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It’s Good to Be Back

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I’m so excited to be writing here again. I was shocked when Ashley’s post mentioned we had been writing here for 3 1/2 years now (we started the same week.) I feel like I need to go back and re-read where I’ve been sometime soon to prove how far I’ve come. Just a recap of what comes to mind:

  • We lost our home and moved into a tiny apartment.

    Not sure what we would do without board games. Between work, gymnastics training and school, board games keep us sane!

  • We sold our giant van.
  • We lived survived and thrived living in 900 square feet with all five of us and our 4 animals.
  • I lost my primary source of income.
  • We spent 9 months ‘glamping’ when I could no longer afford our apartment. I’m grateful for the gift, it kept us from becoming truly homeless or spending a single night in a shelter.
  • We had to say good-bye to all our animals in one way or another, but enjoyed raising chickens while we were glamping.
  • We moved to another state earlier this year and in with my grandmother.
  • I got a great new job.
  • I continue to work 2 part time jobs and a variety of odd jobs.
  • We rented our very own home in Georgia, leaving one of the twins in Virginia, and now we each have our own bedroom after 3 years of tiny living.
  • For the first time in a LONG time, we are not living paycheck to paycheck.  But I still have a long way to go in learning to make better money choices and becoming truly debt free.
  • And this is where we begin today.

So much has happened during my life on BAD. I can’t wait to see where we go next. I write this as Irma rages outside. I was so grateful to be able to work from home today and tomorrow while she moves on through. We’ve had some limbs fall on the roof, one took out our backside neighbors brand new fence. We will wander out when it’s over and see the damage, but for now I’m just grateful for a cozy home.

I’ve made some terrible financial decisions lately. And it’s huge for me to be able to just say that. I even said as must out loud to a friend this past weekend when we went out for chips and dip. Thinking with my heart instead of my head. More on those coming soon. But I definitely recognize that I have a problem.


Coffee Date

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Hi Friends! I know I said it in my last post, but I’ve really missed you guys! This has been the longest hiatus I’ve ever taken since I started blogging 3 and a half years ago (<how has it been that long?!?)

So before diving straight into fully-financial posts, I wanted to just do a casual coffee date today. It’s as if we’re buddies meeting up for a cup of Joe, catching up on each other’s’ lives. See some past coffee chats here or here.

If we were having coffee today, I’d tell you how much I’m looking forward to some true Fall weather. Here in Tucson it’s still over 100 degrees F every day. I’ve been working out in the 5am hour and even at that time it’s already in the low 80s. I’m ready to bust out my fall decorations, drink some homemade pumpkin spice lattes, and cuddle up on our back porch in an oversized sweater while feeling the crisp in the air.

Exercise

Speaking of exercising at 5am, I’m training for another race. Last November I did my 3rd half-marathon. This November I’m signed up to do a Ragnar relay race. For those unfamiliar with Ragnar, these are running races that last 24+ hours. The traditional style of run is a road race, but the run I’m signed up for is a trail run in McDowell, AZ. I’m on a team of 8 and we will each run 3 legs (approx. 5 miles each) over the 24-ish hour span of time. I’m starting week 5 (of 12) of training and have really been enjoying it! I’ve always been a solitary runner. I’m not very fast and have never joined any running groups, etc. But my team (consisting of members of my department at school) has been meeting up on weekends to do our trail runs together and it’s been so fun having a group to sweat with, and to help keep me accountable when I’m not wanting to roll out of bed at 5am on a Sunday morning! Ha!

What about you? Are you working toward any goals or doing any type of diet or exercise regimen right now?

