Monday, November 30, 2009

Chase Card #2 - November '09 update

Just another smidgen taken off the balance of this one...$45.46 more paid leaving the balance at $3,478.20.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hindsight is 20/20 and Sickening!

I am spending a major part of this long holiday weekend reorganizing my office/craft room combo. I've been purging the filing cabinet by moving permanent records up to the attic and doing lots of shredding and purging.

I ran across some files with old tax returns. When I flipped through a few pages of the 1999 return, my eyes landed on Schedule D-Capital Gains and Losses. Here is the last entry on that page.

8 oz. Gold
Date sold - 8/25/99
Sales proceeds - $1,920

This was inherited from dh's father in 1997. Value at the date of his death was $2,375. Neither of us remember why we sold it or what we used the money for.

Needless to say, it would have been better if, in 1999, we had just forgotten we owned it, since at Friday's closing price of $1,176.70 per ounce it would be worth $9,413.60 today! ***MAJOR SIGH***

Saturday, November 28, 2009

HELOC Update - November '09

The November statement shows that we were able to pay down another $1000.00 from my MIL's estate and $6.30 of online survey income from Opinion Outpost. New balance = $85,690.12.

I've already initiated the process of converting a portion of this loan to a fixed rate. Hopefully, the paperwork will be signed soon. And my worries of that adjustable rate will be gone.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Want an extra $121?

Have you seen the ING Direct Black Friday sale? Now this is my kind of savings!

Get a $121 Account Opening Bonus

Here's how:

1. Open an Electric Orange checking with Reference Code EOSAVE.
2. Use your Debit Card to make 3 signature transactions (you know, the ones you have to actually sign) within the first 45 days.
3. On day 50, we'll put $121 in your account. You have to open today to get the $121 bonus.

I've been an ING Savings customer for years, but I've never opened an electronic checking account there. That is, until today.

I went ahead and transferred some of that money sitting in an ING Savings account set aside for Christmas spending. Once the debit card arrives, I'll use it for at least 3 qualifying purchases for Christmas purchases. And in January, when the $121 bonus arrives, I'm going to use that money to pay down on my debt. Doesn't get much easier than that!

Hurry! This offer ends tonight at 11:59PM ET.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Dear Chase - don't change my terms

Since most of our extended family is out of town this year, we opted for a small scale traditional dinner at home for just the four of us. The kitchen is already cleaned up. DH is watching football, I've got the kids hooked on a Brady Bunch marathon, and I'm going through a stack of mail.

Lo and behold! A little flyer from Chase regarding an Important Change in Terms Notice. Remember this sweetheart of a deal? 15 months at ZERO interest, then a fixed 6.99% APR. Well, just as I anticipated now that we're getting close to the end of the ZERO rate, they are changing the account to a variable rate. Beginning in January when the zero rate runs out, it would be 8.99% but would follow any increases/decreases to the prime rate. I was a little surprised to actually be able to talk to a real person on Thanksgiving Day, but I did and immediately rejected the change in terms. Therefore, the account will be closed immediately. But I will be able to pay off the balance at the fixed 6.99% rate I signed up for.

Add to my list one more thing to be thankful for: The ability to pay off my past at relatively low rates without feeling like I'm being jerked around by the credit card companies.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tips for Not Getting into a Spending Frenzy during the Holidays

It's so hard! This time of year we are bombarded with advertisements, beautiful decorations, holiday music piped through the store speakers. All to entice us to spend our hard-earned dollars to create that magical season for our family and friends. Yes...absolutely magical....except for the checkbook!

I typically watch myself turn into a "spender" during the month of December. Any other month, I would research, bargain-hunt, and coupon. Maybe it's the fact that so much has to be done in just a few short weeks, but my frugal ways usually fly out the window! I don't want my extended family to think I'm a "cheapskate". I want my kids to still believe in the magic...and so far they do! I don't think the people on my gift-giving list should suffer just because I've made mistakes with the credit cards in the past.

How do we fight all these behaviors when we're trying to pay off our debt? I'm posting this today on the eve of the eve of shopping mania, and we'll re-check throughout the holiday season to see if I can come out without any more debt!

1. Make a budget! This is probably the most important part of the whole process. List everyone you will be giving gifts to and a maximum dollar amount for that person.

