September 1st – Our miscellaneous spending was up for August and our 401K and 529 plans are down, so August was not what I was hoping it would turn out to be. We still managed to increase our net worth, but I was shooting for it to be more. We are paying off another credit card this Saturday, so that's some good news! More great news is that we still haven't used a credit card since the contest began last October, so that in itself is a fantastic achievement for us!
August 22nd – Less than a month now and the contest will come to an end. What a fantastic journey this has been for us! We have learned so much and have come a long way with getting our finances in order and under control. I can't believe the progress we have made in less than a year! I honestly thought it would take us years and years to get where we are today.
August 18th – We shot our last commercial with Fox 41 today, so it was kind of a sad day for us. Kaleb and I have really enjoyed shooting the Park commercials and getting to know some of the people that work for Fox. Everyone was great, but I have to say that Victoria has been awesome to work with! She'd get us prepared for each taping and would laugh with when we made mistakes and had to start over again. Thank you, Victoria for everything!
August 11th – We are still on track to get another credit card paid off at the end of this month and by the looks of things we will be paying off another credit card the first week of September! Wow, that's two more bills out of the way before the contest ends next month.
August 9th – I received a letter from one of my credit card companies letting me know that they have increased my spending limit. I was going to contact them and have them lower the credit limit back to what it was, but after talking to Ed, my coach, he told me that it was best to leave the increase alone since I'm not tempted to use it because it actually makes my credit look better. Now, he did say that I should still call them and see if they can't lower my interest rate, so that's on my list to do.
August 5th – I replaced some of the money that I took out of my savings account to use on vacation. Replenishing my savings account was an issue for me because something would always come up where I needed the money, so the replacement money never made it back to my savings account. Now because I'm doing a better job with budgeting, I'm able to actually replace the money I took out of my account!
August 3rd – We paid off another bill today! This was for our home warranty and since it's one of our annual bills we already had the money budgeted for it, but the great thing about this bill was that they allow you to pay the amount due in three equal payments without interest, so I took advantage of this opportunity and paid cash each month. In October, I'll need four new tires for my vehicle, so not only will I be researching prices at that time, but I'll also research as to what cash payment plans they offer. A lot of companies now offer either a 90-day or 60-day same as cash payment option, so I will be taking advantage of this as long as there are no interest or fees charged. Granted, I already have the money budgeted for the new tires, which is great, but taking a payment option allows me to keep my money in my account a little longer, so I can collect some more interest on it.
August 1st – If all goes well, we will have another credit card paid off by the end of this month! This card was actually our second highest credit card balance when we started the contest, so to see it about to be paid off is wonderful!! This credit card is not in the debt management program, so what I was paying each month on this card will be extra money come September. The plan is to take this extra money and apply it to other bills to get them paid off quicker.
July 31st – We returned from our vacation and I have to say that Kaleb and I did very well with sticking to our budgets. Thanks to using hotwire.com we found some great deals on hotels; we stopped at the Welcome Center when we first entered Tennessee and picked up all kinds of coupon books and used them, so we saved a lot of money there too! We took drinks, snacks and food with us, so that cut down on us eating out every night. Kaleb had his own money to spend on vacation and I'm very proud of him because he would find something he wanted and then ask me how much he had left to spend. He made his own decisions on what he should and should not buy and he ended up doing a great job because he only went over his budget by $1. I ended up coming back with $30 in my pocket, so I was under budget. Yeah! We had a great time and since everything was paid with cash, we didn't increase our debt by going on vacation this year!
July 22nd – I decided that Kaleb and I really needed some type of vacation, so we are taking a trip to Tennessee. I've estimated how much spending money we both will need for the trip and then I made sure we had enough money in our saving accounts to cover it and have money still left over. Kaleb and I both have a separate budget, so we will see how well we do. With that said we are going on vacation!
July 18th – I know this is going sounds weird, but I actually love getting my credit card statements now! I used to dread getting them, but now I'm excited to see how much my balances have gone down each month. It's a great feeling to know I'm finally getting my life back in order by getting my debt paid off.
July 15th – We've started our school supply shopping and we are sticking to our budget. I've been picking up some things a little at a time when I see a great deal. This way I'm saving money, but I also won't have to shop for everything at the last minute like I usually do.
July 11th – I received a call back from my mortgage company about refinancing and still no luck with refinancing. It seems that my mortgage company isn't leaning up to 100% of value anymore and I don't have enough equity built up yet. I'm not really surprised, but thought I'd give it another try.
July 7th – I called my cable/internet provider because my bill went up $14/month and I wanted to see what they could do to put my payment back to what it was before. And thanks to the lady I spoke with she and I came up with a solution that ended up saving me $22/month. So not only did I not have to pay the extra $14/month, but I also saved an additional $8/month. Granted, I had to talk to three different people to get it, but it was so well worth it!
July 5th – I called my mortgage company today to see if I can get my mortgage refinanced at a lower interest rate, fewer years and lower payment, so I'm just waiting to see what they come back with.
July 1st – I can't believe the year is half way over and we only have 2 ½ months until the contest is over. Good news is that I get an extra pay check this month, so that extra money is going straight to my credit card bills. We are on schedule to have another credit card paid off by the end of next month.
