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Archive for January, 2011

The Maids Just Came...

January 30th, 2011 at 04:49 pm

My DH and I went to the Marriott last night for our free night. It was a very nice hotel with lots of granite, plushy king bed and lots of amenities. The wonderful buffet breakfast they serve was $15 each so we decided to skip that as we had succumbed to an in-room movie which was $14.95!! We went home and I made avacado, cream cheese and sprout sandwiches and a salad...to me anything with avacados is a treat!

RENTAL HOUSE PROGRESS. We have decided AGAINST the expensive rental house as everyone we talked with wondered about our getting $1,800 a month rent here in Kansas. That is a very high dollar house for this part of the country. We may lose the $1K we put down as earnest money...hope not, but that would be better than getting in over our heads. At noon today we went with our realtor to see two other repos that cost about $75K each with other houses in the neighborhood on the market for $125K. Either would rent for around $1,000 a month so either of these would probably better meet our needs for income in retirement. I hope we don't lose the $1,000...ouch!!!! Again, we had to make the decision to purchase quickly since we discovered the house on the last day of the bids. I am learning that making FAST financial decisions can be costly...S-L-O-W DOWN QUEEN!!!

MAIDS CAME! Our "Maids" came today. That's my term I use for when DH and I clean the house. Pretty much everyone I know in my neighborhood has a cleaning lady and I did for a few months about six months ago, but I never could see spending $100 every two weeks for something we could so easily do ourselves so I gave her up. We pretty much keep things picked up so when we are ready to clean we set the timer for 30 minutes. He vacuums and I do everything else. In that amount of time (total one hour between us), we can clean our entire first floor which is mostly where we live. Later this week I will set the timer for 20 minutes and we'll clean the basement. We never use the second floor unless the boys are coming home. When the boys lived here, with all four of us, in half hour we could pretty much clean the entire house.

STILL COUNTING! I am still writing down my numbers...all income and everything we spend in a little memo pad I carry in my purse. It is AMAZING the difference this makes. We have only been on this new financial way of life for one month but we have MUCH more money at the end of the month then we usually do. I am also tracking things in MINT.COM.

I get nervous wondering if I can keep this up, but then I remember my DA program teaches me to do the right thing, JUST FOR TODAY. When you live right one day at a time, the tomorrows take care of themselves.

Thanks also for everyone in this blogging community. Reading your stories gives me good ideas and also ammo against our consumption-oriented society.

My First DA Post...

January 28th, 2011 at 03:39 am

Following is a first for me...my first post on the Debtors Anonymous ("DA") YahooGroups website. Here is what I wrote this morning when I woke up at 2:30 (way too early!):

This is my first post and I really feel a bit confused about how this yahoo thing works, but also kind of glad to be here. I have been keeping my numbers pretty well since Jan 1 and living on my spending plan. I feel so in control of my finances which feels wonderful. Also, one day at a time and by the grace of God, my spending compulsion has left me.

We just had our second payday since I started my new financial sanity and the checking account is fat and happy. I also just paid off my $2,300 VISA card which feels great. I know in this program it says NOT to use plastic, but it is a frequent flyer card and it has a zero balance. I plan to try to use it like a debit card and pay it off from my linked checking acct each Friday. In the past, I have paid off the card each month, with the exception of this past December when my spending got a little wild (to put it mildly).

Before Christmas I had a VERY scary spending experience. I had tried to go on an antidepressant for some really rather mild unhappiness and one of the terrible side effects was that as I got "happy" I started an incredible spending binge on ebay in which I probably spent more than $10K!! Fortunately, I had Christmas bonuses to pay it off, but it was the only time in my life I found I couldn't stop spending. It got so bad and frightening that to stop the binge I went off sugar as a couple of books I read said sugar fuels addiction cycles. Within two weeks of quitting sugar and markedly decreasing my caffeine, my spending compulsion left me.

BUT I have a healthy respect for my overspending and know I must remain in the DA program for the rest of my life to deal with it. ONE DAY AT A TIME. DON'T DEBT. KEEP MY NUMBERS. PRAY "PLEASE" IN THE MORNING AND "THANKS" AT NIGHT. Thanks God!

RETURNING TO THE MARKET. Last night DH and I had a free phone consult with our Schwab consultant in which he looked at our retirement portfolio and recommended ways to rebalance things. Prior to the stock market crash two years ago I had pulled our mutual funds back to cash fortunately. Therefore, our 401Ks didn't lose money, BUT we were out of the market and in cash when the stock market started roaring back as it has done for the past 18 or so months. Having weathered several boom and bust cycles over the years I am frightened to get back in the market again but the consultant gave us a very conservative plan with 40% in stock mutual funds and the rest in bonds. He says that mix has gone down at worst only an average of 4-6% a year when it does go down. We really do need the upside so on Sunday morning DH and I are going to sit down together and make decisions on which mutual funds to purchase. The consultant said he makes no commissions which is good. Also, he suggested that to get back in we should dollar cost average and get it all back in at the rate of 1/6th per month for the next six months. That feels safer too. I HATE RISK!!!!! To me it almost feels like we are rolling the dice in hopes of a good retirement.

