One Less Car, One Less House

This year has been awesome.

My last post said we were very close to paying off a car, and we did it. We have been down a car payment for about six months. I’ve been putting that car payment money into savings. Sure it could have (should have?) gone to another debt, but we needed to build up our savings because we were moving.

And so we did. We paid off  a car, we paid down a loan, we moved and spend a *huge* amount of our savings on the security deposit and first month’s rent. And we sold a house.

Our finances have been all over the place this year and starting in September we are following a strict budget that I recently made up. We need to stick to spending what we say we’ll spend instead of just paying the bills and spending the rest. Selling the house gave us hundreds of dollars a month back in our pocket. Let me repeat that – *hundreds* of dollars are now ours again. This September budget is going to take into account that money. I’m excited to see what we can accomplish! I have big goals for us through the end of the year!

August 24th, 2012 by T | Comments Off

Days Away From One Less Car Payment

If I have my budget figured out correctly, and I think I do, we will have one less car payment within the next week.

I am beyond thrilled. I wasn’t happy when we got a second car payment because I didn’t feel like the car was researched and tested. I have learned not to do impulse purchasing and a car can be a huge impulse purchase if you aren’t careful.

The car is a used car, it is a commuter car that is meant to be driven back and forth to work. it is meant to be taken care of and last a long time – cars in my family last to 250K miles or more.

This car payment doesn’t free up a lot of cash monthly, but its the first thing we’ve been able to pay off since the last credit card was paid off.

February 11th, 2012 by T | Comments Off

Starting Over

The last post on this blog was two years ago. We still have that van we bought (see previous post) and we are still loving the low interest rate! I am interested in starting over though, starting over with the paying off the debt in a smart and good way.

Creative Commons License photo credit: llauren.

The past couple of years have been fairly steady for us. We haven’t moved (but we probably will this year), we still have our two cars (and two car payments) and we are doing well financially. We still have debt and I am going to aggressively fight to pay the debt over the next six months. I am still the one “in charge” of the finances, though I do talk things over with my husband.

I am working part time now, and along with that we are paying for daycare for our youngest. Our expenses for the older kids have stayed the same though sports, lunch at school, and other extra curricular activities do cost quite a bit. I am going to try to cut that down by having them pack lunch at least half the time.

I am also still in school, though I am down to the last five classes for my undergraduate degree.

We have five things I view as outstanding debts: two credit cards, two car loans, and one bank loan. I plugged the numbers of those five loans plus two mortgage loans into a debt reduction calculator and am debating the payment schedule. I have been paying on the credit cards, but one has a zero percent interest so I know I need to focus on paying something else off. I added the two mortgage loans in because they are the second mortgages on our houses and could be considered a really high car payment. The dollar amount paid each month on these is actually less then a car payment, but the total we owe is higher.

I am looking forward to getting back to being in charge of our money!

January 1st, 2012 by T | Comments Off

A New Car

On December 30 we purchased a new car. And I mean NEW as in 2010 new. I’ve never bought a new car before – I am one that says (and completely believes!) that the moment you drive a car off the lot it loses value. Who knows how scientific that thought is, but it has kept me from buying new all these years.

What pushed us to buy new – the price difference and the financing.

We regularly do business with two banks and each of them offered 4.5% – 4.9% financing.I consider those to be good rates, and are in line with the car we bought six years ago. But several dealerships (if not all the major ones) are offering various financing deals – 0% for 60 months, a low % for however many months, etc.

My brother suggested a few vans to look at and we settled on a Toyota Sienna. One dealership in town had three 2010 models and after looking at the NADA guide online and one of our banks online calculators, we went to the dealership with a solid idea of what we were willing to pay. We spent a couple of hours with the salesman, we did a five minute test drive and looked at all the features and options available to us. We said okay we’ll give you this much for it, which after talking to the salesman (who didn’t seem interested after we told him our price) we got a sales manager.

Salesman always want you to agree to a monthly payment price, but in our buying cars we’ve always walked in with what we wanted to pay for a final price. That rarely makes salesman happy – or it seems that way anyway.

The first day of talking to them, we didn’t agree. They kept pushing a monthly payment option, showed us a couple of different ways we would get there, and we ended up leaving. I’m okay with leaving, and amazingly enough so was my husband. Usually he likes to just buy a car and be done. One deal to buying new was qualifying for the 1.9% financing – I figured that was hard to do and so if we could, it would be worth going for. Turns out my husband has stellar credit (thanks to me, the one who takes are of the finances!) and qualifying was easy.

We went to them before Christmas and spent the next few days enjoying family, finishing up last minute holiday things, hanging out, etc. My husband was only here for a few weeks and we decided that if I was going to buy the car, I would do so after he left because he left me with power of attorney.

