I May have Messed Up – Storm Prep


Last week, the governor declared a state of emergency and our pantry was EMPTY!  We had been eating through our pantry prior to our trip to see my parents, so it was pretty bare around here.  With the imminent arrival of Joaquin predicted and our empty cupboard…I may have overspent on groceries, spending our entire monthly budget in one fell swoop. (I did not spend the weekly amount allotted for fresh, organic milk delivery.)

I wanted to be prepared for the storm.  (They compared the predicted results to a storm here in the Fall of 2003 when we lost power and clean water for almost 2 weeks.) I stocked up on gallons of water, batteries for flashlights and canned/non-refrigerated food.

And I wanted to fill our cupboards for our regular meals. So I restocked the freezer with frozen meats and veggies, brought fresh fruit and sandwich makings.  I realize this was counter-productive if we had faced significant power outages, but with grills and cooler and ice, this has worked for us in the past.

The food overwhelmed our tiny space and our counter tops are covered in cans and boxes.  It looks like the olden days when we had plenty of room to store food.

We are very thankful that the storm did not come ashore here, and that we kept power for the most part during the 6 days of solid rain.  And we are truly enjoying having a bounty of food to choose from during our days to cook the family meals (we rotate through the week based on our ever changing activity schedules.)

But I’m doubtful that the groceries will last the month, especially the fresh fruit.  I guess only time will tell, but for the first time in some months I may go over on a grocery budget by a pretty penny.

On the flip side…got a call about a potential job which means I may bring in some extra money this month.  Woot, woot!


Oops… Again


Hey everyone and Happy Tuesday!

No debt update this week. Along with my post from last week (here), I made another oops. Back in August, I began spreading my mortgage payment across the month on a weekly basis. I did this so that I wouldn’t have to make a single, large mortgage payment at the end of the month. It worked awesome in August and I was able to pay a little bit on my student loans every week, instead of having to skip weeks. Again, September was a 5 paycheck month and the 4th paycheck I received was going to go to nothing but my student loans. Since September would have also been a month which I made 5 weekly mortgage payments. My intent was to turn off the weekly payment schedule on my 4th paycheck, make my student loans payment, and turned the weekly mortgage payments back on to make the last payment of the month. When I did this, I didn’t realize Wells Fargo would immediately apply the 3 banked payments to my mortgage principle and leave me with a week to make my regular mortgage payment. Thankfully, I have the cash flow to do it, but it meant I made nearly 2 mortgage payments in September- money that I could have used to pay down my student loans a little faster. The good news is Sallie Mae 04 will be paid off next week! Then it will be on to Sallie Mae 01 (the big one) after a bit of a delay to refund my EF.

On a separate note, I’ve been looking into ways I can save a little money come spring time. We are planning on saving our garage sale until then, but I was thinking of using the proceeds of the sale and whatever money I need to make the difference to buy an electric bicycle. It would make sense since the places I travel to most (95% of my travel is to work) are within 5 miles of our house, the perfect distance for this mode of transportation. I could just use my 10 speed, but, unfortunately, we don’t have any showers or lockers here at work to get changed after pedaling that much. The only thing stopping me at this point are the prices. Of the highly rated, road-style bikes, the prices ranged from $2,000 to $4,000. The one I really, really like, from Easy Motion, is listed at $3,000. I’d love to get one of these bikes in March or April, but I don’t think spending that kind of money would benefit me much until I’m debt free. If I spend $20 a week on gas (a generous amount), that amounts to only $480 of savings if I use it as my only mode of transportation and I get 6 months of use.

Have any of you paid more for something up front that you felt would save you money in the long run?

Debt balance update will occur on next week’s post.

Have a great week!!

Raising Awareness


It’s October. We all know what that means. Breast cancer awareness month, right? Pink everywhere!

Which is fantastic! We all know someone who has been affected by breast cancer.

But do you know what other “awareness” week is going on right now?

Frontotemporal degeneration awareness.


Frontotemporal degeneration. Fronto (as in the frontal lobe), temporal (as in the temporal lobe) degeneration (as in…degenerating).

So, I guess the cat’s out of the bag. This is what my Dad’s got.

It’s a terrible, dehumanizing, crippling disease. It destroys the very essence of the human being.

Right now there is no cure. Unlike Alzheimer’s disease, there aren’t even any treatments to slow progression (just meds to help manage side-effects, such as OCD-type qualities or anti-psychotics to help assuage delusions/hallucinations).

