Thursday, December 30, 2010

Reflecting on 2010

It's the end of the year and I find myself spending a few moments looking back at 2010 and being grateful for some good memories and some lessons learned.

I plan to sit down next week and write up my goals for 2011, but until then, I wanted to close off this year right and share my thoughts. If you're interested, please feel free to join in on the fun and share as well :)

2010 in one word : Accountability. This was my year to take a good, hard look at my finances and finally be accountable for them. This is the year, I decided to come up with a plan of attack. Sure, there's been some ups and downs along the way, but it's progress and for that, I'm proud.

Best Lesson Learned : Cut yourself some slack. I learned that progress is progress, even if it's a baby step - it's a step! I'm my worst critic and I hold the bar the highest on myself, so when I don't achieve things on the first attempt, I am hard on myself. This year, I learned to cut myself some slack.

Best Memory : Marrying my sweetheart! We had a great wedding and honeymoon. I made memories that will last me a lifetime :)

Best Item Purchased : Lipgloss. I'm not a super girly-girl, but man oh man, do I love this lipgloss! The color is perfect and it must have menthol or something in it that makes my lips tingle and get puffy. I just feel so pretty when I have it on. It's my best purchase of 2010 and it really wasn't that expensive!

Something I'm Proud Of : This blog :) Although I don't get on here every day, I do try to provide regular updates on our progress. I'm proud that I've started it and plan to continue it in 2011.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Just wanted to wish you all a very Merry Christmas! I'm not sure I'll be able to get on here much between now and the New Year, so please be safe and have a wonderful holiday! Here's to starting off 2011 on the right foot!

PS - Wish me luck... I go to traffic court on January 3rd, to hopefully have my fine reduced. We'll see how it goes!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Weekly Money Check-Up

Here's my Weekly Money Check-Up, courtesy of My Pretty Pennies :)

1. The most I’ve spent this last week was on our credit card payment. I will be so happy when we pay off our debt and I won't have to think about this anymore!

2. Today I feel okay towards money. After a tough week last week, I'm feeling okay towards money. There are going to be ups and downs along the way but I can't let it get me down. There will always be more money along the way.

3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free/inexpensive thing I did last week that made me happy was wrote out my Christmas cards. I got my peppermint hot chocolate, listened to holiday tunes and wrote out my cards. It was great!

4. I will consider this week a success if I don't buy any more Christmas presents. I have spent enough on gifts and will be proud of myself if I stop now. I tend to be the type of person who wants to buy "just one more gift"...

5. My favorite holiday movie is
It's A Wonderful Life. This movie really makes me appreciate life and the people around you. It puts it all in perspective. Life is short, be good to people you care about.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Weekly Money Check-Up

Hi all! Sorry I haven't updated in a few days. December is the busy time at my job, so I've been burning the midnight oil, as they say! Here's my Weekly Money Check-Up, courtesy of My Pretty Pennies :)

1. The most I’ve spent this last week was on... it's actually what it's going to be on - our electricity! I was so bummed this week when I opened my mail to find our electricity statement and saw that it went up from $57 last month to $181! I was so heated that I told my husband that now that we canceled cable, electricity was going to be next! I know we can't realistically live by just candlelight, but man was I peeved. I called today and they kindly explained that it's probably from using our heat a couple of days when it got cool. Geez! We will NOT use our heat again - EVER. We'll be sure to bundle up and use ghetto heat if necessary (aka - open our oven). What an unexpected bill! I only budget $100 per month for it, which is typically enough. Oh well.

2. Today I feel totally beaten down by money. As my last post mentioned, our savings is going to be pretty much drained completely by the time I pay my ticket and some other unexpected expenses that came up. I'm a bit bummed by it all, but trying to look forward to starting 2011 fresh and new!

3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free/inexpensive thing I did last week that made me happy was
finalized our Christmas cards online through Shutterfly. I mentioned this promotion that they are doing, which gives away 50 free holiday photo cards, well last week I finalized what they are going to look like. Hopefully they'll be waiting for me when I get home today and I can get them sent out soon! I can't wait to see them.

4. I will consider this week a success if I
hear back from my CEO about a potential pay increase/promotion for next year. I put my name out there as someone whose compensation/title should be reviewed and I'm hoping he has some great news for me before the holidays. I know I may not actually find out until January/February, but I'd really love to find out this week.

5. My favorite holiday treat are
these delicious mint chocolate chip cookies I make! They are made from a chocolate cake mix and I melt an Andies Mints on top... ahhhh, bliss :)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

So long savings!

I'm a bit bummed today. I got the notice of my fine for turning right on red without completely stopping and it will be $528 PLUS the cost of traffic school, which I think is about $100. Of course this was unplanned, so it'll have to come out of our savings.

In addition, we received a couple of Doctor bills this week (one for the ER trip - $100 and one for the DR copay - $30). Again, unplanned for, so we'll draw down the savings even lower.

Perhaps I should just be happy we have a little cushion and look forward to starting 2011 fresh. We've learned some good techniques in November and December and are learning how to budget a little better now. It's just hard not to get down about starting back at square one. I should be happy though that we even had a savings to fall back on for these expenses, or else they'd end up on the credit card! Someday it will get easier, someday.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Weekly Money Check-Up

Here's my weekly update, courtesy of My Pretty Pennies :)

1. The most I’ve spent this last week was on our Christmas Tree. We got an 8 foot one and spent about $60 on it. It was a bit pricey but it's so beautiful! A tree really makes the season come alive for me :)

2. Today I feel beaten by money. I'm fairly new to zero based budgeting and I'm doing the best I can to stay on track, but to be honest, I'm feeling a bit beaten lately. There have been items that I didn't think to budget (ah, um, the aforementioned tree up above). I know I don't have much money for Christmas and I've been toying with the idea of changing my tax with-holdings for the next few pay periods, in hopes to get a little more money to make up for the budget shortcomings. Probably not the best idea, but one that I'm considering...

3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free/inexpensive thing I did last week that made me happy was finishing the Christmas decorating! I had started it last week but finally finished it this week and the house looks amazing. I'm thinking of keeping it up through January :)

4. I will consider this week a success if I get back on track with my healthy eating. I was pretty committed to Atkins before the wedding and upon coming home, we've strayed. I'm hoping we can finish this week off on track. There are so many tempting treats around this time of year, but I just can't indulge in everything!

5. My favorite holiday drink is peppermint hot chocolate! I just love it :) I had one while decorating the tree this weekend and it just made it perfect.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Creative and Crafy Christmas Photo Cards!

I LOVE SHUTTERFLY! Since we eloped this year and our friends and family weren't able to see pictures yet, I thought it would be a great idea to create a Christmas card with Shutterfly that shared photos from the event. I got the idea from a co-worker who created a card with Shutterfly for my wedding shower. It was so personalized and adorable! The background was my favorite shade of blue and she put 3 pictures of us on it that she found on my Facebook account. The personalized "Congratulations" card was the best gift I received! I even framed it in our home.

Shutterfly is great, they have all sorts of Christmas photo cards to select from. For our Christmas card, I picked the one above. It is classic in design, had great holiday colors and just enough slots for the pictures I'd like to share :)

The great thing about Shutterfly though is that they also have a variety of other items. I plan to get their matching address label as well. They go great with the cards and pull everything together nicely. They also have creative photo calendars which are a unique gift to give a loved one. Another great idea is their Thank You cards. These could come in handy to thank everyone for the great wedding gifts they gave us. The possibilities are endless!

