Friday, November 19, 2010

How Debt Smothers

This post was featured in the Carnival of Personal Finance #284: Thanksgiving Preparation Edition at Sweating the Big Stuff. Go check out all of the great articles listed there for some really great and informative reading! You might just find a new blog to follow!

I hate feeling like there is no room to breathe. Debt has so many far-reaching consequences. This is one I never anticipated.

Currently our church is one of the fastest growing churches in the country. We are currently facing a growth crisis. The crisis is no room for children.

Let me restate that. There is plenty of room for children. There is not enough room for all of the children who are currently coming. Our church has over 800 elementary aged children every weekend and we can't accommodate them all anymore. It's a good problem to have. But it is a problem all the same. So there is a capital campaign beginning to make more room for the kids and provide improved space for the adults that are getting displaced because of the growing children's program. It will also establish a center for abused families in our city as well as in a city in Guatemala that we have ties to.

We were asked to make pledges this past weekend. We knew it was coming and had been praying about what we could do. I have faith that God can and will provide for the faith pledge that he laid on our hearts, but I only wish that debt and former stupidity wasn't holding us back from giving more.

We have pledge to donate $200/month for the next 24 months to this campaign. This is above and beyond our tithe. This is in addition to any extra gifts we already had planned. This is going to cut into our credit card repayment plan. And I hate that. But this is a real opportunity to invest in the lives of kids forever and that chance just cannot be passed up. So if we have to slow down our debt repayment, we've agreed that we can do that.

Now we face that pledge in addition to the fact that we were knocked back down to one income last week. We are still pledging it because we still have faith that God will provide the money since he provided the pledge amount. I am honestly not fearful about it at all.

But I am angry. I am mad at myself and at us for how much more we SHOULD be able to give. I make a good salary. I make more than enough to provide for our daily living expenses when we are down to one income. I make enough that even down to one income we should be able to donate more than that to this campaign at church. It makes me furious that we have to scrape by now and donate less now because of stupid mistakes that we made YEARS ago.

YEARS ago, people.

I know...we are heading in the right direction now. But I just really regret the full effect that our debt is having on our lives.

No wonder so many people think debt is stupid.

No wonder they are now crying out to the masses about how stupid it is.

I hope more and more people will realize it before it has to hit them hard. But I'm afraid they won't. And then they will have to feel as stupid as I do now.

And I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

What has debt kept you from doing that really laid heavy on you?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

And I Really Don't Think I'm Missing a Thing

You want to know how incredibly cheap frugal I am?

I don't have a smart phone. In fact, I barely have what would be considered to be a phone these days. I have one of those basic My-last-phone-died-and-I-need-another-one-so-I-signed-a-contract-just-to-get-the-base-model-free-one. Yes. That one.

I could get web service if I wanted to on this phone. But I don't. In the 13 years that I have owned a cell phone of some type I have never felt the need to be on the internet at any time and place of my choosing. Seriously. If I need to be on the internet I can do that stuff at home. Sure it's great sometimes for directions or information, but that's why we have a map and 1-800-free-411.

I don't Twitter from my phone. In fact, I barely Tweet at all. (sorry all of you adoring fans out there)

I don't Facebook from my phone. I typically check into Facebook 4 or 5 days a week from my home computer to see what is going on in the lives of people I actually know and care about. I sometimes post items regarding what is going on around this blog on my non-personal account. And although I should be better about that for those of you who do care, I just don't feel the need.

I honestly am okay with the fact that not everyone I've never met knows what I'm doing at all times in the day. I don't think I'm that interesting.

We have our mobile service with Verizon. It was once with Alltel, and we had the 10-circle of friends we could call for free (not using minutes). After the merger with Verizon, we still have that circle of 10 friends that we can change on a regular basis to suit our calling needs. And we can call anyone who has Verizon service without using minutes. And all of the people listed above we can text without any charges.

You know who else we text? Nobody. Seriously. If we see we're going to need to text other people, we add them to our 10 friend list. Free. Simple. Done.

So while all of the crazy people out there who feel they need the latest and greatest app for their smart phone, you go ahead and download that baby for a couple of dollars. Then you pay that premium associated with using your 3G/4G network at all times/locations. And you go ahead and sacrifice real face time with friends and loved ones.

I will keep paying for our pitifully simple service and enjoy time with those same people in person. Or via a phone call where we can have a real conversation rather than one in less than 140 characters at a time. And I'll use all that money I'm not spending on mobile service elsewhere.

And I won't miss a thing.

What about you? Can you not live without your social media on you at all times? Talk to me.

Photo credit: judy_breck

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Our Financial Status - Update #13 - October 2010

So, another month has gone by and here I am to confess our successes and our shortfalls. I apologize for those of you who have to endure this post, but I need to do it to keep myself accountable. Please just click on over and enter a giveaway (or 5) if you are not interested. However, I welcome any comments you do have!

INCOME:
We came in at $502 over budget. This is still flexible because until Chip is assigned to a particular restaurant as "his own" he will be getting paid at an hourly rate. This is cool during the weeks he works a lot, but it makes planning a pain. So I won't be updating our budget for income until he is set up in his new store.