Pay Day + Fat Checking Account!!

January 27th, 2011 at 03:02 pm

Today my DH got paid and tomorrow I get paid. This is a time of celebration for us as ALL his money went into savings and we are easily living off my money since we started on our spending plan on January 1. The checking acct is so flush that I paid off the Frequent Flyer VISA balance of $2,100 and we still have lots of money left over.

I need to remember, though, to stay on budget and not spend the extra funds. I am keeping the budget on Mint.com and many of the items roll over from month to month. We actually spent well under our budget this month because it contains amounts for clothing, car maintenance, vacations, and other expenses which we didn't use this month. That means I need to leave the money in the checking account so when we DO buy clothes or repair the car the money is there.

It feels SO good to be watching the spending so well. Not being frantic and a bit afraid by payday is a different feeling for me which I really like. I started my morning listening to a telephone debtors anonymous meeting and know that just for today I won't overspend. That is a great feeling.

Also, since I paid off the FF VISA, I will now use it just like a debit card and track it each day and pay it off from the checking account every Friday. NO MORE SCARILY HIGH VISA BILLS!!!!! YEAH!!!!

$7.75 a Pound for Lettuce??

January 26th, 2011 at 03:32 am

I am really a newbie at saving money, but the lightbulbs are starting to go off. The most recent?? I normally buy premade salads. I was in Walmart day before yesterday and looked at the unit price on the salad I normally get...$7.75 a pound for mixed romaine!!! The cost made me decide to switch to a head of romaine for just $1.75. After I brought it home and chopped it up, it filled my salad bowl. It was a little limp the first night, but by night #2, it was crispy and fresh.

HIDDEN TREASURE. When I cleaned out the cabinet the other day I found a coffee can size tin of alfalfa sprout seeds I had bought a couple of years ago during a sprout making phase. My first urge was to throw them out thinking they were expired or something. Instead, I tried soaking them and growing them in my two sprouting jars. I am on my third round of making alfalfa sprouts as they take about 3 days to germinate. I LOVE them and they make my salads taste so much better...FREE sprouts!!

$1.50 Car Wash
$29.70 Post Office (had to mail and insure the $2K item I sold through Ebay)
$5.04 Starbucks, bought tea for me and a friend (trying to invest in my friendships)
$2.00 12 step meeting contribution
TOTAL: $38.24
WOW! I kind of spent a lot for a day I wasn't planning to spend much.

* Tea meeting friends at Barnes and Noble tonight
* Having son and in-laws for dinner tomorrow night. Will have parmesean chicken and sugar free ice cream for dessert (made with stuff on hand). Need to buy salad fixings and garlic bread.
* Friday night, dinner with girlfriends celebrating my 10 years of no alcohol!! Will buy one friend's dinner.
* Saturday Night. Using FREE Marriott night certificate (yeah!) for romantic evening with DH. May buy breakfast there for a treat OR we may come home and have home made whole wheat waffles or veggie sausage casserole. I'm sure the Marriott Breakfast will be $25-$30 so I may try to rethink this although our relationship is important and that would be a luxurious treat for us. We are WELL under budget his month so...

I don't usually have so many restaurant meals or teas with girlfriends. Actually I am trying to have more teas or outings with "girlfriends." Being a working mom all those years, I spent most all my free time with DH and the boys. Since I am now an empty nester, I am trying to invest more time and even money in girlfriends. Especially as we get older, girlfriends are pretty important. Since the boys moved out I get lonely sometimes.

$6,563.43...Go Team Smith!!

January 25th, 2011 at 06:03 am

I just sold two more Ebay jewelry items...one for $580 and the other, which was my "star" piece, for $2,000! This means that after paying shipping and other fees I will have $2,512 to put on my DH's car loan. This brings me down to a balance of $6,563.43. The loan started off at $10K when my DH bought the car in November so we are making progress, but it still sounds like we have a LONG way to go. Due to my impatient nature I want it paid off NOW!

TIT FOR TAT. I realize that my pre-Christmas Ebay spending spree really started when I suggested that my DH go ahead and purchase the new car he wanted...a three-year-old Porsche. He had had another model for about 10 years and, with the trade in, the new one was only $10,000. Things I now realize about this:

1) Now that we are facing closing on our second rental house, I really wish I had not pushed him to purchase his $10K "treat." Now, I would really rather have the $10,000!

2) There are no free lunches. The fact that I "gave" him the 10K to buy the car I now think in retrospect was part of the reason I started on my little jewelry spree. I reasoned that since he took 10K, I should too!

