Wednesday, May 16, 2012

no news, good news

My apologies to the blog fans/readers out there for the lack of posts. Unfortunately, nothing too exciting (money-wise or other-wise) has been going on in our lives to blog about. My first payment on the new loan is coming up in a week or so and I've been dutifully documenting all my expedentures in a notebook that goes everywhere with me. It's not as hard as I envisioned it to be - except when I throw out a receipt and have to jot down the approximate amount of money I spent until I can get onto my online banking and see how much it actually cost.

May has been a pretty quiet month on the spending front.. a few impulse spending moments here and there, but nothing too budget busting. The hubs and I agreed I need to try and save a car payment per month... the Katmobile is still trucking (for now), but I know in a year or so, it's going to be time for another and I need to be prepared. I'm hoping to save around $300 a month. I have to get down to the credit union to increase the amount they deduct from my paycheck for savings ($100 a paycheck, instead of $50) so that will cover most of it. The rest I'll just transfer over into our "Reserve" account - $20 a week, perhaps? Sounds managable.

Anything exciting going on the big bad world out there? Do tell!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

bundle of joy?

I think since the hubs and I started dating, it was pretty much a given (to everyone else, at least) that we would get married. So by the time we actually got married, five years later, everyone else was ready for us to start popping out kids. I fairly certain I've disappointed my fair share of in-laws with every holiday that goes by and I don't tell them I'm knocked up.

To be honest, I've never been much of a kid person. With the exception of my younger cousin, neice, and nephews, I couldn't stand children for longer than an hour or two. I had one babysitting job as a tween and that barely lasted one summer because I thought I would rip my hair out - never did that again. Ironically, kids l-o-v-e me. More than dogs do (and I l-o-v-e dogs). My mom tells me she was the same way and that I'll feel differently once my close friends start having kids. But after reading this article on Yahoo! yesterday, I'm more skeptical about having kids than ever before:
The government's most recent annual report reveals a middle-income family with a child born in 2010 can expect to spend roughly $227,000 for food, shelter and other expenses necessary to raise that child - $287,000 when you factor in projected inflation...the bill does not include the cost of college or anything related to the pregnancy and delivery.
Now, I understand (and they point out in the article) if you really sat down to tally everything up, you would never have kids and that no one is ever "really" ready. But, since I'm blogging about money, is there really a bigger decision that captures the essence of the word "personal finance"? The choice to have a child(ren) is probably one of the biggest personal and financial decisions a person will ever make, so we should go into it as informed as possible.

The article gives a few talking points to go over regarding the first year with baby. The most important that jumps out to me is: Will you both work or will one of you quit to care for the child? I've always said if we had kids, I would want to stay home with them until they went to school or at least work part-time. Unfortunately, at this juncture, if I got pregnant tomorrow, that option would not be on the table. We need both incomes. So then we need to factor in child care costs which averages around $1,000 a month in our area. My mom works full time and the hubs' parents are two hours away, so family help isn't something we can't count on on a daily basis.

Then there are the other obvious expenses: diapers/wipes, clothing, food, etc etc. An economy pack of newborn diapers (236 count) on Amazon costs $48.00 and a newborn can go through between 8-12 diapers per day which means that pack won't even get you through a whole month. Hopefully, you're lucky enough to get a bunch of hand-me-downs, but even buying used clothing can be expensive when compared to how fast kids grow. Lastly, there are the little expenses that you might not think about, but can add up: co-pays for doctor's visits & your health insurance premiums in general, car payments if you'll need a bigger/safer car, and all the fees associated with sports/scouts/clubs as they grow up.

The financial planner in the article recommends paying off all your credit cards and automating your retirment savings before having children. He also recommends living on less and cutting out any extra spending that you can (he suggests 90% of your take home income & stashing the extra 10%).

My bank account is screaming already.

