work on building that up to $5000 as fast as possible. After that, we have some home maintenance issues we have been putting off forever that we need to take care of. Getting all of that accomplished is going to push us well into the end of Oct.

But once we're there, we are going to start putting 6% of hubby's paychecks into the company 401K (the maximum matching amount). And come open enrollment in Nov we are also going to up our HSA/FSA medical contributions to the max for the coming year. That's going to take quite a dent out of our monthly income, but with all the debt we've now paid off (as well as the decrease in taxable income from the 401K/HSA/FSA), we should still be able to raise our entertainment budget from what it has been these past 9 months, and still work towards saving for a new vehicle.

We originally wanted to save for it completely before purchasing, which would have taken about a year, but our daughter really needs a car for the college internship she wants to do next summer. Assuming the SUV is still running then, we'd like to pass it off to her by next May so she can do that. That said, we should be 80% of the way there by May with hubby's bonus, so it shouldn't be too bad to take out a small loan at that point and pay it off in 4-6 months.

At that point, I will be starting school again (just a few classes at a community college to begin with) so there will be some tuition to take care of. But we will also need to start kicking up our savings as well. I'm looking into a Roth IRA for that, and Ally bank seems like a good place to help us with it. Given that you can withdraw contributions without penalty if needed, I feel like this could double with retirement and most of our remaining 3-6 month emergency fund. Short of job loss, I doubt we will ever need more than the $5K we will already have set aside in the money market (which I will keep separate). And $18K seems like too much money to just have sitting in a low interest account, when it will likely never be used, while we make no progress on retirement. Dave Ramsey would not approve, and I'm still looking into the details, but right now that's the plan. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 7 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [103087] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) ) [entry_id] => 103087 [entry_title] => We Did It!!! [entry_stub] => we-did-it [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/06/11/we-did-it_103087/ [entry_date] => 1370976855 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-06-11 13:54:15 [entry_text] => Just a quick note to say: We Paid Off Our LAST Credit Card last week!! We reached our goal a full 7 months early! I am so happy to be done!!

Of course, now that the old debt is done, it is time to acknowledge the new debt for the fridge we purchased on store credit. It has no interest for 6 months and we plan to be done in half that time. I have updated my debt stats accordingly. This debt milestone would feel a lot more exciting though if we didn't now have this to take care of that debt too. But at least it's debt for only one physical object that we use literally every day, rather than for a whole bunch of things transferred from card to card for so long that we had no idea what it was we were even paying for anymore. It is also nice to look at my wedding ring now and know that it is completely paid for. Smile

We may or may not make much headway on the fridge debt this month. Depends how my home business goes this month; this tends to be a slow time of year. Our car was in need of a $675 repair this week and we have a plumbing issue too now that is probably going to be at least $300. But guess what? For the first time, we don't have to tap into our emergency fund to pay for that. The mechanic told us the amount and we just sighed and said, well, at least we know we've got it. That is a very nice feeling.

Really looking forward to the end of the summer when we will have taken care of the back log of expenses we put off forever while doing our debt payoff. Because that's when the real fun begins. The accumulation phase that will (finally!) prepare us for our future.
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 12 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [102806] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) ) [entry_id] => 102806 [entry_title] => A Talk with Hubby [entry_stub] => a-talk-with-hubby [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/05/27/a-talk-with-hubby_102806/ [entry_date] => 1369628147 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-05-26 23:15:47 [entry_text] => Many of you have pointed out to me that my hubby seems to be a reluctant partner in this Total Money Makeover of ours. To which I could not agree more. And it's certainly not as if that's something he and I haven't discussed. But its been a difficult topic for him. He feels like he works and works and works and yet has nothing to show for it (there's some truth to that right now). And generally speaking, since he lets me decide how to spend most of the money even though he makes most of the money, I try not to be too hard on him.

I did get annoyed enough the other night to bring it up again though. I was trying to have just a strategic, non-emotional discussion about what we should prioritize first once we finish paying off the last* credit card next month (*please ignore the fridge for now. I need that to be separate so I can be done, or I will implode.) But it once again turned in to a whine fest.

I managed to mostly keep my cool and said that while this certainly is hard, and there certainly is reason to whine about it occasionally, that shouldn't have to be the case every time money is discussed. That it made me feel like I was making him do this even though he has agreed many times that he feels it is what's best for us as well. That in order to feel like partners in it, I needed to just be able to talk strategy with him sometimes so that we could figure out how to best prioritize things together. I didn't say it all quite that nicely, but I did my best.

He didn't take it all that well at the time (it had been a long day and perhaps was not the best time to bring it up in retrospect). But later that night he did seem to come around some. And since then he has actually been much better. He even offered to put off getting the new laptop he so wants until the fridge payoff is done. We talked about how we might generate a report for him to look over after each paycheck so that he has a better understanding of how the numbers are moving (we're nerds like that). I told him that I was actually frustrated about it all the time too, and that if I didn't have my spreadsheet to look over and fiddle with almost daily I would probably be a wreck. Simple tasks like changing box shading from yellow to green to show it's completed do wonders for keeping me sane.

So, hopefully that was the talk that will finally change things. And we are so, so close. One more paycheck (don't talk to me about the fridge yet). It's really hard to not fixate on it. To a level of being unhealthy probably, but it's just been soooo long and part of me just can't believe that we're really about to frickin' do this. I keep checking and re-checking because it seems surreal. As if any moment a large, unforeseen expense will rise up and swallow us whole. But so far, the spreadsheet says we're on track. It says we're okay. Just one more paycheck...



[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 5 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [102098] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) ) [entry_id] => 102098 [entry_title] => Financial Goals [entry_stub] => financial-goals [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/04/10/financial-goals_102098/ [entry_date] => 1365562254 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-04-09 21:50:54 [entry_text] => Last post

Text is http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/30/save-now-live-later_101898/ and Link is
http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/30/save-no..., I was feeling pretty down about the state of our penny pinching lives right now. We've made great progress, but it's been all work, little play for quite a while now. This past couple weeks, I've been "running the numbers" and trying to figure out IF/WHEN and HOW MUCH fun money we might be able to squeeze in, while trying to meet our many financial goals over these next few years.

We're still putting most everything extra on hold until we finish paying off the credit cards in the next couple months or so. But I would like to start going on date night's out once every couple months again despite not being there yet. I'm fine with it just being something like TGIF's and a movie. Right now even McDonald's would be a splurge for us so that sounds great to me! But I want to get an actual baby sitter and not have to cook the meal myself. To watch an actual new release in movie seats rather than a rental on the couch. And to be able to start spending time with hubby before 8pm when the boys are finally in bed and our eyes are already getting droopy. This particular splurge, I am not willing to put off any longer. Even it it adds a little extra time to our goal. I need a life again. And once every two months hardly seems over the top.

The trickier part is what to allow when we do finally finish paying off all this debt. Not throwing hundreds, and even thousands into our credit cards each month will certainly free up some funds! But as discussed
Text is http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/25/march-madness-ends_101832/ and Link is
http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/25/march-m..., there are a lot of prudent ways those funds could and should be allocated. So we decided to determine which financial goals were our most important ones to meet in the first year after paying off our credit card/car loan debts. And to set aside the money for those things each month first. Here's what we came up with:

1) To replace the ancient fridge that is probably costing us a small fortune to operate and can barely hold a food safe temperature anymore. Also, all of the drawers are broken and every time the cheese drawer is pulled out it smooshes everything below. This was the single hardest item for me not to "splurge" on spending to replace.



2) Replace hubby's ancient desktop computer that needs rebooting at least once a day to even barely run these days. Preferably with a moderately priced and more portable laptop. Hopefully before, rather than after it bites the dust, but it's going to be close.

3) Get that $800 car repair for hubby's car that our mechanic mentioned is going to sneak up on us any day now.

4) Start putting in the maximum employer matching 401K contribution. At least it's pre-tax and won't be quite as big a chunk as it seems, but like it or not, it's the most important thing we can be spending our money on at this point.

5) Increase emergency fund from $1000 to $5000. Still far short of our long term goal, but it should be enough to cover, say, an ancient furnace that we were just glad made it through one more winter. Thankfully hubby's job is very stable right now.

6) Come re-enrollment this fall, up our HSA contributions to max that out too. That will be more than double what we're doing now but not doing so has totally bit us in the butt this year with unforeseen dental expenses (given that dental insurance is pretty much a joke). Long story short, I am going to be without a bottom right tooth for a while, and I would like to get that fixed soon.

