September 14, 2010

3/4 Through the Year

Filed under: birthday,budgets,debt,money — by elysianconfusion @ 11:02 am
Tags: , , ,

How are we doing? Good question.

Well, looks to me like so far this year we’ve made about $40k in payments to loans of one kind or another. About $26,680 was principal, leaving $13,277 in interest. What a waste of money. Honestly, it’s hard to even believe that we paid that much money out in any way at all. I guess the mortgage is at least $12k of the total.

Currently we owe $356,519.60. $271,1146 is house related (mortgage and home equity loan).  $19,757 is student loans. A shocking $17,140 in car loans (that’s two cars, and we just had to replace the tires on one of them– OUCH!). And finally, and truly worst of all, $48,508 in credit cards.

On the other hand (and I need to think positive, because I have to stay motivated and these numbers just depress me), according to my handy-dandy debttracker, we’ve paid off $22,842 in credit cards, $13,583 in mortgage loans, $20,830 in car loans, $8,243 in student loans and $12,302 in home equity. That’s $77,800 from my estimate of high balance…

So officially, down $2,207.98 from last month and $46,918.54 since I started this project in April 2009. Progress feels extremely slow. However, I did pay off preschool for the year, avoiding interest on those payments for this year (annual savings, $400!) and that is our LAST year of preschool. Next year will be kindergarten (pay for full day) and summer camp. That really is a lot less money. When we get to just paying for camp, we might even have to change the FSA deductions. That’s hard to imagine.

We also aren’t in any more debt, nothing is going up. We bought new tires for a car and got discounts because Sears was sloooow and for having some free Sears member card, plus a $70 rebate I’ll mail today. Total savings? $129.80. Not bad.

Now I just have to somehow pay for four more birthday presents this month and October… I’m hoping October we’ll actually have a good snowball going again. Then we’ll kick this debt out! We will!


August 16, 2010

Slowly, slowly

Filed under: debt,family,money — by elysianconfusion @ 2:17 pm

It’s 358,727.58.  Under 360k! (Down 2,241.10 from last month.)

I keep thinking it’s going to get easier and it doesn’t.  I don’t know if that’s because of impulse spending or bad budgeting or what. We haven’t spent a lot on impulse, but a little here and a little there and it adds up.

I’ve been reading a bit of Frugal Babe here and there… she appears to exceed my ability to be frugal. Scraps of fabric for reusable toilet paper… um, can’t quite envision. And although the reusable pads do seem like a good idea, I really do like tampons. I tried one of those cups and perhaps I didn’t give it enough time but I found the whole thing rather … messy.

Our summer has been way too busy, that’s for sure, and no end in sight. If only we can hang on a bit longer, I think it will all even out.

Meanwhile, I’m tired, I’m stressed, and I have a lot to do. Off to it!

July 23, 2010

It’s Just Not FAST Enough!

Filed under: birthday,budgets,children,debt,family,money — by elysianconfusion @ 10:36 am

Patience, patience, patience! I don’t have it. I’ve never been good at it (perhaps this explains our debts? I don’t know!)

The new number for this month is 360,968.68. That means we’ll get under 360k next month, which is a good thing. I know people who owe more than that on their houses! In August we also have to pay for all of preschool for next year, $4,000. I’ve mentioned before, this will be a weight off my mind once it’s been paid. I still have to do the paying.

Meanwhile, my budget doesn’t seem to be great. I’ve definitely underestimated the real costs of vacation. I’m having trouble balancing a realistic budget we can stick to and an aggressive enough payment plan.

I did successfully hold down costs for my oldest son’s 7th birthday party. Instead of having a pinata with candy no parent wants, or a goody bag full of stuff the kids will break or throw away immediately. Instead, we had a low-key party in the yard with tents and a campfire, and we all tie dyed shirts that the kids got to take home. I thought it was a lovely party!

Next week we’re on vacation. I keep asking friends how they plan a budget for vacation. You know, they all look at me like I’m nuts. A budget for vacation? They think it’s crazy. But I don’t know how to relax about the money I’m spending on vacation unless I planned for it.

Am I crazy?

