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Ashley’s Bloated Budget

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I have to be honest. I’m totally nervous about this post.

When I first started blogging here back in early 2014, I experienced a lot of backlash. It’s tough to put your entire financial world out there on the internet for a bunch of strangers. And tougher, still, to take in the comments and criticism of very personal financial decisions.

But then the tides changed once I started experiencing some success.

Within 3 months of beginning to blog, I paid off over $10,000 in credit card debt. In total, I paid off just over $25,000 of debt in 2014, just over $26,000 of debt in 2015, and over $30,000 of debt in 2016!!!

Once I was winning with money, the criticisms mostly melted away. I felt more support and encouragement. Not as much judgement or negativity.

Then the summer of 2017 occurred. Poor spending decisions have been made. Income has been reduced. Outflow has increased. I’ve been struggling with some personal mental health issues which have prevented me from spending as much time and attention with our family budget as I should have. Things have just spiraled.

There’s no one single “thing.” It’s more like an avalanche of smaller stuff. Death by a thousand cuts. And all the sudden I look up and realize that our minimum monthly debt payments are so out-of-hand that I don’t know what to do. We’re nickel and diming ourselves to death. To the point that we have no money for food. We have to rely on credit to buy our groceries.

I tried to start over from scratch. I’ve been using YNAB, but I haven’t been able to make the money work for several months now. Our expenses exceed our income, no matter what I do or how I try to shuffle things around, there’s just not enough. So I opened a simple Excel spreadsheet. I wrote my monthly take-home pay at the top and started listing expenses in order of importance. Here’s what I got:

We’re down to $1264 to spend on all of our monthly needs in terms of food and clothing, savings, and/or additional debt payments.  It doesn’t feel like enough….especially since the debt figure ($1098) does NOT include any student loan payments, given that they’re in deferment currently.

On my post about increasing student loan payments, many people tried to give me encouragement that we COULD put $1,000/month toward student loans. That it was totally possible.

Well…..not with only $1264 at the end of the month. Not when we don’t have enough money to buy food or gasoline for our cars. Not when there’s zero wiggle-room because we literally don’t have a single penny in any emergency fund. Not when Christmas is coming up and we have no way to buy gifts for friends or families. Not when our property taxes are coming due!

Can we decrease our fixed bills? The “utilities” line item ($650) includes water, electric, HOA, cable, internet and phone. We can try little things to save on energy, but we’re in a contract with the cable/internet company and same with our phones. HOA is also “set.” So not a lot of wiggle room there.

We do have some debt payments that have lower balances – once we knock them out we can reduce the monthly minimum. But we can’t just be paying minimum payments – we have got to be paying as much over minimum as possible in order to make any headway.

I’m preparing a full debt update so you can see a larger financial picture (give me a couple days to get it posted). But it seems pretty clear to me – we have to find ways to increase our income. $4880/month is not enough for us to achieve our financial goals.

My sister recently added me to a Dave Ramsey Facebook group. It’s been a huge motivational boost to see so many stories of sacrifice and determination. So many debt-free success stories, pictures of fully paid homes, etc. I know we will get there. Our path hasn’t been linear and I think that’s okay. Sometimes “life happens.” Sometimes you have to take a step back and focus on yourself or your family. But we don’t want to live in a state of debt like this forever. The only way out is to put our heads down and plow forward. And that’s just what we intend to do.

As always, I welcome and appreciate your constructive criticism. I’m back to square one here. Googling sample budget plans and just trying to figure out how to survive without taking on additional debt. I’m a little nervous and scared of the path ahead. Our first 2 years of debt-reduction were totally bare-bones. I remember the days well. That was back when I was working part-time from home so it was easier to cook from scratch, meticulously research and shop sales, etc. We’re in a totally different situation now.

It wasn’t easy then. It won’t be easy now. But nothing worth having ever is, now is it?

Give me all your tips! Link to web resources, give me book recommendations. Even just a word of encouragement is appreciated. Thank you all, especially those of you who have been around and seen my story evolve over the past nearly 4 years! It’s been quite a journey and we’re only half-way through it!

