Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Menu Plan

Leftover turkey, dressing

Roast beef sandwiches



Vegetarian chili (Heather's recipe)

Italian chicken (Spark people)

Need moz cheese, chicken breasts, noodles

Sunday, December 27, 2009

New Debt

I haven't posted in three months and my finances reflect my lack of focus. I've been on this debt-free quest for two and a half years and I really lost focus. I think several factors contributed to my relapse into spending, including the long-time in this step of debt repayment. Dave Ramsey recommends trying to finish Baby Step 2 in 18-24 months. I can see the wisdom in that.
My new debt is a car loan. I bought a 2004 Dodge Stratus, mainly for my son to use. Sharing a car was proving difficult once school and cross country were in full swing, so after much deliberation and car shopping I found a car that should last him through college. He is thrilled and I am able to make plans more freely.
My total debt is now just under $4000. Not where I wanted to be, but on the bright side, it is less than this time last year!
Time to refocus--plan meals, apply for a summer job.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Enjoying the snow!

This pre-Christmas snow is just gorgeous! We have about 8 inches here and it's still falling! I'm staying inside, making cookies, and listening to Pandora radio.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Menu Plan

1. Cheeseburgers, pasta salad

2. BBQ's, coleslaw

3. Pizza

4. Spaghetti with meat sauce

5. chicken or steak (I have not done the grocery shopping for the week, yet, but I think I have everything else on hand.)

6. salmon cakes, macaroni 'n cheese

7. scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, toast

I know, I know, these menus are boring, but it's what we eat. Having a list of meals does help me save money and not be stressed at dinner time.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Very funny!

I just read the funniest post by Soph at BooMama. Honestly, I laughed throughout the entire post and all 289 comments! The topic is "Christian closing phrases for letters", which doesn't sound too funny, but get ready to laugh. My favorite is from Shannon:

"Training my children up in the way they should go while submitting to my husband and considering a field and buying it and having no fear for my household because all of them are clothed in scarlet"

I found Soph's post because she is BlogHer of the week. It is a classic post.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Menu Plan

1. Cheeseburgers, oven fries
2. Homemade pizza
3. Beefy bean burritos
4. Hot dogs, pasta salad
5. Steak hoagies
6. Oven fried chicken, browned potatoes, broccoli

Only 6 meals to plan this week because we're going out of town for a cross country meet.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

September Earn More Goals

Even though September is a very busy month for me, I going to make several goals for the Earn More Challenge. I plan to learn from the other participants and hopefully add some $$ to September's budget. I'm going to keep my goals modest and practical:

  • Collect snowflakes--reimbursement from school and medical savings account

  • Post on Craig's list--2 window air conditioners

  • Inquire about teaching another class next semester and about summer job

I think that's all for right now. These seem doable and not overwhelming!

Thank you, Money Funk, for the great challenge for September! It should be fun!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Emergency Fund Depleted

It's more of an unexpected expense than an emergency, but I raided my emergency fund today. My house has a pellet stove, and pellets are less expensive if I order them now, before winter hits. Next year, I will plan ahead and save for the pellets all summer.
Using the pellet stove should decrease my heating bill overall this winter. Since this will be my first full winter in the house, I should be able to track my heating expenses by keeping good records in YNaB.
With the September 15th pay, I'll start rebuilding the emergency fund. It's a good thing that September's Challenge is to earn more. It looks like I'm going to need a little income boost!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Results of the Spend Less Challenge

I closed out my "Spend-less" month on August 30, because I began on July 30.

The results are mixed: I did spend less on house projects and gifts, but I went way over in the other categories.

I budgeted $480 total for everything: food, gas, gifts, eating out, school expenses, and house projects. I spent $740--$260 over budget! I had purposely set my limits very low, with the hope that I could raise them if my summer job money came in. Due to paperwork glitches, I won't be getting that money until Sept. 20. I, also will get reimbursed for $100 of school expenses.

One thing that I have learned from this experience is that I need to increase my budget categories for groceries and gasoline to be more realistic. I really was as frugal as I could be for food and travel this month and I still went over quite a bit.

My overall grade: C- Even though I went over in several categories, I did spend less than I would have without the challenge. I also got back into the habit of planning my menus weekly, which helps reduce stress and grocery costs.

I'm looking forward to the September Earn More Challenge! I think I'll learn a lot.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Menu Plan

Menu planning really does help me get through these busy weeks. Even though this past week was super busy with school starting, we enjoyed eating dinner together each night.
Next week DS will eat out with the cross country team two times. I will eat left-overs on those days.

1. Spaghetti Estivi (Summer spaghetti)
2. Mjeddrah
3. Cheeseburgers, oven fries
4. Soft tacos, salad
5. Spaghetti
6. DS eat out (CC meet)
7. pizza

I'll post recipes tomorrow!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Menu Plan Week 4

This will be a busy week with school starting, the menu plan is simple and easy--I hope.

1. Steak hoagies

2. Crock pot Salsa Chicken, rice

3. Soft tacos

4. Cheeseburgers, oven fries, edamame

5. $5 pizza (Thursday)

6. Chicken wings, mac /n cheese

I'm only listing 6 dinners, because I'm providing the drinks and salad for the cross-country team dinner Friday night.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Week 3 Results

Even though spending was minimal this week, my monthly totals are looking pretty sick. I think that almost all of my categories will be in the red by the end of the month (3 of them are there already!) What I spent:

Groceries $50
Restaurants $5 ($5 pizza!)
Miscellaneous $19.50 (dry cleaning)
Gasoline $26

I definitely will increase my budgeted amounts next month to reflect how much I really spend.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

September Challenge: Earn More

Saving Savy Pinkie made the suggestion that the September Challenge be an earn more challenge--above our regular salaries. Sharon and Christine are already in. I was intimidated at first, because September is a busy month for me, with school starting, cross country going strong every Saturday, and teaching a class at the community college.

