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Getting back on track

May 14th, 2012 at 07:40 am

The past couple months have been challenging for me financially. I let go of some of my frugal tendencies and reverted back to my old ways (not entirely but some). I didn't take out my spending money so I used my debit card instead of cash. I don't know exactly how much I slipped up but I do know a few things:

I still met my debt payment goals.
I maxed out my 2011 Roth.
Paid off my Discover bill with my tax return (about $3500).

Even though I fell off the wagon a little bit, I got back on for the month of May. I took out my piddly money at the beginning of the month and have been eating out way less. I've been bringing my lunches to work and making sure our groceries are being eaten, not throwing things away.

I took out $150 at the beginning of the month and I still have $107 left. The month is almost half over. My variable expenses for the month are a few gifts for friends with birthdays this month. I'll also probably go get a pedicure with a gift card that I got for Christmas. I'll just need to pay the tip.

I'm couponing for gas rewards. The other day, mom and I filled our tanks for $2.75 per gallon. I'm using coupons to get our gas cheaper. I paid $28.29 to fill my tank!

I have a bunch of money to deposit into my accounts:
$500 from my brother for bills
$40 in rebates
$89 in birthday money
$150 from a friend (debt repayment)
$10 in change
$468.85 work reimbursement

I need to pay a few bills (student loan and cell phones) but I will still have about $500 to put toward my Chase card.

I'm going to redo my budget and be more vigilant about my spending for next month. I should be able to make bigger payments to my credit cards considering how much lower my minimum payments are. I'm really trying to pay off these credit cards by July 28th!

Under 12k in CC debt!

January 16th, 2012 at 07:52 pm

I made my final payment to BoA today. It should post tomorrow. That's another credit card: GONE! I'm so excited. As I mentioned before, I have a feeling my goals to pay these cards off will go much faster than anticipated.
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I've been doing well using the gift cards mentioned here: http://gettingoutofdebt2011.savingadvice.com/2011/12/20/gift-cards_88461/

So far, I used $125 to pay for gas and groceries. I transferred all of that to savings from my checking account to put to CC debt. It feels good to be using these cards for good things instead of just using them for fun. I have about $1000 left in my savings that I can use to make a big payment to my next card: Discover. That'll put me at about $2800. It would be awesome if I can get under $2500 this month. We'll see; it might happen. Smile

And on that note, I'm under $12k in credit card debt. Big Grin

When I started in August I owed $25301.28. I've paid $13698.64 in 6 months!!!!!!! What an incredible feeling.

Christmas Expenses

December 12th, 2011 at 09:36 am

My Christmas budget has been $500 or less for the last few years. Last year, I went for $100 or less and it was a huge success since my big gift to the women of my family was professional photos of us kids/grandkids taken by my boyfriend. The photos were free (...I bought my boyfriend lunch!) and the frames were free at Rite Aid. So it was pretty easy to spend less than $100 last year. I also did stockings with all of my couponing stuff that I got for free.

This year, I'm going with the $500 budget (almost half of that goes to my boyfriend's gift). My family has been increasingly hard to buy for and we don't do a huge Christmas. I've put off some shopping since I have no idea what to get. My biggest hurdle is my mom. I want to get her something she'll use and love but I can never think of anything. I have a small list of people (only 7):

Grandmother: Hershey Bars (she literally told us she will take nothing else)
Brother: Star Wars DVD
Boyfriend: keg kit
Uncle: customized sweatshirt
Goddaughter: Justice gift card
Aunt: Kohl's gift card
Mom: ?

Stocking gifts:

Grandmother: Centrum, Polident
Brother: M&Ms, Oreos
Boyfriend: rolling pin, fleece sweatshirt
Uncle: flossers
Goddaughter: shampoos, conditioners, nail polish
Aunt: flossers
Mom: extension cord

Non- family:
Godson: PJs, T shirt, toy
Boyfriends family: 3 gift baskets from couponing stuff

I have most of the gifts picked out, I just need to go buy the stuff. All of the money comes out of this month's pay so no credit cards or dipping into savings.

Spent a lot of piddly money :-(

December 5th, 2011 at 07:03 pm

I started out on Thursday with $140 in piddly money and I have $34 in my pocket Frown

I know I can replace $50 of it since I spent $38 on cat litter and $12 on cat food. I since remembered that I added a category to my budget for pet supplies.