I’m not going to pretend to be an expert. I’ve read plenty, but we’re still relatively new to the disease as a whole, so I’m not going to spout off a lot of statistics at you. You can read about it for yourself. 

Initially I wasn’t even going to post anything. I’ve never revealed my Dad’s illness. But why suffer in silence? This dementia is the second most diagnosed dementia for people under the age of 60. And there is a serious lack of funding right now for it. Mainly because (I can’t help to think) no one has heard of it! What is it, even!? What does it do?

In short? It wreaks havoc. It causes the person’s thoughts and behaviors to change. It will likely force the diagnosed individual into early retirement (or could precipitate an untimely termination). It robs the person of his or her very essence, changing fundamental personality traits.

Frontotemporal degeneration awareness week spans from October 4-11. As you are inundated with breast cancer awareness messages in social media, maybe take a moment to think about this lesser known disease that is every bit as crippling and debilitating. This disease for which there is no chemotherapy or radiation treatment. For which those diagnosed are rarely seen as heroic; no imagery of warriors “battling” the disease. Instead, most are ostracized. Their odd patterns of behavior cause people to cut social ties, forcing them into an increasingly withdrawn, sad, and lonely world.

Given the closeness to home, you can bet that this is going to become something very near to my heart. As we get out of debt, I’d love to be able to start donating to the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration to raise awareness and provide funds for research. With any luck, one day we’ll have medications to help slow the progression of this wretched disease. Seeing the physical and mental anguish it causes is nothing short of heart-breaking. Research is needed. So spread the word.

Hugs to all!

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” (source)

Ashley’s September 2015 Budget Update


Things were pretty ho-hum in terms of spending and budgeting in the month of September. No spending was crazy or out-of-line with what would be expected. Here’s our budget from September:


Place Amount Spent
Rent 1200
Electricity 251
Water 60
Natural gas 34
Cell Phones (2 lines) 82
Cable/Internet 97
Car Insurance 117
Trash 35
Preschool 916
Gift-Giving 30
Personal Maintenance 14
Restaurants 105
Groceries 601
Gasoline 74
Household Goods 50
Clothing 81
Toddler purchases 0
Postage 14
Rainy Day Savings 225
Savings Goals 500
Debt Payments 2564
Total Budgeted $7050


Last month I’d reported issues with both my cable and cell phone bills. I was happy to report when both of those issues are resolved.

The $50 household goods charge was for all those Bath and Body Works candles I bought (remember?) And the clothing purchases still never did include those black pants I was after (in fact, I didn’t go shopping again for the rest of the month after that incident). But the first weekend of October I managed to score a really cute pair for 50% off at Banana. That place is becoming my gold mine! (side note: how is a plain pair of black pants “super cute,” you may ask? Aren’t’ they all rather plain? And the answer is no. The ones I got are adorbs. They’re ankle-pants, like the new kind that are in style now. I know that’s not necessarily great long-term since they’re likely to go in and out of style, but I lurve them! They’re super flattering, go with a ton of stuff, and I will get lots of wear out of them!)

Our rainy day savings was a little slim this month:  $200 toward our dental fund (in anticipation of hubs’ upcoming dental work needs) and $25 toward the girls’ college savings. Nothing else. I’ve really gotten a little too close to the line on our savings. I’ve been a little skimpy in favor of making larger debt payments. But this needs to stop.

We’ve got to beef back up our:

  • 3-6 month EF (which we depleted down to about $1,000 back in August and have never replenished)
  • car repair fund (which we always end up depleting everytime it gets to about the $1,000 mark. Right now we only have $75 in it!)
  • annual fees fund (which is just silly to neglect because these are known and expected expenses)

So those will be priorities in the coming months.

The $500 toward our savings goals represents the $500 funneled toward Cruise 2016 (only 6 more months until the sale date! We booked 12 months in advance so it feels like it’s really coming up even though its still half a year away!)

That’s it for this month!

How was your spending in September? Are you anticipating any big holiday spending in October? I’ve really been trying to keep my eyes peeled for possible Christmas gifts. I’d rather spread out the shopping a little instead of having it all concentrated in December!

Free Wipe Out Student Loan Debt Webinar


student loan webinar

When it comes to debt elimination, college loans are often a huge portion of the total debt many from which families are trying to dig their way out. According to the Institute for College Access & Success in 2012, 45 percent of American households are struggling to repay $1.2 trillion in student loan debt. This is an increase of 500 percent over the past decade. More than one million, or 71 percent, of all students graduating from four-year colleges are left with some type of student loan debt.

