Proverbs 22:7

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

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Proof that it never hurts to ask...

I received a rent renewal notice from my apartment complex earlier this week. I was dreading getting this notice, because I just KNEW they were going to increase my price. Well, to my surprise, they did not.

A little background: When we moved to Columbus, we were not yet on this financial kick to get out of debt. The "plan" was to get an apartment for 6 months, and hopefully by the end of that 6 months, be ready to move into a house.

Yeah right! Well so anyway, when we signed the 6 month lease in October 2008, our rent was $730. If we had committed to a 12 month lease, it would have only been $685...but we didn't want to be "stuck" here for 12 months because we just knew we were going to be house hunting right away.

6 months came. 6 months went. By then, we were attending FPU and knew that this temporary living arrangement was turning out to be a little more than temporary. We re-signed a new 12 month lease, but as with most apartment complexes, they up your price every renewal. We were now paying $750. Bummer.

So our current lease expires May 8th, and the renewal notice offered us 12-14 months at $750. Yay it wasn't going up, but BOO because I still felt like we were paying too much. There are banners outside the complex that says 2 bedroom blowout starting at $570. I also plugged my address and stats into and was told that I was paying too much for the area of town I live in, with the features I have.

According to the apartment complex's info, the floor plan I'm living in now goes for $650-$850. So I WAS right in the middle of the range. But geographically, the other complexes in my area are still much cheaper. 

I didn't want to go through the hassle of having to move again, but I REALLY wanted to save some money. So I just picked up the phone and called. and I said what I've told you here...and they asked "Would you stay for $700?" (which was already the price I had hoped I could talk them down to.) I said "Absolutely."

Man, that was easier than I thought! We're going to re-sign a 14 month lease this time, which will get us through July 8, 2011, and saving $50 a month - that's like getting 1 month free! Plus, we already know it's going to be next summer before we are house hunting, so by then we can do month to month, or work out some other arrangement to stay longer if we need to.

$50 a month more to my debt snowball. Yahoooooo!

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend! I'm hitting the road to go to the ATL to see Mom and Dad. I'm suffering withdrawal - it's been over a month since I saw them :( Boo.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

1 year later....a reflection,

February 22, 2009 we took the first step to taking control of our finances. We started off with 6 credit cards, 2 Car loans, and a consolidation loan, over $42,000 in debt, and a whole messload of bad habits. Here is a reflection of things we've changed as a result:

  • In the past year, we paid off 6 credit cards, and a car. All we have left is the consolidation loan, and the second car. Total debt paid: $22,290.06
  • We no longer use credit cards.
  • We have a written budget... and we actually stick to it. If it's not budgetted, we dont buy it, unless it's an emergency....
  • ...which brings me to my next point. We have an emergency fund. Luckily, we haven't had to use it except for a couple of vet related expenses. Once we use it, we halt the debt snowball until the emergency fund has been replenished, and we continue with the snowball.
  • I don't go shopping out of boredom or "I Wants" anymore. If I find something I want, I save up blow money if I can justify having it. Many times, I do without. Sometimes Jonny has to tell me that my want is actually a NEED...such as clothing....when you go 6 months without buying clothes, it becomes a need to add a few new pieces to the wardrobe. However, I used to buy clothes ALL the time, and I knew this was a weakness for me. Therefore, I still try to avoid clothing stores while I'm still in this pursuit to get out of debt.
  • Because of our written budget, we do not eat out to the tune of over $800 a month in FOOD. Good grief I was depressed when I first realized how much money we were wasting by eating out. Our eating out and grocery budget is now less than half that (due in part to coupons).
  • I've become a better cook, and I brownbag more lunches for work, rather than swinging by the drive through.
  • We saved up, and paid for a trip to California right after Christmas (to see family) entirely in cash. Flight, rental car, hotel, food, and activities while we were there, etc. The trip did not follow us home in the form of a credit card bill. Woo!
  • We pay for things like auto, life and renters insurance in cash now. Rather than swiping a credit card when the bill comes due, I save up an appropriate amount every month in a savings account deemed as sinking funds for these expenses, and then when the bill comes in, I transfer the money and pay it off, rather than charging it.
  • As far as entertainment goes - we've gotten creative. Date nights at home with a good movie and dinner, or movies nights at the dollar theater. Camping at the local state park is CHEAP for a weekend. As soon as tax season is over and I have my husband back, we'll be going camping this spring. Yay!

