Kids can really suprise you sometimes

November 10, 2007

My daughter is in honor strings this year, one of 30 picked from the entire 6th grade class in the district.  This post isn’t really about that but gives a bit of background.  She goes to a special practice session every Monday from 4:30pm to 5:30pm, while my wife figures out what to do with the other three since I work until 8pm that day.

 This past Monday my wife decided to hang around at the school, doing exactly what I’m not sure.  Catching the kids off guard she decided to get sodas from the convenience store, this really surprised the kids since we’ve done this I think none after beginning our debt reduction.  My wife does home interiors as a side job, not as much with her teaching preschool this year, and happened to have a few extra dollars in her purse. This was used to get the sodas, not affecting our budget at all, but again not what the story is about.

My 10 yr old son offers a quarter (that he found on the playground at school) to his mother to help pay for the sodas.  He could have kept this money for himself, saving to buy something that he wants but instead doesn’t think anything about giving it away to her.  Upon hearing this our 7 yr old and 5 yr old ask mom to go home so that they can get some of their own money to give to help pay for the sodas.

When they do things like that it just makes me want to pay off debt even faster and keeps me motivated.  We have such awesome kids!


Keep or Cancel Credit Cards?

November 9, 2007

When your debt free will you keep or cancel your credit cards?

I was having this discussion with people the other day.  A point to keep them open was to keep your credit score up and to not even cancel them while getting out of debt.  That is a valid argument…..I guess.

Cancelling each card as I’m getting out of debt is what I’m doing and applying for new cards for one reason or another is something else that I’ve been doing.  Moving balances around or applying to get something from them.  I don’t really care right now as I’m getting out of debt if my credit score gets dinged since incurring more debt isn’t an option.

The discussion ensued of whether to keep credit cards open while paying the balance off each month or not having any at all.  For me I plan to cancel all credit cards and not use them again, but I’ll admit my wife asked me the other day about using one to get 15% off plus another coupon and then paying the amount in the store immediately after.  I’m still mixed on how I feel about that.  My response was with buying a car, even though I can pay cash for a vehicle maybe only paying for half and financing the other for like a year or something and then paying it off in 6 months.  I’ll have to check into that more but doing small loans like that should be enough to keep my credit score up and even though I’ll pay a small amount in interest in the long run it could benefit me.

What’s your thought?

Making mistakes and learning

November 8, 2007

Sometimes to learn you have to make mistakes.  This is a reflection post.

We’ve been doing very well on our spending plan for the first two months, not perfect but much better than I thought we would.  The only problem was getting receipts from my wife to enter into the spreadsheet; this was both of our faults.  Here it is the middle of August and I’m getting very frustrated with this and our combined lack of planning our meals, very well…if at all.

I’m frustrated about that one night and something else has made me pissed off so I just say we’re going to McDonalds.  Of course the kids are VERY excited about this, we had probably eaten there only once in two months after it being almost a weekly occurrence.  Off we went, wife protested a little bit but nothing horrible because I think she was fine with not dealing with dinner.  To make matters worse I don’t remember that we used cash; instead put it on our debit card.  That isn’t so bad just making one mistake.  Or is it?

Communication could have and should have fixed the problem of being upset with each other, but it didn’t.  We didn’t talk about what was going on and it turned into a problem over the next few days.  We ended up eating out probably 3 out of 4 nights during the week, racking up around $190 worth of dining out.  The end of the week came around and I finally entered the amounts into the budget to find this total, WOW!  I didn’t bring this amount up to the wife; she instead started talking to me about getting back on our plan and not eating out.

We paid a stupid tax (as Dave Ramsey says) to the tune of $190 just because we let our communication go away.  This was used as not only a learning tool for us but for our kids, talking to them about how eating out a few days would be enough to feed us for a couple weeks.  That was an eye opener to them, and us.  In the almost 3 months since that week we’ve probably eaten out a combined three times.  As a result we’ve been paying our debt off much faster and are communicating very well.

We stumbled but in the end we learned from it.  Mistakes will happen for everyone, trying to minimize them is what we’re striving for.

Examing the cable bill

November 7, 2007

We’ve been trying to examine some of our expenses.  I started looking at the cable bill several months ago but didn’t really get to into it because I could tell at the time our price plan was the best for us.

Since then it’s become very obvious that our VOIP wasn’t going to be reliable. The problem was the quality of the call mainly but it just got worse until enough was enough.  This helped me become refocused on looking around to see what kind of “deals” I could get.  I believe you need to examine several options before deciding on the one that works best for you.  For us of course cost was going to be taken into account but looking long term was very important.  Since we’ve got four kids then we needed a phone at home but the internet and cable didn’t really matter.  Some will argue that getting rid of the tv would be the best thing, I really can’t argue that, but for now we’ll probably be keeping some form of it.