Texas Family

So much has been going on with my Texas family lately! All are located in Austin, so they were inland enough to be spared of any serious Hurricane Harvey damage. Remember that my mom and stepdad both broke their arms back in early July? They have lots of physical therapy and rehab ahead, but they’re both on the mend and expected to make a full recovery! My little sister welcomed a new bundle of joy to the world in late August! The delivery was smooth and easy and the baby has been a perfect angel – sleeps and eats well and only fusses when hungry, tired, or wet. She says it’s their 3-year-old whose been the problem. Tough transition from 1 child to 2, but they’re doing well. We believe my Dad is in the process of experiencing another step-down with his dementia. He was diagnosed with frontotemporal degeneration back in August 2015 and is currently living in an assisted living memory care facility. Frontotemporal degeneration (FTD) has been woefully understudied, so I can’t say anything definitive from a medical perspective, but several patients with FTD experience absolutely debilitating neurologic pain in the areas of their brain that are degenerating. I believe this corresponds with neuronal death. The pain is often associated with a “step down” in cognitive functioning. FTD is not a slow, gradual decline. Instead, it’s marked by periods of stasis, followed by rapid decline, then another period of stasis, etc. The periods of stasis can last weeks or months. The past few days have been painful ones for my Dad so we’re expecting another decline. His language has been impacted first and he’s really having a tough time with it these days. It’s hard for me because, living in Arizona with my Dad in Texas, our primary form of keeping in touch is phone conversations. I send pictures and letters, but we talk and/or text daily. It’s becoming increasingly challenging, though, as it upsets him when he doesn’t understand me (which is happening with increasing frequency).

How are your parents doing? No health issues, I hope?

Husband 

Hubs is doing well, but has had a tough time not working since his business closed down a few months ago. He used to be a flooring contractor but is now back in school for engineering and cannot sustain a full-time job. The cost of all the licenses and insurance were too much to justify renewal so he let the business come to a natural conclusion when everything came up for renewal. While he’s done well in school (last semester was his first one back full-time), I think it’s been a big transition for our entire family for him to not be working. He’s used to having his own income and additional spending money and it’s been tough to balance wants and needs within our family budget. I mentioned how my first full-time paycheck was a bit of a shock. Much lower than I’d been expecting. Budgeting is still a work in progress, and one I’ll be talking a lot more about in future posts. On the bright side of things, hubs is also in the process of obtaining his personal training certificate. He’s midway through the program and will be done in mid-October (juggling it along with his course load). He’s hoping to be able to pick up some part-time work after he receives his certification so that he can make enough money to cover his own personal effects and expenses while in school. He may be able to contribute a little to the household too, but even if he’s only able to cover his own wants and needs it will be a big help. Hubs has always been the “breadwinner” in our family, so having the roles reversed and being in a position where basically every expense is discussed (and budgeted) has been a change for him. (Edited to add: Check out this throwback post I wrote years ago about Our Financial Relationship for more background info.).

How’s your spouse, partner, girlfriend/girlfriend, significant other? Single? Are you on the dating scene? Any funny stories or interesting people you’ve met recently?

Kids

The kids (5-year old twins) are now a month-deep into kindergarten and they just got a new teacher! Yup. The old one, while kind, was having a lot of personal problems that interfered with her ability to do her best work. I was worried when I saw the stark contrast in what my kids were doing compared to the kindergarten kids in other classes (I’m friends with other moms and the curriculum is supposed to be the same for the whole grade). While I do feel bad for the old teacher and hope that she finds some peace in her life, I’m beyond relieved that my kids got their new teacher. She has been absolutely fabulous and it’s just the breath of fresh air that we needed. She jumped right into the role, hit the ground running, and I’m so impressed with how much the kids already love her! It gives me warm-fuzzies and makes me confident that they’re at the right school (we chose a charter school, as the public schools in our area don’t have the best ratings). They have been doing karate the past few months and, while I absolutely love it and all it’s done for them (boosting self-confidence, increasing independence, etc.), we’ve made the tough decision to cancel our membership for the time being, September being our last month. It was costing $150/person/month. At $300/month in total, we just can’t continue to afford it. It doesn’t fit within our budget. The girls do still participate in a gymnastics program, but it costs less than half that amount ($65/person/month; $130 for both per month). We like for them to be involved in extracurriculars, but can’t be paying nearly $500 a month for it!  At $130/month we feel comfortable. We also try to only do one activity at a time. So far they’ve done ballet, swimming, karate, and gymnastics. I’d love for them to be involved in some type of music lessons and I want them to do some team sports (like soccer!), but right now just be sticking with gymnastics.

