Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My New Daily Mantra

Several years ago during one of my crazy busy "seasons" of life, someone told me that when you don't have time at home to deal with much else (usually this is because of work), to focus on "Dinner, Dishes, & Duds." I quickly adopted this little saying to make sure that in spite of what else is going on, we always eat, have a clean kitchen, and clean clothes to wear.

In light of trying to form a new habit by the end of the year, I've modified it. Now it's:

Dinner, Dishes, Duds, and DESK!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

21 Days to an Organized Desk - Coupons

Thanks for following along with my goal of 21 Days to an Organized Desk.

First item to tackle are the coupons. You probably already know I'm an avid couponer. I'm definitely not an Extreme Couponer, but coupons are part of my shopping routine.

With our busy, crazy life, I don't have time to clip and file every single coupon from each Sunday's paper. I used to, but years ago realized a better system for my limited number of hours to utilize coupons. I file my Sunday inserts in a plastic file box. Each Sunday gets its own file folder.

I make my shopping lists (for sale items to stock up on) from browsing blogs that highlight the sale items with matching coupons. These lists will tell you from which Sunday paper to find the coupon. Two of my favorites are Passionate Penny Pincher and Faithful Provisions since they both highlight stores in my area. It definitely helps to follow a blog that covers the stores and sales in your region. If you're new to couponing, the lingo might be a little foreign. Take the time to check out online tutorials to help you learn quickly.

So then, what about coupons that come in snail mail? Or printed online? or Store Catalinas? or Walgreens Register Rewards and CVS Extra Bucks? No doubt, these present more of an organizing challenge for me. If they can only be used at a particular store, I will keep them in an envelope designated for that store. These envelopes reside in my purse, so I always have them with me when I'm out shopping. If they are for items that could be purchased anywhere, I keep them in a separate envelope. I don't print every single coupon available, only ones I think I might use. And if I'm regularly (i.e. weekly) purging my expired coupons, I have a pretty good idea of what coupons I have in case I see a new deal for that item.

How do you organize your coupons?

21 Days to .... a More Organized Desk

They say it takes 21 days of doing something repeatedly for it to become a habit. I've decided to take the last 21 days of 2011 to try to develop the habit of cleaning my desk off daily! As you can see right now, my desk is one HOT MESS!!!

  • Unprocessed mail
  • Grocery lists
  • Receipts
  • Coupons
  • Some Lego pieces (I promise, those are NOT mine!)
  • Who knows what else is lurking in there that needs to find a home
So, starting today....I put all incoming papers (mail, papers from school, receipts from my purse, coupons and other things I've printed) in that basket in front of the lamp. By the end of the day, the basket needs to be emptied and each piece of paper needs to have found a home.

If I can make this a habit in the next 21 days, I'll be starting the New Year off on a good note!

Is there something you'd like to focus on for the next 21 days?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Another Gift Idea

I've decided to pass along deals I find as I'm still in shopping mode....and always on the hunt for a bargain price.

Here is one I snagged this morning:

$14.99 (including shipping) for 10 Classic Hardcover Books

My kindergartener will be reading VERY soon. The books in this set that we already have will make great contributions to the school or to my "gift stash." The rest I'll put under the tree for him to expand his library.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sweet Deal at Amazon - HURRY! Today Only!

I'm not nearly finished shopping, but I did get my daughter's big gift knocked out of the way tonight. I had already decided to get her a Kindle Fire. I had $48 in unused gift cards from Swagbucks so I knew I didn't have to shell out the entire $199. Then, I found out about the promo good today only for $10 off any $100 electronics or toys purchase if you use Mastercard. To get the discount, use the code ZKGYLEBT at checkout. For more details, check out Moms Need to Know.

I got my son's big gift yesterday. He had been asking for a 3DS and I was so hesitant. Until I remembered a $40 gift card from Best Buy that's been sitting here since last year's Christmas shopping.

Hopefully, the spending will slow down now. Even though I have the money saved for Christmas, it always makes me a nervous wreck when I start spending so much in such a short amount of time.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Still Alive

I do my best to keep up with your blogs....but can't seem to find time to update my own!

Maybe soon......

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Looking for some higher interest income?

I just added another $100 to my U.S. Savings Bond holdings. I set up an account with Treasury Direct a couple of years ago. Not sure why I hadn't even checked the current rates (they've only been out for almost six months!). But shoot....if I can earn 4.6% for the next six months, then 3.06% for the following six months...that's better than I could dream to earn anywhere else!

See here for a much better explanation than I could ever give.

And safety? Well...it's debatable whether the U.S. Treasury is really a good investment. Although I am of the belief that if they default, all our investments will be screwed. :-/

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Final 2 Year Updates

I'm combining these last three into one post ....because life is crazy busy and while I have a minute to type this out I might as well do 'em all!

