Monday, July 28, 2014

And there goes the snowball ...

I'm at home, but my van is not. I got up early this morning to be first in line at the shop for an oil change/tire rotation etc. We also thought it might be leaking coolant so I wanted them to check that out. Of course the radiator needs to be replaced. And some work was needed on the brakes. One of the guys gave me a ride home and I'm waiting for a call that it is ready to pick up.

Total bill is going to come close to $700. Ouch. I have a check coming for a little over that amount for some articles I've written this month, so it looks like it will already be spent before it gets here (using the emergency fund in the meantime). So much for a snowball for American Express.

Oh well. The van is 9.5 years old and still chugging along. And it's still cheaper than a monthly payment!

DS's new glasses cost $350 - his eyes are so bad and his lenses so specialized that I can't use the cheapie places. .... Big expenses this month - I guess I should be happy it's almost over!

Happy Monday everyone,

Sarah

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Paying attention to retirement

When we started this journey, retirement was the last thing on our minds. While we had a 401k, we stopped contributing out of necessity and basically ignored it.

This summer has seen such a boost in our discretionary income that it occurred to me (duh!) that we might need to rethink our lack of action. So I finally went online and really looked at the account. Overall, it's in pretty good shape. Most of the investments we chose (and who knows how we picked those?) are averaging 11% returns in the long-term. One, however, only averages 5% and then there is the stable fund that we allocated too much to. So I spent yesterday doing some shifting of the funds currently there as well as future contributions.

We also decided to start contributing 2% from DH's paycheck. It's not a lot, but it's a start.

I'm so guilty of just putting financial decisions on auto-pilot and not checking up on them once in awhile. I need to be better about that. Next on my list is finding a lawyer who can help us with our will. While we have one in place, it's out of date and we need to make sure we are covering the bases for DS.

It's threatening to reach 100 degrees today. Hope you all are cooler!

Sarah

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A turning point

Three and a half years into this blog and we've reached a milestone: We are finally able to throw snowballs at this stupid debt!

Prior to this, the minimums have consumed all of our income. When we first started this, we didn't really even have enough to cover the minimums. We were candidates for bankruptcy. We couldn't keep our heads above water.

But thanks to putting several cards into Bank Liquidation Programs, with lower interest rates and a set monthly payment for five years, we kept up. Early on, that sometimes meant robbing Peter to pay Paul - using a balance transfer from one card to cover the payment on the next.

But here we are, several years later and tens of thousands less in debt, and we are finally seeing real progress. I attribute it to a combination of factors: I have picked up some small freelance jobs that are bringing in just enough to make a difference; and as balances have dropped, so have the amount of interest we are paying and the minimums due. The balances of our accounts were all so insanely high to begin with that we have only been able to pay off one account in full in all this time.

I think we can count on at least an extra $300 a month to throw at the debt on top of the minimums. The current target is the American Express card, because it is not in a BLP and the interest rate is ridiculous. I want to be close to getting rid of this one by the end of the year. We'll see how it works out.

I remember not so very long ago not being able to sleep at night worrying how I would pay this month's bills. I don't do that anymore.

For anyone ready to throw in the towel: Don't. There are better times ahead and I know now we are going to get there.

Sarah

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Can they do this?

Just checked my Union Plus account to make sure a payment posted and happened to notice that my credit limit had been raised ... $5,000!!

I do not remember receiving any notice of this change and, frankly, am irked that they did this. I checked my last statement and there was nothing there about raising the limit.

In fact, I have received several offers lately from other cards to have my limit raised and have ignored them. And while I would never deliberately agree to it, I'm tempted to just leave it as is and go on with my life. We don't use the card anymore - I'm not even sure we still have the actual card. The higher limit would, I imagine, be good for the credit score as it would lower the debt to credit ratio.

I don't know. Mostly it reminds me how much I hate credit cards and the game the companies play with consumers. I cannot wait until the day when I no longer have a credit card balance!!

