Doin’ the Carlton

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I am dancing around ya’ll, and just so you’ll have a visual, you can imagine how Carlton dances from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Hey, that’s all the rhythm I’ve got! So, let me explain why my children are currently glad their friends can’t see me.

In one of my previous posts we got to talking in the comments about whether or not we should pay credit cards with crazy, stupid interest off first or our furniture loan which is interest free but due to possible trickery, could bite us in the end. Well, this is what happened…

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and……

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The card that had almost $600 on it and the card with a little over $1,000 ? PAID!! I. AM. SO. EXCITED!

Let’s talk about how this was possible, shall we?  My husband has a job that rarely gets overtime.  They have been swamped lately so, he has been working a few hours extra a week to help out. We knew that he would have enough overtime on one check to pay off a good chunk of that smaller balance.  What we did not know is that the weather in our area was gonna go nutso crazy and, fortunately for us, his work is greatly impacted by weather. They sent him out of town, which just so happened to fall on a weekend so, there was lots of overtime. They taxed the heck out of us but in the end it was enough to pay off both cards.

I’m not gonna lie ya’ll, there’s a part of me that really wanted to pay off the small card, put a little on the other card, and have fun with the rest. But, I know that sticking with this is going to benefit us so very much. I also have another confession that I’ll get more into this afternoon.  The crux of it is that we have not been sticking to our budget as strict as we were before.  I’m hoping that these two victories over our credit demons will help us get back on track.

So, what do ya’ll think, was it a good decision to pay these cards off? Or should we have put it towards the furniture loan?


Money Philosophy

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I am very smart and educated. I’m not saying that to brag, it’s just a fact.  I have plenty of things that I am terrible at too and I will readily admit them as well. But back to my being smart and educated.

My parents taught me from a very young age to manage my money – 10% to savings, 10% giving and the rest for me was a weekly mantra from the time I was old enough to get an allowance.  And they lived frugally, so frugally, it was painful even for me as I always felt like we were broke and didn’t have enough money to make ends meet.  I remember the 12 different stores mom would go to every week with coupons in hand to get the best deals on the healthy food.  And I remember, the heated discussions from behind closed doors.

I also worked from a young age, as soon as I could babysit, referee soccer games, work at fast food restaurants, I worked.  In fact, I don’t think I had more than a month of not working from the time I was 13 until I lost my corporate job a year after my youngest was born.  Then I tried the SAHM thing and knew it was not for me.

Despite all my parents’ efforts, somehow I missed the lesson on credit, so in college, like many that we hear about, I got into trouble with credit cards.  Lucky for me, the amount I owed was less than my car was worth so when I graduated and decided to move to Chicago to ‘save the world’ with my social work degree, I left my car behind which my parents sold for me and it paid off my credit card debt. (It really did cover the debt, they did not help me on that one.)

When I was married, I managed our money, paid the bills and a lot like Ashley’s Financial Relationship my husband was also self employed and he gave me the money we needed for our budget and kept the rest. We were relatively well off for a while, but in the end it was not a good situation, and obviously ended in divorce. (The finances were not a reason for the divorce, but did end up leading to a lot of resentment on both sides.)

So I’m getting to the point…all my God given smarts, all my education and all these life lessons, making and managing my money for so many years now and I’m still really horrible at it!  Really horrible!  I need a keeper, someone to put me on an allowance and take control of my accounts.  My self control is ….ugh!  I just keep hoping that getting out of debt is kind of similar to the tenets of AA (not comparing or belittling AA at all) – I hope the first step to recovery is admitting I have a problem.  I have a problem, a repetitive problem that just sabotages myself!

I’ve been reading a bunch of financial books and a few blogs and my continued favorite is Get Rich Slowly and this week I read this post: http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2014/04/15/8-years-of-get-rich-slowly/. Did you read tenet #1? (Since reading this article I’ve been putting some thought into my own tenet’s, and wrote them out on my personal blog if you are interested.)

I’m focused and I’m determined but I’m still really, really weak.  This is why I’m always broke, always!  As soon as I get money I spend it…not on junk anymore, well, most of the time.  But I know like a dollar burning a hole in a child’s pocket that if I don’t get the bills and debt payments made, I will find somewhere else to spend it.  So it’s good for now, I have a goal and plenty of debt to keep my money occupied, but what about after?

