Proverbs 22:7

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

February is going to be a fabulous month.....

Oh thank goodness January is over!!!! January is our busiest month at work, and even though I still have quite alot to do in the upcoming weeks prior to my counterpart's maternity leave, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted and things will hopefully be easier this week and going forward.

I'm really looking forward to February for several reasons. Next weekend is the annual women's retreat for church at Callaway Gardens. This is my first time going. I didnt go last year because Jonny and I hadnt been going to the church for a full month yet and I was not comfortable going with a bunch of ladies I didn't know at that point, but I've been looking forward to it this year ever since they started talking about it last summer.

Tax season is in full swing and Jonny finally got his first few customers at the office last week, so that's GREAT for our financial situation. We actually filed our own taxes on Friday and when it comes in, we are going to be able to pay off the last of 2 credit cards. After that, all we'll have left is a previous signature loan, and a car loan. Depending on how tax season goes with Jonny will determine how quickly we can get those two debts paid off too. The quicker they are gone, the quicker we can work on our FFEF (fully funded emergency fund) and then work on a down payment for a house. I think that things are going to fall into place at just the right time for us. The economy hs nowhere to go but up, and by the time we have a down payment saved up, I'm certain that we will be able to get a GREAT deal. I hope we'll get a fab deal on a foreclosure that we can invest a little bit of elbow grease into to call it home. Fingers crossed that it'll be next summer....

Whoops, sorry. Got off on a tangent there. Well, like I said above - we're going to be paying off our last two credit cards this month. We're also going to 'Bama next weekend to see the in-laws for a superbowl party. NASCAR season is almost here! Daytona 500 on the 14th, only 2 more years until we're planning on being there LIVE!

I've also got to get started on the whole Crossroads Career thing at St. Mark. Aimee, Shannon, Hannah and I were all talking about it back before the holidays, but the holidays just drains you, and with January as busy as it was, I just knew I couldn't put any effort in it during January. So it's time to get the ball rolling for this. I pray that it works out and we can get the funding we need to be able to start this ministry.

Finally, as I mentioned in a previous post, I recently joined the YMCA. I am sad to say that I've only been twice so far, but in my defense, it was closed for a few days last week because they were moving to a new location. That location is open now, and I am planning on getting my butt up in the morning to go, and finally get this habit formed of going. I need to figure out what group classes I want to attend, but I'm afraid to just show up and have them kick my butt and me not be able to keep up with the rest of the class. I've heard alot of people talk about Zumba...I may have to try that for starters. Besides - I'm afraid of Karen and Hannah (from work, who both teach RPM and Body Pump) *grin*

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Why I Tithe...

So, one of my good friends yesterday sent me a message yesterday asking me some questions, and it inspired this particular post because I wanted to explain why I tithe, in case there are more people out there with the same kind of questions.

I feel like tithing is not an option, but rather, a necessity. The bible gives us instruction to tithe to the church. A Tithe is a 10th of your income. Anything more or less is an offering, a gift. So don't call it a tithe if it's not.

When Jonny and I first started attending St. Mark, for the first few months, prior to starting FPU, and even into the first month or two, we gave what we "could." We knew it was important to give, but 10% of our single income while he was not working was enough money that if we kept it for ourselves, it would make things easier...

That's not entirely true. In our experience, tithing is like an emergency fund; it's Murphy Repellant, as Dave calls it. When you have an emergency fund in place, your emergencies are less severe, and less frequent. Prior to having an emergency fund, a flat tire, or medical bill, or other kinds of unforeseen expenses would have been put on a credit card, because that was the only way we were able to handle it. Since creating the emergency fund, emergencies don't appear to happen as often - and when they do, it's only a minor inconvenience, rather than a catastrophe.

Like I said, in our experience, tithing kind of feels like an emergency fund to us. When we started tithing - rather than giving a small offering, our finances seemed to fall into better shape. We "found" money we didn't know we had, and we learned to better manage the money we DID have, so that it stretched further, and wasn't such a tight squeeze to make ends meet. Over the summer, Jonny had a temporary job which helped kick start some of our debt. Sure, it wasn’t permanent, but by that point, we had been living on one income for over 6 months, and the budget we had worked, so we continued living on that budget, and his extra income from that temporary job went only to debt (and, the tithe that was required from it).

