Browsing posts in: Spending Money

Giving Along The Way

by

On my way to work this morning I was listening to an old episode of the Dave Ramsey Show (side note with some of my favorite podcasts to check out:  This American Life, The Bobby Bones Show, The Dave Ramsey Show, Science Friday, and Serial).

I was listening to a Millionaire Theme Hour. Those, along with the standard Debt-Free calls, are my favorite segments of The Dave Ramsey Show! Anywho, I was listening as Dave talked to all these normal people about how they’d managed to acquire a net worth of $1million+. One of the questions Dave asks everyone is, “What part did giving play in your journey?”  His theory is that most millionaires are incredibly generous people. Contrary to what many people think, the average millionaire is NOT a stingy money-grubbing old scrooge.

As I listened, I started to think about the role that giving has played in our family along our journey to become debt-free. The topic of giving while in debt has come up before on the blog and has proven to be a pretty controversial subject. For the first two years of our journey, we scaled WAY back on our giving! We probably gave less than $100 to charitable organizations in all of 2014. However, we soon realized that in our area we could make tax credit donations. As a quickie for anyone without the program (I’m originally from Texas where there are no state income taxes so I’d never heard of it!), donations to specific approved organizations can be made instead of paying state income taxes directly to the state (this is obviously a very simplified statement – see here for more details). It’s not the same thing as a deduction, in which any charitable donation is deducted from your income for tax purposes. Instead, let’s say that I owed $600 in Arizona state taxes. Instead of writing a $600 check to the state of Arizona, I can literally split up that $600 and send $200 here or there (to approved organizations only) and deduct an equal amount (dollar-for-dollar) from what I owe the state. So if I donate all $600 to qualified organizations of my choice, I don’t owe the state a penny. So this is not additional money being donated. This is money I would already have to spend one way or another (for taxes), that, instead, I’m sending to an organization (or organizations) that I support.

In 2015 we took advantage of our state’s tax credit program for the first time to donate to two organizations that were important to us:  1. the preschool our kids attend, and 2. the local Wings on Words program for children with speech/language delays or disabilities. The former for obvious reasons and the latter because we have a long history of working with and supporting our local WoW program.

In 2016 we still took advantage of our state’s tax credit program (we owed more that year, so we were able to expand our donations). We donated to: 1. kid’s current preschool, 2. kid’s future elementary school, 3. local Wings on Words program, and 4. local foster care organization. In addition to maxing out all of our tax credit donations, we also expanded our giving to include a few additional places that don’t qualify for our state’s tax credit program. We donated to March of Dimes, the Autism Society of America, and our local church. The total of the non-tax credit donations for the year was $200. Still not a ton, but up from the giving of the previous two years (again, keeping in mind that all of the tax-credit donations were money that we had to spend anyway in taxes).

This year (2017), we haven’t done a ton of giving yet. Most of our big giving is still in the form of tax credit donations and we typically do that giving toward the end of the year. However, I’ve already made small donations (under $100, combined) to March of Dimes, the Autism Society of America, and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Thinking about our family’s giving, I feel a little bit torn. On one hand, money is extra-tight this summer and in general given that hubs has stopped working/gone back to school and that we have such huge financial goals for our family this year! At the same time, all of our “extra” (non tax-credit) giving has been in small quantities and has gone toward organizations that we have personal connections with. For instance, March of Dimes is huge because it funds so much research for premature birth! Our twins were born 8 weeks early, spent a month in the NICU, and would not have survived if they were born 20 years ago because the life-saving technology had literally not been invented yet at that time. So that’s an organization very near and dear to our family. The same is true of all the other organizations we support as well. There’s always some personal connection or reason why we support a cause. So even though I know we really can’t afford to be giving in large quantities at this time, I would hate to eliminate our giving entirely. And I cannot wait until we’re completely debt-free and giving can be a larger part of our financial picture. Probably still a couple years out on that though.

What do you think about giving while in debt? Did/Do you donate to any charitable organizations while working on getting out of debt? Why or why not? What role has giving played in your financial picture, in general?

 

 


Ashley’s April 2017 Debt Update

by

Hi All,

May the fourth be with you! (heh, get it – May 4th? okay enough of that.)  : )

It’s another month and another opportunity to put a little bit of debt behind us.

Here we are and I feel a bit at a crossroads. I haven’t included the IRS in our debt spreadsheet because – honestly – I’m still so embarrassed that we owe so much!!! I’ve worked out a payment plan and we will be paying a hefty sum – $1,000/month – until the debt is fully resolved. It will be a large household expense over the next several months (year+). Maybe I’ll eventually add it to the spreadsheet just so it can be properly acknowledged but, honestly, I just can’t add it yet. It would push us back up over the 1/2 way milestone and just causes so much emotional distress by increasing our debt numbers that I just can’t fully face it yet. I mean – it’s been “faced” as far as the IRS goes (in terms of admitting the debt, establishing payment plan, etc.), but for some reason I can’t “face” it here with you guys. Not yet, anyway.

