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Monday, February 28, 2011

Mint.com

I love Mint.com.  I stumbled across the website about a week ago.  After a few days of reading reviews and asking different friends about their experiences with Mint, I decided to give it a try.  And the result?  I Love it!  It tracks ALL my accounts.  I tell you what, it is very sobering to see all my debt tallied on one page, and to see my net worth as -$54,655.08

The good news is that it showed me that I was off on my original debt estimate.  Instead of 55k, I am actually $57,577.74 in debt.  Not that being an additional 2K in debt is good news- knowing about it is.  I feel more in control of my finances now that I know exactly where I stand.

I also have the ability to set a budget, and Mint will track all my spending and inform me when I go over budget.  This also is very liberating.  Over the weekend I read a wonderful article about budgeting from No Debt Plan   And it was like a light-bulb went off when I read this:

             "A budget doesn’t tell you where your money went. Your money
              shouldn’t be going anywhere without you knowing about it. It does
              show you were you told it to go"

Again, I feel more in control.  So I set up a budget for the extra $168 I have a month (after all my bills are paid)  March will be the first full month that I follow this budget.  I will post about it soon and let you know how I am doing.

Until then, if you have a minute to check out Mint head on over.  It works for me!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Control

I have issues with Control.  I can't stand to have anyone control me.  Just ask my parents.   If they told me to do something I would usually do the opposite just to prove "you can't control my life."  It's ironic that I am in so much debt who's interest is so controlling.  So when I came across this article from No Debt Plan, I was thrilled. I especially loved this part

 "Look at your current financial situation. You’re in your current situation because of decisions you made in the past.  Like the weather you can’t control where you are now. You can’t control being thousands of dollars in debt now."  

Which is true.  I can spend hours brooding over the fact that I was so dumb, and that we are in so much debt, yada yada yada. But that doesn't do me any good.  I have to move forward and control my expenses, my income and my mind set.   Most important I can control what I am doing now to change my current financial situation!

Link to article:
http://www.nodebtplan.net/2011/02/09/control-what-you-can-control/

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Wait Game

Last week Hubby applied for a job that pays $6.00 more than he is making now.  It is in Law Enforcement (same field he is working now) and they are hiring a number of people to fill 2 different academies.  He is qualified for the position and I know they will love him.  The stinky part is waiting for the invitation to interview.  Apparently they only have 3 people who process all the applications, and it will take a couple weeks to find out if he will be interviewed.  Hubby assures me that everything will work out fine.  He is confident that he will not only get an interview, but he will also get the job.  I don't want to think about what that extra $6.00 an hour would do for our family.  Because once I start thinking about the possibilities, I will be so depressed if it doesn't work out.  But I can't help it.

An extra $6.00 an hour means that we can actually make ends meet each month.  We won't be struggling to figure out how we are going to pay for groceries or Dr. bills.  We can aggressively get out of debt.  We can think about buying a house.  We can consider having a 3rd baby (I really want to have a boy).  We can build a savings.  We might be able to get a second car.  Sigh.  There is so much we can do with that extra $6.00 an hour!  I really hope we hear from them soon.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Leave the Cards at Home

Many years ago I worked in a fabulous retail clothing store.  One of our daily goals was to open new credit cards.  Why?  Because credit card holders ALWAY spend more.  Always.  Something psychological happens when you pay with a credit card as opposed to cash. 

Whenever I pay with cash, I always take my time in deciding what I want to buy.  I never buy the first thing I think is cute.  I will compare items and really think about the purchase, asking myself "How much do I really want this."

When I make a purchase on a credit card it is a whole different story.  I am more liberal with my spending. If I think,"This will be nice to have"  I put it on the card.  I spend maybe 5 minutes thinking about my purchase, compared to 15 when I pay with cash. 

So now I am going to try something new.  If I need to go grocery shopping and I have $40 to spend, I will withdraw it from the bank- taking my cash to WINCO and leaving my credit card at home.  Trips to Costco?  Use cash.  Walmart and Target?  Cash only.  Fun walks through the mall- no cash, and definitely no cards.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Same as Cash Trap

When hubby and I got married, the only bed we owned was my full size bed I used through college.  It is an extremely comfortable bed that I loved.  However, I thought it was too small for Hubby who is 6'2" and me being 5'7".  So we decided to get a king size bed.  After doing some shopping around it became apparent we couldn't afford to pay cash for a new bed.  Buying a used bed grosses me out, so that wasn't an option.

