Proverbs 22:7

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

Saturday, September 15, 2012

This is why I'm no longer "normal."

It's been way too long since I've posted a blog. Forgive me. This one will be a long post to make up for it :) August is the month from Hades at work with back to school, and this year I was extra busy because in addition to doing my regular work, I had to prepare everything for turnover to a new employee so I could move into a new position. Maybe I'll do another post about that later.. but for now, I've moved into a new role and I'm SUPER excited about it.

You've all heard me gripe and complain about student loans for 3+ years now. I hate these darn things so much that whenever I have the opportunity to try to persuade someone against taking out student loans, I will. Even if it's on a public message board (I know, I know, bad idea...I just couldn't help myself.)

There was a recent conversation on a message board I frequent that started off talking about Chicago teacher unions strike.... One thing led to another, and one of the offshoots of the conversation became about how hard it is to live on only $X amount of dollars per month. $X being approximately $2500.

Okay, now I know that in some parts of the country, $2500 (take home pay) is not alot of money depending on the cost of living for your area. However, where I live, and with the choices Jonny and I have made, $2500 is completely doable. So I responded to this conversation outlining exactly how and why this was doable with the following:

  • $250 for tithe (we actually tithe on our gross pay, but for simplicity sake and privacy, this calculation will tithe on net)
  • $625 for house/homeowners insurance
  • $400 groceries/lunch/restaurants
  • $125 electricity (average)
  • $17 Garbage pick up
  • $30 Water
  • $62 Cell Phones for 2 people
  • $43 Home Security
  • $48 Internet
  • $8 Netflix
  • $37 Pest Service
  • $320 Gas/Car Maintenance
  • $85 for Car Insurance
  • $400 Blow ($50 per person per week for miscellaneous, household purchases, other unforeseen expenses)

And $50 left over for savings or or whatever else....

Now granted.... this is tight. This does not give any wiggle room for anything else... and this only includes "regular living expenses." but it's pretty much a complete list of everything we expect on a monthly basis. Anything that's not listed, such as doctor visits, etc, can be pulled from savings, or from the blow money each month if necessary. The point I was trying to make is that in my area is is COMPLETELY DOABLE to live on a measly $2500 per month. Before Jonny got his job, I mentioned how stressed I was about being able to continue to make payments toward the student loans. Our regular expenses wasn't the issue. I made the money to cover our regular expenses. I did not, however, make enough money to continue to throw payments at the student loans and I desperately did not want to defer them because I want them PAID OFF AND OUT OF MY LIFE.

Something important to point out about the monthly budget above. You don't see a car payment. You don't see cable. You don't see an expensive cell phone plan. You also don't see credit card debt or student loan debt. In other words - if you make practical and smart choices, it's possible to live on a small budget, and not suffer.

Yes, Jonny and I have student loans to pay. No, it's not included in the budget above. The budget above IS however, our true monthly budget, for the most part, except for our student loan payments and any other out of the ordinary expenses we may run into. If we had not incurred student loan debt, we could live on $2500 a month for our regular expenses and everything else.... everything else, could be used to save, invest, pay down the house, and have a ton of fun in the process. Instead though, right now, that "everything else" is being thrown as fast as I can throw it at those awful student loans.

If you and your family make more than $2500... could you live on a budget like the one above? No, the budget doesn't take families with kids into consideration, so of course you would need to include expenses for your children, such as day care, after school programs, extra money for their expenses, etc. I get it, really, I do. But I'm not there yet. The budget above is for a childless couple. One who has chosen to give up fancy cell phones, cable, and luxurious new cars, in order make it work. One day, we'll probably get cable or a satellite service, but for now, we can't justify the cost, and really don't need it. So back to what I was saying - could you live on $2500 a month? If so.. how much extra would you have left over after these expenses are taken care of? $500? $800? $1500? Maybe more than that? Can you dream about the extra things that you could do with that extra money that you would have if you weren't having to pay it to a car payment, a credit card payment, or student loans? I can... and it makes me sick to my stomach that such a large portion (almost 20%) of our paychecks are going to our student loans. 20% of our take home pay is being ripped out from underneath us before we can even breathe each month because we took on the stupid tax of all these student loans.

*Sigh* I could totally use that money to landscape my yard, upgrade my kitchen cabinets, redo the flooring in my house, travel, save for retirement, remodel, give more to charities, my church, or AXiD, plan a car replacement fund, etc etc. Unfortunately, because I did stupid by taking out student loans, I have an obligation to pay those off first before I have fun with extra money.

Okay, so back to the message board story. I shared this budget on the board, and explained that this was an example of our true budget, less our student loans. I explained that to those who said it could not be done that yes it could, provided you make smart decisions. Smart decisions including not taking out a car loan or lease, or student loans and having to make a monthly payment. Smart decision such as not paying for cable if you can't really justify the cost. Smart decisions such as going without a fancy phone plan (side note, I believe you all know that Jonny and I had blackberries for YEARS with a $145 a month cost. Now we pay $62 a month for a no-contract, pay as you go plan. Yeah, fancy cell phones are a complete rip off. iPhone5? No thank you. Not worth the additional expense for me.) etc etc.

Well, as you can imagine... the Normal People on the message board ripped me apart for even suggesting that it's realistic to live without those things. And shame on me for calling student loans a Stupid Tax. Here are some of the comments I got:

  • I know that some students get student loans when they don't really need to, but not everyone qualifies for federal financial aid, Pell grants, and/or scholarships. And even if they do qualify for one/more of those, that's not always enough to cover the total cost of tuition/books/room/food ... Student loans are, for many students, necessary. I'm not sure I'd call securing money for your education a 'stupid tax'.
  • How is it a tax? It's a voluntarily incurred debt.
    • Oh my goodness. Do you take everything at literal face value? Definition of stupid tax: something I shouldn't have had to pay for if I hadn't done something stupid. The "something stupid" in this case, is taking out stupid loans, rather than working a little more hours, or being a little more responsible with the money I DID have when I was in college. Voluntarily incurred debt - yes. Some people (like many of you, apparently ) think that debt is the only way to get a "good" education. I used to, too. But I was wrong. If I had done things differently, and avoid student loans, I could be living very comfortably right now. But I have the weight of student loans dragging me down, preventing me from doing things I really want to be able to do. So, in that sense, it's motivation to work harder. I'll work harder, rather than gripe and complain about how someone else got a better deal than me.
  • I don't know why you feel the need to respond with such emotion - it's possible to have rational discussions on GC. Well, with some people it is, anyway.