June 16, 2010

Writing and paying

Filed under: budgets,children,family,money — by elysianconfusion @ 7:53 am

I know, I’ve been terrible at writing lately. I’ve felt stalled and it’s depressing. Plus life is busy for a working mom :-).
Today is the last day of school for my six year old son (almost seven! I need to write and send out birthday party invitations FAST). My four year old is sleeping shockingly late, so I’m grabbing a minute to write an update.
Current total debt (including mortgage) is $363,036.04. That’s down $2215.82 from last month. I was looking back and thought GAH! Why is it 200$ less than last month? I don’t know, maybe I used numbers before new interest expenses were applied? But in April it was only ~1800, so I guess I’ll take comfort where I can. And on the PLUS side — that’s $40,402.10 down from last year when we started! So that’s something. $40k has to be some kind of milestone, right?
I have managed a few things… I paid for all of summer camp and I’m on track to pay for all of preschool next year by August, freeing up an enormous (to me) amount of money to throw at debt. I also paid all of next year’s auto insurance (saved money that way and reduces monthly expenses). We still have money in our targeted savings account for stuff, including our vacation (camping in Maine), which has GOT to be a first.
I’ll try to post more to keep myself on track if nothing else. The little one is up and needs breakfast!

May 14, 2010

Financial Frustration

Filed under: budgets,crazy,debt,family,money,parents — by elysianconfusion @ 2:13 pm

Well, the new numbers are in.

Current total debt is $365, 251.86.

That’s $2,412.82 in principle. I guess it’s better than nothing, but it’s all got me down. I felt like we were making so much progress.

We’ve sold a couple of things on Craigslist (randomly had a sink top; I have no idea why, it was new and we didn’t order or pay for it). That was $50, and we’ve mostly sold a double stroller. (How do you mostly sell something? Well, she PAID for it via PayPal, but doesn’t have it yet. Weird, huh?)

We’re still sorting through to see what else we don’t need. I do have two bags of clothes and stuffed animals ready to donate.

So, we paid our deposit for school next year, we paid for two weeks of preschool camp, we paid our town taxes.

Then I charged the balance of summer camp. Happily I paid that back within a few days of charging it, so now camp is PAID for! I only have to save another $4,000 for August to pay for next year’s preschool and then I think we’re on a regular budget for all this.

I’m looking forward to this but I don’t like the lack of momentum. There are always things that come up. My husband says we need a new lawn mower. My wedding band needs repair.  We need a booster seat, as my oldest has outgrown his car seat and isn’t big or heavy enough to sit on his own.

Ah, life, it’s pricy!

April 15, 2010

After a year…

Filed under: budgets,children,debt,money — by elysianconfusion @ 12:14 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

We started this journey in April 2009, so it’s now been a year.

April 20, 2009: 403,438.14
April 15, 2010:  $367,664.68

So, we’ve paid down $35,773.46 in a year, which is not bad, I guess. It’s down only $1,814.63 from last month, and honestly, I’m feeling pretty discouraged.

We’ve had a lot going on lately and haven’t been able to sell anything on Craigslist. I haven’t even gotten my donations together.

The real problem here is that after a year of budgeting and planning and working it all out, I’m faced with the unexpected. Summer camp requires you to pay 100% of the cost before the child even starts camp, and I wasn’t aware of or prepared for that. Maybe I should have been, I don’t know. So despite saving aggressively for preschool (so I could pay the entire amount in August, thereby eliminating the interest (10%!!!!!) they charge to make monthly payments, I still am screwed. This month I have to pay $1,800 for extended day at preschool (necessary in order to work) for next year. I also have to pay $300 for two weeks of camp so that my younger child will be in “school” until the same date as my older son. I have one week with no plan for either of them, then the following week they both go for 1/2 day for the week.

After that they start camp at the YMCA (116 acres and a pond and lots of activities, I think they’ll enjoy it). We already had to pay a $772 deposit for this last month, and this month $1,496 is due, and next month $1,072 is due. This month I also have to pay my town taxes, about $1,630. This is just overwhelming for me.

I have been saving and saving and SAVING! I am insanely frustrated.

As I see it, I have 3 options.

1) Charge camp. I *think* I will be able to pay that back within the grace period (current balance = 0 so no interest).