June 29th – Still keeping an eye on my investments and they are getting better, but not by much.
June 24th – I don't know about your investments, but ours aren't doing so hot this month. My 401K is down and so are Kaleb's 529 plans. Hopefully, they will pick back up before the end of this month, but at this point we won't reach our June goal of decreasing our net worth by a certain amount. Funny how quickly you can go from having one great month to a not so great month the next.
June 21st – This month I used my savings account as a checking account just like the old days! Meaning, I dipped into my savings to purchase several things that I really didn't need, but didn't have the money in my checking account to cover the cost, so I paid for them out of my savings. I should have just told myself no until I had the money in my checking account to cover it. This is a minor set back, but I'm working on getting back on track.
June 20th – I called my loan company today and increased the amount of my payment to them, so now I'll have more money going towards the principle to get this loan paid off quicker. The increase was not a lot of money, but every little does helps. One thing you want to verify before you do something like this is to make sure you won't get penalized for paying your loan off early. I know it sounds crazy, but some loans are actually setup so you won't pay them off early.
June 10th – I've not been doing well with my miscellaneous spending this month. I purchased a couple of things for the house and some summer clothes for Kaleb and me, but those things were not included in my budget for this month. I didn't use a credit card, so that was good, but I did take money out of my savings account to pay for everything. I need to really watch my miscellaneous spending and replace the money I borrowed from my savings account.
June 2nd – A/C was fixed and I only needed a new thermostat, so that was great news! I went with another programmable thermostat. They are a little more money, but I'm always forgetting to adjust the thermostat when I leave, so a programmable one works best for me.
June 1st – May just happened to be our best month ever since the contest began! We've had some issues come up the last couple of months, but with how we are now handling our expenses and income we were still able to decrease our debt by….now you know I can't tell you! J You'll have to wait until September like everyone else to find out just how well we did.
May 30th – Our A/C unit is acting up, so I called our home warranty provider and they are getting someone out to fix it. Not really sure what's wrong with it, but at least whatever it is it should be covered under the warranty. Last year when looking at our expenses this was one expense I questioned if I truly needed or not. In the end, I decided to keep it and I'm so glad I did! Not just for fixing this issue, but more for peace of mind because I know I'm covered if something happens to our home that's not covered under our home insurance.
May 20th – This month is looking out to be our best month so far in the contest. We continue to pay down our debt, watch our spending and increase our saving account balances.
May 23rd – We had our yard sale this past Saturday and we did pretty well. It was our community yard sale, so we had more people there than the norm. Kaleb was really into it by going up to people and asking them if they wanted to buy this or that. I let Kaleb spend half of what he earned and the other half went into his savings. The money I made went on bills, so Kaleb had more fun with his money than I did.
May16th – We have been working on getting things ready for our yard sale happening this weekend. Hopefully, we can make a little extra money with all the stuff we have for sale, but whatever doesn't sell will be donated to Goodwill because I just can see keeping this stuff around anymore. Plus, we can always use the tax deduction.
May 10th – I heard somewhere that if you want to make God laugh just tell him your plans. I truly believe that things happen for a reason and you might not understand why something is happening to you at the time and you may even get upset or become discouraged about it, but just remember when one door closes God will always open another one for you.
May 2nd – We got to participate in the Derby Bed Race Parade today with Park Community and we had a blast! We got to meet more of the Park employees and we also met the Davis family who is another family participating in the Saving Families Challenge with us and everyone was wonderful! Kaleb and I even stayed around to watch the bed races, which we'd never seen before and we truly had a ball. I haven't laugh that much in a long time and with everything that has been going on lately we truly needed some major fun time. A big thanks to Park Community for allowing us to be apart of this wonderful Derby event with you!
April 30th – Last day of the month and I'm so glad this month is over with! We had more unexpected expenses this month than any other month so far in this contest and I'm ready to have a normal month again. Even with the setbacks we had this month we were still able to reach our monthly goal amount of increasing our net worth thanks to pre-planning for emergencies just like these. We were able to pay cash for everything, so we didn't have to use a credit this month again.
April 28th – Well, we had another surprise happened last night around 11:30 pm. Our sump pump gave out and our basement flooded, so we were up until 6:00 am Thursday morning pulling up wet carpet/padding and moving furniture. Luckily, we think we caught it early enough, so it looks like it only caused minor damage compared to what it could have been. We now have a mess on our hands, but one positive thing that came out of this is I realized just how much excess stuff I have, so I'm going through it all to sale at our yard sale coming up in the next couple of weeks.
April 23rd – Kaleb made another deposit into his savings account today. He's been saving all his money and putting it into his piggy bank at home until he gets enough money saved and then we take it to Park Community and make a deposit. Not only is he saving money, but he's also learning what he needs to do to make deposits into his bank account.
April 22nd – We've just been told that we will be in the Derby Bed Race Parade with Park Community on Monday, May 2nd at the Yum Center starting at 6:00 pm, so come out and see us!
