Saturday, December 31, 2011

Adios, 2011

2011 wasn't a complete bummer of a year. Our daughter was married in a beautiful, simple, fun wedding to someone we're crazy about. They're doing well.

Our son started a teaching job early in the year and lost his appendix four days before the insurance kicked in. The surgeon was competent, and the hospital folks were understanding, helping him wend his way through a bit of red tape in reaching a very acceptable payment plan.

We see our son often and have seen our daughter and her hubby several times this year, tho they're 5+ hours away. And we all survived our recent babysitting stint of their two dogs!

Despite a few more aches and creaks than last year, our health has been good.

Surely there's more. Hmmm....

On the flip side, however, 2011 has been a year I won't mind seeing come to a close in a few hours. It started out with a bang when our income dropped with a thud last winter (which started December 1 and didn't let up for months) while the bills rushed in at breakneck speed. It was the first time I had to deal with credit card folks - then collections - to explain our circumstances. Repeatedly. Like Sarah, it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought, mostly because I DID communicate and because our credit had previously been good. Still, I dreaded making the calls.

While that was going on, hubby's job provided enough migraine moments for a lifetime. His firing from the coaching part of his job last month was a relief in many ways, and we feel certain a change in teaching location will happen soon. After that? No clue what God has in mind, but we think we're ready!

Stress was the norm during 2011, with enough panic thrown in to keep me tossing and turning in what little sleep I got and during waking hours, too.

Having spoken the word bankruptcy numerous times over the past month has eased the realization that short of finding a winning multigazillion lottery ticket, it's the only option we have left to escape the debt quicksand we've been fighting. I am eager to see the light in 2012 in both money matters and hubby's job situation, which will free up time to clean up and out around here and boost our income with several projects. Brain paralysis isn't good for much, and I'm looking forward to escaping its clutches in more ways than one.

Like Sarah, I've been inspired by all of you as you strive to beat the $$$ demons! May 2012 be one of even greater success for you. For all of us.

Jenny

Year-end wrap up

Well, I guess it's time to pay the piper and check on those goals I set last year. Here they are:

2011 Goals


1. Build and sustain an Emergency Fund of $1,000. Current balance: $200

2. Aggressively pay down Discover.

3. Reduce grocery spending.

4. NO new debt.


I guess it's a good thing that I don't run screaming when I look at these four goals. That must mean there has been some progress. And some adjustments along the way.

1. The Emergency Fund is still sitting at $200, not the $1,000 I wanted it to be. But there is an EF, so that's something.

2. Discover has not been paid down. In fact, it's increased. Priorities shifted and it is what it is.

3. Grocery spending has been a huge success. On average, I've reduced spending here by $100 a month. At the very least, I'm way more aware of every purchase and I try to think through its necessity, rather than just tossing it in the cart as in days of yore.

4. No new debt. There are two ways to look at this. We did have to pull out the credit card on occasion this year. And some individual totals have climbed a bit (i.e. Discover). But overall, we are ending the year owing less than when we started it. In fact, we owe more than $11,000 less. I'm going to call that one a win.

All in all, I feel good. This time last year, I had quit paying two credit cards and was wondering how I was going to get through the next month. We absolutely still live day-to-day and paycheck-to-paycheck, but I feel more in control. I spent the early part of 2011 making those dreaded calls to the credit card companies. While they were emotionally painful, they really weren't that bad. Each time, I hung up with my dignity intact and often with a payment plan in place. Those payment plans have been the single best thing to happen to our financial picture. With them, there is an end in sight. Granted it's not for four more years, but it's there. A five-year payment plan ends in five years with the debt paid in full. We're almost 20% done with those plans!

The year took its toll emotionally, physically and every other way, but we survived. (Ironically, when I crunched the numbers I found that our out-of-pocket medical expenses this year equalled our debt repayment, almost to the penny. We're praying we get a little relief on that end this year, though it's not likely.)

So I'm bidding 2011 farewell feeling as good about things as I can. 2012 will not likely be much different, but I am going to think about the goals and update them here soon. Maybe that's what I'll do tomorrow :)

Thanks to all my new PF friends for sticking with me through this journey. I'm very happy not to do it alone.

Happy New Year!

Sarah

Friday, December 23, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Something worth saving for

Our daughter is engaged! That's the good news. The flip side is that, gulp, there's going to be a wedding. And we all know how much those can cost. We're going to be in serious DIY mode - from invitations to decorations - to keep things reasonable. DS1 has already come through with a friend who will play the piano and whose mother has offered to be the director at no charge.

The big day will be in October. That means we've got 10 or so months to save enough to make this a cash-only event. That's the goal. It's a big one given our situation. But I think we can do it. Wish us luck!

Sarah


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Light at the end of the tunnel

Don't faint! Life has been 'full' for the past few months, as Sarah wrote earlier. I'm a firm believer in the effectiveness of prayer, so thank you for them!

There is no way to recap the entire insanity our family has embraced, so I'll hit the highlights.

Our daughter got married in June. We are blessed that both of our children are practical and that our daughter's new father-in-law generously took care of almost all the expenses.

My husband endured year #2 of an incredibly rotten teaching/coaching experience. He was relieved of the coaching part of his job last month and is trying hard to find another job pronto, as the 'powers' want him outta there. He hasn't done anything wrong; he just isn't a good ol' boy and never will be. Looking for another teaching/coaching job has been challenging for a number of reasons, not the least of which is his age (61 next month) and job security. He has tenure in the county where he is now (50 miles away); being closer to home would be fantastic for gas, time, and energy savings (and the drop in income from head coach to assistant wouldn't be so traumatic), IF he were able to land a job closer. With the economy like it is, however, tenure speaks volumes, and a transfer within the county is the most practical way to go if he can swing it. He'll hopefully learn before the holidays begin next week that a switch is possible with a teacher at the feeder middle school. He'll do whatever he needs to do there, but he wants to continue coaching at a different (i.e., rival) high school. He's already been asked to fill an assistant coaching position there, but they won't have a teaching position until the end of the year (it's not in his field, but he could do it). If the current 'powers' will back off until then, that would work, too. Thankfully, the superintendent really likes him and will surely do what he can to make the transition as easy as possible. What a huge boost it would be for hubby to have fun coaching without the responsibilities and headaches of being the head coach... and NOT have to worry about the reduction in income!!!

Which brings me to the third big development.

