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It Happened!

March 24th, 2014 at 04:40 am

We are now officially a stereotype. The corporate gravy train has ended. This is such a typical scenario I can't believe I didn't see it coming. Hubby has worked (hard) for the same company for 24 years, although in recent years the company has undergone acquisitions about every two years. In the past, each time the company sold, hubby would come home with the bad news that he had to lay off some of the employees he managed. Now it has happened to him. His whole department was let go which at least helps him feel that it wasn't personal.

Amazingly, though, this time we are well prepared. For the past several years we have been living off my wages from my company and saving Hubby's salary. Even on what I make, we were saving about $1,500 a month and can probably even save $1,000 more.

Also, during the last company acquisition three years ago, after Hubby was laid off he was rehired by the new company a day later. This meant we were able to take Hubby's 401 K and transition it into a self-directed IRA consisting of rental houses. This year we saved a bunch of money and are paying the taxes on most of the IRA to convert it to a Roth IRA. After we convert the remainder of the IRA this year, when we retire we will be making around $5,000 a month tax free.

Compared with many Americans going through a layoff, we are in great shape. That being said, though, I wish Hubby could have held onto his job until he was around 60 as he is just 57 now.

WHERE ARE WE NOW? Well, we are in the second week of Hubby's layoff and he seems to be doing pretty well with it. He is actually doing some free-lance work for his former employer and also taking care of some of our rentals which are not in the IRA. We need to make a new budget to get a better handle on keeping our expenses down. We have a paid off house and cars and no credit card debt -- no debts of any kind so we are in good shape. We always said that in retirement we hoped to live on $5,000 a month, so I guess now we will be getting a head start on starting that lifestyle. I bring home about $8,000 a month and things are going very well at my company. I would like to save about $3,000 a month and live on the remaining $5,000.

My former overspending ways are now a thing of the past. It is funny but it was hard to control my spending when money was "growing on trees" but when the going gets tough I am easily able to stop spending. Every time we go through something like this as we have at two other times in our lives I am always able to truly rein in the spending and I vow to never fritter away money again, but inevitably, once the income returns to normal levels I forget my wiser ways.

I have to admit that this is NOT a great turn of events and I am a bit scared of this new reality, but I also realize we are in good shape.

Hubby is going to put his resume out and slowly begin looking for a new job, so we will see what happens. But if he isn't able to find anything, he can focus on the rentals which are outside the IRA. I just want more than anything else for him to be happy. I know this sounds sexist, but if he were a woman he could just happily retire. Since he's a man, though, his self-worth is more tied up in the corporate world. Hubby is my world and I will support him in whatever direction he wants to go.

Ironically, just a couple of days before he was laid off, Hubby's boss had sent out a wonderful email about him to all the higher ups saying that he had been with the company 24 years and lauding his excellent work ethic and many wonderful accomplishments. Just two days later his boss had to call him and tell him they BOTH were being laid off. Doesn't the new corporate reality suck??

Thanks for listening.

Back Sliding!

July 9th, 2013 at 11:11 am

Ouch. I haven't been watching the savings or my spending for the last couple of months. I think I got a little over confident because we had met our goal for the year in terms of having about $135K to pay the taxes on the Roth IRA, $30K in our emergency fund and $7K for hubby's jaw surgery.

I am naturally such an overspender, that if I stop really focusing on my spending, it is easy for me to get out of control and waste money.

I finally went to Mint to look at our savings and came to this blog and realized that in the last two months we have saved nothing! In fact, we have lost about $1,707 from where we were.

Well, I can't look back and get upset. I just need to start writing down my numbers and tracking my spending again today. I WILL DO THAT!!!

I really like my life much more when I am using my resources wisely. It appears the only way I can do that is to really track my spending. OUCH!!! This has been a wake-up call.

Kids, Cancer and Other Unknowns

April 1st, 2013 at 11:48 am

Wow! Tracking spending has really opened my eyes to how much it costs to live and where the money goes. We are in about the third month of this and it is going very well, except that I have had a couple of realizations of which I was never aware when I was spending like a drunken sailor:

1) When it comes to my kids, I can really overspend. For instance, I just returned from a weekend of moving our oldest son from Nashville to KC. He is 30 years old but I ended up buying him about $600 worth of decor items for his new apartment. His bday is coming up in May and I said I would buy him more decor items then. I have decided, though, that I have spent enough and I am going to limit him to $100 more for his bday. It will be hard to do that because I want him to live in beautiful surroundings, but he will have to buy some of that stuff if he wants it.

2) LIFE HAPPENS (good things). I am realizing the number of bdays, weddings, graduations that happen in our lives and how expensive they really are. Except for giving to family, bday gifts are really kind of silly in that at our ages, 54 and 55, all of our friends really have what they need and want and my adding yet another small bday gift to their lives doesn't really do all that much. I HAD budgeted $100 a month for gifts. Boy was I ever wrong!!! It really should be 3-4 times that!!

3) LIFE HAPPENS (bad things). A couple of weeks ago we learned that one of hubby's old college buddies has stage 4 liver cancer. This is, of course, terrible news but it also means we plan to fly to Florida in May to visit with this friend. That is an unexpected couple of flights, meals out, etc. we did not anticipate. That could be $1000 even if we economize. Ouch!!

UPSIDE! There is an upside to the above. In the past when I was living in the "financial haze" I would have been spending lots on myself AND spending on the unexpected items without really realizing how much I was spending. I would have just thrown it all on the charge card and then sweated bullets the next month to pay it all off.

Now, I have been spending almost nothing on myself because I really realize how much these "extras" are costing. Also, we no longer use a charge card at all so I don't have the monthly fear of looking at and paying that bill. That feels very good.

