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Updated the numbers

August 14th, 2008 at 01:50 pm

Finally got around to updating the debt and savings totals over there on the left. The debt is slooooowly going down, but then again so is the savings. The savings dropped a huge amount because I did take some money out to pay off my one-and-only credit card a while back, but also the stock market isn't helping me any these days (not to mention the $1,000-plus vet visit we had this month....)



A good oops

June 24th, 2008 at 03:31 pm

In the rush to get bills paid and get out of town last month, I forgot to record a couple debt payments. When we got home, I put some more money toward one particular debt and was anticipating having to put a big chunk of change toward it to pay it off this month. However, it occurred to me a couple weeks ago that something was amiss so I started re-tracing my steps and thought that maybe I had paid the debt off early. I wasn't sure, though, so I waited until all the payments from the last month posted and checked the account yesterday. The balance owed is down to $10.90. I don't think this will be a problem to pay off....

A no-spend day and more for the challenge

June 10th, 2008 at 02:32 am

I managed to spend nothing today -- our first real day of summer vacation at home.

We made use of our pool and ate lunch at home.

I also waded through all the mail from the last two weeks and found some checks for the booming business. After I made my spending plan minimums on payroll and taxes, I had $77.58 left to put toward the challenge, so the new total is $10,380.61.

Also in the mail was the statement from my one and only personal credit card. I was thrilled to see the balance was 0. I don't think it's ever been 0. I might just have to frame the statement for future inspiration.

There's light at the end of the tunnel

May 13th, 2008 at 01:26 pm

Just for fun, last night I used one of those online debt snowball calculators to figure out when my whopping debt will be paid off.

In the past, I just didn't want to project that far because I knew it was going to be a looooonnnnngggg, slooooooowwwwww process. But now that I have my personal credit card paid off and have more money to put toward the other debts, I was curious to see what would happen as my payments increased drastically.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that within this decade I'll have everything but the mortgage paid off.

"Within this decade" may seem like a long time for most of you, but considering the original amount of my debt I'm feeling pretty good about it.

Of course, this is all based on my current payments. My plan is to make even larger payments as our income increases and as we have extra money available from windfalls, so the time to pay it off will shorten drastically with any luck.

More for the challenge and paying down debt

April 26th, 2008 at 10:28 pm

Another freelance check came in the mail today. After putting $262.50 into my tax fund, I'm putting the remaining $787.50 into the challenge. That brings the total to $9,725.30.

I also got the rest of my payout from my savings to put toward paying off my credit card debt so I've adjusted the savings and debt figures over there on the left.

Less is more if you ask me

April 18th, 2008 at 11:52 pm

I got the first of my two savings payouts to put toward my debt, so I've updated my totals over there on the left. On one hand, it hurts to see my savings take a nosedive, but I won't miss those monthly payments to Chase.

As much as I want to, I won't

April 15th, 2008 at 01:13 pm

I decided over the weekend (after hearing back from all three of you) to do the unthinkable and take some money from my vast savings to pay off a wee bit of my vast debt. This will give me a little bit of breathing room and allow me to speed up my debt snowballing, plus will free me from Chase forever. (My husband assures me that when I'm old and decrepit he'll support me with his vast retirement, so that was an added incentive.....)

So, yesterday I called Vanguard and got the ball rolling on the payout. I did have to switch my remaining 401K to an IRA to make all this happen, but I should have the check in my hot little hands by the end of the week and be a little bit less in debt by next week.

When I got back from running yesterday, I had a message to call Chase. Apparently they have an answer to my request last week not to raise my interest rate. I wrote the number down and then went on my merry way -- determined not to call them so that I wouldn't start second guessing myself if they suddenly said they love me and want me to be their friend forever so they won't start messing with my interest rate (YEAH RIGHT......)

It then ate at me all afternoon -- I so wanted to know their answer. However, my husband told me just to leave it alone and wash my hands of them so I burned the phone number last night.

I won't call. I won't call. I won't call. I won't call.....

Finally, something other than the challenge to blog about....

April 11th, 2008 at 03:20 pm

I am thinking the unthinkable.... I am thinking of dipping into my vast savings to pay down my debt. Specifically, I am thinking of paying off my United Mileage Plus card, which has a balance of $23,867.86.

Why this sudden change of heart? Well, basically, I'm tired of Chase trying to set me up to fail.