This one is probably on schedule to be paid off first. It has a 6.15% interest rate and the starting balance was $3,575.78. Two years later, it has dropped to $2,060.51!

Definitely my highest credit card balance. It has a 6.99% which is fixed since I opted out of a change in terms. This one started at $6,698.00. Two years later, it's down to $4,300.80!

Money Market Loan
This is a crazy loan. I borrowed from my savings to replace a heat/air unit in our old house. And for a couple of years I never paid myself back ANYTHING! I'm still not paying much, just snowflaking little amounts when I find them. But at least I'm not ignoring it any longer. Two years ago I owed myself $4,711.50. Now that amount has been reduced to $4,534.39. Not significant progress....but I'm just happy I've put it back on the radar screen!

So there you have it! Total progress since the beginning of this blog.....$69,010.56! Now before you get all excited, remember that $45,739.46 was because of the inheritance my husband received from his mom. It still bothers me that we owe so much money, but it's wonderful to see that the numbers are moving the right way!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A break in the updates to ask for your help!

I have a dilemma....

I sent an email to my favorite mortgage broker a couple of weeks ago. Ended up being able to lock in a 3.875% fixed rate (30 years) for a refi of the primary mortgage. Based on the assumption that I'd refi $246,000, it would drop the payment $140/month. Less cash each month, less interest the bank earns in the long run (even with the extra payments since I'm already 30 payments into this current mortgage). The closing costs are approximately $1,200 so it would take less than one year to re-coup my costs.

Bad news....we got a really crappy appraisal. He pulled 3 comps from a street I would never consider living on since it backs up to the interstate. We actually looked at houses on that street a few years ago, but the constant drone of the tractor trailers would have seriously put me over the edge. The appraiser won't reconsider.

So now...if I want to proceed, I'll have to bring about $9,500 to the closing table. I could pull it from the HELOC --- at a 2.75% variable rate. To refresh your memory, the HELOC is secured by the rental property. I could try to work out some kind of plan that would not only pay off this extra $9,500 but also increase my monthly cash flow. The new reduced loan amount would drop my current payment by $187 instead of $140.

What to do? What to do? Any opinions?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Capital One - 2 Years Later

Progress is at a snail's pace on the Capital One card. Fortunately, I opted out of a change in terms a few years ago when they tried to increase my rate. So this one is a fixed 4.99%. The good thing about opting out of those changes in terms is that you can't add any more debt on it. So the only place it can go is down, no matter how slow the progress seems.

Two years ago, the balance was $1,129.26. Today it stands at $828.17.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Kroger Credit Card - 2 years later

This is the last priority on my list right now. Two years ago, this balance started at $958.23. The card has a high interest rate, but I love the rewards it offers and didn't want to quit using it. I earn $30-$40 of free groceries each quarter, plus I get discounts for gas purchases. I was able to pay the balance down below $700. Then each month I charge all groceries and gas and pay those purchases off before the due date. So I'm not really paying the old balance, I'm just paying for groceries and gas out of this month's budget. But since those are always more than my balance, I'm effectively getting an interest free loan on that money. Plus, I still get the rewards!!!

Right now, the balance on the "old debt" owed to this card is $622.93.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Primary Mortgage - 2 years Later

Nothing other than the normal monthly payments on our largest debt. It's still numbing to realize you owe almost a quarter of million and watch the principal balance drop ever so slowly.

The interest rate is 4.5% fixed, and as of the last statement, there are 27 years and 8 months remaining.

This one started at $254,984.88. Today it's down to $246,067.12.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rental Mortgage - GONE!

Two years ago this balance was $27,723.90. This was the mortgage on our old condo (now the rental property).

We were able to pay this one off in 2009 with some of the money my husband inherited after his mother's death. Being free of this payment has put this in property in a position where, even with the amortized loan through the HELOC, it has positive cash flow. Well...it won't this year with that huge assessment from the HOA, but in a normal year it would. This is a good thing!

So far I have had (can you hear my knuckles rapping on the desk) good luck with tenants. We still love our old condo. I get really nostalgic when I'm over there for one reason or another. I guess that is normal since I lived there for over 17 years. Moved in there when I was single, added a husband, then two kids. Don't get me wrong. We love living where we are. Our house now has lots of room, lots of storage and a huge yard. No one gets displaced when we have overnight guests, and we're never fighting for a bathroom. But the time, money, and energy it takes to clean and maintain might not be worth it as we get older. We plan to keep this rental for a long time....maybe even long enough to move back there once the rugrats get out of high school. LOL

Monday, September 19, 2011

It's Hard to Read the News

without thinking

"there, but for the Grace of God."

Behind the Poverty Numbers

It could happen to anyone.....even us.

HELOC - 2 years later

I would love to be debt free, but when I start ranking loans this is one that hasn't hurt too badly over the past couple of years.