After trying to get our pitiful financial affairs in order by trying to refinance, talking to debt management reps, working out plans with some credit card folks, applying for a state grant, and checking on mortgage assistance plans at the credit union, we have landed smack dab at the end of the proverbial line and have begun the bankruptcy process. Last Friday I talked to a paralegal at the office of a bankruptcy attorney, and I felt almost instant relief just talking about our situation to someone who could provide much-needed guidance. This is what has happened in less than a week's time:
1. The first move was to close all our bank accounts and open new ones because several years ago I started making online payments at the respective creditors' sites. THEN I discovered Dave Ramsey, who said do not EVER do that. I felt enormous relief knowing that no one had access to our accounts any more, nor do I have to worry about making sure there was somehow money in the special account for credit card 'plan' draft payments! That account is HISTORY.
2. The paralegal said to stop paying all credit card bills NOW. I couldn't believe it and asked her to confirm what I thought I'd just heard. My husband's coaching supplement had come at the end of November, and I had proceeded immediately to pay bills - LOTS of them. While I hated to think I'd already paid them after just hearing to stop, I also felt a tiny bit more responsible in putting out effort until the last minute.
3. By paying a portion of the attorney's fees yesterday (which I had because I wasn't using it to pay credit cards), I am now to direct all creditors' calls to the attorney's office. What a freeing experience to not only not dread the phone's ringing, but to hope it's a creditor! As one of the cards had advanced to 'prelegal' status and another was in collections, I feel about 99% freer already.
4. Because of our debts, the paralegal said at the initial meeting that we qualify for Chapter 7. Since I had been thinking Chapter 13, I had to wrap my mind around the likelihood that all the credit cards will be discharged as opposed to our paying them out over the next 5 years. The paralegal explained that Chapter 13 is becoming less successful because of the economy, that if our income dropped again, we'd be in trouble if we couldn't maintain our repayment agreement.

Bankruptcy isn't what we had planned and certainly not what we wanted. The embarrassment and feeling of failure and irresponsibility is hard to shake when we've worked hard and tried to fulfill our obligations for years although it's never been easy. But life hits with a thud sometimes, and we don't always get our way. This won't be a fun process, as the paperwork is grueling (I've already prepared 3 batches of grueling paperwork for previous attempts to get us straightened out and will have taxes after this), and it will be a black mark on our records from now on. I must say, though, that I already feel more optimistic than I have in a LONG time that we'll get back on our feet and learn mightily from this experience.

Will we be debt-free if the credit cards are discharged? Not by a long shot. We'll have the mortgage, the second, our daughter's car payment (to be paid off shortly after her husband is hopefully able to land a teaching job), the balance of medical bills for hubby's blood clots last year, and school loans, which have been in deferment and forbearance until a winning lottery ticket blew into the yard. When it's all done and I know what we have, I'll have Sarah tutor me on how to do the debt ticker.

We are thankful for the chance to start over - sorta - and look forward to a much brighter 2012 when this process has been completed.

I won't be posting nearly as often as Sarah (shocker!), but I will update along the way.

Thanks again for being here for both of us! Best wishes to all for a happy, blessed, frugal(!) Christmas and new year -

Jenny

Monday, December 12, 2011

Debt round-up

I finally added up the numbers for the first time in awhile. We went through a rough stretch there and hit a plateau with repayment. But, I'm happy to report that we've now reduced our debt by another $877.41. That means that so far in 2011, we've shaved $11,148.98 off our debt total! There's still a long, long way to go, but I sure do like seeing that ticker move. Hope everyone else is seeing progress, too!

Sarah

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Christmas tree came ... and went

The day after Thanksgiving, DH and DS1 went out and spent $45 on a freshly cut tree. They carted it home, wrestled it into the stand, filled it with water and then did what they do every year. Left it for me to decorate. By the time I was done, it looked quite lovely.

The next day I went to water the tree and ran into a problem. The water was at the exact same level as it had been the day before. Given that I'm used to a tree gulping down water at an impressive rate the first few days it's home, I found this rather upsetting. I mentioned it to my hubby, who said I worry too much.

Three days later and the water mark was the same. I knew we were in trouble. The needles were already starting to shed way too fast. About that time, DS2 started coughing and showing signs of congestion. His chronic health problems put me on high alert. The timing was a bit too coincidental for me. So on Tuesday, a little over a week after it went up, the tree came down. I cleaned up the needles, mopped the floor and aired out the house.

DS started feeling better almost immediately. I guess that means our days of a real tree are over. Ironically, the day before I decided to ditch the tree, my Mom mentioned that she had decided not to put up her artificial tree this year - she was just going to use a tabletop one. I called and she was happy to offer up her tree to us. So tomorrow, DH and DS1 will go get a Christmas tree - again.

All's well that ends well, I suppose. And I'm warming up to the idea of not having to string lights ever again!

Sarah

Thursday, December 1, 2011

It's December!

And I've finished Christmas shopping - in CASH!! This is huge and it means I don't have that stress hanging over my head. The house is decorated and now I can concentrate on baking ... and eating ...

I hope everyone's month is off to a good start. I'm going to enjoy today and put off paying bills until tomorrow. Tis the season :)

Sarah

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I knew it was too easy

A little while back, I wrote about how easy it had been for me to enter into a payment plan for our Citi card - 60 months at 0%. Doesn't get much better than that. ...

Until they screw up.

Well, it really started when we closed our bank account and went to the credit union. I called Citi and let them know this was happening and that I was authorizing them to make withdrawals from a different account (actually, decided on the ING account so they couldn't access ALL our funds ...). Anyway, the gal said all was good. And it was. On the 28th, they took the payment from the new account. And they also tried to take it from the old account. I noticed this online and called them ... again ... and explained their error. No problem, the new woman said - after she had spoken with her supervisor and I had been on the phone for a gazillion minutes. But I did think it was taken care of. Mostly because she said it was.

Then the phone calls started. I kept getting calls from a number in Kentucky. I would answer. They would hang up. This was going on several times a day for a week. Finally fed up, I googled the number today and found that it is a Citi collections number. So off I went to call again. This time, my Citi rep was, I believe, from India and very difficult for me to understand. I explained the problem and he looked at my account and said "They are calling because your payment was returned." I would go through the story again and stress that Citi did indeed get their money, but tried to take twice that amount despite my having headed off any problems. His response: See above. It was like a Who's on first? routine. I think I finally have it straightened out now. He assured me the phone calls would stop. I won't be making bets on that holding forever, though.

Being in debt is hard work, you know?

On another note, if you are inclined to pray, would you please send one up for Jenny?She and her husband are going through a difficult job situation right now and are stressed about financial decisions that need to be made. It's hard seeing your sister struggle, even when you are right there behind her.

Hope everyone is having a great week so far!

Sarah

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Can't cut the cable, but did cut the bill!

I got a letter from the cable company a few days ago saying that our Price Lock Guarantee is about to expire, but good news! I can do nothing and it will automatically renew - with a price increase of only $13 a month. The letter went on to tell me what a great deal this was and how easy it was because I don't even have to call them - they'll just start charging me an extra $13 on their own. Aren't they nice?

Anyway, as cable is considered a necessity in our house, and money is in short supply, I called despite the company's great advice. I explained to the woman that it was already a struggle to pay this bill and asked what she could offer me. She immediately "found" a program that costs $15 less than what we are now paying. Um, yes please!

So instead of my bill going up, it's actually going to go down. Of course, half of me thinks "what a racket." But I'm not going to complain. I'm going to say the 15 minutes on hold before speaking with a live person was worth it.

