Friday, November 23, 2007

Don't Spoil the Kids!

Last Christmas was crazy. My kids got so many presents, a week after Christmas there were still things in their original boxes unopened. This year I wanted to make sure that didn't happen. I mean, I could have saved close to $100 on each child on the toys they didn't bother to open until they got bored with the others. This year I created a three tiered list for each child.

I took a regular piece of paper and folded it in half. On each half I wrote one name. Under each name I made three sections. In the top section I wrote down items they were likely to get from Santa ;) Under that I wrote gifts they were getting from us. And finally items that would make good stocking stuffers. I limited each section to 3 or 4 items. I probably should have cut it down even more than that. I know they will get items from both sets of grandparents and my ex husband usually sends my oldest a ton of stuff she doesn't need. At first parts of the list were empty. However I still knew about how much I could spend on those items.

Some people may be able to do this without a list, but I am horrible with it. Last Christmas as we were getting things wrapped and set out, I actually saved a couple of toys for my oldest's birthday which was only 3 months away because I knew we had gone overboard. I may still end up doing that again!! That is always another option if you have bought too much.

Tips on a Debt Free Christmas

I have to start this out by saying I have stuck to my word. I will not have ANY debt incurred from this shopping season. I have been using cash for everything. Now some of this may not work for you if you did not plan ahead a little but hopefully some of these tips will help you out.

1. Don't pay full price for anything. The internet is so wonderful. Last week I pulled a coupon off of because I wanted to buy something for my husband. The coupon promised $10 off for any purchase over $50. I was a little skeptical that it would work... all those exceptions and all, but it did work so I saved $10 just by looking online before I went shopping. This got me thinking.... how many other stores offer coupons online? MOST OF THEM!!! I got a 40% off coupon for Hobby Lobby- I was planning to shop there also, and I went on and signed up for their newsletter (knowing I could stop it at any time) and was rewarded with a 10% off coupon for that store as well. I am not suggesting you go to every store you can think of online, but if you know where you are going to be check it out online first and just see what they have to offer.

2. Load up at No, I don't mean buy everything there. I mean load up your shopping cart with what you want to buy for everyone. If you can find items you want, or similar items put them all in the shopping cart and then check the total. Is it in your budget? If not, see what items you can switch out. I did this and it was so great. I knew exactly how much I was going to end up spending. Then I shopped around. For items that did not qualify for free supersaver shipping I checked at my local Walmart (you can use site to store shipping there and get free shipping- plus it ships to the store so you can make sure the kiddies aren't around when you pick it up) This is one way I got some of the best deals. Link to Amazon Black Friday Deals

3. Don't forget tax. I love Amazon because they don't charge tax except from certain shippers. Our tax rate here at home is quite high. We actually went shopping in a nearby state because their tax rate is half of what it is here... plus they have a Toys R Us. We bought a $90 item there that would have cost us between 3-4 dollars more here just in taxes. (and that is just one example obviously we bought more or it wouldn't have been worth the gas) So sometimes we get the biggest break either online or "next door" because of the tax rate in our state.

4. Keep those receipts and don't be afraid to return. Christmas/holiday shopping should be about giving. And, we all know if you are giving what you don't have to give you are hurting your own family or yourself in the long run. I think most people understand when you are trying to get your finances in order they may not get a great gift that year. If you overspend do not be afraid to return things you have purchased. If you are embarrassed you can always make a comment to the cashier like "my mom just bought herself one of these on sale, so I'll have to find her something else".... etc. It doesn't matter just don't go crazy on the spending.

5. Have a good Christmas yourself. Last year I returned over $200 of my own gifts and bought myself things that I wanted. (Granted I had gotten two Nintendo DS's, only needed one of those) Don't let something you won't use sit in the closet. I always give gifts with the stipulation that if the recipient doesn't like it that they please please return it and get something they want... cuz that is what I am going to do...

Okay so maybe that last one isn't a budget tip but it will make you happier!! Especially when you have spent so much of your own hard earned money.

Points to remember- find deals on what you already plan to purchase- shop around- stick to the budget even if it means making returns.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Looking for Reader Input!!!

I have a question that is important to me, but I don't have the answer to it. Where can you safely keep passwords and other information that you may not use often or may forget easily? I try to keep the same user name and password for as much as I can. However some sites don't allow you to use what you normally use. I have also come across sites that make you change your password WAY too frequently. My university was guilty of this. You had to change it monthly and you could NEVER reuse an old one. It really sucked. So, what do you do? I have several online banking accounts. What would happen if something happened to me and this money was forgotten about? I had thought about keeping the info with my life insurance policies that my husband knows the location of, but I keep that in a pick up file box in case we ever need to evacuate for some reason (I can just pick it up and have all of our birth certificates etc) However, I am worried that it could be stolen and with it all of my bank info. We do not have a safe deposit box. Computers crash, so where else could I keep this information. If you have any other ideas I would love to hear them.

Saving money on Dinner

How many times do you forget to pick up enough food for the week at the grocery store and end up ordering out or stopping by a fast food joint for dinner? If you are me? All the time.

Lack of planning can be a huge budget drain in any category, but with groceries it is especially a big deal.

I have found a great site that helps you plan and can help you save money in the long run. It is called Created by Leanne Ely with some prodding from the famous FlyLady, Saving Dinner is a site where you can purchase a weekly emailed menu mailer. There are a ton of choices. You can get low carb (best one in my opinion), heart healthy, the regular menu, crock pot menu, vegetarian menu, it goes on and on. Best of all, on the site you can download samples of any category for free. With that alone you could get a month's worth of free menus. It is well worth the price. For a year it is under $20 and you can try it for only a few months for less than $10.

Now, I don't always use the mailer recipies. See with this deal you get a log in that will take you to all of the menus you have purchased... even when your subscription runs out!!! Totally cool!

Also, she has several freezer meal kits you can buy. THey com with downloadable pages to keep up with what you have eaten, prepare the meals, tips on freezing etc. Plus they all get frozen as "pancakes" which means lots of freezer space left over, and less thawing time. These come with a month full of meals.

All of the meals have grocery lists that come with them. You can mark off items you already have, scratch through those for menus you don't want to try (each item has a number after it that tells what menu it goes with), and then just run off to the store and have a week or month worth of meals!

I do not get any money from this site and I am not affiliated with it at all except that I am a happy customer of several years.... now if I could just make myself do it as often as I used to!!!

The main reason I think it is so great is because you have the planning done for you which saves you time, the recipes are easy to make, and you don't buy extra junk you don't need.

Problems you may find at first- Your bill may be higher at first as you buy some staple items for your kitchen (ie vinagers, cooking wine, spices, etc) But you often get choices on those too so you can choose the less expensive option if necessary. Like I said, sample menus are available online so what have you got to lose?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Look into your crystal ball!

I probably shouldn't even acknowledge it, but I am sorry I haven't been posting... at all! I am sure I have lost a ton of readers. Hopefully my female readers can sympathize somewhat. Starting a new job AND finding out you are having a baby is a BIG change. Anyhow. I am not promising anything but this is an article that has been simmering for a long time so here goes!

There are not many times that you can actually see into the future. However, sometimes with finances you can. So what can you do for motivation, after the month's bills are paid and you are cashless again trying to get your debt paid off? Pull out your old crystal ball. Or just some credit card statements and a calendar. I did this some months back and figured I could be nearly debt free in FIVE years. That sounds crappy but considering I haven't really been paying enough attention to my finances for the past ten years, it really isn't so bad.

I listed all of my debts, how much I owed, what I was paying monthly and for those debts that would end after a certain amount of time I wrote down that date. At first I tried to figure out the plan with a debt snowball, but I actually found that in paying off some of my smaller debts, my larger debts (ex. car) would be paid off around the same time anyway. That may not be the case now, because I won't be able to put as much money toward my debt with the added expense of daycare, but it gave me a light at the end of the tunnel.

Also, when I first did my snowball end date I had not figured my husband's debt into the equation. With his debt paid off and just some of mine we may actually be able to afford a new house!!! That would be awesome.

The point here though is that sometimes you need a little pick me up. If you have a lot of debt look at your smallest debt first. Paying as much as you can, find out how long it will be until it is paid off. Once you pay it off maybe you could even treat yourself to a special purchase with ONE month's worth of that money. After that, though, put it toward you next debt.

I think it is important to look forward to and celebrate these little accomplishments. Personally, I fall into a slump after months of paying on a bill only to see the amount go down slightly. By looking ahead you have something to look forward to. (Even if it is five years, or more, down the line!)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Cash4Books Insurance

If you sell books to Cash4Books and I know some of my readers probably do, you need to know that you can get insurance on your package. My last shippment was stolen by someone at the post office. My box, which was wrapped VERY securely, in fact more securely than my first, was found floating around in Memphis. I got a nice little letter saying that I should be more careful next time and make sure I pack my package along with the label. Uh, DUH! Who would accept an empty box at the post office anyway? Well, I emailed Cash4Books just to let them know what had happened and that I didn't just forget to send the package. They let me know that they have information on their website with the exact postal code to give the cashier if you are told you cannot put insurance on a pre-paid label. Apparently many of thier customers have been told this and it is not true. I will not make any more shippments to them without putting insurance on the package. It is not that expensive and is well worth it if your items are stolen like mine.