This is a home equity loan on our old home....a condo that is now a rental property. On a chance visit to the bank back in January of 2008, somehow they sold me on increasing a $25K line of credit to $100K. Back then, I had no debt other than the small mortgage on the condo. We tapped into the $25K for my husband's business off and on, but we were nowhere near maxing it out.

Four months later, hindsight showed that was the only way we ever would have gotten the house we now live in. I still don't think I've ever told you the whole story about how we found ourselves buying a foreclosure house that had the floor plan of our dreams in one of the top school districts in the nation (and absolutely the best schools in our state). Not to mention it is in a subdivision where my favorite cousin and her family live. It was one of those things where every star had to line up in the sky, one of those things I prayed and prayed and prayed about. But I had to tap the entire $100K for it to happen. Did you know that in Tennessee you have to bring CASH (i.e. Cashier's Checks) to the courthouse steps even before you know what your final bid is going to be??? Let me tell you....for everything to come together like it did....it was one of those things you just had to stand back and know that HE definitely had His hand in this one.

In August, 2009 the balance was $92,711.42. In 2009 my husband received some money from his mother's estate, and we were able to put down about $20,000 on this loan during the year.

This loan has an enviable rate (prime minus a half percent so currently 2.75%). At the time I was very nervous about the variable rate on this loan. Everyone kept talking about coming inflation and rising interest rates. Turns out so far that hasn't happened, but I was nervous enough to take an offer to convert a portion ($73,000) of the balance to a 15 year fixed rate of 4.99%. So yeah, I'm paying more in interest than I could have been, but honestly knowing it is a fixed rate does let me sleep better every night. You must not forget.....I AM old enough to remember double digit interest rates in the early 80's. And the thought of paying 15% on this much of a balance was very nerve-wracking.

Once I finish borrowing out the amount of the assessments over the next couple of months, I'll probably be right back up there near the $72K mark. But for today, the balance is $68,689.11. And the balance on that fixed portion is down to $67,314.11. The other $1,375.00 is at the 2.75% variable rate.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Chase Card #2 - Two Years Later

First one up to bat....Chase Card #2.

Which started out back in August 2009 at $3,620.62. This was my highest rate card, so it was at the top of the radar. I ended up transferring the balance to the HELOC, but I continued to keep up with the amounts separately. Then I had to borrow another $2,000 in 2010 to pay for some LARGE expenses that summer.

Finally just last month, I took money out of a savings account and paid this balance off! Don't get too excited though. I had the money saved for an upcoming expense on the rental property (big assessment from the homeowners' association). So I just used the savings, paid off this balance, and I'm re-borrowing on the HELOC as the payments for assessment are due. It will come close to being a complete wash. It just simplifies my life and my thinking to knock this one out.

So here's the pretty ticker!

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Remember the switch to the Health Savings Account?

I emailed the partner in charge of payroll and told him I wanted to contribute $512.50 per month including the firm's $87 portion. Well, he must have read my email too quickly (or maybe he just wanted to make me sweat). Because out of my semi-monthly paycheck they took $512.50! That's $300 more out of my check than I was expecting!!

But after sleeping on it, I've decided I'm going to try and leave it like it is. I'll end up putting in $4,100 before the end of the year. And the firm will contribute an additional $348. That goes a long way towards the $5,000 deductible we now have. And if we go four months without approaching that deductible, this might be my "forced savings" way for the upcoming orthodontist expenses.

I didn't have any real plans to SPEND that money. It would have gone into a holding pattern to hopefully put into my Roth. But braces are in the 9 yr. old's future.....I might as well face it. We have our initial consultation with the orthodontist next month....I'll know more then what I'm up against. At least it won't be such a sticker shock knowing that gobs and gobs of money are being set aside right now for it!!!

Celebrating 2 Years!

Yep! Two years since I started this blog to document my journey out of the mounds of debt I found myself in back in 2009.

There are STILL mounds of debt, but it's fun and motivating to look back and see the progress that has been made! And on those days it feels like one step forward, two steps back.... I need to look back to re-assure myself that things are better than they were.

Over the next few days, I'll be doing a detail review of the debt that was approaching $400,000 when I made the first blog post.

Here's where it stood:
Primary Mortgage - $254,984.88
Rental Mortgage - 27,723.90
HELOC - 92,711.42
Chase Card #1 - 6,698.00
Money Market Loan - 4,711.50
Chase Card #2 - 3,620.62
Bank VISA - 3,575.78
Capital One - 1,129.26
Kroger credit card - 958.23
TOTAL $396,113.59

UGLY! And let's face it, it's still not pretty. The living expenses that come with raising two kids on our income just don't allow for gazelle intensity. But the situation has improved. And I thank each and every one of you for stopping by and offering encouragement and advice. It's going to be a long haul, and I am grateful to all of you for sticking with me and helping me wade through until we can all declare debt freedom!!!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Another $5 for the Christmas Budget

Yep! Just cashed in more Swagbucks for another $5 Amazon.com gift card. This brings my total for the year to $45. I had set a goal of $60, but realistically I'll probably end up with $55. Still nothing I'm going to sneeze at.