Sarah

Friday, May 30, 2014

Spending the extra paycheck

Don't worry, it's not as frivolous as it sounds.

The back story: DH is in a union at work. A new contract was negotiated last summer with a start date of Aug. 1, 2013. It sounded good. The local union approved it. But this is a national deal and two segments didn't give approval until a month or so ago. Part of the new contract was a small pay raise, but it couldn't go into effect until full ratification. That means that all those months when DH should have been receiving a bit of a raise, he wasn't, and now he is due to receive it retroactively.

That check arrived this week. After taxes etc., it was just over $1,000. Funny how your brain immediately goes to "what can I buy with $1,000?" A few years ago, we probably would have just made a big purchase that we had been wanting but couldn't afford ... not bothering to note that we couldn't afford it then either.

I admit, we will not be putting it all toward debt reduction. We could, we just won't. So far, we sent $200 to American Express (on top of the monthly minimum payment) and put $300 in our 30th anniversary trip account. The other $500 is sitting in checking as a cushion until DH's next paycheck. I don't anticipate having to use it for anything, but I like having it there just in case. We will make a decision on what to do with it soon. We need to replace the light fixture in the hall bathroom, so $100 might go toward that. We'll see.

DS works for the same company and received a check for $1,800. He immediately set it aside for a planned trip to Spain next spring to visit his great-uncle. That's what you can do when you're young, single and have no debt!

Happy weekend all,

Sarah

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

It's summer!

DS is out of school, DH is on vacation ... and schedules are out the door!

DH is working his way through the to-do list while home this week. Lots of little things around the house that don't get done because he works such long hours. (We took the afternoon off yesterday to use free tickets to the minor league baseball game :) One big project: replacing the vapor barrier under the house. He and our older son will tackle that one together. I'll serve iced tea.

It looks like DS really is going to get nursing care - probably starting the end of June. That's perfect timing as he/we can adjust before he starts back to school in August. One source will allow him 30 hours a week, which he is going to use for daytime hours. He is in the process of hiring several students for driving duties and general help while on campus. We expect the other source to provide many more hours which will be used for nighttime care and bathing/dressing etc. Home health aides will be hired for those roles. It's a lot to take in and will take some getting used to, but there are perks on all sides. DS will gain some independence from us, and we will suddenly have freedom that we haven't known since he was born.

We still need to see how it plays out, but right now he only has a commitment for a student to drive him home from school and to cover driving him to evening activities. That leaves him with a choice for getting to school. Either I can take him as I have been doing, or he can have the local bus service take him (they offer door-to-door service for disabled riders). Either of those scenarios would alleviate the need for a third car as I would still have the van for most of the day. The student would not pick it up until late afternoon.

In other good news, it's almost the end of May and we have not used a credit card this year and I haven't had a soda since early February. Who would have thunk??

Hope everyone is having a great week!

Sarah

Friday, May 2, 2014

Decisions to come

My life is about to change big time.

I've been the primary caregiver for DS for 20 years. As he has gotten older, that has not only meant helping with the obvious - bathing, dressing, feeding, turning etc. - but also being the on-call chauffeur for school, work, fun activities.

Now, however, he is in the process of working with two programs that will allow him caregiver services. His plan is to use one of them for overnight, more specialized care, and the other to hire students to shuttle him back and forth to college and other activities.

While all this sounds wonderful in theory, it means that I will potentially be losing my mode of transportation every weekday.

This leaves us to decide what to do about that. I do some freelance work that requires my being able to get around town. And there are the typical household errands that I take care of during the week. I'm actually rather torn about it. I am a homebody and don't go out just to go out. But I do want the option.

For now, we're just going to start putting away what we can in a separate account and see where we are at the end of the summer. We would only need a car that could get me around town, so we'd be looking at a beater car that just runs. We would only buy what we could pay cash for.

Any tips on buying a very low-cost vehicle that won't turn out to be a nightmare?

Sarah