Just updating my sidebar for this month (I use the last day of each month to keep track of my balance). I'm so excited because I can now say I owe UNDER $5,000 in credit card debt, woo-hoo! And I've paid off almost 63% of the amount I started with ... it's taken almost 3.5 years to do it, but I'm so happy that I've stuck with it and made the slow but sure progress that is shown here. I can't wait for my next mini-milestone of 75% credit card debt paid!
I recently received a letter from my apartment complex telling me that I'm due to sign another one-year lease by September 8, and that my rent will be going up 7% ($79/month more). I was not at all happy about that, since I've lived here 2.5 years, have been a good tenant, and have not once been late on the rent. So I asked if they might possibly work with me on that amount, in light of my record as a tenant ... and they agreed to raise the amount by only 4% ($45/month more). I'd still prefer it not to go up at all, but I didn't realistically expect that to be the case, so I'm happy they lowered it as much as they did. I looked at moving instead, but that would be an even more expensive endeavor, especially since I'd have to buy at least a washer/dryer anywhere else I would go. (My complex provides the washer/dryer AND refrigerator in each apartment.) All the apartments around here are at least what I pay for mine, if not more. I also thought about downsizing to a 2-bedroom, but that wouldn't save me very much because of the "special deal" I have on my current apartment ... besides, my son still has another year and a half to go before he graduates from college, and I like him to have his own room when he comes home for winter and summer breaks. Maybe when both kids are gone I can look at getting a 2-bedroom place ... but that's a couple of years down the road!
My son just got hired on for a summer internship at a great company, so we are thrilled about that! He worked hard to find something like that before summer started, but he didn't succeed. He did get lucky enough to get a job in a shop nearby, though, so he's been able to work for the last month ... and last week he got a call from one of the companies he'd applied for an internship with, and they asked him to come interview for a spot which will be opening up because one of the four interns they hired neglected to tell them about the two or three vacations he has planned this summer (LOL). So he interviewed this morning, and they called him this afternoon to offer him the job! He will be making almost twice as much as he's making now, plus getting great exposure in the field of his major (Mechanical Engineering). I'm so happy for him!! He has worked so hard and really deserves this. I wish the opportunity had come a month earlier, but I'm so happy it has come now.
I'm going to take a moment here to brag a little about my son, who has just completed his third year at Texas A&M. He has gotten no financial help from his dad or me ... he's done it all with scholarships, grants, and loans ... and after getting his financial aid package for his fourth year squared away recently, he only has $25,000 in loan debt TOTAL!! He won't graduate until December 2012, so he will still need to add a bit more to that total before all is said and done ... but from all I've read here and heard from people who have student loan debt, $25,000 in loans for 4 years of college is pretty darn good! He worked two jobs this past year, besides taking a full course load, and he still managed to make the Dean's Honor Roll both semesters. So you can understand why I'm so proud of him and say that he really does deserve that internship!!
My 16-year-old daughter has been job hunting for MONTHS and has found NOTHING. Some of her friends have gotten jobs, so there are some out there, but it seems like the ones who have gotten jobs have been in the right place at the right time. I keep telling her to hang in there, something will come along, but it's hard for her not to get discouraged ... especially now that she's had a few weeks out of school and the boredom has set in!
Thanks to those of you who made such encouraging comments after my last post. It really does help to get that positive reinforcement!
Just updating my sidebar for this month (I use the last day of each month to keep track of my balance). I'm so excited because I can now say I owe UNDER $5,000 in credit card debt, woo-hoo! And I've paid off almost 63% of the amount I started with ... it's taken almost 3.5 years to do it, but I'm so happy that I've stuck with it and made the slow but sure progress that is shown here. I can't wait for my next mini-milestone of 75% credit card debt paid!
I so seldom post here that I'm sure very few of you even "know" me, but I still come here almost every day to read about all of you! I just thought I should write a quick update post since I just updated my credit card payoff balance on the sidebar ... which, I am thrilled to say, I've whittled down by almost 60% over the past three years! I have read many stories of folks who have paid down debt much quicker, but I think I've done pretty good for a single mom of two ... and reading the blogs here on Saving Advice has made a big difference! I look at money so much differently now than I used to, think about my purchases more before I make them, and definitely do not buy all the STUFF that I used to buy. It is true ... people really CAN change!!
One thing I am doing now is trying to improve my credit score. I am down to two credit cards that I am still working to pay off completely (I started with eight). I recently paid off a card with a credit line of $500, and I am using it to pay for my gasoline each time I fill up and then paying it off in full every month. I am hoping that by doing this I will be able to improve my credit score somewhat. I checked my score this month on all three agencies:
I know my score now is only considered to be "fair," and I would really like to get it to at least "good" someday! So I am working towards that now. I know I have my score from back when I started on this journey a few years ago, but I can't find it at this moment ... it would really be interesting to see how it's increased since that time!
I filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in October 2005, and I know that things will look up after that drops off my record, but I can't remember when that will happen ... 7 years or 10 years? Anyway, between having that huge blemish disappear and paying off my debt, I know my score will eventually go up; but I also have to use a card for something and PAY IT OFF (what a concept)!
Anyway, that's where I am at today! To use a favorite phrase of Thrifty Ray's ... LIFE IS GOOD!!
I'm still here, still reading blogs here and there, just not posting. There really hasn't been much to blog about; as you can see by looking at my sidebar, I'm still paring down my debt. I finally got over the 50% hump last month, which is encouraging, although I have to say I am getting SO tired of not having extra money for anything. I know I should be thankful to have enough to provide what my kids and I need, and to be able to pay down debt at the same time ... but I still live with a fear that something major will come along that I won't be able to handle. I haven't increased my baby emergency fund like I wanted to this year, and I also owe Uncle Sam $800 on October 15. So that is discouraging. But all in all, life is good and the light at the end of my tunnel of debt is getting brighter and closer. So I need to concentrate on that and stay focused and positive. Anyway, since I have been updating my debt repayment progress each month, I thought I'd give a shout to all of you!