The salesman called every day, and we were interested but couldn”t go see him at that time or I was busy or we were out of town. When my husband was still here we decided we would trade in our van – when we first went to the dealer we didn’t talk about a trade at all, just negotiated a price. The salesman gave me a lowball offer over the phone – one I knew was just a starting off point because I realize they have to look at the car. So the few days go by with the phone calls coming in until I finally said okay I’ll come in again and we can talk about this.

The kids and I ended up being at the dealership for about three hours. The price we negotiated stayed the same and I traded the van in. I ended up taking their initial lowball offer because it really lowered the payments – to a difference of $45 a month – and I didn’t have to deal with the hassle of trying to sell it on my own! Maybe I could have gotten more for it, but at that point I was happy because we got a good deal.

So with the good deal on the van, the trade in and the 1.9% financing – we walked away with a brand new car that ended up costing around the same (as in within a few dollars, according to the online caculator) as an older van with much more miles on it. Overall I’m very happy.

January 7th, 2010 by T | Comments Off

Kids Allowances

End of an Era
Creative Commons License photo credit: Travis Seitler

My kids are young but get an allowance and have for a couple of years now. I am not the greatest about actually paying them, but I keep track in an excel spreadsheet so they are kept up to date. I don’t give them an allowance based on chores – I feel like just beause they are little doesn’t mean they don’t have to help take care of the home they live in. I’m not a maid and I’ve taught my kids to help with household chores since they were little!

Their allowance is figured in the easiest way possible – their age, doubled. But despite getting that for an allowance, they don’t get to spend all the money on whatever they want. Half is for spending, the other half is divided in half and half of half is saved and half of half is for donating. I realize that is a large percentage of savings and donating, but for now it works. Maybe in a year or two I will adjust it for them and have them donate 10% and still save and then still have half so they can spend it.

Of course since I do a bad job of giving them their allowance, the excel spreadsheet often shows them with a balance of $20-$30 or a few times, more then that.

I would like to WILL do a better job in 2010 of giving them their money and working on teaching them more about managing it. My daughter is a girly girl and loves lip glosses and always wants a little something from the store, my son on the other hand is more likely to save his money. Maybe them having cash will help her see that saving it for something bigger is a good idea!

January 5th, 2010 by T | Comments Off

Holiday 2009 Spending

The 2009 holiday season was by far the *best* I’ve ever had financial wise. When the kids and I moved in with my Mom, I set up savings accounts for various things (more on this soon) and Christmas was one of them. I saved a set amount every payday and had the money automatically transferred. I saved for seven months and paid CASH for Christmas.

spendin' money
Creative Commons License photo credit: the queen of subtle

My husband and I fully admit we go overboard at Christmas, but we justify it because we don’t buy the kids things throughout the year and on their birthdays they get one gift (usually a large’ish gift, such as a new bike). So without them getting things during the year, we have plenty of chances to give them whatever they want (within reason!) for Christmas. The 2009 Christmas was different since we live with my Mom – we don’t have nearly the space for “stuff” and the kids realize this too – of course it’s usually parents who feel the need to buy everything their kids want, really kids are happy with whatever. My daughter for one would probably be *the* happiest kid with a few reams of paper and a bunch of new markers, crayons, colored pencils, etc.

Since I had set up the auto savings, when the time came for Christmas shopping – I started late this year, not buying anything until Black Friday sales started – I just transferred the money to my checking account and bam, paying cash was super easy. I did also spend money out of three paydays, which didn’t put me in any kind of trouble – I still saved money, I still paid on the credit cards, I still did everything the same.

Every family is different in how they spend for Christmas. We buy for ourselves, each other, the kids, my Mom and Stepdad, my Dad, my brothers and their families (a family gift usually), my best friend and her kids, my husbands cousin, and then a few friends. I also handmake a lot of things. This year I made all of my nephews ornaments, as well as a handful of friends, which was very inexpensive. I buy family gifts for my brothers families as well – this year it was netflix for a few months and sleds for the kids. Netflix doesn’t offer any deals or savings, but I got a deal on the sleds. They were not too expensive to begin with ($20 for four) and I got free shipping. After the first purchase, I got a $10 gift card for spending a certain amount (I think it was spent $25 to get the gift card, and I bought two sets of four sleds). So I used the $10 gift card and a free shipping code to buy my best friends kids and also another nephew the same sleds. A very inexpensive gift for a lot of people, which breaks down to mere dollars per person.

I set up the Christmas savings to be $50 per payday (so $100 a month) and last year I only saved for seven months, so I figure by saving every month this year I won’t have to spend anything out of the November/December paychecks like I did this year. After I looked at my receipts, saving $100 is more then enough, so we will probably donate the balance.