This is crazy logic since we are both on "Team Smith." Assuming Smith is our last name (it's not), we have this family tradition of thinking of the four of us as "Team Smith." I really love this idea...the idea that as a family we are no longer just individuals, we are members of our TEAM. As such, we each need to consider the TEAM'S welfare in our decisions. That way all members of our team are successful.

I realize that through my spending binges over the years, I have not really been thinking of the Team's welfare; in most cases I have selfishly been thinking of myself. Through the DA program and controlling my spending, I am really being a lot less selfish and learning to be a better member of our Team. Go Team Smith!!

PS My DH controls his spending naturally. I am very blessed that it's just me I have to watch. One Day at a Time I am doing that.

$9425.43 and Counting!

January 23rd, 2011 at 03:22 am

I was horrified to realize yesterday that I have $7,363.75 in jewelry items for sale on Ebay. These are items I bought before Christmas during my spending frenzy. I have an additional $3,000 in jewelry that I liked enough to keep, so that means my "spree" was truly a WHOPPER!! OOOUUUCCCHHH!! Self realization is PAINFUL!!!

Well, I can't look back. All I can do is go forward from this point. These blogs are teaching me to write down my figures and make goals. Therefore, I am adding a new goal:


I made a sale of $350 this AM. This means I am already down to $9,075.43!!! Although I still have a long way to go, as they say in the program, "It's Progress Not Perfection." I can hardly wait to get down into the $8000s! Thanks God!

Keeping Financially Sane

January 22nd, 2011 at 03:01 pm

I am still doing great with regard to living on my spending plan. I love the feeling of control writing down my "numbers" gives me.

In two weeks we close on our rental house, though, and I have to be very aware of my spending on the repairs we will make. In the past, decorating houses has been a trigger for me. DH and I visited Lowes and Home Depot last night and made a list of many of the items we will need to purchase. We also made out a budget and ALL the repair money will come out of our rental house account, NOT our general budget. Also, just like I do with our personal budget, I will write down every purchse we make for the rental house.

On Friday, I will pay off our $2,002 Visa bill (we use this VISA kind of like a debit card for most daily purchases). Friday is payday and our checking account can handle the hit. Then every Friday I will draw funds from the checking account to pay off the VISA each week. In that way I can use it much like a debit card and still get the FF miles. The minute I stop doing that, I have promised myself that the FF VISA has to go.

My debtors anonymous program says to use NO unsecured debt (charge cards). Although I know they would recommend I cut up that card, I want to see if I can manage it because I LOVE the free miles.

I posted almost all of the excess jewelry I bought before Christmas on Ebay today. If I sell it all it comes to $7,363.75. Although I didn't pay that much for the items, that is pretty scary to think how much I did spend on my spree. As items sell I will use the money to pay down my DH's second car.

I am enjoying reading all of the posts on this site as they remind me to stay on track ONE DAY AT A TIME. Thanks God!!

Not Overspending...Overeating!

January 21st, 2011 at 07:21 am

I have stopped my excess spending, paid off one of my husband's car loans and my checking account is looking good this month. Unfortunately, I find I have gained two pounds!

That's what happens with me. When I get one area under control, another area POPS!! That's because I have an addictive personality/biochemistry. I have been doing lots of reading on this subject and now truly believe that people who suffer from addictions often have different biochemistries than other people. Two of the books I read emphasized the connection between too much sugar/caffeine use and addictive behavior.

Before Christmas when I was in my Ebay spending frenzy and truly frightened because I couldn't stop, I quit eating sugar and drinking coffee and within two weeks my excess spending stopped. I was so grateful! I have remained largely off sugar and caffeine and my reasonable spending has continued...but I think I am easing stress/handling emotions more with food. This morning a Dr. Oz I had TIVOd said that when you are tempted to eat remember to ask yourself "F-L-A-B"...are you FRUSTRATED, LONELY, ANXIOUS or BORED? If so, find something to do rather than stuff your mouth!!!

I am going to use that and continue to attend my telephone Debtors Anonymous meetings. I especially need DA since we are closing on our second rental house February 2. In the past, buying houses has always been a spending TRIGGER for me. This time, I will make a spending plan for the new house and stick with it. This time, my car won't be a wreck and filled with paints, wall mud, mirrors, etc. that I buy in a financial frenzy! This time I will handle this rental house investment with restraint and sanity...ONE DAY AT A TIME. Also, I need to not let the PERFECTIONISM bug bite me. This is a rental house...NOT the Taj Mahal. Thanks God!!

Good News!

January 20th, 2011 at 01:41 pm

Two weeks and three days into financial sanity!!

Found out the bank WILL pay for the $6,300 foundation repair on the rental house! Also, found out that in 2009 the house got a new roof, all new Anderson windows, a new hotwater heater and a new sump pump! The house is not in foreclosure but in early 2010 before it was foreclosed it was on the market for $249K and we are getting it for $153K. We will need to spend a couple of months doing cosmetic fixups, but we are very pleased.

