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Fighting for FI

I read a lot of personal finance blogs. Like…. a LOT. I have about 40 of them bookmarked in my faves list and i cycle through them. Daily. I love reading everyone’s philosophy on personal finance. But more importantly, I keep looking for the “secret”. The magic thing I need to do to achieve financial wellness. Freedom.

But here’s the rub.

If I read ONE MORE ARTICLE about maxing out your 401K (keep in mind that is $18,500/yr) to be a millionaire by the time your 65 and how I should have simply started saving $1,000/yr when I got my first allowance at 8 yrs old, I am going to seriously VOMIT all over my keyboard.

Folks.

No shit.

Who are these people that can seriously set aside $18,500 EVERY YEAR??? That’s almost DOUBLE what I pay for my mortgage every year. If I could save $18,500 every year for retirement, I certainly am not reading your blog about clipping coupons and downloading apps to save 15 cents wherever I can.

Also, hey, just spend less than you make and save the rest!

OMG> No kidding!

But what about the rest of us? The ones who don’t have a gap? That’s what I call it. The money left over at the end of the month when you tally up everything you made and everything you’ve spent.

I don’t have a gap. I track my money. Every penny. I have an entire workbook devoted to my finances. And someday I’ll share it with you.

For now, I’m just figuring out how to survive. Here are a few things I have going for me:

  • $10,000 emergency fund in a 1.85% money market account. I don’t touch this. Ever. I can’t.
  • I have one credit card with a $1,935 balance at 0%. If I continue to pay $100/month it will be paid off by end of promo period. I keep telling myself that’s $100 that will become part of the gap. Right now it pisses me off that I have a balance/payment at all. I abhor debt.
  • I use a credit card for EVERYTHING. All of my utilities are set up to auto-pay on that card. I buy all my groceries, gas and everything else on that card. I get 1.5% rewards cash and it’s an easy way to track spending.
  • I do not use cash. Ever.
  • I always pay off my credit card in full. Sometimes I make payments every week to keep the balance small. I can’t afford to pay interest.
  • I recently invested $1,000 in lending club. It’s an experiment. But every month I will take the money I receive (principal + interest) and put that money towards extra principal payment on my car.
  • I have a few thousand dollars in an online investment brokerage. This adds about $14/month in dividends. It’s not huge, but it’s a start. Right now this broker is transferring everything to another online broker. Dividends are not being reinvested. Instead, I’m pulling them out and putting them towards the principal on my car.
  • I need to pay off my car loan ASAP. This will help create a gap. Only $11,700 left to go.

Although I am a single mom, I won’t allow that to be my story. There’s no room for pity. Just action. I want to be successful regardless of my relationship status.

Because I don’t have someone else to bring in a second income, it scares the crap out of me. I don’t have room for error. There is no safety net. I need to create several passive (or active) income streams so that I have breathing room. And someday, financial independence. To have enough passive income that I don’t have to worry about the economy or my job. To give me choices.

 

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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. 🙂

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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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Getting Organized

After much research and thought, I’ve settled on a “solution” to my paper clutter piles. When i bring the mail in, i immediately go through it and throw away the junk. Then everything is piled up and thrown in a pile on the counter. But now, i will set up folders to sort the mail into, and they will live peacefully in this pretty basket on my kitchen counter until i do something with them.

The folders will be labeled:

  • Bills to be paid by the 15th
  • Bills to be paid by the 30th
  • Receipts
  • To Do
  • To File

So as paper comes in the door, it is sorted and kept off the counter. I also like this system because it should help pay the bills on time. Even if I only get around to the basket once a week or every other week, I can easily find the bills that are due and get them paid on time without having to re-sort through everything. And? When hubby empties his pockets and leaves it in a pile on the counter, i can quickly sort out the receipts that need to be kept but don’t have time to handle into the appropriate folder until i’m ready.

I am very excited about this new system! Can’t wait for the basket to arrive from Amazon. It was only $16 and i already have the file folders and labels. I just can’t decide if I should color-code the files to correspond with my file cabinet, or keep them all the same color for aesthetic purposes…. hmmmm…..