Summer Camping!

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Today was officially my kids’ last day of preschool!!!!!! Starting in the “Fall” (which is August 2nd in these parts), they’ll be KINDERGARTNERS!!! I can’t even believe it! I want to cry from happiness AND sadness all at once! How is it even possible!?

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B and B with their teacher on the last day of school! Instead of a traditional “graduation” ceremony, they had what they call a “Teddy Bear Picnic” where parents got to come have a picnic lunch with the kiddos and their favorite stuffed animals. Nontraditional, but still really cute and fun!

The past couple summers have presented some big challenges in terms of childcare. Full-time summer care for young ones in my area tends to be exorbitant! I’m talking nearly triple what we pay during the academic year. There are some cheaper camp options, but I talked a little last year about how those weren’t the best option for us because it would be one week here, one week there, all over the place and it wasn’t a good fit with our kid’s shy and timid personalities on a full-time basis (plus, many of those camps were only 4-5 hours/day).

This year, we have a much different approach to things. For one, their dad will be around a lot more. For any new readers, their dad recently scaled back his business so he could return to school full-time. Over summer, though, he’ll be picking up a large portion of the childcare. At the same time, it would be great if he can make a little more money, too! So he’ll also be trying to work a bit more while still ultimately maintaining childcare as his #1 “job” for summer. The girls are also going to be taking a couple of camps! Although I still maintain that a different camp every week would NOT be ideal for our kids (every kid is different and I know some kids love trying lots of new camps, but I know our kids and they just would not thrive in that situation), I do think that they’ll benefit from dipping their toes into the camp scene. We’ve got them signed up for one week-long day camp in June and one week-long day camp in July. So they’ll still have a lot of stability (home the majority of summer), but will get to try a couple of fun new things (gymnastics camp in June, karate camp in July).

I’ll still be working all summer, but I also have a bit more flexibility in my schedule, too, so I’ll be more able to be around with the girls if hubs picks up an odd job, etc. So between hubs, myself, and the couple of camps, we should be good to go. The really exciting thing is that we should end up SAVING money since we’ll be using so much LESS childcare than the past couple summers. With hubs at home, we don’t need the full-time care we’ve always required in the past. Only paying for a couple of camps will be a drop in the bucket compared to our normal childcare costs. It’s been awhile since my last full budget post, but on average we pay approximately $1,100/month for childcare (that’s for 2 kids in preschool full-time). In contrast, we’ll be paying under $300 per camp this summer (for both kids). So we’re talking under $600 for childcare costs ALL SUMMER! Wooo! Can’t argue with that! I’m pretty pumped about the savings, particularly given that these summer months are still pretty tight on the income side of things.

For those of you with kiddos, I hope you’re enjoying a smooth and easy entrance into summer!

What do you do with your littles during summer? Stay home with them? Send them to camp? Babysitter? Something else?


Student Loan Forgiveness Program To Be Cut???

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Has anyone seen this news story floating around the interwebs?

The headline reads: “Trump to Propose Scrapping Beleaguered Student Loan Forgiveness Program.” It’s got a big picture of Betsy DeVos face floating around with the headline.

In the story, reporter Jillian Berman discusses how a leaked education budget shows plans to eventually chop the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (PSLF). Its not a sure thing. The budget plans are not yet finalized and, even if they were, it would require Congress’ approval.

I’ve seen lots of panic and political drama surrounding it on Facebook. My mom tagged me in one such post to get my thoughts on the issue.

And here I am, sitting on the sidelines. I graduated with nearly $100,000 in student loan debt (now sitting right at $65,000 – latest debt update here). I’m taking the position that I’ve never wanted to depend on any of the government loan forgiveness programs. For many years – long before Trump took the presidency and appointed Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education –  I’ve been saying that I didn’t trust these government programs. I’ve always maintained the position that I don’t want to depend on the government and that the PSLF program (or any of the loan forgiveness programs) could ultimately just disappear one day. I don’t want to make major career decisions on the basis that I need to go into this field or work for that sector in order to qualify for PSLF because WHAT IF the program ends up discontinued?? Then what? Where would that leave me? Up shit creek with no paddle, that’s where!!!

