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Ashley L.’s BAD Introduction

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Hi! I’m Ashley L., a 28-year-old, single teacher. I was raised in a southern, middle-class household and in an extended family comprised of almost 5 public school teachers. Growing up I, all I wanted to do was to teach. But I knew that I would not make much money and so I tried to plan for a modest lifestyle.

I’m so grateful for the opportunity to become one of the new BAD bloggers and to share that story with you! I’m also pretty nervous because my debt story is from a slightly different point of view. I do not have tons of consumer debt. I was blessed to be able to earn a scholarship that covered the costs of my tuition for undergrad, then earned my M. Ed. from a very inexpensive program, and recently got $5000 forgiven from my student loans. This brings my student loans to a total of $8000. I have about $14000 on a car loan and was able to refinance this note to an interest rate of .99%. I have had some build up on credit cards, but was able to pay them off by cutting my living costs.

Last year, I was living in a small southern city with my boyfriend (who I am so happy to say is the love of my life) and my adorable rescue dog. Then the funding for my position at my school was cut. I was devastated. I felt pretty screwed over and eventually relocated to another city about an hour and a half away from my boyfriend and my “doghter.” This made me get intentional about my financial security and hyper-aggressive about my financial goals. I committed to being a woman and a teacher who is financially astute and successful. I do not want my life to be dictated by money, I want to dictate the flow of money to create my life.

I am currently trying to reach my financial goals of eliminating debt and reaching financial independence by: 1) eliminating my entire housing expense from my budget by house-hacking (frugality!), 2) renting out my primary house as a rental property and doing small side hustles (investments and additional income!), and 3) feeding money into retirement accounts (savings!). I am happy to share my journey with the BAD community and to be able to learn from and enjoy this opportunity.

 


It’s Good to Be Back

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I’m so excited to be writing here again. I was shocked when Ashley’s post mentioned we had been writing here for 3 1/2 years now (we started the same week.) I feel like I need to go back and re-read where I’ve been sometime soon to prove how far I’ve come. Just a recap of what comes to mind:

  • We lost our home and moved into a tiny apartment.

    Not sure what we would do without board games. Between work, gymnastics training and school, board games keep us sane!

  • We sold our giant van.
  • We lived survived and thrived living in 900 square feet with all five of us and our 4 animals.
  • I lost my primary source of income.
  • We spent 9 months ‘glamping’ when I could no longer afford our apartment. I’m grateful for the gift, it kept us from becoming truly homeless or spending a single night in a shelter.
  • We had to say good-bye to all our animals in one way or another, but enjoyed raising chickens while we were glamping.
  • We moved to another state earlier this year and in with my grandmother.
  • I got a great new job.
  • I continue to work 2 part time jobs and a variety of odd jobs.
  • We rented our very own home in Georgia, leaving one of the twins in Virginia, and now we each have our own bedroom after 3 years of tiny living.
  • For the first time in a LONG time, we are not living paycheck to paycheck.  But I still have a long way to go in learning to make better money choices and becoming truly debt free.
  • And this is where we begin today.

So much has happened during my life on BAD. I can’t wait to see where we go next. I write this as Irma rages outside. I was so grateful to be able to work from home today and tomorrow while she moves on through. We’ve had some limbs fall on the roof, one took out our backside neighbors brand new fence. We will wander out when it’s over and see the damage, but for now I’m just grateful for a cozy home.

I’ve made some terrible financial decisions lately. And it’s huge for me to be able to just say that. I even said as must out loud to a friend this past weekend when we went out for chips and dip. Thinking with my heart instead of my head. More on those coming soon. But I definitely recognize that I have a problem.


Coffee Date

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Hi Friends! I know I said it in my last post, but I’ve really missed you guys! This has been the longest hiatus I’ve ever taken since I started blogging 3 and a half years ago (<how has it been that long?!?)

So before diving straight into fully-financial posts, I wanted to just do a casual coffee date today. It’s as if we’re buddies meeting up for a cup of Joe, catching up on each other’s’ lives. See some past coffee chats here or here.