Ways to Waste Money

You know I have never really thought of this until today. I mean I know it is a waste, but I had never thought of it as a waste of money.

I am talking about letting food spoil before it is eaten. This week I went shopping and bought things for two new recipes I wanted to try. I also bought some other odds and ends. Well, the bananas I bought are sitting on the counter getting browner and browner (only two left, but still). The meat I bought I just checked and it expired two days ago. I don't know if I can use it or not now. I know those dates are kind of just guidelines but I don't chance it when it comes to our health. Luckily I put the fish in the freezer so it is still okay. However, I am so aggrivated with myself because it was such a waste of food AND money.

So of course I thought well, if I didn't eat that food I obviously ate something else right? And, more important, did that cost me more money? Yes and no. I bought more things for breakfast which is why the bananas did not get eaten. And, especially since I am pregnant I don't really think the cinnamon strusel cake was a good choice over the banana! Also one night my husband didn't want to wait for me to cook so I went to taco bell. The meal I was going to prepare with the now spoiled meat was going to be low fat and low sodium.... oh well. And the reason I say we didn't spend more money every night is because one night a friend came over and he bought pizza so on that night we didn't spend any extra money and I even took some pizza for lunch the next day.

Wow, I just realized that not only are we spending more money but I am really eating poorly.

So how do I fix this? I bought less food last week knowing that a couple of times we would probably do take out. So that was good, but I let the food get ruined. The meat is easy enough. I just needed to put it in the fridge. As for the bananas, one meal I never plan for is breakfast. I need to start doing that too. Actually I need to make a little menu and stick it on the fridge. Since I have been pregnant I haven't wanted to eat anything in the morning. Not morning sickness, just being hormonal I guess. So maybe if I make a menu I will just make myself what is on it. I will try that this week.

If anyone has anymore foodwise money saving tips I would love to hear them! I hate wasting money. Don't you?

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Update. My survey earnings

I haven't talked about my big plans to become rich taking surveys in quite a while. Ok, so I never really expected to get rich, but I thought you might like to know exactly how much I have made. Well since March of this year I have made a grand total of...... 40.50! Wow, I'm rich! No, no I'm not. :) Anyway, while it isn't very much, it was very easy and hey forty bucks is forty bucks. I still do the surveys. In fact part of that total includes a $10 survey I took just a few weeks ago. Would I be willing to take more surveys to increase this total? Probably not. I did say it was easy but it drives my husband crazy when I am sitting on the computer for 20 minutes answering a bunch of silly questions. So I am not planning on joining any more companies. I think the ones I have joined already are some of the best. If you would like to make some cash of your own look on the sidebar and click on Survey companies I use. There you will find the ones I am allowed to tell you about. I am also a member of another group that pays five dollars per survey but I am sworn to secrecy. If you head over to the Volition forums you can probably find the one I am talking about and tips on how to get an invitation.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

What Happened to Pear Budget

I had a really bad mix up last month. Two weeks before the month was over I only had $60 left in my account. I went over things again and again but I couldn’t figure out what happened. I don’t want to just come right out and blame the Pear Budget software I started using this month, but I put in every single thing that I spend and it is still telling me I have money left over. If I go by this that means that on my $60 I should have been able to pay two more weeks of daycare, and two more weeks of gas. Now, gas alone was going to be $80 so something obviously went wrong. Next month I am going to use it again, but I am also going to keep up with my paper budget that was working so well before. I can’t have a screw up like that again. I ended up having to pull close to $200 out of my emergency/crisis plan savings to cover it. That is really not good.

On the up side. I will have an exact total of what I spent on groceries and gas. I have found that there is no way for me to save as much as I was planning each month. I am going to try to do as much as possible but it won’t be near as much as I was hoping for.

Anyway, I still think Pear Budget is a good tool. I am sure somewhere I just messed it up. I will try again next month and see how it turns out.

I would be curious if anyone else has used this program and experienced any problems.

Monday, September 3, 2007

The Grocery Game is Over!

Whew... I will be glad not to have to keep up with those receipts this month. But seriously, I did learn a lot from tracking my spending. So here are all the weeks added up (they may not all be in order but you can click here to see all of the posts together.

$84- This is for the final week that I did not post here. It actually was exactly $84 once all of the extra expenses were taken out.

Total- $331

Now this is way more than I had budgeted for but not as much as I suspected it was. I also did not count the very first spending spree my husband accompanied me on because I know we bought a lot of stuff that was not related to grocery shopping. Plus it came out of his budget and I will continue to shop at least once a month from "his" money. (we don't really keep it seperate, but I do keep it seperate from my own budget)

So what did I learn? Here are some of the best things I learned.

1. Budget more. It will save me a lot of trouble in the long run having to transfer money in and out of my accounts. Plus if I have any extra at the end of the month it can be added to the next month's budget or put away into savings.

2. Buying store brands saves cash. I only tracked it once but the savings from one grocery trip was over $6.00 That was on my usual purchases too. Stuff I buy all the time, so I know I can continue to save that much by buying store brands.

3. Pay attention to how you are feeling before you go. Everyone knows you should not go shopping if you are hungry. HOwever I would like to add a few more. Don't go if you are- with your children and you are not able to say NO a LOT... with your husband/wife if he or she is an impulse buyer (mine is a HUGE impulse buyer).... not feeling well, be it morning sickness or a runny nose, if you don't feel well you will just be wanting to get out of the store.

4. Definitely go with a list. Also, make yourself stick to it. You should only put something in your cart if it is something you really do need and just forgot to add to the list.

5. Keep track of it for a month. It really will open your eyes. Not only do I now budget more to my grocery shopping but I have also added an "other" category for things like shampoo, dog food, etc. THose things that we don't buy every week but somehow they bust the budget every month.

6. Maybe this will only works for me- Shop one week at a time. I used to try to shop for two weeks,but let's face it. If you have two weeks worth of snacks in the house the kids will eat two weeks worth of snacks in a couple of days. I may try buying my meat and baking stuff for two weeks but I will still need to go once a week for snacks and produce.

While I will not be adding weekly updates to the grocery game this month, I will be keeping track and hopefully I can post it at the end of September. If you have any tips of your own please post them. I am sure we can all use some more tips.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

I Have Will Power?

In case you aren't aware, credit cards are the easy way out. Yeah, of course you knew that. But if you haven't completely stopped using yours you can't possibly imagine the amount of will power it takes to KEEP not using them.

My family has recently had some misfortune that in the past would have had me running to the store with my credit card, but not any more. And, my husband is finally jumping on board too. He recently had a little accident with our lcd tv. While he would like to take out a loan and buy a new one, I have convinced him to save for it. So far he has nearly enough money to buy the new one. The best part is we will own it free and clear.... well, except today my daughter threw his cell phone in the bathtub and he had to use some of his "tv money" to replace the phone. But hey, he actually HAD money to buy the phone. In the past I would have listened to him complain about it until I finally broke down and put it on my card. (He does not have any).

What I find funny is how hard it is to not want to take the easy way out. I know how much I hate being in debt and yet when these things happen I really have to stop myself and put it all in perspective.

I guess what I am really trying to say is, if you are on this journey with me, I am really proud of you and you should be really proud of yourself. It is the harder way to do things but your future self will truly be greatful.

By the way I will be back soon with a complete report on this month's grocery challenge!! I have one last receipt to check out and have to put it all together.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

What is a Crisis Plan?

A “crisis plan” is a misleading name. It is not something you would use if your car broke down. That is what your emergency fund is for. I guess it should be called a “crisis aversion plan”. If you know that an event is likely to happen in the near future you would want to put one of these plans into action.

What kind of “events”? Really anything you are not already prepared for. This might include a possible lay off at work, the imminent death of a loved one, or hmmm I don’t know, a surprise pregnancy.

Who needs one? If you already have 3-8 months of your salary saved up then you are in pretty good shape. However, many people are just beginning to repay debt and may have as little as $500-$1000. This is great for an emergency fund but when big things are about to happen it isn’t going to cut it.

How do you implement a plan? This depends on what you are going through. If there is a close estimate of how much money you will need then it is pretty simple. Take the amount of money you need and divide it by the approximate number of months you have to save it. This will give you a rough estimate of how much money you are going to need to save each month. If you can’t possibly save that much it is time to start selling things you don’t use, getting a second job, or cutting back on extra services you may subscribe to. If you have no clue how much money you will need start saving as much as possible. Sounds a little simplistic but you will need it in the long run.

What should be stopped? No more chunks of cash to those credit cards!! It may seem like the best idea is to pay off the cards as quickly as you can instead of saving. This is a bad idea because when the layoff/death/birth happens you will not have any money and will need to use credit to pay for it all. Another no no- any unnecessary spending. Any money that you can put toward savings should go to savings- nothing else. If you are about to have a serious financial situation on your hands… sorry, but you don’t need a manicure. One way I am helping myself do this is by thinking of every dollar spent on something else as something that could have gone to the baby. For example, I got a survey in my email today, I was really tired and didn’t want to do it, but it was paying $2 and I thought, “hey that could buy a couple bottles or a pacifier” and I took the survey. It can be tough but it helps.

