A New Budget – First Pass

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I’ve put this off long enough, it’s time to come up with a new monthly budget for our new life and space.  Bear with me as I haven’t started receiving utility bills here yet so I’m not sure how they are going to run. I will tell you that we’ve had no A/C or heat running for the past month as it stays really warm in here with all the surrounding units running theirs constantly. Even now, the windows are open. So here’s my first pass at the new budget:

CategoryEstimated Monthly Total
Rent$1214
Water$125
Electric$150
Life Insurance$25
Auto/Renter's Insurance$150
Storage$70
Entertainment$18
Kids Misc - school, activities$275
Kid's "Allowance"$480
Car - Gas & Maintenance$350
Groceries$600
Subtotal Personal$3457
Business Expenses
Phone Service$215
Internet$66
Technology$10
Misc$15
Subtotal Business$301
Total Monthly Expenses$3758

I did not include my debt in this budget as I really don’t have a plan in place for that yet. Since the house closed yestarday, I will start receiving the final bills from all the utilities and that will eat up a good chunk of any extra debt payments. I anticipate being able to get back on the debt payoff race in January once those extra utility accounts are closed out. Through today, I’ve paid these additional monthly bills on the old house:

Electric $196
Gas $57
Waster & Sewer $232 (this is a quarterly bill, so some is from when we actually lived there)
Trash $36 <- This is the final amount for this bill as I cancelled the service once all the renovation was complete.

So I should have one more set of the top three of these to deal with in December and then I can officially close the chapter on that part of my life.


So Worth It – Kid’s Activities

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I know that there were lots of opinions on my kids involvement in different activities and the amount of money I spent on them.  While much of their activities are bartered there are certainly costs associated with them, and the driving alone is a hefty chunk of my time not to mention gas….but I declare that as I/we get more selective, they do pay off.  I have talked alot about my youngest being a competitive gymnast and this past weekend his meet season kicked off.  I did good financially…in the past we have driven up, stayed a couple of nights, done some sightseeing…nope, not this year.  We drove up and home the day of, and here’s what we got to see.

For the record, I have bartered my skills for his monthly tuition. I do have to pay uniform and meet fees along with the gas to get him to practice three times a week and to out of town meets (all of them are out of town except the one we host in December.) This year the meet fees are right around $400 for the whole season…his dad and I split that and it has already been paid.

He spends 12 hours a week in the gym…and these videos show the results of a little over 2 years of training (not counting his missing the majority of last season due to broken hand.) In my book, it’s so worth it!

 


Chapter Closed

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Well, almost…our house sold today. It’s officially over. As a result of the finishing touches I had to complete this week, it’s been extremely emotional for me, lots of crying. The new owners even moved in early, paying a per diem rate to take possession last Friday rather than waiting for today’s closing.

My parents will come for a week long visit in one week, and my dad said that he will tell me at that time what, if anything I will receive from the sale. I’m not going to rehash this, I’m not holding out any hope, what I am going to do is do my best to forgive and forget this house debacle even happened. Time heals all wounds, but I have a week to get my game face on and soften my heart. The wounds are fresh and the reality of our home being gone, well it’s really sad to me.

I just wanted you to know that this chapter of my life is closed…well, except for the remaining utility bills I must pay.


Consolidation Station???

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The title of this post has nothing to do with anything, except it reminded me of the lyrics “conjunction junction, what’s your function” (from the School House Rock theme song).

This is a quickie post, but something that may solve some of the high student loan APR issues that I’ve been talking about recently (see discussion here, see list of debts and APRs here).

Any readers consolidate their student loans?

Have good experiences? Bad experiences? What are your thoughts??

I’ve heard that you can only consolidate a single time, but that would be okay with me. My credit has vastly improved across the last year as I’ve paid down my debts so I think I’d qualify for a lower APR. I don’t know the ins-and-outs. Would this impact my income-based repayment? Can I consolidate through the same company I already have or do I have to use some outside company? How does all this work???