If we were having coffee today, I’d tell you how much I’m looking forward to some true Fall weather. Here in Tucson it’s still over 100 degrees F every day. I’ve been working out in the 5am hour and even at that time it’s already in the low 80s. I’m ready to bust out my fall decorations, drink some homemade pumpkin spice lattes, and cuddle up on our back porch in an oversized sweater while feeling the crisp in the air.

Exercise

Speaking of exercising at 5am, I’m training for another race. Last November I did my 3rd half-marathon. This November I’m signed up to do a Ragnar relay race. For those unfamiliar with Ragnar, these are running races that last 24+ hours. The traditional style of run is a road race, but the run I’m signed up for is a trail run in McDowell, AZ. I’m on a team of 8 and we will each run 3 legs (approx. 5 miles each) over the 24-ish hour span of time. I’m starting week 5 (of 12) of training and have really been enjoying it! I’ve always been a solitary runner. I’m not very fast and have never joined any running groups, etc. But my team (consisting of members of my department at school) has been meeting up on weekends to do our trail runs together and it’s been so fun having a group to sweat with, and to help keep me accountable when I’m not wanting to roll out of bed at 5am on a Sunday morning! Ha!

What about you? Are you working toward any goals or doing any type of diet or exercise regimen right now?

Texas Family

So much has been going on with my Texas family lately! All are located in Austin, so they were inland enough to be spared of any serious Hurricane Harvey damage. Remember that my mom and stepdad both broke their arms back in early July? They have lots of physical therapy and rehab ahead, but they’re both on the mend and expected to make a full recovery! My little sister welcomed a new bundle of joy to the world in late August! The delivery was smooth and easy and the baby has been a perfect angel – sleeps and eats well and only fusses when hungry, tired, or wet. She says it’s their 3-year-old whose been the problem. Tough transition from 1 child to 2, but they’re doing well. We believe my Dad is in the process of experiencing another step-down with his dementia. He was diagnosed with frontotemporal degeneration back in August 2015 and is currently living in an assisted living memory care facility. Frontotemporal degeneration (FTD) has been woefully understudied, so I can’t say anything definitive from a medical perspective, but several patients with FTD experience absolutely debilitating neurologic pain in the areas of their brain that are degenerating. I believe this corresponds with neuronal death. The pain is often associated with a “step down” in cognitive functioning. FTD is not a slow, gradual decline. Instead, it’s marked by periods of stasis, followed by rapid decline, then another period of stasis, etc. The periods of stasis can last weeks or months. The past few days have been painful ones for my Dad so we’re expecting another decline. His language has been impacted first and he’s really having a tough time with it these days. It’s hard for me because, living in Arizona with my Dad in Texas, our primary form of keeping in touch is phone conversations. I send pictures and letters, but we talk and/or text daily. It’s becoming increasingly challenging, though, as it upsets him when he doesn’t understand me (which is happening with increasing frequency).

How are your parents doing? No health issues, I hope?

Husband 

Hubs is doing well, but has had a tough time not working since his business closed down a few months ago. He used to be a flooring contractor but is now back in school for engineering and cannot sustain a full-time job. The cost of all the licenses and insurance were too much to justify renewal so he let the business come to a natural conclusion when everything came up for renewal. While he’s done well in school (last semester was his first one back full-time), I think it’s been a big transition for our entire family for him to not be working. He’s used to having his own income and additional spending money and it’s been tough to balance wants and needs within our family budget. I mentioned how my first full-time paycheck was a bit of a shock. Much lower than I’d been expecting. Budgeting is still a work in progress, and one I’ll be talking a lot more about in future posts. On the bright side of things, hubs is also in the process of obtaining his personal training certificate. He’s midway through the program and will be done in mid-October (juggling it along with his course load). He’s hoping to be able to pick up some part-time work after he receives his certification so that he can make enough money to cover his own personal effects and expenses while in school. He may be able to contribute a little to the household too, but even if he’s only able to cover his own wants and needs it will be a big help. Hubs has always been the “breadwinner” in our family, so having the roles reversed and being in a position where basically every expense is discussed (and budgeted) has been a change for him. (Edited to add: Check out this throwback post I wrote years ago about Our Financial Relationship for more background info.).

