:::: MENU ::::

The End of a Decade plus

by

Hello BAD Community, I apologize for my long absence. I’ve visited often, with the thought to write an update, but never seem to focus on something to write about.  We are fully settled into small town life in Georgia, our lives in Virginia settling into mostly fond memories.  I think Gymnast still struggles the most.  Change is hard for everyone, but I know the kids are resilient and in time will find their groove here.

Not much has changed as far as busy-ness from my last update (you can read it here .) I’m still working all my jobs and continuing to pick up odd jobs (primarily from previous customers – websites, etc.) Since we had gotten rid of EVERYTHING over the last couple of years, it took a little while to fully furnish our home.  The last big purchase was a used washer and dryer with a one year warranty for just at $500 for the set delivered.

It’s been nice to be in our own home again after 2 1/2 years of tiny living and then glamping. I certainly do not miss either of these living spaces, but there are a number of things that linger.  First, we are still very much minimalist.  There is  nothing in our home that is not used every day.  As a result, our approx 1200 square foot home feels large because it is not cluttered.

We spend a great deal of time in one room – our eat in kitchen. I know it’s always called the heart of the home, but I think we take that to the extreme.  We school in there, eat in there, I work in there and we hang out in there doing crafts and playing lots of board games.  So much so that I’ve decided to divide the boys (Sea Cadet and Gymnast) from the bedroom they are sharing and move Sea Cadet into the living room (it has a door) when Sea Cadet returns from his summer away working at summer camp.

The frugal habits that we were forced into because of being completely broke are now in our nature.  While I do grocery shop once a week, I typically spend less than $100 and just purchase fresh produce and milk, etc.  (We buy meat in bulk at Sams Club and keep it in the freezer. The 20lbs of frozen chicken breast, 2 family packs of pork chops, 1 roast and 10 lbs of ground beef I purchased in April have lasted us and we will probably go another month or so before we need to restock.)

We are spending our “free” time visiting small towns around us, free festivals and lots of live music. I say free time loosely as I still work the bulk of every day between my full time job and my part time jobs.  The kids are asking more frequently when I will slow down, but as of now, I haven’t made definitive plans.  I keep thinking/saying the end of the summer, but I’m not certain I will.  I just don’t ever, ever want to go through what we’ve been through again – ever!  The money is nice but even moreso, the security of knowing if one jobs fails, I have the others.

I still have not sat down and come up with a budget…I keep saying I’m going too.  And I am. Soon. I’m continuing to save 10% of all income in a hard to reach account. And I guess  most impressive to myself, is that I’ve continued to control my travel bug.  I think fear more than anything is guiding my financial decisions.  Which I’m sure is not healthy, but right now, it’s working.

I promise to write a more finance oriented post soon.  We are doing well. Sea Cadet leaves this week for the summer (returning to the camp in VA where he will work as a Senior Camp Counselor through August.)  When he returns, he will be attending the local community college under the GA MOWR program for his last year of high school, focused on pursuing an EMS certificate.  Princess continues to work hard at her academics, and is ready for collegiate classes in some subjects, but not old enough to attend the local community college.  I will have to address that soon.  Gymnast continues to train and will move up another level this fall.  The two littles are looking forward to going to camp this month for two weeks.  I am looking forward to that as well, no kids, two weeks.  I may even treat myself to a day off, but have made no plans for that yet.

 


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?

 

 


Summer Camping!

by

Today was officially my kids’ last day of preschool!!!!!! Starting in the “Fall” (which is August 2nd in these parts), they’ll be KINDERGARTNERS!!! I can’t even believe it! I want to cry from happiness AND sadness all at once! How is it even possible!?

IMG_5832

B and B with their teacher on the last day of school! Instead of a traditional “graduation” ceremony, they had what they call a “Teddy Bear Picnic” where parents got to come have a picnic lunch with the kiddos and their favorite stuffed animals. Nontraditional, but still really cute and fun!

The past couple summers have presented some big challenges in terms of childcare. Full-time summer care for young ones in my area tends to be exorbitant! I’m talking nearly triple what we pay during the academic year. There are some cheaper camp options, but I talked a little last year about how those weren’t the best option for us because it would be one week here, one week there, all over the place and it wasn’t a good fit with our kid’s shy and timid personalities on a full-time basis (plus, many of those camps were only 4-5 hours/day).

