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Credit Card Debt Chart

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Hi all, Happy Friday!

I submitted my final grades yesterday, today is our department’s holiday party, and next week I’ve got two totally open days on my schedule that I can use to catch up on some academic writing, household chores, holiday prep, etc. It’s always a fun time of year when classes end and it feels like the “real work” begins. Oh, academia. 🙂

Since, as you saw on my last post, I’m basically starting over with our credit card debt, I wanted to do something to help it stay really visual and to keep me motivated.

I’ve made homemade debt thermometers in the past (see here or here), but I wanted to try something a little different this time.

And somehow in my searching of the interwebs, I came across these totally nifty little debt trackers! Best part, it was totally free on the website (linked here), along with several other options (e.g., student loan, mortgage, debt free, etc.)

I just sat down today to actually fill in the numbers on the lines and discovered that there were exactly 25 long lines. Well whatdoyaknow? My current CC debt stands at $25,500 (see here). Coincidence that the lines match up exactly with our actual debt numbers? Who knows, but it was certainly motivating!

Admittedly, we’ve got a long way to go. We’ve re-dug this huge hole and feel like we’re at a start-over point. Instead of bringing our entire debt load into the picture, we’re really just going to focus on the credit cards for the time being. It will take some time, but we’re determined to get it done all over again.

What debt are you currently focused on eradicating?


Hope’s December Debt Update

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It is time for another debt update. But I’m really excited about the one to come in January. You will notice that other than eliminating my Amazon debt, very little has changed in my debt load since my last update. Per my Plan #1, my goal is to pay off the computers by the end of the year. I’ve been paying the very minimum required on all debts in order to meet that goal. I’m still on track but it is going to be VERY, VERY close.

Creditor
Balance

(as of 10/14/17)
Interest
Min. Payment
Car$9,3147.00%$308
Credit Card$4,47517.00%$36
Summer Camp (2018)$3,3750.00%$0
Student Loans$34,3492.88%$307
Computer Equipment$2,71322.90%$84
Taxes (State)$5,8000.00%$100
Self Lender$97010.57%$97
Collections 1 (Medical)$618
Collections 2 (Apartment)$499
Collections 3 (Ex-husband)$6,2606.25%$246
Amazon$026.99%$0
Total$66,273$1,178

Meeting My Deadline for Plan #1

To make it happen, I have stopped paying on the kids’ summer camp. We’ve also continued to mostly eat through out pantry which means other than canned veggies we are down to almost nothing in our kitchen.  The kids are not too thrilled with me right now.

empty pantry
Today I will surprise them by restocking our kitchen in preparation for Christmas. They are going to be thrilled. We’ve had a white board going with a grocery list of all their wants and needs.  I’m hoping I can get everything for right at $150. And if we can make it to the end of the year with those groceries…that will be $200 spent this month on groceries and an extra $400 towards my end of year goal.

We won’t be able to do this again because we really have cleaned the pantry shelves, but it is has really helped this fall with paying off some debt and getting ahead on other things.

Next Steps, New Year

I will review my overall financial plan after the new year. I’ve had some more changes on the job front, but I’m not ready to publish them.  I’ll have a better idea after January on how my income is going to look.

It’s stressful, but I’m making good headway in picking up odd jobs and at least part time stand alone clients.


Ashley’s Credit Card Debts

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I know I’ve been promising a full debt update for awhile now. It’s been harder for me to put together than I had imagined it would be (in terms of psychological distress), so I’ve come up with a “compromise” offer. I’m presenting here today my current list of Credit Card Debts. No, it’s not my full list of debts. But adding in the student loans and IRS – ugh! It just feels too overwhelming right now. I need some “easy” wins.

Unfortunately, our list of credit card debt has grown ridiculously long.

It started early in the year when I got a credit card to do a balance transfer for a student loan (Citibank). This was back when we had $0 credit card debt. I had successfully used balance transfer offers from credit cards in the past for previous student loans and it worked fine. I didn’t think this transfer would be any different. So I transferred $4460 in January 2017 to Citibank. I got a 0% APR offer for 21 months. Since the transfer initiated January 2017, it will be due by October 2018. I don’t want to miss that date, otherwise the interest rate soars!