I am curious if these EXTRAS do subside in a few months. In our defense, we have had lots of extra expenses with our younger son's marriage, our older son's move to KC and our friend's unfortunate diagnosis. Hopefully, this summer we will see a return to more "normal" spending. OR maybe it is an ILLUSION that spending is ever normal!

Even with the above, we HAVE been meeting our monthly budget/savings goals. When we have an unexpected expense I pull the funds from one of the other categories we didn't spend in that month. For example, I have $200 a month in clothing budget and we may pull needed funds from that category. It is called a zero balanced budget and keeps us from spending more than we had budgeted for.

Thank you for listening. This process is helping me a lot.

Gifts, gifts, gifts, Oh My!!

March 17th, 2013 at 09:55 am

I am interested in your thoughts on the high price of gift giving and/or how much you budget for gifts.

It's funny, but I never really realized how much certain things cost until we started this spending plan two months ago. For instance, I always thought the gift category in our budget would be rather small.

Boy, was I ever wrong!! Although in my "fantasy" spending plan, not including Christmas, we would spend about $1,200 a year on gifts or $100 a month, for the past two months we have spent a WHOPPING $483.28!!

Walmart cards...$8.52
Victoria's Secret...$54 (girlfriend gift)
Victoria's Secret...$102 (son's fiance's bday gift)
Dick's Sporting Goods $161.96 (son's fiance's bridal shower - outdoor wear, go figure)
Target $117.00 (add'l wedding gift for son - after giving him $5K for wedding gift a couple of months ago!)
Cash...$100 (friend's daughter getting married)

Admittedly, since my youngest son is getting married, we had lots of gift expenses, but we have a MAJOR family bday month coming in April w lots of bdays...mine, hubby's, son's.

We will try to stay at $100 for son's gift and this year we will LIMIT our spousal gifts to $100 each.

In my previous financial haze period, GIFTS as a spending category was never really even on my radar screen. I now have learned two things about them:

1) Gifts cost much more than you think.
2) Buying gifts for others IS an investment in relationships so maybe it IS a worthwhile investment...much more so than buying myself yet another handbag.

ALSO, it seems there is ALWAYS an event which comes up and takes more money than you think. For example, at the end of March I am flying to Nashville to help my older son move to KC which is closer to home. To do that I will have more expenses than in my standard budget...already paid for flight, but hotel room, meals out during the move, new comforter I plan to buy for son's new place. There seems always to be a reason to spend money.

Once good thing, though. I now realize that these other things take so much money that maybe I don't need to SPEND my clothing allowance. Maybe there are better uses I have for that money right now. In fact, I have spent nothing on clothing in two months due to these other expenditures.

Gifts, who knew?

Do you all out there find gifts to be a pricey area? About how much do you spend? And, do you have any ways to keep it more reasonable or do you just accept it?

Changing My Evil Ways

March 14th, 2013 at 09:29 am

We started following our spending plan around January 15. I am pleased to report that it is working beautifully! I was the real spending problem in our household as we had lots of disposable income and I was pretty good at disposing of it!

Tracking our spending in Mint and writing everything down has been a Godsend and has really transformed how I view and use money in the following ways:

1)We stopped using our charge card and switched to the debit card so I am forced to live within our income (also, no more $10-$12K monthly VISA bills to pay off!).

2)I set up a budget and know exactly what we have to live on each month.

3) I KNOW what it takes us to live each month - something I had no idea of before.

4) I now realize that all spending has tradeoffs. If you purchase clothes for yourself, you may have to cut down on entertainment, groceries, etc. For instance, this month we have overspent on gifts and instead of just doing it I had to pull funds from other areas. I pulled some money from the gas budget, for instance, as we won't need as much as I had budgeted for in that area.

My new financial learning is going great! Also, I watched Suzi Orman the other night and she gave 3 great tips:

1) Before you make a purchase, ask yourself if you NEED or WANT it. If you don't NEED it, don't buy it.

2) Live within your NEEDS, not your income. (if you can afford a 3000 sq ft house but only NEED a 2000 sq ft house, buy the 2000).

3) Learn to get as much JOY out of saving money as spending it. For the first time in my life, I am getting lots of joy from saving, where before going shopping was how I filled the emotional void.

I LOVE this new approach to money. Thanks for listening.

Last charge card payment!!

February 24th, 2013 at 05:37 am

On payday Friday I paid off our last VISA payment!!! $1,050! Hubby had made me wait until payday to pay it off. I am so happy as I have been dealing with VISA payments for years. Although we would pay off the card each month, I would have wildly extravagant balances each month to the extent that I was sometimes even afraid to look at them. We moved a year ago and have rental houses so it was not uncommon for us to have monthly VISA bills of $8-$10,000! A few times even more!

It was just terrifying as I was wildly spending money and not really paying attention to our finances. Hubby and I had quite a bit of money coming in and if I wanted something I just bought it. I am embarrased to admit the above as many of you are SO conscious of expenses.

Since February 1, I am proud to say that I have been one of you!! I am so grateful to all of you as reading your blogs encourages me to have a spending plan and write down everything I spend. I have been doing this and am amazed at really how little money it takes us to get by each month. With the spending plan we established hubby and I each have catagories for entertainment and personal expenditures, but we are saving a great deal of money. We are also now using the debit card exclusively so I am really watching what we spend.

We really need to follow this plan this year especially as we still need to save about $82,000 over the next 12 months. Hubby and I have an agressive plan to turn our IRA which contains rental houses into a ROTH IRA. This will mean that after paying $160K on taxes on the account this year, for the rest of our lives all the income in the account will be tax free. My goal is to create 100K in tax free income in retirement.

This will be a frugal year for us but we believe it will pay off for many years to come. Also, when we are able to do this it will have taught me to change my free-spending ways...one day at a time.

It's Working!