How are your kids? Are they involved in any extracurricular activities right now? How do you find quality ones that don’t break the bank?

Work

Work is going great! I’m now only doing my one full-time job (up until a couple months ago I’d been working full-time plus a part-time job). I thought I’d have all this extra time on my hands once the part-time job ended but of course that’s never the case. I do think I have more time, I’ve just filled it with other things (like my 5am workouts – which used to be 5am emails and work). I also have more time to do my meal planning, shopping sales, and food prep. So we have less money, but I think my life has more balance. And with any luck (and a lot of planning and prep), hopefully I can save enough money to offset the loss-of-income from the part-time job. We shall see. One big area I will be targeting is FOOD costs. More info to come.

How’s your job? Things with your boss? Your co-workers?

 

I hope everyone is staying safe! My thoughts are with anyone impacted by Irma! I did my Masters degree at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton (about an hour north of Miami, right on the coast) and I still have lots of friends in the area. Thinking about all of you! Also, on this Patriot’s Day, I want to take a moment to acknowledge and thank all first responders and helping professions (nurses, doctors, paramedics, etc. etc.). I don’t have the gumption to do that type of work and our country would be lost without it, so thank you to those of you selfless enough to go into these professions! Thoughts with any/all who were impacted by the events on 9/11.

 

Hugs to you all! Stay safe out there!

~Ashley


Thoughts on Increasing Debt

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Hi all! Sorry for the long hiatus! I’ve missed this site and am glad to announce that I’ll be staying and continuing to blog here under our new blog ownership! Hope you haven’t gotten sick of me yet! 😉

It’s been awhile! I plan to do a little “coffee chat” update post soon. But I wanted to jump right back in to talk about some of the things I noticed while we’ve been moving in the wrong direction with our debt. The summer months were rough on our budget and our finances. It was the first time in my 3+ years of blogging here that we’ve gone in the WRONG direction with our debt. Yep, it’s increased.

I’ll be posting some numbers soon. A whole “starting over” series to come. But in the meantime, I wanted to share some thoughts I’ve had these past couple months as our debt has started to slip the wrong direction.

  1. I’ve never seen so many credit card offers in my life. It’s smart, I guess. But it appears that all the credit agencies in the world were tipped off (or following credit reports) and have pounced the second that they realized we’ve accumulated a little bit of debt (meaning, we’re now paying interest to credit card entities instead of paying cards off in full at the end of the month). Seeing the opportunity to make some cash, every company and their mother has been sending me mailers with credit card offers. Kind of creepy, really. And sneaky, too.
  2. “Don’t forget about us” cards. My rarely used/unusued credit cards started showing up in the mail, too. They were sent along with different credit offers, cash advance checks, etc. The new cards were sent even though the old ones haven’t expired. It feels a little predatory, in my opinion.

Source

These credit-lending places sure JUMP at the chance to capitalize on our increasing debt load! They’ve got a business to run and all, but it sure feels a little grimy. Leaves a bit of a dirty taste in my mouth.

Meanwhile, we haven’t had a penny of credit card debt in over 3 years (since we paid off the Bank of America card back in June 2014). Here we are, now September 2017. We have a significantly higher household income than we did back in 2014; back when I swore we would absolutely never ever go back into credit card debt again.

How did this happen? How did we get here?

It’s all a little overwhelming. It’s also frustrating and disappointing. But here we are.

I’m not a quitter. I don’t plan to give up. Instead, I think this little detour just goest to show that not everyone’s debt-eradication path is in a straight line. We’re fighting the good fight and it’s full of curves, ups and downs, unexpected issues, etc. We’re normal.

I hope you’ll stick around and continue to cheer me on as I dig deep and re-commit to finally – once and for all – getting out of debt for good!!!

 

PS: Stay safe out there for all affected by the horrific storms/earthquakes/etc impacting our world right now!