Other than that, I spent:
$15 on a rolling pin for BF's stocking
$16 for dinner out
$5 I owed my mom
$4 for Starbucks

I can't remember where the other money (about $30) went which is disappointing since I obviously didn't care enough about the items to even remember them.

Frown

More unexpected cash and mom issues

November 22nd, 2011 at 07:16 pm

My mom gave me $110 for my student loans this month. She recently got laid off and hasn't been able to contribute anything for a while. Apparently, I gave her this $110 a while ago and she can't remember for what (and neither can I) so she just gave it back.

She knows how I'm trying to pay down my CC debt so this is her way of trying to help. I'll take it!

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I made the final payment on my US Bank card so that's completely gone! Yay! I paid all of the Citicard off except for the rest of my work reimbursements. My plan is to go into the office tomorrow morning to pick up my work check, deposit it at the bank and stop by the post office (maybe go couponing as well).
Once the check clears, I'll pay the rest of Citi before the next statement to avoid interest(Dec 7).

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So, I worry a lot about my mom. She has absolutely no savings and no retirement account to speak of (aside from Social Security which she thinks is enough). She got laid off at 53 but has little prospects for a job. She has very little skill - she was a cook/cleaner for a church. She does odd little things like errands for people, babysitting, and is a care taker for my neighbor next door. I think she probably nets $800 a month which is better than nothing but it's so stressful on her. Luckily, she owns the house and her car free and clear (she'll need a new car soon) so her expenses aren't huge on a month-to-month basis but she has no EF which terrifies me.

She is not handling being laid off well. Her attitude stinks and when I call her, she doesn't want to talk or just complains. Then she complains that I don't call her or see her enough. It's really frustrating. I'm trying to be sympathetic and the best listener I can be. I think it's hard on her because she's alone, too. My brother lives at home but he's not good for chatting like I am.

On top of that, her spending habits drive me nuts. Her idea of quality time is going out to eat. That's all she ever wants to do and it's never to cheap places like a sandwich shop or burrito place, it's always a casual dining restaurant at least. She spends $40, $50 bucks a pop probably 2-3 times a week. I just don't see how she can afford that lifestyle since she's out of work. She gets mad at me that I won't pay since I "have the money and a job." But I hate saying no because that's her idea of "quality time." So often, I don't say no but don't offer to pay for her meal and then she just pays for the whole thing. It's frustrating because I do have more money than she does but I don't choose to spend my money that way anymore.

So all of that to say: I invited her over on Sunday for a homemade turkey dinner (since I'll be at my boyfriend's family for Thanksgiving). I hope we can start a trend of eating in. I hope that will be the quality time she craves. I told her all about my freezer cooking escapades so I hope she starts cooking more stuff, too (she never cooks!).

Travel for work and other musings

November 4th, 2011 at 09:32 am

I have upcoming travel for work to Philadelphia. I'll be away from next Monday to Thursday. I'm excited because I get to indulge on the little things that I occasionally miss like Starbucks and FroYo. Plus all of my meals and other expenses are covered, too. And, I don't have to pay to park for 4 days out of this month which is a savings of $32! I will also charge all of the expenses and get reimbursed so I can rack up some CC rewards points! Yay!

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I'm thrilled about my balance transfers. They are finally completed. I have a slight grace period since the billing cycle won't start for another month so I think I'll take the money I would use to pay those bills and try to eliminate the Citi and US Bank card this month. Once those are gone, my highest interest rate will be 1.99% and considering a month ago I was paying between 16.99% and 18.99%, I think that's pretty darn good! My goal is to pay them off well before the promotional periods are over!

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I need to do some adjustments to my budget and figure out my new snowball with the new monthly credit card payments. Once I figure it out, I will know for sure what I should plan on paying extra. It was $410 before so I'm hoping it's a little higher now.

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I've already paid all of my November monthly bills except for the large credit card payments so I know I won't mess up again and almost fall short. It's a relief to know that things are settled on that end. Since I'll be away next week for work (and the bf will, too). We won't need groceries or gas for the week. I think I'll be able to pay even more considering we'll be away for Thanksgiving, too.

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Not much else to report on. I'm swamped with paperwork from my 2 accidents and I need to take my car to get it looked at again. Hopefully, this will resolve itself soon enough.