Sarah


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Stockpiling the peanut butter

Stockpiling might be overstating it a bit, but I did buy a stash of big jars last week. The peanut butter aisle was an interesting study. Clearly, some of the sizes and brands had been recently replenished. Others had been there longer. The prices varied widely depending, I presume, on which of the two categories the jars fell. In case there's anyone who hasn't heard, the past season was a rotten one for peanuts. Really rotten. As in, peanuts have now escalated from ordinary, run-of-the mill nut to premium treat. I was able to snag some jars at the lower price and am hoping they last long into next year. Mostly, I didn't want to miss out on some of our favorite Christmas goodies with PB as a key ingredient.

If you use a lot of peanut butter, you might want to try to grab some before it becomes the treat of the rich.

In other news, we only had four trick-or-treaters last night. Which means there is way too much candy within reach.

Sarah

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Christmas is coming fast

In years past, I would have most of my Christmas shopping done by now. As in over and out. Wrapped even. This year, not so much. I did pick up a book my DS wants that was on sale awhile back. And I have collected a few stocking stuffers. But that's about it. Yesterday, I sat down and tried to make a list. My kids are older and don't expect an over-the-top celebration. They really are good kids and are always thrilled with whatever they are given. Because of that, I try hard to find a few gifts that they will really enjoy. It doesn't have to be expensive, but sometimes thoughtful is harder than expensive.

I remembered this morning that my daughter has mentioned in the past how much she likes the advent calendar I pull out every year. While I was thinking about it, I got an email with a 25% coupon for a store that would have one she likes. So I went searching and found it. Without the coupon, it would be a no-go. Too expensive. As I was pondering what to do, another email arrived from the same store with another coupon - this one for free shipping today only. That did it. Clearly, this was meant to be. I ordered it (using the debit card, not credit), saved $20 in the process, and marked her gift off my list.

Feeling good about things, I decided to post here and found that this post is #100! Wow. Another sense of accomplishment.

This day is off to a good start.

Sarah

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The budget just went to the dogs

I made an unexpected visit to the vet's office yesterday. I really hate going there. Not that I don't care about the dog's health, but it's impossible to get out without a humongous bill. Max had a cyst on his back that ruptured and needed antibiotics. And he was due for a couple of vaccines. And that's where it gets tricky - figuring out what he needs vs. what they're trying to sell. I turned down the bordetella vaccine - Max stays indoors and doesn't ever get boarded or socialize with other dogs. Then there was the blood panel to get a baseline for "senior" dogs and several other tests. When I declined, you would have thought I was signing his death certificate. I let them do a heartworm check, though I later regretted it. Max takes his heartworm pills and, again, stays indoors except for potty breaks.

It's so hard to draw the line when you're being looked at as the worst doggie mom in the world. The final bill listed the charges for what I had allowed. And then there were five or six items listed with DECLINED written beside them. I mean, what was the point of putting those on the bill if not to make sure I was feeling plenty guilty? The final bill was $225, which had to go on the credit card. Enough guilt there to cover everything else.

How do you decide how far is far enough when it comes to a furry friend?

Sarah

Thursday, October 6, 2011

My kid rocks!!

After a crummy September, DS has had a pretty terrific week. He has applied to four colleges and on Tuesday was accepted to the first. On Wednesday, the second. And today brought acceptance #3. Even better, the private school in the bunch offered him a $44,000 scholarship, bringing the tuition down to public school level. The last school he applied to is actually his first choice. And that school doesn't make decisions until December. So we still don't know where he'll be going next year, but he's relieved to know he'll be going somewhere!

On top of that, his middle school drama teacher contacted him and asked him to join an acting troupe she is leading at the local community theater. The fees are normally $225, but she had already gotten approval for a scholarship for him so it won't cost anything! The whole exchange brought me to tears. That this woman would go out of her way to include a child with significant physical disabilities. And that she would make sure money didn't stand in the way of him being able to participate.

How awesome is that?!

Sarah

s

Friday, September 30, 2011

So long, September!

I haven't much enjoyed this month, so October holds oodles of promise. I'm not going to add up the numbers for fear of pulling myself down and I want to keep going! I'll just hit the highlights worth celebrating:

* Enrolled Citi card account in a 5-year BLP at a 0% interest rate.

* Spent $523 on groceries. Close enough to my goal to call a win.

* Switched to a credit union. Looking forward to the day when everything clears and I can bid Wells Fargo farewell for good.

* Saw on one of DS's college apps that the application fee would be waived if signed by an alumni of the university. Found one of those real quick!

* Paid $3.36/gallon for gas today. Who would have thought that would ever be worth celebrating?

Sarah

Friday, September 23, 2011

Success!

Having sufficiently recovered from seeing an actual in-print update from sister Jenny, it was time to move on to something much less fun. Seems Citibank jacked the interest rate on our credit card to just shy of 30%. We had been paying on time and hadn't been adding to the debt. They did it because they could.

So the minimum payment naturally skyrocketed. In fact, it went from a little over $100 a month to more than $350. And the bulk of the payment was interest. So for the first time ever, I was late with a payment to this card this month. But I buckled down this morning and signed on to my account online to try to formulate a plan. When I did, I saw an option to click on a button to "make payment arrangement." So I did. It asked me some routine questions and then on the next click had a list of offers.

The first offer was to pay off the entire debt right now and we would all be happy. Next. Then there was one to divide up the balance into three easy payments. Yeah, right. Finally, there was an offer for a 60-month BLP that would close the account while we pay it off. That's what I was looking for, but at 9.9% APR, it was not an option. As I sat here contemplating the offer, a chat box popped up on my screen and "Corey" offered to help. I explained the dilemma - that I did want to do a 60-month plan, but that I couldn't commit to that high of a payment and if he could lower the interest rate, it might be doable. Corey says "do you see a button to decline the offer?" Uh, yes I do. So I click on it and, lo and behold, a new 60-month offer pops up.

At 0%. ZERO! For 60 months, at which time the debt will be paid in full. Would that be acceptable, Corey asks? Um, yes, I think I will make that acceptable, Corey. And so it is done.

I'm amazed that it was so simple. I didn't have to provide information about anything and everything like I've had to with other creditors. And I did it without ever having to talk to someone in person. I'm thinking that some of the credit card companies might finally be coming to the realization that if they're going to get back what's owed to them, they're going to have to stop being quite so greedy.

I will say this about the BLPs. At least when the statement comes, I already know what the payment will be. There's a whole lot less stress that way.

Sarah

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Don't faint - this is Jenny.

I didn't intend to post so soon after Sarah and her good news, but with the insane schedule I've had for the past few months, I'm popping in while I can. I can't believe it's been almost 4 months since I was here last! Jeepers.

Briefly, our daughter was married in a simple, fun wedding in June. We are VERY blessed that she acquired generous in-laws in the process!