How’s your spouse, partner, girlfriend/girlfriend, significant other? Single? Are you on the dating scene? Any funny stories or interesting people you’ve met recently?

Kids

The kids (5-year old twins) are now a month-deep into kindergarten and they just got a new teacher! Yup. The old one, while kind, was having a lot of personal problems that interfered with her ability to do her best work. I was worried when I saw the stark contrast in what my kids were doing compared to the kindergarten kids in other classes (I’m friends with other moms and the curriculum is supposed to be the same for the whole grade). While I do feel bad for the old teacher and hope that she finds some peace in her life, I’m beyond relieved that my kids got their new teacher. She has been absolutely fabulous and it’s just the breath of fresh air that we needed. She jumped right into the role, hit the ground running, and I’m so impressed with how much the kids already love her! It gives me warm-fuzzies and makes me confident that they’re at the right school (we chose a charter school, as the public schools in our area don’t have the best ratings). They have been doing karate the past few months and, while I absolutely love it and all it’s done for them (boosting self-confidence, increasing independence, etc.), we’ve made the tough decision to cancel our membership for the time being, September being our last month. It was costing $150/person/month. At $300/month in total, we just can’t continue to afford it. It doesn’t fit within our budget. The girls do still participate in a gymnastics program, but it costs less than half that amount ($65/person/month; $130 for both per month). We like for them to be involved in extracurriculars, but can’t be paying nearly $500 a month for it!  At $130/month we feel comfortable. We also try to only do one activity at a time. So far they’ve done ballet, swimming, karate, and gymnastics. I’d love for them to be involved in some type of music lessons and I want them to do some team sports (like soccer!), but right now just be sticking with gymnastics.

How are your kids? Are they involved in any extracurricular activities right now? How do you find quality ones that don’t break the bank?

Work

Work is going great! I’m now only doing my one full-time job (up until a couple months ago I’d been working full-time plus a part-time job). I thought I’d have all this extra time on my hands once the part-time job ended but of course that’s never the case. I do think I have more time, I’ve just filled it with other things (like my 5am workouts – which used to be 5am emails and work). I also have more time to do my meal planning, shopping sales, and food prep. So we have less money, but I think my life has more balance. And with any luck (and a lot of planning and prep), hopefully I can save enough money to offset the loss-of-income from the part-time job. We shall see. One big area I will be targeting is FOOD costs. More info to come.

How’s your job? Things with your boss? Your co-workers?

 

I hope everyone is staying safe! My thoughts are with anyone impacted by Irma! I did my Masters degree at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton (about an hour north of Miami, right on the coast) and I still have lots of friends in the area. Thinking about all of you! Also, on this Patriot’s Day, I want to take a moment to acknowledge and thank all first responders and helping professions (nurses, doctors, paramedics, etc. etc.). I don’t have the gumption to do that type of work and our country would be lost without it, so thank you to those of you selfless enough to go into these professions! Thoughts with any/all who were impacted by the events on 9/11.

 

Hugs to you all! Stay safe out there!

~Ashley


Rock Bottom

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After our bankruptcy was discharged, I thought we were through with financial irresponsibility. We had two paid off cars, and no debt except a 40 year 7.5% mortgage of $130,000. On a house what once was worth $125,000, now was valued at $65,000. We said we would never go back to the way it was.

Our road started off with a bang, I decided I wanted a new car. I was tired of driving the small Chevy Aero, and wanted something bigger. By then my husband had gone back to work, so we had the income for a car payment. So I thought. Because we were so close after our discharge, the bank loan came back at 18%. Yet idiot me took it. Thankfully, I got our credit union to refinance it at 3.75 within 6 months.

The credit card debt kinda of snuck up on me. Again our local credit union started me off small, and kept raising the credit limit for me. I just kept spending and spending. Sometimes, it was for luxuries that we really didn’t need, but other times, it was for the necessities that we needed. We again were living outside our means.

