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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

DAY EIGHT OF FINANCIAL ABSTINENCE!!

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.

THINGS WE DID 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.

THINGS WE DID WRONG:
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.)

WHAT I LEARNED:
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.

CALL FOR HELP!!!

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...


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