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 ...


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.


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.


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.


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 ...


Friday, May 20, 2011

The ticker is moving!

Paid off another $599 and that sent my ticker down a "decade." Boy it feels good to see that credit card inching its way toward zero. Amazing what a little visual encouragement can do. It will be a looooong time before it gets to the end, but it will get there!

Hope everyone has a great weekend!


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Too good to be true?

I was checking my new statement for the AT&T Universal card and it occurred to me that the interest charge was low. Really low. The balance on the card is $10,027. The interest for the month was $16. What??

So I read further and it seems the interest rate is 1.990%. That's awesome! But how did it get that low? I can't figure it out. My notes show the account has a 5.99% for life. There have been no new charges on that card for years. It's just been sitting there, taking up space and money.

Now I'm worried. AT&T has no reason to give me a rock-bottom rate. I sure didn't ask for it. Is it for a limited time only? What happens if that's true and the "special" expires? Will my rate skyrocket? I sure don't want to call and ask - why stir the pot when it's good for me ... for the time being anyway.

What do you all think? I never thought I'd be worrying about an interest rate that is too low.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Triple coupon day

It's triple coupon week at Harris Teeter, something that only happens once or twice a year. I almost never shop there because it's so expensive, but with some careful coupon matching when they offer triples it's worth a visit to the store.

I always take my time, because some of their items are marked up so high that even with triple coupons, I'm paying more than I usually would. Anyway, I stocked up on some condiments that were almost free, picked up some turkey bacon for $1.74 and a couple of other goodies. I had three items that were just on sale - I didn't have a coupon to add.

My total before coupons: $42.28. But I paid $17.63, with tax. Not too bad for what I got.

Then I stopped for gas and the price had dropped to $3.70 a gallon. I can't believe I felt like I was getting a deal.

All in all, a pretty successful morning. I'm looking forward to updating my ticker on Friday after I pay some bills. ... Yes, I am becoming obsessed ... er ... gazelle.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Baby steps update

Some day the gerbil wheels will stop spinning long enough for me to put some figures together to post, although I'll be in a better position to do that when I've reached an agreement on the rest of the credit cards. Until then, the cc folks keep piling on the fees and calling with escalating payment requests. I keep telling them we're doing the best we can. They've been nice and even extremely personable most of the time (so far), but I'll be glad when I don't feel a sense of dread when the phone rings.

Regarding the mortgage foreclosure prevention program, I submitted the rest of the documents and info yesterday, and it's been sent off to the home office. After spending untold hours gathering, figuring, typing, and revealing, the hardest part will be waiting to hear if we've been approved. I was told it could take 1-2 months but am hoping that's a stretch. A really long one.

Baby steps going forward:
1. I received payment from Gold Stash. They were apparently not as impressed with my treasures as I was. My payment was $53.63... a digit less than I was anticipating, based on Sarah's experience. Not one to whine more than absolutely necessary, though, that is more than I had before. And payment was fast.

2. I dusted off a few unwanted books to sell online a few months ago and actually sold one last week for $9.26!

3. After this month's payment, one of my husband's medical bill balances will be down to $100! If we weren't looking at a summer month with no paycheck, we could knock that one off this summer. As it is, we'll be knocking it off in September. Woo hoo!

Baby steps going backwards:
1. Our son's toe fell victim to a 95-lb. dumbbell at school on Friday afternoon, leading to a quick trip to Walmart for medical supplies and sandals. Since he's getting no official pay for helping in the weight room with hubby, hubby paid. The good news is that he could move his toe and that it wasn't excruciatingly painful!

2. Right after The Toe incident, son and hubby made a 5-hour trek to pick up a washer and dryer that our daughter's future MIL left behind after her move (daughter doesn't have room for it in the apartment). The cost for gas in our son's truck and food for that quick run - about $250. The value of the w/d - about $1000.

3. Even after being asked not to, someone at school unlocked hubby's office last week and let some of his last period's 'hoodlums' in to get their bookbags before he could get there himself. Some also picked up a few other things while they were at it... like money. Not a fortune, but still....

4. Hubby is a coach. Friday is a fundraiser dinner for the school's booster club, and he's expected to attend. Cost of the ticket, which he gets to pay - $100. Thankfully, we sold our old(est) car last month, so I've pulled out the $100 before the rest was completely consumed by bills, gas, and food. And bills. And gas. And food.