Quick Update with Irma

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Hello everyone,

I wanted to let everyone know that I will try and get an update up in the next few days but right now, we are covered up trying to prepare for Irma to hit. I hope everyone is safe and secure from the storm.

 

Stay safe.

 


I Need Advice

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First I would like to say thank you for all the wonderful comments on my last post. I read each and every one several times, trying to get them to sink into my head. I appreciate them.

Now, some wonderful news, I sold the tablet I listed, and I got what I was asking for it! I had to drive 45 minutes each way to meet the person who bought it at the Verizon store, but I figured the gas was worth it. I have lowered the cell phone bill to around $320 a month. I also sold some of the clothes that were too small for my daughters at Once Upon A Child and made $60. I had several other things for sale on the yard sale pages and sold them also. When all is said and done, we now have $500 towards an emergency fund. Only $500 more to go!

I do admit I have a spending problem. That is how I got into this mess. I am working hard with my therapist however I would love some tips and suggestions on how to stop the madness. I have a this coupon is wonderful I have to go use it syndrome, and a let’s see what is at goodwill today problem. I really have battles that go on inside over this. An example, when I sold the clothes this weekend, I went and spent $30 on more clothes for my girls at goodwill. Now granted, they needed the pants; however it’s still kind of warm here and it could have waited a few weeks. How do I stop?

We now have a full pantry, and each have enough gas to last the rest of the week, and still have $60 left in the bank. In fact, I have enough groceries that I think I will be able to lower the food budget for a few weeks, as I have plenty of meat in the freezer. My husband got some overtime that will be in this week’s check that we think will have along with the overtime, another $100 extra from the quarterly bonus that his employer gives. I earned almost 4 hours of overtime myself last week. I also applied with Amazon at home customer service job. It pays $12 an hour. I have applied with them 3 times before with no luck, I am hoping this time I get hired.

I am also toying around with finishing my college education. I have been going to college on and off now for 25+ years, and have no degree to show for it. I have about 10 classes to completion. I have not committed to it yet, but I have applied for financial aid to see where I stand, and even if I don’t get it, my employer does reimburse for classes. I want to go and finish really bad, but right now, I am stressed with our money situation, and don’t know how I would do with the classes. On the flip side, I work better under stress and deadlines, and with the education I would be considered for higher pay at work. I’m torn.

I also need advice on my Aflac. I am spending $55.14 every two weeks for an accident and cancer policy. I thought about canceling it, however Wren commented on my last post, and made a good point. What if something happens? We have nothing prepared for an emergency and the insurance payments would help. But on the flip side, that $110 a month could help our budget now. What should I do?

I know I can do this, and thanks for your help.

 


Without Further Ado…The Budget

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Without further ado, here is the budget:

 

 Monthly PaymentBalanceInterest rate
total payments4738
taxes2721218.06
house8005%
power120
cable55
cell380
water65
food/gas800
geico166
student loan014286.14
student loan10749.35
Amazon2598.3226.24%
Walmart25160.2925.7%
Belk25194.4724.49%
Kohls25278.324.24%
Lane bryant2735027.24%
Credit One 25372.1220.65%
Credit One 25411.4220.65%
USAA16499.7822.15%
Merrick511455.2926.45%
barkelys501506.9325.24%
Capital 1 401706.737.4%
Capital 1 50175023.4%
Capital 1 60180021.4%
Personal Loan 1802505.10
10.75%
Capital 1 753230.037.4%
Credit Union Credit Card2357755.618.5%
Personal Loan 22447838.0110.75%
car48431575.63.75%
truck50832217.513.75%
total debt111959.06

 

 

Income:

 

Husband and I get paid on alternate weeks. My hourly wage is $20.40 an hour, with a few hours of overtime each pay period. His hourly wage is $13.91 an hour, with not much overtime. He also carries the health insurance for the family.