2. Save throughout the year. It's kind of late for this if you didn't start this a year ago. But each month, I set aside one-twelfth of my Christmas budget in a savings account. I'm not sure if my budget is too high (might be) or not, but I have saved $105 every month since last Christmas which gives me $1260 to spend during the holidays. This includes any decorations we buy for our home, the cost of Christmas cards and postage, and all gifts.

3. This is where I hit my downfall....updating the budget at the end of each shopping excursion. Life seems to get so busy that I don't take the time to check my receipts against the budget. Many years, I don't add it all up until AFTER Christmas. That kind of defeats the purpose, huh?

4. Shop early. I have noticed that some of the better deals happen before Thanksgiving. I've taken advantage of Lands End free shipping for a couple of gifts during November. I don't know what will happen this year, but I remember kicking myself last year for waiting until December and paying full shipping when they had offered free shipping just a few weeks earlier.

I am really hoping that I can come out on the other side UNDER budget, and be able to use part of that money I've saved to apply toward my debt. Updates will follow. In the meantime, please add your tips for not getting into the spending frenzy!!! I can use all the help I can get!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Primary Mortgage Update - Nov. '09

WooHoo! The balance on this loan fell below $254,000.00 this month. Amount applied to principal was $343.48. New balance = $253,958.28. Remaining term = 29 years, 6 months.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The extra cost of being busy!

My week has been nuts! We had alot going on today in the house...rearranging a couple of rooms, and we had to make space for a ping pong table one of my co-workers was wanting to get rid of. As fate would have it, that's exactly what dh and I had already decided to get each other for our December birthdays. We had even scoped out the Black Friday ads, and planned for dh to be at Sears at 4AM to score a good deal. But used is great, free is better!

With all that was going on, I just couldn't force myself to leave the house today....and let $3 of Walgreen's Register Rewards expired. That's like throwing $3 down the drain! Maybe I'll just focus on how much we saved on the ping pong table.

Rental Mortgage Update - Nov. '09

Statements have arrived for the mortgages. Last month, $532.19 was shaved off the balance of this one!

This has been such a manageable loan for over 6 years, I can hardly believe I'm thinking about refinancing it into the fixed rate portion of the HELOC. I'm having a hard time deciding whether I should suck it up for the next 45 months to pay this loan off in full, or combine this with the HELOC balance when I convert it to a fixed rate for the next 10 or 15 years. I haven't made a final decision, so stay tuned!

UPDATED: Just heard that the Dems have all 60 votes for cloture on the Health Care Bill. I'm guessing Demcare is going to pass since, as I understand it, they will only need 51 votes to actually pass a bill. The inevitable higher taxes and higher insurance premiums have me scared to death. I'm leaning toward refinancing and lowering my monthly fixed costs.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Snail is creeping - Capital One Nov. '09 update

Another month, another $11.35 off the balance of this one!

Extra Money I'm not sending to the Creditors

I can't remember exactly when my father started sharing his AT&T dividends with me. I know it was before the Ma Bell divestiture in 1984. And I'm thankful that I did inherit at least of a bit of his 'savings' gene. I have never spent any of the money he sends to me quarterly. It has always gone to savings. In the early years, I put it in a regular savings account. I've also bought U.S. EE Savings Bonds, a Tennessee zero coupon bond, shares of SBC Communications (now AT&T)...all which I still own today. I even used some of that money to buy shares of Qwest Communications and Washington Mutual which turned out to be not such wise decisions, but I was investing it and NOT SPENDING!

When I received my check from Dad earlier this month, I checked the current rate on I-Bonds. For the six months ending April 30, 2010 they are paying 3.36%. Getting a Treasury Direct account set up takes a little time for them to mail you a verification card in the mail. But once the account is set up, it's so easy to buy Savings Bonds! And I choose to let them hold my bonds electronically. No more worries about keeping up with those little paper bonds! I just placed my order tonight for a $100 I-bond. I know I won't get rich off 3.36%, but I love adding to that little nest egg that I know I've received from my father.

Back in the Saddle

Well, I never really got off the saddle. The horse just took off like a wild mustang for a few days! Life has been extra busy this week! I have lots of catching up to do this weekend, so hopefully you'll see multiple progress reports and I can catch up on your blogs too!