And Friday is always Mega Swagbucks Day, so what are you waiting for???

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Is Couponing Worth My Time?

I've mentioned before that I have several very convenient stores nearby to make stops at multiple stores during the week. Some weeks are better than others depending on how busy work is, how crazy the kids' schedules are, and what the sales are like. Usually I spread my stops over the course of the week to pick up the sale items especially if I have good coupons to match.

Today was an exception. I put off the grocery shopping all weekend. Finally mid-afternoon, I sat down at the computer. I have several blogs in my Google Reader that match up deals and coupons at the grocery/drug stores. I use posts from those blogs to make shopping lists for each store and note the coupons that need to be clipped (or found if I've already printed them). I spent two hours making lists for six stores, coming up with a potential meal plan for the week, and finding the coupons. Leaving my husband to feed dinner and get baths done, I went out in the steady rain. Within a 2 mile radius I can be at Target, CVS, Walgreens, Harris Teeter, Publix and Kroger. I was able to hit all of those except Target in the next 2 hours.

Not including sales tax, I spent a total of $90.09. My savings including coupons were $94.40. Not too shabby considering I got enough food to last at least a week including a really pretty roast and a couple of packages of ground chuck. Since we pack lunches, this is food for all 3 meals for 4 people. We also needed a couple of other "bigger ticket" items like a 12-pack of toilet paper and coffee. Have you priced coffee lately??? OMG! This is where my addiction shows, because I refuse to cut back.

Anyway....a total of 4 hours. If I hadn't been couponing, I would have spent an hour going to Kroger to do the weekly shopping anyway. So I spent an extra 3 hours of my day to save $94.40. Working out to an hourly rate of $31.46, it's definitely worth my time! Not to mention there's no way we could fit other things in our budget without doing this...

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Health Insurance Switch

I swear 444, I know how you feel. My response on Beks post was so long, I thought it deserved it's own post.

I work for a small company. I think we have 33 people covered under our health insurance plans. And our plans always renew on September 1, so I happen to have the numbers in front of me. We have a choice of the traditional PPO with a $1000 indiv/$2500 family deductible or a High Deductible ($5,000 family) Plan with a Health Savings Account.

Every September we get hit with an increase. This year was 16%. Which I had heard the average right now is about 19% so I guess that's in line.For the traditional plan, my portion of family coverage would have been $754.38 per month. My employer pays for single coverage which would have been the other $371. Yes…..that is $1,125 per month total for family coverage. Each individual has a $1,000 deductible maxing out at $2,500 for the family. We had $25 co-pays for office visits and prescriptions were either $10, 20 or $50.

I decided to switched on September 1 to the High Deductible Plan. All office visits and all prescriptions go towards the $5,000 deductible. My portion for insurance is $518.24 per month. And I’m contributing an additional $512 per month (employer pays $87 of this since they only have to pay $284 for what single coverage would be) into a Health Savings account which I can reimburse myself for ANY and ALL medical/dental expenses. I can contribute $6,150 annually to the Health Savings Account which exceeds the $5,000 I might have to pay out-of-pocket for everything else.

I ran the numbers like a million times. But I was able to remove the medical line in my monthly budget since I’ll be able to reimburse myself for all the expenses. Because of that and the taxes savings, I’m only going to bring home about $40 less per month than I would with the traditional plan. But I have the “chance” (depending on how healthy everyone is) to let that HSA account build up and be able to reimburse myself for outrageous orthodontist bills in my near future. I have a 9yr old who is going to need braces in the next year or so.

I hate it, but it is what it is.

Friday, August 26, 2011


The credit cards bills (on the credit cards that I pay off each month) are all here now. These are the ones that include our trip to Myrtle Beach for dd9's dance Nationals and most of the major back-to-school expenses. It is scary. Not sure I'll be able to SQUEEEZE enough out of cash flow to pay them in full.

I'm really hoping to have enough time to sit down and figure it all out this weekend. Not sure that is going to happen, but I can hope. I know I'll feel better just to know one way or another.

Oh....I haven't even told you about the transmission that's being rebuilt in my 9 yr. old Jeep at this very moment. *SIGH* At least I have a "car fund" savings that will cover that, but how I hate spending $2K plus a rental car.