I haven't posted in months, but I am still checking in and reading blogs regularly. I have been busy with life and nothing has really changed for me financially, other than whittling away at my credit card debt! After two full years of paying down on my CC debt and not incurring any new debt, I've paid off a little over 40% of my original CC debt. I have been able to maintain my $1,000 baby EF, and this coming year I hope to double that. It doesn't seem like much saved, and the progress with paying down my CC debt has been slow ... but I think it's pretty good considering the high interest rates on my cards and the fact that I have not had a salary increase at work in over a year. I've also continued to contribute 6% of my salary to my 401(k) to get the match. I think that once I hit 50% of my debt paid and get to the downhill slope, it will go much quicker ... I'm looking forward to that, and it should happen soon!!
A couple of weeks ago I decided to transfer most of the balance of one of my Juniper credit cards to a Capital One card with a much lower APR, and I paid off the remaining balance on that Juniper card to bring it down to zero. (Side note: they immediately lowered the APR on the card I paid off from 27.99% to 15.24%.) However, I made a math error when figuring the transfer fee and finance charges on the transferred amount, because I went $12 over the limit on my Capital One card and got popped with a $39 overlimit fee. DOH!! This story has an okay ending, however ... after paying the amount I was over the limit by, I called Capital One and they waived the fee. Yay!!
I also have a second Juniper card, and when I paid it last time I somehow paid $51 instead of the $53 minimum payment (still can't figure out how I did this, and I am sooo MAD at myself!). Even though I made the payment 3 days before the due date there was still $2 due, which they considered late. Yep, you guessed it, I got popped with a $39 late fee ... AND they raised my APR from 27.99% to 29.99%! ARGH!! I called and asked them to waive the $39 fee since I have not made a late payment or gone over my limit in almost TWO YEARS, and they took off HALF of it. OK, half is better than none ... so I went on to ask about the APR being raised. I pointed out how the APR on my other Juniper card is almost half of the APR on this one, and she told me that once I establish a better payment history they will lower it. Seriously? I screwed up by $2, for pete's sake!! I asked to speak to her supervisor, and she put me on hold for a minute, then came back on and told me her supervisor was busy taking "regular calls" and that she could call me back in the next 24-48 hrs. I was so mad by that time I told her "never mind" and hung up on her. I know, that was the wrong thing to do ... but I can't believe that a $2 mistake totally derailed all the progress I made on that card over the past year and a half!!
It's seriously cutthroat with credit card companies right now. No slack AT ALL.
I currently contribute $200 per month to my 401k, which gets me a company match of $100. I've been reading advice from various financial gurus (Dave Ramsey, etc.) saying if you have credit card debt (which I do) and a small or non-existent emergency fund (which I do ... a small EF that I am currently working on building up) that you should suspend 401k contributions temporarily and use that money to pay off debt/save. Hearing this advice spurred me to do some research, and I came up with the following options.
(Note: I used the debt reduction calculator found on this website to calculate all the schedules used in the following options; it was really cool, and you can find several other calculators there as well.)
Option 1: Staying the course. I currently pay $300/month towards my CC debt, and I have not incurred any new debt in 1.5 years. Not including any windfalls I might receive, and not taking into consideration any changes in my current APRs, at the rate I am going I won't pay off my CC debt until July 2012.
Option 2: Cut my 401k contributions in half, giving me an extra $100/month to put towards my CC debt. I would shave one year off my current timetable and be done by June 2011.
Option 3: Cut my 401k contributions entirely and put that $200/month towards my CC debt, paying it off in December 2010.
Option 4: Cut my 401k contributions entirely and put $100/month towards my CC debt and $100/month in savings. (I currently have $130/month set up to go into savings.)
Please give me your input and help me decide!
... since I last posted! My gosh, time flies!
I got moved into my apartment a month ago, and I LOVE IT! Moving was the best thing I have done for myself and my kids in a long long time. We purged big-time, and got rid of years worth of JUNK. (I gave a LOT of stuff away at the end just to get rid of it!) The apartment is so much nicer than the house we were renting (which seemed to be falling down around us) -- it's light, bright, and CLEAN, and it's amazing how much lighter I actually feel!! I am really happy to have the move over and done -- it was a HUGE hurdle for me.
Even though I haven't posted in awhile, I did update my sidebar and my debt payoff pie chart at the end of March. My savings have taken a hit (don't people always have to buy some new things when they move?) ... but I've got transfers set up so that money moves from my checking account into three different savings accounts (ING, Venture, and Smarty Pig) every month, so I think I'll build those back up again fairly quickly (barring any visits from Murphy). Now that the move is out of the way, I have returned my focus to finances!
On the credit card debt front, my higher-limit Capital One card sent me a 0% balance transfer deal up to my credit limit, which enabled me to transfer the entire balance (close to $700) of a card with an APR of 27.24% ... so, while my total amount of CC debt won't change much at first with that consolidation, I will be able to pay down the principal on the transferred amount much quicker! (Capital One is the card that's lowered my APR from 24.4% to 12.9% over the past few months.)
I saw Suze Orman on Oprah recently, and she said she's now advising people who think there is a possibility they could lose their jobs to make minimum payments on credit cards and save all they possibly can. I really think my job is stable ... of course, I could be wrong ... but I wonder if I should follow that advice. Actually, I can't nail down my "new" budget yet, since I haven't gotten an electric bill or a water bill in my apartment so I have no idea what those expenses will run. I am really going to miss having my electricity on an averaging plan like I had in my house! (I do plan to get that established once I build up the history required.) I am a bit nervous about how much my monthly bills will run here, especially the electricity (since my apartment is upstairs and the temps climb into the 100s here during the summer months)!
It feels good to post again!