What if it turns out that you don’t need the money? Simple! Use it to pay down your debt!!

I hope none of you ever needs one of these plans. I sure never thought I would, but if you do here ya go! If you have any other tips or hints to add please share with us!!

**Curious about why I have a crisis plan? Read the Big News here.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

So sorry!!!!

This was my first week of classes and aparently morning sickness is going to be hitting me at night. Honestly that is fine with me I can be at home relaxing, but unfortunately for this blog it is not so good!!

I am going to really try and get some good posts up this weekend. I am so sorry to my faithful readers. I feel like this blog was just starting to take off and now I can't do it as often as I was. I appreciate all of those who are still reading!!!

If you want to make sure you get all the updates without having to check back as often please subscribe. I think they will only mail you when I post a new one.

Thanks to everyone!!!!!

Saturday, August 18, 2007


Wow, I really need to look at a calendar before I work out my budget from now on. I totally forgot that there were essentially 5 weeks in this month. I was off on daycare, gas, and my grocery budget. I am actually having to tap into the emergency fund this month which sucks.

Okay, so on to groceries. I have a cold or bad allergies today so I didn't keep up with my store brand savings this week... sorry! My grand total was just below $124 Here is how it broke down.

94.41 was all grocery
29.49 was other expenses. This week it included cold medicine and upholstery cleaner because one of my little darlings spilled milk in my car and neglected to tell me until I got in one morning and almost threw up from the smell.

If nothing else, I guess I can say that I did well on "other" expenses this week. I will be back to post more later!

Friday, August 17, 2007

The "BIG" News...

Well, the big news is, I am stopping all but my very minimum debt payment efforts.

I guess we are in what you would call “crisis” mode.

We have 9 months to save for a baby and all the necessary accessories. Hmmm, maybe now it is becoming a little clearer why I have not been as active on Pic of Wealth lately? Yes, we got the surprising news at the end of July. While it is quite unexpected, we are very excited and I am DETERMINED not to go into debt having or raising another child.

So, what is the plan now? Believe it or not, I am still following Dave Ramsey’s plan. I am just doing so in crisis mode, which means that instead of paying off debt in a big hurry I will be loading up the emergency fund to the maximum possible. Another thing I am doing is saving about $50 a month for other uncommon expenses, like car maintenance, and in this case, maternity clothes and baby furniture.

We already have many of the basics. Our nearly 3 year old daughter still sleeps in her crib, my parents have a twin size bed they want to get rid of, we have a stroller, changing table, bouncer, highchair and swing. As long as it isn’t a boy we have plenty of clothes too. Of course with two girls already my husband is really hoping for a boy. Personally, it doesn’t matter to me. It is already decided anyway, and we should know around Christmas… ugh, Christmas… that ought to be a doozy now!!!

So, now you know the big news. I will be getting much bigger in the next few months. My posts may become a little more tailored to saving for the time being, but I am still paying “slightly” more than the minimums on my credit cards and I am not going to change the amount as the minimums go down. I just won’t be paying off the huge chunks anymore. My tax return which I had planned on really paying it down with will be going straight into savings as well…. Hmmm I should probably start preparing hubby for that.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Carnival of Debt Reduction

Carnival of Debt Reduction should be up at NCN this week. Check it out. I should have a post on there somewhere!!

Edited to say: Wow, I actually made the number two spot!! Cool.. Also, check out the number one post. It looks like a really great idea!!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

An Extra $6 Lost!

Yesterday I posted about my $6.90 savings at the grocery store from buying store brands. Well, today I realized that I had $6 in coupons on my refridgerator. I have no idea why I didn't think about it when my husband said we were out of dog food. I forgot it the last time also. I had one for pull-ups too, which I almost always have because most diapers give you a coupon inside. I am so upset with myself for missing out on yet another opportunity to save some cash!! Oh, well, it isn't like I "lost" the six bucks, I can always use it later.... if I remember!!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Shampoo- The budget wrecker!

Okay, so it isn't really THAT bad, but here is what happened. Last week, in an effort to save money, I bought some store brand shampoo. It was right next to the bottle I usually buy and said "compare to brand x" Now, I use this shampoo and so do both of my daughters. We all have long hair. The first time I washed my hair with the stuff I rinsed it out and couldn't even pull my fingers through it (note I said pull not run) My hair was so tangled it was breaking off. It was really bad. Now think of trying to get two little girls to wash their hair with something that is going to make combing it out impossible. Not happening- So this week we shared the shampoo back and forth from the other bathroom and my husband used the cheap stuff. So this week I bought some more. It was a bit more expensive, but it will work. However I am not too happy that I wasted money trying to get a deal and ended up spending more in the long run. Here is how it breaks down mathematically.... I bought 2 dollar shampoo instead of 4 dollar shampoo. Then I had to go back and buy 4 dollar shampoo. So in trying to save two bucks, I actually wasted two bucks..... not a lot, but it adds up. BONUS: the new shampoo came with two bottles of body wash (samples).

The moral of this story is- don't buy a big bottle of anything you haven't tried even if it is a little cheaper.

Grocery Update- My Budget is inadequate!

My total receipt from the store this week was:

$125.93..... eeek! How much of that was groceries.... not much.

I broke it down like this:

$71.52 was honest too goodness grocery expenditures.
$54.41 was stuff we needed but had not budgeted for at ALL

So what did the 54 consist of? dog food, shampoo, magazines and pull ups for the little one.

I am beginning to realize my budget needs a serious overhaul. I may have to limit my debt payment a bit more so we can afford to eat. Well, not really eat, but obviously shampoo is a necessity (I will go into greater detail with that in a seperate post. Of course the magazines were 9 dollars.... ouch. I thought I was going to get a discount on them but apparently not as much as I thought.

Now, last week I told you I was going to add up the total I got for buying store brand vs. name brand. My total this week was $6.45. I could not believe that!! It would be higher but I bought only two cans of veggies to try out. Next week I will buy more if we like them. The true total is $6.90 because if I consider the extra tax I would have paid on the savings it brings it to an extra 45 cents. Not too shabby in my opinion.

So, the grocery experiment really is going close to what I had planned, the problem is that there are extra expenses that need to be budgeted for. So even though I am spending more than I planned, I am also learning a lot about myself and my finances. I will be posting soon what my action plan will be to deal with this and about the shampoo problem....

Monday, August 6, 2007

10 Ways I’m Saving Myself- One Piece at a Time

I wanted to point out some ways that I have changed my habits and actually saved myself money. Hopefully this will motivate me to continue and be a list you can refer to so you can see where you may be able to cut back in your own life.
  • I said NO to the gym. I have a ton of workout tapes and pieces of equipment at my house. I made a deal with myself that if I actually started a routine and stuck with it for a year I would allow myself to re-enlist at the gym. Well, I have exercised off an on, but the fact that I have trouble finding time to work out tells me I would not go to the gym on a regular basis either. And, when I do work out, I am finally using all that “stuff” I bought.

    PS: if you don’t have a bunch of workout stuff, Denise Austin has a daily workout program on Lifetime TV. Free- if you already subscribe to cable.

  • I got a library card. I am the first one to praise the Cash4Books site for their generous offers to buy my old books, but just think of how much I could have saved if I had checked those books out instead of buying them. Now, I go to the library and check them out. I recently bought a real dud for $15 because the library didn’t have it…. I guess there was a reason for that, lol.

  • I buy generic when possible. I have found that most store brands are just as good as the brand name. I have also seen a few cases where the products are manufactured by the same company. This really only saves me a few cents per product but hey, that adds up!

  • I cut up my credit cards. Finally! Every last one. For a long time I kept them around “just in case”. I thought I was keeping myself from stressing out about emergencies. However, since I got rid of them, I am more at peace because I am not scared that I will use them.

  • I rebuilt my emergency fund. Now I have a backup in place of my credit cards. Having the actual cash is MUCH more relaxing than the though of relying on plastic.

  • I take my lunch to work. I also bring my own sodas/water and keep them in my mini-fridge so I don’t have to spend extra money in vending machines.

  • I give myself a budget. A lot of people hate budgets, but how can you make it through the month or the next two weeks if you don’t at least determine how much you have to spend on gasoline? I am not one of those people who budget for every little thing, but some things are really important. I used to have a budget category called “stupid junk I probably don’t need” I would put $50 in it just so I had some “fun” money. I am trying not to do this now in order to really get my debt paid off, but it just goes to show that you don’t have to have a strict or traditional budget to make it work.

  • I assess wants vs. needs. When you are trying to pay off debt as quickly as possible you have to get rid of unnecessary spending. I have to remind myself that right now what I really WANT is to be debt free. Believe it or not, you can actually buy that (by paying the mess off). In order to get my major want right now, I really have to curb other spending. I got a Nintendo Wii as a gift and I really WANT some more games, but I can’t afford that right now. However sometimes I have to convince myself that things like groceries are needs and I can’t put that extra money toward my debt this month.

