Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2009 Goals

My SMART goals for 2009:

  1. Pay off credit cards ($6000) by July1. Plan: pay $900/ month x 6 + $600 from Job 2.

  2. Have an emergency fund with two months living expenses by Dec. 31, 2009. $600 x 6

  3. Start sinking funds for next car and house expenses. Still working on details-$110/month right now.
  4. Use YNAB to track spending and budget. Update weekly.


  1. Work out or walk 2x a week.
  2. Walk dog every day.
  3. Recommit to morning and evening Flylady routines to reduce mental clutter.
  4. Attend a Bible study.
  5. Act on my interests and learn something new--possibilities are astronomy club or Master Gardener


  1. Make a planned project for each month to improve the house. Projects include: painting the kitchen, my bedroom, 2nd bedroom, refinish wood floors, make steps to the river, new bathroom floor and tub walls.

  2. Start a compost bin and plant a garden.

These goals are a work in progress, but it feels good to have a direction to start 2009.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Does anyone remember this Indiana blog?

I read a blog post a few weeks ago about a mother-in-law who volunteered by picking up surplus food from restaurants, especially Panera, and delivering the food to homeless shelters and group homes. I would like to find out more about the organization, but I can't find the blog or the link to the charity. I think it was located in Indiana. If you have any clues, let me know!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

YNAB for the New Year

One reoccurring problem I have with budgeting is mentally spending allocated money more than once. Since this is physically impossible, my debt-reduction plan is not very realistic. For example, when I first began trying to pay off my debt in June 2007, I estimated that I would be debt-free in December 2008. While I have made great progress--reducing debt by $7500, my estimates were way off! I need a system that keeps me accountable. My budgeting tools in the past were pencil and paper first, then last April I found an Excel worksheet from Mr. Debtbeater based on bi-monthly pay. I was diligent about planning my budget, but not so diligent about entering actual expenditures. I tried jars and envelopes, but was still able to avoid the consequences of overspending. In September, I looked at spreadsheets to track expenses, but my brain was so stressed with school and then moving that I couldn't get started with anything new.

I first saw YNAB online awhile ago and was intrigued by it, so I decided to give the Excel version a try. YNAB stands for You Need a Budget, and is based on 4 Rules of Cash Flow that merge nicely with Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps and the envelope system. What I like about it is that if I overspend in one category, I have to figure out a way to "fix it" either this month or the next. I can spend less in that category next month, or move money from another category. My budget will be a better reflection of my actual spending.

I'm sure I will make mistakes and miscalculations, but with the YNAB software, at least I'll be aware of them and be more likely to correct my errors. I am excited to try January's numbers.

Does anyone else use YNAB?

Debt Reduction Progress

As I try to work out my goals for 2009, I want to evaluate my financial success and failures for 2008.

At the beginning of 2008, I had $11,700 of non-mortgage debt, and a $162,000 mortgage. During this year, I have paid $5500 to debt, sold my house and purchased a smaller one. My current status is:

Credit card debt:
Dec. 2008 $6200

Emergency fund:
Dec. 2008 $850

Dec. 2008 $117, 000 (I need to look up the exact figure)

I am pleased with my progress in 2008. I have not been "gazelle" intense in paying off debt because another of my goals is to enjoy life now with my children and friends. Some of my splurges were: buying a share of a 20-year old boat, going to Ocean City with friends from college, going to Charlotte for a cross-country race.

I want to continue to be able to have dinner out with friends and to perhaps plan a trip to NYC in the summer to visit DD2. I want to budget for these important expenses as I plan for 2009. Realistic planning is a challenge for me. I think I need more accountability in my budget. I really want to find a system that works for me.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Get Inspired!

Great quotes from wise people:
1. From Suze Orman, "No blame, no shame". Start where you are. Just start! Thanks to Blogging away debt for the link.

2. From Sharon Rose, "Slow progress is better than no progress". Thanks to Ms Money chat for the Financial Nugget.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Help for the debt-free journey

I discovered the personal finance blogging world last year about this time. These are some resources that were helpful to me.

Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover opened my eyes to the possibility that I could successfully take control of my finances. Mary Hunt's Debt Proof Living is another website with good information. I recommend checking out books by both authors if you need a vision for your financial future.