    I disagree with you as well. There are, in fact, some people who "need" loans in order to pay for school. When the average cost for one year at a public institution is around $16K, it's naive to think that everyone can work full time while attending school. It's equally naive to assume that everyone is military or peace corps material. 

    I've agreed that there are opportunities out there that some people fail to investigate, but you don't seem to recognize that all these alternatives you speak so highly of aren't within every student's reach. 

    Some people need student loans.
    • I couldn't even respond to this person. She's making excuses. Everyone has options available to them, they just have to be diligent to investigate them. You DON'T have to go to college immediately following high school. You can work and save money, or go to school part time. You can join the military/peace corps (which I had previously mentioned in another response which is why she disputed that in her comment above). It's apparent that she was too busy making excuses to see the rationale that there are ways to make it work without going in to debt. I really wish I had known all this before it was too late for me. I spent my military money and then some :(
      • Side Note.... $16K? Really? I just checked the current tuition and fees rate at SPSU, and for 12 hours, it's $3350 per semester, or $6700 a year. More than when I was in school obviously, but that's nowhere near $16K. I'm sorry that I didn't feel the need to go to a school with a more popular name and a larger bill.) Now, add in the housing plan and meal fee, and okay, current rates at my school are close to $16K... but there are ways to make that work without taking on that much debt! 
  • But some people in some circumstances may find it is the best option for them. Here's a thought: you decide what's best for you and your family, and give others the same courtesy.
    • Sure. However, I also feel that I have a responsibility to at least plant the seed in a young person's head that they don't have to listen to what's "normal" by taking out student loans just because they are available. Just because it's an option doesn't mean it's the best option. If there are students reading this, they need to know there are ways to avoid debt, and to avoid those chains once they do get a big boy or big girl job.

Student Loans are NOT a necessary evil. Please please, if you're young, and you're reading this, do your research. Find scholarships. Get a job. Have a garage sell. Start your own business. Cut back on un-necessary expenses (Greek life is an investment in your future, don't cut that out! Plus, scholarships are available.)

Meanwhile, Jonny and I are still looking for a way for make an extra $1000-1200 a month to throw at our student loans to pay them off quicker. Hopefully we'll find a solution before too much longer.

Have a great weekend, y'all :)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

2012 Sorority House Shopping - Part 2

As the Staples commercial says... "That was easy." I'm done, with the exception of the Vanilla spray - the same darn thing I had trouble finding this time last year. This Fall I need to remember to grab an extra bottle to NOT USE at home. Vanilla is NOT a summer scent. Ugh.

I had my 20% off coupon to use at Big Lots, which just made the prices that much better. Helped me keep almost everything under budget this year, even with tax included. Last year I saved big money on some key purchases, but those savings helped cushion the tax and other items that I was unable to bring under budget.

Item Annual Quantity Need Budget (50%) Actual Comments
Toilet Paper 156 Rolls 156 $50.00 $41.99 80 triple rolls = 240 regular rolls. $0.175 per roll. See Below.
Paper Towels 52 Rolls 24 $15.00 $12.84 24 rolls. $0.535 per roll.
Trash Bags - Large/Tall 300 Bags 75 $10.00 $7.96 76 bags. $0.105 per bag.
Dish Soap 12 Lg Bottles 9 $14.00 $10.66 2 gallons = 256 oz = almost 11 regular (24 oz) bottles. $0.046 per oz.
Dishwasher (Liquid) 24 Bottles/330 packs 110 $15.00 $16.03 135 packs. Package size increased from 110 last year.
Bath/kitchen hand soap 24 Bottles 20 $15.00 $12.84 Three 56oz bottles each with a 7.5oz refillable bottle. 190.5oz total = 25 7.5oz bottles = $0.514 per bottle
Napkins 6 Packs 6 $4.50 $4.28 See Below
Kleenex 12 Boxes 10 $8.00 $6.42 1 regular box = 75 tissues. I got 5 family size boxes of 200 which = 13 regular boxes
Windex 2 Lg Bottles 1 $2.00 $1.71 2 regular bottles. They only asked for 1 bottle, but I thought the bottle was kinda small, so I got 2 since it was still under budget.
Bathroom Cleaner 2 Lg Bottles 1 $2.00 $2.40 See below
Kitchen Cleaner 3 Lg Bottles 1 $3.00 $2.40 1 bottle.
Sponges 2 Packs 2 $4.00 $3.42 I got 4 total sponges, but they are a higher quality sponge. I wanted 8… but budget didn’t allow that. These that I bought can be washed and reused.
Duster 1 1 $5.00 $2.66 Microfiber duster with collapsible handle.
Vanilla Scents 2 Sprays (bottle) 1 $2.50 $0.00 Haven't bought it yet. Couldn’t find it. I tried 3 places. Vanilla is a fall/winter scent. I'm still on the hunt for it.
HE Washer Cleaner 1 box? 1 $5.00 $4.26 1 bottle.
Oxyclean 1 bottle 1 $2.00 $0.86 See Below
    TOTAL $157.00 $130.73 $26.27 under budget. Still need $2-$3 for Vanilla Spray once I can find it.

