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Tips for Moving on a Budget

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moving company truck

By Noel Finley

I’ve moved a lot in my life and one thing I learned early on is that moving costs can turn out to be a nasty surprise. It’s unbelievable how many homeowners, including myself, fail to take the cost of moving into account. Then when the bill comes, not only is it a surprise, it’s a struggle to pay it. If you are moving on a budget, here are some of the money saving tips I have learned over the years.

Shop Around

All moving companies weren’t made equal. Shop around and find the best price you can get. There are often huge differences in what a company will charge. Take into account any added extras along the way. These ‘extra services’ can really hit your wallet.

Provide Your Own Packing Materials

Packing doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Instead of leaving this to the professionals, gather boxes and bubble wrap yourself. If you really want to reduce your costs, use the boxes left over from Christmas or get them from a store that’s throwing them out. You can also use layers and layers of newspaper instead of bubble wrap.

Take Smaller Items Yourself

Moving companies will charge by the size of the vehicle or the number of vehicles they need to move your life to the next neighborhood. Take smaller items by yourself. In other words, pack any smaller items you can into your own car during the move. You would be surprised at how much you can get into a car, and doing so will ensure you minimize the price you pay to the moving company.

Choose the Moving Date Wisely

The vast majority of moves occur between the months of May and September. This is where moving companies can really charge a premium for their time, and they most definitely don’t turn down the opportunity. If you move during the peak moving times when trucks and crews are already fully booked, you’re going to have to pay a premium price for your move. If you have the option, pick a moving date in the wintertime when many movers are desperate for the business. This will give you the power to negotiate a much better deal and save a lot of money.

Take What You Need Only

Before you begin packing, edit the household items that you own. Don’t waste time trying to take absolutely everything to your next residence. The extra cost of moving stuff you aren’t going to be using or will only end up in storage simply isn’t worth it. Instead, plan ahead and make some money from them. Sell them for cash months before and use this cash to fund the move and to purchase items you may need when you arrive at your new home.

(Photo courtesy of Jeremy Rempel)


Ashley’s Year In Review (2015)

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I know we’re now a full week into the new year, but I always like to look back and reflect on the previous year around this time. So indulge me in a week-late review of some of the big highlights of 2015.

Personal and Financial Goals

The year began (or really was preceded by) setting some big goals. We had one list of financial goals, and a second list of goals related to “growing up” (in my mind this meant doing things like getting wills, life insurance, etc.). By the end of the year we hadn’t quite met all of our financial goals, but we’d made incredible progress. In all, we paid off over $26,000 in debt!!! We did even better on our “year of becoming an adult” goals. We fully accomplished 3 of our 4 goals and are well underway on the 4th goal (see update here). We’ve set some pretty lofty financial goals for 2016, too!

Budgeting

In early January, we made some pretty big changes to the way we did our budget. This eventually lead us to using YNAB for budgeting (we’d previously used an Excel file). I still can’t say enough great things about YNAB. I really think it’s made a huge impact on how well we’ve been able to stick to our budget and, therefore, how well we’ve done with paying off debt (see my full review here).

One of the categories in our budget that we really struggled with this year was our grocery budget. I talked several times about our efforts to make cheap meals, saving money by making homemade yogurt (super easy and so tasty!), DIY-ing pumpkin spice coffee (a personal fave), and trying my hardest to meal plan (which was much easier when I worked from home compared to an office-setting, and I’m still learning to balance competing needs).

I also saved a lot of money on self-maintenance this year. With the exception of 2 professional cut/colors (which I did prior to big job interviews), I’ve saved money in our budget by cutting and coloring my own hair for the past 21 months (but who’s counting? hehe). I’ve even received compliments on my self-maintained hair and really like my new darker color. To be transparent, I did just barely receive a professional cut/color from my Mom as a birthday gift, so this totals 3 professional jobs (only 2 that I personally paid for) in nearly 2 years.