Bob at Christianpf has a series on getting out of debt as well as spreadsheets to download.Ncn at nocreditneeded has a series called debt reduction 101.

Lynne at Beingfrugal has practical tips to reduce spending and live within your budget.

The first debt reduction blog I started to read was JW at Need to be debt-free. He and his family have made great progress while dealing with some setbacks along the way.

I have been inspired and encouraged by the other blogs on my side bar, but these were the ones I started with in December 2007. They helped encourage me on my journey in 2008.
I haven't been perfect, but I have made progress in 2008--I have a plan. I have paid $5500 to debt reduction. I have been able to pay for several unexpected expenses without going further in debt.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Check out the Christmas Giveaway at

Bob at is having a great giveaway--ipods, tax software, Pampered Chef, books--lots of chances to win. It's easy to enter, but hurry. The contest ends on Dec. 29.

Monday, December 22, 2008

AP Physics audit approved!

My AP Physics course audit was approved! Yes! What a relief!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Looking forward-becoming debt-free in 2009

In August, my goal was to pay off my credit card debt by May 1 of 2009. With the expenses of buying a house and moving, I'm a little behind where I wanted to be at the end of 2008. I currently owe $5700. That means I would have to pay $1400/month in order to make my goal of May 1st--not possible.
I must revise my pay off goal, but the end is definitely in sight. I really think I can be debt-free in 6 months! Wow! I'm looking forward to Baby Step 3--saving a fully funded 3 month emergency fund
I still have to make a budget for January and the New Year. I'm not sure how the utilities will run for the new house, so I'll have to estimate the gas, electric and water bills for 2009. I'm looking forward to crunching the numbers.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Plumbing problems

The kitchen sink has 3 leaks--the faucet, the disposal, and the drain pipe. The bathtub is also leaking. I tried to call a plumber Friday, but the number was disconnected. Where have all the plumbers gone?
I'm going to try to find the number of a "handy man" for Monday. The last time I tried to do plumbing myself, I broke the pipe and was without a kitchen sink for a few days. Since I have so many plumbing problems, I was to get them fixed correctly.

I'm really glad I replenished the emergency fund--this is probably going to be expensive. I'm thankful that I should have enough money to cover the repairs.

Goals update

It's time to check my goals for last week. I had a few successes and have a few to finish.
Goals for the week:
Work out 2x. Worked out 1x and walked 1x.
Buy 3 more gifts. 1 down, 2 more to go, but I have a plan.
Buy and decorate tree. The tree is up! It looks great!
Continue unpacking--make a plan. I unpacked 7 boxes, still 3 more to go. My wonderful dd1 and son-in-law organized the boxes in the basement and set up dd2's bedroom furniture in an alcove in the basement. She now has her own space when she comes home from college.

Wow! Until I typed a response for each goal, I really didn't think I had made much progress. Note to self: keep making goals!

Monday, December 15, 2008


Hey, my post was deleted when I tried to publish it. No idea what I did wrong.

Does anyone have suggestions for a website to help me organize financial papers, photographs, and a nonexistant linen closet? I have less closet space in the new house, so the things I used to stuff in my closet, I now need to find a home for.
Goals for the week:
Work out 2x.
Buy 3 more gifts.
Buy and decorate tree.
Continue unpacking--make a plan.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Follow through

I'm having a difficult time finishing tasks. Progress from last week's list:

Letters written, one still needs printed out.

Some payments mailed, two to go

Unpacked 3 bags and 1 box, 9 more to go (mostly books)

Still need to work on basement

Still need to call neighbors

Did laundry, now more needs done

Started Christmas shopping, 3 more gifts to buy

Finished AP audit!

Went to church

Made dinner and 1 batch of cookies (now those are all gone)

Right now--move bookshelf and unpack books, then make a new list

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Check: One goal down, 7 more to go!

I just finished my AP Physics audit, which had really been weighing on me. It's the only thing I finished from my week-end list, but it was a big one. Now I can focus on getting the smaller things checked off.

