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Closing out the year

December 22nd, 2009 at 07:50 pm

Wow....I have fallen off the blogging wagon. I logged in to update my accomplishments on the 2009 goals - where did 2009 go?!?

I have to say we did EXCELLENT. We beat our goals on 2 of our debts - they are both completely gone as of last Friday!! Wahoo!!! The only thing I didn't do was make Lifetime at Weight Watchers. I am resolved to put myself on my priority list moving forward and I start a new WW session on January 6. I only have 18 pounds to go to make it to my goal and to hit lifetime.

I need to start thinking about 2010 goal publishing. I'll want to keep the emergency fund maintained, 15% to 401(k)and ultimately, pay off this last $26K on my Federal Student Loan. If we could do all we did this year, we can have hope of being debt free by this time next year.

Merry Christmas everyone!!

Paid My Bonus to Debt

March 26th, 2009 at 07:06 pm

I just updated the sidebars to reflect paying all of my annual bonus to our debt! Well, all but $742. I used that to pay one of the hospital bills for the birth of my son in January. Once I get that money reimbursed from my Flexible Spending Account the $742 will be heading off as well.

April is going to have about half the debt snowball we aim for - we want to send at least $700 extra to debt each month. As the "geek," I put together our initial written budget each month and April has a couple of additional line items - summer clothes for the family (limited amount & shopping on sales), $110 for one last hospital bill for my oldest son from December 2008 (just now due), and minor planned expenses for a weekend away for my husband for an organization that he volunteers for (a convention).

We still haven't found a newer vehicle to replace my husband's 1990 Jeep Cherokee. We have been passively looking since we don't *have* to replace his car. We are now starting to consider buying a newer Cherokee (1999-2001) and only spending part of what we have saved up in our car fund. That will be that much more money to go toward debt this year. I would love to have our car & my smaller student loan paid off THIS YEAR!

Updated Progress

March 18th, 2009 at 03:21 pm

I updated my debt tracking in the side bar area...everything is on track though my goal for the year on the car loan seems far away. I did receive my bonus last week so I made a big additional payment to the car loan and will pay the rest of my bonus (down to the penny!) to that debt next week. I'll be so excited to update again by the end of the month.

We've been doing pretty good with snowflaking this month as well, mostly finding money consistently in the gas budget. I haven't done as well on squeezing money out of the grocery budget as we've been feeding 2 extra people (brother & sister) a couple times a week.

I also just put together the budget for April. I budgeted very frugally for spring/summer clothes & shoes for the family during that month. I find a lot of good stuff for my son at thrift/consignment shops, but between Garanimals at Target and $4 sales at Target & Kohl's, I can sometimes do just as well buying new.

I've been addicted to walmart.com lately - I purchased a jersey dress with birthday money and found a pair of black dress pants for $5. The site to store feature is nice. I go back to work next Thursday, and my body has a way to go, so I've been pulling together work clothes. I borrowed a couple of dresses from my sister as well. It's so great that she lives here now - we even have the same shoe size! I also used the walmart.com photo service to order birth announcements for under $10 - I thought that was pretty good for 30 custom photo announcements with envelopes.

--Chrissy

March Goals & A Road Trip

February 28th, 2009 at 05:36 pm

I'm spending my Saturday night preparing for a spontaneous trip to Michigan! We talked about going to see our family during my maternity leave and made the decision late Thursday night. We're leaving in the late afternoon Monday and will drive into the night, stay in a hotel (I'll post if we get our favorite hotel in Kentucky for $25 on priceline) and finish the trip Tuesday morning.

Today is the last day of February and Baby #2 is 1 month old! Hubby did a photo shoot this afternoon and I'm planning on ordering about 25 birth announcements from walmart.com (33-cents each) since that costs less than me handmaking them.

And since March begins tomorrow (where is 2009 going??!!), here are some goals for the month:
1. Send bonus check to debt.
2. Find $50 in snowflakes this month to send to debt.
3. Continue my good progress on Weight Watchers and lose 5 additional pounds.
4. Exercise consistently at least 3 days per week.