Toilet Paper: Sam's Club had the best deal on TP this year. The 2 big boxes on the bottom of the pile are the TP. I promise, it's soft fluffy TP, and not single ply yucky Scott's brand. The chapter ran out of TP last year and had to buy more during the Spring. So this year, I wanted to be extra cautious about TP claims that their roll equaled however many regular rolls. Last year, Charmin mega rolls claimed to be  the equivalent of 4 rolls each... and even though they were BIG rolls, they still, obviously, weren't enough. So this year I checked multiple brands regular rolls, and determined that a "regular roll" generally has anywhere from 120-170 sheets on it. So I split the difference and determined that a regular roll has 150 sheets, and double roll, therefore, should have at least 300 sheets, and a triple roll should have 450. (I highly doubt those Charmin rolls last year had 600 sheets each on them! Psh! Live and learn, I suppose...) The commercial brand TP that I selected this year had exactly 450 2-ply sheets per roll, and claimed that 40 rolls = 120 regular rolls. Price per box was $20.99 with tax, or 17.5 cents per regular roll - waaaay under the 25 cents per roll maximum that I'll buy TP at. I checked prices at Sam's club, went to Big Lots, looked at their options, and ultimately went back to Sam's club to get the TP because it was the best deal. Better yet, because I am so far under budget, if the powers that be who are reading this think that it would be better to have 1 more box of TP, to be on the safe side and hopefully not run out this year, there's still plenty of room in the budget to do so. Just let me know if I should get one more.

Napkins: Ugh… just realized the cashier only rang me up for 2 packs of napkins, instead of the 3 I bought! Well… it should have been 3 packs of 250 count napkins = 750 napkins (only needed 600). I was supposed to be over budget on this but since they only rang up 2 packs instead of 3, I'm under! Comes out to $0.57 per 100, but it really should have been $6.42 or $0.642 per 100. Next time I go back to big lots (which is often) I'll tell them and pay for it at that time.

Bathroom Cleaner: Edit. Scratch that. I was overcharged on the bathroom cleaner. The bathroom cleaner bottle and the kitchen cleaner bottle looked very similar, but they were NOT the same. The bathroom cleaner bottle was $1.95 before my discount was taken and tax added, and I should have paid a total of $1.67 for it. However, she scanned the kitchen cleaner twice, which was $2.80 before discount and tax. I guess she thought they were the same bottle. Boo!

OxyClean: First off, in my previous post, I mentioned something about oxy powder. I failed to realize that the wish list said "bottle" for oxyclean. Not tub or bin (indicating powder), so therefore I concluded that they are actually looking for the liquid kind. SCORE! Well, the problem is, name brand OxyClean in a bottle is $5 a bottle. And even the Clorox Oxy stuff at Big Lots was $2.80. Even after the discount, it was over budget, and I was doing SO GOOD staying under budget for almost every other item, that I just couldn't buy it at that price. So, I bought an empty spray bottle instead, and I fully intend to mix up two mason jars full of homemade Oxyclean for them to refill with. And... well, if they don't like it, I came in far enough under budget that if they want the name brand commercialized stuff that bad they can still afford to purchase it. Won't hurt my feelings none. :)

I'm 17% under budget, which is comparable to last year (18%). I'm blaming the dishwasher packs. The packs of 110 last year were $13.78 after tax, which is $2.25 lower than I paid this year. That $2.25 would have been JUST ENOUGH for me to beat last year. Well, boo!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

2012 Sorority House Shopping - Part 1

Well... it's that time of year again! Last year I documented my journey to buy a years worth of household supplies for Alpha Xi Delta at Southern Poly and I'll be doing the same again this year. The list is shorter this year, as they still had supplies left over from last year. Here's what we're looking to get, the estimated retail cost, the budgeted cost (50% of retail price), and the amount I actually spend on those supplies.

As last year, I'm looking for the absolute best value, while purchasing convenience factor for college women. Those of you who know me, know that I'm currently on a "hippie" journey of going all natural, non-toxic, etc. If I had my way, I'd be COMPLETELY frugal and I would make homemade dish detergent for them, as well as other frugal household cleaners like vinegar and baking soda. But something tells me that college girls may not be as welcoming of frugal non-toxic alternatives to the mainstream cleaning products that everyone is so used to.

Funny thing is, just last weekend, I cleaned my cleaning closet. I had practically full bottles of Windex, kitchen and bathroom cleaners that I dumped down the drain and tossed. I totally should have saved those and donated them to the chapter rather than spending money to buy them new ones :( I just wasn't thinking about the fact that I would probably do the sorority house shopping again this year and when I made the toss. Luckily, I do still have 2 big bottles of dish soap, but since then, I've made my own homemade dish soap, which is in mason jars under my kitchen sink. So, that's 2 less that I have to spend money on out of their budget because I'll just give them to the chapter to help save their money.

Here's this years shopping list:

Item Annual Quantity Own Need Estimated Retail (of Need) Budget (50%) Actual Comments
Toilet Paper 156 Rolls 0 156 $100.00 $50.00 $0.00  
Paper Towels 52 Rolls 28 24 $30.00 $15.00 $0.00  
Trash Bags - Large/Tall 300 Bags 225 75 $20.00 $10.00 $0.00  
Dish Soap 12 Lg Bottles 3 9 $27.00 $14.00 $0.00  
Dishwasher (Liquid) 24 Bottles/330 packs 220 110 $30.00 $15.00 $0.00  
Bath/kitchen hand soap 24 Bottles 4 20 $30.00 $15.00 $0.00  
Napkins 6 Packs 0 6 $9.00 $4.50 $0.00  
Kleenex 12 Boxes 2 10 $15.00 $8.00 $0.00  
Windex 2 Lg Bottles 1 1 $4.00 $2.00 $0.00  
Bathroom Cleaner 2 Lg Bottles 1 1 $4.00 $2.00 $0.00  
Kitchen Cleaner 3 Lg Bottles 2 1 $6.00 $3.00 $0.00  
Sponges 2 Packs 0 2 $8.00 $4.00 $0.00  
Duster 1 0 1 $10.00 $5.00 $0.00  
Vanilla Scents 2 Sprays (bottle) 2 1 $5.00 $2.50 $0.00  
HE Washer Cleaner 1 box? 0 1 $10.00 $5.00 $0.00  
Oxyclean 1 bottle 0 1 $4.00 $2.00 $0.00  
      TOTAL $312.00 $157.00 $0.00  

Based on the budget, and reviewing the prices I spent last year for certain products, the goal unit price I want to spend for each item is as follows. I know that I will not be able to meet the goal price for each of these because a 50% budget of the retail price is difficult for some of these items. So, I'm hoping to come way under budget on the things that I can, so I can be slightly over budget on those harder items, and still be under budget once everything is purchased. The ones with a *** next to them are the ones I think I will, unfortunately, be over budget for, but that doesn't mean I won't try!