Emergency fund replenished

I decided to replenish my emergency fund instead of sending $500 to CC debt. After reading comments (Thanks, jpkittie!), talking to family members and reading what other bloggers had to say, I decided that a small emergency fund was the wise choice, since I had depleted it when putting the deposit on the new house. I now have $850 in my emergency fund, and will add $80/month to it.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


It's been six weeks since I've posted, due to Internet problems and moving to a new house. I moved 2 weeks ago and now have Internet again. The move itself took several days and was quite a learning experience. I learned about: epoxy coating a basement floor, Pellet stoves, gas fireplaces, moving companies (there aren't too many left in my town), refinishing wood floors (not doing this now), retraining dogs, and Drilock. I had a lot of needed help during the move: my children and son-in-law, my parents and my friends. They were all fantastic and jumped in where ever they were needed. I love them all!
We are about 75% settled. The kitchen, dining room, living room, DS room, DD1 and DSIL's room are 90% complete, however, my bedroom and bath and the basement still need to be organized. DD2's room in the basement is still to be built.
I'm having trouble mentally organizing my finances. I think that I have paid all the moving expenses, but I don't have a clear picture of what finances at the new house will look like.
The good news is that I haven't added to my overall debt--right now it stands at $6200. I will reduce that by at least $500 more this month.
Financial decisions to make:
Do I pay an additional $500 to CC's or replenish my emergency fund? I have $350 in EF now.
I would like to pay CC's, but with the uncertainty in my budget, I'm not sure that is wise.

Goals for the day:
Type letters
Mail payments
Unpack and organize my bedroom.
Look at basement and decide about Fast Plug
Call neighbors
Laundry--3 loads

Goals for this evening:
Christmas list and planning
Look at AP Physics

Goals for tomorrow:
Make cookies and dinner

It's good to be back!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Quick Update

Our Internet is down so I am at the local community college writing a quick update on the house. One couple looked at my house over the week-end and they are meeting with the realtor tomorrow to possibly make an offer! I'm very pleased, but there are so many variables that I can't really get too excited, yet. Will they offer enough? Do they have to sell their house first? This could go on forever!
One neat side note--the couple that looked at the house were friends from the past that had moved away and are now looking to move back to the area. Our daughters used to be best friends 20 years ago. The pleasures of living in a small town!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

House Links

Several PF bloggers are in the process of buying new houses. Their posts are full of good advice about the home buying process.

Thank you for sharing your experiences!


The owners accepted my offer on the new house! The offer is contingent upon me selling my current house, so there is a 24-hour kick out clause, which means that if another person wants to buy the house and has the money available, I have 24 hours to decide if I want to buy the new house without selling my old one. I won't do that. Having two mortgages would be crazy for me, not to mention going against Dave Ramsey's wise advise.
I am feeling very peaceful about my decision, even with all the contingencies. I trust that God has a plan for me. If someone else buys the new house, then something better will be available in the future. There will be positive results from getting my house ready to sell. I am working on decluttering and making a list of small repairs that would help the resale value of my house. As I declutter, I find that I am letting go of the past (This is a little strange and surprising for me). I'm still processing this, but overall it's a change for the good.
The realtor is coming by this evening to measure the rooms. On Wednesday, all the realtors in town will come through to see the property. This is a little stressful for me, because I am not the most organized or best housekeeper. On the plus side, I have lots of help. My daughter and son-in-law are very efficient, so together we should be able to get (and keep) the house looking presentable.
Upcoming projects, I think, will be replacing kitchen and bathroom floor tiles, repairing screens, and painting 2 bedrooms and a bathroom. It sound a little daunting, but I will make a prioritized list after talking to the realtor. Debt-reduction will be on hold for a few months so I can pay for home repairs and replace the emergency fund. I used the emergency fund to make a deposit on the new house. Maybe I can make enough from the sale to pay off the last credit card!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What Effect Will the National Financial Trouble Have on My Plans?

I made an offer on the house with the great view. Now I just have to put my house on the market, find a buyer, get financing, and wait for the buyer to get financing. I can't help but wonder what effect the "credit crunch" will have on my plans. Interesting times! I'll keep you all posted.

Monday, October 6, 2008

New house?