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February accomplishments:
- We accumulated $73 in snowflakes for debt
- To date we have paid off 27% of our total debt

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To remind us to be intense on paying off our debt I was silly and created a paper chain. I wrote each month from February 2009-March 2011 on the links and strung it up on the refrigerator. I look forward to watching that chain shrink!! If we pay things off faster I'll remove links from the pay off end and on the last day of each month I'll remove that month's link - today I ripped of February 2009!

The cool thing is that as we've had company at our house they ask about the chain and it gives us an opportunity to explain what we're doing. People really understand when we tell them how many rings would be up there if we weren't so aggressive to keep it to those 24 months we're up against.

On Becoming Prepared

February 26th, 2009 at 06:52 pm

My husband and I have been talking about some of the "value add" things we can be doing while I'm on maternity leave. Things with baby #2 have been awesome and I love feeling productive, so I was excited to brainstorm some of these ideas together.

Tonight I got a good start on one of these tasks. My husband created an excrypted memory stick that we'll keep locked up in our safe - I'm adding all of the account log-in information for our finances, insurance, etc so that my husband will have all of this at his fingertips should anything happen to me. He knows most of them, but having everything in one place will be good insurance in the event that we should ever need it.

I know it can be scary or just plain dumb to write this stuff down but I feel good about the encryption software and our personal safe - consider doing this for yourself as well. You never know when you might need this information.

Up next - making a photocopy of everything in my wallet & stashing that away in the safe as well. In the event my wallet is stolen all contact #s and account numbers are compiled so things can be canceled quickly and I don't feel the stress of trying to remember what was in my wallet.

Anyone have any suggestions for what else should be on my list? Am I going about this the right way or are their other options for how to accomplish these tasks securely?

Thanks!

Back at 'em

February 21st, 2009 at 05:55 pm

Wow! It's been a few weeks (ok, almost 2 months!) - I had my baby 3 weeks ago, so that's been keeping me busy and away, but I'm back.

I've updated the sidebars to show our latest progress. Snowflaking hasn't been going as well as it did in December, but we're going to get refocused there.

We've also been looking at minivans over the last week and a half - we have all the money saved up for that, just looking for the right car for us.

I plan to be back on here more regularly with some more interesting things to share. I also anticipate being able to send our giant debt snowball (we've accumulated it since December, just waiting to make sure baby's arrival wasn't going to require those funds in addition to what we'd already allocated for that) AND my bonus to our debts. That will be a great day!

I also need to add a weight loss ticker - I'm doing Weight Watchers on my own for now (rejoining when I go back to work at the end of March)...I have a ways to go Smile

I did our taxes 2 weeks ago so that's out of the way. Also, I am so thankful that I had a really good review at my job before I went on maternity leave and I will be getting both a good raise and a bonus this year - something we can't take for granted.

Gee, this post is everywhere!

9 Days In & Used Car Buying Ramblings...

January 8th, 2009 at 06:19 pm

Ugh, I'm getting antsy - 9 days into the month and I haven't been able to update debt progress. Tomorrow is budget committee day so we'll see if I can count up any decent snowflakes for the week.

I mentioned before my sister & brother-in-law are moving here to Atlanta next week. They are taking a big risk and making the move without jobs, but have saved up a few months of expenses as a back-up plan. I know this is risky, but I'm proud of them for taking the leap in leaving Michigan for the possibility of a brighter future. Hopefully with them here we will be able to help coach them on the journey to debt freedom as well.

Lately it's been frustrating because some of our "friends" don't understand what we're doing in trying to be debt free. We just live in a culture where a car payment is the norm and so sometimes people think you're weird for wanting to buy something that you can pay cash for. We started looking at used minivans last night. We have about $6K in the bank and planned on adding our tax refund (between 3-4K...which is why I mentioned I need to change my withholdings) to purchase a 4-5 year old Honda Odyssey. My husband challenged me to consider us NOT using the tax refund and purchasing an '01 Odyssey with the money we have now, then taking the tax money and paying that directly to our debt - this equates to us being debt free about 4 months faster. He had a lot of fun playing with my amortization spreadsheets Smile

So we tried to look at one van which was a bust, though there are 5 in our price range listed with specs we're fine with (mileage, year & price). It wasn't even that the van didn't meet expectations - we didn't even get that far because the car lot was shady and so we left. So we are going to keep our eyes peeled for a while longer (hubby's current car is trucking along, just not as safe - it's a 1990). We've always found that patience pays off, so we're going to look at many, many vans over the next couple of months between $5,500 & $8,500 and see where God leads us. I am excited at the prospect at spending less...we've got no one to impress with our car anyway!