Less than two days after our return from the wedding, the intensity of football got underway in the form of field house work and practice. The accompanying gas bills were - and still are - outrageous, with travel 7 days/week to school (60 miles one way) and picking up players from all over the spacious county for practice (an average of 45 extra miles a day). Our little car was 10 years old earlier this month and has over 350K miles on it. Whew.

We didn't qualify for the state program because the side businesses which I've handled for years are in DH's name. Even my caseworker thought it was nuts because we're married (my husband and I, not the caseworker and I), but despite my offer of proof that I've been the one in charge, the underwriter said nope. Believing that things work out for the best, I'm convinced that for some reason that program wasn't in our best interest, but it's a bummer at the moment.

So I've now contacted our credit union (you'll love the CU, Sarah!) and have been given a list of documents to dig up to see if they might have any 'mortgage assistance' programs for us. We're not behind on our mortgage, but freeing up some pennies would surely ease the delinquent accounts - 8 cards thru 5 different companies.

Speaking of... today I contacted all the credit card companies for which we don't yet have a plan in place. I wasn't looking forward to it because the amount I have to pay remains negligible, but I was reminded how nice the reps are, or at least seem to be. They've always thanked me for contacting them and trying. Of course, the balances will continue racking up until I can commit to a regular BLP, something I hope is possible with some help from the credit union.

On a positive note, fall has arrived here, and it is already gorgeous. We obviously have enough food to eat, and while we don't get enough time to enjoy our cozy bed, at least we have a cozy bed. As Sarah has mentioned before, we are blessed in many ways and know it.

While I haven't posted in a few eons, I have been zipping in and out and remain encouraged and inspired by your support for Sarah (well, us) and your own stories of determination and success. It's so much more fun - if you can call it that! - to do this with friends :)

Jenny

Murphy's been busy this week

Murphy started by visiting the bathroom. The toilet wouldn't stop running. He then moved to the kitchen. When he was done, the dishwasher wouldn't work. Then he went for the big guns. He checked out the van and made sure the brakes needed replacing.

I've decided I don't want to check up on Murphy anymore. It's too much work - and way too expensive - cleaning up after him. I replaced the flapper on the toilet for $4.36. Ha, Murphy! The dishwasher is just going to have to stay broken for the time being. It won't be the first time I've done dishes by hand. Double ha, Murphy! The van is the challenge. The brakes will have to be taken care of. Hubby is in charge of that. So, Murphy, we survived your visit and life goes on.

In other news, we did indeed join a local credit union and are in the process of making the changeover from Wachovia/Wells Fargo. It's going to take awhile to clear everything, but in the end I know we will be much happier.

Found out yesterday that 100% of the costs associated with DS's $25,000+ surgery will be covered by insurance - woo hoo! Sometimes it pays to easily make the annual deductible early on.

We still don't have two nickels to rub together. And two of our bills will be paid late this month. But on the upside, I came across some notes I had made this time last year and the total debt I had scribbled down was $172,800. So we're about $15,000 better off now than we were then. It's not much when you look at our numbers, but it's better than the alternative. I know we can do this. It's going to take what seems like forever, but it can be done. When we finally get to the point where we have much of a snowfall, there's going to be a blizzard! I'm glad we decided to forego the bankruptcy route and dig out on our own. I certainly don't fault anyone who makes that decision, but for us, the satisfaction of having paid it all off and doing it ourselves is going to pay off in a big way - and I don't mean dollars and cents.

Sarah

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My bank's giving me a headache

I finally had time to sit down today and look over the huge packet of information that came the other day regarding changes at my bank. I've banked with Wachovia since I was 16. Suffice it to say that was well over 30 years ago. Well, Wachovia is being bought out by Wells Fargo and that's what all the info was about.

Since our mortgage is with Wells Fargo and hasn't given us any problems, I wasn't too worried about the change. But then, a week or so ago, I read a news item about Wells Fargo testing the market in some states by implementing a flat fee for using a debit card. I'm talking about using one of their cards at one of their banks. So I was determined to read the fine print.

I don't like what I found. The one thing that jumped off the page was the part about using the online bill pay system. This is how I pay almost all of our bills, so I was particularly interested if it would continue as it always has or if I needed to do anything. The little asterisk noted that "at Wells Fargo, funds to pay your bills will be withdrawn from your account up to five business days earlier than they were at Wachovia." HUH?? At Wachovia, if I scheduled a payment for Sept. 14, that's the day the funds were withdrawn. Since the bank already has the money, seems reasonable to me. But FIVE DAYS ahead?? They have got to be kidding.

Aside from the insanity of this, it means I am in big trouble. I schedule plenty of payments on payday and there isn't the money for them ahead of time.

Grrrrrrrr.

I'm off to research local banks. Changing banks sounds like a whole lot of work and not like a whole lot of fun, but it doesn't look like I have a choice.

I have a headache already.

Sarah

Friday, September 9, 2011

Surgery, recovery and, of course, bills

We're a week past DS's surgery and are so relieved to be here. DS has made remarkable progress and we are optimistic that the surgery was a success. What a blessing!

DS spent only one night in PICU and another night in a regular room. We're frequent visitors to hospitals, but DS had not been an in-patient in this particular one since 2005. Once we were moved to a regular room, I found things had changed. Specifically, a nurse never administered his medication during the time we were there. The nurse on duty would bring in the medications - five in all - and plop the measured doses on the bed tray. And leave. The first time it happened, I wasn't sure what to do. I am certainly capable of giving him his medicine. But I couldn't believe that I would be left to do so unsupervised. There were some pretty heavy duty narcotics in there and I kept thinking that if I had a drug problem, this might just be the place to go.

At any rate, we're home and I'm sure the insurance company has been busy trying to figure out how much they can get us to pay.

I finally updated our current debt. You probably won't be able to tell because it's not much of a difference. Our terrific progress has come to a screeching halt this summer. We've had to use a credit card more than once. On the upside, the total did go down, if only by $100+. At least it went down!

My grocery bill in September has been wonderfully light. Church friends have been feeding us for the past week and consequently the fridge is bursting at the seams with yummy offerings. I've even been able to freeze some of what we couldn't finish for later. I'm so thankful for good friends.

It will take me awhile to catch up with all of you, but I will!

Sarah


Monday, August 29, 2011

It's not all about the money ...

It's been awhile since I posted. I still check in on all of you when I can - don't give up on me!

Summer around here ended with a bang. I was sitting at the kitchen table last week when the Earth moved. Truly. My very first earthquake. Most of us around here didn't even know what it was when it happened. I found my neighbor outside looking at her roof. When I asked what she was doing, she said "It sounded like someone was walking on my house!"

We followed that excitement with Hurricane Irene roaring through a few days later. And just now, there are reports of a funnel cloud a few miles away. I have to wonder if God is trying to tell us something.

Later on this week, my DS is scheduled for a pretty scary surgery. I've been cleaning and cooking in anticipation of not having much time for either one for awhile. Also, it has kept my mind off what's to come.

