Saturday, January 30, 2010

Adios Debt #2

I paid my mother-in-law $12 earlier this week from money I earned sewing some American Girl doll clothes, and on Friday I was able to pay her $100 from the money I had left over from my grocery/household budget (this month I had $200 left over!).  This debt carries back from last winter when we had 5 feet of snow.  You'd think I would have had snow boots all these years, but nope, I always made sure my kids were outfitted and then I'd just make due with what I had.  Last year changed all that.  I couldn't go anywhere without boots, so my generous in-laws offered to pay for some boots for me.  We didn't have any money left with Christmas a few days away-well, it was just typically the non-plan that we had for our money at the time.  So I paid her $20 and then nothing, but I always knew I needed to pay her back.  This debt went on the list as #2 when we started this in November.  So it's done!  I don't owe her anymore, and I'm so thankful to have some really nice Sorels:)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My Take On Credit Scores

I've always read that when you closed a credit card account or paid off a debt it lowered your credit score.  So I'm thinking that we'll be close to zero by the time our debt is at zero, too!  Here's a link that explains credit scores-click here.  Any thoughts on this?  It really flies in the face of what we've been taught.

Now, I've also been advised to check my credit score once a year to make sure it's accurate.  I certainly don't want anything on there that shouldn't be.  There's those catchy commercials with the mullet-haired guy singing about free credit reports-those are scams!  You have to sign up for a program that costs you money.  Don't do it.

So, everyone can check their credit report for free once a year.  I learned about this from consumer advocate,  Clark Howard.  You can check the link to his site and find the link to get your free credit report here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Amazon Credit Card Bites The Dust 1/25!

Gone!  We paid $99.01 to send our Amazon Credit Card out the door forever!  So I'm sure our credit score will take a hit because I just called and also closed out the account.  Ha!  I'm aiming for zero as a credit score by the time this is all done.  I just want these things gone!  So why did we even have this one?  They were offering $30 towards any purchase at Amazon.  It was near Christmas two years ago and I really wanted to get the kids an advent calendar.  I found a Lego one where they got to build a character every day.  Price=$30.  So I got if for free, but Chase (the holder of this Amazon card) got more than that from us.  The finance charges they got over the next two years on our purchases that we didn't pay off was probably in the $60 range.  So my "free" Lego advent calendar really cost me $60.  That's stupid math.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Skiing: A Small Delay But Worth The Price

Well, this weekend we are going skiiing for the first time since I was 18!  The beauty of this is that its being paid for with all cash.  You're thinking, so what?  I really can't stress enough how liberating cash and carry is!  It's so new to us and the more I use this method, the more I like it and can't believe we didn't do it sooner.  There's no middle man, no waiting for something to clear our account-it's just a done deal.

A year ago, my husband said that he wanted to shoot for winter 2010 to take our two oldest skiing for the first time.  We both thought that a year was enough time to buy the kids and us our outerwear, and then we planned on renting the equiptment.  Last year we were able to get some great clearance items as the season wound down.  I was completely on board with this....until 10/31/09-the day I we started managing our finances differently.

A major part of the plan we're on is concentrating your efforts on paying off the debt-that means taking any extra you make and throwing it on the debt.  I would have been completely happy to take all this extra money (my husband is getting paid just now for all his work this past fall filming football games for the GSL high school coaches) and say goodbye to a credit card or two with it.  But this is where real life figures in, and a marriage works better when there's two on the same page:). 

In reality, going skiing will delay our debt-free date by about a month.  We are going to be able to put some of this extra money towards debt, and I know this is something that's important to my husband.  So, I'm happy to say that my attitude is thankful that we can do this and I'm going to enjoy the slopes without remorse knowing that it's all paid for up front and we'll get to make some great memories with our oldest two children.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Costco? Not So Much These Days

Here's what a typical month used to look like:  Pay day comes on the last working day of the month for us.  I'd have to budget (which wasn't really a budget) for a whole month with nothing in-between.  You get used to it, but what I would do is when payday came I would do a pretty large Costco run because we were low on a lot of things, and well, it's Costco-you tend to buy a lot.  I didn't really have a budget, but would just get things we needed.  It was always food in my cart, nothing fun like movies or a kayak.