  • Toilet Paper - $0.25 per roll
  • Paper Towels - $0.50 per roll ***
  • Trash Bags - Large/Tall - $0.10 per bag
  • Dish Soap - $1.00 per bottle
  • Dishwasher packs - $0.13 per pack
  • Bath/kitchen hand soap - $0.75 per bottle
  • Napkins - $0.75 per 100 napkins ***
  • Kleenex - $0.75 per box ***
  • Windex - $2.00 per bottle
  • Bathroom Cleaner - $2.00 per bottle
  • Kitchen Cleaner - $3.00 per bottle
  • Sponges - $0.50 per sponge ***
  • Duster - $5.00. Funny, last year my budget for a duster was only $1.50. I met that, but I guess it was an "el cheapo" duster that didn't last. Will have to move up in quality this year!
  • Vanilla Scents - $2.50 per spray can
  • HE Washer Cleaner - $5.00 (did not buy last year)
  • Oxyclean - $2.00 (did not buy last year) * Grumble Grumble. Really wish I could convince the gals to use the homemade version of this: Baking Soda and Hydrogen Peroxide... I would totally make several mason jars full for them, if I knew they would use it... but they probably want the powder commercialized version. 
The link I posted for Kitchen Cleaner above will take you to a page with homemade recipes for cleaning products - the first one is super stupid simple: All Purpose Cleaner - Mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda (or 2 teaspoons borax) into 1/2 gallon (2 liters) water. For the cost of a plastic spray bottle,  I could make this for them! Arg! Oh well, can't convince everyone to be hippie like me, but I can use my blog to educate, if nothing else.

I'll keep you all posted on the prices I'm able to get! Let the shopping begin!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Taxes and the Evil 1%

Disclaimer: If politics hack you off, don't bother reading any further. This is a very political opinion post.

Today, I ran across this gem of an occupy poster. Go ahead. Read it now before you come back. I'll wait.

Personally, I love the concept. It makes sense, and it seems to be working for them. However, as I posted on FB today, we aren't taxed equally. The problem is that Americans don't want to be taxed the way Scandinavians are. You have the the left, who is fighting sooooooo hard to not tax the poor anymore because they "can't afford it" and you've got the right, who doesn't want to play in the game of redistribution of wealth. If we'd go to a Fair Tax system...maybe this would make sense. But as long as we have the current knuckleheads in office, it ain't gonna happen.

Okay, so something totally hit me today about the crazy leftists who have their undies in a bunch at the thought of a fair tax system. Yes I called you crazy, deal with it. One of those crazies snarked back at me with "fair tax punishes the poor. Consumption taxes are unfair to those who spend 90% of their income while the rich (who spend more like 2%) get off Scott free."

Mr. Crazy, you obviously haven't done your research about Fair Tax, because if you had, you would know that everyone would get a prebate equivalent to the taxes that you would pay on the basic necessities for living. Read that again for me. In other words, if those poor people are sooooo poor that they can literally only afford to "survive" they still wouldn't pay a tax at all because the prebate would cover those basic needs. To further clarify, those poor folks would only pay taxes on everything outside of those basic necessities to live: a consumption tax on everything above and beyond.

Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me. Oooooh, wait. I forgot. Those crazy lefties don't stop looking at it there. They can't just look at how it affects THEM. They have to look at how it affects everyone else, and if someone is getting a "perceived" better deal than them, then they want to fuss and complain about how life's not fair.

Didn't your Mama ever tell you that life's not fair?

Why can't the lefties and these poor folks look at what a GOOD DEAL this is for them? Because it's not fair. It's not fair that those evil rich folks would ALSO get a prebate (equal, fair, standard across the board) because they make more money! They can "afford" it. They don't need the prebate. So it's not fair that they also get it.

Why is it not fair? You get a prebate. They get a prebate. Equal opportunity. Equal treatment. HOW IS THAT NOT FAIR?

You know, if you would worry more about yourself than worrying about what other people are doing, life would be so much easier for you.

Dumb guy that I quoted above said "Consumption taxes are unfair to those who spend 90% of their income while the rich [spend more like 2%].

Yes, it's basic math that if you only make 20K per year, the percentage of the money you spend just for basic living needs is a higher percentage than those tho make say, a few hundred grand a year. I mean, using that 90% thing as an example... 90% of 20K is 18K.  A poor person could buy 18K worth of basic living, and that would be 90% of his/her income. A rich person, could go out with the identical exact same shopping list of products, and also purchase 18K worth of basic living needs. If that rich person made $900,000 (not even a million) that would be the appropriate math to show that person only spending 2% of his/her income.

Let's be honest. Someone who makes $900K is not going to only spend $18K.  They are going to spend much more than that. Even if they invest a whole bunch, they are going live off more than 18K. If we're talking about a rich person who makes say half of that - 450K, that's 4%. Even someone who makes nearly half a million dollars is not going to only spend 18K. But even if they did.... why does that matter to you? Really? Why does it matter how a rich person spends his money? Quit whining. You're being selfish, moping and complaining about how that person spends his money. If you would do better for yourself, you could spend money the way he does too. If you want to be a rich person, make rich people decisions. That means lay off the cigarettes and lotto tickets.

The number of millionaires and billionaires is a relatively small number of the total U.S. population. A quick google search tells me that the population of the US in 2011 was 311,591,917. In 2010, there were 3.1 million millionaires, and 403 billionaires.. What a coincidence, that's where the term "the 1%" came from. 1 percent of the US are "rich" and you people are having a conniption over how they spend their money. Why do you care? If everyone.... the other 99% (which I'm a part of, thank you) would just worry about themselves instead of pointing fingers at the evil rich people, this debt crisis would correct itself.

FAIR TAX... consumption tax is the way to go. EVERYONE pays. If you're a legal citizen, you get a prebate. If you're a sorry-butt-illegal-moocher, YOU DON'T get a prebate because you aren't entitled to one, but your sure as heck would be paying a consumption tax for mooching off us. Thank you!

This is such a no-brainer. I cannot understand why so many people don't get it. Quit whining about what other people are doing and worry about yourself. You know, if you would do that, you might climb your way up to be one of those evil 1% folks. But I guess it's easier to sit at the bottom and wait for a handout. That's just pathetic.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

When one door closes, another one opens...