Employment

I interviewed for 3 separate jobs in 2015:  one in January (recap), one in March, and one in June. I was offered the third job (third times a charm!) and accepted the position soon thereafter. I started the position in July and have been very happy in the job ever since (though I have plans to try to negotiate for a title change and more money).

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Gift-Giving

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Before I started our debt reduction mission we really spent a ton of money on gift-giving. Since starting to blog here, I’ve drastically reduced the amount spent on gifts. I now try to spend an average of about $15-20 per gift (though hubs and I set a $50 limit on gifts to each other). I talked about a cheap classroom gift here and waxed poetic about the impact of a hand-written thank you note (as opposed to an expensive flower delivery). I also talked about a cheap going away gift basket, a cheap Mother-in-Law (or grandparent) gift, an inexpensive alternative wedding gift, and relatively inexpensive ($50 limit) anniversary gifts.

Kids Crafts

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The kids did lots of fun and cheap crafts this year. A sampling of crafts include: a  Valentine’s craft, a Mother’s Day craft, and an Easter craft. All of these doubled as cheap cards/gifts for family, too!

Entertainment

Our entertainment budget was really bare bones this year as we tried to funnel all our extra money toward debt. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t have fun! I talked about a free family activity here and a free painting class (courtesy of Yelp Elite) here. I also shared how we got cheap Halloween costumes for the kids and had fun with a cheap-ish birthday day date for hubs’ 33rd birthday.

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Successes

In April we celebrated kicking hubs’ license fee debt to the curb! That left us with only the car loan, some medical debt, and the monstrous student loans to contend with. That same month I did a balance transfer of a higher-interest student loan (8.5%) to a 0% APR credit card to pay off one of my Navient student loans at a lower rate (just paid a 2% initiation fee). I also celebrated when we paid off another of my Navient student loans back in October. It’s no secret that I freaking hate Navient, so I can’t wait to rid them from my life!

Personal

In June I let you know something I’d been keeping a bit of a secret. I have a very close family member experiencing a debilitating illness for which there is no cure. I later told you all that the “close family member” is my father and divulged that his diagnosis is frontotemporal degeneration (a type of dementia). I had a rough time in regard to processing this information. I was painfully honest about the scary feelings and emotions experienced knowing that his health is quickly declining and my siblings and I will be tasked with becoming his caretaker and all of the other financial implications of the situation. I also discussed prioritizing the costs of therapy so I could take care of myself. I never updated, but I did in fact search for therapists but there was only one person who really stood out to me as a good fit. Of course, that person was not accepting new clients at the time and, feeling overwhelmed by life, the new job, etc., I never pursued any other options. To be honest, I do think I’ll try again to find someone to talk to in the New Year. I feel like I am in a much better place mentally than I was when I first wrote this post (or this one, too), but I know my Dad’s health issues will continue to be a HUGE deal in my life and I would like to see someone at least occasionally to help me process everything as his disease progresses.

Summary

2015 was a wild year! Lots of great successes – Can I get a high five for that $26,000+ of debt that was paid off!?! and some tough times, too. In 2016 we plan to split our priorities a bit between saving for a house and continuing to pay off debt, but I know that we’ll continue to make great progress along the way. I’ve admitted before that I may loosen up the purse strings slightly. I think it’s important to have more regular date nights and such. But I also can’t wait to make some big dents to our debt this year. This will be the first full year of me having a full-time job and income (in addition to my part-time job & hubs’ job). With the additional money we really hope to do some crazy things in 2016. A house, a car (not a new one, but our current one being paid off), punching Navient in the nose, and so on. Great things ahead, friends! Thank you for joining me on life’s wild ride!


Ashley’s December 2015 Debt Update

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Here we are on the last day of the month/year. How has your December been?

Aside from a couple little financial hiccups, ours has been fabulous! During the school break I’ve actually unplugged for full days at a time (a rarity, especially when you work online!) and its been great to just be around and enjoy family without constantly checking email!

But let’s not forget why we’re here. We had some lofty goals in terms of debt repayment that I wasn’t sure we’d meet this month (in fact, I have said several times we probably would not meet our goals).