7) Save about $12,500 for a "new" car. Again, preferably before the current one dies but that will also be cutting it close. In truth, we are going to rely on hubby's bonus next spring for about half of this. At the fortune 500 company he works for, it's a pretty sure bet. We even know pretty much how much it will be. If we're wrong though, we'd still rather get a small car loan that we paid off ASAP rather than wait any longer for any of these other things.


So those are the goals. There will be no family vacations in the foreseeable future, and we're going to keep date nights out at once every other month for now as well. We also will have not yet started saving for me to go back to school, and that will certainly need to be a priority in the year following. To say nothing of our longer term investing goals.

But thankfully, there is some wiggle room in there. A little cash for lunch with friends. Maybe a shirt from Kohl's and a new book once a month. Perhaps I can finally replace that pitcher I use every day that I'm missing the lid for? And we're definitely starting our Audible subscription again. We're going to have more fun. Ahh, the good life! Let me never take these small luxuries for granted again! [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 0 [contains_images] => 1 ) [101898] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 101898 [entry_title] => Save Now, Live Later [entry_stub] => save-now-live-later [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/30/save-now-live-later_101898/ [entry_date] => 1364658384 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-03-30 10:46:24 [entry_text] => We're making awesome progress on our debt. In the last 6 months we have paid off $16,406 in credit cards/car loans and we now have only $5900 to go. On paper, it looks really good. In life- it looks kind of bleak.

I have always struggled with living my life more in the past or future than in the present. The Now. I am good at putting off short term reward for long term gain. Hubby has a harder time with this, which is one reason he is so good for me in this regard. He helps to balance me out and remind me that life IS now. In turn, I help to give him direction so that he moves towards his longer term goals. This tug of war plays out in our total money makeover all the time, as it does with most everything in our marriage.

Recently though, I have hit an emotional wall that makes me realize I need to start focusing more on the Now. To put it bluntly, I am not enjoying my life right now. I miss working and having space for intellectual pursuits in my life outside of two year old play dates and fish sticks. I feel that me being home is what's best for them and I love them to pieces. But I am coming to accept that it is not what's best for me. None the less, they don't have a lot of part-time options for women with PhDs in science fields, and I didn't like what I did much before anyways, and I will need to be retrained before I can begin a new career path. Which will only be affordable if we stick to our financial plan and cut expenses now. For now, and the next few years, I'm stuck here.

And hubby and I have been working our butts off for this money makeover. I run after our darling boys all day while he works his day job. And then by night, once the boys are tucked in, we both spend at least half the nights a week doing our side jobs, which has created the surplus for our finances. But we have almost no time for ourselves or each other. We've turned all date nights into at home affairs and cut all plans for family vacations. We don't buy clothes, or toys or really anything that's not required. We stick to the plan. And it blows.

Part of why we have felt the need to push this hard in the short term is that we have been treading water financially for years now. With every increase in funds getting eaten up by something else unplanned for, I watched my goal of going back to school slip further and further away. We were always barely making ends meet. Always "a little bit short this month but next month should be better." Looking into the near future we could already see the big raise hubby was expecting being eaten up by needing to replace the family car that is on its last leg. And we have nothing for retirement. We needed to do something Now.

So we're doing this. And the credit cards part of it is almost done. Which is awesome. But if we don't want to just replace all that work with another car loan then we need to start saving pretty aggressively for a car as well. And there are a whole ton a medical expenses that have crept up recently that I don't even want to think about factoring in to the plan yet. And yet - life is NOW. Not when we finish saving for a "new" car or finally start that retirement fund or get money pulled together for me to go back to school. But now. And Now - I am miserable.

Clearly there has to be some balance here. It does no good to live high on the hog now and just be miserable in the future instead. But it is not healthy to put off everything Now for a future that may never come either. They used to say money doesn't buy you happiness. Though they're finding that's not actually true! (
Text is http://www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2013/01/25/money-does-buy-happiness-we-were-shocked-too/ and Link is
http://www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2013/01/25/money-does-...,
Text is http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2019628,00.html and Link is
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2019628,00....,
Text is http://www.wired.com/business/2012/12/wealth-happiness/ and Link is
http://www.wired.com/business/2012/12/wealth-happiness/). Regardless, I have never been a collector of things for my happiness. But money does buy experiences. And experiences are the stuff of life in my opinion.

In times past, I know it has definitely made me happier to have a fun family vacation to look forward to, or a fancy night out with hubby taking in dinner, wine and a show somewhere. It made me happy when I was able to splurge on a massage or a special outing with the boys. Though these things are fleeting without knowing they are financially backed by having the longer term goals of ones life fully funded as well. Again, I recognize there must be balance. But right now the balance is clearly too far to the future game, and we need to adjust that.

In the very short term we are going to restart monthly date night outs, though nothing too fancy until the credit cards are done (only 3 more months!). Then, we'll have to decide what additional changes we can make at that point, and which ones we need to put off at least until a new car, and the increased emergency fund, and the 401K and all that have been saved for. I don't know what the right balance is here because all these things are important. But my emotional outlook is making it very clear to me that our current answer is not where it needs to be right now. I will be working on sorting that out this coming month.

PS Please, please, pretty please, do not respond to this post with a list of low cost entertainment options that I could "fix" my problem with. And no, we do not have good options with family or friends for child care swapping right now. I am aware that these options exist and we are considering them too, but we want to feel able to enjoy some of the "finer" things in life as well. This is really more about giving myself permission to enjoy than it is about the actual solution. Once I feel it's allowed, coming up with the options should be the fun part!
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 9 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 0 [contains_images] => 0 ) [101411] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 101411 [entry_title] => Making Progress [entry_stub] => making-progress [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/03/02/making-progress_101411/ [entry_date] => 1362265644 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-03-02 17:07:24 [entry_text] => I am frustrated that I have not been able to keep up with this blog very well lately due to some other projects I have been working on. I think it is a really good outlet for the stress this financial overhaul creates in our lives sometimes. And I think its a really good tool for keeping us accountable. Should be able to put more time into it again by the end of this month though I think, so I'll have to be content with that for now.

As for where we're at right now, do you see that side bar?! Talk about progress! Yes, the windfall has finally begun. Hubby got his bonus from work, which was about $5K after taxes got done with it. Originally, I had planned on paying off credit cards first with that, but after reading A LOT of material of financial planning recently, I decided a better use would be to pay off the car first, due to its higher interest rate. So, that one is done! And that payoff alone increases our monthly income by $198/month. Yay!

We also got our state return, a little under $500, and with that and some other surplus, I did pay off 1 of our 4 credit cards as well, though that one only increases out bottom line by about $30/month so not as exciting. But still progress! Supposedly, the IRS is going to finally start processing returns for people with mortgage interest credits within the next week. So hopefully, we will get that soon too (assuming no audit as discussed previously:
Text is http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/death-and-taxes_100945/ and Link is
http://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/death-a...). And when we do, I plan to knock off a couple more cards, this raising our bottom line another $180/month. Wow, were we ever wasting a lot of money of this crap.

After that, it will just be the one big one left, which I'm hoping to have taken care of by the end of the summer, maybe sooner depending on how my business goes (summers tend to be slower). And then, we finally get to start the more fun part of personal finance: investing in ourselves.

Certainly we still have a lot of debt to pay off, between my student loans and our mortgage. Actually, even after paying off the the rest of the credit cards, I was disappointed to find that our net worth will still be around -$84K. Ouch. Though it is above the -$100K mark now for the first time in years. But as one financial planner I read stated, we're working really hard just to be worthless right now (ie $0 net worth).

None the less, after receiving some comments about how silly we are to not be taking advantage of the 401K matching hubby's company offers, I did a bit of research and decided in the end that, yes, we are being incredibly stupid not taking this free money and we need to get on that train ASAP, Dave Ramsey be damned. If we were being completely logical rather than emotional about it in fact, we would probably be prioritizing that even above our credit cards given that they have very low promotional interest rates. After much discussion though, we have decided we simply cannot bring ourselves to make this credit card thing go any slower. We feel spread much too thin as it is, and we need to be done with those debts and never use credit that way again. Our emotional sanity depends on it. Especially given how close we are.

If it were going to be something that was a few years away from being accomplished, like our mortgage and student loans, it might make sense to do it with more of a long view in mind. But we are literally within 3-5 months of our goal and our monthly income will increase by another $300 compared to now, once we sunset this. And that will certainly help our long term bottom line as well. That's our thinking at least. But at least we're almost there!

