Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Seriously? Is it just us?

Warning: This post is nothing but a rant ...

Eight years ago, DH went to have his driver's license renewed and was held hostage at the DMV because there was a warrant out in New York for the arrest of someone with the same name and same birthday. We live in the South, not New York. He spent three hours that day working the phone to get someone in New York to clear his name. He finally did, something was faxed and he was able to get his license.

You know where this is going, right? Fast forward to yesterday. Time to renew the license. He passed the signs test. Passed the vision test. And then "Um, we have a problem." Yep, there's still a warrant out for the arrest of someone with his name and his birthday. This time it couldn't be handled at the local office. After being on hold for nearly two hours with the NY state division of motor vehicles, he got a live person. And was told that in order to clear his name he has to write a letter, gather documentation and send it to a place called "It's Not Me" in New York. Once they read it, a decision will be made in 7 to 10 business days. That means he will be without a valid driver's license for another couple of weeks. Did I mention that he is a package car delivery driver? And that he is paid hourly, meaning he doesn't work, he doesn't get paid?

The real kicker here? The warrant is for a single DWI in March 1985. That's THIRTY years ago.

And that was just Monday.

Sarah

Monday, August 3, 2015

Still here!

I haven't been around much this summer. Just didn't have a lot to say. Things are plugging along. Still in debt. Still making payments and headway. I updated my numbers this morning. Only shaved off a little over $1,000 in July. Not our best month, for sure. We ate out more than we should and celebrated a couple of birthdays. I also had a stack of medical bills from my unexpected round of biopsies and tests etc. Those really ate into the budget.

But as I sit here looking at the numbers, I'm OK with where we are. Back in 2011, when I started this blog, the two Chase credit cards were at $22,000 and $24,000. Seriously. They kept me up at night. I remember someone from Chase offering to take $15,000 to settle the larger one in full. I actually laughed at her. I mean, if I had $15,000 sitting around, I probably wouldn't be in this predicament. So Chase offered a 5-year fixed repayment plan and we agreed. What choice did we have? We took it and began paying $789 a month just for those two debts. Our mortgage payment is $825, just to put that in perspective. But we scrimped and pinched pennies until they were bleeding. At first, it didn't seem possible, especially on top of all the other payments. The stress wasn't any better because I still didn't know where the money would come from. But as time went on and we made dents in other debts, even paying off a few, it got a little better. Pay raises and some extra work for me helped. And now here we are, having paid off more than $40,000 of those two debts. We will make our last payments in March 2016. That's eight months away. Can. Not. Wait.

Dave Ramsey likes to say it is possible to get out of debt in less than two years. I wish. But I sure will be glad to kiss Chase goodbye!

Sarah

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

And the bills keep rolling in ...

I knew they were coming, of course. All those visits to doctors I made and tests I had at both offices and hospitals over the past couple months are showing up in the mail. I paid the little ones as they arrived and am trying to work the others into the budget as I can. I'm used to seeing bills for DS, but not for me!

On the good news front, our insurance company has decided that a toilet/shower chair for DS is not a convenience item after all and they have given pre-approval. We will still have to pay 20% of the cost, but that's a whole lot better than 100%.

I've been keeping the house cave-like with drapes drawn to try to keep cooling costs down. Yeah, I'm probably dreaming - we had two weeks of 100+ degrees straight.

So, it's six months till Christmas ... and, yes, I have a corner of my closet with presents in it. Just a few things I've picked up on sale - nothing I went looking for. I am going to try to find a gift or two each month so it doesn't all hit at once - if I come up with some ideas for what to get!

Enough rambling. Hope my American friends had a great Fourth!

Sarah

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Back with BIG news!

A lot has been going on here, leaving little time for posting. I had a couple of unexpected health scares and have had two biopsies in the past month. One was benign, the second is inconclusive. I have been put on medication and will be checked in three months. All of this has required many visits to specialists, something I'm used to doing with DS, but not for myself. Can't say I've enjoyed it much.

Last week we made the two-day drive to Kansas City for the medical conference for DS. It was a phenomenal week, giving us access to doctors and researchers as well as families who face the same issues we do. DS was part of a panel of young adults who answered questions from parents of younger children. What an inspiring group they were! We visited the Truman library and museum while we were there and DH and DS went to the WWI museum while I was in a meeting. We also managed to try some of that famed Kansas City barbecue - YUM!!

It's back to the real world now. I had a meeting this morning to talk about a new freelancing opportunity. I've slowly been building my workload the past couple of years and I'm happy with the direction it's going. I still keep any income separate from the household budget and I plan to continue with that. It's nice having that cushion that isn't earmarked for anything in particular, but is there if we need - or want - to use it.

But on to the BIG news! I updated my numbers and realized that we have crossed the HALFWAY mark!!!! We now have officially paid off more than we still owe!!! Four years ago, I couldn't even imagine getting to this point. I have to believe that the snowball will just pick up even more speed now. The end just keeps getting closer - yahoo!!!!

Sarah

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