The House

Last summer, my husband and I decided to move closer to our jobs and to a better school district for our girls. I took 6 months, but I found a house that is 2 miles from my job, 10 minutes from my husbands job, and a much better school district. It was a for sale by owner, and what we considered a perfect fit. I’m not proud to say this, but I promised to be 100% honest, so I will admit, we walked away from the old house with the 40 year mortgage. We were allowed to as the debt was discharged in our bankruptcy. We convinced the owner of the current house to do a lease to purchase, and moved in the beginning of February . We are paying her 5% APR (she holds the note) and have a refinance deadline of November 2019. Yes this stresses me out.

A few weeks ago, I finally hit rock bottom. I had convinced my local credit union to do a debt consolidation on some of our credit cards. I swore I would cut them up, and start living like a responsible adult. I failed. Two of the cards lowered my credit limit so they are not as high, but the rest are right back where they were. I am very ashamed to find myself in such a low place again however this time its different.We are not walking away from one red cent of what we owe. We can and we will pay down our debt. It won’t be easy, in fact, I’m sure its going to be very hard. But for the 1st time, my husband and I are on the same page, and there are no secrets.

The Future

The future is now. We are cutting everything we can to have more to throw at debt. I am working on a post explaining our income and expenses. We are signed up to start Dave Ramsey’s class in the middle of September through our local habitat for humanity. I’m excited because at the same time we have our class, they are also holding a kids class that follows Dave’s class for kids. Hopefully, that will give our girls the foundation to be smarter with money then their parents are. Its something I wish I had as a kid.

Thats our full financial story. Like I said, I am working on an income and expenses post that I am sure everyone will help me whittle down. I do promise to be 100% truthful in my posts, and I have thick skin to read the responses to them.


How it All Began

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How it all began……

I was never good with credit. When I was 16, Lane Bryant sent me a credit card. I had ordered from there catalog for several years. I don’t remember filling out a credit application, just this very pretty purple piece of plastic coming in the mail, and I then could order clothes and pay a small $25 a month until they were paid off. Easy, right? I had my first charge off on my credit report at 18.

I was a single mother at the time, and on welfare. The next step was to go back to work, and I needed a car. But with a new job and a small awful credit file, I needed a co signer. I don’t know how I did it, but I talked my Dad into it. I bought a 1990 Ford and went to work 3rd shift.

I behaved at 1st, making payments on time, and then I moved out on my own. I lived in an apartment with my son, and my soon to be husband. (now my ex husband). Living on my own was hard, and things started to slide. First my car insurance didn’t get paid, then it was canceled. So the finance company added their insurance to the car. Then I fell behind in the payments. Eventually I had to give the car to my Dad, and borrow his paid off car to drive back and forth to work. He was nice about it, but swore he would never co sign for me again, and he never has. Not that I would ask.

When my ex and I got married, we moved south with the military. He then took over the bills. I had given my Dad his car back when we moved, so we were down to one vehicle. We decided to trade his truck in and buy 2 cars, one for each of us. His credit was good, so it was no problem.

Fast forward a few years, and we are out of the military and permanently living in the south. Thing are tight, and my ex and i fight about money a lot. Eventually we end up splitting the bills 50/50, and each of us have to pay out of our own paychecks. He doesn’t care about any credit cards, just that if they are in my name, I have to pay them myself. Me, having no self control with money, rack them up. We split in 2001, and he walked away with a paid off truck. I was left with 10,000 plus in credit card debt, student loans, and a single wide mobile home with a 20 year mortgage.

I then decided that I wanted a new car. The one I had was with a credit union, and I was upside down a lot. But it was in my ex husband’s name. So, I let it go back, and bought a car on my own. Took out more credit cards. Move to a rental house that was $250 more a month and let the single wide trailer go back to the bank.

Are you starting to see a trend?

Don’t get me wrong, I was making it, but by the skin of my nose. By then I was at my current job but a single mom of 2 kids. Do you know how embarrassing it is to have collection agencies call you at work, while you are a bill collector for your job? One time, they even faxed my boss about my debt. I blamed my ex husband, and prayed that they would stop one day.

