Saturday, May 18, 2013

Loaning Money through Lending Club!

My, how times have changed! I remember a few years back when I was contemplating different quick fixes to get out of debt. There were a few options I looked into at the time. One was a Discover Personal Loan. Another was a loan through Lending Club. After doing tons of reading, something hit me... getting more loans to get myself out of debt wasn't really fixing the problem.

I needed to change my ways and learn how to not spend more than I earn. Duh!

It took some time, some ups and downs, but I did it! We're now in a much better position financially. (Believe me, we're not rolling in dough or anything, but we're not drowning either - which is a very nice feeling.)

My hubby and I each get an allowance. I tend to use mine for a massage or a new outfit. He just started using his to invest in Lending Club. He loves the idea of helping people and also having the opportunity to earn a large interest rate. There is a bit of a gamble there, but he enjoys taking the risk and investing his extra spending money that way. Whatever rocks his boat!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Extra Money for Retirement!

As you may know, I started a new job recently. I knew that the company matched 4% towards a 401K plan, if you put in 8%. So, I decided to contribute 8% so I could get the full company match.

Well... imagine my surprise when I noticed they were actually contributing a full 8% into my retirement account!

I thought it may be a mistake and waited until it happened again on my second paycheck, then I looked through all of my new hire paperwork and benefits information I was given and this wonderful extra payment isn't mentioned anywhere. Then I phoned our benefits department and got some more information.

It turns out that the company used to have a pension for employees and since they no longer offer that for new hires, they offer an additional 4% match which goes into the 401K plan. This was great news and a benefit that should have been mentioned somewhere as an extra recruiting perk that would have helped seal the deal.

So now instead of just 12% going in, I have a full 16% which brings me close to maxing out. I'll be fully vested in these employer contributions in 3 years. Just another incentive to stick around there at least 3 years  :-)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Our New Plan!

I think it's important to have a plan.

We look at our plan from time to time and tweak it as needed. We've done this quite a bit since we started on our debt repayment journey, about 2.5 years ago now.

We've had some recent changes in our lives that made us decide to re-evaluate our plan... we finished paying off our credit card debt, bought a new car, and I started a new job which gave me a sign-on bonus. Our previous thoughts were to use the sign-on bonus to pay for the new car, then budget about 1k per month to have it paid off in full within a few months. We also planned on taking a few vacations this year, while saving up for a house.

Well, the new job has some uncertainties that make us feel a bit uneasy. There is talk of furloughs, layoffs and restructuring. Without having a safety net (aka - a good sized savings account) to fall back on if these things happen, my husband suggested we hold off on paying off the car and save the sign-on bonus instead.

I had a hard time seeing how this would be a good idea at first because whatever savings account we put the money into we would not get interest higher than we were paying for the car. After being focused on reducing or eliminating our interest payments for so long, I couldn't imagine willingly paying interest on something. Plus, when we got the car, we planned on it being paid off fast, so we didn't haggle for a super low rate. The dealership gave us 5.49%. They said this was the best they could offer since we were taking advantage of some other discounts they were having. We figured over the course of a few months, our interest payments really wouldn't add up to too much. But, if our plan was to now save the bonus and pay the car off slowly, then those interest payments would surely add up fast!

I knew that the only way I could get on board with slowly paying off the car, would be if we could get the interest rate lowered. Well my new company has a credit union which offers a much lower rate, 1.69% if you have an account with them. I decided to apply for the loan and was approved. This helped me get on board with the change in plan and to reduce our payments a bit.

So, we now have two car payments (gulp), but they are doable. We also now have a savings account. We have decided to reconsider the trips we we thinking of taking later this year. We want to be smart and be prepared in the event that something bad happens at work. This is progress for us. This is especially progress for my hubby. He's a guy that lives in the moment and figures "it will all work out somehow." For him to be the one pushing for us to have a safety net and be thinking of the "what if's" says a lot.

My, how far we've come!

Friday, March 29, 2013

No More Credit Card Debt!

This is how pumped up I feel right now!

I made the final payment to our no interest credit card today, since that expires in April. It felt A.M.A.Z.I.N.G! I can not believe we have no more credit card debt. Any charges we make are now paid in full each month. It's a great feeling.