After all the dust settled and the paychecks had been cashed, let’s see how things shaped up this month.

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$82,1776.55%-8.25%$277December$80761
ACS Student Loans$85966.55%$20December$8215
PenFed Car Loan$31812.49%$1800December$24040
Balance Transfer student loan (Former Navient 1-01)$26120% (through April 2016)$400December$5937
Medical Bills$59360%$25December$9000
Totals$102,502 (Nov balance = 104,704)$2522Starting Debt = $145,472

After all was said and done, we ended up paying just over $2500 in debt this month. Our initial debt payment was actually about $300 lower than this, but I squeezed every spare penny out of the budget and was able to make an additional last-minute (December 30th) extra payment to the car loan.

Our final consumer-related debt, the car, is now at a balance of $3,181. And our overall debt balance is at $102,502. So we did NOT make our goals of paying off the car or dipping below $100k in debt this month as we had hoped. 

That being said, come hell or high water, we will meet both of these goals in January. So we’ll be a few weeks behind the initial goal, but not by much.

Another one of our 2015 Financial Goals included paying $30,000 total toward debt during the year. Here’s where our final debt payment numbers landed:

January $1678
February $1822
March $653
April $1796
May $1708
June $725
July $2125
August $2250
September $2575
October $5513
November $2751
December $2522
Total $26118

So, again, we didn’t quite meet our goal, but we weren’t terribly far off either.

Overall, I’m quite proud of how well we’ve done in 2015. Let’s not forget that hubs’ business has had a bit of a rough year. His income wasn’t as high as it was in 2014 (and he had a couple months with no income whatsoever). Plus, I didn’t start my full-time job until the end of summer, so my income didn’t increase until the second half of the year.

When I set our goals, I always like to set “reaching” goals. This means they’re not easily attainable in-the-bag type goals. They’re goals where the numbers don’t quite work and, yet, I set the goals anyway because I want something to reach for and work toward. So the fact that we didn’t quite make our goals doesn’t bother me as much as one might think (though, don’t get me wrong, I would have LOVED to reach our goals!). My point is simply that I think the goals did their job. They made us work hard to try to do something crazy – something the numbers said wouldn’t or couldn’t work. And we made incredible progress, so that’s something to be proud of.

And, I have a mini-secret up my sleeve. My “ace in the hole”, if you will.

Just as former blogger Adam posted that he and Emily are effectively debt free (see their update here), I have similar news to share. You know how every month I’ve reported that I’ve been saving money toward Cruise 2016? Well, guess what…

As of this month (December 2015), I have $3,300 in one of my Capital One 360 savings accounts for the cruise. But the next cruise payment isn’t due until February 2016. So what I’m saying is that we actually have enough liquid cash available to be entirely consumer debt-free today.

In fact, I had initially planned to “steal” from myself (from the cruise fund), pay off the car in full, and then spend January/February re-saving that money for the cruise. However, after the unexpected extra expenses this month coupled with the fact that we really have little-to-no additional savings to speak of right now (not to mention we’re still in Texas so if we encountered any problems on the trip back to Arizona, etc.) I wanted to err on the side of caution and keep that money in the bank.

That being said, mark my words:  We will be consumer debt-free in January 2016. Hopefully we’ll be able to do it the old fashioned way (i.e., using our pay to finish paying off the last consumer debt). But even if something crazy happened, we had extra expenses or whatever, and we didn’t have enough money to quite cover the full amount of debt, I fully intend to use all our available capital (including the cruise fund) to MAKE SURE our consumer debts are fully eradicated before the end of January.

So we are effectively consumer debt-free now (in the sense that we have the money to pay off the last of our consumer debt), but we will become actually consumer debt-free within the next couple of weeks.