One of the local furniture stores was having the infamous "Same as Cash" deal.  Buy the furniture now and have no payments or interest for 1 year.  What a generous offer I remember thinking.  While we were at the store looking at mattresses, I saw a beautiful bedroom set.  And this is what I thought:  If I don't get this now, when will I get it?  We are already buying a bed on credit, might as well get this too.  We will be able to pay it off in time- Hubby is going to make a lot of money this summer.  And so I batted my eyes and made my plea to Hubby. Bless his heart, he didn't argue with me.  Probably because we were about to get married.  Most likely because he realized I had decided this is what I wanted to do and it would be near impossible to change my  mind.

Two weeks later a gorgeous bedroom set was delivered to our little apartment. 

It barley fit in the master bedroom.  I didn't care. It was the nicest thing in our apartment and the matress is incredible.

Throughout the next year I made small payments.  About four months before the year mark I started to get very nervous because we still owed a significant amount.  Luckily we didn't have any children or credit card debt so our monthly expenses were very minimum.  I was able to pay off the rest of the debt in time.  Big sigh of relief.

We didnt' learn our lesson.  A year and a half ago Hubby's laptop died.  We decided to get a new computer.  Best Buy was having a great deal on computers as well as "Same as Cash" offers.  And so we got ourselves into a mess.  What I should have done was calculated how much I needed to pay each month in order to pay it in full by the dead line.  Excuses kept coming up so I always paid the minimum amount due.  Now we have until March 9th to pay $970.30.  If the account is not paid in full by that day, we will owe an additional $529.18.   There is a good chance our tax return will be processed by then, so we might dodge the bullet again.

If I don't learn my lesson this time, I need to be beaten with a stick.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Getting by until the blessed Tax Return

Payday was today.  Right now we have $982.34 in our checking account.  After I subtract the bills due by March 1st (943.42) we are left with $38.92.  I have to buy formula for my little one (WIC just covers the baby food) which is $17.00- so that brings me down to $21.92
 I still owe 3 different bills for February, totalling $655.39. (One is my student loan payment of $206 which comes out of deferment next week.  One is $84 for Loan #1 and the last is 3 payments of tithing that I fell behind on totalling $364.23). 

I contacted Loan #1 and they are graciously working with me and will wait until my tax return comes back to be paid.  I have $230 in an emergency saving account that I will transfer over, I just received a $75 check for some work I did last month and I have $53 in cash I was saving for groceries.  Add all that to $38.92 and I have $379.92. 

I've decided to make the tithing payment so I am current on my tithes.  I will call my student loan and see if I can work something out to pay them 2 weeks late.  So after I pay tithing, I will have $15.96  We have plenty of food to last the next 2 weeks, so I shouldn't need to use any of that for groceries. 

Our tax information in on the way to our accountant.  I am hoping to see the return in our checking account by March 7th.  I am really crossing my fingers for a good return so I can be current on all my bills and pay down some of our credit cards!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Thank you WIC

It took a long time before I humbly applied for WIC.  I didn't want to admit that I needed help.  I didn't want to be one of "those" people.  I didn't want to be poor.  But we are poor, and we need help.  So we became a WIC family, and I am very grateful for WIC.  My 3 year old can drink as much milk as her little body needs and my 10 month old has plenty of baby food to eat.  It is so nice to get fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs, cheese and cereal.  During a time when money is extremely tight, it is comforting to know we have food to eat. 

However, I very much look forward to the day when we don't need WIC.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Budgeting our Expenses

I've broken up our expenses into two different categories, based on the due dates. 
The list of our monthly expenses. 

Tithing to
my Church           $130
Rent                    $525
Car Insurance      $62.60
Rental Insurance  $15.82
IRA                     $50
Gas for Car          $70
Electricity              $50
Gas                       $40
Total for the 1st   $943.42-- leaves me $125 extra for groceries, dr visits, ect.