Just give me the patience not to blow my top when I tell someone I'm going to spend less than $10K for a car and they 1) think that's crazy - the car could break, so I better buy a brand new one or 2) if I just go to my bank I can just get a loan for a new one!!!

Give me the strength!!!

Weekly Meal Plan: Mon 1/5 - Friday 1/9

January 4th, 2009 at 05:56 pm

I've seen folks document their menu plans for each week and thought I might do the same.

A bit of background: My husband is a stay at home dad and he usually does all of the grocery shopping. Over a year ago I joined Weight Watchers, so in order to control the food that comes into our house I started doing the shopping (sometimes we just do it together). So I make a menu plan for the week and post it on the fridge - I don't designate a meal by day - after dinner each night we decide what we'd like the next day from the list and get something out of the freezer.

So here's a batch of dinners for Mon-Fri this week:
- Burritos (ground beef was reduced at the grocery store & red beans and rice was on sale)
- Chicken "wings" (we cut boneless breasts into chunks, bake, toss in wing sauce)
- Chopped steak & onions (from the freezer - reduced at the grocery a couple weeks ago)
- Pork chops (another reduced meat price purchase)
- Leftovers (most likely burritos - we love those reheated!)

I tend to buy family packs of sale chicken breasts & split them up & freeze them - same with ground beef. Our regular store almost always has reduced price packs of meat between 98-cents & 1.98 (end price, not per pound!). We eat a lot of meat Smile There are some nights we'll have soup or sandwiches - this week was particularly inexpensive in the meat department.

When I'm working on weight loss we'll eat beans or fish in place of a beef or pork at least once a week.

Has anyone tried e-mealz.com? I am particularly interested because they have a Weight Watchers version. Just interested to see if it can add some excitement to our table.

New Years & Spending

January 4th, 2009 at 01:56 pm

No real update to post Smile Every Friday I update our weekly spending and hubby & I do our weekly budget committee meeting. Lately we've been doing really well and snowflaking in a few categories.

This past Friday we didn't have any snowflakes. We put on a New Year's Day party for about 10 friends and used grocery money to fun sodas & appetizers. We used our gas money that was underspent to order several pizzas (with a deal) from Dominos. It was a lot of fun.

We should have a good week this week - I'm adding some extra snacks to the grocery list for next week, plus extra soda. I'll be putting together a welcome basket for my sister & BIL. They are moving here to Atlanta a week from Tuesday, so I want to bring them some goodies since they'll have moved 800 miles and won't have a chance to immediately get to the store.

And unless the new baby comes sooner I have these next 2 weeks in the office before maternity leave starts. We should be able to scrap up even more money over my leave since I won't have my full commute to work everyday - more gas money to pay on debt!

Shopping

December 29th, 2008 at 04:36 pm

Yesterday I got out of the house alone for a few hours. My favorite past time, window shopping, kept me busy but I did buy a few things. This weekend my $20 spending money was burning a hole in my pocket. I ended up paying $7 to get my eyebrows waxed, $4 for an iced decaf white mocha, $2 for 2 new eye shadows and $3.99 for hair coloring.

I haven't colored my own hair since high school, but I hadn't had it colored since my son was a couple of months old and he's almost 2. So I took the plunge and colored it last night. It was relatively painless and turned out well. My sister is moving to Atlanta in 2 weeks - not only am I elated beyond belief to have her here, but she attended cosmetology school and can help me do it in the future and will cut & style my hair for me.