I've listened to Dr David Jeremiah on the radio at night in regards to what it means to tithe, and why it's important. Dave says some similar things. Basically, what they've said is that our money is not ours. EVERYTHING we have is because of God. Yeah yeah, I know some of you out there are rolling your eyes about the freakish religious aspect of this post by now and how I must be a brainwashed Christian. Um, no. Just because someone is a Christian doesn't mean they are a brainwashed psycho. I'm not trying to change your mind, just letting you know why I feel it's important to tithe.

My church has been wonderful for me, and our transition in Columbus. I swore after I left the military, I'd NEVER leave home again. Well, I did - sort of. Yeah, it's only 2 hours, so it doesn’t really count, but 2 hours is still far enough away from my friends and family, that I get a little homesick from time to time. I've gotten really involved in the church, and it's helped make Columbus feel more like home. So in one sense, I feel like I owe it back to the church, for helping me. Here's an analogy that my sorority sisters will love: The same way that a sorority is fun and games, but needs money to operate on - a church has a responsibility to the community. Guess what? The church needs money to fulfill that responsibility.

I have friends who say "I can’t afford to tithe." Really? 10% is enough to make or break you for the month? If that's the case, you really should look at where your money is going and cut some unnecessary expenses. You don't NEED a cell phone at $150 a month, catch my drift? If you can’t afford to tithe, then Christ "can't afford" to reward you for being good managers of the money He gave you. We've all heard the story of the master with 3 servants, who gave the first servant 5 talents, the second 2 talents, and the last one 1 talent. The first 2 used their talents and made them grow, and I think, if I remember correctly, they at least doubled their money at the end of 1 year. The 3rd guy buried his talent in a hole for fear of losing it, and the master was displeased with him because he hadn’t used it to do anything with.

Basically, it's like this. If you can’t afford to live on 90% of your income, you can’t afford to live on 100%. If you can't show God that you are smart with your money, He has no reason to reward you with more. People say they can't afford to tithe, but I say; how can you afford NOT to? Yep, my 10% a month is a big chunk of change that could certainly go towards my debt snowball. But as luck would have it, if I didn’t give that 10% per month to the church, my financial luck would diminish. I'd have broken down cars, and medical expenses, other unexpected costs that my poor little baby emergency fund couldn’t not Murphy Repel for me, and then I‘d need that 10% - OR MORE - to cover those catastrophes. I am not willing to take any chances. God blessed us when we started obeying. Why would I start disobeying now?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Coupon Junkie

I went to a couponing class last night and I learned SO MUCH about how to save alot more money on my groceries and household goods. Apparently, there is a difference between combining coupons, and stacking them. Combining means using 2 manufacturer, store, or competitor coupons at the same time. Stacking, on the other hand is when you have a manufacture coupon in conjunction with a store coupon and possibly even a competitor coupon. Combining is not allowed. Stacking is.

If you wait until items go on sale - especially B1G1, and stack with a manufacturer coupon, store coupon, and competitor coupon at the same time, you may end up getting your item for mere pennies.

Some couponers make a game of trying to flip their bills. This is when you save more than you spend. I had a small shopping trip tonight, but I had my first flip! I bought 4 items: 2 bottles of Aleve ($3.49 each), a bottle of All laundry detergent(6.49) and a bottle of Clorox bleach(2.19). Total Regular Price: $15.66.

I had coupon for $5 off 2 bottles of Aleve. New price, 1.98.
All detergent was on sale for $5.99. I had a $1 off coupon. New price: 4.99
Bleach was free with the purchase of All. New Price: $0.
New Total: $6.97 + tax.
Savings: $8.69.

I could get used to this.

I talked to Jonny, and we're going to clean out the front coat closet and make rooms for more shelf space in there for household and pantry items. The coupon class taught me that the way to save so much money was to buy it with stacked coupons, while they are on sale, and to stock up as much as you can when they are on sale.

