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The New Plan

January 13th, 2010 at 06:50 am

As much as I wanted to pay off the one card by March, we need more breathing room. We can not be operating without a savings cushion while DH is employed by a temp agency (not that working full time for another company would be any better in his field, but I digress).

The new plan will require 36% (so less than before) of our income to go towards the debt repayment but leaves us both with a cushion and some money to spend (4.4% of the budget and includes all groceries). Our payoff will be in October (*sigh*) but the chances of needing to resort to the credit cards because something else happens (we just had 4k worth of something happen) goes down tremendously.

Strangely, the evaporated balance transfer offers have come back so I won't have to pay a high interest rate for the privilege of time (this is a mixed blessing since I know I would never pay over 10% apr for any type of loan but 1.99 and lower doesn't encourage speedy payoff).

Part of the additional setback is the access to the 401(k). We are putting 15% into it pretax and that is a big chunk out of the budget. On the other hand, the habit of saving has already begun to pay dividends for us. Our retirement accounts have been steadily climbing and our net worth with it. I wish we had begun these accounts back when we first moved out here. The delay in waiting for our debt to be paid off was a poor choice since it takes awhile to reform bad habits. And thanks to that 401(k), tax time will avoid being a big hit to the wallet.

Overall, I am more than a little disappointed by this delay but I am trying to be realistic with my budget.

Ouch, that hurts

January 11th, 2010 at 10:35 am

A rebuilt transmission will be necessary for the car. That will deplete the rest of our savings so I am going to have to get creative to rebuild the savings fund.

We still haven't had a setback that we haven't been able to pay in full but this last one is cutting it close. I may need to slow down the repayment schedule to allow our cushion some healing time.

Time also to nix the allowance increase. The new paint will just have to wait till March. In fact, time to cut back more. If I can just get through March, everything opens up after that but its going to be tight until then.

Budget Change

January 7th, 2010 at 06:59 am

Its a little early to come out of hibernation, but that's just the type of girl I am. I am ready to get back to work on the house projects (little ones, one at a time, I promise) so our allowance will need to go up to accommodate the things we will need to pick up like paint, trim and tools.

We have a lot of things that are mostly finished so I think our projects will mostly be about completing what we have started.

Year End Reflections

December 29th, 2009 at 07:32 am

So it took a little over a year but as of December 2009 I am back where I started before I bought a house (Nov 2008). I had figured at the time that the house would set us back a year on our debt repayment and I was right. I must admit though, I hadn't realized both DH and I would have a moment of unemployment in there and a 1/3 of our income cut out this year. As a result, I am a little surprised to see that we stayed on schedule.

We have increased our net worth this year by about 9k with the majority of that being mortgage principal paydown (almost 6k). That's 4.2% of our loan.

The last time we used a credit card (other than paying in full) was in April for the cabinet refacing and that deal will be paid off in March 2010 with no interest paid.

We actually had quite a few big surprise bills this year that we have paid cash for no problem.

From January 2010 on, I will be setting records for my networth which is really nice. DH will be contributing 15% to his 401(k) again and I will finally max out my roth this year (hoping to max out his roth as well but we will see).

The advantage of having gotten so many of our fixer upper projects done this year is that the house is livable and we have lost the desire to move as quickly on future remodeling. Spacing out repairs will allow us to pay off the debt quicker and build a larger savings cushion.

I've estimated our taxes this year and we are looking to receive a refund. I don't want to adjust our withholding though because without the window credit, we would have been paying in this year despite the unemployment. Also DH's income can jump very quickly which makes tax estimating a haphazard guessing game.

Overall its been a good year all round.

The 401(k) dilemma

December 16th, 2009 at 07:13 am

I like 401(k)s. They reduce the tax you need to pay, they help you save more than you could in an IRA and sometimes you even get matching funds.

Hubby is getting access to one through his temp agency. So what's the problem? Its through the temp agency. Technically hubby is supposed to get hired on by the company he is currently working for so he might get it started and then have to transfer the money because he got hired.

The other issue? Contributing will delay the debt payoff by two months.

That said, I am still leaning towards having him do 15% to the 401(k). If he doesn't get hired by the company he is working for, this will keep our access to a 401(k) so that we can squirrel away money. I hate delaying the payoff but its better to establish good habits now then to wait for a better time later (which may never come).