Well, I guess it always could have been worse, but I didn't get rid of nearly as much stuff as I wanted to! I made $350 but my biggest objective in having this sale was to get rid of stuff so I don't have to move it next week. (In fact, I can't move it next week because I will have nowhere to put it in my apartment!) I can pack up all the books (a ton) and CDs (not so many) and take them to Half Price Books and be happy with whatever I get, but I have a LOT of other things too (mainly decorative items). So, the question is: what can I do to get rid of all my garage sale leftovers ... in the next week ... when I am supposed to work Monday through Thursday ... and I haven't started packing yet for the Saturday move???
Since I started actively concentrating on paying down my debt (just over a year ago), I've paid off a hair over 30% of it!! Not only that, I'm below $10,000 now, woo-hoo!! I just updated my chart on the sidebar ... check it out, the chart says it all!! I'm STOKED!!
What finally gave me the motivation to declutter? I'm moving!! I am SO excited ... I hate moving, but I am sick to death of the place I've been living in because the landlord does LESS than the bare minimum as far as maintenance and repairs go and the place has become such a dump over the past 6 years. I've had my sights set on an apartment complex less than a mile from where I currently live for over 6 months now, and I've been not-so-patiently waiting for a 3-bedroom apartment WITH a garage to become available ... and one finally did! I haven't lived in an apartment since college, and I'm sure there will be things I don't like about it ... but it's a fairly new complex, the apartments themselves are very nice and modern, and I won't have to deal with maintenance issues, yard work, OR a landlord I cannot reach! I'm THRILLED!!
SO. I've been working at cleaning out the garage, closets, etc., all of which are packed to the rafters. I moved into this house from a much larger place following a divorce 6 years ago, and told myself at that time that I'd have a garage sale "someday" but that day hasn't come until NOW! Garage sale day is March 7, and moving day is March 14. I am really CLEANING OUT and getting rid of a LOT of stuff. I am being relentless, because I am SO tired of being surrounded by so much clutter! I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to living more simply. AND, I can't tell you how much I look forward to making money by selling my stuff! Here's hoping March 7 is a beautiful day and I have a successful garage sale!
From a money-saving standpoint, the move isn't going to make much difference in my monthly bills. My rent will actually be about 10% more in the apartment, but I am hoping there will be a substantial decrease in my utilities (primarily electricity) to offset that. I really think there will be, because this house is in such poor shape that there is NO energy efficiency whatsoever. I'm sure the apartment won't be the best, but it's got to be better than this house. We shall see!
As for the something weird, it's about my Capital One cards again (I have two of them). Last month I blogged about how the APR had been lowered ... well, it's been lowered again, on BOTH cards! I accessed the accounts online last night, and pulled up the statements for each of the past four months. For the period ending Oct. 28, the APR on both cards was 24.9%. For the period ending Nov. 28, the APR on both cards was lowered to 24.4%. For the period ending Dec. 29, the APR on the higher-limit card was lowered to 14.65% and the APR on the lower-limit card was lowered to 14.4%. And, most recently, for the period ending Jan. 28, the APR on the higher-limit card has been lowered to 12.9% and the APR on the lower-limit card has been lowered to 12.65%!!! LOVE IT, and would love to see this trend continue!!
I got my bonus on Friday, and set up the payment for the WaMu card today ... it's just over $1,600 and I will be thrilled to stamp it "PAID"!! I had intended to put $400 towards the smaller of my two Juniper cards as well, but my bonus wasn't as much as I was expecting because of all the taxes taken out -- 36.55%!!! I have no idea why there was so much taken out for taxes, but I sure didn't expect it to be that much. Well, at least I was able to pay off that stinkin' WaMu card!!
I updated the total and pie chart in my sidebar (the WaMu card will come out of the Feb. total), and I've paid off almost 17% of my CC debt, woo-hoo!! I can hardly wait to see the number after this month ... it will fall below $10,000, YEAH!!!
I hope to see my income tax refund later this coming week, so I can update my savings totals!!
When I posted the other night about my work bonus, I completely forgot to mention this!! My company's basic match on 401k contributions is 50% for up to 6% of the employee's base pay. When the bonus amounts were announced the other day, a separate announcement also came out that an additional 30% match was approved for 2008 contributions, for a total of 80% match!!! At first I thought I must not have read it right, LOL ... I had no idea they did that, and I don't know if it's something they have done in the past, since I've only been employed there 16 months. I am so glad I opened my 401k early last year and contributed 6% of my salary!!
Check out this guest blog entry over on MoneyGrubbingLawyer -- it's great!!
I had my performance review at work today, and it went really well. Then, this afternoon we all found out what our bonuses are going to be, and at the end of next week I will be getting a little under $3,000!! Of course there will be taxes taken out, but I am taking $2,000 of whatever the final amount is and putting it towards my CC debt. First order of business is to pay off that stinkin' WaMu card ... buh-bye to that card with its $1,600 balance AND its 29.99% APR!!! GOOD RIDDANCE. Next on the list is one of my 27.99% cards ... I have two, both through Juniper, and I will pay $400 on the one with the $700 balance (the lower of the two). I am determined to pay off the remaining $300 in two months, so that card will be GONE by April. Woo-hoo!!! The debt snowball will be growing well by then, and I am STOKED!!! I also plan to call my other CC companies at that time and see if they will lower my APRs. I would've done it before now, but all I've been able to pay on them are minimums, and with a bankruptcy on my record and all my current cards maxed out, I had no leverage ... I mean, it's not like I could threaten to transfer a balance to a 0% APR card because they'd know darn good and well I couldn't get one of those anywhere!! So, that is my plan.
On the savings front, I hope to get around $1,000 back from the IRS, so that will go to refunding my baby emergency fund. I've also set up three automatic transfers each month to my various savings accounts, so I'll be saving $150/month that way, which will build my savings balances back up nicely.
I feel better now.