April 20th – I just got finished looking at our current net worth and compared it to our net worth when we first began the contest and I can't believe the difference! I never thought we could get our finances in order as quickly as we have and we are so thankful to Ed and Park for helping us achieve our short-term financial goals. I'm proud of what Kaleb and I have accomplished during this contest so far and can't wait to share our results with you. Every little thing you do to improve your financial situation does add up and we are solid proof of that! So don't give up on your goals. Take one day at a time and stick to your plan by following your budget as closely as possible. Remember that you will have good months and then you'll have not so good months. But the key is to make those good months count, so you will be prepared for those not so good months. Down the road you will see the big picture and what a difference those little things truly make.
April 16th – Well, there goes the extra $48 that we saved on our water bill and then some! Yesterday, I got a speeding ticket just down the road from my house. It was my first ever traffic violation and I still can't believe I wasn't paying attention to how fast I was going. Ugh!! Oh well, it could have been worse and at least I have the cash to pay for it. I'll be going to traffic school, so the bright side of that is that I can't be out shopping during that time. :)
April 15th – I blogged a couple of months back saying that we were watching our water consumption and I'm happy to say that it has paid off for us! We have lowered our water bill by $48 just by making those simple changes.
April 9th – Yesterday, Tyson a 2 year old mixed Doberman joined our family. He's such a good boy. Kaleb, Zeus and I are so happy to have him with us, but Sprinkles, the cat, is still undecided about liking him or not. I think Tyson will win her over in time, but he's just too happy for her to be around him right now. :) Before I even thought about getting another dog I looked over our budget to make sure we could afford him. Having an additional pet means additional expenses for food, toys and vet visits, so I made sure our budget could handle these additional expenses and fortunately with the changes we have made we could afford him. Zeus and I went last night to meet Tyson and decided that he was exactly what we needed in our lives. Tyson does not replace our beloved Nylia as he brings his own personality and love to our family.
April 8th – Today, I decided not to take the chance to refinance my mortgages because I truly do not believe it will appraise for what I need it to, so I've decided to wait some more. Ed and I already had a plan in place that will allow me to double up next year on one of my mortgages to get it paid down quicker, so I'm going to stick with that plan for now.
April 6th – My ultimate goal is to have everything paid off before I retire. That sounds like an overwhelming goal when you start thinking about it, but it's really not once you've developed a plan. Ed and I sat down and went over all my bills to see in which order I should pay everything off to become debt free before I retire. The plan could be paying down your debt by the interest rate, balance owed or by the monthly payment amount. Don't forget to put a time frame on when you want your debt paid off by because that's also an important part of your plan. My plan is to pay off my debt by interest rate because I now have a handle on my monthly expenses. Some might choose the balance owed method because they have some bills with a very low balance that they can get paid off quickly. Actually, when I started this challenge with Park my plan was to pay off my bills with the lowest balance first to free up some money each month, so I could stop using my credit cards for needed items like gas and food. I guess what I'm saying is don't be afraid to change the method of your plan as things change in your life. Decide what is most important to you and your family when you work on your plan and then tailor your plan towards that. Is it that you need extra money a month like me or do you have enough money each month to cover your basic needs and you just want your bills paid off now? Which ever method you chose the rest of the plan is the same and it's basically a domino effect. This means that when one bill is paid off all the money that was going towards paying that bill off now goes directly to the next bill on your pay off order list. Try not to be tempted to use that money for something else or it will take you longer to reach your goal. At the rate we are going, we will be totally debt free before I retire.
April 4th – I'm working with Ed, my coach at Park Community, to see about refinancing my mortgages. By doing this, it will allow me to get a lower interest rate, give me extra money per month to pay on my credit card debt and it will lower the number of years I have remaining to pay. With the economy as bad as it is I'm afraid that I owe more on my house than what it's worth, so I'm not sure it will appraise for what I need it to in order to refinance, but I guess we will see.
April 1st - I got a little carried away with miscellaneous spending this past month, but I did get some great deals and I was able to pay cash for everything, so again we went another month without using credit cards.
March 28th – I forget sometimes that when the season is about to change is the best time to buy clothes and shoes. Right now, I'm buying winter stuff for us to wear this coming fall/winter. I purchased two pairs of dress boots and hiking boots all for under $35 this past weekend. Hit those clearance racks this time of the year as you can find some amazing deals…even at the Mall stores!
March 18th – Kaleb's got a birthday coming up and I was going back and forth about giving him money to put into his savings account or buying him a basketball goal. Well, I decided to go with the basketball goal ideal, so I talked to some people to get their input on what I should look for in a goal and what was a good price for one. I took that information and went online and then went to 3 different stores to research prices and products over a course of a couple of weeks. I ended up finding a very nice goal on sale, under my budget and it came with a basketball. But the most important thing is that I paid cash for it! The bad thing is now I have to put it together. J
March 16th – Before the challenge I didn't have anyone to hold me accountable for my spending habits and I see now that's one reason why I let my spending get so out of hand. No one knew that I had used credit cards for things I wanted and then later for the things I needed because my cash would run out before the end of the month. I think if I would have told some of my friends and family the dilemma I had gotten myself into that they would have helped me get back on track sooner. Not with giving us money or buying us things, but by making me be accountable for my actions and be my voice of reason. Ed, at Park, is my voice of reason right now, but who would be my voice of reason after the challenge? That's something I need to think about.