UNDER BUDGET:
Groceries: $25 under budget. Some of these should have been used instead of eating out, but at least we didn't eat out too much AND go over in groceries!
Home Services: $5 under budget. This was expected, as we have $15 that comes out every 3 months in this category for e-mealz. After three months, this will clear itself up in our rolling budget.
Baby Supplies: $174 under budget. This is a rolling budget that keeps rolling as I find great deals for diapers and such. But I'm leaving it alone because we will one day have to buy another car seat as Abigail outgrows her infant seat in Chip's car and this would be a great place to get that money from!
Hair care: $24 under budget. Chip got a haircut, but we had room due to this one rolling from month to month.
Clothing: $28 under budget but only because it is a rolling budget. I actually spent over $56, but since we haven't spent our budget in the previous months, we had the room for it this month!

ON BUDGET:
Mortgage/Timeshare/HOA: Nailed it.
Television: This actually shows up as $20 over budget because I somehow made an extra payment in the month. So I just won't pay for it in November and it will work itself out. So I'm not really counting it as an overage.
Auto Insurance: No surprises here.
Term Life Insurance: Just as expected.
Mobile Phone: We were on budget for the month, but rolled a $4 overage.
Alarm Monitoring: Bingo.
Pest Control: Once again, nothing unusual here.
Childcare: It was slightly more expensive this month because we needed childcare when Patrick's Pre-K was on "fall break" so we had to pay a bit more for all day childcare for him. But we expected it and put it in the budget for the month. November will have one day like that where we need care on Veteran's Day too, which we have planned for.

OVER BUDGET:
Gas/Fuel: $54 over budget. Although we're still over budget here, it's much better than it was.
Auto Service/Parts: $840 over budget. Yeah. Ouch. Chip had some work done on his car that cost well over what we expected. The bad news is we didn't get to send as much to debt repayment as I would have liked. The good news is, we paid in cash. =) That seriously would not have happened in the past! Although this was a rolling budget, I'm resetting it to "$0" because there is no way we'll ever catch up with that one!
Power Bill/Water Bill: $36 over for the month. We have a huge rolling balance on this one due to a horrible expensive power bill in August. But I'm going to leave it rolling to see if it works itself out through the seasons (and therefore if it needs adjusting for a yearly average). During the month itself, though we did pretty good. Next month will be even better and we will catch up a bit.
Eating Out: $229 over budget. I hate this category. Every month I hope to do better and every month we don't. However, I had discussed not eating out at all with Chip and then saw this challenge from Enemy of Debt. I'm taking it. I can't make Chip take it, but I will and see how I can do for the month!
Doctor: $50 over budget. We spent $75 this month in co-pays (two well child visits and one sick visit for Chip), but we will be reimbursed that full amount by my employer. They reimburse up to 2 co-pays per insured family member each year. So when I get the checks for those this month, we'll be ahead of the game!
Pharmacy: $79 over budget. Sick Chip = steroids + pain killers + Zpack = $$$.
Home Supplies: $55 over budget. A water filter for our fridge.
Make-up/Toiletries: $13 over budget, but I scored some great stuff (at a great discount) for Christmas presents!
Halloween: $15 over budget. I didn't specifically budget for this (although I should have), but we only spent $15 for both kids to be totally ready for the big event. I think we did okay.
Gas Station Snacks: $4 over because we have nothing budgeted here.
Books: $28 spent at the bookfair. I bought each of the kids one book and one book for each of their classrooms. I will never complain about having to pay for books (except college textbooks).

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

  • We only sent $333 more than minimum payments to credit cards. Much less than I wanted. However, with the unexpected cost of the car repairs AND the fact that I will be paying big money for pictures from a professional photo shoot of our kids this month, I didn't sent off as much as I wanted. November should be better and December will hopefully blow the previous two months out of the water!
  • We spent $36 toward various fundraisers. Gotta' give back, you know.
  • We spent $26 on Christmas Gifts. Great deals!!
  • We spent $23 in October for Patrick's b'day party. Add that to the $61 we spent in September and we did his entire party (including gifts) for less than $100! HOORAY!
  • Emergency fund is good to go at $1500 still.
  • We spent $60 at the county fair. Great memories, funnel cakes, and cheap prizes for all!
Change in Networth from October 14, 2009: + $32,290.99
Debt Paid off Since October 14, 2009: $19,170.86

And that is October in a financial nutshell at our house.

How did you do this month?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

WFMW - Recandying

This is a repost from last year, but I definitely feel it's worth putting out here again for anyone who missed it!


Yes. I just made up a word. Don't look at me like that.

I've made an executive decision about the candy content in our house.

Patrick got LOADS of candy for Halloween this year (although this picture is not one we took). Too much for any one child really. When I took in all of the candy the wheels in my head started turning, and I had a brilliant idea.

Some of that candy will go in his Christmas stocking.

Is that cheating? Maybe, but I will explain the method to my madness.

He got far more candy than we want him to eat. And since we limit his candy intake it will probably take him up until December 24th to finish off his Halloween stash. Then he would more appear? I don't think so.

So I took some of his non-Halloween specific candy out of his trick-or-treating bag and put it in a bag with other items waiting for Christmas. He hasn't missed it a bit (except for one blue pixie stick that he had noticed had disappeared. It surprisingly was found IN THE HALLOWEEN BAG the following day). If your child is more attentive to his/her candy stash, you might want to slowly take a little out over a few days. It would be less obvious that way.

So instead of regifting, we are recandying this year. Cuts down on the amount of candy he gets across all of the holidays and saves me money at Christmas! Win-win I think!

So that is what is going to work for us this holiday season. Make sure you visit What Works for Me Wednesday over at We Are THAT Family to see what works for everyone else - this week is a fall recipe edition although I didn't offer one.

Photo credit: Amarand Agasi
 

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