This morning, I decided to try the challenge. The Spend Less Challenge this month has been fun because we were doing it together, so I'm going to join the group for September. I just remembered that I have 3 window air conditioners sitting in a closet--I can put them on Craig's list. It's a start!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Interest Paid

In reporting how much I have reduced my debt by this past year, 1I didn't mention how much interest I paid. ( I don't like to think about that!) To get rid of denial, I added the interest I have paid for one year. I won't go back any further--too painful. It looks like I have paid over $300 in interest during the past year. Two more months of credit card debt and then no more interest paid. Instead I'll be earning interest on my savings.
On a more positive note, last month I actually earned more interest in savings than I paid to the credit card. Just a little bright spot...Light at the end of the tunnel!

Monday, August 17, 2009

One year Blog-a-versary

My first post on this blog was exactly one year ago. I am so glad that I started this blog to stay motivated in reducing debt. It really helps! One year ago, I was $6975 in debt, now I owe $1970. Over $5000 paid. Yay!

This has been a year of big changes for me--selling the family home, buying a new smaller house, DD and DSIL moving in while building. These are all good things. I like having a little chronicle of the year on my blog.

The coming year will be exciting as well. I should become debt-free (except mortgage)!!! DS is beginning his senior year in high school and DD 21 is in her senior year of college. Lots of life to enjoy now while staying financially responsible.

Thank you for joining me on my journey. I have learned so much from your comments and blogs. Let's start Year 2!
What about you? What exciting changes are on your horizon?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Menu Plan for Week 3

This week's menu looks pretty much like last week. The reason for so much chicken is that boneless chicken breasts are on sale this week at Food Lion. I'm really trying to stay within my budgeted grocery amount.

1. Crock Pot Salsa Chicken , noodles

2. Spaghetti with meat sauce

3. Quesadillas

4. salmon cakes, green beans, mac 'n cheese

5. Homemade pizza, salad

6. Savory Crescent Chicken squares Thank you, McCarthyCOH for the link to this recipe--it sounds really good.

7. Steak hoagies

I think DS will enjoy all of these meals except salmon cakes. He can supplement with left-overs!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Better Results in Week 2

Spending has been much better this week--updates on sidebar. I've only spent $5 on groceries and $25 on gasoline. I haven't done the grocery shopping for the upcoming week, but I'm confident that I can keep it close to $45.

Making and following a meal plan really helped. Why don't I do this every week?
The meal plan for next week is almost complete. I just need another easy chicken recipe.

Looking at my totals, I'll still have to be careful for the next two weeks, but I think I can make it under budget in most categories.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mortgage Company Gone?

When I bought my house last November, I went to a small, local bank for my mortgage. I got great personal, fast service. The loan officer, my Realtor and the appraiser all worked together to get everything done in a timely manner.
That was all great, but my mortgage was really not with my local bank, it was with a financial company in Florida, Taylor, Bean, and Whittaker. I have paid my mortgage online through the Taylor, Bean website since January. No problems until yesterday. I logged on their website to find this disturbing message:
Unfortunately, at this time we are unable to offer an online payment option.
Please mail your payment to the following address:
Taylor, Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp.
Attn: Cashiering
1417 N. Magnolia Ave.
Ocala, FL 34475
Also, please be sure your loan number is written on your check and include any special
payment instructions such as additional payments to principal or escrow.
If you have recently received notification your loan was transferred to a new servicer,
please disregard these payment instructions and follow the instructions outlined in the transfer notice.

Taylor, Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp. has officially ceased a majority of its operations on
August 5, 2009; however, we will continue functioning in a reduced capacity until all
loans have been transitioned to new servicers.

. I immediately started trying to find out what had happened. It seems that Taylor, Bean has a large share of HUD financed mortgages. The company did not file the correct reports with HUD, so HUD suspended Taylor, Bean from writing HUD loans on August 4. Taylor, Bean is being made an example:

"Today, we suspend one company but there is a very clear message that should be heard throughout the FHA lending world - operate within our standards or we won't do business with you," said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan.

The fallout from this decision seems immense to me. Taylor, Bean shut down operations the next day. Over 1000 people immediately lost their jobs. 30,000 (estimated) people whose loans would have closed this month, have to start completely over with another company. The hurt and frustration of those people is very evident on the message boards.

I'm not sure what this all means for my loan. It was probably transferred to Bank of America. My payment isn't due until Sept. 1, so I'll wait to see if I get an official notice before trying to make a payment.

It seems to me that this power play between HUD and Taylor, Bean could have been handled much better. Thousands of people were caught in the crossfire with no recourse.
Dave Ramsey's 100% down idea is looking better and better.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My First..

... award!
Thank you Sharon, for sharing this with me.

"The Humane Award honors eight certain bloggers that I feel are kindhearted individuals. They regularly take part in my blog and always leave the sweetest comments. If it wasn’t for them, my site would just be an ordinary blog. Their blogs are also amazing and are tastefully done on a daily basis. I thank them and look forward to our growing friendships through the blog world. Link back to the person who gifted you with the award and share the love with other bloggers.”

In turn, I'm bestowing this award to 8 bloggers who teach me and make me smile with their comments. Thank you!

Shopping Ethically @ Shopping Ethically

Ms Money Chat @ My Money Chat

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

30 day want list for August

I started this list two weeks ago. I decided to post it now to help curb my unplanned spending. I won't be able to budget for these items until Sept. 15. I'll see if I still "need" them then.

new jeans--My old ones have holes. Maybe I'll look at Goodwill.

brown top--Would coordinate with a skirt and pants I already have

new shower and bathroom curtains--So DS can use his shower instead of mine.

added 8/19/09 small cooler for cross country meets

ynab pro--Since the online bill pay mess up last month, I've been thinking about upgrading to ynab pro.

Now that these are recorded, I'm going to let them go until September.

Monday, August 10, 2009

What happened in Week 1?

I made a side bar to update my progress in the "Low Spend August" goal. On the surface, it looks pretty bad. I'm in the red in two categories and have spent more than half my grocery allocation. The good news is that I will get reimbursed for the school expense (not until October), and I have groceries for the whole week ahead (except more milk and fruit).

