Saturday, October 25, 2014

Wow, what a onto step two...

I started the year wanting to really make a difference in my life. I needed to get the finances in order and I needed to lose the 70 lbs that I had gained. I tried to do them both at once and I failed miserably. I was so overwhelmed with the amount of improvement needed, that I ended up getting even further from my goals.

Once I decided to focus on one thing first, then move on to the other, I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. I was able to focus on getting the finances in order. To come up with a plan. Live the plan. Find success with the plan. Today I feel that we finally proved to ourselves just how much we have learned and grown as adults.

As you know hubby now has a great job. The bills are being paid and money is going into savings. We also had a huge success happen. We were able to trade in our 16 year old vehicle for a newer used mini-van. A year ago, my beloved Odyssey was returned to the bank. We could not afford the payments. I ended up getting a very cheap cash car. It was old, but it got us from place A to place B. It wasn't something we could take out of town though, so visiting family was impossible. Thanks to my mom, I was able to take the girls to go see my sister. But going to my mother-in-laws was out of the question.

So after hubby got his new job, we re-evaluated our finances and decided that we could still attain our goal of moving to a house next year AND buy a used car. Yes, financed, but one we could afford. We were not going to get ourselves into a bad place by getting another $500 a month car loan. At one point in our lives, we had TWO! We were a mess.

We came up with a dollar amount that we could afford every month and a total vehicle price we were willing and able to pay. We knew we wanted to get replacement for my van that I loved so dearly. Off to search we went. Most of the one's we were looking at were a little out of our price range. What we needed was our old van, but cheaper. Low and behold I found one online. It was a year older than my last van, but the same base model van. We didn't need DVD, electric sliding doors, navigation. We needed the space and reliability. Plus, with less bells and whistles, the less that can go wrong and would need repairs.

We went to the dealership and tried to make a deal happen. The first night, they just weren't able to make it happen. They wanted us to have that dreaded $500 a month payment. We could of course make that payment now that hubby makes more, but we were refusing to do so. To make that payment would mean we wouldn't be able to move forward financially. We wouldn't be able to save as much money each month. So we walked away. We went home and they said that they would keep working the deal to see what could be done.

The next morning we got a call. They would be able to get the payments down (a lot). If we could come up with a little more money down, they would double what they were originally going to give me for my trade. So we were meeting in the middle. We discussed it and decided we had a deal. We went into the dealer, signed the papers and are now proud owners of a 2008 Honda Odyssey.

By financing the vehicle we will be able to re-establish our credit in order to buy a house. I wouldn't recommend financing a vehicle unless you can keep your monthly payments lower than you can afford. Be able to pay it off within 3 years or less. Buy a used vehicle so you are not paying for that "instant depreciation" when you drive it off the lot. The only thing to add to the vehicle in the finance office is GAP. Nothing else is worth paying for. Do not get the extended warranty. It is not worth it. You can get an excellent used car for around $15K. In our case, well under. I think I will do a blog post about purchasing a car. I have 20 years of experience in the industry and I think I have some great suggestions.

To wrap up this post, I feel good about our financial decisions. We have learned a lot. We still have to stay on top of things, but I am no longer stressing out about them. This has now released my mind to be able to focus more on my physical health instead of just financial. I have decided to return to weight watchers. I had great success on the plan before and hope to again. I feel like I am in a good place about it. I am not desperate. I am not starting out feeling defeated. I feel like I was able to conquer my financial short comings, I have the confidence that I can do it with my weight too.

I know that I will have my rough weeks. My ups and downs, just like I did getting the rhythm of financial peace. But now I know I have the strength to move through them and succeed. So now it is onto the 2nd stage of my plan. Come along with me...I am excited for what is to come.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Budget gets a revamp....

As you all know, hubby got a new job. He got his first paycheck today! Yippee! It is so nice that he is finally getting paid what he deserves. He is loving his new job and feels that he really has a lot to contribute to them. He is able to work a bit from home too, so that helps when the whole city shuts down due to ice.

One thing that has to change with his new job is the way we budget. He used to get paid every week, so we were unable to pay rent with one check. We had to save up throughout the month in order to have enough to pay it. Now we are able to pay it with one check.

I have been thinking of how I am going to budget on this new system. I have come up with this:

First check of the month:

1.Pay all bills excluding rent.

2. Fill cash envelopes for things such as groceries, clothing, entertainment, car maintenance, etc.

3. Load prepaid gas card. This is something new I am going to try in November. I find it difficult to go into the station to prepay for gas, when I have to unload the girls too. Also, when you go inside to pay you are tempted to get that bottle of coke, candy bar, etc. So if I get a pre-paid gas card, I can pay at the pump and not worry about it.

4. Pay off any debt with left over balance.

Second check of the month:

1. Pay rent

2. Any remaining from that check will be moved to savings.

All in all, I think this is going to be a good system.  If we ever have a month that has more than two paychecks, we will move that entire paycheck into savings. I will tell you that it will be weird to be able to put money into savings on a regular basis. Never before have we made enough to cover all expenses AND save.

Friday, October 17, 2014

What a fantastic turn of events...

So much has happened this past year. I started the year working my butt off at a job that took all of my time. Hubby was out of work and trying desperately to find a job that made it worth putting the girls into daycare. He finally found a position that paid pretty well. I was still working way too many hours in order to help make up for the rising daycare costs. It was decided that I would quit my job and be a stay at home mom for the summer. It was a huge risk, but something we thought was the right thing to do.

I was enjoying my summer with the girls. I was working hard at keeping us on a strict budget that would allow us to get to a place where all the bills got paid on time. During this time, Hubby was still looking for a better paying, permanent position. While his salary paid the bills, it left nothing for extras or savings. We were still better off than while I was working and paying for daycare, when we were in the hole $400 every month.