Also, right now Shutterfly is doing a Christmas promotion where they give away 50 Christmas cards just for blogging about how great they are. I'm excited that I'll be able to get for free, what I was already planning to purchase anyway. Thanks Shutterfly! That money gets to get put towards paying down another bill. In all honesty, I wouldn't blog about something that I haven't used or don't believe in. So, if you're feeling creative and want to get some cards made, I suggest you check them out here!

Question : Have you ever used Shutterfly? What did you make and how did it come out?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My Grandmother's Recipe

Happy December!

As you know, this is primarily a personal finance blog, however, since someone asked (thanks Maureen!), I figured I'd share my Grandmother's recipe for sweet potatoes. This recipe is very sweet and ends up looking like the picture once you scoop it on your plate. Yum!

3 or 4 Sweet Potatoes
1/2 Cup of Sugar
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1 Tablespoon Vanilla
1/8 Teaspoon Nutmeg (if you have some)
Splash of milk

Boil water and cook up the sweet potatoes as you would regular mashed potatoes. Once cooked, mash the sweet potatoes and add the sugar. Blend the remaining ingredients (Cinnamon, Vanilla, Nutmeg) together with the potatoes. Add just enough milk to make it the consistency of mashed potatoes. Set aside and make the topping.

1 to 1 1/2 Cups of Light Brown Sugar
1 Tablespoon of Flour
3/4 Stick of Butter or Margarine (Softened)
1/2 to 3/4 Cups Pecans

Put the potatoes into a greased baking dish. Sprinkle the brown sugar and nut mixture on top and bake at 350 until topping is brown.

This will surely satisfy your sweet tooth! Happy holidays to you and yours. Enjoy :)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Weekly Money Check-Up

Here is my Weekly Money Check-Up, courtesy of My Pretty Pennies.

1. The most I’ve spent this last week was on our Thanksgiving feast! When we went grocery shopping I didn't think too much about our budget and our allotted food money. I wanted to make it special and went a little overboard.

2. Today I feel nervous towards money. With my ticket I just got and my husband's possible medical issues, I'm feeling a bit nervous about money.

3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free/inexpensive thing I did last week that made me happy was hanging up some Christmas decorations. I just LOVE the way the house looks when it's all decorated and although I was sick with a cold, I was able to get some lights and decorations up. Next, the tree!

4. I will consider this week a success if I get healthy and put this cold behind me. In my job, December is a busy month and the faster I can get rid of this cold, the better!

5. My favorite holiday song is Mele Kalikimaka - The Hawaiian Christmas Song! I love it. It's such a happy, upbeat song. I can't help but sing along :) Spending a Christmas in Hawaii with my toes in the sand, listening to this song is on my bucket list.

Monday, November 29, 2010

$446 or more!

I hope that you all had a nice Thanksgiving! Sorry I didn't get a chance to come on here and do some blogging. Unfortunately, I had to return the device back to work that allows me to use the internet for free from home. So, I had to wait until I had access again to get on here.

Our long weekend was so/so. Got some bad news when we got home on Wednesday. Turns out I rolled a stop when I was taking a right on a red light and I had a citation waiting for me in the mail. I've never had a ticket before. It looks like they will send me the actual amount owed in the mail but from my research, the fine starts at $446 and goes up from there. I am so bummed and mad at myself. I'm normally a very safe driver and I can't believe that I did that. Things are so high tech nowadays, that I actually got to go online and see the video of me doing it! Seeing is believing :(

In addition, we're both fighting off colds, so we spent most of our time at home. My husband ended up having a couple of bad panic attacks though and we ended up in the ER again. Poor guy just can't seem to kick them. He plans to see another Dr soon to see what's up.

All in all, things are okay. We got to enjoy a lovely, simple Thanksgiving together - our first one as a married couple :) Looking forward to many more!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Weekly Money Check-Up

Here's my Weekly Money Check-Up, courtesy of My Pretty Pennies :)

1. The most I’ve spent this last week was on our car payment. This is only our 2nd car payment out of several, so we've got a long journey here, but one that I'm okay with right now.

2. Today I feel challenged by money. I keep looking at each week as a challenge. When we fill our envelopes with our spending money, I feel challenged to stay within our budget and make it work.

3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free/inexpensive thing I did last week that made me happy was moving our bedroom furniture around. I spent all day on Sunday rearranging our bedroom and I love how it looks now. I like change and I'm the type of person who gets bored with the same old, same old, so although I'm sore and have several pulled muscles, I love the new layout of our room!

4. I will consider this week a success if I find something inexpensive for us to do on our days off. This is our first long weekend since we started our budget and I hope we are able to stay on track and within budget.

5. My favorite food at Thanksgiving is mashed sweet potatoes. My grandmother gave me the recipe a few years back and I've tried to make it yearly ever since. It's a wonderful southern recipe with pecans and cinnamon on top. Yummmm!

Monday, November 22, 2010

A new way of thinking...

I'm changing. In the past, I would just go out and buy something when I wanted it. It didn't matter if it was an hour out of the way, if I wanted to get something, I got it. Now, not only do I not buy it on impulse, but I'm also not going to spend my gas money or put miles on the new car, just to get it!

I received a gift card to Nordstrom for my wedding. I don't shop there so I wasn't sure what I'd be able to use it on. My only knowledge of the store is that it's pretty costly. I looked online and found out that they sell some lip gloss that I love - score! I ran out of it about 2 weeks ago and wanted to get a replacement, but at $18 there was no way I was going to pay for it out of pocket.

Unfortunately only certain Nordstrom locations carried it so I was stuck either shipping it (at a ridiculous price) or driving 30 minutes out of my way to get it at the store. Although I wanted it LIKE YESTERDAY, I didn't really NEED to have it. So, I waited (patiently) until we were already in the area for something else and I picked it up with the gift card. I know it sounds minor, but this is progress for me :) I think many of us have gotten into our current situations because we make too many rash, unplanned for purchases. It's a process to change your way of thinking and I just took a step in the right direction. Yayyy me!

Question : What little steps have you taken in your get out of debt journey that you are proud of?

Friday, November 19, 2010


First off, my apologies for not blogging much this week. I've been on a quest this week to find ways to lower our bills. I'm determined to find us less expensive housing and get my husband a new, better paying job. So, any downtime that I've had has been put towards those efforts. I think my eyes may fall out of my head! I've spent so many hours online searching and searching for housing and jobs.

The quest will continue into the weekend, as we tour local apartment complexes and search the want ads. Hopefully I'll have some good news to report next week! Have a great weekend everyone :)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Weekly Money Check-Up

Courtesy of My Pretty Pennies, here is my weekly money check-up :)

1. The most I’ve spent this last week was on our credit card payment... followed closely by our car payment. Ugh, what a waste of money. It is what it is though and if we stick to our plan, this payment will go away and I'll have happier things to post that we're spending our money on... like maybe a retirement plan!

2. Today I feel pretty fabulous towards money. If you saw my earlier post today, we received a check from our in-laws that allowed us to fully fund our emergency savings account! I feel pretty fabulous about it :)

3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free/inexpensive thing I did last week that made me happy was watched last week's episode of Dexter (which we love!) streaming online for FREE (besides the small cost for the electricity). We canceled our cable last week but were able to use my work laptop and wireless card, to tap into my sister's online account and get access to our dear cable shows. Score!