What I learned:
  • I've been pretty unfocused this week in a lot of areas, including meal planning. Being unfocused costs money.

  • I spend a lot on snacks (popcorn, chips) and drinks (Gatorade)

  • I probably should make a new budget category for "fun". The spending in miscellaneous was for an inner tube for the "First Annual River Float" on Friday afternoon. Seven of us floated down the river for five hours, with drinks and snacks. It was too fun to pass up. Floating in the water on a hot summer day is in my top three favorite things to do list.

  • Budgeting for gifts is working pretty well for me. This is an area I tend to overspend on, so deciding in advance how much I will spend is crucial for me. This month is DSIL's birthday.

I think that planning meals for the coming weeks will still allow me to finish within budget for the month, but it will take focus (and low cost snacks).

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Menu Plan for Week 2

I've fallen off the menu planning wagon since summer started, because our schedule is so flexible in the summer. I've been reading Dawn at Fighting Foreclosure to get re inspired to plan. One of her suggestions is to make a flexible eating plan for the week. I have been trying to do this, but now I'm writing it down so that I can evaluate how it goes. I will plan for 7 dinners, plus lunches and breakfasts, which are pretty much set because we tend to eat the same things over and over.
Breakfast: cereal or waffles, toast with peanut butter and bananas (or tomato)
Lunch: Sandwiches (PBJ, grilled cheese, bologna, egg salad), salad
1. Oven-roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, summer squash
2. Left-over chicken :) I love leftovers!
3. Fish sticks, mac 'n cheese
4. Spaghetti with meat sauce or pesto
5. quesadillas, Spanish rice
6. Stuffed peppers, browned potatoes
7. Hamburgers or burritos (DS choice), potato salad
I'm going right now to clean and cut up carrots for the week. I already have romaine lettuce ready.
For backup, if I really don't want to cook, I have a frozen pizza for DS.
I'll have to buy more milk and fruit mid-week, but otherwise I think I'm set.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Dodging Murphy

Murphy has been trailing my car for a few weeks. First, a tire was low, so we put air in it. Next, one headlight wasn't working. I thought I would have to replace the bulb, but when I looked, the bulb had fallen out of the socket. The bulb was extremely hot and melted the plastic covering on some wires. After turning off the lights, I finally got the light into the socket and covered the wires with electrical tape. Crisis 1 averted.

Yesterday, the tire problem resurfaced . The right left tire was almost completely flat-much too low to drive to the tire shop. With no other option, my son and I took off the flat and replaced it with the mini-spare. The local tire shop is only 5 minutes away, so I immediately took the car there, thinking I would have to buy two new tires. I had already decided to take the money from the emergency fund. I was ecstatic when the cost was $15. The tire had a staple in it, so they plugged it and put air in the tire. Crisis 2--not too bad.

I know that Murphy will eventually visit, but I'm glad to dodge him this time.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Money Mistake

I just discovered that I missed paying my water payment this month. It is now 6 days late, which is really too bad because the city really has a steep penalty (like $15). I'm not sure how I messed up. I've been paying my utilities online since January and I was certain that I had scheduled the payment to be processed last week. I was pretty busy last week and didn't check my balance closely. When I looked this morning, my bank balance was more than YNaB said it should be. When I checked the online payment history, I was appalled. I'm not sure what went wrong, but I have a plan to prevent future mistakes:

1. Schedule all my online payments by the 10th of each month, since most of the bills arrive during the 1st week.

2. Double check the bank on the 15th (payday) to make sure everything is in order.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Total Money Makeover Encouragement in the Babysteps

I've been rereading Total Money Makeover in order to stay focused and motivated. I'm on Babystep 2 (Pay off all debt except for mortgage). I've found a little inspiration. From TMMO:

Close your eyes and think about what it will be like when you reach this Baby Step (# 3)....When you reach this step, you have $1000 in cash and no debt except your home mortgage.

When I close my eyes and imagine what it will feel like to have a $1000 emergency fund and no debt except mortgage, I am flooded with emotion: relief, gratitude, hopefulness.

Thank you, Dave Ramsey!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

August Plan

Making my spending plan for August has been a little difficult for me because my summer income is about $400 less than during the school year. I'm trying to not invade my emergency fund, so the amount in each discretionary spending category is pretty sparse. I should get paid soon for work I did last week, but I'm not sure exactly when it will be processed, so I'm not adding the income until I receive the check. When that happens I'll increase each category a little.
Groceries $240 ($190 left)
Restaurants $20 (12 left)
Gifts $50
House projects $25 ($15)
School expenses $20
Miscellaneous $25 ($13 left)

When the extra income arrives, I will add in $100 for clothing for DS for new school clothes. He is pretty well stocked, but his jeans are getting a little short and ratty.
I'm looking forward to the challenge.

Monday, August 3, 2009

First weekend of the challenge

This weekend was a rocky start to the Spend Less Challenge for me. I got together with three of my friends from college and their children. There are six of us who try to get together a few times a year. I always look forward to seeing everybody and hanging out. This time, we descended on Gail, who lives about three hours from me, and somewhat equidistant from the six of us.
I estimate that I spent about $30 more than I would have otherwise. Here is a breakdown of my spending (and also how much I have left in each category for the month)
Eating out: Spent $8 ( $12 left)
Groceries: Spent $18 on trip, $32 at home ($190 left)
House projects: Spent $10 ($15 left)
Misc.: Spent $12 ($13 left)
Gasoline: Spent $25 ($75 left)

We went to a storage unit sale, and I bought a metal table for my deck for $10. The $12 miscellaneous was a CD of hymns that one of the kids had made.
Overall, I didn't do great on the challenge, and I will have to be more careful to come in under budget for the month. There is a lot of month left!
To see how everyone else is doing with the challenge, head over to Sharon's. Join us!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Spend Less

Sharon at Musings of a Midlife Mom is having a No Spend (or Spend Less) goal for next month. She and her family had an expensive Murphy visit which depleted her emergency fund. She is determined to rebuild it quickly. She has her goals and guidelines listed. Several bloggers are joining her, including me! I don't have all my plans in order, but my first goal is to enjoy a week--end visiting friends without overspending. I'm going to take my change jar to the bank, and just spend that (maybe $10). Sounds a little difficult....
If you need some encouragement in corralling your spending, head on over to Sharon's and join us. We'll encourage each other!