March 11th – I had lunch with Ed, our coach, and we continue to do well with staying around budget and paying down our credit card debt. Ed and I also discussed some long-term goals for me to accomplish once this challenge is over. I will continue not to use credit cards and get them paid off as quickly as possible, so I can concentrate on paying off other loans. This challenge has been a life changing event for us, so even after it's over come September, Kaleb and I will still be heavily focused on becoming debt-free.
March 7th – We are still trying to watch our eating out and miscellaneous spending, but sometimes it's easier said than done. Plus, I've had to change our budget a couple of times in the last couple of weeks because the cost of everything keeps going up. I want to make sure we have everything budgeted correctly, so that way I know exactly how much extra money we will have to pay on our credit card debt each month.
March 2nd – If you are struggling with your finances like I was then I highly recommend that you talk to a Financial Advisor. They might see opportunities that you could have missed and assist you with getting back on track like Park Community has done for me. Sometimes having someone looking in from the outside is a good thing.
February 28th – Great news! We have reached all the goals we set out to do when we began this contest. We reduced our monthly expenses by getting rid of reoccurring bills we didn't really need. We increased our disposable income by increasing our Federal allowances; therefore, less Federal taxes are taken out of each paycheck. And I reevaluated my benefit deductions and made adjustments when open enrollment came. We have reduced are debt tremendously by doing the things above, watching our miscellaneous spending and sticking to our budget, which has left us more money to pay directly onto our debt. We are finally in a position where we can pay more than the minimum payment due each month again. And finally, we have established an emergency savings account, by setting up an automatic deposit from my paychecks that goes directly into this account, so I never miss it. Another great accomplishment is that we did not use a credit card this month again, so we are finally living within our means. What a fantastic feeling this is! We are truly making great process in this contest and we owe it all to Park and our coach, Ed. Thank you Park for giving us this opportunity and a BIG thank you to Ed for being there, encouraging us and directing us to make these positive changes in our lives. Participating in this contest has been the best thing to happen to us in a long time and we are truly thankful.
February 25th – We've reached an important financial milestone today! We paid off our first credit card on the debt management program! YES! It's only been 2 months that we've officially been on the debt management program and already we've paid off one card. The cool thing is that the monthly payment for that card will be automatically applied to the next card of my choice, so I'll have my credit cards paid off in no time at this rate! I'm so glad I decided to go with the debt management program with Accel because it has truly made a positive change in my life.
February 20th - Kaleb is learning responsibility around the house and getting paid for it. He has chores assigned to him that he has to do daily or weekly. When he does his chores for the week he earns money. I let him spend half of the money on whatever he wants, but the other half has to go into his savings. So now when we are out and he sees something he wants I remind him that he needs to buy it with his money. He will ask me how much money he has, I tell him, he will think about it for a couple of seconds, put the item back on the shelf and just walk away. He's learning the value of money and the difference between wanting something and needed it. I'm learning to not give him everything he wants, but to actually make him work for it. I'm so very proud of him!
February 17th – This month is going to be a tight month on us because we have two annual bills due and Kaleb is signing up for baseball. Everything is budgeted for, so as long as we stick to our budget this month we will be fine.
February 13th – We filed our taxes today, so that's one less thing I have to worry about doing. At least we don't have to pay, so the money that we will be getting back will go to pay off one credit card, pay down another credit card and some money will go into our savings account.
February 10th – I had a meeting with Ed, my coach, today and overall we are doing well. We still need to watch our non-budgeted spending, so I've cut myself back to buying lunches twice a week and brown bagging it on the other days. I only get to buy my coffee once a week and then use the free stuff in the breakroom the rest of the week. We can only go out to dinner once a week. I knew I couldn't give up these things cold turkey, so I made a compromise with myself to give up a little, so I can stay within our budget, but still treat Kaleb and myself.
February 5th – We had to put Nylia, our 14 year old Yorkie, down today. She has been sick over the last 6 months, but took a turn for the worse yesterday and there was nothing that could be done. Our hearts ache for her, but we know that she's in a better place now. We love and miss her very much.
February 3rd – I created a Budget vs. Actual spreadsheet to use at the end of each month to see how well we are sticking to our budget and January was definitely not a good month for us. This spreadsheet shows me that our eating out and miscellaneous spending were way over budget this time. We also had unexpected expenses like emergency vet visits or doctor office visits. Lucky for us, I have an FSA account, so those doctor visits are covered, but does anyone use a pet insurance company they would recommend?
February 1, 2011 – It's already February and I can't believe it! The month of January was an interesting month for us. We spent a lot of money on non-budgeted items last month, so it's time to tighten up on our excess spending again. Wow! You don't realize how much you've spent until you add up all those receipts. One thing I'm going to change for February is to look at our receipts weekly instead of waiting until the end of the month. This way I can stop any over-spending weekly. The good news is that we still reached our goal for increasing our net worth for the month January, but the increase could have been higher if we would have controlled our miscellaneous spending.
