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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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Feeling victorious

No, we haven’t won the lottery. No, we didn’t just land our dream job. Nope, just feeling good in my skin for once.

Last night I did medical stand-by at the local high school for the football game. Afterwards, we parked the rig back at the fire hall and saw that my hubby was there waiting to pester the new EMT students who were in session. I was standing in front of the bulletin board putzing around and had my back to him. Suddenly, he blurts out “Jesis! Why don’t you get some pants that fit! Looks like you’re walking around with a saggy diaper on!”

Normally, one would be quite offended at such a rude comment. I? Smiled. Cuz I knew my pants looked like that from a combination of the 15 lbs lost and toning up from running.

So today I went online and ordered a smaller pair of EMS pants. Can’t wait to try them on!

I’m not a “biggest loser” and I’m not running a marathon. But when others begin to notice your transformation it really starts to feel real. And that inspires me to keep it up.

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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. 🙂

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Verrrrrry Productive Weekend

Last week I did some investigating on ideas to organize mail and clutter. Also ran across some articles debating “cleaning” vs. “organinzing”. This really got me thinking. All these years I thought i was organized. Turns out that was only half true. I didn’t truly have a system in place to deal with incoming mail, receipts, unpaid bills, etc. It all went into a pile on the counter and once or twice a week went with the laundry upstairs where it joined another existing pile. Then once in a while it would get sorted through and paid/entered/filed.

So, ladies and gentleman, let me tell you about my new system! I was pumped after i received my new basket in the mail on Friday afternoon. I immediately put in my folders labeled: Bills due by the 15th; Bills due by the 30th; Bills due (for those bills i’m not sure when they can get paid); Reciepts; To File; To Enter/To Do. It looked great! But only took up a small portion of the basket.

I decided it would look best and be the most functional on the catch-all counter. *Admit it, you have one in your house too!* Our catch all counter is about 4 feet long and this is where we (previously) piled mail & papers, charged the phone, stored the cookbooks, charger for my MFR radio, charger for the cordless landline phone, kleenex box, etc. Quite the smorgasbord of stuff.

Then, on the main counter under the phone with the answering machine is where i kept the message pad. On the wall under the phone was a wood mailslot box type thing. In that i kept deposit slips, stamps, pens, letter opener, customer phone list. 

Then i had a brain fart. I can put all that stuff in my new basket! So now everything is in ONE place. When it’s time to pay bills or create invoices or work on anything financially, i can just grab the basket and head to the computer. Now I can pay bills every other week without worrying about being late. I send invoices to our customers every other week in the winter, so that information can just accumulate until I’m ready to work. It’s perfect!!! 🙂

So far, it seems to be working perfectly. I bring in the mail, toss the garbage, and sort into the proper folder. No more piles. And i know where to find it when i’m ready to deal with it. My counters are less cluttered alogether and I took down the ridiculous mailslot thingy. Cookbooks that didn’t fit on the shelves went into the cupboard. A nice plant is hiding cords to chargers. I also installed the under-the-counter radio/TV i got for Christmas. Except for a fresh paint job, my kitchen is nearly perfect!

Sunday I spent the day in the ER on my clinical rotation. It was….. not what i expected. I was really looking forward to it. It wasn’t horrible, but it’s definatly not in my career path anymore. The nurses and doctor were very unfriendly. The triage staff were grumpy. I was made to feel like i was in everybody’s way and unwelcome.

I guess I was expecting a tour of how the system works from admitting the patient, to triage, to the actual care of the patient based on their chief complaint and assessment findings. Since I’m an EMT student, I anticipated them explaining how the hospital works and what I can do in the field to make their job easier or better for the patient.

Nothing. Nada. Zip.

I got there about 7:30 am and there was only one patient, so it’s not as though they were busy. All the nurses huddled together and complained about how overworked they were. The doctor – I have no idea where she was half the day. The triage crew were the best. Grumpy, but asking me to help them and explaining what I could do to help. Any time I tried to ask questions, I was either ignored or was given an answer – with attitude. There was one lady there who sat at a desk the whole time. Her scrubs were a different color, so i asked her what her job was. She said “everything” (with flair), and turned to the nurses to bitch about discuss the schedule for the day. I still have no idea what her title is or what her job is.

An ER tech arrived at about 3:00 and he was very nice. He explained to me what his job is, what is required to get the job, and the salary range (which is not very much). The nurses treated him like crap too. But, he was very upbeat and genuinely enjoyed his job. My rotation was over at promptly 4:00 when the next student arrived. Apparently 2 students at once is especially frowned upon.

ugh. Next clinical i will try at another hospital. Maybe it was just a bad experience.

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Punch 2011 in the face!

Sooooo…….. Remember those goals i posted before the end of the year? Remember how i said i had 4 (paid!) days off from work for a total of 8 days at home (including the weekends)?

ya……. not so productive.

Here’s the original list, and what actually got accomplished in brackets:

  1. File away this pitiful year  [got a good head start… just didn’t make it into a box yet]
  2. Re-organize my home office and filing system [nope]
  3. Re-organize how i handle unpaid bills. Any ideas? For now, mail is opened, looked at, thrown in a pile and shipped upstairs to form a new pile on the desk where it sits until i either a) pay and file it or b) get a late notice, dig it out, pay and file it. I’m thinking it’s not such a good system [nope… and i need ideas!]
  4. Button up my 2011 Budget [yes! lookin gooooood!]
  5. Get way ahead on EMT homework [finished what had to be done at midnight before class the next day… not so good]
  6. Get MFR stuff organized (payroll, PCR’s, Schedule) [not so much. did get some performance charts/attendance charts posted though]
  7. Work on MFR training for 2011 [nope]
  8. Work on Truck Book for Ambulance [ha. nope]
  9. Make and freeze lots of lunches/dinners [made some (burnt) hamburger helper while rushing to finish EMT homework. i’m not counting it]
  10. Clean house top to bottom [ha! i got the Christmas tree down and that’s it]

So, am i a complete and utter failure?