Now I know those of you with children will talk about what a joy it all is and how it's totally worth it - but since I don't have kids, I don't particularly buy that logic. I have frequently asked my mother if all this (picture me gesturing to myself) was worth it, usually after reading an article like this. For some reason, she keeps saying yes. Maybe she's getting senile. Right now, I'm perfectly content to snuggle up with my 35 pound fur baby who, barring any emergency surgeries, will probably cost me less than $10,000 to raise. At that rate, I can adopt a second!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


I had to go to Target last night after work. Here's what was on my list:
  • blackberries ($2.49)
  • spinach (2/$4)
  • drain cleaner (our tub is clogged... so gross)

Here's what I left Target with:
  • blackberries ($2.49)
  • spinach (2/$3.98)
  • drain cleaner ($3.99)
  • a big box of borax ($3.99)
  • two clearance bottles of Old Spice for the hubs (with mini deodorants attached! $3.38 each)
  • a new collar for Molly (actually needed - her old one got chewed up at day care somehow - on clearance - $2.98)
  • a pack of denta-sticks for Molly ($2.49)
  • two cups of greek yogurt (2/$2)
  • a package of Lean Pockets ($1.97)
  • an eye mask for sleeping ($1)
  • two ice cube trays in the shape of stars for our annual July 4th party ($1 each)
  • 2 bananas (0.24 cents each)

Holy No-Willpower, Batman.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

332.0 - 332.999

I've been reading personal finance books off and on since starting the blog. I get through a few chapters, then put the book down for a week or so before coming back to it. I have David Bach's "Debt Free for Life" by my bed, Carl Richards' "The Behavior Gap" at my desk, and Ben Stein's "What Would Ben Stein Do?"

I haven't picked up Mr. Bach's book in weeks and I'll probably just return it to the library. Like Dave Ramsey and other financial advisors out there, Mr. Bach focuses on paying off all your debt in the fastest amount of time by sacrificing just about everything else. While this approach may work for some, it's just not for me. Full on deprivation just leads me to overdo it later. Plus, I'm not getting another job to help pay off the debt faster. Fact: I'm lazy. I did toy with the idea for a few weeks, but right now, the hubs and I have something going on just about every weekend until June. I'm hopeful I might be able to pick up a nights & weekends gig during the summer when the hubs is off and we don't have to worry about Molly Monster, but we'll see.

I'd rather work with I've got and learn subtle tips and tricks to save more, but still being able to feel like I'm enjoying life. I know, I know, you don't need money to enjoy life, but it sure does help!

Mr. Richards book is more my style. While it's primarily about investing, there are some snippets of wisdom that have stuck with me. Plus, there's pictures! (Diagrams, really.) One phrase I've been carrying around:
"'Personal finance... is more personal than financial.' It's true. Planning for your financial future is personal. It has to be. A good plan will be unique to your situation, and what is right for your situation may be a disaster for your neighbor. So ponder how the advice you encounter applies to you before you make important decisions about your money."
Last month, I embarked on trying to pay down my debt myself. As we saw at the end of the challenge, it didn't work out for me as well as I'd hoped. My overall debt total only went down a smidge and I was a bit dicouraged. And I had barely anything left over at the end of the month to put in our savings account, which frankly, was stressing me out. I decided to go back to another option I had previously shurgged off: getting a personal loan to pay off my credit cards and starting fresh. PNC offered loans with a starting rate of 8.25% if payments were deducted from my checking account. I applied... and was rejected.

Remember back when I reviewed all the componants of my credit report/score on Credit Karma? One of the biggest black marks on my record was my high debt to income ratio (43%). This was the main reason why I was rejected for the personal loan. Fresh off our anniversary conversation, the hubs told me to re-apply, but to to add him on the loan as well, thereby increasing our incomes while keeping the debts relatively the same. I did and this time we were accepted.

On Saturday, we took a trip to the bank to sign all the paperwork. Our rate ended up being 8.99% which is still half of what the lowest interest rate is on one of my credit cards. I took out a $9,000 loan for four years at $225 per month. There is no penalty for pre-payment, either, which means anytime I have some extra money, I can throw it towards the principal and pay it off faster. Plus, now I know I'll be able to contribute more to our savings account (I already increased the automatic transfer to $100 per paycheck, instead of the previous $50). All in all, this feels like a much better fit for my life than the previous attempt.

And for the credit cards? They're still tucked away. I opted not to cancel any of the cards, since another black mark on my credit report was the "length of time accounts have been opened." Instead, I'll just let them hang out for awhile. Maybe in a few months, when I feel like I have more control over my spending, I'll break them out for one necessary purchase per month, like gas or groceries. But until then, I'll recognize my weaknesses and keep temptation out of my grasp.

I already feel like a burden has been lifted. Even though I know the debt is still there, being able to see zero balances on the cards AND being able to save for any unexpected expenses, instead of having to whip out a card to pay for them, makes a world of difference. And if I ever get tempted to buy something unnecessary on credit, all I have to do is read my own blog.

Anyone else have any similar experiences lately - either with money or something else?