Sunday, January 31, 2010

Chase Card #1 - Jan. '10 update

This should be the last month of the zero promo rate I've enjoyed on this card for 15 months. In those 15 months, I've never paid more than the minimum payment. Since I opted out of the recent change in terms, the interest rate should be 6.99%. Not terrible, but not as good as a zero rate! So yes...the party's over for this one.

Last payment = $121.00. New balance = $5,936.00

Money Market Loan Update - Jan. '10

I used the overage from the Christmas gift that my husband exchanged to pay a little more on this loan that needs to be paid back to my emergency fund.

$18.55 paid. New balance - $4,624.70

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Celebrating Small Milestones - Chase Card #2 - Jan '10

Thanks to the $121 bonus from ING and using $179 of the gift card from my HELOC fixed rate lock-in, the balance on this card dropped below the $3K mark! And the total credit card debt has fallen just under $14K !!!

I'll take these little celebrations any time I can get them. They're good for keeping up the motivation when the road to paying off my past seems so long and never-ending.

Life is continuing on a busier, faster pace than I really enjoy. I promise to catch up with my bloggy friends over the next few days! Hope you're staying warm.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Bank Visa Update - Jan. '10

A little more progress on this one. $83.29 applied to the principal. New balance = $3,224.45

Having to keep this post short and sweet. It's been a terribly busy week, and the weekend isn't looking much better. Today we have to buy/make more of dd's dance costume, buy a gift for a party she's going to this afternoon, go to dance practice, birthday party for her friend, get groceries, buy supplies to make class valentine cards, and pay for a babysitter so dh and I can go to a party tonight. Not much time at home = the probability of spending more money than I'd like to today.

Hope YOU have a relaxing weekend 'cause my prospects are not looking so good.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I Owe, I Owe

So off to work I go!!!

I have a feeling I'll be singing this song for a long, long time. Have a Terrific Thursday!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Capital One update - Jan. '10

Has this snail even moved? Such slow slow progress, but at least it's going in the right direction. $11.45 paid this month. New balance = $1,072.21.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

HELOC Update - Jan '10

The first regularly amortized payment since refinancing this loan is not due until February. But I did make some small progress according to the billing statement received today. Principal paid = $100.00. New balance = $73,066.93.

The best news is that also in the mail today was the snowflake associated with this refinance. The $500 VISA gift card. It might take me a bit to translate this gift card into payments on my credit cards. I'll be using it to pay for expenses already in the monthly budget, and then sending the amount out of my budget to a credit card bill.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Say it ain't so Joe!

Sometimes reading online headlines during my lunch hour is enough to make me lose my appetite. Read here.

I understand that the Fed needs a continuing source to lend money to them, and China's economy is looking a little weaker these days. Our government has been spending too much and borrowing too much. But to force us to lend money to them to cover their little shopping spree? That's just plain wrong.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Realizing everything has a price tag

Today we had dd's Brownie troop meeting at the home of her troop leader. It was a meeting where the girls were learning about cooking, so we needed a kitchen instead of using one of the rooms at school.

I had signed up to help and was there the entire 2+ hours with 15 2nd-graders and 5 other moms. Many, many houses in our school district were built in the late 60's and early 70's. Lots of ranch style brick homes. I'm always interested in seeing what other people have done to "update" since walking in the front door of ours is like stepping back a couple of generations.

I spent the first two hours drooling over the addition they had built on to the back of the home complete with sunroom, huge family room, homework area while leaving some of the original brick walls intact. Drooling over how they had opened up the floor plan, expanded the kitchen, added an island with all kinds of storage drawers and cabinets galore. Drooling over the stainless steel appliances, double oven, gas range. Thinking I could even really learn to love cooking again if I didn't have my little tiny kitchen with half the cabinet space I had in our old place, those outdated tile countertops and a cooktop that no doubt is original. When's the last time you saw a pushbutton cooktop?

But then, right as we were wrapping up, my eyes just happened to land on a familiar sight. A monthly mortgage statement. It was from the same bank that handled my mother-in-law's mortgage. I paid her bills for at least a year before her death and then eight months afterwards until we sold her home, so I've seen plenty of those! Never mind why it was hanging on a bulletin board in full view of anyone walking through the kitchen. Right there in bold print....principal balance $36x,xxx.

No thank you! I'll keep my tiny little kitchen. I am just not there. Not anywhere near the point of taking on more debt. Maybe someday we'll be able to remodel or maybe we won't. But it's not worth the stress, the worry and irritability I would have by taking on any more than I already have.

Just my personal opinion, but I put my financial papers away when I know people are coming over. I just don't think it's anybody's business, and I'm the prime example that people are just too curious not to nonchalantly take a glimpse. *blush*

But maybe that was God's way of keeping me on track, keeping me from coming home to fix supper and brooding the whole time about how "bad" our kitchen is, making me realize that what I have is good enough, making me remember that everything has a price tag.

