Thursday, May 14, 2015

Happily turning down extra money

I've noticed a resurgence in credit card offers in the mailbox lately. We must be doing something right, because the sharks companies apparently are realizing that we are serious about paying down the balances rather than running them up. And I think they are worried (we had to be some of their best customers!!).

Here's the latest:




So, run up that card and we will bless you with a few extra pennies .... 

Yeah, no thanks.

Sarah

P.S. Hey, Kim, no extra payments added this time ... but soon!

Monday, May 4, 2015

New month

April was not the best, financially. Car expenses. Medical expenses. Small tax bill. Increased caregiver expenses for DS. On the positive side, I expect the natural gas bill to be way down with the warmer weather and as we have not yet turned on the A/C, the electric bill shouldn't be any higher than the winter months. Plus, now that DS is almost finished with finals, the commutes should be fewer, resulting in fewer fill-ups at the gas station.

We will be taking a trip next month to a national medical conference in Kansas City, Mo. DS specifically asked to go this year as he would like to meet other young adults with his condition. I volunteered to be the local chapter representative at the conference, which means my registration fee and 4 nights in the hotel will be covered. That is huge, especially since it's a pricey hotel. Breakfast and lunch are included, so that just leaves dinner and road meals, plus a hotel stay on the drive out and back. Our biggest expense, I think, will be renting a trailer to pull behind the van. We can no longer fit the medical equipment DS requires along with our luggage and the wheelchair in the van. All in all, it should be a doable trip. I have a separate checking account where I deposit my freelance income and there will be enough in there to cover our expenses. We won't be taking a caregiver, so that will free up some extra dollars.

I'm in the market for a nice new camera and I have a plan for that. At DS's university, the food sciences department routinely runs taste tests for various companies. I am on the sign-up list, so I receive email surveys nearly every week. If I fit the criteria, I go in and spend 10 minutes tasting and rating whatever they have. I schedule mine to coincide with drop-off time for DS so there is no added travel. Payment is immediate in the form of $20-$25 Target gift cards. I've been stashing my cards and will cash in for a good camera before we had to Kansas City in June. Feels almost free!

Bring it on May - I'm ready!

Sarah

Monday, April 20, 2015

Leaving a better legacy

The father of a dear friend passed away unexpectedly a week ago. The events that have transpired since have served to bolster my determination to leave my children a debt-free legacy.

Mike is 37. His father was 64. Mike has an older brother who has spent his adult years living off of his parents. The parents are hard-working, blue-collar folks who live in a single-wide mobile home on land they rent. Mike knew there wasn't a lot of money. It's what he didn't know that has thrown his life in turmoil.

When Mike went with his mother to the funeral home to make the arrangements, he quickly realized that he was going to be paying the costs. His mother had $100 in her checking account. So Mike, a schoolteacher, was left to come up with nearly $13,000 on the spot.

In the ensuing days, he began sorting through his mother's finances to get her ready to face life on her own. He learned that his parents owed the IRS for back taxes and owed $10,000 on a car now worth $6,000. The interest rate on the car note? A whopping 18%. Possibly worse, his mother is paying $300 a month for a sofa and a mattress and has been doing so for a year and a half. That means she has already paid more than $5,000 for furniture worth less than half that. The wedding rings were pawned long ago. There are credit cards, but his mother says she quit paying those and nobody is bothering her about them. Mike found a stack of unopened medical bills.

Needless to say, among the many emotions he is dealing with, he is angry. Really angry. Angry at his parents for being so reckless. And angry at his father for leaving him to sort through the mess.

All of this has reminded me why it's so important to get our financial house cleaned up. I never want my children to face what Mike is dealing with. In fact, I immediately reminded my adult sons that we have life insurance and if they provide proof to the funeral home, they won't be facing any upfront costs. We carry enough insurance to pay all of our debts, including the mortgage, with a good sum left over. But I don't want my kids to have to pay our debts. In a time of grieving, I want things as uncomplicated as possible for them.