I have been thinking of downsizing when DS graduates from high school in 2 years, but I might move sooner if things work out. This week-end I looked at two houses. I love the view from one of the houses. It has two great decks overlooking the river and is 5 minutes from where I live now. The house payment would be about $250 less than I'm paying now. I would only buy it with a contingency clause for selling my house now. I'm a little scared, but excited too. There are still lots of details. I'm meeting with the realtor on Wednesday to discuss making an offer.

This is the view from the top deck!

Am I really ready to change? This move would be easier next year, but affordable houses with river views are not easy to find. I don't want to miss out on the opportunity because I'm afraid of change.

One Credit Card Down, One to Go!

I just paid the last of Credit Card 1. It was a store credit card that I applied for to get the 10% off an iPod for my son's birthday 3 years ago. I think I have probably paid $360 in interest and I saved about $20 on the iPod. Smart? I don't think so! Never again!

One more card to go--the largest balance $5900. Even though I won't be able to pay much more this month, just having one debt to focus on is nice. When I began my debt-reduction journey, I had 4 credit cards and a car payment for a total debt of over $13,000. The debt is coming down slowly, but surely.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

September Goals Evaluated

I'm a few days late in evaluating my September goals. They were:

1. Establish morning and evening routines for both home and work. Routines will help simplify and de-stress my mornings. The morning and evening routines have not become habits yet--keep working on these.
2. Pay off CC1 ($925). I was able to pay $680 t0 CC1 in September. I'll finish it off this week!
3. Investigate membership class at church. I went to the membership class, but have not taken further steps or made a decision.

Making goals and updating them is helpful to me in making financial and personal progress. In October, I want to add goals (not too many) in different areas of my life to facilitate change.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Trying to Understand the Global Financial Crisis

On Friday, as I watched various news networks follow the fate of the $700 billion bailout plan, I heard several Congressmen and reporters opine that "The average American will probably never fully understand the danger that the American economy is in." That was like a waving red flag for me. In physics, there are variations on a quote that goes something like this, "If you can't explain something to your grandmother, then you don't really understand it." I've seen this quote ascribed to both Ernest Rutherford and Albert Einstein. Richard Feynman's version supposedly goes like this, "If you can't explain something to a first-year physics student, you don't really understand it." As a physics teacher, I am forced to admit that I don't fully understand a concept if I can't explain it clearly and succinctly.
When Congressmen and reporters tell me that I cannot understand the situation and yet do not attempt to explain it, that tells me that they probably do not understand it. The President in press conferences and the current candidates during the debates did nothing to explain causes of the situation either. I have spent a few hours this morning trying to understand the basics of the current crisis. Personal finance blogs and the links they contain have been the resources I used. I still don't have a clear picture of the situation, but I have learned a few things--I think. If I am drawing incorrect conclusions, please let me know. I really would like to learn.
  • There is no such thing as a completely "free" market. Initiators of the system have an inherent advantage over others, therefore regulation is necessary for to help establish a fair playing field.
  • This crisis did not develop overnight; it has been building for the past three decades (at least). The Federal Reserve and the Treasury Secretarys during the past five administrations should have had a clue that the bubble could not go on forever, and that the correction would be severe.
  • Lobbying by the banking and investment sectors have had too much influence on the lack of regulation.
  • Congress has not kept pace with the changes in the stock market. They don't understand it either (and they should!)
  • The increases in the stock market over the past 30 years do not reflect increases in real, physical value. The increases reflect investing in and insuring debt--not real goods.
  • Speculation, junk bonds, hedge funds, credit default swaps (CDS), and deriviatives are all things that I do not completely understand, but have to do with the current crisis. I really don't understand why these practices were accepted and encouraged by financial companies. I think that people made a lot of money without adding any real value to anything.

The sources I used were:

Lynne at Being Frugal has a great round up of links concerning the financial crisis. This is were I started.

From there, I went to three financial blogs that have been around for a while and whose authors:

The American 419 Scam at Cash Money Life
What Caused the Financial Crisis of 2008? at Moolanomy
The $700B Bailout Bill at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity (This has been updated--3 times so far)

On Cash, Money Life, there is a link to the Treasury Department Fact Sheet on the bailout. It sounds like socialization of the stock market. Strange from Republicans. I think old strategies ("free markets") won't work for international stock markets.

