So I am continuing on the path to debt freedom. I am always on the lookout for tricks to help out. Well, it seems, at least to me, that cash is the way.
I have generally had a budget that I am pretty good at sticking to.
I have a certain amount of money to spend freely each pay week that I can spend as I see fit. I have always just left it in my checking account and used my debit card to pay for purchases always keeping a running total of whats left. Most weeks I do OK but sometimes I over spend, putting the extra on the CC until the next pay check.
The job I have now I make more than I need for my bills and spending allowance. I use that extra money to pay off debt or save. So when I overspend one pay week I just take it out of this extra money the next week. I still don't run up the CC but it does take out money I could be saving or paying off debt with.
So last week I decided I would take all my spending money out in cash and not use the debit card. Well, you know what? I spent about 20% less using the cash method. Now, I don't results like this every week but I was impressed with the outcome. So from now on CASH IS KING!
Any tricks you use???
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So I am continuing on the path to debt freedom. I am always on the lookout for tricks to help out. Well, it seems, at least to me, that cash is the way.
Well, as the title says it has been awhile sine I last posted. I have been busy though.
I paid off my car. I was able to do it in only 18 months. I am very lucky that I have a job that allows enough in the budget to make the payments to do that. Now that that is finished I am focusing on my school loans. I should be able to pay them off or be very close by next March. At that time I am hoping to leave the great paying job and go back into Environmental Education and the paltry pay that goes with it. At least I will be happy if poor!
As a celebration for paying off my car I bought a watch. Its more than a timex but not as much as a Rolex. I was going to wait until next year but I wanted to celebrate and I just found out that I will be working at least three more weeks of overtime at work. The overtime was the deciding factor since I will make up the cost of the watch and then some and not lose momentum in paying off the school loans.
I have also started concerted effort to shop sales, and use coupons. So far in the last three weeks I have only bought a few things that weren't on sale or I used a coupon for. I have saved around 30% all told.
I know a lot of you guys pay yourselves for no spend days--well I am doing the opposite. I pay myself when I have a spend day. I am going to use that money as extra spending money when I go on vacation to Colorado next month
To be up front I am not calling anyone here a cheapskate.
With that said...
My question to you all is---when does one stop being frugal and become cheap, chintzy, stingy, a cheapskate??
Just some mind candy
I have actually thought about doing this post several times but never went through with it because I didn;t want to seem a "know it all" but I finally decided that maybe the way I do things would help someone trying to get their financial life together.
First let me say I don't consider myself a financial guru or even consider myself to know all there is to know about financial matters. I have just found something that works for me.
A little more about my situation. When I was in College I fell into the trap of accepting many of the credit card offers available to students. I had worked for a few years in the real world before going to college and I came into school with credit cards as well. While in school I took out the max loans I could and was told by well meaning individuals that college is a once in a lifetime experience and to enjoy it--even if you come out of school with 30-40K in loans its like getting a new car. Needless to say, I didn't live like a college student and came out to school with a degree and massive school loan and credit card debt. I was using my school loan money to pay my credit card monthly bills and racking up more charges along the way.
So, I graduate and get a job. This job barely paid enough to live on, much less pay off debt. I soon found myself in a heap of trouble. For me Bankruptcy was the road I was forced to take. I am so against the ease of credit cards available to students on campus. I feel it is modern day loan sharking---please, why would a college student earning below the poverty line qualify for a platinum card????
Anyway, after bankruptcy things did get easier. I was now able to afford to live and even start saving. Yes, for a while I was at the mercy of having a crappy credit score but luckily things worked out for me.
One of the things I learned it to set up a budget. I recognized that if I had money in the checking account I would spend it. So budget school was in session. I also happen to be lucky enough that I have a job that pays me very will and is allowing me to pay off the debt that I could not bankrupt. A word of caution though--I hate this job with a passion so it not been the silver lining. If you don't want to work at something you despise don't go into debt!
To set up my budget I make a list of all my monthly payments--rent, insurance, groceries, gas, cc, savings, even spending money. I also note when each month the bills are due. I also note when my paydays are. I then go through the list and write down on a spreadsheet type document that I designed and start putting the budget puzzle together. I tend to do about 3-4 months at a time. That allows me to make changes as my situation changes. I can't tell you how much this keeps me on track. I also realize from reading these blogs that one situation or technique does not fit all. I know that I can;t budget down to the last penny. By that I mean, I have a spending money budget but I don't say xx for eating out, xx for entertainment, etc. I have my spending money and I am free to spend it how I want. If I choose to to blow it all at the bead store so be it. But that is what works for me. I even go as far as write down on a piece of paper in my wallet how much is left of my grocery budget, gas budget and spending budget. I even have an attitude adjustment/retail therapy savings account because I know it is something I need to occasionally do and then my budget doesn't get off track.