January 29, 2011 – Did you know it's recommended for you to shop around every 5 years for new car/home insurance? I didn't know that! I've been with my current insurance carrier for over 10 years and I would have thought that longevity would be in my favor, but not in this the case. I'll be doing some comparison shopping online!
January 27, 2011 – I'm working on starting a new habit. I took some money out of my savings account last week and this week I'm paying myself back. In the past, I would withdraw money from my savings whenever I needed it and never put it back, so it was more like a checking account then a savings. But I've decided that if I take money out of my savings then I need to pay myself back as quickly as possible and that's what I'm doing. I'm going to start treating my savings account as a loan account and pay myself back with interest. The ultimate goal is to not take money out of my saving account, but if I do at least I know I have to pay it back and with interest.
January 25, 2011 – I decided about every 3 to 4 months I would look over all our bills and revaluate them to see where we could continue to save money. Since I'm on a debt management program my credit card bills are now in order, so I looked at my utility bills. Over the last couple of years I've got rid of our home phone, got rid of excess cable channels and got on a budget plan with LG&E. Here are some small things that we are doing to help lower our utility bills now. I'm trying to be more aware of making sure I have a full load of clothes to wash or dishes in the dishwasher, so I don't run them as often. I lowered the temperature setting on my water heater. I had my furnace serviced, so it would run more efficiently and I'm making sure I change the filter each month. I also turned down my programmable thermostat by 2 degrees. Having a programmable thermostat is great for me because I would always forget to adjust the temperature before I left the house, so now I don't have to worry about it. If I get cold then I put on a sweatshirt and socks instead of adjusting the thermostat. I've put blankets at the bottom of all my exterior doors and I'm going to better insulate them once the weather is warmer. I use the oven more in the winter when cooking, so after I'm done cooking I leave the oven door open just a little, so that warm air helps heat the kitchen, but this might not be a good idea if you have little ones running around. I'm also being more aware of how long I'm in the shower, so I have been working on shortening the length of time I'm in there to help save money. Again, these are just little things that we've doing, but it will add up in the long run. What things are you doing to help save money on your utility bills? Let me know.
January 24, 2011 – We have gone 3 months now without using a single credit card. Yes, I'm in the Accel debt management program, but not all my credit cards are on the program, so that says a lot about the progress we are making in this contest. We are paying everything with cash and if we can't pay cash then we don't get it!
January 23, 2011 – One benefit about being in the contest is that you can become a role model for other people. I'm so proud of my Mom! I've been telling her all the things we've been doing during the contest and she too is making positive financial changes in her life. She's on a mission to get her credit card paid off; she's started a 401K and she's now saving to buy a house. Way to go Mom!!! Love ya!
January 22, 2011 – Today Kaleb and I gathered up all his piggy bank money and he deposited all of it in his savings account. I am so proud of him because normally he would save a little and spend the rest and I'd let him. Not once did he ask to spend it on a toy or video game. In fact, he told me that he needed to deposit all of it, so it could help us win the contest. We also gathered up three big garage bags of clothes and donated them to Goodwill, so we already have an itemized deduction for our 2011 taxes.
January 20, 2011 – It's been a month today since we have been on the Accel Debt Management program and it's going really well for us. Actually, better than I thought or imagined it would be! I'm seeing our debt go down really fast and we actually have extra money left over each month now. Wow, what a stress relief! Some of that extra money is going directly into savings, some is going to pay on other bills and some is being spent on Kaleb and me. Working with a budget has really helped us know exactly where our money is going and where we need it to go in the future. Our budget plan goes out to the end of the year, so I could add in all those annual bills that we sometimes forget about until the bill arrives in the mail. This allows us to save the money now, so when the bill comes due we have it. Based on our budget and with being in the debt management program we will be paying off a credit card next month! Getting on a debt management program is one of the smartest things I've done in a long time!
January 19, 2011 – No matter how bad we think things are…we always need to do the right thing. For example, today I was coming back from lunch and noticed some money lying on the ground. I caught up with the ladies in front of me and asked them if one of them dropped it and one of them had, so I returned her money to her. At no time while I had that money in my hands did I think about keeping it for myself even though I could have used it. Instead my mission was to return the money to its owner. Yes, looking back I could have kept the money and purchased lunch for myself for the rest of the week, but the money was not mine to keep. Sometimes we can become misguided and think about doing things that we know are not right and I'm pleased to know that I didn't have to think about doing the right thing as it just came naturally. Yes, this contest makes you want to do everything you can to save money and pay off debt, but I'm glad to know that I can still do the right thing even under these trying times.