Ebay is a good place to find coupons if you're too lazy to look for them yourself. is a good site to check out for upcoming coupons that will be available, and what the best way to use those coupons are.

I cant believe I never knew you could stack coupons...and use competitor coupons. Oh my goodness.

New Goal: Cut my Grocery and household budget in half. By doing so, I'll have an extra $200 a month to put to the debt snowball. Lets see if I can make it work :)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Going to the YMCA!

So I think I'm going to join the YMCA here in town. Unlike my unsuccessful attempts at working out and getting healthy in the past, there's no contract to join, so I wont be wasting money. There's a one time registration fee, and a monthly draft. You have to give a 30 day notice to cancel membership, and that's it.

I'll get a discount through work. Right now, I'm just going to sign up as an individual. Jonny has access to the gym facilities at CSU, so there's no reason to buy the family plan if he's going to work out at the school instead. So for an adult, I'll have a $40 registration fee and a $26 monthly draft. The classes are free, and there are 3 YMCAs in the columbus area, so I'll have access to them all with my membership. They open as early as 5 am, and close at 9pm, so there will be plenty of hours of the day that I can go.

I'll have to work these fees into our budget, but I'll be able to make it work. Besides, $26 a month is less than a weeks worth of eating fast food for lunch every day, which I'm not doing anymore. Yay for found money!

Speaking of fast food, I've only eaten fast food once, since January 1st, and that was Zaxby's lunch on Saturday the 2nd. I want to see how long I can go without succumbing to the fast food junk. It'll be a help physically and financially.

My brown bagged lunches arent the healthiest in the world, but I guarantee a can of chef boyardee is alot better than a double cheeseburger and fries. One thing I remember from being on weight watchers is that eating healthy is EXPENSIVE. Buying fresh produce and salads, this that and the other. It was terribly expensive to be eating such a small amount (and having chocolate cravings). It's difficult to make strides financially and healthwise at the same time, so I'm having to learn to balance. Financial is my priority right now, so hopefully I can make the healthiest affordable meal choices possible going forward.

Now, if I could just get off the soda and start drinking more water...ugh.

Monday, January 4, 2010

I want a house....and babies

...and right now, I just can't.

When Jonny and I moved to Columbus in October 2008, we got an itty bitty apartment, with an itty bitty kitchen, an itty bitty bathroom, with an itty bitty lease (6 months). "It's temporary," we said.

6 months came. 6 months went. Still no job for the hubby. This situation has turned out to be not-so-temporary.

Since beginning FPU, we have learned that we need to trust the process and finish baby step 2 and 3 before we worry about getting a house. We has saved up almost $4,000 for a down payment. We used it to jump start our debt snowball.

I'll be honest. I come home to my apartment and look around and think, "I wish I had a house..." There are certain people out there who have been, to say the least, not very friendly about our journey. "Debt is normal" they say. You'll always have a (house, car, etc...) payment. No. We won't. As sad as I am that I dont have a house now, I'll appreciate it that much more when the time comes. NO, I don't want a starter home. NO, I don't care jack squat about building equity and using it to roll over to move again. I only want to move one more time in my life, and that is to our permanent home. (Yes, I realize things may change, but that is not the plan. We'll cross that bridge if and when we ever come to it...) I don't have the time or the patience to house hop to build equity and roll it over. I don't have the income and credit right now to get a house on a single income.

The good news is that this gives us time to really figure out what we want. We've considered building, but as time goes on, we hope that time will be on our side. We hope we'll be able to find a really good deal on a home that may not be perfect, but will have potential for remodeling as to become perfect.

I hate being 29 years old, in debt, with no house, and no babies. I've done stupid, and now I'm paying for it (no pun intended). However, as much as I complain, I'm glad I'm being forced to take things slow. We WILL save up a 20% down payment and apply for only a 15 year mortgage. How cool will it be to have our home completely paid for before the kids go off to college?! WOO!

Buying Groceries

We went grocery shopping today. Bought some stuff at Sams Club (the only wholesale club here in Columbus) and some other items at Winn Dixie.

