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Generation Change

September 27th, 2009 at 01:51 pm


Last week I started teaching Dave Ramsey's "Generation Change" curriculum to the teen Sunday School class. Now, if you knew me, it would be a big surprise that I would volunteer to do this because I am a very quiet person that rarely, if ever, speaks up in class. But this is such an important topic that most kids are not being taught at school or at home, that I had a burden to do it. I am hoping that they will finish this class with a sense of how to manage their finances while in college and as adults.

So far, the kids seem to be enjoying the class. The first lesson focuses on materialism and how we are more than just what we own. Next week we will get into the basics of personal finance and budgeting.

Last week I was extremely nervous, but this week I was surprised to find that I was fine. It doesn't make much sense since last week the class time was taken up mostly with the video part of the lesson and this week I had to talk the entire time. I'm hoping that each week gets easier. It's a subject I feel passionate about, so I think that helps tremendously. I am hoping to help just one teen avoid learning lessons the hard way, like we had to.

Frustrated

January 7th, 2009 at 04:02 pm


DH and I are going through FPU and we had decided that we are finally ready to take the step of stopping our retirement contributions temporarily so we can apply that money to the debt snowball. I had no problem stopping mine at work since I'm the one that does the payroll. DH went into his payroll department and was told that he can't stop his contributions until the beginning of the next quarter.

It's just very frustrating to finally have him on board and now we can't do this. It will really slow the debt snowball down. I guess I'm just anxious to get it done and get a fully-funded emergency fund.

Giving YNAB Another Try

March 7th, 2008 at 05:30 pm


I found my access key to download YNAB to my laptop. I thought I'd give this another try. I like the concept of it, but just never stuck with it long enough to make it work.

I have my budget entered and now I guess I need to go back and enter in my transactions for at least the month of February. It probably would be wise to spend the extra time and do the entire year so far so that I have a more accurate view of our finances.

I have to wait up for DS#3 to get back from a date anyway. Might as well make the time productive!

E-mealz Review

March 2nd, 2008 at 03:44 pm


I had mentioned e-mealz in a previous post. It is a site that, for $5 a month, provides you with menus and a grocery list for your dinners for a week. You pay for 3 months at a time and a new meal plan is posted once a week. My plan is available on Friday so when I log in I print out 2 copies of the menu and grocery list. One I place in a sheet protector in a 3-ring binder for future use and the other is the one I write on and mark up.

They have several plans to choose from. I chose the Point system meals for any grocery store, since I am counting Weight Watchers points to lose weight.

This will be our 3rd week using the plan and it appears that our average expense is $120 per week. That's about what we were spending before for a family of 5 and not having nearly as nice of meals as we are now.

Everyone in the family is really enjoying the meals. There is a lot of variety and the side dishes are wonderful. Our side dishes before amounted to opening a can of corn or beans. Now we have mandarin orange salad, honey-kissed slaw, oven roasted veggies, etc. Much tastier and healthier.

I think the thing that makes it most worth it to me is that I no longer have the dilemma of "what is for dinner?" and then wondering if I have all of the ingredients. It is a huge load off of my mind. That alone makes it worth it for me.

I like having a list of exactly what I need for each meal when I enter the grocery store. I am not a shopper so, for me, the grocery store is a mission. Get what we need and get out in as short a time as possible.

My grocery bill could be considerably less if we didn't drink as much milk as we do!!!

Helpful Personal Finance Calculator

February 6th, 2008 at 04:40 am


I found this personal finance calculator interesting this morning. According to it my budget is WAY off.

According to their percentage allotments, our housing & debt costs are fine. They recommend 30% and ours are at 24.34%.

Our insurance costs are slightly over what they should be. They recommend 4% and ours weigh in at 5.48%.

We are not saving near enough, which I expected since I'm throwing as much as I can toward the debt instead.

Our living expenses are really over the limit that they recommend. They say they should be at 26% of your income and ours come to 57.3%. I really don't see any way to cut those expenses. They are what they are and there's not much I can do about it. We need to heat our home, put gasoline in our cars so we can work and have money for prescriptions that we need.