  • I continue to educate myself. I am reading other blogs on finance and reading books that others say have helped them. It doesn’t seem like an important step, but it really is. If you are here you probably already know that. The biggest thing I have learned is there is not a magic pill or quick and easy step. Getting out of debt and building wealth are tough work. In the age of broadband connections and 24 hour stores we are used to getting things quickly. Wealth comes slowly.

  • I blog about it. Duh, right? But, it is helping me. I write (or type) out my plans and it helps me stick to them. I read about what others are doing and it motivates me. If you don’t want to start a blog, at least start a journal.

Wow! I actually made it to ten. Hopefully something here will motivate you in your own goals. If nothing else, just remember there are others out there going through the same thing!! I’m with ya!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Grocery Update- A good week?

Well, this week's grand total $80 and some change. Not bad considering last week's total. Also, there were a few purchases that were NOT groceries but we needed like shampoo, etc. That should have really come out of my envelope budget but that hasn't really gotten off the ground yet. I bought a lot of store brand, in fact I bought everything store brand that I could. Next week I plan to add up all of the small savings from buying that way and see exactly how much it adds up to.

If nothing else, I am finding out this month that my budget is a little off. We just cannot feed our family on the amount that I usually budget. At the same time, I also realize that we spend way to much when we go as a family, without a plan, or when we are tired or hungry. It was really hard to get out of the house by myself this weekend, but I figure it saved us AT LEAST $50. So far here is an estimated rundown of what we have spent in my little experiment:

Trial Run- $50
First real week (but out of husband's budget not mine, with entire family)- $200
Second week ( by MYSELF) -$80

Still Here!!

I am very sorry I have not updated in a while. We have been having some issues with our router. I will have a new article for you tomorrow. Also, look for some BIG news coming in the next couple weeks!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

End Of July Report

End of July report

This month again, did not use my credit cards!!!!! YEA! Now I can’t because I cut them all up. I had to dip into the emergency fund just a little due to lack of planning (not emergencies) so it is at about $650 right now.

In the end of June report I talked about setting up a notebook that I was going to try out and see how it worked. It actually worked very very well. I also liked the fact that I didn’t have to load up MS Money just to check my balances. Here is a quick rundown of how I did it:

I used an entire sheet in my notebook and separated it into several spending categories. Groceries, gas, daycare, lunch, etc. I left space under each heading maybe 10 lines or so. Under the heading I wrote the amount I had to spend in that category. Every time I spent from one category I would subtract the amount. Normally I would wait a few days until I had 4 or 5 receipts. As I got toward the end of the month the only categories that were left were daycare and gas. So I was able to stop tracking because I remembered what was in each. Daycare is really easy because it is always the same and I have the exact amount allocated to it.

I really liked this system and don’t know why I never thought of it before. For me it is easier than the MS Money budget. I am going to keep it from month to month so I have the same categories each month. Another thing I did was write down all the bills I pay each month that do not change in price. I wrote them all and added up the total cost, so I don’t have to do that every month. I am also keeping it in the notebook.

Things to do this month. Paid Twice had a really good idea about putting money toward your debt all month AS you get it. I am going to try that. I am considering doing several things to pay toward my debt. I have some ETF’s that are not tied to any retirement account so I think I may cash those in even though it is not the greatest time to be doing that. I wish I had done that about a week ago! There are also some things I could sell around the house. Our newspaper offers free ads for any items that are less than $100. I am continuing to take online surveys, but haven’t been mystery shopping in a while. I may have to start back though.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Wow! Cool Freebie!!

Wow- Freebie

I stumbled upon PearBudget while over at ZenHabits. I downloaded a couple of different budget spreadsheets to try out from different sites. The one I got from PearBudget has me saying, “THIS is free?” Ha, ha, well, I have downloaded it now, so it is mine mine mine! I suggest you do the same before this guy comes to his senses.

Here is what you get:
A start-up guide/page that allows you to enter your own categories. I really like this because pre-made budget spreadsheets often do a lot of assuming.
A year’s worth of spreadsheets. I am going to save a blank copy along with the copy I will actually use so that each year I can start with a blank spreadsheet. For each month you just click the appropriate tab at the bottom.
An analysis page. It will automatically update itself as you enter more information.

Here is what I LOVE about it:
You set your own categories.
Variable expenses have a monthly tracking log. If you spend $50 on groceries on the 15th you just type it in there and it automatically adds it all up and puts it in the program for you.
It tells you how much you save or have left over each month.
Your envelope categories also have their own area under “irregular expenses” You can either use the envelope system and save this much each month, or you can write it in only when you use it.
If you haven’t spend it all of the money in a category it tells you how much you have left for the month. Kind of like my notebook system without needing a calculator.
You can change the budgeted amount for variable expenses each month on the month page (but not fixed or irregular)
It is FREE!

What I don’t like:
I didn’t find it sooner.
I will have to load the program to track my expenses, but it does come up faster than MS Money.
It is somewhat limited in how many items you can enter. I had plenty of room but some might not.
It took me a while to figure out where to enter income (Column M, also by the exact day you deposit it, which is cool if you have a garage sale, get several checks per month, etc.)
I also noticed after playing around some more that whatever you enter for your fixed expenses, it automatically calculates. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you enter the amount or not, it figures in your original input. This kind of scared me because I thought all my money was gone before I was finished spending. Not really a problem once you understand it.

As you can tell, I am a big fan, and I haven’t even used it for a real month yet. The reason I like it is because it is my exact notebook system on my computer. I also get the added bonus of an analysis of my spending. I suggest you at least check out the webpage because it really is a great tool!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

This week's carnivals

Carnival of Personal Finance- This link is working now. I was sent the wrong one.

Carnival of Debt Reduction

My favorites from the C of DR.

Debt Free Revolution says Credit Cards are Bad Math…. So leave Dave Ramsey alone

When I checked this poll it was almost dead even 74 to 75 in favor of high interest being paid first. My readers do not agree. You will save some money going high rate first, but I tend to agree again with Ramsey on this one… lots of debt snowball posts in this carnival! Check it out at NCN network

Finally, what is the main reason we are trying to pay off debt? Paid Twice says to spend more money! So true! My main motivator is so that we can buy things out right instead of taking out loans for everything. A good tip here if you want to save is to make it automatic. The first thing I did after getting my degree and getting a job was to earmark a nice chunk for retirement. I have never seen it therefore I never spent it, I saved it.


Wow, do you ever have those moments where you just go, DUH?? I had one yesterday. I was looking through the back of Dave Ramsey's TMM book and there were several budget categories with astricks beside them. I figured out that it meant for you to use the envelope system for those. If you are not familiar it is very simple. Get an envelope- write a category on the outside- each month you put money in. If you don't spend that money you leave it in and put in the same amount next month. For example, you don't get your oil changed every month, but if you put away $10 a month in an envelope you will have money for when you do get it changed.

The DUH moment came when I realized that one reason I go over budget is because I don't budget for these "seemingly" small costs, but they add up. DUH, I know. But, I really never put two and two together. I always thought all of that money should be going to my debt. No wonder I have to tap into my emer fund so often. DUH DUH DUH

But, as GI Joe would say, "Now you know, and knowing is half the battle!" Then he always said YO JOE... probably not as appropriate in this post.

Debt Snowball Intensifiers!!

Okay I don't even know if that really is a word, but you get what I mean. I am going to say it again CASH4BOOKS ROCKS!!!

I just put in a new order today and I am getting over $30 for 9 books. That works out to a little over 3 dollars per book. (some are actually worth 6 and one only .50) Tell me how much you charged for your books at your last garage sale? I usually charge 25 to 50 cents. Sometimes I try to get 3-5 bucks for textbooks. But I have NEVER sold thirty dollars worth!

So far my sales to Cash 4 Books have totaled almost exactly $100. The hardest thing about it is finding a box to ship the books in. Here it is step by step on how it works:

1. Gather up old books you don't want. (non-fiction) Hell, if you are trying to pay off your debt you might even gather up some you DO still want. (How bad do you want to be debt free?)
2. Go to the website here and enter the isbn for each book. Do it all at once then highlight the list and copy it just in case.
3. See which books they are or are not buying. If they are not buying one check back in ONE week. They update weekly. If you don't want 50 cents for your copy of Yoga for Dummies take it off your list and try again in a week. I did this with one book and it went from two bucks to five. (they can go down though)
4. Once your list is ready to go check out.
5. Print your packing list and FREE shipping label.
6. Find a box (hardest step I promise)
7. Pack them up (see website's tips) and send them off.

If you choose PayPal for your payment you get a 3percent bonus, but PayPal does take a percentage of the sale (I think 3percent, lol)
I don't miss the books I get rid of and if I do I can always go to the library and check them out- which is what I should have done in the first place.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Objects in the Rear-View Mirror May Appear Poorer than They Are

I passed a woman while driving the other day. She was in a convertible with a beautiful scarf around her head to combat the actions of the wind while she drove with the top down. She was turning into a casino parking garage. My first thought as I passed in my "soccer mom mobile" was, "wow, I'd love to have a car like that, it looks fun." And surprisingly, for the first time EVER, my second thought was, "I bet she's in debt up to her eyeballs like the guy in that commercial." Of course his next phrase is, "Somebody help me."