4. I will consider this week a success if I make it through to Friday without any unexpected expenses coming up. Again, it's a tight week budget-wise, so I'll be thrilled to make it to Friday (read: PAYDAY) without anything happening.

5. I am afraid of ants. I don't want to be, but I am. The tiny little ones drive me crazy. I absolutely can't stand them. I'm okay with spiders, snakes, and all the other stuff but ants are my kryptonite!

Emergency Savings - Fully Funded!

Our emergency savings is now fully funded! Thanks to my new in-laws who sent us a very lovely wedding present, we've been able to fully fund our emergency savings account. This is super news! I've been kind of stressing lately over how we were going to get everything done (emergency savings, deposit on a new apartment and paying down our debt), then BAM, we receive a check in the mail on Saturday :) Needless to say, I was very surprised by their kindness. I deposited the check first thing this morning. I hope to transfer it over to our savings account later this week. Now, anything extra we get can be sent straight to the credit cards to help lower our debt quicker! Yippee :) I hope the week continues to be filled with good things.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Budget Update

First of all, Happy Veteran's Day and Thank You to those Veteran's out there!

Today I got a pleasant surprise when I found out I was paid early because of Veteran's Day. I was so excited that I spent my whole lunch hour online paying bills. Okay, I just re-read that sentence and I sound like a complete dork, but I don't really care! I'm hoping that if you're reading this, you are kinda obsessed with your finances, like I am, so perhaps you can appreciate it and maybe even do the same thing? :)

Anyway, this week I got our account down to 6 cents! Yippee :) I'm proud. That's progress from when I started this last week and felt a little embarrassed to be so low. Now, I hold my head up high. I even showed a friend my checkbook and how little I had in it! Way to go me. The way our budget is set up, my husband and I get paid on opposite Fridays. My checks go to our bills for the month and his checks go to gas and groceries, so his becomes our actual cash that we play with. I'm loving the envelope thing and I've already convinced my hubby to look for the least expensive gas and make sure to get a receipt so we can track it.

One thing that came up while paying the bills was that I had a little extra in our account after paying the mandatory bills. I was torn on transferring it to our pretty much non-existent savings account, or putting it on a credit card that has a very high interest rate. I decided to put it towards savings. This was a bit tough for me, but I know why it makes sense. As Dave Ramsey points out... if you don't have an emergency savings account to fall back on when an emergency happens (WHICH IT WILL), you're stuck putting more money on your credit cards. In theory it all seems perfectly logical... it was just tough to do for some reason. I guess I think of all that interest building up on the credit cards and I just want to pay it off fast. Again, the magic word this week for me appears to be patience!

Question : For those of you who follow Dave Ramsey's seven steps, was it hard for you to build up your emergency savings account? Did you feel a strong desire to throw every extra penny towards your debt instead?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The hunt is on!

So, in an effort to reduce our monthly expenses even further, we've been hunting for a new place to live. We currently rent a fairly large condo for $1375 a month. It's much further North than our jobs and we carpool together about 60 miles a day (round-trip) between work and home. The commute is rough on us. It's constant stop and go on a very busy highway. We'd like to try to move further South so we can 1) be closer to our jobs, which will lower what we spend on gas, 2) hopefully reduce our monthly rent and 3) reduce our stress levels with our daily commute. I've sworn to my husband that the highway we drive on will be the death of me!

Although places further South typically cost more, for less living space we realize it's the best option for us right now. We're in a 1300+ SF, 2 bedroom/2 bath condo on a nice golf course. Realistically we'll probably have to downsize to about 600 SF, 1 bedroom/1 bath, in a crowded complex. There are a few non-negotiables for me though... it has to be a top floor (I'm super-sensitive to sounds and can't stand someone walking above me) and the area needs to be pretty safe (it's not worth it to me to move and live in fear for a few hundred dollars). The nice to haves would be a dishwasher, porch and a washer/dryer. I'll keep my fingers crossed on those last ones :)

We're in a bit of pickle though. We have yet to build up our savings and every place we check out wants a heafty deposit. We'd love to move into something between $1000 - $1100, so we could put another couple of hundred dollars towards our debt each month. We know it will be worth it in the end to make the move, it's just that our hands are tied and unless by some miracle, we find a complex with a low deposit, it looks like it may be months before we're able to move. It's a bit of a catch-22 and somewhat frustrating, but I guess it's just the situation we've gotten ourselves into. We're focused now and want to make progress TODAY, but I guess it'll all happen in due time. As they say... patience is a virtue.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Weekly Money Check-Up

1. The most I’ve spent this last week was on my niece's college tuition... $561. My niece is in a tough financial situation, so we pay this monthly to help her out with college. It's expensive, but worth it! I do look forward to when this amount is lower or completely gone though, so we can put that much more towards our debt.

2. Today I feel
really good towards money :) I am really proud of how this last weekend went. We stayed on budget and paid for everything with cash. As each day went by, I started to feel better about only having a quarter in the bank. That means I'm doing it right! It motivated me to look over my budget again with a fine tooth comb, to make sure every dollar had a duty and that I would only be left with change after the bills were paid, if anything at all!

3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free/inexpensive thing I did last week that made me happy was went to a local, free village fair. They had vendors and craftsmen all set up with their goodies. It was fun to walk around and take it all in. I even parked the car far away so we wouldn't have to pay to park! It was a beautiful day and we got some fresh air and exercise. All in all, a good day and we didn't have to spend a penny.

4. I will consider this week a success if I don't dip into next week's money envelopes. Since this was my first real week paying for everything with cash, I hope that I budgeted accurately and won't have to dip into next week's envelopes for gas or groceries. So far, so good though!

5. My go-to recipe is BBQ Chicken Pizza! I haven't made it in a while (we're on Atkins now) but when I do, it always comes out really good :)

Monday, November 8, 2010

So long cable bill!

We did it! We canceled our cable/internet. I'm still kind of in shock. Perhaps in denial too. I hate to admit it but we watch a lot of TV. Let me say that again... A LOT! I'm a bit confused, wondering what we are going to do with all that time!

Anyway, let me get to the story... My husband texted me on Friday saying that he thought we should get rid of our cable. I almost had a stroke! Although the idea was in the back of my mind, I never thought he'd go for it. So, I immediately agreed. I've been struggling with ways to reduce our monthly budget so that we could build up our emergency savings and start paying down our debt faster. Cable and internet are nice to have but definitely not necessities in life - especially when you're in debt like us. So, he made the call and canceled our service.

We went in to our local cable office on Saturday to drop off our cable boxes and internet stuff. While in the office, they had about 12 different TV's going at the same time and I could see my husband starting to second guess himself. Believe me, I was too! We stayed the course though and handed in our dusty old equipment.

I should explain that we are not going completely without some form of home and couch entertainment :) We have decided to still keep our Netflix account active. For about $10 a month, we do get a good amount of use out of it. Now, we're planning to get a lot more! There's got to be some old shows that we missed and good movies to catch up on. Also, I do get internet access on my work phone. Although the screen is tiny, it's still access! Lastly, I was able to score a wireless internet card for my work laptop, so I could use that at home as well. Although the speed it dreadfully slow, we're hoping it'll be sufficient to get us online as needed.

Yayyyy! So, that's my good - no, GREAT - news. It's only $120ish a month, but will certainly help us out. Oh yeah, one more bit of news - my hubby also willingly canceled his wrestling show account (about $4 per month). So, make that $125 going towards savings and debt. Today is a good day!

