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Another Mini-Milestone!

June 27th, 2011 at 05:52 pm

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). Frown 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!

Still Plugging Away ...

February 26th, 2011 at 11:22 am

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:

Experian: 660
Equifax: 638
TransUnion: 650

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)! Smile

Anyway, that's where I am at today! To use a favorite phrase of Thrifty Ray's ... LIFE IS GOOD!!

My Bi-Annual Check-In

August 23rd, 2010 at 05:27 pm

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!

Long Time No Blog!

January 22nd, 2010 at 09:32 pm

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!!

Ticked at myself (and credit cards are EVIL)

May 16th, 2009 at 01:03 pm

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.

What would you do? -- ADVICE NEEDED!!

April 25th, 2009 at 06:04 pm

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!

It's been awhile ...

April 16th, 2009 at 04:47 pm

... 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! Smile

I've Paid Off 30% of My Debt!!!

February 28th, 2009 at 07:20 pm

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!! Smile

Something Weird, and Motivation to Declutter (Finally!)

February 24th, 2009 at 06:32 pm

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!! Smile

Paid off that stinkin' WaMu card!!

February 1st, 2009 at 03:53 pm

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!! Smile

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!!

I'm SO excited!!!!

January 21st, 2009 at 07:21 pm

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. Smile


APR on some of my CCs was lowered!

January 10th, 2009 at 01:42 pm

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??

AP news article + other bits-n-pieces

December 29th, 2008 at 10:00 pm

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.

Wow.

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!!! Smile (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.

Big day -- I voted AND got a flu shot!

November 4th, 2008 at 07:11 pm

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!

Chase buys WaMu: 1st Order of Biz to Raise APRs???

October 16th, 2008 at 08:05 pm

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.

End of Month = Another Baby Step

August 30th, 2008 at 07:13 pm

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? Smile

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!

This 'n That

August 3rd, 2008 at 09:30 pm

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! Smile 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! Smile

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!

A no-spender to start the month

July 1st, 2008 at 06:09 pm

Not only did I have a NSD today, I had a total of 8 of them in June, yay me!! Smile

I updated my savings account totals to reflect interest earned in June, and updated my CC debt amount. The savings accounts are slowly inching their way up, and the CC balances are slowly inching their way down.

It's mid-year review time at work, and I have completed my self-assessment. I'm eager to see if my supervisor concurs with how I rated myself. I asked her today if there's any chance I will get an increase with this review, and she is going to look into it. As a review, I started w/the company last Oct. 8, and Oct. 1 was the cut-off date to be eligible for merit increases at the beginning of this year ... so I did not get one. I will, however, get one at the beginning of 2009, which is when everyone gets increases across the board (unless they had a bad review). I'm not optimistic that I will get an increase now, but I figured it couldn't hurt to ask!

I'm nervous that my refrigerator is about to croak! We had a big storm about a week ago, and we lost our power for 3.5 hours. That in itself is highly unusual; in fact, I think it's the first time we've lost power for more than a couple of minutes in the five years we've lived here. Anyway, since that time the freezer has not been as cold. The ice maker is still making ice, but the ice cream and popsicles I have in there are still very soft. The coldness setting was already up to 6, so I put it on 7 (which is the highest setting) and it seemed somewhat better the first day after I did that but now the ice cream is soft again. It's also making a really loud noise when the freezer is running. Thankfully I don't have much in there, so I'm not worried about losing a lot of meat, etc. ... but I really don't want the expense of having to replace the refrigerator. Time will tell .......

CUTTING back ..... yep, it hurts!!!

June 24th, 2008 at 07:06 pm

Man oh man, this is the first month I've gotten the new (reduced) child support, and I can sure feel it! I got myself in a funk this past weekend, just poring over the budget numbers again and again, trying to figure out more places to cut ... while still trying to pay down my debt and save too. It is hard, and that word "cutting" describes how it feels, LOL!! But then I reminded myself that I am in a much better place today than I was a year ago:

1. My current salary is significantly higher than it was at my previous job, and I am able to contribute 6% of that to a 401K (with a 3% match). Before, I didn't have a 401K. Oh, and I also contribute to a health spending plan, and my health insurance is great.