Yes, I'm have decided that Chase -- the bank behind the card -- would love to see me not be able to make my monthly payment on time and in full. Thus bringing more money to its coffers in the form of late fees and increased finance charges.

You see, yesterday I got a letter from Chase saying they were raising my interest rate. I called and politely asked "WTF?" and they transferred me around to four different people -- disconnecting me altogether at one point. I finally got Jamie, who I have to say was one of the nicest, most helpful credit card employees that I have ever spoken to.

I nicely walked him through my situation (nicely always being the key when asking credit card companies to play fair). He then walked me through Chase's situation. I then nicely pointed out to him that Chase was setting me -- and others in the same position -- up to fail and dig a deeper hole for themselves. He said he fully understood my situation/point and even admitted he's in the same boat himself. He then walked me through my options. And, without outright telling me what to do, suggested highly what I could do to get Chase to lower my interest rate even more instead of raising it.

As we were chatting, he took some info from me and said he was going to submit a request for a lower rate for me. He said it's unusual for Chase to accept the request on the first try, especially considering my current state (which I won't bore you with the details). I said I appreciated him at least trying. He said if it didn't go through to make sure I call back monthly to see if I could eventually get it approved. I said I would. He then said he'd have an answer for me in the next 48 hours.

Then I obsessed about it overnight and I decided if Chase doesn't agree to at least leave my interest rate alone then I'm going to take the plunge and dip into my retirement funds to pay off the card, and be rid of Chase and credit cards forever. (Yes, Chase is my one and only personal credit card debt.)

I have already figured out that I can save the money I was putting toward the card and in 5 years have the total amount I withdraw from my retirement fund paid off. I will have to investigate my investment options, though, since I'm pretty sure my husband and I have priced ourselves out of the Roth IRA market. But, that's a minor inconvenience for something that will ease my mind greatly.

I am still digesting it all while I wait for Jamie to call me back. Even if Chase does agree to leave my interest rate alone, I'm kind of leaning toward just cutting my ties with them altogether.

Meanwhile, I'm thinking do I really need this financial news when I just gave notice at the office job to focus on building up the booming side business even more?

I DON'T THINK SO!

Now, tell me what you would do and explain your reasoning? Also, tell me what you know about the Roth IRAs income limits. (And, be nice! I'm not in a very good mood here. I'm having a bad hair day. ...)

A personal no spend day and my problem with Visa

March 18th, 2008 at 12:26 am

Aside from a $75 payment for my daughter's OT payment today, I spent no money. In fact, as I came home after my swim and volunteer gig, I thought a Pepsi would be good. Instead of going through the drive-thru, I dipped into the Pepsi stash in the trunk of the car.

On another topic, for two months we have not gotten a paper statement from my husband's Visa. Fortunately, I paid them anyways, but one of the payments was late because I couldn't remember the payment date and didn't have any old statements on hand. They've now charged us a late fee of $39 even though they acknowledge that they've been trying to send us paperless statements online and they haven't been going through and they understand this might be the cause of the late payment. Since they've acknowledged it could be their fault, I think we'll be having a little chat with them about refunding that late payment....

Finally paying myself back

March 8th, 2008 at 03:38 am

Back when I was actively debting and running amok with the bucks, I "borrowed" from my various savings accounts for God-only-knows-what. For the most part, I didn't keep track of that money, but on my last bender I did. Now, thanks to the challenge, I'm paying myself back for the first time ever. I owe about $800 to myself from that last little mishap, so now that I've got other stuff covered I'm slowly chipping away at that "debt."

My challenge money is anything above the basic income I have detailed in my spending plan each month. When the challenge money comes in, I automatically put 25 percent into my tax savings account since the bulk of it is from my booming side business and I'm basically trying to cover my butt. The rest I divvy up between savings and extra debt payments. Since I've been making extra payments toward student loans and the credit cards lately, I've decided it's time to show my bank account a little love. For example, after I put $12.50 toward taxes from today's challenge money addition, I then added the remaining $37.50 into the trash account (trash as in trash pick-up).

I'm really loving the challenge. It's making me account for my money and as a result I'm being more responsible with it....

A new house isn't in my future but 'dunch' is

February 24th, 2008 at 04:09 am

Today while killing time until lunch, my husband and I decided to look at model homes. This little outing reinforced my belief that we're not moving until they back the hearse up to the front door and wheel us away to the morgue.