You can imagine that this is one of the biggest things on the forefront of my mind and I basically can’t shut up about it. My family has asked if it feels amazing and, although it feels pretty good, I still think there will be a big difference once I actually transfer the funds and see zeros on the balance owed of our vehicle. Just thinking about it makes me smile. And now I’m totally “that person” because I bought both my sister & my brother a copy of Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover for Christmas (during their $10 sale! Couldn’t pass it up!) Edited to add:  This is totally creepy, but the link to Ramsey’s book automatically appears, perhaps since it’s tagged to this post. I did NOT link it myself, nor is the link an affiliate link. In fact, it seems like I cannot remove the link without changing the wording of the post to not include the book’s name. Really weird/creepy, and I don’t particularly like that, but just wanted to be transparent that the link appears to be an auto-generated thing and I do NOT make any type of money or kick-back if you buy the book.

Just to be clear, I don’t blindly follow everything Ramsey says (as you can tell from my 2016 financial goals), but I do credit him (and Bobby Bones!) with jump-starting my mission to become debt-free. And I want to spread the message to those I love! What better gift to give than the gift of financial freedom? LOL. A bit of hyperbole (it’s not like I’m paying off anyone else’s debt), but it’s like giving a roadmap that can help others, so of course I want to share that information!

Anyway, this post has become entirely too long and I’ve got to run! New Years Eve is my birthday and I have lots of fun plans for family time, getting my hair professionally cut/colored (gift from my Mom and the first professional job in a really long time), lunch with my Dad, sparklers with the kids, etc. etc. etc.

I wish everyone a safe and happy New Years! I’ll catch you on the flip side! 😉


2016 Tentative Financial Goals

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Hubs and I are both natural savers (though, admittedly, he would like to save more than me). So it’s been tough to have such a low EF and throw all of our extra money toward debt lately without having much saved for a rainy day.

That’s all about to change, friends.

Hubs and I have been discussing our financial goals for 2016. We’re still hashing them out so this isn’t a definitive 100% set list just yet. And I welcome your input, too. But here’s what we’re thinking.

  1. Save $10,000 for a down payment. One of our big goals for this year is to buy a house. This gets pretty personal (in terms of personal finance), and I’m sure there are strong opinions all around regarding buying a house while still in debt, but this point is pretty firm in both of our minds. Our price point is the mid-100’s. We want to put 20% down to avoid PMI. To do so, we will use $10,000 (which needs to be earned and saved in 2016), and add to it $10,000 I have currently in a money market account. Yes. I rarely talk about it, but it still exists. Our thoughts are that we’re simply moving the $10,000 from one type of investment (money market) to another type of investment (real estate). In addition to that, my mom has generously offered to gift us an amount (I will not disclose) that should tip us over the 20% threshold and still leave us with funds for closing costs, etc. I don’t want to dwell too much on the gift as, again, this gets pretty personal. We are very grateful for her generous offer and feel comfortable with accepting it because this is something she has always told us about. She made a similar gift to both of my siblings to buy their first homes so this is something she has planned and prepared for for many years. One important note is that our current lease ends in August (though our landlord is very flexible and aware of our plans. He has already told us we could go month-to-month if need be when the time comes). Because we’d like to find a home over the summer, we need to save up that money during the first part of 2016. The sooner, the better. So this goal will heavily impact budgeting during the first half of the year.
  2. Save $5,000 for Emergency Fund. Really all of our savings funds need to be beefed up. As a reminder, I use Capital One 360(<refer a friend link) and have separate accounts for all of our different savings goals. These accounts range from the typical Emergency Fund to a health/dental/vision fund, car repairs fund, Christmas/travel fund, and more. Realistically, I’d like to save more than this (again – we’re savers by nature). But I wanted to start with $5,000 and go from there. We need to save room in the budget for debt!!!! Which brings me to our final goal of 2016…
  3. Put $30,000 toward debt. One of our goals for 2015 was to pay $30,000 toward debt. We did SO GOOD and have come SO CLOSE to meeting that goal. I’d love to have upped this figure to something closer to $40,000ish, but with so much of our money being diverted toward savings in 2016, I think $30,000 is still a good number to stick with. Once the house stuff is all situated, I bet debt reduction progress in 2017 will be gangster-status!