How do you develop the self control to say no?  I’d love to hear your ideas on this one and in the next couple of months I will share what I have in mind especially since I plan to start saving with my new part time job that I wrote about earlier today.


I got a new job!

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From the beginning I’ve thought that increasing my income was my best bet to speeding up my debt free journey.  And with summer approaching and the kids being older, I thought it was the perfect time to explore that theory as a reality.  And now it’s here!  I start my new job…TODAY! Woohoo!

I’ll be working 12-15 hours a week, doing whatever needs to be done, and it’s outside my home.  This is so huge.  I haven’t worked outside of the house in almost 11 years.  I’m excited about the ‘adult’ time, yes, I’m aware most people don’t go to work to have adult time.  I’m excited to try something new where the possibilities of what I’ll get to learn are endless. And I’m excited to see what new responsibilities this may bring out in my kiddos.

My youngest has struggled the most with the idea, but when I reminded him that 1) I would be away less hours then he spends in the gym for him competitive gymnastics and 2) if I go in the mornings, I would be back before the kids get up (yes, we are all night owls.)  It will take a few weeks to really see what kind of income this will bring in, especially since I’m going to max out the tax they can take out, but then I’ll have to come up with a plan for using it wisely!  I’m thinking a 40/40/10/10 split – 40% towards debt, 40% towards savings, 10% fun money and 10% giving.

I’m just so excited about the possibilities!


How I Save on Groceries

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So with the comments that I have gotten in my last post, I wanted to write about how I do some of my groceries, and in particular how I get some of my meat.

One of the biggest chunks of my food budget, is meat.  Unless you are a non-meat eater, I bet you’re in the same predicament.  Yes you can shop the sales and the mark downs, but one of the tested and proven ways is to simply buy in bulk.  In the past, I have split costs on buying cows and pigs with a few people.  Last year I wasn’t able to find anyone interested, that is where Zaycon Foods comes in.  Zaycon is my favorite/ goto company to buy bulk meat from.  They sell high quality meat at incredible prices.  

Downside of this, you are left with a huge amount of meat to process and prepare at once.  But I have gotten it down to a science and pretty much get down in about 2-4 hours depending on what the meat is.  Back in January I got 40 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts for $1.89.  I have also done this for ground beef.  Now I could easily do all this with my account at the restaurant my buddy owns, and sometimes I help co-operate.  But one thing that Zaycon has a referral program and a couple times I was able to get a case for free.

Right now I easily have 20 lbs of ground beef by itself and the same amount of chicken.  I have over 60 different freezer meals that I have ready at my disposal as well.  When other meats go on sale at my local grocery store or even the butcher store I stock up on it.  I also stock up on other things, and like some of you pointed out in an earlier post… Some of these are items I don’t even need.  

Today, for instance, I bought 16 Scunci Hair Ties at $.49/piece.  There were part of a gas deal, where if I bought 4 of them at a time I would get $.30 off per gallon of gas, up to 30 gallons.  That makes it a $7 moneymaker.  I did this four times so I actually got $1.20 off, and made $28.  Plus I have Scunci’s for a while.  My wife and daughter lose their scrunci’s all the time.  I chalk that up as a win in my book.

So there is just a few ways I save some money.  Hit me up with what you all do to stretch out your dollars!

Oh by the way, if you are interested check if Zaycon is coming to your area in the near future.  Here is what they have on sale currently:

  • Boneless, Skinless Jumbo Chicken Thigh Fillets
  • Fresh Boneless Skinlees Chicken Breasts
  • Fresh Jumbo Chicken Wings
  • Fresh Premium Hickory Smoked Bacon
  • Fresh Strawberries
  • Natural Non-Homogenized Whole Milk
  • Orchard Peaches
  • Pork Sausage Links
  • Premium Choice Angus Sirloin Steaks
  • Raw Wildflower Honey
  • Rotisserie Seasoned Turkey Breast Roast
  • Smoked Pulled Pork

Birthday Expenses

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Saturday was my little man’s birthday party.  And let me tell you, these things wear me out!  Cleaning the whole entire house, cooking all the food, decorating the house according to the party’s theme.  All of this does such a toll.  Almost four days non stop if you count in Easter.