I don't get paper statements on my credit card accounts; I went paperless for everything I could a long time ago. I track my CC accounts diligently so I can keep up with the percentage I've paid off monthly, and recently I've noticed some interesting changes in some of my APRs. One of my extremely high APR cards, Juniper, lowered the APR from 28.99% to 28.49% in November, than even further to 27.99% in December. (And if they want to continue that trend, it's fine by me!) The biggie, which I noticed just the other day, is Capital One, with whom I have two cards. The APR on both of my Capital One cards was 24.4%, but in December the APR on one card went down to 14.4% and the APR on the other card went down to 14.65%. Woo-hoo!!!
A year ago, when I started paying down my CC debt in earnest and vowed to (1) make ALL payments on time and (2) incur NO NEW DEBT, my plan was to stay on track for awhile and establish a better record, and then call all my CC companies to see about getting my APRs lowered. But then the economy got all squirrelly and I figured there wasn't a hope in the world of getting any of them to lower an APR. In recent months, WaMu/Chase jacked up my APR from 21.99% to 29.99% (in October), but Capital One lowered my APR by 10 points two months later ... is it any wonder I'm confused??
The AP had an interesting article today titled "Fallout begins after dismal holiday season." It said that some experts predict we will see more stores closing than we've seen in 35 years, with "thousands of stores and whole malls" closing down. It also said analysts expect the dramatic changes in shopping behavior could linger for another 2-3 years.
About 160,000 stores will have closed this year and 200,000 more could shutter next year, said Burt P. Flickinger III, managing director of consulting firm Strategic Resource Group. That would be the industry's biggest contraction in 35 years. In March and April of next year, Flickinger expects 2,000 to 3,000 malls to shutter.
In that vein, I am proud to say that I just got through my first Christmas EVER with NO NEW DEBT!! Now, THAT is an awesome feeling!! It's an even bigger feat when you take into consideration that I spent $533 on car repair and inspection fees on Dec. 22 ... which I also paid cash for! YAY ME!!! (Of course, now I am flat broke and payday isn't until Monday ... but we should make it okay.)
On the employment front, my company's CEO sent out a statement a couple of weeks ago that merit increases for all employees (which were expected in February/March, as in past years) will be suspended in 2009. My initial reaction was "Of course, because it's my first year to be eligible for one!" (after 15 months of employment) ... but my prevailing thought is that I am SO grateful to have my job! I got a salary increase in September when I got my promotion, plus we will still receive our bonus for 2008 at the end of January, so it's not all bad news! I'm not sure yet how much the bonus will be, but hopefully enough for me to get my baby EF built back up AND have enough for a deposit and moving expenses so I can get out of the rental house I am in (which seems to be falling down around me).
In other financial news, I am back to fretting over the future of my regular child support payments ... my ex got laid off from his most recent position so he's job hunting again. I really feel for him because he's had such a run of bad luck job-wise in the past several years. The company he'd been with for 20+ years (which paid to send him back to school) eliminated his position shortly after he got his Masters degree, then he got into a franchise business which went belly-up after its first year or so and he had to declare bankruptcy. After that he worked for another company for a year or so, but it was a family-owned business and when family relations went south the company divided and he lost his job. It took him awhile to find something else, and when he did it lasted less than a year (the company decided he wasn't the right "fit" for the job -- after about 9 months!). His most recent position (which only lasted a few months) was as a landman for an energy company, but with the decline in oil prices they've had massive layoffs and my ex was among them. I hope he can find something stable very soon. Even though paying child support is at the top of the list of the bills he'll need to pay, if he doesn't have the money ... then what?? I just don't want to find out. Plus I really don't like to see him in this situation; he is a good person and a very smart man, and he would make an excellent employee for any company! Hopefully he will get some good news soon, because I know he is aggressively looking.
I went ahead and updated my CC debt total and my pie chart a couple of days early, since all the accounts have been updated for December. I paid off almost 16% of my debt in 2008 without incurring any new debt, woo-hoo!! I plan to look at the numbers in more detail over the next couple of days and set a goal for how much I want to pay off in 2009.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The National Bureau of Economic Research said Monday that the U.S. has been in a recession since December 2007, making official what most Americans have already believed about the state of the economy.
The NBER is a private group of leading economists charged with dating the start and end of economic downturns. It typically takes a long time after the start of a recession to declare its start because of the need to look at final readings of various economic measures.
"The committee views the payroll employment measure, which is based on a large survey of employers, as the most reliable comprehensive estimate of employment," said the group's statement. "This series reached a peak in December 2007 and has declined every month since then."
Employers have trimmed payrolls by 1.2 million jobs in the first 10 months of this year. On Friday, economists are predicting the government will report a loss of another 325,000 jobs for November.
I started my blog here one year ago today! I have really made some good progress, and look forward to making even more during the coming year. A few changes that I have noticed about myself in the past year:
1. I have not used credit cards AT ALL in 2008. This is the first year I have EVER been able to say that, since I got my first credit card in 1982!
2. I have managed to pay off 13% of my debt (a little more, actually, since I update my pie chart at the end of the month).
3. I started a 401K at work, and I have 6% of my salary withheld each pay period and my employer matches it 50%. I plan to bump up this percentage when I pay off all my CC debt.
4. My whole attitude about spending has changed. Gone are the days when I spent money like water (i.e., charged stuff!) and got fast food for my kids every time I heard "Mom, can we ..." I NEVER thought I would change as drastically as I have in this area!
I seriously need to get busy rebuilding my baby EF, it's gotten far too low! I withdrew most of my money from TD Ameritrade to do Christmas shopping, which has been my plan all year (I started this account as a "Save Yourself" account, which Suze Orman was touting, and I finally got my $100 bonus recently). What WASN'T in my plan was depleting my ING acct. (my baby EF) due to the reduction in child support which took effect at the first of June. Now that I've gotten a promotion at work and my salary has increased, things have stabilized and I can concentrate on building my savings back up.