I like Sams because I can get items that we use alot of in bulk and freeze it. We get 90/10 ground beef at $2.89 a pound. I bought a 7 pound package, and separated it into 9 smaller ziplock bags. I used to separate it in 1 pound portions, but over the last several months, we've realized that a whole pound of ground beef for the recipes we're cooking is a little bit more than we need. So we decided to package them a little smaller - 3/4 pound packages or so. This way, we get more meals out of the same amount of beef. Even for recipes such as Hamburger Helper, 3/4 pound of meat will be plenty.

Wholesale Clubs are great for getting deals in bulk. I got a 5 pound bag of rice for less than $5 (which I separated into smaller ziplock bags, too) and a pork roast that I cut in half before freezing. I'll be able to put it in the crockpot with some veggies for an easy yummy meal. We also buy hot dogs and separate them in smaller packages and freeze the rest. We do the same with bread and buns. My deep freezer is the best $160 investment we ever made, because we have the ability to buy in bulk and don't have to worry about it going bad before we can use it all.

I wasnt able to buy chicken breasts today. The Sams brand fresh boneless skinless chicken breast were on sale $1.77 a pound, but they were out. I was told they'd be getting more in on tuesday, so I'll have to go back. I could have gotten the name brand for $1 more per pound, but I can wait 2 days to get the better price.

At Winn Dixie, I bought things that you can't necessarily get at Sams. I'm trying to get better about brown-bagging my lunches for work, and cutting out the fast food. My Blow money was going towards lunch - fast food lunches, and thats one thing I'm trying to cut back on this year. I know I can cut out fast food, I've done it before, I can do it again. I bought cans of soup and some of those microwave meals for a decent price. A $2 can of soup is cheaper than a $5 value meal at the drive through (and it's more healthy). I also use coupons - but I ONLY use coupons for items I would have bought anyway. There's no point in buying a random item with a coupon if it's not something you need. However, even if I have a coupon, I still compare the store brand price. If the store brand is cheaper than the name brand, even with the coupon, I'll buy the store brand. I bought Chef Boyardee Ravioli cans for 10/$10 today. Usually, they are $1.25 each, and the Store brand is $1 each, but today, I was able to get the name brand product for the store brand price. YAY!

Using store sales, and coupons, I bought $120 worth of groceries tonight for only $89. I also like that WD allows you to buy BOGO (buy one, get one free) items for 1/2 off if you only buy 1 of the items. Publix (the other big grocery chain in my area) doesn't allow this - you have to buy both items to get the sale.

I'll probably go to "the bread store" one day this week. The bread store is a discount bakery. 1 day old bread that is no longer on shelves at the major grocery stores. I dunno about you, but I can't eat a loaf of bread in a single day, and if bread is only 1 day old, I would much rather buy it at the discount bakery - where I also get a 10% military discount. Woo! I can get a name brand loaf of bread that's normally $3 a loaf for about $1.20...sometimes less. I can also get bagels and buns. I usually spend about $12 at the bread store - and I come home with 6-8 loaves of bread and several packages of bagels or buns in the process. It's a STEAL! Here's another blog I found about the benefits of going to a discount bread store:

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Our Current Monthly Budget

|Budgeted| 4133
|Income|   4133

GIBill                   1581
J Disability             123
A Disability             123
Omega                    1153
Omega                    1153

Church (147*2)           294 (2  * 10% of pretax earnings)
AXiD                     10 (Donation to AXiD Foundation)

Sinking Funds            300 (Car, Life, Rent Ins, Car Tags)
Savings                  443 (Vacations, Clothes, Car repairs)

Rent/Water               795

Storage                  40
Electricity              130
Mobile Phone             142
Cable                    110

Food & Household         400 (Groceries, household)

Gas & Oil                125 

Medical                  45 (Copay and prescription)

J Blow                   100 
A Blow                   100 

Student Loan             126 (interest only, for now).
Corolla Loan             278
NFCU Loan                325
NFCU Visa                100
CUGA Visa                270 (Next in the debt snowball)

Those of you who are familiar with $0 based budgeting will understand that every dollar must have a name to it. It took us about 3-4 months to lock in a good budget. Sometimes some numbers need to be shifted, or altered slightly. For example, phone is usually $141.23, which leaves me with an extra $0.77 but I prefer to round up rather than rounding down.