And that's that! Kudos to our debt buddies for any and all successes, even if they may seem tiny. Inch by inch....


Monday, May 16, 2011

A cure for the Monday blahs

Fortunately, you're getting to read this and not see me in person, because the close-up is scary. Really scary. I look pretty much like I've been run over by a truck. Feel like it, too. DS's health problems mean I don't get a lot of sleep - in fact I spend a lot of time counting how many times he stops breathing during the night. Sometimes, those sleepless nights catch up with me. Like today. I was all ready to feel sorry for myself.

And then I paid a couple bills. And decided to tally my debt, just for kicks, to see if there was any progress. Turns out there was! I have paid off more than $500 since the last time I updated. I haven't fixed my debt totals under the tab yet, but I did fix the ticker and my mood did an about face. So far this year, I've paid off $7,473.04! Almost makes the pain feel worth it :)

Little Lamb from "Little Lamb wants to be debt free" said it best:

It's moving! The credit card on your ticker!!! I can see part of the next black number!!! YAY!!!

Can't wait until I can separate the credit card and current debt from the original debt on the ticker!

Happy Monday, everyone!


Saturday, May 14, 2011

An anniversary of sorts

Six months ago today, we used a credit card. We haven't touched one since. This is huge. I'm fairly certain that has never happened in 25 years of marriage. It's been a double-edged sword. Not using a card cut into our dwindling supply of cash. What was tight before, has become nearly unbearable now. The cushion isn't there anymore. But it really wasn't a cushion, was it? It was a false sense of security that finally caught up with us.

The past six months have been the most difficult, financially speaking, that we've ever had. That's not going to change anytime soon. I do believe that if we can survive the next six months on the right path, we're going to be a whole lot better off and will be able to breathe a bit.

We can do it. I know we can. For now, I'm holding my breath waiting for the worst of the financial storm to pass.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Wedding dress blues

While Jenny has been on the hunt for wedding attire for her daughter's wedding, I've been doing the opposite. A year ago, it was my daughter who was planning the family wedding and then, weeks before the big day, her intended called it off. After the dust settled and the hurt feelings started to subside, we were left with a bunch of non-refundable deposits and a closet full of dresses. Seven, to be exact. One bridal gown and six for the bridesmaids.

I've let the dresses just stay stored for awhile until I thought my daughter was ready to face the issue. I broached the subject with her this week. I knew she'd have no problem getting rid of the bridesmaids' dresses, but I wondered about the bridal gown. She loved that gown and how it looked on her. But she said yesterday that as much as she does love it, she can't imagine ever wearing it without having all those bad memories dredged up. I was relieved, because I feel the same way.

So I took all the dresses to a bridal consignment shop and am hoping there's a bride out there wanting a great deal on never worn dresses. We won't make much after the shop takes its cut, but something's better than nothing so I've got my fingers crossed.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Gold Stash

Thanks to Sarah, I learned about Gold Stash, recommended by Dave Ramsey. And Sarah.

When I stopped by a local jewelry shop to see about a band for our daughter's fiance, I was told that it would be much cheaper if I brought in the gold. Naively, I asked where I was supposed to get the gold. From your old jewelry, the gal replied.

Fantastic! I remembered Sarah and her success selling her old jewelry some time back, so I began digging up whatever looked gold to offer for the wedding band.

When our daughter and her fiance accompanied me and my collection of assorted rings and a college charm, the owner told me I could get a lot more for the gold if I just sold it. And then she asked if using our gold for our new son's band was for sentimental reasons. Very definitely.

The band is beautiful (and 1/4 of the cost of a new one), and there were two ring bands left over. I'm holding onto them and a few other things to see if our son might be interested in doing something similar when he finds his perfect mate. He liked the idea.

Meanwhile, I dug through more old jewelry and some coins and shipped off a batch to Gold Stash today. I found an advertisement that they'd add $100 to a batch worth $250, and a representative emailed with a coupon worth another 10% 'extra' if I mailed it off today.

I have no idea of the value of my treasures, but whatever it is, it's more than I had before I dropped it into the FedEx box.

I'll report when I hear something!


Our expensive little secret

We have cable.

Yep, despite the staggering amount of debt hanging around our necks, we have yet to cut the cable. In all honesty, I doubt we ever will. There's no way to justify it. We just enjoy it. It provides our entertainment and it is one of the few activities our severely disabled son is able to partake in at home. Plus, I'm an HGTV junkie and DH lives for sports.