Anyways, very happy to be making some definite progress finally and looking forward to a 3 paycheck March this month as well! [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 4 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 0 [contains_images] => 0 ) [100947] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21491] => Array ( [category_id] => 21491 [category_name] => Food / Groceries [category_stub] => food-groceries ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) ) [entry_id] => 100947 [entry_title] => Feb Zero Dollar Budget [entry_stub] => feb-zero-dollar-budget [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/feb-zero-dollar-budget_100947/ [entry_date] => 1360431810 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-02-09 11:43:30 [entry_text] => Income:

Hubby's Job (after tax): $5271
Hubby's Hobby Income: $550*
My PT-WFH Job: $670*
Hubby's Bonus (after tax): $5104
(*subject to change, though usually for the better!)

Total Monthly Income: $11598 (umm...holy crap!)

Expenses:

Non-Fixed Expenses:
Groceries: $861
Gasoline: $188
Misc: $500
Entertainment: $250
Gifts: $10 (Valentine's Day Treat!)

Fixed Expenses:
Mortgage/Insurance: $1509
Student Loan: $619
Utilities (water/sewer, gas, electric, etc): $349
Services (phone, computer backup, garbage, cable*, etc.): $285
(*reimbursed through hubby's company)
Leftover Leaf Cleanup Bill: $150*
(*he still has not billed us and I'm not calling again. This is his last chance.)
Auto Insurance: $73
Credit Cards (minimum payments): $299
Auto Loan: $198
Early Childhood Program (spring session fee): $120

Total Expenses: $5525

Difference (to be applied towards credit cards): $6073 (woo hoo!)


Still need to do an accounting for how we did in Jan but I think I'm out of time this morning so it looks like it will have to wait again.
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 2 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [100945] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) ) [entry_id] => 100945 [entry_title] => Death and Taxes [entry_stub] => death-and-taxes [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/death-and-taxes_100945/ [entry_date] => 1360430275 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-02-09 11:17:55 [entry_text] => I had this entry all written last week, but the blog site was acting funny that day, and when I submitted it, it just went off into the oblivion somewhere. Was too annoyed to retype something right away, but I am trying really hard to get caught up today.

So anyways, apparently our $8000 some dollar tax return was a bit too good to be true after all. You see, that tax form our DD said was from her school, the one we thought we already had, was really from her 529K that we just opened this year. Entering that form changed the picture a bit because apparently, you do not qualify for education tax credits if you pay for education expenses using a 529K. Huh? What the heck is the point then? Well okay, I get that they are tax deferred and gain interest if you start when they're young. Ours was more of a savings account tool that would penalize withdrawing funds for non-education expenses. A disincentive we felt our spend thrifty daughter needed. (To be fair, she's done quite well with it.) None the less, our tax return will be at least $2000 less than we had thought due to losing the credit. And I have to amend. Frown

Really, it hardly matters because due to our mortgage interest credit and congress's ineptitude, our pending tax return will be delayed until lord only knows when anyways. I just hope they don't realize our mistake and allow me to fix it instead of holding the fund until I do (or auditing us!) because who knows how much longer that will take then. Had originally thought that check would be coming late this month but now we're thinking more like April. Boo!

Eventually I need to figure out how to adjust our with holdings so that our returns aren't so big. Our tax situation has changed so much over the past 4 years though that its hard to sort it all out. Buying a home, starting a small business, getting married, changing jobs, promotions, having twins, sending a child to college (while still paying on my own student loans). Turbo tax informs me that due to all these things, our effective tax rate is only 4.4% right now. So our checkbook may have taken quite a hit from all that, but we're beating Warren Buffet's tax rate, so we must be good! Probably makes us part of Romney's 47% though. Wink
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 1 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [100943] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) ) [entry_id] => 100943 [entry_title] => Hubby Got Promoted!!! [entry_stub] => hubby-got-promoted [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/02/09/hubby-got-promoted_100943/ [entry_date] => 1360428955 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-02-09 10:55:55 [entry_text] => The day we have been waiting for all year is finally here! Many of you pointed out previously that in the future we should probably not count so many of our eggs before they hatch so to speak. And yes, I know what you mean. I tend to always be about 5 years ahead of myself. That works well for some things in life, though not for others. This one was particularly hard because we *thought* this promotion was going to happen last year. His boss had suggested as much. Then we came to find that the company likes to get new managers feet wet for a year by giving them most of the new duties they will have, without the pay increase until the following year, after they see how it goes.

I get the logic that they don't want to end up promoting people who aren't going to be a good fit for management. But man that was an annoying year. We had thought it was already in the bag. And Hubby worked his butt off and understandably felt uncompensated for it. But no more! He broke the six figure income ceiling in fact! Well, more like scuffed it: he's getting exactly $100K now. But he also got a sweet $8000 bonus, though that'll be about $5100 once taxes get pulled out. Additionally, he gets an office and a garage parking spot. And he will now be eligible for even larger bonuses going forward. Possibly as much as 15% if he keeps "exceeding expectations".

But okay, okay, let's not go there yet. Let's let next years chickens come next year. How 'bout them eggs this year though! Wink We should be getting the bonus check next week. And once we do, CC#1 and #2 that you see on the side bar there should finally be gone! And just in time too, one of our balance txfr promotions is about to expire.

It may seem like a simple thing to send in a big check like this to a credit card that needs paying, but for us, this in and of itself is a debt victory. We were never disciplined enough to make that much headway before. We *might* have ended up paying off the smaller of the two. But we certainly wouldn't have knocked out that second one also (with some spare to throw at the third as well). So this is a big money management win for us.

Additionally, we should start seeing about $250 more each paycheck after taxes, and that will certainly help as well. Credit Card Free 2013, here we come!
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 5 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [100049] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 100049 [entry_title] => Our Debt Snowball [entry_stub] => our-debt-snowball [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/01/05/our-debt-snowball_100049/ [entry_date] => 1357369587 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-01-05 01:06:27 [entry_text] => This is it! The year we're going to conquer our credit card and car loan debt. Time to layout the plan so I can hold myself to it!

We are still only 3 months in to our Total Money Makeover. So far, getting our debt "snowball" rolling has been really slow going due to a number of unfortunate factors. Child support back-pay ended last month, and as glad as I am to finally be done with my ex-husband, it left a new $500 hole in our budget. We knew this was coming though, and could have handled it alone, but unfortunately, it overlapped with a slow quarter for me in my home business. I have been making only about 1/3 of my usual profits for this time of year. And then to make matters worse, just a month before Xmas my normally biggest contract of the year cancelled on me due to going out of business. That left us short another $1600, and was pretty much our Xmas "budget" out the window. The same week our newer car need a $1000 repair. Needless to say, its been rough.

The amazing part of all this though, (as I tried to explain to hubby tonight when he got all forlorn about how little actual credit card progress we've made so far), is that we have not dug ourselves in any deeper for once! Had we not started a budget and drastically reduced our spending in recent months, these problems would have crept up on as as they always did. With us already overspent and not knowing where we were going to come up with these extra funds. I would not have been at all surprised if we ended up putting at least $1000 or so on a credit card, even after wiping our emergency fund out. Nor would we have had any plan to restock the emergency fund before our tax return came in late Feb. But that's not how we're doing things these days.

Today, I can honestly say that we have not used a credit card in over a year, even for emergencies. That's a first. And that as of this Monday, despite Xmas being barely over, our emergency fund will be restocked with $1000. And that even after all that, if we stick to our budget, we may still have about $50 extra to put towards credit cards in Jan. That may not be much, but it's a heck of a lot better than where we would have been before all this.

But then Feb is where the real fun begins. The month we finally start getting some momentum on this debt snowball. Because due to circumstances previously discussed, we will be getting a huge tax return. Probably around $8000. And then come March hubby should be getting his annual bonus, which will probably be around $4500. And then in Apr., hubby's new promotion raise will kick in and he should start bringing home about $500 more a month (which BTW, cancels out that child support that ended. Sweet.).

In the past, we would have initially *said* we were going to put a large amount of this extra towards our credit cards. But as it got closer, our wish list would have grown and grown. We may have ended up throwing $1500 towards it, but the rest would have gotten set aside for "in case" or spent this way or that. Our goal this year though, is to send no less than $13,000 to our credit cards for the months of Feb & March combined. Hold me to this!

By the end of all this fortune we should have wiped out three of our four credit cards and will already be about 2/3 of the way to our 2013 debt goal. From that point on it will be more slow and steady progress. If we stick to it though, that last credit card should be gone by the end of June, and our car loan will follow at the end of Sept. And that will be it! Almost one year after we started to the date. And then on to baby step 3 we'll go!

If we stick to this plan, about 28% of our take home pay over the course of a year will go towards our credit card and car loan debts. Compare that with the only 7% progress we were making before. (And we were wondering why we were never getting anywhere?) A four fold increase. Not too shabby for only 3 months of restructuring. And who knows what else we'll come up with by then?