Summer 2017 Happened

I’ve talked many times about the perfect storm of issues occurring in summer of 2017. I stopped my part-time job; hubs’ business shut down, I was weathering some tough personal issues, etc. A mixture of a much lower income than that to which we’d become accustomed, lifestyle creep that had become unsustainable, and sloppy or nonexistent budgeting. Basically just a whole falling-off-the-wagon thing going on in terms of personal finances. I turned to my credit cards that had long been tucked away in a filing cabinet. First it was Target, then Wells Fargo, Capital One, a Home Depot up in the mix. Things just snowballed out-of-control and before August hit, we were swimming in credit card debt up to our eyeballs. This is also when I fell off the blogging train HARD (if you go back and read old posts, you’ll notice posts from me were few and far-between at this point).

Time to Get A Grip

Things still aren’t where they need to be. Hubs has finished his personal training course and has been applying for jobs. Luckily, it’s a good time of year (what with all the New-Years resolutions and so-called “January Joiners” at gyms). There look to be a lot of openings. He’s also picked up some random side-gigs to earn a bit of money the past couple months. Plus selling things online, etc. Every little bit helps. We’re not where we need to be in terms of income OR outflow. But we’re taking some baby steps and laying out our credit card disarray is a good place to start.

Credit Card Debts

Here is our current list of credit card debts, listed from smallest balance-size to largest balance-size.

PlaceCurrent BalanceAPRMinimum PaymentDecember Payment
Home Depot CC$12290% (through February 2018)$40$400*scheduled
BoA CC$24108.24% ($26$300
Capital One CC$299218.9% ($59$100*scheduled
Balance Transfer Student Loan (Citibank CC)$37130% (through October 2018)$55$55
Wells Fargo CC$15,17813.40%$360$400
Totals$25,522$540$1255

Adding up all the numbers for this post caused a sickening feeling. I really can’t even focus on it too long without getting a migraine. I know some of the “yucky” feeling is good because it is what will ultimately keep us from going back to this spot again. But for right now, I have to push it aside because I find my resolve to be too fragile to become bogged down with the “yucks.” I’ve talked before about how much of debt-reduction is psychological in nature (or, rather, how much psychological issues can impact debt payoff). If we are to succeed with digging out of this (again), I need to feel hopeful.

Hope is Ahead

Luckily, I do feel hopeful. I didn’t include it in this spreadsheet because it happened at the end of November, but I recently paid off the remaining balance of our Target credit card. At it’s peak, it reached about $3500 in the summer. Not our highest balance by a long-shot, but the card was maxed out and I had just been making little “chips” every month when the bill was due. In the last couple months, I paid a bit more and was thrilled to send in the final payment late November. It’s such a great feeling to make these tiny wins! The next three cards (Home Depot, Bank of America, and Capital One) shouldn’t take too terribly long to knock out. Then attention can turn to the beast. Can you imagine – my limit was previously set at $14,000. We accidentally went over that limit. And what did Wells Fargo do? Oh, what any reasonable lender-of-credit would do…..they extended more credit. Upped my limit to $17,000. And obviously some of that additional credit has been used (since we’ve now got over a $15k balance). So they’ve won on the battle. But I’m determined to win the war. We’ve been down this road before and kicked ass last time; we will just have to pull ourselves up and do it again.

Thank you for your support and encouragement! I know things look bleak, but I hope you’ll stick by my side as we pull through this mess all over again!


Our Favorite Winter Meals

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I love that the cooler weather is here. We are enjoying our last week or so that we get to stay home two nights a week (before volleyball practice starts.) As a result of these two things, we are cooking a lot. I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon of posting a few of our favorite winter meals, some of which are pretty affordable

Hashbrown Potato Soup

This is the hands down family favorite. You can make it either the crockpot or on the stove. We prefer it on the stove, and I save time using frozen hashbrowns rather than whole potatoes. There are lots of recipes on the internet, some include meat, some cheese, we cook straight potato soup and then everyone doctors their bowl to their own taste.