I don't know if we've made progress on the debt this month or not. I haven't run the numbers and I'm not going to do it until sometime in September. The progress has been slow this summer and if I dwell too much on that fact, I might lose any momentum I've got going. So I'm not. I'm going to dwell on the recent reminders that there are more important things to focus on than money.

Hope everyone is off to a great week and looking forward to a new month!

Sarah

s

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sometimes, the little guy prevails

Way back in April, I wrote about my not-so-fun trip to buy DS some eyeglasses. Those glasses that I had to pay $400 out of pocket for? What I haven't written about is all the fun I've had since with those glasses.

Within days after bringing them home, they were slipping off DS's nose. And given that he is physically unable to push them back up on his own, this was just as annoying to me as it was to him. So we headed back to the office to have them fitted. And we went back a week later. And another time after that.

I took him back four times to have those frames adjusted so they would stay on his face. And four times the fitting failed. Earlier this month, I had reached my limit and I remembered that when I bought the frames I was told they come with a one-year warranty. So I went back yet again with the intention of using that warranty and trading the frames for ones that properly fit.

I can be so naive.

The very nice woman said that the warranty doesn't apply because the problem is DS's nose. Now, DS has a whole lot of things wrong with him, but his nose is perfectly normal, thank you very much. When I pushed the issue, she says "he has oily skin." Uh, do you know a teenager without oily skin? She then looks at DS and says "Your mom seems frustrated." You think??

Having gotten nowhere, I went home and started researching. I came up with the address for the manufacturer, whom I contacted. It's the provider's problem, I was told. So I searched for the address of the corporate headquarters for the provider. Found a name and wrote a letter. A long one.

Four days later my phone rings. It's the provider saying they would be more than happy to replace DS's glasses at no cost. Imagine that. So we've chosen a few styles from the book and they are being ordered so DS can see them in person before we decide. Cost is not factoring into this decision. We are to pick any frames we want.

The lesson here is to speak up for what you know is right. Don't quit with the first refusal and insist the companies stand behind their products. We, the consumers, deserve to be satisfied.

Sarah

Friday, August 12, 2011

Time out to give thanks

Like many of you, my days can pass by in a blur. I'm a wife, mother, 24/7 caregiver and, oh, about a thousand other hats I wear. And the debt is a noose around my neck that never lets me forget is there. So I think it's important to stop once in awhile, take a deep breath, thank God for His blessings and be thankful for all that is right in my life.

So today I start with thanks to you, my PF friends, for all your freezer meal ideas and for your continued support. You are all the best!

I am thankful for my family. They are demanding, exhausting and can suck the life right out of me ... but their laughter, friendship and love keep me going.

I am thankful that DH's raise kicked in today. It's not enough to change our lives, but at a time when our friends are taking pay cuts, we are so very appreciative.

I am thankful for a roof over my head and food on the table. Recent reports from Somalia remind me that not everyone is so fortunate.

I am thankful that today we are experiencing a "cold snap" and the temperature will stay in the 80s for the first time in weeks.

I am thankful I have nowhere to go today - I love at-home Fridays.

And, finally, I am especially thankfully that one day I will be out of debt and free to give back to my heart's desire.

May each of you have a blessed day!

Sarah

Monday, August 8, 2011

Need freezer meal ideas!

Now that I've come to terms with DS's upcoming surgery, I need to start getting my ducks in a row. First up is my thoughts about meals in the days after we come home from the hospital. I anticipate little time to grocery shop and sleepless nights and harried days. So I need to stock up on some easy freezer meals. Because DS will be on a liquid diet for at least two weeks, I just need something for DH and myself that won't keep me in the kitchen during the intense caregiving post-op phase. Oh, yeah, the meals also need to be cheap. But you probably already knew that :)

Anyone have any great ideas or favorite go-to meals that freeze well? I sure could use the help!

Sarah

S

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I'm worn down

It could be the weather ... day after day of 100+ degrees with no relief in sight. But that's probably just an added thorn. I had such high hopes for August. A new month, turning over a new leaf and all that.

My optimism didn't even last 24 hours.

On Monday, the first day of the month, DS had a doctor's appointment which I presumed would be fairly routine. A new doc, but that's nothing unusual in his world. I expected a meet-and-greet and the once-over for DS and we would be on our way. Instead, we left with a date in place for a somewhat complicated and extremely painful surgery. After dealing with DS's health issues for so long, I thought I was prepared for all that is thrown our way. I was wrong. And since we're guaranteed a night or two in ICU, the possibilities of more medical bills loom.

It might be my mood, but the regular bills seem even more menacing and impossible this week. I dreamed last night that someone handed me a check that would clear all of our debt in one swoop. I hated to wake up from that one.

They say this too shall pass. Now to convince myself ...

Sarah

Friday, July 29, 2011

Payday!

Finally! And since the July bills have been paid, I'm actually starting a new month here. I am so done with June and July. August has to be better. Not that I won't be down to counting pennies to pay the minimums, but I'm hoping to get back on the no-new-debt bandwagon. My only consolation is that the added debt was not for "extras" or because we did too much frivolous spending. It was the result of life and of not having an adequate EF.

Paid our annual vehicle tax bills today. And tallied our July grocery spending. We came in at $472.25 - that's $27.75 under my monthly goal! The goal that seemed absolutely impossible a year ago. ... Now if I could figure out how to deal with the crazy gas prices.

Best of all, I've added to the EF! On to a new month!

Sarah

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

And the balance is ....

27 cents. That's how much is in the checking account right now. Payday is Friday, so there can be no spending of any sort tomorrow. None. The bright side of this news is that there is 27 cents. It's not a negative balance. I don't need anything crucial that can't wait until Friday. We're out of apples and bananas, but my gang will have to get over it. They can eat what we have and be happy that there is still enough in the pantry and freezer to keep them well fed. I'm under budget on groceries for July, even though I'm way over budget in other areas since Murphy decided to vacation here.

August is just around the corner. And with it will be a fresh start. I'm ready.

Sarah

Monday, July 25, 2011

Homespun fun

We celebrated DD's 23rd birthday this weekend. She requested a favorite meal and we had homemade cake and homemade ice cream. For entertainment, we watched old home movies and played board games. It was perfect.

There have been birthdays when we have gone out for expensive dinners and not had nearly as much fun. Yet another reminder to me that money can't buy happiness. And going further into debt to pay for it is so not worth it.

Hope everyone is having a wonderful Monday!

Sarah

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Another annoying expense

Hot on the heels of a new hot water heater, I had to begrudgingly shell out some more money today - though not nearly as much as yesterday.

DS will be a high school senior this year and with that comes senior pictures. Having been through this twice already, I know I will have his taken by a family friend who is a professional photographer. The pictures turn out great and we get a huge discount. But in order for DS to appear in the yearbook, he has to have a picture taken in a tux at a local studio. But not just any studio. It's the studio that is doing the pictures for nearly every high school in five counties. And it's a zoo.