February 18th, 2013 at 11:01 am

It's crazy how well just writing down our spending and having a spending plan has worked! So far this month we are 18 days in and have spent just $2,686 of our $8K monthly budget! I am so happy! The 8K is what I bring home each month. We are saving hubby's entire salary and the 8K even includes $2,500 from my salary going to savings.

Hubby and I are both in our 50s in our high earning years, about 10 years away from retirement. Unlike some of our friends who used increasing income to increase their lifestyles to exhorbitant levels, we are trying to realize the blessing of our higher income, live reasonably and save and invest toward retirement. We call this our "10 year plan."

This year is especially important as our goal is to save another $45K toward paying our tax bill to convert our real estate IRA into a ROTH IRA. If we do this, in retirement we won't have to pay any taxes on the rental income generated from the ROTH IRA account.

It's funny, but even though I have designated $150 fun money in the monthly spending plan for each of as an allowance and $200 a month each on clothes, knowing we have such a major savings goals makes me want to save everything I can toward it.

I really have plenty of clothes and except for a couple of pairs of summer sandals I can probably just live with what I have.

Since we started living with the spending plan, I have started feeling such a sense of control and peace about our finances. This is such a contrast to even a few months ago when I shopped on Ebay with a vengence and tried to ignore the monthly VISA bills as well as the many packages which came in each day. I get paid this Friday and will pay off the final $1,100 VISA BILL. HURRAY!!!!!!!

For me, spending can be quite addictive. I always need to remember to write down all my "numbers", not use credit and to take it one day at a time. I have had good, solvent periods before which ended. This time I truly want to change my lifestyle once and for all.

Thank you for your help in this effort God. I couldn't do it without you! Thank you also to all of you out there in internet land. Being accountable to you people I don't even know is helpful.

Wedding Planning Book

February 14th, 2013 at 09:26 am

I am keeping this journal often so I can see my spending patterns. I continue to write all expenditures down and am saving MUCH money (like hundreds or thousands each month) by not frittering it away mindlessly.

I did purchase a book on Amazon this morning, though, for my son and his fiance who are getting married. It was $10.02 including tax and I had enough in the gift budget for it. I know she will be delighted when she receives it as it is supposedly a great book on planning a frugal but elegant wedding.

Last night hubby and I went out to Jason's Deli and spent $21.70 for sandwiches. We had not gone out in two weeks so this was a nice splurge for us.

We have also decided that after about 4 months of eating vegan we will be adding back in some meat and/or dairy. Hubby is concerned his gums are receeding and believes it could be the vegan diet. So last night he had a chicken salad sandwich. I am adding back in cheese and dairy products so I will return to being a vegetarian as I have have been for the past 4 years.

The vegan diet was getting so BORING as we ate lots of beans and rice. We were both tired of it!!

It is interesting that as I have stopped spending LOTS of money on myself (clothing, jewelry, etc), I find that I want to spend money on others. While this is a good thing and less selfish than spending on myself, I need to watch to make sure I don't start overspending on gifts.

I tend to have addictive type issues and this is something I need to be aware of.

To celebrate Valentines Day, we are taking a two-hour road trip this evening to see a concert with a friend. The trip will entail eating a few meals out and also extra gas. I will take along snacks so we don't blow money on snacks. I could take the money out of our travel budget, but I think I will take it out of our normal gas and restaurant budgets.

I feel a great sense of peace lately not using the VISA. I can hardly wait to pay off the last bill ($1,100) next month! Then I will be totally free of the VISA demon. To me, a charge card is much like the devil. It is so enticing at first promising you wondrous, beautiful things you don't feel you are paying for but it ends up slowly almost imperceptively eating away at the good things in your life until all you have left is fear, anxiety and credit card bills. Good riddance VISA Devil!!

Sister's Birthday Today

February 13th, 2013 at 08:19 am

I own a business with my sister and today is her Birthday. Here at work whenever we have a birthday we hold an office birthday lunch and buy the celebrant a birthday card and $25 giftcard to the restaurant of their choice. Usually, my sister and I don't buy each other anything additional, just the usual office birthday stuff.

Well, this morning I was reading one of my budget books and it asked me to list various sets of goals for various time periods. One of my goals was to develop a better relationship with my sister as working together over the years we have had some problems. The book urged the reader to set longer term goals and then short term goals which lead to the accomplishment of the longer term goals. With regard to my sister/relationship goal, I realized that what I could do this week was buy her a small additional gift. Therefore at lunch today I am buying her a tube of my favorite mascara. It will only cost about $8 but this is a way to show her I value her and our relationship. Even though this does entail spending money, it is in my spending plan and it is a small investment in our relationship.

Here is what the book asked the reader to list:

100 Things I Really Want to Do
100 Things I really Want to Have
20 year goals
10 year goals
5 year goals
1 year goals
1 month goals
1 week goals
1 day goals

Starting to make the lists reminds you to 1) think about the things you want to do and accomplish in your life and 2) reminds you that one day at a time we are creating our future outcomes. Not to plan for this is to leave the outcome to chance. And really waste your life.

Quick Musings

February 12th, 2013 at 02:33 pm

I have decided to try to just write a little something each day to stay on track. Hubby and I continue to track our spending, however, I am a bit worried I am going too much to the frugal side. I need to make sure to stay balanced so that this does not turn out to be another brief savings phase (I have been trying to control my spending on and off for the past two years).

Today I received a $75 refund from my hubby's doctor as we overpaid. Deposited that in the checking account along with hubby's paycheck. He actually got a paper check in the mail this time as we were switching his ACH deposit from Emigrant Direct to Ally Bank so we got a paper check this time. Emigrant's great online rate had decreased to .05% where Ally's is .09%. Every little bit helps.

For the last few days been working based on a new philosophy. YOU SUCCEED WHEN YOU TAKE THE ACTION, NOT IF THE RESULTS TURN OUT AS YOU HOPE.