Deviled Eggs

Princess has become famous around town for her deviled eggs. She’s even been paid by locals to make them for special events. Sea Cadet recently asked her to make them for a Christmas Party he was attending.  We are spoiled by her love to cook. (Tonight she made brownies.)

Meatloaf

Gymnast favorite meal to make these days is meatloaf. I think he just likes to get his hands dirty…literally. (We haven’t had to buy meat since we moved. We are still eating through the freezer of meat we brought from Virginia. We are down to our last week of that though.)

We also eat a lot of beans and noodles.. Sea Cadet makes Asian inspired dishes almost every time it’s his turn to cook. Noodles and pasta sauce are another thing we are still working through from our rations we brought from Virginia.  Who knew we had so much food!

I’m so blessed that all my kids enjoy cooking and better yet, are good at it. Cooking at home saves us money, even when we cook more elaborate meals. But the best part is the fun we have preparing and trying new things. Some of our meals are true hits and some of them force us to take a McDonalds run and eat fries and sweet tea for dinner (okay, that’s only happened once.)

I hope you are enjoying the beginning of this holiday season with your loved ones. Taking time to slow down and just enjoy the holiday decorations and festivities. Enjoying some quality time. And being grateful for all the many blessings. I know I am.

 


Homemade Gift Giving

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We haven’t bought a single thing yet for Christmas. I mentioned before, but both sets of Grandparents are kind of going all-out for Christmas this year. The girls are going to be spoiled rotten as-is. So, we’re planning to go pretty minimal for them and just stick to basic needs (e.g., some new school clothes, socks and undies, etc.)

We originally said we were NOT going to get anything for each other. But in thinking and talking about it more, we decided we’d do a homemade gift exchange. We set the limit at $10 for any supplies or materials that need to be purchased. Anything we already own is fair game to be used (we have a decent amount of crafting materials already due to our kiddos).

I’m looking for some good homemade gift giving ideas!

We’ve been broke for a long time, so I’ve already done some of the more popular cheap/free craft ideas. I’ve done a scrapbook, 52 Reasons I love you (similar to this), coupon books, etc.

Source

I need something new. Something more creative and innovative….but not too challenging for someone who doesn’t have a lot of talent when it comes to arts-and-crafts.

Any ideas? Does anyone else exchange homemade gifts with significant others?


Public Schools Here They Come

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Beginning in January, both of my younger children will attend the local public schools. My heart breaks just thinking about it. It brings up all the sense of failure I have pushed away the last two years as we have struggled so much financially, with housing and then with this move to our new tiny town. And I am scared. But in the end, I want what is best for them, for all my kids, and right now with our current town, my work issues and the need for me to pick up a lot more work and continue to job hunt…this is what is best for right now.

We have visited to two schools they will be at, met with the counselors and Gymnast has completed the required testing.  (I also tested them independently to make sure I am very clear on where they are at.)

We will still have quite a few logistics to work out with gymnastics and volleyball training and competitions going on through April and us needing to on the road 15 minutes after school lets out. But we will take it as it comes, and figure it out.

Saving Money

I know this is a bad thing, in general, but it will save me some money…maybe.  The majority of the school Gymnast will attend qualifies for free breakfast and lunch, so they offer it for free to the entire school. My guess is he will not want to take his lunch, and he rarely eats breakfast, so that will save me some grocery money. That is not the case at Princess new school, so I don’t know if she will pack a lunch or purchase, I don’t even know the prices yet.

The Silver Lining

With my work situation, this will really free me up to search for jobs and work during the day. It will really be a new experience for me since the little kids have always been homeschooled.

I don’t know if it is the “rest of our lives” school option, but it is the “for right now” option we are going with. But I will be honest, I will most likely be like a mom of a kindergartner and come home to cry after I get them to school.