All in all, it's a good tool to use to see how you measure up against the ideal budget and get a grasp on how you spend your money.

Little Expenses Add Up

February 4th, 2008 at 04:17 am


It seems to me that it's really not the big expenses that break my budget so much as it is the little ones that eat away at it bit by bit. This morning I had to write a check for DS#3's field trip for environmental science that he wants to go on. Only $25, but that's $25 that wasn't expected, so I have to take it out of the budget somewhere.

We've stopped paying the 2 youngest to do chores around the house because DH got tired of them not doing them correctly. So that money went back into the budget and I'm paying for the things, like this, that come up instead of them using their allowance. It's not often that they need money for things, so it's not a big deal. I'll account for it somewhere...

Gasoline Prices

January 30th, 2008 at 03:38 pm


I was so glad to pull up to the pump today and see that gas was back under $3.00 a gallon again. Who would have thought a few years ago that I'd be glad to see gas at $2.93 a gallon?

I know I'll be glad to get my snow tires off in a couple of months. They've cut my miles per gallon down quite a bit.

Still Plugging Along

October 27th, 2007 at 02:35 pm


I haven't been around much for months. I am still here and still paying down our debt. We will have the furniture paid off next month as long as the overtime continues like it has. Then it will be time to start on the car.

I decided to pay off the car since I checked the Blue Book price on it and it was nowhere near what I had thought it was. So since it is a depreciating item and the house isn't (well, depends on your take on the news lately!), I decided the car was the next debt to focus on.

I am in the middle of my accounting applications class and really enjoying it. Right now we're learning QuickBooks, which I use every day at work, so it's been a breeze. Next up is Turbo Tax. I'm really looking forward to that one.

Today we went car shopping with DS#2. He will be getting his license back soon since it's been 6 months since his last seizure. He has a job, but no car so he's looking for some wheels. It's very hard to find a car in his price range, but he's searching. He's found quite a few on a local site so we checked them out today. One of them is a strong possibility.

I found out a few weeks ago that I'm getting a nice merit raise next year, along with a cost of living raise. That will really help with the budget. I reworked my spreadsheet so that the items that are desperately under budgeted will have more funding.

We got quite a bit of home improvement work done this summer. That's why the net worth chart took a dip. We put on siding and a new porch roof. Now we're working on the kitchen addition.

Guess that's about it for now. Just wanted to drop in and say I'm still here. I hope to have more time to blog from here on out.

Unlimited Long Distance

August 16th, 2007 at 02:45 pm


I got a call a few weeks ago from our phone company offering us unlimited long distance. It sounded like a good idea, especially since DS#3 is calling his girlfriend long distance now and racking up $60 to $80 in long distance phone bills every month (which he pays for, by the way).

It was in the middle of a billing cycle so when our bill was posted yesterday I checked it out, but am still not sure exactly what the monthly bill is going to run us. I'm a little nervous that this is going to break my budget.

Anyone else have unlimited long distance and have a ballpark figure of what I can expect each month? Ours is through Frontier.

3 Debts in 3 Years

August 4th, 2007 at 02:08 pm


According to Quicken's Debt Reduction planner I will have 3 debts paid off in 3 years if I can continue to funnel as much money to them as I am now.

The furniture can be paid off in December 2007.

The smaller mortgage can be paid off in December 2008.

And the car loan can be paid off in December 2009.

That would be awesome! The only debt that would remain is the larger mortgage and that could be paid off in February 2013. Not bad at all!

Difference in Gasoline Prices

June 13th, 2007 at 05:20 am


It amazes me how there can be such a drastic difference in gasoline prices in the area that I travel frequently. In the town where I live gas is $3.15 a gallon. Here in the town where I work, which is only 18 miles away, it is only $2.95! That's quite a savings!

I've been keeping track of the mileage I get from both gas stations because I've heard that the one in my hometown gives you much better gas mileage. I haven't seen it yet. Both have been about the same, only a couple of a tenths of a mile difference. And that difference could easily be explained by the use of the air conditioner more frequently during that time.

What are the prices in your area?