2) Take the $1,000 out of my emergency fund, leaving me with nothing in there, so I’d have to charge emergencies anyway.

3) Borrow money from my mom.

I really don’t want to borrow money from my mom, even if I can pay it back within a month or so. I just don’t want to.

The other two options seem more psychological than anything else. Both feel defeating.

The other issue is that making sure I have money for camp and for preschool means I pretty much have nothing extra. No snowflake or snowball at all. I hate that. I wasn’t able to snowball this month, and I don’t think I can start again until August. Unless, you know, we have some kind of windfall. On the other hand, by August I can successfully drop savings for camp and preschool and full-day kindergarten to $440 per month, down from a high of  $1,850 this June. That will significantly improve the snowball at least. Or at last.

So here I am, praying for windfalls and snowflakes!

March 31, 2010

ARM Investigation

Filed under: money — by elysianconfusion @ 1:53 pm
Tags: , , ,

Well, I got my letter today with the new ARM rate for the next year.

And…. I was right! The value of the index was .39% plus 2.75% (my margin)… well, I think that equals 3.14. According to this letter, the new interest rate is 3.125%, so this time it has rounded down.

Last time it was .7+2.75=3.45, so my rate rounded up to 3.5.  That’s the nearest .125%

Anyway, this drops my mortgage payment by $38.65. I think I’ll just keep my regular payment :-).

March 19, 2010

What’s in an ARM?

I’ve heard lots of bashing of the adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) and honestly, I do get it… mostly. Except I feel like we got the best rate ever — in 2004, we got a 5/1 ARM at 3.875%. Now that’s a mighty sweet rate! I was totally freaked last year though, when the five-year fixed rate was coming to an end… what next? What would it be? Should we refinance? Could we refinance?

I’ve mentioned before that we’ve put a lot into our house. It’s the source of a good amount of our debt… our mortgage is only 17% of our gross monthly income, and 23.2% of our net. If you add in our home equity loans it’s more like 24.7% of gross and 33.5% of net. I guess the rule of thumb is not more than 28% of gross. So, shockingly I think we’re better off there than we should be. In *my* opinion our debt is insane.

Anyway. The time is approaching for our next adjustment (last year we got the letter with the new rate on March 25, and the rate went down! I was shocked, it actually went to 3.5%). So, today I was trying to figure out how they got the rate last time and what it might be this time.

Basically, ARMs are tied to an index, and you have to read your loan documents to figure out which index it is. According to mine, “The ‘Index’ is the weekly average yield on United States Treasury securities adjusted to a constant maturity of 1 year, as made available by the Federal Reserve Board.” Then they add 2.75% to the current index. (It’s the index 45 days before the rate change (5/1/10), I think that’s 3/17/10.) I googled that, and I think I found it at http://www.federalreserve.gov/Releases/H15/Update/.  I think it’s the treasury constant maturities 1-year. I selected Business day — sounds like it’s the average? Or maybe it’s the weekly? Last year the weekly for 3/13 was .70, and that’s what they used in the letter last year… 2.75+.7=3.45, not 3.5 . It says they round up to the nearest 1/8 of one percentage point (0.125%).

This year the weekly for 3/12 is .39, so .39+2.75=3.14 — I have no idea how they’re planning on rounding that. I may have to ask.  If only I could fix 3.14% we’d save $5,485 over the life of the loan (that’s in my version, not the 24 years remaining on the loan).  Of course I can’t fix this rate. My credit union is nice, but not that nice! But I have to say, getting an ARM seems to have been a reasonable decision for us. An ARM at 3.875 means that our rate can’t go up (or down) more than 2% per year, or more than 5% ever, so it could never go higher than 8.875%, and as I’m searching for the national average contract mortgage rate (1963-2009) it looks like it started pretty low in 1963, at about 6%, peaked in the early 80s near 15%, and is down to about 5% right now. Overall, our max rate looks to me to be under the curve, so I’m not going to worry (for now) about refinancing and all the costs that brings. (Plus the stress of worry whether we’d qualify — this housing market is awful.)

It will be fun to get the letter and see if I’m right!

March 12, 2010

State Update!