They sent us the slick brochure some time back offering several "packages." Basically, the package is the number of outfits and poses you decide you want and the corresponding sitting fee. I called the studio, saying I only wanted to have his yearbook photo taken. That's fine, she says. And it will be $25. That's to sit, not to get an actual photo to take home.

I realize the studio has to make money, but it annoys the heck out of me that I don't have a choice. (I did check in to this. The school only allows senior photos sent from this business. I'm not sure, but I think that's called a racket.)

Adding to the fun is the fact that it is a mere 102 degrees here today. And there was barely enough room for me to turn around in that place, much less a very large wheelchair.

Fun, fun. Let senior year begin....

Sarah

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

So much for no new debt ...

After trying various fixes, it has been determined that the hot water heater is kaput. Well, that's not entirely true. It could be fixed, but the cost of the repair would be nearly as much as a new one.

So today we will have a new one installed. And it is at this point that I am so frustrated that I haven't been able to rebuild our emergency fund after draining it for a medical expense earlier this year. If I had that $1,000 in the EF, I could write a check for the stupid water heater and be done with it.

But I don't. And so I am having to pull out a credit card. I have to tell you, it's killing me. It means I won't be making any progress this month and it will feel like I'm going backward.

Could I have made different decisions in the past six months that would have enabled me to add more to the EF? Maybe. Probably. But the fact remains that we currently live paycheck to paycheck and any time there's an extra dollar there seems to be an extra bill that eats it immediately. No excuses, it just is what it is.

Tomorrow is a new day. And with any luck I will have had a hot shower.

Sarah

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I hate our hot water heater

I took a cold shower this morning - not on purpose. And then I checked the water heater. Pilot light out. I followed the instructions to re-light it. Nada.

I do not have a good relationship with this water heater. We bought it in 2003 and have poured a couple hundred dollars in repairs into it since. I just called the repair service I use because they're honest, priced fairly and quick. They no longer deal with hot water heaters, I was told. Too time-consuming. I hate the thought of calling someone I don't know anything about. I hate the thought of what this might cost.

I would love nothing more than to ditch this monster and have a tankless unit installed. But I can't afford it. One of the many, many reasons I hate being in debt.

Sarah

Monday, July 18, 2011

Stuffed

I spent the weekend helping my sister (not Jenny - our other sister) move. Her marriage has ended and because her ex is not providing child support, she had to sell the house and move to an apartment with her two children.

I realized while unpacking boxes that she has been medicating herself for quite awhile with "stuff." I had already put sheets on the three beds when I went to tackle the linen closet. I folded 31 pillowcases. Thirty-one. There were enough towels to open a small boutique. And I do believe her kitchen tools could outfit several kitchens. When I asked her what a particular item was and she couldn't tell me, I knew there was a problem. We talked a bit and she agreed to start a box for things that were really not necessary. A friend of hers is having a yard sale next weekend and she will send it there.

The result of my being surrounded by so much stuff, was that I came home in a mood to purge. After 25+ years of marriage, we do have a lot, but clutter makes me crazy (I have some OCD tendencies), so it's not out of control. But every time I decide to clear out, I find plenty that needs to go. Today was no exception. I cleaned out some shelves and organized some things. And as always, it made me feel better.

Why is it that we have so much stuff? Life would be so much simpler if we stuck to what we need and what we love.

Sarah

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Summer fun

The trip to Zaxby's was a success yesterday - and DH was thrilled with the repeat offer. The only downer was when I had to yell at an incredibly rude woman who parked in the striped area of the handicapped spot. When I pointed out to her that it was not a parking spot and that her car prevented my getting my son's wheelchair in and out of my van, all she had to say was "There weren't any other parking spots." This didn't go over very well with me and I am sorry to say I let loose on her.

It was over 100 degrees for the third day in a row, so we stayed inside with the drapes drawn. Dinner was salad, fruit and leftovers.

A perfectly fine summer day.

Sarah

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I fell for the spiel

Since coming home from Florida, I've stayed home - a lot. I'm fine with this. I can find plenty to do at home and am thrilled to be out of the car since I spend so much time there during the school year. My son has been really great about it. He is physically disabled and limited in what he can do, so I know there is the potential for great boredom. But he's busied himself reading and writing and catching up on movies. He loves to swim and we have free access to a pool in my mom's community, but I can't lift him in and out so that's a weekend activity when DH is home.

So I was feeling a little guilty (not much, just enough ...) yesterday when I got an email from Zaxby's that today is repeat day at our local restaurant. I had no idea what that was, so I kept reading. Seems if we go eat there today, we can take our receipt back next week and get the exact same meal(s) for free. I know it's a BOGO in reality, but I admit that they hooked me. We're going to head over there for lunch and then I'm going to hand the receipt to the hubby and he and the boy can go for lunch after church on Sunday. A double win for me, since I don't have to cook then either!

In my ongoing attempt to rationalize any purchase, I reasoned that the price of a fast-food meal was more than offset by the gas I haven't bought by staying home. Sometimes you just have to live a little, right? OK, so doing that is part of what got me into this mess, but baby steps. Baby steps.

Sarah

Friday, July 8, 2011

We hit the magic number!

I bit the bullet and added up the debts to see where we currently stand. This is a particularly rough period for our finances and I'm not kidding when I say I held my breath as I pushed the total button. There's been some robbing Peter to pay Paul recently so all the money I've been sending out hasn't added up in the grand scheme. But the good news outweighs the bad news ... We've paid down $10,122.63 this year!! I expect the second half of the year to be as hard as or harder than the first half, but this gives me added motivation to stick with it and not give up.

I can't thank all of you enough. It's amazing how much it helps to see the numbers going down in black and white and to have the encouragement of friends who know what it's like to be in this place. Together, think what we can do by this time next year!

Sarah

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Excited to have $8.97

Well, not really. What I'm excited about is that the bank and I both agree that I have $8.97 in the checking account. When my head was in the sand, I would sometimes be off by $30 or more ... which translated to twice that once I got hit with overdraft fees for not knowing how much I had available.

So even though the balance has not gone up, at least I'm paying attention. That's half the battle. And tomorrow is payday. That's the better half.

Sarah

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Summertime and the living is easy

It's been a quiet week. After a very busy month, I've insisted on staying home most of the time. The upside to this is that I have not put gas in the car since we got home from Florida more than a week ago! Good thing, too, cause the checking account is down to the pennies.

It's raining outside and it is so nice to just sit indoors and enjoy the thunderstorm. I love summertime!

Sarah

Friday, July 1, 2011

A different kind of thank-you note

I collected the mail yesterday and as I was flipping through the junk, I spotted an ominous looking envelope. It was from Chase - I'd seen them before, and they have never been good. Usually a pay-up now or we send you to the big, bad collections snakes kind of letter. Thing is, I have all our Chase accounts in BLPs and I've been paying them as agreed. I mean, it's been hard to scrape together enough to meet those obligations, but I have done it. So I was a little worried about what I had missed and what that meant for our finances.