Instead, I personally have always taken the view that I just want to PAY OFF my loans as quickly as possible. Don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against the loan forgiveness programs. If I were already on a career-trajectory where I intended to be in public service I would certainly be looking into it – I just don’t want to force myself down that road simply for the hope of possible loan forgiveness at the end of it. Actually, I’m on an income-based payment plan where any unpaid interest on my subsidized loans has been forgiveness. It’s not loan forgiveness (it’s only interest forgiveness…and only on some of my loans), but it’s a related student loan program and I’m taking 100% advantage of it while I can. But in terms of the major government-backed loan forgiveness programs (like PSLF), they have never sounded like appealing options for me.

What are your thoughts on the controversy? Is anyone signed up for the PSLF program that would be directly impacted if it were to be discontinued? How scary!



Creative Ways to Save Money when Moving

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If you’re anything like me, moving can be quite daunting. Besides the sheer volume of labor, there is a lot to figure out. What made our move more challenging was that our family is on a tight budget, we had some major time constraints such as only having the evening and weekends to get our packing done, and we had accumulated a lot of stuff over the years.Below are some of the major and minor saving steps we took.

Two Major Savings Steps

There were two major steps we took to move as inexpensively and efficiently as possible:

We opted for a professional moving company instead of renting a truck

There are a lot of things to take into consideration, and this definitely won’t be the case for everyone, but after running the numbers and the time saved, we opted to hire a moving company. In our case, it was North American Moving Services, but there are many options out there. Here is why opting this way saved us money.

  • First, I didn’t need to figure out how to drive a big truck across hundreds of miles of traffic and bad weather; their company would take care of all the logistics of our interstate move.
  • Second, we could do all the packing ourselves.
  • Third, we could just ask them to pack the fragile stuff.
  • Fourth, we could just ask them to do all the packing for us.

Although I was tempted to go for the full-service package, my inner cheapskate kicked in and I decided we would do our own packing. (My spouse agreed; the kids fussed.) I also decided to figure out how to pack the fragile items by doing an Internet search for packing tips.

However, when we booked our long distance move, we did take them up on their offer to help us with disassembling and assembling our furniture and getting our appliances installed. I didn’t know how, nor did I have the tools.

We decided that we didn’t need to transport all our stuff

The first thing we did was empty out the spare bedroom. Then we filled it up with all the stuff that we didn’t want anymore.

We created the following selection criteria on what to get rid of:

1. Good stuff that we had lost interest in it. Mainly, clothes, dishes, and DVDs.

2. Stuff that fallen apart that would be cheaper to buy than fix. Mainly, electronics and gadgets.

3. Stuff we had bought on a whim. Mainly, our bric-a-brac collection over the years and tchotchke baubles.

Once we had purged the house of everything we didn’t want anymore, then we sorted through the stuff in the “junk” room. We created the following piles:

1. Things to be sold.

2. Things to be donated.

3. Things to be recycled.

4. Things to be trashed.

However, we did come to a sticking point in this process–books. We love our books. Yes, we might not read them again and could get an electronic version, but we loved our books. I was pleased to discover our kids had become regular bookworms. Then my 9-year-old son asked why we didn’t just mail them to ourselves! From the mouth of babes! So that’s what we did. We used through USPS’s media mail to move our books, and save on the cost of adding the weight to our moving bill.

6 Minor Saving Steps

Figuring out how to transport our stuff and how to narrow down the weight saved us a lot of money.

Here are 6 other steps we took to save even more money:

1. We asked family, friends, and stores for boxes.

2. We borrowed or rented all the tools we needed rather than buy any.

3. We timed our utility shut down dates to get the most value.

4. We tracked everything we paid for during the move for tax deduction purposes.

5. We canceled all subscriptions ahead of time to avoid paying unnecessary membership fees.

6. We paid all our bills ahead of time so that we wouldn’t get stuck with any late payment fees.


Loan Defaults and 5 Ways to Get Out of It

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In layman’s term, loan defaults are simply debt that you weren’t able to pay. Loan defaults apply to any type of loan – car, home, student, SBA, 401K, payday loans, and the most common – credit cards. Defaults will be incurred once a consumer fails to pay the borrowed amount to their lender, and once a certain period of time has elapsed, your debt will be recorded and will forever be a part of your credit history – which is what you want to avoid. Credit history can be used to formulate a consumer’s credit score, which can negatively affect your future loans.

So, how do you get rid or get out of loan defaults? There are ways, for sure, and you can abide by these tips to make sure you do not incur loan defaults:

Make a budget and stick to it

Never go out of your budget as this can cost you your good credit score, a decent car, and the good relationship with your lender. Once you’ve set a budget, stick to it and make damn sure not to overspend – as you definitely will be sorry for it soon enough.

