Friday, December 31, 2010
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Monday, December 27, 2010
How? By trying to remember to keep Swagbucks search engine open on my computer and using it every time I need to search for something. I also need to remember to fill out the daily poll every day. That's worth 365 points over the course of a year. It takes 450 points to cash in for a $5 Amazon gift card.
Goal for Christmas 2011: $60 in Amazon gift cards from Swagging.
If you've never tried Swagbucks, click on the picture below. And I might get a few extra points if you start Swagging too!
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Discretionary spending is really not my issue. Honestly, I hate spending money. Let's face it -- I'm a tightwad! It makes me physically sick when expenses are running abnormally out of control. It’s just that our (mostly) fixed expenses are so high there's no wiggle room to make much headway on long-term goals. I start feeling guilty when I fast-forward 10 months and dream of not making a payment to the preschool every month! And yes….I do feel guilty. My little guy just turned five, and I know that this age is precious. I sincerely would love for him to stay five forever. Let’s just say it'll be easier to wipe away that tear in my eye when he goes off to kindergarten once I remember I don't have to write a $600+ check every month. LOL
In fact, I’ve chosen “life” over “income” more often than not for almost 9 years. When my oldest was born, I switched to a flexible schedule and started being paid my hourly rate instead of straight salary. In my firm, that means I work to get the job done. I do have to work a minimum of 30 hours per week to keep health insurance and other benefits. I also work a handful of 60+ hour weeks a year when the deadlines are closing in. But for the most part I’ve averaged around 34 or 35 hours a week for almost nine years now.
Getting paid for 34 hours when you could get paid for 40 is like voluntarily taking a 15% pay cut. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t regret having those extra hours to spend with my children, attempt to keep things running at home, and as a result keep me a little more sane.
But now that my kids are older and a little more self-sufficient, I’ve decided to step up the pace a bit. And I’m posting it here to keep me accountable. Many of my budget issues would be solved by working those extra six hours each and every week. Of course, it will mean I have to sacrifice somewhere else. For a year, I can limit my Facebook time and give up a few minutes of sleep each night if it brings more peace to our budget.
And if you’re wondering how it’s gone so far? It’s the 11th. We’ve had 7 working days, and I’ve already logged 65 hours. This is a big deadline crunch, so that has helped. I just need to keep the momentum going when things calm down in November and early December. And now that I’ve put it out there, I’m accountable to all of you!
Other goals I have for my Work More, Earn More year are to:
- Be more diligent completing online surveys with the companies that I’ve found to pay fairly and promptly.
- Use Swagbucks search engine more. So far, I have $30 in gift cards at Amazon to spend toward Christmas, 2010. By this time next year, I’d like to have at least twice that amount saved up for Christmas, 2011.
- And lastly, go through my old jewelry and sell the scrap gold. I have no idea what this will bring, but it certainly isn’t doing me any good sitting in a drawer
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Guess I don't need to waste any more time blogging. I'd appreciate all the energy vibes you can muster up to send over the broadband! :)
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Sunday, September 5, 2010
To give myself some encouragement, I'm looking back at the original post on this balance. $1,400 is not alot to some people, but I'm reminding myself that it IS progress. Also, with this posting the total debt balance has dropped out of the $339K into the $338K range. Each $1K drop is something to cheer in my book!!!
Saturday, August 21, 2010
$10.81 paid. New balance = $986.97
Sunday, August 15, 2010
So here is a catch-up post showing the July progress. The worst month so far this year except for the month I had to take that big withdrawal out to pay the property taxes on the rental. And *BIG SIGH*, I won't be surprised if August is even less progress. I just gotta keep from getting us further in the hole.
All tickers at the bottom of the page have been updated with the July payments even though I didn't post individually about all of them.
Friday, August 13, 2010
Okay...it's only semi-major, but yesterday morning I found a puddle of water in the laundry room. Turns out this morning we are getting a new hot water heater to the tune of $600-ish. It was a 1992 model, so it's time for the water heater. Just not the best timing for us!