Truth be told, my time off was not consumed by sipping tea on the couch watching movies. I spent a lot of time out and about with my hubby. That was really fun and really rare. He is a very busy guy and it was nice to spend time with him not really doing anything. I/we also spent a good amount of time with our families – at their homes. Can’t complain about that. Good quality time with the fam is priceless. I’ll clear my schedule any day for them.

So, that said, i’ve decided to make my list a goal for the month of January. Perhaps that’s a little more reasonable. I am pretty stoked about wanting to get organized. Seriously need some ideas though. At work i am the most organized, cleanest person you’d ever met. At home – not so much. Perhaps i’m just lacking the proper tools. Some file cabinets, folders, paper trays should/might/hopefully help the problem.

I am geared up and ready to kick some ass this year. *ahem* My goals for 2011:

  1. Pay off dump truck. (Okay so it’s already scheduled to be paid off. I need a win here so go with it, k?)
  2. Pay off 3 credit cards. (Since 3 of them have a balance of approx $500 this is toooootally do-able)
  3. Establish an E-fund. (Yup – had em, used em, had em, used em. Goal is to put the money in and KEEP it there0
  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.
  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!
  6.              a) commit to making healthier meals
  7.              b) get a complete physical
  8.              c) work out at least 1 day a week at the fire hall
  9. Paint the downstairs and decorate. We’ve been there 10 years. It’s about time.
  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! 😦

I’ve heard once that writing down your goals increases the liklihood off accomplishing them. Well there you have it. Dear 2011: watch your back cuz this year is mine!

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Goals for the New Year

2010 is going to be a photo finish. We will be starting the new year with lots of remaining debt. HOWEVER, the snow plowing revenue has been progressing nicely. January should be a good month to get ourselves at least current with our creditors.

Also, I have been working full time for 3 months now and it looks like that will stay steady. And my health insurance contribution has been reduced by $37/week, so that’s a little extra. The extra income from MFR runs adds about $150/month.  Since our cash flow will improve in the new year, I’ve been thinking of not only how to tackle our debts, but stash some cash for the leaner times.

My 2011 GAMEPLAN:

  1. Get current on all utility bills
  2. Get current on mortgage
  3. Set up automatic savings in ING Direct for things we need to save for (E-Fund, Christmas, Home Repairs, Vehicle Repairs, Health/Dental, Rainy Day) Weekly or Monthly? How much each category? All undetermined…
  4. Set up a snowball plan for credit card debt
  5. Set up a repayment plan for relatives who have loaned us money
  6. Snowball like hell
  7. Start contributing to Roth IRA
  8. Have cumulative savings of at least $2500

I hope these plans aren’t overly ambitious. The dump truck will be paid off in October next year. Some credit cards will be paid off this year, even if we only make the minimum payments. Barring any catastrophes and as long as we don’t incur new debt, this should be feasible. I’m afraid to get excited just yet.

We have not used credit cards in almost 5 years. We’ve been aggressively paying down debt for more than 4 years. We’ve rid ourselves of all toys, vacations, and extras for more than 4 years. I’m ready for the end. I’m ready to start seeing real progress. I’m ready to start answering the phone again. I’m totally geeked that it’s finally time to start thinking about how to handle our money rather than have our creditors dictate what we do with our money.

2011 here we come!

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Spinning My Wheels

So hubby and I were going over some business stuff last night to see what the winter is going to look like. Looks like things will finally be going our way! Of course, all of this depends on the weather. But if we only consider the addition and losses of accounts, our winter sales should double from last year. YAY!!!!

Hubby went off to work in the barn and i pulled up the budget for 2011. With the expenses we have reduced already and guesstimating at a mortgage modification, we should finally land in the black at the end of most months. Of course we will have to continue to watch our spending and be diligent about setting aside money for the leaner months. I’ve decided NOT to let hubby in on that strategy. Money burns holes in his pockets and if he knows we have it he finds “needs” to spend it on.

Though the future looks promising, it’s the getting there that gives me anxiety. Hubby put a lot of time and effort into landing new contracts. But that won’t pay off for months. I am taking a class to get my EMT license. But that won’t pay off for months. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for immediate gratification. I know that hard work sometimes takes a while to pay off. I’m just saying the waiting is tough.

I’ve been dropping nuggets to the hubby lately about the need to start saving for retirement. I know, i know. We should have started this 10 years ago. Can’t change the past, but i can control what we do from here on. My employer does not offer any kind of retirement, so we are all on our own. I’m hesitant to pay a financial advisor at this point because we don’t have much to invest. And, as of today, I have nothing to invest so it doesn’t matter anyway. 

It’s so encouraging to be able to finally think about what to do with our money. For the past 4-5 years there was nothing to think about. Everything that came in went out immediately in the form of a payment. The only thing we had to think about was which bill was more important to pay first.

As though emerging from a deep, dark winter, i can finally see the sun rising. Can’t see the sun yet, but the skies are lighter and the sun is just over the horizon….