The Best $0.46 I spent this Christmas

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How many of you are members of rewards programs at the different stores you are shopping at this Christmas?  Go ahead and raise your hand, we can’t see you.  I think I’ve mentioned before different earnings I’ve gotten from the rewards programs.  I am members of a ton of them…only free ones.  And this month I’ve gotten lots of freebies or special coupons because it’s my birth month.

I mentioned that Christmas was going to be very learn, even non-existent from me in regards to actual purchased items in my last post. Then I collected our mail before we headed out of town.  And there it was a $10 coupon to Dick’s Sporting Goods, no minimum purchase required.

Princess and I dropped Gymnast at the local gym for his practice and ran across the street to the store.  I ran right to the clearance rack in the boy’s section and found my $10.46 pair of gym shorts for little Gymnast.  I paid $0.46!

I should have taken a picture, but I rushed back to wrap them.  They are white.  I would never buy white, even though he’s begged every time he gets new shorts .  But I figured at $0.46, if he ruined them, I wouldn’t cry too much.  Now he will have 3 pairs of shorts to work out in (he’s going to the gym 20 hours a week.)   A great blessing since we don’t have a washer and dryer so keeping him in clean shorts daily can be a challenge!

Tell me about your shopping win this Christmas season!  (I will post a picture of him in his new white shorts when tries them on after Christmas!)


Whoops! and side hustles.

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We have had a disaster hit our lives in the past week!   It all started with being fast asleep until our sweet dog jumped on our bed and wanted to snuggle.  The problem was that she was  soaking wet and smelled of raw sewage.  You can imagine the excitement waking up to that brought!

After investigating, we discovered that our sewer backed up into our basement due to some construction that was happening on our street.   The good news is that our basement is unfinished so the clean up has been simpler than it would have been otherwise.  The bad news is that we have to pay a $500  deductible for our home insurance policy. The hubby also missed a couple days of work without pay because he had no accrued paid time off left for 2016 (I hate “use it or lose it” policies!).   Luckily, this is something that we can pay for without incurring more debt, but it also means we will be meeting minimums only this month unless we can do some side hustling.

This Thursday evening, I meet with a woman who is offering me a small side job that may result in an extra $400.00 or so a month.  On top of this the lady that I typically babysit for is going back to work after a layoff, and that should be adding another few hundred a month to our income.   The catch is that both of these are things that won’t actually leave us cash in hand until January.   Our community has a very active classifieds facebook group, so I am going to do some decluttering and hope to sell a few items that we no longer use. Hubby also might be able to pick up some overtime at work.   My hope is that with all of these side hustles, that we might be able to still make the $500 extra debt payment.   Any other suggestions?

 


You Told Me So

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When we were going through the process of getting a mortgage, we shopped around with a lot of different lenders and ended up with a company that we were…luke-warm about after it was all said and done.

The experience, itself, wasn’t exactly pleasurable. I know it’s stressful anytime you buy a house, etc. etc., but there were some things I didn’t share that were really frustrating. But the one GREAT thing this lender had that no one else could compete with was a stellar interest rate. We got our loan at a 2.75% APR!!!

At that time, a handful (maybe 2 or 3?) of commenters mentioned the option of perhaps rolling some of our student loan debt into the house. Our loan was for well below the appraisal price of the home, so this could have been an option (note: not for all the student loans, but a portion of it).

Hubs and I talked about it and decided against it. Ultimately, we both just felt a little “yucky” at the thought of rolling student loan debt into the house. It just didn’t sit right with us and we took that as a sign that we should probably do something different. The plan was always to look into student loan consolidation companies after the mortgage went through.

When the mortgage was finally funded in early November, I started shopping around just a couple weeks later.

First I was denied by a place. (update: the “negative mark” was, indeed, my delinquent account I’d mentioned in this post. It’s old enough that it should be off my report – and it has, indeed, fallen off of 2 of the 3 credit agencies, but it’s still sitting on the third. I’ve completed a formal dispute so hopefully this will be rectified soon).

And then I discovered that other places really couldn’t offer better rates at all! Here’s a sampling of rates that I was offered:

6.99%

6.49%

5.37%

My current student loan interest rates range from 5.8 – 6.5, so there’s not even really much of a savings compared to what I currently pay.

And now I just kind of feel foolish. I feel like I should have listened to YOU and put some of that student loan debt in with the house debt. Ugh! I guess hindsight is 20/20, right?

This has stalled plans a bit in regard to the student loan consolidation. I’m just not crazy about a 5.37% APR. Yes, it’s lower than my current interest rate. But is it low enough to go through all the paperwork hassles and the fact that I’d now have one GIANT loan instead of multiple, smaller loans to tackle?

I don’t know.

And, that must be balanced against the fact that I truly despise our current lender, Navient.

Again, I just don’t know.

I’ve been doing these balance transfers on a credit card I don’t use. It has a limit of $7,500 and allows me to do balance transfers at a 0% APR for 12 months at a 3% initiation fee (note: this is the current “deal” as of today. In the past, I’ve been able to score as low as a 2% initiation fee, but for a shorter amount of time – I believe 6 months; That “deal” isn’t showing up anymore so it may have been discontinued).