Question : Have you ever given up cable? If so, was it difficult? What did you end up doing instead to fill up all your spare time?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A quarter.

A quarter. That's all we have left in our checking account right now. Twenty-five pennies. That's it! I'm not sure if I should be embarrassed by that amount or proud of myself for coming close to Dave Ramsey's zero based budgeting method. As he suggests, I allocated every dollar somewhere! Some of the dollars changed locations since we went over our budget last weekend but in the end, it all worked out.

I do have a sense of insecurity with only having a quarter in the bank, but it's just for today. My husband gets paid tomorrow (we are on rotating schedules) so that brings me some peace and the odds of something happening between now and then are pretty slim. (Now that I said that watch something crazy happen!) This really makes me wish that our emergency fund was already fully funded, but we'll get there. Mama said there'd be days like this...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Things I'll miss...

Today my husband mentioned ordering pizza. I hadn't budgeted for this type of treat and our "food budget" was already spent on groceries for the week. So, this got me thinking about the things I'll miss now that we're getting on track and out of debt!

- Being able to just pick up the phone or go online and order dinner in after a long day of work.

- Looking in my closet and thinking I could really use a _______ (fill in the blank - it could be a new black turtleneck, a new pair of jeans, a new pair of running sneakers....). I won't be able to just go out and buy whatever the item was that I felt I needed.

- Going out with co-workers for a drink or two after work. If it's not budgeted and planned for in advance, it's probably not going to happen.

- Just deciding on a Saturday morning that we want to go to Disney for the day/night and pack up and go.

I guess what I'm saying I'll miss the most is spontenaity! If I'm good about it though and able to budget in some fun money each week, then I guess I will still be able to do some of these things in moderation. One of my favorite phrases that seems to apply to this situation is : If you do what you always did, you'll get what you always got! I was too spontaneous in the past and because of it, I was careless with money. I need to be a little less spontaneous now in order to achieve our financial goals. I guess it's time to grow up and put on my big girl pants now.

Question : If you are also on a get out of debt journey, what are some of the things you miss?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


I just updated my debt numbers in my "Status Updates" section on the right side of my blog. This is the first update since I started the blog in September. I was kinda postponing this since 1) I was super busy in October with the wedding and stuff and 2) I was embarrassed. Truth be told, we charged more than we should have for our wedding, so not only did our balances actually increase, but we also put items on another credit card. Phew, glad to be honest and get that off my chest. Ouch though! I knew things would cost a bit but was surprised by how expensive some items were and unfortunately I didn't appropriately budget enough to cover all of the incidentals that arose. Lesson learned. Enough said.

So, our new total debt balance comes to... $60,926.30. With the wedding behind us, a new budget in place and a ton of motivation, I truly believe that this will be the highest our debt will ever reach! I look forward to more positive status updates in the future :)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Weekly Money Check-Up

Happy Monday! I'm excited about a new week and a new month :) I spent most of last week working on my budget (decided to go with an Excel spreadsheet... for now anyway) and I'm pretty happy with the results. I also spent a while listening to Dave Ramsey's online broadcasts. They were interesting and eye-opening. It's sad to see how many people are in the same boat that I am - many were worse off. I tell myself that if they can dig themselves out of it, so can I!

To continue with the posting I started last week from My Pretty Pennies, here is my Weekly Money Check-Up:

1. The most I’ve spent this last week was on an unscheduled night out. My husband and I wanted to have fun for Halloween and we spent more than we planned for. This caused me to have to adjust our budget for the remainder of the month. Although it's not a HUGE deal, it was a set back for us that I don't feel good about. I know I can't turn back time and this is just the start of this long journey, so I have to cut us some slack but these types of things won't get us to the finish line any earlier.

2. Today I feel positively challenged about money. I'm finalizing our budget and although it's overwhelming at times, I'm staying positive and looking at it as a challenge... one that I plan to be successful at!

3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free/inexpensive thing I did last week that made me happy was cleaned my house. I know that sounds crazy, but when the house is a mess, it makes me feel a bit uneasy. We had our suitcases, clothes and a bunch of miscellaneous junk all over the place that needed to be put away (or at least out of my sight in the back bedroom!). I spent a few hours picking up and now when I get home, I feel a sense of peace come over me when I look at my clean living room.

4. I will consider this week a success if I stay within my budget for the rest of the week!

5. If I could grow one thing, it would be a money tree?!? :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

YNAB, Mvelopes and Dave Ramsey...

Until now, I've been using a simple budget that I created in Excel. However, lately I've been reading up more on budgeting ideas. I found Dave Ramsey and his baby steps interesting and have been considering following his approach and maybe even attending his classes. However, I've found some other budgeting software that sounds interesting. One program that caught my attention is called "Mvelopes." It seems to match up with Dave's philosophies (envelope budgeting) and makes it easy for people to track their envelopes electronically. Today I discovered You Need a Budget which seems to push the idea of not living paycheck to paycheck (our current problem) and makes it easy to track your money and get ahead. This also sounds interesting. My frustration is that as I'm trying to dig myself out of debt, I'm not interested in spending more money to buy a program to help me do it. I'm a smart girl and I think I can just use Excel and be fine... however, that approach hasn't worked great for me in the past. Right now I'm considering downloading a free trial version of YNAB to see what that's like. I'm hoping maybe I'll be able to get a few ideas for my spreadsheet which will help me along the way.

Question : Do you follow a certain system or philosophy in your get out of debt journey? How do you do your budget? Do you use any special software to track your budget? If so, have your experiences been positive or negative, it is worth it?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Weekly Money Check-Up

While reading a pf blog today that I enjoy, If I Were A Wealthy Girl, she mentioned a blog that she reads, My Pretty Pennies, that has a cool fill in the blank weekly update. I've decided to give it a try and see how it goes. The first 4 questions are always the same and the 5th one changes.

1. The most I’ve spent this last week was on my haircut - first one in about 6 months! The wash, cut and blow-dry was $40 but with a tip, it came to $50. I was growing it out for our wedding, but it sorely needed a trim. I had been taking care of the bangs myself and actually watched some You-Tube videos on cutting your own hair, but I decided not to take the chance. It came out very nice, if I do say so myself :)

2. Today I feel anxious towards money. Now that we are back from our trip, I'm excited to buckle down and work our budget, however, there's already been a few kinks - which we've handled. I'm just feeling anxious that there could be more in the near future which would certainly make things more challenging!

3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free/inexpensive thing I did last week that made me happy was that I finished reading The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. I'm happy to say that reading this book let me cross another thing off of my personal goals for this year!

4. I will consider this week a success if I don't spend any more money on groceries. Since our budget is tight this week, I'm really hoping we can make it through this week without buying any more food. Time to clean out the pantry!

5. This year for Halloween I am dressing up as... myself. We don't have any plans for Halloween so as of right now, I'll just be me. If something changes and we end up dressing up or going out, I'll let ya know.

Ups and Downs... but I DID IT!

So, Friday had some ups and downs for us...

My Husband's Job: My husband got his paycheck for the time we were out of the office. Turns out that his boss did not put in for vacation time pay for him, so his check was about half of what we expected. Ouch! Unfortunately, my husband's hours were recently cut and he is no longer considered a full time employee, so he doesn't qualify for vacation time. Glad we knew about that BEFORE we planned on taking time off. Now that we are on a budget this threw me off a bit. I know that there will be unexpected challenges along the way and I guess this was our first. I was able to creatively move things around a bit so that we can still make ends meet for the time being, but it was tricky. It may also require us eating some of the several boxes of pasta that we bought, Pre-Atkins, that are now gathering dust in the kitchen cabinet. We'll have to cut costs somehow this week...