ATT – The most basic cheap plan was $20, but $10 in taxes kind of killed this deal. It didn’t include any long distance.
  – Next package including some long distance was $30, but also had $10 in taxes.
Comcast – On our current program it was $33 and I didn’t check into what it would be just for it since I knew what our total bundle cost is.
T-Mobile HotSpot – This is $20, but we also had a $10 month additional charge for a third number. In the end we went with this plan because it gave us flexibility to use the phone at home and also take as a cell phone. It shares our family plan minutes but when connected to the wifi in our home (any wife it can connect to) then it had unlimited minutes that didn’t go against our family plan. After a few months I’ll write a review of how it’s working for us.
T-Mobile cell – We could do this option for only $10 a month, adding it to our current plan. It would share our current plan minutes but wouldn’t give us a phone that could function separate from our minutes to be used more a “normal” land line. Initially this was what we were going to get.

There really isn’t an option for us here because we can’t get DSL and only have one cable provider. We actually talked about going back to dial up for about 10 seconds (ok ok 5) but in the end couldn’t get rid of high speed internet for it. I did find out they had a partial high speed internet plan, which was originally quoted to me as $24.95. I soon found out after the next months billing it is $43 without any other service.

We cancelled this with other plans in place. They disconnected our internet and phone instead leaving our cable on, so I called and got my internet but for the time being the cable is still turned on. When I found out about the internet pricing being wrong the best deal they have is partial internet and basic cable for $43. Wow that just happens to be what my current bill is with them so for now this is being left alone.

Decision – Our original bill for all of this was $108 (with taxes); new bills will be roughly $70 for a savings of $35-$40 or $400 a year. The $10 for the additional line wasn’t included; we decided this was something we were going to get regardless. We did have to pay $50 for the hotspot phone but in the long run would save more than spent in the initial cost.  I’ll update this when I get the cable bill to where it should be each month without credits and such.

We continue to examine expenses to look for ways to cut down or make a better long term decision.

I’m on Festival of Frugality

November 6, 2007

I’m not sure if they take just anyone for these, it doesn’t matter to me since I made it.

Paid Twice is having a festival of frugality and my grocery store tips is on there under shopping.

While not being very good at writing, yet, I’m excited to participate in the festival.

Necessary evil in setting goals

November 6, 2007

How do you set goals?  Do you break them down into short term, long term, etc?  Perhaps you list your goals and get to them as you can. I think goal setting is different for everyone.

When we first started this journey the only really goal I had at the time was getting our financial numbers in order.  Once this was done it became important for goal setting to happen.  I tried to set goals that were realistic and attainable, didn’t want to set anything that was being overly dramatic or unattainable.  Life can happen very suddenly in our household of six; as a result I went conservative instead of being very ambitious.

Short term – This is pretty easy since we’ve never done a budget.  Understanding that being perfect isn’t the goal here, instead working together making one and getting all items entered is our main objective.  We’ll being doing this on a day by day plan at first, as that works out dealing with it on a week by week basis until we finally only look at the spending plan on a month by month basis.

Medium term – It took some time to figure out a time frame for this goal, in the end I decided on 4-6 months.  There are a few items in this goal but they either spin off each other or are somewhat small in the big picture.
– Review the spending plans after this amount of time, seeing how we’ve improved and can continue to improve.
– It will be around the end of the year at this time and will be a good time to look towards 2008 expenses. We’ll plan how to accomplish the Christmas fund, personal property tax, birthdays and so much more.
– Learn what has worked and hasn’t worked on our cash envelope and receipt systems.

Long term – I viewed this goal as being out of debt, except the mortgage.  I’ve set this goal for July 2009.

We’ve got other goals as well but these are the main goals that we’ve set, back in June.  I don’t have these set in stone as things can change very quickly but being patient and setting these are part of changing our behavior.  We’ll work hard to accomplish these but starting small first and then getting into bigger goals is what I’m striving for.

October recap

November 5, 2007

On November 1st I wrote When it Goes Right you feel great! That post was written after I went through our October spending plan to find out how awesome we did overall.  Thinking about it over the past few days I really need to look at parts of the budget to find ways we can improve and possibly save money.

Examing our income, utilities and groceries all were about in the area we planned for with no big surprises.  We did end up holding out until the first of November to go on a grocery trip since we had little food and the budget was used up.

– Wife stayed below her allowance in gas money.
– Clothing allowance wasn’t used up this month, meaning we’ll carry it over into next month.
– We had an unexpected problem with the van battery causing us to purchase a new one. The gas budget coming in under expectations helped make this not such an issue, but the biggest reason it didn’t hurt us is because we knew where money was going and could pull cash from other areas to take care of this.

– Eating out wasn’t something we planned for this month but ended up having pizza. We took some blow money to help ease this though.

I feel really good that looking over each individual item the only negative I can find is eating out once in the month.  Another expense we didn’t plan for was a violin equipment piece, however this was found out very early in the month and adjusted to prior to any spending happened.

Result – We see some areas that we can improve, though they weren’t negatives this month.  I’m very proud of where we are since we started this only 5 short months ago.