So even though we've dropped everything else that is "frivolous" from the slate - restaurants, movies, shopping - we can still watch a zillion channels every day.

Are we crazy? Are we the only ones who have consciously made this decision? Please say we're not alone.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Updates from Jenny

After a 90-minute phone interview last week to provide numbers, info, more numbers, and more info for the next round of the NC Mortgage Foreclosure Prevention Program, I delivered a bundle of papers to the office yesterday that was so high, I had to transport it in a box. That was a lotta numbers and a lotta info, but if that's what it takes, I'll play.

The 'intake counselor' was on her way out for the week but checked what I'd brought. She'll make copies of everything and be ready to go when I return Monday with signed forms and a re-do of one of the items. Once that's complete, my packet will be shipped to the head office for consideration. As she said it could take up to two months to hear anything, I'm hoping my packet arrives in during a lull of some sort on a really, really good day.

So now I get to return to the fun of chatting with credit card folks. I feel considerably better being able to report progress in the NCMFPP process, but I'm pretty sure my optimism alone will fail to bring smiles to their faces.

* * * * *

Once I unloaded the forms in the big city (ha) 30 miles away, I renewed my mission to find something to wear to our daughter's wedding next month. It's not a fancy wedding, but it's going to be on the beach and hot; since where we live doesn't get hot enough to warrant too much in the way of 'hot' clothes, I needed something to avoid melting into a big puddle. My first stop was Goodwill, where I found five nice items of clothing, all great for the wedding week and beyond, for $20.20. A pack of much-needed hangers I grabbed turned out to be free!

Feeling smug, I then hit Kmart (nothing), Penney's (nothing), and Belk, where I collected a dressing room full of possibilities for The Outfit, all on sale. In the end, though, I bought NOTHING. I felt confident that I could make do with something there for less than an arm and a leg if necessary, but I've got two more thrift shops and a couple of consignment shops to hit first.

* * * * *

My last stop was Earth Fare, where I cashed in on my free dinner for signing up for coupons and spending $10 (not difficult). Most of what I bought was on sale, with the exception of a few boxes of different kinds of oatmeal packets (including Chai Spiced and Dark Chocolate) to send to our overworked daughter five hours away. She's in the process of moving, holding down two jobs, and planning a wedding - at 21! She's doing an amazing job, so I was happy to see something that might simplify a few minutes for her.

Anyway, the coupon dinner was an uncooked whole free-range chicken (the option was veggie patties), organic baby carrots, and 'rustic mashed potatoes' from the deli. They were out of the potatoes, so I chose the best slaw we've ever eaten. The entire meal cost about $20, so if you have an Earth Fare in the neighborhood, check it out!

And that's that.


PS to Little Lamb and her group hug on Sarah's last post - I agree that this is a network of fast friends ready to cheer each other for glimmers of progress as well as discouragement. Thanks to all!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Time to act like a grown-up

It's easy for me to get down about our finances. I mean, really, just look at my ticker. Adding to the constant clench in my stomach about the bills is the fact that DS2's health is not good (he is chronically ill) and, honestly, we don't know what each day will bring there.

So sometimes, when I'm feeling really sorry for myself, I tell me that I have a right to be down. I mean, life has not been very fair to me or Jenny (her son had the same illness as my DS).

But then I tell myself to put on my big-girl panties and buck up. I was speaking with a friend yesterday who was moaning about her own finances. How they were barely making it. How her husband's car was nearly ready to go to that great auto graveyard. She sighed, and then said it sure was a good thing her parents were paying for her kid's tuition at a private college. And she was so glad she got to spend her daughter's last spring break of high school with her in Italy, even though they really couldn't afford it. Oh well, she said, DH is going to the bank tomorrow to see how much is left on the home equity line.

Wow. I realized how much my thinking had changed as I listened to her speak. She and I are the same age and I suspect her debt totals are as bad - if not worse - than mine. The difference is that I now have a plan. And even though it's going to take what seems like forever, I am going to dig out of this quicksand. I will get traction and life will get better. Financially speaking, anyway.

On another subject, I didn't get much out of writing down a weekly menu. I use what I've got and don't go buy just for that night's meal, so it's mostly what I'm in the mood for. (Anybody else wonder what it's like not to have a say in what you're going to eat every single night? Thankfully, DH doesn't much care - he just eats :)

Tonight's offerings:
  • Grilled london broil (bought on a half-price sale)
  • baked potatoes
  • black bean salad.
Wow, this was a rambling post. What can I say? It's Monday.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Barter success!