Then the rental house caught fire. Thank goodness I had renters insurance. I had a ton of cash, and a spending habit that I had not fixed.I found a new place to live, a rent to own house. I had one year to rent, and I had to get the mortgage in my name. I did it in 6 months. That was the height of the housing bubble, and I got a 11.75 % variable APR mortgage on a $125,000 house. But I had a ton of money from the insurance, that made it easy. My spending habits didn’t change. My kids and I had more stuff then we knew what to do with.

I then met my current husband. He is 6 years younger than me, and still was living at home. We has a speedy courtship, 4 months from our 1st date to our marriage. The money from the fire had run out by then, and he didn’t have a well paying job, so I robbed Peter to pay Paul to pay for the big wedding we had. The mortgage company did the 1st loan modification on the mortgage within 6 months. They lowered my payment and my interest rate to 7.5 % fixed. I thought everything would work out.

Traded and bought a few vehicles, and racked up more debt. Was kinda of keeping my head above water, then my husband got sick. We then had huge medical bills that included a bill for a cornea transplant. Everything got past due, even the house again. We went and filled out the paperwork to file chapter 13 bankruptcy but didn’t have the filing fee until we got paid on Friday. Thursday, I went out my front door to goto work, and my car was gone. It had been repossessed in the middle of the night. So, I borrowed the filing fees to file a day early, and the next day, the lawyer got my car back from the bank.

Again, things were fine for about 6 months then hours were cut. My husband had to find a new job, and took a $2 an hour pay cut. That hurt. Our Chapter 13 payments were self pay, so we stopped them. And our plan was dismissed.

We went back to the attorney, and asked what to do. He said to keep the house, we would have to file chapter 13 again, but reduce what we were paying in the plan. We gave back my car, but kept my husbands truck. I went out and found a mini van on a buy here pay here lot and got that for transportation as our family by then had grown by our twins and we didn’t fit into the truck by then. This time my pay was garnished for the payments, and my take home was about $250 every two weeks. My husbands was about $600 every two weeks. Everything else went to bankruptcy. It was very tight. So tight, that I even went behind my husbands back and got 4 credit cards while in bankruptcy. See the trend.

Then the layoff. My health insurance at the time was 100% paid by my employer, but my husband carried the girls and himself. To add him and the kids to my heath insurance was $300 a paycheck. His unemployment was $115 a week, and I only was clearing $250 a paycheck. The bankruptcy payments had to stop. My attorney got the trustee to stop the garnishment, and I put everyone on my health insurance. We saved up and filed income taxes, and converted to a chapter 7. We bought 2 salvage titled cars, and let the truck and van go back to the banks. We did another modification that included stretching the mortgage to 40 years from 30 years, and kept the house. We were discharged from chapter 7 in July 2013.

Stay tuned for part two…


Dawn of a New Day

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Hello, I’m Marie. I’m here to get honest about my debt. Yes, I have a lot. So much, I am in denial about how much. That’s why I’m here. To be open, honest and get rid of this debt.

A little background about me. I am a 45 year old married mother of four and grandmother of four. Two of my children are grown, and I also have nine year old twins. My husband and I are coming up on our 11th wedding anniversary.

I grew up in New England, but I now live in the south. I moved here in the 90’s with my ex husband, and stayed after the divorce to raise my two children here. The cost of living where I grew up verses here is so much less and by then, my extended family was all over, that it made no sense to move back.

I grew up with a mother who was single most days, and struggled a lot. She would would work her tail off and then buy us with “stuff” when things got bad. To this day, she still likes to fill her space up with “stuff” and still struggles herself to make ends meet.

I have been at my current job for sixteen years. I am the Credit and Collections manager for a home heating fuel company. I handle not only the extending of credit to our customers, but the day to day collections of our accounts.I think that its ironic that I work as a bill collector, yet manage mine so poorly. I adore my job, yet wish I made more at it. Don’t we all?