On Moolanomy, there is a link to a funny article, Me too, Secretary Paulson! at Wise Bread. A link in the comments led to the most informative article by Henry Liu, Too Big to Fail Versus Moral Crisis. There is too much information here to take in all at once, but overall there is a historical framework that was instructive for me.

Is anyone else struggling to understand the economic crisis? Maybe we can help each other.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Buddy is so smart!

You may recall that my daughter's dogs had been having trouble adjusting to the new house situation, well, Buddy the Beagle has doing much better in his house training. DD1 has been very consistent in taking him out on a leash and rewarding him with treats for doing his business outside. He has had a few instances of regression, but there has been a big improvement since September 12. We have heard from several beagle owners that their dogs regressed when moving to a new house.

Overall, both dogs seem very content. They both enjoy chasing my dog, Gretzky, and kissing the cat, Sebastian. Fun times!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Debt Reduction Progress

I updated my progress in reducing debt and increasing savings on my side charts (I'm having a little trouble updating the NCN chart). This month I added $65 to my mini emergency fund and paid $790 in credit card debt. I like seeing the progress on the charts and tickers, but I would also like to see the difference monthly in a graph. Does anyone of a widget that shows debt reduction graphically?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Recovering and Week 4 Updates

It has been over a week since my last post. It was quite a busy week, plus I was dealing with a nasty cold that was making the rounds at our school. I struggled to teach each day and then come home and collapse. I'm telling myself that since I caught this cold so early in the school year, I'll probably be immune for the rest of the year ;-). Enough complaining, on to the updates.
September Goals
1. Establish morning and evening routines for both home and work. Even though I have not been vigilant with my morning and evening routines, I have still been getting to school early. DD1 gets the credit for helping me get out of the house in the morning. She packs my lunch and gets DS up. I will renew my efforts this week to keep up the morning and evening routines. I won't always have DD1 living with me!
2. Pay off CC1 ($925). I have paid $690 to this credit card in September. I don't think I will be able to pay more. The reason for the miscalculation is that my part-time job at the local community college changed the pay schedule, so I brought in $200 than I had planned. Even so, I haven't completely given up paying this one off in September.
3. Investigate membership class at church. I attended the membership class to find out more about the theology and mission of the church. I think the theology is a good fit for me and I love the worship services. The main obstacle to joining, is that the church is 35 minutes away. I don't change easily, so I am reluctant to commit in case the distance would prove daunting. Next step-sign up for a small group to determine if I like that aspect. I don't change easily so I am extra cautious (maybe too cautious) in commitment.

Focus for the next week:
1. Concentrate on morning and evening routines. Decide which to keep for next month.
2. Pay more on CC2 if more money comes in.
3. Sign up online for a small group at church by Friday.

Evaluating monthly goals is motivating for me. I enjoy reading the goals and update of other bloggers, also. Some bloggers I follow who update goals frequently are Notes from the Frugal Trenches, Paid it Down, Paradigm Shifted, and Renee. Check them out and cheer them on!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

It's Me or the Dog

I don't usually watch much TV because I tend to get addicted. Last evening, however, my daughter and I found a new (to us) show called, "It's Me or the Dog" , which I really enjoyed. The premise is a dog behavior expert comes to help frazzled dog owners with out of control pets. The dog trainer, Victoria, is amazing. She is a well-dressed woman with a medium pitched voice, but when she talks, the dogs listen.
My daughter and I found the program helpful because since she and my SIL moved in with me two weeks ago, her two dogs have had a little trouble adjusting to the new schedule. The older dog, Sully (a golden retriever), has been fine, but Buddy, a 8-month old beagle, was getting worse instead of better. He was regressing in house training which was no fun.

One episode of the TV show dealt with house training regression. Victoria's advice was to go "back to puppy training basics". The new regime is to take Buddy outside, feed him and take him outside again. If he does his business, he can play in the house. If not, he goes back into his box for a while. This was the same schedule, DD used when first house training him. Hopefully, a few days of "back to basic" training will alleviate the accidents! I'll keep you posted.