I will just have to make sure to fully fund my roth by the end of next year (which should be doable despite the setback).

Cashflow vs bang for your buck

December 11th, 2009 at 07:23 am

I don't actually know which I value more. I have a non-deductible mortgage (since its not big enough to allow me to itemize) at 6% apr and a deductible student loan at 5.15% apr. Come July, I am going to have to decide which I want to start prepaying. If I prepay the student loan, I increase cashflow by $200 once its gone (and its only about $13k now so not big). After that, I can throw all of that at the mortgage.

If I prepay the mortgage (which has fha insurance on it) I get to pay off much more interest but I don't free up my cashflow for a long time. The student loan will naturally be paid off before the mortgage even though the mortgage is a 15 year.

Course all of this changes again if I refinance next year(if I refinance, it would be without the fha insurance thanks to equity in the home) which would also lower the interest.

I have awhile to solve this question or to have things change on me so its not a huge deal, its just surprising that I can't decide which choice I like better. They are a little too close.

Down to two credit cards

December 4th, 2009 at 07:19 am

Today I paid another one off. I won't get to do that again until February. We also started our allowance diet yesterday which should last till the end of March. It allows us to stay on pace despite some expenses cropping up that we weren't originally counting on. That said, we may have a few more show up to slow us down. In fact, I am practically counting on it. That's part of the reason that I am not making larger credit card payments, I need a cushion of 2k to feel comfortable.

Looking at the upcoming debtfree budget, we will once again have all of our bills and allowance fit on just my paycheck (or even hubby's current base pay since he is making a little less than me momentarily). That's a nice feeling.

Wondering what to do about next year's taxes...

December 3rd, 2009 at 02:49 pm

By my calculations, we will probably get back around $900 this year (only getting that much thanks to 2 months of being unemployed in our house, otherwise we would still be paying in). That's all fine and dandy except that this year we had a $1500 energy efficiency rebate which is the only reason we aren't paying in. Next year we start paying an extra $500 per year in taxes to repay the homeowner credit.

On top of that, Hubby might get hired on full time next year. Full time will mean access to a 401(k) next year so we may be able to sock enough away to get the tax back down. Oh, and most likely I will regain access to an HSA this upcoming year. I bet that could get our taxes down. Still would need the 401(k) though to get it the rest of the way under the $1k no penalty limit...

Bah, this is much easier when both people are salaried. Hubby's overtime kills our tax bill every year, lol.

2010 Financial Goals

December 3rd, 2009 at 08:12 am

Positive Net Worth (should be reached in Feb)

Debtfree (should be reached in June or July at current pace)

Max out one Roth IRA (should be reached in December, will probably max the other one for 2010 in Jan 2011)

Accomplish 2 home improvement/repair projects(preferably landscaping and electric work).

2 real vacations (don't have to be long, just go somewhere new).

And I am pretty sure we won't have anymore money after all that (well, besides the savings towards more home repairs but that is accounted for another year).

Financial chores accomplished

November 20th, 2009 at 08:27 am

I paid off the card that wanted to jack my interest rate up to 30% (but don't worry, after two months of paying on time they would refund 10% *note sarcasm*) with a 0% offer yesterday. This really should be the last balance transfer because all my interest rates are locked in now (aka no one else can tell me that they have a lovely present for me).

I have also scheduled the payoff for one of my cards for 12/04, which means I will be down to two cards.

Saw that my promotional rate for my internet was going to expire so I called them up and agreed to a 2 year contract in exchange for a permanent rate reduction and faster speed (this will probably be the last time you read that I signed a contract, with everything else I am moving away from contracts but I will be homeless before I give up my internet connection).

I also ported my phone number to net10 now that I know for sure that it works and have used most of my Tmobile minutes.

Hopefully that will be it for awhile. I hate trying to make time for phone calls and playing hot potatos with the credit cards and savings accounts.