I'm off to the bank!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

One way to decrease spending

In January, I went through a time of wanting to buy things. This happens to me periodically ;). I had read about the "30 day want list". The idea is to list items that you want, and then look at the list in 30 days. If you still want the item after 30 days, and have budgeted for it, then consider buying it.
Here is my list from January:
Jan. 17
blinds for dining room

paint for kitchen

new towels

scrubee thing from Flylady

What was the result of my experiment? Well, I didn't buy any of the listed items, so I guess I certainly didn't need them. I don't think my quality of life has suffered at all.

Did I save money? Maybe. If I had purchased all of the items, I would have spent over $150.

  1. Instead of the blinds for the dining room, I saved the budgeted household money until March when I spent $60 on a mirror for over the dining room mantle. I didn't use the 30 day list in March!
  2. I still need to repaint the kitchen, but this will not be on my list until next year.
  3. My mother gave my some towels that she no longer uses.
  4. I still need jeans, but these can still wait until September.
  5. I really don't need the "rubba scrubba".

Final analysis: It seems that for some items, I merely postponed spending, because I will eventually have to purchase them--paint, jeans. This is useful information. I can compare the advantage of postponing spending to the advantage of having the item now.

I think this strategy is useful for me to remember when I am tempted to spend on wants, especially when I am debt-free and have more discretionary spending money. In order to instill this habit by October, I'm going to start now. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Experimenting with roasted garlic

I have been thinking of trying roasted garlic in recipes. I like the taste of garlic, but the bite of raw is a little too sharp. On Saturday morning, I roasted a huge bulb, so now I have lots to experiment with. The whole house smelled like garlic for a few hours--not unpleasant, but pretty pungent!
To roast the garlic, I cut off the top and covered it with a small piece of aluminum foil, then baked it @ 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
My first experiment was potato salad. I started with the basic Hellman's mayonnaise recipe and made a few changes.
  • decreased salt to 1 tsp.
  • added 2 tsp prepared mustard
  • added 1/3 cup sweet pickle relish
  • added 1/3 cup chopped olives
  • added 3 cloves roasted garlic

My parents really raved about the potato salad. My mom even took the leftovers home.

This week, I'm going to try a hummus recipe with roasted garlic. I love hummus and I'm trying to improve my homemade version. I'll let you know how it goes.

Do you have a favorite recipe using roasted garlic? Does anyone know how long it will stay good in the refrigerator?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Family Visits

I had a very nice weekend with my aunt and her friend visiting from the southern part of the state. My parents and my children (dd1, dd2, dsil, ds) also came in to visit. We had a pleasant lunch on the deck and then enjoyed reminiscing. My aunt brought four large containers of clothes and shoes for my daughters and I to try on. We had fun having a fashion show. The shoes (probably 20-30 years old) were gorgorus! 3-inch leather pumps--classic! They just fit my 21-year old, fashion-loving daughter. I think my aunt really enjoyed seeing that her old clothes would be enjoyed by the next generation.

Company Coming

My aunt and her friend are driving up to visit me on Saturday. I want to have a casual lunch ready and then something easy to prepare for dinner.

For lunch: pasta salad, sandwiches, hummus

I'm stuck for dinner. I don't have air conditioning, so I don't want to use the oven, or even the crock pot. I guess that means grilling, which intimidates me a little. I haven't used the new grill. It's a portable gas grill. Oh well, I'll be brave and try.

Possible dinner:
Romaine salad
Potatoes (I can peel these ahead of time and put on ice)
Flat iron steak (I already have this in the freezer.)
Frozen strawberry pie

What are your favorite easy summer menus?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Spending Percentages--How do mine compare?

Since I have been tracking my spending with You Need a Budget since January, I want to analyze my spending percentages to see if my budget is in line with what I think I'm doing and with what the experts recommend.

Here are the recommended spending percentages from Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover. My percentages from YNaB follow in blue. My percentages don't add up to exactly 100, because I did not include my contributions to my daughter's college expenses in my monthly budget until June, because I have that automatically deducted from my pay.

Dave's Recommendations
Charity - 10-15% 6%
Saving - 5 - 10% 2%
Housing - 25-35% 28%
Utilities - 5 - 10% 8%
Food - 5 - 15% 8%
Transportation - 10-15% 9%
Clothing - 2 - 7% 2%
Medical/Health - 5-10% 8% (including premium)
Personal - 5 - 10% 7%
Recreation - 5 - 10% 1%
Debts - 5 - 10% 15%
(Daughter in college) 8%

My percentages look pretty balanced except of course, savings is too low until the debt is paid off. One surprise for me was that transportation was so high (9%). Since I don't have a car payment, I thought it would be lower, but when I added up insurance, repairs and gasoline, the total was surprising. Now that we are down to one car, these expenses should be reduced.

This exercise is useful to help me see if I'm on track with my spending plan. I think I'll do this check up every quarter.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Check out the 200th Carnival of Debt Reduction at No Credit Needed. There are informative articles on credit scores and credit cards, as well as motivating getting out of debt stories. "Credit Scores" on FiveCentNickel shows how credit scores affect loan rates and also has links to free FICO-like credit scores.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Frugal Goal Complete

Well, I did it. I spent less than $5 more on food from Sunday until now--7 days. My cupboard is really getting bare, so I will have to go to the grocery store today or tomorrow. I need to make a list and stick to it so that I won't go overboard. I have most of the ingredients for these dinners for next week: steak and oven fries, quesadillas, leftover steak sandwiches, pizza, spaghetti with meat sauce, pork barbecues.

I was really tempted to stop at Subway on the way home last night, but because I knew I would have to confess to you guys, I came home and raided the refrigerator. Thanks!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Car Temptation--Back again!