Freezer Meals

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One of our big downfalls with our budget has historically been in the area of food. We’ve relied a lot on eating out for quick and easy meals when time is short, work in long, etc. But because of you guys, I’ve been challenging myself to try to make more freezer meals. Over Thanksgiving week (really, in the wake of Thanksgiving), I created several freezer meals to have on-hand that can help with those busy nights when I know I won’t have time to cook.

My photography skills are not the best, but this will give you an idea of some of the things I’ve thrown together and will maybe give you an idea or two for creating Freezer Meals out of leftovers at your house!

Turkey Shephard’s Pie:

This meal was truly thrown together as a random hodgepodge of ingredients, but it worked out so well together! I did a take on “Shepherd’s Pie”, but using turkey! I made it up as I went, but it was somewhat similar to this recipe. I used shredded turkey that had been chopped up (rather than ground turkey). I didn’t use the heavy cream or egg and, instead, had stirred in a can of cream-of-celery soup to the meat mixture. I still did include peas with the meat, topped it all with potatoes, and then a generous serving of cheese. It was delicious!

Turkey Enchiladas Verde

I got real ambitious in making a TON of enchiladas! We had a MASSIVE turkey (16-lb. for our family of 4!) so this was the one meal I planned on making ahead-of-time, knowing it would be a great way to use up a bunch of turkey. In all, I made 3 containers-worth of turkey enchiladas. I used up a can of green chilies that had been in my pantry for a long time and used a store-bought can of verde enchilada sauce. Topped with some cheese, and placed gently in the freezer for future use.

Turkey Sandwiches

There’s no reason that every meal has to be this big, elaborate thing. My Mom was a stay-at-home Mom until I was a teenager, so I think I got used to each meal being this “event.” Every meal (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) was served at the dinner table with everything nicely “set” and each meal was totally balanced: fruit, vegetable, protein, and dairy. <3

I love my mom and would love to emulate her in any way I can. I still insist that we eat at the dinner table each night together because I think it’s nice to sit all together and talk about our days, etc. But I also don’t think every meal needs to be this big elaborate thing. One night we just had plain-jana leftover turkey sandwiches. I made a little honey mustard sauce (literally just mixing together honey and mustard) and it was a tasty dinner one night with carrot slices and chips on the side as accompaniments.

Thanksgiving Bowl

Probably the ugliest picture of them all (and this was totally lopsided because I swear the potatoes were not that out-of-portion with the rest of the meal!), but this is what I called the “Thanksgiving Bowl.” I got the idea from the KFC Bowl. If you’re unfamiliar, the KFC bowl consists of layered food: mashed potatoes, sweet corn, and fried chicken, with gravy and cheese on top. Sounds like a lot going on in one bowl, but it comes together nicely. I decided to do a similar thing with leftover Thanksgiving Food. In our bowl, I layered turkey on the bottom, leftover stuffing, sweet corn, mashed potatoes, and gravy. It looked pretty gross, but it tasted delicious! The kids gobbled it up, each asking for more! That’s a win in my book!

Turkey Noodle Soup

Last but not least (and, unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo), I did a turkey noodle soup! I used the turkey bones to make a homemade turkey broth (remember my last homemade broth?). To it, I added turkey, chopped carrots and celery, and some frozen noodles. This was our last of the Thanksgiving-related meals. We had one serving while still “fresh” and I froze the other serving to have on-hand for an extra freezer meal.

I have LOVED having additional freezer meal options on-hand! Even though they do require some advance planning (in order to take them from the freezer to thaw out), I can typically look at my schedule and estimate what days they would work best. It’s been so convenient that I really hope to maintain this new “tradition.” I hope to plan at least one meal per week that I can double (eating half of it and freezing the other half), but I also plan to stock up on freezer meals at times when I’m home more (e.g., over the winter break will be a great time to stock up!)

Do you cook freezer meals? If so, link to recipes you like to use! I’d love to compile a list of options!


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