I'm trying to find a way to trim the fat on my budget some more. Downgrading our phones are not an option, we use them both too much, and it's not something we are willing to cut corners on at this time. I would love to find a way to save on cable, but I need high speed internet due to my online classes.  I think I can cut the food and household budget, but I need to get better about finding coupons and deals for things we actually use and need. If I could cut $50 or $100 from there, I would put it toward our debt snowball to pay it off quicker....

I think one way I could do this would be by tracking how often we're purchasing certain household items - Prilosec, razor blades, stuff we buy in Bulk at Sams that last "a while" but I dont really know how long "a while" is, I just buy it when we run out...

Hmmm...Just thinking out loud at this point...

*edit* I forgot to mention, and felt I should clarify...the reason our savings is so much is because we REALLY do not use credit cards anymore, and over the last year, I've learned that my "security gland" that Dave talks about in his book, is pretty big. We have this money going to our ING savings account, in which we have multiple savings accounts bookmarked for certain things - summer vacation, graduation cruise, AXiD Conventions, hair appointments, major car services, etc etc. Daves book will tell you you aren't supposed to save in baby step two, you're supposed to be knocking out debt. That's correct...but his plan is also about changing your lifestyle. If you go SO gazelle intense that you don't leave yourself wiggle room for fun, you could fall off the waggon and revert back to bad spending habits. As you can see from my previous posts, I KNOW that I am prone to this, and so in order to avoid it, rather than paying that extra $400 a month to debt, like someone hard core would probably say you should do, I put it to savings so that we can have fun and not feel so deprived. Some folks may disagree with this and say I'm not intense enough, but  I look at it as no different than an additional sinking fund. We have cut back on so much already that I am not ready to cut back further, and feel so restricted that I can't be successful. We're successful right now, doing it this way, and I want to keep it like that.

okay, off my soap box now... :)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

How and Why?

$42,000 in debt. How did we ever end up in this kind of mess, you may ask. It's from a combination of several things. For starters - it's "The American Way" to have debt. It's the American way to have credit cards. It's easier to spend what you don't have than it is to have discipline to save up for what you truly need and or can justify spending the money on, and pay the credit card when it comes in the mail later.

This mentality will overwhelm you. I know EXACTLY where my problem started. It began with the military. I was working a full time job, making good money, and the only bill I had was my cell phone bill. While I was in the navy, I got department store credit cards - target, jcpenny, old navy, etc. I had "some" sense and realized I was getting in a little over my head, so when we went on deployment, I paid those cards off, and cancelled them.

However, I still had no idea about Dave Ramsey, or the common sense approach to money. I really had NO IDEA what in the hell I was doing. I had a paycheck, and a cell phone bill. I had no savings in place, I lived paycheck to paycheck. I went to the mall, I bought clothes, I went out to eat with friends, and I went to the movies. I bought DVDs, cds, and a laptop. When I was overseas on deployment, I paid for the experience. I told myself I may never get a chance to visit those countries ever again, and justified blowing my money on "stuff." Rather than having a budget, I spent until it was gone, and then when it was gone, I used the credit cards.

When I got out of the navy, my habits didn't change, but my financial responsibility did. I no longer had free housing and 3 hot meals a day that I could revert back to if I ran out of money. I now had rent, and utilities to pay. I had to pay money at a laundromat to do my laundry (something I also had for free in the military). It got to the point where I couldn’t afford everything I "needed" so I applied for more credit. I was also in a long distance relationship with Jonny at the time, and had plane tickets to buy to go see him. It didn't make sense to spend 18 hours round trip in the car when I could fly and it only is a 4 hour round trip travel. I needed those extra 14 hours.

Before I knew it, I had more credit cards than I honestly can even remember. Jonny went on deployment and was getting paid tax free, and we used some of the money to pay down the debts we had built up. However, when he returned, we built the debt right back up. Swipe Swipe Swipe went the credit cards. We didn’t learn our lesson.