Its a process that works for me. One thing I see by reading these blogs is that we all took a different path to get where we were/are and we all have to find our own path to where we want to be. I like to fiddle with figuring my money--in fact it borders on obsession at times Most people don't. I can't budget down to the penny some people have to. I think our individuality give us amazing flexibility to get where we are going
Anyway, that is a little about me and how I have gotten my financial life on track. I still have a long way to go but at least I feel like I have the skills needed to get there.
It has been a while since I last updated so here goes the current version of things.
CC--PAID OFF! That was thanks to all the overtime I worked in March, April and May. I still have a balance on the books at one CC but it is interest free and I have the money to pay if off in the savings acoount making a few pennies of interest for the time being.
Vacation---Amazing. I went to Seattle and Alaska for two weeks. I dare say that trip was just as expensive as my Australia trip but I did enjoy it. I had budgeted for the trip so no debt was incurred as a result. I spent freely but responsibly and still came back with a nice chunk of change! I am thinking about another vacation with the leftover.
401K--I upped my contribution another 1%. Might consider upping again when I get my raise in the next month or so but not sure. I might think about opening an IRA or adding to my EF
EF--again thanks to the overtime it is getting up there. Still not where I want it to be but much higher than I have ever had before.
Car--with no CC payments anymore I have increased my payments from 330 to 500+. I could pay more but I am still working on the EF. I think I can pay it off before the end of next year. I think my goal will be to pay if off in 2 years. We'll see.
And now that you have wading through all the other stuff this is where I need help. My trusty Toshiba PC is on its way out. I think it is time to put the old girl out to pasture. SO I am in need of a new Laptop. I have always had a PC but am considering trying a MAC. PCs are cheaper and more familiar. I don't want to go with Vista so my options are limited. Macs are quite a bit more expensive and again I am not familiar with that operating system. I am afraid that if I get a Mac I will have a huge learning curve and get frustrated. (I am leaning towards the 250 gig Macbook $1500)
Well, I am in the middle of working some major OT. I working 6 12 nights a week. It preety much sucks for having a social life (not that I had one before) but the positive reinforcement every two weeks is very nice. In fact, with this paycheck I will pay off my visa and saved enough for my Alaska trip!
If all goes according to plan and I work all the OT hours until the end (we are hoping for May 15 ending) I will also be able to pay off my last credit card and put about 1200 into the emergency fund!!! WooHoo
Well, I took the plunge and have started the credit card shuffle. Meaning I got an offer in the mail for a cc with a no interest balance transfer offer for 11 months. I decided to pay off one of my cards. The transfer cost me 75 but I will make up the difference in just one month.
I will be working some major OT in April and May so I will be able to pay off the balance then (or very close to it). Even is something major happens and I cannot pay off the balance before I start to accrue interest the interest rate on this card is much lower.
One question thou--When I do pay off the balance to this new card do I close it or keep it open? If I keep it open and no balance then when I go for a mortgage or other major loan the bank will see I have all this available credit that I could potentially charge up this making me more of a risk, but at the same time won't it improve my debt ratio?
As you can see, I currently carry a balance on my CCs. I am working to pay them off and I do make more than the minimum payment to them. I also continue to use one of them. I use it as a way to puchase something I have the money for but the money may be in ING, or in the next paycheck or so. So in actuality I am only using it for a short time. I pay off the amount as soon as it shows up online so no finance charges are accrued on the ammount. Well, to speed things up with paying the card off I have now decided to pay 10% more to the card than what I charge. Example: If I charge something for $10 I will pay $11 to the card. It is not much in the grand scheme of things but every little bit helps plus it makes me think more seriously about a new purchase because it will cost me 10% more.
You may also be wondering why I still continue to use my cards. Lets face it, most of life today requires having a card and using it. If I cut them up and go cold turkey, will I ever learn to use credit wisely?? I think not.
Anyway, its just one of many small steps to use to get out of debt
I guess I had one of those moments. I pay my car payment online and early. Well, I logged in to the site and did my thing on Thursday evening. On Friday, I checked the site and it didn't show the payment as going through. I thought that maybe I had forgotten to hit the submit button. Instead of waiting a day or two, dince I was paying early, I made another payment making sure to hit the submit button this time.
Well wouldn't you know it I ended up making 2 payments! I had to scamble to transfer money from my EF to my checking acct so nothing would bounce.
Thankfully even though extra money goes to principle it also will show on my acct as not having to make a payment for Feb. so I will just replace my EF money then.
What a goober! But luckily I had the money in the ol' EF to take care of the mistake
Well. first to update about the car--I did get it and I love it! My gas costs have gone down by half and my insurance didn't go up to much. I got a great deal and a good interest rate. Yea for good credit scores!
Now to the makin' money--I make jewelry as a hobby and a bit of a side business if the right opportunity presents itself. Well it presented itself this week at work. I made $41 from one co-worker. Actually most of that was recouping cost and not profit but I do it as a hobby so if I can support my habit I am happy. That money will go towards vacation next weekend.