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
I'm blaming my ultra-negative view on all things financial for my blog absence. Nothing else major has happened. I'm just tired of feeling like a hamster on a wheel that keeps getting the wheel spun faster by outside forces.
Health insurance premium increases are going to take $42 of the $73/month raise I got a few weeks ago.
And then I got to thinking about what the expiration of the Bush tax cuts are going to do to our budget. I started quantifying it over the weekend, and barring a Congressional act (literally), we'll be paying at least $2k more next year. And we are FAR from a high income family. Check it out for yourself....the elimination of the 10% bracket is $835 more off the bat. Then if the child credits go back down to $500, that's another $1,000. Eliminate the preferential rate for dividend income? At least another $120. That's without taking into account the changes in Flexible Spending accounts or wondering if the deduction for state and local sales tax will be extended.
All this in an economy where average Americans are already stretched, struggling to hang onto their jobs if they are lucky enough to have one. It just doesn't seem like good sense to me. Hopefully, someone will knock some semblance of sense into Congress before it's too late!
I know. I know. It could be tons worse. So what if I can only pay down $6,000 of debt next year instead of $8,000. I guess in the grand scheme, things could be much much much worse. We have income, we have a home, we're pretty darn healthy. I was just hoping to see a little more forward progress on the financial side by now.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
$15.89 paid. New balance = $997.78
And the great thing? We're out of the thousands!!!
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Monday, July 19, 2010
Even though my children are only 8 and 4, I am trying. We do chore charts every week, and they are paid weekly based on what they have accomplished during the week. (Don't work = don't get paid!). We have complaints, we have whining, we have moaning....but they are always motivated when they get that cash every Sunday.
At the risk of running into flaming here, I do have what could be considered an extravagant ongoing expense for my 8 yr. old daughter. She loves to dance, and this week is tryouts for what will be her third year on a competitive dance company with the studio. No lies...it is expensive. There are more intense (and therefore more expensive studios) in the area, so comparatively it is a good option. But it is, nonetheless, a sacrifice I make.
After realizing that I could hire a twice-a-month housekeeper for what I pay to the studio (and the dancewear store), we had negotiations. She has agreed to be my right-hand cleaning helper each week in return for "being on team". It is a good indication how much passion she has for dancing since she kind of has a lazy streak....which is another thing I need to work on as her parent. It also helps me....and will ensure that I also don't raise a kid who doesn't have any idea how to clean a toilet or start the washing machine. We're 2 weeks out from the negotiations, and so far, so good.
On Saturday, we had another "lesson." I had purchased an accessory at the dancewear store that she decided she did not want. When I was leaving to run errands and return it, she asked if I would buy a pair of jazz shoes instead. The jazz shoes cost approximately $20 more than the item I was returning, and I just happened to know that she had $20 left from the vacation money she had raided her piggy bank for. At first, she balked about kicking in the $20 from her own money. I told her to think about it....the store is only a mile from home and we could always stop in and buy them if she wanted. About 30 minutes before the store closed, she asked to go buy them. She even said, "I can make back that $20 in about 3 weeks."
I am so glad she took her time making the financial decision, weighed the costs, and came to the realization of just how much work (3 weeks worth) it will take to replace this money. Could some of my lectures have sunk in? Based on what happened Saturday, I believe the lessons are working!
Sunday, July 18, 2010
The Kroger credit card is the one I use for groceries and gas to earn free groceries and the 15¢ off per gallon of gasoline. I pay these charges every few days out of my current month's budget so I'm always paying at least the balance on the prior month's statement and therefore avoiding any interest charges on this card. The rewards are nice and Kroger is letting me float this balance without costing me anything. I added a $3 payment I got from Buzzback (surveys) to one of the payments this month.
$3.00 paid. New balance = $624.93
Chase Card #2 has been transferred to the HELOC, but I'm keeping up with the balance separate from the HELOC balance. This portion of the equity line was not converted to the fixed amortization and the interest rate is prime minus 0.5% (currently 2.75%). It also only requires an interest payment each month, but I've been sending an extra $20 or so in addition to the interest.