Primary Mortgage update - Jan '10

Just the normal monthly payment. $346.06 applied to principal. $253,267.45 is the remaining balance.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The temps are warmer

but the snow keeps falling!

Yesterday was Day 50 of my new ING Electric Orange Checking being open, and just like clockwork $121 was deposited into my account!

See the $105 deposit on hold? That's my monthly addition to the account for Christmas 2010.

Before I had a chance to overthink this (especially the part about how I'd like to have an extra $121 to spend on some things for the house like new pillows or new towels or things for me like new boots or a manicure), I went on and initiated a $121 payment to the Chase Card #2.

Even though the savings rates are lower than I ever remember, I love love love my ING accounts. I've had a savings account with them since 2004! If you ever thought you'd like to open an ING savings account, and need a referral to get a $25 bonus for opening an account with $250 or more. Comment on this post writing out your email address (i.e. john doe at comcast dot net) and I'll send you a referral email. You can get a $25 bonus, and I can get $10!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I was wrong - It's only $25 in Free Groceries

Once I started looking into the rewards program to explain it to Mrs. Borrower, I remembered that little blurb I read somewhere about the change to the rewards program. Now 1000 points = $5 in free groceries. Up until this time, it had been 1000 points = $10 in groceries. *sigh*

I hope I can explain this clearly. Last summer, this card had a much larger balance on it (over $4,000). Then they jacked my rate from 7.49% to 11.24%. An unproductive phone call to them with an attitude-filled CSR totally pi$$ed me off and I swore to him I would NOT be paying 11.24%. Wasn't sure how that was going to happen but I ended up with a balance transfer offer at a much better rate. So I did a $3,200 balance transfer to the Bank Visa, and when I started the blog I had a remaining balance of $958.

But I hated not using the card. Even if the rewards are reduced, it's still free groceries and free gas.

You get:
  • 1 point for each dollar spent anywhere using the credit card.
  • 2 points if those dollars are spent at a Kroger store.
  • 3 points if it's for a Kroger brand (store brand) purchase.
  • For each 100 spent on groceries, you get a fill-up at 15¢ off per gallon. (You get 10¢ off for swiping your shopper card, an additional 5¢ for paying at the pump with the Kroger credit card).
  • Every 3 months, they redeem your points in multiples of 1,000 and send you "checks" to be used as payment in a Kroger store. What they redeemed on this billing cycle won't actually be sent to me until the latter part of February, but they are automatic every three months. You don't have to remember to request them.
  • I usually end up with about 3,000-4,000 points redeemed every three months. It must have been the extra Thanksgiving/Christmas provisions that pushed me over the top this time.

Although the Kroger closest to home doesn't have gas pumps, the one by dd's dance studio does. I just make it a habit to fill up once a week when I'm picking her up from dance practice. Saving 15¢ per gallon really makes me smile as much as free groceries does!

Once the balance on this card dropped into the $700-800 range, I realized that I was spending that much in groceries and gas each month anyway. So in effect it's working like a card that I would be paying off every month. The only difference is that the payments I'm making are actually out of the current month's budget for groceries and gas. And yes, Mrs. 444, this qualifies me as a weirdo. I pay for the groceries and gas within a day or two of when they are charged. That keeps me on track with my budget so I don't have to wait for the bill, segregate the money, and hope it doesn't get spent elsewhere before time to actually pay the bill. :)

What's ironic is that if I had followed traditional finance advice and gone strictly to a cash system, envelope system, cut up the card, etc., I'd be paying interest to the tune of $6 a month now. That's okay...I'll keep working my own system. I've been really diligent about paying off the charges within a few days -- although I do need to go pay for the gas I bought Monday and the little food run I made this afternoon. I'm avoiding interest, still earning my rewards, and focusing on other debts right now. Sooner or later this one will have a zero balance. But I'm voting for later.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Kroger Credit Card Update - Jan '10

Paid all the current charges this month plus I snuck in an extra $13 on one of the payments to nudge this balance down just a smidgen. I got away with another month of no interest on this balance. Plus the rewards statement for this card shows they redeemed 5000 points for their next mailing of vouchers I can use in the store. That means $50 of free groceries are coming my way!

Activity on the last statement:

Previous Balance $663.93
Payments/Credits -$709.66
Transactions $696.66
New Balance $650.93

Monday, January 11, 2010

Chore Charts: Re-entry to Reality

Yes! We are back from our week at Disney World. It really was so nice to leave all business and domestic responsibilities on the jet bridge at the airport and spend the week focusing on having fun and enjoying all there is to see and do at Disney! I really didn't even worry about budgets or bills since almost everything was paid for ahead of time, and the money we needed for everything else was either in our pockets or sitting in savings awaiting the credit card bill.

But it's back to the real world. Not so hard for me today--the years have taught me that the more I get done on Sunday leads to a better, more peaceful work week. And yes, I just folded the 7th load of laundry. UGH!

