Thursday, December 3, 2009

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like a Gift-less Christmas...

Another year has passed and again we are not giving gifts for Christmas. Hell, we aren't even sending cards this year. Even without listening to the media drone on and on about the economy, we are feeling the pressure to quit spending like never before. I'm even going for a job interview next week to take on a second job to help us build up some savings. Unfortunately right now we are saving every spare penny we have to put towards a decent used car so that I will have something to drive to work once my job moves to the 'burbs. As much as I love Christmas and giving gifts, it just doesn't seem practical this year. Not to mention, I really feel as though I have turned over a new leaf and there isn't anything that I actually even want! That is a very liberating feeling let me tell you! I've also decided that I need to quit being so extreme in what I do. When budgeting in the past, I was unrealistic. I budgeted practically every dime we made to pay off debt or I would say "to hell with it" and blow all the money on stupid things. When I finally let go of that mindset, budgeting became my friend. I'm a firm believer in adding some money to your savings while/before you pay down your debt. My reasoning is pretty simplistic: If we have money set aside, we don't continue spending on the credit cards while we pay them down because we actually have a little cash set aside for things that crop up. It may take a little longer to pay down our cards, but it keeps us from diving further into the black hole that is credit card debt. So this year, I guess we are giving gifts to each other: peace of mind. Merry Christmas Baby!

Monthly Bills/Balances-December 2009

Rent: $1524-We are going to stay in our apartment until the end of the lease as we have no idea when my job may be moving.
Discover Balance: $4897-This went up for a couple of reasons...eating out (somedays job stress is too much to bear and I can't bring myself to slave over the stove when I get home) and I purchased some replacement boots.
Chase Balance: $5628-This also went up for a few different reasons...eating out of course, but my husband needed new work shoes as well, and I needed minutes for my prepaid phone. Thankfully I only buy minutes about once a year and they are $100.
MB Balance: $0.00-We never seem to use this card, which I might add is a good thing!
GMAC Balance: $0.00!!!-They are paid in full! It took every dollar we had, but they are done!
Electric: $40-still around the same bill since the temperature has dropped into the 30's.
Groceries: $25/week-still eating some high-carb processed food, but only for another week
Transportation: $86/mnth-train pass
Savings: $1500-car fund
Fun Money:-$400-This should help us to keep from using the credit cards!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Monthly Bills/Balances-November 2009

Rent: $1524-Considering trying to break the lease as the apartment manager cannot make the residents have any decency in keeping things clean and as a result, our dog had to have a $2000 surgery to fix a problem caused by dirty residents!
Discover Balance: $4290-currently there is $141 that is not part of the available balance, but I think it might just be holds on the card-only paying the minimum this month as we have to save to buy a car since my job is moving to the end of the earth!
Chase (formerly WAMU) Balance: $5052-again, only paying the minimum this month so we can put some money away for a car.
MB Balance: $0.00-still a big goose egg for this card-at least something has a bright side here!
GMAC Balance: $3738-we should be able to settle this debt for 60% and pay it in full this month
Electric: $40-we've started opening the door to let in some cool air!
Groceries: $25/week-not eating terribly fresh food, but trying to scrimp as best we can here.
Transportation: $86/mnth-train pass
Savings: $1000-this is pretty much for the car.
Fun Money:-no fun this month! We spent what little we had on a birthday dinner for the hubs!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

When It Rains, It Pours...

Let the deluge begin! Just as we are getting things under control financially and reining in the frivolty, my job decides they are going to up and move to B.F.E.! It's still close enough to commute, but the commute will now need to involve a car! AAAARRRGGGGHHH! I sure wish I would have known this before we got rid of our cars! I realize the car payments were crushing, but if I had known I would need a car, maybe I could have traded it in on something cheaper! So with all of our debt repayment, we now need to find a way to come up with a little bit of money to buy a cheap-o car that will hopefully last long enough to get me to work for a few months until we can get out of the hole we have dug ourselves. This is how the viscious circle begins. I'm sure there will be car repairs, there will be parking fees involved, gas, insurance, blah blah blah. How depressing. Next thing you know, we'll be at the Check Cashing Palace to get a payday loan! Well I guess we better buckle down and prepare to eat rice at least 10,000 different ways for the next couple of months and hope like hell we weather the storm!