I need to make a fixup budget for the house and then LIVE WITHIN IT! Fixing up houses has always been a trigger for my spending frenzies. This time, ONE DAY AT A TIME, I will do it frugally and reasonably.

I listened to a Debtors Anonymous meeting this morning. For me, this is a great way to start the day as it keeps my spending problem fresh in my mind. Every morning I pray to God to keep me financially sane AND I write down my "numbers."

Rental House Slow Down

January 19th, 2011 at 03:46 pm

Two weeks and two days into financial sanity! Paid off DH's car yesterday which felt great.

Yesterday our basement person found that the house would need $6,500 in basement repairs we hadn't anticipated.

I called the realtor to back out of the deal and he is going to try to get the bank to pay for the basement repairs.

If that happens we will go ahead with it. If it doesn't, we will back out.

In my Debtors Anonymous meeting this morning this stuck out: "Debt is a disease of impatience."

That is so true.

Inspecting New Rental House

January 18th, 2011 at 06:23 am

Two weeks and 1 day into financial sanity!! Yeah!!
Yesterday took change from the laundry room into Coinstar and got $14.95! Spent $44.39 on gas and just $1.50 for washing my mudball-like car. Was very pleased because normally I spend $5-$6 on a carwash, but happened to use a coin op wash where my six quarters really did wash the whole car! I will go back to that one!!

Tried to pay off DH's car loan yesterday but the bank was closed for MLK day. I will do that this morning which feels great.

This morning a basement person is meeting us at the rental house we are in the process of purchasing. This is a very nice REPO that appraised for $205K that we got for $153,750. This should rent for about $2,000 a month and is part of our plan for financial security in retirement. My DH and I have flipped houses for years and if this doesn't rent for as much as think it will (about 2K a month) then we will fix it up and resell it, although we REALLY plan to keep it as a high-end rental as it will bring in such nice income even after taxes, insurance and expenses.

So far, we have one very low end rental and this very nice one...we are at both extremes. This spring we plan to sell our cheapie rental house on an owner carry which will continue to bring in income.

My challenge will be to do the fixup on this new house on a budget and NOT get carried away to make it perfect as I have done in the past. Really all it needs is new interior paint, cleanup and updating some brass light fixtures. I am fighting the urge to buy it carpet as the current carpet is dark green, but my realtor says replacing it isn't necessary (he has about 16 rentals and should probably know).

I know some of you out there are not in favor of rental houses, but please don't let me know that as we have already done this and feel it is our ticket to financial security for the future. I strongly believe in living off the interest in retirement or having investments that will pay your living expenses.

I am praying that we find a financially stable couple or family that will rent our house for many years.

Debtor's Anonymous Meetings

January 17th, 2011 at 06:09 am

I am on Day 14 of my financial sanity. I am so happy I have been staying on my spending plan and will pay off the $3,600 left remaining my one of my husband's car loans today.

About four days ago I started attended Debtor's Anonymous (DA) meetings over the telephone as there are no DA meetings in my area. DA is a wonderful program for people who have a compulsive overspending or charge card use problem. Fortunately, I don't really have a debt problem, but a couple of times a year I way go overboard on my spending...WAY overboard.

Although some people have garden variety problems following a budget, my problem is a little more serious than that...I have an addiction to overspending. I know my financial situation is fairly blessed, but that doesn't negate the seriousness of my addiction. It's something I will have to watch every day for the rest of my life to keep it under control.

I was reminded of that yesterday during a telephone DA meeting. A woman called in and said she had a problem with shopping on one of the TV shopping networks. Although it had gotten so bad the bank was about to foreclose on her house, she couldn't decide whether to block those TV shopping channels! It sounded so CRAZY to me that her shopping addiction had nearly ruined her life and she still wasn't ready to quit!!

I say that not to judge her, but to remind myself that if you have the problem, overspending is a progressive addiction that always gets worse, never better, UNLESS YOU DO WHAT IT TAKES TO STOP.

For me, it is the tools of the DA program. In a nutshell, they are:

1) Cut up your credit cards
2) Write down all income and EVERY purchase today
2) Don't debt today

With God's help, just for today I will write down my "numbers" and not debt. It's really that simple. If you think you may have a similar problem visit www.debtorsanonymous.org.

Just for today, I hope you and God make it a great one!!

Feng Shui...in Reverse???

January 16th, 2011 at 08:16 am

I am in Day 13 of financial sanity...writing down expenditures and living on my spending plan. It feels WONDERFUL!! One thing that I have noticed, though, which I find interesting is that straightening out my money life seems to be straightening out my cabinets!! It almost seems like Feng Shui in reverse.

In an effort to bring in more money in the past I tried Feng Shui which is, in part,decluttering your house in order to improve your finances. I have to admit that although I went through several Feng Shui phases, they never helped me save money.