All of this, of course, is subject to change. I'll feel a lot more confident once the tax return, bonus and raise are in hand. Until then, they are only projections, not realities. (At least the fiscal cliff is done!) Also, who knows what else will happen with cars and appliances and goodness knows what else in the months ahead. I have estimated my business income a little on the low side to help offset this, but it being on the low side has been a reality for me as well lately, though one that is starting to improve. If necessary, we still have a 3 month buffer to make it to the end of 2013 credit card/car loan debt free!

All said and done, we have a plan, and now its time to get to it.

[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 10 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 0 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99544] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21496] => Array ( [category_id] => 21496 [category_name] => Shopping [category_stub] => shopping ) ) [entry_id] => 99544 [entry_title] => Taking the Bad with the Good [entry_stub] => taking-the-bad-with-the-good [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/taking-the-bad-with-the-good_99544/ [entry_date] => 1355427405 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-13 13:36:45 [entry_text] => (Last old entry!)

I haven't posted our month's end update yet because our financial situation this past week has been so in flux. In a recent post I talked a bit about hoping our Xmas shortfall might "magically" fix itself. And believe it or not, we actually have had a fair bit of good fortune magic come our way recently in terms of income.

Hubby's writing/website management hobby is really taking off! He's just landed a new deal that should pay a minimum of $300/month starting next week, and possibly up to $500 or more. And that's in addition to the $220 he was already making through another deal, plus some smaller bits on the side. All together that is more than enough to make up for the back pay child support that is now ending (last check tomorrow!) and also enough to bridge the income gap we were expecting for Dec/Jan.

Additionally, I've had a little bit of work come my way as well! My worse case budget scenario was assuming I would continue to have only about $140/month of income (that used to be more like $600). For at least Dec/Jan though, I think I can count on that being around $400 instead, so that's another extra $260 that also kind of feels like it just magically appeared in time for Christmas.

Were in not for the car repair that suddenly fell into our laps as well then, we would probably feel we were raking in the dough. But alas, this was no ordinary car repair. This was a $992 doosey. I'm not even sure we've paid that much for a car repair before. Usually when the repairs start getting that expensive and close together, the car is old enough that we decide its probably not worth it and time for a newer one instead. But this is hubby's car and we are still making car payments on it as it is. It's also the newer of our two vehicles and therefore not allowed to reach the end of its life first!

Anyways, that completely cleaned out the emergency fund. All but $10.17. So that's a little scary. Cause it's a good two and a half months until tax rebate season. Additionally, our discretionary account has only $4.81 in it, while even our fixed checking, which we use for things like the mortgage, has only $728.42. Not cool. Luckily, hubby gets paid tomorrow, though there are still lots more gifts to get. I should point out here that the order these fluctuations came in as was: my income increase (Oh, good, that will help a little), then the car (Oh, f**k. We're screwed again.), then hubby's income increase (Woo hoooo!!! We're saved!). It's been a long week.

We ended last month with about $260 surplus, which we would have liked to use to pay down our credit card debts given that that is the point of this whole thing. Unfortunately, as the month ended, we were projecting a $750 shortfall for Dec./Jan., so I felt I needed to hold on to that extra to help somehow bridge the gap. When my extra income came in, we had high hopes that end of Dec or at least Jan. might afford us some surplus after all. But then the car crapped out, and Dave Ramsey says our first priority now should be going back to baby step 1 to replenish the emergency fund. I'm not quite sure yet where that puts us in terms of catching up again, but it may well be Feb still. In the meantime, we will continue making our roughly $500/month in minimum payments.

More good news; some very preliminary numbers I ran in the newly released 2012 Turbotax seem to predict that we will be getting back around $8000 this year! Holy s**t! I think that's even bigger than when we got our first time home buyer's credit, though I might be wrong about that. We only claimed 4 deductions rather than 5 on hubby's W-4, so as to cancel out my estimated business taxes, but I didn't make very much compared to normal, so it ending up being a lot more withholding than we really needed. Plus, we get some kind of a $2000 education credit for my daughter starting college, since she is still a dependent on our taxes for this year. Yay!! Until the car died, we were considering buying a new fridge with some of that. But at this point, we may just muddle through and try to just get done with this ASAP. Hopefully by next Xmas we'll be on baby step 3!
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 4 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99542] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21496] => Array ( [category_id] => 21496 [category_name] => Shopping [category_stub] => shopping ) ) [entry_id] => 99542 [entry_title] => Cancelling Christmas (Except Not!) [entry_stub] => cancelling-christmas-except-not [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/cancelling-christmas-except-not_99542/ [entry_date] => 1355427101 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-13 13:31:41 [entry_text] => (Only a couple old ones left...)

So bad news this week. That big job I usually get this time of year that has paid for the last couple Christmases will not be happening this year. Or anymore at all actually; it appears they have gone out of business. And given how much we were counting on it, that is quite a bummer.

The net effect of this is that Dec and Jan are not going to be just tight as I've mentioned, they are going to be negative in terms of cash flow. Even putting off getting the new tires we need, and even adding in the savings we scraped out of this month, I estimate we are still going to be about $500 short by the end of Jan. And given that bonuses and tax returns won't come in until the later half of Feb, the first half of that month is not going to be pretty either. Things have already felt so tight on this Total Money Makeover that it's hard for me to even picture how much more this is going to suck now.

Given all this, and in the spirit of maintaining gazelle intensity for our debts (I mentioned I hated that phrase, right?), it seems we probably should cancel Xmas this year. Or presents at least, that is. In fact, that would simple act alone would about take care of that $500 shortfall we have (so would winning that $500 million Powerball right now, but I digress). But we are not going to do that. Does this mean we are not really serious about our Total Money Makeover? I don't know, perhaps. But I just can't. It would be too sad for me and I think my husband would just lose it. We would lose our drive to do this because it just wouldn't feel worth it anymore. We're going to be smart about it and stick to our budget, but we're going to have Xmas, so tough.

So where is this $500 going to magically appear from then you ask? That's a good question. Cause we do have $1000 sitting in our emergency fund still, but we all know how Dave Ramsey feels about acting as if Xmas is an emergency. Well, one solution is that it might magically appear. Okay, okay, not magically. But so far hubby's side writing hobby has been bringing in a little more money than expected each month. I think its quite possible we could end up with up to $250 more from that then I currently have budgeted. Also, I could get another job through my business (hah!). I mean, probably not this month, but it could happen. At one time, I made over $20K/yr with this little side gig. (Will probably be lucky to hit even $6K this year.)

Other, less magical avenues include the possibility of me getting a very part-time job in the evenings. I'm looking into this and will in fact be putting in an application by the end of the week I hope. Not sure I will do it for any longer than necessary, but I feel I must do something. It just sucks because I will probably make only a quarter as much per hour for my efforts doing that then for my business. But a quarter as much still meets the gap my business is just not producing right now. I really hope that changes again eventually. Frown

If worse comes to worse though and none of those things pan out, I guess we will be tapping into the emergency fund. All I can say in our defense is that I promise we will pay it back in February. Needless to say, there will be no extra credit card/car payments for the next 3 months. Our minimum payments total to almost $500/month though, and our credit cards are all no interest promotions, so as long as we don't use those, we'll still be chipping away at it. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 2 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99541] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 99541 [entry_title] => My Student Loan Baggage [entry_stub] => my-student-loan-baggage [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/my-student-loan-baggage_99541/ [entry_date] => 1355427008 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-13 13:30:08 [entry_text] => One of the few topics in Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover that really irks me is his discussion of student loan debt. I'm not saying his points are all without merit. But when he talks about credit cards, he seems to understand that the mental/emotional game is just as important, perhaps even more important, than the financial one. And so he recommends paying off your lowest balance card before your highest interest card, purely so you can see results sooner. And I totally get that. But he does not allow for the same types of emotional weakness when it comes to student loans. Consider the rant of his in this link for instance:
Text is http://www.daveramseyfan.com/dave-ramsey-rants-stupid-on-education/ and Link is
http://www.daveramseyfan.com/dave-ramsey-rants-stupid-on-edu... Ouch. That's all I can say. And since I am one of those previously professional, now stay-at-home mom's with over $100K in debt he's ranting about, it can't get much more personal than that.

When I look back over my life, there is only place I can think of that I maybe should/would have made a different decision about my education. And that was when I chose to keep pursuing a PhD in a field I wasn't sure was a good fit for me, instead of being willing to start graduate school over, or at least stop with a masters. Given that my graduate tuition was paid for, however, and that I was receiving a stipend for most of my living expenses, cutting out that leg of the journey wouldn't have changed that much. Maybe $20K less at best.

