Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Good news, times two!

We received the insurance settlement check for the car. It was decent, but would clearly require a lot of digging and a stroke of luck to make it work for a replacement.

Well, that stroke of luck finally found us. A relative was in the process of buying a new car and offered to sell us her old one for the settlement. The car is probably worth $1,500 more than what she sold it to us for and has a lot of years left on it. We are over the moon!

Having gotten the car problems out of the way for the time being, we received DH's year-end "extra" check he gets for any leftover personal or sick days (he is not allowed to carry them over). That money was enough to pay off the next credit card in line!! Look out Chase - there's only one more left and then you are history!! What a great way to end the year - knocking one more debt off the long list.

We are blessed.

Sarah

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The verdict is in

The car is totaled. I am sick at the thought. Buying a car is not what I wanted to be doing this month. DH is allowed to keep the rental car until the 28th. With Christmas next week, I don't expect to get the settlement check quickly. We will start stalking the ads for a deal and hope we find something. Of course, the settlement will not buy much, so we will have to use our savings. We need safe and reliable for mostly highway driving. Pretty isn't necessary.

Merry Christmas to us.

Sarah

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Just in time for Christmas

DH was rear-ended on the interstate on his way home from work. There was a bad accident ahead and the woman behind him was too busy looking for an exit to notice DH in front of her. Neither were hurt - probably thanks to the fact that DH was moving and not stopped. Wish I could say that about the car.

Because the car is an '07 with 160,000 miles on it, it could go either way. We are not so patiently waiting on the woman's insurance company to decide whether it's totaled. We are praying they will say fix it.

I'm so discouraged by this. Our wheelchair van is limping along and we have been socking away funds to replace it. We replaced the transmission in DH's car last year, so we were planning to have it around for awhile.

It is always something.

Sarah

Monday, November 30, 2015

Kudos, Cap One

So contrary to rumor, I did not fall off the planet ...

I was out and about today when my phone rang. "Hi, this is Jane from Capital One." ... A few years ago those words would have made me throw up on the spot. Anyway, she said there had been suspicious activity on my debit card. This is not our primary checking account - that's with a local credit union. This is what used to be Ing, but is now Capital One 360, where I put my irregular paychecks to be used for expenses that fall outside the normal monthly budget items - like vacation and Christmas gifts. She read off a couple of transactions which had been declined and I confirmed that they had not been made by us. The card is in my possession, so it wasn't lost. I guess someone tried to use the number and didn't have the security code or other pertinent info so the card was flagged. The card has been cancelled and a new one will arrive in a week. All of this to say, I really appreciate Cap One's vigilance.

The biggest frustration of the past couple of months has been dealing with what looked like minor water damage to the living room ceiling after a big storm. We debated whether to call the insurance company because we have a $500 deductible and wondered whether it would even cost that much. In the end, I did call and opened a claim - our first ever with our homeowners'. As luck would have it, my brother-in-law is a project manager with a fire and water restoration company, so we called him. He and his boss came over to see what things looked like. One look at the popcorn ceiling and with the knowledge that the house was built in 1971, and an asbestos test was ordered. Results came back positive. Was there a doubt? So an asbestos abatement company was brought in, haz mat suits and all. After that was done, DH and his brother spent the next month trying to seal the leak. It was coming from the chimney so they sealed every hole and crack they could find. They assure me that they finally have been successful. I hope so. Tomorrow work is supposed to start on the room, which now requires new drywall, crown molding and a paint job from top to bottom. The total cost for the entire job is going to come in at just above $6,000. I guess filing a claim was a good idea ...

I did not host Thanksgiving this year, for obvious reasons. Hoping to be back in the swing for Christmas festivities ...

I just realized December is tomorrow - yikes!

Sarah

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Never dull

I decided to take advantage of the rainy weather to work on some indoor projects last weekend. Halfway through one, I managed to slip off the stepstool I was using. I landed - hard - and it took a few minutes to catch my breath. When I finally did, I found I couldn't get up. An hour later when I still couldn't bear any weight on my left ankle, DH insisted we go have it checked out. So off to the ER we went. The nurse checking me out wanted to know where the blood was coming from. Blood? Hadn't noticed that. Turns out I had managed to do a little damage to the underside of one of my toes. One look and it was decided stitches were in order. FYI, if there's one place you do NOT want a needle, it is on the bottom of your toe. Ouch!!