Goals for the upcoming year:

  • To better manage our budget by using cash envelopes for our non-bill related expenses. Now that all the credit cards are paid off, our monthly cash flow with regards to the paychecks are going to be easier to manage because. 
  • Find more snowflakes (unexpected income, or "found" money) that can be applied to the debt snowball.
  • Pay off Consolidation and Car Loans by Christmas.
Hope you all have a great week!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Big News, More Couponing, and updated budget

Fabulous news! As most of you already know, we paid off the last 2 credit cards, and for the first time in over 10 years, we have NO credit card debt whatsoever! All that we have left is a consoliddation loan, and to pay off Jonny's car. We feel very confident that we will be able to do this by Christmas, and will be able to spend Spring building up our fully funded emergency fund, as well as a down payment on a house. Our goal is to be house hunting by Summer 2011! WEEE!

We've also cut our food and household budget because of the use of coupons and looking for savings. I looked back at my post from about a month ago, when I said I had spent $89, and just shook my head. These days, my shopping trips are more in the $40 range, and I have become successful at "flipping" my bill. I dont go shopping for what I need that week anymore. I go shopping for things that we use, but are also on sale. I stock up on non-perishable items. For example: Hamburger Helper. Normally $2.00 a box, today, they were 10 for $10 ($1 each) and I had three $0.75 off 3 coupons. So I bought 9 boxes for $9.00 - $2.25 = $6.75. 9 boxes at normal price of $2.00 each would have been $18.

I don't buy things just because I have coupons or just because they are on sale though. I buy things that we use, but the key to couponing is definitely to not be brand loyal. I have stocked up on laundry detergent, toilet paper, paper towels, and personal toiletries in the last month and have spent just a little bit of money doing so. They are all different brands, depending on what was on sale when. I have a good 6 months of toletries and laundry supplies stocked up right now.

I also buy more "treats" now, because I can. Jonny and I LOVE brownies....we dont make them all the time, but I'd rather buy them when they are cheap, rather than when I'm having a hankering for some, and end up paying $3 or $4 a box for the "good stuff." Today, the Betty Crocker Hersey Brownies were B1G1, and I had a $0.75 coupon off 2. Price came out to $1.02 per box. So, in short, todays trip to Winn Dixie prior to them swiping my loyalty card was $83.33. After swiping the loyalty card, and applying coupons, it dropped all the way to $37.80.

I look at grocery shopping completely differently now. If it's not on sale, if I don't have a coupon, and it's not something I can't live without for the next week, the I don't buy it. Such a different approach to grocery shopping than I used to have...

I'm still trying to find a cheaper way to buy Gillette Fusion Blades, which is one thing we ARE brand loyal to. Jonny and I both use these, and currently, we buy a pack of 16 at Sams club for $42, which comes out to $2.63 a blade. I've been looking at target, walmart, cvs, publix, winn dixie, etc, for a better price, but even with a $3 off coupon (cant use coupons at Sams), the cheapest I have found at those places are $3.00 a blade. So...until I find a better price, I guess Sam's Club will win for this particular product. If you have any suggestions for me, please let me know!

Here's the new budget. Since the last time I posted, we have lowered the cable bill, lowered the food and grocery bill, upped the medical bill. The snowball has changed as a result of no more credit card debt, and anything left over at the end of the month will also be tacked on to the NFCU Loan until that one is knocked out as well.

A Disability 123
J Disability 123
GIBill 1518
Paycheck 1051 (after tax)
Paycheck 1051
Svgs Allotment 100
Svgs Allotment 100

AXiD 10
Church 300

Savings 443
Sinking Funds/NFCU 300

Rent/Water 794

Electricity 150
Mobile Phone 142
Cable 85
Storage 40

Food & Household 300

Gas & Oil 125

Medical 75

A Blow 100
J Blow 100

Student Loan 126
Corolla Loan 276
NFCU Loan 700