This year, we have a much different approach to things. For one, their dad will be around a lot more. For any new readers, their dad recently scaled back his business so he could return to school full-time. Over summer, though, he’ll be picking up a large portion of the childcare. At the same time, it would be great if he can make a little more money, too! So he’ll also be trying to work a bit more while still ultimately maintaining childcare as his #1 “job” for summer. The girls are also going to be taking a couple of camps! Although I still maintain that a different camp every week would NOT be ideal for our kids (every kid is different and I know some kids love trying lots of new camps, but I know our kids and they just would not thrive in that situation), I do think that they’ll benefit from dipping their toes into the camp scene. We’ve got them signed up for one week-long day camp in June and one week-long day camp in July. So they’ll still have a lot of stability (home the majority of summer), but will get to try a couple of fun new things (gymnastics camp in June, karate camp in July).

I’ll still be working all summer, but I also have a bit more flexibility in my schedule, too, so I’ll be more able to be around with the girls if hubs picks up an odd job, etc. So between hubs, myself, and the couple of camps, we should be good to go. The really exciting thing is that we should end up SAVING money since we’ll be using so much LESS childcare than the past couple summers. With hubs at home, we don’t need the full-time care we’ve always required in the past. Only paying for a couple of camps will be a drop in the bucket compared to our normal childcare costs. It’s been awhile since my last full budget post, but on average we pay approximately $1,100/month for childcare (that’s for 2 kids in preschool full-time). In contrast, we’ll be paying under $300 per camp this summer (for both kids). So we’re talking under $600 for childcare costs ALL SUMMER! Wooo! Can’t argue with that! I’m pretty pumped about the savings, particularly given that these summer months are still pretty tight on the income side of things.

For those of you with kiddos, I hope you’re enjoying a smooth and easy entrance into summer!

What do you do with your littles during summer? Stay home with them? Send them to camp? Babysitter? Something else?


Student Loan Forgiveness Program To Be Cut???

by

Has anyone seen this news story floating around the interwebs?

The headline reads: “Trump to Propose Scrapping Beleaguered Student Loan Forgiveness Program.” It’s got a big picture of Betsy DeVos face floating around with the headline.

In the story, reporter Jillian Berman discusses how a leaked education budget shows plans to eventually chop the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (PSLF). Its not a sure thing. The budget plans are not yet finalized and, even if they were, it would require Congress’ approval.

I’ve seen lots of panic and political drama surrounding it on Facebook. My mom tagged me in one such post to get my thoughts on the issue.

And here I am, sitting on the sidelines. I graduated with nearly $100,000 in student loan debt (now sitting right at $65,000 – latest debt update here). I’m taking the position that I’ve never wanted to depend on any of the government loan forgiveness programs. For many years – long before Trump took the presidency and appointed Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education –  I’ve been saying that I didn’t trust these government programs. I’ve always maintained the position that I don’t want to depend on the government and that the PSLF program (or any of the loan forgiveness programs) could ultimately just disappear one day. I don’t want to make major career decisions on the basis that I need to go into this field or work for that sector in order to qualify for PSLF because WHAT IF the program ends up discontinued?? Then what? Where would that leave me? Up shit creek with no paddle, that’s where!!!

Instead, I personally have always taken the view that I just want to PAY OFF my loans as quickly as possible. Don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against the loan forgiveness programs. If I were already on a career-trajectory where I intended to be in public service I would certainly be looking into it – I just don’t want to force myself down that road simply for the hope of possible loan forgiveness at the end of it. Actually, I’m on an income-based payment plan where any unpaid interest on my subsidized loans has been forgiveness. It’s not loan forgiveness (it’s only interest forgiveness…and only on some of my loans), but it’s a related student loan program and I’m taking 100% advantage of it while I can. But in terms of the major government-backed loan forgiveness programs (like PSLF), they have never sounded like appealing options for me.

What are your thoughts on the controversy? Is anyone signed up for the PSLF program that would be directly impacted if it were to be discontinued? How scary!



Creative Ways to Save Money when Moving

by

If you’re anything like me, moving can be quite daunting. Besides the sheer volume of labor, there is a lot to figure out. What made our move more challenging was that our family is on a tight budget, we had some major time constraints such as only having the evening and weekends to get our packing done, and we had accumulated a lot of stuff over the years.Below are some of the major and minor saving steps we took.

Two Major Savings Steps

There were two major steps we took to move as inexpensively and efficiently as possible:

We opted for a professional moving company instead of renting a truck

There are a lot of things to take into consideration, and this definitely won’t be the case for everyone, but after running the numbers and the time saved, we opted to hire a moving company. In our case, it was North American Moving Services, but there are many options out there. Here is why opting this way saved us money.

  • First, I didn’t need to figure out how to drive a big truck across hundreds of miles of traffic and bad weather; their company would take care of all the logistics of our interstate move.
  • Second, we could do all the packing ourselves.
  • Third, we could just ask them to pack the fragile stuff.
  • Fourth, we could just ask them to do all the packing for us.