The last 3 1/2 years of my life has been a complete whirlwind. Fabulous, Not-so-fabulous, and anywhere in between. I feel so blessed for the tough times because they have made me stronger.

Last Fall, after trying unsuccessfully for 6 months to get pregnant, I was diagnosed with PCOS and insulin resistant. That was the swift kick in the tush that I needed to get serious about getting my health in order. While I wouldn't consider myself as intense as some health gurus out there, I have make some pretty drastic changes to my eating habits. I'm nowhere near where I want to be, because I'm still working on it. However, my choices are getting better, and my health is improving. Sure, starting a family is a motivating factor, but I also know that it will happen when it's meant to happen. God has a plan for us.

I feel like part of that plan is this journey He has put me on in order to get my health where it needs to be. Clean Eating is a no brainer. Lean meats, 5-6 small meals a day of a complex carb and a lean protein, whole grains, throw in some healthy fats, drink lots of water, stay away from sugar, and if you're going to use salt, use sea salt instead, and in moderation. There ya go, that's the cliff's notes version of eating clean.

During this process, I have found that I can't seem to learn enough about organic foods, supporting local farmers, ethical treatment of animals for the meat we eat, etc. I've watched documentaries, I've researched articles, I've signed petitions, etc etc. I'm really trying to become a vegetarian, but... it's pretty difficult. I've significantly cut back on red meat, but chicken and shrimp are REALLY hard to give up...Even after watching Food Inc.

Another aspect of this health journey that was recently introduced to me is the safety of products we use in our everyday lives. Cosmetics, personal care, household cleaners, etc. It goes hand in hand with healthy eating - what you put ON your body (makeup, lotion, soap, etc) is just as important as what you put IN your body.

Through my research, I learned of the cosmetic database. The cosmetic industry loaded with toxic chemicals. Sunscreen is a necessary evil, right? Did you ever wonder why the warning labels mention that it's flammable? Really, isn't it common sense that if something is flammable, it's probably not safe to put on your body? Your skin is an organ, and the products you put on it soak into your blood stream, and can make you sick. This is a reason why so many women struggle with infertility... so when I heard that, it really got my attention.

I dare you.... I dare you to go to the website and check out the toxicity/safety levels of your favorite products. YES, even the ones who market themselves as natural and organic.

As you all know, last summer, I became a consultant for a large direct sales company. When I became a consultant, I never had the intention of being a superstar. Direct Sales people scare me. It's like, when you see them coming, you want to run the other way because you think they are going to ask you to buy something or ask you to host a party when you really just don't want matter how much "fun" they try to spin it as. That wasn't me. That wasn't what I wanted. I LOVED the products. I had been a regular customer for years and years, and finally thought, "Why not, it's something to do, and hey, I'm on a journey to get out of debt, so I can get my products at half price and will save some money! YEAH!"

It is a good company. It works for some people, but it did not work for me. The hoops you have to jump through in order to get the discount, hidden costs (shipping, prepurchasing an inventory, etc) that I wasn't prepared for, just really turned me off. I wasn't holding parties. I wasn't really trying to hold parties, I was happy with my handful of regular customers and I was happy to help them. But really, rather than saving money, it was costing me money to keep the business going. I was trying to tough it out for a full year before throwing in the towel... but then I found the cosmetic database I mentioned above, and when I researched my longtime favorite products of this company, it was then that I knew that my part in the business was officially over.

I heard about the cosmetic database by going to one of those at home parties for another company, Ava Anderson Non-Toxic. It's a young company, it's only been around for 2 1/2 years, so that may be why you've never hard of it. I won't bore you with too many details right now, but this is where I learned about the cosmetic database, and the dangers of the everyday products that we are accustomed to. It's just like processed food. Processed food is marketed to be quick, cheap, and convenient, and these personal products are marketed very similarly. It's all about how can you be convinced to buy the product - the packaging, the claims of being healthy and organic (or cheap, if that's your concern), all the while having ingredients that are used in items that you wouldn't dream of being a kissing cousin to the product you put on your body.

I had SO MUCH FUN at that party. I went, thinking I may buy a lip balm, or something like that, and while I was there, it dawned on me that this was the next dimension to my quest for my health and safety of my body, and my family. So much in fact that I knew I was going to become a regular customer of these products. Roll your eyes, or sigh in frustration if you must, but as I am STILL on a quest to get out of debt, I had to think big picture. I realized that I was going to be buying these products, specifically the skin care, makeup, and sunscreen on a regular basis. As with most at home parties, you are given a glimpse into the business opportunity. At first I said "No thank you" because I was already burned once in direct sales and wasn't interested.

As I thought about it some more, I decided that I wanted to know more about HOW the business opportunity worked. What was the catch? How did the discount work, was I required to prepurchase inventory, was I required to pay shipping for my customers items, or did THEY pay for shipping, etc etc. After asking the right questions, I found that everything that had been a concern of mine with the previous company was a non-issue with Ava. I learned that by being a regular customer and purchasing my own products, I will meet the minimum requirements to get the discount, and so therefore, it only made sense for me to sign up.

I didn't sign up specifically for the business opportunity - that was not my motivation for doing it. I signed up because I already like the products. I REALLY like what the company stands for, and I wanted to save money on the products I know I will be buying. Funny thing is, Ava started the company not necessarily to make money, but because she was upset with the fact that most cosmetics are not safe. She's lobbying in Washington to get the cosmetic industry regulated so it will HAVE to be safe. If/when she's successful, other companies will be forced to offer safer products, which may result in a drop in sales of her products. From what I've been told, that's not a concern... she just wants there to be an availability of products that are truly safe. This is one reason why I'm so impressed with this company - they aren't concerned about their bottom line profit - they are more concerned about educating the public on the serious hazards of our everyday products.

While I didn't sign up necessarily to make a big business out of this, I DO want the opportunity to share what I've learned with my family and friends. I know that not everyone is as gung-ho about the safety of their products, and some of you reading this may think I'm a crazy for taking it so seriously. Hopefully there are others of you who may one day give me the chance to share with you what I've learned. This is one of those situations that once you learn about something, you want to share it with the whole world. Many of you reading this have small kids. Aren't you the least bit curious to know what the lasting effects of the ingredients in the products you use on them may have?