I feel Sarah's pain on the overdraft situation. While I may not have gambled intentionally with a draft, I have - on more than one occasion, I'm sorry to say - deducted an online payment from the wrong account. Or failed to deduct it from any account. On rare occasions I catch it in time. On most, however.... Ugh is an understatement.

My good news involves bartering.

The friend I had intended to use for cat duty during our recent three-day trip ended up needing to go out of town himself, leaving me to take said cat to the vet's for a few days. I hated to do it for her sake and ours (financially), but I hated even more the thought that someone else might not get her outside or back in. Since we know we have coyotes around, to the vet's we went, spending just under $70 for boarding, check-up/nail cutting, and distemper. Other than the cost, we all survived.

We'll be heading out of town for four days in a few weeks. Since it will be summer then, I had been mulling over the possibility that one of our regular cabin guests might be swayed to come and do cat duty for a gift of a partial cabin stay. 'Coincidentally,' LM emailed at the time I was going to email her and asked about a stay in October, adding that she was trying to figure out how to come during the summer.

DING! I wrote her right back, explaining our upcoming situation. I reminded her that we owed them for a night from an aborted stay last year due to their sick dog and would love to offer a full night and hefty discount on any additional nights they'd like to stay in exchange for making sure the cat didn't become a coyote snack. She wrote back that they'd love to, that they'd been trying to figure out how to celebrate their anniversary! Win-win for sure.

So now all we have to worry about is the cat's hopping on the roof and trying to claw her way into our bedroom window as usual.

Regarding bartering, we'd love to barter with others, especially with our neighbors who have fantastic gardens and hunt. If any of you barter goods and/or services, I'd love to hear ideas - what's worked and what hasn't.

Because Sarah and I might want to figure out how to barter with the bank....


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Bleh - a crummy end to the week

I tried to play the numbers game Thursday and I lost. I had the pennies counted out and accounted for. And then life happened.

My DD called at lunchtime. Her keys were locked in her car at work and she needed me to unlock her car. The school where she works is on the way to DS's school (I drive him to and from), so this should not have been a big problem. But she needed her car moved because it was in the bus lane hours before I had to pick up DS. The problem here is that both of their schools are a haul from home and cost me a lot of gas. I was running on fumes as it was and had figured I had just enough to get me to DS and home again before payday Friday. An added round-trip to help DD meant putting an extra $5 of gas in the car.

So I gambled. An auto-deduct payment was scheduled to go out that day, but I knew from experience that it often takes a couple days for that to happen. So I put the extra gas in the car and crossed my fingers.

Yesterday when I checked my account, I found out that I had lost. That little bit had sent me into overdraft and earned me a lovely $35 fee. It just makes me so mad. Mad at the bank that they can make this kind of return. Mad at myself that I'm in this position to begin with.

I cannot wait for the day when a simple trip to help my daughter won't cause such turmoil!


Thursday, May 5, 2011

I stayed in the black this week ... barely

Tomorrow is payday and, as always, it can't come soon enough. Living paycheck to paycheck has always been the way of life, but before we always had that credit card "cushion" to see us through the tough times. Now that those days are gone, we have to count, pull and stretch every single penny to get from one paycheck to the next.

But I'm going to call today a success so far. I went grocery shopping and spent $120.79 - that's $29.21 under budget. And that included a bottle of Advil (for the debt-induced headaches) and my serious downfall - Diet Coke. I know I should give that up, but I don't want to. I know that sounds like a kid in the candy store, but that's where I am right now.

But I digress. On the way home from the store, the gas light came on in the car. I stopped at the gas station and posted my grocery spending to the checkbook before heading to the pump. There was $13.83 left. So I put $10 worth of gas in the tank, which will get me through today (used to get me through way more than one day ...). I don't anticipate any more expenses today, so I'm snowflaking the $3.83 to Discover.