My Financial Priorities

November 18th, 2009 at 01:47 pm

1 Pets
Got rid of saltwater tanks, limit toys and treats to reasonable level

2 Video Games/Bikes
Try to buy used, replace as things break

3 House Repairs
Plan cash expenditures to level needed

4 Financial Independence
Pay off debts quickly, keep saving for retirement

5 Eating Out and Eating In
Set a reasonable expenditure level and stay under

6 music/gardening/decorating/books
Occasional splurge, keep impact on budget minimal (shouldn't have its own category)

7 Travelling/Car Maintenance/Entertainment
Minimal till debt is gone, then goes up to have its own category

8 Charity/Generosity
usually project based, after debt payoff, gets its own category

9 Electronics/Furniture/Eventual Car Replacement
should be another 5 years before this needs to become a category

This is my current priority list. Everything that I value that has a strong financial impact on my life is listed whether I need to spend on it right now or not. I am sure it will change in the future but for now this is it.

This list is based on how strongly I feel about it not the amount of money that is required to support it. Underneath each I listed my plan for keeping the expense part down. Surprisingly, financial independence is fourth on the list. I would honestly work longer for the items listed above it. Strange hunh?

Another interest rate hike

November 9th, 2009 at 08:38 am

So my Citicard who was the only card that hadn't raised rates due to market conditions, just jumped mine up 4.4x its current level. Ouch. I always feel like I did something wrong when I get increases like that but in my head, I realize that its just the economy and record defaults. Still. Nasty raise in rate. So another 0% balance transfer has been accepted elsewhere so I can pay the card in full and not close it by Dec 20th (I just got the notice Friday).

I basically break even when you take into account transfer fees (this is the one card that had some interest being applied) so I shouldn't complain too much. I have redone the budget to reflect the change.

So after the credit card payoff this Friday and this new transfer, the credit cards will look like this:

CC#1 11,330 0% (My payment $200)
CC#2 2,380 0% (My payment $40)
CC#3 4,082 0% (No min, no payment)

I really can't wait for July 2010 when these are all paid off. *Sigh*

What percentage of your income goes to paying off debt?

November 4th, 2009 at 11:18 am

I tend to send over 40% of our income towards debt. As a result I expect us to be rid of the debt by July. That said, I sometimes wonder if we focus on repaying debt so quickly that we forget to enjoy the here and now.

I am a big fan of the 50/30/20 budget but don't actually put it into practice. For one because my necessities don't require a whole 50% and for another reason is because we don't get close to even 20% on wants let alone 30%...

I have tried to loosen our purse strings a little so we can enjoy things but always feel guilty when I do.

Cheaper project list

November 3rd, 2009 at 07:20 am

March 2011 Electric panel + wiring
Sept 2011 New Asphalt roof
Sept 2011 New Siding
Sept 2011 New Gutters
Sept 2011 New Fence
March 2012 New Furnace
Aug 2012 Bathroom remodel
Sept 2012 Refinish hardwoods
Jan 2013 Newish car
Jan 2014 Payoff student loan early

I like this time line better. Not the least of which it fits the 5 year timeline I have for prioritizing house repairs over savings (not over retirement savings but over mid term savings). What I don't like is the asphalt roof. I may have to get over that though if the metal is as expensive as I believe it to be. Especially since this list doesn't include my dream projects (anything that is more than 10 years away) of redoing the basement stairs and refinishing the basement.

I am beginning to see why people like using HELOC's for remodeling. It certainly allows you to get the remodels faster. But since our goal is to be completely debt free at an early age so we can focus on saving, that is not something we are interested in.

My project list..ugg

November 2nd, 2009 at 12:09 pm

July 2010 Last of cc debt paid off
March 2012 New metal roof
April 2012 New siding for carport and top of house plus new gutters

Sept 2012 Replace fence
Oct 2012 New electric panel and wiring
May 2013 Bathroom remodel
Aug 2013 New furnace
May 2014 Refinish hardwood floors
Jan 2015 Relatively new car

Hmmm...there has got to be a way to cut costs down to make this go faster. *Sigh* This is what I get for wanting to do everything right the first time. I am sure as the time gets closer I will figure ways of getting what I want for less. Its just painful to see how long all this work is going to take.

Finally some progress

October 13th, 2009 at 07:20 am

Received the first settlement offer which was twice what I was thinking it would be (my insurance had been kind on the depreciation). As a result, I do have a base number for the month of October now. It will probably be a couple of months before the final tally is in but I am okay with base numbers and guesstimating the rest.

Since I have been bargain shopping for the replacements, I am going to have some money left over (couldn't replace everything even if I wanted to so no, I am not really coming out ahead but I am trying to look on the bright side). As a result I will be able to speed up my debt repayment and keep a higher than expected cushion. June will definitely be the last month for debt (assuming continual employment of course).