But all in all, it was a huge success!  Probably the most people we had in our house at any given time.  To top it all off, it was such a beautiful day.  I had an idea that I would be grilling in the rain or something.  Which turned out to be a faulty gut feeling, what a relief.

Everyone knows that birthday parties can be such a financial burden but I am happy with what we paid for everything.  Here is a breakdown of all the costs…

$23.96 – All the decorations (Paid back in March)

$49.82 – Gift Basket (Got all from Oriental Trading, which helped save lots of money for 16 kids)

$95.39 – Our Son’s Gift (Had on Layaway since January, so also didn’t spend much this month)

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$169.27 – Total Spent

Now this amount would have added to an even bigger amount, since as you can see that no where in here did I give a price on food and cake.  I got all of my food for free.  For the last two weeks I have been waking up at 2:30 in the morning, to help my best friend do a newspaper route of his.  His truck broke down and the vehicle was deemed totaled.  He paid me about $125 for gas, which was all I asked him to do.  Well he took it upon himself to demand I give him a way he could help me out.  He knows that I did this because I love him, and wasn’t expecting anything in return.  

He kept bugging me and bugging me on how he could repay me back.  I know he doesn’t have much money and I really didn’t have anything in mind, when all of a sudden a thought got put in my head.  He owns a restaurant, so I told him that he could get all the food for my son’s birthday party.  I needed 10 lbs of hamburger meat, 8 lb Pork Butt, Hot Dogs, Buns, and Potato Salad.  This was about $70-$90 dollars of value.  It wouldn’t cost him any extra out of pocket, since all these he had at the restaurant.  So we were both satisfied.  Back in the day I used to do wedding cakes and I was pretty good at it.  Even though I hate baking, I made my son’s cake, so it cost a total of about $6 for the products I used, but I had everything on hand, so no out of pocket.  


I got a raise!!!

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Can I get a “woohooo!!!!”

But before we get too excited, let’s have a little #truth.

I don’ know if you can really consider it a “raise” because what happened is I took on additional work. So, yeah, my income is going to raise (and not by just chump change…a pretty decent upward improvement), but it is in exchange for additional work.

It was a bit unexpected, but I’m very grateful for it. Even though I’m not an “employee” (I work on a contract-basis), I still somehow feel like a very valuable “team member” at this particular university, we’ll call it University A (remember – I work for multiple universities, but I don’t feel comfortable divulging where). I feel well compensated for my work and have established a great working relationship with the faculty, administrative staff, and other contract-employees as well (all done through distance & technology – pretty amazing!)

So I’ve given it a great deal of thought and, although this may disappoint some, I think this new development has rendered this conversation moot. I hope you will not be angry with me! I had been thinking about reducing daycare to save money for a LONG time….it was not something I was just spouting off randomly and have taken back just as suddenly. Instead, I’ve made the calculated decision to leave our situation as-is for now (care 3 days a week instead of reducing to 2). The additional work I have picked up more than makes up for the $200 in savings per month, many times over. And with additional work, I really believe I’ll need the extra day of childcare per week. Also, as an aside, last week the girls were only in daycare 2 days instead of 3 (the provider had a pre-planned trip that left us out-of-care for a day). OF COURSE, this is when the WORST ALLERGIES OF MY LIFE hit! I felt like I was dying from the sinus pressure, migraine, non-stop sneezing, etc. I looked like I had pink eye because my eyes were so puffy, swollen, red, and watery (I took a picture, but I’ll spare you the gory image). Let’s just say….very little work got done. And now I’m way behind (and I don’t get paid until my work is done, so that’s a problem!) And it just made me recognize how valuable our current childcare situation is. $50 WELL SPENT, if you ask me!

That was a long side-note – let’s get back to the employment situation…

Of course with contract situations there is no guarantee of ongoing work. But, so far, I have been made to feel very safe and secure in our current situation at University A. I will say that this situation is with online teaching, so I get a new contract every semester. I don’t see the current situation changing anytime soon.

