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Weekly Debt Update #18- A Birthday Party and Disney Planning

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Hey everybody! I hope you all had a great weekend.

With not much to discuss this week- I want to touch on a couple of items. Firstly, a very good friend of mine and his wife had a birthday party for his son who just turned 1, on Saturday. The party was in Ohio, a couple hours away from where we live. I drove down and spent a majority of day celebrating with them and their family. Instead of getting them a new toy, since I figured everybody else would be doing that, I gave them $25 in cash to start an ESA account for their son. Once the present opening began, I realized my suspicions were right- they had more toys and clothes than I think they knew what to do with. I told my buddy how to quickly set up an account (much like I did for my nephew) that will allow the money to grow for the next 17 years.

Secondly- the money saving planning for Disney has begun. So far, we know of 2 ways that are going to save us a ton. 1) We’ve been talking to GF’s mother, who lives only a couple miles away, to watch the dogs for us while we’re gone. She agreed to come over, let them outside, and play with them a couple of times each day and we’re going to give her $200. When I was looking into having the dogs boarded for the week, the prices ranged form $350-$450 depending on how much activity we wanted the dogs to get. Besides the financial aspects, I don’t really feel comfortable keeping our dogs in a kennel where they have limited space. I feel that keeping them in our house, where they can roam anywhere and play with all their toys, is a much more inviting scenario. 2) Since we’re driving to and from Disney (16+ hours away) we’re going to pack as much as we can for the drive. GF has already started couponing and buying foods that we can eat on the way that won’t go bad. The day before we leave, we plan on making pasta salads, normal salads and fruit salads- food that we can eat straight from the cooler, are healthy, filling and will give us plenty of energy for the drive. This will certainly keep us from hitting the gas station food when we stop for gas, at least on the way down. We haven’t yet figured out what we are going to do for the trip back up.

For anyone interested in my current debt totals, here they are:

Loan NameInterest RateOriginal Balance- May '09Current BalanceTotal Paid OffPaid Since Last Week
Sallie Mae 015.25$27,837.24$23,896.61$3,940.63$0.00
Sallie Mae 024.75$22,197.02$18,750.50$3,449.52$0.00
Sallie Mae 037.75$20,692.10$0.00
$20,692.10$0.00
Sallie Mae 045.75$10,350.18$6,271.63$4,078.55$305.85
Sallie Mae 055.25$6,096.03$0.00$6,096.03$0.00
Sallie Mae 06 and 074.75$6,415.09$0.00$6,415.09$0.00
Sallie Mae- DOE 015.25$5,000.00$0.00$5,000.00$0.00
Sallie Mae- DOE 025.25$3,000.00$0.00$3,000.00$0.00
AES6.8$9,000.00$0.00$9,000.00$0.00
TOTALS$110,587.66$48,918.66$61.669.00$305.85

I hope everyone has a great week!


Responsible Pet Ownership

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Let me tell you a little story about our dog, Rocky.

Rocky1

 

 

Rocky is an incredible dog. Well-behaved, intelligent, and loyal. One of the best.

But when he was a puppy he was T.E.R.R.I.B.L.E.

 

Rock1

I distinctly remember at least 2 separate instances when I was this.close to taking him back to the pound (he was a rescue dog).

He got into everything! He had an insane amount of energy and regardless of how many walks, trips to the dog park, and hours spent playing fetch, he could never get it all out. He’d come inside and just destroy everything!

Rock2

As a puppy he did all of the following things: (1) ate a hole through a wood door large enough to walk through, (2) ate an entire leather cushion from a couch, (3) ate through chicken wire, (3) ate a friend’s hat, sunglasses, and shoes as the friend was sleeping on our couch.

This just scratches the surface. He was destructive. And he ate everything.

So one day we’re at home and Rocky starts freaking out. He starts running in circles around our living room at lightening-speed. Then he stops, starts staggering side-to-side like he’s drunk and about to fall down, then he goes right back to running (repeating the run-stagger cycle over and over).

Hubs (boyfriend at the time – this was 10 years ago) and I watched in shock of what was going on. Even for our high-energy Rocky boy, this was crazy behavior. Something was wrong.

At one of the staggering intervals, husband grabbed Rocky and scooped him up in his arms. We ran to the car and drove as fast as we could to the vet clinic just up the road. This was not our usual vet, but we had just moved and this was the closest vet to our new place. We knew we needed help fast.