 


Plan #2: Change to My Savings

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As previously mentioned, I have been adamant in my savings since I started my new W2 job back in March. I have saved 10% of any money that has come in with the ultimate goal of $10,000 in savings. Now that this goal is in sight, it is time to turn my focus to my debt and cut down on my savings.

Where I’m at Now

I’ve recently posted my Monthly Budget and my overall Debt Load. Then I took a cut in works hours and added a new sport. I am LOVING the freedom of working less hours per week.  I get home and get to sit down with the kids without feeling like a weight is on my shoulders to get back to work. I get to spend some of my “down time” when the kids are at practice reading a book for fun rather than focusing on work projects all the time.

However, I do need to look and see where the money is going to come from for Princess volleyball. I do not want this new expense to adversely affect my Debt Payoff Plan. I’ve spent about an hour a day reviewing my budget line by line to see what I can cut or move some money around.

Cut My Savings

Two things stand out as the places to cut…kids’ activities and related costs AND savings.  I think most everything else is pretty bare bones; although, I am looking at that too. But for now, I have decided to change my savings plan.

Instead of saving 10% of all income, I am now going to save 10% of my W2 income only. This cuts this line item almost in half and makes up some of the deficit.

This savings in coupled with my 401K deducted automatically from my W2 income and my Self Lender account where I save $97 per month. I’m looking for a few more cuts before I finalize my new budget.

Thoughts?


My Amazon Debt is GONE!!!

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My Amazon Debt is gone!!!  I moved the payment date up to today. I couldn’t resist. As of today, my Amazon line of credit is GONE! Paid in full.

amazon balance screenshot

Doing a happy dance over here and breathing a deep sigh as I set my sights on my other immediate goals.

New Budget = More Work

I spent a lot of time this weekend working on a new budget since I have voluntarily taken a temporary cut in pay. And I hate to say it, but we cannot maintain our current life without those addition hours or an equal amount of income. I am on the project hunt, applying through Guru.com and reaching out to past and current clients who might have some project work they need done.  I know from past experience I can either get really busy this time of year with one off projects or it will be really dry. Please send up a prayer for me.

New Sport = New Expense

Before I say this, I will admit, I am crazy and obsessed with providing my kids with every opportunity.  I get enough flack for that, so don’t think you have to tell me too (my attempt to stave off the whiplash I believe will come with this news.)  Princess recently tried out for a competitive volleyball team. She made it!  This team costs $1000 for the season. The fee includes all uniforms, tournament fees, training and so on. I reached out to her dad for financial assistance, we will see if he comes through.

Conclusion

I have one less monthly debt payment, and I plan to keep it that way – yeah!!!

I have a larger than manageable gap in my budget due to the cut in my regular 1099 hours.

I have a new substantial bill for the next few months ($300 due this week and then $175 monthly for the next 4 months.)

I’ve got my work cut out for me. And I would love some suggestions, specifically regarding making up the income as I really do not see anywhere I can cut in my budget, although I am still evaluating that.

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Changes Coming – Decrease in Work Hours

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Since April, I have been consistently working 70+ hours per week – 40+ for my W2 job, 25+ for my primary 1099 job and then a variety of other hours for other 1099s. This week, my primary 1099 announced that they would be reviewing contracts for reduced hours for the next quarter. And now I will be decreasing my work hours, at least temporarily.



While I was not worried, as I am one of their top producers, I thought it might be a good time to cut back a little without long term repercussions. As of this week, I am cutting back from 25+ hours per week to 10-15 hours per week for them.  I am also taking the last 10 days of the year off from them.

Time to Revisit My Monthly Budget

Now I must revisit my budget, at least for the next quarter. And test the waters on cutting back just a bit OR opening some hours to another opportunity (no, I don’t have anything waiting.)

During my conversation with them, I let them know that I would like to revisit this in early January to plan for next year. And that was great for them. (I got an email ‘thank you’ from my bosses boss thanking me for voluntarily taking a cut in hours to help them plan for the rest of the team.)

I am not thrilled with my cut in budget. But I am excited with the opportunity to see what working less hours feels like, especially over the holidays.  Want to help me out…take a look at my recent budget, I’m taking about $800 out of my 1099 income per  month for November and December.