So, financially, things are not great at the moment. But we're healthy, the kids are loving school, and I just know we're due to catch a break soon. Hope all readers on the East Coast stay safe this weekend!! It's still too hot for my liking, so I'm resolved to spend any extra time this weekend at my desk --- either on work for pay or figuring out the budget mess.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Are you on the edge of your seat?

Wondering whether Congress will reach a compromise on this debt ceiling debacle? I've been following some tweets on Twitter....and what a divided nation we are! When you have two sides so completely entrenched in their beliefs and values, and neither side has full control of the legislative process....there has to be compromise. I do wish it included spending cuts and a balanced budget amendment, but I guess we'll have to take what we can get.

No major news on my home front. I am stressed to the max for some reason today. Lots of work deadlines approaching. My daughter has her team tryouts tomorrow, and that seems to be more stressful for the moms than it is for the girls. Have any of you watched Dance Moms? I will say I am hooked on that show....probably because it makes me and my circle of Dance Moms seem so normal and down-to-earth. Kind of like watching Hoarders? Then you can look away from the messes since your own house is a thousand times better than the ones on that show! LOL

OK....lots to do. Better get to it. I've even got my fingers crossed for some overtime the next couple of weeks. That would certainly help the August budget! Send good thoughts for lots of energy and no child care issues....Momma needs to work!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Savings Accounts for Kids

I'm still keeping my eye on ING, but I was excited to find out this week they have kid-friendly savings accounts.
  • no minimums
  • no fees
  • the same 1% annual yield my other accounts get
Check it out here.

My 9 yr. old has been wanting an "account." I'm so happy to find a fee-friendly option for her. I remember my mom taking me to the bank --- probably younger than 9 --- to open my own passbook savings. Does anyone else remember those little ledgers in a folder that looked like a passport??? Gosh, I'm old.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Great Recovery


Will you be watching tonight? I am going to try. That's a bad hour in our house for focused viewing, but I really could use some hope about where our country is headed.

Frugal Birthday Cards

I just ordered 20 photo cards (using a picture of my kids and adding some text with birthday wishes) for $1.49. That's less than 8¢ per card!!! I can't even make them with my scrapbook stash that cheaply! And my family will love them...

Here's a link so you can order your own!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Did you read your letter from ING Direct?

I heard the news last month about the agreement reached between Capital One and ING Direct. Here's the letter that was in my inbox this morning:

I have loved my ING Direct savings accounts for seven years! I opened two Sharebuilder accounts (one Regular, one Roth) earlier this year, and the customer service has been amazing!

I feel very leary about wolves coming in with my sheep. So I'll be keeping my eyes open for other options and watching like a hawk for changes in corporate policy.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thinking Out Loud

Please feel free to skim right over this if it gets too hairy for ya. It's kinda confusing in my mind so I'm posting here to help me think through a potential transaction spurred on by Mortgaged Life and her use of equity lines vs. savings. Of course, if you want to offer your opinion I'll gladly listen.


HELOC - secured by our rental property (the old home). Total line of credit is $100,000. Current balance is $68,229 which was amortized on a 15-year 4.99% loan back in November, 2009...so roughly 160 pmts. remaining.

Chase Card #2 - was a credit card that Chase refused to lower my 11 or 12% interest rate. So I paid it off by drawing on the line of credit. This part of the line was not amortized on the 15-year loan (above), and is a variable rate of prime minus 0.5% (currently 2.75%). Current balance on this portion is $4,327.

Love that I'm paying 2.75% instead of 12%. But because of my "bucket" mentality, it bugs me that I've mixed the rental loan with the credit card loan. Kinda like my kids hate for their foods to touch each other on the dinner plate I guess.

Word has it (and a homeowners' meeting confirmed) that we will be handed a rather hefty assessment for the rental property (condo) for a MAJOR retaining wall, underpining project. Basically one row of homes was practically sliding off the hill. And yes, when you own a condo you are responsible for everyone's property not just your own. It was really no big surprise....or at least I'm over the shock and prepared to write a check for $4-5K.

I actually have enough in the Rental Emergency Fund to cover that and still have 3 months of expenses (payment, taxes, HOA fees) left over.

So now I'm thinking I drain the Rental E-Fund ---- after all it is my money ---- and pay enough down on the line of credit to obliterate Chase Card #2.

Then when the bill comes in for the assessment, I draw on the line to pay the assessment.

Yes I know....I'll end up with basically the same amount of debt. But in my mind, then every dollar on that line of credit will really be related to the rental property. My bucket mentality sometimes makes my life alot more complicated than it has to be.....

And now that I've typed this out, I've realized I better wait and make sure I don't need to draw any more money on the line to pay for our dance team trip!!!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Net Worth Funded - 2Q 2011

At least I have the spreadsheet to make me feel a little better. It's nice to see that although it feels like treading water, slow progress is being made. I think my goal to pay down $10K of debt this year is definitely obtainable. Not exactly gazelle intense, but more like the persistant tortoise.