I'd typically spend $250 at least, sometimes into the $300's.  Then......the rest of the month still had to come!  Yep, around the middle of the month the grocery money started getting thin, then by the end, there wasn't any left, hence charging groceries (ugh!)  I can't tell you how demoralizing that is.  Charging carrots?  Really? 

This is where I have to say that if money-wise you do anything, it's to make a monthly budget!  It's telling your money where to go rather than wondering where it went:).

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Shop At Home: Savings to Be Had

I just found a great web site for coupons, savings and receiving cash back!  It's called and you can check out the link on the right hand side, just above the about me section of my blog.  This is one of those win-win situations.  You save every time you shop through them, and if you sign up through my link and shop though them within 60 days I get $5 added to my cash back amount.  You can also spread the word and get $5 for everyone you sign up from an email link,  facebook or blog (in addition to all the coupons, savings, etc.)

Here's the deal I just did:  I got three Disney tumbler sets for $13 shipping included (two for my kids'-Easter baskets and one for our niece for Christmas).  See them here.  The only bummer was that all the Buzz Lightyear sets were gone, so I got Lightning McQueen instead.  So, with this purchase, I got $5 back for being a first time shopper and 5% back for shopping through Shop at Home!  That's $.63 per cup after counting tax and shipping!  Rule of thumb for me is that its not a good deal (no matter how thrifty) if we can't use it or no one wants it-these will for sure get used and be loved.  Plus, we really needed some new kiddie cups:)

Thanks She Saved for the tip!

Friday, January 8, 2010

The U-G-L-Y truth: Our Debt Total

Well, we've done it- we added up our debt totals, and well, it's U-G-L-Y.  Thank God we only have to do this once!  If I could insert a big thumbs down right here, I would.  I'm linking the total to a Google Doc and you can view that here.

Well, our estimated payoff is around six years using the debt snowball method of payment.  You can check the particulars of the debt snowball here.  We anticipate that the payoff will take much less time, being that we are throwing any extra money we earn at it.  That's not well represented in the spreadsheet.

Looking at the total is a bit daunting, but really, it's also refreshing.  I can say that now because I've let it sink in a few days.  It means we're actually doing more than just making minimum payments and giving our money away to our creditors in the interest we're paying them.  What's important to note is that we're concentrating our efforts rather than spreading out our payments on the debt.  That's what allows us to tackle it quicker while providing for a big family with one and one-fourth income.

So here we go-it's going to be a long haul, but I'm done with credit and borrowing!  No turning back now.

Friday, January 1, 2010

December Grocery Totals

The grand total for groceries (food only) this month IS: $425.53!  I worked the coupons hard all this month-there were some great promotions at Albertons that really helped.   I spent a little more than last month, but got a lot more.  Here's the breakdown:
  • $102.53 manufacturer coupons (I used e-coupons and paper)
  • $234.07 store savings & store coupons

If you want to learn more about e-coupons click here.  Thanks Frugal Chic Living for the info on e-coupons!

We Met Our Goal!

The mini-emergency fund is now complete!  We have $1000 stashed away to break our dependence on credit cards (we used them any time an unexpected expense came up-umm, that's commonly known as life!).  I'm telling you I felt like we scratched, clawed and hard-core scraped our way to that $1000.

Looking back, I'm a little surprised at how it all played out.  Probably the worst two months-November and December, to start this.  We were able to not only save up this money, but also provide each of our kids three nice gifts each for Christmas.

So I sold like crazy on Craiglist.  I mean I listed all kinds of things.  Here's just some of the stuff I sold:

  • 1950's entertainment center (this was cool-it had a turntable, tv, radio and storage)
  • Harry Potter wii game that no one played
  • a 13 year old exersaucer
  • baby shoes
  • nursing cover (actually paid $3, sold for $10!)
  • dog crate for the puppy we had for a month: in-laws have him now:)
  • unfinished table and chairs
What I love about Craigslist is that I would have never been able to sell these items at a regular garage sale for the prices I got.  I even tried selling some of these things at our last garage sale.

We also added any extra money Mike made proctoring (giving the SAT), transferred his video account savings, and all the money I saved that first month on our groceries.

Some folks are able to sell high-ticket items to build their fund or throw at debt, but we don't really have those.  No boats, ATV's, snowmobiles.  Just did the best we could with what we had.  We feel really blessed to reach this goal!