Operating in the Dark

May 18th, 2007 at 03:58 am


I feel like I'm operating in the dark here without my Quicken program being fully functional. I had it all set up with reminders to pay all of my bills throughout the year. Now with having lost all of that, I'm afraid I'm going to miss something.

I am slowly adding the information back in as I go, but it's been slow and tedious. Just setting up the reminders for my transfers to ING each week was dicey since I'd also lost my budgeting spreadsheets. More reason to order a flash drive and start backing up onto that!

Feeling Squeezed

May 16th, 2007 at 03:35 am


I assume it's just the price of gas and the fact that we now have 7 to feed again for the summer since college is out, but I'm feeling the financial pinch. We just got rid of the credit card debt so you'd think that I'd have some extra money laying around. Not!

I am adding extra to the mortgage payment but that is all coming out of overtime pay.

I think what I need to do is get that EF back up to $1,000 and I'll probably relax a bit. It makes me nervous to not have some money tucked away, just in case.

Purchased You Need a Budget

March 26th, 2007 at 06:00 am


After reading the glowing reviews for You Need a Budget here in the blogs and on the forum, I bit the bullet today and bought the pro version. I didn't have a lot of time to play with it before I had to leave for work, but I did get the budget part entered and started adding income and expenses.

I'm hoping this will work well for me and that I'll be able to get rid of my paper budget. It's getting cumbersome and I'd love to simplify and have it all before me on the computer screen. Right now I am keeping track on paper and then spending at least an hour each month transferring it all into Excel to generate the reports I like to use to track our spending and net worth.

The More I Save, the More Money I Seem to Have

March 23rd, 2007 at 10:29 am


I have noticed a trend since I first joined Saving Advice last October. At that time I was not saving any money at all and it seemed like I was barely able to pay our bills at the time. It seemed that we were losing the battle of treading water and were beginning to go under.

Since I have joined, our bills have not really changed much, but I took to heart the advice of "paying yourself first". I started setting aside $5 a week out of DH's paycheck. Over the months that has grown to $25 a week for an upcoming vacation/birthday trip, $20 a week for an emergency fund, and $50 a month for the Ameritrade Save Yourself plan.

Where did I find that money? I have no clue! I just decided that it needed done and started doing it. I seldom miss a week now that I don't set aside money in all the savings areas.

I have also found that the easiest money to save is the account that I have set up to be transferred automatically from our checking account each Friday. If money is tight one week I am liable to not put the Emergency Fund amount aside because it's not already scheduled. But the payment that is scheduled is made each time. It's just easier to sacrifice money in one of my less important budget categories than it is to change the automatic transfer.

My advice: pay yourself first. It really does work!

Time to Wrap it Up!

December 19th, 2006 at 04:00 am


I'm taking my box of Christmas wrap, ribbons and bows to work today and am going to get the presents wrapped that have been stacked in the corner for a month or more. The tree has been up and it's time to fill in a little underneath.

On the health side of things, I'm going this morning to get blood drawn to test for Cushing's Disease. I had blood taken at 4 yesterday afternoon, took a pill at 11 last night, and get the final blood drawn at 8 this morning. Everything has to be spaced out just right. The doctor doesn't think this is what I have, but wants it ruled out. On a side note, my legs feel really swollen this morning.

Blood pressure is sure much better than it has been so that's a plus. And the referral to a neurologist is in the works.

After work today I will be stopping by the store and picking up the last few things I need for Christmas dinner and desserts. I have to make something to take to my librarian's Christmas party on Thursday and DH needs a couple things for his party on Friday. Tonight is DD#2's Christmas concert at school.

My change box is actually getting a fairly decent amount in it. Everyone knows now not to get into it. LOL!

Lower Electric Bill Next Year!

December 18th, 2006 at 07:18 pm


I found out today that my electrical bill is going down $11 on the budget plan next year. I've been working on my budget for 2007 so I adjusted that category and added the surplus to clothing and miscellaneous household expense (printer cartridges, towels, etc.)

3 On-line Accounts

December 10th, 2006 at 04:58 pm



I now am the proud owner of 3 on-line accounts: Amboy (5.13%), Emigrant (5.05%) and ING (4.5%), all of which make MUCH more interest than our local bank (a little over 1%).

