Sunday, September 25, 2011

My Dave Ramsey experience. so far.

You all know I am a personal finance junkie. I am definitely what Dave calls the "nerd" in our marriage. I like making the budget and crunching the numbers. I read Dave's book Financial Peace Revisited in late 2010.I agree with all of his methods for getting out of debt and building wealth. When the opportunity to take Financial Peace University at a church 2 blocks from my house, I jumped at it. The cost of the course :$50. The fee included the envelope system, about a dozen Cd's(audio versions of the DVDs we watched in class)in a leather case, the book:Financial Peace, and the workbook used in class. Some hosts charge up to $150 for the course so this was certainly a bargain. Members of the host church went for free.
I will not go through each class or the 7 baby steps he teaches here. But if you are interested you can learn more here. I will tell you that I was a little nervous not knowing who was teaching the class or who my peers would be.  The coordinator is an alum of Financial Peace University  who guides you through the workbook. Our coordinator was someone who went to my high school.My classmates were a variety of sweet people:an older couple close to retirement age who weren't sure how they would retire, newlyweds, a struggling single mom on disability, and another couple in a similar situation as ours. What is our situation? We my friends, we are people who make a good living and are not accountable for our spending. We throw our money away while people who make less than us live the life we should be living. We don't use credit cards but have no savings outside of our 401k. Loss of income would financially disable us.
We took about 60 days to get through baby step 1,$1000 in savings. Devin sold a car trailer from his racing days and pushed us into baby step 2,dumping debt. I said we don't do credit cards. Neither of us has had a credit card in about 10 years.BUT I did get one last Christmas when both kids wanted Nintendo ds game consoles. I got a Wal-mart credit card. I used it in December and then again in May to buy a gift card for a family whose home caught fire. I paid the balance in full when I received my statement but I knew that card had to go. So in week 2 of class I cut that sucker up. Wal-mart immediately invited me back with a higher limit. No thanks. Misty-1, retail giant-0.
The best part of his plan for us is the debt snowball. You list all your debts from smallest to largest. Make the minimum payments on everything but the smallest. You work extra, sell stuff, and cut your budget to throw a ton of money at that debt until it is gone. Then you add the amount you were paying on debt 1 to debt number two, continuing the cycle until you are debt free. To not have credit cards we sure have a lot of debt. I was afraid to make the list,fearful of how much my student loans would add up to and if my husband would still love me after seeing how much I owe. Most of the balances are small but the consolidation I did through Sallie Mae is huge thanks to two semesters at a private school.Other than my student loans we have a couple small medical bills and one vehicle payment. The software said we can be debt free by 2013.I can soooo live with that.
I am counting the Wal-mart card as debt one of our snowball payoff. The second was a monthly $66 payment for our fridge that we financed at no interest about 6 months ago at a local home owned furniture and appliance store.  So 2 debts down.Woo-hoo. Not touching our baby emergency fund has been less sunshiney. Why do we spend all of our money? I guess 10 years of reckless spending is a hard habit to break. I will be working diligently  to pump that account back up so we can keep our snowball rolling.
I have worked hard to resolve some unnecessary expenses. Our electric bill was scheduled to draft 10 days early so I called the company to see if something fishy was going on. It wasn't but while she had me on the line the rep cut our rate from 14 cents per KWH to 9 cents; that ended up saving us $110 last month. I stopped our dish network service because they would not give me the new customer rate,which makes no sense because a loyal customer should be valued more than a new one. That's $75 a month. I bought the kids 4 pairs of pants at a consignment store (that I will NOT share the name of because I get $150 jeans there for $25 and don't want anyone else to beat me to 'em) for $31. I have just generally started questioning wants vs needs. Some DR enthusiasts literally eat beans and rice and avoid vacations during baby step two. While I respect their choice, I have not chosen that route. Mostly because I don't want my kids to think they are poor.

Now for some shocking numbers:
  • our monthly debt payments excluding the mortgage:$1329.88
  • our monthly payments(utilities, memberships,etc):$551.05
(these are just bills. does not include flexpenses like fuel, food, clothing, or travel)

The moral of the story is this-if we didn't have debt we could choose to work about 5 months a year and live a very comfortable life. That is what financial peace is about...FREEDOM!

Anybody else ready to put a stake in the ground and say they are DONE with debt?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Soda Smackdown

Over the last 18 months I have created this nice pocket of fat on my stomach and lower back. You can call me Betty.  I am aware that  much of our bodies composition is determined by what we eat(I think it's between 80 and 90%, the remaining part is determined by exercise and genetics). I wish I could just kill it on the treadmill but dietary changes must be made if I want to ever see my abs again.

And no I don't want to hear how tiny I am in comparison to anyone else. This is about MY health and vanity. I wanna take action before I have to replace my wardrobe!

I love soda. It is all I drink. I even look forward to it. Man they are delicious. And the burn. Ah. I love the burn.  I also drink sweet tea at work when my morning Sonic drink becomes watered down.But they are full of sugar and apparently my metabolism has slowed down. I tried to cut back once and was crying by 1:45.True story. I called my aunt next door and she brought me a DP. Don't judge me, it's not heroin. I am only addicted to it like it's heroin.