Even worse, the amount of debt isn’t insignificant. Former students across the country hold an average debt loan of nearly $30,000. That makes college loans one of the biggest sources of debt-related stress, and they owe more to student loans than they do to credit card debt. Americans only owe more on home mortgages.

The problem when getting financial advice on student loan debt is finding a source that has no special interest in the advice being given. That is, they don’t have a financial interest in you doing one thing or another. To help those who have student debt who would like to know more about their options, Liberty Bank for Savings is sponsoring a free webinar to help people reduce or eliminate student loan debt. The webinar will be on Wednesday, October 14 at 7:00 pm.

What makes the webinar different is that Liberty Bank doesn’t offer college or commercial loans, so they don’t have a vested interest in trying to get you to take a loan out with them. They are impartial on this topic and the bank merely provides their free money management seminars as a community service to better educate people on personal financial matters.

This 60-minute webinar titled Wipe Out Student Loan Debt will be conducted by Laura La Belle. She’s a certified financial planner and money coach who is an expert in the field. The webinar will be available free of charge via laptop or smartphone at libertybank.com. The latest student loan programs, options, and specific steps to eliminate student loan debt will be covered. For those interested in the webinar, registration is required.

Topics if the webinar include how to apply for new debt repayment programs, how to prevent student loan defaults, how to avoid garnishments, liens, and tax levies, how evaluate new payment reduction programs, how to use debt forgiveness programs which may save thousands of dollars, and how to avoid scam artists that prey on debt-ridden borrowers. it’s also set up so there will time for questions and answers for student loan questions participants may have.

For anyone who currently has student loan debt and would like more information about the options available to pay it down as quickly as possible, this is a great opportunity to get unbiased information that doesn’t cost a dime. It can be a good first-step to put together a plan for paying down your student loan debt knowing the options available. There is never harm in better educating yourself in financial matters, especially when that education is free. For those interested, they can register online at Liberty Bank.

Ashley’s September 2015 Debt Update


Full disclosure:  I have intentionally put September’s debt update off (which is why its now October and just barely going up). Anyone who has had some serious debt to repay (like me!) knows it’s a road full of ups and downs. One month I’m flying high! Another month I’m down in the dumps. September was a down in the dumps type of month.

First, I’m so over Navient. Over it! I’m considering doing a loan consolidation just so I can get rid of them as a loan service provider. I don’t want to rush into anything impulsively just because of frustration. Overall, I prefer to keep my loans separate because I enjoy knocking them off one at a time. Plus, I don’t know how it all works when you consolidate if I’ve got some subsidized and some unsubsidized loans. And I’m currently on income-based repayment and I think consolidation companies don’t do that (right? Because aren’t they independent companies – not government backed anymore? I have no idea, clearly I haven’t researched it). I’m just SO OVER Navient I’d do just about anything to get rid of them! Tips/thoughts on consolidation? Right now I’m still waiting to hear back from the mediation company (I referenced in Monday’s post), so no immediate plans for consolidating, but definitely something in the back of my mind.

Second, hubs had another rough month at work last month. Again. This year has been a down year for his business. It’s depressing for him as well as for me (and our budget!) So a lot of my income has had to go to pay bills instead of being all this extra gravy that I thought could be thrown toward debt. Overall we still did have a higher debt payment this month than most months, but it wasn’t near the mammoth-sized debt payment I was hoping for (for comparison:  most months we’re around $2,000ish. This month was over $2500. So we did good, don’t get me wrong! But I was hoping/planning for closer to a $5,000 month).

And third, the car. I had a secret goal to get our car loan under 10K this month. Remember my overall goal was to get it paid in full by the end of the calendar year. But when hubs checks weren’t as much as we’d hoped, my planned debt payments got diverted elsewhere, and I wasn’t able to swing a large enough payment to drop us below $10k on the car loan. To me, in my mind, that’s basically the last nail in the coffin which assures me that there’s no way we can pay the car off in full by the end of December 2015. To be fair to myself, that goal was always a bit of a stretching goal. I still have full confidence we’ll be 100% consumer debt-free by the time we go on our cruise (in April 2016). But I so, so wanted to have it paid in full by the end of December. To start the new year consumer debt-free. I want it so bad I can taste it, folks! It causes me physical pain (like an upset stomach) to know we can’t make  that goal. But we just can’t. We’d have to pay $3,333/month just on the car, alone, to make the goal. Not gonna happen. (tear).

So, that’s why I’ve put off this debt update.

I hate that so many of my posts have been Debby-Downer status lately. I’m really sorry about it! I don’t mean to be a big bummer and all “boo hoo” but it’s just been a tough month.