$20.13 paid. New balance = $2551.19
STRETCH FOR THE POSITIVE: Ok...it's a stretch, but I'm determined to quit being so negative and look for the positive in every post. If I divide the monthly interest charged ($5.93) over the average balance of these two debts ($3,187.69), it works out to less than a 2.25% annual rate. Not bad!!!
Saturday, July 17, 2010
No extra payments, but it is progress! For any new readers, this one was converted to a fixed 4.99% interest rate over 15 years. It is secured by the rental property and the monthly rent income is covering 100% of the payment.
$ 278.95 paid. New balance = $71,375.76
Since I'm always looking for reasons to celebrate, this brings the total debt below the $340K mark! WooHoo! Bring out the party hats!!!
Friday, July 16, 2010
It will be an absolute miracle if we can come out of this spring/summer without adding to the debt. Between the flood damage, invisible fence and shots for the puppy, the extended road trip, and now the dental work, it is taking its toll.
Overtime during this season of the year has to be approved, but if I find any....I'm definitely signing up for it!
Thursday, July 15, 2010
From the 4th paragraph of today's post at The Dividend Daily:
There was a report out earlier today from the Employee Benefit Research
Institute that estimates 47% of baby boomers between the ages of 56 and 62 are
likely to run shy of the cash they’ll need to pay for basic expenses and
uninsured health costs in retirement. Investors need to stay focused on quality
income-seeking plays, and when it makes sense, take a flyer on a growth dividend
play as well.
From the 2nd paragraph of yesterday's post at The Dividend Daily:
According to figures provided by FICO Inc. yesterday, nearly 25.5 percent of
consumers, or nearly 43.4 million Americans, now have a credit score below 600.
Two years ago, this particular group was allowed to buy first homes without a
blink of an eye from bankers and mortgage brokers. Access to easy capital has
completely changed for this group as we sit here today. Is this fact priced in,
and how much worse will the stat get if the job market does not begin to gain
some positive momentum? We are trying to decipher this in our daily dividend
And then read No Surprises Here from A Reformed Manager of Money. The links she posts are astounding. Especially the Slide #9 in that link:
For the first time in U.S. history, banks own a greater share of residential
housing net worth in the United States than all individual Americans put
Is there hope? Do our children have any chance of having it as good as we did? I know it will be to their benefit to teach them frugalness, debt avoidance, and a hard work ethic. What am I forgetting? I want to make sure they are equipped to survive and hopefully thrive in this new economic order.
Positive News of the Day: I'm overdue for a haircut. I've been putting it off not wanting to spend the money. Today's local Groupon deal was for a local salon. $120 worth of services for $50. So I've already booked an appointment for a haircut, manicure, and pedicure. All for the cost of a regular haircut!!! With all that pampering, I might even feel like a kept woman. LOL
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Chase Card #1:
$75.46 paid. New balance = $5,422.21
Money Market Loan:
$5.29 paid. New balance = $4,597.79
Net Worth Funding Goal: (click to enlarge detail)
Items to note:
- Halfway through the year, but not quite halfway to meet the $15K goal. Really going to have to step it up to reach $15K.
- Dividends paid during June were down (as compared to March) mainly because of BP. GRRR!
- Nothing has been added to the rental emergency fund for a couple of months. We've been making some small, but necessary repairs to that property. Hopefully, that will change in July and more will be added to that separate emergency fund. My goal is to have the tenant deposit plus 6 months of expenses in that account (mortgage payments, association dues, and property taxes). I'm very close....but need another $550 in that account . I should at least be adding in at least 1/12 of the annual tax amount.
And I'm reminded why I decided to halt future contributions. I decided during/after the last crash in March 2009 to diversify retirement sources. That's one reason we're holding onto the rental property so that all income after retirement isn't dependent on how Wall Street behaves.