Drum roll please...........I am cutting out sodas for 10 days to see if the aforementioned pooch takes notice.What do people drink besides soda and sweet tea and water? Also, I probably get most of my energy from the caffeine so I need advice on other ways to maintain my energy level.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

San Antonio Vacation and Associated spending

I know most of you, my sweet readers, are not personal finance blog readers so here is the deal. PF bloggers post their spending and analyse it on their site so this is my attempt at being a real PF blogger.

Our vacation spending looked something like this:
  • food-$280.17
  • hotel-$275.58
  • parking-$32.00
  • activities-$268.43
  • gas-$85.00
  • shopping-$217.21
Food- Would I have liked to spend less on food?Yes,of course. But I did plan on eating out every meal and me being me, I looked forward to it very much. I was disappointed because our hotel did not have a mini fridge in the room so leftovers were not an option. Also I hate shopping before a trip and packing a cooler- I mean it's a vacation. Let's eat some delicious food. Next time I'll probably book a room with a fridge and microwave just so there is less waste. But I stand by eating out as one of my favorite passtimes.Some of our meals included the hard rock, the hotel restaurant, and the Oasis. The kids ate free at the hotel so that was a huge savings-you just can't see the savings because we turned our savings into desert.The Oasis is a little whole in the wall Devin found with the Garmin and we ate breakfast there twice. It was cheap and authentic and we will be back.

Hotel-I had done tons of research to find us a reasonable rate on the riverwalk and finally was able to book El Tropicano for $111.00 a night. It was a nice hotel in a great location. The kids really liked staying somewhere "fancy". The pool lights changed color at night which they enjoyed very much. It was worth the extra to see how much they enjoyed the little luxuries, but I will probably hit up La Quinta for our next outing.

Parking-I hate paying for parking. It just doesn't make sense to small towners like myself. Paying for parking is about as gratifying purchase as hemorrhoid creme. You need it and usually don't have other options but what are you really getting for that money. I did call ahead and ask that our hotel discount our parking and they graciously agreed to let us park for half price. We walked everywhere once we arrived so we didn't have to pay to park anywhere else.

Activities-Ughhh. I cannot justify all of this category. We paid $100 to do three adventures at Ripleys. STUPID. Adventure 1-Guinness Museum, fun for the whole family. Adventure 2-Haunted adventure, stupid and not appropriate for our ubersheltered offspring. Adventure 3-Tomb Rider, a short carnival ride. I should have known better. I had gone on the website beforehand. One hundred dollars worth of shame on me. It would have cost $53 per adult to go into the wax museum. Are these people nuts?  Obviously I am for giving them my hard earned money. Fiesta Texas tickets were purchased a while back for $136 at our local mall. The lines there we short and we enjoyed both parks. That's a lie. I thought the water park water was really nasty but whatever it washed off. Also included in this expense was the riverboat tour for $33. We all had fun except for little man who was hot and zoned out for most of the tour.

Gas-I had been sitting on a hundred dollar bill for a few weeks and sent Devin to get us a Wal-mart gas card the night before. We filled up before we left and stopped once on the way home and ended up with a quarter of tank when we parked at home.  Not too bad for a V8 engine. I am sure all that walking contributed to savings in this area.

Shopping-I need to EVER go out of town without making shopping part of the fun. This category includes Alamo souvenirs($32.32), souvenir pictures from Ripley's($21.52) and four convenience store stops($38.01). Fourteen dollars worth of the convenience store purchases was EmergenC. We had to buy the souvenir photo at Ripley's because the boys pic came out awesome.It looked like a still from an action film the way they were holding their laser guns. I didn't have the heart to tell my daughter that her covering her ears while I closed my eyes was a less than precious moment so we bought both. My son had been looking forward to going to the Disney store as he was in desperate need of more Phineas and Ferb gear. He found an Agent P that converts into Perry and makes sounds. I am pretty sure I told him that would come out of his own money, but at this point I don't remember who paid.

He also needed some Toms shoes to start school. Did I mention this was tax free weekend? The weekend our family usually stays wholed-up at home for the purpose of safety. We went to Whole Foods first. They didn't have kids sizes and referred us to some other natureish place who didn't have his size in the design he wanted. They referred us to a third location; again, they were out of his size. The husband was sick and also sick of Garmin sending him on  this footwear quest. Our last possible store was Neiman Marcus. They did not have the design we picked out online but my boy liked the camo shoe with the orange sole. Sold. Notsofast. Did you know Neimanns doesn't take mastercard(my debit card). "Our accepted tender is Amex,NM card, or check," the quiet saleslady informed me, as if I had a third eye. So I wrote a check, judged their company, and left with our treasure. The daughter had a 40% off coupon for Justice so she and I ran in and spent $104 in about 20 minutes getting her some tops for school. 

Anybody else take a long weekend that cost a zillion dollars?