I opened an account through Venture Direct (online) -- anyone have an account with them? They've been advertising an APY of 3.8% so I opened an account with them this past week with an initial deposit of $25. The APY on my ING acct. is 2.75% and the APY on my TD Ameritrade acct. is 1.0%, so my plan is to close the TD Ameritrade acct. and move that money into one of the other accounts. The $50/month automatic transfer I have set up to go into that account will be changed to go into my ING account, and I set up another $50/month automatic transfer into the Venture acct. beginning next month, for a total of $100/month automatically being saved, yay me!! (Before I started this blog, I saved $0/month!) Depending on what kind of merit increase (if any) I get after the first of the year, I may bump those amounts up. I also plan to look seriously (again) at moving out of the rent house I am in ... hopefully in March. I need to get my butt in gear and start decluttering and have a couple of garage sales (which will also net me some cash)!!
If you missed Dawn last week, tune in! I bet it will run once or twice tonight!!
Update: First show, right off the bat! A couple of things I missed the first time I saw it: (1) they have TWO flat-screen TVs OUTSIDE in the patio/pool area, and (2) their MINIMUM credit card payments every month total $6,000!!! Unbelievable. I really hope Suze airs an update with Dawn sometime in the future; and hopefully she will be on the right track.
Did any of you see Suze Orman tonight? I'm still watching it here in Texas, but the segment they just had on BLEW MY MIND. This woman named Dawn in California was on, talking to Suze, asking for help and suggestions as to what she and her husband can do about their $230,000 in credit card debt. BESIDES that debt, their big beautiful dream home is mortgaged to the hilt. Bottom line is that between the two of them they bring home $9,000 a month ... but their monthly expenses are $19,000!!! (Suze actually said this is probably the worst case she's ever had on her show.) Dawn kept smiling and making jokes while Suze was trying to drive home to her the gravity of her situation; AND, when Suze told Dawn that she and her husband need to (a) put their home AND everything in it on the market immediately and pray that they can sell it for enough to pay what they owe on it, (b) get second jobs TOMORROW, and (c) move into an apartment and stay there until their credit cards are paid and they have money SAVED ... Dawn said "That's not going to happen." She said she cannot and will not give up her home and her lifestyle!! She said her husband wants to file bankruptcy but she doesn't want to, and Suze told her they probably make too much money to file bankruptcy so it's really not an option. It was really something else to see ... talk about a woman in denial!! It was really quite sad, but SO frustrating at the same time. It just makes me wonder what sort of miracle solution Dawn thought Suze could come up with. I mean, she didn't even consider one piece of advice Suze gave her! She freely admitted that she's addicted to diamonds, and that just last night she was upset because a ring she's been wanting had been sold to someone else! I'm flabbergasted, absolutely stunned. She was something else.
I fully intended to vote early, but never seemed to get around to it (think I procrastinate much?) ... so I left work an hour early and went to do it. It went really smoothly -- there was only one person in front of me, and she opted for a paper ballot so I got to use the one-n-only electronic voting machine without waiting, woo-hoo! Quite a few people came in behind me, and most of them chose paper ballots. So, a quick and easy voting experience for me, what a pleasant surprise! I also got my flu shot at work this morning. My company gives them to employees for FREE, so you know I was all over that!
I updated my CC totals on my sidebar, and I've paid off 13% of my CC debt so far this year. I'm encouraged by that, even though it's not much, because I knew that it would be slow going in the beginning. I did begin my debt snowball, and guess which CC I am directing my next payoff at? Why, good ol' WaMu/Chase, of course! I owe $1,684 on it so it will take a little while, but with the extra from the paid-off card I'll be paying a minimum of $73/month towards it, and hope to pay $100 most months. I also plan to rework my budget in about 5 or 6 months (after I get my bonus and merit increase at work, and hopefully a tax refund), and I should be able to start paying more towards my CC debt then.
I got my $100 bonus in my "Save Yourself" account, since I have been having $50/month deposited in that account for over a year now. Woo-hoo!! Good thing, too, since I've been whittling away at my ING account since my child support decreased 5 months ago. The new position I got at work a couple months ago brought with it an increase in salary, so that pretty much brought me back to where I was before the child support went down. Now I am anticipating that merit increase at the beginning of 2009 so I can make some more forward strides again! It's been almost a year since I started this blog and, though I don't post frequently, I think it's really helped me to stay on track with everything ... not to mention that I read all of your blogs almost daily, and get such great inspiration from them!
I paid off a credit card this month -- my FIRST one since I started this blog -- and I was SO excited that I'd be able to start my snowball FINALLY!! But before I was able to post about that, as I was entering my credit card numbers into my spreadsheet, I noticed my WaMu balance had only gone down by $4.92 as opposed to the $20+ it has been going down each month (this is AFTER my minimum monthly payment of $51). Huh?? So I went online to look at my statement (I normally just check that the payment got there, then get back online a week or 10 days later to see when my next payment is due and what my new balance is) and I saw that my finance charge was $46, as opposed to the $30 it normally is. So, this is my email exchange with Customer Service (over a period of 4 or 5 days):
Me: Why is my finance charge so much higher this month than it's been in the past? Last month my finance charge was only $29.70 and this month it was $46.08!! I have not made any purchases on the card lately. Please advise.
Chase: Thank you for your recent e-mail regarding your account. Your account has a finance charge every month that it has a balance owing. Finance charges accrue on your account balance from the time your purchase or a cash advance posts, and continue to accrue until the balance is paid. Finance charges accrue on the average daily balance and post on the last day of the billing period.
Me: I realize how finance charges work. However, my finance charge this month is 50% HIGHER than it has been in the several months prior, so I need an explanation as to why. Thank you.
Chase: Thank you for your recent e-mail regarding your account. Typically, account changes, such as an interest rate (APR) increase, result from a perceived increase in risk based on factors such as credit bureau and internal credit scores. We perform regular credit risk assessments on all accounts and make decisions based on our credit guidelines. This decision is based upon specific credit criteria that has been established for our company and cannot be changed at this time. The guidelines we follow are consistent for all of our customers.