I actually enjoy paying in cash more than charging stuff but since we get miles, we kind of enjoy going on free flights, so we find ourselves charging our gas and miscellaneous expenses and then just paying it off in full each month. It's sometimes scary to charge, thinking we may slip back in to a bad place, but we haven't. We have willpower, focus and commitment now. We didn't have those things a few years ago. My, what progress we've made!

Yes, we still have a car loan. Two to be accurate. I'll update more on those at a later time. We also have a savings account now. I still need to post the balance on here so I can visually see it growing and use that as motivation. I know I'm lacking with my updates, but I did want to get on here and let you guys know this big one! Today is a good day : )

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

We Bought a New Car!

So... the hubby and I bought another car this weekend! We were so torn on leasing vs. buying used vs. buying new and by the time we did all our research and everything, we decided to go with a new car.

There was a used car that the hubby liked, but the sticker price at Carmax was $16,998. For those of you who don't know, Carmax doesn't negotiate the price of their cars, so that was what we'd have to pay. It was a 2012 with over 30,000 miles on it. I did a little looking around online and found that we could get a 2013, for less than that price. The models may have been slightly different, but we didn't notice.

We went with a Ford for the first time because we've read great reviews lately and the mileage is terrific. Because it was President's Day Weekend and there were tons of sales and rebates, we ended up getting the car for $15,300ish! Not bad given the sticker price was almost $21,000! We felt pretty good about the purchase.

We would have loved to pay cash but weren't in the place to do so, so we have a self-imposed aggressive payment schedule and plan to pay it off in August. I need to update some of the side bars to reflect our new bills and savings goals.

As an added perk, the car has Sirius radio, which I really wanted for some long work trips I'll have in the near future, so I'm excited. It's free for a while, so we'll take full advantage of that. For those of you who don't know, I love Howard Stern and have been going through withdrawals for the last few years, so it was nice to hear his voice on the drive in this morning.

Hope you're all having a good week and if you went car shopping (as it seems many people did!) that you got a great deal too. Enjoy the week!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

I got a new job!

2013  is proving to be a good year so far!

I got a new job! I'm super excited about it too. With the exception of a longer commute (part of the week), I think I'm going to love almost everything about this new job. It's closer to home (when I'm working in town), it pays a little more, has a couple more days of vacation, every other Friday off, more 401k match and definitely more challenges and opportunities for growth!

I start my new job in 2 weeks and I can't wait!

Although I'm very excited, I'm also nervous (I suffer from a small, self-diagnosed case of "social anxiety") and there is also a bit of stress associated with us needing another car. Right now we are in the midst of figuring out exactly how we're going to do that.

We've been a "one-car couple" for years now and we've been able to make it work. This new job requires me to drive up to LA a couple of times per week which I'll need another car to do. I debated just getting a rental car for those days but unfortunately I'll also need one when I'm at the office close to home as there are many buildings that I'll need to drive between. Also, since I will have every other Friday off, I need to work longer hours which don't quite match up with my hubby's work schedule.

I'm okay with the car idea and actually negotiated a sign on bonus which will help us a bit with the costs (yay me!), and the hubby is excited because he'll finally have a bit of independence. What freaks us out a bit are all the options. New car, used car, and leasing!?!

We know that buying a new car is kind of a silly thing to do. The costs are so high and we're still paying down the one we bought in 2010. A used car is a good idea but since we don't want to get a lemon, it seems as though we should buy a "certified used" one so that it at least has a warranty. We are both not mechanically inclined, plus we don't have a trusted auto repair person. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem as though the costs between a certified used car and a new car are that far apart. I've heard that the used car market prices are up right now for some reason. Lastly, all of my life, I've been told how bad leasing a car is. You own nothing at the end of it, so why bother?

On the other hand, I've done my research and a leased car may be our best option. The hubby isn't the type to want to keep a car for 5-10 years. He loves new, bright, shiney things. I've done the math and if I were to bank the whole sign on bonus, I may be able to lease a car for the hubby for 2-3 years and have it completely covered. Minus the cost of gas, but that's okay.

We go back and forth on the topic. We found some pretty good lease deals and think they may even get lower next weekend when they have their President's Day sales. I keep telling myself that this may be the way to go but I'm really not sure. I want to make the decision that is right for us, but since I don't have a ton of experience in this area, I'm definitely open to suggestions!