For the record, IF (big if) this happens, I would absolutely 100% only do this in order to lower my APRs. I would not start spending money elsewhere or think this means I can pay less toward my student loans. It’s strictly an interest rate thing.

Thoughts? Experiences? Advice?

I assume I’d need to start by calling and speaking to a representative at one of my loan companies (I have two companies:  Navient and ACS). Before I even take that next step I’d just like to poll the audience (YOU!!) and get your opinions on the matter.

Thanks in advance!!!


Gifts to Myself – A Mental Break

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You are right.  I am overwhelmed, I am stressed out and I don’t trust my own judgment right now. So currently, my financial life is just trying to stay afloat, not make any big decisions and get a little ahead.  But I have this week decided to gift myself two things….

  1. We will be going out for Thanksgiving.  Despite the hardships of the last few months, we have much to be thankful for and I do not take it for granted.  What I did take for granted was lots of counter space and a kitchen that more than one person could stand in.  So we are going out…I’m not cooking.  I’ve decided on Golden Corral.  We will all be able to eat our fill at about $66 for the 5 of us.
  2. I am going to pay $50 for the younger two to go to a “school’s out” camp at our martial arts studio.  I just need a break  So Wednesday I will have a whole work day with no interruptions…I’m already compiling lists of the things I will get done.

I know that’s $116 I could put toward debt, but right now I just need the mental break.

 


Making Do: Make-Up

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You know how I’ve been trying to save money by making do with items that we’ve already got instead of buying new ones? Well I’ve been wanting to talk about this one for awhile….make-up!!!

I’m not a big make-up person. 99% of the stuff I wear is whatever is on sale at my local grocery store. I never rarely (like, once every 2-3 years) go to Alta or buy make-up from the make-up counter in department stores.

Even so, make-up can still be expensive. Since I started blogging I’ve been avoiding buying any make-up. This never started as an intentional challenge, but (similar to my DIY hair dye and cuts, which are still going strong), its kind of morphed into a challenge over time simply because I’ve now been doing it so long that I want to see how long I can hold out!

Have I just been skipping make-up entirely?

No. Though, to be fair, I don’t wear a lot of make-up to begin with so it’s different for me than it would be for someone used to wearing a full face with base, powder, blush, etc. on a daily basis.

So what have I been doing? Make-up eventually runs out, right?

Yep. And I’ve gotten creative!

First, I’ve looked around the house for make-up and been surprised to find a ton stashed away in various places! I started by looking under my sink (side note: anyone else’s under-the-sink a total jungle? Yikes!) Just from cleaning that out I was able to find all kinds of old make-up that had fallen out of rotation and was lost in the “under-the-sink” stash of crap. My Mom used to always give me her Clinique gifts (she buys their moisturizer and would give me the free gift whenever it was “gift time”), so a bunch of the stuff I found was even brand-new!!!

Next, I decided to go through and organize my purses. Again – I’m not a big purse collector, but I’m a bit of a packrat so I always hang onto old purses. Most are from Target or Kohl’s so they’re not fancy brands, but they’ve been hanging around forever. Lo and behold, I find more make-up! In the pockets of many of these purses I found some variety of lipgloss or lipstick. I also found concealer and make-up brushes! Another score!

And, finally, I got creative. When I ran out of eye shadow I started using blush as an eye shadow. I broke out of my shell a bit and started using colors I normally wouldn’t touch. And I figured out ways to blend different colors of concealer to create the “right” color out of two “wrong” colors (e.g., by mixing one that’s too dark with one that’s too light).

There are some things that I miss. My ONE, SINGLE name-brand product that I use ran out about a month ago and I miss it (for anyone interested, it’s by Laura Mercier and it’s a bronzer. It’s incredible and my last one lasted literally 3 years). Even though it lasts forever, its pricey (I think about $50), and I do not think it’s big enough of a deal to spend the money on right now.

Oh how vanity goes in the name of saving a buck (remember when I also confessed to stopping botox??). It’s a bit of a sacrifice, but it’s worth it to see those debt numbers continue to be chipped away.

So that’s my latest contribution to the “making do” series.