Anyway... yes, I'm technically a new consultant for Ava Anderson Non-Toxic. I would love the opportunity to tell you Ava's story (she started the company when she was 16 - yes, that means she's only 18 now). I'm going to be hosting a launch party soon (TBA), and I would absolutely love it if you could come support me. Let me share the story of how and why Ava started the company, and why the products you put on your body are so important to your health, so you can see why I am so excited about this.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Renewing Our Commitment to Use Envelopes

Last weekend, I stumbled across this template for making envelopes. They were also available to purchase on Etsy, but.... I was trying to save money (obviously). So I used the template, and some card stock I already had at home, bought a roll of contact paper for $5 to laminate and reinforce the envelopes so they wouldn't fall apart so easily, and made my own.

With Jonny's new job, our finances feel so much more under control now. As I posted last week, we started using YNAB to put together our budget, and it's making a HUGE difference in holding me accountable for where money is coming in and going out. As a result, I am trying desperately to recommit to using envelopes for "everyday spending." No more debit card purchases because I was too lazy to go to the ATM or withdraw cash at the bank.

Last night was a true testimony for me on how you spend less cash because cash "hurts" to spend more than swiping a plastic card does. Even if it's a debit card, the emotional triggers in your brain don't hurt as bad as when you spend cash. We went out to dinner and bowling with some friends. Afterwards, we discussed going to get coffee, but as I looked at our Entertainment envelope, I realized I didn't want to spend so much more of our entertainment money on one night. We had already spent $28.00 for dinner and a tip. We probably could have done without the appetizer and our meal would have been less expensive, but MAN those corn nuggets sure were good. Then we went to the bowling alley. We had coupons for 1 free game of bowling, so we paid for our shoes,which was just under $10 for both of us. Good grief when did bowling shoe rental get so expensive? I don't bowl regularly, but at that rate, it may be worth buying my own bowling shoes one of these days! So anyway, we bowled our first free game, and then decided to do another game, which was $11 and some change for the 2 of us. So $28 + $10 + $11 = $49. Yowza! So after doing all that math and seeing the dwindling dollar bills in my entertainment envelope, we decided that we didn't want to go spend another $10 on some fru-fru coffee, because we wanted to save the money for something else later on this month.

If we had been using the debit card, I don't think I would have given it a second thought. I would have swipe swipe swiped until I got home and then added up the receipts, and THEN I would have cringed at the total spent.

So yeah, I'm really looking forward to "sticking to my budget" by using cash. Once it's gone, it's gone. No more.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

You Need A Budget

YNAB. Pretty amazing stuff. If you have read my Month Ahead post, you already know that we save up the income from one month to pay the entire bills for the next month - IE, all the paychecks we receive in May go for our bills and spending during the month of June.

I've heard about YNAB on the TMMO boards for quite some time, but I thought I was doing everything just fine myself. Well, after reading about it, yet again, on the TMMO board, I decided to see what all the fuss was about. They have a 30 day free trial that you can sign up for. After that if you choose to purchase the software, it's $60. I've only had it 3 days and I'm already planning to budget that $60 to pay for it, because it's pretty fabulous.

What I like: you can download you bank transactions from your bank website and upload into YNAB. You can edit or delete transactions as necessary, and categorize those transactions so that you have a crystal clear picture of where your money is going each month. When you receive a deposit, paycheck, or whatever, you can indicate that it is money available to use this month, or next month. If you indicate next month, then that money is not calculated into your this month's budget - it's "babysat" to be used next month. Any money from your budget that you don't use this month will roll over to be available for the next month.

They also offer online teaching webinars that you can sign up for to learn more about how their service works. It's pretty fabulous. I cannot say enough good things about this - and I'm only 3 days in.

Please check it out. 30 day free trial. You do NOT have to enter payment info in to try it - you simply download and start using. At the end of your trial, your software quits working unless you finally pay for it. So you run no risk of them automatically taking your money if you forget to cancel at the end of your trial. If you're like me though, you won't want to cancel. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Twenty Years? That's Just Not Good Enough

So as the things settle in with Jonny's new job, and we clean up the things we've had to let slide (car repairs, house essentials, etc) we've started looking at the UGLY reality of our student loan payoff. What we've discovered is this: by paying only the minimum due of just over $800 a month for all of our student loans, it would take us until February 2032 to pay the darn things off. TWENTY YEARS!!! I'll be 51! That's ridiculous. I've said this a million times in this blog: If you are a high school or college student who is reading this DON'T TAKE OUT STUDENT LOANS. Please! You can (and must) find a way to pay for school without them. Don't let the darn things follow you for the rest of your life. Please read my previous post which has some suggestions on things you can do to avoid taking out student loans while still attending college.

Luckily, we don't intend to only pay the minimum. In a few months when we get things cleaned up we will be able to pay $1200 a month towards the student loans, versus the $800. That extra 50% drops my timeline almost in half: The new payoff date would be July 2022.

But...that's still just not good enough. I really REALLY want to throw at least $2000 a month at this monster. Why? Because I want it GONE. It's not fun watching my money come in and money go out, and as Dave says, only the names are changed to protect the innocent. With a $2000 a month payment, our new payoff date would be... wait for it... September 2017. That's just over 5 years from now, and that's shortly before what will be our 10 year wedding anniversary. Debt freedom for a 10 year anniversary gift? Yes please.

So the question now is... what can we do to get another $800 a month? Well, realistically, we probably need another $1000 a month to account for taxes and tithing. I really need to get serious about applying to be an online professor...I'm just intimidated by the process and I haven't quite found all the tools I need in order to make sure I have the proper credentials to do so.

So anyway... I'm not sure what we're going to do to bring in that extra $1000 per month...but we know this is what is necessary if we want to meet out goal of having everything paid off in 5 years. I really wish I could deliver pizzas again, but it would be detrimental to my healthy eating lifestyle I'm trying to follow. Ugh. Hopefully I'll have an answer to this problem before too long.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Let me call the WAHHHH-mbulance.