Ironically, though, since I have been cleaning up my money act, my house seems to be getting more organized as well. For example, when I started trying to use the food I had on hand, my overflowing pantry naturally started getting more room in it as we used up what we had. Then I wanted to plan meals so I actually cleaned out and organized the pantry. Then, for the same reason, I ended up organizing a few other cabinets and drawers around the house in order to locate the duplicate cleaning supplies, beauty supplies, etc.

This new organization is happening slowly, but I have to admit I like it. It's pretty hard to save money when you keep buying duplicates because you don't know what you have.

I have been so inspired by this that I have a goal to organize just one drawer or cabinet a day. Also, a magazine article I just read gave me the great idea to set the timer for 30 minutes and have a family "clean" in which we each get a box and go through our things to determine items which could be tossed or donated. I love this idea.

Has anyone else noticed that as you clean up your finances, your house gets cleaner too? This is a bonus I could never have predicted, but it's nice.

My Kids and MY Money!!

January 15th, 2011 at 03:46 am

I am on Day 12 of financial sanity and it feels wonderful! Due to my tracking every penny and not spending frivolously, our checking account is almost overflowing. Also, I sold enough Ebay items that, coupled with my fat checking account, I think I may be able to pay off the $3,600 we own on one of my DH's cars! Then we will have just one $9,600 car payment left to whittle down.

KIDS! One of my problem areas is my kids. My two grown boys are truly WONDERFUL human beings...smart, hard working, honest, giving, kind young men, and very frugal...WITH THEIR OWN MONEY!! As I mentioned recently, on the spur of the moment I gave my older son a $10K no interest loan for graduate school...OUCH!! For the past two years we have also been automatically funding $100 for each kid in a ROTH IRA. I'm fine with the ROTH, but here's the deal.

The kids think mom and dad are rich and they are used to me being very free with the money. My DH is out of town on business for a week so my younger son has decided to stay at home with me in his absence. Well, for the past 12 days I have been eating at home and had hoped to do that this week too. Well, my son called last night and said, "Hey, why don't we go to dinner?" Against my better judgement I agreed thinking that he doesn't get a treat like that very often. We had a very mediocre Mexican dinner out and I spent about $21.00 I didn't really want to spend.

RESOLVE. We are going to eat at home for the rest of his visit. I am even going to tell him that after Christmas expenses we are trying to watch it a bit. I have lots of things already in the house we can eat and I think I will purchase some french bread and salad and make some muffins. I have a frozen lasagna downstairs, I made some beans and rice and I can also make a pretty decent bean soup. I also have frozen chicken breasts and can make some quick parmesan chicken. I HAVE TO STOP LETTING MY KIDS PROMPT ME TO OVERSPEND!!! MY NEXT LESSON TO TACKLE!!!

Opinions on Starting a DA Meeting?

January 13th, 2011 at 04:15 am

Day 10 of writing it all down and following my spending plan. Yeah!! Yesterday I bought gas and the friend I went to lunch with insisted she pay for my lunch for my birthday...now I feel indebted to her and would rather have paid my own tab, but that's another story.

Another friend and I are thinking about starting a Debtors Anonymous meeting. I am really not much of a debtor, probably due to our higher income, but I certainly have had a spending problem at times in the past. Does anyone here have experience with the DA program? If so, do you think it's helpful?

Lunch with a Friend

January 12th, 2011 at 08:57 am

Day Nine of Abstinence and tracking spending. I had my third no spending day in a row yesterday, but today I am going to lunch with a friend so I will spend money. Even though I don't love to spend money eating out, it is an investment in friendships.

Last night I was reminded of that when I was watching a rerun of Sex and the City. the girls were taking a bus trip to Atlantic City and Carrie looked around at all the pairs of older women and said, "we need to remember to invest in friendships because someday it will just be us girls." That is so true.

Therefore, I decided that once a week if a lunch date comes up I should accept it. Although this spending makes me a bit nervous, if I am being reasonable in other areas, this is perfectly acceptable and fits within our budget.

In the future though I think I may suggest coffee or even tea at my house when I can though, because I really prefer that if we are going out I spend the money on dates with my husband. Also, I don't love it when friends suggest we all go out for an expensive dinner, but sometimes I do this as you have to have friends.

Any thoughts on the above? I am trying to figure out a healthy relationship with spending. As you can see, I am confused about this issue.

Yipeeee!!! Ebay Sale!

January 11th, 2011 at 09:47 am


What got me into my pre-Christmas jewelry buying spree was that I envisioned having an Ebay store in which I would buy jewelry low and sell high. Well, although I won't go into all the gory details, suffice it to say, it didn't work out like that. I am not a person who should consider buying ANYTHING as a past time...too dangerous!