Starting PT

October 25th, 2011 at 08:47 am

I don't really have many financial updates to post. Well sort of...I got into a car accident last Sunday (rear-ended and the other guy drove off- can you believe that?). Since it was a hit and run and the police were called, his insurance accepted 100% liability right off the bat. They came last Friday for an estimate and wrote me a check on the spot for $472 for the damage to my bumper. The appraiser handed me my check and said it was my choice if I wanted to get it fixed. My car is a 1999 and I don't really care about cosmetic damage (you can barely tell anyway) so I decided not to get the bumper fixed. I needed to get two tie rods fixed, an alignment and an oil change so I took that check and it paid for everything and I still have $120 left over!

I went to the doctor on Monday because my back felt really tight and I had some lower back pain. They gave me some muscle relaxants and told me if I don't feel better in about a week, I should start PT. I called today since I felt pretty much fine over the weekend but when I'm sitting down at work, the pain comes back. I hope they do some massage therapy or something because it's really, really tight!

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Not many other updates. I started freezer cooking two weekends ago. I made a meatloaf, lasagna casserole and beef burritos. They came out awesome! This weekend I made chicken and bow tie pasta, chicken alfredo w pesto, and chicken tikka masala. Again, everything is delicious. My problem is that I didn't really read the servings so now I have a TON of these meals. I froze about 1/2 and we'll eat the other half this week. I love that I can reheat leftovers, make a small salad and be done with dinner! I spent $60 each week for all of the weekly groceries plus the ingredients for all the freezer meals. I'm happy with that but I would love for our budget to go down to $40 a week (or less)! We buy a ton of fresh veggies and my BF loves deli meat (a very specific kind and no other will do). $7 for 3/4 pound is a lot of money in my opinion.

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I think November will be easier financially. My balance transfers are DONE! I have a good plan set up for my payments and I have a bunch of found money to add to debt repayment this month. I'm hoping I can pay off Citicard and US Bank this month. That will bring me under $16k in CC debt.

October Bills= A BIG Mess!!!

October 20th, 2011 at 07:26 am

Oh boy did I screw up this month. I think it will work out in the end but it was difficult to make it through.

I had set up monthly payments a while back for the amount at the bottom of my bill that would get me out of debt faster - the 3 year plan. It was less than $100 more a month for each card but it would go directly to principal. I decided against that about 2 months into paying off my debt and I figured out pretty quickly that monthly automatic payments don't work for me. I like going into my accounts and knowing exactly what is going on with all of my accounts.

So because I forgot about the automatic payments, I ended accidentally paying my Citicard twice this month. I paid the minimum of $250 and another $355 (3 year plan). I decided to use my credit card to pay for my glasses (they cost $271 which is just less than the overpayment). Well when I went to pay, the credit card was declined. The problem was that I hadn't used the card in over 2 years then I went into Walmart and I made two small purchases then tried the big purchase. My account was flagged for fraud so it was declined. I was embarrassed so I just put it on my debit card. Then I realized I was short $626. Ugh.

I had also made the choice to pay off my Discover card this month. I deposited a bunch of money from extra sources and I knew that I could pay it off. I regretted it for a little bit but I knew I could get by if I tried. My goal is to never touch my savings.

So, I decided to be extra thrifty. I was able to get Walmart to switch the charge back over to my credit card instead of my debit card. I deposited my piddly money ($117) back into my checking account and made myself do without it for the month. I convinced my brother to pay me a bit early for the cable and internet bill.

I'm pretty sure made it through the month unscathed!

I paid $1830 to debt and charged $328.24 to my Citicard. That's $1501.76 in credit card payments this month!

To combat my over ambition, I decided that I'm going to pay all of my non credit card bills first. Student loans, utilities, etc. Then I'll figure out how much I can put to credit card bills. I was reluctant to do that since I have tried that method since college and always found something to spend the money on. I feel like I have my goals in place and I'm on my way to meeting them. It feels good to trust myself with the extra money.

November looks like a much easier month.

Couponing, etc.

September 20th, 2011 at 09:25 am

The title of my blog is "Using Coupons to get out of Debt" and I've never talked about my plan for accomplishing getting out of debt by using coupons.

I've been couponing for just over a year and shop mainly at drugstores. Rite Aid and CVS are my two main stores. I take advantage of reward programs including rebates to turn drugstore money into cash. Since I never spend any cash (I put all my purchases on a gift card that I got for Christmas last year), it works out that I can take the cash from my rebate checks and deposit it into a separate savings account.