At 3,000 square feet (including the finished basement), our house is the perfect size for our family of 3 humans and two dogs. Best of all, it's perfect for when we're old and decrepit, and the kid has abandoned us. It's a ranch that is set up so one can live on the main floor if need be (i.e. two laundry rooms -- one upstairs and one down).

Also, the rooms are all really big (better to maneuver in the wheelchairs and walkers when the time comes for that); and while we have great neighbors, we can't reach out and touch their homes -- or even see their homes in most cases.

This is huge with me. I just can't justify buying a home for a half million dollars only to find that the neighbors can see into the whole house.

So, we're staying put until death comes knocking....

As for lunch, we budget for one meal out a week so we usually make it Saturday lunch. My husband has this thing about lunches out on Saturdays. He thinks they're "decadent." Personally, I just know lunch is cheaper than dinner and Saturday is as good a day as any to eat out. We usually eat a little later lunch (Mini Me refers to it as "dunch") and then we skip dinner, so in our own sick, twisted way we're saving money.

(And before you get on me about dining out with all that debt over there on the left, remember my goal is to still live my life while paying my debt off so this is one luxury I'm not giving up.)

Speaking of debt, I made an extra $400 payment to one of the credit cards today with the challenge money I got in the mail. I also put $96 into my tax savings account. And I put the rest into our travel account.

How I dealt with my creditors

February 4th, 2008 at 01:12 am

Last summer, I saw a train wreck coming and was able to avert it by making a pre-emptive strike. Although I had rejoined my 12-step group for compulsive debting after falling off the wagon big time, the amount of money I owed on credit cards each month was way more than I was earning. I was continuing to debt by maxing out my overdraft account each month and bouncing checks. And I had virtually no savings readily available.

After reading Jerry Mundis’ book How to Get Out of Debt, Stay Out of Debt, and Live Prosperou..., I met online with two members of my 12-step group who I didn’t know, but who had volunteered to have a “Pressure Relief Group” meeting with me.

Without any emotional ties to my situation, they helped me come up with a spending plan where my needs were put first and I was able to live very comfortably within my means. This meant no more living in deprivation – I actually had money each month to buy underwear, get my hair done by someone other than Ms. Clairol, and pay the mortgage in full and on time each month.

But it also meant contacting each of the credit card companies and telling them what I could pay each month, which was far below what they wanted me to pay.

This was particularly scary because in 20 years I had never NOT paid my creditors what they wanted when they wanted it.

As I called each of the credit card companies, I was adamant that I wanted to pay them every dime I owed them. I was also adamant that I had to do it on my terms – and my terms did not call for me to pay them off while I struggled to keep a roof over my head and food on the table.

Anticipating endless harassing phone calls, I requested during each initial call and in a follow-up letter that the credit card companies not contact me by phone, but instead only via letters. I reminded them that under the law, they had no choice but to abide my by request not to call.

Finally, I requested that they stop charging me late fees. And, I explained about seeking help from Debtor’s Anonymous.

During each of my phone conversations, I took copious notes and remained very professional – even during one phone call with a guy from Chase who was obnoxious and rude. No matter how much he tried to goad me into a fight, I just kept calmly restating my case and explaining that all he was getting from me each month was X amount of dollars.

Every month after the initial phone calls to my credit card companies, I diligently wrote out checks for what I could afford and sent them with a letter re-stating what I had already said on the phone. Even if my creditors hadn’t agreed to my terms, they accepted the money. And, whenever I had extra money available, I also sent this to the creditors so they would see that I was serious about wanting to pay them back.

Eventually I was able to work out repayment plans with each of the credit card companies. They all lowered the interest rates they were charging me and they all stopped tacking on late fees.

They all also pointed out that I was ruining my credit score; but as I pointed out, I was going to ruin it one way or another because I couldn’t afford to pay them what they wanted, so why not just be upfront about it and save us all a lot of grief.

As you can see by my debt totals over there on the left, my debt is no small potatoes. It will be years before I am debt free unless I win the lottery (probably not going to happen), or suddenly lose my mind and throw all my retirement money toward the debt (definitely not going to happen).

All I can do is not add to the debt by not using credit cards or overdraft accounts; and keep chipping away at that grand whoppin’ total “one day at a time.”