For instance, at work I sometimes wouldn't call a prospect because I worried they wouldn't want what I was selling. Now, I don't worry about the outcome. In just picking up the phone and calling I have already succeeded. This has resulted in my being much more productive at work.

Two Weeks In & Doing Fine

February 11th, 2013 at 02:16 pm

Hubby and I started our spending plan officially on February 1. I am 11 days into it and I can't believe the difference it is making. In addition to writing down everything we spend hubby is also tracking everything in Mint.

We stopped using the VISA and are now using a debit card only. I have to pay off the last VISA statement balance of $1,100 which I will do on its due date and I am DONE with the charge card! I am excited about this. Dave Ramsey says using credit causes you to spend about 20% more. For me, I probably spent 50% more! Having that card and knowing I didn't have to pay it off for a month was a license to spend like crazy on many things we didn't even need.

I am amazed that we have only spent $499 since the first of the month! In the past I could easily spend literally thousands each month so this is truly amazing. Most of our regular monthly bills are still to come but I am very pleased to have spent so little. Our monthly budget is about $5,500 each month. That is my salary which we are living on and we are saving his.

We hope to save a lot of money this year to convert our real estate rental house IRA into a Roth. That will mean that after we retire, all the income from the rentals will be tax free forever. To make the conversion we have to save a great deal of money this year to pay the taxes, but having figured out all of our numbers, we can do it if we are careful.

When I think of the thousands of dollars I have blown due to being a spend thrift it almost makes me sick to my stomach. Oh well. I guess I can only start from where I am right now. I really think I have a spending addiction, but one day at a time, and following our spending plan, it is being arrested.

It is odd but I was kind of grouchy over the weekend and didn't know why. I figured it out this morning. I really think in the past I used excessive spending to numb out. Now that I am not using addictive spending as a "drug" I don't always feel the best but I know I will get used to this in time.

I am so pleased to finally be on the right course in saving money and being careful with our resources. Better late than never.

I also really like the idea of trying to figure out what we REALLY like to do and making sure we have the money for that without blowing lots on things or experiences we really don't care about. I think being frugal is just spending your resources wisely on the things you really like to do.

Some Financial Peace

February 4th, 2013 at 01:39 pm

In mid-January I started in earnest down the road to financial sanity. Hubby and I have already made some progress and I feel markedly better. Here is where we are right now:

1) I have not even been on Ebay for about a month and have not been spending compulsively at all.
2) Hubby and created a spending plan.
3) I have been writing down all expenditures.
4) We have totally stopped using the VISA and instead are using the debit card! Yea!!
We pay our monthly VISA bills in full each month so I just paid a very painful monthly bill of $4400 a few days ago and only have one more bill of $1100 to pay next month.
5) I did the taxes over the weekend. Since we have rental properties it was AWFUL, but I did it very carefully and I am glad it's behind me. It took me about 14 hours and we even have an accountant!

Things hubby and I will do this weekend:
1) Finish our 2013 financial goals
2) Get my 401K money invested...ouch!!!

I can't tell you how good it feels to have a spending plan and be watching my spending for a change. As a couple we had so much "disposable" income that I was just disposing of it willy-nilly all the time. If I wanted something, just about anything, I bought it!

My challenge in all of this will be to keep following this path consistently during 2013. At this point I am looking forward to getting through February on the plan. Even baby steps are progress for me.

It was hard to stop using the VISA as it was a frequent flyer card. I read that Dave Ramsey said that when people charge they spend 15-20% more! I know that was the case for me. Even though, not using the card, I won't get free flights, I know we will spend less overall.

It's progress not perfection, but so far so good.

What to do with 401K

January 31st, 2013 at 07:25 am

After I posted yesterday Snafu asked what I considered a "safe" investment for my 401K. About 300K of my 400K 401K (lots of Ks, huh?) is sitting in cash! I pulled everything back to cash about 4 months ago as I worried that the fiscal cliff thing would cause everything to drop. I know that was a BAD move as the stock market has done nothing but increase since then.

Now I am scared to get back in as it seems to me the stock market may be about to go down again. That is the problem. Never pull out because it's tough to know when and how to get back in.

Suzi Orman, who I watch regularly, urges risk averse people like me to go into shorter term municipal bonds. She says interest rates are about to rise so stay in short term bonds only. I know to get the growth though we really need to be partially invested in the stock market, but I only have 10 years until retirement. Also, I lost about 75% in the 90s in the high tech bubble so I am scared.

I actually got to talk with Suzi on her show about two years ago where she urged me to put everything in muni bonds due to my fear. I now wish I had done that. I only put 100K into the 5% bonds. Even with the growth of the market I would feel a lot safer with a fairly guaranteed 5%.

I have also been seeing quite a few documentaries about mutual funds that are really ponzi schemes and the fact that the Securities and Exchange Commission really doesn't do much. It is all frightening. I'm sorry, but if they want us to invest for our retirement, the government should at least have enough oversight to keep us safe from crooks!

Does anyone have any ideas on safer 401K investments? I have lots of leeway in my 401K and can invest in just about anything.

We are Doing this Thing

January 30th, 2013 at 08:45 am

I am happy to report that we have accomplished the following things to far this month:

1) I have stopped going to Ebay! (that was a big one for me)
2) I have started writting down everything I spend and really spending reasonably.
3) Hubby and I have created a monthly budget which will enable us to live on my income and save his salary.

1) Get our 401Ks invested in safe investments (right now they are sitting in cash).

Beginning February 1 (this Friday) we are starting working the Debt Free Spending Plan. The plan is from a wonderful book I read of the same name. Basically, the book has you create a spending plan for both recurring monthly bills and "Daily Expenses." Then you take each of the daily expense catagories and write them down, one to a page, in a little 3 by 5 book you carry with you.