I began to think what a turn around this was for me. From reading, both on the internet and finance books, I have come to truly understand that you never know what is going on just based on what you see.

Maybe that woman is in debt. Maybe she is married to a very rich man who just buys her whatever she wants. Maybe she saved every penny for that car (while taking care of all of her other financial responsibilities) and is now enjoying the fruits of her hard labor. It really doesn't matter what her situation is, it shouldn't have any bearing on MY life.

What it made me realize is that for ME in MY situation, I could not afford a car like that and still meet my other financial goals. For that reason, I am fine with my "van" (it isn't a van but my husband and his friends call it one to tease me) More than that I realized that I have finally gotten my priorities straight. Now when I see someone with expensive clothes and accessories, I imagine what her credit card balance must be- always higher than mine of course. And in all actuality, it probably is.

Friday, July 27, 2007

More on Groceries

Let’s see. Do I really have to count today as the first week of my “new” way of grocery shopping? Yes, I guess I do. And, how did I do? TERRIBLE! First, I took my husband and kids with me. MISTAKE NUMBER ONE! I also bought a few items that were not grocery but we needed, like diapers for the baby. However, I also bought some things that we did not need at all. Add in to that my daughter begging for junk food, my husband saying yes most of the time and well, we spent just under $200. However we definitely bought more than a week worth of food. So when I go back next time, BY MYSELF, I think it will be much much better. Let’s hope!

Funny, when I posted my last post on groceries, Trent at the Simple Dollar and JD at Get Rich Slowly both had grocery articles up too. Here they are because they were both really good and related. Trent’s article JD’s article I have deemed August “Grocery Savings Month” because, well, I want to. I will try to keep everyone updated on MY progress. Please share your own tips too!

Sorry if the updates are a bit slow this month. I will be starting back to school ( and have actually been working the last two weeks ). The first few weeks of school are always hectic and library is a new position for me. If you don’t want to miss any updates you may want to subscribe so you will be notified by email. Thanks!!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Grocery Update!

I don't start the "real" experiment until next week, but I tried it out Sunday and it went pretty well! In total I spent $50.50 for a week's worth of groceries. Here are some of the things I did:

  • I went through our pantry and decided what we already had that could be used for meals.

  • I wrote down all of the meals so I would have a list to refer to.

  • At the store I bought only store brands where possible.

  • I actually did make a few impulse purchases, but they still didn't break the bank.

One thing I could have done differently was to buy store brand cookies instead of the lunch variety pack. I didn't think of it until I was out of the store and YES that was one of my impulse purchases. I could have saved $3 if I had gone with the store brand.

Now the only problem is getting myself to cook the food :)

Next time I go shopping I plan to look at the cost of making my daughter's lunch versus having her buy it at school. Last year the cost was $1.50 a day. I think it may be more now. I have to determine how many lunches I can make out of the food I buy then divide that cost by the number of lunches it makes. I will let you know what I come up with. If anyone has already done this I'd love to hear about it.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Did I Ever Tell Ya About the Time I Had My Identity Stolen?

I recently polled readers and asked if any of them had been a victim of identity theft. I got a huge NO. Although some knew someone who had been a victim, they had not been themselves. I am very glad that for most of you identity theft has just been something you have heard of or read about. For me, it became a frightening reality in December of 2003.

I was the victim of a burglary and my purse was stolen. Luckily my debit card was in my possession, but the thief did get a credit card (which looked like a debit card) , a full book of checks, my driver’s license, and social security card. Let me take a very quick break and say NEVER EVER carry your social security card on your person unless you KNOW you will need it. It is not a necessary piece of identification and it is VERY tedious to get it replaced.

So, what were my first actions? While my husband notified the police (and he is an officer himself), I called my credit card company. I have a card that looks like a debit card because it is issued by my credit union. I had the option of setting up a PIN for it, but never did because I did not want the option of cash advances. When I called the company, the thieves were actually trying to get my card to give them money from an ATM. They had already tried it 30 times in 4 different ATM’s in the hour since it had been stolen. They were pretty smart. They would only go to ATM’s that allowed you to swipe the card so it would not be confiscated. However, the representative told me that it was locked after three unsuccessful attempts. It kind of made me feel good that they were wasting their time.

The next day I called out sick at work and went to the bank as soon as it opened to cancel my checks. Unfortunately, they felt that was not enough since the thieves had so much of my information. I had to close an account I had opened when I was 13 years old and get a new one with a new number, etc.

I thought that was enough. I thought I had done everything I could do to make this nightmare stop, but I was wrong. A few days after I closed the account, I began getting letters from Wal-Mart, and even a call from a lawyer representing a local restaurant asking me to make good on my bad checks. Everyday after that I would open the mailbox to 5 or 6 angry letters. Well, I began to get angry.

The cops had no leads, and I began to think these jerks were going to get away with it. I had gotten a list of the ATM’s that my card was tried at. I started calling banks and asking if I could have them send the security tapes to the police. They said they would only do so if the police requested it. As soon as the bad checks had been processed by my bank I went down and got copies. I can’t tell you how unnerving it is to see your signature in someone else’s handwriting. I broke down in tears in the middle of the bank. Then I got even more angry.

I called Wal-Mart and asked if THEY could pull some security tape. They said YES! I gave them some codes that had been on the back of my checks. They said their security guard would look at the footage and be on the lookout for the people in the video. My husband KNEW the head of their security. He was a reserve officer with the same police department. He looked at the footage and RECOGNIZED the thieves, a male and female, as a couple who frequented the Wal-Mart. Now it was all a waiting game.

On December 24, 2003, Mr. and Mrs. Identity Theft were seen in the store. They went around and shopped for quite a while (actually buying Christmas gifts) When they got to the register, Mrs. IT pulled out my checkbook and used my last check to “try” to purchase the merchandise. When she handed the check to the cashier, my husband’s friend told her she would have to come with him. They were arrested on Christmas EVE! The male was release that night, but the female (the one who had been forging my name) was not released until Christmas afternoon. I told my husband even if they didn’t serve another day in jail THAT had given me the retribution I felt I needed.

Well, the male was not charged in a deal that got my husband his off-duty weapon back (he had stolen that in the burglary also). The female was charged with felony forgery and finished serving her 1 month sentence on my husband’s birthday last year. (she was actually in jail for Christmas again) Had I not been so active in looking for these goons they might have gotten away with it. If you are ever the victim of identity theft here are some tips to help you:

  • Call all credit card companies immediately.

  • Cancel any checks that you are sure they got away with, if you are not sure your bank can help you determine what you should do.

  • Work with law enforcement. Give them any store codes off the back of checks or any information from the ATM’s at which your cards were used. Your bank or credit card company will have this info but they probably will not immediately share it with the police.

  • Also remember the police have other cases that may be more pressing. Normally what will happen is your case will be assigned to an investigator who will get to it when he/she can. The more work you can HELP them do the better. In my case if I had not done it, they would not have been caught because they had run out of checks.

  • If you feel your social security number has been compromised call one of the credit reporting agencies and put a fraud alert on your card. It is an automated process that takes minutes plus they send you a free credit report.

Here are some tips to KEEP you from being a victim in the first place-

  • Carry minimal ID- only your driver’s license if possible.

  • If your state uses social security numbers for DL numbers have them change it (my state still does this and I am going to have it changed when it comes up for renewal again)

  • DO NOT carry your SS card for any reason. You only need it when filling out paperwork after getting a new job or registering for school as far as I know. Take it with you only when you need it.

  • Keep credit cards at home. You shouldn’t be using them anyway, but if you need to only carry them to the store and back home. Hey this tip will even keep you from impulse purchases. Kill two birds with one stone.

I hope none of my readers ever has to deal with this, but if you do, just remember it isn't the end of the world. Consumers have much better protection against this kind of thing now.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

I Finally Did IT!

I cut up my last "emergency" credit card. After reading page 121 in Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover book, I stopped, grabbed my "emergency" card that I almost used yesterday, that has $4000 of debt on it, and I chopped it to bits. I had been reading the book, but something about that section finally spoke to me. I'm done. I have decided to "Live like no one else now so later I can live like no one else" Much thanks to JD at Get Rich Slowly for pointing out what an excellent book this is. Instead of running out and buying it I PATIENTLY waited for the library to get it back in so I could check it out! You know what is funny? I kept that stupid card around thinking it was giving me a sense of security but now I actually feel more secure. Now I can really say NO when my husband wants to buy something we don't NEED, or when a friend asks me to go out and I think... well I'll just put it on my card. I do have ONE thing to say if you are considering doing this... I do have a small emergency fund saved up right now so I have a true "emergency" fund I can use instead of having to charge it.

Wow, I'm really done. Finally done with those stupid cards.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


HERE it is!!!!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Want your own Debt-o-meter?

I am not sure how large this will appear on your computer, but you are welcome to use it for your own site. To see a finished product, scroll down to the bottom of my page. Not very technical, but fun and motivational for sure!