Growing up, we were poor. Like free school lunch, hand me down clothes from cousins, can't afford a school yearbook poor. I vividly remember my mom dividing one family size can of spaghettios between the 4 of my sisters and I, plus a glass of milk, for lunch. I was a small, hungry, skinny and very active kid, who hung out a lot at my friend's houses bumming snacks. My mom and dad fought constantly, and would have no matter what, but certainly a major theme of their blowouts was money. There was never enough of it, and it seemed that would never change. My mom often grew wistful in private about how, despite how smart she had been, she had dropped out of college after only a year or so at her first husband's insistence (my father) and never found her way back once the babies started coming with her second. And worse, how she could never leave her abusive second husband because she could never support the 5 of us on her own.

I'm not sure how directly it was ever stated, but I grew up with the clear impression that it was absolutely imperative that I go to college some day so that I would be able to support myself without a man. But that there would be absolutely no financial help for me to do so. This was further complicated by my step-father's abusive put downs of me compared to my sisters, and his continuous proclamations that I was never going to be good enough for anything.

Given the trouble I was often into growing up in a home like that, there were many years it seemed like he was right. There were many years I didn't bother with homework. For a period of time, I was suicidal. And I was pregnant before I was out of high school. But I harbored a deep, driving need to prove him wrong as well. And despite his insults otherwise, I was actually quite intelligent. And seriously driven to believe that there was a way out of my childhood and into the type of future I had always dreamed of. Halfway through high school, I turned over a new leaf and started to show what I was capable of academically, though my new daughter senior year complicated things a bit.

When I was applying to colleges, the last thing on my mind was the amount of money I was taking out in student loans. Certainly I qualified for every need based option possible, not to mention a few merit based ones as well. Imagining what that payback would look like 5 to 10 years down the road when I finally had a real job and was out of this mess seemed besides the point. My burning questions were: Am I really capable of this? A 4 year degree at a respectable university with a child? What if they see only what my step-dad saw? What if I am doomed to repeat the same life for my daughter as the one that was given to me?

But I got in and I did my best. My first year I did outstanding actually, but the second year my young marriage began to fall apart and afterwards, it took a couple years of struggle before my daughter and I found a new equilibrium. My last two years of undergrad I did much better for the most part, and somewhere during that time, I realized that to become anything more than a lab rat with my degree, I would need to apply for graduate school. In this sense, Dave's rant doesn't completely apply to me. I did understand that I needed to be highly marketable to pay for all this.

At that point in life, I was pretty clear that I wanted to be a working mother. I loved my daughter dearly, and was very much looking forward to being done with school and having more time eventually. But I was the kind of person who got depressed without something intellectual to pursue. Something for myself separate from my role as a mother. Perhaps partly because I had become a mother before I had gotten time to be just myself. As exhausting as it was during the semesters, school holidays were often worse because I just got so depressed with nothing to work towards.

If you had told me that I would one day choose to be a stay at home mom, I would have laughed in your face. Dave can say that young women without kids yet have no idea how they're going to feel when they do, but I think that's overly simplistic and implies we all want to stay at home deep down. I'm a stay at home mom now, and I'm still not always sure its what I want to be doing. Furthermore, I already had a child at that point. I did know what it was like. If I could have had the option to work only part time with a young family, that probably would have been my first choice. But that is not a realistic possibility in most fields, least of all mine, and I was not unrealistic. I figured with a PhD, I could make enough that my future husband could stay home if we wanted.

Graduate school was hard though. Really hard. My fears about not being good enough were constantly at an edge when surrounded by so many other brilliant people. I had developed a fuzzy, idealistic picture of my doctoral field while leisurely pursuing undergraduate research with lower expectations I had no trouble meeting. This vision was shattered to make room for the more brutal and difficult reality of what higher academia really was. The relationship with my advisor slowly went from love to hate. Somewhere along the way, I began to question whether I was really doing this for myself, or just to prove that I could. Some days, I began to acknowledge that despite how far I had come, it was possible I was moving in the wrong direction.

That is the one point in my academic journey I regret. If I had been brave, or maybe even just less tired, I would have thrown in my first 2 1/2 years of research and allowed myself to start again in a new field. If I had done this, perhaps I would be happily pursuing my new career even now? I had an inkling of what at least some of those other possibilities could have been. It wouldn't have set me back more than a couple years (though that would have added even more to my debt!). But that light at the end of the tunnel I had been impossibly chasing for so long was finally so close. I had already passed my preliminary doctoral exam. I had my project all mapped out. I just needed to buckle down for 3 more years and do it.

And so that's what I did. I figured when I was done I could work on re-branding myself in an area of research I was more interested in for the job hunt. Instead, I found myself perfectly trained to do exactly the type of research I did not want to pursue. But it sure payed well. Even if it did necessitate moving halfway across the country.

It seemed like that would be enough, eventually. But it wasn't even close. And despite my husband (then boyfriend) being brave enough to come along with my daughter and I and start this new life together out west, it just never felt right there. We just couldn't get settled. We couldn't get to a place where the future we had pictured together seemed possible. We couldn't define what needed to shift. And despite crossing the 30's threshold, we couldn't possibly imagine starting a family in that life and place.

Through all of this, my daughter moved into her teenage years, and despite being very close when she was younger, she suddenly wanted nothing to do with me. It became painfully obvious that though my school was finally done and I was ready to focus more fully on her, she no longer had any interest in focusing on me. That ship had sailed, so to speak, and I had missed my boat. That was hard. That was very hard. And it made me reflect a lot on my plans to start a family again soon. The role I wanted to play in my new children's life and the type of mother I wanted to be. As my regret grew, I also stopped giving a crap what other people thought about how capable I was. I had gotten a PhD for cripe sakes. What more could they expect of me? And it was my right to decide what I wanted to do with that degree from that point on. Obviously, it was always my right. But that was when I finally realized it.

So anyways, long story short, with my boyfriend's blessing, I quit my high paying job and decided to become a stay at home mother with over $100K in student loans instead. It was a rough few years of transition. At this point, my husband finally makes a pretty decent income. Almost as much as I used to (and adjusted for the midwest, probably a lot more). But with three kids, primarily one income, and a student loan payment of over $600/month, it never goes as far as it seems like it should. It's going to take us a while to get out of this mess. And though we are now over 4 years into this new life path, it's hard sometimes to accept where we are now compared to where we used to be. Hard to know that we will probably never live in a beautiful home/location like that one ever again. That it will be years, eons, before we can afford another fancy trip. That given the realities of our budget, money is going to continue to feel like a struggle for probably at least another 5 or so years until I'm working again. My husband and I find that hard. And depressing. And Dave would probably just say "What did you expect!?!"

...A chance to live a life much different than the one my parent's gave me I guess. A chance to feel like I had enough money to never be trapped in a relationship that was bad for me. A certainty that my children would always have enough to eat, as well as year books and new clothes and maybe even stories about trips to Disney World with our family last summer. I probably didn't need a $100K education to secure all those things, but it was an emotional journey for me that took a while to figure out.

For now, I comfort myself with the fact that though this is not always the life of my dreams, it is finally the life of my choice. I am choosing to be much poorer than I could be. I am choosing to temporarily give up most personal and intellectual pursuits (though I did start a secret blog!) so that I will have fewer regrets next time about the mother I am to my children. I could do it differently, and from time to time I check in and make sure this is what I still want. So far it is. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 0 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99539] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) [21496] => Array ( [category_id] => 21496 [category_name] => Shopping [category_stub] => shopping ) ) [entry_id] => 99539 [entry_title] => Apparently We're Good at This [entry_stub] => apparently-were-good-at-this [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/apparently-were-good-at-this_99539/ [entry_date] => 1355426799 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-13 13:26:39 [entry_text] => I keep trying to find more things we can do, something we must be missing, to make this debt thing go faster. So far, no luck. If anything, the book I checked out from the library recently (did you hear that, the library not the book store) called "Your Money: The Missing Manual" made me feel like we're taking this more seriously than I sometimes feel we are. Consider all these recommended measures we have implemented:

Cancelling cable: As of last week, Check! My husband's company pays for the internet portion of our bill already. And our recent purchase of an Apple tv will pay for itself in less than two months of not paying for cable.

Get rid of home phone: We got rid of our home phone line a couple months ago since we were really only using our cell phones anyways. This has been causing us to use more of our cell phone roll over minutes though, so I'm hoping we won't have to up that eventually.