Once there the vet got to work right away. She pumped his stomach, but didn’t find anything too unusual (I say “too unusual” because she did find some t-shirt material and padding from our patio furniture – true story – but those items would not have caused his behavior). The vet, obviously an animal lover, was not kind to us. She basically accused us of having drugs lying around that he surely must have ingested. Absolutely not! We were not drug-doing type of people!

An overnight stay and several hundred dollars later, we were able to bring Rocky home. Never figured out what was wrong, but he ended up being okay.

Fast forward 2 weeks. We realized what Rocky must have gotten into.

I was in college at the time and it was finals week. I’d been having a lot of anxiety and my relative-to-remain-nameless (since I’m describing a felony and all) gave me a couple of Xanax pills. Obviously not prescribed to me. But my relative thought it would help me relax enough to do well on my exams (I had bad test anxiety at the time). I never did end up taking the pills. They were wadded up in a paper napkin and had been thrown on a kitchen counter. Eventually I forgot about them all together. Then the napkin disappeared (aka: Rocky got ahold of it), and I never even thought twice about it. It is not a usual thing for us to have drugs (prescription or illegal) lying around so it never even crossed my mind.

Apparently the vet was right. *cringe*

I tell this story to say that, since this time, being a responsible pet owner has been of the utmost importance to me. I’d thought we were responsible pet owners at that time, too, but obviously we hadn’t shielded our eat-everything puppy from the dangers of some prescription pills that were lying casually on the kitchen counter.

And above the ramifications for the pets, themselves, responsible pet ownership pays off financially. Being responsible in this situation (i.e., putting the pills away in a safe place) would have prevented the hundreds of dollars we spent on emergency vet bills that day, not to mention the stress and heartache of thinking we were losing our beloved dog.

Pets can be expensive! But if you’re going to be a pet owner, being a responsible one is important.

Rock3

Have you had any scary pet crises? How much did the ordeal cost you?

Have you owned a rambunctious pet before? Our dog is THE BEST now, but those first 2 years of his life were pretty rough! ; )


2015 Financial Planning & Goals

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Warning: This post is a bit of a doozy! Reminds me of when I first started blogging and would basically write a novel for each post! But everything is related so instead of breaking it up into separate smaller-sized posts you’ve got one monster post to contend with. Maybe make yourself a cup of coffee and settle in with a little snack. This is gonna take awhile!

One of the things I did over my winter blogging break was to analyze my 2014 spending and do some planning for 2015 budgeting and savings needs. I’m trying to shake up my budget categories a bit for 2015. For one, I want to do away with my “miscellaneous” budget all together. I want everything categorized. This will make it infinitely easier in future months/years to look back and easily see exactly where my money has gone (as opposed to this year…where I had to look at each month’s spending individually and start to categorize things on my own).

 

Basically, I wanted to see where this “miscellaneous” money was going and see if I could plan and budget for it. In addition to my normal budget categories (see latest budget here), here are some new categories I’ve come up with:

  • Gift-giving. I’ve greatly reduced the amount I’ve been spending on gifts since starting to blog here at BAD, but it’s not down to zero! This needs its own category.
  • House maintenance. Looking at the past year, this is mostly gardening-related stuff (some tools, plants, mulch), but it also includes things like light bulbs and cleaning supplies. There’s nothing too major cost-wise, but still enough random miscellaneous expenses to justify its own category.
  • Phone/Computer Items and Repairs. I broke my phone twice this year. I now have a serious heavy-duty case on it, but should the unthinkable happen again (fingers crossed), I decided to make this it’s own budgeted category. In addition to phone repairs, this year I had to buy a new charger for my computer and an external hard drive to back up my work, so expenses like that fall into this category as well.
  • Holiday expenses. Non gift-giving holiday related expenses. Things like Halloween costumes, 4th of July sparklers, and holiday decorations. This was also a relatively small category of spending.
  • Clothing purchases. I’ve actually successfully avoided the clothing-shopping bug this holiday season. I’ve mentioned before I’m not a big shopper in general, but I usually have one or two big shopping splurges a year where I’ll spend over $100+. This year I’ve done really well with making do with what I have and only filling in with absolute necessities (like when I had to buy a new pair of pants when my old ones had already been mended twice and were falling apart). Again – a small category in terms of money spent.
  • Work-Related. This was primarily for parking-related expenses when I would drive to campus for meetings. I haven’t been going to campus as regularly in recent months so some of these expenses have fallen away, but this also includes anything specifically work-related (e.g., licensing for special data analytic software, printer paper, ink cartridges, etc.)
  • One-Time Expenses. This was a tiny, tiny category but there were still a couple random things that came up that don’t fall within any other category. I’m calling them one-time expenses.