Is a Free Degree Truly Free?

I must say I have been very lucky when it comes to financing for college. I was awarded $20,000 in grants when I first started going to school. I got married while still atteneding and had to take out loans since my income shot up (well, not really MY income but they don't care). My loans totalled a little over $18,000. Now I have the chance to go back and get my Master's for free. That's right, I said FREE. As a teacher/librarian this is the ONLY way for me to increase my income. Teachers have a fixed pay scale in my district. You get a raise for each year of experience and what type of certificate you hold (I have A, Master's would be considered AA) At first glance it seems like I should go for it right now and get it over with. However I am sure there are expenses I am not thinking about that will make it more expensive than I anticipate.

First, there will be the extra gas. The closest campus to where I live is about a half hour drive and that is using the interstate. It is also possible that I might have to take classes as far away as the main campus and hour and a half away.

Next, there is food. I would have take night classes because I have to keep my full time job. This seems like an easy fix, make something and take it but with two kids, work, making food for lunch, I seriously doubt I would have time to do this on a regular basis. And, I can't just stop back by the house on the way to school because that is already a really long drive for me.

I guess what I have to find out is the lowest number of hours I can take and still have it paid for by the Institute of Higher Learning.

So, I am trying to decide if going to school is worth possible having to put my debt repayment plan on hold. Right now I really don't want to do that. But,there is no real way to know how much it will cost me until I am actually there an doing it. I guess this just proves the old saying about nothing truly being free.

I also have to consider the benefits. My income will increase but not until I am completely finished. WHen I was an assistant I got to bring in my transcript after every semester and I got a raise. This doesn't work once you have your bachelor's. So, I guess right now I am just going to wait and see. If you have any more tips on how to minimize expenses while going back to school I would love to hear them!

Carnival of Personal Finance

Located HERE this week at the Mint blog. My article is featured under the tips section.

Carnival of Debt Reduction

Good morning! One of my posts will be featured in the Carnival of Debt Reduction HERE at From the Unknown. There are always a lot of great posts so check it out!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Groceries - Let's go shopping!

I was inspired by this post over at FreeMoneyFinance. I don't know if it is really possible to save $2000 by buying store brands. However, I have noticed that I am hemorrhaging money in the grocery budget area. I know what the problem is. Here are some of our really bad habits:

1. Going to Taco Bell for dinner.
2. Not eating things we buy and actually throwing out food because it has gone bad.
3. Not paying any attention to what we have at home and could add to to create meals at a lower cost.

Whew, I got if off my chest finally! Now granted Taco Bell is probably the cheapest fast food chain around, but there are some weeks where we eat there 3 times a week or more. (not the kids, just my husband and I) The other two are really just being lazy and a lack of planning. Well, I am going to try an experiment for next month and I will let you all know how it goes. First, I am going to plan our meals. At least 5 meals per week. I will also buy some "lazy night" things like hotdogs that we can do on nights when I don't feel like cooking. Also, I am going to try to implement FMF's idea of buying store brand where possible. Finally, I am going to try shopping once a week.

Why I am choosing some of these things:
Well, I used to cook a lot. I don't do it as much because I have just been lazy. It is healthier for me and my family not to be eating all of that over processed junk. I will shop once a week because what I try to do currently is shop for two weeks. This isn't working. I either forget what I had planned to cook and food spoils or I don't buy enough. This causes us to go to Taco Bell or back to the grocery store where more impulse shopping happens etc. Hopefully, if I go with a list once a week with meals already in mind this will work.

As I said I will start trying it in August and we will see! If you have any tips that you think might help, please post them!

We Only Do it Once a Month!! :(

I am the kind of person who likes to make things happen quickly. I have read a lot of articles recently about people needing more discipline or will power to get rid of their debt. And, I am not going to say this is not a key point. But, for someone like me, one of the biggest issues I have is that I am only able to do anything with my "bills" once a month. I am paid monthly obviously, so on the last day of each month (or sometimes a few days into the new month...eek) I sit down and figure everything up, see how much extra I can afford to pay on my debt and then I wait. I wait for another 30 days to do it over again. Don't get me wrong. I am glad that I CAN do this once a month and that my situation is not so bad that I have creditors ringing my phone off the hook. But, it can be so frustrating to see things happen so slowly.

The problem for me is not that it is taking so long to repay debt, I mean hey I did all the shopping! What I hate is that I can't do more. Like something every couple of weeks or so. And, honestly I am trying to do that by finding new ways to supplement my income.

So what is the problem? For me it is that the further I get away from my last payday the less I think about paying the debt and the more I start to think of all those things I want, want, want. And, to be honest, I get bored. That is a major reason for starting this blog. Even if I can't DO anything toward my debt at least I can get my frustrations out about it. I also find it comforting to read others' stories and hear the reassurances that eventually you do get it paid off and can start saving and investing more vigorously.

So, how do you deal with the fact that debt takes so long to repay, or that it is so long between paychecks? (For some of you it may not be) I would love to hear your ideas!!

*** Notice off to the side I have started a poll. Please vote! You don't have to enter any info to do so. I am hoping to use the information for an article somewhere down the road. Thanks!!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

I Opened a CafePress Store!!

This is something I have been wanting to do for a long time. Most of the items I have created kind of relate to this blog, but I have ideas for a lot more. I love to create things so I hope some of you enjoy some of the things I have designed. Jenn's Shoppe

Completely Debt Free in Less than Five Years???

I have been reading the Idiot's Guide to Beating Debt. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Beating Debt, 2E (The Complete Idiot's Guide) I really hate that title. Anyway, it is a pretty good book. My main concern was that it wouldn't really have any new information in it, but it does. Not all of it is so great. After the time I spent on my previous post telling you things to do to avoid spending and their suggestions is "go fly a kite" eh... let's just say they didn't put a lot of time into ALL of the sections of the book.

But, who cares about the book... more about me! :) I was reading the section about setting goals, etc. And I decided to actually prioritize my own goals. I wrote the following-

Pay off all Debt.
Save 3 months worth of salary- roughly 12,000
Start saving for a down payment on a car (you know a new used car... cuz I'll never buy new)

Well, then I started thinking... what is a goal without a plan of action. Heck, businesses do it even for simple stupid things. I should do it for my own financial future. I could not BELIEVE what I found out. My original plan looked like this.

Pay minimums on all debt except for credit card 1. Pay $150 on that card. (yeah, can you believe that is over the minimum, lol)

When card 1 is paid go on to card 2 now paying $310 on the debt.

Move onto car pay $610 per month.

Move onto student loan paying $750 per month.

Then I decided I wanted to know how long it would take. Well, for the first two debts it would take about 3 years. When I started figuring out for the next debt, I got a number higher than what I owed that would be paid after 3 years.... that is because while in the process of paying my first two debts my car will already be paid off.. duh, I only have three more years on it!!!! So all that will be left is my student loan and after the first two, I will have that paid off in 17 months!!!! Now these are very rough figures, but WOW.... I mean my student loan is a TEN year loan... I can have it paid off in less than FIVE???

I was shocked. And, that is without considering that I might have extra money to pay toward my debts at some point in time. I plan to put part of my tax return and extra money from conferences or teaching summer school toward it, so hopefully it will be sooner than 5 years!!

I am excited about the prospect of that. I find it hard to believe that I bought a car for $18000 and it will have taken 6 years when it is finally paid off, but I currently have $40000 and I can do that in 5 years???? Crazy what paying more than the minimum can do!

However you know with all good news something decides to break! Our air conditioner finally went kaput and the best estimate so far is that it will cost $5500 to replace it- however the new unit will reduce our costs for electricity. Supposedly we get $500 from the electric company for switching it out also. I am not really sure what we are going to do. My dad is coming to look at it now and see if he can at least get it running again. My husband's dad may help out a little with the cost. But, my credit card is $1000 away from it's limit so I can't use that. And basically we don't have room for another monthly payment.

Where's an emergency fund when you need one? Oh, yeah, we spent it all on stupid crap. But, not anymore!!!!!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

ATTENTION Shopaholics: Alternatives to Spending While You Are Trying to Save

I decided to make this list as much for myself as for readers. Hopefully when I have the itch to spend I can come back to it and find some ideas of what to do instead. Honestly I was inspired by this article by Trent at The Simple Dollar. He talked about not spending a cent for an entire day. I actually did it the day I read the article. It was neat as I added up- I didn’t stop at the gas station for a bottle of water $2, ate something for lunch that I already had at home instead of fast food at least $5. It has also really helped me think about what I am buying before I just go spend. I decided to come up with some other alternatives to shopping because I know eventually it will get harder.

*Shop your closet. Go through all the stuff you have already bought and make up as many new outfits as you can. Still have something with the tags on? FIND something to pair it with and make it a point to wear it within the next week. This would also be a great time to get some things together for a yard sale!