Updated the numbers and barfing....

February 3rd, 2008 at 03:38 am

I tallied my debt and savings for the month; and although my debt went down, so did my savings. It was all due to the stock market decline. Fortunately, it wasn't a whole bunch, but it was enough that I noticed.

I still have no idea what's in the various pension funds from our previous lives and I'm just as vague about the home equity. I need to get off my bum and look into that, but both will require a bunch of digging around and phone calls so it's not happening anytime soon -- especially considering that I feel like I'm coming down with botulism or ebola. My stomach has been upset all day and it's making grumbling sounds. I feel like I need to throw up. I think I have a fever. And I know it's just a matter of time before I start bleeding out of my eyeballs....

The big breakdown

February 3rd, 2008 at 01:57 am

I decided to pay off one of my debts with the challenge money I got today. I then put the remaining $227.68 into savings.

I have a bunch of eBay money from January just sitting in PayPal right now that I don't know what to do with. eBay still hasn't taken out its fees even though it was supposed to happen at the end of January. I don't want to move that money until the fees are taken out. Assuming that's done sometime in the next week, I'm going to throw more of that money toward debt and savings.

I believe in following the one-third rule when extra money is "found." One-third goes to savings, one-third to debt and one-third to immediate needs. However, all my immediate needs are more than taken care of in my monthly spending plan and I'm trying to build up the new car fund faster so I'm fudging on that rule for now.

There's hope for the adult kid ....

January 25th, 2008 at 03:41 am

Since I was rippin' on his dad earlier this month, I thought I should share that the 23-year-old son got a $19,000 bonus today at work.

After taxes, it'll end up being about $12,000. He reports that he plans on paying off his credit cards, buying a new computer and putting the rest into savings.

I guess his dad's errant financial thinking didn't rub off on him afterall. Thank God!!!!

October has me seeing red....

October 28th, 2007 at 03:31 am

As the end of the month is fast approaching, I'm tallying up the monthly spending plan and it ain't pretty.

I've gone over in numerous categories and right now am "overdrawn" by $854. Technically, I'm not "overdrawn" to anyone but myself since the shortage is covered by one of my savings accounts. But I'm falling back into my old habit of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

My biggest problem area is eating out. Aside from the fact that I spent way more on food during a four-day trip with my husband earlier in the month, I've gone out for dinners here at home just because I haven't felt like cooking.

I also spent more on medical than I had planned to since my daughter had to have a vision therapy evaulation, which involves a $200 doctor visit -- not covered by insurance ($@$@!&$ insurance companies....)

Then there was the little issue of my utility bill being paid for twice due to user error when adjusting an auto bill pay with the bank. (Yes, I screwed up....)

The good news is I made $668 more than I anticipated I would this month. This allowed me to put more into savings and toward debt repayment. Of course, if I had known I was going to overspend, I could have put more toward the categories where I was over but it's always best to sock a little something away in savings and throw extra toward the creditors every now and then.

Updated my numbers

October 25th, 2007 at 03:16 pm

Hey, look at that ... two posts in two days. I'm on a roll!

If you look to your left, you'll see I've updated the debt and savings figures. The debt is very slowing going down and the savings is slowly going up. The savings could have gone up faster if I hadn't just spent $5,500 on a new fence. But it's a beautiful new fence and the dogs are happy with it, so I can't complain.

The nitty gritty details

July 10th, 2007 at 03:22 pm

As my husband prepares to start his new job, I'm hashing out all the little financial details to make the transition go smoother for all involved -- mainly our creditors.

The extra income from the first paycheck will be going back in our fence fund. We used the original fence money to buy my husband a bunch of new suits this weekend since the new job requires that he wears a suit every day instead of his usual slacks and dress shirt.

After the first month, we will start divvying up the extra income into thirds, with a third going toward debt, a third going toward savings and a third going toward current expenses (i.e. vision therapy).

I did the math the other day and if we stay on track we should have all our debt paid off within 5 to 7 years. Also, once the vision therapy is done, we will be able to afford a car payment so we can replace my husband's van, which is on its last wheels. However, before we buy a new car, I want to sock away a huge down payment so it'll probably be more like a year from now before we go car shopping.

We have also decided to pay someone to replace the fence instead of doing it ourselves. I plan on getting estimates next month and then getting work done in September or October.