My mother called last night and told me that my cousin was selling his 2001 VW Jetta for $3500. It is red and very cool, so once again car temptation rears its ugly head. Yes, I'm tempted, but I know that this is not the time to buy another car, neither monetarily nor parentally(?). I will re-evaluate in a few months. I explained my position to my mother and she understood. I think she and my dad are getting car fever, too, plus they know that it will be difficult to share a car when school starts.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Frugal Goal Day 5

If I can limit food spending to $1 for the next 2 days, I will make my frugal goal of spending less than $5 more on food this week. I'm going to try to make it until Saturday. I'm heading out to pick up DS from running camp right now. We have enough food for the next few days if we just eat what we already have--grilled cheese, hamburgers, spaghetti. We don't have gatorade. Does anyone have a good homemade sports drink recipe?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Milestone: Credit card debt under $2000!

My July snowball brought my balance down to $1984. Finally, I'm under $2000! This is huge for me because I have paid off $2000 in CC debt many times before so I know it can be done ;(

The difference is that this time I have a financial plan in place so that won't have to use credit cards again.

Frugal goal update: Spent $2.64 on breakfast at McD's with a friend. This was an out of the ordinary treat. We walked for an hour and then had iced lattes and breakfast.

Total spent $3.97. I'm getting awfully close to $5!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Frugal goal update

Now that I have announced that I will try to spend under $5 this week, I want to buy more! I'm sure there is a psychological explanation for it, but I think that it's pretty funny. I'm over 50 for goodness sakes, not a spoiled child. Self awareness is always good, right?
Spending so far: $1.34 for bread at the discount store.

Planned spending for the rest of the week: bananas, breakfast at McD's with a friend (she has a coupon). This will be close.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Frugal goal

My frugal goal for the week is to not spend over $5 more on groceries this week. DS is away at running camp until Thursday so I should be able to eat well on what I already have in the refrigerator--plenty of lettuce, veggies and hummus. I also have pasta and frozen food. I should be eating pretty well.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Two Years ago

In late June, 2007, I read Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover. Before reading this book, I really thought that I was in pretty good shape financially because I was able to make my monthly payments. I had 2 zero interest credit cards that I had used for big purchases, one CC with a $1000 balance that I was unsuccessfully trying to pay down, and one card that I paid in full each month. I also had a $3000 car loan.

What I didn't realize was that I was getting farther and farther in debt each month. I was spending more than I brought in. I was pretty upset and ashamed that I hadn't seen what was happening.When I calmed down, I started on Dave's Babysteps. For the first few months, I got even further in debt because I wasn't used to living on that month's income.

My journey has been pretty long, but I can see light at the end. I think that in 4 months, I will be finished with Babystep 2. Lessons I'm learning along the way--tracking my spending is important for me because I tend to be unrealistic in my estimates, saving for unexpected expenses and irregular expenses decreases stress, and accountability really helps me stay on track.

I am enjoying this journey and I have made progress in reducing my debt. Hmm...maybe the journey is more important than the final outcome. Interesting....

Monday, June 29, 2009


I decided to pay down my last credit card instead of saving for a car for my son. Thank you to everybody that gave input to my decision. Paying down the credit card is the responsible thing to do for my financial well-being and I think it is also the best decision for my son. He is choosing not to get a summer job because he is focusing on training for cross-country season. One consequence of not having a job is the inconvenience of sharing a car with your mother. I think that this will be a valuable life lesson.
$2600 left to pay on the credit card. My original goal was July 1, but that is not going to happen--too many Murphy visits--plumbing, car repairs. My revised goal is to finish by October 15.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Capital One--Canceled, but not gone

I just called and cancelled my Cap 1 card because they were changing the terms of agreement.
My current interest rate is 5%, and it was increasing to 13%. If I opted out of the new terms, my card would be cancelled., but my current rate will apply while I pay off my card. This sounds almost too good to be true--that I can keep the 5% rate. I'm holding on the the written notice, in case my rate does go up.
My new goal is to pay off the card by Oct. 15. This sure is taking longer than I thought!

Thursday, June 25, 2009


I haven't posted in a while because I haven't been able to decide whether to keep paying down my credit card or save for a replacement car for my son, who wrecked his car in the spring. I still haven't completely decided, but I'm leaning toward not replacing the car even though sharing a car will be very inconvenient when school starts. Paying down the credit card makes more sense financially.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Rain is coming down and expenses are going up!

I'm still tracking my actual expenses with YNAB and they have been increasing. Last month, I spent 11% over budget. I overspent in just about every category except eating out. I went over in the basics like groceries and gasoline, as well as gifts, miscellaneous and house projects. With the increase in my spending came a corresponding decrease in debt repayment. It feels a little like my spending is out of control--things like AP test fees, doctor bills.
I'm starting to see that my beginning budget was not very realistic about unexpected expenses.

I hope the sun shines soon!

Monday, April 27, 2009

More Computer Woes

I'm whining just a little. My "a" key is broken, so to type an "a", I have to copy and paste. What a pain!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

CC Interest Rates Going Down?