College education is not a right. It's a privilege. And guess what folks? With a little sacrifice, you too can have that privilege. It's called researching and applying for scholarships, or, gosh, being a great student/athlete, etc and being awarded scholarships or a free ride. What - you mean you aren't a genius? Well, even if you aren't a great student, you may qualify for voc-rehab (someone very close to me got his entire college paid for like this). Or your can serve your country and get your education paid for via the military or via teaching in low income areas.

From the article: "I look at the loans my daughter is taking out, and I've got to wonder what it's going to be like when my son, who is in eighth grade, gets there," said Tony Pollack, 55, of Detroit, .... "We can't help them out — they've got to shoulder all that cost and get so many debts."

This is a pitiful excuse. This guy has time to figure out a game plan to prevent his son from needing student loans. Again, great grades, scholarships, and military are some fabulous options. But if parents stick their head in the sand and ignore the situation, then sure, that kid may be up a creek without a paddle when it comes time for college. Such a negative attitude, assuming that the son will be forced to take on debt.

I have a crap ton of student loan debt because I was stupid. I was in the military. I could have used my education money wisely and not taken out ANY loans... but I was dumb. Ask me about it sometime, and I'll tell ya how. I'm not blaming anyone but myself... but guess what? I have a plan to get it paid off, and I have a plan to provide for my future kids. I think increasing student loan interest rates is a FABULOUS idea because I think it's a great way to reduce the national debt. No, not everyone "deserves" a college education. If you want it - you need to get off your butt and do what it takes to get it. Shut up about the sacrifice you have to make - whether it's serving in the military, teaching in a low income area, or paying high interest loans because you weren't  able to (for whatever pitiful reason) get scholarships or work your way through school to pay for it. Living in America doesn't mean everything should be handed to you on a silver platter. Such a shame that so many people thinks that's exactly what it means though.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


It's finally happened. After 3 1/2 long years, Jonny has been offered a full time, salaried, with benefits job. A REAL job - not like that title pawn crap place that treated him wrong back in January when he wouldn't compromise his integrity to do something they asked that was wrong. He's going to be working as an accountant for a law firm. YEAH! This is perfect. Thank you, Jesus. He starts the new job on Monday, May 7th. Funny thing, when I graduated 5 years ago, I started my new job at the Credit Union on Monday May 7th. Crazy coincidence :)

I am THANKFUL that we have been forced to cut our lifestyle down to bare basics. We've cut it down just about as far as we could go. We cut cable. We cut cell phone costs. We are mindful of our electricity and water usage. We've cut our food budget by stretching our meat and frozen veggies, and we buy organic milk, which even though it's more expensive, it lasts longer and doesn't sour as quickly as traditional milk. Therefore, we're not buying as much, so the money we spend is actually lasting us a longer period of time. Not only that, I don't seem to be lactose intolerant with it, which I thought I was with regular milk. We joined a local food-co-op. Paid approximately $15 a week to get a weeks worth of fresh, locally grown vegetables. It was an upfront expense, so that's $15 a week that we don't have to pay in the mean time. There are several other things on our budget that if things had gotten much worse, we probably could have cut them too. One example is the $17 per month trash service... we could have started taking the garbage to the dump ourselves, but that $17 convenience fee sure is worth it.

At any rate, we cut and cut and cut our budget some more, so that now that he has this new job, it's a HUGE blessing to make progress on things that we've "needed" to do, but have had to let slide recently. I posted on FB recently that I was going to be coming after the student loans with a vengeance as soon as I cleaned some stuff up. I'm not quite sure when that is actually going to happen, though. In the short term, we've got to rebuild our emergency fund, and sinking fund accounts, which takes care of our yearly or semi annual bills, such as car tags, life insurance and stuff like that. We also have some trees that need to be cut down in our back yard. We haven't been able to do that yet. The quote is only $750.... but that's $750 we haven't had. Hopefully we'll be able to get those monsters taken down by the end of May now :D I also have some medical bills to take care of too. We also want to save up some money for some things we want to do this summer.... go to a Nascar race, maybe a concert, etc. Our 5 year anniversary is this October, and we'll be going to the beach with our church family as we do every year. It just happens to fall on that weekend. I think we're planning on going down a couple of days early to make a vacation out of it.

So yeah, now that this has happened, we can dream again. Not go crazy, but we can actually budget a little more entertainment money than we had been so that we don't go absolutely stir crazy. I'm actually excited that we're going to be giving a larger tithe to the church! Tithing is something that's been especially important to me.

I worked on a generic budget with our new income, and I'm at a point now where we have a surplus amount that I'm not quite sure what to do with it yet. Part of me thinks "Throw it at the student loans!" since that's the ultimate goal anyway - get those suckers knocked out. But another part of me thinks I need to set a little more aside in our emergency fund and sinking funds account, to create a little bigger of a cushion. Technically, per Dave Ramsey's baby steps, we are still on Baby Step 2 - Pay off all debt. Baby Step 3 is a fully funded emergency fund. However, in his teachings, he does also give you the wiggle room to bump up your emergency a little bit if you are going to be in Baby Step 2 for a long time... which we are. It's been 3 years, and we still have a mountain of student loans. Even with his income, I anticipate we're going to be here at least for 4-5 more years, if not longer. I'm hoping we can do it in 5 years, with anticipated increases in salaries, yard sales, and maybe even a part time income on the side for me. I'm currently trying to find an online teaching position that I can use my MBA for.