Please note, I will certainly NOT be spending money in each of these categories every month! For instance, I only spent money on work-related purchases 6 months out of this past year; only spent money on holiday expenses 3 months out of the past year, etc. But these will be categories that may pop up from time to time along with my regular budget categories, depending on what that month demands. Instead of having such a rigid, set number of budget categories, my new 2015 budget will be more fluid depending on that specific month’s needs. I think this will be a much better system overall.

What Else is Changing?

I did a careful analysis of all my monthly savings categories. It’s obvious that we were not budgeting enough toward dental and car maintenance, for instance. By tallying up our actual expenses for the full year, I was able to get a better picture of our real needs in these areas. Let me address each one individually:

 

Current

Saved

New

Plan

Explanation

Annual Expenses $100/mo $100/mo This is a perfect amount. It covers annual life insurance premium, car registrations, and Costco membership. It actually also left us a little bit extra leftover, but I’m not reducing the monthly amount saved because we’ll be adding life insurance for hubs soon, too.
Car Maintenance $100/mo $200/mo My calculations actually amounted to only $166/month needed for vehicle repairs, but I’m rounding up to $200/month because I know we will be needing to replace husband’s work truck at some point (probably this year), so I want to save a little extra. This will amount to $2400 saved for the year. Note that when we come up with an exact time frame to buy a new (new-to-us) work truck, this figure may need to be bumped up for a few months.
Dental/Vision/Health $125/mo $125+ ??? Our actual costs here would amount to needing $3651 for the year (just over $300/month). BUT, we’re going to purchase a dental discount plan in January and will see how much it will save us. Husband is going to go get a full exam and see exactly how much dental work he is quoted. I think we’ve covered the “big” stuff at this point (fingers crossed) and, in the meantime we’ll continue saving $125/month, but will adjust this number depending on his dental appointment with an in-network dentist.
Christmas/Travel $25/mo $25/mo Of course, this doesn’t fully cover our travel and/or Christmas-related expenses, but it was never intended to fully cover those costs. It does what it needs to do, which is to off-set some of the costs incurred. Any extra money needed will come from that month’s budget.
3-6 Months Expenses $25/mo $25/mo Ugh! Still owe you guys a post about the emergency fund. Right now, though, the amount being contributed will remain the same on a monthly basis.
Dog Expenses $10/mo $500/year Previously, I was only saving for potential vet expenses. I’m changing this category to cover food costs for the full year (about $50 every other month), plus the pet registration required by our county, and a couple hundred dollar buffer for potential vet expenses. I’ll likely fully fund this savings in January and just draw from it all year long.
Girls’ Birthday $10/mo $10/mo Staying the same
2014 Roth IRA $100/mo $100/mo Staying the same
TOTAL $495/mo  

$585/mo

 

(+ one-time $500 expense from the dog expenses category)

 

This brings me to…

My 2015 Financial Goals

In 2014 I paid monthly debt payments that equaled $25,091!!! This is actually a conservative number because it only includes the planned debt payments. Remember that before I was living on last month’s income I would often make debt payments bi-monthly: once was the planned debt payment (which this figure represents), and then I’d make a second payment at the end of the month with any extra “surplus” money from the month. (Side note for new readers: I did this because we have a variable income so I made conservative debt payments initially, then when I figured out exactly how much income we had for the month, I’d put any money leftover toward debt. Now that I live on last month’s income I know exactly how much money we have at the beginning of the month and, thus, have eliminated the need for any extra payments because I do a zero-based budget so there is no money leftover at the end of the month).

So my goal for 2015 is to pay at least $30,000 toward debt payments.

Whoa. That’s a big, huge number. $30,000 is a full annual salary for many people! To say we’ll put that much toward debt is certainly a lofty goal. But you have to shoot for the moon, right? ; )

What debts do I plan to eradicate from our lives with that $30,000???

