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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.

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

Seriously Derailed

January 26th, 2008 at 07:30 pm

I am still around, but have just been lurking. I can't stay away from this site, I read everything! I dream of being able to post about MY success, but I haven't made any strides yet, so I have not posted. I need to get myself on track.

Christmas buying really put me in a bigger hole than I either planned or realized. I couldn't pay all the minimums on my credit cards in December, so I incurred some late charges ... which, of course, has just gotten me further into the hole. Trying to get caught up this month has left me flat broke! Add to that the fact that my ex got a new job, so he's going from paying me child support in full at the beginning of each month to paying half of it twice a month, when he gets paid. So I have some adjustments to make to get used to that new set-up. It will all work out, it will just take a little time ... and I am impatient, especially when I'm waiting for $$$ because I currently have none!

I have to amend the rules I made for my own challenge. The PayPal funds I transferred into my challenge account at the beginning of the month had to go towards bills. I figure that ANY substantial amount needs to go towards building my EF, then to paying down my debt. Given that, the larger amounts I get from eBay sales as well as the garage sale I plan to have in the spring will go towards savings and debt reduction. My challenge fund will consist of smaller amounts that come from coupon use when buying groceries, as well as awards from doing surveys and completing rebates, things like that. Following those guidelines, my challenge fund currently stands at $87.22!! This comes from a couple of rebates, coupon use, and my first check from Cash Crate. Oh, also a check I got from my insurance company last week in the amount of 8 CENTS!! Please.

I still don't have my bonus, but I think that is paid this coming week (end of month). I don't anticipate much, and I am struggling so to get caught up with my bills, I will probably use it towards those. I am also waiting to receive the W-2 from my last job (which should arrive this week as well), so that I can do my taxes. I already estimated I will get several thousand back (due to the EIC), which will be great. I plan to use it to fund my baby EF first, and the rest will go towards the CCs. I also need to buy a few clothes, since I have lost enough weight now to make a big difference in how my current clothing fits! But I am going to stick to resale shops for that, especially since I still want to lose enough weight to make a difference of another size.

I have been doing really well as far as recording and tracking my spending, and I've taken my lunch to work every day, so I am proud of myself in those areas. Between budgeting and dieting, taking lunch to work is a necessity!

Kinda Bummed

December 2nd, 2007 at 09:44 pm

I sat down yesterday to pay some bills and do some budgeting, and at that point realized that I really can't start my gung-ho plan of action for saving and paying off bills until next month ... because I haven't bought any Christmas gifts yet and I have no money set aside for doing so! What was I thinking? I have no idea! Anyway, I spent quite a bit of time trying to "find" money in other areas of my budget, and it's really going to be tight. I still don't know how I'm going to manage, but I will figure it out. On top of that, my son's car (which used to be mine, and it's been a money sponge since I bought it) went in the shop before Thanksgiving, and it's probably going to cost $800 or $900 to repair (more than half of that is labor). My ex-husband proposed splitting the cost 3 ways, which I agree is fair, but could it have come at a worse time?? Ugh.

On a brighter note, I am really proud of myself because not only did I take my lunch to work EVERY DAY last week, I prepared dinner EVERY NIGHT -- NO take-out food at all, period! Woo-hoo!! I wrote down everything I spent money on, every day, and even in just the short time I have been doing so I can see how much money I've been wasting up until this point, on insignificant things and fast food! It's really quite an eye-opener!! So, even though I have this setback in my plan, I am still excited about it!

I have seen the "$20 Challenge" referenced in many blogs here, but can someone explain to me exactly what it is? It seems like there are several different ways to do it. I'd like to know more!

Organizers and iPods

November 24th, 2007 at 04:37 pm

Thanks to those of you who left encouraging comments! I'm really pumped for this, and I am so glad I found this site so I can compare notes with all of you!

It was a cold, rainy day here, so it was a lazy one for me. My son's car is in the shop, so I did have to take him to/from work (about 15 miles round trip). Besides that, I took my daughter to Blockbuster to buy a used PS2 game. She has some birthday money, and she found a game she wanted that only cost $5, so she was happy (and when she's happy, I'm happy). Then we went across the street to Staples so I could pick up a medium-sized notebook (to carry in my purse) so that I can write down everything I spend money on each day. They only carry the one I wanted in a 3-pack, so I wandered over to the aisle with the calendars and organizers to see if anything else would work better ... I should have known better! I have such a weakness for things like organizers, and I already have a calendar that is perfect for me which I carry around in my purse, so of course I did not NEED a new one. But I found this really nice zippered cover to hold an agenda and a pad of paper, and I thought it would be so perfect ... but my current agenda was too big for it and I'd need to buy a new one ... and they were $20, and the cover was $14, and the agenda doesn't even start until January so I'd have a whole month ahead of not really being able to use it, etc. After 30 minutes of going back and forth over it (seriously!), I was proud of myself for walking out of there with the 3-pack of notebooks, one of which is in my purse right now! I spent $3.58 (as opposed to $35-$40). Woo-hoo!

I need to start Christmas shopping. I try to do as much as possible online, and have used eBay a lot in past years. I'm lucky in that I really only have to get gifts for my kids. My family quit exchanging gifts years ago, which is fine by me! I have no significant other to buy for, and none of my friends and I really exchange gifts anymore. I started a new job 6 weeks ago, and I'm not sure what (if anything) is done there about gift-giving. The one thing I do know my son wants is an iPod, the "classic," 80 GB. (I've already told him it's probably the only thing he's going to get, IF he gets it!) The cheapest I've seen it advertised for is $249.99. Has anyone out there seen it any cheaper? I'd love to know where, if so!