*On a side note, my husband's hours will be cut AGAIN as of November 1st - when his company starts closing an hour earlier each day. Not only will this effect our car pooling schedule some, but our budget will take another hit. This weekend we did lots of job searching for him and hopefully (keep your fingers crossed) we'll find him something better with full time hours soon!

My Job: At my job, I had the opportunity to put my name out there for a promotion/salary adjustment! I ended up doing it via email, which may not have been the best approach but due to timing and circumstances it just worked out that way. (Plus, I do tend to express myself better through written word than in person, so I was kinda relieved.) I'm really proud of myself for taking this step and making some progress towards one of my professional goals that I wanted to achieve by the end of the year. If this comes through, it will give us the breathing room needed since my husband's check will be less. A friend shared a phrase that I'm going to keep in mind on this : I have not, because I ask not. So I asked. Let's see what happens!

My Husband's Health: My husband suffers from panic attacks. They started happening to him randomly about a year ago. He read up on how to handle them when they happen and hasn't seen a doctor yet. Unfortunately, they've been occuring more frequently and he asked me to make him an appointment. I fully support him going because we need to get to the bottom of this, but it was another unplanned for expense. This makes me really look forward to that emergency fund that I hope to start soon! Having a little cushion to fall back on when needed will be helpful.

Car: Lastly, we discovered that someone stole the antenna off of our new car. It's been rainy lately and radio stations weren't coming in as good as they used to, so we chalked it up to that, but then we actually got out to investigate and we noticed it was gone! I think it happened at the airport parking garage we left the car at on our honeymoon. Oh well, it's not the end of the world and we can still listen to the radio some, it's just a bit staticy. So, a replacement antenna may end up on the Christmas wish list but we certainly don't need to get it right now. This is an improvement for me because the old Steph would have gone right out and bought a replacement one. Progress, I tell myself, progress.

Question : Have you ever asked for a promotion or salary adjustment? This is my first time. If so, were you nervous and how did it go for you?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ahhhh, it's good to be back!

Yayyyyy! I'm back. I had a truly great wedding and honeymoon and I'm happy to be back :) I'm ready to get on track and start our lives together.

So, to recap the adventure for those interested, we had a wonderful, private ceremony at a small, but quaint, chapel in old Vegas. We went with a traditional ceremony, rather than having Elvis (who I do like) walk me down the aisle. Believe it or not, he was booked solid! Maybe we'll utilize his services if we renew our vows in the future... :)

Anyway, I wore a simple, white gown ($99 special from David's Bridal) and bought some sexy red shoes to complete my outfit and my husband (still gotta get used to saying and writing that) wore a handsome tux. In an effort to remain somewhat anonymous, here's a pic I thought was kinda cool.

From Vegas, we enjoyed 7 days in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico (about an hour south of Cancun). We stayed at a lovely all-inclusive resort and had a wonderful time! We laid out for hours on end, swam and snorkeled til we were exhausted, did zip lining, cliff jumping and jet skiing and ate and drank til we were stuffed. We loved it!

For the most part, we stayed on budget. There were a few extras along the way that I hadn't accounted for, but I told myself not to sweat it too much. I'm a believer that there are special times in your life when you have to "let it go" and live in the moment. Our wedding and honeymoon were one of those times for us.

We returned home this week relaxed, well rested and ready to get back to work! Stay tuned for more posts and updates on our progress as we kick off this journey to being debt-free :)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Boss's Day

I have a great employee. She's always there ready to do anything I need her to do and I really appreciate it. She's also super thoughtful! Since I'm going to be out of the office on my honeymoon (I can't wait - by the way!) for boss's day, she gave me a card and gift today. She's a big believer in celebrating all of the 'hallmark holidays" there are out there. I don't necessarily feel the same way. Actually for most "holidays" that are celebrated at work, I'm a believer of gifting down, not up. To be honest, I kinda see it as a being a kiss-ass when you give your boss a gift. (That being said, I don't think this individual is a kiss-ass, it's just that sometimes the gesture of giving your boss a gift can be viewed as that.)

I believe that if you have an employee who is doing a great job and going above and beyond at work, then you should thank them for that. Praise goes a long way! I also don't think they have to be thanked with an actual item. Verbal praise is powerful. However, I do think as a manager, you should take the time to find out how your employees like to be praised or rewarded. This employee I am referring to likes a mixture of verbal and non-verbal rewards. I keep that in mind throughout the year, as she does things that I appreciate.

I do have to say that I was touched by her gesture. I know money is tight for her as well and she certainly makes less than I do. The thought that she took the time to pick out a card and gift for me does make me smile :)

Question : Do you celebrate the "hallmark holidays"? What are your thoughts on gifting up or down at work?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Open Your Mail

This past weekend I spent several hours going through old "junk" mail, catalogs, and miscellaneous paperwork, in an effort to get the house cleaned before our trip so we can come home to a half way decent place. While going through the paperwork, I found some good news. We tend to get lots of offers for Vegas - free places to stay, free concerts, free food, etc. Most of the offers just get tossed in a pile, never to be looked at or used. However, since we're having our wedding there on 10/10/10, I should have looked through the pile before booking our room.

When I first tried to book an offer online with a special discount code they provide, I was only able to get a room at the cheapest place in this family of casinos and they only comped us for 2 of the 3 nights we plan to be there. I was kinda bummed, but blaimed myself for not moving quicker once we knew what the date was going to be. I tried to make the most of it and told myself that I was going to love the big bed with the mirror over it and the huge "luv tub" in the room! However, I've stayed there before and felt kinda dirty afterward, so in the back of my mind I was hoping something else may come through.

Then, last week (pre-cleaning spree!) I found a hard coupon for 4 nights free. I figured I'd give them a call to see what we could do. The lady on the phone was an absolute doll and said she wouldn't let me stay at this place for my wedding night - if at all possible! She looked at all the other hotels and they were either booked, or charging something to stay. Since I really didn't want to pay anything for our lodging, she said the best she could do would be to comp all 3 nights (in the same hotel) and upgrade our room. Yay! I was happy with that.

On Sunday, I took the time to actually open all of my old mail and found 2 other great offers. One was for a free $50 gift card, when you check in, if you book your free stay under that code. The other was for a free room and our choice of free show tickets to see Cher, Barry Manilow, Rita Rudner or Donny and Marie! This one sounded intriging since I'd been wondering what free events we could do while in Vegas to keep us out of trouble. We've seen Rita before and she's a good laugh. Donny and Marie are a bit before our time. Although Barry is timeless, we both felt that Cher is one of those icons that you can't miss if you have the opportunity. Kinda like Michael Jackson was, or Madonna. We both agreed that we should try to get the free Cher tickets.

So, with my fingers crossed, I called today and spoke with this very kind woman who also wanted me to get out of my current hotel to something a bit nicer. She hooked me up with a suite at a better hotel (not the best, but definitely a step up) and 2 tickets to Cher! Originally we asked to see the Saturday night show, but it was sold out, so we took the Sunday night tickets instead. This will actually work out great, because our wedding is at 5pm and the show starts at 7:30. We'll have the limo drop us off right at the concert and we'll be able to enjoy the show all dressed to the nines. It's not that often you get to make (free) memories like these, so we're excited!