Tithing to my
Church                 $130
Cell Phone            $30
Savings                 $25
Internet, Phone,
& TV Bundle       $89
Gas for Car            $70
Diapers                 $40
Student Loan #1   $50
Student Loan #2   $206.24
Credit Card #1     $10
Credit Card #2     $106
Credit Card #3     $170
Credit Card #4     $20
Loan payment #1   $ 84
Total for 15th $1030.24 -- gives me $38 for food, unexpected expenses.

After we pay all our bills, we are left with $163 to buy groceries, personal items, pay for medicine, or unexpected dr. visits.   Had we not used our credit card, we would have an extra $390 to budget.  Add what I pay in Student Loans and that would be an extra $646 per month.  If only I could go back in time and tell my young self to STOP BORROWING!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Starting a Budget- Income

Our income.  Hubby makes $13.14/hr with a $.65 shift differential. An 80 hour pay period (2 weeks) give us $1,103.76 gross pay.  Minus $65.60 for taxes, $84.88 for retirement, $84.37 for insurance and we are left with $868.91.

I work at home for a wonderful company.  They pay me $10/hr and I work anywhere between 10-12 hours a week.  On average my pay check is $200 (for a two week pay period).

I also work with a MLM party planning company.  It is a 100% commission pay, so I never know what my paycheck will be.  I figure the best way to work this income into our budget it to apply all excess money I make toward our credit card bills.

So essentially I have $1068.91 to budget every two weeks.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Car

Before I got married I drove a 3 year old Honda.  It had a V8 engine, leather Seats, 6 disc CD Changer.  It was beautiful.  I loved it. I didn't mind paying for the $300/month car payment or the $150/month insurance.  In the 3 years that I owned my car, it never broke down.  That is probably what I loved most about it. 

Hubby, on the other hand hated the car.  He didn't like how low to the ground it was, or how poorly it drove in the snow.  Most of all he hated the car payment. 

Before we got married, we talked about finances and what we could afford.  I remember siting in a park and telling him the things I like to have.  He took out a piece of paper and wrote a list of everything I mentioned, along with how much it costs.  Then he wrote down how much money we would have coming in each month.  Unfortunately there was a huge gap.  We didn't have enough monthly income to pay for everything we needed and wanted.  So I decided to sell my car. 

I was depressed for a month.

Then I got over it.  Someday I would have a nice car again.

We ended up buying my in-law's 11 year old SUV.  Hubby's dad was kind and sold it to us a little below blue book.  It had leather seats and a nice CD player, along with 120,000 miles.  I admit that I liked not having a car payment.  Then the car started to break down.  In the 4 years that we have owned the car we have paid around $5,000 in repairs.  Some of the things we've had to repair are the windshield (twice), the O2 censors, the Computer, tires, air conditioning, transmission, fuel pump, and radiator.  Most of the time we didn't have the cash to pay for the repairs, so we just put it on the credit card.  By now that $5,000 is up to $6,500.  Lovely.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Things Start To Look Up

I was three months pregnant when Hubby found four job openings in Law Enforcement, the field in which he always wanted to work.  He applied for all four.  He passed the preliminary requirements for the first job, tested well and was invited for an interview.  It was very exciting to see the light at the end of the tunnel!  Then two days before the scheduled interview, he received a call that the city had ran out of funds and they were suspending all hiring until further notice.  Sigh. At least we had 3 other options. 

Hubby drove 5 hours east for the 2nd job.  It was for a police officer position in a very small town.  About 50 applicants showed up for the testing/interview process.  Some of the applicants drove as much as 19 hours for the interview. About 1/3 of the individuals in attendance were either previous police officers, correctional officers or county sheriffs who had lost their jobs due to budget cuts.  That position was filled by someone who had a great deal of law enforcement experience.

The third position contacted us about a month after he applied and said "thanks but no thanks."  He didn't have the experience they were looking for. 

So that left one job, a correctional officer position in a city 5 1/2 hours north. Ironically, it paid the least, but it was in an area we both really wanted to live.  Two and a half months after he applied they invited him up for an interview.  Two weeks later they called and said that they didn't have the funds to hire anyone for the POST academy starting in March, but it was hopeful they would have funds for the June academy.  We would hear back again in May.  So our fingers were crossed.  In the meantime, I gave birth to a healthy, beautiful little girl.  Gratefully, she didn't need any extra medical care.  We also had medicaid in addition to our Blue Cross insurance my husband's terrible job offered.