That being said, I did sell two Ebay items yesterday for a total of $1,525. This money will trickle in over the next few days and I will leave it in the checking account until the end of the month when I plan to pay as much as I can on our lowest car loan which is $3,405.61. If I am very frugal, this month I think I can pay all or nearly all of that loan off, especially if another Ebay items sells. Then my only other debt will be our loan of $9,600 on my husband's beloved "hobby" car. If I apply myself I hope to be able to pay that off this year.

I am in my third NO SPENDING DAY (hope I make it through 'till tonight)!! Having had snow here the last couple of days was helpful, but I really didn't have anything I wanted to buy anyway.

I have to watch out though because sometimes after a period of being "good" and not spending much of anything, I have tended to explode in a buying frenzy. I am pleased so far, but very cautiously optimistic. No one who doesn't have a spending problem can truly understand what it's like to be in the midst of one of those frenzies. It feels out of control and awful.

Just for today, I am grateful for what I have and content. I need nothing more. Thank you God.

Day Seven of Abstinence!

January 10th, 2011 at 05:11 am

I am on my seventh day of writing down all my expenses. Also, yesterday I had my first "no spend day." I have never even thought of that concept before and I really like it.

It snowed here yesterday and last night and the snow is blanketing the other roofs, pinetrees, birdfeeders, etc. It is lovely...truly a picture money can't buy.

This morning I read about TightWad Kitty's terrible misfortune with the flooding in Australia. It reminded me that even with making right choices and the best of intentions, the unforseen really does happen. Not just natural dissasters, but health problems, layoffs, house and car repairs, etc.

Until recently I have been living my life like nothing would every change and we could always count on an endless supply of money. Of course, I never REALLY thought that but that was how I was living my life...always just getting what I wanted in the moment and not really thinking about tomorrow. Well, maybe that's too strong as we did do quite a few things right.

For years, we have always maxed out our 401ks and never really charged what we couldn't pay off the same billing cycle (in most cases). We also paid off our house (I considered paying off our mortgages - we paid off three houses over the years - kind of a game). Compared with most Americans we are probably ahead of the game.

ME...SPENDING SPREES. I went through spending sprees at least once a year that I can only classify as "addictive binges." I would get something in my head that I wanted -- new backyard landscaping, fancy new jewelry and I would go wild, spending money with really no thought about the totals...really THOUSANDS of dollars.

ME...SPENDING MONEY WITH NO PLAN. This was just my normal way of living. When I wanted something, I just whipped out my FF VISA or debit card and bought it...not really planning for purchases, looking for the best bargains, etc.

ME...LIVING IN A FINANCIAL HAZE. This is what I call my lack of financial clarity (to put it mildly). I was scared to look at our 401K accounts so I didn't. I didn't really watch the checking or VISA accounts, etc. I didn't really live on a budget...just trusted the money would always be there.

DH...Although he is MUCH thriftier than me, he does love the latest and greatest electronics and autos. He loves Porsches and is in the local Porsche club. Although this hobby SOUNDS expensive, to get his first Porsche he spent years working freelance jobs and saving so our loan was only for about $20K. He had that one for years and recently traded it in for another one with only a $10K loan.

There is no comparison with how we spend money. DH largely saves. I largely spend.

MY GREATEST HOPE (at least in terms of money). I hope THIS is not just another "phase" for me. I hope this is the beginning of a new way of life and that I can really learn and change my behavior.

After reading all about TightWad Kitty's flood experience, I read more of her blog. This was an eye opener for me as it showed me that living frugally can be a joyous challenge and that it's truly not what you make, but what you save. In fact, reading all of your blogs is doing that for me...showing me a spending and saving road less traveled that looks pretty good.

The amazing thing is that, even though many of you are spending less money, you seem to be enjoying your purchases and even your lives more. Wow!!

I Looked!!! OUCH!!! PAINFUL!!!!!!

January 9th, 2011 at 04:47 am

DAY SIX of writing down expenditures. Went to Walmart yesterday with a food list and came home with exactly what was on the list! Yea!

Also, started checking off some of my 2011 goals. I looked up ALL our account info and did a NET WORTH STATEMENT. I have to admit what it showed me was hard to take.

I had actually done a NW statement 4 months ago when we were thinking about hiring a financial planner to help us w/retirement accounts so I had something to compare. After supposedly saving my husband's salary and living off mine, our networth yesterday was only a little more than it was 4 months ago!

Here is why:
1) My DH bought another car and we went from 1 to 2 car payments (from $6000 debt to $12,384.39). This was for a third "hobby" car so it was NOT an essential purchase).
2) Due to being terrified w/the stock market, much of our retirement funds have been sitting in CASH earning nothing (need to address that issue).
3) We would have had more but we just GAVE one of our sons a $10,000 no interest loan (OUCH!!)

I also started an acct at MINT.COM...DOUBLE OUCH!!!!