So I steeled myself for the worst and opened it. It was a thank-you letter. That's right, a thank you. Thanking me for taking the steps I had to set up a BLP and for abiding by the terms.

Think they were just a little worried that they were never going to get the massive amount of money we owe them??

What a relief. I so prefer thanks over threats. See, things really are improving!

Sarah

Thursday, June 30, 2011

End of month - Bleh

So it's the end of the month and time for the end-of-the-month report. Except that I don't want to because it's just not good.

We didn't save any money.

We didn't send Discover any snowflakes.

We went over on the grocery budget goal by $79.75.

We added to our debt - not much, but enough.

I'm going to wait awhile - maybe until the end of July to tally the numbers and see how it all shakes out. By then, I doubt it will show our total debt up, but it won't have gone down much either. And I'm really itching to get to that $10,000 mark of debt paid this year!

Medical costs hit hard in the past month, helping to knock us off track. And we are looking at some major equipment purchases shortly. We're saying lots of prayers that insurance will find them necessary and our out of pocket won't be astronomical.

But I'm not going to give up. And I'm not going to whine. I'm just going to focus on moving forward. And I think I'll just live vicariously through Eboo, who has seriously good news this month!

Sarah

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

It pays to check the bill

I'm still unpacking from our trip and I came across the hotel bill this morning. It was slid under the door on our departure day and DH just picked it up and dropped it in the suitcase. When I finally looked at it, I realized that the room rate was not right. My stomach fell, because I was worried that what's done might be done and I might be out of luck.

But I called anyway. Turns out the person at the front desk had put an extra adult in each of our two rooms - and with that came a $25 charge per room per day. That was a whopping $200 mistakenly added to our bill! And if I hadn't looked, we would have paid it. Thankfully, the hotel immediately took the charge off (well, he said he would - I'm going to have to keep watch on that, too).

Sure am glad I looked at that bill.

Sarah

Monday, June 27, 2011

Back on the wagon

It's been a busy week around here. Jenny's daughter got married and we are back from the medical conference in Florida. Both events were a huge success, but our respective budgets took huge hits.

It's a new day, however, and soon to be a new month. Time to get back on track. It's good to be home.

Sarah

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A penny saved, a penny earned

I happened to log into my new ING checking account this morning, and guess what? That $50 bonus that is what got me to sign up for the account in the first place? It was right there sitting in my account, just waiting to surprise me!

Two good news days in a row - I can barely stand it!

Hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend!

Sarah

Friday, June 17, 2011

Woo hoo!

The car insurance renewal notice arrived in the mail yesterday - generally not a cause for celebration. But I opened it anyway, and my annual premium dropped $217.56!

I love it when there's good news in the mail!

Sarah

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A change of scenery always helps

I'm back! Really, I've been back since Monday, but I've been going at mach speed and haven't found time to post.

Our 2-day trip to the beach was fabulous. I went with some trepidation - wondering if it was the right thing to do even though it wasn't going to cost much at all. But once I smelled that salt air and had sand between my toes, life just looked sunnier again. As an unexpected bonus, my Dad took our van out on Sunday afternoon and while he was gone he filled up the tank! So the total cost of our trip turned out to be a single tank of gas. Not bad for some much needed R&R.

Yesterday, I rolled coins to use on our trip to the Florida medical conference. The grand total was $43. Every little bit helps. This post sounds like all we do is travel but in reality, we haven't gone on a family trip in ages. (That's one of the things I dream about doing a lot of when we rid ourselves of the debt.)

I hope everyone is having a fantabulous day!

Sarah

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Beach bound!

Today is the day we leave for our mini-vacation at the beach with my parents. We're pretty excited about getting out of town and doing nothing more strenuous than spreading out a towel on the sand.

I had a moment of panic, yesterday, though, as I was paying bills and watching the paycheck evaporate at an alarming rate. I started to think we were crazy, even though this trip will only cost us the gas to get there. But I calmed down and realized our food budget should be substantially less this month while we are out of town. My folks will feed us this weekend and most meals at the Florida conference are taken care of.

I rationalized. Isn't that what we do when the numbers are perilously close to not adding up? Oh, for the day when the numbers work.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Sarah

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Daydreaming

The title of a post by babybluewater got me thinking: "What will the future hold?" She was talking about a potential career change, but my mind wandered to what will things be like when the debt is gone. What will I do when I have money instead of payments?

That thought seems so far-fetched, but it still makes me giddy.

What would I love to do if money were no (well, within reason) object? I think I'd like to take my daughter on a fantastically memorable trip to France and Italy. ... Then again, I'd also like to remodel my hopelessly out-of-date kitchen and bathrooms. Hmmm.

What are you hoping to do when the debt monster is beaten into submission and you have a fat savings account safely tucked away?

I may never take my daughter to Europe. And I may never have a state-of-the-art kitchen. But it's always fun to dream.

Sarah

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Paying the price for bad genes ...

Warning: This post is a rant.

A huge part of our debt is directly related to the enormous medical expenses we incur. Our youngest son was diagnosed as a baby with a genetic disorder that translates to ongoing, lifelong medical care. It also means a whole lot of equipment, each piece which comes with a four- or five-digit price tag.

I am currently paying what I can on hospital bills that we rack up with every clinic visit. Each visit is billed at more than $1,200. We visit every three to four months. Add the occasional overnight stay ... and you get the picture. We do have insurance - good insurance by industry standards. But good insurance only goes so far. I don't even include these bills in our debt list because they are ongoing and will never be at $0 - sort of like a utility bill in my mind.

Our biggest obstacle is the equipment, much of which is deemed "not medically necessary" to the insurance company. This always sends me into a tizzy because who in their right mind would go out and buy this stuff for fun??

This summer, we are facing the biggie. It's time for a new wheelchair. He requires an extremely specialized power chair that will cost north of $30,000. It's anyone's guess what the insurance company will decide is "reasonable and customary." We are currently nearing our out-of-pocket deductible, which means we wouldn't have to pay our 20% of the "reasonable and customary." What worries me is what that number will be.

It enrages me that a suit at the insurance company five states away will make the decision as to what my kid deserves.

OK, rant over. It is what it is and we'll figure it out. We always do. On a brighter note, our debt has gone down another $1,200 and we are closing in on that $10,000 mark for the year! There probably won't be much movement in the next month because of our trips to the beach and Florida, but we're still going in the right direction.

Your support has done more for my attitude than you will know. Thank you all.

Sarah

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Monthly goals check

I went 50/50 on my 2011 goals in May. This time of year, I'm finding it awfully difficult to do more than tread water financially ... but I haven't drowned yet.