Then you write down your expense as they are incurred on the applicable page. For instance, on the GROCERY page you write GROCERIES at the top and $400 (our monthly ammount). Then if you go to Walmart and spend $75, you write the date, Walmart and the amount, then subtract it from the $400 leaving you with $325 for the remainder of the month. If you get to the end of one category and overspend by say $10, you have to find another category to take the money from so everything balances. There are lots of other details regarding how to work the plan but those are the basics.

I have been gearing up to start the plan for the past two weeks and already it has resulted in my saving money. For example, I saw something on TV which I was tempted to spend $250 on, when I realized my "allowance" category was only $150 a month, which would take me nearly two months to save, I decided not to purchase the item.

Also, I know I want a weight machine for my birthday which will cost $299 and I have decided to save my $150 a month toward that purchase.

I am excited that we now have a plan! I will keep you posted on how it works.

2013 - So Far So Good!

January 3rd, 2013 at 07:41 am

I know it's only two days into the new year and everyone makes resolutions, but this time feels different.

I have created a new spending plan for us which entails our living off my salary and banking hubbies. To make that work:
1) I am going to take the main "frittering" areas...groceries, restaurants, movies, clothing and create an envelope system so we don't overspend.
2) I am not going to use MY charge card. Hubby will keep one to use in case we need to order something from the internet.
3) I am writing down everything I spend in a small notebook I carry around.
4) I will stay away from Ebay!
5) I will look at all our accounts online more regularly...savings, checking, rental house accounts and 401K accounts.

I have been living in a "financial haze" mostly ignoring all of that and it's time to wake up and take notice.

I am 55 this year with 10 years till official retirement age. This is a manageble countdown to a quite foreseeable endpoint.

To those of you younger folks, I will tell you it DOES eventually come. The more awake you can be in realizing this the better off you will be.

Here's to a great financially responsible 2013!

Staying Off Ebay!!

November 26th, 2012 at 11:33 am

I have been away from this blog for quite some time (wish I could consistently keep finances as a priority but I guess some attention is better than none).

For the past several months I have been buying too much on Ebay. We have a large income and own everything outright pretty much, but I have frittered away about $750 in Cabi clothing on Ebay. For those of you who don't know, Cabi is designer clothing sold at home parties.

Well, I purchased A LOT of Cabi clothes at several home parties then discovered I could purchase the clothes for less on Ebay.

This was NOT a good discovery as I have an addictive personality and Ebay can become VERY addictive.

I am on Day One of writing down everything I spend and NOT searching for anything on Ebay.

In the last month cehcking for new Cabi items or checking my auctions on Ebay was beginning to consume LOTS of my spare time and the packages were beginning to come in at a fast and furious pace. Even though in our lifestyle $750 is not terrible, I know where all addictions can lead. Therefore I am stopping this Ebay spending today.

I have to admit that I do feel a little emptier today without Ebay. I have been reading some compulsive spender's blogs for inspiration and I plan to try and cultivate a healthier addiction. One of the things I ordered on Ebay was a set of exercise DVDs. Once that comes I plan to make working out my new addiction (that is the one joy of having an addictive bent is that you can also become addicted to positive things).

Has anyone else out there had trouble with Ebay/Home Shopping Chanel or just general spending compulsions? If so, I would appreciate some tips and/or horror stories of what NOT quitting can do.

By the way, I am very into stating things in the positive. so instead of all the above:

"I spend money wisely and plan all purchases." That's my new mantra. From now on my blog entries will be about the positive steps I am taking rather than the negatives I mentioned above.

WooHoo!!! Paid Off DH's Car!!

March 15th, 2011 at 05:54 am

Although I haven't posted in a few weeks things are going well for me here in our house. My DH just got a bonus and we used it to pay off his car so we are officially debt free! No mortgage and no car payments. I am so happy about that.

Since January 1 we have truly been living on my income and banking DHs so the savings account is fat and happy. Also, we are living within our spending plan and the checking account is overflowing as well. I am learning that through planning ahead we can get some nice things (when truly needed) and also have some good experiences (like my 50% off Groupons for a local restaurant we have enjoyed).

Retirement Goals. We did get reinvested in the stock market in our 401Ks which was a goal I had. Unfortunately, we did it a few weeks ago at the height of the stock market. I did divide the amount to reinvest over six months though so we will be "dollar cost averaging" in over the next six months. This feels like an ouch to have entered the market at the height as it has come down some, but we still have 15 years till retirement so I guess I will bite my nails and hang on.

Rental House Income. After two false starts in terms of rental houses (we contracted and then backed out of 2 different deals), we really do want to keep looking and purchase rental house #2 soon. We also just completed some light remodeling on rental house #1 and we need to get it rented again or sell it on owner carry. We will take pics and put it up for sale/rent on Craigs List later this week. I know most people seem to be against rentals but DH and I are very handy and we have always made money flipping our own houses so buying and fixing houses is something we are good at. God gave us this "blessing" and I feel like we have to use it to give us security for the future, especially as I feel like the stock market is a gamble. I would love to have rental houses which bring in $5000 income a month and then we will be totally financially free.

12 Step Meetings. I continue to attend my Debtors Anonymous meetings by phone as I am getting ready each morning. This reminds me to write down what I spend each day and stick with our spending plan. One day at a time we are financially "solvent" which makes me SO HAPPY!!! Blessings to all of you!!

FREE Carpet Cleaner!!

March 2nd, 2011 at 04:09 am

I haven't posted in a week or so because nothing new has really been happening. I am glad to report that I have been going to telephone Debtors' Anonymous meetings most every day and I continue to track each penny I spend and no longer spend compulsively. I know my reprieve is just for this day, but it is working and my compulsive spending problem has been gone now for about 2 months. Praise the Lord...literally!