Lesson Learned : Open your damn mail! There could be good stuff in there. Had I not finally opened the mail and called about this great offer, we would've been in an older hotel that made me feel dirty and not looking forward to a wonderful night watching a legend perform!

My Gas Mishap!

I stopped for gas last night at a place that I don't normally go to. I used my credit card to pay. When I happened to call today to see what the balance was on the account, it was higher than I expected. I questioned the charges and found out that a charge for $75 worth of gas was put through last night, instead of the $12.50 that I actually spent on gas! Luckily, I still had my receipt as evidence. Although it was torn up, I was able to tape it back together. (I am a pack rat by nature, so just this past weekend - after spending 4 hours tossing unnecessary paperwork that I have kept - I decided to really work on getting rid of any unnecessary papers in the future... good thing I hadn't tossed this one yet!)

So, first off, finding a telephone number for a gas station is harder than finding Waldo in one of those books. After a few misses, I finally got the right number. It took 3 calls to finally be able to speak with the manager directly. He was clueless as to what the reason may be. He said that they don't normally put holds that high for gas on credit cards. He planned to call his corporate office and see what's up, meanwhile, I planned to call the credit card company back.

In my return call to the credit card company they said that there is nothing they can do for 72 hours, until it actually "posts" to my account. So, now I wait to see if it will go through for the correct amount or what... we shall see!?!

Lesson Learned : Pay for your gas with cash! It's much less of a hassle when mistakes happen.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Saturday Night In...

This is the last weekend before our wedding and honeymoon and what am I doing? Sitting home, enjoying this warm October night, reading more debt blogs and playing with our budget! It may not sound like fun to most of you, but I'm in a happy place - and I'm not spending any money :)

I am actually excited to get started on our new plan! I don't want to rush our big day or trip, but I do anxiously look forward to coming home and starting to really buckle down and kick debt's ass! That reminds me of a great blog that I read, called Punch Debt in the Face... we'll Ninja (the guy who writes that blog) I'd like to kick it in the ass!

A reader commented about how they budget money each pay period towards "fun" and that got me thinking... since I don't have a lot of wiggle room in my budget, I'll need to come up with some fun and inexpensive (preferrably FREE) things to do. I'm actually putting that on my to-do list for after my trip. I want to come up with as many ideas as I can. Right now I'm writing and playing online, while my fiance plays a video game... sure it's working now, but I can see how it may get boring after a while. So, the more ideas, the better!

Question : What fun and inexpensive activities do you recommend?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

How large should your emergency fund be when you are broke?

Today I was reading an old posting on a blog called Wise Bread, about the size of your emergency fund. As you'll notice, my current savings is at zero ("...point zero" - for those Howard Stern or Animal House fans out there). Anyway, I'm smart enough to know that I need to start growing my emergency fund. What I'm unsure of is how big I should grow it. Since savings accounts are currently paying next to nothing in interest, any extra funds I have at the end of the month, I'd almost rather put right towards lowering our high interest debt.

I do plan to set aside $100 (or more) per month into savings, but at what point will my emergency fund be complete so that I can begin putting that $100 towards debt? I've read different theories on this one. Some say 3-6 months worth of expenses should be your target. That would take me a very long time to do and I think it's a bit more than I feel I want to do at this time. Others recommend $1000 as a good start. I'm worried that $1000 may not go far if I were to lose my job, especially given that our rent is currently at $1375.

I'm leaning towards my emergency savings goal being equal to one month of expenses - to start. I would like to increase that in time, but I think this is a realistic goal to shoot for. A quick analysis of my budget tells me that one month of expenses is about $4500. Wow. That's not rock bottom expenses though. It includes our current cable package, cell phones, NetFlix, paying a little extra on our debt, putting some in savings, etc. If I had to cut some things out and live on the bare necessities, I'm sure we could lower those expenses some. For now though, I'll think I'll target $4500 as our new emergency savings goal.

My current plan puts me meeting only half of that goal by the end of 2011. That would mean December 2012 is when we'd hit our emergency savings goal target. Hmmmm, kinda far off for my liking, but I guess some goals are a little harder to achieve to than others. I keep telling myself that it's a marathon, not a sprint and that we'll get there. We'll get there.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ways to Get More Money

Since I recently analyzed how to cut costs in our budget, I thought I should also consider ways to increase our cash flow.

Increase Our Income
I do plan to ask for a promotion later this year, so hopefully my income will increase at the same time. If not, I'll probably begin a job search in the new year.

My fiance has been looking for work for a while, but due to the economy, has come up empty. In addition his hours were recently cut at work. Since he's paid hourly, this negatively effects his take home pay. (Although it does give him Saturdays off, which means we have the weekend together now, which I do love!)

Start a 2nd Job
I'd really like to start a home based business to start earning some extra income. I'm still not exactly sure what it is I'd be doing yet. I have a lot of passions and things that I think could make money, but I know I'll be most successful if I can decide on a niche. This has been holding me back some. Once I actually sit down and figure out what to focus on, I think it would be good for us. Sure, the business may take away from some "us time" for a while, but it may be necessary to help dig us out of debt quicker. A home based business would enable us to write off part of our home as an expense for the business, which would be an added perk come tax time! (Which I sorely need this year, but maybe I'll get to that in another post!)

Sell Stuff
Okay, I'll admit it. I'm a bit of a pack rat. We're not talking that TV show Hoarders or anything, but I do keep my fair share of items longer than I should. I'm going to make it a goal to start going through our stuff and selling some of it. It will be a bit challenging for me, as I tend to think that I may not need an item right now, but possibly could in the future and it would likely cost me more to re-buy it later. I'm willing to try though! Honestly, as I get older, I am finding that it's a bit easier to let things go. Maybe it's because we move a lot and I'm getting tired of lugging all of our stuff from place to place. That's probably it! Although we may not make a lot of money, we'll end up with fewer non-essential items (aka - CRAP!) and a cleaner place.

Question : How have you increased your income or found creative ways to get more money? Any suggestions to share?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Areas to Cut Costs in Our Budget

Our monthly budget doesn't have much wiggle room to decrease costs, but there are some possible areas that we could look at...

Rent - $1375
This could be decreased if we move to a smaller location or further away. Since my fiance and I carpool together and we both detest driving too far to work, moving further away isn't really an option. Although moving again would royally suck... we're open to moving to a smaller location. We've passively looked at new places and haven't been successful. Perhaps this will be on the 2011 goal list as a way to cut costs. My goal would be to get something closer to $1000 per month. That would definitely help things!

Electricity - $100
I am determined to get this lowered! For some reason when we moved from a one bedroom apartment to a two bedroom condo, our monthly electricity doubled! We have the same lamps, don't use heat and have no A/C... so I'm stumped here. I even called the electric company previously to see why it would have increased so much but they weren't much help. The only suggestion they had was to shut off the switch for the heat in the breaker box, because it's possible some heat could still come up, even though the temp was set to zero. I've done that and nothing has changed. I've even changed all of our light bulbs to energy efficient ones, but haven't seen any difference. I'm thinking maybe it has something to do with our hot water heater, but I'm not sure. One day I'll figure this out!

Cell Phone - $150
I currently cover 5 people on my cell phone plan: my parents, my fiance, my niece and myself. I enrolled in a 1400 minutes a month plan, with unlimited texting. The plan below this one is 700 minutes - which is closer to what we actually use. My only fear here is that I'll lower the monthly minutes and we'll go over and be stuck with the high cost of overages. Plus, my niece is a teenager, who actively sends texts and there would be a per text charge, so I'm thinking in the long run, it's probably cheaper to just stay with this plan until my parents and my niece get on their own.