Meanwhile, my husband left me with all the automatic deposit and withholding paperwork to fill out this morning. Pretty funny given my history with banking....

There's hope for me yet....

July 9th, 2007 at 01:26 am

My husband got a new job last week, which came with a gigantic pay raise. I did the math this morning and figured that if we take a third of his raise and put it toward our existing debt we could be rid of almost all our unsecured debt within five years. The only debt left would be my stepson's student loans, which we have not started paying on.

I did a little happy dance, and then calculated some more and figured out that we can now pay to have someone replace our fence. And -- most importantly -- I can keep our biweekly housekeeper visits up.

Big happy dance!

And the winner is....

May 10th, 2007 at 01:24 pm

My readers have spoken ... all three of you (thanks for caring, Mom)! I think we're all in agreement that I should not be messing with my retirement funds to pay off my debt.

Now, how to pay off that debt a little faster? Ummm ... well, I could take any of the following actions:

1. Rob a bank (Highly unlikely since I don't look good in prison garb)

2. Get yet another job (Not gonna happen since I'm already working two official jobs, plus various unofficial ones; and I do occasionally require my beauty rest.)

3. Win the lottery (Also highly unlikely given the odds and the fact that I keep forgetting to buy a ticket)

4. Sell my stuff to raise more cash (Hey, this might actually happen since I'm hosting a garage sale in a couple weeks -- come over and buy my junk if you're in the neighborhood)

5. Sell my plasma (This could happen, too, if I get desperate enough)

6. Sell my body (Uh ... yeah right! Did I mention I'm old?)

7. Cut back (Already happening ... we got rid of cable a while ago, we've given up the exotic getaways and gotten rid of the private lear jet. But, sorry, the hired help is staying for now -- wouldn't want to throw mom out on the street since Mother's Day is Sunday after all!)

8. Keep chipping away at the hulking pile of debt just as we've been doing (The most likely course of action at this time. One third of any extra income goes toward the debt -- in addition to our regularly scheduled payments.)

Feel free to send your own suggested action plans for paying off my debt. All suggestions will be seriously considered.

Yes, I do read your comments....

May 9th, 2007 at 05:34 pm

I'm not great about responding to your comments, but I do read them all.
For instance, Jim asks why we don't use our savings to pay off our debt. Good question, Jim. Here's my response:

1. Most of our savings are in 401Ks. To take the money out would cost us mucho money in taxes.

2. I'm old (41) and am married to an even older spouse (50). When/if we retire, we don't want to be eatin' Alpo. Organic dog food maybe, but not Alpo.

So am I wrong to think this way? Should I be paying off my debt with my hard-earned retirement fund?

Your thoughts please...

Look to your left....

April 30th, 2007 at 01:42 am

You'll notice I updated my debt and savings figures. Fortunately, the debt did go down ever so slightly and the savings did go up.

In my vagueness, I still haven't figured out all the pension account balances and such. But, it is on my "to do" list -- along with 100 other things.

Confession

April 23rd, 2007 at 03:47 pm

Forgive me father for I have sinned. It has been 9 days since my last blog posting...

Oh, wait! I'm not Catholic! But I am repentent for the delay in postings.

I've just been crazy busy with work (yes, I do have a job or two or three or more depending on the week....)

The biggest change in the last 9 days is that I have migrated to Windows Vista thanks to the arrival of my new computer.

A needless expense you say? Not in my line of work and considering my laptop fried itself beyond repair a month ago.

Fortunately, I had been saving for a new computer for my business, so I paid cash for it. A first! I'm sure the credit card gods are not happy.

They probably also aren't happy because my husband and I have started to live within our means. We're contacting our CC companies and are explaining to them that they are all getting paid the full amount owed, but on our terms. Then we're sending them their monthly payments -- but based on what we can afford, not what they say they want. We (well, mainly, I) give them the whole DA spiel and they seem to be OK with it as long as we send them something each month.

Now before you start telling me how that's just going to ruin my credit score and blah, blah, blah, let me explain that I am not my credit score so I don't really care if my credit score is zippo. I already own a house and two perfectly good cars (although I am saving for a new one and hope to pay cash), and I really don't want or need anymore credit.

As long as I keep paying the credit card gods something, I have to believe they will keep playing nice.