The interest rate on my last credit card has been slowly declining over the past year. It started at over 7%, and now it is just over 5%. Has anyone else experienced this? I think the CC company is trying to lure me into charging more!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Debt Reduction Doldrums

It seems like I have been five months away from being debtfree for the past 6 months! Every time I recalculate how long it will take to pay off my last credit card, the pay off remains 5-6 months away. Buying a new house, moving expenses and an unplanned income drop have all contributed to my inaccurate estimates. Now, I'm just tired of the struggle to keep paying to debt reduction each month. I want to spend on house projects, new clothes and things for my kids, not credit card payments!
Objectively, I know that I have made tremendous progress in reducing my debt. I owed over $13,000 in July 2007, and I now owe $3500, reducing my debt by $10,000. On the other hand, I've been working on this for almost two years, so this journey is getting a little old. Another worry at the back of my mind, is that my income will probably be reduced by $600/month after September. That means that I really must get my credit card paid off by September. After that, I'll only have about $200/month over planned expenses in my budget, so my savings rate will be very slow.
Okay, enough whining! What can I do now?
1. Stop worrying about what will happen six months from now. Concentrate on what I can do this month--follow my budget.
2. Look at the positives--I have a little (almost $1000) emergency fund, as well as growing sinking funds for irregular expenses.
3. I have $60 in the house project fund. Decide what to spend it on. Landscaping? Wooden blinds for the dining room? Slipcovers for the living room?
4. Make a list of nonfinancial things I would like to do--distract myself with other things until these doldrums pass!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Goals Update

I have been very lax in updating my goals since the computer problems in February. I guess I got off my schedule. Even though I haven't written about my goals, I have been making progress on the goals as a group, but I need to focus on the details. Here goes:

Financial goals

Track spending with YNAB weekly. I'm still enjoying using YNAB to track spending. I got a little off track when my computer was cleaned, but I was able to use my bank statements to reconstruct Jan. and Feb.
Begin sinking fund account. Keep in checking account. This is working well. I've started small funds for taxes, car repairs, life insurance, and house projects. I'll be able to modify the amounts needed because of tracking what I actually spend.
Pay off $6000 in credit cards by July 1 . Not doing so well with this one. In order to achieve this goal, I need to pay $800/month to credit cards. February was good, but March was only $600 and April will only be $400 because of car repair. I will have to modify this goal to September 1.
Save emergency fund of $3600 by Dec 31. This goal will also be modified, probably to $2600.

Personal goals

Work out or walk (1 mile) 2x week. February and the 1st 2 weeks of March were successful, but the past 2 weeks have been exerciseless.
Walk Gretsky every day . Not everyday anymore. I need to renew my commitment to this.
Do Flylady routines. Nope
Bible study. Yes! I started attending a Bible study group in February. I also have been learning from Beth Moore online.
Learn something new. Yes! I may be going overboard a little here, but it's fun!
Compost bin/garden. I'm stuck on making a new compost container because I can't find my drill! Organization is lacking!
Monthly house project

Wow! I thought I was making adequate progress, but 6 out of 11 goals are in the red. It's time for me to refocus.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Target vs WalMart: Is there a lesser of the Superstore "Evils"?

This is a guest post by Shopping Ethically. Her blog has links to websites that feature Fair Trade and USA made merchandise.

I recently read an article, "Confessions of a Sweatshop Inspector," on Washington Monthly. In the article, T.A. Frank recounts his experiences as a sweatshop inspector and gives insight into just how difficult it is to have a REAL inspection of most Chinese factories since most inspections are announced so that factory managers have time to hide anything shady, change employee time cards, coach factory employees on how to answer inspectors' questions, etc....

The real highlight of the article for me, was an answer to a question that I have asked myself many times over the past year since I started my ethical shopping makeover: is Target any better than Wal-mart or are all superstores created ethically equal? According to Frank, one test for determining how "good" or "bad" a company's social responsibility is finding what percentage of the company's factory inspections are unannounced. Obviously, unannounced inspections are much more accurate in determining the actual conditions of a factory than previously scheduled visits.

His findings: Wal-mart: 26% of inspections unannounced
Target: 100% of inspections unannounced

By this criteria alone, Target seems to have the lead over Wal-mart in social responsibility.

My verdict: if you absolutely have to shop at one of these superstores--make it Target.
***But, you really can avoid shopping at any superstore if you're willing to tack on a few extra dollars (depending on what you're buying) per shopping trip to patronize local businesses. For me, the extra dollars are worth spending to help keep these local businesses running--I don't want to be in a position where my only choice for shopping is a superstore. I have avoided both stores since January, and I haven't had to go without anything--nor have I noticed any huge changes in my expenditures (except for the costs of house-building, but that's another story!).

Saturday, February 28, 2009

I'm back!

I apologize for the 2 week hiatus from posting. My computer was infected with nasty stuff (spyware and all kinds of nasty stuff). My Symantic antivirus could not get rid of it and it kept getting worse and worse. Finally, I took the computer to the local repair shop and after two attempts and I'm finally free of all the bugs.

The bad news is that through a series of unfortunate event, I accidentally tried to reinstall Windows and erased some of my programs--like YNAB. I spent yesterday evening entering the data from the last two months and I think I'm pretty accurate.

I'm glad to be back! Has anyone else had problems with computer bugs?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Debt is Going Down!

My credit card debt is coming down! It now stands at $4140! I am very excited to be below $5000 and I should be able to get below $4000 by the end of the month. Maybe a payoff of July is possible :).
Tracking my spending is still fun. I'm going to check my spending percentages in each category at the end of the month to see if my spending is in balance with what Dave and other financial gurus recommend. I don't want to be obsessed with spending, although I must confess that I am right now. My goal is to get a workable system in place, and then move my energy to other hobbies.
On another note, I mistakenly deleted my blog roll on Sunday. I'm slowly building it back up. If you see that your blog is missing from my blog list, please leave me a comment so I can add it!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Master Gardener's Class

I've wanted to take a Master Gardener's class for several years. The class is 13 weeks and is offered by our state university extension office. The requirements are passing a post test as well as 30 hours community service project.
I went to the first class this week. The topics were native animals and then landscaping possibilities with native plants. The speaker had studied both for over 40 years and was very knowledgeable. Using native plants for landscaping makes so much sense. I don't know why I had never considered it before! I'm looking forward to learning much more in the coming weeks.

Anybody have experience growing native plants?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

How Did I Do in January?

January is finally over! It seemed like a really long month, because I actually started tracking my expenses on Dec. 29. How did I do on my 2009 goals?
  • Track spending with YNAB weekly. I love using YNAB. I've been updating almost every day. It just takes a few minutes. As I suspected, I don't really budget accurately. I went over budget by $299, I tend to be too optimistic about the expenses. YNAB will help me become more realistic. I also started putting money each month in irregular expense accounts which will help with unexpected expenses.
  • Begin sinking fund account. I'm getting 5% interest at my credit union. I just had $5.14 credited to my account!
  • Pay off $6000 in credit cards by July 1. I was only able to pay $600 instead to the scheduled $900 because of the plumbing expense. So I am -$300, so far.
  • Save emergency fund of $3600 by Dec 31. I put $80 into my EF for a balance of $930. This amount will go up to $600/month in Sept.