Cable & Internet - $120
I'd love to be able to lower this one. We actually lowered it once before, by removing HBO. We tend to watch TV a lot... and when I say "a lot", I mean A LOT. (Please don't judge us, it's just how we like to relax after a day of work.) The only premium channel that we have now is Showtime and there are a good number of shows (Dexter, Weeds, The United States of Tara and The Big C) that we watch on there, so we'd like to keep it.

I've considered lowering our internet speed if it would get us a cheaper rate, but our internet is already soooooo slow. We can't image a slower speed than we currently have! So, unless we start to look into other cable and internet providers, it looks like this area is fixed for now as well. Perhaps another area to look into for 2011...

NetFlix - $9
Although this is not a necessity... we've enjoyed it and I'd say we've gotten our monthly cost worth. Sure, I could go to RedBox and rent a movie for $1 a night, but the selection is less than desirable and we can't watch some of the TV series that we are able to get from NetFlix.

Wrestling Show - $4
This is another thing that isn't a necessity, but my fiance loves watching the old days of wrestling! So it's well worth the $4 per month for the amount of joy he gets from watching these old shows.

Sirius - $197.04 Annually or $16.42 Monthly
I've been a loyal Sirius subscriber since Howard Stern joined way back when. I tend to pay for an annual subscription to Sirius every year. There are two reasons why I think I'll let my subscription lapse which will enable me to save a few bucks: 1) Sadly, Howard's contract expires at the end of this year and he may be leaving Sirius for good and 2) Our car that had satellite radio installed was recently donated, so we don't even have the capability to listen in the car anymore. Although we loved listening to it while driving (nothing beats a road trip without having to change the station!), since it's gone now, we're getting used to just using the iPod instead.

Question : Where do you cut costs in your monthly budget? Any suggestions for me?

Aggghhhh! Is it 10/10/10 yet?

The big day is fast approaching for me! I'm tying the knot on 10/10/10 at an intimate ceremony (just the two of us) in Vegas. I'm really looking forward to the day! Not sure if it's pre-wedding anxiety or what though, but I'm feeling a bit stressed and on edge. Everything "wedding-wise" is falling into place nicely. I think the thing that is getting me down is the damn budget! My fiance and I tend to be spontaneous and I love that about us. However, this time our spontaneity is making things a bit more stressful then they have to be. Had we officially set the date a little earlier or started saving beforehand, we would have a bit more flexibility. But hey, hindsight is 20/20, right?

As I mentioned previously, I have a budget that I plan to kick off in November (hopefully!). But in the meantime, I have a budget to get us through the month of October. Honestly, this budget is pretty tight. It's purposely designed that way so that we can enjoy ourselves to the fullest while away. But each day, I seem to have to add a new, unplanned for expense, into the budget and our "fun money" just keeps dwindling. You'd think I was balancing the federal budget or the friggin former CFO for Enron the way that I'm sweating over our budget for the next few weeks!

I'm sure you're thinking that I need to focus on getting out of debt and not "fun money" and believe me, I plan to! I really do. It's just that this is our wedding and honeymoon and I want them to be really enjoyable for us and I don't want to have to think about money in the slightest. But I guess that's what got me into this situation to begin with, right?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Goals for the remainder of 2010 - UPDATED!

As I continue to read more blogs and get a better idea of how this whole thing works, I've decided that it will help me to develop some goals. Although I'm anxious to get started on my goals for 2011, I think I should still write down a few for 2010 since there's still 3+ months left.

  • Officially start the new budget! This probably won't be until November, due to the wedding/honeymoon next month :)

  • UPDATE : We did start our new budget and we're off to a good start. I've learned some things over the past couple of months... it's almost impossible to budget for everything (which is why it's important to have an emergency savings to fall back on when life's little bumps come up) and don't be too hard on myself (I wanted to be perfect, right from the start, but it's like learning to ride a bike or play a new sport - you're gonna fall down sometimes!).

  • Reach back out to CC companies to request lowering my interest rates. I've done this once before but I was not successful. I'm determined to try again though. Since one of the accounts is closed, I probably won't have luck with that one, but the other one should hopefully lower the rate some.

  • UPDATE : I did this and was unsuccessful. One company told me my rate was frozen, as is, until the card is paid off and the other said they no longer lower rates for customers. I'm not giving up all hope though. I'll plan to call back in the new year and see if I get the same answers. Determination, that's where it's at!
  • Relax and enjoy my wedding and honeymoon! Sometimes it's hard for me to relax and live in the moment. I really want to be able to do this. It's the first tropical getaway that my soon-to-be husband and I have had in a while and I'd really like to make the most of it. Especially since we may not get a vacation like this for a long while!

  • UPDATE : I definitely did this :) We had a wonderfully simple wedding and honeymoon. It was perfect for us.

  • Stick to my current way of eating, on Atkins, and continue to lose weight. This has been a great way of eating for me. I'm trying to avoid calling it a "diet", since it's more about a way of life. I've lost weight (20lbs in just under 2 months), my clothes are looser and I feel great! I want to remember how I feel now and make sure I continue on this path.

  • UPDATE : Well... let's just say we weren't as committed after the honeymoon, as we were before! We're both feeling a bit sluggish now though and plan to recommit in the new year. It's great having a partner that you can share these things with, who is by your side to succeed as well.

  • Finish reading a book! I'm in the middle of "Too Fat to Fish" by Artie Lange and I'd like to finish it and move on to something fiction. I love Artie, but it's been a slow read for some reason and I just need to get it done!

  • UPDATE : I did finish reading a book! Not the one I mentioned above, but another one that I took with us on our honeymoon. I'm going to put this one back on my goal list for 2011.
  • Request a promotion! This will be a challenge for me. I motivate friends and colleagues to go after what they deserve all the time... but when it comes to pushing myself to do the same thing, it's a different story. I think it's time though. I've proven myself in my current position and I am ready to take the next step.

  • UPDATE : I did request a promotion and now it's a waiting game to see if I got it or not. I'll probably find out for sure by February. I'll keep ya posted!
  • Update my resume. Ha, this is kind of funny, considering my goal above. I should do it though. I don't do a great job of selling myself and my vast skill set. I need to sit down and take the time to write up a better resume. Hopefully if the goal above is successful, I won't need to send it out - but just in case, I'll have it ready.

  • UPDATE : I've started to update my resume. It's a work in progress right now. I'm hoping the promotion will come through and I won't have to worry about finishing it, but if it doesn't, I will definitely finish it up and start a job search in the new year.
So, that's it for my goals for the next few months. I'll try to get in a routine of updating my progress periodically. Hopefully this blog will help hold me accountable and I will be successful in achieving these goals!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Reading Debt Blogs!

I'll admit it... I've become a bit obsessed - with reading debt blogs! Debt is something that is on my mind multiple times a day. I'm anxious to get my new plan/budget going, but I'm holding off until after the wedding. Which is in 17 days, by the way :) Come on, 10-10-10!

So, it looks like the official new budget will start in November. In the meantime, I've been reading blogs and working on the budget through 2011. I found a great list of debt blogs to read and I plan to work my way through them, one by one. Like a boxer before a fight, I want to get myself pumped up, mentally, to take on this challenge!