For the 3 months, 401K balance is down 8.26% or about $12K. I guess the good thing is I have a long time before I plan on tapping this money.
it's easier than facing the truth.
although logging onto the online banking this morning confirmed my suspicion that whatever cushion we had in checking is gone.
today is my day at home
so I'm promising that when I get back from taking both kids to the dentist, I will sit down and pull my finances back together before it gets any further out of control.
or maybe I'll do laundry. :(
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Monday, July 5, 2010
I do my main grocery shopping at Kroger. This is where I earn points for free groceries and a 15 cents per gallon off gasoline. But I shop for deals almost every week at Harris Teeter, Publix, CVS, Walgreens and Target. Target is the farthest away....at 2.4 miles according to Google Maps. I don't always hit all 6 places every week, but if it's a good week I will.
I had some CVS Extra Care Bucks that were expiring today, so I went ahead and made my weekly trip this afternoon. Now I know that paying full price at CVS is paying way too much for my frugal heart. I luckily had coupons for everything on my what's-on-sale list this week, so for what would normally have been $38.51, I handed over $7 in ECB's plus $12.94 cash and they handed me back $5 more ECB's!
Getting almost $40 of things we use on a regular basis for less than $15 makes me one happy camper!!! And honestly, is the only way we're able to stretch our limited income as far as we do!
$57.39 paid. New balance = $2,840.59
Sunday, July 4, 2010
The first part of the trip was for my daughter to compete at the Nationals with her dance team. They had a great competition! So exciting for her and all the teams at the studio.
The second half was a different type of obligation: Even though I'd rather forego spending the money, the dance team Nationals were held almost halfway to where my parents live. They are certainly not getting any younger (86 & 81), and I'm not sure how many more visits we'll actually be making to see them when both of them are able to actually enjoy us being there. I know it's good for us to spend time with them....those chances are limited. Some things outweigh the financial decisions.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
- The fixed rate for the next 28 yrs and 11 mths is only 4.5%.
- I really do love where we live.
- In only 5 more months, I can brag that we owe less than a quarter of a million. ---Did you see my eyes roll on that one???
Monday, June 21, 2010
$20.08 paid. New balance = $2,571.32
Friday, June 18, 2010
June statement shows $277.90 paid. New balance = $71,654.71
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Enough of my whining....here is the May wrap-up!
Primary mortgage - $ 351.28 paid, new balance = $251,870.18
Net worth funding goal - $1,285.94 added to net worth in May.
Net worth certainly decreased overall with the rollercoaster stock market, but at least I'm holding up my end of the bargain by continuing to pay down debt and add to savings.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
The deep cleaning is good for my soul. It keeps my mind off the bad news, the economic turmoil that I'm afraid our country has not seen the end of yet, the financial uncertainties I find myself dwelling on in spite of all the planning, working, and saving. Anyway, that's my excuse for not posting all the May updates yet. But here's a quick one for ya....
Chase Card #1....
$80.09 paid. New balance = $5,497.67
I will be back with more updates. But be patient...this is a big house....or maybe it just seems big when you're trying to fit in Spring Cleaning between work, family, weddings, graduations, and birthday parties.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
No extra payments for this credit card last month. But we're making progress!
$59.05 paid. New balance = $2,897.98
Saturday, May 29, 2010
$21.74 paid. New balance = $2,591.40
Tonight is dd's recital, so I spent my morning getting hair in rollers and making sure all costume pieces are packed. I need to make a grocery run, then it will be time to start makeup and head downtown for the big performance tonight! Fun, fun day!
Thursday, May 27, 2010
$276.68 paid. New balance = $71,932.61
I am trying to pull myself out of the funk I've been in this month, and I know that keeping busy and seeing results will do for my psyche than anything. We have commitments through Saturday for my daughter's dance recital and for my god daughter's high school graduation, but Sunday and Monday??? I'll be finding the wood that I know is under my desk somewhere. The papers have piled up, the checkbooks need balancing, and the shredder needs a workout. If I can gain control of this desk by Monday, I know I can start June off on a much better note!
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
$13.17 paid. New balance = $4,603.08
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Yes...we've been thrown into an immediate "home repair" project which leads to chaos inside the house and that unsettling feeling when checks are flying out the door faster than you can keep up with them. It's strange how each individual reacts differently to crisis.
