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Archive for January, 2011: Savings Queen's Personal Finance Journey
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Archive for January, 2011

The Maids Just Came...

January 31st, 2011 at 12:49 am

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 11:39 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 11:02 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 11:32 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!!

SPENDING YESTERDAY:
$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.

PLANNED SPENDING THIS WEEK:
* 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 02:03 pm

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 11:22 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:

PAY DOWN MY DH'S CAR LOAN OF $9,425.43 WITH MY EBAY SALES!!

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 11:01 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 03:21 pm

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 09:41 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."