I will be working on the cuts over the weekend. I need to put them into place soon.

And on the Personal Side

I am hoping this will help address some of the issues my kids are facing specifically tied to my limited availability due to all my work time. This was really the driving reason for my quick decision to test drive working a few less hours.

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Hope’s Weekly Budget – Week of 10/15

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This has been a very hard week. I mentioned previously how my kids have been struggling. One in particular has been seeing a counselor for some time now. Between the big move, the sudden change in our lifestyle, some of my parenting choices and teenage years, in general, led to a battle with depression and a very tumultuous home life.

To be honest, I wish I had the time and resources to see a counselor myself. Life has just been slamming us!  I don’t feel like I have time to take a breathe between emergencies. Please keep my family in your thoughts and prayers as we work toward a new normal, and I work really hard toward being a better mom, creating a more regular schedule and being more patient.

Celebrate Adoption

That being said, we have a lot to celebrate this month. Six years ago this month, the twins were placed with as as foster kids and three years ago today, their adoption was finalized.

Job Loss

In addition, it was two years ago this coming Monday that I lost my job. Our lives changed forever then. It has been hard, but we have so much to be grateful for. We have had so many new experiences that we would never have experienced without that push. We got to experience Tiny Living, Glamping and then a big move to a new tiny town. October is a big month for us.

Next Week’s Budget

I am more and more committed to becoming debt free, creating some security for my little family and getting healthy mentally. I must keep moving forward for my kids if for nothing else.  Without further ado, this is our budget for this next week:

Gas 16-Oct-17 -35
1099 17-Oct-17 150
Groceries 17-Oct-17 -25
W2 19-Oct-17 1786
Debt Pymt 19-Oct-17 -83
Gas 20-Oct-17 -35
Allowance 20-Oct-17 -100
Utility 20-Oct-17 -154
Cell Phone 20-Oct-17 -286
Car Payment 20-Oct-17 -400

We have been much more successful in our No Spend Month this week. We didn’t even spend our grocery budget last week. I am really excited that I have found a way to cut my cell phone bill a bit beginning next month. I am also excited that I am starting to pay for my new car, and am already anticipating paying it off by 2019. Debt update getting published this weekend…finally!


Facing The Harsh Reality (Re-Do!)

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Edited: HUGE thanks to those of you who reached out after my last post completely disappeared! It seems silly because its such a trivial thing compared to real-world issues, but I was SO BUMMED when I thought the post was gone! I really appreciate those of you who took screen shots, typed up word docs, and provided links so I could re-access this content! I’m sorry I can’t re-publish the previous comments, but at least the content was saved! THANK YOU! <3

This was a tough one for me to write and to post. I’m about to let you take a peep into our current financial situation. It’s not pretty. I appreciate constructive feedback, but go easy on me!

I’ve already talked about a dozen times about how our finances got out-of-control over the summer months. Everything was fine through April-ish. But then a perfect storm hit that we did not weather very well. First, my final paycheck from my part-time job was in April (even though I worked into May, my contract was written with 4 lump sum payments and the final one was paid out in April). Just like that, we were down $3,000/month (that’s how much my part-time job paid. Note – I had to leave my part-time job because I got a big raise at my full-time job and had to sign a non-compete).

Hubs’ income from his company had been dwindling for months as he was back in school full-time and only had one crew working for him. He continued to pay for all his business (and personal) expenses, but when his licenses and insurances all came up for renewal the best option for us was to call it quits. By mid-June, he was out of money and all his expenses (that he’d previously budgeted and paid for separately out of his business income) needed to be included in the regular household budget. We lost his income and added a few line-items to the “expenses” portion of our budget (specifics in a future blog post).

Our income had plummeted overnight.

We’d grown accustomed to an income of over $10,000/month! And then, just like that, we were down to an income of only about $3,000/month (my take-home pay from my full-time job). We basically kept on spending like it was business as usual. My raise would go into effect mid-August. I thought that if we could just hold out until September (my first full month at my new rate of pay), that we’d be golden! I was expecting to have a huge bump in my take-home pay. I was hired at $55k and when my raise went into effect I’d be at a $95k salary (in 2 years’ time!). I thought my take-home would be over $5,000/month – somewhere in the $5-6k range (note: I have a lot of automatic payroll deductions – see more here).