Me: So, somewhere in all this verbiage, are you trying to tell me that my APR increased?
Chase: Thank you for your recent e-mail regarding your account. Yes, we show that your APR was increased to 29.99% variable.
Would it have been so difficult to just tell me that the FIRST time I emailed? Ugh. This really chaps me ... I have not made a late payment on ANY of my cards this year ... I have not even USED any of my cards this year ... and I FINALLY get to the point where I can start my snowball, and THIS happens. It just figures.
In my last post I mentioned applying for another position within my company. I interviewed for it last week, and learned on Friday that I got the job! I'm excited for the promotion, and for the extra money I will be earning as a result! My salary increase is 12%, and I will get a merit increase in February or March as well (as a percentage of my new salary, not my old one). This will make up for the child support decrease which took effect in June, and get me back on track. Woo-hoo!! My first order of business, as soon as my raise shows up on my paycheck, is to get my savings built back up ... baby EF has taken a hit with the decrease in child support, and I need to get that built back up to at least $1,000 ASAP.
I think I have mentioned on here that my ex has been unemployed for a little while, and I've been worried about his financial situation. Well, he got his own good news yesterday, and he starts a new job on Monday. The bad news is that it requires a LOT of travel, and he will only be home once a month, so my daughter will see him even less than she does now. The thought also occurred to me last night that this alters my moving plans somewhat ... I was thinking I would move into a 2-bedroom apartment with my daughter, and when my son comes home from college for breaks and in the summer, he can stay at my ex's most of the time, and we'll "make do" for the time he wants to spend with me. (My ex lives about 30 minutes from me.) But if my ex isn't home, my son will not want to be there with just his stepmom ... so now I may be in the market to move into another 3-bedroom place instead. I will look at the prices of the 3-bedroom model at the apartments I'm interested in, but I know that option won't be feasible for me because the prices of the 2-bedroom models are on par with what I am currently paying to rent my 3-bedroom house ... so the 3-bedroom apartment will no doubt be out of my price range. This is going to require some more thought, as well as some conversation with my son.
I have family (my dad and stepmom) and friends down in the Houston area who have been somewhat affected by Hurricane Ike. I have talked to my dad a couple of times, and he said they don't have any damage to their home but that their yard is a huge mess. They also still do not have power, and haven't since Friday night (when all they had were the very beginnings of the high winds which were to come). My friends do not have their power back yet, either, and they had minimal damage (their backyard fence is down). Here in Fort Worth we had a day of rain yesterday, but today we have sunshine and wind (which is normal for here, LOL). I grew up in Houston but I do not see myself ever moving back down there; I just cannot imagine going through all the storm preparation and the clean-up and inconvenience in the aftermath ... and Houston isn't even ON the coast, it's further inland. Galveston is really a mess. And this morning I saw on TV that the midwest is getting incredible amounts of rain from Ike, bringing them all sorts of problems. Hugs to those of you who have been affected by Ike, and Gustav before that!
I went ahead and updated my total CC debt on my sidebar, as well as my ticker. I have to keep my focus on the fact that my debt total continues to go down, rather than on the fact that it's going down so slowly. I started this year at almost $13,500 in debt, and now I'm just under $12,000 - yeah! Also, my FICO score last December was under 600, and I just checked it and it's at its highest point for this year ... 630! It's not nearly where I want it to be, but it's certainly better than it was 9 months ago. So, I continue to take baby steps. "Slow and steady wins the race," right?
I applied for a new job (in the same company) online today. I have a pretty good shot at getting it, although it's definitely not a sure thing. If I do get it, I will move into the next salary grade, which would ROCK!! I should know something for sure in the next two or three weeks, fingers crossed!
As an update to the plumbing situation I talked about in my last post, the landlord did get the toilet repaired, and now I'm just waiting for the next occurrence!
Yesterday we were struck with plumbing issues again, one day shy of 3 weeks since the last occurrence. I called the landlord and got his voice mail, then finally reached him after a second voice mail left one hour later. (I planned to leave one every hour, even through the night, until I reached him!) He came out and spent 3 hours here (after spending 4 hours here the last time) w/a rented "snake" (I guess that's what it's called) and we are back in business again, but for how long this time? He replaced the toilet in the kids' bathroom a couple of months ago, and it had a slight leak so he was going to put some sort of wax sealant on it, which he brought with him last night. So after he snaked the toilet in the master bathroom, he went to the kids' bathroom to put this seal thing on that toilet. Half an hour later he tells me he broke the toilet and he'll have to come back today and repair it or replace it again. He showed me what he'd done, and he'd literally BROKEN the toilet ... there is a big hole in the bottom of the tank!! I have no idea how he did that. Anyway, he was supposed to be here today at 5:00 to take care of that job, and he didn't show up ... didn't even call!! I am pretty sure the reason I will get when I do talk to him is that he forgot. That is the reason I got countless times last year when we had a huge portion of a tree lying across our back yard, dead, which he was supposed to come cut up and remove. (It was struck by lightning in June 2007 and he finally came and cut it up and hauled it off in May 2008.) I was SO fed up last night that I was ready to go sign a lease on an apartment today!! This morning, of course, I realized I really cannot pay for an apartment and moving costs right now ... unless I don't pay my rent for next month. Plus I still have a lot of stuff to get rid of before I can move. But I am SO ready to be out of here, done with all the plumbing issues, and done with that landlord!!! My daughter and I went last weekend to look at the apartments I referred to in my last post, and we really like them a lot. Last night I'm sitting on the couch (while the landlord snaked out the toilet for the umpteenth time) planning ways I could perhaps move out of here next weekend!! Realistically I know there is no way I can do that. But it will be very interesting to see how long it is before we have more plumbing issues ... I am saying two weeks, tops. And if he doesn't get back out here to replace the toilet he broke, we will not even have a back-up toilet!! I really will NOT be happy then!!