January 8, 2011 – I'm a big time scrapper and if you are a scrapper you know how much money you can spend on a hobby like this or on any hobby for that matter. But I have to say when I went to a local scrapbook store I controlled myself and ended up spending less than my budgeted $20 and I was there for over 6 hours working on my scrapbooks! That's a big deal for me because I would have normally spent triple that amount easy. Also, I paid cash for my items and used coupons. One thing that really helped me is that I gave myself a spending limit before I went and I kept telling myself I couldn't go over that amount. Now, I know scrapbook items are not needs, but I figured I would treat myself to a little reward for working so hard in the contest for the last three months. Now, I'm not going to treat myself every month to a reward, so Ed you can start breathing again. J
January 6, 2011 – During the contest we are responsible for tracking every red cent we spend and with doing this I've noticed we've been eating out way to much lately, so we need to work on cutting this back like we were doing before. I blame it on the coupons! J Not only have I been clipping coupons for groceries, but I've been clipping them for restaurants too. I have to remember just because I have a coupon for something doesn't mean I have to use it.
January 2, 2011 – Our plan to pay off our debt is to pay off the bill with the lowest balance first then apply that money to the next lowest balance bill. This will allow us to have extra money each month once a bill is paid off. Even with the holidays we were still able to pay off two bills last month.
December 31, 2010 – With all the changes we have made since we started the contest we were able to increase the amount of money going into our savings account. I use direct deposit with my work, so a certain amount of money is deposited directly into my savings account with each pay day. I don't even realize I'm saving money. Getting money into my savings account was never a problem…it was always taking out the money that was my issue. I'm working on trying not to touch my savings account unless it's a major emergency. And no, seeing a Coach purse 90% off is not a major emergency. J
December 30, 2010 – We've been clipping coupons to help us save money, but I'd always forget to take them with me to the store when I went shopping, so it really wasn't working as planned. I've changed this and now have an envelope in my purse with all my coupons filed by expiration date, so I always have them with me and I use the ones getting ready to expire first. Now, if I can just remember to move to the side of the aisle when I'm looking through them at the store things would be great. Yep, that's me…the person that usually stops in the middle of the aisle looking through coupons, so does anybody have any ideas on a better way to sort coupons? Thanks.
December 27, 2010 – We made it through Christmas this year without using any credit cards! It feels great to know that we didn't go into more debt buying gifts like we've done in the past. We cut way back on our spending this year and had a budget of how much we could spend and stuck to it.
December 21st – I just wanted to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Spend time with your family/friends and enjoy the things you do have.
December 20th – All my credit cards accepted the Accel proposals, so its official now…I'm on a debt management program. I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I really can't put my feeling into words, but if you've been in my shoes before you know exactly how I'm feeling right now. Even with my initial worries about the program, I'm so happy that I decided to swallow my pride and just do it! A debt management program might not be the answer for everyone, but if you have exhausted all other options like I have then it's worth looking into.
December 14th – Earlier this year, I had an eye opening experience at a local retail store with my son. We were grocery shopping and Kaleb wanted a toy. I told him that I didn't have any extra money right now, so I couldn't buy the toy for him. Kaleb turned to me and said, "It's okay mommy, just use your credit cards." I thought to myself what am I teaching my son about finances? We teach our children about the importance of school, love, respect and God, but what have I taught him about finances? Unfortunately, I've taught him to just use a credit card when I wanted something, but didn't have the money to buy it. Not the importance of saving your money to purchase the things you want. At home, later that evening I explained to Kaleb how credit cards truly worked and that they are not a good thing for us. I also explained the importance of saving your money to buy the things you want. Sometimes we don't realize the message we are actually sending to our children through our own actions. Whether we realize it or not our children watch and learn from our actions even when we don't say a word.
December 13th - You always want your children to have more than what you had when you were growing up, but sometimes that's not always in their best interest. This contest is helping me not to give my child everything he wants and that's really the best thing I can do for him.
December 12th – This year since money is tight, Kaleb and I made special ornaments for some of the people on our Christmas list. We had a great time making snowflakes and Gingerbread houses as ornaments this year. This not only saved us money, but also gave us some quality time to spend together. There were no video games played nor was the TV playing, so it was just us. Since Kaleb was born I would always buy a special ornament for him and me, but this year I saved one of each ornament we made together to put our on Christmas tree. There's nothing in the world like a homemade gift that you can treasure forever.
December 11th – My mom, sister-in-law and I had our annual Christmas shopping event today. It was a major test for me today because this is when I get 90% of my shopping done. I had cash saved for this event, so I was ready to do some serious shopping. I had my list of people that I needed to buy for and what I wanted to get them with an estimated cost for each item. I was on a mission to only get what was on my list and nothing more! Temptation came to me today when I saw something I wanted for myself. I actually thought about just putting it on my emergency credit card because I really wanted this item, but it wasn't on my list and I didn't have the money for it. I stood there in the middle of the store with this product in my hand talking to myself. Thankfully, not out loud, which I sometimes do! It was like that cartoon where you have a little devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. The devil was saying buy it because it was only one small item, but the angel was saying you can't buy it because it's not a need. I have to say I was very proud of myself today because I put the item back on the shelf and walked away. The old me would have just picked the item up and put it in my cart without a pause, but the new me did the right thing. I know I will have many more of these temptations, so I'm not out of the woods, but it was a great start!
December 3rd – Remember I said we found some reward points that I didn't know we had? Well, I cash them in and ended up getting 4 Christmas presents for my family. Speaking of Christmas, our goal is not to use any credit cards this year to purchase presents like we did last year. If I can't pay cash for something then I can't get it! Period…end of story!