2. A year ago I had NO savings at all. Today I have almost $2,000 in various accounts (see sidebar), to which I have been able to contribute regularly.

3. A year ago I had to use my credit cards every month to make ends meet. Today they are in a block of ice in my freezer, and I have not touched them in months. (Granted, most of them are maxed out because of all the charging I did until I froze them, LOL!) Not only am I not adding to my CC debt, I am able to pay the minimums on all the cards ON TIME, which is slowly but surely whittling down the debt. As soon as the dust settles on this latest financial change, I hope to start snowflaking, too!

So I can see that I am making tiny steps now, and as long as I can continue to keep moving forward, no matter how tiny the steps, eventually this process will get a little easier. I should get a salary increase (as well as some sort of bonus) early next year, too. So I just have to be patient, and this will gradually get easier. As long as Murphy stays away and I can avoid touching my EF, I'll be okay. Looking at things that way, it seems like where I am right now is probably the most challenging (painful) point ... at least, I hope so!

There was a comment made to my last entry about starting a savings account for the purpose of Christmas shopping this year, and I think I've about decided that's what I'm going to use my Smarty Pig account for. The $25/month automatic deposits won't add up to the amount I'll need by year-end, but it will give me a start. I also just remembered that I will get the $100 bonus in my "Save Yourself" account in October/November, so maybe I will earmark that $100 to add to my Christmas fund in Smarty Pig.

So now I feel somewhat better ... actually, I feel immensely better than I did this past weekend! Now I just have to figure out where the money is going to come from to buy my son the things he needs to go off to college and live in the dorm come the fall semester (which will be here in the blink of an eye)! Well, his dad will definitely have to help out ... especially since his monthly income has gone up by the same amount mine has gone down!! Big Grin

I hate credit cards!!

June 14th, 2008 at 10:13 pm

Okay, we probably all hate credit cards. But I had finally reached a point of acceptance and I have been taking action by paying down my old debt while not incurring any new debt. I have even made some progress ... so I'd started to feel encouraged, and maybe even begun to see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Then I got a couple of my CC bills this month and noticed the balances had gone UP instead of DOWN ... and I knew I had not charged anything (my cards are still in a block of ice in my freezer)!

Upon closer examination of the bill from the first card, I saw that it has an annual fee of $39 which was charged to me this month ... which I am sure I knew before I got the card (obviously about a year ago) but have forgotten. In fact, I am sure I not only knew about the annual fee but I didn't care about it at the time; however, I sure care a LOT now!! Ugh. To make matters worse, when I originally got this card it had a 0% APR, which went up to 14.9% in February. That same month I was also late paying my bill ... so in March the APR went up to 29.49%!!! Dang!!

As if all that weren't bad enough, the closer look at the second card (to see why my monthly minimum payment went up) revealed that this company also raised my APR this month, from 15.99% to 24.99%. I emailed to inquire about that and got the standard reply about how they can raise the APR if I pay late and/or go over my limit ... but I've not gone over my limit at all this year (quite the opposite, in fact) and I have only had one late payment, also back in February (Christmas killed me). So why is my APR just being raised NOW for a late payment back in February?!! ARGH!!

It's just SO frustrating to finally be making noticeable progress, then have a couple whammies like that come from out of the blue. And of course these things have to happen the same month my child support is reduced!! It's discouraging.

But I do have a couple of positive things to report! So far this month I have four no-spend days, which is awesome for me! I also opened up an account with Smarty Pig, and I'm doing once-a-month auto transfers of $25 into that!! So I need to concentrate on my positive actions and not the negative circumstances that have developed this month. I know if I can persevere through this rough patch and continue to pay my minimums plus whatever small amounts I can manage to scrape up, soon I will have another card paid and I'll be able to apply that amount to another card, and my snowball will gain some momentum!!

I got my first Pinecone check!

June 1st, 2008 at 06:03 pm

I received my very first Pinecone check on Friday! That will bump up my challenge fund balance to $225.09. It's so funny how excited I am over a $3 check. Big Grin

The kids have two days of school left; well, my son is actually finished because he is exempt from all of his finals. So he will be working more, and it remains to be seen if he eats at home more often or less often (I'm thinking about food expenses here!). Hopefully the food bill will stay about the same; I will have to buy more, but I won't have to give the kids lunch money. We'll see.