  • Work out or walk (1 mile) 2x week. I rejoined the gym for a 6-week strength training class. For the last two weeks, I went to class 2x/week. The walking has not been going well. I want to step the aerobic workout.
  • Walk Gretsky every day. I missed 3 days out of 31--90%.
  • Do Flylady routines. Not doing great with all the routines. The sink is going OK.
  • Bible study. I signed up for a group Bible study that starts next Friday. I'm excited!
  • Learn something new. I may be going overboard here. I joined the local astronomy club two weeks ago. I'm starting a Master Gardener class on Tuesday. Tonight, I went to a support group called DivorceCare for people who are separated or divorcing. I'll keep you all updated on these in the coming weeks.
  • Compost bin/garden. On hold
  • Monthly house project. I put up curtains on two basement windows. Still need to buy tension rods for the other two. Did not get the chairs recovered.

I'm a little disappointed that I won't be able to make my July 1 payoff goal, but I'm modifying the payoff goal to July 31, 2009. I'm still optimistic!

It's time for "The Office". DS is a big fan and I'm becoming a fan so that we can enjoy watching it together.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Looking for inspiration?

These are some posts that I have enjoyed this week.
Miss Money at M is for Money has an awesome series on getting out of debt. If you are struggling with the motivation to start on or continue with your debt reduction journey check out her posts.

Finally Frugal celebrated her one year blog anniversary this week. She has paid $4500 in credit card debt and is finding all sorts of frugal tactics.

I love reading the end-of-month updates from Won't Go Down Without a Fight , No More Spending, Sharon Rose, and Shaking the Money Tree. Keep up the good work!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Budgeting Tools

Personal finance blogs are full of wisdom and encouragement. Here are some posts that I enjoyed this week.

  • Money Funk has developed a spreadsheet to track your budget and spending, including a bad debt to income calculator.
  • Get Rich Slowly has a list of favorite posts, including "How to Get Out of Debt". His blog is full of timely articles and great financial advice.
  • Lynne at Being Frugal is doing a series on budgeting and has reviewed Pear Budget as well as other budget tools.
  • Ms Money Chat at My Money Chat tells why she loves Mint software.
  • SVL at The Digerati Life has a review of the YNAB system along with a 10% discount code.
  • Jolie at Shaking the Money Tree and Amber at Becoming Debtfree in 2009 have had great success this month with a cash-only envelope system. Their results in January add to the evidence that using cash only reduces spending. I wasn't very successful when I tried this last summer, but I think the key is finding a system that works for you. Check out their methods and results.

I really enjoy and am encouraged by all the above blogs. I highly recommend subscribing to them if you are on a journey to becoming debt-free.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Personal Finance Goals: Week 3

It's almost the end of the month and I'm updating Week 3--just a little behind!

Financial Goals:

  • I'm still enjoying using YNAB. I don't have a large unexpected expense fund yet, so with the car repairs and new running shoes for DS, I am over budget this month by 8%. At least this gives me a number to try to beat for next month!

  • I probably can't make by goal date 1 of July to be debt-free, but I'm not going to change it until I see how Feb. goes.

Personal Goals:

  • I'm still walking the dog every day and working out 2x a week. Gretsky's walks are pretty short--about 1/2 mile. I will try to increase this as the weather improves.

  • The exciting news for me is that I joined the local astronomy club and attended Astronomy Day at the local community college. My plan is to attend at least one meeting this spring to look at the stars. I also plan to take a Master Gardener class, which starts in February. I have wanted to take this class for the past two years, but have been too busy. I think this is the right time. The class costs $80, but I feel it is a worthwhile investment. I hope to be able to apply what I learn to landscaping my steep walk to the river.

I am pleased with my progress this month. I am learning how to get my financial house in order while enjoying life. I appreciate the encouragement and suggestions given in comments. It's nice to know that other people struggle with and are overcoming the "debt monster"!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My Debt Story

It's sad and hard to believe that in October of 2005, I had no debt except for my mortgage. I had paid off a credit card and a 6 month computer loan and was debt-free, except for mortgage. The missing component to my finances was having a plan, knowing what to work for. Other than saving $300/month for DD2 upcoming college expenses, I didn't have a savings plan. I thought I was financially fit and responsible. The next 20 months would prove me wrong. By June of 2007, I was $13,700 in debt and still thinking I was financially fit and responsible!

My journey into debt included the transmission going out in my Jeep, getting a store credit card to get 10% off a gift (really stupid!), getting two 12 month-interest free cards, one to pay for professional board certification, and the other to consolidate two big purchases. Another factor was that my income decreased, but my spending stayed the same, so that every month I went farther and farther into debt. I finally woke up in June of 2007, when I read Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover. I listed all my debts and was shocked at how much I owed. For some reason, I had been telling myself that I owed $7000. Talk about denial!

The first two months of my TMMO were difficult, because I had to learn to not use my credit cards and to live within my means. The debt totals did not come down at all for several months, which was very discouraging. I found that several experiences helped to keep my spirits up. At first, I kept reading TMMO and working on my debt snowball. Next, I found Dave's website and discovered personal finance blogs. I was encouraged and inspired by the journeys they shared with their readers. They also shared tips and tools (like budget spreadsheets) that kept me inspired to keep plugging away. My debt was coming down, albeit slowly.