We DID end up closing on MIL's house on Monday! That is such a relief. Being an executor is more stressful than I ever realized it would be. Having the house sold (AND being able to use a part of dh's portion to pay off debt) is such a weight off my shoulders.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th Comments at

Yep! I had a bad feeling about setting the closing the MIL's home on Friday the 13th. Sure enough, the appraiser had used the term "condo" instead of "P.U.D." and the lender would not release the funds. Why the lender waited until today to let anyone know this is beyond me. They've only had the appraisal in hand for two weeks! The appraiser was out of the office today, but everyone has assured me it will be corrected on Monday, and the buyer will be able to complete the settlement Monday afternoon.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Avoiding interest on the credit card balance

A second month of avoiding interest on the balance of the Kroger credit card. The hardest part about this is remembering to make the payments immediately. I try to clean out the receipts from my purse every day (or every day that I've actually spent money). I record them on my Microsoft Money software, update my Excel spreadsheet with this month's budget, and then log on to the credit card payment site and transfer the payment. I have noticed that when life gets really crazy (which it has been the past week or so), I get behind on this by 3 or 4 days. That's not been a problem yet, but I just have to make sure that 3 or 4 days doesn't turn in to 3 or 4 weeks. If it does, my strategy is shot.

The current statement from this credit card shows:

Previous Balance $713.93
Payments/Credits -$819.65
Transactions $783.82
New Balance $678.10

As you can see, I did find an extra $35.83 to apply to the balance of this loan bringing my new total to $678.10. That little calculator on the ticker is just moving on down the line!!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

HELP!!!! It's Decision Time!

I know I've already expressed my fear at the thought of interest rates rising. Last month, I even blogged about developing a plan to convert the HELOC to a fixed-rate for my peace of mind in case the finance gurus predicting inflation and high interest rates are right. Even if we don't see double-digit rates again, it seems kind of silly for a rational, otherwise logical-thinking person to hope that interest rates would remain at historic lows for any extended length of time.

So now that an answer has seemingly dropped in my lap, why does it scare me so much?

And yes, I'm talking about the HELOC. That $86K balance on the line of credit tied to our rental property. The one with that enviable rate of prime minus one-half (currently 2.75%).

My late MIL's home is set for closing at the end of next week, and I think with our proceeds (after splitting with all the other siblings) we'll be able to knock the balance on this one down to the $45,000 range...which is less than half of where it started. I want to jump for joy since that will actually pull the property into a positive cash flow situation. Even letting me build up a little more savings for the inevitable repairs and maintenance all properties have.

So wouldn't you know it? My HELOC lender sends out this offer to convert all OR part of your LOC balance to a fixed 4.99% rate amortized up to 15 years. No hassle, no re-applications, no appraisals, just a $100 set-up fee. I called the toll-free number today, and they said I would just need to stop by the local bank branch to sign an authorization. And, as part of this special offer, they're even going to throw in a $500 Visa Gift Card if I do this before the end of November!

But arrrgh...that means I have to pay 2.24% more in interest each month plus the principal portion since it will be on a 15-year amortization. I know (or at least I think) it's the right thing to do, but it means my payment will actually go up $150-160 from what I've been paying these past few months instead of being cut in half. That means I'll need to continue to fund this property each month until the first mortgage is paid off in exactly 46 more payments.

Does this sound like the perfect answer to my dilemma? As I've typed this out, I think maybe it is (and oh my, someday I'll have to tell you about all the coincidences that led us to our current home---definitely a God-thing). The offer arrives within the same time frame that the balance is reduced using the money from the sale of MIL's home (fingers crossed for getting everyone to the closing table). There are no significant closing costs so it wouldn't feel like I wasted money refinancing it if we decided to sell the property when our tenants' lease runs out. When and if interest rates start rising, I KNOW I'd sleep better with the assurance of a fixed payment that is actually paying off principal too!

I'd love to hear your opinions. Is this the right thing to do?

Money Market Loan update

Because I was able to get in a couple of hours of overtime in last month, I chose to send $47.30 on this loan back to my money market account.

I'm not sure what the right word is to express my feeling about ignoring this for so long. Is it denial? Refusal to admit one of those stupid mistakes? Regardless of what it is, I'm now determined to pay myself back and get that emergency fund back where it ought to be.

The new balance that I owe my money market account is $4653.21.