My auto insurance questions are: When do you give up collision coverage? What exactly is comprehensive, and when do you give that up? My car is 8 years old (less than 70,000 miles) but I still carry full coverage. I only do that because I'm so nervous that as soon as I drop it, I'll have an accident!! I need some of you to talk some sense into me!! HELP!!
As an update to my child support situation with my ex, he did receive his severance the day after I posted and I was able to deposit the child support check. Now it's due again this week (Wed.) and I'm on pins and needles wondering if I'm going to receive it. I went ahead and kept the $400 from my EF to have on hand and readily available as long as the child support is in limbo, so my EF in ING is down.
The kids both start school tomorrow ... my daughter in 8th grade and my son as a college freshman! My daughter and I went to see my son on Friday because I wanted to see his dorm and just know where he's going to be living for the next school year (my ex moved him there a few days prior). He seems to have really settled in well and has made a bunch of new friends, so I am thankful for that. Now if we can just get our living situation here at home ironed out as well, life will be more pleasant all around!
I'm not sure if I mentioned this previously or not, but several weeks ago my ex lost his job. He'd been with that company less than a year, so I'm sure his severance package was quite small. Tomorrow I am supposed to receive the second child support payment due since the direct deposit from his job switched off. I asked him to send a post-dated check home with my daughter this past weekend, which he did ... and today I got an email from him saying as of today's mail he's not received his severance package so the check I was planning to deposit on my way to work in the morning is rubber. My checking account was pretty much at zero, my savings account (in brick & mortar bank) is my remaining challenge money of about $100, and everything else is in ING. We need some groceries, I put half a tank in my car yesterday, and had made payment arrangements with the cable company to pay my bill (which was due last Friday) this Friday (with a $4.95 late fee tacked on, which REALLY ticks me off) ... so I really need that check to be good! Ugh. Rather than face the prospect of going into the weekend with NO money, I decided to transfer $400 from my EF in ING, so it should be available in my checking account by the weekend. Hopefully the ex will get his severance tomorrow and I can just transfer the money back to ING ... but then I get to start stressing over whether the child support two weeks from now is going to be paid. He's never not paid (well, except for once when we were in the thick of the divorce negotiations and he was ticked off ... but that was 10 years ago!) and I know he will pay it if he has it, but I'm afraid if he doesn't get a job soon he won't be able to pay. I'm struggling as it is with the reduction since my son's graduation 2 months ago ... having NO child support at all would definitely mean getting a second job, and probably working 7 days a week! Well, I can't worry about that, worrying does no good ... I just have to have faith that it will all work out. I do feel for my ex, I really do. He had almost 20 years with one company, and they'd sent him back to school to get his Bachelor's degree, then paid for him to get his Master's degree, then eliminated his position shortly after that. Since that time he has had a failed business franchise and had to declare bankruptcy, then got this other job less than a year ago, which he just lost. Sadly, his financial situation sounds a lot like mine. It's a shame our kids have such deadbeat parents!!
In a different vein, I have really been thinking seriously about moving. For the past few years, I've been commenting to my daughter that we'd look into moving to a 2-bedroom apartment when my son went off to college. Now the time is here, and there is a fairly new (2-3 years old) apartment complex less than a mile from where I currently live which, if we moved there, would allow my daughter to finish in her current middle school (one more year) and then go on to the same high school my son just graduated from. For the past year or two we've had repeated plumbing problems in this house which, of course, are not our responsibility to repair but it's SUCH a hassle to have to deal with over and over again. Overall, this house needs a lot of repairs ... nothing major, so the landlord doesn't want to spend the money. I won't even go into how badly it needs a few upgrades ... the house is 25 years old and I swear it's still got the original carpet! Anyway, it would just be a perk to have something newer and nicer for a change. (I know, that's a WANT, not a NEED!) My main reason for wanting to move is so that I don't have to deal with the lawn maintenance (since my son is moving, and he's always done the yard work)! Also, we'll have a pool if we move to an apartment, which would be nice during the long scorching Texas summers! Since I looked at apartments before I moved into this rent house 5 years ago, I knew that I couldn't expect to reduce my expenses by moving to an apartment; they were about the same as houses for rent at that time.
Last week I looked at the website for the apartment complex I'm interested in, and their 2-bedroom apartments are advertised at $1200/month, which is $200/month MORE than I pay for my rent house ... so I pretty much put that idea out of my head right then and there. Then I was talking to a girl I work with about it, and she hooked me up with an apartment locator, something I never even knew existed! I guess these apartment locators can get better pricing than just a person coming in on their own. She sent me some prices for these apartments that were over $200 less than what was advertised on the website, or about the same as my current rent! Cool!! So I got all excited about that. Plus, the deposit on the apartment ($250) is MUCH less than I paid for this house ($1,000). So today I asked her some questions about the pet deposit, and availability of the floor plan I'd like (the only 2-bedroom floor plan w/a garage). Turns out the prices she sent me were for floor plans without a garage, because they have none of those available (nor do they foresee having any in the near future). So I have no way of knowing how much those are running until one becomes available, and the prices may have gone up quite a bit by then. (Apparently the prices change frequently.) As far as the pet deposit goes, it was listed as $150 ... but it's actually $300, half of which is refundable. (Totally misleading, I think!) Also, that $300 is PER PET ... so, since I have two cats, my pet deposit would be $600. BUT, the security deposit would be $125 instead of $250, because I work for a "preferred employer." Okay, there's another perk from working for my company ... cool, I will take it! So that brings the move-in to $725, which is still not as bad as the $1,000 I was thinking I'd have to come up with. True, the rent would probably be about the same as what I pay now, but surely the utilities would be less. (I know the water would be, what with all the plumbing issues we've had here!!) Oh, then I also found out today that my monthly rent would be $10 more per pet as well, which really ticks me off. Have y'all heard of that before? I haven't. Granted, I haven't moved much in the past 10 years, and I haven't lived in an apartment since I was in college, but still ... that's just crazy!!