Starting this blog in August gave me another boost of encouragement and accountability. Writing about my goals and updating my progress (or lack of it) helps me to stay on track. Plus, I am learning a little more about blogging and personal finance. It's a win-win for me! I would encourage anyone who is on a journey to become debt-free to consider a personal finance blog as one way to learn and stay accountable.
Right now, I am really enjoying my journey into financial wellness. When I finally get debt-free this time, I want to have a plan to stay financially healthy and the knowledge to implement the plan.
Can anyone relate to getting out of debt and then getting back in due to lack of a plan? We will not repeat the same mistakes again!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Thriving on Less: Simplifying in a Tough Economy

Leo Babuta at Zen Habits has a free e-book called Thriving on Less. A quick glance at the table of contents shows that the book contains insight into finding your path to intentional living and financial peace.

Table of Contents

1. A Simple Lifestyle

2. Focus on the Essentials

3. Thriving on Less, Not Struggling

4. Focusing on Enough, Not More

5. Make Small Financial Changes First

6. Look at Large Expenses for the Long Term

7. Changing Your Spending Habits

8. A Guide to Getting Out of Debt

9. Tools for a Frugal Life

10. Resources

I recommend downloading and reading the book. It's only 27 pages and will encourage you perhaps remind you of some principle or incentive that you haven't been paying much attention to.

Two reminders that I'm going to implement are deliberately rewarding myself for reaching goals and making a 30-day list to cut down on impulse buying.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Weekly Update- Week 2

Track spending with YNAB weekly. Check.
Begin sinking fund account-transfer to ING by March. I'm keeping my funds in checking because of the 5% interest rate
Pay off $6000 in credit cards by July 1 Send in MSA.

Save emergency fund of $3600 by Dec 31 At $890.

Work out or walk (1 mile) 2x week. I will revise this. I need to do more.
Walk Gretsky every day. Yes! Even in the bitter cold!
Do Flylady routines. About 60%. Keep working on it.
Bible study. Not yet
Learn something new. Not yet--join astronomy club
Compost bin/garden Not yet
Monthly house project. Not yet--recover chairs, put up basement curtains.

Frugal Trenches has inspired me with her post on frugal shopping and soup menus.
New practical goal: Make soup once a week!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Side Bar Update

With January's payment, my debt went down to $5400. At this rate, I have nine more months to go :(. I want to be finished with debt in six months.
Goal for this week: Send in for medical savings account reimbursement. It may be enough to bring me back on target.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

$75 for 1st 30 to sign up for debt help survey

Bob at Christianpf is helping with a new debt help web site. He has the information and the link. To qualify you must have >$5000 in credit card debt and at least two other types of debt. Sounds interesting!

Friday, January 9, 2009

5% Interest on Checking!

My local credit union is offering 5% interest on checking accounts. I switched my account today and also deposited my emergency fund in it. The requirements for the account are: to use on-line banking once a month, use a debit card 12 times a month, have direct deposit, and get statements on-line. The only thing I'm not currently doing is using a debit card. I plan to use the debit card for gasoline and grocery purchases. We'll see how the debit card goes for a month. I don't think I will misuse it, but I didn't think I would overuse credit cards either!

The 5% interest rate almost sounds too good to be true. What do you think? Are banks in other places doing this promotion?

Update: I found this article on LazyManMoney about 5% checking accounts.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Why I Need to Plan Ahead

My plumbing repairs are complete: new kitchen faucet, new garbage disposal, new connections under the sink, bathroom sink unclogged and one pipe replaced--all for $300! I chose to get the less expensive, 1/2 HP disposal, which saved $80. It is a little louder than the more expensive model, but not worth the extra $$. I'm really happy with the results and the price.
This repair is a good reminder for me of why I need to save for unexpected expenses. I know that with a house come repairs and upkeep expenses. Instead of ignoring that fact of life, I need to prepare for it with a house repair fund.

January Week 1 Update

Time for a weekly progress report on my goals. I think weekly checks will help keep me on track.

Track spending with YNAB weekly. I'm really enjoying keeping track of my spending with YNAB. I enter my spending amounts and YNAB automatically updates my budget, so I can see at a glance how I'm doing. If I overspend in one category, like the house repairs, then I am reducing another category, like CC payment :(
Begin sinking fund account--transfer to ING by March . $50 in it so far.
Pay off $6000 in credit cards by July 1 Already behind on my goal of $900/month because of plumbing repairs.
Save emergency fund of $3600 by
Dec 31 At $890.

Work out or walk (1 mile) 2x week. Yes!
Walk Gretsky every day. Yes!
Do Flylady routines. About 60%.
Bible study. Not yet
Learn something new. Not yet
Compost bin/garden Not yet
Monthly house project. Getting the kitchen and bathroom sink repaired was costly, so this month's project will be recovering 2 dining room chairs (today!), because I already have the materials.

I just remembered that I need to send in for reimbursements from my medical savings account. Maybe I can meet (or at least get closer) to my goal of $900 CC payments!

For next week: Focus on Flylady routines. Life is fun!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Plumbing Solutions Cost $$$

I got an estimate today to have my kitchen sink repaired. I need a new garbage disposal, a new faucet and new pipes beneath the sink. I'm going to buy the faucet and disposal and the "handyman" is going to install them. I think the cost of installation is pretty reasonable, $100.
I've been pricing disposals online and it looks like there are three categories: low price (1/2 HP), medium price (has sound insulation, 3/4 HP), high price (1HP, "whisper quiet"). I'm thinking that the medium price one will be best. Does anyone have any information about disposals?
I will pay for the repairs with my debt snowball, so I will be sending less to the credit cards this month, but the balance still be going in the right direction--down!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Confession from 2008

Here it is:
I used my credit card to buy Christmas presents online, so now my CC debt is up to $6000. This shows me that I am not cured of the CC habit. To help my rehab, I applied for a new debit card and changed my address at the bank. This should give me the tools I need to avoid future charges.
This also showed me that I don't have a handle on my budget, because I thought I would have enough cash for Christmas, but there is nothing left-over and I charged $300. What happened? Tracking my spending in 2009 should make the picture clearer.

I need to cut up the card, but I'm afraid I will need it in an emergency.

I keep remembering Sharon Rose's quote, "Slow progress is better than no progress". I'm better now than I was when I started in 2007.