ETA: Shortly after this lovely post, it rained harder! Our pug needed emergency surgery to the tune of $2000! Next month's bill posting is going to look like a bomb went off on our credit cards!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Monthly Bills/Balances-October 2009

Rent: $1524-Reduction didn't happen, but in speaking with the manager of the building it would seem that if things don't change, she won't charge us a penalty if we decide to leave early due to the ugliness of the building.
Discover Balance: $3077-probably another $1000 or so going to it at month's end
WAMU Balance: $2654-slowly plugging away at it, it will also get about $1000 at month's end
MB Balance: $0.00-rockin!
Electric: $60-don't see this changing too much
Groceries: $300-$400/mnth-the price of fresh ingredients just sucks in the Windy City
Transportation: $86/mnth-train pass
Savings: $1000-woohoo, we've moved up in the world!
Fun Money: this is pretty much ZERO this month.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Rainbow After the Storm

Well after having possibly the worst 2 weeks of my life recently, I'm ready for a little bit of a "pick me up" and by golly, I finally got it! A while back, my husband's OT was taken away and as a consequence, about a quarter of his paycheck up and vanished. Shortly after that happened, someone at his work was given the ole' heave-ho and my husband was given the guy's job. After receiving some certificates saying he was proficient in the job, the boss decided it was finally time to give him salary (which is paid monthly instead of semi-monthly, ugh) and a decent raise! I'm absolutely floored that this finally came to pass! However, with that said, we are still trying to pare down our expenses so that we can live almost exclusively on 1 of my paychecks so that we can bank whatever is left. I'm finally renouncing my spendthrift ways! Those old spending habits are just too incredibly ugly to repeat. Let's hope I can take the high road and do it right this time!

Monthly Bills/Balances-September 2009

I realize this post is a little late into the month, but better late than never!
Rent: $1524 (looking for a reduction since it has become apparent that our building is now a dorm for disgusting college kids that have their parents pay their rent for them!)
Discover Balance: $4953, throwing $2k to this at month's end
WAMU Balance: $3149, paid a substantial amount of money to it, but when it rains it pours! Hubs had to fly to see a dying family member and the pug decided she needed a urinary tract infection to go with her yearly shots from the vet, so needless to say, this balance will be receiving about $700 at month's end as well
MB Balance: $0.00-the only balance I can get excited about right now!
Electric: $60-still around the same as last month as it's been a little warm out
Groceries: $300-$400/mnth-slowing but surely we are whittling this down
Transportation: $86/mnth-train pass
Savings: $300-it's not much, but it's something
Fun Money: we have about $200 fun money this month, so we will have to spend it wisely methinks.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Monthly Bills/Balances-August 2009

Rent: $1524
Discover Balance: $5248, just made a big ole' payment on that sucker!
WAMU Balance: $3240 but planning on throwing $2600 at it this month
MB Balance: $125.85-had a big night out, but this will get paid out of our fun money this week
Electric: $60-this went up a little bit but we've cranked the A/C up even further as August begins to take hold and produce some "dog days of summer"
Groceries: $400-$500/mnth-actually working on paring this down again
Transportation: $86/mnth-train pass
Savings: still nothing and probably will stay that way until december
Fun Money: we have about $400 for the month (after paying the MB card) so that we don't feel totally strapped and wind up doing something stupid like going and charging up more on the credit!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Monthly Bills/Balances-July 2009

Rent: $1524
Discover Balance: oh boy, here goes...$6328.00...yeah, that hurts
WAMU Balance: not so good here either....$3417.00...stupid auto loan deficiency!
AMEX Balance: This card is closed!
MB Balance: $0.00-at least something looks ok on the balance sheet
Electric: $53-this is probably the most it will ever get to as we are using the A/C full bore right now
Groceries: $400-$500/mnth-when did fruits and veggies get so expensive?
Transportation: $86/mnth-this will remain constant for my train pass
Savings: nada
Fun Money: only a couple hundred here-things are tight until we pay off that ridiculous Discover/WAMU balance!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Reality Check!