So that’s my one disclaimer. My debt spreadsheet remains with all our old/pre-IRS debt numbers and our monthly payments are going to be negatively impacted because the monthly payment indicated in the debt tables will NOT include our IRS payment.

With that caveat, check out April’s debt progress:

PlaceCurrent BalanceAPRLast Payment MadeLast Payment Date Original debt, March 2014
Navient - Federal 2 (unsubsidized)$11,0565.8083April$82,433 (all school loans, combined)
Navient - Federal 3 (subsidized)$86225.8025April
Navient - 2 (subsidized)$85026.5533April
Navient - 7 (subsidized)$72026.5528April
Navient - 8 (subsidized)$63766.5525April
Navient - 9 (subsidized)$85026.5533April
Navient - 10 (unsubsidized)$97686.5571April
Balance Transfer Student Loan #2$6000% (through Sept 2017)$400April$7650
Balance Transfer Student Loan #3$43690% (through October 2018)$75April$4594
Medical Bills$00%$1215Paid off in April 2017$9000
Balance Transfer student loan #1$00% -Paid off in March 2016$5937
PenFed Car Loan$02.49%-Paid off in January 2016$24040
License Fees$02.5%-Paid off in April 2015$5808
BoA CC$07.24%-Paid off in June 2014$2220
Mattress Firm$00%-Paid off in May 2014$1381
Wells Fargo CC$013.65%-Paid off in May 2014$7697
Capital One CC$017.9%-Paid off in March 2014$413
Totals$64,997 (March balance = 68,714)$1,988Starting Debt = $145,472

So as you can see, we “only” paid $1,988 in debt in April. I say “only” in quotations because obviously that’s a huge sum of money. But we’ve been trying to pay closer to $3,000ish/month, so it’s a big decrease from our goal number. Though, again, this does not take into consideration the $1,000 payment to the IRS. I’ll do a goal update post soon just to check-in with numbers and take a pulse of how we’ve been doing so far this year in our financial goals. With the IRS hit, some of our goals are going to have to be re-thought. But I’m optimistic overall. Our biggest/most central goal is to pay $30,000/year toward debt and I think there’s still a good chance we can hit that number. We’re aiming for it!

I’ve also been re-working our budget to account for the changes in salary and expenses that are coming up. My part-time job officially ends this month. I have about another week worth of work, but my last paycheck was received last month (womp, womp!) My new rate of pay (from my big raise) doesn’t go into effect until July. So May and June will be TIGHT!

This is probably the first time in my debt-repayment journey (of 3+ years now!!!) that I’m a little bit nervous about the possibility of moving backward. I mean….these two months are going to be really rough. I’ll be writing a post soon to talk about different savings strategies and ways we’re going to try to reduce spending to only absolute necessities, etc. Be thinking about it because I could certainly use all the tips I can get!!!

I’ll be back soon! In the meantime, have a great week!

 


Car Repair Bill

by

As if we don’t have enough bills to worry about between our normal debts and the new tax debt, I’ve got another new bill to foot this month as well.

Remember when I wrote about my power steering suddenly going out without any advance warning (and in the absence of any collision or other obvious cause) while I was driving home from work?

Well, it’s been quite the inconvenience over the course of the last 2 weeks. It happened on a Tuesday night (2 weeks ago). It took probably 4 hours out of my day on Wednesday for me to sort everything out. I had the car towed to the dealership, arranged for a rental company to come pick me up and get into a rental, and then had to talk to the dealership about the repair issues.

In the end, the car had two separate issues. One was covered by the Ford dealership as a safety recall (this is what actually caused the power steering to go out), but there were some secondary issues covered by my extended warranty I had purchased.

The problem is, the extended warranty only covered a maximum of 7 days in a rental car and they had my car for a full 10 days to do the work. I was able to talk Ford into covering the other 3 days of my rental, but it wasn’t just easy-peasy, because I had to return my current rental and switch into a different rental (the Ford dealership said they would only cover Ford-brand rental vehicles). So the following Wednesday I spent probably another 4 hours dealing with the car drama. Dropping off the old rental, switching to a new rental, trying to arrange the first rental to be covered through my warranty (phone calls to them, phone calls to rental company), and to get my second rental covered through the dealership (phone calls to rental company, phone calls to Ford). Just a lot of busy-work that took a ton of time.