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I ventured into CVS - can't believe I hadn't really done that before. I'm going to try to catch the ECB train; I signed up for their rewards program. Our house is very small, so I don't have a lot of storage space for pantry & HBA items, but we'll see how I do in time. Combining the P&G brand saver coupons from the paper, I purchased items I needed on sale (shampoo, paper towel, body wash) and used coupons. I ended up with $2 in ECBs. I got diapers on sale at Target and ended up spending enough to send away for their Bonus Coupon Books. I'll take all the diaper coupons I can getSmile

http://www.pgeverydaysolutions.com/pgeds/en_US/jsp/EDS_Page.jsp?pageID=Year-of-Savings

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Today I spent a few hours in the office. We basically shut down the last 2 weeks of the year, but since I only have 11 days in the office now before my maternity leave starts I have a lot to get wrapped up. I finished off the day tidying my office which always makes me feel a great sense of accomplishment.

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Hubby and I spent the weekend getting ready for the new baby. I got the 0-3 month clothes from the attic and washed, plus the bassinet. We rearranged Baby D's room and made room for his baby brother's stuff in the chest of drawers. Otherwise, we're all set. I'd like to find a used double stroller, so I keep scouring craigslist and such.

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I need to change my withholdings this coming year. It's silly, but I've been claiming 0 for so long to ensure I get a nice refund, but I'd rather get that money throughout the year to pay down our debt. Does anyone know of a good source for figuring out what will be taken from your check each pay period depending on your withholdings? If all else fails I'll play with paycheck city. I did try the irs.gov calculator to just tell me the number of withholdings, but I didn't find it that helpful.

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And thanks for the kind words about my son. He ended up burning his left palm/fingers badly in a campfire (the morning after). We spent a few days at the Burn Center in Augusta and he had 2 surgeries. He's so resilient and awesome and he's just doing so well!

Progress to Date

December 27th, 2008 at 02:20 pm

Aside from a modest mortgage, our debt consists of 2 student loans - both mine for college & grad school, plus a used Honda we purchased earlier this year. All in all, the total originally incurred for all 3 of these debts was over $70K.

If we had continued the status quo payments (we had always added a couple hundred a month to pay extra on our debts) I calculated it wouldn't be until 2014 that we'd be rid of all of these debts.

I'm so excited at the conservative prospect of being debt free (except mortgage) by the end of 2011. I'm gonna push that goal as hard as I can!!

Note: we started this new journey back in September - a couple of weeks later our baby was badly burned (he has healed so well!) and we incurred about $2800 in medical bills. Thanks to our efforts these bills have been paid in full as of 2 weeks ago and we are excited about getting back to attacking our debt in the new year.

Excited to join in!

December 27th, 2008 at 02:06 pm

I've been reading most of the PF blogs here on savingadvice for a while now. I think that being able to interact with all of you will contribute to my focus and intensity in getting out of debt.

I always considered myself a pretty frugal person. I don’t buy things I can’t pay cash for using my credit card and I love to bargain hunt. I don’t have a single thing in my house financed and still have furniture from college. Fortunately I do have a really good paying job and a great husband that stays home with our son (make that sons in January!). We thought we were getting ahead because we can afford all of our bills and still have money left over each month for things we’d like to purchase or do.

When we got married 7 years ago, my hubby had just graduated college and I had a year to go. Somehow he began listening to Dave Ramsey, and even read Financial Peace before we got married. We both are really good at budgeting, so I read the book as well and we decided we do a modified envelope system - a carefully tracked electronic envelope system using our debit card. This has worked pretty well for the last 7 years. We even still only give ourselves $20/week of spending money each - same as back in 2001! I guess the bad thing is that the only thing we really internalized from reading that book was the budgeting approach.

Over the last year my husband has been listening to Dave Ramsey on a daily basis. He and our son listen to the show archive each morning over breakfast. When he heard Dave was coming to Atlanta to speak on the Total Money Makeover, he encouraged us to go. We got a sitter and went in September.

Well, since then I’m angry with us! I always considered myself a smart person, but I am not savvy in the ways of investments and certainly not in challenging the cultural norm of debt. We are OVER IT!