Friday, September 12, 2008

New budgeting tools

I have been trying to budget for years, sometimes successfully, other times, not so much. One contributing factor to my lack of success has been my inability to track my actual expenditures. Francois, at Liberia, has posted an expense tracker spreadsheet that may be helpful. (Thank you, francois, for sharing this great resource.) It looks simple and easy to use. Take a look for yourself. If you decide to try it, too, let me know. Maybe we can help each other!

I can't wait to try it for September!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Snowflake goal update

My goal for the week was to collect three snowflakes (reimbursement from work and two insurance reimbursements). I followed through with two out of the three and actually received two other payments that I had forgotten about! The snowflake total:
  1. Mileage $52
  2. CC boosters $58

Applied for:

  1. AFLAC $75
  2. Am. $260

I still need to send a letter and receipt to Mr. D.

I'm thinking about opening an ING account for irregular expenses with these snowflakes by the end of the month. Not sure--may send it to CC1.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

September goals: Week 2 update

The weekly update for my September goals are as follows:

1. Establish morning and evening routines for both home and work. Routines will help simplify and de-stress my mornings. My mornings have been less stressful. I have gotten to work 45 minutes earlier each morning. This time has been very helpful in planning for my morning classes.
2. Pay off CC1 ($925). This should be doable, if no other Murphy visits occur.
I paid $100 to this CC, but am still hopeful to pay it off by the end of the month.
3. Investigate membership class at church. I've been thinking about this for several months.
I signed up to attend the 1st class this Thursday.
4. Collect snowflakes.
I followed through with 1 out of 4. Goal for this week--snowflakes!

I made progress on all four goals! Now to persevere and complete them!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Cross Country Race

DS finished 11th in the big cross country race today! There were over 100 runners, so he was pretty pleased with his race. His time was 17:20, 5 seconds slower that his personal best. He wants to work on his finishing sprint because 4 runners passed him in the last 800m. I am really proud of him and impressed by all the runners. They all run 3.1 miles which is an amazing feat to me.
I hope to be able to post some pictures tomorrow!

Debt down, Savings up!

As you can see from my side charts, my debt is inching down and my savings are inching up. New totals:
CC1 $830 (I still hope to pay this one off this month)
CC2 $6000

Savings (mini emergency fund)
$515 (adding $80 each month)

Progress is slow, but the numbers are going in the right direction!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Cross-country races and exciting family plans

This has been an exciting week for my family. My 16 year-old son is a cross-country runner and this week, he finished very well in two races, 6th in one and 4th in the other. These are his highest ranking finishes so far. This week-end is a huge race 3 hours away. He would be very happy with a top 10 finish. I'm going to try to take pictures!
Other news, my daughter and son-in-law moved in with us while their house is being built. It's really fun having them around.
I'm off to visit my parents and go with them to the CC race. I will update the goals and financial picture later in the weekend.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Week 1 update for September goals

Time to evaluate my September goals. The reason I started my September goals a week early is because I'm a teacher and I wanted to get off to a good start. My goals are:

1. Establish morning and evening routines for both home and work. Routines will help simplify and de-stress my mornings. I have some ideas for specifics which I'll write about later. Any FLYbabies out there? My morning routines have been at about 80%--bed making is the worst. Evening routines are only 60% with journaling being the most difficult. I will be more diligent in the coming week. Overall, routines do help de-stress my mornings.

2. Pay off CC1 ($925). This should be doable, if no other Murphy visits occur. There are several variables that will determine this. Will update on the 15th.

3. Investigate membership class at church. I've been thinking about this for several months. It's time to take a step forward. No progress here--will check church website for info.

4. New goal: Collect snowflakes--see previous post.

I don't know if adding new goals is allowed ;)

Snowflaking goal

I have trouble with snowflaking. If extra money comes in, I want to spend it, not put it toward debt. The trouble is, sometimes I spend it two or three times in my head, so by the time the money actually comes in, I have spent way too much. I need an attitude adjustment. Let me see if I can talk myself into it.
My new, improved view on using extra money wisely includes acknowledging that paying off debt and planning ahead is a reward for me, because these actions will reduce future stress and in the long run, greatly improve my quality of life. To implement my new snowflake view, I will concentrate on three pending flakes that I need to follow through on. They are:
1. A reimbursement from my employer for a class. I need to find my receipt and send a letter to Mr. D.
2. A reimbursement from my medical savings account. I need to find my receipts, complete the form and mail it.
3. A payment from my insurance company. I need to print the form from the website and complete it.
When these payments come in, I will put them in my emergency fund. To make myself accountable, I will post on the outcomes by September 15.