Here's what I learned there:

1) I can't ever erase my before Christmas spending spree from our VISA FF charge card, even though I have paid all but $1,400 of it off in full! THIS IS PAINFUL!!!! I mean I did pay our house taxes of $4,400 through that VISA, but have YOU ever had a $20,000 VISA for one month?!!?? Seeing the numbers, I really had to take a hard look at that. VERY hard to swallow!! I had gotten a $5K Christmas bonus but all that went to the great CHASE VISA and more!
2) To have $80K in retirement funds each year, we will need to save $2.3 million!!!! We have about $850K in our retirement now and 15 years to go but there's almost no hope of it growing to that amount. I MUST STOP SQUANDERING MONEY!!!! (Even though I thought we had LOTS of money, every cent really DOES count.)

1) The initial excitement of spending money frivolously is not greater than the ANGST of
viewing the financial damage it creates.
2) Thank God we have good incomes, but if that weren't the case we would probably be bankrupt.
3) My spending sprees are really MUCH worse on paper than I had thought. The pre-Christmas one was VERY bad, but when I landscaped the backyard a couple of summers ago that one was equally damaging (just HAD to have 25 rose bushes) and redecorating the house three years ago...don't want to even THINK about that one!
4) I have a real spending problem. It's really not funny at all. It's actually kind of terrifying.

GOOD NEWS THOUGH. I am on DAY SIX of FINANCIAL ABSTINENCE. One day at a time I can tame this beast. For me, amazingly enough, I think going off sugar really helped me. That's a blog for another day, but I did lots of research on this when I was spending like a crazy fool last month...I truly couldn't get off Ebay...very scary.

I thought maybe blogging this would be enough, but I think my girlfriend and I really should get a Debtor's Anonymous meeting started in our town as we had hoped. Does anyone out there have experience with the DA program?

Sorry for the length of this entry. Learned TOO much yesterday! Although looking at the damage is sobering, at least I DID look. Maybe my experience can help some other sufferer. (it's kind of hard to call myself a sufferer when I did it to myself)

THANKS FOR ALL YOUR WISDOM!!! General Tips Requested!

January 8th, 2011 at 03:01 am

I am on DAY FIVE of writing down all expenditures. Every day I write down everything that goes through my checking acct and my beloved Frequent Flyer VISA. Except for $1,000 which I will pay off in two weeks, it has a zero balance. Very soon I hope to use it like a debit card and payoff each VISA expense every day from our linked checking account. I LOVE tracking our expenses and I feel very in control.

Yesterday you all gave me some honest advice. Although I have to admit initially it was a bit hard to take, almost immediately I appreciated your honesty as your input is necessary for me to change my overspending ways.

All in one day, ImaSaver reminded me that rentals can be living hell and Jerry reminded me that with regard to giving my son money for grad school, maybe there were other options which would have done the same thing. My greatest "lesson" yesterday came from Patient Saver and her kind kick in the pants directness. She told that I needed to separate my emotions from money. This is so true for me as I an be very emotional. Then she said after that, slow down and take TIME to make the correct financial decision...to look at the PROS and CONS. This was great advice! Had I taken her advice before I made the no interest loan to my son on the spur of the moment, I would have researched it and found him a good student loan for the 10K. After all, both my husband and I had them and while they were a bit uncomfortable, slowly paying them off on schedule was a good learning experience for us.


Since I am a financial newbie, if you could give me some tips that you use I would really appreciate it. Just through reading your blogs and understanding your mindsets, I am already starting to change. For example, I am starting to think it's a joyful challenge to have a "no spending day"...I want to have one today! Also, I used some of your financial creativity to remember to watch our Netflix last night and have dinner at home rather than think we "deserved" a Friday night restaurant meal. I also plan to get hold of the info on our 401K/IRAs and try to track our networth on a MONTHLY basis.

I will consider and use any tips you have. At 52, I may be an "old dog" but I think I'm up for learning some new tricks!! THANKS FOR YOUR WISDOM and your willingness to share. I appreciate it!

Reality Check

January 7th, 2011 at 03:18 am

I just got kicked out the blog I was writing!! At first I was upset because I was into the third paragraph of writing that my husband is concerned there many be layoffs coming at his work. I realized that by so swiftly kicking me out of all my negative layoff ranting, however, maybe God was kicking me in the pants for worrying that piece of news into reality. I truly believe we MUST stay positive or we put forces in place we DON'T want. So...I won't do that. By the same token though, this bit of news is sobering in that it makes me take a real look at how very important it is that I tame the spending beast RIGHT NOW!!

Early in our marriage when we had MUCH less money and I was two weeks from delivering our second child, my husband was laid off. What a "sobering" event that was! Although he was only laid off three months, it was a lesson I thought I would never forget in spending wisely and only buying what is essential. Literally, the experience was so frightening, I vowed to NEVER forget it. But alas, I did...