Well... and the truth of the matter is, while writing this, I just remembered that we desperately need to start a "Car Replacement" sinking fund... badly. My car is 9 years old. It has 150K miles on it. It's still running well, though it needs a little more TLC these days. It's due for a major service, which we were not able to afford when I had the oil changed yesterday. I need Jonny to bring in a few paychecks before we can do that service. It's got a few quirks about it, and hopefully we'll be pregnant before too much longer. When that happens, I'm going to be in the market for an SUV. I will NOT be able to fit into my car once I get pregnant. Those of you who don't know, I have a 2003 Toyota Celica. It's a small little sports car, and it sits so low to the ground that my mom jokes about dragging her butt on the ground whenever she rides in the car with me. So yeah.... when I get pregnant, it's not going to be easy to get in and out of. Worst case scenario, Jonny and I will be able to switch cars (he has a Corolla, which is a 4 door, and sits higher off the ground than mine does) until we're able to afford another car. But the fact still remains, it's time to get another car, and we REFUSE to make payments. NEVER EVER AGAIN will I pay payments just to have a metal box with wheels. No thank you. So yeah... I think I just answered my own question. Those surplus funds will become the car replacement fund. When we're able to save up about 3-4K, we'll be able to trade my car for probably only 2-3K, and get a decent running early 2000 model SUV. We'll continue to save and upgrade again within a year, just like Dave's Free Cars for Life video illustrates.

Man.... it's good to be able to dream again!!! We cut our expenses so much, that this blessing gives us wiggle room to take care of things, without increasing our lifestyle. Our goal is not to go out an party, and eat out, and buy expensive new phones, or go on vacations every month with the extra money we're going to have. Our goal is to be responsible.... save up to replace the cars so we don't have to get a loan on a new one, throw a little extra money at the student loans when we get the emergency fund where we need it to keep Murphy away, clean up some medical bills, gets some trees removed, do some inexpensive work to the house that we've had to put off.... etc etc.

Thank you Jesus, for these blessings. THANK YOU for allowing us how to struggle, so that with this blessing we can be responsible with it.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Clean Eating is Hazardous to my Wallet

So I've been on this Eat Clean kick for 5 months now. In that time, I have completely given up soda, and as of now, I am 5 days Sweet Tea Free. That pains me. I'm a southern girl, and southern girls drink Sweet Tea. But enough is enough and I'm trying to ween myself off of it. Maybe one day I'll be able to have it as a treat and not fall off the wagon.

I've recently become fascinated by a lot of health documentaries. If you haven't seen these, I HIGHLY recommend you check them out.

Food Inc 
Forks Over Knives
Food Matters
Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead
Hungry For Change

These movies have changed my life. Oh my goodness. Sugar is "legal" cocaine. High Fructose Corn Syrup, despite what those awful commercials tell you (google" sweet surprise", I don't want to link to it), is AWFUL and you really should not be eating this garbage. Monsanto is evil. And I'm tired of eating food that is mass produced in terrible conditions.

I'm starting to buy mostly organic foods, when possible. I joined a food co-op, Jenny Jack Farm and I'm looking forward to having locally grown produce every week! And I'm supporting the local economy in the process.

While I'm not a vegetarian... yet... I'm working towards that goal. Jonny's digging his heels in, which is fine, he doesn't have to go meatless just because I do... but I think it will help me in the long run if I can eventually work towards this. I can't even remember the last time I had beef. I do still eat alot of chicken and shrimp or fish though.

I'm pretty disgusted by the things those videos showed me about how animals are treated, and how our foods are genetically modified. NO DAMN WONDER I'M FAT. Okay, I mean that very tongue in cheek, but seriously. These videos have shown how these bad awful processed foods are marketed to you, and how you come to rely on, and, for lack of a better term, become addicted to sugar, and other bad for you foods. Even right now, I'm thinking about a cheap box of mac n cheese. The crap where the cheese comes out as a powder and you mix it with milk and butter. I haven't had a box of that since October, but I still think about it, because I LOVED that stuff. I don't buy it anymore. If I have it, I WILL eat it and I don't want to eat it because it's processed garbage.

If you cannot pronounce the ingredients, or it reads like a chemistry book, you shouldn't eat it. Period. Oh yeah, "Fat Free" is a term for added sugar. You'd really be better off eating the fat filled stuff than eating the fat free crap loaded with sugar. And Diet Sodas? Yeah, you might as well be drinking gasoline.

Look, if I'm ticking y'all off, or you're thinking I'm a hippie, nobody ever told you you had to read this. I'm on a mission to fix my FAT ASS. Educating myself is the first step to that. I now feel like it's my duty to buy local, buy organic, buy cage free, grass fed, etc etc. COWS ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO EAT CORN. Chickens should not be injected to grow faster and have bigger breasts for breast meat. Just because chemicals work doesn't mean we should participate in this nonsense.

It really makes me mad to know that the normal every day foods that I'm so used to buying are mass produced in bad environments, or they are genetically modified, or have extra garbage added into them to get me addicted to that food product so that I will want it more and more.

It's a conspiracy theory I guess. I guess I'm "one of those" people now. Fine. My wallet is suffering because buying good quality foods are expensive, but it's healthier for me, and I'm not going to give up. One of those videos has a family who says it's easier and cheaper to go to Taco Bell and order off the value menu than it is to buy produce and other high quality foods. Sad part is, they are right. What is WRONG with this picture?

I'm not a "crazy activist" but I can certainly do my part by buying good quality food, and by not supporting the bad treatment of animals, or buying processed garbage that make these food producers filthy rich while they are just making the rest of our bodies filthy disgusting and unhealthy.

Watch the videos. Then come chat with me.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Buh-Bye, Sprint.....

I wish I would have done this 3 years ago when I first started the plan... but I guess better late than never. I have been a Sprint customer since 2003. Hubby and I have grown very accustomed to our dumb phones, and for the longest time, that wasn't something I was willing to give up.

I finally realized enough was enough. We don't use or blackberries for all the frilly extras that they have the capability of doing. Honestly, I talk, I text, and I check email. I try to surf the web, but it's slow, and it's a pain in the tush, so I eventually get fed up and wait until I'm near a computer anyway.

I'm going to pay the stupid tax $120 early termination fee for my phone (his has already passed the contract date) because in only 2 months we'll have saved that much money to make it worth the switch.

We were paying $130 a month for our 2 phones. I checked our usage with sprint, and between the two of us, we barely hit 1000 minutes per month. We decided to go with the $30 plan at Straight Talk which is 1000 minutes, 1000 text, and 30MB of data. They also have a $45 per month plan which is unlimited talk, text and web. I found a phone for $30 for me, and a refurbished phone for $20 for him. A couple of up front costs to save more money in the long term.


So, the phones should arrive on Friday. I can't wait to activate them and be done with my ridiculously priced Sprint bill....