But reality has been harder for my kids. First, they were(still are) ultra exhausted. Park hopping, pin trading, and character meeting for 5 straight days wears their little bodies out. Add on the fact that both had been out of their regular routines for two weeks prior due to school holiday closings, one of those weeks with grandparents visiting to dote on their every whim 24/7. And no sooner had the Santa deliveries gotten the slightest bit boring they are whisked off to Florida for a week of Mickey, Minnie, et al. Vacations and holidays are wonderful, but overall I've found my kids really do better with more structure and responsibility....then again, don't we all?

So today...I resurrected the Chore Charts.

We used these last year, but had slackened up the past couple of months. It really does take ALOT of my time to make sure they are staying on task, but I know it's important for development of their work ethic, esteem as a integral part of the family, and for financial lessons.

I follow the Dave Ramsey principle that kids earn commission not allowances. Work, get paid. Don't work, don't get paid! I also subscribe to the general rule that allowance should be $1 for each year of age. My 4 yr. old son has the opportunity to earn $4.15 per week (9 daily chores at 5¢ each for 7 days PLUS 4 weekly chores at 25¢ each). My 8 yr. old daughter can earn $8.00 per week (10 daily chores at 10¢ each PLUS 4 weekly chores at 25¢ each) although I probably should add another weekly chore since she recently exhibited the ability to push the Dyson around. :)

As you can see, the little guy is my worker. My overtired drama queen almost needed a cattle prod to finish up her homework today. Notwithstanding all that wasted time complaining and crying about homework, a mom-induced 2-hour nap this afternoon left her with not much time to do the rest of her chores this evening.

Oh well! She may or may not learn her lesson when she wants money for something I'm not willing to pay for and it isn't there in her piggy bank.

How do you handle chores and allowances for young children?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Landlord Epiphany

I just realized it is a Good Thing to be Facebook friends with your tenants. 'Cause when they post photos on their Facebook page, you can get sneak peeks inside your property and make sure it's being taken care of.

I am so blessed to have found such a sweet family to rent our old place.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Christmas Budget - Final Tally

All the numbers were crunched last weekend. I ended up spending $1,231.78 of the $1,260.00 I had saved for Christmas. I ended up adding the $28.22 left over to my grocery money to help offset the cost of holiday meals and additional groceries for our guests who were here over a week.

Then on New Year's Day, my husband decided to exchange one item I had given him. He got the exact item he wanted, and I got $18.72 credit on my VISA. So woohoo, I'll have another $18.72 off the credit card balances.

I've already started saving for Christmas 2010. I'm sticking with the same budget ($103 per month) until we find out in July what or how much our annual raises will be. If the raises are like last year's, there probably won't be any increase in the Christmas budget for 2010.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Magical Way to start the New Year!

By the time you read this, our family will be embarking on our very first ever (for any of us) magical vacation to Disney World!! We decided in November when we received the proceeds from the sale of my mother-in-law's home to allocate part of it for a fun trip for our family. We always spend our vacations (if we even take them) visiting my parents who live 800 miles away. Saving up enough to have a really nice Disney vacation is not in our current cash flow and probably won't be for years. But with the kids growing up so quickly, we made the decision to take the blessing and go with it! We have already paid for plane fares, lodging, park tickets and meals. We have set aside enough spending money that nothing will be added to the debt load. The only worry I have is taking a week off work. I have a couple of weeks before I make a final decision, but I'm leaning toward taking the week off without pay. I hate to use up a week of vacation time so early in the year....I always try to save my vacation time just in case I have to miss lots of days with sick kids, school inservice days, etc. It will make for a very lean January if I decide not to get paid...but it's a good time to be lean. I think we're all on spending overdose from the holidays, and there really is not much extra we NEED at this point.

I have a couple of posts scheduled to post during the week, and I'll be back before you know it!

Friday, January 1, 2010

HAPPY NEW YEAR & Money Market Loan Update - Dec. '09

Just to show you how old I'm getting, I fell asleep with the 4yo last night and didn't even see the New Year ring in!! I think that probably epitomizes my feelings about 2009. It's one I'm happy to close the books on. It was a hard year for us....emotionally. I added "landlord" and "executor" and "trustee" on top of all the other hats I was already wearing. My husband's emotions went into overdrive with his mother's death, and his alcohol use turned into abuse which spiraled our lives and our marriage into a place I never want to go again. Fortunately, about the time he was able to regain control of his addiction, I decided to regain control of our finances.

We are in a much better place emotionally, spiritually, and financially than we were when I started this blog. It's still going to take a long time to dig our way out of the damage, but I do have hope --- which is something I couldn't see much of six months ago.

Anyway, my early bedtime meant I never posted the final December update for the Money Market loan. Not much change here. But when I sent my extra auto money for the month to the New Car Fund, I rounded up $4.73 and applied that to the Money Market Loan portion in that account. New balance of the Money Market Loan = $4,643.25.