I was going to use my hotel points on my vacation to Alaska in May but the hotel chain blacks out promo days during the season in Alaska so I went ahead and used them for Orlando next weekend--three days hotel for $0!
Well, it might be time to put the old girl out of her misery. My current car has 120K miles and is 11 years old. I am sure it has a bit more life in it but it is getting to that magic point where without a mechanic on permanent retainer it is just getting too unreliable for my comfort. I do a lot of travelling and I work odd hours at an out of way place.
Anyway, I haven't completely made up my mind but I am leaning in the direction of getting a new car.
One good thing is that I work for a very large corporation which has corporate pricing for autos. SO I am looking at a 2008 Honda Civic EX. The corporate price I qualify for is aobut 3K below retail list. Not bad. Hondas also have a good resale value so when I go to sell or trade it in a few years it will still be worth it. (yes I know I should run it into the ground but this car is not my ideal car and it is for the short term. Yes, I also realize I should buy a used car if I only plan to keep it a short time but I do not want to inherit someone elses problems)
The end of next month I will be taking a mini vacation to Orlando--yes the capital of all things expensive, commercial, and touristy. Actually I used to be part of the touristy part, I worked at SeaWorld. SO I am going to be visting friends and partaking of the most wonderful activity at that other place (you know the one with the mouse--you see at SW Disney was a 6 letter word) The Food and Wind festival--it is so fun to eat and drink your way around the world! I will also be stopping for a day or so on the way up there to stop in and see my dad who is working temp at another plant.
Anyway, I have been putting aside about $20-40 each paycheck from my spending money plus change and what not so my spending money will be taken care of and I also belong to a frequent stay program with Choice hotels and have enough points to have 2 free hotel nights. I was saving all my points for my vacation to Alaska but these points expire the end of this year so I need to use them or lose them.
So basically the only money I will have to take out of my official vacation fund is money for one night hotel, gas to get to Orlando and the disney ticket. I might be able to swing a free ticket but it is a long shot. I will be going with an annual pass holder so I wont have to pay for parking.
I will be able to make up for the money I will be taking out of the vacation fund in February since I will be working about 30-40 hours of overtime for about 6 weeks then.
I have also started volunteering at the Dolphin Research Center. I have only been there once so far but its nice. It is a bit of a drive (75 miles one way) but it is a nice drive and it feels good to be active around animals again.
In the last week and a half I have spent almost $300 for shoes. I know that is a lot of money but it was not without careful consideration. I have really hard feet to fit so shoes are the one thing I willingly spend money on. If the feet ain't happy I ain't happy. I have to have steel toe shoes for work so that was one pair. I also swear by merrells for hiking/trail shoes and I wear them as my everyday shoes. In fact they fit me so well that just wearing those shoes has lessened my plantar faciatis.
Anyway, I found my favorite style of merrells on shoebuy.com so I got them and then this weekend they had a 20% off sale for labor day so I bought another pair for the discount.
I highly recommend Shoebuy.com. The prices are very competitive and they offer no sales tax or shipping and they will even pay for shipping for returns. Not bad.
So yea, I blew the budget for shoes but I feel like it was a good investment.
I am a bit bummed! Today is my university's big game of the year (rivalry wise) and it is not on TV here and the cable network it is showing on is not offered here. I went to Colorado State University and today they are playing University of Colorado. I won;t be able to see the game and since CSU is not a huge football school, none of the games are likely to be played on a channel I get.
Oh well--yet another reason to move back!
Well I bit the bullet and bought a new aquarium for my fish. She(Fluffy the travelling goldfish) is now the proud owner of a new 20 gallon aquarium. So I figure this free, previous feeder, goldfish has cost me about $300 since I have had her. Didn't someone once say a free pet is never free?! I don't mind at all--for a fish she is pretty interactive and at least it is something living.
Now I have an empty 10gal set up. I haven't decided if I will get more fish, or use the old tank as a backup.
Well, since I am very much into instant gratification (I mean, why else would I have gotten into CC debt in the first place?) I think I am going to change my CC pay off strategy.
I am now going to concentrate on paying of the smallest card. It has a lower interest rate than the large card but I will be able to pay it off much faster and actually feel like I have accomplished something. I am hoping that small victory will rally me for the rest of the job!
I am also going to call direct tv and cancel my HBO subscription. There really isn't much on and I have Starz which seems to be much more usefull. I also want to cancel the horrid little direct tv magazine also--such a waste of money.
Ofcourse I have some spending to do as well in the coming days--I want to get a new aquarium for my goldfish. She is currently in a 10 gallon and I would like to get her a bigger one since she is about 5 inches. It is a pain to clean out the aquarium now so at least with a larger one I won;t have to clean as often and I will have enough room to put some "furniture" in there for her.