Question? : Have you leased a car before? What are your thoughts on it? Any advice? Would you do it again?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

2013 Goals

My goals for 2013 are as follows... 

 -Write more! Whether that be in this blog or somewhere else, I just really want to get my words out. My hubby gave me a great present for Christmas to jump start the writer in me and I plan to use it shortly.  I also started another blog to track my fitness journey. It's called "A P90X Woman". Please check it out if you're interested in seeing how that goes.

 -Complete P90X. We started our P90X challenge on January 1st and we are scheduled to end it on March 31st. As I stated above, I even started a new blog to document this journey. I am hopeful that it will keep us on track with our exercising and eating healthy, just like this blog did with our finances.

 -Learn Spanish. The hubby and I love vacationing in Mexico and have grand visions of possibly moving there someday down the road. I am a firm believer that you should be educated in the language of whichever country you plan to spend a good amount of time in and therefore, learning Spanish is a goal for me. Not to mention, that several jobs I've looked into here in CA have required the person to be bilingual. This would open more doors on the job front in the future.

 -Take more pictures. I bought a camera this past year and would love to actually use it more! There is a photo a day challenge for each month that gives you ideas of things to shoot. I have been wanting to do it for a while now and just haven't gotten around to it. I would like to do so this year!

-Pay off our final credit card. Our zero interest credit card expires at the end of April and I don't want to WILL NOT get stuck paying interest on it. Therefore, it will be paid off before the deadline. I am targeting around my birthday in March. A nice, little present to give myself :)

 -Save money for a house/condo. Although we have a hard time making up our minds about buying a house or condo, relocating or staying put, etc., we know that having a hefty savings account will be crucial to whichever decision we make. Although numbers may change after we get our new paychecks for 2013, we are targeting saving around $20K this year.

-Take a minimum of two trips this year. I plan to attend my niece's graduation in May in New England, so that's one trip. The hubby and I are anxious to get back to Mexico this year, which would be a second. In addition, it looks like we may join my parents on their first trip to Hawaii. It's been on their bucket list for several years and since CA is on the way, they'd like us to join them if possible. I'm hoping at least two of those trips pan out. We will pay for these trips in cash of course!

-Shoot a gun. This has been on our bucket list for a while now and we'd both really like to learn how to shoot a gun. The hubby and I are determined to do it this year!

That's all I'm going to list at this point. I debated pushing for "13 in 2013" but decided to keep it realistic and go for the big ones I'm anxious to achieve. Here's hoping 2013 goes great!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

2012 Goals Update

(One of my favorite pics from our trip to Mexico in 2012)

It's finally time to look back at my 2012 goals and reflect on my progress attempt at progress, while I start to outline my goals for 2013. I'm really excited and looking forward to this new year. I believe it will be my best year yet!

1. Pay off all credit card debt by June 30th! 

Update - PARTIAL SUCCESS! We succeeded in paying off most of our credit card debt this year, with the exception of our zero interest credit card which expires in April 2013. The plan is to pay it off by then. I never want to put another penny towards credit card interest ever again.

2. Save $20K for a down payment on a condo. 

Update - FAIL! This didn't happen. Due to several issues, including discovering that we weren't paying enough in taxes, we ended up changing plans and moving this goal out into the new year. 

3. Buy our first home together.

Update - FAIL! Again, the house buying goal has been moved out a bit.  

4. Succeed in 10-pound weight loss challenge.

Update - SUCCESS! Yes, I so kicked butt in this challenge that Newlyweds on a Budget held. I actually ended up winning a prize, which was an added bonus. Thanks Erika!

5. Indulge in my love for movies more. 

Update - SUCCESS! I have definitely done this in 2012! I actually kept a log of all most of the movies I've seen and it's up around 50. I feel as though I've indulged this passion successfully :) Using the cheap (and sometimes free!) rentals from RedBox, helped make this goal easier to achieve.

6. Blog more often.

Update - FAIL! I had such a great routine going where I was able to get some daily blog time in during the day at work and since that changed, I haven't come up with a new routine that works. 

7. Take a vacation. 

Update - SUCCESS! We got to spend a week in Mexico in 2012. It was glorious! The pic above is one I took while lounging on the beach. I keep it as my desktop pic and it's daily visual reminder of the relaxing trip we had. I can't wait to go back!