November 22nd – We cut up all our credit cards except one for major emergencies. This was a very hard step for us because we are both impulsive buyers but this important step will control our spending habits and keep us on track with our budget. You might be asking yourself why go through cutting them up when I'm trying to get on a debt management program, but this was an important step for me to take. By cutting up those credit cards I was showing myself I no longer needed that crutch anymore.
November 17th – We found some reward points that we didn't even know we had, thanks to Ed, so I'm cashing them this week! Accel has been really working hard to help me get my credit card debt under control. I'm still waiting on my credit card companies to accept the proposal Accel has made to them, but I'm hopeful.
November 11th – Our next goal is to increase our net worth by $1000 by the end of this month. I think we can do it because of all the small changes we made during this past month. Kaleb and I also finished our budget for 2011 and things are looking really good for us next year! One thing I did to help have more money with each paycheck is that I increased my Federal allowances on my paycheck, so I can get more money back now instead of waiting until I file my taxes. Granted, I have always received a fund from the government when I filed my taxes, so you really have to be careful when you do something like this because you don't want to have to pay them either.
November 6th – For the first month of contest we were able to increase our net worth by $519, which might not sound like a lot to most, but when you continue to decrease your net worth month after month because of additional expenses it's a blessing to finally see it going in the right direction.
November 4th – Ed and I met today and I told him that I decided to give Accel a try and see what happens. I told him my concerns and he listened. He understood where I was coming from; he told me that I had to be comfortable with whatever decision I made. I'm scared. This means that I won't have my credit cards to fall back on anymore. They were my crutch all this time and now I won't have them. Yes, I'll have one credit card to use for major emergencies only, so that makes me feel a little better about doing this. I keep telling myself I can do this! I can do this! With all that said we faxed my application to Accel, so now we just wait to see what they can do for me.
November 2nd – Okay, I decided to call Accel today and speak with a counselor. It wouldn't hurt to find out what they had to say, right? Here's a summary of what they told me based on the information I gave to them over the phone. I could have my credit card debt paid off within 5 years, my interest rates could be cut in half if not more and I could lower my monthly payments by $100. Of course the cards would have to be closed and that could have an impact on my credit score, but that was the worse thing. I would still be paying my debt in this program and that is very important to me. I made this debt and I want to pay for it, but I just need some help because I can't do it on my own anymore. I keep getting myself in more debt by having to use my credit cards for basic needs and I don't want to do that anymore. An extra $100 a month would help pay for unexpected expenses and allow me to save money. Plus, I could have my debt paid off within 5 years and pay less in interest which would save me lots money. It all sounds good to me, but I still need time to think about it because everything sounds too good to be true and of course my pride is having doubts.
October 29th – Nylia had a follow up with her normal vet today and she's all better. I'm so happy that an amputation wasn't needed because I don't think I could have put her through that. I'm so bummed because nothing seems to be working in our favor when it comes to what to do with our credit card debt, so I spoke to Ed again about Accel. We went through all the pros and cons of me doing the debt management program. He told me that I would make one payment each month to the program, which would be less than what I'm paying a month now. The interest rate on my credit cards would be lowered, which would allow me to pay off my debt quicker then what I could do alone. I could even pay extra money to them if I was having a good month and have it applied to any credit card I choose, which would help me pay things off even faster. Another good thing is once one card is paid off that money is applied directly to another card of my choice. Plus, I don't have to put all my credit cards on the program, which means I can still keep one for major emergencies. This was a big concern of mine because currently I don't have enough in my savings account to cover a major expense. The only bad thing would be that my credit score would go down because the accounts would be closed. At this point, my credit score isn't doing me any good anyways, so what would be the big deal if it went down? Right now with the economy the way it is, I'm one of the lucky ones because I have a good job, a roof over my head, can pay my bills and put food on the table. I'm truly blessed.
October 28th – I saw Ed today and we spoke about Accel again because I'm unsure on what I should do. I have completed the application for Accel's debt management program, but I have yet to send it to Accel. A part of me thinks this is the way I should go because it not only lowers my monthly payments, but also lowers my interest rates. Of course the prideful person in me is thinking I can do this on my own, but it will just take me a little while longer. I've looked into numerous options, but nothing has panned out yet for me, so is this the direction I need to go? I asked Ed to see what he thought about me getting a secured load to consolidate a couple of my credit cards to get my monthly payment lowered and my interest. He said it sounded like a good idea to look into, so he would run some numbers for me. Well, it turns out that the interest rate and payment would be more than what I'm paying now because I have an older vehicle, so that idea didn't work out very well. Back to the drawing board!
October 27th – I contacted all my credit card companies like Ed recommended and just asked if they could lower the interest rate on my cards, but none of them could do it. I pay my bills on time and at least the minimum payment each month, but with the new credit card laws they couldn't work with me at this time. It so easy to get discouraged when you are hoping something happens and then it doesn't. I just have to keep trying to think of things I can do to save money.
October 26th – I looked at my 401K retirement account to see if I can get a loan against it and pay myself back the interest, but my place of employment doesn't offer that option at this time. I also found out that I can't cash in any extra PTO time, so another dead end there. Today wasn't a good news day because I was counting on having at least one of these options go through for me. Oh well, at least I looked into them and I know now.