Cancel monthly subscriptions: To my surprise when we began this, hubby volunteered to cancel his Audible subscription until our debt was paid off and just re listen to old favorites instead. We also cancelled our Netflix a few months ago since we hardly ever used it and I've already decided not to renew Newsweek this coming year. Half the issues never get read anyways.

Make a Unit Price Grocery Spreadsheet: Still working on that but I have started to collect that info and I'm already getting the hang of when something is a good price. I have also learned to...

Use Coupons Wisely: I do not fall for buying things with coupons that a) I wouldn't usually get anyways b) are still more expensive than the store brand or another location. This also meets his suggestion to...
Discard Brand Loyalties: Even for toilet paper, I got over it.

Buy In Bulk - When it Makes Sense: Hello new big box warehouse store membership. Can't believe how much money we've saved there (per unit price at least!) so far.

Waste Not: Finally plugged in the big freezer downstairs again and started labeling and storing all left over canned and other items. I've even started buying things like yogurt in bulk, freezing it before it goes bad and then thawing it as needed. Its a little more liquidy than it would have been but still tastes fine (the boys don't know the difference!).

Shop Less: Not a problem. There's no money anyways and neither hubby or I were ever big shoppers. Probably the biggest success in this area though was when we separated our checking account into discretionary and non-discretionary expenses and then limited ourselves to a budgeted discretionary amount. In theory we were doing that before, but since I didn't track where each individual purchase went, it was hard to know how well we were sticking to it. I still don't always track it that closely. But now, when the discretionary money's gone, its gone. And so that takes care of that.

Replace Light Bulbs w/ Florescent: Done! We even got a Groupon for a home energy checkup a month or so ago in which we also got some weather stripping applied to a couple doors and well as thermometers to check refrigerator/freezer and water heater temps. We would have gotten more but they said we were already doing great on most everything else! Especially considering our gas energy company gave us a rebate to get our attic re-insulated this past summer which has already significantly impacted our energy bills.

Increase/decrease the setting on your programmable thermostat: We haven't made any huge sacrifices here compared to people I hear setting their winter thermostat to 65F or waiting until Halloween to even turn on heat but we have lowered our winter setting from 75F to 72F and raised our summer setting from 72F to 74F. It not much I know, but we do have two year old boys and I don't want them to be too cold or not sleep well. Bedroom space heaters make me nervous with such little ones (and I don't think they could be trusted with them once we switch to "big kid" beds), and we haven't had the money yet to invest in summer ceiling fans.

Play Board Games for Fun: We don't always play board games, but hubby and I have completely let go of our monthly night outs for the next year and turned all our date nights into at home affairs instead. We always make a nice dinner together after the boys are in bed and then talk or watch a movie or something.


So those are all the things we're doing right. Perhaps I will devote my next entry to all the things we could still improve though I worry it will just turn into a big excuse fest! Wink
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 0 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [99522] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21492] => Array ( [category_id] => 21492 [category_name] => Investing [category_stub] => investing ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 99522 [entry_title] => The Big Picture [entry_stub] => the-big-picture [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2012/12/13/the-big-picture_99522/ [entry_date] => 1355371250 [entry_date_mysql] => 2012-12-12 22:00:50 [entry_text] => This may be simply an exercise in idealistic dreaming, but I want to paint for you (or maybe mostly just me) a picture of how I see this new financial plan unfolding for us in the coming years. Cause I have big, unrealized but hopefully not unrealistic, dreams. In Dave Ramsey's book, he tells you that it takes most people about seven years to reach Baby Step 7: Build Wealth. Longer still to get to the Pinnacle Point where your money finally starts working harder than you have to. Certainly, that is the long term goal. And the short term goal is the credit card/car payment debt payoff I've already outlined. But it'd be nice to have a picture of our mid-term plan as well. Especially given that I don't think we will be following the Baby Steps precisely.

So, one year out, give or take a few months, and hopefully our small debts (non-mortgage/student loan) will be paid off. At that point we will hopefully be more used to getting by with a lot less monthly discretionary income. Maybe we can at least add enough back in to be able to go on monthly date nights again though. But I don't want to get too slack because we still have a lot or work to do. Baby Step 3 is to Finish the Emergency Fund, which he defines as 3-6 mos. worth of expenses. For us, that would roughly be $15K-$30K.

Projecting out both raises and expenses, once we get our small debts paid off, I think we could save roughly $25K/yr. So, that should take us 7-14 mos. depending on how much cushion we want. My thought is that we should save as much as possible, setting aside the minimum $15K to touch only for emergencies, but then factor in the fact that our family SUV will be 15 years old (already has 223K miles) by then. I am fine with driving it until it dies, but its pretty much a given that that is going to be before too much longer (please, please, please not this year!). I am also fine with not getting a new car when it does die. But I would prefer to get something gently used with at least a few more bells and whistles than our current one has. I think we could probably get something 5-6 years old for between $15-$20K.

That's not the only big ticket item we need to save for though. In a few more years, the boys will be ready to start school and I will be more than ready to jump back on the career train. But that is probably going to require a bit of retraining on my part, and I am not willing to take out any more student loans. (Above and beyond the $105K I already put my foot down on of course). So, if I want to go back, which I very much do right now, we will need to save for that too. I am conservatively estimating about $20K for that right now, plus after school daycare (maybe $5K? Though that will be more of an on-going expense), but given the rising cost of education these days, who knows?

The point of all this speculating is to point out that with these extra purchases, the time it takes up to save about $30K for an emergency fund is going to be more like 2-3/4 to 3 years rather than 14 mos. That's a long time. And who knows how many set backs there might be in the meantime. At some point, hubby's car will need to be replaced as well, though it is 5 years newer than the SUV at least. But I guess I'm okay with it as long as we get to Baby Step 4: Retirement Investing, by the time I re-graduate, which I am predicting will be in 5-6 years. If we get to that step before I graduate, then I guess we will start putting at least the company matching amount into hubby's 401K. Actually, if we don't get to that step before 40, we probably should do a lot more than that, and I kind of doubt we will. Once I do graduate and start working again though, we are going to kick step 4's butt.

And then we get to Baby Step 5: College Funding for the kids. Except we're going to re-package that one as college payoff for the adults. By then my daughter will be done with college (or darn well better be at least). Until we get fabulously wealthy, I have done the best I can for her by insisting that she go to a school where she would graduate with a maximum of $40K in debt. Still a lot I know, but less than half as much than me, and within the amount considered reasonable by the income to debt calculators. She hated me for it at the time, but now seems mostly happy.

I am hoping that with a new masters degree I will be able to make at least $50K, although about half of that will probably have to go towards retirement, and the rest will get taxed. But lets just say that after stocking up our emergency fund, we have about $25K/yr extra from hubby's income and $25K/yr from mine. So $50K/yr extra after I start working to do with what we will. (OMG, is that really possible?) What to do with all that cash?? Pay off my damn student loans!! If we stick to the plan, that should take us only two more years. At that point, we can look into some minimal investing for the boys' college (and maybe some back pay for my daughter). But they are going to be expected to chip in as well because we are heading off to...

...Baby Step 6: Pay Off the Mortgage! Honestly, not quite sure what's going to happen when we get to this step because you see, before we focus on paying off the mortgage, we'd like to focus instead of getting the house we'd really like to have. The exciting thing is, once the student loan is paid off, we could afford about $600 more per month for a mortgage without changing anything else. Assuming the market continues to improve, we should also have a fair amount of equity at this point, having lived here for about 11 years. I am not sure yet whether we would rather buy or remodel. It will probably depend a lot on the location of our jobs at that point. There are some things I really like about both this home and this area, but our home was built in the 1960's and it really needs some updating. I think it would take between $175K-$200K to get it to where we want it, and only about 60% of that could be recouped in re-sale value. Whether or not that's worth it will depend largely on what we could get for the same value given the housing market at the time.

I also really like Dave Ramsey's idea of taking out only a 15 year mortgage and keeping your mortgage payment to less than 25% of your take home pay. Whether we decide to buy or remodel, I do very much want to keep those rules in mind. After all our hard work, I certainly do not want to end up house poor. It will be hard to feel like we can't afford just about whatever we want once we've taken care of all that other debt. And I do love big, pretty homes. Nonetheless, regardless of what we choose to do, at that point it should be a maximum of 15 years until we are entirely debt free, and if we continue with the $50K/yr rule, I think we could take that down to 6 years.

Which means this is more like a 14 year than a 7 years plan for us, but by the time we enter our 50's, it is very possible we will have no debt remaining (maybe we'll bump up the boys college fund at that point) and hopefully by the time we hit our 60's we will have reached that fabled Pinnacle Point which will leave us set for a long, happy retirement. Its certainly not a get rich quick scheme. which makes it seem somewhat more believable. Though it will certainly require a lot of dedication and sacrifice. But it seems like by the time the boys graduate from high school, we will finally have both the time AND money to do all sorts of things.