In April my DH and I are flying to Ashville, NC to meet one of our sons for a short vacation and see Biltmoore house there. That trip is compliments of my Chase Frequent Flyer VISA card! Also, we are getting our hotel compliments of our Marriott Rewards card as we got six free nights there (we got the card to get six free nights and then immediately paid it off). In addition, I recently got a "Rewards" Amex card which gave me 20,000 points to open an account and then spend and payoff a $600 purchase. I did that and just purchased a $180 Bissell carpet cleaner with the points.

My DA program would say to cut up all credit cards but I only use just the one Chase frequent flyer card (I don't use the other cards). I use it like a debit card and pay it off each Friday. I know it is a little risky to keep that card but I LOVE those miles as we live in a town with expensive air service and actually buyng tickets would be EXPENSIVE!!

I am so grateful for my progress in the DA program. One Day at a Time my compulsive spending has been arrested since January 1. I write down everything I purchase each day and live according to my spending plan.

I mentioned earlier that when I got my spending under control I started overeating. I am happy to report that I have been on Weight Watchers now for about two weeks and have lost the pounds I gained when I quit over spending. I am also participating in an online Overeaters Anonymous group which is really helping in that area too. Life is VERY good right now. We are truly living on what I make and saving DH's paycheck each month. We have both stopped frittering away money and now plan ahead for purchases we want to make. Thanks God!! Blessings to everyone.

Making "Things" My God

February 14th, 2011 at 05:38 pm

I am pleased I have been tracking my spending and not debting since January 1...about a month and a half. Thankfully I have lost the terrible spending compulsion I had during my Ebay jewelry buying spree before Christmas. It was one of the worst compulsions I have ever had and it gave me great empathy for addicts of all types. Although it's difficult for "normal" people to understand, sometimes the addiction is so powerful the addict truly can't stop the harmful behavior.

I am grateful that within two weeks of quitting sugar the spending compulsion left me. In addition, I started attending debtor's anonymous (DA)groups by telephone each morning (I haven't missed a morning since I started). Both of these things have taken away my spending compulsion. Also, reading the blogs here has helped me tremendously.

Once I stopped spending, though, my eating urge hit pretty hard and I gained six pounds in one month. That prompted me to join Weight Watchers which I started about three days ago. I am glad that already the WW eating plan has taken away my out of control eating. I have also already started to drop the weight I gained which is also nice.

It's funny that one of the key components of both DA and WW is to write down everything you buy and/or eat. Doing this gives one great clarity and calm.

The DA program, and all other twelve step programs, are spiritually based programs which teach you to turn your will over to a higher power (mine is the Lord). I have realized that no matter what addiction one struggles with it all really boils down to the addictive substance taking the God spot in one's life. During my spending or overeating sprees, fancy jewelry or the next meal became what I thought about continually, NOT God or God's will for my life...spending and eating became my Gods.

I am grateful that many years ago God gave Bill W.the spiritual tennants of the AA program as it has helped so many people overcome so many different struggles. I am grateful that just for today, I am spending and eating wisely. Thanks God!

First Couponing Shopping Trip!

February 12th, 2011 at 02:30 pm

I had my first couponing shopping trip. I thank everyone who gave me advice on this. That SouthernSavers.com website has GREAT advice and also links to coupons which is very nice. I planned my trip based on couponmom.com which puts together the sales from your local grocery store with the recent coupons. It is really neat because I have learned that it is very possible to buy toothpaste and deodorant FREE or for $.50 or less, if you aren't brand loyal. I have told DH that we are both going to stop caring so much about which brand we use on our armpits!!

That being said I carefully only bought things we use and combined that list with coupons and what was on sale. Even so, though, I was kind of underwhelmed when I got to the checkout counter at Walmart. I paid just over $39 and with the coupons it was reduced to $33. It was NOT the incredible savings I see on the morning shows. That being said, though, since I was mostly buying things on sale I think I probably got about $60 of groceries for my $33 which IS good.

One bad element of the day though was that I LOST my coupon keeper filled with coupons somewhere between the Walmart parking lot and my house!!! I now need to go purchase another coupon keeper! BUT I did get my toes wet on this thing and tomorrow morning I plan to get a couple of extra Sunday papers to get at least three of each coupon. Plus my mother in law says she will save them for me.

Fortunately, although I did lose some good coupons when I lost the coupon keeper, since the website recommends that you keep the coupons in their circulars (dated) until you need to use them, I still have most of the coupons I have saved from the last month.

I do need to remember, though, that couponing can be addictive and NOT buy things I won't use.

Weight Watchers Here I Come!

February 9th, 2011 at 04:19 am

My spending is WELL under control...I have been tracking all spending and living within our budget for just over a month. Paid off one car. Paid down about 50% on the second car. Charge card is at zero balance. We just rebalanced our 401K. Established MINT.com account and DH is excited about that and even looking at all daily expenditures. He LOVES it and this is the first time he has really ever even paid attention to what was being spent. This is truly GREAT news for me as it keeps me accountable. In the past I had "free license to spend" because he never even looked at what I spent.

BUT I AM DISGUSTED TODAY! I have gone from 123 pounds on January 1 to 129 pounds this morning! Six pounds in one month! I am still a slender person but am nearing the scary weight "edge" if you know what I mean. For me, 130's ville is the weight danger zone as I know where that has sometimes led in the past.

For us addictive types, we get one area under control, then another area "pops." For this reason I am going to start using my old Weight Watchers tracking book today (you write down all the foods you eat and stay within your number of points). If I can't get this weight thing back under control myself, even though the meetings cost money, I am going to go back to them. They are $12 a week paid on a weekly basis or just under $40 a month paid by the month. When I was going to them before and lost weight, DH complained about my paying the $12 a week fee as he didn't think it was necessary. Those meetings kept me at a good weight...they were for maintenance.