That’s it! It doesn’t take a mathematician to see that $10,000 + $5,000 + $30,000 = $45,000 toward debt and savings in 2016! That is such an insane amount of money! We are eternally thankful for our well paying jobs and relatively low cost of living in the state of Arizona. If you were to tell me three years ago that these would be my goals for 2016 I would have laughed in your face! Thinking back to the two struggling people just trying to get by while caring for twin infants makes my heart hurt. We were drowning in debt, maxed out on credit, and just trying to grasp at that next paycheck. It is no exaggeration to say that blogging here has been absolutely transformative for our family! We have accomplished more than we ever thought was possible!

Yes, we still have a long way to go (nearly $95,000 in student loans remaining). But just looking back and seeing all the progress we’ve made in such a short amount of time (less than 2 years) is so heartening. It just fills me with hope and promise for a future in which we can eventually be fully debt-free. I cannot wait!


Weekly Savings Update #2- Savings Setback

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Hello everyone! I hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving!

Last week ended up being a shaky one for GF and me. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we both ended up coming down with colds. Instead of traveling to see my family and really enjoying the holiday, we spent most of our day laying in bed and napping. Later in the day, we went over to GF’s mom’s house to celebrate the holiday with her. We brought over some sides and a pie that GF made a couple of nights before, which was fantastic. A week later and we’re FINALLY feeling better.

Another important item came up last Wednesday- I noticed a lump on my dog’s leg that had not been there previously. Our dogs may as well be real children, we love them so much, so to find this lump on his leg really scared us. I immediately scheduled an appointment with the vet for as soon as we could. Fast forward to the vet visit. After getting a biopsy done, the vet couldn’t confirm whether the lump was malignant or not, and the sample had to be sent to a pathologist for more testing. During the same visit, I decided to update his vaccinations and preventions, instead of waiting the additional month when they were due. The cost of the visit tallied $482.29 (most of that being the biopsy and sending the test to the pathologist), and we don’t have the results yet. Adding to my savings over the past couple of weeks has already benefitted me. Thanks to everyone who recommended this option. Here’s hoping for the best.

As stated above, my savings took a large hit. The last paycheck of the month goes to my mortgage, car insurance and few other bills, leaving little to nothing to add to savings. Here are the final totals after the week:

November 17th BalanceCurrent BalanceAdded Since Last UpdateNeeded to Reach Goal
$997.53$917.71($482.29)$4,082.29

I hope everyone has a great week!


Weekly EF savings Update #1- Building Up My EF

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Hey everybody! I hope you’re having a great start to the week!

Today marks the first of my “Weekly EF Savings Updates”, which I will be providing on a weekly basis until I reach my ultimate savings goal. After doing some thinking, I’ve decided that having $5000.00 would leave me with enough of an emergency threshold to continue my student loan debt payoff. If all goes well, I could have this saved up by the end of February. I want to tackle this savings goal with the same determination, discipline and enthusiasm in which I’ve been tackling my student loans. Eventually, I may be even use some of this savings to knock out that last few thousand dollars of my student loans, assuming, of course, that I’m quite comfortable doing so in my professional and personal life.

Below, I will add a spreadsheet my original EF balance, my current balance, savings add since the last update and the remaining portion left to reach my goal. If there is anymore information you would like to see, let know and I will add it.

Holidays. For the last 2 Thanksgivings, I have spent the holidays at home spending the day with GF’s family. It meant sense to do it this way, since I’ve always worked the day before and the day after. This year, even though my work schedule remains the same, we decided we would do some traveling and go see my family. We’re only going to spend the one night and will be having dinner at my parents. We’ll be bring some homemade dessert as a thank you. We will the spend Thursday night with GF’s family here at our house. We have never gone out on Black Friday for any shopping and don’t plan on doing any this year- that day just seems like a nightmare.

I hope all the readers out there have an amazing Thanksgiving, and for those traveling, please be safe!

Here are my savings totals to date:

November 17th BalanceCurrent BalanceAdded Since Last UpdateNeeded to Reach Goal
$997.53$1,400.00$402.47$3,600.00

 


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