I have the most in my Amboy account, which is my EF fund. I use Emigrant for my $20 Challenge money, and I decided to use ING to save for DS#2's graduation expenses.

I have until June of 2008 before he graduates so I've decided to put money aside when I can to save toward that.

I have been trying to think what my financial goals will be for 2007. When I get some concrete ideas I'll post them here.

New Debt Reduction Plan

December 5th, 2006 at 01:52 pm



I got home to find DH's profit sharing check on the computer desk ready for me to work my magic. LOL!

So CC#1 is paid off! I put aside $200 for new glasses for the 3 that I know are going to need them this month. And some of it is going to my librarian friend.

After doing this I reran my Quicken Debt Reduction Planner. These are the results:

Debt-Free Date= 8/2013 (includes mortgages)
Interest Paid= $21,589.18
Interest Saved= $42,689.17

This goal is without any extra payments on the debts. You know I'm going to pay any extra that I can manage!

I'm really motivated now to get down to business!

Oh, and woo-hoo! Change box got over $10 today!

Back to Normal

November 26th, 2006 at 04:47 am



The 2 college kids go back to campus today. It will seem empty for a few days with only the other 3 left. But they'll be back in a few weeks for winter break. DS#1 will be home almost a month so he'll go back to work at his grocery store job. DD#1 only has a week off. She still has not been able to find a job, so isn't sure how next semester will be financed.

Don't want to go into details, but today is going to be a very hard day for DH and I. Nothing to do with the kids. This is concerning our church. I don't know what the outcome will be, but I'm not looking forward to it at all.

This morning I set up our electric bill for online paying. So now I can keep the $151 in my checking for a few more days. If I were to pay it by mail I would be mailing it out on Monday, but now I'll wait until 5 days before it's due to pay it on-line. So I edited the bill in Quicken to remind me again in 5 days that it's due.

I am trying to set each of our utility bills up to pay on-line. Some are easier to do than others.

Glasses

November 25th, 2006 at 04:47 am



It's going to be a very expensive winter break for us. 3 of the kids will need eye exams for glasses. Both of the college kids need new glasses desperately and DS#3 thinks he will need to begin wearing them.

I really would like to get DS#1 glasses soon because he needs them the most. He'll be home for almost a month starting the middle of December, so that shouldn't be a problem. I just hate to make him wait until then. I had thought of taking him to the Walmart here and seeing if they could have the glasses shipped out to the Walmart near his college, but that seems like it would be complicated and prone to problems. I guess he's gone this long without them, that another few weeks won't make a big difference.

This is all going to shoot my medical budget to pieces.

New Debt Reduction Plan

November 24th, 2006 at 06:07 am



I redid my Quicken debt planner the other day and took out the mortgages so that I could see how long it would take us to be debt-free minus the mortgage. I thought if I broke it all down into a smaller goal that would help keep me on track since it would be a shorter time frame.

The results were:

- all bills but mortgages paid off in Feb. 2010
- $4,125.98 saved in interest
- CC#1 paid off in Feb. 2007
- CC#2 paid off in Sept. 2008
- furniture paid off in March 2009
- car paid for in Feb. 2010 (2 years and 1 month ahead of payment schedule)

Hopefully, it won't take as long since I didn't add in the extra money that I know will be coming in that I plan on using to make extra payments. And in January I'll be adding more to the payments out of my raise also.

Bills for Today

November 24th, 2006 at 06:00 am

Just paid the bills for the day. They were:

Water & sewage: $46.50
Cable & internet: $54.58

I'm hoping the rest of the day is a no-spend day.

It Pays to Clean!

November 23rd, 2006 at 07:01 am

I noticed this morning that it was pretty dusty behind the freezer so I moved it out to clean and was rewarded with 15 cents to add to my change box!

Gas Budget

November 14th, 2006 at 07:44 am



I called the gas company today and had them put us back on the budget. I had forgotten I was going to do that in September. That week that we had to use the ventless heater when our pellet stove was down really messed up my budget. Just using it one week doubled our gas bill! So I'm back to $83 a month for gas. I'd rather handle it that way than have it be all over the place.

