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2011 Progress Check…. Survey says??????

Way back in January i listed some short term and long term goals. The short terms goals were basically a to-do list I was whining about, and got all of those done in short order. My annual goals were a bit lofitier and required a bit more work/patience/determination.

So, without further ado, below is my original list of goals and their results…

1.Pay off dump truck.  [There is a balance of $1100. It will be PAID OFF in January!]

2.Pay off 3 credit cards. [Actually PAID OFF 5! Yesireeee, $3175 – GONE. Plus, paid down another $2100 on the remaining cards.]

3.Establish an E-fund. [Started out great, ended up needing to use some. Currently have $2,000 stashed. Not bad, but not the $5,000 i was aiming for.]

4.Establish savings for: Christmas, Health, Rainy Day. And set it up to contribute automatically. I use ING Direct so this is the easiest thing in the world. Just need to do it. And not “borrow” from it. [Set-up account for Christmas. Saved $1000 and used some of it for my shopping. Still have about $300 in there for next year. 🙂  Did not set up Health because we may do Flexible Spending at work. FAILED at setting up Rainy Day fund. Unless the cookie jar counts? There’s a few Benjamin’s in there…]

5.Lose some weight. Specific numbers and/or plans seem to have the opposite effect. So, let’s just keep it vague and any victory will be a win! [WOOOO-HOOOOO!!! Lost 23 lbs this year! Down a pants size and feeling good about the progress. Doc would like to see me lose another 20-30 before we go to fertility specialist. Got an ipod for Christmas, so loading up playlists for workouts.]

6. a) commit to making healthier meals [Sorta. Kinda. Not eating as many carbs. Definately eating at home a lot more. I give it a 50%]

7. b) get a complete physical [Done. everything good except triglycerides a touch high.]

8. c) work out at least 1 day a week at the fire hall [I work out at home. As often as i can. Some weeks it’s every day, some weeks 0 days. Hey, i’m busy. I do it when i can. Let’s call it 50%]

9.Paint the downstairs and decorate. We’ve been there 10 years. It’s about time. [FAIL. I got as far as painting some sample colors on the wall. Hubby freaked the ‘f’ out. Back to square one. Found some inspirational idea pics. Just need to find the right shade of paint and hire a painter.]

10.Might as well make it an even 10. Get back into taking lots of pictures and scrapbooking. Now that i have a cricut, i have nothing to do with it! [Took lots of pictures, but haven’t been able to scrapbook much. It really has been a very busy year for me.]

All in all, i’m pleased with the progress i’ve made on my list of goals. It’s not like i was a total loser. I tried. And succeeded, mostly.

Since New Year’s is only a day away, it’s only fitting to write up a list of GOALS for 2012.

  1. Lose 20-30 more lbs.
  2. Get pregnant
  3. Establish a Rainy Day fund to cover Goal #2 expenses
  4. Paint & Decorate house
  5. Pay off my car

That’s it. That’s all i really care to accomplish in 2012. All i really want is to have a family with the love of my life. All other goals are simply pre-requisites to the ultimate goal: children.

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Being broke is expensive /flip/ the more money you have, the more money you have…

As I was making my daily trip to the bank the other day, an idea hit me. Struck me, really. Pretty much a hand slap to the forehead.

Lately, i’ve been making daily trips to the bank to deposit whatever money that has come in to stay ahead of expenditures. Overdraft fees are $36 – a huge expensive ding – and must be avoided at all costs. Since March, we’ve been able to stay just ahead of the game. Last year we made an incredible discovery on just how expensive it is to be broke. Late fees, higher interest, overdraft fees – all added up to thousands and thousands of dollars lost. So, we worked really hard to get all of our accounts current, thus avoiding late fees and keeping the bank accounts in the green to avoid overdraft fees. Lately it’s nearly a photo finish on a daily basis, but that’s only temporary. I totally realize how expensive it is to be broke and i don’t wanna do it.

I was also thinking about our sharebuilder account. Some of the stocks i purchased had paid dividends and just like that our wealth increased. And THAT is when it struck me. Really knocked me on my a$$. In the same way that being broke is so dauntingly and crushingly expensive without much effort, having money creates more money without much effort. The broker you are, the more expensive it gets. The more money you have, the more money it makes. And the more money you have from making money, the more money you make. The rich get richer – from compounding!

It’s really such an elementary lesson, but it never really struck me how much of an IMPACT money has on your financial existence. It’s not enough to simply pay the bills each month. You also need to be smart and get your money to WORK for you. Before investing in stocks, the only money my money made was from interest. And that wasn’t worth SQUAT. One can barely buy a cheeseburger with earnings from interest in a savings account. But when you invest in 15 shares of a company, and 3 months later, through the magic of dividends, you now own 15.25 shares. And another 3 months later you own 15.54 shares – well that’s just freakin’ spectacular. My money is actually making money, which will make even more money…

good lord, i am such a slow learner…

The next step is to keep finding funds to purchase investments with. And how often should i purchase? Obviously it is better to save up as much money as possible and purchase only 1 kind of stock so that the $9.95 transaction fee is minimal per share if/when it comes time to sell.