*Shop your bathroom. Ok, I have to explain. If you are anything like me you probably have a ton of beauty products that you bought, used once and tossed under the cabinet. Go through all your beauty booty and pull out stuff to have a “spa night”. Bath salts, a face mask, bubbles, the works! Treat yourself with products you already have. (This one is geared more toward women I guess)

*Shop your own DVD collection. Again, if you are like most people you have a growing collection of DVD’s. Instead of adding to your collection or going and spending too much at Blockbuster, go through your own collection and pull out an old favorite. Pop some popcorn that you probably have way back in the back of your pantry and make it a movie night!

*Get to those long lost projects. Make yourself a list of little things you have been meaning to get to but never do because you are out SHOPPING for more stuff to do. Knit that sweater, put those pictures in the album or scrapbook, defrag your computer, the possibilities are endless. If you have a list to refer to when you have the urge to spend you will actually get things done. (Personally I use this for cleaning and it really works!)

*Take the kids out. But not to Chuck E Cheese’s! Take the kids out to the park or the beach. It is FREE and you get to have some quality time together. Quality time does NOT have to mean buying them things. Go to the museum or library… which takes me to the next item….

*Go to the library. I don’t know why it took me so long to figure this one out. I AM a librarian (children’s library though). I have spent so much money on finance books. I could have checked them all out at my library and saved myself a ton of cash! In fact I just sold some of the books I bought here and only got $70 for them. I probably paid close to $200 when they were new. I could have had all of that information for FREE!!!

*Have a party. Hey being broke doesn’t have to suck. Get together with a few friends and have everyone make a dish with things they already have at home. They probably have a few bottles of alcohol to contribute too (if you are into that kind of thing). Enjoy each other’s company without paying ridiculous restaurant prices.

*Do a toy swap. Hey this can be for the kids OR the adults. Kids can borrow each other’s toys to have something new to play with and adults can borrow DVD’s or video games (yeah, not those kinds of toys…sheesh) Just be sure you trust the people you are swapping with and DON’T swap anything that would devastate you was it broken, etc.

*Use some of the junk you bought. I don’t know how many times I look at my Nintendo Wii and think, wow, I should really play that. So often we go and shop because we are bored. Meanwhile all of the things we bought while out shopping are sitting in our closet collecting dust. You bought it so USE it or SELL it!

Whew… that is all I can think of for now. Please feel free to add your own ideas. Others will definitely appreciate it. Well, I’m off to “shop my bathroom”. I think I am going to make it a spa night tonight!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Wow, the First Nine Days of July were GREAT!

And now all of my extra money is gone. Um.... I kind of shopped my butt off. I don't know what I was thinking. Ate out twice, bought some dumbells, books for my daughter's trip, magazines for me, and on and on. I actually do have a little extra money because I don't have to pay for two weeks of daycare that I thought I would have to. I also still have my gas budget and my other daycare budget, so I am not OUT of money, just out of my extra money.

I thought this month would be really good because I got a check I had forgotten about and so I had some extra money on top of the extra I budgeted for. Well, I decided to get some new work clothes too and blew $100 on 4 tops. Yup, that is all I got, 4 freakin shirts.

I guess all I can do is promise myself to do better next month. It won't be as easy though. I don't get any more extra money until the end of August. Then I get my raise and some money for conferences I went to. I think I am going to split that evenly between my emergency savings and my credit card.

Hope you are all doing better than me!!

Monday, July 9, 2007

How Truthful are YOU About Debt? The $40,000 Question.

While putting together this week's carnival I saw that Blogging Away Debt had an interesting post about whether or not you should share your financial situation with your family. That is always a big decision for people. One of the readers commented that it depends on if you are doing it to request help, or just so that you can get moral support.

This got me thinking about my own finances. If you had asked me a few days ago how much debt I had, I would have said $4000. Period. That was my debt.

I didn't count my furniture because that is a fixed amount every month. (but it is on a Bassett credit card) I didn't count my student loans because technically that is good debt, right? Plus, I will be paying on that thing for like 10 years, so what can I do about it? And I didn't coun't my car loan because, hey, I could always sell the thing and get "some" of that money back (and I guess pedal my bicycle with my two kids on the back 30 miles to work each morning.)

Maybe it was helping me to only look at one little piece at a time. MAYBE if I had paid off the $4000, I would have turned to the next debt and started paying on it (I actually did plan to do that however....) But, more than likely as I got that 4 grand lower and lower it would have given me more reason to buy something else, or commit to another "monthly" payment for something I don't really need.

So, what is my grand total? My total debt, no more fooling myself, is $41,000. Wow, that is over ten times what I was "telling" myself. Surprising as it seems though, that number doesn't scare me. It pisses me off. Which is a good thing. It has revitalized my debt paying efforts, lol. Now I know for sure the credit card it going to be put away, (I am trying really hard to cut it up, but emergencies???), then on to paying off the furniture, then the car, and finally my student loans.

I added up all of my monthly payments and I am throwing $700 a month at my debt. Imagine how awesome it will be when I am saving that amount each month. That is my goal now. Pay off the debt then save the money!

I have been planning for a while to pay off my car and then keep it as long as I can so I don't have to worry about a car payment for a while. Then this next time I will actually SAVE up for the next car....

So how honest are you? Do you actually know how much debt you have? I had no idea until yesterday. It was truly a wake up call!

***** On the UP SIDE- my debt repayment efforts have RAISED my credit score 14 points in 4 months! Yea!

95th Carnival of Debt Reduction at Picture of Wealth!

Welcome to the 95th Carnival of Debt Reduction! We have some great articles this week on a wide range of topics.

On Debt and Credit Cards…..

Paid Twice has done some serious credit card research. Check out this plan for using 0% interest on balance transfers to your advantage. It is broken down into several scenarios that you may just be contemplating yourself.

Free Money Finance warns us to be leery of debt settlement services. Read here to see why it could actually backfire on your debt reduction efforts.

The Credit Analyst wants you to be careful when applying for store credit cards. Not only can it negatively affect your credit score to open up so many new accounts- those special offers that reel you in may not be so sweet either. Here’s why…

The King of Debt at We’re in Debt paid off $35,000 of credit card debt in ONE year. Granted they had a little luck on their side, but he has some awesome tips than anyone can use to supercharge their debt payment efforts.

Trent at The Simple Dollar takes on saving for retirement vs. repaying debt. Should you do both at the same time? One before the other? This is something I struggle with myself (don’t we all?). Read here to see his ideas.

On Life and Money…..

Stephanie doesn’t want to be rich! And, she has some pretty good reasons why. Maybe reducing debt so that you can live more comfortably (and happily) is a better goal than being able to outspend Bill Gates.

The Happy Rock ponders what role your current relationships are playing in your finances. Do you have friends who simply accept you or friends who encourage you to better yourself? Which is best? Read here and decide for yourself.

Inspired by a reader’s comment, Tricia at Blogging Away Debt explores the question of whether you should tell family members about your debt situation. Her own commentary is very insightful as are her readers’ comments…Check it out!

And on the Business side of things….

Do you have your own business? Maybe just thinking about starting one? Bootstrapper has an interesting article on how to turn $5000 in startup money into $200,000

This week Money Walks has some great tips on how to Maximize Tax Deductions on Travel. He tells you what is and is NOT an acceptable deduction, plus, other tips you might not be aware of.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Supplementing Income Part 3- WOW! So easy!

I was over at volition just surfing around last month and I came across a thread for Cash4Books. A lot of the people said that none of their books were listed but (being a book junkie) I thought I would try some of mine. (you can search by isbn #)The first book was accepted, then the second, third time lucky too! I ended up sending them around 15 old books I had lying around and I got just under $70!!!

I thought okay, yeah it says I will get $70 but when I send them in they will all have "something" wrong and they won't pay me. NOPE! I sent them in with the pre-paid label I printed off my computer and within about a week, they deposited the money into my Paypal account (paypal does charge a small fee on your payment).

Well, I thought maybe I could turn this into a little side business by going to my local thrift store and finding books, checking them on my Blackberry while I was in the store and only getting books that were worth more than what I was paying. Well, I walked into my thrift store only to find that they were going out of business... nice. But I think I will hit up some of the local yard sales. People are always trying to get rid of old textbooks (one of my best sales was for an OLD textbook $20)

A few tips- They only take non-fiction books.

Also, if you don't like the price, check back in a week. Their prices change weekly. I had a Rachel Ray cookbook that they were not even buying the first time I put it in. Then I tried again later and they accepted it. ALso, I had a book that they were going to pay around $1.75 for, when I reentered it a week later to add it to the actual invoice it was worth almost $5!!

You only have one week from the time you submit your order to get the books to them because like I said the prices change weekly.

Try this out and if you have any questions please ask! I would be more than happy to give my experience!

OOPS, ALMOST FORGOT!!! You actually get a BONUS for using Paypal to accept payment. Like 3% I think!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Last Chance!!!

I will be hosting the carnival of Debt Reduction next week. If you have a good article to submit please do so HERE!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

End of June Report

Well I DID IT! I did not use my credit card a single time this month! GO ME! I also paid $500 toward my balance. It kind of sucks because last month I had to shell out $400 for new tires so it kind of just balanced that out. But, at least I didn't add any more expenses this month.

I also finally got a little money in my emergency fund, that way if something (like tires) comes up again I'm covered. And, I just got my bill for car taxes so I will be using some for that.