I saw on Finding Financial Peace something that I think would be useful for me. Jennifer has her goals listed on the side of blog. I think it would help me focus to see those goals everyday. Good idea, Jennifer!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Silver lining

Every cloud has a silver the saying goes. Last week I had to replace the brakes on my car for $447, so my budget was a little tight for the last week of August. Instead of invading my emergency fund, I decided to see if I could reduce my food and gas spending until Friday (payday!) I just bought the essentials at the grocery store and reduced my food spending by about 65%! I couldn't do this every week, but it was good to find out that we could get by on a lot less for a short period of time. Now the challenge will be to see if I can continue the frugal trends--multiple meals from one entree and using frozen food that I already have. For specific tips on these frugal ideas, check out Frugal Food at Notes from the Frugal Trenches. She has reduced her food budget by 75%!

Our dinner menu for the week was:

Spaghetti with tomato, basil and olive oil (ds ate out)

Cheeseburgers, corn on the cob, edamame

Soft tacos, salad

Cheeseburgers (again), french fries, salad

Spaghetti with meat sauce

Chicken wings, mac and cheese, salad

stuffed peppers, left-overs (ds had a cross-country team dinner)

Not too exciting, but not too bad, since these are foods that ds likes.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

NCN mini-charts

Check out my debt and savings mini-charts on the side. Aren't they cute? Thanks, ncn! If you don't have a savings and debt chart at No Credit Needed Network, I encourage you to make one. I love the visual representation. I can't wait to watch the debt shrink and the savings grow!

The Challege!

Francois, at Liberta, has issued the Liberta Financial Freedom Challenge, a challenge to become debt free and then, to also become financially free. The Challenge involves several steps, including making a plan, charting progress and sharing the journey. Check out the entire Challenge; it's pretty neat!
I decided to accept the challenge when I read Francois description of "How a Blog help me to become financially free?" His explanation fit almost exactly with my purpose for starting this blog 10 days ago. His points are clear and succinct. A blog provides: planning, accountability, anonymity, a support network and a way to help others.
I recently discovered Francois's blog and have been enjoying reading his posts. There is a lot of information there!
Think about joining the Financial Freedom Challenge!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

FLYLady Routines

I am a FLYLady fan. Her website has a lot of information and encouragement for those of us who have trouble getting organized. One of her suggestions is to establish morning and evening routines. Eventually, these routines will become automatic. She even gives examples of her routines, to help get you started. I've been trying morning and evening routines (on and off) for a few months, so I have a starting point for my September goals.

My morning routine:

  1. Shower and dress

  2. Make bed

  3. Unload dishwasher

  4. Eat and take blood pressure medicine

  5. Devotional

  6. Feed pets

  7. Straighten bathroom

My evening routine:

  1. Shine sink

  2. Plan outfit for tomorrow

  3. Brush teeth

  4. Take contacts out

I also made a routine list for work--items to start and end every day. I may make a chart to record my progress each day. This will let me see where the problems are with a little more clarity.

Goals for September

I enjoyed posting and following through with two small blog goals last week, so I decided to post monthly SMART goals. The goals will be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. Thank you to deepali at Paradigm Shifted and DLD at DebtLessDuty for their suggestions! In addition, I found a helpful post "How to Achieve Your Goals with Healthy Habits" by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits (This was a guest post at PickTheBrain). Leo's six steps include:
  1. Positive changes replacing negative habits.
  2. Take a 30 day challenge.
  3. Commit yourself completely.
  4. Set up rewards.
  5. Plan to beat your urges.
  6. Track and report your progress.

This blog will help me with steps 3 and 6. Knowing that I have to follow up on my progress or lack thereof will be motivating to me. Since monthly goals fit perfectly with the 30 day mark, September will be a good start. I'm having trouble thinking of a reward that would be motivating, but not cost $. Planning to beat my urges is also problematic, because my urge is laziness! That's hard to beat. I'll try to work through these two issues as the month progresses.