Choose a lender or can finance company that you can trust

You will be working with them for the next couple of years, so take the time to choose one wisely. Every country has their top lender, Bank of America (USA), Sainsbury’s Bank (UK), Alpha Finance (AU), etc. Whichever lender you choose, be sure to go with the best in the industry. Not just because they can provide car finance with affordable repayments, but also they have excellent customer service that will remind you whenever a payment is due so you can avoid defaults.

Contact your lender ASAP

Anything can be resolved through constant communication. If you know that you cannot pay your loan any further, or you can but you are going to be a bit late, then it’s best to talk it out with your lender. Ask if you have any other option, and if there is any way you can reduce the penalty or default. Ask nicely and surely, you will get an answer that you want to hear.

Consider looking into a debt repayment agency

If you know that you are going to have problems with paying your loans, then don’t sit around and just wait for your lender to chase you down the road – instead, talk to them and a debt repayment agency. Consumer credit agencies will work with you and your lender to come up with alternative payment plans. All you have to do is have your repayment plan approved by the lender, put the money into an account through a debt repayment agency, and the agency will be the one to make the payments for the consumer.

Agree to have your car repossessed

If you do not want to incur any more debts and you have no other options left, then it’s better to have your car repossessed by the lender, rather than having loan defaults that will last for at least 7 years on your credit history. The downside to this is that you will lose all of the previous payments that you have made, but hey, at least, you do not have a bad credit history to your name.

Good luck with your loans, and make sure to follow this list to avoid being caught in an unpayable debt!


“Fun” Little Freak Out

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Let me share with you a story about an all-out “FREAK OUT” moment I recently had regarding my pay.

In terms of back-story, I am on a 9-month contract which ends May 19. When my new contract goes into effect I’ll be switching to a 12-month contract. But that contract does not go into effect until the start of the fiscal year, July 1st. In the interim (May 20-June 30), I will be receiving pay designated as “supplemental compensation” at my current rate of pay (my raise doesn’t go into effect until the new contract).

Since the academic year is soon ending, I emailed our business manager last week asking if I needed to complete any paperwork/what I need to do to get the supplemental compensation to kick in. There was a bit of a process involved last summer and I can’t remember the exact steps.

The business manager replies back basically saying (paraphrasing), “I have no record of you receiving supplemental compensation this summer. Your new contract starts July 1st.”

And I’m like, “WHAT THE WHAT?!?!?!?!” (insert the Scream emoji face)

I’m instantly reviewing old emails and re-living old conversations in my mind. Is it possible that I misunderstood? That I simply thought I would be receiving supplemental compensation but that I’ll actually be going AN ENTIRE 6 WEEK PERIOD WITH NO PAY WHATSOEVER?!?!?!

I call my husband in a panic. How are we going to survive? Here, I was just saying how these next two months are going to be super tight…I didn’t realize we’d literally have NO INCOME during this entire time period! We (stupidly, in hindsight) sent our entire $5,500 emergency fund to the IRS when we were setting up/establishing a payment plan for our 2016 taxes. What were we thinking?! The IRS felt like an emergency at the time, but with the gift of hindsight, I now realize we never should’ve entirely wiped out all liquid savings. What are going to do?!

Deep breath in. Deep breath out.

I allowed my heart-rate to come down. I emailed my boss to gently inquire into this issue. Was I mistaken? Or am I supposed to be working for the next 6 weeks, as I had planned (not to mention, I’ve got work meetings piled a mile high on my calendar, and all kinds of tasks to accomplish over that time).

My boss was at a conference at the time so it took what felt like an eternity for her to respond. My initial email was sent around 2pm in an afternoon and I didn’t hear back until nearly noon the next day. It was just a simple clerical error. YES, I am supposed to be working (as planned). And YES,  I will be receiving supplemental compensation under my current rate of pay until my new contract goes into effect on July 1st (at which point my nice raise will go into effect).

Just breathe.