So that's the big picture. And now back to Baby Step 2.
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 6 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) ) -->

Closing In

July 13th, 2013 at 04:46 pm

Almost at the finish line for TMM baby step 2: debt snowball. Actually, we could have been there on July 19th, but, the laptop hubby has been wanting for so long went on sale for the 4th of July week. We saved $100 by buying it now and pushing the fridge payoff out one more paycheck (Aug 2). Which I think is fine given it's no interest for 3 more months and definitely will be paid off on the 2nd. We chose snail speed shipping though to save on that part, so it will still be another week or so before he gets it, but I'm sure he will be very happy when it finally arrives!

We are starting to look into what the next financial steps are. Dave Ramsey says baby step 3 should be saving a 3-6 month emergency fund (building on the $1000 one from baby step 1). That would be about $18,000 for us and would take quite some time. And in the meantime, we would still not be taking advantage of the 3% 401K matching hubby's company offers (not to mention just plain starting to save for retirement period, even though we're both entering our late 30's.) Additionally, our '99 SUV is probably not going to last much longer and certainly will be an emergency when it dies. And we want our next car purchase to be a slightly used, reliable family vehicle with low miles that we can count on driving for at least 8-10 years.

So, we're thinking of taking a middle of the road approach. I've opened a money market account with Ally bank and transferred our $1000 emergency fund there. As soon as the fridge is done we are going to work on building that up to $5000 as fast as possible. After that, we have some home maintenance issues we have been putting off forever that we need to take care of. Getting all of that accomplished is going to push us well into the end of Oct.

But once we're there, we are going to start putting 6% of hubby's paychecks into the company 401K (the maximum matching amount). And come open enrollment in Nov we are also going to up our HSA/FSA medical contributions to the max for the coming year. That's going to take quite a dent out of our monthly income, but with all the debt we've now paid off (as well as the decrease in taxable income from the 401K/HSA/FSA), we should still be able to raise our entertainment budget from what it has been these past 9 months, and still work towards saving for a new vehicle.

We originally wanted to save for it completely before purchasing, which would have taken about a year, but our daughter really needs a car for the college internship she wants to do next summer. Assuming the SUV is still running then, we'd like to pass it off to her by next May so she can do that. That said, we should be 80% of the way there by May with hubby's bonus, so it shouldn't be too bad to take out a small loan at that point and pay it off in 4-6 months.

At that point, I will be starting school again (just a few classes at a community college to begin with) so there will be some tuition to take care of. But we will also need to start kicking up our savings as well. I'm looking into a Roth IRA for that, and Ally bank seems like a good place to help us with it. Given that you can withdraw contributions without penalty if needed, I feel like this could double with retirement and most of our remaining 3-6 month emergency fund. Short of job loss, I doubt we will ever need more than the $5K we will already have set aside in the money market (which I will keep separate). And $18K seems like too much money to just have sitting in a low interest account, when it will likely never be used, while we make no progress on retirement. Dave Ramsey would not approve, and I'm still looking into the details, but right now that's the plan. Feb 2014
Start 6% 401K withdrawals: Sept 2013----->Feb/Mar 2014
Save for/Pay off "new" car: May 2014----->Feb 2015

As I said: Ugh.

A new reflection though: I saw on FB recently that an old friend of mine I've lost touch with the past few years, is selling her house. She has been dying for a bigger house for years, and her husband had a well paying job. But they also had a lot of debt and not the best of spending habits, and with the housing market crash they felt completely stuck.

About 4 months back, her husband's department was downsized and he was laid off. He had a few months severance though and lots of job interview lined up, so they weren't too concerned at the time. Thus, when I saw her recent FB posting, I at first assumed he had found something even better and that with the housing market upswing they were finally able to afford the new home they have been wanting.

But then I read further. Turns out, they are not buying a new one, just selling the old one. She didn't elaborate more but a quick check on LinkedIn confirmed what I feared; her husband has been out of work since Oct. Now I am purely speculating at this point, but given what I know of their past financial situation, it's not at all hard to draw a line that without a high paying job, the large debts have are going to sink them once the severance pay ends, and they are trying to find a source for more funds.

I say all this not to gossip or point fingers (presumably, you have no idea who I'm even talking about), and I actually feel very bad for her, though not really close enough anymore to question her about such a personal matter. But for me, she is such a stunning reminder of why hubby and I are doing all this.

Our financial situations were close enough at one time that it is easy for me to picture how something very similar could have happened to us, had we not begun to exercise financial restraint. But I admit that it was very hard for me to hear about their fancy trips, and see their pretty new cars and how beautifully decorated the inside of her home was. I wanted those things too. I wanted to look that good as well. But we were pouring all our extra cash into debt and had nothing visual to show for it.

We are still a long way from where we want to be. And without more savings, we are still not even insulated from going through something similar ourselves were hubby to lose his job. But we have no credit card or car debt dragging us down anymore. And we have a very clear picture of our budget and of the steps we need to take to get from A to B. So, even though this is a total drag, and even though I feel like it's taking way longer than it should, reflecting on where we could be instead leaves me still feeling thankful about where we are. Maybe not happy, but thankful. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [105872] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21490] => Array ( [category_id] => 21490 [category_name] => Education [category_stub] => education ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) [21495] => Array ( [category_id] => 21495 [category_name] => Saving Money [category_stub] => saving-money ) ) [entry_id] => 105872 [entry_title] => Commencing Baby Step 3 [entry_stub] => commencing-baby-step-3- [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/11/24/commencing-baby-step-3-_105872/ [entry_date] => 1385315344 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-11-24 11:49:04 [entry_text] => We've finally finished wading through all the home maintenance projects (including an unexpected $1000 repair on the roof a couple weeks ago) and even set aside $1000 for Christmas. We've reached our family health deductible for the year and are scheduling appts like mad for these next few weeks to take full advantage of paying only 20% rather than 100% for the rest of the year. And we were also incredibly blessed to have my aunt unexpectedly send me a check to cover my first semester of tuition and books for the community college I will be starting at in Jan. And so, with that all finally behind us, it's time to commence on our TMM baby step 3 (beef up emergency fund to cover 3-6 months of expenses).

It has been almost 4 months since we finished baby step 2, so I am relieved to finally be getting back on track again. We made a lot of prudent purchases and repairs, but as the money kept flowing out rather than in, I worried that our financial plan had become derailed. Apparently though, even without CC debt, we do still have some motivation and dedication to this plan after all. And it's time to buckle down again.

My main goal for this coming financial year is to see our next worth begin to rise finally. Although given it is currently -$46K, it might be more accurate to say we want to see our gaping net worth hole begin to be filled in. It's actually much better now that it was a year ago. Partly because of paying off the CC's and car loan. But also in a large part due to home values bouncing back again finally, and we can't really take credit for that. Plus that part could go again as easy as it came.

But I was realizing the other day that we are at an exciting point none that less because from here on out, we will mainly be investing in ourselves. Even the $25K we hope to save for a "new" vehicle over the next year and a half will be savings converted into an asset, rather than simply blown out the window. And yes, yes, I know their will be depreciation, but you get my point. We're finally investing in our own net worth. And that is exciting!

Plus, during the open enrollment period this year we made sure to max out our HSA contribution for next year, as well as bump up the life insurance and disability policies a little bit. And it feels wonderful to know we are getting an adequate financial safety net into place. Almost like we're becoming real adults finally!

From this point on though, we're going to be breaking a bit from strict compliance to the TMM plan. For instance, we're going to start baby step 4 (retirement savings) as soon as we get $5000 towards baby step 3. Which should be by the end of Jan if we practice restraint over Xmas. We are way too old to be putting it off any longer and we're going to be doing baby step 3 for quite some time. We want our final emergency fund to be around $20K, but we need to buy a car along the way, so almost as soon as we get it we're going to empty it out and start again.

I consider this an EF worthy purchase though because, as discussed previously, our current family vehicle is a 1999 and has over 225K miles. It's just not going to be around much longer, and when it does finally die, it will certainly be an emergency. After doing a lot of research we decided that the most financially wise options were to either buy a cheap 7-8 year old car in decent condition and plan to cover fairly regular repairs until we can afford an upgrade. Or to buy a reliable low mileage 1-2 year old vehicle that shouldn't need much work for a few years, and which would be just as affordable as long as we keep driving it at least 10 years. And given how very tired we are of highly used vehicles at this point, we have decided to go for the 2nd option.