Since April, I've deposited $541.57. I have another $119.75 to deposit and another months worth of Rite Aid checks on the way ($120.95). My original plan for this money was to donate it to charity but I've since changed my mind to get myself closer to my financial goals. I'm content with my charitable contributions since I donate a good amount of what I buy at drugstores. In four months, I made $782.27 from couponing. That's more than half of my Discover card balance!

Another way I plan to use my couponing to get out of debt is to stock up on items that could be given as gifts. Baby products for showers, toiletries for gift baskets, etc. My plan is to take my budgeted gift allowance and put it toward debt. I recently went to a baby shower and gave a gift entirely out of my stockpile, I put $20 from my gift fund into my debt repayment.

I really want to cut our grocery bill down. Right now we spend $60-$80 a week for two people. I just can't figure how to coupon in grocery stores in our area! I'd be happy if we spent more like $40-$60 a week. Everything we buy is fresh produce, dairy and deli meat. My boyfriend is really picky so he won't eat different breads or English muffins or anything. Almost everything that we buy doesn't have coupons or alternate options. But, I'm going to put my nose to the grindstone to figure out how to cut down on groceries in my area.

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So far this month, I have spend $63 from my piddly money. I used ~$20 of it to buy kitty litter and treats since I forgot to add those into my budget.

I have $87 left. I take the change from everything I spend and add that to my coin jar. I'm also going to take the money from my bottle and can redemptions and put it in the change jar. I roll my change every once in a while and I'll put that money toward debt.

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My mom was able to come through with some student loan money for September. She just lost her job so she thinks this is the last time she'll be able to help. I told her that I'd rather her save it for herself but she insisted, saying that she'd mail the money herself if I didn't take it.

I have about $200 in my bank account that I'm hoping I can put toward the Discover card.


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I have a few upcoming things in October that I need to plan for including a car repair and my annual car inspection that I need to get done. Total, I'll probably spend $200 which will come out of my miscellaneous budget.

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I'm hoping the cruise doesn't push me over budget. I have enough money for our transportation to the pier. Everything is included in the purchase price of the cruise except the excursions. I'm not sure what we'll end up doing but I'm hoping it won't cost too much. I'm of the opinion to pick one fun activity like snorkeling or a tour and spend the other two days on the beach! We'll see what my family wants to do.

New Citi Simplicity Card

September 8th, 2011 at 05:15 pm

I've been struggling with how I want to proceed with balance transfers. I've received a few offers in the mail from credit card companies and searched online. Finally, I decided that I would take my chances and apply for a Citi Simplicity card. I got approved for $3000. There's a 0% APR for purchases and balance transfers for 21 months (3% fee on balance transfers). No late fees or annual fees. No rewards that I can see but I'm more than happy to transfer from my higher balance accounts, knowing that they'll be paid off in 21 months.

When I called, the representative offered to move some of my available credit from my current Citicard at no charge so I could transfer more to the Simplicity card. I now have $4000 available. I think my plan is going to be to transfer half of my current Citi card to Discover once it's paid off (with a 9.99% APR). I know that Chase will not allow a balance transfer from one Chase card to another. Similar rules might apply with Citi. If so, I'll transfer the US Bank to the Simplicity. Otherwise, I'll transfer current Citi to Simplicity (this is what I'm hoping for). All APRs will be under 12% that way.

In other news, I royally screwed up my budget this month. I just moved out of my mom's house and brought with me the cable and cell phone bills that I had been paying. Since my name is on the contract, and we got a really good deal, I agreed to still hold the accounts, pay the bills, and have my mom reimburse me. I'm totally fine with this arrangement since I'm on her car insurance for now and I reimburse her. Anyway, I forgot that even though, I'm only paying $50 a month for my cell phone, I forgot to calculate how much I actually put out before being reimbursed (the total is $225 for 3 family phones and cable/internet). Right now, I have $163 in my checking account to last until Sept 30! I don't know what I was thinking. I called up my mom and she's going to write me a check this weekend but ugh! I thought I was doing so good, too!

I still have only spent $10 from my piddly money. I'm feeling so frugal that I don't want to spend one single cent from it!

Breathe. Relax. Slow down.