On well, at least I have an option to help keep my weight under control. I will do it. I realized last night at dinner as I was eating a plate of nachos left over from the Super Bowl party that my eating habits were getting really bad.

I am going to try tracking everything I eat for at least the next few days. If I can't get it under control myself I will spend the money for the meetings. I AM SO ENVIOUS OF YOU NON-ADDICTIVE TYPES WHO JUST DO THE RIGHT THINGS NATURALLY...I HAVE TO FIGHT MY PERSONALITY EVERY STEP OF THE WAY!!!!

Oh well, I am very thrilled my spending is doing so well. As they say in my DA support group meetings "my worst day today is better than my best day when I was overspending." That is really so true. Thanks God!

What is Your Best Advice on Clipping Coupons, Coupon Mom, etc.??

February 7th, 2011 at 07:29 am

I AM IN A MESS THIS MORNING!! I have been saving my Sunday sale papers for a month and went to COUPONMOM.com to begin clipping coupons for my first "coupon" shopping trip and it is taking me forever as from Coupon Mom I have a grocery store list, a Walmart list, a Target list and a Walgreens list...flipping back and forth between each week's circular and each list is making me crazy!!

Can anyone give me some advice and/or tips on how to do this effectively? Do you clip ALL the coupons before looking at coupon mom or do you clip the coupons from each circular each week...this seems cumbersome. Also, I am worried that I will end up overspending just to get good deals. Do you couponers not pay attention to brands (i.e. do you use different brands or toothpaste, deodorant, etc.)? Do you buy ahead on items when they are good deals? Also, how do you organize the process as it is lots of paperwork?? Any tips you can provide would be helpful as I am looking at a pile of mess right now!!
From reading the blogs I know there are some true experts out there!

Making Due + Saving for a Want

February 6th, 2011 at 06:25 am

MAKING DUE. I am noticing that as I read everyone's blog here I am thinking more about how to use what I have wisely instead of always buying something new. Therefore, this morning, instead of replacing my tired and tattered front door wreath, I remade it for $13. I kept the wreath itself and the older white roses and greenery and just added a new bow and purple floral stems. My re-do wreath will be just fine and it didn't cost me $50!!

UPCOMING NEEDS. We truly do need a new carpet cleaning machine. Ours broke about a year ago and instead of fixing it which would have cost $100 we decided to buy a new one. I looked at consumer reports and have selected the best model. We will purchase it soon out of our household budget. This is truly is a NEED because our carpets need cleaning and we would spend more than $150 to have them professionally cleaned and buying the cleaner will cost less than that.

UPCOMING WANTS. My sister got a Roomba. This is the small round automatic vaccuum that vacuums your floors automatically. She loves it as it keeps her wood floors looking great with really no effort on her part except dumping out the dust bin each day (she has it set to automatically clean at midnight). I almost hate sweeping my wood floors as they take up most of the first floor so it's a big job. Since this is a "WANT" I plan to wait another couple of months and "save" the money in my "Beth's Fun Money" account. This is a $100 a month allowance in our budget (DH has one too).

This is a new thing for me to want something and not just go buy it. This is a real grownup responsible way to purchase something. Who knows? Maybe the waiting to get it will be just as much fun as the anticipating of a future restaurant treat. Actually I really DO want it now but I have decided to wait...little OOOUUUCCCHHH!!

Does anybody have a Roomba? If so, how do you like it?

Granite City Groupon + Brother in Law Visit

February 5th, 2011 at 06:32 am

GRANITE CITY. Spent $30 yesterday on 3 Granite City restaurant coupons. I paid $10 for each $20 gift card and they must be used in the next three months. Granite City is kind of like an upscale Applebees. We like their Asian Chicken Salad which is around $9. This means we can go out to a nice dinner + lemon water for the $10 of the coupon plus a $4 tip (20% of the orig. $20 purchase). We will have three great night outs to look forward to! Even going to our normal kind of frugal restaurant would have cost us more than $20! A good bargain and something nice to look forward to!

NOTE. I am learning from you all here that when you plan ahead for fun events you can (1) save money and (2) actually look forward to the event. We never got this enjoyment before because our planning was coming home from work tired and going "I'm too tired to cook, let's go out." We were playing worn out defense instead of happy offense! Tomorrow morning we are looking forward to going to IHOP with our 50% off coupon...nothing as luxurious as Sunday breakfast out!

BROTHER IN LAW VISIT. DH's brother in law is coming today to work on his car in our garage. I have nice sundried tomato pasta and salad left over from earlier in the week. We will have this plus garlic bread for dinner. For lunch I will go grab some turkey lunch meat, bread and chips. We will have avacado, sprout, cream cheese and turkey sandwiches and chips for lunch since I have the avacados, sprouts and cream cheese already! Yum!!

I always like to eat and it sounds like a good day ahead for that PLUS I get to see my brother in law!

Lord's Diner...

February 4th, 2011 at 03:39 am

My DH and I volunteer some at the Lord's Diner. It is a free "restaurant" for our community's homeless people. The building is relatively new and the decor is nice. Each evening there is a cafeteria line of good food including dessert. We call the patrons' guests and it is a cheery, nice place to eat.

Among the guests there are many stereotypical homeless people...mostly men probably with alchohol and/or drug problems and also mental ill people, as a few years back our state made the "wonderful" decision to close our state hospitals which put many mentally ill people on the streets.

Surprisingly, though, a lot of our guests have jobs at local fast good restaurants or machine shops. They probably make little more than minimum wage and they use dinner at the Lord's Diner to stretch their meager budgets. At the first of the month the diner serves 300 people and the number doubles near the end of the month because it's so far from payday. There are also many families, and a separate family wing was added recently as we are getting more and more families.