Large Coke

November 13th, 2006 at 03:42 pm



My spending today amounted to $1.58 for a large Coke at McDonald's on my way to work. I woke up with a sore stomach and knew the Coke would make it feel better. The 2 cents of the change went into the cash box and the rest of it into the console in the car so I have change for parking meters.

My Chase Freedom card arrived today. I was hoping it would because I need to fill the car up tomorrow and wanted to begin using it. I will continue to put aside the money for gas and groceries just like I always do and then just pay the balance each month. I'm anxious to see how long it takes to earn the cash back. I plan on letting it build to $200 to get the extra $50.

Computer, Exam, & Change Box

November 12th, 2006 at 04:30 am



Spent most of the day yesterday, after taking my exam, on cleaning up the computer and trying to get it to work correctly. It has been EXTREMELY slow for ages. I did a search for a registry cleaner that had good reviews and found Advanced System Optimizer. I paid the $29.95 for it and downloaded it and got to work. Five hours later it was a different computer! There were so many duplicate files on it and all kinds errors. I had been using different registry cleaner and sypware/adware programs but obviously they weren't working up to par.

I hated to spend the $29.95, but it looks like it was worth it. I was seriously thinking we were going to have to buy a new computer. I have to have one that works in order to take my online courses to get my degree. Glad this worked and I hope it continues!

The exam went pretty well yesterday. Actually, I'm nervous because it only took me a little over an hour. We had 3 hours in which to take it. Usually the exams that I have no idea what I'm doing are the ones that I score in the 90s on. So I'm half afraid that I since I feel pretty good about this one, I must have really messed it up.

And one last subject for now...my change box. Remember I moved it so the kids would stay out of it? Well, I went to put 3 more pennies in it last night and discovered that all the quarters that were in it were gone! Turns out DS#2 took them to wash the car that he borrowed from a friend to go to the dance Friday night! So now I need to recount and start all over again! I think I made it pretty clear that everyone is to STAY OUT OF MY CHANGE BOX!!!

I Give Up!

November 6th, 2006 at 05:03 pm



On the change box, that is.

I've been ever so carefully adding up my savings as I've been adding to it only to find that DH and the kids are taking from it without my knowledge to buy treats at the convenience store 1 block over!

Oh well...guess they have to get dessert one way or another since I hardly ever bake anymore!

Financial Tips

October 27th, 2006 at 02:33 am



Just wanted to sum up Jane Bryant Quinn's money tips. This is the order she says to do things in:

1. Retirement: must put away 10 or 15% of your income

2. Reduce, then eliminate CC debt

3. Create a Cushion Fund (Emergency Fund). If still in CC debt start with a cushion to cover expenses for 1 month.

4. College savings for kids. This is optional and should not come before saving for your own retirement. She says the kids can always get student loans but you can't get retirement loans.

5. Prepay your mortgage. This should come last on your priority list.

She says that you should count any contribution that your employer makes toward your retirement fund in the 10-15% that you should be saving off the top.

I guess we're doing well with that because both of us have 5% withheld from our paychecks and both of our employers match that.

We're working on #2, but at the same time that we're also working on #3. I'll be happy just to get to $1,000 let alone one month's worth of expenses.

No Longer New

October 26th, 2006 at 02:58 pm



My blog is no longer listed under "New Blogs" on the main page. Does that make me an old-timer now?

The balance in the change box is decreasing rapidly. DD#2 was asked to go to the last home volleyball game with a friend and needed money to get in. Then DS#2 needed an extra quarter so he could get in. So just when I was close to breaking $5, I'm at just above half of that now.

Came home from work early today to get a dessert made for DH for his men's meeting tonight. He had also come home early to work on the kitchen addition since it was one of the few days this week with no rain or snow. Got his paycheck ready to deposit tomorrow morning and have a transfer set up for tomorrow into the Amboy account. That will bring us to $255 for the EF.

Ordered DS#2's Christmas presents today so that's one more down. I've got a bid in on an Ipod on Ebay for DS#3. I'll bid up to the amount we spend and if it goes above, I'll look at other options for him.


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