Check please! Reality check that is. I got just the one I have been needing today. Here's the situation: A few months ago, my husband lost a good portion of his paycheck due to cutbacks at work. We lost our house and let our cars go back as we moved somewhere that doesn't require a car to get around. All of those things combined freed up a lot of cash. Well of course rather than be frugal and intelligent with the extra cash, we did some dumb things. We did however set up a payment plan with GMAC to pay the remaining balance after the truck was sold at auction. On Wednesday of this week, Toyota's collectors call me to demand the balance, offered a settlement amount that we couldn't pay and told me I was a loser essentially. So fast forward to this morning, and I receive a phone call advising we are about to be sued by Toyota for the remaining balance. Yikes! So, I ask if the settlement amount can be put on my credit card because I just don't have that kind of money laying around in my checking account. So, a long story short, Toyota has been paid in full (settlement amount), GMAC will be paid shortly, and I'm now keenly aware of how little money is left over for the next 3 months while we go whole hog on paying off the credit card. An expensive lesson to be sure, but comforting to know that I now have my head on straight and the value of the dollar couldn't be more straightforward!

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Monthly Bills/Balances-May 2009

Rent: $1524
Discover Balance: $162.00-just using this for the rewards this month
WAMU Balance: $0.00-yay!
AMEX Balance: $0.00-woohoo!
MB Balance: $0.00-fabulousness!
Electric: $30-this is a give or take estimate as we have yet to receive an actual bill
Groceries: $500/mnth-this has gone up considerably as we have substantially changed how we eat and where we shop (Whole Foods anyone?)
Transportation: $86/mnth-I have to buy a train card every month to get to work
Savings: $2550
Fun Money: nothing set up for this month-the weather is improving and we can get out and do stuff for free!

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Monthly Bills/Balances-April 2009

Rent (Rent has replaced the Mortgage): $1524
Truck: GONE
Discover Balance: $0.00-and this is the way it's going to stay!
WAMU Balance: $0.00-nothing but wholesome goodness here!
AMEX Balance: $0.00-still a big fat goose egg!
MB Balance: $0.00-most excellent!
Gasoline: GONE
Electric: $30-this is a give or take estimate as we have yet to receive an actual bill
Heating: No longer applies
Groceries: $300/mnth-this hasn't changed at all, our food budget is pretty straighforward
Water/Trash: FREE!
Transportation: $86/mnth-I have to buy a train card every month to get to work
Savings: $1140 in the EF at the moment, but being added to at a rate of $3k/mnth
Fun Money: $100 each and $200 for the eating out pool (which I may abstain from this month since I'm trying to get into shape at the gym that's onsite at our new apartment)

Back On My Own Two Feet Again

Well, it's been 3 weeks since we moved back to the city and it's going swimmingly! However, I have to note, we haven't heard from the mortgage company after mailing in the house keys and I can't get the car companies to come pick up their vehicles! Yikes! I've had to call both car companies multiple times now to see if they are ever going to repossess the cars. Sounds to me like they are slammed with requests other than mine. However, we are saving TONS of money right now and it feels good to not stress over the bills anymore. We still try to live frugally, but not out of necessity, only out of a conscious effort to be less "stuff" oriented. It's working out beautifully. Even if the hubby loses his job, we are A-ok and that's a fine feeling. I can't believe we ever let ourselves get caught up in the consumerism so much. We were pretty good about our finances before we moved to Chicago, and then with a large boost in income, we suddenly needed to buy buy buy. How depressing. I feel like we are "going back to our roots" with this transition. It's sad that our credit will suffer for it, but maybe we needed a kick in the pants to get our heads screwed on straight. For now, I'm living stress-free and loving it!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Joining the Rank & File

Yes, there is a good reason for my conspicuous absence from the blogging world. We've joined the millions of Americans who have lost a significant amount of pay and still do the same amount of work. Our home will be going into foreclosure and our vehicles will be repossessed this month, but don't cry for me Argentina, we're not going to let a little ole' paycut get us down! We're actually moving back into the city and will be able to commute via public transportation and that will save us a significant amount of money. Our sterling credit however, not so much. We are going to make this work for us though. No more dreaming of unattainable ideals. Our nose is to the grindstone to make our savings account shine! This move will save us roughly $20,000 per year! Our driving commute will no longer be a stressful friction point between us, gas price fluctuation will no longer affect us so drastically, and our neighbor parking her car in front of our house for months on end doesn't matter anymore! It's somewhat liberating to be honest. I know that in the months to come when dealing with creditors and the mortgage company I'm going to encounter my share of headaches, but once it's behind us, it's a done deal. Let's only hope others have it this good.