Last time I had work done through my extended warranty, they had only charged a $250 deductible, but this time they were trying to charge me $300. It took a couple phone calls to clear that up and, in the end, they agreed to come back down to the $250 price (the problem is that they only charge $250 if the work is done at the place where the warranty was purchased – from CarMax. But CarMax had a 3 week wait for them to even look at my car, so I had to go to the dealership because I couldn’t go that long without a car!! In the end, the warranty company did honor the $250 price).

BUT – while at the dealership, the service people called to say I needed new tires STAT! My husband has said the same thing and I’ve just been brushing it off, but then the service folks sent me pictures showing the threads in my tires and saying they could not allow me to drive it off without signing a waiver to remove any legal responsibility from them. I guess it was bad. Another $400 added to the bill.

Add tax, and our final bill came to $679.00.

If you think about the fact that we don’t have a car payment (we own the car outright!!!), it doesn’t seem too terrible. But on the back of all our other April-related bills I’m just like, GEEZE!! Cut it out, April!!! No more surprise charges for anything, mkay?!

Oh, and then here’s something fun. Remember how literally the month after I paid off the car this random little piece of it broke off while I was driving? I wrote about it here. It ended up costing a couple hundred bucks to fix. WELL, the same piece flew off the day after I got my car back from the dealership. It’s been over a year, so I don’t think it’s still under any warranty of any kind, but isn’t that just some crap!?? Last time I fixed it pretty quickly but this time I’m not in any big hurry. I’ll just deal with a piece of my car missing. Money is tight right now and we can’t just be shelling out hundreds of dollars for something cosmetic that doesn’t impact the actual functionality of the vehicle. It just sucks.

Man, oh man, I’m on the countdown for summer! For the first time ever, I’ll actually have a bit of a break from teaching. In the past, I’ve been teaching year-round for my part-time place so even if I’ve had a break from my full-time place, I’ve always had at least 2-3 classes from my part-time place still going strong. But not so this year. I’m leaving my part-time job at the end of the current semester (recall I had to sign a noncompete for my new raise to go into effect). I do teach one summer class for my full-time work place, but it doesn’t start until July. That means I’ve got a couple weeks in May and ALL of June “off” of teaching! OHMYGOSH I cannot even express my excitement! Don’t get me wrong, teaching is my passion. But my load the past 2 years has been so heavy that it’s been hard to keep up with my administrative responsibilities and there has never been a time where I’ve felt truly caught up and on top of things. I mean, I do my job. But I’m excited to be able to dedicate myself more fully toward some of the work-related projects I’ve just had on the backburner and to revamp some of my old course materials for the Fall. Plus, just a chance to catch my breath! I just cannot wait!

I’ve got so much more to share – summer plans, Easter-related stuff, fun/cheap things we’ve got up our sleeve. But the time is short so that must wait for another day.

Have you had any financial set-backs lately? When is the last time you had major car repair work done? Our last time was almost exactly a year ago, so I guess we were “due.” Ugh!


JINX

by

Are you superstitious? I’m typically not.

But yesterday as I was typing up a post about mending holes in pants and being mid-way through a No-Spend week, I swear I felt a little bit like I was jinxing myself. I ended the post with this one sentence:

Fingers crossed there are no disasters and nothing crazy comes up! (knock on wood)

I swear I felt a little tingle in my tummy, and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. It was like when someone is behind you and you can *feel* them without actually seeing them. I brushed it off at the time. But I sure did remember the feeling at 6:00pm that evening as I was driving home from work, when my car started dinging a million warnings and the power steering went completely out on me.

Luckily, I was able to safely navigate into a parking lot on the side of the road. I was able to call hubs to come get me, and everything was fine (no one got hurt, no accidents, etc.)

BUT. So much for that “no spend” week.

The silver lining of the story is that I still have an extended warranty on my car! Remember when I just had to use it for the first time this past summer? At the time I said I should probably cancel the warranty afterward because, honestly, who ends up using it more than once? Statistically speaking, I thought we were in the clear. We should cancel the warranty after the service and take whatever refund we were owed (since we had bundled the warranty with the car loan, it has already been paid in full).

I am now SO GLAD we didn’t! I was able to use our Roadside Assistance through our car insurance (we use and love Progressive!) to have the car towed to the dealership for the warranty repair work. I’ll also be able to use a loaner car, also covered by the warranty company, for up to 7 days. There’s a deductible that applies (it’s either $200 or $250, can’t remember at this point), but I’m sure that’s MUCH better than what I might end up paying otherwise (there’s some issue with the power steering, advanced trac, and also some warranty backup camera issues that were unrelated but will get repaired at the same time).