The next two months might be the killer. Our annual trip (600 miles away this year!) for dd9's dance competition and back to school expenses might just do me in. Let's hope I've socked enough away --or at least can juggle the budget-- to cover it all. I have my fingers crossed, but I'm leary.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

I forgot to update you on more Good News!

Due to a change in their living situation, I agreed to let my old tenants out of their lease six months early. Two sisters....one gets married...other one moves out....condo is much bigger and more expensive than a pair of newlyweds needs. They wanted to move to smaller and cheaper housing and who am I to stand in the way of anyone trying to better their financial situation.

The awesome thing was that ONE ad on Craigslist yielded 3 showings and 1 approved application. I did the exit walk-through and got the keys from the old tenant on a Monday evening. We had carpet cleaners there on Tuesday morning. My husband detail cleaned the kitchen, bathrooms, baseboards while the carpet cleaners were there. And Tuesday evening I met the new tenant and handed her the keys! Not even 24 hours vacant....I didn't have to take over any utilities....and I didn't miss a single day of rent income!

That's pretty awesome considering it took us forever to find our first tenants back in 2009....

Life is a mix of Bad and Good

We're just keeping on keeping on....crossing our fingers the summer expenses aren't going to kill us again this year. I've been scared to update the reports, the budget, the checkbook.

Bad news: No raises this year. UGH! Even a 1-2% raise helps keep up with the rising cost of gas, groceries, and health insurance.... Now I know how the Social Security recipients have been feeling the past couple of years.

More Bad news: DH is not working right now. We both agreed it was not a long-term situation....I try to mind my own business though on his timing of making his exit.

Good news: The little one starts kindergarten in just 7 weeks! Although I'll still be paying for after-school care for him, it will be ALOT less than the monthly check to preschool I've been writing for what seems like forever!! PLEASE PLEASE let that stretch further than just the cost-of-living increases!

More good news: I cashed out more Swagbucks this morning for a $5 Amazon gift card. And I'll probably be cashing out $10 or so from M-Turk in the next few days. Good thing the little things keep me happy.

Hope you all have a safe and Happy Fourth!!!!!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Crossing the line

Refinancing the HELOC to an amortized 15-year loan took alot of stress out of my life by fixing the interest rate (albeit higher). This month, this loan reached that magical point where the principal portion of the payment is more than the interest portion. Something about crossing that line just makes me so much happier!!

This month statements shows: $289.56 principal and $287.34 interest.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Clarity on the Annual Financial Goals

When I wrote this post, I was a little vague about my financial goals for the year. Nothing like going through another tax season, where numbers are on the brain 24/7. Looking at hundreds of other tax returns always helps me clarify my own finances, and the progress I'd like to make.

So yes...even though I still want to fund the Net Worth by $15,000, here are the specific goals in order of priority:

  1. Pay for current expenses without borrowing any more money during 2011.
  2. Reduce total debt by $10,000. The balance on 1/1/11 was $337,452.59.
  3. Fully fund $5,000 into my Roth IRA before 4/15/12.
  4. Save as much as possible for anticipated orthodontist expenses in 2012. DD turns 10 next January, which is when our family dentist will be sending her for braces. Unfortunately, I had two thumbsuckers, so braces are definitely in the future for both kids.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


I'm squeezing out another $150 to send to the Roth IRA before the deadline. That will up my total contribution for 2010 to $1,675. Let's hope I don't regret this when time comes to pay for our summer trip to dd's dance team Nationals.....

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I just crossed the $10 mark with MTurk earnings

I decided to let them verify my checking account the old-fashioned way (by making two miniscule deposits into my account), so it will be a few days before I transfer the money. But I'll have a few more cents too! This has left me wondering....

Do you report Survey Income or Swagbucks earned on your tax return?

We're all anonymous here, and I don't think the IRS will be monitoring this blog to look for tax evaders.....so tell me the truth. I'm extremely curious.

I do report everything that is deposited into my bank account. I probably missed some Swagbucks, since I usually just post in my money software the amount I've paid for an item. But I think technically I should claim the value of the Amazon gift cards as income. They're not "discounts", they're just alternate methods of payment. I need to remember to keep up with it better in 2011.

Speaking of which, I have enough Swagbucks to get four $5 gift cards, so I think I'm on track to meet the $60 goal I want to have for Christmas shopping!

Feeling a little abnormal

Our lunchroom discussion yesterday turned to frugality, tightwads, being cheap, whatever you want to call it. Remember I work in an accounting firm, so most of my co-workers are fiscally conservative by nature anyway. Of the eight people in the room (I've worked with all of them more than 10 years...some of them 24 years), they voted me hands down as the "tightest" with my wallet. The old motto was always "In Debt NEVER pays retail." What they don't understand is that I could never support our standard of living (housing, kid activities, etc) if I wasn't as tight as a tick. I think they would also be shocked to know the level of credit card debt I allowed to accumulate in 2008 and 2009. Even so....I walked back to the office wondering just how weird I really am. Then I glanced over a few of the PF blogs in my Google Reader, and felt back among friends.