Monday, February 23, 2009

It Pays to be Diligent

Maybe the check was never in the mail to begin with. Maybe I'm holding the postal system in low esteem for no good reason. Maybe my expectations for people to just do their job is too high. Who knows. All I know right now, is that I'm going to waste a half day of vacation time to drive to the car dealership and rip someone a new one! My husband has been consistently contacting the dealership about our GAP refund check and everytime he calls, it's a new story. Last Wednesday, the story was that the manager needed to sign off on the check and we could pick it up over the weekend. When my husband called on Friday to verify that the check was ready, he was told the manager had gone home early because something was in her eye! Could we at least get a plausible excuse? Not to mention, what happened to the manager on Wednesday & Thursday? Did her fingers cramp up so she couldn't hold a pen? Did her dog eat her work clothes and she couldn't come in? Honestly! So my husband called today to find out what the problem is now and is told that "it's on the top of my priority list" by whomever he has been dealing with. In response to that, my husband advised her that I would be coming to the dealership today and that the check better be ready. She gave him the impression that she was not pleased by that. Why would that be? Because I'm going to force her to do her job? Frankly I'm so ticked off right now, I will probably cause a scene. If I have to drag the department manager and dealership manager into the fray, so be it. I know it's only a couple hundred dollars, but darn it all, that's my couple hundred dollars, not theirs to hold hostage! Hopefully there will be some resolution today because I don't want to deal with these people ever again, and I'll be sure to let them know that we won't be buying another car there ever again as well. I'm sure the dealership manager won't be too pleased to hear that.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Holy Fencing Batman!

I must admit that when I received the estimate on installing a whopping 12 panels of fence in our backyard that I about had to put the phone down! The way I figured it, 12 panels at $28 each is $336, and then we would need 2 posts per panel, so 24 posts would cost about $120. Nails and the metal brackets would be negligible in the scheme of things. So overall, I'm envisioning roughly a $1500 project, maybe even $2000. Not to be! When Lowes called, they said it would set us back to the tune of $6123!!! Oh my god, are you serious??? Please tell me what the other $4000 is for! I realize I might have been a bit off on my labor estimate as I'm not in construction and don't really know what kind of prices they charge, but this price is just unreasonable! 12 panels of fence? That doesn't even cover a quarter of my yard! I know someone who has a HUGE yard and had the whole thing done for $8000. Good grief man! So needless to say, it looks as though my husband and I are about to become the notorious "do it yourselfers". It's not going to be pretty, but I'll be darned if it rings up a $6k total either! Sheesh, I thought contractors were hurting for business right now, not trying to price gouge themselves out of a sale! Too bad for them I guess!

The Check Really Was in the Mail!

The check was in the mail at some point, but alas, the Chicago mail system has foiled us again! It never arrived! The dealership is going to stop payment today and reissue the check. I believe it's probably best that we just drive over there to pick it up. Total waste of gas considering that in this day & age we have a postal system, but it is most likely awash in corruption just like the rest of the good city of Gotham. Maybe we'll get lucky and there will be another "breaking news" report of one of our fine postal workers hoarding mail and our lonely little check will be moldering in their garage or something. Who knows. Anyway, it's good to know that it's being reissued and hopefully we can add that to the vacation fund and actually do something constructive on our time off this year.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Check Is In The Mail