Well, some of the money will be going toward minimum payments for all of our debts and interest, of course. But with extra debt money I plan to eliminate the license fees, car loan, and highest interest unsubsidized student loan. Then our only debts remaining will be medical bills and additional student loans. Don’t get me wrong – we’ll still have a ton of debt (I have almost $100,000 in student loans, alone), but it will feel so good to knock out some of these smaller debts in their entirety! So, so good, indeed.

How Will I Do This?

I’m a firm believer that all goals require careful and strategic planning. If you just pull a goal out of the air its really more of a hope or a dream. Goals, in my opinion, require more careful calculation than that.

So it might surprise you that my answer to this question (How Will I Do It?) is….”Who Knows!?” ; )

This year could potentially be full of many big changes. If I land a job here in Tucson then my salary will double and we won’t have any moving costs. Win! If I land a job elsewhere then my salary will more than double, but we lose husband’s salary and incur moving expenses. If I don’t land a job then I keep making what I’m currently making, try to find additional work, and husband focuses on building his business. Oh yeah, and I’d love to start saving for a house down payment at some point (once we know where we’ll be)! There are so many unknowns!

What I do know is that I want to keep working as hard as I can on reducing our debt. BUT, that being said, I do still plan to let up a little steam (just a teeny, tiny bit) in March 2015. Remember this whole post about finding balance??? It still stands. I don’t think I’ll give up the blogging (I love it and you guys too much), but don’t be surprised if you see a “date night” pop up in the budget every other month or so. That’s a big expense that we’ve done without for the majority of this past year (honestly, for the majority of the last 2.5 years since we had kids!!!). But I also think it’s important to nurture our relationship and while our kids have been infants/toddlers our marriage has taken a bit of a back seat. Don’t get me wrong – there’s no trouble in paradise or anything like that!!! But I think it’s time to make dating my husband and nurturing our relationship more of a priority in our lives. And even if we do so cheaply, it still costs money.

I’ve got one more curve-ball….

I’ve spoken before about retirement savings and how we’d like to start funding a Roth IRA. Although our contributions for 2014 are pretty measly, I’ve been talking more to hubs about it and we’ve come to an agreement about the matter. Once the highest interest student loan and license fees are paid in full, I want to bump up our Roth IRA contributions. Ideally, I’d like to work toward having fully funded Roths for both hubs and myself. We haven’t committed to an exact number yet at this point, so it may be that we double our current savings (go up to $200/month) or triple them (up to $300/month), or we could even aim to have fully funded Roths (about $458/month x 2, for each of us). We’re not there yet so I’m not sure how comfortable I’d be with saving that much while our existing debt is still incurring so much interest. It’s something we’ll think about more moving forward (and feel free to weigh in on the topic). But just let it be known – once these two fees are paid in full (license fees and highest interest unsubsidized student loan), our Roth contributions will be increased…while still trying to hit the $30,000 mark for debt payments this year.

So cross your fingers for us or wish us luck (or call us crazy).

No matter what 2015 holds in store, I feel like it will be a very good year!

What are your financial plans for 2015? Any big budget changes? Any lofty financial goals? What do you think of our goals and plans?


Doggie Dilemma

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This summer we must travel. Okay, not must, but we are. The kids each have camps to go to and three of the four are going to camps out of state. Two of these out of state camps are in May.

The costs for this travel in nominal, we stay with friends/family, they provide most of our meals and what is not provided, we are still able to stay pretty close to our regular grocery budget by taking food and eating cheaply. The only hit we really take is gas.

HOWEVER, this year I have a major problem – Dog Care! The last three years, we have had a fabulous friend (also drum teacher) who watched our house and animals for nothing or next to nothing. This year, we don’t have that AND we have one more dog than we’ve had in the past.

In preparation for this, I’ve placed an ad at our church community board and put our feelers with our friends. So far, I’m looking at $40 per day. Ugh! And no way! That’s $560 for the first trip that we are going to be gone and there are more coming through the summer.

I’m planning this far in advance as I have to find something that works…and I can afford without feeling sick to my stomach. Your suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

I’m starting to look at a neighborhood girl who put our a flyer, taking the dogs with us (really not feasible,) getting rid of a dog (yes, I’ll give some detail on that,) and bartering a room in our home for the summer in exchange for pet care.

I’m open to any and all tips and suggestions….even desperate for them!


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