One that caught my attention mentioned a $100-A-Day-Rule, to prevent impulse buying. Basically, for every $100 that a new item costs, you must wait one day before making the purchase. You can read about the concept in more detail by clicking on the link above.

I really like this idea! Although my new budget doesn't have much wiggle room (read: none, really) for any random $100 purchases, I know it could come up and I plan to implement this new rule.

Good Idea : Implement $100-A-Day-Rule

Question : Do you currently do this? If so, how is it working. If not, do you think you could do this?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Where things stand!

So, I've been dying to get back on here with an update of where things stand. Here it is:

Credit Card #1

$19,624.15 - But honestly, this one is in flux... Due to the upcoming nuptials, this balance may actually increase a bit. I am literally cringing as I write it, but I want to be truthful. I'm still putting a couple of things on it, so that we can have some flexibility while on our honeymoon.

Credit Card #2

$19,063.37 - This one is not going to increase. Stupid Chase! Actually, I take that back. It's probably in my best interest that this one won't increase. Technically, this account is "closed". Not sure exactly what that means or how it will effect my credit score. (My apologies if I should have used affect instead, I still get those confused!) Anyway, the story with this one is that I was waiting on a large deposit to clear my bank before paying my card one month. I had the minimum payment in the checking account already, but wanted to be good and pay extra. So, instead of paying early, as I normally due, I waited until a few days before it was due and until the deposit hit the checking account. I then made a large payment to Chase and patted myself on the back for doing so.

Unfortunately, a few days later I got an email from Chase that my payment didn't clear and they were charging me a fee for the "missed payment" and for the item not clearing! Then I got an email from my bank as well, letting me know that they were charging me a fee for overdrawing the account! Aggghhh, I was so angry. I chastised myself for not just making the minimum payment earlier, since I had it in my account. Turns out that the bank places holds on large checks for several days. It looked as though it had cleared online, but actually hadn't. Oh well. Lesson learned, I thought. Turns out that Chase took that opportunity to jack up my interest rates to double what they were! I had been a card holder for about 15 years by then, without a single late or missed payment. I called to complain but they said it was their right since I "missed" a payment. The only option they gave me was to "close" out my account and retain the current interest rates while I paid it off. I selected that option and I really look forward to paying this off and being done with Chase.

Car Loan

$21,868.20 - This is a new one to join the club! As you may have read in a previous post, I recently bought a new car. For the first time in my life! I've never really had a car payment, besides $50 a week when I was a teen for a couple of months. Otherwise, it's been used cars, bought in cash - all the way. I have to admit that I'm loving my new car! It fits me. I know I won't be loving 60 months of car payments, but it was a necessary evil.

Grand Total (drum roll, please)... $60,555.72

All I can say is, "Wow".

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

5 Year Plan

Okay... so I'm really anxious to get started on my official "get out of debt plan"! Before this weekend, I was toying with a pretty tight, but good, 3 year plan. Then, after getting the new car and engaged, it's now going to have to be pushed out to 5 years. As much as I don't like it, that's more realistic at this point and will give us a little more breathing room. Unless of course, I win the lottery. Which, I know some people don't like, but I do play! Someone has to win, right?!? Why can't it be me? :)

Luckily we'll probably plan a fairly inexpensive and simple wedding/elopement. We've both been married before and live across the country from our family and most of our friends, so this is the option that we are leaning towards. We both have fun in Vegas, so we're thinking of a quick elopement there. Not sure yet about a honeymoon. Wish we had a little more saved up so we could plan something nice, but it looks like that may have to wait...

This plan is important to me because I need to wrap my brain around how I'm going to get out of this situation. Dealing with debt is like a having huge weight on your shoulders. It's on my mind daily, often hourly, and it's mentally draining. Sometimes when I think about it all, I get really overwhelmed. It can feel as though you are drowning, in a way. Breaking it down into doable monthly payments, where there is at least a rough end date identified, helps me immensely. That's why I'm excited to get it all down on paper, to start the process and kind of in a way, to begin the healing.

It figures...

So, no joke - moments after I publish my first post and I start feeling proud of myself that I am making some progress and on the way to financial freedom... a co-worker enters my office and sweetly asks me to check out a catalog of gift items for a fundraiser at her child's school. Aghhhhh! Of course, I smiled and enthusiastically said, "Yes, I'd love to!" What I was thinking in my head was more like: "No effin' way! Did you know that I am about $60K in debt?!?" or "I don't even have kids, what gives you the idea that I'd want to fund your kid's school?" or "Are you kidding, you make way more than me! There's no way I can afford anything in there." But no, instead I took a look through the "catalog of crap" (as I fondly refer to them as) and prayed that the selection would be more than just a bunch of cheap chocolates and lousy holiday wrapping paper. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they now offer magazines! Not that I need a subscription to any, but my fiance loves to peruse Entertainment Weekly while in the bathroom (I know... TMI!). So, I spent $20 and I ordered a subscription for him. Hopefully it will start around the holiday and I can chalk that up to a gift for him.

As I begin this journey and come across situations like that (as I'm sure there will be more), I'm going to try to find a gem of wisdom to learn from. I figure this path won't be easy and I'll have to be prepared to handle these situations as they arise.

Lesson Learned : Although it may not be comfortable, come up with a nice way to decline when asked to donate money or purchase items that are not needed. (Preferably without having to share my financial situation.) Make it my "go to" phrase when those situations arise. Learn how to kindly, but comfortably say "No".

Question : What is your "go to" phrase when asked to spend money that you really shouldn't?

Time To Change

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

And so the journey begins!

I've been thinking about blogging for a while. Unfortunately, I couldn't come up with the topic I wanted to discuss. After finding the "Blogging Away Debt" page (which is great by the way!), I knew what my topic of choice would be... debt. I've got way too much of it and need a plan to get out of it! Being a bit OCD (self-diagnosed, of course), I thought that this would be a great way for me to come up with the grand rescue plan, actually write it all down and face the cold hard truth - that it's time for a change! (Why is it that the "Time to Change" song from the Brady Bunch just came in my head?)

Anyway, let me introduce myself :) My name is Steph. I debated using a fake name, to maintain my confidentiality and keep the mystery alive, but a) it's only my first name b) I'm an honest person at heart and c) I'd like to be open and keep this blog truthful to the core! So, more about me... I'm in my mid 30's, live in sunny California, recently got engaged (as in this past weekend), and have a good job in Management.

Okay, here's the juicy stuff... I am somewhere between (drum roll, please) $38-40K in credit card debt and after having to buy a new car this past weekend, add another $21,868.20. The car was a necessity, as the old one had over 302K miles on it and was not likely to last much longer, even after repairs. Sure, I could have tried to get something used or less expensive, however I have no savings and nothing for a down payment. With these options, I did what I thought was appropriate and went with the new car at .9% financing. I did lots of research beforehand and overall, felt that I got an okay deal on a car with a good reputation of quality. As far as the cc debt, I've put that range down because I have a few things waiting to post. I'd like to take my new statements as they come in and log those amounts down for better accuracy. So the final number is yet to be tallied!

I'm hoping this blog will help keep me honest and give motivation to others in a similar situation. Please feel free to ask questions and post your thoughts and feedback along the way. I know the situation I'm in and I'm not looking for guilt trips or lectures. I hope you'll join me on this journey and maybe start your own blog. Support is welcomed and appreciated as I buckle down and try to dig myself out of this mess!