Jonny got out of the navy in August 2007, and we were married in October. He started school, and found a job, but he wasn’t making near the income he had made before getting out of the service. School was important to him, and finding a banking job that was flexible with his school schedule was impossible. In December, after many nights of tears, and the realization that the 1 step forward 2 steps back approach was not working to get our debt down, we applied for a consolidation loan. At the time, we had $18,000 in credit card debt, plus the 2 cars, which was an additional $17,000 or so, so approximately $35,000 in debt, December 2007. We got rid of the department store cards, and kept only the Visa and Mastercards. However, it wasn't enough. Within the next year, we had reverted back to our old ways. The credit cards that we had consolidated were racked back up, only this time, we still had the consolidation loan to pay as well. WHAT was it going to take to make us learn?

Fortunately, I got out of the job situation I was in and found my calling. In October 2008, we moved 2 hours south to Columbus GA and started rebuilding our lives. Jonny left his job in Atlanta to be with me, and started school at Columbus State. January 11, 2009 we were church shopping and were visiting St. Mark UMC. In the bulletin, Financial Peace University was being advertised. By this time, I had heard of Dave Ramsey, but had not attended FPU. I figured God was trying to tell me something. We enjoyed the church, and became regulars (we joined the church in July). In February we started attending FPU, which changed our lives forever. It's a good thing too; due to the economy, Jonny was having a hell of a time finding a job...and that was when we hit rock bottom. FPU saved us. With it, we learned how to live better on 1 income, than we had been on 2.


Current Financial Situation

In February, we started FPU with 6 credit cards, 2 car payments, and 1 consolidation loan (previous credit card debt). We also have student loan debt, that I will honestly admit that I'm being an ostrich with my head in the sand about right now. I'm paying the interest on my undergrad loans right now, but that's it. I'm focusing on all debt other than student loans while I'm still in school working on my MBA. Once we have the 9 debts above paid off, then we will worry about the student loans. Those 9 debts totalled just over $42,000 in February. Today, they total $28,513.17. In 10 1/2 months, we've paid off $13,486.83, and are down to only 2 credit cards, 1 car payment, and the consolidation loan.

Did I mention that this has been on 1 income? Yes, my husband has been unemployed, but it's not because he hasn't been trying. He had a temporary job during the month of July working at Fort Benning, but that's about it. In September, he started taking a tax class, and became certified as a Professional Tax Consultant in all 50 states. Last year, we used Turbo Tax to do our taxes. Had it not been for this class, we would have missed out on some exemptions and deductions we were eligible for. We filed an amended return right before Thanksgiving and got back an additional $1500 this week. If you're looking for someone to do your taxes this year - I have someone I can recommend for you!

He is hoping that he'll be successful this tax season. We're planning on using every bit of his paychecks toward debt. According to our Debt Snowball calculator, if nothing changes, and we continue to pay our debts as they are right now, November 2012 is our debt free date. I want to speed that up. I want a goal on 16 months from today, er, yesterday. May 1, 2011. I want to have all of this debt paid off by the time Jonny and I are both out of school, so that we can start looking for a house, and start working on the student loan debt.

We'll see how it goes....I'll discuss our monthly budget, and ways we can trim the fat and put more money towards our debt in a future post...

Until next time...

Friday, January 1, 2010

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda...

With the beginning of 2010, I vow to keep the journal I should have started in 2009. February 22, 2009, to be exact. That was the day that Jonny and I began our Journey to Debt Freedom via Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University.

My intent for this blog is to hopefully summarize the last 10 1/2 months, and go forward with the rest of our journey to getting debt free. I'll also post resources I come across for knocking out debt. I want a record of our good days, and our bad, and what we did great, and what we need to improve on.

There may be a little about getting in shape thrown in here as well, as spending money on food is also a key part of our journey. I need to be honest with myself when I eat fast food, as I am CONFIDENT if I could cut fast food completely out of my life, I'd probably drop 20 pounds instantly.

At any rate, I hope you will enjoy my story, or offer insight as you see fit. I've got lots of resources that I've come across to share, but it may take me some time to get everything listed.