"Yes ma'am, I mailed that check out early last week". Sure you did lady. This is the storyI've been given by the car dealership that has been sitting on our refund since November. When we bought our new car last November, we cancelled the GAP coverage on the car we traded in (stands to reason right? don't want to pay for something I no longer own!). Well the guy we worked with in the finance department was a complete jerk. He tried to sell us so much stuff that we didn't need and didn't want to take "no" for an answer. We finally convinced him to cancel the GAP. We are told it could take up to 6 weeks to receive the refund, but it doesn't usually take that long. Ok, no problem, we aren't in any hurry per se. 6 weeks go by and we haven't received our check. I call the GAP company to verify that it has been cancelled. The kind woman I spoke with advised that it had not been cancelled. She inquired as to what dealership we used. I advised her where we bought the car and she lets out a long sigh and says "oh, now I understand". According to her, our dealership is NOTORIOUS for not cancelling the GAP upon request right away. She says they take forever! Great, now I'm mad. So my husband calls the dealer and talks asks for the finance jerk. Yeah, he no longer works there! No wonder it didn't get done! So my husband is passed onto someone else that seems to know what is going on. She advises that the check will be ready by the end of January and that she will call once the check arrives at the dealership. She called early last week and my husband asked her to mail the check. Well, it's over a week and half later and surprise, no check. Ordinarily this wouldn't be a big deal, but we live the next town over from the dealer, it should have been here by now. So I call today and she advises that the check was mailed last week when she spoke with my husband and she can't understand why I'm calling her. I explain that we should have received it by now and can she check into whether it was cashed by someone else. She advises that she will check into and call me back, but somehow I doubt I will hear from her.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Eating Poor to Stop the Cash Hemorrhage

Well I suppose I'm going to have to post an updated food calendar now in anticipation of being broke without any OT coming from my husband's paycheck! Not to be an alarmist or anything, but I always feel that it's better to be prepared than to be caught with your pants down! Things aren't going so hot at my job lately either (we are losing clients faster than Madonna changes looks), but as of right this second, there haven't been any moves or talks of layoffs. I'm keeping the ole fingers crossed. Anyway, on to the calendar. Unfortunately, a lot of it consists of rice or pasta, but with some beans and veggies at least we are getting protein and essential vitamins and can be somewhat nutritious. With the said menu, we will cut our grocery bill down to about $100/mnth or so. Each meal has to be repeated once, but hey, if you are trying to staunch the cash flow, eating boring food might have to enter the picture for a while!

Is the Axe About to Fall?

Out of the blue yesterday, my husband received an email from his boss (he wasn't the only one to receive the email) asking what his typical work hours are. Now if he hadn't been privvy to earlier talks of cutting OT, this email wouldn't ruffle any feathers, however, since he is "in the know" about the scaling back on OT, this is a huge red flag. Does this mean that OT is going the way of the dodo? If so, we stand to take a $800-$1000 hit per month. OUCH! With no raise this year, that really hurts. However, what I fail to understand is that huge year end bonuses were given to the employees (to the tune of $5k and up) but they want to cut the bread and butter that is a regular paycheck. I realize that $5k isn't equivalent to what we stand to lose over the course of a year, but if that amount were spread out over the year, it wouldn't hurt so bad to take the OT loss. Luckily we banked the bonus and have something to fall back on, but that is the bulk of our emergency fund and god forbid we have an emergency! I'm not sure how much longer our furnace is going to be able to limp along. We are almost out of the woods as far as needing to use it, so I think we will be ok for now, but if something goes south between now and next winter, I think we are going to have to stock up on Snuggie blankets and long underwear, and believe me, long underwear and snuggies are not a good look for anyone!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Food Calendar

I'm posting the calendar I use to plan meals for the month. Our grocery bill for two people is probably a bit high as it runs in the $250-$300 range for a month, but that also includes toiletries. The green meals mean they are quick to prepare, yellow takes a little longer, and red I reserve for making on weekends. Anything that sounds like meat is made with a meat alternative like Morningstar. Hope this helps!

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Monthly Bills/Balances-February 2009

Updated for February 2009-Paid off a credit card and boosted the ole savings account!