Although I was tempted to go for the full-service package, my inner cheapskate kicked in and I decided we would do our own packing. (My spouse agreed; the kids fussed.) I also decided to figure out how to pack the fragile items by doing an Internet search for packing tips.

However, when we booked our long distance move, we did take them up on their offer to help us with disassembling and assembling our furniture and getting our appliances installed. I didn’t know how, nor did I have the tools.

We decided that we didn’t need to transport all our stuff

The first thing we did was empty out the spare bedroom. Then we filled it up with all the stuff that we didn’t want anymore.

We created the following selection criteria on what to get rid of:

1. Good stuff that we had lost interest in it. Mainly, clothes, dishes, and DVDs.

2. Stuff that fallen apart that would be cheaper to buy than fix. Mainly, electronics and gadgets.

3. Stuff we had bought on a whim. Mainly, our bric-a-brac collection over the years and tchotchke baubles.

Once we had purged the house of everything we didn’t want anymore, then we sorted through the stuff in the “junk” room. We created the following piles:

1. Things to be sold.

2. Things to be donated.

3. Things to be recycled.

4. Things to be trashed.

However, we did come to a sticking point in this process–books. We love our books. Yes, we might not read them again and could get an electronic version, but we loved our books. I was pleased to discover our kids had become regular bookworms. Then my 9-year-old son asked why we didn’t just mail them to ourselves! From the mouth of babes! So that’s what we did. We used through USPS’s media mail to move our books, and save on the cost of adding the weight to our moving bill.

6 Minor Saving Steps

Figuring out how to transport our stuff and how to narrow down the weight saved us a lot of money.

Here are 6 other steps we took to save even more money:

1. We asked family, friends, and stores for boxes.

2. We borrowed or rented all the tools we needed rather than buy any.

3. We timed our utility shut down dates to get the most value.

4. We tracked everything we paid for during the move for tax deduction purposes.

5. We canceled all subscriptions ahead of time to avoid paying unnecessary membership fees.

6. We paid all our bills ahead of time so that we wouldn’t get stuck with any late payment fees.


Loan Defaults and 5 Ways to Get Out of It

by

In layman’s term, loan defaults are simply debt that you weren’t able to pay. Loan defaults apply to any type of loan – car, home, student, SBA, 401K, payday loans, and the most common – credit cards. Defaults will be incurred once a consumer fails to pay the borrowed amount to their lender, and once a certain period of time has elapsed, your debt will be recorded and will forever be a part of your credit history – which is what you want to avoid. Credit history can be used to formulate a consumer’s credit score, which can negatively affect your future loans.

So, how do you get rid or get out of loan defaults? There are ways, for sure, and you can abide by these tips to make sure you do not incur loan defaults:

Make a budget and stick to it

Never go out of your budget as this can cost you your good credit score, a decent car, and the good relationship with your lender. Once you’ve set a budget, stick to it and make damn sure not to overspend – as you definitely will be sorry for it soon enough.

Choose a lender or can finance company that you can trust

You will be working with them for the next couple of years, so take the time to choose one wisely. Every country has their top lender, Bank of America (USA), Sainsbury’s Bank (UK), Alpha Finance (AU), etc. Whichever lender you choose, be sure to go with the best in the industry. Not just because they can provide car finance with affordable repayments, but also they have excellent customer service that will remind you whenever a payment is due so you can avoid defaults.

Contact your lender ASAP

Anything can be resolved through constant communication. If you know that you cannot pay your loan any further, or you can but you are going to be a bit late, then it’s best to talk it out with your lender. Ask if you have any other option, and if there is any way you can reduce the penalty or default. Ask nicely and surely, you will get an answer that you want to hear.

Consider looking into a debt repayment agency

If you know that you are going to have problems with paying your loans, then don’t sit around and just wait for your lender to chase you down the road – instead, talk to them and a debt repayment agency. Consumer credit agencies will work with you and your lender to come up with alternative payment plans. All you have to do is have your repayment plan approved by the lender, put the money into an account through a debt repayment agency, and the agency will be the one to make the payments for the consumer.

Agree to have your car repossessed

If you do not want to incur any more debts and you have no other options left, then it’s better to have your car repossessed by the lender, rather than having loan defaults that will last for at least 7 years on your credit history. The downside to this is that you will lose all of the previous payments that you have made, but hey, at least, you do not have a bad credit history to your name.

Good luck with your loans, and make sure to follow this list to avoid being caught in an unpayable debt!


Pages:1234567...470