2 weeks after our little girl was born, we received the best call of the year.  Hubby was offered a position to start the first week in June.  I cried with happiness!  We packed up our things, put the move on the credit card and eagerly started a new chapter in our life.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Lousy Job

After having our little girl, we decided that I was going to be a stay at home mom.  Hubby found a sales job that paid $10/hr or commission.  They also offered insurance which costs us $250 a pay check.  It seemed a little high, but I figured it was better than not having insurance.  

Hubby was immediately well liked at work, and the managers in the company would send him warm leads to close.  His 3rd paycheck was around $4,000.  I was ecstatic!  We were going to be able to pay off our Hospitals Bills and start saving again! Unfortunately, this was short lived.

All of the managers and high sales reps at this company were buddies.  They played fantasy football, went paint-balling, went to concerts, and golfed together.  Their biggest thing was fantasy football.  One day the head of the department asked Hubby a question about fantasy football.  Hubby's response was an honest one, but one that cost him any chance of success at the company.  He said he wasn't into fantasy football, that he thought it was pretty dumb.  He never received a warm lead again.

His average pay check dropped to around $800.  That's when his commission was higher than the $10/hr.  Sometimes he would just get paid the $10 and the check was around $500.  Every couple of months he would have a great paycheck that was around $1500.

You probably are asking, why did he stay there that long?  He began working in the Summer of 2008.  And the lovely economy started to tank.  By 2009 he hated the job and wanted to leave, but couldn't find anything.  Later I found out he hated working there so much, that he would cry on his way to work.   And yet he still went to work everyday.  He would even go in on his days off to try to make more money.

In 2009, we made about $19,000. Even though he was miserable and the pay was terrible, we felt lucky to have a job and health insurance.  Many people were not that lucky. Our credit card balance grew.  We should have gone on food stamps, but I didn't know much about that program and I figured that because we had a job we wouldn't qualify for food stamps.  So I just put groceries on the credit card as well as gas, diapers, formula and follow up doctor's visits. 

Then in August of 2009 I found out I was pregnant again.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Babies Change Everything

They say life changes when you have kids.  They are right.  From a mom's point of view everything changes; your body, your relationships, your house, your sleep, your emotions, your love, and especially your finances.

We knew that kids can be expensive.  When we found out I was pregnant with our first baby, I contacted my insurance and the hospital to find out how much I should expect to pay for the baby.  I was told it would be around $1500.   So we started saving for our little one. 

We had a stash of Costco Cash cards saved up to purchase diapers.  My sister gave us a crib, and I received wonderful clothes from my baby shower.  Nine months into the pregnancy, I thought we were financially ready for our bundle of joy.

Then she came early, and had a bad case of Jaundice.  Luckily we didn't have to keep her in the hospital- we just had to rent a "suitcase" for 14 days at a rate of $100 a day.  Sure insurance would cover that, after we met the baby's $1000 deductible.  My deductible which was only $500 when we got pregnant changed to $1000 three months before baby was born.   So that $1500 I planed on paying changed to $4000 after all the bills came due.  Goodbye to all our savings and extra money in the bank.  I drained our resources and still owed about $1000.  I thought it would be best to pay off the doctors and hospital so I put our remaining balance on a credit card.  One of the worst mistakes I could have made.

Did you know that some hospitals will work with you?  They will set up a payment plan.  Some will take a look at your finances and if you qualify they will reduce your bill.  I didn't know all this.  I thought "The hospitals and doctors say I owe this by May 15th, so I better pay it by May 15th"

Oh how I hated that balance of $1000 on my credit card.

A time when my Credit Card balance was $0

When I got married 4 years ago our credit card balance was $0.  Yes $0.  And it stayed at $0 for about a year and a half.  We were even able to start a savings!  At one point we had $2500 in saving and $1500 in the bank on a consistent basis.  In fact, I had a automatic alert set up to tell me when our checking account went under $1500. 

I worked full time making $30,000 a year while my husband was going to school.  He was a student athlete on scholarship so his "job" brought in about $400 a month.  We would occasionally go out to eat.  Every once in a while we did buy a few "extras."  Like a suit for hubby and a Nixon watch for me.  I very rarely bought new clothes.  I was proud at how we were saving and staying away from excess spending.

Then I got pregnant.  And that changed everything.