It's easy to say everyone should just get out there and get a job, but many very deserving people really can't accomplish that or they can only find a job making very little money. For example, one of our diners was very severely burned and no one will hire him.

Working at The Lord's Diner reminds me that we always need to remember those who are less fortunate as we as a society really are their only protection...no amount of positive thinking will change that or their situations. For many, many people life is hard. The Bible says the poor will be with us always. Unfortunately, I think that's true.

What Doesn't Get Tracked Doesn't Get Done (I think)

February 3rd, 2011 at 04:23 am

OK. I know I am tackling a lot lately and this could be a mark that I will burn out, BUT, I have noticed that writing down everything I spend truly is helping me become conscious of living within my spending plan.

I have noticed though, that like many addictive personality types, as my checking account has gotten fat, I have too! I guess my emotional outlet has switched from spending to eating. Spending used to be my remedy for feeling up, down, happy, sad, frustrated, elated, etc. Now cheese covered nachos and ice cream seem to be!

OK. If writing down and tracking my spending is helping me so much to improve my finances (and guys, it's truly like night and day!), then maybe tracking other areas of my life in which I want to improve will do the same thing...including my eating habits. Therefore, I have added the following daily list to my "Author Info" over there to the left:

TRACKING: (started Thurs)
DA Phone Meeting/wk (5) I
30 Min Treadmill/wk (5) I
Vitamins/wk (6) I
Weigh/daily (124-126) 127.6
Fruit/wk (7)
Salads/wk (7)
Extra Veggie (7)
Girl Friend Event/wk (1)I
Couple Friend Event/2 wks (1)
Calling someone 1/day
Work Hard at Work (5)
Writing Down Spending (7)
Net Worth (1Xmo.)
Replace TV w/30 mins/day reading about real estate (7)

When I got on the scale, I was dissapointed, but not surprised, that I weighed more than my optimal weight. Now I know that 1.6 pounds over 126 doesn't seem like much to most people, but I have weighed as much as 200 pounds in tbe past (I WAS pregnant with my first son but...), and weight can just creep up on you. Also, I had liposuction a year ago and I want to protect my investment! Before the lipo I weighted 132 and had an apple-ish middle which I have now lost and never want to see again...it cost me $7,000 to lose.

Now, either this daily tracking will be easy, OR I will end up finding out it's too much and give it up. This is an experiment for me to see if (1) I actually DO the tracking and (2)if it works to keep me on track. It's anybody's guess if I can stick to this, but if I can I will probably be healthier, happier, wealthier and have closer friendships. Whatever happens, thanks God for the experiment!

DH's Car Progress & Good vs Bad Debt

February 2nd, 2011 at 01:42 pm

I am working on paying off our only debt which is my DH's second car...his hobby Porsche. Yesterday I just got two more Ebay sales which totaled $1,459.33. Once the funds are transfered from Paypal to our checking account in 2-3 days, I will pay his car loan down to $5,129.83. These large Ebay sales are really chipping away at the loan but my largest pieces are gone now. Even if everything else sells, I will only make about $2,000 more which won't pay off the car.

That Porsche sounded so great intially, but now that it's parked safely in our garage I am kind of sorry we bought it (although don't tell DH that). I REALIZE THAT I HATE DEBT...at least debt that doesn't bring in income. Rich Dad would say that debt which brings in income is good debt. I guess that means debt for rental houses is good because it's debt that can end up paying for you to live. Of course, to make that work you have to go S-L-O-W-L-Y and make wise decisions.

For most of our 28 year marriage, other than paying off our own houses well, much of our money went for trinkets...fancy, shimmering nothings that looked attractive at the time, but ended up just frittering away our income (such as all the David Yurman jewlery I bought before Christmas which I am now selling). Although we didn't really debt all that much, purchasing all the stuff I had to have at the time wasted thousands of dollars.

Although looking back the money I wasted upsets me, it does me no good to beat myself up for past mistakes. I can only do the best I can to learn and improve one day at a time. Thanks to DA, writing down my numbers and this blog, I have now had one very good month + two days which is more than I had yesterday. Thanks God!

Don't Touch That Checking Account!!!

February 1st, 2011 at 03:48 am

I have completed my first full month of writing down everything I spent and keeping track of my income and expenses in Mint.com. It has been a great month as I set up a spending plan at Mint.com and lived within it.

I noticed that in some areas, like gas and food, I was under budget and in a few other areas I was over (like restaurant food). Mint.com is wonderful because in addition to allowing you to link your checking and charge accounts and exactly track each expenditure, it allows you to set a yearly budget for each item which rolls forward. For example, my clothing allowance is $150 a month or $1,800 for the year. In January I spent nothing on clothes, so that amount will roll forward...this month I now have $300 in that catagory...next month $450, etc.

Our spending plan is based on DH and me living on what I make and banking his salary. Due to catagories in which we didn't spend last month (like lawn care... since we had snow, not grass...and home improvement), we were $2000 under budget overall so that extra $2000 is now sitting in the checking account waiting to be spent in months in which we will have lawn care or need clothes.

In the past, seeing a high checking account balance meant "WOO-HOOO!!!! I HAVE MONEY!! LET'S SPEND!!!" Now, it just means that I have the future money needed for bark chips in the spring or our vacation next summer (I have a monthly catagory of $300 for vacation which rolls forward).

Now, my fat checking account balance is largely meaningless as it no longer means I have a license to spend! I concentrate more on the spending plan I have set up in Mint.com. If I watch the pennies there, the dollars in the checking account take care of themselves...the beauty of financial sanity!

This is really neat. Who knew it could be so much fun to live on a budget?

Well, better sign off. The timer just dinged on the granola I am making! Yum!!

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.

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