8. Finish "What Color is Your Parachute" book. 

Update - FAIL! We moved and this book ended up in storage. 

9. Give yoga a try. 

Update - FAIL! I didn't get around to trying yoga in 2012, but I did already in 2013!

10. Play piano more often. 

Update - PARTIAL SUCCESS! I did play our keyboard a bit before we moved and it got packed up and put in storage.

11. Get on the water! 

Update - FAIL! I didn't get on the water in 2012. Wow, I'm picking up a theme here :(

12. Read 12 books

Update - SUCCESS! I am happy to say that I was able to read 12 books this year, including the Hunger Games and Fifty Shades series. I also found a new author I enjoy, Adele Parks.. I look forward to continuing to read more books in 2013. 

Looking back on this year, I wasn't very successful in the goals I outlined. I'm a firm believer in this quote though - 

I guess some of the goals I thought were important, actually weren't so important to me when it came down it. Hopefully I'll do a better job creating my goals for 2013!

Thursday, January 3, 2013


Happy New Year!

I can't believe that 2013 is here already! I have written so many draft posts that I never got around to editing and posting in 2012. That makes me sad. I love writing so much and really enjoy the outlet of having a blog. I hope I can spend more time writing in 2013.

So, there have been some changes on the home-front for us here. We are moving (AGAIN) at the end of this month. We have finally outgrown the tiny pool house we are currently renting and need/want to expand a bit.

We found a lovely 2 bedroom, 2 bath unit in a former condo complex that was turned into apartment units. It has everything on our wishlist:

- Close to work
- More square feet
- 2 bedrooms
- 2 baths
- Washer and dryer in the unit! (This alone is worth hundreds extra per month - honestly! No more lugging our laundry to the nearest laundromat. Sweet! I can't wait.) 
- Fireplace (I have ALWAYS wanted one. I know I may not use it often, but just the thought of having one puts a smile on my face.) 
- Large master tub (I am a bath girl through and through - love them!) 
- Top floor location. (Being so sensitive to sound, this is a priority to me.) 
- A full kitchen! (I know this one sounds funny but our current place only has a fridge, sink and hot plate set up. We miss a stove and dishwasher! This was hard during the holidays when I wanted to cook some nice meals for us.) 

All of these luxuries come with a larger price tag though. I'll be honest that I'm not super comfortable spending more on rent, but we can afford it and feel that it's time... for our sanity and the longevity of our relationship. Not to mention that the house next door decided to build a skate ramp recently and we get to hear that noise every day and believe me, it's like nails on a chalkboard.

We haven't actually committed to the unit yet. We are trying to hold off until closer to the end of the month so we won't have to overlap rent payments. The complex seems to have a good amount of openings and will hold a unit for you for 2 weeks, so if we put a deposit down around the 15th (my pay day), we will be able to time it up closer to the end of the month. This is a little scary though, since we already gave our 30 day notice! Hopefully it'll all work out.

On the money front, things are going okay. It's really interesting how "our plan" seems like a moving target sometimes. We were hoping to be in a house at the end of 2012, but a quick look at our taxes a few months ago showed us that we needed to change our withholding so we wouldn't end up owing a ton in April. Been there, done that! So, we had a bunch extra sent in for our federal and state taxes and a quick estimate on Turbotax yesterday shows that we'll likely owe only $44 to one and $25 to another! I am very happy with those numbers :-) So, going into 2013, we only have our zero balance credit card to pay off by the end of April and our car payment which is scheduled to go to September 2015. Not too shabby!

The hubby starts contributing to his 401K plan starting this month. His company matches 40% of 6% of his salary, so he's putting in 6%. This, in addition to taxes changing slightly in 2013, will impact our take home amounts slightly. We're anxious to get our first checks to see just how much.

I know I've received requests to do an overview post showing how I paid off so much debt and I plan to get that up here soon. It's one of those that has been in draft format for a very long time, so it shouldn't be too hard to edit and get up here. I also want to post an update of my 2012 goals and my new 2013 ones. Another post that will be coming soon!

For those of you who still check out my blog periodically, thank you! For those who are new, welcome and thanks for checking it out. More to come!