Mortgage: $1595.32/mnth Balance: $177,223.51
Truck: $557.49/mnth Balance: $29,546.97
Car: $623.69/mnth Balance: $32,234.85
Discover Balance: $0.00-woohoo, paid that sucker off!
WAMU Balance: $0.00-haven't added anything to it!
AMEX Balance: $0.00-not going to add anything here either!
MB Balance: $0.00-smokin' hot!
Gasoline: $80.00/mnth give or take $20.00-this may go up if hubs takes the new job
Electric: $74.84 for January-running a space heater in our bedroom
Heating: $185.38 for January-installed a digital thermostat, we are saving big now!
Groceries: $300/mnth-probably a little more this month since i'm buying some seafood
Water/Trash: $114.09/quarterly-showering more since we started working out!
Savings: $4650 as of 2/2/09-will be adding an additional $1000 next week
Fun Money: $100 each and $200 in a pool for eating out this month

A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

Last week, the hubby got some potentially good news: he was being considered for an advanced position at his company! Yay! It would be a change in shift (5am-1pm) but definitely something we could work with. He would have to drive his own vehicle to work instead of riding with me and that would require a little more in gas every week, but the company would pay for his parking. The position was offering salary instead of his current hourly (which accrues about 7.5 hours of OT per week as he works 10 hour days with a 1/2 hour lunch) and the salary would be more money for less time worked as the new shift would only be 8 hours. Sounds like a match made in heaven! Suddenly new possibilities were opening up for us! A vacation might be on the horizon! Then, "oh no Mr. Bill, it's Mr. Sluggo"! The following day his boss informs him that OT is going to be cut on his current shift and there will be no salary for the new shift and "oh, by the way, you can start tomorrow right"? My husband explains to his boss that it doesn't make sense to take the shift now because we would be shelling out an extra $200 a month on gas when he could stay in his current position and save the gas money by riding with me. His boss tells him that he is being "petty"! I mean honestly, is his boss so rich that $200 a month is petty to him? Somehow I doubt it. Not only is it an extra $200 a month in gas, but without OT, that's about a $14k a year salary cut! I'm so miffed. Right now they are in negotiations about the salary and whatnot, but I just don't understand how his boss could quote him a salary and want him to start right away and then just pull the rug out from under him and expect my husband to still want to take the job! I'm just hoping it doesn't come down to bullying my husband out of ANY job now because he's upset his precious boss! Guess the economy is giving companies carte blanche to be ruthless because the alternative is no job at all?

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Monthly Bills/Balances-January 2009

I thought it might be prudent to post what our monthly expenses are and update the balances as they get paid off:

Mortgage: $1595.32/mnth Balance: $177,404.16 Matures: 11/2037
Truck: $557.49/mnth Balance: $30,104.46 Matures: 7/2013
Car: $623.69/mnth Balance: $32,727.91 Matures: 11/2013
Discover Balance: $330.00-will be paid in full by 1/31/09
WAMU Balance: $0.00-just the way I like it!
AMEX Balance: $0.00-hotness!
MB Balance: $0.00-about damn time!
Gasoline: $80.00/mnth give or take $20.00
Electric: $50-$75/mnth depending on the season
Heating: $30-$200/mnth depending on how bitter winter is
Groceries: $300/mnth sometimes less
Water/Trash: $90/quarterly this doesn't vary by much
Savings: $1000-$2000/mnth depends on hubby's OT
Fun Money: $200-$400/mnth this helps our sanity

Thursday, January 15, 2009

No Christmas=Emergency Fund

The holidays are finally over and I am breathing a big sigh of relief. I didn't give into the pressure to buy gifts this Christmas. It felt really odd not having anything under the tree on Christmas day, I have to admit. I also have to admit that my credit card didn't melt from over-usage during the holidays and that we are now the proud new owners of an Emergency Fund! Somehow I find the emergency fund much more exhilarating than a new pair of shoes or some other discardable gift. Don't get me wrong, those new Dolce & Gabanna shoes that I have my eye on would look SO HOT on my feetsies, but with this weather, the suede would be annihilated in one wear, whereas my emergency fund is all cozied up in the bank thinking about a vacation to Fiji. Right now with things standing the way they are around the country, I somehow just cannot justify any spending. I'm fortunate that there haven't been any rumblings at my job (or my husband's for that matter) about being laid off, but if we lose any more clients, I don't know where we will stand as a company. That being said, our priorities have shifted to getting comfortable with the thought of living with less things, and living with a bigger safety net.