Friday, April 1, 2011

First Quarter, 2011 Net Worth Funding

I should be working, but I'm procrastinating....

Remember this blast from the past? It's been months since I posted my progress. I figured out the final number I'm willing to pull from checking for the Roth. Combined with a little bit of stock I sold back at the end of 2010, I'll be funding a total of $1,525 into the Roth for 2010. A far cry from the $5,000 allowed contribution, but better than nothing I suppose.

This is a boring spreadsheet, but it helps keep me on track. The big withdrawal from the Rental E-fund in February was to pay the annual property taxes. I'm finally happy with the balance in this E-fund for the rental since it has a full 6 months of expenses. Good thing, since I'll be looking for new tenants as of the first of July.

The other numbers that make me smile are the stock dividends. Many of the quality dividend-paying stocks increase the dividends in the first quarter of the year. I'm reinvesting all these in additional shares, so the dividends keep going up little by little. Dividends for the 1st quarter, 2010 were $201.12 compared to $221.21 so far this year. I'm glad I have the dividends for an inflation hedge since the interest income just keeps getting punier and punier!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Yay me!

I've updated all the tickers at the bottom for the month of March. I find myself thinking about this debt CONSTANTLY! When I had to draw on the line of credit last fall, it really knocked the wind out of my sails. I kinda fell off the blogging wagon and quit updating. Right now I'm trying to balance all my goals of wanting to pay extra towards the debt, wanting to put as much as I can in the Roth, and saving some money back to pay cash for some upcoming expenses.

I think I've finally (at least for today) resolved to be happy if I can pay a total of $10,000 towards the debt balances this year. For the first 3 months, the debt has decreased $2,407.35 so I'm not too far off track to meet that goal. It's not exactly gazelle-intense, but I'm really hoping to get through the summer without borrowing any more money!

As soon as ING credits my accounts tomorrow night for the March interest, I'll be able to finish my spreadsheet for how much the net worth has been funded this year. Maybe I'll also decide how much I can "afford" to part with to send to the Roth IRA. Or maybe not....since Uncle Sam is giving me until April 15 to figure that one out!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Not much to say

Well, I probably have alot to say...I just have trouble finding time to put my thoughts into the written word. We are hanging on right now. My husband is living at a sober house, going to lots of AA meetings and spending lots of time helping his very sick brother. He visits me and the kids, but isn't staying here. I am proud of his progress, but there are still many issues to be resolved.

Life is crazy. Tax season is in full swing, dance competition season has started for my daughter, and my 5 yr. old has his first spring soccer game tomorrow!

I did open a new Roth IRA account at Sharebuilder! I've only transferred $400 to it so far, but I'm very excited about opening this account. Mutual funds are okay, but I'm excited about having part of my Roth in individual dividend-paying stocks and not worrying about what cut the mutual fund managers are taking out of my returns. Sharebuilder also reinvests all your dividends, and there are no fees for IRA's!

I also updated ALL the tickers at the bottom of this blog. Hopefully, I can keep them updated even if I don't have time to write a blogpost.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Being a single mom

My husband had another terribly bad drinking binge. As advanced as his alcoholism is, these binges are terribly dangerous for his physical health. After 10 days in the hospital getting over the DT's, the hallucinations, he is once again admitting his powerlessness. He is not living at home. I can't keep putting our kids through the chaos. I've had to make lots of schedule changes and arrange additional child care. But we're getting by one day at a time.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

DEAL for TODAY ONLY! My Headstart on Christmas shopping

Well, not really the shopping part...but getting my Amazon.com gift cards lined up and ready to use when I do start. I already have $5 from cashing in Swagbucks so far, but today's deal at LivingSocial is a $20 gift card for only $10.

I probably did 90% of my shopping for the kids at Amazon. You can catch some awesome deals, their service is top notch, and I don't have to fight the crowds. I even caught a great deal on a Wii game last December while I was browsing emails during a continuing education class....and was able to order from my phone and get those coveted hours to keep my license at the same time!

Monday, January 17, 2011

2010 Ending Balance - Chase Card #1

HUGE SIGH! If my readers have all forgotten me, I wouldn't blame them. I am really trying to stay focused on my goals, and spare time is just non-existant!

But I'm home today since schools are closed, and I found a minute to update this balance.