October 22nd – Happy to report that Nylia seems to be doing fine as she's putting her foot down and trying to walk on it, she's eating and drinking again. Yeah!! And all blankets have been removed from her crate and replaced with a dog bed. Last night after I got Nylia settled I reviewed the emergency room bill and noticed that I was charged for an x-ray that Nylia didn't even get. I was so upset while at the emergency room that I just paid the bill and left without even looking at it, but I'm glad I looked over it when I got home. I called the emergency room and they took off the x-ray charge, so the bill ended up only being $144 instead of $235. I normally would have just filed the bill away without looking at it, but this contest has instilled in me the value of looking at all my receipts. Ed did recommend that if I have another emergency visit down the road to ask them if I can pay them in payments instead of using a credit card. I didn't even think to ask them that last night, but again I upset, so my brain wasn't working.
October 21st – Had an emergency vet visit this evening that cost us $235 that we don't have, so I had to put it on a credit card. I hated doing that, but I didn't have the money. Nylia, my 14 year old Yorkie, had wrapped a blanket around her back right leg so tight that it cut off the circulation. She wasn't walking on it or even moving it. The emergency room couldn't tell us the extent of the tissue damage as it was a wait and see type of thing, but it wasn't broken and Nylia could feel a little pressure on it when they pinched her foot, so things seems to be positive. They gave her some pain medicine, antibiotics, told me to keep an eye on her leg and to follow up with her Vet within the week if things didn't get better before then. If things didn't get better then her leg would have to be amputated. For a younger healthier dog that wouldn't be an issue, but she's 14 years old and losing her eye sight, so this is not a good thing at all.
October 21st – Another meeting with Ed to catch up on what process we've made for the week and to discuss some more saving ideas. Ed spoke to me about Accel, the credit counseling service Park uses and talked to me about their debt management program. He said that they work with your credit card companies to lower your interest rate and monthly payments, so this might be an option for me too. I wasn't very interested in this program because I know they close your accounts and it reflects negatively on your credit report, but that I'd keep it in mind. Ed also told me that I should contact my credit card companies to see if they can lower the interest rates, so that's on my list of things to do this week. I told him that I had already spoken to each credit card company a couple of months ago to see if they offered any type of a hardship program and all did except one. But unfortunately the payment amounts would still be the same, it would only be for a short period of time and my credit cards would be closed. This would help me in the long run, but what about the short term? I'm looking to lower my monthly expenses right now, but at least this gives me another option to consider.
October 16th – Keeping with the wants verses needs thing, Kaleb and I went through our house and pulled out the items that we no longer used and put them in our yard sale today. Ed stopped in for a quick visit to see how we were doing, but I know he was just checking up on us to see if we would do it because it turned out to be a very cold day for a yard sale. At the end of the day, we ended up making $85 and that's great when you think about it because everything we sold was stuff that we didn't use anymore.
October 14th – Met with Ed again and this time we reviewed all my statements to see how much I owed, who I owed and what the interest rates were. Of course, Ed told me the first thing I needed to do was stop using my credit cards, but I told him it's hard for me right now because I've mostly been using them to buy groceries or gas for my vehicle when my money would run short. We decided the first thing I needed to do was to increase my income. That sounds like a dead-end to me because getting a part-time job wasn't the best plan for me right now, so we had to come up with other solutions. This is when we reviewed where all my money was going. We looked at credit cards statements, utility bills and bank statements. We were looked at everything to see where I could lower my monthly expenses. We came up with getting rid of an extra cable box, canceling memberships/services, taking my lunch to work and canceling some of my benefits deductions when open enrollment came. With everything I got rid of we ended up saving around $100 each month right off the bat without even really trying yet. Ed told me it all comes down to wants verses needs. Only buy/have what you need not what you want.
October 7th – Met with our coach, Ed, for the first time. He's seems really nice and ready to get me in gear! I hope he's up for a challenge because we have a lot of work to do to get my life back in order again! This meeting was more to get Ed up to speed on how my financial life has been, what got me here and what my goals are. I have to admit it was embarrassing to talk about all the things I did wrong, but it was also cleansing at the same time. Ed was very encouraging because he reminded me that I'm not alone as we all make mistakes, but the good thing is I'm doing something about it!
October 1st – Hello, we are the Eversole Family. My name is Terena and my son's name is Kaleb. We have two dogs and one cat. Nylia is our 14 year old Yorkie, Zeus is our 5 year old Doberman and Sprinkles is our 2 year old Tabby cat. It's never a dull moment around the Eversole home, but somehow we manage. We are so excited to be selected for this challenge and at the same time we are nervous. Well, Kaleb isn't nervous because he's excited about getting to be on TV! I, on the other hand, am more nervous than excited. I completed the application for the challenge, but I held onto it because I wasn't sure if I wanted everyone to know I needed help. But a couple of days before the deadline I turned the application in because I convinced myself that I had nothing to lose and everything to gain if we were picked. I needed help and it was time to ask someone for it.