1. Build and sustain an Emergency Fund of $1,000. Current balance: $80
1b. Build Dollar-A-Week Savings Plan.* Current balance: $66
FAIL - no added savings to either account

2. Aggressively pay down Discover. Current balance: $2,754.30
No extra progress - only paid minimum.

3. Reduce grocery spending.
YES! This is the area where I'm doing the best - I spent $483.16 this month on all groceries, toiletries and household products. A year ago, I would never have imagined it possible to come in under $500.

4. NO new debt.
YES! This is pretty huge, too, considering where we're coming from. The thought of new debt now seriously makes me physically ill.

One thing I'm learning through this process is that the tortoise most definitely will win this race. I won't hit every goal every time, but any progress is real progress. I am going to win!

Sarah


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Jenny Update

In addition having zero time right now, I have been unable to log in for a few days. Being a technical dunce, I have no idea how that happened, but I came through the back door and found myself here :)

Briefly, I received word from the home office regarding the mortgage foreclosure prevention program that they have ALL the paperwork they need. WHEW. And since I heard from them in less than two weeks, I'm hoping the review process will be equally speedy. And that it's positive, of course!

We have another BLP in place! Only eight to go, and if we can get the 'program,' we should be able to wrap those up. Surely. Of course, we're looking at a month of no paycheck in July on top of etc., etc., etc.

Our daughter is getting married later this month, and we are preparing most of the food (not paying for most of it, just preparing)... and that includes the wedding cake. Hubby and I were out on errands last weekend and noticed that our CPA was having a little sale in front of her office. We stopped just to say hi and walked away with a variety of cake pans, including those for wedding cakes, valued at @ $75... for $7.

I am pretty sure I've found a top to wear with my Goodwill pants for the wedding! It didn't come from a thrift place (not that I haven't tried in three towns), but whatever I end up with out of what I brought home to try was on sale and can be worn again. And the shoes - 'dressy' Crocs (beach wedding) - were on sale with an additional markdown for having a coupon code!

I wish we had a Chick-Fil-A closer than 30 miles, or I would have cashed in on Sarah's tip!

Hope everyone is staying cool!!!

Jenny

PS - Learned about Man vs. Debt this morning :)




Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Checked the calendar just in time!

It's 97 degrees here today. Yes, NINETY-SEVEN and it's not even June yet. But it will be tomorrow, so I was doing some end-of-the-month straightening and came across the Chick-Fil-A fund-raising calendar. (If you've never seen one, each month has a coupon for something, good only for that month.) I haven't found the coupons to be that fabulous this year - a free soda or water. But the May coupon is for a free chargrilled chicken salad so guess what I had for lunch? I'd never had one from there before, but it was great - lettuce, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, croutons etc., and lots of grilled chicken. I would have been so mad at myself if I had missed this one!

Now I have to go rethink my plans for dinner. The casserole I was going to make is way too heavy for this weather. If only we hadn't eaten the entire watermelon yesterday ...

Sarah

Monday, May 30, 2011

At peace with the unknown

Well, DS' SAT scores are in and are about what we expected. Not out of the ballpark horrible, but barely skimming the minimum likely needed for his first-choice school. DH, DS and I spent a long time talking things over this weekend and we did make one big decision. The costly, private college is out. After weighing the pros and cons, it just doesn't make sense - even if he doesn't get into the public school nearby.

We did come up with a backup plan that, while it still seems a bit farfetched, just might work. Meantime, we're going to do all that we can do to improve his chances for acceptance to the local school. I'm going to make an appointment with the university's disability services department and see what they have to say. If nothing else, it will at least give him some face recognition. DS is going to talk to his best high school teachers about writing him letters of recommendation, and has plans to take the SAT once more in the fall.

I appreciate all of your support, suggestions and comments. I'm not ready to storm the president's office yet, but give me time. I don't believe we can demand that he be accepted - only that he be given appropriate accommodations once he is. College is a bit different from secondary school in that it is not the right of every citizen.

I feel better about things. I still don't know how it will turn out, but in the end I'm sure God will make certain it's for the best.

Sarah

Friday, May 27, 2011

SAT stress

Tomorrow the College Board will tell us DS's SAT scores and I'm a nervous wreck. My kids are historically not the best at standardized test taking. My older DS's scores limited his college choices, even though his grades and extracurriculars were solid. Consequently, I hate the SATs and hate that DS's scores will seriously affect my life.

Because of his health issues, DS will continue to live at home during college. And I will continue to drive him to school. We are fortunate that we are in an area with several universities. But there are really only two which would be appropriate for him. One is a private school about 45 minutes away with a hefty price tag. The second is a large public university about 10 minutes away with reasonable tuition rates. DS will most likely have no trouble being accepted to the private school. The public school, however, has the luxury of being more selective because of the number of applicants it receives. If DS doesn't have solid SAT scores, he can forget it and I can plan on spending the next few years in the car and sweating over the transportation and tuition costs.

So please send some good vibes our way. We could use some good news tomorrow.

Sarah



Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hubby made the call

So we sat down last night to discuss the beach trip invitation. I had already decided that I wanted to skip it. But my husband, who hasn't been to the beach in years, wanted to go. I mean he really wanted to go. He had already checked to see if he could take a vacation day from work so that we could stay two nights. I let him talk and I realized he desperately needs a couple of days away from the rat race and doing nothing but watching waves crash.

We talked about the finances and I pulled out receipts and found that I'm under budget on groceries for this month. Also, it's been a mild spring, meaning the A/C bills haven't started up yet. Looking ahead, July will see a major drop in gasoline use while school is out and no traveling is planned. In short, we saw some room to do this without adding to our debt.

I realize that for a lot of years, we have been making decisions based on the shadow of our son's life-threatening disease. We've made poor financial choices because we've been so focused on living in the moment - not knowing if it would be the last one we'd have. We're accepting responsibility for those choices now - and we're paying the price in the form of crushing debt brought on by enormous medical expenses and a live-for-now attitude. The difference this time is that we are truly thinking it through.

I think that's progress, even if it slows our payoff a bit. So I deferred to my husband and we're going to go. It was a tough call, but we're doing it without regrets. Is it the right decision? I don't know. But we made the decision together with eyes wide open.

Sarah

Monday, May 23, 2011

Decisions, decisions

My parents threw a twist in the summer plans when they announced yesterday that they have rented a beach condo for the second week in June and the family is invited to come for part or all of their time there.

We could manage a long weekend away - rather DS and I could. DH could only come for one night. So the decision becomes do we do a really, really quick trip (it's a 3-4 hour drive one-way). Or do we leave DH at home and I handle all the medical equipment DS requires on my own. Or do we skip it all together?

The trip would cost us the gas to get there and back. Otherwise, it's all expenses paid. But the price of gas is no small matter. And the week after this potential trip, the whole family will be heading to Florida for a week to attend a medical conference related to DS's illness. That trip was basically a Christmas gift from both our sets of parents, but we need to factor in the price of gas there, too.

Wouldn't it be nice to just pack up and go on a moment's notice? That's where I want to be at the end of this debt journey.

Dreaming of sand and surf ...

Sarah