In August, 2009 the balance on this card was $6,698.00

Total paid through December 2010: $1,724.91

Ending balance = $4,973.09

Saturday, January 8, 2011

2010 Ending Balance - Primary Mortgage

So I guess I should get back to getting the loans updated! WOW! I have been so busy, but other than a sick boy it's all good. I've made great progress on getting the office part of my dungeon deep cleaned and decluttered. Still have a long way to go to get the scrapbook/crafting side organized, but I'm loving the progress so far!

This is the mortage on our residence. This loan was refinanced in 2008 with a 4.5% fixed rate, but there are 28 years, 5 months remaining.

In August, 2009 when I started tracking the pile of bills, the balance on this baby was $254,984.88.

Total paid = $ 5,610.84

Balance today = $249,374.04

So glad we've crossed below the 250K threshold, but it still feels strange to know you owe a quarter of a million on your house!!!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The 2011 Bucket List

I'm listing ALOT here....most of which is not finance related, but life isn't all about finance. And I could have unlimited wealth and still not be satisfied. At least that's what I've been told. LOL

Personal Goals:

Health - Exercise 3 times a week whether it's walking the neighborhood, riding bikes with the kids, or playing Just Dance on the Wii. Make appointments for overdue health exams. Be conscious of finding healthy alternatives when I'm looking for something to stuff in my body.

Time Management - The most recent time-sucker has been playing games on Facebook, so as of yesterday I am only allowing myself online gaming time between 11PM and 6:30AM. If I happen to sleep through the entire time slot, so be it. More likely, I'll be up at 5:30AM like I was today. I just need to know when to make myself stop!!

Family Goals:

Marriage - Continue to work on rebuilding our marriage. We had a pretty rough 2010 (and 2009 for that matter). My husband is working his program one day at a time. I just need to keep working on letting go of resentments and fears.

Children - Be intentional with spending time together. Savor these last few months with my preschooler. He'll be starting kindergarten in just a few short months, and this is precious time never to be regained. My daughter will be turning 9 in just a few days, and it's hard to believe that her time at home before college is almost HALFWAY GONE!!! Make sure I say "yes" more than "no" to building Legos and baking cookies and the endless list of requests.

Professional Goals:

Use our current office remodeling project as incentive to declutter and organize my workspace better. Approach our shift to a paperless environment with a positive attitude instead of the fear that grips my chest. Become more of an expert in IRAs. I'm kind of the go-to gal for pension and IRA questions in our firm, but there is so much more I could learn instead of just knowing where to look it up.

Spiritual Goals:

Continue my journey in Al-Anon. Continue building relationships with others who attend our place of worship. Bite the bullet and take my kids to church even when I'm too worn out, 'cause I always get something out of it. Pray more often.


Over the course of the year, go through every nook and cranny of this entire house including all three attic areas decluttering, deep cleaning and re-organizing. I've already mapped out a schedule and January is the month to tackle the office/craft room which could also be called the dungeon! Work on organizing photos and scrapbook at least 25 pages during the year.


Start over with my goal to fund the Net Worth by $15,000 during the year.

A longtime friend shared this verse on Facebook yesterday. So fitting for the New Year!

Thus says the Lord...."Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth." Isaiah 43: 16, 18-19

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2010 Ending Balance - Money Market Loan

Remember this one? It was the one I almost forgot about because it was owed to none other than my Money Market account. I let this one slide for almost 3 years before I started paying myself back....mostly with snowflakes from survey income.

At the start of this blog, the balance was $4,711.50

Total Paid: $ 135.13

Balance today: $4,576.37

That's $135.13 more in my EF than I had before I intentionally started sending those small payments to MY account!

Hey Twenty Eleven! Bring it on!

Happy New Year bloggy friends! I've always loved the change of the calendar...whether it's the beginning of a new week, a new month or especially a new year. Hope rings eternal that things can be better even when they're not so bad as they are. I don't think there's anything wrong with striving to excel, goals to be more than you are today. If you've already reached perfection (which we know is impossible), then your name must be Lord. But I think He wants us to use our talents and our gifts to continually improve our lives and the lives of those around us!

I still haven't written down my 2011 Goals. I'm hoping to find some quiet time today to sit down with this article and put my goals in writing.

I did however check on some accounts this morning and was surprised to find that my 401K has reached pre-market meltdown (in late 2008) levels! I'm still nervous about the market. I think there are still too many time bombs waiting on the horizon, but I don't think pulling out and sitting on the sidelines is the answer either. We just have to ride the storms...and hope the country gets back on a better track of creating jobs and reducing the debt. I'm happy that my 401K and IRAs have crossed the $200K mark ($210,000 actually), but I also know that is not nearly enough for a 48 year old with the debt load I'm carrying.

I hope you're feeling as optimistic about the New Year as I am today! 2010 brought many challenges. I'm hoping that I learned alot and gained some wisdom so that I can more effectively deal with whatever 2011 throws my way! I wish all of you good health and peace in the New Year!