It’s still a huge inconvenience. Last night was a mess – super late dinner for the kids, no baths, late to bed. And this morning was tough too – with only one car we had to take the girls in early so hubs could get to his own school classes. I’m at home waiting for the tow truck (which is currently running late) and then I’ll be getting picked up by the rental car company so I can go get a rental for the week. Obviously totally interfering with my work day and I’ve had to cancel some meetings and move other things around. I’m frustrated we aren’t going to be able to have a no-spend week after all and I’m still stressed about spending extra money given our tax situation (in fact, one of the meetings I had to move from this morning was supposed to be a meeting with our CPA).

But even with the annoyances and inconveniences, I’m BEYOND GRATEFUL I still have this extended warranty and that it’s still in effect. Guys – it expires at 125,000 miles and I’m at 120,000 miles right now. This is HUGE!!! I don’t know what the total vehicle costs will end up being, but I’m thankful that my personal liability is limited to just the deductible.

Now…is it the weekend yet??? Ooof!!


Money Down The Drain

by

First, thanks for the responses, comments, and helpful feedback on my last post.

Edited update: I did type up a full proposal and email but, after thinking better of it, I never sent it. Instead, I sent an email asking for a brief meeting sometime in the next couple weeks and already received a reply that we’ll meet on the 20th. Further out than I’d like, but better than nothing. Then we can discuss the changes in roles/responsibilities and the mis-alignment between contract and current duties in person. One commenter suggested asking for the changes to be implemented in the next financial cycle (like future planning) instead of insisting on immediate change. I think that it makes sense for me to be flexible and open to that, if thats what’s necessary. Ultimately, though, all this will be discussed in person. Not via email. I’ll keep you updated. I sincerely thank you for your suggestions!

 

Today I just wanted to tell you a little story of how being more aware can save you money (or, rather, how failing to be aware COST me money).

—————————————————————————————————————-

One of my friends is due with a second child in October. She had a baby shower over Labor Day that I had to miss since I was in Austin. I still wanted to get her a gift so I decided to shop Target.com since 1) she is registered there, and 2) I have a Target card so I get free shipping and 5% off all purchases.

Cool.

So I log in and pick out a couple things for her baby (a book for big brother and a 3-pack of onesies for the new baby). I thought it was a nice touch to throw in the “big brother” book. I try to stay around $15-25 for most gift-giving occasions (weddings, baby showers, birthdays, etc.) and the total cost of the gift was right at $25, so I was in that range.

But…

I have another friend who is organizing a big Lego drive for kids with cancer being treated at our local children’s hospital. One of her friends (an acquaintance of mine) has a son who has been battling cancer for 3 years (after 3 relapses at only 4 years old). I generally don’t do “Go Fund Me” or similar such things, but I felt moved to donate to this Lego drive for kids fighting cancer. So I added two $12 Lego sets to my Target.com order. My idea was to let my girls help wrap them up and go to drop them off at the Lego drive (they’d each have one to give).

With the legos added to my cart, my total was now right around $50. The Legos, alone, were about half of the total amount.

After placing my order I received the standard email from Target (I order from Target.com for most of my gift-giving occasions, so I have an account with them, etc.). The order looked correct, I saw the dates things would ship, and all was good.

Then a few days later…

I get a text from my friend with a ‘thank you’ and a picture of her son playing with one of the Lego sets I bought!!!

WHAT????

It turns out that since I ordered off her registry, it automatically shipped my order to her house. I didn’t even notice!!! Because I have an account with target.com I never have to enter my shipping information (it’s all saved), so I didn’t even realize that the gift wasn’t coming to me as I’d intended!

I immediately texted that I was so embarrassed it had gone straight to her – I thought it would come to me so I’d have an opportunity to wrap it, etc. She lol-ed and that was basically it. But because her initial photo was of her son playing with the open Legos package, I didn’t feel like I could ask for the other one back to give to the kids with cancer. And she didn’t inquire about why I sent 2 identical Lego packages (clearly not intended for a newborn baby). Left it at that.

Lesson learned.

Failing to pay more attention to what was going on caused me to spend an extra $25 (basically doubling the price of my “gift”) AND means that my donation didn’t happen. Not sure what to do about that one, as I feel guilty not donating to the cancer kids, but I also didn’t have planned to donate an additional $25 worth of stuff. Thoughts on that one?

Have you ever experienced a similar shipping snafu? If it were you, would you have asked for the other Lego package back, or just chalk it up as a lesson learned?