September 6th, 2011 at 01:51 pm

I need to keep repeating these things to myself since I'm so anxious to continue paying down this debt! I paid all my bills at the beginning of the month and want it to be October already so I can keep making whopping payments and seeing that number come down!!

Breathe. Relax. Slow down.

I've made really good progress since I got serious about this. But, I know I need to keep myself practical so I don't start burning myself out.

I recently started on my budget and am hoping to stick to it. I read on here that someone uses $5 a day as piddly money. I think that's a great idea so I took out $150 at the beginning of the month in cash. It's already the 6th and I still have $140 which is technically $20 more than I should have.

It's fun for me to try to see how long I can go without spending it or how little I can spend. I already decided I want to save some of it to treat myself to something fun for the cruise I'm going on at the end of the month: maybe a pedicure before I go. I will also treat myself to lunch out one day a week and a coffee or two from Starbucks. I don't really spend much on the weekends, honestly.

Update and my next move

August 29th, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Obviously, I've made some bad financial decisions to get me to the place I am right now. I've lived way above my means, took out way too many college loans and loaned people money. Which by the way was the worst. decision. ever.

I have completely learned my lesson when it comes to loaning anyone money. I will never do it again. Period. The worst part about loaning someone money is not that they don't pay it back, it's about losing friends, feeling awful and regretting it.

Four years ago, I loaned a friend about $5000 (I paid for her expenses using one of my credit cards). She agreed to pay me back every month to pay down the debt and give me her income tax check(s). Obviously, she hasn't kept her end of the bargain as I still owe about the same thing on the credit card as I did four years ago. She has maybe given me $1k so far - all has gone to interest.

It's been months since she has given me anything, we don't see each other anymore, we don't speak and I hadn't asked for anything in probably a year. It made me feel so horrible knowing that I needed to talk to her and not wanting to. But I can't allow myself to pay her debt any longer. I refuse to.

It doesn't help that I HATE confrontation and I avoid it like the plague. The last thing I want to do was bring up the money. I have no idea why it bothers me so much: it's rightfully mine. We had an agreement in writing. I could take legal action and I feel I would win. She always talks about how badly in the hole she is and how she can't afford anything. Even though she's screwed me over, I still feel badly for her!

UGH. Never again!!!

Anyway, I've beyond committed to paying down my debts (which includes hers) so I finally got up the courage and emailed her. She texted me back immediately, we met up for coffee, caught up for a few hours and she paid me $300 and promised to pay me $100 a month for now. Apparently, I'm not the only one after her: she cleaned out her 401K after being taken to court by 2 credit card companies. Do I have hope of seeing the $100 a month? Eh, a little bit. She's promised this before. I emailed her back saying it was good to meet up and I was happy with our agreement on $100 a month for now: just in case I need the paper trail. I'm hopeful but mostly proud of myself for standing up and confronting her about it.

Now, onto the good news!!! Iím pretty excited that Iíve wisely use my money to pay down my Discover card more! Wow, it seems like money has come out of the woodwork recently! I think itís really that Iím just recommitting myself to paying down these debts!

I paid off another $800 to Discover and have $200 left in my account for July bills. I might keep that for savings or pay another $200. Itís hard to decide since I want to keep my savings cushioned. What I am SUPER happy about is upping my minimum payments. I figured out that with the bills I just paid off, I was making about $100 in minimum payments so Iím going to roll that into the Discover card and pay $190 every month instead of the minimum of $90; thatís more than doubling the payment!!

I need to set myself up with a budget to curb some spending. There are some things in my life Iím unwilling to cut back on. I allow myself Starbucks ($5) and lunch out ($8) once a week. I pack my lunches and make my own coffee every other day. Iíd love to get a pedicure once a month but I donít think itís in my budget just yet. But, I realized when trying to figure out how much I want to pay on bills, Iím not really sure how much I actually spend on things. So Iím going to calculate my monthly expenses and figure out a reasonable amount that I can put towards bills. Anything I get from my friend or parents (they help with my student loans when they can) will go immediately and directly to the card du jour.

What about personal loans and balance transfers? I canít decide how I want to proceed here. I got a personal loan application from Discover up to $25,000 at 7.99%. I also have a bunch of balance transfer offers but nothing that would take a huge chunk of money off my Citicard. Like $1600 here, $2000 there. Iím not sure the balance transfer fee is worth the hassle. Any advice on that?