In all these years we have been so blessed that we could have lived off what I made and totally banked his. Unfortunately, we have only done this for the past few years. In some of these years I was using his salary to pay off our home, though, which was good, but we should have saved MUCH more.

That being said, that was yesterday, and no matter how much I wish I could undo the past, I can't and today is all we have. Today I have these new goals:

1) Get realistic about the dangers of this economy and realize I am subject to the same new realities.
3) Keep writing down every expenditure.
4) Take stock of ALL we have. Write down EXACTLY how much we have in savings, 401K, IRAs, etc.
5) Stop being quite so generous with my adult age kids..just two days ago we gave my 27 year old an interest free loan of $10K for his graduate school...maybe we could have used that 10K!
6) Be grateful that we CAN live on what I make, but try to evaluate how we can leverage our savings to produce income, keeping in mind we do need to keep a cushion.

As to #6, at one time we started a great new phase of buying rentals. I figured that if we had six paid off rentals which brought in $3,600 we would bring in about enough to replace which my husband brings home. Unfortunately, though, I let others around me discourage me in this and we only have the one rental. Of course, my knee jerk reaction last night was to go on a buying frenzy and purchase as many rentals as we could. Instead of yet another knee jerk spending phase, though, I need to slow down and we need to evaluate this situation to determine the best course. Coincidentally, though, I am seeing some houses with our realtor this weekend (I scheduled this showing several days ago so it was before yesterday's "knee Jerk" news).

MOST IMPORTANLY. Remember to have faith in God, pray regularly and place this issue in his hands. Even with all that, I do know that sometimes God has other plans for us. Although ultimately they may work out to be better plans, sometimes they derail us for awhile and cause stress and discomfort. I pray that, if this happens, I will keep my eyes open and put my life in his hands, but be smarter and more frugal. I really pray I don't have to go through this though.

By the way, thanks so much for your kind comments yesterday. I feel like such a loser for my overspending ways. Your support reminded me of the first time I gave my first fairly nervous, fumbling speech at Toastmasters. Even though I spoke that day along side several very senior Toastmasters, they gave me the award for best speech of the day! I now realize they routinely give this award to newbies for encouragement, but at the time it was what I needed to give me some confidence. Your "cheers" yesterday were like that for me. I appreciate it! I am on DAY FOUR of financial reality!!! It feels much better than financial crazed lunatic frenzy!! WHAT WAS I THINKING???!!!?????

I could kick myself for the amount of expensive jewelry I just purchased before Christmas!!!!! I should have kicked myself before I spent the money!!!

Savings Queen! (who am I kidding??)

January 6th, 2011 at 05:32 am

I picked the optimistic user name "SavingsQueen." I almost added an exclamation point because I always tend to do that. Actually "Spending Queen" would be more to the point.

All my life I have gone through what I like to call "phases." Phases are my way of describing my wide range of interests...decorating houses, gardening, self-improvement, exercise...etc. After years of going through these phases, I have realized they really all come down to my greatest interest...spending money!!!! See, there go the exclamation points!

Although we cut out the credit cards completely for many years because I couldn't handle them, we now have one frequent flyer VISA card which I love because it gives us LOTS of free miles for trips. One problem with the VISA, however, is that, although I end up with lots of FF miles, usually I have spent so much more using the plastic that I never quite have the money required to take the vacations surrounding those FF miles.

As a couple my husband and I are pretty blessed financially. We both have six figure incomes (I own a small company) and I almost never carry a balance on the FF VISA. I pay it off most every month...once in a while I let it slip for one month. Mostly we live on my salary and bank his but due to my frequent spending binges during my phases I am continuously wasting our financial resources. At a time when we are in our high earning years we really should be using our funds wisely and saving more toward retirement. Like most Americans, neither of us have pensions. We have about $750K(not sure exactly) in our 401Ks, and an additional $130K in savings, but we have only about 15 years till retirement so I am a bit worried. To "live off the interest" I think we really need about $2 million. Our house is paid off and the only debt we have is about $15K for 2 cars. I HAVE TO STOP SPENDING MONEY LIKE WATER...I need to learn that I am enough and I really need nothing more...there is tranquility in frugality.

In the past I have spent thousands of dollars decorating houses, creating a monumental backyard landscaping project and most recently I spent about $10,000 on pricey jewelry on Ebay. Before Christmas when I was in the midst of the jewelry spree I felt terrified and out of control. I spent hours on Ebay and really was worried about the compulsive spending. Now, though, fortunately the frantic spending has stopped and I have really stopped spending altogether (I actually stopped eating sugar as I read this feeds compulsive behavior and it seems to have worked).

I am now keeping track of what I spend in an excel spreadsheet. I am on day three of that and feel good about it.

I know it may not sound like my problem isn't that major, but from inside me, it feels pretty terrible. I'm going to use this blog to determine exactly how much money we have in savings, retirement plans, etc. and to learn to stay on a reasonable budget. Here goes...