We're going to save as much as we can for it until May and then get a loan for the remainder. We want to give the old one to our daughter when she comes home from college for the summer so that she will have her own vehicle to get to and from her summer job. And then we're going to pay off the car loan as fast as possible, though right now it's looking like Feb 2015 before we get there.

So that's the plan right now. Hubby is in the process of applying for new jobs that pays more though, and if one of them pans out, maybe we can even do this without a car loan. Hoping for the best!

[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [105329] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 105329 [entry_title] => TMM Year 2 [entry_stub] => tmm-year-2 [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/10/20/tmm-year-2_105329/ [entry_date] => 1382288284 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-10-20 11:58:04 [entry_text] => It's been forever, I know. Not sure what the deal is with all this crazy /// nonsense in my info section since I left either. Anywho...

This Oct marks the beginning of the second year for hubby and I's Total Money Makeover. And how far have we gotten in a year? Well, considerably farther than we pictured ourselves one year ago for sure. We originally thought we'd be nearing the end of our credit card payments about now, and just starting to work on the car loan. The was before we discovered what the power of a budget and willpower can actually do. So instead we finished both by the end of July.

On the other hand...we are considerably less far than we had pictured ourselves being by now last June. Our revised goal was to have the initial $5000 for our emergency fund fully stocked by now, as well as kicking off the retirement 401k we need so badly and also making headway towards the "new" car we need. Instead we are in a much more dangerous no man's land somewhere between Baby Step 2 and Baby Step 3. I don't feel we are derailed from our TMM, but we do need to start getting this show on the road again soon.

So what have we been doing instead of all those June goals? Well, a lot of home stuff actually. Things we put off forever while dealing with our CC debt. We finally got a new toilet for downstairs (which lowered out water bill by $35/month!). We got a few trees cut down that had died and got our gutters cleaned out. We are also getting a large rip in our kitchen linolium repaired as well as some baseboards re-added that we never replaced after our mold damage issue a couple years ago.

We're getting our radon remitigation system installed this week ($1200). And we also had to take care of a couple big car repairs as well as buying hubby a new suit for job interviewing after all the weight he lost. Additionally, we finally replaced a few items that were wearing out. Like hubby's desk chair that was held together by duct tape and the kitchen rug that was coming apart at the seams. And we also spent more than typical on entertainment too, given it was summer and we had more family outings than usual.

Some of that stuff qualifies as emergency fund type things. Some doesn't. But it's all stuff we've been wanting to take care of forever and I'm glad we did it. By the end of this month we should be done with all that and ready to begin on Baby Step 3 for real. Trouble is, the boys are finally in preschool and I am finally going back to school myself to begin a second career. My first tuition/books payment will be due this Dec (just in time for Xmas) and is probably going to be around $2000. Long story short, I don't think we're going to be able to start the 401k until about Jan instead of Sept like we had planned and that sucks.

Regardless, compared to where we saw ourselves a year ago, we are doing much, much better indeed. Hopefully by this time next year we will be finished with Baby Step 4 and be looking ahead to a bright financial future!
[entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 3 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [103651] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21487] => Array ( [category_id] => 21487 [category_name] => Budgeting [category_stub] => budgeting ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21492] => Array ( [category_id] => 21492 [category_name] => Investing [category_stub] => investing ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) [21494] => Array ( [category_id] => 21494 [category_name] => Retirement [category_stub] => retirement ) ) [entry_id] => 103651 [entry_title] => Closing In [entry_stub] => closing-in [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/07/13/closing-in_103651/ [entry_date] => 1373733962 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-07-13 11:46:02 [entry_text] => Almost at the finish line for TMM baby step 2: debt snowball. Actually, we could have been there on July 19th, but, the laptop hubby has been wanting for so long went on sale for the 4th of July week. We saved $100 by buying it now and pushing the fridge payoff out one more paycheck (Aug 2). Which I think is fine given it's no interest for 3 more months and definitely will be paid off on the 2nd. We chose snail speed shipping though to save on that part, so it will still be another week or so before he gets it, but I'm sure he will be very happy when it finally arrives!

We are starting to look into what the next financial steps are. Dave Ramsey says baby step 3 should be saving a 3-6 month emergency fund (building on the $1000 one from baby step 1). That would be about $18,000 for us and would take quite some time. And in the meantime, we would still not be taking advantage of the 3% 401K matching hubby's company offers (not to mention just plain starting to save for retirement period, even though we're both entering our late 30's.) Additionally, our '99 SUV is probably not going to last much longer and certainly will be an emergency when it dies. And we want our next car purchase to be a slightly used, reliable family vehicle with low miles that we can count on driving for at least 8-10 years.

So, we're thinking of taking a middle of the road approach. I've opened a money market account with Ally bank and transferred our $1000 emergency fund there. As soon as the fridge is done we are going to work on building that up to $5000 as fast as possible. After that, we have some home maintenance issues we have been putting off forever that we need to take care of. Getting all of that accomplished is going to push us well into the end of Oct.

But once we're there, we are going to start putting 6% of hubby's paychecks into the company 401K (the maximum matching amount). And come open enrollment in Nov we are also going to up our HSA/FSA medical contributions to the max for the coming year. That's going to take quite a dent out of our monthly income, but with all the debt we've now paid off (as well as the decrease in taxable income from the 401K/HSA/FSA), we should still be able to raise our entertainment budget from what it has been these past 9 months, and still work towards saving for a new vehicle.

We originally wanted to save for it completely before purchasing, which would have taken about a year, but our daughter really needs a car for the college internship she wants to do next summer. Assuming the SUV is still running then, we'd like to pass it off to her by next May so she can do that. That said, we should be 80% of the way there by May with hubby's bonus, so it shouldn't be too bad to take out a small loan at that point and pay it off in 4-6 months.

At that point, I will be starting school again (just a few classes at a community college to begin with) so there will be some tuition to take care of. But we will also need to start kicking up our savings as well. I'm looking into a Roth IRA for that, and Ally bank seems like a good place to help us with it. Given that you can withdraw contributions without penalty if needed, I feel like this could double with retirement and most of our remaining 3-6 month emergency fund. Short of job loss, I doubt we will ever need more than the $5K we will already have set aside in the money market (which I will keep separate). And $18K seems like too much money to just have sitting in a low interest account, when it will likely never be used, while we make no progress on retirement. Dave Ramsey would not approve, and I'm still looking into the details, but right now that's the plan. [entry_active] => 1 [total_comments] => 7 [contest] => 0 [ever_published] => 1 [contains_images] => 0 ) [103087] => Array ( [journal_id] => 5267 [journal_url] => annereesedebtblog [author_photo] => 0 [journal_name] => Another Family Debt Blog [journal_author] => Anne Reese [journal_author_email] => annereese76@gmail.com [category_ids] => [categories] => Array ( [21488] => Array ( [category_id] => 21488 [category_name] => Credit Cards [category_stub] => credit-cards ) [21489] => Array ( [category_id] => 21489 [category_name] => Debt [category_stub] => debt ) [21493] => Array ( [category_id] => 21493 [category_name] => Personal Finance [category_stub] => personal-finance ) ) [entry_id] => 103087 [entry_title] => We Did It!!! [entry_stub] => we-did-it [entry_url] => https://annereesedebtblog.savingadvice.com/2013/06/11/we-did-it_103087/ [entry_date] => 1370976855 [entry_date_mysql] => 2013-06-11 13:54:15 [entry_text] => Just a quick note to say: We Paid Off Our LAST Credit Card last week!! We reached our goal a full 7 months early! I am so happy to be done!!

Of course, now that the old debt is done, it is time to acknowledge the new debt for the fridge we purchased on store credit. It has no interest for 6 months and we plan to be done in half that time. I have updated my debt stats accordingly. This debt milestone would feel a lot more exciting though if we didn't now have this to take care of that debt too. But at least it's debt for only one physical object that we use literally every day, rather than for a whole bunch of things transferred from card to card for so long that we had no idea what it was we were even paying for anymore. It is also nice to look at my wedding ring now and know that it is completely paid for. Smile

We may or may not make much headway on the fridge debt this month. Depends how my home business goes this month; this tends to be a slow time of year. Our car was in need of a $675 repair this week and we have a plumbing issue too now that is probably going to be at least $300. But guess what? For the first time, we don't have to tap into our emergency fund to pay for that. The mechanic told us the amount and we just sighed and said, well, at least we know we've got it. That is a very nice feeling.

Really looking forward to the end of the summer when we will have taken care of the back log of expenses we put off forever while doing our debt payoff. Because that's when the real fun begins. The accumulation phase that will (