Hubby had a great interview at a company he had previously worked. He passed all the interviews and background checks. But when it came down to it, they never called him for the final offer. Thankfully during this time, he went on an interview with a company that showed great promise. Within two weeks of his first interview, he started. It was the answer to all of our prayers. It was a huge bump in pay.

This new job will allow us to pay all of the bills, replace one of our vehicles and save for the house we want to buy next summer. This is not a time to get lax about our budget or expenses though. This is a time to be grateful for all we have learned and stay on task. We will only get to our goal of owning a house, if we use this extra money to save for that down payment. We need to continue to pay bills on time.

Last weekend we were finally able to have a little fun and took the girls to our local arcade for some fun. We stayed on budget. Shared a soda and popcorn. It was so rewarding. Yesterday I went out with my mom to see the house my parents are having built. I do have to say, it was awfully nice to treat my mom to lunch at Applebee's. I can sit back and relax knowing my commitments are taken care of. Bills are paid for the month. We have money for groceries. Rent will be able to be paid by the first.

On a side note, I didn't want to offend anyone with my last post. I do not want you to think that I think all people who drive new cars or have big houses are not responsible with their finances. I have several friends and family that are. What I was getting at, was that we cannot assume that just because people have these things, that we know their financial status. I wanted to make sure that people realize that we are responsible for our own finances. We cannot rely on other's for our success. They are not here to bail us out. It is up to us to learn, build our own wealth and grow up to be responsible adults. I hope that clears it up a little.

Hugs and love, until next time...

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Do not assume to know...

One thing I have learned over the past few years of financial enlightenment, is not to assume you know about someone else's financial status. You do not know if they are in debt to their eyeballs. You do not know if they are millionaires.

I was waiting tables at a Don Pablo's when I first moved to Texas. There was this guy that came in every Saturday. He wore torn jeans, a threadbare western shirt and ratty old gym shoes. He would sit at the same table, drink a few beers, eat some chips and talk with all the waitstaff.

One day I was told to take his table. I had never served him before, so I was kind of nervous. He had his normal beer, chips, conversation. When he left, he did so with a $100 tip on a $20 bill. I was flabbergasted. There was a note on it that said, "Keep smiling, keep living, keep giving."

As I walked back into the kitchen in shock, one of the senior waitstaff pulled me over. He said that I was welcomed into the "John Walter's" club. It turned out that he was a millionaire. He was retired from being an air traffic controller and loved spreading "love" in the form of unexpected money. It was shocking to know that someone so forgettable would turn out to be so memorable.

When you see someone who drives the fancy car, lives in a big house and flaunts his Platinum credit cards; you think that the person must be drowning in cash, when in reality they are just good at balancing various credit cards and other creditors. Nothing they have is theirs. It could vanish at any moment. You might assume they have money to throw away, when they only have $10 in the bank until next payday.

Another thing we must remember is our parents. We may go through life, never wanting for anything. We might think that they are made of money, because they gave us a great life. That may very well be true, but the point I am making is that we do not know. We cannot expect our parents to bail us out of every situation. We cannot expect them to "chip in" when an emergency happens.

A parent who made a lot of money at a high paying job, might not have a whole lot of money when forced into retirement at the age of 55.  Even with decent insurance, medical bills can pile up. We need to be mindful that we do not know every detail of someone's life. It is not our right to, either.

What we are responsible for is our own lives. We are responsible for making our own good financial decisions. We cannot rely on a handout, a bailout, inheritance or a "gift". What we can do is work hard, save our pennies, live with integrity and within our means. Save as much as we can, while we can. If you do not know how to manage your finances, learn. It is never too late, but the earlier you do the better.

I must add that yes, I have gotten help from family and friends. I wish them to know how grateful I am to have had that help. But one thing I have learned is that when you have a parachute that is given to you, you tend to live life taking risks you shouldn't. I had to learn that I am responsible for myself and my kids. I must make my own parachute. I must live my life and respect other's for living their's.

I hope that this post puts things in perspective a little. You never know what someone else's story is, just make sure you make your's the best one you can.

Friday, October 3, 2014

First Month of Complete Success...

When I sat down to do the budget for October I about cried. I usually cry because I have to figure out how to pay bills from the previous month, along with the current bills. I didn't have to do that this month.

I sat down with my calendar, my bills binder, the expense log, my computer and calculator. One thing was different, I also sat down with my husband. He had the day off of work, so I thought I would walk him through the process.

Clearing off last month's information from the dry erase calendar, I put down this months information. I looked up the bill balances from all bills. I didn't even have the amount for cable yet, because the new statement hadn't come out yet. The balance was zero still. With that, I had tears come to my eyes. We have always been behind on cable. Even if it was just a week or two, it never ever had a zero balance. This month it did. Every bill was completely current. Rent was paid. I even had money in savings.

All of this left me with a feeling of not knowing where to start. I have been current on bills before, but never from my own doing. Someone always bailed us out. This was the result of a lot of hard work. Not stressing about paying the bills was a new feeling for me.

So I took a deep breath and went ahead with this months budget. Things are still really tight this month, but everything is getting paid. The tiny bit extra is being moved into savings. We are even going to be able to have a little fun by going to the State Fair, something hubby and I have never been able to do.

I am able to breath now. I know that I am living my life with integrity. I am fulfilling my obligations as an adult. Do I still have some debt? Yes. Do we still have a long way to go? Yes. But we have finally gotten to a point where our budget is balanced. We see a future where we can be happy and not live in fear.

More happy news to come in a week or so. It will go a long way to helping us reach our goals of home ownership.