And now I'm going to drink a Diet Coke. Don't judge.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Delayed April recap

I didn't do an April recap on May 1 because, honestly, I didn't think there was a whole lot to tell. I felt like things were pretty stagnant. But in thinking about it, I realize there has been progress. Baby steps, as Dave Ramsey says.
  1. Emergency Fund - not much to brag about here; the EF stands at $80. But that's better than $0. Dollar-a-Week Christmas Account - it's up to $66; I'm really excited about this one - it's going to save me come November (Thanks again, Eboo!!)
  2. Discover Card - I knocked $123 off the balance. Not a lot, but it is going in the right direction and I am sending more than the minimum. Even a few snowflakes in there. I want this one long gone by this time next year.
  3. Grocery Spending - I think I did really well here. My goal has been to get it to under $150 a week ($650 a month). I spent $528 this month - that's an average of $122 a week.
  4. No new debt - Done! This is huge, I think. I paid cash for DS2's glasses and for a birthday gift for DS1, among other things.
Writing it down like this gives me motivation to make May even better. Gas prices are still killing us, but bringing down the grocery costs when I didn't think it was possible is helping to offset that.

Baby steps ... game on!


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Coming up for air, part 2

Don't faint, Sarah!

I thought I'd update on our credit card situation and the state program I'm trying to qualify for to help us get straightened out again.

1. Credit cards. We still have only 5 plans in place, but the others I'm working with have been appeased as much as possible for the moment. I'm almost stunned to be able to report that almost every rep has been very pleasant and understanding as I explain our situation and the application process for the state program, some to the point of venturing out into chit-chat. I think they are equally stunned that I'm willing to talk to them at all (not thrilled, but willing) and that I thank them for calling at the end of the conversation. That surely doesn't happen often.

One interesting revelation came this morning. Before our recent trip to visit our daughter, I lined up several draft payments to keep some of the creditors content in my absence. This morning one rep called, mentioning that one of our three accounts (Bank of America) hadn't had a payment in a while. I went straight to my notes, telling him about the payment scheduled for this past Saturday. He said he could find nothing, so I then gave him the confirmation number I'd been given. Still nothing. By the time I quit asking why I'd have a confirmation number with no payment (which didn't show up when I checked our bank online), he was apologizing profusely, assuring me that he'd checked all three accounts to see if it had been credited to one of the other two. Nope. He asked if I'd like to make another payment to be drafted 5-30; after I questioned him a few times about the chance of a double draft (catastrophe!), he promised me it would not be drafted twice. He had been so nice during the entire course of the conversation, I agreed, and he gave me a different kind of confirmation number.

2. State program. Right before we left to see our daughter, I talked to a representative with the regional housing authority regarding the North Carolina Foreclosure Prevention Fund mortgage payment program. I'd seen an article in a local online newspaper, and my curiosity got the best of me. When I saw that we met the preliminary qualifications, I made one call, then another. On the second round, I explained our circumstances: primarily, our two side businesses' dwindling gusto, my husband's unexpected medical expenses and mind-boggling commuting expenses, and two college graduations last May. When I was asked our income, I then explained about the retirement benefits in our name but currently used by someone else. No surprise, he said we made way too much to qualify, and that the government wasn't going to look at the actual circumstances (i.e., that according to the agreement, we won't be entitled to the money until the actual recipient is deceased. We're in no hurry.).

I refused to be deterred and mentioned the substantial amount of the taxes owed for 2010 because of the retirement. Amazingly, that little fact put us close enough to qualifying to proceed.

The rep rattled off a list of 'homework,' which I tackled in full force yesterday. Documents, numbers, documents, numbers, repeat. Whew. I had a few questions for the rep I called in the beginning, and she said I'm ready for the hour-long phone interview. I'm waiting for Rep #2 to call and schedule it.

Once that's over, hubby and I will both go in with documents and sign papers, then it will all be shipped off, hopefully landing on the desk of someone in a really good mood and able to tackle it right away.

Some of the highlights of the program:

The state received $275 million recently from the United States Department of the Treasury’s “Hardest Hit Fund” for the North Carolina Foreclosure Prevention Fund mortgage payment program. The program offers zero-interest loans up to $24,000 to cover mortgage payments and related expenses for up to 24 months while a person searches or trains for a new job. Those living in the Greater Hickory area where unemployment rates are some of the highest in the state could be eligible for up to $36,000 over 36 months.

The loan is forgiven if a person stays in their house for 10 years or more, according to information from the Western Piedmont Council of Governments.

But you don’t have to be on the verge of losing your home to get help.