The in-between is such a surreal place to be. Still paying off debt and trying to stay afloat, yet stashing money in savings, and now investing.

CAN’T WAIT to have all credit card and installment debt PAID OFF!!! Life will be footloose and fancy free!!

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Still going…..

I wish i could tell you that we are debt free and pursuing our next goals. But…… we’re not. If we had been able to stick with the debt management program, our last payment would be in a few weeks. Unfortunately, we had to drop out of the program last winter because we just couldn’t come up with the moo-lah anymore. We have been making the payments still, but much smaller.

The good news is this: we are current on all of our regular bills. The exception is a handful of medical bills. They have all been sent to collections companies eons ago, so the damage is done. The plan is to build up a comfortable emergency net in savings and then tackle them one at a time.

I’ve recently decided to alter my strategy. I had been aggressively paying down our credit card debt using the snowball method. In 2 weeks, another card will be paid off and we will only have 3 cards left. (We started with 14!) The minimum payments total $320 for all 3 cards. Instead of snowballing the next card in line, I’ve decided to take the “extra” cash and put it in my ING Direct savings account. I know, I know. I’m not giving up. I’ve decided that it would be better to build up our emergency coffers for the remainder of the year.

Being a type A personality, i fret over the unknown. Even though we have some savings, a larger cushion would help me sleep better at night. We only have 1 month’s worth of expenses in savings. If we need to dip into savings between lawn and snow seasons, it’s all gone. Not cool. And since it will be quite a while until the next card will get paid off, i’ve decided to take a break for a while. We’ve paid of 5 cards this summer. That freed up over $250 in monthly payments to snowball with. The remaining balances on the 3 cards are large enough that adding $250 to the payment won’t reduce the minimum payment significantly. I’d rather have $750 in savings than a $25 lower minimum payment. I’m sure the personal finance gurus are foaming at the mouth, but right now it feels like the right decision.

ugh………

Getting out of debt sucks.

It definitely does not happen overnight. So easy to lose momentum…

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Are we there yet?

This update is long overdue, but here goes…

Jan 2011 – July 2011

  • CC1:   14,350        13,250   
  • CC2:   6,325             5,800
  • CC3:   1,025                 950
  • CC4:   4,910             4,650
  • CC5:   390                          0
  • CC6:   485                          0
  • CC7:   515                          0
  • CC8:   520                       90
  • CC9:   5,225              5,225
  • CC10:   4,150           3,650
  • Total CC’s:   37,895          33,615
  • Family: 10,000                  7,000

So, drumroll please……….. we’ve paid off $7,280 since the beginning of the year! Get out of the way, HUGE snowball rolling downhill! LOVE seeing those ZERO balances!

Thanks to landing some nice contracts and a snowier than usual winter, we have been able to knock down a large chunk of debt. We are also CURRENT on all of our monthly bills, including the mortgage. A small emergency fund is in place for both personal bills and business bills. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…… What a wonderful feeling.

The physical aspects of unloading such a burden are positive as well. I’ve been able to shed 15 lbs since March. My periods (I know, TMI) are pretty regular now. I LAUGH again. I have friends again. I have a good time whenever we go out with friends/family.

Work has improved for me as well. I’m back up to 40 hrs/week plus a $1.25/hr raise. That really helps get caught up. I’ve been throwing extra money each month at the vehicle payments trying to pay them off sooner.

Did I mention we took a VACATION in march? It was hubby’s idea. Surprise of all surprises. Of course, i wanted to pay off as much debt as possible, and maybe stash some aside for the inevitable unexpected expenses. Hubby convinced me that we NEEDED a vacation. It had been more than 5 yrs since we spent any money on ourselves, and we needed to enjoy the fruits of our labor and not be miserly. It took several days to sink in, but he was right. As long as we didn’t accrue any additional debt, and were still able to keep on pace with paying down our debts we needed to spend our money in a positive way and see money as a good thing, and not as evil incarnate. Besides, our 10th anniversary was coming up and he thought we should do something more special than spend a weekend a few hours from home in a so-so hotel in some lame town, arguing about what to do.

So we went on a cruise. Neither one of us had ever been on one before. He found a great deal through his parent’s travel agent. We spent 5 days in the caribbean. It was awesome. We had a BLAST. In fact, we had so much fun, that we decided to work extra hard and save money and do it again next spring. Who would have ever thought? That $1500 splurge allowed us to really RELAX and re-align our senses. It was good for our marriage. Honestly, i didn’t know what to expect. I worried that it could go the other way. It was a good deal, but still a lot of money in what -i felt- was still a fragile personal economy and we hadn’t spent that much time alone together since we’d been married. It paid off ten-fold. He’s still telling everyone what a great time he had and recommending them to go.

So, are we there yet? Have we made enough progress to call it a victory? I mean, everybody has bills, right? Just 6 months ago, my only financial goal was to be able to pay the bills on time every month. We’ve accomplished that. And it feels great. But, it only seems natural to set the bar a little higher.