My husband has been short on patience because of the "mess" that comes with trying to live in a space that the flooring and baseboards are ripped out, tools and saws sitting around everywhere, everything out of place, laborers that don't do their work exactly the way he would. That is the chaos that makes him crazy. (The good news is that he's 100+ days sober...although there were a few days I highly encouraged him to leave the house and hit an AA meeting ASAP).
On the other hand, it drives me absolutely crazy to have this project going with no pre-planned budget, uncertainty just where the funds are going to come from, or exactly how many dollars it's actually going to cost! So I've suffered from my own dose of stress and anxiety. And, in typical fashion, I've done my best to ignore the whole checking account for the past three weeks.
But more than that, it's the stories out there of those who have lost everything. I think they call it "survivor's guilt". The stories that really hit my heart are the elderly (70 and 80 year olds) with paid-for homes who were just getting by with their Social Security checks. Now some don't even have home to go back to and others don't have the savings to restore what's left into a safe and habitable place. To think that their entire financial well-being has been destroyed by something no one ever saw coming is just beyond what my brain can fathom right now. Because I'm one of those weirdos that actually reads the public record section of the newspaper occasionally, last week I found out that some of my closest neighbors were just days away from foreclosure. Although we're close, we really don't discuss financial issues, and I'm not comfortable bringing it up with them. But I spent a couple of days in constant worry and even one night where I dreamed of nothing but mortgages, loan balances, courthouse steps and more mortgages. Talk about a nightmare!!!
Anyway, it's kind of been three weeks where the glass feels even more "half-empty" than usual. I'm trying to dig my way out of the funk because I know that pessimism doesn't help any of us!
Updates to come later in the week. It's getting late, and I definitely don't need to start off another busy week more sleep deprived than usual. I do hope it's a good week for you!
Friday, May 14, 2010
That's the old adage anyway. Despite that being drilled into my brain for years and years, I'm finding myself wondering whenever there is a sharp drop if that day might be one of the lowest points of 2010. Why?
Because I've decided to convert part of my traditional IRA into a Roth in 2010. Why? It has nothing to do with the income limit being lifted...our income has never been high enough to disqualify us from making a Roth conversion. It has nothing to do with being able to spread the tax over the next 2 years. I'm quite fine with paying the tax in 2010, since I don't anticipate tax rates being lower in 2011 and 2012.
But, we have set aside $5,000 for energy-efficient improvements (namely windows) to put in place in 2010. These improvements will qualify for a 30% tax credit. So I've decided to convert the amount of my traditional IRA into a Roth that would translate into a $1,500 tax bill. I won't be out of pocket anything, but I will get that IRA money into my preferred retirement vehicle.
Of course, I'd love to make the conversion on the absolutely lowest day for the stock market. That would mean more shares get thrown over to the Roth with full anticipation that the value will rise over time. So when is that day???
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
April turned into a very good month for progress towards the 2010 Net Worth Goal. You can see that I added a new line for the Roth Funding goal I set midway through the month. I was also able to add $165 to my existing Roth accounts as a 2009 contribution.
I hope this progress continues. It's nerve-wracking at the moment with the money we need to spend to get our house back in order after the flooding. We already had some other electrical/appliance repairs that came up even before the water damage. And we added a new member to our family in April (a 2-month old black labrador retriever) who needs all her shots. We're also trying to figure out how to pay for an invisible fence for our acre-plus yard so she can burn off all that puppy energy without running down the street or requiring constant supervision. It's kinda one of those "when-it-rains-it-pours" scenarios....and I guess based on the events of May 1-2 you can take that literally. LOL
So my focus is changing...we're in the land of minimum payments on the debt since the priorities are now to pay for these larger unbudgeted expenses without taking on any additional debt AND to fully fund that 2010 Roth IRA.
Monday, May 10, 2010
The volunteer effort here has been enormous. Even before the news graced the major media, neighbors were helping neighbors. People were rescuing horses from rising floodwaters. If you owned a boat, you more than likely were out rescuing people from their homes.