What I did NOT expect was that my first paycheck with my raise (for 2 weeks of work) would only be $2269. We’re talking under $4500/month. Nearly a thousand per month under what I’d been anticipating, and less than half of what we’d grown accustomed to bringing home.

I spent a lot of time in August (after that first paycheck) looking at our budget trying to make sense of it and see how I could make it work. From an objective perspective, I know $4500/month is a lot of money. Many families get by with half that amount! When I first started blogging, our household income was only $4,000/month so we’d done it before! And that was when our babies were in diapers still! Surely we could do it again!

But the numbers just didn’t work. Our lifestyle had become inflated. Our budget was bloated. We’d picked up a lot of monthly payments that didn’t used to exist (more on that in a future post). And no matter how I tried to look at it, our expenses exceeded our income.

 

And so, we continued to live on credit cards.

The blog was just purchased by its new owner at that time. I didn’t know if I’d even be blogging anymore. So, I gave up. Without the public accountability and with our financial situation seeming so bleak, I didn’t think it could be done. I didn’t see a way to win.

Fast forward to today. Last month (September) was the first month that we were able to balance our budget since April. For four months (May – August), we were in the negative every month and supplementing our lack of income by relying on credit.

We’re still not in a good place.

Although we didn’t go into the red last month, it was just barely by the skin of our teeth! I had to implement that surprise No Spend Week the last week of the month. And, oh yeah, September was a 3-paycheck month!!! How will we do it with a normal (2-paycheck) month? How can we get by on our current income?

I did change my payroll deductions so I have a slightly higher take-home pay. Instead of $2269, my paychecks are now $2440. Among other things, we also have a huge tax debt we owe. I could adjust my withholdings to get a little more back per check but am purposely not doing so until the tax debt has been paid in full. It’s going to be awhile.

Bottom line, we need to get a budget in which we are somehow living on $4880/month. At this point, our expenses exceed that amount. Heck, our debt obligations alone are over a third of that! It’s kind of scary stuff still.

We’re committed to cutting back in many places. Hubs finishes his personal training course this month and will hopefully be able to land a part-time job. And we’ll supplement in the mean-time by selling everything we can to try to earn some side-cash and STOP increasing our debt by living on credit. Gulp!

More concrete budget details to come.


Hope’s Weekly Budget – Week of October 8

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We are almost at the end of our first week of our No Spend month. It has been really hard. It’s amazing how much you suddenly crave a candy bar and soda when you have committed to not spending any extra money! I have been very pleasantly surprised at how well the kids have taken to the challenge, especially Gymnast.  Three nights a week we are an hour away from home until 9pm or later, I have gotten in the habit of getting him something to eat on the way home. He didn’t even blink when I reminded him about No Spend Month, and contentedly waited until we got home to eat. (I am keeping power bars in the car for him as there are times he really can’t wait to eat.)

We did eat out once, but in my defense, we did not spend any “money”…I had a gift card to Chic Fil A with $23 left on it. We used $18 to eat dinner one night while we were in South Carolina waiting on Sea Cadet to finish his Police Explorer meeting.  It was a long day and I just couldn’t wait until 10pm when we got home to eat.

Next Week’s Budget

 

1099 10-Oct-17 150
Groceries 10-Oct-17 -25
Internet 10-Oct-17 -65
Auto-Gas 12-Oct-17 -35
1099 13-Oct-17 850
Savings 13-Oct-17 -85
Allowance 13-Oct-17 -100
Debt Pymt 13-Oct-17 -200
Clothing 13-Oct-17 -250
Debt Pymt 13-Oct-17 -250

Clothes Shopping

We go clothes shopping this weekend. Gymnast is going to wait until next week since he has a full schedule (the $250 in this upcoming week’s budget is part of last week’s $900 I had set aside, not in addition to.) They were all thrilled with their $250 budget, and I was thrilled that it left me with $150 to buy a few things for myself!


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