One more very good reason to keep knocking this out. (And a reminder that we need to update our wills ...)

Sarah

Monday, March 23, 2015

Life happens ...

DH rolled down his window on his no-frills car (read: he had to hand crank it) and not only did it roll down, it fell out. Totally. Crashed all over the driveway. Aside from the annoying part - having to find every little piece of glass so as to protect car and wheelchair tires - it had to be replaced. There went $180 out the window. Literally.

My grocery bill continues to be a battle. I'm telling you, if it were just me here, I'd be able to knock out all the debt in no time. It's the feeding of these males in my house that wreaks havoc on my budget! Enter Walmart Savings Catcher. Anybody ever use this? I was late to the game and just found this app a couple months ago, but I'm hooked. I scan the barcode from my receipt and then Walmart searches my local stores for lower prices. When it's finished looking (usually about 3 days), it credits me the difference. At any point, I can put my credit on an e-gift card and use it on my next shopping trip. Right now I've got $32 in my account. I like to have at least that much before I use it up so I can see a nice drop in that week's grocery bill. This month, I'm going to wait and use it on a week when things are really tight. I think you have to do most of your grocery shopping at Walmart to make this worthwhile, but if you do it's so easy - and better than coupons!

Sarah

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Just the minimums ...

I don't know why I've never done it - well, I do. I didn't want to know. I've never added up the minimums we have to pay each month just to stay current.

So I did it: $2,227. Every month. Just the minimums.

When I think about what we could be doing with that money, it makes me a little sick. OK, a lot sick.

Bleh.

Sarah

Friday, February 27, 2015

Catching up

We've had some crazy weather here the past two weeks. Three storms have come through, throwing all schedules into disarray. Today, DS doesn't have class and I don't have anywhere I have to be, so we're staying in and catching up.

An update on the van. After DH was told while on an out-of-town trip that it needed a new transmission, I had our mechanic look at it. His diagnosis was that it only needed a new part for the transmission. The bill was $750, which is several thousand less than what DH had been quoted. I'll take it.

Meanwhile, we woke up yesterday to find a smallish tree had fallen and DH's car was under it. The neighbor, DH and DS1 spent an hour or so digging the car out. Thankfully, the trunk missed the car. A few scratches, but otherwise no damage. Whew.

The dicey weather has also meant that DH has lost several days of work/pay so today's paycheck is about $300 less than it normally would be. It means our budget will be extra, extra tight for a bit, but I'm proud to say it hasn't thrown us into a tailspin. That's progress, right?

Guess I need to take stock of the pantry and freezer and make a plan so I will stay out of the grocery store for awhile ....

Sarah

Monday, February 16, 2015

Monday, Monday

My husband went with our son to a college retreat this weekend as his caregiver. They've done this many times and DH is a good sport about it. (They stayed in a cabin with 18 other college guys - while I was home being secretly happy that I had my bed to myself...)

At some point on Saturday, the check engine light came on in the van. DH said he didn't notice anything wrong, but given that this is a 10-year-old van and the only way to transport DS's wheelchair, he headed to the AAA center to have it checked out. They quickly told him it was the transmission and they could put a new one in for $6,000. DH thanked them and went on his way.

I'm going to take it to our mechanic today and let him look at it. I have already talked to him and he said if it is the transmission, he will search the salvage yards and get one for me for a fraction of the price AAA quoted. I'm still holding out hope it's something less ominous. We replaced the transmission on DH's car last year and I think two in 12 months is more than we deserve!

Meantime, we've got an ice storm headed our way. I hate that worse than snow, though I'm not complaining because our friends in the North have it SOOO much worse!!

The taxes are done and filed. We will get a small refund from the federal government and will owe about the same to the state, so it's a wash. That's all I wanted, so I feel pretty good about it.

I updated my numbers and realized we are creeping closer to the halfway point. I think it will be a huge emotional boost to see the ticker below that mark.

Stay warm everybody!

Sarah