Last Monday morning, the day after the rains moved on, people started returning home (if they could). And what was amazing was the outpouring of support and help from family, friends, church groups and even strangers. At one of the large condominium complexes hit especially hard by the flood, the volunteer turnout was so large on Saturday, no one could find a parking spot!
Hands on Nashville, which is coordinating many service projects all across town, reported today that through their organization alone, 39,000 volunteer hours were logged from 5/2 through 5/9! That is just astounding!
We've already had telethons and performances solely to raise money for flood relief, with more being planned.
FEMA arrived last Monday, and declared they had never been to a place where so much of the disaster cleanup was already underway before they arrived. That speaks volumes to me!
This flood may have washed away alot, but it sure didn't take with it the love we have for our city and the people in it. I couldn't be prouder to live in The Volunteer State right now.
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Sorry for the lack of posts this week. It has been quite surreal here with all the damage and devastation our area suffered from the flooding last weekend. I'm sure you seen pictures. It is so very sad...so many people have lost everything including some who lost loved ones in the rising floodwaters. And yes, the Titans football stadium looked more like an Olympic swimming pool, the grandeur of the Opryland Hotel was reduced to resembling something from a scene in the Titanic. But real people with kids and jobs and mortgages have lost their homes, their cars, virtually everything they own. They are calling this a 100, 500 or 1000 year flood depending on what news source you listen to. We just don't have floods here! Tornadoes-- yes, floods - NO! In fact, in a city with almost 600,000 people only 6,000 had flood insurance. Which means much of this is a total loss. FEMA will help, but they have low limits on the dollar amount of help they can provide. I'm expecting another wave of foreclosures in our city as people decide it's better to walk away since they will not be able to afford to restore their homes to a habitable state and replace everything they need to function.
As for us, the damage was minimal. We had about an inch of water in our lowest level so we’re replacing carpet and flooring in our rec room, laundry room and one bathroom. Here is a picture of all we lost. Nothing compared to many. Unexpected? Unplanned? Certainly, but we’ll use some savings and tighten the budget even further the next few months to get it done.
But for some of my "neighbors", there was no way to prepare for a catastrophe that no one predicted, no one could have imagined. It just goes to show, as hard as you try, no matter what the financial gurus say, you can not plan for every emergency.
Editing to add a link to more pictures of the devastation: Click Here
Monday, May 3, 2010
One of the best almost-no-risk investments I ever made was a zero-coupon bond issued by the state of Tennessee. I bought it when I was just an investing novice at age 27. I paid $251 for a bond that was to yield 6.9% for 20 years. It matured May 1, and I have mailed it to the trust department at one of the banks for redemption. Hopefully, I will get my check this week for the maturity value of $1,000. And since it was a municipal bond, all that interest/gain is totally tax-free!!
Now, because of my bucket mentality, and because this originated from funds given to me by my dad, I'm searching for the next investment to keep building this little pot of money. Only wish I could find another tax-free super-safe 6.9% guaranteed return.
What I'm considering??? $250 in I-bonds, $375 to NNN, and $375 to CEL. A little speculation with the CEL, safety in I-bonds, and real estate diversification in NNN.
Saturday, May 1, 2010
While I wait for the coffee to finish brewing, here are the last of the loan updates for April.
Money Market Loan:
$4.02 paid - $4,616.25 remaining. WooHoo! I'm hoping next month I'll cross over that $100 paid threshold.
$93.61 paid. New balance =$2,957.03 Another WooHoo! This one has now gone under the $3K mark never to return again!!!
Chase Card #1:
$158.32 paid. New balance = $5,577.76. And this is the biggest WOOHOO! With this update the total of all the credit card debt is now $12,816.01. It started at $15,981.86 so credit card debt is down over $3,000!!! YIPPEE!!!
Now to get that pesky work finished before the rugrats start circling. Hope you have a great Saturday!
Monday, April 26, 2010
$349.97 paid down on principal. Balance = $252,221.46
This little house is hardly budging. It's finally crossed the 1% paid since the start of the blog. Only 29 years and 1 month remaining.....