I have taken a couple lessons from this experience. First and foremost – we made a horrendous mistake in completely wiping out our EF. We need to get back to at least a “baby” $1,000 EF ASAP!!! Not sure how that’s going to happen given that we’re still grappling just to tread water and not lose ground over the summer. Either way, regardless, we need to have at least a starter EF to help us if, heaven forbid, we face a similar crisis in the future.  Second, rather than rushing to panic – maybe just reach out to my boss immediately and try to save the panic for later. In this case, I would’ve been able to sort out the situation and no panic was needed at all. Also, I’m glad I was proactive in reaching out to the business manager BEFORE the semester ended. It would’ve been a terrible surprise to have the semester end and then all the sudden have NO MORE PAYCHECKS when I was depending on them to pay our bills and feed our family! Yikes!

 

Have you had any financial “close calls” recently?


Ashley’s April 2017 Debt Update

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Hi All,

May the fourth be with you! (heh, get it – May 4th? okay enough of that.)  : )

It’s another month and another opportunity to put a little bit of debt behind us.

Here we are and I feel a bit at a crossroads. I haven’t included the IRS in our debt spreadsheet because – honestly – I’m still so embarrassed that we owe so much!!! I’ve worked out a payment plan and we will be paying a hefty sum – $1,000/month – until the debt is fully resolved. It will be a large household expense over the next several months (year+). Maybe I’ll eventually add it to the spreadsheet just so it can be properly acknowledged but, honestly, I just can’t add it yet. It would push us back up over the 1/2 way milestone and just causes so much emotional distress by increasing our debt numbers that I just can’t fully face it yet. I mean – it’s been “faced” as far as the IRS goes (in terms of admitting the debt, establishing payment plan, etc.), but for some reason I can’t “face” it here with you guys. Not yet, anyway.

So that’s my one disclaimer. My debt spreadsheet remains with all our old/pre-IRS debt numbers and our monthly payments are going to be negatively impacted because the monthly payment indicated in the debt tables will NOT include our IRS payment.

With that caveat, check out April’s debt progress:

PlaceCurrent BalanceAPRLast Payment MadeLast Payment Date Original debt, March 2014
Navient - Federal 2 (unsubsidized)$11,0565.8083April$82,433 (all school loans, combined)
Navient - Federal 3 (subsidized)$86225.8025April
Navient - 2 (subsidized)$85026.5533April
Navient - 7 (subsidized)$72026.5528April
Navient - 8 (subsidized)$63766.5525April
Navient - 9 (subsidized)$85026.5533April
Navient - 10 (unsubsidized)$97686.5571April
Balance Transfer Student Loan #2$6000% (through Sept 2017)$400April$7650
Balance Transfer Student Loan #3$43690% (through October 2018)$75April$4594
Medical Bills$00%$1215Paid off in April 2017$9000
Balance Transfer student loan #1$00% -Paid off in March 2016$5937
PenFed Car Loan$02.49%-Paid off in January 2016$24040
License Fees$02.5%-Paid off in April 2015$5808
BoA CC$07.24%-Paid off in June 2014$2220
Mattress Firm$00%-Paid off in May 2014$1381
Wells Fargo CC$013.65%-Paid off in May 2014$7697
Capital One CC$017.9%-Paid off in March 2014$413
Totals$64,997 (March balance = 68,714)$1,988Starting Debt = $145,472

So as you can see, we “only” paid $1,988 in debt in April. I say “only” in quotations because obviously that’s a huge sum of money. But we’ve been trying to pay closer to $3,000ish/month, so it’s a big decrease from our goal number. Though, again, this does not take into consideration the $1,000 payment to the IRS. I’ll do a goal update post soon just to check-in with numbers and take a pulse of how we’ve been doing so far this year in our financial goals. With the IRS hit, some of our goals are going to have to be re-thought. But I’m optimistic overall. Our biggest/most central goal is to pay $30,000/year toward debt and I think there’s still a good chance we can hit that number. We’re aiming for it!

I’ve also been re-working our budget to account for the changes in salary and expenses that are coming up. My part-time job officially ends this month. I have about another week worth of work, but my last paycheck was received last month (womp, womp!) My new rate of pay (from my big raise) doesn’t go into effect until July. So May and June will be TIGHT!

This is probably the first time in my debt-repayment journey (of 3+ years now!!!) that I’m a little bit nervous about the possibility of moving backward. I mean….these two months are going to be really rough. I’ll be writing a post soon to talk about different savings strategies and ways we’re going to try to reduce spending to only absolute necessities, etc. Be thinking about it because I could certainly use all the tips I can get!!!

I’ll be back soon! In the meantime, have a great week!

 


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