Anyway – that’s the best rate I can get. But that’s only $7,500 at a time and I still have a MOUNTAIN of debt to contend with (most recent debt update here).

So I’m kind of at a loss. Here’s what I’m thinking in terms of a plan moving forward (though I’d love to hear your thoughts, too, so please chime in!):

  • I’ll keep all the subsidized loans with Navient (I’m receiving forgiveness on unpaid interest through August). I’ll pay minimums on those to reap the interest-forgiveness benefits.
  • I’ll continue doing these balance transfers to reap the benefits of the lower interest (with the note that I’m always EXTRA CAREFUL to ensure they are fully paid off by the deadline so I don’t get hit with penalties and sky-high interest). As each balance transfer is paid in full, I plan to continue to initiate new transfers up to the $7,500 limit as allowed.
  • Finally, I’ll continue paying aggressively toward the remaining (unsubsidized) loans.

This seems like the best course of action for now. Unless someone can offer me a better interest rate on a consolidation, that is.

Thoughts?

 


The Savings

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I received several questions about the $200 budget item towards savings that I listed in my last post.    The answer is a bit complicated.   We currently have have several savings accounts that are for irregular expenses…with the idea that we could also use those accounts as an emergency fund in a true emergency.   These funds are currently auto-drafted into the savings accounts every payday.  Each category receives $20 a month added to it.  However, the original thought was that some categories are close to being “fully funded” and then that money could be reallocated to other categories until they need “refilled”.    Here’s how I have things divided:

Savings 
Work expenses100.03
Home improvements133.00
fun/holidays55.00
Gifts5.00
clothing85.00
pets70.00
replacements55.00
Auto185.02
Irregular expenses (auto registration/costco/ AAA)39.53
Yard/garden/pest control70.00

Total: $802.58

In explanation:

  • The work expenses category covers things like continuing education, licensing and replacement items for Hubby’s work.  Once we reach $500 this will be considered fully funded.
  • Home improvements will never be considered fully funded.
  • The Fun/holiday fund covers everything from fireworks on the fourth of July, extra grocery expenses for Christmas baking, campground fees, and the occasional movie date night.This will be considered fully funded at $100 while we are still reducing debt
  • Gifts are a hard one.  I will have to think about what I would consider fully funded.
  • Clothing I will consider fully funded at $100, mostly because we do not have expensive clothing needs.
  • Whereas we have an older dog and an older cat that at some point in the future will need a greater amount of vet care, I would not consider this fully funded until we reached $1000
  • The replacements category is actually very new to our budgeting, inspired by needing to finance a fridge when ours died.  This is meant to be money for when an appliance dies, or a new mattress etc. is needed.  I am not sure where I would consider this fully funded, most likely at $1000+
  • The auto category is pretty self explanatory.  We currently own one vehicle out right and have a loan on our second.   These funds are used for maintenance and hopefully will eventually grow enough that we can replace a vehicle by paying cash.
  • The Annual expenses category covers things like AAA and costco memberships, and car registration.  I would like to grow this to be able to pay for six months of auto insurance at a time in order to receive the prepay discounts.
  • The final category is yard/garden.  I LOVE veggie gardening.  We just moved into our home last summer, so this will cover soil amendments, hardscaping, seeds and repairing the disaster of a sprinkler system that currently exists.   It also covers pest control to come out four times a year to treat for voles and the giant wolf spiders that we get here.  After this coming summer, the amount going into this account should be able to be reduced significantly as some of the much need landscaping is completed.

Obviously, If I wanted to keep putting money into these categories until they were all fully funded, I would be saving forever, and that would impact my debt payoff.   I am currently leaning towards continuing to save in them at my current speed until I reach a total of $2000 across all the accounts.   At that point I would simply add to the accounts if I had used the funds.

What do you think?  Am I making a mistake by combining my savings categories and emergency fund?  Is there something I should be saving for that I am not?

 

 

 

 

 


Christmas on a Shoestring Budget

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Today we leave to stay at my grandmother’s in Georgia for a month.  I cannot wait! I get to sleep in a bed, have heat day and night and have indoor plumbing (have to go over to the trailer to use the bathroom where we are at now.)  It is going to be joyous.  These are things I will never take for granted again!

I have less income now than I’ve had all year with the cut in the twins’ adoption assistance and being informed yesterday that there would be no work hours until Dec. 14th and I didn’t have any the last two weeks either.  Needless to say, Christmas is going to be almost non-existent.  Almost…

Princess and I learned to knit in the last month.  This is something I have wanted to do for YEARS!  A new store opened up here locally and offered $10 beginning classes along with 10% off the supplies.  We’ve taken off like gang-busters.  She has become a whiz at making hats, teaching herself after learning the two basic stitches, and I’m quite adept at knitting straight lines now.  We’ve both been working on making presents for anyone we could think of who would enjoy them.

A couple of the hats Princess has knitted as presents.

A couple of the hats Princess has knitted as presents.