I am trying something else new as well. I set up a notebook that has all of the amounts I set for certain categories. I don't really have a strict budget but I do allot for gas, day care, etc since I only get paid once a month. In the notebook I wrote down all the amounts and left space so that I can subtract whatever I spend and know how much I have in each specific category. I know it would be easier to have it on the computer but for some reason that wasn't working for me so hopefully this will.

I am also working on a spreadsheet that will allow me to do what I normally do on paper on the computer. Kind of hard to explain, but if I get all the bugs worked out I would be more than happy to share with everyone.

Be sure you check back next week, as I am scheduled to host the Carnival of Debt Reduction!!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Credit Agencies Make Me Sick

Last night I saw another commericial for "" This is where you go to get a "free" credit report. However you have to enroll in their "Triple Advantage" program which means the report is by no means free.

For those of you who don't know, everybody in the US can get a free credit report from all three agencies free once a year. The address for the free report is

Here are some even better tips. You can get your report from all three agencies at once, but usually they will contain the same information. The best thing to do is get one every 4 months. (for example in Jan., May, Sept, then Jan again) This way you can keep track of your report for FREE all year. If you notice anything that seems out of place contact the agency. If they make a change they will report it to the other two.

Sometimes when I get my free credit report I will go ahead and check my score too. This is not free. It can cost anywhere from 4 to 7 dollars from the credit agencies but I like to pay a little more and get a better report. I get that from

The last time I got mine it was around $15. Which is almost double the price above BUT it tells you what you are doing right AND what you are doing wrong. For instance, I had opened too many new accounts in the past year. Now that I know that I will be keeping it to a minimum. I only check my score about once a year.

I hope this information helps someone. I get so mad at those commercials. I feel like they should have to disclose the fact that you REALLY can get one for free. Something you rarely hear about anymore.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Ok, goofy title for a post on this blog. But, on Friday I will be getting my extra check. I am really excited because it means I can finally put some cash in an emergency savings account, which means it will be even easier for me to NOT use my credit card.

So far with less than a week left in June I STILL haven't used it. YEA!!! I plan on putting around $1000 in savings and using the rest to pay down the card. I am also hoping to get around to some more mystery shopping next month so I am hoping that will help too. I have been letting all my mystery shop and survey money just funnel into my savings account. I don't even know what the balance is right now.

Oh, yeah, I may be hosting the Carnival of Debt Reduction soon so keep an eye out!!!!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I am so Proud of Myself!!

For two reasons- the lesser of the two being that I am posting again with less than one month seperating my posts!

The more important reason is because I have not used my credit card ALL month!!! And I really need to, cuz I am really broke. But, I am not going to. And, I have even more reasons not to now, but that is personal :)

Anyway, I am not really sure if I even have any readers, but if I do PLEASE post your own tips for keeping your credit card IN your wallet! I would love to hear some ideas!

I am already starting to come up with some ideas for next month. One of those ideas being to take out cash instead of using my debit card. Yeah, I know DUH- but I absolutely HATE having to go inside the store to pay for gas. I was thinking about opening up a gas credit card account and just paying it in full at the end of the month- BUT- I am trying to improve my credit score so that would kind of defeat the purpose. ANyway- please share your tips. I would love to hear them!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A few good survey companies to sign up with:

Here are a few that I belong to-

Survey Savvy
This one doesn't send as many but they do pay quickly.
This company sends good surveys and pays well for what they ask you to do. Pay quickly.
You earn points which can later be redeemed for cash or prizes.

This is for prizes only, but the prizes are pretty good and this site has sent me the most surveys of all. I am already up to $30 in rewards currency which can be redeemed for airline miles, yearlong magazine subscriptions, money off different retailers etc.

Full disclosure- some of these are affiliate links (not all -these truly are the best I know of). Once you join you can also become an affiliate.

Supplementing Income Part 2 or The Mystery Shop/ Survey Saga

Well, I am not exactly sure how long it has been since I began mystery shopping and taking surveys but I have definitely made some money. Here are my findings so far.

When I began mystery shopping I signed on with two companies. I quickly found out that I would not find many jobs working for only two companies. I am now signed on with about 6 different agencies and honestly even with that many, if I wanted to make this a full time gig, it would be impossible. As a matter of fact in the time since I began I have completed only two shops and have made a total of $25. This is partly due to working and just not having time to do it as much as I would like. I am going to try to do a lot more in July and I will keep you updated on that.

Pros/Cons of mystery shopping-
It is kind of fun, if you don't mind lying your butt off. Most companies require you to have a "scenario" in mind when you shop. For example, they may have you go in and ask for something you would never buy for yourself and you have to go in and say, "oh, it is for my dad/mom/husband etc. " Also, there are specific things they are checking to see if the clerk offers you like reward programs, asking you to sign up for a credit card, etc. I actually felt bad when a person I shopped told me I could get the item for a better price at another store, and I had to put that in my report complete with his name and description attached.

Another problem can be the amount of money versus the length of the survey. Some companies have relatively simple surveys that take 5 minutes to complete, so ten dollars for that company is easy money. However one of the shops I did was very simple but the survey was 10 pages long and all I got was ten dollars. I didn't feel it was worth the money in the end because of all the time I spent on the report.

Most companies are also very picky about grammar, punctuation, and spelling in the report, so if you aren't very good with writing the narratives can be tough, and they will dock your fee.

On the positive side, you get paid to shop. You do not always have to make a purchase and usually when you do it is reimbursed. Occasionally you may do a shop when in the end you "reveal" yourself in some kind of kooky grand finale and tell the manager all about your waitress and then get your meal comped. Lol, I haven't done one of those yet. Seems just a little too corny.

On to the surveys. I have honestly made about the same amount of money here for what I feel is less work although it can be tedious. And yes, there are companies who pay $5 per survey (although, I am sworn to secrecy now that I am a member, see the links at the bottom for some hints). You cannot make the huge amount that some companies tout. Plus, in order to make that kind of money you would have to be taking five to ten surveys a day and that would really suck. They are not a ton of fun to take, and depending on the pay I do turn some of them down. I will not do a 15 minute survey for $1. It just isn't worth it to me. If you want to make money without doing a lot of work, surveys are the way to go. You won't get rich, but I think I have some great tips on how to make the money add up.

My biggest tip is to open a paypal account if you don't already have one. There is one survey company and one mystery shop company I use that sends actual paper checks, the rest deposit directly to paypal. (and some will NOT do it any other way) I have just been letting the money pile up. Personally I am trying to save up toward a vacation. Obviously it will take a while, but I just let it pile up and I don't even check the balance. (I do check to make sure my mystery shop payments go through, because I do consider that a part time job, but I am not as worried about the survey money).

The greatest tip I have for any reader is to visit the website This is an unbelievable resource for finding mystery shop jobs, merchandising jobs, and survey opportunities. One of my favorite sections is the "Stuff I found" forum. It is a great place to find awesome freebies and this helps me curb my need to shop til I drop. I hope to do a complete article on Volition in the near future! Oh and that is also my hint for the great paying survey company... go play hangman- or check out the forums it shouldn't take too long for you to find it!

Saturday, May 5, 2007

I can't believe it has been exactly a month since my last post! I guess it is because I have not been doing so well lately. Last month when I paid my bills, I had exactly to the dollar the amount of money to cover them and NO extra. That meant no extra money to pay on CC debt etc. I was bummed. This month I paid a FEW dollars extra on each bill, but I still don't have a lot of extra. We are working on it. We switched our phone over to our cable company. It is really crazy, we get extra channels a dvr and it is still cheaper than our cable and phone combined. I can't believe it. But it will save us an additional $20 a month. Add that to the $20 I saved when I cancelled our long distance and it is $40 PLUS we get long distance back. Crazy! I also had $50 stop coming out for the girls' college, and $100 for my deferred comp but it still came out this month. This summer I plan to make the biggest dent in my debt. I am going to teach summer school and will make about $100 a day for 4 hours worth of work. I really wanted a break from teaching, but this will be okay because it is only for the first 4 weeks. I will still have July off. I am thinking I will split the money between savings and debt.

Places I messed up
I spent close to $200 on my CC for a day guard for my TMJ. In a way I don't think this is that bad because if it didn't get fixed it could cause me more debt in the form of surgery bills, but still it erased two months worth of CC payments... bummer.

Husband and I cannot seem to stop eating at Taco Bell. I have just not felt like cooking a damn thing lately.

I had to buy $115 worth of groceries on my card because I didn't have the cash for them (this actually turned out to be a plus kind of because I would have overdrawn my account if I had used my debit card- I wasn't keeping up with balancing my check book :( ...)

Plans for this month-
Keep extra expenses to a min. Husband gets paid extra check this month and we are going to try to work it instead of overspend. I hope.

If I do end up with extra money from my gas or lunch budget I am going to put that cash toward my debt before paying next month's bills.

I am going to talk to my payroll dept and see if they know something about that def. comp payment continuing to come out.

Upcoming chances to pay off debt.
- Summer school check
- I will get a RAISE next year... yea! 3% plus an extra year exp. raise!