Thankfully, the ankle is just sprained. I am hobbling around a bit now and glad it wasn't worse. I pointed out to DH that in my nearly 52 years, this was the very first injury-related visit to a doctor. I guess I was due.

We've already met our deductibles for the year, so I'm not expecting any surprise bills from this visit.

On to the next day ... DS had a friend driving him to an event at school. Somehow, the friend managed to damage the wheelchair lift on the van. Badly. We are still waiting for the repair guy to schedule us and I have no idea how it will take to get it working again. I'm expecting it to be expensive. Meantime, I had to get DS to school the past two days, so I was forced to rent a van. $102 a day. I'm taking it back tomorrow morning because DS will be on Fall Break and can stay home. If the repairs are going to run into next week, I'm going to look into a transportation service to get him to and from campus. The bills from this disaster could be huge. I mean really, really big.

So it's been a frustrating week. And then I see that Kim is about to bust my chops in the debt race, even though I have finally made it into the 70s. You go, Kim!

Sarah

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

It's a new season

DS1 moved out. He's 24 and has a good job but until now has preferred living here. He's my sweet middle child, always helpful and who always, but always, does things on his own timetable. (He didn't walk until he was 16 months old - I should have known what I was up against then!) Anyway, his high school buddy bought a townhouse and offered him a great deal on rent. A big plus is that he cut his 30-minute commute to work in half. It was time. And even though we still have DS2 here - and his caregivers coming and going - the house feels empty.

On the flip side, my food bill has never been lower!

In other news, I logged on to Verizon today to see what our data usage looked like and if I needed to change our plan. As I navigated the possibilities, I came across their "new" plan and the price difference was stunning. I even picked up the phone and called to make sure I wasn't missing something - like maybe you can only text between 3 and 4 a.m. .... But it's for real. And my phone bill is about to drop - wait for it - SIXTY dollars a month!!! I can hardly believe it.

I've been lax about keeping on top of the financial picture the past month. This was my kick in the pants to get my ducks in the row. I could have changed that phone bill last month if I had been paying attention.

Oh, and we paid $1.79 for gas this weekend! It's the little things that get me excited these days :)

Sarah

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Seriously? Is it just us?

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

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

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

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

And that was just Monday.

Sarah

Monday, August 3, 2015

Still here!

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

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

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

Sarah

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

And the bills keep rolling in ...

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

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

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

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

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

Sarah

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Back with BIG news!

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

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

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

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

Sarah

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Happily turning down extra money

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

Here's the latest:




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

Yeah, no thanks.

Sarah

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

Monday, May 4, 2015

New month

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

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

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

Bring it on May - I'm ready!

Sarah

Monday, April 20, 2015

Leaving a better legacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sarah

Monday, March 23, 2015

Life happens ...

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

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

Sarah

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Just the minimums ...

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

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

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

Bleh.

Sarah

Friday, February 27, 2015

Catching up

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

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

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

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

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

Sarah

Monday, February 16, 2015

Monday, Monday

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay warm everybody!

Sarah

Sunday, February 1, 2015

It's a new month

So January came and went ...

I spent a good part of the month helping my Mom. She had two cataract surgeries, a root canal and four fillings. Ugh. Our parents are getting older and more and more, health issues are popping up. It really is amazing that at our ages (51 and 52), we still have all four parents living. DH's parents up and moved to California a few years back. All of their children are on the East Coast. No family there. Now they are having a multitude of health issues and there's not a thing we can do for them. Oh well, it was their choice.

Amid caring for my Mom, I got a notice that my Cap One account was past due. I knew I had paid it on time, so I called. Turns out I misread the minimum payment and I missed it by $2. They had already charged me a late fee and flagged the account. Thankfully, the rep I spoke with was very nice and when she saw what had happened, she immediately dropped the late fee as long as I paid the $2 right then. I need to make sure I'm wearing my glasses when I pay those bills!

We are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel on some of the accounts. Several will be gone within a year. Of course, that's making me very impatient and wanting them gone now. I just need to stay the course ...

And now it's on to the taxes. Yippee.

Sarah