What have you chosen to make do with in order to save some money?

Also…I challenge you to clean out underneath your sink sometime this week. I would bet you find something that you could use to save some money by making do, too!


Financial Goals Revisited

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Looking back at some old posts I see that I’ve had some lofty financial goals. It reminds me of this saying:

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

(Google says the quote is by Normal Vincent Peale)

Well, I guess I’ll have to settle for the stars, because I’ve missed my moon. But that’s okay. Progress is still progress. I just wanted to look back and remind myself of where I’ve been and where I’m going….

In this post I had listed my goals in terms of debt repayment. You’ll notice that my goal date to be rid of our license fees was originally August 2014. August came and went, and we still have those monthly license payments.

In this later post I changed my mind and decided to put my Race to 20K (paying off the car loan) above everything else. At the time I was hoping to pay $3,000/month toward the car loan. Yeah….that hasn’t happened either (aside for I think one or two months??)

And recently I’ve hinted at maybe changing my plan of action again. Re-ordering my debt payoff journey. You guys are right. The APR on some of my student loans is outrageous. Why not knock it out and then turn my attention to the car? In the past few months when I haven’t been able to pay $4,000 or $5,000 toward debt it changes the whole payoff schedule. Why not earn some “easy” wins by knocking out some of the smaller debts instead of tackling the comparatively huge car loan that could takes months to pay off?

And then I walk into my kitchen and see my auto loan debt thermometer. And I am absolutely re-energized.

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I guess that’s the thing about personal finance. It’s personal.

No, it doesn’t make sense. Any financial guru you talk to will say I’m doing it wrong. Either you’ll hear from the Ramsey types who say my car loan is too big and I need to start by tackling a smaller loan. Or you’ll talk to a numbers person who will say the APR on my car loan is peanuts in comparison to the student loan APRs, so I should start with the highest APR. No one would say that tackling the car first is the “right” thing to do. Or would they?

Whatever is the most motivating might make the most sense, too. Right?

I mean, I want all of my debt gone. I’m so, so, so sick of it! Having the little financial set-backs this month (with the car repair and house flood) have just reaffirmed how much I hate this debt. It’s so burdensome! It’s like a noose around the neck that we just can’t get rid of! Getting rid of the debt, in so many ways, will feel like earning our freedom back!

But so much of the journey is psychological in nature. And even as I’m doubting myself and thinking, “maybe we should just kill that high interest student loan real quick”….I just keep coming back to my starting place. And I see our car. And I want it to be ours for real.

I know it’s not the popular decision. With all my recent payments and hard work recently we are no longer upside down on the loan, either. I know many would say we need to sell it and rid ourselves of the nearly 20 grand (now actually right at 18 grand) of debt in the snap of our fingers. But it’s just not that easy.

We love our car (actually an SUV, a 2011 Ford Explorer). With the long road-trips we take we need something large enough to accommodate two car seats, a double stroller, us, our dog, our luggage, and cooler of food/drinks/snacks. That’s really not do-able in a car or even a cross-over. A van could work, but it doesn’t feel right to make that type of trade. The way I see it, we’d be able to sell our SUV for $20k, buy a reasonable used van for $10k, which leaves us with $10k less debt (and a paid for van). But as soon as we’re done paying off other debts we’ll go right back to selling the van (plus putting in extra $$) in favor of finding another SUV. Why? Why not just pay it off and own it outright from the start and save ourselves the headache of all the buying and selling and trading of vehicles?

I didn’t want to have to put it all out there like this because it sounds like nothing but excuses and rationalizations. I know it will anger some of you. But we’ll just have to file this under the “agree to disagree” label and call it the “personal” part of personal finance.

So there you go. The plan remains.

But don’t be surprised if I end up wanting to come back to re-visit this again at some point in the future. It never hurts to reassess one’s goals, particularly in light of big income changes. Hopefully with all my applications we’ll be having another big income change sometime soon….only this time going upward! : )

What debt are you currently working on paying off? What method of debt repayment do you follow (smallest to largest? Highest APR first? Psychological satisfaction?)


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