My September goals are:

  1. Establish morning and evening routines for both home and work. Routines will help simplify and de-stress my mornings. I have some ideas for specifics which I'll write about later. Any FLYbabies out there?
  2. Pay off CC1 ($925). This should be doable, if no other Murphy visits occur.
  3. Investigate membership class at church. I've been thinking about this for several months. It's time to take a step forward.

The time frame for all three goals is the month of September, but I will evaluate weekly progress.

I'm excited about my goals for September. Anybody else making September goals?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Murphy strikes!

Yesterday, as I was stopping at a traffic light, I heard a horrible, metal-to-metal grinding noise from the front of my car. I made an appointment for this morning, and sure enough, my car needs new brakes on the front. Even though this is not great news, it is not the end of the world either. I will pay for the brakes with the money I was going to snowball to my credit card. I may have to use just a little of my emergency fund for food and gas expenses for the rest of the month. I'm feeling pretty good about the situation.
One interesting side I was getting ready to write the check, I was tempted to pull out my credit card and use it. I think I will have to fight this temptation for a long time. Maybe it's time to take the final credit card out of my purse and leave it home. Maybe it's time to cut up the final card...
I'm thankful that I have enough money to cover this expense and I'm also thankful for friends and family who taxied me while my car was in the shop!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

SMART goals

When I brainstormed goals to motivate me in my debt-free journey I remembered reading about SMART goals in several blogs near the beginning of the year. I decided to rewrite my goals to be SMARTer. As you probably know, SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. My original goal are in blue, with additions in red.

1. Post my info on NCN network (by next Sunday) I've seen those cute pie charts on other blogs.
2. Look for other visuals to reflect my debt-free journey (by next Sunday). Suggestions, anyone?

I realize that these are just itty-bitty goals, but they were fun to do and they meet the criteria for SMART goals. I'll let you know if they were relevant--if they were motivating on my journey.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Current debts

I think that listing my current debts will help keep me accountable as well as helping me track my progress. I am a visual learner!

  • CC1 $925 (Plan to pay off in Sept)

  • CC2 $ 6050 (Plan to pay off by May '09)

I also owe $160,000 on my house, but I'll probably move when DS graduates from high school.

Looking at my listed debts is rather encouraging to me. Less than $7000 to go--single digits. I can do this.

Goals to keep me enthused:

1. Post my info on NCN network I've seen those cute pie charts on other blogs.

2. Look for other visuals to reflect my debt-free journey. Suggestions, anyone?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

My generation

In reading some of my favorite pf blogs, I can't help but feel a little over the hill. It seems that most bloggers are much younger (and wiser about money) than I am. Without giving a specific age, I can tell you that I wore bell-bottom pants, tube tops and danced to the Monkees! Yes, I am a baby-boomer.

I hypothesize that we Boomers are less aware of our financial unhealthiness than the generations preceding us and following us. I'm not sure of all the reasons, but one reason might be that we had a lot of stuff growing up and we came to feel entitled to it. When many of my generation married or otherwise set up housekeeping, we did so on nearly the same par as our parents, because credit was so easy to obtain. We then kept on charging. As children came along, we tended to finance everything from boats, to vacation homes, to college educations and weddings. The general mindset was that as long as you could pay the monthly payment, you were financially healthy.
I found two articles that support my hypothesis:

What do you think? Are boomer clueless about financial health?


Change has always been difficult for me. I have had several major changes in my life over the past few years and have decided to become more proactive in managing those changes. This blog is a baby step in that endeavor.

My goal in writing this blog is to track my journey out of debt, while learning more about personal finance and investing along the way. Milestones in my debt-free journey so far:

  • June 2007 - read Total Money Makeover

  • July 2007 - made a budget and started trying to live within my income (instead of using credit cards for food and gas)

  • August 2007 - debt $13,770. (Not counting mortgage)

  • Sept.-Dec. 2007- began paying down debt

  • Jan. 2008 - discovered the world of personal finance blogs

  • Feb. - August 2008 - continue paying debt

Reading personal finance blogs has encouraged me greatly over the past eight months. (Thank you, PF bloggers : )) I'm hoping that by writing about my successes and failures, I will get a new shot of energy to keep me on track.

Thanks for walking with me!