So, to turn a new page, let’s look forward and not behind. I LOVE October! One of my favorite months of the year! I love the Fall weather, I love the fun festivities and community activities that are offered (many of which are free!)! I love spending so much time outside and playing at parks with the kids (also free!). I love that as my girls are getting older we’re able to do so many fun things! Remember, I missed Halloween last year (it was my friend’s wedding day), so I’m SUPER pumped for Halloween this year (and already got them cheap costumes from Costco)! Basically, a lot of good GREAT things to look forward to! Debt payments are just one of them.

So here’s how our September debt payments looked:

PlaceCurrent BalanceAPRLast Payment MadeLast Payment Date Original debt, March 2014
Capital One CC-17.9%-Paid off in March 2014$413
Mattress Firm-0%-Paid off in May 2014$1381
Wells Fargo CC-13.65%-Paid off in May 2014$7697
BoA CC-7.24%-Paid off in June 2014$2220
License Fees-2.5%-Paid off in April 2015$5808
Navient - Federal Student Loan$159318.25%$256September$4687
ACS Student Loans$86326.55%$31August$21035
Navient - Dept of Education student loans$666556.55%$263September$63254
PenFed Car Loan$107302.49%$1500September$24040
Balance Transfer student loan (Former Navient 1-01)$42120% (through April 2016)$500September$5937
Medical Bills$60110%$25September$9000
Totals$112,171 (Aug balance = 113,894)$2575Starting Debt = $145,472

One thing to note, my “beginning” debt balances are all out of whack now for my student loans since ACS sold one of my loans (approximately $12,500) to Navient. I need to try to adjust it to account for the loan transfer but I just can’t be bothered right now. Seriously, every time I think about Navient I have this terrible visceral reaction. But I’m not going there right now. Focusing on the positive. So, yeah. Just a heads up about why that’s all wonky.

1. What do you think about consolidating student loans? Pros? Cons? Personal stories or experiences welcome!

2. When you’ve failed to reach a big goal or milestone (whether related to debt or not), is there anything you do to try to get over the disappointment? Any tips to pick up my spirits a little?

3. Tell me something YOU look forward to in fall! (Our town does a huge Fall celebration thing. We went last year for the first time not expecting too much and were blown away by all the fun, free activities – from face painting to a petting zoo to inflatable bounce houses, to a trick-or-treating thing for kids hosted by local businesses. There was live music, door prizes, horse-drawn carriage rides and s’mores.  All of it totally FREE! The only thing NOT free was dinner-type food – they had food trucks for that. But you could always eat before you go! I cannot wait for this year’s festival! It was seriously one of my favorite events from all of last year!)

The Cost of Travel


We are in GA visiting my parents (who met us here from TX) for a long weekend.  It is a weekend that I’ve dreaded and greatly anticipated for months now. I had budget $250 for the trip, but in reality it will really only be $100 to cover the gas to get here and home.  So that’s good.

We got a really sad piece of news upon our arrival.  The decision has been made to sell the lakehouse (shared family vacation home owned by my dad and his two siblings jointly, inherited from my grandparents.)  I guess I had in the back of my mind that in April when we leave our tiny space, we could come here for a bit and kind of use it as a base for some travel if we don’t find housing immediately and if I’m still not sure where we will settle.  (Keeping myself open to any possibility.)

And with that news, my fingers have been busy researching travel with family, pets, last minute flights to anywhere, etc.  And I’m curious to know if any readers here have ever traveled for any length of time.  My thought is that by that time my monthly commitment (since rent, utilities will cease to exist) will be quite low.

So I’ve started looking at different ideas:

  • Camping
  • Living in a 3rd world country (met a family this year who spent a year in Panama living on a farm so their kids could learn Spanish, how cool is that?  And they have 10 kids!)
  • Using sites like AirBNB, Kayak and other economic, out of the box travel sites.
  • Just getting in the car and going with no set plan or destination

I don’t really know.  I like the idea of taking a break from “real” life these days and especially right now as I am wrapped in the many mixed emotions I deal with being around my parents.  Obviously there is alot of time before anything will be settled and even more so, there are tons of details I would have to address to make any of this happen.

But I’m just wondering, has anyone ever traveled for a few weeks/months and what was your experience?  I’ve found some families who do this and blog about it so I’m checking there too.  Do you have any blogs like that you follow or recommend?

This is in no way shape or form a plan for the future, just me exploring options and being prepared for whatever opportunities may present themselves.