What’s the state of our current finances? I like to check in every month… so in April last year we had $403,438.14 total in debt. In February, $372,062.35.

Today it looks like $369, 479.51. We paid down $2,582.84 since last month. And since last April, $33,958.63. That’s great, but I did like February better. We dropped over 9k last month, so it’s a little bit of a letdown. But that’s what happens when you throw your tax refund and annual bonus at debt. Sadly, we don’t get those every month! So, what else can we do to increase our cash flow and drive that debt down?

I would love ideas. Surveys pay little and slowly (although I still like mysurvey.com, it can really only be a snowflake). I also do swagbucks, which is kinda fun, and I do search anyway — I trade swagbucks in for Amazon gift cards and deduct that from purchases I make and move that money to a snowflake account. These things are tiny though, they make no difference.

I also have books and movies on half.com, but most of my good stuff is sold and the rest is hanging out there at ridiculously low prices.

So, my big thought is a purge. We have Stuff.  (But I can find my vacuum and have never bought new stuff like that because I couldn’t find what I had — and I don’t have piles of laundry like ChildWild refers to.) Still, I can purge.

1.) We have lots of leftover butcherblock from doing our kitchen counters. Maybe I could sell them as cutting boards? They’re gorgeous and thick.

2.) We have lots of outgrown and unused clothing. I could try to sell by consignment or donate and get a receipt! I often donate clothing but haven’t done as well about getting receipts and itemizing what was donated.

3.) We have tons of CDs we don’t listen to. Maybe we can add them to half.com, same with our books. (Although some of the books I like to list with PaperBackSwap, which gives me new books to read for the cost of postage.)

4.) We just made maple syrup, perhaps we could sell that? It’s delish!

5.) Our garage attic is full of Stuff. Some stuff that we definitely will need (like summer furniture), but plenty of things we should just release for someone else to enjoy. If we can’t sell it, perhaps we can donate it.

Well, those are a few ideas but I’m not convinced any of them will give me the hit I want. Ideas, anyone?

March 11, 2010

Cutting Costs

Filed under: debt,money — by elysianconfusion @ 12:09 pm
Tags: , ,

I worked really hard last year to cut our costs when I started this quest to be debt free. I actually did pretty well. We cancelled cable. We cancelled house cleaners. We got rid of a car. We reduced our insurance. We created a budget that we follow fairly well.

Still, there has to be more to cut, right? Well, there was. We decided that two cell phones and a home phone was too much, so we cancelled Vonage. Savings? About $33 per month. I also called my internet company. Cutting internet isn’t an option, it’s required for my job and they reimburse me for it. You’d think this might make me less motivated to reduce my bill. In fact, no! I still want a lower bill. We were paying $73.25, which seemed insanely high to me. Part of the reason this bill is high is that we’re not bundling any other services with it. Standalone services just cost more these days.  There’s also no competition in town, so it’s hard to pit companies against each other.  I wasn’t too confident, but I called anyway and was pleasantly surprised. I told them I wanted to reduce my bill, and they were able to cut it to about $42.94 per month, saving me about $30 month. Total time on the phone for both, about 30 minutes. Total savings, about $63 per month, or $756 per year. Want to try it yourself? Here are some tips from ehow: http://www.ehow.com/how_5944537_lower-cable_-cell-internet-bills.html.

So perhaps I was feeling a little empowered. I logged into my local credit union, and they’d reduced my APR from 8.5% to 7.25%. My balance is actually zero there, but still, what a delightful surprise! So naturally I called my UPromise account with Bank of America to ask them to reduce their rate (11.15%). They put me on hold and came back with a 9.9% (ok, only 1.25% but still!) and that brings all our rates below 10%. They also suggested that my account would go under review in April, and thought my rate might go down again. So I was advised to watch my April bill and if the rate *didn’t* go down, I should call and ask about it again.

So far I’ve avoided transferring balances hither and yon because I find it stressful, and it’s been hard to find an account that had enough room to transfer a balance to get a better rate. However, with my credit union balance at zero and the lowest APR there, I may well try to work this angle next.

I’m delighted at how much I’ve saved with just a few phone calls — has this worked for you?

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