January 4th, 2010 by T | Comments Off

Keeping Track of Grocery Spending

$1.99 BACON! - 2_web
Creative Commons License photo credit: kevindean

Food is always the one place we try to stay on budget but have a tough time staying with. When we weren’t living with my Mom, we spent at least $600, but sometimes as much as $800 I’m sure, a month on food – for a family of four. This included going out to eat and stocking up. We always have a pantry completely full of food.

Mom and I share the food bill. We don’t have a special way of doing this or anything, we just alternate who goes shopping or who grabs whatever we may need at the time. But for January, we decided to keep track of the grocery money. We started using coupons the past month or two and do see the savings, but we are still spending a lot of money on food.

We are going to keep track in a simple way – any food receipts will be kept in an envelope, probably where the mail and coupons are kept. This means every receipt of going out to lunch or grabbing a milk at the store on the way home. It is a little harder for me to do the stocking up thing as Mom doesn’t have the space we had, she does have a pantry but that doesn’t allow for Costco sized shopping.

We are also going to start menu planning, so we can have a better variety of food choices and get out of whatever rut we may be in for dinners. Oh and we did Dream Dinners a couple of times and will go back to doing that probably every other month. We find it to be cost effective, and given how busy we all are it is a good choice for us.

January 3rd, 2010 by T | Comments Off

Running Through the List

I listed a handful of changes we went through that affected our finances over the past couple of years.

  • The husband got a commission in the military (ie he is now an officer vs being enlisted).
  • We moved (four times!).
  • The kids and I moved in with my Mom as the husband is overseas.
  • We bought a new car.

So first up, the commission! There are a few ways this can be done but for my husband once he finished his college education, he applied for Officer Candidate School and was accepted. OCS is basically boot camp all over again. The kids and I couldn’t go with him during his time so we went to stay with family, which financially was a good idea because going to OCS stripped the husband from all pays except base and housing money. So we lost a lot and at that point couldn’t afford to be paying all of our bills. That was a harsh reality, but my family is kind enough that they loved us being there. After spending a couple of months with my Aunt and Uncle, we moved on to stay with my Dad. We had much less household expenses, which helped us be able to continue to pay our bills and also pay for the husband’s expenses at OCS. Buying an entire new set of officer uniforms is very expensive, we paid about $2000, and that was with a discount the store on base offered. Luckily we did get most of the uniforms paid for via a one time clothing allowance and we were able to pay off the store by the time he finished and was commissioned.

Part of our four times moving is going to stay with my family, then we went to his next duty station, and then on to my Mom’s house. The military does pay for you to move if you are moving on official orders. However, going to my family was our decision and thus we didn’t have help paying for it. We also were apart from the husband when we moved to the duty station, so we paid for that while the military paid for him to move with our stuff. They also paid for us to move to my Mom’s house, as we moved as a part of his overseas orders. Of course our things are now in storage and we pay for that because we picked the storage unit and moved it ourselves, vs having the military pack us up and put our things into storage for us. I wanted to have access to what we had, but admit the unit isn’t organized as I imagined it to be and I haven’t really done much with any of it. I had this idea that I would be able to go through things, repack into better storage boxes, get rid of things, etc.

The new car! This is the biggest change and one I’ll talk about more soon.

January 2nd, 2010 by T | Comments Off

Start 2010 Off Right

Creative Commons License photo credit: xtino

Happy New Year!

I plan on getting this new decade started off on the right foot! I’ve been doing a good job financially for the past eight months or so and figure I need to get back into documenting it so I can be held more accountable.

2008 and 2009 brought a lot of changes to my family:

The husband got a commission in the military (ie he is now an officer vs being enlisted).
We moved (four times!).
The kids and I moved in with my Mom as the husband is overseas.
We bought a new car.

Of course, all of these brought new changes to our financial status. Since we just bought the new car (as in two days ago just) I just figured out a new budget for us. Because the husband has been gone for several months now, and we live with my Mom, we have less household expenses, have been able to pay on credit cards significantly and also been able to save money.

So let’s get this year started off right! I’ll be back with a look at our budget and what I’ve been doing the past eight months. I hope your new year is starting off as great as mine is. :)

January 1st, 2010 by T | Comments Off

Understanding the Envelope System

I think I finally understand the envelope budgeting system – cash in an envelope and you use just the cash to pay for things. I thought it meant *everything* you paid for – bills, utilities, etc. – which is why I never started. But using cash for gas, groceries, entertainment. That would be easy!

We really do need a new system. Our current system is this ~

Get paid (and get rent payment from other house)
Pay car payment
Pay mortgages
Pay utilities
Pay credit cards

We always have enough left over for food and gas and put in a set amount for those. With whatever is left we do whatever! Not a good thing.

We do still have the emergency fund and need to replenish that after our car troubles. I need to do the debt snowball again and start putting our whatever is left onto the debt!

December 1st, 2007 by T | Comments Off