My husband also works, he works for an automotive manufacturing business, He has been there about three years, after an eighteen month layoff from his previous job. He just was promoted and received a raise, yet his overtime has been cut in the last few months.

I handle 100% of our bills. My husband has no idea even how to handle a budget. We are scheduled to start Dave Ramsey’s class the middle of September. I think it will be a good tool for us, motivation for me, and a real eye opener for my husband. We our out of balance when it comes to money, I stretch it as far as I can, and he thinks as long as the debt card works, its ok. I won’t lie, I have gone through times that I have turned into my mother, and enjoyed my “stuff”. We have been through major medical expenses, a layoff and even bankruptcy. I’m not proud of that last thing, and I am determined never to go there again.

Like I said before, we have a ton of debt. I don’t have specific numbers yet, but around $20,000 in credit card debt, $10,000 in personal loans, two (just bought in the beginning of 2017 )vehicles (about $30,000 each), a $15,000 in student loans, and in February we bought a new house. So if I had to ballpark it, we are talking about $105,000 in debt, not including the house. The house is owner financed, and we have to re finance it through a bank no later than November 2018. That is a whole separate blog post in itself.

We have huge hurtles to overcome, but I have faith that we can do it all. Today is the dawn of a new day.


Our New Life in Full Affect

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The last month has been a blur.  Today is my one month anniversary on my new job.  It is going great, and I am LOVING what I do. The wait was worth it to find the perfect position and the perfect company. I am so grateful.

Let me fill you in on what has been happening:

  1. Worked 40 hours per week in the office at my new job.
  2. Continued to work 25 hours a week for one of my part time jobs.
  3. Continued to work approx. 10 hours a week for my other part time job.
  4. Continued to school the kids – we are meeting twice a week (Sundays and one night a week) with intermittent study times together at night when the kids get stuck. It is definitely not ideal.  I’m going to have to re-evaluate our curriculum for the fall. But we will finish the school year in the next month and move on to a lighter schedule for the summer.
  5. Gymnast is going to gym (1 hour away) twice a week and soccer less than a mile away, 3 days per week.  He needs the energy outlet.  He is gone for the week with cousins to FL — this is why I wanted to move near family.
  6. Princess is playing basketball and has gotten involved with the youth group (that’s a first for her.)
  7. Sea Cadet continues to work at the movie theater he transferred with from Virginia, and looks forward to returning to VA the first week of June where he will spend the summer working as the Senior Boys Counselor at the same camp he worked at last year.

If you have done the math…I’m putting in upwards of 70 hours a week at work.  Oh, and I forgot, I’m starting every day with an hour in the gym.  It’s been life changing.  It’s been a whirlwind!  But I do have some exciting news…

We have rented a house!!!!  And you will not believe my rent…it is only $650 per month!!!!  I can’t believe it.  It is exactly the reason I wanted to move here.  We have not moved in yet, because frankly we don’t have furniture. Sea Cadet is staying there now on some old furniture family gave us, but we don’t have any beds.  Our stuff will be delivered by Upack on Tuesday so we can start making it home.  I have decided to move all the way in (we haven’t unpacked our stuff in over 2 1/2 years) and make it home.  We are all excited.  But it’s going to be a while before Gymnast, Princess and I move in while I watch for good deals and save money to get beds.

Our new home is 3 bedrooms, 1 1/2 bath, small manageable yard with just enough space for the kids to play.  Really, the only two things I am going to miss right now are 1) a dishwasher and 2) being able to have pets.  But all in due time.

A monthly budget is on the horizon.  I’ve just gotten my first full paycheck so I have a better idea of what my take home will be.  I did use every bit of my savings to get into the house.  I have to pay a $500 deposit, $650 first month’s rent, $250 to the city to turn on utilities and about $100 for a few odds and ends to get us started (toilet paper, broom, mop, cleaning supplies and a shelving unit to create a pantry in the laundry room.)

Princess and I return to Virginia this weekend for her to get her braces off.  It will be a quick turn, and it is the last trip we have planned. My new job has already agreed to let me work remotely while I travel, which thrills me to no end!


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