I was tempted to put some of the money into an IRA for hubby but we are just so ready for the credit card to be gone that I think we need to just put it on the debt and accept that I won't be maxing his out until next year. I am just so looking forward to that money going into short term and long term savings instead of into credit card payments.

September Networth and other updates

September 23rd, 2009 at 09:34 am

Finished! No more changes on this month. Normally I do networth at the beginning of the month and just alter it as necessary but don't think I will be doing that for October, simply too much will be coming and going for even a beginning estimate. I hate it when I can't plan out my numbers Frown

I already flunked out of the no heat contest. We had a cold snap that dropped the house temperature. General rule of thumb in our house, if its 63 when we get home from work, the heat needs to be on.

A bad weekend but the week is slowly getting better

September 17th, 2009 at 06:49 am

Probably the less I say about this the better but its definitely finance related. We were robbed over the weekend but our animals are safe, we are okay and the robbers weren't malicious or thorough.

I have spoken with the claim specialist and we are well covered so technically I should only have to pay the deductible and they will pay the rest, including actual replacement cost for anything bought within 180 days.

Obviously we will not be replacing everything. Some things we simply won't be able to find that fast and others we feel no need to get again. We will be upgrading 3 items when we go to replace (they were nearing the end of their lives anyway so we will be grateful for even just cash value).

We also intend to put security features into place before we start replacing things. Though to be fair, these robbers got in through an unlocked window. Ah the joys.

Cannibalizing the future to make sure of the present

July 31st, 2009 at 07:48 am

I lowered my IRA contributions today to the minimum. I hate doing that but I don't want to put us in an uncomfortable position while DH looks for work (current contract ends in a month) and right now I want to hoard as much money as possible. (We are also lowering our allowance to as little as we can get by with which is officially a little more than half of normal).

My take away from this is that next year my goal will be an EF of at least 10k. 1-2k just doesn't give me enough leeway to feel comfortable. Not that 10k will be enough in the long run, it just works as a short term goal while I max out the retirement accounts next year. I will actually need to save up a lot of money because sometime in the next 4 years, I need to put a new roof on the house.

Bah, I hate having things up in the air. Speaking of which, I should get hubby to transfer his 401(k) to a rollover ira. He's paying higher fees for leaving it there then he would by having it in an ira.

Latest budget info for the curious

July 24th, 2009 at 10:52 am

Figured I should post my latest budget since I haven't done that in awhile. Did it in percentage format based on the lowest amount earned per month (since I refuse to plan based on overtime).

Water Bill (now monthly) 0.3%
Electric/Gas Bill 1.0%
Gas for Car 0.8%
PITI 25.9%
Bus Pass 1.4%
Car Insurance 1.3%
IRA 8.0%
Short Term Savings 1.5%
Internet/TV 1.4%
Netflix 0.2%
Cash Items 29.6%
Student Loan 3.9%
CC #1 2.0%
CC #2 2.0%
CC #3 20.7% + any overtime

Oh, the amount of debt we have is 32.7% of our yearly income (the majority of which is at 0% interest). Which means if you are truly ambitious you can figure out the dollar amounts for everything, I just think percentages are more helpful.

Obviously the cash allowance is purely discretionary (groceries, out to eat, activities,home repair, etc) so that is what gets cut when I want to save more cash. We still can survive indefinitely on my income, still never pay just the minimums on credit cards (psychologically, I just can't do it) and the budget is extremely comfortable.

Which is why I am thinking we can cut back a little until we are sure of DH's next job. Which may not take long since he is already getting calls for new jobs. Better safe than sorry though. For those concerned that I don't have an EF fund listed, I keep a 1k cushion so that is already built in. The cash raiding is for expanding on that in case some big repair bill or some other nasty appears while our income is reduced.

Oh, should mention that the phone is not a monthly bill so is not listed. Short term savings covers that, any plumbing bills (1950's plumbing, I expect problems) and oil changes. I expect that it can cover a host of other random expenses too.

The challenge of an accurate budget...