Lessons from Therapy: Day #1

by

I just had my first therapy session this week and I’m happy to say that it went better than I’d expected! I was nervous about whether we would “click” and be a good fit, but we really gelled in terms of personalities and it felt like I was chatting with a friend (albeit a friend I’m paying to listen to me. heh).

I’m only one session deep at this point so, obviously, this person doesn’t know all of my “issues” yet. We mostly focused on my Dad’s health issues (and the time it takes to deal with said health issues – there’s a literal crisis every week) for my first session. And while I don’t plan to divulge all the inner details of my therapy with everyone reading (sorry!), I do want to touch on some things that come up as they relate to my finances.

For instance…my therapist suggested we hire a nanny/house-keeper. She got that one of the key stressors in my life right now revolves around time. Lack of it, to be precise. So she suggested I look into agencies where I could hire someone to come and help with the kids, drive to/from school if needed, do laundry, clean, cook, etc. etc. etc.

omg – that would cost a small fortune, right?

But even though I really don’t think that’s feasible, I kind of liked the idea of trying to hire out some help. I started thinking about “what if we hire a cleaning service to come monthly?” That’s not something I’ve ever done in the past. Never. But, given our imminent move (and likely to a place that’s a little bit larger), coupled with the fact that we’re already always behind on cleaning, it does relieve a good bit of stress to think that – at least once a month – our house could be thoroughly cleaned.

Again – the therapist doesn’t know all my “issues” yet, and we haven’t even touched on finances, financial goals, financial stressors, etc. etc. etc. But seriously….maybe not a terrible idea if it helps keep my mental health in check???

What do you guys think? Is it silly to even be considering hiring a cleaning service when we’re still so entrenched in our debt payoff? Or could I think of it as one of the costs I pay to have such a great income (meaning – since I’m working 2 jobs and making more money than I’ve ever made before, I have to make some trade-offs in other areas. Like, paying for cleaning help so I can spend that time focused on work)??? Thoughts???


Work Trip = $$$

by

I have a conference for work that I’m attending in early August.

It’s a conference that I’ve heard people talking about and suggesting in the online-teaching world for over a year, but I’ve never been before. I’m super excited because I applied to be a presenter and was accepted so it’s also a nice little CV-boost as I venture more and more into the world of online education (all my previous work/conference/research has been in my actual content area that I studied for my Ph.D. Read more where I waxed poetic about work-life balance here.).

I’m also really excited because of the location! Believe it or not, it’s coincidentally located in the same city where one of my best friends moved last summer! I’ve never been to the place, but it’s supposed to be gorgeous in summer (meanwhile, Tucson is in crippling death-heat mode so I can’t wait to escape!)

But there are two things that are major bummers about this trip:

  1. The timing is far from ideal.
  2. Cost

Let me explain.

In relation to the timing – I’ll miss my girls’ first day of preschool for the year (already feeling the mom-guilt). I hate knowing that I’ll miss the first day, but I’m trying to mentally prepare for it now.  Also, my friend is due to have a baby literally the same week that I’ll be there. I hope to meet the little guy, but I won’t get to really “hang out” with my friend like I would otherwise have done if she weren’t due any minute and/or in the hospital having a baby.

In relation to the cost – I work for a major university. I know different departments do different things, but in my department we are given a small annual amount of funds to cover “professional development” type expenses (including conference travel). This year, the limit was set at $500/person. Unfortunately, this conference is super pricey, so I’m going to be shelling out quite a bit of my own money. Gulp.

To be fair, I actually received over the $500 limit because I’m a presenter (and because I asked for more. Sometimes you just have to ask!) But in total, I was given $650. The conference registration, alone, was $595. Add in airfare + lodging + food =  Cha-ching!!!

So here’s another reason why the timing is not ideal. At another time, I otherwise would’ve stayed with my friend for some free housing. But she’s expecting her first baby and their house is undergoing major renovations, and I just can’t put her in the position of asking to stay with them. I’m going to have to shell out for a hotel.

Also, I’m not in the Education department on campus, but the conference I’m going to is basically about online education. That means no one I know is going, so there’s no sharing of rental cars, hotels, etc.

On the plus side, I really do think this is an important conference for me to attend (at least once!).  I’m really branching more into this field and I plan to try to market myself as an expert in this arena for any future employment, so it’s important for me professionally and personally (and in terms of networking, etc.)

But I’m guesstimating it will probably run me a solid $1,000 or so to go. Gulp! Luckily, we have a high income this month so I’ll be putting money aside this month to cover the expense for next month. But still, it’s a big number.

What do you guys think about paying for your own professional development opportunity? How much would you be willing to spend per year? What do you feel is “fair” and “normal” for you to cover (versus your employer) in your career area?


Pages:1234567...44