 

Our take home is around $1150 every two weeks for me and $650 every two weeks for my husband. That is with very little overtime. We are trying to build up our overtime to increase our income. I am up for my annual review with a raise promised from last year, and I am allowed at this time to get 5 hours a week overtime. This will increase as the weather gets colder. My husband’s overtime has been unreliable in the last few months, but he is trying to get as much as he can.

I also have 2 401k loans coming out of my paycheck that will be paid off within the next 8 months, so my income will go up there approximately $100 a paycheck. I also plan on canceling my AFLAC accident and cancer policy’s when open enrollment happens in October. That will add another $60 per paycheck back into my check. After all is said and done, the only thing that will come out of our checks is taxes, and health insurance.

With the paychecks falling every week, the house payment, personal loans, and vehicles are paid every week. The above budget and income are based on 4 pay periods.  The extra 5th paychecks that come every few months don’t count for us, as the major bills are paid right off the top for 52 weeks a year, not 12 monthly payments. It gets them paid off faster, and for less interest.

 

The cell phone bill is huge I know.  It has too many tablets on there, that we are making payments on. I called Verizon, and the only thing we can do is pay off the devices, and turn them off. I should be able to knock of $55 on the bill within 3 months, and other $55 off the bill in about 7 months. My cell and my husbands are not due to be paid off for 13 payments, and we have one more tablet on there, but it has 18 payments left.

 

That’s it. Like I have said in my previous posts, we are not walking away from one dime we owe.  We will figure out how to pay this all off.  One dollar at a time.


Rock Bottom

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After our bankruptcy was discharged, I thought we were through with financial irresponsibility. We had two paid off cars, and no debt except a 40 year 7.5% mortgage of $130,000. On a house what once was worth $125,000, now was valued at $65,000. We said we would never go back to the way it was.

Our road started off with a bang, I decided I wanted a new car. I was tired of driving the small Chevy Aero, and wanted something bigger. By then my husband had gone back to work, so we had the income for a car payment. So I thought. Because we were so close after our discharge, the bank loan came back at 18%. Yet idiot me took it. Thankfully, I got our credit union to refinance it at 3.75 within 6 months.

The credit card debt kinda of snuck up on me. Again our local credit union started me off small, and kept raising the credit limit for me. I just kept spending and spending. Sometimes, it was for luxuries that we really didn’t need, but other times, it was for the necessities that we needed. We again were living outside our means.

The House

Last summer, my husband and I decided to move closer to our jobs and to a better school district for our girls. I took 6 months, but I found a house that is 2 miles from my job, 10 minutes from my husbands job, and a much better school district. It was a for sale by owner, and what we considered a perfect fit. I’m not proud to say this, but I promised to be 100% honest, so I will admit, we walked away from the old house with the 40 year mortgage. We were allowed to as the debt was discharged in our bankruptcy. We convinced the owner of the current house to do a lease to purchase, and moved in the beginning of February . We are paying her 5% APR (she holds the note) and have a refinance deadline of November 2019. Yes this stresses me out.

A few weeks ago, I finally hit rock bottom. I had convinced my local credit union to do a debt consolidation on some of our credit cards. I swore I would cut them up, and start living like a responsible adult. I failed. Two of the cards lowered my credit limit so they are not as high, but the rest are right back where they were. I am very ashamed to find myself in such a low place again however this time its different.We are not walking away from one red cent of what we owe. We can and we will pay down our debt. It won’t be easy, in fact, I’m sure its going to be very hard. But for the 1st time, my husband and I are on the same page, and there are no secrets.

The Future

The future is now. We are cutting everything we can to have more to throw at debt. I am working on a post explaining our income and expenses. We are signed up to start Dave Ramsey’s class in the middle of September through our local habitat for humanity. I’m excited because at the same time we have our class, they are also holding a kids class that follows Dave’s class for kids. Hopefully, that will give our girls the foundation to be smarter with money then their parents are. Its something I wish I had as a kid.

Thats our full financial story. Like I said, I am working on an income and expenses post that I am sure everyone will help me whittle down. I do promise to be 100% truthful in my posts, and I have thick skin to read the responses to them.