July 13th, 2009 at 09:07 am

Still trying to get there. I have everything down except the spend money. Part of that is knowing how much I need during the summer for our continual house projects. So, I am upping that by an extra $100 per month which should be enough. In the winter it can go back down to normal levels but the summer tends to need a little bit more money for all projects we work on. At least we are definitely paying off debt and contributing to long term and short term savings. My goal is for us to have enough cash in hand to save up for some of the bigger projects that don't fit in the week to week budget.

I am not really trying to have a watch every penny budget, I just want to know in advance how much money will be left over each month for debt repayment. The past couple of months haven't included a short, short term savings category (ie meant to be spent in a couple of months) and we need that for a few of the repairs. I am also going to need that for plane tickets for my brother's high school graduation. Hopefully this modification will be enough to give us those amounts.

Updates and guests for the holiday weekend

July 1st, 2009 at 12:27 pm

Updated the networth for all the scheduled July payments so now my debt is starting to go back in the right direction. DH and I have agreed that we won't do anymore large purchases until we are completely debt free and have saved cash for them. The new cash in hand budget is working out extremely well. Its really nice to not have to worry about going overbudget because you can see where you stand at any moment and the amount keeps us from feeling deprived.

The front yard is starting to come along. We decided that the stone path part will wait for next year and this year we will focus on the mulch beds and plants (we are using the cash allowance to buy these as we go along).

We will have a long holiday weekend because we took time off for the in laws visit. Not sure what we will be up to yet but we can figure that out as we go along. Guests used to be really damaging to the budget but since the new one is designed to afford gardening supplies or festivals each weekend, I don't anticipate going over budget.

This was the big mistake I have made with every budget, never any play money or at least never enough. No more. Considering our fixed expenses have never exceeded 27% of the budget, no play money just brought on the splurging. Including food and house repair/gardening stuff(because we categorize food as want not need aka ramen's cheap, brie and bread is not), we now spend 17% of the budget on wants. The rest goes to savings and debt payoff. Boy do I look forward to that being only savings. Oh and no, not all the fixed expenses are necessities (1% of the budget is fixed expense wants).

So tonight, one last strategic clean because tomorrow after work we pick up our guests. Hope everyone has a good weekend!

Prepaid phones

June 29th, 2009 at 10:01 am

Finally switched over to the new prepaid phones. Unlike Ceejay, I won't be updating every month on this because DH's 1000 minutes will last a year (they don't expire for a year) and mine will probably last 3-4 months so yearly will work best for averaging out the cost. In about 8-9 months we will have recouped the early cancellation fee and from that point on it will be saving us about $360 per year.

Retirement savings update

June 26th, 2009 at 08:29 am

Bet you all thought I forgot about this while I was doing all that spending but I haven't. Up until recently, we were contributing about 10% of our income. During the 2 job changes (hubby's and mine), I dropped it down to a trickle and of course DH wasn't contributing to the 401(k) anymore since he wasn't at that job. This month, I upped the amount going into my Roth again so we are now up to a mere 6%. Once the debt is gone, all the debt payments will go to savings, both short and long term.

Networth almost back to pre-house levels

June 24th, 2009 at 08:05 am

On one hand, it feels like treading water. On the other hand, I bought a fixer upper with no appliances in it and have been working on it for over 6 months and have managed to draw even with a couple of months before buying the house. Given how much we have spent on this house getting it fixed up, I think I should actually be proud of myself. The kitchen needs the painting finished (we are at the one coat of primer stage) and we are currently landscaping the front yard. Everything else is basically done.

For those of you keeping track, we have all told spent about 30k in cash and 20k in credit card deals fixing up the house, getting appliances, bringing things up to code and working on the yard. Also that involved a lot of tools for working on things ourselves. Not exactly a cheap hobby and my goals for the next five years promise to only add to that number (fortunately though not as much as the first 6 months). There is nothing quite like trying to pay off debt while spending lots on new improvements.

The rest of this year though is about paying down the debt and finishing the front yard. (Next year the goals are debt free and new recumbent trikes, maybe even a small hot tub next fall if we are really good and yes in that order). We have a $400 visa gift card from hubby's work that is going to buy us a load of stepping stones and another shovel tonight so that this weekend we can get an early start on our yard.

I haven't forgotten that I owe everyone here some kitchen pictures, I just still haven't finished painting. Maybe I will do that this weekend (inlaws are coming next week so I have the motivation for it).