So, I guess I will just plan to TRY to save up the money to move (for deposits, movers, whatever), depending on whether or not I continue to get child support, what kind of raise I get at the end of the year, whether Murphy stays away, etc. and I'll just keep checking with the apartment locator periodically to see if an apartment with a garage comes available in that complex. It's probably just as well, since I have a TON of stuff to get rid of in order to be able to move into a 2-bedroom apartment, so I know I will have to have some garage sales. That's something I've needed to do for a long long time anyway, and it will make me some extra money, which I definitely need! (I will just have to wait for cooler weather!) Oh, one other good thing about moving to the apartment is that it's got ALL the appliances in it already, including a full-size washer/dryer, and ALL the kitchen appliances ... so I could sell all of my appliances!
There is a coupon in the Walgreens ad this week to get a 4-pack of Scott or Cottonelle bath tissue for $1.99 (limit 2). I also have two coupons for 75 cents off a 4-pack (or larger) of Scott bath tissue. Can I use the coupons together, and get two 4-packs of Scott tissue for $2.48?
Well, I've made a few more sales on half.com, and my profit stands at right around $40 now. I haven't received any of that money yet, but half of it should hit my account tomorrow or Tuesday. I decided to close my SmartyPig account (already!) so it's gone from my sidebar. I had $75.11 in that, and I needed money to buy my son some things to get him ready to go off to college in a couple of weeks ... so I decided it would be better to close that account than to defrost a credit card! I am really feeling the pinch of that reduction in child support a couple of months ago. I just really hate to go get another job on top of my full-time job, because that will leave my 13-year-old daughter home alone an awful lot. But I may have no choice. I keep thinking I'll see how long I can hold out, and if I can just make it to next year things will look up. I'll get a salary increase in February, and hopefully something from the IRS. (Not sure about the IRS refund; I have gotten large amounts in past years due to earning such a low amount throughout the year; however, with this job I'm working now I have no basis for comparison.) But even if I can "hang on" ... that's still another 6+ months away, which is a long time.
In the meantime, I am paying the minimums on my credit cards again, but at least I am able to do that ... I refuse to make any more late payments or, worse yet, no payments at all! The progress has been slow, but at least I have made progress. Since the beginning of the year, I have whittled just over $1,300 off my debt, and I'm almost under $12,000 total now. At the same time, I have incurred NO NEW DEBT, woo-hoo!! I know as long as I keep doing what I'm doing, things will get easier with time. And I am still saving a little money and contributing 6% to my 401K. I have to keep positively reinforcing myself here!
I got some good deals yesterday at JCPenney. I had to get some sheets and shorts for my son, like I said earlier. There was an ad in the newspaper on Thursday about a sale JCPenney was having, and they had their extra long twin size sheets on sale for $14.99/set. I thought that was a pretty good price, so I hauled my son out there on Saturday morning w/me to see if they also had any shorts he might like. I wanted to get what we needed before 1:00 to get the early bird discount (an extra 10% off), which we did. As it turned out, all their young men's shorts were on sale for $9.99/pair! The athletic shorts (basketball-type) weren't included, but those were 30% off. So we walked out of there with 2 sets of sheets and 6 pairs of shorts (4 regular, 2 athletic) for $112 total, which I didn't think was too bad. The last time I bought shorts for him, I can tell you I paid more than $10/pair!!
Oh, and I have to get in here that I had 10 no-spenders in July, woo-hoo!
I listed about a dozen books on half.com earlier this week, and sold two right away! Nothing since then, though. I should make about $13 profit from those two sales.
This afternoon I listed two things on Craigslist. The first was a very large guinea pig cage. We haven't had guinea pigs for quite awhile, and I had listed the cage on Craigslist before, but had no luck. This time, I got a hit 5 minutes after the listing posted. Just before our last guinea pig died, I had stocked up on supplies, so I threw the rest of those in the deal along with the cage. The people that are buying it all are getting a great deal for $30, but I'm getting rid of "clutter"!! They're supposed to be here any minute to pick the stuff up.
I also listed a couple of Raggedy Ann & Andy dolls on Craigslist ... these dolls are 4 feet tall and are called "dancing" dolls because they have wide elastic straps sewn to their hands/feet, and kids can strap 'em on and dance with 'em! (At least, that's what I was told when I originally bought them 18+ years ago as nursery decorating items when I was pregnant with my son.) I listed them for $75 neg. and I doubt I'll get any bites, but who knows? Now I'm looking around the house trying to find something else I think might go quickly on Craigslist!
I updated my sidebar to show the $150 deducted from my Challenge money for the refrigerator I bought last weekend off Craigslist. I think I'll leave my EF untouched in ING.
I have enjoyed George Michael's music for many years, and I got to go see him perform in concert last night in Dallas! My employer has a suite at the American Airlines Center, and if no one has customers they want to take to an event, employees are able to request tickets for their own use. (Doesn't mean they will get them, but they can request them!) So I was able to go and take a friend of mine, and sit in the suite and enjoy a great concert, for free!! It was an awesome concert, and I had SO MUCH FUN!!
As an update to my "refrigerator replacement challenge," my fridge finally kicked the bucket late on Thursday night. Luckily I knew it was coming, so I didn't lose very much ... just condiments, etc., most of which had been in there for way too long anyway! I will replace those items as we need them. I was able to find a used fridge on Craigslist for $150 that is actually bigger than our old fridge, which is nice. No ice maker, which we did have in the old fridge, but that's something I can live with. The important thing is that it works well and I was able to scrape up enough cash to pay for it! I ended up taking the $150 out of my challenge money because I needed it sooner than I was able to get the money transferred from my EF (which is in an ING account). I still need to update my sidebar to reflect that.
And, last but certainly not least, I've already had 6 no-spend days so far this month!!
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