My son's graduation is coming up on Saturday, and family is coming in. It was decided that my ex and his wife will host a cookout at their house afterwards for both sides of the family, which is a relief to me financially. It will be the first time my dad/stepmom have seen my ex's parents in 10+ years (the dads used to be the best of fishing buddies), so I think it will be a good gathering. I'm grateful we are all on such good terms and able to do this type of thing, for my kids' sake.

I updated my credit card debt total for the end of May, and I have shaved off just over $1,000 from my total debt since the beginning of this year, woo-hoo! Now THAT excites me! Now the real challenge begins ... trying to keep everything paid up on my lower income, since my child support has now gone down. I am seriously thinking about getting a second job. It would be great to get a big raise at work ... but I don't think I can expect one quite THAT big!

Slow Going

March 30th, 2008 at 09:53 pm

I haven't posted much lately, but I am here reading pretty much every day! I am still taking my lunches to work, and still writing down everything I spend money on daily.

Like a lot of others here, I'm looking back at the past month's spending and seeing how I did. I'm happy to report 7 no-spend days in March! I'm encouraged when I look at my savings totals slowly going up, and when I look at the balance in my newly-established Vanguard account after only two pay periods of contributing. But the debt is going down SO slowly! I got popped with some overlimit fees last month that showed up on this month's statements, and that really discouraged me. I've made several very large payments on my cards this year, and it doesn't seem like it when you look at what I still owe ... because the interest just keeps building and it seems like I am taking 10 steps forward and 9 steps backward. It's going to be a long trek at this pace!! But I know slow and steady progress will get me where I want to be.

I know that as I get a couple of the smaller cards paid off and start putting those monthly amounts towards other cards, I will be able to see more of a difference. It's just discouraging right now. At least the weight loss is going well ... only a little over 4 lbs. to go until I reach my goal, woo-hoo!!

What Our Government Spends on INTEREST

March 29th, 2008 at 07:59 am

Thanks to rduell for posting the link to Maxed Out yesterday. I just finished watching it, and WOW! I imagine it has a profound effect on anyone who sees it. I think I will send the link to my son (who is going off to college in the fall). It was so sad to see the loved ones of the several people who saw no other way out of debt but to kill themselves. Just heartbreaking. And so preventable!!

One statement in the film made my jaw drop to the ground: The U.S. Government spends more on interest than on homeland security, education, and healthcare combined. Absolutely staggering. And it scares me to death!

Very powerful film.

My Credit is Frozen!!!

March 5th, 2008 at 07:37 pm

Because I put my credit cards in a ziplock bag of water and froze them!! Smile It's something I've been meaning to do for awhile, actually ... finally just DID IT.

Thank you, Ima Saver, for sending me the $25 bonus certificate for opening an account at ING!! I got it last week and opened the account with $500 of my EF; there's another week to go before those funds are available for withdrawal, so I will wait until that time to transfer the remaining $1,000 and close the account at my brick & mortar bank. (I felt nervous opening the account w/the entire amount, just in case I needed to get to the cash.)

Last but not least, I already have two no-spend days this month, woo-hoo!!

Only 2 no-spend days this month??

February 26th, 2008 at 10:03 pm

That's not very good, I must definitely do better in March! Of course, this month isn't quite over yet, so I still might manage one more. I rather doubt it, but we'll see.

I spent this evening trying to figure out how much I will need to pay each month, minimum, on each of my credit cards in order to pay off all my CC debt by the end of 2010. Very sobering exercise. It's going to require about $550/month, which I am not at all sure I can do consistently and still stash money away each month for periodic expenses such as car repair, clothing, gifts, etc. Well, at least I have a solid guideline now; if it doesn't work, I will just have to tweak it! And I plan on calling some of the CC companies several months from now and asking them to lower my interest rate; I'm waiting until then because I want to establish a better payment pattern. Hopefully I will be successful, which will definitely help me get this debt paid off sooner! I seriously don't even want to think about how much money I have paid credit card companies in interest and fees over the years. Sickening. Frown