Anyways, my debt numbers should start looking good here since we are currently able to pay at least 2000 per month towards the debt. We will just keep plugging along.

Some updates

May 26th, 2009 at 09:45 am

Its been awhile thanks to my being busy around the house while not employed.

My husband recently got a $3 dollar per hour raise, which will help the debt pay down (which is still on track for March 2010), the cash budget for food has worked out splendidly so we will be keeping that up and we just spent the last three days landscaping the yard so I will probably not accomplish much today. Next month once I have income coming in again, I will update the networthIQ.

Hope everyone else has been doing well. I think I will go catch up on blogs now.

Its been awhile...

April 29th, 2009 at 02:10 pm

Some of you may remember that I said that my job was probably secure so long as my firm didn't go under. Well, the firm is now just the owner and his paralegal (the office manager and one of the attorneys are there a little longer than the rest but that's about it). So as close to going under as a small firm can get (and who knows if it can last even at that reduced size).

So officially I am laid off as of April 30th but am currently at home burning through my PTO (otherwise they might not be able to pay it). I was on my vacation when everything suddenly went south but fortunately I received a call from a former coworker hiring me to basically be part of a new firm composed entirely of my section of the firm. So I still get to work with the people I enjoy working with.

However, since things went south a little faster than people were planning on, we have anywhere from 2-6 weeks before the new firm is up and running. That should give me plenty of time to work on the house. In a week or so I should probably have a more definite idea of what is going on.

I am just glad that we had my husband switch jobs earlier this year. He is already making more at the new job than he would have made at the old one and he is happier to boot.

I still need to paint the kitchen (seriously, this seems to be my avoid at all costs job, I have done tons of other things, I just don't seem to want to start this one) but the windows are in and boy is it a difference. Given that we have no A/C, they are going to be a godsend this summer. With the new windows in, the house only heats up if I open up the door and let the sun beat in on the floor.

Well, I have a room I want to finish rearranging so I am off and running. As to our finances, they are in good shape though the loss of 2 months income will result in a slow down of our pay off but life happens. My scenarios always were more optimistic than reality but that is why they are called goals.

General Update

April 6th, 2009 at 11:42 am

Life is well. The cabinet refacers are currently working in my kitchen and I will have a week off to work on the house coming up in about 2 weeks. Still waiting for the phone call from the window guy regarding installation though he has confirmed that he has the windows now, just have to wait for the crew to be available.

We did our first week of cash and did well and are now on our second week of cash. We will see how well this week goes. We have about $17 left but we did spend Sunday cooking so we should have lots of food to eat. (Ironically, it was groceries that were high this week, not eating out expenses).

As I told my husband, we will see if we stop spending when the cash runs out or if we are like our friend and whip out the ATM card as soon as we run out. I personally think we are going to learn to love the dollar menu this week...

On one hand, I am wondering if I am being too stingy with our budget but on the other, I would like to pay off everything as quickly as possible. Food is an extreme variable for our budget.

Doing the math on my cell phones.

April 3rd, 2009 at 09:29 am

So I have a lovely Excel spreadsheet set up where I know the number of calls, number of days used, and number of minutes used per phone with all the averages as well for the past 18 months.

We are one of those marginal users who never use their anytime minutes but use the mobile to mobile and nights and weekend. So I have been debating switching to a prepaid since we are on the lowest level plan available at the moment.

I am thinking we will eventually do Net10. The reason I say eventually is because its not worth $255 to get out of our current contracts. It basically comes out a wash since the savings would end up only equaling the fee. So in December 2010, I will switch to a prepaid plan (there may even be more options then).

Last time I checked out prepaid it didn't make sense because we were using the phones alot to call each other, but that is starting to go down severely now that we both work downtown. Heck, my boy has two months where he used less than 60 minutes. Though he would be aghast to know that the two most recent months I had used less minutes than he had.

Anyways something for me to keep in mind. I still haven't decided on the DirectTV but that is basically locked in price wise till 12/2009 and another 6 months after before I can cancel completely so we will see. I suspect I will just drop down to internet only and call it good.

DH starts job on Friday!

March 19th, 2009 at 10:40 am

Finally one of the companies released its hiring freeze so he gets to start one of the jobs.

I have already moved the budget from survival to debt payoff mode. Looks like March 2010 will be when we are debt free with a small EF built up. Now I just have to keep us on track.

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