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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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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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Looking Ahead

Hubby is in the lawn maintenance/snow plowing business. He started in high school and has steadily built up the business over the past decade or so. Overall, he’s been pretty successful. There have been some rough patches, of course, but he’s never given up the dream.

Until last year, he had a business partner for the snow end of the business. There just was not enough capital or manpower for him to go it alone. That business was pretty successful and they purchased a lot of equipment. Last year they split and split the equipment. It was the first winter hubby was on his own and did fairly well. We weren’t able to knock out any debt, but we maintained.

This year, he’s been aggressively knocking on doors and wearing the buttons off his phone. Literally. He had to replace his cell phone because the little ball thing kept falling out.

So, far it seems that his efforts will pay off. Well, eventually.

With the contracts he has secured for this season, i calculated the estimated sales based on last year’s number of plowable events. It’s slightly more than double last years sales.

*blink*   *blink*

I double checked the numbers and re-calculated. Yup, no mathmatical errors.

Whoa.

I do believe we are going to have a fabulous winter. This also means we will have additional expenses, but we can creatively get through that.

Let it snow!

Let it snow!

Let it snow!  🙂

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Getting a Grip

What a productive weekend!

The bank that handles our mortgage sent us a letter a week or so ago stating that we may qualify for a loan modification. They were hosting an event as a chance to meet with an advisor face to face and discuss possible options based on your situation.

I was on shift (it’s volunteer, can be at home but can’t leave the township) most of the weekend starting Friday after work. What an awesome opportunity to sit down at the computer and really put some numbers together.

I started Friday night. I woke up early Saturday morning and continued working on it. Gathering pay stubs and tax returns was the easy part. They provided a worksheet to list income/expenses. Easy enough right? Well, since hubby is self employed, the numbers get a little fuzzy. I’ve always had a “budget” worksheet based on historical estimates – that I look at ALL the time. But it was several years old and I decided to go through it line by line. I spent hours going through bank statements, utility bills, receipts, automatic payments.

By mid afternoon, I was ready to look. The results were amazing.

Just as I already knew, we were spending exactly what we brought in each month. On just the basics. I was blown away by the numbers. That I thought I already had a good grip on. There is zero room for error. Or haircuts, or new tires, or Christmas presents… but I digress.

This wealth of information helped me accuratly fill out the bank’s worksheet. But I didn’t stop there. I researched some of the options they offered. The Making Home Affordable program seems to be the best option. After some reading, i discovered that one of the criteria is if your current loan, taxes, and insurance are more than 31% of your income. Hmmmm… Crunch some numbers on the ol’ calculator. Whoa. We are at 39%. Looks like we might have a real chance to be approved!

I gathered up all my paperwork, grabbed my letter, and headed out the door for the 1.5 hour trip. Not gonna lie, I was nervous and prayed the whole way there.

The representative I met with was very nice and we discussed additional paperwork I would have to provide. That kind of annoyed me. Why didn’t they ask for it in their letter? Oy. Anyway, we got all done and I took a leap of faith. I spilled my guts. I figured it could only go one of 2 ways. Either she would politely nod while trying to pretend to listen to yet another pitiful sob story trying not to stab her eyes out with her pen, or she would offer some good advice.

Miracle of all miracles. She listened. And then she shared her story. God was on my team that day. We chatted for probably a half hour swapping stories of unemployment and the dreadful economy. At the end, she offered kind words of encouragement and i left. Feeling a little lighter, feeling hopeful.

When I got home, i filled hubby in of all the details. Then I got back to work. Digging out yet more paperwork, more paystubs, more tax returns.

Then I pulled up my spreadsheet and got to work on a projection for next year. If we stay on course, several credit cards will be paid off by next October. The dump truck will be paid off in November. We were able to reduce the cell phone/internet bill by $60/month, and the cable was downgraded recently saving us $30/month. The commercial vehicle insurance rates are actually lower starting last month.  The forecast looks really promising. It’s just getting from here to there that makes me nervous.

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Rock Bottom?

Attention passengers and crew; this is your captain speaking. We are in our final descent to our destination Rock Bottom. Please remain seated and leave your pride in the overhead compartment, you won’t recognize it when we do finally land. You may pick up your shovels in the baggage claim area. Enjoy your stay here, although I hope’s it’s brief. Thank you for flying American Recession. Please empty what little is left in your pockets as you disembark. Good day.

Yup. We’re here.

So the gas was shut off on Monday and the power was shut off yesterday.  The mortgage payment bounced and the banks are closed today. My vehicle is experiencing electrical problems and the license plate tags are expired on all the trucks. Health insurance premiums will be increased 18% starting Jan. 1. Christmas is approaching fast. Okay, so that’s the bad news. Is there any good news?

The good news is hubby handled the disconnects with the utility companies. Power and gas are both on as of today. He announced he will now be handling the bills. Hallelujah! It really really really sucks to go to bed in the dark and freezing cold, but if it means hubby will finally get on the financial train than it was worth it.

So much more to tell. Tomorrow.

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Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus…

Today is a good day. No, today is a GREAT day!!! Everybody stop, drop, and thank the Lord.

Hubby received a call from the mortgage company today and the loan modification is 95% done and it hasn’t been approved yet, but it looks like our new APR is going to be 5%. Can you believe it! FIVE PERCENT!!!! If i could do back flips, i would do them all the way home. I’m so excited i could cry. This is the most wonderful news i’ve had in a very, very long time!!! This means our new monthly payment will be roughly $1,500 – a far cry from our current payment of $2,689. That is almost HALF! Although the 5% rate is only fixed for 2 years, it will only bump once to 6.75%. I can totally live with that. That’s better than our original loan! way better.

It has been a long, LONG two plus years that we have been struggling. This is the first major step in the right direction.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. And he works at Chase Bank!