The little ones dad sent them both $50 at the end of September for the state fair, and both of them managed to save some of it.  Gymnast cleaned my car for another $10 this week, so I took him shopping last night.  He managed to buy thoughtful, practical gifts that I think everyone will enjoy staying within his budget.  (He shopped at $5 and Below and got some really great presents if I do say so myself.)  He has also gotten creative with reusing some canvases he had previously painted.  Painting over them and creating new masterpieces to give as gifts.

Original paintings that have now been repurposed to Christmas presents.

Original paintings that have now been re-purposed to Christmas presents.

I have not had quite as much luck in figuring out what to do for gifts for the kids, but at this point am planning to try and fill their stockings with goodies and that will be it. I’ve been collecting free samples of soaps (not hotel kinds, but more homemade stuff,) notebooks and anything else I can find. This is the first year that we will not be in our own space for Christmas. No Christmas decorations, no menu planning, no traditions from the past. I did dig out the stockings and will be taking them with us (the kids don’t know.) I think it will be nice to have something from our old life with this new Christmas. I have been thinking that I could create a certificate for a “mom and child” date so when I do have some money I could take each child out to eat at a favorite restaurant. Thought that might be kind of special and something to look forward to.

I’m not going to pretend and say it’s been easy to be so broke especially with the holidays here, but we have more than enough and in the end, it truly is being together that counts the most, not the material things. We are blessed that we don’t have needs, just wants. There are many who truly need.

Updated to add Amazon Wishlist…http://a.co/el2mc7W

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The Budget

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I have to apologize for not getting this post up sooner, we had a stomach bug ravage the house, and I have been behind ever since!

I have told you about our debt here and now it’s time to reveal our budget!  Honestly, I really don’t know how doable this budget is.  I know that we typically eat out a ton, but I am planning to cut that out completely for budget and health reasons.   I also have cut back on what we typically spend on groceries.  I think with some careful planning I can make that one work.    This projected income also does not reflect what we save in the 401k or HSA every month.

Projected income:  3800.00

Payments:

December budget 
Mortgage850.00
Electricity (equal payment) 192.00
Natural Gas (equal payment plan)44.00
Water/trash68.00
Internet95.00
Phones92.00
Amy student loan
(income based)
0.00
Hubby student loan (income based)25.00
Amy Student loans (income based)187.00
Hubby student loans (income based)124.00
Big credit card (27%)150.00
small credit card (7%)75.00
Appliance card (0%)175.00
Groceries300.00
Petrol150.00
Savings200.00
auto insurance150.00
Auto loan141.00
Personal spending (split between Hubby and I)80.00

If my math is right, that gives us about $700 to put into debt this month…..except for the fact that we are not done Christmas shopping!  I think that we should be able to finish all the holiday shopping for about $200, which leaves us with some money to put towards debt.

After the Christmas season (possibly before), I will be looking into cheaper phone and internet plans as well as cheaper auto insurance.   Thoughts?

 

 


Ashleys November 2016 Debt Update

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Another month is over – time for another debt update!

November was a good month! In some regards it was pretty pricey (hello, new house!!!), but in other ways we were able to be thrifty and save. In the end, we had a decent debt-payment in November and are expecting an even BIGGER one in December! Our first mortgage payment isn’t due until January and rather than let the “extra” money float away (or be absorbed into holiday/Christmas stuff), hubs and I have purposely budgeted to make a big debt payment this month.

Here’s how we did in November:

PlaceCurrent BalanceAPRLast Payment MadeLast Payment Date Original debt, March 2014
Navient$686846.55%$2000November$82433
Balance Transfer Student Loan #2$40000% (through April 2017)$600November$7650
Medical Bills$56610%$25November$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$78,345 (Oct balance = 80,712)$2625Starting Debt = $145,472

YOU GUYS!!!! Not only are we finally in a new digit (in the $70,000’s instead of $80’000s), but we are THISCLOSE to reaching the half-way mark in our debt journey!!! We started at about $145,000 so when our total debt reaches $72,000 we’ll officially be HALF WAY to debt-freedom! It’s only a few thousand away!

Our debt reduction journey began when I was selected to start blogging here in March 2014. My goal is to have officially hit our half-way point by my 3-year bloggiversary in March 2017. I can’t believe I’ve been around so long! Initially when I began here I thought I’d only be blogging until our credit card debt was gone…but then I ended up hitting it out of the park and eradicated our credit card debt in just THREE months (I thought it would take a year or longer!)! I wasn’t done yet, so I decided to stick around for the long-haul. So glad to have so many of you as readers for this entire time (and welcome to new readers!)

It’s also time to begin thinking about 2017 financial goals. Goal-setting has always been one of my “things.” I really enjoy setting goals in different aspects of life (e.g., financial, work, personal, etc.) and I frequently take stock to see how things are going. I’ll be working on a post soon where I discuss the outcome of 2016’s financial goals and I lay out a plan of goals for 2017 moving forward. I’m excited to start seeing this debt really melt away as we near the half-way mark. Can’t wait!

What financial goals did you make for 2016?  How are you doing on them?


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