Discretionary income. It’s one thing to be able to pay your bills, it’s another to MAKE CHOICES on how you spend the money left over when the bills are paid. That concept terrifies me. What if something happens and I need that money later? Was a trip to the movies this weekend really worth it if the electric is in danger of getting shut off again in 6 months? What if an appliance suddenly dies and my small e-fund is wiped out? And then another appliance dies, or the car needs to be repaired? I never thought about these things before because i just couldn’t. I was strictly in survival mode. Food, shelter, clothing. Now that those needs have been met, there’s a whole new set of things to worry about.

So, are we there yet? Or when are we really “there”?

 

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big baby steps

Next week we will be receiving a rather large payment from a customer. Every fiber of my being wants to take every last penny and apply it to our regular monthly payments and other debt. It would feel SOOOO GOOD to knock out a good portion of debt and have that weight lifted.

But…. that would not be the responsible thing to do. Money Management 101 says that you should always pay yourself first. So even though i WANT to pay down a chunk of debt, i know that i NEED to set some of that money aside for an emergency. That would be the responsible adult thing to do.

So, before i even have that money in my hand, i went online today and scheduled an automatic transfer to my ING savings account for the day after i will deposit the large payment. I also set up very small automatic transfers on a weekly basis to my personal ING savings account. Now that i am pretty much caught up on monthly bills, I really need to focus on setting aside $$$ for the leaner times. $15/week goes to my E-fund account, and $10/week goes to Christmas account. This is not very much money, but it’s a start. I don’t want to take out too much and have to transfer it back. As Hubby’s receivables start coming in and our bills are stabile, I can increase the amount or start another sub account, like vacation or vehicle expenses.

In other news, Hubby and I had the baby talk again the other night. I told him that we both need to lose weight and save up some money, because it’s probably going to cost us a lot of money to try to get pregnant. Surprisingly, while I was at class the next evening, he hit the weight room with a couple buds. Sounds like this might finally be the year we start our family!!

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Increasing Wealth

As the journey continues to be financially smarter, I decided it was time to evaluate some numbers. The key to righting the ship is to increase income and reduce expenses, correct? We’ve had a few adjustments along the way and I thought it was high time to take a look and see how much of an impact it makes on a montly basis. So here goes:

Increase in income (just me):

  • Ass Coordinator – $45
  • MFR Runs – about $150

Decrease in expenses:

  • Health insurance co-pay – $148
  • Property Tax Escrow – $178
  • Cell Phones/Internet – $60
  • Cable – $20

Total monthly Impact: (drumroll please……………)   $601

WHOA

That’s a lotta dough 🙂

*This doesn’t include the decrease in NSF and overdraft fees. On December’s bank statement I noticed that our bank added a section to include fees for the month and total fees for the year. Let’s just say i was astonished to see that we  lost an average of $500/month on the aforementioned fees. That is a lot of dough. Gone. For nothing. It’s expensive to be broke. We have not had a single fee since that discovery.

That explains why I’ve been able to slowly get caught up on our monthly payments. The increase in income from hubby certainly helps too.  But that money hasn’t really started to come in yet. It feels GREAT to be able to actually pay bills again!

Now if we can just finish up that loan mod…

We are well on our journey to finally, FINALLY achieve prosperity!

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ER Rounds – Round 2

This weekend was my 2nd rotation of ER clinicals. MUCH better experience! The hospital was considerably larger than the first one and the staff was awesome. I was paired up with an RN and she was great. She is also a paramedic and explained to me how I can help the paramedic in the field with certain procedures. Another nurse was also very kind and asked me to help her with a few things as well. It was a great learning experience to see how patients are “unpackaged” at the hospital. It’s basically the same thing, only in reverse. And only after scans and X-rays, which I got to watch.

The doctors and PA’s were also very nice. Everyone introduced themselves and asked about my history, interests, etc. Many asked if I would go on to be a Paramedic or go into nursing. To be honest, walking around the hospital and seeing all the different jobs there are, the thought did cross my mind. Even if i didn’t go into nursing, there are a ton of other interesting jobs to have in a hospital, or clinic.

At this point in my life, I don’t think I want to go back to school. I have other goals and dreams that I would like to achieve. I want to pay off our debt. I want to have babies. Therefore, i need to structure my life to achieve those dreams. We are well on our way to pay off debt. Even though my job is neither glamorous nor high paying, it is 1.3 miles from home. This allows me to save gas money, lunch money, fancy clothes money. And is pretty stress free. Hubby’s business is really ramping up with some large accounts. So although i’m not “in love” with my job, it’s a steady paycheck, access to insurance, and close to home. It can allow me to focus on losing weight and gaining fertility.

In financial news, tomorrow we are expecting to receive a payment from our largest customer. This payment will allow us to get caught up on quite a few items. I’ve been faithfully honoring the new basket system and it is working out great so far. After this week, our cash flow should stabilize so i can start entering bills in our bank’s online bill pay feature to pay out on the due date. Once and done. Beautiful idea. But gotta have the funds there when the payment comes out, that’s why we couldn’t do it before.

Looking forward to the future. 🙂