Sherry Long, director of community development for Western Piedmont Council of Governments, said if you’ve fallen behind on mortgage payments because you’ve lost your job, the loan can help catch up those payments. You also can seek help if you have are unemployed or are earning less than you have in the past, or are facing a temporary financial hardship such as a divorce, serious illness, or death of a co-signor.

The program also will pay property taxes, homeowner’s insurance or homeowner’s fees, even if it’s not part of your mortgage, Long said, if you qualify.

The total amount owed on the home can’t be more than $275,000, Long said. No fee is charged to apply for the help, she said

So that's that. I'll report when I learn more....


Coming up for air

Let me introduce myself. Again.

I'm Sarah's big sis, sharing full-fledged determination to gain control of our finances one way or another.

I'm an optimist.

Life is particularly full at the moment. Our daughter is getting married next month, and while the wedding is a small, relatively simple affair, she, her fiance, and the wedding location are over five hours away, so when wedding questions/'issues' beckon, I listen. This is a once-in-a-lifetime happening, and she is our only daughter.

The bulk of the wedding expenses are being taken care of by her very generous father-in-law-to-be. We are blessed and know it! The entire wedding hoopla is the good news.

The bad news, financially speaking, is that I learned last night that the 12th-month paycheck mentioned to my teacher/coach husband as a raise at his job interview last year won't be happening this summer. I'm not shocked, of course, because what teacher is getting a raise, but still.... After thinking that this would be the first summer in untold years we weren't going to be in as much financial quicksand as usual, it was a blow.

The Month Without Pay coincides with the scary first tax payment for 2011, thanks in large part to circumstances beyond our control and the loss of two dependents simultaneously.


Ending on a positive note, however, is my steal (not literally!) of a men's clearance t-shirt to replace the ragged nightshirt I left at home during our recent trip to visit our daughter. With her employee discount of 25¢, the shirt was a whopping $2.42! The bonus of the screened bowtie, suspenders, and Kiss Me I'm Lucky badge was just that.

AND... in searching for a price at Earth Fare yesterday, I came across an invitation to sign up for coupon alerts. We love Earth Fare; however, the closest one is 30 miles away, and while they do have specials, we've tried to limit our 'extra' driving as much as we can to counter hubby's 120-mile commute a day.

I clicked on Earth Fare's web site to sign up for the coupon alerts and for doing so, I got a coupon for a free dinner with a $10 purchase! You must be able to print out the coupon at that time because it can't be accessed again, and it's good for 7 days from the date of printing, so be prepared to print and collect :)

I passed it on to our daughter (she's got her coupon) and will get hubby to sign up next week with his own email address. Our son will have access to a printer at school or here when he comes to visit next.

I'm as excited about the free dinner as I was for Sarah's almost free pasta! I'd love to have a Kroger close to us again, as I used to find great bargains there.

Sarah has done a fantastic job keeping up with this blog and yours; some day I'll be able to contribute a bit more often. Until that happens, know that we are both extremely grateful for the encouragement and helpful tips you have all provided!!! What a village....


Monday, May 2, 2011

Almost free pasta!

I felt like one of those extreme couponers today. Well, sort of. I read on a message board that Kroger was having one of their mega sales. Certain boxes of pasta, for example, were 2/$1 if you bought 10. That means you'd get 10 boxes for $5, which isn't bad. But if you go to the Ronzoni web site, you can print off coupons for $1 off 2 boxes. You can get 2 coupons per printing and you can print twice off of one computer using different emails (follow that?). So I did it, printed off 4 coupons and headed to Kroger. This is what I got:
And this is what I paid:
One dollar for 10 boxes of pasta. Not bad for a quick morning's work. I think that's the extent of my extreme couponing, though. Too much thinking involved.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

I have a confession

I was out and about Friday at lunchtime (bad idea #1). I ended up near a Zaxby's (bad idea #2). I really wanted a chicken finger plate from Zaxby's (bad idea #3). It would have cost about $6. And I had $7 in my wallet. I sat in my car arguing with myself and my evil self almost won out. Almost. I mean, I was ready to turn into the drive-thru but at the last minute I passed it.

I think it's your fault. I kept thinking of all my new PF friends and how I would have to 'fess up to you all or feel even more guilty about it.

I already knew I had done the right thing when I passed it and headed home for a lunch of leftovers. But later that day, I had to pay an unexpected medical expense. The cost? $6.84. Thanks to my no-Zaxby's lunch, I had the cash.

Sometimes, doing the right thing really does pay off.