With my other “employer” (said in quotations because, again, I’m not technically an employee since its a contract-based job…we’ll call this University B), there is not as much job security. This job is mostly research-based, so whenever the current project is completed I could be out of a job. At this point I’ve been working with University B for 6 months and have worked through completion of 4 separate projects (being asked back after the completion of each previous project). But this “raise” makes me feel much more comfortable because previously I earned my pay approximately 50% from each (research job and teaching job, respectively). This additional work (and associated pay) tips the scale to where I am now earning my full “old” salary solely at the teaching job. Any money from the research job is just gravy. So, as long as the research job continues, I’m coming out ahead. If the research job were to cease today, I’d still be making the same salary I’ve been accustomed to.

Doing contract-based work certainly requires some flexibility. You never know what the future holds and there’s no guarantees about anything.

But, with that said, a little birdie told me I could potentially be expecting another “raise” come the Fall semester at University A. *fingers crossed*  We’ll see!!!


Fighting Mad

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Arrrrgh, I am SO MAD at Wells Fargo!

As you may recall, I recently paid off my Capital One credit card (which had been my highest APR), and have moved onto focusing on my Wells Fargo credit card (my second highest APR).

A few days ago I received a credit card offer from another bank. It offered 0% APR as an introductory rate for the first 24 months. To be clear, IN NO WAY do I want to open a new credit card account. But I thought maybe I could use this letter as leverage. I called Wells Fargo to see if I could negotiate a lower interest rate.

I’ve read advice on how to approach the subject, and I tried to reason with them.

“Hi! I’ve been with you guys for over a decade and really like you! But I just got this 0% APR offer for 24 months. Can you match this deal on my current credit card or, if not, do anything to lower my current APR?”

What should have been a simple call turned into a total nightmare!

I was transfered multiple times. At first, they tried to send me to the sales department, so they could get me a new credit card with an introductory APR (to which I respond “No, I don’t want a new credit card. If I were to do that, I’d just go with this other bank’s offer.”)

Then eventually I’m just told “No, we do not lower APRs….ever.”

Ummm, excuse me? Never? What are you talking about? You don’t do periodic credit reviews and adjust APR as a result? I know my APR was hiked up in the past (as a result of one of these reviews), you never lower it again when credit improves????

“Can I talk to a manager?”

*Another transfer and loooooong wait*

Finally…I’m talking to the person who can make some decisions!

And, again, I’m told no. There is nothing they can do.

GRRRRRRRR!!!!!! I swear I was on the phone close to an hour by the time everything was said and done!

There is one thing that jumped out as interesting. One of the people I spoke with had said something that indadvertedly implied that maybe something could be done if I went into an actual branch. I could be reading into the conversation because she certainly wasn’t giving me advice or trying to help me out, but during our conversation about “how on Earth do you never lower APRs? I swear this has been done before!?!” One of the girl’s replies was something along the lines of “No, never, not as long as I’ve worked here. Maybe if you’ve gone to a branch they could’ve lowered your APR in the past??” It was more of a question than a statement, but still….

I’m tired of my efforts resulting in wasted time (Exhibit A:  Trying to negotiate credit card APR; Exhibit B:  Trying to negotiate lower medical bills), but this APR is so outrageously high that it could be worthwhile to go into a branch if it actually makes a difference (and has the potential to be extra-frustrating if it results in nothing).

Has anyone else had SUCCESS getting a credit card company to lower your APR? Is there any difference if you go into the branch as opposed to calling the company? Advice? Tips?

 

Edited to add:

So many people are saying I should take the 0% offer that I wanted to say something further….

The offer was one of those mass offers that lots of people get. They would still have to run my credit to see if I qualify (and I may not). Also, I’m trying not to run my credit right now because I want to try to refinance my car loan for a lower APR in the next month or two. Last March when we bought the car our credit was dinged from multiple inquiries (shopping around to get the car – I’ve always heard you have a 72-hour window to shop around, but our credit still took a hit regardless). So I’m trying to avoid having my credit run right now.

I love the advice and suggestions! Given this information, would you still suggest I apply for the 0% card?? Should I wait until after I try to refinance the car? Not sure if those offers expire??


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